Living Income and Chocolate

Living Income and Chocolate

What do the third richest family dynasty in the USA, the fifth richest man in Germany, the richest man in Italy, the wealthiest man in Austria, and one of the largest privately owned companies in the USA have in common?

They are all chocolate company owners.

With all this money in Chocolate, why are many cocoa farmers still not paid a living income for their work?

What is a ‘living income’? The net annual income required for a household in a particular place to afford a decent standard of living for all members of that household. Elements of a decent standard of living include food, water, housing, education, healthcare, transportation, clothing, and other essential needs including provisions for unexpected events.


When you purchase a standard chocolate bar, only 6% of the price you pay goes back to cocoa farmers. Small hold farmers must be paid an estimated 4-5 times that to earn a living income.

Exactly how many farmers are currently being paid a living income is unknown. We’ve seen estimates as high as 25% and as low as 10%. This highlights the overall lack of transparency in the industry.

This is just one element of a broader global issue - that the wealth disparity between high and low-income countries continues to grow at a rapid rate.*

In an industry that includes some of the wealthiest, most powerful companies in the world, cocoa farmers deserve better. They deserve to have the money to send their children to school, access healthcare, build their savings, and set their families up for generational success.

Village of cocoa farming community. Photo credit Fuzz Kitto

What are the key steps we’d like to see companies taking?

  1. Investigate the current income of farmers. Only five companies who participated in our survey for the 2022 Chocolate Scorecard have this information. There is a long way to go, but this is a significant step forward as previously, we were told that it was not possible to gather that information.
  2. Understand what farmers should be getting paid. Just over half of the participating companies knew this information.
  3. Invest in community development and education programs within farming communities that reduce the risk of poverty. Tony’s Chocolonely and Nestlé are two companies that have already invested in support programs like this.
  4. Measure the impact of these initiatives to make sure they are continuing to improve conditions in the community.

I am but one individual chocolate lover. What can I do to help?

It’s not all bitter, we’ve found a number of companies that are leading the way, and more and more are joining the ranks with innovative programs. What makes companies really pause and pay attention is data and their bottom line. With that in mind, the best way to create positive change is to get out and eat some chocolate! We can think of worse ways to be an activist.

Click here to explore the top-ranked brands in the living income category.


Author: Carolyn Kitto, co-written by Athina Greenhalgh. Shared with permission.

*Justice For Africa’s Children, Laureates And Leaders For Children, 2023,

Just like chocolate, this blog is better shared.