By Lauren Adler, FCIA Board Vice-President, @ChiefChocophile
A lot has changed since we gathered in San Francisco for Elevate Chocolate in March. It was the last in-person gathering I attended, as I’m sure it was for many of you. San Francisco went into lockdown a few days later, and my hometown, Seattle, quickly followed suit.
I had no idea at the time that it would be at least a year, possibly longer, before I would see my chocolate friends and colleagues in person again. But thanks to the FCIA’s new webinar series, I haven’t lost touch with you. In fact, the webinars have opened a broader portal into the world of chocolate. From the safety of my desk I’ve visited Ecuador and Peru, I’ve heard the story of Hershey’s acquisitions of Scharffen Berger and Dagoba, I’ve toured the post-harvest processing facility of a cacao company in the DR and I’ve listened to chocolatiers in Ghana talk about doing business in the US and Africa.
The webinars untethered us. They created an opportunity for us to engage with a broader group of colleagues around the globe. The webinars are a reminder that we need to hear from the diverse voices that make up the fine chocolate industry. We need to make it a priority to be more inclusive in our programming and in our perspective.
Our virtual membership assembly in August included a panel discussion led by Dr. Kristy Leissle and featuring Andal Balu of CocoaTown and Selassie Atadika of Midunu Chocolate speaking about their experiences as minority-owned businesses. It was an open and honest discussion that illustrated the challenges minorities face in areas that many of us take for granted. A result of their panel is a task force led by Andal to develop concrete actions the FCIA can take to support minority-owned businesses.
The webinars, the panel discussions, the task force, and our committees are all driven by you, the members. FCIA is a membership organization. We are as good as our membership and those who get involved in helping set the direction of the organization. If you want to contribute to our direction join a committee. Let Bill Guyton, the FCIA Executive Director, know if you would like to join one of our existing committees, which include Education, Supply Chain Value, Membership and Communications or join the task force on minority-owned businesses. I joined the Education Committee years ago before I decided to run for a Board seat.
Living with uncertainty has become a reality for all of us. Some have been able to pivot their businesses to respond to the changing times, but not everyone has been able to do that. I decided to close Chocolopolis after twelve years, a decision I made before COVID. While it is never easy to close a business, the decision can be freeing, giving you time to re-energize as you figure out how you want to engage with chocolate in new ways. Whatever direction you take, FCIA is here to support your business.
I wish all of you a prosperous holiday season.