10 Nov 2020

Bite to Fight for cocoa farmers

When Oxfam Fair Trade began planning a campaign to support a living income for cocoa farmers, they knew it had to be engaging, accessible - and above all, fun.

“We immediately thought, if we’re going to grab the attention of our audience we’re going to have to make it a bit light, a bit of fun,” says Yasmine Mertens, Head of Communications at Oxfam Fair Trade in Belgium. “It was a challenge, but also really exciting. We had to devise a campaign which was easy to understand. If you make it too heavy, then it’s not going to work.”

The result was the Bite to Fight campaign, which ran across Belgium involving celebrities, schools, Oxfam shops - and the chance to swap an ordinary chocolate wrapper for a bar of Fairtrade certified Bite to Fight chocolate. The Oxfam Fair Trade campaign was so successful it won Campaign of the Year category at the 2020 International Fairtrade Awards.

“You can’t put ‘living income’ on the wrapper, that’s already way too complex,” says Yasmine. “That was the first challenge, how to explain it. We knew we had to have a slogan that motivated people to come and join the movement, so we came up with Bite to Fight. We started with a 360 campaign in in train stations, with posters, radio spots, social media campaign and so on - and everything came to one climax when we moved people to our Oxfam shops.”

Behind the fun elements of the campaign - including a spoof job advertisement which invited people to apply to be a Cocoa Field Operator, only to find they were expected to work for just 67 cents a day - was a serious message.

“Basically it is an outrage,” says Bart Van Besien, Policy & Development Advisor at Oxfam Fair Trade. “Belgium is a very small country but the Belgian chocolate industry is very big, so it is significant. The cocoa farmers have no bargaining power, all the power lies with the companies who are trading in cocoa, and so we have to shift this power imbalance.”

A key part of the campaign was to persuade consumers to visit Oxfam shops where they could swap a used wrapper for a bar of Bite to Fight branded Fairtrade chocolate. “We moved all these people on one day, a climax moment, where they were able to make a symbolic switch,” says Yasmine. “On the day itself they could also write a postcard to the chocolate industry and politicians to ask them to hold to their promise to make Belgian chocolate sustainable and fair by 2030.”

Getting young people involved was also crucial. “I must say that young people are very concerned about what’s happening,” says Lieve Sleebus, an Oxfam volunteer who teaches the importance of sustainable cocoa. “We explain to them what’s going on and that it’s really important that cocoa farmers people get enough money so that they can live, because otherwise perhaps within a few years we won’t be eating chocolate any more - and then they are really really interested!”

Karel Vermeulen, a volunteer who works in an Oxfam shop in the centre of Gent, Belgium, says the campaign really caught the imagination of his customers. “Their reaction was really positive. When they looked at the chocolate bars, they were like, Bite to Fight - what does that mean?”

“We staged a kind of limbo game in the shop to visualise what a fair price looks like. The more chocolate we sold, the higher the bar went - it really helped people see that if they buy more Fairtrade chocolate, cocoa farmers will have a better life.”

“It was really powerful because we wanted to let our supporters and our customers know that they can be part of the solution with every bite they take - literally,” says Yasmine. However, she adds, the campaign team knew that putting pressure on Belgium’s chocolate industry was also crucial. “We wanted to motivate the industry to take the right steps. We’re not going to change the world by ourselves, we want industry to move with us. It’s not us against them, it’s hopefully us with them,” she says.