Archive for April, 2010


Shapiro1
 Mars wants the definition of sustainable cocoa certification to include productivity, creating more income for rural cocoa farmers, says Howard-Yana Shapiro, a plant science and research staff officer with Mars. He's holding cocoa bean pods and goodnessKnows, a new chocolate, fruit and nut snack from Mars. 


Mars
Inc.
is expanding its test market for its new goodnessKnows dark chocolate,
fruit and nut snack beyond Boulder into the Denver area, with TV advertising
beginning in May.

On
a global front of buying cocoa for its popular chocolate products that include
M&M’s, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Dove and Milky Way, the private family-owned
business has embarked on an ambitious goal of buying only 100 percent certified
sustainably grown cocoa by the year 2020.

Company
representatives Suzanne Stites, cocoa flavanol platform leader, and Howard-Yana
Shapiro, global officer for plant science and external research, met me in
Denver to talk about why Mars chose to expand the definition of a certification
program – one that could be built throughout the world’s largest cocoa growing
areas of West Africa, East Asia and South America.

The
project, called “Certification Plus,” is attempting to build a coalition of the
largest cocoa buyers as well as major suppliers, while also developing buy-ins
by governments and the international donor community.

For
Mars, the missing ingredient in a cocoa certification program, Shapiro says,
was productivity.

The
$13 billion global chocolate industry is huge, with demand for cocoa growing
from 2 to 3 percent per year. But small rural farmers remain in poverty, with
many growing only about 450 kilos of cocoa per hectare, Shapiro says.

“We
had to ask ourselves, where are you going to take a stand?” he says.

The
Mars goal, made public about a year ago after intensive research at its Mars
Center for Cocoa Science
in Bahia, Brazil, started in 1982, seeks a sustainable
economy model that will improve the social infrastructure of cocoa farmers with
better schools and health care, maintain their “cultural milieu” while also
facing up to difficult environmental and ecological challenges.

From
the start, Shapiro explains, Mars was determined to make all of its findings
public, including research on the cocoa bean genome, the best planting
materials, soil science, fertilization and plant grafting.

At
first, many people told Mars researchers and scientists they were crazy for
believing they could help farmers triple their yields in 10 years, Shapiro
says. But by increasing yields, Mars saw a way of actually opening more land to
other production such as fruit trees, row crops and high value tropical trees,
making farmers’ land more valuable and giving them an insurance policy on their
future.

“The
other side of intensification is diversification,” Shapiro explains. In rural
areas, 75 percent of the people can spend between 65 to 75 percent of their
income and still be hungry. “Hollow calories are not nutrition,” Shapiro says.

Mars
has partnered with the government of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa, commonly
known as the Ivory Coast and the world’s largest producer of cocoa, and is
expanding to production areas around the world.

“Can
we do this alone? No,” Shapiro says. “Can we do it with just the Ivorian
government? No.” Mars and other cocoa buyers need the help of the international
donor community, including agencies like the World Bank, the International
Finance Corp, the African Development Bank and the U.S. Agency for
International Development, or USAID.

Mars
isn’t contracting to control the market for a sustainably certified cocoa,
Shapiro emphasizes. “Everyone has the same ability to buy these cocoa beans.”

The
cost for Certification Plus? As a privately held and very private company, Mars
officials say, specific numbers are not released. But Shapiro says the company
has spent “tens of millions of dollars up to this point” over the past 15
years. And it will cost “tens of millions of dollars” more.

Shapiro,
a University of California professor, author and expert on sustainable
agriculture and agroforestry systems, is clearly determined to see the Mars’
goals become reality. “This is really the next level to a green revolution,” he
says. “And the project doesn’t end in 2020, it goes on forever.”

Why
is Certification Plus so important to Mars? Mars is the world’s largest buyer
of cocoa bean equivalents by a company that makes a product. Some of the
industry’s brokers are larger purchasers, but Mars is the largest buying
manufacturer.

“Why?”
Shapiro asks. “Because the Mars family recognizes that without a sustainable
future, they won’t have a business for their great grandchildren.”

In
10 years, Shapiro believes every Mars chocolate product will be made from
sustainable cocoa.

And
that includes goodnessKnows, its new chocolate, nut, whole grain and fruit
entry into the nutritional snack market. Mars says its “snacksquares” give
consumers 200 mg of cocoa flavanols, proven to have health and cardiological
benefits.  Mars owns several
patents on cocoa flavanols.

Mars
operates 135 factories in 68 countries and has annual global revenue of $28
billion, according to company information.

Mars
came to Boulder first, says Suzanne Stites, because it’s one of the “happiest
and healthiest” places. The testing, with ads running in newspapers, on RTD
buses and in-store samples, is now in Denver and soon will kick off TV
advertising.

“It’s
still early on,” Stites says, but buyers seem to like that the snack is
“calorie contained at 150 calories each, and it tastes really good.” 

So
just one disclaimer here. I only ate one almonds and berries goodnessKnows
snack (and one during the interview) while writing this column, but the samples
of all three flavors – 4 snacks to a package – seem to have disappeared quickly
at my house. It takes four snacks to make one 150-calorie serving, so a few
more flavanols for me surely seem like a healthy idea.

 

 

Categories : Business, Science
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Dr. Jenni Skyler, director of The Intimacy Institute of Boulder, was named the 2010 Young Careerist in the annual competition organized by Boulder Business and Professional Women. Lindsay Shaw, owner of Lindsay's Boulder Deli at Haagen-Daz in downtown Boulder, was selected as the runner-up.

This was the second year I was asked to help judge this competition, which looks at the candidates' career achievements as well as their their ability to project an image that reflects the role of today's young workforce in society. And once again, this was a tough and close contest, with each of the five women competitors taking the initiative to compete before judges as well as a final speech before members of Boulder's BPW organization.

In one part of the competition, all of the candidates join in a group discussion, looking to come up with solutions to a topic presented by the judges. With a sex therapist, an ice cream shop owner and others involved in different businesses, from architecture to financial consulting, the candidates decided they wanted to launch an community education group, providing mentoring and education on topics such as equity in pay to other women. And one idea for the name of the group? "Sex, Ice Cream & Business." Now that could certainly attract some participants.

I was always a supporter of BPW while I was editor of the Boulder County Business Report, and the business newspaper continues to be a sponsor of this competition, along with Flatirons Bank and w3w3.com. Joining me as judges were Sue Deans, former editor of the Boulder Camera, and Wendy Reynolds, senior vice president of Flatirons Bank in Boulder. 

Skyler, a Ph.D. and board certified sexologist, was enthusiastic and kept the audience listening close as she spoke about her career as a sex therapist. She also writes several sex columns — "Sophisticated Sex" for the Boulder Weekly; "Sexy Shabbos with Dr. Jenni" for the Boulder Jewish News; and Sunday Sex Talk on www.Buffscret.com. She spoke on how to build healthy sexuality and how this helps men and women in our society.

Shaw also impressed both the judges and BPW members with her own life stories of how she has been a businesswoman for the past six years after encountering sexual discrimination in her first career as a teacher. Her talk about how she lost her job because she was living an "alternative" lifestyle — dating another woman — was open, honest and from the heart. 

Also competing were Julie Winslow, a investment adviser with Securian Financial Services; Katie Pekarek, a project manager for Kristin Lewis Architects; and Kathryn Matta, an event specialist with A Spice of Life Catering. All of the young businesswomen are active in numerous humanitarian and nonprofit organizations.

Funds raised from the event help support the Colorado BPW Education Foundation, YWCA and other advancement of women programs. The competition is also designed to attract new young member to BPW, and Skyler won a membership in the organization.

To learn more about the Boulder Business and Professional Women, visit their Web site at www.boulderBPW.org. The group meets monthly with the mission of full participation, equity and economic self-sufficiency for working women.

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When I read this week that Spirit Airlines is planning a carry-on bag fee, I just rolled my eyes and thought, well here we go again. The great airline baggage fee debate gets crazier every day.

I recently flew United Airlines back to Louisville, Ky., where my parents live, so I could drive up for the NCAA Final Four championship games in Indianapolis. I knew it had been a year or so since my friend had flown, so I called him up to remind him that if he was taking a regular bag in addition to his golf clubs, he was facing about $55 in additional baggage fees each way.

At first he didn't believe me, but once he checked, he quickly decided to just take a carry-on, and pay the $25 for the golf clubs since we were also planning on a few games of golf in between watching the night games.

But as we all know now, the jamming and squeezing of everyone's carry-on bags is just another inconvenience we all face as we board and exit the planes. 

And for the direct flight back to Kentucky, we were flying a much smaller regional jet, which means that most people with carry-on had to get a small green tag for their bags, which were then stowed in some secret compartment separate from other baggage. That meant another wait for everyone to pick up their carry-on bags after arrival.

When we left Louisville, United also did not assign seats until shortly before departure. I know there must be some reason for this, but if the poor airline clerk was left telling nearly every arriving passenger they would need to wait a bit for their seat assignment. I sat there and listened as she said the same thing at least 30 different times. Is this really the most productive way of using employee time.

As passengers these days, we're all more anxious and a bit nervous. We fret about whether our shampoo bottle will pass muster; we worry that we'll be pulled over for a body search. Forget about worrying about a terrorist lighting up his shoes,  you have to worry that your socks don't stink too much as you pull your shoes off to go through security. 

All I'm asking is that the airline companies find some ways to make traveling enjoyable again. I think most the airline employees are working hard to be friendly, but all of the penny-pinching is getting to them, too. 

I know that we'll soon have to pay again when wireless Internet comes to the airlines. But wouldn't it be nice if that was a freebie? How about giving everybody a bag of pretzels or chips again? Just a few friendly gestures would really be nice.

Too many of us today really think hard about traveling if it means flying rather than driving. A nice local trip that avoids the airport starts to make sense when you factor in all the hassle factors of flying. 

I have another reservation on Frontier to fly back to Kentucky for some Derby parties, some golf and some days betting a little at Churchill Downs. I'll be paying extra to take along my clubs, as well as a bag of clothes. And I'll take my own bag of peanuts.

Categories : Travel
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