Story of betel nut farmers who formed India’s third largest chocolate company

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What is your favourite chocolate? Dairy Milk, Perk or KitKat? Which brand of chocolate ice cream do you prefer, Baskin Robbins, Amul, or Vadilal? Or which is your number one choice for chocolate biscuits, dark fantasy, hide and seek or bourbon? Needless to say, it is quite difficult to choose one of these options. If you have ever been involved in any debate about the best chocolate product, believe me, the information given here of this chocolate company of Karnataka will be very interesting to you. Just think if we tell you that these products are made by different companies, but their origin is the same? At least one of your favourite chocolates must have come from the ‘Central Areca Nut Marketing and Processing Cooperative’, or ‘Campco’. The story of this company is very touching, and you will not forget to thank the betel nut farmers who have brought so much sweetness in our life.

The Campco company maybe a little less well-known in the northern region of the country but, after Cadbury and Nestle, it is the third-largest producer of chocolate in India. It would probably not be wrong to say that almost all of the chocolate products we consume, including ice cream, biscuits and drinks, have little Campco. The company is located in Koornadka, about 52 km from Mangaluru and was started in 1973 by a group of arecanut farmers.

Campco formed to unite farmers

Stone laying ceremony of Campco
Stone laying ceremony of Campco. Varanashi in grey trousers with dignitaries.

The purpose behind the formation of Campco was to unite farmers so that corporate multinationals could not exploit them for their own benefit, and farmers could grow cocoa and secure their own future. The company trades Rs 1,800 crore per year from betel nut, while the chocolate unit contributes around Rs 300 crore.

HM Krishnakumar, Managing and Executive Director of Campco, says that the farmers growing betel nut in Karnataka and Kerala were facing an economic crisis and this was what led to the founding of the company. He told The Better India, “The prices of yields have come down and farmers needed price stability in terms of minimum income. The founder of Campco, Varanashi Subraya Bhat (who was also a farmer) gave the idea to set up the company to solve the crisis. ”

Krishnakumar says that Varanashi came up with the idea of ​​not relying only on betel nut cultivation and suggested that farmers grow cocoa and black pepper as intercrops.

In the 1970s, Amul and Cadbury became buyers of cocoa for making chocolate. In 1979, the prices fell from Rs. 13.65 per kg to Rs. 5.30 per kg. Prices fell in the international market and companies stopped buying products. Says Krishnakumar, “To stabilize the market and not remain at the mercy of multinationals, the company decided to provide relief to farmers by purchasing 337 tonnes of production between 1980 and 1985. Campco provided a minimum support price to protect farmers from losses. Production of quality cocoa beans was increasing, but buyers were few. Then the company decided to make chocolate products. ”

Chocolate Manufacturers In Karnataka

Krishnakumar says that farmers grew high quality cocoa. However, they needed training to compete with global chocolate companies. He said, “The farmers had no knowledge about making chocolate. But, everyone decided to enter the region. ”

To produce premium quality chocolate, the Chocolate Unit was established in 1986 and what they produced was on par with Brazil, Ghana and other cocoa growing countries. It became arguably the largest factory in Southeast Asia. Krishnakumar says the company also exported dry cocoa beans to make money.

He recalls that in the initial year, there was a lot of struggle and the company did not make any immediate profit. “Time was tough,” he says. Despite the fluctuations in the international market, farmers were given higher rates for their produce. By bearing the loss, the company gave him a chance to make a profit with a steady income. In addition to supporting farmers by offering better rates for cocoa, the company has helped them grow quality crops using modern technologies and provide medical and financial support. ”

Campco in every chocolate


In 1994, Campco began supplying raw materials to companies by selling cocoa butter, choco mass and chocolate compound, which are used to make chocolate, cookies, ice cream, and beverages. Says Krishnakumar, “Name any chocolate product in India, it must have at least one ingredient that comes from Campco.”

He says many companies, including Amul, Britannia, ITC, Unibic, Parle, Cadbury, Hershey’s and Lott, take chocolate from Campco and use it in a variety of products ranging from chocolate chips to milk powders like Bournvita and Horlicks. The factory produces at least 50 cocoa products every year. The company also has its own chocolate including Campco Bar, Melto, Cream, and Turbo, which is quite popular in Karnataka.

In the 1990s, the company entered into a 10-year agreement with Nestlé to avoid price fluctuations. The multinational company was eyeing the Indian market and got an opportunity with Campco. According to the agreement, Nestlé also made it mandatory for Campco to pick up cocoa beans or beans. This agreement helped in getting farmer-cooperative security. If not, Nestle could import cocoa beans for its production.

Primarily operating under arecanut production, the chocolate unit started making profits in 2005 and since then, its share has been increasing.

However, there was a crisis between 2012 and 2015, when cocoa prices fell to Rs 35 against Rs 40–50 per kg. Says Krishnakumar, “The company suffered losses, but still paid farmers Rs 50-55 per kg.”

Farmers are the priority


Krishnakumar says that the demand for chocolate and its products has increased tenfold in the last few years. He says, “It goes up by 15-20% every year. Increasing production also increases costs. Making chocolate is expensive and it is our constant endeavor to reduce costs. 65% of all the company’s energy needs are met by wind and solar power. Our goal is to convert 45% of energy use to solar separately. ”

He says that the factory requires about 300,000 liters of water per day. He says, “We have a rainwater harvesting system and two ponds in a 13-acre campus. Each drop of water is stored in the ground. About 300 million liters of water has been stored which helps in meeting the water requirements for about 100 days. ”

The company has also installed bio-boilers, which use biofuels and cut fossil fuel usage, saving Rs 1.2 crore.

Our business focuses on investing in marketing and improving the quality of products. It is also doing many research so that pure chocolate can be made instead of compound chocolate. Currently, Campco produces seven thousand metric tons of chocolate annually. The company has more than 1.16 lakh individual growers and 570 farmer cooperatives.

Krishnakumar says, “We will continue to protect the interests of farmers because this is the principle on which the company was founded. More than making profit, it is the farmers who remain the priority of the cooperative. ”

Farmers are the foundation of India and Campco’s success story is a shining example of this.

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Mirza Shehnaz
Mirza Shehnaz
Shehnaz Ali Siddiqui is a Corporate Communications Expert by profession and writer by Passion. She has experience of many years in the same. Her educational background in Mass communication has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics. She enjoys writing around Public relations, Corporate communications, travel, entrepreneurship, insurance, and finance among others.
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