Lead Firms and competition in 'Bi-Polar' commodity chains: Grinders and branders in the global cocoa-chocolate industry

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ike most global agro-industrial commodity chains today, the global cocoa - chocolate industry is buyer-driven. However, the chain is characterized by the lead role of a few transnational companies in two different segments: the grinders (processors of cocoa)and the branders (manufacturers of chocolate), a structural pattern identified in other so-called turn-key industries consisting of contract manufacturers and brand-name firms. The paper examines two important spatial sub-systems of the chain: the national cocoa bean supply system in Ghana and the regional cocoa trading-storing-grinding complex in the Zaanstreek, Amsterdam. The structural patterns and relationships in these sub-systems suggest that the dynamics of ‘bi-polar’ buyer-driven chains is best comprehended in terms of various types of containment strategies of the leadfirms, i.e. efforts to defend and improve their positions on the global market by creating competition among their suppliers and expanding their customers.