We look into the supply chain production process of Easter Eggs and the journey to their final destinations in supermarkets

Chocolate is arguably the world’s most popular sweet treat. Depending on who you ask, of course.

After, perhaps Christmas, it is the most common time for people to indulge in chocolate if they don’t do so anyway throughout the year.

And synonymous with Easter are the eggs themselves which are loved by children and adults alike all over the world.

The journey to Easter Eggs

The supply chain process is split into eight stages of production: cultivating, harvesting, splitting, fermentation, drying, winnowing, roasting and grinding. Following production, the supply chain process is extended further with logistics which is the final step to providing customers with their favourite seasonal sweet treat.

The journey actually begins with cocoa tree plantations being established which is done by scattering young cocoa trees amongst new shade trees or by planting the cocoa trees between established trees. These are planted in humid tropical climates, with temperatures between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius. This is consistent rainfall periods and a short dry season because these conditions provide good quality cocoa.

Easter eggs

Each tree produces 20-30 cocoa pods a year which grows straight from the tree’s trunk and main branches. With this tree also yielding fruit, the crop is carefully pruned, and as a result, it is easier to harvest the cocoa pods. The next step is the labour-intensive task of harvesting the crop.

The harvest is a whole community affair on small West African farms. Large knives are then used to detach the pods from the trees and placed in large baskets on workers’ heads. The pods are then manually split open to remove the beans so they are ready for the two-step curing process. Each pod consists of between 20-40 purple cocoa beans.

The curing process consists of fermenting and drying the beans to develop the chocolate flavour. There are several fermentation methods but the most traditional is the heap method. This requires placing mounds of wet cocoa beans in between layers of banana leaves on the ground for between five to six days. Following this, the drying stage begins. This involves the wet bunch of beans being spread out in the sun or using a more advanced method of special dying equipment.

From plant to factory

Often, a lot of large chocolate brands then buy the cocoa through intermediaries. The beans are then packed into sacks ready to be exported to the brands processing facilities in other locations globally.

After arrival, the beans are cleaned and quality inspected before the winnowing stage takes place. The dried beans are cracked to separate the shell from the nib which is where the small chunks are used to produce chocolate. Afterwards, the roasting phase begins in which the nibs are baked at high temperatures reaching 120 degrees Celsius in special ovens. This is where the colour and flavour is acquired.

Subsequently, the next stage is grinding which creates the basis of all chocolate products. The roasted nibs are grounded in stone mills until a thick liquid chocolate consistency is achieved.

Chocolate to egg

The final step is creating the chocolate egg masterpiece by using highly efficient computer-operated technology which has been used since the mid-20th century. The molten chocolate is placed in heated egg molds which are rotated so there is an even thickness. Following this, the eggs are left to cool and then removed from the molds. Once cooled, the eggs are wrapped in coloured foil and packaged into individual boxes before being sent out for retail. The transportation and exportation throughout the various supply chain stages is vital being a seasonal product. This means they are heavily relied upon for their timings to deliver to large supermarkets and independent stores.

Philip Hall, Managing Director Europe, CommerceHub The warehouse is an inevitable part of any retail supply chain, providing the backbone…

Philip Hall, Managing Director Europe, CommerceHub

The warehouse is an inevitable part of any retail supply chain, providing the backbone for retail operations. The boom of ecommerce has driven the evolution of the warehouse, from merely storing stock to becoming a fulfilment hub dealing with hundreds – if not thousands – of ecommerce orders every day.

With new retail challenges constantly arising, from demands for same-day or next-day delivery to new economic pressures, retailers need agility, adaptability and a supply chain that is demand-driven and responsive with the ability to evolve and improve to meet ever-changing conditions. Add this to the need for retailers to be increasingly aware of how much waste they’re creating and its impact on the environment, and the challenge increases. How can retailers meet these challenges head-on, while also protecting their margins and keeping the customer experience intact?

Getting ready for a long-term commitment

Despite the challenging environment, retailers are determined to put growth on the agenda. Research shows that 75% of retail decision makers believe that adding more products or product categories to their ecommerce channels is a top priority for businesses, and 84% of those who are making expanding their product range a priority are doing so in the hope that it will increase revenue. There are real benefits that can be reaped from an expanded range; it can help bring web traffic and provide increased choice for customers. Retailers who use a drop ship or marketplace model can expand their range without the need to invest as much in warehouse expansion, resources and inventory.

Even with this in mind, 64% of retail decision makers believe that increasing warehouse capacity is the most viable and attractive way to deal with an expanded range online. Owning something is perceived as being a more  comfortable path, but is it affordable? Warehouses can limit retailers in more ways than one. Warehouse leases are often a long-term commitment, with many ranging from five to ten years. So when a supply chain director signs on the dotted line to build that new warehouse, they are placing a bet that the level of demand will be there to warrant needing it several years down the road. For retailers to truly prioritise expansion, they must consider other options that add flexibility and visibility into their supply chain, allowing them to be both proactive and reactive to demand and anomalies that might impact them.

Riding the wave of uncertainty

Uncertainty in the retail sector dominated the majority of 2019, leaving many retailers choosing to invest in contingency plans to accommodate issues around stock availability and fulfilment, particularly across borders. However, uncertainty is not a one-off event, a global supply chain can be derailed by any number of events, from failure of shipping companies to strikes. During uncertain periods, a warehouse can be a drain on capital and resources, and retailers must look to the future and protect their margins as much as possible.

So what’s the alternative? Nearly 50% of businesses are currently utilising drop ship and/or retailer marketplaces, with an additional 20% planning to adopt one of these approaches within the next 12 months. The benefits speak for themselves, with the ability to help both UK and global supply chains become considerably more flexible, reduce operational costs and offer more products via a direct-to-consumer strategy. It also helps to minimise the risks and cost associated with purchasing and moving stock unnecessarily, particularly during periods of uncertainty and heightened demand, possibly even negating the need to build that expensive warehouse.  The advantage of dropship over marketplace is that in terms of control, it’s the next best thing to having your own warehouse, as retailers can still maintain full ownership of the customer experience and top line revenue.

‘Never out of stock’

Historically, drop-ship models were used for ‘difficult-to-sell’ or ‘unwanted’ clearance products; however, dropship has evolved to become a powerful tool for retailers that never want to be out of stock of particular items. If a retailer has several suppliers or distributors fulfilling similar items such as toasters or televisions, this solution can keep the customer experience intact if one source of supply goes out of stock. Drop ship can be a viable backfill option for owned inventory products if the drop-ship solution has inventory by location capabilities.

Drop shipping also enables retailers to engage with smart fulfilment based on customer location, helping to optimise the supply chain further and reduce shipping costs for the retailer, which can also translate into lower customer pricing. For example, if a customer in Leeds orders a television but the distribution centre is in Southampton, shipping the product will cost the retailer more. By using smart fulfilment, the customer location can be married with the nearest source of supply.  The importance of this capability is recognised by retailers as 46% of retail decision makers valued the fast shipping and delivery flexibility of drop shipping.

By utilising a sophisticated drop-ship model, which comes with an inherently distributed network of inventory, retailers can avoid having a single point of failure. Retailers can, therefore, increase the pool of inventory available to them without the costly process of investing in more warehouses and buying more stock. Ultimately, this creates a better, less frustrating shopping experience for the customer, who is able to find the item they want and receive it on time.

Furthermore, this method can help retailers to work towards their sustainability goals. With an optimised supply chain and smart fufilment, retailers can make sure they are not holding unnecessary stock that may go out of season quickly, reducing waste. Less waste, of course, is not only beneficial for the environment and the global sustainability agenda, but also saves the retailer significant funds and protects profit margins. With the visibility and accuracy inventory by location offers, better decisions can be made to reduce transport costs.


Retailers don’t need to buy another warehouse; they need to invest in flexible solutions that maintain the customer experience while optimising the supply chain to keep pace with changing demands, all the while reducing waste and protecting profit margins. Drop shipping allows retailers to expand globally, maintain low overhead and provide a great customer experience without capital investment tied up in warehousing, that could become a liability when the going gets tough.

Please note, all statistics sourced from a CommerceHub survey held in 2019 which drew on the views of a 100 decision makers in retail.

As the pressure to create the perfect supply chain continues, it has become apparent that human processing alone won’t be…

As the pressure to create the perfect supply chain continues, it has become apparent that human processing alone won’t be able to keep up with greater complexities and a high volume of orders. Businesses must ensure their establishing a strong relationship with their suppliers, manufacturers and consumers, and are driving continual improvements.

Supply chains used to be very siloed meaning organisations would have different systems and reports for each supplier. Unfortunately, this approach provided no real visibility of what was happening behind the curtain, or between the siloes, and caused confusion for all involved. As more firms have recognised that suppliers are an extension of their in-house teams and should be treated as such, closer relationships have been forming. Technology has helped this process as it’s enabled improved communication and transparency.

To stay ahead of the competition, having excellent supplier relationships that are supported by the right technology will be key. Over the next decade concerns around sustainability are set to drive consumer behaviour, therefore organisations need to keep a close eye on their supply chain, as well as their internal practices to establish a sustainable platform. Establishing a strong relationship with suppliers will make them more willing to give companies improved levels of visibility, helping to refine their end-to-end supply chain processes.

Through providing one central location of information, businesses can ensure cross-functional supply teams are using the most up-to-date information to guarantee that they are only placing businesses with approved suppliers. This strategy enables organisations to plan and manage all of their interactions with the suppliers to mitigate the risk of poor collaborative practice and identify opportunities for growth.

The role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain technology in the supply chain is growing. The introduction of blockchain will provide companies with the ability to fulfil vital parts of a product’s journey; this will give them a competitive edge, as they have the insight needed to deliver an immutable, reliable record. And with the addition of AI, these businesses will also be able to process the large volumes of data available, quickly and intelligently. All these factors will be key to unveiling even more essential information about operational performance, providing the opportunity for organisations to reconsider supply chains both tactically and strategically. The extended insights can also drastically reduce the risk associated with embracing new suppliers, while providing businesses with the details they need to reassure consumers that they’re embracing ethical, valuable practices.