Askinosie Chocolate – Making a Difference

Askinosie Chocolate is a chocolate manufacturer which produces bean to bar craft chocolate. They incorporate traditional methods to make their chocolate and they source all of their cacao beans directly from their farmers. Askinosie obtains their cocoa beans from farmers in Davao, Philippines, Mababu, Tanzania, Cortes, Honduras, and San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador. In Davao, Philippines the farmers harvest a sub variety of Trinitarian beans while the beans in Mababu, Tanzania are also Trinitarian but fruity in taste. In Cortes, Honduras the beans are of a Trinitario variety while in San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador the beans are rare and highly coveted Arriba Nacional cocoa beans.

Askinosie Chocolate stands by one of their frequently used quotes “It’s not about the chocolate, it’s about the chocolate” which they take to mean placing an emphasis on producing the best quality chocolate possible while working to make improvements in the world (Askinosie – Learn). Their desire to give back is outlined in the video below which also offers a broad overview of Askinosie Chocolate and it’s mission. Shawn Akinosie discusses in the video the importance of fermenting chocolate and his goal of allowing his consumers to taste precisely the beans that the farmers themselves grew. Askinosie Chocolate’s goal of giving back takes on many forms like practicing Direct Trade, incorporating students into their business through Chocolate University, and development projects in the hometowns of their farmers. All of these display that Askinosie Chocolate is a manufacturer which strives to improve the communities around them, educate youth nearby, and fight problems prevalent in today’s chocolate industry like exploitative labor.

Shawn Akinosie who is the current CEO and founder of Askinosie Chocolate has been a major player in the rise of craft chocolate. At first he was a criminal defense attorney in Springfield, Missouri when suddenly he decided that he wanted to change professions. Thus, Shawn Askinosie decided to mix his passion of chocolate with his future business endeavors so he entered the chocolate industry. His move to transition from a successful career to one with a lot of unknowns is commendable. He decided to prioritize working in a field he was passionate about over a stable job as a criminal defense attorney which is gutsy. Shawn Askinosie moved forward with his new business pursuit and sought to educate himself on every facet of chocolate including it’s botanical, historical, and cultural context in order to produce chocolate that would be beloved. He wanted to ensure that “Askinosie Chocolate was born committed to fairness, sustainability, minimal environmental impact and community enhancement” (Askinosie – Our Story). Shawn Askinosie desired to make chocolate from scratch and to be one of the first people in the country to make chocolate from cocoa bean. His detailed 70-step process for making chocolate is covered in detail at the link below.

https://askinosie.com/learn/chocolate-making.html

The lack of craft chocolate currently is evident in “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate” where Bill Nesto highlights that “the chocolate industry from bean to bar existed, and continues to exist, in a regulatory void” (Nesto, 131). Askinosie also wanted to personally source the beans so that he could know precisely where they came from and he wanted a business relationship with his farmers so they could have a fair income. These desires established the pillars of Askinosie Chocolate which are still prevalent today.

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Askinosie Chocolate practices Direct Trade which eliminates middlemen and puts a larger premium over commodity bulk price. Their farmers are payed significantly above the per-ton Fair Trade market prices for their cocoa beans. In the article “Planetary Stewardship in a Changing World: Paths Toward Resilience and Sustainability”, Mary E. Power and F. Stuart Chapin III note that “only a few small chocolate manufacturers currently practice direct trade (Taza Chocolate 2010, Askinosie Chocolate 2010)” which showcases the moral and ethic leadership of both Askinosie Chocolate and Taza Chocolate (Power & Chapin, 161). Askinosie Chocolate emphasizes the need to honor the farmers who are responsible for their cocoa beans and to always visualize them as equal business partners. This is prevalent on Askinosie Chocolate “wrappers that feature photographs of hale farmers and information about the considerable development work the company conducts at each origin site” which Kristy Leissle discusses in her article “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate”(Leissle, 27). Askinosie Chocolate also makes it a point to communicate financial statements to their farmers in their local language in order to explain the profit share step by step. By generating such a good rapport with their farmers, it builds a level of trust where the farmers listen to Askinosie’s specific requests to improve the flavor of their product.

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Askinosie Chocolate highlights the need to build long mutually beneficial relationships with farmers because it can only lead to success. Sharing profit with their farmers ensures that the farmers have a vested interest in nurturing the cocoa beans so Askinosie Chocolate can produce the best bar of chocolate possible. The incentive comes to a head once Askinosie Chocolate bars have been created because Askinosie representatives return to the farmer’s homeland and share the profits made from their farm’s cocoa beans. As Presilla mentions “he makes it his business to stay abreast of conditions in the different orchards, and personally delivers checks for the 10 percent of net profits that he contracts to share with each farmer” (Presilla, 132). It is worthy of note as well that the farmers have to sign a contract ensuring that they healthfully and responsibly cultivating cocoa beans. Once Shawn Askinosie arrives at a new farm he “begins by individually meeting every farmer he works with and requesting a commitment to carry out proper fermentation and drying of the cacao harvest” (Presilla, 132). This means that the cocoa beans “are grown using organic, pesticide-and chemical-free practices that are ecologically responsible” (Askinosie – Direct Trade).

Over the passage of time, Askinosie Chocolate has placed an emphasis on community outreach which is evident by their Chocolate University. It all began when Shawn Askinosie’s family noticed that a vast number of children were sleeping at a local homeless shelter. They then decided to create Chocolate University which would involve these children and children from local elementary and high schools in the business of Askinosie Chocolate. It provides a space for local children to gain a hands on learning experience about the creation of chocolate. Also they emphasize a desire to produce leadership qualities in their students so they can move forward in life as successful leaders wherever they go. The children of Chocolate University also come to understand the origin of Askinosie’s cocoa beans through visits to their precise origin. This is evident by the video below which showcases the kids experience in Tanzania. The kids note in their interviews that the trip was a life changing experience and it instilled a desire to make a difference in the world. Their time in Tanzania broke down their misconceptions and it immersed them in a culture quite different from their own. It is an experience that might not have been attainable without the help of Chocolate University.

Askinosie Chocolate’s prominence on community outreach stretches outside local Missouri and encompasses the origin cities of their cocoa beans. These cities in particular consist mostly of Kyela, Tanzania and Davao, Philippines. Askinosie Chocolate helps the communities of these cities through their program A Product of Change which centers around the administration and PTA of local schools in Kyela, Tanzania and Davao, Philippines. A Product of Change goods come from the origins of the cocoa beans in Davao, Philippines and Kyela, Tanzania and the products themselves are created and harvested by the administration and PTA of the local schools. Once a consumer buys A Product of Change good then all the profits go back to the school administration and PTA in order to supply meals for the students. By buying these products you ensure students a healthy lunch which combats the problems of malnutrition. The products used are talbeya from Davao, Philippines and rice from Kyela, Tanzania.

Askinosie Chocolate is a manufacturer which is attempting to make a global difference. They are making their chocolate strictly from the bean in order to make the most pure chocolate possible. The chocolate industry from bean to bar is not common so Askinosie Chocolate is commendably going against the grain. They also are not devaluing the role of the farmer which is common in the chocolate industry today. Farmers are seen as equal partners with Askinosie which is evident by Askinosie Chocolate’s practice of direct trade. Askinosie Chocolate also reaches out to the communities they come into contact with to improve their lives. This is evident with their program A Product for Change, which provides lunches to students in schools in Tanzania and the Philippines. Their Chocolate University also provides kids near Springfield Missouri a hands-on education. It provides an opportunity for these kids to witness the chocolate making process at Askinosie Chocolate and to learn about the origin of Askinosie’s cocoa beans. Experiences and opportunities become attainable which these children did not have before hand.

                                                                              Bibliography

“Askinosie Chocolate.” Home Page. Web. 5 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com&gt;.

“Askinosie Chocolate.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 5 May 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKFAovyNmWI&spfreload=10&gt;.

“Askinosie Chocolate: Bringing The World Together One Bean At A Time.” Markets of New York City. Web. 6 May 2015. <http://www.marketsofnewyork.com/2014/06/askinosie-chocolate-bringing-the-world-together-one-bean-at-a-time/&gt;.

“Askinosie Chocolate University Tanzania Trip with Student Interviews; by Bob Linder.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 5 May 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RqPMmTvD28&spfreload=10&gt;.

“Askinosie Chocolate Unveils Next CollaBARator on New Bar: Intelligents.” PRWeb. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/11/prweb8947710.htm&gt;.

“Chocolate Making.” – Learn. Web. 5 May 2015. <https://askinosie.com/learn/chocolate-making.html&gt;.

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica 13.3 (2013): 27.

Nesto, Bill. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10.1 (2010): 131-32.

Power, Mary E., and F. Stuart Chapin III. “Planetary Stewardship in a Changing World: Paths Towards Resilience and Sustainability.” Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 91.2 (2010): 161.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001.

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