When you see this picture, what do you think about? You see a red chocolate bar, called “Maya Gold”, labeled as “dark chocolate infused with subtle flavors of organic and delicate spices”. To a potential consumer, the name “Maya gold”, along with the flavors listed, may conjure up thoughts about the mythical past of the Mayans, a mysterious ancient culture that is the exotic birthplace of chocolate, spices, and gold riches. While flashy chocolate bars with South American names and alluring descriptions line the aisles of supermarkets, vying for your attention, the most important parts of this product label are actually subtly positioned: the labels “fair trade” and “organic” on the bottom left and under the name of the brand, respectively. These labels quickly reveal that this chocolate is more than just an ordinary chocolate bar; in fact, this Green and Black’s bar is the first UK fair trade certified chocolate bar, with beans that are actually made from modern day Mayans in Belize (About Us: Green and Black’s). With the production of this chocolate bar, Green and Black’s has single handedly rejuvenated the region’s cacao industry, and through fair trade, have brought immense benefits to Belize and its cacao growers. And this is only one of their 13 fair trade and organic certified products. As one of the world’s largest ethnical manufacturers of chocolate, Green and Black’s mission of producing quality chocolate that benefits farmers has not only empowered communities across the world, but has also created a premium, delicious product enjoyed by millions of consumers.
Green and Black’s
In 1991, Craig Sams and his wife, Jo Fairley, sampled organic dark chocolate as part of Sams’ work as founder of Whole Earth, an organic food company. Delighted by the taste and quality of the chocolate, the couple was “sure other confirmed chocoholics would love it as much as [they] did… and with that, Craig and Jo set about making organic chocolate” (About Us: Green and Black’s).
While they started as an organic chocolate company, in 1993 the couple soon worked out a five-year agreement with the Toledo Cacao Grower’s Association (TCGA) of Belize, agreeing to buy the cacao from their farmers at a fair price and to give money to the community, granted the association maintained fair trade and organic standards (TCGA). With this agreement, Maya Gold was born, and it became the first Fair trade Mark certified chocolate bar in the UK (About Us: Green and Black’s). In 2010, with the previous success of Maya Gold, Green and Black’s pledged to switch its entire product line to Fair trade by 2011 (Smithers). Since then, they have launched over ten different bars, from 85% Dark to Ginger, with fair trade chocolate being produced internationally from communities similar to TCGA in Belize (About Us: Green and Black’s).
Green and Black’s Tenants of Organic and Fair Trade Chocolate
Standing firmly behind the quality of their chocolate, Green and Black’s describes their company name as green for “their strict organic principles” and black for “the intensity of the chocolate” (About Us: Green and Black’s). The two components of their namesake closely mimic two tenants of their brand, their organic and fair trade certifications.
Organic products across food industries have seen a dramatic rise in the last decades, and this is no different for chocolate, a food industry that thrives on quality of taste and product. Part of the reason for organic food’s rise has been its benefits over non-organic products, which have even been shown to be harmful (Coe and Coe 263). While organic foods are grown without pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals, non-organic foods use these products in agricultural production bountifully, from fertilizing the soil to spraying produce before reaching market. These chemicals can be environmentally dangerous, as they leech into soils and pollute nearby water sources, causing water and soil pollution (Nutrition and Healthy Eating). They also promote mono crop production because of chemical protection of single-strain plants; this can contribute to decreasing environmental biodiversity (Nutrition and Healthy Eating). Finally, growers and laborers, who come in contact with dangerous amounts of these hazardous chemicals, are often exposed to toxic fumes and liquids that can cause serious health problems, especially if child labor is involved (as it commonly is in the cacao industry) (Nutrition and Healthy Eating).
Green and Black’s advertises themselves as “[having] always been an organic brand”, and as such, they hope to address many of the issues that non-organic farming causes (About Us: Green and Black’s). Besides the risks of non organic farming that can be avoided, Green and Black’s states that their organic product allows “farmers who grow their crops … [to be] more interested in, and concentrate[d] on, the quality and taste of what they grow” (About Us: Green and Black’s). Organic farming can promote biodiversity, as it can promote a more natural environment for growing compared to a mono-crop yield, and Green and Black’s states that “our farmers grow their beans under the shade of rainforest trees alongside other crops like avocado, pineapple, coffee and bananas”. With this advocacy to organic cocoa as a main company goal, Green and Black is able to promote a more environmental and health conscious method of farming from its growers.
In addition to their emphasis on organic products, Green and Black’s additionally focuses on their more recent, but just as important, goal of fair trade. In many industries that find their source crop being grown in third-world, developing nations, such as coffee, sugar, and chocolate, ethical practices are often questionable and troublesome. In the cocoa growing industry, in particular, labor practices are a huge issue. Internally among growers, there is an issue with child labor; children are forced out of schools, and are often subject to work long, unpaid hours on cocoa plantations. They are often given difficult jobs that they are not trained for, including climbing trees with machetes to hack off pods (Coe and Coe 264). Because of the work they are forced to do, these children are unable to lead normal lives, or get proper educations or human rights, including their right to independence and health. As Coe and Coe write, these child laborers “never in their short lives… [receive] medical treatment or [see] the inside of a school” (264).
Beyond labor issues, the cocoa industry and its big chocolate companies often abuse and exploit growers in developing countries. Big chocolate companies often try and keep prices artificially low, refusing to pay farmers more for their produce to keep their final product prices low for consumers. In addition to this artificial price setting, farmers do not see even a quarter of the profits that chocolate makes globally; while chocolate bars may cost a consumer $2.00 or more, farmers often only see about %10 of these earnings (Martin), making their income unsustainable and their lives harsh. This often results in small farmers who do not participate in large cocoa plantations to be forced out of growing cocoa, as they cannot sustain their livelihoods in such a manner. Such forcing of small growers out of the industry became very common especially after the bottom dropped out of the chocolate market in the 1980s (Coe and Coe 263); these trends only continue today, as big chocolate strives to keep prices unrealistically low, all while forcing only a small percentage of profit back to the hands of the farmers.
By certifying their product as Fair Trade, Green and Black’s, along with an increasing number of companies vying for such certification, vow to help developing countries and their producers achieve ethical and sustainable trade conditions. On Green and Black’s website, for example, they state that they “are committed to applying Ethical Sourcing Standards in our own work place… and expect our suppliers, co-manufacturers and business partners to follow suit. Respect for human rights, ethical trading… are fundamental to how [they] work” (About Us: Green and Black’s). In addition to respecting the rights of their suppliers, they = give money directly to worker’s organizations and communities, so that they can fund initiatives for education, clean water, healthcare, etc (Purvis). Most importantly, Green and Black’s pays $1.25 per pound of cocoa, compared to an industry standard of $0.55 (Purvis). In Belize, for example, with the creation of Maya Gold gave the community money from both Fair Trade and organic programs with far reaching consequences. While 10% of children benefited from education in the region, today over 70%, including those from outlying villages, are able to be educated (Purvis). The TCGA has also led initiatives to improve their product through the development of agronomy, nursery management, IT, and administrative education for farmers (Purvis).
In this video from their YouTube page, founder Craig Sams explains many of Green and Black’s ethical and quality goals; he explains how they came to work with the farmers in Belize, and how he hopes new partnerships, such as one in the Dominican Republic, can quickly and effectively move communities in a positive way.
Behind the scenes, Green and Black’s is an extremely impressive buyer with many ethical guidelines in place to assure safe labor and product. To the consumer, Green and Black’s is an equally impressive producer; as one of the largest organic chocolate manufacturers globally, they have succeeded in launching their chocolate products to the world as a premium product worth paying extra for.
Because of their organic and Fair Trade certifications, Green and Black’s chocolate quality shines through. In lecture earlier this semester, for example, the majority of people loved their Milk Chocolate bar, with a delicious creamy texture. Understandably, Green and Black’s is an extremely popular chocolate with growing fame; a quick Google search indicates that it is sold popularly on Amazon, Walmart, and other websites.
Knowing this, Green and Black’s seeks to brand itself as chocolate that is different from ordinary candy; in this advertisement for their dark chocolate bar, they declare proudly that they are so delicious, that they will make you forget about “chocolate money… chocolate footballs… cinema chocolate…” and even “the first chocolate [you] ever tasted”. They know that their product is delicious, and market it as a more premium product that is worth the price.
In addition to smart advertising of their delicious taste, Green and Black’s also advertise the quality of their product through its organic and Fair Trade roots. In a world where consumers are becoming more conscious of their tastes (the Fair Trade market alone has increased in value from 22M to 635M pounds from 1999 to 2009 (Smithers) ), Green and Black’s knows how to target its advertisement to such individuals. In this advertisement, Green and Black’s teasingly advertise their chocolate as “impeccable” and having a “great body” on the outside. But what truly makes it special is its “insides”, represented by a green leafy heart; this clearly allows consumers to understand that this chocolate is not only delicious but also ethically good.
Today, as healthier, more “green” and ethical products become popular with an increasingly conscious consumer base, Green and Black’s is stronger than ever. With over ten flavored bars selling around the world, they have made many strides to assure quality organic and fair trade chocolate in all their products. In doing so, they are a leader in a new wave of companies that could potentially change the ethical, environmental, and economic issues of the current chocolate industry.
“About Us: Green & Black’s.” Green & Black’s. Web. May 2015. <http://us.greenandblacks.com/about-us#>.
Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe, and Ryan J. Huxtable. The true history of chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.
“TCGA.” TCGA. 2015. Web. 7 May 2015. <http://www.tcgabelize.com/tcga/history/#>.
Smithers, Rebecca. “Green and Black’s to Go 100% Fairtrade.” The Guardian. 2010. Web. May 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jan/28/fair-trade-ethical-living>.
Martin, C. 2015. “African and African American Studies 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food”. Emerson Hall, Harvard University. Lecture.
“Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious? Web. 7 May 2015. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880>.
Purvis, Andrew. “How a 1.50 Chocolate Bar Saved a Mayan Community from Destruction.” The Guardian. 2006. Web. 7 May 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2006/may/28/foodanddrink.features1>.