It is Only Fair That You Eat “Good” Chocolate

“The mission of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) is to connect producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower disadvantaged producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives.

    Consumers for all products are marketed to, effective marketing increases sales and if something sells it continues as a store product. Chocolate is no different however there are now many brands types of chocolate, there is milk or dark chocolate options, as well as conventional and organic/Fairtrade. I will explore and compare the two franchised grocery stores -Star Market and Whole Foods. Similarly, both shops sell chocolate, however, Star Market sells a majority of conventional chocolate while Whole foods sells more certified brands like organic, Fairtrade, rainforest alliance certified, vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free and direct trade. The placement of chocolate on the shelves are similar with the two franchises, but the varieties of chocolate and the price points are different. This tends to attract different types of consumers. Star Market customers are not usually looking for premium products that are priced higher because of the triple bottom line (social, financial, and environmental) reasons, whereas, those who shop at Whole Foods tend to make purchases with social and environmental implications in mind. Conventional chocolate is not sold at Whole Foods but Star Market does sell some of the different certified brands in the health food section of their store. Below is an example of the sort of variety of chocolate products Star Market carries in their stores.

IMG_0541 (1)

    Star Market which has operated and grown since 1915 into a well-known New England supermarket brand today it is “a part of the company’s Shaw’s division, they operate 154 stores throughout New England, which is part of a 2,200+ store operation that employs approximately 265,000 people nationwide (Our Story). Whole Foods was founded in 1980 in Austin Texas and “when four local business people decided the natural foods industry was ready for a supermarket format…it was an immediate success. At the time, there were less than half a dozen natural food supermarkets in the United States” (Whole Foods). Below is an example of the variety of chocolate carried in Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods Chocolate

(Best of 2013)

        Chocolate in many varieties seems to be offered almost everywhere in the North America. Most vendors not only grocery stores, shops like; hardware stores, gas stations, airports, restaurants magazine shops and convenience stores, gift shops, book stores, etc offer chocolate close to the cash register, this is not happenstance, it is a well-proven marketing ploy to market to last minute buyers and children. Enticing the customers as they stand in line waiting to ring through their purchases. It works with me, seldom do I pass up a last minute chocolate bar.

    When chocolate is offered on store shelves most consumers do not think about where their chocolate comes from, how it is made, what employment practices and transportation modes were involved,  in getting chocolate on the shelf. Most consumers simply consider what kind of chocolate they like; milk or dark, with or without fruits or nuts, and what brand they prefer (usually seeming from childhood brands). Grocery stores like Star Markets cater to this kind of consumer. Whole Foods, on the other hand, serves another type of customer base those who seem to understand and use their purchase power even if their chocolate costs more. When they buy chocolate they may be choosing to support Fairtrade. For instance, “a Fairtrade premium added to the purchase price is used by cooperatives for social and economic investments such as education, health services, processing equipment and loans to members” (Cocoa). Furthermore, purchasing Fairtrade chocolate supports and maintains these products on the store shelves. Of course taste and quality of chocolate are also factored in when responsible consumers use their purchasing choices. On the “Fairtrade International” website are the guidance documents on productivity and quality improvements designed as a support document for cocoa producer organizations. “It provides an explanation on what productivity and/or quality improvement is and what investments this may require, as well as additional information on the reporting of these investments. This document relates to section 4.3.7 and 4.3.8 of the Fairtrade Standard for Cocoa for Small Producer Organizations” (Cocoa).

    Star Market customers who enjoy conventional chocolate brands like Kit Kat, Hershey’s, Reeses, or Twix bars etc, cost less than Fairtrade but not by much. The graph below shows the price differentiation between conventional and Fairtrade.figure_40_full.jpg

(Rousu) 

    Fairtrade chocolate really isn’t much more expensive than conventional chocolate and it usually is better quality.  It depends on what kind of chocolate consumer prefer. For example, purchasing a Kit Kat bar is, in fact, cheaper than purchasing a gourmet exotically spiced dark chocolate bar, but purchasing a plain milk chocolate bar vs. a Fairtrade milk chocolate bar the price variation is not drastic approximately a $0.40 difference as the chart above displays.         

    Conventional chocolate consumers who to loyal conventional brands like Cadbury’s, Kit Kats (Nestle) will soon have the option to buy fair trade. Cadbury’s has recently made their milk chocolate bar that is Fairtrade as well as their hot chocolate mix. Likewise, Kit Kat (Nestle) in the UK offers a Fairtrade bar,  however, the American Kit Kat remains conventional chocolate. There must be money in Fairtrade if the larger chocolate manufactures like Cadburys and Nestle are offering this.  Hershey’s announced in April 2013 that “its next step toward 100% certified sustainable cocoa… (also) inclusion fair trade USA” (Rousu) Hershey’s now announced that by 2020 their plan is to source 100% fair trade and certified sustainable (Rousu). If all of the conventional chocolate makers made a Fairtrade version they most likely would see that sales would increase to the point that they could discontinue conventional chocolate altogether. Hopefully, this is a sign that conventional chocolate is on its way to being pushed out of the chocolate market. 

    Different studies and marketing results have shown consumers will pay slightly more for items with Fairtrade certification. Consumers want to and feel better buying products that are healthier for the consumer and the environment, as well as the workers and communities that provide them. If Fairtrade instead of conventional chocolate was strategically placed at the register for last minute consumers and children, the power of persuasion and the feel good factors of purchasing would work well together to increase sales. Star Market displays Fairtrade chocolate in the health food aisle.

    Something new happened in the chocolate world. A new chocolate bar appeared on the shelves of supermarkets across the UK “Named “Maya Gold,” it came with the endorsement of the Fairtrade Foundation, an organization established by Oxfam and other groups to ensure that Third World producers (in this case the Kekchi Maya of Belize) were given a better trading deal for their raw products.” “The Kekchi Maya shared in the profits of their (Maya Gold) chocolate bar.” Unfortunately, slave labor still exists today which also includes child slavery and exploitation like in many West African plantations (Coe pg 262-266). Child slavery continues to be a blight on the chocolate industry, “several million African children, many of them trafficked from neighbouring countries scubas Mali, work under terrible conditions throughout the year, suffering from powerful pastiches……cutting themselves with machetes that they must wield to open pods, and never in their short lives receiving medical treatment or seeing the inside of a school” (Coe pg 262-266). How could anyone enjoy a chocolate knowing children were exploited for their chocolate enjoyment.

    It is encouraging that large conventional chocolate manufacturers seem to be embracing Fairtrade options for their long-standing traditional products. While there is much to be accomplished in terms of improving the conditions of the workers especially human trafficked children and other appalling and shameful practices associated with the conventional chocolate industry. It seems only logical that Star Market and other grocery stores could apply pressure to conventional chocolate manufacturers by buying and selling only ethical and responsible chocolate products. It is apparent that if some of the companies are embracing this that there are financial returns or they would not be producing Fairtrade options. I for one will only be buying Fairtrade, every little bit counts. 

References:

“Best of 2013: High-End Chocolate Bar Selection – Orange Coast.” Orange Coast. Orange Coast Magazine, 08 July 2013. Web. 10 May 2016. <http://www.orangecoast.com/bestoforangecoast/best-of-2013-high-end-chocolate-bar-selection/&gt;.

“Cocoa.” Fairtrade International (FLO):. Fairtrade International, n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. <http://www.fairtrade.net/products/cocoa.html&gt;.

“Chocolate Class.” Chocolate Class. WordPress, n.d. Web. 10 May 2016. <https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/&gt;.

Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.Marcel, Presilla E. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009. 17 February 2016. Print.

Marcel, Presilla E. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009. 17 February 2016. Print.

“Our Story.” Starmarket Our Story Comments. Star Market, n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. <http://www.starmarket.com/our-company/traditions-history/&gt;.

Rousu, Mattew C., and Jay R. Corrigan. “CHOICES.” Home. AAEA, n.d. Web. 10 May 2016. <http://www.choicesmagazine.org/magazine/article.php?article=22&gt;.

“Whole Foods Market History.” Whole Foods Market. Whole Food Market, n.d. Web. 10 May 2016. <http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company-info/whole-foods-market-history&gt;.

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