The purpose of my chocolate tasting was to see whether the attendees could discern between the four various categories for the sourcing and materialization of chocolate as discussed in class and the readings: (1) Direct Trade, (2) Fair Trade, (3) Organic, and (4) Industrialized. Because much of Chocolate class was about the social, anthropological, and economic impacts of and differences between each of these chocolate types, I thought this would be an excellent theme to my tasting that brings historical, socioeconomic, and taste-related views.
Figure 1. The fancy invitations I used to invite 7 participants to my tasting.
Figure 2. The participants of my chocolate tasting.
Types of Chocolate in the Tasting
(1) Direct Trade There are four general types of chocolate (based on its production processes) that we have learned in Chocolate class. The first is Direct Trade, also known as bean-to-bar chocolate, as these companies have control of its manufacturing process from growing and harvesting of the cacao bean all the way to its packaging and selling into a bar. Direct Trade chocolate is usually a chocolate company that directly deals with farmers. There’s a bit of variation in its manufacturing processes, but this leaves more room for negotiation from the different chocolate companies. Direct Trade companies may place environmental and labor factors into consideration, but not to as far of an extent as other chocolate types such as Fair Trade. In Direct Trade, there is less regulation because it is assumed that there is maximum control between the cacao harvesters, manufacturers, and packagers of the chocolate product. However, the very direct control of these Direct Trade chocolate companies costs a high premium, making their products quite expensive. Because of the rarity of a chocolate company having complete control of an entire chocolate farm, which is usually located outside of the U.S., solely for their company, the quantity of Direct Trade producers which exists is very low.
(2) Fair Trade The second category of chocolates presented was the Fair Trade chocolate type. These mass-produced confections are intended to guarantee a consistent smell and taste, achieved through rigorous oversight and a careful blending of cacao. According to Michael D’Antonio of Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, using liquid condensed milk instead of the powdered milk that the Swiss favored, Schmalbach’s mixture was easier to move through various processes: “…it could be pumped, channeled, and poured — and it required less time for smoothing and grinding. Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster, and therefore cheaper, than the Europeans” (D’Antonio 2006: 108). With techniques like these that were melded again and again by Hershey a century ago, efficiency of methods for the mass-production and -distribution of chocolate was possible. However, these efficient industrialized methods definitely compromise the ethics of labor, environmentalism, and health-focuses of these chocolates.
(3) Organic The third type of chocolate that is explored in this tasting is Organic chocolate. Organic chocolates place an emphasis on health and the environment. They do not use pesticides, and because it places such a large, conscious emphasis on these issues, there is a loss of yield that occurs in terms of its production and consumption. These chocolate products also tend to be extremely expensive, for there is usually a rearrangement premium placed on their price tag. Additionally, although organic chocolate products focus on health-related and environmental issues, there is no standard for the laborers of its production. Organic chocolate products must also all undergo certification, and usually the bars themselves are sold in small proportions.
(4) Industrialized The final category of chocolates which were presented during the tasting was Industrialized chocolate. Fair Trade chocolates emphasize the moral ethics of the chocolate production. They prioritize producing ethical, labor-regulated goods, and for this reason they also weigh between ingredient and product. These products also require a certification by one or more of the various Fair Trade certification companies. These groups usually require a type of price threshold, which makes this type of chocolate a little bit more expensive. Fair Trade chocolates also take the environment into account, although oftentimes not as much as Organic chocolates do. Fair Trade chocolates also focus on community development.
Figure 3. The advertising and packaging used for each of the four chocolates used in my tasting.
(1) Direct Trade:
Taza Chocolate, Seriously Dark, 87% Cacao, Organic Dark Chocolate
Observations of Packaging:
Easy-to-read font that pops out
(2) Fair Trade:
Seattle Chocolate, Pike Place Espresso, Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Decaf Espresso
Observations of Packaging:
“Rainy coffeehouse hipster”
Cloudy color scheme (not as bright)
Lake Champlain Chocolates, Cacao Nibs & Dark Chocolate, 80% Cocoa
Observations of Packaging:
“Typical coffee colors”
Compromise between adult- and kid-themed packaging (could theoretically work for either audience)
Cadbury, Royal Dark, Dark Chocolate
Observations of Packaging:
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
“Here There Will Be No Unhappiness.” Hershey Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, by Michael D D’Antonio, Simon & Schuster, 2006, pp. 106–126.
Disclaimer: While this is an ethnographic look at the Piety and Desire Chocolate brand, it is incomplete simply for the fact that I have not actually seen the store, factory, or products in person myself, nor have I ever visited New Orleans or conducted significant research of the sociocultural atmosphere of the place. This post is also strictly meant to be read in an academic and is not an endorsement of the Piety & Desire Chocolate brand, nor is it sponsored by the company.
Meet Piety and Desire Chocolate
Piety and Desire Chocolate is a craft
“chocolaterie” in New Orleans, Louisiana, not far from the French Quarter. Owner
and chocolate maker Christopher Nobles opened the “factory and boutique” in
2017 and has started making a name for the brand in the realm of local, artisanal
products in New Orleans. I encountered them surfing the “#beantobar” tag on
Instagram, evidence of the brand’s commitment to marketing its process as a way
to distinguish itself in a competitive food market.
According to their website, the brand describes itself as:
Piety and Desire Chocolate mines the fine lines. Just as its holy beginnings as a “food of the gods” led to its transformation into a seductive delight, so we strive to strike the perfect harmony between reverence and passion in the balance of science and art, the parity of piety and desire.
Detail-oriented and passionate about
their product, Piety and Desire appears to uphold the commitment to high-quality
products of the craft food movement. (Martin) The name of the company is striking,
too, and clearly important to the business’s philosophy of chocolate making.
Piety and desire – both human elements with long histories with cocoa – are at
the foundations of the company’s motivation, according to an interview with Nobles:
I wanted a name that reflected my family’s six-ish generations of New Orleans history in an honorable, non-fleur-de-lis-laden or culturally appropriated fashion… I’m the third of the past five generations to settle in (Faubourg) Marigny. [The name] Piety and Desire mirrors the history of cacao itself. Beginning as a sacred food of the gods in ancient Mesoamerica (among many spiritual aspects), these noble seeds also represented more secular aspects of life, from its use as a currency to its use as an aphrodisiac.
Christopher Nobles, Freund interview
Immediately from these two sources of
information about the company, its website and its owner, a prospective
consumer is marketed a product that is desirable for more than just its taste –
it is desirable for its cultural and religious symbolism, for its connection to
nobility, and for the sensual experience so highly associated with it.
Another important part of the company’s
model is its commitment to the environment. According to its frequently asked
questions section, the company website states:
Not only are our chocolate bars are all packaged with recycled paper and compostable cellophane, but the outside sleeve is wildflower-seed-infused. You can simply plant this sleeve to support your local pollinators!
This specific packaging choice shows
a real dedication to environmental issues and the health of the planet. In
addition to recyclability, compostability, and the extra benefit of encouraging
consumers to plant wildflowers after indulging in their confections, Piety and
Desire also offers vegan options among its products. The impact of veganism of
the environment is a highly contentious issue, but including vegan products
widens the audience of the store such that people who may already be concerned
about the environment (and thus choose to be vegan) are more likely to bring
The packaging also points to another result
of Piety and Desire’s bean-to-bar philosophy: it lacks many certifications that
some would expect as givens for a craft chocolaterie. They are not certified
organic, according to their frequently asked questions, but the company offers a
worthy explanation as to why they do not have this certification for the cacao they
buy. Bean-to-bar chocolate requires a certain level of engagement between
chocolate makers and cacao farmers that does not exist in other corners of the
industry. By pointing out that the cacao they buy is most likely grown
organically but grown by farmers who may not be able to afford the fees associated
with official certification, Piety and Desire goes one step further and puts
their customers in direct conversation with the farmers who supply their cacao.
Consumers who talk with Nobles or read their website, or even scroll through
their Instagram account, are made to think about the conditions of cacao
farmers. Piety and Desire engages in direct and conscious trade, lacking a “fair
trade” certification, as well. The willingness to explain why these
perhaps-expected certifications are absent is very positive because, as we have
seen since our first lecture, not all certifications mean what we as consumers
may think that they mean. (Martin, “Chocolate Politics…) Ethical actions do
not always come with labels to brand them as such.
One cannot discuss Piety and Desire
Chocolate without discussing New Orleans. The culture and history of the place
is inextricably linked to the chocolate that Piety and Desire creates in many
The flavors and shapes of the bonbons
that Nobles crafts in-house are very specifically situate the brand in New Orleans.
From King Cake and Sazerac bonbons to the use of very New Orleans flavors like
bourbon, coffee, and rum, the brand appeals to local tastes.
Nobles also specifies that he uses “100%
raw Louisiana cane sugar” in all his products in various interviews, on the
packaging for Piety and Desire Chocolate, and on their website. Despite the historical
connection between cane sugar production and plantation slavery (in Louisiana,
no less), the use of a local sugar to sweeten the chocolates and confections he
makes seems to be seen as a point of pride and a dedication to crafting high
quality products. After all, emblazoning “made with 100% raw Louisiana cane
sugar” on packaging makes it into a marketing tactic.
On top of using local flavors, cultural institutions like Mardi Gras, and some local ingredients, the language used in the official company Instagram page was fascinating to me. Here, I wish that I had more personal knowledge of New Orleans’ cultural norms, especially due to the complicated and fraught racial history of the region, but I will attempt to unpack what I can. The language used, presumably by Nobles as the proprietor of Piety and Desire Chocolate, very clearly uses ebonics and stylized writing in order to communicate a “blaccent.”
This reminded me of Robertson’s discussion on how people talk about chocolate:
In the mythology of chocolate the power relations of production and consumption are subsumed by a more attractive narrative of exotic peoples and their surroundings, and by historical anecdote. Chocolate seems to generate a particular type of history writings – even in purportedly ‘academic’ texts – one which delves unashamedly into the realms of fantasy and romance.
Robertson, pp. 85-6)
A huge aspect of white fantasy is the
fantasy of black bodies, black actions, and black words – we can see as much is
the gentrification of hip hop and rap by artists like Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus,
to point to one modern example. The use of the blaccent in advertising
initially made me, as a spectator, imagine that the person making this chocolate
was black. Of course, as someone very far removed from New Orleans, I am not
sure this is a fair assumption to have had, but it was an assumption nonetheless.
Then, through my research, I saw that Christopher Nobles was the owner of Piety
and Desire Chocolate – a white man.
This context put almost everything I
had thought about Piety and Desire in a new light. While there are bonbons in
the store’s offerings that use common, locally-based flavor profiles, there
were also more complex, rare flavor offerings including saffron, matcha,
jasmine, and goat cheese, to name a few. While there may may be no such thing
as an “average consumer,” (Martin, “Haute patisserie…”) and generalizations simply
do not apply in the real world of consumer palates, seeing flavors like this –
flavors that a consumer could never find in the candy isle of a drug store –
made me think even more about Piety and Desire’s audience. As someone from a
low-income background, I know that I have seen my family members turn their
noses up at flavors which come from outside our comfort zone or flavors which
have been marketed in such a way as to emphasize their “gourmet” qualities (one
immediately thinks of truffle, for example). I wonder if this, too, is
something that narrows the audience of a craft chocolate store like Piety and
Desire, and how that can be amended – I firmly believe that flavors should not
belong to certain classes, as food is a human right.
Without a detailed investigation of
the demographics Piety and Desire serves, one cannot be certain of any sort of
racial or class-based disparity in consumers, especially not in terms of flavor-profiling
according to generalized perceptions of different races/classes. It is simply
something to that I thought about as I continued to learn about the company; it
became especially curious to me when I found this post on the company’s Instagram:
I encountered it twice – once before seeing that Christopher Nobles was white, and then again after. My first impression was that the brand was attempting to raise awareness of cacao slavery and use its platform to try to inspire change. Additionally, giving away chocolate, however small of a boon it may seem in the grand scheme of things, seemed to be a form of reparations for a community which has been seeking long-deserved justice and reparations for generations. Before going more in depth on this particular topic, I’d like to evaluate the ethical stances of Piety and Desire Chocolate as a company more broadly.
In an interview, Nobles is quoted as saying:
…our movement [craft chocolate] being a global business has a greater thread of social responsibility. Many of us go above and beyond the standards of Fair Trade, paying many times more than that price directly to producers, cooperatives and farmers in what’s known as direct or conscious trade. I feel it’s my responsibility to source from organic sources, who, by intercropping or abandoning less environmentally sustainable agricultural models, make the world a little bit greener.
The ethical awareness, then, can be
seen as foundational to the company’s operations. Beyond operations, the
company’s impact on the consumer seems to be targeted as well, as best as these
things can be. Without tasting the chocolate, the true sense evidence that
would be able to tell someone if Piety and Desire Chocolate is doing anything
different from the crowd of commodity chocolate brands with its chocolate, I am
not sure I can address this; however, from its attempts to educate consumers
not only about how its chocolate is made but also about social issues surrounding
cocoa production, I think that Piety and Desire Chocolate is very good to its
Another positive aspect is the
commitment to environmental health, evidenced by packaging choices that go
above and beyond sustainability. While the pleasure-based language of much of
its advertising does lead me to believe that physical health is not a priority
of Piety and Desire, its use of local and some organic ingredients as part of
the craft food movement, putting it in opposition to the heavily processed
commodity food industry, makes me more hopeful about its health consciousness
as a company. It is also transparent about its production process, both
enumerating steps on its website and having an open-space design in its shop
that allows consumers to see different stages of chocolate production.
Tying back to the conversation on Juneteenth,
slavery, and reparations, an issue I had with Piety and Desire Chocolate’s
model is that they seem not to use West African cacao. We know that most cacao
comes from West African farmers, but that the craft food movement has been
loath to use West African cacao due to questions of quality. (Martin, “Haute
patisserie…”) Additionally, the McNulty article on Piety and Desire Chocolate
stated that “Beans arrive fermented and dried in burlap sacks from farms in
Central America and South America,” implying that there is no use of West
African cacao in the company’s products. Of course, a direct inquiry in
necessary to ascertain the validity of that claim, but operating on that
assumption reveals some hypocrisy in the brand’s supposed activism.
How can Piety and Desire say that it
is trying to promote awareness of the slavery in cacao farms when their direct/conscious
trade cacao is not from West Africa, where this problem is the worst? How can
they tie together the historical trauma of slavery in Louisiana to the slavery
of modern day cacao farmers without acknowledging the greater similarity: that both involved the exploitation of West
African people by white people? (Off) By not buying West African cacao, Piety
and Desire is also not helping to end
slavery on West African cacao farms. Using this tactic and connection to promote
itself to an audience that likely includes people of the African diaspora in Louisiana
seems tone deaf.
In conclusion, Piety and Desire
Chocolate seems to have been founded from a place of immense privilege, as most
artisanal chocolate is. This does not mean that their products are not created
ethically or of lesser quality than they could be, but that they are simply one
of many craft chocolate companies attempting to makes its mark on the industry
without making much of an impact on the actual issues endemic to the industry. I
think that Piety and Desire Chocolate does its part as well as it can in the
context of the craft food movement, but I would like to know more about their
pricing, the sources of their cacao, and the demographics of their customers.
(2018). Cocoa. Medford, MA: Polity Press.
Martin, C. (2019) AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate,
Culture, and the Politics of Food: “20190501 Haute patisserie, artisan
chocolate, and food justice: the future?” and “20190220 Sugar and cacao” and “Chocolate
Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and
Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat” [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from drive.google.com/drive/folders/1DEbPgnxsDAOhcgOsW0sHLyafD5yVuPUK.
Grocery stores, supermarkets, food marts,
or whatever you call them, the places where millions of Americans get their
food each week, are crucial to a vibrant nation. While their presence influences the economy among
many other sectors, this post will examine their relationship with consumer choices. Modern grocery stores sell much more than
food—beverages, hygiene and cleaning supplies, magazines, pharmaceutical goods,
alcohol, clothing, gasoline, pet supplies, household items—the list goes on and
on. In 2017, the average number of
items carried in a supermarket was over 30,000 (“Supermarket Facts”). Although there are many products, shelf-space
at grocery stores is nevertheless finite, leading to extreme competition among
manufacturers to get their products in front of Americans. After decades of this competition a short
list of conglomerates dominate both the grocery store brands and the
manufactures that supply them. These few
entities have tremendous influence and are involved in many industries. An excellent example of this market penetration
is the chocolate industry.
Mars, Mondelez, Ferrero, Nestle,
and Hershey “dominate the mature markets of Europe and North America” and
capture nearly two-thirds of global chocolate market share (Leissle 73-74). This percentage is staggering, and a quick
trip to CVS confirms the dominance. The
image above shows the traditional chocolate selection at the local CVS store in
Cambridge, MA and each of The Big Five has a large presence. Mars brands include Dove, M&M’s, Twix,
Milky Way, and Snickers. The Mondelez
brands are Toblerone, Cadbury, and Oreo.
Ferrero surprisingly only has one brand in the pictures which is Butterfinger. Nestle owns the brands Rolo, Reese’s, KitKat,
Crunch, and Raisinets despite some of these brands produced by Hershey here in
the United States. Lastly, Hershey
brands are many—Hershey Kisses, Heath, Reese’s, York, Almond Joy, Brookside—just
to name a few. Each of these brands
comes in countless varieties and there are over easily several hundreds of bags
of chocolate in each store. So,
chocolate is big business, but there is much more to the industry. Careful analysis of this curated selection
of chocolates reveals much more than what meets the eye in an ordinary trip to
the grocery store.
The adventure exploring this
multi-faceted industry begins in a surprising place, the non-traditional
chocolate selection in the same CVS store.
Aptly titled “Premium Chocolates,” this stand is much smaller and
contains more expensive and more exclusive brands. This premium selection includes only a
handful of brands which provide a stark contrast to the brands above. Ghirardelli, Russell Stover, Whitman’s, and
Lindt’s Excellence, are the most prominent and all owned by Lindt & Sprüngli. Also making an appearance are Ritter Sport,
Endangered Species Chocolate, and Turtles.
There are only two Big Five brands—Raffaello and Ferrero Rocher—both
which are owned by the company of the same name, Ferrero. This display encourages the consumer to
associate these chocolates with special occasions, luxury, health, romance,
extravagance, and celebration, all events worth the companies hope consumers
will splurge for. Intense Dark,
Irresistibly Smooth, Salted Caramel Cascade, Hazelnut Heaven, Sea Salt Soiree,
Blood Orange Sunset, Raspberry Radiance, Cherry Tango, 90% cacao content,
Rainforest Alliance Certified, Non-GMO verified, gluten free, and numerous
other slogans and labels all indicate this chocolate is for the advanced palate
and educated consumer. However, more
than a label is often needed to convince customers for the surcharge. Three common avenues of getting higher prices
are trade certifications, better cacao quality, and retail product differences.
First, trade certifications are stamps
of approval from agencies that generally commit to serving a mission like
paying higher cacao prices to farmers, working to end child and forced labor,
helping develop community infrastructure in Africa and other cacao-growing
regions, and many more. So many
organizations with so many different names and goals pose a difficulty to
consumers trying to select which certification is best supporting the
industry. To give an example, one of the
most popular is Fairtrade, which is overseen by Fairtrade International. As Kristy Leissle explains, “Fairtrade
International is an intermediary between labeling organizations and producer
organizations. Labeling organizations
certify that chocolate companies comply with Fairtrade price terms, and that
producer organizations comply with Fairtrade producer terms” (Leissle
141). These terms touch on working
conditions, the environment, sustainability, child labor, discrimination, and
more. The producers who meet these the
necessary conditions and pay a certification fee receive a Fairtrade Minimum
Prize on all cocoa sold in return. While
it sounds good in theory, issues arise in practice like the price floor not
rising quickly enough with inflation and other ingredients in bars not being
certified yet taking advantage of the Fairtrade premium. As one author explains “I do not challenge
the sincerity and ambition of [the Fairtrade] approach, nor the purity of its
motives,” but she continues and emphasizes that Fairtrade is “the most recent
example of another sophisticated ‘scam’ by the ‘invisible hand’ of the free
market. This noble endeavor for the
salvation of the free market was tamed and domesticated by the very forces it
wanted to fight” (Sylla 18). Nevertheless,
however misguided a consumer’s perceptions may be and despite procedural
problems like those raised by Sylla, trade certifications like Fairtrade are working
towards higher profits for vulnerable members of the cacao supply chain and are
a means for brands to demonstrate why to pay more for chocolate bars.
Another way these luxury companies
convince consumers to pay more for chocolate is the quality or type of cacao, and
in this case the classification of the plant species it comes from. In order to understand this specification,
some historical context and geography is provided. First, criollo, forastero, and trinitario are
the three main types. Criollo is most
associated with the original Mesoamerican cacao plants, distinguished by “long,
pointed, warty soft, and deeply ridged pods which contain seeds with white
cotyledons.” Forastero is most
associated with plants that originated in South American and Africa which have
“hard, round, melonlike pods, and the seeds have purplish cotyledons” (Coe
& Coe 26). From this description it
follows that criollo cacao is harder to produce, and it is with fewer pods and
higher disease susceptibility. However,
with this additional work and higher risk comes a greater reward in the form of
better flavor and improved aroma. This
is compared to forastero which is hardier but looks, tastes, and smells
different. In fact, forastero is often
translated as “strange” or “foreign” (Leissle 164). The remaining category, trinitario, is a hybrid
of these two varieties that balances the “desirable vigor of the forastero
plant with the superior quality of the criollo bean” (Coe & Coe 26). This simple classification system has faced
challenges in recent years as scientific studies claim the existence of many
more varieties. Nonetheless, with this
still as the predominant classification, criollo is found only Mesoamerican
regions, forasteros mainly in South America and Africa, and trinitarios in
North America, South America, Africa, India, and the Philippines/Indonesia
region. For the 2016-2017 season, the
African countries of Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria were forecast to
comprise about 71% of world cacao production (Leissle 42). In addition, it is commonly estimated that
forastero provides more than 80% of the world’s cacao crop (Coe & Coe
26). With its clear production advantage
and preference by large cacao conglomerates, forastero thus comprises most of
what is known as bulk cocoa. With this
historical context and geographical positioning, it is easy to see how both
producers and consumers would pay a premium for criollo chocolate
The third means to add value addressed
in this post is in the handling of the cacao, the machinery used in processing,
or the recipe used to make the retail product.
Once again, it is important to essential to have background knowledge on
the industry, from a comprehensive cacao vocabulary to an intricate understanding
of the many important steps that lie between the cacao tree to final chocolate
bar. First, there are several important
terms to clarify for this post. These
definitions are largely sourced from the 2019 spring semester of the Chocolate,
Culture, and the Politics of Food course at Harvard College. Cacao pods refer to the large and colorful
fruits that grow on the trunks of the cacao trees. The three major types are described in the above
paragraph. The cacao beans are the seeds
inside of this pod, covered by the cotyledon which is a white, often sweet,
pulp that connects the beans. The cacao
shell or husk is the outer layer of the bean, while the nib is the internal,
dried, and fully fermented portion we associate with chocolate. Chocolate liquor is the what forms from the
ground cacao nib. This liquor has two
parts, cocoa butter which is a waxy ivory-colored fat and the cocoa powder
which is what remains. Finally, Dutch-process
cocoa refers to the powder if it undergoes alkali treatment to neutralize the
harsh acids found in the original cacao.
Also, to briefly review the process, the first step is to have ripe
cacao pods on cacao trees. This is
difficult because cacao trees only grow in a range near the equator and it
takes roughly five years for a tree to bear fruit. These ripe pods must be removed carefully to
avoid damaging the trunk. Next, the cacao
beans and pulp are removed so that the fermentation process can begin. This process takes usually takes about a week
and often involves several stages.
Fermentation can also occur in a variety of containers, from a makeshift
pile of leaves to coolers to wooden boxes.
After this stage is complete, the beans move on to drying which also lasts
about 7 days. The beans are then sorted
and bagged before they are transported to the manufacturing facility. The first step here is to roast the beans and
then a process called winnowing where the bean is deshelled, and the cacao nib
is separated from the husk. This nib is
ground to form the chocolate liquor and then a hydraulic press extracts the
cocoa butter. One of the final steps
before molding and wrapping the bar is conching which aims to evenly distribute
the cocoa butter and improve the texture of the chocolate.
Specialty producers understand the cacao plant and the process and seek high-quality materials or develop mission-driven processes in making unique bars. The uniqueness and craft can enter at many, nearly all the stages along this supply chain. Some companies embrace the bean-to-bar model and begin by choosing select cacao pods or varieties, and proceed to oversee fermentation, drying, roasting, and more, customizing every stage until the finished product. These slight differences can have large impacts on the final taste and other attributes of the bar. The video above highlights Phil Landers of Land Chocolate, a bean-to-bar company based in London. Other companies set standards for the bean variety, type and length of fermentation and drying, etc. and then focus on the recipe or the work in the kitchen. Craft chocolate makers produce far fewer batches or quantities of chocolate and thus tend to focus on fine details more effectively than the commodity cocoa supply chain and companies. In short, specialty chocolate confectioners try to extract the natural flavors of the bean and experiment with unique processes and flavor combinations, while large companies order beans in bulk and strip all the cocoa down to a uniform powder that can be combined with traditional ingredients (sugar, milk, and butter) to make a consistent, inexpensive, candy staple. They are nearly two distinct industries, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, connected by the thread of making chocolate.
An examination of Fairtrade, the three types of cacao, and the chocolate-making process provides a better understanding of the differences between the premium chocolate section and the traditional chocolate section in CVS. The premium section takes advantage of each of these paths while the conventional selection almost exclusively offers Big Five chocolate brands. While there is insufficient room to analyze the chocolate selections of other specialized, higher-end grocery stores or even chocolate-exclusive shops in this blog post, the differences and the attributes discussed here are likely to be amplified. With this new enhanced understanding, consumers can now enter the candy aisle with more confidence of what some products are and what they are associated with. Sidney Mintz suggests a challenge to the conventional “we are what we eat” mantra; “In understanding the relationship between commodity and person, we unearth anew the history of ourselves” (Mintz 211-214). Knowledge and money are power, and consumers can make choices that will transform industries as we know them, should they choose to. Maybe one day the conventional chocolate selection will look more like the premium offering in CVS today and the cacao industry will no longer suffer from the many issues it currently battles. This transformation can start one consumer at a time. So, the next time you enter the grocery store realize the influence you have. If you won’t take my word for it, listen to Bill Gates—”When I walk into a grocery store and look at all the products you can choose, I say ‘My God!’ No king ever had anything like I have in my grocery store today” (Kurtz & Boone 72).
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed.,
Thames and Hudson, 2013.
Kurtz, David L., and Louis E. Boone. Contemporary
Business. South-Western Cengage Learning, 2009.
The contemporary state of the cacao-chocolate industry is rapidly evolving, and overall seems to be heading in a positive direction. In the past, two separate narratives have been told about chocolate, as discussed in my first blog post here: https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/blog-post-the-dark-side-of-cacao/. One tells a romanticized story of chocolate which is portrayed as a food of the gods, holding spiritual healing power, bringing people together socially, and even increasing wealth when used as currency. Simultaneously, a second narrative tells a story of slaves working gruelling conditions to make the romanticized story possible. However, in the contemporary cacao-chocolate industry, the two narratives are coming together to be told as one, which is something that we should be excited about. People are beginning to understand where chocolate is coming from and the processes involved, and people are changing their purchasing decisions accordingly.
In this blog post, we will discuss three different ways in which the two narratives are coming together to create a positive future for the cacao industry. The first is the expanding industry of bean-to-bar chocolate factories, which recognise the dark side of production and strive to make working conditions fair at all levels of the supply chain. Secondly, the United Nations is turning chocolate into more than a food, by creating its own chocolate bar as a symbol of social change. Finally, the fact that chocolate production is becoming a topic of discussion and more people are becoming educated is changing the way people think about cacao production at every level of the industry.
Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Production
The first concrete measure we can look at that shows the two narratives coming together is bean-to-bar chocolate production. In the past, a major issue with the production of chocolate has been the disjointed supply chain, where those experiencing slave labour in the early stages of production have no interaction with those selling the product in the final stages. This makes it easy for two different narratives to develop. In various lectures, we discussed the rise of the big five and race for the global market. As seen in this image below, the chocolate packages only told the romanticised story of chocolate, appealing to consumers and leaving out the story of slave labour which was a vial part of the supply chain. “A True History of Chocolate” by Coe and Coe, discusses the immense importance of chocolate from social, religious, medical, and economic perspectives, outlining aspects such as “the food of the gods”, “the Mesoamerican genesis”, and “the Aztecs as the people of the sun” (Coe and Coe, 2013). The wrappers in the big five chocolate companies encapsulate these ideas, appealing to consumers and leaving out an important part of the overall narrative.
Image 1: The Big Five Chocolate Producers
This is where the importance of bean to bar chocolate production becomes relevant. Here, we will discuss “the small five” companies that are making a big difference. These bean-to-bar companies may not hold as much of the market share as the big five, but they are making huge differences in the way we think about ethical cacao production, and combing the two narratives we have been talking about. The following five examples of bean-to-bar chocolate companies show how they are addressing issues with the supply chain, bringing the narrative of slave labour and the narrative of the shiny wrappers closer together, and improving conditions for those at the beginning of the supply chain.
1. Golden Tree Ghana
Image 2: Golden Tree Ghana
One example we discussed in class is the Golden Tree Ghana which is a cocoa processing company in Ghana. Golden Tree Ghana is a local bean-to-bar producer which makes products including the Akuafo Bar, which is a lemon-flavoured chocolate bar, and very well-know in the region. Golden Tree Ghana also makes chocolate coatings, cocoa, and popular drinks including Alltime and Vitaco. This bean-to-bar chocolate company aims for honesty, transparency, and accountability at every level of the supply chain. While creating a quality product for consumers, they are aware of the dark side of production, and making strides to not only improve working conditions for those producing the cacao, but improving transparency so that consumers know exactly how the products they are buying are being sourced.
Raaka is changing the way that consumers view chocolate. On each bar, facts can be found on the inside of the wrapper about where the cacao as purchased, how much they paid for the cacao, and other information about their company. Unlike shiny chocolate wrappers made by other companies such as the big five, this wrapper encapsulates the story of labour, the very thing that makes the production of every bar possible. This company may not be one of the big five, but it is doing big things to transform the cacao industry. Their genuine interest in persuing ethical practices shows through their mission statement:
“We believe our process should value the community of growers, producers, and makers whose livelihoods depend on cacao and chocolate. It takes an entire village of individuals, literally stretching across cultures and continents, to make every delicious bar. As chocolate makers, we’re at the end of this supply chain closest to the customer. This allows us to tell some of the stories behind each bar we make.” – Raaka.
Image 3: Raaka Wrapper
Furthermore, the Brooklyn based company, Madecasse, is produced in Madagascar, but sold in Whole Food shops around America.
Image 4: Madacasse Chocolate
Madacasse as a company has recognized that there is a lack of transparency in the chocolate industry, especially in big companies. There are thousands of miles and layers of middlemen separating the farmers that grow the cacao, and the consumers who eat it. Hence, it is easy for the two separate narratives to continue simultaneously, with consumers having no idea where their chocolate product is coming from. Madacasse has integrated their company into some of the poorest communities to buy directly from the cacao producers, changing the way chocolate is produced. As a result, farmers are earning more, increasing their quality of life, and the quality of chocolate is being increased for consumers. The following quote from their website shows their belief that Fair trade is not enough, as companies need to really understand the supply chain to create positive change.
“Fair trade is a label. It’s used by large companies, to verify that farmers who live thousands of miles away from where the chocolate is made are paid a fair price for their cocoa (which isn’t actually fair enough to be sustainable). It’s a top-down approach for companies with an outsourced supply chain.” – Madacasse.
Madacasse is working from the very bottom of the supply chain, with workers on the ground to make cacao farming as sustainable and as fair as possible.
4. French Broad Chocolates
Image 5: French Broad Chocolates
Sourcing sustainably is an integral part of the process for this small bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer. The employees at French Broad Chocolates spend a great deal of their time with the cacao workers in Central and South American, building relationships and understanding the process of production. Through those relationships, a platform is created to negotiate mutually beneficial wages, so workers can continue their jobs with dignity, pride, and prosperity. Currently, cacao is being sources from Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemela, and produced in a small factory in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. Just like the other bean-to-bar companies we have discussed, this company is taking enormous strides in putting the workers at the bottom of the supply chain first and reducing the disparity in the two narratives that have previously been told.
Dandelion adopts a similar approach to the sourcing of their cacao. They strive to work directly with the producers who grow, ferment, and dry the cacao. Just like French Broad Chocolates, the employees at Dandelion travel as frequently as possible to the beginning of the supply chain, to best understand the practices of those producing the cacao, and gain valuable feedback from the workers. Wages for the workers exceed the world market price, as an effort to strengthen relationships with workers, and commit to creating the best and most distinctive cacao possible.
Image 6: Dandelion Chocolates
As seen in these five examples, bean-to-bar chocolate production has the potential to change the way chocolate is made, especially if replicated more times and on a larger scale. Larger production companies, particularly the big five, have dominated the market in the past. But, if they do not change their practices to match the changing views of the consumers, they may not be so dominant in the future. In the 2010’s there were over 230 bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers, and increased demand among consumers for these products (Martin, 2019). The future of chocolate is looking brighter thanks to the innovations of bean-to-bar chocolate producers. Due to the sustainable practices of these companies, the big five are being forced to change the way their companies operate. They are facing enormous social and environmental pressure to become more sustainable, as well as economic pressures. In “Sweetness and Power” by Mintz, it is suggested that companies will change their practices if it means economic benefits (Mintz, 1986). In the 1840’s when slavery and protectionism collided with needs to compete in a widening market, free-trade advocates and government’s motives saw eye to eye as interests aligned. When it means staying competitive in the market, companies will change their practices. Companies will seek economic benefits, and if moving to sustainable practices will attract more consumers, then it is an advantage for all involved. An example of this is Mars, who are now investing more than $1 billion to make a more sustainable cacao supply chain (Mars, 2019). Originally, the company was not founded as a social enterprise, as seen in the Brenner reading (Brenner, 2000). But, due to social and environmental pressures for more sustainable cacao practices, the nature of cacao production is changing (Brenner, 2000). Eventually all companies will have to do the same to stay competitive in the chocolate market. Small companies are leading the charge for social change, and the big companies must keep up. However, the positive changes in the production of cacao does not end here. The second point we will discuss is how the United Nations chocolate is changing the way we view chocolate as a commodity.
2. United Nations chocolate made for a mission
The United Nations has created its own chocolate bar which is available at various locations, in the hope of addressing both economic and environmental problems. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has initiated this project. By making chocolate available in United Nations wrapping makes it clear that cacao and chocolate bar production is a global social issue, not just another food. It all began with nine-year-old Felix Finkbeiner from Germany, who founded the organisation, Plant for the Planet, announced his vision to his class at the end of one of his presentations.
“Children could plant one million trees in every country on the earth and thereby offset CO2 emissions all on their own, while adults are still talking about doing it.” – Felix Finkbeiner.
He made this vision a reality, and went on to partner with Patricia Espinosa, who is currently serving as the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.Together, they created a vision for the United Nations to create its own chocolate bar to be sold in the market. However, this was not just an ordinary chocolate bar, for it encapsulates the essence of how the chocolate industry should be developing.
This bar really brings together the two narratives of production. While the appealing wrapper and delicious taste of the smooth, milky bar tells the romanticised version of chocolate, it encapsulates the story of slavery, and simultaneously fights for justice.
Image 7: United Nations Chocolate
It is one of the first chocolate bar purely focused on sustainable farming practices, and bringing together the two narratives we have discussed. This production line is setting the standard for how sustainable practices should look. Chocolats halba produces this chocolate, and as seen in their mission statement, their ideals align closely with the goals of the UNDP, which is what makes it an appropriate company to produce this chocolate:
“Chocolats Halba has a clear ethos of generating added value for all stakeholder groups along its value chain – from cocoa farmers to consumers. To achieve this, it pursues a sustainability strategy that applies to all core areas of the business and to all employees. We received the Swiss Ethics Award in 2018 for our commitment to sustainability. The price of the chocolate bar will reflect its impact on the ecosystem and the real costs of production and export. The profits will be shared fairly, with farmers receiving a significantly greater share than through any other method.” – Chocolat Halba.
The production of this bar marries the two separate narratives told. By having chocolate wrapped in United Nations packaging – an organization which aims to fight injustices in the world – shows to consumers that this is a social issue which must be addressed, and is being addressed now in many different forms.
3. Education and broadening discussions about cacao and chocolate production
Finally, education and the broader discussion about chocolate is changing the way people think about chocolate, and influencing the way people choose to purchase and enjoy their chocolate.
Our class is a prime example of this broadening education, including the panels and speakers we have heard from, and the work they are doing beyond the classroom. In the past, people were unaware of how chocolate was actually made, hence people were less educated and less was being done to prevent this kind of suffering, particularly for children. The contemporary state of cacao production is therefore heading in a positive direction, and rapidly evolving, so it is important that we stay educated and up to date to make good decisions about future steps in this industry. Current literature, such as the Berlan article we read in this course, is addressing issues in slave labour, and identifying what we do and don’t know. If this type of research continues, we will be able to gain a greater understanding of the nuances and myriad of complex issues which allow slave labour to continue (Berlan, 2013), and through a better understanding we will be able to address these issues thoughtfully and properly.
In this class alone, the students have completed 39 hours of class time each, and combined, written approximately 6 books worth of information about chocolate (Martin, 2019). Furthermore, the teaching staff has completed about 750 words of written feedback for each student, teaching the students about this topic beyond what they knew before. This is about 120,000 words of written feedback for the class, all of which has developed the overall knowledge of this topic in the world (Martin, 2019). With such a diverse class, we will be able to take this knowledge to the various fields we go into in the future, while being conscious consumers and teaching others what we know. The impact of this class goes far beyond the classroom, and is a big step in the right direction for closing the gap between the two narratives of chocolate theta have existed in the past. And this is in one course alone. In the past, this type of education simply did not exist. Through education and the broadening discussion of cacao production, we are changing the way that we think about chocolate production. The idea of chocolate is changing for the better, and we should be incredibly excited about this positive trajectory.
Overall, the future of sustainable chocolate practices is looking very positive. Through bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers, the United Nations chocolate bar, and education, the two narratives of cacao are coming together to tell a more accurate story of production. The conditions for workers on cacao farms are improving due to these companies, research, and education, and this will likely continue to improve in the future.
Berlan, Amanda. 2013. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” pp. 1088-1100
Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. chapters 5, 13 pp. 49-69, 179-194
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007. The True History of Chocolate.
Martin, Carla. 2019. Harvard University Lectures from Course: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.
I was recently visiting family in Hilo, Hawaii where I found a bean to bar chocolate company mere minutes from where I was staying. As luck would have it, they also provided complete farm, production and store tours. I was able to take a wonderful tour, see every step of the process, interview Tom Menezes who is the owner, and take some wonderful photos which they have graciously allowed me to use for this paper. Below is a photo of Tom speaking with me about the cacao growing process. The trees in the photo are small cacao trees that have just started sprouting buds.
Tom was very passionate about the cacao growing process. You could see just by speaking with him that he wanted his business to be a success, not just for his benefit, but for the benefit of the local agriculture community, and the locals in general. His workers just as equally passionate about growing and producing cacao as he is. During our tour of the farm and production center, I learned a lot about the process they use to make the chocolate I was able to taste in their store. They consider themselves a ‘tree to bar’ chocolate company, as they state on their company website. During the tours they had complete transparency about the process and answered all questions that arose from myself and others in my group. They were extremely educated about cacao and the process of creating chocolate.
Cacao Production Process:
We first started on the cacao farm where we saw cacao trees and learned how the pods were harvested from the tree.
It is one thing to know that a cacao pod grows off the trunks and branches, but it was another to actually see it, as pictured above.
Each cacao pod is harvested, then broken open to extract the cacao beans by farm workers. The beans are then fermented in large coolers, as shown below.
This part was very interesting, as they do not clean the coolers out in between harvests. They compared the coolers to cast iron skillets, you want the beans to ferment in the cooler and season it essentially.
Then the beans are cleaned and dried on their drying racks. Next, they are roasted, as pictured below, then separated from the nibs, ground down, and processed. The entire process from growing and harvesting, to grinding and processing, was displayed in the tour.
The chocolate bars and drinks sold in their store, in Hilo, is just minutes away from the farm where they harvest the cacao. The store front also includes the production area for the cacao. They sell their chocolate on multiple islands in Hawaii and in various other stores as well.
History of Hawaiian Crown Chocolate:
The Hawaiian Crown Chocolate Company has a diverse work environment, and interesting history. Hawaiian Crown Chocolate has nearly 1,000 cacao trees on a 110-acre farm in Hilo. Their farm consists of cacao trees spaced in between banana trees in order to give shade to the cacao trees and aid in their growth and production. They have been planting cacao there for over 15 years, and the entire process is completed directly in Hilo (Hawaiian Crown, 2017). Nothing is outsourced. The owner of Hawaiian Crown Chocolate, Tom Menezes, has been farming cacao for over 40 years. Hawaiian Crown started off as purely a pineapple growing company, but eventually expanded into cacao as well. “Hawaii, as it turns out, is the only state where cacao can be grown commercially. Hawaiian Crown was one of the first certified organic cacao farms in the United States” (Walters, 2016). Tom has a lot of experience breeding and producing not only cacao, but also pineapple and taro. He has degrees in Tropical Agriculture and Plant Pathology from the University of Hawaii that have aided in his knowledge and success in the field of Hawaiian farming.
As it states on the Hawaiian Crown Chocolate Website, “Hawaiian Crown uses traditional plant selection and breeding methods to develop plants” (About Us, n.d.). They use sustainable farming techniques and few chemicals. One of the company’s main goals is to grow the local agriculture business in absence of sugar plantations that used to be in Hawaii. Sugar plantations used to be one of the largest agricultural businesses in Hawaii, and when they started to pull out of the region, generational farmers took an economic hit (Mintz, 1986). Cacao was first introduced on the islands in the 1830’s, but the 1980’s are when a Hershey conglomerate decided to plant a large amount of cacao trees in Hawaii. In fact, Tom Menezes worked with Hershey on those cacao trees at the beginning of his career, before he went off on his own to open his own company that would further benefit the local economy and agriculture (Billock, 2018).
Hawaii is the “coldest place in the world where cacao can be grown” (Billock, 2018), and not native to the region. It is also the only place in the United States where cacao can be grown. Cacao typically grows in South America which is warmer and more humid than Hawaii. However, the cooler temperatures in Hawaii are actually a good thing in some cases for growing cacao. Hawaii tends to have less pests than other areas with a warmer climate. The downside, however, is it takes longer to ferment in the colder climate. The University of Hawaii actually did some studies starting in 2006 on which cacao breeds produced the best yields and taste. It was funded by the department of Agriculture in Hawaii, and different areas of the islands were chosen based on different climates. It is currently being studied to decide where is best to plant cacao, how the harvest tastes, and what breed thrives the best (Miner, 2015, p. 404).
An Ethical Company:
Tom Menezes courteously answered my questions about his workers on the farm. He let me know that they contract out the workers from another farmer who “has a LLC and uses independent farmers where they are working for him and getting way better than minimum wages. Also, he is helping people who got out of jail and otherwise who have a hard time finding a job. So, all local workers who are unskilled but will be trained” (personal communication, April 30, 2019). Tom said that switching to local contract farmers improved pay and moral. He also works with other farmers in Hawaii to help them switch to local and contract workers to help improve the local agricultural community.
One of the things about the Hawaiian Crown Chocolate company that makes it so ethical in the chocolate industry is its transparency. This company is completely transparent about its supply chain, sourcing, and hired farm help. One of the biggest flaws in the chocolate industry right now is its lack of transparency. We especially see this with larger companies like Hershey and Cadbury. It is very hard to know exactly where a bar of the chocolate you buy in a store in America comes from, who helped farm the cacao beans that made the bar, and who processed those beans. I believe more companies should make their supply chains more transparent. This will increase not only awareness, but also force the companies to show how they are getting their chocolate and how the farmers are being treated and paid. This may increase the price of chocolate; nevertheless, wouldn’t it be worth a few extra dollars. Hawaiian Crown chocolate bars were a bit pricier than the ones in the supermarket. Each bar costs about $8, but you also know exactly where the cacao was picked, who picked it, and the entire process of production. “An increasingly aware chocolate-loving public would be willing to pay extra for a more ‘ethically correct’ product” (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 263). People are also searching for better quality chocolate, that larger companies are not offering, and will pay more for that quality.
“Every actor in this industry must convey that every step of the process, from planting a tree to selling a bar of chocolate, is inherently valuable” (Leissle, 2018, p.188). Tom Menezes and the Hawaiian Crown Chocolate company strive for this. They emphasize transparency in the entire process, and fair treatment and wages for their workers. The tours they give show the importance of each part of the ‘tree to bar’ process. This is exactly what many people are searching for in their chocolate, that it be both ethical and tasty. A wonderful combination.
For the months of June and July this past summer, I lived in Ecuador working in hospitals and living with host families. I spent one month in the Andean capital city of Quito and one month in the large coastal city of Guayaquil. Before coming to Ecuador, I had a general idea of things that I associated with the country, such as the Galápagos and Ecuadorian hats. Another one of my associations was chocolate. I knew that the chocolate in Ecuador was special, but I didn’t know why. I knew that I had heard people talking about Ecuadorian chocolate before, so I was excited to try this exotic form of chocolate, a commodity I saw daily in the United States. On one of my first days in Quito, we went to a large open-air market to shop and look at the handmade goods. One of the booths set up was selling a chocolate called Pacari. It was covered in a black wrapper with a different stripe of color for each kind of chocolate. I had finally come across some authentic Ecuadorian chocolate and I was ecstatic. I bought at least ten bars, very excited to bring them back home for my family to try and to try for myself. To my surprise, this chocolate brand kept appearing in stores all over Ecuador. I had assumed it was a small chocolate company that only traveled to a few craft markets. However, this Pacari company had a monopoly over the Ecuadorian chocolate industry. Everywhere a tourist would shop for Ecuadorian goods, a Pacari chocolate bar was sure to be presented, boasting of its 100% Ecuadorian cacao.
I was lucky enough to see this Ecuadorian cacao in person, in addition to eating the delicious chocolate made from it. During one of my weekend excursions to hike through the Amazon rainforest, our guide pointed out a tree with strange yellow-green oval pods growing straight from the branches. He cut one of these extraterrestrial-looking pods off and split it open with his machete, encouraging my group to each take one of the slippery, white sections and suck the pulp off of it. He explained to us that this was a cacao pod – the main ingredient to chocolate. I remember loving the sweet-sour taste of the white pulp – I even went to eat a second one – but I was trying to imagine how they were converted into chocolate. It wasn’t until taking this class that I realized the coveted cacao beans were inside of the white pulp. Living in Ecuador exposed me to some of the main topics we learned about in class, but without the framework of our chocolate class, I was ignorant about the realities of the chocolate-making process and types of chocolate companies in the world. Using my own experiences as inspiration, I will now explore the history of chocolate in Ecuador and analyze the Pacari chocolate company, using my new lens from AFRAMER 119x to engage with the topics.
Ecuador’s history with cacao and chocolate has been long; arguably the longest relationship with cacao that any region in the world has had. This is because the Amazon basin in the Andean region is considered to be the area where cacao originated. This region overlaps with part of modern day Ecuador. So it is no stretch to say that chocolate originated in Ecuador. Scholars theorize that cacao spread from Ecuador through trade routes up north to modern-day Mexico, where is gained popularity with the Olmec civilization (Coe and Coe). After Europeans discovered cacao, Ecuador became one of the largest exporters of cacao in the world and retained this status from the mid-1600’s to the early 1900’s. In the 1900’s, Ecuador lost a large portion of its cacao trees to a disease called witches’ broom, which knocked down its export volume (Leissle). Since then, Ecuador has regained its stake in the world chocolate market. In 2017, it was projected to hold 5.9% of the world production of cacao, coming in fourth place after the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia (Leissle). Ecuador also produces 75% of flavor beans in the world, which are beans that have a rare or prized flavor profile (Leissle). There are two major types of cacao trees that are grown in Ecuador. The first is nacional cacao, which is native to the area and is an example of a flavor bean. The second is CCN-51, which is a hybrid cacao plant that was bred to resist disease and produce more cacao than its natural relatives (Leissle). This hybrid brings up many topics about the sustainable future of cacao. While it does not have the same flavor as the nacional cacao, it is much more fruitful. Ecuador does not have the status as the largest cacao exporter in the world anymore, but it is still a major player in the global chocolate production chain and stays current with all of the modern advances in cacao growing.
The world of chocolate is not all delicious treats and beautiful creations, however. There is a dark side that most Hershey and Cadbury consumers are not aware of. A huge amount of labor is required to harvest cacao pods and transform them into the beans that are sold to chocolate manufacturers. Throughout the world, the labor that is used to obtain cacao beans is sometimes not ethical. In South America and West Africa, the examples of child labor and extremely poor working conditions are staggering (Off). Children are often exploited to work long hours on cacao farms that their families also work on. The Harkin-Engel Protocol was passed in 2001 and aims to end the worst forms of child and forced labor on cacao farms after striking evidence of modern day slavery was found on cacao plantations (Ryan). The labor of cacao harvesting is at the base of the chocolate supply chain. Other players in the chain include cacao farmers, the local community, the national government, and finally the global market and big chocolate companies. Each layer has its own role in creating the chocolate that sits on supermarket shelves, but each layer is not equally recognized. It is important to acknowledge each player in the supply chain and to consciously buy chocolate that does not have any forced labor or modern slavery in any link of the chain. With these considerations of unethical labor in mind, we can examine the Ecuadorian chocolate brand Pacari and determine its values.
The country of Ecuador has the slogan “ama la vida’, which means love life. This slogan accompanies the logo on the Ecuadorian tourism website, which promotes exploration of the unique country. This website has an entire section dedicated to ‘Ecuador and Chocolate’, which is another example of how important chocolate and cacao are to the Ecuadorian culture. On this website, it cites Pacari chocolate as “one of the most well-known brands of chocolate in the country” (Chocolate Ecuador). Pacari obviously has a monopoly on the chocolate industry in Ecuador, meaning that it holds a lot of power in its ethical decisions and sourcing. The video below is on the tourism website and discusses the role of chocolate in Ecuador. It has multiple examples of the Pacari brand, which highlights how much of an impact Pacari has on the current Ecuadorian chocolate market.
The Pacari website is very user-friendly, with options to have the language be in English or Spanish. The website explains the companies’ story and guidelines. Started in 2002, Pacari Chocolate is a family-owned company that set out to change the way chocolate was made in Ecuador (“Pacari Chocolates”). The name Pacari meaning “nature” in the native language Quechua is a symbol for what the company stands for. They use only Arriba Nacional cacao, which is a cacao plant that is native to Ecuador. They source this cacao from small farmers that are local to Ecuador. This type of sourcing is called tree to bar, which they advertise on their website. Tree to bar and bean to bar companies are the gold standard of chocolate production, because they ensure a direct line between the chocolate producer and cacao harvester. This cuts out middlemen that can obscure the fact that there are unjust labor practices happening somewhere along the chain. The goal of Pacari chocolate was to change the history of chocolate in Ecuador, and the popularity of this clean-sourced cacao is helping that goal become realized.
While Pacari advertises its tree to bar methodology, it does not have a list of the farmers it works with readily available on its website. There are videos of the cacao harvesting and chocolate making processes, as shown above, however there are no individual accounts of farmers the company has paired up with. In past sections of this course, we have examined similar bean to bar companies that readily advertise the farmers they have worked with. Perhaps Pacari does not advertise this because it is not as much of a focus in Ecuador as in the United States. Or perhaps there is another explanation, because the company is very proud of the fact that it only uses organic Ecuadorian cacao. The addition of a video of the farmers Pacari has teamed up with or a section of the website dedicated to them would strengthen the brand and drive their message home.
Another aspect of the Pacari chocolate company that can be tied back to our class is its ingredients. A large selling point that Pacari uses is its ‘exotic ingredients’ from around the area. Passion fruit, coffee, Andean rose, lemongrass, Cuzco pink salt, golden berries, Andean mint and chili are all flavors that are mixed with the Ecuadorian cacao to produce the Pacari bars. Each of these flavors is indigenous to the region around Ecuador, and Pacari really plays up this fact. They are trying to sell a wholly Ecuadorian bar and they utilize other indigenous flavors to help do this. This ties back to some of the early lessons of our class, when we discussed the different flavors that would be used in Mesoamerica chocolate compared to the flavors used in European chocolate. Flavors like chili were used hundreds of years ago to mix with chocolate and they are still being used today.
As a foreign tourist visiting Ecuador with no prior knowledge of chocolate, it was clear that Pacari was very popular in the country. Its advertisement of being a unique Ecuadorian bar, with Ecuadorian cacao and flavors, definitely worked on me. This marketing, combined with my prior notion that Ecuadorian chocolate was special, created a very sellable product. Researching the chocolate company now, I am thankful to hear that I purchased from a socially conscious brand. They source their cacao from local farmers in Ecuador that they have a relationship with, cutting down the supply chain from laborers to chocolate manufacturers. While this company is well established in Ecuador, the next step is to make a name for itself in the international market. Pacari is sold in major cities around the world, but only in select stores. They have an incredible marketing concoction; chocolate made from locally sourced ingredients in the country where chocolate originated. And they have ethical practices that need to be shared around the world. Tree to bar companies are more expensive to finance, but they are the future if we want to eradicate unfair labor around the world. Supporting chocolate companies like Pacari is a solid first step in making the chocolate production chain less corrupt and more ethical.
Carol Off. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark
Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. Random House Canada, 2006.
Chocolate, one of life’s sweetest treats, has the remarkable capability to bring people together from every corner of the world. From chefs working with the finest artisanal chocolates in France to a seven-year-old kid drinking a cup of hot chocolate in Rockefeller Center during Christmastime, chocolate uniquely transcends all ages, backgrounds, and borders. However, what is often unknown or ignored is chocolate’s simultaneous ability to divide people. While so many have the privilege and ability to enjoy chocolate’s delights, it is too often at the expense of the health and wellbeing of farmers and laborers around the world. Child labor, poverty, and food insecurity are only a few of the countless issues plaguing cacao farmers globally. Sadly, many of the major players in the chocolate industry depend on the exploitation of cacao farmers so they can mass produce their products cheaply, which is not a new practice. Amanda Berlan notes, “Because both good practices and labour abuses in cocoa have strong historical antecedents, they cannot be seen as exclusively symptomatic of the modern consumerist era, or simply caused by poverty or rapacious multinationals, as is often alleged” (1094). For the everyday modern consumer, however, the ethics of a company’s supply chain is probably not one of the first things to come to mind when selecting a bar of chocolate from underneath the checkout counter at the grocery store. Nevertheless, there are glimpses of hope in the expansive chocolate industry. Some chocolate companies have taken steps to use humane labor practices, assist cacao farmers in their social and economic endeavors, obtain various certifications, and raise awareness for impoverished farmers around the world. Each individual issue with the current climate of the international chocolate industry ties back into one overarching problem: volatility. The lack of consistency and stability in every aspect of cacao farmers’ professions and lives leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. Theo, the chocolate company based out of Seattle, Washington, is a bean-to-bar company that ethically sources cacao to produce delicious chocolate products. By outlining their business model, values, and practices, I intend to show how Theo has played a part in working to solve the numerous issues that contribute to the volatile nature of international cacao production.
Before explaining Theo’s positive social impact in the realm of chocolate and beyond, it is important to more fully understand how severe the injustices at the roots of cacao supply chains are. Cacao is an agricultural good that must be cultivated and harvested, typically on farms. Many countries in Africa and South America have emerged as global producers of cacao; in West Africa alone, there are about 2 million small, independent family farms (Martin). The labor necessary to sustain such farms is extremely taxing, physically and emotionally. Producing cacao requires duties such as clearing trees, planting, fertilizing, harvesting, transporting, and pod breaking, among others (Martin). These tasks cannot be completed without using sharp and heavy tools, handling chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.), bending down for extended periods of time, being around insects and animals, or carrying heavy loads (Martin). To make matters worse, farm laborers often work without access to bathrooms, no filtered water, and no relief from extreme heat; thus, they often suffer various physical maladies ranging from fatigue to malaria (Martin). With such horrendous working conditions, one may think that only people most fit for the job would be employed and that they would be people paid substantially for their hard work. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Because these farms are often run by families, children and people aged 50 and over often must work for their family farm (Martin). People on cacao farms work tirelessly simply to earn enough to survive, yet, as Carol Off writes, “Days of their effort [are] consumed in a heartbeat on the other side of the world” (8). Farms and farmers are the heart of any agricultural production, yet in the domain of chocolate they are undercompensated and undervalued. To complement the remarkably intense labor practices outlined above, farmers usually work without the guarantee of wages or salaries (Martin). The price of cacao is volatile, which means the income of the cacao farmer is as well (Martin). Dealing with input costs like transportation, wages, planting materials, rent/mortgage, and others only further weakens farmers’ abilities to establish a steady flow of income and to invest in their businesses (Martin).
The issues I have outlined only begin to scratch the surface of the problems that fill cocoa supply chains, many of which perpetuate the ability of big chocolate companies to buy cocoa cheaply on the market, which continues to oppress farmers, which leaves them working for survival. The cycle is vicious. So, the question becomes how can this cycle be broken? Whose responsibility is it to make a change? Joe Whinney, the creator of Theo chocolate, believed the responsibility was partly his (“Our Story”). In 1994, Whinney spearheaded what eventually became a widespread movement aiming to supply organic cocoa beans in the United States (“Our Story”). After traveling and working in Central America and Africa, “he recognized an injustice in the way that both were being exploited and wanted to make a difference” (“Our Story”). This desire turned into a decade long campaign to advocate for organic cocoa beans in the U.S. and for Fair Trade practices for the farmers (“Our Story”). Working with co-founder Debra Music, Whinney used his passion to inspire action. In 2006, years of brand building and experimenting in a factory culminated in the creation of Theo organic chocolate (“Our Story”).
Ever since the company’s conception 13 years ago, Theo has stuck to, taken pride in, and grown the meaning of being a bean to bar chocolate maker. To Theo, being a bean to bar company means, “We negotiate prices directly, provide training on good agricultural practices and offer meaningful quality incentive payments. With our model farmers know how much income to expect from their harvest, enabling them to make financial plans for the future and to invest in their families and communities” (“How We Source”). Theo’s website outlines the company’s mission, which, is “to create a more beautiful, compassionate, and enduring world by responsibly making delicious and inspiring products for everyone.” Theo’s consumers and employees alike value the company’s dedication to betterment, and the video below gives employees the opportunity to share what they like the most about Theo.
I am going to discuss Theo’s sourcing, standards and values, certifications, and products in order to illustrate how they combat injustice in cocoa production.
Although West Africa has emerged as a primary supplier of the world’s cocoa, Theo sources its beans directly from farms in Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (“How We Source”). Theo makes a point to highlight the differences in the beans’ flavors and the contexts in which they are produced. Their Congolese cocoa beans are nutty and comprise the majority of the company’s yearly supply, with roughly 70% of the cocoa coming from DRC annually (“Congolese Cocoa”). Theo has partnered with the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), which advocates on behalf of the citizens of eastern Congo to promote economic and social wellbeing in an effort to establish strong civil society and to create opportunities for individual and group development (“Congolese Cocoa”). Working with over 4,500 farmers in DRC has fortified Theo’s desire to help, which expands beyond the scope of a business transaction. For example, Theo supported an initiative in 2015 which aimed to educate women in cocoa farming on the importance of pre and post-natal care, which reduced maternal and newborn deaths in the respective health zones from 45 per year to zero (“Congolese Cocoa”). The remaining 30% of Theo’s cocoa comes from the Piura and Bagua regions of Peru (“Peruvian Cocoa”). Similar to their efforts in DRC, Theo invests in the lives of Peruvian farmers through its partnership with the Norandino Cooperative (“Peruvian Cocoa”). Moreover, they have worked to positively impact the environment. Through a collaborative investment in a reforestation program, Theo and Norandino have helped to create 2,500 new acres of forest (“Peruvian Cocoa”). This type of work not only benefits those in need, it benefits the entire world. The figure below shows where each Theo ingredient comes from.
To guarantee that Theo’s product quality and ethical code continues to meet the high standards, the company has undergone several certification processes. Theo is USDA Organic, Fair for Life certified, STAR-K Kosher, and Non-GMO (GMO stands for genetically modified organism) (“Our Certifications”). While fully unpacking the nuances and procedures of each of these certifications is beyond the scope of this analysis, it is worth noting what each means. The USDA Organic seal guarantees that Theo chocolate’s ingredients are “grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation” (Quality Assurance International). Fair for Life falls under the larger umbrella of Fairtrade certifications, and “assures that human rights are safeguarded at any stage of production, workers enjoy good and fair working conditions and smallholder farmers receive a fair share” (Fair for Life). STAR-K Kosher serves as a “a guarantee that food products and ingredients meet all kosher requirements” (Star-K Kosher). Finally, the Non-GMO project aims to certify and promote products that are made without any “plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology” (Non-GMO Project). The point of providing a glimpse into the meaning of each of these four certifications is to display the comprehensive effort Theo makes to eradicate issues at every stage and in multiple dimensions of chocolate production and consumption. Below, the figure outlines each step of Theo’s certified chocolate-making process.
While every food company, specific those selling chocolate, can always make further improvements in their business practices, Theo has social justice at its core, and these certifications show their aim to meet higher goals of fairness and prosperity for all. Two particularly remarkable elements of Theo’s certification and production protocol is that they own and operate their own certified factory and that both the suppliers they work with and the company itself get audited yearly to look at wages, working conditions, and environmental impact to promote accountability (“What Makes Theo Different?”).
All of the hard work put into creating Theo chocolate could not effectively empower cocoa farmers or reshape the industry if consumers did not like final products. In such a saturated market, it is important that Theo stands out to the average consumer who may not be well versed in food ethics, and thus may be focused solely on the flavor of the chocolate rather than the farmers who helped produce it. Therefore, it is no surprise that Theo chocolate tastes as amazing as the mission behind it is. Exotic flavors like Ghost Chili, Root Beer Barrel, Bread and Chocolate, Salted Black Licorice, and Turmeric Spice make Theo chocolate bars jump off the shelf, while Sea Salt, Coconut, and Mint are exciting yet classic flavors.
Whatever range of flavors a consumer is looking for, they can find it in a Theo product. Theo does not exclusively sell chocolate bars, as they boast an impressive selection of ganache candies, caramels, and marshmallows on their website (Theo Chocolate). I have personally tried the Salted Toffee Dark Chocolate bar, and yet I did not know about Theo’s mission when I tried it. Producing delicious high-quality chocolate helps Theo to reach the average consumer, and to at least begin a dialogue with them about the importance of building up and sustaining fair farm practices around the world. It is, after all, in the nature of the Fairtrade movement to bring people’s attention to those who are often pushed to the side. As Kristy Leissle notes, “We must credit Fairtrade with a different kind of achievement, which has been to promote awareness that people living in the Global North enjoy luxuries like chocolate thanks to the labor of materially poor farmers” (145).
Theo chocolate is unique in a lot of ways. It is a company that wants farming to be a viable and profitable career for people, not just a temporary, volatile job geared towards survival; it is a company that wants to make the planet fruitful and aims to preserve its resources; and it is a company with a mission manifested in delicious chocolate products. From its beginning, Theo has addressed injustice head first, and the world has become a better place because of it. Also, Theo wants to make its customers feel understand the part they play in bettering the world, and they clearly outline on their website how and why each chocolate bar purchase matters. All in all, I believe Theo is doing a great job of using its business model to continuously spread the importance of equality and justice in chocolate. They have successfully built a brand centered on ethics, which is a framework I hope many companies use in the future. In The Fair Trade Scandal, Ndongo Samba Sylla writes, “The fair and the sustainable are now ubiquitous,” and with companies like Theo influencing the chocolate industry, this is not too far from the truth (56).
Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, Feb. 2013, pp. 1088–1100., doi:10.1080/00220388.2013.780041.
Throughout the semester we learned about how chocolate is more than just a delicious dessert. Chocolate, or cacao, has a rich history that includes a number of political, social, cultural, and economic factors. People today consume Snickers bars and Reese’s peanut butter cups unconsciously without considering the greater societal implications of their food choices. Many of the large chocolate corporations such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Cadbury produce chocolate as another commodity and typically only focus on profits. However, the cacao they use typically comes from slave labor on the coast of Africa. These companies are more concerned with how to market their product than they are with how their farmers are treated. However, there is a new movement in the chocolate industry known as the craft chocolate revolution. In this effort, local chocolate makers are making a concerted pledge to pursue a “bean-to-bar” philosophy. According to Eric Parkes, a local chocolatier from Somerville, the bean-to-bar movement means that producers are “starting off with the bean” or “making the chocolate from scratch” (WCVB Channel 5 Boston). Instead of mass-producing chocolate in factories, bean-to-bar producers are typically more localized businesses that focus on developing authentic chocolate. In these cases, they take cacao beans from a single origin country. Bean-to-bar manufacturing is labor intensive; however, the producers have control over what ingredients they use (predominantly cocoa and sugar) as well as where they source their beans. The companies are revolutionizing the big chocolate companies that have been a staple in the industry for years now. While companies like CVS typically carry predominantly name brand chocolate, there are some local stores that only sell organic, bean to bar chocolate. Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge is an example of a local food supplier that specializes in the bean-to-bar movement. Their website is very transparent about the chocolate’s country of origin, producer, and taste. They primarily sell bean-to-bar chocolate and have a direct relationship with the local chocolate producers. They refuse to sell any of the big chocolate brands due to the ambiguity regarding their chocolate sourcing. production processes, and ingredients.
Bean-to-Bar Segment on WCVB Channel 5 Boston (Featuring Professor Martin)
Formaggio Kitchen is a European style market that provides specialty foods from around the world to their customers. They specialize in artisan cheese but also have a wide selection of bean-to-bar chocolates (Our Cambridge Store). Formaggio Kitchen was featured in a segment on the local Channel 5 News show called Chronicle. They were featured in a segment regarding artisan chocolate and a new bean-to-bar movement. One of Formaggio’s general managers is also the head buyer for all chocolate products. She buys a lot of local chocolate from producers in areas like Cambridge and Somerville. Before accepting any chocolate products into her store, she first goes through extensive taste and smell tests (similar to tastings in lecture throughout the semester). The general manager places a high level of importance on origin because “there is so much diversity in flavor profiling” (WCVB Channel 5 Boston). Formaggio specifically sells single origin chocolate. Rogue Chocolate is their most popular brand of single origin chocolate. Some of the biggest similarities between bean-to-bar chocolate companies are their size. Most of these operations include a small handful of people. Often times, artisanal chocolate companies only include one to two employees. The process of bean-to-bar chocolate making takes a significant amount of time and numerous hours of manual labor. However, instead of outsourcing chocolate production to slave laborers, these chocolate companies take on the responsibility themselves in order to produce better-tasting, more ethical chocolate. The founder of Rogue Chocolate, Colin Gasko, works directly with cacao farmers in order to source the best beans from a single origin point. Slave labor has been a persistent issue throughout the history of chocolate making and still occurs today. After the Cadbury investigation into slave labor on the island of Sao Tome and Principe, many of the cocoa farms moved to the Gold Coast or what today is known as Ghana. Child slave labor is one of the biggest issues today facing the chocolate industry. Many of the West African Coast cacao farms where the big chocolate companies source their chocolate exploit this corrupt labor system. In 2000-2001, news coverage from UK journalists uncovered the use of “enslaved young men on a cocoa farm in the Cote d’Ivoire (Berlan, 1089). Bean-to-bar chocolate companies such as Rogue Chocolate are able to combat these unjust labor practices by selectively choosing where they source their cocoa and ensure that the farming practices are ethical. This occurs through direct communication between the bean-to-bar companies and the farmers. Formaggio Kitchen focuses on selling fine chocolate but also ensures that the cocoa farming practices are ethical. They do this by analyzing both the origin country of their chocolate and the chocolate producers themselves.
Formaggio’s website is very transparent with the information on the background of the chocolate they sell. They have a separate chocolate section with a headline that describes their mission with their chocolate selection. They emphasize how their chocolate provides “health benefits”, comes from “bean-to-bar producers”, and only contains “cacao and sugar” (Chocolate). The health benefits of chocolate are a highly disputed topic. However, there is evidence to support the health benefits of chocolate. Through laboratory and field research, scientists concluded that chocolate “reduces hypertension, minimizes cardiovascular disease, and even fight diabetes and cancer” (Howe, 43). Formaggio Kitchen not only promotes the health benefits of chocolate, they also provide instructions on how to optimize their chocolate for superior taste. For instance, one of the products that Formaggio sells is a 1kg of roasted cocoa beans called Ancienne Chocolat en Pudre. The website instructs individuals to mix the cocoa, vanilla, and cane sugar with hot milk in order to make “traditional French hot chocolate” (Chocolate). Most big corporations simply list their chocolate items. However, Formaggio provides background information on each item they have in stock including their country of origin, producer, nutritional information, as well as recipes. Formaggio only has a limited supply of French chocolate products. This ties into the Terrio reading on French Chocolatiers. France, as a nation has international recognition as one of the leaders in culinary arts (Terrio, 9). Few people, including French citizens, acknowledged chocolate making as an important part of French history like other foods such as wine and cheese. Most associate French Chocolate with other forms of desserts or pastries. Consumers even struggled differentiating artisanal French chocolate from its mass-produced counterpart (Terrio, 9). I would have expected Formaggio to carry a wide selection of French chocolates. However, with the knowledge of French Chocolate History, it is understandable that there is a limited amount of the French dessert in Formaggio’s inventory.
Formaggio has a wide array of chocolate from a number of different countries: Belgium (3), Canada (4), France (2), Italy (7), Spain (7), The Netherlands (1), United States (15), and Vietnam (4) (Chocolate). Formaggio is very transparent with the notion that they source chocolate from a single origin country with cacao farms. It is interesting to point out that while Formaggio advertises that they collect chocolate from producers around the world, the majority of their inventory comes from the United States. However, they still maintain a high level of chocolate diversity. While the majority of the companies that Formaggio imports from are based in the United States, these companies still adhere to the bean-to-bar practices. While the country of origin provides important information, Formaggio goes one step further and includes the producers of these chocolates: Confitures a l’Ancienne (1), EH Chocolatier (2), Maglio (4), Pasticcerie Sinatti (1), Poco Dolce (2), Potomac Chocolate (2), Ritual Chocolate (2), Valrhona (1), and Xocolates Aynouse (4) (Chocolate). The general manager in charge of buying the bean-to-bar chocolate only chooses from reputable produces that have ethical labor practices and sustainable farming techniques. For each chocolate item, Formaggio provides an individual description page that includes price, quantity, and information about the chocolate itself. For instance, the Callebaut Chocolate Block – Bittersweet is 60% cacao and $10.95 per pound (Chocolate). This is slightly below the median price range for chocolate at Formaggio. The media price is approximately $15. The least expensive chocolate (Marou Chocolate Ba Ria) is from Vietnam and costs $3.95. The most expensive chocolate (Les Chocolats de Chloe Box of 12 Chocolates) is from Montreal, Canada and costs $36.95. The one downside to bean-to-bar chocolate is that it is more expensive than name brand chocolate. However, these chocolates are more organic and ethical. The bean-to-bar movement follows in line with recent trends towards the surge in organic food popularity. Today, organic food is typically more expensive than unhealthy or non-organic foods. Thus, organic food is predominantly only accessible to the middle and upper class while creating a barrier of entry for the lower class. Organic food or “yuppie chow” is also linked with gentrification in cities throughout America (Guthman, 497). Formaggio Kitchen is located in one of the wealthiest cities in the country: Cambridge, MA. Boston suffers from significant gentrification issues. Organic food markets, like Formaggio, tend to only be accessible within a upper class community and prevent lower class citizens from purchasing their chocolate due to their high prices.
In addition to price and quantity, the website also provides brief descriptions on the origin country of the chocolate, the producers, and characteristics of the chocolate. For instance, the description page underneath the Potomac Chocolate Upala 85% chocolate bar describes how the cacao is sourced from the Upala district of Costa Rica. It provides information on the producer, Ben Rasmussen, and his small workshop in the Washington DC area. He adheres strictly to bean-to-bar practices and follows all the traditional chocolate making methods. Like other bean-to-bar companies, he uses a minimum amount of ingredients: cacao beans and sugar. This particular chocolate bar is “rich and earthy dark chocolate with notes of raspberry and caramel” (Potomac Chocolate Upala 85%). It is very rare to find such a descriptive flavor description, country of origin identification, and producer information on name brand chocolate bars. Formaggio provides these descriptions under each and every chocolate bar in their inventory. Unlike many big chocolate companies, they do not provide false advertisements on their farming practices and organic quality of their chocolate. Formaggio provides honest information regarding their chocolate and gives their consumers all the tools necessary to make the right purchasing decisions.
Formaggio’s high level of transparency regarding all facets of their sourced cacao and finished chocolate bars reveals how important ethics are to their overall success. Formaggio’s is a successful local market not only because they embrace cultural diversity and source cacao from trustworthy producers all over the world. They are successful because they do not lie to their customers. All the information one needs to make a smart, well thought-out decision regarding their purchases is at the tip of their fingers. Big chocolate companies, as we learned throughout the semester, are more focused on overall profit than they are about other greater social issues. However, small markets, like Formaggio Kitchen, are more focused on working with responsible producers and providing customers with the highest quality of chocolate possible. The bean-to-bar movement in the chocolate industry is revolutionizing how individuals farm, produce, and sell chocolate. Now, it is up to the consumer to make the smart ethical decision when it comes to their chocolate purchases. While it may be easier to walk into a CVS and purchase a Hershey’s bar for a small price, there are underlying social, political, and economic consequences that affect people throughout the chocolate industry. People rarely consider any other factor besides taste in their food purchases. When it comes to chocolate, the suppliers certainly have a large amount of responsibility when it comes to providing ethically sourced and organic chocolate. However, the consumers are responsible for choosing chocolate from local bean-to-bar producers over big chocolate companies. While it is important to acknowledge that prices are higher for bean-to-bar chocolate, it is even more important to be a conscientious consumer that strongly considers where the greater societal impact of their chocolate selection.
Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Cocoa Production in Ghana”. The Journal of Development Studies. Vol. 49, No. 8, 1088- 1100. 2013
Chocolate is a $100 billion industry yet the majority of these profits are enjoyed by a handful of multinational companies. Those who actually grow the cocoa beans and provide the raw ingredient for the world’s chocolate see but a miniscule fraction of these profits: 3% according to the image below.
The majority of the value of chocolate sales is captured by retailers and chocolate manufacturers while the farmers at the bottom of the supply chain receive the smallest share. This inequality lies at the heart of the chocolate industry today. One bean-to-bar chocolate company called Askinosie seeks to do things differently. This post examines some of the challenges inherent in the structural inequality of the cocoa supply chain then looks at Askinosie’s mission and how it attempts to combat the dark side of chocolate production.
The truth behind the chocolate bar
70% of the world’s cocoa is grown in only four West African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria (Martin and Sampeck 50). The majority of this cocoa production is spread over two million small, independent family farms (Martin and Sampeck 50). Yet most of these farmers live well below the poverty line, a threshold defined by the World Bank as $1.90 per day (The World Bank). In fact, the typical average income for a family producing cocoa in Ghana is between $0.50 and $0.80 per day (Martin). These farmers work to survive on incomes that are volatile and irregular. Their wages are loosely tied to the weight of the cocoa beans, but even that is an oversimplification, as many other factors impact how much they earn (Martin). The profitability of their farms may fluctuate based on circumstances outside of their control: changing commodity prices of cocoa, weather and climate change, deforestation, political unrest and even war.
One major factor that determines how much or how little a farmer receives is the next step in the supply chain, the buyer. Farmers often have no choice but to sell cocoa to local buyers, a practice often rife with corruption and little oversight. In some cases, scales may be fixed to reflect an incorrect cocoa weight or farmers may not even be permitted to look at the scales when the cocoa beans are being weighed, relying solely only on the buyer’s word (Leissle 110).
Many of these farmers may not be the owners of the farms but farm workers, which ties into another pressing issue in cocoa production: the harmful exploitation of labor. The cocoa industry has had a long history of egregious labor practices, including the worst forms of child labor. Though many statistics have been put forth over the past few decades and studies have been conducted by independent organizations finding evidence of child trafficking and slavery, the exact number of forced child labor in cocoa production today remains difficult to measure (Berlan 1089). This in no way diminishes the gravity of the situation, and any evidence of the worst forms of child labor must be addressed and eradicated. The challenge is that many of these children work on family farms where they are expected to be involved in the daily activities of the farm and perhaps learn the necessary skills to one day take the farm over themselves (Berlan 1090). Often, farm work is simply considered to be part of the child’s chores. The difficulty arises when children are not enrolled in school and are involved in long hours and heavy work that harms their physical or mental health and safety. A common thread among all these cases is that farm owners simply do not earn enough to hire labor and therefore depend on unpaid labor for basic survival.
The Fairtrade Label
Certification systems such as Fairtrade tackle these issues directly by ensuring that all products bearing the Fairtrade label comply with its terms, such as sustainable and environmentally safe farming practices, fair labor conventions according to the International Labour Organization that prohibit discrimination, forced labor, and the worst forms of child labor. As long as producer organizations can pay a certification fee and comply with the terms, they are ensured a Minimum Price for cocoa and receive a Fairtrade Premium (Leissle 141). Though well-intentioned, the Fairtrade label is not without criticism and controversy. Charging a certification fee to growers only adds to their existing financial hardships. As for the Minimum Price paid to cocoa producers, it has been criticized as being too low and stagnant to significantly improve the lives of cocoa farmers (Leissle 142).
Nonetheless, Fairtrade has successfully raised consumer awareness of the inequality and human rights injustices in cocoa production. The dialogue and media attention it has created has stirred industry giants into action, forcing the largest players in the chocolate industry to take more corporate responsibility. Nestlé, Mars, Cadbury, and Ferrero have all committed to sourcing Fairtrade certified cocoa in some of their products (Leissle 147). Just this month, CNN published an article stating that Mondelēz had publicly pledged to use 100% sustainable cocoa by 2025, albeit through its internal Cocoa Life program (Wiener-Bronner). The fact that said cocoa would be certified by its in-house sustainability program, of course, raises the question of just how rigorous the program will be and if it will be transparent at all.
In fact, the lack of transparency in sourcing methods has been a constant criticism of the Big Five companies. For example, Hershey claims that a third of its cocoa comes from certified sustainable sources, however, little is known of their origins (Leissle 147). The ability of these multinational companies to pick and choose some, but not all, of their products to be Fairtrade certified is not a positive step towards eliminating the injustices in the cocoa industry. As Ndongo Sylla points out in The Fair Trade Scandal, certifying only products rather than the organizations themselves allows companies with unethical practices and a controversial history to maintain a positive public image without committing in any significant way (130). How do we differentiate between opportunistic companies that are jumping on the Fairtrade bandwagon and those that are morally committed to corporate activism and responsibility?
Askinosie & Social Responsibility
Askinosie is a bean-to-bar chocolate company founded in Springfield, Missouri by Shawn Askinosie who retired from a 20-year career as a defense attorney in 2005 in order to start making his own chocolate. The company sources the beans directly from cocoa farms and processes the beans itself into the chocolate products that they sell. While many small companies today employ the same bean-to-bar model, Askinosie is unique in its dedication to social responsibility. Shawn Askinosie states on the Askinosie website: “I can confidently say the greatest opportunity and challenge has been weaving social responsibility into everything we do; it’s not just a buzzword, it’s who we are. Askinosie Chocolate was born committed to fairness, sustainability, minimal environmental impact and community enhancement” (Askinosie).
What sets Askinosie apart is its direct trade model. It buys beans directly from the grower, eliminating the need for intermediary buyers and middlemen and allowing each step of this very short supply chain to be traceable (Leissle 154). This allows Askinosie to source fine flavor beans that meet its standards of quality. By having a say in every step of the post-harvesting process such as fermentation and drying, Askinosie is able to “ensure the resulting beans taste as perfect as possible” as well as spot defective beans before they arrive at the factory (Askinosie). The company is also able to control pre-shipment storing methods, the types of bags the cocoa beans are shipped in, as well as the actual importation and transportation of the beans themselves.
“Everything starts with quality–and an appreciation of farmers. We honor farmers as experts and craftsmen, so we treat them as such and consider them partners in our business. We work together with our farmer partners to create exceptional chocolate from exceptional cocoa beans.” (Askinosie)
Askinosie prides itself in knowing the name of every farmer it works with and being able to trace the beans directly to the source, whether that source is a single farmer or a cooperative of smallholder farmers. And in addition to paying farmers prices that are, on average, 35% higher than world market price and 25% higher than the Fairtrade price, Askinosie shares its profits directly with its farmers. In doing so, farmers are treated as business partners, sharing in up to 10% of the net profits of the company (Askinosie). Because every single origin can be traced to the exact source, the very farm or cooperative, growers are able to get a percentage of the sales of products made with those beans. Both sides benefit in this mutually supportive model. Askinosie can source excellent beans and control a large part of the process that impacts flavor and quality, and the farmers are able to earn more.
Askinosie also shares with the farmers its financial statements in what it calls its “Open Book Management policy.” In frequent trips to the farms, Askinosie shares the numbers and how each bean purchase affects the net profits of the company. These discussions “enable the farmers to connect the quality of their beans to the outcome of each chocolate bar,” showing farmers how improvements on post-harvest techniques can “ensure an even greater profit margin in the future, which means more opportunities for the farmers to share in a success they helped create” (Askinosie).
In sharp contrast to multinational companies that offer consumers vague or almost no information about its supply chains, Askinosie publishes a Transparency Report detailing its purchase history from its inception. Following in the footsteps of Taza Chocolate, the first company to practice direct trade and also publish an annual transparency report, Askinosie fully discloses yearly prices paid for beans, how much was paid directly to farmers, the amount of profit shared, and even details of Shawn Askinosie’s yearly visits to the farms (Leissle 153; Askinosie). Unlike Taza, however, Askinosie provides detailed figures about the farm gate price paid to farmers, which allows consumers to know exactly how much farmers receive (Leissle 157). This remarkable level of transparency not only enhances consumer trust in the company but also raises the bar for the industry as a whole.
Askinosie sources its beans from four origins: Davao, Philippines; Mababu, Tanzania; San Jose del Tambo, Ecuador; and Zamora, Amazonia in Ecuador. In each of these locations, Shawn Askinosie has built and maintained long-term relationships with each of the farmers who supplies his beans through the company’s direct trade practices (Askinosie).
In Davao and Mababu, Askinosie has worked to directly support the local communities through a sustainable lunch program called A Product of Change. In a pledge to ensure that local school children eat more than one meal a day, Askinosie sells local food products from those regions in its online store, storefront, and to other food retailers. 100% of the profits from those products go back to the schools to provide lunches for their students. In Mababu, Askinosie funded the first textbooks and computers at a local school and a deep water well delivering potable water to the entire village. In both Zamora and Mababu, Askinosie partners with female-led farmer cooperatives, recognizing and empowering a traditionally marginalized and undervalued demographic in cocoa production (Askinosie).
In addition to developing the communities of its farmer partners, Askinosie seeks to involve the local community of Springfield through the establishment of Chocolate University, which is funded by proceeds from chocolate tours at the Askinosie factory. This learning program for local elementary, middle school, and high school students provides a hands-on experience with the goal of inspiring the youth “through the lens of artisan chocolate making to be global citizens and embrace the idea that business(es) can solve world problems” (Askinosie). The program even takes a group of high school students every year to Mababu, Tanzania where students engage with cocoa farmers on the farms and learn about small business and direct trade, allowing them to witness sustainable business practices firsthand and inspiring them to be agents of change within their own communities.
Social responsibility lies at the core of Askinosie’s mission, which it successfully executes through its direct trade and profit-sharing with its farmer partners. Direct trade eliminates the need for middlemen, ensuring that farmers receive their just pay. The transparency of its pricing and sourcing practices allows the public to see that these farmers are receiving above market price for their cocoa beans, which in turn, allows them to hire employees on their farms and support their local economies.
The company also recognizes the importance of knowledge at all points in the cocoa supply chain. Askinosie team members in Springfield and farmer partners on cocoa farms alike receive financial education on the company’s numbers. The Transparency Report informs the public. Students of Chocolate University learn about corporate social responsibility, of the work that goes into cocoa farming, and the challenges in cocoa production. This level of transparency within the supply chain and the initiative to educate and inform consumers are refreshing in an industry that is often shrouded in so much ambiguity.
Askinosie should be lauded for its exemplary practices. However, so much more work needs to be done in the cocoa industry for large-scale change to occur. Direct trade is one step in the right direction, but it is limited in scale as top-quality beans are prioritized over bulk beans, which make up the majority of beans produced in the world and in whose production we find so many of the industry’s complex problems. Notice the absence from Askinosie’s selection of origins any West African country where these inequalities abound. This is likely due to sourcing challenges by any small craft company in this region of the cocoa-producing world, further indication of the many challenges in the global cocoa supply chain (Martin and Sampeck 55). The reality is that many consumers do not want to pay $10 for a bar of chocolate. And the market of cheap chocolate continues to perpetuate the system of structural inequality that exists today. Farmers depend on cocoa production for their livelihood and survival which are inextricably tied to global consumption and demand. Until the largest players in the cocoa industry start to adopt fair practices and corporate social responsibility on a global scale, until more consumers are made aware of the complexities behind that chocolate bar, the problems we see today, sadly, will continue to exist.
Scholarly Works Cited
Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088-1100.
Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.
Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 27 Mar. 2019, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Lecture.
Martin, Carla, and Kathryn Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” 2016, pp. 37-60.
Sylla, Ndongo. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Translated by David Clément Leye, Ohio University Press, 2014.
Wiener-Bronner, Danielle. “Toblerone and Cadbury will be made with sustainable cocoa.” CNN Business, 29 Apr. 2019, amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/04/29/business/mondelez-cocoa-sustainability/index.html. Accessed 2 May 2019.
One of the most pressing ethical issues concerning the chocolate industry is the poverty suffered by many cacao farmers around the world. Cacao farmers in Ghana, for example, generally make less than $2USD per day, which is insufficient for farmers to feed themselves and their families, even though the cost of living in Ghana is much lower than in the United States and other Western nations (Leissle 2018). Farmers also rarely have any control over the price of their cacao, as large corporations, weather, and politics all exert a large amount of influence on the price of cacao beans. Furthermore, this economic poverty is only amplified by the environmental degradation that often accompanies large amounts of agriculture. Recently, there has been a movement among chocolate companies, facilitated by consumer demand, to produce chocolate using ethically-sourced cacao in order to mitigate the destructive forces of capitalism in the Global South. One company working in this realm is Madécasse. By facilitating close relationships with cacao producers in Madagascar, Madécasse demonstrates how chocolate companies can work to provide better pay and living conditions for cacao farmers and invest in an environmentally sustainable enterprise – all while making chocolate that tastes great.
Madécasse was founded in 2008 by two Americans, Tim McCollum and Brett Beach, who had both previously served on the Peace Corps in Madagascar (Madécasse LLC 2019). This experience prompted McCollum and Beach to want to do more to help the people of Madagascar, and thus Madécasse was born. On the Madécasse website, their mission is stated as “a journey to flip the chocolate world right-side up” (Madécasse LLC 2019). This suggests that their purpose is revolutionary, and that in their view, the chocolate industry is in need of serious reform. Their stated mission is two-fold: first, to make the best-tasting, highest-quality chocolate from organic, “heirloom cacao” from Madagascar, and second, to remove middlemen from the chocolate production chain (Madécasse LLC 2019). One of the biggest problems in the chocolate industry that they aim to tackle through their business is “the thousands of miles and layers of middlemen” that separate farmers from chocolate producers and consumers, and they do this by conducting every stage of the chocolate production chain in Madagascar itself (Madécasse LLC 2019).
One major way in which Madécasse is working to create a better Madagascar is by implementing business processes that work to ameliorate the poverty suffered by farmers in Madagascar. This is incredibly important, as Madagascar is considered one of the poorest countries in the world today, with 90% of people living on less than $2 USD per day, and 62% of the population living below the extreme poverty line, which is defined by the International Monetary Fund as an income that is less than what it would cost to consume 2,100 calories per day (Engstrom et al. 2015). Additionally, approximately 80% of the population lives in rural areas, and most of these people rely on subsistence farming to make a living.
The cacao industry in Madagascar is also relatively small compared to that of nations such as Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, as Madagascar produces less than 1% of the world’s cacao (Schatz 2016). However, Malagasy cacao is very highly-valued among Western chocolate companies, because it is genetically distinct and has a unique flavor (Watkins 2012). Combined with the high poverty in Madagascar, the value of cacao has led people to start stealing it (Katz 2014). The photo below depicts a cacao producer who keeps a gun at his desk to deter thieves. This display highlights not only how valuable cacao is to the farmers that grow it in Madagascar, but also how desperately poor so many Malagasy people are.
But despite how coveted cacao is as a primary product, cacao farmers globally tend to only receive an extremely small proportion of the profits from sales of chocolate. In the diagram below from Make Chocolate Fair!, a European organization that advocates for fair trade in the chocolate industry, cocoa producers on average only receive approximately 6.6% of the profits from chocolate.
Additionally, prices for primary agricultural products such as cacao tend to have the most volatile prices. Prices are not determined by typical supply and demand processes, rather, these products are treated as investments, and prices are determined by investor speculation (Sylla 2014). Both the low share of the profits from chocolate given to farmers and the unstable prices contribute to the economic inequalities between the Global North and South. However, there has been a growing movement to correct these issues and achieve greater equity in global trade. As a result, a few different strategies have been implemented, with the goal of correcting the trade injustice that leads to the majority of the profits going to the company, while farmers live in poverty. One of the most well-known of these initiatives is Fairtrade.
Fairtrade is a label overseen by Fairtrade International, a non-profit organization that oversees third-party labelling of products that confirms that both companies and farmers are complying with specific trade terms (Leissle 2018). Fairtrade has several requirements, including that producers must practice environmentally sustainable farming, and that they adhere to International Labor Organization rules for hired workers, including protecting children from the worst forms of child labor. Fairtrade producers also receive a minimum price for their cocoa, as well as a price premium for upholding Fairtrade policies, which both serve to protect producers from price volatility. The major benefit of Fairtrade is that this labelling helps to make consumers more aware of where their food is coming from, which can create greater accountability among consumers when they are choosing which products to buy.
However, Fairtrade is not a perfect system. For example, producer organizations are required to pay a fee to be certified, which can add to the financial challenges that producers of agricultural products already face (Leissle 2018). It becomes increasingly problematic because this cost is not passed on to consumers through, for example, making Fairtrade chocolate more expensive. This is done to keep Fairtrade chocolate competitively priced. Furthermore, the price floor set by Fairtrade International is still quite low, at around $2000 USD per metric ton of cacao (Leissle 2018). While this prevents cacao prices from dropping below that value, it does not incentivize chocolate companies to pay any more for their cacao, and thus the Fairtrade price of cacao has remained fairly stagnant. Finally, Fairtrade labelling can have the negative side effect of decreasing transparency among major players in the chocolate industry. While the increase in demand for ethically-sourced cacao has pressured major chocolate producers to communicate more information about the sources of their cacao, some companies like Cadbury have opted to use internal certification schemes, which are difficult to assess the robustness of (Leissle 2018).
According to Madécasse, Fairtrade is simply a label that allows large chocolate companies to remain disconnected from cacao producers, but to still indicate to some unspecified extent that they are ethically sourcing their cacao (Madécasse LLC 2019). Madécasse is not Fairtrade certified; rather, they are Direct Trade certified, and they believe that this distinction not only makes their operations more transparent to consumers, but also allows them to do a better job than other companies of improving conditions for cocoa farmers.
In contrast to Fairtrade, which is basically just a labelling system, Direct Trade actually alters the structure of the commodity chain in chocolate production. Essentially, Direct Trade removes middle men from the commodity chain (Leissle 2018; Madécasse LLC 2019). Companies buy directly from farmers, which increases the amount that farmers can make for their products. In her book, Cocoa, Kristy Leissle describes the process of Direct Trade with the example of Taza Chocolate. Taza’s goal is primarily to source the highest-quality cacao, but in order to do that, they are willing to pay a higher price for the beans (Leissle 2018). For example, Taza paid cacao suppliers Maya Mountain Cacao and Cacao Verapaz over 75% more than the 2015 average price of bulk cacao. Not only does Taza pay more, but they pay farmers directly, and this also allows them to invest resources to help producers maintain a high standard of quality of their cacao.
Similarly, Madécasse emphasizes the importance of maintaining close relationships with cacao farmers in Madagascar and paying producers more than average for their cacao. On the company website, Madécasse emphasizes that they are fully integrated into communities in Madagascar, and it is this close connection with the local people that allows them to make a positive impact. One way in which Madécasse has contributed to growth of the cacao and chocolate industry in Madagascar is by providing farmers with the infrastructure to ferment and dry cacao beans themselves so that they can sell dried cacao beans instead of wet ones, which allowed farmers to increase their income by 60% (Madécasse LLC 2019). Dry beans are much more profitable than wet cacao beans because they have gone through the extra processing steps of fermenting and drying (Leissle 2018). By providing Malagasy cacao farmers with the equipment to begin the processing of cacao, Madécasse has made an investment that will help cacao farmers begin to make more money for their product in the long term.
Furthermore, Madécasse is unique because they have pledged to make chocolate where it is grown in Madagascar. To date, they have made over 4 million chocolate bars in Madagascar (Madécasse LLC 2019). By integrating cocoa farmers and the Malagasy people into the commodity chain of chocolate production, it gives them more agency over the final product. Additionally, it helps to expand the chocolate market beyond just Western nations. For example, South African consumers have expressed a demand for chocolate made in Madagascar (Watkins 2012), which indicates that high-quality chocolate can be made in Africa, and the demand for it does exist.
However, the work that Madécasse is doing in Madagascar is not without its challenges. One major issue is scaling the business up in order to meet increasing demand, as Madécasse chocolate can now be found in Whole Foods stores in the U.S. (Schatz 2016). The challenges with producing chocolate in the country where it is grown are exemplified in the graph below, from the Madécasse website, which depicts the proportion of their chocolate that is made in Madagascar.
In the initial years of the business, 100% of their chocolate was produced in Madagascar, but as demand increased, Madécasse elected to move a large percentage of their production outside of Madagascar (Schatz 2016). Madécasse states that they are committed to eventually moving 100% of their production back to Madagascar in the next few years (Madécasse LLC 2019). However, the necessity of moving production outside of Madagascar until factories have the capacity to produce a sufficient volume of chocolate highlights one of the major issues with the ethical, bean-to-bar chocolate business model, which is that making a tangible difference for cacao farmers and their families requires well-developed infrastructure that many cacao-producing countries simply lack. Therefore, the challenge of scale is one that small chocolate companies like Madécasse must address going forward.
A second problem that Madécasse is becoming increasingly involved in helping to fix is deforestation and biodiversity loss in Madagascar. Madagascar is home to a large number of endemic species – over 85% of the animals on Madagascar are unique to the island – and over 90% of those species depend on the forest as their habitat (England, Ratsimbazafy, and Andrianarinana 2017; Harper et al. 2007). Furthermore, between 1950 and 2000, Madagascar lost 40% of its already-diminishing forest cover, and much of that deforestation can be linked to subsistence farming (Harper et al. 2007).
Madécasse has become increasingly vocal about environmental issues in Madagascar; the company recently published a report on their environmental impact, based on work with local people (England, Ratsimbazafy, and Andrianarinana 2017). This report demonstrated that cacao farms are actually a common habitat for many of Madagascar’s endemic species. This discovery led to a partnership with Conservation International and the Bristol Zoo to research the lemurs that live in the cacao forests. The importance of conservation in the company’s values is reflected in their packaging. As of 2016, Madécasse has redesigned their logo to include a lemur holding a cacao pod, which signifies that the company is aware that their business is tightly intertwined with the ecosystem of Madagascar. Furthermore, this packaging signals to consumers that Madécasse is interested in working to save and expand habitats for endangered species in Madagascar. Indeed, in an interview with Forbes, Madécasse co-founder Tim McCollum says that the company hopes to reforest an entire valley to use as a habitat for rescue lemurs (Schatz 2016). This is possible, he says, because the increased value of their cacao has allowed some farmers to replant old rice land, previously used for subsistence farming, into cacao forests. Thus, Madécasse is aware that their business’ positive impact on the people of Madagascar can also extend to the island’s ecosystem.
Madécasse is thus an exceptional model for other chocolate companies. The goal of making chocolate from start to finish in the places where it is grown provides companies a great opportunity to make a positive impact on cacao farmers who today often barely make enough income to feed their families. Maintaining close relationships with cacao farmers and providing them with the resources to earn a sustainable, higher income is beneficial for the cacao farmers, chocolate producers, chocolate consumers, and for the environment as a whole. The result of business practices, such as those applied by Madécasse, is a high-quality product that consumers can feel good about purchasing and that truly makes a difference for those involved in every stage of its production.
Engstrom, Lars, Patrick Imam, Priscilla Muthoora, and Alex Pienkowski. 2015. “Republic of Madagascar: Selected Issues.” 15. IMF Country Report. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund.
Harper, Grady J., Marc K. Steininger, Compton J. Tucker, Daniel Juhn, and Frank Hawkins. 2007. “Fifty Years of Deforestation and Forest Fragmentation in Madagascar.” Environmental Conservation34 (4): 325–33. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0376892907004262.