Tag Archives: cacao supply chain

From ‘Tree to Bar’: The Hawaiian Crown Chocolate Company

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 and me

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.

cacao pod

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.

cooler

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.

roast

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.

Note: For more information about tours and items sold please view the Hawaiian Crown Chocolate Facebook

 

Works Cited:

About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://hawaiiancrown.com/about-us/

Billock, J. (2018, February 14). How Hawaii Became the North Pole of Cacao. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/hawaii-north-pole-cacao-chocolate-tours-180967951/

Coe, S., & Coe M. (2013). The true history of chocolate (3rd ed.). London: Thames & Hudson.

Hawaiian Crown Plantation & Chocolate Factory. (2017, March 31). Hawaiian Crown Plantation & Chocolate Factory Testimony before the Committee on Ways and Means [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2018/testimony/HB1327_HD1_TESTIMONY_WAM_03-31-17_Late.PDF

Kifer, C. (2016, January 11). From Tree To Bar on the Big Island: Visiting a Chocolate Farm in Hawaii. Retrieved from http://everintransit.com/big-island-chocolate-farm-hawaii/amp/

Leissle, K. (2018). Cocoa. Newark: Polity Press.

Miner, M. (2015). Genetics informs Hawaiian chocolate industry. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 13(8), 404-404.

Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and power : The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin Books.

Walters, M. (2016, April 16). Sweet Coronation for Hawaiian Crown Plantation. Retrieved from http://bigislandnow.com/2016/04/16/sweet-coronation-for-hawaiian-crown-plantation/

A Grassroots Changing of the Status Quo in Cacao Supply Chains: Taza Chocolate

When looking for bean to bar chocolate companies that are part of the solution to the inequalities and labor exploitations in cacao farming, look no further than to Taza Chocolate in Somerville, Massachusetts.  To provide a wholistic analysis, this blog will examine what bean-to-bar is, the labor issues that exist within cacao production and the process used by Taza Chocolate.  This will provide a contemporary understanding of chocolate production and the cacao supply chain while highlighting a firm that is approaches the challenges in an effort to promote equality for farmers.  While Taza is only a small part of the solution to these problems, it helps lead small chocolate companies that provide high quality products while paying their farmers premium prices for their work. 

            According to Professor Carla Martin, bean to bar chocolate companies “transform cacao beans into finished chocolate products in-house. This is different than the work done by chocolatiers, who transform chocolate from another manufacturer into different finished products like truffles, bonbons, barks, or bars.”[1]  In addition, bean to bar chocolate companies use beans that are considered ‘specialty cacao’ in the production of ‘craft chocolate.’  In order for cacao to be classified as specialty cacao, it has both tangible and intangible characteristics.  Martin states that these range from flavor and variety to sustainability certifications and environmental protections.[2]  Although there is still research being done on cacao genomes, three main types of cacao trees, the forastero, the trinitario and criollo trees exist,[3] with the latter two being considered ‘specialty cacao.’[4]  The forastero variety is known as ‘bulk cacao’ which is sold at the market price without a premium and is used by a larger companies like Hershey and Mars.  When searching for specialty cacao, the five major producers are, but not limited to, Madagascar, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador and Belize.[5]  As we will see later on, some of these countries are sources for the beans used by Taza Chocolate. 

            In terms of issues at play in the chocolate market and cacao production, there are several glaring issues that have caused calls for change in the industry.  The first to be examined is slavery, in particular, violations of child labor laws.  Although many of these accusations occur in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana (countries that do not produce large amounts of specialty cacao), it is still important to understand that these are the realities of many chocolate producers.  When examining labor practices in Ghana relative to cacao production, Amanda Berlan points out that just because slavery doesn’t exist in a legal sense, stark violations of human rights can still occur.  She writes, “labor processes typically fall somewhere within a spectrum of unfreedoms rather than under neat dichotomous labels and these should not be homogenized.”[6]  Anything that is found to deprive a child of the potential to have a fulfilling childhood is seen as a violation of labor laws and sadly, many children often face no choice but to work on cacao farms to support themselves or their families.  In an attempt to bring these abuses to light, the Harkin-Engel protocol was adopted by big chocolate companies, yet to little effect.[7]  While companies have acknowledged that these abuses exists, they have “insisted that the cacao chain is outside of their control.”[8]  It is an open secret that labor abuses exist in the cacao industry, but many large corporations do little about it.  It is only smaller producers that purchase higher quality cacao, like Taza Chocolate, who are not only aware of these dangers, but also buy from farms that do not exploit workers.

            The second issue that arises from the cacao process derives from the extreme poverty that many small farm families live in.  Carol Off points to this poverty as being a contributor to child labor violations.[9]  Since farmers are already incredibly poor, the need to save costs on labor exacerbates the need for children to work since parents do not need to pay them.  In terms of all the revenue that cacao brings in, farmers only see a measly 3% of all of the profits, earning under a dollar a day in income.[10]  Off points out that this exploitation is egregious and that despite reforms in the Harkin-Engel protocol, there is nothing in the protocol to pay farmers more.  She writes, “Nowhere in the agreement does it suggest that the cacao companies might simply undertake to make sure the farmers received a decent price for their beans.”[11]  Therefore, better practices could help to solve the poverty that farmers live in and also mitigate the need for cheap labor, which would help prevent child labor abuses.  Berlan argues that a grassroots approach, as opposed to a top-down approach, is best to attack the child labor laws.[12]  It is reasonable to believe that due to the correlation between the poverty of cacao farmers and child labor abuses, a grassroots approach would likely help solve the income inequality that the farmers face.  How will this approach be accomplished?  Taza is one of many bean to bar to chocolate producers that pays a premium to farmers and avoids child labor abuses in their farms through transparency.  To quote Taza co-founder, Alex Whitmore, “We believe both farmer and chocolate maker should share the reward of making a great product.”[13]  With this background in mind, let’s examine Taza Chocolate’s process to see why they are part of the solution to the problems present in the cacao supply chain. 

            In order to achieve these goals, Taza Chocolate employs what they call ‘Taza Direct Trade.’  The objective of Direct Trade is to remove “predatory middlemen and abusive labor practices,” while “ensuring quality and transparency for all.”[14]  The five commitments of Taza Direct Trade are as follows: develop direct relationships with cacao farmers, pay a premium price to cacao producers, source the highest quality cacao beans, require USDA certified quality cacao beans and publish an annual transparency report.[15]  By developing relationships with the farmers who grow their cacao, Taza is able to observe how the farms are run, allowing them to meet the goals that they have set forth to solve the problems that exists in the cacao supply chain. 

            In terms of setting better child labor standards, Taza Chocolate’s commitment to transparency, although being only a small producer, is a step in the right direction in an attempt to rid the cacao supply chain of labor abuses that sadly still occur in the 21st century.  This serves as a strong juxtaposition to big chocolate companies, recalling the writing of Carol Off, where larger producers claimed that they could not control their supply chain and thus, were not at fault.[16]  If small companies like Taza are the ones making an impact, why aren’t the large corporations also doing something about it?  This lends more credibility to the belief that a changing of the status quo in the cacao supply market will come via a grassroots movement, not big chocolate.  In addition to the transparency and direct relationships that Taza develops, the other key objective of Taza Direct Trade is paying a premium price to cacao producers.[17]  Not only does this reduce the need for cheap labor, but it also helps farmers immensely who often receive very little for their labors.

            As mentioned before in greater detail, when it comes to who gets the short end of the stick in terms of profits in the cacao market, the famers are the ones who hurt the most economically.  According to their Transparency Report, Taza employs two strategies, premiums and price floors, to ensure their producers receive top dollar for cacao beans.  The premium paid is “$500 per metric ton more than the NYICE (market) price.”[18]  In the event that the market prices are low, Taza has a fallback plan through the use of a price floor of $2800 per metric ton.[19]  The premium paid to farmers allows for many benefits as they are able to pay their own workers more as well as improving technology that is required to care for the cacao trees.  With increased funding, better labor practices exist on farms sourced by Taza in addition to considerations for sustainability and the environment.  In return for the premium they pay, Taza gains the “highest quality cacao beans,” another commitment of their direct trade.  The beans are classified with a 75% fermentation rate and dried to no more than 7% moisture.[20]  What makes Taza different than most chocolate makers is the fact that they stone roll[21] their chocolate which is an ancient Mexican process that is rarely practiced today.  According to Jesse Last, Taza’s Direct of Cacao Sourcing, conching, the process used by most chocolate makers, removes a portion of cacao’s bold flavors.[22]  Thus, the combination of stone rolling and high quality cacao allows Taza to achieve a unique[23] taste relative to most American products, while paying a premium to their suppliers. return for the premium paid to farmers. 

            The final area that shows Taza is helping improve the cacao supply chain is the spillover effects that they have had with other smaller chocolate producers.  They reinforce the idea that it will take a grassroots movement to achieve change.  Their Direct Trade commitments are no longer applicable to just them.  When Taza first published transparency reports, they were in contrast with the status quo, potentially jeopardizing the company with their high premiums.  Last writes “Sharing our sourcing partner relationships and the cacao prices we paid them struck many in the secretive chocolate industry as unusual at best and bad for business at worst.”[24]  Despite the risks taken by Taza, they appear to be ahead of the curve when it came to their Direct Trade protocol and have seen other small bean to bar producers adopt similar practices.  According to Last, “As it turned out, consumers appreciated our transparency, and other chocolate makers took note.”[25]  Although Taza isn’t one of the big chocolate companies, their model is an excellent blueprint for grassroots companies to help change the problems in cacao supply while maintaining a strong business with elite products.  When Taza was first founded, cacao brokers were not selling cacao that was both high quality and organic.[26]  Since Taza’s creation, that status quo has begun to change in this sector of the chocolate industry.  Following in Taza’s footsteps are the likes of Askinosie Chocolate, Madecasse Chocolate and Dandelion Chocolate which appeared in class. 

            Despite facing an uphill battle to change the cacao supply chain, Taza Chocolate’s evolution over the last decade offers hope for the future of the chocolate industry.  Smaller producers who follow a similar model will help to combat in the income inequality that threatens farmers by paying a premium for higher quality beans, coupled with higher quality products.  In addition, premiums and transparency practices, like those employed by Taza, will reduce the need for cheap labor and provide greater awareness into working conditions on cacao farms.  These practices promote the evolution of the status quo away from a longstanding tradition of inequality, dating back to the 1500s.  In the cacao market, bean to bar producers are working to shift the supply chain from one of abuse and inequality to one where farmers and laborers are treated fairly.  This blog serves to highlight the efforts and business model of Taza, but it is only a microcosm of the larger, gradual shift in the cacao supply chain.  The development and growth of companies like Taza offer solace in the fact that things can change with time.  Despite years of negligence to these issues, something is finally being done.  It is nice to hear that right here in Massachusetts, there are small business working to alleviate the problems that have been brought to our attention in class. 

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda.  “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on          Child Labor in Cocoa Production in Ghana.”  The Journal of Developmental Studies 49.8          (2013): 1088-1100. 

Giller, Megan.  Chocolate for the Table: How Taza Transforms a Mexican Drink Into a Bar With            Bite (blog).  http://www.chocolatenoise.com/taza-chocolate

The Gourmet.  “TAZA – Stone Ground Organic Chocolate.”  YouTube.  YouTube, 2 November   2012.  Web.  30 April 2019. 

International Cocoa Organization.  ICCO.  Last modified February 22, 2019.         https://icco.org/about-cocoa/fine-or-flavour-cocoa.html

Juan Motamayor, Philippe Lachenaud, Jay Wallace de Silva a Mota, Rey Loor, David Kuhn, J.    Steven Brown and Raymond Schnell.  “Geographic and Genetic Population             Differentiation of the Amazonian Chocolate Tree.”  Plos One.  Plos.  1 October 2008.       Web. 12 March 2019. 

Martin, Carla, “Sizing the craft chocolate market,” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (blog),     August 31, 2017, https://chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/.

Off, Carol.  Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.  Toronto:        Random House Canada, 2006. 

Taza Chocolate.  Taza Chocolate.  Last modified April 2019.  https://www.tazachocolate.com/.


[1] Martin, 2017

[2] Martin, 2017

[3] Motamayor et al., 2019

[4] ICCO, 2019

[5] Martin, 2017

[6] Berlan p. 1089

[7] Off p.161

[8] Off p. 140

[9] Off p. 143-146

[10] Martin Jan. 30 Lecture slides 7-8

[11] Off p. 146

[12] Berlan p. 1098

[13] Taza Chocolate, 2015

[14] Taza Chocolate, 2015

[15] Taza Direct Trade Commitments, 2017

[16] Off, p. 140

[17] Taza Direct Trade, 2017

[18] Taza Direct Trade, 2017

[19] Taza Direct Trade, 2017

[20] Taza Direct Trade, 2017

[21] Taza Chocolate, 2019

[22] Taza 2018 Transparency Report

[23] Giller, 2019

[24] Taza 2018 Transparency Report

[25] Taza 2018 Transparency Report

[26] Taza Direct Trade “Learn” Tab

Cardullo’s Chocolate

At Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe in Cambridge, Massachusetts there is an extensive selection of chocolate. In fact, the offerings cover an entire wall of the store and are split up into 5 sections. Upon inspection of the makeup of the selection of Cardullo’s chocolate, it is apparent that several groups of sections are broadly representative of certain types of chocolate. It further becomes apparent that the categories of chocolate one finds in Cardullo’s progresses from the front to the back of the store as follows: luxury chocolate, bean to bar craft manufactured chocolate, cheap and common chocolate. I will examine the brands representative of each of these categories at Cardullo’s and identify that luxury chocolate brands offer brand name and popular flavoring, bean to bar brands offer ethical supply chains, and that common chocolate offer the lowest prices. As such, Cardullo’s commitment to being a “gourmet” shop reveals the word “gourmet” can have many meanings in the world of chocolate. Gourmet chocolate can have to do with brand recognition as luxurious, or with being an ethically committed niche craft maker, or as being in line with popular tastes.

            There are complex ethical concerns involved with cacao production, most importantly regarding child labor and unsustainable living conditions for cacao farmers. The center of these ethical issues is West Africa. There is considerable evidence that cacao production in West Africa has used and continues to use child labor (Berlan, 1089). Child labor on farms in West Africa was first brought to attention by reports of such slavery in 2000 (Ryan, 44). Orla Ryan in Chocolate Nationdescribes,

“Traffickers preyed on children at bus stops in Mali, promising riches on cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire. Once children got to the farm, they survived on little food, little or no pay and endured regular beatings…. They were essentially slaves, harvesting the beans that were the key ingredient for chocolate” (Ryan, 44).

Given the evidence provided to the public the Harkin-Engel protocol was introduced, which was a voluntary agreement among chocolate manufacturers to end child labor. However, Ryan asserts that “nearly a decade later, very little has changed on the farm” (Ryan, 44). 

            Although the use of children on farms in West Africa is prevalent, it has been argued that this is in fact necessary and part of the culture. Ryan spoke with a Ghanaian buyer who asserted “In an African household, everyone contributes to the family’s welfare, a Ghanaian buyer told me. He had accompanied his mother to the farm from the age of 5” (Ryan, 45-46).  Amanda Berlan articulates that “In the broader context of Ghanaian society, child labour is well-documented. Of children aged 5–17 years, 39 per cent are known to be engaged in economic activities, of which 57 per cent are engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing and 88 per cent are unpaid family labour or apprentices” (Berlan, 1090). This is a framing of child labor as “apprenticeship,” rather than slavery. However, it remains that children do not really have a choice in these situations. If their parents require them to work on the farm and learn the business, the children are not in a position to pursue other options. Further, this can be argued to be a manipulation of facts from remote areas to advance interests not aligned with the interests of those who live there (Off, 160). Even if this is true, however, there is the necessity of improving these farming communities in general. As Ryan notes,  “It is also doubtful a boycott of slave-produced beans would make matters better. A ban on beans from the region would devastate millions of families reliant on cocoa to survive. These kinds of threats or bans, however well-intentioned, can backfire dramatically” (Ryan, 51-52). As such, a rejection of West African producers should not occur, especially for bean to bar chocolate manufacturers. Kristy Leissle aptly asserts,

Certainly media attention to slavery allegations makes it easy for consumers to reject West Africa as a ‘‘safe’’ source of chocolate. But when artisans or mid-size companies (such as Tcho) offer a bar from West Africa, they apparently can generate significant sales. As Tcho has proven with its best-selling Ghana bar, and Divine with its entire product line, West Africa bars can be successfully sold in the U.S.—provided the maker has already inspired trust with a clear statement of its social mission” (Leissle, 29).

West African cacao can be used responsibly, even given its history. In fact, it is necessary that manufacturers involve themselves with these farming areas in order to help them benefit and grow, rather than harming their economic situation further. As such, policies of fair trade and direct trade have developed in which chocolate producers are directly involved in the sustainability of the cacao growing communities. It is in this context of ethical issues within the cacao supply chain that we will examine the chocolate companies offered at Cardullo’s and compare how ethical commitments within the chocolate manufacturers align with price and brand recognition as well as how these relationships affect placement within the store.

            The first section of Cardullo’s chocolate selection, closest to the storefront is a collection of luxury (i.e. recognizable brand and highly priced) chocolate companies. However, these companies are variable in their ethical commitments. Here we can see the sections we are talking about:

The most prevalent company in all of Cardullo’s selection is Godiva. Godiva chocolates are allocated four shelves in the store. The offerings are mainly boxes of a variety of chocolate truffles. These boxes go for a high price of $20 – 40 each. Godiva had successfully branded itself as a luxury brand, as we can see in this advertisement.  

The use of gold and wine associates Godiva with a luxurious existence. Godiva’s cacao, however is sourced from West Africa, the center of the child labor matters. Nonetheless, on Godiva’s website, they describe that they are a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, a leading nonprofit that fosters sustainable farms, strengthening the cacao farming communities. They write, “Godiva believes that protecting children is a shared responsibility across the cocoa industry… We have a policy that requires all of our suppliers to be in compliance with applicable labor laws and regulations.” Yet, Godiva received an F from Green America’s evaluation of their supply chain ethics. This was due to their having no labor certifications and none of their cacao having been certified as ethically sourced to date even though they have a promise to be 100% certified by 2019.

            There are two other brands, Neuhaus, and Chocolat Bonnat, that appear to fit into the same category as Godiva, that is, highly priced (and thus luxury items) and not apparently or fully committed to pursuing an ethical supply chain. Most similar to Godiva, Neuhaus is given  three shelves in the store and also is mainly boxes of mixed chocolates. These boxes sell for $40-70 and as such can be characterized as luxury items. Further, on the Neuhaus website there is an emphasis on the deep history of the company. This history tracks its ups and downs as well as innovations. However, there is no suggestion of concern with supply chain ethics. Chocolat Bonnat has two shelves in Cardullo’s and offers bars of dark chocolate sourced from different areas for around $12. Although their cacao beans are sourced from areas that haven’t been hubs of child labor (e.g. Mexico, Peru, Madagascar, Brazil), there is nonetheless no mention of ethical concerns on their website. Like Neuhaus, they have an extensive history of the company. They also have a seven minute video on the process and soul of cacao harvest, but not mention of the moral issues that accompany that harvest. 

            There are however, luxury priced chocolate brands that reveal concern for the ethical supply chain in the Cardullo’s selection: Butlers, Castronova, and Milkboy. Butlers is represented by only a couple of bars in Cardullo’s, which sell for $22 and thus are luxury items. Butlers, on their website articulates, “We use sustainably sourced cacao through Cocoa Horizons because we believe that sustainably sourced cocoa makes for better chocolates and better livelihoods for the farmers who grow and nurture it.” In fact, in 2018 the chairman of Butlers went to meet with women that they had been empowering in these communities by training them in the techniques of growing cacao on the Ivory Coast, exhibiting a commitment to the improvement of these communities. Castronova is another brand priced in a luxury range of $15 for a bar. This chocolate is made from Colombian cacao beans, likely separated from child labor issues. As the founders write on their website,   

“We salute the few, craft chocolate makers that are taking time and care with each part of the chocolate making process, releasing the full potential of the bean; those who are supporting careful farming and fermentation, the ones who ensure farmers are paid a fair wage through an ethical and sustainable supply chain, and those who skillfully grind, roast, and sweeten without diluting the bean’s essence.”

Milkboy chocolate also falls under this category with bars priced at $20. Milkboy chocolate is UTZ certified, which requires good agricultural practices, social and living conditions, and farm management. This certification requires investment in farming practices that aid individuals at all stages of the supply chain, ensuring better futures for the cacao farming communities.  

            The next section, located one step further toward the back of the store, is composed of bean to bar chocolate manufacturers as well as Fairtrade and Direct Trade certified manufacturuers. Here we can see the sections we are speaking about:

Bean to bar means that the companies are fully involved in every step of the creation of their chocolate, from the growth of the beans to the manufacturing process. The main bean to bar brands in these sections are Fossa, Antidote, and Taza. Fossa is a bean to bar craft chocolate maker priced around $13 for a bar. Taza likewise is a bean to bar manufacturer priced around $5 for a bar. Finally, Antidote is a bean to bar manufacturer priced at around $10 per bar. We can note a symmetry here between bean to bar companies and Direct Trade certified companies. Antidote, a bean to bar manufacturer claims they practice direct trade, writing on their website, “Prioritizing quality and flavor over certification allows us to foster direct relationships without Ecuadorian partners and pay them wages that are far above market rate. We are practicing direct trade with all cacao beans and some other ingredients cutting our any middleman.” Taza likewise is Direct Trade certified. The alignment between direct trade and bean to bar is that direct trade is focused on the quality of the beans. And, as Antidote succinctly explains, this focus forces the manufacturer to be closely involved with the farming communities it sources from. This intimacy leads to a care and necessary ethical unveiling of the harvesting process. Note that these companies tend to have a lower price point as well.

            The other ethical certification is the Fairtrade certification, which is an explicit commitment to bettering the farming communities. The companies in this section that have this certification are Chuao and Pure 7. The Fairtrade certification ensures safe, healthy working conditions for cacao farmers as well as bettering the communities they live in. Chuao articulates that part of the additional income they make goes back to the farming communities to invest in education and healthcare.  These also sell at a lower price point, Chuao at $6 a bar and Pure 7 at $5 a bar.

            The final category of chocolate at Cardullo’s is the cheaper and common chocolates, such as Kinder and Milka. Here we see this section:

Both of these cholate producers offer milk chocolate that is highly sweetened, appealing to the common appeal of sweet soothing chocolate candy. They also both sell for about $2 a bar. Now, both of these companies have some sort of ethical commitment. Kinder is UTZ certified, part of the Fairtrade cocoa program, and also Rainforest Alliance certified. Milka is part of the Cocoa life sustainable sourcing program. Thus, these mass producing and popular manufacturers do not sacrifice ethical sourcing in their production.

            Cardullo’s we have examined the central three categories offered: luxury, bean to bar and Fairtrade certified, and cheaper, common candy. Within the luxury category, there is a mix of ethically bound and non-ethically bound companies. The bean to bar and Fairtrade certified are necessarily ethically bound. Finally, the common candy chocolates are also ethically bound. Given this variation in price and ethical commitment, it appears Cardullo’s is not taking a strong stand on what “gourmet” chocolate is. They offer to their consumer the option of viewing gourmet as expensive, as ethical, or as simply tasty. Indeed, the luxury items are toward the front of the store, but this does not imply a judgement on what is important, but more common business sense to have the more expensive items more prevalent. Nonetheless, Cardullo’s wide variety of ethically sourced chocolate products is impressive and aids in exposing consumers to the possibility of chocolate that is produced via an ethical supply chain, aiding in the issues that face chocolate production today. 

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol 49, 2013, . pp. 1088-1100. 

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22–31.JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed, 2011. Print.

Off, Caroline. Bitter Chocolate : the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York :New Press, 2008. Print.

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: Addressing Ethical Criteria in the Cacao-Chocolate Supply Chain via the Ethnographic Review of Taza Chocolate

Introduction

Despite the variety of available chocolate products, the process by which a chocolate bar comes to fruition maintains certainty consistency. A ubiquitous procedure, the evolution of a cacao pod to a chocolate bar ought to have reached contemporary standards of ethicality and efficiency. Yet, the bean-to-bar progression is plagued with inherent injustices that have been embedded in the chocolate industry from the start. Fundamental to the development of capitalism, cacao, a commodity crop like tobacco, sugar, coffee, rum, and cotton, initially relied heavily on the slave trade to fuel increasing demand. (Martin, 2017) Yet, despite the abolition of slavery in the mid 19th century, modern day slavery still prevails in the cacao industry. In response to the persistent pervasiveness of injustices in the bean-to-bar process, particularly surrounding the harvesting and cultivation of cacao, bean-to-bar brands have proliferated as a potential solution with a commitment to both the ethicality and culinary aspects of chocolate production; Taza Chocolate in Somerville, Massachusetts typifies one of these companies striving to produce palatable chocolate through ethical practices and a high degree of production transparency.

Cacao-Chocolate Supply Chain

The cacao-chocolate supply chain begins with the cultivation of cacao pods. After cacao cultivation, the pods are harvested and the seeds and pulp are separated from the pod. The cacao seeds are then fermented and dried before being sorted, bagged, and transported to chocolate manufacturers, chocolate makers, and chocolatiers. The cacao beans then undergo roasting, husking, grinding, and pressing before the product undergoes a type of “polishing,” called “conching,” in which final flavors develop. (Martin, 2017) Differences in the execution of each step influence the ultimate taste, texture, feel, and consistency of the chocolate bar.

Today, cacao cultivation and harvesting has predominately shifted away from the Americas to West Africa. Almost all of the world’s cacao used in the making of chocolate, approximately 75%, grows in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. (Martin, 2017). Despite the shift of the geographic foci of cacao trade, partially fueled to escape slavery associated with commodities crops in the Americas, a narrative of slavery and exploitation continue to plague the cacao trade. (Martin, 2017) Modern day farming of cocoa has exploited child and migrant labor, with price fixing by governments a likely causal link between abuses and the need for farmers to reduce their own cost.  (“Organic Cocoa Industry” 2014) Additionally, as small producers, the farmers lack collective bargaining ability and are thus dependent on price fixing governments or commodity boards that “leave them at the mercy of independent traders or other large buyers of their cocoa.” (“Organic Cocoa Industry” 2014)

Approximately two million small, independent family farms in modern day West Africa produce the vast majority of cacao. Each farm, between five to ten acres in size, collectively produce more than three million metric tons of cacao per year. (Martin, 2017) While some of the farms also grow crops like oil palm, maize, and plantains, to supplement their income, the average daily income of a typical Ghanaian cacao farmer hovers between $0.50-$0.80. (Martin, 2017).

The current system of buying and selling cacao in West Africa typically involves the growers and farmers selling to intermediaries, who subsequently sell upstream to additional intermediaries. The longer the supply chain, the greater opportunity for corruption and the exploitation of the farmers as the latter receive increasingly smaller shares of the overall price of a chocolate bar as the supply chain grows more layered with intermediaries adding their own profit layer. The marketing structures in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, the two largest cacao producers in West Africa, typify West African cacao trade. In Ghana, farmers take cacao to buying centers operated by the Ghana Cocoa Board, Cocobod. Cocobod fixes prices, and either Cocobod representatives or private buyers purchase the cacao. In Cote d’Ivoire, private traveling buyers collect cacao from farmers and pay a guaranteed minimum export price. (“Organic Cocoa Industry,” 2014)

The marketing structures in both countries exemplify the complexities of the exploitation of cacao farmers. In Ghana, local elites dominate cacao farming. Raising cacao prices would empower the local elite, and threaten the state. (Martin, 2017).  Therefore, the state, by controlling cacao prices through the Cocobod, also controls and restricts the power of the local elite. In Cote D’Ivoire, peasants comprise the majority of cacao farmers, and consequently, present a lesser threat to the government of the Cote D’Iviore. Consequently, allowing itinerants to collect cacao from farmers, while giving peasant farmers more ability to negotiate prices and thus greater power, does not, in the government’s view, create a threat to the state.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 8.13.41 PM
Cote D’Ivoire Marketing Structure (“Organic Cocoa Industry” 2014)

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 8.00.11 PM
Ghana Marketing Structure (“Organic Cocoa Industry” 2014)

Cacao, a commodity, theoretically should command a volatile price as determined by the global markets. Market variability within the past half-decade, however, has demonstrated the     effects of a long cacao-supply chain. Due to farming conditions, over the past five years, cacao supply has gone from a severe deficit to a surplus. In late 2014, poor harvest yields coupled with increased demand for chocolate drove the supply of cacao way down. (Ferdman, 2014) In fact, a 2014 Bloomberg report even suggested that in 2020, when the demand for cacao would exceed supply by 1 million metric tons, the world would have to turn to a genetically modified form of cacao, even at the forfeit of flavor, to attempt to meet demand. Yet, despite market economics which dictate that with increasing scarcity an item should demand a higher price, unusually, cacao farmers struggled to make a profit and began switching to other crops like palm and rubber. (Ferdman, 2014). Profits from the higher prices, instead of trickling down to the farmers, were captured higher up the supply chain. As recently as March 2017, however, cacao supply had usurped demand. Rather than let the market reset the pricing of cacao, the governments of both Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana announced an unspecified cut in prices of cacao, which further economically harms the farmers. With only meager profits, and constant subjection to harsh work conditions, the farmers cannot move beyond subsistence level and suffer from inescapable exploitative labor practices. (Hunt & Aboa, 2017)

In response to the social and economic injustices associated with the cacao-supply chain, various organizations—governmental, non-governmental, global and national—have been established with the common mission of improving ethicality and corporate responsibility of global cacao practices. For example, the International Cocoa Organization, ICCO, ratified by the United Nations, unifies cacao producing and cacao consuming countries.  The ICCO established an official mandate on a Sustainable World Cocoa Economy to addresses the exploitative environment cacao farmers face. (“International Cocoa Organization”) In 2012, Cargill, an American global corporation with a large focus on agricultural commodities, founded Cargill Cocoa Promise which specifically concentrates on bringing transparency to the global cocoa supply chain by supplying ethically sourced cacao to their buyers.  (“Cargill is committed to helping the world thrive” 2017) On a micro, private level, Cargill itself develops professional farmers’ organizations in the regions from where the corporation buys cacao in order to help farmers develop a sustainable way to improve and maintain their livelihoods.

Further, various organizations have established criteria for certifications with the goal of enticing companies to comply with specified ethical requirements in exchange for public acknowledgement for doing so.  “Fair Trade,” a designation granted by the nonprofit of the same name, stands out as a recognizable stamp on many shelf-brands. Self-defined as an organization which “enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth,” Fair Trade certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee farmers making Fair Trade certified goods receive fair wages, work in safe environments, and receive benefits to support their communities. (“Fair Trade USA,” 2017) Yet, while in theory Fair Trade seems to address many issues the cacao farmers face, critics of the certification point out there exists a lack of evidence of significant impact, a failure to monitor Fair Trade standards, and an increased allowance of non-Trade ingredients in Fair Trade products. (Nolan, Sekulovic, & Rao 2014) So, while in theory certifications like Fair Trade offer the potential to improve the cacao-supply chain by ensuring those companies who subscribe to the certification meet certain criteria, the rigor and regulation of the criteria appears debatable.

Contemporary Solutions: Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

In contrast to the traditional process of chocolate manufacturers buying beans in bulk from suppliers who amalgamate beans from anonymous farms, “bean-to-bar” companies offer another potential solution for the injustices in the bean-to-bar process.  By maintaining absolute control of the bean-to-bar process by cutting out the middle-men and dealing directly with the cacao farmers, these small companies not only strive for superior quality, but commit to ethical standards. (Shute 2013) The hope is that the the bean-to-bar “pipeline will make for more ethical, sustainable production in an industry with a long history of exploitation.” (Shute, 2013) The expensive price tag associated with a small-batch bean-to-bar product contributes to a more decent wage for West African cacao farmers, while simultaneously promising an excellent product.

The close relationship proves to be mutually beneficial as the bean-to-bar companies get well-flavored chocolate and the cacao farmers receive fair wages. (Zusman, 2016) Further, the transparency associated with the small-batch bean-to-bar process motivates the companies to adhere to ethical criteria, as well as keep up to date on ethical practices, and encourages the cacao farmers to take extra care in drying and fermenting their beans. Some bean-to-bar chocolate companies have also started following the lead of coffee companies by implementing Direct Trade, a partnership arguably doing more, directly, to help minimize exploitative practices, than Fair Trade. (Zusman 2016)

Direct Trade, a type of product sourcing, partners bean-to-bar buyers directly with cacao farmers. While providing some oversight on ethical practices, Fair Trade’s supervisory capacity does little to create a more direct relationship between the farmers and the ultimate producers or to eliminate extraneous intermediaries diluting profit from the growers. Further, achieving a Fair Trade certification costs between US$8,000 and US$10,000.  In contrast, Direct Trade costs the chocolate bar producer nothing while facilitating their purchase of cacao directly from farmers. This one-step connection, perhaps the epitome of the bean-to-bar movement, allows the buyer and seller (the farmer) to together dictate fair prices, and ensure the cacao farmers receive fair wages, working conditions, and support. With control over the bean-to-bar pipeline, and Direct Trade making such a choice more accessible, these smaller chocolate bar companies seem to provide a more viable blueprint to mitigate, and hopefully end, the exploitation of the cocoa farmers.

Taza Chocolate

logo
Taza Logo (“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor” 2017)

Alex Whitmore, an innovator of the bean-to-bar chocolate movement founded Taza Chocolate in 2005.  A ground-breaking chocolate shop committed to “simply crafted, but seriously good” chocolate, Taza exists as “a pioneer in ethical cacao sourcin.” (“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor” 2017) Taza “created the chocolate industry’s first third-party certified Direct Trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all.” (“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor” 2017) Taza maintains a direct “real, face-to-face relationships with growers who respect the environment and fair labor practices,” and pays farmers a premium for cacao well above the Fair Trade price.  (“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor” 2017) Within this symbiotic relationship, in exchange for ethical treatment and the removal of middlemen, the cacao farmers provide Taza with the “best organic cacao.”  (“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor” 2017)

Taza maintains a high degree of transparency on their website.  In addition to publishing their Direct Trade Program Commitments (“1. Develop direct relationships with cacao farmers; 2. Pay a price premium to cacao producers; 3. Source the highest quality cacao beans; 4. Require USDA certified organic cacao; 5. Publish an annual transparency report” (“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor” 2017) ), Taza provides hyperlinks to their transparency report, cacao sourcing videos, and their sustainable organic sugar.  Seemingly, Taza exemplifies the archetype bean-to-bar company.

Taza_DT_WebGraphics_v10_2_1024x1024
Taza Direct Trade Program (“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor” 2017)

I spoke with Ayala Ben-Chaim, Taza’s Tours and Events Coordinator, to gain further understanding of Taza’s revolutionary approach and the impact Taza has on the cacao-chocolate supply chain. Ayala explained that Alex set out with the goal of creating a socially responsible chocolate brand that balanced environmental, social, and quality responsibilities.  In 2005, market trends indicated consumers wanted organic products, so Alex initially considered making chocolate that was organic and Fair Trade.  Ayala noted, however, that as Taza began to develop, Alex discovered not all organic products aligned with Fair Trade certified products, not all Fair Trade Products aligned with organic products, and occasionally both organic and Fair Trade products tasted poorly. Additionally, early on, Taza did not have the budget to pay for Fair Trade certification; further, Alex realized he could be paying that fee directly to the cacao farmers. Consequently, Alex turned to the idea of direct trade.

Taza identified the main issue with the cacao-supply chain as the length of the chain from farmer to chocolate company. The longer the supply chain, the more opportunity for funding to disperse before reaching farmers, and the more opportunity for corruption by middle-men. Confirming the information I found on the website, Ayala explained that to help combat the supply chain injustices by shortening the cacao-supply chain as much as possible, Taza adopted Direct Trade.  Ayala elaborated that, emulating Counter-Culture coffee, an organic coffee company that formalized a third-party direct trade policy, Alex forfeited Fair Trade in favor of Direct Trade, and Taza hired a cacao sourcing manager. (“Sustainability At Coffee Origin,” 2017) Based in Columbia, the sourcing manager oversees all of the cacao sourcing, visits cacao farms regularly to ensure the conditions meet Taza’s own highly ethical criteria, and that the cacao fetches fair prices.  One of Taza’s biggest direct trade sourcing successes was creating a relationship with Haiti. Taza consistently pays farmers significantly more under the Direct Trade policy than they would have received under a Fair Trade certification, which would not have necessarily cut out middlemen.

Ultimately, however, the question remains whether the extreme efforts Taza puts forth to create an ethically sound product really produce a significant impact on the cacao-supply chain. Although Taza makes a significant impact on the people with whom they directly partner, Ayala commented that many customers approach her to ask about Fair Trade and completely confuse Direct Trade for Fair Trade, and thus do not comprehend Fair Trade’s shortcomings and the increased benefits to the farmers of Direct Trade.  Although frustrating, she does concede that some level of awareness in the choice of which chocolate to purchase is better than a total lack of knowledge or concern.

Ayala offered the statistic that in 2005, Taza was only one of three bean-to-bar chocolate companies. Today, however, Taza is one of 60 bean-to-bar companies. While the significance of Taza’s impact may be relatively small, the overall bean-to-bar movement has started to gain momentum. If each bean-to-bar company identifies issues in the cacao supply chain similarly to Taza, then, over time, an increasingly larger percentage of chocolate will come from ethically responsible sourcing. And, hopefully, that will also mean that customers will start to become more knowledgeable about what they are eating, become more discerning about the distinctions between the various “stamps” on the packaging, and more willing to pay a higher price for product that subscribes to and supports ethical farming.

Bean-to-bar chocolate companies appear to be a viable potential solution, albeit slow and on a more micro level, to addressing the issues in the cacao-chocolate supply. Because currently the consumer base does not seem to possess a critical awareness of different certifications, the bean-to-bar companies must continue to pioneer more moral standards until enough customers catch up and until demand forces the bigger chocolate venders to take a similar approach. Until then, tackling the exploitation embedded in the cacao-supply chain falls exclusively on the shoulders of the chocolatiers equally loyal to both chocolate and social responsibility.

References

“Cargill is committed to helping the world thrive.” Provider of food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world. | Cargill. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.

Fair Trade USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.

Ferdman, Roberto A. “The World’s Biggest Chocolate-maker Says We’re Running out of Chocolate.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 15 Nov. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/11/15/the-worlds-biggest-chocolate-maker-says-were-running-out-of-chocolate/?utm_term=.6f1b2516fded&gt;.

“International Cocoa Organization.” About ICCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-39. Web.

Nolan, Markham, Dusan Sekulovic, and Sara Rao. “The Fair Trade Shell Game.” Vocativ. Vocativ, 16 Apr. 2014. Web. 03 May 2017.

“Organic Cocoa Industry.” Cocoa Production and Processing Technology (2014): 67-78. Anti-Slavery International. Web.

“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor.” Taza Chocolate. N.p., 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. <https://www.tazachocolate.com/&gt;.

Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 22, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, April 04, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 01, 2017.

Schatzker, Mark. “To Save Chocolate, Scientists Develop New Breeds of Cacao.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2017. <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-14/to-save-chocolate-scientists-develop-new-breeds-of-cacao&gt;.

Shute, Nancy. “Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Makers Dare To Bare How It’s Done.” NPR. NPR, 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 03 May 2017.

“Sustainability At Coffee Origin.” Counter Culture Coffee. N.p., 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 03 May 2017.

Taza Chocolate. “Sourcing for Impact in Haiti.” Vimeo. Taza Chocolate, 03 May 2017. Web. 03 May 2017. Video

Zusman, Michael C. “What It Really Takes to Make Artisan Chocolate.” Eater. N.p., 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 03 May 2017.

Video,