Tag Archives: Dandelion Chocolate

Dandelion Chocolate – A model for just cacao production

A love for chocolate has been inculcated in American society as far back as one can remember.  This attitude was born in late 1800’s as large scale chocolate companies like Mars and Hershey’s rose to the forefront.  It has only grown since its introduction over 100 years ago with over $22 billion of chocolate purchased by Americans last year alone (Statista 2018).  Chocolate is indelibly associated with numerous holidays and is remembered by many as a fond childhood treat.  Many of these associations held by the public for chocolate consumption were strategically reinforced by chocolate companies in an attempt to permanently define a stronghold of the market for their good.  Yet what easily goes unnoticed, and actively hid by candy conglomerates’ targeted marketing campaigns, is an industry marred by a history of slavery, child labor and unsustainable practices. Legislation and fair trade organizations have made clear efforts to bring attention to and correct a seriously flawed supply chain model.  But with a multibillion dollar market dominated by five big players worldwide pining for cheap cacao to service their production, efforts motivated by NGO’s have not been enough to solve all the market’s severe issues.

What has surged in recent years is a market for quality chocolate and a rise of companies that challenge a longstanding history of mistreatment and unjust practices.  Confectionary categories since the early 1900’s have been dominated by chocolate with relatively low quality cocoa and a high sugar content in the United States. However, in recent years there has been a demand surfacing for “premium” chocolate, which is defined by the NCA as least $11 / pound, that is not produced by these well known large production candy companies.  For instance, in 2018 premium chocolate sales grew 10%, marking a fourth consecutive year of substantial growth while total chocolate only grew 4% (New Hope Network 2018). This growing demand for quality chocolate marks a key reversal in market trends. Similarly, a growing desire for quality chocolate comes with a growing need for new companies committed to sourcing production of the best kind and of the best practices. One of these companies is Dandelion Chocolate. By devoting the time and resources to ensuring quality in their cacao beans, Dandelion meets a market need while actively fighting the problems deeply rooted in the chocolate industry.  A close analysis of Dandelion Chocolate’s business model reveals how small batch, high quality chocolate producers that care about social and economic change can serve as a solution to a corrupt production market. Given the growing premium chocolate market worldwide, Dandelion’s approach makes this a viable model for mass adoption.

Dandelion Small Batch Chocolate (Radcliff & Calvery 2012)

In order to understand why Dandelion can serve as a model for an entire industry, it is necessary to know the company’s business model and mission. The company prides itself in its bean to bar small batch chocolate which uses only two ingredient, cocoa beans and organic cane sugar .  They produce chocolate out of their factory in the Mission District of San Francisco and sell them for about $10 per bar. In the company’s 2016 Sourcing Report the founders explain that their commitment is a simple one that comes at no small cost:

“We travel to origin as frequently as possible to learn about our producers’ best practices, exchange feedback, and make sure that high standards of quality and sustainability are met. We pay a premium far above the world marketprice …. We believe that good business practices can help foster positive social, environmental, and economic change, and we are committed to increasing transparency in both our own process as well as across the supply chain”(Dandelion Chocolate 2016) .

These claims regarding their practice are further supported throughout their website.  In 2016 market price was $2,892.16 per tonne and the average price per tonne that the firm paid $6,599.00.  A willingness to pay more for quality is the key to supporting positive change in the labor market and environmental spheres and what drives the premium chocolate market.  Examining this statement with respect to Dandelion Chocolate’s relationship with its producers demonstrates how they actively fight market wide injustices against the people who drive the industry.

First, to comprehend how Dandelion Chocolate’s model for supporting producers fights abuses against labor in the chocolate market it must be understood how pervasive and deeply rooted the issue. By looking at how profoundly imbedded violations against workers rights are in the process of producing chocolate it is made evident that a targeted approach like Dandelion’s is necessary. Corrupt labor practices in the production of chocolate date back to 1500’s when the Spanish introduced the “encomienda” system (Martin 2018). This system forced indigenous inhabitants of newly conquered Spanish America into slavery, subjected them to horrific working conditions and eventually led extreme demographic collapse. Due to dissent from clergy the use of indigenous people as forced labor was made illegal by the crown and a new labor system was introduced. “Chattel slavery” was the decided solution and resulted in 10-15 million enslaved Africans survived forced transport across the Atlantic between 1500-1900. During these years African slaves were forced to work on plantations for 18 hours per day harvesting commodity crops like rum, sugar, tobacco and cotton in addition to cacao. The conditions endured were so horrific that the life expectancy of slaves living in the Caribbean and Brazil was only seven to eight year.  The use of slave labor in Latin America continued until the end of the 1800’s when disease spread across the chocolate crop and slavery was made illegal. The scarring history with chocolate people throughout the continent dissuaded the continued production of chocolate and the bulk practice was instead relocated to the Gold Coast of Africa.

Although the center of production changed, the movement of cacao had no impact on the quality of work conditions for many works. Cacao was introduced to the African continent in 1819 when the Portuguese brought it to the island of Principe (Martin 2019).  From the beginning, the Portuguese used their colonial holdings in Africa to support their economic status as an empire and this resulted in severe abuses of the local population. Portugal enslaved nearly half the population of Angola and implemented a process oriented towards shipping slaves to cacao plantations on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe (Satre 2005).  For many natives, the word Sao Tome was synonymous with okalunga, meaning hell. Through this system the Portuguese government produced ⅕ of the world’s cacao in and was the primary supplier for Cadbury chocolate, one of the world’s largest chocolate sellers at the time. This system continued up until 1909 without a call for an end by the outside world. As the world began to demand changes to the Portuguese slave practice production fell away from these islands began in other African colonies.  Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire became the world’s primary chocolate producer in the 1900’s. However, there were still instances of forced labor being used in Bioko and Cameroon in the twentieth century while slavery persisted in Sao Tome and Principe until 1962 (Berlan 2013).

While enslaved workers were not the primary labor force in the other countries that began producing cacao across the Gold Coast, norms which had been established when slaves were the dominant source of labor on plantations had not destroyed.  After years of paying for dirt cheap cacao, the primary buyers of cacao required a similarly low priced product in order to maintain their profit margins. The degree of control set by the sellers of chocolate products back in the 1900’s has carried through to today. As a result, chocolate farmers are subject to incredibly low market prices for cacao that are also subject to great volatility. In order to meet the demands of large scale chocolate sellers, farmers must cut costs across all means and laborers face the consequences. In 2015, the average income of a Ghanaian cacao farmer was $0.50-$0.80 per day with the poorest farmers making only $500 per year (Ryan 2011). This painstakingly low income for cacao farmers is not only felt by farmers in Africa but is also shared throughout the world by farmers subject to bottomline prices for the product.

As a result of the low incomes cacao producers face, child labor is an additional issue associated with the chocolate market. In Ghana, 39% of children engage in economic activities with 57% of these children working in agriculture (Ghana Statistical Service 2003). Polly Hill explains that this is the result of farmers being “reluctant to ‘waste the savings’ on the employment of labor” and instead decide to outsource the work to their children (Hill 1997). The social acceptance of this practice the country is the result of desperately low thresholds for crops payments and in turn, pervasive poverty. Families desperate for additional income end up sacrificing their children’s futures to put food on the table. The problems that start at the producer level purvey through the entire society and have a fundamental impact on the development of future generations.

Additionally, there are cases of child labor which were prominently documented in the 1990’s in which children were being enslaved and forced to work against their will (Off 2008).  In instances like these across Cote D’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso children were forced into trafficking rings in which they were beaten when they did not behave, locked up when not working and not compensated for their work. To date children who are forced to work by someone other than a family member make up less than .5% of all child labor cases. Yet the existence of these types of circumstances at all is indicative of a system that needs to be rectified.

In the end, inequitable conditions for laborers are rooted in inexplicably low margins for cacao and ill compensation for the demanding work of farmers. Unfortunately, the system large chocolate companies use for purchasing cacao is founded on results in a large disconnect between producers and the firms themselves. Middle men buyers are an integral part of the process which makes it impressively easy for big firms like Mondelez, Ferraro and Hershey to support farms reliant on unsuitable work practices. This level of disconnect means there is no incentive for large scale companies to offer a higher price for cacao. In addition, given that the market for chocolate’s history was founded on the premise of abusing labor there should be concerted efforts to rectify past mistakes. Yet because of the

Therefore, a strategic way to start address the issue is with small batch, bean-to-bar chocolate companies that can redefine relationship between cacao producers and chocolate makers. This is where Dandelion’s approach comes into view. By building a close relationship with producers and traveling to the sites where their cacao is grown Dandelion works to change the trends against cacao laborers in many ways. The motivating factor behind this decision is a desire to ensure both quality in all elements of their product, from the cacao they source to the lives of their producers. This results in complete visibility about the entire production process starting with where both their beans and their sugar come from ending in how it makes it to the shop.

Inside the Dandelion Chocolate Factory (Giannuzzi 2019)
Pamphlet from the Dandelion Chocolate Factory (Giannuzzi 2019)

On their website the company publishes a detailed sourcing report of where every single ingredient used in their bars comes from. Each of their bars states exactly the location and the estate their beans come from. Their factory in the Mission in San Francisco opens up the entire process of making their chocolate to their customers. This feeds an interest in consumers for the terroir deriving from where the beans were harvested. Furthermore, emphasizing the fair practices of the producers they choose demonstrates that this should be taken into consideration by all those making chocolate.  As the company continues to grow, they will be able to spread their mission through their consumers. When people are interested in a product they tend to become invested in the brand itself. And when the brand is tied to positive social change, the consumers get tied to the mission too. In order to correct the wrongs of the chocolate market the suppliers need to fundamentally care about the issue which means consumers need to care too. With this model driving Dandelion Chocolate’s success, it works as a mechanism for promoting the change the industry needs to see.

Dandelion Chocolate Bars (Dandelion Chocolate 2019)

In the end, it is clear that a small production company like Dandelion can not overthrow multi-billion dollar companies like Hershey’s and Mars alone. They simply do not have the same resources to produce at such a large scale and the market for high quality chocolate is still relatively niche. Conversely, these firms have existed for over a century and demand is simply not growing at a fast enough rate to derail an empire. But the power in the approach of small batch chocolatiers is not in their ability to fiscally dethrone these giants. Instead, it can insight new buying trends amongst consumers that force traditional firms to change their ways. By sharing with customers the heightened experience associated with well sourced beans, small batch companies can make a dent into the sales of these conglomerates. Well intended actions detailed by involuntary legislation and fair trade stamps which can be fabricated to mean all sorts of things are not enough to make profit driven companies change their way. What can truly incite change is consumers’ pockets. And Dandelion Chocolate is one of the forces pushing them to change.


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.

“Dandelion Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate, 21 Mar. 2019, store.dandelionchocolate.com/.

Dandelion Chocolate. Dandelion Sourcing Report 2016. 2016, pp. 1–48, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzaLTpo79TrSYnR3dzU5VDFHX3c/view.

Ghana Statistical Service. “Ghana child labour survey.” Accra: Ghana Statistical Service, 2003.

Giannuzzi, Anna. Inside the Dandelion Chocolate Factory. San Francisco, CA, 21 Mar. 2019.

Giannuzzi, Anna. Pamphlet from the Dandelion Chocolate Factory. San Francisco, CA, 21 Mar. 2019.

Hill, Polly. The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana: a Study in Rural Capitalism. Lit, 1997.

Martin, Carla D. “Modern Day Slavery.” AAAS 119x. 27 Mar. 2019, Harvard University, Emerson Hall, Harvard University, Emerson Hall.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor.” AAAS 119x. 3 Mar. 2019, Harvard University, Emerson Hall, Harvard University, Emerson Hall.

New Hope Network. “Premium Chocolate Is Growing 4x More than Total Chocolate.” New Hope Network, 5 Feb. 2018, http://www.newhope.com/products-and-trends/premium-chocolate-growing-4x-more-total-chocolate.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: the Dark Side of the Worlds Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008, pp. 119-161.

Ryan, Órla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2012, pp. 43-62.

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio Univ. Press, 2006, pp. 1-32.

Statista. “Topic: Chocolate Industry.” http://www.statista.com, 2018, http://www.statista.com/topics/1638/chocolate-industry/.

Vimeo, Dandelion Chocolate, 19 Dec. 2012, vimeo.com/55989344.

An In-depth Look Into Dandelion Chocolate: How a Unique Bean-to-Bar Craft Chocolate Company Positively Transforms the Way to Supply, Manufacture, and Retail Chocolate

Dandelion Chocolate, a small-batch chocolatier cafe, sits in San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood, The Mission. Founded in 2010 by Todd Masonis as a cafe, Dandelion Chocolate has expanded to retailers across U.S and Japan, designed tours and classes, and diversified its menu offerings with several new recipes in addition to the company’s handmade candy bars (2). Masonis, CEO of Dandelion Chocolate and previously a software developer, started the company with a vision to scale, to transform the chocolate industry, and to challenge people’s customary view of chocolate. This paper will conduct an in-depth analysis of the company’s supply chain, chocolate manufacturing process, and retail strategy. Throughout I will highlight how Dandelion’s innovative techniques are challenging the Big Five chocolate makers and redefining how chocolate is produced and sold. By the end, it will be clear how Dandelion continues to be a part of the solution to the problems in the cacao-chocolate market.

BeanTo-Bar: The Supply Chain from Cacao Trees to the Dandelion Factory

Three words sum up Dandelion’s supply chain — precise, sustainable, and global. As a bean-to-bar chocolatier, Dandelion emphasizes the quality of the beans it uses in its chocolate bars and menu recipes. The company focuses on simplicity. Since Dandelion “uses only two ingredients to make [their] chocolate — cocoa beans and organic cane sugar”, the company has to be particular of the sourced beans’ flavor profiles (2). This directly contrasts the origin, sourcing, and flavor profile of the Big Five chocolate makers. Early in Hershey’s development, Milton S. Hershey hired a chemist before firing him and hiring John Schmalbach who helped create Hershey’s taste profile that we still see today (4). When Schmalbach was done experimenting, he arrived at “a mild-tasting milk chocolate that had the perfect bite — like al dente pasta — that melted smoothly in the mouth” (4). This product utilized swiss condensed milk which helped Hershey easily pump, channel, and pour the chocolate through mass production. Unlike Dandelion’s simple single ingredient taste profile, Hershey confuses consumers with its chocolate nutritional profile. On Hershey’s site, the company states their chocolate bars are made with “simple ingredients — and never any artificial flavors, preservatives or sweeteners” (5). These ingredients include “farm fresh whole milk, cocoa 100% certified, almonds, sugar from the finest sugar plantations, and vanilla” (14). How can we believe Hershey’s promises? To begin to answer this question, consumers can look at the back of Hershey’s chocolate bar.

The iconic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar wrapper from 1973-1976. Clearly, consumers can see contradictions from the website today in the ingredients section. Artifical flavoring is added (6).

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act require food companies to show nutrition labeling (1). Fortunately, this gives consumers the honest answer to the question stated above. Under the ingredients tab, Hershey lists that an artificial flavoring is added in addition to other ingredients that are not common to the average consumer (5). This is the first evidence of how Dandelion is redefining the chocolate market and supply chain process for the better. Dandelion is so precise with its sourcing and ingredients that it can give consumers the transparency and trust they desire. On their site, Dandelion gives a distinct background of the supply chain process, the origin of each of the beans, and the Chef’s preparation technique for each of the products that it retails. These details get as precise as the cacao percentage, the single origin location, ingredients, and when the cacao beans were harvested.

This is the MAYA MOUNTAIN, BELIZE 70% chocolate bar. It is one of the many single origin chocolate bars sold on Dandelions retail site and in stores. The bar’s flavor profile and the cocoa beans terror serve up beautiful “hints of honey and caramel with notes of strawberries and cream.” Finally, the bars are made with just cocoa beans and sugar, no added cocoa butter, lecithin or vanilla (10). 




Consumers can be confident they are getting fine cacao and that the ingredients in their chocolate are not unhealthy with too much sugar or saturated fats. This last point is critical as chocolate makers such as Ferrara, Lindt, and Nestle are making real commitment to increase health awareness surrounding chocolate products, provide better labeling and packaging, and partner with Healthier America.

Each year Dandelion publishes a sourcing report that is easily accessible on their site. The 2016 sourcing report, 48 pages long, provides consumers with information on the executives core philosophy, the geographic location where beans sourced, the fermentation and drying style, cultivation notes, farmer’s certifications, cacao beans’ exporter, tasting notes, company’s relationship/history with each farmer, price they paid per tonne in each region, and date of the company’s last visit to the farm to do a checkup (3).

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 3.04.18 AM.png

An example of all the information from the sourcing report for Bertil Akesson’s organic estate in Ambanja, Madagascar, the place Dandelion purchased their first full bag of beans, is shown above (3).

Dandelion’s control of the entire supply chain as a bean-to-bar chocolatier gives them the flexibility to synthesize and present all this information. 

In addition to providing precise transparency to consumers of every detail in the supply chain process, the Dandelion executives discuss the importance of sustainability in their core philosophy. Dandelion “pays a premium price for their cacao far above the world market price (that is fixed rather than dependent on an arbitrary market)” (3). This information is presented in the sourcing report. The average market price for cacao in 2016 was $2,892.16 per tonne. The least Dandelion paid for cacao $5,100.00 per tonne, the most $7,500.00 per tonne, and $6,599.00 per tonne on average.  This increase in income solves many of the cacao industry’s problems. With prices at the average market price or less than half Dandelion’s price, cacao farmers earn less than $2 per day in Western Africa (9).

In the two pictures, we see the ethical problem in the chocolate industry. In the picture on the left, a young boy is performing hard labor with a machete to chop cacao pods from high up in a cacao tree (16). The child faces physical and developmental risks from this kind of labor. Further, the highlight the systematic effects of child labor, the lack of education, the lack of enforcement of child labor laws, and the effects of you consuming chocolate from companies who exploit these problems (17). 

The problem is most prevalent in Western Africa where stories like of 16-year-old Alhassan Ali, who took the opportunity to work on a cocoa farm in western Ghana and left his home. Quickly, Alhassan felt “cheated as life was hard” and the conditions unbearable for a teenager who had no choice after his father died.

Children are thrown into these jobs to help their families, although less than one-quarter of cacao farmers would recommend that their children go into farming and the fact that this violates international labor laws (12, 18, 8 ). The work is dangerous and the risks include fatigue, mosquito-borne diseases, and agrochemical poisoning.

Since cacao is a commodity and harvested seasonally, cacao farmers struggle with volatile income. Dandelion executives recognized this problem as they “used to buy beans as needed but sometimes that led to chaos and stress both on the part of their team as well as on the part of our suppliers” (3). In 2016, the company constructed a 5-year plan in which they would buy beans one year in advance in order to help alleviate the stress on their producers. Employees from Dandelion visit their producers each year to ensure the quality of the cacao, environmentally friendly farming practices, and sustainable conditions for the workers. If you don’t believe their mission and core philosophy, then you can ask their producers themselves, since the company provides names, locations, and pictures to earn consumers’ trust.

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 3.11.22 AM.png

Vincente Norero, the manager of Camino Verde Cacao farm in Ecuador, sits on top of one of his machines as he explains the genetics of cacao in his region to visiting employees from Dandelion (3).  

Additionally, a major component of Dandelion’s long-term planning strategy is a rigorous quality assessment beyond fine cacao or bulk cacao, which the Big Five use. This evaluation starts out “breaking down cacao producers based on physical quality, sensory evaluation, and hedonic preference” (3). Dandelion gives the producers enough feedback so that the farmers know what is the flavor profile and the terroir that the company wants.

Finally, Dandelion has created a global network of producers that provide the company with a diverse set of high-quality cacao. Dandelion strengthens relationships between the community of producers by emphasizing information sharing. Producers in different regions visit each other and share their techniques and experiences. For instance, the heads of the farm estate “Brian and Sim from Kokoa Kimili visited Zorzal in the Dominican Republic” (3). This is unlike any craft chocolate or large chocolate make and this may be the CEO Todd Masonis’ secret weapon to scale the craft chocolatier business. The company has two factories across the globe in San Francisco and Japan. They both support the company’s global sourcing of cacao in 7 different regions: Madagascar, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Belize. This degree of diversity is uncommon for one company. In fact, “70% of the world’s cocoa is grown in the region and the vast majority of that supply comes from two countries: Ivory Coast and Ghana” (7). Dandelion not only ensures to source diverse cacao but also does not mix cacao from different regions or farms. This is powerful in the cacao in the cacao industry. Not even regulation or certifications can effectively track that companies keep to this promise like Dandelion does. 

Bean-ToBar: The Exquisite Manufacturing and Chocolate Production Process and Ingenious Retail Strategy

Once the factory receives the diverse, high-quality cocoa beans which have been fermented and dried in their regions, the company undergoes another precise taste tests on each batch. Surprisingly, each testing of a batch may take “as many as eight to sixteen tastings before they are happy with the taste profile” (2). Next, the batch is sorted and dirt, rocks, and defected beans are removed.

3 winnower
Here, the chocolatiers use a machine they built in-house to winnow and remove the shells. However, the company says that your household hair dryer would work the same (15).


A melanger is used to stir and crush beans creating small particles and more fluid chocolate state (11).

After these steps, the chocolate is packaged until it is ready to be tempered and transformed into chocolate bars.

This highly technical process ensures that each chocolate bar holds up to the company standard that no added ingredients or artificial flavoring are included in the end products. The company even offers tours and classes to teach chocolatiers their craft chocolate secrets. The whole production process is transparent. This eliminates any need for certification from organizations like Fair Trade, USDA Organic, or Rainforest Alliance. Instead, consumers are educated on the labor conditions, ingredients, quality, and health information from researching online on Dandelion’s site. Dandelion utilizes this transparency and network of information to scale their consumer base and challenge the chocolate industry to have the same care for all parts of the process.

Finally, Dandelion is redefining the retail strategy for chocolate. Most people are accustomed to purchasing chocolate bars from large retail and convenience stores like CVS, Walmart, and Target. The large chocolate manufacturers spend millions on advertisements in commercials, billboards, and magazines. However, Dandelion’s executives have taken a different approach. The company’s first establishment, the Dandelion Chocolate Cafe, is the model for how Dandelion will transform the chocolate industry and how consumers expect to consume chocolate. Music blasts from the speakers playing a hip playlist that caters to the diverse crowd in the cafe. Children, young teens, and chocolate connoisseurs from Mission District crowd the shop on Valencia street for the chocolate wrapped in gold foil and custom wrappers, the blowtorched s’mores, or for a bag of locally roasted, single origin cocoa beans.  Adopting the executives’ Silicon Valley marketing and trendy style, Dandelion Cafe consumer and sales skyrockets in its first years. The company reached “$1 million in early 2013 after opening its factory/cafe in the Mission” (19). Shortly after a year, more outposts were built in Tokoya and across California. All the while, the company has elevated its online presence with a vibrant website which hosts a blog, instructional videos, and information about each of their products and locations. What was once an antiquated industry ruled by roughly 5 chocolate manufactures is being transformed by two software engineering executives and their ambitious company to scale handmade, craft chocolate globally. No longer can the chocolate industry exploit poor working conditions in their supply chain, obscure nutritional information, or produce low quality chocolate because Dandelion Chocolate and many other craft chocolate companies businesses are transforming the industry and the consumers are recognizing this transformation.

Works cited

  1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Labeling & Nutrition – Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm2006867.htm.
  2. “Dandelion Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate, http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/.
  3. “Dandelion Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate, http://dande.li/2016SourcingReport
  4. D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126
  5. “Fooducate.” Lose Weight & Improve Your Health with a Real Food Diet, www.fooducate.com/app#!page=product&id=530B67CE-E108-11DF-A102-FEFD45A4D471.
  6. Hershey Community Archives | Hershey’s Milk Chocolate: Bar Wrappers over the Years, www.hersheyarchives.org/exhibits/default.aspx?ExhibitId=20&ExhibitSectionId=44.
  7. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” Fortune, fortune.com/big chocolate child-labor. O’Keefe, Brian. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” Fortune, @2018 Time Inc., fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor.
  8. International Labour Organization. January 26, 2000. “Convention 182.” http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc87/com-chic.htm. (3/01/14)
  9. Kramer, Anna. March 6, 2013. “Women and the big business of chocolate.” Oxfam America. https://www.oxfamamerica.org/static/media/files/oxfam-fact-sheet-women-and-cocoa-screen.pdf (9/4/17)
  10. “MAYA MOUNTAIN, BELIZE 70%.” Products, http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/store/products/maya-mountain-belize-70/#anchor.
  11. “Melanger.” Process, http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/about13.png.
  12. Price, Larry C. July 10, 2013. “One Million Children Labor in Africa’s Goldmines.” PBS. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/world-july-dec13-burkinafaso_07-10/. (3/03/14)
  13. Ryan Órla. Chocolate Nations Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2012.
  14. “Take a Look inside Our Factory.” Our Brands, http://www.hersheys.com/en_us/our-story/our-ingredients.html.
  15. “Winnow Machine.” LE GRANDE EXPERIMENT, http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/2015/05/12/le-grande-experiment-part-2-making-chocolate-steve-devries-style-in-denver/.
  16. “Child Labor: The Dark Side of Chocolate.” WilderUtopia.com, 3 Mar. 2018, http://www.wilderutopia.com/international/earth/child-labor-the-dark-side-of-chocolate/.
  17. USA, Fair Trade. “Is There Child Labor In Your Chocolate?” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/fair-trade-usa/is-there-child-labor-in-y_b_9169898.html.
  18. Martin, Carla D. “Lecture: Modern Slavery”
  19. Shanker, Deena. “The Rise of Craft Chocolate.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 7 Feb. 2017, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-07/the-rise-of-craft-chocolate.


I, Taza Chocolate

A Bean-to-Bar Review of the Taza Chocolate Initiative and Alternatives

The first portion of this essay is modeled after the classic 1958 Leonard E. Read economic treatise, I, Pencil, as applied to the modern production chain of the Taza Chocolate Company. Following this ascription, the analysis moves on to compare the Taza model to that of Dandelion in San Francisco and the Hershey Company, citing major differences.

i-pencilIn his essay, Read details a global trade system from the point of view of a playfully personified pencil, describing the millions of hands that contributed to its “edification” and espousing the miraculous virtue of the modern capitalist supply chain (Read). While Taza Chocolate reflects several elements of the pencil manufacturing process described in the Read essay, Taza has developed its own processes within the broader capitalist system, at times contradicting those ascribed by Read, forging its own unique logistics chain with a refreshingly human element ripe for imitation.

I, Taza Chocolate

I am a piece of Taza chocolate – the stone-ground delicious triangle familiar to a sliver of boys, girls, and adults across New England.

You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery – more so than the Snickers or the Hershey bars beside me. But sadly, I am sometimes taken for granted by those who enjoy me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude unfairly relegates me to the level of commonplace.

I, Taza Chocolate, simple though I appear, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me, become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing. I have a profound lesson to teach, and I can teach this lesson better than can an iPhone or an airplane, precisely because I am seemingly so “simple.”

Simple? Yes, because a single person on the face of this earth can make me. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Especially when you take into account that three billion pounds of chocolate are consumed in the U.S.A. each year (Martin).

Pick me up and give me a sniff. What do you see? Not much meets the eye – there’s a wrapper citing some foreign land and various certifications, some grainy brown substance. But give me a taste and I’ll explain.

InNumerable Antecedents

Unlike you who cannot trace your family tree back very far, it is quite possible for me to name and explain all my antecedents. I would like to suggest enough of them to impress upon you the richness and simplicity of my background.

My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a Theobroma cacao tree that grows in Bolivia. There, deep in the woods of this Central American nation, the tree of my primary ingredient and member of the Sterculiaceae family, takes root. A fickle specimen, my cacao tree requires meticulous care, attention, and skill to bear her fruit (Coe and Coe 19). She requires special growing conditions including partial ground cover, partial shade, and even special pollinating insects called midges to bloom. Once tended to correctly, the cacao tree flowers directly from the trunk (exhibiting the rare reproduction method known as cauliflory) and I am born of her warty-edged pod.

After a few weeks of ripening, I am plucked from her branches, my beans separated from each other to expose a whitish, sour pulp. I am left in the sun to ferment, heating up to nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit as bacteria attack this pulp. During this time, the flavor within my beans transforms and develops the delicious melody of tastes that make me so delectable (Coe and Coe 17-30). Please note that throughout the process so far, only one or two people have contributed to my production.

Now contemplate the tools used by one of those people, in particular, Jorge, a laborer with the Alto Beni Cacao Company. To remove me from my branch to begin my trip north requires only two tools: a pruner and bucket. With these humble beginnings, I am transported back to the main building at Palos Blancos to join other freshly-harvested pods (Taza 10). At this facility, I am fermented, dried and prepared for the next step of my journey.

The next part of my journey is the least uniform, strictest, and most subject to market forces: transportation from Belize to America. Typically, I am packaged in jute or sisal bags of up to 100 kg (TIS). The owners at Taza have implemented a fair trade program where my farmers are paid at least $500 per metric ton over the daily market value, a measure they feel ensures quality (Ailworth). Once sold, a truck takes me to a coastal port where I am loaded to a ventilated container which must have a clean and dry wooden flooring. Very specific moisture concentration must be adhered to, and it’s even recommended to use a two-layer anti-condensation film to provide protection against dripping sweat (TIS). Cool, dry, good ventilation are key throughout this moderate temperature yet exciting trip, or else I might spoil or lose my valuable flavor! Finally, I am unloaded at a port on the east coast of the United States and travel the continent by railroad or truck to my next home: scenic Somerville, Massachusetts.

15-8577-TAZA-041In a 17000-sqaure-foot factory at 561 Windsor Street, I meet a few of Taza’s specialized workers including Kathleen, Stephanie, Jesse and Alex. They ensure that I am properly roasted, winnowed, ground, mixed, rolled, tanked, tempered, molded, and cooled (Taza). As lifetime adherents to minimal processing in line with the organic mission, these steps leverage only 10 separate machines, parts of which are even made and maintained by hand in the factory.


Arguably, the most striking trait of mine is my “grit.” I get this from the old-fashioned processes employed at the Taza factory, where workers shape the stones used to grind me by hand (sometimes with less than stellar results). In fact, the owner still carves the millstones by hand, using a “chisel and hand-held grinder to etch each one” (Ailworth). From the stone mills, or “molinos”, I retain my “bright, fruity” flavors which most processing methods tend to mask or remove (Taza). And all together, this yields a bold, rustic and satisfyingly gritty palate pleaser.

A final stop along my journey might include the addition of added flavorings. Such unusual flourishes include raspberry, vanilla, chili peppers, guajillo peppers, red peppers, cinnamon, coffee, salted almond, cracked pepper, chipotle, toffee, hazelnut, figs and even chai tea (Taza). A quick trip down the recently installed automatic wrapper, and finally, I emerge the brown, gritty disk of bittersweet joy in your hand (Ailworth).

No Master Mind

There is a fact still more astounding within my genesis: the presence of a mastermind, of someone orchestrating and collaborating these countless actions which bring me into being. He can be found at our headquarters: Alex Whitmore.

whitmoreWhitmore, 37 years old, is a life-long Bostonian, having been born in the city and even living on the Harbor for a number of years (Luna). An alum of the successful car-sharing business Zipcar, Whitmore was no stranger to the startup environment when he founded Taza Chocolate in 2005. Finding inspiration during a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, he has grown Taza to its current 58-employee team in just over a decade. His little enterprise now hawks 40 products at over 2800 retail locations throughout New England and North America (Ailworth).

It has been said that “only God can make a tree.” And, with a little help from my friends at Taza, I transform from that tree to a delicious treat in your hand. I, Taza Chocolate, am a complex combination of miracles, an embodiment of the dozens of tiny know-hows conspiring together under Alex Whitmore’s vision and direction. While only God can make a tree, it only takes a few men to fully make me.

Testimony Galore

If I, Taza Chocolate, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women can accomplish when free to try, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore: 300,000 pounds of me per year, to be precise (Ailworth). The lesson I teach is this: leave all creative energies uninhibited, but pay a fair price to all. While free market capitalism typically decries any notion of command economies and the inefficiencies they typically create, the free market system is in fact made up of miniature command economies. We call them firms. General Electric, Microsoft, Bank of America, and even your favorite food truck are small-scale command economies, just like Taza, who decide where to allocate resources and what prices to pay for inputs. Taza has simply bent those rules a little bit, paying more to and developing relations with its suppliers.

As you can see, dozens of hands fastidiously participate in my great journey across the globe, forging me into the delicious product I am today. But my story is not one of purely profit-motivated free market triumph. Instead, it is a tale of cooperation and collective good. The people I meet along the way are treated fairly, compensated for their contributions, and genuinely happy with the results. As Mintz argues, “a human being is not an object, even when treated as one.” We should, therefore, return to that “absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people” (Read). I, Taza Chocolate, have embarked on this mission.

I, Taza Chocolate, am a complex combination of miracles.

I merit your wonder and awe.


While the preceding essay adaptation provided a detailed look at the intricate chocolate-making process and Taza Chocolate’s refusal to adhere to more traditional market behavior and production processes, it leaves a number of questions ripe for exploration. As Kristy Leissle argues that the place of manufacture of chocolate has become “more important to appreciating chocolate than the place of origin of the beans,” has Taza missed out on additional opportunities to provide a quality product? To that end, how does the Taza process compare to that of a more mass produced product, such as the Hershey or Snickers bars it derides as commonplace? Next, how does it compare to other small-scale chocolatiers’ processes? And are there other sources from which Taza could draw that are currently overlooked?

Founded in 1894 by Milton S. Hershey, the Hershey Company of Hershey, Pennsylvania is a $7.4 billion agglomeration of factories, theme parks, retail stores and, of course, candy. Known for its syrups, chocolate bars, Reese’s cups and, most importantly, Kisses, Hershey has grown to one of the most recognizable brands in America. So, how does one make a Kiss?

The Hershey Company’s production process has many of the same elements as the Taza Chocolate process but on a much larger, arguably more impersonal scale. The cacao beans, from any of hundreds of farms across West Africa, are unceremoniously purchased at exact market rates (the Big Five chocolate companies make the rates), boarded on large cargo vessels, and arrive in North America for transport to the Hershey plant in Pennsylvania. From there, they are processed similarly to the cacao beans from South America, but on a much larger scale.

However, it is interesting to note that on the Hershey website in the food philosophy section, Hershey espouses that they are “committed to making our products using simple ingredients… you might find in your kitchen” (Hershey). The simple chart below illustrates these simple ingredients. Clearly, the ingredients listed are simple, and what a consumer should expect in her chocolate: cocoa, nuts, milk and sugar. But, if these components make up 80% of the product, what is the remaining 20%?


The processing and additives Hershey includes at this point are what truly make the difference between it and Taza or Dandelion Chocolate. Ingredients to improve “flavors, aromas, textures and appearance” and decrease cost, are included at this point, leading to the ascription of “ultra-processed” (Hershey). This term, defined by Samira Kawash as “foods processed so far beyond their original form as to be better described as fabricated rather than grown” is a fair description for the Hershey’s product, which is then distributed throughout the world (Kawash 26).

To provide an idea of the scale of the Hershey production line, the shipping center, in particular, makes for an interesting case study. In a behemoth warehouse in Lebanon, PA, the sales fulfillment distribution center (DC), supplies 1400 sales representatives with the product throughout the country (Partridge). This team, in its industrialized “continual quest for process improvement,” measures its productivity in defects per million opportunities (only 3.4), lines shipped per hour, and orders picked per hershey productionworker. The dehumanization of this process stands in strict apposition to that of Taza Chocolate, as workers at Hershey are treated as interchangeable pieces, floor managers as faceless overseers. If these employees fail to reach their DPMO target number, contingency plans focused on, mobile “robotic drive units with a software system that outputs control instructions” can be leveraged. These machines would ramp up to replace warehouse staff by 25 percent, or 1.5 full-time employees (Partridge). All this analysis and dehumanization yield the Lebanon warehouse an average savings of $45,000 per year in labor costs. At the risk of understatement, this behavior is vastly different from that seen in the Taza Chocolate process. But how does their process relate to a more direct competitor, such as Dandelion Chocolate?

Located across the country from Somerville in a similarly startup-saturated city, Dandelion Chocolate calls San Francisco’s Mission District home. Founded by Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring in 2010, Dandelion’s process follows a similar path to fruition. Once imported, their beans are roasted, cracked, sorted, winnowed, ground, conched and tempered in small batches, before being molded and packaged by hand (Dandelion). While a source report akin to that provided by Taza is unavailable, Dandelion appears to follow a process akin to that of Taza, traveling to meet its suppliers as frequently as possible to “build strong relationships with partners” (Dandelion). These strong relationships form the basis for the Dandelion business model, as the management team takes great pride in their sources.

Further research into the business fundamentals of the smaller companies which might be included in a publicly traded forum or within an annual or quarterly prospectus detailing revenue, debt, acquisitions, overhead, and additional standard accounting practices might yield a clearer picture into the affordability of the smaller companies’ viability of their models. Because the Hershey Company is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (HSY), and valued at $22.24 billion as of May 2016, we can see that its model is successful by capitalist measurements: a profit margin of nearly 7% on $7.4 billion of revenue leads to a healthy company. However, in keeping with the chocolate industry’s tradition of secrecy, neither of the smaller firms produces such a report, and therefore leaves the public guessing as to the business’s robustness and viability.

Finally, analyzing the Taza Chocolate production method itself, the company has chosen to limit its sourcing scope to South and Middle America. A reasonable business decision considering geographic realities, Taza has chosen to limit its logistics chain to operations between Somerville and the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Belize and Guatemala (Taza). However, quality cacao exists beyond the Western Hemisphere.

As exhibited in the Hershey Company’s supply chain, West Africa is the preeminent sourcing destination for raw cacao, supplying over 70% of global output (Leissle 22). While Big Five chocolate makers managed to dissociate chocolate from cacao for most American consumers, single origin producers such as Taza have grown in popularity over the past few years in direct contrast to this fabricated ignorance (Leissle 23). West African suppliers have been left out of this boom for small-scale chocolate makers, mostly, Leissle argues, for political reasons or to assuage the large-scale producers’ concerns. By overlooking West Africa, the artisan manufacturers in North America are more than simply missing the opportunity to expand their flavor offerings: they are perpetuating the idea of inferiority of the West African product. If American chocolate makers opened supply lines featuring beans from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, for example, this perception might change. While certain small areas of Africa such as Madagascar have broken into the single source market, much of the continent’s potential remains untapped. The positive results of single source work in South America might be emulated in Africa, whose poverty, public health and social structure are, at best, on par with those of South and Central America.

Surprisingly, in advance of the smaller chocolate makers, the Hershey Company has launched a campaign to adjust its West African supply chain. In an effort to purchase more sustainable cacao, Hershey has launched an initiative to buy solely UTZ, Fairtrade USA or Rainforest Alliance certified cacao by the year 2020. This is an outstanding, if a small step, as Hershey uses some of its $1.2 billion free cash to invest in the livelihood and sustainability of its farmers in West Africa (Yahoo).

The world of chocolate manufacturing, both large and small, is evolving to place more emphasis on its raw ingredients. As both Taza and Dandelion base their businesses on their intimate cacao sourcing, the larger firms to include Hershey’s are slowly adapting as well. Within the larger capitalist model, Taza Chocolate has created a niche to exploit, focusing on the human element of its supply chain as opposed to the purely profit motivated system hailed by Read’s original essay.

So far, it’s a recipe for success.


Works Cited

“About Us.” Dandelion Chocolate. Web. 11 May 2016. <http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/about/#anchor&gt;.

Ailworth, Erin. “A Sweet, but Familiar Story in Mass. Manufacturing – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. The Boston Globe, 22 May 2013. Web. 11 May 2016. <https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/05/21/sweet-but-familiar-story-mass-manufacturing/xuThZGcdPFNpjxkyD8h50N/story.html&gt;.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2012. Print.

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3 (2013): 22-31. Web.

Luna, Taryn. “Seven Things You Should Know about Alex Whitmore.” Boston Globe, 11 May 2014. Web. 11 May 2016. <https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/05/10/seven-things-you-should-know-about-alex-whitmore-taza-chocolate/i0cB10YJdMejE58BLkUXrI/story.html&gt;.

Martin, Carla. “AAAS E-119 Lecture 7: The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. 2016. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, NY: Viking, 1985. Print.

Partridge, Amy Roach. “With Six Sigma, Hershey’s Kisses Errors Goodbye.” – Inbound Logistics. Inbound Logistics, Apr. 2006. Web. 11 May 2016. <http://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/article/with-six-sigma-hersheys-kisses-errors-goodbye/&gt;.

Read, Leonard. “I, Pencil: My Family Tree.” Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc, 1958. Pamphlet.

The Hershey Company. “Cocoa Sustainability.” Web. 11 May 2016. <https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/responsibility/good-business/creating-goodness/cocoa-sustainability.html&gt;.

The Hershey Company. “Simple Ingredients.” Web. 11 May 2016.<https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/food-philosophy/simple-ingredients.html&gt;

“The Hershey Company.” Yahoo! Finance. Yahoo, Web. 11 May 2016. <http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=HSY&gt;.


Better than Your Average Chocolate Company

Dandelion Chocolate: A New Kind of Chocolate Company

Dandelion, a bean to bar, small batch chocolate company based in San Francisco, is a socially conscious company who focuses on making a quality product, that not only benefits the company and consumers, but ensures that the producers and farmers also receive fair treatment. Within the chocolate and cacao market, there are many issues with the chain from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar. For example, farmers receiving little pay, child labor, slavery, high certification costs, etc… Dandelion Chocolate is a company that works to combat these issues within the cacao supply chain by transparency and open communication throughout the process, direct sourcing, and the eradication of certifications on their products. Dandelion Chocolate is not labeled Fair trade, or Organic, but in their own way, they are able to create a brand with quality ingredients and  Through these tactics Dandelion has created a meaningful, quality and sustainable brand that has sought to continually learn about and better the cacao supply chain.

By analyzing the Dandelion Sourcing book from 2015 I will highlight the mission of Dandelion Chocolate and how they are focused on not just creating a quality product that sells, but they are interested in “good business practices [that] can foster positive social, environmental, and economic change.” (Gore) Also if we compare Dandelion Chocolate to Big Five Chocolate companies or other Fair Trade or organic companies we are able to see that Dandelion is truly taking an approach that is solving these cacao supply chain issues.

This is a picture of the Dandelion Chocolate store in San Francisco. From the start of your visit, they want you to know that they have a simple recipe, made with high quality ingredients. 

image found from: http://www.shipstation.com/stories/dandelion-chocolate/

Exploiters and the Exploited

Big Five chocolate companies such as Hershey, Mars, and Cadbury buy bulk cacao. This bulk cacao is not sourced directly or through fair trade, meaning there are no social regulations on the farms that they buy their cacao from. Often, there is this notion that the Big Chocolate companies “exploit” West African cacao farmers. For example, someone observing the workers noted, “the villagers seem to make everything for today, living hand to mouth with little remaining for tomorrow… their primary activity here is to produce cocoa for the international market. As such, they earn just enough money from cacao sales to pay for rice and cooking oil. there’s usually nothing left over.” (Off, pg. 5) Furthermore, These companies do not practice transparency in their sourcing and because of this it is likely that they are buying from places who have child labor, slavery and are receiving wages that are hardly survivable on. The farmers are trying to make money by harvesting cacao but this ends up in them exploiting members of their communities and families. For example, another observation noted, “Mack learned of another category of labor…What his informers described sounded a lot like slavery, and what made the stories even more horrifying was that it seemed the slaves were children.” (Off, pg.120) The Big Chocolate companies are buying this cacao and there is no security for these farmers in what they receive from the sales of the cacao they harvest.

This is a picture of child slavery. Larger companies such as the Chocolate Big Five do not practice transparency in sourcing cacao. Meaning, it is likely that thier products come from farms where they practice child slavery.


image found from:http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/

Cacao Sourcing Transparency

Dandelion makes it a goal to have transparency through their whole process of sourcing. This company is clearly making an effort to allow their customers to learn about their process and how they source their cacao. Publishing and uploading their “2015 Dandelion Sourcing Book” is something that opens the conversation for consumers to see their ethics in sourcing. Consumers are able to see where and who Dandelion trades with, also, consumers are able to see how much Dandelion pays for their cacao in comparison to how much other companies pay for cacao. This detail allows the consumer to know what their money is going towards and and ensure that the farmers and producers are being justly compensated. Dandelion says, “We pay as much as two times the world market price (and sometimes more) for the beans, providing a premium between seven and seventeen times greater than the Fair-trade standard of $200 per tonne.” (Gore) This compensation not only gives the consumer peace of mind, it also helps to guarantee a better quality cacao bean. Paying a higher amount for cacao helps to reinforce the farmers and producers incentive for harvesting better beans.

Chocolate makers like us are willing to pay far more than the world market price for high quality beans, which means the price we pay for cacao is completely detached from the volatility of the world market price. Instead, what we pay depends upon the quality of the cacao, what the farmer believes it is with and what our customers will pay for a finished chocolate bar. (Gore)

For Dandelion Chocolate, it is not just about creating a chocolate bar that sells, they are socially conscious and take into account all the people involved in the process. They practice transparency so that every step in the bean to bar supply chain is open and people know what their money is going towards.

Fair Trade Critiques

Fair trade is a great thing. “[Products] that bear [this] logo were made with respect to people and planet. Our rigorous social, environmental and economic standards work to promote safe, health working conditions, and protect the environment…When you choose products without eh Fair Trade label, your day-to-day purchases can improve an entire community.” (Fair Trade USA) The overall mission of Fair Trade is to help these farmers that companies source from receive fair treatment and fair payment. Though these ideals seem as if they will benefit the farmers, there are a few critiques of the Fair Trade industry.  Though fair trade aims for fair treatment and fair compensation for all parts of the cacao supply chain, critiques show that farmers still receive little compensation, there is a lack of evidence that fair trade actually helps, and the fair trade certification is very expensive. Dandelion Chocolate works to combat these issues and critiques of Fair Trade by ensuring quality products without the certifications. The certifications are so expensive that it is hard for the farmers to get in the first place, and then they have to be renewed every few years. For example, “in Tanzania, it costs $8,000 just to get the organic certification auditors to visit a farm.” (Gore) Fair Trade also has not been shown to have evidence of results. For example, a report from the Institute of Economic Affairs states, “Even analysts sympathetic to the movement have suggested that only 25 per cent of the premium reaches producers. No study ever produced has shown that the benefit to producers anything like matches the premium paid.” (Wallop). Dandelion’s lack of certifications does not mean that they have a product of lesser quality. They directly source their cacao from farms and visit these farms throughout the year. They believe that “the burden of proof is their responsibility” (Gore) so they go to the farms themselves if they want to see the cacao production ethics and quality. This is a way in which they are able to guarantee quality of the cacao they source while avoiding the steep certification costs. 

These are workers from Dandelion Chocolate, who are traveling to cacao farms. They are ensuring ethical practices and quality cacao beans. 

Image found from: https://www.dandelionchocolate.com/category/industry/

Dandelion: An Environmentally Friendly Company

Dandelion claims to use only two ingredients in their chocolate, “cacao beans and cane sugar.”  The cacao beans they source are directly sourced and use ethical treatment of the farmers. As I mentioned, they pay more for their cacao to incentivize ethical practices on the farms they receive it from, as well as better quality cacao. Not only does Dandelion practice good relationships with the people they work with and the farmers they source from, Dandelion practices and fosters a sustainable and nurturing approach to sugar cane farming. Their sugar is bought from “Native Green Cane Project” where “the project aims to replace traditional sugarcane farming methods that ravage natural ecosystems with new methods that return the land closer to it’s natural state.”(Gore) The land is an important part in producing materials for Dandelion’s chocolate and they are making sure that they are using environmentally friendly methods to produce these ingredients. So far, with the “Ecosystem Revitalizing Agriculture” system there is “23x more biodiversity than conventional sugarcane farms… a 20-30% increase in yield per hectare, and the drastic reversal of the operation’s carbon footprint.” (Gore) Dandelion has really made an effort to be transparent in all parts of the cacao supply chain. With this transparency, we are able to see the steps Dandelion Chocolate has taken to fight issues displayed in the cacao supply chain by Big Five Chocolate companies and Fair Trade Certifications.

Dandelion makes a product, socially and environmentally friendly. They travel to different cacao farms to ensure quality and ethical practices and source  their sugar from an environmentally friendly farm.    

Image found from: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2013/02/dandelion-chocolate-san-francisco/


Dandelion is not a perfect company, however they make a really good effort to be better for the environment, farmers, customers and everyone they work with. With their transparency and 2015 Sourcing Report we are able to learn where they get their materials and ingredients from, how much they pay them, the ethics and methods they use, etc… This transparency shows initiative and an earnest attempt to combat the issues with the cacao supply chain.

Works Cited

Gore, Molly. Dandelion Small Batch Chocolate 2015 Sourcing Report. Rep. San Francisco: Dandelion Chocolate, 2015. Web.

Wallop, Harry. “Fair Trade Does Not Help the Poorest, Report Says.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 4 Nov. 2010. Web. 02 May 2016.

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

Fair Trade USA.” What Is Fair Trade? Fair Trade USA, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Gore, Molly. “Dandelion Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate. Dandelion Chocolate, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.