The purpose of my chocolate tasting was to see whether the attendees could discern between the four various categories for the sourcing and materialization of chocolate as discussed in class and the readings: (1) Direct Trade, (2) Fair Trade, (3) Organic, and (4) Industrialized. Because much of Chocolate class was about the social, anthropological, and economic impacts of and differences between each of these chocolate types, I thought this would be an excellent theme to my tasting that brings historical, socioeconomic, and taste-related views.
Figure 1. The fancy invitations I used to invite 7 participants to my tasting.
Figure 2. The participants of my chocolate tasting.
Types of Chocolate in the Tasting
(1) Direct Trade There are four general types of chocolate (based on its production processes) that we have learned in Chocolate class. The first is Direct Trade, also known as bean-to-bar chocolate, as these companies have control of its manufacturing process from growing and harvesting of the cacao bean all the way to its packaging and selling into a bar. Direct Trade chocolate is usually a chocolate company that directly deals with farmers. There’s a bit of variation in its manufacturing processes, but this leaves more room for negotiation from the different chocolate companies. Direct Trade companies may place environmental and labor factors into consideration, but not to as far of an extent as other chocolate types such as Fair Trade. In Direct Trade, there is less regulation because it is assumed that there is maximum control between the cacao harvesters, manufacturers, and packagers of the chocolate product. However, the very direct control of these Direct Trade chocolate companies costs a high premium, making their products quite expensive. Because of the rarity of a chocolate company having complete control of an entire chocolate farm, which is usually located outside of the U.S., solely for their company, the quantity of Direct Trade producers which exists is very low.
(2) Fair Trade The second category of chocolates presented was the Fair Trade chocolate type. These mass-produced confections are intended to guarantee a consistent smell and taste, achieved through rigorous oversight and a careful blending of cacao. According to Michael D’Antonio of Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, using liquid condensed milk instead of the powdered milk that the Swiss favored, Schmalbach’s mixture was easier to move through various processes: “…it could be pumped, channeled, and poured — and it required less time for smoothing and grinding. Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster, and therefore cheaper, than the Europeans” (D’Antonio 2006: 108). With techniques like these that were melded again and again by Hershey a century ago, efficiency of methods for the mass-production and -distribution of chocolate was possible. However, these efficient industrialized methods definitely compromise the ethics of labor, environmentalism, and health-focuses of these chocolates.
(3) Organic The third type of chocolate that is explored in this tasting is Organic chocolate. Organic chocolates place an emphasis on health and the environment. They do not use pesticides, and because it places such a large, conscious emphasis on these issues, there is a loss of yield that occurs in terms of its production and consumption. These chocolate products also tend to be extremely expensive, for there is usually a rearrangement premium placed on their price tag. Additionally, although organic chocolate products focus on health-related and environmental issues, there is no standard for the laborers of its production. Organic chocolate products must also all undergo certification, and usually the bars themselves are sold in small proportions.
(4) Industrialized The final category of chocolates which were presented during the tasting was Industrialized chocolate. Fair Trade chocolates emphasize the moral ethics of the chocolate production. They prioritize producing ethical, labor-regulated goods, and for this reason they also weigh between ingredient and product. These products also require a certification by one or more of the various Fair Trade certification companies. These groups usually require a type of price threshold, which makes this type of chocolate a little bit more expensive. Fair Trade chocolates also take the environment into account, although oftentimes not as much as Organic chocolates do. Fair Trade chocolates also focus on community development.
Figure 3. The advertising and packaging used for each of the four chocolates used in my tasting.
(1) Direct Trade:
Taza Chocolate, Seriously Dark, 87% Cacao, Organic Dark Chocolate
Observations of Packaging:
Easy-to-read font that pops out
(2) Fair Trade:
Seattle Chocolate, Pike Place Espresso, Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Decaf Espresso
Observations of Packaging:
“Rainy coffeehouse hipster”
Cloudy color scheme (not as bright)
Lake Champlain Chocolates, Cacao Nibs & Dark Chocolate, 80% Cocoa
Observations of Packaging:
“Typical coffee colors”
Compromise between adult- and kid-themed packaging (could theoretically work for either audience)
Cadbury, Royal Dark, Dark Chocolate
Observations of Packaging:
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
“Here There Will Be No Unhappiness.” Hershey Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, by Michael D D’Antonio, Simon & Schuster, 2006, pp. 106–126.
Disclaimer: While this is an ethnographic look at the Piety and Desire Chocolate brand, it is incomplete simply for the fact that I have not actually seen the store, factory, or products in person myself, nor have I ever visited New Orleans or conducted significant research of the sociocultural atmosphere of the place. This post is also strictly meant to be read in an academic and is not an endorsement of the Piety & Desire Chocolate brand, nor is it sponsored by the company.
Meet Piety and Desire Chocolate
Piety and Desire Chocolate is a craft
“chocolaterie” in New Orleans, Louisiana, not far from the French Quarter. Owner
and chocolate maker Christopher Nobles opened the “factory and boutique” in
2017 and has started making a name for the brand in the realm of local, artisanal
products in New Orleans. I encountered them surfing the “#beantobar” tag on
Instagram, evidence of the brand’s commitment to marketing its process as a way
to distinguish itself in a competitive food market.
According to their website, the brand describes itself as:
Piety and Desire Chocolate mines the fine lines. Just as its holy beginnings as a “food of the gods” led to its transformation into a seductive delight, so we strive to strike the perfect harmony between reverence and passion in the balance of science and art, the parity of piety and desire.
Detail-oriented and passionate about
their product, Piety and Desire appears to uphold the commitment to high-quality
products of the craft food movement. (Martin) The name of the company is striking,
too, and clearly important to the business’s philosophy of chocolate making.
Piety and desire – both human elements with long histories with cocoa – are at
the foundations of the company’s motivation, according to an interview with Nobles:
I wanted a name that reflected my family’s six-ish generations of New Orleans history in an honorable, non-fleur-de-lis-laden or culturally appropriated fashion… I’m the third of the past five generations to settle in (Faubourg) Marigny. [The name] Piety and Desire mirrors the history of cacao itself. Beginning as a sacred food of the gods in ancient Mesoamerica (among many spiritual aspects), these noble seeds also represented more secular aspects of life, from its use as a currency to its use as an aphrodisiac.
Christopher Nobles, Freund interview
Immediately from these two sources of
information about the company, its website and its owner, a prospective
consumer is marketed a product that is desirable for more than just its taste –
it is desirable for its cultural and religious symbolism, for its connection to
nobility, and for the sensual experience so highly associated with it.
Another important part of the company’s
model is its commitment to the environment. According to its frequently asked
questions section, the company website states:
Not only are our chocolate bars are all packaged with recycled paper and compostable cellophane, but the outside sleeve is wildflower-seed-infused. You can simply plant this sleeve to support your local pollinators!
This specific packaging choice shows
a real dedication to environmental issues and the health of the planet. In
addition to recyclability, compostability, and the extra benefit of encouraging
consumers to plant wildflowers after indulging in their confections, Piety and
Desire also offers vegan options among its products. The impact of veganism of
the environment is a highly contentious issue, but including vegan products
widens the audience of the store such that people who may already be concerned
about the environment (and thus choose to be vegan) are more likely to bring
The packaging also points to another result
of Piety and Desire’s bean-to-bar philosophy: it lacks many certifications that
some would expect as givens for a craft chocolaterie. They are not certified
organic, according to their frequently asked questions, but the company offers a
worthy explanation as to why they do not have this certification for the cacao they
buy. Bean-to-bar chocolate requires a certain level of engagement between
chocolate makers and cacao farmers that does not exist in other corners of the
industry. By pointing out that the cacao they buy is most likely grown
organically but grown by farmers who may not be able to afford the fees associated
with official certification, Piety and Desire goes one step further and puts
their customers in direct conversation with the farmers who supply their cacao.
Consumers who talk with Nobles or read their website, or even scroll through
their Instagram account, are made to think about the conditions of cacao
farmers. Piety and Desire engages in direct and conscious trade, lacking a “fair
trade” certification, as well. The willingness to explain why these
perhaps-expected certifications are absent is very positive because, as we have
seen since our first lecture, not all certifications mean what we as consumers
may think that they mean. (Martin, “Chocolate Politics…) Ethical actions do
not always come with labels to brand them as such.
One cannot discuss Piety and Desire
Chocolate without discussing New Orleans. The culture and history of the place
is inextricably linked to the chocolate that Piety and Desire creates in many
The flavors and shapes of the bonbons
that Nobles crafts in-house are very specifically situate the brand in New Orleans.
From King Cake and Sazerac bonbons to the use of very New Orleans flavors like
bourbon, coffee, and rum, the brand appeals to local tastes.
Nobles also specifies that he uses “100%
raw Louisiana cane sugar” in all his products in various interviews, on the
packaging for Piety and Desire Chocolate, and on their website. Despite the historical
connection between cane sugar production and plantation slavery (in Louisiana,
no less), the use of a local sugar to sweeten the chocolates and confections he
makes seems to be seen as a point of pride and a dedication to crafting high
quality products. After all, emblazoning “made with 100% raw Louisiana cane
sugar” on packaging makes it into a marketing tactic.
On top of using local flavors, cultural institutions like Mardi Gras, and some local ingredients, the language used in the official company Instagram page was fascinating to me. Here, I wish that I had more personal knowledge of New Orleans’ cultural norms, especially due to the complicated and fraught racial history of the region, but I will attempt to unpack what I can. The language used, presumably by Nobles as the proprietor of Piety and Desire Chocolate, very clearly uses ebonics and stylized writing in order to communicate a “blaccent.”
This reminded me of Robertson’s discussion on how people talk about chocolate:
In the mythology of chocolate the power relations of production and consumption are subsumed by a more attractive narrative of exotic peoples and their surroundings, and by historical anecdote. Chocolate seems to generate a particular type of history writings – even in purportedly ‘academic’ texts – one which delves unashamedly into the realms of fantasy and romance.
Robertson, pp. 85-6)
A huge aspect of white fantasy is the
fantasy of black bodies, black actions, and black words – we can see as much is
the gentrification of hip hop and rap by artists like Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus,
to point to one modern example. The use of the blaccent in advertising
initially made me, as a spectator, imagine that the person making this chocolate
was black. Of course, as someone very far removed from New Orleans, I am not
sure this is a fair assumption to have had, but it was an assumption nonetheless.
Then, through my research, I saw that Christopher Nobles was the owner of Piety
and Desire Chocolate – a white man.
This context put almost everything I
had thought about Piety and Desire in a new light. While there are bonbons in
the store’s offerings that use common, locally-based flavor profiles, there
were also more complex, rare flavor offerings including saffron, matcha,
jasmine, and goat cheese, to name a few. While there may may be no such thing
as an “average consumer,” (Martin, “Haute patisserie…”) and generalizations simply
do not apply in the real world of consumer palates, seeing flavors like this –
flavors that a consumer could never find in the candy isle of a drug store –
made me think even more about Piety and Desire’s audience. As someone from a
low-income background, I know that I have seen my family members turn their
noses up at flavors which come from outside our comfort zone or flavors which
have been marketed in such a way as to emphasize their “gourmet” qualities (one
immediately thinks of truffle, for example). I wonder if this, too, is
something that narrows the audience of a craft chocolate store like Piety and
Desire, and how that can be amended – I firmly believe that flavors should not
belong to certain classes, as food is a human right.
Without a detailed investigation of
the demographics Piety and Desire serves, one cannot be certain of any sort of
racial or class-based disparity in consumers, especially not in terms of flavor-profiling
according to generalized perceptions of different races/classes. It is simply
something to that I thought about as I continued to learn about the company; it
became especially curious to me when I found this post on the company’s Instagram:
I encountered it twice – once before seeing that Christopher Nobles was white, and then again after. My first impression was that the brand was attempting to raise awareness of cacao slavery and use its platform to try to inspire change. Additionally, giving away chocolate, however small of a boon it may seem in the grand scheme of things, seemed to be a form of reparations for a community which has been seeking long-deserved justice and reparations for generations. Before going more in depth on this particular topic, I’d like to evaluate the ethical stances of Piety and Desire Chocolate as a company more broadly.
In an interview, Nobles is quoted as saying:
…our movement [craft chocolate] being a global business has a greater thread of social responsibility. Many of us go above and beyond the standards of Fair Trade, paying many times more than that price directly to producers, cooperatives and farmers in what’s known as direct or conscious trade. I feel it’s my responsibility to source from organic sources, who, by intercropping or abandoning less environmentally sustainable agricultural models, make the world a little bit greener.
The ethical awareness, then, can be
seen as foundational to the company’s operations. Beyond operations, the
company’s impact on the consumer seems to be targeted as well, as best as these
things can be. Without tasting the chocolate, the true sense evidence that
would be able to tell someone if Piety and Desire Chocolate is doing anything
different from the crowd of commodity chocolate brands with its chocolate, I am
not sure I can address this; however, from its attempts to educate consumers
not only about how its chocolate is made but also about social issues surrounding
cocoa production, I think that Piety and Desire Chocolate is very good to its
Another positive aspect is the
commitment to environmental health, evidenced by packaging choices that go
above and beyond sustainability. While the pleasure-based language of much of
its advertising does lead me to believe that physical health is not a priority
of Piety and Desire, its use of local and some organic ingredients as part of
the craft food movement, putting it in opposition to the heavily processed
commodity food industry, makes me more hopeful about its health consciousness
as a company. It is also transparent about its production process, both
enumerating steps on its website and having an open-space design in its shop
that allows consumers to see different stages of chocolate production.
Tying back to the conversation on Juneteenth,
slavery, and reparations, an issue I had with Piety and Desire Chocolate’s
model is that they seem not to use West African cacao. We know that most cacao
comes from West African farmers, but that the craft food movement has been
loath to use West African cacao due to questions of quality. (Martin, “Haute
patisserie…”) Additionally, the McNulty article on Piety and Desire Chocolate
stated that “Beans arrive fermented and dried in burlap sacks from farms in
Central America and South America,” implying that there is no use of West
African cacao in the company’s products. Of course, a direct inquiry in
necessary to ascertain the validity of that claim, but operating on that
assumption reveals some hypocrisy in the brand’s supposed activism.
How can Piety and Desire say that it
is trying to promote awareness of the slavery in cacao farms when their direct/conscious
trade cacao is not from West Africa, where this problem is the worst? How can
they tie together the historical trauma of slavery in Louisiana to the slavery
of modern day cacao farmers without acknowledging the greater similarity: that both involved the exploitation of West
African people by white people? (Off) By not buying West African cacao, Piety
and Desire is also not helping to end
slavery on West African cacao farms. Using this tactic and connection to promote
itself to an audience that likely includes people of the African diaspora in Louisiana
seems tone deaf.
In conclusion, Piety and Desire
Chocolate seems to have been founded from a place of immense privilege, as most
artisanal chocolate is. This does not mean that their products are not created
ethically or of lesser quality than they could be, but that they are simply one
of many craft chocolate companies attempting to makes its mark on the industry
without making much of an impact on the actual issues endemic to the industry. I
think that Piety and Desire Chocolate does its part as well as it can in the
context of the craft food movement, but I would like to know more about their
pricing, the sources of their cacao, and the demographics of their customers.
(2018). Cocoa. Medford, MA: Polity Press.
Martin, C. (2019) AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate,
Culture, and the Politics of Food: “20190501 Haute patisserie, artisan
chocolate, and food justice: the future?” and “20190220 Sugar and cacao” and “Chocolate
Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and
Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat” [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from drive.google.com/drive/folders/1DEbPgnxsDAOhcgOsW0sHLyafD5yVuPUK.
Chocolate is a main-stay for American consumers and comes in a variety of forms. In 2016, there were 1,200 firms producing chocolate and cocoa products that were worth around $14.5 Billion (Bureau, U. S. Census, 2019). In Harvard Square, there are several stores that sell significant quantities of chocolate, ranging from mass-produced Hershey and Mars products to gourmet offerings from Godiva, Toblerone, Taza, and many others. After visiting several retailers in Harvard Square that sell chocolate, I decided to focus on Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, which sells a variety of high-quality chocolates. Cardullo’s also has a very visible location, a targeted audience, interesting product placement, and high-quality offerings from well established brands.
Cardullo’s Prime Location
One of the primary facets of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe is its location. Cardullo’s has two locations with one being centrally located in Harvard Square on Brattle Street and the other being in the up and coming Seaport area of Boston. For this paper, I will be focusing on the store on Brattle Street. This location is in the center of Harvard Square, which provides the store with visibility to students, tourists, and any commuters in the surrounding area as it is across the street from the Harvard Square MBTA stop. Furthermore, the store’s primary competitor in the area, L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, is located a few blocks away on the outskirts of Harvard Square. Cardullo’s is further differentiated from L.A. Burdick, as they offer several complementary products to their chocolate offerings. While, CVS, another provider of chocolate in Harvard Square, is located across the street from Cardullo’s, the stores are not direct competitors as they target separate audiences and have contrasting chocolate offerings.
Cardullo’s coveted, central location in Harvard Square allows the store to effectively market its offerings of chocolate and other gourmet goods to a specific audience. The chocolate product offerings within in the store indicate the targeted audience for Cardullo’s as the average chocolate bar in the store sells between $5 and $8. This is significantly higher than the $1-2 price range of the mass-produced Hershey and Mars chocolate products that are sold in the CVS across the street (Cardullo’s, 2019). Furthermore, Cardullo’s also offers gourmet assortment boxes that sell from $15 to $60 depending on the number of chocolate pieces. These product offerings indicate that the store targets an affluent customer that has significant spending power and focuses on the quality of the product, such as a middle-class working individual or tourist.
targeted audience based of a Cardullo’s chocolate offerings is further
reinforced by the other products that are carried by Cardullo’s, such as high-quality,
expensive wife and imported cheeses and deli meats. These products are symbolic
of the name of the store, Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe and show the company’s
commitment to high-quality products and focus on higher-income individuals.
Product Placement within the Store
One of the
unique features of Cardullo’s is the nature of its product placement and
organization. The store is divided into two halves. The left half of the store
contains the deli and associated gourmet grocery goods, such as imported
olives, caviar, and various charcuterie products. The right half of the store
is the primary half of interest as it contains Cardullo’s various gourmet
chocolate offerings and its extensive collection of wines. The pairing of
chocolate and wine is fitting as both are viewed as luxury goods and carry rather
significant prices in this store compared with lower-quality, mass-produced chocolates
and wines. The price discrepancy of chocolate offerings between Cardullo’s and
CVS Is discussed above and below the specific
brands of chocolate sold in Cardullo’s will be discussed.
offers a wide variety of chocolate products from companies that range in size
from global chocolate producers to independent, family-owned chocolate
companies. The primary brands that occupy a significant amount of shelf-space
in the store are Godiva, Neuhaus, Taza Chocolate and Lake Champlain Chocolate.
In addition to these five brands, there are individual chocolate bars from a
variety of small gourmet chocolate companies. Below, I will go into an analysis
of each of the five main brands to provide information on their origination,
sourcing, production, and any ethical concerns surrounding the companies.
Godiva is a world-renowned, Belgian producer of gourmet chocolate that was founded in 1926. Godiva’s primary products are gift boxes that contain an assortment of small, bite-sized chocolates. These are the products that are displayed in Cardullo’s with the store offering Godiva truffles for $25, 16-piece assortment boxes for $35, and 32-piece assortment boxes for $60 (Cardullo’s, 2019). Cardullo’s also carries Godiva’s Gift Sets that range from 8-piece, $18, to 36-piece, $50, assortment boxes. These products are at the highest end of prices at the store, reflecting the luxury reputation and high-quality offerings of Godiva. These product offerings are reflective of the tastes of the store’s targeted audience that was previously discussed.
In addition to providing high-quality, expensive products, Godiva places a significant emphasis of conducting a sustainable business and focuses on doing what is right. Godiva’s website provides information on many of the sustainability initiatives that Godiva participates in. They are a member of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), which is a leading non-profit that works to increase the productivity and profits of local cocoa farmers. Additionally, Godiva partners with Save the Children, a non-profit that focuses on improving the conditions of children across nearly 120 countries. This non-profit has over two decades of experience working in Côte d’ Ivoire. Godiva also created its own Lady Godiva Program, which focuses on empowering women. This program partners with FEED Projects, to sell exclusive FEED products with the profits funding over 300,000 school meals for children in countries of West Africa. Lastly, Godiva signed the Cocoa Forest Initiative (CFI) to signal its commit to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain (Godiva Cares, 2019)
doubt, Godiva’s efforts are at the front of initiatives undertaken by global
chocolate producers. However, Godiva has yet to achieve 100% sustainability and
ensure that it’s supply chain is completely free of child labor. Godiva has
committed to reaching these goals by the end of 2020, so within in the next two
years. I believe that the company will be able to reach these goals with all of
its current initiatives. Even though Godiva production lines are not entirely
ethically secure, I believe the company has done a great of leading by example
and committing to a sustainable production line in the future and supporting
local communities in Cocoa growing regions.
Neuhaus Chocolate is another Belgian chocolate company that traces its roots back to 1857. Arguably, the most significant contribution of Neuhaus was the creation of the Belgian ‘praline’, a chocolate with a cream ganache center. Similar to Godiva’s offerings in Cardullo’s, Neuhaus products consist of an 8-piece, 15-piece, and 17-piece assortment boxes that sell for $18, $30, and $33, respectively (Cardullo’s, 2019). These offerings span both individual purchases, with the 8-piece assortments, and gift purchases, with the 15 and 17-piece assortments, as well as larger 25-piece assortment boxes.
Neuhaus specifically produces bite-sized chocolates from high-quality cocoa. They source their cocoa from a variety of countries, such as Peru, Ecuador, Ghana, Côte d’ Ivoire, and Madagascar (Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate). Unfortunately, the website contains very little information on the supply-chain of its chocolates and its sustainability efforts. Furthermore, there is no clear documentation of Neuhaus participating in the wide-branching initiatives, such as the WCF. This lack of transparency with regards to their supply chain leads me to be skeptical of any guarantee towards an ethically sourcing of their cocoa and to question their motivations and priorities as a company.
Taza Chocolate :
Godiva and Neuhaus, Taza Chocolate is an American-based company that focuses on
producing chocolate bars. Taza is a relatively new company that was launched by
Alex Whitmore in 2005. The company’s original chocolate factory is in
Somerville, MA, which is only one town over from Cardullo’s Brattle Street Location.
The company is a great example of a “Bean to Bar” chocolate company that works
directly with cocoa farmers to ethically source their cocoa.
Taza is known for creating the chocolate industry’s first third-party Direct Trade sourcing program, known as Taza Direct Trade. Taza meets with all of its growers directly to guarantee fair labor practices. Additionally, the company pays their growers prices that are significantly higher than the already premium prices of Fair-Trade Chocolate. Above all of this, the company releases their Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report, which details where they source their chocolate from and the prices they pay for their chocolate. Their Direct Trade claims are also independently verified by Quality Certification Services (Taza Direct Trade).
Chocolate sets the gold standard when it comes to ensuring an ethically sound
supply chain and commitment to the improvement and sustainability of their
cocoa growers. However, the smaller size of Taza Chocolate provides the company
with a distinct advantage over global companies, such as Godiva, in its efforts
to guarantee ethical practices among its growers.
Lake Champlain Chocolate:
Similar to Taza Chocolate, Lake Champlain Chocolate is another independent chocolate company located in Vermont. Lake Champlain was founded in 1983 and focuses on producing non -GMO and ethically sourced chocolate. They’re known for their truffles and signature Five-Star Bars. Lake Champlain Chocolate products have the most visible placement within Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe as the display of their products is right as you walk in. Their products range from peanut butter and sea salt caramel chocolates to assort truffles to assortment boxes.
Lake Champlain has taken several steps to ensure and display its commitments to ethical and sustainable sourcing. Lake Champlain is a “B Corporation”, which evaluates the entire business of a company, taking into consideration the company’s impact on their environment, workers, customers, and community with the goal of leaving a positive impact on all of these facets (About B Corps, 2019). Furthermore, the company has 100% fair-trade sourcing for its chocolate with certifications from two third-party organizations, Fair for Life and Fair-Trade USA. These certifications ensure that their suppliers maintain fair labor practices (Fair Trade Chocolate, 2019).
Champlain’s sourcing efforts fall short of the gold standard of Taza Chocolate’s
Direct Trade approach, the company places a great emphasis on the Fair-Trade
nature of all its chocolate. Consumers should have trust that this company’s
chocolate is ethically sourced and relies on fair labor practices.
Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe’s prime location on Brattle Street in the midst of Harvard Square allows the company to effectively market its selection of high-quality, gourmet chocolates to their affluent consumer base. The store benefits from pairing their gourmet chocolate products with high-quality wines and charcuterie products. Furthermore, the selection of chocolates contained within Cardullo’s store, reveals a lot about the focus of the store. A brand analysis of the primary products offered at the Brattle Street store shows that the primary brands are either Direct Trade Certified (Taza Chocolate), Fair-Trade certified (Lake Champlain), or have made significant commitments to sustainable sourcing (Godiva). Neuhaus Chocolate is one exception as the company provides very little transparency with regards to their supply chain and sustainability initiatives. Overall, it can be concluded that Cardullo’s places an emphasis on gourmet chocolate that prioritize ethical sourcing practices and show a commitment to their community.
26 minutes walk from Harvard’s Emerson Hall lies a seemingly nondescript 5-story red brick building. This is Taza Chocolate, a chocolate manufacturer founded in 2005 that now reaches 2800 retail stores across the United States (Taryn et al.) and 10 countries across the globe (Taza Tour Guide). Taza prides itself on its “minimally processed” bean-to-bar stoneground dark chocolate, but even more so, it prides itself on challenging the issues which plague the chocolate industry today, from ethical sourcing and recognition of local culture to appropriate advertising (“Taza Direct Trade”). Throughout this multimedia essay, we will trace cacao from the bean picked in the cocoa belt to the finished product as it enters consumers’ mouths; in doing so, I hope to examine Taza as an alternative to the historically problematic practices continued by modern chocolate industry.
The problematic origins of cacao production trace back to the earliest commercial farms, where the Spanish crown’s Encomienda system enabled colonists to abuse local populations as a “labor supply, while avoiding the penalties of slaving” under the guise of Christianization and protection (Simpson). Five centuries later, the worst of cacao production still remains in the form of child trafficking and slavery: “If you work slow or refuse to work, they will beat you,” reports a former child slave in a Cote D’Ivoire plantation (The Dark Side of Chocolate (2010). In an interview with Carol Off, Malian civil servant Abdoulaye Macko recalls some of the horrific conditions on West African cacao farms: “The farmers, or their supervisors, were working the young people almost to death,” continuously perpetuated by “organized groups of smugglers [who] deliver children to their cocoa groves… Cote d’Ivoire police were being bribed to look the other way.” (Off) Macko’s reports reveal the pervasive nature of child slavery in Africa—as we will see, not only is it difficult to uproot due to political corruption but also because of cacao farmers’ dependence on it given financial burdens.
While child slavery may be unethical, for many farmers, it
is the best option given the widespread poverty faced by cocoa farmers. Cacao’s
price, for example, fluctuated by almost 20% between February and May of 2019
on the British market (GmbH).
This is further exacerbated by the skewed distribution of the profits from
chocolate: while retailers and supermarkets receive almost 50% of the profits,
farmers receive the smallest share, a meager 3%, in part because local cocoa
buyers serve as middlemen and can keep local prices low. Thus, for both farm
laborers and farm owners, income is “neither guaranteed nor generally
especially since the majority of income from cacao primarily comes from the
six-month growing season. This especially poses a burden for farm owners, who
must budget their earning stringently as well as fund the upcoming harvest—as a
result, farmers have often fallen into high-interest debts, akin to debt
bondage faced by farmers in the 19th century (Coe and Coe). While an end must come to child labor and other
unethical business practices, we must also bear in mind the repercussions and
economic burdens faced by farmers.
How does Taza combat
“We are chocolate pioneers,” Taza proudly declares, on its “Direct Trade” webpage (“Taza Direct Trade”). And as bold as this claim may be, it does have merit: Taza has developed the “chocolate industry’s first third-party certified Direct Trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all,” modeled after the Counterculture direct trade program for coffee (Leissle) (Taza Tour Guide). For Taza, this sourcing program consists of five commitments, meant to ensure high quality cacao while ensuring fair compensation for farmers and fair practices, regulated and verified by Quality Certification Services, a Florida-based USDA-accredited certifier (“Taza Direct Trade”):
Commitment 1: Develop Direct Relationships with Cacao Farmers
In its 2017 Partner Report and 2018 Transparency Report, Taza documents its “face-to-face relationships” (“2018 Transparency Report”) and transactions with its partners in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Ghana, circumventing predatory middlemen and abusive labor practices. Furthermore, Taza provides profiles on these farmers, whether a family group in the Dominican Republic (“Partner Profile”) or a female-led network of organic-certified farmers in Bolivia (“Partner Profile”). As a result, Taza enables transparency by ensuring “no step of the trade exchange, from farm to factory, [is] unknown or untraceable” (Leissle); this enables Taza to guarantee fair labor and accountability that larger companies and certifications cannot (The Dark Side of Chocolate (2010)).
Commitment 2: Pay a Price Premium to Cacao Producers
Taza pays 300$ per metric ton more than the Fair Trade Premium, which is itself already 200$ per metric ton over the NYICE market price (Taza Tour Guide) and sets a price floor of 2800$. Because of Taza’s Direct Trade relationship with farmer groups, Taza ensures this money reaches individual farmers and farming groups rather than middlemen or other intermediaries. This fairer and more predictable pricing alleviates financial burdens on farmers and improves standard of living.
Commitment 3: Source the Highest Quality Cacao Beans
addition to annual visits with partners who meet Taza’s standards of 75%
fermentation rate or more and dried to 7% moisture or less, Taza employees
ensure high quality cacao beansthrough regularly recorded results of Taza Chocolate
Cocoa Bean Quality Evaluation.
Taza’s Director of Cocoa Sourcing, Jesse Last, documents his searches and identification of organically certified farms throughout the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Taza also provides USDA Organic certification documentation from participating farmers. While these certifications do not guarantee absolute quality or abstinence from synthetic pesticide and hormone usage, they go a long way to ensuring quality and worker safety, especially from many of the harmful chemicals used in other farms (Taza Tour Guide).
Commitment 5: Publish an Annual Transparency Report
Taza publishes an annual cacao sourcing transparency report detailing relationship with partners. This not only empowers consumers by providing them with information and awareness about chocolate sourcing but also allows for fair, sustainable sourcing to be adapted by other chocolate makers; indeed, Taza’s model of transparency and standard operating procedures have developed by or shared with other chocolate makers including Dandelion Chocolate, Askinosie Chocolate, and Madécasse Chocolate (“Taza Direct Trade”).
Furthermore, Taza’s Direct Trade Program enables the exchange of farming techniques and sales tactics to empower farmers. Taza has also supported farmer education in recent pairing with the ABOCFA, a Ghanan farmer association and cacao supplier that aims to support both farmer financial literacy and as well as children’s education by combatting child labor and promoting child well-being in cocoa growing communities (“Sourcing Season”). Locally, Taza also partners with local organizations, such as the The Possible Project, a Cambridge-based youth entrepreneurship program designed to train and provide opportunities for high school students seeking to become entrepreneurs (“Taza Partners With The Possible Project”).
Advertising and Culture
Advertising throughout the history of chocolate production has often been highly racialized or gendered. For example, the Rowntree advertisement above is highly problematic; its portrayal of the black “mammy” caricature and usage of African vernacular English disregard the cruel conditions Africans face in producing cacao and instead present them as simple, genial house-warming figures—this latter portrayal also recalls the dynamic of females as domesticated and sweet housewives. Other companies, meanwhile, have turned to chocolate’s origins to sell their products. The Glee Gum Organic DIY Chocolate Kit, below, chooses to focus on the origins of cacao as an advertising tactic. Even as this product offers to educate its consumers on chocolate production (it includes sample cacao beans, contains a pamphlet on the “story of chocolate,” and offers to educate users on the tempering process), Glee Gum’s usage of stereotypical Mesoamerican dress, monuments, and food exploit and oversimplify chocolate’s origins.
In contrast, Taza focuses on spreading the information of chocolate origins and productions, rather than capitalizing on and exploiting them. In conjunction with its transparency report, Taza also focuses on sharing its information, through its website, public tours, and direct advertising of grinding techniques and cacao sources. Taza’s public tours detail the chocolate making process as well as practices and sourcing unique to Taza. And even Taza’s products prove informative to their consumers: Taza Single Origin Bars promote awareness about the country of origin for cacao, while other Taza products advertise that granite millstone grinding and the Oaxacan origins of stone ground chocolate. In this way, Taza’s chocolates promote consumer awareness of sourcing and production methods—in doing so, Taza empowers consumers to consider the origins of the cacao in the chocolate they consume and to be cognizant of those who rely on cacao production for a living, starting at the very beginning of the chain with day laborers in the Dominican Republic or Ghana. As we begin to unveil the unethical practices behind our everyday goods, such as our food, becoming informed enables us to support and promote sustainable and ethical products worldwide.
But what do consumers think?
“I feel like chocolate coats your mouth… but this is a more refreshing burst of flavor,” one tourgoer responded after tasting a sample of Taza’s 50% cinnamon chocolate. Most others in the small tour group I accompanied agreed, commenting on the bold flavors of cinnamon, cacao, and sugar, as well as the sensual aspect of the tasting. Yet Taza is not for everyone: “It’s bitter and gritty,” reported a younger tourgoer, upon tasting a 85% dark sample. Indeed, Taza’s target audience is not the same as is for more commercialized chocolates. Surprisingly, Taza’s best seller tends to be its Wicked Dark Brand—buyers seeking the health benefits of cacao aim for as dark of a chocolate as possible, and while larger chocolate producers produce dark chocolate bars, legally, a “dark” chocolate bar may contain as little as 35% cacao, compared to the 95% Taza puts in some of its most intense bars (Taza Tour Guide; Coe and Coe). This would suggest then that Taza’s target audience tends to consist of more informed consumers-those who are aware of the unethical sourcing of cheaper chocolates or those aware of the benefits of dark chocolate. However, Taza does also target a broader audience-the company website offers story time and scout bingo for children, and products are marketed widely enough (including a new Taza chocolate bark to be released in Costco) to reach out to less informed consumers (“2018 Transparency Report”).
However, one main barrier is pricing: Taza’s circular disks, which contain 77g of chocolate, cost upwards of $5 USD. Two Hershey’s Bars weigh almost 90g and cost 60% less. “Cacao is pricey,” the tour guide explains, and indeed, Taza does include a lot of cacao in their chocolate. But direct trade pricing also isn’t cheap, and Taza counts on its consumers willingness to compromise price for ethical sourcing. Another potential point of contention lies in the packaging: Taza’s disks are marketed as “Chocolate Mexicano,” but neither the ingredients nor the Taza owners are Mexican. “It borders on cultural appropriation,” the tour guide concedes, but the tour guide also points to the fact that founder Alex Whitmore apprenticed under an Oaxacan molinero to learn both to hand-carve granite mill stones and to grind and produce chocolate. Furthermore, Taza will eventually replace packaging to market Taza as “Mexican-style” chocolate, recognizing that its grinding techniques, but not its ingredients or founders, come from Oaxaca (Taza Tour Guide).
Finally, although Taza has set a new standard through its transparency reports, more investigative consumers might find themselves disappointed. While Taza prides itself on its Direct Trade Program, it does not report how much its individual farmers profit from Direct Trade, especially given the higher costs associated with organically-certified and ethically sourced cacao. Furthermore, while Taza supports its own farmers through Direct Trade premiums, it has the potential to take up a more active role in empowering these farmers, whether through a formal educational program or by uplifting women in the community (“2018 Transparency Report”; “Taza Direct Trade”). On the grand scale, Taza only represents one small producer in a multi-billion dollar industry that is built upon exploited labor and unethical business practices; while calling for Taza to put an end to these issues is completely unfeasible, using their platform to raise awareness could both promote ethically-sourced artisan chocolates while also supporting the call against the unethical business practices of larger chocolate manufacturers.
Ultimately, Taza represents a step in the right direction as it challenges historically problematic issues of cacao sourcing and advertisement with its innovative Direct Trade model. Taza both better provides for its producers while informing its consumers, all the meanwhile maintaining a transparent model that consumers and fellow chocolate makers alike can learn from. While Taza does have room to grow, both as an organization and in its mission as a “chocolate pioneer” for sustainable and fair chocolate, its current model is a call to action for other chocolate producers, large and small, to begin moving towards a fairer, more ethical chocolate industry.
The definition of chocolate in the Oxford dictionary is, “a food in the form of a paste or solid block made from roasted and ground cacao seeds, typically sweetened and eaten as confectionary,” (Oxford 2019). This definition is very broad and it includes many different varieties and flavors of chocolate. The taste of a chocolate bar may be attributed to many factors, including the type of cacao used, the processing of the cacao, and the ingredients in the chocolate bar. We will explore the production process of Cadbury and Taza chocolate. While both Taza and Cadbury products fall under the definition of chocolate, they are made from very different cacao under distinct production processes. We can examine these elements to explain their differences in taste. Additionally, by analyzing the growing and purchasing practices of these two companies, we can look at their impact on the farmers and farming communities.
The Cadbury company, founded in 1824, receives the majority of its cacao from Ghana in West Africa (“Our Story” 2019). The cacao beans come from many small cacao farms in Ghana (“Cocoa Growing Countries” 2019). Each farm ferments and dries the beans and then they bring the cacao beans to large drying stations where workers combine the beans from many farms, weigh them and pack them into sacks. Merchants then send the cacao sacks to the Ghana Cocoa Board. From here, the Ghana Cocoa Board takes the sacks to a port where the Cadbury company selects and purchases their beans and then ships the beans to processing factories (one in Singapore and another in Chirk, North Wales (“Chocolate Making” 2019; “Fact Sheet: Chocolate Manufacturing,” n.d.). At these factories, workers separate the cacao into cocoa powder and cocoa butter using a hydraulic press. Other workers then send the cocoa powder and the cocoa butter to Cadbury factories in Australia and New Zealand for chocolate production (“Chocolate Making” 2019). Here, workers add condensed cream and sugar to the cocoa to create a “cocoa crumb” that they mix with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter and a “special chocolate flavoring,” the composition of which the company does not disclose. The mixture then undergoes refining, conching, and tempering (“Chocolate Making” 2019).
Taza, a much newer, smaller chocolate company founded in 2005, has a production process that differs drastically from that of Cadbury (“About Taza” 2015). Trading directly with the farmers, Taza purchases high quality cacao beans from the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Haiti (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). Taza then ships the beans back to its factory in Somerville, Massachusetts and roasts and winnows the beans. They then use molinos, or traditional Mexican stone mills, to grind the cacao beans in order to preserve the flavor. This is where Taza’s “stone ground” chocolate comes from. The chocolate mass then undergoes tempering, molding, and cooling (“Our Process” 2015).
To emphasize, one of the major differences between Cadbury’s and Taza’s purchasing practices is that Cadbury purchases cacao in bulk from the Ghana Cocoa Board whereas Taza purchases cacao directly from the farmers. Cadbury previously received Fairtrade certification for following regulations for free and fair labor practices in the trade of ethical goods. However, Cadbury now follows free trade practices (“Cocoa Life” 2019; Leissle 2018). Free trade is a business model whereby companies purchase the cacao at market price, which is the lowest price for purchasing cacao. The cacao is likely not high quality. The Ghana Cocoa Board has instituted measures for quality control, including giving farmers training in agriculture and spraying to control for pests and diseases. The Cocoa Board also performs quality tests and bean classifications (Leissle 2018). Yet, the cacao comes from numerous farms and it is combined in bulk. Therefore, the purchaser does not know exactly what farms in Ghana or the types of cacao pods that the cacao beans come from. Additionally, since the farmers and farm workers do not know exactly what chocolate company will be purchasing their cacao, they do not have a direct relationship with the company and therefore, they may not have incentives to produce a high quality of cacao bean, rather they are more concerned with producing a large quantity of cacao beans. The majority of cacao farmers are involved in free trade because most of the big chocolate companies use the free trade business model to achieve the lowest possible price for the cacao. In purchasing cacao at market price, these companies can afford to sell their final chocolate products at a cheap price for chocolate consumers (Leissle 2018). Thus, consumers from all classes can afford to purchase Cadbury’s chocolate products, which will continue to increase Cadbury’s revenue (Albritton 2013). As a result of this free trade system, the farmers receive lower wages. In Ghana, the Ghana Cocoa Board pays the farmers and takes out taxes, which can be a large percentage. Additionally, the farmers’ payment may have further deductions depending upon farm labor and environmental certifications (Leissle 2018).
At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, Cadbury had issues with slavery in cacao farming on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe, its main suppliers of cacao at the time. Through various investigations and after several years, the Cadbury company decided to boycott the cacao grown in Sao Tome and Principe in an attempt to rectify the situation. After the start of the boycott, Cadbury began purchasing cacao from other countries in West Africa (Higgs 2012; Satre 2005). In a large company where there are many exchanges and intermediaries involved from the cacao bean to the final chocolate product, it can be difficult to monitor labor practices in third-world cacao growing regions, especially under the free trade business model. As previously mentioned, Cadbury’s cacao comes from the Ghana Cocoa Board. Thus, the Cadbury company is not aware of exactly what cacao farms the cacao comes from and Cadbury cannot easily monitor the labor practices on these farms. Nevertheless, Cadbury has launched a new initiative to partake in the Cocoa Life program (“Cocoa Life” 2019). This program is centered on educating cacao farmers and farming communities with the goals of lifting them out of poverty and giving them life skills in order to allow farmers to benefit from and participate more in the cocoa supply chain (“Cocoa Life – About the Program” 2019). Currently, in the cacao farming world, large companies in first world countries control the supply chain while farmers in third world countries live in poverty (Leissle 2018). Many feel that it is imperative for farmers to be educated and play a larger role in the cacao supply chain such that they can earn better and fair wages to support their farms and, in turn, pay their workers fair wages (Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute 2019).
Taza, on the other hand, practices direct trade. The company created the Taza Direct Trade Program for the chocolate industry to promote transparency and quality (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). In fact, Leissle refers to Taza as the “direct trade pioneer for chocolate,” (Leissle 2018). Direct trade involves a firsthand relationship between the purchaser (Taza) and the farmers (Leissle 2018). As such, Taza pays the farmers 15 percent to 20 percent above the market price for this high quality cacao. This ends up to be at least $500 above market price per metric ton of cacao (“2018 Transparency Report” 2018). Therefore, the final chocolate product is more expensive for consumers. This is due to the fact that the company (Taza) pays the farmers a higher price for the cacao to ensure that the cacao is high quality (Leissle 2018).
Taza’s direct relationship with cacao farmers, whom Taza refers to as its “grower partners,” plays a large role in the company’s ability to monitor the labor practices of the cacao farms (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). In contrast to Cadbury, Taza has no intermediaries or middlemen in the cacao purchasing process. Therefore, with the direct contact, purchasers from Taza can monitor the growing conditions and labor practices on the farm to ensure that they are non-abusive and environmentally sound (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). Furthermore, Taza publishes an annual transparency report that contains the price they paid for cacao among other statistics about the farmers and the farms.
While both the direct trade and the free trade models have little third party regulation, the direct trade model can provide more transparency since it is less complicated with fewer middlemen involved in the cacao purchasing process. Additionally, since Taza pays higher prices for the cacao, the farmers earn higher wages. This leads to the prevention and mitigation, and even eradication of, unfair or forced labor on these farms. On the other hand, through the free trade model of paying market price for the cacao, the farmers earn much lower wages. This can be conducive to exploitative or forced labor environments since the farm owners may not be able to afford to pay their workers fair wages.
In addition to the effect of cacao purchasing practices on labor conditions, cacao purchasing practices affect the taste of the final chocolate product. This is due to the fact that Cadbury purchases lower quality cacao at market price in bulk from the Ghana Cocoa Board whereas Taza purchases higher quality cacao at a higher price via direct trade practices (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015; “Cocoa Growing Countries” 2019). This difference in cacao quality leads to different chocolate production practices. Since the cacao is low quality, Cadbury, like other large chocolate companies, hides the flavor of the cacao in the final chocolate product via various processing steps such as adding their “special chocolate flavoring,” which includes sugar and condensed milk (“Chocolate Making” 2019; “Fact Sheet: Chocolate Manufacturing,” n.d.). On the contrary, Taza’s production process preserves the flavor of the high quality cacao such that it is detectable in the chocolate.
In order to gain some more knowledge about the differences in taste between Cadbury and Taza chocolate, I had some friends do a tasting of the two. They each tasted a square of the Cadbury Royal Dark Chocolate bar and the Taza Chocolate Mexicano 70% Dark Cacao Puro stone ground disk. The only ingredients in the Taza chocolate are organic cacao beans and organic cane sugar. In the Cadbury bar, the ingredients are sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milk fat, natural and artificial flavor, soy lecithin, and milk. Looking at the ingredients of the two chocolates, some of the major differences are that there are no additives aside from organic sugar in the Taza disk whereas there are several ingredients besides cocoa in the Cadbury bar. Some major contrasts between the descriptors for the two types of chocolate were that the Cadbury chocolate was smooth, silky, and sweet, whereas the Taza chocolate was gritty, bitter, and not as sweet. These differences demonstrate the fact that Taza’s processing methods bring out the taste of the cacao for the consumer whereas Cadbury’s processing methods create a uniform flavor where the other ingredients mask the cacao.
In all, chocolate takes on many different forms depending on the type of cacao processing and production methods. Direct trade cacao purchasing creates a firsthand relationship between the company and the farmers. By excluding middlemen from the process, the direct trade purchasing is less convoluted than free trade, making it easier to monitor labor practices and ensure fair labor practices. This is not to say that all free trade chocolate involves child labor or unfair labor, but that labor practices are more difficult to monitor when there are more parties involved in the purchasing. In addition to the labor aspects of direct trade versus free trade, a byproduct of direct trade is that Taza is able to create a unique flavor from the high quality cacao beans rather than concealing the flavor of the cacao using other ingredients as in a Cadbury chocolate bar.
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.” 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. Although there is still research being done
on cacao genomes, three main types of cacao trees, the forastero, the
trinitario and criollo trees exist,
with the latter two being considered ‘specialty cacao.’ 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. 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.” 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. While companies have acknowledged that these abuses
exists, they have “insisted that the cacao chain is outside of their control.” 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. 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. 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.” 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. 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.” 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.
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.” 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. 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. 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. Not only does this reduce the need for cheap labor,
but it also helps farmers immensely who often receive very little for their
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.” 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. 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. What makes Taza different than most chocolate
makers is the fact that they stone
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. Thus, the combination of stone rolling and high
quality cacao allows Taza to achieve a unique
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.” 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.” 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Chocolate is a $100 billion industry yet the majority of these profits are enjoyed by a handful of multinational companies. Those who actually grow the cocoa beans and provide the raw ingredient for the world’s chocolate see but a miniscule fraction of these profits: 3% according to the image below.
The majority of the value of chocolate sales is captured by retailers and chocolate manufacturers while the farmers at the bottom of the supply chain receive the smallest share. This inequality lies at the heart of the chocolate industry today. One bean-to-bar chocolate company called Askinosie seeks to do things differently. This post examines some of the challenges inherent in the structural inequality of the cocoa supply chain then looks at Askinosie’s mission and how it attempts to combat the dark side of chocolate production.
The truth behind the chocolate bar
70% of the world’s cocoa is grown in only four West African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria (Martin and Sampeck 50). The majority of this cocoa production is spread over two million small, independent family farms (Martin and Sampeck 50). Yet most of these farmers live well below the poverty line, a threshold defined by the World Bank as $1.90 per day (The World Bank). In fact, the typical average income for a family producing cocoa in Ghana is between $0.50 and $0.80 per day (Martin). These farmers work to survive on incomes that are volatile and irregular. Their wages are loosely tied to the weight of the cocoa beans, but even that is an oversimplification, as many other factors impact how much they earn (Martin). The profitability of their farms may fluctuate based on circumstances outside of their control: changing commodity prices of cocoa, weather and climate change, deforestation, political unrest and even war.
One major factor that determines how much or how little a farmer receives is the next step in the supply chain, the buyer. Farmers often have no choice but to sell cocoa to local buyers, a practice often rife with corruption and little oversight. In some cases, scales may be fixed to reflect an incorrect cocoa weight or farmers may not even be permitted to look at the scales when the cocoa beans are being weighed, relying solely only on the buyer’s word (Leissle 110).
Many of these farmers may not be the owners of the farms but farm workers, which ties into another pressing issue in cocoa production: the harmful exploitation of labor. The cocoa industry has had a long history of egregious labor practices, including the worst forms of child labor. Though many statistics have been put forth over the past few decades and studies have been conducted by independent organizations finding evidence of child trafficking and slavery, the exact number of forced child labor in cocoa production today remains difficult to measure (Berlan 1089). This in no way diminishes the gravity of the situation, and any evidence of the worst forms of child labor must be addressed and eradicated. The challenge is that many of these children work on family farms where they are expected to be involved in the daily activities of the farm and perhaps learn the necessary skills to one day take the farm over themselves (Berlan 1090). Often, farm work is simply considered to be part of the child’s chores. The difficulty arises when children are not enrolled in school and are involved in long hours and heavy work that harms their physical or mental health and safety. A common thread among all these cases is that farm owners simply do not earn enough to hire labor and therefore depend on unpaid labor for basic survival.
The Fairtrade Label
Certification systems such as Fairtrade tackle these issues directly by ensuring that all products bearing the Fairtrade label comply with its terms, such as sustainable and environmentally safe farming practices, fair labor conventions according to the International Labour Organization that prohibit discrimination, forced labor, and the worst forms of child labor. As long as producer organizations can pay a certification fee and comply with the terms, they are ensured a Minimum Price for cocoa and receive a Fairtrade Premium (Leissle 141). Though well-intentioned, the Fairtrade label is not without criticism and controversy. Charging a certification fee to growers only adds to their existing financial hardships. As for the Minimum Price paid to cocoa producers, it has been criticized as being too low and stagnant to significantly improve the lives of cocoa farmers (Leissle 142).
Nonetheless, Fairtrade has successfully raised consumer awareness of the inequality and human rights injustices in cocoa production. The dialogue and media attention it has created has stirred industry giants into action, forcing the largest players in the chocolate industry to take more corporate responsibility. Nestlé, Mars, Cadbury, and Ferrero have all committed to sourcing Fairtrade certified cocoa in some of their products (Leissle 147). Just this month, CNN published an article stating that Mondelēz had publicly pledged to use 100% sustainable cocoa by 2025, albeit through its internal Cocoa Life program (Wiener-Bronner). The fact that said cocoa would be certified by its in-house sustainability program, of course, raises the question of just how rigorous the program will be and if it will be transparent at all.
In fact, the lack of transparency in sourcing methods has been a constant criticism of the Big Five companies. For example, Hershey claims that a third of its cocoa comes from certified sustainable sources, however, little is known of their origins (Leissle 147). The ability of these multinational companies to pick and choose some, but not all, of their products to be Fairtrade certified is not a positive step towards eliminating the injustices in the cocoa industry. As Ndongo Sylla points out in The Fair Trade Scandal, certifying only products rather than the organizations themselves allows companies with unethical practices and a controversial history to maintain a positive public image without committing in any significant way (130). How do we differentiate between opportunistic companies that are jumping on the Fairtrade bandwagon and those that are morally committed to corporate activism and responsibility?
Askinosie & Social Responsibility
Askinosie is a bean-to-bar chocolate company founded in Springfield, Missouri by Shawn Askinosie who retired from a 20-year career as a defense attorney in 2005 in order to start making his own chocolate. The company sources the beans directly from cocoa farms and processes the beans itself into the chocolate products that they sell. While many small companies today employ the same bean-to-bar model, Askinosie is unique in its dedication to social responsibility. Shawn Askinosie states on the Askinosie website: “I can confidently say the greatest opportunity and challenge has been weaving social responsibility into everything we do; it’s not just a buzzword, it’s who we are. Askinosie Chocolate was born committed to fairness, sustainability, minimal environmental impact and community enhancement” (Askinosie).
What sets Askinosie apart is its direct trade model. It buys beans directly from the grower, eliminating the need for intermediary buyers and middlemen and allowing each step of this very short supply chain to be traceable (Leissle 154). This allows Askinosie to source fine flavor beans that meet its standards of quality. By having a say in every step of the post-harvesting process such as fermentation and drying, Askinosie is able to “ensure the resulting beans taste as perfect as possible” as well as spot defective beans before they arrive at the factory (Askinosie). The company is also able to control pre-shipment storing methods, the types of bags the cocoa beans are shipped in, as well as the actual importation and transportation of the beans themselves.
“Everything starts with quality–and an appreciation of farmers. We honor farmers as experts and craftsmen, so we treat them as such and consider them partners in our business. We work together with our farmer partners to create exceptional chocolate from exceptional cocoa beans.” (Askinosie)
Askinosie prides itself in knowing the name of every farmer it works with and being able to trace the beans directly to the source, whether that source is a single farmer or a cooperative of smallholder farmers. And in addition to paying farmers prices that are, on average, 35% higher than world market price and 25% higher than the Fairtrade price, Askinosie shares its profits directly with its farmers. In doing so, farmers are treated as business partners, sharing in up to 10% of the net profits of the company (Askinosie). Because every single origin can be traced to the exact source, the very farm or cooperative, growers are able to get a percentage of the sales of products made with those beans. Both sides benefit in this mutually supportive model. Askinosie can source excellent beans and control a large part of the process that impacts flavor and quality, and the farmers are able to earn more.
Askinosie also shares with the farmers its financial statements in what it calls its “Open Book Management policy.” In frequent trips to the farms, Askinosie shares the numbers and how each bean purchase affects the net profits of the company. These discussions “enable the farmers to connect the quality of their beans to the outcome of each chocolate bar,” showing farmers how improvements on post-harvest techniques can “ensure an even greater profit margin in the future, which means more opportunities for the farmers to share in a success they helped create” (Askinosie).
In sharp contrast to multinational companies that offer consumers vague or almost no information about its supply chains, Askinosie publishes a Transparency Report detailing its purchase history from its inception. Following in the footsteps of Taza Chocolate, the first company to practice direct trade and also publish an annual transparency report, Askinosie fully discloses yearly prices paid for beans, how much was paid directly to farmers, the amount of profit shared, and even details of Shawn Askinosie’s yearly visits to the farms (Leissle 153; Askinosie). Unlike Taza, however, Askinosie provides detailed figures about the farm gate price paid to farmers, which allows consumers to know exactly how much farmers receive (Leissle 157). This remarkable level of transparency not only enhances consumer trust in the company but also raises the bar for the industry as a whole.
Askinosie sources its beans from four origins: Davao, Philippines; Mababu, Tanzania; San Jose del Tambo, Ecuador; and Zamora, Amazonia in Ecuador. In each of these locations, Shawn Askinosie has built and maintained long-term relationships with each of the farmers who supplies his beans through the company’s direct trade practices (Askinosie).
In Davao and Mababu, Askinosie has worked to directly support the local communities through a sustainable lunch program called A Product of Change. In a pledge to ensure that local school children eat more than one meal a day, Askinosie sells local food products from those regions in its online store, storefront, and to other food retailers. 100% of the profits from those products go back to the schools to provide lunches for their students. In Mababu, Askinosie funded the first textbooks and computers at a local school and a deep water well delivering potable water to the entire village. In both Zamora and Mababu, Askinosie partners with female-led farmer cooperatives, recognizing and empowering a traditionally marginalized and undervalued demographic in cocoa production (Askinosie).
In addition to developing the communities of its farmer partners, Askinosie seeks to involve the local community of Springfield through the establishment of Chocolate University, which is funded by proceeds from chocolate tours at the Askinosie factory. This learning program for local elementary, middle school, and high school students provides a hands-on experience with the goal of inspiring the youth “through the lens of artisan chocolate making to be global citizens and embrace the idea that business(es) can solve world problems” (Askinosie). The program even takes a group of high school students every year to Mababu, Tanzania where students engage with cocoa farmers on the farms and learn about small business and direct trade, allowing them to witness sustainable business practices firsthand and inspiring them to be agents of change within their own communities.
Social responsibility lies at the core of Askinosie’s mission, which it successfully executes through its direct trade and profit-sharing with its farmer partners. Direct trade eliminates the need for middlemen, ensuring that farmers receive their just pay. The transparency of its pricing and sourcing practices allows the public to see that these farmers are receiving above market price for their cocoa beans, which in turn, allows them to hire employees on their farms and support their local economies.
The company also recognizes the importance of knowledge at all points in the cocoa supply chain. Askinosie team members in Springfield and farmer partners on cocoa farms alike receive financial education on the company’s numbers. The Transparency Report informs the public. Students of Chocolate University learn about corporate social responsibility, of the work that goes into cocoa farming, and the challenges in cocoa production. This level of transparency within the supply chain and the initiative to educate and inform consumers are refreshing in an industry that is often shrouded in so much ambiguity.
Askinosie should be lauded for its exemplary practices. However, so much more work needs to be done in the cocoa industry for large-scale change to occur. Direct trade is one step in the right direction, but it is limited in scale as top-quality beans are prioritized over bulk beans, which make up the majority of beans produced in the world and in whose production we find so many of the industry’s complex problems. Notice the absence from Askinosie’s selection of origins any West African country where these inequalities abound. This is likely due to sourcing challenges by any small craft company in this region of the cocoa-producing world, further indication of the many challenges in the global cocoa supply chain (Martin and Sampeck 55). The reality is that many consumers do not want to pay $10 for a bar of chocolate. And the market of cheap chocolate continues to perpetuate the system of structural inequality that exists today. Farmers depend on cocoa production for their livelihood and survival which are inextricably tied to global consumption and demand. Until the largest players in the cocoa industry start to adopt fair practices and corporate social responsibility on a global scale, until more consumers are made aware of the complexities behind that chocolate bar, the problems we see today, sadly, will continue to exist.
Scholarly Works Cited
Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088-1100.
Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.
Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 27 Mar. 2019, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Lecture.
Martin, Carla, and Kathryn Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” 2016, pp. 37-60.
Sylla, Ndongo. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Translated by David Clément Leye, Ohio University Press, 2014.
Wiener-Bronner, Danielle. “Toblerone and Cadbury will be made with sustainable cocoa.” CNN Business, 29 Apr. 2019, amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/04/29/business/mondelez-cocoa-sustainability/index.html. Accessed 2 May 2019.
One of the most pressing ethical issues concerning the chocolate industry is the poverty suffered by many cacao farmers around the world. Cacao farmers in Ghana, for example, generally make less than $2USD per day, which is insufficient for farmers to feed themselves and their families, even though the cost of living in Ghana is much lower than in the United States and other Western nations (Leissle 2018). Farmers also rarely have any control over the price of their cacao, as large corporations, weather, and politics all exert a large amount of influence on the price of cacao beans. Furthermore, this economic poverty is only amplified by the environmental degradation that often accompanies large amounts of agriculture. Recently, there has been a movement among chocolate companies, facilitated by consumer demand, to produce chocolate using ethically-sourced cacao in order to mitigate the destructive forces of capitalism in the Global South. One company working in this realm is Madécasse. By facilitating close relationships with cacao producers in Madagascar, Madécasse demonstrates how chocolate companies can work to provide better pay and living conditions for cacao farmers and invest in an environmentally sustainable enterprise – all while making chocolate that tastes great.
Madécasse was founded in 2008 by two Americans, Tim McCollum and Brett Beach, who had both previously served on the Peace Corps in Madagascar (Madécasse LLC 2019). This experience prompted McCollum and Beach to want to do more to help the people of Madagascar, and thus Madécasse was born. On the Madécasse website, their mission is stated as “a journey to flip the chocolate world right-side up” (Madécasse LLC 2019). This suggests that their purpose is revolutionary, and that in their view, the chocolate industry is in need of serious reform. Their stated mission is two-fold: first, to make the best-tasting, highest-quality chocolate from organic, “heirloom cacao” from Madagascar, and second, to remove middlemen from the chocolate production chain (Madécasse LLC 2019). One of the biggest problems in the chocolate industry that they aim to tackle through their business is “the thousands of miles and layers of middlemen” that separate farmers from chocolate producers and consumers, and they do this by conducting every stage of the chocolate production chain in Madagascar itself (Madécasse LLC 2019).
One major way in which Madécasse is working to create a better Madagascar is by implementing business processes that work to ameliorate the poverty suffered by farmers in Madagascar. This is incredibly important, as Madagascar is considered one of the poorest countries in the world today, with 90% of people living on less than $2 USD per day, and 62% of the population living below the extreme poverty line, which is defined by the International Monetary Fund as an income that is less than what it would cost to consume 2,100 calories per day (Engstrom et al. 2015). Additionally, approximately 80% of the population lives in rural areas, and most of these people rely on subsistence farming to make a living.
The cacao industry in Madagascar is also relatively small compared to that of nations such as Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, as Madagascar produces less than 1% of the world’s cacao (Schatz 2016). However, Malagasy cacao is very highly-valued among Western chocolate companies, because it is genetically distinct and has a unique flavor (Watkins 2012). Combined with the high poverty in Madagascar, the value of cacao has led people to start stealing it (Katz 2014). The photo below depicts a cacao producer who keeps a gun at his desk to deter thieves. This display highlights not only how valuable cacao is to the farmers that grow it in Madagascar, but also how desperately poor so many Malagasy people are.
But despite how coveted cacao is as a primary product, cacao farmers globally tend to only receive an extremely small proportion of the profits from sales of chocolate. In the diagram below from Make Chocolate Fair!, a European organization that advocates for fair trade in the chocolate industry, cocoa producers on average only receive approximately 6.6% of the profits from chocolate.
Additionally, prices for primary agricultural products such as cacao tend to have the most volatile prices. Prices are not determined by typical supply and demand processes, rather, these products are treated as investments, and prices are determined by investor speculation (Sylla 2014). Both the low share of the profits from chocolate given to farmers and the unstable prices contribute to the economic inequalities between the Global North and South. However, there has been a growing movement to correct these issues and achieve greater equity in global trade. As a result, a few different strategies have been implemented, with the goal of correcting the trade injustice that leads to the majority of the profits going to the company, while farmers live in poverty. One of the most well-known of these initiatives is Fairtrade.
Fairtrade is a label overseen by Fairtrade International, a non-profit organization that oversees third-party labelling of products that confirms that both companies and farmers are complying with specific trade terms (Leissle 2018). Fairtrade has several requirements, including that producers must practice environmentally sustainable farming, and that they adhere to International Labor Organization rules for hired workers, including protecting children from the worst forms of child labor. Fairtrade producers also receive a minimum price for their cocoa, as well as a price premium for upholding Fairtrade policies, which both serve to protect producers from price volatility. The major benefit of Fairtrade is that this labelling helps to make consumers more aware of where their food is coming from, which can create greater accountability among consumers when they are choosing which products to buy.
However, Fairtrade is not a perfect system. For example, producer organizations are required to pay a fee to be certified, which can add to the financial challenges that producers of agricultural products already face (Leissle 2018). It becomes increasingly problematic because this cost is not passed on to consumers through, for example, making Fairtrade chocolate more expensive. This is done to keep Fairtrade chocolate competitively priced. Furthermore, the price floor set by Fairtrade International is still quite low, at around $2000 USD per metric ton of cacao (Leissle 2018). While this prevents cacao prices from dropping below that value, it does not incentivize chocolate companies to pay any more for their cacao, and thus the Fairtrade price of cacao has remained fairly stagnant. Finally, Fairtrade labelling can have the negative side effect of decreasing transparency among major players in the chocolate industry. While the increase in demand for ethically-sourced cacao has pressured major chocolate producers to communicate more information about the sources of their cacao, some companies like Cadbury have opted to use internal certification schemes, which are difficult to assess the robustness of (Leissle 2018).
According to Madécasse, Fairtrade is simply a label that allows large chocolate companies to remain disconnected from cacao producers, but to still indicate to some unspecified extent that they are ethically sourcing their cacao (Madécasse LLC 2019). Madécasse is not Fairtrade certified; rather, they are Direct Trade certified, and they believe that this distinction not only makes their operations more transparent to consumers, but also allows them to do a better job than other companies of improving conditions for cocoa farmers.
In contrast to Fairtrade, which is basically just a labelling system, Direct Trade actually alters the structure of the commodity chain in chocolate production. Essentially, Direct Trade removes middle men from the commodity chain (Leissle 2018; Madécasse LLC 2019). Companies buy directly from farmers, which increases the amount that farmers can make for their products. In her book, Cocoa, Kristy Leissle describes the process of Direct Trade with the example of Taza Chocolate. Taza’s goal is primarily to source the highest-quality cacao, but in order to do that, they are willing to pay a higher price for the beans (Leissle 2018). For example, Taza paid cacao suppliers Maya Mountain Cacao and Cacao Verapaz over 75% more than the 2015 average price of bulk cacao. Not only does Taza pay more, but they pay farmers directly, and this also allows them to invest resources to help producers maintain a high standard of quality of their cacao.
Similarly, Madécasse emphasizes the importance of maintaining close relationships with cacao farmers in Madagascar and paying producers more than average for their cacao. On the company website, Madécasse emphasizes that they are fully integrated into communities in Madagascar, and it is this close connection with the local people that allows them to make a positive impact. One way in which Madécasse has contributed to growth of the cacao and chocolate industry in Madagascar is by providing farmers with the infrastructure to ferment and dry cacao beans themselves so that they can sell dried cacao beans instead of wet ones, which allowed farmers to increase their income by 60% (Madécasse LLC 2019). Dry beans are much more profitable than wet cacao beans because they have gone through the extra processing steps of fermenting and drying (Leissle 2018). By providing Malagasy cacao farmers with the equipment to begin the processing of cacao, Madécasse has made an investment that will help cacao farmers begin to make more money for their product in the long term.
Furthermore, Madécasse is unique because they have pledged to make chocolate where it is grown in Madagascar. To date, they have made over 4 million chocolate bars in Madagascar (Madécasse LLC 2019). By integrating cocoa farmers and the Malagasy people into the commodity chain of chocolate production, it gives them more agency over the final product. Additionally, it helps to expand the chocolate market beyond just Western nations. For example, South African consumers have expressed a demand for chocolate made in Madagascar (Watkins 2012), which indicates that high-quality chocolate can be made in Africa, and the demand for it does exist.
However, the work that Madécasse is doing in Madagascar is not without its challenges. One major issue is scaling the business up in order to meet increasing demand, as Madécasse chocolate can now be found in Whole Foods stores in the U.S. (Schatz 2016). The challenges with producing chocolate in the country where it is grown are exemplified in the graph below, from the Madécasse website, which depicts the proportion of their chocolate that is made in Madagascar.
In the initial years of the business, 100% of their chocolate was produced in Madagascar, but as demand increased, Madécasse elected to move a large percentage of their production outside of Madagascar (Schatz 2016). Madécasse states that they are committed to eventually moving 100% of their production back to Madagascar in the next few years (Madécasse LLC 2019). However, the necessity of moving production outside of Madagascar until factories have the capacity to produce a sufficient volume of chocolate highlights one of the major issues with the ethical, bean-to-bar chocolate business model, which is that making a tangible difference for cacao farmers and their families requires well-developed infrastructure that many cacao-producing countries simply lack. Therefore, the challenge of scale is one that small chocolate companies like Madécasse must address going forward.
A second problem that Madécasse is becoming increasingly involved in helping to fix is deforestation and biodiversity loss in Madagascar. Madagascar is home to a large number of endemic species – over 85% of the animals on Madagascar are unique to the island – and over 90% of those species depend on the forest as their habitat (England, Ratsimbazafy, and Andrianarinana 2017; Harper et al. 2007). Furthermore, between 1950 and 2000, Madagascar lost 40% of its already-diminishing forest cover, and much of that deforestation can be linked to subsistence farming (Harper et al. 2007).
Madécasse has become increasingly vocal about environmental issues in Madagascar; the company recently published a report on their environmental impact, based on work with local people (England, Ratsimbazafy, and Andrianarinana 2017). This report demonstrated that cacao farms are actually a common habitat for many of Madagascar’s endemic species. This discovery led to a partnership with Conservation International and the Bristol Zoo to research the lemurs that live in the cacao forests. The importance of conservation in the company’s values is reflected in their packaging. As of 2016, Madécasse has redesigned their logo to include a lemur holding a cacao pod, which signifies that the company is aware that their business is tightly intertwined with the ecosystem of Madagascar. Furthermore, this packaging signals to consumers that Madécasse is interested in working to save and expand habitats for endangered species in Madagascar. Indeed, in an interview with Forbes, Madécasse co-founder Tim McCollum says that the company hopes to reforest an entire valley to use as a habitat for rescue lemurs (Schatz 2016). This is possible, he says, because the increased value of their cacao has allowed some farmers to replant old rice land, previously used for subsistence farming, into cacao forests. Thus, Madécasse is aware that their business’ positive impact on the people of Madagascar can also extend to the island’s ecosystem.
Madécasse is thus an exceptional model for other chocolate companies. The goal of making chocolate from start to finish in the places where it is grown provides companies a great opportunity to make a positive impact on cacao farmers who today often barely make enough income to feed their families. Maintaining close relationships with cacao farmers and providing them with the resources to earn a sustainable, higher income is beneficial for the cacao farmers, chocolate producers, chocolate consumers, and for the environment as a whole. The result of business practices, such as those applied by Madécasse, is a high-quality product that consumers can feel good about purchasing and that truly makes a difference for those involved in every stage of its production.
Engstrom, Lars, Patrick Imam, Priscilla Muthoora, and Alex Pienkowski. 2015. “Republic of Madagascar: Selected Issues.” 15. IMF Country Report. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund.
Harper, Grady J., Marc K. Steininger, Compton J. Tucker, Daniel Juhn, and Frank Hawkins. 2007. “Fifty Years of Deforestation and Forest Fragmentation in Madagascar.” Environmental Conservation34 (4): 325–33. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0376892907004262.
As you have probably discovered when looking through the chocolate display in various retail and grocery stores, five large players dominate the global chocolate market. Their prevalence allows them to dictate the rhetoric and information synthesized by chocolate consumers on a daily basis. However, the industry is fraught with serious issues that these companies are not taking drastic enough steps to solve. Instead, we must look to other companies, although less well known and smaller-scale, that are forging innovative paths to solve these very real problems, in order to learn from them but also recognize where there is room for improvement. One such company is Taza Chocolate.
Taza Chocolate is a bean to bar chocolate company based in Somerville, Massachusetts. It was founded in 2005 by CEO Alex Whitmore, who was inspired by the stone ground chocolate he had tasted on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. He apprenticed under a molinero in Oaxaca in order to learn how to make and work with traditional Mexican stone mills. The result of these unique mills and minimal processing is chocolate with bolder flavors and a grittier consistency than the smoothness that is usually expected from more mainstream companies.
Taza chocolate can be bought online through its website or at Amazon and can be found at retailers such as Whole Foods. According to the Taza Website, “We do things differently. We do things better. We are chocolate pioneers” (Taza Website: Direct Trade). They are pioneers not just because of their unique production process and flavor, but also because of their commitment to addressing the problems that plague the industry today through supply-chain transparency.
Problems: Slavery, Economics and Gender Inequality
In order to critically analyze Taza’s attempted solutions, it is important to first understand the problems, which unfortunately are not new but rather have plagued the industry for centuries. Slavery was an integral part of chocolate’s history, and can be traced back to the 1500’s when the Spanish Encomienda system forced natives in Mesoamerica to grow cocoa and perform labor without pay. The terrible working conditions and disease spread by the Spaniards ravished the native population, and Africans were brought in to replace them. From 1500-1900, between 10 and 15 million enslaved Africans were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean to grow cocoa and other commodity crops. However, even after slavery was abolished, it continued and continues to plague the industry today, mostly in the form of child labor. The International Labour Organization defines child labor as, “all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery… work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children” (ILO). Carol Off found evidence of such child labor in Cote D’Ivoire, with some farmers or their supervisors “working… young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten” (Off, 121). A 2009 study by Tulane corroborated Off’s discoveries when it found that more than half a million children in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire were working in conditions that violated ILO guidelines as well as national laws on minimum wage and minimum hours (Berlan).
Another prevalent problem is the poverty that many cocoa farmers face, particularly in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, due to the economics of cocoa farming. Unlike many northern countries where jobs are salaried, wages for day laborers on farms are “neither guaranteed nor generally regulated” (Leissle, 106). Farm owners only receive cash when they sell their crop; thus, they earn 80% of their annual income in the six months of the main growing season, making budgeting for the rest of the year extremely difficult, especially because many inputs are needed at the start of the growing season when farmers are the lowest on cash. This can result in farmers having to take loans or credit, which often have incredibly high interest rates and can be impossible to pay back. The price fluctuations of chocolate also make it difficult to budget, as anything from bad weather to political turmoil can drastically affect chocolate’s price. Lastly, the prices farmers receive are often too low to support their costs. Farmers rarely sell their product directly to the big chocolate companies, instead selling to middlemen who have more negotiating power and can mislead them. Therefore, even if the price paid for chocolate goes up, there is no guarantee that the farmers actually receive this increase. As a result of all of these factors, many farmers struggle to make a living.
Finally, gender inequality is an important problem that is often disregarded, in part because literature has minimized the role of women in chocolate production. Women are thought of as having only light and non-essential tasks, when in reality “female labor play[s] a central role in almost every aspect of cocoa production and sale… statistics undoubtedly underestimate the role of women” (Robertson, 100/104). But the industry is male-dominant, which has negative effects on women. For example, social norms dictate that even if women grow the cocoa, men are the ones that actually sell the crop and receive the cash (Leissle, 122). This means not only that women have no proof they are getting the right amount of money, but also that men of the household have control of the cash, which they often use to pay for needs they find most important before distributing the rest, if any, to women and children. Consequently, even though women contribute greatly to chocolate production, they have very little power.
Taza’s Solution: Direct Trade Model
In order to combat some of these issues, according to Taza it developed, “The first third-party certified direct trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all.” (Taza Website: Direct Trade). Because it is the first of its kind, Taza published five guidelines and commitments for its direct trade system that it holds itself accountable to.
Develop direct relationships with cacao farmers: Taza began by purchasing cocoa from La Red Guaconejo cooperative in the Dominican Republic and shipping it directly to Boston so that there were no middlemen involved. This direct method shrinks, “a commodity chain that is often far-flung, [so that] no step of the trade exchange, from farm to factory, was unknown or untraceable to Taza’s founders” (Leissle, 154). They later expanded their sources to include other producers in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ghana, all of which they have personal relationships with. Their single origin bars reflect and appreciate the uniqueness of each location.
Pay a price premium to cacao producers: Taza commits to paying at least $500 per MT above market price for its beans
Source the highest quality cacao beans: Taza emphasizes fine flavor beans rather than bulk beans, and directs resources over the long term to assist producers in maintaining high quality output
Require USDA certified organic cacao: As part of its commitment to source only the best cocoa, Taza requires its producers to be organic certified.
Publish an annual transparency report: Taza was the first chocolate company ever to publish such a report. It includes the quantity of beans bought from each individual producer, the price Taza pays for these beans, and an intimate look at the individual producers they partner with.
Pros of Taza’s Direct Trade Model
Taza’s direct trade model has improved the economics of farmers while simultaneously promoting transparency in the industry. In paying a large premium (15-20%), Taza ensures that the farmers do not have to worry about not being able to earn enough to survive fluctuations in cocoa price that are entirely outside of their control. This gives farmers much-needed predictability and visibility into future income and improves their standard of living. Furthermore, by publishing the exact prices they buy the seeds at and having all of their numbers and reports independently verified each year by the Quality Certification Services, Taza guarantees integrity and transparency. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the industry; many companies in recent years have introduced “even more ambiguity into the landscapes of its practice” by relying on internal certification and accountability schemes (Leissle, 147). For example, Cadbury recently stopped fair trade certification and instead initiated an in-house sustainability guarantee, which has decreased transparency because, “when a certification scheme is internal to a company, it is more difficult to assess whether they are rigorous and consistently applied. The only option is to take the company’s words that they are” (Leissle, 147-148). The same can be said for craft chocolate companies, who claim to pay several times the world market price for cocoa, yet there is no way for the consumer to verify. In publishing its prices, Taza has set a new standard for the industry, and others, such as Dandelion Chocolate, are following suit.
Taza’s production process also allows for stronger relationships with producers and greater visibility into the company’s supply chain, ensuring no child labor is used to produce its products. In interacting directly with each of their producers, and visiting at least once a year, Taza can guarantee the use of fair labor. Furthermore, in Ghana, where, as discussed earlier, child labor is especially prevalent, Taza has invested in education programs for children and their family. For example, the local producers Taza partners with coordinate workshops in local schools for students and parents to “educate around age-appropriate farm activities… versus dangerous ones” (2018 transparency report). Additionally, Taza has patterned with the non-profit International Cocoa Initiative and its buyer Tony’s Chocolonely, to “proactively address any instances of unsafe work through a combination of family resources and training that rewards transparency and addresses core issues of poverty and lack of education” (2018 transparency report).
Finally, Taza’s single origin bars promote consumer awareness about the countries where it sources its chocolate. Each bar, according to the website, “is minimally processed to let the bold flavors and unique terroir of our Direct Trade Certified beans shout loud and proud” (Taza website: Origin Bars).
By indicating where the chocolate is grown, these single origin bars can help consumers learn that the taste of chocolate differs from place to place, and “invite shoppers to consider the politics and economics of exporting cocoa… By offering a range of chocolate experiences that can change even day by day, single origin chocolate reminds us that there are real people, institutions, and power structures behind every bar” (Leissle, 170). A more informed consumer is likely to make more informed decisions in the future, which can help promote sustainable, ethical chocolate production by creating demand for such products.
How Taza can Improve
Although the Taza model has many strengths, there are areas where it is still lacking. For example, the prices listed in the transparency reports indicate the amount paid per metric ton to producer organizations, but they do not indicate the farm gate price, or how much the individual farmer receives. The farm gate price is distinctive from the price paid to the producers, but by not including both, the reports can mislead the consumer into thinking the listed price is entirely received by the farmers. In only one year, 2016, Taza reported the price that was actually received by farmers, which ranged from 51-76% of the price that was received by producer organizations (2016 transparency report). However, no other transparency report published these numbers, and this percentage could have changed substantially in the years since, especially because a few of the producer organizations they work with have changed. While Taza is exemplary in its transparency, there is room to be even more transparent by consistently publishing the farm gate price in its reports.
Additionally, even though gender inequality is an important problem in cocoa production, Taza does not explicitly address it in its transparency reports. Photos of women farmers have been featured in some of the past reports, and the number of women farmers is included in each report (ranging from 15% to 45% of each producer organization). These inclusions are important in disproving the misconception that women are not involved in cocoa production. However, there is no reference to the struggles women face due to the power dynamics of the industry. Taza had the opportunity to do so in its 2018 report, when it mentions that its partner in El Majagual, Dominican Republic donated his chocolate factory to an association of local women. However, they do not even name the women’s association or delve into what it does, and it seems as though the sale was a decision made independently by the producer with no help or influence from Taza. This is an area where Taza can really improve and learn from organizations such as Kuapa Kokoo, a Ghana based company that sets gender quotas for elected representation at the community and district levels of governance and organizes conscious-raising women’s groups and women’s literacy programs (Leissle, 149). An essential next step for Taza is to acknowledge the unequal distribution of power and wealth due to gender, because according to field work and research by Kristy Leissle and Stephanie Barrientos , “Apart from explicit, well-directed efforts to empower women, most assistance…[goes] directly or indirectly to men” (Leissle, 173).
In summary, Taza Chocolate is changing the way chocolate is sourced, produced and consumed. In addressing the economic problems farmers face, ensuring its producers do not use forced labor, and investing in programs that combat child labor, Taza is making a positive impact on cocoa production. However, there are many areas where Taza can still learn and grow— the transparency reports would be greatly improved if they included farm gate prices, and just as the company has invested in programs to fight against child labor, it should invest in programs that are actively looking to support women. That being said, Taza’s direct trade program is truly innovative, and its transparency reports are challenging other companies to improve their own practices. Although the direct trade model is not feasible for the larger scale companies that dominate the industry, consumers must demand the same level of commitment to ethical production that Taza demonstrates.
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, 2013, pp. 1088–1100.
Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2006.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2013.
Pareve, USDA Organic, Rainforest Certified, Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Equal Exchange, GF, Peanut/Tree Nut Free?! What is in a label? How do you decipher the myriad of symbols on your chocolate bar or confection? What do they mean? Are they important? Is one symbol more important than others? How can you tell? And where do you find the answers? How can a consumer find the answers?
When you purchase a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup the label (if you look very closely) will tell you that it is Gluten Free. You won’t find the myriad of symbols that you find on Newman’s Own Peanut Butter Cups. The symbols there state that it is a Gluten Free, Fair Trade product amongst other things. An Equal Exchange chocolate bar label tells you that it’s USDA Organic, Worker Owned Cooperative, Kosher Pareve Certified in Switzerland and Equal Exchange Fairly Traded. The inside of the label goes on to tell you that not only is its cacao sourced from small farmers, but its sugar and vanilla are as well. It also introduces you to one of the farmers that they trade with. It also asks you, the consumer to “JOIN OUR MOVEMENT”.
The inside of this label also gets to the crux of the labelling issue:
“With your support over the last 30 years, Equal Exchange has become one of the leading alternative trade organizations in the world. Together, we have enabled small farmers to gain market share and influence never believed possible.
And yet our mission is more threatened than it was 10 years ago.
Corporate control of Fair Trade-and in fact the entire food system-has reduced the power of small farmers and left consumers confused and demoralized. At the same time climate change is wreaking havoc on farmer communities.”
What and who defines Fair Trade?
This video by Equal Exchange makes Fair Trade cacao farming seem almost idyllic. These are happy, well dressed cocoa farmers who are bettering their lives and their communities.
Ndongo Sylla in his book, The Fair Trade Scandal, states, “Fair Trade is but the most recent example of another sophisticated ‘scam’ by the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market. This noble endeavour for the salvation of the free market was tamed and domesticated by the very forces it wanted to fight. With its usual efficiency, the free market triggered the implosion of the Fair Trade universe and hijacked its mission, without Fair Trade supporters and stakeholders even realising it.” (Sylla, pp. 18.)
Sylla credits “Frans van der Hoff, a Dutch priest and economist living in
Mexico, and his fellow countryman Nico Roozen, Director of the
Solidaridad non-governmental organisation (NGO)” (Sylla, pp. 19.)with starting the first Fair Trade label, Max Havelaar in 1988. The foundation put out this video in 2013 to celebrate it twenty-fifth anniversary. (Sorry, I was unable to create a direct link.)
Another Viewpoint on Fair Trade. There are no happy farmers in this video.
Professor Don Boudreaux in this video from MRUniverity actually argues that Fair Trade actually hurts the poorest producers and workers of agricultural goods by diverting money and resources from them to areas where there is the infrastructure to support Fair Trade.
The Fairtrade Foundation in the UK argues that, “Twenty years after the first Fairtrade chocolate bar was launched in the UK, Fairtrade chocolate is becoming increasingly popular and now makes up 12% of all British chocolate sales – providing vital economic benefits to cocoa growers.
Last year, UK sales of Fairtrade chocolate reached £542 million, and as a result Fairtrade cocoa producer organisations earned £4 million in Fairtrade Premium, on top of the price they earned for their beans, to invest in business, social and environmental projects in their communities; this represented a 30% increase on the previous year.
Stephen Lord, Product Officer (Cocoa) at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “Fairtrade currently works with 167,000 cocoa farmers in countries including Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and the Dominican Republic. Most are small-scale farmers who live on very low incomes, and Fairtrade enables them to trade their way out of poverty, by helping to ensure they have stable incomes and long-term contracts with companies.” (Fair Trade News-10.13.2014.)
Andy Harner, the global cocoa director of Mars Chocolate, said this in an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The demand for cocoa to make chocolate and related products is projected to exceed supply. If current trends continue, we anticipate that the world will need at least 1 million additional metric tons by 2020—more than Ghana, which is the second largest supplier of cocoa in the world and nearly as much as the current total annual production of the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer. Despite this increasing desire for cocoa, farmers in the West African and Southeast Asian countries that produce more than 85 percent of the world’s supply are often not able to invest in their farms to benefit. In the last 10 years, yields for many farmers have stagnated or decreased and income has remained flat, which has affected the long-term competitiveness of the industry and challenges the willingness of farmers and their families to continue growing cocoa.
Mars guides its business strategy according to five principles, one of which is mutuality, the belief that all actors in the supply chain should share in the benefits. With many cocoa farmers living on less than $2 a day, we launched our Sustainable Cocoa Initiative to enhance and promote mutuality for the farmers we depend on for our chocolate business. We believe that our business should benefit farmers today and tomorrow, which is why our guiding principle is Farmers First. For the cocoa industry to be truly sustainable, the world’s 5 to 6 million smallholder farmers must be put first so that they can have the opportunity to professionalize their farms, increase their incomes, diversify their crops, and support their families.
Increasing growers’ productivity dramatically is the most effective way to raise farmer income, and increasing farmer income is the most important way to empower farmers and their communities to create lasting change.” (Andy Harner, Stanford Social Innovation Review.April 25, 2012.)
Does anyone from any side of the debate have any common ground?
Direct Exchange is a panacea in the debate in the cocoa-Fair Trade- Mega-Corporation triangle. While the video below indicates the perhaps ideal relationship between grower and cacao artisan, as we discussed in class, this exchange is so limited in scope that it affects such a tiny percentage of the farmers trying to eek out an existence for themselves and their families that it is impractical to view this as a realistic solution for the majority of farmers who aren’t one of the lucky “few”. (“Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food”. Carla D. Martin, PHD. April 28, 2018.)
When we look at our labels we can see that Fair Trade, Direct Trade, farmers, corporations and consumers all have a stake in the mix. Fair Trade and Direct Trade products such as Taza, Equal Exchange and others vie for a market share of an affluent market, but can our shelves and displays of specialty chocolate and confections change the tide of our aisles with bags or Mars Bars, Hershey Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, etcetera.
“While perhaps this is not surprising – modern capitalist business production relies on size and quantity metrics and notions of continuous growth and aggregation to determine value – it stands opposite to many of the values expressed by those involved in craft production.” (Martin, PHD, Carla D.. Sizing the Craft Chocolate Market. Fine Cocoa and Chocolate Institute. August 31, 2017.)
Sylla states that, “in spite of their ever greater ambitions, Fairtrade protagonists still have not come to realise theextent to which recent developments have rendered their movementanachronistic. First, agricultural products have been experiencing a
trending decline for many decades now. They now account for
only 9 per cent of the international merchandise trade, while
processed agricultural products represent two-thirds of exchanged
goods. In the case of LDCs, however, they merely accounted for
0.3 per cent of this latter market in the period 1991–2000 (FAO,
2004: 26). By focusing on primary agricultural products, Fairtrade
is pulling developing countries back. Besides, it does not allow
them to envisage local industrial processing, which creates more
value added and is more profitable in the long term.” (Sylla, pp. 235.)
This is an exceedingly complex issue that will not be solved in a blogpost or even a few books. It is an issue that needs a comprehensive approach with an eye toward the individual farmer and consumer, but also a reckoning that profit, mass market, and mass production aren’t ever going to be eliminated from the supply chain that brings us our bean to bar cacao, as well as, our most decadent chocolate confections.
Fair Trade News. Choose Fairtrade to Make a Positive Impact for Cocoa Growers. October 13, 2014.
Harner, Andy. Stanford Social Innovation Review. April 25, 2012.
Martin, PHD, Carla D.. Sizing the Craft Chocolate Market. Fine Cocoa and Chocolate Institute. August 31, 2017.)