Tag Archives: Ethical

CVS: Chocolate Products, Display, and Consumers

CVS is a very large convenience store that is all over the United States. Not only does CVS have convenient food, it also has photo printing, beauty products, cleaning products, and health products. They also provide a consistent pharmacy to many of its customers. Needless to say, CVS is a hub for a lot of people’s late-night snacks, especially the 24-hour branch in Harvard Square. Since it is such a hub for Harvard students, CVS is definitely providing a defining narrative of what American snack life is like. CVS provides snacks for people who love chips, cookies, cereal, and most importantly chocolate.

The consumers of CVS chocolate definitely are different depending on the area. Back in my hometown of Detroit, CVS customers are mostly African-American people who are picking up prescriptions or picking up a small thing. Furthermore, the CVS in Harvard square mostly has customers that are college students that do all of their grocery shopping there, or tourists who are visiting Harvard. Personally, I have experienced both of these consumer experiences multiple times. Here are two recollections of my different experiences with CVS:

Back home in Detroit, I can remember many times of going to CVS with my mother. She would pick me up from school, and then we would get on the freeway back home. We would get off the freeway at an earlier exit to go to CVS. My mom would park the car and ask me if I wanted to come in the store or stay in the car. I usually would say yes at the hope that I can get a snack before dinner was ready. We would enter the store and my mother would go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and I would walk towards the snacks and was always welcomed by the sight of a lot of chocolate. I fell in love with dark chocolate pretty early, and I always gravitated towards dark chocolate covered pretzels along with a bag of salt and vinegar chips. Every time I went with my mother I would ask if she could buy me these snacks, and she always said yes when realizing how cheap they were.

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Here at Harvard, I go to CVS many times for anything that I need. Whenever I run out of my favorite snacks I always go to CVS. I tend to hover near the dark chocolate in this store as well. If I want fancier chocolate I have to go to the back of the store, and the cheaper and more accessible chocolate is in a wide aisle with all of the other candy. When picking up my dark chocolate almond Dove chocolates, I head to the cashier. When waiting in line, I always see a lot of fancy snacks with chocolate near the checkout, and very few cheaper chocolates near the checkout. This sometimes tempts me to indulge myself with a fancier chocolate snack as well.

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The difference between these two locations is that the one in Harvard Square is open 24 hours and the one in my hometown is not. The Harvard Square store also places more expensive chocolate snacks near the checkout, while the one in Detroit does not. These two stores are structured different because of the difference in their customers and what CVS believes to be the best way to profit off of each group.

CVS is known to have a lot of cheap everything, but especially cheap snacks. Even with inflation, snacks still remain cheap in stores like CVS. This store has a lot of cheap chocolates like Snickers, Kit-Kats, M&Ms, and Hershey bars. All of these companies’ producers, from Mars, to Nestle, to Hershey’s, all have a large customer base, and they also have dominated the candy industry for decades. Hershey’s is a prominent and historical brand that specializes in many things but especially chocolate over the years. Hershey is especially good at making cheap and accessible chocolate that is essentially everywhere in the world. In Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams,the author highlights that Milton Hershey hired a chemist in order to make the Hershey bar that we all know and love. Because of this perfected version of a chocolate bar, “Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster, and therefore cheaper, than the Europeans (D’Antonio 108).” This perfected mixture is the one that we enjoy and love today. It is interesting to think that the Hershey legacy is so built on family and being made by family, yet, Hershey had to hire a chemist outside of his family in order to create the backbone of their legacy. That part of the legacy is not talked about in the mainstream, and it leaves the question of what else are they not telling us? CVS displays these cheaper chocolates frequently and in the most accessible aisle to maximize profit on the societal desire for sweet and junk foods. Furthermore, “it happens that the sugars, fats, and salts that are so central to junk food, are not only the foods that humans most crave, but also are among the cheapest food inputs (Albritton 344).” CVS is a hub for all things cheap, and even more of a hub for people who will be the most likely to buy cheap food, like college students and low-income people of color. CVS displays cheap candy and junk food, like chocolate, almost all over the store, so that no matter where a customer turns they have to continuously decide whether or not to pick up some chocolate. This marketing seems unjust because it does not help consumers in leading a healthy diet and can make them crave the treats even more.

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CVS also has a large selection of more luxury chocolates, or chocolates that are little pricier than the average chocolates that can be bought at the movie theater. These chocolates are Ferrero Rocher, Ghirardelli, Godiva, Russel Stover, and Turtle chocolates. These chocolates are more expensive than the average chocolate bar, but not too expensive that they cannot be picked up sometimes when going to the store. Their prices range from four dollars to seven dollars per bar, and if a whole box of turtles is bought, one can expect to pay about ten dollars per box. These chocolates are located at the back of the store near where all the more expensive nuts are. They are displayed in a fancier and more elegant way and are organized very neatly by brand. The labels have an elegance and shine to it that automatically indicates to the consumer that they are of higher quality than the candy bars of a lower price. The shine and pictures of the chocolate convey to the consumer that they are getting luxury and elegance within their chocolate. This idea of luxury “it plays on our inner feeling of wanting ‘something better’ and nurtures the rampant individualism of self-fashioning that has come so much to shape our societies since the 1980s (Mc Neil & Riello 229).”  It’s the same feeling that is experienced when consumers desire to buy a fancy shirt simply because it is expensive, even though they can buy a similar shirt for a cheaper price at a different store. Consumers feel the same way when buying chocolate, and that is probably why CVS displays these two chocolates separately. This is so consumers do not have the chance to compare the cheaper chocolates to the more expensive ones. So, consumers who only see the expensive chocolate buy it and are not swayed by a cheaper and similarly enjoyable chocolate option. This also can go the other way by limiting consumers choices to only cheaper and more sugar filled chocolate snacks. For example, if a customer only passes by the cheaper options of chocolate they are not offered the same opportunity to indulge in less sugary and higher cacao content chocolate. CVS sets up their store in an unfair way for their consumers, so they are not able to make an educated and deliberate choice about the chocolate they choose.

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Some of the chocolates in CVS have various certifications to prove that they are ethically made. These certifications give consumers peace of mind when buying products, especially chocolate, even when the certifications are very vague in what they mean. The way certifications are portrayed to consumers is in a way that makes it seem like all people involved are getting equally fair changes; however, with the Fairtrade certification, benefits are not so fair. “Fairtrade selects the most capable producer organisations locally. This is actually its ‘in-house policy’, as it boosts the rapid growth of the movement” (Sylla 208). This is not only unfair to the consumers, but it is also extremely unfair to the poorest countries that produce is grown in. The Fairtrade act betters the conditions for countries who already produce so much and make so much money from the market. It is the easiest way to ensure that customers are getting an ethically made product. The countries that need this act the most in order to keep up their presence and value in the major markets are not getting the benefits of the many certifications used on products. The certifications on the products we love are supposed to improve production conditions for all, and not just for the countries where it is most convenient. From this, we can infer that certifications on products may not be so ethical after all.

The ethicality of our sweetest treats has been addressed countless times throughout history. Whether it be from the Cadbury scandal or a lack of transparency with Mars, there have been many ethical concerns surrounding chocolate, ever since the advancement of widespread media. The point that interests me most is that a lot of these ethical concerns arise from the practices of really large companies, like Hershey’s, yet, they make the least amount of change within their product production. These are major companies that can make the most institutional change by altering their production ways, yet, they make the smallest amounts of change or they wait until the news dies down, so they do not have to address it. This is an unethical way to run a business, especially ones like Hershey’s where the brand is so centered on wholesomeness and family bonding. Companies like Hershey’s show very little about what they are trying to do regarding the ethical concerns of their products, and theymostly focus on the wonder associated with Hershey chocolate. There are some large companies that are actively addressing and being very transparent about the ethical concerns of their products. My favorite company that does this is Nestle. They have a very detailed website that includes making sure that workers and children are protected, and they also want to ensure that they are growing their cacao very sustainably. Here is a capture of their page dedicated to protecting children and workers:Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 2.47.23 PM

This detailed page really works towards the issues of not bein transparent with consumers about a companies practices. I think that big companies should follow in Nestle’s footsteps because they have a good balance of environment sustainability and working conditions as well. I usually see companies, like Ghiradelli, that solely focus on environmental sustainability, but even with that they provide very vague information generally about the steps they are taking to ensure that. Here is a capture of the vagueness in Ghirardelli’s sustainability page:

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In conclusion, transparency and fair and equal advertising is the right of the consumer, and the duty of the producers to provide. This can overall provide a better experience for customers in choosing the brands they want, which can alter how large companies function within the market. The consumers have the power to make companies more accountable and want to change. If customers are given all information fairly when buying things, we may be able to see more change in the future. Consumers engaging in more conscious consumption of goods can definitely influence large corporations to make change, and I believe that we can strive for that.

References

Albritton, Robert. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” Food and Culture. Routledge. Print.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Simon & Schuster. Print,

McNeil, P., Riello, G. Luxury: A Rich History. Oxford Univeristy Press. Print.

Sylla, Ndongo S. The Fairtrade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio Univeristy Press. Print.

Photo Credits (in order)

CVS, 13580 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI. Detroit. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.

Harvard Crimson. New 24-Hour CVS Opens At 6 JFK Street. Cambridge, MA.

WordPress. CVS Chocolate Value Store. Cambridge, MA.

CVS Luxury Chocolate Display. 2 May 2019.

Ghirardelli. Sustainability And Corporate Social Responsibility. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.

Nestle. Protecting children and workers. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.

 

 

 

The Future of Sustainable Cacao Practices

The contemporary state of the cacao-chocolate industry is rapidly evolving, and overall seems to be heading in a positive direction. In the past, two separate narratives have been told about chocolate, as discussed in my first blog post here: https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/blog-post-the-dark-side-of-cacao/. One tells a romanticized story of chocolate which is portrayed as a food of the gods, holding spiritual healing power, bringing people together socially, and even increasing wealth when used as currency. Simultaneously, a second narrative tells a story of slaves working gruelling conditions to make the romanticized story possible. However, in the contemporary cacao-chocolate industry, the two narratives are coming together to be told as one, which is something that we should be excited about. People are beginning to understand where chocolate is coming from and the processes involved, and people are changing their purchasing decisions accordingly.

In this blog post, we will discuss three different ways in which the two narratives are coming together to create a positive future for the cacao industry. The first is the expanding industry of bean-to-bar chocolate factories, which recognise the dark side of production and strive to make working conditions fair at all levels of the supply chain. Secondly, the United Nations is turning chocolate into more than a food, by creating its own chocolate bar as a symbol of social change. Finally, the fact that chocolate production is becoming a topic of discussion and more people are becoming educated is changing the way people think about cacao production at every level of the industry. 

  1. Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Production 

The first concrete measure we can look at that shows the two narratives coming together is bean-to-bar chocolate production. In the past, a major issue with the production of chocolate has been the disjointed supply chain, where those experiencing slave labour in the early stages of production have no interaction with those selling the product in the final stages. This makes it easy for two different narratives to develop. In various lectures, we discussed the rise of the big five and race for the global market. As seen in this image below, the chocolate packages only told the romanticised story of chocolate, appealing to consumers and leaving out the story of slave labour which was a vial part of the supply chain. “A True History of Chocolate” by Coe and Coe, discusses the immense importance of chocolate from social, religious, medical, and economic perspectives, outlining aspects such as “the food of the gods”, “the Mesoamerican genesis”, and “the Aztecs as the people of the sun” (Coe and Coe, 2013). The wrappers in the big five chocolate companies encapsulate these ideas, appealing to consumers and leaving out an important part of the overall narrative. 

Image 1: The Big Five Chocolate Producers

This is where the importance of bean to bar chocolate production becomes relevant. Here, we will discuss “the small five” companies that are making a big difference. These bean-to-bar companies may not hold as much of the market share as the big five, but they are making huge differences in the way we think about ethical cacao production, and combing the two narratives we have been talking about. The following five examples of bean-to-bar chocolate companies show how they are addressing issues with the supply chain, bringing the narrative of slave labour and the narrative of the shiny wrappers closer together, and improving conditions for those at the beginning of the supply chain.

1. Golden Tree Ghana

Image 2: Golden Tree Ghana



One example we discussed in class is the Golden Tree Ghana which is a cocoa processing company in Ghana. Golden Tree Ghana is a local bean-to-bar producer which makes products including the Akuafo Bar, which is a lemon-flavoured chocolate bar, and very well-know in the region. Golden Tree Ghana also makes chocolate coatings, cocoa, and popular drinks including Alltime and Vitaco. This bean-to-bar chocolate company aims for honesty, transparency, and accountability at every level of the supply chain. While creating a quality product for consumers, they are aware of the dark side of production, and making strides to not only improve working conditions for those producing the cacao, but improving transparency so that consumers know exactly how the products they are buying are being sourced. 

2. Raaka

Raaka is changing the way that consumers view chocolate. On each bar, facts can be found on the inside of the wrapper about where the cacao as purchased, how much they paid for the cacao, and other information about their company. Unlike shiny chocolate wrappers made by other companies such as the big five, this wrapper encapsulates the story of labour, the very thing that makes the production of every bar possible. This company may not be one of the big five, but it is doing big things to transform the cacao industry. Their genuine interest in persuing ethical practices shows through their mission statement: 

“We believe our process should value the community of growers, producers, and makers whose livelihoods depend on cacao and chocolate. It takes an entire village of individuals, literally stretching across cultures and continents, to make every delicious bar. As chocolate makers, we’re at the end of this supply chain closest to the customer. This allows us to tell some of the stories behind each bar we make.” – Raaka.

Image 3: Raaka Wrapper

3. Madecasse

Furthermore, the Brooklyn based company, Madecasse, is produced in Madagascar, but sold in Whole Food shops around America. 

Image 4: Madacasse Chocolate

Madacasse as a company has recognized that there is a lack of transparency in the chocolate industry, especially in big companies. There are thousands of miles and layers of middlemen separating the farmers that grow the cacao, and the consumers who eat it. Hence, it is easy for the two separate narratives to continue simultaneously, with consumers having no idea where their chocolate product is coming from. Madacasse has integrated their company into some of the poorest communities to buy directly from the cacao producers, changing the way chocolate is produced. As a result, farmers are earning more, increasing their quality of life, and the quality of chocolate is being increased for consumers. The following quote from their website shows their belief that Fair trade is not enough, as companies need to really understand the supply chain to create positive change.

“Fair trade is a label. It’s used by large companies, to verify that farmers who live thousands of miles away from where the chocolate is made are paid a fair price for their cocoa (which isn’t actually fair enough to be sustainable).  It’s a top-down approach for companies with an outsourced supply chain.” – Madacasse. 

Madacasse is working from the very bottom of the supply chain, with workers on the ground to make cacao farming as sustainable and as fair as possible. 

4. French Broad Chocolates

Image 5: French Broad Chocolates 

Sourcing sustainably is an integral part of the process for this small bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer. The employees at French Broad Chocolates spend a great deal of their time with the cacao workers in Central and South American, building relationships and understanding the process of production. Through those relationships, a platform is created to negotiate mutually beneficial wages, so workers can continue their jobs with dignity, pride, and prosperity. Currently, cacao is being sources from Peru, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemela, and produced in a small factory in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. Just like the other bean-to-bar companies we have discussed, this company is taking enormous strides in putting the workers at the bottom of the supply chain first and reducing the disparity in the two narratives that have previously been told. 

5. Dandelion

Dandelion adopts a similar approach to the sourcing of their cacao. They strive to work directly with the producers who grow, ferment, and dry the cacao. Just like French Broad Chocolates, the employees at Dandelion travel as frequently as possible to the beginning of the supply chain, to best understand the practices of those producing the cacao, and gain valuable feedback from the workers. Wages for the workers exceed the world market price, as an effort to strengthen relationships with workers, and commit to creating the best and most distinctive cacao possible.

Image 6: Dandelion Chocolates

As seen in these five examples, bean-to-bar chocolate production has the potential to change the way chocolate is made, especially if replicated more times and on a larger scale. Larger production companies, particularly the big five, have dominated the market in the past. But, if they do not change their practices to match the changing views of the consumers, they may not be so dominant in the future. In the 2010’s there were over 230 bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers, and increased demand among consumers for these products (Martin, 2019). The future of chocolate is looking brighter thanks to the innovations of bean-to-bar chocolate producers. Due to the sustainable practices of these companies, the big five are being forced to change the way their companies operate. They are facing enormous social and environmental pressure to become more sustainable, as well as economic pressures. In “Sweetness and Power” by Mintz, it is suggested that companies will change their practices if it means economic benefits (Mintz, 1986). In the 1840’s when slavery and protectionism collided with needs to compete in a widening market, free-trade advocates and government’s motives saw eye to eye as interests aligned. When it means staying competitive in the market, companies will change their practices. Companies will seek economic benefits, and if moving to sustainable practices will attract more consumers, then it is an advantage for all involved. An example of this is Mars, who are now investing more than $1 billion to make a more sustainable cacao supply chain (Mars, 2019). Originally, the company was not founded as a social enterprise, as seen in the Brenner reading (Brenner, 2000). But, due to social and environmental pressures for more sustainable cacao practices, the nature of cacao production is changing (Brenner, 2000). Eventually all companies will have to do the same to stay competitive in the chocolate market. Small companies are leading the charge for social change, and the big companies must keep up. However, the positive changes in the production of cacao does not end here. The second point we will discuss is how the United Nations chocolate is changing the way we view chocolate as a commodity.

2. United Nations chocolate made for a mission

The United Nations has created its own chocolate bar which is available at various locations, in the hope of addressing both economic and environmental problems. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has initiated this project. By making chocolate available in United Nations wrapping makes it clear that cacao and chocolate bar production is a global social issue, not just another food. It all began with nine-year-old Felix Finkbeiner from Germany, who founded the organisation, Plant for the Planet, announced his vision to his class at the end of one of his presentations.

“Children could plant one million trees in every country on the earth and thereby offset CO2 emissions all on their own, while adults are still talking about doing it.” – Felix Finkbeiner.

He made this vision a reality, and went on to partner with Patricia Espinosa, who is currently serving as the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.Together, they created a vision for the United Nations to create its own chocolate bar to be sold in the market. However, this was not just an ordinary chocolate bar, for it encapsulates the essence of how the chocolate industry should be developing.

This bar really brings together the two narratives of production. While the appealing wrapper and delicious taste of the smooth, milky bar tells the romanticised version of chocolate, it encapsulates the story of slavery, and simultaneously fights for justice. 

Image 7: United Nations Chocolate 

It is one of the first chocolate bar purely focused on sustainable farming practices, and bringing together the two narratives we have discussed. This production line is setting the standard for how sustainable practices should look. Chocolats halba produces this chocolate, and as seen in their mission statement, their ideals align closely with the goals of the UNDP, which is what makes it an appropriate company to produce this chocolate:

“Chocolats Halba has a clear ethos of generating added value for all stakeholder groups along its value chain – from cocoa farmers to consumers. To achieve this, it pursues a sustainability strategy that applies to all core areas of the business and to all employees. We received the Swiss Ethics Award in 2018 for our commitment to sustainability. The price of the chocolate bar will reflect its impact on the ecosystem and the real costs of production and export. The profits will be shared fairly, with farmers receiving a significantly greater share than through any other method.” – Chocolat Halba.

The production of this bar marries the two separate narratives told. By having chocolate wrapped in United Nations packaging – an organization which aims to fight injustices in the world – shows to consumers that this is a social issue which must be addressed, and is being addressed now in many different forms.

3. Education and broadening discussions about cacao and chocolate production

Finally, education and the broader discussion about chocolate is changing the way people think about chocolate, and influencing the way people choose to purchase and enjoy their chocolate.

Our class is a prime example of this broadening education, including the panels and speakers we have heard from, and the work they are doing beyond the classroom. In the past, people were unaware of how chocolate was actually made, hence people were less educated and less was being done to prevent this kind of suffering, particularly for children. The contemporary state of cacao production is therefore heading in a positive direction, and rapidly evolving, so it is important that we stay educated and up to date to make good decisions about future steps in this industry. Current literature, such as the Berlan article we read in this course, is addressing issues in slave labour, and identifying what we do and don’t know. If this type of research continues, we will be able to gain a greater understanding of the nuances and myriad of complex issues which allow slave labour to continue (Berlan, 2013), and through a better understanding we will be able to address these issues thoughtfully and properly. 

In this class alone, the students have completed 39 hours of class time each, and combined, written approximately 6 books worth of information about chocolate (Martin, 2019). Furthermore, the teaching staff has completed about 750 words of written feedback for each student, teaching the students about this topic beyond what they knew before. This is about 120,000 words of written feedback for the class, all of which has developed the overall knowledge of this topic in the world (Martin, 2019). With such a diverse class, we will be able to take this knowledge to the various fields we go into in the future, while being conscious consumers and teaching others what we know. The impact of this class goes far beyond the classroom, and is a big step in the right direction for closing the gap between the two narratives of chocolate theta have existed in the past. And this is in one course alone. In the past, this type of education simply did not exist. Through education and the broadening discussion of cacao production, we are changing the way that we think about chocolate production. The idea of chocolate is changing for the better, and we should be incredibly excited about this positive trajectory. 

Overall, the future of sustainable chocolate practices is looking very positive. Through bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers, the United Nations chocolate bar, and education, the two narratives of cacao are coming together to tell a more accurate story of production. The conditions for workers on cacao farms are improving due to these companies, research, and education, and this will likely continue to improve in the future.

References:

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


Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. chapters 5, 13 pp. 49-69, 179-194

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007[1996]. The True History of Chocolate.

Martin, Carla. 2019. Harvard University Lectures from Course: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.

Mintz, Sydney W. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power.          


Mars. 2019. Saving Tomorrow’s Cocoa, Today. Cocoa for Generations. Retrieved from https://www.mars.com/news-and-stories/cocoa-farming-sustainability

Image Links:

Image 1: Big Five Chocolate Producers

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1p2hW-YsJ6faWMHz0rYuRjFGfTurfgjCDDGSRnzn_Sn4/edit#slide=id.g2f058252d_2_56

Image 2: Golden Tree Ghana

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1iUp0kTTeUJ0qKN7Q-K7_f9EnZ5VdayRga2PynV0W-W8/edit#slide=id.g10e64a5659_2_93

Image 3: Raaka Wrapper (taken by Sarah Tisdall) 

Image 4: Madacasse Chocolate

Image 5: French Broad Chocolates

Image 6: Dandelion Chocolates

Image 7: United Nations Chocolate

Quotes:

Chocolat Halba – http://chocolatshalba.ch/en/sustainability/sustainability-core-principles.html

Felix Finkbeiner – https://www.plant-for-the-planet.org/en/about-us/who-we-are-2

Madacasse – https://madecasse.com/direct-trade/

Raaka – https://www.raakachocolate.com/pages/transparent-trade

Divine Chocolate: Innovative, Fair, and Delicious

Introduction

A major problem that has existed within the chocolate production industry has been the ethics surrounding the harvesting of cacao. For decades the means of harvesting cacao involved slavery where people were forced to work in harsh conditions, for 18 hours a day without pay (Carla Martin, Lecture 5). After the major cacao producing countries outlawed slavery, the working conditions still didn’t improve and the pay the workers received was not nearly enough to live. In fact, because many of the cacao producing farms were hidden in the jungle, many farm owners still got away with slavery because the lack of visibility meant the farm owners weren’t held accountable for their unethical standards. Even today visibility and pay are still a major problem in the cacao farming industry. In 2015, the average income for a Ghanaian household working in the cacao farming industry was between 50 and 80 cents per day (Carla Martin, Lecture 7).  However, one company that is working to bring ethics and visibility to the cacao farming and chocolate production industries is Divine Chocolate. 

Divine Beginnings

Divine Chocolate is a British bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer that was founded in 1998. Their mission is to create delicious and ethical chocolate from the harvesting of the cacao beans, to the selling of the bars. They also, ensure that all other ingredients that go into their chocolate bars are produced in an ethical manner. Divine Chocolate was created when Twin Trading and Kuapa Kokoo came together with the goal of changing the world cacao market for the better.  Twin Trading is a non-governmental organization that creates farming co-operatives around the world. They focus on improving the working conditions and paying fair wages to farmers. Their main focus is on the ethical farming of coffee, cacao, and nuts (“Who We Are”). One of their farming co-ops is called Kuapa Kokoo, which is a farming co-op in Ghana that grows and trades cacao. Kuapa Kokoo is comprised of 85,000 farmers from 1,257 different villages (“About Us”). That number continues to grow because of the exceptional way they treat and pay their farming members. All of the cacao that goes into the Divine Chocolate bars are grown by farmers in the Kuapa Kokoo farming co-op. 

Scorecard grading the ethical standards of chocolate companies
Image Source

Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative

Kuapa Kokoo was founded in 1993 and it means “good cacao growers”. Their mission is “to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women’s participation in Kuapa’s activities, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa” (“The Divine Story”).  In, 1995, Kuapa Kokoo was the first small farm farmers’ organization in West Africa to receive the Fairtrade certification. They ensure the farmers are working reasonable hours, with sufficient breaks, and proper pay. Kuapa Kokoo does all the administrative work that goes into trading cacao and bypasses all the shady government cacao agents. This is to ensure visibility, fairness and that the farmers are not getting swindled by government agents or other entities with ulterior motives. Specifically, Kuapa Kokoo, “weighs, bags, and transports the cocoa to market [and] ensures that all its activities are transparent, accountable and democratic (“The Divine Story”). Before the Kuapa Kokoo co-op existed, government agencies would use faulty scales that misrepresented the true weight of a farmer’s cacao harvest. This allowed them to steal from unsuspecting farmers which further harmed them. 

Structure of Divine Chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo 

Where Divine Chocolate is especially unique is in their company structure. Today, 44% of Divine Chocolate is owned by the Kuapa Kokoo farming Co-op. In other words, this means that each farmer in the Kuapa Kokoo co-op has a small ownership stake in Divine Chocolate. This unique business structure earned Divine Chocolate the Millennium Product award “for its innovative organizational model” (“Inside Divine”). This is the first company in the world where the cacao farmers have a stake in the chocolate company they are harvesting for. This is significant because Kuapa Kokoo and its farming members now have a say in how Divine manufactures, markets, and sells their products. Because the farmers partially own Divine chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade co-op, the farmers are paid exceedingly better than they were before. Receiving a cut of Divine’s profit, having a say in Divine’s operations, and having an influence in the worldwide marketplace has greatly empowered and motivated the farmers because now their work is properly valued, their ideas are considered, and their well-being is a priority. 

Divine is committed to ensuring that farmers of Kuapa Kokoo have a voice in the company. Currently two out of the five members of Divine’s Board of Directors are from Kuapa Kokoo. Divine also ensures that at least one out of the four yearly board meetings are held in Ghana (“Inside Divine”). This ensures that all the farmers can witness and participate in the company in a meaningful way. 

Video showing the success that Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate’s partnership has generated

Goodness in Ghana

The effect that Divine Chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo has had on the community has been immeasurable. First, because Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade co-op, they receive a Fairtrade premium. The Fairtrade premium is a grant of additional money given to the co-op so the farmers can collectively decide how to improve their community and their workplace. With this premium, the farmers have invested in community development, farm skill development, clean water, improving education, and several other things that improve the lifestyle of those in the community (“The Divine Story”). They similarly receive dividends from Divine Chocolate which allows the farmers to upgrade equipment yearly so as to ensure high levels of production.

Kuapa Kokoo is also deeply concerned with social and environmental issues. They been on the forefront of speaking out against child labor because they understand that this is still a major problem that needs to be address throughout the industry. They also have created several goals that are aimed at improving the environment and increasing productivity while still adapting to environmental changes. 

Worldwide Effect

Divine Chocolate has also had a large effect on the global chocolate market. They have set an extraordinary example of how to ethically run a chocolate company. Since their founding in 1998, the number of Fairtrade chocolate sales in the UK has skyrocketed by more than 8800%. Many of the major chocolate companies have also made a shift to become more Fairtrade. Divine Chocolate’s success inspired Cadbury to convert Cadbury Dairy Milk to Fairtrade. This was a major move because, not only was Cadbury Dairy Milk its leading brand, but Cadbury was also one of the major five chocolate companies in the world so having them convert even one product to Fairtrade had a major effect on a lot of people worldwide (“The Divine Story”). In the years following Cadbury’s move, Nestlé and Mars began buying cocoa from Cote D’Ivoire which was the beginning of their process to partially convert to Fairtrade. By 2013, the shift to Fairtrade chocolate worldwide was in full swing. In the UK specifically, in 2013 eleven percent of the chocolate sold was deemed Fairtrade (“The Divine Story”). Divine Chocolate takes pride in the fact that they were one of the first companies to commit themselves to Fairtrade ethics and they are even prouder that their example has inspired other companies to commit to Fairtrade production. 

Graph showing the large increase in Fairtrade Chocolate Sales in the UK
Image Source

Divine in the US

As I mentioned before, Divine Chocolate was a company that headquartered and sold only in the UK. However, in 2007, with the help of Oikocredit, (a company that provides loans and capital), Divine Chocolate was able to launch its United States branch of the company. In fact, Divine Chocolate launched in the United States on Valentine’s Day 2007 which is the day the most chocolate is bought and consumed in the United States (“The Divine Story”). Their original launch was very small; however, now Divine Chocolate is sold at Whole Foods, Walgreens, Walmart, and through Amazon.com.

In 2015, after the Divine Chocolate USA branch gained solid footing in the American market, Divine Chocolate merged their UK and USA branches to form one unified company. With this new structure, the Kuapa Kokoo co-op still remained 44% owners of the company (“Inside Divine”). The CEO of the newly merged company was Sophi Tranchell. She was a managing director from the UK branch of the company before they made the merge. After the merger she said, “Having launched Divine in the USA nine years after the founding company launched in the UK, it has been very exciting to see it successfully navigate all the challenges in the USA market and mirror the success of Divine in the UK. We have seen a growing appetite around the world for business being done differently” (“Inside Divine”). In this statement Sophi Tranchell alludes to the fact that Americans became more aware of the issues involved with products that weren’t Fairtraded. This heightened people’s willingness to purchase Fairtraded chocolate even though they are typically more expensive. Sophi also mentions how the added American dimension to the company makes their global reach much larger and makes Divine stronger because they can inspire and market to a completely different group of people. Furthermore, the new market allows Divine “to deliver [on their] mission to fairly and sustainably remunerate smallholder cocoa farmers in West Africa” (“Inside Divine”). This larger market means more profit which, in turn, means more money for the farmers who need it the most. 

Uniqueness in the Fairtrade Chocolate Market

One way that Divine Chocolate differentiates itself from a lot of other bean-to-bar Fairtrade chocolate companies is through the products they offer. Many bean-to-bar Fairtrade chocolate companies only offer dark chocolate. This is very problematic because the majority of the global market prefers milk chocolate and, if there are no Fairtrade options, consumers are forced to turn to the big 5 chocolate companies which are generally not Fairtrade. In fact, in a 2013 survey it was found that 51 percent of people prefer milk chocolate, 35 percent prefer dark, and 8 percent prefer white chocolate (Ballard). However, Divine helps fill this gap in the Fairtrade chocolate market because they offer all three types of chocolate in a variety of different flavors which very few companies do. Divine, along with a few other diverse Fairtraded chocolate companies , are helping take power away from the Big 5 Chocolate companies that are not fairly traded. 

Shows the wide variety of chocolates and flavors that Divine offers
Image Source

Outlook

Divines presence in the world market place is growing nicely. I believe Divine Chocolate will continue to grow and thrive in the Fairtrade Chocolate market. Last year group sales increased 6.4%, however the impending Brexit decision has affected their overall profit margins mostly because of the decline in value of the dollar and pound in relation to the Euro (Annual Report 2017-2018). Nevertheless, the number of sales increased nicely from the year before and, once the turmoil surrounding Brexit is resolved, the increase in sales will begin to show in their balance sheet. 

Kuapa Kokoo is also flourishing as they now produce almost 5 percent of Ghanaian cacao, which equates to about 640,000 sacks of cacao a year (“The Divine Story”). While 5 percent may seem small, the most important thing is that it is all produced and sold ethically, while prioritizing the health of its workers and the environment. Divine also has plans within the next year to expand its range of cacao to São Tomé (Annual Report 2017-2018). This will broaden their market appeal and it will allow them to bring their groundbreaking business model to the people of São Tomé. The farmers on São Tomé have historically been treated very poorly over the years and they will greatly benefit from Divine’s co-op business model. 

Conclusion

I think things are looking up on all fronts for Divine Chocolate. Their commitment for over 20 years to empower the farmer has transformed thousands of people’s lives. It is very important that Divine continues with their mission because, while they have made a big impact already, there is still a lot of work to be done in the global market place. All in all, Divine has done a great job addressing the major problems in the chocolate industry that we have discussed in class. They have increased visibility, paid fairly, and empowered the farmer so that participating in the bean-to-bar chocolate making industry is desirable and sustainable for everyone from the top to the bottom. 

Scholarly Sources Cited
Multimedia Sources Cited

TAZA CHOCOLATE: HOW A SMALL COMPANY IS MAKING A BIG DIFFERENCE

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TAZA CHOCOLATE

HOW A SMALL COMPANY
IS MAKING A BIG DIFFERENCE


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In its origins, cacao relied heavily on the slave trade to fuel its ever-increasing demand (Martin, 2018). Despite the abolition of slavery in the mid 19th century, the modern day chocolate industry is still riddled with inherent ethical issues. In response to the persistent pervasiveness of injustices within the industry’s process, bean-to-bar brands have proliferated as a potential solution with a commitment to both the ethicality and culinary aspects of chocolate production; Taza Chocolate in Somerville, Massachusetts typifies one of these companies striving to produce delicious chocolate through ethical practices and a high degree of production transparency. Founded in 2005 by Alex Whitmore and Kathleen Fulton, Taza Chocolate produces “stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all” (Taza, 2017). Taza acts as an all-around ethical, socially-conscious and purpose-driven business.

Taza’s company culture is driven by its founder, who prior to opening his own company “apprenticed with Mexican molineros, learning their ancient chocolate-making secrets” (Taza, 2017). Taza offers an easy application process opening up more opportunities in making an effort to get natives from the countries that it sources its cacao from involved in its business processes.

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Owner Alex Whitmore carving patterns into a stone for grinding chocolate

Taza, meaning “cup” in Spanish, is reminiscent of the way Aztecs ritualistically consumed chocolate in liquid form using specially designed cups or vessels for this purpose (Coe, 1996). A nod to its rich history is also found in its design and packaging displaying a cacao pod and its signature mold in the form of the Mexican millstone, a stone that is traditionally used to grind chocolate.

“Taza founder Alex Whitmore took his first bite of stone ground chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was so inspired by the rustic intensity that he decided to create a chocolate factory back home in Somerville, MA. Alex apprenticed under a molinero in Oaxaca to learn how to hand-carve granite mill stones to make a new kind of American chocolate that is simply crafted, but seriously good. In 2005, he officially launched Taza with his wife, Kathleen Fulton, who is the Taza Brand Manager and designed all of the packaging.

Taza is a pioneer in ethical cacao sourcing. We were the first U.S. chocolate maker to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification program. We maintain direct relationships with our cacao farmers and pay a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao. We partner only with cacao producers who respect the rights of workers and the environment.” (Taza, 2017)


THE CHOCOLATE SUPPLY CHAIN

BUYING AND SELLING CACAO


 

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A traditional metate

Millions of hands spanning multiple continents are responsible for the production of the key ingredient in this beloved treat, but most consumers don’t have a sense of the complex intricacies of the supply chains involved in chocolate and the economic realities of the farmers who grow the crop.

The chocolate supply chain begins with the cultivation of cacao pods. After cacao cultivation, the pods are harvested and the seeds and pulp are separated from the pod. The cacao seeds are fermented and dried before being sorted, bagged, and transported to chocolate manufacturers. The cacao beans undergo roasting, husking, grinding, and pressing before the product undergoes a process called “conching,” in which the final flavors develop (Martin, 2018). Differences in the execution of each step influence the ultimate taste and consistency of the chocolate product.

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Today, approximately two million independent family farms in West Africa produce the vast majority of cacao. Each farm, between five to ten acres in size, collectively produce more than three million metric tons of cacao per year (Martin, 2018). While some of the farms grow crops like oil palm, maize, and plantains, to supplement their income, the average daily income of a typical Ghanaian cacao farmers is well under $2 per day.

The commercial process of purchasing cacao usually involves the farmers selling to intermediaries, who subsequently sell to exporters or additional  intermediaries. With each middle-man adding their own profit layers, the supply chain lengthens as well the opportunity for the corruption and exploitation of the growers and farmers.

In response to the social and economic injustices associated with the cacao supply chain, various organizations have been established with the common mission of improving ethical and corporate responsibility of global cacao practices. Many of these organizations have established criteria for certifications with the goal of enticing companies to comply with specified ethical requirements in exchange for public acknowledgement for doing so.

“Fair Trade,” a designation granted by the nonprofit of the same name, stands out as a recognizable stamp on many shelf-brands. Self-defined as an organization which “enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth,” Fair Trade certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee farmers making Fair Trade certified goods receive fair wages, work in safe environments, and receive benefits to support their communities (“Fair Trade USA,” 2017).

Yet, while in theory Fair Trade seems to address many issues the cacao farmers face, critics of the certification point out there exists a lack of evidence of significant impact, a failure to monitor Fair Trade standards, and an increased allowance of non-Trade ingredients in Fair Trade products (Nolan, Sekulovic, & Rao 2014). So, while in theory certifications like Fair Trade offer the potential to improve the cacao-supply chain by ensuring those companies who subscribe to the certification meet certain criteria, the rigor and regulation of the criteria remains heavily debated.

 


FAIRER THAN FAIR-TRADE

BEAN-TO-BAR AND DIRECT TRADE


 

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In contrast to Fair Trade, an alternative type of product sourcing that is growing in popularity and reputation is that of Direct Trade. Different from the traditional supply chain process, ‘bean-to-bar’ companies offer this as a potential solution for the injustices in the cacao industry. By cutting out the middle-men and working directly with cacao farmers, these small chocolate companies commit themselves to the highest ethical standards and quality (Shute 2013). The goal is that this bean-to-bar “pipeline will make for more ethical, sustainable production in an industry with a long history of exploitation” (Shute, 2013).

While providing some oversight on ethical practices, Fair Trade’s supervisory capacity does little to create a relationship between the farmers and the ultimate producers or to eliminate extraneous intermediaries diluting profit from both parties. Additionally, achieving a Fair Trade certification costs between $8,000 and $10,000, whereas Direct Trade costs the chocolate bar producer nothing.

This direct connection, allows the buyer and farmer to communicate fair prices, ensuring that the cacao farmers receive fair wages, working conditions, and support (Zusman, 2016). Furthermore, the transparency associated with the bean-to-bar process motivates the companies to keep up to date on ethical practices, and encourages the cacao farmers to take extra care the cultivation of their beans.

Taza sources its cacao from its “Grower Partners” in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Haiti. Taza provides a detailed profile for each of its cacao producers which features information including the country region, number of farmers, duration of partnership, tasting notes which contribute to the terroir of their chocolate, history of the region, and pictures of the farmers with Taza employees. The thorough information Taza provides truly puts faces to the names of the farmers and displays Taza’s direct and personal engagement with their cacao producers.

 


THE TAZA DIFFERENCE

TRANSPARENCY AND DIRECT-TRADE SOURCING


 

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Alex Whitmore, an innovator of the bean-to-bar movement founded Taza with a commitment to “simply crafted, but seriously good chocolate,” and as “a pioneer in ethical cacao sourcing” (Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor, 2017).

The mission of Taza Chocolate is “To make and share stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all” (Taza, 2017). In the dual parts of their mission: “seriously good” and “fair for all”, Taza has become a leader in using the quality and ethicality of their products to empower and respect those often overlooked workers at the very front of the supply chain. Looking first at quality, Taza has seen success as a maker of “seriously good” chocolate (Taza, 2017). Their products are now available all over the country and internationally, in specialty, natural and gift stores. Fine restaurants have used Taza Chocolate in their kitchens and numerous major food publications have featured the company. But these are just outward indicators of what goes on behind the scenes. For one thing, their “seriously good” chocolate seeks to remain true to its cacao origins and acknowledge where it comes from through proper and authentic taste. While other chocolate makers may do as they please to conform to the tastes of the consumer masses, Taza Chocolate caters to the genuine recipes and processes of the geography and culture within which it was conceived.

In addition to publishing their Direct Trade Program Commitments, Taza provides access to their transparency report, cacao sourcing videos, and their sustainable organic sugar.  Seemingly, Taza exemplifies the archetype bean-to-bar company.

Taza chocolate products carry five certifications to ensure safe labor practices as well as organic ingredients, whose integrity is guaranteed by having their “five Direct Trade claims independently verified each year by Quality Certification Services, a USDA-accredited organic certifier based in Gainesville, Florida” (Taza, 2017).

“Taza is big on ethical cacao sourcing, and is the first U.S. chocolate maker to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification program, meaning, you maintain direct relationships with your cacao farmers and pay a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao.” (Taza, 2017)

In its Transparency Report displayed below, Taza even discloses what it pays for its cacao beans. 

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

Taza Chocolate is undoubtedly making large efforts to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. Rather than allowing consumers to blindly focus on the end product of the chocolate itself, Taza encourages consumers to acknowledge the environment and culture from which the chocolate originates. Often forgotten farmers and food artisans are brought to the forefront instead of being relegated to the archives of unseen histories. Indeed, Taza gives growers “an alternative to producing low quality cacao for unsustainable wages” (Taza, 2017). Taza’s operations may still be in its nascent stages, but it is exciting to see even a small company lead the entire chocolate industry towards a more ethical and sustainable future.

 


References


 

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

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

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

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

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

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

“Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold Flavor.” Taza Chocolate. N.p., 2015. Web. 08 May. 2018. <https://www.tazachocolate.com/&gt;.

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

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

 

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


Media


Taza Chocolate. (2018) Header Image

Taza, Chocolate. (2018). “Stone Ground Chocolate”

Chocolatenoise.com (2018).  “Alex Whitmore”

Chocolatenoise.com (2018).  “A traditional metate”

Chocolatenoise.com (2018).  “Taza chocolate making process”

Chocolatenoise.com (2018).  “Whitmore with farmers”

Youtube. (2012).  Taza on fair trade

Chocolatenoise.com (2018).  “Rotary stone”

Taza, Chocolate. (2018). “Direct trade”

Vimeo.com. (2006). Taza Chocolate “Bean to Bar”

The World’s Most Expensive Chocolate Might Just Be Worth It

It should come as no surprise that chocolate is a main or complementary ingredient in all of the most popular, mass produced candy bars in America. Having come a very long way since its adaptation into daily life by the Mayan people, cacao is available in a seemingly unending number of varieties today. From those popular candy bars with relatively little chocolate in them to more (un)refined bean-to-bar products, there really is something for everyone in the realm of chocolate. In recent years, there has been an increase in the availability of small-batch, luxury and artisanal chocolates making it, for some, more confusing than ever to choose a chocolate bar.

Beyond the obvious question of milk or dark—or in the case of some bean-to-bar chocolates I have found a hybrid of the two—it seems as though choosing a bar of chocolate could now be compared with choosing a bottle of wine; for those unaware or lacking a specific tried and true preference or knowledge base, there may exist a great deal of uncertainty surrounding what company to choose and why. On the other hand, however, this increase in availability and attention to detail in the realm of luxury, high-end chocolate has cultivated a new attention to detail; to flavor and quality and the overall terroir of chocolate which is made evident by the popularity and prized nature of single origin chocolate bars.

Similar to the wide price range we can see with wine, the price of a chocolate bar can run the consumer anywhere between $0.50 and $500 in cost. This is an expansive range and many may wonder if those higher end chocolates are truly worth shelling out the money for only a bite or two. While not necessarily consumable by the greater public on a regular basis, as a true lover of chocolate and the finer things in life myself, I am sure some of the most expensive chocolates in the world have tastes to match the price tag while others may seem drastically outrageous. Read on for an in-depth look at two of the world’s most expensive chocolate companies and the unique but important differences between them.

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TO’AK Chocolate is regarded as one of the most expensive chocolates in the world with a price tag of $385 for 50 grams of chocolate. The story of this Ecuadorian company is somewhat of a rags-to-riches tale, its start originating in a cabin in the rainforest with no electricity. To’ak was co-founded by two Ecuadorian transplants, Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer. It is evident early on that they approach their chocolate making with the utmost care and attention for the sacred cacao tree and with ecological appreciation for their placed-based production right down to the very name of the company; “Derived from a fusion of ancient dialects in Ecuador, the name To’ak (pronounced Toe-Ahk) means “earth” and “tree,” which together represent the true source of all chocolate. We liken this name to the French term terroir, which describes how the taste of an artisanal product (wine, cheese, chocolate) expresses the specific soil and climate conditions of the land on which it was grown” (To’ak Chocolate).

To’ak Chocolate Video

Located in the province of Manabí, To’ak began with Toth’s conservation work and his desire to cultivate an organic orchard featuring fifty different kinds of fruit trees in addition to cacao trees. While working on this endeavor, Toth and his team found several old cacao groves along the banks of a river. This heirloom cacao was harvested and they began making chocolate as it was taught to them by their neighbors. Because of the lack of electricity, in the beginning everything was done by way of the old world; beans were roasted over an open fire, de-husked and ground by hand. After doing this for a while and coming to understand the value and quality of the cacao he was working with, Toth brought in Schweizer as well as fourth-generation cacao grower Servio Pachard to further his mission to bring the fine, dark Ecuadorian chocolate to the world.

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Not only does To’ak demonstrate an appreciation and respect for their product, but also for the environment around them; it is clear that they understand the importance of giving back and replenishing the resources they use in order for them to be successful in the preservation of cacao into the future. “To’ak is working with a coalition of local cacao growers, conservationists, and international universities to save Ecuador’s historic Ancient Nacional cacao from the brink of extinction. Cuttings from DNA-verified 100% pure Nacional trees have been grafted onto seedlings and planted in a protected plot of land in the nearby Jama-Coaque Ecological Reserve, managed by the rainforest conservation foundation Third Millennium Alliance. Within three years, each of these young trees will be able to provide enough cuttings to reproduce dozens of additional pure Nacional seedlings each year, which will then be distributed to any local cacao grower who wants to help save this historic variety from extinction. We call it the Noah’s Ark of Ancient Nacional cacao” (To’ak Chocolate). To’ak also pays their growers the highest price per pound in Ecuador, a direct indication that they have responsible business practices not only in regard to the environment but also in regard those that they employ. It should be noted that To’ak chocolate is based entirely out of Ecuador, from harvesting to packaging, it is providing a wealth of opportunity and safe jobs.

To’ak currently offers 5 different chocolates for sale on their website, all of them available in a 50-gram portion. When you purchase from To’ak however you are not just getting a bar of chocolate. “Each of our editions contains a 50-gram bar of dark chocolate with a single roasted cacao bean in the center. The chocolate bar is accompanied by a bamboo tasting utensil and a 116-page booklet, all of which are housed in a handcrafted Spanish Elm wood box with the individual bar number engraved on the bottom. The design of each of these items is inspired by ancient Ecuadorian artwork, dating back thousands of years, which we proudly introduce to the contemporary world” (To’ak Chocolate)It is these touches that make the chocolate that much more of a luxury experience. Divided into two collections, Vintage and Harvest, the former aged anywhere from 2 to 4 years and the latter from the 2016 harvest. For each chocolate, they list specific tasting notes and qualities one might pick up on as well as flavor wheels.

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There are several indications on the To’ak website that they are aiming to make their chocolate an experience on par with that of tasting fine wine or whiskey, with heavy nods towards understanding and appreciation of their product’s terroir and value as it related to Ecuador and the rich history and appreciation for cacao. Despite the very steep price tag, for those who are looking to have a fine chocolate experience and are willing to pay for it, in the case of To’ak, you are getting what you pay for.

Heading in a different direction and more than a bit closer to home, we come to Knipschildt Chocolatier based out of Norwalk, Connecticut. Started by Fritz Knipschildt, Knipschildt Chocolatier has been around since 1999 where it got its start in his small apartment kitchen. Knipschildt is a chef by trade as well as an immigrant from Denmark, giving him a unique perspective on chocolate. “Pursuing the American dream founded on traditional European chocolate craftsmanship, the philosophy behind House of Knipschildt rests on this desire to constantly improve the confectionary experience to provide customers with the highest value imaginable” (Chocopologie). Since its creation, Knipschildt has branched out to include two additional brands apart from Knipschildt Chocolatier, House of Knipschildt and Chocopologie. All three brands aim to produce quality products which respect individual ingredients, process, and the people behind each step.

Unlike To’ak, the Knipschildt brand, while there are indications they use single origin cacao from places such as Ecuador, the overall brand is much less process focused and much more end result. Not only do they not show pictures of any kind of their cacao source, but there is no specific mention or indications towards the rich historical traditions of cacao. It is safe to say that this company is much more of a European chocolatier in that their attention seems to be more on highly decorated refined chocolate truffles than on bean-to-bar efforts.

Their most prized chocolate is the La Madeline au Truffle with a price tag of $250.00 for a single truffle. This truffle starts with 70% Valrhona dark chocolate, heavy cream, sugar, truffle pol and vanilla as the base for a ganache. Then, a French Perigord truffle which is a very rare mushroom is surrounded by the chocolate ganache. This is then dipped into more dark chocolate and rolled in fine cocoa powder. The end product “Is pure extravagance! Lying on a bed of sugar peals in a gold box tied with ribbon” (Chocopologie) The company also offers other truffles at much lower price points however these come with no indication of where the chocolate is coming from.

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While I am sure this truffle has a unique and incomparable taste, I find it much harder to justify spending hundreds of dollars on something that shows little to no indication of where its coming from or who its really made by. Not to mention, there is no sign that they are sourcing their cacao from places that are free of child-labor or unfair and unsafe work conditions. I think this is a huge determining factor in understanding and appreciating today. While they do indicate that they use Valrhona chocolate, a visit to the Valrhona website does not provide much additional information

Comparing these companies might seem like comparing apples to oranges, in light of all we learned in chocolate class this year my opinions and preferences are changing. When one has a true knowledge base on the subject of cacao and the intricate web that has been woven around it throughout history, it changes how they view chocolate. And while I still love and appreciate the milky European varieties, I know understand what true chocolate is. True chocolate pays homage to those who came before with a heightened level of sacred respect for cacao as an ingredient passed down from the gods. It is difficult to maneuver the protection of old-world techniques and practices in the modern world but it can certainly be done as made evident by To’ak. Of course, business is business and both of these companies examined aim to make a profit however it is their differences that set them apart. The people behind To’ak have demonstrated a heightened connection to the cacao industry and from close examination of their website, one might leave thinking they are more in the business of preservation than candy sales and I think this is very true; by selling the chocolate for a high price, they generate money to protect and preserve the cacao species so it will thrive well into the future as well as provide for local indigenous people in the moment. Buying one of their chocolate bars is almost ceremonial in the same way that sharing chocolatewas seen as sacred and to be saved for special occasions such as new life, marriage, or death in the Mesoamerican culture (Coe & Coe 2013). As Maricel Presilla said in her book, “The true appreciation of chocolate quality begins with a link between the different spheres of effort. To know chocolate, you must know that the candy in the box or the chef’s creation on the plate begins with the bean, with the complex genetic profile of different cacao strains. Think how impossible it would be to make fine coffee with the coarse acrid beans of Coffea robusta. You must know also that the flavor of the finished product further depends on people carrying out careful, rigorous harvesting and fermentation practices” (Presilla 2009 pg. 4). It is with this in mind that we can find appreciation and understanding for certain higher end chocolates like To’ak.

 

 

Works Cited

“About.” Valrhona, http://www.valrhona-chocolate.com/about.

Coe, Michael D., and Sophie Coe. True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2013.

“Knipschildt Chocolatier.” Chocopologie, chocopologie.com/.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: a Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009.

“The World’s Most Luxurious Dark Chocolate Made by To’ak in Ecuador.” To’ak Chocolate, toakchocolate.com/.

 

There is No Pleasure in Guilty Chocolate!

Why do you love chocolate? Because it is good! It tastes good and makes you happy. It is all that is good in the world wrapped in a beautiful candy bar. What if you learned that your delicious candy bar is a by-product of something bad, the output of someone else’s suffering?  A child’s suffering? Would you enjoy it just the same? Eating is not just a means to satisfy hunger; it is also an emotional and psychological experience.  We like to eat, and we like to eat good food without any negative connotations. Chocolate does not taste as good when it is served with a side of guilt. Chocolate tastes better when you wholeheartedly know that it came from a good place and produced in an ethical and social responsible manner.

Did you know that the global chocolate industry is nearly $100 billion dollars a year? The United States alone spends a little over 18 billion dollars in chocolate (2015), and that the average American consumes approximately 4.3 kilograms / 9.5 pounds of chocolate a year (2015). In comparison, beating the Americans at chocolate consumption are the Swiss who consume approximately a little over 9 kilograms / 20 pounds per person, then tied for second place are the Germans and the Austrians who approximately consume 3.6 kilograms / 7.4 pounds per person (Satioquia-Tan). Chocolate can be found anywhere around the world and is affordable to the masses especially to those who live in the developed world. Chocolate can be found in candy bars, truffles, fudge, cakes, muffins, biscuits, breakfast cereals, pancakes, health bars, sauces, drinks, in your café mocha, and anywhere you can sprinkle chocolate syrup. You can buy it in a specialty shop, supermarket, mini-market, drugstore, or any corner street gas station.

The majority of chocolate eaters are rather naïve in knowing the history and the current nature of the chocolate-making business. They simply eat it because they love chocolate without really knowing what it is, where it comes from, who makes and how; or any related social issues. For those consumers who are more aware of the social and economic impacts of the chocolate industry are a little more selective in choosing and enjoying their chocolate. To fully appreciate food is to experience it through all the possible senses, the physiological and psychological (Stuckey 13). Only twenty percent of what we physiologically taste happens in our mouths, the rest of the tasting experience happens through our remaining senses of sight, smell, touch, and sound. We, also, want to psychologically feel good about what we are eating. We want to know about the origins, the farming practices, and the ethics of what we are tasting (Stuckey 14). We want to know the context, the beautiful story, of what we are eating so we can enjoy it fully. The other option is to choose to remain a little ignorant of the subject as not to sour our chocolate taste, however this pleasure would be more superficial and would not represent the fullest appreciation of what we are eating. To fully appreciate today’s chocolate, we will have to fully experience it with the body and mind in full awareness of its origins, present journey and social impacts.

  1. What is Chocolate?

Cocoa is the main ingredient for all chocolate recipes.  Cocoa derives from cacao seeds, or more commonly referred to as cacao beans, which grow on the Theobroma Cacao tree.  Cacao trees are finicky trees that can only bear fruit in hot and humid tropical climates,twenty degrees from the equator at a specific altitude. These trees are highly dependent on midges, an insect, for its flowers to pollinate and bear fruit (Coe and Coe 19-21, 27). Cacao beans grow inside a fruity, pulp filled pod, approximately 30-40 beans grow inside one pod. Unlike most trees, where fruit grow dangling down from branches, cacao pods sprout directly from the tree trunk. In raw form, cacao beans constitute half its size in fat, cocoa butter. When cocoa butter is extracted from the cacao bean, what remains is the cocoa (or cocoa powder), the main ingredient of all chocolate (Coe and Coe 27). Before cacao beans turn into chocolate, cacao fruit is first farmed.  Upon harvest, fruit pods are removed from trees and cracked open to extract its beans with machetes. Cacao beans are then fermented, dried, sorted, roasted, transported, winnowed (deshelled), ground to a liquor, pressed (to remove the cacao butter), conched, and then what remains is added to chocolate-making recipes. Chocolate is the result of a labor intensive and highly processed food.

  1. Where Does Cacao Come From?

Cacao is native to the New World, the South American’s amazon basin region (Coe and Coe 25), and the Mesoamerican native cultures of the Mayans and Aztecs and predecessors were the first peoples to ever make chocolate dating back as far as 1500 BCE (Coe and Coe 33). Cacao was precious and a sacred food reserved for the elite, special occasions, and sacred rituals. Mayan and Aztecs Gods often appear alongside or in the form of cacao trees in their native hieroglyphs and surviving art (Coe and Coe 42). So precious, cacao beans were even used as a means of monetary currency. In 1545, documented is the commodity price of a tamale: one tamale equals one cacao bean (Coe and Coe 98-99). Upon colonizing Mesoamerica, the Spanish conquistadors were the first Europeans to discover and spread the taste of chocolate to Europe starting in the 1500’s (Coe and Coe 108). At the beginning of the chocolate history in Europe, chocolate was rare, expensive, and for the upper class.  Then as time passed and soon after the industrial revolution, chocolate became relatively common and affordable to the masses.

Amazon Basin
Amazon basin (based on Wikipedia, Amazon basin article, by Kmusser, using Digital Chart of the Word and GTOPO data)

After the end of the American colonial period, in the late 1800’s, the Spanish and the Portuguese introduced cacao to West Africa. Due to favorable climate conditions, cacao flourished in West Africa.  Today, approximately seventy percent of the world’s cacao comes from West Africa (Wessel and Quist-Wessel 1). The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two major countries that supply cacao.  There are 2 million, small (3 hectares acres in size), independent farms (Ryan 52) in West Africa that supply three million metric tons of cacao per year (World Cocoa Foundation).

2000px-Ghana_Côte_d'Ivoire_Locator.svg
West Africa, Ivory Coast depicted in orange and Ghana  depicted in green (based on Wikipedia, Ghana-Ivory Coast Relations article)

  1. What Are the Social Issues Involving the Chocolate Industry?

Since the first Europeans, the Spanish conquistadors, landed in the New World, the cacao industry has been tainted with slavery and forced labor since 1650’s (Berlan 1092). Upon colonizing Mesoamerica, the Spanish forced the natives to pay tribute in labor and cacao to their new Spanish Crown.  After millions of natives died of diseases, the Spanish, like other colonists in the Americas, resorted to using chattel slavery from Africa to extract New World resources (Presilla 24, 33). Chattel slavery officially ended in 1884, however it continued in disguise in Portuguese West Africa well into the 1900’s in the cacao industry and some reports state that it persisted until 1962 (Berlan 1092).

Today, cacao farmer incomes are very volatile for it depends on operating profits, and since cacao is a commodity, the market price.  Farmers need to sell their cacao at a high enough price in order to pay off their operation expenses which includes labor, a major expense, just like most businesses. Unexpected operating expenses and / or a fall in market price can be devastating on farmer revenues/incomes. Cacao farmers, per capita, constantly live without the security of a reliable living wage. In 2015, cacao farmers earned 50 to 84 cents on the American dollar a day (Cocoabarometer). As it is, cacao farmers barely break even, and there is little economic incentive for them to stay in the cacao farming business.  Due to local poverty and lack of other options, farmers continue to grow cacao under pressure to lower operating costs and often resort to desperate means to make a profit, break even, or just enough to pay for rice and cooking oil (Off 5).

In more recent history in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, a wave of newspaper stories and documentary films exposed the existence of child labor, trafficking, and slaves in West African cacao farms which caused much consumer outrage. The media graphically showed the world the extreme poverty and hard lives of cacao farmers in West Africa and the desperate measures farmers take to lower operating costs by using child slave labor (Berlan 1089).

The documentary, Slavery: A Global Investigation (2000), especially shocked viewers by showing how easy it was to find child slaves working on cacao farms and how the local people seem to accept the practice as a way of life. On camera, journalists were able, with relative ease, to overtly interview real child slaves and get first-hand testimony about their hardships, a farm owner who openly admitted to having slaves and in how to get them, and a local official who confirmed as matter of fact that at least 90% of the Ivory Coast farms use child slave labor.  Ninety percent implies the existence of hundreds of thousands of slaves (Ryan 118). A 2000 US State Department report estimated that 15,000 Malian children worked on Ivory Coast cacao farms and that many of were under 12 years old and sold into indentured service (Off 133). Two of the local documentary crew even demonstrated how easy it was to buy slaves, posing as buyers, they went to the marketplace and were able to purchase two boys for the total of forty British pounds (approximately $40) within thirty minutes. Economics, low cacao market price, was credited as being the main reason why these farmers resorted to using slavery.  With such low cacao market prices, farmers cannot afford to pay employee wages and still make a profit, and they have no other income options. In contrast, in a free and mature economy, if a business is not profitable it goes out of business, and one can start a new business or find a new job, this is not the case for the West African cacao farmers.

Since the West African child labor scandals, there has an increased awareness and legislation attempts to eradicate forced and most hazardous child labor. Child labor in general is so embedded into the West African culture, not all children who work on farms are slaves or working with hazards. Most children work as part of the family on their family farms. It was deemed impossible and impractical to create a law that would abolish all form of child labor, however a voluntary agreement, The Harking-Engel Protocol, was signed among the Ivory Coast and the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry in accordance with the International Labor Organization to end the worst forms of child labor in 2001 (Ryan 44, 47). Because of extreme poverty and lack of options, there are children who are better off working for they will at least have access to some food. Today, consumers are more aware, corporations have put efforts in demonstrating social responsibility in self-certifications, and nonprofit/advocacy organizations, have emerged and increased advocacy. There is still much poverty among cacao farmers, and many children  are still working on farms and some are still suspected of being forced to work against their will.  The child labor problems still exist today.  We, the world, hoped for that the state of child labor in West Africa would be better, however it could be worse.

It is natural that corporations would seek to do business with a poorer and less mature economies so to benefit from cheaper labor costs, but there should be limits when business practices violate human rights and the ability for workers to make a livable wage. It is evident that cacao farmers need more money so can they afford to hire farm workers to help cultivate their labor intensive cacao farms. In the least, the cacao market price needs to go up. It may mean that consumers would have to pay a little more for their chocolate treats. Would you be willing to pay a little more for your candy bar if it would end child and forced labor?

I realize that blindly throwing more money at the problem will not necessarily fix it if local corrupt governments and other stakeholders are still there to scheme away the extra money intended for the cacao farmers. This is a complex issue which requires multi-approach solution. We, the consumers, the governments, NGOs, the corporations, the media (or lack of media), the farmers, are all part of the problem, and we could also all be part of the solution. West African farmers and their children need special consideration for they are the most powerless demographic group in the chocolate food chain. The ones with the most power in the chocolate food chain by default have the most ability, and therefore the greater responsibility, to effect change. Wealthy companies and consumers are in the best position to invest and apply influence in the solution. We, the consumers, should expect that our chocolate companies to conduct business in an ethical and social responsible manner or make better consumer choices if they do not.

Here, in the first world, we would not accept the practice of child labor or slavery in our backyard, and we should not accept it elsewhere and in the products that we use and the foods we eat.  The West African modern-day slave issue is especially heartbreaking for it involves children in producing sweets that we all so enjoy so much. If we all knew that children were being kidnapped and forced to cultivate cacao, we would all enjoy the taste of our chocolate a little less. As consumers, we need to be more conscious about what we eat and learn as much as possible so we can make better consumer choices, maybe write a customer complaint to your chocolate provider or your congressman to influence change in law.  There is no better tasting chocolate than the one that is free from social guilt. In the end, we should all have the right to enjoy good and good-tasting chocolate.

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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2013.78004.

Cocoa Barometer 2015 report, USA Ed. Cocoabarometer.org. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/International_files/Cocoa%20Barometer%202015%20USA.pdf

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames & Hudson, 2013.

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

Presilla, Maricel. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009.

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

Satioquia-Tan, Janine. Americans East How Much Chocolate? CNBC.com, 23 Jul. 2015, 7:41 PM ET.  http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/23/americans-eat-how-much-chocolate.html

Stuckey, Barb. Taste What You Are Missing: The  Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good. Free Press, 2012.

Slavery: A Global Investigation. Produced and directed by Brian Woods and Kate Blanchet.  A True Vision Production in Association with HBO, 2000. TopDocumentaryFilms, topdocumentaryfilms.com/slavery-a-global-investigation.

Wessel, Marius, and Foluke Quist-Wessel. Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments. NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences., vol. 74-74, pp. 1-7, 12-2015. doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.

World Cocoa Foundation, http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/category/program-region/africa.

A comparison of Taza and Alter Eco: two companies seeking to create good chocolate in an ethical way

Ethical chocolate can come in different shapes and sizes. What ethical means to various chocolate companies can be very different, from fair work conditions, to organic ingredients, to environmental sustainability. Taza Chocolate is a company that boasts chocolate that is “seriously good and fair for all,” given their bold flavor and direct trade practices (“About Taza,” 2017). Alter Eco is a company that creates chocolate and other foods and aims to nourish “foodie, farmer, and field” with their sustainable food (“Our Story,” 2017). This post will explore the similarities and differences between Taza Chocolate and Alter Eco, two ethically minded chocolate producers, and how they portray themselves in order to appeal to consumers. Exploring their trade relationships, environmental impact, and community impact, it becomes apparent that Taza Chocolate has a main focus on fair and ethical trade as a means for driving improved conditions for farmers, whereas Alter Eco has a greater emphasis on sustainability and positive environmental impacts.

About the Companies

Taza

Taza Chocolate is a company founded in 2005 and based in Somerville, MA that creates stone ground chocolate. The stone ground beans create a unique coarse texture unlike most mass-produced chocolate on the market today. Besides the flavor, Taza Chocolate prides itself on its role as a “pioneer” in ethically sourced cacao. They are Direct Trade certified, holding them to standards of fair pay and partnerships with cacao farmers who respect workers’ rights and the environment (“About Taza,” 2017).

Alter Eco

Alter Eco is a food company in the business of chocolate and truffles as well as quinoa and rice with a focus on sustainability and fair practices. Their mission is to create a global transformation through ethical relationships with farmers and a focus on sustainability in their supply chain (“Our Story,” 2017). The company puts an emphasis on the benefits and social and environment changes that can be made through their practices.

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Trade Relationships

Taza stands apart from other chocolate companies because of its Direct Trade. Direct Trade is a third-party certification program that Taza has established that ensures cacao quality, fair labor, and transparency. Direct trade means what it sounds like – direct trade and relationships between cacao farmers and the company. Taza establishes relationships with cacao farmers in countries like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Belize, having yearly visits to the farms and staying knowledgeable and transparent about where their beans are coming from (“Transparency Report,” 2015).

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Maya Mountain Cacao Farmers in Belize, a partner with Taza Chocolate

Direct trade is based on five key commitments (“Our Direct Trade Program Commitments,” 2017). The first is to develop direct relationships with cacao farmers, which they do by visiting their partners at least once per year. The second commitment is to pay a premium price for cacao of at least $500 above market price per metric ton of cacao beans, with a price floor of $2800. Their third and fourth commitments are to sourcing the highest quality beans, with an 85% or more fermentation rate and 7% or less moisture, and USDA certified organic beans. The fifth and final commitment is to publish an annual transparency report, which displays details of the visits to partner farms in various countries, as well as prices paid and amounts of cacao beans purchased. The key aspects of the Direct Trade certification that set it apart from others are the high premium paid for chocolate, which exceeds that set for Fair Trade certification, as well as the transparency report.

Direct Trade beings benefits to farmers in the form of a monetary premium paid for their beans, and it brings benefits to consumers with the transparency report that keeps consumers informed about the chocolate’s origins. However, Direct Trade can in some ways still fall short of being a wide-reaching solution to problems in the cacao-growing world. Direct Trade relationships can be fragile, and if Taza Chocolate were to go under, the partners would lose a key purchaser of their beans. Despite this, Direct Trade has economic benefits for the producers that cannot be discounted.

Alter Eco is Fairtrade certified. Fairtrade is a much more widespread certification, with 1226 Fairtrade certified producer organizations worldwide (“Facts and Figures about Fairtrade,” 2017). Fairtrade sets a price floor as a Fair Trade Premium that companies must pay for the products, so for organic cacao beans currently have a price minimum of $2300 per metric ton, and companies pay an additional premium of $200. This Fair Trade Premium is for investment in social, environmental, and economic projects, such as education or technology, which the producers decide upon. Alter Eco attributes their social impact to the effects of their Fair Trade contributions.

Comparing Direct Trade and Fair Trade, we can see that Direct Trade demands a higher price for cacao than Fair Trade, though both require premiums above the market price. Fairtrade sets aside premiums into a fund for investment into the community, whereas Direct Trade has buyers pay more for the beans, resulting in profits that could be used to invest in the community.

Environmental Impact

Sustainable farming practices have been on the rise over time, as international buyers have become more demanding about production practices. These practices can require a lot more hard work and labor, and require farmers to learn new processes, but they can be essential in order to survive long term as demand grows (Healy, 2002). A commitment to environmental sustainability is important to restoring or preserving nature’s biodiversity and preventing damage from industrial farming practices.

Taza Chocolate is committed to making an environmental impact through their use of USDA certified organic beans. Organic farming involves using practices that maintain or improve soil quality, conserve wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife, and do not use synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering (“About the National Organic Program,” 2017). By only purchasing USDA certified organic beans, Taza is supporting farms that comply to these standards set to protect and preserve the environment.

Alter Eco, on the other hand, takes sustainability and environmental impact to the next level. Not only do they purchase organic cacao, but also they have a focus on their carbon footprint in the supply chain and take active steps to minimize it. Working with the PUR Project and the ACOPAGRO cacao producers, Alter Eco supports an effort to reforest the San Martin region in Peru, which had suffered from severe deforestation in the 1980s. From 2008 to 2015, they planted 28,639 trees through this initiative, improving biodiversity, restoring soils, protecting wildlife, and providing necessary shade for cacao (“Impact Report,” 2015). In addition, they are a partner of 1% for the Planet, with which they commit to giving at least 1% of their sales to nonprofits aimed at protecting the environment.

Pur-Projet-farmers-carrying-trees
PUR Project farmers carrying saplings

Furthermore, Alter Eco seeks to be a carbon negative business, net reducing more than they emit, though this goal is still far-reaching. They post a yearly carbon report that breaks down consumptions of water, waste, and energy in chocolate production and approximates greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, chocolate production directly or indirectly resulted in a little over 2,400 tons of CO2. Alter Eco uses its tree planting initiative as its efforts to offset CO2 emissions, and between 2008 and 2014 they had offset 7,690 tons of CO2 (“Yearly Carbon Report,” 2014). All in all, the transparency that Alter Eco provides about their environmental impact and their efforts to reduce it are satisfyingly informative. Though it can feel like their claims about sustainability are mainly a marketing ploy or way to make consumers feel good about their purchase, it is reassuring to have the information that allows consumers to be informed and hold Alter Eco accountable if they really wish to do so.

Community Impact

Taza and Alter Eco both make an impact on the communities of producers that they work with. Both companies have direct relationships with the farming cooperatives that they purchase cacao from, involving in-person visits to the partners. They build deep, trusting relationships with their partners that bring an extra level of support to the community. However, while Taza’s relationships appear to be mostly business, Alter Eco shows a commitment to community development. Alter Eco also boasts 48 development programs that they are involved in (“Socially Just,” 2017). They are also a certified B Corp, recognizing their social and environmental performance and transparency. Alter Eco uses Fairtrade premiums as their main way of supporting community development. It is important to note that this method of supporting developing is not a solution to large problems in poor regions, but it can have an impact in small ways by better stabilizing income (Sylla, 2014). Analysis of the impact that Fairtrade has on producers has pointed to a slight impact that is “all but exceptional” and is something that can better protect farmers from extreme poverty rather than lift them out of poverty (Sylla, 2014).

It is important to note that though Alter Eco does a good deal more marketing their positive impact on community development through their development programs and Fairtrade premiums, Taza still pays more per metric ton for their cacao. The difference between the two is that Alter Eco prioritizes their funds supporting community and environmental development projects, whereas Taza pays the money to farmers which is then theirs to use.

Conclusion

Both companies make a commitment to transparency in their chocolate. Taza produces a transparency report each year detailing the company’s purchases, prices paid, and visits to various cacao farms. Alter Eco lists details of each chocolate bar’s cacao origin, cocoa content, organic ingredient content, and fair trade certified ingredient content on their website. These added details, way beyond which the average consumer would demand of a Hershey bar, give these Taza and Alter Eco bars a story for the consumers to follow and a justification of the ethical nature of the purchase. Small scale chocolate companies often find success in the education of their consumers of things like single origin cacao and fine cacao flavors, as it gives them an edge on industrial chocolate which dominates with marketing and low prices (Williams and Eber, 2012). By emphasizing transparency and providing detailed information about cacao sources and flavor notes, Taza and Alter Eco are leveraging this.

Furthermore, Taza and Alter Eco market their products in a way to make the consumers feel like they are making an impact. Advertisements need to show images that make the viewer feel good, or at least good enough to buy chocolate, a luxury item (Liessle, 2012). By emphasizing the ethical nature and the social benefits of their products, these companies play up the consumer’s feelings of being altruistic by purchasing the chocolate bars. These companies may be flaunting their ethical practices as a marketing strategy, but if they are making a real, positive impact for the cacao-producing community or for the environment, then it is a win-win situation for the companies and the farmers.

Taza Chocolate and Alter Eco are both chocolate-producing companies that are ethically minded, where Taza has a large focus on direct trade partnerships with cooperatives, and Alter Eco has some focus on fair trade but a greater emphasis on environmental sustainability. These companies demonstrate how ethical practices in the chocolate industry can have different implications, whether they be for farmer compensation, farmer community development, greenhouse gas emissions, reforestation and biodiversity, amongst many others. What is important to take away is that some companies may focus on some impacts more than others, and it is important as consumers to be educated and to know what impact you believe is the most important to make.

References

“About the National Organic Program.” (2016, November). Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/publications/content/about-national-organic-program

“About Taza.” (2017). Retrieved from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza

“Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report.” (2015, September). Retrieved from https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Transparency_Report_2015.pdf?10448975028103371905

“Facts and Figures about Fairtrade.” (2017). Retrieved from http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/what-is-fairtrade/facts-and-figures

Healy, K. (2001). Llamas, Weaving, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. 123-154

“Impact Report.” (2015). Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/AE-ImpactReport-RF4-Digital.pdf

Leissle, K. (2012). “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cocoa Studies 24(2): 121-139

“Our Direct Trade Program Commitments.” (2017). Retrieved from https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_DT_Commitments_Aug2015.pdf?2533070453853065353

“Our Story.” (2017). Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/our-story/

“Socially Just.” (2017). Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/sustainability/socially-just/

Sylla, N. (2014). The Fair Trade Scandal.

Williams, P. and Eber, J. (2012). Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. 141-209.

“Yearly Carbon Report.” (2014). Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AlterEco-Carbon-Report-2014_v2.pdf

Multimedia Sources

Dark Super Blackout Bar. [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com

Maya Mountain Cacao. [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/maya-mountain-cacao

Taza Chocolate From Bean to Bar. [Video] Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/33380451

Tree Saplings. [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/environmentally-responsible/

A Pretense of Ethics: Slavery in Cocoa and Sugar Production

While slavery has technically been abolished in much of the world since the end of the 19th century, that does not prevent it from still occurring. Specifically, the chocolate and sugar production industries are notorious for slavery and poor labor conditions in the production of their products. Tactics were used by various chocolate and sugar producers to distance themselves from slavery while still supporting the system. The companies and its leadership would appear to be anti-slavery and pro-livable working conditions, however, those same companies used slaves in their production chains or ignored the use of slavery elsewhere. This allowed the companies to continue to use free and cheap labor to increase their profit while maintaining a positive public image.

The major concerns of all companies are profit and public image. Profit keeps the business afloat and successful. Public image ensures that consumers will continue to buy the company’s product, further helping their profit. These aspects take precedence over ethical dilemmas that companies may face even if the leadership of that company might strongly believe in resolving the ethical dilemma. A prime example of this is how the Cadbury company handled allegations that slavery existed in São Tomé and Príncipe, where they purchased over 45% of their cocoa for chocolate production (Satre 18).

The Cadbury family was known not only for being liberal and progressive but also decidedly anti-slavery. George Cadbury, the chairman, was a Quaker with many humanitarian and abolitionist friends, a member of the Anti-Slavery Society and the owner of the Daily News (London), which he used as a platform for the Liberal Party to advance its agenda that included abolition (Satre 16, 21). Cadbury even has a blue plaque publicly displayed in the United Kingdom professing his dedication to philanthropy, suggesting that he had an ethical and moral compass.

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Blue Plaque to George Cadbury in England (Wikipedia Commons)

William Cadbury, another member of the company, when dealing with the issue of slavery in São Tomé and Príncipe constantly expressed interest in stopping it. In June 1902, he wrote, in reference to the Angola slave trade “I am willing to help any organised plan that your Society may suggest for the definite purpose of putting a stop to the slave trade of this district,” (Satre 22) clearly showing his support for ending the slave trade. However, all this talk of support was met with very little action that benefited the enslaved community in São Tomé and Príncipe that produced nearly a majority of the cacao purchased by the Cadbury company. It was not until seven years after Cadbury received the initial reports of slavery that their own commissioned report on the problem was hesitantly released (Satre 32).

The image of morality extended to the company itself. Scholar Charles Dellheim discusses the company culture of Cadbury and throughout the beginning, he attests to the ethical values held by Cadbury. The first things he says about Cadbury is “The Quaker beliefs of the Cadbury family shaped the ethic of the firm” and “The Cadburys practiced benevolence” (Dellheim 14). The fact that he opened with this praise of Cadbury ethics shows that the public image of Cadbury as an ethical company was strong and prominent. And they still had yet to actually stop purchasing cacao from plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe where slavery was present.

This disconnect between their talk and action was largely driven by Cadbury’s desire to increase profits and maintain a positive public image. William Cadbury, who was known to be liberal and anti-slavery, explained that the slavery he faced with his company now appeared different to him. He “admitted that one ‘looks at these matters in a different light when it affects one’s own interests’” (Satre 19) and he displayed this inability to see the issue of slavery as the same because it affected his own interests when he explained that Cadbury “should all like to clear our hands of any responsibility for slave traffic in any form” (qtd in Satre 19). This approach to slavery is very different from what he portrayed before about putting an end to the slave trade. Here, he wants to dissolve any responsibility that he or the company has with the existence of slavery, but it does not necessarily follow that slavery must be abolished for this to happen. In fact, when they eventually boycotted cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe, slavery was not eradicated, instead, they were no longer responsible and another chocolate company took their spot in purchasing cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe.

Despite the Cadbury’s professed commitment to abolition, they still allowed slavery to continue in São Tomé and Príncipe because ending it would “affect [their] own interests,” meaning the profit of their country. It would be costly to try to move production elsewhere and additionally pay more to purchase the new cacao because the laborers would actually be paid wages. Even Cadbury said, as paraphrased by Sir Martin Gosselin, that “this might mean paying a somewhat higher price at first; but they were ready to make this sacrifice, if by so doing they could put a stop to a disguised slave Trade” (Satre 24). Unfortunately, if this were truly the case, Cadbury would have worked to end the slave trade in São Tomé and Príncipe rather than just leave the region, still open to slavery, because they started to get pressure from their consumers.

Through all of this, Cadbury was additionally protecting their public image. While publicly they seemed to be anti-slavery, it is clear that their actions did not reflect that. However, they continued to push the image that they were moral, ethical and fair. Cadbury had several ads claiming that they chocolate was “pure”. Once such ad is shown below. While pure probably literally meant that there were physically no additives that might contaminate the chocolate, the word choice connotes a sort of innocence. Purity is associated with something clean, moral and without scandal.

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Cadbury Advertisement in 1900 (The Advertising Archives)

Even in the report, they had commissioned on the working conditions in São Tomé and Príncipe, they sugar-coated the issue. There was an initial report that was revised to be less offensive to the Portuguese government and Higgs describes the difference in Chocolate Islands saying “The most striking difference between the two reports was the careful language in the 1907 version. As Burtt acknowledged, great care was taken to avoid ‘referring to the serviçaes as slaves or to the serviçal system as slavery, because, approaching the matter as I did with an open mind, I have wished to avoid question-begging epithets”(Higgs 136). Intuitively it would follow that Cadbury would look to end slavery in order to preserve their public image. However, their public image did not depend on whether slavery exists, it depended on whether they were tied to the slavery that exists, or as Cadbury put it, they were responsible for the slavery. Instead of actually working to end slavery, Cadbury looked to distance itself from the slavery that existed in their supply chain. This meant that they moved their production elsewhere, but did not ensure that slavery actually ended. As a result, the slavery continued even after they stopped purchasing from São Tomé and Príncipe.

In the following podcast, the story of William Cooper is explored. William Cooper was similarly anti-slavery and even started his own sugar production company that did not use slave labor. However, he owned slaves himself. Again, there is a contradiction between what is ultimately done versus the principles he held.

Ultimately, the motivations of profit and public image drive companies to do things that may not seem to fit with what they believe ethically. This creates a huge gap in justice and equality in production. It also allows the companies to feign ethics and morality without actually acting in defense of those things.

 

Works Cited

Cadbury. Cadbury magazine advertisement. The Advertising Archives. 1900,

http://www.advertisingarchives.co.uk/detail/37639/1/Magazine-

Advert/Cadburys/1900s.

Catherine Higgs. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press,

2012, Athens, Ohio. 136.

Charles Dellheim. “The Creation of a Company Culture: Cadburys, 1861-1931.” The

             American Historical Review, vol. 92, no. 1, February 1997, pp. 13-44.

Lowell J. Satre. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business.

University Press, 2005, Athens, Ohio. 16-32.

Oosoom. Blue plaque to George Cadbury at 32 George Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham,

England. Wikimedia Commons. April 7, 2007,

2007, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blue_plaque_George_Cadbury.jpg.

“Sweet Talk: A History of Sugar.” From BackStory, 7 February

2014, http://backstoryradio.org/shows/sweet-talk.

 

 

Chocolate,Chocolate Everywhere

As I ponder the selections of chocolate available in my local Trader Joe’s , it is important to understand a bit of the history of chocolate that is included in The True the History of Chocolate by  Coe & Coe .Cacao, Chocolate originated in Meso-America and is referred to as the “Food of the Gods” consumed by the elite and used in sacrifices to please the gods.  

Did you know that unlike money cacao really does grow on the pods and barks of trees.The chocolate trees were scientifically named Theobroma cacao in 1753 by the “great Swedish Naturalist” Linnaeus (1707-78). 

Theobroma cacao

Linnaeus- Swedish Naturalist that named the cacao tree-theobroma cacao

Raw Cacao beans don’t taste anything like the chocolate bars we consume.  After the cacao beans are harvested the cacao and pulp are fermented once fermentation is complete the beans are laid out to dry in the sun.  Once dried the beans are then sorted and roasted.  After the beans are roasted they are winnowed and finally  the cacao nibs that are used to make chocolate reveal themselves. The cacao nibs are naturally bitter therefore sugar and other ingredients are added when making chocolate to reduce the acidity and bitterness and increase the sweetness.

Sidney Mintz in his book Sweetness and Power reminds us that sugar and sweetness is introduced to us at a very young age , “the first non milk food that a baby is likely to receive in North American hospital is a 5% glucose and water solution used to evaluate its postpartum functioning because newborns tolerate glucose better than water.”(Mintz, 1985)  The fondness for sugar influences the chocolate that we consume as “most Americans instinctively go for blends with a high West African cacao content – this is a dominant cacao in some mass-produced brands that most American have eaten since childhood that is naturally identified with full chocolate flavor. Americans gravitate towards very light chocolate.” ( The New Taste of Chocolate, p. 136) Sweetness is a preferred taste from a very young age Cacao and sugar go together sort of like peanut butter and jelly. Alone each tastes okay but together they taste wonderful.

Chocolate has always evoked pleasant happy memories for me. From my childhood I can remember the heavenly aroma of chocolate from the Lowney Chocolate Factory wafting  through the air as we walked to school, the anticipation of devouring my  grocery store chocolate Easter bunny after Mass and the way the chocolate icing on a Honey Dew Donuts éclair melts in your mouth in an explosion of chocolate mixed with Bavarian cream. 

As I matured my love of chocolate did not waver and I stayed loyal to brands like Hersey and Nestle and for special occasions Godiva was the go to brand.  Then one day in 1987 a local chocolate shop called Puopolo’s Candies opened nearby.  As a big believer in supporting local business I felt that it was my duty to check out the new chocolate shop.  It was heaven!  The aroma and the wide assortment of chocolate confections was astounding. There wasn’t a Snickers, Milky Way or Kit Kat in the place and it didn’t matter because these chocolates didn’t require brand recognition as one could see, smell and anticipate the chocolate truffles melting smoothly on your tongue while the milk chocolate flavors come to life. I never knew exactly why I came to prefer the chocolate sold at Puopolo’s over Hersey, Nestle or even Godiva, until now.

The big chocolate manufactures like Hershey, Nestle and Godiva appeal to the masses for both taste and price of their products.  The chocolate  is made in huge factories using industrial equipment. Each batch of chocolate is made to taste exactly the same as the other so that there is no variation  of taste, color or texture in the thousands of candy bars that are made each day. Chocolate manufactured in this manner is referred to as industrial chocolate.

 

Shops like Puopolo’s are known as chocolatiers’ that appeal to people who appreciate and will pay for high quality chocolate . Chocolatiers’ produce chocolate creations on a much smaller scale and create confections in small batches by melting large bars of chocolate.

 

Sailboat and Anchor Favors
Puopolo chocolatiers’ confection

Another player has come on the scene and companies like  Taza chocolate  are part of a growing movement of small companies that produce  bean to bar products.

Image result for taza chocolate

 

The bean to bar companies are conscious of the long history of exploitation in the chocolate industry including children being used as forced labor on cacao plantations. (Off, 2006)  The bean to bar companies produce an ethical and sustainable product by controlling all stages of their chocolate making including choosing and grinding their own cacao beans.
The advantage of industrial chocolate for the consumer is that whether you purchase a Hershey bar in Alaska or Massachusetts the wrapper texture, color and taste of the chocolate will be the same. Whereas the smaller manufacturers including chocolatiers and bean to bar, aim to produce small unique batches of products.  Cacao beans alone are bitter thus sugar and sometimes other flavorings like vanilla and milk are added to cocoa beans to make the chocolate bars more palatable.  The more cacao content in a product the more intense the chocolate flavor which to many tastes bitter.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a local chocolatiers nearby so I set out to my local Trader Joe’s  to utilize my new-found knowledge and analyze their chocolate section.

Mintz states ” food choices and eating habits reveal distinctions of age, sex, status , culture and even occupation.” (Sweetness and Power).  Trader Joe’s is a slighty upscale, funky progressive full service grocery store who cater to their customers food and need to shop at a socially responsible store. Customers that shop here generally care about where and how the ingredients in their food come from . Trader Joe’s listened to their customers and according to the timeline listed on their website in 1997 they “made a commitment to eliminate artificial trans fats from all private label products (along with artificial flavors, artificial preservatives & GMO ingredients… but that’s old news by now).”

Trader Joe’s shoppers are diverse and span the  socio economic scale. They want to feel as if they are being socially and environmentally responsible without spending a lot of cash. They will however spend a bit more for a product if it makes them feel like they are achieving the goals of being a responsible consumer.   One such chocolate bar checks all those boxes the  Fair Trade Organic Belgium Chocolate Bar is  included in the wide selection of chocolate products that are displayed throughout the store. These bars were included in the chocolate bar section located at the back of the store at the end of an aisle near the milk.  The majority of the chocolate bars were 3.5 ounces with price points between $1.99 for the Fair Trade Organic Belgium Chocolate bars , $2.99 for a Valrhona dark chocolate bar and for $4.99 you could purchase a milk and almond pound plus bar.  There were quite a few chocolate products located in the impulse buy zone at the front of the store including dark chocolate peanut butter cups and chocolate covered almonds for $4.99 each.

As I strolled the isles I noticed some chocolate bars above the seafood section that had pretty and exotic looking labels.  Upon closer inspection it is revealed that these are dark chocolate bars made with 70% cacao and delicious fillings like coconut caramel and toffee and walnuts.  Along side these bars there was a 65% Dark Cacao bar that is made from single origin fairly traded beans from Ecuador. These chocolate bars highlight the cacao content to entice those that believe the claim that chocolate is good for your heart . However,  James Howe  advises  that the claim that chocolate is heart healthy  is not scientifically proven that chocolate consumption alone is the primary element in increasing cardiovascular health. ( Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health, 2012) The artwork depicts nature scenes to enhance the natural allure of these chocolate bars that are priced at just $1.89.

IMG_1449

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In spite From the  lovely artwork and detailed descriptions highlighting the cacao content and country of origin of the beans it is clear from the price points of $1.89 that these are mass marketed  industrial made chocolate bars covered in cleverly  designed Trader Joe’s wrappers. The wrappers contain all the buzz words and images  the consumer wants to see so they feel like they are purchasing socially responsible products.  When I questioned the  store manager about the private label chocolate bars he did not know what company Trader Joe’s bought the chocolate bars from however he assured me that they were made from the finest organic ingredients yet… only a few chocolate bars are labeled organic or Fair Trade.

IMG_1461IMG_1462 IMG_1463

The Trader Joe’s Chocolate truffles look decadent on the shiny red background of the package. They even provide directions on how to”taste these delicate truffles”.  Trader Joe’s selections so far were on target for their consumers, good cacao content, some organic selections. therefore  I was very surprised when the first ingredient listed in the Cocoa Truffles was vegetable oil , the second sugar and finally cocoa powder appears as the third ingredient. This was disappointing  as it is not as high quality chocolate product as it appears and not consistent with the prior products viewed.

After reviewing the chocolate bar and other chocolate products at Trader Joe’s  I’ve concluded that Trader Joe’s should expand their chocolate selections to include more Fair Trade chocolate products and add a few  Bean to Bar and local chocolatiers products to the inventory.  It would be a clear statement to Trader Joe’s customers and the chocolate industry  that  Trader Joe’s cares about ethics and is committed to providing  their customers with more Fair Trade, organic and local chocolate products.  While the typical Trader Joe’s customer appreciates a bargain , many would be willing to pay more for chocolate if they know that their purchase directly benefits the cacao farmer or the small business person.  Trader Joe’s has the opportunity to make a difference in the chocolate industry if they go beyond selling private label chocolate bars and include bean to bar and local chocolate makers.
If you want to make an effort to consume Fair Trade organic chocolate the key is read the labels or find your local chocolate shop , either bean to bar or chocolatiers you won’t be disappointed.

 

Works Cited

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

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

“Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 12.1 (2012): 43-52. Web.

The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ed. Maricel E. Presilla. New York: Ten Speed, 2009. 61-94. Print.

Carol Off, Bitter Chocolate: the dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet.2006. The New Press.  print.

 

Multimedia and internet sources

Google Images , date accessed 5/7/16. http://exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu/chocolate/images/content_img/CacaoGod.jpghttps://madhuwellness.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/cacoa.jpg
http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/~/media/fairtradeuk/farmers%20and%20workers/images/text%20images%20440px/fw_cocoa_440px.ashx?la=en&h=280&w=440
http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0738/3955/products/Taza_Stone_Ground_Chocolate_80_perc_Dark_B_grande.jpg?v=1438702196
http://newwoodbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/WelcomeTJ.jpghttps://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners/cocoa#
http://www.traderjoes.com/images/fearless-flyer/uploads/article-428/95474-Trader Joes 95475_Fair_Trade_Chocolate.jpg

Websites referenced.
http://www.traderjoes.com

Hershey’s Chocolate Making Process. htttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TcFYfoB1BY-
http://www.traderjoes.com/our-story/timeline
http://cspinet.org/transfat/timeline.htm
http://honeydewdonuts.com/
http://www.nestleusa.com/brands/chocolate/nestle-milk-chocolate
https://www.hersheys.com/en_us/home.html
http://www.godiva.com/
https://www.snickers.com/
http://www.milkywaybar.com/
https://www.kitkat.com/http://www.puopolocandies.com/
https://www.tazachocolate.com/
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/02/13/171891081/bean-to-bar-chocolate-makers-dare-to-bare-how-its-done.
USDA Organic guidelines.  https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification

 

Better than Your Average Chocolate Company

Dandelion Chocolate: A New Kind of Chocolate Company

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

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

imgres-4
This is a picture of the Dandelion Chocolate store in San Francisco. From the start of your visit, they want you to know that they have a simple recipe, made with high quality ingredients. 

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

Exploiters and the Exploited

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

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

 

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

Cacao Sourcing Transparency

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

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

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

Fair Trade Critiques

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

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

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

Dandelion: An Environmentally Friendly Company

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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