Tag Archives: fair trade

How Do You Spell Help?

Defining help can be as simple as saying it is the means whereby one offers assistance to another. And although this is not the official definition offered in some of the world’s most prestigious dictionaries. It reflects what seems to be the working definition that applies to many cases where help has gone wrong. This seems to be the case when it comes to chocolate and it’s connection to the help that has been offered to many groups over the years. It also seems that it is the case that many modern agencies and organizations are using in the 21st century as it relates to chocolate. It is upon this assumption that one might conclude that help, as good as the thought may initially be, may be the last thing those connected to chocolate actually need.

First, help itself must be defined in a way that actually conceptualizes intent and results. When the Spaniards came to the Americas and decided that they wanted to help the natives, it is not so clear that they actually intended to help the natives. To gain a better insight to whether or not their intention were actually positive, one should really look critically at the word help from the perspective of intent and result. Defining help in this way will allow one to define the word and conceptualize the actions of others that may allow them to discern whether help is actually negative or positive. To look at a scenario where help was offered, but help turned wrong and say an individual never meant to help may be a bad judgment call. Moreover, it may be a case where one fails to see the good in one’s heart because of the bad that it produces. Conflicting or not, good can turn bad without negative intent.

So, how does one define help? How can its mechanisms be traced in such a way that positions the outsider to determine whether help is actually help? In order for help to be help it must first be selfless. Yes, help is help. But, overall, help has the most potential to go wrong when it is offered on a premise where the deliverer’s intent is to gain something from their action. It is even worst when this intent is held as a secret. In and of it self, it is nothing actually wrong with a benefactor gaining dividends from the assistance given to a beneficiary. Actually, that is when help is a two-fold win-win situation. However, when one begins the road to help with the intent to gain, it is the platform whereby the failure of help begins. Therefore, we propose that good help is the help that begins with the intention of a benefactor that has no intent to receive any dividends –be those dividends monetary, political, or social gain.

It may seem like a fruitless task defining the portion of help that addresses results. But, we can’t assume that the intended results of help are always good. Yes, it is directly connected with intent. But, one can intend not to benefit from a helpful deed while simultaneously hoping that the help that they are offering will cause one to fail. When the designed results are negative, one cannot truly be helping. Help, in it’s purest form is designed in a selfless frame that is constructed with materials that are prone to strengthen the beneficiaries, and the beneficiaries alone. Although help, and anything else has the potential to produce negative results, from its initial conception, in order for it to be considered help, it must set out to selflessly assistance, build, and expand its beneficiaries.

When looking at the history of slavery, the Spaniards, and the development of the western world, I am not so certain that we can say that they meant to actually help the natives. It seems that the leadership intended to help themselves more than anything else. The natives, who were so called devil worshippers, were the scapegoat used to cover the actual intent of the Spaniards. These individuals came across the world into an unknown territory that was fi4q4lled with people and somehow ended up in control of the land. The question of all time is, how did Columbus discover America when America was an inhabited land? In the 21st century, one may actually question the intent of his journeys. Is it possible that Columbus and those he served actually knew that the Americas were inhabited and from the beginning intended to conquer it?

Take for instance this notion that the Spaniards were offering the natives protection. The first question that comes to my mind is, what are you protecting these people from? If the natives have lived in the lands for hundreds of years and the Spanish are new to the land, would not it seem more appropriate for the natives to be protecting the Spanish? Well, not if the Spanish were just covering up and attempting to compensate for their negative intents to expand their territory. If you are protecting me from you with the intent to only create a level of allegiance, you have not meant to help me at all. On the contrary, you have set out to manipulate me. It seems that the Spanish were great manipulators. It seems impossible for them to actually have set out to help the natives. The seemingly only plausible protection they could have offered them could have been the introduction to their technologies in warfare. Instead, the Spanish used their technological advancements in warfare to create fear and intimidation. The end result of that was the conquering of Latin America. No, this was not the sole reason and means by which the Spanish conquered that region of the world. But surely, help through protection was a major contributor to their success.

To think, if this kind of help did not take the case, let us consider religion. The Spaniards wanted to help the natives by offering them religion. The results of this help were neither good for the religion or the people it sought to help. Christianity, a religion based on love, took all the rights and humanity of the people it sought to help. If that was a religion that was meant to help people, I am not so sure many individuals would want that kind of help. This Christian help stripped hundreds of natives of their homes, culture, language, and livelihood. From the outset, this help was laced with selfishness and vile intent. As good as a religion may be, it must respect the context in which it is attempting to penetrate. Modern day Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ may even venture to say that the Spanish that set out to conquer the Americas were not good Christians at all. Even though much of Latin America is filled with Christians because of the Spanish conquest. Christians can’t look back and say they are totally proud of such an accomplishment.

The means whereby the Spanish converted Latin America were gruel. Thousands of lives were lost. Rich cultures were demonized and annihilated. This is not an overall good. This, in fact, is an overall bad that got some good out of it. From a Christian’s perspective, having a continent full of disciples of Jesus is very good. But, having hundreds of families, communities, and cultures destroyed was not good at all. In retrospect, the intent and the designed results of the Spanish were not good. Therefore, the help was not necessarily the help. This help was the means and the platform whereby the Spanish conquered nearly an entire continent. Good came from it. But, can we actually confirm that good for the natives were actually the intent?

The history suggests that help is not always help. When one decides that they want to offer help, one must take a deep look into the intentions and the determined results. Moreover, when one decides they would like to receive help, they must take all of these things into consideration. This is especially important when modern Latin American cacao farmers, who are yet being abused by Europeans, consider receiving help from Europeans who recognize that they are being abused.

After hundreds of years of oppression, Latinos in various countries have overcome the oppression of Europeans in many ways. Slavery is outlawed. But there is a new kind of oppression on the loose. It is called help. What is old has become new. The new has become old. Latinos in northern South America are yet producing cacao beans, sugar, and other commodity crops. Unfortunately, there has not been a mechanism created to ensure that cacao farmers are actually being treated fairly. It is just not the cacao growers in northern South America that are suffering, either. Cacao growers in West Africa experience is quite the same.

Each year the chocolate industry brings in millions upon millions of dollars. One would think that those individuals that are raising the raw materials needed to produce the chocolate would benefit as well. This is not the case. Of course we realize that the cacao farmers would not get equal shares of profits like heads of companies like Hershey’s or Mars. But, the average person would not imagine that these cacao farmers are actually making pennies a day relative to what executives are making in big chocolate companies. Maybe it is assumed that cacao farmers are making hundreds a day while the major chocolate companies are making thousands. But that is not the reality.

Over the years there has been a rising awareness of these unfair practices. Individuals in the United States have gained a passion for what they call suffering cacao farmers. From this passion move2q2ment, help has began to arise. But, it is not for certain that these movements are actually moving the needle. Dr. Carla Martin reports that in 2015 a study reported that the average income in Ghana for cacao farmers is 80 cents per day. For cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire it is even worst. Cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire only make 50 cent per day. Although cacao originated in Latin America, West Africa produces nearly 75 percent of the world’s cacao. “Three of the four million metric tons of cacao come from two countries in West Africa –Ghana and Cout D’voire”(Carla Martin). Humanitarians across the western world have a huge problem with this. These humanitarians cannot seem to understand why these countries in West Africa produces so much cacao and receive so little of the profits.

As a result of these findings, many organizations are rising to the surface to offer help. But the question yet remains, is help actually? One still wonders if these individuals are helping from the standpoint of pure compassion or are they hiding something. Hidden agendas have seemed to be the trend for hundreds of years. The Spaniards said they were helping the native Mesoamericans by offering them protection and Christianity. Now, you have many Americans seeking to help farmers in West Africa. But, it seems altogether to close to the help Mesoamericans received from the Spanish hundreds of years of ago –somebody from outside the culture coming in to save the day.

Some groups are working to make fair trade laws that will get more money into the hands of cacao farmers. Fair Trade Certified and it’s membership organizations agreed to basic fair trade principles.

 

  1. Long term, direct trading relationships.
  2. Prompt payment of fair prices and wages.
  3. No child or forced or otherwise exploited labor.
  4. Workplace, non-discrimination, and gender equality
  5. Safe working conditions and reasonable working hours
  6. Investments in community development.
  7. Traceability and transparency.

 

And while all of these terms are very promising it lacks one thing. These terms make the cacao farmer dependent upon Europeans and Americans for their livelihood. It fixes the problem to an extent. But it somehow recreates the exploitation of labor in another fashion. These programs do not position individuals producing cacao to have control of their lives. That is what is most important in a 21st century context. The age has seen enough help that leads to dependency rather than freedom.1q1

The prospect of long term and direct trading relationships is promising. But, the question that remains is, who will control those relationships. Would it not be better to train these cacao farmers in commerce and trade in a way that empowers them to enjoy autonomy of a business in the world market? The tenets seem to keep the cacao famer holding the hand of a European or American. This is control in freedom. A promise to no longer delay payment is great as well. However, the farmers themselves, or someone they hire should be at the helm of payment transactions.

Number four is one of the most questionable tenets of them all. While in the western world we do not promote or agree that it is ethical to engage in child labor. Most fight for the rights of children across the globe. However, how far is too far when it comes to the respect of another people’s culture. This tenet goes beyond pure help. As questionable as the practice may be, it is cultural infringement to offer an ultimatumto a business. These groups are being a great help to cacao farmers across central Africa and northern South America. But, it may be that they are being more of a help to themselves and their agenda than they are to the cacao farmers. It is not beyond reasonable to assume that these individuals would like to change the cultures of others and are covering it up by offering to put more money in the hands of farmers. What would be more powerful is a system of help that empowered these farmers to create their own unions so that they can enjoy a great amount of the wealth of the product they produce. According to Sidney Mintz,“England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system.” It is argued by many scholars that the very same plantation system exists in America today. It does not look the same. But, it holds the same values.

The question then becomes, are these new fair trade systems a part of the evolution of the original European plantation system? The system sought for control and power. Even in America, the descendants of slaves are free. But they are dependent upon a governmental system of power that, unless broken, will never allow them to experience the same freedom as their white counterparts. What cacao farmers need is a system that empowers them. A mechanism that allows cacao famers agility within a system of control is not true help. It is a cover up that keeps those in control on top and the farmers at the low end of the spectrum. It may be that these farmers don’t actually need the Fair Trade system as much as they need the education that farmers and companies in America and Europe have. Furthermore, it may not be the farmers that need the help. It may be the system.

Instead of attempting to help cacao farmers, it may be that the system itself is what really needs the help. Getting rid of the current system and creating a new system may be the best answer –a system that can be created by all who will be involved. Farmers and businessman alike can come to the table and create the system that benefits all. This is commerce. Therefore it is unreasonable to assume that everyone will be equal. The expectation is that everyone would be treated equally fair. For instance, the import tax for cacao beans is significantly lower than the import tax for chocolate. What does this do? This forces individual farmers to only make profit from the beans. It pushes them out of the chocolate business. Where are the humanitarians thought process at when it comes to this type of trade? Without an initiative to address these types of dilemmas, one cannot help but to think there are other motives.

Forcing or coercing companies into buying cacao beans consistently for pennies is one agenda. Forcing or coercing companies and commerce for equal trade rights for countries like Venezuala, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana is another. Over the past few hundreds help has too many times been realized as a selfish attribute. Those helping benefit the most in too many cases while those being helped benefit very little. Cacao farmers need access, not nece3q3ssarily help. If these farmers had access to education and training, they could fight for their own rights. Truthfully, that is where the help can really step in. Once these farmers receive education and training an
d start to experience inequality in the system, that is when thee humanitarian groups can step in and use their political power for the benefit of the farmers. The help they are offering now is simply a crutch of dependency that does not offer the cacao farmer the independency and freedom his American and European counterparts experience.

 

Works Cited:

Dr. Carla Martin (2016) Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture Video. https://matterhorn.dce.harvard.edu/engage/player/watch.html?id=bbf932d0-696b-417b-811d-a9b3fc051aea Web. 9 March 2016

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.

Functional Chocolate: Health Claims and Marketing Campaigns

One step into Cambridge Naturals, a community natural health store in Cambridge, MA, and the market for organic, fair-trade, vegan, bean-to-bar, local, non-gmo, paleo, environmentally friendly and ethically sourced chocolate products is on full display. A meeting with the store’s manager & grocery lead adds another term to the list of qualities their consumer base is looking for when they step into the store – functional chocolate. This trend shows a probable correlation between what customers are willing to spend on chocolate that makes health claims, based on the way the cacao is processed and additional ingredients added that are promoted to provide nutritional benefits. The functional chocolate trend begs the question – are these health claims regarding various methods of cacao processing and healthful additives substantiated by scientific research, or are they merely a marketing gimmick? This article will analyze recent research on the health benefits of chocolate as a functional food, look at fermentation and processing differences from a nutrient perspective, and consider additional benefits of medicinal additives to chocolate in order to best answer this question.

 

How are functional foods different from healthy foods?

In a study published in the Academic Food Journal/Akademik (2014) that looked at the development of functional chocolate, the differences between health foods and functional foods were defined as the following:

“Functional foods are a new category of products that promise consumers improvements in targeted physiological functions” (Albak, Fatma, & Tekin, 2014, p. 19).

Whereas, “conventional ‘healthy’ foods are typically presented as types of foods contributing to a healthy diet, e.g. low-fat products, high-fibre products, or vegetables, without emphasizing the role of any single product” (Albak, Fatma, & Tekin, 2014, p. 19).

 

Functional foods share these characteristics:

  • Health benefits that can be linked to a specific product
  • Well-defined physiological effects are directly connected with particular components in the specific product
  • Scientific evidence about health effects that is used to develop specific functional products
  • There is novelty for the consumer with the promised benefits
  • Modern technology is often needed to manufacture the functional foods due to specific components being added, modified or removed (Albak, et al., 2014).

 

Demand for Functional Foods

The market for functional foods exists in large part due to the rising popularity of healthier products by consumers (Albak, et al., 2014). One contributor to interest in healthy products is their use as a remedy to detrimental lifestyle factors that can contribute to unyielding high levels of inflammation in the body (Jain, Parag, Pandey, & Shukla, 2015). In the book, Inflammation and Lifestyle (2015), the connection between diet and inflammation is emphasized.

“Our diet is one of the leading sources of these chronic illnesses, and changing the diet is the key to prevention and cure. A number of dietary factors, including fiber-rich foods, whole grains, fruits (especially berries), omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins (e.g., C and E), and certain trace minerals (e.g., zinc), have been documented to reduce blood concentrations of inflammatory markers. The best way to correct and eliminate inflammation is to improve comprehensive lifestyle and dietary changes rather than taking pharmaceutical drugs, the latter of which can cause unintended harm in the form of damaging side effects” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 143).

The authors provide this graphic to illustrate what an anti-inflammatory diet pyramid looks like in terms of specific food groups. Note that dark chocolate is positioned on the top of the pyramid.

 

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“Anti-inflammatory edible’s pyramid” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 144)

An introduction to the benefits of superfoods and their role in an anti-inflammatory diet are explained in the publication. “An anti-inflammatory diet is one that is low in processed foods and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, sprouts, nuts and superfoods. Maca, spirulina, purple corn, wheatgrass, coconut butter and raw chocolate are a few of the health promoting superfoods that are gaining international interest” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 144). The inclusion of “raw chocolate” in the category of superfoods versus “chocolate” warrants further examination and will be explored later in this article, but the position remains clear that evidence supports the protective benefits of chocolate as a part of a healthy diet.

 

Chocolate as a Functional Food

Under the category of functional foods as previously defined, chocolate, as will be further described, fulfills all the requisite characteristics. Even though the term functional food is relatively recent, the practice of consuming chocolate for its specific health benefits is centuries old. “Chocolate has been consumed as confection, aphrodisiac, and folk medicine for many years before science proved its potential health benefiting effects. Main compounds of cocoa and chocolate which contribute to human health are polyphenols that act as antioxidants and have potential anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, antihepatotoxic, antibacterial, antiviral, antiallergenic, and anticarcinogenic properties” (Ackar, Djurdjica, Lendić, Valek,… & Nedić, 2013, p. 1). The studied physiological effects of chocolate include “reported health benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate particularly focus on cardiovascular diseases (but also showing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects), including increased blood flow at the brachial artery and the left descending coronary artery, decreased blood pressure, decreased platelet aggregation and increased HDL cholesterol” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840). Numerous research discoveries have shed light on the complex nature of how these protective benefits of cacao are reduced or encouraged by different methods of sourcing, processing and consuming chocolate (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008).

Polyphenols are found in many food sources including, “vegetables and fruits, green and black tea, red wine, coffee, chocolate, olives, and some herbs and spices, as well as nuts and algae” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). However, “chocolate is one of the most polyphenol-rich foods along with tea and wine” where, “results [have] indicated that dark chocolate exhibited the highest polyphenol content” (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008, p. 2194). In unfermented cacao beans, there are three main groups of polyphenols, “flavan-3-ols or catechins, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Differences in cacao genetics or varieties and country of origin show varying levels of polyphenols by up to 4-fold (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008). “Criollo cultivars contained higher levels of procyanidins than Forastero and Trinitario beans. In addition, crop season and country of origin have impact on polyphenols in cocoa beans” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Findings regarding polyphenol level by country of origin are contentious but include, “highest phenolic content was in Malaysian beans followed by Sulawesian, Ghanian and Côte d’Ivore” (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008, p. 2201) and “cocoa beans and processed products from Ecuador showed the highest levels of anthocyanins, followed by Nigeria and Cameroon” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840). Due to additional factors besides country of origin and genetic variation influencing the polyphenols in cacao, inclusion of the effects of processing cacao on flavor and polyphenol content is important to understand health claims made regarding the finished product, chocolate.

Processing cacao beans (namely the stages of fermentation and drying), and roasting in the chocolate making process greatly affect polyphenol content of the finished product (Ackar, et al., 2013; Bordiga, et al., 2015). “Due to these factors, the ratio and types of these components found in cocoa beans are unlikely to be the same as those found in the finished products” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 841). For functional chocolate enthusiasts driving market trends, the balance between healthy and protective benefits of polyphenols and the effects on their levels through processing are of particular interest. “All these processes are needed to develop characteristic cocoa aroma. Polyphenols give astringent and bitter aroma to cocoa and contribute to reduced perception of “cocoa flavour” by sensory panel. However, nowadays processes are conducted in such manner to preserve as much polyphenol as possible with maintaining satisfactory aroma” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). The debate about the purpose of chocolate is hereby noted between the sensory experience – the aroma development, especially in the roasting stages, versus consumption for health effects with less regard to smell, taste and gustatory pleasure.

The search for a sweet spot between these poles is a lucrative area for producers and retail establishments. As described earlier, development of functional food into specific products uses scientific evidence about health effects, where modern technology is often needed to manufacture those products, in order to observe targeted physiological effects or functions (Albak, et al., 2014).

“Generally, as cocoa beans were further processed, the levels of anthocyanins and flavan-3-ols decreased. The largest observed losses of phenolics occurred during roasting. A progressive decreasing trend in polyphenol concentration was observed in the other processed samples as well. Despite the original content of polyphenols in raw cocoa beans, technological processes imply a significant impact on cocoa quality, confirming the need of specific optimisation to obtain high value chocolate” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840).

In order to preserve antioxidant quality through dark-chocolate products with “high flavonoid contents…these chocolates are produced by controlling bean selection, fermentation, and reduced heat and alkalization treatments” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2201). Although one of the most detrimental effects of processing on polyphenol and antioxidant levels is alkalization (or dutching) of cocoa powder (Ackar, et al., 2013; Jalil, et al., 2008), even the fermentation process significantly reduces flavonoid levels by up to 90% (Jalil, et al., 2008). However, in the search for the sweet spot between flavor and health benefits, fermentation presents a way to reduce bitter compounds due to the presence of flavonoids and polyphenols (Jalil, et al., 2008) and enhance flavor before roasting or further processing like alkalization. For example, some “manufacturers tend to remove [flavonoids] in large quantities to enhance taste quality… the manufacturers tend to prefer Ghanian cocoa beans, which are well-fermented and flavorful than that of Dominican or Indonesian beans, which are considered as less fermented and have low quality cocoa flavor” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2203). In Crafack’s study (2013), besides genetic flavor potentials of cacao beans, fermentation is cited as the most important factor influencing cocoa’s flavor potential.

“A properly conducted fermentation process is considered a prerequisite for the production of high quality chocolates since inadequately fermented cocoa beans will fail to produce cocoa specific aroma compounds during subsequent processing” (Crafack, Petersen, Eskildsen, Petersen, Heimdal, & Nielsen, 2013, p. 1).

In a later study by Crafack (2014), microorganism differences between fermentation practices are shown to produce variations in cacao flavor profiles. “Despite the importance of a properly conducted fermentation process, poor post-harvest practices, in combination with the unpredictable spontaneous nature of the fermentations, often results in sub-optimal flavour development…A microbial fermentation process therefore seems essential for developing the full complexity of compounds which characterises cocoa aroma. In conclusion, the results of the present study show that the volatile aroma profile of chocolate can be influenced using starter cultures” (Crafack, 2014, p. 1). Further research that builds on Crafack’s findings was published by Kadow (2015), explaining the role of multiple factors in the country of origin that characterize the fermentation process.

“During this in most cases spontaneous fermentation of the fruit pulp surrounding the seeds, the pulp is degraded by yeasts and bacteria. This degradation results in heat and organic acid formation. Heat effect and tissue acidification are the key parameters guiding flavour precursor formation. Accordingly, not microorganisms themselves but exclusively their metabolites are necessary for successful fermentation” (Kadow, Niemenak, Rohn, and Lieberei, 2015, p. 357).

This study aimed to further the development of standardization and mechanization of cocoa fermentation for the benefit of cacao production quality purposes. On the ranges of heat tested from fermenting heaps of cacao beans, 30 °C to a maximum of 50 °C was obtained after 24 h of fermentation at the inner part of the heap (Jespersen, Nielsen, Hønholt, and Jakobsen, 2005).

Finally, as an interesting note about polyphenol changes in cacao during fermentation, although “unripe and ripe cacao pods contain solely (−)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin. During fermentation, levels of both of these compounds were reduced, but (−)-catechin was formed due to heat-induced epimerization” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). These findings warrant more studies on the changes that happen during cacao fermentation, where although certain protective antioxidant levels decrease, other chemical compounds are formed due to the process of heat due to microorganism metabolites and acidification to the bean tissue.

After fermentation, the beans are dried to reduce water content for safe transport and storage of the cacao before further processing by chocolate manufactures. “During drying, additional loss of polyphenol occurs, mainly due to nonenzymatic browning reactions” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2) where “high temperatures and prolonged processing times will decrease the amount of catechins” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p.2203). The dried cacao is then shipped to the chocolate manufacturer where roasting is often performed. The roasting and generally the further processing of cacao degrades the levels of polyphenols by triggering the oxidation process (Ackar, et al., 2013; Bordiga, et al., 2015).

Conching is a process of agitation of chocolate mass at temperatures above 50 °C that is used to refine both the cocoa solids and sugar crystals to change the taste, smell, flavor, texture (mouthfeel) and viscosity of chocolate (Chocolate Alchemy, 2016; Di Mattia, Martuscelli, Sacchetti, Beheydt, Mastrocola, & Pittia, 2014) Different procedures for conching exist, including Long Time Conching (LTC) and Short Time Conching (STC). A study by Di Mattia (2014) done on these two conching processes and the implications for bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity found interesting results. The publication stressed the importance of time/temperature combinations as process parameters “to modulate and increase the functional properties of some foods” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, pp.367-368). In the study, STC consisted of “a dry step at 90 °C for 6 h and then a wet step at 60°C for 1h,” while LTC involved, “a dry step at 60°C for 6 h and a then wet step at the same conditions (60 °C, 6 h)” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p. 368). The results of the analysis on phenolic content, antioxidant values defined as radical scavenging properties showed, “that the conching process, and the LTC in particular, determined an improvement of the antiradical and reducing properties of chocolate” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p.372). Recommendation for further studies was suggested to “optimize the conching process for the modulation of the functional properties,” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p.372) but the results remain in favor of longer time and lower temperature processing to preserve health benefits in chocolate during the conching phase.

From the perspective of chocolate makers, assessing combinations of ingredients/additives that can either help or hinder protective compounds in chocolate – including polyphenols and bioavailability, is important. Jalil, & Ismail’s review (2008), considered, “both bioavailability and antioxidant status [important] in determining the relationship between cocoa flavonoids and health benefits” (Jalil, et al., 2008, pp. 2194-2195). Studies focused on epicatechin from chocolate found the polyphenols, “rapidly absorbed by humans, with plasma levels detected after 30min of oral digestion, peaking after 2-3 h and returning to baseline after 6–8 h. In addition, cumulative effect in high daily doses was recorded” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Interestingly, an argument for the benefits of chocolate’s sweetened and rich composition – if cocoa butter and some type of sweetener is used in processing – is explained where the “presence of sugars and oils generally increases bioavailability of polyphenols, while proteins, on the other hand, decrease it” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Milk chocolate lovers may be disappointed to find that, “milk proteins reduce bioavailability of epicatechin in chocolate confectionary…[with] reported inhibition of in vivo antioxidant activity of chocolate by addition of milk either during manufacturing process or during ingestion” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2).

Additional health properties of cacao found especially in dark chocolate, apart from polyphenols, may have a role to play in reports of chocolate cravings and their use as functional food. Theses beneficial components include “methylxanthines, namely caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2197) “peptides, and minerals” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2200). “Theobromine is a psychoactive compound without diuretic effects” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2198). “Cocoa is also rich in proteins. Cocoa peptides are generally responsible for the flavour precursor formation” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2199). Lastly, “minerals are one of the important components in cocoa and cocoa products. Cocoa and cocoa products contained relatively higher amount of magnesium compared to black tea, red wine, and apples” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2200).

A well supported rule of thumb for finding high antioxidant capacity functional chocolate is to look for the percentage of non-fat cocoa solids (NFCS) in chocolate products to determine total phenolic content (Jalil, et al., 2008; Vinson, & Motisi, 2015)  “Dark chocolates contain the highest NFCS among the different types of chocolates” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2204) However, due to percentages of cocoa solids on on chocolate labels including polyphenol-free cocoa butter, the accuracy of this measure is not always correct and can lead to overestimating polyphenol content in certain types of chocolate (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2204). That said, a recent study by Vinson and Motisi (2015), performed on commercial chocolate bars found “a significant and linear relationship between label % cocoa solids and the antioxidant assays as well as the sum of the monomers.” From which they concluded that, “consumers can thus rationally choose chocolate bars based on % cocoa solids on the label” (Vinson, & Motisi, 2015, p. 526).

Additions to Functional Chocolate

In health food stores like Cambridge Naturals and Deborah’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, MA, the presence of functional chocolate with additional health boosting ingredients is prevalent. The validity of these claims to improve focus, enhance libido and energy, and other desirable improved physiological functions, based on herbs, powders and additional superfoods mixed with cacao, is intriguing. A study by Albak and Tekin (2014), found that mixing aniseed, ginger, and cinnamon into the dark chocolate mix before conching, “increased the total polyphenol content while they decreased the melting properties of dark chocolate after conching” (Albak, et al., 2014, p. 19).

Other resources that further elucidate specific findings on these superfoods, herbs and spices include:

Afolabi Clement Akinmoladun, Mary, Tolulope Olaleye, and Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi. “Cardiotoxicity and Cardioprotective Effects of African Medicinal Plants.” Toxicological Survey of African Medicinal Plants (2014): 395. This publication includes information on gingko, turmeric among other additives to functional chocolate and how protective vascular effects are formed.

Ruscigno, Matt, and Joshua Ploeg. Superfoods for Life, Cacao:-Improve Heart Health-Boost Your Brain Power-Decrease Stress Hormones and Chronic Fatigue-75 Delicious Recipes. Fair Winds Press (MA), 2014.

Wolfe, David. Superfoods: the food and medicine of the future. North Atlantic Books, 2010.

 

Raw Chocolate

Some consideration for the popularity of raw chocolate, which is used as the base of many functional chocolate products, deserves attention. As explained, there are many reasons chocolate can be considered a functional food, especially due to specific health promoting compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids, peptides, theobromine and minerals present in cacao and in chocolate. Unfortunately, overwhelming scientific evidence points to the detrimental effects on these compounds from processing, especially by heat. “Flavanols largely disappear once the cocoa bean is heated, fermented and processed into chocolate. In other words, making chocolate destroys the very ingredient that is supposed to make it healthy” (Crowe, 2015).  Raw chocolate, by the standards of raw foodism, means that food is not supposed to be heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit in order to preserve enzymes. This seems tricky to prove especially when chocolate makers receive cocoa beans from various countries of origin where fermenting and drying practices are not under their direct supervision. Some companies remedy this issue with bean-to-bar practices that ensure they have seen and approved the process that cacao beans undergo before shipment to the company’s own processing facilities, where low temperature winnowing, grinding and conching is under their complete control. The bean-to-bar method (See Taza’s Bean-to-Bar and Direct Trade process) also provides assurance that cacao is ethically (sometimes for organic and wild-crafted cacao if so desired) sourced. These initiatives often promote more sustainable and  better processed cacao, which means higher quality cacao for both the farmer, manufacturer and consumer. For these reasons, the popularity of raw cacao seems to fit into the development of functional foods where the consumer is able to enjoy a sometimes more bitter, medicinal tasting chocolate in the anticipation of a powerful physiological boost and a clearer conscience due to sourcing methods.

In the case of Yes Cacao, their Karma MellOwl botanical chocolate bar contains 41% cacao butter, and 59% botanicals which results in a deliciously complex, albeit golden colored bar due to the cocoa butter and turmeric content. Non-fat cacao solids which provide the main anti-inflammatory benefits of cacao are missing, but are replaced with other superfoods, spices and adaptogenic herbs like lucuma, maca, yacon, lion’s mane mushrooms, gingko, turmeric, pine pollen, cinnamon, bacopa, and gynostemma. The creators of the bars deem them functional medicine, as they combine cacao solids and sundried cane juice as a base for superfood and medicinal enhancements. In this video, Justin Frank Polgar recommends that Yes Cacao bars are eaten daily as a staple enhancement for ideal human functionality.

image
Cambridge Naturals’ Yes Cacao Selection

 

Other raw chocolate companies that are focus on functional chocolate using additional superfoods, spices and herbs include:

Chocolatl More Than Chocolate

Righteously Raw Chocolates

Gnosis Chocolate

Addictive Wellness Raw Chocolate

Perfect Fuel

Stirs the Soul

Ohio Functional Chocolates

Great Bean Chocolate

Sacred Chocolate

 

Trends in functional foods heading in the direction of ‘naturally healthy’

From the perspective of growers, producers and consumers who want a high quality, healthful and good tasting chocolate product, the scientific findings that support the ideal balance between flavor and preservation of health promoting properties of cacao, are significant. The ideal way to conserve protective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits warrants consideration with the changes in polyphenol content during processing of cacao from raw bean, through fermentation to roasting, conching and mixing with other ingredients. Raw chocolate seems a good way to navigate this balance. Meanwhile, mass produced commercial chocolate companies or “big chocolate” continue to move their products in the direction of high quality premium chocolate and adopting new manufacturing processes in order to preserve cacao’s protective effects. The overarching trend uniting premium, natural and healthful ingredients is referred to in the food industry as naturally healthy foods. “This idea of using food to manage health may, in part, help explain growing consumer interest in fresh, natural and organic products”(Gagliardi, 2015). The melding of healthy, natural and functional foods to chocolate production reflects consumer preferences and industry recognition of the role diet plays on health and provides insights into the future of food. For now, medicinally enhanced, raw, naturally healthy, and functional chocolate seems light years ahead of other natural foods on the market today.

Examples of ‘naturally healthy’ chocolate brands:

Coracao Confections

Hu Paleo Chocolate

Eating Evolved, The Primal Dark Chocolate Company

Pure7 Chocolate

Author’s Note: While researching and writing this article the author happily consumed a great deal of functional, raw and medicinal chocolate and can attest to the powerful effects that far surpass conventional and even ‘premium chocolates’.

 

References:

Ackar, Djurdjica, Kristina Valek Lendić, Marina Valek, Drago Šubarić, Borislav Miličević, Jurislav Babić, and Ilija Nedić. “Cocoa polyphenols: can we consider cocoa and chocolate as potential functional food?.” Journal of chemistry 2013 (2013).

Albak, Fatma, and Ali Rıza Tekin. “Development of Functional Chocolate with Spices and Lemon Peel Powder by using Response Surface Method: Development of Functional Chocolate.” Academic Food Journal/Akademik GIDA 12, no. 2 (2014).

Afolabi Clement Akinmoladun, Mary, Tolulope Olaleye, and Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi. “Cardiotoxicity and Cardioprotective Effects of African Medicinal Plants.” Toxicological Survey of African Medicinal Plants (2014): 395.

Bordiga, Matteo, Monica Locatelli, Fabiano Travaglia, Jean Daniel Coïsson, Giuseppe Mazza, and Marco Arlorio. “Evaluation of the effect of processing on cocoa polyphenols: antiradical activity, anthocyanins and procyanidins profiling from raw beans to chocolate.” International Journal of Food Science & Technology 50, no. 3 (2015): 840-848..

Crafack, Michael, Mikael Agerlin Petersen, Carl Emil Aae Eskildsen, G. B. Petersen, H. Heimdal, and Dennis Sandris Nielsen. “Impact of starter cultures and fermentation techniques on the volatile aroma profile of chocolate.” CoCoTea 2013 (2013).

Crafack, Michael. “Influence of Starter Cultures, Fermentation Techniques, and Acetic Acid on the Volatile Aroma and Sensory Profile of Cocoa Liquor and Chocolate.” (2014).

Crowe, Kelly. “Chocolate Health Myth Dissolves.” CBCnews. January 05, 2015. Accessed May 8, 2016. http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/chocolate-health-myth-dissolves-1.2879898.

Di Mattia, Carla, Maria Martuscelli, Giampiero Sacchetti, Bram Beheydt, Dino Mastrocola, and Paola Pittia. “Effect of different conching processes on procyanidin content and antioxidant properties of chocolate.” Food Research International 63 (2014): 367-372.

Gagliardi, Nancy. “Consumers Want Healthy Foods–And Will Pay More For Them.” Forbes. February 18, 2015. Accessed May 8, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nancygagliardi/2015/02/18/consumers-want-healthy-foods-and-will-pay-more-for-them/#10fddf09144f.

Jain, Parag, Ravindra Pandey, and Shiv Shankar Shukla. “Inflammation and Lifestyle.” Inflammation: Natural Resources and Its Applications. Springer India, 2015. 143-152.

Jalil, Abbe Maleyki Mhd, and Amin Ismail. “Polyphenols in cocoa and cocoa products: is there a link between antioxidant properties and health?.”Molecules 13, no. 9 (2008): 2190-2219.

Jespersen, Lene, Dennis S. Nielsen, Susanne Hønholt, and Mogens Jakobsen. “Occurrence and diversity of yeasts involved in fermentation of West African cocoa beans.” FEMS Yeast Research 5, no. 4-5 (2005): 441-453.

Kadow, Daniel, Nicolas Niemenak, Sascha Rohn, and Reinhard Lieberei. “Fermentation-like incubation of cocoa seeds (Theobroma cacao L.)–Reconstruction and guidance of the fermentation process.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 62, no. 1 (2015): 357-361.

Vinson, Joe A., and Matthew J. Motisi. “Polyphenol antioxidants in commercial chocolate bars: Is the label accurate?.” Journal of Functional Foods 12 (2015): 526-529.

Zhang, Dapeng, and Lambert Motilal. “Origin, Dispersal, and Current Global Distribution of Cacao Genetic Diversity.” In Cacao Diseases, pp. 3-31. Springer International Publishing, 2016.

Bean-to-bar: Blue Bandana Chocolates

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Figure 1. Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker part of Lake Champlain Chocolates. (2014). Little Brown. Image available from https://vimeo.com/85700650

The company that I chose to learn more about for our final multimedia presentation is Lake Champlain Chocolates (LCC). It is in my home state of Vermont, at the far extreme end of the state from where I live. Though the company has been in operation since 1983, my personal reference is family friends who proudly lived near the company, would purchase gorgeous LCC gourmet signature truffles, onsite, and present them to my chocolate loving grandmother as a very special gift. While I see the company’s label on an expanded product line and in many stores now, only after this bit of research did I realize that Lake Champlain Chocolates had expanded so much—as their website states, they have180 employees and their chocolate products can be purchased in some 2,000 stores– I was also thrilled that an LCC representative agreed to make an appointment with me to answer questions regarding where and how they source their cacao, and the company’s certifications, specifically Fair Trade and Fair for Life: third-party certification for social accountability and fair trade (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. What Fair Trade Means. “In March 2013, our chocolate company earned Fair for Life–Social & Fair TradeCertification. Fair for Life is a rigorous third-party certification for social accountability and fair trade. Above and beyond Fair Trade certification, it looks at a company’s practices as a whole, including the ingredients used in its products.” Retrieved from http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/about-us/fair-trade-chocolate

Between my phone interview and the company’s online presence, I learned a great deal including that in 2012, they began creating bean-to-bar in their new Blue Bandana Chocolate division http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/about-us/bean-to-bar-chocolate/  that won them a national Good Food award in 2014 (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. Blue Bandana Chocolate is Lake Champlain Chocolates’ bean-to-bar division started in 2012 and winner of the Good Food award in 2014. Cacao nibs shown here being poured into grinder in preparation for making cocoa liquor. Retrieved from http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/about-us/bean-to-bar-chocolate/

So, this was a great opportunity to get to better understand a company within my own state, hear first hand some of what this most recent bean-to–bar division is all about and within the ethnographic context covered in class and course readings. As Blue Bandana Chocolate builds off of the success of their highly regarded parent company LCC, they strive for transparency in the supply chain, create direct relationships with their sources, and support sustainable practices while supporting local communities.

Their product descriptions are as mouthwatering as they are educational: location/sourcing and sustainable ventures are a significant part of this story.

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Attention to quality that impacts flavor is referenced throughout, including terroir, a link in the quality chain that can be loosely translated as a “sense of place” but that include characteristics and qualities whose sum effects influence the product, such as the geography and climate of an area and the plant’s genetics. Their advertisements state that,

“Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker is a micro-batch branded product line of Lake

Champlain Chocolates (LCC) founded on the principles of quality, transparency,

taste of place, and the craft of making chocolate. Inspired by his first trip to a cocoa

farm in 2009, founder Eric Lampman delved into the chocolate process and began

experimenting with test batches to perfect the basics. After experimenting with

cocoa beans from six different countries, Lampman settled on three exceptional

chocolates: Madagascar 70%, Guatemala 70% and Madagascar Wild Pepper. They

are made from scratch using only cocoa beans, organic cocoa butter and organic

cane sugar. Each 2.3oz bar is a representation of Lampman’s personal mission to

craft the finest chocolates while celebrating the unique taste of the earth native to

each cacao’s landscape” (Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker, 2016).

Sense of place as discussed in class and course readings (Martin, April 20, 2016) are well represented here, and it was enjoyable to get a deeper sense of this company’s values and commitments.

Some of what comes through quite clearly in Blue Bandana Chocolate’s mission is the desire to learn and innovate, the inspiration from the regions where their cacao is grown, the appreciation for not only the craft of making a quality product, but also to do so within the context of community, both at home in Northern Vermont and in the farming communities where their cacao is sourced. These motivating forces are evident in their product development and certifications; it was clear in my interview with the company representative, and illustrated nicely on the company website, onsite videos and other online interviews. Eric captures so much about the world of chocolate, in his quote,

“American chocolate has for years been presented as consistent and predictable. As a

new craft chocolate maker, we see the beauty in the process of displaying unique

characteristics. We are part of a renaissance of bean-to-bar chocolate makers that are

taking new approaches to things like process, scale, flavor, relationships, and

transparency” (Meet Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker, 2015).

This historical context, and the founder’s perspective on their company is encouraging and expands upon their marketer’s [beautiful] alluring depictions of bird sanctuaries. As a member of the bean-to-bar movement, Blue Bandana Chocolate can be considered to be part of the solution to problems that we have studied in the cacao-chocolate supply chain in our course (Off, 2006; Ryan, 2011; Sylla, 2014; Martin, March 8, 2016; Martin, March 30, 2016; Martin, April 6, 2016). The following expert from the LCC website explains, for instance, their involvement in improving lives within the cacao communities in Cote d’Ivoire through The Family Support Scholarship Program, detailed below, but that includes addressing issues like expanding business opportunities for women, increasing education and school retention rates, reducing the amount of child labor, and impacting longer term benefits/opportunities, directly and indirectly, in these cacao communities.

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As the LCC representative explained to me on the phone, bean-to-bar was a very natural progression for the three decades old company. Their product line expanded to include organic cocoa and Kosher chocolate products which were wildly popular. Locally, LCC and Blue Bandana have a strong community connection as Figure 7 indicates. This includes many affiliations within the state including membership within the Vermont Business for Social Responsibility.

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In addition, however, it has a broader connection and base of support with the locavore movement across the nation, innovation in creating quality craft products, The following video, filmed onsite at the Burlington, Vermont food festival helps illustrate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0n9n7HQ3_A

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This innovation might not succeed without a groundswell of support by customers, and a customer base that is desirous of responsibly sourced products not just in Vermont but across the country. In the following quote, the founder explains the company’s goals and the alignment of all these that lead to the innovation of Blue Bandana chocolate:

“As a family-owned company, we decided that we wanted to directly support a cacao

growing community – whether or not we purchased cacao from them. The chance to

engage with passionate cacao farmers searching for new market opportunities and

farming methods fell right into place with our own goals. We were hoping to build

new relationships that both educated us on post-harvest practices and enabled a win-

win partnership for future growth focused on quality. Today, we continue to use our

interactions with the farmers to educate visitors at our factory about cacao farming

and the full process of making chocolate” (Meet Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker,

2015).

In addition to community affiliations identified above, Figure 9 offers a snapshot of what LCC means by “Local to Global” in their chocolate company. For instance, developing their own source of honey from their own beekeeping near their business in Northern Vermont, to purchasing third party certified Fair Trade chocolate that has resulted in Fair for Life-Social and Fair Trade Certifications. Furthermore, LLC continues to develop direct partnerships with cacao growers and supports a fund, previously mentioned, in Cote d’Ivoire to educate youth and empower women with a World Cocoa Foundation scholarship.

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This is a compelling image and message that LLC is promoting. Through coursework, we have been encouraged to look deeper and not just get carried away by a company’s projected image and storyline or even blithely accept the certifications they may have achieved to assuage our consumer guilt; this course has encouraged/demanded that we be more aware and accountable consumers. So, while issues within the cacao supply chain are complex, I appreciate all the concrete examples LCC provides to show what/how this company is living up to its ideals.

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The telephone interview offered details that both helped explain LLC sourcing as well as illuminate the many complexities of growing and sourcing cacao. When I asked the representative where Lake Champlain Chocolates sources their cacao, he replied that that was a big question; he followed up by saying that they source from many places and offered specifics including from his first hand experience and having just returned from the Dominican Republic. He said that they basically have three different supply chains. They source cacao beans directly from an estate in Madagascar, an estate in the Dominican Republic, a social enterprise group in Guatemala and from a similar type group in Tanzania and then make bean-to-bar back home in Burlington, Vermont. He said that LCC also sources from large multinationals that does a match balance Fair Trade sourced from West Africa. He stated that they also source a Fair Trade organic fully traceable from cooperative in the Dominican Republic, as well as two cooperatives in Peru; these three co-ops all supply organic chocolates.

I asked him to tell me more about the cooperatives and the farms. He offered examples, including from his most recent trip to the Dominican Republic; this cooperative was organized with its own farmer union essentially, their own farmer fund, where the Fair Trade premium goes. They are then able to have elected officials vote on how to utilize Fair Trade premiums. He explained that they are also made up of an agro industrial arm, basically their sales arm internationally, and a tech arm too, working on many aspects like field assistance, agronomics, composting, rehabilitation of farms, helping with fermentation and drying of cacao beans, etc. His interest in these diverse geographic areas shown through as did his direct trade experience. He stated that in the Dominican Republic, Belize, Haiti, Guatemala, nearly all of those are mainly cacao but then inter-planted with anything from bananas, plantains, avocados, to other hardwoods such as mahogany, high shade structures/long term hardwoods, and short term cash crops planted among cacao to help for instance with local cash that can be obtained throughout the year, and/or even just for their own more immediate consumption. He said that he hadn’t seen any mono crops and didn’t think that LCC sourced from any.

I asked generally, how fair labor practices are generally created and insured? He replied that it is done at the farm level; operations of cooperatives are such that they pool people together, e.g. people helping one another throughout the harvest, sharing resources, and/or through advisement of each others farms, supporting a lifestyle…He added that the cooperative model is such that there’s social community support and that obviously the farmer union is a testament to that, where elected officials are help make decisions with and for the people that they live amongst. He added that some other organization may be less cooperative, more like a local farmers’ association, working with neighbors, something they have to do almost out of necessity related to economy of scale to improve the size and scale of the harvest to work with potential buyers. For instance, depending on the size of the harvest, a farmer may not be able to dry in a quality manner, or may not have economy of scale, and/or if they are looking to sell on the specialty market, may not even have the logistics to get product out. So these farmers’ groups might help with economy of scale which can also build recognition, e.g. to say, ‘hey, we’ve got a quantity, amount worth selling,’ instead of relying on a coyote who comes through offering a low price at an opportune time for themselves to buy, sell or trade off. His answers revealed the preference for local organized control, not “top down,” not one-size-fits-all, and sensitive to distinctions that a broad national approach might miss regarding how cacao is produced and sold (Martin, April 6, 2016).

Furthermore, I appreciated his reflecting upon what Fair Trade and Fair for Life meant for his company allowing them to obtain certified raw materials like sugar and where Fair Trade certifications don’t always have the traceabilty, Fair for Life offers a nice balance, and more traceability within the supply chain such as interactions with premiums. As discussed in class, Fair trade has great aspects, has made positive gains, was never meant to address/solve all supply chain problems, though promises a lot and can’t always deliver on those promises (Martin, April 6, 2016; Sylla, 2014; Ten principles of Fair Trade, 2012). I so appreciated the opportunity to learn more from the company in this way. It was encouraging to hear about the company’s culturally sensitive engagement within diverse communities where they source cacao, and their commitment to continue to work toward transparency in the cacao supply chain while supporting cacao communities. Blue Bandana can be considered to be part of the solution to problems that we have studied in the cacao-chocolate supply chain.

Issues of social justice and sustainability are complex, more research is needed, and solutions will vary according to countries and communities, as LCC seems aware of. However, what really resonated this semester is that places that have been identified as having problems may also be where real solutions can occur. As pointed out in lecture, I believe that we need to advocate for a holistic approach to solving these complex problems, recognizing that we are all implicated, simple solutions like increasing commodity pricing or certifications do not always deliver in the way that we assume and are not adequate unto themselves. Nevertheless, as consumers we do need to interrogate what is behind these solutions and consider them in context. Additionally, we need to avoid a binary perspective and recognize the complexities, doing what LCC is advocating–not rely in top down approach to solving problems while routing out prejudices and culturally inappropriate/nonwestern ideals (Martin, 2016).

References

Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker. (2012). Video available from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0n9n7HQ3_A

Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker. Image (barn) (2014). Little Brown. Image available from

https://vimeo.com/85700650

Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker in Guatemala. (2015). Available from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBDVeelXUxs

Blue Bandana teaches the taste of chocolate. (2012). Retrieved from

http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/blue-bandana-teaches-the-taste-of-

chocolate/

Lake Champlain Chocolate Introduces New Approach to Making Chocolate. (2013).

Retrieved from

https://www.specialtyfood.com/news/article/lake-champlain-chocolates-

introduces-new-approach-to-making-chocolate-122571/

Lake Champlain Launches new Chocolate. (October 20, 2012). Retrieved from

http://www.wptz.com/news/vermont-new-york/burlington/Lake-Champlain-           Chocolates-launches-Blue-Bandana/17070252

Lake Champlain’s New Blue Bandana Chocolate Bars. Retrieved from

http://www.wildrosemarketing.com/whats-new/lake-champlains-new-blue-      bandana-chocolate-bars/

Martin, C. (March 8, 2016). Lecture 8: Modern day slavery. AAAS E-119. Chocolate,

Culture, and the Politics of Food. Retrieved from Harvard University Extension

School Canvas site.

Martin, C. (March 30, 2016). Lecture 9: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate

advertisements. AAAS E-119. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.

Retrieved from Harvard University Extension School Canvas site.

Martin, C. (April 6, 2016). Lecture 10: Alternative trade and virtuous

localization/globalization. AAAS E-119. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of

Food. Retrieved from Harvard University Extension School Canvas site.

Martin, C. (April 20, 2016). Lecture 12: Psychology, Terroir, and Taste. AAAS E-119.

Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Retrieved from Harvard University

Extension School Canvas site.

Martin, C. (April 27, 2016). Lecture 13: Haut patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food

justice: the future? AAAS E-119. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.

Retrieved from Harvard University Extension School Canvas site.

Meet Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker. (2015). Mood of Living. Retrieved from

http://moodofliving.com/portfolio/blue-bandana-chocolate-maker/

Off, C. (2006). Bitter Chocolate: the dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet.

Retrieved from AAAS E-119. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.

Retrieved from Harvard University Extension School Canvas site. PDF.

Ryan, O. (2011). Chocolate Nations. Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa.

Retrieved from AAAS E-119. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.

Retrieved from Harvard University Extension School Canvas site. PDF.

Sylla, N. (2014). The Fair Trade Scandal: marketing poverty to benefit the rich.

Retrieved from AAAS E-119. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.

Retrieved from Harvard University Extension School Canvas site. PDF.

Ten principles of Fair Trade. (2012). Retrieved from http://wfto.com/fair-trade/10-principles-fair-trade

Zwirn, L. (December 2014). New England Chocolatiers set the bar high. Boston Globe.

Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/fooddining/2014/12/02/choc-                   and-awe/8hCzJTclu66ziBA2D1VBnJ/story.html

 

Appendix

Table 1.

Ten Principles of Fair Trade

Principle One: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
Principle Two: Transparency and Accountability

Principle Three: Fair Trading Practices

Principle Four:  Payment of a Fair Price

Principle Five:  Ensuring no Child Labour and Forced Labour
Principle Six:  Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association

Principle Seven:  Ensuring Good Working Conditions

Principle Eight:  Providing Capacity Building

Principle Nine:  Promoting Fair Trade

Principle Ten: Respect for the Environment

Ten principles of Fair Trade. (2012). Retrieved from http://wfto.com/fair-trade/10-principles-fair-trade

Table 2. 

“Jim Lampman declared he would create upscale American chocolates that would “rival the Belgians.”  His son has kept the goals high: “Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker is a new dimension for Lake Champlain Chocolates,” says founder and President Jim Lampman. “It’s a priority for my children, Eric and Ellen, to have greater transparency in our supply chain.  And to be directly invested in an origin community is a testament to their commitment to having an impact on the global community.  Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker has the advantage of the history and support of the Lake Champlain Chocolates’ brand, with the fresh perspective, energy and innovation that comes with the younger generation.

Historically LCC has always focused on local — using Vermont ingredients, supporting our local communities.  And we still do,” says Eric Lampman, Director of Innovation and Quality at LCC and creator of Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker. “But now, after thirty-one successful years of being in business, we have the tools and resources to engage with our global supply network in a more substantial way that allows us to have an impact on our supply chain.”

“LCC introduces new approach to making chocolate” Retrievcd from https://www.specialtyfood.com/news/article/lake-champlain-chocolates-introduces-new-approach-to-making-chocolate-122571/

Table 3.

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When I called the company to inquire if they had organic cacao nibs for sale, they informed me that LCC does have nibs, that they are not certified organic, that they do not believe that chemicals are used in growing cacao but without the certification couldn’t guarantee that. I appreciated that they went on to explain that certifications can be expensive for farmers and that LCC has committed to helping their farmers become certified within the next couple of years. I think that LCC and Blue Bandana Chocolate are doing a marvelous job of educating consumers, being a responsible partner in the farming community to make sure that a quality cacao can achieve recognition and an appropriate market.

 

As Eric explained in an interview, “…our goal is to visit the farms we buy from and to have direct communications with each farmer or producer group with which we work….we strive to develop long-term partnerships with producers that grow premium cacao around the world. Our partnership with indigenous Maya producer groups in the eco-region surrounding Laguna Lachua National Park in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, began in 2012 as a way to work collaboratively at developing new opportunities for both producers and chocolate makers. Small capacity building investments have been made each year to support the planting and post-harvest production of cacao in the region…

       “With each visit to Guatemala, new ideas for incorporating aspects of the Maya

culture return with us. One project we are hoping to develop is up-cycling burlap

sacks into fashionable bags with leather strapping…. Proceeds from the bag sales go

to Food4Farmers, an organization that promotes diversified livelihoods with coffee

farmers – a program we want to connect to the cacao producers in Alta Verapaz”

(Meet Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker, 2015).

Tasting Change: The Evolving Desire for Premium Chocolate in Brazil

The country of Brazil is known for many things, including samba, sandy beaches, and of course, beautiful women. True, the country has all of these things in abundance, but beneath the surface there exists many more wonderful attributes. I discovered Brazilian chocolate on my first visit to Brazil, in June of 2007. Newly married, my husband took it upon himself to introduce me to his culture and heritage, and so one of the very first places we went was his neighborhood candy and newspaper shop. I recall the selection being enormous, and I tried many different types of candy, but it was the chocolate that kept me coming back daily for more. My favorites at this time were all made by a company called Garoto, under the parent company Nestle (they own Garoto but operate separately).

produtos-detalhes-25

 

Garoto, a bean-to bar company that was established in 1929, is today one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in Brazil, along with Barion and Mondélez. These three companies own nearly 75% of the market share in Brazil. The remaining 25% is shared between several smaller, premium chocolate companies, including Kopenhagen and Cacau Show. It is only in the last ten years or so that premium chocolate has become desirable for the Brazilian market, and only very recently has organic and fair trade chocolate even been introduced to the country. And this is for a country that produces over 350 thousand tons of cocoa per year, is home to more than 50 thousand cocoa farmers,and is in the top four chocolate producers in the world (Brazil Business, 2015).

***

To get an idea of the role chocolate played in Brazilian culture, I interviewed one of my closest friends in Brazil. Her replies were originally in Portuguese; for the purposes of this post I have translated her replies as accurately as possible.

What chocolates do you remember most from your childhood?

Yes, well, we ate a lot of candy when I was a child! My mother had an account so we could have anything from the little store. My favorite was Baton, which means lipstick in Portuguese…a chocolate in the shape of a lipstick. It was the best thing to have this chocolate on Sundays…we would watch the races on TV, do you know Ayrton Senna, Formula 1? And enjoy Baton, Serenata de Amor, Diamante Negro…and it was family, and tradition. Every time I eat this chocolate now I remember those Sundays.

What chocolates do you and your family enjoy today?

My children will eat many of the same things I have liked…for me now these things have too much sugar, they taste too sweet. I prefer very dark chocolate, maybe 70% cacao or more. My husband also, he really loves 90% cacao but this is very difficult to find, usually only when we travel outside of Brazil to USA we can find this at your supermarkets. Whole Foods has many, many chocolates we love! But my children, they do not like American chocolates…I think the taste is strange for them, unfamiliar.

***

Several years after my first trip to Brazil, I had the opportunity to return for three months. Progress marches on in all respects, but with regards to the chocolate market I noticed how things had changed…all of my same favorites were there, but there were a couple of new and popular places in the large shopping centers that everyone was recommending. The first one I visited was Kopenhagen, a premium chocolate shop.

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It was obvious that they were trying to sell the upscale premium chocolates to a more discerning consumer. The menu included such things as European Hot Cocoa (a very thick melted chocolate drink), handmade truffles, and my personal favorite, a chocolate and marshmallow concoction called Nha Benta.

nha-benta-chocolate-quente-748x499

I also visited a place called Cacau Show, which specialized in many different flavors of bonbons displayed in a tower. Whereas Kopenhagen focused primarily on the consumer, Cacau Show catered more to the gift market, offering a large selection of colorful prepackaged options in every price range.

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But why had it taken so long for premium chocolate products to become popular in Brazil? According to Dartmouth History Professor Timothy Walker, it all goes back to the slave labor in Brazil’s past. Up until the early 19th century, nearly all cacao was produced by slaves. After the abolitionist movement, production declined steeply, even exploitative labor proctices were still a widely occuring problem. Chocolate became an expensive commodity at this point and national consumption declined. This began a push towards exportation, and today accounts partly for why approximately 90% of Brazil’s cocoa is exported. (Slave Labor and Chocolate in Brazil, 2007).

I asked my friend if she knew about this part of chocolate’s history in Brazil; she replied that she knew a little, but not much, and that it wasn’t really something she thought about on a daily basis. She seemed interested in exported and imported chocolates, so I continued the interview.

Have you had chocolate from other countries? If so, how does it compare in your opinion?

Yes, I have had Swiss chocolate, American, and British. The different types have different tastes…Swiss is very creamy while American is too sweet…and the British also. Brazilian chocolate to me tastes very rich and smooth.

Do you give chocolates as gifts? If so, what kind do you buy?

It’s common to do this…we give welcome gifts all the time, usually wine or liquor, with chocolates. For this we go to an expensive place, Kopenhagen or Cacau Show in the shopping mall…sometimes a bakery for special bonbons. It’s an important thing in Brazilian culture, this giving of chocolates. It means friendship and respect…and if you receive chocolates you must offer to share, it’s good manners.

***

During my most recent trip to Brazil last year, I noticed that in addition to the traditional and premium chocolate offerings, there were several new players in the cocoa game. Amma Chocolate, Nugali, and Harald, just to name a few. Amma specializes in “tree to bar, organic chocolate making” with an emphasis on sustainble farming practices. Their website offers a welcome transparency about their processes.

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Nugali and Harald, by comparison, offer single-origin chocolate, mainly for domestic consumption, that has the distict terroir of Brazil. According to Bill Nesto, writing for Gastronomica, terroir is complicated to explain, but easy to taste. Generally speaking it is the particular combination of factors that combine to represent the chocolate’s particular origin (Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate, 2010). Brazilian chocolate, explains a Nugali representative, has an underlying flavor reminiscient of banana, with a tiny hint of citrus (Single Origin Brazilian Chocolate, 2015). I asked my friend if she had any interest in these newer products.

Do you look for products that have organic or fair trade labels on them? What does that mean to you?

I like to buy organic chocolate when I can find it…it is a newer thing here, organic products…and it is much more expensive, maybe triple the price of ordinary products…but I think it’s better for my health. I have seen Fair Trade on some types but I don’t really know what that means. But again, very expensive for many Brazilian people.

Do you consider chocolate to be healthy, as in, do you feel that it offers you some health benefits?

Yes the antioxidants I have read about I feel are good for me…this is partly why I prefer dark chocolate. I have a nutritionist…she says to eat one square of dark chocolate per day. But also, my trainer at the gym says no sweets so I don’t know! I don’t know if there are any other benefits. I believe the commercial chocolates in the supermarket have too much sugar to be healthy. But also, there is a benefit to my mind…chocolate makes me happy, so I like to do what makes me happy. I don’t think a little sweets will hurt me in the long run. I think my trainer is too strict about this, so I don’t mention it!

Dark chocolate has health benefits that go beyond antioxidants, according to recent studies. In particular, consuming chocolate has shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, including fighting diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease (Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health, 2012). Furthermore, consumption of theobromine (a main component of chocolate) has shown promising reductions in the risk of preeclampsia, a dangerous medical condition that can affect pregnant women (Chocolate Consuption in Pregnancy, 2008).

Has any of the information I’ve shared with you today changed your views on chocolate, or changed the way you will buy it in the future?

Of course; I am always interested in healthy improvements to my life. I will share this about chocolate with my pregant women friends…that is very good news, and a good reason to eat more chocolate. I would like to learn more about Fair Trade also. If I can I will look for more organic chocolates in the future. And try to get my children to eat more dark chocolate, though that won’t be easy!

In conclusion, the gourmet chocolate market is a new and emerging sector in Brazil, one that I will be interested in watching in the coming years. Hopefully on future visits to the country I will continue to find and explore the many wonderful ways that Brazilians put their particular zest for life into the very chocolate they make.

***

Works Cited
“Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 12.1 (2012): 43-52. Web.
“Chocolate Market in Brazil.” The Brazil Business. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2016.
Nesto, Bill. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10.1 (2010): 131-35. Web.
“Single Origin Brazilian Chocolate to Compete alongside Lindt and Godiva in the U.S.” ConfectioneryNews.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2016.
Triche, Elizabeth W., Laura M. Grosso, Kathleen Belanger, Amy S. Darefsky, Neal L. Benowitz, and Michael B. Bracken. “Chocolate Consumption in Pregnancy and Reduced Likelihood of Preeclampsia.” Epidemiology 19.3 (2008): 459-64. Web.
Walker, Timothy. “Slave Labor and Chocolate in Brazil: The Culture of Cacao Plantations in Amazonia and Bahia (17th–19th Centuries) 1.” Food and Foodways 15.1-2 (2007): 75-106. Web.

 

Linked Websites

https://www.garoto.com.br/produtos

https://www.nestle.com.br/site/home.aspx

http://br.mondelezinternational.com/home

http://www.harald.com.br

http://www.nugali.com.br

http://www.ammachocolate.com.br

Photo Credits (In order of appearance)

Brigadeiro with Brazilian Flag: CC Image via FreeImages.com

Garoto Chocolates: Garoto.com.br Official Website

Kopenhagen Storefront: Kopenhagen.com.br Official Website

Kopenhagen Hot Cocoa: Kopenhagen.com.br Official Website

Cacau Show Storefront: Cacaushow.com.br Official Website

Amma Website Screenshot: Ammachocolate.com.br Official Website

Theo Chocolate, Inc.: Working to Make the Chocolate Industry a Better Place

Introduction

Over the past several decades, chocolate has become a part of daily life for most consumers in the United States. Once a beverage reserved for consumption by the elite classes in Mesoamerica, chocolate is now a popular commodity among most social classes in our society. Manufacturers combine cocoa beans grown in the equatorial parts of the world – primarily countries in central Africa and South America – with sugar and other ingredients to craft these delectable treats. When choosing which confections to purchase, consumers base their decision on several factors, including price, brand loyalty, and availability. One factor casual consumers often neglect when making their choice is where the cocoa used to craft the chocolate originated. With many cocoa growing regions plagued by questionable ethical or moral practices, should this not be the most important factor in chocolate purchasing? Many smaller chocolate companies believe that it should, and craft their confections using carefully sourced cocoa that meets several standards to help combat these practices. One such company working to eliminate these questionable practices is Theo Chocolate, Inc. of Seattle, Washington.  A close examination of the company’s history, certifications, and sourcing and partnerships, reveals the progress Theo is making to promote an ethical chocolate industry that does not need to rely on forced or underpaid labor to maintain its profitability.

History

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Theo Chocolate, Inc. Logo.

As “the first organic, fair trade certified chocolate maker in North America” (“Mission”) Theo has been making great strides in the industry over the past two decades. Founder Joe Whinney began his work in chocolate in 1994 by directing organic cocoa beans from Central America to a host of American customers (“Mission”; Allison). For Whinney, the following decade was a time of learning and discovery. He spent much of the time losing money due to the great cost of each step in his supply chain and the desire to pay the cocoa farmers a fair value for their crops (Allison). After realizing that his current situation was unsustainable, Whinney decided that to maintain his work in the organic cocoa business, he would need to open his own factory for production and cut out several of the later steps in his chain (Allison). Thus, in 2004, Theo Chocolate, Inc. was born.

To create the company that would sustain his passion and allow him to promote his work, Whinney relocated with Debra Music, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, to Seattle (“Mission”). While Music worked to market and brand the upcoming products, the company’s factory and team of workers was assembled, and, in March 2006, Theo’s first line of chocolate was produced (“Mission”). Throughout the entire process Whinney strove to maintain his standards, and the company remains devoted to these ideals today.

Certifications

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The seal used to denote Organic certification.

Perhaps the most prominent outward reflection of the values that the company espouses comes in the form of their product certifications. Theo holds four such certifications: Organic, Fair Trade, Non-GMO, and Demeter (“Our Certifications”). The company must meet several criteria to qualify for each of these certifications as explained below.

Organic

In order to become certified as an organic producer through Quality Assurance International (QAI), the company who certifies Theo’s products, a company must complete a five step process (“Steps”). First, the company must apply for certification and provide QAI with details about their operations and processes (“Steps”). Second, the company undergoes a thorough inspection similar to the one they will undergo annually if they are provided with the certification (“Steps”). Third, the company experiences a technical review to ensure their operation “complies with all necessary organic regulations” (“Steps”). Fourth, the company receives notification from QAI about the status of their request and the areas of deficiency that need to be remedied to proceed with the certification process (“Steps”). Fifth, the company becomes compliant and deemed certified by QAI (“Steps”). To maintain its certification, and its standards of production, Theo subscribes “to the most stringent definition of organic” (“Our Certifications”). Wherever possible, Theo uses organic ingredients that have been grown using sustainable practices (“Our Certifications”). This commitment to quality exemplifies Theo’s desire to benefit the world as a whole, rather than just their bottom line.

Fair Trade

In addition to being Organic certified through QAI, Theo maintains a Fair for Life Fair Trade certification through the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) (“Our Certifications”). The Fair for Life certification requires companies to adhere to a set of social responsibility standards and to provide support through fair trade relationships with their suppliers (“Your options”). “Fair for Life Fair Trade means long-term and trusting cooperation between partners, transparent price setting negotiations and prices,” all ideals that Theo strives to uphold through their sourcing partnerships (“Your options”). This makes this certification perhaps the most valuable for the company from a farmer outreach perspective. Through their work as a fair trade company, Theo is able to provide the farmers from which they source their cacao with wide-reaching benefits, including healthcare and education (“Our Certifications”).  Theo’s commitment to aiding the often impoverished cacao farmers of the world is truly an admirable trait for a company in the chocolate industry.

Non-GMO & Demeter

As part of their promise to use organic ingredients, Theo avoids the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) (“Our Certifications”). While the labeling of GMOs is not legally required in the U.S. and Canada, Theo feels that “consumers have the right to know what is in their food and have made a commitment to non-GMO certification of [their] products” (“Our Certifications”). There is much ongoing debate about the safety of GMO ingredients. Many companies, including Theo Chocolate, Inc., feel that until these ingredients are deemed safe for consumers, it is not worth the risk to include them in their products.

As a Demeter certified company, Theo has committed to maintaining high standards of sustainable farming that will benefit the planet (“Our Certifications”). To achieve this certification, the farms Theo sources from must meet the Demeter Biodynamic® Farm Standard, and Theo must meet the Demeter Biodynamic® Processing Standard (“Demeter”). For more information on these standards, please visit the Demeter USA website here.

Sourcing & Partnerships

theo_chocolate
One of the two varieties of Theo chocolate crafted using Congolese cacao.

As yet another effort to maintain their commitment to high quality, ethical chocolate production, Theo is focused on selecting the best cacao beans it can find. Currently, Theo’s cacao beans are sourced from Peruvian farmer cooperative Norandino and Congolese company Esco Kivu (“Sourcing”). Theo concentrates its efforts in cacao sourcing on providing fair prices to their partners to promote an emphasis on quality propagation year after year (“Sourcing”). Instead of paying the commodity price for cacao beans, Theo has built a structured pricing model that provides a greater price for higher quality cacao to provide incentives to their farmer cooperatives (“Sourcing”). This method benefits both the farmers and the company . By providing an increased price for cacao that goes above and beyond the current commodity market rate, farmers are able to enjoy a greater profit and are better able to provide for themselves and their families. By ensuring that their farmers are well taken care of, Theo is able to maintain a positive relationship with these farmers and can encourage the farmers to make a strong commitment to quality production. As committed Fair Trade producers who provide quality price premiums, full transparency in their supply chain, and third party verification of their cacao purchases, Theo is able “to actively raise the bar for [the] entire industry” (“Sourcing”).

In addition to their commitment to fair trade sourcing, Theo has partnered with the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) to benefit the cacao farmers of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (“Our Partners”). Through this partnership, Theo has the “potential to positively impact more than 20,000 people living in Eastern Congo” (“Our Partners”). The cacao sourced through this partnership is used to craft two chocolate bars, each with its own unique flavor: Vanilla Nib and Coffee & Cream (“Our Partners”). Since their involvement with ECI farmers began, Theo has sourced over 1,600 tons of cocoa from the DRC (“Our Partners”). While aiding farmers in the DRC has brought increased prosperity to the area, it has not been without difficulties. The following interview of Joe Whinney by Stan Emert of Rainmakers TV, details some of the issues caused by the current governmental structure of the DRC along with the efforts being made by Theo in the country.

Conclusion

With many cacao producing nations resorting to forced labor and some of the worst forms of child labor to maintain their prosperity, along with diminished payouts for cacao farmers, it is easy to see that the current state of affairs in cacao production is appalling. In recent years, companies have begun to attempt to source their cacao from ethically run farms, but the response from the industry has left much to be desired. While many larger chocolate producers put their own profits above those of their cacao farming counterparts, many smaller producers are making a commitment to providing consumers with ethically sourced, fair trade chocolate. One such company who is devoted to making strides in the right direction is Theo Chocolate, Inc. of Seattle, Washington. Since its founding in 2004, Theo has endeavored to make an impact on the industry and draw to light the issues that many producers prefer to hide from consumers. An examination of Theo’s history, its certifications, and its sourcing and partnerships, allow us to see just how far the company is willing to go to further its ideals. The next time you are shopping for chocolate, be a conscientious consumer and remember to consider the ethical nature of the chocolate’s source.


Works Cited

Allison, Melissa. “Fair-trade Theo Chocolate fairly booming.” Seattle Times, 04 April 2013. Web. 08 May 2016.

“Demeter Biodynamic and Processing Standards.” Demeter USA. Demeter Association, Inc. Web. 08 May 2016.

“Mission.” Theo. Theo Chocolate, Inc. Web. 08 May 2016.

“Our Certifications.” Theo. Theo Chocolate, Inc. Web. 08 May 2016.

“Our Partners.” Theo. Theo Chocolate, Inc. Web. 08 May 2016.

“Sourcing.” Theo. Theo Chocolate, Inc. Web. 08 May 2016.

“Steps to Organic Certification Process.” QAI : Client Resources : Prospective : Steps to Organic Certification Process. Quality Assurance International. Web. 08 May 2016.

“Your options for certification and verification.” Fair for Life. IMOgroup AG. Web. 08 May 2016.


Multimedia Sources

Theo Chocolate. Digital Image. Wikimedia Commons, 2014. Web. 08 May 2016.

Theo’s Chocolate Logo. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons, 2015. Web. 08 May 2016.

USDA organic seal. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons, 2015. Web. 08 May 2016.

Whinney, Joe. Interview by Stan Emert. Chocolate from Difficult Places. YouTube, 29 December 2014. Web. 08 May 2016.

 

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.

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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

 

Solutions to ethical dilemmas in the cacao-chocolate industry by the bean-to-bar chocolate company, Taza Chocolate.

  1. Introduction

Taza is a bean-to-bar chocolate company based in Somerville, MA, that addresses contemporary issues in the cacao-chocolate supply chain in unique ways. Founded in 2005 as a small, local company, operating on one rented floor of a warehouse in Somerville, the company focused on ethical trade and organic production, in addition to traditional production methods, from its inception. It has now expanded to a nationally sold company with enough capital to more effectively influence the cacao supply chain. By investing and interacting directly with organic cacao farms in South America and the Caribbean, the company is able to ensure that more money is going directly to the farmers and that ethical farming practices are being rewarded. They call this practice “direct trade,” and developed it as an alternative to Fair Trade, which has become controversial in recent years due to questions over its actual impact on small farmers and the cost and difficulty of obtaining such a certification. Further, in order to ensure their own adherence to this direct trade model, as well as to open the possibility of other companies aligning with this model, they have hired a third-party company to verify their sourcing program every year according to the policies they laid out. In addition to their Direct Trade program, Taza also maintains a high ethical standard in other company practices. In reviewing their materials, one finds that they do not rely on exploitation of the image of the cacao farmer as a victim, but instead use images and language that portray them as strong, independent individuals, with pride in their work. They do not rely on exploitative sexual or racial images in their advertising, as too many contemporary chocolate companies do, but instead rely on the unique quality of their product. In these ways, Taza is one of the most ethical chocolate companies currently in operation, and should be used as a model for other companies.

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Taza Direct Trade Certification Logo. Taza has outlined a list of rules to which they adhere and are held accountable by a third party organization they hired.
  1. Current issues in the cacao trade

Cacao is an export of developing countries in tropical regions, and as such, is faced with the economic and agricultural issues associated with developing countries. Cacao is often purchased by middlemen in the country or region in which it is produced, who then export the product to chocolate producers abroad, mostly in the U.S. and Europe. These middlemen purchase cacao from farmers at much lower prices than the global value of cacao, thus earning most of the export’s value for themselves, and returning little to the farmers. This system can sometimes be simply be a result of exploitative middlemen, yet may also be more complicated; often, a combination of local and national laws and regulations, social or societal norms and expectations, and access to global markets, plays a role in this low monetary return to the cacao farmers (Martin, Lecture 8). Whatever the case, the low wages paid to individual cacao farmers has a negative effect on the industry in a variety of ways: forced or coerced labor can result if farmers are under pressure to produce products at such a low cost, unsustainable practices are used, and there is little incentive to improve the quality of the product (Sylla, 26-40; Off, 100-140; Berlan, 2013).

These issues are not new to the cacao industry. Following the abolition of slavery, slave labor or ‘unfree’ labor practices continued on cacao plantations in parts of Africa (Higgs, 133-150), and have continued to this day. Presently, one of the largest, and most publicized, labor issues in cacao production is the use of child labor. The causes of this coerced labor are often very complex and difficult to address, and can range from direct child trafficking in clearly forced labor situations, to micro-pressures such as fear of family breakdown or socio-cultural tradition (Berlan, 2013). Further, the growing popularity and commercialization of chocolate in the U.S. and Europe throughout the 20th century caused a push for larger quantities of cheaper cacao beans, and local and international responses to agricultural and economic events throughout this time period has further complicated production and exportation (Martin, Lecture 8).

 

  1. Attempts at repairing the cacao trade

Because these issues in the cacao industry are difficult to understand and cannot be easily generalized, the responsibility falls on chocolate companies to ensure that the beans they purchase are ethically produced. As local governments and international organizations are often unable to adequately enforce fair labor practices broadly, responses to such issues have mostly taken the form of using the free market to incentivize adherence to a set of principles in cacao and other agricultural practices.

 

3.1. Fair Trade’s impact and controversies

One of the most well known of such incentivizing organizations is Fair Trade USA, which promises fair wages to workers, no use of forced, child, or exploited labor, safe working conditions and reasonable hours, and environmental sustainability, among others (Martin, Lecture 10; Fair Trade USA, Mission/Values). Whether Fair Trade USA succeeds in these goals is unclear, yet the company certainly has at the very least raised consumer awareness about the issues facing the farmers that produce much of the world’s chocolate, coffee, sugar, and even produce. However, critics of Fair Trade USA believe that the organization fails in the following ways: fails to deliver the promised higher wages to the individual farmer and to developing countries in general; makes it too hard and expensive to obtain certification, so that only large, wealthy farms are able to obtain it; it actually harms small farms that do not have certification; they do not incentivize quality; and it fails to adequately monitor standards; and the farmers do not have enough of a say in the production of their product, among others (Martin, 10; Dickinson; The Fair Trade Shell Game).

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Screen grab from “The Fair Trade Shell Game,” which criticizes the Fair Trade USA certification. The major complaint of this video was the lack of incentives for increased quality of the product in Fair Trade farms, and the lack of farmer input into the process.

3.2. Taza’s solution: Direct Trade

Taza decided to pursue a different approach to ethical sourcing of cacao beans for their chocolate. Rather than relying on an organization like Fair Trade USA to certify cacao farms with its standards of ethical trade and not necessarily effective practices, Taza began engaging with cacao farms directly, investing in farms that would agree to meet their standards of ethical production. This approach is called ‘Direct’ trade, and involves direct engagement of the chocolate company with their bean producers. This means the company must send a representative to each cacao farm they buy beans from at least once a year to check in and ensure their standards are still being upheld, and while it requires more effort on the part of the chocolate company, it seems to have a clearer positive impact on the farmers and their communities than Fair Trade does.

The clearest way in which Direct Trade is a better alternative to Fair Trade for achieving the same goals is its placement of financial responsibility with the cacao buyer, as opposed to the cacao producer. The cacao farms involved in direct trade with Taza, as opposed to those that go through the Fair Trade certification process, do not have to pay to have their farms certified in order to receive the higher premiums. Rather, Taza takes the responsibility of visiting farms and cooperatives, investing in, and paying higher premiums to ones that agree to meet their direct trade program commitments. Additionally, in 2011 Taza took the step of hiring a third party to certify their adherence to this program, to ensure that they do not deviate from the values themselves, thus taking further responsibility in ensuring their beans are ethically produced (Taza, Taza Direct Trade). Having the financial responsibility fall on the chocolate companies that buy the cacao beans ensures that more money is making it back to the farmers, and allows for smaller farms with less capital to participate in the program.

The Taza Direct Trade Program is verified by the third party company Quality Certification Services, and consists of five ‘commitments,’ or rules to which Taza must adhere. The first two of these commitments have already been mentioned, and are 1) the development of direct relationships with the farmers from which they purchase their beans, and 2) the payment of a premium to their cacao producers, specifically a premium of at least 500 US dollars per metric ton. The program then also has a quality standard based on fermentation rate and moisture of the beans, requires USDA organic certification from their suppliers, and requires Taza to produce an annual transparency report that details their cacao bean purchases and interactions with the farmers over the prior year (Taza, Direct Trade Program Commitments). One can see the way in which these rules interact to ensure more benefits for the farmers, as well as incentivize increased quality of the cacao beans: their paying of high premiums, along with quality standards and farm visits, rewards farmers for production of better beans; their commitment to produce an annual transparency report that is verified by a third party ensures that they continue to treat their producers ethically as outlined in their first two commitments.

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Cover of a transparency report by Taza Chocolate. The Transparency reports detail interactions with farmers with photographs and descriptions, as well as accounts of trade. This photo is also a demonstration of positive portrayal of cacao farmers, as described in section 4.

There is one imperfection with the Taza Direct Trade Program that stands out: their requirement of USDA organic certification, a certification for which the farmers need to pay and which cannot be reimbursed by the USDA in any of the countries in which Taza has cacao suppliers (USDA, Organic Cost Share Programs). This requirement is reminiscent of Fair Trade USA, despite Taza’s desire differentiate itself from Fair Trade USA and to reduce the burden it places on the cacao producers. However, the USDA certification is often less expensive than Fair Trade certification, and many companies that purchase Fair Trade agricultural products would also require USDA organic certification, making the Taza Direct Trade Program still substantially less expensive for farmers than Fair Trade, and Taza investment in new cacao farms alleviates such costs (USDA, Organic Certification and Accreditation; Taza, Annual Transparency Reports 2011-2015).

 

  1. Taza’s other positive influences

In addition to Taza’s Direct Trade Program, the company also maintains high ethical standards in their advertising and their portrayal of cacao farmers. They do not rely on the sexualization of women to sell their chocolate, as many companies do, but instead use their ethical sourcing practices and the uniqueness of their product to sell their chocolate bars. Further, they do not exploit the image of cacao farmers as victims when portraying their ethical sourcing, but instead use images of the farmers proudly displaying their work, and write about the farmers’ lives, interests, struggles, and successes, in a very human and relatable way in their transparency reports (Taza, Transparency Reports 2011-2015). For these reasons in addition to their excellent direct trade program, Taza should be used as a model for other chocolate companies in combating the ethical problems in the cacao-chocolate industry.

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Screen grab from a dutch video that portrays cacao farmers in Africa only in the context of ‘exploited.’ The intentions of the video-makers are in the right place, but portrayals like this support an exploiter/exploited binary that is oversimplified.
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This photo from a transparency report is instead a good example of portrayal of cacao farmers as relatable people, with pride for their work
  1. References

Berlan, Amanda. “Social sustainability in agriculture: An anthropological perspective on    child labour in cocoa production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development   Studies 49.8 (2013): 1088-1100.

Dickinson, Rink. “An Analysis of Fair Trade: Reflections from a Co-founder.”       InterReligious Task Force on Central America. Cleveland, Ohio. 02 May 2016.   Speech.

First Taste of Chocolate in Ivory CoastMetropolis. VPRO Metropolis, 21 Feb. 2014.      Web. 30 Apr. 2016.

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

Kierz, Shane. Front Cover, Taza Annual Transparency Report 2014. Digital image. Taza   Chocolate Company. Taza Chocolate Company, Sept. 2014. Web. 3 May 2016.

Last, Jesse. Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report. Rep. 2015 ed. Somerville,         MA: Taza Chocolate, 2015. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 8: Modern Day Slavery.” Aframer 119x. CGIS, Cambridge,       MA. 22 Mar. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 10: Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/            Globalization.” Aframer 119x. CGIS, Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Lecture.

“Mission/Values.” Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade USA, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

Off, Carol. Bitter chocolate: Investigating the dark side of the world’s most seductive         sweet. Vintage Canada, 2010.

“Organic Certification and Accreditation.” Agricultural Marketing Service. United States   Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web. 04 May 2016.

“Organic Cost Share Programs.” Agricultural Marketing Service. United States       Department of Agriculture, n.d. Web. 04 May 2016.

Our Direct Trade Program Commitments. List of Principles. Somerville, MA: Taza          Chocolate, n.d. Print.

Sylla, Ndongo. The fair trade scandal: Marketing poverty to benefit the rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.

“Taza Direct Trade.” Taza Chocolate. Taza Chocolate Company, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

Taza Direct Trade Certified Logo. Digital image. Taza Chocolate Company. Taza Chocolate Company, n.d. Web. 2 May 2016.

The Fair Trade Shell Game. Markham Nolan, Dusan Sekulovic, and Sara    Rao. Vocative.             Vocative, 20 Dec. 2013. Web. 4 May 2016.

Whitmore, Alex. Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report. Rep. 2014 ed.       Somerville, MA: Taza Chocolate, 2014. Print.

Whitmore, Alex. Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report. Rep. 2013 ed.       Somerville, MA: Taza Chocolate, 2013. Print.

Whitmore, Alex. Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report. Rep. 2012 ed.       Somerville, MA: Taza Chocolate, 2012. Print.

Whitmore, Alex. Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report. Rep. 2011 ed.       Somerville, MA: Taza Chocolate, 2011. Print.

Whitmore, Alex. Gabriel Pop, General Manager at Maya Mountain Cacao, proudly          stands in their new drying house. Digital image. Taza Chocolate Company. Taza           Chocolate Company, Sept. 2012. Web. 3 May 2016.

Madécasse Chocolate: Fair Trade, or Exploitation Redux?

An image from Madécasse’s website showing how its chocolate is supposedly farmed. An analysis of Madécasse’s promotional material reveals the problematic tropes underlying its representation of farmers and Africa’s industry.

Madécasse chocolate, created by two ex-Peace Corps volunteers, has garnered a reputation for its progressive stance on fair trade chocolate. Madécasse relies on two related claims to boost its image as an ethical company: first, Madécasse often cites its innovative strategy of keeping chocolate production within the hands of local Madagascar communities, and second, Madécasse boasts that its cacao farmers are able to earn up to four times more income than even fair trade cocoa. Although Madécasse’s socially-conscious values—reminiscent of the Cadbury company values—seem like an exciting opportunity for Madagascar farmers and a breath of fresh air in the chocolate industry, a closer look reveals that Madécasse relies on troubling assumptions about cacao farmers even as it claims to change the narrative surrounding chocolate production.

Madécasse has been praised by gourmet food blogs for the company’s core values, its aim to better the lives of cacao farmers, and its efforts to increase local production within Africa. Madécasse’s website claims that the company began selling chocolate because:

We fell in love with the people and the country and wanted to do more. So we started making chocolate there in 2008 in collaboration with a local manufacturer. Even though 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from Africa, less than 1% of the world’s chocolate is actually made there. We exist to change this.

Additionally, Madécasse claims to go even further than other fair trade chocolate companies because “Madécasse generates four times more income than fair trade cocoa because all of the chocolate production takes place only a few hours away from where it is organically and sustainably harvested” (Russo). By helping “people to produce their own chocolate, so that the work stays in Africa (along with the profits),” Madécasse seems to have incorporated “fair production” into “fair trade.”

However, troubling ideas pervade Madécasse’s feel-good story, as evident in the above excerpts from Madécasse’s website. But before analyzing the problematic aspects of Madécasse’s “exploitation” narrative, a historical analysis will help give further context to Madécasse’s ethics-driven business, and show how Madécasse’s tactics are nothing new in the chocolate world.

Cadbury company values in the 21st century

Chocolate production certainly has a troubled history because of the use of indentured servitude and slaves on cacao and sugar plantations. Yet there were conscientious efforts to reform and change the exploitative method of production as early as the 1800’s. William Cadbury’s boycott of São Tomé and Príncipe exemplifies how the idea of mixing chocolate and ethics is hardly new. Cadbury had heard that contract laborers were working in slave-like conditions on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe where Cadbury sourced some of its cacao (Satre). The Portuguese plantations there used servicais, indentured servants that were really enslaved people brought from Angola to work (Satre); the conditions that met these slaves were so horrific that the average life expectancy on São Tomé and Príncipe was around 7-9 years (Martin).

To verify these claims, Cadbury hired Joseph Burtt to determine if the cocoa it was buying from the islands had been harvested by slave laborers (Higgs). Burtt’s extensive documentation of labor and slavery in West Africa eventually led to Cadbury’s decision to boycott cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe, a boycott that other companies also joined (although it is worth noting that Hershey did not join the boycott and labor abuses on those islands continued into the 1900’s). Instead, Cadbury and other companies turned to the Gold Coast and other regions to grow cacao; today, up to 60% of the world’s cacao comes from the Gold Coast, mostly bulk cacao of the foreastero variety (Martin).

The Cadbury story is important context for Madécasse in two ways: first, it shows that ethical concerns have been pervasive in cacao’s history, and that Madécasse is not the first company to use chocolate production as an avenue for social change. However, there is another lesson from the Cadbury story that cuts the other way: the Cadbury story also tells us that chocolate companies will try to deflect bad publicity by shifting production to other regions and that these companies may continue harmful production practices out of sight. In either case, it is important to read between the lines of Madécasse’s lofty words to analyze whether its agenda relies on faulty narratives of exploitation and poverty.

What is the reality of exploitation?

Despite the feel-good story of Cadbury’s boycott of cacao plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe, the reality was more complicated: the boycott did not eliminate the slave-like conditions on those islands (which continued up until 1950) and other companies like Hershey stepped into the void left by Cadbury (Martin) (Higgs). Similarly, Madécasse’s characterization of cacao farming in Madagascar paints an incomplete picture of the reality surrounding cacao farmers. In fact, several review of Madécasse chocolate have claimed that the chocolate is “guilt-free” and that the consumer should rest assured that they’re “giving a little something back with each bite” (Cocoa Runners). Only by challenging the exploitation narrative can we break down these statements to analyze the true means of chocolate production.

Cacao farmers have often been victim to the “exploitation” narrative, where they are assumed to be victims of the chocolate-industrial complex. As Carol Off writes, these farmers make a pittance that there is “little remaining for tomorrow” after they buy the basic necessities of life (Off). Off argues that “almost every critic of the industry has identified the key problem: poverty among the primary producers,” and asks if this problem could be solved by “simply undertak[ing ways] to make sure the farmers received a decent price for their beans” (Off).

However, this simplistic analysis ignores the role that national governmental policy and local pressures play in cacao production. At its most insinuous, this exploitation narrative paints farmers as either helpless victims or as exploiters themselves. What is often left out of promotional materials for bean-to-bar companies is how several layers of local, national, and industry forces are sandwiched between the consumer and the farmer. Cacao farms in Africa are often independent family farms with complex land ownership titles. These farms produce cacao for mostly foreign-owned corporations whose primary market is outside of Africa (Martin).

For instance, the equation is often complicated by national policies and inter-fighting that has little to do with how much consumers pay for a bar of chocolate. In the 1970’s agricultural crisis, harsh economic policy worsened economic hardships for farmers and disincentived farmers to continue growing cacao and other cash crops (Martin). Governments have also continued to use the marketing boards/caisse system to hurt farmers by forcing them to sell their crops at price below the world price. In some cases, farmers have been hurt by behind-the-scene politics: some countries had passed legislation that allowed the government to take money out of the cacao farming areas and use it for the benefit of the country as a whole in an effort to shift resources to promote urban industry (Martin). These urban industrial interests were seen as bigger threats to governmental rule and rural farmers had less consolidated power to challenge or lobby for change. All of these examples show how the narrative of exploitation often ignores cultural, economic, and political forces that stand between farmers and the product that we enjoy.

Does Madécasse rely on a simplistic exploitation narrative?

Madécasse’s promotion materials, as well as review of Madécasse chocolate, reveal how the “exploitation” narrative and several other troubling tropes still pervade “fair trade” chocolate production.

Madécasse’s writings contain faint undertones of colonialistic amazement and paternalism in the way it generalizes and describes Africa. Madécasse’s website contains these excerpts:

For centuries, Africa’s economy has been overly dependent on the export of raw materials (cocoa, sugar, coffee, vanilla, to name a few) with zero value added locally. These are eye-opening facts, which explain how a continent so rich in raw materials can remain so poor.

“These are eye-opening facts”—but to whom? Sure, Madécasse is writing to a Western audience, but even such an audience would have already been vaguely aware of African exploitation. The use of the phrase “eye-opening” here seems more to emphasize how Madécasse is doing a great service by raising awareness for poor African farmers—in fact, in the second sentence, Madécasse goes ahead and paints the entire continent as “poor.” Another concern centers around whether these eye-opening facts actually facts at all. Madécasse uses the slogan “Did you know that Africa grows 70% of the world’s cocoa, yet produces less than 1% of the world’s chocolate? Madécasse exists to change this by making chocolate entirely in Africa.” Yet there are chocolate bars and lemon treats produced in Africa (Martin). And Madécasse’s claims are completely contradicted by Madécasse’s later explanation of how they make their chocolate: “We work with a local chocolate manufacturer to actually make our chocolate, from start to finish, in Madagascar.” If there were already local chocolate manufacturers to partner with, has there really been “zero value added” locally, or was Madécasse’s trying to downplay the local economy and paint the Western industry as more advanced?

Another area of concern is that Madécasse provides limited information on the livelihood of farmers that it employs. This is a company who prides itself on how “Madécasse generates four times more income than fair trade cocoa because all of the chocolate production takes place only a few hours away,” yet Madécasse’s description of these farmers is just as opaque as some of the press releases for Hershey or Mars. Madécasse claims that “workers are paid above the “fair” price and are provided job and skill training.” While Madécasse does put the word “fair” in quotes as an acknowledgement that the industry can do more to compensate farmers, there is little else about how the farmers stand to gain any tools, education, or aid from Madécasse. All we know as consumers is that Madécasse has “created meaningful income for over 200 people – from farming of cocoa, to making our packaging, to making our chocolate”—which is a disappointing amount of information for an innovator in fair trade and fairly produced chocolate (Madécasse). The website actually writes more extensively on the environmental impact of nurturing cocoa trees than it does about the farmers that grow the trees: the website boasts an entire section on Madécasse’s “250 acres of forests that provide a safe haven to over 65 species of plants and animals” and “endangered plants and animals,” leaving farmers out of the picture (Madécasse).

Madécasse’s founders also seems to suffer from a minor “savior” complex in the way they describe their company’s impact on the local economy. In an interview with Fast Company, one of the co-founders Tim McCollum credits Madécasse for how “people are starting to wake up, and realize that for 100 years they’ve been exporting about 65 percent of the world’s cocoa to France, and then importing the chocolate that France makes with their cocoa. There’s this appetite for it to work in Africa as well” (Evans). But if in fact Africa is starting to realize its own production capabilities, the better explanation might be because demand is increasing as a “genuine middle class is emerging across the continent,” not because of foreign investment in one chocolate brand (Russo).

McCollum also pats Madécasse on the back for how it has supposedly created a pool of talent in Africa: McCollum begins by generalizing that “Africa suffers from a brain drain. Everyone who’s educated there is educated abroad and they usually don’t come back because there are no jobs.” To combat this, the founders claim they have “create[d] opportunities for talented individuals even when there isn’t a position available simply to hold on to them,” because “the people are so few and far between that we’ll create that opportunity” (Evans). Not only is this statement extremely dismissive of potential African ingenuity, it also creates a sense that foreigners are qualified to identify and cultivate talent to “save Africa,” for lack of a better term. These condescending “savior” undertones taste bitter in light of Madécasse’s promise to encourage self-growth in local economies.

In conclusion, Madécasse rests on praise-worthy principles: supporting local production and raising awareness of fair trade ideas. However, Madécasse’s execution is flawed in several respects: in terms of historical context, Madécasse is hardly the first company to mix ethics and business, despite what Madécasse’s promotional materials indicate. Additionally, Madécasse might want to have a look at the historical and political context surrounding the production of its beans: as history shows, paying more for cacao beans doesn’t work if the government is the only seller to the global market and simply pockets the increase, and change cannot occur if our conception of cacao farmers does not take government policy and local pressures into consideration. Lastly, Madécasse’s rhetoric is troubling in the way that it paints the local economy as helpless and in need of a foreign infusion of leadership when its own website admits that Madécasse came into existence by relying on already-existing farms and local manufacturers. While Madécasse’s fair trade goals are well-intended, its exploitative narrative and practices should be examined for its perpetuation of simplistic and reductive tropes that pervade the chocolate industry.


Works Cited:

  • CocaoRunners. “Madécasse.” http://cocoarunners.com/explore/maker/madecasse/. Online
  • Evans, Lisa. “How a Chocolate Company in Madagascar Overcame the Odds.” Fast Company. 3 April 2014. http://www.fastcompany.com/3028533/bottom-line/how-a-chocolate-company-in-madagascar-overcame-the-odds. Online.
  • Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. 2012. Print.
  • Madécasse. “Our Impact.” http://www.madecasse.com/our-impact/. Online
  • Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” 2016. Powerpoint/lecture.
  • Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Anatomy of an Industry. 2014. Print.
  • Russo, Maria. “Made in Madagascar: How the World’s Finest Chocolate is Finally Being Produced at Home.” The Cultureist. 27 March 2012. http://www.thecultureist.com/2012/03/27/made-in-madagascar-the-worlds-finest-chocolate-is-finally-being-produced-at-home/. Online.
  • Satre, Lowell. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. 2005. Print.

 

Is Fair Trade the Answer?

For much of the history of chocolate production, it has been the farmers who have suffered the tolls of exploitation. Unfair prices continue to leave many cacao farmers in poverty while the intermediaries between farmers and the consumer market are reeling in large profits. The current practices have created a standard of living that many farmers believe is not worth the work. So where traditionally the family farming business would be passed down to kin, it seems only logical to ask just how long will these farmers accept this mistreatment before they drop the family business all together? Such talk has fueled worrisome predictions about the future of chocolate. The small-scale farmers who endure the greatest exploitation are actually the ones who contribute approximately 90% of the world’s cacao (Lamb, 2014). If the children of these farmers do not take over for their parents, the world’s cacao sources will dwindle, chocolate prices will skyrocket, and companies will likely be forced to reduce cacao content in their products. To add

Cocoa farmer in Ghana 345x288
Small-scale farmers produce about 90% of the world’s cacao and thus are an integral part of the chocolate production supply chain.

on to the problem, cacao trees that live in much of West Africa are producing lower yields as they age and farmers do not possess the funds to help combat the shrinking cacao numbers (Fair Trade USA, 2011). To help solve these problems, Fair Trade has made huge steps towards improving the situation for farmers and the cacao production process in general. Fair Trade has brought into light issues that were previously in the dark and set into motion plans to fix them. But just how effective is Fair Trade? Is it actually achieving what it sent out to do? Fair trade has without a doubt set its sights on a noble cause but, as one will discover in this paper, the organization’s plan still has some deficiencies that must be addressed if the any substantial change is to be solidified.

Cacao Production

The majority of cacao farmers fall at the mercy of local collectors and intermediaries who move their cacao to exporters and processors. These intermediaries are purchasing cacao from farmers for prices much lower than what is considered “fair.” These practices have suppressed farmers into states of poverty, with little chance of rising out of it. As mentioned earlier, cacao yields have also been suffering, which has in turn put a larger stress on labor needs (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Economic hardship has likely been a major contributor towards the use of child and salve labor in West Africa. Identifying these issues as problems that need to be addressed, Fair Trade has stepped in and placed into action a plan to rid farmers of the injustices that have been pushed upon them.

Fair Trade

Fair Trade has set its sights on helping “cacao cocoa farmers, traders and chocolate manufacturers participate in long-term, stable relationships that support a dependable living for farmers and their families” so as to allow them to “provide a reliable, high quality cocoa supply for the industry” (Fair Trade USA, 2011). The Fair trade system consists of: encouragement of farmers to organize as cooperatives, certification that ensures the absence of child labor, a framework to increase environmental sustainability, a ban on the use of agro-chemicals, a Fair Trade price guarantee, and community development premiums (Fair Trade USA, 2011).

Farmer owned and governed cooperatives and associations, essentially give farmers leverage to aid in the achievement of higher and more fair prices for their products. So whereas, in the past, farmers were often economically exploited as the result of possessing little power, cooperatives are essentially helping to restore balance to the chocolate production chain.

The Fair Trade guarantee of no use of child labor helps assure consumers that they are not supporting such injustices by buying the product, thus making not only the end product more desirable to consumers, but also the cacao more desirable to intermediaries, exporters, and processors. This is an incentive to farmers to resist the temptation to hire cheap labor in the form of child workers, contributing towards a higher ethical standard.

The importance placed on environmental sustainability and the ban on agro-chemicals helps to insure not only the quality of the product, but also the future prospects of prosperity and the continued production of cacao. To help with this, Fair Trade has implemented premiums designated to community development to “increase product quality, build infrastructure, train cooperative leadership, bring safe drinking water to their communities and establish local health clinics and schools” (Fair Trade USA, 2011). A large focus has been set on increasing the living conditions of farmers, essentially giving them a lifestyle worth investing in.

There have been numerous efforts aimed to improve cacao production. Many of these approaches were centered around increasing yields and creating new disease resistant cacao plants. It is Fair Trade’s opinion, however, that these plans failed to address the root cause of the problem, the economical exploitation of farmers resulting in their inability to invest in their work and create an environment that allows for a sustainable business (Fair Trade USA, 2011).

Fair Trade in Action

Within the Fair Trade system, as of 2011, there are 62 cacao-growing cooperatives worldwide, including 14 small-holder farmer cooperatives in Côte d’Ivore with 200 to 6700 members in each (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Fair Trade has seen implications in aspects of life that go beyond higher prices. Kavokia, a cooperative certified since 2004, now owns a big health center that offers free treatment and health care to its members (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Another cooperative, Coopaga, invested in trucks, computers, and other tools for its members and also helped contribute to the building of a local hospital (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Two other cooperatives, COOPAAAKO and COOPAYA, achieved organic certification of their crops after investing in organic production methods (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Fair Trade has also led to the first farmer owned Fair Trade chocolate, the Divine Fair Trade milk chocolate bar, made by The Day Chocolate Company (Oxfam, 2010). “We have taken our destiny into our own hands,” says Comfort Kwaasibea, a

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Farmers have been able to allocate much of their Fair Trade premium towards establishing a better standard of living.

member of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative (Oxfam, 2010). In 2013, Fair Trade producer organizations earned £4 million in Fairtrade premium alone, earnings that have allowed producer organizations in West Africa to allocate 36% of their premium (suggested minimum is 25%) on projects to increase productivity and cacao quality (Galandzij, 2014). These examples point to the positives of the Fair Trade system and the outcomes it can produce; however, they do not paint the whole picture. In order to understand Fair Trade in its full context one must acknowledge its shortcomings.

Limitations

Upon first glance, the Fair Trade system seems hugely successful. In 2014, global sales reached £4.4 billion, which is up 10% from the year prior (Clifton, 2015). In fact, The Swedish and German markets saw 37% and 27% increases respectively in Fair Trade sales (Clifton, 2015). However, things aren’t as rosy as they appear to be for small-scale farmers. Solidaridad’s 2012 report reveals that even the best performing smallholders earn less than US$10 per day (Clifton, 2015). So it seems that despite Fair Trade’s success on the market level, small-scale farmers are still falling victim to economic exploitation. Dutch trade campaigner and current Executive Director of Solidaridad, Nico Roozen describes the reality for small-scale farmers as “a shift from poverty to certified poverty” (Clifton, 2015). The limitations of Fair Trade don’t stop here.

The Fair Trade certification stamp was designed to distinguish products that have essentially passed the ethical tests of the supply chain. Fair Trade products are supposedly free of child labor and the farmers who grew the cacao were justly paid. To the consumer, these are attractive guarantees and they allow the individual to feel good about the products they are buying. On the surface, the idea seems pretty reasonable. Companies who use Fair Trade cacao in their products will not only support an ethical cost, but will also hold an advantage on the consumer market. But unfortunately, things are not this straightforward. The Fair Trade system was largely implemented to help the too often exploited small-scale farmers move their products to new markets in order to allow them to compete with large-scale farmers. However, the Fair Trade certificate no longer guarantees tha
t small-scale farmers are step 1 in the supply chain, expanding their programs to large-scale farmers (Lindgren, 2015). As a result, products from large-scale farmers have now begun being labeled with the same Fair Trade certificate, essentially pushing small-scale farmers right back to the unfavorable and disadvantaged status from which they started.

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Child labor/slavery continues to be a problem in the cacao production industry.

Fair Trade seems to also be failing on its commitment towards ensuring the absence of child labor from the production process. Anti-Slavery International Director Aidan McQuade claims that when they met with Fair Trade, Fair Trade stated that their primary responsibility is producers, not children (Clifton, 2015). McQuade also claimed that child labor and child slavery is common and a part of the culture in Ghana and Côte d’Ivore (Clifton, 2015). Moreover, although Fair trade bans the use of child labor, they also claim that they cannot guarantee that a product is free of child labor (Clifton, 2015). Regardless, it doesn’t seem like Fair Trade cares about investing the efforts needed to completely eradicate child labor. But under these standards, what does the certificate even represent?

This question can be asked again in response to the variability of products who all wear the same certificate. To be clear, some labels require significantly lower Fair Trade ingredients than others, providing misleading information to the consumer (Lindgren, 2015). A company who uses a larger percentage of cheap, non Fair Trade ingredients while still maintaining the Fair Trade certificate will obviously have an advantage over a company that pays the higher price for a greater amount of Fair Trade products. This obviously isn’t just and doesn’t help those who are largely dedicated to using Fair Trade ingredients.

Solutions

As farmers continue to be left in poverty, the world may soon face the consequences of malcontent farmers, and thus a lack of new farmers to overtake the current businesses. The Fair Trade system seems to claim a desire for better lives for farmers, especially those of small-scale, however motives will not change these farmer’s lives, only action will. The practicality of the current plan is not enough to pull small-scale farmers out of poverty, which is what Fair Trade initially set out to do.

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Fair Trade’s current certifications do little to help close the gap between large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers.

Fair Trade’s certifications seem to have lost their power to distinguish between large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers. The current labels provide no advantage to the already disadvantaged small-scale farmers, giving them little chance to pull themselves out of poverty. In order to fix this, Fair Trade needs to create a language that helps create a distinction between small-scale farmers and large-scale farmers so that consumers can know who they are supporting. A language could also be created to help differentiate between the varying degrees of Fair Trade ingredient use so as to provide a better representation of the product. Fair Trade could also increase the standards required to be considered Fair Trade certified for large-scale farmers to help small-scale farmers fair better in the market (Lindgren, 2015).

Lastly, in response to the lack of enforcement of the ban on child labor within the Fair Trade community, Fair Trade could implement a third party who would be observing the current labor practices with “a rigorous human rights lens” so as to be able to enforce the laws without a bias for the use of cheap labor through whatever means possible.

The Big Picture

Fair Trade’s efforts to confront unjust practices in the supply chain has consequently associated the brand’s mark with a commitment to high ethical standards. However, the organization may be getting more credit than it deserves. It is without a doubt a major step in the right direction to acknowledge the injustices that have plagued the success of small-scale farmers. However, there are a number of changes that must be implemented in the system if it is to have any significant effect on the lives and businesses of small-scale farmers. So is Fair Trade the answer? It may be the beginnings of an answer; however, it is one that currently remains incomplete.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Clifton, Helen. “Is It Time to Rethink Fair Trade?” Equal Times. N.p., 6 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

“Fair Trade Certified Cocoa Review.” Fair Trade Certified TM COCOA Review(2011): n. pag. Fair Trade USA, 2011. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

Galandzij, Anna. “Choose Fair Trade to Make a Positive Impact for Cocoa Farmers.” Fairtrade Foundation. N.p., 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

Haglage, Abby. “Lawsuit: Your Candy Bar Was Made By Child Slaves.” The Daily Beast. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

“Kupa KoKoo.” KUAPA KOKOO (2010): n. pag. Oxfam Australia, Apr. 2010. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

Lamb, Harriet. “There Is a Solution to the Looming Chocolate Shortage – Pay Farmers a Fair Price.” The Guardian. N.p., 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

“Why Fair Trade?” Kopali Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2016.

 

Love chocolate? Then love paying more for it.

 

What’s the problem?

Currently, chocolate farmers are not being paid fair wages. Oxfam’s pie chart below illustrates that farmers only receive 3% of the profit from each chocolate bar.oxfam-chocolate-bar-share_large

This means that chocolate farmers can earn less than $2 per day (Oxfam 5). In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, for example, some cacao farming households only make $0.50 – $0.80 per day and 60-90% of their income is dependent on cacao (Martin lecture 1 slide 6; Cacao Barometer 1). This results in many illiterate and malnourished chocolate farmers who live in poverty and are without health care, to the extent where it will take farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire 341% and 1608% of their current income, respectively, to reach the poverty line, as illustrated below in Figure 1.

IMG_3522

However, this huge percentage increase in income will still only allow such farmers to reach the poverty line. Providing farmers with fair living incomes and wages requires more than simply bringing them out of poverty. Farmers ought to be able to afford clean drinking water, sanitation, decent housing, adequate clothing and footwear, nutritious diets, social security, and basic social services (Cacao Barometer 44-45). Therefore, a lot of change and action is required since chocolate farmers are far away from escaping poverty, let alone earning a sufficient income to be able to live healthy lives.

 

Fairtrade

Fairtrade is one attempt that has been made to tackle this injustice. Fairtrade aims to help farmers build sustainable businesses and improve their quality of life by selling products that are fairly priced (Fair Trade USA). After the Second World War and during the 20th century missionaries and humanitarians began North America’s oldest Fair Trade Organisations (Fair Trade Resource Network 1). Ndongo Sylla claims that since then Fair Trade has significantly impacted some regions of the world; however, the injustice towards farmers is complex and Fair Trade faces difficulties of its own (16, 63). Firstly, while Fair Trade chocolate is more expensive than regular chocolate, not much of the Fair Trade price goes back to the farmers (Martin lecture 10 slide 10). Since farmers sell their cacao beans to middle men who then sell it on, the middle men absorb the price increase. Secondly, the cost for certifications, like Fair Trade certification, is expensive and is an ongoing cost as products have to be continually re-certified (Martin lecture 10 slide 10). And farmers bear the cost of certification. Therefore the cost of certification may be greater than the profit gained from having products certified. Thus, chocolate farmers may lose money by having their products certified, which defeats the purpose of certification and Fair Trade. Furthemore, because certification is costly, Fair Trade is advantageous for wealthier farmers who can afford certification but disadvantageous for poorer farmers who cannot. Therefore Fair Trade promotes even greater inequality between chocolate farmers, which moves us away from our goal of eliminating farmer inequality. Thirdly, both consumers and farmers may lose incentive to participate in Fair Trade’s system because of quality concerns. Certified high quality cacao beans are priced the same as certified low quality cacao beans. Therefore, as explained in the video below, farmers are not rewarded for producing higher quality beans and therefore may be incentivised to sell their beans directly to a more profitable specialty market than have their beans certified with Fair Trade.

Additionally, consumers and farmers may also lose incentive to continue with Fair Trade due to ethical concerns in the media. Fair Trade are often secretive about the true value and gains that Fair Trade offers in comparison to regular chocolate. For example, from 2:23 onwards in Fair Trade Foundation’s marketing video below, Fair Trade is advertised as “a system that pays extra money and that extra profit comes back to us workers”; however, they do not explicitly state quantitative values for how much “extra money” and “extra profit” is earnt (Fair Trade Foundation).

Even on Fair Trade’s website page titled “Impact Research and Evaluation Studies” under the section “The Impact of Our Work” explicit figures are not specified. They make generic statements like: “findings illustrate the real difference that certification and sales have made to farmer organisations and living conditions” where “the real difference” is not clearly explained or supported with figures (Fair Trade Foundation). And in the video below, from 0:55 onwards, even the President and CEO of Fair Trade explicitly states that regular “farmers get 8% of export price” but generically compares that to Fair Trade farmers who “get a higher price”.

Lastly, consumers may be discouraged to buy Fair Trade products because Fair Trade is just one certification body out of many, such as UTZ certified and Rainforest Alliance, which all have different standards. And even within the Fair Trade organsation policies and methods are inconsistent. Fair Trade USA has different policies, standards, and management from Fair Trade UK. Therefore, though certifications such as Fair Trade aim to provide chocolate farmers with fairer wages, there are many flaws in the system and it is mostly definitely not a perfect solution to providing farmers the income they need and deserve.

 

Direct Trade

Direct Trade certification also aims to help chocolate farmers receive fair wages, and it addresses Fair Trade’s flaws and improves upon them (Martin lecture 10 slide 17). Unlike Fair Trade, Direct Trade rewards quality products and pays higher premiums for higher quality cacao beans. Direct Trade also limits the cost of certification, which helps prevent farmers from losing money from paying the cost of certification and it does not disadvantage the poorer farmers, in fact, Direct Trade allows for smaller farms. But Direct Trade’s most distinctive feature is that they promote direct communication and price negotiation between consumers and farmers. This is their most valuable practice because the direct communication increases the opportunity for farmers to receive fair wages and is a more effective method as it eliminates the middle men that absorb the price increase. Taza Chocolate based in Boston and Dandelion Chocolate based in San Francisco are two examples of companies that partake in Direct Trade. They are also the most transparent chocolate companies. Each year they release a transparency report explicitly detailing where their money goes, how many cacao beans they buy, and the origin of their cacao beans.  Figure 2 below is an example taken from Taza Chocolate’s 2015 transparency report to show how remarkably transparent the information they provide the public with is. Such transparency is extremely rare in chocolate companies.IMG_3523Figure 2.

However, even the most transparent companies cannot guarantee that the farmers receive the money that chocolate companies pay for their beans. For example, Taza explicitly states that in 2015 they paid $869,000 for 223 metric tons of beans purchased; however, there is no guarantee that there are not middle men absorbing the payment as the chocolate supply chain is complex and ensuring the money goes directly to the farmer is often out of chocolate companies’ power (Taza 2). Therefore the Fair Trade and Direct Trade certification system and increased transparency is not enough to ensure that farmers are receiving fair wages.

 

Craft Chocolate

Craft chocolate makers present a hopeful future for farmers and fair living wages. Craft chocolate makers are able to source the origin of the cacao beans they use, take raw ingredients, and complete the whole chocolate manufacturing process: roasting, winnowing, tempering etc. by themselves, and thus make chocolate from “bean-to-bar”. Since craft chocolate makers produce on small scale, are independent, and make their chocolate and their company from scratch, the origin of the beans they used are known and they can purchase those beans via direct trade relationships with the farmers. This enables the farmers to be paid much more for their cacao beans. The cacao is also grown under good labour conditions, which is a bonus as this is another one of Fair Trade’s aims and initiatives (Martin lecture 13 slide 31). Farmers are able to be paid much more for their cacao not only because of the direct relationship and direct purchase used, but also because craft chocolate is not certified. So, farmers do not bear the cost of certification. Therefore farmers that work with craft chocolate makers are hugely better off.

The high cost of a craft chocolate bar is the trade-off now that farmers are being paid higher and fairer prices for their cacao, despite their products being non-certified. Farmers are no longer the persons paying for their fairer wages through certification. Now consumers cover farmers’ labour costs by purchasing more expensive chocolate bars. Though some farmers greatly benefit from this shift, the majority of farmers continue to suffer because few consumers are willing to pay for higher priced chocolate bars. For example, craft chocolate such as Potomac Chocolate and Dick Taylor cost $8 and $9 per bar, respectively, whilst an average Hershey’s bar costs only $2. Thus, the majority of chocolate consumers would rather purchase a cheap $2 chocolate bar than an $8 or $9 craft chocolate bar. Furthermore, research has shown that regardless of a consumer’s personal financial fluctuations, they remain willing to only spend $3 or $4 per chocolate bar (Ahren). Therefore currently few farmers benefit from such ethical schemes, like craft chocolate, because there is not a large consumer audience who are willing to pay $8 and $9 for a chocolate bar.

 

Conclusion

There is a clear relationship between the fairness of a farmer’s wage and the price of a chocolate bar. An average unethical chocolate bar, such as Hershey’s chocolate, costs a mere $2 (Hershey’s). Though Fair Trade has some flaws and may not always ensure that farmers’ receive a higher wage, it is more ethical and farmer-friendly than an average chocolate bar. A Fair Trade chocolate bar such as Cadbury’s costs $4.29 for 6.5oz, which is more expensive than an average chocolate bar (Target). Then a Direct Trade chocolate bar such as Taza chcoolate, which offers farmers a better price for their cacao since they have direct communication with their farmers, costs $5 for 2.7oz, which is much greater than a Fair Trade bar (Taza). Finally, the most expensive is a craft chocolate bar such as Dick Taylor’s, which offer farmers much more for their cacao, costs $6.80 for 2oz (Dick Taylor). Therefore, because the more a chocolate bar provides farmers with fairer wages the more expensive it is, in order to help farmers receive fairer living wages, consumers must be prepared to pay more for chocolate bars.

 

Paying more

Though Ahren’s research has shown that chocolate consumers are only willing to pay $3 or $4 for a chocolate bar, there is hope that people will be willing to spend more and that chocolate farmers can have fair wages. Craft chocolate is a relatively new concept and trend. During the 1980s and 1990s there was an increase trend in single origin chocolate and the purity of tracing the origin of cacao beans (Martin lecture 13 slide 20). During the 2000s there was a birth of new craft chocolate producers, and over the past six year, during the 2010s, there have been over 150 bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers (Martin lecture 13 slide 20). Therefore, there is a growing movement and increase in consumer demand for craft chocolate, since this increase in supply could not occur without it. However, fair farmer wages is not the only reason why craft chocolate makers pay farmers much higher cacao prices. Craft chocolate makers pay more because they are purchasing higher quality beans. The concern is that the current consumer demand growth for single origin chocolate may be due to consumers’ desire for higher quality chocolate and not consumer consciousness. If consumers’ willingness to pay extra for chocolate is solely due to their desire for high quality chocolate, it is unlikely that many more farmers will be able to benefit from fair chocolate products such as craft chocolate bars. The number of chocolate consumers who desire high quality chocolate will plateau as the majority of chocolate consumers simply view chocolate as an easy delicious snack and do not care for its quality. Hence big leading chocolate companies today like Hershey’s are able to sell poor quality chocolate for just $2. Therefore it is promising that there is a trend and increase in chocolate consumers who are willing to pay for more expensive chocolate bars; however, in order for more farmers to benefit from fairer wages, consumers must be willing to purchase expensive chocolate due to consumer consciousness and not simply for higher quality chocolate.

Furthermore, craft chocolate is not the perfect solution to chocolate farmers being underpaid. Craft chocolate makers often neglect West African cacao, where farmers’ wages are the lowest. Therefore it should not be advocated for all chocolate consumers to switch to craft chocolate bars. Rather, chocolate consumers should use craft chocolate as a scenario where the products are expensive but the makers pay their farmers much more for their cacao. Thus, craft chocolate is an example that should encourage chocolate consumers to be willing to pay more for chocolate so that chocolate farmers can receive fairer wages and a better quality of life.

 

 

Non-hyperlinked Figure Sources

Figure 1. “Equality for Women Starts with Chocolate.” Oxfam. Retrieved from: https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/equality-for-women-starts-with-chocolate-mb-260213.pdf  May 4, 2016

Figure 2. “Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report.” Taza. Sept 2015.  Retrieved from: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Transparency_Report_2015_v10_spreads__1.pdf?7651569415208703683  May 4, 2016

 

Works Cited

Ahren, Dan. “Investing in Vice.” 2004. St. Martin’s Press, New York. Print

“Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report”. Taza Chocolate. September 2015. Retrieved from: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Transparency_Report_2015_v10_spreads__1.pdf?7651569415208703683 May 4, 2016

“Brief History of Fair Trade.” Fair Trade Resource Network. Retrieved from: http://www.fairtraderesource.org/uploads/2007/09/History-of-Fair-Trade.pdf May 4, 2016

“Cocoa Barometer 2015.” 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Download_files/Cocoa%20Barometer%202015%20Print%20Friendly%20Version.pdf May 4, 2016

“Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate.” Dick Taylor. Retrieved from: http://www.dicktaylorchocolate.com/shop/?category=Chocolate+Bars May 4, 2016

 

“Impact Research and Evaluation Studies.” Fair Trade Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/what-is-fairtrade/the-impact-of-our-work/impact-research-and-evaluation-studies May 4, 2016

Martin, Carla. “Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food Lecture Slides 2016.” 2016. Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bYUY0UWg0Y1h2TTA&usp=sharing May 4, 2016

— “Lecture 1: Introduction to Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.” 2016.

— “Lecture 10: Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization.” 2016.

Oxfam Media Briefing. “Equality for women starts with chocolate”. Oxfam. 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/equality-for-women-starts-with-chocolate-mb-260213.pdf May 4, 2016

“Products.” Hershey’s. Retrieved from: https://www.hersheys.com/fundraising/products/ May 4, 2016

“Shop.” Target. Retrieved from: http://www.target.com/#?lnk=icon_t_spc_1_0 May 4, 2016

Sylla, Samba Ndongo. “The Fair Trade Scandal.” Ohio University Press. 2014.

“Taza Chocolate.” Taza. Retrieved from: https://www.tazachocolate.com/collections/see-it-all/products/super-dark May 4, 2016

“What is Fair Trade?” 2016. Fair Trade USA. Retrieved from: http://fairtradeusa.org/what-is-fair-trade# May 4, 2016