Tag Archives: grenada

Returning To the Basics: Grenada’s Chocolate Revolution

Chocolate is a universal product. Everyone knows this, yet no one can avoid it. No matter what you do at least a few times a day you come across someone selling, advertising, eating or talking about chocolate. The food is so popular that it has become ingrained as a staple in modern society. However, while being a staple of society, most people do not know the complexities behind what it takes to grow, harvest and trade chocolate. Companies fight on a daily basis to find the best cacao for the lowest price. Unfortunately, this pushes chocolate makers and providers towards ingenuine and sometimes unethical practices in order to compete within the market such as child labor, un-fair trade, in-genuine ingredient use and poor environmental impact. These have become major critiquing points for the chocolate industry. The existence of these practices shows how the present day chocolate industry has fallen out of touch with the unique flavor of chocolate, the personal relationships between farmer and consumer as well as with the environment that provides this product. Though many companies participate, in some way or another, in these unethical practices for the sake of convenience or monetary ease, there is a rising number of companies that are devoted to fair practices, high quality ingredients and environmental sustainability. One of these companies is the Grenada Chocolate company, a small group dedicated to setting an example of what chocolate production should be like through their high-quality chocolate, relationship with farmers and dedication to environmental sustainability.

 
grenada

The Grenada Chocolate company was established in 1999 by Mott Green (born David Friedman), Doug Browne and Edmond Brown who had the idea of creating a cooperative amongst Grenadian chocolate makers.1 The company is the first “Tree to Bar” chocolate company to be established in Grenada and prides themselves on fair practice and on the amount that they give back to the local economy of the village of Hermitage in St Patricks. GCC makes their award-winning chocolate using trinitario cacao beans and focuses on creating dark chocolate bars of various percentages and combinations. The story of GCC is very much linked to the story of its founder, Mott Green, who set out to create an ethical chocolate company after thinking about and seeing all the injustice that is committed while people enjoy chocolate without a clue that these injustices occur. After much contemplation, he and his partners bought a small abandoned building in the village of Hermitage and transformed it into a chocolate factory6. This was the beginning of the Grenada Chocolate Company.

In order to combat the ethical challenges within the chocolate industry, he created the GCC and established it as a bean to bar company, a company that makes their chocolate products straight from the cacao beans instead of melting purchased chocolate from a chocolate maker. This has allowed GCC to have control over their whole chocolate making process and empowers them to treat and compensate their workers fairly, something that is a current problem within the cacao industry. As a small company that lies outside the pressures of the modern cacao company Mott Green designed for GCC to be an ethical chocolate company that returns to the basics of chocolate making and selling treating both employees and the environment with respect while creating high quality chocolate in the process.

As such a company GCC has been able to find success while also keeping balance all the important relationships that are a part of chocolate production and showing that it is possible to be both ethical and successful in the chocolate industry. I will discuss a few of these relationships and offer examples as to how GCC successfully navigates them.

Dedication to Wholesome Ingredients

 One rising debate within the chocolate industry is the question of whether the existence of milk chocolate and corporation sized candy companies (like Mars and Hershey) have caused people to become accustomed to non-natural ingredients and whether that has led to a decreased appreciation and knowledge of the cacao plant and its varieties. On its own milk chocolate has no faults. However, those who only eat milk chocolate will miss out on the numerous amounts of flavor that comes with dark chocolate and how each type of cacao bean develops different tastes. Even some dark chocolate companies fill their bars with unnatural preservatives and flavorings that take away from the flavor of the cacao bean itself. This shows a disconnect in the relationship between chocolate producer and the cacao bean. While some companies do this in order to cheaply mass produce chocolate products, other companies believe that it is the job of the chocolate producer to work with the cacao and allow its various tastes to be highlighted instead of hiding it in a flood of added ingredients.

 

GCC does well in being an example of this philosophy and maintaining this balance, as they are devoted to creating chocolate with genuine and natural ingredients in ways that enhance the flavor of the cacao bean. In an effort to maximize the flavor from the cacao bean, GCC grows, ferments and processes their beans on-site (hence the bean to bar status). This allows them to have control of the fermenting process and the flavor profile of their beans while using fresh cacao beans instead of shipped ones allows their chocolate to have a much more intense flavor1. The GCC also uses organic raw sugar and vanilla as the sole sweeteners of their chocolate. In addition to its natural flavors, GCC chocolate is certified organic and free from: animal products, nuts and nut derivatives, milk and eggs, wheat, glutamines, artificial colors, preservatives and several other products that some companies add to chocolate1. This dedication to natural flavor allows for the fruity and hearty flavor of the Grenadian cacao bean to be highlighted and appreciated by all of GCC’s consumers1.

Improving Company Farmer Relations

Another big problem within the chocolate industry is the loss of relationship between producers and farmers. Though most chocolate is consumed in Europe and North America, the main cacao growers and providers are Africa, Asia, Central America and South America, due to their proximity to the equator2. As many big companies compete for the lowest prices of cacao, local cacao farmers are forced to sell their crop for lower and lower prices, threatening their livelihood. This is intensified by the fact that many farmers do not have knowledge of the cocoa world market and have to trust their buyers who act as the middlemen for the middlemen of big chocolate companies. With all these factors in play, local farmers are lost in the complex economical system of cacao trading and receive only cents compared to the billions made by big chocolate companies. This can be seen in the figure below that describes how money flows within the chocolate industry.

fair trade pic

Today there are many companies fighting this system with fair trade policies in which companies promise to pay farmers more money than what the market offers them for their cacao. While this is a good start, there is a lot more that needs to be done in order to give cacao farmers a fair shot and compensate them proportionally to the joy they provide to all who eat the chocolate made from their work.


A prime example of what more can be done has already been shown by the Grenada Chocolate Company. In 1964 Grenada founded the Grenada Cocoa Association. The purpose of this group was to act as the center point for all cocoa exporting from Grenada. This meant that farmers had to sell to them in order to get their cocoa abroad. This took away their freedom of to whom they could cell and could only sell to the GCA at the prices determined by the organization, which was usually well below reasonable prices4. It was in this scenario that the Grenada Chocolate Company was founded. After much pushback and intimidation, GCC became not only the first company to chocolate on the island (before all cacao beans in Grenada were exported) but paid their farmers fair prices and exported the chocolate themselves as well. GCC is able to do this by creating a cooperative, a group of farmers that are work together to grow, harvest, and trade a product (in this instance cacao).

 GCC not only seeks to pay their farmers well (GCC farmers are payed 65% higher than the average for most cooperatives3), but also empowers their farmers by working with them through the whole chocolate making process, teaching how they ferment and process their beans on site giving them an opportunity to work with the company and grow in knowledge and experience.

Another aspect of GCC that is not necessarily about fair trade but works to mend the producer-farmer relationship is the fact that GCC is very open about the people they work with and seek to inform their consumers about the people who are helping to grow and harvest the food they are eating. They do this by featuring all of their workers on their website as well as including photos of their cacao farmers working. This is interesting because it gets rid of the wall in between farmer and consumer. For once, people can see the people who are preparing the food they love so much. This creates a human connection and makes the idea that these people are being mistreated across the world a harder pill to swallow and is more likely to stir people to action, whether that action is campaigning for stricter fair-trade laws or just purchasing solely from fair trade companies. These actions taken by GCC not only re-establish the producer farmer relationship, but also create a consumer-farmer relationship, something that is much needed if cacao farmers are going to get the support, they need in order to make a living wage.

 

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Champion of Environmental Sustainability

The last problem within the chocolate industry that I will talk about is the environmental impact of chocolate production. While chocolate is an amazing product to enjoy, like any other product, its production has an environmental impact that, if not monitored, will ultimately be harmful to the environment and will cause long term affects that will ultimately affect chocolate production and society in general. An example of this can be seen in the journal article “Environmental impacts of chocolate production and consumption in the UK,” by Antonios konstanas, in which the environmental impacts of various UK chocolate products were analyzed. From this analysis Konstanas’ team found that the amount of Carbon Dioxide produced by the UK chocolate industry lied in between 2.91-4.15 kg of CO2 produced per kg of chocolate produced. They also found that it takes around 41 MJ (Millijoules) of energy to create a batch of chocolate5. Noting these findings, it is important for chocolate producers to emphasize sustainability and work towards having a smaller carbon footprint within their harvesting, creation and transportation processes.

Once again GCC is leading the charge in this aspect as they seek to make their chocolate lifecycle completely devoid of carbon dioxide production and excessive energy consumption. In order to achieve this goal the Grenada Chocolate Company created one of the world’s first solar powered chocolate factories. GCC uses a combination of solar panels and grid power to power their chocolate making machines while keeping a propane fuel generator on hand in case of power outages. This emphasis on renewable energy is a step in the right direction of using clean energy to make chocolate and thus decreasing the product’s carbon footprint.

GCC SOLAR PANELS
Solar panels outfit the roof of the GCC factory

(For those who are interested how GCC did this Mott wrote an article about how and why he did this. Find it here: https://www.grenadachocolate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/homepower_article.pdf)

GCC also seeks to take the carbon emissions out of transport costs as much as possible. While the company usually delivers chocolate to nearby islands via sailboats1, getting their product to the main lands has always been an environmental challenge. However, in 2013 GCC partnered with the Tres Hombres Engineless Cargo Ship to ship over 50,000 chocolate bars to Europe, performing the world’s first ever mass sustainable, carbon neutral, chocolate delivery across the Atlantic1. While this was only a one-time thing, it emphasizes GCC’s devotion to restoring the relationship between chocolate producers and the environment.

ship
Mott Green with the Tres Hombres Cargo Ship

Like every billion-dollar industry, the chocolate industry has its challenges as well as ethical obstacles that need to be hurdled before the industry can be seen as completely ethical. Whether product-wise, personal or environmental there are several problems within the industry that can be solved through respect, ingenuity, unity and admiration for the cacao fruit. The Grenada Chocolate Company is a perfect example of this. Such a company models exactly how not only chocolate, but all product companies should interact with their suppliers, the environment and each other. This company was created from nothing by Mott Green who wanted to show the world what a chocolate company should look like and how it should behave and sere its community. Since then GCC has been a hidden gem in the chocolate world, constantly pushing the boundaries of modern chocolate ethnics and leading the word to a brighter and more chocolaty future. Sadly Mott Green Died on June 1st 2013 while working on solar power machinery for cooling chocolate during transport overseas3. However, his memory lives on in GCC and the values that he instilled into the company that serves as a model chocolate company, inspiring and teaching future generations of chocolate makers.

the legend
Mott Green: Founder of the Grenada Chocolate Company

 

Note: Over the course of this research project I fell in love with the Grenada Chocolate Company and even more its founder, Mott Green.  Green devoted his life to helping others and sought to make all of his experiences and the experiences of those he served, absolutely genuine. His death was a tragic loss to the world of chocolate and society in general. To understand both him and GCC a bit more check out this 30 minute video about Green, his values and GCC!

 

References (in order of appearance)

  1. “The Grenada Chocolate Company.” The Grenada Chocolate Company, n.p. Web. April 29 2019 www.grenadachocolate.com/
  2.  “The Situation.” Slave Free Chocolate, n.p, Web. 29 April 2019 www.slavefreechocolate.org/children-slavery-cocoa
  3. Yardley, William. “Mott Green, a Free-Spirited Chocolatier, Dies at 47.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 June 2013,29 April  2019 www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/business/mott-green-47-dies-founded-grenada-chocolate.html.
  4. Terennzi, Sharon. “The Fascinating Story of Chocolate Made in Grenada” Thechocolatejournalist.com. n.p. 1 June 2018. Web, 29 April 2019. https://thechocolatejournalist.com/chocolate-grenada/
  5. Konstantas Antonios et al. “Environmental impacts of chocolate production and consumption in the UK” Science Direct. April 2018. Web. 1 May 2019.
  6. Green, Mott. “Solar Powered Chocolate Factory” Grenada Chocolate Company. March 2002. Web. 1 May 2019. https://www.grenadachocolate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/homepower_article.pdf

Cacao in the Caribbean

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Photo of cacao pods taken by me, 2017e846.

Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean are important in the history of the cacao trade and chocolate production.   While cacao did not originate in the Caribbean, the climate and location make it a major part of the cacao industry beginning in the 1500’s.  The Caribbean became a main location for cacao production and shipping, but disease and the desire for greater profit caused a downturn in the growth of cacao in the Caribbean.

 

Demand for chocolate increases in Europe, and the Caribbean takes on a more important role in the chocolate industry.  By the early 1600’s, England is embracing chocolate for its medicinal properties, as well as its taste (Momsen and Richardson, location 19611).   This demand for cacao encourages the growth of the cacao trade in the Caribbean islands.  The Spanish introduced the criollo variety of cacao as a crop to the Caribbean in the 1500’s from Venezuela (Momsen and Richardson, location 19253).  Cacao grows well in the Caribbean, and the physical location also makes it an ideal shipping location to access Europe, as it is on the shipping route from South and Central America.   By 1665, cacao and ginger are the main export crops in Puerto Rico (Momsen and Richardson, location 19091).  Trinidad is a major source of cacao production in the Caribbean as well, and their cacao is considered of superior quality (Momsen and Richardson, location 19252).  The quality of Trinidad cacao is most likely due to the original criollo type cacao planted there at the time.   However, after their cacao crops are devastated by disease, when the industry attempts to revive itself years later, they plant the forastero type of cacao, which is considered not to have the same high quality taste as criollo, and the industry never fully recovers (Momsen and Richardson, location 19278).  Problems with Spain cause cacao production in the Caribbean to become even more important to Europe.

Spain’s attempt to control the cacao trade makes Caribbean cacao production more important.  Although Spain prohibits the export of raw cacao beans in Venezuela in the 1700’s, cacao already has a foothold in the Caribbean (Momsen and Richardson, location 19126).  Privateers control Caribbean shipping to a great extent and the cacao trade into the 18th century (Momsen and Richardson, location 19126).   In fact, Dutch privateers trade with Venezuelans and are active in distributing cacao back to Europe (Coe and Coe, location 2732).  Spain’s attempt to control the cacao trade pushes Europe into finding new ways of promoting cacao production.  In some ways, dealing with privateers may be easier for Europe than dealing with Spain, as privateers are interested in money; but they are independent sources for obtaining cacao from the Caribbean, and are not as concerned with politics.  Additionally, Britain can obtain cacao directly from many of the islands of the Caribbean as they control a number of the islands that produce cacao.   The cacao crop itself is grown in a more natural setting than many agricultural crops in the Caribbean.  Cacao trees in Puerto Rico and much of the Caribbean are grown in cacao forests.  Multiple species of trees are interspersed, and planted in a more natural habitat.  While touring a cacao farm in Puerto Rico, one can walk through a cacao forest, and observe it in the same way it would have been hundreds of years ago.  In Puerto Rico, cacao trees, coffee trees, banana trees and others are often mixed in together.   This unobtrusive way of growing cacao makes it easier to grow and more difficult to control.

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Photo of cacao pods on the tree before they are ripe taken by me, 2017e846.

A desire for greater profit changes the scope of the Caribbean and Puerto Rico’s role in the cacao trade.  By 1800, the major exporters of cacao in the Caribbean, Grenada and Trinidad, are using other islands such as Puerto Rico and Cuba to send their crops to Spain (Momsen and Richardson, location 19098).  Most of the islands have stopped producing cacao on a large scale, and although cacao is still grown in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean, many of the large farms are planting more profitable crops.  Cacao is often combined with growing coffee and other crops, providing a more diversified farm.  This helps to stabilize the farm’s income.  Cacao farms use of slaves throughout much of the Caribbean contributes to the huge profits being made in the chocolate industry.  On many of the Caribbean islands, slaves were used as labor for farms, including cacao farms (Higman 59).  Slavery is abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873 (The World of 1898).   In the Caribbean, when slavery is abolished, it is a turning point in cacao production, as the majority of the organized agricultural industry moves on to other crops that yield a higher profit.  The Caribbean is no longer as lucrative to the chocolate industry as a location for cacao growing.  However, some farms in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean continue growing their cacao crops, using hydropower.  Cacao is still grown in the Caribbean on a smaller scale.  The water of rivers in the mountains run equipment to make production of cacao easier and less labor intensive.  Yet the historical place the Caribbean held in the chocolate industry and trade with Europe is finished.

The Caribbean played an important role in the chocolate industry.  Though cacao did not originate here, as cacao’s popularity grew and Europe became aware of its many benefits, the Caribbean played its own role in the growth of chocolate’s place in society.  On a tour of a cacao farm in Puerto Rico, I was able to witness how cacao was farmed and produced on a smaller scale in the 1800s.  The way that hydropower was used is impressive, and the experience of walking through a cacao forest is one I would recommend.

 

Works Cited

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

Higman, Barry W.  Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834.  University of the West Indies Print, 1995.

Momsen, Janet Henshall, and Richardson, Pamila.   “Caribbean Chocolate.”   Chocolate:  History, Culture, and Heritage, edited by Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro.  Kindle ed., John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2009.

“The World of 1898:  The Spanish-American War.”  Library of Congress, Hispanic Reading Room.  Retrieved from:  https://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/slaves.html.

L.A. Burdick: A Sweet Idea

Larry Burdick was in his twenties working as a pastry chef in New York when he first traveled to Paris and later to Switzerland to train as a chocolatier in the 1970s and 80s (Gilles, 2014). During his time in Switzerland, Burdick was inspired to begin his own chocolate business, which he opened in 1987 in New York City. Since that time, Burdick’s has expanded to four storefront locations and relocated its headquarters to Walpole, New Hampshire. In the following post, I will explore the values L.A. Burdick aspires to uphold, Burdick’s bean to bar venture which leads to much of its success by allowing it to oversee its production process, and the ways in which the company has given back to local communities overseas. I will analyze Burdick’s goals and endeavors in the context of the chocolate industry locally and abroad.

BURDICK’S HISTORY

In the mid-1980s, Larry discovered “in a confiserie the heady aroma of pure chocolate and hand-made delicacies” that inspired him to open his own business, L.A. Burdick’s website recounts (L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates). Burdick returned to the United States with a chocolate pot, guitars for cutting shapes, and dipping forks. Upon his arrival, he and his wife, Paula, co-founded a small chocolate business. Paula’s background in design and style – acquired through her education at the Fashion Institute of Technology – guided her in creating glamorous chocolate products which could be enjoyed in an “ambiance of relaxed elegance” (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates).

When the couple launched its company, they made chocolates out of their home in Brooklyn, but they soon moved to New Hampshire to expand their facilities and staff. This Walpole location remains the home base of the Burdick mail and online shipping business, and its chocolate and pastry production. Larry and Paula chose to start their business in Walpole when Larry was driving up Interstate 91 from Brooklyn, “looking for a good place to raise his family and his business” (Tree, 2008). Larry bought a store on Main Street in Walpole and turned it into a chocolate factory with a storefront café and space for filling mail orders. Adjoining the chocolate store is Walpole Grocery and the Restaurant at Burdick’s, “which presents quality ingredients, an imaginative menu and impeccable service along with a distinctive wine list” (Burdick Catalog, 2012).

This Walpole venture kept the Burdicks busy for the first decade of their success, and its popularity spread as a result of the 1996 Consumer Reports which rated L.A. Burdick chocolates the best in the country (Tree, 2008). In 1999, L.A. Burdick opened in Cambridge, followed by a storefront in Manhattan in 2010. In 2012, the fourth and final location opened in Boston’s Back Bay. Today, the L.A. Burdick chocolate business includes retail chocolate shops in Boston, Cambridge, New York City, and Walpole, a French-inspired restaurant, and a small specialty grocery store (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates).

BUSINESS AS A CHOCOLATIER

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Chocolate bonbons (http://www.burdickchocolate.com/BonbonAssortments/everyday-assortments.aspx)
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Burdick’s signature chocolate mice (http://www.burdickchocolate.com/ChocolateMiceandPenguins/chocolate-mice.aspx)

Much of Burdick’s popularity is tied to its famously created bonbons (above, top). Other signature items include truffles and chocolate mice (above, bottom). Even more notable is the fact that “every double-caramel bonbon, white chocolate-coated, spiced mousse mouse, and beautifully wrapped, wooden gift box of truffles is made by hand,” according to a 2015 YouTube advertisement video. While Burdick’s chocolate production processes take place overseas in its Grenada factory, the bonbons, truffles, and chocolate delicacies are all made in Walpole. The YouTube video serves as a promotion effort for its Manhattan location, “a café counter where you can get coffee, pastries, and chocolate to take away,” an employee explained in the video. Customers who enter the storefront can sit at tables to enjoy their purchases, socialize over a cup of coffee, or buy baking items, chocolates, and chocolate bars to take with them. “Even if you don’t see the person who receives it, when you put together a basket or box of chocolates and you know it’s going to someone who will really appreciate it, that’s the best part of it. It’s knowing at the end of the day that you work somewhere that makes people happy. People are happy to come in here and people are happy to receive our gifts,” the employee shared in the YouTube video.

This luxurious experience is quickly appreciated when one enters the restaurant. Upon walking into Burdick’s (on April 27, 2016) to observe the storefront in Cambridge, I noted how its customers were able to consume chocolate in an elegant manner; the eating experience was purposefully created through the design of the products, their packaging, and the sophisticated setting of the coffee shop. The Burdick’s location I observed is situated in a wealthy area – the heart of Harvard Square neighboring expensive real estate property – which enables the company to sell high priced chocolate bars, drinks, and desserts because its customers can afford and are wiling to pay for these items to enjoy their taste and the Burdick’s experience.

Further, it must be acknowledged that L.A. Burdick is a chocolatier, which means the company “uses fine chocolate produced by chocolate manufacturers/makers to create unique chocolate products and confectionary” (Martin, “Lecture 5”). Susan Terrio explores the craft community of French chocolatiers in her 2000 Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. She writes about walking into a French chocolaterie as her eyes glossed over the assortment of offerings: “their size, aesthetic display, and evocative names suggested radically different symbolic meanings and social uses than the – dare I admit it – chocolate bars I purchased at home” (Terrio, 2000: page 2).

Burdick’s success within the chocolate industry can be linked more closely to its place as a chocolatier, rather than as a chocolate maker. Terrio writes “when one considers artisanship as a cultural category, it is clear that chocolatiers possess an intermediate, highly ambivalent class position and social status” (Terrio, 2000: page 12). A chocolate maker creates chocolate from cocoa beans; a chocolatier’s role is more romanticized and profitable. Burdick’s chocolate production processes take place overseas in its factory in Grenada, which I will investigate in the following section.

SOURCING

When Larry and Paula set out on what would become a successful business endeavor, they selected Grenada to acquire the majority of their chocolate. “Long known as the ‘Spice Isle,’ the nation of Grenada is one of the world’s largest mace and nutmeg exporters…Grenadian cocoa portrays characteristics unlike cocoa from any other growing region. A robust chocolate, it has an uncommon, bright forefront acidity with long-lasting finishing notes of nutmeg, banana, and molasses” (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, The Cocoa Isle). Despite the appealing fragrance of Grenadian cocoa, it makes up less than 0.01 percent of the world’s cocoa supply (Ellman, 2014).

The entirety of Burdick’s chocolate production is completed within its factory, making it a “cocoa bean to chocolate bar” venture (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, The Cocoa Isle). This process includes harvesting, fermenting, sorting, drying, roasting, and conching. Burdick’s purchases and processes beans from farmers at its Grenada factory to sell at its stores and to other high-end chocolate makers. These efforts have led to the success of Burdick’s through ethical practices in contrast to other large companies which cannot oversee their overseas sources. Carol Off writes about the use of forced labor in Cote D’Ivoire, arguing that “almost every critic of the industry has identified the key problem: poverty among the primary producers.” She suggests that an end to the practice could be achieved if cocoa companies “simply undertake to make sure the farmers received a decent price for their beans” (Off, 2010: page 146). By overseeing the entire process of chocolate production, Burdick’s ensures its farmers are both well-paid and well-educated by “opening a chocolate factory that could ship single-origins bars to commercial outlets across the globe” (Smith, 2015).

Another advantage of bean to bar production is that it encourages farmers and workers to produce high quality chocolate because they care about the goods they will send back to the United States. Together, the structure of Burdick’s sourcing makes “cocoa farming more profitable, keeps the unique Grenadian cocoa legacy alive for future generations, provides L.A. Burdick Chocolate with an excellent couverture for our bonbons and enriches the palates of chocolate gourmands everywhere” (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, The Cocoa Isle). The concept of bean-to-bar has become popular in the United States; there are over 150 craft chocolate makers who oversee the various parts of the production process, like Burdick does, ensuring their standards are met while improving their relationship with the source (Martin, “Lecture 13”).

Pam Williams and Jim Eber’s Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate investigates how the industry of fine flavor chocolate has recently evolved and will continue to do so in the future due to its growing popularity and the public interest in sustainable and just practices. In examining the impact of efforts in newer markets, “it is about helping farmers understand that what they do affects the end product – how what they do with harvest and fermentation and drying stages is so critical” (Williams and Eber, 2012: page 51). Thus, Burdick’s helps the farmers who produce its chocolate witness the connection between their efforts and the finished products, creating a sense of pride in their work.

Williams and Eber acknowledge that small US manufacturers “have been driving the recent changes for the better in the industry: Change the world – make better chocolate. They pride themselves on direct and transparent trade, paying top dollar for the best beans, speaking out against forced labor, investing in education, and making chocolate that tastes nothing like the multinational mass-market brands” (Williams and Eber, 2012: page 156). While most of those chocolatiers in the United States are forced to rely on specialty stores, groceries, and to online markets for profitable sales, “more and more of them are also building their success in what might be called a very European way: targeting their local communities at markets, events, and their own retail locations and combining that with a factory tour and tasting experience” (Williams and Eber, 2012: page 156). Perhaps as a result of Larry’s training and chocolate education abroad, Burdick’s has focused its success into efforts in Grenada (alongside many of these small manufacturers).

Burdick’s website emphasizes the relationship the company has with Grenada, which I will delve into in the following section. However, upon walking into the storefront, I noticed that they sold various single origin chocolate bars from different sources. The bars, priced between $8 to $13, are from Chuao, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Madagascar, Venezuela, and Ecuador. I was surprised that the website did not describe any relationship between Burdick’s and these other single origin sites given its unique arrangement with Grenada.

GIVING BACK

The Burdicks’ relationship with the Grenada Cocoa Association began in 1999, when they requested one hundred bags of dry cocoa beans for their only L.A. Burdick store at the time. “Our continuous search for superlative quality, full-flavored chocolate has led us to Grenada…the lush mountain terrain and volcanic soil host a bounty of heady tropical flowers, fruit and nut trees and scattered amongst them – cocoa trees” (L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, Cocoa Journey). However, shortly after, Larry and Paula set out to work with the farmers themselves to eventually establish the Cocoa Farming Future Initiative (CFFI) in Grenada.

By 2001, the Burdicks were traveling to work on this fair trade project in Grenada themselves. However, it was not until 2011 that Paula founded the non-profit CFFI. In 2004 and 2005, hurricanes across Grenada created serious setbacks to the Burdicks’ endeavors, according to the CFFI website. Once farming stabilized, the Burdicks “began working with the island’s cocoa farmers to help them reclaim their lands, improve their crops’ quality and value, and create value-added businesses that will increase and diversify their incomes – all of which support the preservation of this unique tropical ecosystem” (CFFI – Cocoa Farming Future Initiative, About CFFI). Paula also began an educational nonprofit to teach cocoa farmers sustainable farming methods and to help them manage the economic conditions that accompany working as a cocoa farmer.

New Hampshire’s EIV News released a YouTube video highlighting the Burdicks’ work in Grenada in 2012. “The project has created a lot of interest on the island of Grenada. The farmers are excited about the project. I think it’s encouraged people to stay in cocoa farming,” Larry said in the video interview. By partnering with Grenadian cocoa farmers to build a factory on the island, “this helps decrease cost of shipping overseas, and puts more money in farmers’ pockets [since the middle man is cut out]. When you add that fine cocoa to the island’s ecosystem – the terrior, the organic soil, the plant life that grows on the island – you have a special flavor in the beans” (Smith, 2012). By establishing this model in Grenada, the farmers have been exposed to organic farming practices and are able to “realize the benefits of value-added processing” (Pienda, 2016).

Furthermore, Burdick’s refuses to use cacao produced by child labor. In contrast to larger companies far removed from their chocolate source, Burdick’s supervision of chocolate production from bean to bar mandates just practices. Though the Fair Trade certification theoretically demands that companies engage in fair practices, critics of the initiative suggest that the marketing system is difficult to monitor, and fails to ensure standards are met (Sylla, 2014). Sylla argues “Fair Trade is but the most recent example of another sophisticated ‘scam’ by the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market” (Sylla, 2014: page 18). The Fair Trade movement has also been criticized for being used to expand the consumer base and appeal of certain brands of chocolate rather than focusing on improving the work of farmers themselves. Instead of depending on a certification, Burdick’s takes pride in the origin of its chocolate through its bean-to-bar venture.

CONCLUSIONS

Through an investigation of L.A. Burdick Chocolate, I have presented the evolution and expansion of a chocolate business that started in Walpole, New Hampshire less than three decades ago. While one must acknowledge that Burdick’s is a chocolatier, allowing the company to more easily be profitable, I argue that the success of the business is at least in part due to its maintenance of all parts of the chocolate production process. Further, Burdick’s has used its success to give back to the island of Grenada by founding the Cocoa Farming Futures Initiative, creating jobs in its sourcing community, and educating farmers on sustainable practices.

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