Tag Archives: supply chain

Wine and Chocolate: Race, Supply Chains, and the Creation of Value

In 2018, a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru wine was sold for over five hundred and fifty thousand dollars – an amount that the vast majority of us would be reluctant to spend on a house, let alone one consumer good. Similarly, the most expensive chocolates in the world are not only masterfully crafted but also unique collectors’ items – the To’ak Chocolate 2014-harvest bar, of which only 571 were made; DeLafée of Switzerland’s Gold Chocolate Box, with edible 24-carat gold flakes built-in; and Debauve & Gallais’s Le Livre, arranged in a gold-embossed leather box crafted to resemble a book. However, by stark contrast, the most expensive among these is sold for 440 pounds – nowhere near the incredible value of one bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. By taking a comparative look at the supply chains of both the chocolate and fine wine industries, and the systems of race which govern them, this paper explores how quality and monetary value are created in chocolate and wine, and seeks to understand how this enormous disparity of perceived value may arise.

Creating Craftsmanship in Winemaking

Craftsmanship and quality in wine are determined by a myriad of factors along the supply chain. From characteristics such as the minutiae of the production of grapes in vineyards, to the history of a given winemaker, and even to something as simple as the price of a bottle, wine is eagerly judged by Western audiences for its quality and thus its cultural importance. Wine has the potential to represent sophistication and class, and to hold astounding monetary value; the best-known winemakers capitalize on each of these characteristics to maintain their reputations for the highest quality wines.

The production of wine grapes depends heavily on a tightly controlled agricultural regimen: their quality can be influenced by temperatures throughout the growing season, the amount of precipitation received by the vines, and even the time of ripening and thus of harvest; such information has been painstakingly recorded by vintners across years to catalogue the quality of grapes in each vintage (Chevet et al.). For example, vines are susceptible to water stress – a result of an insufficient water supply – which is intimately connected to the concentration of anthocyanins and phenolics in red wine, the acidity of the fruit, and the incidence of the disease (Goodwin). Each of these features impact not only the flavor and quality of the wine, but also the yield of a given harvest. Then, after the actual production of the grapes the wine must be processed for production and distribution by crushing the grapes and fermenting the must, a process that is labor-intensive and often done by hand (or foot). Additionally, as seen in the case study of the Chilean wine industry, wine distribution requires bottles, barrels, and corks, as well as less tangible input as marketing, advertisement, and label design (Ceroni and Alfaro).

Wines vary vastly in terms of price and quality; bloggers have expounded upon their preferences between boxed wines, which are low-quality, highly standardized in terms of flavor, and apparently excellent for entertaining, with the added enticement of costing as little as fifty-nine cents per glass (Kaminski). From there, wines become more expensive, with price affected by factors such as vintage, age, and rarity. Famous vintners produce classic and traditional wines made from hand-crushed grapes; craft wine makers have established estates in specific locations to lend their wines a complex flavor borne from the ground they were grown in, a concept known as terroir. Interestingly, in a study on Oregon vineyards, it was found that terroir and place of origin of a given wine did not impact its taste as experienced by consumers, nor could it be used as a metric of the agricultural characteristics of a region. However, consumers did valueterroir, associating the area in which a wine was grown with the quality of that wine, not due to inherent agricultural disparities between vineyards, but rather due to the association of a higher price and more valuable experience with certain regions (Cross et al.).

Terroir and the intensely controlled agriculture it requires are two distinctly important qualities affecting the wine supply chain, both of which are capitalized upon by well-known winemakers. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti cites “respect for the soil” and a Pinot Noir with “incomparable genetic heritage” among their tenets for maintaining quality; additionally, the supply of their already-famous wines are restricted by the small size of their estate, located in an area carefully selected for optimum climactic conditions (“Profession of Faith”). Their wines are thus perceived as high-quality due to both their rarity and the inherent advantages of their location. In “A Taste That’s Eternal,” Sotheby’s Serena Sutcliffe speaks with the Drouhin family, one of the sole distributors of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, about the vintages they own (“A Taste That’s Eternal — The Legendary Wines of Robert Drouhin”).

Sutcliffe’s reverence as she speaks about the various vintages and the history of these wines lends significant weight to monetary assertions of their quality, as she states that one bottle generally sells for between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. Additionally, the branding on these bottles – from the elaborately calligraphied logo to the homogeneity of design between the wine labels, bottles, barrels, and cases – are indicative of a strict standard that can be perceived visually as well as through taste. This estate thus represents a microcosm of the method by which winemakers strive from quality, and reinforces the idea that this quality comes from the ground up.

Creating Craftsmanship in Artisan Chocolate

The creation of quality chocolate is, similarly, a question of a quality supply line; yet, the chocolate industry is dominated by two vastly different approaches to fine chocolate: craft bean-to-bar chocolate companies and fine chocolatiers. The similarities and disparities between these two, with regard to sourcing beans, refining them, and ultimately presenting a finished product, reveal significant parallels between the ways in which wine and chocolate are judged for quality.

Cacao has three primary varieties: criollo, trinitario, and forastero. Criollo cacao is the variety grown by the Maya and Aztec, while forastero cacao was sourced originally from South America; trinitario is used to refer to a hybrid of these two (Leissle). While these categorizations are genetically meaningless, they are steeped in historical and modern judgments of quality: criollo as the most prized, and forastero as the more plebeian variety. Modern cacao is sourced primarily from the equatorial regions of South America and Africa, particularly from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Brazil, and Ecuador. Both the genetic origins of modern cacao and the agricultural conditions in which it is grown has a significant impact on taste and flavor of the cacao; for example, heirloom South American cacao has lower tannin levels than most West African cacao, while beans grown at high altitudes show greater fat content; both characteristics significantly impact the flavor of the bean (Stout). Thus, like that of wine grapes, cacao’s environment is strictly controlled in an effort to produce a quality product. Once the bean is grown, it undergoes a long processing chain to become a bar of chocolate. Processes of fermenting, roasting, winnowing, and grinding are dictated by specially designed equipment such as roll mills and longitudinal conches to produce quality chocolate liquor; this liquor is then shaped into bars for distribution (Stout).

At this point in the supply chain, the fine chocolate industry diverges somewhat from that of fine wines. Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers assert the quality of their chocolate with evidence used by many wine makers – impeccable genetic sourcing, single-origin cacao, and the importance of bringing the flavor of the earth to the product. However, another, more public perception of fine chocolate, with roots in both history and fancy, lies not in such craft chocolate makers but with fine, often European chocolatiers, who have worked to create a culture of artisanal chocolate-based sweets – what we call chocolates or bonbons.

This video by L’Ecole Valrhona, a pastry and chocolate school located in Brooklyn, tagged #finechocolate on Instagram, demonstrates how technique and culinary skill can govern the quality of chocolate: the chef’s mastery of the chablon, a difficult-to-make thin chocolate shell, lends value to the chocolate he produces. Importantly, these characteristics of chocolate’s production, which are based on the maker and not the bean, in some cases also determine its price. Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers, such as Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, and Godiva, are ranked among the best on the international market (Lande and Lande). However, fine chocolate makers such as Teuscher, Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and Richart produce not only chocolates but chocolate-based products, whose price is justified by their use of chocolate rather than by the chocolate itself (Lande and Lande). For example, Richart sells a wooden chocolate vault with seven drawers and climate gauges for 850 pounds, and Valentine gourmet chocolates (containing only a thin shell of dark chocolate) which sell for 61 pounds per box (Browne). Thus in contrast to the fine wine industry, what can be done with chocolate is just as important as the production of the chocolate itself.

Race in the Wine and Chocolate Industries

There are a number of interesting implications of the differences between wine and chocolate which can and should be tied to the inherent racial dynamics within both industries. First and foremost; vineyards are a white industry while cacao growing is not. The top wine producing nations are Italy, Spain, and France; these nations also produce few grapes overall, an indication that nearly all of the grapes grown in these nations are used for wine (Karlsson). This in turn implies that the majority of wine grapes are grown in these regions, where vineyards are economically able to produce a limited number of grapes for the express purpose of winemaking. By contrast, the top cacao producers are Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, nations all made up of people of color. To add some additional perspective: while fine wine-producing and grape growing regions consist of the same set of nations, the finest chocolate makers are housed in Switzerland, France, Belgium, and the United States.

The types of labor abuses in both industries reveal that they exist within a system of production which ultimately uses the labor of black and brown people at the stages of production which do not create either monetary value or quality, and white labor at the stages which do. A good case study are the agrimafias of Italian vineyards, which employ and then exploit undocumented immigrant labor; an estimated third of all agricultural employment in Italy is thus illegal (Seifert and Valente). The majority of these immigrants are refugees of color from the fallout of the Arab Spring, while these agrimafias are owned and employed by white, natively Italian winemakers; the industry shows a clear systemic employment of underpaid workers of color at the agricultural stage of production –the stage at which the profit margins are lowest (Marcus). Similarly, cocoa has a long history of slave labor and forced labor supplied by displaced African slaves; even today, illegal systems of sharecropping and tax evasion in cacao-growing regions such as Brazil mean that worker exploitation and child labor are prevalent in cocoa production (Leissle; Picolotto et al.).

While both industries show a racial disparity between the workers in agricultural production and those further down the supply chain where quality is created, the branch of the chocolate industry focused on culinary excellence with chocolate exacerbates that disparity in particular. The very image of fine chocolate in the public eye involves extensive tempering and specialization; chocolate is not a fine food alone but must be incorporated into pralines, ganaches, and truffles – all recipes created by white cooks (Terrio). Holding a food which is historically Central and South American to standards of quality invented by white Europeans is a racist and colonial ideal; it invalidates the value of chocolate itself and instead instills value through its modification by whiteness. By contrast, wine, already a white product, is valued only for its terroir and vintage – both factors associated intrinsically with the Western European regions in which it is produced.

This principle can be noted in the ways in which chocolate and wine are advertised. Compare the following two advertisements:

Both of these advertisements play on the idea of the displacement of taste – that a taste can belong to a region, and be exported from that region to the consumer. Yet, the original taste of a French wine is implied to be diluted, to lose its gravity, when exported to an American consumer; however, the “exotic” flavors behind chocolate are implied to be packaged and enhanced for the express purpose of pleasing a similar consumer. This is not an isolated case; from the Conguitos of Spain to the Italian Nougatine, chocolate in advertising is linked closely with blackness and caricatures of blackness; chocolate thus becomes a colonial commodity despite the post-colonial world in which we live (Hackenesch).

Conclusion

By comparing the salient features of the fine wine and fine chocolate industries, the systems of race which govern both become clear. Chocolate, as a fundamentally black and brown good, is disproportionately affected within these systems; its exoticism is packaged for white audiences, and subject to white improvement to create quality and to appeal to the white palate. While these systemic factors of race may not be the only ones to explain why one bottle of wine can be sold at a standard of twenty thousand dollars, while equally fine and more difficult-to-grow chocolate can be sold for just 1% of the same value after added white refinement, they present a strong case by which we may examine how Western customers perceive value in the goods they consume.

Bibliography

“A Taste That’s Eternal — The Legendary Wines of Robert Drouhin.” Masterworks: Expert Voices, 15 Aug. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTCXsU_mN-c.

Browne, Valerie. “The World’s Most Expensive Chocolate.” INews, 13 Apr. 2017, https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/food-and-drink/worlds-expensive-chocolate/.

Ceroni, Jose, and Rodrigo Alfaro. “Information Gathering and Classification for Collaborative Logistics Decision Making.” Supply Chain Management – New Perspectives, edited by Sanda Renko, InTech Open, 2011, DOI: 10.5772/23170.

Chevet, Jean-Michel, et al. “Climate, Grapevine Phenology, Wine Production, and Prices: Pauillac (1800-2009).” American Economic Review, vol. 101, no. 3, 2011, pp. 142–46, doi:10.1257/aer.101.3.142.

Cross, Robin, et al. “What Is the Value of Terroir?” American Economic Review, vol. 101, no. 3, 2011, pp. 152–56, doi:10.1257/aer.101.3.152.

Goodwin, Ian. “Managing Water Stress in Grape Vines in Greater Victoria.” Agriculture Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Nov. 2002, p. AG1074.

Hackenesch, Silke. “Advertising Chocolate, Consuming Race? On the Peculiar Relationship of Chocolate  Advertising, German Colonialism, and Blackness.” Food & History, vol. 12, no. 1, 2015, pp. 97–114.

Kaminski, Lisa. “We Tried 5 Popular Brands to Find The Best Boxed Wine.” Taste of Home, 29 Aug. 2018, https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/best-boxed-wines/.

Karlsson, Per. “The World’s Grape Production 2000-2012.” BK Wine Magazine, June 2013, https://www.bkwine.com/features/winemaking-viticulture/global-grape-production-2000-2012/.

Lande, Nathaniel, and Andrew Lande. “The 10 Best Chocolatiers in the World.” National Geographic, 28 Dec. 2012, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/intelligent-travel/2012/12/28/the-10-best-chocolatiers-in-the-world/.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Marcus, David. “The Wine Workers We Don’t See.” The Street, 14 Oct. 2018, https://www.thestreet.com/lifestyle/food-drink/the-wine-workers-we-don-t-see-14743573.

Picolotto, Andre, et al. “COCOA SUPPLY CHAIN ADVANCES AND CHALLENGES TOWARD THE PROMOTION OF DECENT WORK: A Situational Analysis.” International Labor Organization, 2018, https://drive.google.com/file/d/12UwXzZ9yKu24bQQ5Noz2VVMNeuU5ibqS/view.

“Profession of Faith.” Domaine de La Romanee-Conti, 2019, http://m.romanee-conti.fr/profession-de-foi.php.

Seifert, Stefan, and Marica Valente. An Offer That You Can’t Refuse? Agrimafias and Migrant Labor on Vineyards in Southern Italy. DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, 2018, https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1735.

Stout, Robbie. Ritual Chocolate. Cambridge, MA.

Terrio, Susan. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, 2000.

The Chocolate Supply Chain: Strive for Conscious Cravings

Picture this: it’s Friday night, and after a long week of work, you are finally preparing for a nice, relaxing movie night with your family. You sit down, put your feet up, and start unwrapping a luxurious chocolate bar in the comfort of your own home. At this point, most of you are probably not thinking about the thousands of hands that went into harvesting, preparing, and producing the chocolate you’re now cuddled up with on the couch. Additionally, many people are completely unaware of the harsh reality and inhumane conditions that the cacao farmers face on a daily basis. This is partially due to the lack of knowledge regarding the chocolate supply chains, as well as the lack of conversation around hardships and unethical labor standards the farmers have to endure. Many of the farmers producing this delicious, luxury product are actually living on less than $2 per day (Granit 2017). Not only does it seem impossible for one person to survive on a mere $2 per day, but these farmers are also trying to support their families and the surrounding community. With these wages, “they earn just enough money from cocoa sales to pay for rice and cooking oil. There’s usually nothing left over” (Off 5). Clearly, this is unsustainable, unethical, and unfair. Eventually, if changes are not made, more and more of these poor farmers will be forced to turn away from harvesting cacao and move towards other crops. If that happens, the industrial, environmentally harmful, production will continue to take over.

When we walk into a store to purchase a chocolate bar we are greeted with a plethora of attractive, colorful, interesting labels riddled with buzz words such as “natural” or “raw” and enticing brand names. However, what seems to be constantly left out is transparency –-basic transparency regarding how much money the farmers are actually earning, what farming methods were used, where and how the chocolate was produced, etc. If that information was highlighted in the advertising of each chocolate bar, it would be almost impossible to avoid, and it would most likely influence the consumers’ purchasing habits. The history and stories of enslaved cocoa farmers are horrific, and many times, unbearable to read. To paint a picture of what many laborers have endured in Angola, the western coast of Southern Africa, “Human bones littered the sides of the trail, so many that it ‘would take an army of sextons to bury all of the poor bones which consecrate that path.’ The bones in the dust were those of slaves who could no longer march, who were too weak to walk. Some captives were simply left to die; many others were killed by a blow to the head” (Satre 1). This is the kind of information that isn’t advertised, the information that many large chocolate companies and manufacturers don’t want the general public to consider when purchasing their product.

I believe it all starts with education – increasing the awareness regarding the injustice within the industry is the first, extremely important, step. This post aims to educate and encourage chocolate consumers to ask questions about the chocolate they are consuming: Where is it coming from? Who produced it? How much are the farmers getting paid? What are their living conditions like? And if we really knew all of the answers to the questions listed above, would we still be able to indulge in chocolate luxury knowing that so many farmers and their families are suffering in order to produce the chocolate bar we are consuming? The answer is not to completely eliminate chocolate consumption, but rather to encourage conscious consumerism through education and brand transparency.

Many misconceptions have formed around this issue of unethical labor standards, and many of those misconceptions formed false biases. For example, the image below shows a young boy struggling to carry a sack of cacao pods. He is unnamed, it wasn’t clear who took the picture, but clearly, the situation appears to represent unethical labor standards. This image has somehow given consumers the incorrect idea that if they just avoid chocolate manufactured with cacao from Africa, the majority of the problem will be solved. Clearly, this idea comes from a lack of education regarding the cacao supply chain as a whole. I think this bias can be improved through education about The Global Slavery Index, research conducted in different parts of the world, and increased transparency across all brand labels.

As stated above, it is unclear who took the picture, but it clearly portrays a young boy carrying an extremely heavy bag of cacao pods under unethical labor standards.

When I first saw the image above, I was absolutely shocked. Many questions came to mind; one of them being, why wouldn’t the parents protect their children against such harsh labor conditions? Well, as it turns out, “children in cocoa households can fall victim to micro-level pressures (such as family breakdown) which undermine their ability not to enter the workforce and thus make them ‘unfree’. Because this ‘unfreedom’ is part of much wider processes of societal change, it is often undetected in policy circles and is extremely difficult to address” (Berlan 1088). On top of that, arguments have been made that the reason why the attempts to address this issue haven’t been effective is due to the fact that children have different rights in cocoa-producing communities that make it difficult to take action and solve the problem altogether (Berlan 1088).

When striving to satisfy chocolate cravings in a conscious way, there are already a handful of companies on their way to helping us on this journey: Theo Chocolate, Taza Chocolate, eatingEVOLVED, Alter Eco, and Sweetriot to name a few. However, I would like to discuss two companies in depth: Taza Chocolate and Alter Eco.

Taza Chocolate

Not only is Taza Chocolate produced right next door in Somerville, MA, but the company is really diving in and striving to solve the ethical issues around child labor, workers’ rights, and transparency throughout their bean-to-bar process. They created the chocolate industry’s “first third-party certified Direct Trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all. We have real, face-to-face relationships with partners who respect the environment and fair labor practices. They provide us with the best organic cacao, and we pay them prices significantly higher than Fair Trade. In fact, you can see exactly what we pay them, right here in our 2018 Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report” (Taza Transparency Report 2018). This is the information that every chocolate company should be required to produce and deliver to the public.

Photo from Taza Wesbite — 2018 Taza Transparency Report — delivering data to the public regarding the exact amount they pay their “partners.”

On the website, they explicitly explain their commitment to quality, Fair Trade prices, and openness to address issues throughout the supply chain. “Our commitment to cacao quality and ethical trade is matched only by our belief in transparency. In 2012, Taza published the industry’s first Transparency Report and reported the higher-than-Fair Trade prices we pay our partners as part of our Direct Trade program. We do the same every year, and in 2016, we upped the ante again when we published farm level pricing and tackled tough issues of value and fairness in the supply chain. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we aren’t afraid to ask hard questions around what it takes to be seriously good and fair for all and to share what we learn with others” (Taza 2019).  It’s so important to increase awareness about companies such as Taza because they truly lead by example by showcasing their strong values and great mission statement. Their transparency is incredible, and the best part is that they are ready and willing to share their information with others and inspire them to take action.

This video from YouTube describes Taza’s values and Stone Ground Organic Chocolate production

By practicing Direct and Fair Trade, developing real relationships with the human beings behind the harvesting, and sourcing from Middle and Latin America, Taza not only ensures high-quality ingredients but also shortens the supply chain, and therefore eliminates slave-labor from their production process. Taza is a company I am proud to support.

Alter Eco

Alter Eco is more than just another delicious chocolate company, it’s a company on a mission to promote “activism through food” (Alter Eco 2019), by producing Fair Trade, organic chocolate, while also improving the lives of the cocoa farmers and using environmentally friendly packaging. And, it’s free of preservatives, palm kernel oil, and soy. Talk about the perfect opportunity for conscious consuming! By creating and sustaining this full-circle approach, Alter Eco is changing the chocolate game as we know it. “Our products and packaging have evolved over time, but our values continue to guide every step forward. Together with our farmers, employees, investors, and customers, we’re taking an adventure through food, and creating a vision of the future that’s fair, prosperous, healthy and mouth-watering. Though we can’t all break bread at the same table, we like to think that every time we crack open a bag or bar of Alter Eco here in the States, we’re sharing a nourishing moment with Maria in Peru, Gustavo in Bolivia, Grover in Ecuador – and you” (Alter Eco 2019). I love the sense of community, equality, and inclusivity that Alter Eco embodies.

Photo from Taza Website — This is co-founder Ed, digging into a cacao pod during a meeting with cacao farmers in Peru in 2009

Medical Care — Alter Eco strives to create a healthy, and enjoyable, environment for their employees which includes providing the benefits and resources they deserve. For example, Alter Eco’s Fair Trade Funding goes towards member training, improved facilities (new kitchen stoves, etc.), medical exams, education advancement, financial loans, and reforestation. Because most of the farming communities are located in remote areas that can be difficult to access, medical funding is provided to ensure that farmers and their families are receiving the care they need and deserve. The medical funding includes Cholesterol, Triglycerides, and blood pressure analysis, as well as female wellness exams to prevent cervical cancer (Taza 2019).

Photo from Taza Website — One of the members of the farming community receiving medical care

Education and Training — Having the opportunity to receive an education is so important, and not having that opportunity is absolutely unacceptable. In one of the required readings this semester, I read about a lot of instances in which children were unable to receive a formal education. For example, “One man, who was kept out of school to work for his father, told me: ‘Being illiterate, people wouldn’t give me a chance; I feel like I am missing a lot’” (Ryan 46). Improving education through member training is also a priority at Alter Eco, so Fair Trade funding also offers workshops and training sessions that cover subjects such as agricultural practices, biodiverse crop formations, organic compost and agricultural practices, quality control, and even talking to parents about the importance of providing their kids with the proper education. Entrepreneurial ideas are supported and encouraged as well.

Photo from Taza Wesbite — Training provided by Fair Trade Funding

There is still a long way to go when it comes to solving the inequality, unethical labor standards, and inhumane working conditions in the chocolate industry today. Although, as demonstrated by the examples above, there are already a few companies striving to make a positive difference by shortening the supply chain, implementing Fair Trade and Direct Trade practices, and using that funding to better the lives of the farmers and their families. From now on, I will do my best to do my research before purchasing chocolate as well as food in general, so that I can be sure my money is being used to fight for a cause I believe in. I hope you will consider doing the same. R

References:

  1. Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” 2013.
  2. Granit, Maya. “Opinion: Getting to Know the Chocolate Supply Chain.” Devex, 6 Oct. 2017, www.devex.com/news/opinion-getting-to-know-the-chocolate-supply-chain-91182. Retrieved May 3, 2019
  3. Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.
  4. Ryan, Órla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2011.
  5. Satre, Lowell. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens: Ohio University Press. (2005).
  6. Taza Website: Taza Chocolate. (2018). 2018 Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report. Taza Chocolate Website. [Online image]. Retrieved May 3, 2019 from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2018-transparency-report

Media Sources:

  1. Grommet, The. “TAZA – Stone Ground Organic Chocolate.” YouTube, YouTube, 2 Nov. 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sClYF2PB9nY.
  2. http://jeromepowers.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Cocoa-Child-Laborer.jpg Image from: “Jérôme Powers Blog.” Jérôme Powers Blog | Jérôme Powers, jeromepowers.com/wp/.
  3. “Our Story.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.
  4. Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.
  5. Taza chocolate transparency report photo: Taza Chocolate. (2018). 2018 Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report. Taza Chocolate Website. [Online image]. Retrieved May 3, 2019 from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2018-transparency-report

Confronting Gender Inequality in West African Cocoa Production Through Chocolate Advertisements

Chocolate has been a fascination in the West since its discovery in Mesoamerica centuries ago. Early in the history of the Western consumption of chocolate, it became feminized. Chocolate was associated with luxury and leisure in the eighteenth century, but as it became more accessible to the working class in the nineteenth century, women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption in the family (Robertson, 2009). Due to the persistent feminization of chocolate, women have been the focus of marketing campaigns to sell chocolate. Cocoa adverts have fetishized images of western housewives, mothers, and women in heterosexual relationships to sell their products (Martin, 2019a). These women are often depicted as becoming irrational, narcissistic, or excessively aroused due to chocolate. However, these advertisements reveal the underlying prejudice and stereotyping that exists in the cocoa supply chain. Chocolate largely originates from the cocoa farmed in West Africa, which produces 75% of the world’s cocoa. Although this arrangement began in the 1800s, West Africans only consume 4% of the world’s chocolate (Martin, 2019b). This is due to the fact that most African-grown cocoa is exported abroad for production and the primary markets for these chocolate producers are thus outside of Africa. The romanticized image of chocolate in Western advertisements neglects the labor that goes into farming cocoa and the challenges that cocoa farmers in West Africa face. Furthermore, the dilemmas within the cocoa supply chain are exacerbated for women cocoa farmers, who are often denied privileges their male counterparts are afforded and are especially susceptible to certain dangers. Rather than focusing on Western women, who are not involved in the production of chocolate, a newer campaign has emerged to empower West African women cocoa farmers and bring light to just how integral they are in the production of chocolate.

It has been documented that women have been involved in the cocoa industry since its inception in West Africa, specifically Ghana (Robertson, 2009). Cocoa farming would not have gotten to where it is today without the labor of women, as it was central in almost every aspect of cocoa production and sale (Robertson, 2009). However, these contributions have not been met with the appropriate amount of recognition and credit. This blog will highlight women farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which are two of the world’s largest cocoa-growing countries and both are found in West Africa. In Ghana, women cocoa farmers earn 25%-30% less than their male counterparts and in Côte d’Ivoire women cocoa farmers earn up to 70% less than their male counterparts (Pacyniak, 2014). Also, in both countries women are met with more obstacles, such as lower farm productivity, smaller farms, and less access to financing and farm inputs. Gender gaps beyond cocoa income and productivity plague women cocoa farmers in Ghana, as women have a 25% lower level of training, a 20% lower receipt of loans, and 30%-40% lower access to critical farm inputs (e.g. fertilizer). According to women cocoa farmers, they lack the funds necessary to hire labor, making it difficult to produce cocoa (Odoi-Larbi, 2008). Gender inequality in Ivorian cocoa farming manifests in almost none of the 4% of women in cocoa co-operatives having leadership positions. Furthermore, in Côte d’Ivoire 86% of men had legal rights to their plots, while in 67% of cases, the land accessed by women was not owned by them. Although Fairtrade is an institutional arrangement designed to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions, not all West African cocoa farmers benefit equally from Fairtrade (“Does Fairtrade mean a fair deal for female cocoa farmers?”, 2016). For instance, even though Fairtrade is a positive force in Ghana, women cocoa farmers are not benefitting from Fairtrade to the same extent as their male counterparts. It was found that many of the poorest and most marginalized cocoa farmers in Ghana are excluded from participating in such co-operatives, and most of these farmers are women.

The previously mentioned trials and tribulations of women cocoa farmers are addressed in the video below. As was mentioned earlier, the global cocoa supply comes from small farms in West Africa, but these farmers are often paid poorly for what they grow. Typically, women take on the heavy lifting when it comes to their share of the work, but they see minimal profits. The women in this video are from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and although they do most of the work, only a quarter of the cocoa farms are owned by women. The women explain this disparity, as they discuss the patriarchy that prohibits them from inheriting land. More recently, however, Fairtrade has made strides to ensure that support exists that helps women raise their income and their voices. This includes eliminating women’s dependency upon their husbands and giving women their own land on which they can produce their own cocoa. With their own farms, these women are more independent and can flourish with the right resources available to them. The video ends by urging consumers around the world to choose Fairtrade chocolate in order to support these women cocoa farmers. Other efforts have been started to raise awareness about these farmers, as the injustice of women working for nothing to produce the chocolate that we love must end.

Fairtrade and gender inequality in West Africa

Several efforts have commenced to promote corporate social responsibility, which would aid in the fight for equality for women in the cocoa supply chain. One such effort is Cocoa Life, which began in 2008 and is empowering women in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities (Amekudzi, 2013). Cocoa Life was created by Mondelēz International, a company looking to advance the rights of women cocoa farmers by increasing the emphasis on gender equality in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and advocating for industry-wide action (Pacyniak, 2014). To address the aforementioned challenges women cocoa farmers face, Mondelēz International presented new action plans to build upon its Cocoa Life program. This plan was a $400 million, 10-year effort set in motion in 2012. In Ghana, this project is farmer centered and based on Cocoa Life’s Cadbury Cocoa Partnership in Ghana. Specifically, Cocoa Life encourages entrepreneurship among women cocoa farmers through farmer education on cocoa agronomy and farmer training at the village level. The video below, produced by Cocoa Life, involves interviews of women cocoa farmers in Ghana who recount the times when they were excluded from the ins and outs of cocoa farming. They have been encouraged to mobilize and learn how to manage their own farms. Their situations have been improved and they have set the stage for future women cocoa farmers to prosper in their communities.

Mondelēz International, Cocoa Life, and Ghanaian women’s rights in cocoa farming

Another example of an attempt at corporate social responsibility to help women in West African communities is The Cargill Cocoa Promise. Cargill recognized that women are forced to balance household work with cocoa farming, in conjunction with having unequal access to training, inputs, and education (“Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire”, 2014). The Cargill Cocoa Promise aims to understand how gender barriers limit access to skills, information, and inputs amongst women cocoa farmers. This project kickstarted inclusive training sessions and raised awareness of gender issues. Practical steps were proposed to improve the day-to-day activities of these farmers. The people in the video below discuss how this project was conceived and executed in Côte d’Ivoire. Researchers found that culture was a driving force that exacerbated the issues plaguing women cocoa farmers, as culture determined who got to own land. They encouraged discussions within the communities in order to facilitate change and overcome the cultural biases. Also, this project increased financial literacy among women cocoa farmers, as the organizers established village savings and loan schemes, which would aid in entrepreneurship efforts.

The Cargill Cocoa Promise, corporate social responsibility, and women empowerment in West Africa

As was preliminarily mentioned, a newer campaign has emerged to shed light on the West African women who make large contributions to the production of chocolate. Divine Chocolate Limited is a purveyor of Fairtrade chocolate and although it was originally established in the United Kingdom, it is co-owned by the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farmers’ co-operative in Ghana. In order to emphasize to UK chocolate shoppers that Ghana is a cocoa origin site, Divine Chocolate released a set of advertisements that feature women cocoa farmers from Ghana, and these advertisements appeared in British editions of women’s magazines, such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Red, and OK! (Leissle, 2012). As is shown in the images below, the women cocoa farmers are depicted as glamorous business owners who participate in transnational exchanges of raw materials and luxury goods, and as beneficiaries of these exchanges. These women are a part of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, which makes them co-owners of Divine Chocolate. The advertisements emphasize the women’s position as co-owners, as they state each woman’s name along with her position. Also, Ghana’s adinkra symbols appears on Divine Chocolate’s bar wrappers and this is shown in the photographs. Furthermore, the background of each advertisement shows ‘Africa’, which is represented by images of Ghana’s agricultural economy. This includes cocoa drying tables, plantain trees, coconut trees, mud buildings, and dusty roads. Each woman appears in the foreground holding pieces of chocolate, which is a luxury food made from the fruit they farm. These images are paired with titles such as ‘Equality Treat’, ‘Decadently Decent’, and ‘Serious Chocolate Appeal’ in order to suggest to consumers that their own enjoyment of Divine Chocolate bars should come not only from the joy of eating chocolate, but from the fact that the women who farm the cocoa also enjoy it. This implies that the Kuapa Kokoo women cocoa farmers not only grow the raw materials, but they also consume the chocolate. This is a far cry from the statistic reported earlier that said only 4% of West Africans consume the world’s chocolate.

Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Beatrice Mambi.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.
Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Priscilla Agyemeng.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.
Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Rita Nimako.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.

Divine Chocolate’s advertisements are revolutionary in that they do not rely on the stereotypical and romanticized images of Western women to sell their chocolate. Instead, this company is knocking down two birds with one stone: they are empowering West African women cocoa farmers while challenging the notion that Africa is not modern. Leissle states that “the Divine images pose a challenge to narratives that cast Africa as continually on the losing side of harmful dualisms and reframe Africa’s role in modernity” (2012). In Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa”, he challenges Western literature that persistently refuses to disperse a picture of a “well-adjusted African” (unless he or she has won a Nobel Prize), neglects the fact that the continent is dynamic in that it is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, and savannahs, and depicts the African woman as starving, nearly naked, and waiting for the aid of the West (2006). However, the Divine Chocolate adverts pose the Ghanaian women cocoa farmers as “attractive, socially mobile beneficiaries of their own development efforts” (Leissle, 2012). The videos previously discussed highlighted that West African women are commonly held back in their farming endeavors by the patriarchal notion that women are only instrumental in uplifting the family. However, the Divine women are not tethered to their responsibilities as wives and mothers and are not viewed as reproductive laborers in these advertisements. These women are framed as “active agents of a self-gratifying transnational business arrangement” (Leissle, 2012). Overall, the combinations of the Divine women’s playful, yet strong, poses, the invitation to enjoy chocolate, and the text present West African women cocoa farmers as savvy luxury consumers and implies their individual participation in the privileged aspects of modernity narratives (Leissle, 2012).

One way to address and combat the gender inequality that exists in the cocoa supply chain is to draw attention to West African women as primary contributors. The fetishization of Western women in chocolate advertisements only exacerbates the issue at hand because it masks the labor that was invested into producing the chocolate. In looking at the origins of the chocolate, one will find that West Africa as the world’s primary cocoa growing region is faced with many critical challenges, such as volatile income, unfair farm economics, and lack of laborers (Martin, 2019b). Women cocoa farmers are especially harmed by these challenges as the patriarchy in West Africa makes it difficult for them to overcome these obstacles. However, some solutions have gone into effect to empower these women. Additionally, Divine Chocolate’s campaign presents “a fresh visual reframing of the exchanges of goods and capital between Africa and Europe” (Leissle, 2012). Other purveyors of chocolate should follow in Divine Chocolate’s footsteps when it comes to advertisements and give credit to the people who make eating chocolate possible.

References

Amekudzi, Y. P. (2013, February 28). Cocoa Life- the project empowering women in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://businessfightspoverty.org/articles/yaa-peprah-amekudzi-cocoa-life-the-project-empowering-women-in-ghanas-cocoa-growing-communities-2/

Does Fairtrade mean a fair deal for female cocoa farmers? (2016). European Union News.

Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire. (2014, April 15). Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.cargill.com/story/empowering-women-cocoa-farmers

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

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture April 3: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements. Harvard University.

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture March 27: Modern day slavery. Harvard University.

Odoi-Larbi, S. (2008). Female Cocoa Farmers Cry for Help. Africa News Service.

Pacyniak, B. (2014). Mondelez affirming women’s rights in cocoa-growing areas. Candy Industry, 179(6), 12-13.

Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Studies in imperialism (Manchester, England)). Manchester; New York: New York: Manchester University Press; Distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.

Wainaina, B. (2006, January 19). How to Write About Africa. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://granta.com/how-to-write-about-africa/

Multimedia sources

Cargill. (2016, March 7). Women in agriculture: empowering African cocoa farmers [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYeGiFHlDm4

Fairtrade Foundation. (2019, March 5). Meet the Women Cocoa Farmers Facing Adversity in the Ivory Coast [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP5NR3BbdKE

Mondelez International. (2013, November 12). Cocoa Life: Community leaders – Interview with Gladys and Vida in Ghana [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/REMKY62MHno

Images retrieved from Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2), 121-139.

Raising the Bar with Tony’s Chocolonely

Seldom will the average consumer find a chocolate company as unique as Tony’s Chocolonely. From its irregularly divided bars representing the inequality in the chocolate industry, to its quirky name referencing the founder’s sense of solitude as a crusader against slavery in the industry, all of the company’s efforts aim for ethical reform through delicious chocolate. This Dutch company arose from the investigative journalism work of Teun “Tony” van de Keuken. After discovering the reality of slavery in the cocoa industry, Tony sought to tackle the issue himself. He realized the importance of consumer responsibility in reinforcing these industrial injustices, going so far as to “prosecute [him]self for buying and eating chocolate” that involved slavery in its production (Tony’s, “The Story”).

From chocolate conviction to confectionary: The ethical foundations of Tony’s Chocolonely.

The Mission

Thus, Tony’s Chocoloney was founded on the principle of producing completely “slave free chocolate” and influencing chocolate makers around the globe to follow suit. Its products, characterized by bright colors and eye-catching designs, are emblazoned with company’s mission: “Together we make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate” (Tony’s, Report 11).

This mission is not only applied toward its own products; Tony’s also aspires to elevate the worldwide chocolate industry to this same standard. Tony’s takes a holistic approach to transforming the chocolate industry from within. This begins with grassroots community efforts at the local farmer level, continues through to consumer transparency, and extends beyond to the global chocolate industry. Tony’s Chocolonely hopes to leverage its loyal customer base and prominence in the Dutch market to alleviate ethical issues in the global cacao-chocolate supply chain.

Tony’s dedication to ethical chocolate starts with the social and economic well-being of its cocoa farmers and continues through every ingredient and packaging material. These steps trace the company’s five sourcing principles for 100% slave free chocolate: traceable cocoa beans, higher prices, strong farmers, long-term sustainability, and improved quality and productivity.

The five sourcing principles, on display in Tony’s Chocotruck.

Reliable Relationships

Each of these social, economic, and political tactics is tailored to the key players in Tony’s chocolate supply chain: cocoa farmers, chocolate makers, stores, fans, and governments (Tony’s, Report 13). Beginning with the farmers, Tony’s has been strategic in choosing which cocoa-producing regions to work with. Rather than shying away from countries with severe social abuses in farming, the company has embraced them head-on. After discovering the prevalence of slavery in West Africa, Tony’s formed partnerships with five cocoa farming cooperatives in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. This direct contact with farmers at the local community level has been necessary to target the engrained unjust cultural practices. Tony’s works with farmers on a personal level to address social, financial, and educational issues. The company sources 100% of its cocoa beans from these five cooperatives, establishing balanced relationships through which it can introduce fundamental institutional changes. Tony’s engages in direct trade with these farmers, eliminating profits lost by the farmers to intermediaries in the supply chain. This direct contact also helps develop strong, stable long-term relationships that enable the cooperatives to grow and organize.

Principles Over Profits

Financial stability is one of the most pressing issues facing West African cocoa farmers. This problem has been poorly addressed in the chocolate industry due to incomplete or misdirected efforts. A popular suggestion involves paying higher prices for cocoa; however, this approach fails in many cases if the national government is the intermediary between the farmers and the global market, or if national policies incentivize the cultivation of other crops (Off 146, Martin slide 40). Cocoa farmers are paid the farm gate price for their beans, but this may not reflect the global market price. However, farmers can enhance their earnings through certification premiums. All of Tony’s cocoa farmers are Fairtrade certified; however, this still does not relieve them from financial insolvency. Due to its pervasiveness and widespread effects, poverty is Tony’s target and root cause of labor abuses.

Tony’s cocoa beans are Faitrade certified, so farmers receive both Fairtrade and Tony’s additional premiums.

Considering these challenges, Tony’s goal to pay farmers living wages—enough to hire adult workers and send their children to school—seems almost quixotic. To work towards this goal, the company has instituted an additional Tony’s premium that bypasses institutional middlemen and directly benefits farmers: “We pay the extra Tony’s premium straight to the cooperatives of our partner farmers, so not every link in the chain (such as local and international traders, cocoa processers or bar manufacturers) in the chocolate chain receives a percentage of this higher premium” (Tony’s, Report 27). During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, on top of the Fairtrade premium of $200 per metric ton, Tony’s paid an additional $400 per metric ton in the Ivory Coast and an additional $175 in Ghana (103). Thus, the cooperative farmers in the Ivory Coast received a payment 47% greater than the farm gate price; in Ghana, 21% greater (29). The additional Tony’s premium is also dynamic, taking into account the current cocoa market, farm family size, cost of family sustenance, and agricultural input costs. For example, in response to the 2016 excess Ivorian cocoa harvest, Tony’s more than doubled its premium to compensate for the decline in farm gate price. This contrasts from the nearly static Fairtrade price and premium, which will be updated in late 2019 from their 2011 values (Fairtrade).

The Proof is in the (Chocolate) Pudding

One of the unique aspects of Tony’s relationships with farmers is its comprehensive analysis of progress. Tony’s has partnered with the KIT Royal Tropical Institute, “an independent centre of expertise and education for sustainable development,” to investigate the impact of its efforts on local communities (KIT 2). The interviews documented in the FAIR Report indicate that the farmers have generally positive feelings toward their relationships with Tony’s. The cooperative managers have a greater sense of ownership and confidence in their farms. Women in the cooperatives are more empowered and can contribute tangibly to the cocoa communities. Overall, farmers appreciate the additional Tony’s premium, but there is no explicit evidence regarding the extent to which the premiums have directly increased their incomes (Tony’s, Report 36). Although increased living incomes is one of Tony’s goals for its farmers, these economic efforts are also intended to indirectly prevent systemic causes of slavery and child labor.

The Climb for Ethical Labor with CLMRS

Tony’s efforts at eradicating slavery and child labor extend beyond the economic sphere in its collaboration with the Child Labor Monitoring Remediation System (CLMRS). This system was founded by the International Cocoa Initiative and Nestle to track, target, and eradicate child labor in the cocoa industry (Nestle 23). Tony’s has thoroughly embraced this system by mobilizing local communities to “actively and structurally [search] for child labor” (Tony’s, Report 1). The system is centered on the CLMRS community facilitators. trained individuals who spread awareness of prohibited forms of child labor among local communities. These facilitators visit farmers at their homes to interview both farmers and children to identify the children at greatest risk for child labor. They also hold awareness sessions to teach farmers about fair labor practices. From an interview with KIT, an administrative manager at an Ivorian cooperative indicated his involvement in CLMRS has enabled him to “educate people and strengthen groups” and fulfill a personal goal of being a “role model for the youth” (34).

One of the major strengths of this system is its focus on the collective local identity and social solidarity of cocoa communities through personal interaction. However, this also leads to inefficiencies including incomplete data collection and difficulties in data analysis. In 2017, CLMRS found 268 cases of child labor—primarily children performing dangerous tasks on family farms—and no cases of modern slavery. Very reasonably, Tony’s admits this may be an underestimate. However, after only one year of working with CLMRS, it has visited over 3,000 households and interviewed nearly 4,000 children (Tony’s, Report 40). On a larger scale, CLMRS spans multiple companies in West Africa, and its overall performance shows promising signs of progress. As of 2017, CLMRS as a whole identified nearly 15,000 cases of child labor, over half of whom were longer in child labor three years later (USDOL 74). Considering this broader progress, Tony’s appears to be on an upward trajectory of identifying and eliminating child labor.

Chocolate industry labor abuses and Tony’s central mission, explained on a box of chocolate bars.

Emphasizing Education

Tony’s Chocolonely also prioritizes education—of both producers and consumers—as a proxy for social change. The company invests in agricultural education and works with farmers to improve their yields through sustainable farming practices. They help develop skills for cultivating cocoa and other crops, for higher farm productivity and less dependency on cocoa. Focusing on education helps target and prevent inequalities that arise downstream in the supply chain. The company seeks to “professionalize farming cooperatives and farms, giving them more power to structurally change inequality” (Tony’s, Report 27). In addition to educating farmers and managers, Tony’s also provides children with direct resources to help them attend school. Its efforts range from arranging birth certificates and health insurance to distributing school supplies and bicycles. Rather than fixing surface-level issues of productivity and management, Tony’s targets the core of the problem, laying a solid foundation to enable the farmers to grow.

Scrutiny in Sourcing

Another ethical point of contention along the cocoa-chocolate supply chain is the sourcing and sustainability of ingredients. Since Tony’s engages in direct trade with its five cooperatives for all of its cocoa beans, it is able to maintain complete transparency and traceability throughout the process. All of its cocoa beans are 100% traceable, meaning Tony’s knows exactly who produced the beans, under what conditions they were produced, and the path they took to arrive at its bean warehouse in Antwerp, Belgium (Tony’s, Report 27). Another key ingredient, cocoa butter, has also come under scrutiny regarding sourcing and sustainability. Tony’s produces its cocoa butter in conjunction with Barry Callebaut in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast. The company focuses on improving sustainability in cocoa butter production by using locally grown mid-crop beans (52). Because these beans are out of season and lower in quality, the Ivorian government prohibits them from export. Consequently, cocoa farmers generate significantly less income during the off season. However, these beans can still be used to produce cocoa butter, which is exactly what Tony’s does. It also pays these farmers the same Tony’s additional premium, allowing them to maintain a more stable income year-round.

In addition to its cacao products, Tony’s also pays close attention to the sourcing of its various flavorings and chocolate add-ins. The FAIR Report displays a traceability map of the main ingredients in various chocolate products (80-81). This includes basic ingredients such as Fairtrade cane sugar from Mauritius, to limited edition flavorings such as red wine powder from France. The company doesn’t stop at only the edible ingredients; they also take into consideration their packaging. Their chocolate wrappers are made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified recycled paper and printed with plant-based inks in a climate neutral and environmentally friendly facility. Furthermore, the pages of the FAIR report were printed on paper made from recycled sugar cane leaves and corn cobs (127).

Creative Consumer Contact

The other side of Tony’s chocolate industry mission is its consumer base. The company relies on its loyal Dutch fans and growing international customers to spread its chocolate and mission. One of the most recent initiatives to spread consumer awareness is the Tony’s Chocotruck Tour featuring the “Bean to Bar Journey.” This unique approach to fighting the “‘anonymity’ of the market” sensitizes consumers so they know conditions of production of the goods they consume (Sylla 47).

Tony’s Chocotruck toured the country to spread awareness, consumer responsibility, and of course, chocolate.

The colorful truck is adorned with bright lights and operated by enthusiastic Tony’s employees eager to share both Tony’s chocolate and mission. This fun, jovial atmosphere contrasts from the sobering message that the company is trying to convey: slavery and child labor are ubiquitous in the chocolate industry, and consumers and companies must take action. Through the tour, Tony’s seeks “to meet loads of new chocofans and serious friends who will share our chocolate and our story” (Tony’s “Chocotruck”). The truck contains interactive displays highlighting labor abuses in the chocolate industry, as well as Tony’s efforts to remediate them. It begins with staggering statistics revealing human trafficking, slavery, and child labor on cocoa farms. The displays continue by describing Tony’s various measures and sourcing principles to address the issue. The focus on consumer interaction— “The choice is yours. Are you in?”—makes visitors feel like they are directly involved in impacting these injustices.

The interior of the Chocotruck, filled with fun, educational displays.

Governmental Action

Finally, Tony’s has also worked with the Dutch government in an attempt to pass legislation addressing corporate responsibility of child labor. The “Zorgplicht Kinderarbeid” Child Labor Due Diligence Act would require businesses in the Netherlands to declare that they are taking all necessary measures to prevent child labor, identify the risks of child labor in their supply chains, and address these risks to the best of their abilities (Beltman 1). Although this bill would have only applied to Dutch businesses, it was an earnest attempt at governmentally enforceable change in the political sphere. Despite Tony’s petition including 42 cocoa businesses and over 13,000 signatures, the bill failed to pass the Dutch Upper House (Tony’s, Report 66). The company admitted that efforts at government progress in child labor due diligence have been met with resistance. However, the wide support of the petition demonstrated that the company has succeeded in spreading awareness and inspiring others to act. Despite the lack of political progress, Tony’s shows no signs of resignation.

Solidairy-ty in the Industry

Overall, Tony’s Chocolonely presents a wide array of strategies aimed at their singular mission of 100% slave free chocolate. These principles have helped Tony’s excel in spreading awareness among consumers, and it hopes to further inspire other chocolate companies to act. However, no single company can successfully address every complex ethical issue in the chocolate industry. Tony’s has a significant presence in the Netherlands, but Dutch chocolate is only a fraction of the global industry, in terms of consumption and economy (ICO 39-40). Additionally, Tony’s currently works with approximately 5,000 individual farmers in West Africa, only about 0.2% of the total 2.5 million farmers in region (Tony’s, Report 34). The company values strong personal relationships with its farmers, but this comes as a tradeoff to the breadth of its influence. Finally, Tony’s mission of slave free chocolate may initially seem like too simplistic of a goal. If the company were to approach this mission exclusively through traditional tactics of policy, certifications, or consumer pressure, this would indeed be too low a bar. However, Tony’s uses an innovative, holistic approach to targeting systemic social, economic, and political issues at different stages within the supply chain. These principles, combined with over-the-top enthusiasm for its “chocofan” consumers, are helping Tony’s transform the chocolate industry’s ethical standards from within.

Works Cited: Scholarly Sources

  1. Beltman, Henk Jan. “A Law on the Duty of Care for Child Labour Seriously Tackles the Issue of Child Labour.” Received by Senate of the Netherlands: Standing committee for foreign affairs, defence and development cooperation, 3 October 2017, The Hague, Netherlands.
  2. Fairtrade International. Fairtrade Minimum Price and Fairtrade Premium Table. Bonn, Germany: Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. 28 March 2019.
  3. International Cocoa Organization Executive Committee. The World Cocoa Economy: Past and Present. London, United Kingdom: International Cocoa Organization. 18–21 September 2012.
  4. KIT Royal Tropical Institute. Annual Report 2017. Amsterdam, Netherlands. 2017.
  5. Martin, Carla D. “Modern Day Slavery” AAAS 119X, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University. 27 Mar. 2019.
  6. Nestle Cocoa Plan. Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Vevey, Switzerland. 20 June 2017.
  7. Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: the Dark Side of the Worlds Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.
  8. Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.
  9. Tony’s Chocolonely. “The Bean to Bar Journey – Chocotruck Tour.” Tony’s Chocolonely, 2019, tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/chocotruck.
  10. Tony’s Chocolonely. Tony’s Chocolonely FAIR Report 2017-2018. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Tony’s Chocolonely. 29 November 2018. Print.
  11. United States Department of Labor. Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG) Annual Report 2017. Washington, D.C.: USDOL. 2017.

Works Cited: Multimedia Sources

  1. Fairtrade. Fairtrade Logo. Wikimedia Commons, 7 November 2011. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fairtrade-logo.jpg. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  2. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely – the story of an unusual chocolate bar.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 15 October 2015. Web.
  3. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely – Tony’s Bean to Bar Journey.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 7 March 2019. Web.
  4. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely USA on Instagram: ‘Girl Power! These Ladies Supply Cocoa Beans to ECOJAD, Our Partner Cooperative in Ivory Coast. This Picture Was Taken on Their Cassava…”.” Instagram, 2 August 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/Bl_lLgXBgts/.
  5. All other photos were taken by the author.

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

Taza5


TAZA CHOCOLATE

HOW A SMALL COMPANY
IS MAKING A BIG DIFFERENCE


taza_chocolate_mission_large

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

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

Taza1
Owner Alex Whitmore carving patterns into a stone for grinding chocolate

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

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

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


THE CHOCOLATE SUPPLY CHAIN

BUYING AND SELLING CACAO


 

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A traditional metate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


FAIRER THAN FAIR-TRADE

BEAN-TO-BAR AND DIRECT TRADE


 

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

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

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

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

 


THE TAZA DIFFERENCE

TRANSPARENCY AND DIRECT-TRADE SOURCING


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


References


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


Media


Taza Chocolate. (2018) Header Image

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

Chocolatenoise.com (2018).  “Alex Whitmore”

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

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

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

Youtube. (2012).  Taza on fair trade

Chocolatenoise.com (2018).  “Rotary stone”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Works cited

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

 

’57 Chocolate: An Ethnographic Study

“Revolutionary artisanal chocolate made from bean to bar by a dynamic duo of Pan-African sisters. ’57 is a chocolate business pioneered in Accra, Ghana, and it is on a mission to revive Ghana’s 1957 ‘can do spirit.’”

Meet the Maker:

’57 Chocolate

Pithy, punchy, and powerful, these two sentences greet every visitor to ’57 Chocolate’s website, a sleek, black-and-white affair that serves as the brand’s online point of contact for customers, brand collaborators, and global enthusiasts of fine chocolate.

Though these sentences are crafted to introduce visitors to the company briefly, they efficiently allude to a number of ways in which this chocolate company grapples with key issues that plague the contemporary chocolate industry. Their reference to “artisanal chocolate made from bean to bar” in tandem with the site’s carefully curated aesthetic might simply seem like an attempt to establish ’57 chocolate as a luxury brand, but it also implies certain small-scale production practices that are more ethical and sustainable than those of the conglomerates producing the bulk of the world’s finished chocolate products. Their insistence on the “dynamic duo” of sisters behind the brand serves as a fruitful entry point to a discussion about marketing in the chocolate industry, because it departs from the norm in a few meaningful ways. And finally, the positioning of the brand as “revolutionary” is far from an arbitrary marketing decision, though the uninformed consumer might assume as much. In fact, it is a strategic move to grapple with issues of income imbalance across the chocolate supply chain that perpetuates centuries-old power dynamics by disadvantaging the so-called global south—namely South America, Africa, and South Asia—and pushing profits to North American and European chocolate retailers.

This essay will use secondary literature to explicate the magnitude and implications of each of these three issues, and then it will turn to primary sources—emphasizing ’57 chocolate’s very own marketing material as well as contemporary reporting on the company—to explore how ’57 Chocolate performs meaningful work to right the wrongs that plague the contemporary chocolate industry.

 

Craft Chocolate:

How Bean-to-Bar Businesses Can Better a Broken System

As a bean-to-bar chocolate company, ’57 Chocolate is part of a growing movement to promote increased literacy about the origins of the cacao in a given chocolate bar.[1] By tracing the trajectory of the cacao from its beginning as beans all the way to its final product, these companies attempt not only to give due credit to the countries providing the raw material that goes into a chocolate bar but also, so the theory goes, hold more members of the chocolate supply chain accountable for ethical business practices.[2] There are a few key ways in which Big Chocolate creates issues in the supply chain, and ’57 Chocolate addresses virtually each of these problems.

First, by nature of being a small-scale producer, ’57 Chocolate aids farmers by buying cacao in smaller batches directly from farmers and thus pushing profits to those at the very beginning of the chocolate supply chain.’57 Chocolate explains on its website that the company aims to “add value…to the cocoa farmer—on a local scale.” To the uninitiated, the weight of these words may not be apparent, but they actually imply an important attempt to invert the flow of revenue in the chocolate supply chain to the most time- and labor-intensive jobs.

One of the most upsetting injustices of the cacao supply chain is that profit margins are highest at the end of it and lowest for those who perform the physical labor that initiates the process. While farmers in the global south earn only a 3% margin on their cacao, retail boutiques and supermarkets in the global north earn a 43% margin on their chocolate products.[3] This is because the cacao supply chain is especially elongated in order to benefit large-scale chocolate producers like Nestlé, Hershey, and Mars. These companies buy chocolate from Africa in such bulk that they require sourcing from small cacao farms across the country in order to meet their demands. The trajectory of a cacao pod from its farm to a large batch in an African port is a long one made up of many middlemen; each time it exchanges hands, its price rises. Meanwhile, Big Chocolate companies negotiate reduced prices for cacao, because they buy it in bulk. As a result, cacao farmers in Africa are routinely forced to sell their product for as low a price as possible so that everyone downstream of them in the supply chain can still make a profit.[4] Not to mention, as an agricultural commodity, cacao’s price is volatile. In short, cacao farmers cannot count on a stable income from their jobs.

Given this contextual information, it becomes clear how ’57 Chocolate’s focus on small-batch, locally sourced cacao aids the farmers with whom they work. Though artisanal chocolate producers cannot single-handedly right the wrongs of Big Chocolate, the rise of small-scale producers who focus on bean-to-bar production is a net positive for African cacao farmers. ’57 Chocolate’s focus on creating bean-to-bar products means that they are not interested in buying cacao that has been sourced from farms all over Africa. Instead, they form direct relationships with individual farmers to ensure that they know the origins of the beans in their chocolate bars. By cutting out the middlemen, they push profits directly to those at the beginning of the supply chain. As well, by purchasing small batches, ’57 Chocolate does not negotiate discounted, bulk rates for their cacao. Instead, they pay a premium and thus provide farmers a livable wage.

 

Marketing Matters:

Race, Gender, and ’57 Chocolate

 Yet another issue that plagues the chocolate industry is that of toxic marketing—in the form of brand positioning, chocolate bar packaging, and advertisements—that either obscures or completely fails to confront the political, social, and economic issues in the chocolate supply chain as delineated above.[5] As Emma Robertson argues, “chocolate marketing often encourages us to indulge in a depoliticized moment, to ‘Have a Break’; [but] this moment…is and has always been deeply political.”[6] Indeed, even after the brief discussion of supply chain imbalances above, it is clear that eating chocolate is a politically loaded activity. Knowing this, lighthearted ads concerned with self-care and indulgence seem surprisingly myopic.

Moreover, chocolate marketing often tends to make use of debilitating sexist and racist imagery that either erases the people of color from the narrative about the chocolate’s production or perpetuates negative stereotypes about femininity. Robertson puts it elegantly when she writes, “the cultural construction of chocolate in marketing has …relied on and produced hegemonic narratives of gender, class, race, and empire.”[7] In short, chocolate marketing has routinely perpetuated racist and sexist narratives.

Indeed, there is a long history of minimizing the importance of manual labor in the supply chain, which is often performed by people of color. Robertson points out as much when she demonstrates that “despite encouragement from modernists in the 1930s to include representation so production on chocolate packaging, [she] found no evidence of either packaging or advertising which depicted chocolate workers.”[8] In addition to this erasure of labor, advertisements also cast black bodies as peripheral to the consumption of chocolate, as they only ever afforded white people the privilege of purchasing and eating it. She writes, “both Rowntree and Cadbury adverts created a world of white consumers in which the black producers of cocoa beans and the black consumers of chocolate were at best pushed to the margins, if not excluded completely.”[9] Finally, advertisements routinely minimized the work of female laborers in the production chain, only to fetishize motherhood and white female sexuality in their ads.[10] Certainly, elitism in the form of racism and sexism permeate all types of chocolate marketing.

Happily, ’57 Chocolate combats this issue in a variety of ways. The first and most noticeable is by means of their brand statement. ’57 Chocolate identifies its brand most prominently by its co-founders, “a dynamic duo of Pan-African sisters.” This is powerful because it emphasizes that not only two women but also two people of color are the brilliant business minds behind ’57 Chocolate. By providing the precise location of their offices—in Accra, Ghana—the sisters encourage readers to imagine corporate offices in a Ghanaian city, creating rich imagery of industrious, clever, and successful female businesswomen working out of a city in Africa. In fact, the sisters’ strategic marketing by way of this brand statement has been effective by all accounts, as every news source to report on ’57 Chocolate identifies the brand by way of its two female cofounders in the very title of their articles. To reinforce this, the sisters devote an entire page of their website to mini biographies of themselves. In so doing, they firmly establish their authority and clout and thus cast women of color in a more positive manner than they have historically been shown in chocolate marketing.

Secondly, ’57 Chocolate’s logo makes use of the image of a cacao plant and references the year 1957, two decisions that reference Ghana, the co-founders’ home country. By utilizing the image of cacao pods in their logo, the sisters draw consumers’ focus to the very beginnings of the cacao supply chain and pay homage to the laborers who grow and harvest the cacao. This type of respect for and appreciation of cacao farmers is distinct. As well, the reference to the year 1957 is crucial because it is the year that Ghana gained independence. By referencing this year in the very name of their company, the sisters hope to “revive the 1957 ‘can do spirit’” of the country in that year and prove that Ghana is more than simply a provider of raw material but also the home of developed, finished chocolate products on par with those created in Europe and North America.[11] In so doing, it “challenges the status quo that premium chocolate can only be made in Europe.”[12]

Finally, ’57 Chocolate rectifies the issue of erasure that has plagued much chocolate marketing. Each bar is “engraved with visual symbols originally created by the Ashanti of Ghana,” who play a large role in growing and harvesting the cacao that is ultimately made into these chocolate bars.[13] By exhibiting Ashanti art on perhaps the most prized real estate in the world of chocolate marketing—on the bar itself—Priscilla and Kimberly Addison afford African men and women the opportunity to engage with chocolate as more than simply manual laborers but also brand-creators and artists. This, like everything else about the brand’s marketing tactics, enacts a powerful restructuring of historically detrimental paradigms.

 

Revolutionary Retailer:

Reintroducing Africa as a Refined Producer

Yet a third issue in the cacao industry today is the inexplicable and unwarranted derision aimed at African cacao. This is unfortunate, especially considered that Africa is the primary provider of cacao to the global market.

Though the biological origin of cacao lies in Mexico and Central America,[14] the Portuguese transported the so-called “forastero” variety of cacao to Africa in 1824[15] to avoid scrutiny of their labor practice son plantations in South America.[16] Today, African cacao farms produce 72% of the world’s total cacao, though the country only consumes about 4% of the world’s chocolate.[17] Profs. Sophie and Michael Coe point out that it is “supremely ironic that West Africa, from which so many hundreds of thousand shad been torn against their will to work as slaves in the white man’s cacao plantations, should now be by far the world’s leading producer of cacao.”[18] Indeed, it is a travesty that the same country whose population was decimated in the seventeenth century in order to perform coerced labor on plantations in South America should now find itself hosting those very same systems on its own soil without enjoying any of the benefits of this labor.

Even worse, misunderstandings about the differences between cacao varieties has led to an unwarranted lack of respect for the forastero ilk of cacao beans that are cultivated in Africa. The term was initially developed alongside two others—criollo and trinitario—to describe what many believed to be the least tasty type of cacao bean.[19] However, it has since been proven that these designations do not mean much, and that forastero beans feature flavors just as complex as the other two types of beans. Sadly, the stigma has remained, and very few bean-to-bar companies have cared to source their cacao from Africa under the impression that it will not taste good.[20]

’57 Chocolate thus acts as a leader in the artisanal chocolate space by sourcing its cacao from Ghana and celebrating the complexity of the flavor of the beans. By producing, marketing, and selling a line of craft chocolate bars made entirely from Ghanaian beans, the Addison sisters are helping to redefine people’s perceptions of African cacao as simply a low-grade product to be bought in bulk.[21]

In addition to this, the sisters perform the important work of establishing Africa as a tastemaker in haute patisserie just as France has done. In her exploration of the development of a culture surrounding high-end cacao in France, Susan Terrio incisively points out that it is the craft chocolate makers and retailers who hold the most power and cultural capital in the cacao supply chain. She writes, “in contemporary economies, cultural tastemakers determine fashion and shape taste for prestige commodities. They collaborate and negotiate with producers to establish the principles that govern expert knowledge and refined taste.”[22] In other words, those who operate at the end of the chocolate supply chain do not only make the largest profit margin but also enjoy the privilege of dictating global tastes.

The Addison sisters seem to know this intuitively, as they explicitly state that the main goal of their company is to “inspire the people of Ghana, especially the youth to not be satisfied at merely selling and trading the country’s natural resources or other items in their “natural” state, but to use their minds and creative geniuses to transform these resources and items by creating and developing made in Ghana products of premium value.”[23] In this light, the Addison sisters’ company is not simply one that brings justice to the forastero variety of cacao bean cultivated in Africa nor simply raises awareness about ethical sourcing and production in chocolate. Though it does both of these things, their company also establishes Africa as a global competitor with Europe and North America in the arena of determining tastes and shaping culture.

 

Works Cited

Addison, Kimberly and Priscilla. 57ChocolateGH.com, “Our Products.”

Addison, Kimberly and Priscilla. 57ChocolateGH.com, “Our Story.”

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013[1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

Martin, Carla D. Lecture. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Jan. 24, 2017.

– – -. Lecture. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Feb. 14, 2017.

– – -. Lecture. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Mar. 21, 2017.

– – -. Lecture. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Mar. 28, 2017.

– – -. Lecture. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Apr. 18, 2017.

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. 2016. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” pp. 37-60.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 1-131.

Terrio, Susan J. 2000. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate, pgs. 1-65.

Footnotes

[1] Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn, 2016, “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe,” 54.

[2] Lecture, Apr. 18, 2018.

[3] Lecture, Jan. 24, 2018.

[4] Lecture, Mar. 21, 2018.

[5] Lecture, Mar. 28, 2018.

[6] Robertson, Emma, 2010, Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History, 13.

[7] Robertson, 55.

[8] Robertson, 23.

[9] Robertson, 54.

[10] Robertson, 55.

[11] Addison, Kimberly and Priscilla, 57ChocolateGH.com, “Our Story.”

[12] Ibid.

[13] Addison, Kimberly and Priscilla, 57ChocolateGH.com, “Our Products.”

[14] Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996], The True History of Chocolate. 3nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 17.

[15] Coe and Coe, 196-7.

[16] Lecture, Mar. 21, 2018.

[17] Lecture, Jan. 24, 2019 and Lecture, Mar. 21, 2018.

[18] Coe and Coe, 196.

[19] Lecture, Feb. 14, 2018.

[20] Lecture, Feb. 14, 2018.

[21] Lecture, Apr. 18, 2018.

[22] Terrio, Susan J, 2000, Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate, pg. 41.

[23] Addison, Kimberly and Priscilla, 57ChocolateGH.com, “Our Story.”

Taza Sets the (Chocolate) Bar for Direct Trade and Ethical Sourcing

Taza Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate company that launched in Somerville, Massachusetts in 2005. Priding themselves on their unique stone-ground processing technique, which grinds organic cacao beans into “perfectly unrefined, minimally processed chocolate,” (Taza Website) Taza strives to provide a special blend of bold flavor and texture through their chocolate products. However, perhaps their most noteworthy trademark as a chocolate company is their commitment to ethical cacao sourcing that features the relationships with the farmers from whom they obtain their cacao beans. Specifically, Taza has formed Direct Trade relationships with five cacao producers around South America and the Caribbean. As documented through their groundbreaking annual cacao sourcing transparency reports, Taza contributes to the global problems facing the cacao-chocolate supply chain by keying in on each level within their supply chain- both the farmers who cultivate the product and the partners who source the cacao. Through their unique methodology and commitment, Taza achieves paying premium prices that reach their partners and promoting fair labor practices.

TazaPartners

For chocolate companies, forming strong, healthy relationships with both the farmers and companies from which they source their cacao seems like an obvious solution to the problematic cacao-producing industry, but it is more difficult and less observed in practice. While conventional practice for firms to promote fair labor practices features obtaining a Fair Trade certification, Taza has done an effective job of this using the alternative Direct Trade model. While Fair Trade aims to more justly compensate marginalized producers, it creates unintended consequences. For example, little of the extra money produced by a Fair Trade agreement reaches the developing countries, and of that, less reaches the farmers (Sylla, 2014). One reason for this is the cost to obtain a Fair Trade certification, shouldered by the producers, is the same everywhere, meaning that the poorest countries have the most difficulty obtaining the certification (Sylla, 2014; Martin, 2018, Lecture 9). Conversely, Direct Trade circumvents any fees required for certification and privatizes the contractual relationship so that the producers do not bear unnecessary costs. Taza was the first chocolate maker in the United States to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao sourcing program (Taza Website). Direct trade is “a form of sourcing practiced by some coffee roasters and chocolate companies with standards varying between produces” (Martin, 2018, Lecture 5). While relationships are often fragile and temporary between chocolate companies and cacao farmers that participate in Direct Trade (Martin, 2018, Lecture 9), Taza has taken notable steps to ensure a healthy relationship that truly benefits everyone, from the cacao farmer to the consumer.

Specifically, as one part of their relationships with their partners through the Direct Trade model, Taza physically visits each partner at least once per year to build trust and compassion. As seen on Taza’s Facebook page through founder Alex Whitmore’s trip to partner PISA in Haiti, Taza places an emphasis on connecting with both their partners and the farmers from whom their partners receive cacao to create a truly interconnected supply chain. Whitmore and company are seen sharing their Taza product with Haitian farmers, a gesture that is representative of their close relationship. By connecting with PISA, Taza, as Whitmore describes, has highlighted the strengths of two entities and brought them together to make something great. While Haiti’s cacao beans are comparable to those found in the Dominican Republic, failure to properly dry and ferment these beans left their exquisite taste to go unrecognized and their cacao to be sold at a heavily discounted price.  PISA specializes in these processes (Leissle, 2013). This relationship has led to Taza sourcing the first ever Certified USDA Organic Cacao from Haiti and PISA and the farmers being paid a premium price for the cacao that they have been able to provide (Taza Website).

Taza’s 2016 Transparency Report features their combating another major influential factor facing the global cacao-chocolate supply chain: the price of cacao. Daunted by unstable cacao market prices, government control of purchasing and distributing, and supply chain intermediaries squeezing profits, cacao farmers fall victim to extremely low incomes. (Sylla, 2014). In the agricultural crisis in the 1970’s, West African governments used marketing boards and caisse systems to force cacao farmers to sell at prices below the world price and use the proceeds towards industrialization (Martin, 2018, Lecture 7). Today, intermediaries have inserted themselves in the supply chain of these cacao-dependent communities, squeezing profits throughout the supply chain and leaving cacao farmers with the bare minimum. Specifically, they have garnered strong market power through horizontal and vertical integration. At each level of the supply chain, competition has driven many players out, allowing these intermediaries to accomplish horizontal integration. By broadening their responsibilities within the supply chain, they have also achieved vertical integration (Sylla, 2014).

By ensuring a share of the premium prices they pay their sourcing partners reaches the farmers themselves, Taza plays their part in combatting the global lack of cacao farmer compensation. Taza’s Direct Trade relationship with their partners contributes to their communities through paying premium prices for the cacao to the processors and ensuring that the said premium reaches the farmers themselves. Analyzed in their 2016 Transparency Report here, Taza pays their partners at least $500 above the market price- a 15-20% premium, and never less than $2,800 per metric ton for cacao, protecting their partners against extremely low world market prices. For Jesse Last, Taza’s Chocolate Cocoa Sourcing Manager, knowing what they pay their cacao sourcing partners wasn’t enough. In 2016, Last took steps to ensure that cacao farmers were getting a slice of the cake too. Specifically, he updated Taza’s Direct Trade agreement to include a commitment by their partners to “provide documentation demonstrating the compensation paid to farmers and/or employees, as well as facilitate conversation between farmers and Taza” (Taza Website).

When Last visited these farms ensure their shares were received, he found no discrepancies between their reports and the payments documented by their own partners. Furthermore, Last provided an in-depth analysis (5 Steps Towards Understanding Price) within the transparency report that contextualizes farmer compensations received from their origin partners, and found that all but one of their partners is paying above the world market average per metric ton of cacao and “some” by almost twice as much (Taza Website). The extensive effort displayed by Jesse Last and Taza sets the standard that not just bean-to-bar, but all chocolate companies around the world should strive to meet in regard to paying the cacao farmers a reasonable salary. While obstacles, like those previously mentioned, often intervene with guaranteed fair wages for farmers, Taza has taken a uniquely ethical path not only to ensure this but also to strengthen the relationship between their partners and the farmers and to spread this methodology through the transparency report for the world to see. Their effort to affect others in an ethical fashion does not end with their suppliers- it extends all the way to their consumers.

As further part of their Direct trade Commitment, Taza requires all their cacao be USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified, as can be seen on one of their chocolate bars below, providing a healthy blend of ingredients in their chocolate for their consumers. While every Taza chocolate product contains the seal of Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified, they are also Kosher, soy-free, dairy-free, and vegan. Taza’s effort to source organic sugar is especially noteworthy. They have partnered with The Native Green Cane Project, recognized by The World Economic Forum, the Boston Consulting Group, the Union for Ethical BioTrade, and other organizations “as one of the world’s leading examples of innovative agriculture and sustainability’ (Taza Website). The traditional cultivation method of burning sugar cane unavoidably releases toxic gases and substantially contributes to biodiversity loss. The Native Green Cane Project has made a positive environmental impact by designing a mechanical harvester that eliminates toxic gas emissions and saves water that would otherwise be used to clean burnt cane. Furthermore, this practice eliminates the use of synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and pesticides, making for a safer labor environment. Through these organic methodologies, Taza not only provides healthier products for their consumers but also contributes to a cleaner environment while promoting safer working conditions.

TazaBar

TazaCertifications

 

To guarantee the integrity of their Direct Trade program, Taza has had Quality Certification Services, a USDA-accredited organic certifier out of Gainesville, Florida independently verify the upholding of five Direct Trade claims, outlined on their website. To verify annual visits to their partners, Taza provides flight receipts or e-tickets. To verify paying their cacao producers a premium rate, they provide annual invoices completed by their Sourcing Manager and the cacao-producing partner. To ensure the exclusive usage of USDA certified cacao, they provide proper certification documentation from their partners and farmers. Taza’s commitment to diminish the problems that have plagued much of the cacao industry for centuries, specifically its producers, can be seen by their initiative to hold themselves accountable in the continuation of these practices that benefit the producers, consumers, and everyone in between.

While Taza has contributed immensely by enhancing their relationships with their origin partners, one way they could improve their outreach is by expanding to West Africa. West Africa produces 75 percent of the world’s cacao, but they have an extensive and continued history of child labor exploitation. Evidence of child slavery in Cote d’Ivore has been recorded as recently as the early 2000’s (Off, 2008). In other countries such as Ghana, children have limited freedom to choose to go into labor (Berlan, 2013). This undeniable evidence highlights deep internal roots that drive these continued unethical labor practices and the need for intervention from outside parties- specifically from local government, international entities, and corporations. However, these entities have had limited effect on changing the scope of West African cacao production over the years. U.S. Representative Eliot Engel drafted a bill proposing the implementation a detailing a labeling system, classifying goods as “slave free” if it could be proved that slavery was not used in their production. However, significant pushback from industry giants like Hershey’s and Mars gave themselves more time to investigate and improve the labor practices behind the production of their chocolate (Off, 208). The Harkin-Engel protocol was then passed in 2001 to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in Cote d’Ivore and Ghana, but the extent of its impact remains in question today (Ryan, 2011).

Taza could potentially break the stigma that West Africa is a poor investment for these artisan chocolate makers. However, considering the obstacles in play, Taza would need to stumble upon a perfect situation- one that might not exist now. Ghana’s Cocoa Board controls exports, limiting the ability of artisan chocolate makers to source cacao from farmers. Taza would likely need to look to other countries, such as the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast completely deregulated its market, meaning Taza could directly contact farmers and cooperatives as they do with their five current partners. The problem then would be the quality of cacao. Cacao beans emit varying flavors and textures depending on strain and terroir, and Taza, like most bean-to-bar companies, prides itself on the unique tastes produced by the terroir of the regions from which they source their cacao. Despite being the biggest producer in the world, West Africa is known for producing very few single origin bars. In Christian’s Chocolate Census, the most comprehensive online database for chocolate, 3.8% of 1500 chocolate products contain beans exclusively from West Africa. U.S. chocolate artisan companies like Taza cite bean strain and scale of production for their avoiding West African cacao to source single origin chocolates. Farmers in West Africa predominantly grow direct-sun-tolerant, pest- and disease-resistant hybrid cacao beans, which are usually weak in flavor or bitter (Leissle, 2013). Furthermore, these regions operate on a large scale, making it difficult for small artisan companies to buy beans in smaller quantities. These regions typically will not sell in small quantities even if Taza offered a high premium for their beans. If Taza could somehow find a way into the small community of the Ivory Coast with quality cacao, they could impact that community through their commitment to relationships and premium prices. More importantly, they might open the door for other artisan – specifically bean-to-bar- chocolate companies By showing that it is possible to ethically source quality cacao from West Africa.

Overall, Taza sets a notable example for the chocolate industry by doing their part to combat the global problems facing cacao producers. Specifically, the Direct Trade method of sourcing cacao that Taza has adopted has allowed them to form strong relationships with their partners by connecting face-to-face at least once per year. By circumventing profit-squeezing middlemen present in the more widely practice Fair Trade method, Taza ensures that both their cacao-sourcing partners and the farmers get a fair share of the profits that their cacao generates. Furthermore, their awareness and commitment to uphold these practices is obvious as displayed through their unique transparency reports and third-party certifier. While Taza could up the ante by seeking to take on the most corrupt cacao-producing region in the world, West Africa, they would face many challenges- namely finding a Direct Trade partner and flavorful cacao-beans- that would danger upholding their current model of ethical sourcing. Taza, while only a small bean-to-bar chocolate company, must continue their commitment to ethical partnerships with cacao-producers and to transparency of these partnerships. They set the bar high (100% cacao…just kidding) for other bean-to-bar companies and show bigger conglomerates the potential to contribute to cacao producers around the world.

 

 

 

Works Cited:

Berlan, A. (2013). Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana. The Journal of Development Studies, 49(8), 1088-1100.

Leissle, K. (2013). Invisible West Africa. The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 13(3), 22-31.

Martin, C. (2018). (Lectures 5, 8, 9).

Off, C. (2008). Bitter chocolate : The dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet. New York: New Press.

Ryan, Órla, International African Institute, Royal African Society, & Social Science Research Council. (2011). Chocolate Nations (African arguments.). Zed Books.

Sylla, N., & Leye, David Clément. (2014). The fair trade scandal: Marketing poverty to benefit the rich. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

“Taza Direct Trade.” Taza Chocolate, http://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade.

How Taza Chocolate Addresses Supply Chain Concerns

Harsh working conditions of sugar cane harvesters and child- and slave-labor involved in harvesting cacao pods stand in stark contrast to the delicious enjoyment of chocolate in our Western societies. To rectify this juxtaposition, B corporations have the built-in mission to benefit society by meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency (BCorp, n.d.). The chocolate industry, an industry particularly riddled with ethical dilemmas, is only represented by five certified B Corps. Another fitting addition is Taza Chocolate from Somerville, Massachusetts!

Tracing chocolate-maker’s value chain steps, which are interwoven with old-mindset problems, Taza Chocolate’s business practices pose solutions to real-life business challenges. The following is an ethnographic analysis of Taza Chocolate, an ethical and transparent bean-to-bar chocolate maker that sources organic raw cocoa beans and turns them into minimally-processed chocolate products. To ensure continued success and growth, Taza Chocolate may get B Corp certified to grow and enlarge its mission, customer base and the movement itself, sending a strong signal particularly in such an ethical-dilemma ridden industry as chocolate production.

Chocolate History and Supply Chains are Riddled with Ethical Concerns

Labor Practices

One of the biggest concerns with chocolate-maker’s supply chains is the supply of labor needed in the farming and harvesting of its main ingredient cacao. During colonialist times, the Spanish crown granted colonists through the Encomienda system control over people and nature to extract cacao, replaced by chattel slavery as the indigenous population collapsed and disappeared. Post-abolition, non-compensated familial and child labor particularly in West Africa replaced slavery and made the Gold Coast the least expensive region world-wide for cacao as response to ever-decreasing prices paid for cacao with companies, such as Cadbury, being implicated by having chocolate produced by slave labor (Satre, 2005). Still to this day, as cacao’s commodity price changes, so does farmers’ income, making it extremely volatile (Ryan, 2011).

Fairtrade certification ensures just compensation in addition to teaching communities how they can take advantage of the free market with the ideological undermining of paying famers fairer prices and raising consumers’ awareness. “Every purchase matters. Every dollar spent does economic development or destruction.” (Fairtrade, 2017) But cost of certification is shouldered by farmer and harms non-certified farmers. Also, farmers whet through all steps for FT certification but not enough companies buy FT chocolate with the expected income boost premium, they had to sell the rest of their cacao at bulk prices. Doubts arose as to whom FT really benefits, maybe only the US luxury consumers who can afford to pay the premium when presented with less-costly alternatives in stores. Taza goes one step further in doing Direct Trade which of course hinges on complete transparency (and Taza does publish a yearly transparency report) but also hinges on consumers trusting and being willing to pay for this extra on-top certification.

Health and nutrition

Adulteration scandals involving ground red brick led the British to pass food safety laws as people worried about what might be put into their food choices. Worries about adulteration persist as we further globalize our food. One way to mitigate this is through a transparent and self-owned supply chain to ensure good practices and not having to rely on so many suppliers. Big Chocolate, i.e. Hershey and Mars have been notoriously secretive about chocolate ingredients especially about containing and mentioning any hidden sugars or thinly coating chocolate to cover up cheaper ingredients. Taza on the other hand discloses the few ingredients of its chocolate prominently on its website. With regards to sugar: While myths persisted as to the presumably contaminated brown sugar crystals, to this day white sugar is perceived as the purer alternative. Another visible trend is the move back from processed Big Food companies to smaller-scale production of Whole Foods. (Martin, 2017)

In the 17th century, access to chocolate reflected the socioeconomic class leading to “snobbification” of chocolate. In a way, this still rings true today if pure organic chocolate sells for above-average selling price and therefore is only affordable for the upper middle class while the rest has to make do with the unhealthier, more implicated chocolate. Is buying ethical and the feelings associated with this superior purchase only open to richer segments of society? How can we as consumers and companies weaponize our power? According to the saying the consumers decide with each dollar spent which industries to support. B Corps offer consumers a certified and transparent way of supporting business that is socially-conscious.

Fundamental structural inequality in chocolate industry with solutions treating symptoms not underlying pressures. What does work though: multi-stakeholder collaboration, transparency, grassroots approaches, sustainability on social, economic and environmental factors, shared value and responsibility, profit kept in-country as rural vibrancy contributes to national stability (Martin, 2017). Taza Chocolate’s mission is to make more transparent its chocolate-making process and therefore has solved many of the previously inherent ethical dilemmas found in the value chain.

Taza Chocolate’s Transparent Value Chain

Taza Chocolate’s Mission

Founded in 2005 by Alex Whitmore and Kathleen Fulton, Taza Chocolate produces “stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all” (Taza, 2017) in its Somerville, Massachusetts factory. An all-around ethical, socially-conscious and purpose-driven business, history is in its name: Taza, meaning cup in Spanish, is reminiscent of the way Aztecs ritualistically consumed chocolate in liquid form using specially designed cups or vessels for this purpose (Coe, 1996). History is also found in its design and packaging displaying a cacao pod and its signature mold in the form of the Mexican millstone stone that ground the chocolate itself.

Taza Chocolate’s company culture is driven by founder and anthropology-major in college Alex Whitmore who is very much standing in his purpose in building his company as he “apprenticed with Mexican molineros, learning their ancient chocolate-making secrets.” (Hofherr, 2016) and brought these to Somerville, Massachusetts. Taza Chocolate has a lean start-up-like organizational structure headed by a 8-member Leadership Team. Taza offers an easy application process opening up more opportunities in making an effort to get natives from the countries that it sources its cacao from involved in its business processes.

Procurement

Taza Chocolate revamped the usually long supply chain that often involved slave-labor and many parties that wanted a share of the price paid for raw cacao, and instead instituted ethical quality-ensuring Direct Trading relationships and disclosing transparency reports on each country of origin: “Our pioneering Direct Trade Certified Cacao sourcing program guarantees direct relationships with growers, fair wages and work practices on the farm, and the highest quality ingredients.” (Taza, 2017). Taza directly sources cacao from Middle and Latin America (Dominican Republic, Haiti, Belize, Bolivia) but does not source from any West African cacao-producing country. While not a native plant to Africa and riddled with history involving child slavery, foregoing sourcing from these countries and not having to ship across the Atlantic presumably keeps emission and transportation costs lower. Taza Chocolate’s commitment to high quality origin cacao is symbolized in a designated “Cacao Sourcing Manager” whose job involves managing Taza Chocolate’s ownership stakes in cocoa bean export companies such as Alto Beni Cacao Co., Cacao Verapaz, Maya Mountain Cacao and Uncommon Cacao (Taza, 2017).

On the related issue of nutrition, seeing as there has been a history of contaminated chocolate, and contrary to long and illegible ingredients lists, Taza Chocolate uses few ingredients and organic sugar contrasting conventional chocolate products and discloses all ingredients on its website: “We use organic turbinado sugar (also known as sugar in the raw). Taza Chocolate is proud to partner with the Native Green Cane Project for our sugar sourcing.” (Taza, 2017).

Wordcloud made from Taza Chocolate’s Transparency Report highlights the importance of farmers and fairly-compensated cacao

Operations

Taza’s cacao beans are harvested, fermented and dried at their farm of origin, then undergo the subsequent steps of roasting, winnowing, and shelling, grinding at the factory in Somerville. On the issue of minimal processing, Taza follows artisanal manufacturing and back-to-the-roots traditional Mexican stone grinding techniques: “We stone grind cacao beans into minimally processed chocolate with bold flavor and texture. We use authentic Oaxacan stone mills instead of steel refiners to grind our cacao.” (Taza, 2017). The video below follows Taza’s entire chocolate-making process from bean to bar: 

Marketing & Sales

Being a socially-conscious business and revered local employer, community engagement is high on its list of priorities, also being part of the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts: “We have very loyal customers. We work really hard at winning them over not only with delicious chocolate but also by being a great citizen in the community, making sure we pay the producers really well and are a good employer here in Somerville. We’re trying to have a net positive impact in our community.” (Hofherr, 2016).

In furthering transparency of its operations, Taza Chocolate offers Factory Store Tours: “We also practice open book management; we’re very transparent and allow people to walk through our manufacturing factory.”  (Hofherr, 2016). Additionally, Taza’s stand at Boston Public Market has a traditional chocolate grinding stone on display.

Transparency and Certifications

Taza chocolate products carry five certifications to ensure safe labor practices as well as organic ingredients: USDA Organic, Taza chocolate Direct Trade certified Cacao (own certification), Non-GMO project, Certified Gluten-Free and Vegan, whose integrity is guaranteed by having their “five Direct Trade claims independently verified each year by Quality Certification Services, a USDA-accredited organic certifier based in Gainesville, Florida.” (Taza, 2017). “Taza is big on ethical cacao sourcing, and is the first U.S. chocolate maker to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification program, meaning, you maintain direct relationships with your cacao farmers and pay a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao.” (Hofherr, 2016). Taking the transparency one step further, in its Transparency report displayed below, Taza Chocolate discloses what it pays for its cacao beans. 

Taza Chocolate’s 2016 Transparency Indicators disclose price paid for cacao

The Next Step: B Corp Certification

Especially in a time when operations seem to be running smoothly, a new goal towards which the company can focus its purpose would lead to continuous innovation with a new tangible goal in sight. While becoming certified would involve additional documentation as well as slightly new impact measurements, Taza is already in a position where much of its own certification criteria overlap with those of B Corp requirements. Most importantly, the B Corp community would provide a network for growth and sharing best practices, further perpetuating and mainstreaming the idea of B Corps as a viable alternative to how business is done. Especially seeing that CEO and founder Alex Whitmore hopes to grow the company in the near future, many of his quotes ring true to B Corp: “We have a very holistic approach to the business. Some people call it “capitalism with a conscience. We like to think that a rising tide lifts all ships. Transparency is a key value for us.” (Hofherr, 2016). Even though incorporating as B Corp is not currently on the agenda (in a phone call to Taza Chocolate Customer Service on May 3, 2017), there are several advantages in considering this next move:

B Corps use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems

As self-proclaimed social enterprise company, Taza Chocolate would join the “fast-growing global network of certified businesses that have made a commitment to managing, measuring and reporting their social and environmental impact while driving sound profitability” (Bcorp, 2017). The prestigious designation of Certified B Corp certifies that the company meets a range of social and environmental business standards, as well as accountability and transparency, with a commitment to ongoing development and improvement in all these aspects of its business. Taza would join the existing 2,000+ B Corps, but would join only five chocolate-manufacturing companies (the most famous and widely available one being Tony’s Chocolonely). The scarce number of chocolate companies is probably a testament to how difficult the usual value chain of a chocolate company is to get certified and really change the status quo. Does Taza not have an obligation to grow and in so doing both mainstream this ethical offer and ensure famers have a market big enough to continue this better way of farming? Or does the mere existence and carving out bigger companies’ market shares lead to a paradigm shift in other firms too? Either way, B Corps’ network of consciously-minded business is aligned with, and can propel forward, Taza Chocolate’s mission of organic and sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate.

 

References

B Corporation. (2017). Why B Corps Matter. B Corporation Website. Retrieved May 1, 2017 from https://www.bcorporation.net/what-are-b-corps/why-b-corps-matter

Coe, S. D., Coe, M. D., & Huxtable, R. J. (1996). The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson.

Fairtrade. (2017). What is Fairtrade? Fairtrade Website. Retrieved May 2, 2017 from http://fairtradeusa.org/what-is-fair-trade

Hofherr, J. (2016, February 23). CEO Desk: How Taza Chocolate’s founder brought a taste of Mexico to Somerville. Boston.com. Retrieved May 3, 2017 from https://www.boston.com/jobs/jobs-news/2016/02/23/ceo-desk-how-taza-chocolates-founder-brought-a-taste-of-mexico-to-the-east-coast

Martin, Carla D. (2017, March 22). Class Lecture. Modern Day Slavery. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Ryan, O. (2011). Chocolate nations: Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed book.

Satre, L. (2005). Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Taza Chocolate. (October 2016). 2016 Transparency Report. Taza Chocolate Website. Retrieved May 1, 2017 from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2016-transparency-report

Taza Chocolate. (2017). Taza Chocolate Website. Retrieved May 1, 2017 from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza

Media Sources

B Corporation. (n.d.). B Corporation website. [Online image]. Retrieved May 4, 2017 from https://www.bcorporation.net/sites/default/files/styles/blog-slideshow/public/home-slide-what-are-b-corps2.jpg?itok=JGRhPYa7

Taza Chocolate. (2017). Chocolate Mission. Taza Chocolate Website. [Online image]. Retrieved May 3, 2017 from https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/taza_chocolate_mission_large.jpg?2629624273496668752

Spices of life. (2010, May 18). Spices of Life – Bean to Bar: Taza Chocolate. Youtube. [Video file]. Retrieved May 4, 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJKCb4xqvSk

Taza Chocolate. (2016). 2016 Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report. Taza Chocolate Website. [Online image]. Retrieved May 4, 2017 from https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_DT_WebGraphics_v10_2_1024x1024.jpg?v=1490215640

Wordcloud Taza 2016 Transparency Report. (2017). [Online image Wordcloud].  Retrieved May 1, 2017 from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2016-transparency-report. Created with www.wordclouds.com

Shortening the Supply Chain: How Taza Chocolate’s Direct Trade Benefits the Chocolate Industry

The supply chain which governs the production of chocolate is full of complex relationships, blind spots, and middle men.  With these issues, inefficiencies and exploitative practices run their course throughout the chain.  Fixing these problems is not a one man or company job, but a change that must start with a small step.  This step has come with Taza Chocolate.  With Taza’s certifications, specifically its one concerning Direct Trade, and its “Bean to Bar” philosophy, they have shrunk the cacao/chocolate supply chain to take out these inefficiencies and harmful, exploitative practices in order to benefit both the growers and the consumers.

Launched in 2005 in Somerville, Massachusetts by founder Alex Whitmore, Taza strives to create “unrefined, minimally processed chocolate” with an incredible flavor (About Taza, 2015). Not only does their chocolate taste great, but it is ethically sourced.  This means they partner directly with the cacao farmers they buy from and pay a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao (About Taza, 2015).  Additionally, they only partner with farmers who “respect the rights of workers and the environment” (About Taza, 2015).  Taza uses a “Bean to Bar” philosophy, which utilizes their Direct Trade certification.  The video below gives you a sense of what “Bean to Bar” means to Taza, its partners, and workers.

Direct Trade ensures that Taza workers partner directly with the growers and maintain a face-to-face relationship with their farmers.  Additionally, Taza pays well above the market price for cacao beans, which currently stands around $1800 per metric ton. (Nasdaq: Cocoa, 2017).  To showcase how this buying works, Taza puts out an annual Transparency Report that highlights their program, prices, and key statistics.  Click here to view their 2016 report.  As you navigate this page, be sure to examine particular partner reports as they emphasize this program’s price benefits, stability, and room for farm improvement.

Their “Bean to Bar” and Direct Trade practice has shrunk the supply chain significantly.  The only non Taza or grower related dealer is the import company, which ships the cacao beans to Taza.  A typical supply chain for Taza can be seen below.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 11.49.44 AM
Typical Taza Chocolate Supply Chain

This chain comes specifically from Taza’s partnership with the Alto Beni Cacao Company from Bolivia.  As you can see, Taza uses Atlantic Cacao as their importer and has developed a relationship with them such that they are used for all imports coming from the Caribbean and Central American region.

So, how does the chocolate supply chain look for a chocolate producer or retailer that does not operate as Taza does?  The answer is it is a lot longer with more independent players.  Below is an image depicting what this supply chain might look like.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 12.18.26 PM
Typical Chocolate Supply Chain*

Throughout this chain, there are many actors with varying roles and profit margins.  The proportion of a final bar price for some individuals in the supply chain is as follows: farmers receive 3%, cocoa buyers receive 5%, manufactures receive 20%, and retailers receive 43% (Martin, Lecture 1).  This highlights a major inefficiency and exploitation that occurs during chocolate growing and production.  With little pay received by the growers, there is essentially no money left after operating expenses have been paid.  This means less money is put into the farm to improve the crop and harvesting process.  Additionally, apart from the growing and harvesting itself, no money is left to improve the lives of the farmers and their families.

This lack of money feeds into an even larger problem, which has become a topic covered extensively by media and activists, child labor.  There is certainly a negative side to this sort of labor, but it is very much a part of the African culture.  It is very typical for a young son or daughter to accompany his or her parent to the farm and help with simple tasks such as carrying food or lesser manual labor (Ryan 45-46).  This is generally deemed acceptable if the child does not miss out on schooling that will help him or her with their long-term career.  This is often not the case.  With the poverty and small income that come with being a grower, there is a benefit to having one’s child work on the farm.  With fewer employees to pay, there is a lower cost associated with family labor (Berlan 1093).  However, this mentality breeds an even worse form of child labor, trafficking and debt bondage.

Child trafficking has become an all too familiar phenomena on cocoa farms.  In 1998, UNICEF wrote a report that described how the transactions of children work out.  “Recruiters” will seek out children at bus stops of busy cities who have left home seeking work that will bring in more money for them and their family (Off 130).  The transporter then receives money from the farmer who uses this fee as overhead for the child’s contribution on the farm; thus, the child receives no money from working (Off 130-131).  Conditions for the worst kind of child labor are quite grim as they may work at gunpoint, eat little, sleep in bunkhouses that are locked at night, and are subject to horrible sores on their backs from carrying heavy bags of cacao beans and from being beaten (Off 121).  The image below showcases how grueling this labor can be and the types of dangerous tools children use while working.

Child Labor
Child Cutting Cacao Pod

One area of tension that arises when chocolate producers and organizations talk about exposing and ending child labor is the possibility of a boycott from a growing area.  For many African countries, a boycott on their cacao beans would be devastating to the economy as most depend on jobs in the cacao industry (Off 142).  Firms and larger chocolate companies and producers have attempted to eradicate this problem, but their efforts have been mostly ineffective.  Put in place in September of 2001, the Harkin-Engel Protocol was an attempt to solve this problem:

Cocoa beans and their derivative products should be grown and processed in a manner that complies with International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 182 Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (Harkin-Engel Protocol).

This objective would be accomplished with the help of governments, global industry, cocoa producers, organized labor, non-government organizations, and consumers (Harkin-Engel Protocol).  Many big chocolate companies such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle supported this protocol and hoped to solve the problem of child labor in cocoa farms by 2005 (Martin, Lecture 8).  While having big companies backing this program promises a source of funds, they have continued to push back the deadline and now have it stand in the year 2020 (Martin, Lecture 8).  So, perhaps a large-scale, top-down approach is not the best solution to the problems plaguing the chocolate supply chain.  While I have digressed from Taza, now is great time to return to their company approach, as they work a more effective grass-roots style.

As seen in the diagram above highlighting Taza’s supply chain, there are fewer players at work in the production of their chocolate.  To tackle how their process is more efficient and beneficial compared to that of a larger company with a longer, more complex supply chain, we shall examine the benefits and even some of the drawbacks seen within the growers, in the production process, and with the consumers when Taza chocolate hits the shelves.

Starting with the grower, the benefits seen with Taza’s partnered farmers compared to the conditions seen on farms of those who supply to larger companies all stem from Direct Trade.  With Direct Trade, Taza can form a long-lasting relationship with farmers.  By traveling directly to the farms, Taza buyers can see who they are buying from and the conditions of the workers and those living on or near the farm.  This eliminates the poor labor practices that may take place on farms that supply larger companies, as these big companies are unable to see the conditions of their cacao growers.  In fact, Taza is so in touch with their partners that they share on their website profiles of these farms and their workers to showcase this relationship and the benefits it provides.  Here is a link to a profile on Maya Mountain Cacao that tells you a bit about their farm and the fermentation and drying facility built by Taza.

In addition to the relationships formed with the farmers, as published in their report, Taza pays a premium for the beans purchased from suppliers.  It has been noted by many scholars that the key problem the chocolate industry faces is poverty among primary producers, yet no large-scale programs have been implemented to address this issue (Off 146).  By paying a premium for their cacao beans, Taza is attempting to address this economic issue.

Apart from these benefits, there are some faults with Taza’s model.  The first is the small scale and limited reach of direct trade.  In 2016, Taza purchased only 233 metric tons of beans (Taza: 2016 Transparency Report).  This pales in compassion to the millions of metric tons purchased by the chocolate industry each year.  A second issue can be identified in the types of farms Taza partners with.  The beans that Taza purchases are high quality, fine cacao beans, which tend to be more expensive to grow.  Therefore, some of these farms are more wealthy, and Taza is in fact not benefitting the farms in dire need.  Of course, these negatives do not outweigh the positive work Taza does in the chocolate industry.  To start a change, small steps must be made, and Taza’s Direct Trade is a step in the right direction.

Turning to the production of Taza chocolate, their process is vastly different than those of larger companies and this difference is directly influenced by Direct Trade.  There is a high degree of care and precision that goes into crafting each bar of chocolate.  Taza strives to limit the amount of processing involved in production to “let the bold flavors of (their) organic, Direct Trade cacao shout loud and proud” (Our Process, 2015).  A diagram of their production process is presented below and highlights the easy to follow and minimalistic process used by Taza.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 5.14.15 PM
Taza Chocolate Making Process

Lastly, in regards to their process, ingredients used are source known, which is a direct benefit of Direct Trade.  When you flip over the wrapper to read your bar’s ingredients, there are simple, organic ingredients that can be easily traced back to their origin.  This allows for confidence in consumption and in knowing ingredients come from a sustainable, humane farm.

The last component of the supply chain involves the consumer.  Taza certainly plays on a feel-good sensation seen by a consumer when they purchase a bar of Taza chocolate.  This feeling stems from the smart, ethical sourcing associated with Direct Trade.  When a consumer picks up a bar and sees the Direct Trade certification, they feel that they are helping tackle many of the problems in the chocolate industry.  Is this an ethical practice for Taza or are they preying on the gullible emotions of consumers?  With Taza’s small-scale production relative to the chocolate industry, it is acceptable to question whether you are actually making a difference when you buy a bar of Taza chocolate.  However, you are contributing to their mission.  Taza has ambitious goals, but is also thinking about the well-being of all cacao farmers.  They may not be helping all of them, but they are trying to make a difference.

In conclusion, Taza’s Direct Trade does mean something and is making a difference. By shrinking the supply chain seen with larger chocolate companies, Taza is eliminating many of the exploitative labor practices and economic inefficiencies seen in a typical supply chain.  So, next time you are craving some chocolate, head to the store and grab that Taza bar.

 

* Process information found on http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/bccca/creating-a-sustainable-chocolate-industry/the-supply-chain-for-chocolate.html; image made in PowerPoint

Works Cited:

“About Taza.” Taza Chocolate, 2015, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza. Accessed 3 May, 2017.

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088-1100.

“Cocoa: Latest Price & Chart for Cocoa.” Nasdaq, 2017, http://www.nasdaq.com/markets/cocoa.aspx. Accessed 3 May, 2017.

“Harkin-Engel Protocol.” Chocolate Manufacturers Association. 19 September, 2001, http://www.globalexchange.org/sites/default/files/HarkinEngelProtocol.pdf. Accessed 3 May, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 1: Mesoamerica and the “food of the gods”.” Aframer 199x. CGIS, Cambridge, MA. 01 Feb., 2017. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 8: Modern day Slavery.” Aframer 199x. CGIS, Cambridge, MA. 22 Mar., 2017. Lecture.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2006.

“Our Process.” Taza Chocolate, 2015, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/our-process. Accessed 3 May, 2017.

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

“2016 Transparency Report.” Taza Chocolate, 2015, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2016-transparency-report. Accessed 3 May, 2017.

Picture and Video Source:

“Boy Cutting Cacao Bean.” Google Images, Accessed 3 May, 2017.

“Creating a Sustainable Chocolate Industry.” Business Case Studies, 2017, http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/bccca/creating-a-sustainable-chocolate-industry/the-supply-chain-for-chocolate.html. Accessed 3 May, 2017.

“Taza Chocolate Making Process.” Taza Chocolate, 2012, https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Chocolate_Making_Process.pdf?10043542871181577895. Accessed 3 May, 2017.

“Taza Chocolate “Bean to Bar”.” Taza Chocolate, 2012, https://vimeo.com/33380451.

“2016 Partner Report.” Taza Chocolate, 2015, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2016-partner-report-alto-beni-cacao-company. Accessed 3 May, 2017.