Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and do you know what that means? Americans are about to spend $448 million on candy, which includes 58 million pounds of chocolate. With so much controversy surrounding cocoa production, specifically regarding the use of child slaves and rainforest destroying practices, we’d like to encourage you to make a change and buy organic and/or fair trade chocolate this year.
Before you hit the store, arm yourself with some knowledge to help you figure out what products will meet your standards.
Not all companies with fair trade practices have a fair trade label. Unfortunately these certifications can be expensive, so small companies can’t always afford them.
In the absence of a fair trade label, read the information printed on the wrapper. Brands that advertise “bean to bar” or single-source cocoa are less likely to employ child slaves. “Bean to bar” means the brand owns the whole supply chain, while single-source indicates the company gets their cocoa from one region or set of plantations. If the country of origin is listed, pay attention! West African cocoa plantations are notorious for using child slaves, so it’s best to avoid chocolate from Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
When buying organic chocolate, first look for the USDA Organic label. It’s not often you’ll see this label on imported chocolate, so if a product says “organic” on the packaging, flip it over and review the ingredients. I’ve found that most chocolate brand will specifically mark which ingredients are organic. In some cases it’s only a few ingredients were organic, which means they may not be eligible for an organic certification, in others it was all of them.
Buycott is an app available for Andriods and iPhones that makes buying based on your ideals easy because it lets you to scan products, which it then compares to your campaigns and it tells you if that product is OK for you to buy. For tips on setting up your profile and using Buycott, see Kim’s recent post about it.
I can’t write an article about chocolate with mentioning Hershey’s, the chocolate I grew up eating and one of the most popular chocolates in the United States. The Hershey Company has promised to ensure it’s supply of cocoa is free of child labor by 2020, and in 2013 it purchased 18% of it’s cocoa from fair trade certified sources. This is a step in the right direction and I commend Hershey’s, but for for a guilt-free Valentine’s Day this year, it won’t do.
I went to Mon Aimee Chocolat, in the Strip District area of Pittsburgh, this weekend to pick up some chocolates to taste test. I’ve heard their prices are a bit higher than grocery stores, but since I’m not so experienced buying this type of chocolate that I know exactly what I want, I preferred to pay a little more at a speciality shop because it offered me the opportunity to browse and choose from a huge variety of fair trade, organic, bean to bar and single-source chocolates.
Brand: E. Guittard
Price: $3.25 for 2 oz. bar
E. Guittard is a US based company with bean to bar practices and a focus on sustainability. George, who joined me in the taste testing said “This tastes like the Hershey’s I remember having as a kid.” It’s a sweet, creamy milk chocolate, but you don’t taste or feel granulated sugar like you do with lower quality chocolates.
Brand: Nirvana Belgium Chocolates
Type: 72% Dark Chocolate with Blueberries and Acai Fruit
Price: $3.25 for 3.5 oz. bar
This bar of chocolate was both fair trade and organic! The slightly bitter flavor of the dark chocolate is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the fruit. George’s first reaction was “Wow, this is dangerous”, because although he’s not typically a chocolate lover, the felt like he could eat the whole bar.
Brand: Rococo Chocolates, Ltd.
Type: Moroccan Mint
Price: $3.35 for a .7 oz. bar
Despite the high price of this bar, I picked it up because it was both fair trade and organic and I love the chocolate mint combination. This bar of chocolate smells and tastes strongly of mint, which is exactly what I wanted. There is also a hint of citrus, which I didn’t care too much for so I will try other brands before I buy this one again.
Do you have a favorite organic or fair trade chocolate? If so, please share the brand and type with us in the comments below!