Chocolate has long been associated with delicious decadence. Recent research has shown that far from being a junk food, consuming dark chocolate in moderation may have certain health benefits, due to a high content of healthy fats, antioxidants and micronutrients. Chocolate is derived from the seeds of the cacao tree, an evergreen native to Central and South America. Cacao beans have been prized and consumed by humans for nearly 3000 years. Spanish conquistadors first encountered chocolate served by the Aztecs- as a bitter drink spiced with chilies. Chocolate was introduced to European courts in the mid-1500s. Sugar was added to make it more palatable and soon the exotic new beverage was in high demand. The process for creating the solid chocolate bars that we know and love today was not invented until the mid-1800s.
The increasing demand for chocolate spurred the establishment of cacao plantations in tropical European colonies. Cultivating and processing cacao is difficult and tedious, and created a huge demand for slave labor. Cacao plantations and the slave trade that supported them thrived throughout West Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Today, although we recognize human rights and have the technology and money to provide a foundation for sustainable chocolate production, many workers in the industry are still badly exploited. Roughly 65% of the world’s cacao is grown in western Africa, where modern slavery still exists on plantations in the form of child labor and trafficking. (source: Wikipedia)
Plantations that are worker-owned and paid a fair wage for their cacao offer valuable economic opportunity to many impoverished and marginalized communities. If you love chocolate, love the people that grow it! Choosing to buy products that are fair-trade helps to support small farms which create healthy, local economies and fair wages. CGFC carries a variety of brands that are working to improve the chocolate industry and give back to the people that give us our favorite sweet treat.
- Divine Chocolate Company is a cooperative that also allows the cacao farmers to own shares. In fact, the cacao farmer cooperative Kuapa Kokoo, in Ghana where Divine sources cacao, holds two seats on the Divine Board of Directors. This allows the farmer cooperative to not only have a voice in decision making for the company and receive company profits, but this also allows the farmer cooperative more status in the cacao industry. There are also many programs instated to benefit the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo. Many farmers in remote areas of Ghana are not literate. Since knowledge is an important aspect of the cooperative model, Kuapa and Divine have worked together to provide a talk-radio station that serves to inform the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo. Click here to read more about other Divine Chocolate impact programs for the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative.
- Madecasse Chocolate is made solely in Madagascar where many live in poverty. Over 200 people in Madagascar have been positively impacted from Madecasse through extra training and higher wages. All of the chocolate that Madecasse produces is sourced only from Africa. Madecasse is dedicated to sustaining economic growth for the people of Madagascar one chocolate bar at a time. Click here to watch videos created by Madecasse explaining more about Madagascar and the people who create Madecasse Chocolate.
- Equal Exchange uses a democratic worker cooperative business model. Every employee that works at Equal Exchange owns a share of the company and six employees may hold seats on the Board of Directors. Equal Exchange works with "farmer partners" which are small farmer organizations and cooperatives around the world dedicated to strengthening communities, increasing autonomy, providing fair wages, preserving the environment, improving organic practices and overall having a positive impact on members, workers, farmers and families. Read more about these organizations here.
- Alter Eco is another company that works with cooperatives in many different regions of the world. One cooperative located in Peru was once a place where farmers were subject to illegal and perilous work, harvesting coca which was used to produce cocaine. After a United Nations program was able to assist these farmers in breaking free from relations with drug traffickers, they were able to replace the coca with cacao. To this cooperative, fair trade means increased income, training and support, along with lending programs for farmers. Alter Eco works directly with these cooperatives. Read more about what fair trade means to Alter Eco here.
Wondering about other brands and their practices? Click here to view over 100,000 product ratings using a system we use in-store called How Good.