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Friday, October 26, 2012

{Food for Thought Friday} Fair Trade Cocoa

One of my most favorite people I’ve met through blogging is Kristen Howerton from Rage Against the Minivan. Her blog is great, she’s a fantastic writer, and she’s even better in person, if you can believe it. The first time we hung out, we spent several hours just talking, you know, about those light topics new friends talk about…politics, religion, the purpose of life. She truly is a kindred spirit and I admire her very much. So, when Kristen posted about fair trade chocolate, well, it really got me thinking.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t thought much about fair trade cocoa. I mean, I sort of have. But, as Kristen points out, when something doesn’t affect us or our family directly, we as humans tend to not take much notice. I’m definitely guilty of that in this case. Her post is very thought-provoking and I recommend you go read it. She includes video in the post of a BBC documentary that is even more thought-provoking and, at times, gut wrenching. I’m not going to go into details here because I’m still learning, but please go use Kristen’s post as a springboard to start informing yourself about the issue. That’s what I’m doing. And, after reading and watching what I can, I’m going to think long and hard about how what I’ve learned is going to change my behavior.

My mom works for Mars and I grew up in a town next to the M&M factory. We could smell the M&Ms in the air in the mornings, which is a fond memory for me. I certainly have a soft spot for them. I did a little research to see what Mars has to say on the topic. Over 2009-2011 they invested $70 million in sustainability efforts and say they expect to (let’s hope they really do) spend $30 million annually going forward. As of 2012, 20% of their cocoa is certified sustainable. It’s a step. Which is good. But there is still a long way to go, and the press release, while encouraging, doesn’t explicitly mention child labor. I have a feeling, as with most of the big food issues, change will take time but what we choose to buy and eat will be powerful for effecting that change going forward.

Last week at the DailyBuzz Food festival I was introduced to the company MadécasseMadécasse was founded by peace corps volunteers who lived in and fell in love with Madagascar. They decided they really wanted to make a positive impact on the country, so they started a chocolate company, one that doesn’t just source fair trade cocoa from Madagascar but also actually produces the chocolate in the country. This has 4 times the impact of straight up fair trade cocoa and is also good for the planet. The chocolate was delicious and it was really neat chatting with them and learning their story. Madécasse isn’t the only company out there trying to do right by cocoa, and it’s exciting to see thoughtfully-built companies like this doing such great things to make a difference. 

The cookie nabber is also a chocolate nabber…


  1. 1
    Nikki CB

    It’s great to see companies taking steps – large and small – toward more ethical practices. For a variety of reasons I think it can be difficult, as consumers, to make deliberate, thoughtful choices. I’ll definitely read Kristen’s post and hopefully it’ll impact some of my decisions in the future.

  2. 2
    Lindsay R

    I read that post you linked to. It’s discouraging to find out all the ways our diet in America is destroying the world/our health. As overwhelming as it is though, I’d rather know! I love chocolate, but I think it would be worth it to cut my consumption by half and pay twice as much for chocolate that doesn’t damage lives.

  3. 3

    Thank you so much for this post! For some it’s better to live in ignorance but I LOVE knowing. Sometimes it’s so discouraging just thinking about how many problems we’ve caused and how little effort we’ve made in making it better, but every little step though small counts. Just spreading awareness like you are is making a big difference. Next time I buy chocolate, I’ll be thinking twice about it!

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