You have probably heard people say that the chocolate industry is a bad one or one that has a dark history looming over it. Well you're not wrong. And that's a huge reason as to why we exist! Our head Babe, Alexandra Clark had a goal in mind: to challenge the industry's status quo with enthusiasm, experimentation & creativity.
As a chocolatier with a background in Agricultural Commerce, she went on to explore the value chains in the cocoa and chocolate industry with USAID's Partnerships for Food Industry Development (PFID).
Once upon a time before we started this whole chocolate thing, we too thought being a Fair Trade company was the best thing. Turns out, it doesn't make a ton of sense for what we are trying to do: make good chocolate and do right by all the people involved in making it.
We purchase Arriba National beans from companies that are processing in the country of origin (we source from Ecuador & Colombia). A Fair Trade certification is $10k for a farmer in the regions that we source from where many farmers are participating in agroforestry with multiple crops often sweet potatoes, fruits, some vegetables, bananas, coconut, and palm. Often, these are lifestyle farms where a family might be producing maybe 10-15 5-gallon buckets of beans a year.
Oftentimes, when we are visiting cooperatives, you will see men unloading partially fermented beans from their trunks on the way to work the same way that we Michiganders will return cans. For that reason, it doesn't make a ton of sense for them to invest the $10k in the same way that we might wonder if we should invest $10k, but still should return cans (or in this case, sell cacao beans to the co-op) not only for extra cash, but because it's the right thing to do (for the environment in the case of cans and perhaps for our tummies in the case of cacao beans).
Photo by Conexión Chocolate
What does command a higher price than generic CCN-51 cacao, is Arriba National beans, the low-yielding heritage variety of bean that is grown in Ecuador and Colombia, often grafted onto the hardier trunks of CCN-51 trees (which we are cool with because it helps the trees naturally fight off pests, etc).
The price of Arriba National is commanded by product quality and lies far above that of generic cacao allowing our grinders to pay co-ops, and co-ops to pay farmers far more than the market price, without a $10k farmer buy in (so it is less exclusive and available to large and small farms alike with far less investment) and it means tastier chocolate for you, which is also great!
And this is our responsibility to the chocolate industry. To do good by everyone involved - the farmers, the co-ops, our delivery drivers, our employees, and of course our customers.