Raise the bar: What’s in your chocolate?

Raise the bar: What’s in your chocolate?
October 16, 2018 Sarah Culler

Raise the bar! Before you take a bite of chocolate, make sure you chose the fairest of them all.

Do you know the story behind the chocolate bars that you buy? Fair Trade Winds + Momentum only sell 100% fair trade certified chocolate, so you know that it’s a delicious, quality product with a tremendous impact. Fair trade chocolate raises the bar! Fair trade cacao farms prohibit child labor — instead, children of farming families attend school and the whole community benefits. The chocolate is also organic if certification is available in the region where the cacao is grown, the dark chocolate is vegan, and most is gluten free and kosher. Together the farmers and brands are dedicated to sustainability to ensure a prosperous future. You won’t find any GMOs, partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats, or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. If soy lecithin is used, it’s non-GMO soy.

Fair trade chocolate also puts people first: For 25 years, Dean’s Beans has been investing in people-centered development, to focus on the real needs of the communities where the product is grown: clean water, health care, and income. Divine Chocolate is 44% employee owned by the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative in Ghana. Equal Exchange provides a pre-harvest financing program, Five North Chocolate is a certified LGBT Business Enterprise supporting farming communities five degrees north of the equator in West Africa, and Theo Chocolate negotiates higher prices to be paid to farmers. Learn more about our favorite brands:

But there are chocolate bars on the market that don’t have a positive story to tell. Green America has published a list of companies that don’t make the grade. A few have some fair trade offerings, but their commitment to certification in the future is unclear. Godiva received a failing grade—even though they claim that they will be fully certified by 2020, they haven’t provided any information on how they will do this and their track record isn’t favorable.

Some well-known chocolate companies may have certification programs that could be construed as fair trade standards (read more about how to know with our guide to fair trade labels here) but their commitments vary in practice and may lack impact. Certification programs alone are not enough to solve the issue of child labor in cocoa, including farmer poverty and a lack of infrastructure. 

Chart courtesy Green America

Before you take a bite, you will want to read the fine print on the label! Fair trade brands don’t add anything artificial to their chocolate, but non-fair trade brands do. We were shocked to see questionable ingredients listed in many chocolate brands. Thanks to Food Babe for this chart, from her enlightening article “Are You Getting Conned by Cheap & Toxic Chocolate?”:


This questionable ingredient list is another compelling argument for why you should choose fair trade chocolate over other brands. According to the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate, UNICEF estimates that nearly half a million children work on cocoa farms across Ivory Coast, which produces nearly 40% of the world’s supply. Many of the children are trafficked across borders, and engaged in the worst forms of child labor.

For even more fair trade chocolate education, read and share our post 5 Reasons to Eat Fair Trade Chocolate.

And check out your chocolate at the Cocoa Barometer.

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