Ethical Sourcing Questions
Vicky Lutrell with the Stop Trafficking and Reject Slavery, and Kansas Freedom Foundation brought a recent Washington Post article about child labor in the production of cocoa to our attention. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read it.
In the past couple of years our sourcing equation has become more complex as we are now using chocolate products from other companies and importing cacao from South/Central America, East Africa and Asia to make our own handcrafted chocolate. So it seem like a good time to let you know where we are in our stewardship in responsibly sourcing our products.
Most of the world's chocolate in make from cacao grown and harvested in a few West African countries (Gahanna, Ivory Coast or Côte d'Ivoire, etc...). Driven by extreme poverty, slave and child labor has been intractable a problem in this area of the world for hundreds of years.
We bring cocoa products into our business from three sources.
By far the largest is the chocolate we use for making truffles, nut clusters and other chocolatier work we do. All of this comes from the Guittard company, a San Francisco bay area company founded by Etienne Guittard in 1886 and still run by his family.
Next largest is cacao we buy to make craft chocolate bars. This is in the form of dried cacao that we roast and refine in to chocolate in our shop. We source this from a handful of small importer companies.
Last, we use third party products as decoration, for example we make caramel apples with Snicker's bars and M&M's, both are Mars products.
Gary Guittard and his company is one of the best in both monitoring their own supply chain and actively supporting initiatives that promote improved labor practices and quality. For example they are a founding member of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative. This is on top of their commitment to Fair Trade and Rain Forrest Alliance certification. They've got quite a bit about sourcing on their website, please take a look.
Cacao for Craft Chocolate
Similar to the ascendance of the craft beer movement, there has been a growing market for premium chocolate that is hand crafted from heirloom cacao varieties around the globe. We've been working for the past two years, developing a line of had crafted chocolates. This requires us to import dried cacao (i.e., coco beans) from around the globe. This type of chocolate has a range of flavors not found in the industrial produced hybrids like CCN-51. We believe the rise in demand is a good thing for cacao farmers and consumers. These premium cacao varieties command farm gate prices that are three to four times the prices paid to West African commodity cacao.
All of the cacao we buy is either Fair Trade certified or a direct trade relationship. Fair Trade is a third party certification of labor practices, pricing and requires funds to be reinvested in the local community. Many of the heirloom cacao producers we work with are very small and cannot afford the costs associated with Fair Trade certification, in those cases the import company directly audits the producer, this is a direct trade relationship. In a direct trade relationship there is a focus on both quality and price. Direct trade results in more of your dollars making it to the farmer and significantly more transparency about labor practices, biodiversity and positive community impacts.
Mars, Ferrero, et. al
These are some of the largest chocolate producers and make some of the best known candies in the world (Snickers, Butterfinger). They are also some that struggle with sourcing issues. We've made the decision to continue to use these products as a decoration. In a town where Mars is a major employer and is active in supporting the local community, we didn't feel good about not using their products. In every product where they're used, you'll find them clearly identified so you can make a good choice about your purchase.
Nick & Terry Xidis, Northeast Kansas' Chocolatiers