BY TRINETRA PAUL For Prestige Online
Call it your guilty pleasure or a perfect solution to midnight sweet cravings, chocolates are probably the best mood lifters. And when they are made by sustainable chocolate brands, binge-eating becomes even more satisfying.
These days, people are taking conscious steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle by giving back to nature and extending a helping hand to those who work tirelessly in the supply sector. The chocolate industry, too, is adapting to such methods.
Simple steps like buying chocolate bars from direct trade or fair trade brands and switching to vegan, cruelty-free chocolates can go a long way in making the industry more ethical, especially when the cocoa industry remains marred with exploitation, child labour and other unethical practices.
Cocoa farmers are made to work for menial wages, while their children are forced to join the labour force early. What sustainable chocolate brands do is bridge the gap between the profits earned and the cocoa farmers by paying them fairly, removing middlemen and improving their lives by ensuring their well-being.
So, the next time you get that special dark chocolate craving or fancy a mug of hot chocolate while watching your favourite show, opt for ethical and sustainable brands instead. And, if you are wondering which ones to choose from, we have a few options for you.
Here are some sustainable and ethical chocolate brands to satiate your cravings
Tony’s Chocolonely’s dark almond and sea salt is a vegan bar that you must try, in addition to the dark milk pretzel toffee and caramel sea salt milk varieties.
The brand forayed into the UK’s market in 2005 and gained a solid fan following — not only because of its dark and milk chocolate bars but also because of its motto to eradicate slavery from the chocolate industry. Additionally, it aims to make the entire chocolate-making process more ethical, and cocoa farming a less painful occupation.
The Dutch chocolate company divides its bars into unequal pieces — a reminder of how the money obtained by the cocoa and chocolate industry is unevenly distributed. Therefore, Tony’s Chocolonely’s supply chain is designed in such a way that ensures everyone in the supply chain gets their due share. This is done through five aspects — traceable cocoa beans, paying farmers equitably through fair trade, striving to make cocoa farmers’ cooperatives more professional, fostering long-term partnerships with them and investing in agricultural knowledge related to cocoa farming.
The brand works with Ghana’s Ivory Coast, where over 60 percent of the world’s cocoa beans are produced. The region is wrought with over a million children illegally working under hazardous conditions while several thousand people are subjected to modern forced labour. Tony’s Chocolonely aims to change this.
A popular name among Malaysian tree-to-bar artisan chocolate brands, Chocolate Concierge is famous for its unique flavours, which are native to the country.
The brand grows its own cacao in Malaysia to make chocolates. As part of its sustainable policies, the company encourages customers to bring their own take-home boxes to reduce waste.
Chocolate Concierge is famous for its bars and bonbons. The former comprises flavours such as Semai (made of single-origin Malaysian dark chocolate and cocoa nibs) and Batang Kali (made of 70 percent dark chocolate, containing cane sugar and pure cocoa butter). Both are vegan and gluten-free. The bonbons have fillings like Sweet Laksa, Teh Tarik and Pineapple Coconut.
The ethical chocolate production process at Benns Ethicoa brings out the rich Malaysian flavours the brand is known for. Dating back to 1973, this is one of Malaysia’s oldest running home-grown brands that work directly with farmers across Asia to gather the best-graded cocoa that speaks of its region.
The brand eliminates middlemen and pays farmers thrice the market price of USD 2-3 per kilogram. Additionally, the company works to better the farmers’ livelihood, as well as provide lucrative incentives to improve quality and produce.
Benns Ethicoa makes chocolate bars in flavour profiles like Merdeka Blend, Chemor and Panchor, and its bonbons are available in collections like Secret Garden Box (featuring beautiful floral art) and Lost Island Gift Box (with 17 flavours including Bandung, Ondeh Ondeh, Black Sesame and Hazelnut Gianduja).
One of the world’s premium chocolate brands Hotel Chocolat, which opened in 2004, also ranks among the best sustainable chocolate makers as well.
Keeping in mind ethical and sustainable practices as well as authentic flavours, Hotel Chocolat has been setting an example for other chocolate companies. In 2017, the company declared its first Planet Pledge, which laid out specific targets in terms of 100 percent compostable packaging and being recyclable and reusable by 2021. To date, Hotel Chocolat has achieved about 90 percent of these goals and aims to achieve the rest within the coming year.
Its cacao beans are purchased from an organic farm in Saint Lucia and Ghana. Such direct trade practices give rise to sustainable farming practices and make the chocolates more flavourful. Reducing carbon footprint, ensuring gender-equal pay, striving to eradicate modern-day slavery and taking steps towards climate change are some of the initiatives that make the brand ethically conscious.
Premium chocolate lovers can savour the Billionaire’s Shortbread Giant Slab, salted caramel slabs and milk and dark chocolate bars.
Founded in 2008, Beyond Good is walking the extra mile to make the chocolate industry healthier and more sustainable.
Meaning to tuck into some good vegan-friendly chocolate? Look no further. The brand uses special Heirloom cocoa beans, which are rich in Criollo — the world’s oldest and most flavoursome variety of cacao — and are grown exclusively in Madagascar. The company looks into the conservation of Madagascar and improving the lives of the cocoa farmers who form the base of the supply chain.
The cocoa beans are sourced from small-scale farmers who are remunerated at fair trade prices. The company also follows direct trade policies and has removed the middlemen to keep the money within the cocoa industry.
Additionally, the ethical chocolate brand is heavily invested in cocoa agroforestry, which aims at nurturing wildlife, especially the endangered lemurs, biodiversity and the locals on the island. For this, Beyond Good has set up two factories at the source.
All Beyond Good products are USDA Organic, Project non-GMO verified, vegan, kosher, soy-free and gluten-free, making the company one of the most sustainable chocolate brands.
Try their salted caramel bar or Madagascar dark chocolate bar to relish some of the best flavours found on the island.
Endangered Species Chocolate
This ethical chocolate brand is known for its efforts in wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. Many even believe that had it existed a couple of centuries ago, some of the extinct and critically endangered animals would still be thriving today.
Based out of Indianapolis, Endangered Species Chocolate (ESC) was founded in 1993 by an Oregon entrepreneur who was deeply passionate about two things — delectable rich chocolates and impactful conservation. The brand donates 10 percent of its net profits to global partners like World Conservation Center, African Wildlife Foundation and National Forest Foundation. Since 2016, ESC has donated over USD 2.6 million, making them one of the best sustainable chocolate brands.
Their chocolate bars are equally appealing to the taste buds. Made from shade-grown cocoa beans and other fair trade ingredients, ESC’s signature flavours include Oat Milk Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate, Forest Mint, Salted Peanuts, Cinnamon, Cayenne and Cherries. Fudgy peanut butter and milk chocolate, rich caramel milk chocolate and dark chocolate, and oat milk baking chips make the ESC range one to dig into.
Divine chocolate is not only heavenly to taste but also gives back to cocoa growers and the industry. It is one of the first sustainable chocolate brands that is co-owned by cocoa farmers and is fair trade certified.
It all dates back to 1993 when changes in Ghana’s cocoa market led Nana Frimpong Abebrese to establish a farmers’ cooperative called Kuapa Kokoo, to enable small-scale farmers to sell their cocoa. In 1998, the cooperative launched The Day Chocolate Company in partnership with Twin Trading, a British fair-trade company supporting cocoa farmers; eventually forming the Divine chocolate brand.
Paying farmers the guaranteed minimum fair trade price, protecting them from fluctuating market rates, ensuring higher world prices for organic beans and taking care of their well-being make Divine one of the most ethical chocolate brands. No wonder it has bagged awards such as the Global Impact Award, 2020, International Fairtrader of the Year, 2020 and a Bronze award from the Academy of Chocolate, 2018.
When it comes to relishing the taste of the products, their rich dark chocolate infused with mint crisps, pretzel and caramel, salted caramel and other flavours will leave you wanting more of these delectable treats.
Even before tasting the decadent creation, the stylish chocolate covers of Ocelot catch the eye. The packaging, made of FSC-certified paper stock, has hand-painted drawings by the founding couple, Matt and Ish, based out of Edinburgh, Scotland. The packaging also uses water-based ink and biodegradable plastic to craft its inner lining.
Ocelot makes sustainable chocolate bars, which are available in seven flavours and are sold across the globe. The cocoa is sourced from Original Beans, an ethical brand that works tirelessly with farmers to grow the best crops and ensures they are paid a fair trade price. Ocelot is a part of the Direct Cacao organisation as well, which signifies that the company buys cocoa directly from the cocoa growers and pays them more than the fair trade price, so that they get proper living wages.
Ocelot’s Femme is a bar of rich dark chocolate made with rare high-quality rare Amelonado beans, which are locally grown by women in Eastern Congo. It is the world’s first women’s cocoa cooperative and is born in a place which is extremely backward and harsh towards women. The chocolate uses milk from organically reared Swiss cows and chemical-free cane sugar. With this, Ocelot has not only created employment for women but has also engaged the community in conserving the area and natural diversity of the Virunga National Park — Africa’s oldest nature reserve.
Other delectable flavours from this ethical chocolate house include Buckwheat, Blood Orange, White Almond, Sea Salt, Violet Milk and Black Cherry.
Doisy & Dam
The brainchild of co-founders Ed and Rich, Doisy & Dam are one of those ethical chocolate brands that had set out to change the existing malpractices within the chocolate industry. Founded in 2014, today, the brand is a B-corp company, which means they are a force of good and are committed to social and environmental wellness.
Such ethics, when coupled with high-quality naturally grown organic ingredients give birth to lip-smacking delicious chocolates that are sustainable. Devoid of palm oil, these vegan chocolates are delicious and every purchase helps contribute to the farmers’ betterment.
You must try their truffles, dark chocolate, almond nuttercups (nut butter cups) and chocolate buttons.
Theo Chocolate has been on the lookout to make chocolate bingeing an even more satisfying experience by giving back to the community as well as taking care of the environment since its inception in 2005. The sustainable chocolate brand has joined hands with Eastern Congo Initiative, the Jane Goodall Institute and the World Bicycle Relief among other environmental organisations to further its commitments to people and the environment.
Theo Chocolate pays a “reliable base price” along with other perks and allowances to the farmers. It has also obtained the Fair for Life certification from Ecocert and uses only premium USDA-certified organic ingredients for all its products. This rules out feeding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to livestock. Additionally, the company invests in agroforestry while imparting training to preserve biodiversity and wildlife.
One must try their Big Daddy Marshmallow bar, hazelnut crunch and salted caramel chocolate bars along with truffles and buttercups.
Alter Eco strives to be “organic chocolate that regenerates ecosystems, empowers farmers and reverses climate change.”
Founded by social entrepreneur duo Mathieu Senard and Edouard Rollet in 2005, Alter Eco procures raw materials from farmers’ cooperatives, uses minimally processed ingredients and is GMO and palm oil-free. These raw ingredients are sourced from genuine fair trade farmers in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia. The brand also invests in the reforestation of rainforests where cocoa beans are grown as part of their regenerative agricultural measures. Additionally, the brand’s packaging is biodegradable and makes use of aluminium and FSC-certified paper.
Alter Eco is known for dark chocolate bars, crunchy granola tins, truffles and nut butter bombs.
Seed and Bean
The bean-to-bar company, founded in 2005, is a sustainable chocolate brand with some of the most adventurous flavours like Milk Chocolate Cornish Sea Salt & Lime, Lavender, Lemon and Poppy Seed and Salted Pretzel that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Seed and Bean makes delectable chocolates with organic ingredients, which are bought from small-scale farmers. The ingredients are bought at fair trade price and are stamped to be organic by the Soil Association in the UK. The chocolates are encased in compostable packaging, and the company ensures to keep a healthy supply chain free of child labour.
Established in 2000, husband-wife duo Simon and Helen Pattinson forayed into the British chocolate market with Montezuma*s.
The company’s products do not contain palm oil, and it takes special care to meet all standards and regulations laid down by the Rainforest Alliance, the Soil Association and Cocoa Horizons — all of which are farming control organisations in the UK.
The packaging is completely eco-friendly, and the brand is aspiring to get a B-Corp label as well as go carbon neutral by 2025. It has a Trading Fairly policy by which Montezuma*s works to create sustainable cocoa production via proper education and investments in local communities.
Dark chocolate fans must taste their Absolute Black bar while other options include Orange and Germanium, Lemon and coconut and Mint dark chocolate. You can also choose from their vegan options such as Like No Udder, which uses vegan-friendly milk chocolate alternatives, and Queen of Sheeba, which uses dark chocolate, pistachios and cherries. The compelling vegan chocolate range also has vegan truffles, vegan dark chocolate and chocolate buttons.
Based in the Devon countryside, the brand dates back to the mid-nineties when founder Willie Harcourt Cooze set up his own factory in the cacao-rich region of Venezuela. Willie’s Cacao practises direct trade and purchases the raw materials directly from the farmers. For this, the company pays a hefty premium of at least USD 500 per tonne — almost USD 300 more than the fair trade price.
The company is extremely particular about its sustainability standards and ethics. “All my beans are traditionally shade-grown Trinitarios or Criollos coming from single estates,” mentions the website.
Cooze himself handpicks the best chemical-free beans, which are then tested by external labs for being organic and natural. Defining a rich, decadent dark chocolate bar, the website mentions, “My dark chocolates contain just cacao, raw cane sugar and natural cocoa butter — no soya lecithin, no vanilla — nothing that gets in the way of the flavour of the bean. I don’t buy anything in.”
Giving the ultimate beans-to-bar experience, Willie’s Cacao has a range of mouth-watering chocolatey delights like truffles, creamy milk chocolates and salted caramel creations. The vegan options are equally enticing flavours such as Surabaya, cinnamon fruit and nut, almonds and sea salt.
Not just chocolate bars, Cocova’s range of cool chocolate drinks, cacao nibs, chocolate spread and chocolate-coated nuts are just as delicious. Started in 2019, the brand soon gained momentum in the Malaysian market
Devoid of flavour enhancers and synthetic ingredients, the chocolates use superior quality ingredients that are homegrown and organic. The brand’s single-origin, dark chocolate is low in sugar and made completely in Malaysia. These factors say a lot about why the brand was chosen as one of the gifting items for the Malaysian delegates at the APEC 2020 summit.
Whether you fancy a cup of creamy and luscious hot chocolate or a chocolatey coolant, Cocova offers all that along with amazing gift boxes for different occasions.
(Main and feature image credit: Jessica Loaiza/ @jessicaloaizar/ Unsplash)