Many people enjoy indulging in a bite (or more!) of chocolate nearly every day. Chocolate production is a massive global industry, with corporations such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey selling millions of dollars worth of chocolate products every year. At the other end of the spectrum, fine chocolate producers sell a fraction of that amount at much higher prices to connoisseurs who enjoy chocolate as a luxury rather than a staple.
Indeed, chocolate is not a treat to be enjoyed lightly. Imported food products such as chocolate and coffee top the list of global luxury commodities that require consumer attention. The current status quo in the production, manufacture, and distribution of chocolate is serious cause for concern. It has been well established that slavery and child labor are widespread problems in the cocoa production industry.
Luckily for chocolate lovers, alternatives to heavily processed and sweetened chocolate confections, which are often sourced in ways that harm cocoa farmers, are available. As Americans become increasingly concerned with social responsibility and environmental sustainability, options for Fair Trade and organic chocolate can be found nearly everywhere. While the price of responsibly sourced chocolate is higher, it is well worth the fair labor and trade practices that it fosters.
Small artisanal chocolate producers like Republica del Cacao of Ecuador are following in the footsteps of well known fair trade chocolatiers such as the UK’s Green & Black’s, which was recently acquired by Kraft Foods. Unfortunately, the amalgamation of formerly small companies into global agribusiness corporations raises questions about the continued social and ecological viability of their products. For those who desire a truly authentic and responsibly sourced chocolate experience, Republica del Cacao produces single-origin chocolate sourced from small, family-owned farms in a few Ecuadorian provinces.
Each bar of Republica del Cacao chocolate is produced from cacao beans grown on a single hacienda, and has the GPS coordinates of the hacienda printed on the label. This transparency allows consumers to experience their chocolate from bean to bar, and ensures good relationships with the farmers who make the chocolate possible.
Republica del Cacao has already opened six of its own stores in locations throughout Ecuador, including Quito and the Galapagos Islands. It has plans to expand its retail outlets to neighboring Peru and Chile. Republica del Cacao chocolate is also available internationally at high-end supermarkets such as Food Emporium in New York City. The company is currently in negotiations with the Whole Foods supermarket chain. Its next step will be to open its own stores in the United States and Europe.
The company’s annual sales are growing at a rate of 50 percent, and are expected to reach $40 million within the next five years. Republica del Cacao is among the first Ecuadorian chocolate brands to sell its product internationally. After Brazil, Ecuador is the second largest chocolate producer in the Americas.
– Kat Henrichs
Photo: Green Halloween