Over 170 years ago, the chocolate bar was created by Joseph Fry at his factory in Bristol. It’s been a love affair ever since. But it’s a love affair that has a dark past.
Since Spanish explorers brought the mysterious cacao bean back to Europe from the Americas, the production of chocolate has been ravaged by unfair practices. Even today, problems with underpaid farmers, child labour, and GMO ingredients loom large. Many manufacturers continue using ingredients and suppliers that are anything but honest.
Thanks to the work of charities and NGOs, these issues have been brought to the attention of consumers. Some entrepreneurial folks have responded to these problems not by turning their back on chocolate (who could!?), but by setting up their own companies.
If you’re looking for a treat that’s even sweeter, thanks to well-paid farmers and environmentally friendly manufacturing, look no further than these ethical chocolate bar companies.
Started in 2000 by husband and wife team Simon and Helen Pattinson after an inspiring experience camping on a cocoa plantation in South America, Montezuma’s is a small company that’s made a big impact in the chocolate industry.
Eschewing the traditional (and expensive) Fairtrade accreditation and instead creating their own strict ‘trading fairly’ policy, this is a company working tirelessly to make every element of their company as ethical as possible.
They only buy cocoa from two farm co-ops in the Dominican Republic and Peru where they pay over market price to make sure their farmers get the wage they deserve.
Back in their West Sussex factory, environmentally friendly practices touch everything from manufacture (they re-use hot water in the chocolate melting tanks) to packaging (they re-use cardboard packing boxes several times wherever they can).
Try something a little different with their Organic Dark Chocolate Orange & Geranium Bar.
This exotic-sounding company is actually based in Norfolk. Specialising in truffles and ice cream, they are proudly organic, gluten free, dairy free and soy free. And with 100 awards under their belt, they obviously know how to make great products.
It’s clear that slow and considered growth is a cornerstone of the business. They acknowledge every single one of their 22 ingredient suppliers, developing strong relationships to know everything there is to know about how the products are made. They share their profits with two specially selected charities every year.
Booja-Booja’s Two-Truffle packs are the perfect sweet snack, we especially love the Fine de Champagne flavour.
The Theo Chocolate factory in Seattle was the first to be awarded Organic and Fair Trade certifications in North America. It’s also fully owned by the company, so they use the money saved on rents and overheads to buy the best quality cocoa beans.
The cocoa farmers that supply Theo Chocolate are paid well to ensure the quality of life for them and their families is sustainable in the long term. Not content with just this fair approach, Theo Chocolate try to make sure every farmer gets to taste the bars that are made with their cocoa beans. Transparency up and down the production chain makes for a better bar all round.
If you fancy something a little unconventional, try Theo’s quirky Bread & Chocolate bar.
This British company proudly claim that no planets, people or animals will be harmed in the process of making their chocolate bars. The company buys their beans through direct trade. The short chain and solid ethics behind this process mean that they pay up to eight times more than other fair trade schemes, with more of that money going directly back to the farmers.
Although it’ll be tempting to scoff one of the delicious dairy-free, GMO-free bars quickly, you should take a minute to appreciate the time and care that Solkiki takes with their products. The beans are hand selected and bars are produced in very small batches. Minimal processing keeps the natural flavour of the beans at the heart of everything.
If that wasn’t enough, Solkiki’s Dorset factory is an off-grid, MSC-accredited renewable energy 17th-century cottage.
The founders started their journey of chocolate-making after finding a gap in the market for dairy-free, vegan white chocolate. So why not try this award-winning coconut white chocolate bar.
It’s no surprise that when Shawn Askinosie decided to make the life-changing decision to quit his career as a criminal defense lawyer and learn how to become a chocolate maker, the dedication that he put into learning all there is to know about chocolate made him one of the most respected leaders in the industry.
One of Askinoise’s principal pledges was to treat the farmers as he would any other business partner. Using Direct Trade to buy cocoa beans means better chocolate, better farming practices, and better lives for the farmers themselves.
This family-run company is champions of ethical, environmental and sustainable business practices. All 70 steps of production from finding the farmers to eating the chocolate are detailed on their website; transparency and a celebration of the process are a huge part of the business.
Savour the rich flavour of the Ecuadorian cocoa beans in this 70% dark chocolate bar.
What’s Your Favourite Ethical Chocolate Bars?
If you can’t resist a sweet treat, you don’t have to feel guilty indulging with these chocolate bars. Even with raw products sourced from far-flung places, it’s possible to pay farmers a fair price, use ingredients free from pesticides and GMO, and uphold environmentally friendly production practices.
We’d love to hear what your favourite ethical chocolate bars are, we’re always looking for your suggestions about honest food producers to celebrate.