Knowing where your chocolate comes from ensures you can make the very best choices regarding what matters to you. If provenance is important, you’ll want to understand where in the world cocoa is grown, if ethical chocolate is important to you, no doubt you’ll want to understand what it all means. This is a brief look at just that.
What does Fairtrade mean?
Fairtrade means fairer pay and more power in the hands of farmers, so that they can create change for themselves, by choosing what they want to invest the premium they receive for their crop on. When we break down the words, it means trading in a fair and just manner, ensuring those who grow the crops are being empowered to make the very best decisions for themselves.
The recognisable fairtrade logo is part of a large organisation who ensure that over and above the Fairtrade price, the Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit – to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. This premium can be used as the communities/ associations determine together, and includes although not exhaustively; farmer training in best practices or business practices, provision of agricultural tools and inputs, human resources for administration of the premium, facilities and infrastructure, credit and finance services, health and education services, so it covers a multitude of aspects including the costs associated with administering the premium.
For a company here in the UK who would like to use Fairtrade certified chocolate along with the recognised logo on their packaging, they pay the price per kilo of chocolate to the company they buy their chocolate from and then they pay a separate cost to the Fairtrade foundation as a fee to use the logo on their packaging. The Fairtrade foundation oversee the legalities and use of the logo, as well as the management of ensuring companies who use it are legally compliant, which requires a level of auditing and checks, so there is a team of people behind the FT logo ensuring it all works.
What is the Trading Fairly Model?
When we started Choc Affair 15 years ago, we bought Fairtrade chocolate and paid to use the Fairtrade logo, continuing to do so for 7 years, before making the decision to move away from this model to a more direct way of investing within cocoa growing communities through our relationship with our supplier, Luker Chocolate.
This didn’t simply come about because we thought it a good idea, but rather after a visit out there to see what Luker Chocolate were doing. Linda came home absolutely bowled over by all they did to ensure their employees and farmers were looked after, as well as their initiatives for the environment including repurposing huge swathes of cattle land to planting cocoa trees, to ensure a future for generations to come. More recently Richard and James visited and they too came back to Choc Affair, inspired by the work being done and Luker’s commitment to the farmers and their families.
This has led to us investing directly into projects for education, mobility and fermentation processes. This year, we’ve adapted this model again to increase our contributions based on the amount of chocolate we purchase, so as we grow our financial contribution grows – so we now pay a premium in addition to the cost per kilo of our chocolate to Luker Chocolate, who in turn use this contribution to invest in initiatives to benefit the farmers and their families. Working in this way means we feel assured that processes are in place to ensure that results are measurable and can be used for learnings to guide future areas of investments and returns to better help improve the farmers livelihoods.
Luker Chocolate buys between 30 -35% of the total cocoa grown in Colombia and they do this through a network of alliances and associations, with commercial agreements in place to guarantee the purchase of 100% of the farmers outputs. These agreements do not however oblige the associations to sell their cocoa to Luker Chocolate, they can sell elsewhere – this freedom of an open market ensures that Luker must do all it can to partner with the farmers to establish long lasting and fruitful relationships, the corner stone of all good business. In order to protect the farmers income from market volatility Luker are championing the case for defining a minimum purchasing price scheme per kilo, with additional premiums paid for fine flavour quality standards cocoa.
Part of a good model is when the country of origin of the cocoa actually processes the cocoa in country, thus adding value and employing more people to produce the chocolate – something Luker Chocolate excel at within their specialist factory in Bogota, the capital city of Colombia.
Many chocolate brands are doing what they can to ensure they are contributing to the cocoa farming communities they source their chocolate from, yet this can be overlooked in favour of those who choose the widely recognised Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade accredited systems, both of which can offer a good level of transparency within the supply chain and both communicate their activities and work exceptionally well. As in everything, these systems are not perfect, they have pros and cons, but they are rightfully recognised as benefiting those who need the assistance.
Why we love the Fairly Trading Model
What we are doing at Choc Affair is simply an alternative way, which we, as a small company feel fits with our ethos more than the other systems – through this relationship with our supplier we can continue to contribute to the bigger picture, and in turn we can find out more about the people behind the initiatives, those who are benefiting from this relationship which is what excites us – the relationship behind the cocoa, the people, their dreams and their aspirations.
None of this works though without you! For us to invest in these projects, we need you first and foremost to enjoy our chocolate and to keep purchasing it, we then continue to source our cocoa whilst paying our premium, which is invested in the areas of need. We’re not changing the world, but we believe it’s important that we all play our part in making things better for someone else which is what we are trying to do.