The Impact of Fair Trade Chocolate

fair trade chocolate farmers drying beans

Not all chocolate bars are created equal. It’s easy to make a chocolate bar with a beautiful label, but it’s harder to produce chocolate with a purpose. On the surface, all chocolate bars have a lot in common. They’re made from cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter and often include delicious inclusions like nuts, peanut butter, and caramel. When you start to take a deeper look, you’ll discover that not all chocolate bars are created equal. Inside the wrapper of that big-name candy bar, the one you grab while you are waiting in line at the register and barely pay a dollar for, is a dark reality. Behind that mass-produced candy bar, there may be a farmer utilizing copious amounts of herbicides and pesticides and trying any means necessary to protect their harvest; there may be slave laborers forced to harvest cocoa, and there may be a little girl that must skip school and work so that her family can survive. The grim reality of the chocolate industry is that cocoa farmers have been plagued with a long history of extreme poverty, child labor, and even slave labor. Despite good intentions by the chocolate industry, these issues are still prevalent.

conocado cocoa farmersconocado cocoa farmers

We can do better. We must do better.

As an early advocate in the fair trade chocolate movement, we believe in doing better. Making chocolate is hard work. Delicious chocolate is so much more than just the quality ingredients that it’s made of. It’s the people and their care in the process and practices they use that make a gourmet chocolate bar truly what it is – extraordinary. As a certified B Corporation®, we believe that every person in this process should be treated and compensated fairly and that our actions should make a positive impact on both our local and global communities.

Lake Champlain Chocolates pays a fair trade premium on its purchases of cocoa, cane sugar, and coffee. For decades cocoa, sugar, and coffee farmers have struggled for access to education, a livable wage, and fair labor practices. Paying a fair trade premium for ingredients helps to eradicate poverty and solve these problems. Not only does it ensure that farmers are paid above market value for their commodity, it contributes resources to a community fund that allows the farmers to invest in community improvements and provides educational resources and professional development to its farmers to learn sustainable environmental practices. So, farmers learn how to increase their yield, while protecting the environment and improving their community. Higher yield means more income for the farmers. When farmers earn a livable wage, their children don’t have to help in the fields and can go to school instead.  

a family of cocoa farmers in guatemala with chocolate made from their cocoa beansa family of cocoa farmers in guatemala with chocolate made from their cocoa beans

The fair trade difference

At Lake Champlain Chocolates, 100% of the chocolate, cane sugar, and coffee we use is fair trade certified. In the past year, our purchases of fair trade ingredients generated $81,000 in fair trade premiums. That’s $81,000 dollars above market price that farmers received for producing their crops of cocoa, sugar, and coffee. These additional funds are used by farmers and their co-operative associations to build stronger, more sustainable farms and farming communities. $81,000 that gave cocoa farmers in countries where cocoa grows, like the Dominican Republic, Peru, Uganda, and West Africa and cane sugar farmers in Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia access to a livable wage, fair labor practices, and education – basic standards that we should all have access to.

Lake Champlain Chocolates’ commitment to fair trade prices goes above and beyond just paying a premium for ingredients. We’ve had our best-selling products Fair Trade Certified™, which maximize the investment made in the communities that need it the most. Since we first certified our gourmet hot chocolate, over 20 years ago, we are proud to have expanded to have more than 36 different products certified by Fair Trade USA! This additional third-party certification not only contributes additional funds back to the farming community (for each unit that is sold), it makes it easy to find products that meet that are socially and environmentally sustainable when you are shopping. 

Fair Trade certified chocolatesFair Trade certified chocolates

Seek the seal

In honor of Fair Trade Month, please take look at what you have in your pantry. Is your chocolate fair trade certified? If not, the next time you shop, you can do better, you can make a difference. Talk with your friends and family about the drastic social and economic inequalities that exist within the farming communities that we rely so heavily on. Seek the seal every time you shop and opt for products with the Fair Trade USA logo. It’s as easy (and tasty) as treating yourself to Five Star Bar®. Farmers are counting on you! 


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