What do these all mean and which ones should you pay attention to when you’re choosing your chocolate? Good question! Some relate to labor practices, others relate to the environmental circumstances surrounding the farming.
If you’re just joining us, check out Chocolate Labels, Part 1, where we discuss Organic, Local, and Single Origin labels. You can also take a look at previous posts, here at Root Chocolate, where we cover what happens before the cocoa beans are ready to be made into chocolate: we’ve discussed where cacao farmers fit into the picture, the complications of importing cocoa beans, the benefits of slowing down our interaction with food, and the importance of supply chain, and the relevance of genetics.
Now let’s talk about the external certifications that can factor into your decisions around chocolate purchases and consumption. I’m not going to claim that one certification is better than another or that any one of these means your chocolate is sustainably produced and sourced, but let’s go into what each of them mean.
This label certifies that the farmers and workers involved in creating the product are fairly compensated for their work and have favorable working conditions. The specifics of this definition differ across agencies and can, like organic certification, entail costly and time-intensive processes to adhere to. That said, the theory behind fair trade is a positive one.
For chocolate, fair trade mandates a minimum price for cocoa beans and includes components of community development and direct trade. The first chocolate bar to have the label, “fair trade” was Green & Black’s Maya Gold in 1994.
To read more about fair trade chocolate, check out the sites below:
“The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and improve livelihoods by promoting and evaluating the implementation of the most globally respected sustainability standards in a variety of fields.” The Rainforst Alliance certifications confirm that particular products are farmed and produced in a way that protects rainforest environments. Again, the cost of obtaining and maintaining this certification can be high for small farmers, but Rainforest Alliance is working to provide mutual benefit to the rainforests and the farmers.
Their work with cacao has involved supporting farmer communities by training them to conserve natural resources, protecting land and waterways by teaching farmers practices that conserve their land and plants while also productively harvesting cacao, and finally improving incomes by connecting farmers to markets that are willing to pay higher prices for certified chocolate.
To learn more, visit these sites:
UTZ certification is specific to coffee, cocoa, and tea and was started in the late 1990s. UTZ-certified coffee, cocoa, and tea follow a set of guidelines that take a big-picture view of social, environmental, and economic issues. The Codes of Conduct require better farming methods, better working conditions, better care for nature, and better care for future generations. As a result, UTZ certification pushes toward better crops, better income, better environment, and a better life.
To learn more, check out these sites:
- UTZ cocoa
- UTZ: Certification is our weapon against cocoa deficit
- How to become an UTZ-certified supply chain actor
The simplest definition of direct trade is when a chocolate-maker buys cocoa beans directly from a cacao farmer. Some say this method is the most fair and sustainable – better than fair trade certification (which costs the farmers money). However, it does not necessarily account for the environment or the complications that arise from importing beans directly from cacao farmers. Some recent articles from Yes Magazine and Relevant Magazine go into more depth on the subject of direct trade for cocoa beans.
In January of 2012, a group of chocolate-makers, cacao farmers, and chocolate industry gurus visited Honduran Island, Guanaja, and founded the membership-only group, Direct Cacao, which is dedicated to giving “a voice to chocolate makers, chocolatiers, independent tasters and other in the chocolate industry working with and supporting directly sourced fine cacao, and to the cacao growers supplying the cacao.”
For more information on some of the chocolate makers who use direct trade, check out the links below:
As you can tell, there are many labels and many options. Make your own informed decision about what makes you feel connected to the root of your chocolate and other food!
For more articles on these and other labels that could affect your consumer chocolate choices, check out the links below:
- 95% OF WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT CHOCOLATE IS RUBBISH
- Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ: seeing the wood amongst the trees
- Shady Chocolate: Chocolate Guide
- The Story of Chocolate: Certifications