There's a lot of chatter on our pages about sourcing Fair Trade cocoa butter, and other cocoa products. It's a stance we hold here at Sweet Tea 'N Biscuits, LLC, that all the cocoa butter we source must be fair trade certified, and preferably organic. We use this in nearly every product in our shop, and will continue to source as many Fair Trade versions as we can.
We've been asked in the past.... "Is this just marketing hype?" "Is it just a fancy label to put on your products?" "Are you being high-falutin'?"
For a portion of the population that reads the term 'Fair Trade', it can seem like a form of snobbery or just some sort of marketing label. However, most are unaware of where their chocolate (and cocoa butter) comes from and how it's produced.
A huge portion of the world's chocolate (roughly 70%, as of this writing) comes from West African nations, where the effects of colonialism-era farming operations, and our desire for cheap sweets, has led to two really big issues:
- Child trafficking/slavery for cheap farm labor.
- Poverty-level wages for independent farmers.
Much of this ill-produced chocolate/cocoa is sourced cheaply by large corporations, and then mixed with other sources of chocolate. It's also well known that local crime syndicates in these regions target human-rights workers, to silence them about abuses related to child trafficking and large-scale farming's work conditions. Large companies want to preserve their margins, so they'll squeeze for as little $$ per pound as they can. Which makes for a situation where nobody wants to speak up because of fear, and there's little incentive to change, if it will cost you a large supply contract.
If you live outside of the USA, there are many multinationals that are offering limited amounts of fair trade versions of their mass produced chocolates and sweets. This is most notably in the EU. So, residents there have a better chance of finding a "big brand" who has started offering their chocolates in a free trade certified option.
However, that's not the case in the USA. The most common household chocolate names have done no such diligence on their sourcing, and are still profiting from these terrible practices.
We're not telling you this to sent you into a crying fit about those little snacks you shoved into your mouth last night after the kids went to bed. Or the quick candy bar you grabbed while running your 800th errand of the day. The struggle is real, and we do what we have to do in the moment. You may have seen those Fair Trade options listed in the grocery store, or while at the higher end of the chocolate display in your local drugstore. Or maybe you've only seen them while you've shopped online.
"Why should I pay 5-10 dollars for some fancy chocolate?" you may have wondered, as you grabbed the 5/$5 package for the kids (and yourself).
We are not looking to judge you, only to inform you a little better about where your food comes from.
We believe that farmers around the world should be paid a livable wage for their work, and that no child should be ripped from their homes and forced into servitude to feed our sweet tooth.
We're all in this as a group, and there are just some little steps here and there we can take with our consumer cash, to make statements about where our goods comes from and how they are produced/sourced. For our part, we insist on only Fair Trade cocoa butter in our products. In our home, we try to only buy Fair Trade chocolate items-- chocolate powder, chips, bars, etc.
You don't have to spend a million dollars to do this, either. There are many brands that make and produce chocolates in a Fair Trade manner, that are sold at an exceptionally reasonable price point. There are also many stores that sell these products in bulk packs (the powder and chips form, especially).
If you'd like more information on where and how to purchase fair trade chocolate products, you can visit Fair Trade USA's website.