We talk a lot about sourcing Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Butter, and other cocoa-derived products. It's a stance we hold here at Sweet Tea 'N Biscuits, 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 of other oils as we can.
For some folks, the term 'Fair Trade' can seem like a form of ‘product 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.
We've been asked in the past.... "Is this just marketing hype?" "Is it just a fancy label to put on your products?"
The short answer is NO.
So Tell Us The Situation
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 the West’s desire for cheap sweets, has led to two really big issues:
- Child trafficking/slavery for cheap farm labor.
- Poverty-level wages for independent farmers.
Large companies want to preserve their profit margins, so they'll squeeze for as little $$ per pound as they can. This creates a demand at larger farms for incredibly cheap labor. Human traffickers see an opportunity, and routinely travel to poor interior areas, offering ‘jobs’ for young pre-teens, whose families think is a good solution to their current poverty issues.
Once these young kids arrive in the towns around these farms, they learn the truth of their situation— by this time they are far from home, with no money and no friends or family to help them escape. This cycle repeats on a daily basis.
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…. 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 with chocolate companies keep on fat profit margins.
If you live outside of the USA, there are many companies that are offering limited amounts of fair-trade versions of their mass produced chocolates and sweets. (This is most notably in the EU.) Residents in these areas have a better chance of finding a "big brand" who has started offering their chocolates in a fair trade certified version.
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. When the issues are brought up, they pledge to look into it, but nothing ever happens.
What Can I Do? I Love Chocolate!
Look— we’re not telling you this to send you into a crying fit about those little snacks you snuck 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. We get it.
You may have seen Fair Trade options listed in the grocery store, or at the higher-end of the chocolate display in your local drugstore. Or maybe you've only seen them while you've shopped online. You may have wondered why they cost more, as you grabbed the 5/$5 package of quick chocolate treats for the kids (and yourself).
We are not looking to judge anybody, only to inform folks a little better about where their chocolate comes from and the situations that create it.
We believe that farmers around the world should be paid a livable wage for their work, and that no child should be forced into servitude to feed our sweet tooth.
What can you do? There are 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 here at Sweet Tea ’N Biscuits, 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 & produce chocolates in a Fair Trade manner, that are sold at an exceptionally reasonable price point (Aldi comes to mind). There are also many smaller, locally run stores that often sell fair trade chocolate products in bulk (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.