Buy a chocolate that is as authentic as your love

Last year, in the U.S., consumers spent $15.7 million on Valentine’s Day. Some of that was spent on roses. Some on cards. And some on chocolate. I don’t know how much of this was spent on ethical, certified tokens to demonstrate your love, but I’m betting it wasn’t too high.

This day does not evoke passion in me the same way eating fine chocolate does. To me, it is a day of contradictions. You are supposed to, on February 14, celebrate  being in love, and perhaps demonstrate the depth of your affection through a gift. But if your gift, lets say it is chocolate, has a sullied story beneath it’s fancy wrapping, and if the earth was ravaged and people were harmed in the process of producing this token of your affection, then is your gift as delicious, divine or deep as you had intended?

My intent is not to darken the mood around what is a special day for many. It is actually to challenge and suggest that you match the authenticity of your love with a similarly authentic chocolate gift, should you choose to buy one for your partner. Why did chocolate ever become so popular on V-day? Because chocolate, back in the day, when it was revered as gold and consumed as a decadent drink, saved for special occasions and royalty, was truly special. That kind of special does not exist today on most store shelves. But it is out there and it is not hard to find a bar that matches your respect for your partner and the planet, and packs purpose. If you are going to spend the big dollars today for someone, spend it right!

Splurge at New Leaf chocolates to support chocolate made right, that’s unique, special, and delicious. Test out Theo for some truffles, Endangered Species to double up your love for your partner and for migratory birds, or elect Equal Exchange. If you’re really looking to indulge, visit your nearest fine chocolate store and purposefully purchase a Kallari bar, some Askinosie, Amedei, Pacari, or Original Beans, a company that embodies quality, meaning, and sustainability.

Or go the Divine, Shaman or Camino way. Wow your loved ones with your thoughtfulness in selecting a guilt-free, responsible, high quality chocolate. Because they’re worth it.

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Hershey expands Responsible Cocoa Campaign…is it really Bliss?

Hello readers! I’ve been quite delinquent in posting this last month, and have so much to catch you up on.

So, for years advocacy groups have been harping on Hershey to Raise the Bar. Several other large chocolate companies made strides towards sourcing fair trade cocoa or investing in community development initiatives. But mum was the word on Hershey Land. Until now!

My friend Sun sent me the news yesterday but I couldn’t get it out in time – Hershey partnered with the Rainforest Alliance on January 30th to certify Hershey’s Bliss line of chocolate bars, which will only have cocoa sourced from RA certified farms by the end of this year. In addition, they have made some long-term commitments to help support the communities in West Africa and take on some real corporate responsibility.

This is HUGE. It is the first legit commitment Hershey has made to address responsibility in their cocoa supply chain through use of a third-party certifier. In addition, they have declared a 5 year commitment to invest heavily in the cocoa farmers and families in West Africa that they source most of their cocoa from. They will invest $10 million by 2017 to reduce child labor and improve cocoa supply in West Africa. You read that right. With numerous denials to acknowledge child labor prevalence in the farms they source from in the past, they now seem to be more transparent. I give them credit for this, even if what did it may have been ahem, a little push in the form of a SuperBowl ad threat (which the Intl Labor Rights Forum will desist from now airing) to expose the company’s link to child labor. It worked wonders.

What I think is most promising is that in this long-term strategy, cocoa farmers will be given a real chance to sustain themselves. They will receive training to adapt to climate change, and to get more efficient yields, resulting in more revenue. Rainforest Alliance will audit the cocoa farms and use this training to reduce child labor and increase school attendance.

Other existing initiatives the company launched was last year’s CocoaLink, a mobile phone project in Ghana meant to send cocoa farmers relevant news about their crops so they can increase farming practices and deal with pests and bad weather. More exciting is that in this second phase, Rainforest Alliance will partner in to provide messages relating to the importance of conservation and climate change. They are doing more work in Ghana through their new Learn to Grow campaign as well.

The bottom line is this – Hershey is huge, and after years of inaction, they are finally listening, to consumers and advocacy groups. Which I’m in support of – any step in the right direction, for a company that has such a huge impact, is significant. Lets see how this commitment rolls out.

And, for all of you who tend towards the Hershey variety (yes, this may be the first time I promote you buy instead of boycott their bars),  go out and get your Bliss on. Hershey needs to know there is demand for ethical chocolate. They have a presence in West Africa to really improve lives, and more importantly, they have the means. AND, the quest for them to improve has only just begun so keep demanding more. Imagine if they were to extend this throughout their company….

Hershey’s Bliss® chocolates are available to U.S. consumers at more than 35,000 retail outlets. These bars will be 100% RA certified later this year.