Using Fair Trade Chocolate and Cocoa in the Confectionery Industry

While chocolate is a popular sweet treat globally, many cocoa farmers still earn less than $1 per day for their vital role in the $178 billion1 global industry. Fairtrade International and other certification bodies have recognized the need to combat social and economic issues in the sector since 1994, but the industry is still far from perfect. So, how does fair trade cocoa certification work, and how does it affect confectionery production?
What is Fair Trade Chocolate?
Fair-trade principles allow farmers and exporters from developing countries to receive fair remuneration for their produce. Fair trade also makes provision for ethical farming practices that protect the environment and farmworkers’ rights.
Chocolate has a complex supply chain that involves harvesting, processing, and exporting cacao beans before processing them into various cocoa products. While fine chocolate may only include two or three ingredients, many mainstream chocolate bars contain additives and flavorings, such as vanilla extract, hazelnut, and mint. These additional ingredients may also be fair trade certified, and just because chocolate has a fair-trade label, does not mean it contains fair trade cocoa.
It is best practice to use fair trade certified cocoa products rather than chocolate if you want to produce truly fair-trade confectionery.
How Fair Trade Aims To Empower Cocoa Farmers
Most of the world’s cocoa comes from small farms in developing countries in West Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. Fair trade organizations, such as Fairtrade International and Rainforest Alliance aim to improve cocoa farming practices for a more sustainable industry.
Fair trade principles include:

  • Ensuring farmers receive a fair price for their produce
  • Eliminating child labor on cocoa farms
  • Helping farmers build co-operatives to negotiate better terms and large-scale buyers
  • Promoting gender equality in the cocoa industry
  • Promoting sustainable and environmentally-friendly farming practices

Is Fair Trade Cocoa Farming Really Fair?
While fair trade certification is a step in the right direction towards ethical and sustainable trading relationships between cocoa farmers and chocolate producers, there are many other factors that fair trade bodies do not consider.
Small farms in developing countries cannot always afford the fair-trade certification fees, forcing them to join co-operatives often subject to governance disputes. Many fair-trade programs target living wages for farmers that do not account for their dependents. The increased prices of fair-trade cocoa do not always benefit farmworkers either, and many studies of the advantages of fair trade only consider primary farmers and landowners.2
Fair Trade vs Direct Trade in Chocolate Production
Many consumers and chocolate producers have noticed the shortfalls of fair-trade cocoa farming and are moving towards a more transparent supply chain called direct trading.
Direct trading as a chocolate producer involves establishing a personal relationship with cacao growers, allowing you to visit the farm, assess the working conditions, and certify fair pricing. This trading method is ideal for craft and artisanal chocolatiers that handle small quantities of raw materials and is sometimes called ‘bean to bar’ chocolate production.
Using Direct and Fair-Trade Chocolate and Cocoa Products for Confectionery
Setting up a direct trading relationship with farmers reduces the administration behind establishing a transparent confectionery brand. Where direct trade is not possible, choosing fair-trade certified cocoa, vanilla, coffee, and other ingredients can also help you create sustainable, ethical food and beverages. You can also include natural flavoring additives, such as coconut and chocolate extracts, in your candy products and baked goods.
Advanced Biotech is a leading supplier of natural, certified organic, and EU-certified natural flavorings and aromatics for the food and beverage industry. Please contact us for more information.