US-based chocolatier Theo Chocolate is highlighting a turning point for the chocolate industry. Following its recently published 2019 Impact Report, the company pegs fairtrade and ethical sourcing as key principles of its ethos. Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Monique Heineman, Brand Manager, explains how “the conventional chocolate industry is not as sweet as the products it produces,” – however, Theo wants consumers to be aware of  issues and challenges and is deliberately transparent in its storytelling on how to reach a fair and sustainable cocoa supply chain.

“Fairly trading commodity raw ingredients – both near and far – is a fundamental principle of why we’re in business. There are inequalities throughout the cocoa supply chain – pricing, labor and environmental – and paying living incomes is one very important component to the change we seek to make in the industry,” Heineman explains. 

Presently, the majority of cocoa from Theo is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo. As part of the company’s annual contracts with farmers, Theo pays into a fair trade premium development fund, which is an additional premium above what they pay farmers for cocoa. “The farmers are in complete control over how these funds are deployed to best benefit their community. Education is one of those priorities,” she continues. “Today, 3,900 children have access to schooling, the community is also building a university, which will provide a local option for higher education.”

The opportunity for fair trade chocolate is now with consumer awareness and demand, according to Heineman. “Consumers will always be the driving force for change within any industry,” she affirms. “By purchasing more fair trade certified chocolate, consumers can help the industry move to a more transparent and equitable cocoa purchasing model.”