In Search of Fair Trade Chocolate—For Easter Bunnies and Chocoholics

Fair Trade Certified Chocolate found at local grocery--Logo shown on top right corner of bottom package (by ontheland)One of my special interests as a green consumer is buying fair trade certified products, such as chocolate, coffee, and bananas.  I am constantly on the lookout in local stores for the fair trade logo.

A few days ago I was browsing a free promotional magazine when with surprise I noticed a small blurb noting that Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars sold in Canada are now fair trade certified.  This may not be news to regular chocolate eaters or more dedicated fair trade shoppers, as this change happened last year.  In fact, as far back as 2009, Cadbury announced its intention to bring fair trade chocolate to Canada and other markets, after having introduced it in the UK and Ireland.

An Idea for Easter Chocolate Shopping

Easter is still over a month away, but Kingston stores are filling up with the pastel pinks, greens, and yellows of Easter—trinkets, stuffed toys, chocolate eggs, rabbits, and more.  When you’re shopping for chocolate, choosing packages with the fair trade certification mark may be the way to go (see upper right corner of bottom package in picture) —a way to support:

  • sustainable agriculture, including pesticide restrictions,
  •  decent working conditions, including a child labour ban, and
  •  fair compensation for small farming communities in developing countries. 

The only catch is that I haven’t seen any fair trade Easter eggs or bunnies—I gather these can be found in the UK,where fair trade is very firmly entrenched.  They even celebrate a FairTrade fortnight!

Fair trade chocolate bars are available in major grocery stores and department storesyou just have to look.  Today I looked for fair trade chocolate bars in a large grocery store in Kingston, ON.  There was good news and bad news.  First the bad news–I found fewer brands than I expected.  The good news was that I did find two brands:  Cadbury Dairy Milk and President’s Choice Fair Trade Chocolate.  Both Cadbury and President’s Choice sell many chocolate bars that are not Fairtrade certified—but they each have a few items that are—you just have to look for them in the sea of other types of chocolate.

How Much of a Chocolate Bar Comes from Fair Trade Sources?

When you buy a fair trade certified banana or package of certified coffee you know that 100% of the banana or coffee was grown by a certified farming cooperative, which in return for following fair trade standards–such as sustainable farming guidelines and safe working conditions– is guaranteed a minimum price, access to financing, and a premium to be reinvested into the local community.

Chocolate, on the other hand, is a “composite” product as it includes several ingredients–cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, milk, etc.  For both of the brands noted above, three ingredients are certified: sugar, cocoa butter, and unsweetened chocolate.

Composite Product Guidelines

My confidence in fair trade certification soared when I learned that FairTrade International has established guidelines for composite products such as chocolate.  When a composite product is fair trade certified:

  • All ingredients with existing fair trade standards must come from fair trade certified producers,
  • 20% by dry weight must be the significant ingredient (cocoa for chocolate, orange for orange juice),
  • More than 50% by dry weight, must come from fair trade certified producers.

Fair Trade Products are Quietly Gaining a Momentum in Canada

FairTrade Canada (formerly named TransFair Canada) is Canada’s certification body for companies seeking to use the fair trade logo in Canada and a member of FairTrade International, which certifies farmers, producers, and traders worldwide.

Cities and towns can be recognized as Fair Trade Towns if the local government agrees to a fair trade purchasing policy and a significant per cent of stores, workplaces, restaurants, schools, and faith groups make a commitment.  In Canada we have 15 fair trade towns, with Vancouver being the largest.  In Ontario, Barrie and Port Colborne are also Fair Trade Towns–and Hamilton, Windsor, New Hamburg, Woodstock, and Ottawa are in the process of building momentum.  Perhaps one day Kingston will be on that list!