Love it or hate it, we’ve all shopped on a Black Friday. Mega-retailers throw out all the stops for the post-Thanksgiving consumer bash, with some doors opening for major sales as soon as the clock strikes midnight. In 2010, American Express launched a way to encourage shopping at smaller—and often local—businesses. Thus began Small Business Saturday. Within just five years, consumers hit milestones, with an estimated 95 million shoppers collectively spending over $14 billion at small businesses on the day.
How does this affect the chocolate industry? Most of the chocolate market is ruled by supermarket staples like Mars, Nestle, Cadbury, Hershey, and Ferrero, which typically generate over $30 billion in annual sales. Supporting small and local operations helps send funds straight to the source, rather than being diluted among middlemen and other retailers. And how sweet it is that chocolate offers countless small-batch alternatives...
Look at Menakao Chocolate, which uses exclusively Madagascan ingredients to create its bean-to-bar creations. Founder Shahin Cassam Chenai celebrates his family’s fourth-generation roots on the island by decorating the bars with faces of locals. Typically, most cocoa is exported out of Madagascar, but Menakao deliberately chose to build a factory and process its beans right at home. This decision generates four times more income for workers, and “producing locally generates a demand for local raw materials (electricity, water, ingredients, logistics), which in turn creates jobs and spreads wealth.” On top of that, the company pays above the Fair Trade price to support planting cooperatives—and chose to bypass the pricey Fair Trade certification to divert as much money as possible to the growers.
For something closer to home, travel to another island: Oahu-based Manoa Chocolate Hawaii. As the only U.S. state that grows cacao, Hawaii is uniquely poised to create local chocolate. The roasting, grinding, tempering, and packaging all happens right in the Kailua factory, but as Hawaii’s cacao market steadily gets on its feet, Manoa also needs to purchase beans from international suppliers. However, any additional ingredients come right from home: Hawaiian Crown pineapple, Kailua Town coffee beans from the North Shore, dried lavender from Maui, and black lava sea salt from the Big Island.
The fact that Chococurb started in Seattle is no coincidence—the Pacific Northwest boasts a thriving artisan chocolate industry. One of our favorites harks from up north in the small town of Mount Vernon, Washington. Forte Chocolates began in 2009 after Master Chocolatier Karen Neugebauer graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle’s Baking & Pastry program. Rather than aspiring to large-scale production, Forte insists on the small-batch method of crafting everything by hand. A team of artisans works meticulously to create something special, and the work pays off: “Every piece is masterfully crafted by hand to produce a unique work of art with its own personality, something that is painfully lacking in manufactured chocolates.”
How will you #ShopSmall?