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The Cost of Premium Chocolate

The Cost of Premium Chocolate

The chocolate industry is blooming, with more options than ever lining market shelves. It’s exciting to see widespread attention on fair trade, bean-to-bar, single-origin, and ethically sourced cacao, but it can bring on some sticker shock. While a classic drugstore bar can sell for $1 a pop, a fine-quality bar can range from $7-$14. It seems like an extreme difference. However, it’s like the difference between buying conventional or organic apples: you get what you pay for.

Incredible chocolate starts with incredible cocoa beans. That involves prime location, environmental conditions, ethical work practices, and a fair price per pound. The main differentiator between an artisan-made product and a mass-produced, shiny-wrapping kind of bar lies within this humble bean. To get specific, it usually takes about 12 cocoa beans to make one chocolate bar, with about 140 cocoa beans making a pound. Commodity cocoa is generally sold by the metric ton (that’s 2,204 pounds) for somewhere over $2,000 per ton, leaving little room for cocoa farmers to profit. However, quality cocoa is fair trade (which means humane working and trade conditions) and sustainable (which means positive environmental conditions). Fair trade cocoa beans sell for upwards of $2,500 per ton, including a premium that supports workers' families, education, and community. Want to support a farm that pays its workers a fair wage and treats the land with respect so it can continue to nourish crops in the future? Those basic factors require some extra dollars. Cocoa prices are actually falling, making it harder for small-scale farms to survive.

Beyond the bean, small chocolatiers have a business to run. Factory space, packaging, quality checks, and retail locations all factor into the price. We’re not saying the price difference is inconsequential—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your purchase is your vote, and what a delicious way to exercise your power!

A Brief History: Why Do We Give Chocolate Gelt for Hanukkah?

A Brief History: Why Do We Give Chocolate Gelt for Hanukkah?


There are countless symbols of the holidays, but naturally, our favorite is chocolate. For years, Hanukkah celebrations have featured a particularly symbolic kind of treat: chocolate gelt.

If you’re not familiar with this shiny tradition, gelt comes in the form of gold foil-wrapped coins, typically given to kids and won—or lost!—during games of dreidel. As you might have guessed, this tradition started early on as actual gold coins, which evolved into (admittedly mediocre-quality) chocolate over time. In Eastern Europe, people often give gold coins for tips to service workers, teachers, and other deserving hands around the holidays. In fact, these tips may have originated as financial support to those that could not afford Hanukkah candles, an incredibly important part of this religious observation.

Going back further in history to the time of the Maccabees, the newly independent people of Judea received the privilege of minting their own coin in 142 BCE. Those coins typically depicted a cornucopia to symbolize the abundance of their state. Today, chocolate gelt often has a menorah imprinted in the foil to more closely tie it to Hanukkah celebrations.

Even if you don't have gelt on hand, consider gifting a kosher chocolate, like the Theo Chocolate 45% Milk Chocolate Bar or the jcoco Cayenne Veracruz Orange. Here's to a happy Hanukkah and a delicious new year.

How the Chocolate Industry Embraces #ShopSmall for Small Business Saturday

How the Chocolate Industry Embraces #ShopSmall for Small Business Saturday

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...


Menakao Madagascar ChocolateLook 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.


Manoa Chocolate HawaiiFor 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.

Forte ChocolatesThe 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?