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.