Food & Drink,  Gifts

The best eco-friendly, ethical chocolate brands

Although Easter’s just around the corner, given current world events, I expect chocolate’s the last thing on your mind right now. When planning this post I’d hoped to tell you about some plastic-free, sustainable chocolate Easter eggs. But it’s been difficult to source any.

So, today’s post is more pared back. No Easter eggs. Instead I’m going to focus on two chocolate brands available all year round.

If you’re a chocoholic like me, you might know that mainstream chocolate has a very real dark side. This thought-provoking report from Mighty Earth, a global environmental campaign organisation, is worth a read. It explores the key problems in the chocolate industry, including illegal deforestation. This is particularly bad in Ghana and Ivory Coast where cocoa for the bigwigs like Mars, Nestlé and Cadbury comes from.

Of course, this deforestation is causing a serious threat to wildlife. Can you believe that Ivory Coast’s elephant population has reduced to just 200 – 400, down from hundreds of thousands? Its chimpanzees have also become an endangered species. All because of cocoa farming.

In 2017, 34 mainstream chocolate companies vowed to work together to end deforestation caused by their industry. But progress has been practically non-existent. Only Nestlé appears to have made any (tiny) progress. And Mars has reportedly delayed its target date for switching to sustainably produced cocoa by five years to 2025.

And then there’s the human impact of the chocolate industry. Local farmer and worker exploitation is rife. In Ivory Coast, cocoa farmers earn just 50 cents per day and in Ghana, around 80 cents. Child labour is also common. Suddenly, that cheap and cheerful chocolate that we picked up and consumed without a thought seems very unappetising.

So let me tell you about some of the ethical and eco-friendlier options around. First up, is Ombar. Because it’s made from raw cacao, not cocoa, Ombar is a raw chocolate. Like cocoa, cacao comes from the beans inside cacao pods. Instead of being roasted, these are left to air dry naturally. What’s left is a raw ingredient packed full of goodness and nutrients.

Ombar is certified by the Fair for Life accreditation – an internationally recognised certification for fair trade and responsible supply chains. All Ombar’s cacao is sourced from sustainable small-holdings in Ecuador. Its products are certified organic, dairy and gluten free, vegan (accredited by The Vegan Society). And made without refined sugar, additives or preservatives.

Ombar tastes richer than mainstream chocolate. The chocolate buttons are especially good. Made from cacao, coconut sugar, creamed coconut, cocoa butter, vanilla extract and vegan live cultures, they’re great for kids and adults. Of if you prefer a bar, there are lots of great Ombar flavours to try. These come as solid chocolate or with soft non-chocolate centres such as pistachio.

As well as delicious and ethical products on the inside, Ombar has it nailed on the outside too. The packaging for its bars is fully recyclable and the buttons come in bags that are fully compostable.

Now let’s move on to Divine chocolate. This is made from cocoa, not cacao so it’s a bit closer to mainstream chocolate.

The story of how Divine came to exist is very inspiring. Almost 30 years ago a group of farmers in Ghana set up their own chocolate company and launched the first farmer-owned Fairtrade chocolate product aimed at the UK mass market. In 1998 this became known as Divine Chocolate.

A US operation for Divine followed in 2008 and in 2015 the UK and US businesses merged. Divine then became a B Corp in 2016. It’s now a private limited company. Most of the shares are owned by the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union which has over 85,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana. This structure means the farmers get 44% of Divine’s profits. So they are fairly remunerated and can invest in their own families, farms and local communities.

All of Divine’s ingredients are natural with no palm oil or soya. The large Divine bars come in 12 flavours which range from 38% to 85% cocoa as well as two white chocolate options. They’re called “sharing bars” but whether you do so or not is, of course, entirely up to you! If you’re partial to gin and tonic then you’ll love the dark chocolate with lemon and juniper flavour. Definitely one to keep away from the kids!

You can also get smaller Divine bars in seven flavours and an organic range in five flavours. It also does a small range of boxed chocolates, including ginger, salted caramel and mint thins (a bit like ethical After Eights, I suspect). And Divine has a cooking chocolate range too so if you’re getting into lockdown backing, this might be worth a go.

Like Ombar, Divine’s packaging is plastic-free. It’s made of recyclable FSC paper and card with recyclable foil within the bars.

I hope this post inspires you to ditch cheap, harmful mainstream chocolate and try out Ombar or Divine instead. If you’ve done so already please tell me your favourite flavour in the comments below. In the meantime, have a nice Easter, even though it will be very different to the norm.

Ombar bars, £3.29 (70g), £1.99 (35g), £1.99 for a bag of buttons (25g). Available online and instore from stockists such as Waitrose, Ocado and WH Smith. Also available online directly from Ombar. Divine Chocolate bars, £2.20 (90g) and 79p (35g). Chocolate boxes from £3.50. Available online and instore from Waitrose and Ocado or directly from Divine.

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