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Bon Appetit Management Company Switches to Fair Trade Chocolate

Leon Kaye | Thursday February 10th, 2011 | 7 Comments
yum, triple German chocolate cake, fair trade of course!

yum, triple German chocolate cake, fair trade of course!

Triple Pundit has long advocated for fair trade products, but we acknowledge the challenges.  The price is often a hurdle, so convincing consumers to make the switch is an uphill climb.  While it is true that forsaking that favorite candy bar for a fair trade chocolate treat is a positive step, the fact remains that fair trade can make even a large difference at scale: provided of course that suppliers and farmers around the world can keep up with the demand.

That’s why we’re pleased to hear that Palo Alto-based Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMCO) will soon introduce fair trade chocolate at over 400 kitchens at universities, corporate, and specialty cafes across the United States.

Chocolate is the end result of an industry that is a perfect product for fair trade.  Plenty of tales exist that describe the cocoa industry’s uncertain future, and then you have the brutal conditions under which many children toil.  For many companies like Ben &Jerry’s, however, making a massive switch to fair trade chocolate has its challenges, and not just because of the cost differential–integrating those ingredients throughout one’s entire supply chain creates those headaches as well.  For one large food service company, however, the switch to fair trade chocolate could pay huge dividends, and not just because their customers in Cisco’s, eBay’s, and Yahoo’s cafeterias can soon munch on chocolate chip cookies brownies.

The company that benefits from BAMCO’s move is Cordillera of Medellin, Colombia, which harvests and processes two types of cocoa beans.  These cocoa varietals, Criollo and Trinitario, are more expensive and are generally judged to be of a higher quality that that of Forestero beans, which are more bitter and end up in the cheaper chocolates found at your supermarket’s checkout stands.

Where Cordillera stands out is that its chocolate products come in large sizes suitable for food service companies, not just in the poshly packaged bars typical of fair trade chocolate products that you may buy at your favorite local shop.  For Bon Appetit, this arrangement works out because while the company pays a small premium for this chocolate, not a steep differential that discouraged caterers from embracing fair chocolate.  Cordillera and folks who work in Colombia’s cocoa industry also win because the chocolate is manufactured in Colombia, not abroad as is usually the case with chocolate processing.  Manufacturing the chocolate in Colombia not only makes it easier to gauge quality from bean to bar, but keeps money in Colombia.  Hence you have more local investment in education, health care, and infrastructure, which is why paying a little more for fair trade products makes such a difference, according to Katie Barrow of Fair Trade USA.

For the US$16 billion that Americans annually spend on chocolate, agreements like those between Bon Appetit and Cordillera makes this decadent treat a little sweeter.  Plus if you try most fair trade chocolate products, the quality is hard to beat:  just something to keep in mind in the event you have not settled on what to give your sweetheart on Monday.

Leon Kaye is Editor of GreenGoPost.com; you can follow him on Twitter.


▼▼▼      7 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • http://www.123neonsigns.com/ 123 neon signs

    There are challenges to working with fair trade products, but I am glad to see that some companies take the time and effort to do it. I think that it is really important to make that stand.

  • http://www.equalexchange.coop Rodney North

    While my own worker co-op, Equal Exchange, competes with Cordillera (at least in the Fair Trade chocolate category) we have to nevertheless welcome this move by BAMCO, and we look forward to BAMCO continuing to increase their use of Fair Trade products across their menu. (May I suggest some of our organic Fair Trade bananas for example?)

    • http://greengopost.com/se-europe-balkans/ Leon Kaye

      mmm . . . fair trade chocolate covered bananas. Take us back to our childhood AND increase fair trade purchases at the same time. Sounds good to me. Bon Appetit, are you listening?

  • Bon Appetit

    We are listening! While we strive to serve primarily seasonal and local fruit, we do bow to American taste preferences and buy a lot of bananas. We don’t have a Fair Trade purchasing policy per se for bananas, but some of our 400+ cafés do indeed use them. Finding a reliable supply can be a challenge. Still, you’ve given us a great idea for next year’s Valentine’s Day.

  • http://www.terramontclair.com Grace Grund

    Fair-an-tastic! Good news for us fairtrade activists and cafe owners! Can’t wait to tell my son at Colorado College, which is where I was first introduced to Bon Appetit!

  • student

    I’m currently eating a Bon Appetit brownie at upenn and its…terrible. Tasteless. If there’s free trade chocolate in there, i’m missing it–or they masked it with something artificial. I don’t trust their food because it all has a weird stale taste and a lot of seasoning to hide the bad products. i rarely eat at campus eateries to avoid bon appetit food. And the service–perhaps even more terrible.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leon-Kaye/726541285 Leon Kaye

      Sounds like you’ve got a grudge vs. B.A. Why don’t you take it up with them or on Yelp–we’re not talking about a cafeteria review, we’re talking about steps that can make a difference here and abroad.