I am a chocolate lover and have been as long as I can remember. Why would I want to create a whole bean snacking cacao when the world can NEVER have too much chocolate? It comes down to purpose.
Cacao farmers around the world aren’t getting paid enough. If I am “employing” cacao farmers when I buy chocolate, I want to pay them well. Most aren’t making the minimum wage in their respective provinces or countries, much less a true living wage. As I spend time in cacao farming regions, I see impressive efforts to increase farmer income from the world’s largest chocolate stakeholders (truly!). I witness great minds from around the world working together “pre-competitively” across national borders and various constituencies: cocoa processors, confectioners, government sponsored NGOs, certifying bodies and farmers are all involved. Their main focus is how to rapidly increase farmer income by increasing yields. It’s a win-win solution: cacao farmers can often double their income (or more) in a few short years and the industry gets more cacao to fulfill the ever-increasing demand for chocolate around the globe. But… even in the most favorable situations, where the farmer is doing everything right, it’s nearly impossible to make a living wage.
Why? Since the 1500’s, the entire cocoa industry has been structured to grow cocoa (along the equator – the only place it will grow), ferment and dry it (aka stabilize it) for export to countries who will then create a decadent, expensive treat. Today, that treat requires tremendous expertise, capital investment and infrastructure to produce at scale, and climate control throughout the rest of the supply chain to keep the product from melting. If you’ve been to a cacao growing community, you know the near impossibility of this (my utmost respect goes to one of my favorite brands, Madecasse, for overcoming these challenges). For this reason, cocoa becomes a commodity of little value in growing countries and the vast majority of profits move to chocolate producing / consuming countries.
Upon realizing this, my pursuit became, “How can we move value-added steps backwards so they can earn more income from the cocoa they’re already growing? Oh, and can we create something new so farmers aren't competing with their primary customers?”
Enter the idea of the whole, shelled (peeled) cacao bean. I’ve discovered a lot of wins with this little idea:
- Win: it requires very little investment for the cacao growing community to get started.
- Win: it’s a natural next step in understanding how to process high quality cacao. Every bean counts which means the bad ones can’t be masked by the good (this is also a great challenge!).
- Win: the majority of value-added work naturally appeals to women in an era when the cocoa industry is being criticized for excluding them.
- Win: it elevates the value of smaller cacao beans and clones while the chocolate industry prefers the larger beans.
- Win: it provides a new product that is way more convenient (and tasty) to eat than a cocoa nib.
- Win: it is a healthier, crunchier, more savory snack alternative to most chocolate.
- Win: it ultimately leaves 50-100% MORE income from cacao in the growing communities!
Our purpose is to renew life – from growing communities to you. It is my hope that a whole bean snacking cacao brings us one step closer!
Pictured Above: some of the fabulous women doing value-added work to keep more income in the cacao growing community in Masamba, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.