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What is fair trade cocoa?

How does fair trade help cocoa farmers?

In short, fair trade cocoa means cocoa farmers receive a better price for their cocoa beans. By choosing fair trade, you’re helping to prevent child labour and lift whole families out of poverty. There are lots of other benefits too, which we’ll come on to later.  

Products have to adhere to strict regulations to be called fair trade. For example, farmers are assured of a minimum price for their cocoa beans. They might well earn more than that, but they won’t earn less, whatever happens in the market. This means they can plan for the future.  

Fair trade producers also often receive an extra payment, called a ‘premium’, which can be spent on things like schools, health services, infrastructure and farm improvements.  

Does buying fair trade chocolate and cocoa stop child labour? 

As you might know, child labour is a huge issue in the cocoa industry, particularly in West Africa.  

To become fair trade, farmers agree not to use any child or forced labour, and the farms are checked regularly to make sure they’re sticking to the rules.  

But, of course, it’s not enough to ban child labour. You need to make sure that farmers can afford not to send their children out to work. And’s that’s one of the reasons that the price paid for fairly traded cocoa beans is so important. By earning more money and having a stable income, families are more likely to send children to school, not out to work.  

All our cocoa, cacao and chocolate is fairly traded. We don’t source it from West Africa. Instead, we have fairly trading suppliers in Colombia and the Dominican Republic.  

Is Food Thoughts cocoa fair trade? 

Everything we sell is fairly traded. (You can read more about our thoughtful values here.) Our Organic Cocoa Powder was the first fairtrade cocoa powder to be sold in the UK. For the last 20+ years, we’ve sourced our cocoa from a co-operative called YACAO, which works with around 2,400 smallholders in the Dominican Republic.  

Our other supplier is Luker Chocolate, whose very mission is to ‘make the world a better place using chocolate as a tool for change’. 

How can fairly traded chocolate be a tool for change? 

We’re glad you asked. The farmers our suppliers work with receive a fairer price for the cocoa beans they produce. But YACAO and Luker both go a whole lot further than that. For example, both suppliers have given extra training to farmers and invested in local infrastructure, such as aqueducts to bring clean water to communities.  

Child education is often a key priority for fair trade cocoa growers. Luker works to build classrooms and help children gain more skills and qualifications. 15,000 children, teens and adults have benefited from Luker’s education initiatives.  

Farmers often choose to spend the extra money they earn on community projects. YACAO farmers have used some of their Fairtrade premium to build a community centre and several new homes for producers.  

As well as buying cocoa from small family farmers, Luker also runs its own farms. These employ more than 500 people. And this is in a country with huge economic challenges, where 45% of young people are unemployed and 63% of people live in extreme poverty. 

Is fair trade cocoa organic?  

Fair trade doesn’t have to be organic. However, our fairly traded cocoa powder and cacao powder are both certified organic. So, as well as receiving a fair price, farmers are protected from harmful pesticides. 

Is fair trade better for the environment? 

While fair trade is focused on people, it often has a positive impact on the environment too. Our fairly traded dark chocolate chips for example, are helping to restore forests. Luker has planted around 650,000 trees to date, and is part of an initiative to restore more than 1.4 million hectares of forest in Colombia by 2030. 

What’s the difference between fairly traded and Fairtrade-certified? 

You probably recognise the Fairtrade mark; it shows that businesses have been certified by the Fairtrade Foundation. But Fairtrade is only one way to recognise ethical trading. There are other accreditations around the world that allow businesses to demonstrate they are fair trade and committed to ethical policies.  

The farmers our suppliers work with are fairly traded, which means they follow fair trade standards and apply sustainable production methods. Because they work with specific farmers, they are able to guarantee transparency and traceability in the cocoa production process from crop to product. Their mission is to improve farmers’ lives, strengthen communities’ future and maintain environmental balance. Our cocoa and cacao products are also certified by the Soil Association.  

Does fairly traded cocoa taste better?

That depends where you buy it. Ours is made from ‘fino de aroma’ beans. Only the top 8% of cocoa beans make the grade. In our opinion, you can really taste the difference. We use a blend of Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero beans to create a satisfyingly rich cocoa that’s perfect for cakes, brownies and comforting mugs of hot cocoa.  

What is fair trade cocoa useful for? 

Cocoa powder is a pretty essential store cupboard ingredient if you love baking. Need some inspiration? Check out our recipes. To get you started, how about some Double Chocolate Muffins?

Want to give family and friends thoughtful, sustainable gifts? This spiced hot chocolate mix is sure to prove popular with foodies, bakers and chocolate lovers.  

And cocoa powder isn’t just useful for sweet treats. It brings added depth and richness to all manner of dishes. Vegan bean & butternut squash chilli anyone? 

Is cocoa powder healthy? 

Cocoa is a natural source of flavanols, antioxidants, fibre and protein. It’s also naturally vegan, gluten-free and nut-free. Some brands do add sugar though (we don’t), so check the ingredients list before you buy.  

Cacao is even healthier than cocoa. You can read about the health benefits of cacao here.  

Where can I buy organic fairly traded cocoa powder? 

You can buy Food Thoughts Organic Cocoa Powder in bulk direct from our store. It’s also stocked in smaller tubs in supermarkets and health food stores across the UK. Looking for fairly traded cacao? We also sell both Organic Cacao powder and Chocolate Coated Nibs. Or, if you’re after a seriously chocolatey hit, try our award-winning Luxury White Chocolate Chips. They’re the perfect treat.  

Is fair trade cocoa more expensive? 

There is a slight difference in price, but as you only need a small amount of cocoa for baking, the extra amount per bake is pretty tiny. And for the sake of a few pence, you’ll be helping cocoa farmers have a better life.  

Shop for cocoa and other fairly traded ingredients