For most of us, a world without chocolate is a pretty bleak scenario. No candy bars. No brownies. No hot cocoa. The humanity! If the idea of living in a vanilla-only world sends you into a panic, pay attention: In five years, chocolate production as we know it will completely change. In fact, we’re currently facing a serious global chocolate shortage—and no, this not a drill.
Cacao trees—the producer of cacao beans, the main component of our beloved chocolate—can be extremely lucrative for the humans who plant them. But those tasty pods come at a massive price for the planet. Producers often clear massive swaths of forested land to make way for the trees, and even worse, without proper irrigation and soil care, cacao trees pull the nutrients from the earth, leaving it barren and primed for erosion. As cacao farmers in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire move to new land in an attempt to find healthy soil, they leave a trail of infertile and unusable land behind them.
But there's only so much fertile land left, and researchers predict that in five years, there will be a global shortage of chocolate that will hit European chocolatiers like Nestlé and Lindt especially hard. Most multinational chocolate companies–the ones that produce the majority of chocolate on the shelves–get away with paying little for the cacao they buy because they patronize farmers in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. But by purchasing from these farmers, large corporations are contributing to the deforestation and destruction of arable land in West Africa.
But don’t mourn the loss of your favorite candy bar just yet. Get to know Alter Eco, the company that is single handedly combatting deforestation, carbon emissions, and making incredible chocolate in one fell swoop. By only using cacao that's farmed on sustainable co-ops, Alter Eco gives budding eco-farmers a chance to thrive while protecting the planet.
Born out of a desire to work directly with farmers and sell high-quality ingredients straight to consumers, Alter Eco is committed to conservation, fair wages, and food that tastes good.
“We’re pioneers in the industry of fair trade," says Antoine Ambert, director of marketing at Alter Eco. "In 1998, no one knew what fair trade was! But as consumers began to understand the value of ethically sourced food, they were more keen to buy and try our products."
And after they bit into the organic, GMO-free, sustainable chocolate bar, consumers were hooked. Since their explosion onto the U.S. market in 2004, Alter Eco has added sustainable chocolates, truffles, quinoa, rice, and sugar to their lineup of organic and fair trade products.
Made with only the purest ingredients, Alter Eco's nutrition labels are surprisingly short—in fact, their most complex bar, a chocolate coconut caramel concoction, only has six ingredients. And the taste? The combination of creamy salty sweetness in the sea salt truffles is enough to turn any chocolate lover into an Alter Eco devotee.
Even better, Alter Eco's mission will hit you right in the feels. They calculate their carbon emissions per year, and offset that carbon footprint by planting trees on the land of the farmers they work with in South America, sponsoring them with enough cash to to care for and maintain the trees for the next 20 years. Plus, their pledge of fair trade wages for their co-op partners means that these farmers can get the education and tools necessary to keep their land arable, unlike the often underpaid cacao farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
The care that Alter Eco gives their co-op partners translates to a better, purer product for consumers. Free of GMOs and pesticides, Alter Eco's chocolates, quinoa, and rice are some of the safest on the market. For the sake of the future of the Earth—and for your sweet-loving tastebuds—Alter Eco is a game changer.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont