Bittersweet: The Dark Side of The Chocolate Industry

Bittersweet: The Dark Side of The Chocolate Industry

This post was created for participants in the MOFAD Nov 8 event at Chelsea Market’s Maker’s Space as well as for people who are interested in the topic of ending illegal child labor and slavery in cocoa.

When The Chocolate War is available on streaming services I will post an update here.

Museum of Food and Drink
Link to the MOFAD events calendar. Donation link to support the Museum’s programs and work.

The next event in the MOFAD series at the Chelsea Market Maker’s Studio:

Using Fungi to Re-Design the Urban Food Chain with William Padilla-Brown — Museum of Food and Drink
In-Person event at Makers’ Studio at Chelsea Market Fungi and their mushrooms are the best teachers in showing us how we can turn waste into abundance. From foraging to composting, let’s learn how we can redefine our urban food-chain in a presentation led by multidisciplinary citizen scientist and
Interested in staying on top of events like this? Make sure to sign up for the MOFAD newsletter.
Maker’s Studio — Chelsea Market

When in Chelsea Market (for example for the next MOFAD event), Chelsea Market Basket has a decent selection of chocolates you can feel good about purchasing.

NOT recommended brands include Dolfin, Leonidas, and Côte d’Or, among others.

Recommended brands DO include, Hogarth, Askinosie, Original Beans, Firetree, Pump Street, Goodnow Farms, Dick Taylor, and others shelved together with these brands. Please note that the selection will vary as items may be out of stock.

There is a hometown favorite (my term for long-established brands in a city) chocolate store in Chelsea Market – Li-Lac Chocolates. They are on my not recommended list as they purchase industrial couverture from companies sourcing beans in W Africa that cannot reliably be considered free of illegal child labor or slavery.

My #1 Tip For How (and Where) To Buy Chocolate You Can Feel Good About

Avoid buying your chocolate at a convenience or drug store.

Some specialty grocery store chains offer good options, but most chains, including Whole Foods (now owned by Amazon) mix in brands that appear good (e.g., Tony’s Chocolonely) and/or that are owned/invested in by companies to avoid (e.g., Lily’s is owned by The Hershey Company; Blue Stripes Cacao has investment money from Hershey; Hu Kitchen is owned by Mondelēz; Justin’s is owned by Hormel Foods).

If you want to buy chocolate you can feel good about, my simple advice is to go to a specialty chocolate store like The Meadow (Portland, OR and NYC) or Caputo’s Market.

our chocolate
Link is to the chocolate section of the website.
Craft Chocolate from Caputo’s - Caputo’s Market & Deli
Craft ChocolateFree shipping nationwide Caputo’s offers an expansive collection of craft chocolate from around the globe, where the single unifying theme is cacao beans of respectable provenance. Dozens of illustrious brands ship quickly to your door for the same price you’d pay at our markets! Warm…
Link is to the chocolate section of the website.

Online options abound, including The Meadow, Caputo’s, and Bar and Cocoa (linked to because a card cannot be generated). This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can also go to the websites of the companies mentioned.

If you have a brand you’d like to recommend – or ask about – let us know in the comments.

Where to Look for Good Information

Direct link to current TVPRA lawsuit.
Will U.S. chocolate companies be held liable for child-labor abuses in the global cocoa supply chain?
The Supreme Court is set to rule on a case that could disrupt Big Chocolate and change corporate accountability.
Assessing Progress in Reducing Child Labor in Cocoa Growing Areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana |
The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at the U.S. Department of Labor tasked NORC to conduct a survey representative children age 5-17 living in agricultural households in the cocoa growing areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana during the 2018-19 cocoa harvest season. The goal of the survey wa…
There are links on this page to download the full report in English and French.
Corporate Accountability Lab
Corporate Accountability Lab
Slave Free Chocolate
Help us eradicate child slavery in the cocoa industry.

Where NOT to Look for Good Information

Chocolate Scorecard 2022
Do you know what goes into your chocolate? How does your favourite chocolate brand rank for labour and environmental practices and policies?
There is a link to the “Halloween-ized” version of this report, originally published in Easter trimmings, on this page.

The methodology of the above “scorecard” is suspect at sooo many levels it’s hard to know where to begin, but the place I will start is in the presentation of the information and one of my bigger pet peeves – there is no indicator of progress over prior years. In addition the vectors (column headings) change from year to year as does their order, making it next to impossible t0 evaluate progress independently without a huge amount of background knowledge.

Also, there is no indication of relationships between companies on the list. Chocolats Halba makes the chocolate for Alter Eco – and Chocolats Halba slipped from its green egg/cat position in 2021 to a yellow position in 2022. Further, there is no indication of the relationship between Tony’s Chocolonely and Barry Callebaut. Many people will not know who Puratos is but may recognize the name Belcolade.

Finally, companies that sell directly to consumers (B2C) are mixed in companies that sell only to businesses (B2B) and chocolate manufacturers are not clearly differentiated from cocoa processors. It makes little sense (to me) to compare the minuscule supply chains of Alter Eco and Tony’s Chocolonely with those of Olam, Cargill, and Barry Callebaut – they do not belong on the same chart without clear indications of the differences in scale. This is a chocolate scorecard, not a cocoa scorecard – they are related but not identical.

I also recommend avoiding relying on all other similar lists as they tend to be assembled and edited together by people with very little deep subject matter expertise in cocoa and/or chocolate.

These are topics I have been writing and talking about for some time. Following are links to posts published here on TheChocolateLife – some of them in support of twice-weekly (at least when I am not traveling) TheChocolateLife::LIVE  streaming series.

TheChocolateLife :: LIVE Calendar
News, views, and conversations on topics in cocoa and chocolate streamed live to YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
The list of currently scheduled episodes and links to all past episodes.
TheChocolateLife :: LIVE w/ Terry Collingsworth, International Rights Advocates
Friday, January 21st, 12:00 EST.
UPDATED: TheChocolateLife :: LIVE From the Front w/ Miki Mistrati
Episode 36 streams LIVE from 12:00 EDT / 17:00 BST on Tuesday April 26th.
Miki is the filmmaker who produced The Chocolate War. Miki is also the producer of The Dark Side of Chocolate, which can be found on YouTube.

The Chocolate Was is being recognized at international film festivals, including:

  • CPH:DOX F:act Awards 2022
  • Cinema for Peace Award 2022
  • Warsaw International Film Awards 2022
  • Human Rights Film Festival Berlin 2022
  • PRIX Italia 2022
  • Films for Future Festival 2022
  • EU Human Rights Film 2022
  • Nordic Doc Film Festival 2022
Updated: the wicked bad & wicked good lists
New and Improved! Renamed and updated! Now easier to use than ever to follow.
This was my attempt to create an “anti-scorecard.” One of the first places I start out is defining what actions (there are eight) will get a company relegated to my wicked list. I also took a look at the pervasiveness of some companies in industries other than chocolate and food.

One question I ask is ... “Where do each of us draw the line when considering which companies to support by purchasing their products?”
TheChocolateLife :: LIVE – the blacklist
Streaming live from 12:00pm EST Friday February 18th
I changed the name to wicked (which has both positive – wicked good – and negative) connotations after it was pointed out to me that black/white had negative connotations that could not be ignored.
Four Bars Too Far?
Their new campaign has many people asking ... WTF were they thinking?
Taking a(nother Small) Bite Out of Tony’s
Tilting at Windmills? Part 2 in a multi-part series examining the fallout from Tony’s Sweet Solutions campaign.
TheChocolateLife::LIVE – Does Ben+Jerry+Tony = Greenwashing?
OR: The Good, The Bad, & The Greenwashing! Episode 56 streams live on Friday, Sep 2nd from 12:00 EDT and is a continuation of the discussions about what chocolate is ...
UPDATED: TheChocolateLife :: LIVE – Deconstructing “Transparency” Reports
Episode 39 streams LIVE worldwide from Brooklyn, NY from 12:00 EDT on Friday, May 6th.
UPDATED – TheChocolateLife :: LIVE – Constructing Transparent Transparency Reports
Episode 39 streams LIVE worldwide from Brooklyn, NY starting at 12:00 EDT on Tuesday, May 10th.
TheChocolateLife :: LIVE – w/ Shawn Askinosie
Streaming LIVE on Tue Feb 15 from 12pm EST
TheChocolateLife::LIVE – Leslie Agyare / Three Mountains Cocoa
Episode 64 streams live from ChocolateLife World HQ in Brooklyn, NY starting at 12:00 EST on Tuesday, November 8th.
Have You Been Ponoed?
What attributes should consumers reasonably be able to expect to rely on in a “certification” program?
It looks like the Pono Cocoa website is longer up (it disappears from the Wayback Machine sometime between the December 27, 2021 and March 29, 2022 captures). The Facebook group is moribund, with fewer than 30 members with the last post apparently in August 2021. Their 2022 annual filing with the Hawaiian authorities is delinquent according to the website.
Estimating Waste in the Cocoa Supply Web
A follow up to a recent post – using estimation skills to examine a few areas of waste in the cocoa <> chocolate supply web.
TheChocolateLife::LIVE – Mass Balance & Other Cautionary Tales
Episode 25 streaming worldwide LIVE from 12:00 EDT, Friday, March 18th.
TheChocolateLife::LIVE – How I Learned To Taste ... Anything & Everything
OR: How I approached training my palate on my journey to becoming a professional chocolate critic. Streaming worldwide on Tuesday, August 23rd, from 12:00 EDT.
I demonstrated an abbreviated version of my comparative chocolate tasting method – here’s an in-depth discussion.
Valentine’s Day 2017 Beer and Chocolate Pairing
Reporting back after my Valentine’s Day chocolate/beer pairing at Burp Castle onEast 7th Street – making up one corner of the Brewmuda Triangle – NYC. It is always fun to work up chocolate and beer pairings. I personally find it a lot easier to create happy marriages between chocolate
After the event finished I was asked about pairing chocolate with beer ... so here’s a post I wrote about one experience.


Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Live

Author: Simran Sethi

I had the great good fortune of being at a reading Simran gave in Asheville, NC shortly after the book was published, and so I missed her perspective on these topics during the event with Terry on Nov 8.

This book is on my must-read list for people interested in these topics.

Amazon Affiliate Link

Discover Chocolate

Author: Clay Gordon

This is my book, published in 2007. It was written from the same perspective of an introduction to wine appreciation and connoissuership and was a finalist in the 2008 IACP book awards in the Technica/Reference category.

Amazon Affiliate Link

Have thoughts to share or questions to ask? Were you at the event on November 9th and want to continue the conversation?

Leave them in the comments.

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