Producer Partnerships

This article was originally published in May 2019

Alter Eco:

certified carbon neutral, organic, fair trade

The founders of Alter Eco chocolates know they wouldn’t get far without concentrating on taste and texture. But even those sensory cornerstones — richness, creaminess, subtle flavor notes — are part of a circle of sustainability.

Edouard Rollet and Mathieu Senard began producing chocolate in 2005 with business backgrounds that included both for-profit companies and non-governmental organizations. They committed to a certified organic, Fair Trade Certified chocolate bar with beans sourced directly from farmer-owned co-ops, rather than buying bulk cacao aggregated through a series of traders.

“It’s night and day…When you go to see the farm, which we are very adamant about, you really understand,” Rollet said.

Their chocolate, using beans from Ecuador and Peru, is manufactured in Switzerland with an unusually long conching process that contributes to the creaminess.

A focus on small farmers and fair-trade practices was “in the DNA” from the beginning of the company, which recently was acquired by NextWorld Evergreen.

“People did not realize how much child labor you had” in the cacao industry, Rollet said, how low prices were pushing farmers into other crops, such as rubber plants, and how deforestation was scarring communities.

Seeing gaps in organic requirements, the founders soon embraced Non-GMO Project Verified certification. Then came a push to help farmers in Peru shift crops from coca bushes used for cocaine production into cacao for chocolate.

“We tried the cacao. Delicious,” Rollet said. But it was jarring to see the effects of deforestation in Peru. They were pushed to think further about their own roles, as leaders of a global company, in contributing to climate change.

From those conversations came a company-wide switch (Alter Eco also sells quinoa) to all-compostable packaging. They worked to cut emissions. They developed a program for “carbon insetting,” a version of carbon offsetting in their own supply chain, including a collaboration to plant thousands of shade and fruit trees each year alongside the cacao crops.

Their farmers are paid to maintain the trees for 30 years and then can harvest a percentage through a sustainable timber program. Their products are certified as carbon neutral through the Pur Project.

The journey has been long but steady. Bite by bite, the company’s gotten closer to creating “what we really wanted.”

Certified organic, carbon neutral, fair trade and non-GMO.

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