How is Fair Trade Chocolate Produced?

by | Oct 18, 2021 | Food, Justice

Ah, chocolate. Personally, I can’t imagine my life without it. But have you ever thought about where and how chocolate is grown? We’re diving into the importance of Fair Trade chocolate and how you can satisfy your sweet tooth and your values at the same time.

How Is Chocolate Made?

Cocoa pods growing on a tree.

Image from Dr. Bronner’s.

The cocoa plant originally hails from Central and South America, and since the 1970s, the neighboring West African countries of Ivory Coast and Ghana, gradually became the largest cocoa-producing area on earth. In production, seeds are extracted from the pod, fermented, dried and roasted into what we recognize as cocoa beans.

The shells are separated from the meat, or cocoa nibs, which is then ground into a chocolate liquor that is separated from the fatty portion, or cocoa butter, and further refined to produce cocoa solids and the chocolate that we eat (and love!).

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this seemingly innocent bean; the cocoa industry is built on social and environmental damage. “The true cost of chocolate production has been externalized and paid by cocoa-producing communities in the service of profit for a few at the expense of many— leading to wide-spread ecological destruction, climate instability, poverty, worker exploitation, child labor, and even slavery,” said Gero Leson, Vice President of Special Operations at Dr. Bronner’s. 

The Importance of Fair Trade Chocolate

It is incredibly important to buy certified Fair Trade chocolate (and products in general) because it not only means the workers are paid fairly, but also that they have safe and environmentally-friendly working conditions. Buying certified organic is also important, because farming without pesticides is better for the health of workers, the environment and those who eat chocolate. Famous candy brands including Mars, Nestlé, Hershey, Cargill and Cadbury are all exploitative and have done nothing to change practices.

So which companies can you trust? Luckily, there are many certified organic and Fair Trade companies.

Dr. Bronner’s Launches Organic, Fair Trade Chocolate

Close up of a woman cutting into a cocoa bean pod with a large knife, showing white pods inside.

Photo from Dr. Bronner’s.

One of our favorite Fair Trade companies and a long-time partner, Dr. Bronner’s, just launched a line of USDA Certified Organic, Fair Trade, Vegan, Kosher, Non-GMO Verified chocolate bars called Magic All-One Chocolate. It makes sense that after over 20 years of sourcing its own raw materials and even establishing its own farms, Dr. Bronner’s would create its own chocolate bar.  

“Our recipe is simple: perfectly balanced delicious ingredients sourced from fairly paid farmers implementing regenerative organic practices, that fulfill chocolate’s promise as an expression of love, elevating it to be the pure and ethical indulgence it is meant to be,” said Michael Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s.

Many of the 800 farmers in Dr. Bronner’s Regenerative Organic Certified™ Serendipalm project in Ghana also grew cocoa, so it was the perfect opportunity to work towards creating a chocolate bar. You can read more about this and Dr. Bronner’s ethical supply chain in Gero Leson’s newly released book, “Honor Thy Label: Dr. Bronner’s Unconventional Journey to a Clean, Green, and Ethical Supply Chain,” which we also reviewed

Six Flavors of Sustainable Dark Chocolate

Hannah holds up all six flavors of Dr. Bronner's chocolate showing their rainbow of packaging colors.

Photo provided by author.

The entire line of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Chocolate Bars is 70% dark chocolate. The difference between dark and milk chocolate is that dark chocolate contains 50-90% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50% cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar. Dark chocolate also has widespread health benefits Studies show that those who regularly eat dark chocolate (two to three 30-gram servings per week) have a lower risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and strokes because it contains flavonoids, which benefit human brain function

Dark chocolate usually tastes more bitter than milk chocolate, but these bars are sweetened with lower-glycemic coconut sugar and have a creamy consistency, even though they are vegan and contain no milk. You can choose from six delicious flavors: Roasted Whole Hazelnuts, Crunchy Hazelnut Butter, Salted Whole Almonds, Salted Almond Butter, Salted Dark Chocolate, and Smooth Coconut Praline. Plus, the outer wrapper is made from 100% recycled paper with a minimum of 80% post-consumer recycled fiber. This bar is good inside and out!

I tasted each flavor, and each is truly delicious, although the Smooth Coconut Praline is probably my favorite. Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Chocolate really is the ultimate expression of ethical business, activist compassion, and deep love for the planet.


  • Hannah McGovern Gross

    Hannah McGovern Gross, a native New Yorker, is an actor, singer and environmentalist. She founded the NYC chapter of Turning Green while at The Brearley School, won a grant while she was a student at Wellesley College to host a Project Green Dorm event there, and since then, has helped whenever she could, most recently with Project Green Challenge in 2020.