Chocolate has been miss-sold for generations. But interestingly the keenness of chocolate companies to appear ethical has gone full-circle.
In the relatively early days of mass produced chocolate, makers and confectioners would try and portray that their products had health benefits. Large companies such as Cadbury and Rowntree were at the forefront of this movement with adverts such as
Chocolate was primarily sold as a health food. We might have had a detour with dodgy Cadbury Flake Adverts and the like from the 60's onwards, it was the turn of the millennium that drew ethics into sharp focus with the likes of Fairtrade being the defacto term used to identify chocolate we really should be buying. Interestingly Fairtrade is seemingly becoming less important as chocolate buyers start to become more savvy and curious. This was fueled by our ability to use the internet to research and communicate. We found out that there were other important topics such as sustainability of cocoa and palm oil.
Appearing that you care about the environment is critical to huge companies such as Mars, The Fairtrade Organisation with their sponsorship and PR initiatives, Cargill, ADM, Barry Callebaut, Mondelēz and Hershey. This need to appear ethical is not only confined to large companies. Small, new businesses have started to use ethics as a marketing tool. Many do care about sustainability and provenance, but recently I've been increasingly aware of companies 'passing off' as ethical.
'Bean to Bar' is a term that is thrown around with as much abandon as the term 'ethical'. It's easy to produce a new website and claim you're a bean to bar chocolate maker while you simply buy in couverture and fancy packaging. You may think that using Original Beans couverture makes you ethical, but if you're pretending to be something you're not then surely you're not ethical. What's even worse, I feel, are those that may not outright say they're bean to bar, but make it very easy for their potential customers to think they are.
We seem to turn a blind-eye to these sort of practices. We might direct others in our industry about possible culprits, but we've it's about time we hand the ability to verify and validate companies that truly do make chocolate from the bean.
Chocolate buyers have the right to know if the chocolate they're buying is actually made by the people they think it is.
Although we rightly criticise companies such as Nestle for their business practices when it comes to resources such as water, and they could do a great deal more when it comes to slavery and sustainability, they are heading in the right direction, albeit too slowly. If consumers can keep pushing them towards true transparency and truly ethical practices then we do have hope. We just need to exert this pressure appropriately throughout the entire industry.