Forget Hershey’s: Three Tips for Better Chocolate

Hershey’s, in an attempt to counter rising food costs, has replaced the cocoa butter in many of its candies with vegetable oil, effectively changing their product from “milk chocolate” to “chocolate candy”.  Cocoa butter is the ingredient that gives milk chocolate it’s creamy mouthfeel, and it will be noticably absent from Whachamacalits, Mr. Goodbars, Milk Duds, and Krackels, although Hershey’s claims that Hershey Bars, Kisses, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will remain unchanged.

Sigh.  Why bother with any of them?  Although Hershey’s has made attempts towards more fair trade practices, they’re far from green or ethical.  There’s several other ways to get your chocolate fix while supporting responsible companies. Find out how, after the jump…

Fair trade chocolate is a good place to start. Although Americans spend approximately $13 billion on chocolate every year, most cacao farmers make less than $200 per year.  Child slavery is widespread in the cacao industry.  Fair trade practices ensure that farmers get paid a fair wage and work in safe working conditions.  Although the consumer may pay a little more, fair trade contracts can make a huge difference in the lives of those responsible for growing cacao.  Fair trade groups also work with farmers to implement sustainable farming practices so that their land can continue to produce for generations.  You can find fair trade chocolate at stores like Whole Foods or even Target, but you can also find several fair trade vendors online.  Check out Divine Chocolate, Global Exchange, Equal Exchange, or Alter-Eco.

Seek artisan.  Handmade artisan chocolatiers are popping up all over, thanks to a resurgence in local food production and high-quality foods.  Stuart profiled Lillie Belle Chocolates, an Oregon-based chocolatier whose unique creations are such a hit locally that they’re being sold nationwide.  However, the great thing about artisans is that they are much more likely to use high-quality ingredients, and that often means local producers.  Here in Missouri, we’ve got Patric Chocolates, one of only a handful of bean-to-bar chocolate producers in the country.  Made in microbatches, Patric chocolates are made from cacao beans that are roasted and processed in-house, hence the term bean-to-bar.  Other chocolatiers may source their chocolate in various stages of production to make their treats, but Alan McClure of Patric Chocolates oversees the entire process.  Check out your local farmers market–there may be a local chocolatier showcasing their products.

Opt organic. Organic production means less ecological damage and a better chance at sustainable agricultural practices.  Organic chocolate also ensures that any milk or cream used in the production of the chocolate is rBGH free.  You can find organic chocolate all over.  One of the most widespread brands is Dagoba, although they were bought by Hershey’s in 2006.  Other brands that produce organic chocolate include Sweet Earth, Sjaak’s, Endagered Species, and Terra Nostra.

Want the best of all three worlds? Theo Chocolates is the only fair-trade, organic, and bean-to-bar company in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Andre Karwath under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.

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About the Author

A former high school teacher, I'm currently a part-time writer/full-time doctoral student at the University of St. Thomas in the Twin Cities, studying leadership in education from a critical pedagogy perspective along with public policy. On the green side, I'm interested in local food and agriculture (Iowa girl, born and raised), sustainability education, DIY projects, and grassroots activism. I'm slowly turning my South City, St Louis home into an urban farmstead. On the hoping-to-be-greener side, I love reading, yoga, soccer, music, backpacking, knitting, pop culture and trivia, my Tuesday Night Dinner Club, traveling, Guitar Hero, dive bars, and sitting on front porches with my husband and a cold beer. I came to Green Options via a post on Sustainablog,working the St Louis angle to get Jeff to let me in. I have a personal blog chronicling (what else?) life in South St. Louis. Follow me on Twitter!