Wacky World of Choc Wednesdays: Alinea’s Chocolate, Pumpkin Pie


via @Gachatz of Alinea


Achatz and his team at Alinea have earned the position as best restaurant in North America for staying ahead of the curve and constantly being innovative. As a diner, when you sit down for that mutli-course meal, you want your mind blown. This new dessert, dubbed “chocolate, pumpkin pie,” was inspired by the film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Even as a mere viewer, you will have your mind blown. Just watch.

via Eater Chicago


Ethical Halloween Candy 2011

Halloween Controversy by mtsofan

Halloween is one of the biggest chocolate candy holidays of the year, with over 100 million dollars in sales. Unfortunately, the vast majority of chocolate candy sold for Halloween is made from cacao that is grown under dubious labor conditions. (According to the International Cocoa Organization, only 0.1% of chocolate sold is fair trade certified.)The problems of forced, trafficked, and child labor on cacao plantations have been documented throughout West Africa, the region that produces nearly 70% of the world’s cacao for chocolate that will be consumed abroad, mostly in North America and Europe (see here and here for an introduction). One of the worst offenders in the chocolate industry’s snail’s pace response to these issues is Hershey’s, which consistently receives a failing grade on forced, trafficked, and child labor and has taken no action toward instituting verified third party systems to investigate and prevent labor abuses.

Read the 2011 report Still Time To Raise the Bar: Real Corporate Social Responsibility (PDF) for full details on Hershey’s stark underachievement in tracing its supply chain and preventing labor abuses in its cacao cultivation. The report, produced and edited by Global Exchange, Green America, and The International Labor Rights Forum, documents the company’s inaction and lack of transparency on the problem, showing that it lags behind every other major chocolate producer in meeting the standards set in the Harkins-Engel Protocol of 2001 (PDF), an international agreement aimed at ending the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa industry.

This Halloween, Hershey’s, which commands the largest single share of the US chocolate market (42.5%), stands to make over 50 million dollars in chocolate candy sales. Given the company’s long time complacency in the face of unacceptable labor practices, many consumers are consciously choosing not to purchase Hershey’s products for the trick-or-treaters who will knock on their doors. This post marks an attempt at providing better alternatives.

The criteria for inclusion on this list of alternatives follow, based on market research into Halloween chocolate candy sales and the added requirement for transparency into labor practices:

  • Low prices are key to successful sales of Halloween candy. The candy listed below is affordable for a range of price points, from cents to a couple of dollars per piece.
  • Candy must be small in portion size and individually wrapped. It must also be available in retail stores or for purchase online in bulk quantities (this excludes many craft chocolate and confectionery makers that do not typically provide products in this way). Most consumers of Halloween chocolate candy buy it at the nearest supercenter or warehouse club, so accessibility is key.
  • Halloween candy must be child friendly in taste and appearance, or one might wake up to a yard full of rotten eggs and toilet paper. It has been my experience that young tastebuds are generally happiest in the 30-55% cacao content range. I’ve included some higher cacao content options for dark chocolate loving palettes. You don’t have to take my word on taste, as I’m sending out samples of these chocolates to a small army of kid and adult taste testers and will summarize their reviews in upcoming posts. Happy early Halloween, y’all!
  • The candy on this list must be third party fair trade certified or be fairly traded, with transparent, well documented labor practices.

Without further ado, the list:

Ethical Halloween Candy 2011: offering tasty and affordable alternatives to Hershey’s products

Alternatives to Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Alternatives to Hershey’s York Peppermint Patties

Alternatives to Hershey’s Rolo Caramels

Alternatives to Hershey’s Miniatures Milk Chocolate and Special Dark

Alternatives to other Halloween candies

While third party certifications like Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade USA, Utz Certified, and IMO – Fair for Life are not free from debate or critique, they are, in fact, measurably better alternatives to Hershey’s existing standards of no transparency, no third party observation, and no documented certification. In choosing chocolate from this list, consumers can, at the very least, feel confident that the represented companies have taken documented steps toward preventing the worst forms of labor abuse in cacao cultivation.

For the record, USDA Organic Certification does not include labor rights standards. It is listed here as an added bonus, but does not substitute for another third party certified or well documented, transparent standard of labor practice.

In the interest of simplicity, I have not specified whether the listed products are vegan, soy free, gluten free, nut or dairy allergy safe, Kosher, etc., though many of them are. I recommend visiting the websites of the individual products to learn more.

What else can consumers do to celebrate Halloween with ethical candy?

If it turns out that you simply can’t afford or find these alternative Halloween chocolate candies, then my recommendation is to purchase products from Mars (e.g. 3Musketeers, Dove, Mars, Milky Way, Snickers, Twix) and Kraft (e.g. Cadbury, Cote d’Or, Green & Black’s, Milka, Toblerone). These companies have recently taken basic first steps toward incorporating ethical, sustainable cocoa into their products. Mars is taking action toward a stated end goal of 100% certified sustainable cocoa by 2020. Kraft has also begun sourcing some of its cocoa sustainably. I caution, however, that these corporations are still far behind those in the list above when it comes to full backing of transparency in sourcing and support for ethical chocolate.

More than 50% of Americans hand out chocolate candy on Halloween. But many people also like to give out hard candy and lollipops, chewy or gummy candy, bubble gum, caramel treats, and more. The online retailer Natural Candy Store has lots of great options, many of them also ethically produced.

Green America has productive suggestions on other Halloween actions for Fair Trade. If you choose to go the ethical chocolate route, you can send Hershey’s a note to let them know about your choice. You can reach Hershey’s in the following places: Facebook, email here or with a pre written message here, or snail mail: CEO James P. Bilbrey, 100 Crystal A Drive, Hershey, PA 17033.

Finally, we all have our own chocolate preferences, ranging from mass produced confections to artisanal bonbons and craft bars. Whenever and whatever we eat, it is essential to consider the human cost of our consumption. We can pressure existing companies to reform their unacceptable labor practices; I hope that you will consider voting with your purchase choices this Halloween.

More posts on this topic coming in the future. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me at any time with questions, concerns, or suggestions about this list.

Update (October 31, 2011): The taste test survey results are now available: Ethical Halloween Candy 2011 Taste Test Results.

Also, visit The Root to read more of my thoughts on this topic: Chocolate’s Bittersweet Legacy.

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    Bittersweet Notes is an open source research project on chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. I invite you to join me as I explore the story of chocolate and the life stories of those involved with chocolate at its many stages of production and consumption.

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