Share the goodness through organic, Fair Trade Certified cocoa

By Alan Miles

The holiday season isn’t quite as sweet without cocoa — from your favorite chocolate treats to a mug of hot cocoa in front of the fire. To make the experience a truly joyous one, be sure your cocoa is produced without exploiting the people who grow it.

Fair Trade cocoa

A small town in the Dominican Republic, typical of where some of Frontier’s Fair Trade Certified cocoa is grown. Chris Anderson, a commodity manager for Frontier, visited our cocoa supplier there earlier this year.

Frontier’s three organic, Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa powders are sourced with the philosophy of sharing the goodness: the high-quality, organic cocoa that sweetens our lives also improves the lives of the farmers growing it in the Dominican Republic and Peru.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Keeping in direct contact with local growers of our cocoa.

Chris Anderson, Frontier’s commodity manager, recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to visit the co-op that supplies our organic Fair Trade Certified cocoa powder. Hearing about his trip, I was once again struck by how beneficial our direct sourcing and Fair Trade premiums are — in this case, to the small co-op of cocoa farmers themselves and their larger communities.


A freshly-opened cocoa pod reveals raw cocoa beans — where all your favorite chocolate treats begin.

2. Seeing the challenges our cocoa farmers face helps us partner with them to create positive development.

I asked Chris what life is like for the small cocoa farmers he met on his trip, where annual farm income averages roughly $900-$1,100 U.S. dollars:

In short, life is tough for these farmers. They must constantly deal with an unpredictable climate, a lack of infrastructure and water shortages. The average farmer in this region has only two hectares (about five acres) of land, which means it’s almost impossible to produce enough cocoa to support themselves and their families. However, the Fair Trade premium that they receive from the sale of their cocoa beans has been making things better.

In 2012, the farmer’s co-op earned nearly $170,000 U.S. dollars in Fair Trade premiums from cocoa bean sales. This money has been used for investments that not only help the farmers but also improve the communities in which they live. The co-op was able to purchase a vehicle that’s used to bring the fresh beans to the processing facilities more efficiently. The premium also supports projects that include building community centers and digging wells for potable water. Life is still tough for these farmers, but the Fair Trade premium is being used to make a difference and provide a better future in these communities.

3. Partnering directly with growers helps to secure a supply of great quality cocoa.

Worldwide, cocoa production is down due to a cocoa bean shortage caused by unusually dry weather in West Africa (where 70 percent of cocoa beans are grown). This shortage is occurring at the same time demand is surging, particularly for dark chocolate. The turn to dark chocolate (fueled in part by new health claims) has a double impact, since it requires more cocoa beans per ounce than milk chocolate to produce.

The supply of organic cocoa from our co-op supplier in the Dominican Republic (where about half of the world’s supply of organic cocoa is produced) has remained strong, to the benefit of both our customers and the 1,076 members of the supplier co-op.

4. These partnerships also ensure sustainable, organic cocoa and a vibrant community for years to come.

Chris said he looks forward to continuing our partnership with this well-run co-op that shares our values on quality and community support:

After having visited many of their projects, spoken to their leadership and seen the good that they have accomplished already, I believe that the co-op will continue to have a positive impact in the region for many years to come.”

We’re happy to be able to provide high quality organic cocoa (overall, less than 2 percent of cocoa beans are grown organically), while making a meaningful difference in the lives of the farmers — and their families and communities — who grow the beans.

What are your favorite holiday recipes that use cocoa?

Alan MilesAbout the Author: Alan explores ideas and issues related to a sustainable lifestyle — from cooking and culture to social and environmental responsibility. He enjoys Shakespeare, but not as much as college basketball. Alan is a family man, liking nothing better than spending time with his wife of 33 years, his four kids and four grandkids.

2 thoughts on “Share the goodness through organic, Fair Trade Certified cocoa

  1. If demand is up (more people want dark chocolate) and supply is down (bad weather), shouldn’t the market price for cocoa be way, way up? I looked at a graph of cocoa prices from Nov 2009 through November 2013 and the trend looks the opposite – down from about $3,500/ton to about $2,500/ton.

    How can this be explained?

    Graph can be generated at:

    • Hi Rick, thanks for your question. Chris’ response:

      To understand the cocoa powder price over the past few years, I’ll take you through the cocoa process. The process goes like this: 

      Fermented & Dried Cocoa Bean ——> Roasted Nib ——> Liquor/Mass ——> then it gets a little more complicated: 

      Liquor/Mass is then separated into Liquor/Mass for Processing and Liquor/Mass for Chocolate. It’s not a one or the other thing, though, when it comes to making chocolate. The Liquor/Mass for Processing is pressed to create Cocoa Cake and Cocoa Butter. The Cocoa Butter (which is needed in chocolate) is added back into the Liquor/Mass for Chocolate, mixed, refined, blended, etc. for confectionary needs. The Cocoa Cake is further processed into Cocoa Powder like we purchase. 

      The increased demand for chocolate products caused an increase in demand for cocoa butter. To create the cocoa butter, excess cocoa cake was being produced which put additional cocoa powder into the market and caused the price to decline. That was the case until recently where the price can be seen trending up due to crop issues in the major producing regions. Cocoa is currently trading at $2,800/ton which is up from the 52-week low of $2,100/ton. It may hit 2009 levels, but it might not. Our pricing is remaining stable because organic, Fair Trade cocoa is a niche product that’s much more expensive than the conventional market.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s