Make a statement with Valentine’s chocolates

The chocolate industry is worth an estimated $110 billion a year. Do you know your candy bar’s story?

By Chris Worthy
DFW, Education Materials Coordinator

Chocolate treats are synonymous with Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to imagine the holiday without rich, decadent dark chocolate packaged in heart-shaped boxes.

According to the National Retail Foundation, consumers spent an average of $130.97 on Valentine’s Day in 2013. More than half of those buying Valentine’s gifts chose to show their love through the gift of candy. Making wise choices when purchasing those sweet treats can make a profound impact on the lives of women and children in developing countries.

If that sounds like a leap of logic, consider this: according to a Freedom Project Report by CNN, more than one third of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa. Child labor, despite repeated exposure and promises to end it, continues to play a huge role in the cocoa industry. Often, the child labor force consists of young people sold into slavery. The good news is that shining a light on these practices is making a difference. Large cocoa producers are taking steps toward change. And you can still have delicious chocolate sourced from certified fair trade companies that are making efforts to put more money in the hands of farmers.

“We, the consumers, can make choices that demand sustainable cocoa.” – CNN’s “Cocoa-nomics”

Before you buy:

  • Learn more from the CNN Freedom Project series about the relationship between cocoa production and child slaves. Years after exposing slavery in the Ivory Coast cocoa industry, CNN returned to determine what, if anything, had changed. The local government and several big players in the chocolate industry have committed to change, but there is still much to be done.
  • Watch the Cocoa-nomics documentary. (Alternate link if the direct link will not play in your browser.) “The chocolate industry is worth an estimated $110 billion a year, and yet its key commodity is grown by some of the poorest people on the planet, in plantations that can hide the worst forms of child labor.” This documentary explores the economics of the cocoa industry’s supply chain – from raw beans to the value-added finished product. It includes a session with cocoa farmers who are tasting finished chocolate for the very first time, after years of working at the start of the supply chain.
  • Read one man’s story.
  • Take a step in the right direction with Fair Trade chocolate. While it is difficult to keep chocolate separated by source (see the Coco-nomics video for more on that issue), buying fairly traded cocoa and chocolate is a step toward putting more money in the hands of farmers who supply cocoa before the value is added to make it a finished product.
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Image credit: Dark via photopin (license)