03 Jul NZ is home to some of the finest chocolates in the world
Chocolate is one of the best examples we can provide of a guilt-free product, both tasty and sustainable – if it’s well sourced and produced.
We’re proud to offer a selection of chocolate bars made exclusively in New Zealand, reconciling simple pleasures with a conscious economy, even for a product as complex as cacao. The key elements (in our opinion) for sustainable chocolate is: the production, the source and the ingredients!
Bean-to-bar: what it means
A lot of the chocolates you’ll find at Scarecrow are “bean-to-bar”, such as OCHO, Wellington Chocolate Factory, Honest and Hogarth Chocolates. It is an important quality for an ethical bar of chocolate, but what does it mean? As the name states, it means that the chocolate maker controls the production channel between the bean and the bar it is turned into. While this idea might seem perfectly normal to amateurs,
control over what’s happening between the production and the product isn’t always the case, and is mostly offered by ‘craft’ chocolate factories. ‘Chocolatiers’ typically buy chocolate already processed from another company to transform it into another manufactured product, hence having much less control over the production line, these are the products found most commonly in mass distribution. While Chocolate Makers, or ‘Crafters’ in this business purchase raw beans directly from the growers and then refine and process it.
This “bean to bar” control one is one of the ways to guarantee that the chocolate that you eat is ethical, because ‘Crafters’ work with the growers to manage how it is farmed and collected upstream. Further, as ‘Crafters’ are often family owned or small businesses, it is also promises a better product downstream, more natural, healthy and pure, with less additives or preservatives. But you can also be both: She Universe for example, who makes delicious bars and chocolate pralines, work both with bean-to-bar production and on crafted chocolate sourced through Trade Aid.
Can cacao be local in NZ?
But bean-to-bar, if it is indeed the guarantee of a product that allies quality and ethics, is not the only sign of an ethical chocolate. We believe that every chocolate brand we sell here at Scarecrow combines different qualities to establish their credentials as a sustainable product. Bennetto, for example, is a kiwi business story that starts with the founder, Lucy Bennetto, and ticks all the boxes of a perfect chocolate: vegan, organic, fairtrade. Lucy works with a cooperative in Peru, which ensures a living wage and good working conditions as well as a positive impact on their local environment. While one product is handmade in Christchurch, the Bennetto chocolate bars are manufactured in a factory in Switzerland, renowned home of fine chocolate, and she still has achieved a carbon neutral label with her commitment to reforestation. Although this chocolate combines three different production sources, they are all carefully selected to ensure the best conditions and the best product, matching Lucy’s demanding criteria.
Devonport Chocolate, as its name implies, is made right here in Auckland from Samoan beans, which means the beans are grown and collected right here in the Pacific. The same is true for OCHO Chocolates, who work on a bean-to-bar, fairtrade, Pacific Island supply chain, with the raw materials processed and handmade in Dunedin.
Moreover, all the products stocked here are made locally in New Zealand, except for the Bennetto carbon-neutral chocolate bars, and each company pays great attention to how and where the beans are collected, whether it is fairtrade, cooperative, local or single-origin.
And then, the chocolate factories! Here in New Zealand cities like Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson are all home to handmade or small factories that make much more than just chocolate. Friends, families, couples, have started small and ethical businesses to help make a change in this product and prove that cacao beans can be sustainable.
Choosing your chocolate: the ingredients
As in all of edible products, chocolate’s ingredients are important, as the bean doesn’t do everything. And here, the labels are numerous: a chocolate can be soy free, spray-free, organic, palm oil free, gluten free, vegan, dairy-free, with no preservatives or additives. For example, some of the Wellington Chocolate Factory bars are entirely organic, and all of their chocolates have at least one organic ingredient: sugar cane, coconut, milk (also produced here in NZ). Many are also vegan, which we’re all in for. Honest Chocolate, whose name says it all, creates bars that are gluten free, soy free, palm oil free and without artificial ingredients.
Is Chocolate Good for Me?
Let me get this straight: the processed, multi-ingredient, sugary chocolates you’ll find in most supermarkets are not good for you. Neither are they good for the environment or local impact. A lot of studies appear to have proven the beneficial effects of chocolate on health (blood pressure, brain cells, heart diseases, etc), but these numbers need to be considered with care, as they are often studies financed by stakeholders, leading to a biased interpretation of the results. A product manufactured with a lot of carbohydrates, sugar or oils will never be good for your blood vessels. But it doesn’t mean that chocolate is bad, and luckily, processed, multi-ingredients, sugary chocolates are not the ones we offer at Scarecrow! A good, hand crafted chocolate, that benefits the people who cultivate and collect the beans, has a lower impact on the planet, is done without adding heaps of ingredients and preservatives, is both a great way to support fairtrade businesses and treat yourself with a good product. Because in the end, that’s what chocolate is, a comforting and tasty treat to go along with your tea, your coffee, after a meal, as an afternoon snack… And that’s something we’re all about!
So, at Scarecrow, you’re never eating “just” a chocolate, but participating in a whole supply chain, with great attention paid to what are not ‘just details’, but are the very essence of a great product. While someone might turn to an entirely organic chocolate, another one might prefer one that is palm oil and soy free, or vegan, or both, or single-origin, or owned by cooperatives…
Finally it is up to you to chose the one that corresponds the most to what you’re looking for! Because there’s not one perfect answer, but a multitude of amazing solutions.