Founded in 1991 by Craig Sams and Jo Fairley, organic chocolate company Green & Black's has long played a pivotal part in the story of Fairtrade chocolate. While holidaying in Belize, Craig and Jo learnt that a group of local cocoa farmers had planted cocoa trees to grow cocoa for a large chocolate company, but the company had withdrawn from Belize, leaving the farmers with cocoa beans but no buyer. Craig and Jo stepped in to buy the cocoa beans from the farmers at a fair price, using this to make their chocolate. Such was their commitment to ensuring fair treatment for the cocoa farmers in Belize, that Fairtrade approached them and in 1994 Green & Black’s’ Maya Gold bar became the first Fairtrade-certified chocolate product in the UK.
For Green & Black’s’ new Taste Specialist, Brandt Maybury, this commitment to Fairtrade is very inspiring; “researching Fairtrade made me fall in love with the brand even more.” Brandt feels that buying Fairtrade is becoming increasingly “mainstream”, helped by increased “availability” of Fairtrade products and “prices for Fairtrade products coming down”. Thanks to social media, he points out, “we are able to share the stories, tell people that when you pay that little bit extra for the chocolate you buy, this is how you’re contributing towards people in those communities.”
Brandt’s role within the company is a creative one. “The title Taste Specialist makes it sound as if I sit around and eat chocolate all day,” he laughs, “my main role is to create new flavours for Green & Black’s. A big part of my role is keeping on top of trends not just in chocolate, but in food in general. It’s not always as easy to predict as you would like. It’s also important not to get too caught up in them; some trends go very quickly. We don’t want to have any flash-in-the pan products.” The company’s range of flavours now stands at 19, with two citrus ones being the latest additions. “My first new bars were the blood orange and lemon bars,” says Brandt. “They’re very different from each other. With one you get the subtle blood orange in the background, with the lemon you get a big citrus hit straight away.”
The standard of the Fairtrade cocoa used in Green & Black’s chocolate is central to the quality of what the company does in Brandt’s opinion. “What makes us so special is we use Trinitario beans, which are quite rare. They’re the cocoa beans which have that complexity of flavour. Using Trinitario means that we’re able to provide quality chocolate. We’ve been working with the these farmers for so long that we’ve grown together, made the processes as efficient as possible which means that we’re able to produce quality chocolate, which is ethical and organic, at a price which is competitive on the supermarket shelf.”
When it comes to sourcing new ingredients, Brandt points out, everything has to organic as well as Fairtrade, adding an “extra challenge”, but the “good supply” of high-quality cocoa from Green & Black’s’ cocoa farmers in the Dominica Republic and Belize is a great advantage. “It’s one of our strengths that we can ensure the quality of chocolate we do. We use different strengths of cocoa and there are so many things we can add to the chocolate. Some things work better in milk, some things in dark – when making a new bar it’s important working out what strength of chocolate to use, making sure all the flavours harmonise.”
When it comes to the Fairtrade element of Green & Black’s, Brandt asks “why can’t all chocolate be Fairtrade? What we’re doing in not allowing developing countries to be exploited should become the standard.”