Last week, I was sent some information about a new ethical chocolate project that seeks to be this year's Christmas gift that keeps on giving.
The Other Bar is a joint project by the Amsterdam-based FairChain Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Now, I hear you ask, ethical chocolate producers can be found across the globe so what makes this one different? This one's a social experiment to see if big business can be influenced by their customers to become more ethically-responsible for their supply chains.
About the project
The world cocoa market is riddled with issues such as child labour and deforestation, caused in part by a slump in the value of the beans and by the control and influence of big business within the supply chain.
The Other Bar project seeks to fairly reward farmers while creating a quality product consumers love. The FairChain Foundation believes technology will play a part in rebalancing the economics in the industry, ridding it of bad practices in the process.
Ethically sourced Ecuadorian cacao from the APEOSAE farmers association was used to create the chocolate bars. Ten farmers were selected to participate in this pilot project, with a view to opening the scheme up to more farmers in the future.
Farmers were paid $0.43 per kilogram for wet cacao, against the current market price which the FairChain Foundation pegs at just $0.25 per kilo.
An initial production run of 20,000 bars were commissioned. The bars were produced and packaged in Ecuador, retaining more of the economic benefits from chocolate production in the region. So far, the brand has sold 2,350 chocolate bars (11.75%).
The bars were exported to a storage facility in The Netherlands for speedy and more economical distribution across Europe. A UK storage facility ensures fast delivery in Britain too.
Two varieties are available - 72% dark chocolate with coffee and cocoa nibs, or 50% milk chocolate.
Each 100g pack (£2.99 for milk or dark) contains two 50g bars inside a fold-out wrapper, full of information. There's also a token that you can redeem, either to help contribute to new cocoa-producing trees, or to get money-off your next order. The choice is yours, but all that matters is that you activate the token.
In the initial run of 20,000 bars, there's a potential to invest in 5,000 cocoa trees providing farmers with additional income for up to 15 years on average. In essence, The Other Bar delivers finance through tokens that help the UNDP support the APEOSAE farmers association to buy plants, help plant them, and support farmers with training. It's a transparent, technologically-driven model as there is quantifiable proof that plants have been purchased, planted, grown, and have generated money for the farmer through the associated blockchain.
A four bar pack (£11.96) - ideal as a Christmas gift or as an ethical Secret Santa gift - contains two milk and two dark 100g bars plus enough tokens to buy a cocoa tree for a farmer that will continue to produce beans for years to come.
There's also a 42 bar bundle (£251.16) which is aimed at serious chocoholics and small business owners who want to buy their staff meaningful Christmas gifts this year.
Flat rate shipping is charged on all website orders. It's £2.99 for British, Irish, German, and Dutch addresses, £7.50 for French addresses, and £10.00 for America addresses.
What happens at the end of this project?
This is a pilot project, so The Other Bar is not destined to become a long-term product or brand.
The purpose of the experiment is to provoke a change in consumer behaviour by encourage big business to change its supply chain practices. The results of this experiment will be shared publicly to identify what aspects worked and what did not, with a view to fostering long-term change within the industry.
If, however, at the end of the experiment the demand exists, the FairChain Foundation will seek a way to establish The Other Bar as a standalone brand, ensuring it uses the existing supply chain and adheres to the same values.
You can find out more about the chocolate and the FairChain Foundation on their website.
Which would you choose - a discount on your next bar of chocolate or a contribution towards a new cocoa tree? Let me know in the comments below.