Meet Two Co-ops Behind Our Chocolate

Sep 10, 2013 11:15 AM ET

Equal Exchange Blog

Since our founding in 1986, Equal Exchange has worked with small-scale farmers, because we believe small farmer co-operatives are the heart and soul of Fair Trade.  Though Equal Exchange began as a coffee company, our commitment to small farmers has remained foundational, even as our company and product lines have grown.  For over a decade, we've partnered with farmer co-ops in Latin America to bring you high quality, fairly traded chocolates.  We launched our first chocolate product in 2002, an Organic Hot Cocoa mix consisting of cocoa powder made from the beans of the CONACADO co-operative in the Dominican Republic, sugar from the Manduvira co-operative in Paraguay, and milk powder from Organic Valley, a dairy co-op here in the U.S.  

  As we've expanded into new products, we've also been able to work with new farmer partners in new countries. Our list of farmer partners now includes co-ops in the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Panama and Madagascar.  We are proud to say that we still work closely with our original partners at CONACADO and Manduvira co-ops.   Both co-ops are excellent examples of small-scale farmers working together through their co-operative to better their crops, and ultimately their livelihoods. Let’s take a closer look at these two inspiring co-ops.    CONACADO, Dominican Republic  Founded in 1988, CONACADO was formed with the help of a German NGO supporting 700 farmers searching for opportunities to earn more money for their beans.  At the time, the Dominican cacao industry was dominated by low quality, unprocessed beans mainly being sold to the U.S. for low quality, mass-produced milk chocolate.  The farmers of CONACADO organized to experiment with fermentation of the beans to see if they could develop a better flavored bean that could be sold to specialty markets.  It worked and the farmers began directly selling to clients in Europe.  The farmers gained direct access to a new market, more money for their beans, and confidence in their collaboration.  With this success the co-op continued to focus strongly on two areas: organizing farmers and specialty markets.     Click here to read more about the two co-ops behind Equal Exchange's chocolate