Kallari Rainfamily Chocolate
Recently the demand for regional seasonal organic foods has increased dramatically. This change has stemmed from the rise in consumerawareness about their global footprint created by food miles, as well as a new appreciation for the provenance of high quality of fresh produce. The Kallari Association in the Ecuadorian Amazon has demonstrated in less than two years that this revolutionary concept can apply to organic coffee and cacao as well. These products are the world’s second and third most valuable commodities (behind petroleum) and they are only produced in tropical nations. Typically, both commodities undergo the fermentation and drying processesin the home nation, and are then exported as bulk fruit and eventually processed on the other side of the globe. It is no surprise that nations producing coffee or cacao continue to be found in the lowest range of economic stability and per capita income, as the international commodity prices for these products tend to be about 1/5 to 1/50th of the value of the finished goods they are eventually sold as in retail venues.
Chocolate made from fresh beans:
Most of the world’s cacao beans spend several years in storage, transit and trade before arriving at the warehouse of a large chocolate maker. This long-term storage provides a welcome atmosphere for insects, worms, mold, and fungus all of which reduce the potency of the antioxidants and polyphenol compounds in the cacao.
Kallari cacao beans typically spend only one month between harvest and destination, and arrive having already completed the fermentation and drying processes at the nearby chocolate factory. This factory is located only half a day’s drive from the Amazon groves of the small farmer cooperative. This comparative freshness of the beans not only guarantees higher quality flavor to theconsumer, but also reduces the overall global footprint generated from the international shipping of bulk commodities.
Although large amounts of chocolate are consumed daily in developed nations, few consumers in North America or Europe have ever seen a cacao tree. This rainforest tree only produces scores of pods each year, and each pod produces about enough beans for one small bar of chocolate. A serious concern for beans exported in bulk is that most cacao is stored in areas fumigated with toxic gases. International cacao standards maintain that this process allows the beans to have a ‘shelf life’ of up to 20 years. However, the typical fumigant used is Methyl Bromide, known to be one of the most volatile gases and a leading culprit for Ozone Depletion (outlawed by the Montreal Pact, but still used for lack of an effective replacement). Even when gourmet beans from Latin America are made into dark chocolate bars from prestigious North American or European chocolate makers, the beans will have spent an average of eight months in storage and transport.
Nearly 30% of the weight of cacao is lost in the initial roasting and winnowing processes, meaning that when cacao is processed near its origination, much less energy is needed to transport the product to its final consumer. After mixing cacao beans with other tropical plant derivatives: cocoa butter, raw-turbined sugar, and vanilla, the Kallari chocolate only needs an additional 10% of packaging weight to bring it to the final destination in temperate climates. Kallari chocolate is made without the use of fumigants or long-term storage, and the reduced shipping requirements and local processing appeal to the globally-conscious, and for good reason.
Chocolate that is four times as fair as ‘Fair Trade’:
International Fair Trade prices for cacao are currently set at $1650 per metric ton. This is a paltry $150 more than the world market price. The exclusive quality of their beans enables the Kallari Association to earn up to $3410 per metric ton of cacao when exported to gourmet chocolate makers. However, by processing its own Kallari chocolate bars, the small artisans and farmers cooperative now have the opportunity to more than double their profit. This additional gain helps guarantee social programs in the region and a dignified income for individual farmers that by far eclipses the Fair Trade demands for a living wage.
Most ‘Fair Trade’ chocolate is made by large North American and European owned companies that pay a fee to a third party registration certifier. The farmers providing this supply also pay annual dues for the certification. The original goal of Fair Trade was to guarantee higher incomes for farmers, but in the case of a small cooperative like Kallari, their meager annual operating surplus would be exhausted just to pay the Fair Trade registration expenses.
Kallari’s story is a giant leap ahead of standard Fair Trade practices, as it achieves higher levels of solidarity and income for all the families involved. The world at large benefits through participation; while perhaps paying a bit more for a little taste of heaven, end consumers of Kallari chocolate play a small role in increasing the standard of living in a developing nation, and in are in return rewarded with a higher quality product.
The Future of Chocolate:
Just as organic and Fair Trade products have demonstrated incredible market growth over the past four decades, regional foods in season are a quickly growing market sector. Kallari has demonstrated the ability to process an excellent chocolate bar on par with the top North American and European chocolate makers. As we seek to expand our production levels we are establishing a unique cooperative enterprise program to guarantee the social viability of the Kichwa rainforest villages of Kallari, our 800 families, and the exceptional biodiversity found in the Napo Province.
Some consumers may be concerned that Kallari farmers may cut down rainforest to increase their production. They actually use less than 2% of the land that has been in their families for 30 years or more. The remaining 98% is made up of primary and secondary forests, as well as other subsistence crops. Also, instead of increasing the cacao percentage grown on each farm Kallari prefers to increase their cacao harvest by reaching out to neighboring communities and involving more farmers. We join forces with more rainforest villages by purchasing their cacao at more than double the local price, we then ferment and dry their beans to an above-average export standard, while offering additional educational, health and savings benefits to their families.
International chocolate connoisseurs recognize the quality of our chocolate immediately and often prefer it to famous century-old European chocolatiers. Our vision goes a step beyond taste- we foresee that once foreign consumers are educated about the social, environmental, and economic superiority of Kallari Rainfamily Chocolate other cooperatives will follow in our footsteps. We plan to start a movement among farmer cooperatives in Latin America that will eventually reverse the perception that the world’s finest chocolate is made in Europe.