A World's First - 100% Fair Trade, Organic Chocolate Factory Opens in Christchurch, NZ

Life in Christchurch, Zew Zealand, is to become a whole lot sweeter with the opening of Trade Aid’s new chocolate factory in August.

They will be the world's first Fair Trade Organisation to manufacture 100% Fair Trade organic chocolate.

Operating from a newly fitted out commercial factory in Christchurch, Trade Aid, will offer a range of chocolate bars, Easter Eggs and, further down the pipeline, filled chocolates. 

“Trade Aid will be the first Fair Trade Organisation actually making Fair Trade chocolate,” says Trade Aid CEO Geoff White. 

It is a growing world. According to Euromonitor International, global organic chocolate sales increased in value from US$171 million in 2002 to US$304 million in 2005.

Growing consumer interest in Fair Trade chocolate is also prompting the big names in the global chocolate industry to increase their Fair Trade product ranges. Last year sales of Fair Trade chocolate in the UK rose by 52 percent.

But the vast majority of even Fair Trade chocolate products are made in factories in Europe. 

Countries that grow and export cocoa beans tend to be held at the low-value end of the global supply chain. The more lucrative processing stages – the roasting, the separation of the liquor into cocoa butter and dried cake (ground into cocoa powder) then the mixing of the liquor with the butter to give a smooth, chocolatey consistency – are done by large chocolate manufacturers in the West.

“Trade Aid will be the first Fair Trade Organisation actually making Fair Trade chocolate,” says Trade Aid CEO Geoff White.

Trade Aid dark and milk chocolate, however, will be made from cocoa beans grown, harvested, dried and processed into cocoa butter and liquor by the CONACADO cocoa co-operative in the Dominican Republic and sugar from Cooperativa Manduvirá, a farmer-owned co-operative in southern Paraguay. 

Both, says Trade Aid’s Ewan Cameron, who developed the current range of Trade Aid chocolate, are of the highest quality.

“The cocoa liquor made by CONACADO is made to a really high standard – otherwise we wouldn’t be interested.”

The sugar, organic golden turbinado sugar from Paraguay, has more nutrients, he says, “and a lot more flavour than bleached white sugar.”

And in bypassing the large-scale commercial processors and buying directly from the growers Trade Aid is able to return a higher proportion of the final sales value to the farmers, further enabling them to increase production and provide more jobs.

“Just in importing liquor and butter gives cocoa and sugar farmers a 30% growth in the value of their exports,” says White. 

“And it gives us a much more direct relationship with the growers.”

It will also allow Trade Aid to respond to the changing tastes of the market. While consumers still get their chocolate kick from milk and white chocolate, there is, says Cameron, a growing partiality for darker, less-sugary varieties. The first flavours produced by the factory will be salt and toffee, mint crisp, almond (using almonds from Palestine), Sri Lanka spice (uses spices from that country) and 70% dark. 

It will not stop there. The German-made plant, bought in Sydney was transported to New Zealand in four 40-foot containers. The factory has the capability to make every kind of chocolate product you can imagine, and around 10 million of them annually. The first product, 100g organic chocolate bars, will be hitting shelves in September. 

It is also planning to increase suppliers to include cocoa and muscovado sugar from northern Peru, cocoa butter from Ecuador and coconut sugar – “Tastes like Russian fudge,” says Cameron – from the Philippines.

All the products will be wrapped on site in biodegradable packaging with graphics featuring the country of origin of the main flavours.

“This is high quality chocolate, made with really good machinery,” says Cameron. “But we also want people to think more about where their food comes from.”