Dr. Bronner's Will Launch Organic, Fair-Trade Chocolate Bars This Summer

The legendary soapmaker is setting a high standard for ethical chocolate-making.

Dr Bronner's Magic All-One Chocolates
The new Magic All-One Chocolates comes in six flavors.

Dr Bronner's

Dr. Bronner's may be best known for its all-natural soaps, but now the company is hoping to make a name for itself in chocolate. Starting this summer, you will be able to buy bars of 70% dark chocolate made from regenerative organic cocoa beans and lower-glycemic coconut sugar. 

This new vegan Magic All-One Chocolate is meant to show that chocolate can be a transformative product that "uplifts both body and soul, as well as mitigates climate change and supports small-scale farmers globally." It wants to be a solution to an industry fraught with both historic and ongoing exploitation and poverty.

Dana Geffner, executive director of Fair World Project, spoke at a virtual press conference hosted by Dr. Bronner's in honor of the chocolate launch. She explained that cocoa, along with sugar, cotton, and coffee, brought about the trans-Atlantic slave trade and that all the inequities that go along with it remain rooted in the development of the modern-day cocoa industry. 

"The traditional [cocoa] business model has never really divorced itself from those economics," Geffner said, which is why Dr. Bronner's effort to create a whole new supply chain is "a bold move."

Geffner went on to explain that 70% of the world's cocoa comes from West Africa—namely, the two nations of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana—and 90% is from small-scale farmers, who farm less than 12 acres. Only 20% is certified by a so-called ethical certification, such as Fairtrade or an environmental designation. Very little (0.05%) is organic, with most of that coming from Latin America.

Cocoa is a highly consolidated industry, with few companies exerting huge amounts of control over farmers and different brands. Hershey, for example, owns 44% of the US cocoa market, including many of the chocolates you see for sale in natural food stores. Even fewer companies control the processing of cocoa beans into bars. 

This, Geffner said, makes it difficult to effect real change: "Grassroots organization is tough. Even a locally made artisanal bar likely gets its cocoa comes from a mega-trader." This unfortunate situation gives tremendous political clout to big corporations, rather than local government, which then limits the government's ability to control and protect its own people and land. Systemic change is desperately needed, and Dr. Bronner's wants to do its part to bring that about.

Its new organic, fair-trade cocoa comes from Ghana, and its development is something that Gero Leson, VP of special operations for the company and author of "Honor Thy Label," described as serendipitous. While developing an organic, fair-trade palm oil supply, the company had to contend with pesticide drift from neighboring cocoa farms. Pesticides are used abundantly and are provided for free by the Ghanaian government. 

This led to an additional project to convince nearby farmers to convert their cocoa plantations to better and cleaner forms of production using dynamic agroforestry techniques. These efforts resulted in improved yields, more crop diversity, fewer pests, and greater carbon sequestration.

Eventually, Dr. Bronner's bought 750 acres of land just to experiment and to demonstrate its principles of regenerative agriculture. With the support of German organic food producer Rapunzel, it soon had a market for cocoa butter and realized it might be a good opportunity to develop its own line of chocolates. As Leson concluded, "Cocoa is just one way of showing that you can actually produce fair and regenerative raw materials, plus make great products."

The coconut sugar used in the bars comes from a reputable female social enterprise in Indonesia "that's committed to providing the highest quality coconut sugar to the world." Lastiana Yuliandari, founder of Aliet Green Indonesia, joined the virtual press conference to describe the physical challenges involved with tapping coconuts 65 feet up in the air and then boiling sap for hours to turn it into granulated sugar. It's a tough job, but Green makes it better by paying fair wages, offering education and training, and hiring a majority of female workers, including some with disabilities. 

Dr. Bronner's stands out because it treats its suppliers as equal partners in a relationship: It's not just about fair trade or charity, which makes it attractive to farmers. Safianu Moro, managing director of Serendipalm, oversees both palm oil and cocoa bean production. He explained that people enjoy working with Dr. Bronner's because the compensation is superior to other employers, the conditions are safe, and it offers a dynamic, engaging workspace with a mix of local and international staff. 

This background information makes the Magic All-One chocolate bars taste more delicious than ever. It's satisfying and empowering to know that they break with tradition and offer cocoa farmers the dignity, respect, and justice that they've been denied for so many centuries. By joining the ranks of just a few other chocolate-makers that control their own supply chains—Alter Eco, Equal Exchange, and Theo Chocolates—Dr. Bronner's is challenging the status quo and proving, yet again, that it always pays off to do things right. 

You'll be able to find Magic All-One Chocolate in six flavors—Salted Dark, Roasted Whole Hazelnuts, Crunchy Hazelnut Butter, Salted Whole Almonds, Salted Almond Butter, Smooth Coconut Praline—in grocery stores across the US starting August 1, and online by fall.