EcuadorSocial entrepreneurship

World’s best chocolate – A social business in Ecuador

Why you should forget about fair trade chocolate

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 25 seconds.

I belong to the crowd, people that go to supermarkets to buy fair trade and organic food thinking that this will have positive and measurable impact in the world. You can buy fair trade chocolate at a supermarket in Germany for about $1.5 so if I ask you do you think that chocolate has a a positive impact on the local community where cocoa is grown, what will you reply? How naive are we thinking that such a dumping price can change the life of local farmers? The only thing that a fair trade certificate for chocolate does is to make us feel good. That is it. So if that is your purpose to feel good you have read enough of that article. If you actually want to change something keep on reading.

“95% of the world cocoa production is coming basically from slavery, from people making $20 a month for their whole family.”

The farmer is the first to suffer

In the recent months a new debate about monopolies emerged in Europe in the aftermath of the canceled merger between the Alstrom and the Siemens train business. Do monopolies help us against growing Chinese influence (Wow the Huawei debate is the most emotional debate I’ve heard in years)? Or are monopolies the cause of devastating conditions under which producers in this case farmers all over the world suffer. Let’s have a deeper look at the chocolate industry in the world. 60% of the world chocolate market is in the hands of 6 companies. The established market players keep the global cocoa market price as low as possible to increase margins. The market pressure already led to irrational pricing that the production price for chocolate was higher than the actual market price. That development hit farmers first. They don’t receive the income they deserve.

The Pacari founders and myself in the Pacari office in Quito, Ecuador.

Willing to change the status quo

In 2002 Santiago together with his now wife Carla started to challenge our mindset by collaborating with farmers on organic food production. 5 years afterward they established the brand Pacari to market Ecuadorian chocolate all over the world. To me surprisingly, Ecuador is the country with the longest history of chocolate dating back more than 5000 years (I didn’t believe it at first but google it yourself). So Pacari’s mission is also to bring back the pride of that heritage. They established Pacari to create value in Ecuador and not in Europe or the United States of America where the 6 leading chocolate companies in the world have the majority of their chocolate value chain set up. Santiago mentioned: “To really create value in Ecuador, we had to establish a brand ourselves and produce our own chocolate beyond just exporting cocoa.”

A brand that changes everything

When Santiago produced the first handmade chocolate people wouldn’t take him seriously. On one of the trade fairs, a guy approached him. He said, “You know your price is ridiculous you charge double the price. You’re a cheater, a liar.” Santiago just responded, “Do you like it?” He said “Yea, but it is so expensive.” Santiago replied: “This is the price of quality.” The guy ended up buying 100kg of Pacari chocolate.

I feel the whole team of more than 60 people at Pacari is giving pride back. They give it to the country, to the farmers, and to the people of Ecuador. The impact of Pacari’s success is huge. Not only have the Pacari farmers a better life and are able to plan with their income but also other factors change such as the enablement of women or the re-establishment of the countryside as a real potential for young people. Farmers starting to be proud again of their product. Santi mentioned that a lot of farmers reach out to him asking whether Pacari again won the world chocolate awards. That is the spark for quality. Women take upon responsibility especially in the urban area of Quito where they drive the family business. Family offspring are looking with pride to what the parents do and see real opportunity in the countryside as farmers. A tremendous change of attitude compared to the maelstrom that drives the rural population to the big cities such as Quito and Guayaquil where living conditions are extremely harsh.

Pacari is a chocolate that goes beyond anything I have seen before.

“We need to be stubborn”

Pacari started as a bold idea with a vision in mind and the attitude that everything is possible. In the beginning, the team was more a laughing stock than anything else. “People wouldn’t believe in our idea in the beginning”, Santi remembers. Also with increasing market share and the building up of a bigger team most people where still defensive about Pacari. However, everything changed when Pacari won the world chocolate awards 10 years after they began working on their dream.

With the media attention, Pacari established itself as an Ecuadorian brand and a worldwide example of successful social business. Even today the chocolate is made by hands. The founding team is proud of their achievements but the journey has just begun. Thinking about our earth Santiago reflects, ” I wonder sometimes, why didn’t we do these things a hundred years ago.” It is actually a good point and a thought we all should have. Why do we need radical climate change and increasing inequality all over the world to realize that the way we do business is flawed? However, it is the people that decide what product they buy. We are in charge.

Quality is priceless

Santi also explained to me the challenge expanding to countries such as Germany where the quality of food is not highly appreciated and a lot of the market is completely based on price. The culture is not a culture that appreciates eating together and taking time but the pure function to eat to keep going. His thoughts are also brain food for the people that live in countries where fast food is the status quo and our pace does not allow us to enjoy what we eat. Do you take time eating appreciating how it tastes? There is more to Pacari than its social mission. It is the taste. Seriously incredible flavors. The chocolate is that good that you can easily distinguish the cocoa flavours from their famous regional chocolate bars where only cocoa from one region (e.g. Esmeraldas) is utilized

Recently, I sent my sister a pakage of Pacari chocolate because she is about to finish her masters. If you also want to send your loved ones something precious check out Pacari online. It can still be somehow tricky to locate sellers depending on your location.

Send someone a little bit of love as well <3

8th April Munich, Germany

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