I recently heard about a really cool chocolate company - Wildness Chocolate. I was really impressed by the founder, Marie Monmont, when she was interviewed on Nine to Noon on Radio NZ National. Kathryn Ryan asked her what she looked for in her suppliers and she said:
I pricked my ears up, as that’s pretty much my priority order, too!
It became clear in the interview that she has a deep commitment to worker rights, both in Brazil (where she sources most of her ingredients) and here in New Zealand (where she manufactures). All the packaging is done by inmates of Rimutaka and Arohata prisons, for example, and she goes in and works alongside them. They are paid a living wage, as well as gaining skills that will hopefully improve their employability when they get out.
And I was intrigued by her offerings. All her chocolates contain cupuacu: a fruit I had never heard of that’s in the same genus as cocoa. The seeds of cupuacu are used to make butters (analogous to cocoa butter) but it’s the fruit that surrounds the seeds, rather than the seeds themselves, that are used here. My flatmate in Switzerland grew up in Bolivia and used to rave about the yummy fruit that surrounds cocoa beans. I’ve never been able to try that, but wondered if this closely related fruit might be similar. I bought some of Wildness’ plain chocolate with cupuacu and, whilst I have no idea if it tastes similar to cocoa fruit, I can confirm that it is both delicious and quite unlike anything else I’ve ever tried.
I’m still hesitant to buy cocoa products that make labour rights claims that aren’t independently certified, but I do think this is a company I can trust. I’m confident that Marie Monmont is asking the questions I care about, at least. And I think she’s more likely than most to be able to get sound answers to them, as she lived in Brazil for some years and seems to have good contacts there. So for the moment, at least, I’ll be adding Wildness to my mental list of chocolate companies I’m happy to buy from, although it won’t be added to my list of fairly traded cocoa products available in New Zealand until their claims are verified by someone external.