Chocolove Blog

  • From Imagining to Action: Traceability, Sustainability, and Responsibility in the Cocoa Industry

    Several years ago, I was a visitor to MoMA. As I entered one particular room I saw a note on the floor and thought, “Hmm litter, I will pick that up”. While I knelt down to pick up the note, I saw a museum guard several feet away and asked, “Is this part of an art installation?” He smirked as he replied, “That was placed there by Yoko Ono.” I was impressed by the import and message of a small piece of paper others might not even notice.

    In the lobby of our chocolate factory is a small note on the wall that I placed there. It reads: "Chocolove’s goal is to make and sell the best tasting chocolate in a way that makes customers and everyone involved, happy."

    These are examples of two small notes that each mean a lot to the person who wrote and placed them. Both notes were written with much larger hopes and dreams.

    My note was first written in many words and rewritten over time and made concise. The longer version expounded on what each part meant. The part about “everyone involved“ does indeed include everyone in our supply chain, from farmers, exporters, chocolate makers, and our factory workers; all the people.

    Many years ago, I was invited to speak at a World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) meeting. At that time a civil war in Ivory Coast, with some border conflicts, had just ended in a fragile peace. For my speech, I quoted and adapted lyrics from John Lennon’s “Imagine”. I shared with the audience that daily I take time to imagine all the people in the cocoa industry. In order to be compelling, I took a bit of license with the lyrics of “Imagine” and asked the audience on that day to, “Imagine all the children, going to school today, imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, living life in peace”.

    Obviously it takes more than imagining; it takes persistent hard work, and it is hard to do. On the heels of my talk to the WCF, I outlined my vision with my chocolate supplier in Belgium. And Chocolove embarked upon a process of doing our part by buying fully traceable cocoa; traceable in every step in the supply chain back to the farmer. It would take two years of persistent work to get it set up, to get a seal on the back of our package; it was hard to do. A key to the success of fully traceable supply to the farmer was Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, who had gone before me and were well established in-country.

    In the words of the Rainforest Alliance, “The advancement of basic human rights is intrinsic to sustainable land management and forest conservation ... The earliest sustainability certification standards we helped develop included provisions to guard against child labor and forced labor—and to protect the land rights of indigenous people”.

    Today it is easier than it was in 2011 to imagine all the people, and yet the work is still hard to do. I hope today you’ll join us and work to help the world live as one.

  • What is Valentine’s Day?

    I like Valentine’s Day because it is a holiday about love and a day when everyone can express their love. In some relationships it is expected (or hoped) that you would express yourself. Of course, most of us wish the other in our lives would take more than one day a year to express or be receptive to a celebration of love; no need to limit it to just one day. But it is great to have a day to remind us.

    I am reminded of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” at this time. His composition and delivery are so clear and enjoyable on the level of a song that we might miss the actual message. I have read that he was a prolific writer. When you look at the song's lyrics from a writer’s perspective and see things from his time and place, the message reads more like a Valentine: what he is really saying is ‘I love you’. The poetic grace of the message of “What a Wonderful World” is fitting for Valentine’s Day: a sort of universal or higher love. Music was his delivery of his wish for more happier people and he succeeded.

    This time of year I also spend more time pondering, calculating, and imagining the number of people that are happier each day through Chocolove. I see people sharing Chocolove, and as they do, what they are really saying is, ‘I love you’.

    Happy Valentine’s Day.

  • Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

    I missed writing about Thanksgiving this year as I got busy with feeding folks and family and I just couldn’t get everything done. But I have not missed writing about Tuesday, December 4th: Colorado Cares Day. And apparently the same day every year—the first Tuesday in December—is a day of giving for many in the United States. I can and do make it a point to give.

    By giving I am referring to charitable giving. One of my favorite organizations is The Morgan Adams Foundation (MAF). MAF does research and clinical trials on novel ways to treat cancer in kids. I have personally visited the various Morgan Adams facilities in and around the Children’s Hospital in Denver. I feel obligated to get to know who I am giving to. After a visit 2 years ago, I wrote a nice-sized check and immediately asked what more can we do. I also asked MAF for reports of all upcoming research projects that needed funding.

    I decided to adopt and fund some research MAF was doing with gold nanoparticle drug therapy. This therapy uses gold nanoparticles to deliver chemotherapy in a targeted way to cancer cells, thus improving effectiveness and reducing side effects so that not only does the child survive but they have enough vitality to thrive and live a normal life.

    Chocolove’s effort at giving is 100%, so again this year we offer a gift box of 12 decadent dark chocolates filled with liquid caramel and dusted with real gold flakes. The 23-karat gold dust is real and so is the chocolate/liquid caramel experience. Chocolove will donate 100% of the proceeds for this item to The Morgan Adams Foundation.

    This is a true labor of love and it's wonderful to watch everyone here pull out all stops to see these are created. I feel fortunate to be a part of the effort and I am happy to say that we make giving easy for you. Please order up our Gold Dusted Caramel Filled Gift Box for your further gifting and get one or two for yourself while you are at it.

    Chocolove: it is the gift that keeps giving.

    (Shop online now).

  • Chocolove and Keto Approach to Eating

    Chocolove has always made high-cocoa content chocolates. We were the first brand in the US to label cocoa content on the front of the bar, which we started back in 1995. We are also a leader in strong chocolates, making 65%, 70%, 77% and 88% cocoa contents.

    These higher cocoa contents of Chocolove products might be a great part of any well-thought-out approach to eating and even a true Ketogenic diet. A person on a true Keto diet compares fat to carbs as a percentage of the overall food, with a goal of perhaps a 4 to 1 ratio of fat to carbs. This approach measures total intake of everything eaten, not each food by itself.

    In the Chocolove chocolate bars we look at here, there are no added carbs other than added sugar. Any chocolate can be part of the Keto diet, but the question becomes, how much chocolate can be eaten in relation to other foods consumed during that meal or day?

    For ease of calculation, the inverse of the cocoa content can be used as the sugar content. Thus an Extreme Dark bar with 88% cocoa content has roughly 12% added sugar. The fat portion is less obvious to calculate so here are a pair of simple tables to use. These numbers are based on a 90g bar.

    Whether you prefer to consider the ratio of fat to sugar or fat to carbs in your decision making, our Extreme Dark with 88% cocoa content delivers on that ratio in classic chocolate taste.

    How chocolate supports a diet is one thing, but the essence of chocolate is enjoying and feeling better. A person has the best of both worlds if they can get great taste and support for their feeling of well-being and at the same time get to eat Chocolove chocolate.

  • Non-GMO and a Better Chocolove

    A few years ago our esteemed supply chain partner, Whole Foods Market, made a requirement that all products sold in their stores be non-GMO certified by the Fall of 2018. At first our reaction was, "Wow, that’s a lot of work" and we set upon the long task with perseverance.

    Early on we realized that a core aspect of non-GMO certification was obtaining a paper trail from the original farm and through each supply chain step for every ingredient. To me, knowing all the links in the supply chain gave us safer ingredients and safer foods.

    One can debate at what point in nature humans should not intervene in the manipulation of plant genetics. We can debate what practices we know for certain have no negative side effects on that family of plants, the food supply, and the planet. Just how many factors of this new plant should we check and how many years are enough to know it is safe?

    Pests, weeds, and disease point to other matters that a farmer should attend to, such as health of soil or over-manipulated hybrids. These have more immediate and sustainable fixes in seed selection and farming practices. These are my views as a person working in food for 40 years and a person who grew up in farming country.

    I am not a fan of the "non-GMO" phrase. Could we have something more positive? Perhaps someday we will. I am not a fan of this and that certification badge on packaging, but that is the phase we are in as makers of food and consumers. I look forward to moving on to the next phase.

    In the last few years many other fields of food safety have advanced. FDA regulations have become more rigorous, and independent food plant certification requirements are yet more detailed. These have all combined with supply chain documentation to make one high standard for food manufacturing. Ultimately, I see knowing who grew and handled every ingredient in every product as raising the integrity, reliability, and quality of food; making for a better Chocolove for you.

  • Chocolove's 41 Flavors

    Has your favorite Chocolove flavor gone missing from store shelves? As retail store chains change hands and shelves are reset, it may be less than clear why your favorite flavor is no longer offered by your store. Rest assured, Chocolove still makes 41 flavors and we are happy to help find a store near you that sells them. You may use our "Find A Store" feature to locate a store, or contact Chocolove's Customer Service with your quest to find your flavor.

    Even if your local store does not sell a particular flavor, sometimes if you ask, they can place a special order for you.

    As a kid I would frequent an ice cream shop that made 31 flavors. And it was this time of year when we were able to get an ice cream cone almost weekly. The store allowed us a taste before be bought, a service which I enjoyed to the point of being told I could have 3 tastes and then I needed to make a decision. I was amazed at the variety of flavors. Being part of a family of seven, it was fascinating to me to see what tastes others made and what they decided to buy.

    While at some point in the future we may discontinue flavors when we add some new ones, for now we are echoing the words of Irv Robbins, “Not everyone likes all our flavors, but each flavor is someone’s favorite”.

  • Happy Father's Day

    While I may have learned to cook from my mother, it was from my father that I learned about scaling up my cooking. Frequently, my father would take me with him when he worked, which often translated into me working long hours with low pay and often for peanuts, literally.

    However, some of our endeavors were more classic in nature, such as a lemonade stand. His father had owned a small soft-drink company in the late 1930s and my father was a chemist by training, so it was no surprise that my father knew how to make great lemonade. I can recall going to the SunMart grocery store and watching my father negotiate with the Produce Manager to buy lugs of lemons. We would then clear the shelf of bags of sugar, empty the Dixie Cup shelf, and finally make a major dent in the bagged ice freezer. I was puzzled by the quantity that we were buying, but proud to push one heavy grocery cart, which got lots of comments and smiles.

    My father's scale of doing a lemonade stand had me wide-eyed and wondering why we were buying so much stuff. True to both of our dynamics, he put me to work in the sun and assured me I would sell more if he were out of the picture, watching from a distance in the shade. I set up my stand of homemade fresh-squeezed lemonade on the edge of our property, which happened to be the edge of the golf course next to the Number 4 tee. I not only learned the fine art of balancing sweet with sour and water with ice, but I learned customer service first hand. I sold so many cups of lemonade that we ran out of lemons, sugar, and ice by mid-afternoon. No sooner had I gained appreciation for his vision of a successful lemonade stand, than we were off to the store with cash in hand to resupply for the next day.

    While setting up an enterprise may not be in the cards this Father’s Day, perhaps a glass of lemonade paired with a Chocolove Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate bar will be.

    Happy Father’s Day.

  • Chocolove Now Rainforest Alliance Certified

    Chocolove is changing to a new social responsibility certification. Our products are now carrying the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal – the iconic “green frog” – to demonstrate we are sourcing from farms that produce cocoa "grown in ways that benefit farm families, wildlife and the environment." It may be news to some, but Chocolove has for many years sourced the cocoa beans that go into our chocolate from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

    In 2017, Europe saw consolidation of labor and land certification schemes. Our previous social responsibility certifier, IMO (Fair For Life), based in Zurich, was acquired by a larger European firm called Ecocert, which decided to no longer accept Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa beans under the Fair For Life program. Simultaneously, the Rainforest Alliance merged with the Netherlands-based firm UTZ, with the aim to increase scale and impact and streamline farm certification.

    The Rainforest Alliance had set up and trained many farmer coops on labor and land practices for the farmer cooperatives from which we source. Our Belgian chocolate supplier had further trained the same farmer cooperatives on quality and had agreed to long-term contracts to purchase cocoa beans from them for 1 to 2 years into the future. So when we were faced with making the decision between certification programs, we chose to stay with and support the farmers who have opted into responsible labor and land practices and have improved their operations and quality under the Rainforest Alliance program. These farmers trusted us with their future and we will continue to stick with them.

    In short, Chocolove continues to value our social, sustainable, and ethical principles. The premium quality of our chocolate is the same, the cocoa farmers who we source from are the same, and the certification program on the farms is the same. The Rainforest Alliance has in fact raised the bar for their farm certification over the years and now, together with UTZ , we again find our best fit.

    Look for the Rainforest Alliance Certified green frog seal on Chocolove packaging beginning in May 2018.

  • Happy Easter 2018

    When faced with a chocolate bunny, after admiring its sheen and calculating that it is not likely to look or taste so great a week from now, ya bite the ears off.

    We are making chocolate bunnies in the factory today just for fun and for employees. I had to take a taste as it is my main job: the keeper of the taste. I must admit to a certain child-like demeanor that overcomes me and a giggly like feeling as I approach the bunny. And when those ears snap and that chocolate is in my mouth I am taken back to my childhood.

    When I was boy, we celebrated Easter and everyone had a basket filled with various candies and of course the pièce de résistance was the large chocolate bunny. Picture the seven Easter baskets on the dining room table Easter morning. They were not there the night before so it was quite a sight. Of course we kids were up at the crack of dawn, but could only eat a couple jelly beans before church and the bunny had to wait.

    One year my older brother, who would often get started first, commented that his bunny tasted bitter. And like some extended version of the Life cereal “Mikey Likes It” commercial mixed with "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," we five kids circled the table and variously tasted our bunnies and watched each other as we did. And yes, they were all bitter and not the usual milk chocolate.

    We discussed the pros and cons of asking my mom about this. My mom informed us that it was, in fact, dark chocolate. She commented that she liked dark chocolate and if we ate it we would acquire a taste for it. Hmm... I thought to myself. I guess I could eat it because an acquired taste sounded like a good thing to have.

    My brothers and sisters were locked in solidarity and disdain for the dark and so, one by one, I traded away my marshmallow bunnies, my jelly beans, and my small chocolates to amass a basket full of dark chocolate bunnies—albeit with some bite marks. My mother did not see the trading floor but had some comment on all the bunnies in my basket at the end of the day. I recall thinking that if I ate enough I would acquire a taste. I ate so much chocolate that I experienced a mild euphoria and a sense of well being.

    Many years later when I started Chocolove, I reflected on the formative chocolate moments in my life and eating an entire dark chocolate bunny and feeling good afterwards was certainly one.

    Easter is Sunday, April 1st and even though Chocolove does not sell chocolate bunnies, we do make a large assortment of chocolate bars in a variety of Easter-like colors. I think an assortment of Chocolove mini bars make a great addition to an Easter basket.

    Happy Easter from Chocolove.

  • Go Ahead, Schoggi

    Schoggi: it’s a cuter word in Swiss for "chocolate".

    According to the Urban Dictionary, chocolate is love and makes everything in life better. Now, I must admit taking the Urban Dictionary’s word for something that happens to help support my view feels like a bit of a win-by-referee, but today I will take it.

    A Swiss man gave me schoggi in 1984; a gift across time and space that had a butterfly effect on my life. This time of year I reflect upon all of this coming together with me—as an Iowa farm boy—to deliver up millions of happier people on Valentine’s Day years later.

    "What?" you say. Yes, schoggi, the culture of chocolate in Switzerland and a gift in thanks for a helpful deed, is an influence on Chocolove. When I received schoggi I felt the thanks intrinsically and I must admit it was the best chocolate I had eaten up until that time. While the taste of great chocolate is understandable, the concept of a good feeling from schoggi becomes obvious to many in the US one day of the year: Valentine’s Day.

    The gift of chocolate in the US on Valentine’s Day is an overture and an expression of love. So on the window of love this Valentine's Day—the day when such overtures are understood or expected and perhaps requited—if you are feeling it, go ahead, schoggi. Give the gift of Chocolove, it could lead to great things.

    Happy Valentine’s Day.

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