Vinte Vinte Blogs

The bitter side of industrial chocolate

By the 19th century, Ecuador, Brazil and São Tomé and Príncipe were the leading exporters, and the growing interest in the African Colonies would prove that they would play a leading role in the next century, with Ghana and Ivory Coast as major producers.

Today, Europe is the leader of chocolate consumption while Ghana and Ivory Coast comprise 70% of cacao’s world production. For these African countries, this accounts for 3,5% and 15% of their GDP’s, respectively.

The chocolate industry is one of the wealthier industries in the world: it is estimated that their global market size value was 117 bilious EUR, just in 2022. But in this profitable industry, the splitting of profits is anything but fair. The Ivorian farmer will earn less than 1€ a day, a price set every year, by the government. This price, called the farm gate price, is designed to ensure a living wage for farmers and is calculated as a percentage of the London market price.

In 2022, it was set at 900 CFA francs, equivalent to 1,37€ per kilogram. But each cacao tree only produces between 1 to 2 kg per year (on optimal conditions), and on average, a farmer plants about 1-3 hectares of land, between 800 to 1000 trees.  Meaning that an average cacao farmer in Ivory Coast will earn 1.096 euros per year, an amount far below living wages, which is 205,91€ a month. Poverty drives the cacao farmers into desperate measures. In the beginning of the new century, many journalists and organizations have exposed the widespread of children trafficking to work on cacao farms, a modern form of slavery.

Western governments threatened boycotts, but the chocolate lobby convinced the regulators that the industry could fix the child labour issue by 2005. The deadline was not met, and more than two decades later, it is estimated that 1.56 million children work on cacao farms.

African-based initiatives are leading their own efforts to make ethically-sourced chocolate, but much more needs to be done. The chain has to break from the traditional colony mould and the consumer must be conscious of what they buy.

There are noticeable social and economic differences between origin and destination: the cacao farms, often in remote places that lack drinking water and electricity and the metropolis, with its fast-passed way of living, where chocolate is a treat.

The unbalance of profits in this industry plays a huge part in much of the issues encountered. To avert poverty, the farmer must increase his harvest and income and often times to do so he cuts down remaining forests, including in protected areas. Since in virgin soil, a farmer only has to wait around 2 to 3 years to start harvesting. Deforestation, on the other hand, leads to the destruction of biodiversity and soil health.

From the supply chain, the cacao trader is the richest of the middleman. These companies purchase cacao beans from the producing countries, at a very cheap price, and transform them into cocoa products such as cocoa butter, cocoa liquor and cocoa powder and deliver them to manufactures around the world – be it for food manufacturing or cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Industrial chocolate makers have little to no knowledge about the beans used to make chocolate:

big confectionery companies buy their beans in bulk, without knowing precisely where it comes from or its history, meaning that to ensure that the cacao is free of disease and/or impurities it needs to be roasted at high temperatures, so the chocolate itself will taste bitter if sugar and other chemicals are not added to balance the flavour. Sometimes they acquire their chocolate in the form of a pre-prepared ‘cocoa-mass’ or paste and then from that they would make their chocolate bars. So, in itself, industrial chocolate is very similar from brand to brand: sweet and with a long list of ingredients.

Slowly, chocolate acquired new connotations and became the representative of cosmopolitan life: the ideal gift for all occasions, the snack for stressful moments, the apology or declaration of love. Its low cost, and the fact that it is a mass product, make it one of the richest industries in the world. So far, about 4.4 million tonnes of chocolate have been sold worldwide and it is estimated to grow by 5.8% annually until 2028. Until then, we can easily calculate the profits. What will be impossible to predict is how much longer farmers have to wait before it to be fairly distributed.

The final price for each bar must be the appreciation of the work of everyone involved in its making: from farmers to chocolate masters.  Right now, it is simply not.

Craft chocolate is the antithesis of this problem. Made with quality cacao beans, and sourced from plantations with strict pre-harvest and post-harvest protocols (fermentation, drying, storage), craft chocolate is synonymous of fine, high-quality and nutritious chocolate. By being made with fine flavoured cacao, craft chocolate raises two important issues: the quality of the cocoa and the fair price the farmer receives for the harvest, since those who make craft chocolate prioritise buying cacao at above-market prices because they value ethics and fairness, and the quality of the raw material.

It is of utmost importance to educate the consumer about the importance of craft chocolate.

Only in this way can we achieve the valorisation of fine flavoured cacao and the respect that its farmers deserve and few have.

Experience Vinte Vinte

Vinte Vinte Tasting Workshop

In this chocolate tasting workshop, participants will have the opportunity to learn about the origins of craft chocolate, how it is made and, above all, explore its different flavours and aromas. What is terroir and how does it influence the flavour of chocolate? What distinguishes a fine flavoured chocolate from an industrial chocolate?  These and many other questions are addressed in an unpretentious and entertaining way in the workshop. Join our Chocolate Educators for an incredible tasting.


Craft Chocolate –

This dark milk chocolate with 45% cocoa selected from Venezuela, has a complex profile with notes of hazelnut, honey and cocoa. It is perfect for those who want to start transitioning to darker chocolates or even for those looking for a less bitter dark chocolate.

Carenero Superior is an excellent cocoa from the Barlovento region. It is obtained from small producers, who ferment and dry their own beans. It is a very particular cocoa because it is intensely fermented, giving rise to exceptional flavours and aromas.

The name Carenero Superior comes from the Port of Carenero in the State of Sucre, from where it is exported. The adjective ‘Superior’ refers to the excellent quality of the beans.