Today’s Consumers Crave Ethical Chocolate
Socially conscious consumers make up a large part of the consumer market and are driving the demand for fair trade chocolate.
As ever-increasing global consciousness continues to affect consumer behavior, the demand for fair trade products is continually on the rise. This has had a profound effect on the cocoa trade, which has long been plagued by foundational issues that make fair trade difficult.
The cocoa trade has particular problems.
As many know, cocoa seeds are the base ingredient in chocolate, and cocoa trees only thrive in hot and humid climates. That limits production to a few regions on the planet. And so about two-thirds of the world's cocoa supply comes from West Africa, largely grown by small-scale farmers who provide the main income source for millions of people. Unfortunately, the industry is rife with issues of environmental devastation, child labor, and abject poverty.
Inroads to solve these problems have been slow, but there have been some improvements. Today somewhere between 25% and one-third of the cocoa production in the world is certified as fair trade by the non-profit Fairtrade Foundation, the Rainforest Alliance, or similar certification organizations. Still, it's not always easy to find ethically sourced chocolate; the cocoa supply chain is notoriously difficult to follow. With small farms selling to middlemen who then sell to the major manufacturers, beans often get mixed.
Food origin is important to consumers.
People want to know where their food comes from. Findings by the IFIC (International Food Information Council) show that 25% of consumers say that it is very important that they know where their food originates. The market research company IRI’s innovation report for 2020 found that products with origin claims have the highest sales growth among foods and beverages that offer benefit descriptions. Of these, socially conscious descriptors such as “fair trade” saw a growth rate of 14%.
Data from the World Cocoa Foundation (WFC) shows that consumer pressure has prompted cocoa and chocolate companies to source their beans from farmers who have no connection to human rights abuses or deforestation. The WFC says these companies can now trace 74% of the beans they buy from sources in the Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa producer, and trace 82% of the beans that come from Ghana, the second-largest producer on the planet.
People want and understand fair trade products.
The Fairtrade Foundation reports a 15% increase in fair trade purchases in 2020, with 30% of consumers saying they plan to buy even more fair trade products in the future. Data from the marketing specialists Informa Markets show that 53% of consumers have a high degree of understanding about fair trade products, that 69% of consumers trust fair trade certifications, and 75% of them associate the certifications with helping impoverished farmers.
Consumers will pay more for fair trade.
U.S. consumers are willing to pay a little extra for ethical, fairly traded products. Recent research found that about 25% of consumers in the United States say that they are willing to spend more on fair-trade food and beverages. Consumers that fall into the Gen Z and Millennial categories, making up about half of the U.S. population, are most likely to purchase fair trade products.
And it’s not only that consumers are willing to pay more for fair trade products, findings published by the journal Sustainability show that consumers are willing to pay the most for products that are fair trade certifiedover other sustainable goods. With an estimated annual $300 billion in sales and a growth rate of 10% per year, the fair trade market is thriving and growing.
We may be a long way from 100% fair trade chocolate all across the globe. But as consumer demand continues to rise, we’re getting closer and closer to that goal with each passing day.