What We’re Doing About Food Waste In Craft Chocolate

Since we started Cocoa Runners in 2013 we have been trying to explain why people should pay a little more for a craft chocolate bar than a mass produced bar.   We believe craft chocolate bars taste better, are better for you and represent a better deal for cocoa farmers and our planet. Craft chocolate is made from carefully selected, farmed, fermented and dried beans. Makers work directly with farmers and co-operatives to secure the best beans, and craft chocolate makers realise that they need to incentivise growers and pay them for their hard work. This sort of cocoa isn’t a commodity where the only distinguishing factor is price.

When price is the only means of competition, prices paid to cocoa farmers can be less than they need to survive. And indeed that is all too often the case. The average wage of a cocoa farmer in the Cote D’Ivoire, one of the main sources of beans for mass produced chocolate bars, is less than a dollar a day (ie less than half of what the UN believes is a “living wage”). In addition these low prices for mass cocoa also involve extensive deforestation as farmers are forced to turn to “slash and burn agriculture” – and this has reduced rain forest canopy in the Cote D’Ivoire from over 30% to under 5% in less than 30 years.  By contrast the prices paid to farmers growing the beans for craft chocolate can be 2-3 times (and more) per tonne more than the traded “commodity” price of cocoa. So if you pay £3.95 (or a little more) for your directly traded craft chocolate bar — rather than the £1.95 or less for mass market confectionery – you can make a real difference.

Most people who buy mass market chocolate in a supermarket do so as an “impulse purchase”, and prices – and special offers – are a key decision factor. We really want customers to “move beyond” simply focusing on price and special offers when they buy chocolate. And this is one reason why, to date, we have never discounted the price of individual bars on site. We truly believe that the ‘recommended’ retail price of our bars is a fair reflection of their quality, and the time and effort put into their creation. And so we work with our makers to bring you the best possible prices, which reward farmer and makers, for their bars

But this commitment to fair pricing presents certain challenges for us at Cocoa Runners.  For example, over the years the subject of ‘food waste’ has been a tricky topic for us.  We never sell on consignment, as we believe that it is only right that we pay for the goods that we order and we don’t think that it’s fair that makers (and indirectly farmers) should pay the price if we fail to forecast accurately.

As such, we assume the risks associated with forecasting and stock management ourselves.  We would love to have systems in place to ensure that we never have short dated or expiring stock, but with a library of nearly 1000 bars, cooking chocolate and more, we inevitably end up with some stock that we cannot sell because it has past its best before or use by date.

Until recently, these expiring bars would sit in our warehouse or our office in London, providing a source of delicious snacks for the team and those who visit us. Wonderful as they tasted, this never felt quite right to us – these were fantastic bars that deserved to be enjoyed by a wider group of craft chocolate fans.

With this in mind, over the past few months we have been working with the innovators at Too Good To Go to look at ways to find homes for our short dated bars. The concept behind Too Good To Go is simple: across the food industry each day there is a wealth of food that has reached the end of its ‘sellable life’ but is still far too good to go in the bin. If you download their app you can find businesses near you with food to spare and for a fair price you can pick up a ‘magic bag’ (a lucky dip assortment of food) from their cafe, shop or warehouse within an appointed timeslot.

We have been blown away by the response that this has received but we don’t think it’s totally fair that this wonderful service is only available to craft chocolate fans who happened to be near our office in Shoreditch…  So with that in mind, we are introducing short dated lucky dip boxes to our online store.

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