Don’t Buy Evil Chocolate

The chocolate industry is an unethical mess—but you have options.

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Photo: Alex Desanshe (Shutterstock)

Hate to break it to you, folks, but the chocolate industry is incredibly evil. Hershey, Cadbury—basically, all of your problematic Halloween faves are profiting off of child labor. Put the Cookies ‘n’ Creme bar down and let me explain.

Per the Food Empowerment Project (FEP), most cocoa farmers earn less than $1 per day and “often resort to the use of child labor to keep their prices competitive.” In fact, FEP reports that as many as 2.1 million children in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, two major cocoa farming regions, are exposed to the “worst forms of child labor” on cocoa farms—labor that involves using machetes and coming into contact with harmful pesticides.

Unfortunately, the big chocolate brands aren’t showing much urgency around the issue. Hershey says the brand is “working to prevent and eliminate” child labor, which is a statement I... don’t necessarily trust. But if you’re a chocolate devotee who feels strongly about consuming an ethical product, take it from me: There’s a whole world of slave-free chocolate out there, and it tastes a heck of a lot better than the grocery store stuff.

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For fans of classic milk chocolate: Tony’s Chocolonely

There is fully no reason to consume Hershey or Cadbury chocolate when Tony’s Chocolonely is on the scene. Unlike some fair trade chocolate purveyors, which focus on earthier dark chocolate, Tony’s has a full line of rich, creamy Belgian milk chocolate available online and at major retailers like Whole Foods. Founded in 2005, Tony’s is on a mission to “end modern slavery and illegal child labor in the chocolate industry.” Not only does the company source slave-free chocolate in its own products; Tony’s also advocates for ethical sourcing principles in the chocolate industry as a whole.

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Try: Tony’s Milk Caramel Sea Salt bar, with ribbons of crunchy caramel and flakes of sea salt

For the connoisseur: Askinosie Chocolate

If you’re into the finer things, look no further than Askinosie Chocolate, a direct trade “bean-to-bar” operation that uses chocolate purchased from small farms in Ecuador, the Amazon, Tanzania, and the Philippines. I may be a little biased—Askinosie is based in my hometown—but these people know their chocolate. The business is built on relationships—relationships with farmers, consumers, and other brands like Jeni’s and American Spoon—so you know you’re getting a primo product. Askinosie even offers a chocolate tasting kit, complete with flavor wheel, so you can expand your palate.

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Try: Askinosie x Jeni’s Dark Chocolate + Malted Milk bar, sourced directly from farmers in Mababu, Tanzania

For peanut butter lovers: Truffle Pig

Truffle Pig is a direct-trade Canadian operation that showcases each of its Nicaraguan farming partners right on the brand’s website. In addition to scrumptious-looking nut butter bars, Truffle Pig also offers a wide selection of chocolatey treats like hand-dipped licorice and gourmet chocolate-covered marshmallows.

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Try: 47% Cacao Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Piglets, with 60 pieces of peanutty goodness

For gifting: Dandelion Chocolate

I visited Dandelion Chocolate’s San Francisco tasting room in 2017, and it blew me away. This ain’t your grandma’s chocolate: Like Askinosie Chocolate, the Dandelion team is committed to craft and diverse chocolate cultivation, resulting in a wide variety of confections with flavors ranging from subtle to intense. The bars speak for themselves, but the company’s gift sets are really something special.

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Try: Limited-Edition Spring 2022 Bonbon Collection, with flavors like Miso Butter Caramel and Macadamia Nut Praline