Updated: Feb 7
You can take the girl out of the chocolate, but you can't take the chocolate out of the girl. Since I closed nicobella organics, I've been on a search for the best dark chocolate that is vegan, ethical AND gives back, especially when gifting for the holidays. Below is what I've found, but first...
Why ethically sourced chocolate is important
70% of the world's chocolate is sourced from West Africa where child slavery and/or slavery is most prominent (much of it coming from Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire). The Food Empowerment Project does not recommend any chocolate coming from West Africa since there is still slavery influence in West Africa and no guarantee that the cacao beans sourced from West Africa are indeed ethically sourced. Read more about slavery chocolate here. You can look for Fair Trade or Fair for Life certifications, however, there can be flaws in the certification process. Read more about the certifications here.
Know your source
When selecting chocolate, it's helpful to know the origin of the cacao beans. Choose chocolate from South and Central America, Dominican Republic, Tanzania or Madagascar (East Africa countries). Most bean-to-bar makers will list the origin and perhaps even the farmers who cultivate the beans and who are heavily involved (but often get overlooked) with creating the delicious flavors you experience in the finished product.
Here are my personal top picks for ethically sourced, vegan dark chocolate companies that not only make delicious chocolate, but also give back.
Values: I can say firsthand that this is one of my favorite chocolate companies, not just because the chocolate is one of my favorites of all time, but also because it's family-owned and their ethics are first-rate.
Veganism: All of their products are vegan! Even their Pumpkin Spiced "white chocolate" Bark is made with almond milk, plus delicious healing spices.
Giving Back: They work towards sustainable and equitable systems of consumption by sourcing ingredients responsibly and work directly with farmers in their processes, negotiating fair prices whenever possible.
Vegan Gifts: You can't go wrong with any of these beautiful and delicious gifts, but I just gifted someone this Dark Chocolate Decadence Box and I'm pretty confident they're going to love me forever based on their thank you note.
Discount Code: Free shipping on orders over $45!
Values: "We're dedicated to Direct Trade. This means we not only know the communities from which we source our cocoa beans but more significantly, we can build long-term and mutually supportive relationships with these farmers who grow some of the world’s best cocoa." Their commitment includes:
Excellent Cocoa Beans
Open Books & Profit Sharing
Socially Sound Practices
Because they are Direct Trade, Askinosie pays the cocoa farmers significantly above the per-ton Fair Trade market price for their cocoa beans.
They also profit share with these farmers.
A Product of Change™, is a collaborative effort between Askinosie Chocolate, the administration and PTA of local schools, and you. When you purchase one of their Products of Change, you are providing school lunch to hungry students in these communities.
Discount Code: Join their email list to receive 10% off your purchase. Free shipping over $50.
Values: Lending to its namesake, Equal Exchange is actually a co-op!
"Our co-op has over 120 worker-owners, each with an equal stake - and an equal vote - in our business. We believe that we should expect no less from ourselves and each other than we demand of our farmer partners. For that reason, we have organized ourselves as a democratic worker co-operative."
Veganism: They are not 100% vegan, but offer several vegan options. Check the chocolate bar labels for dairy.
Giving Back: Equal Exchange has worked with small farmer organizations since 1986, beginning with a co-op in Nicaragua, and now sourcing from over 40 small farmer organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States. Read more about how they're giving back to communities here.
Vegan Gifts: Their Organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate 80% is one of my personal faves and makes a great stocking stuffer for only $3.50 a bar or $37.50 for a 12-pack. Other vegan bars include Organic Dark Chocolate Almond and Organic Dark Chocolate Mint. P.S. They also offer coffee, bananas, avocados and other "Fair Food."
Discount Code: Receive 10% off and free shipping when you sign up for their biweekly newsletter.
4. Alter Eco
Values: "For every chocolate gift you purchase, we'll plant a tree in our reforestation project in the Peruvian Amazon." Everyone on my list is getting an Alter Eco chocolate gift this season! If we all get at least one Alter Eco gift we could collectively plant hundreds of trees that will help the climate, wildlife and indigenous people. Who's in?
Plus, they get extra points for their compostable packaging.
Veganism: Unfortunately, they're not 100% vegan, but hoping they see the vegan/environment connection and start making their truffles with plant-based milk instead of cream.
Giving Back: Trees, Trees and more trees! Plus, they do give back to the environment by using compostable packaging and give back to farmers by sourcing directly from small-scale farmers.
Vegan Gifts: Be The Change Vegan Gift Box $24.99
Discount Code: They're offering 20% off holiday gift sets (and planting a tree for each set purchased!). Also, receive 15% off when you sign up for their newsletter. Free shipping over $65.