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All chocolate at PCC Natural Markets must comply with ethical standards

By Oliver Nieburg+

11-Apr-2013

50% of children in agriculture households in the Ivory Coast and Ghana work on farms, 25% in cocoa, according to a 2011 study from Tulane University. Photo credit: International Cocoa Initiative

50% of children in agriculture households in the Ivory Coast and Ghana work on farms, 25% in cocoa, according to a 2011 study from Tulane University. Photo credit: International Cocoa Initiative

The US’s largest natural foods retail cooperative PCC Natural Markets claims it has become the first grocer in the nation to sell chocolate made only from ethically sourced cocoa.

A company announcement made earlier this month said the firm would stock chocolate, candy, cocoa powders, bakery items, only from companies that prohibit child slave labor and follow International Labor Organization (ILO) Fundamental Conventions.

This means any confectioner selling chocolate in PCC stores must have a product that contains cocoa certified from an independent third party. Alternatively chocolate makers can sign an affidavit set by PCC promising to meet ethical standards.

All vendors must sign the affidavit and must fill out questionnaires to ensure PCC’s standards are met.

PCC Natural Markets is headquartered in Seattle, Washington and operates nine stores. The company has annual sales of almost $180m.

To meet shopper expectations

Almost 820,000 children in the Ivory Coast and over 997,000 kids in Ghana were found to be working on cocoa-related activities in 2007/2008, according to Tulane University.

Many work with dangerous tools and chemicals and some are trafficked into forced labor.

PCC's director of merchandising, Russ Ruby, said: “These practices in the supply chain are contrary to what PCC shoppers expect.

“Our customers value food that is produced humanely and sustainably — from organic produce to grass-fed meat and fairly traded coffee — so it follows that they prefer to buy fairly traded chocolate."

He added that fair trade chocolate was not necessarily more expensive for consumers.

"Meeting fair labor standards does not necessarily increase the price people pay and we still have more than 50 brands that comply," he said.

Those that didn't comply were dropped.

Industry commitments

The top five global chocolate makers have all made commitments to source cocoa ethically. Mars and Hershey plan to source fully certified cocoa by 2020, Ferrero plans fully sustainable cocoa by 2020, while Mondelez has pumped $400m into its cocoa supply chain and Nestlé has an action plan to combat the worst forms of child labor as part of its Cocoa Plan.

In October last year, Whole Foods Market dropped Hershey’s Scharffen Berger Chocolates because it claimed there were no guarantees the cocoa was sourced without forced child labor. However, the retailer continued to stock Hershey’s Rainforest Alliance-certified Dagoba chocolates.

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