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"Local" Chocolate for the Global North

"Local" Chocolate for the Global North

In the United States, we can find chocolate and other cocoa-based products in abundance in any neighborhood grocer, convenience store, or even a vending machine. Yet, for those of us who live in the 48 contiguous states, we can’t buy “locally grown” chocolate.

Two often-cited benefits of eating local are a lower environmental impact and boosting the local economy. How can we best achieve the same goals of eating local in our imported chocolate choices? Here are three ways –

1. Shop Organic | Lower Environmental Impact

USDA organic logo on background of cocoa pods on trees.

Why? Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers (most are banned from organic-certified products) are the greatest contributor to the environmental impact of conventional cocoa farming2.

Note: cocoa farmers growing organically may not be able to justify expensive certifications. If you have a favorite bean-to-bar brand, ask the maker about their farming partners’ practices. Most are happy to share!



2. Shop Direct Trade Bean-to-Bar Chocolate | Support Local Economies + Lower Environmental Impact

Why? Transport is a significant contributor to chocolate’s carbon footprint. The cocoa for many mass-produced chocolates makes a multi-stop world tour before reaching us: from where it’s grown (South America, West Africa or Southeast Asia) to Europe for processing, and then to a US manufacturer to be transformed into our favorite treats before it reaches our local store or door. Chocolate manufactured at origin OR in our home state requires less energy for transportation, and typically contributes to small, local businesses. 

Person pouring chocolate into molds
  • Chocolate manufactured at origin can provide from 50% up to 5x more income to farming communities by processing food locally AND reduce shipping weight by up to 25%. Not sure where it’s made? Check the “manufactured by” statement on your label to make sure it matches the origin mentioned on the front label to find out.
  • Bean-to-Bar Chocolate manufactured locally supports our local economies and requires less cold chain transportation and packaging insulation from the manufacturing location to either our local store or directly to our door.

3. Choose Dairy-Free Chocolate | Lower Environmental Impact

Types of chocolate

Why? Dairy milk powders used in milk and white chocolate are more resource intensive than plant-based options.

Not sure from whom or where to shop? Below are two lists of our favorite brands that meet some or all of these criteria. You can also search online for “bean-to-bar chocolate makers near me” for small local businesses to support. For larger brands, look for the USDA Organic or Plant-Based / Vegan symbol on their packaging.


Brands manufactured in Origin Countries

Shop for chocolate Made at Origin. Some of our favorites include:

  • Latitude (@latitudechocolate_kla) – chocolate made in Uganda from cacao purchased from 2,500 certified organic Ugandan farmers, vegan options
  • Maraná (@marana_chocolate) – chocolate made with certified organic Peruvian cacao in Peru, vegan options
  • Marou (@MarouUSA) – chocolate made in Vietnam from cacao purchased directly from small Vietnamese producers, vegan options
  • Mission (@missionchocolate) - chocolate made from directly-traded cacao, organic cane sugar, and several rare inclusions - all grown in Brazil. Vegan options. 
  • Palato (@palatochocolate) – chocolate made with Honduran cacao in Honduras, vegan options

Environmentally-friendly brands manufactured in the Global North

  • Divine Chocolate (@divinechocolate) – direct trade, vegan and organic options, manufactured in the UK
  • Jcoco (@jcocochocolate) – carbon neutral, direct trade, vegan options, manufactured in Seattle
  • Raaka (@RaakaChocolate) – direct trade, vegan and organic options, manufactured in New York
  • Taza (@TazaChocolate) – direct trade, organic, vegan options, manufactured in Somerville, MA
  • Theo (@theochocolate) – organic, vegan options, manufactured in Seattle

References (we read these life cycle assessments and reports to develop our recommendations)

  1. Bianchi, F.R., Moreschi, L., Gallo, M., Vesce, E., & Del Gorghi, A. “Environmental Analysis along the Supply Chain of Dark, Milk and White chocolate: A Life Cycle Comparison.” 2021. The International Journal Of Life Cycle Assessment.
  2. Boakye-Yiadom, K.A., Duca, D. Foppa Pedrette, E., & Ilari, A. “Environmental Performance of Chocolate produced in Ghana Using Life Cycle Assessment.” 2021. Sustainability.
  3. Ntiamoah, A., & Afrane, G. “Environmental Impacts of Cocoa Production and Processing in Ghana: Life Cycle Assessment Approach.” 2008. Journal of Cleaner Production.
  4. Poore, J. & Nemecek, T. “Reducing Food’s Environmental Impacts Through Producers and Consumers.” 2018. Science.
  5. Recanati, F., Marveggio, D. & Dotelli, G. “From Beans to Bar: A Life Cycle Assessment towards Sustainable Chocolate Supply Chain.” 2017. The Science of the Total Environment.
  6. Sethi, S. “The Life Cycle of your Chocolate Bar.” Oct 22 2017. Forbes.

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