We believe very strongly in business being fair and environmentally sound.
Having worked in the environment and development for many years, we know how easy that is to say, but how complex and difficult it is to achieve. We feel that our best strategy to achieve this is to be informed and as we hope for transparency in the industry supply chains, so we should be equally open with information about our own business.
There are a range of questions that we ask whenever we make a decision:
- Is it Fairtrade? If not, can we assess ourselves how ‘ethical’ we think the company is?
- Is it locally available? Our preference is to use local businesses as much as possible for sourcing ingredients. This includes the boxes, which are made by a company in Stirling, Blue Box Design
- Is it organic?
- What is the impact on the environment?
We tend to be pragmatic about our sourcing though: we weigh up the above factors and make a decision taking all these into consideration. It is unrealistic to think that we can achieve all of these with any one ingredient and so have to compromise on one thing over another. However, suppliers are sourcing more and more ingredients with these factors in mind and so what we may not be able to source now, might well be available next year and so we are constantly reviewing these choices.
Our local town Aberfeldy is a Fairtrade Town – Scotland’s first infact, and when we started the business we assumed that we would use Fairtrade chocolate and that we could carry the Fairtrade logo. In fact, on investigation this turned out to be a little more involved than we had thought. In discussions with the Fairtrade Foundation about whether it is worth my registering as a FT producer (and so bear the FT mark) we agreed that for the scale of my business the administration required would be cumbersome for both ourselves and the Fairtrade Foundation. They commented that the FT mark is a shortcut consumer mark that large producers are able to use to communicate about FT, and argued that as I am very close to my customers I can communicate directly to them about my ethical trading policies and so do not need to fall back on the short cut of the FT mark. So, hence this web-page.
We use a range of couvetures for the chocolates:
For the moulded filled chocolates (seasonal ganache filled and sea salt caramel filled) we use Barry Callebaut Fairtrade certified white, milk and dark chocolates. These are consistent good quality chocolates, that perform in the same way every time we use them, so work well as the ‘canvas’ for our ever-changing seasonal flavours. The 70% dark couveture has the right viscosity to enable us to make the thin shells that we like.
Single origin chocolates offer more character and flavour, and use better quality beans that attract a better price for the farmer. We use these for our flavoured bars, shards and thins and draw on a range of couvetures from different makers, always looking out for sources of chocolate that have well-documented and regulated supply chains, as well as shorter supply chains.
Chocolat Madagascar (www.chocolatmadagascar.com):
This is a long established family Madagascan company that buys beans direct from farmers, and converts them into delicious chocolate in Madagascar itself. In this way, the added value of conversion to chocolate happens in-country and the supply chain is shortened. They refer to this as RaiseTrade (http://www.raisetrade.com ), and will grow I imagine as a quality chocolate option.
El Rey, Venezuela (www.chocolates-elrey.com):
I have been using their Icoa white chocolate whenever I can – I love it, but it is not always available through UK wholesalers. This is another chocolate that has been converted in the country of origin.
Luker, Colombia (www.lukeringredients.com/en/productos/luker-cacao):
When we can’t get hold of El Rey we turn to Luker. Luker work directly with farmers in Columbia, supporting them to produce the quality of cocoa that they require for their chocolates.
Red Star Chocolates, Lincolnshire (www.duffyschocolate.co.uk )
Duffy Sheardown at Red Star Chocolates in Lincolnshire, produces fabulous tasting chocolate; we use his Panama couveture in the Espresso chocolates. He is involved in the Direct Cacao (www.directcacao.org) movement, using small batches of high quality cocoa beans sourced direct from the cocoa farmers themselves.
Original beans (www.originalbeans.com):
A wonderful range of chocolates that are made from beans sourced directly from farmers in different parts of the world. I particularly love their Democratic Republic of Congo couvetures, where they are working with farmers around the Virunga National Park; in addition they highlight the significant role women farmers play in the cocoa farming story, with their very lovely ‘Femmes du Virunga’ milk chocolate. Their focus is on conservation and sustainable livelihoods.
Cream and butter
Not all the ingredients have a Fairtrade Standard; dairy products are an example that do not. We mainly buy cream and butter (used for the sea salt caramels and brownies) from the Coop (we have a good local coop in Aberfeldy).
We use sugar in sea salt caramels, brownies and occasionally in the ganache fillings. It is always Fairtrade sugar; either from the Coop (their own brand), Traidcraft or Billingtons.
Oranges and lemons
The Coop sell wonderful FT oranges and lemons and if they have them in stock when we need them then those are what we use. They don’t always have them and as the next Coop is 20 miles away, we might have to buy non Fairtrade rather than drive to find long distances to find them.
Some spices have Fairtrade Standards and if I can source these locally I will do so.
Many of the ingredients that we use in the chocolates are organic. The chocolate that we are now using from Barry Callebaut is organic as well as Fairtrade.
This is so difficult; my partner keeps threatening to carbon footprint the business and I dread the outcome. As a household we endeavour to keep our carbon footprint low. For the business there are a number of ways that we do this:
- our house is naturally cool, and so even in summer the workshop does not have to be kept cool by air conditioning. In winter, it can get too cold to work chocolate and might need some additional heating
- using Royal Mail to deliver the chocolates; apart from a few delays, on the whole the Royal Mail has efficiently delivered the chocolates around the UK and other mail services have delivered them further a field. The Mail seems a very sound green way of getting small goods around the country
- when gathering herbs and blossoms from the wild, we are careful to ensure that we are only taking a small amount from any one place; we are very careful about avoiding damage to the plants as we pick. We are members of the Scottish Wild Harvests Association (www.scottishwildharvests.org.uk)
- we try and minimise waste as much as possible. For example, there is quite a lot of chocolate ‘excess’ whenever we mould the chocolates; we use this to make brownies, or to sell on as cooking chocolate
- we compost organic waste; we recycle as much packaging as we can (boxes, bubblewrap, etc)
Some useful links:
Fairtrade Foundation – www.fairtrade.org.uk
The Co-operative – www.co-operative.coop
The Co-operative Bank – www.co-operativebank.co.uk
Barry Callebaut – www.barry-callebaut.com
Blue Box Design, 2a Broadleys Industrial Park, Kerse Road,
Stirling FK7 7LQ. Tel 01786 446098