The Truth About the Chocolate Industry: Why You Should Only Eat Organic Chocolate – SANNA Conscious Concept

The Truth About the Chocolate Industry: Why You Should Only Eat Organic Chocolate



People around the world have been cultivating chocolate for the past 2,000 years, and the industry keeps growing. It is estimated that 58 million pounds of chocolate is eaten in America alone on the week of Valentine’s Day, and 70% of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa. Global demand for cocoa is fast rising—and producers are struggling to keep pace. It can take an entire year for a cocoa tree to produce the cocoa in just half a pound of chocolate. 

The chocolate industry is complex and riddled with problems throughout every step of the production process, unknown to the average consumer. Here we break down some of the main problems of the cocoa industry and explore the reasons why organic chocolate is the way of the future.




Cocoa is a critical cash crop for West African farmers, many of whom own just a few acres of land and can’t afford chocolate themselves. But the plant’s production is also fueling deep problems there. Cocoa farmers usually clear tropical forests to plant new cocoa trees rather than reusing the same land. That practice has spurred massive deforestation in West Africa, particularly in Ivory Coast. Experts estimate that 70% of the country’s illegal deforestation is related to cocoa farming.

Impacts such as lower soil moisture content, lower soil fertility, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, disturbed rainfall patterns, local and regional environmental change, and destruction of livelihoods of those communities dependent on forest products other than cocoa are all aspects that are concerning for the long term. As Ghana and Ivory Coast are hot and dry zones, they are vulnerable to desertification, meaning the clearance of local forests only threatens to accelerate what climate change is already putting in motion.


Child Labor

West Africa’s cocoa farmers frequently use child labor to help with growing, harvesting, and transporting cocoa beans. Despite pledges made by many of the big chocolate giants to put an end to using cocoa harvested by children, most of the chocolate we buy sadly still involves child labour. It is prominent in areas of West Africa on cocoa farms, with children as young as 6 working extremely long hours for less than $2/day. A steady stream of buses from Burkina Faso and Mali arrive often to the Ivory Coast & Ghana, carrying passengers and trafficked children to work the Ivory Coast cocoa fields.

Some of the most well-known chocolate brands – Hershey’s, Mondelez, Godiva, Mars, Nestlé – are all complicit in this trade. Despite having signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol 20 years ago which promised to tackle child labour, very little progress has been made, and a report estimated that child labour in cocoa has actually increased by 14% in the last decade.


Pricing Challenges

Worldwide, 50 million people are dependent on cocoa for their livelihoods. Those working in the industry – growers, farmers, pickers – are mostly always living in poverty, and the low price of cocoa makes it difficult for farm owners to hire adults or pay fair wages. This is a chief reason why child labour has become so widespread. 

The chocolate industry operates with many middle-men throughout the production process, meaning that each part of the supply chain will take part of the payment that usually goes to farmers. The annual farmer’s household income in Ivory Coast is only about $1,900 USD, which is far below the poverty line. Today, farmers only receive between 3-7% of the retail price of a chocolate bar, compared to up to 50% in the 1970s.


What Now?

Despite the cocoa industry’s challenges, there’s hope. Experts have identified a number of farming techniques that could boost the productivity of existing cocoa farms, reducing the need for clearing more forests. Studies have found that bringing moderate shade to cocoa trees, meaning the forests don’t have to be clear-cut, can aid in carbon sequestering, biodiversity improvement, disease prevention, and soil improvement. This practice is called “cocoa agroforestry” and might be a positive way forward, though currently not much is being done to make this type of farming practice thrive.

Organic chocolate is also a better alternative, meaning that no harmful chemicals or pesticides were used while cultivating cocoa, and there is a more ethical supply chain. Chez SANNA, we care about the people and planet in each step of the chocolate supply chain, and only provide organic chocolate and cacao bars from Cosmic Dealer, with a unique range of flavors and health benefits. This is chocolate you can feel good about! Shop our full organic chocolate selection here.




Washington Post

World Wildlife Foundation

Forage and Sustain

World Cocoa Foundation 

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