As one of the lucky guests at the Chocolate Show Gala Evening at Olympia I had the very happy task of sampling delicious fine chocolates and watching Salon Du Chocolat’s world famous chocolate fashion show, featuring models walking the catwalk in outfits made entirely out of chocolate. I also learned that the proper way to cleanse the palate between chocolate tastes, is to eat a slice of apple, to sip water, or best of all - to rinse it down with a mouthful of prosecco. I almost forgot about the sustainability.
To most chocolate artisans, sustainability is about knowing your source. It is about your cocoa bean; where and how it’s been grown, and how it’s been prepared. It is about engagement with farmers, product traceability, and long-term supply chain resilience.
A high level of contact and engagement gives chocolate producers and traders the ability to work with farming communities to adapt to climate change, and to reduce carbon emissions in the first place. This includes both the direct emissions caused by agricultural production ― like nitrous oxide released from fertilizer usage, and the indirect carbon emissions caused by expansion of agricultural land into forests. Cocoa agroforestry can either be a sink or source of atmospheric carbon, depending on the land use system it is replacing.
Larger chocolate producers and traders can contribute to significant emissions reductions by ensuring that their entire supply chain adopts more sustainable practices. This includes the use of farming practices that avoid land-clearing and synthetic fertilizer use. It also includes the use of more efficient and less polluting transport fleets and shipping.
A quick word on ingredients too. For most chocolate, cocoa makes up about 30-50 percent of the ingredients by mass. Sugar, which is cheaper than cocoa makes up much of the rest, though low calorie alternatives, such as stevia (I sampled some at the show) are also starting to be used. Milk ingredients are the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in chocolate, and are of course a higher proportion in milk chocolates.
The percentage of cocoa in fine chocolates is usually much higher than the figures above. A high cocoa content also means that it takes a smaller portion to satisfy a chocolate craving. This should be better for the waistline as well as the environment. Not sure about the prosecco though.