Josef Zotter: "Chocolate can leave a very bitter aftertaste if you consider that cocoa growers work under severe conditions while others profit from the fruits of their labour. That’s why we support fair trade – not because we want to use a showcase product to raise our profile, but because we are convinced that it’s the right choice for our entire product range."
Global issues affect local production. Cocoa and cane sugar, two of the essential ingredients for making chocolate, cannot be grown in the fields outside the Zotter Chocolate Manufactory. But as far as Zotter is concerned, the same standards apply. He still wants close cooperation and local quality. That’s why Zotter sources fairly traded ingredients from certified organic production. Since 2001 Zotter has paid regular visits to the cocoa growing regions. For him, quality is paramount from bean to bar. He only buys high-quality cocoa from selected growing cooperatives in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, Dominican Republic, Congo, Togo and Madagascar.
We are 100% organic and fair trade as well as bean to bar and from this season, we will start to apply our new FAIR hand sign. We become a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). The WFTO will audit our entire business according to its fair-trade guidelines. 100% fair trade, without mass balance supply chain application, which we think is less than ideal.
Josef Zotter: "In my opinion, the FAIRTRADE certification is generally a good idea and certainly better than no oversight at all, but I want my customers to be able to buy chocolate and know that it contains exactly what it says on the wrapper."
The new chocolate season is starting – and we are walking down new paths of development. We are evolving in line with our strong and exclusive commitment to fair-trade practices, which are only possible through full transparency. Farmers have to be compensated fairly for their hard work so that customers at the other end of the production and supply chain can enjoy the fruits of their labour with a clear conscience.
But that’s not enough – the chocolate also has to offer a flavor superior to garden-variety alternatives, otherwise there is no sustainable incentive at all for more responsible consumer behavior. This is why getting to know the source and producer of any given ingredient is an absolute priority to Zotter in his quest to foster excellent direct trade relations. We are proud of the fact that our partners know exactly who they work for. This nurtures mutual trust and opens doors to the most exclusive and superior raw materials. A win-win situation for everyone from farmer to customer. However, this is only the case with physical traceability and not with mass balance.
The goal is, of course, for every single product on earth to be traded fairly, which is why FAIRTRADE is accessing ever bigger markets to make fair-trade products more accessible to consumers. This is great in principle. However, this process necessitates compromise and this leads us to the mass balance supply chain model. It means, in a nutshell, that the general amount of ingredients needed for any given fair-trade product have to show a fair-trade certification, but that doesn’t mean they are IN the actual end product, as it is allowed to mix them during processing. Here’s an example: a chocolate producer buys fair-trade cocoa for 10 bars of chocolate and conventional, uncertified cocoa for 90 bars. The cocoa is mixed, 100 bars are produced. 10 of those bars carry the FAIRTRADE logo, even though, in theory, each of the 100 bars could contain 10% fair-trade and 90% uncertified cocoa beans. We don’t approve of this method. We are a quality chocolate producer with a focus on transparency, and this is anything but. We believe that customers who buy fair-trade products and are willing to pay a higher price for them should get a guarantee that those products contain fair-trade ingredients. Mass-balanced products usually carry a disclaimer but that’s not enough for us. We want to offer clarity and transparency to our customers and therefore enforce physical traceability, which allows us to guarantee that it is in it, what's stated on the packaging.
We have decided to stay true to ourselves and go our own way with our own FAIR hand sign, reflecting our philosophy. We joined the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation), the umbrella association, of which the FAIRTRADE organisation itself is a member. At the moment, we are at the tail end of the certification process. We want to call an individual "hand sign" logo our own and highlight our very own principles.
Our unlimited commitment to fair-trade practices and to the WFTO and FAIRTRADE organisations and their principles are a given and are united in our new FAIR® hand sign as a logo. They reflect Zotter’s credibility and transparency. The WFTO is the only global network consisting of suppliers and producers along the entire fair-trade value-added chain, from production up to retail. The WFTO’s goal is to improve living conditions for disadvantaged producers and suppliers by giving them better market opportunities. At the same time, the WFTO is trying to influence the political landscape in order to attain a long-term improvement of global trading conditions. The WFTO guarantee is a monitoring system for its members, connecting internal and external supervision and oversight to raise the transparency and credibility factor for fair-trade organisations.
The WFTO system consists of several elements, an extensive self-assessment component plus external auditing. To enhance the traceability factor, the WFTO has introduced the supply chain management branch in addition to its 10 basic principles. Within the supply chain management, each member organisation is obligated to create its own internal monitoring system for all suppliers and producers from those disadvantaged geographical regions of the south that do not have a WFTO-recognised oversight system already in place (i.e. Fairtrade International , Naturland Fair etc.). This ensures that the 10 principles are adhered to by every one of these agents. The WFTO audits entire corporations, not just individual products, which means a member company adheres entirely and 100% to fair-trade standards, from top to bottom.
Zotter cultivates very warm and close working relationships with his cocoa farmers. We know that top quality has its price, therefore we pay sums way above the global market rate. These are not handouts. Instead, we proactively support the autonomous development of our partners. We all want to be able to afford a good life through our hard work, so they should be able to as well. We don’t act like unapproachable, superior buyers, but are equal business partners. Zotter also enthusiastically collaborates on social projects that improve harvest quality, optimise production, foster and safeguard the cultivation of rare fine flavor cocoa varieties like the Criollo and help make the cocoa bean farmers’ living conditions better in the long term. The way for these small farmers to compete with mass products on the global market, is to assert quality. With projects like "Quality not Poverty" in Nicaragua, "Cocoa not Cocaine" in Colombia and "Chocolate for School" in Peru, Zotter is also actively championing development aid projects.
Josef Zotter: "As a cocoa-processing business, we are responsible for the working and living conditions of our farmers in Third World countries. Fair trade practices represent life-changing opportunities for small farmers and plantation workers in those cocoa bean-producing countries. They are able to emancipate themselves from vacillating global market prices and create a self-determined and secure existence without child labour and environmental exploitation."
For more on this, go to www.wfto.com