Faux Cocoa: Investigating Chocolate’s Sustainability

Faux Cocoa: Investigating Chocolate’s Sustainability

chocolate from fake cocoa

Now that it’s September, I’m resigned to the fact that fall is around the corner. One small silver lining is that the more the weather cools, the more comfort food we can enjoy – including chocolate! But there are some innovations happening in the confection sphere that will make chocolate even more enjoyable; not just for our tastebuds, but for our consciences too.

Several startups are working on “non-cocoa chocolate;” that it, lab grown sweets sourced from cell cultures, that are indistinguishable from the real thing in taste and texture. By decoupling the existence of chocolate from the cocoa bean, these companies hope to make tasty treats that are more resilient in the face of climate change and don’t also represent deforestation and child labour. But the situation is complicated, and also needs to take into account the economic impacts of small-scale farmers who supply many of the world’s cocoa beans.

“‘People have an emotional connection to chocolate that they don’t have to cornflakes,’ says Clay Gordon, author of Discover Chocolate: The Ultimate Guide to Buying, Tasting, and Enjoying Fine Chocolate, and a renowned cocoa industry observer and consultant.  […]

Cocoa is especially vulnerable because it is predominantly grown by smallholder farmers. He says these farmers have no collective bargaining leverage and fair trade isn’t working to force major global companies to pay fair prices.

Gordon sees a market for lab-grown chocolate similar to the growing market for substitute plant-based meat products. It is not competitive in the short term and hence will not have an immediate impact on the cocoa industry which many in west Africa depend on. However, in the event of an unprecedented global climate event or ‘potential disruptors,’ the rise in the use of lab-grown chocolate and other food products could be impactful.”

It seems there are lots of factors these days that are causing this manufacturing pivot. It makes sense that developers are trying to get ahead of any one of these potential market enders. I know I’d be a lot happier with a treat that made the world happier too; from the farmers to the harvesters, to the general environment. If that chocolatey goodness flows from a place of responsibility and kindness, it’ll taste all the sweeter.