Conventional Chocolate is Scary. Fair Trade Your Halloween.

Want to know something scary? Of the 90 million pounds of chocolate candies on track to be sold this Halloween, just a tiny fraction will be fair trade. That opening has probably been used so many times by so many fair trade and human rights advocates over the years that it verges on a cliché. And what’s even scarier than that? We keep saying this because the reality is that we’ve come to accept the very fact that farmers work in poverty, that children work in dangerous conditions, and that forests around the globe are destroyed for the treats that we hand out to children. And that is truly scary.

Kid’s Candy – Made with Kid’s Labor

Child labor is not the only issue in conventional chocolate supply chains, but as millions of people stock up on candy to give to the costumed children who come to their doors, the cruel irony is unavoidable.

Over the past decades, big chocolate companies have made multiple pledges to end forced and child labor and deforestation. Time and again, they’ve set timelines for these pledges—2005, 2008, 2010, and still there has been little to no change. In fact, both child labor and deforestation rates are reportedly on the rise. Most recently, Hershey’s, Mars and Nestlé have all admitted that in 2020 another self-declared deadline will come and go and they will not eliminate child labor in their supply chains. Despite controlling the majority of the chocolate market, they continue to put their own profits ahead of the livelihoods—and the lives—of the people who grow the cocoa.

It’s important to be clear on a point: child labor isn’t just a few kids helping their parents on the farm. Regular chores are a part of life for many farm kids. Instead, child labor is often defined as work that is “dangerous, dirty, or degrading,” or interferes with their education—or all of the above. For child workers on cocoa farms, that can mean handling machetes, carrying heavy loads, handling pesticides or other agrochemicals, and working long days. The Washington Post did an in-depth article this year profiling some of these children who labor, often for very low wages, on neighboring farms to the ones their parents might cultivate. And while their individual stories vary, there’s a common theme: dire poverty.

Big Chocolate’s Model is Built on Exploitation

The low prices that the Big Chocolate companies pay for cocoa have compounded year on year—theirs is a model built upon the backs of farmers and farm families. It’s not just one year of low prices, it’s harvest season upon harvest season, going back centuries. It’s built into the colonial model of extraction, exploiting those who work the land for as little as possible. That system has delivered tons of cheap chocolate to supermarket shelves—and destruction all along the supply chain. Our latest infographic breaks down the problems in a chocolate bar –and a few of the solutions we need to work towards—download it here.

Fair Trade your Halloween

This Halloween, there are a few things you can do to make better choices while stocking your candy bowl:

  • Choose fair trade, organic chocolate. That’s an obvious first choice! Our list of Mission-Driven Brands has some good options, including some with small sizes perfect to hand out for Halloween.
  • Skip the palm oil, regardless of what treat you choose. Cocoa isn’t the only problematic ingredient in the candy aisle. Most palm oil has its own links to forced labor and massive deforestation. Look for candies and snacks that use other ingredients.
  • Look for fair trade sugar in your candies. There are more and more options available—gum with fair trade sugar and other ingredients, for example.
  • Get creative. We won’t be the people to tell you to give out raisins. Instead, look for other snacks that are kid-friendly—for the kids in your neighborhood, and those in communities around the globe.
  • Go with the trick along with the treats! Hand out copies of our chocolate infographic to families who come to your door—we dare you!

The Big Chocolate companies’ inaction is making it so child labor in chocolate is almost a cliché. But that doesn’t mean we need to accept it.

Get involved in changing the system:


8 thoughts on “Conventional Chocolate is Scary. Fair Trade Your Halloween.

  1. I have never seen fair-trade chocolate packaged for giving to children. When I do, I’d like to see the packaging with a special message for them, perhaps in cartoon form.
    Currently I hand out “Vampire Repellent” – a beer cup full of organic popcorn with garlic butter with a home-made label taped over the top.

  2. Where do I find out which companies have fair trade? While I don’t buy candy, any kind, I do buy chocolate chips (Guittard and Trader Joe’s) and cocoa, Trader Joe’s. I never, ever buy any Nestle product and haven’t for decades. Having been to Borneo, I never buy or use anything containing palm oil or coconut oil.

  3. Goes out too late to get the parent crowd and to ensure delivery in time for Hallowe’en in Canada, especially given the prices for bulk buying which would involve several families going in on purchasing. Otherwise I would have posted to FB and sent email to my adult niece and nephews with children.

  4. I evidently can’t read your messages because I annoy a subscriber but it would be good for everyone if I knew which candy I shouldn’t buy .

    1. Hi Carolyn, not sure which messages you’re unable to read, but do reach out to us at info at fairworldproject dot org if you continue to have issues.

  5. I, too, wish these brands packaged child size, with a graphic aimed at kids as previously suggested, especially affordably. What’s a good alternative? Besides raisins! 😛 (I want them to come back next year! 🙂

    1. Hi Pat,
      I totally hear you on this request! I worked for several fair trade companies once upon a time before coming to FWP and one thing I learned in that time is just how hard all this seasonal stuff is–and how hard it is to do on a model that prioritizes paying farmers (& workers throughout the supply chain) fairly. There is a lot of expense in developing additional sizes, shapes, packaging–and then a tremendous amount of waste involved in getting them to stores on time and then remaindering them the day after the holiday. So, there’s the long answer on why you don’t see more of those seasonal things.

      I’m not sure where you’re based, but at the store down the street from me, they have Alter Eco’s truffles for $0.75 each and Equal Exchange’s mini chocolate bars for $0.15 each. I haven’t seen Divine do something special for Halloween, but they really go all in for Christmas if that’s also a holiday that you’ll be seeking ethical options for!

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