Chocolate Bars

Ethical shopping guide to Chocolate Bars, from Ethical Consumer.

Ethical shopping guide to Chocolate Bars, from Ethical Consumer.

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

This guide includes:

  • ethical and environmental ratings for 101 chocolate bars
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • child labour in the cocoa industry
  • palm oil
  • genetic modification


See also our guide to Boxes of chocolates.


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Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings


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Best Buys

as of Jan/Feb 2015

As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.


Best Buys are the following Fairtrade and/or organic certified products:


Biona, Cocoa Loco, Divine, Dubble, Madécasse, Montezuma, Moo Free, Pacari, Plamil, Raw Chocolate Pie, Seed and Bean, Traidcraft, Raw Chocolate, Organica, Vego, Vivani.


Of the supermarkets, all of The Co-op's bars of chocolate are Fairtrade.

to buy

Image: Divine


Image: Viviani


Ethical Consumer makes a small amount of money from your purchase. This goes to fund our research and campaigning. We ethically screen all the sites we link to.



Slaves to chocolate


Child slave labour is still an issue in chocolate production, but some smaller companies are raising the bar on ethics.


image: chocolate bars in shopping guide


Barry Callebaut is the biggest cocoa company you’ve never heard of. It is one of three companies – alongside Cargill and ADM – that grind an estimated 40% of the world’s supply.[1] This is then sold on to the more familiar companies featured in this guide.

In November 2014 Barry Callebaut echoed a prediction by Mars Inc. that the world’s supply of cocoa will be running dangerously low by 2020. Panic-inducing headlines followed. “Cocoa crisis”, announced the Guardian. “Help! We’re running out of chocolate”, screamed the Daily Mail.

Analysts predict smaller bars, rising prices and more fillers like nuts and nougat.
Cocoa prices peaked in August at $2,000 a tonne, a 25% price rise in a year.[2] But in 1980 the price (adjusted for inflation) was $6,000 a tonne. In the 1970s, 50% of the price of a bar of chocolate was for the cocoa, a figure which had decreased to 12% by the 1980s and was just 6% in 2012.[3] The deteriorating economic viability of cocoa farming is cited as a key reason for declining production.




The real cocoa crisis


The year 2020 is significant in the world of chocolate for another reason: it is the year by which the industry has committed to a 70% decrease in the amount of cocoa being produced with the worst forms of child labour (including child slave labour) in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – producers of more than half of the world’s cocoa. It is a target which has been weakened and pushed back an outrageous fifteen years since the industry first promised to deal with the issue in 2001. And with the demand for sustainably sourced cocoa predicted to reach 50% of supply by 2020,[4] it will equate to little more than what the market will demand anyway, should the target be met.

Anti-slavery campaign group STOP THE TRAFFIK present an overview of the current situation below.

The encouraging news is that the top of the score table above is filled with smaller, more ethical companies, which counter the mainstream trend through the development of genuinely responsibly-sourced chocolate.



How the brands compare on criteria to end child trafficking:


How brands compare on criteria to end child trafficking table


This table ranks the companies in this guide according to the methodology developed by STOP THE TRAFFIK. We’ve added the additional criterion of whether the company sources all of its chocolate from outside of West Africa. Those that don’t are marked down in the Workers’ Rights column on the score table for likely use of child labour.
Top scorers are those whose range is 100% certified or sourced from outside West Africa and fulfils some of the other criteria. We have accepted organic certification as this includes a requirement not to use child labour that interferes with their education.





Palm oil


The devastating impact of palm oil production on local communities and the environment is now common knowledge. See our palm oil free list to see which chocolate brands receive a best and worst rating for palm oil.

As of December 2014, palm oil will need to be labelled as such on packaging, rather than the generic term ‘vegetable oil’ which is often used to disguise its presence. Many companies have already implemented the change but we have spotted a few that have not: Elizabeth Shaw, Cavalier and Ritter Sport.




Genetic modification


In the USA, 93% of the soya, 88% of the corn and 90% of the sugar beet is genetically modified (GM).5 Derivatives of these crops are regularly used as ingredients in chocolate products (soya lecithin, high fructose corn syrup and sugar).

According to GM Freeze, products containing GM ingredients have been creeping quietly onto British supermarkets shelves. They are mostly highly processed and often from North America. In Europe, GM ingredients must be labelled. GM Freeze have published a list of products containing GM on their website which have been spotted around the UK. You can contribute to the research by letting the organisation know if you spot GM on a label. The products of American chocolate company Hershey’s occur a number of times on the list and Nestlé also makes an appearance.[6]

According to the European Feed Manufacturers’ Association, at least 85% of the EU’s compound feed production is now labelled to indicate that it contains GM or GM-derived material.[7] This means that much of the milk used in chocolate comes from animals fed a GM diet; a number of companies in this report consequently lose marks in the Genetic Engineering and Animal Rights categories.




Tiny tech


Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at an atomic level, allowing scientists to build new materials from the ‘bottom up’. Campaign groups have raised concerns, particularly about its poorly understood impact on the environment and human health, and the apparent failure of regulatory regimes to address the associated risks.

A few years ago, all kinds of sci-fi-sounding nano-innovations in the food sector were promised. A number of the companies involved are featured in this product guide.

Kraft (Mondelez) and Nestlé were reported to be developing interactive or “smart” foods, capable of changing colour, flavour or nutrients according to the person consuming them. “From fun stuff like drinks that change colors”, reported Forbes back in 2005, “to innovative foods that can adjust for a consumer’s allergies or nutritional requirements.”[8]

Today, however, only a limited amount of information is available about what is both on the market and under development.

The Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Centre has published an inventory of commercialised nano-products. “Years ago Kraft promoted the fact that they were doing research with nano, but now they say they’re not”, according to Todd Kuiken from the Centre. “The bigger food companies backed away. We think they got a little gun shy.”

Nano-clusters of cocoa particles are in one of the few products made with nanotechnology that we know has been commercialised: Nanoceuticals™ Slim Shake Chocolate.

In Europe legislation was passed in 2011 requiring that nanofoods be labelled, which is due to be implemented by December 2014. But in March the European Parliament (EP) kicked out a Commission proposal which would have excluded certain products from the labelling regime, namely things that are already on the market and those with a nano-component of less than half.

“The EP has repeatedly called for proper nano-labelling and it is highly surprising that the Commission even tried to weaken what has been decided by both Parliament and the Council. Consumers have the right to know and make their own choice. They do not want the Commission to do that for them,” said Swedish parliamentarian Carl Schlyter.[9]

Kuiken says that it is probable that in the USA there are human-engineered nanoparticles in food that both regulators and the public are unaware of, particularly in highly processed foods. But he cautions against scare-mongering: “We just don’t know. And we need to avoid creating a fear that might not be based on reality”.




Changing chocolate supply chains


Carolyn Kitto, STOP THE TRAFFIK Campaigns Co-ordinator, provides an update on progress to stop child labour in the cocoa industry.

Much of the chocolate that we buy in the UK is made with cocoa beans grown in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa.

Hundreds of thousands of children work in West Africa’s cocoa plantations. Thousands, as young as ten, are trafficked from Cote D’Ivoire and neighbouring countries. Their freedom is taken and they are forced to work long hours without receiving any money for their work. They are beaten and have to work in dangerous conditions. Most of them have never tasted chocolate. As recently as this year, Interpol intercepted children being trafficked into cocoa harvesting.

Since 2006 STOP THE TRAFFIK activists have campaigned for ingredients like violence and exploitation to be taken out of chocolate. Gradually, small changes have started to happen, and today the chocolate industry is in a very different place than when we started.



Change is afoot…

Success has included four of the largest five global chocolate companies, Nestlé, Mars, Hershey’s and Mondelez, releasing certified chocolate bars and announcing plans to clean up their supply chains. Current credible certifiers of cocoa supply chains are Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ. Ferrero is yet to certify any products. Nestlé has now certified their entire Australian and New Zealand chocolate bar range, and has announced its UK and Ireland chocolate ranges will be certified by the end of 2015. Mondelez has a ‘Cocoa Life’ plan but no point of sale communication and little transparency.

We have learnt that companies will only make changes when they are put under pressure by consumers. It is vital we maintain the momentum. The Harkin-Engel protocol, a voluntary agreement which was signed by the world confectionery industry in 2001, was only really acted on after people began campaigning.
Actions speak louder than words. We wait to see the promises of some companies implemented.



…but our message hasn’t changed

We want to end the buying and selling of people. We want to ensure no children are bought or sold to work in the cocoa supply chain.

There is a big difference between business sustainability and community or ethical sustainability. The big fear of the chocolate companies is that the world’s supply of cocoa is going to run dry. For them, the issue of sustainability is more closely linked to securing their supplies, rather than ensuring that the communities who provide the raw product are able to pay a living wage to workers, which would eliminate the need to use trafficked labour. We believe that a key contributor to the human trafficking solution is paying farmers a sufficient wage, enough for them to employ adult labour.

Our message is simple. We want to end the trafficking of children from the West Coast of Africa, where the majority of our chocolate comes from.



How do we get to traffic-free chocolate?


We believe that certification through credible, independent bodies such as Fairtrade, UTZ Certified and Rainforest Alliance, is a key step in eradicating child trafficking in the chocolate industry. Certification is not without its faults and it is not a guarantee. However, the certification bodies do seek to prevent trafficking and other forms of exploitation. If these are found, the certification bodies have systems in place to deal with the situation.

Different certification bodies have different strengths and weaknesses, but they all address labour and workers’ rights to some extent, and include the issue of child trafficking in their auditing processes. Certification also provides transparency so that the supply chain can be traced back to the cooperative, and sometimes the farm, where the cocoa is grown. This increases the ability of chocolate companies to track where and how their cocoa is grown.

Certification shows a company where their problems are, allowing them to start to deal with the issues. Certification logos such as Fairtrade also communicate information to consumers at the point of sale, empowering them to make informed choices.

Certification is a developing and growing system. Evaluation, monitoring and assessment are needed to ensure it is effective. STOP THE TRAFFIK actively engages with certification bodies, encouraging them to improve their standards and mechanisms in tackling human trafficking, and their monitoring and reporting of progress in the cocoa industry.

We also believe there are steps that must be taken by governments and by civil society. However, STOP THE TRAFFIK focuses on the role of companies for several reasons:

1) Companies have a very large share of the profits in the cocoa trade. With big profits come big responsibilities.

2) In 2001, chocolate companies promised that they would end child trafficking in cocoa supply chains by 2005 and they still haven’t achieved this.

3) The Big Five chocolate companies (Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez, Ferrero and Hershey’s) dominate the global chocolate market. If these five were to change how they do business, the rest would have to follow.


STOP THE TRAFFIK’s chocolate box


Certification alone is not enough. There are six criteria that STOP THE TRAFFIK believes need to be met by the big chocolate companies to ensure trafficking and the worst forms of child labour are stamped out of chocolate supply chains for good.

These six steps cover a range of factors that we think are necessary to bring about the end of child trafficking in the cocoa industry.

Public deadline for certification: A public deadline to certify a company’s entire range of cocoa. Deadlines should be realistic yet ambitious, demonstrating a commitment for change. It should include a plan with milestones and tonnages, and contain clear, consistent and credible communication to the consumer at the point of purchase.

Product certified: Third party certification on at least one product or range.

100% Certified: Third party certification on 100% of chocolate range.

Annually report on money spent to redress child trafficking, such as child labour remediation programmes. These must differentiate between economic and social impacts.

Living Wage: Take clear action to ensure that farmers and their dependents receive a sufficient income. This should include a needs inventory and a calculation of what a living income should be.

Impact assessment of programme by independent third party auditors.

We won’t stop campaigning until human trafficking has ended. What about you?

More info from




Fairtrade in the classroom: Nestlé vs. class 3 and 4


Ethical Consumer last looked at chocolate companies in 2009, and flagged the educational materials produced by STOP THE TRAFFIK. One EC reader, a teacher called Anne, decided to use STOP THE TRAFFIK’s ‘Chaga and the Chocolate Factory’ story as the basis for her class’s slot during the school’s harvest festival assembly, which was themed ‘Africa and seeds’.

With the harrowing subject matter of child trafficking and slavery on a West African cocoa plantation, we asked Anne if she was confident that it was appropriate for her class of seven to nine year olds. She was unconcerned: “When you give children a scenario of other children that are worse off than them they respond positively,” she told us. “Some of the pupils in my class had very hard lives.”

After reading the story, the class decided that they wanted to turn it into a play for the assembly. Two weeks of rehearsals and chocolate-related activity followed.
The children decided that they wanted to change the story slightly and leave out the part where a child working on the plantation died. They thought it would be too sad for the younger children attending the assembly.

They talked about the Fairtrade products they could buy at the local Co-operative supermarket and a couple met with the manager, seeking help and advice getting Fairtrade products into the school. Some met with the headmaster.

They wrote to Nestlé asking the company to make Kit Kats Fairtrade.

They decided to open their assembly performance with a “We want Fairtrade!” demonstration, and made the necessary banners. “Children that age have a strong sense of right and wrong, and they want justice,” said Anne.

During those weeks the class engaged not only with the story but with their own learning. For the first time that term they were all successful in completing their times tables tests.

After the assembly, the class received a reply from Nestlé. “I read it out to the class, but it was written in such complex language that no-one had any idea what they were saying,” said Anne. “The children suggested writing again, explaining that if their teacher didn’t understand the reply, what chance did 7,8 and 9 year olds have!”

A couple of weeks after sending their second letter to Nestlé, Anne spotted in the paper a full page Nestlé advert saying that the four finger Kit Kat would become Fairtrade certified. When the children saw the advert there was much cheering: “We did it!” they shouted.




Company profiles


Ferrero USA, the Hershey Company, Mars Inc., Lindt & Sprüngli, and Nestlé are all members of the National Confectioners Association. This is considered by Ethical Consumer to be a corporate lobby group which may have applied political pressure for laws and regulations to favour the interests of businesses over protections for consumers, workers, social welfare or the environment. In April 2014 the NCA was reported to be preparing to spend $2 million on a public relations campaign to challenge the idea that sweets and chocolate play “a role in the American obesity crisis”.[10]

The Lotte Group, which bought Chocolaterie Guylian in 2008, is a South Korean company and the country’s fifth largest conglomerate by assets. It operates in a range of sectors, from food to petrochemicals via retail, finance and construction. It consequently picks up associated marks on the table. Sales in 2013 were $75.7 billion.[11]

Madécasse is manufactured where the cocoa is grown, Madagascar. The model is a more structural response to global inequality than Fairtrade, which usually involves the sale of low-value bulk commodities. Although 60-65% of the world’s cocoa comes from mainland Africa, virtually none of it is transformed into chocolate there. Consequently Madécasse, which has only been in existence for a few years, is the largest exporter of finished chocolate from the African continent. The cocoa is certified under the Fair For Life programme, a parallel system to Fairtrade. This requires certification all the way along the production process, right up to the company’s offices in the USA.

Nestlé, which owns nearly 30% of L’Oréal, conducts animal testing. According to its website: “We can assure you that we use animal testing as little as possible, and that our care of animals always complies with the highest standards. Animal testing should only take place where absolutely necessary, as part of the regulatory process to commercialise a product, or as part of the development of novel food products, such as those with healthcare benefits.”

Iconic British chocolate company Cadbury’s was gobbled up by American Kraft Foods for £11.5 billion in 2010. The American food giant then spun off its international food business into the newly-formed company Mondelez.

Fairtrade pioneer Divine is 45% owned by Kuapa Kokoo, the 65,000 member strong Ghanaian farmers’ co-operative that produces the company’s chocolate.




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