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Ethical Valentine's Day Chocolate

Ethical, sustainable and fair trade chocolate is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. We rate 84 brands of chocolate, recommend brands and highlight ones to avoid. We help you avoid chocolate associated with child labour or palm oil so your gift is as ethical as possible.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a shopping 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.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying ethical chocolate for Valentine's Day: 

  • Is the chocolate value-added-at-source (marked S on our table)? This chocolate is manufactured in the same country where the cocoa beans were grown, ensuring more of the profit is kept local.

  • Is its cocoa Fairtrade International certified? Fairtrade ensures fairer and more stable payment to farmers, meaning they are more likely to receive above poverty wages.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying chocolate for Valentine's Day:

  • Is it owned by a mega multinational? Multinationals dominate this lucrative industry and their own-brand sustainability schemes are generally unfit for purpose.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Our Analysis

Between roses, soft toys and other gifts, Valentine’s Day can be a time of major consumption – and lots of waste. 

Ethical chocolate is a great alternative. But with child labour, deforestation and poverty wages all key issues in the industry, you’ll want to find the right brand. 

In this guide, we help you find special chocolate gifts from brands that are doing something truly ethical. 

Value-added-at-source Valentine’s chocolate

Poverty pricing is one of the biggest issues in the chocolate industry, as we explain in the “Problems in the chocolate industry” section below.

Some of the best companies are selling chocolate that is ‘value-added-at-source’ (VAS). This means that the chocolate is processed and manufactured in the country where farmers are growing the cocoa.

Processing and manufacturing receive a far bigger chunk of the chocolate bar’s sale value. This model, therefore, ensures more money stays in the cocoa growing regions.

VAS brands are generally more expensive. If you couldn’t afford to buy them every day, they might be the perfect, thoughtful gift for a partner or friend on Valentine’s Day.

‘57 Chocolate is a great example: this African woman-owned luxury brand is named after the year Ghana gained independence from the UK. Its “Black Star” and feminist chocolate gift sets are decorated with the faces and stories of African revolutionaries.

These brands are all excellent examples of value-added-at-source chocolate: 

Some ethical or wholefood shops may stock these brands (in particular Pacari and Fairafric), but your best bet may be to order online. ‘57 Chocolate and MonChoco are posted from abroad, so check that they would arrive in time before ordering. 
 

Fairtrade Valentine’s chocolate

The Fairtrade certification tries to tackle poverty in the cocoa industry by guaranteeing a minimum price for farmers – even when the market price falls lower than this. Fairtrade buyers also have to pay a ‘premium’, which goes into a communal fund. Workers and farmers choose how the money gets spent, on social, economic or environmental projects.

The following brands are Fairtrade certified or pay higher than Fairtrade prices for cocoa:

When buying your Valentine’s Day chocolate, look out for the words Fairtrade International, or for the organisation’s logo. This will ensure your bar is actually certified. The term ‘fair trade’ isn’t ‘protected’, which means companies can otherwise use it to mean all sorts of different things.

We have a separate article about fair trade labels and food which explains more about why fair trade is important and what to look for.

Organic Valentine’s chocolate

Many brands use organic ingredients, either for all or some of their bars.

The brands are: 

We have a separate article on organic food, why it's important and what labels to look for. 

A heart in chocolate shape in icing on cake

Vegan Valentine’s chocolate

Nearly every brand sells a vegan option, but only the following are fully vegan businesses:

Read about the environmental impact of different diets in our feature article, and our top 10 tips to reduce meat and dairy from your diet

Plastic-free Valentine’s chocolate

If you’re fed up with plastic then the following appear to use none at all in their chocolate packaging: Cocoa Loco, Conscious, Divine, Fairafric, H!P, Montezuma’s, Raw Chocolate Company, Seed & Bean, and Tony’s Chocolonely.

A growing number of wholefood and refill shops are also selling chocolate that is packaging free, particularly chocolate covered fruit and nuts and chocolate buttons. This could be a great way to make your own pick and mix gift – but it’s worth speaking to the owner about what other standards the chocolate lives up to, for example whether it’s Fairtrade or organic. 

Ethical Valentine’s chocolates that are easy to buy in the UK

Some of our Best Buy companies are a little harder to get hold of. You may have to order them online. Brands like ‘57 Chocolate and MonChoco are shipped from abroad – meaning they take some time to arrive.

If you’re shopping last minute, at least one of the following brands is likely to be available in your local wholefood or ethical shop.

Ombar uses cacao from Ecuador, which is processed in their factory in Cambridge, UK. All products are certified fairtrade by Fair for Life and are organic. The company focuses on using cacao as a “superfood”. For them, this means using unroasted cacao only and adding whole, unrefined coconut sugar as opposed to refined cane sugar. They even add probiotics to some bars! 

Pacari sells certified organic chocolate, which is made tree-to-bar in Ecuador. The company works directly with farmers and pays them a premium that is higher than Fairtrade prices, although it isn’t certified. All chocolates are vegan, and free from gluten, palm oil and soya. 

Vego is a totally vegan and Fairtrade brand, mainly using organic ingredients. It does not use palm oil or soya.

What kind of Valentine's chocolates do ethical brands sell?

The most ethical brands sell a variety of types of chocolate. 

Types of chocolate made by ethical brands
Brand Types of chocolate
‘57 Chocolate Bars, boxes
Chocolat Madagascar Bars
Conscious (vegan) Bars, boxes, buttons and shapes, covered fruits and nuts, hot chocolate
Fairafric Bars (including filled bars), boxes, buttons, covered fruits and nuts
Mia Bars
MonChoco (vegan) Bars, boxes
Moo Free (vegan) Bars, buttons and shapes, eggs, truffles
OmBar (vegan) Bars (including filled bars), buttons
Pacari (vegan) Bars, covered fruits and nuts
Raw Chocolate Company (vegan)
Bars, boxes, buttons, covered fruits and nuts, hot chocolate
 
Vego (vegan) Bars, buttons, chocolate spread

Is there any ethical sugar-free Valentine’s chocolate?

Some ethical brands make chocolate that is free from refined sugar (often using something like whole, unrefined coconut sugar instead).

Sugar-free milk chocolate (plant-based): Conscious, Plamil, Raw Chocolate Company.

Sugar-free dark chocolate: Booja Booja, Chocolat Madagascar, MIA, Ombar, Pacari, Seed & Bean.

What are the problems in the chocolate industry?

There are several key ethical issues in the chocolate industry. We look at the main ones here, including poverty, child labour, deforestation and palm oil.

Chocolate and poverty

Most cocoa is grown in West Africa by small scale farmers. But the farmers receive only a tiny portion of the final value of a processed chocolate bar – somewhere between 6% and 11%.

This system is perpetuating widespread poverty in the regions, with more than half of Ivory Coast’s cocoa farmers living below the global poverty line. Countries where the cocoa is processed and final manufacturing takes place – often in the Global North – instead take most of the value.

The most ethical companies use different models, which see cocoa farmers and producing countries paid more fairly. We list some of the best choices above.

We have rated all companies on their cocoa sourcing policy, with scores in the table. 

Chocolate brands and their cocoa sourcing rating. Information is in the article
Cocoa sourcing rating by Ethical Consumer. Copyright Moonloft for ECRA.

Chocolate and child labour

You’ve almost definitely eaten chocolate made using child labour: 4 in 10 cocoa-growing households in Ivory Coast are estimated to use child labour, and 6 in 10 in Ghana.

Cocoa farmers’ income is so low that it’s commonplace for them to rely on child labour and deforestation to get by.

Ethical companies tackle the route causes of child labour by paying a fairer price for the cocoa they source. We have listed Fairtrade and value-added-at-source options to go for.

Chocolate and deforestation

Ghana and Ivory Coast have lost around 94% and 80% of their forests in the past 60 years, one-third of it to make way for cocoa. About 40% of Ivorian cocoa is estimated to have come from inside protected forest areas, technically making it illegal.

Chocolate and palm oil

Some chocolates also contain palm oil, particularly if they have a filling. Palm oil is a significant driver of deforestation.

The following received our worst rating for palm oil: Cadbury, Ferrero Rocher, Galaxy, Green & Black's, H!P, Kinder, Kit Kat, Love Cocoa, Maltesers, Mars, Milka, Nestlé, Smarties, Thorntons, and Toblerone.

See our feature on palm oil free chocolate for all the company ratings on this.

 

For more information on these issues, visit our full guide to ethical chocolate.

Key to letters in score table after brand name e.g. Pacari [F,O,S]

  • F = Fairtrade certified or marketed as fair trade
  • O = Organic
  • S = Value added at source
  • RA = Rainforest Alliance certified

Company behind the brand

How ethical is Cadbury’s?

Cadbury’s is one of the best known chocolate brands in the UK. It is owned by the massive multinational Mondelez, which is also behind brands like Green & Blacks and Roses, and bars like Twirl and Crunchie.

Unfortunately, Mondelez does not have a good record on ethics, scoring a measly 0.5 in our table.

In 2021, an investigation by Unearthed linked Cadbury to deforestation in its animal feed supply chain. The same year, Mondelez’s palm oil supply chain was linked to deforestation, as well as violations of Indigenous land rights, in Liberia.

Mondelez is also a major plastic polluter. Each year, campaign group Surfers Against Sewage see citizens collecting plastic polluting items from coastlines, canal paths, bridleways and city streets. In 2023, Mondelez came 4th in terms of the amount of branded packaging found.

The company receives Ethical Consumer’s worst rating across a number of different categories, including: Supply Chain Management and Tax Conduct. Its policy for cocoa sourcing was considered to be inadequate. 

Want more information?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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