Shopping Tips for Candy
Cocoa is a global commodity which is grown close to the equator in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. The most important impacts associated with cocoa cultivation include:
- Child and slave labor – Wide ranging human rights abuses and exploitation, including child trafficking and child and slave labor particularly in West Africa, are still a common problem in cocoa production.
- Traceability and fair pricing – Companies rarely purchase cocoa from farms directly. Cocoa is mostly grown on small family farms, which rely on a complex series of intermediaries to transport the crop to processors. Chocolate is also a multi-ingredient product containing cocoa components such as cocoa butter and cocoa solids as well as other components, all potentially coming from a variety of sources. Because product traceability is difficult, farmers often don’t have the ability to maximize their crop’s value, and commodity prices paid can be far lower than market value.
- Ecological impacts – Older crops produce less yield, resulting in farmers using additional pesticides to keep production high. Cocoa also grows best when under a protective shade canopy of a tropical forest.
- Health – With respect to the health benefits of chocolate, most products are made with sugar, milk, and several other additives – the dietary problems associated with the sugar and fat content of candies will compete with the potential health benefits of the anti-oxidants in cacao.
What to look for:
Certifications ensure the chocolate has been produced under industry leading labor and environmental conditions.
- Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or Fair for Life certifications address livable wages, fair labor practices and safe working conditions, and environmental standards.
- Organic certification addresses environmental considerations only.
A chocolate bar can have significant environmental impacts on tropical ecosystems and social impacts on farmers and laborers. Look for at least one of the recognized certifications such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or Fair for Life to help promote both basic human rights and environmental protections.
Although chocolate shouldn’t be your go-to source for antiooxidants, if you want to make the most out of an indulgence, stick to whole chocolate bars with over 70% cacao, and no added ingredients. However, be careful to avoid candy bars that tout cacao percentages as most of those products contain limited chocolate. Dark chocolate with over 70% cacao will be the richest source of cacao anti-oxidants.
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Learn how to buy chocolates or box candies that are produced in a sustainable way — good for the environment and for the communities that produce the cacao. Read More
Scoring Chocolate and Boxed Candy
GoodGuide’s Health ratings for chocolate bars, candy bars and boxed candy are based on the nutritional value of the food, as characterized by a standard method of nutrient assessment called the “Ratio of Recommended to Restricted Nutrients” (RRR).
Environment scores are assigned to chocolate and boxed candy by combining product-level environmental indicators with company-level environmental indicators. Based on the relatively comprehensive certification programs being applied to chocolate products, the summary Environmental score is weighted 50% product-level and 50% company-level.
Social scores are assigned to chocolate and boxed candy by combining product-level social indicators with company-level environmental indicators. Based on the relatively comprehensive certification programs being applied to chocolate products, the summary Social score is weighted 50% product-level and 50% company-level.
RRR: The Ratio of Recommended to Restricted Nutrients
The RRR calculates the ratio of “good” to “bad” nutrients, essentially providing an overall picture of a food’s nutrition profile. For most types of food, the list of recommended nutrients includes protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber and the list of restricted nutrients includes calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. For more on how the RRR is calculated and scored, see GoodGuide’s Food Methodology.
Assigning Product-Level Environmental and Social Scores Using Certifications
Third-party certifications (FairTrade, USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance, and Fair For Life) were used as the primary indicator of product level performance. As part of ratings development, GoodGuide conducted a first-of-its-kind, cross certification assessment to evaluate the rigor and comprehensiveness of each individual certification and aggregate relevant information in a way that allowed comparison across certifications. This process included evaluating the standards for each certification on a number of social and environmental criteria. Environmental criteria included policies and practices related to: Biodiversity, Water, Environmental Management, Pollution & Toxicity and Energy. Social criteria are reflected in the assessment of certifications, and include policies and practices related to Working Conditions & Benefits, Labor & Human Rights, Community Engagement, and Opportunity & Diversity. Different weights were assigned to each of the criteria examined based on their relevance to cacao growth and harvesting. Certification assessments incorporated program variables including the percentage of the certified ingredients required for approval, program structure, and scoring methodology.
The following table identifies the certifiers that GoodGuide assessed for use in scoring chocolate products:
|Fairtrade||Fair Trade is the highest-scoring chocolate certification standard for both environmental and social criteria.|
|Rainforest Alliance||Rainforest Alliance uses comprehensive and robust Sustainable Agriculture network standards for their crops. Although the threshold for use of their seal can be as low as 30% of the product, Rainforest Alliance is currently transitioning to require 90-100% of ingredients to be certified in order to display the certification logo.|
|USDA Organic||The USDA Organic standard addresses environmental considerations, mostly pertaining to environmental management the use and application of pesticides.|
|Fair for Life||Based in Europe, the Fair For Life certification program borrows some standards from other certification entities (e.g. Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified) and amends them with their own to address the business practices of a product’s full supply chain including manufacturers and brand holders.|
Products in the Chocolate Bar, Candy Bar, and Boxed Candy categories receive product-level credits for these certifications. Products in the Chocolate Bar category without certifications receive lower product level scores. Boxed Candy and Candy Bars receive credits for certifications, but do not receive a debit for the absence of a certification since chocolate is typically not the main product ingredient.
The presence of anti-oxidant compounds in some chocolate products (as well as in other types of foods) is not factored into GoodGuide health ratings currently. While anti-oxidants have health benefits, there is no standard measure of this type of biological activity or disclosure of product-level amounts. While dark chocolate generally contains more antioxidants, accurate identification of total cacao content in any given candy product is challenging and therefore not applicable to ratings at this time.