Five degrees north of the Earth’s equatorial plane, a world away from Long Island, two-thirds of the world’s cocoa grows. Spread out over 2-million square miles, this vast patch of West African land and the people who work it are the inspiration for a local chocolate company that wants to change the way we think about the sweet treat.
“We wanted to make a delicious chocolate snack that drives economic impact back to cocoa farmers around the world while also providing health benefits to our customers,” said Ben Conard, founder of the vegan, fair trade company Five North Chocolate.
Conard, who has worked in different areas of fair trade advocacy, product development and more, saw the positive effects fair trade can have on communities during travels to India and Ecuador. In West Africa, as is the case elsewhere, farmers are often exploited for their work as part of the cocoa supply chains. With Five North, which he started in March of 2016, he was able to combine his fair trade work with his love of healthy foods and appreciation for good chocolate.
“Transparency and sustainability in business drives me. As an advocate for fair trade, I have worked with businesses and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally to drive positive economic impact to marginalized farmers, artisans, and producers in the developing world,” Conard said.
The company sells a range of chocolate snacks made with 72 percent cocoa and tasty superfoods that include goji berries, pistachios, coconut and almonds. The products are available online and also in select stores nationwide, including Cheese & Spice Market in Wading River, Shade Trees Nursery in Jamesport, In Touch With Your Health in Stony Brook, Cirillo’s Market in Amagansett and Local’s Cafe in Port Jefferson.
In November, at the “Shark Tank”-like pitch contest on Long Island, Riptide: Hamptons $ink or $wim, Five North Chocolate won $10,000 as Audience Favorite by the recently formed entrepreneur network i-hamptons. Conard plans to use the money to help raise awareness about Five North Chocolate by expanding to additional retail stories and to creating new branding through packaging.