Staff Picks

Valentine Gifts Include Organic Fair Trade Chocolate

Chocolate is a many-splendored thing. It can be an indulgence, a sign of affection, an escape, or a health supplement. Buying Endangered Species Chocolate adds another dimension to the mix: Sweet treat as charitable donation.

Members of our staff consider gift options for Valentines' Day, including Indiana's own Endangered Species chocolate. It's organic, fairly traded, and won the "Corporate Hero" award given by The Better World Shopping Guide.

Holly Stocking, a Bloomingfoods member, knows how the company got started. Her cousin’s husband, Jon Stocking, spent time working on a tuna fishing boat, and one day he saw some baby dolphins stuck in the fish net. He dove in to set the dolphins free, and was promptly fired for his actions. Sobered by the experience, Jon founded Endangered Species Chocolate in 1993. Holly said Jon has since sold the company, which was moved from Oregon to Indianapolis in 2005.

Ten percent of Endangered Species’ net profits go to support organizations that help endangered species and their habitats. The African Wildlife Federation and the Ocean Conservancy are among the organizations that have benefitted from its support. 

Endangered Species Chocolate was labeled a “Corporate Hero” by The Better World Shopping Guide, a book (available at Bloomingfoods) which reviews companies for their environmental and human rights records. The Guide praised Endangered Species not only for its support of wildlife; the chocolate is also Fair Trade certified, organic, and its harvest eschews slave labor. Its cacao is supplied by small, family-owned farms, and its production plant is LEED certified (approved by the government as environmentally responsible).

Bloomingfoods member Joni James discovered the Endangered Species brand after reading about cacao’s purported health benefits. “I had read that you should eat dark chocolate with 75 percent and higher cacao. So I bought some. I had never eaten dark chocolate and was never huge fan of chocolate before.”

“My favorite is the dark chocolate with hazelnut toffee, the one with the black rhino on the front,” she continued. If James were putting together a Bloomingfoods Valentines Day gift for a loved one, she added, Endangered Species bars would be accompanied by Silk brand chocolate soy milk, Bloomingfoods’ Hum-Buzz pita sandwiches, and the ingredients for her favorite smoothie.

Jacob Goodman, store coordinator at Bloomingfoods Kirkwood, agreed that chocolate is a pretty sure-fire Valentines Day gift. He also recommends the luxurious health and beauty products found at the stores. “We have essential oils. That would be good. We have some spa-type products, exfoliators and body wash and bubble bath, things that you would use for a spa day,” he said. Goodman, who is partial to practical gifts, might also be won over by useful offerings like kitchen tools or a travel mug.

John Cook, grocery manager at the Near West Side, said that Chocolove, a brand which features a romantic poem within the wrapping of each bar, will be on sale at his store in February. According to the Chocolove website, the company avoids exploitative labor practices in the procurement of its cocoa, and two of its bars are organic. Heart-shaped beeswax candles are also available at all three stores; their maker, Sunbeam Candles, is a New York State-based company run entirely on solar power.

Laura Gleason works at Bloomingfoods on the Near West Side.

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