Unlike most chocolates made in Ecuador, Colombia, or Venezuela that tout themselves as “Farmer’s chocolates,” Vintage Plantations is an independent company. Not having to satisfy outside investors allows us to prioritize the quality of our products over the size of the bottom line.
The Mission: To support the small chocolate industry in countries where the chocolate originates by re-designing the cocoa commodity chain, thereby aiding farmers to adopt better farm management practices, protect the environment, ensure crops are free of harmful chemicals, and maximize their income in order to encourage the farmers’ optimal re-investment in the development of high-quality chocolate.
The Challenge: We make chocolate in cooperation only with entities willing to follow the Rainforest Alliance Guidelines, and we train them to achieve very high standards of quality. We only support small farmers and league with local small enterprises in both Ecuador and the USA for all services needed to run our company.
We selected among three roasters to find the Ecuadorian partner which had the finest equipment to convert all the work we had done on fermentation into a ground liquor without losing any of the organoleptic qualities we had so carefully developed during cocoa bean fermentations. Since we have established this process for creating very high quality chocolates, we are proud to say that 17 new chocolate companies have sprung up in Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia following our footsteps. Vintage Plantations pioneered the renewal of artisan, batch chocolate making.
We have reconfigured chocolate making — from beans to bars — by requiring best farming and business practices in accordance with the Rainforest Alliance Guidelines. Moreover, we strive to balance the profit at every stage of the commodity chain between farmer and consumer, in order to make it more sustainable for all actors, thereby bringing added value to the chocolate in your hand.
The Result: Our model aims to protect you, the consumer, from the degradation of chocolate quality that is often the consequence of the single-minded pursuit of meeting “profit benchmarks” in major confectionery and chocolate industrial groups. Our products are made only from fermented, native original Vintage cocoa beans and honor the local flavor of the plantations, each harvest, and the distinctiveness of beans from one farm to another.
In order to get back to the vintage chocolate process of yesteryears, we had to design a new commodity chain, where only parties contributing to enhancing the quality of the end product were invited to join; those merely seeking profit from the current market imbalances were left out. The savings derived from circumventing the usual players were passed along to the farmer and re-invested in the development of the farms.
At Vintage Plantations, we have the unique perspective of having forged this standard of chocolate making from beginning, including several trials and unsuccessful partnerships from which we have been able to perfect and further develop our process. The end result, we are proud to say, is the first chocolate made with the farmer, offering you a “Vintage” chocolate of the highest quality.
Rainforest alliance presented the sustainability award 2010. to : Mr. Pierrick Chouard
Pierrick Chouard of Vintage Plantations Chocolates
In the late 1990s, Pierrick Chouard – at the time, manager of a French chocolate company – paid a visit to the Dominican Republic to research local cocoa farms. It was an eye-opening experience for Chouard, who was unaware of the depth and complexity of the social, environmental and economic challenges facing cocoa farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Following the trip, Chouard developed a class to introduce cocoa farmers to better farming practices and began contemplating launching his own line of sustainably grown specialty chocolate. Chouard approached the Rainforest Alliance with a generous donation to jump-start a development project in the Dominican Republic and a desire to identify a sustainable source for his new line of chocolate products. Together, we agreed to connect with potential suppliers in Ecuador, where the Rainforest Alliance was already engaged with a number of farmers. By 2004, Vintage Plantations Arriba chocolate had hit the shelves and become the first-ever cocoa product to bear the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ green frog seal. Today, 100 percent of the cocoa used in Vintage's delicious chocolates comes from farms that protect the environment and the rights and welfare of local communities.
Vintage Plantations pioneered the renewal of artisan small-batch chocolate making.
Vintage Plantation Chocolates was born out of the true love of chocolate and the desire to get back to making chocolate the way it should be made. The company was originally founded by Pierrick Chouard and Allan Suarez, chocoholics and rugby mates, in 1993. Disappointed by the continuous degradation of quality in mass-produced chocolate and concerned by the disappearance of the small cocoa farmers who were being swallowed by investment consortia favoring cocoa hybrids selected for volume instead of flavor, Pierrick and Allan decided to start with the cocoa bean at its source. Pierrick, a chocolate professional in Europe and the US since 1985, went searching for quality native cocoa beans directly from farmers and was among the first to recognize that educating farmers and including them in the chocolate manufacturing process was the first step in improving the quality of chocolate available to consumers.
As he researched the cocoa-producing countries of South America and the Caribbean, it became clear that most small cocoa farmers were being squeezed from their land and livelihoods. They were prevented direct access to the cocoa markets and were forced to sell their cocoa beans through a network of unscrupulous middle-men. Pierrick raised funds for one village of farmers in the Dominican Republic which led to a collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance and a local NGO to administer the funds and help farmers in the Dominican Republic market their cocoa directly.
Encouraged by the results, Vintage Plantations joined the Rainforest Alliance effort in Ecuador where it was developing its first cocoa program. It was a natural fit and the first “Farmer’s Chocolate” was launched in 1997. Vintage Plantations set up chocolate production equipment alongside a group of Ecuadorian farmers and made chocolate in Ecuador until 2007. We are proud to say that today at least 17 chocolate companies have sprung up in Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia following in our footsteps.
After years of battling logistical issues and the chocolate-melting temperatures of Ecuador, the Vintage Plantations brand was relocated to our current bean to bar plant in the US where we continually refine our process and develop new products for our customers.
The Vintage Plantations brand continues to expand with the arrival of our Swedish partners, Jenny Berg and Lars Stenborn. Jenny and Lars have built a lovely production plant in Umea Sweden and are adding delicious Swedish-grown berries and herbs foraged form the woods of Sweden to the mix.
At Vintage Plantations, we have the hands-on perspective of having forged our standard of chocolate making starting from the source, and through multiple tests and trials we have been able to perfect our process. Our involvement in each step of chocolate production allows us to deliver the highest quality of pure Vintage chocolate.