Undone Chocolate sources cacao direct trade to ensure high quality

Undone Chocolate sources cacao direct trade to ensure quality

Washington, D.C.-based startup Undone Chocolate is on a mission to combine flavor and health and to succeed it is willing to pay three times more than the premium price for Fair Trade to secure the highest quality cacao beans farm direct. 

“We are only as good as our beans” because along with organic cane sugar they are one of only two ingredients in the dark chocolate that is the basis of the company’s bars, said co-founder Adam Kavalier. That mean “if our beans are bad, our chocolate is bad.”

To ensure that doesn’t happen and to guarantee his chocolate is the best, Kavalier opted to buy his cacao beans direct trade, rather than Fair Trade.

“People associate Fair Trade with good things” because it pays farmers $150 more than the market price per metric ton of cacao, which covers farmers’ fees with the co-ops through which they sell their crop and helps create a stable way to market their beans, Kavalier explained. But Fair Trade “doesn’t incentivize quality. It incentivizes volume,”

Direct trade, on the other hand, incentivizes a higher quality crop by paying $500 more than market rate per metric ton, he said.

“There is a demand for quality that comes with that extra cash,” and the higher price point enables Undone Chocolate to select beans from specific farmers, have a reliable source and support sustainable farming, Kavalier said.

Maximizing health benefits in chocolate

The quality of the bean is important to Kavalier not just because it influences the flavor of the finished bar, but because he wants beans with the highest possible medicinal compounds to ensure his product delivers on its health promise, he said.

Two squares of Undone Chocolate has 435 mg of antioxidants, which is more than the 325 mg in one glass of red wine, the 250 mg in 5 ounces of blueberries and the 146 mg in a cup of green tea, according to the website.  

Kavalier, who has a Ph.D. in botany and keen interest in plant chemistry, used his plant scientist training to create chocolate with such high levels of antioxidants by testing beans from all over the world to find the ones with the highest levels of medicinal compounds, he said. He then tapped culinary resources to identify the grinding and roasting techniques that best maintained the antioxidant levels in the bean, he said.

He further builds on the healthy foundation of his 70% cacao by mixing in different spices and seasonings with additional benefits to create four unique bars.

The company’s ‘nourish’ bar is simple organic dark chocolate, but its ‘replenish’ bar has Himalayan pink salt that is “loaded with trace minerals,” according to the firm’s website. In addition, its ‘arouse’ bar combines the aphrodisiacs cinnamon, cardamom and chili pepper to create “an antioxidant rich sexy blend,” the website says.

The fourth bar is a special small batch made with beans from Nicaragua and is already nearing the end of its run, Kavalier said.

Undone Chocolate’s health benefits do not stop with its decadent bars. It also sells cacao shell tea that has a chocolate aroma and earthy flavor and contains theobromine, which is a natural stimulant, Kavalier said.

With the addition of the tea to its repertoire, Undone Chocolate uses the whole cacao bean, he noted.

A high end bar

Undone Chocolate’s high quality bean-to-bar products and health benefits help set it apart from the competition and justify its high price point of $7-$9 per bar, Kavalier said.

He acknowledged that the price of his bars is higher than many competitors, but he compared the difference to paying for a nice bottle of wine or craft beer. Indeed, high priced gourmet chocolate is gaining popularity as an alternative to more traditional desserts, rather than as a snack. (Read more about marketing premium chocolate HERE.) 

To help consumers swallow the price difference, Kavalier said the startup is aggressively sampling the bars to help educate consumers about the high quality ingredients, intense flavor and delicate processing.

He added that Undone Chocolate also will raise awareness and sales by participating in as many farmers markets and pop-ups as it can before the weather becomes too hot to sell chocolate outside.

Working with an incubator

The company, which launched last September and introduced its bars in December, also has relied on help from its incubator Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C.,  to reach retailers and gain necessary knowledge about running a food business, Kavalier said.

“Union Kitchen has been amazing for us,” not just because it provides access to a fully functional kitchen space, but because it “connected us with grocery stores and has helped us market our product,” Kavalier said.

He said he also draws a lot of energy from the other startups based out of Union Kitchen and appreciates learning the business with them.

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