By Andrea Pyka
A French food company has transformed biting into a chocolate bar from a guilty pleasure into a political statement.
With a new line of organic fair trade products, Alter Eco serves to cure world poverty as well as individual hunger.
The company is committed to helping the most marginalized farmers in developing countries climb out of debt and poverty by offering them fair prices for their crops, and in turn selling the fair trade products to consumers.
"Everybody wins," Edouard Rollet, co-founder of Alter Eco, said through a thick French accent. "The farmers get a fair price for their products and the consumers get their products."
Rollet and Mathieu Senard founded Alter Eco in 1999 and have recently expanded into the United States and now Santa Cruz.
In addition to being a socially conscious company, Rollet said that Alter Eco offers the highest quality products as well.
Alter Eco works with TransFair USA, a non-profit independent organization and a third-party certifier of fair trade products in the Unites States. According to Rollet, TransFair USA gives Alter Eco the certification to sell the products as fair trade items.
Village inhabitants from different countries such as India, Bolivia and the Philippines produce Alter Eco’s products.
"It would be easier to bring the products to the United States and package them, but we want to keep the value of the product true to its origin," Rollet said.
Alter Eco, which is the largest fair trade brand in Europe, can now be found on store shelves in Santa Cruz, and offers a variety of organic products including purple jasmine rice, dark velvet chocolate and Ethiopian coffee.
Dario Dickinson, manager of Food Bin in Santa Cruz, said selling Alter Eco products has greatly benefited his store.
"People demand these products and we give them what they want," Dickinson said. "We are a business that is concerned with social justice."
While Dickinson said that selling Alter Eco products has been good for business, he believes the costumers also greatly benefit from purchasing the organic products.
"The dollars spent are going to work for social justice in the world," Dickinson said.
Sarah Miles, Marketing Director for New Leaf Community Markets in Santa Cruz, which sell Alter Eco products, said via e-mail that she supports the fair trade company’s mission.
"We don’t do it to get more customers, we do it because it is the right thing to do," Miles said. "In a world where many of us no longer have a clue where food comes from, it’s empowering to know where your food is grown."