A Sweet Donation to Cocoa Co-ops

By: Co+op

Archived Article

The year 2012 was designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC). As part of the celebration, food co-ops across the country partnered with Theo Chocolate to create limited-edition chocolate bars to raise money for the co-ops that produced the cocoa for the bars. A total of $41,076 was raised and will be donated directly to these cooperatives in Ecuador and Peru.

The co-ops, Fortaleza del Valle cocoa cooperative in Ecuador and the CEPICAFE cocoa cooperative in Peru, will use these funds to address a variety of community needs, including governance, health and education, empowering farmers, and quality and yield improvements.

Food co-ops have long provided a critical link between shoppers and farmers. Participating co-ops—all affiliates of National Co+op Grocers (NCG), the organization that brings you this site—and the cocoa co-ops are part of a diverse and growing cooperative business movement. As part of the International Year of Cooperatives, across the world, co-ops have joined the United Nations in educating the public and celebrating the economic, social and environmental contributions of co-op businesses.

At, we're proud that these chocolate bars help to support cocoa farmers by ensuring living wages, promote the health of our planet through organic growing practices, and create artisan food manufacturing jobs in the U.S. It’s just another way that food co-ops and our shoppers and owners are helping to build a better world!

The scrumptious ‘International Year of Co-ops’ chocolate bars may still be available at a co-op near you while supplies last. They are organic and fair trade certified, and come in 85% dark and 45% milk chocolate varieties. They make delicious gifts—for yourself or others.

About Fortaleza del Valle

Fortaleza del Valle specializes in producing high quality Nacional cacao, a varietal known for its floral notes and clean finish. Established in 2005 to help small scale cocoa farmers organize and increase their production capacity, Fortaleza has helped farmers increase their incomes and improve their quality of life through centralized bean fermenting and drying, providing access to premium cocoa markets, credit and training on best farming practices and land rehabilitation.


CEPICAFE cooperative works with approximately 500 farmers in the Piura and Amazonas regions of Peru. The farmers there are organized into small regional groups of 30-40 members that have centralized the fermenting and drying of their cocoa beans, bringing greater consistency and quality to their product. CEPICAFE focuses on educating producer members to ensure they understand the world market and the way in which their product fits into the international cocoa supply chain. This education is uncommon and extremely valuable for farmers. When cocoa farmers know how cocoa is graded and purchased globally, it’s an important step towards their understanding of how to produce higher quality beans, with increased market value, that will ultimately deliver greater returns on their hard work and dedication to the land they steward.

Photos courtesy of Theo Chocolate

Update: How the $41,076 raised was put to use

The projects funded through the sale of Theo chocolate bars have supported construction of two community cocoa collection and processing centers, improvements in their quality lab, and provided increased staff training for co-op members. Matching funds provided by Progresso (a Peruvian development organization), CEPICAFE and the community members were also used to fund these projects.

The community leaders and CEPICAFE believe this investment is essential to fuel other social development improvements, such as health and education improvements:

"This project will contribute to the economic development of the communities of Chililique and Palo Blanco since they are well positioned to improve their community cocoa processing centers, which in actuality is the bottleneck for obtaining quality beans. The quality improvement of the cocoa beans will allow for additional quality premiums, resulting in improved incomes and thus a better quality of life for the cocoa producing families.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in this sweet donation!