Supplier Series: Trade Aid

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Trade Aid chocolate blocks Christchurch nz

Another supplier series featuring our lovely cocoa supplier: Trade Aid!

As many people in Aotearoa know, Trade Aid is a social enterprise founded on the philosophy of fairness in trade. It is a New Zealand-founded and operated company that is all about doing business to build a better world. At Bellbird we are delighted to be able to work with a supplier that champions really important causes.

We asked Trade Aid to answer a few questions about their business and their process.

Tell us a bit about Trade Aid and what you guys do.

Trade Aid is both a household name and an enterprise that most Kiwis discover they know very little about. Every Kiwi knows someone who has volunteered at Trade Aid over the years, but Trade Aid looks very different in 2023 than when it started 50 years ago, back in 1973. 

When we tell people that our 25 Trade Aid shops around the country make up only about 30% of our business, it usually comes as a surprise. As does the fact that green coffee beans (that never get branded with Trade Aid’s name) actually make up 50% of our trade, going into the blends of more than 80 coffee roasters around the country. The final 20% involves no less than 1300 New Zealand businesses purchasing from Trade Aid across its lines of food and craft to go into everything from croissants to wine and into boutique design stores around the country. This, and the fact that Trade Aid operations for the last ten years have included setting up and running a chocolate factory in Sydenham, make Trade Aid a fun Kiwi secret to learn more about. 

What makes your chocolate different to others on the market?

Trade Aid partners with 55 social enterprises in 26 countries to support positive change within artisan and producer communities. To this day, no one owns Trade Aid, or maybe everyone owns Trade Aid —that is to say, all the Kiwis who have mucked in over the years to keep the vision alive— a movement of New Zealanders working together to achieve equity for all. 

50 years down the track, though, there’s a bigger job on our hands than ever to achieve global equity. The chocolate industry is plagued by environmental and social problems. Those stem from the very low prices that are routinely paid to cocoa producers. Most of New Zealand’s chocolate is made using cocoa bought through conventional supply chains. 

Trade Aid sources its cocoa under fair trade terms, which provide higher returns to cocoa farmers. Higher fair trade prices allow these producers to better cover the basic costs of living for their families. It also allows them to better protect their environment by producing cocoa organically. 

Talk us through the process of making your chocolate.

Trade Aid operates a factory in Sydenham, Christchurch that manufactures finished chocolate from semi-processed cocoa products. We do not make chocolate from cocoa beans but from cocoa liquor and cocoa butter. These ingredients are manufactured for us in Europe using cocoa beans sourced from small-farmer cooperatives in Peru and the Dominican Republic. In our factory, they are melted and combined with sugar grown by a cooperative of farmers in Paraguay, then refined in 500-kg batches. The temperature of the refiner and the high shear environment inside the machine that “conches” the mass help develop the flavours and texture of the chocolate over about 16 hours. The finished chocolate is then filtered and pumped into tanks, where it is stored as liquid, ready to be made into drops, blocks, or bars, or used to coat nuts or other centres. 

By purchasing from Trade Aid, customers are having a positive impact on the wellbeing and livelihoods of many thousands of disadvantaged cocoa growers throughout the developing world. 

Trade Aid women

Here are a few questions we answered ourselves about working with Trade Aid.

Why do Bellbird use Trade Aid chocolate?

When Jeremy started Bellbird, he wanted to use good-quality ingredients. However, good-quality chocolate batons had to be imported from overseas, and that is something Jeremy did not want to do. Moreover, the cocoa percentage of those batons isn’t typically very high, meaning he would have bought mostly sugar. So instead, he decided to go for good-quality, locally made chocolate, and who better to use than Trade Aid? The fact that their chocolate contains 70% cocoa was also a deciding factor as we think it’s so much flavourful than a 50% chocolate.

How long has Bellbird been using Trade Aid?

We have been using Trade aid since the early days of Bellbird, circa 2010.

What products feature Trade Aid products?

At Bellbird we use Trade Aid chocolate in every product that contains dark chocolate. That includes our Pain au Chocolat and Walnut & Salted Caramel Brownie. However, we use more than just chocolate from Trade Aid! We also use their muscovado sugar in our Almond Croissant, and their golden cane sugar is in all our pastries, and brioche.

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