3 things to consider when choosing chocolate

(BPT) - Few things are better in life than unwrapping and biting into a piece of silky smooth chocolate. With so many options in the candy aisle, it’s important to know not only where your favorite treat originates, but how it impacts the environment and the farmers who grow cocoa.

“Americans are more aware than ever of where the products they consume come from and how they’re made,” says Kerry Cavanaugh, brand director for DOVE Chocolate, which is produced by Mars Chocolate North America. “They want to know products have been sustainably produced in a manner that has the least possible impact on the environment and a positive effect on people at the source. Chocolate producers like Mars are paying attention to consumer sentiment.”

If chocolate is high on your list of favorite treats, make sure the brand you choose is one that combines pleasure with purpose by asking if it is doing something that will benefit others around the world. Here are three things to consider the next time you reach for chocolate at the store:

1. Helping fight poverty. Cocoa is an industry that affects 6.5 million farmers around the world — the majority of cocoa is grown on small farms operated by independent farmers in developing countries in West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. DOVE Chocolate supports initiatives like the CARE Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) program, a micro-finance program that allows participants, such as cocoa farmers in developing countries, to support each other with low-interest loans. The loans help cocoa farmers improve their farming practices, expand their businesses and support their families. DOVE has partnered with CARE to sponsor the VSLA program in Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s top producer of cocoa beans, which has already benefited nearly 3,000 farmers since the program began in 2016.

2. Protecting the environment. According to the Rainforest Alliance, cocoa can be grown in forest settings, under the shade of native trees, rather than in deforested fields. Organizations like the Rainforest Alliance help farmers learn and implement sustainable farming and harvesting practices that protect the wildlife and environment in the region as well as improve their livelihoods and the well-being of their families and communities. Mars is the first company to pledge to use 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020, and as part of this pledge, sources 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa for DOVE Dark Chocolate products.

3. Female empowerment. Although they contribute to 50 percent of farming activities, women rarely benefit from cocoa-related income. Programs like CARE’s VSLA initiative take on this challenge by providing women with ways to save money and access small loans. With VSLAs, women in farming communities can increase production on their cocoa farms, recover from natural disasters that threaten their livelihoods and achieve greater equality with male farmers. Beginning July 7, DOVE Chocolate will donate $1 to CARE for every purchase of specially marked DOVE Dark PROMISES at all CVS Pharmacy locations.

To find out more about the chocolate-making process, visit DoveChocolateJourney.com.