A Fair Trade Halloween? Not Completely.

October 31st, 2009

This Halloween, I was convinced, would be the year that fair trade Halloween chocolates made it to the mass market — or at least to Whole Foods!  Sadly, #nestlefamily fiasco notwithstanding, we’ve still got long way to go before fair trade Halloween chocolates are widely available.


I started my quest in early October,  pulling up the Reverse Trick or Treating website run by Global Exchange.  This program distributes free Fair Trade chocolates along with educational materials about the benefits of fair trade, which include a commitment to:
* ENDING poverty among cocoa farmers
* STOPPING  forced/abusive child labor in the cocoa industry and
* PROTECTING  the environment

Unfortunately, they were already sold out. And my quest for Fair Trade chocolate began.  My first stop was Whole Foods in DC’s Tenleytown neighborhood. No luck.  Then I tried Whole Foods River Road in Bethesda, Maryland. Nada. How about Whole Foods Rockville Pike, in Rockville, Maryland? Zilch. Back to My Organic Market in Rockville, Maryland.  Nothing. Trader Joes in Bethesda? No.

Why was I so determined? Ever since my friend Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse told me that 50% of the cocoa in this country comes from Cote d’Ivoire, which still practices forced child labor on many of its cocoa plantations, I have tried to avoid conventional chocolates.

But by mid-October,  I was beginning to think I’d never find Fair Trade Halloween chocolate, so I started looking for substitutes.

At Target, I found pretzels from Pennsylvania – $3.27 for a bag of 35,  or just 9 cents per treat.


By now, we were a week away from Halloween, and Big Boy was bitterly complaining about only having “boring” pretzels to give out as treats to his friends. So I caved and bought some bon bons at Giant. I thought I was safe – chocolate-free – until I discovered that one of the candies – Bit-O-Honey – are made by Nestle.

Finally, at Trader Joes, I picked up 2 bags of chocolate bars – not whole trade, but from Columbia. Since the slave labor employed in the cocoa industry is focused in Africa  — specifically Cote d’Ivoire – I reasoned that cocoa from somewhere other than Africa was probably the next best thing to Fair Trade cocoa. And at $2.79 per bag, or ten cents per piece, it was competitively priced to American brands.


A few days before Halloween, at the Takoma-Silver Spring co-op, I found small Fair Trade chocolates – but the price — 40 cents per piece – gave me pause. My neighborhood is overrun with kids on Halloween eve, and I didn’t want to spend a hundred dollars or more on Halloween candy!

But I did leave the co-op with YUMMY EARTH USDA Organic lollypops, 70 in a bag for $2.79 or just 3 cents per piece.   Made with real flavors including organic black carrot, pumpkin, black currant, and apple,  these lollypops are delicious!  They will definitely become a Halloween staple in our household.


I could not believe that there was no Fair Trade Halloween chocolate to be had in DC or Bethesda, so I started sending tweets out asking for help. I heard back from Divine Chocolate, suggesting I visit a store in a far away part of DC.

In a final attempt to finish my quest, I dashed into Ten Thousand Villages near Bethesda Row and low and behold, found some Fair Trade chocolate – perfect for Halloween. At 25 cents per piece, the Divine Chocolate gold coins were about the price I expected – expensive but manageable.  I picked up 2 bags of gold coins, but not before hearing the store manager say many other frustrated shoppers had been in seeking fair trade Halloween chocolate as well.

Not in my neighborhood. Surveying my son’s overflowing trick-or-treat bag, I didn’t see another organic or fair trade item. I felt a bit like I had been spitting into the ocean – a tiny drop of nothing in a sea of high fructose corn syrup, slave labor chocolate, and artificial colors and ingredients — all wrapped in plastic – reams and reams of plastic.   I wondered how my Green Moms Carnival friends Jennifer (The Smart Mama), Jennifer (The Green Parent), Micaela, Beth, Maryann, Sommer, Jess, Karen, Anna, Alicia and the others had handled this holiday. Hmm…I’m thinking next year we should plan a carnival on Halloween treats!

Hope your Halloween was happy!  What did you hand out? And did you go crazy looking for Fair Trade chocolates too? Leave a comment and let me know!

And at the end of the day,  it’s all about these funny little faces, isn’t it?


— Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

NOTE: Here is a link to the latest information I could find from the US chocolate industry about the continued struggle for equity in Cote d’Ivoire.

13 Responses to “A Fair Trade Halloween? Not Completely.”

  1. Tweets that mention Organic and Green Mom Blog | A Fair Trade Halloween? Not Completely. at Organic Mania -- Topsy.com on October 31, 2009 11:22 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Green Moms Carnival, Lynn Miller. Lynn Miller said: A fair trade Halloween? Not completely. Not this year. (from blog) http://ow.ly/ychf […]

  2. Kari Tetzlaff on November 1, 2009 5:30 am

    I was looking for fair trade alternatives as well, and we ended up with the yummy earth lollipops at whole foods. But I left a comment card behind requesting that they stock fair trade chocolate next year. Not that there are many alternatives!

  3. Lynn on November 1, 2009 7:00 am

    Thanks for your comment, Kari. I know stores do respond to comment cards – it will be interesting to see how things change next year.

  4. Green Bean on November 1, 2009 9:45 am

    I had a similar journey. We also get oodles of kids for trick or treating. Last year, we had over 300. This year, being Saturday, I’m sure it was more. I couldn’t find any fair trade chocolate to cover that many people that wouldn’t put us in the poor house. I ended up picking up a handful of bulk Yummy Earth lollipops at the locally owned Health Food Store, found some Halloween stickers from last year and then a box of new, small packaged crayons (all new) at the local thrift store. It would only be enough to last for 40 or so kids.

    Ironically, though, we ended up going trick or treating early with friends and then headed over to their place for a potluck. It was a brief, three block trick or treat. We ended up not being home for passing out candy. Oh well! This was better though. Less candy for our kids and lots of homemade treats to share with friends.
    .-= Green Bean´s last blog ..Superhero Secrets =-.

  5. Erin aka Conscious Shopper on November 1, 2009 6:04 pm

    We went with the Yummy Earth lollipops too. :) A couple days ago, I found an awesome list of alternative “treats,” including baseball cards, polished rocks, bandaids with cartoon characters, temporary tatoos, acorns, and knock knock jokes. I was thinking of doing something like that next year…Even though my oldest got an eraser at one place and said, “Wait! Where’s my candy?”
    .-= Erin aka Conscious Shopper´s last blog ..Seasonal Recipes for Fall =-.

  6. Condo Blues on November 3, 2009 1:37 pm

    I went with Ohio made Dum Dum suckers. They are probably full of HFCS but at least they are local and I can find them in the grocery store!
    .-= Condo Blues´s last blog ..Candyland Cake =-.

  7. Christine MacDonald on November 8, 2009 9:46 am


    Thanks for all the great information. I’ve known awhile about the human rights abuses involved in producing chocolate but didn’t know there were so many consciences people trying to purchase abuse-free goodies this Halloween. Too bad the Post didn’t pick up on this. Would have been a great local story.

    I’ve added your site to my blogroll at http://greendistrict.wordpress.com. I look forward to reading your work in the future.
    .-= Christine MacDonald´s last blog ..Today’s Sustainability News Roundup =-.

  8. Lynn on November 8, 2009 4:43 pm

    Green Bean, Erin, Condo Blues, Christine…thank you all for your comments…as you may have seen from my subsequent post, my family has been attacked by the creeping crud ever since Halloween – all four of us have been sick each day since, and we’re on day 8 now!!! So sorry for delay in getting back to you. Christine, so excited to have discovered your blog and book – have a feeling we’ll be getting to know each other! Green Bean, Erin, and Condo Blues – maybe we could find out when stores place their Halloween orders and do a carnival a month or two prior to raise awareness?

  9. Karen Bannan on November 15, 2009 7:52 pm

    We went with the same lollipops! Also, we bought organic gummy bears, too.
    .-= Karen Bannan´s last blog ..Favorite Things Friday: You Gotta Have Friends =-.

  10. Kristen on January 20, 2010 2:21 pm


    Love, love your blog. Halloween was a huge stressor for us too (not sure why I am commenting on halloween). However, I found that there are just a few times when you have to let it go and just say ok, one day is fine. My greatest fear is that my kids will grow up to be the “weird” ones…I had a friend growing up that was 8 before she ever had a hot dog…I can remember specifically when we all heard her say “what’s a hot dog?” Snikers and Milkyways are good every once in awhile.

  11. Organic and Green Mom Blog | Greening Your Gravesite: Halloween Edition of The Green Moms Carnival at Organic Mania on October 30, 2010 1:14 pm

    […] But no. We’ve done all that. […]

  12. michaela on October 3, 2011 6:22 am

    I am on the same search this Halloween and wondering if since you wrote this post if there have been any other Halloween Fair trade products you can recommend?

  13. Lynn on October 10, 2011 8:28 pm

    Hi Michaela, I still haven’t found the magic solution for heavy trick or treating. There seems to be be a fair number of organic lollypops, but the fair trade Halloween treats tend to be chocolate and today I priced 200 small bite size bars at $55. I don’t think that would even handle all the trick or treaters we get! Will def. post if I learn anything else!

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