Theo Chocolate

Mission
We’re passionate about chocolate. And changing the world.
We’re dedicated to making our world a better place. And we’re finding ways to do it through our passion—bringing out the best of the cocoa bean.

We are all connected. We touch one another's lives in incredible ways. And we are responsible to and for one another. From the cacao farmer in the Congo, to the truck driver in Seattle, to the chocolate lover in Philadelphia, there is a thread that runs through us all. Theo believes in celebrating those connections, in strengthening them and in finding inspiration within them—inspiration to change the world. We know that every action has a result. That the choices we make here in Seattle, Washington touch lives across the planet in real and lasting ways. That knowledge, and that responsibility, is what drives us to do things differently, to help make the world a better place.

We’ve been fortunate that Theo’s founding vision – a spirit of innovation and excellence, a desire to create positive change and throughout it all, a commitment to transparency – resonates deeply with our customers. As we share our story, we’re finding that more and more people are taking an interest in our mission to make the world a better place by bringing out the best of the cocoa bean. Our promise to our customers is that Theo’s growth will never come at the expense of our values. We think about every choice we make, every action we take and how it will impact our interconnected world.

Our Story
We make chocolate.
Amazing, delicious, mind-bendingly wonderful chocolate.

It’s pure joy in every bite and it comes from passion. But for us, it’s about more than chocolate. It’s about the land, the people, the dedication and the interconnected relationships that bind us all.

It’s why our founder, Joe Whinney first pioneered the supply of organic cocoa beans into the United States in 1994. Traveling and working in the tropics of Central America and Africa, he fell in love with the land and the people farming there. He recognized an injustice in the way that both were being exploited and wanted to do something to make a difference.

Over the next decade, Joe worked tirelessly to champion organic cocoa beans in the U.S. and promote Fair Trade practices for the people farming those beans. He built lasting relationships and deep trust with farmer groups—all the while focused on the goal of someday making chocolate himself and sharing his passion with the world.

Joe relocated along with Chief Marketing Officer Debra Music from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Seattle in the summer of 2004. Debra’s background in social marketing and consumer brand building were a perfect complement to Joe’s expertise in the sphere of sustainability. Together they spent two years creating the Theo brand concept and building the factory along with a small team.

In March of 2006, Joe's dream came to life with Theo’s inaugural run of organic chocolate—the first made here in the U.S. Then, as now, Theo chocolate comes from only the purest ingredients grown in the most sustainable ways possible. Everything we make and sell meets the highest standards for organic, Fair Trade and Fair for Life.

For us, chocolate isn’t just a product, it’s a journey from bean to bar. And while its heart is with the beans themselves, and the places where they’re grown, lovingly referred to as our “origin,” what we do with those beans is just as important. For Theo, being a “bean to bar chocolate maker” goes beyond words on a label. To us, it means deliberate and thorough stewardship at every stage in the agricultural and manufacturing process. Our small batch production is truly an art form.

Every aspect of our manufacturing process is controlled by us. That means we can guarantee that every step, every ingredient, everything that goes into each bar is as special as the beans themselves. We strive to be the most progressive chocolate maker in the country. Our efforts are validated with rigorous third-party certifications. We were the first organic, fair trade certified chocolate maker in North America, and we remain one of only a handful today.

Rooted in passion. Grounded in beliefs. Put into practice every day.
It’s what makes Theo chocolate the best in the world.

Sourcing
As the first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory in the country, our founding principle is that the finest artisan chocolate in the world can (and should) be produced in an entirely ethical, sustainable fashion. All of our ingredients are carefully screened and 3rd party verified to ensure they meet our standards for social and environmental responsibility.

If you’ve ever tasted a Theo product, we hope you’ll agree that our love for creating artisan confections is evident in each bite. Using cocoa as a base, our chocolatiers are always experimenting to find delicious, unexpected flavors – as well as new takes on old classics. We’re committed to using only the finest quality ingredients that meet the same high standards as our chocolate. The table below provides supplier information and locations for some of our top non-cocoa ingredients.

Our Cocoa Beans

It all starts with the beans.
We’ve built Theo around the belief that cocoa beans are more than an ingredient. Our beans and the lives they touch are at the heart of our business.

Each and every one of our cocoa beans is organic, Fair Trade and Fair For Life or Demeter Certified. That means they are grown sustainably in ways that promote biodiversity and positively impact the lives of the farmers we buy from. And by committing to paying significant quality premiums above market price we ensure that we get the best beans available, all the time.

We work with our farmer groups and grower cooperatives throughout the world, to help their businesses grow and succeed. In the field we provide technical assistance and share our knowledge around great chocolate making and the cocoa industry. Our beans come from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Peru. We are always looking for new interesting beans and cocoa partners that share our commitments to quality, environmental sustainability, and ethical business practices.

Where do our beans come from?

We work with our farmer groups and grower cooperatives throughout the world, to help their businesses grow and succeed. In the field we provide quality feedback, market information and guidance around great chocolate making and the cocoa industry. Our goal is to have this directly translate to better harvests with higher quality beans and a better price for farmers. Currently, our current suppliers are Norandino in Peru and Esco Kivu in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We are always looking for new interesting beans and cocoa partners that share our commitments to quality, environmental sustainability, and ethical business practices. For more information about the farmers we work with, visit our sourcing map.

Cocoa Bean Pricing Specifications
Delicious and amazing chocolate can only be made from the highest quality cocoa beans.

We purchase cocoa beans from certified organic and fair trade producer groups comprised of small-holder farmers around the world. Our core principle is that we provide significant price premiums for cocoa beans based on quality. These premiums provide meaningful incentives for producers to improve the quality of their cocoa beans. Paying premium prices for high quality cocoa beans requires full transparency in our entire supply chain, in order to ensure that farmers are benefitting from these premiums and able to invest in their families and communities. All of our farmer coop and export partners must demonstrate full transparency in their business transactions. This enables us to verify what every farmer is paid and influence farmer remuneration through our pricing incentives. Our commitment to the the following three things enable Theo Chocolate to actively raise the bar for our entire industry:
-Significant price premiums for quality cocoa
-Full transparency along the entire supply chain
-Third party verification. This is a revolutionary model for buying cocoa beans.

Simply put, our cocoa purchasing practices promote better quality cocoa beans and improved quality of life for cocoa farmers, now and in the future.

How Theo Sources Cocoa
Quality Beans: Great chocolate begins with great cocoa beans. We look all around the world for the highest quality cocoa beans to put into our chocolate. We are invested in making sure our suppliers understand how to grade for quality in the same way we do. When grading cocoa beans we assess both subjective and objective characteristics. Of all the characteristics, flavor is the most important and the hardest to quantify. Every chocolate manufacturer has their own desired bean flavor profile required to produce the chocolate flavor they are trying to achieve. Once beans with the desired flavors have been identified, the objective characteristics can be easily measured. These include bean size, fermentation level and defects. When we process beans that are well fermented, large in size and lack defects, our manufacturing process benefits, and the quality of the chocolate we make improves.

Pricing: Cocoa is a global commodity, purchased and sold internationally on the world market. The market price is determined by a number of factors including supply and demand, political conflict, speculation, etc. Small-holder cocoa farmers have no control over the commodity price and very little leverage with buyers to negotiate pricing for their own crop. This means that in general, cocoa farmers’ income is tied to commodity price fluctuations based on many variables beyond their control. This reduces the incentive to invest time, energy or money into improving cocoa quality.

The Theo Chocolate pricing model is completely un-hinged from the fluctuating cocoa commodities market. The price that Theo pays for cocoa is tied directly to the quality of the beans and the price that our customers are willing to pay for our chocolate. This means that as quality improves, the price farmers receive increases, creating significant financial incentives to make investments to increase quality. All pricing is determined directly between Theo Chocolate and our suppliers, based on quality parameters for each harvest season. Under this model farmers know how much income to expect from their harvest, enabling them to make financial plans for the future. Unlike many chocolate brands, we own and operate our own chocolate factory, which means that we do not have to give up margin to any other manufacturing company – this allows Theo to pay high prices above market and Fair Trade premiums to farmers and remain competitive as a brand. Significant price premiums based on quality provide real incentives for farmers.

Transparency: We embrace the concept of full transparency by sharing our pricing structure publicly. We believe that full transparency is required to earn consumer’s confidence in our business practices and supplier’s confidence in our partnerships. We believe that providing clear and long term pricing to our farmers and letting them know how much they can expect to earn is the right thing to do. Offering a stable price to farmers allows them to plan their future with confidence, and price premiums provide incentive to maintain and improve quality of their cocoa. In the spirit of full transparency, we post our Cocoa Bean Pricing Details and Specifications online, accessible to everyone including consumers, retailers, farmers and exporters. All prices listed are $USD per Metric Ton FOB (Freight On Board) – which means the cocoa is loaded onto a boat – at the port closest to origin, all around the world.

We support our quality driven pricing program with field training for farmer cooperatives, exporters and farmers so that everyone in our supply chain knows how to test for quality, how to properly take cocoa bean samples, and how to improve post-harvest practices to meet our standards.

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