How sustainable is Huel's cocoa?

Hi,

let me first say that I appreciate Huel’s efforts to go the extra mile when it comes to sustainability.

I have been thinking and reading about the cocoa industry and its connection to “the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery.”

Not good, chocolate flavor is probably my favorite.

It seems that it is very hard to make sure that your delicious cocoa wasn’t harvested by child slaves. I have been told that the cocoa used by Huel is Fair Trade certified, which is great. Unfortunately, it seems that even various certificates, including Fair Trade, can’t guarantee that no child labor was used, especially if the cocoa is sourced from West Africa.

My questions are:

  1. Do we know where Huel’s cocoa comes from exactly?
  2. If it’s Latin America, can I be sure no child labor was used?
  3. Is it better to buy Fair Trade cocoa or not to buy cocoa at all?

There probably are people on this forum who are more well-versed in those matters than I am. I will appreciate your input.

What do you have against child labour in particular? I doubt parents would want their children to work, and if children can’t work in legitimate industries, I dread to think what employment they will have to endure under the radar…

Please don’t argue for child labour @James0, just at the very surface level it’s objectively bad because the next generation of every country should be in school, developing mentally and socially, amongst their peers.

As to what companies like Huel can do about it, well it’s complicated for sure, but I think @Grz is absolutely right to ask how well they know their cocoa suppliers. Transparency at every level is something that should be strived towards, and suppliers that rely on child labour should be moved away from

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I’m not knowledgeable enough to say if it is viable to get rid of child labor in developing countries in the nearest future. I am not, however, worried that boycotting products manufactured by child laborers/slaves/indentured servants will put them out of work and consequently starve them. There are plenty of companies and their clients, including giants like Nestle, who don’t care.

I do believe that supporting fair trade through buying from certain suppliers and asking questions about supply chains will help. They are poor because we keep them poor. The dress costs 60 dollars but the company pays the person who made it a few cents because it wants to keep the profit. This is extremely unfair and by buying from such companies you are an accomplice. By choosing suppliers who are fairer, you show that you don’t agree with that. More just societies have always been made by exerting pressure.

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Hey,

I will answer your questions quickly and you can find more detail below.

Do we know where Huel’s cocoa comes from exactly? Yeap mainly West Africa.

Is it better to buy Fair Trade cocoa or not to buy cocoa at all? It depends on the company and what you mean by “better”.

Our supplier sources the majority of their cocoa beans from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the cocoa powder is then produced in the Netherlands.

It is great to see that you share our concerns about the problems in the chocolate industry. These sustainability concerns were a fundamental driver in our supplier choice for cocoa powder. We are proud to say that our supplier has been instrumental in facing into the challenges of the industry and establishing new programs and targets to turn things around. With over 1000 dedicated staff members who are embedded in the business driving sustainability targets, they deliver multiple programs which are all leading them towards their 2025 sustainability goals.

Their sustainability framework is split into three segments, ‘prosperous farmers and food systems’, ‘thriving communities’ and ‘regeneration of the living world’. The framework encompasses programs that include investing in local farming communities through providing funding for educational and health facilities, replanting trees, working with farmers to better their efficiencies in order to enhance productivity and yield and reducing waste. They are also working really hard to lobby the rest of the chocolate industry to follow suit.

Like you say labels such as ‘Fair Trade’ are only indicative of the guidelines that suppliers follow. At Huel we prefer to assess suppliers individually alongside noting any certificates to ensure that we are comfortable and happy that they are a good sustainable supplier.

Our Supplier is also a member of SEDEX which is a body that focuses on Sustainable and Ethical trading. They assess all manner of things from environmental impact to employees working hours, facilities etc. Nobody is completely perfect, but these guys are genuinely working hard to make a difference.

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Hey,

I truly appreciate your honest answer. Ghana and the Ivory Coast are known to be most problematic, what made you choose a supplier from there? Once again, I know it’s a complicated matter and I believe Huel has higher standards than most in the food industry. You guys really seem to care.

Would it be possible to read more about your supply chain?

It wasn’t about choosing a supplier from a particular region but matching our values and expectations in regards to sustainability, ethics, product quality and nutrition.

Thanks for your kind words.

We have an article on our Huel is made here that may interest you.

If you have more specific questions I can direct them to our operations team but we also need to keep some level of confidentiality. I hope that’s okay!

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Thanks, I’d seen the article before. I do have more specific questions. How does it work? Do I type them here?

Also, maybe the answer to this question is obvious, but why do you keep some things confidential? Is there a reason why customers shouldn’t know exactly who your suppliers are? Granted, I know little about the industry.

Yes you can type them here and then I can look into them.

Some suppliers ask for confidentiality it’s in their contracts. Competitors, dual supply lines, specific relationships.

As you’re probably aware Huel is far more transparent than most companies and you’re likely to get way more information to your questions here.

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Thank you.

My question:

I understand that you chose your cocoa supplier with ethical considerations in mind. As I said, I am aware and appreciative of your efforts. However:

  1. Have you, as Huel, been physically present in the very place cocoa is harvested?
  2. How much do you know about the actual working conditions?
  3. Is there a way for you to make sure that workers are not beaten or threatened?
  4. Can I read about some specific actions that your supplier took to turn things around?
  5. What are the 2025 sustainability goals? Which ones have been achieved, if any?

I am not trying to attack you guys here. I’m trying to find out what’s doable and what’s not.

Thank you.

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@DanOfficialHuel

It’s been over a month and still no answer. I must say I’m disappointed, I want to believe you take sustainability and your clients seriously.

I mean, i know they’re dying but does this mean you’re against the newspaper industry? :stuck_out_tongue:

The simple solution is to buy only flavours that do not contain cocoa powder and add your own if you are very concerned.
The amount of cocoa they add is tiny and it’s only to a couple of flavours.
I would assume it would be ethically sourced but I can understand wanting confirmation.
Personally I buy UU and add my own cacao powder. But that’s because I prefer the taste…

I know it’s hard to believe, but they’re actually written by adults.

I got the joke, don’t think I didn’t! :innocent:

I dont believe either of those statements are true, and i dont care if they contradict each other!

Thank you for your contribution, ChristinaT. I don’t buy Chocolate and Coffee (same problem) flavors anymore. Which is a pity, because I happen to like them the most.

It looks like it is close to impossible to source coffee beans and cocoa powder ethically. Still, I would like to know as much as possible about Huel’s supply chain. I think one of the ways to fight the abhorrent injustice going on is to ask questions, which I am doing. I am disappointed because I was told my questions would be answered.

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I mean, sometimes the questions can slip through the cracks, especially when you’re answering everyone on the forums you can, with the reminder the chances are they will be in here to reply when they can, but it does get tough to answer every question when you’re flooded down with the same questions over a new product release, shortage in stocks in other products etc, huel has been VERY busy these past two months.

I’m not justifying it, i’m just saying there’s a real possibility you slipped through the cracks and with how responsive huel usually are i would be more certain that’s the case.

Otherwise though, if you aren’t buying those products personally i don’t see why it would be a major issue to you?

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Thanks, JewyB, I guess it could be the case. I know Huel’s been busy recently, that’s why I’ve been waiting for over a month.

As I have explained in my previous post, I am asking because I believe that’s how you change the situation for the better. Also, I really like Chocolate and Coffee and who knows, maybe Huel can guarantee that their cocoa is ethical enough for me to buy and enjoy it.

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I do think its strange you’d be waiting over a month, but the fact that it is strange is why i am giving them the benfit of the doubt, they’re not the type of company to just ignore people.

And the only reason i asked this way is because i know huel do do their best to be ethical, eco-friendly etc, so i dont doubt that they would be doing what they can on their end, unlike other companies who dont necessarily even try to hide their shady practices

I think the best way to increase the chance of a response is to tag the Huel staff in your post. I see you’ve done that today, but didn’t in your post of Jan 23, which is possibly why Dan didn’t see it.