What does it mean to experience the world through chocolate? For Sirene Chocolate founder Taylor Kennedy, it means connecting the mouth-watering delicacy with the remote farming communities who produce it. And ensuring that that connection is a caring one.
In fact, long before Taylor was an award-winning chocolatier based in Victoria, BC, he was making that connection. As a photographer, writer, and photo editor with The National Geographic Society, he spent 18+ years seeing more of the world than most dream of.
In far-flung locations, he learned first hand about life in communities where people had been farming for generations. One thing became clear: the food we enjoyed in the West came at a terrible price if it wasn’t being ethically sourced. Especially cacao, the bean that is roasted to make cocoa, and ultimately chocolate.
In fact, in regions that sell the most cocoa, child slavery is commonly used to keep prices low. Candy companies are aware of this, but choose to pay these low prices regardless. But by paying fair prices for cocoa to farmers who don’t rely on slave labour, chocolatiers like Sirene can create an ethical alternative.
Taylor is “able to oversee production from the cacao bean to the bars on the shelves and feel good about each of the steps along the way.” And when he shows his children “the world through chocolate”, they see first hand what a difference ethical sourcing can make.
For example, in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, Sirene is able to source cacao with a seriously impressive pedigree. In Alta Verapaz, indigenous Q’eqchi Maya cacao farmers can trace their heritage back for thousands of years. Their ancestors were likely the first chocolate producers, back in the days of the ancient Mayan civilization. Thanks to ethical buyers like Sirene, this awe-inspiring tradition can continue.
Then there’s the Kokoa Kamili company based in Tanzania. In a courageous act of solidarity, small shareholder cacao farmers banded together to form the company and secure a higher price for their crops. Before they created Kokoa Kamili and began supplying buyers like Sirene, each individual farmer was limited to what a single buyer would pay them.
Farmers’ stories are inspiring, and when chocolate lovers learn about the hard facts of cocoa and child slavery, many want to make a change. But when a company like Sirene doesn’t have the platform to explain ethical pricing, they still have a way of communicating their product’s value: branding. Specifically, elegant, artful, and arresting branding that declares the product’s premiere status.
Great Little Box Company has been so honoured to help support that branding effort with packing solutions that tell the Sirene story (see pictures). That story unfolds through eye-catching graphics that signify Sirene’s high caliber of quality, and narratives that connect buyers with the farmer experience.
Fortunately, for farmers across the world, Sirene is expanding their distribution. Their chocolate is sold not only throughout North America but also in Australia, New Zealand, Holland, France, Scotland, and England.
The more places where Sirene is enjoyed, the more connected chocolate lovers become with the traditional farmers who grow fine cacao. That’s the type of world both Sirene and GLBC would love to see.