It’s that season where some of us eat as much chocolate in a month as we would in the rest of the year. In the UK, one of the biggest consumers of chocolate in the world, we typically eat 80-90 million easter eggs a year. Chocolate eggs are a fun way to show your love, and to indulge yourself, but unfortunately the issues go beyond any impact on your waistline or the kids’ teeth.
While high-end chocolate often happens to be both vegan and low-sugar, primarily to showcase the flavours of the chocolate itself, most mainstream chocolate, even in dark varieties, contains both too much sugar and cow’s milk, a no-no for vegans and connoisseurs alike. Then there’s all the seasonal packaging, which typically generates 3,000 tonnes of waste a year. Truth is, it would be greener to give a bar. Most significantly, as most of us are now aware, the chocolate trade has long been rife with environmental issues and the use of child and even slave labour.
The good news is that things have got better in recent years. You won’t have to go beyond the supermarket to find an impressive range of delicious, visually appealing easter eggs suitable for vegan youngsters. Noticeable progress has also been made on packaging. In 2021 UK supermarkets Aldi and the Co-op, already a pretty good source for vegans, announced the removal of all plastic from their own-brand easter eggs. Other businesses have had to get their skates on for 2022 in light of the government’s new tax on plastic. Cadbury’s saved an estimated 5.4 tonnes of plastic this year simply by removing plastic windows from easter egg boxes.
Unfortunately, the cocoa trade is still an ethical minefield. While big manufacturers are now aware of the concern in their market, many continue to source cacao, as the original bean is known, via complex and untraceable supply chains, meaning there’s no way of knowing under what conditions the cocoa they use was produced. Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certification, while it suggests good intentions, is quite a long way from being a buyer’s guarantee of ethical sourcing. A US government-funded report published in 2020 confirmed that the scale of the problem is still significant. The only real way to be sure your chocolate was sustainably sourced is to favour single-origin brands.
Without all the sugar and milk UK consumers seem to expect, chocolate is actually very good for you. And a fairer cocoa trade could provide dignified employment for the smallholders who tend to produce cacao. The direction is already clear: we need to support reforestation in areas devastated by irresponsible farming and a business culture emphasising sustainable land-management and allowing farmers to support their families without having to involve the children.
What to buy
We’ve picked out a few of the most sustainable of the more grown-up Easter eggs, so you can treat someone without having to worry too much about the impact on the world.
Hotel Chocolat: Extra Thick Unbelievably Vegan Easter Egg
We love Hotel Chocolat. Their products are sophisticated but fun, and they put quality and sustainability at the forefront of what they do. Now they’ve brought out this fab new range for vegans. Their Nutmilk chocolate achieves the creaminess of traditional milk chocolate using their own proprietary hazelnut milk, but you can still taste the richness of the high-quality cocoa they grow at their own plantation in St Lucia. The extra-thick egg shell is not only indulgent, but also makes more sensible use of the overall packing volume. And as well as a grown-up assortment of truffles, pralines and caramels, you get a couple of their cheeky ‘city bunnies’.
£30 Available online or instore from Hotel Chocolat.
H!P salted caramel oat milk chocolate egg
Using oat milk to create that ‘milk chocolate’ experience, H!P is the vegan range from Love Cocoa, a new company created by James Cadbury (not previously involved in the more famous business set up by his great-great-grandad) specifically to produce quality chocolate sustainably. All their cocoa is sourced direct from a family business in Bogota, meaning they can be confident in boasting that their chocolate is slavery-free. With 30% less sugar and 41% more cocoa, a H!P egg is also both healthier and yummier than a typical milk chocolate egg. A thick chocolate shell laced with shards of salted caramel, this one’s the most grown up of sweet treats. The packaging is recyclable and plastic-free.
£8 from Love Cocoa. Stockists include Harrods and Planet Organic.
Divine Dark Chocolate with Raspberries Easter Egg
A longer-established social enterprise also set up with sustainability in mind, Divine is still impressively ahead of the curve. They source their Ghanan chocolate from Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union, a 100,000-farmer co-operative which now part-owns Divine. This sublimely adult easter gift is an egg version of their hugely popular 70% cocoa bar. Like all the best dark chocolate, their dark range doesn’t contain milk so is naturally vegan, using vanilla to bring out the smooth cocoa flavour. Here that’s contrasted by the tart sweetness of freeze-dried raspberries. But if you’ve been habitually snacking on the bars, you already know this. Why not convert a friend to the future of chocolate?
£5, online from Divine or at stockists including Oxfam, Waitrose and Ocado.