Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Equal Exchange

We love our producers, suppliers and vendors and we think most of them have some pretty interesting stories behind their products too. We’re sharing some of our favorites here in an ongoing series.

It feels good to choose products that guarantee fair prices for farmers in the developing world.

But wouldn’t it feel even better to live in a world where farmers everywhere earn a fair price for the product of their labor?

That’s exactly the kind of world Equal Exchange set out to create in 1986 when they began working with farmer-owned cooperatives on four continents to source coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, olive oil and almonds. Equal Exchange itself is a worker-owned cooperative with a goal to permanently change the economic model for global trade one product at a time. "We’re hoping to make ourselves obsolete.

Someday farmers will get a fair price without our help,” says Nicholas Reid, co-owner of Equal Exchange.

Under the leadership of President Rink Dickinson, one of the three original Equal Exchange founders, the company partners closely with small-scale farmer organizations to make a meaningful and lasting impact in their communities. "We find out their vision for their own communities and their own development and we all work together to make it happen,” Nicholas explains.

The sale of every Equal Exchange product generates a “social premium,” additional money that goes directly to the farmers so they can choose to reinvest in their own community development, in ways ranging from community centers, hospitals and schools to capital investment. The sale of chocolate bars made with cacao from one of Equal Exchange’s newest partners, the Fortaleza del Valle cacao cooperative in Ecuador, has already helped the farmers invest in pruning and replanting of trees to rehabilitate the farms, better post-harvest infrastructure and maintenance tools.

Equal Exchange also provides workers with training and education. Members of different cooperatives are brought together from across the globe to share knowledge and the company provides “quality trainings” to help cooperatives improve their pre- and post-harvest processes so they can deliver a higher quality product and get more value out of their work.

“Equal Exchange doesn’t refer to us as coffee producers, but as their strategic partners,” says Arnaldo Neira Camizan, co-founder of the CEPICAFE cooperative in Peru, which has diversified from coffee to also produce cocoa, sugar and other products. “Through Equal Exchange’s help, our members are converting from small-scale farmers to small-scale business people.”

Equal Exchange is changing farmer communities through products like chocolate.

Have you ever changed somebody’s day with chocolate? Tell us about it!

Photography by Ha Lam.

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Sarah says …

I am a big fan of Equal Exchange. I ran a fair trade-centric table for an Earth Day event last weekend and gave out hundreds of samples of Equal Exchange chocolate. My team and I were able to have some great conversations about food and fair trade. One fun thing to note- many parents thought their kids wouldn't like the chocolate because it was labeled "dark" (@ 55% cacao), but the kids (and adults) LOVED it! Equal Exchange is truly a great company with a great product. I've given out samples at other times, too (I don't work for the company; I'm just an advocate for fair trade), and the chocolate speaks for itself!

Robert says …

I have had most of the chocolate from EE. The one with salt is awesome!!!! But importantly I love their business model. Keep up the great work, I will continue to support you. And who is that hot model on the trike????

Karen says …

I hope this means that you now carry true dark chocolate without any milk in it! I don't have a Whole Foods close by, but I check whenever I am near one and I've been very disappointed. Once you add milk, it's milk chocolate, not dark and the health benefits are just not the same! I can't wait to check the labels!

Cathy says …

Love the EE chocolates. My family cannot get enough of it. It is a double wammy to eat something that is good for you as you help make an economic impact for the people who put their labor of love into growing/making the product. Thank you for bringing it to my local Wholefoods in Florida.

maddy says …

Love Equal Exchange ~ love their breakfast roast organic coffee and their chocolate ~ the darker chocolates would love to see whole foods carry ~ 72,74 and up ~ their is none above the fifties to buy any more ~

Shayna says …

I'm so glad Whole Foods carries Equal Exchange chocolate! Any chance stores will be carrying EE coffee, too? I can only find Love Buzz and Mind Body & Soul blends online or in Portland. Southern California loves some delicious, bold, organic, fairly traded coffee, too! :)

Elizabeth Chauca says …

Too bad the average person living in some of those countries could never afford the actual product they are exporting. I live in Peru, and most "real" quality whole foods are sold at the same (or higher) prices as in the U.S. Before coming down here, I thought it would be the opposite - that since cacao, quinoa, and other products are sourced here that they would be cheaper for the people who live here. I suppose it's also due to misinformation and flooding of the market with cheap(er) products which are usually watered down with the ambiguous "grasa vegetal" (doesn't say what plants are used, if it is hydrogenated or not). Since income levels are much lower than in the U.S., people subsist on the cheapest and most filling foods. Unfortunately, the argument of being unable to "afford" the quality product made in the U.S. is actually valid here, and not a matter of preference. Most people don't even know what they are eating, if it's packaged though. Has made me change my mind about how much having healthy, quality food is really a luxury. Especially chocolate, since, despite American arguments, isn't a food group.

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