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I am wondering if any of you can shed some light on this new company:

I recently purchased a few bars to taste and consider using at chocolate tastings that we host and I am unable to determine basic things about the bars, like where they are made?! Very surprisingly this information is nowhere to be found on their packaging.

I am hoping some of you might be able to shed some light on this company, their tree planting feature, who the people behind the company are... anything!


Sunita de Tourreil
co-Founder Chocolate Dividends

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Comment by ChocoFiles on February 12, 2010 at 7:21am

Regarding Lesal Ruskey... I'm wondering if you're correct that she is no longer at OB. If you haven't talked to her in several months how do you know she's left OB? She's still listed on their website as a co-founder. Also, on 1/21/10 she sent me a message saying, "I am indeed one of the founders, and developed the recipe/formulations of Esmeraldas (Ecuador) and Virunga (Congo) bars." That indicates to me that she was still with the company ~3 weeks ago.

If you could help clear this up I'd appreciate it.

Philipp K, would you mind setting the record straight on this?
Comment by Mark J Sciscenti on February 9, 2010 at 10:35am
Thank you Philipp for your quick response and information. As I suspected, my information was somewhat faulty. Thank you for the clarification on Volker and your background. I like the work that you are doing as it seems to be truly what sustainability really means. This is what the fair-trade/organic movement should be including in order to truly support biodiversity and cultural/economic sustainability. One reason why the prices on your chocolate are higher - this actually reflects some of the true costs instead of our highly subsidized world commodities agriculture market.
Comment by Philipp Kauffmann on February 9, 2010 at 8:46am
Thanks, Clay, for attending me to this thread.

Thanks, Sunita, for your interest in our products and company, also with regard to your tastings. Chocolate Dividends is a great name and a powerful concept. I’d love to learn more.

We hope our website and our Internet postings do provide some good information on who we are and how we operate.

We have founded the company as a direct conclusion of many years of work and experience in the nature conservation and smallholder development arena. My background is in conservation, which is where I met Volker Lehmann years ago, when I was involved in financing La Tranquilidad. Rodney has spent his career in developing and financing smallholder organizations. On our website we have a link to a great network that's run from our office in Amsterdam:

The idea of the company was to design and maintain a supply chain that replenishes rather than exploits. Our principles of operations and criteria for sourcing are on the site.

We spend a lot of time and money with/in origins and source beans directly. Bolivia is the only exception, since the contracts between Repsa and Pronatec preceeded our agreements. We prefer to import directly and manage our own bean inventory.

When we selected a manufacturing partner, we spent months visiting candidates across EU and US. Felchlin is a 100 year old family company with great people and values similar to ours. We develop our recipes in teamwork with Sepp and his team, and choose the conch accordingly. Only the Cru Virunga is not produced on the original Lindt long-conches, but on a round-conch.

The current pricing of our product has several factors. One important factor lies in the extreme logistics/costs of the Beni and the Virunga, including their respective carbon costs. But other factors play a role, too. Our packaging is from FSC-certified, recycled paper, soy inks and 100% renewable energy. It is completely unfair and wrong, but doing the right thing initially costs more, all the way to the consumer.

Our replanting efforts are organized at nursery level: we educate and subsidize farmers to replant in sort of analogue forest systems, usually three layers, 3-5 tree species. Replanting is part of a wider conservation strategy we have for each origin: In Virunga, we are just embarking on a protected area-wide collaboration with WWF, WCS and the Zoological Society of London. In our upcoming origin in Peru, we have brought back the particular bean from the brink of extinction and have started several hundred hectares of forestry with smallholders.

Hope this helps a bit. For any questions it raises, you can find me easily:

all best, Philipp
Comment by Mark J Sciscenti on February 8, 2010 at 2:08pm
Hi Sunita de Tourreil. I can give an update on some of this information. First off Lesal is no longer involved with OB. Don't know why, but I've have many conversations with her. As I understand it she was the one behind the biodiversity/sustainable issues and concerns of OB as that is her training. But I may be misinformed on this point. I've not been in touch with Lesal for a number of months now.

And Felchlin in Switzerland is making all of OB's chocolate on their older machines.

As Olorin said, it would be nice of someone from OB would comment.

Comment by ChocoFiles on February 8, 2010 at 1:54pm
Great questions and I think that in the case of Original Beans transparency is crucial. Their business model is to ask people to pay more for their chocolate and to trust that the extra money is really going back to the earth and the farmers. In order for this trust to be established there has to be more transparency and information available. Casey M wrote about OB in her excellent blog, The Chocolate Note, and as usual, she makes some excellent points.

I'd suggest that you might want to contact them directly and ask some questions. From their website here's some info:

Started in 2008
Co-founders: Philipp Kauffmann, Rodney Nikkels, Lesal N. Ruskey
United Kingdom | | Philipp Kauffmann | +31 652 098 998
United States | | Nicole Bailey | +1 323 255 9178 x13
United States | | Jerry Kryszek | +1 877 992 4626
Philipp Kauffmann'sTCL profile
An interesting article that is mainly about OB: The True Cost of Chocolate

OK, one of their chocolates is 68% and made from the feral beans from Bolivia that Volker Lehmann promotes. OB's website says the chocolate is made in Switzerland. Who makes the chocolate? I'd like Philip Kauffmann, or someone from Original Beans, to answer to that question here.

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