Happier Famers, Better Chocolate: Emily Stone and the Uncommon Cacao Way

Happier Famers, Better Chocolate: Emily Stone and the Uncommon Cacao Way

Emily Stone, 31
Initiative: Uncommon Cacao
Region of impact: Central America

Cacao is a bean-like seed from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted; they are the ingredients for making chocolate. 90% of the world’s cacao is produced by 5 million smallholder farmers, who live on less than $2 per day. While the global chocolate industry and the demand for cacao is growing, farmer incomes are not and supply is declining. Cacao farmers lack resources and are locked into a cycle of poverty.

Based in Guatemala, Uncommon Cacao, founded in 2010 by Emily Stone, works directly with cacao farmers to deliver premium quality and transparently sourced cacao to the specialty chocolate market. Uncommon Cacao is building the first end-to-end specialty cacao supply chain, from producing and processing to manufacturing.

Stable prices and a better deal for smallholder farmers

For farmers, Uncommon Cacao offers access to a stable and high-value market with the ability to participate in informed, annual price negotiations. By facilitating direct connections to farmers and farmer groups, Uncommon Cacao guarantees chocolate manufacturers higher quality, transparently sourced and traded cacao.

Premium quality cacao for the specialty chocolate market

Uncommon Cacao is able to demonstrate that it drives maximum value to farmers and creates meaningful long-term impact for communities at origin. Farmers working with Uncommon Cacao’s Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize, which is responsible for more than 80% of the country’s exports, saw annual income rise by 92% as a result of price increases, yield improvements, farm expansions, and market connections. In addition, there was an 85% increase in the rate of farmers’ children attending secondary school, and, in 2015, Uncommon Cacao saw 43% more women join the farmer network in Belize.

The social enterprise is already operating in Belize and Guatemala as an exporter. Having just launched a U.S.-based import and sales programme, within the next five years Uncommon Cacao wants to impact 10,000 farming families across 15 countries—with the goal that all these families earn a living income through cacao farming.