While not exactly the most nutritious food, sometimes breaking off a piece of a Kit Kat bar hits that sweet spot. The chocolate and wafer combo is one of Nestle’s most popular products and was once even deemed the most influential candy bar by Time Magazine.
I’m not really one to advocate candy consumption but at least when someone purchased a Kit Kat bar in the UK and Ireland, they were buying candy that contributed to Fair Trade. Pretty soon that will no longer be the case. It’s easy to overlook this change but important we don’t. Even those of us who are not located in the UK or Ireland should be paying attention. Here’s why…
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a way for companies to guarantee their products are made ethically and with as little harm to farming communities as possible. For example, Nestle uses Fairtrade cocoa in its UK/Ireland version of Kit Kat bars. That cocoa is sourced from farm workers who are paid a true living wage. Not only that but certified Fair Trade means fair labor, so those workers can’t be discriminated against, they can’t be forced into labor and they can’t be children. There are several organizations that certify Fair Trade throughout the world, such as Fair Trade Certified, Fair Trade Foundation and Fairtrade International.
Why Would Nestle Cancel Their Fair Trade Deal?
Nestle has decided to align their products with the same chocolate from the same certifications. They’ll soon begin purchasing cocoa for all of their Kit Kat products through farmers certified with the Rainforest Alliance. Nestle will also use European sugar beets for sugar production, again, backing away from certified Fair Trade. While these changes aren’t necessarily nefarious moves, they will devastate thousands of small Fair Trade farmers.
Why Does This Matter?
It may not seem like it’s a big deal. It’s great that Nestle wants to support the Rainforest Alliance. That organization strives to support farmers and the environment but Nestle’s choice to cancel their Fair Trade agreement does a lot of harm in an already-strained food system.
The global food system is in bad shape. Overuse of pesticides, placing profit over the health of consumers and abusing workers are proving to be disastrous on a global scale. We are headed for an irreparable situation that will result in health crises, environmental destruction and starvation.
Fair Trade offers one small glimmer of hope. Fair Trade farmers have secured a minimum living wage despite market volatility. That means that in a particular year, no matter what happens in the commodity market, companies can’t pay those farmers less than the minimum price set for their goods. Workers don’t need to find a part-time job to make ends meet and farmers don’t end up in debt. If they weren’t protected by Fair Trade, farmers could potentially go out of business during a fiscally-poor year. No farms, no food.
What Can You Do?
- Stop supporting Nestle.
Even though Nestle’s Kit Kat change isn’t the worst move in food history, they aren’t really the most ethical company. There’s a long list of Nestle violations. You can swap out Purina One, Cheerios and all of their other products pretty easily!
- Purchase products under the Fair Trade certification.
It’s a great way to counter Nestle’s decision. Not every type of product has a certified Fair Trade option but coffee, chocolate and bananas are just a few examples of items you can purchase under Fair Trade.
- Share Fair Trade information with others.
Tell your friends about the recipe you found on a Fair Trade Certified’s website. Show your kids the Fair Trade labels on foods in the supermarket. The more you talk about it, the more likely to spark change.
Nestle’s Kit Kat decision can easily be ignored. There won’t be any outward changes to the product and chocolate is so addictively tasty, it’s hard to resist. If consumers continue to give companies like Nestle free passes, we’ll continue to see the degradation of our food system. If you’re in dire need of your chocolate fix, consider grabbing a candy bar from this list of Fair Trade Certified chocolate companies instead!