Episode 22: Vanilla and Chocolate: Foundational Flavors

Vanilla and chocolate — two of the most beloved flavors in the world — have been linked since the beginning. Both the vanilla bean and the cacao pod were first cultivated thousands of years ago in what is now Mexico, where later the Aztecs would use vanilla to make the bitter cocoa in their sacred chocolate drink more palatable. Today, these two flavors, in both natural and artificial form, dominate our dessert options, from ice cream scoops to the sweet snacks in grocery aisles. But the modern chocolate and vanilla industries both extract wealth from communities in the Global South, and these products come with all the environmental and social problems of a system that leaves smallholder farmers in poverty. How can we reconcile our love of these essential flavors with their often-problematic production? Can we hold large companies accountable? And is it possible to produce vanilla and chocolate in a better way?

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“There's no certification schemes that I would say are trustworthy in cocoa.”

Allie Brudney

Senior staff attorney, Corporate Accountability Lab

Episode guests:

Jennifer Boggiss

Jennifer is CEO, co-founder and director at Heilala Vanilla, which makes vanilla products from vanilla beans grown in Tonga.

Tim McCollum

Tim is the founder and CEO of Beyond Good, a company that makes both chocolate and vanilla in Madagascar.

Allie Brudney

Allie is a senior staff attorney at Corporate Accountability Lab.

FoodPrint resources:

Additional resources:

Top photo by Maceo/Adobe Stock.