Can you describe your company and where it fits in when talking about the circular bioeconomy?
As you know, Chocolates de Mendes is based in the heart of the Amazon. Our factory is in Santa Barbara do Pará which is in the Amazon not far from Belém. Our purpose is basically to add value at the origin. Our idea is to promote the well-being of productive communities and to transform them into the real stewards of their landscape. This is quite a unique purpose, but this is how we look at our productive chain.
You asked a great question about how it connects to the circular bioeconomy: one of our great ideas is to connect those communities using technology with the end consumer wherever they may be. We are using blockchain technology to give credibility to the claims of our storytelling. Of course, we are not fully there, we are a start-up and are working very hard on the storytelling and interviewing the communities. Also, when the cocoa arrives to our factory it already enters into blockchain technology where the traceability starts.
This connection between and the producer and the end consumer are something quite important for us.
Can you tell us how you feel about receiving this award, and perhaps the reasons you and you/your company won? What sets your company apart?
We are delighted to have received this prize and it is a big honour to be here with you. To be true and honest with you, everyone here went completely bananas when we received the news of the award. We could not imagine that our small chocolate company in the middle of nowhere would receive such an honour.
If we look to the reasons as to why, we are working at the moment in all the states of the Amazon. We are basically using native cocoa working with 71 communities and very quickly we will grow to over 100 communities, as we will be joined soon by a traditional and indigenous group of people from Peru.
At the moment, the communities collect the cocoa and bring them to nine pre-processing centers. Specifically, two are very special to our hearts because they are women only. This is something extremely important because the women, once they start to get their income, they change completely. It is very difficult to explain what happens. They can talk to their husband in other terms, they feel so confident in what they can do.
Then we are also working with two other indigenous communities. A community from the north of Brazil from a huge reserve, it is three times the size of Belgium and we only have 26,000 indigenous people living in this huge reserve. Growing and harvesting cocoa for chocolate is a perfect way to make a living for the young people living there, allowing them to stay in the villages and grow and harvest the cocoa.
There are also three riverside communities, two small farmer communities, and we have one quilombola, which is originally a place where slaves hid when they would escape some 400-500 years ago.
Taking a more general view, how do you see the importance of the circular bioeconomy when it comes to the health of the planet and the mitigation of climate change?
We see the bioeconomy is of huge importance, this is why we connect the end consumer with the origin in the sense that we reward our consumers for their preference they have given us for buying one of our boxes. Once purchased, we give our customers one day of the neutralisation of their carbon footprint. We have made a calculation to show the carbon rewards when buying our chocolate.
This is how we reward our customers and bring them very close to our communities. In the future customers will not only be able to buy carbon credits from the Amazon, but also be able to have those carbon credits from our productive communities. Our customers and supporters can contribute to maintaining the forest by donating directly and neutralising carbon rewards. Everything we do we do, we do by using blockchain technology, in order to give credibility to our claim.