If you’re looking to support companies with a conscience and purchase products that are leaving a positive impact on their own communities and the planet at large, check out this shopping list of some of my favourite responsible food and drink brands.
Some of them are raw ingredients to cook with, some of them are ready to eat and sip. Nothing beats home cooking and homemade products, but these are well worth checking out for when you’re next at the shops and want to vote with your spending power. Everything is delicious, that goes without saying, but these are the brands that are thinking about people as well as profits and who are ongoing in their commitments to do a bit better every year.
I do love flowers and candles but I always think something to eat or drink makes the best birthday, thank you or housewarming present. If you’re going to a summer wedding and worrying about giving a gift that is unique but won't break the bank, why not make up your own special hamper?
1. We know that salt can take our cooking from zero to hero.Halen mon sea salthas a DOP (Protected Designation of Origin status like parmigiano reggiano) and works closely with its local community in Wales. It also just had a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to celebrate its achievements. I love the motto: "The cure for anything is saltwater - sweat, tears or the sea".
2. Speaking of the sea, I’m mad on seaweed. A little dried seaweed in soups, stir fries, stews and ramen soups is just the ticket. Check out these brands that harvest sustainably likeCornish Seaweed(who has seaweed bath bags too!).
3. Proper raw honey from the multiple award-winningBlack Bee Honey. It delivers honey to your door from all over including seaside honey, heather honey from Exmoor National Park and London honey. I helped these two lovely men with their beekeeping duties a few years ago!
4.Belazumakes fantastic Middle Eastern ingredients and is famous for its Rose Harissa and Olive Oil. (I’ve got a super simple summer soup recipe for you here.) As a company it is zero waste-to-landfill and a percentage of its profits goes to its foundation for family food projects in the local community.
5. Chocolates - there are lots of recommendations here! I have a small drawer in my kitchen dedicated to chocolate, because I’d rather have great chocolate than pudding! Some of my Fairtrade favourites are Cocoa Loco,Divine,Tony Chocoloneyand I rateDoisy & Dam(a certified B-corp).
6.Zaytounis a fair-trade social enterprise in Palestine – and its za’atar is the best in the business.
7. For saving surplus fruits, there'sRubies in the Rubble. Try its apple chutney made with perfectly edible apples untouched and donated by a UK train company.
8. This genius ladyNibsis proudly fighting food waste with crackers and granolas made from juice pulp (and winning investment from Ashton Kutcher’s WeWork Creator Awards).
9.Biona- all round good uns for stocking up your store cupboard (including the best coconut milk I've tried -apart from the fresh stuff of course). It's a family business and started with a wholefoods shop in the '70s which turned into one of London’s first vegetarian restaurants.
10. Teas. I’m a proud Fairtrade ambassador myself, having seen the impact that the Fairtrade price guarantee has on families and communities during a trip to Kenya last year. So shout out toClipper Teaswho were the UK’s first Fairtrade tea company almost 30 years ago and is the world’s largest buyer of Fairtrade tea. I’m also a huge fan of the acclaimed tea lady, Henrietta ofRare Teawho has her own charity and recently held a very special fundraising afternoon tea at Claridges cooked by Rene Redzepi of Noma.
11. Looking for coffee alternatives? Check outWunderworkshop’s range with my favourite Chai lattes and turmeric mushroom blends. The founders work closely with community farms in Sri Lanka using sustainable farming techniques.
12.Toast Ale, my sustainability-champion friend Tristram Stuart’s award-winning craft beer, is brewed with surplus fresh bread that would otherwise be wasted. And they’re available in mini kegs too. All profits go to the charity Feedback to end food waste.
13. For booze, tryFair Drinks, an independent Fairtrade-certified spirits brand run by fantastic people who work with communities in Bolivia. 14. Some very good wines via Vintage Roots which has been a leading seller of organic and biodynamic wine since the 1980s(my faves are Oxney’s sparkling wine from Sussex and the Silent Pool Rose from my home county of Surrey!).
15. Excellent for picnics and parties,Dashdrinks andUrban Cordialserve up soft drinks made from British fruit and veg that farmers can’t sell to supermarkets (make sure you try the lavender and blackberry from the latter).
Opt for full indulgence this year with a egg-cellent sweet treat
We can totally get on board with two bank holidays and the excuse of stuffing ourselves silly on chocolate. Yes, that’s right, we’re celebrating Easter! And what better way to treat your loved ones than with one of these luxury Easter eggs.
Cocoa Loco Bakewell cherry & almond egg, 1250g
Sarah Payne set up Cocoa Loco in her kitchen back in 2005 and that handmade touch is still very much present with this egg, which has been roughly studded with almond slices and sour black cherry. However, what it lacks in super slick design it more than makes up for with its sheer size. This is a whopper – all 1250g of super smooth dark chocolate, in a thick shell that parts to reveal loose dark chocolate buttons (just like the good ol’ days). We were very impressed with the lack of plastic and minimal, recyclable packaging.
The cook shares five things she couldn't live without.
The 33-year-old cook is one half of Hemsley + Hemsley sisters, and her first solo cookbook, Eat Happy, encourages readers to share and enjoy food – as she does, regularly hosting friends and family in her east London home.
Melissa shares her five must-haves, which include a fair amount of cookery stuff, naturally, but also epsom bath salts and a good pair of wireless headphones – so she can practise yoga in her busy household in peace. Most importantly, Melissa shares that she must have a drawer full of dark chocolate...
“I adore chocolate,” she says. “I have a chocolate drawer that is always well stocked and all my friends go straight to it.”
As a Fairtrade ambassador, Hemsley wants to spread the word about making responsible shopping choices, even when it comes to buying chocolate: “All the things we take for granted, all our lovely treats, I’m really passionate that people get paid fair money while we enjoy it.”
Melissa says that one of her go-to brands is Cocoa Loco; she prefers plain dark chocolate: “I’m a 70% to 85% person, I do enjoy a bit of mint, but I’m not very adventurous when it comes to chocolate,” she adds.
Does your belle or beau love the cocoa, but milk is a no-no? Then treat them – or yourself – to one of these delicious selections.
Veganuary may be coming to an end but for vegan and lactose-intolerant chocolate lovers, the struggle to find a sweet treat to celebrate Valentine's Day can be very real.
While vegan and dairy-free chocolate is becoming more widely available at Christmas and Easter, the options are still a little sparse around 14 February.
It can be hard to tell which chocolate is free from animal products – but anything with theVegan Society sunflower logo will guarantee this.
For example, Booja-Booja and Plamil factories are completely dairy-free, and their products carry the logo.
Other chocolate may be labelled as vegan-friendly, which means it does not contain animal products but may have traces of non-vegan ingredients because it is produced in a factory that deals with other products.
We have picked six of the best options on the market this year, ranging from heart-shaped solid chocolate to boozy truffles and luxuriant chocolate slabs, all of which can make a perfect gift for someone you're looking to treat.
Cocoa Loco dark chocolate love hearts, 100g
These organic, fair trade dark chocolate love hearts come in a perfectly sized pack, considering how rich they are. The solid hearts are made with single-origin beans from the Dominican Republic and have a smooth, slightly sweet taste. Each heart has a different message printed on it, from “I love you” to “kiss me” and “sweet heart”. If you're looking for another option, Coco Loco also makes vegan-friendly dark chocolate pralines.
Lauren Bayross Payne
- December 01 2018
Whether you’re buying for the office Secret Santa, your neighbour, your loved ones OR maybe treating yourself to something special (because you deserve it), how about choosing from these presents that give back. Here are a round up of my favourites….
1. BOOB T shirts and jumpers – 25% of sales go to breast cancer support charities.
2. MMA social – beautiful baskets made by artisans in Ghana, every one sold means a young woman receives a reusable sanitary kit that lasts up to 3 years.
3. Help Refugees – Shop your heart out at the Choose Love pop-up shop, leave with nothing. Everything bought will be donated to someone who really needs it. The pop-up is just off Carnaby Street, London or online.
4. Fairtrade coffee and chocolate – I was lucky to visit Fairtrade farmers in Kenya in November & I’ve seen first hand the difference the Fairtrade price guarantee has on the women, their families and communities – look out for the Fairtrade label on chocolate & coffee – I love Divine chocolate bars and these minty thins made in West Sussex by Cocoa Loco.
5. Together cookbook – profits to The Hubb Community Kitchen which is run and for the community of Grenfell Tower. £9.99 and from all good bookshops
6. Skincare for the lads in your life – the Proverb Foundation on A Beautiful World with a % of profit from all sales to Wateraid and for the first Friday in Jan A Beautiful World run ‘Pink Friday’ where all profits from the day go to breast cancer charities.
7. Zaytoun fairtrade social enterprise in Palestine – my faves are their olive oil and za’atar zesty thyme mix (delicious on roasted veggies or chicken).
8. Bake for Syria cookbook or the Cook For Syria cookbook – profits to UNICEF Children of Syria Fund (check out my recipes in the books as well as recipes from Nigella, Ottolenghi, Angela Hartnett.
9. QÄSA QASA - Ethically made homeware made by artisans in East Africa – my school friend set this up, I have the beautiful soft tea towels, woven plant holders and the recycled wine bottle storage containers in my kitchen and bathroom.
10. Anna Louch award winning ethical jewellery – 60% of sales of the ‘Seed of Hope’ necklace goes to Fashion Revolution – the world’s largest fashion activism movement calling for transparency and radical change in the industry.
11. Wild at Heart bouquet – XXXX profits go the Wild at Heart foundation that supports animal welfare projects, particularly dog rescue, adoption and rehoming.
12. Ninety Percent -a revolutionary eco fashion brand, launched 2018 in London who give 90% of profits away.
13. White Company – their ‘White heart’ range donates 10% of profits to 3 fantastic charities, my fave is the heart shaped giant serving dish.
There's no need to look on, green with envy, as children make light work of the delicious chocolate eggs heaped upon them this Easter. Here, we've rounded up the eggs more suited to an adult taste, ranging from intensely dark offerings to those filled with booze-flavoured truffles, so you can join in on the fun.
Cocoa Loco Marbled Chocolate Easter egg:£11.99, Cocoa Loco
The swirling, marbled appearance of this egg is created by a blend of white, milk and dark chocolate. Not only does it look fantastic, it tastes marvellous too – not overly sweet and, as a result, perilously moreish. Created by a West Sussex-based chocolatier using single-origin cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic, the remarkably thick-shelled egg is certified Fairtrade and organic.
What's not to love about Fairtrade chocolate? By tucking into one of the bars listed below, you are supporting small-scale suppliers from across the globe who may otherwise be pushed out of business by their larger competitors. Oh, and it all tastes fantastic too.
We willingly accepted the task of sampling each bar below - some are own-brand offerings from well-known supermarkets, while other chocolatiers you may not have heard of, but all are certified by The Fairtrade Foundation. From classic milk chocolate done superbly and others with exotic ingredients to bars fit for vegans, there's something for every chocolate-lover here.
Cocoa Loco - Dark Chocolate Cinder Toffee
Based in Horsham, West Sussex, all Cocoa Loco’s chocolate is Fairtrade and organic. As well as boxes and bars, the company makes some other sweet treats, like this homemade cinder toffee dipped into silky-smooth dark chocolate. Ginger, brazil nuts and mango also get the dunked treatment if you’re looking for other options.
With customers including Jamie Oliver, Prince Charles’ Highgrove Estate and John Lewis, Cocoa Loco continues to grow.
Jasmin Martin went to the West Grinstead chocolatier to discover the secret of their success.
We all go loco for a bit of cocoa. I mean what’s not to love? Any occasion, any emotion and chocolate is always the answer.
From dark to milk, truffles to bars, buttons to brownies, Cocoa Loco is full of answers and with Easter and Mother’s Day just around the corner, you’d be bunny-hopping mad not to surprise someone with a sweet treat from this family- run business. So where did it all begin?
“I was a computer programmer and then I had children and took time off work to be a full time mum,” explained founder Sarah Payne.
“I decided that I enjoyed that so much I didn’t want to go back to doing what I’d done before.
“I was desperately trying to think what I could do to earn some money so that’s when I started making brownies and selling them on ebay.”
However sceptical Sarah’s husband Rory was initially, within 18 months he had given up his job in the city to join her on her chocolate dream.
Continuing to grow since it’s founding in 2005, Cocoa Loco now produces its goods at the Chocolate Barn – a commercial kitchen inside a 250-year-old barn on the beautiful Knepp Castle estate and aside from being utterly delicious, everything they make is organically made, Fairtrade and vegetarian.
“Having everything organic is basically in line with my personal values,” said Sarah.
“We also buy most of our dry ingredients from Infinity, our eggs are organic from Lee House Farm over near Billingshurst, and as everything we make is vegetarian, we use a company that supplies suitable jellies.”
Most of Cocoa Loco’s dark chocolate products are vegan friendly too, and the team are currently lovingly hand-making more glorious creations in time for Easter and Mother’s Day.
She added: “We’re making pink and white flowers for mums this year but because everything is organic and nothing can be artificial, the pink colour is from raspberry powder and, this is going to sound horrible, the green leaves are made with spinach powder – but they still taste like chocolate!” reassured Sarah
A fountain of accolades that have flowed their way as thickly as their chocolate include being named Sussex food producer of the year in the Sussex Food and Drink awards in their first year.
They also nationally won The Times Organic hero award in 2008 – yet they still have time for children Lauren, 19 and Oscar , 12.
“This year I’m planning on entering the Academy of Chocolate Awards and that’s something I’m going to focus on as well as my other little project, which is writing a chocolate book,” added Sarah.
“I think we’re quite unique, our products appeal to anyone and we really do have the most amazing customers.”
Chocolate lover, Sarah Payne, started making chocolate brownies when she was on maternity leave in 2004. They were so popular amongst her friends that she started selling them on eBay.
They started to sell at such a successful rate that her husband Rory decided to re-claim his kitchen and built a mini chocolate factory in the garden. He also left his job in IT to help. The expansion into other chocolate products started when one of Sarah's customers from eBay asked if she could make truffles for a wedding. From thenceforth Sarah began an ongoing experimentation with chocolate.
With space to only make thirty bars of chocolate at a time, Sarah soon outgrew her garden and so they took a gamble and bought a nearby ice cream factory. This became The Chocolate Barn, where Dawn Simpson also joined the team as master chocolatier. They sell brownies, chocolate bars, truffles, lollypops and flakes, amongst an array of other chocolate goodies, online through their website and at independent shops.
Why do you do what you do?
I love chocolate. As a child, Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favourite book; I read it at least a dozen times. I also love cooking. When my youngest child started school it seemed the perfect time to start a business utilising my baking skills and using my favourite ingredient.
What achievement are you most proud of?
It's such an amazing feeling to be nominated for an award by our customers. We were tremendously honoured when we were awarded the title of Organic Food Hero by The Times in 2008. We also won Sussex food producer of the year a few years ago, which was just fantastic.
What is your most memorable moment?
Meeting Monty Don when he presented us with our Organic Food Hero award. I'm a big fan of his…
If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food?
Spend some time going on a Great British Food Tour taking along lots of media with me and showcasing some of the fantastic regional food we produce here in the UK.
What is your favourite food and why?
Apart from chocolate?… mushrooms. I love mushrooms of all kinds and mushroom risotto is my favourite pre-running food to help me fuel up.
What are your predictions for the future of British food?
2012 is a fantastic time for us to be celebrating all things British. I hope that events such as the Olympics and The Queen's Diamond Jubilee will bring about a resurgence of interest in local food that continues long into the future.
If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
Be British, Eat British or Be a British Champion – Champion British Food.
Beat the recession tip?
Eat more home-grown vegetables.
What's on the menu this evening?
I'm not sure, as it's a surprise… Our daughter is making supper as she is home from University. Luckily she is a fantastic cook. Whatever it is, the ingredients will be locally produced and British.
How can people get hold of your produce?
We send our chocolate all over the world and people can order from our website. You can also buy our chocolates from Abel and Cole as well as in Oxfam gift shops, and lots of delis and farm shops too.