Norman Love Confections becomes first U.S. chocolatier to lend hand to Peruvian rice stove project

11/04/2013

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 4, 2013) – With the launch of its Love Origins line of premium eating chocolates, Norman Love Confections is working to help improve the lives of cocoa farmers while also supporting sustainable agriculture.

“Just as we work to help improve lives in our own community, we want to help improve living conditions for those who work to provide such wonderful ingredients and yet lack basic necessities and live with serious health hazards,” said Norman Love. “Supporting Love Origins is about supporting socially and environmentally responsible cacao farms and bettering the lives of the people who live and work there; it is about rewarding companies that exceed the current standards of fair trade regulations and pay farmers up to 40 percent more than above fair trade prices; it’s about the benefits of organic products and investing in the future of cocoa by supporting those who use sustainable practices and promote sustainable research.”

The line uses six chocolates chosen for their unique flavor qualities and sound humanitarian and environmental business practices. Purchasing these chocolates allows NLC to reward chocolate manufacturers that invest in improving the social and economic conditions of those who farm and harvest the cacao.

Norman Love Confections is donating a portion of the Love Origins proceeds to the Rice Stove Project, a program whose mission is to build specially designed rice stoves for those who live in the cacao-rich Marañón Canyon of Peru. A few thousand people live in this remote region where residents have few creature comforts, but the fertile soil allows wild coffee, cacao and tropical fruits to grow in abundance.

Today, 5,000 farm families live in the canyon, which can only be reached by barge or long boats that cross the river. There are some foot paths, and a small number of cars and motorbikes traverse the canyon. Schools and public services exist, but life remains hard here. While farmers grow many crops and those who grow cacao are proud of the Pure Nacional that Peru considers a national treasure, another crop grows there that threatens the residents’ existence: rice.

Brought to the canyon years ago through a government subsidy, farmers now struggle to make a profit on this non-native crop, which leaves behind stacks of rice hulls up to 40 feet high. The hulls naturally contain silica, which can damage lungs. When the temperatures rise, the mounds spontaneously combust and smolder for weeks, sending silica-laden smoke throughout the area, endangering the health of the residents.

Simple rice stoves, designed by a Canadian nonprofit organization, can burn the husks safely. The free and readily available husks burn hotter and faster than wood which is expensive and rare in the canyon and creates more smoke and slower cooking times. Reducing the dependency on wood also helps with the prevention of rainforest deforestation.

A stove costs $60 to make. Dan Pearson, co-founder and president of Marañón Chocolate, and his business partner, Brian Horsley, are working with the nonprofit organization, Discover Hope, to purchase and build rice stoves for the farmers. They have raised enough money so far to build 200 stoves using materials sent from European-based donations. The goal is to eventually supply all 5,000 Marañón Canyon families with a stove.

Pearson explains what has motivated him to take on this project.

“Peruvians are wonderful people,” he said. “To have the chance to work and give back to them is the right thing to do. We must protect the farms and farmers. It’s a natural treasure.”

In order to speed the progress of the Rice Stove Project, Norman and Mary Love have made a financial contribution that will provide funds to build stoves now. When the harvest season begins in November, farmers do not have the time to construct the stoves. Proceeds from Love’s Origins line will provide funding for stoves for next year and beyond.

Maura Metheny, chef chocolatier and head of design and innovation for Norman Love, spearheaded the project.

“Supporting this product is about bettering the lives of the workers and conditions of the plantations that make our business possible,” she added.

The Love Origins line features six chocolates chosen for their unique flavors and commitment to sustainability including the rare Nacional from Peru’s Marañón Canyon, Fortunato No. 4. Details about each are as follows:

• Alto el Sol 65 percent, from Peru is sourced from eight small family owned plantations in the San Martin region, Peru’s richest biological area. Long-term contracts for an entire harvest ensure an income for farmers and encourage sustainable harvesting practices. Farmers work with a United Nations-funded co-op created to increase the farmers’ quality of life and protect their livelihood. The beans are shipped to the upper Normandy region of France and manufactured with organic sugar, vanilla, and 100 percent traceable and fair trade beans at Cacao Barry facilities in Meulan, France.

• Hacienda Elvesia 74 percent from the Dominican Republic features certified organic and Rainforest Alliance certified beans. Swiss immigrants cultivated this cacao more than 200 years ago and the same family runs the plantation today. Using rare and highly prized Criollo and Trinitario beans, which are carefully hand sorted, the family has focused on developing a sustainable system of farming in harmony with nature, resulting in unparalleled quality beans, which are shipped to Felchlin in Switzerland for manufacturing with 100 percent organic ingredients.. The company also provides housing for the families of workers, many of whom were displaced by natural disasters in Haiti.

• La Red 70 percent, from the Dominican Republic, is manufactured by Fruition Chocolate in the Catskill Mountains, N.Y. Made from USDA certified organic beans from the La Red co-op, which is made up of 300-plus small cacao farmers who share a centralized processing center for fermentation and drying. Profits from sales to U.S. premium chocolate makers have allowed the co-op to invest in additional solar drying capabilities, an enlarged storage warehouse, a cacao nursery full of seedlings and a five-tier fermentation facility. Farmers are paid 30 percent more than Fair Trade prices, enabling them to better their lives.

• Tainori 64 percent, from the Dominican Republic, is named for the people on the island when Columbus arrived. It’s made from Trinitario beans. The plantation, owned by a local family, is a living laboratory for research and exploration in sustainable farming by converting plantations into botanical gardens that re-establish the balance between flora and local ecosystems. Studies are underway to strengthen trees for continued production and projects to improve life for farms and their residents. Long-term contracts with local workers ensure continued quality of life for farmers. The chocolate is manufactured by Valrhona in France, which supports local communities, including co-funding a school that opened in January 2013.

• Fortunato No. 4 68 percent from Peru has been DNA-certified as the original cacao. Marañon Chocolate partner Brian Horsley lives and works in the canyon with the farms to harvest, ferment and dry the beans and oversees the exportation from Lima. The chocolate is manufactured by Swiss-based Felchlin. The Marañon company is heavily involved with helping to improve the lives of families locally and cacao initiatives through the Rice Stove project as well as initiatives to preserve the future of cocoa worldwide. Local farmers in the canyon are paid 100 percent cash for wet beans. Horsley works with farmers on sustainable ways to trim trees, increasing yield and preventing insect damage.

• Bolivian 87 percent comes from a small co-op in Bolivia’s Alto Beni province. Farmers use sustainable farming methods to cultivate wild Bolivian Nacional cacao and hybrid seedlings and plant new acreage to ensure future production. Taza Chocolate in Boston purchases the beans for $500 per metric ton more than the Fair Trade customary price and publishes an annual report for growers of volume purchased and prices paid. Taza stone grinds the beans using hand-carved granite millstones, in the Mexican tradition, to create a bolder texture and flavor. The chocolate is manufactured with 100 percent organic sugar and Costa Rican vanilla.

The Origins chocolates will feature 10, 3.5-gram squares per sleeve, with six sleeves per set, one of each variety. The sets will retail for $26.

Norman Love Confections creates and distributes handcrafted artisanal chocolates from the Fort Myers corporate headquarters that encompasses both production and retail operations. The Fort Myers and Naples chocolate salons are stylish retail shops with an intimate ambience in which customers may purchase chocolates or linger over house-made pastries, gourmet coffees, lattes and smoothies.

The award-winning Fort Myers-based chocolatier has been lauded 12 times by a leading consumer ratings magazine including recognition six times for producing the best ultra-premium chocolates, and most recently as a Best Buy for Special Treats for Valentine’s Day 2013.

The Fort Myers Chocolate Salon, at 11380 Lindbergh Blvd., is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Naples Chocolate Salon, which also serves artisan gelato, at 3747 Tamiami Trail North in Parkshore Centre, is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Artisan Gelato by Norman Love, at 11300 Lindbergh Blvd., Suite 112, off Daniels Parkway in Fort Myers, east of I-75, is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.normanloveconfections.com.

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Contact:

Sharon Arnold, Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold Marketing and PR, 239-275-5758, sharon (at) gsma.pro