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Chocolate with a heart

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Their efforts seem to be paying off. Despite its higher price when stacked up against conventional chocolate bars, Fair Trade Certified chocolate appears to be selling briskly in more than 1,600 retail locations around the US, including many natural foods stores and some major supermarkets.

Churches and schools have been among the biggest cheerleaders of Fairly Trade chocolate, where the message has resonated with younger consumers who embrace socially responsible choices.

Even the social networking website Facebook is buzzing with fan groups of fair-trade chocolate, some with members numbering into the thousands from countries all over the world.

Enthusiasm for chocolate with a heart may be growing, but it remains to be seen if demand for fairly traded sweets is having an impact on the $13 billion a year that Americans spend on cocoa products.

There's still more to be done, says Debra Music, vice president of sales and marketing at Theo Chocolate in Seattle. "Fair Trade chocolate is getting onto people's radar screen," she says, "but so far, it's mostly in urban areas and in southern California, where the green movement is burgeoning."

To help spread the word, Theo Chocolate – the first factory to produce organic, Fair Trade chocolate in the US – offers tours seven days a week. Many of the people who take the tour, says Ms. Music, don't realize that their favorite treat comes from an actual agricultural crop, the cocoa bean, nor do they know where it comes from – cacao trees grown in Central and South America, West Africa, and the Dominican Republic. Even fewer consumers are aware that the cocoa harvest sometimes occurs under awful labor conditions for little or no pay.

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