Kallari chocolate is a sustainable social business that not only helps preserve the Amazonian Rainforest, but also empowers farmers in Ecuador who are able to keep 100% of the profits from the chocolates. (See the full profile of Kallari we wrote in November.)
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with the founder of Kallari, Judy Logback. In the interview below, she shares her journey into social entrepreneurship, the inspiration for her business, and the things that keep her motivated and inspired on their purpose-driven journey.
We asked Judy to include a photo, but she reminded us that because the company is a collective, it involves a lot of staff and volunteers, thus makes it impossible to credit a single entrepreneur. The image seen above is of Maria Narvaez cutting open a Piton fruit, and was photographed by Nick Chastenauf, a volunteer from the UK.
"Just as most Kichwa families, in her small home garden plot, called Chakra in Kichwa, Maria has planted scores of different fruit trees, hardwood trees, cassava, bananas, plantains, cacao, cafe, beans, cotton, more edible plants and medicinal plants," Judy explains. "From this diverse mix of species Kichwa draw inspiration and harvest unique heirloom varietals for their unique chocolate bars."
4 Questions with Judy Logback, Founder of Kallari Chocolate
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
In 1997 a small conservation organization conducted an interview with various Kichwa villages for ideas of how to maintain the rainforests for future generations. The general response of most participants was that the intermediaries and industries prevented them from getting a fair income from their hard work, which required larger harvested to simply make ends meet.
The consensus from the preliminary interviews was that Amazon landowners needed:
a) a connection to regional markets, to eliminate the local traders and brokers
b) better quality control for their handicrafts and technical help for their agricultural crops, so they could attain a better price
c) some processing of their agricultural crops, like coffee and cacao, so they could reap the income for a finished product
d) direct markets to other nations, so they could attain the high prices related to foreign markets, where exotic items have a higher value than in the region where they are found in large quantities
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
Cacao trees are native to the Amazon and were domesticated for several thousand years by the indigenous peoples before the Spanish arrived in the Americas. The regional tradition relates more to drinking hot chocolate from freshly roasted and ground cacao beans, so it was a simple step of transporting the harvest to a regional chocolate making workshop to create chocolate bars.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
The cacao growers were the inspiration of this endeavor, some had even visited a small Andean chocolate workshop for a brief internship, and were inspired to create their own chocolate factory and product line. Before we could build a factory, we decided to learn how to make chocolate, create recipes and compete head to head with the top European chocolatiers. The quality of the bar and the success has been much more than we could have ever expected in only a few years.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
We tend to use the cornucopia of Amazon fruits, nuts, and spices, as well as indigenous traditions. The artisanal line of bars that Kallari will be launching at select markets in the U.S. later this year includes a hot chili and wild cinnamon, as well as triple ginger and Andean salt recipes. The hot chili and cinnamon bar was inspired by traditional hot chocolate recipes from South America, and the ginger and salt bar was inspired by Napo medicinal remedies. We tend to ask people what they would like to see in a chocolate bar, before creating from scratch, but then seek out local knowledge to create a bar with the cultural and natural resources at hand.