Chocolate can be more than just a sweet addition to an event and Toronto-based ChocoSol Traders shows groups how. The company is what Founder Michael Sacco calls a “learning community social enterprise.” The staff researches how to apply best practices in making the company’s organic, fair trade products—mainly chocolate, coffee and tortillas. Then they get groups in on the action through fun educational sessions that they hope will inspire other corporations to follow in their fair trade footsteps.
“We provide these high-value gastronomically beautiful products and also offer a value proposition to engage in the work with creativity, dignity, ecology and transparency as a team,” says Sacco. “Through the symbolisms of the products we share, we give people the opportunity to see that connection. Rather than getting catering at an event, you get an educational experience that leaves your body, heart and your mind fed.”
The company bases the values it teaches on three meanings of the word “sol.” The first is based on the sense of the sun because the company believes in the importance of renewable energy and resources. In fact, its first 2,200 pounds of cocoa beans were roasted with solar power in Oaxaca, Mexico. Secondly, they want customers to experience the heart and soul behind the “dignified creative work” that they do, says Sacco. Lastly, “sol” references the company’s Canadian-French influence because “sol” means “soil” in French. The company thinks it is important to see the connection to the soil through the food people eat and how it is fundamental to ecology.
Groups of 20 to 30 can experience these values onsite at ChocoSol Trader’s Toronto facility. The company provides an educational and hands-on tour and workshop that consists of an educational presentation on the topic of producing fair trade food products, an interactive experience such as a tasting or hands-on ingredient preparation exercise, and the opportunity to network in the space. The products are created using pedal power, which is can also be integrated into the event. Attendees can be part of the chocolate making process pedal blending and grinding chocolate for the company’s products.
“Part of the education is about how we built a team and created this ethical thing that translates across boundaries and creates something tasty in the process,” says Sacco. “We look at some of the interesting social enterprise and civil society teachings that we learn.”
The company’s event offerings can also be incorporated into an offsite event as well, with everything from the educational components to the pedal blending available for groups.