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Falling in love with (slavery-free) candy- The 2021 Valentine's Day Candy Guide!

It is almost February- a month filled with pink hearts, red roses, and lots and LOTS of lovely candy.

Unfortunately, some of that candy is not lovely at all.    

In June of 2019, the Washington Post published an article entitled, "Cocoa's child laborers" with the headline reading, "Hershey, Nestle, and Mars won't promise their chocolate is free of child labor". A few months later, in October 2019, Reuters published an article titled, "Made with child labor? Major chocolate companies flunk scorecard". And then, just a mere 4 months ago (September 2020), the US Department of Labor updated their "List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor" official report and made this tragic commentary: "As the world grapples with a pandemic, forced labor and unacceptable child labor is likely to become more frequent, not less.".

     The (heartbreaking) reality that the chocolate industry is riddled with child labor, and has been for decades, is a shocking revelation to most people with whom I speak. For those of us in the Fair Trade community, this news is no longer surprising, but it never fails to be heart-wrenching. If you want to educate yourself further on slavery in the chocolate industry, I have included some links to sources at the end of this guide.

     It is now January, and we are creeping closer to one of the biggest candy seasons of the calendar year- Valentine's Day. And as you walk the seasonal aisle of the grocery store and scroll through Amazon, you might be wondering- is there ANY ethical Valentine's candy for you to buy? 

And the answer is- YES!!! 

There are fantastic, DELICIOUS, ethical chocolate and candy brands out there (I made a sacrifice and taste-tested many of them for you ;p). And with that, below is my comprehensive guide to purchasing ethical candy for the Valentine's season. This guide is perfect whether you are buying candy for a romantic partner, candy for a Galentine's Day Zoom party, giving candy to a classroom, giving candy to teachers, or however else you may gift candy for the Valentine's season (or if you are just feeling hungry).


So check out the guide below, and make sure to look below the guide for a NEW addition- the "If you like X (unethical candy), you might like Y (ethical candy)" segment! It is just another way to help you find your favorite new ethical treats! (yummmmm!)

 Organic dark chocolate Valentine hearts

photo credit: Lake Champlain Chocolates


~The Ethical Valentine's Candy Guide~

Below, I have split up my guide into 3 sections- ethical chocolate candy, ethical candy best for food sensitivities, and ethical non-candy food alternatives.


Ethical Chocolate Candy

Below is a list of ethical chocolate candy brands, and their websites.

  • Little Secrets Chocolate- www.sharelittlesecrets.com I ADORE Little Secrets Chocolate. This is my guide, so I can be biased, right? ;)
  • Theo Chocolate- www.theochocolate.com
  • Unreal Chocolate- www.getunreal.com Unreal does an amazing job of taking existing popular candies and creating ethical versions. If you love M&Ms or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, check out Unreal!
  • Zazubean Chocolate- www.zazubean.com
  • Divine Chocolate- www.divinechocolate.com
  • Tony's Chocolonely- www.tonyschocolonely.com
  • Chocopologie- www.chocopologie.com
  • Endangered Species Chocolate- www.chocolatebar.com
  • TCHO Chocolate- www.tcho.com TCHO's flavors are SO unique and amazing!
  • Lake Champlain Chocolates- www.lakechamplainchocolates.com
  • Alter Eco Chocolate- www.alterecofoods.com
  • Equal Exchange- www.equalexchange.coop
  • Trader Joe's Chocolate- www.traderjoes.com
  • On the Rocks Chocolate- www.ontherocks.com
  • Lily's Chocolate- www.lilys.com
  • Chuao Chocolatier- www.chuaochocolatier.com
  • Taza Chocolate- www.tazachocolate.com
  • Simple Truth Organic Chocolate- www.kroger.com (this is Kroger's private label chocolate)
  • Wild Ophelia Chocolate- www.wildophelia.com The Caramelized Banana Peanut Butter Cups are my FAVES
  • Jelina Chocolatier- www.jelinachocolatier.com

 Milk Chocolate Hearts - Click for more information, or use your TAB key to go to purchase options

photo credit: Divine Chocolate


Ethical Candy good for Food Sensitivities*

*All allergen information listed below is taken directly from the brand's website. 

Below is a list of ethical candy brands that are good for different food sensitivities, and their websites. These brands are generally good for these allergies and sensitivities, but please check the packaging on each individual label for allergen info specific to that item. The call-outs below do not necessarily pertain to all of the products carried by that brand.

  • Vegan
    • Unreal Chocolate- www.getunreal.com
    • Zazubean Chocolate- www.zazubean.com
    • Lake Champlain Chocolates- www.lakechamplainchocolates.com
    • Project 7- www.project7.com
  • Gluten Free
    • Unreal Chocolate- www.getunreal.com
    • Project 7- www.project7.com
  • Peanut and Tree Nut Free
    • Wholesome Sweet- www.wholesomesweet.com
  • No Sugar Added
    • Lily's Chocolate- www.lilys.com
    • Zazubean Chocolate- www.zazubean.com
  • No Artificial Ingredients or Flavors
    • Little Secrets- www.sharelittlesecrets.com
    • Wholesome Sweet- www.wholesomesweet.com
    • Divine Chocolate- www.divinechocolate.com
  • No High Fructose Corn Syrup
    • Little Secrets- www.sharelittlesecrets.com
  • Non-GMO
    • Alter Eco Chocolate- www.alterecofoods.com
    • Wild Ophelia Chocolate- www.wildophelia.com
  • Soy-Free
    • Theo Chocolate- www.theochocolate.com

    photo credit: Theo Chocolate


    Ethical Non-Candy Food

    Below is a list of ethical food brands that are not candy, and their websites. This option is a good one for people who want to provide a healthier option for their children in lieu of candy.

    • Brite Snack- www.britesnack.com (the Kai Trail Mix contains Fair Trade Chocolate)
    • Quinn Snacks- www.quinnsnacks.com
    • This Bar Saves Lives- www.thissaveslives.com
    • Bark Thins- www.barkthins.com
    • Equal Exchange- www.equalexchange.coop
    • Bear Naked- www.bearnaked.com


    image of Milk Chocolate Gems

    photo credit: Get Unreal


    And now it's time for "if you like X, you might like Y", aka...

    ~The Great Candy Swap Guide!~

    Here we go!


    * If you like... Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

    You might like... Unreal Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups!


    * If you like... Twix

    You might like... Little Secrets Milk Chocolate with Caramel Cookie Bars!


    * If you like... Swedish Fish

    You might like... Wholesome Organic DelishFish! 


    * If you like... Snickers

    You might like... Unreal Dark Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bars! 


    * If you like... Reese's Pieces

    You might like... Little Secrets Chocolate Pieces Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate!


    * If you like... Skittles

    You might like... Yum Earth Organic Giggles 


    * If you like... M&Ms

    You might like... Unreal Milk Chocolate Gems


    * If you like... sour candies

    You might like... Yum Earth Organic Sour Beans



    I hope this guide makes your Valentine's treat shopping a little easier! What is your favorite ethical candy/treat?

    As promised at the beginning of the guide, below is a list of articles that detail the enslaved labor (including child labor) that is used in the chocolate industry at large:










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