Chocolate Box pretty, but what’s inside?

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The packaging is often the first thing you notice when you spot something new on the shelves, and a product’s packaging tells you a lot about the company that it’s connected to. For instance: are they using a lot of single use plastic, is the packaging unnecessarily bulky in relation to its contents, does the writing on the packaging contain helpful information about the company and its products, and what does the written information say about the ingredients used, especially in edible products? But there is a lot of other stuff to consider if you really want to understand if the company is running their business ethically, for instance how they source their raw materials, how their business impacts the natural environment, and how they treat their workers. If you visit the wonderful The Green Stars Project site, you will see that consumers (you and me) are encouraged to submit reviews using an amended version of the gold star rating system found on many retailer’s and review sites, by including a green star rating system based on social and environmental impact.

The product I chose for this purpose is Beyer’s Craft Gin Truffles, produced by Beyer’s Chocolates here in South Africa. I wanted to review a local product rather than imported, and chocolate seemed like a good idea, because when isn’t chocolate a good idea?! I had planned to post this on the shopping site PriceCheck.co.za, but I couldn’t find my chosen product for review on their stock list, so I decided to blog about it instead. Here then is the review:

 

 

 

 

 

Beyers Chocolates: Craft Gin Truffles, milk and dark chocolate

Ratings: (3.5/5 Gold stars*) /  (3/5 Green stars*)

Love the dark chocolate specially. Wish they had valid certification and less plastic. 3/5 green stars.
  • The box contains 9 chocolate balls in 3 varieties. Pretty, handmade chocs. All deliciously flavourful, although I found the Cranberry and Honeybush filling too sweet, and the milk chocolate outer generally a bit sweet. My favourite is the Classic Gin&Tonic filling, surrounded by rich dark chocolate.  The product is well priced, especially if compared to imported products of the same quality. The packaging is very attractive: a simple cardboard box, decorated with florals and other botanicals, although I didn’t like the thin plastic film that went over it. I checked the ingredients list and noticed that they stated merely ‘flavouring’ as one of their ingredients, so I went on to their website to find out more. The website states that they use no artificial colours or flavours, and that none of their ingredients are chemically treated. This is a big plus for me.

 

 

  • In terms of ethical rating, I like the fact that this is a local product,crafted in South Africa. The company’s website describes a very good record of CSR in terms of creating employment within their company and supporting ongoing training in the food and beverage industry outside of the company. In terms of their trading they state that: “Beyers Chocolates only works with companies that ensure a 100% sustainable cocoa supply chain. Our supply base invests in programmes that empower cocoa farmers by providing improved access to agricultural training and other support services. Additionally, the sustainability initiatives help to generate income for these farmers and their families, whilst also safeguarding the environment.” They also support the Amarula Elephant Research Programme, which studies elephant behaviour and develops conservation management strategies. All this considered, I am disappointed to see that they have no visible valid Certification: nothing stating Fair Trade or Organic and nothing regarding their cocoa supply chain. I found this disappointing, and found myself reluctant to award a high Green Stars rating because I felt I needed more confirmation of their position/ status. If they do have certification, I failed to find it on their website or see it on their packaging information.

 

  • I found that their packaging is sub-standard on a couple of things: They haven’t included any information about what ‘flavourings’ they use and whether they are natural or artificial, and I had to go onto their website for this. There is also no information regarding the packaging materials used and whether they are recyclable or compostable. I also feel that they could have included more interesting and pertinent information about some of their ‘green’ commitments and achievements, such as previous awards for providing learnership and employment opportunities. Regarding their packaging, I was quite shocked on opening the box to find that each chocolate ball was contained in a separate envelope of see-through plastic, and that in fact everything could have fitted comfortably into a box around half the size. The wasteful packaging and the amount of cheap looking, single use plastic was a big disappointment for me, both from a Gold Star and a Green Star perspective.

 

  • Another big no-no for me is that sadly the product contains palm oil. I can find nothing on their packaging or on their website that explains how they source this: sustainably or otherwise.

 

  • In conclusion, I would love to award this company a high score because there is a lot that they are getting right. However considering the fact that they have no certification, their poor packaging and labelling, including a lot of single use plastic, and their use of palm oil which is not marked as sustainable, left me awarding them a 3/5 Green Stars rating. For their Gold Stars I have considered that I enjoyed the dark chocolate option the best (that’s 3 out of the 9 chocolates), and that even though the box was very pretty it also contained cheap looking packaging inside. For this I have awarded them 3.5/5 Gold Stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to bring Mother Nature to your door

tilt shift photo of two white bird eggs on a nest
Photo by Maurício Filho on Pexels.com

Outside the window to my left there is a nest in our mulberry tree. Both parents are back and forth constantly, carrying wormy morsels for consumption by two tiny, hungry baby birds. I have been watching this beautiful process for about three weeks now, starting when I noticed the two adults putting the final touches to their compact little nest, right in front of the glass doors at one entrance to our house. If I wanted to I could clear the distance between the entrance and the tree in two or three strides, stand on the bench just beneath it, and reach up and touch the nest. At first I thought I was surely mistaken: why would they build so close by? Had they not noticed that there are people living here, using this very entrance several times a day? Not to mention our cat (okay, he’s elderly and has never climbed that tree, but he’s often in the area), and that all things considered they had best find another spot?

 

But they persevered. Days later it became clear that there were eggs in the nest, with one adult spending a lot of time sitting there with his or her mouth open, (I think they take turns) and awaiting sustenance. The other parent’s job is then to fetch and carry food, to make sure that the other doesn’t go hungry. And then suddenly there were babies. We couldn’t spot the babies at first, but there was clearly some feeding of little ones going on, with both parents involved and alternating between sitting, finding food and generally fussing around the area in a parent-y kind of way.

 

The birds are Karoo Thrushes, common in Johannesburg gardens and preferring shady, woody areas under trees, where they can forage for insects, spiders and other small creatures.

 

Within a few short weeks this particular little family has flourished, despite several thunderstorms (typical of Johannesburg at this time of the year) which could knock the sturdiest of birds’ nests sideways in no time. Each time, I waited with bated breath whilst rain and hail poured down and wind howled, with loud thunder claps and lightning flashes enough to make your heart skip a beat.  As the storms abated I would peer out and noticed with relief that the little nest was still in tact with one parent, soaking but stoic, still huddled down, covering and protecting the young ones beneath.

 

The first time I first saw the babies was beaks- up, mouths wide open, awaiting the descent of the morsel held in the parent’s beak as he/she alighted the nest. Even more special was the first time I spotted their little bobbing heads, faintly downy and backlit by the morning sun behind the tree, creating a bright little fuzzy halo of newly forming feathers.

 

The past five years (almost exactly to the day) has seen many special wild creatures visiting our garden, some even making it into the house. Spiders: some of them venomous, frogs, herons (which catch and devour the frogs and goldfish in our pond), a tawny eagle, an owl, a small snake, flying bats, scorpions, a variety of wasps, bees and butterflies, damsels and dragonflies, and of course an endless variety of garden birds.

 

How to bring Mother Nature to your door? I can’t say exactly, but no doubt our organic garden (no chemical fertilizers or pesticides) helps to create the right environment. But more than that: perhaps the secret ingredient is love 🙂 The people living here and holding this space do so with love and commitment to an eco-friendly lifestyle and to ‘treading lightly upon this earth’.