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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The history of plastic, and why it matters

 

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In my garden: Indigenous South African Clivias

 

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“We made it. We depend on it. We’re drowning in it”. This is the opening statement of an article on plastic in the June 2018 edition of National Geographic. The statistics, facts and figures come hard and fast, the kind of worrying information that we’ve become accustomed regarding the impact of plastic waste on our environment. “How did we get here? When did the dark side of the miracle of plastic first show itself?” is one of the questions raised. And it is significant that something once regarded as a ‘miracle”, a solution to many of our problems, is now demonized to the point that in 2013, scientists writing for Nature magazine declared that disposable plastic should be classified as a hazardous material.

The history of plastic matters because it reminds us of how our individual and global needs are often met by technology, and how plastic did and still does offer many vital and positive uses.

 

Laura Parker, who wrote the article, presents some interesting facts and background information. As far back as the 19th Century, we see the noble beginnings of plastic in its very early use in the form of a celluloid (derived from plant cellulose) billiard ball, designed as an alternative to the original billiard ball which at that stage was made of a scarce natural material: elephant ivory. Many years later there are untold numbers of ways in which plastic has featured in ours lives and influenced world events. World War 2 in the 20th Century was war on a whole new level, with the aid of nylon parachutes and lightweight airplane parts. Since then plastic has helped us to make great strides in areas as diverse as medicine and medical apparatus, travel by road, air and into outer space, and even the now-hated plastic water bottle, used to deliver clean drinking water to people in poor rural areas.

 

The Darker side of plastic crept in perhaps as more and more uses were discovered, and cheaper manufacturing processes were realised. In the early 20th Century the ”plastic revolution” took hold, as chemists discovered that they could create plastics even more cheaply and abundantly by using the waste gases emitted by petroleum oil refineries. It seemed that anything and everything could be made from plastic, with the added benefit that it was cheap to do so. A whole new world of possibilities had opened up and in 1955 a photograph in Life magazine appeared, titled ‘Throwaway Living’ featuring an American family celebrating the convenience of plastic cutlery, plates and cups. Single use plastics were already becoming a thing.

 

Quoting directly from the article: ” Six decades later, roughly 40 percent of the now more than 448 million tons of plastic produced every year is disposable, much of it used as packaging intended to be discarded within minutes after  purchase. Production has grown at such a breakneck pace that virtually half the plastic ever manufactured has been made in the past 15 years……The growth of plastic production has far outstripped the ability of waste management to keep up: that’s why the oceans are under assault. ”

 

It is important to note is that all plastics cannot be arbitrarily labelled as ‘bad”. In many of it’s forms it fills essential functions and continues to save lives daily. On a positive note it is worth remembering that the plastic waste issue is gaining attention and that genuine efforts are being made to address the problem by individuals, corporations and whole countries. May this move continue from strength to strength.