Craig Sams has always been in the business of bettering people's lives. In 1967, after opening London's Seeds macrobiotic restaurant, he expanded the business and formed Whole Earth Foods (a vehemently sugar-free food brand producing peanut butter, fruit spreads, and cereals). He then turned to cocoa, striking a deal with destitute farmers in Belize and launching Green & Black's, the world's first organic chocolate, in 1991. In celebrating Fair Trade Month, we checked in with Sams to hear his thoughts on the organic food business and to see what's next on his radar.
Chocolate is typically thought of as a guilty pleasure. Where does Green & Black's fit into the equation?
From the outset, we called ourselves guilt-free chocolate. When we started, most dark chocolate was around 34 to 42 percent cocoa solids, the rest being sugar. Ours is 70 percent cocoa. We use independent farmers -- no plantations -- who don't use any harmful chemicals. After cotton, cocoa is the most heavily sprayed crop on the planet. It's responsible for an awful lot of the Lindane and DDT that ends up in the upper atmosphere and rains down on us. I call it climatic karma.
Do you worry about the implications of organic products becoming mainstream?
Everyone's worried about the industrialization of organic, but I don't see it that way. The whole motivation of the organic movement is to save the planet by turning it organic, but people get terribly protective when big guys move in. I'm not sure where the danger is in all that. There will always be supermarkets. At the same time, entrepreneurial companies like cheese-making shops and farmers' markets are still booming -- and more people sign up every week for home delivery of organic vegetables. The emphasis on local, identifiable, and traceable all plays into the hands of small organic producers.
What type of food will you tackle next?
Bread. Our bakery, named Judges, is working on slowly fermented bread, the kind that hasn't been made for 70 or 80 years. We've gone back to what the product was originally and taken it from there.