July Staff Picks

The first staff-person I spoke with this month was Taylor Wells. Taylor has been working at the co-op as a Cashier for six months, and when I approached her for a product recommendation for my column, without hesitation she recommended the Alter Eco Dark Salted Brown Butter Chocolate.

Taylor said she loves it because it is dark, the flavor combination is excellent, and it is so rich that a little goes a long ways towards satisfying her chocolate cravings. It’s also made by a Fair Trade company, and she really loves to give the bars as gifts and also stock up on cases whenever they go on sale.

Alter Eco was co-founded by four friends in three different countries – Ilse Keijzer in Australia, Mathieu Senard and Edouard Rollet in the United States, and Tristan Lecomte in France. All of the Alter Eco chocolates are organic, fair trade, and vegan. Additionally, most of the flavors are gluten free. The packaging is full of information about where the chocolate comes from and the activism that is at the heart of the company. The cocoa is bought from farmers in the Acopagro Co-op based in Ecuador (South America), at the edge of the Peruvian Amazon, and transported to Switzerland for manufacturing.

The packaging states: “In 1994, a United Nations program made it possible for these farmers to begin replacing their illegal coca crops with cocoa, releasing them from an oppressive, volatile and often dangerous relationship with drug traffickers.” In addition to being a Fair Trade Company, Alter Eco is also a company with a strong environmental ethic. They have undertaken a solid reforestation effort to prevent soil erosion, to protect the rainforest ecosystem, and to offset carbon emissions.

The next staff person I spoke with this month was Maria DeMatteo, who has been working at the co-op as a Produce Stocker for a year. For her recommendation, Maria chose the Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts. Maria says that as a vegan, she has found this product to be a very versatile source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Maria enjoys hemp hearts in her smoothies, on salads, incorporated into veggie burgers, and in many other dishes.

As you may have guessed, the Manitoba Harvest Company is based in Manitoba, Canada. The company was founded by Mike Fata in 1998 after he successfully participated in an extensive education and advocacy effort that convinced the Canadian Government to legalize the commercial production of hemp in Canada. Throughout his childhood, Mike struggled with being overweight and having an unhealthy body image. As a young adult, he lost weight through extreme dieting and exercise, but realized that even after losing the weight he still felt unhealthy and depleted and his self-esteem remained very low. Mike’s experience led him to the epiphany that healthy food and a healthy lifestyle provide a nourishing foundation for the body and soul. It is this ethos that led him to create the Manitoba Harvest Company.

Manitoba Harvest happens to be the largest manufacturer of Hemp foods in the world. All of the company’s products are non-GMO verified, and they’re dedicated to the quality and purity of their product as well as reducing their carbon footprint on the earth. The Manitoba Harvest product line includes hemp oil, hemp protein powder, hemp hearts, and hemp bites (kind of like mini energy nuggets).