Organic: to be or not to be?

Going organic was always something I wanted to do with the company but turns out it’s a bigger deal than I could have ever imagined. I wanted to do it for a number of reasons, firstly it just makes sense to make the company officially organic and it’s a great thing to be able to write on the packaging. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by organic and even biodynamic (google it) produce and it’s a no brainer that it’s the best way to eat. I was also getting a bit bored with the long-winded explanation of yes, we use organic base ingredients but no, we can’t say that we are organic because we aren’t certified. If someone asks if the chocolate is organic, I want to be able to say yes with a full stop at the end. 

To clarify, going organic means becoming certified as an organic company. We already used an organic base chocolate and mostly organic ingredients, but the certification process is very strict and just using organic products isn’t enough to be able to call yourself an organic company. Being certified also means yearly inspections to check your processes, a yearly fee, and lots of time spent keeping very detailed records so you can prove that what you are claiming to be organic, actually is. 

Challenge accepted! We chose Soil Association Organic to certify with, they are a very well respected and recognisable company and I like their little logo.

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Workshop inspected, organic detergents only, strict cleaning processes in place, strict storage, labelling and goods in/ goods out spreadsheets as far as the eye can see. Each product also needs its own folder with a full ingredients sheet and where each ingredient is from, as well as the documents from suppliers with their organic certificate, the packaging certificate and the label for the product going through an approval process. For most of our products, this is fairly straightforward. However, when we get to bars like our Bee’s Knees bar, we start to hit a few roadblocks. I made the Bee’s Knees bar with the intention of using local honey from small producers in our local area. They can’t always afford and don’t always want to get the certification and quite frankly I don’t know if the bee’s will agree to only go on organic flowers. How do you tell a bee not to go in certain areas? That’s a rhetorical question, I understand how cages and fences work but bees roaming free across the English countryside is what we wanted to promote, not bees in organic cages. This bar is then considered 95% organic because even though the honey isn’t certified, I can still say its organic, I just can’t use the cool logo. This is similar for our Very Cherry and Chocolate Love bar, they don’t have honey in them but I couldn’t find an organic cherry or raspberry essence that I liked, so I used a natural one (it’s not organic certified) and didn’t add the logo to the wrapper. The rest of the bars? 100% Organic! 

Do you look for the word organic on your products? Is it important to you? Do you even notice/care that what you eat is or isn’t organic? Does it depend on the product? Organic meat, dairy, fruit and veg seem important but pasta is ok not to be? Going through the process has certainly changed my perspective on it. I fully respect and appreciate when a company is certified, but if it isn’t I generally assume it’s because they have decided not to and not because they pump their product full of chemicals. Small companies and producers probably don’t always bother going for the certification or don’t need to, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t strict about their quality or that their focus isn’t on producing a wonderful product. 

I sometimes wish we weren’t certified so I could have more freedom and creativity within the range, although for some products I just don’t bother and you will have to trust that I’m very fussy when it comes to quality. I am better at making new products organic and switching my brain into “that will work and be delicious” rather than just “let’s do that cool thing and worry about organic later.” Don’t do the latter, it will not work out well for you when you find yourself spending hours googling organic breadcrumbs.

Overall, I’m very happy we are organic and want to remain so. It’s a huge achievement in my opinion and makes me proud every time some asks:

“Is the chocolate organic?” “Yes.” (with a full stop.)