Good King Cacao: Good for You & Cacao Farmers

Chocolopolis / Thursday, January 31st, 2019

About five years ago Kim Wilson came to Chocolopolis to drop off samples of her Good King Snacking Cacao to see if we might be interested in selling it. Kim had transformed quality cacao beans into tasty snacks by removing the husks and dusting the beans in sugar, herbs and spices. Her snack offered the health benefits of cacao along with tasty flavor and a bit of sweetness. But I didn’t know this yet.

A few weeks after dropping off the samples, Kim called to see what we thought of them. I had to admit that I had not tried them yet. We get a lot of samples to evaluate and we have an evaluation process that can take time, particularly when we receive a lot of samples. After I got off the phone I tasted these lightly sweetened and spiced cacao beans, and I loved them.

I emailed Kim the next day to tell her we wanted to sell her cacao. She reacted with surprise. She had heard through the grapevine that our selection process took time and that we didn’t accept many new products. I hadn’t seen anything like her snacking cacao (at least not executed this well), and I was excited to add a new product to our  collection that would be a perfect fit for our chocophile customers.

What was it about Kim’s snacking cacao that made me move quickly? It is a cacao product that is authentic and has a fantastic story. While we always have a lot of chocolate bars to choose from in building our selection we do not have many whole cacao bean options, particularly not hand-shelled, seasoned beans. While there are plain, roasted cacao beans, there is not a large market for them. If you haven’t tasted a roasted cacao bean, let’s just say it doesn’t taste much like the chocolate bar in your cupboard.

On top of tasting good and filling a market niche that wasn’t represented on our chocolaty shelves, Kim had a mission to help cacao farmers  increase their incomes. While many in the craft chocolate community have similar passion for improving the lives of cacao farmers, Kim is a boots-on-the-ground example, visiting countries of origin for every harvest, setting up women’s groups at origin to hand-shell the beans and working directly with farming communities to improve their livelihoods. Her long-term goal is to make the farming communities more self sufficient, creating opportunities for them to add more value to the product in the community instead of just exporting a raw material. While there have been structural challenges that have made her goal harder to reach, it is still her goal, and she takes small steps towards accomplishing it every day.

Kim decided to make a shelled cacao bean product for a few reasons, which she states so eloquently on her website that I’m going to quote her:

  • Win: it requires very little investment for the cacao growing community to get started.
  • Win: it’s a natural next step in understanding how to process high quality cacao. Every bean counts which means the bad ones can’t be masked by the good (this is also a great challenge!).
  • Win: the majority of value-added work naturally appeals to and empowers women in an era when the cocoa industry is actively searching for opportunities for women-inclusion.
  • Win: it elevates the value of smaller cacao beans and clones while the chocolate industry prefers the larger beans.
  • Win: it provides a new product that is way more convenient (and tasty) to eat than a cocoa nib.
  • Win: it is a healthier, crunchier, less sugary snack alternative to most chocolate.
  • Win: it ultimately leaves 50-100% MORE income from cacao in the growing communities!

I’ll add another win to this list, it doesn’t melt. Cacao-growing countries are hot, making the logistics of producing and exporting chocolate difficult and expensive. Kim has landed on a product that eliminates that problem and makes it more practical for the local community to produce. Producing a value-added product at origin always results in more income for these farming families. Due to food safety challenges in the countries of origin she is currently roasting, seasoning and packaging her snacking cacao at a kitchen in Seattle, but she hopes to move these value-added steps to the women’s groups in Indonesia and Honduras where she purchases cacao.

Kim recently expanded her product line by adding a Fruit, Nut & Cacao Snacking Mix to her lineup. As you can probably imagine, she spent as much time sourcing each of the ingredients that goes into these snacking mixes as she spends sourcing her cacao. The quality is incredible.

Get 2019 off to a good start and be good to your body. Try Good King Cacao Snacking Cacao and Snacking Mix.

Read about Kim’s farm groups in Indonesia and Honduras.

Kim Wilson telling the story of Good King Cacao at the PNW Chocolate Society meeting