The burgeoning organic chocolate market is taking off thanks to an increase in ethical consumerism and the willingness of confectionery makers worldwide to exploit the trend.
According to the Pesticide Action Network, cocoa is second only to cotton in its high use of pesticides. However organic production of the beans entails natural methods of pest control and has been praised for its contribution to sustainable farming.
A general drive towards conscience-led eating has resulted in the confectionery market scrambling to keep up with ethical consumers, particularly in the chocolate sector where customers are becoming increasingly aware of the economic and environmental concerns surrounding cocoa production.
Last year, Cadbury Schweppes acquired the organic brand Green & Blacks which is now the UK's leading supplier of organic chocolate and, since 2003, has been sourcing its cocoa beans from co-operatives in Belize and the Dominican Republic.
Marketing director Mark Palmer told confectionerynews.com: "It is more expensive to produce organic cocoa so for farmers the main concern is stability, a guaranteed order at a high price."
But results at Green & Blacks are testament to the fact that consumers are willing to shell out more for organic chocolate in the last four years, sales have grown from £10m (€14.8m) to £50m (€73.8m)
According to Palmer the increase in support is part of a wider move to more ethical consumerism: "There has been a groundswell of support for green issues and a lot of consumers are tuning into environmental concerns. In the past, organic cocoa wasn't popular because there was a lack of an end user."
Market researchers Leatherhead International report that the UK organic chocolate market is the largest in the EU with sales of $35m (€27.3m) in 2005.
And the popularity of the chocolate in that country is continuing undiminished. A survey commissioned by the UK retailer Sainsbury's and published in August indicates that 11 per cent of Britons will buy organic chocolate and biscuits over the next month.
But it's not just the British market that is feeling the need to go organic - figures provided by Mintel's Global New Product Database (GNPD), (GNPD) show that 170 new organic chocolate products have been launched globally in the past year.
These include organic Dark Chocolate Squares from Green & Blacks and orange flavoured truffles from Nestle.
However the Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC) chief executive Philip Sigley told confectionerynews.com that organic cocoa still has a long way to go worldwide, especially in the US where consumers are less keen to deviate from their normal confectionery choices.
He said: "The organic market is quite small, demand is growing but it is still tiny at the moment. In the US, sales of organic chocolate are around $8m - a very small percentage."