Alter EcoNourishing Foodie, Farmer and Field

FAQ

Click a question below for answers to many of our frequently asked questions. 

 

 SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING

The truffle wrapper looks like foil, is it really compostable?

ABOUT ALTER ECO

What is Alter Eco’s best selling or tasting product?
What is the story behind Alter Eco?
What does it mean to be Fair Trade certified? Is it really that important?
What kind of relationships do you have with the farmers?
Where are your products made?
How do you distribute your products? Can I buy direct?
What were Acterra’s criteria when they names Alter Eco “sustainable business of the year”?
Why is it so expensive?

 RECENT ISSUES REGARDING QUINOA

Has the price of quinoa increased for farmers and local populations?
How is Alter Eco addressing the problems arising in quinoa growing countries for the local people?
If I buy Alter Eco, will farmers still be able to afford quinoa?
Is the mono-cultivation of quinoa ruining the already dense land? 
Are Bolivians fighting over quinoa territories because of the high demand for production?

 NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Where can I find your nutrition facts? 
Why aren’t all your chocolates 100% certified Fair Trade? 
Why is there dairy in your truffles? Why aren’t they vegan?
All of your bars say ‘dark’ chocolate, but some of them have milk or butter. What are the industry standards?
Do any of your products contain soy?
Are your products gluten free?  What about cross contamination?
Are your products vegan?
Do your products contain GMOS? Are GMO’s really that big of a problem?
Do the different colors in your Rainbow Quinoa have a different health effect?
Is your quinoa pre-washed?
Is your quinoa sprouted?
Is there arsenic in your rice?
I bought your product in bulk, can I leave it in the bag it came in? What is the best way to store it?
Why is there white sheen on my bar?

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

 

CHANGES IN PRODUCTS

In March, 2012 Alter Eco announced an entire re-brand complete with new packaging

Why did you change the size of your chocolate bars?
Why did you change from ‘Cacao mass’ to ‘Cacao liquor/beans’?
I am a fan of your old chocolate, why does it taste different now?
Why did you change the packaging?

 

Hungry for more information?  

CONTACT US

 

SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING 

 

The truffle wrapper looks like foil, is it really compostable?

Yep – we went there! Your truffles are snugly wrapped in a groundbreaking compostable wrapper, made of birch and eucalyptus and printed with non-toxic ink that will fully decompose in backyards and compost bins.  Don’t believe us? Click here and watch a wrapper as it nearly decomposes in 6 short weeks in a home backyard! You’ll also see a video of what’s left of a full wrapper after only 6 weeks in our office basil plant.

 

ABOUT ALTER ECO

  

What is Alter Eco’s best selling or tasting product?

We definitely believe that is an answer best left up to you, the consumer! Check out what other people have said about our products here: www.facebook.com/alterecosf

If we have to tell you though… our top selling products right now are the Dark Blackout 85%, Organic Black Truffles, Dark Coconut Toffee, Dark Quinoa and Dark Almond chocolates as well as our Royal Rainbow Quinoa and Purple Sticky Rice.

  

What is the story behind Alter Eco?

 click here to find out.

  

What does it mean to be Fair Trade certified?

 click here to find out.

  

What kind of relationships do you have with the farmers?

 click here to find out.

  

Where are your products made?

click here to find out.

   

How do you distribute your products? Can I buy direct?

You can find our products at Whole Foods Market and in several natural food stores across the country. Please check our store locator here.  Our buy online directly from our website: shop.alterecofoods.com.

If you have a store and would like to buy direct, please check our wholesale platform: wholesale.alterecofoods.com

  

 

What were Acterra’s criteria when they names Alter Eco “sustainable business of the year”?

click here to find out.

  

Why is it so expensive?

We try our best to keep prices low for our customers. Because we are committed to our fair trade practices to ensure farmers a living wage and a sustainable supply chain, prices can be higher than conventional chocolate, quinoa, rice or sugar.

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RECENT ISSUES REGARDING QUINOA

 

Has the price of quinoa increased for farmers and local populations?

Short answer is yes, the price has increased. But the growing demand for quinoa has not directly or radically changed the way local populations consume the grain.

We urge you to read more here about what is currently happening in Bolivia and how buying responsibly sourced quinoa will still do good… for you and the farmer.

 

How is Alter Eco addressing the problems arising in quinoa growing countries for the local people?

As pleased as we are to see light being shed on the difficulties and hardships that many farmers are facing in Bolivia and Peru, it is unfortunate that there really is no mention of Fair Trade or sustainable sourcing for this grain. Alter Eco has been working with quinoa cooperatives on the Altiplano of Southern Bolivia since 2002, working hard to bring fair trade, ethically sourced quinoa to consumers and provide fair wages to farmers, their families and communities. Internal audits are taken twice a year not only to verify that the price we pay is aligning with our commitment to fair trade or that the growing methods remain gmo free and organic, but to work directly with these farmer organizations to ensure that they continue to grow as sustainably as possible. We do this to insure that quinoa really can remain a source of support worldwide to directly improve lives for generations to come.  Please read more about our impact and what is happening right now in Bolivia here.

 

If I buy Alter Eco, will farmers still be able to afford quinoa?

Yes! Through direct agreements with the cooperative of farmers, ANAPQUI, each family is able to keep an average of 660 to 880 pounds of quinoa a year for their own use. Besides, the increase of revenues due to selling quinoa at a fair price allows farmers to diversify their diet, now being able to afford fresh vegetables, fruit and meat.

 

 Is the mono-cultivation of quinoa ruining the already dense land?  

The growing conditions in the Altiplano are extremely dense and harsh and quinoa is one of the only foodstuffs that grow in the region. It is true that the land is sensitive to work and tough to grow anything on. By using cautious farming techniques such as crop rotation, the planting of Thola fences (shrubs) to protect from wind erosion and llama manure to re-fertilize the earth, the farmers who grow Alter Eco quinoa insure the land will remain useable and healthy. Alter Eco’s partner, the ANAPQUI cooperative, uses 1/3 of the Fair Trade premium to directly finance an organization named PROQUINAT, dedicated to organic agriculture and improvement of methods of quinoa cultivation in order to regenerate the soil and fight against soil erosion.

 

Are Bolivians fighting over quinoa territories because of the high demand for production?

Territorial disputes have existed in Bolivia for hundreds of years. These stem from political and mineral resources driven arguments and in no way are directly related to quinoa sourcing.

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NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

 

Where can I find your nutrition facts? 

These are located next to each product on the product listing pages.

 

  

Why aren’t all your chocolates 100% certified Fair Trade? 

All ingredients that can be certified Fair Trade, are. For example, milk cannot be certified as Fair Trade because there are no current written standards in the industry. In this case, we work closely with our chocolatiers to ensure the dairy used in some of our bars are sourced as locally as possible from sustainable suppliers. So, although they are not technically certified as Fair Trade, our values, and yours, still remain in-tact by purchasing from aligning producers.

 

Why is there dairy in your truffles? Why aren’t they vegan? 

The reason why we have milk powder in the dark truffle is that the filling is a mixture of dark and milk chocolate (35% / 25%) in order to take the acidity of the dark Peruvian beans. Our aim was to get as close as possible to the Lindt benchmark, in taste as well as texture, but in NOP/COR, organic and with coconut fat. R&D says Lindt has milk powder in it as well. We are convinced of the taste and we do not see any substitution right now. Changing the recipe would also cause timing issues and complexity that can’t be handled as we are presenting these to other customers as well. We think there are enough challenges we need to take for these recipes already and we would suggest to keep to these for now. 

 

 

All of your bars say ‘dark’ chocolate, but some of them have milk or butter. What are the industry standards?

The only bars we sell containing milk are our Dark Coconut Toffee, Dark Velvet and Mini Dark Velvet. Our Velvet and Black Truffles also contain milk and the Dark Salted Brown Butter bar contains butter.

An understandable misperception is that “Dark” would mean “no milk”. Because we follow the Swiss law when it comes to naming conventions, those bars are indeed Dark Chocolate, not “milk chocolate”, that’s why we say Dark with a Touch of Milk. 

 

To be called “dark chocolate”, here are the required minimums:

•             Total cocoa solids 35% minimum (mass%)

•             Cocoa solids without fat 14% minimum (mass%)­­­

•             Cocoa butter 18% minimum (mass%)

The three bars mentioned above contain 47% cocoa solids.

 

To be called “milk chocolate”, here are the required minimums:

•             Total milk solids 14% minimum

•             Cocoa solids without fat 2.5% minimum (mass%)

•             Milk fat 3.5% minimum (mass%)

•             Total fat 25% minimum (mass%) [cocoa butter and milk fat]

We are unable to divulge the milk percentages from our recipe, but we assure all that it is far below the required amount.

  

Do any of your products contain soy?

None of our products contain any soy protein, soy lecithin or any other emulsifiers.
  

Are your products gluten free?  What about cross contamination?

All of our products are wheat free and made from only gluten free ingredients. The exception is the Dark Twist chocolate in which our candy-maker uses glucose for the candied orange peel, which is made alternately from corn or wheat.

Our line of chocolate, excluding Twist, just received the Gluten Free certification. Quinoa and rice 1lb pouches are already certified gluten free.

If you are interested in viewing our verification you may contact the Gluten Free Certification Organization directly and request a report. http://www.gfco.org/

  

Are your products vegan?

Some of our chocolate bars and truffles contain dairy:  Dark Coconut Toffee, Dark Salted Brown Butter and Dark Velvet chocolate bars (including Mini Dark Velvet) as well as the Velvet and Black Truffles. 

Because our Swiss chocolatier produces other bars that do contain dairy for other customers on lines which share our production, we ensure to label all our products beneath the ingredients with caution. We think it is important to be honest about those facts for customers to make the most informed decisions about their purchases possible. We are proud to say that our manufacturer has the absolute highest standards of Food Safety. All their production lines are cleaned and maintained to the most strict standard. They take contamination and allergens very seriously, and due to the unfortunate litigious nature of the United States, we must declare these ingredients on the line, even if they are used once a year. It may take a little romance out of the chocolate-making process itself, but from what we have seen there, it looks as sterile as a laboratory!

  

Are GMO’s really that big of a problem?

Independently from what scientific research tells us on the effect of GMOs, we are in full support of transparency around GMO. Click here to read more about our position and our Non-GMO Verification

  

Do the different colors in your Rainbow Quinoa have a different health effect?

No. The main difference between each color is primarily the texture. The pearl, or white, quinoa is a much fluffier consistency, similar to that of couscous. Red varietal has a nutty, much earthier flavor to it. The black is the most wild and crunchy strand.

  

Is your quinoa pre-washed?

Yes, our quinoa is pre-washed by the farmers who harvest it in Bolivia though we do recommend rinsing before cooking.

  

Is your quinoa sprouted?

No, our quinoa is not sprouted.

 

 

Arsenic in your rice?

Our farmers have been planting organically grown rice in the same fields for decades or longer. In order to reduce exposure to inorganic arsenic we recommend purchasing rice with the lowest known content of arsenic. In our case, our Thai purple sticky rice is your best bet as it is quite low in this varietal.  Please read a response from our Director of Operations, Jeanne, as she answers where we stand with arsenic.

  

I bought your product in bulk, can I leave it in the bag it came in? What is the best way to store it?

Since quinoa really has no fat in it, it does not go rancid like many rices do. We suggest keeping it in a cool dry place, preferably taking it out of the paper bag because it can rip and spill. Bugs, dust and dirt can often sneak their way into a paper bag as well. Rice on the other hand does not last nearly as long as quinoa and can go rancid.

If you have accessibility to a vacuum seal food storage system then that would be a great option for the security of making both grains last. Sealed food safe containers or jars are the best and simplest way to ensure your quinoa and rice from lasting and keeping it as fresh as possible.

  

Why is there white sheen on my bar?

What you are seeing is called bloom. Because we do not use any emulsifiers, the bars are much more sensitive to temperature changes. When the chocolate is exposed to a change in temperature it can appear to have a white exterior. While it remains entirely edible, problems with the sheen are purely aesthetic. We recommend storing all bars at 60°- 65° F in a dry location, taste is best at approximately 70°. This information can also be found on the top flap of your bar.

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CHANGES IN PRODUCTS

In March, 2012 Alter Eco announced an entire re-brand complete with new packaging

  

Why did you change the size of your chocolate bars?

There are two main reason for changing our chocolate bars from 3.5 oz to 2.82 oz:

 1. We wanted to match the style of chocolate makers in Europe. With the new shape, each square of chocolate is much thinner and wider in order to better each tasting experience. As the chocolate melts it coats the entire pallet, allowing the aromas and flavors of the bean to be enhanced, giving a wider range of flavors to your taste buds.

2. We wanted to be able to reduce the price for our consumers, and there was no way of doing that without reducing the size.

 

 

Why did you change from ‘Cacao mass’ to ‘Cacao liquor/beans’?

As far as a difference in ingredients, cocoa mass and cocoa liquor is the exact same thing, just a different word.

  

I am a fan of your old chocolate, why does it taste different now?

The difference in taste you may find is because we have changed the sourcing of our beans from Bolivia (El Ceibo cooperative) to Ecuador (Fortaleza cooperative) and Peru (Acopagro cooperative).  Similar to wine, the soil the cacao tree grows in affects the taste of the cacao bean. We believe that the fragrance and richness of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian soil have improved the taste of our bars. Also, we are still able to use some of the highest quality cacao beans in the world.

  

Why did you change the packaging?

We believed it was time to fully translate to our consumers the origin of our carefully sourced, sustainable and fair trade foods. With new colors and graphics, we want to take you on a metaphorical journey to the countries we travel to, where we’ve been inspired by the art and culture. We hope you can get a sense of “the place” when purchasing our products.

Our new packaging designs use the local signage, popular phrases, and colors to bring the places that our foods come from to life. Whether they are roadside instructions, advertisements, or political graffiti, hand-painted walls in cities and villages surprise, delight and orient us when we go abroad.

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