Click a question below for answers to many of our frequently asked questions.
ABOUT ALTER ECO
RECENT ISSUES REGARDING QUINOA
CHANGES IN PRODUCTS
Hungry for more information?
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?
What does it mean to be Fair Trade certified?
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?
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”?
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.
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.
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. There is currently no International fair trade standard regarding milk. In this case, we work closely with our chocolatiers to ensure the dairy used in some of our bars are sourced from sustainable suppliers.
Are your products vegan?
Some of our chocolate bars and truffles contain dairy: Burnt Caramel, Dark Coconut Toffee, Dark Salted Brown Butter and Dark Velvet chocolate bars as well as the Velvet, Black, Sea Salt, and Salted Caramel Truffles. Our sugar, rice, and quinoa are also vegan. Vegan sugar means that we do not use animal materials to process.
Our chocolatier produces our chocolate on equipment shared with tree nuts, milk, and soy. Equipment is carefully cleaned between every production run.
Why is there dairy in your truffles? Why aren’t they vegan?
The reason why we use milk powder in our truffles is for the creamy filling.
What are the natural flavors found in some of your chocolates made of?
The natural flavoring in our truffles is made from a combination of natural inputs like herb, root and starch and does not contain GMOs or any of the eight major allergens.
All of your bars say ‘dark’ chocolate, but some of them have milk or butter. What are the industry standards?
The bars we sell containing milk are our Dark Coconut Toffee, Dark Velvet, Mini Dark Velvet, Dark Brown Butter, and Dark Burnt Caramel. All four of our Truffle flavors also contain milk.
An understandable misperception is that “Dark” means “no milk”. Because we follow the Swiss regulation when it comes to naming conventions, those bars are indeed Dark Chocolate, not “milk chocolate”, which is why we say Dark with a Touch of Milk.
Do any of your products contain soy?
We do not use soy ingredients in our products, including soy protein and soy lecithin. However, our chocolatier produces our chocolate on equipment shared with soy, tree nuts, and milk. Equipment is carefully cleaned between every production run.
Are your products gluten free? What about cross contamination?
All of our chocolate bars (except Dark Salt & Malt), truffles, quinoa pouches, and rice pouches are Gluten Free Certified, which means that they have been tested and contain less than 10 ppm of gluten.
Our new chocolate bar, 70% Dark Salt & Malt contains gluten. To address cross contamination, we have a strict sanitation policy accompanied by product surface testing to ensure there are no residual allergens present. The lines are thoroughly cleaned between each production run and the allergens are separately handled in the facility to avoid cross contamination. In addition, the facility is audited against the British Retail Consortiums “Global Food Standard” and consistently certified as a Grade A (the highest level attainable). However, we cannot guarantee the total absence of allergens in the chocolate.
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/
Do you produce your chocolate using the Dutch process?
We don’t process our cocoa beans using the Dutch process, meaning we don’t process it with Alkali. We use the Swiss traditional method.
What is the percentage of caffeine in your chocolate?
Indeed chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains a small quantity of caffeine and also theobromine, another stimulant. The darker the bar, the more caffeine and theobromine it contains.
We estimate that our chocolate contains between 15 and 50mg of caffeine per serving of chocolate (40g). As a comparison, drip coffee contains between 140 and 190mg of caffeine per serving (1 cup).
Cacao beans also contain theobromine, which is very close to caffeine in term of chemical structure. Theobromine is considered less stimulating than caffeine.
We currently don’t process our chocolate to remove caffeine or theobromine as this would affect the quality of our product.
Does your chocolate contain heavy metals?
Cadmium and lead are elements that are present naturally in the environment, and when absorbed by crops, can be found in food products. Trace levels can be found in chocolate as well as other agricultural products like legumes, seed pods, grains, and some leafy vegetables. These elements (in addition to other beneficial minerals) are absorbed naturally from the soil by the roots of cocoa trees, and are thus a natural constituent of pods, beans, and eventually the finished product. Volcanic soils in particular have higher levels of cadmium than other soils, and volcanic soil is more common in the regions where we source our cocoa beans from.
Alter Eco is attentive to and compliant with standards applicable to its products in various markets. Because of the types of products we sell, Alter Eco is regulated in the United States by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which has not established limits or provided guidance on the topic of heavy metals in food at this time. Because of this, we have invested a lot of time and energy to research other points of reference used around the world by, for example, the European Union and the World Health Organization, and our products are meeting these standards.
We at Alter Eco stand strongly behind the quality and safety of our products, and we consume our own products frequently! We work very hard, along with our suppliers, manufacturers and distributors, to ensure that all food safety management systems, like ISO 22000 and Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP), are implemented and carefully followed.
For more information, click here.
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 59°- 65° F (15-18° C) and at 40-65% humidity. Our chocolates need to be stored in a dry, odorless environment protected from heat sources and sunlight. It is very important to avoid any dramatic temperature variation. Neither low to high or high to low.
CHANGES IN PRODUCTS
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.