FAQ – Alter Eco
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Frequently Asked Questions

Click each question below for the answer. Don't see your question here? Ask us through our Contact page.

about alter eco
What is the story behind Alter Eco?
What does it mean to be Fair Trade Certified?

To be Fair trade Certified means the producers have been paid a price that ensures sustainable production and living conditions, along with a premium to support the growth and advancement of the cooperatives and their communities. Learn more! 

What kind of relationships do you have with the farmers?

Alter Eco has a close working relationship with our co-op farmers, which helps us to support the needs of their communities and grow our business. Meet our co-ops!

Where are your products made?

We source our ingredients from fair trade farmers in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia. Our chocolate is manufactured in Switzerland and our Coconut Clusters are manufactured in Colorado. 

Where can I find your products?

You can shop Alter Eco chocolate bars, truffles, coconut clusters and more at our online store.

You can also find our products at Whole Foods Markets nationwide. In addition, we are stocked in retailers such as Natural Grocers, Sprouts, New Seasons, Publix, Wegman’s, Kroger, Jimbo’s, and many other independent retailers. You can find a complete list of stores carrying Alter Eco products near you here. We also sell our products in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

How do you determine the price point of your products?

We try our best to keep prices low for our customers. Because we are committed to fair trade standards, organic ingredients, regenerative agriculture and sustainable packaging, our prices can be slightly higher than conventional chocolate and quinoa.

What makes Alter Eco an eco-friendly company?

Our company operates on four pillars of sustainability: sourcing using Fair Trade principles, producing only organic and non-GMO foods, creating minimal waste by working towards 100 percent compostable packaging and in-setting carbon emissions by means of large-scale reforestation programs in the cooperatives that produce its crops. As part of our effort to become a carbon negative company, we calculate our full carbon footprint each year and plant trees within our farmer's fields to compensate for those emissions. Learn more about this reforestation project here

What is the Amazon Alliance?

For more information on our ongoing projects to reforest the Amazon head here

Product Information
Why aren't all of your products 100% certified fair trade?

All ingredients that can be certified Fair Trade, are. There is currently no international fair trade standard regarding milk, sea salt and a few other ingredients that we source. In this case, we work closely with our chocolatiers to ensure these ingredients are sourced from sustainable suppliers.

Are your truffle wrappers really compostable?

Yes! Our truffle wrappers are commercially compostable! They are mostly derived from eucalyptus and birch. To find an appropriate facility in your area, go to FindAComposter.com. Our packaging is not suitable for backyard composting at this time.

Is all of your packaging compostable or recyclable?

We have committed to using either recyclable or compostable packaging for 100% of our products by December 2020...and we’re almost there. Our Chocolate Bars are wrapped in recyclable aluminum foil and FSC Certified paper. In early 2019, we transitioned our Chocolate Truffles from a non-recyclable plastic pouch to a recyclable paper box. 

Plastic waste is an issue that touches us all, and something we are ALL responsible for. Alter Eco remains committed to sustainability in every aspect of our production and is working hard to develop sustainable packaging alternatives to protect our planet. Learn more about our packaging journey here.

What’s the difference between grass fed milk and “regular” (conventional) milk?

The main difference between grass fed milk and “regular” (conventional)
milk is in how the cows are fed. Emulating a cow’s natural diet, grass fed cows graze on open pastures as long as weather permits. During the winter months when it is too cold for cows to graze outside, they eat cut grasses & legumes inside an open barn with access to the outdoors should the cows choose. Most conventional milk comes from cows that spend most of their life in barns, eating grain, corn, soy, cereals, and alfalfa. In conventional milk production, cows are routinely given preventative antibiotics due to the higher risk of infections resulting from their living environment.

 

The cows that provide the milk for Alter Eco’s Grass Fed Milk Chocolate Collection eat a diet that is 100% Organic, and consists of 90% grass (roughage, fresh grass, hay, clover, and herbs). The remaining 10% of their diet (maximum) is a supplement that consists of the grains of different cereals (such as barley and wheat), rapeseed, corn and soy.

 

The cows live in the alpine valleys of central Switzerland near Lucerne. They graze outdoors for a minimum of 234 days per year, which is almost twice as long as the USDA National Organic Program standard (120 days). The grazing season is from March through November. For optimal health, they are raised in a way that complements natural cow behaviors, i.e. easy access to the outdoors, direct sunlight, shelter, shade, and clean drinking water.

Where does Alter Eco source the grass fed milk used in its Grass Fed Milk Chocolate Collection?

Alter Eco uses high quality milk sourced from USDA Certified and Swiss Certified Organic, open pastured, grass fed cows in the alpine valleys of central Switzerland, near Lucerne. The cows are located on 30 small-scale farms with approximately 35 cows per farm. The majority of what the cows eat is grown directly on the land for a low-input approach to dairy farming. The cows do not belong to Alter Eco, but we visit them and know their names!

Is grass fed milk better nutritionally than conventional dairy?

Studies have shown that milk from cows that graze on grass, compared with what conventional dairy cows are fed, is a better source of heart healthy fats, including an essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is an omega-3 fat that reduces inflammation in the body and has been tied to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes. Grass fed milk actually has double the omega-3 fat content than conventional milk (Food Science & Nutrition).

Grass fed cows are also not fed antibiotics or growth hormones, unlike conventional dairy cows. Because conventional dairy cows are packed into feedlots or pens with hundreds of other cows, many are given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick and growth hormones to make them grow more quickly.

Is grass fed milk more sustainable than conventional dairy?

Grass fed dairy that is well managed is better for the environment than conventional dairy for the following reasons:

-No use of toxic chemicals or fertilizers that contribute to pollution.

-Grass-fed cows graze on pasture and provide a natural fertilizer which has been shown to replace nutrients in the soil and reduce runoff. Healthy soils help sequester or absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

-Requires less fossil fuels because the grass in their diet is not continuously grown, processed and shipped to the farm. Most aspects of the cows’ diet is grown directly on the farm, which is then fertilized by the cows into the soil in a regenerative process.

-More grass means more fibrous root systems in the soil. Less grains means less tillage (ploughing, raking, hoeing), thus better soil health.

-When the size of a grazing herd is kept in check by the capacity of the land, it can eliminate many waste management issues that come with raising cows.

Does grass fed milk taste different? Does it affect the flavor of the chocolate?

Feeding the cows grass does not change the flavor of the milk, therefore, the chocolate will not have any grass-like taste. The chocolate will taste just as indulgent and delicious, but you’ll feel better about eating it because you’ll know the cows have been treated humanely and fed a 100% Organic diet!

Why did you decide to use dairy milk rather than a plant-based milk, like oat milk?

Alter Eco is known for creating chocolate that is both indulgent and ethical, and we saw a need for a better milk chocolate that looks at both very closely.

nutritional information
Where can I find your nutrition facts?

 You can find the nutritional panel link on the individual product pages. The ingredients are listed to the right of the image. Underneath the ingredient list is a grey box that says “nutrition facts”. Click on the box and it will bring up the panel.

Are your products vegan?

Some of our products contain grass-fed dairy, coming from heritage pasture raised cows, allowing grass to grow back and the soil to regenerate. All of our truffles and the following bars contain dairy: Dark Coconut Toffee, Dark Brown Butter, Dark Salt & Malt and Dark Burnt Caramel chocolate bars.

Our chocolatier produces our chocolate on equipment shared with tree nuts, milk, and soy. Equipment is carefully cleaned between every production run.

Here is our complete list of plant-based products: Dark Sea Salt, Dark Salted Almonds, Dark Blackout, Dark Super Blackout, Dark Crisp Mint, Dark Quinoa, 90% Superdark Crisp Mint,  Rainbow Quinoa, Pearl Quinoa, Black Quinoa, and Red Quinoa.

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

Currently, the milk in our truffles  (present as either organic milk powder or organic butterfat) is a key ingredient for the creamy filling.

Why did you add milk to the Superdark Truffles?

While all the ingredients were plant-based previously, our Superdark Truffles are manufactured on the same production line as our other chocolate truffles, which contain organic milk powder. Thus, there was a potential risk of cross-contact with milk before.  We added milk (as butterfat) to the formula and ingredient list of our Superdark Truffles in an effort to be as transparent as possible with our customers about the presence of milk.

I have been eating Superdark Truffles, but I’m vegan/have a dairy allergy. Should I be concerned?

While our Superdark Truffles were not previously made with milk, all of our other chocolate truffles are crafted with organic milk powder, so there may have been unintentional trace amounts present due to the shared production line. At this time, we’re not able to move our Superdark Truffles to a dedicated production line, so we have decided to add milk (as butterfat) to the formula and ingredient list. With this move to including milk in the formula and ingredient list, we will not be testing milk levels regularly, so we recommend that those with a dairy allergy or sensitivity avoid eating them altogether, and that vegans be aware of the change so that they may make informed choices. All other FDA and internal quality standards will still be in place.

Has anyone gotten sick or had an allergic reaction from the milk traces in the Superdark Truffles?

There have been no allergic reactions to dairy reported to Alter Eco Foods from people who have consumed our Superdark Truffles.

Will you be trying to develop a vegan truffle in the future?

We’re always looking to expand our portfolio with new products to meet consumer demand and hope that we have the opportunity to develop a vegan truffle in the future.

Do any of your products contain nuts?

Currently, all of our products are made in a peanut free facility and there is no possible cross-contamination with peanuts. We do use some tree nuts in our products, such as almonds.

What are the natural flavors found in some of your chocolates made of?

Our natural flavors are made with plant extracts, which contain no regulated allergens, GMOs, or artificial flavors. The natural flavor is extracted from spices, fruits, fruit juices, vegetables, vegetable juices, herb, bark, buds, roots or leaves.

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

An understandable misperception is that “dark” means “no milk”. Dark chocolate will generally have a higher percentage of cocoa and can range from 30% to 90% in cocoa make-up.

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 paleo?
Are your products gluten free? What about cross contamination?

All of our chocolate bars (except Dark Salt & Malt), truffles, clusters and quinoa are Gluten Free Certified, which means that they have been tested and contain less than 10 ppm of gluten. 

Our 70% Dark Salt & Malt bar does contain gluten. 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/

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.

 

 

Do you produce your chocolate using the Dutch process?

Our chocolate bar process does not require alkali (the Dutch process). We use the traditional Swiss method. 

What is the percentage of caffeine in your chocolate?

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 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.

 

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. 

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. Our quinoa is 100% whole grain and we have two steps in our process to remove the saponins. First, there is scarification which removes saponins and also polishes quinoa grains. Then the quinoa grain is rinsed to eliminate any remaining saponin. However, we still recommend to wash our quinoa before cooking to be completely sure that all saponin is removed.

Is your quinoa sprouted?

No, our quinoa is not sprouted.

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.

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.

Contact us here if you haven't found your answer.