I bought some Alter Eco Salted Caramel Truffles at the Grocery Outlet last week and have already happily munched through half of them. The box of 10 large truffles was $3.99 at the Grocery Outlet, compared to the normal price of $8 from Alter Eco (they are often on sale for around $6 online). If you’re not familiar with them, the best comparison is the popular Lindor truffle from the Swiss chocolatier, Lindt (aka Lindt & Sprüngli). They both involve a creamy chocolate truffle filling surrounded by a round chocolate shell. As it happens, the Alter Eco truffles at the Grocery Outlet are also about the same price as Lindor truffles.
Alter Eco Salted Caramel Truffles – Review
The Alter Eco truffles come in a cute box of 10 truffles, suitable as a “stocking filler” or small gift for someone at work. Overall, I really like these chocolates and would buy them again. I wish I had a Lindor truffle to do a side-by-side comparison, but I did have one about a year ago and my gut instinct is that they are quite similar but that I slightly prefer this Alter Eco version. If I was to nitpick, I’d say that the salt isn’t as pronounced as it should be. They used fleur de sel, which is normally in the form of large flakes that provide a little salty kick when it hits your tongue. In this case I think it’s blended in. But not very salty is better than too salty. The caramel flavor is just right, the shell is not hard, and the inside is deliciously creamy.
Alter Eco versus Lindor truffles
Having established that the cost of the Alter Eco truffles (at the Grocery Outlet) and Lindor truffles is similar, and that the Alter Eco truffle probably tastes better, the more important metric for this site is how to they compare ethically? I won’t spend too much time discussing Lindt but they are mediocre in terms of ethics. They may not be quite as bad as Nestlé, Mondelez, and Ferrero, but on several metrics like palm oil and cacao sourcing Lindt is doing poorly when compared to Alter Eco. For example, Lindt points out that its palm oil sourcing follows RSPO guidelines, but as I pointed out on the Green Stars Project, RSPO certification is not sufficient to safeguard rainforests.
Don’t get me wrong, Lindt & Sprüngli is not the worst company out there (ahem, Nestlé! *cough* Hershey!) but it pales in comparison to Alter Eco, which is one of the most ethical chocolate companies. Most of the big cholate makers’ success depends upon cheap cacao that’s sourced at the expense of the people and habitats of cacao-growing regions (mainly in West Africa). So if you’re serious about issues like human rights, child labor, and deforestation, then you would choose Alter Eco truffles over those from Lindt. I’ll get to the reasons now in the ethical score part!
Ethical rating for Alter Eco Truffles
Overall, I think that Alter Eco deserves 5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:
- Alter Eco has developed compostable wrappers for their truffles! The wrappers are made mostly from eucalyptus and birch.
- The box is also FSC-certified and it looks like Alter Eco is very close to its goal of excluding plastic (even shrink-wrap for shipping) and only using packaging that’s recyclable or compostable.
- Alter Eco covers 100% of its carbon footprint by planting trees and conserving land in the Peruvian Amazon, through the Pur project.
- 92.8% of the truffle ingredients are Fair Trade certified – in fact Alter Eco pays 1.3 times the Fair Trade price.
- All of the relevant truffle ingredients are certified organic and are sourced from farmer-owned coops
- To go beyond organic the Alter Eco Foundation was launched to transition cacao farmers from monoculture to regenerative agroforestry
- Alter Eco is a certified B Corporation (with a very good score of 134)
The importance of compostable packaging
Once in a while, I feel that a company makes such good progress on one metric that it adds extra weight to the score. Don’t get me wrong, Alter Eco scores highly on almost all metrics. The one thing that these truffles are not, however, is vegan – all of their truffles are made with organic milk. Obviously, this impacts the ethical score and I would normally reduce the score (probably to 4.5 green stars, considering that it’s organic milk) but Alter Eco has made such large contributions to other areas such as the compostable wrapper and supporting sustainable agroforestry that I’m awarding the company 5 stars.
Our dependence on single-use plastic is such a huge problem that any company that’s tackling this deserves recognition and support. Besides the compostable wrappers for truffles, Alter Eco developed compostable pouches for other products such as quinoa. The company’s goal is not to stop there but to further improve upon this, working towards zero-footprint packaging.
Summary scores (out of 5) for Alter Eco truffles:
- 4 gold stars for quality and value.
- 5 green stars for social and environmental impact
If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )
PS: The Alter Eco Foundation – working towards sustainable agroforestry
This is just a quick postscript to tell you a little more about the regenerative agroforestry that the Alter Eco Foundation is working towards:
Conventional cacao tree cultivation focuses on monoculture, which often results in soil degradation and biodiversity loss. Instead, our co-ops practice dynamic agroforestry, a method of agriculture which strives to mimic the natural evolution of the forest and improve the overall well-being of the farms (fincas), cultivating a wide variety of crops.
In maintaining the life of the trees and creating a healthy ecosystem, regular pruning is essential. Leaving the clippings on the ground creates a natural layer of mulch which protects the soil from drying out. These clippings eventually decompose, increasing the humus (the organic part of soil formed by decomposing leaves and other plant material) and nitrogen in the soil, which are important nutrients for healthy crops. Due to the balanced system of dynamic agroforestry and natural enemies controlling pest populations, there is no need for pesticides. Additionally, dynamic agroforestry uses all available resources in the natural ecosystem. For example, in dry months banana stalks can provide water to growing cacao trees for up to three months, requiring no additional water source!