Endangered Species Chocolate (ESC) has brought out a range of vegan “milk” chocolate bars made with oat milk! I picked up a bar at the Grocery Outlet to try out: it’s 55% cacao and called Oat Milk + Dark Chocolate. Normally it has a wrapper with zebra stripes (so it’s known as the zebra bar) but my version had Valentine’s Day branding. This is typical of Grocery Outlet’s approach – selling items at a discount because the packaging is no longer relevant. Who wants chocolate in a pink wrapper in March or April? I do, because it means less food waste!
I’ve always liked Endangered Species chocolate and often buy their 72% cacao bars (the chimpanzee bar) to use in baking. It’s definitely one of the cheapest chocolate bars from a company with an ethical mission. Their three-ounce bars, including the new oat milk bars, sell for around $3 normally and were on sale for $1.49 at the Grocery Outlet.
Endangered Species Oat Milk + Dark Chocolate – review
Like many people, I grew up loving milk chocolate like Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Cadbury’s is now owned by Mondelēz International, which ranks fairly low, ethically speaking. Also, Cadbury’s products in the US are made by Hershey, which ranks even lower, and they totally suck. I’ve also found myself eating less and less dairy, especially since lockdown began.
In any case, I’m excited that vegan milk chocolate bars are on the market now. I expect that the Endangered Species bars aren’t the first on the market but this is the first one that I’ve tried. To be honest, I didn’t even really think of it as milk chocolate – I looked at the ingredients and imagined chocolate with oats. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it – it really is a substitute for milk chocolate!
The texture is good – it’s not quite as creamy as the Irish-made Dairy Milk that I grew up with, but it’s not far off. Thankfully, it doesn’t have any of the chalkiness or grittiness that you find in low quality oat milk. Being 55% cacao, it’s less sweet than Dairy Milk and most mainstream conventional milk chocolate bars, which is also a good thing. I would buy it again and look forward to trying out the cherry and raspberry versions when I come across them.
Endangered Species Oat Milk + Dark Chocolate – Ingredients
The ingredients are simple:
Chocolate liquor, cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole grain oats, soy lecithin, vanilla.
Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla are traded in compliance with Fairtrade standards, total 83.7%. I’ll discuss the ingredients in the ethical review, coming up next!
Here’s the nutrition info and certification logos:
Ethical rating for Endangered Species Oat Milk + Dark Chocolate
I actually wrote a green Stars review of Endangered Species chocolate bars back in 2015, before the Green Stars Project site existed. I did some research this week to update this and contacted ESC for clarification on a few things. Some things have changed for the company but the ethos is similar and I’m maintaining the same rating of 5/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact. Here’s a summary of reasons for this ethical rating:
- It’s a vegan product, with oat milk substituting for cow’s milk.
- 84% of the ingredients are certified by Fairtrade America: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla.
- Endangered Species Chocolate purchases Green-e certified renewable energy to match 100% of its operations.
- 10% of ESC profits are donated to non-profits that work towards conservation and protection of endangered species. Recent donations have been made to The National Forest Foundation and The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
- Over $2.6 million has been donated to non-profits by ESC since 2016 and the company hopes to reach annual donations of $1 million soon. Annual revenue for ESC in 2018 was $38 million, so there are no major red flags there. (An unscrupulous company might cook the books so that booked profits are tiny relative to revenue.)
- ESC’s approach is to commit to long-term partnerships with farmers in Côte d’Ivoire. A lot of the world’s chocolate is produced in West Africa, and Côte d’Ivoire in particular has many issues from child labor and forced labor to deforestation and some particularly nasty pesticides. So it’s good that some are trying to support sustainable agriculture and a better standard of living there.
- On that note, ESC could do better at reporting on some farming sustainability metrics.
Endangered Species versus Alter Eco
I reviewed Alter Eco chocolate truffles back in December and it was the first product to score 5/5 Green Stars, so I thought it would be good to briefly compare the two chocolate makers. Both Alter Eco and Endangered Species Chocolate have offset their carbon footprints and source fair trade certified ingredients. Alter Eco is blazing a trail with its Alter Eco Foundation, which is working towards sustainable agroforestry, while Endangered Species Chocolate is blazing a different kind of trail with charitable donations to conservation funds and attempting to improve conditions in Côte d’Ivoire.
We do work with small farmer organizations versus mass growers which is great for a lot of reasons, especially the prevention of deforestation which is the number one environmental problem caused by cocoa farming in West Africa.Whitney Bembenick, Director of Marketing & Innovation at ESC
So the two companies are both good for some overlapping reasons and some reasons that are unique to each company.
ESC may be lagging Alter Eco a little on sustainable agriculture (or at least reporting on it) but scores extra points for supporting conservation programs, working towards better conditions in Côte d’Ivoire, and for developing good vegan milk chocolate. While there’s some room for improvement in both companies, I think they are both in the top 10% in terms of social and environmental impact and therefore both deserve 5/5 Green Stars.
Summary scores (out of 5) for Endangered Species Oat Milk + Dark Chocolate:
- 4.5 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 : )