This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are obsessed with eating, drinking, and buying right now. Next up, one writer reviews Dr. Bronner’s Chocolate line.
I’m proud to identify as a craft chocolate snob. My husband and I keep a large tin filled with small-batch dark chocolate bars on our countertop, readily available for midday snacking, afternoon pick-me-ups, and late-night hunger pangs. We typically spend around $15 a bar on brands like Fruition, Dandelion, Askinosie, and Dick Taylor. I know, I know—I could be buying a full lunch for that price. But we’ve been happy to fork out for chocolate that uses sustainable, ethically sourced cocoa beans and tastes (obviously) delicious. But finding a craveable bar that ticked all our boxes and cost less than $10? That felt like a unicorn.
So when I spied a rainbow display of bars emblazoned with “MAGIC” in giant silver-lined letters at my local market for just $5.49 each, I did a double take. Upon closer inspection I realized they were made by Dr. Bronner’s, the cult classic hippie brand that’s been peddling its famous All-One Magic Soap (you know the colorful labels blanketed in teeny-tiny type) since 1948. My husband has long loved their peppermint castile soap, so I was vaguely aware of their sustainability practices. “But what business did a soap company have making chocolate?” I wondered aloud, as I shoved handfuls of all six flavors into my shopping cart. “And, is it any good?”
In fact, it is excellent. If you ask me hazelnut is the best nut, which is why the Crunchy Hazelnut Butter bar has become a new favourite. It manages to be both textured and smooth, is rich with fruity, caramelly cocoa flavors, and has major Nutella vibes. None of the bars are overly saccharine, but the Smooth Coconut Praline is probably the sweetest of the bunch—like a more sophisticated Mounds bar (which is literally just ultra-sugary shredded coconut covered in chocolate). And when I’m really craving something chunky or need an energy boost, I go for the Salted Whole Almonds bar, which has huge, satisfying almond hunks.
Not only were the Dr. Bronner’s chocolate bars I brought home that day delicious, I’m pleasantly surprised by the ingredients and sourcing practices. Each bar is made with 70% dark chocolate derived from fair trade organic cocoa and cocoa butter, sweetened with low-glycemic fair trade organic coconut sugar, and flavored with fair trade organic bourbon vanilla beans. Any coconut used is also fair trade organic, and all nuts are organic. This amount of buzzwording is what typically drives up the cost of chocolate bars to my usual $10–15 range, but somehow these weren’t much more than you’d pay for a brick of Cadbury or Lindt.
It all goes back to the soap, the brand told me. When CEO David Bronner (grandson of the OG Emanuel Bronner, who founded the company over 70 years ago) learned that many of the 800 farmers who supply the company’s specially grown organic and fair trade palm-oil in Ghana also grew cocoa, it presented the perfect opportunity. Suddenly, the company had a path to affordable, fair trade, organic, and supremely delicious chocolate.
Similar to the soaps, the chocolate’s sustainability and fair trade practices are described (in excruciating detail) on the label. Aside from abiding by fair trade principles—which means that Dr. Bronner’s is paying farmers a set minimum price for their cocoa instead of the fluctuating prices dictated by the market—the company also helps their suppliers practice dynamic agroforestry, which integrates complementary plants alongside the cocoa to create biodiversity and boost yields organically.
These days Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Chocolate bars are the ones my husband and I turn to most often. Almost every afternoon I swirl the smooth and rich chocolate around my mouth, relishing the pure cocoa flavors that melt on my tongue. At the end of the day, it’s a sweet deal all around.