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How we created our planet saving choc

Ombar Oat M’lk has a lot more to it than your average bar of choc. It’s been a year in the making and we’re so excited to finally be able to share it with our brilliant customers – here we share how and why we made it.

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Ombar Oat M’lk has a lot more to it than your average bar of choc. It’s been a year in the making and we’re so excited to finally be able to share it with our brilliant customers – read on to learn how and why we made it.

To understand why we created such a thing of beauty, we first have to look at the hard truths of the food industry. While it might not be the most cheerful of intros, it’s really important to understand the nature of our current food infrastructure, so that together, we can make a difference!

The food industry is responsible for:

  • Deforestation – in the UK, our food choices lead to the deforestation of 4 trees per person every year. That’s approx. 272m trees per year. (1)
  • A third of global greenhouse gas emissions. (2)
  • Excessive land use - agriculture expansion has one of the largest impacts on the environment, and food production now takes up half of the Earth’s habitable land. With land comes life, and agriculture is listed as a threat for 24,000 of the 28,000 endangered species according to the IUNC Red List. (3)
  • 70% of global biodiversity loss on land. (4)

And specifically, the chocolate industry:

  • Leads to deforestation in chocolate growing regions – 70% of the world’s cocoa is sourced from West Africa, and in the Ivory Coast, 85% of forests have been lost since 1990 due to cocoa farming. (5)
  • Contributes to poverty creating further unsustainable farming practices - cocoa farmers can earn on average less than $1 a day, with millions living in abject poverty. With planting more trees seemingly the only way out of poverty, farmers move into protected areas, burning primary forest and planting cocoa trees.
  • And after deforestation, the milk used in milk chocolate is a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

As an ethical food producer, with a passion for making food that’s better for people and better for the planet, we realised there was more we could do to have a positive impact. We set out to create the most sustainable milk chocolate bar we possibly could.

We knew the chocolate had to taste as creamy, sweet and indulgent as ‘regular’ milk chocolate, so that we can encourage as many people as possible to switch to our plant-based version and reduce their impact.

Oats instead of dairy!

Like all of our chocolate, Ombar Oat M’lk was always going to be 100% vegan. Instead of milk powder like mainstream milk chocolate we went with (you guessed it) – oats! This is because they're most sustainable alternative, and ensure the environmental footprint of the chocolate remains as low as possible.

Oats are grown in abundance in the UK, so the next step was to find a farm that grows the crop organically. Our team even visited the oat farm, and we’re so pleased we did! Because of the organic and biodiverse nature of the farm, the fields were brimming with life; poppies and other wildflowers were growing among the oats, and there were butterflies everywhere. It was a really special place.

Oats are not only delicious when paired with choc, they’re also amazing for our health: they’re high in beta-glucans – known to reduce high cholesterol and improve skin – as well as soluble fibre and essential minerals. In addition, oats are high in polyphenols, so pairing them with our polyphenol-rich cacao is a one-way ticket to a polyphenol party!

Our partnership with Fundación Jocotoco

This partnership marks the beginning of a longstanding friendship with the fantastic NGO. We calculated that by making a 3p per bar donation we can significantly aid their efforts to reforest the Choco rainforest; a global biodiversity hotspot. Jocotoco run various projects, all of which help them accomplish their mission: to protect some of the most threatened species and habitats on earth in a strategic and highly effective way. Importantly, Jocotoco conduct their work in a way that’s sympathetic to local animal and plant species and they have strong relationships with the communities that live on the land around their reserves. Specifically, Jocotoco also take a long term approach to reforestation, meaning that they carefully nurture the plants and trees to ensure they survive, whereas many other reforestation schemes focus on quantity of trees planted and not long-term viability.

Better than fair pay for our supply chain

As you already know, the poverty cacao farmers and their families live in forces them to destroy large areas of protected forest to make space for more cacao trees, resulting in loss of biodiversity and destruction of ecosystems. When it comes to our farmers, we ensure this has never been, and never will be, something they’ll ever consider. We do this by paying them above the fair trade recommended price. By paying a premium, our farmers can take their time to grow cacao organically, using restorative methods such as permaculture farming. This involves planting cacao trees under the shadows of taller trees. The natural ecosystem is maintained, making this method a lot more sustainable and a lot less disruptive to the natural habitat (6). Our farmers don’t feel pressured to achieve high yields, as instead we place emphasis on farming in a sustainable, biodiverse way.

This has been the case for Ombar for many years now, and Ombar Oat M’lk is no different. We view the premium price we pay as a priority, not just to maintain the natural ecosystem, but to ensure our farmers have a high quality of life too.

Our packaging – not just a pretty face!

Ombar Oat M’lk packaging is fully recyclable – not compostable. This is because our current infrastructure doesn’t support a move to compostable. Many packaging experts agree that here are lots of unknowns when it comes to compostable, such as how long it truly takes to break down and what it breaks down into. It’s often the case that consumers don't realise that compostable materials either have to be put into their home compost or put in the bin with non-recyclable waste. It often gets put in with recycling, which then contaminates the recyclable waste meaning that many items now cannot be recycled when they reach waste centres.

Not only do we want to shout about the amazing facts and figures that make up Ombar Oat M’lk, we also want everyone to experience just how creamy and delicious it is. So visit our website to bag yourself a bar, because we’ve all got to start somewhere, and chocolate is as good a place as any, right?

  5. Netflix: Rotten, Season 2 Episode 5: Bitter Chocolate