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Camino: "Delicious chocolates made the right way".

by La Boite à Grains 05 Jun 2024
Camino : "Des chocolats délicieux et faits de façon juste" - La Boite à Grains

Camino transports you to the inspiring world of organic and fair-trade chocolates. Founded in 1999 in Ottawa under a cooperative model, Camino has set itself a goal: to introduce tasty, fairly-traded chocolates to the Canadian market. With nearly 25 years' experience, a full range of products and a wealth of projects under its belt, it's safe to say that the mission has been accomplished.

Mélanie Broguet, responsible for marketing and new product development, talks to La Boite à Grains and tells you into the world of Camino.

Interview with Mélanie Broguet from Camino

Three words to define Camino?

Mélanie Broguet: Firstly, chocolate - I'd even say delicious chocolate! Then fair trade, of course... and then pioneering, because we led the way in North America.

In just over three words, what are the values that surround Camino? Where does the pioneering spirit come from?

Mélanie Broguet: When the cooperative started up in 1999, under the impetus of three young entrepreneurs with various training backgrounds (in international development, social justice) and field experience (on fruit and vegetable farms), the idea germinated that something had to be done to try and redress the balance of injustices created by our food system. Right from the start, there was a clear message that the three founders wanted to get across to new generations: it is possible to do better and be fairer, to consume more fairly.

Thus was born the Camino brand, featuring chocolate, with the choice to establish a cooperative model. Hot chocolate powder and cocoa powder were the first products launched.

The aim was to identify with the model adopted by partner peasant producers in South America. Fairness, transparency and democracy are at the heart of how a cooperative works, and these are values that speak to us.

What is the strength and uniqueness of your cooperative compared to a traditional company?

Mélanie Broguet: A cooperative is a unifying model, bringing people together around a common cause or vision. It's more about long-term vision than profit. The social, human and community aspects are valued.

Cooperative management is democratic. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, it's a good way of sharing that spirit and not assuming all the risks alone.

All members have a vote, and so have the ability to influence the cooperative's future.

Let's talk about the fair trade aspect, which is at the heart of Camino's business?

camino producer

Mélanie Broguet: Fair trade is another, fairer way of doing business, restoring the balance of trade models where inequalities are legion. This is due to historical relations between North and South, colonization, but also to the fact that most commodities are subject to the laws of global trade. Fluctuations on the stock exchange and on the market do not allow peasant producers to plan for the long term.

Fair trade re-establishes a floor price, respectful ways of trading, and provides additional security for the worker in terms of respectful working conditions.

Camino goes further than that, building long-term relationships with producers and organizing focus groups. We regularly take the pulse of the situation on the ground, and we sign very specific contracts called Memorandums of Understanding. They have been drawn up to ensure maximum transparency and optimal traceability of the products, which is not always the norm in the chocolate world. A supply chain that is as transparent as possible is a guarantee for everyone involved.

Camino will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2024... What does this milestone represent?

Mélanie Broguet: Our aspirations are to look even further ahead, with the aim of consolidating Camino and the food system. Up until now, all our efforts have been focused on marketing and raising awareness... by subcontracting manufacturing to carefully selected partner cooperatives.

With current market trends, we're thinking of further reducing the number of channels, and therefore manufacturing our products ourselves. We're currently thinking about how best to organize everything.

What challenges does Camino face, and how do you feel about them?

camino product range

Mélanie Broguet: We paved the way for fair trade chocolate in Canada, and we're proud of that... but there's also an erosion of standards and a growing number of certifications, which makes it difficult for consumers to find their way around. We're trying to navigate through it all...

I'll be honest, it's not easy every day, but we remain optimistic, because we have the support of many consumers, who understand the issues and want to do their bit. At the same time, there's a growing awareness of environmental issues, which is great.

We aspire to a better future... that means encouraging producers, fairer remuneration, paying attention to what we eat, consuming less but better.

Camino in a few words

  • Founded in 1999
  • A cooperative of 10 members
  • 25 partner cooperatives, representing 47500 producer families in a total of 14 countries
  • A complete range of chocolates, cooking aids and hot chocolates
  • 100% organic and fair trade products, marketed across Canada

    A flagship product, a must-discover?

    camino organic and fair trade chocolate

    Mélanie Broguet: I can think of two, starting with our 80% chocolate bar. It's made with organic cocoa beans from a cooperative in Panama. This gives lighter, fruity and floral notes. It's a mild chocolate despite the fact that it contains 80% cocoa.

    Alkalized cocoa powderThis is our original product. It's a pantry essential, ideal for cooking or incorporating into smoothies. It's an excellent, fair-trade, organic product from Peru and the Dominican Republic.

    Do you have any new products to present?

    camino organic vegan chocolates

    Mélanie Broguet: Our vegan specialties with oat milk chocolate bars and white baking chips. We wanted to offer an alternative to our milk chocolate, reproducing the creaminess of milk. The taste of oats is very mild, and they naturally add a touch of sweetness... which goes well with chocolate!

    Many thanks to Mélanie Broguet for answering our questions!

    Find out more about the Camino product range, please click here.

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