Summer Fancy Food Show 2016

Social Enterprise: Harbor Sweets' honey-themed chocolate aims to protect bee populations

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Harbor Sweets says it has always been a mission-driven chocolate business.
Harbor Sweets says it has always been a mission-driven chocolate business.

Related tags Chocolate Food

Harbor Sweets’ new chocolate line, Gather, is setting out to save a pollinator that supports one-third of world’s food supply – the honeybee.

The Massachusetts-based chocolate company has been producing coastal-themed artisan chocolates for 40 years. The company is primarily known for its sweets sloop, a sailboat-shaped chocolate covered almond butter crunch candy.

At the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City this year, it unveiled new bee-themed boxed chocolate line Gather. which will donate 2.5% of its sales to the Pollinator Partnership, a US organization that helps people “protect pollinators to ensure healthy ecosystems and food security,”​ according to its website.

Honey-themed chocolate

Gather includes dark chocolates unified by a theme of local wild flower honey.

The flavors include a sesame crunch with toasted pumpkin seeds, caramelized honey truffle encased in 70% cacao chocolate, cashew caramel with honey as a sweetener, coconut truffle, pomegranate molasses dark chocolate truffle, and sour cherry soaked in honey and covered by a dark chocolate truffle.

Gather line is available in six flavors

All the varieties are packaged in a hexagonal shaped box in golden and yellow colors to represent a beehive. The six-piece flight retails for $12.50 per box, and the 12-piece package retails for $18.50.

The Gather line will be available online through Harbor Sweets’ website, local gift and gourmet stores in New England and the rest of the US in September. CEO Phyllis LeBlanc told ConfectioneryNews the company will officially launch the Gather line on the West Coast at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January.

2.5% of sales go to the Pollinator Partnership

Harbor Sweets has supported local and national nonprofits since its inception. LeBlanc said, the company had worked with Boston Children’s Hospital, Boys and Girls Clubs in Salem and agencies that help abused women and children.

“We’ve always donated 5% of our profit to local nonprofits,”​ she said.

But when Harbor Sweets was brainstorming a new chocolate range, it had hoped to create a floral and gardening related product in the first place.

“The more we looked into it, the more we learned about the honey bees, and colony collapse disorder and all the issues we are dealing with, and how essential honey bees are to our food supply,” ​which inspired the affiliation with the Pollinator Partnership, LeBlanc said.

Colony Collapse Disorder: a syndrome that abandons the queen bee

According to USDA, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a syndrome defined “as a dead colony with no adult bees and with no dead bee bodies but with a love queen, and usually honey and immature bees.”​ CCD is a major threat to the health of honey bees and the economic stability of commercial beekeeping in the US. However, no scientific cause for CCD has been proven.

Mission-driven products are becoming popular

Mintel research shows that consumers today, especially millennials, are more likely to purchase mission-driven products.

The chocolate industry in particular has been increasingly using ethical labels, such as Fair Trade Certified, to market food items and support sustainable agriculture. For example, Divine Chocolate, of which 44% of the business owned by the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, invests 2% of its turnover in improving cocoa farmers’ livelihood.

At the Fancy Food Show, LeBlanc said attendees felt very connected with Harbor Sweets’ mission of saving the honeybee.

“The craft food industry is really passionate about what they do, and they carry that passion into the mission.”

Harbor Sweets’ market share is “only a speck on the map of the world chocolate,”​ LeBlanc added, but she hopes the company can maintain its double-digit growth this year.

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