Meet our friend Martha Butler, Creative Director and Co-founder of Australian chocolate company Loving Earth. There are many things that make Loving Earth a special business – not simply because they produce some of the most complex and delicious chocolate bars you will ever taste. Loving Earth has grown their business literally from the ground up. Their process is respectful to the planet and the people who have cultivated and cared for the cacao crop for thousands of years.
What inspired the start of Loving Earth?
Founder Scott Fry and fellow Aussie, Creative Director Martha Butler, met while living in rural India, just north of Mumbai. Scott, particularly, was affected by the plight of the local rice farmers who, for economic reasons were converting their topsoil into bricks and shipping it out of their pristine valley. Having grown up in the unspoilt nature of Far North Queensland, Scott felt an urgency to help communities care for their land as well as their livelihood.
The pair later lived in Mexico, where Scott spent some time working with several large indigenous cooperatives, further firing up his desire to help communities grow pure food in harmony with their land. They landed back in Melbourne, Australia with a baby on the way and the ingredients for what would become the first chocolate bar. Their inner city rental house was HQ, with a night shift at a local bakery for the manufacturing site, hand wrapping the bars at the kitchen table. Loving Earth (and their first child!) was born.
What is different about Loving Earth from other chocolate companies?
We consider ourselves to be a 360° brand.
This means that each aspect of what we do matters to us…from the people who grow the ingredients, the ingredients themselves, the beauty of our planet-friendly packaging, the loving earth chocolate making crew, our commitment to real food and delicious flavours, and to real change for the planet.
In practical terms it means we only use wholefood, organic plant-based ingredients that have true nutritional value. We don’t add any fillers or preservatives whatsoever. Wholefood, minimal ingredients, minimal processing, zero animal products.
We source our cacao from the Ashaninka community in the remote Peruvian Amazon. We have close ties with this community and their beautiful regenerative cacao, committing to buy their entire harvest at above fair trade rates.
Our chocolate packaging is recyclable and home compostable…we’re always looking for ways to cut waste and give back to the environment. It’s not just a story, it’s what makes us love what we do.
A lot of businesses are making bigger efforts to go plastic free, is Loving Earth plastic free and has it been hard to eliminate the use of plastics in your business?
First of all, yay to that! It’s about time.
About our own packaging journey…all of our chocolate packaging is 100% plastic free – the outer boxes 97% post-consumer fibreboard with vegetable ink dyes.
The inner wrappers, even though they look like plastic, are made from plants. They are cellulose from sustainably managed trees and are completely home compostable.
With the pantry products that we sell it has been more difficult to completely eliminate plastic so far. Even though this is a smaller part of our business it is something we are continually searching for better solutions to.
We love that your wrappers are home compostable. In the process of making the chocolate, is there much organic waste and do you also compost as a business?
We’re happy to report there is very little organic waste in our manufacturing process, almost none. And yes, we do have a compost for our staff kitchen waste. Unsurprisingly Loving Earth staff tend to like food a lot and many delicious lunches are prepared in the kitchen.
How has sourcing your ingredients from indigenous farmers affected the lives of the farmers?
Regarding the Ashaninka community, they have been able to establish their own cooperative, called the Kemito Ene Cooperative. They have improved their economic situation by creating an environmentally sensitive source of income for the community. Running the cooperative has also taught them new skills, for example post harvest processing, administration and logistics. Overall, and possibly most importantly, it has given the community a level of economic autonomy. They are not so completely at the mercy of external forces in their environment, that want to use their labour or their land in ways detrimental to the Ashaninka, as a people and a culture.
We also buy and commercialise an indigenous Australian product grown in the Kimberly region of Australia. It is called Gubinge by the traditional owners, Kakadu Plum in English, and is very high in natural vitamin C. We sell it not-for-profit and this has helped the community up there increase their harvest significantly. The interest in the gubinge has brought more local people out onto the land, involving them in traditional land-care practises. It’s also getting the young ones involved, giving them a seasonal way to earn money and connect with their culture and traditions. So, as well as being a source of seasonal income, it is also a recognition of the wealth of knowledge and bush food held by indigenous Australians.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a business?
Probably getting our system up and running with the Ashaninka community would be the biggest challenge so far. It’s a big job to create a model that’s viable and practical for both the grower community and the business, as well as our customers. It’s certainly possible for us to buy our ingredients much cheaper, which would simplify things for us from a business point of view. Not that we ever would, of course….no fun in that!
Another challenge we face is communicating the deep story to a wider audience. Chocolate is such an indulgent product and social media, that short-attention-span, escapist platform, is our biggest audience. It takes creative thinking and a talent for nuance to get the message across without bringing people down or switching them off.
Is Loving Earth distributing in the US?
What’s a holiday that doesn’t exist that you’d like to create?
What are your favorite Loving Earth products?
There’s definitely a shifting cycle of fav products in my repertoire…so many to choose from, I could never stick with just one.
For winter the dark chocolate, the purest of the pure in our product range, is my go to. It only has 2 ingredients and you don’t need much because the flavour is so rich. The cacao takes on the flavours of the plants that grow around it in the forest and, because we don’t roast our beans, those notes really sing.
My summer go-to would have to be Salted Caramel (everybody’s crush) or the Raspberry. I like how subtle the raspberry flavour is, slowly getting stronger as the chocolate melts. Making myself hungry for chocolate!