Raaka Chocolate Wears Transparency On Their Sleeve With New Packaging

by Casha Doemland on 04/10/2019 | 4 Minute Read

"Most chocolate bars on the market are made with heavily roasted cacao that's manufactured by major cocoa grinding companies," says William Mullan, brand manager of Raaka, a chocolate company started in Brooklyn apartment back in 2010 that highlights a variety of wonderfully bold flavors found in unroasted, single origin cacao all the while maintaining a sense of transparency about their supply chain.

"These grinding companies source their beans from West Africa and pay low, unsustainable commodity prices for the beans; they grind the beans into a cocoa mass and sell it to the chocolate companies,” he adds. “The result is a market dominated by a homogenous flavor profile that generally lacks transparency, even with the various trade certifications."

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Raaka prefers to take a different approach by making all their cacao bars from scratch to keep the unique flavor profiles you cannot achieve if you don't make the chocolate yourself.  Not only is the inspiration for the name of the company a direct Finnish translation of the word raw, but it's an ethos built into the company's new packaging designs.

"Our previous packaging really fit our early strategy, which was to grow inside the craft market," says Mullan of their seven year old designs. "We had these lovely hand-drawn patterns that evoked a small batch quality that worked well; it was bespoke, giftable and sold great in small specialty stores."

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Editorial photograph

Soon, the company grew and made its way into big stores like Whole Foods, and the strategy shifted as the market did. The beautiful patterns they initially branded the company with no longer held the same amount of weight due to a lack of transparency about where the product is from and the ingredients found inside, and it was time to hit the drawing board once again.

"We wanted to start from scratch and develop a brand identity that captured what makes us unique, which is how we make our chocolate from bean-to-bar and the flavors that come from that," says Mullan. "We wanted our packaging to represent this idea of origin, process and flavor as one idea. On a more technical level, we needed to make key information easier to find and digest for our customers."

Editorial photograph
Editorial photograph

Raaka partnered with designers Andrea Trabucco-Campos and Simon Blockley in hopes to bring their story of intrigue and discovery to life. Together, over the course of many months and a handful of restarts, they crafted a beautiful, layered experience that engages you throughout the entire encounter.

The vibrant abstract designs displayed on the exterior of the chocolate are not only inspired by the landscapes Raaka visited to harvest their cacao but also showcase the origin of flavors: in the soil, in the cacao fruit and the hands of the cacao growers.

When you flip the bar over, in clean black font against a white background, you can view the story behind the bar, why they chose to keep the beans unroasted, the ingredients, and origin of the cacao beans.

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As soon as you peel open the wrapper, two arrows on the left will unveil Transparent Trade, where consumers can learn all the details of the supply chain, from how they paid for the cacao to who they paid.

"There is a lot of misunderstanding and even misinformation in the market about the chocolate supply chain. Most consumers see a Fair Trade certification and feel good because that's what they've been lead to believe," shares Mullan. "But Fair Trade price is still too low to be sustainable, and it fluctuates with the commodity price."

Raaka also realized there was similar confusion with Direct Trade, and opted to do something about the language to let their consumers know they value transparency and sustainable practices, hence the fruition of Transparent Trade.  

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“By playing with typographic scale and overall organization, Andrea and Simon made learning about Transparent Trade an inviting and maybe even exciting experience for readers,” chimes in Mullan.

It also served as the perfect solution to their growing pains as they transitioned into newer markets where customers desire more transparency about the products they're purchasing and the ingredients found within. The new bold and saturated color palette is an added bonus that will attract the eyes of whoever is strolling through the market.

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"We settled on the idea of ‘transparent trade’ because transparency isn’t a subjective word like ‘fair’ or ‘ethical,’ and our goal is to present objective information in a simple format so that the customer can understand it,” Mullan says.

“We want our customers to know what the typical chocolate supply chain looks like and how we differ from that model. We want them to know what we pay for cacao and who we pay it to.”

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