UPDATE 6/27: We tried. We failed. This is in the process of being cancelled and all donations will be refunded. If anyone is interested in helping us make some bills this month, please reach out. And if you want to buy some machines send us a note. Thanks again for all of your help promoting and funding this campaign and to those of you who put faith in the alternate future we put forth.
Previous update: If this campaign isn't close to $50k by the 26th of June and doesn't seem like it'll make the goal, we will be refunding everything. No funds will be withdrawn unless it seems like this crowdfunding effort is going to be successful fully raising funds in the next couple months.
We are currently looking into possibly forming a nonprofit entity to hand this off to in order to manage the project. If any NGOs or nonprofits working this area are interested in collaborating or helping to manage the roll out, please reach out.
Rogue Chocolatier was founded with the goal of changing how people think about chocolate. In the 12 years we've been working, we've hopefully helped change a few minds amongst chocolate consumers and the industry. Unfortunately the business has become unsustainable in its current form, and so Rogue Chocolatier will be ceasing operation.
We are asking for your support to engineer a planned closure of Rogue Chocolatier and transfer of our equipment and knowledge base to a new owner in a cocoa producing country with the goals of improving the equity and farmer stakeholder power in production. Your funds will help us preserve our equipment so it may be transferred to new owners, and enable us to work with these producers to setup a new chocolate factory.
Since the release of the most recent IPCC climate report
this past fall it has become impossible to ignore the environmental footprint of producing chocolate in the way we do, which is both resource and energy intensive. Making a delicious product that is sustainable as can be within this framework simply isn't enough. It’s even harder to envision this model fitting into a future which addresses the urgent necessity of changing how we live in order to prevent the worst outcomes of climate change.
Environmental concerns aside, over many years we have come to believe the current craft model of production itself is fundamentally flawed because it does not meaningfully alter the distribution of value and power in the chocolate supply chain. We may be able to pay higher prices, but the relative proportion of value to farmers is not meaningfully altered with this model. See:
Further, craft chocolate continues to suffer from the same structural issue of imbalanced power which has plagued chocolate more or less since it was first adopted by Europeans as a way of extracting value from Central America. That is not to say there is nothing good about it, but we believe those things which make it meaningful and valuable are not exclusive to this model.
This doesn’t mean we haven’t been thinking for a long time about alternate models! We’re going to try to see if we can do a planned transition of our equipment and knowledge base to a different model — one which might have a chance at addressing these issues.
All of this sounds great and perhaps very abstract, as it has been for us for a number of years as we've continued on this path, but we are now also at a financial impasse. Absent some cash influx fairly shortly we will be unable to finish out this year's production.
Unless we are successful with this crowdfunding effort, we will inevitably lose control of our machinery and other assets in the near future as we are forced to cease operation due to a lack of cashflow. The equipment and the factory, our home for the last 12 years where we have spent nearly every single day, machines we have designed or rebuilt ourselves by hand will most likely be liquidated by a machinery liquidator at a rate of less than 10% of the value, pennies on the dollar. Then it will either sit in storage for years rusting or it will be resold to a fairly wealthy person or company in the USA. All of our knowledge and skills will be lost. Specialized processes that we have developed with this equipment, lost. We will be unable to fulfill outstanding orders or our CSA. Everything which we have worked on for over a decade will simply cease to exist. We believe this will probably leave the world a poorer place, but we are here to present an alternative vision and outcome.Here is our proposal:-Leverage GoFundMe crowdfunding to pre-liquidate our machinery assets in order to free it up so that it can be transferred to a new operation where it will result in a more equitable outcome. Funds will be used to clear off business debts and help us finish out operations as we arrange the transition.-Over the next two months we will vet several producers for this project. In September, we will have group of prospective parties who are suitable for this project. -We will present the applicants to GoFundMe donors and determine the machinery's final home democratically. -In December we will arrange to pack up all of our manufacturing and ancillary equipment in a 40 ft container -Colin will provide up to 250 pro-bono hours of consulting over two years to offer help designing the new facility, train the new operators on production, teach chocolate making theory, flavor science, cocoa bean evaluation, and provide assistance with R&D and developing packaging and market linkages
The equipment will be able to produce about 5 tons of chocolate a year, possibly a bit more. This would create at least 5 jobs. With even modest projections for prices and costs it will retain between 2-3x the amount of value that most specialty prices alone would keep in country. If a higher end bar, this could be up to 10x. Here are two scenario sketches for that. If the retail and distribution models were unconventional these numbers could become even more favorable. Reductions in costs are also possible in other areas:
Specialty retailer: x .5 = $2.5
Distributor: x .7 = $1.75
US tariff (which we should eliminate!): x .71 = $1.24
Shipping: - $.24 = $1
Packaging: - $.25 = $.75
$.75/60 g = $12.5k/MT
June 11 commodity price $2453/MT
Specialty prices ~$4-10k/MT
$12.5k/MT = 5x commodity price value captured = average of 2-3x most specialty cocoa prices captured
Specialty retailer: x .5 = $7.5
Distribution: x .7 = $5.25
US tariff (which we should definitely eliminate): x .71 = $3.72
Shipping: - $.24 = $3.48
Fancy packaging: - $.48 = $3
$3/bar = $50k/MT
Commodity price $2453/MT
Specialty prices ~$4-10k/MT
$50k/MT = 20x commodity price value captured = 5x highest end cocoa value captured
At this moment we are in the process of reaching out to various cooperatives and private parties to gather a group of suitable applicants. Now that this campaign is public, we expect more parties to reach out.