Theo Chocolate teams with Ben Affleck to help Congolese farmers

Theo Chocolate and Eastern Congo Initiative, a group founded by Ben Affleck, are working together to help improve the lives of the region's farmers and their families.
Courtesy Warner Bros.

Theo Chocolate and Eastern Congo Initiative, a group founded by Ben Affleck, are working together to help improve the lives of the region's farmers and their families.

Question: What connects Ben Affleck and 340 tons of Congolese cocoa beans with Seattle?

Answer: Theo Chocolate and its two newest products.

Affleck, the actor and movie director, is the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), a Seattle-based group dedicated to improving the lives of farmers and their families in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Theo, located in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, is the only Organic and Fair Trade certified bean-to-bar chocolate maker in North America. Its mission, as stated by founder and CEO Joe Whinney, “is to create amazing chocolate while working to improve livelihoods and protect the environment in both farm and factory communities.”

Affleck visited Theo Chocolate about two years ago and asked Whinney to work with ECI to help Congolese farmers escape from poverty by developing a sustainable supply chain to market their crops.

The result was training for about 2,000 farmers and two new kinds of Theo bars made from the cocoa beans those farmers grew. The bars, Pili Pili Chili and Vanilla Nib, are being offered this month to the more than 4,000 retail outlets that carry Theo Chocolate products nationwide.

Whinney wasn’t specific when asked how the 340 tons of beans that he is buying from the Congolese farmers' first harvest compares to the amount of Theo’s total cocoa bean purchases.

“It’s a meaningful amount,” he said. “What’s more important to me is the number of people that will positively impact.”

ECI and Theo put that number at potentially more than 20,000 people through increased household incomes and improved access to vital services.

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