Omnom's Sourcing Program
Here at Omnom, we're committed to making the best chocolate from the best ingredients. That not only means high standards in our chocolate making bean to bar, but high standards in how we source and buy ingredients to use in that process.
Our main ingredients are cacao beans and sugar. From the beginning, our goal has been to investigate the differences in cacao's flavor from different places or "origins." Currently, we buy our cacao beans from 3 distinct origins.
Our first love affair was with Bertil Akesson's Madagascar beans. Like many other craft chocolate makers beginning in their home kitchens, these were some of the first sample beans we got our hands on. There's a reason for Bertil's notoriety in the industry, his beans are fruit-forward and packed with the right punch of acidity.
This, in part, comes from his high-quality post-harvest procedures. We buy cocoa beans directly from specific plots of land on his single estate farm near Ambanja in the Sambirano Valley. Always consistent, these certified organic beans are fermented and dried deliberately to give them their distinct flavor. They've made their way into a few of our bars garnering 28 international chocolate awards to date.
We love supporting social change through buying power. Lucky for us, we met Simran and Brian from Kokoa Kamili, masters of social impact. They're working with farmers in the Kilombero Valley of Tanzania to improve cacao quality in the area. On average, their individual stakeholders have received 24% more than market value for their cacao, which is great! Over the course of 3 years, Kokoa Kamili has also distributed over 140,000 seedlings to their farmers to invest in the future of cacao in the region.
New projects at Kokoa Kamili are also breaking ground. With the increase of demand for their delicious cocoa beans, they're building a new facility for efficiently fermenting and drying their certified organic beans. Eventually, their plan is to improve the roads to their central operations, currently a 12+ hour dirt road, wooden bridge drive through the African bush.
In the early spring of 2017, we began working with Ingemann in Nicaragua. On that trip, our eyes were truly opened to the scale of growing cacao and processing it. We were introduced to farmers and walked through their methods for farmer education, root grafting, and processing 9 different varieties of cacao pods. We chose O'Payo™, the organic variety they offer.
Through that first sourcing trip, we learned how much of a difference farmer payout makes, what can be done to improve post-harvest procedures, and about the sheer distance cacao travels before even arriving at our factory in Iceland. Ingemann's Cocoa ID program also ensures complete and detailed traceability for each of the bags we buy.
The main areas of concern in sugar cultivation are environmental and social. Deforestation is at the forefront of these concerns with questionable labor practices following close behind. Omnom Chocolate sought out a partner with years of experience in growing sustainable and ethical sugar near São Paolo, Brazil. There, the Native Green Cane Project has been working to reverse deforestation and increase biodiversity since 1986. Their mission is to create a fully sustainable, integrated system for growing, harvesting, and milling cane sugar.
The sugar we purchase from them has over 10 certifications including Organic, Fair for Life, Fair Trade, and Non-GMO. They estimate about 47,000 tons of CO2 have been eliminated from the atmosphere through their methods of harvesting, and all the bio-waste from processing is used to fuel a steam furnace. This generates enough power for the entire sugar mill and even the neighboring city. Native also improved their soil quality to increase water retention threefold. In total, their ecologically balanced farms have 23 times more biodiversity than conventional sugar cane farms. As for labor, their commitment to offering fair wages, extensive health coverage for workers and their families, and safe work environment is championed by their membership in the SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA), a leading framework for social auditing and reporting.
From the first days of Omnom, we knew confidently that Icelandic milk would add character to our chocolates and distinguish them from many others. After all, Icelanders have been making skyr, cheese, and butter for over a thousand years with the help of cows brought over from Norway. Not much has changed since then, giving a noticeable difference in flavor and quality to Icelandic dairy products. This purity shows in the transformation each single origin dark chocolate takes to it’s milk chocolate sibling. Even at 65% cocoa, Dark Milk of Tanzania has a distinguishably different flavor than pure, dark Tanzania 70%.
Photo credit: Anna Guðmundsdóttir
Our milk is powdered, since liquid milk can’t be used directly in chocolate making. It’s sourced from over 700 individual dairy farms across the island. For many of them in small, inland towns outside of Reykjavík, farming and animal husbandry are their main source of income. Icelandic cows spend most of their time inside for the cold winter, but graze openly when it’s warm enough. MS (Iceland Dairies), the largest supplier of dairy products for the island, purchases dairy from these farmers and then brings it to a central location for pasteurization. From there, it’s spray dried to create a powder and then mixed in with cocoa and sugar during our bean to bar process. The entire process from cow to bar is done with 100% carbon-free electricity thanks to Iceland’s abundant hydroelectric and geothermal energy sources. MS also holds progressive standards for domestic livestock welfare and audits farmers to uphold them. Most often, large chocolate makers use milk and sugar to mask off flavors in their cocoa. We only use milk deliberately to enhance the flavor already present in the cocoa beans, coffee, or licorice.
If you’ve ever visited the Westfjords of Iceland, you’ll know that it’s one of the most remote areas of the country. Weather conditions often close the mountain passes completely in the winter. All the way into these steep mountains and deep bays is a small town named Reykjanes, where Saltverk calls home. Saltverk is a sustainable Icelandic sea salt company that was started by our friend Björn Jónsson six years ago. He even abandoned a career as an engineer to return to this isolated area and make salt. He brought back a 240 year-old process for taking the seawater in the fjord and transforming it into flaky sea salt. The company was started in this location specifically because it was one of the first places where sea salt was ever made in Iceland.
Photo credit: Saltverk
They moved into an old salmon farming station on the edge of Ísafjarðardjúp in the Westfjords and diverted boiling water from the hot springs nearby, just as the Danish colonists had ages ago. This geothermal energy heats dehydrating pans full of filtered seawater up to nearly 97°C/206°F. While agitating the seawater manually, the heat boils water out of the brine until winter white flakes of sea salt form. After most of the water is boiled out, the crystals are strained and dried on wooden shelves. From there it’s ready to use or set aside for a special coating of licorice.
That licorice salt plays a star role on the back of our Lakkrís + Sea Salt bar, but we also use Saltverk for our Sea Salted Almonds bar. However, instead of flaked salt we take freshly roasted almonds and coat them in a 30% salinity solution leftover from Saltverk’s process. This adds a thin, even layer of salt on each almond piece. Their natural byproduct from salt making becomes our ingredient; sustainability inspiring sustainability.