Chocolate lovers might begin seeing a new seal on their favorite packaged goods brands: Certified LGBT Business Enterprise®. Five North Chocolate , which already features the Fair Trade Certified™ seal, is the first brand to feature the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce seal on a packaged good product. “To all of my queer friends and straight allies, this is for you!” Ben Conard, the founder of the snack company, proudly shared on his Facebook page.
Five North Chocolate’s selection of vegan and fair trade products is a trio of chocolate snack items: 100% organic and fair trade chocolate covered goji berries, pistachio with a hint of sea salt, or almonds with a hint of cinnamon. The company, whose name was derived because West Africa, which grows more than 2/3 of the world’s cacao, is located five degrees north of the equator, is a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® and a proud member of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Conard was also recently named 40 LGBT Leaders Under 40 by Business Equality magazine.
For Conard, this is business as usual and a way for him to live his values through his business practices. “I am excited to grow Five North to its greatest potential,” he shares. “There is often a true misunderstanding about the food we eat, especially chocolate.” Five North Chocolate, which already features the Fair Trade Certified™ seal, is the first brand to feature the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce seal on a packaged good product: the Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® seal. Five North Chocolate
Chocolate, Conard feels, doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. Instead, he believes in wholesome chocolate that celebrates all people and supports communities around the world, which is one of the reasons this seal is so important to him.
"Entrepreneurs are tasked with creating value for consumers,” he says. “And as a social entrepreneur, I feel tasked with creating value for consumers, the people in their lives, and the world. To be fortunate enough to share powerful messages through an emotional product like chocolate, I feel responsible to represent my community and values in the most positive and productive ways possible.”
By featuring the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce seal on his packaging, he hopes to inspire consumers to exercise their values every time they shop.
As more Americans, especially millennials, are demanding more transparency and supporting companies and brands that align with their values, social entrepreneurs like Conard are hoping to meet their customer needs while supporting causes that are meaningful to them, too.
“American consumers are more likely to support businesses that support equality and the LGBT community alone represents roughly $917 billion in spending power,” says NGLCC co-founder and president Justin Nelson.
“Five North Chocolate has been an incredible example of what being loud and proud about LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) certification can do for a growing LGBT-owned business, and we’re thrilled to have Five North Chocolate feature its LGBTBE certification on its packaging. We hope other LGBT-owned businesses will follow Five North Chocolate’s example of tapping into the world of resources NGLCC can offer.”
How is Conard planning to leverage this new label? He admits the label is meaningful but his plans are far more reaching than just a label. “We’re working hard to increase our retail presence and share our story with more customers,” he admits. “For 2019, we’ve set ambitious goals to be gracing the shelves of larger grocery chains, c-stores, and corporate campuses – because healthy chocolate snacks should never be far from reach!”
Five North Chocolate snacks can be purchased online or through stores throughout the country.