Get a FREE copy of my report The 7 Most Shocking Things the Health Food Industry
Will Never Tell You
+ my newsletter AND special health deals!

Decoding Labels: Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate may be one of my all time favorite drinks. No Swiss Miss for me, thankyouverymuch. I’m talking real, authentic, organic cocoa mixed with a natural sweetener and real milk from grass-fed cows. Of course, that generally means I make my own. But sometimes, like you, I’m willing to pay for convenience.

I’ll buy a mix.

And if you’ve shopped for a quality mix before, you’ve probably picked up today’s yummy culprit: Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate. That’s because it’s available just about everywhere (including Wal-Mart), and it’s certified Fair-Trade and Organic.


Here’s what the manufacturer claims:

“To make our hot chocolate, we blend our dark chocolate with raw cane sugar and cocoa powder pressed from the same cocoa beans as the chocolate to add extra intensity. When added to hot, fresh milk the result is a cocoa-rich chocolate drink with a creamy froth, a rounded flavor provided by the chocolate, and a balanced sweetness.”

Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate: Ingredients

  • Organic Raw Cane Sugar,
  • Organic Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder,
  • Organic Dark Chocolate Powder (which includes:
  • Organic Chocolate Liquor,
  • Organic Raw Cane Sugar,
  • Organic Cocoa Butter,
  • Soy Lecithin,
  • Organic Vanilla Extract)

Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate: DECODED

First, let’s stick with the good news. This product is certified Fair-Trade. That means the third-world producers growing these cocoa beans are getting paid a living wage rather than being exploited. Whenever you buy cocoa or coffee, you’ll want to look for the Fair-Trade certification label.

And check out all those organic ingredients! These are GMO-free, and grown according to organic principles without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals.

So now for the hard-hitting bit of news. Notice that soy lecithin? It’s not certified organic. And, since roughly 91% of all soybeans planted in the U.S. are genetically-modified, this doesn’t bode well. Chances are, this is GMO-soy lecithin.

Of course, there’s a small chance that it isn’t. Perhaps the company claims something about GMO-ingredients on their website!

On both the UK and Canadian websites, Green & Black’s has this to say when asked if their products are free of genetically-modified (GM) ingredients:

Yes – as all of our products are certified by the Soil Association, this ensures no genetically modified (GM) ingredients are used in their production.
(source)

But guess what’s on their U.S. website?

Nothing. No questions about GMOs, and no answers either. This, dear readers, is industrial food in action.

You see, in the U.S., Green & Black’s isn’t certified by the Soil Association, but by the USDA. And did you know that the USDA regulations allow wiggle room for genetically-modified ingredients? According to these rules, a product labeled “organic” must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. If the product is labeled “made with organic ingredients,” it must contain 70% organic ingredients. That means that when you see an “organic” label on a package, there can easily be genetically-modified ingredients inside it so long as they don’t add up to more than 5% of the final product.

The only way to completely avoid GMOs is to purchase products that are labeled “100% organic,” or from brands that are part of the Non-GMO Project.

I sent an email to Green & Black’s to find out if their U.S. product line contained GMOs, and they haven’t contacted me back.

Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate: THE VERDICT

(At least until we hear directly from the company that their U.S. product line is also GMO-free.)

So, what should you use instead?

Of course, the best option is to make your own hot cocoa from organic, fair-trade cocoa powder and your natural sweetener of choice.

(Where to find cocoa & natural sweeteners.)

If you want a good store bought brand, I’ve enjoyed Native USA Organic Cocoa Mix before. It’s 100% organic, GMO-free, and sustainably produced.

Want Your Labels Decoded?

In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!

Print Friendly
Sharing Is Rebellious! ENJOY.


The following two tabs change content below.
I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

Latest posts by Kristen Michaelis (see all)

STANDARD FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please note that I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Food Renegade's ideals and that I believe would be of value to my readers. You may read my full disclosure statements here.







59 Responses to Decoding Labels: Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate
  1. GreenUp! Guy via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 1:46 pm

    I was afraid of this. This is why we need to support the companies that have gone above and beyond to label their own products as NON-GMO.

  2. Christianna Cooper via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 1:46 pm

    Triple Like this blog post. Thank you!

  3. Vick Briggs via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 1:46 pm

    @Sandy…I agree, as 99% of people do not realize what all CAN be in ‘organic’ and it in itself is not a total fix.

  4. Portia Drantch via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 1:47 pm

    I feel the same way about processed organic foods and soy-lecithin always gets me because it’s in just about everything anymore and it’s hardly ever stated as organic. I understand that USDA organic only has to be 70% organic but Whole Foods SWEARS up and down, left and right, that if it has the organic label, it CANNOT contain GMO’S..period. In other words, it can be in the 30% conventional ingredients but it cannot have GMO’s. The USDA Organic website even claims the same thing. Who knows. If GMO’s are so fantastic, why aren’t the products carrying them labeled? It’s all very sad.

  5. Renae Specht via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 1:48 pm

    Gina Konrad I was wrong! Watch out for USDA processed organic food.

  6. Portia Drantch via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 1:49 pm

    Yikes, I said that all wrong! Meant to say, “in other words, the 30% portion of the certified organic product can indeed be conventional but it cannot have GMO’s”

  7. Food Renegade via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 1:55 pm

    Portia Unfortunately, I have first hand experience to the contrary. Before Rapunzel switched to GMO-free soy lecithin, they were USDA certified organic but used GM soy. This was a couple years ago, but I remember calling in to their offices and speaking with a very helpful lady who told me this and encouraged me to not give up because they’d be switching to GMO-free soy lecithin soon.

  8. Alex Kombucha via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 1:59 pm

    this is my fave – organic, fair trade, independently owned, no soy-lecithan – Hopefully no one has a horror story for me lol: http://www.theochocolate.com/

  9. Vicky
    May 17, 2012 | 2:00 pm

    I love Green & Blacks – here is a link which states that a Spokesperson from Green & Blacks confirmed the use of organic soy lecithin – The Organic and Non GMO Report

    I would email again, it once took me three emails and contacts with their facebook page to get a reply to a query but I did get a £10.00 voucher as well – that made up for it a little.

    Thank you for posting – I’ll try emailing from the UK and let you know what they say.

    • KristenM
      May 17, 2012 | 2:16 pm

      Again, was that spokesperson saying *all* their products worldwide were GMO-free? There’s a lot of ways to interpret her words, particularly if you’re reading between the lines. I still find it suspicious that their UK and CA websites clearly state a GMO-free policy, but their US website doesn’t.

      • Vicky
        May 17, 2012 | 2:32 pm

        I totally agree – when I go shopping I’ll check the ingredients on the UK product and see if it states organic or not.

        I haven’t actually bought this product but I do buy their cocoa powder and their chocolate.

        Where is the US product manufactured? Does it state on the container?

  10. I left a comment on your post. I will email from the UK and let you know when and if I get a reply :)

  11. Ren
    May 17, 2012 | 2:04 pm

    I’m not surprised to learn of the subterfuge on the part of this Kraft Foods subsidiary, but am pretty freaked out by the collusion of FDA/USDA in weakening US labeling laws.

    What’s next, “organic GMOs” ?

    • KristenM
      May 17, 2012 | 2:17 pm

      Yes, it’s why the mantra “know your farmer, know your food” still holds true. It’s much better to just get the low-down straight from the source than to trust in labels and third-party certifications that can be watered down.

  12. Tanisha Waggoner via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:07 pm

    With this topic I go back and forth. I know that Sally Fallon said that if there’s any form of soy to run into occasionally its soy lecithin but, then there’s that big probability of it being GMO, particularly here in the US. There is a local farm store/coop that offers real, raw, cocoa powder. I think it might be intriguing and fun to make my own.

  13. Kristi Wolfe via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:13 pm

    YA… you know i have noticed that the grapefruits and lemons and oranges have some bs on them…. I figure that the poisoners have decided we can get too many anitcancer benefits from their peels so they have to adulterate them… It says food grade but how can you trust that… what about GRAS… generally regarded as safe? Nope Nope NOPE!

  14. Nikki Lund via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:13 pm

    Thank you Alex.

  15. Peg Danek via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:13 pm

    Theo choc looked great until I noticed they add sugar. :(

  16. Charlotte Lee via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:14 pm

    It is so easy to make your own that I don’t see ever buying premade hot cocoa. That said, I don’t think soy lecithin should ever be consumed, whether it’s gmo or not.

  17. Jeri Blair Burker via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:15 pm

    Green and Blacks is owned by Cadbury…..

  18. Food Renegade via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:18 pm

    Jeri Blair Burker Which is owned by Hersheys, which is owned by Kraft.

  19. Kathy Bowden via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:19 pm

    Not too long ago, Whole Foods admitted they have no way of knowing if GMO products are in the products they carry… I thought it a rather brave statement, because it focused attention on the issue… If GMO is “no different”, then why the resistance to labeling? Esp from our own govt??

  20. Peg Danek via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:21 pm

    Food renegade, can you do a post on how to make cocoa powder?

  21. Food Renegade via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:26 pm

    Peg — Do you mean a homemade hot cocoa mix? Or do you mean the actual cocoa powder (i.e. finely ground cocoa beans)? Because if the first, I think that may be worthwhile. If the second, it seems rather straight forward. You can buy cocoa beans and run them through a coffee grinder on it’s finest setting.

  22. Alex Kombucha via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:27 pm

    @Peg Danek – chocolate without sugar is not sweet so there has to be some form of sweetener.

  23. Alex Kombucha via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:28 pm

    ^^^ that should say *cocoa*

  24. Nikki Lund via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:36 pm

    I found their website and found them on Amazon. Can’t wait to try it. So happy to finally find a chocolate without Soy. Sugar I can handle! ;)

  25. Amy
    May 17, 2012 | 2:41 pm

    The best hot chocolate mix I have found, hands down, is Penzeys Hot Chocolate Mix from Penzeys Spices. The ingredients are: sugar, natural cocoa, ceylon cinnamon, real vanilla beans. I realize now, after reading your post, that the sugar might possibly be GMO sugar and Penzeys does not make any claims against GMO. On the other hand, I have found all of their seasoning mixes to be fairly free of bad ingredients. This GMO battle is really making me weary. It makes it hard to find anything to eat sometimes. Most of the time, really. I am very vigilant about some things, but then sometimes I wonder how is a little GMO soy lecithin once in a while really going to hurt me or my children? *sigh* ANYWAY we have found that we love the Nourishing Traditions Raw Milk Warmer the best – it is basically a hot chocolate recipe with some odd ingredients. We just use a high quality cocoa (Penzeys high fat dutch process), organic vanilla, organic maple syrup, and our raw milk plus some extra cream. Sometimes it is so rich and creamy we almost can’t finish it! But somehow we manage! :)

    • SaraBeth
      May 17, 2012 | 7:55 pm

      That is interesting, Amy. Penzey’s has terrific spices, and I’m glad to know about their hot chocolate mix. Actually, I prefer to make my own, which is similar to yours. That way I can control the ingredients, make it more creamy or less sweet and flavor it different ways, like with vanilla or cinnamon – and it’s so easy!

  26. Single Man's Kitchen via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 2:44 pm

    I think you may want to ammend part of the article, as to the best of my knowledge, it is 95% not 90% organic by definition when labeled Organic, but is processed.

  27. Food Renegade via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 3:01 pm

    Single Man’s Kitchen — My bad! Thanks for catching that mistake. I’ve fixed it in the post now.

  28. Erica Svendsen via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 3:02 pm

    Good looking out. Unprocessed food is definitely the way to go whenever possible.

  29. Maggie Goodman Russell via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 3:04 pm

    can you recommend another…I usually by their cocoa powder

  30. Eleanor Bell via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 3:14 pm

    Green and Blacks used to be independent. The original owners now run the Bakery near my Mothers house.

  31. Val @ Tips on Healthy Living
    May 17, 2012 | 3:33 pm

    Good to know! This is definitely a label that cultivates its organic image so it’s pretty misleading.

  32. Monica
    May 17, 2012 | 3:39 pm

    Great article!

    I was recently informed that even a 100% organic ingredient does not necessitate it being GMO free, that there is no current requirements around that. Is that erroneous information?

    • KristenM
      May 17, 2012 | 3:41 pm

      For a single-ingredient food, if it’s labeled organic it is definitely non-GMO. So, for example, organic corn can not be GMO corn. Organic sugar can not come from GMO sugar beets. The only trick comes when a food has multiple ingredients. Then, depending on the exact wording of the label, the food can possibly contain some amounts of GMOs.

      • Sarah
        May 18, 2012 | 10:35 pm

        Ugh, that is SO frustrating. I try to feed only organic food to my family, and I feel continually tripped up and duped by these inane rules. Thanks for the post.

  33. Karly Casey via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 3:40 pm

    I don’t even like hot chocolate… ha. I’d rather have coffee.

  34. Elaine Dudzinski via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 4:23 pm

    Sneaky!

  35. More Than Four Walls via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 5:31 pm

    Amazing.

  36. Hannah
    May 17, 2012 | 5:35 pm

    It does seem like it’s nearly impossible these days to entirely avoid GMOs and synthetic additives. Especially if you live in a small town and your only choice for grocery shopping is a major supermarket like Ingles. I’ve decided the best way is to grow my own produce and eat only wild meat that my husband hunts in the woods where we live. But what about cheese?!?! I love cheese and it’s so hard to find organic! Maybe one day we will be able to trust our government and the labels that appear on our food…? I just stumbled upon this site through Pinterest and am so happy to discover that I am not the only one who is outraged with the fraud that is our food system, and I refuse to be a victim or allow my children to be victims! I can’t wait to dive in and read more posts!

  37. Tawnya
    May 17, 2012 | 5:47 pm

    Wow that one flew right past me, I have been eating those candy bars for years and I even bought one yesterday, and even read the ingredients just to make sure nothing changed and I did not notice the word organic was missing before the stated Soy Lecithin. UHG. Just put a disappointing post on their FB page.I also want to thank you for the blog on Hidden MSG in products, I can’t eat hardly anything any more. Now I know why I’ll have symptoms some days when I was sure I had eaten foods that I thought was not tainted with toxic ingredients.

  38. Laura Elliott via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 6:20 pm

    Fantastic blog! I shouldn’t be overly surprised about this, but it is disappointing that you think you are doing the right thing buying organic for yourself and companies still screw you over. Note to any Aussie readers, I checked and our green and blacks states its GMO free as well. Thanks for the eye opener food renegade! :)

  39. Peg Danek via Facebook
    May 17, 2012 | 7:03 pm

    @Alex Kombucha I know but I want to control how much sweetener and what kind. I typically only use sucanat/rapadura but I also have a diabetic friend who can only have stevia. I’m making chocolate ice cream from scratch so I’m looking for a good cocoa powder with no sweetener in it.

  40. Dawn @ Small Footprint Family
    May 17, 2012 | 8:55 pm

    I really LOVE this series you are doing. It’s really fun and informative. Thanks for your hard work!

  41. Chris @ Earth Friendly Goodies
    May 18, 2012 | 10:58 am

    That’s terribly sneaky with the organic labels – and sad that when you think you are buying organic you most likely are not. I have less and less faith in the food system every day. How diseased do we have to get as a nation (and world) before the government gets out of our food?

  42. Pat B.
    May 18, 2012 | 2:08 pm

    I just called Green & Black and they told me their soy lecthin was not GMO, but it was organic. I’m from the U.S. Hope they were honest in their reply.

    • KristenM
      May 18, 2012 | 2:23 pm

      Well, if it’s organic, then USDA organic labeling rules require that the soy lecithin be listed as organic on the label (at least according to the USDA’s file which I linked to in the post).

      Since it isn’t listed on the label as “organic soy lecithin”, I’m not inclined to believe that it’s organic. Either they’re breaking the law by mislabeling the ingredients, or the person answering isn’t telling the truth. I don’t think they’re intentionally dishonest, just ignorant.

      I remember a few years ago when I first realized that most soy lecithin was probably GMO and that it was an ingredient in all my favorite chocolates. I called a couple of different organic chocolate companies, and only one (Rapunzel) had someone answer the phone who really knew what she was talking about. With all the others, I had to be *very* specific in my questions and talk to someone higher up in the company before I could get to truth. In most cases the truth was simple: they couldn’t tell me whether or not the soy lecithin was GMO or not because of how it’s processed. Getting conventionally-raised, non-GMO soy turned into soy lecithin is difficult because almost all non-organic soy is grouped together when sold downstream. No one separates out the non-GMO crops unless they’re a very exclusive producer marketing to a very exclusive manufacturer under a third party certification program like the Non-GMO Project (and note: Green & Black’s isn’t part of that project).

      The only way to really ensure the soy lecithin is non-GMO is to use organic soy lecithin or a certified GMO-free soy lecithin.

  43. Victoria Rockcliffe via Facebook
    May 18, 2012 | 2:18 pm

    The soy lecithin on the hot chocolate in the UK is not labelled as organic either :(

  44. Adam
    May 18, 2012 | 2:23 pm

    Funny you posted this

    i was just in shop this week in spain and a friend was going to purchase this chocolate until i informed her that there was soya in the product and its a good chance its gmo from monsanto

    I only buy the brand “Montezuma’s” its made with organic soya lecithin and its also some of the best chocolate ive ever tasted :)

    Adam

  45. Tawnya
    May 19, 2012 | 3:24 am

    I went to their FB page and they responded back quickly with this statement.& Black’s USA Tawnya, thank you for your post. It is important for us to hear from our Fans. All GREEN & BLACK’S products are certified by the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) and comply with the USDA NOP (United States Department of Agriculture – Natural Organic Program) organic standards. This ensures no genetically modified ingredients are used in their production, including the soy lecithin we use in our products. Please let us know if you have further questions!
    Thursday at 6:57pm ·

  46. Malaika
    May 19, 2012 | 9:36 pm

    You know what you should see if you can find? Long ago, when I visited a friend in St. Lucia, his family made me a cocoa stick from some cocoa seed they got in “the jungle.” It was basically what this stuff is supposed to be, only ungrated. Pure cocoa, with spices and such from the area. They called what they made with it “cocoa tea” and it was delicious. The stick lasts forever, and you don’t need very much to flavor drinks. It lasted longer than I could keep track of it, actually. At the time (’94 or so) this (and other wonderful natural foods) were sold in the local market. I’d be surprised if it’s impossible to find them online today.

  47. Mary Nichols
    May 20, 2012 | 9:30 pm

    Thank you so much for this website and to my hubby for finding it for our gmo-free portland facebook readers. We have a guide for Portland area on our site under the button “gmo-proof your home” and G&B isn’t on it because 1. We don’t trust Kraft and 2. We don’t list industrial food even if they have an organic brand because they are the ones doing the exploitation of organic by degrading the standards while buying up all the companies with hostile takeover techniques. When General Mills bought Cascadian Farms years ago they kept their membership in the Organic Trade Association. The most heinous example to me is fair-trade. To make a fairly traded brand knowing the alternative is actual slaves (see positivefoodinc.com to read about shackled children dying in chocolate farms) and then use unfairly traded cocoa beans also is disgusting! But oddly, Kraft organic brands (which again we don’t buy or list online in our guide) is supporting the GMO-labeling campaign which means they’ve realized the market advantage they would have if they can get pure sources before everyone else after we get a few medical studies and the exodus begins. I don’t support industrial food but it sounds like talking to Kraft about these things would pay off potentially. Another odd thing- their back-to-nature brand supporting labeling also touts the wonderfulness of GMOs online! ?? So weird!

  48. Bebe
    May 21, 2012 | 3:57 pm

    Once again it’s just simpler to make your own. I make it right in my mug with organic raw cocoa powder, raw local honey, vanilla, pinches of salt, cinnamon and cayenne. I have been unable to get raw milk for the past year (until last week, yeah!) so I have mixed mine with hot water until thoroughly blended and then add cream and the honey last so it retains as many of its nutrients as possible.
    My sister-in-law taught me that method and said that’s how they made hot chocolate in Italy when she lived there for a time back in her college days. She used brown sugar and I think the cream was whipped and then put on top of the chocolate but I just pour in liquid cream and honey.

  49. Heather
    June 3, 2012 | 2:14 pm

    I use Equal Exchange hot cocoa mix. They are fair trade, organic, and even better, it’s SOY LECITHIN free!!
    http://www.equalexchange.coop/cocoa

  50. Sarah
    July 22, 2012 | 8:35 am

    Green and Blacks is a completely dodgy company – all part of Kraft/Cadbury globalization scheme. If you’re smart, you won’t believe a word they say. They couldn’t care LESS about honesty or what they feed you as long as you give them your moolah.

  51. Dee
    January 24, 2014 | 6:18 pm

    Thank you! I just bought a bar of “organic” white chocolate from Green & Black, and sure enough the only ingredient that doesn’t say “organic” is the soy lecithin. I’d not have caught that because on the front the label has “organic” printed in big letters. Shame on them.

  52. Jennifer DiMaggio
    June 6, 2014 | 5:12 am

    Hi there, love your site and info… so helpful!

    Had a question… I’ve seen sunflower lecithin as an alternative to soy lecithin in a lot of organic products (especially chocolate/chocolate chips), as well as sold in its whole form to be used in bread baking, etc. Do you have an opinion of organic sunflower lecithin?

    Thanks so much!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
Food Renegade June Giveaway