Navitas is famous for its unprocessed raw cacao, a staple in many healthy pantries these days around the country. Now the company is going regenerative. Recently, the California-based enterprise announced that their cacao supply chain which comes from the Liloma Cocoa Cooperative in Sierra Leone is Regenerative Organic Certified.
“It’s only fitting that our first ROC product is cacao because it has been a staple for our company for almost two decades. It is even more meaningful because of the cocoa industry’s historical legacy of exploitation and unethical labor practices,” Zach Adelman, co-founder and CEO of Navitas Organics, says.
“Regenerative farming is a holistic way of growing food that closely mimics nature’s design, and goes beyond simply sustaining our natural resources, to replenishing or regenerating them. While the name may be new, regenerative practices and ideology are rooted in thousands of years of ancestral knowledge from around the world. Emphasizing social fairness and soil health, regenerative agriculture honors the grower’s livelihoods and sovereignty, enabling them to optimally steward the land for the future.”
In fact, Adelman notes that the company has been a long-time advocate of traditional organic farming, which is now being fashionably referred to as “regenerative.”
Over three years, Navitas will be investing $100,000 to grow their cacao co-op in Sierra Leone. This includes setting up farmer field schools, working towards reforestation, and ensuring just labor practices —- given the complexities of cacao supply chains.
“The potential of advancing regenerative organic standards is appealing because it further empowers smallholder farmers around the world who have been employing these techniques for centuries,” he says. “These farmers are using holistic and indigenous practices that respect the entire ecosystem and the surrounding communities in ways that industrial agriculture consistently ignores.”
The company will start with 2 to 4 cacao products this year under ROC but will continually look for new opportunities to incorporate ROC wherever they can, he adds.
While there has been some debate about the tenets of the ROC certification, for example, if some level of tilling is acceptable, there’s also a broader understanding that the best practices for regenerative farming will continue to adapt to the feedback they get from growers and brands.
“The organization and certification are so new, that it would be hard to tell at this point what improvements are needed. Nothing’s perfect, the certification will continue to evolve as the industry grows and we learn more about the impact of the framework.”
But ROC, like other certifications, comes at an added cost. So do customers truly pay attention to these finer details and is it worth it for brands to pursue them?
“I do think customers care about the ROC certification, though as much as consumers help shape our decision making this is at the core of our business and how we operate. We’re using our business as a force for good and building a purpose-driven brand that accurately reflects the changes we want to see in the world.”
As regenerative continues to become a trend, some companies like Navitas are choosing for certification instead of just saying that they’re doing regenerative agriculture. The hope is that it will help them rise above the noise, and the possible greenwashing.