Meridian Cacao Company practices a Direct Trade program, an incentive based reward system that focuses on paying farmers well beyond Fair Trade prices for quality of cocoa. Meridian understands a farmer’s efforts are the most critical factor in exceptional chocolate, and farmers who maintain the best crops should be paid for their valuable work. Compared to selling in conventional markets, extra care must be taken during all stages of cocoa farming: from harvesting pods at the right moment to adjustments in fermentation and drying during all weather conditions. Because of these realities, Meridian has yet to pay less than four times the “Fair-Trade Premium” for cocoa beans. In return, the quality of cocoa is elevated and the farmer’s profitability is increased.

Direct Trade fosters high-impact relationships between producers and buyers. Meridian frequently travels to partner farms throughout the year. Founder Gino Dalla Gasperina personally facilitates the process, touring farms, escorting chocolate makers on cocoa sourcing trips, getting to know the farming staff and ultimately working to improve cocoa quality with the producers.