ALTER ECO’s Business Model that Makes all Food-chain Intermediates Happy

Alter Eco USA Marketing Manager Mr. Antoine Ambert was interviewed by Sur la Route du Patrimoine Project, San Francisco, USA, May 2013.

About Alter Eco

Alter Eco USA is a pioneer social company engaged to fight for social and economic justice in the food supply chain. It employs about 12 collaborators. Alter Eco was first founded in France by Mr. Tristan Leconte, fond of travels and good food, who tried first to trade fairly the Roibos from South Africa.. As an alternative trading organization, they specialize in the import and distribution of Fair Trade products while directly benefiting farming communities in the Global South. Alter Eco offers only 100% fair trade, organic, non-GMO products and Carbon Zero certified. Alter Eco food offer includes the ancient super grain Royal Quinoa from the Bolivian Andes, Heirloom Jasmine Rice from Northern and Eastern Thailand, Latin America-grown and Swiss-made dark chocolate bars, and unrefined ground Mascobado cane sugar from the Philippines.

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A system that benefits everyone…

Alter Eco follows and deepen the standards of the FLO developed by Max Havelaar. But Alter Eco differenciate itself by the direct contact and confidence with the « organic » co-ops and its long-term environmental and social-friendly ethics. Everything is about food and based on the premise that “good food is fundamental for life” while making everyone happy as a whole, their definition of sustainability is a whole-system approach that encompasses every aspect of their business: Environmentally Responsible, Socially Just and Reliably Delicious (perpetuity).


Reliably Delicious

According to them, to be sustainable food must be both delicious enough that people will want to eat that over and over again and nutritious enough to contribute to the continued heath and well being of everyone. Bolivia_Group1-410x440To meet these requirements, Alter Eco relies on direct relationships with their partner co-ops while guarantee transparency and focus on whole grains, heirloom and healthy varietals and minimal local processing. That’s why Alter Eco USA involve 11 co-ops and work directly with 6 of them. Depending on the concurrency and the economical perspectives of the market, they decide to focus on four products: cocoa, sugar, rice and quinoa. The choice of the co-ops depends on their vision of the agriculture and the support of the community, and has to be follow organic farming standards.

Beyond the audits from organic and fair trade certifiers to their partner co-ops AlterEco regularly conducts its own audits of the co-ops fields , operations and finances in order to ensure that they accomplish with organic and fair trade standards, which is quite unique.  Also, that allows the creation of long term relationships of confidence and reliably and more transparency by monitoring every detail of their supply chain.


Socially Just

They believe that the health, happiness and future of each family that grows its foods are just vital as they are to their own families. As a partner of the Fair Trade USA and the Faitrade Labelling Organization (FLO), all of their products are Fair Trade Certified.  This means the producers are paid enough to ensure sustainable production and living conditions, and from 10% to 30% higher than wages paid in the local markets with an additional Fair Trade premium set every year by FLO. The premium helps support the growth and advancement of the cooperatives and their communities. quinoa

According to Mr. Antoine Ambert, “in exchange of their high-quality harvest, we pay farmers a fair price. » For example, in the price of one pack of white quinoa in the store (around 5 US $),  20% pays the farmer to cover its cost of production and the cost of raising a family, 2.1% goes into community development projects managed and decided by the cooperative of farmers (the “Premium”), 20% pays Alter Eco and 6% pays the co-op to cover its functionning costs. The rest covers packaging cost, freight, distributor and retailer margins. In addition, Alter Eco pays a Fair Trade Premium. Farmers democratically decide how best to invest the Premium in projects that help the whole community.” The Premium price is decided by FLO. For example, farmers can choose to build a school, an hospital, to reforest the tropical forest…
The close relation built with each co-op and each collaborator is the basis of its success. Alter Eco try to reinforce the proximity between the consumer and the farmer by telling stories about one of the farmers and soon by developing a platform that link every product with its farmers and its stories. Alter Eco report every 5 years the co-ops’ work on a general basis.


Environmentally Responsible

“We take environmental responsibility very seriously, going beyond Fair Trade and Organic certification to work towards becoming a carbon positive business.”

As part of their commitment to environmental sustainability, their coop partners employ certified organic farming eliminating the use of foreign inputs like petroleum based and synthetic fertilizers, irradiation and genetic engineering. This helps the preservation of the land and safety of the people who farm it.

Alter Eco calculates their carbon footprint. They calculate their emissions of CO2 analyzing their entire operations from field prep to planting, harvesting, processing, freight, and energy used in their offices and grocery stores.

CO2 mitigation is achieved through agroforesty and other crop diversification practices. In cooperation with the Peruvian Amazon ACOPAGRO coop partner and through a reforestation program called Pure Project they offset the emissions linked to their products by planting trees in the Amazon forest, naturally sequestering CO2, replenishing the forest canopy, increasing biodiversity, protecting against soil erosion, and preserving the fragile ecosystem that provides their livelihood.


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