Go Ahead, Eat Some Chocolate and Save The Rainforest

If you’re in Washington DC and looking for a sweet treat, stop in Harper Macaw. This local fine chocolate brand was founded by Brazilian chocolate maker, Sarah Hartman, and her U.S. Marine veteran husband, Colin. The couple’s vision for the brand has what they call an ambitious yet tangible objective: To turn chocolate into a force for tropical rainforest reforestation.


This duo travels Brazil’s Atlantic Forest purchasing beans directly from farmers at the avant-garde of cacao agroforestry. They seek out farmers whose crop maintenance and pre and post-harvest practices not only yield tremendous quality but are both environmentally and economically sustainable.


When it came to presenting their product they enlisted creative firm Design Army to realize their vision. The result is a package design that simultaneously possesses bright tropical motifs to represent the products origins, with a luxuriously elegant feel to represent its premium quality.


Hartman says one of their favorite aspects of the packaging is the juxtaposition of seeing the endangered species native to rainforest biomes where the cocoa is sourced with an overlay of geometric gold foil. “It’s a subliminal message referencing the conflict between chocolate as a luxury mainly enjoyed in the developed world, but with its key ingredient being grown primarily in developing countries by farmers living in extreme poverty who are often using methods that cause significant rainforest destruction,” said Hartman.


To remain true to the Harper Macaw vision of facilitating rain forest conversation, the duo says they need to be mindful of their packaging materials. Hartman says, “We make sure everything is recyclable, and that anything that’s not paper is compostable. The packaging is an important piece of how we practice sustainability. The inner foil is a compostable, wood pulp based film, which is a wonderful barrier for moisture, odor prevention and shelf life stability.

“Packaging is an important element of the brand. We want a look and feel of high-quality, craft material and the most sustainable way to do that was with paper. We use FSC certified CLASSIC® Linen by Neenah for the boxes of our Rainforest Origin Collection because we like how its texture feels on your fingers, and it conspicuously portrays quality,” said Hartman.


Even though the boxed chocolate bars are gifts on their own, Harper Macaw added a gift set sleeve to its package design. The sleeves, produced in CLASSIC Linen, Epic Black for the full-size bars and CLASSIC Linen, Solar White, for the mini bars are branded with a gold foil stamp. “It was an intuitive way to bundle our bars together and create custom collections. We made the box adjustable so that we could create custom gifts of 2-5 bars for customers such as luxury hotels who give them to VIP guests. These have been very popular because it looks almost like a jewelry box and feels like a heavy brick of chocolate!” said Hartman.

Hartman says the Harper Macaw business model and supply chain is built to address a very serious cause and the brand’s packaging helps tell the story of how this couple practices direct trade with cacao producers who use regenerative agricultural practices in a manner that substantially augments their income.


“It’s clear that many of our customers value the packaging as much as the chocolate inside. I always say that if it tastes delicious it would be a shame if it also doesn’t look beautiful. Design Army did a great job of designing a packaging system that preserves the integrity of both the Harper Macaw brand and the product,” said Hartman.