Specialty Food Magazine

Summer 2018

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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producer profile In fact, in blind tastings and at trade shows, McCollum says Madécasse always wins by a significant margin—8 to 1—add- ing, "One of our core beliefs is it's what's inside the package that matters." French colonialists—who long ago called the country Madécasse—recognized the quality of the country's beans and ran cocoa plantations there for decades. It was an export product for which the farmers were poorly compensated and the scourge of child labor was widespread. Agriculture was more of the slash-and-burn variety than sustainable. Habitats for native wild- life were decimated, particularly for the ring-tailed lemur whose image is depicted on Madécasse's packaging. McCollum, 40, was on the island from 1999 to 2001. His comfortable upbringing in Hopewell, New Jersey, meant he had only seen poverty through travel and images on television. "It's a different level altogether, hits you in the gut," he says of living among the country's impoverished. "It's one of the more humbling, transformative experiences a human can go through." He saw crippling unemployment, fami- lies barely able to feed themselves. Non- governmental organizations could only do so much, he learned, but the impact of a couple of well-run local businesses made an impression. He realized that the road to success lay in combining for-profit enter- prise with his grassroots Peace Corps-style experience. This didn't happen right away, how- ever. At Denison University in Ohio, he had studied history and literature, "no com- mercial bone in my body," he says. The day after he returned home to New Jersey from Madagascar, the tragedy of 9/11 struck and the job market froze. He ended up working in sales and marketing at American Express, an environment he described as nurturing. And yet, every day that went by he was thinking of Madagascar. Six years passed and he could not shake from his system It took years to convince some of the growers to come to meetings, to believe it was worth the days- long process to ferment and dry the beans themselves, to trust that they would be paid for the extra labor. 58 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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