Fighting for Wild Cacao: Caputo’s + Luisa Abram

The modern US food system is crushing craftsmanship, sustainability, biodiversity and economic justice.


For years, I have known Caputo’s mission in a broad, eternal sense: “Fight to preserve the food traditions of our ancestors.” However, with the untimely death of my best friend, mentor, and hero, Tony Caputo (aka my dad), it sunk in that our time on Earth is so very limited. I realized we need a way to ensure we have tangible victories while we pursue what is sure to be an eternal fight – enter the Caputo’s Preservation Program (CPP).

Although I hope that Caputo’s can be a catalyst for changing the entire US food system, I also realize I may be tilting at windmills. If we cannot change the entire food system, I know we can at least ensure the success of a select few farmers and artisans. When short term profits are disregarded, we can make sure precious gems like Mesa Farm have absolutely all the support they need. We can make sure that when they falter, they can continue. Randy Ramsley, the owner of Mesa Farm, is one of the last to uphold farming traditions as they were done hundreds of years ago. He goes deep into regenerative agriculture and far beyond sustainability. Visiting his farm is a spiritual experience. Years ago we agreed to create logos and a marketing plan for Randy, but we also guaranteed we would buy 100% of his excess cheese supply. We have held to our commitment through thick and thin and Randy is always the first to say Mesa Farm would have folded at several different junctures if it were not for the support of the Caputo’s community of food lovers and food professionals.

Mesa Farm is a shining example of how agriculture should be conducted; however, wholesome cheese and land stewardship in Utah is not our only area of concern. As chocolate fanatics, it has been painful to watch the global food system whittle away at the biodiversity of cacao that indigenous civilizations of Central and South America experienced.

This pain became particularly unbearable during the beginning of the pandemic when Luisa Abram’s father Andre told us our favorite bar, Juruá 70%, would need to be permanently discontinued. This bar was made with a unique genetic strain of cacao that only grows along the banks of the Jurua River in Brazil’s Upper Amazon. He explained the mounting challenges and financial burden of accessing this cacao (in the world’s most remote jungle) and bringing it to market made it impossible to continue.

As he explained the challenges, I understood that they were complicated, continuous and growing. I also realized that any hope of making this wild crop economically viable may take a decade of investment. I knew their company was facing pandemic induced financial challenges and could not shoulder the burden.

This is when I knew that despite our own pandemic emergencies, Caputo’s could solve this.

If we throw out any expectation of profit on this chocolate bar in the near future, we could prepay for the next harvest. Luisa and Caputo’s together could make sure the small community in the Jurua had the money and guidance to set up their own fermentary and continue to return to Jurua to harvest this incredible cacao, year after year. With Caputo’s guaranteed support, Luisa can purchase all of the Jurua cacao the foragers can procure. 

It cost us a lot, but the nice thing about not having investors to please and owning your own family business is that you get to decide what to invest in. It may not make a worthy investment return in my lifetime, but that is not what is important. What is important is that Caputo’s and Luisa Abram have created a bar of chocolate that will ensure this crown jewel of the Amazon is protected for future generations.

When you taste a Caputo’s Wild Jurua bar you experience the gustatory exhilaration of some of the world’s most rare cacao. Then, when you see the Caputo’s shield emblem on the walls of our store or on the pages of our website, you will know what it stands for, and that you have joined us in our fight. What a beautiful way to fight: spreading camaraderie and love for intrinsically good food.

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