'Harry Potter' Fans Conjure a Victory in Chocolate Battle

A group dedicated to good deeds wants Warner Bros. to live up to the wizard’s good name.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

Jan 21, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

Turns out, muggles can be as powerful as wizards if they put their heads together.

After four years, 400,000 signatures, and the help of a few major literary stars, a social-justice-minded fan group calling itself the Harry Potter Alliance has taken a powerful stand against slavery and child labor.

Warner Bros., the company that owns the rights to the Harry Potter movie franchise, has told the group that it will now only use fair-trade cocoa that’s been sustainably farmed for its Harry Potter-related chocolates.

The HPA is a group of “fan activists”—people who love Harry Potter and want to see devotees of the books marshal their skills and energy for good causes. In the past, they’ve compared Walmart to Hogwarts’ villain Voldemort, raised money for survivors of the earthquake in Haiti, and held a book drive.

Child slavery and forced labor are major problems in the Ivory Coast, where 40 percent of the world's cocoa supply is produced. A 2012 CNN investigation on "Chocolate's Child Slaves" confirmed widespread forced child labor in cocoa fields, and in 2011 the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that more than 109,000 children were working on these farms.

Free2Work, an organization that provides consumers with information on modern-day slavery, asked Behr's Chocolate, the company that manufactures the Harry Potter chocolate frogs for Warner Brothers, to provide information about their supply chain. Because Behr's only answered one out of 48 questions the company received a grade of "F" from the watchdog organization.

In light of this lack of information, the Harry Potter Alliance pressured the media giant to ditch Behr's Chocolate. Harry Potter fans created videos and signed a petition asking Warner Brothers to use fair trade chocolate instead. They even won the support of author John Green and HPA hero J.K. Rowling. We've reached out to Behr's for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

“If ‘Harry Potter’ [as a franchise] were to be in alignment with the values of Harry Potter [himself], it could be a real symbolic and coherent victory,” HPA founder Andrew Slack told The Washington Post.

Chocolate features prominently in the Harry Potter books and the overall Harry Potter business extravaganza, which sells chocolate frogs, among other cocoa-based items.

In a letter sent to Slack announcing the decision to use fair-trade chocolate, Joshua Berger, Warner Bros. president for Harry Potter global franchise development, thanked the alliance for “your partnership throughout our discussions on this important issue.”