#behindthebiz | Alter Eco Australia

January 18, 2019

#behindthebiz | Alter Eco Australia

Few companies can claim to be as responsible, progressive and worldly as Alter Eco

Let's take a closer look…

All-natural, organic, cruelty free, fairtrade, non-gmo, gluten free, carbon neutral…. Not only that – Alter Eco make it their responsibility to give back more than they take – including forest regeneration, contributing to the communities who support the production of their products, and waste management.

“Whoa”, we hear you say. And we hear you!

“And how about their chocolate?” – we also hear you say. Well, let’s just say they’ve had us running to our local health food stores many a time for their dark chocolate blocks or truffles (the Coconut Toffee and Burnt Caramel flavours are EPIC!).

Feeling inspired? And also feeling like you’ll be turning to Alter Eco from now on when your sweet tooth calls?!

We thought we’d have a chat to Ilse Keijzer, founder of Alter Eco Australia, about what inspired her to start the Alter Eco Australia brand, and the all-important question of her favourite product in the Alter Eco range!

Tell us a bit about the people behind your company

The 4 founders of Alter Eco, Tristan (French) started Alter Eco in France back in 2002. Edouard and Mathieu (who are also French) started Alter Eco in San Francisco in 2005, selling in the US and Canadian markets. I am Dutch and started Alter Eco in 2006 in Australia and New Zealand. We all loved travelling and worked in several NGO’s over the globe and wanted to make a difference. The concept of sourcing and selling Fairtrade, Organic and Carbon Neutral foods which benefit both the farmers, the consumers and the planet, was the backbone of Alter Eco and still is today.

What inspired you to start your company and when did you start it?  

Being born in the Netherlands, the birth place of the Fairtrade movement and born in a family of entrepreneurs I guess it was in my future. My mum already had sold Fairtrade products to our community when I was a kid, so I was familiar with some of the business and the impact it made on communities. I arrived in Australia in 2000 and could not find any Fairtrade and very little organic products in the stores. When I met Tristan, the founder of Alter Eco in France, while hitchhiking in Nicaragua back in 1995, I was deeply interested in his business idea. I was sure when I arrived back in Australia that it was my duty to start this business down under and introduce a beautiful range of Fairtrade, Organic products to the Aussies. This was in 2005.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?   

My children, my husband, the team, sunshine, a freshly brewed cappuccino….. my belief that with my family and our team we can at least assist a little bit in making the world a better place!

How do you make your products?

The chocolate bars and the chocolate in our coconut clusters is made in Switzerland. That’s where they ‘know’ how to make the best tasting, smooth and velvety chocolate. Ours is unique as it does not contain any soy, emulsifiers or additives. An additional bonus to our chocolate is that when you purchase a bar you are contributing to the reforestation of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest as part of our commitment to regenerative agriculture and being a carbon neutral company.

Our truffles, which are also Swiss made, use nourishing coconut oil, for a next-level smooth texture, which is a sustainable alternative to palm oil.

What is your favourite product in your range?            

The Dark Chocolate Coconut Clusters, Original flavor – they are new, crunchy, vegan, organic, Fairtrade, non-gmo, paleo friendly, gluten free and….addictive!

What is your favourite way to enjoy your product/s?                

Going camping on the weekend with my family and friends and making a fire, heating up some tea and enjoying some of our delicious chocolate bars and treats.

What have been the biggest trials so far in starting and running your company?               

Finding enough hours in the day to get all the tasks done that you need to do as an entrepreneur and learning to focus. For example, in the early years of the company, we were selling rice, quinoa, coffee, tea, chocolate etc. This is way too many products for a smaller size company to manage, especially, if you have to source and import them yourselves from all different farmer cooperatives in various countries. A big learning curve was to streamline and focus on one line of products and do it well.

What is your favourite way of winding down and taking time out?       

Taking a bath at night and being on or around a beach at the weekend!

Here at Retreat Yourself, we LOVE dreaming BIG - what is your vision for your company?

Starting an Alter Eco office in many more countries and making our products available to consumers worldwide so we can grow the amount of ingredients and the volumes that we buy from our farmer partners.

For anyone out there wanting to start their own business, what would your biggest piece of advice be?  

Be open-minded. It always takes longer than you think to kick it off. Enjoy the little victories, especially in the beginning.

And lastly, what does a fulfilled life look like to you?                 

Waking up happy in the morning with family or friends around me. Having a balance between rest time, family time and work time and continuing to discover new places, people, crafts and projects.

You can read more about the Alter Eco brand on their website: https://altereco.com.au.

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