AUSTIN, Texas — Sept. 21, 2012. Whether they’re looking for simple gift ideas, Halloween treats, stocking stuffers, or just something to nibble on while curled up with a good book this fall, chocolate lovers can find their fairly traded favorites at Whole Foods Market.

“Offering fairly traded chocolate is especially important to us because cocoa comes from some of the poorest and most remote areas of the world,” said Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “The fair trade chocolate category in our grocery departments has grown by more than 350 percent over the past five years. That’s a true indicator that ourshoppers are really making a positive impact on the lives of cocoa growers in developing countries.”

As the leader in ethical sourcing, the company has encouraged dozens of chocolate brands to obtain fair trade certification, and it carries hundreds of fair trade chocolates , including its own Whole Foods Market Organic Tanzanian Schoolhouse Project chocolate bars, in its grocery departments. These single-origin bars are made entirely from cocoa purchased directly from farmers in the Kyela, Mbeya, district of Tanzania, and the proceeds support education programs in that community. In October the company will introduce two new Fair-For-Life-certified bars by Theo: Vanilla Nib and Pili Pili Chili chocolate bars, found exclusively at Whole Foods Market, are made in partnership with the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) and Congolese farmers. Sales proceeds are donated to ECI, which works to create new economic opportunities for the people of Eastern Congo.

“Our national grocery team makes it a priority to bring to market fairly traded chocolate bars such as Alter Eco, Divine, Equal Exchange, Lily’s, and Madecasse. We are committed to expanding our choices by continuously evaluating suppliers’ high quality offerings and their social accountability and fair labor practices,” said Schweizer. “We applaud our chocolate suppliers, who won’t compromise on fair trade standards when sourcing cocoa, and our shoppers for improving lives with every purchase.”