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The Short Story
Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) was founded in 2010, based on the belief that Belize is capable of producing some of the world’s highest-quality cacao and on the vision of cacao farming as a real business that makes real money for cacao growers in Belize. Currently, MMC sources premium organic shade-grown cacao from smallholder farmers for responsible and ultra-premium chocolate makers, improving farmer livelihoods and preventing deforestation by providing a high-quality, consistent product that fetches a high price and catalyzes sustainable growth of the local cacao growing industry.

Why It Matters
Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) brings to the global chocolate industry a new and revolutionary way to source the highest quality cacao from indigenous Maya smallholder farmers. MMC’s model leverages the power of direct relationships and constant innovation to shorten supply chains and catalyze impactful social and environmental development in cacao-growing regions. MMC was founded by Emily Stone and Gabriel Pop, Maya cacao farmer, in collaboration with chocolate makers Alex Whitmore (Taza Chocolate, USA) and Jeff Pzena (Cotton Tree Chocolate/Moho Chocolate, Belize) in 2010.

Using high-value organic cacao production to drive sustainable development holds immense potential for the Central American region. As a shade-grown agroforestry crop, cacao provides an economic incentive for conservation while reincorporating the Maya heritage into the $80B global chocolate value chain in a meaningful way and empowering thousands of smallholders to run more entrepreneurial and profitable farms. MMC's model and the replicability of that model opens up a new sourcing direction for chocolate manufacturers around the world interested in supporting smallholders and sustainable development while insisting on exceptional quality.
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Left to right: Co-founders Gabriel Pop (center), Jeff Pzena (with son), Emily Stone and Alex Whitmore and team in 2012.
Hundreds of farmer visits, community meetings, buying trips, and signed checks since founding in 2010, Maya Mountain Cacao has become a primary source for chocolate makers across the globe interested in using ultra-transparent, high-quality, organic cacao for their products.

Emily and Gabriel made a decision early on that meaningful environmental and social impact would be critical for Maya Mountain Cacao’s success.

Some key impact areas include acreage certified as organic, area of land rehabilitated from slash-and-burn agriculture to agroforestry systems, increases in farmer income, availability of pre-harvest financing through microcredit, jobs created, and emergence of new community leaders.