Alter Eco – Changing The Chocolate Industry As We Know It

The chocolate industry has received significant criticism in the past decades for unsustainable practices stemming from questionable labor practices, use of low quality ingredients, poor production standards and problematic advertisements trends. These troubled elements combined have been brought to light by professionals analyzing the human, environmental, economic and social impact of chocolate on communities across the world. Indeed, most of the problems highlighted within the industry are still rampant today. Very few companies can pride themselves for having sustainable practices from a bean-to-bar perspective. Alter Eco, based out of California, France and Australia, prides itself in providing its clients with “healthy, sustainable and socially responsible foods” (Alter Eco, 2015). Through its high standards for quality and social responsibility, Alter Eco is a powerful response to the problems highlighted with today’s chocolate industry and attempts to mitigate the problems rampant within the multi-billion-dollar industry of cacao.

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Alter Eco Foods provides its clients with a multitude of products ranging from chocolate bars, truffles, quinoa, and rice. Mathieu Senard, the co-founder and CEO of Alter Eco, states: [The company] started with chocolate, and then [evolved to] grains such as quinoa and rice. Our goal is to buy directly from cooperatives and, more importantly, pay a fair price” (Kaye, 2017). Alter Eco’s mission remains the same through its line of products. The company prides itself in its concept of “full circle sustainability” for all the products in its line. Full circle sustainability, in its most basic form, presents solutions to most of the problems highlighted by specialists in the chocolate industry. Most of the problematic companies view sales and production as a two-way street between the client and the business. Alter Eco views its everyday business practices from a different perspective by adding the environmental impact of production in their equation. With its globalized market, Alter Eco Foods is showing its competitors that sustainable practices in the labor, ingredients, production and marketing spheres is both attractive and delicious to consumers across the world.

The issue of child labor is an epidemic in Cacao plantations across the globe, and even more dominantly in Cote D’Ivoire. Chanthavong, in his analysis of child labor in chocolate production, writes: “Slave traders are trafficking boys ranging from the age of 12 to 16 from their home countries and are selling them to cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire. They work on small farms across the country, harvesting the cocoa beans day and night, under inhumane conditions.” The problem of child labor, regardless of the production goals, is an incredibly sensitive issue that many governmental and non-governmental organizations are attempting to handle. In its efforts to limit the spread of child labor in Cote D’Ivoire and across the glove, Alter Eco sources its cacao beans from South American farmer-owned plantations, more specifically Peru and Ecuador. Furthermore, the company sources its Cacao butter from Dominican Republic, cutting any sort of possibility for economically- or socially-encouraging abusive labor practices. The company undoubtedly prides itself in its “single origin, highest quality cacao beans.” Alter Eco’s sustainable labor standards go much further than avoiding cacao originating from questionable sources with risk of child labor involvement. The company aims to rectify the issue of unsustainable labor practices through fair trade relationships, development programs, and women empowerment programs. Fair trade relationships are at the forefront of the sustainable labor practices push forth by the company’s values. Professor Martin from Harvard University writes: “Landlessness remains a serious problem among the descendants of enslaved people throughout the cocoa producing world today.” To further remedy these rampant issues, Alter Eco prides itself in sourcing all of its products from small-scale, farmer-owned cooperatives. Alter Eco is partners with the Institute of Marketecology (IMO), Fair Trade USA and the Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FTLO). This list of high-level certifications provides clients with the certainty that the labor practices for producers are socially acceptable and sustainable and that the values of the company for providing producers with good living and working conditions are followed.

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Alter Eco’s efforts to offer a socially- and ethically-acceptable product do not stop at the location and origin of its labor force. The company put in place a variety of development programs in order to increase the likelihood of sustainability of its producers and workers. Its Fair Trade Premiums, which allocate money throughout the supply chain, have allowed Alter Eco’s sugar cooperative, Alter Trade, to build a training center for their employees in the Philippines, simultaneously serving as an assistance center for families to visit. Furthermore, in its full-circle attempt to provide all workers with social and economic support, Alter Eco addresses an underlying issue in today’s farming practices in its development of leadership and empowerment programs for women. Women within the farming industry are often viewed as second-class individuals due to the utterly and outrageously outdated assumption that they will not be as useful as men on the land. Alter Eco writes: “Gender equality is an important aspect of the Alter Eco business model, all the way down to the field.” Through such a stance, Alter Eco attempts to remedy the gender disparity and inequality within the farming industry through maintaining that “women will assert their due role and space in both the management of the homestead farming economy and in the governance of [the land]” (AlterEco.com).

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The issue of unsustainable environmental practices within the chocolate industry is one Alter Eco addresses with strength. Indeed, as stated earlier, Alter Eco prides itself in adding the environment in its equation for sustainable production practices, which is something very few businesses work towards. Professor Martin from Harvard University, in her presentation entitled “Psychology, Terroir, and Taste,” states that Terroir and Harvesting practices can strongly affect, both positively and negatively, cacao quality and quantity. Furthermore, “the use of pesticides on the farms can lead to the destruction of part of the soil flora and fauna through both physical and chemical deterioration” (Ntiamoah, 2008). Alter Eco prides itself in assuring that all of its cooperative farms maintain their fields within American and European standards for organic certification. Such a certification makes sure the consumers are aware of what they are getting: a product “free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and [that] must not [have been] processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering” (Henry, 2012). Such sustainable ecological and organic practices put forth Alter Eco’s values in promoting a product that is good for farmers, earth, and consumers. Alter Eco’s efforts in promoting sustainable environmental practices do not end at the farm or on the plantation. Although the company goes to great lengths to maintain its organic certification, it even goes steps further in pushing forward its values of sustainability. Through its commitment to becoming a carbon-negative business, Alter Eco has already received its Carbon-neutral certification, which confirms the company offsets the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) as it produces. “Alter Eco works closely with PUR Project and [its] farmers to plant trees for the amount of CO2 [produced]” (Alter Eco, 2017). Furthermore, in its efforts to become a carbon negative business, Alter Eco started its emission subdivision called PUR Project. “Contrary to offsetting, which consists in handling carbon compensation in other places by uncorrelated people and means, the insetting includes the handling of carbon compensation into the commercial dynamics of the company” (PUR Project, 2017). In other words, Alter Eco’s insetting efforts are rooted deeply in the idea that you must give back to the soil and air from which you took. In having an impact within its supply line, Alter Eco can assure that its efforts are not in vain, and that, although it plans to plant an additional 7,776 trees in 2017, the 28,639 trees (Alter Eco, 2017) already planted since 2008 are truly being put to good use to reinvigorate the soil from which so much is produced.

Alter Eco’s efforts to make their products more environmentally-friendly do not stop at their carbon-neutral status. They indeed go even further to make their products truly “full circle sustainable.” The packaging in which their chocolate and truffles are placed are fully compostable. Plastic and the conventional polyethylene packaging are quite detrimental to the environment due to the astronomical quantity of plastic sent to landfills or that finishes its life course in the oceans. The packaging developed by Alter Eco provides an eco-friendly alternative to the original plastic packaging found for most chocolate bars. This new packaging is made from compostable materials, GMO free, and without any toxic ink. Mathieu Senard adds: ““We believe the impact of our packaging is just as important as the product itself. How could we call ourselves a responsible, sustainable company when much of our packaging was going to landfills to live for hundreds of years?” (Alter Eco, 2015). This question raised by Senard is one answered by very few companies, which makes Alter Eco that much more efficient in its goal of changing the dynamics of chocolate production across the globe. To top off its environmental goals, Alter Eco has partnered with the 1% For the Planet Fund, which gives 1% of the company’s sales to a non-profit with environmental improvement goals.

 

 

Businessman David Ogilvy was once quoted for saying: “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” Advertisements and marketing are truly at the forefront of the chocolate industry’s sales. Whether it is for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, or Halloween, chocolate advertisements are all over television networks, the internet, and social media. Nonetheless, there are many problems and complaints associated with today’s chocolate industry and its marketing techniques. During her lecture at Harvard University about “Race, Ethnicity and Gender” in today’s chocolate industry, Professor Carla Martin elaborated on today’s chocolate marketing techniques and its associated prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. Most of this discrimination comes in the form of racism or sexism. Women are portrayed as irrational in the presence of chocolate while men are portrayed as sexualized bodies. Simultaneously, race is also being portrayed in stereotypical and offensive ways. Alter Eco attempts to go against all these rampant problems with marketing for chocolate. The company presents its potential buyers with an honest, informative advertising. Fagerhaug (Honest Marketing, 1997) writes: “The main point about honest marketing is to run the business in such a way that a customer at any time can feel the certainty any customer longs for; that he or she made the right choice.” When a customer purchases a product from Alter Eco, there is a directly associated certainty in the quality and honesty of the product received.

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In conclusion, Alter Eco attempts to provide its clients around the world with a sustainable chocolate product that tackles most, if not all the problems associated with today’s chocolate market. Through its fair labor practices, honest ingredients, conscientious production techniques and reliable advertisements, Alter Eco gives its customers exactly what they can expect. If more companies put as much care and attention in their products as Alter Eco does, the world would be a much better place. Alter Eco is undoubtedly part of the solution to the problems in the world’s chocolate and cacao industries.

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Works Cited:

“Alter Eco – B Corporation”. B Corporation Website. Fair Trade & Organic Foods, 2017.

“Alter Eco Foods”. AlterEco.com, Web. Accessed 05.03.2017.

“Alter Eco 2015 Impact Report”. AlterEco.com. Pages 7/7. 2017.

Business Wire Magazine. Alter Eco Logo Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160419005633/en/Alter-Eco-Unveils-Annual-Full-Circle-Sustainability-Social

Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote D’Ivoire.” TED Case Studies. American University. Pages 17/17. 2017.

Fagerhaug & Andersen. “Honest Marketing: A Coherent Approach to Conscientious Business Operation.” Norwegian University of Science and Technology. 2017.

Henry, Alan. “What Does Organic Really Mean, And Is It Worth my Money?” Lifehacker.com. 2012.

Laye, Keon. “Alter Eco Wants to Make Chocolate a Regenerative, not Extractive, Industry.” Triple Pundit Online Publishing, 2017.

Lovely Package. Alter Eco Packaging Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://lovelypackage.com/alter-eco/

Martin, Carla D.“Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Psychology, Terroir, and Taste”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

“Mission/Values.” Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade USA, 2016.

Ntiamoah, Augustine. “Environmental impacts of cocoa production and processing in Ghana: life cycle assessment approach.” Journal of Cleaner Production, Print. 2008.

Plan Vivo. Pur Project Logo image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.planvivo.org/

Smedley, Tim. “Forget About Offsetting, Insetting is the Future.” The Guardian. Web, 2015.

Squicciarini & Swinnen. “The Economics of Chocolate”, Oxford Scholarship Online, 2016.

Slave Free Chocolate. Chocolate’s Slave Trade Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

The Problem of Child Labor in the Cocoa Plantations. Africa News Service, Feb 2, 2012

WordPress.Willandmegan. Alter Eco Chocolate Bar Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://willandmegan.wordpress.com/tag/alter-eco/

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Bonbons and Bad Moms: An Anthropological Exploration of Chocolate and Gender

The “bonbon-eating housewife” narrative is so pervasive that it has become a rallying cry for stay-at-home-moms who feel underappreciated and overworked despite their reputation for laziness. In dozens of blog posts, these stay-at-home mothers decry the injustice of this stereotype, mocking the image of the bon-bon obsessed housewife in satirical articles and feminist op-eds. It seems as though this stereotype became widely accepted with the advent of the multi-camera situational comedy — one of the most widely-known models of how American family life is and should be. Since the earliest days of the multi-camera sitcom, the modern housewife has been stereotyped in the media as indulgent, lazy, and chocolate-crazy. The 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy and the 1990s sitcom Married … With Children provide perspective on the evolution of this stereotype and gendered assumptions we make about chocolate confections and the people who consume them. Through analyzing contemporary criticism of the “lazy housewives with bonbons” archetype, we can develop an understanding of how modern feminism challenges this narrative and how chocolate could be less strongly associated with femininity in the future. This association between housewifery, misogynistic narratives about women’s economic value, and the bonbon can help us to more clearly understand the cultural relationship between chocolate and femininity.

First, we must explore what a chocolate bonbon is and how it became associated with middle-class womanhood. A bonbon is typically a piece of candy — usually nougat, caramel, or other soft candies — covered in a thin coating of chocolate. While truffles are traditionally defined as balls of chocolate ganache covered in a thicker layer of chocolate, Americans often use the terms “bonbon” and “truffle” interchangeably to describe a small, bite-sized, chocolatey piece of candy. “Bonbon” can be roughly translated to “goody goody” in French, and French confectioners have been creating these sweet, delicate treats for centuries (ChocolateNoise.com). In the pre-industrial period, bonbons were handmade luxury goods, filled with expensive ingredients like candied fruit and nuts. Without mechanized equipment, confectioners had to hand-temper chocolate and cook candy with unreliable heat sources, hand-craft and coat each morsel of candy with chocolate, and sell them in small storefronts (France Today). Therefore, bonbons were a small-batch luxury good rather than a treat that any housewife could afford.

With the dawn of industrialization, many confectioners could streamline the process of producing bonbons. By the 19th century, confectioners could use mechanized equipment to produce bonbons more quickly and reliably — they no longer had to hand-sculpt each candy. The benefits of this more efficient bonbon-making process can be seen in the below video, in which a confection uses industrial cooking vessels and molds to easily produce many bonbons (Insider).

Increased sugar production in the Caribbean and other European colonial territories made sugary goods of every variety more affordable for middle- and working-class families (Mintz, 174). By the 20th century, a variety of bonbons and truffles were being produced in the United States, including the ice cream bonbon, which were largely sold in movie theaters and sports stadiums in addition to grocery stores (The Nibble). A 1988 New York Times article mentioned ice cream bonbons as one of international food conglomerate Nestle’s most popular chocolate products (Feder). Today, Americans buy over 36 million boxes of chocolate (typically filled with bonbons) for Valentine’s Day every year (Shah)! Clearly, the chocolate bonbon is one of America’s most treasured chocolate confections, but it is not clear how modern Americans came to associate bonbons with lazy stay-at-home mothers and the fraught gender politics of womanhood and work.

Perhaps the earliest example of this “lazy bonbon-eating housewife” stereotype can be found in Lucille Ball and Desi Arnazs’ semi-autobiographical 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. In the show, Lucy is depicted as a funny, confident, and somewhat scatterbrained wife and mother. In contrast to other television mothers from the so-called “Golden Age of Television” (the late 1940s to the early 1960s), Lucy was the star of the show and frequently proved her husband wrong. Where Leave it to Beaver’s June Cleaver was demure, Lucy was vibrant and opinionated. Where The Honeymooners’ Alice Kramden was bitter, Lucy was witty and pleasant. However, despite her character’s originality and complexity, Lucy was still subject to the gender expectations of her time. Like many married woman of her time, Lucy was a housewife and stay-at-home mother, and I Love Lucy frequently focused on disagreements between breadwinner Ricky Ricardo and his supposedly-lazy wife.

This conflict came to a head in the famous I Love Lucy episode “Job Switching” ( In the episode, Ricky accuses Lucy of being a lazy spendthrift who doesn’t appreciate how hard he works to put food on the table. In turn, Lucy accuses Ricky of failing to understand how difficult it is to be a homemaker. To settle their disagreement, Lucy and Ricky agree to switch jobs — Lucy and her friend Ethel spend a day making bonbons in a chocolate factory because they are talented makers and consumers of bonbons. At the same time, Ricky and Ethel’s husband Fred spend the day as “housewives.” Both groups fail spectacularly at their new “jobs,” as seen in the clips below.

This seems to reinforce the idea that Lucy and Ethel are naturally suited to housewifery while Ricky and Fred are naturally suited to work outside the home. When Lucy and Ricky resolve their differences at the end of the episode, Ricky presents Lucy with a five pound box of chocolates to show his appreciation for her hard work (This Was Television). This joke is ironic because Lucy has just spent a terrible day working in a chocolate factory, but also because housewives stereotypically love a box of chocolate bonbons. Early 1950s sitcoms were largely not as interested in subverting or exploring gender stereotypes as they were in reinforcing these stereotypes. Because Lucy in many ways represented the “model housewife,” she was traditionally feminine, took pleasure in domestic work and motherhood, and devoted to her husband. Her stereotypically feminine love of chocolate bonbons was an integral part of this “zany domestic goddess” image.

By the 1990s, many sitcoms were significantly less interested in upholding “traditional family values.” For example, in the irreverent sitcom Roseanne, eponymous main character Roseanne was a beleaguered working mother rather than a cheerful, polished housewife, and family comedy Full House abandoned the traditional nuclear family model altogether, instead centering around three men raising a family together. Perhaps no series embodies the genre-bending 1990s sitcom better than Married… With Children. The show centers around the Bundy family: Al, a misanthropic shoe salesman; Peggy, a profoundly lazy housewife; and their often-bratty children, Kelly and Bud. In many ways, Married… With Children is a perverse satire of the traditional family sitcom a la I Love Lucy, particularly because Peggy Bundy makes little effort to be an exemplary wife, mother, and homemaker. Instead, Peggy spends every day literally sitting on her couch and eating chocolate bonbons. Bonbons have become so closely associated with the character of Peggy Bundy that multiple recipes can be found online for “Peggy Bundy’s Bonbons,” including a recipe for “Peggy Bundy’s Lazy Day Coconut Bonbons.” The recipe description characterizes Peggy as “selfish and lazy” and associates theses qualities with Peggy’s habit of “watching Oprah and eating bonbons” (Eat Out Loud).

This association between Peggy’s gender, occupation, character, and love of chocolate bonbons is an extreme example of the way in which the “housewife with bonbons” stereotype had become widespread by the late 20th century. Peggy Bundy was the embodiment of every negative stereotype about housewives in the 1990s, when the female employment rate reached its all-time high of 57.4% by the end of the decade (Statista). Her ever-present box of chocolate bonbons signaled to the audience that she was the quintessential self-indulgent housewife who did not “produce” anything. Today, many online articles about the character, published by news and tabloid outlets like Time, Newsday, and Us Magazine mention her love of bonbons in describing her laziness and self-centeredness. Clearly, bonbons have been largely recast as an affordable, indulgent treat for the lazy housewife rather than handmade luxury items at the pinnacle of haute-patiserie. Peggy Bundy embodies our contemporary anxieties around the role of women as housewives as many women seek employment outside of the home, as well as our understanding of once-expensive goods as mass-produced commodities in the industrial era.

This popular association between one of television’s most dysfunctional mothers and the chocolate bonbon has sparked an online movement among housewives. The “housewives and bonbons” stereotype has become a reference point for many discussions of the value of women’s domestic work, like an Ohio housewife’s blog Bonbons and Martinis: The Diary of a Modern Housewife (BonBons & Martinis); satirical articles on housewife-oriented media outlets like the article “Children Removed From Home Where SAHM Eats Bonbons And Watches TV All Day” on SammichesandPsychMeds.com (Sammiches and Psych Meds); and practical columns in women’s magazines, like the article “9 Things Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home-Mom” in Women’s Day. This rejection of the “housewives and bonbons” stereotype isn’t necessarily an anti-feminist paean to the virtues of motherhood. Rather, they can be understood as a feminist reclamation of the value of traditionally-female domestic labor, whether the authors of these articles would label themselves feminists or not. In the same way that I Love Lucy’s Lucy Ricardo refused to let her husband degrade her work as a housewife and Married… With Children’s Peggy Bundy embraced her box of bonbons instead of becoming a picture-perfect stay-at-home-mom, these housewives are rejecting the stereotype that they are either a Lucy Ricardo or a Peggy Bundy.

Works Cited

“The Life and Times of Chocolate, Part 4.” Chocolate Noise. http://www.chocolatenoise.com/the-life-and-times-of-chocolate-part-4/

“French Bonbons.” France Today. https://www.francetoday.com/food-drink/french_bonbons/

“How BonBons are Made.” YouTube, uploaded by Insider, 2 May, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHTcrK0NGv4

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, Penguin Books, 1985.

“Product: Ice Cream Bonbons.” The Nibble: Great Food Finds, 14 November, 2010. https://www.thenibble.com/blog/2010/11/14/product-ice-cream-bonbons/

Feder, Barnaby J. “Carnation’s Big Ice Cream Bet.” The New York Times, 1988. https://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/27/business/carnation-s-big-ice-cream-bet.html

Shah, Khushbu. “Americans Will Spend $18.9 Billion on Valentine’s Day.” Eater, 9 February, 2015. https://www.eater.com/2015/2/9/8004991/americans-will-spend-18-9-billion-on-valentines-day

“Televising Masculinities: I Love Lucy: Expectations of the Sitcom Husband in the early 1950s (Part 2).” This Was Television, 11 September, 2002. https://thiswastv.com/2012/09/11/televising-masculinities-i-love-lucy-expectations-of-the-sitcom-husband-in-the-early-1950s-part-2/

“I Love Lucy: Job Switching.” YouTube, uploaded by calvin Fx, 16 January, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvYZ3gpZMpY

“I Love Lucy’s Famous Chocolate Scene.” YouTube, uploaded by History104WWU, 19 May, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI

“Peggy Bundy’s Lazy Day Coconut Bonbons (Married With Children.” Eat Out Loud, 12 February, 2017. https://eatoutloud.com/peggy-bundys-lazy-day-coconut-bonbons-married-with-children/

“Employment Rate of Women in the United States from 1990 to 2017.” Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/192396/employment-rate-of-women-in-the-us-since-1990/

“Top 10 TV Moms June Cleaver Would Hate.” Time, 18 October, 2010. http://entertainment.time.com/2010/10/19/top-10-tv-moms-june-cleaver-would-hate/

“Memorable Moms in TV and Movies.” Newsday, 13 May, 2018. https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/movies/memorable-moms-in-movies-and-tv-1.1887347

“Sofia Vergara Gets a Sexy Peggy Bundy Makeover and Asks, ‘Do You Like This Look, Ed O’Neill?’” US Magazine, 3 September, 2015. https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/sofia-vergara-gets-a-peggy-bundy-makeover-teases-ed-oneill-picture-201539/

“About.” BonBons & Martinis: The Diary of a Modern Housewife. https://bonbonsandmartinis.wordpress.com/about/

“Children Removed From Home Where SAHM Eats Bonbons And Watches TV All Day.” Sammiches and Psych Meds. https://www.sammichespsychmeds.com/children-removed-from-home-where-mother-eats-bonbons-and-watches-daytime-soaps/

“9 Things Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home-Mom.” Women’s Day, 30 January, 2012. https://www.womansday.com/relationships/family-friends/a6293/what-not-to-say-to-stay-at-home-moms/

Saviorism in Chocolate Culture

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The history of chocolate illustrates the dilemma of good intentions and the moral ambiguity of efforts by one culture — in this case that of the wealthy white Christianity-dominated West — to re-form and re-create another culture in their own image. This ambiguity shows itself in the early history of American Christian missionaries bringing their faith — faith in God, and in the sort of education and vocational training they saw as inseparable from the preaching of the gospel — to Ghana in the late 19th and early 20 century, and it shows itself throughout the history of complex cultural interactions around the cultivation of chocolate. It shows itself, too, in the current conditions of the economy of chocolate, and, maybe most poignantly, in the ideological and humanistic battles around the billion-dollar trust created by the vast chocolate wealth of the Hershey family and the extraordinary school it funds. Like chocolate, religious and moral proselytizing often comes in with a sugar coating that can’t be refused, but underneath that sweetness lies something bitter.

White Saviorism

Missionaries promise better lives for the people they preach to, while often completely devaluing and invalidating their existing cultures and lives. In the article “MISSIONARY SPOTLIGHT – Ghana’s Christian legacy” on Evangelical Times, it is claimed that Christianity has “contributed in no small way to the development of Ghanaian society and the well-being of its people.” This article claims that while part of this improvement was due to development of education and medical services, Presbyterian Basel missionaries also helped the people of Ghana by introducing cacao to the region and providing training on how to grow it. The author notes that spreading Christianity in Ghana was not always an easy task. Missionaries were sometimes not welcomed, and “faced the hostility of the priests of traditional African religion, particularly when the latter’s shrines were forsaken by Christian converts” (Dapaah). This article reflects no self-awareness of why the religious reformation of Ghana may not have delighted all, or of the possibility that the traditional religion held value to the people. It is also fascinating that, taking credit for the introduction of cacao in Ghana, Evangelical Times assumes this as a positive influence. In other contexts, the cacao industry in Ghana has been under much moral scrutiny by the Western world.

Ethical Consumption

Consumers of chocolate want to feel good about what they are buying. Chocolate is, after all, the quintessential feel-good product, often connected in buyers’ minds with cozy notions of love and warm indulgence. It is upsetting to consider that we may be causing harm in buying it, and consumers are quick to squelch their guilt by opting for choices that advertise ethical production.

Problems of ethics in chocolate production are often portrayed in the West by stressing the dismal conditions of cacao farmers’ lives, highlighting their poverty, lack of education, or abuses propagated on or by them. We depict them as people who need our help to have any quality of life or morals. Orla Ryan’s Chocolate Nations chapter Child Labor shows that people in the West greatly exaggerate and misinterpret child labor on cacao farms in Africa. It is portrayed as a moral crisis that children are forced to work, and an often-suggested solution is the boycott of any chocolate produced with child labor. However, the children and families themselves view the situation differently. While some children are trafficked or forced to work against their will, it is most common for children to work along with the rest of their family on the family cacao farm. This can be dangerous, but it is not caused by sadism on the part of the perpetrating family members— there is simply such a problem with poverty that everybody has to work to survive. For this reason, boycotting chocolate from these farms would do little good and possibly have disastrous effects by further increasing poverty. Addressing child labor from a place of classist, racist moral superiority is not what the world needs (Ryan).

In the article “Spend & Save: The Narrative of Fair Trade and White Saviorism,” Bani Amor explains that fair-trade companies often are founded by white people seeking to portray themselves as heroic “fixers” of world issues, while suggesting erroneously that the problems of capitalism can be solved through capitalism means. She believes that this “saviorism through consumerism” actually relies on rather than dismantle oppressive structures.

“Saviorism employs a time-honored colonial narrative: The sad state of the savage Other necessitates civilizing via white/Western intervention, which maintains dominion over resources that sometimes trickle down to the needy via acts of charity. In his landmark 2012 essay, ‘The White-Savior Industrial Complex,’ Teju Cole reminds us that saviorism ‘is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.’ …[I]t validates supremacy more than anything, because assuming the role of the savior is also a show of power” (Amor).

Saviorism validates supremacy— the supremacy of the white Western elite, their religion and morals, and what they have to offer. Allowing saviorism to continue is a roadblock to growing as a culture to celebrate diversity and embrace equality.

The Milton Hershey School

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Saviorism is often about race, but it is also about class. The Milton Hershey School is an example of class saviorism within the chocolate culture and industry in America. Milton S. Hershey and his wife Catherine had big dreams when they set up the utopian chocolate town of Hershey, Pennsylvania. They wanted to make a place where people were productive but also happy and well provided for. This was reflected in how Milton Hershey organized his company and town and also in the creation of what was then known as the “industrial school,” a school for orphaned boys established in the town of Hershey in 1909. The school was meant to provide opportunities for the many boys left orphaned in that time period, but also to morally shape these boys so that they would not become “shiftless and criminal men who would spawn another generation of undesirables” as was a great concern of society at the time (D’Antonio 197). In addition to Milton and Catherine’s philanthropic predilections, they found joy in inviting orphans into their lives because they themselves were unable to have children. However, there was a problem with this utopian conception. The program was designed with the purpose of shaping boys to become a certain type of upstanding, honest citizens who had to meet strict standards of behavior, performance, and character. Though the school did not require every pupil to be religious, it did teach Christian morals and expel anyone “incorrigible” or “undesirable”— boys were required to be “healthy” in every way to attend and many boys were sent away when they did not uphold these standards (D’Antonio 199).

The school is now known as the Milton Hershey School. Still funded by a trust made by Hershey, offers more than free tuition— it offers free medical and dental care and will even buy clothes for its students and house them year round if needed. It is no longer a school only for orphaned boys, and the website appeals to parents by offering extraordinary care for children at no cost. Though this may offer a wonderful opportunity for some, it imposes upon parents the idea that if they are poor, their children would be better off removed from their care and transplanted into idyllic Christian wealth with strangers. It is a problematic design to, instead of addressing poverty and education inequality in disadvantaged areas, select a few promising children to remove from their lives and reshape through privilege. Though it is illegal to discriminate against students based on health, the school website still states that children must “be free of serious behavioral problems that are likely to disrupt life in the classroom or student home life” (Admissions Considerations). Children at the Milton Hershey School are also required to attend church regularly, and the website states that “The school encourages students to learn to love God and others, to give service to their community, and to live a morally upright life. Devotions are woven into their daily routine” (Student Activities).

These moral and religious standards have led to problems in recent years at the Milton Hershey School. There have been complaints of discrimination and abuse. In a 2017 article on advocate.com, an incident is detailed in which a teenage student claims to have been forced to watch an hour-long gay conversion therapy video by his house-parents at the Milton Hershey School. The student said that he was also forced to pray with his house-parents to have God help him away from gayness, and was told stories of other gay people who had terrible things happen to them. In 2013, this student was expelled from the school following a suicidal gesture. This is an example of the great harm that can come about from imposing moral and religious values, and it also illustrates the school’s problematic readiness to expell students who displayed signs of mental illness. The school admitted that this incident occurred but denied any official involvement in the showing of the video, though conversion therapy is in line with the original vision of the founder.

“A spokeswoman for the school, Lisa Scullin, who responded to Dobson’s suit against the school by saying conversion therapy is a ‘practice the administration would never allow or condone,’ doubled down on denying official involvement in response to the revelation that conversion therapy had indeed been promoted at Hershey.

‘Unequivocally, the school does not promote or endorse any program that could be remotely characterized as gay conversion therapy,’ Scullin said. ‘Any suggestion otherwise is a gross mischaracterization of our values and the environment on our campus.'”

This was not an isolated incident. Last year, a second former student of the Milton Hershey School claimed that he was forced to watch the same video, and states that he was humiliated in front of others and made to feel “like the scum of the earth” by the incident. Human Rights Campaign states that gay conversion therapy techniques “have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades, but due to continuing discrimination and societal bias against LGBTQ people, some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy. Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.” Because these methods are so injurious, a number of states and municipalities have put laws in place to protect minors from them. It is deeply troubling that an orginization meant to protect children would in fact use their position to attempt to abusively mold them to fit a moral ideal, and these incidents reveal a need for radically increased scrutiny of any such “savior” programs for youth.

Imposition of Culture is Dehumanizing

The world’s privileged white elite often act as though by helping others they gain the right to impose their own “superior” moral values, but fail to recognize that imposition of culture is dehumanizing. This saviorism takes away people’s autonomy and inherent right to self-determination. Although nobody wants to be trapped in poverty or treated unfairly, that does not mean that the Western white Christian capitalist life is the model of supremacy. It is important to improve fairness in the chocolate industry and in education, but in this endeavor it is vital to integrate respect for those we are helping and listen to their values and needs rather than imposing our own—to work with rather than for them.

 

Works Cited

Ryan Órla. Chocolate Nations Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2011.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey Milton S. Hersheys Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Paw Prints, 2008.

Amor, Bani. “Spend & Save: The Narrative of Fair Trade and White Saviorism.” Bitch Media, http://www.bitchmedia.org/article/spend-save.

Depaah, George.”MISSIONARY SPOTLIGHT – Ghana’s Christian legacy.” Evangelical Times, https://www.evangelical-times.org/28075/missionary-spotlight-ghanas-christian-legacy/

“Milton Hershey School.” Milton Hershey School, http://www.mhskids.org/.

Fernandez, Bob. “A 2nd former Hershey School student says he was forced to watch gay conversion film” The Enquirer, http://www.philly.com/philly/business/comcast/a-2nd-former-hershey-school-student-says-he-was-forced-to-watch-gay-conversion-film-20170801.html

“The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.” Human Rights Campaign, https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy

Images

Reaching hand image from pixabay.com CC0 Creative Commons

Milton S. Hershey portrait is from wikimedia commons and is in the public domain

A Complicated History of Chocolate and Sugar in the Caribbean (and Abroad)

My Childhood Experience: 

I love chocolate and I love sugar even more. I have loved both since I was a child and will continue to love them well into my old age. The first time I tasted a Snickers chocolate bar on a small Caribbean island where almost all chocolate is imported, I was hooked- no other candy bar could compare. The Snickers bar became my cradle to grave candy bar and even today when I have one decades later, I tend to flash back to the nostalgic time when getting that chocolate (or any chocolate really) for me was a rare and expensive sugar-rush to be savored. In Barbados, the nation’s relationship with chocolate in general and sugar more specifically tends to be complicated by its history of slave labor production and British colonization (Beckles, 2017). Even in present day, conversations around the health of locals and sugar consumption are often linked back to the repercussions of this history.

Planting the sugar cane

Growing up in the Caribbean, there was no Halloween, no teachers that would give out candy to their students as rewards for good work in the classroom, no goodie bags filled with a delightful assortment at parties for me. Chocolate was a coveted treat and one that I was taught to respect as a child as something of value for having done good or been good in order to “deserve” it. While other kids would spend their lunch money on snacks, sweets, and chocolate during break, I was under strict rules not to spend money on such frivolities. Back then I was raised with the idea that chocolate and other sugary food was not money well spent and that the over consumption of sugar was a result of a still colonized mind. Although chocolate was not at the time as much of a staple as it is now, especially compared to the developed West, sugar was everywhere and in almost everything, like America and the UK. Bajans consumed large amounts of sugar regularly and have been since the mid 1600s when Britain relied on the colony for crops and began manufacturing sugar cane for their own consumption (Martin, 2018, slides 2-9).

Moreover, my mother- a professional cook and very health conscious- believed there were more potential health risks to eating chocolate and sugary treats and thought the health benefits were minimal. My grandfather had many theories on sugar’s use for the demise of the black population by the British crown.

Barbados-Slave-Code

He would say that the sugar industry used invasive propaganda and historically colonized slave mentality to keep locals pacified in order to maintain control of the island and keep its people unhealthy- like a drug. I had no idea what he meant by that back then, I was barely 7-8 years old when we would have these talks about the aftermath of sugar plantations in Barbados. Not until I was older did I reflect on these conversations and revisit them again in a class on chocolate culture.

My grandfather’s words resurfaced again when I read Sweetness and Power by Sidney Mintz. He wrote, “the upward climb of both production and consumption within the British Empire must be seen as part of an even larger general movement…We know that sugar consumption in the old sugar colonies…was part always very substantial- indeed, that slaves were given sugar, molasses, and even rum during slavery period as part of their rations” (Mintz, 1985, p. 72). When my grandfather would lecture on the perils of sugar- the cause of painful and expensive cavities, my diabetic relatives (one of which had the bottom part of her leg amputated from too my sugar in her diet), or the root of making people sluggish and less intelligent- did I start to develop a profound fear and wonder about the power of confectionaries. How could something so delicious be so dangerous? It took me many years to realize it was not just chocolate that was the primary concern for him. It was the production of sugar in Barbados by the enslavement of black people under British colonization and the exploitation of the island. The impact in which continues to have adverse risks to its citizens still.

Sugar cane harvest post card

There is a long tradition in Barbados to produce sugar in addition to an impulse to consume large amounts as well, which started with Britain’s obsession with the commodity. In fact, the turning point of British sugar production was the settlement of Barbados and thus both nations were transformed. One nation with the need to consume, the other forced to produce for consumption. Mintz aptly writes:

“England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fasted in creating a plantation system. The most important product of that system was sugar. Coffee, chocolate (cacao), nutmeg, and coconut were among the other products, but the amount of sugar produced, the numbers of its users, and the range of its uses exceeded the others; and it remained the principal product for centuries” (Mintz p. 38).

Thus, my relationship with chocolate in my formative years was neither abundant nor overindulgent and my view of sugar was entwined with stories of the colonized bodies of my ancestors. Still I was a child and I had a sweet tooth- like many others from the island-, which made my mother wearier of permitting me to have it out of fear I would become gluttonous, overweight, and doltish. With diabetes prevalent on both sides of the family there were lectures on the perils of sugar and my ultimate demise if I consumed too often. This was ingrained into my childhood. However, kids will be kids and I found ways to get chocolate whenever I could and hide it craftily. My morning tea was mostly sugar. This complicated relationship with chocolate and sugar during my childhood in the Caribbean continued into adulthood abroad.

Barbados is not like other islands in Caribbean for many reasons. First, it is a very small island, one of the smallest. Second, it is the most outside of the Caribbean strip of islands and more isolated with a population of less than 300,000 people. What it does have in common with places such as St. Lucia, Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent, and Jamaica is that they were also ensnared in European and British colonization of their bodies and land for crop production. Now while many of these islands have transformed this into strong chocolate tourism foundation that has begun to flourish in the recent decades along with traditional crops of the past, Barbados struggles to join this cash crop sector. On other islands everything from haute and terroir chocolate to cheap chocolate are being produced. They were able to embrace the agricultural aftermath of slavery to make cacao and sugar into a moneymaking industry that appeals strongly to Western conception of sophistication and acceptability. In contrast, Barbados in the aftermath as a sugar producing island, chose to set up shop as a strong island tourism base and minimize the sugar industry production along with the dark history that came with it. In addition, the island is simply too small to produce many of its own crops, cacao being one of them. This caused many confectionery and snack factories in Barbados to be purchased and moved to Trinidad and Tobago as demand grew.

Looking back, it seems ironic that I thought cheap chocolate was more of an iconic delicacy than it really was. For instance, a $1 Snickers bar in America cost ~$4 USD in Barbados so its value felt more significant. Hence, it is understandable to me now why such chocolate was considered a special treat, especially in a family that thought it a wasteful. Growing up in Barbados, I had literally never eaten chocolate made on the island or any of the surrounding islands. Some factories used our sugar but that was about it, so it seemed like chocolate was a foreign substance from far off lands.

The only exposure to “fine” chocolate I had in the Caribbean was Cadbury Chocolate, a British multinational confectionery company that dominates the island almost single-handedly. Among locals, it is either loved or hated and can oftentimes be highly political because of its connection to the UK. Many believe that Britain as a nation continues to claw its way into the island’s industry via companies such as Cadbury, thus control by the British crown continues invisibility and from afar. Cadbury Chocolate in an island once dominated by a hugely profitable sugar industry that exploited African slaves is a contentious past still being unpacked.

Cadbury can be found everywhere on the island. Although the price is significantly higher than other candy bars, locals love it and consider it more “high end”. Although in the past 5-10 years more variety and quality chocolate is coming into the island and locals are getting a real taste of what good chocolate can be. It can be more than milk chocolate and chocolate covered candy. It has been a slow process because in Barbados dark chocolate is uncommon and unpopular. That is why one of the calls to action by local Bajans (and already promoted by other surrounding islands) is taking advantage of the blooming interest by tourists to try locally made chocolate and and for locals to reclaim untold histories.

In that respect, the island is now revisiting the history of cacao and sugar and getting more involved with the booming industry. In 2010, Agapey Chocolate was founded in Barbados conveniently located at the capital of Bridgetown. It is the only chocolate company on the island and is the only bean to bar chocolate company in Barbados.

agapey-chocolate-factory

Although the company was not very well known at first, it has grown in popularity among tourist and locals are now also taking advantage of their delicacies. The company has won multiple international awards and went through the process of Fair Trade certification (Agapey 2018). They offer in-depth tours of the factory that explain how their chocolate is made and also the history of chocolate and the role of cacao and sugar in the Caribbean. It is a good example of changing attitudes towards dark chocolate and progress in using local ingredients like rum and coconut to stimulate the economy.

agapey-chocolates

An International Cultural Exploration of Chocolate and Sugar

When I journeyed across the North Atlantic Ocean and set up a new home in Somerville, Ma. I soon learned about the abundance of chocolate and its widespread availability for any and every occasion, or no occasion at all. My mind was blown. Now in this wondrous place, chocolate could be found in almost every store, market, gas station, etc. It is not rare or expensive. It can be very expensive with places like L.A Burdick’s or it can be cheap like a Snickers from CVS. With my mother back in Barbados, I had no restrictions on my chocolate or sugar intake and I swiftly sought to make up for lost time, eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. It was liberating; this was America. I ate so much candy my first months of arrival, I could not get enough. Sugar consumption was even more rampant and readily available in almost everything people consumed.

Retrospectively, Somerville turned out to be one of the best places in the U.S to get a real taste of a multicultural experience, including its cuisine, which made for a great exploration of the candied goods of other lands. There has been a long tradition of community building at the foundation of local revitalization and urban development in Somerville that took a great amount of pride in exposing neighbors to “food from back home”. For many longtime residents, organizing community-building initiatives at the neighborhood and local government level has been a strategic way to promote the city’s rich cultural diversity and mixed-income environment. It also created bridges to parts of the population that might otherwise face isolation from resources aimed to empower them to take agency in improving their own socio-economic condition, particularly immigrants and people of color. Food was used to bridge the divide.

One of the first events I attended to increase exposure to different cultures was an annual international food fair held at Somerville High School where all the food was made by students, staff, or donated by local businesses. My recollection of walking through the school’s gymnasium and sampling different foods from over 100+ countries and cultures represented was a lasting experience. My Brazilian friend took me over to a table where I had my first bon-bon, a chocolate covered wafer with more chocolate inside that is widely popular in Brazil and now internationally. Another friend showed me her homemade milky coconut cardamon treats of India. There was table after table with food that I had never tried before, a whole candy world outside of Snickers and Cadbury.

For my first Halloween, my friends who had been trained in this occasion advised me to ditch the Halloween bucket and grab an old pillowcase. A pillowcase I thought, how much candy could we possibly get? The answer to that was a lot, a pillowcase half way full equating to more than four of the buckets I was going to bring. Every holiday and special occasion involved candy and chocolate. In addition, because of Somerville’s immense international population, there was not just the typical American candy, but treats coming from all over the world. I became seasoned quickly on how, where, and when to get candy and what chocolate came from which country. Chocolate became a constant and a source of comfort as I adjusted to life in America. Chocolate was for sharing between friends, indulging with cousins, and for no occasion at all.

Not until college did I learn the meaning behind fair trade, direct trade, or bean to bar- thus my ignorance of chocolate started to unfold. As Maricel Presilla writes, “to know chocolate, you must know that the candy in the box or the chef’s creation on the plate begins with the bean, the complex genetic profile of different cacao strains” (Presilla, 2009, p. 4). So began my segway into learning about chocolate production and saying goodbye to Snickers for a bit. I wanted to know about chocolate beyond what popular culture had taught me and beyond what my childhood experiences had ingrained.

I became engrossed with learning about the history of chocolate. I went to Madrid, Spain where I drank chocolate for the first time. Discovered theobroma cacao comes from Greek and means “food of the gods”.  I learned that Spanish invaders took the word cacao and their first real knowledge of cacao came from the Maya people of the Yucatan Peninsula. They used the word chokola’j, or ‘to drink together’. (Presilla, 2009, p. 10-12) and chocolate is amount one of the bastardized words created because it was easier for Europeans to pronounce. There I saw that even from the naming of cacao that history of chocolate was written and known mostly from a western-centric point of view and that influence continues today. I needed a different more authentic understanding of chocolate and kept traveling. I visited Tlaxcala, a sovereign state in Mexico with a strong connection to its complex history with cacao. There I used a molinillo for the first time- a whisking device to make cacao frothy- and drank a cup of chocolate that I helped prepare using traditional Mexican tools like the metate.

The story of how cacao developed from a sacred drink to the industrialized food that it is today is a complex history that dates back thousands of years. The story of how sugar production exploded in the Caribbean is also connected to the history of cacao. The bodies of black and brown people were used for European gain as was the land. Today, this history can be very complicated for the generations that followed. My relationship with chocolate and sugar has evolved overtime from a child in Barbados to a teen in America, to a traveler of the world. As my own understanding of these topics continues to expand, I will continue to enjoy these goods the best I can and keep educating myself on the topic.

Work Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. (1996).  The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 28 Feb. 2018. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin, 1985. Print.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA, 2009. Print.

“On Barbados, the First Black Slave Society” via AAIHS. Here is the website link: https://www.aaihs.org/on-barbados-the-first-black-slave-society/.

http://www.agapey.com/

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-ushistory1ay/chapter/consumption-and-trade-in-the-british-atlantic/

Images (in order):

“Planting the sugar-cane” (Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library).

“Slaves Wanted” Advertisement for the Island of Barbados (Credit: Lascelles Slavery Archive)

“Sugar Plantation Barbados, Carting Sugar Canes To The Mill”  W. L. Johnson & Co. Ltd., Barbados. No. 15

Agapey Chocolate Factory Website Photos (Credit: agapey.com)

Lotte Confectionary – Creation of Chocolate based holidays in East Asian Markets

 

Lotte is a huge conglomerate based in Japan/South Korea that has easily dominated the East Asian market for mass produced chocolate (Yonhap news). They are equivalent to Hershey’s in the states and recently solidified their global standing in the chocolate market by partnering with Hershey’s to dominate the chocolate market in China (Reuters). They are not only a company that produces chocolates, but many other chocolate related products in Asia along with being a conglomerate that has ventures in hospitality, technology and e-commerce.

Initially they began their marketing of chocolate in Japan, with what is called Ghana Chocolate.

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The name was derived from the source of their chocolate manufactures, they were marketed with “extra cacao for the extra rich taste” and with an “authentic” twist, as they were sourced directly from Africa. But much like their global competitor Hershey’s, they do not follow the recent model of “fair source” or “fair trade” chocolate. Unlike many of the local chocolatiers, they are anything but transparent in how their chocolate is sourced and conceived. Because they are a huge conglomerate, and because of lack of competition through artisanal and locally sourced chocolate in Asia, they feel no pressure to publicly release their sources and the treatment of the workers of their chocolate sources.

So why is this such a big deal? We’re familiar with the idea of bigger corporations buying out and hiding such information from us. When companies hide information from us in this day and age, more and more, we instead choose to make more educated choices when it comes to our purchasing of chocolate and spreading awareness. However, to understand why Lotte feels no pressure despite the spread of awareness and information to change, we have to go back a bit to understand the backstory of Lotte Corporation and a bit of Asian culture and history.

White Day, Black Day & Pepero Day

November 11 is just another day here in America. So is March 14 and April 14th. The only real “holiday” that America associates with chocolate is Valentine’s Day (February 14th). So why is it that the chocolate markets in Asia see such a huge increase in consumption and sales of chocolate during these seemingly random days?

In East Asia, particularly China, Japan and South Korea, being a “couple” is the trendy state to be. Rather than embrace your independence, many things in East Asia are catered towards couples and pairs. So, why is this important? This is because Lotte Confectionary has monopolized this mindset and effectively marketed various “holidays” and traditions that cater to this.

Aside from Valentines Day, East Asian cultures also celebrate what has been marketed to be “White Day” (March 14th) ,“Black Day” (April 14th) and Pepero Day (November 11th). In their culture, Valentines Day isn’t just a day for couples to exchange chocolate, but it is a day for women to gift different types of chocolate to various men in their life. There are 3 different types of chocolate that are sold and catered just for this day: Friendly Chocolate, Premium Chocolate and Hand-Made Chocolate. Friendly Chocolate is chocolate given to friends of the opposite sex that you are grateful to have in your life. Premium Chocolate are for the people in your life you are very grateful for but do not fit in a Friend or Lover category (ie. family members or best friends). The “Hand-Made” chocolate are the ones you carefully craft on your own after buying all the necessary ingredients and they are to be given to one person only – the person you love or would like to start a relationship with. This is important because on White Day, March 14, the men who have received these chocolates from women are expected to reciprocate and gift them with chocolate of their own. Of course, the same rules apply. And in April 14th, the lonely people who were unable to receive any Hand-Made Chocolate are expected to gather together and eat dark colored food (Smithsonian.com). Lotte has obviously used this to their advantage to market “bitter” dark chocolate and wallow in their sorrows until next year’s Valentines/White Day. Of course, Lotte has different types of chocolate at various price points to market and cater to all these buyers.

Pepero day (November 11) is yet another chocolate related holiday in where people give their significant others and people in their life Pepero. Pepero (or Pocky, as it is more commonly known here in the states) is a thin unsalted pretzel stick dipped in various flavored chocolate and different types of nuts for extra texture and flavor. Lotte Confectionary, a subsidiary of Lotte Corporation, is credited with the creation and marketing of this easy to chocolate dipped stick. Using clever marketing and visual cues, they have successfully branded this day as Pepero Day and the purchases of pepero on these days skyrocket. The day comes from looking like a Pepero Chocolate (11/11) and is also smart marketing on Lotte’s end.

pepero.jpg

All of the chocolate that is produced my Lotte plays up on this cultural aspect of Asia where being single is considered “lonely” and “unsatisfying. As you can see in this Commercial for Ghana Chocolate, they prey on the couple aspect and the happiness that one would receive from being gifted these chocolates. Of course, it is no secret that they have their hands on non-chocolate related couple items as well.

Sex Sells – Celebrities

Now, this still doesn’t full explain why Lotte is one of the the biggest producer of chocolate related products in Asia. Yes, they’ve used their marketing tools to play up the couple oriented culture in Asia and used words like “Real Cacao” to get the unsuspecting consumer to believe that the product they are purchasing are of the highest quality.

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(It may also help that Asian Countries aren’t as stringent like the US FDA to release all their ingredient info)

But it is their usage of sexualization and celebrity endorsements when it comes to these Chocolate related products. As you have seen in the above commercial, almost all chocolate advertisements in Asia are like that. While this is also a common tactic in the US, the celebrities in Asia are idolized (they are actually called Idols) and children from the age of 8 to adults well over 25, follow and almost worship these celebrities. By using them and showing that this is their preferred brand of chocolate, the consumers do not ask questions of the source of these products, but instead buy them in bulk hoping to be more like them.

However, through clever marketing platforms and excessive usage of monetary funds (They are the 5th biggest conglomerate in Asia), they have made it that being the face of a Lotte Chocolate brand is the biggest achievement a celebrity can receive. This is why the previous faces of their brand have been celebrities like Mao Asada, Lee Hye-ri and Park Bo-gum. To understand the power of these celebrities, all three of them have been featured on Korea/Japan’s Top 100 power celebrity lists year after year.

Purchase of Guylian – Belgian Chocolatiers

Now, with all these pseudo-holidays that pop up consecutively over the months, along with the traditional holidays of Valentines Day, Christmas, Anniversaries and Birthdays, Lotte has created a market where they can offer anything from cheap go-to chocolate bars to high end European designer chocolate. Their chocolate markets continue to boom through the usage of celebrity endorsements, and ongoing advertisements for the necessity of their chocolate.

And now, with the purchase of Guylian, a high end designer chocolate maker based in Belgium, Lotte has been able to set a landmark and a path into Europe to even further their holding in the chocolate industry (Justfood.com, forbes.com). The most interesting part of this acquisition is that Guylian, on their website, claim that all their chocolate is humanely sourced from West Africa with their manufacturer guaranteeing the safety of the food (Guylian.com). Their website goes on to display their numerous awards and their guarantee of authentic and 100% cacao bean usage in all their chocolates.

Guylian is a company with origins in the art of haute-couture chocolate, with renowned chocolatiers within their starting ranks that have received certifications from famed confectionary and chocolatier schools. Through this purchase, Lotte has also been able to rebrand themselves into an even more sought after and cultured variation of chocolate. Rather than being just a consumer friendly chocolate company with “higher end” products, they have been able to include a Belgian based chocolatier that is famed and well known around Europe with their Guiness Record (Guiness) in chocolate making and patented praline chocolates.

Now, why is it that their parent company, Lotte Confectionary/Corporation, is not held to the same standard? Nowhere on Lotte’s website is there a link to the source or the location of their chocolate, nor how it is manufactured. The closest we can get to is that their chocolate is in majority sourced from West Africa (Ghana) and that they use “real cacao beans” to make their chocolates.

Why Should We Care?

Fair trade law, one that we are so familiar with in America and thanks to our class, is something that is still in its infancy in Asia (koreanherald.com). Despite Lotte being such a huge conglomerate that holds stake in almost everything you can think of (Technology, Hospitality, Food, Wine, etc.), because the Fair Trade Act isn’t a widespread knowledge and notion in Asia, ultimately the consumers do not care.

They do not check the sources of their products, they only care to purchase the “prettiest packaged products” to give to their significant others. The Fair Trade Certifications we discussed in class do not apply to the Asian Market, despite the chocolate being consumed in these areas have consistently risen (Financial Times). With Asia looking to be the next big market in chocolate that these conglomerates can get their hands on, shouldn’t Fair Trade be a priority?

However, through the usage of fancy terminology like “Real 100% Cacao” and “Chocolatiers”, Lotte manages to bypass all the Fair Trade knowledge that we have learned through class. The most important thing we should demand from this corporation is what we demand from every company these days – transparency.  Yet, because the economic and trade laws that encompass Asia are mostly focused towards fair trade within their borders, how their products are received in Asia do not really matter, it only matters how we treat our workers and crops within the continent of Asia itself.

As of right now, Lotte chocolates aren’t a major player in the United States. Other than a handful of Asian Markets that carry their brands, their reach to the United States is limited by global competitors like Hershey’s. However, with their recent joint-venture with Hershey’s in China and their merger with Guylian chocolates in Belgium, it is only a matter of time before they take over the global market, just like how they did in Asia. Because the idea of fair trade is still in its infancy in Asia, this can be a major issue to the chocolate markets and cacao farms across the world.

Because they are headquartered in South Korea and Japan, they do not feel the pressure that a lot of US companies do when it comes to Fair Trade in Chocolates. The labor laws directed at South Korean citizens state that the minimum wage to work a full time job (40 hours a week) in South Korea as of now is 15 and they may work a part time job (20 hours a week) at the age of 13 (DOL). If this is the law that they have on their own citizens, why should they really consider the dangers of child labor laws when it comes to foreign countries?

This isn’t to cast a bad light in Asian working culture, but to show the vast difference in culture and the importance of a global policy when it comes to these matters. When Lotte tries to break their way into the US market, we should be more aware of what they are offering and put the same amount of pressure on them as we are to Hershey’s and other global chocolate corporations. Because ultimately, fair trade chocolate is the best tasting chocolate we can have.

Works Cited:

“Chaebol Rankings Seesaw over 2 Decades.” Yonhap News Agency, english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2017/11/01/0200000000AEN20171101003000320.html.

Department of Labor. “Laws Governing Exploitative Child Labor.” http://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/research/southkorea_CL.pdf.

“History.” Guylian Belgian Chocolates, http://www.guylian.com/us/history/#history.

Just-food.com. “SOUTH KOREA: Lotte to Buy Chocolate Firm Guylian.(Reprint).” Just-
Food.com, 2008, pp. just-food.com, June 25, 2008.

Kim, So-Hyun. “Fair Trade Finds Feet in Korea.” Korean Herald, 10 May 2013, http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130510000757.

Kwok, Vivian Wai-yin. “Korean Confectioner Takes A Bite Of Europe.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 June 2013, http://www.forbes.com/2008/06/23/guylian-lotte-confectionery-markets-equity-cx_vk_0623markets03.html#47c47be64320.

Martin, Carla.“Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization”, Harvard University, (2018).

Martin, Carla.“Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?”, Harvard University, (2018).

Smith, K. Annabelle. “Korea’s Black Day: When Sad, Single People Get Together And Eat Black Food.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 13 Feb. 2013, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/koreas-black-day-when-sad-single-people-get-together-and-eat-black-food-16537918/?no-ist.

Soyoung, Kim. “Lotte, Hershey Launch China Candy Venture.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 29 Jan. 2007, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-lotte-hershey-china-idUSSEO22724620070129.

Terazono, Emiko. “Asian Chocolate Demand Set to Outstrip Global Growth.” Financial Times, Financial Times, 4 Oct. 2017, http://www.ft.com/content/3cb2e488-a8f8-11e7-ab55-27219df83c97.

“Valentine’s Day.(Chocolate Purchases)(Brief Article).” Journal of Property Management, vol. 71, no. 1, 2006, p. 9.

 

*thank you again for the extension on my paper regarding personal matters. I really really appreciated the extra time. Thank you!

 

WKND Chocolate

WKND Chocolate

Transparency has become one of the leading factors in consumer priority within the consumer-packaged food market over the last decade.  The “why” and “how” behind a product have become as important as the product itself, according to new research from the Nielsen Co. Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. consumers say they would switch from the food and beverage brands they currently buy to others that provide clearer, more accurate product information, Nielsen said.” (Food Business News)

The chocolate market-place has subtlety started to bloom thousands of small, artisanal companies that are focusing on specific sourcing practices to create a healthy and sustainable way of producing high quality chocolate.  Unfortunately, the big five chocolate companies still reign strong because of customer loyalty and branding but we need to expose their lack of sustainability and support the smaller, high-quality entrepreneurs in the chocolate space.  WKND Chocolate Company out of Denver, Colorado is a completely transparent bean to bar chocolate company that not only sources responsibly but empowers women in the entrepreneurial space.

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WKND was founded by Lauren Heineck in 2017 while she was living in Spain.  Lauren worked for a company called Feastly prior to starting her chocolate company.  Feastly is an online platform for chefs to create menus and host private dinners.  Through Feastly, Lauren met many great chefs and diners that were interested in innovative dining experiences and this encouraged her to follow her path to telling the stories of various socio-cultural entrepreneurs involved with her favorite food, chocolate.

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Lauren states on her website, “We all have chocolate memories — they are ingrained within us and unique to our personal experiences and relationships; much the same as the cacao bean is unique in its own tale of where it comes from, how it got to us the chocolate makers, and what fable or allegory it will live on to tell with its final owner…in chocolate form.   

Lovingly crafting future stories and moments of celebration via my favorite medium: cacao. I have infinite adoration and respect for this finite resource, and thus each taste, sniff, sip, and decadent square is riddled with sublime intention. John Muir said it best “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

In addition to making sustainable and delicious chocolate Lauren also has a podcast where she features companies (mostly women) that are moving the artisanal chocolate industry into the future by building relationships with sustainable practices at their core.  Most of the entrepreneurs started their companies because they wanted to feel good about the chocolate treats they consume on a regular basis.  One the podcasts on her website is, Episode 22:  Cocoa Innovation with Kim Wilson of Good King Snacking Cocao features Kim Wilson, Co-founder of Good King Snacking:

From Mrs. Field’s cookie-fame dreams to social corporate responsibility and on-the-ground commodity disruption, Kim Wilson has found her place in the innovative space of CPG food products utilizing cocoa beans with the new product Good King Snacking Cacao. Coming off of a 2017 Good Food Award for their ‘Harmony’ creation, Kim shares with us in this Well Tempered podcast episode her journey towards considering how to turn back the supply & value chain, and trail-blaze a new category. She is based in Seattle, Washington and travels often to meet and train her sourcing partners in Indonesia and Honduras. 

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Kim Wilson Co-founder of Good King Snacking Cacao, photo credit: Kim Wilson

Themes discussed in this episode: 
– Moving from wine sales/marketing to cocoa
– Kim’s path to understanding where cocoa farming was at the time, and where the gaps were
– Good King launched on realization ‘we have to move the supply chain back’
– How snacking cacao differs from cocoa nibs
– Roasting cocoa beans after the shell has been removed
– Why it’s difficult for many origin regions to compete in chocolate making; lack of infrastructure, burden of weather patterns unfit for production, and missing market related to population or geography (competitive quadrant from her MBA)
– Struggles of this new category; FDA processing and licensing, customers thinking cocoa beans are coffee beans
– What else can be done with cacao, where will innovation go?
– Finding affinity with cheese, the “savory version of milk chocolate”

Good King’s pieces of innovation: 

  • Move supply chain back
  • Make use for the smaller beans usually not requested by other chocolate makers
  • Target certain clones
  • Let women lead; skills/dexterity of their hands, interest in the work, taking them out of potentially harmful scenarios, planting the seed for other entrepreneurial ventures
  • Agricultural processor vs. Food processor and pioneering the groundwork for entry into the US
  • Save time, invest locally; keep more of the manufacturing elements in country without decreasing nutrients of the raw bean or using up energy sources for processing

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Lauren gives a full spectrum background on the company and its founders so that consumers know exactly who they’re supporting and why their items cost what they do.  WKND chocolate understands that innovation is not just product based.  Cultural shifts are a major way that companies can shift the weight of an industry.  If we’ve learned anything from 2017, it is that women should be empowered in every aspect of every industry as equals and they deserve every opportunity that is available to them.  Our country, like chocolate, has been controlled by wealthy and powerful white men and Lauren is helping to bring balance to this part of the chocolate world.

Every grocery store checkout has multiple shelves stocked full of candy.  More than half of those candies contain and/or are predominantly chocolate.  When I learned in class that a Hershey’s Kiss is only 11% chocolate I was curious how much chocolate was in the other candy bars.  In addition to the lack of chocolate in each candy bar there is no clear communication of where the chocolate is coming from or how it was sourced.  The advertisements built around the big five is based on luring children into eating sweets.  In “The True History of Chocolate” by Coe and Coe, there are graphics from the early 1900’s produced by Cadbury and it is a picture of a man drinking a cup of hot cocoa.  The headline reads “Cadbury’s Cocoa – Makes Strong Men Stronger” With the intention of empowering women and creating an equal market via advertising, communication and quality practices Lauren has captured a solid platform to showcase all of the great work that her peers are creating.

Works Cited

Heineck, Lauren.

http://wkndchocolate.com/about/

http://wkndchocolate.com/podcast/

Watrous, Monica.  Food Business News. 8/29/17.

https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/9834-clarity-needed-in-clean-labeling

 

 

Chocolate: Differentiation, Certification, and Confusion. The Back to Origins Wholefoods Experience

Contrary to popular belief, Marcy Norton informed us that the Spanish developed a taste for Mesoamerican chocolate and did not improve much on it, in fact, they came to love this infatuating indigenous product (C. Martin, Health, Nutrition and The Politics of food, 2018).There has been no time more significant for authenticating this historic hypothesis than now. Quality chocolate manufacturers in the US are currently proliferating in their pursuit of bringing more value, new market, and high quality to the contemporary coca-chocolate market through the back to origins chocolate differentiation movement. This movement began focusing on purity of origin, single origin, and maximizing quality throughout the supply chain from the 1980s and 1990s (C. Martin, Haute Patisserie, Artisan Chocolate, and Food Justice: the future? 2018). What started with a number of small companies that could be counted by hand, and filled a shelf or two at a niche market store like Wholefoods, are now counted in the tens of differentiated chocolate brands that occupies an entire beautifully set sectionals of the Wholefoods Market with tens of options of bars and many certifications visible atop of their high quality, differentiated, certified, and indeed, confusing packages.

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Photos by me,C.2018

This confusion might be due to the lack of knowledge of the meaning of those certifications, lack of information about Cocoa sourcing, and disconnect between the supply chain’s workers and farmers on one end and consumers on the other end. At a world distinguished by connectivity, in this particular chain, no one is connecting. My simple chocolate selection visit to Wholefoods took me through a complex analysis of this contemporary Cocoa-Chocolate market’s social and historic issues relating to differentiation, certification, and confusion. The Wholefoods Market research journey started with research, and then analysis that I conducted linking the chocolate’s origins to the future. I began to reason the philosophy motivating these companies to go back to the origins of chocolate through differentiation, certification, and what is causing consumers like me an unpleasant confusion. I chose three major brands, Theo, Divine, and Taza Chocolates. My curiosity towards these brands was triggered based on a unique characteristic distinguishing each of them, Theo’s unique manufacturing transparency, Divine’s unique Ghana based premium production, and Taza’s unique certification.

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Photos by me,C.2018

The minute I set my eyes on Theo’s chocolate bars displayed,thoughts rushed flowing in my brain, linking the packages to chocolate origins, certifications, and their impact on cocoa’s workers and farmers. On Every Theo Chocolate Bar package, and for any flavor, the “O” in the word Theo is drawn as a Cocoa pod hanging down, the way oranges would off trees’ tops. While the Orange dripping chocolate is placed on the middle body of a tree the way cocoa pods grow on a cocoa tree; being a member of the cauliflory trees (C. Martin, Sugar and Cacao, 2018). I interpreted this creative swap of forming the Cocoa Pod logo as the upper part hanging on the top of Cocoa Tree’s body, and centered with fruits as divine design, because it took me back to Mesoamerican beliefs of Theobroma cocoa tree as the tree where gods were born, and that together with other tree, fruits’ gods are born from earth as fruits; this took me straight into history and tempted me to taste the flavors(C. Martin, Mesoamerica-and-the-Food-of-the-gods, 2018). Upon seeing the mixing of the melting chocolates with peppers, fruits, and colors, my mouth was watering with positive expectation. Once I tasted the melting-with-ease-chocolate mixed with the spicy pepper, another journey to origins took me to the traveling recipes that were adopted and transferred by Europeans and North Americans in the post Colombian Era.(C. Martin, Chocolate-Expansion, 2018).

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Photo by me, C.2018

From Theo’s two major certifications the Certified Organic was the least confusing to me in an organic niche-market-store of the relatively informed customer. However, the Fair-for-Life Certification is not as recognized as the Certified organic. Researching their website literature added to my confusion as it mentions its “respect to human rights and fair working conditions” at the top of its mission statement, however it does not mention any evidence of its impact’s further details about what its reality, structure, and policy of “fair working conditions”(Fair-for-Life, 2018). This may induce a comfortable feeling within a consumers that they are contributing to the livelihoods of workers and farmers who are giving them the joy of chocolate. However, this may be an inflated, vague, and confused comfort. Citing directly from Theo’s company’s literature atop packaging covers is what even adds to it:” we pay farmers quality premiums that far exceeds fair trade premiums.” (Theo Chocolate, 2018). Despite the fact Theo chocolate mentions that 70% of its cocoa beans come from the Republic of Congo, there is no connection or information provided about workers or the Terroir of place and community that distinguishes this specific cocoa characteristics. The connect lacking between the up and down stream far ends of Theo’s consumers on one end, and workers and farmers on the other end, is not lacking when it comes to the connection Theo uniquely established between consumers and manufacturers as it provides a theochocolate.com link to its website on the back of its bar’s cover. The Theo chocolate’s website includes a scheduling of a tour to its factory in a rare display of transparency that is unconventional in the chocolate industry in general, nevertheless, these tours are not free. (Theo Chocolate, 2018). To view details about scheduling a tour of the Theo’s Chocolate Factory, please visit the following link: https://www.theochocolate.com/factory-tours/

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Photo by me,C 2018

The second brand that tempted me to research was the Divine chocolate. The Louis Vuitton-Like luxurious packaging distinguished with patterns displaying what is perhaps ancient Ghanaian Drawings and patterns depicting turtles, birds, and objects, took me back to the origins of Mesoamerican luxurious artifacts and vases used to contain liquid chocolate the way this gold-lined-packet is containing this modern version of molded chocolate reminiscent of Rio Azul’s Mayan-patterned Vessel (C. Martin, Introduction, 2018). The texture of the chocolate is supper rich, smooth, and takes longer to melt. Citing directly from Divine literature on the bar cover, there is a seal that says: “ Owned by Farmers, Made for Chocolate Lovers”( Divine chocolate, 2018)”, while the “V” in the word Divine is shaped as a heart for logo, which displays an association between love celebrations and the Divine bar in a display of commercialization. Nevertheless, what struck me in this brand is the level of contrast between its luxurious packaging and its uniqueness being located in a Ghana producing region and the lack of depiction of farmers and workers, especially working women in Ghana.

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Photos by me, C 2018

The back of the package mentions the Co-operative farmers owned coca farms in Ghana, Kuapa Kokoobusy, and the Fairtrade Certification was visible on top of the front-cover; however, nothing explains what Fairtrade Certification means. Nothing explains the way Fairtrade distributes money premiums that is supposed to go to farmers. The glamorous look of the package does not inform me as a consumer about the responsible sourcing. This is not an issue of Divine chocolate as much as it is a Fairtrade issue due to two major reasons. First, there is a lack of evidence about the impact of Fairtrade due to absence of any studies that prove it, in the Fair Trade Scandal, page 181, Ndongo S. Sylla expresses this fundamental problem at the hardcore of Fairtrade operations: “…they do not conduct baseline studies, do away with the use of reference groups and do not take into account the possible selection bias involved in participation in the FT system” ( Sylla, 2014). Second, the association of Fairtrade, Farmers, and Co-operatives, because the Cooperatives system within Fairtrade ensures that the money premium consumers pay does not go directly to farmers. Rather instead, it goes to the Co-operatives who will allocate resources based on priorities they set without taking into consideration the individual workers and farmers’ priorities who are already overburdened with the additional pay for the Fairtrade Certification(C. Martin, Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization, 2018). From my analysis, Co-operatives as an agricultural phenomenon that grew in the 19th century in the US through the “Rochadel Cooperativism”, only to expand into Latin America and other parts of the world, is not necessarily the answer to current cocoa farmers’ problems (Healy, 2001). Perhaps the Fairtrade Bureaucracy needs to empower the source of this market’s wealth, the workers, and provide the opportunity for them to share the abundant industry’s wealth by listening to their priorities. One thing Divine is associating with Fairtrade and I found confusing, and can be defined as the responsibility of Divine, is the association of quality and fair trade in the first sentence on the back of the Divine package,as it says: “the Divine chocolate is made with the finest quality Fairtrade Cocoa Beans” (Divine chocolate, 2018), however, the Fairtrade Certification does not guarantee quality (C. Martin, Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization, 2018).

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Photos by me, C 2018

The third brand I chose is Taza chocolate for three specific reasons: First, its Mesoamerican back to the Mexican-Mayan origins of chocolate and the application of differentiation and terroir. Second, its unique Taza Direct Trade Certification. Third, its unique application of the term “minimally processed” in their market positioning. From Taza Chocolate’s paper use for packaging we can sense the back to authenticity upon touching the baking-sheet-like type of paper. The unique disk shaped bar reminds us of the Cocoa Powder pressed cakes (C. Martin, iNtroduction,2018). To me it is also an artistic expression for sustainability and cradle to cradle product life cycle. The taste of their 70% Cacao Puro is dryer than other 70% chocolates, yet it is delicious and intense. The differentiation in Taza goes back to the Mesoamerican Mayan Origins in many manifestations on the small disk’s front and back, it is especially reminiscent of Rio Azul Rounded and Mayan-patterned Vessels (C. Martin, Introduction, 2018). In my perspective, citing Taza’s packaging literature, the front is manifestation of differentiation through their comprehensive phrase: “Mexican-Style Stone Ground Chocolate”, and manifestation of certification through “Organic-Direct Trade” (Taza chocolate, 2018). While the back also manifests differentiation through both the “minimally processed” and the “stone ground” simultaneously ( Taza chocolate, 2018). Taza’s manifestation of certifications comes through its certified organic and Taza Direct Trade Certification. Taza Direct Trade Certification has its pros and cons, on one hand it ensures farmers are directly paid their increased premiums, and it incentivizes quality, Nevertheless, it is distinguished by its fragile relationships, and is limited in reach, as it only represents a small amount of 200 Mt/Y from 4800 Mt/Y of Cocoa Yields.(C. Martin, Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization, 2018). The pros of the quality chocolate, real relationships, and more money to farmers are highlighted in Taza’s literature on their website, however the cons are not. (Taza Chocolate, 2018).

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Photos by me, C. 2018

In applying my own analysis, I find the Taza Chcolate emphasized phrase of “minimally processed chocolate” to be the most confusing on top of the confusion caused by the vast unknowability of Taza Direct Trade Certified. My interpretation as a health conscious consumer of the word “Processed” in food is associated with many negativities of general processed foods like preservatives, artificial coloring, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial falvors, etc. However, in the high quality certified chocolate differentiated market, the word “processed” is often associated with the process of making chocolate including all of its natural stages of processing chocolate, and to me this is a confusing employment of the concept.Perhaps it is intended to drive the niche Wholefoods health conscious consumer to perceive Taza Chcolate as different from other quality chocolate brands. Nevertheless, Taza might not necessarily be that different in quality, and in my perspective this is a point of confusion. The processing of quality chocolate is often natural, while the processed massively produced chocolate is what is usually only adding 11% chocolate to a bunch of saturated fats, sugar, milk, and other artificial ingredients and calling it chocolate, because in the US it is legal to add 11% chocolate to these ingredients and call it chocolate (Martin, C. Introduction, 2018). Moreover, that is the massively produced chocolate of the big top five managerial corporations, but this is a different topic to a different set of research that is not applicable to quality chocolate definition of “Processed chocolate”. Honesty, transparency, and explicit goal-driven intentions are more important in the long run for Taza chocolate so that it can strategically grow, prosper, and expand its market.

The word fair means allot to human beings and triggers our passions for treating others the way we like to be treated, and this should be the reality of Fairtrade Certification not just the Title. The word fair induces a good feeling for the customer that is thinking I am acting responsibly and purchasing things that would help the farmer communities in building school, eliminate child labor, abolish inequality, provide health services, and better living conditions. Consumers have no idea that there is no guarantee that the premiums go directly to the farmers in Fairtrade and rather it goes towards the cooperatives. Additionally, there are fees for certification that are very costly throughout the chain costing millions of dollars,however Fairtrade yields are selling in very low numbers(C. Martin, Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization, 2018).

I believe fair trade can enhance its message, international presence, and success through reforms to its cooperative policy that enables change in its structure in the following three main areas: 1. Reform structure to deliver money straight to farmers and works, 2. Emphasize dispatching promotion and marketing campaigns directed towards governments, corporations, manufacturers, and inform consumers and retailers to purchase certified cocoa. This insures that cocoa farmers and workers that have been enduring the costs associated with fair trade certification and committing their limited resources to it are not left alone to face their economic hardships. 3. The word fair inhibits the value of fairness that touches hearts, especially the warm hearts of chocolate lovers, therefore fair trade certification has to implement a reform strategy that would put the consumer and the worker/farmer in the central respectful place they deserve by being transparent, and by connecting the consumers and farmers together through informing consumers about farmers and workers conditions, issues, and aspirations. This strategy would eliminate the confusion that has been a chronic characteristic and a residue of the chocolate differentiation certification. Moreover, it will illuminate the truth around fair trade chocolate certification due to the international recognition of fair trade. This in turn will have a positive impact upon other certifications like Taza Direct Trade, UTZ, and Rain Forest Alliance, in terms of democratizing awareness around workers and farmers conditions, improving the workers and farmers conditions, and connecting consumers at the end market to workers and farmers at the beginning, where it all starts.

References:

Fair For Life. (2018). About Life and Fair for Life. Fair For Life. Fairforlife.org. Retrieved from http://www.fairforlife.org/pmws/indexDOM.php?client_id=fairforlife&page_id=about&lang_iso639=en

Fairtrade America. (2018). what is Fairtrade. Fair Trade America. Fairtradeamerica.org. Retrieved from http://fairtradeamerica.org/What-is-Fairtrade

Divine Chocolate. (2018). Introducing our new packaging design!, Divine Chocolate. Devinechocolate.com. Retrieved from http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/good-stuff/news/2018/3/introducing-our-new-packaging-design

Healy, Kevin. (2001). Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. (Class readings week of April 2)

Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan.2018. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 31 Jan.2018. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 07 Feb.2018. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Health, Nutrition and The Politics of food’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 11, April .2018. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Haute Patisserie, Artisan Chocolate, and Food Justice: the future?” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 25 April.2018. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 14 Feb.2018. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 04, April.2018. Class Lecture.

Sylla, S.N. (2014). The Fair Trade scandal: marketing poverty to benefit the rich. Page 181, Retrevied from https://link-springer-com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs10460-017-9803-y.pdf

Taza Chocolate. ( 2018). Direct Trade Certified. Taza Chocolate. Tazachocolate.com. Retrieved from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade

Theo Chocolate (2018). Tours at Theo. Theochocolate. Theochocolate.com. Retrieved from https://www.theochocolate.com/factory-tours/

P.S. All Images have been taken by me with the approval of the Wholefoods store Management and Prof. Martin.

A century of breaking molds: the women of (Göttle u.) Ritter Sport

“Research from Harvard University, the World Bank, McKinsey, Solidaridad and Oxfam, to name but a few, shows that adding more women to any process results in improved innovation, teamwork, profits and overall positive impact.”



Unfortunately, it seems that the people organizing the Women in Cocoa and Chocolate Forum at last month’s World Cocoa Conference held in Berlin, Germany forgot to share this tidbit of information with the folks inviting speakers to the conference. Not a single woman made the list of keynote speakers, but interestingly, one of the first presentations on sustainability was made by the CEO of the German company, Ritter Sport. IMG_20180509_212657054_LL - Edited.jpgRitter Sport Chocolate has played the capitalist game successfully for over 100 years, repeatedly ending up ahead of the curve of trends in the volatile chocolate industry, most notably now in innovations made on its cacao farm in Nicaragua. The company has been shaped by the contributions of two women, founder Clara Göttle Ritter, a businesswoman at a time when that was quite unusual, and granddaughter Marli Hoppe-Ritter whose longterm vision of environmental and social justice warrants a close look when the consequences of centuries of profit-taking threaten to take an irreversible toll on the very environment that sustains us.

The chocolate industry has always been dependent on a supply chain fraught with iniquity.  Chocolate does not carry this dubious distinction alone but does provide a rather stark example of the pattern of the global north enjoying the literal fruits of the labor of the global south, undercompensated at best, or outright coerced. While the seeds of the fruit of the cacao tree, the raw material required for the manufacture of the chocolate products that the global north enjoys, are by necessity produced in a narrow band on either side of the equator, it is the unexamined traditions of our capitalist system which has allowed the industry to perpetuate a pattern of inequities. But even Big Chocolate recognizes the need for change. “Business as usual in the cocoa sector is no longer an option,” declared the Executive Director of the ICCO, Dr. Jean-Marc Anga, at the opening of the conference in Berlin. “We have to break the mould,” he asserted. Screenshot 2018-05-09 at 11.34.58 PM - EditedBusiness as usual, as practiced by the companies that produce the vast majority of mass market chocolate products, is finally being recognized by the industry as a whole as morally untenable now that environmental and social conditions threaten the supply of cheap cacao.

The last two decades have seen a growing number of consumers and entrepreneurs demand a kind of transparency that Big Chocolate traditional has not been interested in providing. In the US, craft chocolate makers, starting with Scharffen Berger in 1996, have been (re-)introducing American chocolate consumers to the idea that chocolate does not have to be a mass-produced commodity, but rather can be an artisanal product appreciated for the qualities the origin of the beans brings to its flavor and the skill of all the craftspeople involved in its production.  At the same time, awareness of and demand for fair trade practices increased among consumers, leading many craft chocolate makers (like Taza Chocolate and more recently Goodnow Farms) to seek out direct trade relationships with growers and use those relationships not only as a source of quality beans and a marketing tool but also as a sincere attempt at making the world a better place.

But despite the growth of the craft chocolate sector and the impact individual efforts can make on individual farmers (and farming cooperatives), that impact has barely affected the system as a whole, dominated as it is by Big Chocolate. Following Hershey’s acquisition of the Scharffen Berger brand in 2005, many lamented the seeming inevitability of the “swallowing” up of craft quality and personal accountability in the world of chocolate. Mergers between companies and acquisitions of successful competitors are an inherent part of late capitalism as practiced today.  But is there another model – a model that allows for the efficiencies of scale of a large company while still retaining the personality and values of a small one? Is it possible to be a capitalist, to build a global company, and yet function in a way that prioritizes values other than quarterly profits, that isn’t “business as usual”?  

This is the question that journalist Hannes Koch asks in his 2008 expose about Marli Hoppe-Ritter in taz, 1970’s Berlin’s version of (or answer to) The Village Voice.  His answer seems to be yes, if “social capitalism” is possible, Hoppe-Ritter might be the one to lead the way.  But she is the heir, not only to the Ritter fortune, but to ideas hatched much earlier.

Today, Ritter Sport’s square bars are ubiquitous all over Germany, with estimates of market share of sales of 100 g. bars hovering just above 20%, tied for first with or a close second to Milka’s bars. Estimated by Candy Industry as making $536 million in net sales annually, Ritter registers as a mere blip in chocolate sales statistics in a world dominated by huge conglomerates but the company makes no pretensions about being a niche producer. Ritter wants to be a global player and is expanding its marketing reach. Until just a few years ago, you were most likely to find Ritter Sport bars in the US in “ethnic” grocers or vaguely gourmet corner stores. Now there is evidence of Ritter’s international growth in almost every grocery store and many pharmacies. For a glimpse into the variety that Ritter makes available in Germany, you still have to go to a specialty store here in the US, but it is clear that Ritter unapologetically makes a mass market product, distinguishing itself by creating a flavor for every taste, packaged in a rainbow of colors, and sold at an accessible price.

IMG_20180419_143256214 (1) - EditedThe panoramic array of Ritter Sport bars at Karl’s Sausage Kitchen and European Market in Peabody, Massachusetts

The founder

The Ritter company did not always aspire to mass production and global sales.  The history given on the company’s website is short and sweet, indicating that the first Ritter-made chocolates were made after Clara and Alfred Ritter married in 1912. Technically, that may have been true – or not – , but what is clear is that Clara’s experience as a business woman, and as a seller of chocolate predates their marriage.  According to historian Karin de la Roi-Frey, Clara Göttle already had over a decade of experience selling chocolate to the well-heeled spa clientele in the Swabian town of Cannstatt when she married master pastry chef, Alfred Eugen Ritter. Stuttgart-Cannstatt, like a number of other German cities, was a Schokoladenmetropole – a “chocolate metropolis” – with (at least) three solidly established chocolate factories that were founded in the mid-nineteenth century and were locally and nationally famous.  De la Roi-Frey describes Clara’s unusual apprenticeship in the grocery business (at a time when women did not generally train for a trade) and her determination to set up shop on her own, selling luxurious chocolate, luxuriously wrapped to spa-goers. The first evidence I found of Clara’s professional activities was at Marktstrasse 61 in 1910.Göttle 1910 Marktstrasse 61 - Edited At the time of their marriage, Clara was already 35, Alfred her junior by eight years. In 1912, her last name changes to “Ritter” on the listing in the address book, and in 1913 “Klara” disappears from the written record, replaced on paper by her husband’s name. Clara’s name may have disappeared but her business acumen and successful chocolate and candy shop on Marktstrasse were essential to the success of the partnership that would grow into Ritter Sport Chocolate. In 1914, another store was added, near the train station, presumably capitalizing on rested, departing spa visitors who needed gifts to bring home to their family and friends.

Sister of mystery: Another Göttle woman, Clara’s sister, Josephine, is mentioned once in de la Roi-Frey’s book, as having also taken the business-apprentice route, unusual for a woman. Josephine appears for two years (’11 and ’12) as the proprietor of a chocolate shop at the same Bahnhofstrasse address where Alfred opens the second store in 1914.  I wonder what happened to Josephine.  Who occupied the space in 1913?  Did she have to sell her business?  Did she get married and stop working?  Was she around to help out her sister during the war years?

 

De la Roi-Frey describes that with the outbreak of WWI in July of 1914, Alfred was conscripted into the army, but she neglects to note that Clara not only held down the fort at both the old and new stores while her husband was away, but also managed the care of the couple’s first (and only surviving) child, who was born the same year, when she was 37. The story goes that Alfred, after serving for two years in the army in WWI, was conscripted to work in one of the chocolate factories in the area, Stänger u. Ziller, to make the chocolate bars that were included as fortification in care packages sent to soldiers at the front. It was during what was essentially a second apprenticeship that Alfred learned to work with the chocolate that his wife’s business was based upon. So, again, I’d like to point out that Clara was the one who kept the family businesses running until the end of the war! 

The products of 3 of the 4 Stuttgart-area chocolate factories one can imagine Clara Göttle sold in her store in 1910 still exist today although they have been “swallowed” by other companies. Waldbaur Katzenzungen only recently lost the Waldbaur name, now made by Sarotti, which is a division of Stollwerck, which was in turn bought by Baronie in 2011. Stängel u. Ziller’s Eszet chocolate wafers (the  breakfast alternative ?!) are similarly made by Stollwerck/Baronie while Moser-Roth brand chocolates are now made by Storck.

 

After the war, Alfred experimented with his pastry expertise and his new chocolate skills at home, to the delight of neighborhood children and the rest, as they say, is history.  Their first product seems to have been three flavors of filled bars under the brand name “Alrika” (from Alfred Ritter, Cannstatt). Alfred and ClaraScreenshot 2018-05-06 at 12.40.34 PM - Edited were not alone in dabbling in chocolate after WWI. There was a huge boom in chocolate manufacturers in Germany in the 1920’s, with the number almost doubling from 180 to 350. The Stuttgart-Cannstatt area outdid the national average by tripling its number of chocolate manufacturers from the four established chocolate factories in Stuttgart-Cannstatt multiplied to at least twelve in 1925

Whether or not the headstart Alfred and Clara had from Clara’s experience from before the war helped them weather the hyperinflation and the depression of the late 1920’s, I don’t know, but at any rate, their business not only survived but thrived to the point of needing a bigger workspace. In 1930, they moved their factory to the small town of Waldenbuch but the big marketing inspiration that has sustained the company ever since didn’t come until 1932 when Clara supposedly realized that a square chocolate bar in a sports jacket was less likely to break.  Ritter Sportschokolade was born.

De la Roi-Frey reports that Clara and Alfred’s granddaughter, Marli, remembered her grandfather as a gourmet who relished the creative activities of developing (and eating) new products.  Her grandmother, on the other hand, lived for the business and the people who worked there. She instituted a profit-sharing program and benefits for the company’s workers in the early 1950’s. The company became “family” but her largess extended to myriad others who, both during the Nazi regime and in the post-war period did not fair as well as she.

The heir

Unlike her grandmother, Marli Hoppe-Ritter did not have to fight the social norms of her youth to sell chocolate. She was born into the selling of chocolate. Neither she nor her younger brother were particularly enthused about the prospect of entering the family business. Coming of age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, issues of social and environmental justice were closer to their hearts.  Their father, Alfred Otto is credited with getting the company over the 1970’s “merger hump” (that we have seen the other Stuttgart chocolate companies succumb to), at least partially by the introduction of the brightly colored flavor-coded packaging Ritter Sport is recognized by today.  But upon his passing in 1974, outside leadership was hired that threatened at least somewhat socially responsible mission of the company and, according to Koch’s article, that was when the sibling staged a management coup and took over control.

The circumstances of why Hoppe-Ritter made her first trip to the village of Waslala in the mountains north of Matagalpa in Nicaragua are not obvious, but thus began Ritter Sport’s 30-year attempt to source Nicaraguan chocolate equitably.  Ritter Sport is not shy about publicizing the effort of organizing the Cacaonica cooperative in Waslala and then later building a fermenting and drying station outside of Matagalpa. But it doesn’t take much to read between the PR lines and see that the project did not have either the social benefits nor the sourcing results that Hoppe-Ritter was hoping for.  In the 2008 article, Koch writes that in a year the Waslala-Matagalpa project supplied Ritter Sport with a “homeopathic dose” of cacao beans, and that 99% of Ritter Sports cacao was still bought as a bulk commodity on the world market.

In 2011, the company took another tack and bought 2500 hectares of deforested land on the Kama river in the RAAS, the other autonomous, sparsely populated, state on the eastern side of Nicaragua.  This incarnation of the company’s efforts at what they are now calling “sustainability”, direct sourcing of cacao Ritter’s own farm in Nicaragua, was featured in a presentation by current Ritter CEO, Andreas Ronken, at the conference in Berlin last week and is expected to supply around 30% of the company’s cacao needs. “Purchasing land and becoming involved in the sustainable cultivation of cocoa is the most effective way for a medium-sized company like RITTER SPORT to have maximum influence over the ecological and social conditions in cocoa cultivation.”

As described in various articles on Ritter Sport’s German-language blog, having complete control over the conditions on the farm, really is allowing them to bring some of the positive aspects of a successful capitalist enterprise to the business of sourcing cacao: they are providing stable employment to, at least, a cadre of full-time workers; they are able to control quality by training those workers; they are building infrastructure in an area that has up to now been accessible only by boat or plane; they are reforesting in a region that has been plagued by clearcutting for grazing (and possibly laundering of drug cartel money); and they are able to experiment, both with agricultural practices and processing technology, bringing efficiencies of scale and ideas of industrial safety, that heretofore were not a feature of cacao growing. The “fruitcutter” below is one such innovation, eliminating the need for hand-wielded machetes out of at least one part of cacao processing.

fruchtschneider

Interestingly, unlike on Ritter’s website where the idea of “sustainability” is linked exclusively to social and environmental responsibility, at the Berlin conference, the title of Ronken’s presentation is unabashedly “Sustainable Consumption: The Ritter Sport Model (from Nicaragua) for Improving Cocoa and Chocolate Sales”. On the website, consumers are assured that they can eat Ritter Sport chocolate bars “with a clear conscience”:Screenshot 2018-05-09 at 7.06.23 PM - Edited

But among their peers (and admittedly with the Nicaraguan press), typical concerns of the capitalist system come to the fore: it is possible to appease the “conscious consumer” while also controlling both quality and production costs.

It is easy to be cynical about the fanfare with which Ritter Sport announced this past January that the company had achieved it “100% sustainable” sourcing goals two years ahead of time, given the nebulous definition of “sustainable”, as it is easy to be cynical when connecting the dots between the language used on their consumer-oriented website and that used at an industry conference, but I think there is a core to the mission at Ritter Sport that other companies would do well to emulate.  Nicko Debenham, head of sustainability at Barry Callebaut talks about “[overcoming] the cultural problem in the company”, the problem being the need to make a commitment to “think very long-term”. Ritter Sport does not have this “cultural problem”; the ability to think long-term has been an integral part of the company’s DNA from the beginning and the two women, Clara Göttle and Marli Hoppe-Ritter have been instrumental in making this a reality.

We are all heirs to a system that was built on iniquity.  It is right and necessary that as consumers we demand transparency from the companies that sell us both our necessities and our luxuries, as it is right and necessary for us as producers to expect and demand just compensation for our labor. These responsibilities are the burden of our inheritance, and they fall most heavily on the shoulders of those of us who benefit the most from the system as it exists today. Perhaps if we bear it conscientiously, all of our children and grandchildren will be heirs to a system in which north and south are afforded equitably distributed opportunities for life, education, liberty, art, happiness . . . and chocolate.

Works referenced:

https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2018/02/05/What-is-sustainable-cocoa-under-the-Swiss-chocolate-industry-pledge#

____. Geschichte Übersicht: von 1918 bis heute. Retrieved from https://www.theobroma-cacao.de/wissen/geschichte/1918-bis-heute/

____. various articles from the German language Ritter Sport blog.  Retrieved from http://www.ritter-sport.de/blog/

de la Roi-Frey, Karin. Mutig, erfolgreich und gut: Vier schwäbische Unternehmerinnen. Mühlacker: Stieglitz Verlag 2012.

Koch, H. (2008, Feb. 22) Portrait der Ritter Sport-Chefin: Quadratisch. Practisch. Fair. Retrieved from http://www.taz.de/!5186217/

Lubow, A (2009, Nov. 21) My Chocolate Meltdown. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/opinion/22lubow.html

Shankar, D (2017, Feb. 7) Little Chocolate’s Big Moment. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-07/the-rise-of-craft-chocolate

 

Chocolate = Happiness in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

Image result for willy wonka and the chocolate factory

A scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Introduction

          On June 2, 1971, Paramount Pictures released what was to become one of the most nostalgic musical films of all time: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Mel Stuart. The film, based on the 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, is about a young boy named Charlie who wins a golden ticket to tour the Wonka Chocolate Factory in his local town with none other than Willy Wonka, the eponymous owner of the factory. What starts out as a whimsical factory tour ends up becoming the most transformative day of this life, as Charlie wins not just the lifetime supply of chocolate but the factory itself. As Wonka explains in the film “I can’t go on forever. I had to give it to a child”. He goes on to explain that an adult would want to do things his own way, whereas a pure and honest child would do it the right way (the Wonka way).

          Continue reading Chocolate = Happiness in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

Ethical Just Tastes Better

Pollard

Photo by Amano Artisan Chocolate

How do you get someone to create unbelievably delicious and exceptionally creative chocolate? In the case of Art Pollard, you tell him it can’t be done. A somewhat unlikely candidate for a future chocolatier, Pollard started his journey at Brigham Young University in Orem, Utah in the Physics Department. He and fellow physics student Clark Goble, became fast friends and business partners with their first venture in a successful software company. With their joint love of food and hard sciences, they teamed up again to co-found Amano Artisan Chocolate. When Pollard first told friends he wanted to make chocolate they were skeptical, he was determined, and the rest is history. (Pollard, n.d.) Today Amano stands as a beacon in the chocolate community for ethically produced chocolate, preserving authentic ways of chocolate production and overall just a delicious product. Pollard describes the company beginnings and a little about their everyday work life in this interview produced by Park City Television.

(TV P.C. , 2007)

One of the most unusual things about Amano is their commitment to authentic techniques using vintage chocolate machinery when crafting their product. Their winnowing machine, in particular, is quite spectacular. At the beginning, they built their own winnowing machine with their own design but quickly realized it had many flaws including a back-breaking flaw in the design and the inordinately loud noises it made while processing. Eventually, they were approached by a friend with an amazing 100-year-old winnowing machine from Spain. Although they were overwhelmed with the amount of work needed to restore the antique, they carefully brought it back to life and it now stands as one of their most prized pieces of equipment.

For a peek at the actual machine in action, take a look at these videos produced by Amano.

http://www.amanochocolate.com/articles/history-of-our-winnowing-machine/

(The History, 2014)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cohCx_ZThZM

(Roasting, 2011)

Not a single process is rushed resulting in a superior product. Pollard had this to say about their very precise conching process.

“We conche our chocolate until it is done. Various manufacturers claim that they conch their chocolate for a certain number of hours. One number that is frequently thrown around is 72 hours. In our opinion, this is like asking how long do you cook a fine sauce, roast, or turkey? Just as it takes differing amounts of times to cook items for a nice meal, it takes differing amounts of time to conche fine chocolate…  Just as it is possible to over-cook a meal, it is also possible to over- conche chocolate. Chocolate that has been over-conched will often taste flat and uninteresting because many of its flavor components have evaporated off. Rather than saying that our chocolate   has been conched a certain number of hours, we prefer to say that our chocolate has been conched until it is”just right.” (Pollard, n.d. How Long)

What qualifies chocolate as craft chocolate?

Making craft chocolate takes just the right patience. Although an official definition has not been agreed upon, it is recognized in the chocolate community that craft chocolate companies agree to meet the following standards:

  1. Chocolate must be crafted from the bean and from scratch in their own facilities.
  2. Chocolate production is small ranging between 1 metric ton and 200 metric tons per year.
  3. The company must be independent, or 75% of the company owned by craft chocolate companies or craft chocolate company employees.
  4. Traditional methods are used for production including batch roasting, winnowing, refining, and tempering and depositing chocolate (optional: sometimes outsourced) (Martin, 2018)

Using these guidelines, Amano Artisan Chocolate most certainly qualifies as a craft chocolate company.

 Fair Trade Chocolate

Pollard and Goble’s company adheres to strict guidelines for ethically produced chocolate. They are proud to be a part of a distinct group of producers who work tirelessly to make sure the labor practices of the farms they purchase from are humane. They choose to not be a part of the certified Fair Trade family and they explain in detail on their website why they feel this is better for the farmers they work with.

“Since Amano is concerned only with the highest quality cocoa beans, Amano always pays farmers and co-ops significantly more for their product that is set by the “fair trade” organizations. Unfortunately, it costs significant amounts of money (often upwards of $10,000US / year) for the farmers to become fair-trade certified in addition to it being a long drawn out process. Many farmers simply cannot afford it. The Fair-Trade certification organizations don’t have operations in many of the cocoa growing countries. We would hate to leave these country ’s farmers out in the cold just because some other organization decides not to work in their country.

At Amano, we believe in paying a premium price for premium cocoa beans. The prices we pay are measured in multiples (i.e., 3-4 times) the London Cocoa Terminal Market price. This not only ensures that we obtain the highest quality beans available but this also ensures that the farmers we work with not only can provide for their families but are encouraged to produce a high-quality product and improve their farms. We don’t pay the prices we pay to get a label on our box — we do it because it is the right thing to do.” (Are you n.d.)

favorite moment

Enjoying the Moment

Pollard’s business thrives because he cares about his product and where it comes from. His favorite chocolate moment came early in his career when they were making their third bar with some very special beans from Cuyagua Valley in Venezuela. The finished product was amazing and they were very excited about taking the finished product back to the source in Venezuela. When they arrived at the farm, they spent the day working side by side with the farmers and watched them and the tenderness they used while caring for the cacao trees. Finally, at the end of the day, they passed out a finished chocolate bar for each of the workers to enjoy. It was at this moment that a very elderly farmer approached Pollard and said, “This chocolate is like a river.” Being confused by the statement, Pollard asked him to elaborate. The gentleman continued and said, “This chocolate takes you on a journey. Its flavor takes you to all the wild and wondrous places, and it goes on and on — like a river.” This was a pivotal moment for Pollard and he realized at that moment the power their product had to move someone in a meaningful way. (Cuyagua, n.d.)

 Great Chocolate Starts with Great Cacao

The best chocolate makers know that great tasting chocolate starts at the source, the cacao beans. Amano chocolate goes to great lengths ensuring that their customers are not only receiving the best quality cacao, but they have gone a step further and joined the fight to preserve existing heirloom varieties of cacao. Global chocolate makers have been fighting against a cacao enemy named CCN-51 since 1960.

Cocobean

Photo by Amano Artisan Chocolate
(A photo of CCN-51which was responsible for the loss of an extensive number of heirloom cocoa varieties)

This new variety of cacao created by researcher Homer Castro is very seductive with its highly productive and disease-resistant qualities, but it doesn’t taste good and the chocolate made from these cacao beans is very inferior to properly crafted chocolate from traditional cacao varieties. Industrial chocolate companies have lobbied with vigor for CCN-51 to be introduced in areas such as Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, and Venezuela.

Recently Pollard was given the opportunity to speak to the Ecuadorian Congress. There he made his case with 5 reasons to stop the proliferation of CCN-51:

  1. Ecuador should fight to preserve the legendary flavor of its cocoa.
  2. The flavor of CCN-51 is simply not good.
  3. By planting CCN-51, Ecuador will be entering a bidding war with other countries who will plant the same cacao and can charge less. Instead, they should focus on their local flavor of Nacional.
  4. As CCN-51 becomes more prolific, Ecuador may lose its Nacional cacao due to cross-pollination involving CCN-51 and native varieties. This would be a significant loss of national heritage that goes back thousands of years.
  5. 5.CCN-51 faces the problem that all mono-cropping plants do of the same genetic identity; meaning that they are essentially clones. When you have plants with the exact same genetics they are extremely susceptible to extermination due to disease.

He finished his presentation by providing samples of Amano chocolate and imploring the Ecuadorian congress to please consider the ramifications. Although Pollard is unsure of the future of CCN-51, he is committed to not let this agricultural vermin contaminate his product and Amano is proud of their cacao sources in over seven different countries(Pollard, 2014)

candy

Photo by blog author

Tasting

After reading so much about Amano’s chocolate I had to try some for myself. My family joined me in a tasting party and we tried four bars (image above). The Raspberry Rose bar called to me right away from the packaging alone. It was hands down the favorite of most with bright bits of raspberry crunch and a smooth floral note to finish. Next, we tried the Mango Chili. Here we noticed the individuality of personal taste. While some enjoyed the mango and not the chili, others enjoyed the chili but not the mango. For many, it was the perfect combination of warmth and sweetness. Finally, I wanted to compare two bars identical in composition with one notable difference: the cacao bean sources. Each bar was 70% cocoa with pure cane sugar, cocoa butter, and whole vanilla beans but one bar’s cocoa beans were sourced in Madagascar and the other in the Dominican Republic. I was a little skeptical that we would taste a significant difference but I was proven wrong. It was unanimous that the bars tasted vastly different. While the Madagascar bar had a smooth, but strong berry essence, the Dominican bar had an astringency with potent citrus and slightly herbal notes. Surprisingly, our taste buds agreed with the experts.

Amano had the following to say about their award-winning Madagascar bar (gold medal at the prestigious 2011 London Academy of Chocolate awards),

“This chocolate is what first put Amano Chocolate on the map of chocolate makers. It is an untraditional cacao with strong fruity flavors that include hints of citrus and berry. When we introduced our Madagascar we followed the inspiration of the great American Chef, Alice Waters.   We wanted to be as true to the ingredients as possible.” (Madagascar, 2018)

And the Dos Rios is also no stranger to recognition; recently winning a silver at the 2016 International Chocolate Awards-Americas Round. Here is Amano’s description of their very unique Dos Rios bar:

“Since we burst on the market in 2007 many chocolate makers have copied Amano Chocolate in bringing out unique flavors of cacao beans from around the world. However, Amano has exclusive rights to these most unusual cacao beans. They taste like chocolate mixed with oranges with cinnamon and clove. When we make our Dos Rios chocolate we do not add any fruit or flavorings. All the flavors you taste come from these very special cocoa beans grown from the Dominican Republic. They are the true flavor of the beans. Our job as chocolate makers is to be as true to the beans as we can. The flavor of cocoa beans can change depending on where they are from. That’s why no two single origin bars taste exactly the same. The bean genetics, the skill of the farmer, and the care and methods of producing the chocolate all go into the final flavor of the chocolate.      Here, they all come together magically to create one of the world’s most unusual and flavorful chocolates.” (Dos Rios, 2018)

Ethical just tastes better

 In the Amano Artisan Chocolate company, Art Pollard and Clark Goble have produced more than a delicious and beautifully crafted chocolate. They have invested their hearts and souls into a product that they can be proud of. A product that is painstakingly made with techniques that preserve centuries-old chocolate crafting techniques on antique machinery that they resurrected. Their end product is a superior tasting chocolate using only the best of the best in ingredients. A product that is ethically produced with careful considerations of the cacao producers, their farms, their countries, and the future of cacao. As for me, I’ve got a new favorite chocolate company that I am excited to support. Why? Because in the end, for me, ethical just tastes better.

 

References

Are you “Fair Trade” Certified? (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2018, from http://www.amanochocolate.com/faqs/fair-trade-certified/

Cuyagua: Art’s Most Favorite Chocolate Experience. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2018, fromhttp://www.amanochocolate.com/cuyagua-favorite-moment/

Dos Rios 70% 3oz Dark Chocolate Bar. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2018, from         http://shop.amanochocolate.com/dos-rios-bar/

Eagranie. (2013, July 23). Meet the Maker: Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate. Retrieved    May 6, 2018, from http://thewelltemperedchocolatier.com/2013/07/meet-the-    maker-art-pollard-of-Amano-chocolate/

Madagascar 70% 3oz Dark Chocolate Bar. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2018, from     http://shop.amanochocolate.com/madagascar-70-3oz-dark-chocolate-bar/

Martin, C. D., PhD. (2018, April 18). Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food           justice: The future?Lecture presented in Harvard Extension School, Cambridge,     Massachusetts.

Roasting, Cooling, and Winnowing at Amano Artisan Chocolate. (2011, August 18).          Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cohCx_ZThZM Posted by DallasFood

Pollard, A. (n.d.). How Long do You Conche Your Chocolate? Retrieved May 8, 2018            from http://www.amanochocolate.com/faqs/long-conche-chocolate/

Pollard, A. (n.d.). Who Founded Amano Chocolate? Retrieved May 7, 2018, from             http://www.amanochocolate.com/who-founded-amano-chocolate/

Pollard, A. (2014, February 15). Speaking to the Ecuadorian Congress-against CCN-51.    Retrieved May 7, 2018, from http://www.amanochocolate.com/articles/speaking-  to-the-Ecuadorian-congress/#lightbox/0/

The History of Amano’s Winnowing Machine. (2014, February 19). Retrieved May 7,      2018, from http://www.amanochocolate.com/articles/history-of-our-winnowing-          machine/

TV, P. C. (2007, December 17). Amano Chocolate. Retrieved May 8, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR2hbdN0xZw

 

Sex and Chocolate

The Maya believed that the gods created human beings out the fruits of the land. (Popol Vuh) This association between fruits like cacao and creation informed a strong cultural link with fertility. It was said that mother-in-laws would give their son-in-laws cacao to help cure impotence and produce grandchildren. Cacao was often applied to medicinal purposes beyond fertility by later Aztecs and invading Europeans over the following centuries, but its first use was as a fertility rite. Gods were depicted in art exchanging cacao in order to maintain the fertility of the world that humans mirrored in marriage rituals.Cacao was an integral part of many Maya rituals, but marriage was arguably the most significant. Below, in the image borrowed from Professor Carla Martin’s in her lecture “Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods’”, we see the structure of Maya marriage negotiation. The men, namely the potential groom and the father of the potential bride, discuss the potential marriage as representatives and advisors of both parties watch on and the potential bride and bride’s mother listen in while being separated by a barrier. As the potential groom and father of the bride discuss marriage arrangements such as brideprice, cacao is exchanged ritualistically and often served as the brideprice. (Martin, “Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods’”)

Wedding

Similar practices are still used by the descents of Maya people today but instead of a cacao used as a ritualized currency, real money is used. (Brintnall 81) Aside from the shift to modern currency, the rest of the ritual and general marriage practices remain the same in these communities. Young men wishing to marry in these communities still seek a representative, meet with the young woman’s father formally to negotiate a brideprice over drinks of cacao. (Brintnall 81) Similarly, in Mixtec society, ceremonial exchanging and drinking of cacao was part of the marriage ceremony itself and often symbolized the establishment and fertility of the union.

Fertility as connected to cacao was a concept that ingrained itself deeply into Aztec culture. The Spanish reported that Moctezuma not only had a treasury of almost a billion cacao beans, but that he would take cacao every night as a source of energy and poteninence before retiring to his harem for the evening. When the Spanish colonizers first encountered cacao, they were initially confused by this alien staple of an alien world but were successful in quickly incorporating it into their diets. (Coe and Coe 111) The Benzoni, in his History of the New World, even wrote of cacao as “a drink for pigs” and refused to try it for over a year while in Mexico. When he had tried it, he said of cacao that “it satisfies and refreshed the body.” (Coe and Coe 110) Once adopted, the effect of cacao as a stimulate quickly gained infamy among the Spanish with wild claims of its effectiveness as an aphrodisiac that were by no means helped by the already established rumors of the late Moctezuma’s cacao intake.

As cacao was popularized among European colonists in Mexico, it also began to spread to Europe due to many Spanish women taking it with them back to Europe while travelling for marriage. Whether this was the start of the association between women and chocolate is unclear, but within a few centuries cacao became a product dominated by female consumption. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, gendered associations of chocolate began to emerge. (Few 2) In Santiago de Guatemala, chocolate became culturally associated with women and their disorderly behavior in public in a way that closely mirrors the complaints of the clergy in Mexico of women standing in the doorways of churches, drinking chocolate, and disrupting sermons. (Few 3) “Chocolate acted as a central vehicle of women’s ritual power, used as the basis for magical potions to cast supernatural illness, in sexual witchcraft practices, and even, at times, as a flash point for women’s disorderly behavior in public settings.” (Few 1)

The stereotype of chocolate turning women crazy is still present today. Women statistically like chocolate more than men. “Liking and craving for chocolate and related substances were surveyed in a sample of University of Pennsylvania undergraduates (n = 249) and their parents (n = 319). Chocolate was highly liked in all groups, with a stronger liking by females.”  (Rozin, Levine and Stoess) These high rates of craving chocolate are reflected in consumer reports. Today, women are still the primary consumers of chocolate and are primary purchasers of chocolate 51 weeks out of the year. The only week women are not the primary purchaser’s is the week of Valentine’s Day which traditionally sees men purchasing chocolate for women. (Martin) The strong cultural association between women and chocolate as well as female chocolate cravings have led the chocolate industry to market almost exclusively to women. (Martin) Any men who do appear in these commercials are rarely consuming chocolate. Instead, men are making the chocolate, buying the chocolate, getting in the way of chocolate, or are the victims of intense rage resulting from a lack of chocolate for the woman. Chocolate commercials being geared towards women does not prevent the commercials from being hypersexualized. In fact, many chocolate commercials are sexual in nature. Many women are depicted as nude or semi-nude. The consumption of chocolate is portrayed as orgasmic. Often enjoying chocolate is described by the commercial narrator as a “sin” or something generally “forbidden.” The sin aspect of chocolate may relate me to the way society views female sexuality than it does chocolate. It would hardly seem a savvy marketing strategy to tell a potential consumer that consuming the product results in moral judgement from God unless the purpose is invoke the erotic undertones that words like sin have taken on culturally. Our association between chocolate and sex is a marketing ploy that is recycled for other food advertisements such as the infamous Carl’s Jr. super model advertisement seen below.

maya carls jr

Using sex to sell food is by no means unique to chocolate. However, the association between sex and chocolate is so strong that companies like Durex have flipped the model of using sex to sell chocolate and used chocolate to sell sex. On its website, under the title Sex and Chocolate: The Ultimate Guide, Durex states, “Chocolate’s unique combination of taste and attraction makes it alluring to both men and women. Not only does the effects of chocolate impact our mood, energy and sexual function in remarkable ways, but it can positively impact our health. For a sinful treat you can’t resist, here are five reasons why you should indulge in chocolate this winter:” And goes on to list rather mundane but sensually worded facts about chocolate that sound like they have been pulled straight from a chocolate advertisement. Durex does not sell chocolate. Durex sells condoms and lube. The only product of Durex mentioned in the article is a passing reference to strawberry flavored lube which could be used to make the experience of eating chocolate “sweeter.” No reference to any specific chocolate product, made by Durex or otherwise, was promoted. Even though this Durex advertisement is overtly advertising chocolate while somewhat subtly selling sex, it is so similar to advertisements overtly about sex while somewhat subtly selling chocolate that chocolate and sex could be completely interchanged and no difference would be made. The Durex advertisement serves as a clear example of how interchangeable chocolate and sex are in marketing and, by extension, how interchangeable chocolate and sex are in the minds of consumers absorbing information from said advertisements, particularly women living in the Western world since they are the target of most chocolate advertisements.

The interchangeable nature of sex and chocolate is also reflected in actions and opinions of everyday people. According to a Cadbury Chocolate survey conducted in the United Kingdom, the majority of women in the UK would rather have a chocolate bar than have sex with a man. The reasoning, as one woman is reported as having given, is that “Chocolate provides guaranteed pleasure.” (Daniel) The statement that it is a matter of which source of pleasure is more reliable implies that the pleasure received from chocolate comparable to chocolate. Even if consuming chocolate is considered less pleasurable than sex, it is still close enough that the guarantee of the pleasurable chocolate is worth risking losing the chance at potentially more pleasurable sex. If chocolate was not a extremely pleasurable snack, it would be worth ignoring in lieu of a potentially superior experience like orgasm. Therefore, it can be assumed that sex and chocolate have similar degrees of associated pleasure in the minds of UK women if not equal degrees of pleasure. In short, the pleasure of chocolate is on par with the pleasure of sex. Equating sex and chocolate and presenting them in popular culture through publicity stunts and advertisements sends the message that sex and chocolate are interchangeable to the general public which feeds further into the mythos of chocolate that companies exploit in their marketing. The interchangeable nature of chocolate with sex is largely why sensual and explicitly sexual imagery is so digestible thus can be made common in advertisements without seeming strange to the viewer: Sex and chocolate go together. Where there is one, it is natural to find the other. It would be weird to watch a hypersexual yogurt commercial. The close relationship with sex is unique to chocolate. Despite common use of sexual imagery to try to sell food, sex is not nearly as prevalent in advertisements for any other food due to cultural constraints making the tactic of sexual imagery a distinct trope of chocolate advertisements. Sex sells, but it sells chocolate best since we have been associating chocolate with sex for hundreds of years. The sexualized bodies of men and women in chocolate advertisements have also swayed the way everyday people, women especially, view their sexuality and sexual prowess.

Today’s pop science culture provides seemingly endless evidence of chocolate’s sexual powers. Popular articles such as Best Foods for Better Sex , 13 Reasons Why Chocolate is Good for Your Health and Sexuality, and How Can Eating Chocolate Improve My Sex Life are easily found with a quick google search. These articles go on to discuss horoscopes and whether or not a woman should talk dirty during sex so are perhaps not the most rigorous scientific sources.

On Facebook, there are numerous active dating and semi-pornigraphic groups using chocolate euphemisms in their name. “Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl World,” with 268,000 members, and “Chocolate Gurlz Are Us,” with 76,000 members, are the most popular but have spin off groups such as “Chocolate and vanilla swirl World 2” and “Chocolate & Peanut Butter.” The relationship between these groups is not clear and multiple membership of individuals in multiple groups makes the exact number of participants hard to calculate, however it is clear from the online presence of other “chocolate and vanilla swirl” on sites like Pinterest that the use of chocolate to describe sexual relationships is quite common. (Lampley)

Sex and chocolate are married within the cultural consciousness. Chocolate has become so sexualized that even referring to an object with a chocolate euphemism sexualizes the object. This does not happen with Cool Ranch Doritos or Oreos. It is a chocolate exclusive phenomenon. Baser pleasures like consuming chocolate can be argued to be construed with sex due the pleasurable chemical compounds that chocolate shares with sex. The human brain’s reward center is quick to release dopamine whenever a sweet food item like chocolate is consumed. The stimulate theobromine is an additional kick to give the consumer pleasure in the consumption of chocolate. However, we do not have the same sexual association with the comparable food item of coffee, which is often filled with sugar and provides a caffeine induced energy boost similar to that of theobromine. Chocolate is a sex food in the minds of people all around the world due to its long standing reputation as an aphrodisiac and the aggressive marketing of the chocolate industry.

 

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