Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chocolate and Health in Harvard’s Dining Halls

Once considered a “food of the Gods” by Aztec and Mayan cultures, chocolate today is an affordable indulgence that appears in almost every establishment where food is served. Harvard’s dining halls are certainly no exception. Through an analysis of the chocolate food selection at Adams Dining Hall on May 16, 2014, it became clear that chocolate has truly grown from a food enjoyed only by elites, to one that has become ubiquitous in the American diet. However, the available  chocolate options were all very high in caloric value and were highly processed, which is a testament to how the buffet-style setup and unhealthy options available in campus dining halls can easily contribute to weight gain in college.

Harvard University Dining Services is responsible for preparing the meals for the College’s more than 6000 students. Given this large undertaking, dining halls are more focused on efficiency and low costs rather than providing haute cuisine. I personally eat all three meals in Adams Dining Hall almost everyday, as it is extremely convenient to be able to eat without stepping foot outside. For every lunch and dinner served, there are always a variety of chocolate options on the menu, available in both liquid and solid forms. On this particular evening, fudge brownies were the main dessert entree. These brownies are one of my favorite treats that HUDS makes. Upon further inspection of the posted ingredients, however, it is noted that these brownies are not particularly healthy, as sugar, trans free margarine, chocolate liquor, and chocolate chips are named as a few of the ingredients.

Fudge brownies were the main dessert entree on May 16.
Fudge brownies were the main dessert entree on May 16.

In addition to the fudge brownies, two other chocolate-flavored entrees were cookies and cream ice cream and chocolate pudding. While these two options are milk-based and lower in fat than the brownies, they are still certainly full of processed sugars. As noted in class lecture, added sugars consumed per capita have increased from 120 pounds in 1980 to 132 pounds in 2010, and the percentage of US adults who are obese was up to a whopping 35.7% in 2010. It is also noted that the pudding and cookies and cream frozen yogurt did their ingredients posted beside their labels, which can contribute to overconsumption if students are not aware of their high caloric content.

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Cookies and cream frozen yogurt and chocolate pudding were among the chocolate-flavored selections in Harvard's Dining Halls.
Cookies and cream frozen yogurt and chocolate pudding were among the chocolate-flavored selections in Harvard’s Dining Halls.

The readily available abundance of food in dining facilities can be a major cause of weight gain. The buffet-style, all-you-can-eat food service can influence poor dietary habits and encourage frequent overconsumption. While there are a large number of healthy choices in the buffet-style dining halls, including a salad bar and grilled chicken, there are also a high number of unhealthful choices such as brownies that can be eaten in large portions. Although many universities have long employed buffet-style student dining systems because of their reduced labor requirements for service, the savings incurred may ultimately be at the expense of students’ health.

Thus, while chocolate is a delicious treat, it should certainly be enjoyed in moderation in order to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid the conditions associated with unhealthy eating habits, such as obesity and diabetes. While it is helpful that HUDS includes ingredients on some of its food labels, it would be even more effective to include full nutritional information, including calories, in order to help students make healthy decisions. Must and colleagues reported that 75% of a group of university students agreed or strongly agreed that knowing the nutrient content of food is important for a healthful diet and nutritional well-being. Overall, this class has certainly made me more aware of noticing what exactly goes into my food rather than simply its flavor. In analyzing chocolate selections and food selections in general, it is important to take into account nutritional value, ingredients, and the values that went into creating the food that we eat.

Works Cited

A. Must, J. Spadano, E.H. Coakley, A.E. Field, G. Colditz, W.H. Dietz. The disease burden associated with overweight and obesity JAMA, 282 (1999), pp. 1523–1529.

Single Life of Chocolate with Multiple Uses

Throughout the semester we have looked at chocolate in ways that I have never before. Chocolate is everywhere and consumed differently all over the globe. After developing my own opinions and understandings of chocolate, I have been interested in asking those who I know. I have time to interview a friend named Jarrod Curry. He is a close friend of mine and over the years used chocolate in many different ways. In the interview I asked him about his relationship with chocolate, the role it plays in their life, and how chocolate’s significance has changed or stayed the same over time. After looking over the interview, I noted that his patterns were separated by three different segments of his life: as a child, s teenager, and an adult.

When I asked Jarrod to recall some of his most memorable experiences related to chocolate, he replied:

Jarrod Curry: I don’t have any really strong childhood memories of chocolate. I was just a regular American kid who grew up eating Hershey bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, and Milky Way. I always had an affinity for chocolate but not an obsession. I usually only received these things as a side treat to a lunch, when behaving well (which rarely was this case *as he laughed*), or during holidays. What I did like was chocolate milk. I loved waking up to my mom having cooked breakfast and watching her make the perfect chocolate milk.

Henri Nestle started his company in 1867 creating powered milk by evaporation. “Flavored milk is packed with nutrients that make it nutritionally superior to soft drinks and fruit drinks. Like all milk, flavored milk is a rich source of calcium, protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorus, riboflavin, potassium and niacin” (National Dairy Council). Chocolate milk was a more positive way to allow consumption of chocolate with some sort of nutritional value. This was how Nestle conveyed their powered milk as being a part of a good and balanced breakfast.

Later in the conversation, he explained to me that he slowly developed a love for chocolate during a trip to Europe.

Jarrod Curry: I have always loved food and cooking. After my senior year in high school, I had the opportunity to take part in a pre-college enrichment program for teens who want to explore the culture of Europe with a culinary mindset. During the trip I had got to try numerous European chocolates and I had fallen in love. Cadbury has won me over and I can never look back. I have now graduated from culinary school and can cook spicy chocolate and other misc. favorites of mine.

UK vs. US Chocolate

“To many, Hershey’s chocolate has a more bitter, less creamy taste than its British equivalent, and seems to have a grittier texture” (Emily Purser). The UK chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa solids as to where in the US only needs to contain 10%. This is only of the reasons why their chocolate is known to taste better.

Moving on from his high school experience and college interest to his personal life as an adult, we discussed how chocolate is an aphrodisiac. He loved to buy his previous partners chocolate because girls go crazy for it and it’s supposed to evoke sexual arousal.

Jarrod Curry: Simply put, it was the easiest thing to do. Showing up with the best tasting chocolates can change the mood of any person.

Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac

“The neurotransmitters serotonin and anandamide both contribute to feelings of happiness and euphoria during sex. And both are found in chocolate” (Mathew Shulman). Through his experiences we see again how a well-known stereotype is associated with chocolate. Although chocolate is a myth aphrodisiac, there is potential evidence that links sex to chocolate as it does create happiness as a chemical and as a gift.

In conclusion, the relationship that Jarrod has with chocolate at the different points in his life is closely similar to the common trends that we see with chocolate today. In the early years of his life, he enjoyed chocolate most in the form of chocolate milk. Around that time Nestle was known for promoting chocolate milk as a good breakfast option, encouraging milk consumption while catering to the sweet tooth of chocolate cravers. He then experienced chocolate with an academic lens, showing him his increased interest in what good chocolate really was. He is a firm believer that UK chocolate is better than US chocolate. Finally after reading an article written by Charles Duhigg, I came to understand why it is that these stereotypes have shaped how we use chocolate throughout our lives without us really paying attention to it. He said, “…once consumers’ shopping habits are ingrained, it’s incredibly difficult to change them.” After Jarrod admitted to using chocolate supporting the aphrodisiac stereotype, it is safe to say he isn’t the only one who repeatedly gives in to this shopping habit/stereotype of chocolate.


Work Cited:


The Influence of Class in Socially Conscious Consumption of Chocolate in African American Harvard College Students

How do advertisement, socially conscious consumption and taste interplay into the decision to buy a particular brand of chocolate? This is a question that I wanted to address using a small cohort of my Harvard African American friends, who have similar socio-economic background and an ongoing discussion on race and society. Consistently there exists a dialogue between students of color on email lists, informal dining hall meals and in the classroom about ways in which we engage the world for greater social justice. Chocolate being a material good that is imbued with a complex production legacy of labor such as child slavery  and poor compensation of farmers, even amongst fair trade agreements, is an interesting question to pose to students who seek to advance greater social and economic equality. Given the knowledge of an injustice in the production or advertisement methods, would one place social justice over taste and affordability? I argue that indeed class complicates our views of efficacy in food justice in creating a perceived barrier to change. Since chocolate is often seen as an impulse buy and not a staple good, my cohort of African American friends rationalized that their contribution to this injustice is micro at best and the onus of full social consciousness is reliant on more affluent consumers. Class I argue complicates the notion of food justice and responsible consumerism amongst college students of color.


Cadbury prides itself on their Quaker origins. But as we learned in class, their is often a relegated darker history to the procurement of cacao.
Cadbury prides itself on their Quaker origins. But as we learned in class, there is often a relegated darker history to the procurement of cacao.

 “I really enjoy milk chocolate, I know we’re supposed to like refined dark chocolate but I really go for a comfort feel when I eat an impulsive food like chocolate”

To gauge which chocolate was preferred I removed all wrapping and labeling and asked the cohort to identify which milk chocolate they preferred the most. Three out of the five participants went with the Dove Chocolate , one went with divine and the other went with Cadbury.  Before contextualizing them in the advertisement I wanted to test the preferences of the cohort’s palate, uninfluenced by the barrage of chocolate advertisement. In doing so I wanted to “de-romanticise the cocoa bean, highlighting the power dynamics behind a product frequently in the western world only in terms of pleasure” (Robertson 19). As we shall notions of pleasure are often advanced to the consumer to sell low-end luxury foods to the consumer as in the case of Dove Chocolate.[

There are many undertones at play.
There are many undertones at play.

“After seeing that ad ideally I won’t buy that brand but I’m not a big time chocolate eater so I guess if I were being truthful I would go ahead and buy it. I feel guilty after eating chocolate anyway”

The exploitation and misrepresentation of the black body as overtly sexual is a common trope of the chocolate advertisement best represented in Dove Chocolate. As depicted above we see a sculpted abdomen to match the color and hue of the chocolate with the caption “six pack abs that melts a girls heart.” It could be easily argued that the ads seeks to diversify our notions of beauty in that advertisement tends to be white dominated but this argument would be dangerously fallacious and misleading. Note what is clearly missing in the advertisement, an actual face. The face represents the personality, the human element but in this ad we are given a hyper sexualized black body that plays on extreme notions of beauty. Further complicating this advertisement is the misogynistic and heteronormative undertones of sex and its consistent link to chocolate and the black body. Noted chocolate scholar Emma Robertson writes on the gendered nature of chocolate advertisement “cocoa retained its rather wholesome connotations. Luxury assortments, in contrast, tended to carry a flavor of courtship, romance and sex” (Robertson 30). Being exposed to academic critiques of gender and its intersection with race many of the screened cohort immediately found this advertisement problematic, speaking to their highly informed awareness of social justice issues. However before prompting them if they considered revision of their initial preference I wanted to contrast a problematic representation with a more equitable one. Often in academia it is easy to default to the critique without proposing a solution.

Poised and dignified. The woman depicted in the ad wears an elegant wrapper that is versatile in its practicality as well as in its chicness.
Poised and dignified. The woman depicted in the ad wears an elegant wrapper that is versatile in its practicality as well as in its chicness.

“Wow, rarely do you see an African woman, who is a farmer dressed so well. I really appreciate what they’re doing in this advertisement”

Divine chocolate represents the more socially conscious chocolate brand, with respect to representation of Ghanaian women cocoa farmers and fairly traded chocolate.  Recently news of African women abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria have dominated the news cycle. Constantly in the west we are bombarded with images of African women in perpetual disarray with little control over their bodies, livelihood and health outcomes. In effort to nuance such a perception and provide a fair income to cocoa farmers Divine Chocolate was created to empower the female farmer. Their social conscious approach to chocolate industry is not limited solely to fair trade but rather represented in the ways they market chocolate. With dignity, poise and a sense of Ghanaian modern fashion, the Divine Chocolate brand makes a calculated risk in deviating from the established industry norms of fetishization of the black body to sell chocolate, appealing to a particular demographic. One would guess this demographic is the socially conscious consumer who makes the choice to mitigate their role in injustice and environmental harm. In a sense the consumer is paying for what is represented and accomplished rather than what is most palatable and affordable. Praising Divine Chocolate Kristy Leissle writes “Divine advertisements offer an opportunity to look beyond the exploitative market maneuvers of nation states and corporate firms, inviting viewers to see women farmers as potent actors in transnational exchanges of raw materials and luxury goods, and as beneficiaries of these exchanges” (Leissle). With both advertisements being shown I asked the cohort which chocolate brand they would choose and they unanimously went with divine chocolate, until I revealed the price points of each chocolate bar.

Inside a Whole Foods.
Inside a Whole Foods.

“I don’t know, it’s a whole dollar”

The difference in price point according to the cohort (four out of five) was enough to persuade them against from buying the more socially conscious chocolate brand. There exists amongst the cohort an idea that responsible consumerism is an ordeal sequestered for the rich. They believe obsession on the quality of food and organic foods is somewhat tied to a class based obsession on body image that cannot be obtained  by those with lesser means. Additionally on further questioning the cohort expressed that they are made to feel guilty for wanting to purchase cheaper food from their affluent peers. Julie Guthman on yuppie food writes “sometimes hegemony and resistance, one of the problems with these oppositions is they impart a good deal of subjectivity on to the organic or slow food eater while the fast food eater is treated as a mindless dupe” (Guthman). It is important to emphasize the difference in price. A Dove Chocolate 3.3 Oz bar costs on average $2.99 at a convenience store while Divine Chocolate costs on average a full dollar extra at $3.99 and could only be obtained at premium grocery vendors like Whole Foods.  The addition of Cadbury chocolate was added to control against quality perception, if the participants could identify relative grades in their quality of chocolate and to provide a default cheaper option. Indulgence in premium chocolate is a rare occurrence for the members of the cohort but indulgence, according to them, even has its limitation.

Is the notion of a socially conscious chocolate enough to persuade someone with little purchasing power to change his or her behavior even with substantial knowledge on social justice issues? From this small cohort I sought to test whether socially conscious students with the empathetic ties of race would buy into paying for more than just the chocolate. I encourage honesty from the cohort and promised the individual interviews confidentiality. A dollar and access to a premium food vendors did make a difference on deciding whether to purchase a chocolate brand that promotes problematic perception of gender and race versus a chocolate brand that seeks to correct such representations. Food justice, the idea that food can be a tool in combating oppression needs to be made accessible to everyone, not just the food yuppie. “As a growing force, food justice movements promote a strategy of food security where all people have access to adequate amounts of safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate food produced in an environmentally way and promotes human dignity” (Levkoe). Ironically, cost may be one of the biggest barriers to the global buy in of food justice.

Works Cited

Guthman, Julie. “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow”.” Counihan, Carole and Penny Van Esterik. Food and Culture a Reader. New York: Routledge, 2013. 506.

Levkoe, Charles. “Learning Democracy Through Food Justice Movements.” Counihan, Carole and Penny Van Esterik. Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow”. New York: Routledge, 2013. 509.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements .” Journal of African Cultural Studies (2012): 121-139.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire. Manchester University Press, 1999.







The White Consumer’s Burden: Whole Foods Chocolate Marketing and Commodified Benevolence

Like a movie, a clothing boutique, or an advertisement, each grocery store has a target audience. Most grocery markets will try to appeal to as many different groups of people as possible — easy, considering everyone needs to eat — but they all place certain values over others. Some look to make themselves extremely affordable, some specialize in bulk, and some boast luxury items or health foods, or in the case of Whole Foods Market, both. Established in 1980, Whole Foods has taken its place as the token health-food grocery store in the American consciousness (Whole Foods…). As natural, organic, and local foods are generally more expensive, Whole Foods’ target audience is clearly the upper-middle class, especially those with anxieties about health and food quality. The chain also boasts quirky and luxury food items, also in line with the upper-middle class target. Whole Foods Markets, however, have taken on a marketing strategy far different from most health food stores, and especially most luxury food stores. Instead of simply focusing on health or quality, the company sells an exaggerated, often empty sense of social conscience to its primarily well-off American consumers. This essay looks to explore Whole Foods’s tendency for self-righteous, often racially othering heartstring-tugging through an examination of the contents of the market’s chocolate display.

First, to get some perspective on the luxury chocolate market, I visited Cardullo’s in Harvard Square, a well-known spot for luxury and imported foods. Browsing the chocolate section, I noticed (as expected) a variety of international chocolates and candies, and also well-known luxury brands such as Chuao, Green & Black, and Lake Champlain Chocolate.



(Photos taken by me)

Each chocolate brand boasted a fancy name or a special flavor combination, but none claimed to be anything more than delicious and of high quality. Cardullo’s appears to not have any qualms about looking snooty and upscale, which might be a little easier for the little shop, being an independent luxury store in the middle of a wealthy area, that is, Harvard Square.

Whole Foods is an entirely different story. The store itself, introduced with blooming flowers and full of hand-written, hand-carried, handpicked charm, is designed so that its aesthetic lets us know “that what’s before us is bursting with freshness” (Lindstrom). Sure, any grocery store is going to want to give that kind of impression of freshness, but Whole Foods has a particularly farm-to-table feel to it, even though the market is a chain and therefore gets much of its produce the same way the other supermarkets do. Upon approaching the large, well-organized chocolate display, the difference between Cardullo’s and Whole Foods becomes strikingly clear. While the rack is punctuated by the occasional row of Chuao, Green & Black, or Lake Champlain, it’s mostly filled up with brands that boast “organic” or “fair trade” chocolate. But many of these bars also boast something else, something that seems positive but is in many ways problematic. There’s Equal Exchange chocolate, a decidedly fair-trade company, which tells the story of Ramon, “from Conacado Co-op in the Dominican”, who supposedly contributed to the making of your bar, on the wrapper. There’s Alter Eco chocolate, claiming to give you a “taste of Ecuador”, and which boasts a commitment to “foodie, farmer, and field”. There’s Theo and Newman’s Own, both of which are organic and fair trade. Whole Foods also has two different store-brand chocolate bars on the shelf, both of which sport interesting labels in an attempt to match their brand name competitors:



(Image source: first-
second –

The packaging on each bar has the official USDA organic seal, and then a strange, clearly non-official seal claiming “WHOLE TRADE GUARANTEE”. The Whole Foods brand bar sports images of a rainforest as well as a group of smiling non-white people, and the 365 bar has an odd stamp on it declaring that the chocolate within is imported from Italy. Clearly, the Whole Foods store brand bars are attempting to keep up with the socially- and environmentally-conscious campaigns of their competitors, but haven’t even done enough of what the packaging and framing claims to do to even merit more than the USDA organic official seal. Still, even though their store brand isn’t the prime example, it still contributes to the main, somewhat troubling theme of the entire display.

On the Whole Foods Market website is a list of Core Values, including “We Serve and Support Our Local and Global Communities”. The description of this value contains a description of Whole Foods’ commitment to working “towards poverty alleviation in developing-world communities where Whole Foods Market sources product” (Whole Foods…). Looking over the chocolate shelf, a large proportion of these chocolate brands advertise not only a delicious product, but one that helps someone across the globe, most notably someone working in the chocolate industry, and therefore, ostensibly, living in some kind of poverty. It’s also extremely important to note that most of the people “helped” by these chocolate brands are not white. The company seems to be making an attempt to play to what the Whole Foods CEO calls “the powerful altruistic impulse that is a key aspect of what it means to be human” (“‘Conscious….'”)

On the same page as the company’s mission statement about alleviating poverty is this image:


(Image source:

It may look like something you’ve seen before, maybe on Facebook, maybe on someone’s blog. A usually young, white person poses for a picture with a large group of generally non-white people in an African, Central American, or Southeast Asian country. This white person, like the woman above, might be wearing the traditional or popular clothing of the region. This, I argue, is Whole Foods’ consumer target. What’s problematic about this is that images like the one above, as well as much of the language used in products promoted by Whole Foods, sell well-off white Americans a sense of cultural connection, pride in personal benevolence, and exoticism which doesn’t actually exist, or at least doesn’t do what it claims to. With this, many of these products also sell a kind of racial othering that paints the “conscientious American consumer” as the guardian of the “poor, quaint inhabitants of x country”. For this reason, I call the image above a “white man’s burden image”. Compare the sentiments expressed by that photo to this cartoon, drawn during the height of Western imperialism.


(Image source: )

The cartoon is obviously extremely racist and extremely explicit, depicting two white men, one American and one English, carrying the poor, childlike and ignorant foreigners over the treacherous road of  “superstition”, “brutality”, and, more notably, “oppression”. The Whole Foods photograph in no way says any of the things this cartoon says directly, but when paired with the site’s text, it creates a strange sense of almost paternalistic benevolence on the part of the white, American Whole Foods consumer — she must be helping those traditionally-dressed Southeast Asian women, or at least “experiencing a different (and often depicted as more primitive) culture”. Consumers buying chocolate from Whole Foods are given the idea that they are doing both of these things at a distance. They operate on the notion that “It makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor’s child ten yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away”, but the impact of this ideology when used to market a product usually results in great relief for the consumer, little relief for those the product claims to help, and a strengthened racial and cultural divide between consumer and beneficiary (Singer). Two brands on the Whole Foods rack I found to be especially guilty of this marketing ploy of commodified benevolence are Madecasse and Divine.

On the one hand, I would consider Madecasse’s campaign severely problematic.



(Image source:

The company boasts unique, more open, rougher packaging, reminiscent of a burlap sack, adorned with rough designs that look hand-drawn. The words “BEAN TO BAR IN AFRICA” adorn the bottom of the package, indicating that while the chocolate is from Madagascar, the rest of the processing probably occurs in some other part of Africa. The problem with Madecasse’s marketing, as well as its connection to the marketing campaign of Whole Foods Market, lies in the mission statement that gets printed on the back of the wrapper. The one I picked up began with “We were peace corps volunteers…” and some other bars were printed with this:


(Image source: )

Who is “we”? Why, the American peace corps volunteers, of course. The brand blatantly puts the non-African entrepreneur on the high horse, claiming that their benevolence (and, by association, the consumer’s) has the power to “change the world” through a “better” bar of chocolate, both in flavor and moral value. Everything about the brand’s packaging culturally appropriates and caricatures an African aesthetic, but nothing about the brand’s mission statement alludes to any agency from any African cocoa farmers.

Another company, Divine, advertises their product with this video clip:

The problem with this video is not truly the seemingly caricatured depiction of the process: it’s the happy, everything-is-alright tone combined with the sequence of images about schools, sanitation, water, etc. While Divine does seem to do a better job than Madecasse in depicting its cocoa farmers as “real” people, this advertisement once again plays to the idea of the “benevolent white folk”, in that it’s implied that the white people eating the chocolate at the beginning are helping the black African people throughout the video to obtain improvements in schools, sanitation, etc. Not only that, but this tone of happy helpfulness turns images of what should seem inadequate and appalling (hand pumps, one-room schoolhouses) into a quaint sign of improvement, that no matter what the situation looks like now, it’s better than it would have been without the consumer.

On a lighter note, here’s a good example of a video by Africans (whose country of origin is unknown) responding, not to the Divine video itself, but to the  to the same type of cultural simplification taking place there:

While Whole Foods does appear to have organizations in place to actually help “alleviate poverty” and assist struggling communities, the company’s use of this as a primary marketing ploy leads to less-than-earned relief and benevolent pride in upper-middle class American consumers and a widened gap between those consumers and the human beings they believe they are so kindly helping. Although Divine chocolate (and Whole Foods itself) would like you to believe you can, you can never really use a chocolate purchase to “indulge in a cause”.

Works Cited

“‘Conscious Capitalism’: Q & A With Whole Foods CEO John Mackey”. Int. Esha Chhabra. Forbes. 3 Jan 2013. Web. Accessed 6 May 2014. <

“Divine Story”. Divine Chocolate. 2011. Web. Accessed 7 May 2014. <>

Lindstrom, Martin. “How Whole Foods ‘Primes’ You To Shop”. Fast Company. 15 September 2011. Web. Accessed 8 May 2014.

“Our Story”. Madecasse. 2014. Web. Accessed 6 May 2014. <>

Singer, Peter. “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”. Philosophy and Public Affairs. 1972. Web. Accessed 8 May 2014. <—-.htm&gt;

Whole Foods Market Website. Whole Foods Market IP. L.P., 2014. Web. 5 May 2014.


A Socially Conscious Consumer


During class lectures and discussions we explored the responsibility of chocolate companies to actively fight against unethical labor practices that have become commonplace in the chocolate industry. The general sentiment of our class was one of shock in light of how chocolate companies have consistently failed to take appropriate action against the likes of child labor and slavery used to harvest the raw cacao which is eventually made into chocolate. Take for example, the Harkin-Engel Protocol, an agreement signed by international chocolate companies in 2001 to fight the worse forms of child labor. 10 years later, after extending the commitment three times, it is unclear whether the protocol reduced child labor in cocoa production. It seems surprising that chocolate companies could do so little when each of my classmates, as I would imagine any chocolate consumer, seemed disgusted by corrupt practices within the industry. My paper is motivated by how ethical concerns motivate consumer purchasing habits, if at all. These ethical concerns extend to the environmental impacts of chocolate manufacturing that the organic movement addresses. Can we really put all the blame on chocolate industry giants when consumers are unwilling to fight against the problem with their wallets? The documentary, “The Dark Side of Chocolate” concludes with the film maker biting into bar of chocolate with a troubled look on his face, having just revealed that child trafficking and similar atrocities went into producing the bar. How can one expect chocolate companies to take action when its consumers are funding the exploitation?

The Survey

I decided to survey friends about their attitudes on chocolate preferences. I wanted to see if they practiced “conscious reflexivity,” or the basing of personal food choices on their perceived consequences (Guthman). Guthman applies this idea to supporters of the organic food movement but it can be extended to that of fair trade. I was also curious to see if supporters of these socially conscious foods, as well as gluten-free and vegan foods have, as Guthman might describe, “[conflated] aesthetic reflexivity with political reflexivity,” favoring them in part because of a perceived trendiness over “industrialized” foods. The experiment was split into two parts, a chocolate tasting and a post-tasting survey. In all, 12 people participated in this survey.

The Chocolate

The purpose of the tasting was to allow participants to sample fair-trade, organic alongside non-organic non fair-trade chocolate. This way, both bars would seem familiar and allow for participants to isolate opinions on organic and fair trade food without respect to flavor. If participants were only exposed to organic fair-trade chocolate, they could have based their decisions off of false expectations of non-organic, non-fair trade chocolate, or vice-versa. Both samples were purchased at Trader Joe’s. They are both dark chocolate, comprising of 72% cacao content. The bars were intentionally similar to encourage participants to focus on the organic and fair-trade properties of the bar.

The two chocolate bars, side-by-side
The two chocolate bars, side-by-side

One is advertised as a Belgian Dark Chocolate Bar while he other is advertised as a Swiss Dark Chocolate Bar. The Belgian Dark Chocolate Bar has the USDA Organic certification and the Quality Assurance Certified Organic certification on the front. Although it does not have a fair trade certification on the front, the back has text describes the purpose of fair trade chocolate and asserts that this bar offers “high quality Belgian chocolate, as well as the confidence of knowing the ingredients were purchased in a socially responsible manner.” It is unclear why this bar lacks an official Fair Trade USA certification, which necessitates certified organizations to adhere to ethical practices including prompt and fair wages for farmers, no exploited labor and safe working conditions. For the purposes of this experiment, I chose to believe in Trader Joe’s promise that the cacao that went into this bar at least offered “small-scale growers a fair price for their harvest.” It’s also notable that the front of the non-fair trade, non-organic bar advertises itself as gluten-free and vegan. Interestingly enough, this bar costs $2.29 while the fair trade organic one costs $1.99.

The Fair Trade Logos the Belgium Bar is missing


Before having participants taste the bar I asked which bar they would purchase had they seen them side by side at whole foods. This choice should be based solely on an examination of the front and back of the bar. The purpose of this question was to see how influential marketing techniques, such as design and display of certifications were in consumer choice. The consumers were also made aware of the price of the bars.

9 participants chose the Belgium Bar (organic, fair-trade), while the other 3 chose the Swiss Bar. Participants commented mostly on the design of the chocolate bar. Some enjoyed the simplistic design of the Swiss Bar while others thought the decoraive elements on the Belgium bar was more “eye catching.” 12 out of 12 claimed that the design of the bar influenced their choice. 8 out of 12 said they were influenced by the price of the bar. 6 out of 12 said they were influenced by the organic certification labels. One participant claimed, “USDA organic makes me feel better about myself.” 2 were influenced by the fair trade text on the back. 1 was influenced by the nutritional information (the Belgium Bar has 10 fewer calories).

This side-by-side evaluation neglects some other important factors that may influence shoppers decision to buy organic, fair trade in a shopping scenario. These variables include shelf layout factors, price level, price promotions, and consumer demographic. A study even differentiates the purchasing tendencies between buyers or organic vs buyers of fair trade products (Herpen, Nierop, Sloot). For example, the number of facings, or the strategy of pulling all the products to the front of the shelf, is positively correlated with purchasing fair trade products but not organic products. Price difference with the leading brand is also influential for fair trade brands but not organic brands. Even something as nuanced as placement at eye level and clustering of items benefits both types of products. These sustainable products also sell better in areas with an older customer base and one with a higher education level.

It’s surprising how marketing tactics can influence buyers who strive make socially conscious buying decisions.

The Tasting

I offered participants both samples of chocolate, but did not state which one they were tasting. Participants preferred the Swiss Bar over the Belgium one, 8 to 4. They described the Swiss Bar as “ sweet, smooth, velvety, and creamy,” with a “better consistency” compared to the Belgium bar. The Belgium bar was described as “fruity and flowery” with a good combination of bitter and sweet. It was described as not overly sweet. Participants agreed that the Swiss Bar was definitely creamier, and more similar to a milk chocolate while the Begium Bar was “definitely a dark chocolate”.

When asked if they could identify which was the organic, fair trade chocolate, all the participants claimed that the taste of the bar gave no indication. Participants noted that while both bars had a distinct flavor, neither could be discerned as organic nor fair trade. By putting tastes of the bars on equal footing, participants could base their survey answers on only the organic and fair trade aspects of the bar.


I asked participants how much more they would be wiling to pay for their favorite bar if they knew it was fair trade. Their answers are below. The x-axis represents cents more, and the y-axis is relative frequency.

How much more are participants willing to pay for a fair-trade chocolate bar
How much more are participants willing to pay for a fair-trade chocolate bar

Similarly, I asked participants how much more they would be willing to pay for their favorite bar if they knew it was organic. Their answers are below. The x-axis represents cents more, and the y-axis is relative frequency.

How much more are participants willing to pay for and organic chocolate bar
How much more are participants willing to pay for and organic chocolate bar

Participants described that while they may be willing to pay more for organic or fair trade chocolate, other considerations may take precedence. For example, if a participant knows they he or she particularly likes some brand of chocolate, they will be more likely to buy that brand, regardless of fair trade or organic status. Unsurprisingly, some participants commented that their current financial situation would also have an impact on how likely they would be to pay extra. A study reveals the trend that while consumers who actively consume fair trade are likely to remain loyal during an economic recession, those who only occasionally buy fair trade will decrease their purchases of fair products and become “significantly more price aware” (Bondy, Tierney, and Vishal Talwar).

None of the participants of my study identified as regular consumers of fair trade or organic products. In fact, when asked, only 3 of the 12 were certain what fair trade even meant. Common responses ranged from “I don’t know what it means, but it sounds good,” to “I have a vague idea.” All participants were somewhat familiar with the guarantees of organic food, citing pesticide-free and artificial fertilizer free growing methods. However, some cited that organic foods were “more whole,” or “healthier”. In response, I decided to show participants two short clips that outlined the goals of fair trade and organic, shown below.

Video outlining goals of Fair Trade products

Video outlining goals of Organic products

After the participants watched the video, I asked them again how much they would be willing to pay for fair trade and organic foods. As shown below, many decided that they would be willing to pay more now that they knew the goals of fair trade. None of the participants were willing to pay more than they originally stated for organic. This suggests that educating consumers on what it means to be a fair trade product is important for them to make an informed decision. Participants were willing to be more consciously reflexive, but did not realize the unfair practices that went into making a chocolate bar.


Post-video, how much more participants are wiling to pay for fair trade chocolate
Post-video, how much more participants are wiling to pay for fair trade chocolate

Finally, I asked participants to comment on the Vegan and Gluten-free labels on the Swiss Bar. Most were surprised because they didn’t expect that dark chocolate would have either gluten or non-vegan products. Most participants also believed that gluten-free and vegan foods were “healthier.” In fact, it’s this false conviction that gluten-free products are “healthier” that is a top motivation for buying these products, leading to a 12% increase in gluten-free products from 2011 to 2012 (Watson). The participants were correct in stating that dark chocolate lacks both gluten and animal product. The labels on the bar are part of a trend of promoting gluten-free organic foods to draw in customers that are concerned with being healthy.

Although the sample size for my study was small, and not reflective of the entire chocolate eating population, it did reveal two important points. Firstly, while consumers were willing to pay more for fair trade and organic chocolate, they were much more likely to put other influences before the social good the products offer. While it is easy for people to point fingers at the giant chocolate companies for exploiting labor, we must first be willing to prioritize fair labor practices as consumers. Secondly, many participants seemed to lack an understanding of what fair trade meant. It is vital that consumers become informed on the goals of fair trade so that they can use their purchasing power for good. While chocolate may be more accessible today compared to hundreds of years ago, it can still be considered a luxury good. Consumer awareness is crucial with every purchase in order that the consumption of a luxury good does not infringe on another person’s basic human rights.

Bondy, Tierney, and Vishal Talwar. “Through Thick and Thin: How Fair Trade Consumers Have Reacted to the Global Economic Recession.” Journal of Business Ethics 101.3 (2011): 365-83. Print.

Guthman, Julie. Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Herpen, Erica, Erjen Nierop, and Laurens Sloot. “The Relationship between In-store Marketing and Observed Sales for Organic versus Fair Trade Products.” Marketing Letters 23.1 (2012): 293-308. Print.

Watson, Elaine. “Gluten-free Myth Busting: There Is No Biomarker for Gluten Sensitivity, Says Researcher.” Food Navigator USA. N.p., 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 07 May 2014.

Hot Chocolate From the Maya to the French

On Monday May 5th, I hosted a Hot Chocolate tasting party for the purpose of exposing my friends to a little bit of the history of chocolate by tasting recipes inspired by various cultures and social classes. It was attended by six of my friends, and I truly feel it was a wild success. I prepared the recipes before my friends arrived and told them nothing about the different chocolates we were tasting until after they had each tried all of the recipes and made observations and comments. I wanted to get honest feedback without worry of bias, so it was not until after the tasting had ended that I discussed with them where each of the recipes had come from and what the ingredients were.

The four recipes I chose to use included ingredients that were reminiscent of (or directly derived from) traditional Mayan, Mexican, Spanish, and French variations on hot chocolate. One of the first things that I noticed about putting together this chocolate tasting is that it was not going to be cheap, and not all the ingredients I was looking for would be very easy to find.   Below is a picture of all the ingredients I collected for the tasting, among which were various milk products (Whole milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, almond milk, and heavy whipping cream), various chocolate products (Taza Mexican dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate bits, milk chocolate, other dark chocolates, and unsweetened cocoa powder), various dry ingredients (white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, corn flower, and corn starch), and so many spices!

Hot Chocolate Ingrediants[1]

The most difficult things to find were the various spices that I was unaccustomed to having around the house. I visited three separate grocery stores before I found the anise stars I needed for Champurrado[2], a very traditional Mexican chocolate drink that shares many ingredients in common with the probable way in which Mayan’s prepared chocolate such as dried and ground corn, or “maize”[3]. The other ingredient that caused me great dismay was dried lavender, for my French inspired Lavender Perfumed[4] Hot Chocolate. I wasn’t able to find dried lavender at any of the grocers I went to. I picked up a few other, less French, dried flowers, such as chamomile and hibiscus, and was nearly ready to give up on the lavender when just the right amount practically dropped into my lap! Luckily, I was given a bit of dried lavender as part of a gift just the day before the tasting. I still don’t know where it can be bought!

When my guests arrived, I was just finishing heating the four chocolate recipes. I gave them each a teacup (I love tea cups and have quite the collection)

Hot Chocolate Cup[5]

and a piece of paper, and told them that for each hot chocolate I gave them I wanted them to write down observations about the chocolate’s smell, appearance, taste, and texture, as well as any other comments or reactions. I asked them to also list any ingredients they might guess were included in each recipe and then rate the hot chocolate on a scale from one to ten, where one is comparable to the worst cup of hot chocolate they had ever tasted and ten was comparable to the best cup of hot chocolate they had ever had.

We began the tasting with out Mayan inspired hot chocolate, the Champurrado.   The chocolate I used for the Champurrado was Taza 70% dark chocolate, and the recipe I followed is identical to that shown here:


Although this is technically a Mexican hot chocolate, it shares many similarities with Mayan chocolate beverages. It is served warm and whipped so as to froth the top, corn flour is added for thickness and texture, and it is made with similar spices to those the Mayans would have used. My guests described the smell of the Champurrado as nutty and “cinnamon”.   They noted that the pale, flecked appearance was not one that they were used to in hot chocolate. I was surprised that many of my guests said that although it had a grainy texture it was grainy in a smooth way. That was interesting to me because I found the texture too grainy to be enjoyable. My guests had a mixed reaction to the Champurrado, one rating it as low as a four another as high as a seven out of ten. When trying to identify why the texture was grainier than is typical for hot chocolate here in the US, my guests guessed malt, oats, or cornmeal. In the end, I revealed to them that corn flour was the culprit.

From Mayan inspired hot chocolate, we moved on to Mexican inspired hot chocolate (between tasting rounds I had my guests rinse their cups and sip spa water to help cleanse their pallet). The Mexican hot chocolate was made with semi-sweet chocolate, evaporated milk (and a half can of condensed milk), vanilla, cinnamon, a few cloves and a pinch of cayenne pepper.   I, personally, do not tend to like spicy things, so I anticipated that I would not like this hot chocolate due to the presence of the cayenne pepper, but I wanted to use a recipe that included pepper because of the wide varieties of peppers that grow in Mexico. Before the Spanish settlers came, Aztecs were using peppers in their chocolate beverages[7], and with the melding of the two cultures into what is today Mexico came the preservation and continued evolution of a chocolate beverage seasoned with peppers.

The Mexican hot Chocolate was an over all hit with my guests. There was one guest who rated it as a four but other than that it scored mostly in the eight to ten range. Several of my guests identified the color of tis hot chocolate as a reddish brown, and many of them noted that the smell was a bit spicy. It turned out thicker than I was anticipating and some of my guests liked this while others did not. One guest compared it to a “chocolate smoothie” because it was so thick.   Thick, velvety, viscous, and smooth were all common adjectives used by my guests to describe the texture of this chocolate. Most of my guests agreed that the taste was very chocolaty with just a bit of a spicy aftertaste. I found that it was not so spicy that I disliked it. In fact, the small hint of spice seemed to enhance the chocolate flavor, and the slight kick at the end was a nice surprise. One of my guests did correctly guess that it was cayenne pepper that was causing the spicy aftertaste.

After cleansing our pallets a second time, I served the Spanish inspired hot chocolate. The recipe for Spanish was very simple: dark chocolate, almond milk, cornstarch (for thickening the hot chocolate), and a dash of salt. As I was following the recipe, I was fondly remembering the time I spent visiting my family in Spain and the churros con chocolate I had for breakfast nearly every morning. The chocolate I remember was so thick and bitter; it seemed like it had been mostly just melted chocolate with possibly a little bit of milk. I was hoping that the hot chocolate I made would be similar to the one I remember drinking in Spain, but it did not thicken as much as I wanted it to.

I decided to use the recipe that I found that called for almond milk because I have seen other traditionally Spanish recipes for hot chocolate that call for almonds[8], and I have a strong association with almonds and Spanish desserts just from my own cultural upbringing. Although it was not as thick as the Mexican hot chocolate, and not as thick as I intended, the flavor matched quite well what I remember of the chocolate beverage I had in Spain many years ago. My guests described the flavor as nutty and bitter, and one even reported that it smelled faintly of coffee. Many of my guests described the texture as very smooth and one guessed that there might have been a thickener added, but her conjecture that tapioca was to blame was incorrect. Over all, the Spanish hot chocolate, despite its bitterness, was only slightly less well received by my friends than the Mexican hot chocolate.

The fourth and final hot chocolate that my party and I tasted was a French inspired hot chocolate. This hot chocolate was made with a combination of dried lavender steeped in hot milk, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, heavy whipping cream, a hint of vanilla and a dash of salt. Lavender, as a flower that grows well in France, may have been one of the dried flowers used by the elite in perfumed chocolate beverages in the early days of popularization of chocolate in Europe. The French elite preferred perfumed hot chocolate[9] over hot chocolate made with corn or peppers, but it turns out this is related to the fact that the Mesoamerican traditions were that chocolate made with maize was for commoners and chocolate made with dried flowers was for special occasions.   Europeans unwittingly absorbed Mesoamerican chocolate/value associations. [10]

The presence of lavender in this hot chocolate was a confusing ingredient for my guests. One guest commented that this hot chocolate smelled like gasoline and gave it an over all rating of four out of ten. Another guest said that this hot chocolate smelled like cocoa puffs and had “too candied” of a taste for her liking. The rest of the guests, however, seemed to really like this last hot chocolate. There were many comments making note that there was something “different” about the smell or taste but that it was good, though unfamiliar. One guest gave this hot chocolate a ten out of ten! There was even one guest who correctly identified the smell and taste of lavender.

hot chocolate best[11]

After all the chocolates had been tasted, I revealed to my guests where the inspiration for each beverage came from and some of the unique ingredients of each. One of my friends commented that that she felt as though she were attending a wine tasting. We spoke briefly about the difficulty of finding single origin chocolate in today’s market[12], even though the appreciation for such chocolate seems to be growing. I share with my friends the journey of hot chocolate chronologically from the first hot chocolate we tasted to the last, but explained how, although each recipe was different, they all fundamentally came from the same tradition.

In the end, I was very pleased with just how different each of the hot chocolates tasted. I wasn’t expecting such a broad range as the one my guests and I tasted. We had a blast together, and I certainly hope my friends learned a little something new about chocolate beverages and the cultures/social classes in which it is consumed. I now have a great curiosity for other hot chocolate recipes and am sure to enjoy exploring many new recipes with some of my dearest friends.

Hot Chocolate Party[13]


[1] Rodriguez, Christina: Photograph, 5/5/14.

[2] Presilla, Maricel E. “The New Taste of Chocolate.” Ten Speed Press. New York, 2009. recipes p. 198.

[3] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “The True History of Chocolate.” Thames & Hudson Ltd. London, 2013. Third Edition. p. 59.

[4] Coe p. 161.

[5] Rodriguez, 5/5/14.

[6]”Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate)” Youtube. Dec. 10, 2012.

[7] Coe p. 86.

[8] Coe p. 133.

[9] Coe p. 161.

[10] Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” Oxford Journals. Jan. 17, 2014. p. 686.

[11] Rodriguez, 5/5/14.

[12] Nesto, Bill. “ Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Winter 2010), p. 134.

[13] Rodriguez, 5/5/14

Dark chocolate and its consumer

In the world today, every individual has different preferences, favourites and likes. In chocolate, this can be the choice of either milk or dark, expensive or cheap, fair-trade or big-5 company etc. These differences are partly due to the specific taste of the person, but also the influence of society and the economy.

In order to understand this concept better I decided to run an experiment. This is how it was conducted:

1) I gathered 4 different chocolates with differing cocoa contents (pictured below). The 4 samples were:
– 45% Hershey’s Special Dark
– 60% Ghirardelli Squares
– 70% Lindt Dark Chocolate
– 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate

I chose these chocolates as they include three common brands that the tasters are familiar with. They are available at almost any convenience store and are recognisable. This was important to me, as I wanted to look at the effect of the big chocolate companies on the consumer. Many of these companies are also associated with the less rich and lower cocoa content candy bars, so they also opened the eyes to the smaller market of dark chocolate within the bigger companies.


2) I then gathered a group together (some of them pictured below) and asked them to taste the chocolate and see whether they could decipher distinctly between the cocoa-content of the chocolates. This was a blind test, so the tasters didn’t see the packaging prior to tasting, but they could tell the brand of the chocolate due to the imprint on the chocolate bar itself. The test was done with no conferring as to test the single taste of the person. I asked them to make note of the taste and mouth feel while tasting.




3) Prior to them tasting the chocolate I asked some simple introduction questions. These included:
– Gender
– How often do you eat dark chocolate?
– When was the last time you ate dark chocolate?
– On a scale of 1-10 (1-will never eat, 10-can’t get enough), how much do you enjoy DARK chocolate?
– On a scale of 1-10 (1-will never eat, 10-can’t get enough), how much do you enjoy MILK chocolate?

4) This was followed up by a series of question considering purchasing, packaging, and associations with dark chocolate.

My experiment came back with very useful results. I tested a total of 7 people, 2 of which were male. Conclusively, the tasters who preferred dark chocolate (3 out of 7) to milk chocolate came back with a 100% correction in distinguishing the different cocoa content of the chocolate. Those that preferred milk chocolate found it hard to separate the 60% chocolate from the 70% chocolate. I feel like this is due to not being accustomed with the taste. However, two of the four people that preferred milk chocolate had eaten dark chocolate within the last week, while some of the dark chocolate eaters hadn’t eaten dark chocolate for a longer period of time, but were still able to define the difference.

I wanted my testers to state their gender so that I could indicate whether there was a difference between male and female in their preference or how they choose chocolate. The two males that taste tested were milk chocolate lovers. One of these males could not tell between the 60%, 70%, and 85% chocolate, while the other couldn’t determine 60% from 70%. The following advertisement from Lindt claims dark chocolate being a product for the female. It is described as sticking in your throat, being bitter, and having a smudgy texture. This association with dark chocolate and the female may be a possible deterrent for the male, or it could also be down to science and the way that females taste different to males.

lindt advertisement

When describing the taste and mouth feel of the 85% chocolate, the reactions of the milk and dark chocolate lovers were very different. The milk chocolate lovers described it as ‘bad’ and ‘horrible aftertaste’, whereas the dark chocolate lovers were less harsh by noting it as ‘bitter’ and ‘chalky’. It appears that it wasn’t their favourite chocolate, but for the milk chocolate lovers, the taste was so bad that it sparked a bigger reaction. This raises the question as to whether milk chocolate lovers are hyper-tasters due to their sensitivity to the bitterness of the chocolate, and how the smoothness and less intense taste of milk chocolate on their taste buds is better suited.

One of the main disparities between milk chocolate and dark chocolate lovers was their approach to purchasing chocolate. The group as a whole decided that dark chocolate is a high-end product and in general is more expensive compared to your everyday candy bar. The tasters that preferred milk chocolate were more likely to opt for cheaper, more for your money, and well-known chocolate bars. As for the dark chocolate lovers, they were likely to spend more on dark chocolate to satisfy their cravings, but if they wanted a quick energy boost they would turn to the cheaper candy bars. They were more likely to savour dark chocolate and spend time enjoying it, which also attributes it to being a luxurious good associated with high class. One participant in this experiment told me that her family would not allow her dark chocolate until she reached a certain age, which also gives it a higher status, in comparison to the many candy bars we find at the counter at a checkout. Two companies mentioned when discussing what chocolate brand they buy, Hershey’s and Mars were at the top of the list. As we know, these are both part of the big-5! However, the dark chocolate lovers said they would also consider smaller companies and seek out something alternative, giving them a more exploratory nature. Laudan writes, “For all, culinary modernism has provided what was wanted: food that was processed, preservable, industrial, novel, and fast, the food of the elite at a price everyone could afford” (Laudan 40). This statement appears to correlate with the feedback from my tasters. Dark chocolate is now more available at a lower cost, but the price issue even presides over taste. We can also put this down to the sugar craving and the rise of sugar in the diet.

For the American consumer, impulse and self-indulgence purchases drive the companies. However, in a new market to chocolate, such as China, there is more gifting taking place.

“China’s breath-taking transformation from a command to a market-socialist economy over the past twenty-five years has turned some 300 million of its 1.3 billion people into ravenous consumers of everything from candy to cars. And until twenty-five years ago, almost none of them had ever eaten a piece of chocolate. They were, to coin a phrase, “chocolate virgins,” their taste for chocolate ready to be shaped by whichever chocolate company came roaring into the country with a winning combination of quality, marketing savvy, and manufacturing and distribution acumen. In short, China was the next great frontier, a market of almost limitless potential to be conquered in a war between the world’s leading chocolate companies for the hearts, minds, and taste buds – and ultimately the wallets – of China’s consumers. To the victor of the chocolate wars would go the spoils of over a billion potential customers for generations to come” (Allen Introduction).

Allen explains how the big-5 companies targeted the Chinese population to convert them to become chocolate consumers. However, the society was very unprepared for it as “chocolate was so foreign that it would have limited appeal to their untrained palates” (Allen 10). There was a shift in the consumption of chocolate but not to as great of an extent as experienced in the west. Chocolate was also seen as a means of gifting, as opposed as a purchase for self-consumption. My tasters explained that sometimes it was hard to purchase higher quality and more expensive chocolate for themselves, but when they looked towards seeking a chocolate gift for someone they would turn to dark chocolate and spend more. They explained that this was due to the association of dark chocolate as a classy product. The packaging as a gift would also sway their choices as they didn’t want to purchase chocolate that looked low quality and cheap.

Dark chocolate seems to hold a role in society which places it above that of milk chocolate. The disparity between people that like the two different types of chocolate cause changes in how they purchase, as well as consume chocolate. Dark chocolate seems to retain its authoritative nature through a word-of-mouth concept about its good properties, as opposed to candy bars with higher sugar and lower cocoa content.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association, 2010. Print.
Laudan, Rachel. Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History. Berkeley, CA: U of California, 2013. Print.

Chocolate in the Life of an Athlete

Anybody that you talk to probably has a different relationship with chocolate. With the many different forms of chocolate, the way in which people use chocolate on a daily basis will differ from person to person. In order to get a better understanding of how people have different relationships with chocolate, I conducted an interview with a close friend of mine.  He is a student-athlete at Davidson college and identifies as a “chocolate lover”.  At the conclusion of the interview I gained a much better understanding of how the role of chocolate in his life changed at different stages of his life.

To start of the interview, I asked my friend what role chocolate played in his life when he was a child. The first thing he recalled was this classic commercial:

This was his very first encounter with chocolate. Growing up baseball was his favorite sport and he had always heard the cliche saying that milk was important for growing and getting stronger so this particular commercial really resonated with him. The role of chocolate in his life at this moment comes to no surprise if one knows the history of chocolate. Nesquik was a powdered form of chocolate that could be mixed with milk or water to create a chocolate drink at anytime. It was based of the invention of a man by the name of Henri Nestle. In 1867 Nestle discovered a process to make powdered milk by evaporation; when mixed with water, this could be fed to infants and small children (Coe, 250).  In addition to this new found way of making chocolate, companies also were trying to push chocolate as being a part of a “balanced breakfast”.

As we continued our conversation, he next described how when he got to high school he learned about chocolate being an aphrodisiac. He explained that all of his friends had told him that he should get his girlfriend chocolate for her birthday and “especially on valentines day” because women were crazy about chocolate and it would make the night more romantic since chocolate put people in better moods. This picture is a perfect example of how my friend had first envisioned his high school girlfriend at the time would react to his gift of chocolate:


Here again is a well-known stereotype associated with chocolate. Many studies were done with chocolate and scientists made claims about it being an aphrodisiac. They found that chocolate had two key chemicals in it. The first is a chemical called tryptophan. Tryptophan is a building block of serotonin, which is a brain chemical that is responsible for sexual arousal and feelings of happiness (O’Connor, 2006). Phenylethylamine is the name of the second chemical. This chemical is a stimulant that is related to amphetamine, which is released in the brain when people fall in love (O’Connor, 2006).  It was also claimed that women were more susceptible to these chemicals then men were. Many reports have come out since these findings were first released that directly refute this finding and assert that chocolate does not have enough of these chemicals in it to actually affect people like the claims say they do. Nevertheless, chocolate companies ran away with this idea of chocolate being an aphrodisiac, especially with women, and tons of videos such as this have become commonplace:

In the last stage of the conversation I asked about where the relationship between my friend and chocolate currently stand. He loves to eat chocolate as his dessert since he suffers from having a major “sweet tooth”.  In addition, he still likes to drink a lot of chocolate milk. Interestingly enough however is that it is no longer for breakfast. Instead, he now drinks it primarily as a recovery drink after his intense sports practice since he plays for a varsity team at Davidson. He explained that every year, before the season starts, the whole team has a meeting with the college’s nutritionist. The nutritionist always asserts that chocolate milk is a great choice for a recovery drink due to have much protein it has in it. He stated that the nutritionist always used photos such as this one during the presentation to the team:




This is a more recent trend with chocolate and fitness called “The Refuel America Program”. The basic idea this program is trying to push to Americans is that low-fat chocolate milk is “an easy, effective and cost-efficient way to refuel the body after a tough workout (World Dairy Diary, 2010). In order to help promote this idea, the program enlisted some of the worlds top athletes such as Carmelo Anthony, Mia Hamm, and Chris Bosh to use in advertisements. Since these are some of the greatest athletes in the world, if they use chocolate milk then it must be okay for everyone else to use it after workouts too. Once again, this “new branding” of chocolate was met with reports that went against the claims that were being made trying to promote chocolate.  One direct challenge to this claim was this:

As Telpner outlines and many other advocates against chocolate milk as a recovery drink point to, the sugar content in chocolate milk is way above the daily recommended amount in just one bottle, which can be finished pretty quickly (Telpner, 2011). Also, most chocolate milk usually has added artificial flavors and other ingredients that are not healthy for the body (Telpner, 2012).

In conclusion, the relationship my friend had with chocolate at different stages of his life almost perfectly matched up with the common trends that chocolate was going through at the same time. At the time when chocolate milk was seen as a good breakfast option, and brands like Nesquik were really popular is when he used it the most for breakfast. As he grew older he learned about women and their love for chocolate, which was at the time and currently still is a huge stereotype in the chocolate industry. Finally, as a highly competitive athlete, the more recent stereotype of chocolate milk as great recovery drink option after a tough workout has changed the way in which he uses chocolate currently. The impacts of the historical trends of chocolate have undoubtedly had a significant impact on his relationship with chocolate.


Works Cited:

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

Telpner, Megan. “Chocolate Milk Is Not A Sports Recovery Drink.” – Making Love in the Kitchen. N.p., 2011. Web. 09 May 2014.

“Athletes Refuel with Chocolate Milk.” World Dairy Diary. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2014.

O’connor, Anahad. “REALLY?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 July 2006. Web. 09 May 2014.


Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

Chocolate consumption is prevalent among highly developed countries. These are countries that have advanced technological infrastructures and developed economies including Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland and United States. Even though developing countries produce most of the worlds chocolate, 16 of the top 20 consuming countries are developed countries in Europe (Chocolate Consuption). America is one of those top twenty countries to consume chocolate. “In 2012, American consumers spent 16 billion dollars on chocolate, ate a collective 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate, and on average, ate 12 pounds per person.” Carla. According to the International Cocoa Organization, Europeans account for nearly half of all the chocolate consumed in the world. “The average Brit, Swiss, or German will each eat around 24 pounds of chocolate a year” (Cnn freedom). Chocolate is a savory sweet consumed by millions everyday. What makes these people want to get chocolate and how do they decide how they consume their chocolate? In a study that I conducted on campus, I interviewed 10 people about their interest in chocolate. I plan to argue that people’s preferences for chocolate depend on a combination of their age and their budget.

While researching I surveyed 5 college students and 5 adults on how they purchased chocolate. I asked them “Where do you buy your chocolate?, How do you decide what chocolate to purchase?, How much are you willing to spend on chocolate?, and Is this price in your price range?”. Four out of the five college students said that they buy their chocolate from convenient stores such as Tedeshi, CVS, and Seven-Eleven. While interviewing one student, she told me that she typically buys chocolate off an instant impulse buy. Saying that there was one experience where she saw an ad on television for Reese’s peanut butter cups, which created this instant impulse or crave to go and consume this chocolate. The ad convinced her to get up and rush to the nearest CVS and five minutes later she had her Reese’s peanut butter cups which the ad made her desire. Of the five college students I surveyed four of the five were not willing to spend more than four dollars for a chocolate bar. The one student that was willing to spend more than four dollars for chocolate had a higher taste pallet than the other students. He ate chocolate for its quality and typically sought after organically made chocolate sold in stores such as Whole Foods and Cardullo’s.


The craving for chocolate that was exhibited by the student with the REESE commercial can be explained by David Benton’s research on taste buds. Benton argues in his research “those who crave chocolate tend to do so when they are emotionally distressed, although a separate dimension, whether one feels guilt, is also important. People often see chocolate as a comfort food. College students are frequently going through emotional distress and tension. Having to worry about exams and extracurricular projects a student might pick up creates a ton of pressure upon that student. This stress combined with television ad sparks a craving for chocolate. The chocolate often represents a symbol of coziness and helps to relax the consumer.

purchasing chocolate

College student purchasing Chocolate

Brands like Hershey and Mars are cheap and found at most convenient stores. College students are attracted to this easily accessible and cheap chocolate. When students get this craving for chocolate they like to go somewhere quick and convenient to consume chocolate. Due to mass production, chocolate producers can make products such as Kisses, Milky Way and Three Musketeers affordable and easily accessible for the typical college student. The typical college student wants to budget his or her money on food and is not willing to pay so much for a chocolate bar. To create mass production and low prices producers focus on the developments in “these four basic areas, preserving, mechanization, retailing and wholesale, and transportation”(Goody 72). The preservation of chocolate was a key component of how chocolate became a cheap and mass-produced sweet. Without the techniques of preservation such as “canning and artificial freezing” chocolate would spoil quickly and would not be able to be consumed (Goody 74). Canning was processed invented by Nicholas Appert in response to an “appeal of the Directoire in 1795” (Goody 74). This process sealed food contents in airtight containers. Big producers such as Hershey’s and Mars use canning to preserve chocolate sauce and chocolate syrup, which they can pour on their products. The use of machines in production has been monumental in the stages of mass production. They were capable to mass-produce quickly and efficiently. Not only were production and preservation huge factors, but also distribution became just as monumental. The process of distribution depends “upon the development of a system of transport that could shift the very large quantities of goods involved in the ready made market” (Goody 81). The transport system allowed producers to sell products globally. The products would not spoil and always be market ready without extraneous preparation keeping prices cheap and affordable.

Of the five adults whom I surveyed three of them were willing to pay more than four dollars for a chocolate bar. After asking them “How do you decide to purchase your chocolate?” I discovered that adults are more likely to invest in a higher quality chocolate. They seek to purchase organic chocolate, known for its smooth texture and rich flavor. During an interview with one of my professors I realized that his political awareness of poor wages for the farmers influenced his decision on purchasing chocolate. Due to his political awareness, his decision to purchase chocolate was always in support of companies supporting alternative trade.

Chocolate is a rich, decadent treat. People’s preferences for chocolate come from the two factors age and their budget. College students are often distressed and big time chocolate producers mass produce their chocolate creating cheap chocolate prices target this group of college kids. College students typically do not have a huge budget to be spent on snack foods. Because of this small budget, these college students look to save money by purchasing the cheap chocolate. In contrast to the college students, Adults have a higher budget and are willing to spend more for better quality chocolates. Adults look for organically made chocolate containing high chocolate content.


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An Well-Intentioned Façade?: The Strength of the Moral Alternative of Small Chocolatiers in the Chocolate Industry

Karl Marx described capitalism as the means with which to dissociate the people from the land. To Marx, capitalism was, ultimately, a method of “divorcing the consumer from the means of production” (qtd. Mintz 54). This dislocation of consumer from what he is consuming has led, over the centuries, to a type of apathy among consumers; the methods used and the people involved with bringing the buyer everything from fresh foods to trendy, tasteful clothing to cheap trinkets are of no importance to the consumer as long as their own, personal supply chains are not disrupted. Rapid globalization has only made this trend more extreme; now more than ever before, buyers are more physically—and subsequently emotionally—detached from the entire process under which their goods are produced. Large companies and corporations, across industries, have taken advantage of consumer ignorance and indifference by employing systems of production that would be illegal in the countries of their consumers. For the sake of easy profit, these companies and corporations from Nike to Shell are complicit in offenses that range from waterway and air pollution to forced eviction.

The chocolate industry is no exception to this dismal picture. The five largest chocolate corporations—Nestle, Cadbury (owned by Kraft), Hershey, Ferrero, and Mars—are all guilty of criminal activity—from human trafficking to child labor to slavery—in their supply chain. There is, however, a counterculture growing within the chocolate industry that directly opposes the amoral practices of the largest chocolate companies. While the bean-to-bar companies of this countermovement appear to provide a feasible alternative to the problems that lie in the cacao supply chain, this appearance is misleading; these bean-to-bar companies do not exert enough power over the chocolate market to enact real change upon the industry as a whole.

Cadbury, one of the Big Five chocolate companies of the world, is a business that has, for more than one hundred years, profited off of consumer ignorance about its treatment of the laborers within its supply chain. In 1901, William Cadbury, the head of the business at the time, heard that slave labor was used to harvest cacao in Sao Tome and Principe two Portuguese islands off the coast of central Africa. Slavery in the supply chain, to the Quaker, abolitionist corporation was unacceptable. Over the next several years Cadbury funded an expedition to the continent to substantiate these claims. The expedition was undertaken by Joseph Burtt. He left Europe for Africa on June 1, 1905 (Satre 32). Four years had passed since the highest levels of the Cadbury Company became aware of potential slavery in Sao Tome and Principe. Burtt returned to England on April 13, 1907. From the two years that he had spent traveling throughout Angola, Sao Tome, and Principe, he had created a damning report documenting in words and in photographs the practices of forced labor on the islands and in Angola, the sources of the slave labor.

For a year after his return to England, William Cadbury forced Burtt’s report through several series of scrupulous edits as a delay tactic (Higgs 136), but by 1908 the report had become available to the British public. Cadbury contended until its publishing that “the main point of the question is not how the servical [servant in Portuguese] is treated, but whether or no, he is a slave” (Higgs 133). For Cadbury, this was a question of semantics not morals.

A scandal erupted throughout Europe as soon as it became apparent that Cadbury Company was, in fact, aware of the slave labor that was used to grow and harvest the cacao that went into its chocolate. Under pressure from European consumers, Cadbury and other European chocolatiers pulled out of Sao Tome and Principe and began to purchase their cacao from West Africa. It appeared that morality and justice had won the day. However, this was not the case. Cadbury had been planting cacao trees in West Africa since learning of the potential of slave labor on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe some seven years before. Not coincidentally, it takes cacao trees roughly seven years to mature. After removing its business from Sao Tome and Principe, Cadbury was able to immediately move its market to West Africa. It is in the countries to which Cadbury and other European chocolatiers moved after fleeing the Sao Tome and Principe scandal—Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivorie—that the most egregious claims and the most tangible evidence of child labor, child trafficking, and modern-day slavery are present. The unsavory business practices of Sao Tome and Principe that had wound Cadbury and other European chocolatiers deep in scandal continued to occur; only now, these acts were occurring in in new lands and unbeknownst to the conscious consumer.

Taza Chocolate—taza is Spanish for cup, referring back to the history of chocolate which for most of its past has been consumed out of a cup as a beverage—is an example of a bean-to-bar company that acts to address the labor rights issues that have permeated the supply chains of large chocolate corporations, mostly unbeknownst to consumers, for more than one hundred years. Taza maintains a policy of direct trade which, according to its literature, means that the company trades directly with the farmers and farmer cooperatives that produce their cacao (Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report: September 2013 2). This direct relationship with farmers allows Taza to guarantee that they: “only buy cacao from farmers and farmer cooperatives that ensure fair and humane work practices” and “never purchase cacao from farmers or farmer cooperatives that engage in child or slave labor” (Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report: September 2013 2).

Despite Taza’s guarantees and the morality of its business, simply doing the right thing is not enough to enact lasting, industry-wide change in a market that is flooded with popular products that are tainted with labor abuses. Cadbury’s profits in the United States, according to a 2012 article in the United Kingdom’s The Telegraph, is about $799 million ( Taza’s income is slightly more than one one-thousandth of one percent of Cadbury’s . In 2009, Taza’s earnings were slightly over $1 million ( Cadbury staffs a small town of people; roughly 5,000 people are employed by the company ( whereas Taza employs a fraction of a fraction of that total: 22 ( The enormity of the difference between these two companies, one bean-to-bar and the other corporate to its roots, is stark. The disparities between the two highlight the slim fraction of the industry possessed by companies that are willing to prioritize quality and farmer relations over the maximization of profits.  It also highlights the enormity of the power that large chocolate manufacturers possess; a near-monopoly over the entire industry. How can change occur in an industry that is controlled by organizations that have made their millions from the maintenance of the status quo? How can companies that employ 22 people hope to make a difference in this industry? The alternatives to the problems that lie within the chocolate industry presented by companies such as Taza chocolate are hallow solutions; industry-wide change cannot be enacted while large corporations have such a strangle hold on the entire market. Companies such as Taza are simply too small to exert much change over the palate of the American chocolate consumer.

While the ability of the small chocolatier to exert large-scale change over the entire chocolate industry is weak, there is hope for change in the chocolate industry, the desire for a shift from profit seeking to moral business is not entirely lost. In a survey of ten undergraduates here at Harvard, I compared people’s willingness to purchase Taza chocolate versus Cadbury chocolate over four different sectors: price, taste, company-farmer relations, and overall.

Procedure: The procedure of the experiment was scripted so that I would give the exact same information to every subject. The two bars of chocolate used in this experiment were: Taza’s The Belize Bar and Cadbury’s Royal Dark Dark Chocolate Bar.

Experiment: There were four phases to the survey. The first phase was to determine the economics of the consumer. The subject was told the price that was paid to purchase both the bars of chocolate that they were going to sample. The Cadbury bar cost $2.37 for a three-and-a-half ounce bar whereas the Taza bar cost $8.99 for a three ounce bar. Then they were asked: based only on price, which bar of chocolate would you be more likely to purchase?

The next phase of the experiment was designed to address the taste of the consumer. The consumer ate a small sample of both chocolate bars and then answered the question: based solely on taste, which chocolate bar would you be more likely to purchase?

Next came the phase of the experiment that was meant to determine the consumer’s empathy. Subjects were read from a script that detailed Taza’s motivations for being in direct trade with farmers and its guarantees for being direct traders: no child labor and no slave labor. Next, subjects were read a script about Cadbury and its signing of the Harken-Engel Protocol and its lack of evidence regarding any efforts to stop the labor abuses that are occurring in its supply chain. Then the subjects were asked: based solely on the information that you have just heard: which bar of chocolate would you be more likely to consume?

The final phase of the experiment was to determine the overall buying tendency of the subject. The subject was asked: overall, which bar of chocolate would you be more willing to purchase.

Results: The results of each phase of the experiment are documented in the four pie charts below.


A slim majority of the subjects, after learning of Cadbury’s complicity in child labor and slave labor were willing to pay the extra money to purchase a Taza bar rather than a Cadbury bar.

Interpretation: These results may not be as optimistic as they sound, however. All the subjects that I surveyed were Harvard students. Harvard undergraduates are not necessarily representative of the entire United States. Firstly, the ages of everyone I sample range from 18 to 20 years of age; this is hardly representative of the broader United States population. Harvard students also may feel a greater desire to be socially involved and active in social issues than the rest of the United States. This can been seen through the fact that the majority of my participants stated that they would purchase Taza Chocolate overall, but that the consummation of chocolate in the United States shows that the vast majority of chocolate consumers will, overall, purchase Cadbury Chocolate. But, what can be said of the results of my survey is that the majority of those sampled were swayed by their knowledge of Cadbury’s inaction to preventing child labor and slavery in its cacao supply chain. In other words: change, albeit small, is possible.

In order for change to occur within the chocolate industry of the United States, consumers must be educated about large chocolate corporations’ treatment of those who labor in their cacao supply chain. Taza’s Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report, is a good example of a company being upfront and educating its customers about the benefit of its product. However, educating a consumer base that is content with purchasing cheap chocolate will require more than simply an annual report. But, where should this desire to educate come from? Should it come from the small chocolatiers or from advocacy groups or the media or from the consumers in the form of a desire to learn? Surely, the large corporations want nothing more than to put a blanket over this whole issue; change cannot originate with them. The government is not the solution to this problem either. Government is not impervious to money: what funds the campaigns of politicians? Big chocolate companies have so much money, spending millions of dollars to fight for deregulation and a lack of administrative involvement in the darker side of their industry would be an easy sacrifice to make.

Small chocolatiers do not have the clout to change an industry of corporations, the government would not be willing to take on such a powerful opponent, and the corporations that control the business of making chocolate would never have the desire to enact any real change upon a system that is making them so wealthy. The answer is that only the consumer can change the chocolate industry. The deep pocket of the collective consumer is what will allow for change to come to the industry. Only the consumer is powerful enough to make large chocolate corporations make any attempt to change the status quo. The consumer, himself, must also be willing to change the status quo. Marx’s statement that capitalism’s purpose has been the removal of the consumer from the producer is not inaccurate. The consumer must overcome the apathy of separation that lies between them and those who labor in the cacao supply chain of the largest chocolate companies. The overcoming of apathy occurs through education. Which brings us full circle: where should this desire to educate come from? Should it come from the small chocolatiers or advocacy groups or the media or from the consumers in the form of a desire to learn? The answer to this question is a combination of the two. Small chocolatiers must promote their products as viable alternatives to the chocolate of large corporations, advocacy groups and the media must promote and raise awareness for the issues that are involved with complicity in the chocolate industry. And, finally, consumers themselves must be receptive to these voices. Then, and only then will change within the chocolate industry truly occur.

Works Cited

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