Monthly Archives: March 2015

How bulk cacao took over the world

Up until now, we have seen in lectures how important cacao was to various South American cultures. From being associated with Gods, to being restricted to high society only, cacao beans were seen as a sacred product. Frothy drinks were thought to nourish the soul, and the beans were used as a monetary value. The cacao trees were delicately planted and nurtured in order to give the tastiest, and richest, seeds possible. Even to this day, in South America, much care and doting is given to the cacao tree, and the beans are presented as ritualistic offerings to the gods (Martin, Lecture 3-7). So if cacao is so highly regarded, then why has bulk cacao eclipsed fine cacao, when it comes to its production and distribution throughout the world? Because of cultural marketing, certain inventions, and supplementation, chocolate has shifted from a delicacy to a common treat. People no longer look for the richest, finest cacao taste, but rather the sweetest bar with a hint of chocolate.

There are three types of cacao: Criollo, Trinitario, and Forastero. Criollo and Trinitario are considered to be fine cacao, and to have higher quality than the third strand. Up until the early 20th century, it dominated half the global production, dropping to only 5-7% by the time 21st century came. Forastero on the other hand, marginalized fine cacao by expanding its global production to almost 95% (Martin, Lecture 7). So where did this massive shift come from?

I believe it first started with certain inventions which helped refine chocolate. Van Houten’s hydraulic press found an easier, and cheaper, way to remove the cacao butter from chocolate, which made “possible the large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses, in both powdered and solid form” (Coe and Coe, 234).

Van Houten’s Hydraulic Press 

Later on, Lindt’s conching mechanism allowed for a smoother chocolate that would not have all the roughness and powerful cacao taste that previous bars had had (Coe and Coe, 242). In a way, this reduced the need for flavor intensity and richness, allowing lesser flavored cacao to be used instead of the finer one. Both of these inventions paved the way for bulk cacao to become the reigning choice in chocolate making.

End result of conching process

Second, certain additions to the chocolate bar allowed for the finer cacao to be slowly taken out of use.  Fry’s blending of cocoa powder with cocoa butter, instead of water, and sugar gave rise to the first edible chocolate, and Nestle’s addition of milk, instead of water, created the first milk chocolate bar (Coe and Coe, 242). I believe both of these additions had a massive contribution towards the fine cacao decline. This is because the taste of milk and sugar, as well as cocoa butter, overpowered the taste of chocolate, and people started craving those instead of the actual cacao in the bar. Even nowadays, most people go for the milk chocolate bar, with some preferring dark chocolate; but even for the dark, the high concentration of cacao (80% and above) is rarely consumed. When people say they crave chocolate, what they actually mean is that they crave sugar. If they craved true chocolate, 90% cacao chocolate would be the highest selling brand. “In the US, most of the chocolate sold and eaten is less than 43%. Why? because sugar is a lot cheaper than cacao” (Coe and Coe, 259). And since people crave sugar and cocoa butter, it gets easier to decrease the quality of cacao one puts into a bar.

Adding sugar into most things, such as medicine, jams, and chocolate (Mintz, 1985), allowed for the chocolate companies to take advantage of this increasing addiction, and start marketing their products to various genders and generations. Kids, girls, and couples became the target demographics. Chocolate started taking on various shapes such as hearts and boxes (Martin, Lecture 5), and a new wave of cultural marketing arose. And like any other product, people were attracted by the packaging and design, rather than the substance, further supporting the bulk cacao’s increasing world domination.

Chocolate Box 

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.

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

Martin, D. Carla, African and African American Studies 199x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lectures 3-7, 2015.


Van Houten’s Hydraulic Press:


Chocolate Box:

A Case Study in Chocolate Branding: The Hershey Company

The Hershey Company, known popularly as Hershey’s, is one of the largest chocolate-producing companies today. They own many famous brands, including but not limited to, Reese’s, Kit Kat, Hershey’s Kisses, and York Peppermint patties. This multi-billion dollar company is one of the oldest chocolate companies in The United States and its chocolate bars have become iconic for most Americans. Founded in 1894 in rural Pennsylvania by Milton Hershey, the Hershey Company’s popularity has only grown over the course of the last century. And during that time frame, the Hershey Company’s brand has evolved, their marketing practices have changed, and they have shaped and have been shaped by their consumers. The case study of the Hershey Company reflects and provides much insight into trends in the history of chocolate itself, how it became such a commonplace consumer good, and the challenges that consumers of chocolate face because it has been producing chocolate for so long.

The video embedded above gives a very brief overview of Hershey’s evolution as a company. It highlights some of the changes in their marketing practices: how Hershey started mass-producing milk chocolate, how the company marketed their chocolates as “affordable luxuries,” how they created their signature brands, and how in the 1960s, they began to create media campaigns, utilizing a variety of different tactics to target different audiences.

When Milton Hershey created the Hershey Chocolate Company under his Lancaster Caramel Company, he wasn’t making the products that we are accustomed to seeing today. In 1895, the Hershey Chocolate Company was making over one hundred different chocolate products: They came in fanciful shapes like cigars and wafers and were wrapped in colorful packaging. Many of them were portrayed as luxurious, with French sounding names like Petit Bouquets and Le Roi de Chocolate, even though they were affordable for the general public [1].

Hershey’s early chocolate products were very different from the Hershey’s we know today.

However, with industrialization, chocolate products all over started to become mass-produced and even more widespread and accessible—the fact that chocolate could be so easily incorporated into other products made it even more popular. Hershey was able to find a way to mass-produce milk chocolate, perfect his recipe, and in 1900, the first Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar was produced [2]. As the video mentions, Hershey’s was now able to market their chocolate as “an affordable luxury,” as milk chocolate was previously only for the wealthy, and to put an emphasis on the quality of their chocolate.

An ad from the 1930s that shows Hershey’s chocolate syrup as a “stepping stone to health.”

Despite the onset of the Great Depression, Hershey’s continued to manufacture new and profitable products: the Mr. Goodbar Candy Bar (1925), Hershey’s Syrup (1926), the Krackel Bar (1938), etc. Despite their success, the Hershey Company did very little advertising in its first few decades. An executive from Hershey’s advertising agency is quoted saying, “The Hershey Company was against doing any kind of large-scale advertising for a long time, and as one of the nation’s original confectioners, they didn’t have to do any.” [3]

It wasn’t until the late 1960s that they began to launch national ad campaigns. Following their previous portrayals of Hershey’s chocolate as beneficial for your health, they launched a television commercial that showed Hershey’s instant powder as a way of getting kids to drink their milk.

The Hershey Company targeted many different audiences with their ad campaigns: children, dancers, and even immigrants? One commercial that they created even portrayed people of various ethnicities enjoying a Hershey’s, the “great American chocolate bar.”

No matter who they were targeting, Hershey’s marketed their chocolate bars as something that would make you happy, a staple of the American diet.

However the Brand Evolution video above also highlights some of the controversy that the Hershey Company has faced due to some of its business decisions. For example, in order to reduce costs, the Hershey Company decided to replace the cocoa butter in some of their products with vegetable oil—this led to many unhappy consumers and reminds us all that chocolate purity is still an issue. And only recently in 2012 has the Hershey Company agreed to switch to fair trade cocoa, ending their child slave labor practices on cacao plantations in West Africa [4]. However, even this transition is predicted to take up to 8 years.

The history of the Hershey Company can serve to teach us all about the history of chocolate. We can observe how chocolate went from being a luxury to a commonplace good, as it became incorporated into more and more products. In that process, it was marketed in a very versatile way, to many groups of people, making chocolate even more popular.


Multimedia Sources

[1] “From The Kiss to a Great American Chocolate Empire: A History of Hershey’s.” FastCompany video, 2:38. Posted by FastCompany. Accessed March 22, 2015.

[2] Hershey’s Early Products. Digital Image. Available from: Accessed March 22, 2015.

[3] Hershey’s Syrup Ad. Digital Image. Available from: Accessed March 22, 2015.

[4] “Hershey’s Instant 1960s Cows Ad.” YouTube video, 0:28. Posted by “3zy,” June 9, 2006. Accessed March 22, 2015.

[5] “Hershey’s Candy Bar Commercial.” YouTube video, 0:30. Posted by “Mort Shuman,” July 3, 2006. Accessed March 22, 2015.


[1] (2014, February 7). Looking Back: Hershey’s First Chocolate Products. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

[2] The History of the Hershey Company. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2015, from

[3] Luclew, John. (2013, June 24). Hollywood gets Hershey’s marketing history mostly right in ‘Mad Men’ finale. The Patriot News. Retrieved from

[4] Antoniades, Andri. (2012, October 6). Hershey Slave Labor Will End With Switch to Fair Trade Cocoa. takepart. Retrieved from

Technological Advances and the Availability of Chocolate

In the last century, the chocolate manufacturing industry has developed into not only one of the largest food industries, but industries in general, with the top five companies that produce chocolate netting a combined $64 billion in 2014 (International Cocoa Organization). This sort of economic success requires making the chocolate products widely available and cheap, in order to cater to a wide enough customer base, which is a stark contrast against the majority of the history of chocolate in the world. In the early days of chocolate in western culture (i.e. 16th– early 19th century), chocolate was very limited in its production and consumption, usually accessible to only the highest classes of society. This was mainly due to the fact that sugar was very hard to come by during this time, before the mass harvesting of sugar cane in the Caribbean, so the sweet chocolate craved by people was not widely available. Once sugar became an everyday commodity due to the triangular trade route, chocolate also began to be produced for cheaper, which meant more people were able to consume it. The demand for chocolate skyrocketed and companies had to innovate in order to keep up with it. There were a few key processes and inventions that rapidly changed the chocolate industry, eventually into the multi-billion dollar industry it has become today.

First, in 1828 Conrad Van Houten invented the cocoa press, which was designed to squeeze out the cocoa butter from the bean, leaving the cocoa powder behind without the fat. This made the cocoa have a smoother consistency, milder taste, and along with the Industrial Revolution that was occurring simultaneously, allowed it to be produced much easier. But this invention, and the process that came with it called “dutching” (a reference to Van Houten’s native country), would lead to J.S. Fry and Sons’ own innovation that produced the first modern edible chocolate. It required Van Houten to add alkali metals to the chocolate to make it more soluble with the water, but that made it less nutritious than regular, non-dutched chocolate (Michael Gregor, M.D.).

In 1847, the grandson of Joseph Fry, Francis Fry, discovered a process that allowed him to replace some of the removed cocoa butter back into the cocoa powder, while adding sugar, creating a paste-type substance, which was then put into molds in order to harden. This became the first modern chocolate bar, or “eating chocolate”, as he called it. Up to this point, the process of “conching” had not yet been invented by Rodolphe Lindt, so Fry’s chocolate bars were still very rough, rather than smooth like the ones we are used to today.

Conching Machine, Ghirardelli San Francisco
Conching Machine, Ghirardelli San Francisco

Finally, the last major invention that helped change chocolate into a universal product, was the process of “conching” and the machine that “conched” the chocolate. Rodolphe Lindt, a Swiss chocolatier, invented the conching method when he accidentally left a mixer containing chocolate on overnight. He realized in the morning that it created a more aromatic, smooth flavor. His machines could conch a large quantity of chocolate in a relatively short amount of time, with little to no human intervention, which made them extremely important to making chocolate so ever-present like it is today. “The conching process lasts for as little as 4–6 h to few (1–3) days” (Aidoo, Clercq, Afoakwa, Dewettinck), according to a study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology.

Erste Conche

Works Cited

Michael Gregor, M.D. “”.
7 Nov 2012. Website.

Aidoo, R. P., Clercq, N. D., Afoakwa, E. O. and Dewettinck, K. (2014), Optimisation of processing conditions and rheological properties using stephan mixer as conche in small-scale chocolate processing. International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 49: 740–746.


Sanjay Acharya. Picture. “”

ChocoSuisse: Association of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers. “”.
24 Feb 2015. Website.


East Meets West: Late 20th Century Competition for the Chinese Chocolate Market Among the Big Five

Globalization has created unique challenges for modern marketing, as companies must adapt to the completely different tastes and cultures of other civilizations. This is evident in the “East Meets West” culture clash, as Western companies navigate Eastern culture in order to market their Western products, especially apparent in the history of the global market for chocolate. Although the treat is extremely popular among consumers in the United States and United Kingdom, chocolate has been historically absent from the palate of Chinese peoples. However, after the overhaul of the Chinese economy from communism to market socialism in the mid-20th century, China began to open its economy to Western corporations in the 1980s.[1] This created the potential for one of the “Big Five” chocolate companies to capture the market and dominate Chinese chocolate consumption for generations to come. Despite competition from Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle, and Ferrero Rocher, Mars ultimately emerged as the champion of China’s chocolate market amidst the other companies’ failures due to its superior understanding of and total dedication to the Chinese consumer, demonstrated by Mars’s marketing of chocolate as an exotic delicacy and prized gift.

Chocolate was essentially a novel item in China, so the Big Five began competing for the palates of potential Chinese chocolate consumers in the early 1980s.[2] Because chocolate was essentially a luxury during at this time, a typical Chinese consumer justified their expense by giving chocolate as a gift.[3] Ferrero Rocher capitalized on this cultural perception. By keeping prices high and importing products to China through an independent distribution partner, Ferrero Rocher captured the gift-giving niche of the Chinese chocolate market. The golden, foil-wrapped, and elaborate containers successfully presented Ferrero Rocher’s chocolate as expensive, foreign, and luxurious.

Ferrero Rocher Chinese

Fig. 1. Ferrero Rocher Chocolate – Chinese New Year 2012 (

Despite Ferrero Rocher’s success, the other four companies attempted to create and capitalize upon a sector of the chocolate market brand-new to China: the individual consumer.[4] By establishing a relationship with a new Chinese generation, one of these four companies could create a bond between Chinese citizens and chocolate lasting for generations.

The other three companies had difficulties with the Chinese chocolate market that Mars successfully navigated to become the winner. Cadbury began with the goal of selling one milk chocolate bar to every Chinese citizen. However, Cadbury failed to consider how hard it would be to get a regular supply of milk in China, as the Chinese are not avid milk drinkers. Unfortunately, Cadbury had to partner with a substandard milk supplier, leading to cheesy chocolate that did not at all appeal to Chinese consumers.[5] Next, although Hershey was initially successful with its bite-sized Hershey’s Kisses, bad management changes led to the 2004 collapse of Hershey’s Chinese organization. Within two years, this effectively eliminated the Chinese supply of Kisses. Hershey never recovered.[6] Finally, although Nestle aimed to use its reputation for producing safe and nutritious products to market their famous Kit Kat bar, their projections for Chinese demand were terribly wrong. In order to compensate for their lost costs, Nestle began using a cheap substitute for cocoa butter, lowering the quality of the chocolate bar. Chinese consumers noticed the change and would not buy the new Kit Kat bar, driving Nestle’s sales significantly behind those of the rest of the Big Five.[7]

Unlike the other companies, Mars succeeded by intensely focusing on both the culture surrounding Chinese chocolate consumption and the appetites of Chinese consumers. Mars became the first of the Big Five to build a chocolate plant in China in 1993 to market Dove Chocolate.[8] Dove was Mars’s high-end brand chocolate that captured both chocolate’s luxury for gift-givers and its superior taste for the individual consumer. By producing high-quality Dove chocolate, marketed as a mysterious and exotic luxury, Mars demonstrated a distinguished knowledge of and dedication to Chinese consumers. Mars spent more on advertising than the rest of the Big Five, and its chocolate has genuinely been consistently higher quality than that of its competitors.[9] The following commercial demonstrates Mars’s understanding of the gift-giving culture surrounding chocolate, as Chinese chocolate consumers rally Mars to support one man’s incredible present to his girlfriend on a lovers’ day. (

By 2004, Mars had control of China’s retail chocolate market, dominating with a 39% share of the whole.[10] Current estimates put Mars’s share of China’s chocolate market at about 43.3%, as of 2013 ( Mars’s continued preeminence in China stems directly from their capture of the Chinese chocolate market at the end of the 20th century. Although the other members of the Big Five continue to compete, Dove comfortably enjoys a place as the high-end and highly desired chocolate of choice among this first generation of Chinese consumers.


Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers.

“The Bitter and the Sweet: How Five Companies Competed to Bring Chocolate to China – Knowledge@Wharton.” KnowledgeWharton The Bitter and the Sweet How Five Companies Competed to Bring Chocolate to China Comments. Accessed March 22, 2015.

“China’s Chocolate Market Dominated by Foreign Brands.” China’s Chocolate Market Dominated by Foreign Brands. Accessed March 22, 2015.

“Dove Chocolate’s Chinese Valentine’s Day campaign.” YouTube video, 2:50. Posted by “Kestrel Lee,” January 9, 2012. Accessed March 22, 2015.

Fig. 1. Ferrero Rocher – Chinese New Year Campaign Concept. Digital Image. Available from: Accessed March 22, 2015.

[1] Lawrence L. Allen, Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers, 2.

[2] Allen, 24.

[3] Allen, 24-25.

[4] Wharton, n.p.

[5] Wharton, n.p.

[6] Allen, 202; Wharton, n.p.

[7] Wharton, n.p.

[8] Allen, 202; Wharton, n.p.

[9] Wharton, n.p.

[10] Wharton, n.p.

Women and Sugar Consumption

It was the astronomer Carl Sagan who said that “exponentials can’t go on forever, or they gobble up everything.” While Sagan was clearly not referencing the British appetite for sugar, the upward spike in sugar consumption makes his statement a relevant one. In the 1800s, British national consumption of sugar was a 300 million pounds. By 1852, it had reached a billion pounds—and was still climbing (Mintz). Meanwhile, the price of sugar was steadily decreasing.


From the Normal Eating Blog 

While it seems that some things, contrary to Sagan’s statement can go on forever, the statistics reveal only part of the story. The sociology of sugar consumption, to use Mintz’s term, was highly gendered, with women consuming more sugar than men. Sugar intake was also a function of income, with poorer households consuming more than wealthier ones. Thus, women in poor households consumed the most sugar of all. These lower-income women consumed more sugar because they felt obligated to fulfill their roles as caretakers of the family; therefore, they put their families’ nutritional needs ahead of their own, compensating for the caloric deficit with sugar.

The idea of women prioritizing their family’s nutrition is most visible in times of famine. According to the Women and Nutrition: Reflections from India and Pakistan U.N. report, “the apparent contradiction between women’s primary responsibility for household nutrition…and their own serious malnutrition renders a simultaneous examination of these two aspects particularly interesting.” However, instead of holding these aspects in contradiction, they should be held in tandem. Women cut calories in order to fulfill their roles as caretakers. Thus, in a “captain is the last one off the ship” mentality, women must ensure the survival of other family members before they ensure their own.

In 19th century Britain, the husband’s survival would be prioritized above all other family members, simply because the woman knew that “all depended upon the wages of her husband”(Rowntree 135, as referenced by Mintz). Thus, heartier foods (meats and whole grains) went to the husband, presumably because his manly labor required more energy. Before the introduction of sugar to Britain, this meant women had to maintain a constant calorie deficit. Sugar allowed women to meet their caloric (though not necessarily nutritional) needs.

The act of compensating for lost calories with sugar was a function of not only gender, but income as well. Whereas men earned most of the family income, women were in charge of making household purchases. Even today, women account for 85% of consumer purchases and 93% of food purchases (She-conomy). However, instead of marketing products directly to women, food companies (especially sugar companies) capitalized on the role of the female caretaker.


Graph Courtesy of Harvard Business Review

The underlying message of these female-targeted advertisements is not “purchase this for you,” but “purchase this for your family.” There are very few sugar advertisements that market sugar directly to women; instead, the advertisements treat women only as surrogates for the needs of their family.

1966 ad for sugar in Time magazine

A 1966 sugar ad in Time Magazine. Note the lower right hand corner with the “Note to Mothers.”   Photo Credit: Looka! Blog

Of course, women would end up consuming sugar themselves, primarily because of its cheapness. Since traditionally “male” foods such as meat and hearty breads cost more, sugar-based foods such as jams and jellies offered women a chance to stretch their food budget. In desperate circumstances, sugar with tea and bread provided a meal that was warm and energizing—even if it was low in essential nutrients. Thus, sugar’s role as an accompaniment to lower-priced foods meant that women would consume more of it in order to save more nutrient-dense foods for their husbands.

Many sugar companies further capitalized on the ideal of the female caretaker by creating recipe books that taught women how to incorporate sugar into recipes in order to increase their calorie density. Since sugar could more easily be incorporated into baked goods and low-protein foods (not the kinds of foods wives would serve to their husbands), women would end up consuming more sugar than men.


Sweet Talk: Recipes from the Domino Sugar Chef                                                                               Photo Credit: Ebay

It is interesting to note that the ideals behind these eating patterns are still alive and well in today’s culture; the fact that protein rich foods are marketed primarily to male consumers, while sugary foods are marketed primarily to women reflects the diets of necessity that evolved around caloric deficits.


Photo Courtesy of Advertolog


Photo Courtesy of Advertolog

Furthermore, the higher rates of sugar consumption among low-income families once again reinforce the idea that family finances play a role. Considering the highly nuanced nature of sugar consumption in the past, it is necessary to consider sugar consumption today with the same level of criticism. Sugar is not merely a food, but also a reflection of existing social structures and ideas; a crystallization of the ideals we live and eat by.

Works Cited

Belasco, Warren James., and Philip Scranton. Food Nations: Selling Taste in Consumer Societies. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.Chatterjee, Meera, and Julian Lamber. Women and Nutrition: Reflections from India and Pakistan. UNICEF, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

Cohen, Rick. “Sugar.” National Geographic Society, Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

“MARKETING TO WOMEN QUICK FACTS.” She-conomy. Web. 6 May 2014.

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

Picture Sources (in order of appearance)

Canter, Sheryl. “Normal Eating® Blog.” Normal Eating Blog RSS. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

Sugar’s System of Positive Feedback

Technological and societal advances in the West during the 19th and 20th centuries increased the quantity and convenience with which all foods could be grown, harvested and distributed. However, no other major food can match the observed increase in demand for sugar over time, especially when considering sugar consumption as a proportion of overall diet. 200 years ago the average American only consumed 2 pounds of sugar per year, and by 1970 consumption had grown to 123 pounds per year. A historical analysis of this phenomenon reveals that the drastic increase in demand for sugar can in part be explained by a system of positive feedback between the proportion of the population with access to sugar and the different ways in which it can be acquired and used.

US Sugar Consumption Over Time (Martin 2015)
US Sugar Consumption Over Time (Martin 2015)

A system of positive feedback can be characterized by a snowball rolling down a hill; as the snowball rolls it collects snow, which increases its size and momentum, causing it to roll further down the hill, causing it to further increase in size and momentum, and so on. Sugar specifically was first available to a small portion of the population who were very wealthy and had limited knowledge of its uses. According to Mintz (1985) the uses of sugar did not evolve in any neat sequence or progression, but rather overlapped and intertwined with each other, resulting in five main contemporary uses of sugar. These main uses are as a medicine, spice-condiment, decorative material, sweetener and preservative. This evidence supports the notion that as technology progressed and costs decreased, new members of the population found sugar affordable, and these people came across and exploited additional uses for the product. With more potential uses, the demand for sugar further increased, which incentivized the production of new technologies to further lower the cost, and the cycle perpetuated.

Snowball as a system of positive feedback

According to Goody (2013), immediate factors that gave rise to industrial cuisine in the West include preserving, transport, mechanization and retailing. Those same factors help to explain much of the boom in Western demand for sugar. One of the first significant innovations associated with sugar was its use as a preservative of fruit, which increased demand for sugar to the point that slave plantations were established (Goody 2013). The use of slave plantations allowed sugar to be produced at a much lower cost and higher volume. Similarly, technological advances in transportation resulted in more cost reductions, and given that sugar was also used in canned preserved foods being transported long distances, these advances likely affected sugar demand significantly more.

Traditionally in Britain, food trade occurred in an open marketplace, but the combination of a large supply and low prices enabled grocers to purchase sugar in bulk, and this aided in the opening of standalone retail food shops (Goody 2013). It is likely that the convenience of these shops increased the accessibility and affordability of sugar to the general population, which contributed to sugar transitioning from a luxury good to an essential component of the working-class diet. While it can be argued that the enslavement of humans is negative progress for humanity, the technological advances associated with slave plantations and the societal advances resulting from efficient systems of trade can certainly be characterized as progress.

As technology allowed heating appliances and electricity to become pervasive throughout regular households in the United States, the rise of ‘home economics’ and ‘domestic science’ increased the levels of sociality associated with food and sugar, cementing the high levels of demand that still exist today (Martin 2012). The general population were suddenly able to use sugar for their own creations, resulting in cooking becoming a hobby. Inventions of tools providing level measurements gave rise to cookbooks and the documented improvement of food through social interaction (Martin 2012). Other foods would have experienced increases in demand and sociality as a result of the domestic science and home economics progressions, but none with the same breadth of scope. While there are certainly other contributions to sugar’s system of positive feedback, those identified in this essay have provided a base to recognize sugar as an extremely versatile food, and to understand the unparalleled growth that sugar demand has experienced over time.


Goody, Jack. 2013[1982]. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” pp. 72-88

Martin, Carla D. 2012. “Brownies: The History of a Classic American Dessert.”

Martin, Carla D. 2015. Lecture 9: Popular sweet tooths and scandal

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.

Sugar, Chocolate, and Subjugation in the European Identity

In Sweetness and Power Mintz details how sugar (and its related goods) transformed from a rarity in the 1600s, to a luxury by 1750, to finally a necessity in Western culture by 1850 (Mintz 78). This absorption of goods into the fabric of European life was made possible by African slavery – as the cheap labor force on sugar, cocoa, and other plantations created opportunity for the technical and economic changes that defined 19th and 20th century empires. Mintz argues that as slave labor made sugar cheaper and accessible, “its potency as a symbol of power declined” with its increased profitability (95). In this entry I examine the symbolism of slave labor and argue, like Mintz, that slavery enabled mass consumption of sugar and cocoa by providing the impetus for technological innovation and manufacture. However, I conclude by rejecting the notion that its potency as a power symbol decreased with its rising availability. I conclude with excerpts from Chocolate on Trial that show Europeans at various levels of social and political engagement aware, beyond emancipation and abolition, that the subjugation of African laborers remained a literal and symbolic foundation to their success.

In the 1600s and early 1700s, sugar and chocolate were rarities for the elite and were, therefore, signifiers of wealth. A lavish material culture grew around these goods, as the aristocracy would spend exorbitant sums on special chocolate-serving silverware, chocolate-specializing chefs and on sugar-based décor for events. Sugar decorations were called “subtleties” by the noble classes, who incorporated symbolic sugar crafting and designs into their celebrations (Mintz 93). Such personal wealth and success was tied to the subjugation of the black bodies laboring on these goods. As shown in the photograph of James Drummond, 2nd Duke of Perth below, black servitude became a complement to white authority. The inclusion of a black server in Drummond’s self-portrait suggests that the subjugation of blacks, along with the ornamentation of the goods newly produced by them, became symbolic of status.


Image of James Drummond (ca. 1674 – 17 April 1720), from the National Gallery of Scotland and Wikipedia. In addition, see here for an entire blog devoted to 16c-18c European portraiture that included slaves as signifiers of fashion and wealth. 

Video of the preservation of an early 18th century palatial “chocolate kitchen” from the YouTube channel of Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity

Increased slave labor lowered the price of sugar and cocoa in the 1800s, allowing for technological innovations and mass consumption. Europeans like Dutch chemist Coenraad Van Houten were now able to experiment with chocolate production. In 1828, Van Houten introduced the Hydraulic Press, a revolutionary machine that swiftly separated cocoa powder from cocoa butter (Presilla 28). His process allowed for the mass manufacture of cheap chocolate and enabled confectionary companies like Cadbury to maximize profits (Satre 15). Mintz argues that at this very time, “the decline in the symbolic importance of sugar… kept almost perfect step with the increase in its economic and dietary importance” and that status symbols like sugar decoration disappeared as sugar became ubiquitous (Mintz 95).


An advertisement for the cheap, mass-produced cocoa from Van Houten’s hydraulic press. Courtesy of Daily Dutch Innovation.

Though sugar’s prevalence lowered its esteem as ornamentation, its goods retained symbolic associations. As the Cadbury company scandal in Chocolate on Trial exposed, Europeans recognized that their successes relied on African subjugation. Sugar and chocolate were no longer matters of personal reputation, and instead matters of international power imbalance. Satre retells how the powerful English Cadbury family firm, through personal inquiry and their Quaker/Anti-Slavery communities, had evidence that slavery persisted past abolition on the Portugese cacao-exporting islands of Sao Tome and Principe and struggled for 8 years to act. Satre examines English journalist Henry Nevinson, whose expose on the islands revealed not only that abuse persisted well into the 20th century, but that Europeans at all levels of social and economic engagement were complicit in it. Satre explains, “The list of those benefiting was long – the government that charged various duties for each slave, the agents who delivered laborers to the islands, the steamship company… the doctor who kept them alive, the captain who got them to their destination, and the port that received them” (Satre 8). Satre looks at passages in which Nevison described European nobles on a ship staring at slaves with “interest and amusement,” at times even expressing “outbursts of laughter” at their difficulties. In one harrowing story, the nobles cheered, “Flog him! Flog him!” after a crew recaptured a slave that had attempted to leap overboard (9). What’s most shocking about the revelations is not the fact that slavery persisted but that Europeans—from English chocolate makers, to Portuguese officials, to individual doctors and traders – directly witnessed and acknowledged the abuse. This fact suggested that the continued subjugation of Africans remained a literal and figurative foundation of European identity. Legal abolition had failed to remove this imagery. It was no longer the kind of prestige that could be molded in a sugar statue or self-portrait, but was communicated on a transnational scale through human interaction, trading decisions, and corporate culture.

Works Cited

Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power : The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1986.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Random House LLC, 2009.

Satre, Lowell. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics and the Ethics of Business. Athens: Ohio UP, 2005.

A Spicy History

Chocolate and spice were married long before Lindt began producing its iconic chili-flavored chocolate bars.  In fact, spices were found in chocolate when the Spaniards invaded the Aztec Empire, meaning that they have been integrated in chocolate for over 500 years.  Over the course of chocolate’s lifetime, the amounts and kinds of spices used have varied widely and consumer’s attitudes towards them have changed drastically.

Figure 2.3

Though there is no concrete evidence of the first use of spice in chocolate, it is relatively safe to assume that chocolate was first consumed without spices.  I assume this because most mixed products are originally consumed as separate ingredients simply because they must be tasted first in order to discern where they fall on the flavor spectrum.  Only then can tasters determine which ingredients should be combined to maximize flavor sensation.  When the Spaniards arrived, spices and flowers like chili peppers and “ear flowers” were used universally in chocolate (Coe and Coe 2013). As chocolate is thought to have first been consumed by the Olmecs (1500-400 BCE), spices must have been added sometime between 1500 BCE and 500 CE, approximately when Cortés invaded. As spice was so firmly intertwined with chocolate when Cortés arrived, it was probably introduced and perfected earlier on in that time period.  In addition to ear flower and chili peppers, Mesoamericans also used vanilla, achiote, and mecaxóchitl (Mexican pepperleaf) to flavor their chocolate (Norton 2004).  The spices and flowers used had a wide variety of heat and appearance (see pictures below), but they were used either to complement each other or as individual flavorings.  The main use of these original spices was for flavor and not appearance as the chocolate was so dark that it would take a large amount of spice to alter the entire appearance of the chocolate.  Chocolate’s consumption as a liquid also enhanced the use of spice for taste rather than flavor because liquid chocolate is well mixed, so spices cannot easily be placed at the top for a dramatic visual effect.


Some of the invading Spaniards took kindly to the spices in chocolate, but others did not.  The flavors were so foreign to the Spaniards that they were not immediately appreciated.  When chocolate made its way over to Europe, not all the spices came along for the journey.  There are two leading theories for this lack of migration.  First, Spaniards returning from Mesoamerica believed that their mainland counterparts would not enjoy the additional spice in the chocolate.  Second, importing spices along with cacao beans would have increased the number of imports (Norton 2006).  As silver and gold were so valuable and chocolate was so desired, spices for chocolate flavoring kind of fell by the wayside.  Personally, I believe that both of these theories have some merit.  Lack of space and lack of desire for spices by Spaniards made not including them in the Spanish diet very easy.

Though spices were consumed in moderation by some Spaniards, as Norton explains in her article Conquests of Chocolate, by “the end of the eighteenth century [in Spain], all that remained of the spice complex was cinnamon and sugar” (Norton 2004). Essentially, Spaniards substituted more familiar spices (like cinnamon) for use in chocolate and largely ignored the traditional Mesoamerican spices.  Sugar use in chocolate continued to increase as sugar consumption in Europe increased, leading to sugar’s emergence as the primary supplement to cacao beans. Cinnamon was also frequently used, though mainly in chocolate drinks instead of in chocolate bars (sugar was used both in bars and drinks).

Though 18th century chocolate was largely spice-less, modern chocolate often includes chili peppers, sea salt, vanilla, or cinnamon.  So how did spices become popular again? Today, spiced chocolate is viewed almost as a delicacy and as a food for those with refined tastes.  This is a complete turnaround from a few hundred years earlier, when those spices were a mark of the Mesoamerican roots of chocolate.  I believe this turnaround occurred for two primary reasons.  Following the industrial revolution and in tandem with increased ease of travel, people began to venture further from their homes.  The ability to travel was a marker of class (because travel could be expensive), and thus a taste for “exotic” ingredients became an indicator or how well-traveled, and therefore financially well-off, a person was.  Spicy ingredients like chili peppers fell into this “exotic” category and thus experienced an upswing in popularity.  Second, the ease of travel also meant a greater ease of transportation of goods.  Transportation is now much quicker and more efficient than in 18th century Spain, meaning that more goods can be imported and exported.  Thus the cost of importing spices is reduced, and more spices can be imported to chocolate-consuming countries.

In the modern era, neither of the original factors that prevented spices from becoming popular in Spain apply — there is a desire for the spices and there is a means to acquire those spices.  Spices have become incredibly popular in western chocolate, with bakeries developing that specialize in chocolate and spice (like this one in Las Vegas).  Because of the additional cost, spices are seen as somewhat of fancier ingredient for use in chocolate, but it is nevertheless available to most of the masses because of its use by companies like Lindt. Spice use in chocolate seems to have come full circle. Originally, Mesoamerican spices were mixed in, then abandoned for more European-friendly spices like cinnamon, and now both Mesoamerican and non-Mesoamerican spices are included in chocolate bars and drinks. I predict that the level of spice use in chocolate will only increase. Western consumers (largely the drivers of the chocolate market) now have a taste for both Mesoamerican and other spices, and that taste and the ability to satisfy it fairly economically indicate that spices will continue to enhance chocolate for the foreseeable future.



Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.

Norton, Marcy. “Conquests of Chocolate.” OAH Magazine of History 18.3 (2004): 14-17. Web.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Web.


Multimedia Sources

Figure 1 – Sandberg, Anders. Lindt Chocolate. Digital image. Flickr, n.d. Web.

Figure 2A) – Dry Chili Pepper. Digital image. Wikimedia, n.d. Web.

Figure 2B) – Fou, Augustine. Vanilla-beans-bundles-2x. Digital image. Flickr, n.d. Web.

Figure 2C) – Open fruit of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), showing the seeds from which annatto is extracted; photographed in Campinas, Brazil (January 2009). Digital image. Annato. Wikipedia, n.d. Web.

Figure 2D) – Piper Friedrichsthalii. Digital image. Piper (genus). Wikipedia, n.d. Web.

Hyperlink – “Chocolate and Spice Bakery.” Las Vegas Cake Bakery. Cubic IT Consulting, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.

Never Been Kissed: A History of Hershey’s Kisses

At some point after 1907, the phrase “Can I have a kiss?” acquired a second meaning. Not only could the phrase refer to physical affection, but eventually it also came to refer to the acquisition of a different sort of pleasure: a Hershey’s chocolate convection. The Hershey’s Kiss, first introduced to the American market — allegedly named for the sound “of the chocolate being deposited during manufacturing,” – took chocolate consumers by storm.[i] The Kiss’ popularization marked an important moment both in the story of chocolate industrialization, and also in the accessibility of chocolate to all people.

The acclaimed Hershey’s Kiss would find its way into the hearts and pantries of the American public and stay there.

Once the formula for Hershey’s special brand of chocolate, with its sour, sweet taste, had been finalized, Hershey could start experimenting with the shape and marketing of that chocolate. Thus, the Kiss, with its conical shape, was invented. It was unique insomuch as it became a candy that consumers could eat and “carry…around with them without the chocolate melting all over their hands.”[ii] They could buy small quantities of kisses, and save them for later. The consumer didn’t have to worry about the chocolate melting or having to indulge in it right away. Instead chocolate was accessible, easy to eat at any time, and conveniently wrapped in foil. This stood in stark contrast with other chocolate bars around the time, and also in contrast with the popular Wilbur Buds, which came in a package that failed to separate the individual buds, and instead offered the candy all together.[iii] The Kiss was convenient and accessible, something that boosted its sales and made it a household name.

The competition: Wilbur's Buds, like Kisses, were small bite-size pieces of chocolate, though, noticeably not individually wrapped.
The competition: Wilbur’s Buds, like Kisses, were small bite-size pieces of chocolate, though, noticeably not individually wrapped.

To reiterate, the Hershey’s Kiss became incredibly popular, and found “immediate favor with the public.”[iv] The candies were marketed supremely well, creating and then filling a niche. Even their very name was popular, and as sweet as the candy it represented. By 1910, Kisses “would help propel sales over the $2 million mark,” along with the enormous success of chocolate almond bars.[v] The success of both the chocolate bars and Kisses caused Hershey to adopt a different business strategy, one that would also have lasting effect on chocolate’s status as a luxury good. Hershey began to produce “huge quantities of a few varieties,” essentially starting a system of chocolate mass-production in the United States.[vi]   The effect was to lower the price of Hershey’s chocolate across the board, allowing a huge cross section of retailers to offer Hershey products in their stores. Kisses and Hershey’s chocolate bars, thus, became an affordable, common good, found almost anywhere and enjoyed by a wide cross section of the American public. Gone were the days of chocolate belonging only the to the wealthy, or only to those who could afford to buy it. Now, chocolate, like bread, was just a food product enjoyed by many.

Today Kisses are still wildly popular. In 2014, Hershey’s produced nearly 750,000,000 individual Kisses for Valentines Day alone. They were the second most popular “packaged candy product” for the holiday.[vii] Regardless of their continued success, however, Kisses were important simply because they helped make chocolate even more accessible, and destroy any status boundaries surrounding the good.

Hershey's Kisses, marketed expressly for Valentines Day. This targeted marketing occurs for holidays like Christmas and Halloween as well.
Hershey’s Kisses, marketed expressly for Valentines Day. This targeted marketing occurs for holidays like Christmas and Halloween as well.


Image 1:

Image 2:

Image 3:

[i] “Our Story.” The Hershey Company, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <;.

[ii] Janik, Rachel. “How the Hershey’s Kiss Conquered Valentine’s Day.” Time. Time, 14 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <;

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 252

[v] D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, 121

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Rachel Janik, “How the Hershey’s Kiss Conquered Valentine’s Day.”

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 252

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams

Janik, Rachel. “How the Hershey’s Kiss Conquered Valentine’s Day.” Time. Time, 14 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

“Our Story.” The Hershey Company, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

Chocolate, Conching, and Consequences

When we think of chocolate today, what comes to mind is a confection that was heavily impacted by industrialization. In the mid to late 1800’s, chocolate and sugar became increasingly more popular and widespread in Europe and in America. At that time, there were many developments made in the production of chocolate: Henri Nestle developed the milk dehydration process in 1867, Daniel Peter created the first milk chocolate bar in 1879, and so on (Coe & Coe, 2013). Perhaps one of the most important, and now practically universally employed, developments in chocolate production during this time period was the introduction of the conching process, which Rudolphe Lindt invented in 1879 in Switzerland. This process involves continuous friction and heat produced from kneading and stirring, allowing chocolate particle size to decrease and flavor to develop. Today, the degree of conching is thought to correspond with a degree of quality in chocolate (Coe & Coe 255). Prior to these industrial advancements in chocolate making, chocolate was used medicinally and consumed as a beverage. The development and popularization of conching improved the taste and texture of eating chocolate, and thus was instrumental in developing and popularizing a cultural taste for solid chocolate.

Chocolate was initially brought from Mesoamerica to Europe and propagated as a beverage of the elite and wealthy up until the 19th century. Chocolate also played an important role in medicine, as medical treatment at the time relied on balancing the bodies’ humors, and chocolate was commonly used as a balancing agent. Modern medicine began to replace this system during the 19th century, “releasing” chocolate from its medicinal responsibilities and allowing for its common and regular consumption (Coe & Coe 234). This, along with the technological advancements in the production of chocolate, allowed for the emergence of a popularly consumed solid treat, as chocolate transformed from a rare liquid to a solid food consumed by the masses.

Mesoamerican Metate stones were used to refine the texture of chocolate prior to the invention of the conche.
Mesoamerican Metate stones were used to refine the texture of chocolate prior to the invention of the conche.

Prior to the invention of the conche, chocolate mass was ground for further processing by hand using Mesoamerican metate stones.   This method traveled to Europe as well, and was the primary technique for grinding and refining chocolate. In 1879, Rudolphe Lindt, inspired by the Mesoamerican metate, invented the “conche” (Presilla 40), which he named for its conche-like shape (Coe & Coe 247). Essentially, the machine grinds granite rollers against a granite slate in order to cause friction and produce heat, and chocolate can undergo this process for several days (Presilla 40). There is a chemical change that occurs through conching, as the chocolate becomes more aerated, which allows the evaporation of bitter and acidic flavors. Conching also homogenizes the mixture by allowing a thin “film” of cocoa butter to encapsulate each tiny particle of cocoa mass, making the chocolate “velvety smooth” with a “harmonious taste,” (“The Making of Chocolate”). Despite its nearly universal use in chocolate production, conching is not fully understood scientifically, but empirically we know it changes the flavor and texture of the chocolate mixture (Presilla 115-116).

This is a model of Lindt's Conche, which was invented in 1879 to refine the texture and flavor of chocolate.
This is a model of Lindt’s Conche, which was invented in 1879 to refine the texture and flavor of chocolate.

The further refining of chocolate through industrial conching transformed a beverage into a more widely available and delicious food product, allowing for the spread and development of a cultural taste for solid chocolate. Before the popularization of conching and the technological advancements that came along with it, chocolate was consumed as a luxury beverage. As a result, there did not exist a market or a taste for solid chocolate at the time. Conched chocolate, however, yielded a highly desirable flavor and smooth texture unlike any other that preceded it. As a result, Lindt called this new chocolate “fondant”, named after the “smooth sugar creams” that were popular at the time (Coe & Coe 247-258). Conched, or “fondant”, chocolate also had a smooth melting property that allowed it to be worked into confections and candies for the first time (Presilla 41). These confections spread quickly as mass production increased, and people in both Europe and America began to develop a taste for conched chocolate. This led to an enormous increase in the per capita consumption of chocolate (Coe & Coe 234).

Picture above is an inside view of a modern conche, used by Bright River Chocolate.  The smooth texture of the chocolate in the image is characteristic of conched chocolate.
Pictured above is an inside view of a modern conche, used by Bright River Chocolate. The smooth texture of the chocolate in the image is characteristic of conched chocolate.

Another social consequence of conching was the use of chocolate in home cooking and baking. Conched chocolate was easier to use in recipes than unconched chocolate, because the smaller particles that were emulsified with a film of fat integrated completely into batters, custards, and other recipe mixtures. Both the popularization of solid chocolate and the transition to using conched chocolate in home cooking is documented in recipe history: “If you look at old cookbooks… they contain very few recipes for chocolate in any but beverage form until about 1890 to 1900,” (Presilla 41). Conched chocolate was easier to cook and bake with, both on the scale of the home cook and the large industry, which led to the cheaper, and thus more prevalent, mass production of chocolate and chocolate foods (Presilla 41).

What began as a medical treatment and an exclusive beverage is now one of the most popular and widely enjoyed edibles in the world, largely due to the technological innovations of the 19th century. Conching on an industrial scale, inspired by the Mexican metate, allowed for the improved tasted and texture of chocolate, and thus the development of a cultural taste for solid chocolate, as well as its use in baking, cooking, and other mass productions. In today’s chocolate-making processes, various other machines are used to refine the cacao particle size, but the production of chocolate still relies heavily on conching to develop the flavor and the texture of chocolate (Presilla 115-116).


Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Conching Machine. Digital image. Bright River Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. <;.

Mesoamerican Metate Stones. Digital image. SFU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. N.p., n.d. Web. <;.

Model of Lindt’s Conche. Digital image. Dark Chocolate Life. N.p., n.d. Web. <;.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed, 2009.

“The Making of Chocolate.” Lindt. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. <;.