Industrial Revolution? Chocolate Revolution!

Once the Europeans discovered chocolate, its accessibility remained limited to the elite for years before the Industrial Revolution occurred. Chocolate was extremely expensive to grow and process, and so only those wealthy enough to afford the costs that went into preparing and making chocolate were able to consume it on a regular basis. But with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the resulting mechanization of the many processes within the production of chocolate, it was able to spread beyond the elite and into the general population. Advancements made by the hydraulic press, the conching process, and the assembly line method of production transformed chocolate’s former status as an economic class divider into a staple of the diet of the widespread masses.

Before the Industrial Revolution, for “at least 28 centuries, chocolate had been a drink of the elite and the very rich” (Coe & Coe 232). The consumption of chocolate after it arrived in Europe was not a hassle-free experience, since “both the making and the drinking involved special pains and paraphernalia” (Presilla 25). Preparing chocolate required a fair amount of equipment, like the Mexican metate and molinillo, and the elite served chocolate in silverware like Spanish mancerinas and French chocolatiers, all of which were extremely expensive to own in the first place. Furthermore, there were whole kitchens devoted to the process of preparing chocolate for consumption, as was seen through a restoration at the Hampton Court Palace.

Dry ingredients like spices and nuts were added to the mixture, which did not help widen chocolate’s accessibility. It wouldn’t be until manufacturers moved away from expensive equipment that chocolate would become a more common good.

The modern era of chocolate making and production began with the invention of the cocoa press, a hydraulic press that squeezed out cocoa butter and left behind cocoa powder. This mechanized separation, invented by van Houten in 1828, made possible the “large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses, in both powdered and solid form” (Coe & Coe 235). Now, chocolate manufacturers could efficiently process chocolate liquor produced from the cacao nibs, but in a very large scale. In 1847, Joseph Storrs Fry made another essential discovery that advanced mass chocolate production. He mixed a blend of cocoa powder and sugar together with melted cocoa butter, which produced a thinner paste that could be cast into a mold (Coe & Coe 241). By this point, these inventions had speeded up methods in both the cacao processing as well as the chocolate manufacturing parts of the entire process. Large-scale producers could efficiently process the raw ingredient and mechanize the creation of the chocolate bar, which would soon be popularized in the masses.

Another part of the manufacturing process was in fact inspired by the metate. In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt invented the conching process, which produced chocolate with a smoother consistency and a rather significant flavor alteration, due to the addition of heat while conching. It is interesting to note that a final crucial advancement in chocolate manufacturing didn’t require an entirely new invention, but instead the “adaptation of simple machinery for producing standard goods on a larger scale” (Goody 81). Hershey’s adaption of the assembly line method in his own chocolate factories, as seen in the image below, vastly increased production and he was therefore able to produce a large quantity of chocolate every day of production.

Assembly line production in a Hershey factory, 1936

The process of chocolate manufacturing has evolved into a highly mechanized process, which would not have been possible without the advancements from late 1800s and early 1900s. This process shown for the making of chocolate bars very much follows the overall structure of an assembly line, with the chocolate being processed through the inventions of the cocoa press and the conching process.

Process for making a chocolate bar!

With these advances, chocolate could now be produced on a huge industrial scale and at relatively cheaper costs. The different advances in various steps of chocolate production during the Industrial Revolution began the transformation of chocolate from an exquisite luxury to the easily affordable snack that it still is today. The elitist luxury was spread to thousands of consumers; without the cocoa press, the conching method, or the large-scale factory production of chocolate, it would not have been possible for chocolate to become a daily commodity for consumers of any socioeconomic class.

Works Cited
– Archives, Hershey Community. Hershey assembly line. Digital image. Explore PA History. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
– Chocolate Bar-making Process. Digital image. Celebrating a Soy-Free Easter with Amedei Chocolate. HubPages, 28 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
– Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
– Goody, Jack. 2013[1982]. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” pp. 72-88.
– Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001. Print.
– “The Making of the Chocolate Kitchen.” YouTube. YouTube, 3 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.


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