Industrialization changed many aspects of the chocolate-making process in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The processes invented and implemented during this time—from the melangeur and the conche to milk dehydration and bar molding, industrialization made the bitter beverage of the ancient Mesoamericans into a sweet treat that was nearly unrecognizable to consumers. This dramatic transformation is most evident in the advent of Milton Hershey’s milk chocolate bars. Unprecedented in the United States, Hershey’s company “was built to exploit a brand-new product,” (D’Antonio, 120). In light of consumers’ lack of knowledge, Hershey had to teach his consumers, as well as sell to them. This is evident in his marketing strategies. As seen in the chocolate wrapper below from the early 1900’s, Hershey markets his chocolate by playing to the new characteristics imparted to chocolate bars as a result of industrialization. His strategic use of descriptors and imagery highlights the new characteristics of industrial-age milk chocolate—its sweetness, flavor, and form—alluding to the newfound processes that transformed it from a bitter beverage, and showing consumers what this novel product had to offer.
One of the most obvious differences between traditional chocolate and Hershey’s milk chocolate bar was its sweetness. While the Spanish were known to have added sugar to their chocolate beverages, none used as much sugar as Milton Hershey, owner of his own sugar mill in Cuba (Coe, 248). Hershey highlights this new level of sweetness by labeling his product as such multiple times on the wrapper. “Hershey’s sweet milk chocolate,” the wrapper reads, with the additional description of the bar as “a sweet to eat.” This characteristic sweetness would not have been possible without the industrial inventions of the melangeur and the conche. The melangeur, created by Phillipe Suchard in 1826, involved the mixing of the chocolate with sugar to better incorporate the dry solids and form a crude liquid (Coe, 247). Rudolphe Lindt expanded upon this process in 1879 with his invention of the conche machine. In much the same way, the conche used granite rollers and subtle heat to warm the chocolate and refine the particles of sugar and cacao, creating a smoother chocolate (Coe, 247-48). In this way, the melangeur and the conche were central to creating a chocolate that was sweet, but not overly gritty, and Hershey celebrated this sweetness by labeling its chocolate as such.
More obviously, on both sides of the wrapper (and in the biggest font) reads “Hershey’s milk chocolate.” The addition of “milk” as an indispensable adjective speaks to its absence in chocolate prior to industrialization. Until milk could be dehydrated, thanks to Henri Nestle in 1867, it could not be added to chocolate, for it would spoil (Coe 247). Thanks to this process, and the original advent of milk chocolate by Daniel Peter in 1879, Hershey was able to create the milky flavor of chocolate that we love so much today. This flavor would have been unknown to many consumers of the time, so by marketing his chocolate as specifically “milk chocolate” Hershey gave a nod to the innovations of industrialization, while at the same time informing consumers of chocolate’s new creamy flavor.
As aforementioned, Hershey’s wrapper deems the chocolate bar as “a sweet to eat,” and though this may seem trivial, the fact that chocolate was for eating was not a given before this time. Up until 1847, when Joseph Fry discovered how to make a thinner, more moldable chocolate by adding cocoa powder and sugar to melted cocoa butter, there did not exist chocolate bars as we know them today—chocolate was primarily for drinking (Coe 241). Thus, it was necessary for Hershey to explicitly market his milk chocolate as “a sweet to eat,” in order to instruct consumers of its use, and differentiate it from products that had come before.
Finally, in addition to emphasizing chocolate’s characteristics brought about by modern innovation, Milton Hershey alludes to the transformative process of industrialization itself. Hershey, known as “the Henry Ford of Chocolate Makers,” was responsible for the advent of chocolate mass-production (Coe, 248). Hershey mechanized many of the processes used in chocolate manufacturing, and from bean to bar, Hershey designed his company to maximize efficiency (D’Antonio, 119). This could not have been accomplished without the use of industrialized technologies, which allowed Hershey to make great quantities of high-quality chocolate at low cost. The chocolate wrapper itself is a symbol of these technologies, as it would have been printed in mass quantities. Additionally, it would also have been used farther along the assembly line to wrap the mass-produced chocolate. Every aspect of Hershey’s operation was thus mechanized on a large scale, and this was evident through the mere existence of the standardized wrapper. But with the addition of the small image, Hershey zooms out to capture the big picture of industrialization as a whole. Front and center on his chocolate wrapper is the image of a small child emerging from a cacao pod, holding a chocolate bar. This image hearkens back to chocolate’s origin, anchoring the product to its source: the cacao pod. By including this image on the wrapper, Hershey captures chocolate’s transformation from bean to bar in light of new technologies. Furthermore, the seemingly naked child emerging from a womb-like pod symbolizes the rebirth of chocolate as something new. By including this picture of chocolate’s agricultural origins on his technologically produced wrapper, Hershey thereby captures the history of chocolate while ushering in a new era and a new chocolate empire.
Hershey thus traced the transformation from bitter beverage to sweet bar in the design of his chocolate wrapper. Its words and imagery served as a marketing strategy intended to better inform the consumer of his product by celebrating the history of processes that had inspired it, but also the promise of future chocolate to come.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.
D’Antonio, Michael D. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print, pp. 106-126.
Image 2: http://www.zeno.org/Meyers-1905.images/I/Wm17938d.jpg?w=500&h=446&vid=2017949100 (Accessed 3/11/15)