Back to Bean-to-Bar: The Trend of Industrialized Chocolate

The industrialization of chocolate production was prompted and is perpetuated by an increasing demand for chocolate from a more diverse audience than the wealthy and noble. Although industrialization lends itself to large-scale production, which has dominated the sales of chocolate around the globe, an analysis of the emerging presence of bean-to-bar companies suggests that industrialization is also central to small-scale production, and points to a trend in less-industrialized chocolate making. As farmers, economists and ethicists continue to expose the complexities of the cacao industry, a growing concern has risen around the impure, immoral, and impersonal products and practices so common in the world of chocolate–this sentiment has contributed to the popularization of the “de-industrialization” of its production by promoting greater attention to bean variety and processing methods.


Studied from one perspective, the industrialization of chocolate as a food can be divided into two waves of progress. The first wave of industrialization began in the mid-late 1800’s. The innovations to chocolate making then were primarily concerned with the creation of new chocolate products and the improvement of taste. Of particular note is Coenraad Johannes van Houten’s hydraulic press, which separates cocoa butter from chocolate liquor, and Rudolph Lindt’s conch, an invention and blending process that “kneads and agitates the cacao mass” and “mellows, ripens and rounds both the flavor and temperature” (Prescilla 116).

This video demonstrates modern-day use of Rudolph Lindt’s conch at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory.

The second wave of industrialization is more recent and has been propelled by a very different desire. Although there still exists a push to create new variations of the chocolate products now available, a more dominant concern is mass production. To satisfy more paying consumers, innovators have created systems of production—including (and not limited to) how cacao is grown and how much cacao is used. These later innovations are attempts to make more chocolate for less money. To illustrate use of and excitement about this step in industrialization, brief mention of the history of adulteration of chocolate, the use of slavery to harvest cacao, and new variations of the tree itself are important.


(ccn-51 cacao pods)

Impurity of chocolate is evident throughout history, as is immorality in its production, and lack of knowledge about its origins. For example, Cadbury chocolate, a long-time Quaker family business was found guilty of adulterating their chocolate with starches in the late 1800s. At that time, starches could have included “potato starch, wheat or barley flour, pulverized cacao shells, gum, dextrin or even ground brick” (Coe and Coe 244).

A more recent occurrence of “adultery” is Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses. Often criticized for tasting like “sour milk,” it is speculated that the milk used in the kisses is treated with butyric acid to delay its spoiling. Related to impurity is the growing reliance on “new” strains of cacao that are more disease resistant and have higher yields. Among the most notable is the CCN-51 strain, primarily grown in Ecuador. Bean classification is essential to understanding the modern cacao industry because of price and taste variability. With regard to immorality, modern-day slavery is rampant in the cacao industry, particularly in Africa. When slavery is not the oppressor, unfair or unequal pay is.


(child labor in cacao production)


The rising trends of organic, local, non-GMO foods and “slow” eating as well as transparency in the sourcing of foods suggest that a significant portion of consumers are concerned with the narrative of their foods. By extension, this suggests that consumers are displeased with the presence of a negative narrative—a food-history racked with slavery, inequality and ingredient adulteration. As a result, highly industrialized operations become synonymous with terminology such as “impure, immoral or impersonal.” This interest in having “whole” and natural foods from traceable and environmentally conscious sources has been the impetus for many food-related movements; one of which is particularly relevant to a discussion on the industrialization of chocolate as a food.

The company, “Endangered Species Chocolate” targets consumers for whom the issues of sustainability, health, and ethics are important. Other bean-to-bar establishments such as Taza Chocolate also emphasize their involvement with hand-sorted, hand picked, minimally processed chocolates. Bean variety and purity is a point of pride for many like-minded establishments.

Endangered Species Chocolate:

Taza Chocolate:

The industrial revolution of chocolate made possible greater variety in products and the mass production, as well as an increase in availability and a decrease in price. Because of an increasing demand for chocolate, its industrialization as a food also necessitated more innovative means of acquisition and production. For large corporations, this meant less than ethical, honest and “pure” production methods and products. As a result, the cycle of industrialization has trended toward less mechanized and chemically altered products and processes.

Works Cited:

The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print. 244.Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print. 116.


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