Our Sweet Spot: America, Chocolate, and Industrialization as viewed through Commercials

Despite the long history of cacao and indeed even of European associations with cacao products since the fifteenth century, the rise of what we today think of as chocolate occurred only around 100 years ago and hinged on the successes of the “emperors of chocolate” – small confectionary businesses that within a short time became massive companies. The role of industrialization and mass production in this development of modern chocolate, as well as the production of a consumer market, is epitomized by the Hershey’s Kiss commercials that continue to grace TV screens and the internet. Commercials such as this and others which can be seen here have aired in recent years, at a time when many people are increasingly seeking out organic, locally sourced foods. The focus on the inner workings of the Hershey’s factories, then, shows the level to which such companies as Hershey’s associate with their roots stemming from developments in industrial production, and also speaks to the fact that Americans are comfortable with this image of mass-production at least in relation to some foods.

 The Hershey’s Kisses “Off to Work We Go” represents the role of industrialization and production lines in chocolate making by big companies.

While showing the process of a Kiss being created, the advertisement only starts at the piping of the chocolate into the desired shape and skips the earlier steps of the chocolate-making process that we have learned about and that create the quality and texture of the chocolate in the first place (though we do catch glimpses of cacao beans off to the side). We can view this omission of earlier steps as Hershey recognizing that the company does not need to show the consumers where their product comes from, but rather that they simply care about the finished product that arrives, as in the commercial, neatly wrapped and ready to be eaten. The industrial production, which signaled a significant change in chocolate manufacturing, are the highlight of this video and therefore show the importance placed on these processes in terms of enabling Hershey’s to grow into such a large company and mass-produce chocolate at this level. Additionally, in the commercial the only people present are the on the other side of the wall – the consumers. No factory workers or trace of human presence appears within the industrial settings, though the commercial still managed to tie into the American sense of industry as hard work through the anthropomorphic Kisses. The lack of human workers, though, reflects the level of mechanization pioneered by Forrest Mars, who “studied the production of steel to learn how to conduct a product with his plant without touching it” (Brenner 67).
Whereas the Hershey’s commercial is lighthearted and does not feel the need to provide justification or explanation as to why the consumer should purchase the product or where the ingredients are from, in contrast this commercial for Horizon Organic milk shows a very different angle and focuses almost exclusively on that which the Kiss commercial omits:

This commercial for Horizon Organic milk is much more descriptive than the Hershey’s Kisses commercial and therefore represents consumer concerns about milk.

We see that Horizon Organic’s commercial is much more informative, and that it discusses what the company does, how it partners with family farms, where the milk comes from, and what the state of the cows producing the milk is. The commercial also notes what will not be found in the milk – namely pesticides, antibiotics, added growth hormones, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors and colors. This seems to address potential concerns of consumers, showing that Horizon believes those who buy its products care about this background knowledge. This milk commercial is an interested example of contrast to the chocolate one because milk production was mechanized and industrialized – with a change from manual to machine labor – around the same time as that of chocolate, largely the mid-twentieth century and continuing up to present day (Guptill, Copelton, and Lucal 108). Yet we focus on where milk comes from but chocolate and the cacao it is made from seems largely exempt from this scrutiny. Another commercial, this one for the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bubbly, also highlights this fact – in exploring the origins of the bar, the video travels not to the plantations where the cacao is grown but rather to a farm where fictional cows float in the air, supposedly providing the “bubbly” milk that makes the chocolate.

Though incorporating fantastical elements, this commercial for Cadbury Dairy Milk Bubbly chocolate represents the desire the know about origins of milk, whereas the origins of the other chocolate ingredients – namely cacao – are not addressed.

There is a constant impetus to exhibit the milk as fresh, whereas in the chocolate commercials examined here there is no such push for the cacao used. For chocolate, the focus is much more on the industrial process, and as consumers it appears that in general consumers are satisfied with this and require no further information about chocolate in order for it to sell, in contrast with how we view other foods.
Overall, then, we see that the crux of change that industrialization and mechanized equipment provided for the chocolate industry is a factor that chocolate companies such as Hershey’s are able to accept and do not need to shy away from – it is intimately tied to their roots and to their present dominance of the American market. And just as the companies are able to accept this important aspect of how they function, American consumers too largely then must accept this fact – as evidenced by the fact that the chocolate commercials viewed here showcase the factory and provide no information about the origins of the materials, whereas milk-related commercials have a bigger onus to address the quality of the milk and where it has come from, an onus likely driven by the consumer drive to know more about how their food is sourced. Chocolate, then, can be thought of as a consumable product for which we have a collective “sweet spot” – it seems Americans largely do not need to know where the ingredients come from or see people involved in the process of making the chocolate, rather it can simply be placed in front of us and we will consume it. However, more change is upon us – and with the rise of fair trade chocolate and an increased emphasis on knowing the origins of foods extending now even to cacao, it will certainly be interesting to see how these associations and viewpoints of both company and consumers develop in years to come.

Works Cited

Brenner, Joel Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.

“Cadbury Dairy Milk Bubbly Television Commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, 7 Aug. 2012. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xJKMrkYNIM&gt;.

Guptill, Amy Elizabeth, Denise A. Copelton, and Betsy Lucal. Food & Society: Principles and Paradoxes. Malden, MA: Polity, 2013. Print.

“Hershey’s Kisses “Off to Work We Go”” YouTube. YouTube, 27 Jan. 2009. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09-WlGhfIG8>.

“Horizon Organic: Why Horizon?” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHgg3X49FkU>.

Martin, Carla. AAAS 119x Lecture 7: Sugar and Cacao. 2015.

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