Monthly Archives: April 2015

Take your Pick! A Look at Chocolate Selections and Advertisements in CVS

There are so many different chocolate brands and types of chocolate that you can buy and consume, but how do you know which one to choose? Why is it that some people go for the peanut M&Ms, but others will go straight for the 89% extra dark Ghirardelli Cacao? While a huge contributing factor is one’s taste, another main factor that captures consumer’s attention to buy certain chocolate is the advertisements and branding. Each chocolate brand has its own known logo that is altered around through different coloring based on different flavors. When examining the chocolate selections in retail stores such as supermarkets, CVS’s, and Chocolate Stores, one can learn an immense about how different chocolate brands sell themselves and capture the attention of certain consumers. “Adverts offer us ways of using commodities such as chocolate to say things about ourselves, our families, our social world. They also position us in relation to that product as gendered, classed and raced beings” (Robertson, 19). I decided to look at the chocolate selection in CVS because CVS is a universal store that has everything, especially all different types of chocolate. Based on the type of branding, advertisement, coloring of packaging, price, and labeling, I will highlight through the analysis of CVS chocolate selections how different chocolate brands are tailored to capture the attention of specific audiences.

When I walked into CVS in search of the chocolate section, I was faced with two different sections that contained chocolate: the “Bagged Chocolate” aisle, and the “Premium Chocolate” Section. I write section after “Premium Chocolate” because it is only a tiny little section at the end of one of the aisles, right across from the freezer dinners. However, the labeling of this section is spot on because it does contain all of the higher quality and “Premium” kind of chocolate such as Ghirardelli, Ritter, Lindt, and Ferrero Rocher. These “Premium Chocolates” are more expensive with prices being $5.29 per bar of chocolate or 2 for $10 dollars. The boxes of these chocolates were significantly higher with prices well in the twenties and some in the thirty dollar range. Within each brand of chocolate, there are tons of different flavors, each distinct with a specific packaging color. For example, the flavors of Lindt truffles that were on the shelf at CVS were stracciatella white chocolate, coconut milk chocolate, extra dark chocolate, caramel milk chocolate, white chocolate, seat salt milk chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. All of these flavors had a different color bag, but contained the same logo in order to allow customers to distinctly identify such brand of chocolate.

A wall of all of the different Lindt Truffle flavors. Notice the different color packaging each flavor has.
A wall of all of the different Lindt Truffle flavors. Notice the different color packaging each flavor has.

However, when looking at these advertisements, the color of the packaging does not only represent the flavor, but also it carries underlying meanings of race, class, and gender. For example, in the packaging for Lindt truffles, the white chocolate truffles are usually in a white or lightly colored package while the dark chocolate truffles are contained in a black or a dark colored packaging, which stems back to racial issues that have been constantly involved in chocolate advertising. In Professor Martin’s lecture on Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements, she states how chocolate & vanilla have become cultural metaphors for race. Chocolate is to blackness while vanilla is to whiteness. In addition to the obvious, whiteness is also associated with purity, cleanliness, and blandness while blackness is associated with impurity (sin), dirtiness, sexuality, and interest (Lecture 16). In the Lindt packaging at CVS, we can see how race is being highlighted and signified due to the color of the packaging based on the flavor of chocolate. This is also evident in the Ghirardelli chocolates that were in the “Premium Section” of CVS because the color of the packaging signifies the color of the chocolate, which hints at race. For example, the “Intense Dark” Hazelnut Heaven, and 86% Cacao are black in color, which signifies it being the darkest and most aggressive while white chocolate is called “Vanilla Dream”signifying how it’s perfect and blissful. Extreme enjoyment and pleasure comes with eating Vanilla Dream.

White Ghirardelli Chocolate
White Ghirardelli Chocolate “Vanilla Dream” Flavor
Intense Dark 86% Caco Ghirardelli
Intense Dark 86% Caco Ghirardelli “Midnight Reverie”

The “Bagged Chocolate” section is where all the “cheaper” chocolate is found, or much of the chocolate that a lot of young kids and the general population are familiar with. This section in CVS takes up an entire aisle with half of the aisle devoted to big bags of Kit Kat, Reeses, M&Ms, Dove, Hershey’s, Snickers, Butterfingers, York Peppermint Patties, and mixes of all these different chocolates, which are largely owned by MARS Chocolate. The prices of these are on sale with everything being 2 for $6 and the bag of Dove chocolates being 2 for $7. Next to the bagged chocolate are the large bars of chocolate, which contain the same chocolate selection with the addition of Cadbury and Toblerone. Advertising has “created, and reinforced, particular uses and identities for each type of product: so, whilst a chocolate bar may be consumed as a source of concentrated energy [to be carried on walking expeditions for instance], a box of chocolates may be bought as a gift (with all the social implications of the gift relationship). In both situations the commodity is chocolate, but the attendant meanings are vastly different” (Robertson, 19). With the bagged chocolate, it contained all the type of chocolate that one would buy for Halloween or a party because it came in bulk, which was significantly cheaper than the chocolate in the Premium Chocolate section, and would be easily to distribute to a mass group of people.

The name of the aisle section, “Bagged Chocolate”, is attempting to appeal to the people who do not want to spend a lot of money on chocolate and are looking for something of bigger supply. Usually when things come in bigger portion, like these giant bags of chocolate, they tend to be lower quality and lower priced, which appeals to people who don’t want to spend that much money. In this case, these bagged chocolates may appeal to people who have kids or deal with kids on a daily basis because children obviously would not appreciate or care about eating higher quality chocolate and rather they just want to eat the pretty looking M&Ms or anything that is chocolate related. Markets for these big chocolate companies use this technique as a way to market to children because it is a such a lucrative business. In Professor Martin’s Lecture on chocolate advertisement, she states how companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children, a staggering increase from the $100 million spent in 1983. While companies spend a plethora on money to get kids to buy their candy, children under 14 spend about $40 billion annually. Compare that to the $6.1 billion 4-12 years olds spent in 1989 and that is a significant increase. Teens spend about $159 billion on consumption (Lecture 17). This is a huge number for children and teens, so the big chocolate companies like MARS put a lot of thought into their packaging and marketing technique in order to lure in this specific type of audience. As a result, they make their candy colorful with pictures and cartoons, and sold in bags so parents would buy the bigger bulk of chocolate because it may aesthetically please the kids.

In addition to having the chocolate candies in bulk and King Sizes, the coloring of the packaging is also fun, bright colors like bright green, yellow, orange, or red, which captures the eye of the consumer. This would appeal to many kids and children because it would remind them of fun, happiness, and excitement.

Different M&M flavors from their website-
Different M&M flavors from their website-

For example, when looking at the different bags of M&Ms, they are all a different color, which represents the different flavors. However, what is similar besides having the M&M sign is that there is always some sort of M&M man or lady who is side glancing at either the consumer or up at the M&M sign in a rather seductive way. First off, having this M&M man is attracting both younger kids because he looks fun and the packaging is fun colors, but it also attracts women because the side eye glance is a form of seduction to try and lure women into buying the product. This is a marketing strategy because women are usually large consumers of chocolate, so the notion of having women be     seduced by chocolate is a common theme in advertisements.

When looking at the different chocolate selections in CVS and the two different chocolate sections, one is able to notice the type of audience that the chocolate brand is intended to attract based on the kind of language that the product uses to lure in its consumers. For starters, having a “Premium Chocolate” and a “Bagged Chocolate” section is a clear notion that one section is meant to attract the general population to lower quality and lower priced chocolate while the other section is meant to attract a small population of people who are appreciators of high quality chocolate. The word Premium sounds like the highest quality one can have while Bagged sounds like garbage. Also, the names of flavors are also an indicator of the type of people that the chocolate brands are trying to attract. In the Premium Chocolate section, the Ghirardelli flavors are Sea Salt Soiree, Dark %60 Cacao, “Intense Dark” Hazelnut Heaven, 86% Cacao, and Dark Chocolate Raspberry. These names are more sophisticated than the average Peanut M&Ms or Cookies n Cream Hershey’s, which signifies that Ghirardelli is trying to attract adult customers rather than children.

Ghirardelli Logo
Ghirardelli Logo

Even the bland logo design of Ghirardelli tells us that it is not trying to lure in their customers with aesthetically pleasing packaging, but rather with good tasting chocolate. Only those who know of such a brand, like adults and potentially wealthier buyers, would want to buy such chocolate because they like the actual chocolate.

The issue now is that many companies are now taking significant care and being very meticulous in their advertisement and packing design instead of solely focusing on the actual product. “The attraction of packaging can be defined as the art of establishing relationship, boosting awareness, willing to purchase, preferring a definite brand name and finally performing of shopping (Alavi, 2005).” In a study on the relationship of purchasing a chocolate based on its packaging, they concluded that “today, packaging is not merely used for preserving goods and commodities anymore, rather, roles and responsibilities are considered for it such as bringing about value added coupled with giving information and also prestige to purchaser. Packaging needs to attract customer, bring attractiveness, and safeguard dignity and personality of customers as well.” (Giyahi, 2011). As a result, we can see how consumption is no longer solely about taste. It is also about attractiveness of the packaging and the persuasiveness of the advertisement because at the end of the day, most people only want what captures the eye.

Works Cited 

Alavi, M. (2005). Study of impact of packaging Choco Pars products on decision making of purchasers. Islamic Azad University of Central Tehran Branch: Master of business Administration (MBA).

Giyahi, Yasaman. “An Empirical study on the Relationship of Purchasing a Chocolate Based on its Packaging.” Growing Science. Volume 2. December 2011

Mars Incorporated and its Affiliates. 2015. Accessed April 30, 2015.

Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements”. Harvard University, Cambridge. March 30, 2015. Lecture 16.

Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements”. Harvard University, Cambridge. March 30, 2015. Lecture 17.

McEachron, Natasha. “Lindt: A Brand Built on Chocolate, Truffles & Excellence.” March 27th 2012. Accessed April 30, 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 2009

Shady, Justin. “Ghirardelli Coming to Disney California Adventure”. OC Weekly Blogs. OC Weekly. December 5, 2011. Accessed April 30, 2015.

El Ceibo: How One Chocolate Producer is Redefining Corporate Contribution

In an industry as overcrowded as chocolate, Big Chocolate companies may justify the negative impact they make on cocoa farmers, consumer’s waistlines, and overly sexualized advertisements as necessary evils to beat their competition. El Ceibo chocolate cooperative separates itself from this bittersweet approach to business by creating a culturally informed product and corporate organization that positively affects farmers, consumers, and countries.

El Ceibo’s tree-adorned packaging and name reference the native ceiba tree renown for its strong, deep roots. The tree serves as a worthy metaphor for the cooperative’s mindset and accomplishments. Producing chocolates since 1977, El Ceibo claims to be the only chocolate brand in the world produced entirely by the cocoa producers themselves from tree to bar.[i] The company’s product line includes drinking chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate bars. True to their mission of supporting local culture and products, their bars feature other Bolivian ingredients such as uyuni salt from the flats in southwest Bolivia and Andean royal quinoa from the highlands of the country.

From El Ceibo’s official Facebook page, this tree is composed of El Ceibo’s chocolate bar packages. Since El Ceibo was named for the ceiba tree, the metaphor of the product compiled as a tree is powerful.

The cooperative’s innovative and effective management organization has positively impacted the lives of over 1,200 cocao-producing families.[ii] Spurred by a foundational understanding of self-reliance and inclusiveness, El Ceibo introduced an assembly system of representation, equal wage policy, leadership rotation pattern, and training programs. In the rotating governing council, half the members change each year.[iii] Farmers in the El Ceibo cooperative receive a fair wage, optional job training (such as accounting and pruning), and a voice to instruct how the cooperative progresses.

These practices stand in stark contrast to commonplace activities abounding in world cacao production today. Numerous recent reports convict farms in the Ivory Coast and neighboring Ghana of using slave labor, borderline or outright child abduction practices, physical abuse and providing unfair work conditions.[iv], [v] On-site reports claim that most (if not all) farmers interviewed had never tasted the chocolate for which their labor produced the ingredients.[vi] In this practice, the vast majority of bulk cocoa purchased by Big Chocolate is produced in West Africa, then made into chocolate and sold in Europe. Even if wages and working conditions for these West Africans farmers were fair, the fact that they do not know and cannot reasonably afford to purchase the final product of their labor turns chocolate into a product made from the sweat of black bodies, transformed by the factories of Europe, into desserts for white tongues. El Ceibo breaks from this downward spiral and produces chocolates from their homegrown beans that locals and farmers can actually enjoy.

The first stage of breaking this cycle began before El Ceibo became a cooperative. At the time, most cacao farmers in the region were forced to negotiate against one another to win chocolate producers’ business. Now under El Ceibo, farmers’ livelihoods improved through their ability to earn higher returns from their beans. By forming the cooperative, famers have significant leverage over the cacao market in La Paz. The company has been so effective in price stabilization and “spillover benefits” for farmers throughout the Alto Beni region that experts estimate that, “without the presence of their service program and industry, famers would be receiving one half to two thirds of their current cacao income and probably would have abandoned the crop.”[vii] In this way, El Ceibo uses their organizational structure as a cooperative to stabilize the price of cacao and thus enable a more secure livelihood for farmers.

This photo of El Ceibo farmers and leadership together communicates their cooperative’s themes of community-incorporating and tradition-inspired products. The traditional clothing shown conveys that El Ceibo has not allowed their entrance onto the global marketplace to take away the reminders of where they came from.

This market power has also changed farmers’ expectations of fair payment for their product. When La Paz buyers delayed payments or attempted to block price regulation, the then El Ceibo President said, “a taste of higher prices made our people more defiant than ever and determined to resist the efforts by these business groups.”[viii] This “change of taste” for the farmers and their response provides hope to African cacao famers who hedge that if prices go high enough, African farmers’ tastes will change and they will refuse to sell low again, shifting the entire cacao bean market to a level that will reduce the need for unfair labor practices.

Furthermore, the bargaining power in the cacao market has given dignity to farmers and allowed the lower classes to access a new role in society. “Peasant managers had become shrewd negotiators for dealing with a host of institutions, from public bureaucracies to municipal governments, private banks, and business firms,” says El Ceibo observer Kevin Healy.[ix] Seen this way, El Ceibo’s chocolate company is changing not just livelihoods but also the status of farmers as members of society.

The cooperative also provides training that enables the farmers’ future success. A six-week course in accounting, taught by El Ceibo staff, is reportedly always well attended.[x] Through the program for agricultural training called the “Co-Operative Education and Agricultural Extension Division,” twenty-two peasant professionals are taught pruning techniques to fight the cacao-devastating witch’s broom disease. The program also supplies member co-ops and federation programs with “bookkeepers, treasurers, accountants, and savvy officers” who all enable the farmer to focus on his cacao trees.[xi] As a result of these educational investments, El Ceibo had become more knowledgeable about cacao production than the local agricultural research program organized by the Bolivian government. The farmers also practice sustainable farming to invigorate and replenish the cacao trees’ habitats.[xii]

While El Ceibo’s front panel packaging does not list any certifications, this image from their Facebook fan page mentions nine including FDA, USDA Organic, Fairtrade, and Fine Chocolate Industry Association. From our class lectures, we’ve learned that many of these certifications bring satisfaction to consumers more than financial benefit to individual farmers.

El Ceibo’s impact on farmers goes beyond paychecks and training, though. After the cacao beans are sold at market, El Ceibo fills the empty truck beds returning from La Paz with staples not available in the Alto Beni region. This enables stable access to standard goods and helps regulate prices. In this way, El Ceibo fills the gap between what local markets in the outskirts of Bolivia need and what the “invisible hand” or government programs can consistently supply. Taken together, El Ceibo’s cooperative has helped famers financially, professionally, and socially while regulating markets.

Consumers also benefit from El Ceibo’s corporate existence and products. A “Quinu Coa” product made of Andean grain quinoa with cocoa was incorporated into national school breakfast in increase nutritional content in children’s meals.[xiii] Outside of the nation, according to El Ceibo member Gualberto Condori, a Swiss firm sells El Ceibo, “to consumers willing to pay a slightly higher price for Third World products that increase employment and other benefits for small farmers like ourselves. They say it’s a way to rectify some of the major social injustices…and open new markets for them as well, so there is mutual interest involved in these arrangements.”[xiv] The 2.8 ounce bars retail for $13 USD.[xv]

This American Whole Foods employee poses with EL Ceibo chocolate bars to celebrate the arrival of the bars to American shelves in Virginia. While the just over 2-ounce bars retail for $13, high-end health markets like Whole Foods seem to match buyers who are willing to pay more for a great product that enables farmers better livelihoods with El Ceibo, a cooperative that is redefining corporate contribution.

El Ceibo’s success as a cooperative and chocolate producer has extended beyond the borders of its cacao farms. The company has been designated among Bolivia’s top ten most important exporters of non-traditional products making it an icon of Bolivian pride. The company remembers its roots, too. Former president El Ceibo Leoncio Tipuni mentions that ancestral Aymara, Quechua, and Moseten cultural practices153 inspired the company’s organization. The cooperative reinvests in local cultural festivals that bring together music and dance from various highland traditions of the farmers to preserve their unique cultural identities and traditions. Chocolate expert Susan Terrio explains how companies like El Ceibo’s products are able to shape the national cuisine of Bolivia in the minds of foreign consumers, “In an era of global markets and instantaneous linkages, chefs and cookbooks circulate globally, and the national cuisines they represent shape and are shaped by transnational culture and taste.”[xvi] In this way, El Ceibo is not only creating a product from their farmer’s past to maintain their history, they are influencing the current cuisine of Bolivia.

Inside Bolivia’s borders, the democratic governing structure of El Ceibo teaches good civil education and engagement practices for farmers. The system of self-governed democratic management “derived from local Andean political order”[xvii] and combines democratic assemblies with rotating community leadership. Commentator on democracy and food movements D Schugurensky argues that “one of the best ways to learn democracy is by doing it and one of the best ways to develop effective civic and political skills is by observing them in the real world and exercising them (2003a)”[xviii] Further, academic Charles Levkoe explains how engagement in these governmental structures, “create[s] changes in people that inspire and prepare them to participate in a wider society.”[xix] By teaching good governance, El Ceibo lays the foundation for a stronger democracy and democratic participants in Bolivia.

The cacao-producing cooperative solved another serious government problem—drug production. Farmers report that if El Ceibo didn’t act as buffer and the cacao bean price dropped too low, farmers would cut down their cacao trees and harvested coca. In this way, El Ceibo reduced the supply of regional narcotics by providing legal, alternative forms of income for farmers.

El Ceibo has undoubtedly added great value to the lives, national identity, and taste buds of Bolivians and international customers. However, challenges still persist. Natural disasters such as flooding and tree infections plague farmers. Since only 10% of the total cocoa beans produced annually are fermented and dried in the technical center of Sapecho, the other 90% is fermented and dried by the producers themselves.[xx] While El Ceibo mentions that they visit these farms periodically to check on practices, exposure to nearby dust, rubbish, or fuel exhaust could tarnish the quality and infect the purity of their beans.

As El Ceibo looks to expand to international markets, they may face pressures to change the recipes of their products to match certain national pallets. Further, competing with the Big Five chocolate producers would require slitting their price by nearly $10 or 77%. A 77% decrease in revenue would likely force the company to make many of the poor compromises that the Big Five have—price, cocoa quality, labor payment, purity, and taste would all decline.

The company’s hiring of external auditors to ensure good book keeping and financial prudence[xxi] shows a first step in recruiting outside experts to manage or oversee aspects of the business. According to Oxfam, the average chocolate bar pays farmers only 3% of the final mark-up price while 43% goes to retail and supermarket margin. While El Ceibo’s bean-to-bar business structure may have different ratios, the Oxfam finding shows that retail is the profit sweet spot. If El Ceibo wants to increase profits or expand around the world, they may need experts or partners in the retail realm that could take central decision-making out of its countryside origin and overshadow the opinions of small-time farmers.

As demand for El Ceibo beans and chocolate grows, more talented or highly trained workers may insist on higher wages. This could destabilize the “one famer, one voice” and all-equal pay foundation that attracted so many famers initially. If the better producing or better-trained talent is not compensated for their expertise, they may leave the cooperative and become competitors. This would reduce the bargaining power El Ceibo has over the cacao market in La Paz and incentivize other farmers to set out on their own, effectively returning the region to their original fragmented state. Perhaps the camaraderie and benefits of El Ceibo are enough to keep farmers within the organization, though.

The success of El Ceibo casts chocolate as a tool for developing previously untouched corners of the world. Since lesser-developed nations are the main producers of chocolate today, following El Ceibo’s model of production and organization can serve as a tool for bettering farmers, consumers, and nations. El Ceibo’s example is proof that chocolate can be sustainably produced and sold without the problems of child slavery, unfair wages, and unhealthy products that benefit the chocolate companies at the expense of the supply chain and consumers, as is the case in many cacao plantations in West Africa and their Big Chocolate buyers. Further, ethical practices are not only attainable, but also yield benefits for those outside the direct production. True to the tree in their name, El Ceibo has created strong, deep roots to shade and nurture all those under its canopy. Perhaps as it grows larger, the cooperative will prove that chocolate can truly make the world a better place.

To support the positive impact El Ceibo is making and join in on the sweetness, visit their website at

Special thanks to Carmen Segales and her associate Pastor R Payllo of El Ceibo Chocolates for participating in an interview that informed this paper.

[i] El Ceibo website. Accessed March 25, 2015.

[ii] One World Award by Rapunzel. 2010 Finalist. Accessed March 25, 2015.

[iii] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001.

[iv] Mistrati, Miki. The Dark Side of Chocolate. 2010.

[v] Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. 2008. Pages 129-133.

[vi] Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. 2008. Page 7.

[vii] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001. Page 138.

[viii] ibid

[ix] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001. Page 133.

[x] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001. Page 136.

[xi] ibid

[xii] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001.

[xiii] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001.

[xiv] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001. Page 144.

[xv] El Ceibo website. Accessed March 25, 2015.

[xvi] Terrio, Susan. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, London, England. 2000. Page 55.

[xvii] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001. Page 137.

[xviii] Schugurensky, D. “Three Theses On Citizenship Learning And Participatory Democracy.” Accessed September 2003. 2003. From Levkoe, Charles. “Learning Democracy Through Food Justice Movements.” From Food and Culture. Edited by Counihan, Carole and Van Esterik, Penny. Routledge. New York, New York. 2013. Page 593.

[xix] Levkoe, Charles. “Learning Democracy Through Food Justice Movements.” From Food and Culture. Edited by Counihan, Carole and Van Esterik, Penny. Routledge. New York, New York. 2013. Page 599.

[xx] El Ceibo website. Accessed April 8, 2015.

[xxi] Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana. 2001.

Holistic Health and Chocolate: A Historical Review and Modern Analysis

Chocolate has been enjoyed for hundreds of years. Additionally, it has progressively adapted to various cultures. The story begins in Mesoamerica; however, upon the arrival of Europeans, chocolate expanded first to Spain, then adapted as it traveled across Europe, and then came back to the Americas where the new forms, including solid chocolate bars, widely spread into modern times. While, originally it was a drink, now chocolate is consumed as a drink, bar, syrup, and more. Chocolate is now readily available worldwide. Through a long history including social and historical issues, chocolate reached its current state of being. By contextualizing an interview with a young adult in her twenties, aliased Nicky, with the historical factors leading to her thoughts, it becomes evident one essential factor needed to understand humanity’s relationship with modern chocolate is holistic health as chocolate’s effect on holistic health will affect how people consider chocolate.

In order to better understand the role chocolate plays contemporarily with holistic health, first one must understand the definition of holistic health and be knowledgeable with a brief history of how views of holistic health and chocolate relate. Holistic health is defined roughly as the state of a person’s being “that considers the whole person – body, mind, spirit, and emotions” (Holistic 2015). Thus, for the purposes of its relationship with chocolate, it is possible to group this into three subdivisions: physical health, emotional health, and mental health. Here, physical health is determined by the state of one’s body. Emotional health is how a person feels in terms of moods such as sadness, stress, etc. Finally, mental health regards how one thinks about chocolate and its interactions with the world and community.

Historical Views of Chocolate Regarding Holistic Health

Through the history of chocolate, it is easy to find examples of how people’s conception of holistic health incorporated chocolate. There exists a plethora of examples relating to physical health dating back to Mesoamerican civilizations. For the majority of history, chocolate was viewed as a potential benefit to one’s overall physical health. For example, the Aztec people believed chocolate could be used in healing practices. Thus, they included chocolate in both ritualistic health practices and in botanical remedies for common ailments (Coe 43). Following, shortly after this, the Spanish grew to believe chocolate could cure many ailments. Amongst these are skin issues, fevers, probability of conception, and more (Martin, Mesoamerica 2015). Although these treatments had no data supporting them, the belief in the healing power of chocolate persisted. As it became more popularized in Europe, these healing properties had to be adapted to fit their model of health. Thus, when looking at the 1500s and the following centuries, chocolates influence on physical health was to balance the four “humors”. These “humors” were yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm. Illnesses were believed to be an imbalance of these four humors (Coe 120-121).

Chocolate health uses history
Various uses of chocolate regarding physical health throughout history.

Therefore, at various times, chocolate was used to increase various humors in order to ascertain this balance. Throughout these periods, chocolate was persistently used as medicine. Beyond that, another key moment for chocolate’s utilization in physical health comes when women in Europe more commonly began working outside of the house around the 1800s. Then, chocolate was sometimes used as a mealtime necessity in order to provide stimulation and energy to the family, when it became too time-consuming to prepare lunches (Mintz 146-147). Due to these factors and more, chocolate was almost universally seen as a net positive in regards to physical health; however, when nutrition and medicine broke apart as fields, the association between chocolate and health problems began to become more noticed (Martin, Health 2015). Thus, until this split happened, chocolate was seen as healthy in regards to one’s physical well-being at least until the modern era.

Throughout history however, chocolate was not only important in terms of people’s belief in its effects regarding physical health, but also because individuals sought the benefits or feared the detriments chocolate offered both individually on an emotional level and as a community. In the Mesoamerican realm, the Mayans believed chocolate to be necessary for societal relations and in appeasing the gods. This can be seen through the various religious ceremonies that involved chocolate. These include, sacrifices, death rites, birth rites, and more (Coe 40-45). In addition, chocolate was used for societal health in the Mayan society by providing a means to tighten communal bonds. Accordingly, chocolate was often drank together to strengthen friendship and community. The act of drinking chocolate together in the Mayan language is chokola’j, which is similar to the modern word chocolate (Coe 61). Thus, due to chocolate’s inherent ties to religious life and community it becomes exceedingly clear that chocolate was necessary to both ease the Mayan’s minds of stress and to create a stronger societal dependency. This communal strengthening is continually seen even in Europe. As chocolate popularized in Europe and, specifically, England, beverage shops also grew in popularity. In these locations, tea, coffee, and chocolate were drank while community issue and politics were discussed (Mintz 111). Therefore, it is apparent that chocolate, through its role in these shops, helped form the English society and the close bonds of those drinking in these shops. Negatively, chocolate also furthered the use of slavery during the imperial age. Thus, in terms of the mental health of Europeans, chocolate made them feel more at ease by lessening work-related stress and furthering the profits garnered by the slave trade. However, it also hurt them in reducing their morality and by causing societal and economic issues as the slave trade ended. As such, these stressors caused much unrest both on the individual level and on the community level. Nevertheless, chocolate was still seen as a positive for holistic health in that people believed it provided many physical health benefits, provided emotional stimulation, and increased community kinship. However, despite this idea of chocolate, the modern conception can be seen to be drastically different.

A Contemporary View on Chocolate and Holistic Health

            After understanding a brief history of how chocolate was believed to relate to holistic health since its introduction into Mesoamerica society, it next follows to appreciate how chocolate is thought about in the modern world. To do this, modern research is combined with an interview of a young adult to result in a snapshot of the contemporary view on chocolate. One of the first questions asked in the interview was how Nicky thought about chocolate in regards to physical health. To this, she responded, “chocolate is bad for your health… but I always think dark chocolate is much better for you than milk chocolate” and when further questioned, added, “Chocolate is bad because of all the sugar added. Also, there is little nutritional value to it” (Chocolate Interview 2015). Thus, it is evident she believed the main aspect of chocolate, in regards to physical health, is the amount of sugar it contains.

MJ Graph
Set of graphs comparing sugar intake and diabetes rates.

In relation to the modern data, this viewpoint is largely correct. Moreover, per person we eat 12 pounds more each year than 30 years ago (Mother Jones 2015). However, this increase in sugar alone does not tell the whole story. Instead, it is also important to note that until very recently almost all the research determining the effects of sugar intake healthy has been subsidized by sugar lobbies and companies like Mars who have a strong interest in promoting the use of sugar (Mother Jones 2015). More chocolate also contains much fat. Worse, a decent proportion of that fat is saturated fat which is worse for health than unsaturated fat. One Hershey’s bar contains about 6 grams or 30% of the saturated fat one should consume in an entire day and 19 grams of sugar.

Hershey Label
Label of a Hershey’s chocolate and almond bar. Shows the high amount of fat and sugars in one serving.

Correlated with this sugar intake is a stark rise in the prevalence of chronic diseases including obesity and diabetes. In the past three decades, both the number of children with diabetes and the American obesity rate have more than tripled (Mother Jones 2015). However, the negative roles chocolate has on health could be ameliorated if chocolate made clear positive impacts on physical health like reducing bad cholesterol or providing anti-oxidants. Instead, the nutrition value of chocolate, as Nicky said, is lacking. This corresponds with a trend in human diets. American diets lack the necessary micronutrients, fiber, and fatty acids needed for health, while having too much, sugar, saturated fats, and calories (Martin, Health 2015). Thus, chocolate exacerbates the negative parts of the American diet by further providing an excess of sugar, fat, and calories while lacking the necessary nutrients for health.  Meanwhile, there has been arguments that chocolate contains chemicals and anti-oxidants that would lessen cardiac ailments, provide anti-inflammatory properties, and give other health benefits. (Watson et al 2013). However, meta-analysis of these suggestions shows that conclusive evidence cannot be determined. Thus, overall, the conclusion regarding physical health seems to be that, generally, people view chocolate as physically unhealthy with some hope that certain chocolates, such as 70% or more dark chocolate, may provide preventative benefits.

In this regard, today’s views on chocolate chocolate differ drastically as compared to how societies previously thought about chocolate and physical health. Until contemporary times, chocolate was almost universally regarded as medicinal or, at least, beneficial for physical health. However, modern times have revealed a much different understanding due to a variety of factors which could include a difference in overall quality of the chocolate bar in that many modern chocolate bars are greatly sweetened and have other added Regardless of why, now, chocolate is often seen as an antagonist in the war against obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.

Although the chocolate generally eaten in the modern times seems to be unhealthy in terms of physical health, people normally refrain from saying they eat chocolate because of its properties regarding physical health. Instead, many people suggest a more emotional reason for eating chocolate. For one, Nicky suggested that she eats chocolate in order to de-stress, and that she eats chocolate when she is moody or sad. Importantly, she states that when she was younger she did not eat chocolate based on her mood, which as will be discussed later could be because Nicky was yet to be conditioned to use chocolate to benefit mood at that young age. More, she says she eats chocolate “because it is there” or “because of its temptation” (Chocolate Interview 2015). This reveals two distinct and important characteristics about chocolate and its role regarding emotional health. The first is chocolate is often seen as emotionally therapeutic and is eaten in order to better one’s mood. The second is chocolate is eaten not out of an innate desire but instead out of a need or addiction to the substance. Here, this refers to Nicky saying she ate chocolate simply because it was readily available and, in a manner, she cannot help herself when tempted with chocolate. The idea that chocolate is used as a “pick-me-up” is common. One belief for why chocolate makes one feel better is purely psychological. From a young age, chocolate is introduced as something happy, delicious, and a reward. Thus, people are conditioned to associate chocolate with positivity. Therefore, upon eating chocolate, even if it offers no innate benefit to mood, people are trained to feel emotionally better after eating chocolate. However, new research shows this reaction may be more than conditioned. Instead, this research suggests that polyphenols and flavanols, which are found in some chocolates, may help moodiness and decrease the effects of neurological disorders (Watson et al 2013). Thus, chocolate through one mechanism or another plays a role in benefiting emotional health. On the other hand, chocolate also can be viewed as a drug. More, one study goes as far as to claim, “sugar and sweet reward can not only substitute to addictive drugs, like cocaine, but can even be more rewarding and attractive” (Ahmed et al 2013). From this, it is clear that chocolate can be addictive. Thus, the feelings of emotional improvement derive from the reward of being given a drug. Either way, chocolate can produce positive feelings when consumed and, thus, can be seen as beneficial for emotional health.

The modern view on chocolate as proposed both through research and anecdotally through an interview correspond with the historical view of chocolate and emotional health. Both then and now, chocolate was seen as a pleasure benefiting ones emotional being. In both cases, chocolate was a manner of reward and used to celebrate or help move past bad times. In Mesoamerica, chocolate was used as an emotional stimulant as well for celebrations like marriage and birth, but also used to get past emotional distress in death. Thus, it is obvious that the relationship between chocolate and emotional health although it has taken slightly different forms has been constant and consistent in regarding chocolate as a net positive for emotional health.

Finally, in terms of evaluating the relationship between holistic health and chocolate, it is necessary to assess the role chocolate plays on mental health as it relates to how people interact with their societal environment. To this aspect of holistic health, there are two main components with which Nicky was concerned. The first was that capitalistic tendencies would lead to decisions solely based on profit and not public welfare and the second was that chocolate consumption would be detrimental to the environment because she was unsure if there were common regulations about the use of pesticides and agricultural practices (Chocolate Interview 2015). In regards to the first concern, modern research supports this worry. For example, one researcher claims that capitalism leads to decisions that simultaneously exacerbate the issues of hunger and obesity. Albritton argues that a multitude of factors including the misuse of lands for non-foods, poor diet choices, and inappropriate farming techniques all contribute to the decline in health and are partially due to a capitalist system (Albritton 242-251). In this manner, capitalism exacerbates the strain on the community by encouraging a system in which chronic nutrition-based diseases are common. However, another issue found with the standard practices is a lack of regulation leading to poor standards for the quality of food and the living conditions for laborers. Accordingly, Nicky asserted that direct trade, fair trade, and organic certifications play a large role in her selection of groceries (Chocolate Interview 2015).

Fair trade logo
Example of a fair trade logo used to certify products that meet the appropriate criteria

However, these certifications are limited and often fail to account for many of the issues at hand. As such, the current state of chocolate detriments mental health as it brings added concerns of equality, environmental protection, and rights rather than helping ameliorate these inequities found throughout the world.

This differs as compared to the role chocolate used to play on an individual’s interaction with the world around them. In the past, chocolate was used as a meeting point to socialize and tighten kinships or discuss politics and local happenings in Britain. Nowadays, chocolate is normally bought and eaten more individually. In current times, chocolate instead exacerbates the differences between groups by promoting obesity, helping maintain poor working conditions, and harming the environment through agricultural and shipping practices.

Throughout history humans have revered chocolate for its believed effects on holistic health. It was appreciated for its supposed benefits to one’s physical health, for the emotional bettering found in chocolate’s consumption, and for its enabling of more tight-knit communities. However, chocolate is not considered as wonderful today. Although humans still appreciate it for its great taste and its ability to improve one’s mood, they worry about its effects on physical health due to its association with obesity and diabetes and they worry about the conditions that surround the commodity trade of chocolate. As such, it is apparent through an analysis based on history, modern research, and anecdotal evidence that chocolate’s perceived effect on holistic health is a fundamental factor in how people regard the substance.

Works Cited

Ahmed, S. H., K. Guillem, and Y. Vandaele. “Sugar Addiction: Pushing the Drug-sugar Analogy to the Limit.” Current Opinion of Clinical Nutrition Metabolic Care 16.4 (2013): 434-39. Web.

Albritton, Robert. Food and Culture: A Reader. By Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 2013. 342-50. Print.

“Chocolate Interview.” Online interview. 27 Apr. 2015.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

“Holistic Medicine: What It Is, Treatments, Philosophy, and More.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion.” Harvard University, Cambridge. 11 Feb. 2015. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Health, Nutrition, and the Politics of Food.” Harvard University, Cambridge. 13 Apr. 2015. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the “food of the Gods”” Harvard University, Cambridge. 2 Feb. 2015. Lecture.

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

Taubes, Gary, and Cristen K. Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” Mother Jones. N.p., Dec. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

Watson, Ronald R., Victor R. Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. New York: Humana, 2013. Print.

Image Sources

Martin, Carla D. “Health, Nutrition, and the Politics of Food.” Harvard University, Cambridge. 13 Apr. 2015. Lecture.

News: Today in Triangular Trade

The 16th century marks a historical beginning of trade and commerce among Europe, Africa, the Americas (including the Caribbean) – the transatlantic slave trade. So that we have a clear and concise concept of slave trade and the impact on an economy, we must hold a clear and concise understanding of the term. Slave trade is described as the “business or process of procuring, transporting, and selling slaves, especially black Africans to the New World prior to the mid-19th century.” The trading of slaves would become one of the world’s largest industries that would last for nearly four centuries and gave rise to a global economy. The transatlantic trading business had lasting effects that we still witness today.

pic1The economy of slave trading and European colonization was partly motivated by religion. Many brought Christianity to the continent of Africa. And, colonizers from Europe would use religion to influence their beliefs upon natives in African countries during the slave trading regime in an attempt to gain laborers for The New World. Although the role of Islam is not particularly discussed at height during this time, Islam also played a role in the institutionalization of slave trading in Saharan Africa: “The Arab-controlled Trans-Saharan slave trade helped to institutionalise slave trading on the continent.” However, European Christians seized on such an opportunity when they noticed “caravans loaded with Africans en-route to the Middle East. Others arriving much later in West Africa observed slavery in African societies, leading them to assume that African enslavement was intrinsic to the continent.” The inception of slavery would then begin in the 1500s and last until the 19th century. During this time slaves would produce the world’s largest cash crops: cotton, sugar, tobacco, molasses, cacao and rum.


From the 17th century, Quakers had long voiced their belief on the idea of slavery. They believed that all people were “equal in the sight of God” and the enslavement of people was wrong. Their opinion was complete opposite of a more popular belief where “the Bible was not only regarded as infallible, it was also their primary reference tool and those looking for answers to explain differences in ethnicity, culture, and slavery.” There was no thought of bad morality on the subject of slavery because it was justified within the Bible. It would later become illegal.

It was not until the beginning of the 1800s, after centuries of slave trading throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas, this trading business had come to a complete halt. The Slave Trade Act was passed by United Kingdom Parliament on March 25th, 1807. The Act simply abolished slavery but not necessarily freed those under slave ownership. The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 had spawned from the protests of Quakers and Evangelical English Protestants early on. Fortunately, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 of the House of Commons abolished slavery throughout all of British empires allowing freedom rights for many who were enslaved.


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

But Who Actually Gets It?: The Consumer-Producer Disparity in Advertising Representation

In the world of chocolate sales, advertising is everything. Companies try to develop brand loyalty through customers who will promote their chocolate effectively from “cradle to grave” (Martin Lecture 13). The problem with such chocolate ads as that shown below for Nutella is not just that they posit the idea of chocolate being universally desired – which, though not the case, is perhaps justifiable given that this is after all advertising  – but that they gives the implication that this product is available and accessible to everyone, ignoring the state of affairs in many of the places where cocoa is grown. For example, Africa produces 75% of the world’s cacao but only consumes 3% of its chocolate (Martin Lecture 14). Essentially, this advertisement is part of a trend that focuses exclusively on the consumer and their experience, because those are the people buying their products and in order to sell chocolate the companies want consumers to be able to put themselves into the shoes of those they see eating chocolate in the ads. Furthermore, through this manner the companies are also able to avoid addressing issues of sourcing which could potentially harm their sales if consumers see the direct connection between any unethical practices they might be involved in and the food they are purchasing.1 In contrast, the ad we created in response is not promoting any particular company, but rather is simply meant to draw attention to those who make the production of chocolate possible yet often take little share of the profits, and in many cases work under harsh conditions – the cocoa farmers in West Africa. In focusing on the state of the producers rather than the contentment of the consumers, our ad places itself within a growing trend of concern about ethical chocolate sourcing. Thus it is a reflection of much of the conversation regarding chocolate today.

An advertisement for Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread that portrays the desires and experiences of the consumer.
An advertisement for Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread that portrays the desires and experiences of the consumer.

Created by graphic designer college student Chee Aki in Ha Noi, Vietnam in June of 2011, the original advertisement displays a girl with Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread smearing around her mouth and a jar of Nutella balanced on her head (Aki). The girl appears to  be relatively young, with a backpack hanging off of one shoulder – likely a high school or college student.  Though the girl depicted does not look overly model-like, nevertheless we see her sexualized in a way that we have seen in many other chocolate advertisements that include women, portraying the idea that women have urges and cannot control themselves around chocolate (Robertson 35). Advertising can be said to be fundamentally based on imagination – when viewing someone on screen thoroughly enjoying a bite of chocolate, it is the fact that we can imagine ourselves in their place that makes our mouth water in anticipation of also eating that chocolate. The purpose of this advertisement therefore appears to be to promote the idea of eating of chocolate as very desirable, so viewers of the ad can imagine themselves in the place of the girl depicted and then hopefully buy chocolate to satisfy the resultant cravings. It “ignores the history behind the creation of what is now known as ‘chocolate’ from the cocoa bean….[instead it taps] into popular western understandings of the commodity as luxurious, hedonistic and sensual” (Robertson 3). Though there is no full narrative arc depicted, the emotions played on by this advertisement are those related to desire, fully centered on the consumer experience.

Such a portrayal – and especially the words “everyone wants it” – can be seen as problematic as they imply not just that the product is universally desired, but in a way also that it could be seen as universally accessible, when in fact we know that to not be true. Taking Nutella as an example, while the cocoa used for the product is produced and supplied from Nigeria, there are no factories or main sales offices anywhere near the West Africa region, suggesting that the product is perhaps limited in its availability there (Ferdman).

This map of the global value chain of Nutella shows the disparity and uneven distribution between where the cocoa is produced and supplied from and where it is processed and sold.

To push back against the Nutella advertisement, we created an image that draws focus to the cocoa producers unacknowledged in and not targeted by the first advertisement. Using an image produced by Nutella itself of the world’s continents made out of bread and coated with the chocolate spread – again problematic as it implies Nutella is equally present throughout the world – we placed images of West African cocoa farmers in that region on the map, to draw attention to their role. While some of the portrayed workers appear content, if not perhaps particularly wealthy, we also have an image of a child identified by Henrik Ipsen and the Huffington Post to be a child slave forced to work in cocoa production, and through this we highlight the worst problems with the cocoa supply chain (Gregory). In answer to the problematic statement from the original advertisement, “everyone wants it,” we reply with the follow up question “but who actually gets it?,” again underlining the production, consumption, and overall economic disparity between those who make cocoa and those who get to eat it. We created an ad that supports wider acknowledgement of these issues and, we hope, would help inspire action against them.

Our advertisement drawing attention to the producers of raw cocoa, including those who are child slaves
Zoomed-in version of our advertisement
Zoomed-in version of our advertisement

Luckily, there has in recent years especially been increasing focus on these producers and the issues with the current supply chain, though often outside of the big chocolate companies, and our advertisement is therefore part of this trend (Martin Lecture 18). One interesting and perhaps unconventional example of this is the work done by the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), an activist group working against human rights violations. As recently as this past December 2014, after four years of campaigning they succeeded in having Warner Brothers, the company that produces Harry Potter chocolate products, announce that they would make all of those products with UTZ or Fair Trade certified cocoa (Rosenberg). Their campaign video here shows similar representations of forced child labor to what we see in our advertisement, and therefore is also part of the growing trend that takes a critical look at cocoa sourcing.

This video was part of the Harry Potter Alliance’s campaign for Warner Brothers to use ethically sourced cocoa in their Harry Potter chocolate products.

We certainly see increased focus on the producers and their well-being as a positive shift – however, this does not come without any further issues. Though the HPA’s campaign is an example of consumer-driven activism, and though “studies indicate that more U.S. consumers would be willing to purchase products at a premium if they were aware of the child labor concerns at stake in the supply chain” (Baradaran and Barclay),  there are many different actors who could take up the mantel, so picking who should represent these issues can be difficult – there is pressure for regulation by law, the companies, and/or the industry itself (Martin Lecture 18). Furthermore, there are critiques with this countermovement in so much as that some certifications such as Fair Trade, for example, may help eliminate some of the worst forms of child slavery but may not actually end up alleviating the more widespread problems of poverty in cocoa-producing regions (Martin 18). This, then, is a problem that stems from our current advertisement – drawing attention to the issues is certainly necessary, but there is still much to do in moving forward. Overall, though, pushing against the mainstream trend of focusing on consumers and their experience alone is one which will hopefully move the cocoa supply chain and industry as a whole in the right direction.

  1. Although this is a possible explanation, I don’t think it is as strong as the one I am advancing so I will not be dealing with it in this post, but anyone interested in the relations of big chocolate to labor issues can look at and, among other sources. From these, we see that chocolate companies have been against regulations that would force them to have to label their chocolate fair trade, as they would largely be unable to comply and therefore their product might be seen as tainted by conscientious consumers.


Baradaran, Shima, and Stephanie Barclay. “Fair Trade and Child Labor.” Columbia Human Rights Law Review 43.1 (2011). Web. <>.

Ferdman, Roberto A. “A Map of All the Countries That Contribute to a Single Jar of Nutella.” Quartz. 11 Dec. 2013. Web. <>

Martin, Carla. AAAS 119x Lecture 13: The rise of big chocolate and the race for the global market. 11 Mar. 2015.

Martin, Carla. AAAS 119x Lecture 14: Exploiters or Exploited? Cocoa Production in West Africa. 23 Mar. 2015.

Martin, Carla. AAAS 119x Lecture 18: Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization. 6 Apr. 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

Rosenberg, Alyssa. “How ‘Harry Potter’ Fans Won a Four-year Fight against Child Slavery.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 13 Jan. 2015. Web. <>.

“Not In Harry’s Name.” YouTube. YouTube, 29 Jan. 2012. Web. <;.

“Nutella Is Turning 50 in 2014.” Nutella® Stories. Nutella, 2014. Web.<>

Images (In order of appearance)

Aki, Chee. “Nutella Advertising.” Behance. Adobe Systems Incorporated, 4 June 2011. Web. <>.

Ferdman, Roberto A. “A Map of All the Countries That Contribute to a Single Jar of Nutella.” Quartz. 11 Dec. 2013. Web. <>

To create our own advertisement:

“Nutella Is Turning 50 in 2014.” Nutella® Stories. Nutella, 2014. Web. <>

“International Day of Rural Women.” The Frog Blog UK Ireland. Rainforest Alliance, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. <>.

Gregory, Amanda. “Chocolate and Child Slavery: Say No to Human Trafficking This Holiday Season.” The Huffington Post., 31 Oct. 2013. Web. <>.

“Family Life.” The Story of Chocolate. National Confectioners Association’s Chocolate Council. Web. <;.

Lust and Chocolate


The average person sees ads constantly, everywhere, and in all mediums — on television and online, on buses and billboards, and even on our phones. Companies spend substantial amounts of money on advertising campaigns in order to tempt people into buying their products, and to engender brand loyalty. Chocolate companies are no different. They are always trying to come up with new and interesting ways to advertise their chocolate products to get the public talking about their brands. This blog post will examine the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign.  While many would consider this ad campaign smart and interesting, it nevertheless highlights several disturbing trends in the imagery associated with chocolate industry advertisements.


"Secretary", by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville "Deliciously Dark Thoughts" Ad Campaign
“Secretary”, by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” Ad Campaign

The advertisement shown above, the “Secretary”, depicts an innocent secretary enjoying a Cadbury Bournville Mint Essence dark chocolate bar (Shau, 2009).  The glass dome on the top of her head shows her “secret fantasy” or her “deliciously dark thoughts” that the chocolate bar inspires (Media Update, 2009).  In this advertisement, the secretary is so overcome by the dark chocolate bar that she fantasizes that she is a dominatrix using her boss as a footstool while she eats her chocolate bar and enjoys her daily newspaper.  The secretary is depicted as overly innocent to the point of childish in an almost pornagraphic way, which is shown by the pigtails and ribbons that she wears in her hair.  In an office setting, her styling would be considered both inappropriate and unprofessional.  This ad also shows how the chocolate allows this woman to tip the balance of power, as the chocolate allows her to completely subjugate her boss to the point of humility. In direct contrast to the childish secretary, the chocolate-fueled dominatrix is clearly a mature woman, shown by the red dress, lipstick, high boots, and the new hairstyle. While not overtly racist from a Western standpoint, the “Secretary” ad was run in South Africa, where the white people are a minority (South African National Census, 2011).   Therefore, a direct link is shown between one’s social class and chocolate consumption.  Like the secretary, “the non-society” (white) woman is expected to “aspire to the romantic lifestyle” and sexual fantasies that are inspired by eating the chocolate bar (Robertson, 2010). 

"Delicious Stereotype" an original ad for the 2015 Chocolate Class blog
“Delicious Stereotype” an original ad for the 2015 Chocolate Class blog

In an effort to complement the stereotypes and sexual images depicted in the “Secretary” ad, I created the “Delicious Stereotype”.  The awkward young man depicted in the “Delicious Stereotype” is  transformed into a hyper-sexualized chocolate superhero upon tasting his “choco-lust” bar.  As a superhero, this boy gains physical prowess and an attractive manly physique that allows the awkward young man to attract both his fantasy woman and his fantasy wife.  This ad plays off of stereotypical heterosexual male fantasies involving multiple women, blonde women, exaggerated female anatomy, superheroes, and the the fetishization of the housewife (Robertson, 2010).  The housewife is fetishized housewife through the images of the apron, perfect hair and makeup, and through image of her serving warm chocolate cupcakes.  The Choco-Lust bar was chosen to highlight the fact that this chocolate ad campaign sells chocolate through the use of lustful fantasies.  The image of two women coexisting in a non-monogamous relationship with the superhero along with their downcast eyes shows that the superhero holds the power in this relationship. Once again, the “Delicious Stereotype” ad is meant to show a link between class and chocolate, as the boy is clearly caucasian, the women are clearly dressed expensively, and the women probably underwent expensive surgical cosmetic enhancement.  This ad was drawn using a male in order to highlight the difference between a socially acceptable female sexual fantasy and a socially acceptable male fantasy.  If the “Secretary” were to be drawn with the exact opposite genders, the narrative would most likely be considered too disturbing by most people, and it would not sell chocolate to target female consumers.


Historically, chocolate ads have contained a wide variety of traditional stereotypes that have come to define the consumers of chocolate who buy chocolate products.  With such a culturally ingrained chocolate narratives, is it possible to sell chocolate using less offensive images? 

"Purely Delicious" an original ad created for the 2015 Chocolate Class Blog (subsequently rejected due to numerous stereotypes, rendering the ad non-virtuous)
“Purely Delicious” an original ad created for the 2015 Chocolate Class Blog (subsequently rejected due to numerous stereotypes, rendering the ad non-virtuous)

While trying to create an ad using innocent rather than provocative imagery, I created “Purely Delicious” (shown above).  I ultimately rejected this ad, because it contained racist, heteronormative, and gender stereotypes.  Changing the skin color, in my mind, made the ad highly racial rather than ambiguous (as was my original goal). Since I could not think of an ad that contained zero stereotypes, I decided to look up other ways to increase chocolate sales. Therefore, I stumbled across an Iranian study that suggested that more sophisticated chocolate packaging design can increase chocolate sales (Giyahi, 2011).  While a change in packaging is not a perfect solution, it is less offensive than an advertising campaign, as most packaging contains class stereotypes alone (Martin, 2015)


"Red Riding Hood" created by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville "Deliciously Dark Thoughts" ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
“Red Riding Hood” created by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
"Bride" created by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville "Deliciously Dark Thoughts" ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
“Bride” created by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
"Deliciously Dark Caramel Crisp" created by Natalie Shau for the 2010 Cadbury Bournville "Deliciously Dark Thoughts" ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
“Deliciously Dark Caramel Crisp” created by Natalie Shau for the 2010 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)


Giyahi, Yasaman

“An Empirical study on the Relationship of Purchasing a Chocolate Based on its Packaging”. in Growing Science. Volume 2. December 2011.

Robertson, Emma

Chocolate, Women, and Empire:  A Social and Cultural History.  2010.  pp. 1-131

South African National Census, 2011 (Retrieved April 5, 2015)

Martin, Carla

Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Lecture 9.  Harvard University.  April 2015.

Media Sources

-Shau, Natalie, 

Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign,  “Secretary”, 2009

Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign,  “Bride”, 2009

Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign,  “Red Riding Hood”, 2009

Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign,  “Deliciously Dark Caramel Crisp”, 2009 (Retrieved April 5, 2015) (Retrieved April 5, 2015)

-Media Update

“Deliciously dark campaign delves into women’s secret fantasies”, November 2009 (Retrieved April 5, 2015)

“Cadbury Bournville introduces deliciously dark Caramel Crisp”


Dreams and Divas

Four years ago, Cadbury’s promotion of their new line of Dairy Milk Bliss bars resulted in some unintended blowback. The advertisement in question (Figure 1), challenges British actress and model Naomi Campbell as an inferior competitor to the aforementioned confection. Unsurprisingly, this comparison sparked outrage, as the ad attempting at whimsy was overshadowed by racialization and the objectification of women. Cadbury’s intention was likely to use the advertisement to emphasize the Bliss bar’s luxurious appeal: the bar is “the world’s most pampered,” and the package is resting on a bed of diamonds. This representation of the product as a luxury good brings with it a host of classist undertones, but perhaps more subtly plays off of the chocolate industry’s treatment of women. Emma Robertson describes this trend in Chocolate, women, and empire: “women as consumers of chocolate have historically been depicted as obsessed by the product… Women’s identities may thus become subsumed by their consumption habits,” which are typically seen to be “constructed as constantly negotiating temptation.” (35) Cadbury preys upon this assumed weakness, urging potential consumers to give in to their temptations and allow themselves to be, like the Bliss bar, pampered.

Figure 1: Controversial Cadbury Bliss ad, “featuring” Naomi Campbell

Far less subtle than the sexist implications of pampering, though, are the racial implications of Naomi Campbell’s calling out. By suggesting that a bar of chocolate will usurp Campbell’s position of fame, Cadbury simultaneously objectifies her by pulling her to the level of a confection and racializes her – of all the models and actresses in Britain, Cadbury chose a person of color to equate with chocolate. Campbell made public her distaste for the ad’s reduction of her humanity to a colored confection, stating “it’s upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me, but for all black women and black people as a race,”(qtd. in Duke).

In an attempt to avoid the same pitfalls as the original advertisement, a slight modification was made to yield the image depicted in Figure 2. Simply replace Naomi’s name with a fictional character – Mr. Sandman – and describing the chocolate as dreamy rather than pampered addresses the sexist and racist undertones of Cadbury’s initial design. The “dreamy” modifier comes straight form the product’s package, and removes the insinuation of a succumbing to desire and replaces in its stead a notion of fantastical enjoyment. Comparing the chocolate’s role as an agent of dream-making to the mythical Mr. Sandman recasts the victim of objectification as a fictional character – a raceless one, at that – dodging the obvious pitfall of equating a person of color with chocolate while removing entirely the need to compare a human being to a snack. Regardless of the quality of snack, that comparison will yield some manner of offense.

Figure 2: Modified Cadbury advertisement, now featuring Mr. Sandman
Figure 2: Modified Cadbury advertisement, now featuring Mr. Sandman

However, avoiding race entirely is not the only way to (relatively) safely handle the issue in advertising. Indeed, the approach taken by Divine Chocolate – the embracing of race – may be employed to directly counter the more derogatory tendencies of mainstream media. As Kristy Leissle summarizes in her article “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements,” “the Divine Chocolate advertisements make a bold break with such anachronistic representations [i.e. visions of Africa seen through a Colonial-era lens], as the visual and textual elements put forth Ghanaian women farmers as cosmopolitan participants in transnational trade exchanges.” (127-128) These women are not being objectified, nor is the color of their skin being used as a crude metaphor for the product being peddled; instead, they are touted as integral agents of the cacao trade, and the contemporary agricultural context of their work (as opposed to antiquated, virtually savage depictions) is celebrated.

Duke, Alan. “Chocolate ‘diva’ ad hurts, supermodel Naomi Campbell complains.” CNN. n.p., 1 June 2011. Web. 10 April 2015.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies. 24. 2 (2012): 121-139.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women, and empire: A social and cultural history. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 2009.

Women and Chocolate

The chocolate bar’s advertisement highlights a long standing association between gender and chocolate. In this picture, the woman is portrayed as being covered in luscious, and smooth, chocolate and giving a very seductive look. The pose is also meant to ignite some temptation, further accentuating the message of aesthetic appeal of attraction and sexyness. This picture is conveying the message that a woman needs this chocolate soap in order to feel sexy, and therefore attract men. The chocolate covering, as well as the words used in the advertisement (“chocolate seduction”, “looking deliciously gorgeous”) are emphasizing the aesthetic appeal of chocolate. Chocolate is no longer something to indulge your taste buds, but rather your visual input as well. The ad is playing off of its ability to make one feel good when eating it, to expanding it and making one feel good when looking at it. More specifically, it plays on the long standing belief that women need to make themselves attractive for men, and that they need to use any measure at their disposal to portray an image of sexyness and sex appeal. Chocolate is linked to pleasure and satisfaction, so by using a female model, the ad is targeting both men’s and women’s desire for the other sex.

For our rebranding, we have decided to focus on the health benefits of cocoa butter for skin. Instead of emphasizing how sexy one would feel after using the chocolate bar, we are making this ad into a health campaign. First, we have chosen a picture depicting a man and a woman (since we want to target both sexes, not just one who do not give an impression of being attracted to one another. Their bodies are not posed in a sexy way, they do not look at one another longingly, nor are they touching one another. By portraying an image of neutrality, we are not separating the genders, nor are we playing on the “importance” of sexism and how “significant” it is for an ad to have sublime messages of attraction. We wanted to emphasize the skin benefits one would get, for oneself, if they used this product. The new advertisement would read “Chocolate Lux: giving your skin a new, healthy look” because we want both men and women to use this product for themselves, in order to feel good in their own skin. With today’s rising health campaigns, rebranding this advertisement our way would have more impact on the way gender and chocolate are portrayed, and would help start the shift towards a more neutral message.

What is fascinating, however, is the long standing relationship between gender and chocolate. From the beginning of 20th century, chocolate advertisements have been targeting women in order to boost their sales (Robertson). In the 1930s, the ads were focusing on women as housewives, followed by seeing them as mothers. “In one set of adverts from 1946-47, the housewife is represented as a ‘magical’ creature” (Robertson, 21). A decade later, women started being objectified as sexual objects, a trend that is still running today. So it’s no wonder that, in this soap advertisement, the woman is being used to boost sales for both genders. Additionally, if one were to search for “women and chocolate”, a myriad of articles would try to explain why the female gender has an almost intrinsic need for this sweet treat. “Entire books have been written about the subject of women and chocolate cravings, surveys have shown that chocolate is the most craved food among American women” (McQuillan). Entire books have been written, apparently, including psychology articles (like the one cited previously). It is highly doubtful that this much energy has been put into writing books about men and chocolate, and psychology studies need to be done, it seems like, in order to further understand why women have such a deep connection with chocolate. Instead of focusing on such topics, the gender bias would be diminished if advertisements would stop perpetuating this unjustified relationships.

Works Cited

McQuillan, S. (2014, October 23). Women and Chocolate. Retrieved from

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009.


Women in Chocolate Advertising: Submission and Dominance

Chocolate advertising often portrays women as having an emotional response to chocolate, sometime chocolate is a temptation, or an indulgence, and often women are portrayed as being having an overwhelming and out-of-control need to consume chocolate. Chocolate advertising often draws a parallel between how women feel when they are aroused or have romantic feels toward someone to the feelings they get when eating chocolate.

This ad for “Fling” aired in 2009 and was considered provocative even by today’s standards.

While she may be overcome with her desire for chocolate, and a desire to consume it in private the woman appears to be in control of the situation.  However, in this ad from the same year, the woman appears to be overcome and almost powerless over chocolate.

While there woman appears to be aroused, she does not appear to be fully in control of the situation and the ad is punctuated by alarming sounds, such as the sounds of cocoa beans being smashed by a rock, and images such as the branding of chocolate by a hot iron, that while erotic border on disturbing if one considers that the woman may not be a willing participant.  Is she willing, or being dominated by chocolate, and experience that she can not escape?

This idea of chocoalte controlling women is interesting and a frequent them in print advertising as well.

In this ad by Haagen Daas the female subject appears to be silenced by the chocolate ice-cream bar that she is consuming.  Perhaps even more alarming is the racial stereotype that can also be implied as the female subject of color, who appears to be silenced by a confection that is on a white stick.

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Haagen Daas also ran another version of this same ad, which can be interpreted completely differently.

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We see similar imagery in this Dove ice-cream print ad, yet the imagery still implies that the female subject is being controlled or silenced by the chocolate treat.

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We see similar themes in stock imagery as well.  In this image the female subject may or may not be enjoying drinking chocolate that is being poured on her at an alarming rate.

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This ad by Nestle appears to have been created for the China and portrays the female subject in what could be considered as submissive to an activity involving chocolate.

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The woman’s hair is covering her eyes, putting her in a submissive position and possibly indicating she is not a willing participant. She is not smiling and while arguably, she may be in the throes of passion, she may also be engaged in activity that is forced. It appears that it is her hand that is holding the chocolate rather delicately and it is pointed towards her open mouth, again it is unclear if she is a willing participant in eating the chocolate or if she is posing or acting under some else direction. The pouring and splashing of chocolate on the red background indicates that this may be an erotic endeavor and that by eating the chocolate the woman may be aroused or that there is some erotic activity in the background.

This ad is indicative of a larger trend seen in print advertising for chocolate in which women are engaged in eating chocolate and the activity is stylized in an erotic way.

I have restyled to ad to put the female subject in control of the situation and of chocolate.


In this portrayal the female subject is dominant, and in a position to choose.  The chocolate and other food items take a submissive role as part of a selection of items that are being considered for her enjoyment.  She is gazing down on her selection and her eyes are open.  She is thoughtfully contemplating her choice and is prepared to indulge in any of the three options. The option of a Nestle chocolate bar is portrayed as on equal footing to the other options and she can take it or leave it.

Works cited:

1848 Chocolate Ad

Fling Chocolate Ad

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 9: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 April. 2015. Class Lecture.

Women and Social Climbing through the Consumption of Chocolate

In the fall of 2004, Godiva chocolates launched a “Diva” campaign that aimed to re-focus their target from 35-55 year old women to the young (read: 20s) and affluent female consumer. The campaign series featured society women — primarily white or light-featured and extremely wealthy — indulging on chocolate in the home in a manner fitting of high-maintenance, diva behavior. The set of advertisements is representative of the problematic way chocolate corporations have historically positioned consumption as a vehicle for women’s social aspiration. Although the campaign claimed that the photographs were meant to be transformative and trendy, the historical context surrounding chocolate advertising informs us that these tropes are, in fact, quite tired. As this essay illustrates, these “divas” reinforce notions of social climbing through the attainment of luxury and elite goods – a formula which is necessarily embedded in specific gendered, raced, and cultured performances of exclusion. In this essay, I examine the tropes employed in Godiva’s diva campaign, focusing in particular on gender, and parody its message with both an original advertisement featuring a male and with the images of the multidimensional African women featured in Divine Chocolate’s adverts.

In the following Godiva advertisement, a blonde young woman coyly eats chocolate in a luxurious home. Her clothing resembles sleepwear and her tousled hair and seductive looks suggest she’s either getting out of or into bed. The advert reads “Every woman is one part (Go)Diva much to the dismay of every man.” In an Adweek profile of the campaign, a Godiva spokeswoman positioned the advertisement as a new strategy to reach women’s “inner-divas” and to “cut across generation lines, appealing to all women who balance long work hours with other responsibilities” (Zammit). However, the image fails to include any indication of long hours, responsibility or empowerment – instead, it reinforces Western stereotypes of spoiled, megalomaniac housewives whose consumption of chocolate is representative of their leisurely lives as a male companion. The woman’s diva behavior “dismays” her presumably more rational male partner. The domestic setting goes against any notion of a hardworking, cross-generational woman. She has the money and leisure time to enjoy fine chocolate in bed, and she is showing it off.

Photograph from Godiva, 2004. Source:
Photograph from Godiva, 2004. Source:

There’s nothing novel about this image. As Emma Robertson argues in Chocolate, Women, and Empire, chocolate adverts have long “perpetuated western sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption (Robertson 10).” She describes how throughout the 20th century English chocolate company Rowntree produced advertisements that positioned cocoa at the center of class and gender dynamics. Specifically, they illustrated the aspirational middle class family as one in which white, well-dressed “daughters attempt to bake and clean…while sons try to polish their father’s shoes (Robertson 21). Chocolate marketing reinforced the idea that a woman’s place was in the home. Even at a young age, girls performed menial house labor while their brothers helped their fathers before work. In advertisements of adult women, Rowntree continued to separate the sexes. In an advert for their Black Magic line, a painting of a woman horseback riding was accompanied by a letter written to her friend which read, “Out with the hounds yesterday, and had a grand run. My new mare is a marvel!” At the bottom, the company notes, “Black Magic are the wonderful chocolates which Society is preferring.” Godiva’s 2004 campaign carefully associated their chocolates with the white and wealthy, just as Rowntree had associated theirs with successful white families and horse-riding women. For decades, chocolate marketing has sent women a clear message – consumption of our chocolates is a sign of elite status. This message has two effects; the first, to promote consumption (as opposed to career or personal ambition) as a woman’s primary source of self-esteem, and the second, to construct an image of self worth that is exclusive to the white, straight, and uber wealthy.

I parodied these notions with the following advertisement of a wealthy, white man consuming chocolate. He, too, is dressed lavishly, seated by a grand fireplace as he gazes sensually at the viewer. The tagline reads, “Every man is one part God(iva) much to the pleasure of every woman.” The photograph is meant to feel absurd and unfamiliar, despite its obvious parallels to the original. Western viewership is unaccustomed to advertising that equates white male worth with consumption and domesticity; we typically look for signs that the man is entrepreneurial and dominant. Without those elements, we leave the male emasculated and foolish and we discover that the very tropes we employ to empower women are the every traits that apparently separate them from industrious and independent men.

Unique image created with the following sources:;
Unique image created with the following sources:;
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Reproduction of a 2005 Divine Chocolate Campaign. Leissle, 2012.

As discussed in Kristy Leissle’s article “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers,” the Divine Chocolate brand has flipped these stereotypes, not only in their marketing but also through their labor relations. Their 2005 ad campaign featured female Ghanaian cacao farmers who were at once part owners of the chocolate company and also its models. The African women were photographed standing independently with the chocolate they produced. They appeared empowered, attractive, and knowledgeable in front of the natural background of their agricultural economy and workplace (Leissle 126). We are reminded that women of any race are not simply male companions and consumers – they’re creators and market innovators whose sense of self worth can be derived from as many sources as a man’s. These are the role models young women should aspire to, and these are the cross-cultural and generational images that Godiva and other companies should adopt if they truly want to push the bounds of their appeal.

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy.“Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24, no. 2 (2012): 121-139

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Zammit, Deana. “Chocolate Meets Fashion in New Godiva Effort.” Adweek, September 13, 2004. Accessed April 11, 2015.