The Imbalanced Relationship that Defines Chocolate: Cadbury’s Power and Cacao Farmers’ Inferiority

The primary message of Cadbury’s ad for Bournville chocolate is that carefully selected Ghanaian cacao beans of the highest quality are used to create a wonderful chocolate product that consumers should buy. Simply examined, the plotline of the advertisement has a representative of Cadbury traveling to Ghana to select the finestcacao beans to be used in the production of Cadbury’s Bournville chocolate. A deeper analysis of the ad however, reveals the unbalanced relationship between Cadbury and cacao farmers. Despite a mutual dependence on each other – Cadbury depends on cacao farmers for their cacao supply, and cacao farmers depend on Cadbury for their profits – the relationship between Cadbury and cacao farmers is defined by Cadbury’s position of power, wealth, and prestige and cacao farmers’ inferiority.

Kristy Leissle accurately describes chocolate ads as invitations to creating “connections among people who grow, sell, and consume luxuries like chocolate, across a visual gulf that is often too vast to bridge (122). Because this visual gap is too wide, ads often resort to stereotypical depictions and assumptions, only perpetuating historical and cultural tensions. In the Cadbury ad, the White Cadbury representative’s power, status, and wealth are initially noticed through his upscale suit and tie apparel, a sharp contrast to the simple clothing worn by the African cacao farmers. He is also accompanied by a Black chauffer, driving an expensive Land Rover, which appears to be the only car in the immediate area. The Cadbury representative’s job of judging the quality of cacao beans naturally places him in a position of power. As he appropriately sits at the head of the room, the cacao farmers wait by anxiously as he sifts through the cacao beans with his microscopic lens. While he is literally evaluating the cacao bean, the Cadbury representative also indirectly determines the fate of each cacao farmer, since each farmer’s profits and thus livelihood are dependent upon whether their cacao crop will be purchased.


In this ad, a Cadbury chocolate bar is receiving recognition and gaining wealth as its prestige reaches the international consumer market. Meanwhile, behind the scene and curtain, are laboring cacao beans (even baby cacao beans) receiving no credit or monetary compensation despite their contribution in the production of chocolate. The exploitation of cacao farmers – and at time child labor – is the foundation upon which Cadbury has built wealth and success. Cadbury’s ads are examples of how the “romanticized narratives of chocolate…are largely divorced from the material conditions of production (Robert 2).

These material conditions of production are characterized by exploitative labor (including child labor), low wages, and poverty. Many cacao farmers live tiring and fruitless lives as they produce cacao for Big Chocolate companies such as Cadbury. The discarded cacao beans in our group’s ad represent cacao farmers who spent their lives undercompensated, usurped and exploited by Big Chocolates. Looking at the data for the global chocolate market (see data table), with the total consumption of chocolate at 7.2 million tons and the revenue of chocolate production in the U.S. at $16 billion, it is unbelievable that “the average income per capita per day for a Ghanaian cacao farming household is below $0.30 USD (Lecture 15). The future of cacao farming is currently uncertain because the younger generation sees no incentive in laboriously growing the difficult crop of cacao for minimal wages: less the 25% of current cacao farmers even recommend their job (Lecture 15).
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The historical colonization of the West Indies and West Africa facilitated the economic exploitation of cacao farmers by the British firms, while granting representatives of chocolate manufacturers in Britain power in influencing farming practices. Though less extreme, the power that Big Chocolates like Cadbury hold over cacao farmers today defines the relationship between chocolate corporations and cacao farmers. With younger generations aware of the imbalanced relationship in cacao farming and less people entering the cacao farming work force, what lies in the chocolate industry’s future?

Work Cited

Primary Sources

Cadbury. “Cadbury’s Bournville Chocolate Ad”. Online video clip uploaded by Pavan Kuman. YouTube. YouTube. 23 June 2012. Web. 3 April 2015.

Chocolate Ad. 2015. Pencil on printer paper. Harvard College, Cambridge.

“Global Chocolate Market” Statista. Web. 3 April 2015

Secondary Sources

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 3 March. 2015. Class Lecture.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cacao Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies. 24.2 (2012): 121-139. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.

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


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