Slavery: The Original Bitter In Your Chocolate

With an estimated profit projection of $98.3 Billion by the year 2016, the chocolate industry is undoubtedly reigning supreme amongst it’s confectionary competitors. Whether it’s the common ‘milk chocolate’ variety  or the exclusive ‘dark chocolate’, this confection’s popularity spans across six continents. It can be prepared with a variety of added ingredients to enhance it’s flavor, texture and appearance, chocolate still requires one primary component: cocoa beans. All chocolate producers stake claim that the ‘secret’ to their chocolate being the best is because of this one primary component. But what they fail to mention, is just how dark that ‘secret’ is.

Nearly half of all the cocoa consumed comes out of the West African Jungle. Because cocoa beans can only be harvested in specific humid conditions, most of the world’s cocoa producers are geographically limited to equitorial countries. An estimated guess of up to 800,000 children are thought to work in the cocoa sector across the Ivory Coast. They endure long days of hard labor that include the climbing of trees to reach cocoa pods, the use of machetes to open these pods, carrying up to 100lbs. of harvest and exposure to industrial toxins when spraying cocoa crops. Often these children are lured with meager wages as means to support their families and are deprived of very basic needs (access to clean water, living quarters, sufficient food etc.) Since a majority of them are restricted from receiving a basic education, their potential to progressing beyond their agricultural slavery is very slim. In the Ivory Coast alone, the increasing popularity of trafficking child slaves has increased dramatically. With neighboring Mali in dire financial straits,  children are bussed through Sikasso (known as a center hub for child trafficking), to a town called Zegoua. Which lies near the border with the Ivory Coast. Children are then transported by taxi or motorcycle across the border into the Ivory Coast to finally arrive at the plantations.


An advertisement for Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar
An advertisement for Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar


An older advertisement from Hershey’s, marketing their Special Dark Chocolate. The background is dark brown chocolate, which plays well in contrasting the lighter colored text. This contrast provides an emphasis on this text, thus attempting to convey to the consumer the importance of the language. “It takes a special chocolate to make everyone happy”, implies that Hershey’s chocolate is superior to all others because of it’s exclusive dark chocolate (quality of ingredients) and purity. The insinuation that happiness can be derived from consuming chocolate, evokes a positive emotion from the consumer. The lack of human imagery enables Hershey’s to appeal to both the female and male demographic, regardless of race, age and socio-economic status. It’s smaller text emphasizing that availability of the product “available everywhere” allows the consumer to assume that they too, can partake in this special chocolate.


If chocolate ad's were more honest in their advertising.
If chocolate ads were more honest in their advertising. *Please note, since 2012 Hershey’s has pledged to be 100% fair trade by 2020.

A modern interpretation of the same Hershey’s ad, but with what I would consider a more honest approach to full disclosure. I opted to include the primary text of “it takes a special chocolate to make everyone happy” because I wanted to keep the same emotion the original ad intended to evoke from the consumer. This notion of chocolate = happiness was crucial to my twist on the “bittersweet happy” ideaology. What I did opt to change was Hershey’s logo on the chocolate bar wrapper, as this logo is the central focal point of the ad in it’s entirety. The descriptive language on bottom right side of it was to give the consumer an explanation for the logo. My intention as a whole, in creating this ad was to evoke a moment of temporary happiness and then change that moment to one of guilt. The idea that ‘chocolate makes everyone happy’ is meant to be false and allow the consumer to further contemplate the origins of the product.

Most (70%) of a modern day chocolate bar’s value goes to the manufacturer because the majority of the costs are in marketing, research and development. With such a large chunk of financial investment going primarily to marketing, the remaining meager amount going into production isn’t enough. If this current ratio of financial distribution were to be more balanced (increasing the percentage of investment into production: agricultural production) the resulting effect would enable cocoa farmer’s to earn a better wage. An increase to better wages would ultimately result in the decrease for the need of child slavery and increase the bar of standards for child labor.


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