Market in the Square prides itself on offering products both local and international, products of “a higher quality” that customers can rely on and enjoy.[i] Products range from potato chips, to pasta chips, to sushi, various cheeses around the world and finally, various types of chocolate. Market, to the untrained eye would seem a perfect example of where we might find real artisan chocolate, produced by chocolatiers outside the capitalist conglomerates that monopolize the chocolate market. Upon analyzing the chocolate section of Market in the Square, it became even more apparent that artisan chocolate is slowly giving way to the industrial machine of the chocolate industry: high end chocolate is becoming a front through which chocolate corporations maintain a hold on the chocolate industry. In careful analysis of the Perugino, Green & Black’s and Chuao brands, this becomes overwhelmingly evident. Luxury, artisan chocolate is not safe from the sway of chocolate politics. With the growing demand for fair trade and organic beans, big chocolate companies are intent upon acquiring artisan chocolatiers and maintaining their share of the chocolate market.
At first glance, Market in the Square seems to live up to its reputation and apparent status as a purveyor of all things exotic and fresh. In addition to acting as a short of convenience store, Market has a deli and hot foods section that features a wide array of foods (international delicacies as well), fresh fruit and a sandwich selection sponsored by Boars Head that during lunchtime is quite popular. Beverages offered are fancier than the Pepsi and Coke dichotomy found at just any super market or small chain store. Pellegrino and pomegranate juice fill the fridges, near various coconut juices and flavored waters intent full of vitamin supplements. True, the store definitely includes the lower end, mass produced drinks most commonly found and drunk in the states, like Pepsi, Coke and Gatorade, but these are tucked away in areas where they can’t actually be seen. Essentially, the atmosphere one could glean from Market is that it caters to an audience that seeks international treats, a customer base that is health conscious and aware of food trends and fads. This isn’t Star Market; it’s Market in the Square. Given that sort of characterization, we expect to find the same sort of selection among the chocolates offered in Market, perhaps smaller, local chocolatiers, Taza for example, or something on the artisan level. Instead, I observed a different trend.
The shelf that featured the chocolate selection offered at Market looked from a distance like it was full of artisan chocolate, imported, healthy, socially conscious, maybe even organic (although Market certainly made no promises about that). On the top shelf, we see bars produced by Lindt, Perugina, Green & Black’s (an organic bar), and Cadbury. The Lindt and Cadbury bars both fall solidly into the category of big company bars. Both companies represent a large share of the chocolate market, adept at chocolate mass-production, and serving in some sense, as the baseline European chocolate bar. It became very clear that the products offered by Cadbury and Lindt in Market were higher end products meant to target the health conscious, internationally-crazed consumers that might shop there. At first glance, these look like small-time, bean to bar, chocolatiers to the untrained eye. The packaging is of both the Lindt bars and Cadbury bars is fancy, eye catching, enough to match the presumed grandeur of the Perugina and Green & Black’s bars sandwiched between them. The biggest surprise, however, came in researching the Perugina and Green & Black’s bars.
Perugina is an Italian-based company, boasting an impressive chocolate production resume. The bars found in Market were of different flavors, but all with cocoa content of higher than 50% and boasting natural ingredients. Upon further inspection we understand that it was created in 1907 by Giovanni Buitoni and Luisa Spagnoli. The company grew and grew developing chain stores all over Italy and creating a product similar to the Hershey’s kiss, the Baci. It boasts a sense of “responsibility” about chocolate making and a focus even despite its size on “local community.”[ii] The factory in which Perugina distributes chocolate is on a solar farm that employs 1100 people and even built a nursery for employees’ children, very clearly putting emphasis on family values. [iii] In 1988, however, Perugina was bought and remains a part of the Nestle Company.[iv] What appeared to be an independent, somewhat socially conscious company was in fact owned by Nestle, one of the five largest chocolate producers in the market. Perugina produces and distributes chocolate, maintaining principles of social responsibility under the larger umbrella of a chocolate company widely known as a proprietor of several labor malpractices (including continued use of child labor) in the larger chocolate production arena.[v] Market in the Square, it seems, wasn’t offering artisan chocolate, but rather chocolate packaged in the trappings of artisan chocolate.
The same sort of phenomenon, in which large, well-known chocolate conglomerates attempt to use the front of smaller chocolatiers to make a profit, was true of the Green & Black’s bar. Co-founded by Craig Sams and Jo Fairly in 1991, Green & Black’s is an organic chocolatier focused on “ethical trading” which is at the brand’s core and very much a part of it’s social message. In fact, Green & Black’s was proclaimed the first Fairtrade chocolate product in the UK, specifically for their Maya Gold chocolate bar.[vi] Green & Black’s attention to organic ingredients and pursuit of Fairtrade practices made it unique as a growing chocolate company. It is likely, for these reasons that Cadbury “gobbled” up the company in 2005, in an attempt to boost it’s own credentials as a healthier, more ethical chocolate producer.[vii] Once again, gone was the individual artisan chocolatier, consumed instead by the brute market force of companies like Cadbury and Nestle.
Tucked away in a corner, with its own small offering of variety, was the relative saving grace of my encounter at Market. With a total of ten bars was a small variety of a chocolatier called Chuao. Though not organic, some research found that the company, based out of the U.S but run by two Venezuelan brothers dedicated to making a quality chocolate product out of the Chuao region of Venezuela. The Food Empowerment Project listed as one of the chocolatiers recommended to purchase from, as fair and devoid of child slavery practices.[viii] The chocolate is also vegan and though not organic, seems to celebrate ethical production processes. It remains free of the big chocolate production companies, and operates outside of the sphere of control spread by companies like Nestle and Cadbury. Chuao chocolate is even offered at high-end markets like Whole Foods and Dean and Deluca, the former of which stresses fair practices and all natural ingredients. Though Chuao and chocolatiers like it seem to be in the minority and represent a small portion of the larger chocolate market, Chuao’s presence in Market in the Square reminds us of the persistence of true artisan chocolate.
With the rise of fair trade and organic concerns surrounding beans, the demand for chocolate that offers the same is high in demand.[ix] Eber and Williams discuss this in their book, Raising the Bar, mentioning how individual chocolatiers in 2003 “couldn’t find brokers to sell [them] fair trade and organic beans.”[x] Now, farms that produce organically and ethically are finding an even greater market in a more health conscious, internationally aware set of consumers. Big chocolate companies are noticing this, and the low cocoa content, non-fair trade, non-organic bars of the past are slowly moving out of trend. What I noticed at Market cemented this idea of encroachment of big companies on the chocolatier model. Nestle and Cadbury have both, in purchasing Perugino and Green & Black’s have made attempts to stay abreast of the health and ethically conscious trends of recent generations. At the same time, chocolatiers like Chuao are trying their best to remain independent and true to value in the ever expanding influence of the big chocolate companies. This, of course leaves us with several questions about the future of the artisan chocolate market. While there is clearly growing demand for the product that artisan chocolatiers tend to produce, the chocolatiers themselves seem to be falling victim to large chocolate companies at a similarly growing pace. Where then lies the future of artisan chocolatiers?
[iii] Responsabilità Sociale.” Perugina. N.p., n.d. Web. https://www.perugina.it/it/azienda/responsabilita-sociale
[iv] Newman, Andrew Adam. “An Italian Chocolatier Revives Its U.S. Campaign.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Dec. 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/business/media/chocolate-maker-perugina-resumes-ads-in-the-united-states.html
[ix] Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. 207
[x] Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. 207
“About Us | Green & Black’s.” Green & Black’s. Green & Black’s, n.d. Web. 03 May 2015. <http://us.greenandblacks.com/about-us>.
“Cadbury Gobbles Up Organic Rival.” BBC News. BBC, 13 May 2005. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4543583.stm>.
“F.E.P.’s Chocolate List.” F.E.P.’s Chocolate List. Food Empowerment Project, n.d. Web. 03 May 2015. <http://www.foodispower.org/chocolate-list/>.
Hawksley, Humphrey. “Nestle ‘failing’ on Child Labour Abuse, Says FLA Report – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 29 June 2012. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-18644870>.
“Market in the Square | Home.” Market in the Square | Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.marketinthesquare.org/>.
Newman, Andrew Adam. “An Italian Chocolatier Revives Its U.S. Campaign.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Dec. 2011. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/business/media/chocolate-maker-perugina-resumes-ads-in-the-united-states.html>.
“Perugina – La Storia.” Perugina – La Storia. Perugina, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <https://www.perugina.it/it/azienda/storia>.
“Responsabilità Sociale.” Perugina. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <https://www.perugina.it/it/azienda/responsabilita-sociale>.
Image 1: http://www.harvardsquare.com/sites/default/files/marketinthesquare.jpg
Image 2: http://new.perugina.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Screen-Shot-2014-09-29-at-9.04.11-AM.png
Image 3: http://www.genconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Green-and-Blacks-Organic-Chocolate.jpg
Image 4: http://www.notcot.com/images/2012/08/chuao.jpg