Bean-To-Bar vs. Big Chocolate Companies: The Differences

In today’s chocolate industry, big companies in the United States such as Hershey’s focus on how much money they are able to make off consumers regardless of the consumers hurt or offended in the process compared to small bean to bar chocolate makers around the world that are making an impact in the chocolate industry when it comes to health and advertising.

In history chocolate was made without large machines and extra ingredients holding the bar together. However, various ingredients and forms were introduced which changed chocolate forever. From the time of the Mayans and Aztecs to today’s present day, chocolate’s ingredients and structure has changed. Ingredients such as sugar or peanut butter enhance the flavor for most consumers. However, big companies such as Hershey’s continue to adulterate food products, often adding lead or brick dust despite the introduction to the Adulteration of Foods Act (Coe & Coe, 2013). Big chocolate companies also have cheaper, lower quality chocolate due to their usage of bulk cacao from different cacao farms (Presilla, 2009). Cacao beans which have been overly fermented, over roasted or rotten are known as bulk cacao (Presilla, 2009). Due to the cheap chocolate addiction, the increase of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes grew dramatically over the past thirty years (Albritton, 2013).

Another constant problem in the chocolate industry is the chocolate advertisements that are often offensive and degrade the personalities of women. These advertisements portray beautiful women but they are sexually ecstatic or look seductive when they consume chocolate (Leissle, 2012). There are various posters, commercials, banners and radio advertisements from Godiva, Cadbury, and other big chocolate companies which create advertisements that represent women or black men in an offensive way. Unfortunately, even the present day contains these ads. Bean to bar chocolate makers focus on the quality on their products (using fine cacao and little sugar, retaining the taste of old-fashioned chocolate) and the traditional way of making chocolate (Presilla, 2009). They represent themselves through descriptive videos without exaggerated and offensive stereotypes. A descendant of the Cadbury brothers describes the adulteration of chocolate, Taza chocolate (a small bean to bar chocolate companies in the United States) shares their entire process through tours and on their website, an offensive advertisement from Godiva demonstrates the false representation of women and Beach chocolate’s representative video are perfect examples of the positive impact of bean to bar chocolate makers and the negative impact big chocolate companies make in demonstration and quality.

This passage is from an article called “Chocolate Wars Waged With Kittens and Brick Dust.” It is based on the history of chocolate from the website “thestar.com.” A British historian, Deborah Cadbury, is a descendant of the Cadbury family whose company still runs today but by a different name. She was interviewed on the history of Cadbury and she described the adulteration of chocolate: “In Victorian times, only the wealthy could afford chocolate. It was this drink that got a very mixed reception because lentils and pearl barley tended to be added to mop up the cocoa butter . . . Unscrupulous traders were adding brick dust and animal fat. The Cadburys weren’t doing this. The Cadburys came up with pure cocoa in the late 1860s and business took off with the introduction of the Adulteration of Foods Acts, (which stated all ingredients had to be listed).” It is important to notice that she admits other companies have adulterated chocolate, but it seems that she could be whitewashing the history of the Cadbury company (Coe & Coe, 2013). This is the problem with larger chocolate companies is that once they have made enough money and they have earned their customer’s loyalty, it is unlikely that they would give out any negative or secret information on how they make their chocolate (Albritton, 2013). Although larger companies are hesitant to spread any secrets they have or do factory, it is likely that the Taza Chocolate factory conceals nothing from their consumers.

Taza is a small bean to bar chocolate factory in Somerville, Massachusetts. On Taza Chocolate’s website, they describe the process for making their chocolate. “Our stone ground chocolate making process is inspired by centuries-old Mexican chocolate traditions. We use authentic Oaxacan stone mills called molinos to grind our cacao, with granite millstones hand carved by co-founder Alex. These stones minimally refine the cacao beans, capturing all their vibrant flavors and allowing tiny bits of cacao and organic cane sugar to remain in the finished chocolate. The result: chocolate brimming with bright tastes and bold textures.” It seems that While companies like Hershey’s and Mars are hesitant to give out too much information and white-wash their history and goals, Taza chocolate refrains from hiding anything from consumers and they give out every step of the process that they have and their intentions. If people wish to see their process on how their chocolate is made, tours are held in their main factory in Somerville, Massachusetts. It is as if Taza is very open to the community and they want to introduce a healthier and more traditional chocolate that educates consumers about the history of as well as satisfies their taste buds. In terms of representation, big chocolate companies go for exaggeration stereotypes (Leissle, 2012).

Here is an advertisement which was released in the United States in 2012 by the chocolate company Godiva.

So in this advertisement, there are two women (one disguised as a man). The woman in the red seductive attire (also wearing a seductive smile) hands a heart-shaped box of chocolate to the woman in men’s attire. As soon as the disguised woman takes a bite of the heart-shaped chocolate, she shuts her eyes in ecstasy and reveals herself. The commercial ends with the woman in the red dress tasting the chocolate also and she shuts her eyes excitingly as well. This offensive stereotype in chocolate advertisements is very common. It is as if chocolate is a sex-object that women would prefer over men because it could give them more pleasure. This advertisement gives an offensive and negative implication. Women are animals and they are sexually attracted to a simple yet delicious commodity. It seems that chocolate companies want to represent the seductiveness of chocolate, and it could replace the relationship between a man and a woman. Big chocolate companies continue to represent the relationship between chocolate and women in this way (Leissle, 2012). This makes a negative impact on women, but markets do not care as long as their business consumes a lot of money (Leissle, 2012). Compared to the larger companies, smaller chocolate factories represent themselves differently without creating appalling labels or dramatization.

Here is a video from a vlogger named David Benjamin interviewing Henrik who works at this Costa-Rican bean to bar factory known as Beach Chocolate. Notice how Henrik is holding a cacao pod rather than a box of chocolate hearts. This important because it symbolizes the source of chocolate and source in its natural form for viewers to see.

Compared to most chocolate representations, this is a fantastic way to demonstrate the work that goes into the product rather than sexualizing it. This chocolate factory’s video does not create any wild exaggerations or stereotypes. It takes a viewer to the source of what they are consuming (or should be consuming). There is no seductive encounter with chocolate or with a man and a woman. A simple and calm interview promoting their chocolate factory is what this video’s synopsis holds. It is as if these small chocolate factories are bringing back chocolate’s old-fashioned process and ingredients to what it was in the time of the Mayans and Aztecs. It seems that they are bringing back true chocolate made with fine cacao and very little sugar, that sweet and rich treat which the Europeans discovered through their humble representation and open arms to their communities (Coe & Coe, 2013).

To conclude, small bean to bar chocolate factories make quite an impact. If there should a positive change in the chocolate industry, then consumers should become aware of the healthier chocolate options available to them as well as acknowledging and analyzing offensive advertisements. Consumers can spread the word about offensive and unhealthy chocolate amongst their family members, classmates and in their community. Bean to bar chocolate factories themselves teach us about what a true, sweet and bitter treat chocolate can be and its long history dating back to the day it was a drink rather than the bar we know today.

Works Cited

http://www.thestar.com/life/2010/12/20/chocolate_wars_waged_with_kittens_and_brick_dust.html

http://www.tazachocolate.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HleyMMWke6Y  “Godiva: Valentine” (2012)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXGjBdKHlnA “A Bean To Bar Chocolate Factory Tour Experience In Costa Rica” (2014)

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Revised Edition. Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.

Coe, Sophie D. and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. London: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Albritton, Robert. Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry. New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. 2013. Print

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

Special thanks to all my peers, the guest lecturers, my teacher and teaching assistant for everything they have shared and taught me!

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