Being a chocolate lover for as long as I can remember, I have ventured around Cambridge the past four years in hopes of discovering locations where I could buy a quality selection of the gift of the gods so as to broaden my tastes. It was not long before I stumbled upon Cardullos, a gourmet shoppe located right in the middle of Harvard Square. Walking into the store my eyes grew wide as I saw the beautifully colored wall filled from floor to ceiling with chocolate bars! I was amazed to count around thirty different products of chocolate from at least 15 different countries. It was amazing that so many different types, flavors, and forms could all be classified under the same name. Chocolate, historically prepared to serve as a hot drink (Norton, 660), has undergone immense changes to get to its current state and analyzing various features of this fascinating and delicious product, I learned something about the way it affects the consumer. Because chocolate is a massively available good, contains addicting ingredients, and has a complex and unclear origin, it is hard to change consumption preferences.
The industrialization of food has provided consumers with a massively available production of chocolate (Goody, 88). Walking into a store, like Cardullos, consumers have an endless amount of chocolate and varying brands at their fingertips — literally an entire massive section dedicated purely to chocolate. As a creature of habit, when forced to choose from with such a huge selection I tend to form a preference for a certain product. But generally the variety of prices, flavors, and sizes of the chocolate bars may play into a typical preference. Depending on the chocolate bar, some brands provide a condensed backstory of their company along with the ingredients and products used to produce the delectable chocolate. Nowadays, this product can be found all over the world, even when scarcity of more necessary goods persist, demonstrating that chocolate grew to be such a common and illustrious commodity.
Not only is chocolate readily available at a limitless number of locations, but it also has addictive properties that keep the consumer wanting more. The sugar and fat content of chocolate are just some examples of what prolongs its consumerism, no doubt serving as partial contributor to the obesity epidemic that has struck the United States. “Given that fat and sugar constitute 50 percent of the caloric intake of the average American, it is also not surprising to find that over two-thirds of All Americans are overweight, while the very obese (at least 100 pounds overweight) are the fastest-growing group” (Albritton, 344). This evidence is not saying that chocolate is the sole reason that people are unhealthy, but it seems to be a factor influencing and contributing to generally unhealthy food choices because of the addictive properties of fat and sugar.
In addition to the massive able production of chocolate and the addictive properties that perpetuation consumerism, the complex and unclear origin of chocolate contributes to the difficulty in altering consumption preferences. Concerning Market Ethics and the slave trade, Lowell Satre writes about how the demand for slaves and labor was so much greater than the supply available; there was an unquenchable thirst for labor that only helped in sustaining the slave trade (Satre, 11). Just about everything functions in a supply and demand relationship and therefore chocolate, without exception, maintained this; as a result its production disgustingly treated human beings as commodities of trade. Sāo Tomé and Príncipe are just two of the many countries within in the extensive line of cocoa production where slavery was capitalized upon for the cacao trade (Satre, 98). Non-resolved labor conditions may mean that, despite all of the work done to improve labor, trade, and standard of business environments, there is still likelihood that chocolate companies that fail to acknowledge the origin of their cacao beans are linked to unacceptable source.
Along with the slave trade generating a great amount of controversy regarding the production of chocolate, the true origin of the product is also often questionable. When it comes to chocolate, every ingredient influences the resulting taste and the origin, or the cocoa beans, could have a determining influence. By and large consumers want to know what they are putting into their bodies and an important component of this ties in where the product came from. In Food Justice vs. Food Power, Levkoe portrays the problems that may arise when people are forced into consumerism, without knowing the sources of the product they put into their bodies (Levkoe, 589). Food justice movements engage activists of all sorts to consider the rights of consumers, human and environmental health, the importance of the production and distribution of food, and the political coalitions capable of making a difference. Through these community promoting and individual empowering campaigns society can learn a more valuable way to live. The consumption of chocolate can serve as representation for general consumerism because it too reflects on the common phrase you are what you eat in regards to ones actions concerning its production. Despite the origin or the cacao beans that are used to produce chocolate being predominantly unknown, the consumption of chocolate persists all over the world.
Seeing that chocolate is a massively available good, contains addicting sugar and fat contents, and stems from a controversial history with an unclear origin, I would argue that it would be quite difficult to change consumer preferences. It is not difficult to learn about contentions surrounding chocolate, but I surmise that each consumer feels incapable of making a crucial impact by changing the product they purchase. When I took stock in the huge variety of chocolates in Cardullos, I reflected on the industrial taste of the chocolate that portrays high quality with a higher price. Can we be certain that what is in each wrapper truthfully corresponds to its label? Food adulteration was once a common occurrence in the industrialization production (Goody, 86) that I wonder if there could still be a trace of misconduct when producing chocolate. It does not seem like it would be very difficult to tinker with certain ingredients, such as substitutions that would be hard to discern. Even the slightest adulteration may make a profitable difference for producers. Many chocolatiers labor to make sure that the consumer can be satisfied with what they put in their bodies but this often hikes the price up because of all the additional and necessary steps to make their chocolate.
Though the more expensive chocolates may have been crafted with a higher moral compass in regards to the labor demanded in order to launch its production, I do not think it would be too easy to get consumers to change their ways when it comes to purchasing the product. The final chocolate product could be flashy or have colorful styles on the wrapper, there could be massive public hype surrounding a certain brand, or the mere convenience of purchasing a certain type may be reason for chocolate consumerism. But when it comes to their preferences, an individual has a more innate response to their consumption. Even with all of the medical findings that the media publicizes regarding the health risks or benefits of chocolate, when consumers habituate chocolate into their diet I think it would be tough to break their dependency. Historically speaking, when Europeans developed the taste they first had for Indian chocolate, they set out to recreate the good for America and Europe so that they might taste the indigenous experience (Norton, 660). Now Europeans, as I saw during my exploration of Cardullos, produces many chocolate brands that are consumed around the world. I think that by adapting chocolate in such a fashion helped create this dependency and consequentially an unbreakable preference for chocolate
When I was a child I considered pretty much any type of sweet to be yummy, always wanting anything chocolate. I developed a sweet tooth and grew dependent on sugar. With every possible brand of chocolate available to consumers, picking a favorite and sticking to it seemed somewhat necessary. Even as I recently learned more about how chocolate is made and the process and ingredients that go into its production, I still have that original preference for my chocolate. Sure, I think that it is possible to enjoy trying new products and the experience of new tasting chocolates, but I think that the innate preference that one forms for chocolate is hard to break.
My adventures in search of new chocolate tastes has been quite a rewarding experience and it helped lead me to assert that it is difficult to changes a consumers preference on chocolate because of its massive and readily available supply, the inclusion of addicting amounts of sugar and fat content, and the complexity associated with its controversial history and the lack of clarity in cocoa bean origin. Whether you grab a Hershey bar from the gas station, a Dove bar from CVS, Ghirardelli squares from a supermarket, or Lindt truffles at the mall, chocolate is a readily available good no matter where you go. The price placed on a item of chocolate may have an influence on what a consumer actually chooses to purchase, but the original preference one has associated with the chocolate he or she likes is hard to put a end to because of its massive availability, addictive ingredients, and complex history and origin.
This chocolate from Brussels illustrates the industrialized pricing, portraying a finer quality along with a high price.
France’s François Pralus portrays the multitude of origins in order to market the chocolate.
Artisan Michael Autourorsi’s Chuao Chocolatier here demonstrates the production of unique types of chocolate.
This Cadbury product reflects on chocolate’s past, as it was originally consumed as a liquid.
Taza is manufactured in Massachusetts and is a delicious stone-ground chocolate.
Albritton, Robert. “Between obesity and hunger: the capitalist food industry.” Food and Culture: A Reader (2013): 342-354.Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2012.
Goody, Jack. “Industrial food: towards the development of a world cuisine.” Food and culture: a reader (1997): 338-353.
Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2012.
Levkoe, Charles Z. “Learning democracy through food justice movements.” Agriculture and Human Values 23.1 (2006): 89-98.
Norton, Marcy. “Tasting empire: chocolate and the European internalization of Mesoamerican aesthetics.” The American historical review 111.3 (2006): 660-691.
Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on trial: Slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Ohio University Press, 2005.
(Photos taken at Cardullos)