Ritter SPORT’s vision of the contemporary chocolate maker

I came across Ritter SPORT chocolate when grocery shopping with my girlfriend. She loves chocolate and concentrates in German studies in school, so Ritter SPORT was a natural selection for her. She told me that the chocolate company is very popular in Germany and you can make your own flavors if you visit the factory. For me, I have never heard of the chocolate brand (even though I understand that they are sold at many stores in the US) and became interested in its unique flavor. In the particular bar that she bought, there are corn flake additions. Also, the bar is not the typical rectangular shape you see in the mainstream bars like Hershey’s. It is a square shaped bar with a label that runs across the top of the packaging stating, “Fine Quality European Chocolate made with Natural Ingredients.” I looked for a fair trade or organic sticker; however, none were found. The reason behind selecting this particular chocolate is that it revealed to me that there are many chocolate makers that have a large impact in foreign countries that are not part of the Big Five (Hershey’s, Ferrero Rocher, Mars, Nestle, and Cadbury). There are chocolate markets in which chocolate companies have a strong relationship with the citizens and influence the consumers not only through food but also through sustainability objectives and art.

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On the Ritter SPORT website, there is a section labeled “All About Chocolate” where you can learn about the history of chocolate from the Olmecs to the current state of their business. The analysis is in depth, speaking about the Olmecs, Mayas, and Aztecs, Christopher Columbus, Cortes, Linnaeus and naming the cacao tree, and even the transition of chocolate in Germany from “medicine to children’s confectionery” (Ritter SPORT). Although the website does not speak much about the European concept of chocolate and how they “unwittingly developed a taste for Indian chocolate and…sought to re-create the indigenous chocolate experience” (Norton 660), the website does go deeply into the significance of “health chocolate” in Europe with the advent of new ways of utilizing the cacao plant. ”This history of chocolate leads to a diversity of flavors from the various inclusions of nuts and fruits in the chocolate. Like Chloe from Raising the Bar says “You have to listen to chocolate in the same way that you listen to music…You have to give the flavor notes of chocolate many tastes and chances” (Williams and Eber 144). Even if you do not know “Buttermilk Lemon” as a flavor of chocolate, you can surely appreciate the diversity of palates that chocolate can affect. This inventive nature of tastes in Ritter SPORT chocolates mirrors the conversation Stuckey, the author of “TASTE: What You’re Missing,” had with Keane of the restaurant Cyrus. We have our own sensory world and “many people simply have fundamental misperceptions of the Basic Tastes” (Stuckey 8). Knowing this, chocolate makers like Ritter Sport experiment continuously and taste their products continuously to utilize the right tastes and flavor profiles in their chocolates.

el-cacao
El Cacao

Along with providing the long history of chocolate to educate consumers, Ritter SPORT focuses on family business and values. Their values surround the concept of respect—respect for their employees, respect for their consumers, and respect for the environment. Ritter SPORT focuses on their brand and what it means to the public. According to their website, the brand “stands for a modern, high-quality and innovative chocolate brand for a broad consumer group.” The innovation comes with their commitment to ecology and sustainability. Their commitment to improving and maintaining a low environmental impact is strong “even if they are up to 10% more expensive than previous methods” (Ritter-SPORT). Ritter SPORT accomplishes this by “[using] renewable energy whenever and wherever practical.” Although this is a great attempt at being environmentally friendly, we do not know precisely how much renewable energy they use and exactly how much of an environmental impact they have. Ritter SPORT is a member of the “Biodiversity in Good Company” Initiative, which aims “to halt the dramatic loss of ecosystems, species and genetic diversity” (Business and Biodiversity Initiative). Along with Ritter SPORT there are many companies also part of this initiative, including MARS, Incorporated (particularly Mars Germany). In fact, Mars Germany is a founding member of the Initiative. Ritter SPORT “made it possible to expand the cultivation area of agroforestry (agroforestry is the concept of combing agricultural and forestry methods with aims of reforestation) cocoa in Nicaragua” (Business and Biodiversity Initiative), which affects around 3,500 cocoa farmers from 20 cooperatives. The basis of their agroforestry attempt is productivity: the more productive the small farmers can be, the more income they can receive. On top of this Cacaonica cooperative, in 2008 Ritter SPORT built a “purchasing and drying station for exports and quality control” (Ritter-SPORT). This station serves as the main contact point between the chocolate company and the farmers and allows Ritter SPORT to pay a premium to the farmers and see the money go directly to the farmers and not middlemen. They call this Cacaonica, a way of helping support small farmers in Nicaragua. Ritter SPORT also in 2012 purchased 2,500 hectares of land (called the El Cacao plantation) in eastern Nicaragua and is attempting to produce “ecologically and socially sustainable cocoa cultivation” for their chocolate (Business and Biodiversity Initiative).

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Thermal Power Station

Along with this land purchase, Ritter SPORT has used an “in-house thermal power station and a photovoltaic system for many years” (Business and Biodiversity Initiative). On the Ritter SPORT website, they claim that this block-type thermal power station “produces approximately 30% of the company’s electricity and covers approximately 70% of its heat demand” (Ritter-SPORT). These two savings combined allow the chocolate company to reduce their energy needs by 12 million kWh per year, which they claim is approximately 1 million liters of fuel oil and the equivalent of a reduction of 6,800 tons of CO2 emissions. Although this sounds great (and most likely is very environmentally friendly), we do not know how much of this is truth and how much of this is simply an “approximation.” In the end, Ritter SPORT is still a very strong advocate for sustainability. In 1996, Ritter SPORT was “the first company in the confectionery industry to organize in-house environmental protection measures and further develop them into a sustainability management strategy” (Ritter-SPORT).

Along with the mission of sustainability, Ritter SPORT uniquely is devoted to the arts. The company sees “promoting young artists as an investment in the future and as a contribution to [its] cultural responsibility.” Their commitment to art can clearly bScreen Shot 2015-05-04 at 4.33.43 PMe seen through a sculpture in Ptsdamer Platz in Germany, which has a large stack of the chocolates in various colors in the form of a swirling column (Travels of Adam). Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.28.28 PMAlong with this sculpture, Ritter SPORT has a factory, which also doubles as a museum. In the museum they showcase art that contain squares, which is the signature shape of their chocolates. Museum Ritter’s four foundational concepts upon which the museum wScreen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.02.09 PMas founded are: 1) independency, 2) concentration on the square, 3) future orientation, and 4) amenability. The museum promotes “chiefly geometric abstract art” and is a patron to the surrounding art community (Museum-Ritter).

Like Hershey who held onto the idea that his business should “create something nobler than profit” (D’Antonio 115), Ritter too finds his company to be more than just a chocolate company. However, unlike Hershey were was many times seen as an “egotistical captain of industry” (D’Antonio 114), Ritter hopes to create a supporting environment for his employees rather than one run by understanding “that they served at the pleasure of a mercurial leader and that they better stay sharp” (D’Antonio 114). Furthermore, Ritter and Hershey both had an appreciation for art. Hershey was known to fire an employee after realizing that his plans to build a neighborhood were monotonous. When noticing that the houses were not made from individual designs but looked like molds of each other, Hershey said that “That’s the way slave dealers used to do [it]” (D’Antonio 112). And while making the new Hershey plant, “the design…reflected an attempt to match architecture with function” (D’Antonio 118).

Ritter SPORT is a very unique chocolate maker that has expanded to be more than just a chocolate maker. Like Hershey who was innovative during his time, Ritter also finds himself in a position to be innovative with chocolate and make not only the best chocolate for your taste buds but also the best chocolate for the environment and the cacao farmers. They are very conscious of the history of chocolate and are very passionate about the direction they want it to go in. Chocolate can be a foundation for environmental advocacy and artistic representation. It is just a shame that Ritter SPORT’s involvement in the world outside of the chocolate bar is not more widely known and praised by the public not only in Germany but also in the wider international community.

Works Cited

Business and Biodiversity. Ritter Sport: Commitment. Web. 6 May 2015. http://www.business-and-biodiversity.de/en/about-us/members/ritter-sport/

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126

Museum-Ritter. Web. 6 may 2015. http://www.museum-ritter.de/sprache2/n1381459/n.html

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691

Ritter-SPORT: El Cacao. Web. 6 May 2015. http://www.ritter-sport.de/.galleries/0403_Nachhaltigkeit/el-cacao.jpg

Ritter-SPORT: Products. Web. 6 May 2015. http://www.ritter-sport.de/en/products/index.html?filter=all&categoryIndex=1

Stuckey, Barb. 2012. Taste: What You’re Missing. pp. 1-30, 132-156

Travels of Adam. Ritter Square Museum Near Stuttgart. Web blog. 6 May 2015. http://travelsofadam.co m/2012/05/ritter-square-museum-near-stuttgart/

Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. pp. 141- 209

`/1nc3nt. Rittersport, the train and the clock. Flickr. Web. 6 May 2015. https://www.flickr.com/ photos/vincent_ie/15065357351/in/photostream/

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