Life, Liberty and Chocolate for All: The Industrialization of Chocolate

Throughout the centuries, chocolate has had a global journey. From use in Mayan rituals to chocolate drinks for the European elite, cacao has evolved to fit many different societies. The preparation of cacao has not only changed in terms of fitting the taste to societies, but also in the distribution to different social levels. When preparation of cacao was limited to a few hands, only the elite were able to obtain the luxury food. However, the inventions of various machines and ideas of forms of chocolate signified the spread of chocolate to the general public.

Most of the shifts in chocolate processing occurred in the 19th century. One invention was the hydraulic press by Coenraad Johannes Van Houten. This allowed for the production of powdered chocolate with a low fat content. The chocolate liquor would have less cacao butter, leaving behind a cake later pulverized into a powder. This powder, when mixed with water, was milder and more digestible. Another effect was the larger-scale manufacture of the product, making it more readily available to a larger proportion of people.

The many machines invented to process chocolate resulted in chocolate factories such as this one in Dorchester, MA in 1891.

In 1847, J. S. Fry and Sons company found a way to make a chocolate bar. The bar contained cocoa powder, sugar, and cacao butter, which made a thinner paste that could be set into molds. As a result, cacao butter prices rose, resulting in the availability of cocoa powder to the masses. While the chocolate bars were available only for the elite for a time, it wasn’t long before the bars too became available to the general public.

Fry's chocolate ad
Ads such as the above marketed chocolate to the general public.

Chocolate preferences are constantly evolving over time. While chocolate in Europe before the 19th century was a food for the elite, it has become a staple in many households in part because of its low prices. In recent years, a shift for a want for higher quality chocolate has become apparent. With more people becoming educated about food, desires such as fair trade and organic have been introduced. People also want chocolate that tastes less processed and less like sugar, forcing large chocolate companies such as Hershey to change their products. People are starting to want authentic cacao, and it may mean an even more exciting time for chocolate lovers.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.


Marcel, Presilla E. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009. 17 February 2016. Print.

“The History of Chocolate.” The World of Chocolate. World Standards. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

“Walter Baker & Co.” Big Business: Walter Baker & Co. an AAS Online Exhibition. American Antiquarian. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

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