Boxes of chocolates, chocolate bars, cakes, a hot cup of cocoa, brownies, chocolate mousse, chocolate chip cookies… who doesn’t indulge in chocolate in some form or another? I think it’s fair to say that the majority of people love chocolate. And why wouldn’t we? There have been hundreds of variations of chocolate for every occasion and for many chocolate taste bud preferences. Chocolate seems to be a part of our everyday lives and we have had a long historical relationship with it. The journey of chocolate becoming a commonly consumed food item to enjoy is not only interesting but it is continually developing. Consumption and innovation throughout history have kept chocolate in demand. Different eras have added new and delightful versions and forms of chocolate that we consume today.
When chocolate made it’s way to England in the 1650s it became popular with the royals and aristocrats, but it was only the elite that could afford the expensive Spanish import (Klein, Christopher). Most commonly the wealthy enjoyed chocolate drinks as a celebrated elixir with salubrious benefits (Klein, Christopher). “As the popularity of chocolate grew, so did the number of cocoa growing countries in the world” (Discovering Chocolate). When more cocoa beans became available to a wider population this greatly contributed to the popularization of chocolate, and so “the price of cocoa beans gradually began to fall as greater quantities came onto the market” (Discovering Chocolate). In addition, in 1853, a significant reduction of import duties were made with the Industrial Revolution making transporting the commodity more lucrative (Discovering Chocolate).
It wasn’t until Johannes Van Houten invented the hydraulic press in 1828 that chocolate-making revolutionized. The hydraulic press squeezes the cocoa butter from the cacao beans producing a dry cake that then gets pulverized into a fine powder, or as we know it, cocoa powder. During this progressive time in chocolate’s history, chocolate began to develop from its drinkable form into other forms that we are more familiar with. Johannes Van Houten’s innovation permitted cocoa to be mixed with other ingredients which enabled it to be used as a confectionary ingredient. This development also created a drop in production costs, making chocolate more affordable to the masses thereby increasing demand.
From Johannes Van Houten’s creation came many other developments in chocolate’s journey, like Joseph Fry’s manufacturing of the first chocolate bars for eating in 1847. Henri Nestle mastered the art of powdered milk, which in turn enabled Daniel Peter to create the first milk chocolate bar in 1867. Each of these innovations contributed to the next chocolate transformation, bringing more varitys and ways to consume it.
As chocolate became increasingly more popular chocolate producers were stretching it with fillers to satisfy the growing demand. A scandal in production required the British government to intervene with an enforceable act to stop the chocolate producers from using inappropriate fillers to produce their chocolate products more cheaply. The Food and Drugs Act was passed in 1860. Cadbury’s name in particularly was tarnished when they got caught cutting their products with brick dust, iron filings, and lichen. Unsurprisingly the consumers were not amused. Cadbury came back strong from the scandal by developing improved products with their new slogan “absolutely pure.” The scandal did not prevent chocolate’s journey to become one of the most commonly consumed sweets in the world.
The next major and significant invention in chocolate production was Rudolph Lindt’s conching process in 1897. The conch is a kneading machine which refines chocolate into small particle sizes and creates velvety texture to chocolate with a superior taste (Klein, Christopher).
Chocolate became a mass-produced food product with ever-increasing consumer demand. The chocolate boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s has yet to fade (Klein, Christopher). If anything, chocolate consumption continues to rise. The average American today consumes 12 lbs of chocolate a year, Swedish people consume a whopping 20 lbs a year, and $75 billion is spent annually on chocolate worldwide (Klein, Christopher).
Modern manufacturing of chocolate is very industrialized and commercialized. For example, the most popular chocolate product is M&Ms. M&Ms are a Mars company product that generates $417.7 million in sales annually (The Daily Meal). There are multiple factories that produce M&Ms in a large industrialized fashion, as seen in the following video:
Although M&Ms and similar chocolate products are items commonly consumed, home cooked chocolate treats have a special emotional “factor.” Chocolate consumption that is made at home will more than likely be something more similar to chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cakes, or brownies very different from the industrialized M&Ms. With homemade sweet treats there comes an added sense of comfort. In Nigella Lawson’s double chocolate chip cookies recipe seen below, we can only imagine the comfort and satisfaction one might get from bitting into the delicious looking cookies:
The way chocolate is being made is continually changing. We have been making chocolate in a heavily commercial and industrialized way since the mid-1800s. However, now consumers seem to prefer chocolate made a more historic way, which is smaller scale than industrialized production, the slower and more attentive process creates more refined and flavorful chocolate. Fair trade and other alike qualifications are also becoming increasingly important for consumers purchasing choices. As production methods continue to evolve and the innovation of new products enter the market for reasons of price, taste, and now growing ethics, the demand will also continue to increase. It is however the industrialization of chocolate that is perahps the most significant milestone in chocolate’s historic journey which enabled chocolate to reach the masses. Humanity’s most enjoyed and indulgent foods for centuries owes the industrialisation era of chocolate to become a widespread and accessible pleasure to all. Without it chocolate may have remained and indulgent food of the elite.
Marcel, Presilla E. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009. 17 February 2016. Print.
Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
Pixle1. Chocolate Chip Cookies. 2015. N.p.