The Many Dimensions of Chocolate Through History

Chocolate is one of the most widely consumed foods across the world. As a product, its rise to power was very congruent with the modernization of our world. As western civilization grew and industrialized so did chocolate and its popularity. Chocolate has always been a multidimensional product; whether it be through its most traditional uses as a spice, sweetener, medicine, or symbolic gift or through differences in how companies and industries have chosen to develop chocolate for consumption. Through exploration, specifically through studying the Mars incorporation, we see that since its discovery and more specifically through its introduction to the modern world, chocolate has always been about something great than just a flavor for consumption.

When you think about other staples in human diet besides chocolate- all across the world you think perhaps about rice, chicken, milk, coffee, corn, any kind of fruit- these products serve primarily one purpose- to feed or give energy; they are one dimensional. However when you think about chocolate- yes its purpose could be to feed someone but as we look deeper it has many different aspects and serves the world in a way beyond just consumption. These additional factors are what helps contribute to the over 22 billion dollars spent on chocolate in the US alone. (Martin, Lecture 1)

To begin with, chocolate (in its raw form) has always had spiritual implication. Cacao has been depicted by the Mayans in its exchange by the moon goddess and the rain god as a sign of fertility. Again, in Mayan culture, it plays a big role in marriage rituals and even in death rituals as it was thought that cacao ease the transition to the underworld (Martin, Lecture 2) Furthermore, in Aztec culture cacao played a large role as a medicine and in healing ceremonies. These examples are but a microcosm of cacao’s multiple purposes even in ancient times. This reverence over the product is what has helped cacao and now chocolate become something more than just a food.

Moving forward through history, chocolate is seen as a comfort food,  a sign of love, not to forget all of the aforementioned purposes surrounding spirituality and medicine. In modern times one of the primary reasons chocolate has been able to achieve a multidimensional status is because of its rich history. Through a combination of fact and embellishment, modern chocolate producing industries have been able to thoroughly use this to their advantage specifically in marketing. Hershey’s Chocolate Company, for example, has been providing their chocolate to United States military personnel for decades as a quick source of energy. (Martin, Lecture 4) d_ratons_chocolate_bar_box_us_army_wwii_mm_

Figure 1: Government issued chocolate ration

Mars Chocolate industry takes chocolate as a multidimensional product to a whole other level. Mars takes it beyond food.

Since its beginning the Mars Company has always stood for something greater than just chocolate. Currently, “The Mars Five Principles of Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom are the foundation of our culture and our approach to business. They unite us across geographies, languages, cultures and generations.” It is the intangibles of the company that allow chocolate to mean something greater. In the case of Mars inc. it has been this way for for almost 100 years. Shot 2016-03-12 at 12.08.15 AM

Figure 2

Because of the industrial revolution specifically as it applies to food- new preservations techniques, transportation, advanced marketing and production technologies, large companies like Mars have been able to use their chocolate product as a medium for taking on larger global issues.

Figure 3: Mars Awarded Climate Leadership Award by the EPA


Mars Principles in Action | Mars, Incorporated. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2016, from
Martin, C. D. (2016, March 3). Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food Lecture Slides 2016. Lecture presented at AAAS 119x Lecture in CGIS, Cambridge.
Martin, C. D. (2016, March 10). Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food Lecture Slides 2016. Lecture presented at AAAS 119x Lecture in CGIS, Cambridge.

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