Engineering Sustainable Pleasures: Cacao, Environmentalism, and Toblerone

“[Sustainability:] It’s the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do, it’s the profitable thing to do.”

— L. Hunter Lovins, founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions

The world of cacao production is no stranger to the trials and tribulations of sustainable yet profitable agricultural practices. Known as a particularly finicky species, cultivators of the Theobroma cacao have not only had to get creative in their farming practices in order to produce a sustainable and profitable yield of crops under less-than-ideal growing conditions, but are now feeling the brunt of climate change effects. With the list of ‘double-edged’ compensating agricultural controls (such as plantation-style (or bulk growing) farming, broad-spectrum pesticides, fertilizers, and deforestation techniques) used to equalize the rapidly changing environmental conditions continuing to grow (Martin, 2016), environmental best practices are anything but widespread in cacao producing regions. Recognizing the inseparability of sustainable agricultural and environmental practices and the financial security of cacao farmers, international chocolate companies are beginning to step-up to the social responsibility plate and take action to ensure the long-term success of the cacao supply chain in the global marketplace. Partnering with the Ivorian government’s Conseil du Café Cacao (CCC) and  non-governmental organizations such as CARE International and Cocoa Life in 2013, Mondelēz International, Inc. – home of multi-billion dollar chocolate brands such as Toblerone and Cadbury – launched a virtuous consumership initiative to “help farmers increase sustainable cocoa production and create thriving communities in Côte d’Ivoire” (Mondelēz International, 2013, para. 1).

What’s come to be known as “the world’s most successful triangle” (Meyer, 2015), Jean Tobler’s iconic, pyramid-shaped chocolate bar debuted in 1899, Switzerland, to instant consumer success, and has continued to be on the forefront of cutting-edge product marketing and consumer trends:

Toblerone has always been a unique product in terms of its shape and history. However, you can only be successful in the long term if you nurture brand values…anticipate trends…invest in the brand and understand that sustainability is a part of the brand. We also have to prove this year for year with Toblerone. And in the end this is the basis for our success. (Meyer, 2015, para. 5)

Despite the fact that even today, every single Toblerone bar exported throughout the world is still manufactured from the company’s single chocolate factory in Bern-Brünnen, Switzerland, the company’s virtuous consumership marketing strategy for increased environmental sustainability has had global reach with consumers looking to reduce their ecological footprint. In a 2008 advertisement released by Toblerone, the company’s marketing team rather ingeniously employed the bar’s legendary triangular packaging and similarly unique notched chocolate contents to seamlessly integrate with a classically engineered concrete bike rack.

toblerone_ad5jpg
(Toblerone Bike Rack, 2008)

Stationed in front of a bright green grassy plot outside a somewhat nondescript yet modern building of complementary identity/branding colors, the Toblerone bike rack  visually pops in the advertisement’s foreground, but fits comfortably and warmly within its setting. With its close framing, it’s difficult to get a true sense for the exact geographical location of the scene, but one could surmise it plays to a relatively affluent, modern and present-day, progressive and caucasian audience in Europe or North America, with the very presence of the bike rack playing to a consumer with a social conscience around sustainable transportation. The seamless incorporation of the Toblerone design to horizontally bleed into the bike rack’s actual functional design seems to directly lobby for the consumer to ‘support a company that supports sustainable environmental practices.’ With the bike slots both harnessing the likeness of the chocolate bar itself and bursting out directly from the chocolate packaging, Toblerone appears to be literally grafting its brand values via its branding to the larger conversation around climate change and aligning itself with the growing trend of sustainability (Martin, 2016) in cacao production.

It was with and in the same spirit of Toblerone’s 2008 environmentalist bike rack advertisement that the below chocolate advertisement was created.

SP-Toblerone-Solar-Farm

In looking to harness the same visual, stylistic, and marketing aims of Toblerone’s bike rack advert, the above scene depicts a farm utilizing solar panels, closely integrating and grafting the company’s packaging design into the functional element of the solar panels. Playing again on complementary branding colors of the red barn and lush green grass, the Toblerone tube visually pops in the advertisement’s layout, but fits comfortably and warmly within its setting. Also targeted toward a present-day, progressive audience, this ad sets itself more rurally, directly addressing both a farming/agricultural constituency, as well as the socially conscious consumer aiming to reduce their environmental footprint. Horizontally integrating the design of the product into the design of the solar panel also directly correlates Toblerone brand values via its branding to the larger conversation around climate change; the narrative urging the consumer to directly ‘invest in a company that invests in the planet.’

Never a stranger to thinking and thriving ‘outside the box’ since 1899, Toblerone and its parent company appear to be getting-in on the ground floor of the growing environmental sustainability and virtuous consumership trends in cacao, and their message is not only landing with the consumer, but having a widespread impact on the communities it was intended to aid: Mondelēz International’s February 2016 report on its Cocoa Life sustainability program shows a reach across “six cocoa-growing origins…Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, India and Brazil…[totaling] 76,700 farmers in over 795 communities…[with] farmers’ incomes tripl[ing] since 2009…[and] cocoa yield[s] increased [by] 37 percent” (Mondelēz International, 2016, para. 1-2).

Bibliography:

Martin, C. D. (2016, February). Lecture 4: Sugar and cacao. E-119: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture conducted from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Meyer, D. (2015, February 26). The world’s most successful triangle. Retrieved from http://www.procarton.com/worlds-successful-triangle/

Mondelēz International. (2013). Mondelēz international launches cocoa life sustainability program in côte d’ivoire [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.mondelezinternational.com/Newsroom/Multimedia-Releases/Mondelez-International-Launches-Cocoa-Life-Sustainability-Program-in-Cote-dIvoire

Mondelēz International. (2016). Mondelēz international reports strong progress in cocoa life sustainability program [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.mynewsdesk.com/dk/mondelez-danmark/pressreleases/mondelez-international-reports-strong-progress-in-cocoa-life-sustainability-program-1324940

Toblerone. (2008). Toblerone Bike Rack [Online image]. Retrieved from http://ffffound.com/image/b74bb4a5230276175e6c54c83e9e0d4c25b9f722

Toblerone [Toblerone]. (2016, February 26). ‘Break the boundaries of your world’ #Allegiant [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Toblerone/status/703157570014294016/photo/1

WestportWiki. (2013). Toblerone bars [Online image]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Toblerone_Bars.jpg

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