Moms and Chocolate Milk: A Century-Long Storyline

Outside of models seductively pressing squares of milk chocolate to lips with a playful look and women with dark satiny fabrics outlining their curves in the name of chocolate bars, there is another stereotype being framed for women by chocolate company advertisements that is less loud and glamorous than the sexualization in chocolate advertising, but still problematic. For more than a century, and still in the present, chocolate companies have advertised their products to mothers as nutritional food products to feed children. The role of chocolate buying as a part of motherhood has historically been portrayed to consumers through advertising once as a nutritional obligation for mothers who want to nurture their families well, and later on as a way to appease children and husbands and be the best kind of mother. These messages, while less obvious today, can still be picked up on from commercials, especially for chocolate milk, and while some advertising has moved on to include women in roles outside of motherhood, chocolate milk industries still seems to fetishize the housewife role (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 25).

The identity of women as mothers and housewives in chocolate advertisements became this controversial way after chocolate became less of a luxury and more commonplace through improved packaging, preparing, and distributing (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 6). Chocolate was no longer for male-dominated chocolate houses, and instead being pushed to consumers as an energy-renewing and restorative snack and household necessity (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 25). Industrialization of chocolate manufacturing made it more available to families for buying, and it became apparent to chocolate companies that they should advertise to the mothers of children buying food for their young ones. Shortly after, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, teaching women domestic skills became extremely popular, as evidenced by cookbooks by Maria Parloa and Fannie Farmer (Martin, Brownies). As a result, chocolate companies shifted to advertising their products to women, and encouraging them to feed their children and husbands chocolate as a healthful food (Robertson, 20).

Those creating these advertisements saw housewives as their target customers and in their advertising, showed these women as the family members in charge of the domestic jobs of food shopping and feeding children, and this influences the way mothers are portrayed in a hugely domestic role in chocolate milk advertising today. One example is the TruMoo commercial below.

In this advertisement from TruMoo, the woman considering the product is cast in a specific role that is not very different from the target audience of chocolate advertising in the past century.

This shows that even today, mothers are a target audience for many chocolate drink advertisements. These commercials still appeal to the concerned emotions mothers have for the health of their families. Boasting fortifying vitamins and energetic properties, chocolate milk commercials tell moms that they should feed their children chocolate milk if they have their health in mind. In these advertisements, young ones look to moms with wide, approving, grins while swirling Hershey’s and Nesquik. The companies are marketing children’s approval alongside the healthful benefits of the products vitamins and minerals. The role women play in grocery stores, pushing carts, and making important decisions about brands, health, and prices is a historic and sexist storyline women which chocolate companies have chosen to use.  As ultimate grocery decision-maker, women in these commercials do not have jobs or interests or lives outside of the light we see them in, a strict domestic, housewife sort of role. Ultimately, the TruMoo commercial mother listens to “the voice of reason” angelic advice and decides on TruMoo. Her son’s satisfaction suggests to women (and their children) that buying TruMoo makes women nurturing and fun moms.

An alternative I’d like to see? Dads shopping. Moms and dads shopping together. Two moms shopping together. Grandpas and grandmas and uncles and aunts shopping. I’ve included an example of a response to all of the shopping moms are doing in chocolate milk advertisements. In it, parents visit the grocery store together alongside their child, and both have a say in the approval and denial of supermarket products.

IMG_1878

Besides the unbridled obsession with mothers that chocolate milk advertisements seem to have, what this response advertisement also addresses is the manipulative way the commercials portray chocolate milk as a wholesome treat for growing kids. Today, advertisements like the TruMoo one included in this post boast vitamins, minerals, and other dietary bonuses. Like Rowntree’s adverts from almost a century ago, TruMoo and other chocolate milk advertisers appeal to moms’ concern for the health and nutrition of her family. It is an effective marketing ploy, but duplicitous, indeed: a glass of chocolate milk can have more sugar than a can of soda (Martin, Lecture 9, Slide 23).

It also is an old technique of chocolate companies. Rowntree cocoa sold itself to mothers as “more bone and muscle-building than ordinary cocoa” (Robertson, 21). The company aimed to sell to mothers in this manipulative way, deciding that women were the “purchasing agent” they had to win over by tapping into their desires to nurture their families and husbands (Robertson, 20). This sounds cringy and sexist, but what TruMoo and other chocolate milk sellers are campaigning with the “health benefits” in their own products, combined with the supermarket-mom scene is not far at all from Rowntree’s manipulative principles. My advertisement counteracts this message by selling the chocolate as a fun and special occasion treat, which is still enjoyable, instead of as a nutritional form of sustenance, which sugary chocolate cannot be when eaten in access.

One way these gendered advertisements are being changed, but not necessarily for the good, is through Hershey’s recent advertisement which includes a father and his daughter enjoying chocolate together. While this advertisement is a shift from chocolate marketing normally aimed toward women and children, and instead toward men (specifically dads!) and their kids, it still does so in a way that shows dad, who is absorbed in Skype conference calls and too busy to leave work to spend time with his eager daugher, as the breadwinner. The man in this commercial never leaves his house to grocery shop for Hershey’s, and instead his daughter purchases chocolate for the two to share. While this advertisement refrains from the traditional chocolate advertisement portrayal of women as the housewives and domestic gurus, its storyline with a father still casts the man as the working parent. He is completely uninvolved in the nutritional and health concerns for his daughter in his role as her parent, like a mother in so many chocolate commercials might.

In an age where the awareness of these advertising messages and the roles in which women are portrayed are scrutinized and considered more than in Rowntree’s advertising days, it is still a shame to think of the sexist ideologies in chocolate commercials like TruMoo’s and Hershey’s. And while the examples of women fetishized in housewife roles and men as breadwinners is less conspicuous, it is absolutely prevalent and problematic.

 

Works Cited:

Martin, Carla. Lecture 9.

Martin, Carla. Lecture 7.

Martin, Carla. 2016. “Brownies: The History of A Classic American Dessert.” US History Scene. http://ushistoryscene.com/article/brownies/. Accessed 4 April 2016

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010. 1-131. Print.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s