The emotional and psychological response to chocolate in first world countries is charged with over a century of the industry marketing their products as indulgent, luxurious, with just a hint of exclusivity. Advertisements charged with sexualized images of beautiful women, trinkets of wealth, and chocolate overwhelm television, billboards, and the internet. Yet, for all of this stigma there is a shocking other side to the powerful business of international chocolate. Within the Big Chocolate industry there are human rights violations that keep the cogs of the machine running. Forced child labor, unsafe, toxic, working conditions, human trafficking, and extreme poverty afflict thousands of cacao farmers globally. (Nieburg 1) International ignorance to this terrifying reality, among several other factors, have not only aided in the persistence of these violations, but the necessity of them for farmers to make any form of profit. This article explores the problems in depth and proposes a series of responses from the global community, which could save lives and create a saver future for the international farming community in the developing world.
Forced Child Labor, Trafficking, and The Working Conditions of Cacao Farming:
The chocolate purchased from our sprawling grocery stores or neon gas stations originates from a sensitive and temperamental plant called the cacao tree. This tree produces pods containing the seeds that, when processed, become the chocolate first worlds obsess over. However, harvesting these pods and maintaining the trees is exhausting, difficult, work that needs to be performed manually. Because the demand is so high and the nature of the work so gruesome it is commonplace for farmers to purchase kidnapped boys between the ages of 12-16 to meet the need for cheap labor; however there have been reports of children as young as 5 working on cacao farms. (Chanthavong 1) However it is not merely boys caught in this system. In fact, 40% of the children who work on these farms are girls, some of whom remain on the farms for a few months, while others work under these conditions through adulthood. (FEP 1) These children will spend upwards of 12 hours a day using harsh chemicals to keep the fruits free of pests as well as handling chainsaws and extremely sharp machetes while dangling from ladders and tree limbs. (FEP 1)
Along with the physical difficulties of the work, often these children are often brutally beaten by farmers for working too slowly while others are being kept against their will and beaten as a consequence for trying to escape. There have been reports of children and adult workers being held in locked rooms overnight where they sleep on wooden planks and do not have access to clean water or sanitary bathrooms. (FEP 1)
As horrific as the physical tortures of these farms are, there are also mental and emotional violations inflicted on these children through the denial of their education. Studies have shown that especially their ability to read and excel at mathematics is inhibited most likely do to fatigue. Researcher Marjie Sackett states, “Labor Organization (ILO) study challenges the IITA findings by suggesting that the number of nonfamily laborers is much higher than previously thought, with possibly a third of cocoa farms utilizing labor outside the family.” (Sackett 85)
The conditions of the work and the ghastly treatment of children, the enforcement of slave labor at all, are sadly symptoms to a much bigger disease: poverty. Situations of extreme destitution plague the countries where cacao is farmed and large chocolate companies have no hesitation to exploit the cheap labor of the impoverished.
The Truth About Poverty:
The economic disparity between the profits of Big Chocolate and the earnings of the farmers of cacao is startling. According to Oxfam, cacao farmers are surviving on less than $1.25 USD a day. (Nieburg 1) Systemic poverty is a devastating problem for over a billion people worldwide. It’s symptoms range from malnutrition and starvation to complete lack of medical attention and education. It forces children into prostitution and parents, often fathers, into severe depression, alcoholism, and domestic abuse. (CI 1) It’s roots are often in corrupt governments, corrupt private parties, and poorly researched aid efforts which frequently cause more harm than help. (Shah 1)
What Can Be Done?
Charity has been the most common response to systemic poverty over the last several decades. It can take many forms but most of us are familiar with the classics. –Donating old clothes and other items to an organization that gives them to families in need as well as paying a monthly stipend to help support children whose families cannot afford to feed, let alone, educate them.
At first glance none of these things seem offensive in the least. In fact, were any of us to meet someone who claimed to participate in all of these activities the guidelines of civilized society would indicate that this was an especially generous and compassionate person.
Yet part of the biggest problem with modern day charity is that we are satisfied with simply the first glance. There is not a drive or curiosity to delve into the depths of where our money, time, and effort really goes or how it actually affects the very systems we are attempting to dissipate. Were the individuals who participate in these kinds of charities able to take a self actualized analysis of themselves, most would discover their involvement was more about making them feel better about themselves rather than contributing to a better existence for those that they are “helping”.
It’s a harsh accusation and one I do not take lightly. I implore you to consider each unintended consequence to the charities mentioned above.
To the individual who donates their clothes:
In the instance of donating to charities that give items such as clothing away, especially in areas of extreme destitution, what happens to the local tailor in that village? What happens to the family who runs a second hand clothing store in that town? By giving items to areas that already have fragile local economies we are threatening the few businesses that have proven themselves strong enough to survive. Introducing goods and products that have value but cost the consumer nothing we are forcing small business owners out of business. To make matters worse, because charity is a non-sustainable system these surplus periods of free goods and products eventually end. When the charity “has helped the community enough” and move on to the next, what will those people do when six month later they need school uniforms for their children but the tailor has gone out of business?
Alternatives to this method of giving would be investing that money into the local businesses. With a base level of research you can find information about these small establishments and find creative ways to work with them. Rather than donating clothes to the community you might sell those clothes in your own community and invest the money in purchasing a better sewing machine for the business. This gives the business the opportunity to expand and create jobs for their community, which gives the community an increased opportunity to invest back into itself.
Monthly Monetary Giving:
Several charities exist where participants have the option to “sponsor” or be “sponsored”. These organizations are usually structured so that for a small monthly fee you can help support a child or family or refugee in a developing nation(CI1). While there are actually several redeeming factors about many of these organizations the fact remains that this is not an investment in another human based on the idea that this person or persons can succeed according to their own merits, it’s an offering rooted in the lie that these people cannot provide for themselves if given the proper resources and therefore need outside handouts.
What if we changed the way we see the developing world? What if we could change the way we think about poverty and wealth? It is evident that the solution is far more complicated that simply redistributing money from the wealthy to the poor. If that worked we would have seen a drastic impact on global poverty over the last six decades however not only have we not seen the desired results, we also have very little understanding of where two trillion dollars of aid actually ended up (Fortin1).
A better alternative is micro lending. This is a system created by Bangladeshi professor and visionary Muhammad Yunus where anyone can offer small loans to business owners or entrepreneurs in developing nations through their bank. The money is paid back over an agreed upon amount of time and by the end of the process not only has a small business sprouted but the business owner now has credit –something denied to most who have come from systemic poverty. When the money is paid back you as the lender have the option of reinvesting in a new company or simply keeping it. Not only is this system completely sustainable but it also mostly lends to women leading to societal feminine empowerment and community building without direct interference from an outside party. (PBS1)
The chocolate industry is one of many offenders that have taken the reality of systemic poverty and used it to exploit the vulnerable. By researching the products we purchase and the policies of the companies from which those product come we can help alleviate these issues, in part, just through the choices we make at the grocery store.
Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “I. Identification.” Chocolate and Slavery. Web. 11 May 2016.
Children Internatiinal (CI). “How to Sponsor a Child in Need | Children International | Kid Sponsorship.” Children’s International. Web. 15 May 2016.
Compassion International (CI). “Quick Facts About Poverty.” Poverty Facts. Web. 11 May 2016.
Food Empowerment Project [FEP]. “Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry. Web. 11 May 2016.
Fortin, Jacey. “Trillion Dollar Theft: In Developing Countries, Staggering Losses Due To Corruption Exceed Incoming Aid, Says Report.” International Business Times. 2013. Web. 15 May 2016.
Nieburg, Oliver. “Paying the Price of Chocolate: Breaking Cocoa Farming’s Cycle of Poverty.” ConfectioneryNews.com. Web. 11 May 2016.
PBS. “Q&A with Muhammad Yunus.” PBS. PBS. Web. 16 May 2016.
Sackett, Marjie. “Forced Child Labor and Cocoa Production in West Africa.” Human Rights & Human Welfare. 1 March 2014
Shah, Anup. “Causes of Poverty.” – Global Issues. Web. 11 May 2016.
United Nations. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations.”UN News Center. UN. Web. 11 May 2016.
Buying chocolate in America can be much like any other purchase in terms of the shockingly wide range of options, flavors, and price points made available to the consumer. There are basic candies and bars that will satisfy a craving and there are expensive treats that claim to be so luxurious they go so far as to hint at the possibility of providing for a longer life (https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158). All of these options are available under the name of chocolate and convenience. This essay will focus on comparisons between only two candy aisles at two stores: CVS and Whole Foods; both Fortune 500 companies, neither of which are confectioneries or chocolate houses.
CVS is a $117.4 billion (according to Forbes.com) drug retail company. Not only are they the biggest retailer of prescription drugs and the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S., but they also provide healthcare services through medical clinics and diabetes care centers. In addition, they also sell chocolate.
True to their origins as a pharmaceutical vendor, when one walks into a CVS, it has a compact, efficient, and even slightly clinical look and feel. The open space is brightly lit by overhead fluorescent lights, large red tags indicate where items can be found, and special offers and discounts are loudly displayed and announced overhead. Even the retail staff members are dressed in white lab coats lending to the authenticity of a doctor’s waiting room.
This store prides itself on health, but also low prices and convenience. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers weekly and even daily special discounts. The candy aisle is located at the front of the store near the entrance, across from toys and other fun, spontaneous, instant-gratification type items and extras. Additional chocolate items are lined up under a selection of gum at the register for last-minute impulse purchases, with sale prices highlighted to focus attention on the discount provided.
As one walks to the candy aisle, the packaging and marketing materials (mostly plastic) are immediately noticeable in bright colors, bold fonts, and large labels. The branding, for most American customers, would be quickly recognized as all belonging to the “big chocolate” brands: Hershey’s, Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, Mars, and Cadbury (Martin, “The rise”).
There are bars of chocolate, but the majority of products offered are blended with, or provide a shell coating over, less expensive products. The iconic milk chocolate Hershey’s bar is showcased in the middle row at eye-level, sharing the shelf with Nestle Chunky bars (a chunky-shaped candy bar with milk chocolate, California raisins, and roasted peanuts). Nips (a hard candy, some of which contain a chocolate-flavored filling), Dove chocolate bars and Cadbury Dairy Milk bars are above. Below are larger packages of bars, including:
Hershey’s Special Dark (a semi-sweet chocolate bar)
Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (a white candy bar with pieces of chocolate-flavored cookies interspersed)
York Peppermint Patties (dark chocolate-covered soft peppermint disks)
Hershey’s Mounds (a dark-chocolate covered center made from shredded coconut)
Hershey’s Almond Joy (a milk chocolate-covered coconut-based center topped with almonds)
Mars Snickers (a milk chocolate-covered nougat topped with caramel and peanuts)
Mars Milky Way (a chocolate-covered chocolate malt flavored nougat with caramel)
Nestle Butterfinger (a chocolate-toffee-covered bar with a flaky, crisp, peanut butter-flavored center)
These items can be purchased individually; however, the majority of the products are in gradually increasing sizes and quantities with prices ranging from $0.39 to $0.89 an ounce. While no great mention or display is made with regard to the ingredients, origin, manufacturing practices, ethical concerns, or quality of cacao in these products, three of the four Dove chocolate bars are stamped with the Rainforest Alliance certification.
Based on the selection provided: the absence of cacao mentioned, the presence of larger size packages, the heavy focus on additional ingredients such as nuts, fruits, and/or confections, and lower bulk prices that accompany them, etc., we learn that the CVS’s targeted audience has limited time and money to spend. The intention is “caloric consumption,” grab and go convenience, a meal substitution or perhaps simply to ease a craving.
Whole Foods is an $18.8 billion (according to Forbes.com) supermarket chain that claims to be “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” (www.wholefoodsmarket.com). Their goal is to sell the healthiest foods possible and offer products that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats. There is a welcoming feel to the expansive space. The lighting is warm without being harsh, the walls are lined with soft wood, posted signs are in uniformly calming tones, and helpful employees all wear green aprons. It has the look and feel of an up-scale farmers market.
One can find the candy aisle located next to the produce section, across from organic baby foods, and adjacent to a beautiful display of organic “Whole Body” healing bath salts and soaps. The chocolate bars (mainly bars and mostly dark, only a few milk chocolate or blended confections are offered) are wrapped in expensive papers and foils featuring endangered species, philanthropic organizations and specific causes, picturesque scenes or artistically created designs.
There are no “big chocolate” products to be found.
Each bar appears to have been hand-selected from a variety of artisanal chocolatiers. Some are smaller than others, but all promise their own unique look, feel, story, and taste.
Instead of being recognized and advertised by known “big chocolate” brand names, these brands chose to focus instead on highlighting select ingredients and percentage of cacao. Each bar clearly calls out the selected ingredients, origin and percentage of cacao as well as the origin and processing of any included ingredients. Some examples include:
45% cacao milk chocolate with Congo coffee and cream
55% dark chocolate with chilies and cherries
57% organic dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel
60% dark stone ground chocolate with toffee almond and sea salt
65% dark chocolate with forbidden rice
70% organic fair trade dark chocolate with cherry almond
70% dark chocolate bar with ancho chile, cinnamon, and orange
72% cacao organic dark chocolate, cardamom, cinnamon, and chili
88% cacao – extreme dark
Ethical, health, and religious concerns are also addressed through seals of (sometimes multiple) certifications on each chocolate bar, such as: Demeter, Whole Trade, Fair Trade, Fair for Life, Direct Trade, Non GMO Project Verified, Oregon Tilth, Certified Gluten-Free, Rainforest Alliance, Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan, Kosher Dairy, and USDA Organic. If additional information is desired, the store has also placed a display rack at the entrance to the aisle featuring a free publication titled, “For a Better World, Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.” It even includes a reference guide to fair trade and worker welfare programs provided to educate customers and raise awareness levels of labor practices.
The price points reflect the additional information, attention to detail, and more expensive packaging. Costs per ounce range from $0.59 to $3.85. Not only are costs higher than CVS, but even the cost differential within Whole Foods’ offerings are significant.
Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, stated that “The fair trade chocolate category in our grocery departments has grown by more than 350 percent over the past five years. That’s a true indicator that ourshoppers are really making a positive impact on the lives of cocoa growers in developing countries” (Martin, “Alternative trade”).
The intended audience has time and money to spend. Whole Foods has created a shopping experience that intentionally targets the “conscientious consumer,” someone who is educated on agricultural sourcing and labor practices – or would at least like to be.
These high-end chocolates are being provided for someone who wants to treat themselves to something delicious and feel good about it; a way of thinking that their self-indulgence (via the chocolate and price point) is making a positive impact on the world around them.
Ultimately, both stores sell chocolate while focusing on “health” and “healthier living”, albeit through very different lenses. CVS provides chocolate and chocolate-coated items intended for mass consumption at a lower price point – making the process as quick and efficient as possible through placement and known brands. Whole Foods provides high-end, more artisanal chocolates intended for indulgence at higher price points. Their goal is to provide their customers with a buying experience – chocolate is located in the middle of the store (not as convenient for quick shops) and intended to have time to browse, read, and learn about different products and practices as part of a shopping routine.
Fair World Project. “For a Better World:Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.” Issue 12 Spring 2016.
Martin, Carla D. “Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 27 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 9 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.
Mintz, Sidney. 1986. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.
Defining help can be as simple as saying it is the means whereby one offers assistance to another. And although this is not the official definition offered in some of the world’s most prestigious dictionaries. It reflects what seems to be the working definition that applies to many cases where help has gone wrong. This seems to be the case when it comes to chocolate and it’s connection to the help that has been offered to many groups over the years. It also seems that it is the case that many modern agencies and organizations are using in the 21st century as it relates to chocolate. It is upon this assumption that one might conclude that help, as good as the thought may initially be, may be the last thing those connected to chocolate actually need.
First, help itself must be defined in a way that actually conceptualizes intent and results. When the Spaniards came to the Americas and decided that they wanted to help the natives, it is not so clear that they actually intended to help the natives. To gain a better insight to whether or not their intention were actually positive, one should really look critically at the word help from the perspective of intent and result. Defining help in this way will allow one to define the word and conceptualize the actions of others that may allow them to discern whether help is actually negative or positive. To look at a scenario where help was offered, but help turned wrong and say an individual never meant to help may be a bad judgment call. Moreover, it may be a case where one fails to see the good in one’s heart because of the bad that it produces. Conflicting or not, good can turn bad without negative intent.
So, how does one define help? How can its mechanisms be traced in such a way that positions the outsider to determine whether help is actually help? In order for help to be help it must first be selfless. Yes, help is help. But, overall, help has the most potential to go wrong when it is offered on a premise where the deliverer’s intent is to gain something from their action. It is even worst when this intent is held as a secret. In and of it self, it is nothing actually wrong with a benefactor gaining dividends from the assistance given to a beneficiary. Actually, that is when help is a two-fold win-win situation. However, when one begins the road to help with the intent to gain, it is the platform whereby the failure of help begins. Therefore, we propose that good help is the help that begins with the intention of a benefactor that has no intent to receive any dividends –be those dividends monetary, political, or social gain.
It may seem like a fruitless task defining the portion of help that addresses results. But, we can’t assume that the intended results of help are always good. Yes, it is directly connected with intent. But, one can intend not to benefit from a helpful deed while simultaneously hoping that the help that they are offering will cause one to fail. When the designed results are negative, one cannot truly be helping. Help, in it’s purest form is designed in a selfless frame that is constructed with materials that are prone to strengthen the beneficiaries, and the beneficiaries alone. Although help, and anything else has the potential to produce negative results, from its initial conception, in order for it to be considered help, it must set out to selflessly assistance, build, and expand its beneficiaries.
When looking at the history of slavery, the Spaniards, and the development of the western world, I am not so certain that we can say that they meant to actually help the natives. It seems that the leadership intended to help themselves more than anything else. The natives, who were so called devil worshippers, were the scapegoat used to cover the actual intent of the Spaniards. These individuals came across the world into an unknown territory that was filled with people and somehow ended up in control of the land. The question of all time is, how did Columbus discover America when America was an inhabited land? In the 21st century, one may actually question the intent of his journeys. Is it possible that Columbus and those he served actually knew that the Americas were inhabited and from the beginning intended to conquer it?
Take for instance this notion that the Spaniards were offering the natives protection. The first question that comes to my mind is, what are you protecting these people from? If the natives have lived in the lands for hundreds of years and the Spanish are new to the land, would not it seem more appropriate for the natives to be protecting the Spanish? Well, not if the Spanish were just covering up and attempting to compensate for their negative intents to expand their territory. If you are protecting me from you with the intent to only create a level of allegiance, you have not meant to help me at all. On the contrary, you have set out to manipulate me. It seems that the Spanish were great manipulators. It seems impossible for them to actually have set out to help the natives. The seemingly only plausible protection they could have offered them could have been the introduction to their technologies in warfare. Instead, the Spanish used their technological advancements in warfare to create fear and intimidation. The end result of that was the conquering of Latin America. No, this was not the sole reason and means by which the Spanish conquered that region of the world. But surely, help through protection was a major contributor to their success.
To think, if this kind of help did not take the case, let us consider religion. The Spaniards wanted to help the natives by offering them religion. The results of this help were neither good for the religion or the people it sought to help. Christianity, a religion based on love, took all the rights and humanity of the people it sought to help. If that was a religion that was meant to help people, I am not so sure many individuals would want that kind of help. This Christian help stripped hundreds of natives of their homes, culture, language, and livelihood. From the outset, this help was laced with selfishness and vile intent. As good as a religion may be, it must respect the context in which it is attempting to penetrate. Modern day Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ may even venture to say that the Spanish that set out to conquer the Americas were not good Christians at all. Even though much of Latin America is filled with Christians because of the Spanish conquest. Christians can’t look back and say they are totally proud of such an accomplishment.
The means whereby the Spanish converted Latin America were gruel. Thousands of lives were lost. Rich cultures were demonized and annihilated. This is not an overall good. This, in fact, is an overall bad that got some good out of it. From a Christian’s perspective, having a continent full of disciples of Jesus is very good. But, having hundreds of families, communities, and cultures destroyed was not good at all. In retrospect, the intent and the designed results of the Spanish were not good. Therefore, the help was not necessarily the help. This help was the means and the platform whereby the Spanish conquered nearly an entire continent. Good came from it. But, can we actually confirm that good for the natives were actually the intent?
The history suggests that help is not always help. When one decides that they want to offer help, one must take a deep look into the intentions and the determined results. Moreover, when one decides they would like to receive help, they must take all of these things into consideration. This is especially important when modern Latin American cacao farmers, who are yet being abused by Europeans, consider receiving help from Europeans who recognize that they are being abused.
After hundreds of years of oppression, Latinos in various countries have overcome the oppression of Europeans in many ways. Slavery is outlawed. But there is a new kind of oppression on the loose. It is called help. What is old has become new. The new has become old. Latinos in northern South America are yet producing cacao beans, sugar, and other commodity crops. Unfortunately, there has not been a mechanism created to ensure that cacao farmers are actually being treated fairly. It is just not the cacao growers in northern South America that are suffering, either. Cacao growers in West Africa experience is quite the same.
Each year the chocolate industry brings in millions upon millions of dollars. One would think that those individuals that are raising the raw materials needed to produce the chocolate would benefit as well. This is not the case. Of course we realize that the cacao farmers would not get equal shares of profits like heads of companies like Hershey’s or Mars. But, the average person would not imagine that these cacao farmers are actually making pennies a day relative to what executives are making in big chocolate companies. Maybe it is assumed that cacao farmers are making hundreds a day while the major chocolate companies are making thousands. But that is not the reality.
Over the years there has been a rising awareness of these unfair practices. Individuals in the United States have gained a passion for what they call suffering cacao farmers. From this passion movement, help has began to arise. But, it is not for certain that these movements are actually moving the needle. Dr. Carla Martin reports that in 2015 a study reported that the average income in Ghana for cacao farmers is 80 cents per day. For cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire it is even worst. Cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire only make 50 cent per day. Although cacao originated in Latin America, West Africa produces nearly 75 percent of the world’s cacao. “Three of the four million metric tons of cacao come from two countries in West Africa –Ghana and Cout D’voire”(Carla Martin). Humanitarians across the western world have a huge problem with this. These humanitarians cannot seem to understand why these countries in West Africa produces so much cacao and receive so little of the profits.
As a result of these findings, many organizations are rising to the surface to offer help. But the question yet remains, is help actually? One still wonders if these individuals are helping from the standpoint of pure compassion or are they hiding something. Hidden agendas have seemed to be the trend for hundreds of years. The Spaniards said they were helping the native Mesoamericans by offering them protection and Christianity. Now, you have many Americans seeking to help farmers in West Africa. But, it seems altogether to close to the help Mesoamericans received from the Spanish hundreds of years of ago –somebody from outside the culture coming in to save the day.
Some groups are working to make fair trade laws that will get more money into the hands of cacao farmers. Fair Trade Certified and it’s membership organizations agreed to basic fair trade principles.
Long term, direct trading relationships.
Prompt payment of fair prices and wages.
No child or forced or otherwise exploited labor.
Workplace, non-discrimination, and gender equality
Safe working conditions and reasonable working hours
Investments in community development.
Traceability and transparency.
And while all of these terms are very promising it lacks one thing. These terms make the cacao farmer dependent upon Europeans and Americans for their livelihood. It fixes the problem to an extent. But it somehow recreates the exploitation of labor in another fashion. These programs do not position individuals producing cacao to have control of their lives. That is what is most important in a 21st century context. The age has seen enough help that leads to dependency rather than freedom.
The prospect of long term and direct trading relationships is promising. But, the question that remains is, who will control those relationships. Would it not be better to train these cacao farmers in commerce and trade in a way that empowers them to enjoy autonomy of a business in the world market? The tenets seem to keep the cacao famer holding the hand of a European or American. This is control in freedom. A promise to no longer delay payment is great as well. However, the farmers themselves, or someone they hire should be at the helm of payment transactions.
Number four is one of the most questionable tenets of them all. While in the western world we do not promote or agree that it is ethical to engage in child labor. Most fight for the rights of children across the globe. However, how far is too far when it comes to the respect of another people’s culture. This tenet goes beyond pure help. As questionable as the practice may be, it is cultural infringement to offer an ultimatumto a business. These groups are being a great help to cacao farmers across central Africa and northern South America. But, it may be that they are being more of a help to themselves and their agenda than they are to the cacao farmers. It is not beyond reasonable to assume that these individuals would like to change the cultures of others and are covering it up by offering to put more money in the hands of farmers. What would be more powerful is a system of help that empowered these farmers to create their own unions so that they can enjoy a great amount of the wealth of the product they produce. According to Sidney Mintz,“England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system.” It is argued by many scholars that the very same plantation system exists in America today. It does not look the same. But, it holds the same values.
The question then becomes, are these new fair trade systems a part of the evolution of the original European plantation system? The system sought for control and power. Even in America, the descendants of slaves are free. But they are dependent upon a governmental system of power that, unless broken, will never allow them to experience the same freedom as their white counterparts. What cacao farmers need is a system that empowers them. A mechanism that allows cacao famers agility within a system of control is not true help. It is a cover up that keeps those in control on top and the farmers at the low end of the spectrum. It may be that these farmers don’t actually need the Fair Trade system as much as they need the education that farmers and companies in America and Europe have. Furthermore, it may not be the farmers that need the help. It may be the system.
Instead of attempting to help cacao farmers, it may be that the system itself is what really needs the help. Getting rid of the current system and creating a new system may be the best answer –a system that can be created by all who will be involved. Farmers and businessman alike can come to the table and create the system that benefits all. This is commerce. Therefore it is unreasonable to assume that everyone will be equal. The expectation is that everyone would be treated equally fair. For instance, the import tax for cacao beans is significantly lower than the import tax for chocolate. What does this do? This forces individual farmers to only make profit from the beans. It pushes them out of the chocolate business. Where are the humanitarians thought process at when it comes to this type of trade? Without an initiative to address these types of dilemmas, one cannot help but to think there are other motives.
Forcing or coercing companies into buying cacao beans consistently for pennies is one agenda. Forcing or coercing companies and commerce for equal trade rights for countries like Venezuala, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana is another. Over the past few hundreds help has too many times been realized as a selfish attribute. Those helping benefit the most in too many cases while those being helped benefit very little. Cacao farmers need access, not necessarily help. If these farmers had access to education and training, they could fight for their own rights. Truthfully, that is where the help can really step in. Once these farmers receive education and training an
d start to experience inequality in the system, that is when thee humanitarian groups can step in and use their political power for the benefit of the farmers. The help they are offering now is simply a crutch of dependency that does not offer the cacao farmer the independency and freedom his American and European counterparts experience.
As issues like food justice and consumer activism are popularized around certain products, there is an increased demand that food is good concerning not only taste but ethicality as well. When exploring what was being done to make chocolate more ethical and sustainable, I became interested in exploring how chocolate companies were taking action to make their products more “good” for people, the planet, and the sustainability of the industry.
A multi-billion dollar industry with nearly 50 million people along its global value chain, the chocolate industry, is undergoing many challenges which center around its sustainable procurement of cocoa. This is the case not only with respect to rising demands due to the expansion of new middle-class markets in Africa and Asia but is particularly relevant to concerns about the sustainability of its labour force, especially with regard to cocoa farmers and growers, and the environment, specifically with respect to the resilience of the crops affected by climate change impacts; issues like these have affected an increasing global demand for chocolate. In fact, it is projected that by 2020, the global cocoa demand will exceed the supply by almost 1 million metric tons with industry forecasts of a 30% growth in demand amounting to 4.5 million tons by 2020. 
Alongside an increasing demand for chocolate, there has been a rising demand amongst consumers for greater transparency, traceability, and accountability throughout the chocolate value chain particularly at relates to social factors.  For example, chocolate companies are being scrutinized on the production end of its supply chain on issues like generational poverty faced by cocoa farmers, low productivity due to agricultural practices, and increasing the prevalence of many cocoa farmers and growers choosing to walk away from the industry entirely. For instance, according to CNN’s “Cocoa-nomics” series, revealed that compared to 16% received by cocoa farmers for every chocolate bar sold in the late 1980’s, today farmers receive only 3%. 
Also, as the negative impacts of climate change -including increasingly unpredictable differentiation between wet and dry season, intense rains and flooding, longer and prolonged dry periods, as well as subsequent changes in the local ecosystem – continues to grow, many consumers have increased concern about the environmental impact of food production. Together, these focus areas have come to form a basis for the concern about the sustainability of the overall chocolate industry with attention increasingly directed at the both the beginning (farmers and growers) and end (consumers) of the chocolate product supply chains. Through emergence and development sustainability mechanisms like third-party audits, chain-of-custody schemes, direct trade (bean-to-bar chocolate producers), and single-source supply chains, chocolate companies have begun to adopt new and innovative models for sustainable sourcing of cocoa.
Concerning consumers, chocolate companies have increased their marketing efforts at increasing customers’ assurance of their sustainable practices. In particularly, some chocolate producers have implemented market-driven approaches through the use of consumer-facing tools like certification labeling and standards.  However, even with such certifications, there have been some useful questions raised about the effectiveness of certifications at positively impacting the lives of actors at the beginning of the supply chain, particularly for farmers and growers. For example, the Fair Trade certification offers a price premium price for the production of crops grown at higher social and environmental standards; however, questions have been raised around how much of the intended benefit of the certification reaches the poorest farmers and growers.  (Sylla, 2014, p. 208).
And so chocolate producers have begun exploring other market-driven approaches to increasing the sustainability of its industry. Most recently, in November of 2015, many leaders came together for the COP 21, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, where the Paris Agreement was adopted which governs the climate change related measures calling for the reduction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While the Paris agreement does not go so far as to establish what agriculture’s role in reducing global emissions should be, it does outline that the international community “must address climate change’s effects on agriculture to build resilience and enhance food security globally.”The chocolate industry has been sensitive to the devastating effect climate change could have on its industry. In Yasin’s 2014 Salon article titled “Why climate change could mean the end of chocolate”, she points out that that in West Africa, particularly Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana where nearly 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced, temperatures are expected to rise by a 2-degree Celsius (36.5 F) by 2050. Many worry that this increase in temperature could affect a greater amount of water being lost by cocoa trees to evapotranspiration making them too dry. 
Overall, the COP 21’s call-to-action instilled a renewed interest in exploring how the expansion of ecosystem services markets could help industries become more sustainable, including the chocolate industry. Actors from the chocolate industry showed up to the convening to make leaders aware of the world’s first carbon-neutral chocolate company, The Change Chocolate, and distributed their chocolate to remind them of how crucial the outcomes of the talks were to the sustainability of the chocolate industry.
While much attention has been drawn to chocolate industry’s efforts to increase crop productivity, which could include things like monocropping, as a vehicle for farmers to get liveable incomes thus sustaining the cocoa supply chain’s labor force, some have argued that this strategy alone fails to account for the environmental externalities associated with that increased production and adverse impacts like for example the loss of biodiversity.   (Healy, 2001, p. 151). For instance, in the case of no-shade cocoa versus shady cocoa, scholars have found that a trade-off emerges between growing no-shade cocoa that has higher yields, meaning more economic return, but is more environmentally destructive, and shady cocoa which has lower yields but is more sustainable, meaning increased biodiversity, permaculture, and carbon sequestration.  When the only thing valued is the consumption of resources, it can leave many developing nations having to choose between exploiting those resources and their economic development.
To bring balance to key decision-points, people have increasingly looked at valuing the ecological services provided to evaluate in a cost-to-benefit analysis against the exploitation of the said resource. Such valuation looks towards the value of not only what is provided but what may be avoided or lost as well to become the basis of an emerging environmental marketplace. Features of such markets could include tools like payment for ecosystem services (PES).  One of the most readily recognizable examples of PES are carbon credits.
The chocolate industry has begun to explore how to engage in carbon markets both at the beginning and end of the product supply chain. Actors in the chocolate industry are exploring how the economic valuation of environmental services provided by eco-friendly farming practices can work for payment for ecosystem services (PES) program. Such a system would be formed to create new value-streams for its cocoa producers so as to incentivize sustainable agroforestry practices monetarily. Also, as consumers become increasingly concerned with understanding how their consumption and purchasing decision impacts their overall carbon footprint, companies are marketing chocolate products that feature carbon emissions labeling.
Concerning farmers and growers and their communities, more food companies have looked towards working with farmers and growers to introduce more ecological farming practices to curtail environmental degradation and increase the crop’s resilience.  An inspiring example of small-scale farmers benefiting from a PES program focused on the sequestration of carbon in the soil is the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP). The KACP was the first organization in the world to earn verified carbon credits under the verified carbon standard (VCS) through its use of the sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) methodology for carbon sequestered in soil.  Later, the research on the efficacy of KALP adoption of the SALM methodology in the context of the KACP program not only provided benefits to the environment but led to increased agricultural productivity as well.
The SALM methodology is empowering to farmers and growers because of how it engages them in measuring the impact of their eco-friendly farming practices on crop yields and the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil and makes them the PES beneficiaries for their performance of the improved farming methods.
According to Diarietou Gaye, World Bank Country Director for Kenya, “carbon credits are creating a revenue stream that enhances the extension services provided to farmers, which are critical to the adoption of these practices and also adds to farmers’ income beyond their increased crop yields.”  Moreover, methodologies like SALM have found their way into the chocolate world as well on both the large and small scale. For example, German-based ForestFinest Consulting, a well-renowned sustainable land-use expert, works with cocoa farming communities in Panama on a carbon-certified climate-protection project and in turn worked with a small-scale chocolate manufacturer trying to achieve a climate-positive product. On the other end, Mondelēz International, one of the world’s largest manufacturers, promised $400 million USD to support the production of sustainable cocoa with zero net deforestation in Africa.  All in all, this points to how PES is used at the beginning of the chocolate product supply chain by a variety of chocolate industry actors.
Chocolate is a product that has a relatively high carbon footprint associated with it, attributed mostly to its production, and chocolate producers have already started marketing and selling their carbon-neutral or reduced carbon impact chocolate products as a potential buying point for some consumers and in preparation for anticipated legislation requiring such labeling. 
While some chocolate companies have chosen to focus its carbon neutrality or reduction effort on the production side of the chocolate product supply chain, others have decided to steer that focus in other areas. For example, Gru Rococo, a British chocolate company transported its chocolate bars via sail and solar powered ships and then sold famously sold its 3.5 ounces bars for around $21 USD each.  The company’s spokeswoman explained that the price was meant to shock consumers to help them realize that “people are not paying anywhere near the real environmental price for chocolate when they buy an ordinary bar. This is chocolate without an impact.”  While this company is making significant steps in reducing the carbon impact through its use of environmentally-friendly transportation, researchers have agreed that the majority of carbon reduction in the chocolate industry likely has more to do with how the crop is produced. 
Finally, food is about more than just taste, it’s political. With regard to food (and politics for that matter), it’s our responsibility to learn more and do more with that knowledge to increase the wellbeing of ourselves, families, community, and world. Rather than marginalizing certain cocoa growing regions from prime chocolate production markets due its reputation, examining what steps are being taken to create ethical supply chains and better livelihoods for farmers is critical. For instance, while artisan producers may:
“purchase costly flavor beans and can thus improve the livelihoods of poor farmers, they are also unlikely to buy from a place with a negative image—such as West Africa. Colin Gasko, who has not sourced from West Africa, although he is considering it, remarked: ‘How do you buy cacao from West Africa in a way that is socially responsible, given its reputation and political climate?'” (Leissle, 2013, p. 30).
Promoting the work being done to engage farmers in PES programs, brings into focus examples of cocoa cultivation working in ways that are not exploitative to workers through community-level engagement and then markets that as a selling point for buying chocolate from that community. It helps to draw consumers to become aware of the communities it purchases from and imagine their decision to purchase as being supportive of its wellbeing rather than contributing to its exploitation. By focusing on the community-level, it helps to disrupt the biases blanketed over the entire region and helps producers from those regions that are growing cocoa ethically to have access to the lucrative artisan and fine chocolate markets. An excellent example of this approach being used is in the case of Divine Chocolates. (Ibid., p. 27). Essentially, it helps to counter the “dislocation of production and consumption in commodity markets”(Martin & Sampeck, 2015, p. 48) and achieve “the transformation of the relationship between producers and consumers.” (Ibid.)
Food and climate change activism has re-shaped ideas, policies and industries and has led to positive transformations in key agricultural industries, like coffee for example. This was accomplished through the work of multiple stakeholders with communities rather than excluding those communities that needed to improve to lucrative areas of the market. When looking to recent examples of how the chocolate industry is beginning to engage in environmental markets to make itself more sustainable, such programs have the ability to shine a spotlight on ethical and sustainable actors in the industry. Overall, it is exciting to see how the incentives of the industry, farmers and consumers can come together to make the future of chocolate seem a little sweeter while bringing into focus the communities themselves.
 Healy, K. “Cacao Bean Farmers Make a Chocolate-Covered Development Climb.” In Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. Notre Dame, Indiana: the University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.
Healy, K. “Cacao Bean Farmers Make a Chocolate-Covered Development Climb.” In Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. Notre Dame, Indiana: the University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.
Chocolate is truly a gift from the Gods. It’s rich succulent flavor melts on your tongue and forces you to take another bite. The moment it was discovered it has been cherished by all who have consumed it. Therefore, it seemed only fitting to ask someone who hadn’t learned about cacao and find out what role chocolate has played in their life.
People have been consumed with chocolate for centuries and it has become part of many people’s daily lives. I asked a friend of mine of what chocolate has signified and played in her life, she claimed; “It makes me happy and feel better. I have a major sweet tooth but it’s something I crave everyday, I may even be addicted.” In today’s world, chocolate is available to everyone. It’s also in a variety of different things like protein bars or shakes and desserts. It’s so prevalent that most don’t even know where it originated or how it’s even grown which is something everyone should consider learning about. Chocolate is grown on a cacao tree also known as Theobroma cacao. It’s a fastidious plant that can only grow in warm climates no more than twenty degrees north or south of the equator; such as South America and Africa. It prefers to grow under a canopy of other trees with the air still easily breezing threw. Cacao trees are cauliflory meaning that the flower or fruit grows from the main stem or trunk therefore, the cacao pod grows directly on the trunk not from its branches. The trunk of the tree is so fragile that it cannot be damaged when the pod is being removed or it will not be able to grow a pod there again. Midges are tiny flies that help flower the tree, which only happens twice a year, and creates the pods (The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael D. Coe). Once a pod is cut down from the tree it then undergoes a variety of processes. The first is usually fermentation where the little beans are set out to dry in either trays or banana leaves, cleaned, then stored. They then are roasted to kill off any bacteria or contaminants. Finally, they are winnowed where the shell is separated from the bean removing any last remaining germs. At this point you would be left with a raw cacao nib that would be very bitter with a dirt texture if you attempted to taste it. However, the next step would be to process that cacao nib into the chocolate we’ve grown to love. As anyone can see, chocolate isn’t simply plucked off a plant and melted into chocolate, it takes many different and precise processes to get the taste just right.
Chocolate has a competitive side. Originally, Hershey’s was in its very own ball park creating the Hershey Chocolate bar and Kiss and being one of the first to market to the general public. Other individuals saw this opportunity and began creating their own companies such as Henri Nestle with cocoa powder, Mars and the Snicker bar. Again, I asked my friend what her favorite chocolate was, she explained; “Cadbury and Lindor Lindt chocolate are very refined. Cadbury has a unique taste that’s different from other brands with a much thicker candy coating compared to M&M’s. Lindt truffles are fancy with a remarkable soft, melted inside that is so satisfying.” So what makes all of these brands so unique to allow people to have such a preference? Of course every person has specific taste buds and anyone can argue that it’s all personal opinion but there are specific reasons as to why different brands taste differently. Milton Hershey founded his company in 1903, he had a vision to not only create chocolate but to make a better working environment that provided education and extra-curricular activities. His idea to create such a wonderful working environment was inspired by Cadbury who was the first to create a town dedicated to creating a utopian work space, known as Bournville. Hershey’s goal was to find a way to make milk chocolate with actual liquid milk. This proved difficult because others had been attempting to make it with powdered milk but it wasn’t sweet and liquid milk was spoiling too quickly. Eventually, he succeeded by creating a different process during pasteurization that heats the milk to 282 degrees Fahrenheit, also known as Ultra High Temperature milk, instead of the typical 161 degrees Fahrenheit. From there they store the milk in specially packaged bottles that allows it to last until after its been used in the chocolate and the package is opened (Hershey’s Shelf Stable Milk). Cadbury is very precise when creating their traditional taste. Through may years of practice they’ve perfected their milk and chocolate ratio so that when sugar is absorbed in the condensed milk, then added into the cocoa mass, it creates a chocolate liquid with the most authentic Cadbury palate. They use fresh milk instead of powdered milk mixed with why powder that many other European chocolate companies use. (Cadbury.co.au). Both Hershey’s and Cadbury take the utmost care in their chocolate and value fresh, liquid milk in their products. However, both taste very differently from one another because of slight differences in their manufacturing, traditions, and chocolate-to-milk ratios.
Another possible question people may have is when did chocolate become so popular? For as long as most of our ancestors can remember its been available for generations, possibly centuries. This is true because chocolate has been apart of civilizations like the Olmec, Mayan, and Aztecs dating back to 1000 BCE. It was discovered through hieroglyphics that a word kakawa was prevalent and participated in traditional and ceremonial events. All of these cultures believed cacao trees to be sacred, possibly the First Tree, and linked to royal blood lines. It wasn’t until the age of exploration that cacao beans made its first appearance in Europe. Christopher Columbus, in the 16th century, was one of the first to have traded with these fine beans on his fourth voyage when encountering a Mayan trading canoe however, he only knew that they were considered valuable but hadn’t known why. (Sophie and Michael D. Coe). Slowly, they became more prevalent as more explorers were trading them and soon they discovered the sweet, wonderful flavor they possess. Since it was so rare it was only available to Kings and Queens. Eventually nobles and the elite were consuming chocolate and many even created separate kitchens within their homes for the creation of chocolate. Within this time period chocolate was only every consumed as a liquid, it wasn’t until 1847 that the first chocolate bar was created by Joseph Fry that was meant for consumption. Again, my friend had no knowledge of when chocolate was brought to Europe but she did know that the first consumers were the wealthy because of its delectable qualities. Europe during the the medieval years had a very strict class system that consisted of the wealthy versus the poor. It wasn’t until the rise of the middle class, in the 19th century, that chocolate became available to the general public. Cadbury was created in this time, developing its chocolate and advertising it to the masses. From there the rest is history, chocolate has flourished unlike any other food item becoming one of the most consumed sweets with hundreds of billions of dollars spent on chocolate a year. I guess you could thank Columbus for introducing us to what we love.
As many people say, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy chocolate”. Has anyone ever realized what they’re buying into completely? Unfortunately, as happy as chocolate makes us it has also been linked with many social concerns such as child labor and slavery. These topics are not publicized as they should be and are quickly swept under the rug or forgotten about. I asked my friend if she had known much about the social concerns and if they would hinder her consumption of chocolate. She stressed that she knew it had been associated with slavery in the past and that if she knew what companies were possibly still using this she would refrain from buying their products. Slavery has long been associated with with chocolate. This is in part because it originally was for the wealthy who had slaves and believed in lavish lifestyles which slavery slowly came to symbolize. These people were then dehumanized and treated as property to justify their lack of respect for their lives. in the 16th to 20th centuries slavery was very popular especially because the triangular trade emerged that brought many people from Africa, against their will, to the America’s and Europe. This was because sugar, cotton, tobacco, and other commodity crops started to become very popular. They were grown on large plantations that required massive amounts of labor. Of course plantation owners didn’t want to spend actual money on salaries for these hard working men so instead treated them like animals.Sadly, they were overworked, had contracted diseases due to their travel and introduction to foreign lands, and were living under harsh conditions and heat that once arriving to the fields they only lived for another 7 to 8 years. Luckily, by the late 18th century those enslaved in Haiti had a revolution that proved successful. It got the attention of Napoleon, who was the leader of France at the time, and allowed them to declare independence and close the slave trade in 1807. (Sweetness and Power by Sidney W. Mintz). Slowly, many other people began to realize their own power and more revolutions came. Child labor has been another social concern with chocolate. As we know, chocolate is grown in many African and South American countries. Often times these are third would countries where poverty is very high. In order to help support their families, children have begun to work on sugar farms or harvesting chocolate. These jobs are very labor intensive and unfit for a child. Yet, some companies have allowed this so that they could pay them less and over work them (foodispower.org). Although it has been brought up in recent years by the media it hasn’t been closely monitored as it should be. Learning where our food comes from and it’s history is important because it teaches us more about our own world. Everything on this earth comes from somewhere and we should take the time occassionaly to find out where that is and what makes it so great. I encourage everyone to find some of their favorite foods and educate themselves on the primary reasons that make it so great. Who would have known that chocolate has been at the threshold of much of our history throughout the world.
“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Child Labor and Slavery. Food Empowerment Project, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
The invasion of adulterated chocolate mirrors the collapse of the middle class.
As the world edges its way into the future, there is a new set of economic realities that has been introduced to the common middle-class American which has the startling tendency to imply that the middle-class is not only shrinking, but may be an endangered species altogether (“Endangered,” 2015, p. 1). It is not just a feeling that your money is not going as far as it used to or that your grocery bill is higher than you remember it being. The truth is that the average person in the United States has lost much of their purchasing power in the last decade: higher education, health car, housing, child care, retirement costs have risen by more than $12,000 from 2000-2012(“Squeeze,” 2014, p. 1), while incomes have remained stagnant, or in some cases, in decline. If you are a food producer, you have no doubt been faced with the choice of either raising your prices in order to court a more upscale clientele, or to cut quality in order to keep your prices in line with expectations. So it is within the world of chocolate and chocolate derivatives. What is a chocolate derivative? You have probably tasted one; they lurk in the common mass-produced chocolate bars ubiquitous in the states. One of these derivatives is the coco powder/vegetable oil combination.
Cocoa powder (the cocoa solids separated from the cocoa butter): One removes the cocoa butter from the solids, saves it, and then recombines the two in a prescribed ratio so as to control the physical and flavor (including mouthfeel) characteristics of the final product.
The United States Food and Drug Administration loose translation: you may call chocolate “chocolate” when (at least 10% by weight ratio of the solids to the cocoa butter) cocoa powder is recombined with cocoa butter for the final product. Critically, if you recombine your cocoa powder with any number of cheaper vegetable oils, you get two things: one, you get a cheaper final product cost, and, two, you no longer get to use the term “chocolate” anymore (“FDA,” 2015, p. 1).
Many large U.S. confection makers have opted for catchy names like “chocolicious”, “chocolate flavored”, and “chocolate candy” to cover up their choice to reduce the price of production. Interestingly, along with simply raising prices and keeping quality ingredients at status quo, there has been a move to cater to the upscale chocolate enthusiast by introducing non-traditional ingredients into their products in order to cash in on the perceived higher-value/health-giving qualities of these “enhanced” chocolate products. Ultimately, there seems to be a correlation between the declining purchasing power of the middle-class in the U.S. and the decline in the quality/cost of ingredients in chocolate-themed confections. Furthermore, there seems to be a growing set of Americans who have prospered financially in this time frame, and there is a correlated spike in high-end chocolate products for them as well. In one case, the decline in traditional ingredients is now so far from the original product specifications, that it is no longer legal to call it chocolate, and in the other case, the added ingredients and processes have also taken the original product ingredients far from traditional products.
Is it simply that business decisions are being made in order to maximize profit or is there a subtle trend away from traditional chocolate products that will continue into the future–a future in which you may no longer recognize the chocolate products you grew up with?
Fortunately, it is quite simple to point to the decline of the purchasing power of the middle-class and the correlated decline of the real (as in legal to call “chocolate”) chocolate products–but first, a few definitions. What is a “real” chocolate bar? Technically speaking, in order to make a chocolate bar, all you need is four ingredients: cacao paste, sugar, cocoa butter and lecithin. If you like, you can add vanilla for a total of five ingredients. One could argue the details of what goes into a “standard” chocolate bar, but for the purposes set out, we will call this the baseline chocolate bar and continue.
It’s 2007 and the housing market bubble collapse is hitting the mass media. Over the next two years, the economy loses over six trillion dollars in value (“Bubble,” 2014, p. 1). What time is it? Time to reduce the costs of chocolate production. In 2008, America’s middle class faces median household income drops ($1,175) and increased expenses ($2,195), thus reducing median disposable income significantly (“On the Edge,” 2008, p. 1). It is at this time that the U.S. got its first taste of “unchocolate”, or chocolate that violates the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s definition of what can legally be called “Chocolate”. Americans are treated to “cocoa butter free” chocolate products (cocoa butter being responsible for giving chocolate its highly desirable creamy texture). Products such as Whatchamacallit, Milk Duds, Mr. Goodbar and Krackel lost their milk chocolate coatings, and Hershey’s Kissables were now labeled “chocolate candy” instead of “milk chocolate.”(“Chocoholics,” 2008, p. 1). Here, a clear correlation between economic hard times and cheaper chocolate ingredients can be seen–but what about the one percent-ers? They certainly are affected by this degradation of chocolate’s quality too, but they will become the lucky benefactors of new and very expensive innovations in chocolate.
In 2008, in their quest to court the ever more fabulously rich, chocolate makers looked to take advantage of the wealth being consolidated by those on the long end of the stick in the great depression by wooing them with heretofore unheard-of chocolate fantasies.
While the rich did suffer income decline in the great depression, it is noteworthy to mention that on the upswing of the economy over 95% of the incomes gained were reserved for those inside the one percent (those Americans who earn from $135,000-$350,00 and up–depending on your age (Thompson, 2014, p. 1)). That’s a lot of money hanging around for an enterprising chocolatier. The market responded. Let’s take a look at an extreme example. Instead of dumbing down the ingredients, Sacred Chocolate Company (perfectly timing their founding in 2006) began to offer such magical delights as “raw”(chocolate that has been processed without high heat–less than 115 degrees Fahrenheit) (“Different,” 2016, p. 1)). This move toward more expensive processes and exotic terminology mirrored perfectly the new raw food movement (Adams, 2008, p. 1) and, while innovative, was only the beginning for Sacred Chocolate’s marketing arm.
Witness the extremes this company goes to in order to upscale its chocolate products:
Slowly stone ground (keeping the temperature below 115 degrees Fahrenheit from bean to bar.
Hand wrapped (with much love, gratitude and high “Phi-bration”)
Made in a custom-designed, factory
Carbon balanced, 100% renewable energy process
Certified fair trade
Sourced from a “small cooperative in Ecuador known for its prized Arriba National variety of cacao”.
“Healthy sweeteners such as maple, Inulin from Jerusalem Artichoke, and Erythritol
An astute business-minded soul might suddenly be stricken with the concern that Sacred Chocolate was charging enough for their services (as of this writing, to have a 1.44 ounce bar mailed to my location (I live within two states of California, the home of Sacred Chocolate Company) would be $20.04 with regular U.S.P.S. Priority Mail 3-day. But, of course, since we are talking about the one percent-ers, we need to Fed-Ex it ($98.17)).
Yes, that’s one hundred bucks for an ounce and a half of chocolate.
Yet this mirrors perfectly the vast amount of wealth that the elite has amassed since the great recession: Suppose you are an average American who consumes 12 pounds of chocolate per year (“Americans,” 2015, p. 1). That’s’ 192 ounces times the cost of a Hershey bar ($1.79 or so). That equals 0.6616993011032173% (or a little more than half a percent) of your median income ($51939)(“Median Income,” 2016, p. 1).
The same holds true with the “high Phi-bration” chocolate too: 192 ounces times the $9 or so per ounce comes out to 0.6283636363636363% (or a little more than half a percent) of your $275,000 income. Of course, when we add shipping, the numbers are even more closely matched.
Ultimately, the market follows the money and in an efficient market, this seemingly vast difference in chocolate prices and quality points remains unremarkable except for one question: Is this adulteration a trend that will fade as soon as the market changes, or is there a deeper meaning?
Is this the beginning of our detachment from our traditional tastes/recipes for chocolate confections? Given the acceptance of the decline in quality ingredients in mass-produced foods in the recent past (who can forget the “Pink Slime” debacle?), there may indeed be reason to kiss (pun intended) our old school chocolate flavors goodbye forever.
Union Square, Somerville has experienced growth over the last decade as trendy stores and restaurants have sprung up along its main streets and young professionals have moved into the neighborhood. It sits in that perfect nexus of affordable and cool, offering coffee shops that serve fair trade pour overs and apartments cheap enough that you can fit that pour over into your budget. Union Square’s changing scene has recently caught the notice of the rest of Boston. In 2014, The Boston Globe ran an article titled “Union Square is Hipster Central.” This article describes the neighborhood using the following phrases: skinny jeans, millennial, fixed-gear bike,”house-made bitters,” artisanal, and “classic ’90s hip hop.” Vocabulary like this can only point to one thing: gentrification.
Somerville has been home to shifting communities for a long time. A Boston.com article from 2014, right in the same time frame there was a flurry of articles and op-eds about how Somerville was changing into a hipster’s paradise, points out that this group is the second to gentrify the area. The article explains that there are waves to gentrification. The hipsters (have to take an aside and say I’m adverse to that word because of it’s overuse and implication of obnoxious pretension and because maybe I feel some self hatred about being a little bit of a hipster myself. But I am going to keep using it in this post because it provides a clear way to talk about a group of people.) So, as I was saying, the hipsters who are moving in now are pushing out the first group that gentrified Unions Square: starving artists and broke graduate students. Before this group moved in Somerville was predominantly home to a large immigrant community. Many of these immigrants came from Brazil to learn English and make money and in the process they ended up making Union Square their home. This community has not been entirely displaced through the generations of gentrification. It lives on actively in certain pockets of the neighborhood. One of these safeholds is Mineirão One Stop Market.
Mineirão is a small Brazilian grocery store and cafe. When you walk in the front door, plastered with want ads and concert posters written out in Portuguese, you’ll see in front of you about five rows of groceries: aisles of cans and cookies and dried spices. The very back wall is a small refrigerated and frozen section that stocks Brazilian sodas, ice creams, and fruit. If you turn to your left you’ll see the small cafe area. You can buy cheese-filled pastries like coxinhas and pastels or pile up a place with rice and fried plantains and sit at one of the little round tables that seem to function as hang out spots for the local Brazilian community to sit and gossip.
This small cafe serves Brazilian desserts, including chocolate truffles and cakes, and if you move over to the market side you can find a wide variety of chocolate bars. Aside from Nestle, the brands differed from what you could find at CVS or Stop and Shop. Their labels are in Portuguese and Spanish. They all look unfamiliar to me. You can see that Mineirão is catering to the Brazilian community that has a long history in Union Square. Amidst the new specialty stores that have popped up around it selling trendy donuts and $60 bottle openers, clearly catering to the new hipster crowd, Mineirão serves as a store that still caters to the existent immigrant population.
It’s important that Mineirão fill this niche. With construction underway on the Green Line extension into this area of Somerville, the immigrant community’s concerns about being entirely displaced by new development and a shifting cultural scene are higher than ever. A group of business owners, including representatives of immigrant communities, came together to address the issue of development without displacement. The coalition is called Union United, and they aim to preserve the community that fostered and nurtured Union Square from the beginning so that they can partake in everything the neighborhood has become. Organizations like these are helping to preserve the community that lives on in Union Square.
Now let’s get to the chocolate!
I asked the young girl working the cash register what her favorite chocolate was. She walked me over to the aisle where all the tempting bars were laid out and, to my disappointment, pointed to one white chocolate bar and another that was half milk, half white chocolate. I like dark, rich candy. But I trusted that she knew best so picked up the half and half bar, called Suflair from Nestle, to try later at home.
Some quick research told me that this product is known as an Aero bar in other parts of the world. When I ate it it was sweet and milky and full of porous bubbles that dissolved pleasantly on my tongue. She had led me in the right direction, I liked it! Nestle chocolate is definitely not upscale, and that was reflected in the price. It was $2.99 for the 110g bar.
All of the chocolate bars fit into a similar price range. None of the bars showed the trappings of higher priced chocolates. They were not fair trade or organic, their labels weren’t elegantly designed or made of expensive materials, and there was no mention anyways about these chocolates being artisanal. Chocolate like that is available in the newer stores that have opened in Union Square. And the lack of them in this long-standing market suggests that the Brazilian immigrant community has different priorities, food-wise, than the hipsters of Somerville and Cambridge.
Without assuming that this applies to every person in this community, it seems like a reason for the lack of higher priced chocolate could have to do with greater concern about saving money, about not spending in excess on luxury goods. In a paper on the Brazilian immigrant population in Somerville, researcher Daniel Becker writes:
Fausto da Rocha related the motivation behind his migration experience to that of other immigrants, asserting, “I came, like everyone else, to work. At the beginning, I always thought about going back. After four or five years, I’d save up enough to go back and start up my own business, buy some land, or a store.” (Becker, 41)
In a class lecture we discussed how higher priced chocolates that bear socially conscious labels sometimes benefit the consumer more than they do the producer. And maybe this immigrant community that is getting priced out of their neighborhood, that is concerned with their displacement, is not as pressingly concerned with the satisfaction that comes along with buying a fair trade chocolate bar.
Mineirão offers many Brazilian candies, but I didn’t have the stomach to try them all. I bought a chocolate covered cashew butter truffle called Serenata de Amor by Garoto, and it was nutty, crunchy and sweet. I would recommend it! I’ve included below pictures of all the tasty-looking treats Mineirão sells that I hope to return and buy someday soon.
In addition to selling candies and cookies made with the cacao bean, Mineirão sells bags of frozen cacao pulp.
This is indicative of the clientele they cater to. Many North American consumers are unfamiliar with cacao pulp. Until I took this class I had no idea what a cacao pod looked like, and actually had a half-formed idea that chocolate grew in berry clusters. Not to get too tangential about this, but I had a drawing of tropical fruits as my computer background for long time, and it was only midway through a lecture for this class that something clicked and I realized that the drawing included cacao pods, and that I had been staring at this fruit for about a year without having any idea that it was related to chocolate.
The cultural understanding of cacao differs in Brazil. According to the International Cacao Organization, Brazil is both a large producer and consumer of cacao products. Those who live in a country that grows great quantities of cacao are going to be more familiar with the plant. The presence of this cacao pulp in Mineirão’s freezer section substantiates the idea that the market is not here to cater to the hipsters and artists who have newly moved into the neighborhood, but for those who already call it home.
Union Square has long been home to a thriving Brazilian community. It’s in places like Mineirão One Stop Market that, even in the face of gentrification and impending development because of the Green Line Extension, that this community is preserved.
Chocolate can be found in almost every store depending where you are. If you’re going to Target in search of some pants, chances are that there will be chocolate products available at the checkout line.One can learn many things from the kind of chocolate selection they have in a local store. You can learn about types of chocolate that is being used, ethical concerns, price point, and who the intended audience is.
Depending where someone is from, they can have a limited amount of exposure and knowledge about what is in food (like certain chemicals and additives) and what is good quality. Different stores sell different products that target a certain audience. Some chocolate companies do the same and only sell their products to companies who are their ideal client in revenue.
I grew up in a low income household in a low income community that was highly populated by immigrants. Despite the problems my hometown had, Chelsea, MA is a small and efficient city where stores were so close by that we didn’t have to travel to another city to get our food, clothes, and other supplies. I grew up with a convenient store just down the street from my mom’s apartment, a CVS just 2 blocks away, and a DeMoulas Market Basket a 5 minute drive away.
All of these locations had very similar things when it came down to selling chocolate. I would see candies like a Hershey bar by the Hershey Company, M&M’s candy by the Mars company, and a Butterfinger by Nestle. What these candies have in common is that they are low in cost which makes them more affordable than others. I have learned that the chocolate sweets I grew up eating don’t actually contain a lot of chocolate. What I did like was sugar. Products like a Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar contains approximately 10% of true cacao (Chocolate by the numbers). The first ingredient listed on the back of a Hershey’s bar is sugar (Mikes Candy Bar Page – Hershey Bar).
Stores like CVS don’t sell a wide variety of chocolate. There can be different kinds like Crunch bar, Kit Kat, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Twix, etc…, but the chocolate is still produced by big manufacturers. The manufacturers include Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and Kraft. Most of these candy bars sells for about $1-2. When breaking down the list of ingredients, it is not a surprise that these chocolate bars can be bought at a low price. With a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, there is more peanut butter than chocolate. With the candy the has these cheap (but delicious) fillings, It’s no surprise that the product can be at a really low cost because not much cacao is actually being used in the product.
Aside from most of the chocolates being from these big manufacturers, CVS do have a very small selection of premium chocolates. There are chocolates that are produced by Lindt chocolatier and Ghirardelli chocolates. Growing up to me these were the “expensive” chocolate’s as they contained richer ingredients like a high percentage of cacao, and very bitter to my young taste buds due to the low amount of sugar in the products. In comparison with the ingredients in the Hershey’s bar, the Lindt chocolate bar is better in quality and does not use a lot of ingredients that I have trouble pronouncing. Also to mention that the first ingredient listed in a Lindt chocolate bar is chocolate. The label is also give away since it does say the amount of cacao that is in the bar,which is 70%. A product of this kind f quality is often hard to sell. These bars sell for about $4 each. When CVS cannot sell them all, they go on sale.
Personally, I like that CVS has a very small section of Premium chocolates. It does give people the opportunity to try darker chocolate. They probably won’t like it because they are use to chocolates that contain a high amount of sugar. There is a spectrum from when people mention that they love chocolate. Is it really the taste of the cacao that they enjoy or is it the taste of the sugar in the bar (The Huffington Post).
People may prefer the sugary taste of chocolate because it is what they have been able to afford. Some people may view a chocolate bar which is worth over $4 as too expensive when they can get a cheaper bar for half the price. The battle can by quantity over quality. When people can’t afford a certain product, a barrier is placed that eliminates them from the targeted audience.
Personally, I like that CVS has a very small section of Premium chocolates. It does give people the opportunity to try darker chocolate. They probably won’t like it because they are use to chocolates that contain a high amount of sugar. There is a spectrum from when people mention that they love chocolate. Is it really the taste of the cacao that they enjoy or is it the taste of the sugar in the bar (The Huffington Post).
People may prefer the sugary taste of chocolate because it is what they have been able to afford. Some people may view a chocolate bar which is worth over $4 as too expensive when they can get a cheaper bar for half the price. The battle can by quantity over quality. When people can’t afford a certain product, a barrier is placed that eliminates them from the targeted audience.
Another supermarket that does create create barriers which limits their targeted audience is Whole Foods. Whole Foods is known to have organic and sustainable food.The food is presented to be in higher quality and thus being higher in prices. The running joke that most people say is Whole Paycheck (Urban Dictionary) instead of Whole Foods, because the cost of food from their is worth almost an entire paycheck.
When I visited their chocolate selection, I could not find a chocolate product that was manufactured by Hershey’s, Mars, or Nestle. Instead there were brands that I did not recognize and some that I was a little familiar within the past few year due to furthering my exposure as I began to frequently travel to Cambridge and Boston for school and work.
Going into Whole Foods, and even now, I sometimes feel out of place because I grew up going to a supermarket that was always busy and full and the prices were cheap. It’s also because I see lack of diversity when I go in. The people shopping at whole foods is usually white people and you can tell that they probably earn a high salary. Whole Foods seems target this specific audience as they are the one who can afford their products.
I sometimes think that it is ridiculous to pay $6 for a chocolate bar, (as seens as above). I constantly remind myself that the chocolate is at a fair price because of its quality. Having learned what the process is for making chocolate, how it comes from bean to bar, and understanding the true labour that comes with it, I have no problem with spending $6 on a chocolate bar because I know I am getting quality chocolate and with organizations like Fair Trade, I know that farmers and workers are getting their fair share.
Now, there are other places to purchase chocolate that does not have to come from a chain retail store. There are independent stores that specialize in gourmet foods. In Harvard Square there is a gourmet shoppe called Cardullo’s. Cardullo’s has been around since 1950. They sell a variety of gourmet goods including wine, cheeses, teas, and chocolates.
Cardullo’s sells a lot of chocolate, kinds that I cannot find in Whole Foods. They are truly gourmet and rich in flavour. At my trip to this story I purchase 2 chocolate bars. The first one was an Earl Grey tea infused chocolate by the brand Dolfin. The back of the wrapping was difficult to photograph but the first ingredient on this bar was cacao mass, sugar, cacao butter, and Earl Grey tea at 2,%.
The other bar of chocolate that I purchased was by Taza. Taza Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almond. On the front label it say 80% dark stone ground chocolate. On the back of the bar, the ingredients listed are Organic cacao beans, organic sugar cane, organic almonds, organic cacao butter, organic vanilla beans, and sea salt. I love that everything is organic and that I know what these ingredients are and how to pronounce them.
Each bar was about $8 and they were delicious. I never had tea infused chocolate and now if I want more I know the only place nearest me to purchase it is at Cardullo’s. Taza chocolates can be found in Whole Foods but I do not recall seeing this specific kind with sea salt and almonds. Cardullo’s is a wonderful shop with so many variations of chocolate from different companies to try, but I would need to place a budget to try all of these chocolates.
The chocolates sold here says that they care where the cacao is grown, how it is being processed, and that the laborers are being paid appropriately, and that child labor is not occurring. The cost does out weigh the taste. Know what’s in the chocolate bar, and that the ingredients are organic, this counts more as quality than quantity.
For retail shops to target an audience, they have to see demographically where the need is for their store and who can afford the products. The maps below show the locations comparisons/difference of CVS, Whole Foods, and gourmet shops like Cardullo’s, near Chelsea, MA.
Since my hometown is in Chelsea, MA, I decided to show exactly what is accessible to the people from my community. For CVS or other convenient stores, there are multiple in the area. These stores can be easily accessed by walking, biking, and even public transportation.
From experience i do know that there are more small convenience stores in Chelsea than the ones listed.
The map on top show the closest Whole Foods near Chelsea. The closest one is in one of Boston’s neighborhoods, Charlestown. Getting there would require a car and going through tolls. Whole foods seem to exist areas that are not of low income communities. I am hoping that this will change for good. I think organic food should be accessible to everyone, not be so far away from a community. Whole foods has a store in one of the poorest communities of Chicago called Englwood. An article form the Washington Post talk about the effects of a wholefoods being in a community where not a lot of people can afford their products, but they do try to make it lower. The article mentioned that “the company has tried to set its price points relative to other supermarkets in the city, not relative to its own stores outside of it”. (Washington Post) The goal is to get everyone to eat healthier.
This map shows the closest gourmet shops near Chelsea. As you may see, they lie just outside the city over bridges. If one owns a car, then it is not too much of an ordeal to go to the city to visit one of these gourmet shops. But man other rely on public transportation to travel into the city. When I traveled from Chelsea to Cambridge, it would usually take about one hour to get there, and one hour to head back. It’s not that people don’t want enjoy and eat better, organic food. There are many factors that come into play that don’t make it possible. Affordability, distance, availability are a few to name.
Chocolate products can be found in almost any store. You can easily find chocolate that is popular from the Hershey’s company, Mars company, and the Nestle company. These can be found in supermarkets, convenient stores, and at CVS. Or you may find brands that are more wholesome like Organic 365, Whole Foods brand, and Equal Exchange at a gourmet food stores, at Whole Foods Markets, and Trader Joe’s.
The type of chocolate that you can find in stores do say a lot about what is available to the community and how much they can know about these chocolates. The sophisticated wrapping can have a small history of the company and how the process their chocolate from bean to bar. This occurs more with chocolates that are not part of the large companies.
There are so many things you learn from the chocolate selection in a store. There are many factors
The selection of chocolate that is available in stores can say a lot. It can be a signal of who is who is the targeted audiences for certain brands of chocolate. It can say how you live you lifestyle by choosing to eat healthy and organic foods. You can see who is potentially gaining profit from selling the candy.
So, where do you buy your chocolate ?
Badger, Emily. “Why Whole Foods Is Moving into One of the Poorest Neighborhoods in Chicago.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 May 2016.
One step into Cambridge Naturals, a community natural health store in Cambridge, MA, and the market for organic, fair-trade, vegan, bean-to-bar, local, non-gmo, paleo, environmentally friendly and ethically sourced chocolate products is on full display. A meeting with the store’s manager & grocery lead adds another term to the list of qualities their consumer base is looking for when they step into the store – functional chocolate. This trend shows a probable correlation between what customers are willing to spend on chocolate that makes health claims, based on the way the cacao is processed and additional ingredients added that are promoted to provide nutritional benefits. The functional chocolate trend begs the question – are these health claims regarding various methods of cacao processing and healthful additives substantiated by scientific research, or are they merely a marketing gimmick? This article will analyze recent research on the health benefits of chocolate as a functional food, look at fermentation and processing differences from a nutrient perspective, and consider additional benefits of medicinal additives to chocolate in order to best answer this question.
How are functional foods different from healthy foods?
In a study published in the Academic Food Journal/Akademik (2014) that looked at the development of functional chocolate, the differences between health foods and functional foods were defined as the following:
“Functional foods are a new category of products that promise consumers improvements in targeted physiological functions” (Albak, Fatma, & Tekin, 2014, p. 19).
Whereas, “conventional ‘healthy’ foods are typically presented as types of foods contributing to a healthy diet, e.g. low-fat products, high-fibre products, or vegetables, without emphasizing the role of any single product” (Albak, Fatma, & Tekin, 2014, p. 19).
Functional foods share these characteristics:
Health benefits that can be linked to a specific product
Well-defined physiological effects are directly connected with particular components in the specific product
Scientific evidence about health effects that is used to develop specific functional products
There is novelty for the consumer with the promised benefits
Modern technology is often needed to manufacture the functional foods due to specific components being added, modified or removed (Albak, et al., 2014).
Demand for Functional Foods
The market for functional foods exists in large part due to the rising popularity of healthier products by consumers (Albak, et al., 2014). One contributor to interest in healthy products is their use as a remedy to detrimental lifestyle factors that can contribute to unyielding high levels of inflammation in the body (Jain, Parag, Pandey, & Shukla, 2015). In the book, Inflammation and Lifestyle (2015), the connection between diet and inflammation is emphasized.
“Our diet is one of the leading sources of these chronic illnesses, and changing the diet is the key to prevention and cure. A number of dietary factors, including fiber-rich foods, whole grains, fruits (especially berries), omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins (e.g., C and E), and certain trace minerals (e.g., zinc), have been documented to reduce blood concentrations of inflammatory markers. The best way to correct and eliminate inflammation is to improve comprehensive lifestyle and dietary changes rather than taking pharmaceutical drugs, the latter of which can cause unintended harm in the form of damaging side effects” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 143).
The authors provide this graphic to illustrate what an anti-inflammatory diet pyramid looks like in terms of specific food groups. Note that dark chocolate is positioned on the top of the pyramid.
An introduction to the benefits of superfoods and their role in an anti-inflammatory diet are explained in the publication. “An anti-inflammatory diet is one that is low in processed foods and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, sprouts, nuts and superfoods. Maca, spirulina, purple corn, wheatgrass, coconut butter and raw chocolate are a few of the health promoting superfoods that are gaining international interest” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 144). The inclusion of “raw chocolate” in the category of superfoods versus “chocolate” warrants further examination and will be explored later in this article, but the position remains clear that evidence supports the protective benefits of chocolate as a part of a healthy diet.
Chocolate as a Functional Food
Under the category of functional foods as previously defined, chocolate, as will be further described, fulfills all the requisite characteristics. Even though the term functional food is relatively recent, the practice of consuming chocolate for its specific health benefits is centuries old. “Chocolate has been consumed as confection, aphrodisiac, and folk medicine for many years before science proved its potential health benefiting effects. Main compounds of cocoa and chocolate which contribute to human health are polyphenols that act as antioxidants and have potential anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, antihepatotoxic, antibacterial, antiviral, antiallergenic, and anticarcinogenic properties” (Ackar, Djurdjica, Lendić, Valek,… & Nedić, 2013, p. 1). The studied physiological effects of chocolate include “reported health benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate particularly focus on cardiovascular diseases (but also showing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects), including increased blood flow at the brachial artery and the left descending coronary artery, decreased blood pressure, decreased platelet aggregation and increased HDL cholesterol” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840). Numerous research discoveries have shed light on the complex nature of how these protective benefits of cacao are reduced or encouraged by different methods of sourcing, processing and consuming chocolate (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008).
Polyphenols are found in many food sources including, “vegetables and fruits, green and black tea, red wine, coffee, chocolate, olives, and some herbs and spices, as well as nuts and algae” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). However, “chocolate is one of the most polyphenol-rich foods along with tea and wine” where, “results [have] indicated that dark chocolate exhibited the highest polyphenol content” (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008, p. 2194). In unfermented cacao beans, there are three main groups of polyphenols, “flavan-3-ols or catechins, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Differences in cacao genetics or varieties and country of origin show varying levels of polyphenols by up to 4-fold (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008). “Criollo cultivars contained higher levels of procyanidins than Forastero and Trinitario beans. In addition, crop season and country of origin have impact on polyphenols in cocoa beans” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Findings regarding polyphenol level by country of origin are contentious but include, “highest phenolic content was in Malaysian beans followed by Sulawesian, Ghanian and Côte d’Ivore” (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008, p. 2201) and “cocoa beans and processed products from Ecuador showed the highest levels of anthocyanins, followed by Nigeria and Cameroon” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840). Due to additional factors besides country of origin and genetic variation influencing the polyphenols in cacao, inclusion of the effects of processing cacao on flavor and polyphenol content is important to understand health claims made regarding the finished product, chocolate.
Processing cacao beans (namely the stages of fermentation and drying), and roasting in the chocolate making process greatly affect polyphenol content of the finished product (Ackar, et al., 2013; Bordiga, et al., 2015). “Due to these factors, the ratio and types of these components found in cocoa beans are unlikely to be the same as those found in the finished products” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 841). For functional chocolate enthusiasts driving market trends, the balance between healthy and protective benefits of polyphenols and the effects on their levels through processing are of particular interest. “All these processes are needed to develop characteristic cocoa aroma. Polyphenols give astringent and bitter aroma to cocoa and contribute to reduced perception of “cocoa flavour” by sensory panel. However, nowadays processes are conducted in such manner to preserve as much polyphenol as possible with maintaining satisfactory aroma” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). The debate about the purpose of chocolate is hereby noted between the sensory experience – the aroma development, especially in the roasting stages, versus consumption for health effects with less regard to smell, taste and gustatory pleasure.
The search for a sweet spot between these poles is a lucrative area for producers and retail establishments. As described earlier, development of functional food into specific products uses scientific evidence about health effects, where modern technology is often needed to manufacture those products, in order to observe targeted physiological effects or functions (Albak, et al., 2014).
“Generally, as cocoa beans were further processed, the levels of anthocyanins and flavan-3-ols decreased. The largest observed losses of phenolics occurred during roasting. A progressive decreasing trend in polyphenol concentration was observed in the other processed samples as well. Despite the original content of polyphenols in raw cocoa beans, technological processes imply a significant impact on cocoa quality, confirming the need of specific optimisation to obtain high value chocolate” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840).
In order to preserve antioxidant quality through dark-chocolate products with “high flavonoid contents…these chocolates are produced by controlling bean selection, fermentation, and reduced heat and alkalization treatments” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2201). Although one of the most detrimental effects of processing on polyphenol and antioxidant levels is alkalization (or dutching) of cocoa powder (Ackar, et al., 2013; Jalil, et al., 2008), even the fermentation process significantly reduces flavonoid levels by up to 90% (Jalil, et al., 2008). However, in the search for the sweet spot between flavor and health benefits, fermentation presents a way to reduce bitter compounds due to the presence of flavonoids and polyphenols (Jalil, et al., 2008) and enhance flavor before roasting or further processing like alkalization. For example, some “manufacturers tend to remove [flavonoids] in large quantities to enhance taste quality… the manufacturers tend to prefer Ghanian cocoa beans, which are well-fermented and flavorful than that of Dominican or Indonesian beans, which are considered as less fermented and have low quality cocoa flavor” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2203). In Crafack’s study (2013), besides genetic flavor potentials of cacao beans, fermentation is cited as the most important factor influencing cocoa’s flavor potential.
“A properly conducted fermentation process is considered a prerequisite for the production of high quality chocolates since inadequately fermented cocoa beans will fail to produce cocoa specific aroma compounds during subsequent processing” (Crafack, Petersen, Eskildsen, Petersen, Heimdal, & Nielsen, 2013, p. 1).
In a later study by Crafack (2014), microorganism differences between fermentation practices are shown to produce variations in cacao flavor profiles. “Despite the importance of a properly conducted fermentation process, poor post-harvest practices, in combination with the unpredictable spontaneous nature of the fermentations, often results in sub-optimal flavour development…A microbial fermentation process therefore seems essential for developing the full complexity of compounds which characterises cocoa aroma. In conclusion, the results of the present study show that the volatile aroma profile of chocolate can be influenced using starter cultures” (Crafack, 2014, p. 1). Further research that builds on Crafack’s findings was published by Kadow (2015), explaining the role of multiple factors in the country of origin that characterize the fermentation process.
“During this in most cases spontaneous fermentation of the fruit pulp surrounding the seeds, the pulp is degraded by yeasts and bacteria. This degradation results in heat and organic acid formation. Heat effect and tissue acidification are the key parameters guiding flavour precursor formation. Accordingly, not microorganisms themselves but exclusively their metabolites are necessary for successful fermentation” (Kadow, Niemenak, Rohn, and Lieberei, 2015, p. 357).
This study aimed to further the development of standardization and mechanization of cocoa fermentation for the benefit of cacao production quality purposes. On the ranges of heat tested from fermenting heaps of cacao beans, 30 °C to a maximum of 50 °C was obtained after 24 h of fermentation at the inner part of the heap (Jespersen, Nielsen, Hønholt, and Jakobsen, 2005).
Finally, as an interesting note about polyphenol changes in cacao during fermentation, although “unripe and ripe cacao pods contain solely (−)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin. During fermentation, levels of both of these compounds were reduced, but (−)-catechin was formed due to heat-induced epimerization” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). These findings warrant more studies on the changes that happen during cacao fermentation, where although certain protective antioxidant levels decrease, other chemical compounds are formed due to the process of heat due to microorganism metabolites and acidification to the bean tissue.
After fermentation, the beans are dried to reduce water content for safe transport and storage of the cacao before further processing by chocolate manufactures. “During drying, additional loss of polyphenol occurs, mainly due to nonenzymatic browning reactions” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2) where “high temperatures and prolonged processing times will decrease the amount of catechins” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p.2203). The dried cacao is then shipped to the chocolate manufacturer where roasting is often performed. The roasting and generally the further processing of cacao degrades the levels of polyphenols by triggering the oxidation process (Ackar, et al., 2013; Bordiga, et al., 2015).
Conching is a process of agitation of chocolate mass at temperatures above 50 °C that is used to refine both the cocoa solids and sugar crystals to change the taste, smell, flavor, texture (mouthfeel) and viscosity of chocolate (Chocolate Alchemy, 2016; Di Mattia, Martuscelli, Sacchetti, Beheydt, Mastrocola, & Pittia, 2014) Different procedures for conching exist, including Long Time Conching (LTC) and Short Time Conching (STC). A study by Di Mattia (2014) done on these two conching processes and the implications for bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity found interesting results. The publication stressed the importance of time/temperature combinations as process parameters “to modulate and increase the functional properties of some foods” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, pp.367-368). In the study, STC consisted of “a dry step at 90 °C for 6 h and then a wet step at 60°C for 1h,” while LTC involved, “a dry step at 60°C for 6 h and a then wet step at the same conditions (60 °C, 6 h)” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p. 368). The results of the analysis on phenolic content, antioxidant values defined as radical scavenging properties showed, “that the conching process, and the LTC in particular, determined an improvement of the antiradical and reducing properties of chocolate” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p.372). Recommendation for further studies was suggested to “optimize the conching process for the modulation of the functional properties,” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p.372) but the results remain in favor of longer time and lower temperature processing to preserve health benefits in chocolate during the conching phase.
From the perspective of chocolate makers, assessing combinations of ingredients/additives that can either help or hinder protective compounds in chocolate – including polyphenols and bioavailability, is important. Jalil, & Ismail’s review (2008), considered, “both bioavailability and antioxidant status [important] in determining the relationship between cocoa flavonoids and health benefits” (Jalil, et al., 2008, pp. 2194-2195). Studies focused on epicatechin from chocolate found the polyphenols, “rapidly absorbed by humans, with plasma levels detected after 30min of oral digestion, peaking after 2-3 h and returning to baseline after 6–8 h. In addition, cumulative effect in high daily doses was recorded” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Interestingly, an argument for the benefits of chocolate’s sweetened and rich composition – if cocoa butter and some type of sweetener is used in processing – is explained where the “presence of sugars and oils generally increases bioavailability of polyphenols, while proteins, on the other hand, decrease it” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Milk chocolate lovers may be disappointed to find that, “milk proteins reduce bioavailability of epicatechin in chocolate confectionary…[with] reported inhibition of in vivo antioxidant activity of chocolate by addition of milk either during manufacturing process or during ingestion” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2).
Additional health properties of cacao found especially in dark chocolate, apart from polyphenols, may have a role to play in reports of chocolate cravings and their use as functional food. Theses beneficial components include “methylxanthines, namely caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2197) “peptides, and minerals” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2200). “Theobromine is a psychoactive compound without diuretic effects” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2198). “Cocoa is also rich in proteins. Cocoa peptides are generally responsible for the flavour precursor formation” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2199). Lastly, “minerals are one of the important components in cocoa and cocoa products. Cocoa and cocoa products contained relatively higher amount of magnesium compared to black tea, red wine, and apples” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2200).
A well supported rule of thumb for finding high antioxidant capacity functional chocolate is to look for the percentage of non-fat cocoa solids (NFCS) in chocolate products to determine total phenolic content (Jalil, et al., 2008; Vinson, & Motisi, 2015) “Dark chocolates contain the highest NFCS among the different types of chocolates” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2204) However, due to percentages of cocoa solids on on chocolate labels including polyphenol-free cocoa butter, the accuracy of this measure is not always correct and can lead to overestimating polyphenol content in certain types of chocolate (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2204). That said, a recent study by Vinson and Motisi (2015), performed on commercial chocolate bars found “a significant and linear relationship between label % cocoa solids and the antioxidant assays as well as the sum of the monomers.” From which they concluded that, “consumers can thus rationally choose chocolate bars based on % cocoa solids on the label” (Vinson, & Motisi, 2015, p. 526).
Additions to Functional Chocolate
In health food stores like Cambridge Naturals and Deborah’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, MA, the presence of functional chocolate with additional health boosting ingredients is prevalent. The validity of these claims to improve focus, enhance libido and energy, and other desirable improved physiological functions, based on herbs, powders and additional superfoods mixed with cacao, is intriguing. A study by Albak and Tekin (2014), found that mixing aniseed, ginger, and cinnamon into the dark chocolate mix before conching, “increased the total polyphenol content while they decreased the melting properties of dark chocolate after conching” (Albak, et al., 2014, p. 19).
Other resources that further elucidate specific findings on these superfoods, herbs and spices include:
Afolabi Clement Akinmoladun, Mary, Tolulope Olaleye, and Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi. “Cardiotoxicity and Cardioprotective Effects of African Medicinal Plants.” Toxicological Survey of African Medicinal Plants (2014): 395. This publication includes information on gingko, turmeric among other additives to functional chocolate and how protective vascular effects are formed.
Some consideration for the popularity of raw chocolate, which is used as the base of many functional chocolate products, deserves attention. As explained, there are many reasons chocolate can be considered a functional food, especially due to specific health promoting compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids, peptides, theobromine and minerals present in cacao and in chocolate. Unfortunately, overwhelming scientific evidence points to the detrimental effects on these compounds from processing, especially by heat. “Flavanols largely disappear once the cocoa bean is heated, fermented and processed into chocolate. In other words, making chocolate destroys the very ingredient that is supposed to make it healthy” (Crowe, 2015). Raw chocolate, by the standards of raw foodism, means that food is not supposed to be heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit in order to preserve enzymes. This seems tricky to prove especially when chocolate makers receive cocoa beans from various countries of origin where fermenting and drying practices are not under their direct supervision. Some companies remedy this issue with bean-to-bar practices that ensure they have seen and approved the process that cacao beans undergo before shipment to the company’s own processing facilities, where low temperature winnowing, grinding and conching is under their complete control. The bean-to-bar method (See Taza’s Bean-to-Bar and Direct Trade process) also provides assurance that cacao is ethically (sometimes for organic and wild-crafted cacao if so desired) sourced. These initiatives often promote more sustainable and better processed cacao, which means higher quality cacao for both the farmer, manufacturer and consumer. For these reasons, the popularity of raw cacao seems to fit into the development of functional foods where the consumer is able to enjoy a sometimes more bitter, medicinal tasting chocolate in the anticipation of a powerful physiological boost and a clearer conscience due to sourcing methods.
In the case of Yes Cacao, their Karma MellOwl botanical chocolate bar contains 41% cacao butter, and 59% botanicals which results in a deliciously complex, albeit golden colored bar due to the cocoa butter and turmeric content. Non-fat cacao solids which provide the main anti-inflammatory benefits of cacao are missing, but are replaced with other superfoods, spices and adaptogenic herbs like lucuma, maca, yacon, lion’s mane mushrooms, gingko, turmeric, pine pollen, cinnamon, bacopa, and gynostemma. The creators of the bars deem them functional medicine, as they combine cacao solids and sundried cane juice as a base for superfood and medicinal enhancements. In this video, Justin Frank Polgar recommends that Yes Cacao bars are eaten daily as a staple enhancement for ideal human functionality.
Other raw chocolate companies that are focus on functional chocolate using additional superfoods, spices and herbs include:
Trends in functional foods heading in the direction of ‘naturally healthy’
From the perspective of growers, producers and consumers who want a high quality, healthful and good tasting chocolate product, the scientific findings that support the ideal balance between flavor and preservation of health promoting properties of cacao, are significant. The ideal way to conserve protective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits warrants consideration with the changes in polyphenol content during processing of cacao from raw bean, through fermentation to roasting, conching and mixing with other ingredients. Raw chocolate seems a good way to navigate this balance. Meanwhile, mass produced commercial chocolate companies or “big chocolate” continue to move their products in the direction of high quality premium chocolate and adopting new manufacturing processes in order to preserve cacao’s protective effects. The overarching trend uniting premium, natural and healthful ingredients is referred to in the food industry as naturally healthy foods. “This idea of using food to manage health may, in part, help explain growing consumer interest in fresh, natural and organic products”(Gagliardi, 2015). The melding of healthy, natural and functional foods to chocolate production reflects consumer preferences and industry recognition of the role diet plays on health and provides insights into the future of food. For now, medicinally enhanced, raw, naturally healthy, and functional chocolate seems light years ahead of other natural foods on the market today.
Author’s Note: While researching and writing this article the author happily consumed a great deal of functional, raw and medicinal chocolate and can attest to the powerful effects that far surpass conventional and even ‘premium chocolates’.
Ackar, Djurdjica, Kristina Valek Lendić, Marina Valek, Drago Šubarić, Borislav Miličević, Jurislav Babić, and Ilija Nedić. “Cocoa polyphenols: can we consider cocoa and chocolate as potential functional food?.” Journal of chemistry 2013 (2013).
Albak, Fatma, and Ali Rıza Tekin. “Development of Functional Chocolate with Spices and Lemon Peel Powder by using Response Surface Method: Development of Functional Chocolate.” Academic Food Journal/Akademik GIDA 12, no. 2 (2014).
Afolabi Clement Akinmoladun, Mary, Tolulope Olaleye, and Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi. “Cardiotoxicity and Cardioprotective Effects of African Medicinal Plants.” Toxicological Survey of African Medicinal Plants (2014): 395.
Bordiga, Matteo, Monica Locatelli, Fabiano Travaglia, Jean Daniel Coïsson, Giuseppe Mazza, and Marco Arlorio. “Evaluation of the effect of processing on cocoa polyphenols: antiradical activity, anthocyanins and procyanidins profiling from raw beans to chocolate.” International Journal of Food Science & Technology 50, no. 3 (2015): 840-848..
Crafack, Michael, Mikael Agerlin Petersen, Carl Emil Aae Eskildsen, G. B. Petersen, H. Heimdal, and Dennis Sandris Nielsen. “Impact of starter cultures and fermentation techniques on the volatile aroma profile of chocolate.” CoCoTea 2013 (2013).
Crafack, Michael. “Influence of Starter Cultures, Fermentation Techniques, and Acetic Acid on the Volatile Aroma and Sensory Profile of Cocoa Liquor and Chocolate.” (2014).
Di Mattia, Carla, Maria Martuscelli, Giampiero Sacchetti, Bram Beheydt, Dino Mastrocola, and Paola Pittia. “Effect of different conching processes on procyanidin content and antioxidant properties of chocolate.” Food Research International 63 (2014): 367-372.
Jain, Parag, Ravindra Pandey, and Shiv Shankar Shukla. “Inflammation and Lifestyle.” Inflammation: Natural Resources and Its Applications. Springer India, 2015. 143-152.
Jalil, Abbe Maleyki Mhd, and Amin Ismail. “Polyphenols in cocoa and cocoa products: is there a link between antioxidant properties and health?.”Molecules 13, no. 9 (2008): 2190-2219.
Jespersen, Lene, Dennis S. Nielsen, Susanne Hønholt, and Mogens Jakobsen. “Occurrence and diversity of yeasts involved in fermentation of West African cocoa beans.” FEMS Yeast Research 5, no. 4-5 (2005): 441-453.
Kadow, Daniel, Nicolas Niemenak, Sascha Rohn, and Reinhard Lieberei. “Fermentation-like incubation of cocoa seeds (Theobroma cacao L.)–Reconstruction and guidance of the fermentation process.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 62, no. 1 (2015): 357-361.
Vinson, Joe A., and Matthew J. Motisi. “Polyphenol antioxidants in commercial chocolate bars: Is the label accurate?.” Journal of Functional Foods 12 (2015): 526-529.
Zhang, Dapeng, and Lambert Motilal. “Origin, Dispersal, and Current Global Distribution of Cacao Genetic Diversity.” In Cacao Diseases, pp. 3-31. Springer International Publishing, 2016.
If you ask someone to write a list of different candies, chocolate is certain to be a part of that list. Chocolate is the most consumed confection in the world, and from it’s historical and botanical beginnings in the Amazon Basin to modern day society and consumerism, chocolate has undergone many different styles and forms of production as years have gone by, but ultimately, the cacao bean itself is usually seen as a second to the final form of a processed chocolate bar in modern society. Essentially, the overall values and flavor notes associated with chocolate have been crafted solely through societal conditioning and commercial gain, and ultimately prevents the average consumer from truly knowing not only the rich history behind it, but also and the complex, versatile, and vibrant flavor that comes from cacao nibs. Modern day chocolate consumption has been dominated by companies that have, in addition to having made the standard for chocolate as a confection, traditionally placed certain societal implications around the subject of consuming chocolate as a whole, intertwining intimacy and strong gender roles in many chocolate advertisements in recent years, the culture created around chocolate is like that of no other food. Just visiting any national convenience or grocery chain can provide evidence that the majority of if not all chocolate products are limited to heavily processed and mostly sweet candies.
Chocolate started off as any other plant on Earth, it grew, was discovered to edible, and was subsequently eaten and enjoyed. But as time went on, and as the taste of chocolate developed, it became known as a confection. Chocolate became known as a delicious flavor that was thought to bring energy and pleasure to those who enjoyed it, and as time went on, the taste of chocolate became more and more adulterated. Like with the consumption of any form of produce, wanting to understand and control the supply chain to ensure safe labor and fair wages are being dealt is a concern to many modern consumers, this idea of “fair trade” has become more and more popular as consumers are gravitating towards ethical decisions in knowing where their goods come from. While the idea of fair trade has permeated into other internationally produced goods, such as coffee, the same level of concern about fair trade in chocolate production has only recently begun to receive real traction, and still remains generally inaccessible at any average convenience or grocery store. At a local CVS here in Massachusetts, you can purchase Starbucks coffee, a business known for their active participation in ethical sourcing and global initiatives, but chocolate selection tends to refer to the same large chocolate companies, none of which feature or boast any sort of involvement in providing fair trade for their cacao, which requires very hands-on labor to harvest and initially produce. With the popularization and spread of organic grocers like Whole Foods, fair trade chocolate, as well as access to raw cacao nibs and mostly unprocessed chocolate goods, are becoming more accessible to the general public.
Aside from ethical concerns in the production chain of chocolate, of which there are many, another deeply permeating trend in modern chocolate is the heavy adulteration of true chocolate flavor. Chocolate is unique in its very nature, having few genetic relatives and being a biological anomaly in its botanical roots, as well as being the only food whose additive-heavy by-product represents the entire flavor profile of the food rather than its unprocessed version, a roasted cacao nib. When one thinks of chocolate, the image of a Hershey’s kiss or Snickers bar may appear in one’s thoughts, and although these products are technically considered chocolate, their flavor profiles consist of two main components, sugar and milk, both of which are not chocolate. A transcript of a recipe from 1873 Spain calls for “4 to 6 pounds of sugar for every 2 pounds of cacao,” (125, Presilla) further highlighting chocolate’s long-standing relation to sugar. With this clouded flavor profile, and along with years of heavy advertisements of these sweet confections, society now sees chocolate’s flavor as being synonymous to sweet and creamy. Even the darkest chocolate available at an average grocery store still contains sugar. Sugar traditionally was once for the elite, similar to chocolate, and as sugar became more available, it become used more and more to provide calories as it was cheap and easy to obtain. While fat and sugar may have once held importance in providing calories to those who had limited resources, now, “Sugar and fat are more than functional aids… They are equally associated with the richness of food, and, therefore, its acceptability” (208, Mintz) Traditionally, chocolate was enjoyed in many savory recipes, as it’s naturally earthy and bold flavor can add layers of depth to a dish, but as time went on, and as chocolate became popularized in modern societies, it was placed into the category of a “sweet”, preventing many people from ever having enjoyed the full scope of flavor that a cacao nib, or even a full cacao pod, has to offer. This sort of transformation pertains to chocolate exclusively; no other fruit or vegetable has had the same profound rebranding of it’s existence as is seen historically with chocolate.
Chocolate has also been associated with certain themes, used mostly for the purpose of advertising, connotations of romance, love, and pleasure have long been associated with chocolate. The idea of buying your loved one a box of chocolates on Valentines day has been a societal norm for the better part of half a century, and buying someone a box of chocolates is seen as a romantic gesture in itself. Chocolate is also seen as some sort of aphrodisiac, aside from providing the normal pleasure that comes alongside eating something sweet and delicious, chocolate has long been thought to provide some sort of aphrodisiac quality, and although this notion has its roots in chocolate’s early history, with records in a medical journal dating back to 16th century classifying chocolate as a medicine, (126-127, Coe) it has pervaded until this day, and has been advertised mostly as an aphrodisiac to women. In a wide array of chocolate ads from the past 20 years, sensual camera work, soft lighting, and clever use of props have all been utilized to portray the consumption of chocolate by women as a “release”, or is seen as having the power to take a woman away from her senses because of the delicious flavor. Chocolate has also been seen as synonymous to sin, as if the decadence of such a food itself is sinful, this also has it’s roots in history, there is a manuscript dating back to 1636 that, “discusses whether chocolate breaks the ecclesiastical fast”,(150, Coe) and whether or not it can be enjoyed on certain holy days of obligation. While none of these claims have their base in science or fact, these societal implications, that chocolate is produced mostly for and consumed mostly by woman, that it’s flavor has the power to relax and entice its consumer any more than any other tasty food, and that chocolate’s decadence is naughty or sinful, have permeated deep into how chocolate is viewed all over the world. Some of these ideas have survived through history, effecting chocolate’s societal perception even in modern society. Again, these sort of heavy implications, of love, pleasure, and gender, are exclusive to chocolate.
The Theobroma Cacao, the tree that bears the fruit which ultimately becomes chocolate, has had strong historical and religious significance, the first forms of what could now be called chocolate was very popular at the time of it’s creation, and has always been known as something that brings great joy and a feeling of vitality, and the same feeling towards chocolate exists today, it is thought to bring a feeling of happiness and joy during it’s consumption. The implications attached to chocolate has created a false representation of chocolate as a whole, the majority of people all around the world see chocolate as it has been presented in advertising and take it at face value. Chocolate is a romantic gesture, chocolate is a woman’s best friend, chocolate exists only in the context of sweet flavor profiles, these ideas are imbedded in chocolate’s very existence in modern society, and overall, these tactics used for advertising and the societal ideas developed around chocolate as a food has detracted from chocolate’s overall possible utility. Rather than viewing chocolate as an average fruit or vegetable, with which you can create as many different creations using all aspects of their flavor profiles as one can imagine, through it’s long and complex history, and especially within the last 100 years, chocolate has acquired certain labels with which its full potential has been narrowed down. The culture behind chocolate, it’s complex growing habits, harvesting and production methods, and it’s historical and culinary contexts have all been effectively erased in modern market places. Chocolate is seen as a woman’s weakness, as a tasty candy for Halloween, Easter, Christmas, and Valentines day, and has made way for countless sweet confections with a chocolate twist. Ethically conscious consumer practices, and the slow shift in popularity towards organic and fair trade products has begun to truly illuminate these age-old societal implications surrounding chocolate. More and more people are growing curious to try the worlds most popular candy in rawer, unprocessed forms. Although the standard for chocolate is still heavily defined by brands like Hershey’s, Cadbury, and Godiva who create ultra sweet chocolate and create heavily gender specific advertisements and dominate the American chocolate market and are sold at any grocer, ethically sourced chocolates, companies like Taza chocolate and Equal Exchange products present chocolate in a more wholesome light, as a beautiful creation from bean to bar, as a product that requires hard work and specific skills to grow and harvest, and as a food with a strong and bold flavor that was responsible for it’s initial popularity among Mayan societies long ago. The culture created around chocolate is like that of no other food, the evidence of chocolate’s transformation ever since being introduced to Europe is well documented and plentiful, and when one considers the extreme success of companies like Hershey’s, the true essence of chocolate, both in it’s pure, physical form, as well as it’s rich historical beginnings has been mostly erased because of modern societal advertising and representation.
Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
Presilla, Marciel E. The New Taste Of Chocolate, Revised. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.
Mint, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Publishing, 1985. Print.