You can learn a lot from the chocolate selection at a retail shop.
Cardullo’s is a speciality gourmet shop and delicatessen in Harvard Square. A staple of the Square since 1950 Cardullo’s is home to the area’s food-lovers. Along with providing freshly prepared foods and sandwiches Cardullo’s offers a wide selection of chocolates, teas, wines, liquors, and hard to find specialty food items from around the world.
Just across the street from Cardullo’s is CVS, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy and convenience retailer chains. Along with pharmaceutical and household items, CVS carries an extensive array of products to meet consumers every need.
Cardullo’s is the place I go to when I’m looking to make a splurge on quality food items — chocolate in particular. I trust the selection at Cardullo’s and know that even though it will be a splurge, the quality and superior taste of the chocolate merits the few extra dollars.
CVS on the other hand is my go-to shop for all my basic needs. I visit CVS whenever I need to purchase anything really whether it be sun block, snacks, notebooks, cosmetics, medicines or household items due to its central location, affordable prices, and broad range of products. While I don’t usually head to CVS to satisfy a chocolate craving (Cardullo’s is my usual stop), I normally end up with some sort of chocolate sweet in my basket when I’m checking out.
The chocolate bar selection at Cardullo’s is hard to match. When I visited Cardullo’s the other day I counted at least 30 different brands of chocolate bars that were out on display! And this is just chocolate bars – this number does not include the various other chocolate products such as truffles, cocoa powder, and chocolate covered goods such as dried fruit or nuts. Pictured above is part of the chocolate bar selection at Cardullo’s. As you can see from the pictures above, a large portion of the chocolate at Cardullo’s are imported from various countries. Although the original packaging might be in French, German, or another language, most of these bars have a sticker with the text translated to English. Cardullo’s prides itself of being a gourmet shop and it’s chocolate selection proves their high standard of gourmet goods. The selection of chocolate bars also show that Cardullo’s considers chocolate more than just another commodity by providing craft chocolates to consumers (Martin, lecture 13).
The flavors of chocolate bars Cardullo’s offers are very interesting — there are many different flavors to choose from. Along with the normal milk and dark chocolate offerings that one would expect, Cardullo’s has chocolate bars filled with unexpected add-ons such as bacon, “coconut ash,” bananas, chipotle, bread crumbs, toffee, honey, mint, ginger, various nuts, berries, and spices. Most of these bars are imported. I found bars made in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Along with clearly stating what country the bar was made in, the chocolate bars in Cardullo’s clearly state where the cacao beans were sourced from.
The single origin chocolate bars have the region where the cacao is taken from clearly displayed on the front label. You can see this in the photos above of the Taza and Valrhona single-origin bars.
I really appreciated the label of the Nirvana chocolate bar pictured above. Not only does it give me information on where the bar was made (Belgium) but also it tells me where the cacao was sourced from (Dominican Republic) and that it comes from Trinitario beans that were ethically sourced! This was the only bar that I could find that specified the type of cacao bean used. You can also clearly see the fair trade and USDA organic certification on the packaging.
Most of the chocolate bars in Cardullo’s had certifications denoting that the chocolate was farmed in a socially responsible and ethical manner such as Fairtrade, UTZ, USDA Organic, TAZA Direct Trade, Non-GMO Verification, IMO For Life, and Rainforest Alliance among others. Engagement with the fair trade movement has been a successful strategy to change consumer attitudes and reward them for caring about socially and environmentally sound practices (Davies, Ryals 319).
The packaging of the chocolate bars in Cardullo’s also served the purpose of conveying the company’s story, mission, and core beliefs to the consumer. This gives the consumer the opportunity to learn more about their product, hopefully forming a connection with the consumer to win over their loyalty (Martin, lecture 10). Pictured below are examples of messages found on the back of the chocolate bar packaging. I appreciated reading the stories on the back of the packaging because it helped justify the chocolate bars higher prices. The story on the back of the Divine chocolate bar highlights their unique selling point that Divine is owned by the farmers that grow the cocoa – members of The Kuapa Kokoo cooperative” (Leissle 123).
The chocolate bars in Cardullo’s ranged from $5-$17 dollars with a median price of $10. While I was shocked to find a $17 dollar chocolate bar, pictured below, from class this semester I have learned the justifications behind the higher prices such as sustainable certifications and higher quality of the cacao and production of the bar. The price point of the chocolate bars at Cardullo’s signifies that the shop is catering to a sophisticated consumer who might appreciate the craft of chocolate making or just a higher quality chocolate.
$17 chocolate bar!
My experience visiting CVS’ chocolate section was vastly different from my experience at Cardullo’s. Although there was a large quantitiy of chocolate bars in CVS, there were far fewer brands for sale. CVS sells the usual suspects: Hershey’s, Dove (a Mars product), Nestle, Cadbury, Ferrero, the “big 5”, along with more premier brands such as Lindt, Ghiradelli (operated by Lindt) and Ritter Sport. Pictured below is the chocolate bar asile in CVS along with its “premium chocolate” selection.
While browsing the shelves, however, I did find a brand of chocolate bar that I was surprised to see: Endangered Species Chocolates (pictured below).
As a CVS shopper who frequents the chocolate aisle I was surprised to find this bar hidden on the edge of their display shelf. I was surprised because I am used to CVS carrying bars solely from the big 5 chocolate companies and it was pleasantly surprising to see an ethically sourced chocolate bar represented on their shelf! In fact, I found only two chocolate bars at CVS with sustainability certifications. The Endangered Species Chocolate bar boasts Fairtrade certification on its cover and the Dove chocolate bars, a product from Mars, had Rainforest Alliance certifications on their covers. These two types of bars were placed next to each other on display. Unfortunately neither of these brands were highlighted in CVS’ “Premium Chocolate” selection. This was unfortunate because CVS should use their national presence to promote sustainability and ethically sourced chocolate.
When I inspected the “premium” chocolate bars– the Lindt and Ghiradelli bars– I was surprised that neither of these bars had sustainability or ethical certifications. Although the Ghiradelli bars said that only “the highest quality cocoa beans” were selected for thier product, there were no certifications to back up this claim, as shown below.
The packaging of the chocolate bars at CVS were not similar to the bars at Cardullo’s. Although the front of the packaging may look similar, when I flipped the bars over I did not find the same sort of message and story that I found on the back of the bars in Cardullo’s.
Instead of the story of the company and the company’s goals, I found a list of ingredients and maybe a line or two about the brand.
The lack of certifications and brand “stories” helped justify the lower price point I saw at CVS. The chocolate bars at CVS were much larger than the bars at Cardullo’s and in the $2-$4 range. The lower prices of the chocolate bars at CVS could be more desirable for consumers who are looking to save money and might be more frugal than the average Gourmet Shop consumer.
From the selection at Cardullo’s you can tell that they are marketing their items towards a consumer who is conscious of ethical concerns and willing to pay more for ethical reasons. Cardullo’s attracts an adventurous eater who has the budget for a higher priced specialty food items. Although their consumer base is much smaller than CVS’ you can tell from the selection of chocolate bars at Cardullo’s that sustainability and ethics is at the top of their concerns regarding products they choose to sell. On the other hand, CVS’ target audience consists of people willing to get the biggest bang for their buck and CVS capitalizes on that sentiment by offering cheap products while sacrificing the importance of sustainability and ethicality that is apparent at Cardullo’s. Since CVS operates on a national level based on everything that I have learned in this class this semester I would hope that they (CVS) did more to promote ethical practices and sustainability through the products they sell. CVS has the opportunity to make a difference on the national level, whereas small gourmet shops such as Cardullo’s do not. What I learned from this class and the selection of chocolate at CVS is that CVS has the opportunity to create a conversation regarding ethically traded goods and by failing to promote these kinds of products CVS is not doing their part to help change consumer behavior. Browsing the selection of chocolate bars at Cardullo’s after taking this course made me appreciate how they are doing their part to educate consumers. Not many people in America have the opportunity to take a class on the politics of chocolate and understand the social and ethical concerns regarding chocolate. CVS and similar nation-scaled companies should recognize that the average consumer is unaware of the unethical practices behind chocolate and they should do their part to help educate them by promoting ethically sourced chocolate bars.
Martin, Carla D. 2016. Lecture 10: Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization.
Martin, Carla D. 2016. Lecture 13: Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice.
All photography taken by the author of this post