What Would you do for a Chocolate Bar? The Development of the Industrial Revolution and its effects on consumerism.

Today if someone wanted to have a chocolate bar, they would go to the supermarket and find at least ten different kinds of chocolates, in different shapes, flavors, and fillings. If you asked someone to name at least three chocolate companies they would be able to list at least five off the top of their head. Thanks to the industrial revolution (1760- 1840) chocolate is one of them most popular treat available today. In the 17th century, chocolate became a fashionable drink through Europe and was a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine which allowed not only mass production to be a possibility but also eliminated the socio-economic divide between classes due to chocolate’s availability. Throughout the industrial revolution chocolate went through several advancements including: the invention of the hydraulic press, dutching, inclusion of milk in chocolate, and conching.

In the book The True History of Chocolate, authors Sophie and Michael Coe write about the history of chocolate consumption before the industrial revolution “for at least 28 centuries, chocolate had been a drink of the elite and the very rich… the Industrial Revolution, which changed chocolate from a costly drink to a cheap food” (Coe & Coe 232 -233). Before chocolate could be made available for the masses a few advancements needed to take place starting with invention of the hydraulic press. In 1828, Dutch Chemist Coenraad Johannes Van Houten took out a patent on a process for the manufacture of a new kind of powdered chocolate with a very low fat content eventually creating the hydraulic press. “This allowed untreated chocolate “liquor”—the end result of the grinding process—which contains about 53 percent cacao butter, but Van Houten’s machine managed to reduce this to 27–28 percent, leaving a “cake” that could be pulverized into a fine powder” (Coe & Coe 260)  creating what today is known as cocoa. Van Houten treated this cocoa mix with alkaline salt (potassium or sodium carbonates) to mix better with water. This process became known as “Dutching” it improved the powder’s miscibility (not, as some believed, its solubility) in warm water, it made the chocolate darker in color and milder in flavor. Even today, many people prefer “Dutch” chocolate, thinking it to be stronger in taste, when it is only the difference in color that makes it seem so” (Coe & Coe 260). Van Houten’s discover lead to a large scale manufacture of cheap chocolate in both powdered and solid form for everyone regardless of their social class or economic status.

Twenty years after Van Houten’s discovery, Francis Fry of Fry Enterprises figured out how to mix a blend of cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter and cast it into a mold. Thus creating the first ever edible chocolate bar.  

The Fry Enterprise first chocolate bar.
Idea of little girls and sweetness seen in the first advertisement for Fry Chocolate bars.

Due to the demand for chocolate bars, the price of cacao butter increased, once again creating a class barrier for chocolate, by providing chocolate bars for the elite. However, this price increase of chocolate bars and cacao butter, decrease the price of cocoa powder making it available to the masses. With the emergence of chocolate companies in the United States chocolate bars soon became available for the masses. In the United States of America, the production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world.

One of the most important evolutions of chocolate consumption includes the use of milk. the addition of milk to chocolate bars is credited to two people the first is Henri Nestlé, a swiss chemist and Daniel Peter, a chocolate manufacturer. In 1867, Nestlé discovered a process to make powdered milk by evaporation; when mixed with water, this could be fed to infants and small children (Coe & Coe 268). In 1879, Peter used nestlé’s powder in the fabrication of a new kind of chocolate, thus the first milk chocolate bar was created. “The process was simple: they dried out the moisture in the mix and replaced it with cacao butter, so that it could be poured into a mold” (Coe & Coe 268). Without this the discovery of  Hershey Chocolate Kisses or famous Chocolate bars would not exist today.

One of the last advancements made during the industrial revolution was the process of conching created by Rudolphe Lindt in 1879, which improved the quality of chocolate confectionary. A very meticulous process, “The traditional conche is formed by a flat, granite bed with curved ends, upon which heavy granite rollers attached to robust steel arms move backwards and forwards; the rollers slap against the curved ends, causing the chocolate liquor to splash back over the rollers into the main body of the mechanism. Since the action of the process causes friction and therefore heat to build up in the chocolate dough or paste, the preliminary roasting of the cacao beans may sometimes be omitted. After 72 or more hours of such rock-and-roll treatment, the chocolate mass reaches the desired flavor, as well as attaining a high degree of smoothness, due to a reduction in the size of particles. ”(Coe & Coe 268 ). This advancement allowed chocolatiers to make smoother chocolate bars, tasting almost like fondant, getting rid of the coarse and gritty texture it used to have, conching then became a common practice among the business.

A history of how Chocolate is made as well as how the Industrial Revolution impacted the production of Chocolate.
The process of how Chocolate is manufactured and stored.

In The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe Carla Martin and Kathryn Sampeck explore the role of race, gender, and class inequality attributed with chocolate production and consumption. While analyzing the social inequality and popularization of chocolate Martin and Sampeck write “ With the industrialization of chocolate, it was no longer a commodity for the the elite, expensive or consumed primarily as a drink but rather an inexpensive cocoa powder to be drunk or low-cacao-content chocolate bar to be consumed as a food by elite and non-elite alike” ( 49).  Chocolate became a treat that anyone can purchase and enjoy, well known companies like Lindt, Nestlé, Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Mars, attempted to produce a product that would taste the same every time thereby commercialize a product that had gone through enormous changes since the pre-columbian mesoamerica days.

While seen in the past a commodity to establish social identity in Kirsty Leissle’s book Cocoa she writes that today modern American companies including Cadbury and Hershey have contributed to the pre-existing social identity of chocolate. “ The companies most successful at crafting this social identity, including Cadbury and Hershey, have helped steer consumer desire for chocolate in certain directions – as an affordable luxury, holiday accompaniment, and surrogate for romantic love” (Leissle, 9). This remains true today, often during Valentine’s day Chocolate hearts, boxes shaped like hearts containing chocolate or even chocolate cake at restaurants on this holiday connect the idea of love to chocolate. The effects of the industrial revolution remains a strong component of consumer consumption of chocolate today, due to the advancements of the past it has never been easier to produce chocolate or purchase. Today people can enter almost any store and find a chocolate bar and that should be celebrated!

Sources:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Martin, C. D., & Sampeck, K. E. (2015). The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe. Socio.hu, (Special issue 3), 37-60. doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37

Image Sources (in order of appearance):

https://www.gwra.co.uk/auctions/enamel-advertising-sign-fry-s-chocolate-five-boys-2013nov-0190.html

http://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/276/The-Fry-Family-Chocolate-Makers

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames and Hudson, 2013.

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