Monthly Archives: April 2019

Confronting Gender Inequality in West African Cocoa Production Through Chocolate Advertisements

Chocolate has been a fascination in the West since its discovery in Mesoamerica centuries ago. Early in the history of the Western consumption of chocolate, it became feminized. Chocolate was associated with luxury and leisure in the eighteenth century, but as it became more accessible to the working class in the nineteenth century, women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption in the family (Robertson, 2009). Due to the persistent feminization of chocolate, women have been the focus of marketing campaigns to sell chocolate. Cocoa adverts have fetishized images of western housewives, mothers, and women in heterosexual relationships to sell their products (Martin, 2019a). These women are often depicted as becoming irrational, narcissistic, or excessively aroused due to chocolate. However, these advertisements reveal the underlying prejudice and stereotyping that exists in the cocoa supply chain. Chocolate largely originates from the cocoa farmed in West Africa, which produces 75% of the world’s cocoa. Although this arrangement began in the 1800s, West Africans only consume 4% of the world’s chocolate (Martin, 2019b). This is due to the fact that most African-grown cocoa is exported abroad for production and the primary markets for these chocolate producers are thus outside of Africa. The romanticized image of chocolate in Western advertisements neglects the labor that goes into farming cocoa and the challenges that cocoa farmers in West Africa face. Furthermore, the dilemmas within the cocoa supply chain are exacerbated for women cocoa farmers, who are often denied privileges their male counterparts are afforded and are especially susceptible to certain dangers. Rather than focusing on Western women, who are not involved in the production of chocolate, a newer campaign has emerged to empower West African women cocoa farmers and bring light to just how integral they are in the production of chocolate.

It has been documented that women have been involved in the cocoa industry since its inception in West Africa, specifically Ghana (Robertson, 2009). Cocoa farming would not have gotten to where it is today without the labor of women, as it was central in almost every aspect of cocoa production and sale (Robertson, 2009). However, these contributions have not been met with the appropriate amount of recognition and credit. This blog will highlight women farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which are two of the world’s largest cocoa-growing countries and both are found in West Africa. In Ghana, women cocoa farmers earn 25%-30% less than their male counterparts and in Côte d’Ivoire women cocoa farmers earn up to 70% less than their male counterparts (Pacyniak, 2014). Also, in both countries women are met with more obstacles, such as lower farm productivity, smaller farms, and less access to financing and farm inputs. Gender gaps beyond cocoa income and productivity plague women cocoa farmers in Ghana, as women have a 25% lower level of training, a 20% lower receipt of loans, and 30%-40% lower access to critical farm inputs (e.g. fertilizer). According to women cocoa farmers, they lack the funds necessary to hire labor, making it difficult to produce cocoa (Odoi-Larbi, 2008). Gender inequality in Ivorian cocoa farming manifests in almost none of the 4% of women in cocoa co-operatives having leadership positions. Furthermore, in Côte d’Ivoire 86% of men had legal rights to their plots, while in 67% of cases, the land accessed by women was not owned by them. Although Fairtrade is an institutional arrangement designed to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions, not all West African cocoa farmers benefit equally from Fairtrade (“Does Fairtrade mean a fair deal for female cocoa farmers?”, 2016). For instance, even though Fairtrade is a positive force in Ghana, women cocoa farmers are not benefitting from Fairtrade to the same extent as their male counterparts. It was found that many of the poorest and most marginalized cocoa farmers in Ghana are excluded from participating in such co-operatives, and most of these farmers are women.

The previously mentioned trials and tribulations of women cocoa farmers are addressed in the video below. As was mentioned earlier, the global cocoa supply comes from small farms in West Africa, but these farmers are often paid poorly for what they grow. Typically, women take on the heavy lifting when it comes to their share of the work, but they see minimal profits. The women in this video are from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and although they do most of the work, only a quarter of the cocoa farms are owned by women. The women explain this disparity, as they discuss the patriarchy that prohibits them from inheriting land. More recently, however, Fairtrade has made strides to ensure that support exists that helps women raise their income and their voices. This includes eliminating women’s dependency upon their husbands and giving women their own land on which they can produce their own cocoa. With their own farms, these women are more independent and can flourish with the right resources available to them. The video ends by urging consumers around the world to choose Fairtrade chocolate in order to support these women cocoa farmers. Other efforts have been started to raise awareness about these farmers, as the injustice of women working for nothing to produce the chocolate that we love must end.

Fairtrade and gender inequality in West Africa

Several efforts have commenced to promote corporate social responsibility, which would aid in the fight for equality for women in the cocoa supply chain. One such effort is Cocoa Life, which began in 2008 and is empowering women in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities (Amekudzi, 2013). Cocoa Life was created by Mondelēz International, a company looking to advance the rights of women cocoa farmers by increasing the emphasis on gender equality in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and advocating for industry-wide action (Pacyniak, 2014). To address the aforementioned challenges women cocoa farmers face, Mondelēz International presented new action plans to build upon its Cocoa Life program. This plan was a $400 million, 10-year effort set in motion in 2012. In Ghana, this project is farmer centered and based on Cocoa Life’s Cadbury Cocoa Partnership in Ghana. Specifically, Cocoa Life encourages entrepreneurship among women cocoa farmers through farmer education on cocoa agronomy and farmer training at the village level. The video below, produced by Cocoa Life, involves interviews of women cocoa farmers in Ghana who recount the times when they were excluded from the ins and outs of cocoa farming. They have been encouraged to mobilize and learn how to manage their own farms. Their situations have been improved and they have set the stage for future women cocoa farmers to prosper in their communities.

Mondelēz International, Cocoa Life, and Ghanaian women’s rights in cocoa farming

Another example of an attempt at corporate social responsibility to help women in West African communities is The Cargill Cocoa Promise. Cargill recognized that women are forced to balance household work with cocoa farming, in conjunction with having unequal access to training, inputs, and education (“Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire”, 2014). The Cargill Cocoa Promise aims to understand how gender barriers limit access to skills, information, and inputs amongst women cocoa farmers. This project kickstarted inclusive training sessions and raised awareness of gender issues. Practical steps were proposed to improve the day-to-day activities of these farmers. The people in the video below discuss how this project was conceived and executed in Côte d’Ivoire. Researchers found that culture was a driving force that exacerbated the issues plaguing women cocoa farmers, as culture determined who got to own land. They encouraged discussions within the communities in order to facilitate change and overcome the cultural biases. Also, this project increased financial literacy among women cocoa farmers, as the organizers established village savings and loan schemes, which would aid in entrepreneurship efforts.

The Cargill Cocoa Promise, corporate social responsibility, and women empowerment in West Africa

As was preliminarily mentioned, a newer campaign has emerged to shed light on the West African women who make large contributions to the production of chocolate. Divine Chocolate Limited is a purveyor of Fairtrade chocolate and although it was originally established in the United Kingdom, it is co-owned by the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farmers’ co-operative in Ghana. In order to emphasize to UK chocolate shoppers that Ghana is a cocoa origin site, Divine Chocolate released a set of advertisements that feature women cocoa farmers from Ghana, and these advertisements appeared in British editions of women’s magazines, such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Red, and OK! (Leissle, 2012). As is shown in the images below, the women cocoa farmers are depicted as glamorous business owners who participate in transnational exchanges of raw materials and luxury goods, and as beneficiaries of these exchanges. These women are a part of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, which makes them co-owners of Divine Chocolate. The advertisements emphasize the women’s position as co-owners, as they state each woman’s name along with her position. Also, Ghana’s adinkra symbols appears on Divine Chocolate’s bar wrappers and this is shown in the photographs. Furthermore, the background of each advertisement shows ‘Africa’, which is represented by images of Ghana’s agricultural economy. This includes cocoa drying tables, plantain trees, coconut trees, mud buildings, and dusty roads. Each woman appears in the foreground holding pieces of chocolate, which is a luxury food made from the fruit they farm. These images are paired with titles such as ‘Equality Treat’, ‘Decadently Decent’, and ‘Serious Chocolate Appeal’ in order to suggest to consumers that their own enjoyment of Divine Chocolate bars should come not only from the joy of eating chocolate, but from the fact that the women who farm the cocoa also enjoy it. This implies that the Kuapa Kokoo women cocoa farmers not only grow the raw materials, but they also consume the chocolate. This is a far cry from the statistic reported earlier that said only 4% of West Africans consume the world’s chocolate.

Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Beatrice Mambi.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.
Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Priscilla Agyemeng.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.
Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Rita Nimako.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.

Divine Chocolate’s advertisements are revolutionary in that they do not rely on the stereotypical and romanticized images of Western women to sell their chocolate. Instead, this company is knocking down two birds with one stone: they are empowering West African women cocoa farmers while challenging the notion that Africa is not modern. Leissle states that “the Divine images pose a challenge to narratives that cast Africa as continually on the losing side of harmful dualisms and reframe Africa’s role in modernity” (2012). In Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa”, he challenges Western literature that persistently refuses to disperse a picture of a “well-adjusted African” (unless he or she has won a Nobel Prize), neglects the fact that the continent is dynamic in that it is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, and savannahs, and depicts the African woman as starving, nearly naked, and waiting for the aid of the West (2006). However, the Divine Chocolate adverts pose the Ghanaian women cocoa farmers as “attractive, socially mobile beneficiaries of their own development efforts” (Leissle, 2012). The videos previously discussed highlighted that West African women are commonly held back in their farming endeavors by the patriarchal notion that women are only instrumental in uplifting the family. However, the Divine women are not tethered to their responsibilities as wives and mothers and are not viewed as reproductive laborers in these advertisements. These women are framed as “active agents of a self-gratifying transnational business arrangement” (Leissle, 2012). Overall, the combinations of the Divine women’s playful, yet strong, poses, the invitation to enjoy chocolate, and the text present West African women cocoa farmers as savvy luxury consumers and implies their individual participation in the privileged aspects of modernity narratives (Leissle, 2012).

One way to address and combat the gender inequality that exists in the cocoa supply chain is to draw attention to West African women as primary contributors. The fetishization of Western women in chocolate advertisements only exacerbates the issue at hand because it masks the labor that was invested into producing the chocolate. In looking at the origins of the chocolate, one will find that West Africa as the world’s primary cocoa growing region is faced with many critical challenges, such as volatile income, unfair farm economics, and lack of laborers (Martin, 2019b). Women cocoa farmers are especially harmed by these challenges as the patriarchy in West Africa makes it difficult for them to overcome these obstacles. However, some solutions have gone into effect to empower these women. Additionally, Divine Chocolate’s campaign presents “a fresh visual reframing of the exchanges of goods and capital between Africa and Europe” (Leissle, 2012). Other purveyors of chocolate should follow in Divine Chocolate’s footsteps when it comes to advertisements and give credit to the people who make eating chocolate possible.

References

Amekudzi, Y. P. (2013, February 28). Cocoa Life- the project empowering women in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://businessfightspoverty.org/articles/yaa-peprah-amekudzi-cocoa-life-the-project-empowering-women-in-ghanas-cocoa-growing-communities-2/

Does Fairtrade mean a fair deal for female cocoa farmers? (2016). European Union News.

Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire. (2014, April 15). Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.cargill.com/story/empowering-women-cocoa-farmers

Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2), 121-139.

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture April 3: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements. Harvard University.

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture March 27: Modern day slavery. Harvard University.

Odoi-Larbi, S. (2008). Female Cocoa Farmers Cry for Help. Africa News Service.

Pacyniak, B. (2014). Mondelez affirming women’s rights in cocoa-growing areas. Candy Industry, 179(6), 12-13.

Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Studies in imperialism (Manchester, England)). Manchester; New York: New York: Manchester University Press; Distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.

Wainaina, B. (2006, January 19). How to Write About Africa. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://granta.com/how-to-write-about-africa/

Multimedia sources

Cargill. (2016, March 7). Women in agriculture: empowering African cocoa farmers [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYeGiFHlDm4

Fairtrade Foundation. (2019, March 5). Meet the Women Cocoa Farmers Facing Adversity in the Ivory Coast [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP5NR3BbdKE

Mondelez International. (2013, November 12). Cocoa Life: Community leaders – Interview with Gladys and Vida in Ghana [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/REMKY62MHno

Images retrieved from Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2), 121-139.

Made with a Feminine Touch: Beth’s Chocolate and the Larger History of Women Creating Chocolate

In the chocolate industry, there are just a handful of companies that produce over 60% of the world’s confections. They are nicknamed ‘the Big Five’ and are as follows: Hershey’s, Mars, Kraft, Nestle, and Ferrero (Martin, Introduction, Slide 5). These companies produce some of the candies we all know and love such as Hershey’s Kisses, Snickers Bars, Cadbury Eggs, and Kit Kats, just to name a few, and they were all founded by men. In fact, they are still run by men with the exception of Hershey’s who just elected its first female CEO in 2017. What does this mean for women? Have they never created chocolate because of gender and cultural barriers, or rather, are they just not recognized at the forefront of its production? In this article, I will argue the latter. Just last month, I had the pleasure to meet Beth Kirsch, a chocolatier in Newton Massachusetts and owner of Beth’s Chocolates. Beth is among a new wave successful female chocolatiers and chocolate producers in the 21st century, but we can find women making chocolate in almost every time period that chocolate has appeared.

Meet Beth

Beth Kirsch had an unusual route to chocolate. She spent the majority of her adult life as a children’s media producer for PBS, winning three Emmy’s for the series Between the Lions (Kirsch, Beth Kirsch Chocolatier). Beth always loved chocolate, however, and one day in 2012, she attempted to mold a chocolate bar into the shape of an Eiffel Tower; it was an utter disaster. The chocolate stuck to the mold, and when it finally did come out, it tasted terrible. Beth immediately decided she would learn to work with chocolate. She enrolled in a three-hour class at ChocoLee Chocolates, and it was here that she learned the process of tempering. A year later, she took a three-month internship at EH Chocolatier in Somerville, and after that, she enrolled in an online course at the Vancouver based Ecole Chocolat to earn a professional chocolatier certificate. Then, in 2016, she traveled to France to become a master chocolatier through the Valrhona Ecole Du Grand (Pyenson). With all this knowledge, Beth was able to make those chocolate Eiffel Towers she had once desired and much more. She decided to launch her own confectionary business from her newly certified kitchen, and thus, Beth’s chocolates began.

Beth is a chocolatier; she does not create her own chocolate from bean-to-bar but buys bars from others to use in her confections. Beth specifically likes to use Valrhona, a fine cacao chocolate brand from France that is known for its exceptional flavor and ethical sourcing (Kirsch, ‘Chocolate Tasting and Seminar’). By melting down these bars, she can add her own additional ingredients, re-mold them, and then decorate them into something else entirely- into Beth’s chocolates. For example, in the image below, you can see one of Beth’s most popular and award-winning bonbons called Fig-In-A-Box. To make this, Beth first creates a fig puree, adds aged balsamic vinegar, transforms the concoction into a French pate de fruit, hand dips it in Valrhona dark chocolate, and finally, brushes it with gold stripes (Kirsch, Chocolates: Fig-in-a-box). The chocolate coating itself may not be her own, but she invents the unique combination of flavors and the delicate design. Some of her other popular bonbons include Pomegranate, Cappuccino, Cognac, Ginger 3 Ways, Passion Fruit, and Salted Dark Caramel. In 2018 alone, Beth’s Chocolates won ten different awards, a huge achievement considering how new her company is (Kirsch, Beth Kirsch Chocolatier).

Beth’s Fig-in-a-box Bonbon (http://www.bethschocolate.com/product/fig-in-a-box/)

 Looking at her path into chocolate, Beth rose to prominence with the help of many women. She first took a class at ChocoLee’s in Boston, which was founded by Lee Napoli, a gifted female pastry chef and former chocolatier. EH Chocolatier, where she interned, is also run by two women, Elaine Hsieh and Catharine Sweeney. In my own conversation with Beth, I asked her about her experience as a female chocolatier (Kirsch, ‘Chocolate Tasting and Seminar’). She explained to me how in France where she once trained, almost all of the chocolatiers are men and the profession is like an exclusive gentlemen’s club. However, in the States and particularly Boston, she has seen an incredible opportunity for women to create chocolate confections for two reasons. Firstly, Beth pointed out how you can become a chocolatier with little to no formal training, although it certainly helps. Secondly, you can become a chocolatier at any time in life, even after pursuing a career in an entirely different field. Indeed, she began experimenting with chocolate confections after working in television for most of her life. Elaine and Catherine from EH Chocolatier had been a doctor and a Harvard administrator respectively. I turned to the FCCI to corroborate Beth’s information and was pleasantly shocked by howmany chocolatiers were women. According to the FCCI website, there are currently fourteen chocolatiers using fine cacao in the United States; of those, nine are independently run by women and an additional two are co-operated by a man and woman duo (Martin, ‘Map’). In the map below, you can see specifically where these various chocolateries are dispersed across the United States; just as Beth had mentioned, many are clumped together in New England- eight out of the fourteen to be exact.  Women’s current role as chocolate creators is not a new one, but rather, a more formalized one. If we turn to the history of chocolate, we can find them creating it in every era and often for men. 

U.S Chocolateries as registered with the FCCI (Me via Mapline)

Turning Back the Clock to Find Women Making Chocolate

In colonial times, women primarily created and served chocolate as a beverage. Chocolate consumption originated in the Olmec civilization, a people who occupied the modern-day Gulf of Mexico from 1400 to 400 BC (Leissle, 29). The practice then spread to the Mayan and Aztecs societies, both of whom enjoyed their chocolate as a drink made from crushed seeds. Farmers would grow, harvest, ferment, dry, and roast the cocoa beans, much like we do today, but from there, a woman would grind the beans on a stone, add water, add additional flavors like corn maize, and finally and most importantly, pour the beverage from one vessel to another in a highly symbolic fashion to produce a foamy head on it (Coe and Coe, Kindle location 872). It could then be served to a prominent Mayan or Aztec, perhaps a king, merchant, or warrior. We can find abundant evidence that women were primarily made these chocolate beverages in much of the art from this time period. For example, the Princeton Vase featured below is a piece of ceramics dated between 670-750 A.D. It depicts a Mayan god sitting on his throne, surrounded by female figures which are assumed to be his concubines. One of these women stands behind him in the bottom right corner of the image, pouring chocolate from one vessel to another to generate the highly desired foam. As captured by this vase, chocolate may have been consumed by mostly men in the Mayan and Aztec societies, but it was women who were responsible for its creation.

The Princeton Vase (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Princeton_Vase#/media/File:God_L_with_the_Hero_Twins.jpg)

In the Baroque Period, women still prepared and served chocolate drinks to men, but now, to European ones. This trend first appeared in New Spain when poor Spanish settlers would often marry native women. When these Aztec housewives would cook for their husbands, they brought many of their customary dishes and ingredients into the kitchen. This often included a chocolate beverage prepared in much same manner it was among their own people, but now, combined with old world spices such as cinnamon and sugar (Coe and Coe, Kindle location 1583). These hybridized drinks were later transported back to Europe, and by the 17th century, some of the first Coffee houses started to appear in England. Despite their name, coffee houses served a variety of foreign, imported beverages, but coffee, tea, and chocolate were the most popular among them (Coe and Coe, Kindle Location 2425). As can be seen in the image below, these were male-dominated spaces where men would convene to talk politics, culture, and most importantly, sip a cup of coffee or chocolate or tea while doing so. However, if you look at the far left side of the image, there is one single woman behind a bar; she is preparing the actual chocolate. So, although women were not welcomed as patrons, they appeared in coffee shops in subtler forms as owners, waiters, or cooks. In fact, 20% of coffee shops during this time were owned and operated by a woman (Cowan, 147). Women helped make chocolate accessible, solidifying and gratifying the European craving for it.

Drawing of a 17th Century Coffee House (https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=752544&partId=1)

Following the Industrial Revolution, women continued to serve chocolate as a beverage while also learning how to incorporate it into new foods. Throughout the 19th century, a variety of new machines were created to transform the cocoa bean into something else entirely. Two of the most important products that emerged from this context were Dutch cocoa powder and solid chocolate bars (Martin, Slides 60-69). A variety of cookbooks and cooking classes soon appeared that attempted to teach women how to bake with these new chocolate varieties. In America, for example, celebrity chef Maria Parloa alongside the Walter Baker Chocolate company published the 1909 pamphlet Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes and Homemade Candy Recipes that detailed a variety of different chocolate preparations from the classics like hot chocolate, chocolate milkshakes, and chocolate pudding, to more unique dishes like chocolate eclairs, cake, cookies and even jelly (Martin, ‘Brownies’). Just a few years prior, another famous chef named Fannie Farmer published her 1906  Boston Cooking School Cookbook that included one of the earliest mentions of brownies (Martin, ‘Brownies’). The recipe, which is included below, called for two squares of Walter Baker’s chocolate as well as chopped walnut meat, something that might surprise a modern audience today. These cookbooks did not just teach women how to prepare chocolate in new ways but encouraged them to serve chocolate more frequently overall. These women were helping to transform chocolate from an occasional indulgence to an ever increasing part of the American diet.

Fannie Farmer’s Brownie Recipe (https://archive.org/details/bostoncookingsch00farmrich/page/n563)

By the late 20th, and early 21st century, artisan chocolate bars began to emerge to differentiate themselves in taste and quality from the Big Five companies; many of these businesses are owned by women. For example, one chocolate that Beth Kirsch herself buys is Castronovo chocolate, founded by Denise Castronovo in 2013 in Florida. Castronovo directly sources fine heirloom cacao beans from South American farmers, and then roasts, winnows, grinds, refines, conches, tempers, and wraps the bars in her own factory packaged under her own last name (Balmaseda). Castronovo is one of the only women to have been recognized at the prestigious International Chocolate Awards, and as of today, she has a staggering 26 awards (Thomson). Another female-run bean-to-bar company is ‘57 Chocolate, founded in 2016 by sisters Kimberly and Priscilla Addison out of Ghana. In the 10-minute interview below, they discuss how they started the company to prove that Ghana is not just a country for growing and exporting cacao beans, but one that can create artisan chocolate itself. They are leading the way in this crusade, sourcing fine beans from local farmers and transforming it from their kitchen into truly Ghanaian chocolate bars (Addison and Addison). In fact, as mentioned in the interview, many of their bars feature different adinkra symbols, which were historically designed and used by indigenous Ghanaian tribes. Female chocolate makers are vastly outnumbered by male ones, but they are nonetheless present all over the world, and more are entering the profession every year.

Kimberly and Priscilla Anderson on ’57 Chocolate (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0SdUC6ajbU)

Back to Beth: One Woman Among Many

Beth Kirsch is just one example of a woman involved in the chocolate industry, specifically as a self-employed chocolatier. However, she is far from alone. As history has shown, women have always been involved in preparing chocolate, in different places, in different forms, and for different people. These women were often overlooked by society, but they always existed, and as the saying goes, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Now in the 21st century, we can clearly see more and more women entering the chocolate industry as bean-to-bar makers or chocolatiers. Finally, they have the formal title they lacked for so long. Now, it is the job of other organizations to start recognizing their chocolate, awarding it, and bringing it into public knowledge. As previously mentioned, all of the ‘Big Five’ chocolate companies were started by men, but maybe in the future, we can see the rise of a sixth company, this one run by a woman.

Works Cited

Addison, Kimberly, and Priscilla Addison. “Our Story.” ’57 Chocolate, 2018, http://www.57chocolategh.com/about.

Balmaseda, Liz. “Tiny Chocolate Factory in Stuart Wins Huge International Awards.” Feast Palm Beach, 17 July 2015, feastpb.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2015/07/17/tiny-chocolate-factory-in-stuart-wins-huge-international-awards/.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2019.

Cowan, Brian. “What Was Masculine About the Public Sphere? Gender and the Coffeehouse Milieu in Post-Restoration England.” History Workshop Journal, vol. 51, no. 1, 2001, pp. 127–157., doi:10.1093/hwj/2001.51.127.

Kirsch , Beth. “Beth Kirsch Chocolatier .” Beth’s Chocolate, 2019, http://www.bethschocolate.com/about/.

Kirsch , Beth. “Chocolate Tasting and Seminar.” Women of Winthrop Speaker Series. Women of Winthrop Speaker Series, 24 Apr. 2019, Cambridge , MA.

Kirsch , Beth. “Chocolates: Fig-in-a-Box.” Beth’s Chocolate, 2019, http://www.bethschocolate.com/chocolates/.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Martin , Carla. “Introduction .” AAAS119x. AAAS119x, 30 Jan. 2019, Cambridge, MA.

Martin, Carla. “Brownies.” US History Scene, 10 Apr. 2015, ushistoryscene.com/article/brownies/. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.

Martin, Carla. “Map .” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, 2019, chocolateinstitute.org/resources/map/.

Martin, Carla. “Sugar and Cacao .” AAA119X. AAA119X, 20 Feb. 2019, Cambridge, MA.

Pyenson, Andrea. “From Children’s Media to Chocolate Making.” BostonGlobe.com, The Boston Globe, 1 Dec. 2015, www2.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/food-dining/2015/12/01/from-children-media-chocolate-making/LIjH0TgDtHhGanjmoZHxYL/story.html.

Thomson, Julie R. “Surprise! Florida Makes Some Of The World’s Best Chocolate.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 3 May 2017, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/best-chocolate-florida_n_59088cf5e4b05c397682bc33.

Multi-Media Works Cited

British Museum. “Interior of a London Coffee-House.” The British Museum, The Trustees of the British Museum, 2019, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=290256001&objectid=752544.

Farmer, Fannie. “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1906 .” Internet Archive, Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 2006, archive.org/details/bostoncookingsch00farmrich/page/n563.

Kirsch, Beth. “Fig-in-a-Box.” Beth’s Chocolate, 2019, http://www.bethschocolate.com/product/fig-in-a-box/.

Ostrover, Olivia. “U.S Chocolatiers.” Mapline, 30 Apr. 2019, app.mapline.com/map/map_4f4f4836.

Pyenson, Andrea. “From Children’s Media to Chocolate Making.” BostonGlobe.com, The Boston Globe, 1 Dec. 2015, www2.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/food-dining/2015/12/01/from-children-media-chocolate-making/LIjH0TgDtHhGanjmoZHxYL/story.html.

RAW AFRICA, director. The Two Sisters Reviving Ghana’s Chocolate Market with ’57 Chocolate . YouTube, YouTube, 23 Feb. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0SdUC6ajbU&t=204s.

Robicsek, Francis. “Category:Princeton Vase.” Category:Princeton Vase – Wikimedia Commons, University of Virginia Art Museum , 2019, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Princeton_Vase#/media/File:God_L_with_the_Hero_Twins.jpg.

Fair Trade, An Interview with Jonathan Rosenthal: Ethical Choices in the World of Chocolate and Beyond

For as long as chocolate’s popularity has reigned, questions about the ethicality of cacao production across the world have also been prevalent. When chocolate was first introduced to Europe, its influence was fairly restricted to only the most elite members of society, with limited influence beyond the one percent of society. In a similar vein, sugar as a commodity was only consumed by the wealthy, with limited medicinal influence. As European Historian Woodruff D. Smith explained in his paper “Complications of the Commonplace: Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism”, “sugar was the object of a sustained vogue in Northern Europe” in the 1500s and 1600s. But as sugar and chocolate, became increasingly popular across the continent, its production was forced to catch up with the suddenly commonplace consumer good. In order to make sugar and chocolate available to the consumer population, there had to be significant “growth of West Indian plantation production and the high level of integration between production and distribution” (Smith, 262). These concerns over labor conditions and plantations have continued across the ensuing centuries, as many cacao farmers in Africa are still not paid a living wage, forced to work arduously for minimal pay. This struggle highlights one of the fundamental problems with the cacao production chain, as the lion’s share of profit is enjoyed by the retailers, who are most removed from the cacao production process. Meanwhile, cacao farmers tend to see less than seven percent of the value of cocoa sales (Cocoa Barometer 2015). The website https://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0 is a resource that demonstrates the struggles of many people that are lower on the chain of production, like farmers and traders, especially relative to manufacturers and retailers. It is along this backdrop of unfairness and inequality, that arrangements like Fair Trade arise.

A diagram representing the percentages of revenue going to different sectors of chocolate production.

The central principle of Fair Trade was designed to protect the interests of producers, in order to pay them a living wage. Fair Trade guarantees farmers a baseline price, which enables them to put food on the table and make ends meet on a more consistent basis year-round. I had the opportunity to interview Jonathan Rosenthal, one of the early pioneers of the American Fair Trade movement, from the 1980s onwards. Rosenthal, along with Rink Dickinson and Michael Rozyne, helped popularize Fair Trade in the form of a business that would reconnect people to their food in an ethical and just manner (Just-Works.com). Rosenthal’s foray into the Fair Trade movement morphed into idea of Equal Exchange coffee, a worker-owned Fair Trade company, and later into Oke USA, the first American Fair Trade fruit company.

Equal Exchange Coffee was the company that Rosenthal helped create, early in his career.

“Three of us decided we would set up our own food company, somewhat in response to all the things that we couldn’t do in the consumer food coop world, so we decided to set up a worker-owned Fair Trade food company,” Rosenthal said. “We set out to set up a food company to basically see how idealistic we could be and still survive. So now how I summarize it is instead of paying as low a price as possible to farmers, what would it mean to have the aspiration to pay farmers as high a price as possible and still survive in the market.”

Articles previously written about Rosenthal demonstrate the breadth of his knowledge, and touch upon his impressive experience in the Fair Trade world. https://grist.org/article/rosenthal/ My conversation with Rosenthal helped shed light on the relationship between Fair Trade and chocolate, as well as the importance of continuing to improve working conditions for farmers worldwide.

“The idea of Fair Trade is, how can we, in a practical way, integrate our core social, spiritual, economic, political values in how we live our lives. In the case of Fair Trade, that’s about how products are sourced, especially since very little of our population knows where their food comes from,” Rosenthal said. “My work in Fair Trade was about helping people connect or reconnect to food, and connecting to understanding who produced the food, and how it was produced. Feeling like it’s ethical and sustainable, and that people are being treated well enough. Take the case of coffee or cacao, most of those products are grown in very terrible conditions, but it’s so far away and so far removed through processing from our daily lives of eating a chocolate bar, you have no idea how people lived that helped produce this. The simple idea of Fair Trade is to provide some transparency and fairly compensate farmers.”

A four-minute summary of the basic tenets of Fair Trade.

In the past several decades since Rosenthal’s foray into the food world, and as Fair Trade has grown in prominence across the United States, some influential companies have taken steps towards sourcing their products in a more ethical manner. An archetypal example of this is Kraft Foods, that created “the Cocoa Partnership, established by Cadbury, [which] has committed approximately $70 million to invest in cocoa farming over ten years” (Kruschwitz). The Cocoa Partnership in Ghana was designed to help sustain the next generation of cacao farmers in Ghana, and demonstrate a desire to improve working conditions for farmers nationwide. This Partnership is an example of one of the ways in which large conglomerates can take positive steps towards change. While initiatives like these constitute movement in the right direction, there is still much more work to do from a corporate perspective. One of the biggest problems is that as larger companies like Kraft and Starbucks become increasingly involved in Fair Trade movements, the meaning and radicalism of these movements can become changed or watered down.

“I think trying to create transformational change in corporate America by threatening and attacking and policing is really really difficult and it’s hard to see a long term win in that,” said Rosenthal, about Fair Trade’s initial strategy of being combative towards corporations like Kraft Foods. “Working with large corporations, large NGOs and nonprofits, and governments is important, because those are areas with a lot of resources, so if you can convince those people to do things differently, you can have a big impact. The challenge of this of course, is that a lot of those big institutions and people that have a lot of power and have a lot of responsibility, it’s really hard for them to create big change, even small things, because systems have momentum. And it’s really hard to shift the momentum. So it’s often not because they’re bad people or bad CEOs, but they’re in a system that has momentum and structure.”

Not only have the fluctuation of world market cocoa prices impacted farmers’ incomes, but taxes and local trading structures have had a similarly negative effect. For example, over the past decade, farmers in the Ivory Coast have been able to retrieve merely between 40 to 50% of the world market price for their beans (Makechocolatefair.org).  The volatility of the world market prices for cocoa also result in unpredictability for the livelihood of farmers. While Rosenthal’s experience with these problems are more concentrated in the coffee and fruit industries, he sees the chocolate production chain as similarly problematic, but potentially remedied by Fair Trade organization.

Cacao Production in the Ivory Coast, one of the countries where farmers constantly struggle with fluctuating market prices.

“One of the things about Fair Trade certification is that they usually have a floor price, and farmers and never paid lower than that price,” Rosenthal explained. “So that provides a lot of stability for farmers, knowing that at least the product that they sell to the Fair Trade system, they will always get at least a certain price. And so they can always afford basic necessities for most of the year and can help put food on the table, and send their kids school, those kinds of things. So for me, that gets us to another one of the core things that Fair Trade does, which is to create that stability.”

The implications of low incomes for farmers extends well beyond putting food on the table. These problems can result in farmers’ employment of child labor, as well as reducing salaries and farming using less environmentally sustainable techniques (Makechocolatefair.org). While this might not sound like a significant issue, utilizing less sustainable methods of farming for cacao production can have ecological and environmental consequences. As our planet enters a more critical juncture in the battle against climate change, it is important to understand the ways in which unjust labor and production chains can result in less sustainable farming. Against this backdrop, Fair Trade movements are all the more important.

“I think overall, Fair Trade and environmental work overlap a lot,” Rosenthal said. “One of the big dilemmas is that the more success Fair Trade has, and the more integrated into the market and capitalism it becomes, which is inevitable if you’re gonna succeed, is that the opportunity to create change is less. In the earlier days of Fair Trade it was easier to create change or talk about making change in a more revolutionary way.”

Fair Trade hasn’t always been as prevalent as it is today, however. One of the struggles that the Fair Trade movement has consistently sought to resolve is consumer’s willingness to spend more money for ethically sourced products. A study conducted by Patrick De Pelsmacker, Liesbeth Driesen, and Glenn Rayp sought to determine the premium that Belgian consumers were willing to pay for Fair-Trade coffee. The three scholars, all academics at Ghent University in Belgium, sampled over 800 consumers in Belgian supermarkets to determine their purchasing practices. On average, consumers were willing to pay approximately 10 percent more for their Fair Trade coffee, than they would otherwise spend on a normal brand (De Pelsmacker et. al, 376). Unfortunately, the price premium for coffee in Belgium during the study was around 27 percent, which is 17 percent more than the average consumer was willing to spend. Therefore, amongst the sample, only around 10 percent of the 808 consumers were willing to pay a 27 percent premium for their coffee, while 90 percent were either unwilling to pay a premium or were willing to pay a premium of less than 27 percent (De Pelsmacker et. al, 379).

While this study was focused on coffee in Belgium, its results have implications beyond this one specific example, capturing one of the core questions at the heart of the Fair Trade movement. If it costs more, are consumers willing to pay for more ethical sourcing? If cacao farmers are going to be paid fairly for their work, allowing them to farm more sustainably, avoid child labor, while earning a living wage, it will require willingness on the part of the consumer. Many experts, Rosenthal included, believe that future generations are more aware of the concept of Fair Trade, making them more likely to lean into the idea of spending more money for ethical products.

“In terms of it becoming more popularized, I think people are willing to pay more for quality. The social values, the ethical criteria, are becoming part of the quality menu for younger people. There’s a lot more awareness today that part of quality is social relationships embedded in the products. When I started in this industry, none of that really was around,” contextualized Rosenthal on how newer generations of consumers are becoming increasingly aware. “Younger generations, take it for granted, they know to look for some label, whether it’s organic, or fair trade products, or it’s a direct trade or there’s cage free, like, there’s so many now, different programs, hundreds, really, for all different kinds of products. And so I think, to me, that’s very exciting. The downside is that most people have no idea what those things really stand for.”

Ultimately, much of Rosenthal’s work and experience have serious implications for the cacao industry. The plight of cacao farmers is undeniable, as the large majority, particularly in Africa, struggle to consistently provide for their families. Unfair production chains and fluctuating costs mean that many are unable to have reliable income, forcing some child labor among a myriad of other problems. In order to help ameliorate conditions, alternatives like Fair Trade can help provide a fair price to farmers, and provide them with stability and structure. Fair Trade is not without its flaws, however, as some believe that it creates a price ceiling instead of a price floor, and it can reward lower quality beans with higher prices. Despite these drawbacks, overall, Fair Trade’s effects seem reliably more positive than allowing the market to regulate itself, particularly for farmers. From a consumer perspective, the choice seems fairly straightforward as well, for those that can afford to be ethically conscious.

“I think we are what we eat to some extent,” Rosenthal said. “We all have dreams and aspirations about who we want to be and what we want the world to be. Fair Trade is, in a way, a microcosm of that same dilemma.”

Bibliography

Scholarly

De Pelsmacker, P., Driesen, L., & Rayp, G. (2005). Do Consumers Care about Ethics? Willingness to Pay for Fair‐Trade Coffee. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 39(2), 363-385.

Kruschwitz, N. (2012). Why kraft foods cares about fair trade chocolate. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(1), 1-4.

Smith, W. (1992). Complications of the Commonplace: Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 23(2), 259-278.

Grist. “Jonathan Rosenthal, Fair-Trade Fruit Purveyor, Answers Questions.” Grist, 10 Oct. 2006, grist.org/article/rosenthal/.

“Cocoa Prices and Income of Farmers.” Make Chocolate Fair!, 16 Aug. 2017, makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0.

“5 Unintended Fair Trade Coffee Problems.” Camano Island Coffee, camanoislandcoffee.com/fair-trade-coffee-problems/.

Multimedia

https://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0

https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=xIX04o0xxa4

https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS761US761&biw=1440&bih=706&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=qwPFXLu_B4LL_QaQ5Z74Dw&q=ivory+coast+cacao+farmer+price&oq=ivory+coast+cacao+farmer+price&gs_l=img.3…1021951.1026243..1026307…0.0..0.107.1884.28j1……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i8i30j0i10i24j0i24.Dm6vW15uWTk#imgrc=vnTvegc0Lih5EM:

https://twitter.com/FairTradeCert/status/983388476069613568

Pioneers of change: Taza and Raaka.

With the rise in the number of chocolate producers, issues surrounding the production of chocolate and its sourcing have also come to the forefront. Through the analyzation of the cacao-chocolate supply and production chain, issues such as the unethical sourcing of cacao through the unfair payment of cacao farmers and the misuse of cacao beans in the production of chocolate have arisen. We will look at some of the solutions that have been created to combat these issues and how two companies, Taza Chocolate and Raaka Chocolate, have integrated and adapted these solutions into their practices, making them pioneers for change in the chocolate production industry.

The first prominent issue in the cacao production industry is the promotion of unethical cacao sourcing practices within the farmer-to-company supply chain. A major theme that has arisen amongst chocolate producers is the sourcing of cacao and the unethical payment of cacao farmers. Farmers have been found to be “the most poorly compensated for their efforts” when considering where the percentage of the proceeds from one chocolate bar goes (Leissle 129). The largest share of the profits from a chocolate bar has been found to be an average of 44.2% (going to the retailers), while only 6.6% goes to the farmers themselves and 2.2% to the people who trade and transport the cocoa (Leissle 129).

An illustration depicting how the profit of one chocolate bar is distributed to the cacao-supply chain and how much of that actually goes to farmers.

There is a gap between these large chocolate companies and the sources of their ingredients. Where the cacao that goes into a company’s chocolate bar comes from is rarely known to consumers, thus creating a large disconnect between farmers and chocolate producers in the supply chain. There has been a perceived increase in “geographical, emotional, and even visceral distance between shoppers and the origins of what they eat and drink” (Leissle 145). Many chocolate companies today make it nearly impossible to see where the cacao beans that go into the production of their products come from and who are the farmers behind it all. One solution to the issues surrounding poor cacao sourcing practices has been certifications. Certifications help prioritize some of the overlooked aspects of the cacao production process, such as “cocoa trees, farmers that manage them… and, at the other end of the supply chain, chocolate consumers” (Leissle 152). For example, Fairtrade certifications have promoted the awareness of trade injustice as well as raised awareness of the discrepancies and gaps in the cacao supply chain (Leissle p. 145). By setting the minimum prices that chocolate producer must pay for their cacao, Fairtrade certifications have been part of the solution to the ongoing problems that have arisen in the cacao production industry. However, it has been researched that very little data on the distribution of profits among Fairtrade supply chains is available for consumers (Sylla 180). Moreover, through the Fairtrade system, “the net financial gains that reach producers are meagre” (Sylla 233). Fairtrade does more for the visual and consumer satisfaction of purchasing the product than it does to combat poverty in the developing world (Martin and Sampeck 52). The transparency of cacao used in chocolate products is also not fully addressed with Fairtrade. It is evident that although Fairtrade takes a step in the right direction towards combatting many of the issues that have arisen in the cacao supply chain, there are still many gaps with this solution.

Another major issue in the chocolate production industry that ties along with the sourcing of cacao is the way that the cacao beans are prepared and incorporated into the chocolate products. Large chocolate manufacturers process cacao beans in a way that standardizes them, creating the same distinct taste in their uniform products. The intricacies and various tastes that come with different types of cacao beans are lost in the process (Martin and Sampeck 49). However, in response to the loss of individual cacao flavor and quality in mass-produced chocolate, there has been an increase in bean-to-bar chocolate makers that have attempted to provide solutions to these cacao supply chain problems (Martin and Sampeck 53). Two companies that have made positive steps forward in addressing some of the problems regarding chocolate production are Taza Chocolate and Raaka Chocolate. Their efforts are distinct and different, but they are equally as impactful.

Taza Chocolate

Taza’s stone mills, used to make their Stone Ground Chocolate.

Taza is a recognized brand in the Massachusetts community. It has often been referred to as an innovator in the chocolate industry and a pioneer for trade. Taza has a unique and special way of making their chocolate, which is also a focal point of their brand. Taza brands their chocolate as “Stone Ground,” meaning that their chocolate is unrefined and undergoes minimal processing. Instead of the traditional chocolate refining and milling process, Taza uses traditional Mexican stone mills to grind their cacao. They do this to preserve the taste of their products, and to allow the bold flavors of their cacao to shine. This method also makes their chocolate have a gritty texture that not a lot of other chocolate bars have (Taza Chocolate “Our Process”).

More on the Taza cacao production process.

Regarding how Taza sources their cacao, Taza is Direct Trade certified. This means that there is no third party involved with the sourcing of their cacao because Taza buys directly from the producers. Important ways to positively transform cacao supply chains have often been found to be with Direct Trade and increased transparency (Martin and Sampeck 52). Taza’s website says that they work directly with providers and pay a price higher than the Fairtrade price, although they do not specify exactly what they pay for each specific bean. Taza also provides transparency reports that detail where their cacao is from, what farmers grow each specific bean, how many cacao beans are exported from each location, and the average cacao price per metric ton. They also provide profiles on each of their cacao suppliers (Taza Chocolate “Taza Direct Trade”). They were the first ever chocolate company to publish the average prices they pay for their cacao and are the first in the industry to create an annual transparency report on their cacao sourcing practices (Leissle 155).

Taza’s chocolate bars.

Taza makes a large effort to address some of the prominent issues in the cacao supply chain. They have found ways to integrate the individuality of the cacao beans into their products and they have also committed to sourcing their cacao in ethical and transparent ways. However, there are many points in which Taza could improve on, especially with integrating the unique flavors of cacao beans into their recipes more and increasing their transparency on exactly how much they have paid for the cacao in each of their chocolate bars. Raaka Chocolate is a company that takes the solutions that Taza has incorporated into its business model a step further.

Raaka Chocolate

Raaka Chocolate

A bean-to-bar company based in Brooklyn, New York, Raaka Chocolate is a company that has made strides in combatting several addressed problems in the cacao production industry. One of Raaka’s main branding points is the use of Unroasted Chocolate. They make it evident on their website that they are proud of their chocolate production process. The reasoning behind using unroasted chocolate is that they “simply love the bold, bright, and fruitier flavor of unroasted cacao beans.” They continue on to say that their chocolate is unique because they “couldn’t find these flavors in other chocolate since most of what is available is made with roasted cacao beans,” so they decided to change the traditional chocolate production process (Raaka Chocolate “Unroasted”).

Their website details how they produce their unroasted chocolate. Like many other chocolate producers, Raaka’s cacao seeds are harvested from the pod by hand. The seeds are left in wooden boxes covered in banana leaves for 4-7 days in order to ferment. Raaka says that their focus with the fermentation process is to develop a unique flavor profile in the cacao. Once the beans are fermented, they are dried. At this stage in the process, Raaka takes special care in the recipe development. They treat the cacao beans in a way that caters to each type’s distinctive flavor. One example is the Kokoa Kamili’s Bean. Because of its earthy flavor, Raaka ages the bean in a Bourbon Cask for their Bourbon Cask Aged bar. This aspect of their cacao production happens right before the nibs are ground and mixed. It is called pre-infusion, and it is where Raaka inserts flavor into the cacao nibs by steaming or aging them. The cacao butter absorbs the flavor that is provided, creating a unique and distinctive taste. The cacao is then ground, mixed, milled, conched, tempered, and poured into molds to be wrapped and sold (Raaka Chocolate “Unroasted”).

More information on the Raaka production process and their Unroasted chocolate.
Snapshots from the Raaka factory.

Raaka’s chocolate bars are single-origin. They write on their website that they produce bars that are single origin because they aim to preserve and highlight the natural flavor of the specific bean. When they discuss how each cacao bean has a distinct flavor, they write that they are “not just talking from country to country either: cacao beans can taste completely different within a single region depending on the unique characteristics of that area. The post-harvest process, specifically fermentation, brings out a bright and bold acidity. This is the profile we look to preserve” (Raaka Chocolate “Unroasted”). It is evident that Raaka takes special care into the different varieties of cacao and how they can highlight the ways in which cacao can manifest and taste through their recipes. It is distinctly expressed and quite transparent that Raaka has made efforts to change the way in which cacao beans are treated in the chocolate production process, and have addressed this issue through their treatment and preparation of cacao beans.

Another defining point of Raaka’s brand is its claim of practicing Transparent Trade. Raaka says that their form of acquiring cacao does not fit into the certifications that already exist, so they refer to their practices as Transparent Trade. They define what this means in great length on their website, with three major themes summing up what actions constitute their Transparent Trade policy. The first aspect of Transparent Trade is direct purchasing. Raaka’s cacao is purchased directly from cooperatives and grower organizations where the focus is on sustainability and premium prices for farmers. Secondly, Raaka’s prices are stable. They aim to always buy cacao at stable and premium prices. The prices that they pay for cacao are higher than commodity market and Fairtrade prices and are also protected from market fluctuations. Finally, Raaka is transparent about their pricing. All of their cacao transactions are displayed on their website and on their packaging. They are transparent about how much they paid for the cacao that they use in their products, and how their own practices measure up against worldwide prices (Raaka Chocolate “Transparent Trade”).

A graph showing the prices that Raaka pays for their cacao, and how this compares to Faritrade and commodity prices.

Something interesting to note about Raaka’s process is that they do not buy cacao directly from farmers. They say that this is because farmers cannot produce enough cacao for a chocolate making company and running a farm and managing sales is a lot for farmers to handle. Instead, Raaka buys their cacao from farmer-owned cooperatives and producer/exporters. These organizations buy the beans from farmers and also ferment, dry, and sort the beans “with a focus on quality and consistency” (Raaka Chocolate “Transparent Trade”). Raaka also provides detailed information on their producer partners, like statistics on where their cacao is from, the flavor profile of the beans, and a lot of details about the farmers cultivating the chocolate. The “Freight on Board” price is listed on every Raaka bar. This is the price that they pay the cooperatives, so you see exactly how much of your money went to these organizations and therefore, also the farmers. They also include a graph that shows how much they pay for each producer they work with and how this compares to the Fairtrade price. From the graph above, it can be seen that Raaka pays a higher premium for their cacao and offers stable prices to the producers and farmers, unlike the Fairtrade price which is significantly lower.

Raaka is transparent about where they source their cacao from.

Why aren’t they certified? One of the major branding fallbacks of Raaka is that they are not Fairtrade certified. In a consumer-driven market where opinions of the product can make or break the product’s success, it is interesting how Raaka does not want to acquire a certification that many consumers recognize and trust. Raaka says that “there’s nothing inherently wrong with certifications; many of them open up new, more valuable markets, and we have some of them” (Raaka Chocolate “Transparent Trade”). But certifications have shown to often fail to realize the needs of micro-economies, especially when it comes to the efficacy of Fairtrade pricing. Raaka’s Transparent Trade actions create a focus on understanding the individual needs of the communities that they work with on obtaining their cacao.

Raaka chocolate bars.

Raaka has made tangible and transparent steps towards addressing some of the issues in the cacao-supply chain. They make a strong effort to incorporate the uniqueness of all of their cacao beans into their recipes. Raaka also has created their own solutions when it comes to the sourcing of cacao and has been a pioneer for transparent sourcing and trade, paving the path for more positive change in the industry.

Conclusion

Taza and Raaka both have made tangible actions towards addressing some major concerns with the modern cacao supply chain. Taza is a pioneer when it comes to Direct Trade and has made cacao transparency one of its core values. Taza also takes special care in the sourcing and production of its cacao. Raaka has taken these solutions a step further and has made active efforts towards embracing the individuality of each bean and has also ensured that the sourcing of their cacao products is done in ethical and extremely transparent ways in order to ensure the wellbeing of the farmers behind their products.

Although strides have been made to address persistent issues in chocolate production, there is still more that can be done. However, companies like Taza and Raaka have each taken their own initiative with making an impact in the way that cacao is harvested and produced. They are pioneers in the industry and have taken to light some of the core issues that should no longer be ignored. They have become part of the solution to the problem, and they are paving the path for more companies to come.

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088–1100. 

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018. Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. 2016. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” pp. 37-60

Raaka Chocolate. “Transparent Trade.” Raaka Chocolate, 2019, www.raakachocolate.com/pages/transparent-trade

Raaka Chocolate. “Unroasted.” Raaka Chocolate, 2019, www.raakachocolate.com/pages/unroasted

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018. Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Taza Chocolate. “Our Process.” Taza Chocolate, 2019, http://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/our-process

Taza Chocolate. “Taza Direct Trade.” Taza Chocolate, 2019, www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade

Image 1: https://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0

Image 2: https://www.facebook.com/TazaChocolate/photos/a.138322673974/10154057674633975/?type=3&theater

Image 3: https://www.facebook.com/TazaChocolate/photos/a.10150894096223975/10154193660973975/?type=3&theater

Image 4: https://www.facebook.com/RaakaChocolate/photos/a.235059806510251/1436744469675106/?type=3&theater

Image 5: https://www.raakachocolate.com/pages/unroasted

Images 6 & 7: https://www.raakachocolate.com/pages/transparent-trade

Image 8: https://www.facebook.com/RaakaChocolate/photos/p.2350067638342780/2350067638342780/?type=1&theater

Video 1: https://vimeo.com/33380451

Video 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbX90R9cjBM

Theo Chocolate: Trendsetters and Pioneers for Bean-to-Bar Companies and Socially Conscious Consumers Alike

Theo Chocolate is the first bean-to-bar chocolate company that is an organic fair trade-certified and GMO-free cocoa producer in the United States. Based out of Seattle starting in 2006, Theo Chocolate is a pioneer of a shared value for-profit company.  By expanding economic value and social value simultaneously to the cost of the goods they are selling, they are an exemplary leader of how companies can be more socially and environmentally responsible. When they first were founded, they applied creative entrepreneurial solutions to capture a small share of a large market and ultimately forever influenced the way consumers interact with the products they choose to purchase. Consumers of Theo Chocolate better understand the supply chains of the product they are consuming, naturally develop loyalty to brands they trust and faithfully believe in, and shape market perceptions of the fundamental value of chocolate by increasing demand (Butcher 2014). This paper is an ethnographic analysis of Theo Chocolate that will examine their mission as an ethical and sustainable chocolate maker, how that has changed since conception, and how successful the company has been on the basis of their own metrics.

This first section will discuss their founding and original mission statement to focus on their social and environmental success since conception. Theo Chocolate was founded by Joe Whinney, when he wanted to fundamentally challenge the answer to two questions: do chocolate manufacturers bear responsibility for producers of cocoa beans? And do they bear responsibility for how they are produced? As Carol Off describes in her publishing Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet, responsibility regarding who should monitor farming practices has traditionally been pushed around between chocolate companies, large corporations, and even the US and African governments where the beans were being produced (Off 2008). There was no general consensus as to how far the orgins of the cocoa bags of beans should be monitored and tracked. Whinney wanted to break this cycle and take on this responsibility while still being a for-profit company. Whinney’s first founding mission was that “the finest artisan chocolate in the world can and should be produced in an entirely ethical, sustainable fashion”(Butcher 2014). His initial aims were to more concretely improve the growing conditions for farmers and to promote fair trade practices for cocoa bean farmers.

Social Work and Responsibility

With regards to the farmer’s role in the chocolate supply chain, he wanted to make sure they were environmentally and sustainably creating higher quality, larger yields, while also raising the farmers standard of living. Whinney after doing much market research felt that the key to higher quality chocolate was the fermentation of the beans. Fermentation removed the acids and tannins that created bitterness. He felt strongly that the farmers should understand and be educated on the role of fermentation. Consequently, he worked side by side with the farmers to help them adopt the best fermentation practices (Butcher 2014). Not only was it beneficial for Whinney to be able to develop a reliable relationship with farmers that were loyal to the quality he wanted, but it also economically was efficient because the higher percentage of beans that were correctly fermented, the higher prices the farmers were able to demand. Selling beans at higher prices meant that the farmers collected more money to sustain their livelihood. It was a welfare-enhancing transaction for both Whinney as well as the farmers, what he referred to as “enlightened capitalism”. Whinney hoped in the future of sustainable and modern cocoa production, the farmers would take on more of a responsible role controlling the quality of their beans, as well as marketing their own cocoa. He believed that if the farmers could adopt this commanding mentality, their livelihoods wouldn’t be so subject to the prices negotiated by larger chocolate companies.

Whinney was a huge contributor to helping develop price transparency. He established a pricing grid which provided complete information for consumers of the chocolate, the retailers selling the chocolate, but most importantly the bean farmers as well. Educating the farmers about prices allowed them to understand what factors are key determinants to price input. It was essential the farmers understand that when they can utilize proper quality tests and post-harvest practices, they create independent value for themselves as well as Whinney. Theo Chocolate reported that in 2009 when most bulk cocoa was selling for $2,000 a metric ton, they were willing to pay $3,600-$6,000 a metric ton for quality beans, which at this time was highly unpopular (Butcher 2014). Theo Chocolate prided themselves on the high quality of organic and fair trade cocoa they brought in and believed it provided real incentivization for farmers.

Interview of Co-founder Debra Music about Theo Chocolate values

Theo Chocolate wanted to ensure that their business reflected their social responsibility, not only to the farmer but toward the consumer as well. They used only organic ingredients, green energy sources in their operations, as well as sustainable wrapping. Theo Chocolate often donated many of their proceeds towards notable causes that aligned with their company’s values. For example, in 2010 after an earthquake in Haiti, a certain portion of chocolate proceeds were donated to CARE, a relief organization fighting global poverty. With the proceeds, CARE delivered 600,000 water purification tablets to make contaminated water drinkable (Butcher 2014). Additionally, Theo Chocolate had a signature Cherry and Chili Bar, whose proceeds were donated to PCC Farmland Trust, the local food co-op where the cherries and chilies were grown in Washington state. Theo’s World Bicycle Relief Sea Salt Bar was created with the proceeds going towards the World Bicycle Relief Program, who donated bicycles to health care workers in Africa. Two featured bars displayed the Jane Goodall stamp. The stamp was a signal that the bars were an ethically and quality produced product coming from the developing world, and the proceeds promoted forest conservation through the Jane Goodall foundation. Finally, it is notable that locally Theo wanted to help the community whom it hired from and interacted with (Butcher 2014). The company often used the factory store as an events space to help support local businesses, hunger, and other community initiatives.

Entrepreneurial Strategy: Owning the Chocolate Niche

Theo Chocolate developed a unique business marketing and entrepreneurial strategy to generate profits. Their first success as a company came when they understood the market they were dealing with and saw the unrealized opportunity. Whinney observed very early on that they were in a growing market, and that high-quality product would be the future for profits. In 2010, premium chocolate sales, premium chocolate being chocolate that sold for more than $.50/ounce, were about $2.1-2.4 billion total (Butcher 2014). From 2006-2009, the sale of premium chocolate had grown 5 times the rate compared to regular chocolate, and in the US market, there were not many players. When Theo Chocolate was founded there were only approximately only 15 chocolate producers. Most were confectioners who purchased blocks of chocolate and remelted it to make their own chocolate products (Butcher 2014). No bean-to-bar chocolate maker had ever been Fairtrade, organic, and non-GMO. Theo’s quality was certainly the finest as well as the most socially responsible. Whinney was able to recognize many changing chocolate trends and take advantage of them at the forefront. He implemented exotic flavors, savory inspired flavors, raw cocoa, and upscale packaging to be at the forefront of the changing market.

Whinney was a firm believer that chocolate needed to taste extraordinary or else nobody would buy it the second time: “Without having amazing products nothing else matters” (Butcher 2014). His chocolate bars had higher quality cocoa percentages and while expensive to produce, the quality was uncontested. A huge competitive advantage that Theo Chocolate had being a bean-to-bar company rather than a confectioner was full control over the quality. They essentially had full vertical control of the entire chocolate making process from bean sourcing to the chocolate manufacturing. This was essential to keep up with the fast-paced consumer preference changes and trends, allowing them to flexibly adapt to their consumer demand.

Examples of their current, more non-traditional seasonal flavors

Theo chocolate did something never before done in chocolate wrapping marketing in the United States at the time, they received multiple certifications and displayed them on the wrapping of every chocolate bar. Theo Chocolate was the first bean-to-bar company to do this. Currently, on their website, they promote 4 certifications: USDA Organic, Fair Trade for Life, Star-K Kosher Certification, and Non-GMO (Theo Chocolate 2019). Theo Chocolate states on their website: “Trust is fundamental to every relationship, including our relationships with our customers and suppliers. We believe transparency is an important component of trust and employ third-party verification for the claims we make” (Theo Chocolate 2019). Since conception, they have held true to this honest standard, and were the first ones to adopt using this marketing strategy for being fair trade and organic simultaneously. These certifications symbolize that Theo Chocolate prioritizes holding themselves to the highest standard and wants to foster such accountability towards their customers. They also demonstrated by their popularity that the marketing model works, as many more chocolate companies have sought out these very same badges.

Finally, Theo Chocolate is at the forefront of distribution. Premium chocolate has historically been and still is, sold through company-owned stores, specialty stores, and websites. However, they foresaw that organic food would become more sought after in the mid-2000s and correctly predicted there would be more demand for grocery stores that stocked organic chocolate. Theo Chocolate, in as early as 2008, partnered with Whole Foods to provide chocolate bars in their grocery stores. It has been a symbiotic relationship with the two companies because Whole Foods needs suppliers whos incentives aligned to provide the same quality products. According to Whole Foods, “Organic products have grown on average more than 20% per year over the last 7-10 years, making it the fastest growing segment of agriculture”(“Whole Foods UK” 2019). In many ways, Whole Foods acts as a middleman that is able to efficiently match the product produced to the consumer’s growing need. Theo Chocolate positioned themselves strongly within the growing Organic Industry, as well as in the responsible gourmet chocolate industry to catch two rising trends simultaneously and significantly boost demand for their product.

All of these marketing strategies are an indication that Theo deeply understood the new audience they were working with and trying to cater towards. On one hand, they pioneered the socially responsible chocolate, which you now see today in marketplaces as being much more commonplace. On the other hand, they also changed the way consumers think about responding to social responsibility, by developing this consumer consciousness in the typical millennial that is now commonplace. Theo Chocolate created unprecedented change on both the supply, as well as the demand side of organic fair trade chocolate.

Theo Chocolate and the Future

What does the mission statement look like today? Has it changed or strayed from its original intentions? Currently, they proclaim: “As a company rooted in cocoa, our mission is to create a more beautiful, compassionate, and enduring world by responsibly making delicious and inspiring products for everyone” (Theo Chocolate 2017). They are aware of the success their chocolate has received globally. Currently, they are now focusing on further developing the existing built connections between entities and people to make them stronger. One way they are doing this is by turning toward their internal operations to care for the employee base. Theo Chocolate has a strong commitment to developing their employees professionally but also educating them about the strength of social responsibility so each employee can hopefully go out one day and make a substantial impact one way or another.

Video of employees reflecting on company values

Ultimately I conclude that not only are they exemplary at the amount of social impact they have effectively brought about, but Theo Chocolate is one of the first shining examples within the American chocolate industry that could generate outstanding profits because they marketed such social responsibility. They sold America not only their product but their vision. Theo Chocolate made being a bean-to-bar company trendy while also on the consumer-facing side making socially conscious purchases trendy and feel good. Their small share in the chocolate market has set a rippling precedent for American markets to promote corporate social responsibility on any level of scale.

—————————————-

Works Cited

Butcher, Alva Wright, and Paula A. Wilson. “Theo Choloclate-Doing Well By Doing Good.” Journal of Case Studies 32, no. 1 (2014): 19-36.

Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate. New York: The New Press.

“Our Certifications – Theo Chocolate”. 2019. Theo Chocolate. https://www.theochocolate.com/blog/our-certifications/.

Tedxseattle – Debra Music & Joe Whinney – 4/16/10. 2010. Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQUaUirxnwo.

Theo Chocolate Values. 2019. Video. https://vimeo.com/235404979.

“Whole Foods UK”. 2019. Wholefoodsmarket.Com. https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values/organic/growth-organics-industry.

2018 Heart Of Seattle Winner – Swanson’S Nursery. 2019. Image. https://vimeo.com/265462272.

2019. Image. https://www.theochocolate.com/product/lemon/.

2019. Image. https://www.theochocolate.com/product/grapefruit-ginger/.

Dandelion Chocolate – A model for just cacao production

A love for chocolate has been inculcated in American society as far back as one can remember.  This attitude was born in late 1800’s as large scale chocolate companies like Mars and Hershey’s rose to the forefront.  It has only grown since its introduction over 100 years ago with over $22 billion of chocolate purchased by Americans last year alone (Statista 2018).  Chocolate is indelibly associated with numerous holidays and is remembered by many as a fond childhood treat.  Many of these associations held by the public for chocolate consumption were strategically reinforced by chocolate companies in an attempt to permanently define a stronghold of the market for their good.  Yet what easily goes unnoticed, and actively hid by candy conglomerates’ targeted marketing campaigns, is an industry marred by a history of slavery, child labor and unsustainable practices. Legislation and fair trade organizations have made clear efforts to bring attention to and correct a seriously flawed supply chain model.  But with a multibillion dollar market dominated by five big players worldwide pining for cheap cacao to service their production, efforts motivated by NGO’s have not been enough to solve all the market’s severe issues.

What has surged in recent years is a market for quality chocolate and a rise of companies that challenge a longstanding history of mistreatment and unjust practices.  Confectionary categories since the early 1900’s have been dominated by chocolate with relatively low quality cocoa and a high sugar content in the United States. However, in recent years there has been a demand surfacing for “premium” chocolate, which is defined by the NCA as least $11 / pound, that is not produced by these well known large production candy companies.  For instance, in 2018 premium chocolate sales grew 10%, marking a fourth consecutive year of substantial growth while total chocolate only grew 4% (New Hope Network 2018). This growing demand for quality chocolate marks a key reversal in market trends. Similarly, a growing desire for quality chocolate comes with a growing need for new companies committed to sourcing production of the best kind and of the best practices. One of these companies is Dandelion Chocolate. By devoting the time and resources to ensuring quality in their cacao beans, Dandelion meets a market need while actively fighting the problems deeply rooted in the chocolate industry.  A close analysis of Dandelion Chocolate’s business model reveals how small batch, high quality chocolate producers that care about social and economic change can serve as a solution to a corrupt production market. Given the growing premium chocolate market worldwide, Dandelion’s approach makes this a viable model for mass adoption.

Dandelion Small Batch Chocolate (Radcliff & Calvery 2012)

In order to understand why Dandelion can serve as a model for an entire industry, it is necessary to know the company’s business model and mission. The company prides itself in its bean to bar small batch chocolate which uses only two ingredient, cocoa beans and organic cane sugar .  They produce chocolate out of their factory in the Mission District of San Francisco and sell them for about $10 per bar. In the company’s 2016 Sourcing Report the founders explain that their commitment is a simple one that comes at no small cost:

“We travel to origin as frequently as possible to learn about our producers’ best practices, exchange feedback, and make sure that high standards of quality and sustainability are met. We pay a premium far above the world marketprice …. We believe that good business practices can help foster positive social, environmental, and economic change, and we are committed to increasing transparency in both our own process as well as across the supply chain”(Dandelion Chocolate 2016) .

These claims regarding their practice are further supported throughout their website.  In 2016 market price was $2,892.16 per tonne and the average price per tonne that the firm paid $6,599.00.  A willingness to pay more for quality is the key to supporting positive change in the labor market and environmental spheres and what drives the premium chocolate market.  Examining this statement with respect to Dandelion Chocolate’s relationship with its producers demonstrates how they actively fight market wide injustices against the people who drive the industry.

First, to comprehend how Dandelion Chocolate’s model for supporting producers fights abuses against labor in the chocolate market it must be understood how pervasive and deeply rooted the issue. By looking at how profoundly imbedded violations against workers rights are in the process of producing chocolate it is made evident that a targeted approach like Dandelion’s is necessary. Corrupt labor practices in the production of chocolate date back to 1500’s when the Spanish introduced the “encomienda” system (Martin 2018). This system forced indigenous inhabitants of newly conquered Spanish America into slavery, subjected them to horrific working conditions and eventually led extreme demographic collapse. Due to dissent from clergy the use of indigenous people as forced labor was made illegal by the crown and a new labor system was introduced. “Chattel slavery” was the decided solution and resulted in 10-15 million enslaved Africans survived forced transport across the Atlantic between 1500-1900. During these years African slaves were forced to work on plantations for 18 hours per day harvesting commodity crops like rum, sugar, tobacco and cotton in addition to cacao. The conditions endured were so horrific that the life expectancy of slaves living in the Caribbean and Brazil was only seven to eight year.  The use of slave labor in Latin America continued until the end of the 1800’s when disease spread across the chocolate crop and slavery was made illegal. The scarring history with chocolate people throughout the continent dissuaded the continued production of chocolate and the bulk practice was instead relocated to the Gold Coast of Africa.

Although the center of production changed, the movement of cacao had no impact on the quality of work conditions for many works. Cacao was introduced to the African continent in 1819 when the Portuguese brought it to the island of Principe (Martin 2019).  From the beginning, the Portuguese used their colonial holdings in Africa to support their economic status as an empire and this resulted in severe abuses of the local population. Portugal enslaved nearly half the population of Angola and implemented a process oriented towards shipping slaves to cacao plantations on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe (Satre 2005).  For many natives, the word Sao Tome was synonymous with okalunga, meaning hell. Through this system the Portuguese government produced ⅕ of the world’s cacao in and was the primary supplier for Cadbury chocolate, one of the world’s largest chocolate sellers at the time. This system continued up until 1909 without a call for an end by the outside world. As the world began to demand changes to the Portuguese slave practice production fell away from these islands began in other African colonies.  Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire became the world’s primary chocolate producer in the 1900’s. However, there were still instances of forced labor being used in Bioko and Cameroon in the twentieth century while slavery persisted in Sao Tome and Principe until 1962 (Berlan 2013).

While enslaved workers were not the primary labor force in the other countries that began producing cacao across the Gold Coast, norms which had been established when slaves were the dominant source of labor on plantations had not destroyed.  After years of paying for dirt cheap cacao, the primary buyers of cacao required a similarly low priced product in order to maintain their profit margins. The degree of control set by the sellers of chocolate products back in the 1900’s has carried through to today. As a result, chocolate farmers are subject to incredibly low market prices for cacao that are also subject to great volatility. In order to meet the demands of large scale chocolate sellers, farmers must cut costs across all means and laborers face the consequences. In 2015, the average income of a Ghanaian cacao farmer was $0.50-$0.80 per day with the poorest farmers making only $500 per year (Ryan 2011). This painstakingly low income for cacao farmers is not only felt by farmers in Africa but is also shared throughout the world by farmers subject to bottomline prices for the product.

As a result of the low incomes cacao producers face, child labor is an additional issue associated with the chocolate market. In Ghana, 39% of children engage in economic activities with 57% of these children working in agriculture (Ghana Statistical Service 2003). Polly Hill explains that this is the result of farmers being “reluctant to ‘waste the savings’ on the employment of labor” and instead decide to outsource the work to their children (Hill 1997). The social acceptance of this practice the country is the result of desperately low thresholds for crops payments and in turn, pervasive poverty. Families desperate for additional income end up sacrificing their children’s futures to put food on the table. The problems that start at the producer level purvey through the entire society and have a fundamental impact on the development of future generations.

Additionally, there are cases of child labor which were prominently documented in the 1990’s in which children were being enslaved and forced to work against their will (Off 2008).  In instances like these across Cote D’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso children were forced into trafficking rings in which they were beaten when they did not behave, locked up when not working and not compensated for their work. To date children who are forced to work by someone other than a family member make up less than .5% of all child labor cases. Yet the existence of these types of circumstances at all is indicative of a system that needs to be rectified.

In the end, inequitable conditions for laborers are rooted in inexplicably low margins for cacao and ill compensation for the demanding work of farmers. Unfortunately, the system large chocolate companies use for purchasing cacao is founded on results in a large disconnect between producers and the firms themselves. Middle men buyers are an integral part of the process which makes it impressively easy for big firms like Mondelez, Ferraro and Hershey to support farms reliant on unsuitable work practices. This level of disconnect means there is no incentive for large scale companies to offer a higher price for cacao. In addition, given that the market for chocolate’s history was founded on the premise of abusing labor there should be concerted efforts to rectify past mistakes. Yet because of the

Therefore, a strategic way to start address the issue is with small batch, bean-to-bar chocolate companies that can redefine relationship between cacao producers and chocolate makers. This is where Dandelion’s approach comes into view. By building a close relationship with producers and traveling to the sites where their cacao is grown Dandelion works to change the trends against cacao laborers in many ways. The motivating factor behind this decision is a desire to ensure both quality in all elements of their product, from the cacao they source to the lives of their producers. This results in complete visibility about the entire production process starting with where both their beans and their sugar come from ending in how it makes it to the shop.

Inside the Dandelion Chocolate Factory (Giannuzzi 2019)
Pamphlet from the Dandelion Chocolate Factory (Giannuzzi 2019)

On their website the company publishes a detailed sourcing report of where every single ingredient used in their bars comes from. Each of their bars states exactly the location and the estate their beans come from. Their factory in the Mission in San Francisco opens up the entire process of making their chocolate to their customers. This feeds an interest in consumers for the terroir deriving from where the beans were harvested. Furthermore, emphasizing the fair practices of the producers they choose demonstrates that this should be taken into consideration by all those making chocolate.  As the company continues to grow, they will be able to spread their mission through their consumers. When people are interested in a product they tend to become invested in the brand itself. And when the brand is tied to positive social change, the consumers get tied to the mission too. In order to correct the wrongs of the chocolate market the suppliers need to fundamentally care about the issue which means consumers need to care too. With this model driving Dandelion Chocolate’s success, it works as a mechanism for promoting the change the industry needs to see.

Dandelion Chocolate Bars (Dandelion Chocolate 2019)

In the end, it is clear that a small production company like Dandelion can not overthrow multi-billion dollar companies like Hershey’s and Mars alone. They simply do not have the same resources to produce at such a large scale and the market for high quality chocolate is still relatively niche. Conversely, these firms have existed for over a century and demand is simply not growing at a fast enough rate to derail an empire. But the power in the approach of small batch chocolatiers is not in their ability to fiscally dethrone these giants. Instead, it can insight new buying trends amongst consumers that force traditional firms to change their ways. By sharing with customers the heightened experience associated with well sourced beans, small batch companies can make a dent into the sales of these conglomerates. Well intended actions detailed by involuntary legislation and fair trade stamps which can be fabricated to mean all sorts of things are not enough to make profit driven companies change their way. What can truly incite change is consumers’ pockets. And Dandelion Chocolate is one of the forces pushing them to change.

References

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, Feb. 2013, pp. 1088–1100., doi:10.1080/00220388.2013.780041.

“Dandelion Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate, 21 Mar. 2019, store.dandelionchocolate.com/.

Dandelion Chocolate. Dandelion Sourcing Report 2016. 2016, pp. 1–48, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzaLTpo79TrSYnR3dzU5VDFHX3c/view.

Ghana Statistical Service. “Ghana child labour survey.” Accra: Ghana Statistical Service, 2003.

Giannuzzi, Anna. Inside the Dandelion Chocolate Factory. San Francisco, CA, 21 Mar. 2019.

Giannuzzi, Anna. Pamphlet from the Dandelion Chocolate Factory. San Francisco, CA, 21 Mar. 2019.

Hill, Polly. The Migrant Cocoa-Farmers of Southern Ghana: a Study in Rural Capitalism. Lit, 1997.

Martin, Carla D. “Modern Day Slavery.” AAAS 119x. 27 Mar. 2019, Harvard University, Emerson Hall, Harvard University, Emerson Hall.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor.” AAAS 119x. 3 Mar. 2019, Harvard University, Emerson Hall, Harvard University, Emerson Hall.

New Hope Network. “Premium Chocolate Is Growing 4x More than Total Chocolate.” New Hope Network, 5 Feb. 2018, http://www.newhope.com/products-and-trends/premium-chocolate-growing-4x-more-total-chocolate.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: the Dark Side of the Worlds Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008, pp. 119-161.

Ryan, Órla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2012, pp. 43-62.

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio Univ. Press, 2006, pp. 1-32.

Statista. “Topic: Chocolate Industry.” http://www.statista.com, 2018, http://www.statista.com/topics/1638/chocolate-industry/.

Vimeo, Dandelion Chocolate, 19 Dec. 2012, vimeo.com/55989344.

Chocolats Halba – Analysis of a Swiss Chocolate Company

This text investigates Chocolats Halba, a Swiss producer of chocolate, and its contributions to solving the various problems in the cacao industry. Founded by two chocolatiers working from their living room, this company is now a part of Coop, which is one of Switzerland’s largest retail companies. Chocolats Halba delivers its products both to Coop and to companies worldwide and also operates its own factory stores, the Schoggihüsli. The company is a rather large producer of bean-to-bar chocolate, making over twelve-thousand tons of chocolate per year and generating 135 million swiss francs in revenue from these efforts. It is thus a remarkable example of an essentially industrial producer of chocolate that nevertheless conforms to at least a reasonable moral standard. The company’s English website, containing further information and an introductory video, may be found at this address: http://chocolatshalba.ch/en/company.html (Chocolats Halba – Facts and Figures).

Chocolats Halba describes itself as a company that aims to provide benefit to both its customers, employees and also to the environment. More specifically, the company aims to both address the common human issues of cacao production in addition to, and to produce in an environmentally sustainable manner. To achieve this, the company is closely involved with all parts of its supply chain, performing extensive supervision. The stated benefits which the company seeks to obtain from this policy is to ensure that its products be morally responsible and superior in quality. As might be expected from a Swiss chocolate producer, quality in particular is a major part of the company’s brand image. Notably, to ensure quality, the company’s entire production capacity, and with it most of its employees, is based in Switzerland. To the same end, the company also maintains close relations with its associated cacao growers. The company’s position is also prominent on the packaging of its products, which notably bear information not only on the source of the cacao, but also on the origin of most other ingredients. The packaging also prominently displays information on the sustainability practices pursued in its production. Furthermore, the company’s chocolate also includes detailed information on the terroir and history of the specific cacao varieties it incorporates. The near profusion of labels and other information on the image below illustrates this point. In a similar effort to market its closeness to cacao growers, the company generally prominently incorporates imagery of these people in its packaging and marketing. (Chocolats Halba, Partners & Quality (http://chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 19-04-19)))

Information found on the back of a chocolate bar made by Chocolats Halba. It provides a detailed breakdown of the various ingredients and their origins and displays several labels. Also note how it emphasizes the “Swissness” of the product. Image Credit: Own Work

The policy of Chocolats Halba is to exclusively source its cacao from certified cooperatives, with which it cooperates closely, a list of which it also makes publicly available. Both to inform its own policies, and to inform its customers of the quality of its products, the company has also obtained nearly a dozen certifications, including UTZ, Fairtrade and Bio labels. Two of these, the Fairtrade and the Swiss Bio label, also directly feature on the packaging of many of the company’s products, as may be seen in the image above. The company applies these principles as well as the associated labels not only to its cacao, but to each of the ingredients it uses. The company’s strict adherence to these principles has also allowed it to feature prominently and positively in several recent rankings and has allowed it to win various Swiss and international awards. (Chocolats Halba, Certificates & Partners & Quality & News (http://chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 19-04-19)))

The main certifications used by this company remarkably closely echo some of the main ethical criteria for morally acceptable chocolate production. The main categories of such criteria might be said to be those of cacao farmers’ situation and that of sustainability. Both of these are complex issues, that cannot easily be addressed. As for workers’ rights, some of the main problems with cacao production are unfree labour, including that by children, and the low prices paid to cacao producers. The low prices paid for cacao by the world market, which are to no small degree an inheritance of colonialism underlie many of these issues. With low cacao prices, benefits accrue mainly to the consumers and retailers of chocolate; while troubles accrue to those who actually produce the cacao itself. Such troubles include the need to deploy cheap labour, which may be underpaid or even unfree: this is also a reason for child labour. However, simply paying more for chocolate, should one be willing to do so would not necessarily contribute to solving this problem. It would do so only if a significant part of the additional revenue thus generated would end up with the farmers. (Leissle, Cocoa, p. 128 – 131)

Various efforts to achieve this exist, including initiatives such as Fairtrade. Fairtrade offers benefits including price floors and communal funds for farmers’ communities. However, the Fairtrade label may be diluted in efficacy by the common practice of certifying only some ingredients, or only part of a whole. (Leissle, Cocoa, P. 144 – 146) As aforementioned, Chocolats Halba subscribes to the Fairtrade label, among others. It also does not in any way dilute the significance of this label; which applies to all ingredients it uses. Notably, the company also engages extensively in direct trade; a solution thus far engaged in by a limited number of chocolate manufacturers. Direct trade offers various unique benefits, with one of the most important being that it allows for a larger share of profit to be received by cacao growers instead of by middlemen. In case of this company, it also allows the possibility of informing consumers of a product’s terroir. The company makes extensive use of the opportunities this allows, as demonstrated by the information provided by the packaging material depicted below. (Leissle, Cocoa, P. 153 – 157) (Chocolats Halba, 2016 Report, Purchasing)

Information on the terroir of a chocolate’s cacao component provided on the packaging of a bar made by Chocolats Halba. This text also refers to the company’s environmental efforts, while emphasizing quality throughout. Image Credit: Own Work

As for sustainability, the main issues with chocolate production is that many of the crops involved in it are commonly produced in manners that are not particularly sustainable. Notably, the cultivation of many of these crops involves the sue of herbicides and pesticides and artificial fertilizers as well as extensive transportation before being processed in more energy-intensive processes. The production of sugar from sugarcane is an example, sugar being a ubiquitous ingredient in chocolate. The production of cane sugar is particularly onerous, being exhausting upon the soil and thus commonly leading to extensive deforestation. It is also energy-intensive to produce, requiring a long growing season and heavy irrigation along with extensive processing to finally produce sugar. (Mintz, Sweetness and Power, P. 19 – 21, 25)

While the production of cacao itself is somewhat less energy intensive, it too presents the issue of having to transport raw materials over often considerable distances to factories and from there to consumers. Likewise, though cacao is generally cultivated amongst other trees rather than in monoculture plantations, its production likewise often includes the use of various poisonous substances. Indeed, in many regions, extensive use of such substances is common, despite the environmental and medical hazards. (Coe, The True history of Chocolate, P. 263) In this field as well, Chocolats Halba pursues rather desirable goals, as demonstrated by its adherence to several standards for organic production, including the Canadian, American and Swiss standards of organic production. Adhering to these standards means to pursue methods of production that are in harmony with nature, which, translated into practice, means not using artificial fertilizers, herbicides and similar substances in production. Similarly, the company also makes all its packaging materials from FSC-certified or recycled paper.  (Chocolats Halba, Labels (http://chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 23-04-19)))

 In addition, the company also pursues carbon neutral methods of production. This involves actively keeping a tally of the emission involved in making a given product and avoiding these wherever possible, or if that cannot be done, to offset them instead. In the case of Chocolats Halba, offsetting emissions generally means the planting of hardwood trees, which is done in collaboration with he same cooperatives from which the company procures its raw materials. Apart from somewhat reducing environmental impact, an additional benefit of this approach is to improve the local environments of these cooperatives by increasing biodiversity and even offering a long-term source of income. This particular approach is a part of a unique project by the company which involves cultivating cacao as one of many crops on the same plot of land. These other crops include manioc, maize, bananas, sweet potatoes and hardwood trees. This “dynamic agroforestry” is supposed to increase both the local biodiversity and the variety of income sources, and hence financial security, available to the cultivator. This method is also supposed to be particularly compatible with the rather small land plots held by the majority of the members in the cooperatives that deal with the company. This method of cultivation also has the benefit of decreasing the proportion of the cacao crop that fails due to disease or other causes each year. This benefit mainly derives from how the more diverse environment provides superior conditions for cacao trees, including more shade and less likelihood of pest attacks due to the lower density of cacao trees. Hence, this method provides the dual benefits of an environmentally responsible mode of production combined with more security for workers. Chocolats Halba and its parent company have been promoting this method of production as an alternative to monoculture cultivation of work-intensive and environmentally depleting high-yield varieties. Further information on this method, as featured in one of the company’s reports may be found here: https://sustainability.chocolatshalba.ch/en/nhb2016/report.html. (Chocolats Halba, 2016 Report, Sustainability (https://sustainability.chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 25-04-19)))

The company also aims to keep its Switzerland-based chocolate production carbon neutral; and has generally succeeded decently at these efforts. For example, the company sources most of the energy it uses from natural gas and district heating. Meanwhile, the company’s new factory in Pratteln is notable for being equipped with a considerable surface worth of solar panels as well as the capability to reuse waste heat. These facilities also make almost exclusive use of less undesirable refrigerants such as ammonia and carbon dioxide. Similarly, the company also receives and makes most of its deliveries by rail to reduce transport-related emissions. As with the production of its raw materials, this company also aims to offset the emissions generated by its facilities in Switzerland. To this end, the company also engages in emissions trading, and has overseen the planting of a few hundred thousand trees. The result of these efforts is that the company has been operating climate-neutrally since 2011, according to some definitions. (Chocolats Halba, 2016 Report, Energy & Climate (https://sustainability.chocolatshalba.ch (Retrieved 25-04-19)))

To conclude, Chocolats Halba offers a remarkable example of a larger chocolate producer contributing positively both to improving workers’ situation and at making its products in a decently sustainable manner. Furthermore, the company not only provides one positive example, it also demonstrates that such positive effects may be achieved in relatively little time: this company’s practices were not particularly noteworthy in these regards until recently. In the last decade however, the company has made remarkable progress towards the goal of conforming to higher ethical standards, thus setting an example of how great progress may be made quickly by those willing to invest the effort. The company’s labelling efforts also demonstrate how producing chocolate in a sustainable and responsible manner may further serve as a successful marketing strategy . Thus, Chocolats Halba provides an example of how such practices can benefit both the company, the consumer and the producer in how they allow for superior products that come with greater transparency, at less cost.

Works Cited:

Multimedia Sources:

MJ, Image of the Rear of Chocolate Packaging of Chocolats Halba

MJ, Image of the Interior of Chocolate Packaging of Chocolats Halba


Healthy Chocolate: The Rise of Marketing Chocolate as a Healthy Food

         Chocolate is an intriguing treat, junk food, energy snack, medicinal food, etc. This sentence itself is interesting in and of itself since chocolate is a type of food that can be labeled in so many different ways. This is not necessarily the case because there are an endless number of versions of chocolates, but it has instead been the result of the myriad of different ways in which chocolate has been marketed to different demographics throughout the years. As we have seen in our course, “Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food,” the way in which chocolate has been viewed has changed in many ways since it has been demonized by religious groups in the first half of the 20th century 1, it has also been “sanctified as a thoroughly American food” in the 1920’s 2, and if you go back to the 18th and 19th century, then you see that chocolate was marketed as a food that you could ingest as medicine to improve health 3. However, the contemporary state of the cacao-chocolate industry has led chocolate as a food to be seen and marketed in new ways that have been a response to the societal changes that have influenced the role that chocolate has in our society. The chocolate industry has started to market chocolate towards adults in recent years and they have started to put less focus on marketing to children. This shift in marketing has largely been the result of the fact that the market for children’s candies is so mercurial and is largely dependent on the current trend in candy, which makes it very difficult to remain profitable as a candy company that focuses on the children’s market 4. The chocolate industry is largely dependent on sugar and the way that it is perceived by society and there has currently been a shift to no longer seeing chocolate as an unhealthy food that was meant to be for kids. An interesting example of this shift is the fact that the National Confectionary Assn. has hired Olympic medalist Bob Matthias to promote “the nutritional benefits of chocolate.”5 The promotion of chocolate as a candy that is healthy and meant for adults largely stems from a trend of chocolate products moving up and offering better quality through sophistication.6 Gary Foote, who is the marketing manager for Ferrero USA, claims that this is largely the result of the “Europeanization, or the gourmetization of America.” 7 It is possible to see the cause of this shift because there are many examples of the perception that American adults have of European chocolate when compared to American chocolate.


As you can see in the video below, these Americans who are doing a study abroad program in Belgium, have this idea that European chocolate is a lot more sophisticated than American chocolate.8


Studies show that one of the reasons why these American exchange students feel that European chocolate is superior partially has to do with how “a brand and a country-of-origin have a positive correlation, as they influence consumer’s brand evaluation, perceptions, purchasing behavior and brand equity.” 9 European chocolate has the advantage that it is being made in European countries that are seen as first world countries which has a certain allure and elegance in the eyes of American consumers. On the other hand, you have chocolate that is being made in South America and Africa where most countries are seen as third world countries by most American consumers, which can be attributed to many social factors and racism is one of these factors. It becomes obvious that the reason why these Americans feel that European chocolate is superior to American chocolate is because the marketing and packaging is more professional and sophisticated—it is marketing that is clearly targeting an older demographic. The article “A review of marketing strategies from the European chocolate industry” by Nur Suhaili Ramli mentions that European chocolate typically stands out for the most part when it comes to their marketing, but it is also unique in the use of “quality ingredients, supply chains, marketplace, and product attribute information.”10 It is fascinating to notice how effective this type of marketing is with adults since the people in this video never mention anything about the chocolate itself. The women never mention that the taste of European chocolate is superior to American chocolate and instead they largely focus on the superiority of the look, the presentation, and the aesthetic of European chocolate. There have been many studies done around this topic of how marketing of chocolate affects the way that people perceive the differences between chocolate that is labeled as “organic” and chocolate that is not labeled that way. The study “The Effect of ‘Organic’ Labels On Consumer Perception of Chocolates” by Kiss, Kontor, and Kun makes a conclusion that the label of “organic” on chocolate packaging increased the “perceived gap between organic and regular chocolates according to fragrance, healthiness, calories content and price.”11


This is a rising trend in the chocolate industry that can clearly be seen in advertisements, as the one listed in the video below for the product Choconature, where you have a doctor appearing in this advertisement in order to assure audiences that this product will improve your health.12

The doctor in the video mentions that the chocolate is 100% organic, decrease inflammation in the body, decrease the free radicals in the body, help improve your skin, and decrease your blood pressure. 13 It is evident from this ad that there is a viable adult market in the chocolate industry and they are trying to find a way to rebrand the image that people have of chocolate, as a sugary treat that is bad for your health, and turn it into a product that can actually help fix many ailments that affect older demographics.

There is a significant question that is posed by videos like the one above: is chocolate, or at least some version of chocolate, capable of not only being a healthy food, but also a food that could have medicinal properties? Chocolate, as it is typically created for products like Snickers and M&M’s—in particular dark chocolate of high cocoa varieties—has natural antioxidant benefits. 14 These benefits have long been known by the general public and companies selling dark chocolate, which has lead these companies to market their dark chocolate as a healthy version of chocolate for many years. However, there has recently been a huge surge in the fortification of chocolate in order to artificially add properties to chocolate that, according to these chocolate manufacturers, could help improve your health and solve other body ailments. 15 Some of the ingredients that companies fortify chocolate with are vitamins, minerals, superfruits, lavender, and goji berries. 16 On the surface the addition of these nutritious ingredients may seem like a win-win situation since customers will be able to eat a tasty snack, like chocolate, and also be able to consume ingredients that would improve their health. Yet, the chocolate manufacturers who are creating these healthy versions of chocolate are deliberately misinforming consumers on how healthy these snacks truly are by abusing how ambiguously defined  “organic” products and “all-natural” products are in the United States market and the international market. Chocolate manufacturers have taken note of the growing popularity of “organic products and ingredients in the U.S.” In order to take advantage of this trend, chocolate manufacturers have begun to market their products as “all-natural” products as an alternative to the “organic” products that consumers typically associate with healthy foods. On the surface, they both seem like they are equally healthy, however, it becomes apparent that they are some major differences between the two products once you start looking at the specific requirements needed for a product to be considered either “all-natural” or “organic.” When it comes to “organic” products, they are typically priced at a higher price since the ingredients required are more expensive. 17 Additionally, it is expensive for manufacturers of organic products to go through the certification process required to have their product labeled as “organic.” Therefore, chocolate manufacturers are leaning towards creating products that can be marketed as “all-natural” since it is easier and cheaper to make because of the lack of regulation and the affordability of the cheaper ingredients that are accepted as “all-natural.” More and more manufacturers are leaning towards creating “all-natural” products in order to satisfy the burgeoning demand for natural products in the adult demographic of chocolate consumers.

The lack of regulation that exists in the “all-natural” sub-industry of chocolate is an issue because it allows companies to use marketing in order to take advantage of the fact that the majority of chocolate consumers do not know the tactics that companies can use to falsify legitimacy as a healthy food product. A prime example of how chocolate companies manufacture artificial legitimacy is by paying independent researchers to conduct studies on the health benefits of eating chocolate—mainly the niche “all-natural” products that chocolate companies make. The chocolate brand CocoaVia, which is a subsidiary company of Mars Inc.—focuses on creating supplements and bars that are marketed as a healthy food option. 18 Brands like CocoaVia rely on scientific studies done on cocoa flavanol that claim that their products contain properties which allow them to “promote healthy blood flow from head to toe.” 19 There is a major issue with these studies that purportedly claim that these chocolate supplements are nutritious and beneficial to the health of consumers: the majority of these studies are funded by the same companies that are being examined by the independent researchers. 20 The main problem with the aforementioned power dynamics between employer and employee is that these companies are more inclined to “fund researchers with favorable views about their products, and researchers may consciously or unconsciously tweak the design of their studies or their interpretation of results to arrive at more positive conclusions.” 21

These claims are not unfounded since the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council has filed claims against CocoaVia as a result of a lack of substantial evidence to support claims in their marketing, such as “CocoaVia daily cocoa extract supplement delivers the highest concentration of cocoa flavanols, which are scientifically proven to promote a healthy heart by supporting healthy blood flow (as can be seen in the image below).” 22 23


It is dangerous to allow companies to make claims such as the aforementioned one because according to the Natural Marketing Institute found that “43% of US shoppers consulted nutritional information on product packaging when buying a product for the first time.” 24 Therefore, the fact that chocolate companies are putting unsubstantiated claims on their nutritional information marketing is dangerous since customers are easily susceptible to marketing, especially if it is marketing that promotes “healthy” chocolate that targets an adult demographic.


The chocolate industry has been maturing and it has made a conscious shift from focusing on kids as a market to focusing on adults as a more viable and profitable market. This has led to a change in the marketing used by chocolate companies in order to attract an older demographic to purchase their healthy chocolate. Chocolate marketing for kids has typically focused on making chocolate appear to be as fun and as tasty as possible, but marketing has started to focus more on “scientific studies” and “health facts” ever since the chocolate industry started to direct the majority of its industry to an adult demographic—this is evident in ads like the one below. 25

The marketing done for healthy chocolate is an example of the dangers that exist with the marketing of chocolate since it has become clear that there is a lack of regulations in place when it comes to the integration of science into the ads in this industry. The perception of chocolate, and the way that it is marketed by companies and by society, has changed throughout history as reactions to the ebbs and flows of societal values. Currently, this trend of healthy chocolate has been a reaction to a societal trend that has leaned toward valuing a healthy lifestyle and reducing the intake of food that is deemed to be junk food—and chocolate has long been a member of this group of foods.


Endnotes



1 Carla Martin, “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market,” Class lecture, Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, March 13, 2019.

2 Ibid.

3 Carla Martin, “Sugar and cacao,” Class lecture, Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, February 20, 2019.

4 Chocolate marketing no longer kid’s stuff, pg 2

5 Patricia Winters, Chocolate marketing no longer kid’s stuff, Advertising Age, May 19, 1986, 2.

6 Ibid, 1.

7 Ibid, 1.

8 “Marketing Chocolate,” YouTube video, 4:54, “Clemson Study Abroad,” July 7, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DZfsWQk-Zo.

9 Nur Suhaili Ramil, “A review of marketing strategies from the European chocolate industry,” Journal of Global Entrepreneurship 7, no. 10 (2017): 1.

10 Ibid, 6.

11 Marietta Kiss, Eniko Kontor, Andras Istvan Kun, “The Effect Of ‘Organic’ Labels On Consumer Perception Of Chocolates,” The Annals of the University of Oradea Economic Sciences XXIV, (2015): 448.

12 “Dr Steven Warren About the best #1 Organic chocolate on the market recommended By Doctors,” YouTube video, 0:51, “Peter Langelaar,” May 21, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmUYUmV5_Ec.

13 Ibid.

14 Prepared Foods, “Natural Alternatives,” PreparedFoods.com, Accessed April 20, 2019.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Julia Belluz, “Dark chocolate is now a health food. Here’s how that happened,” vox.com, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/10/18/15995478/chocolate-health-benefits-heart-disease (accessed April 20, 2019).

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, 2016, “NAD Recommends Mars Modify Certain Claims for CocoaVia Cocoa Extract,” News Release, http://www.asrcreviews.org/nad-recommends-mars-modify-certain-claims-for-cocoavia-cocoa-extract/, (accessed April 20, 2019).

23 https://www.cocoavia.com/.

24 Datamonitor, CocoaVia case study: Marketing healthy chocolate, New York City: Datamonitor, 2005, Accessed April, 2019, 6.

25 https://www.cocoavia.com/.





Taza Chocolate: A Step in the Right Direction, but Still Room for Improvement

As you have probably discovered when looking through the chocolate display in various retail and grocery stores, five large players dominate the global chocolate market. Their prevalence allows them to dictate the rhetoric and information synthesized by chocolate consumers on a daily basis. However, the industry is fraught with serious issues that these companies are not taking drastic enough steps to solve. Instead, we must look to other companies, although less well known and smaller-scale, that are forging innovative paths to solve these very real problems, in order to learn from them but also recognize where there is room for improvement. One such company is Taza Chocolate. 

 Taza Chocolate is a bean to bar chocolate company based in Somerville, Massachusetts. It was founded in 2005 by CEO Alex Whitmore, who was inspired by the stone ground chocolate he had tasted on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. He apprenticed under a molinero in Oaxaca in order to learn how to make and work with traditional Mexican stone mills. The result of these unique mills and minimal processing is chocolate with bolder flavors and a grittier consistency than the smoothness that is usually expected from more mainstream companies. 

Summary of the Taza Chocolate production process

Taza chocolate can be bought online through its website or at Amazon and can be found at retailers such as Whole Foods. According to the Taza Website, “We do things differently. We do things better. We are chocolate pioneers” (Taza Website: Direct Trade). They are pioneers not just because of their unique production process and flavor, but also because of their commitment to addressing the problems that plague the industry today through supply-chain transparency. 

Problems: Slavery, Economics and Gender Inequality

In order to critically analyze Taza’s attempted solutions, it is important to first understand the problems, which unfortunately are not new but rather have plagued the industry for centuries. Slavery was an integral part of chocolate’s history, and can be traced back to the 1500’s when the Spanish Encomienda system forced natives in Mesoamerica to grow cocoa and perform labor without pay. The terrible working conditions and disease spread by the Spaniards ravished the native population, and Africans were brought in to replace them. From 1500-1900, between 10 and 15 million enslaved Africans were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean to grow cocoa and other commodity crops. However, even after slavery was abolished, it continued and continues to plague the industry today, mostly in the form of child labor. The International Labour Organization defines child labor as, “all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery… work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children” (ILO). Carol Off found evidence of such child labor in Cote D’Ivoire, with some farmers or their supervisors “working… young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten” (Off, 121). A 2009 study by Tulane corroborated Off’s discoveries when it found that more than half a million children in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire were working in conditions that violated ILO guidelines as well as national laws on minimum wage and minimum hours (Berlan).

Another prevalent problem is the poverty that many cocoa farmers face, particularly in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, due to the economics of cocoa farming. Unlike many northern countries where jobs are salaried, wages for day laborers on farms are “neither guaranteed nor generally regulated” (Leissle, 106). Farm owners only receive cash when they sell their crop; thus, they earn 80% of their annual income in the six months of the main growing season, making budgeting for the rest of the year extremely difficult, especially because many inputs are needed at the start of the growing season when farmers are the lowest on cash. This can result in farmers having to take loans or credit, which often have incredibly high interest rates and can be impossible to pay back. The price fluctuations of chocolate also make it difficult to budget, as anything from bad weather to political turmoil can drastically affect chocolate’s price. Lastly, the prices farmers receive are often too low to support their costs. Farmers rarely sell their product directly to the big chocolate companies, instead selling to middlemen who have more negotiating power and can mislead them. Therefore, even if the price paid for chocolate goes up, there is no guarantee that the farmers actually receive this increase.  As a result of all of these factors, many farmers struggle to make a living.

Finally, gender inequality is an important problem that is often disregarded, in part because literature has minimized the role of women in chocolate production. Women are thought of as having only light and non-essential tasks, when in reality “female labor play[s] a central role in almost every aspect of cocoa production and sale… statistics undoubtedly underestimate the role of women” (Robertson, 100/104). But the industry is male-dominant, which has negative effects on women. For example, social norms dictate that even if women grow the cocoa, men are the ones that actually sell the crop and receive the cash (Leissle, 122). This means not only that women have no proof they are getting the right amount of money, but also that men of the household have control of the cash, which they often use to pay for needs they find most important before distributing the rest, if any, to women and children. Consequently, even though women contribute greatly to chocolate production, they have very little power. 

Taza’s Solution: Direct Trade Model

In order to combat some of these issues, according to Taza it developed, “The first third-party certified direct trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all.” (Taza Website: Direct Trade). Because it is the first of its kind, Taza published five guidelines and commitments for its direct trade system that it holds itself accountable to. 

  1. Develop direct relationships with cacao farmers:  Taza began by purchasing cocoa from La Red Guaconejo cooperative in the Dominican Republic and shipping it directly to Boston so that there were no middlemen involved. This direct method shrinks, “a commodity chain that is often far-flung, [so that] no step of the trade exchange, from farm to factory, was unknown or untraceable to Taza’s founders” (Leissle, 154). They later expanded their sources to include other producers in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ghana, all of which they have personal relationships with. Their single origin bars reflect and appreciate the uniqueness of each location. 
  2. Pay a price premium to cacao producers: Taza commits to paying at least $500 per MT above market price for its beans
  3. Source the highest quality cacao beans: Taza emphasizes fine flavor beans rather than bulk beans, and directs resources over the long term to assist producers in maintaining high quality output 
  4. Require USDA certified organic cacao: As part of its commitment to source only the best cocoa, Taza requires its producers to be organic certified. 
  5. Publish an annual transparency report: Taza was the first chocolate company ever to publish such a report. It includes the quantity of beans bought from each individual producer, the price Taza pays for these beans, and an intimate look at the individual producers they partner with. 
Overview of Taza’s Direct Trade Program in 2018

Pros of Taza’s Direct Trade Model

Taza’s direct trade model has improved the economics of farmers while simultaneously promoting transparency in the industry. In paying a large premium (15-20%), Taza ensures that the farmers do not have to worry about not being able to earn enough to survive fluctuations in cocoa price that are entirely outside of their control. This gives farmers much-needed predictability and visibility into future income and improves their standard of living. Furthermore, by publishing the exact prices they buy the seeds at and having all of their numbers and reports independently verified each year by the Quality Certification Services, Taza guarantees integrity and transparency. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the industry; many companies in recent years have introduced “even more ambiguity into the landscapes of its practice” by relying on internal certification and accountability schemes (Leissle, 147). For example, Cadbury recently stopped fair trade certification and instead initiated an in-house sustainability guarantee, which has decreased transparency because, “when a certification scheme is internal to a company, it is more difficult to assess whether they are rigorous and consistently applied. The only option is to take the company’s words that they are” (Leissle, 147-148). The same can be said for craft chocolate companies, who claim to pay several times the world market price for cocoa, yet there is no way for the consumer to verify. In publishing its prices, Taza has set a new standard for the industry, and others, such as Dandelion Chocolate, are following suit.

 Taza’s production process also allows for stronger relationships with producers and greater visibility into the company’s supply chain, ensuring no child labor is used to produce its products. In interacting directly with each of their producers, and visiting at least once a year, Taza can guarantee the use of fair labor. Furthermore, in Ghana, where, as discussed earlier, child labor is especially prevalent, Taza has invested in education programs for children and their family. For example, the local producers Taza partners with coordinate workshops in local schools for students and parents to “educate around age-appropriate farm activities… versus dangerous ones” (2018 transparency report). Additionally, Taza has patterned with the non-profit International Cocoa Initiative and its buyer Tony’s Chocolonely, to “proactively address any instances of unsafe work through a combination of family resources and training that rewards transparency and addresses core issues of poverty and lack of education” (2018 transparency report). 

Finally, Taza’s single origin bars promote consumer awareness about the countries where it sources its chocolate. Each bar, according to the website, “is minimally processed to let the bold flavors and unique terroir of our Direct Trade Certified beans shout loud and proud”  (Taza website: Origin Bars). 

Taza’s single origin chocolate bars

By indicating where the chocolate is grown, these single origin bars can help consumers learn that the taste of chocolate differs from place to place, and “invite shoppers to consider the politics and economics of exporting cocoa… By offering a range of chocolate experiences that can change even day by day, single origin chocolate reminds us that there are real people, institutions, and power structures behind every bar” (Leissle, 170). A more informed consumer is likely to make more informed decisions in the future, which can help promote sustainable, ethical chocolate production by creating demand for such products. 

How Taza can Improve

Although the Taza model has many strengths, there are areas where it is still lacking. For example, the prices listed in the transparency reports indicate the amount paid per metric ton to producer organizations, but they do not indicate the farm gate price, or how much the individual farmer receives. The farm gate price is distinctive from the price paid to the producers, but by not including both, the reports can mislead the consumer into thinking the listed price is entirely received by the farmers. In only one year, 2016, Taza reported the price that was actually received by farmers, which ranged from 51-76% of the price that was received by producer organizations (2016 transparency report). However, no other transparency report published these numbers, and this percentage could have changed substantially in the years since, especially because a few of the producer organizations they work with have changed. While Taza is exemplary in its transparency, there is room to be even more transparent by consistently publishing the farm gate price in its reports. 

Additionally, even though gender inequality is an important problem in cocoa production, Taza does not explicitly address it in its transparency reports. Photos of women farmers have been featured in some of the past reports, and the number of women farmers is included in each report (ranging from 15% to 45% of each producer organization). These inclusions are important in disproving the misconception that women are not involved in cocoa production. However, there is no reference to the struggles women face due to the power dynamics of the industry. Taza had the opportunity to do so in its 2018 report, when it mentions that its partner in El Majagual, Dominican Republic donated his chocolate factory to an association of local women. However, they do not even name the women’s association or delve into what it does, and it seems as though the sale was a decision made independently by the producer with no help or influence from Taza. This is an area where Taza can really improve and learn from organizations such as Kuapa Kokoo, a Ghana based company that sets gender quotas for elected representation at the community and district levels of governance and organizes conscious-raising women’s groups and women’s literacy programs (Leissle, 149). An essential next step for Taza is to acknowledge the unequal distribution of power and wealth due to gender, because according to field work and research by Kristy Leissle and Stephanie Barrientos , “Apart from explicit, well-directed efforts to empower women, most assistance…[goes] directly or indirectly to men” (Leissle, 173). 

Conclusion

In summary, Taza Chocolate is changing the way chocolate is sourced, produced and consumed. In addressing the economic problems farmers face, ensuring its producers do not use forced labor, and investing in programs that combat child labor, Taza is making a positive impact on cocoa production. However, there are many areas where Taza can still learn and grow— the transparency reports would be greatly improved if they included farm gate prices, and just as the company has invested in programs to fight against child labor, it should invest in programs that are actively looking to support women.  That being said, Taza’s direct trade program is truly innovative, and its transparency reports are challenging other companies to improve their own practices. Although the direct trade model is not feasible for the larger scale companies that dominate the industry, consumers must demand the same level of commitment to ethical production that Taza demonstrates.  

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088–1100. 

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018. 

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2006.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2013.

https://www.ilo.org/global/standards/subjects-covered-by-international-labour-standards/child-labour/lang–en/index.htm

https://www.tazachocolate.com

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2016-transparency-report

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2018-transparency-report

Images Cited

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Chocolate_Making_Process.pdf?10043542871181577895

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade

http://www.tazachocolate.com/collections/bars

From Drink for Humanity to Drink for Pigs: The Colonization of Mesoamerican Cacao by European Powers

For ancient Mesoamericans, cacao was used as in cultural practices, as currency, and as beverage.[1] Cacao would be used by Maya nobles to demonstrate wealth and power and to signify political and economic agreements, and throughout the Maya people for rituals, such as holidays, life celebrations, and death ceremonies.[2] For these early Mesoamerican peoples, it was also cash, used as a payment to workers and as a unit of wealth for the elite, “money [that] literally grew on trees,” as writes Sampeck and Thayn. [3],[4] As a beverage, cacao was combined with many different indigenous ingredients—honey, flowers, herbs, vanilla, achiote—to satisfy the Mesoamerican tongue.[5] However, through 17th century colonialism, cacao as a beverage would undergo significant changes in taste as it was violently reconstructed for the European palette. In fact, using the words of Kathryn Sampeck and Jonathan Thayn, “Taste offered a way to create distinction between colonizers and colonized and between colonial powers.”[6]

In the Yucatan, Spanish colonizers were initially intrigued by cacao for its economic purpose as currency, but as for its taste, felt that it was “more a drink for pigs, than a drink for humanity,” in the words of conquistador Girolamo Benzoni in 1575.[7] When wine ran low, Benzoni turned to drinking the Natives’ chocolate beverage as an additional source of liquid nourishment besides water, developing an affinity for its bitter flavor and “refesh[ing]” effect on the body.[8] However, such an enticing flavor could not square with colonizers’ preconception of Native culture as savage and inferior. Therefore, through Spanish colonization of Native Mesoamericans, Aztec cacao recipes were made warmer, sweeter, and spicier through imposed European tastes.[9] Europeans preferred their chocolate beverages heated (as appropriated from Maya chocolate preparation), sweetened with cane sugar (supplied by slave labor), and flavored with European spices such as cinnamon and Black Pepper as opposed to the Natives’ achiote, honey, and agave.[10],[11] Furthermore, to make more efficient the commodification of creolized cacao, Europeans also appropriated a Native Mesoamerican production technique of making ground cacao into tablets that could be stored and simply added to water and sweetened with sugar when

a beverage was instantly needed, such as was employed during Aztec wartime.[12]

tablea.png

(Source: http://www.aboutfilipinofood.com)

Pilipino tableya, tablets made from 100% cacao nibs with no additives which can be added to hot water in order to create a chocolate beverage, may be a similar product to the tablets that Spaniards appropriated from Aztec war practices.[13] The Philippines were also historically colonized by Spaniards, resulting in the introduction of cacao from Mesoamerica.[14]

Even the word chocolate itself is a creole product of the colonizing process; while there is an incommensurable number of theories around the production of the word chocolate, Mexican language expert Ignacio Dávila Garibi makes a compelling argument that Spaniards combined the Mayan chocol (meaning “hot”) with Aztec atl (meaning “water”) to create the word chocolatl for their creolized cacao beverage.[15] Before colonization, Mayans described their chocolate beverage as chacau haa (meaning “hot water”) and Aztecs described theirs as cacahuatl (meaning “cacao water”).[16] Over time, in the context of adapting to globalized communication, Spaniards’ chocolatl has become chocolate.[17] In discussing this colonization of cacao foods’ indigenous naming, Sampeck and Thayn poignantly write:

The utterance of a word, a symbol—in this case, the word “chocolate”—rarely correlates with the thing it refers to because words (symbols) in any language are vastly more complex and sophisticated than icons…Europeans created concoctions, recipes that had a pattern that referred to the pre-Columbian preparation but were not that thing itself exactly.[18]

While extracting Native cacao and its cultural practices for the production of chocolate as a food, colonizers also appropriated the medical dimensions of cacao. Coe and Coe write that while Europeans believed in the humoral system—defined by the bodies expression of hotness, coldness, wetness, and dryness—Natives had an expansive knowledge of healing property of plant life, including cacao, consuming it as an energizing supplement before entering war or engaging in heavy labor, for example.[19] The ignorant humoral system of the Europeans could not compare to the effective plant-based practices innovated by the Natives.

Nonetheless, the Spaniard’s creolized chocolate beverage gained popularity among elites in their home country in the early 17th century as more and more cacao was imported by clergy, traveling colonizers, and later commerce.[20] Insofar, this new demand for cacao by the Spanish included forcing Mesoamerican farmers to harvest it.[21] Thus, as the taste of indigenous cacao beverage was itself being perverted through colonization, Leissle writes that “now its trade supplanted [cacao]’s Mesoamerican sociocultural embeddedness, and [cacao] took the first steps toward becoming a global commodity. This shift destabilized and, in some cases, severed cocoa’s links to its Mesoamerican roots.”[22] Originally taking the chocolate beverage from Mesoamerican jícaras made from gourd or clay, Spanish elites eventually replaced the Native devices with their own mancerina, described by Coe and Coe as a porcelain “plate or saucer with a collarlike ring in the middle, into which a small cup would sit without being able to slip” so that it would appeal more to European aesthetics and pose less of a risk of spilling on their fancy apparel.[23] Eventually chocolate made its way throughout European nobility in the 17th century—into Italy, France, and England, for example—where it continued to be transformed by colonizing cultures and tastes.[24]

img-01-74852766-f953-4de4-87aa-c539a97d2d53.jpg

(Source: http://www.erasmusgeografiaehistoria.org)

Painting by Felix Lorente Valencia (1712-1787) of a European woman pouring a chocolate beverage into a mancerina.

Chocolate, along with coffee and tea, became a key component of English life in the 17th century, amidst religious and political tensions, and significant advancement in arts and sciences from the likes of Isaac Newton.[25] After taking over the Spanish colony of Jamaica from Spain in 1655, the island became England’s main provider of cacao, which was described in a newspaper two years later as “cur[ing] and preserv[ing] the body of many diseases.” (165) Unlike France wherein chocolate was only available to nobles, England began commodifying chocolate as a product available for purchase to those who could afford to do so, particularly middle-class Englishmen (described by Leissle as “intelligentsia”) who frequented coffee shops where the chocolate beverages were sold, for business dealings and political discourse.[26], [27]

Coffeehouse01-1024x654.jpg

(Source: http://www.brewminate.com)

Englishmen in a 17th century coffee house.

As demand for sweet taste grew, England and France sought and competed for access to sugar markets in the Global South at this time to sweeten their chocolate beverages, made possible by chattel slavery and coerced labor.[28] Ironically, as writes Mintz, while the British homogenized coffee, tea, and chocolate to taste sweet through the addition of sugar supplied by enslaved people, all of these products had distinct, bitter flavors in their native forms.[29] According to Sampeck and Thayn, sugar was “the most important colonial addition to cacao beverages on both sides of the Atlantic” towards perverting cacao’s original Mesoamerican taste.[30] As part of the colonizing process, sugar assisted in turning indigenous cacao into European chocolate which, unlike the original ritualized, wealthy bean, was “intimately familiar but incompletely known”— characteristic of the alienating effect of colonization needed to sustain that project itself.[31] Mesoamericans and Africans meanwhile suffered the brute of enslavement, the spread of European diseases, cultural erasure and perversion, rape, economic denigration, and other forms of violence to meet their colonizers’ newly developed taste for sweetened cacao.[32] Thus, one might reiterate Sampeck and Thayn’s question: “How was it possible to subsume others (their lives, their labor, their substances, their objects) while at the same time hold them apart, as separate entities and tastes?”[33] In this context, it may be fair to co-opt and apply Benzoni’s view that Europe’s chocolate beverage became “more a drink for pigs [the colonizers], than a drink for humanity [the colonized].”[34]

fullsizeoutput_10b5.jpeg

(Source: http://www.cryssabazos.com)

Enslaved persons harvesting sugarcane, overseen by European managers of the colonial project.

 

Endnotes

[1] Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. (New York City, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2013), 30

[2] Coe and Coe, The True History, 30-31.

[3] Kathryn E. Sampeck and Jonathan Thayn, “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism” from Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, first ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017), 76

[4] Coe and Coe, The True History, 32.

[5] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 81-82.

[6] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 73.

[7] Coe and Coe, The True History, 110.

[8] Coe and Coe, The True History, 110.

[9] Coe and Coe, The True History, 114-115.

[10] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 81-82.

[11] Coe and Coe, The True History, 112-115.

[12] Coe and Coe, The True History, 115.

[13] “Tablea,” About Filipino Food: Get to Know the Cuisine of the Philippines, January 08, 2018, accessed April 22, 2019, https://www.aboutfilipinofood.com/tablea/.

[14] Leissle, Cocoa, 37.

[15] Coe and Coe, The True History, 117-119.

[16] Coe and Coe, The True History, 117-118.

[17] Coe and Coe, The True History, 119.

[18] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 91.

[19] Coe and Coe, The True History, 121-123.

[20] Coe and Coe, The True History, 130-131, 135.

[21] Kristy Leissle, Cocoa (Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018), 34.

[22] Leissle, Cocoa, 34.

[23] Coe and Coe, The True History, 134-135.

[24] Coe and Coe, The True History, 147, 150-157, 161.

[25] Coe and Coe, The True History, 161-162.

[26] Leissle, Cocoa, 36.

[27] Coe and Coe, The True History, 164-168.

[28] Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power (New York, NY: Viking, 1985), 39, 44.

[29] Mintz, Sweetness and Power, 109.

[30] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 84.

[31] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 92-94.

[32] Leissle, Cocoa, 36.

[33] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 93.

[34] Coe and Coe, The True History, 110.

Bibliography

“Tablea.” About Filipino Food: Get to Know the Cuisine of the Philippines. January 08, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.aboutfilipinofood.com/tablea/.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York City, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York, NY: Viking, 1985.

Sampeck, Kathryn E. and Jonathan Thayn. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism” from Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica. First ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017.