Chocolate- Beyond the Shelf

Its 10pm and all of the sudden it hits you- that late night craving for something sweet. You try to resist the temptation at first but finally you give in. You pause your new Netflix show you have been binge watching, get up from your bed, and go to the cabinet where you keep all the goodies. To your dismay you open the cabinet to bare drawers with nothing but canned food and ramen in sight. However, your craving is strong so you decide to make the trip to the local convenience store around the corner. Given that you are an undergrad at Harvard University you make you’re way to the center of the square where you have a number of options- CVS, Shaw’s, Cardullo’s, and Formaggio. You want to try something new so you decide on Cardullo’s and make a beeline for the sign that reads “Chocolate”. To your surprise there are shelf filled with different brands of chocolate that you have never seen before. You survey the selection not even knowing what terms like “Raw 100% Cacao” mean, let alone what that would taste like. You ask yourself questions like “Is this $13 chocolate bar going to be that much better that a Hershey’s?” and “How is hand-crafted chocolate different from regular chocolate?”

These are all fine questions for the average chocolate consumer to ask. In fact, I would argue that the average chocolate consumer should ask even more questions about their chocolate! The goal of this post is to help the average consumer better understand the options they face when they are searching for their next late night chocolate fix. This post will actually look at some of the selections that are available from Cardullo’s in Harvard Square and explain what one can learn from the selection. Some of the points that’s will be considered include the type of chocolate, ethical concerns, price point, and intended audience of all the different chocolate bars. With the vast number of selections available at Cardullo’s, the examination of each individual chocolate offering is out of the scope of this paper. Rather, this post will look in depth at two different chocolate selections with the hopes that the reader can become better informed about the diverse world of chocolate.

The first type of chocolate offering we will examine is the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar. This bar gives us the standard milk chocolate bar that so many of us have come to know and love. The first milk chocolate bar dates back to 1879 when Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter were able to utilize a newly discovered cooking process to produce these bars. (Coe and Coe 246-247). As time went on milk chocolate increased in popularity as a result its sweet taste and marketed health benefits. With milk chocolate still very popular today one should be aware of the process through which milk chocolate is produced. The chart below gives a detailed picture of the current milk chocolate production process.

Chocolate Processing Flow Chart
Source: http://www.c-spot.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/flowchart.jpg

As you can see the initial steps are similar and then there is more specific steps needed in order to make milk chocolate. The key ingredients in milk chocolate that separate it from the other forms of chocolate are the milk and sugar added in the product. Additionally, the milk chocolate that most of us consume today actually has a very low percentage of cacao compared to other chocolate selections.

With the rise in popularity of milk chocolate over the last 150 years or so there have also been a rise in the number of companies producing chocolate products. However, Cadbury did not just hop on this trend in recent years. The Cadbury Company was founded by John Cadbury, who in 1824 opened a coffee and tea shop in Birmingham, U.K. where they sold the traditional coffee drink at that time. (Coe and Coe 241). Eventually, the Cadbury developed their family coffee shop into the largest chocolate producer in Great Britain. The Cadbury Company is credited with a number of firsts in the chocolate industry one of which includes the creation of the box of chocolates (Coe and Coe 242). The effort to make sure that the Cadbury Company was using responsible sourcing actions began in the early 20th century. It was at this time when “William Cadbury (who was disillusioned by labor abuses in São Tomé and Principe and under considerable pressure to find a more ethical alternative) reported to his friend and confidant, E.D. Morel, who was a journalist and human rights campaigner, that he had heard positive things about the British colonial authorities in Ghana (still the Gold Coast at the time)” (Berlan 1092-1093). As a result of all the positive things Cadbury had heard “Ghana became Cadbury’s main supplier of cocoa” (Berlan 1093). Overall, Cadbury is one of the most established chocolate companies on the planet that played a critical role in the introduction of milk chocolate to the U.K. Now when you bite in to one of their signature Cadbury Dairy Milk bars you will have an idea of how much work went into that product.

Classic Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar

The next selection that we will explore is the Antidote chocolate bar. I am not going to lie, the main reason that I want to further analyze this option is because of the packaging of the bar, which bright orange, pink, and blue color options stood out from the rest. While this may seem like a trivial point, the company has surely thought about the best way to brand their chocolate. The packaging has a very modern style and with circles surrounding each letter of the company name and on the top of the packaging you can see that it is “Raw 100% Cacao with crunchy nibs”. It is clear that the company is trying to market itself as a more luxury brand of chocolate. That is if the $10 per bar price point had yet to get that message across. While this price may seem ridiculous to some, there are a number of consumers who are fine with paying this much for a chocolate bar. For years it seemed that people viewed a chocolate bar as a commodity, a cheap snack that you could buy at the check out counter of your local gas station. However, the general public is starting to see more high priced, luxury chocolate bars like Antidote come to market. This all has to do with how people perceive chocolate; is it a commodity or a luxury? While the movement to promote chocolate as a luxury may seem to relatively new, chocolates was introduced to the world as one of the most exclusive luxury goods across the world. In early 17th Europe chocolate could only be consumed by the upper class elite. “Chocolate became such a popular repast at the seventeenth century French court and in noble salons that in 1705 the crown finally allowed the Guild of Paris coffeehouse owners (limonadiers) to produce and sell it by the cup”(Terrio 10). Today, all people are able to consume chocolate in many forms, not just through drinking it. If the consumer does decide to choose a “premium” chocolate bar they should know why they are paying more. This raises the question: What makes a premium chocolate bar better than an average chocolate bar?

Antidot Chocolate Selection
Source: antidotechoco.com

To answer this question, one must look at the sources of the chocolate that they are consuming. When one does this they will see that there chocolate is being produced by a company that falls into one of two categories. The first category is the big five chocolate companies which include Nestle, Mars, Hershey, or Mondelez. These are the five largest chocolate companies in the world that produce a disproportionate amount of the chocolate we consume. The second category a chocolate company can fall into is craft chocolate company. These companies are usually much smaller and distribute their product to the region in which it is produced. These craft companies charge more for their bars for a few reasons. First, there smaller scale may inhibit them from negotiating cheaper prices for their ingredients. Second and most important is the quality of their products. Craft chocolate companies are able to produce bars with higher cacao content, which are the most expensive ingredients in chocolate. Additionally, craft chocolate companies tend to be more mindful about the quality of their ingredients and focus on buying cacao grown in a safe environment with little chemical exposure. Furthermore, the smaller scale of these craft chocolate companies allows them to implement strict bean cleaning, roasting, and sanitation processes. It is the combination of all these factors that lead to craft chocolate brands like Antidote to charge a higher price for their product. While many craft producers are independent companies it should be noted that there is the possibility that a company may appear to be a small craft company but is owned by one of the big five.

A high price point makes these chocolate bars appear as a more luxury brand of chocolate, one that can only be consumed by wealthier people. Similarities can be drawn between this fact and the role chocolate played when it was first introduced in Europe. Although, it is all about how the public perceives chocolate. If you view chocolate as a luxury good then maybe you have no problem splurging on a nice chocolate bar even if your financial situation differs from the average person who buys a $12 chocolate bar. This is an important factor consider not just for the chocolate you consume but also all the goods and services you pay for.

European Elite Enjoying Chocolate Drink

Humans have consumed chocolate for approximately 400 years, a relatively short time period considering the how long humans have been around. However, in this short period of time chocolate has gone from a beverage only consumed by the elites, to a food enjoyed by everyone. This transition was not come easy. Along the way, chocolate had to overcome certain stigmas amount its consumption such as its association with gluttony and sin. There has been controversy surrounding the big five chocolate companies and the use of child slaves in the harvesting of their cacao. These issues are not completely resolved but the chocolate community has been able to learn and grow from them. While the chocolate industry has seemed unstable at times, we all knew that a chocolate bar’s present would be constant at the store down the street when that late night craving hit. Next time that craving does come about and you go looking for your options I hope you are able to draw on the information presented in this article and feel good knowing that you are a better-informed chocolate consumer. Being well informed feels good but I know it will never feel as good as the taste of chocolate since “there is a built in human likeness for sweet taste”(Mintz 14), a likeness that chocolate has been able to satisfy so well.

Works Cited

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

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

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power : the Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.

Terrio, Susan J. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, 2000.

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