All posts by 2016e795

David vs. Goliath- the emerging market of small bean-to-bar chocolate makers and how packaging plays an important role

The competition in the chocolate industry isn’t as linear as it used to be with only the ‘big boys’: Cadbury, Nestle, Ferrero, Mars and Hershey, sharing territory and profits. This age has seen the introduction of a more diverse group of craft bean-to bar-chocolate makers. There is a niche in the market for this small group but first, they are tasked with prying away the ‘cradle to the grave’ brand loyalists from the big five. One apparent way that has evidenced itself in the way these competing David’s against the Goliath’s of the chocolate industry has shown itself, is through careful and innovative packaging. Bearing that in mind, this paper will look at various ways packaging influences consumerism and how it has made a former monopoly into a battle ground for the most creative minds.

Arguably, these companies do not have the disposable budget that is privileged to the big chocolate companies with regards to advertising. Therefore, they resort to a more packaging focused marketing tactic which is a cheaper and effective method that has a targeted and far reaching aspect to it. Specifically, packaging has three unique aspects of it that can influence consumerism and increase sales. 1) Packaging can be used to target impulse buyers not only by using promotional cues but most specifically, visual cues- students are found to be highly influenced by visuals. 2) Packaging is cheap and effective and when done correctly, allows the product to sell itself without much intervention. 3) Packaging can also be used as a tool for social and cultural consciousness. With the rise in interest of bridging gaps culturally in the face of increased globalization, chocolate packaging can be used as a tool to promote these ideals and garner patrons via shared ideologies.

The big chocolate companies over the last couple of years have kept packaging changes to a bare minimum because they have created a bond with their consumers where it is easy to spot a Snicker bar or M&M’s package from a mile away. These companies have relied on the ability of the consumer to recognize their package and help in sustaining sales. This is not so with the growing contenders in the chocolate industry. They do not have the recognizable packaging that these companies have established over the years. In order to break this boundary bean-to-bar chocolate makers have paid specific attention to packaging to target impulse buyers.

The moment one walks into a store, there is a small window of time for purchases that are on one’s list but majority of other purchases are impulse based buying. “81% of in store purchases are due to impulse buying, with a vast majority of these purchases being the design that catches the consumer’s eye” (Saka 2011). Within this small period of time and amidst a plethora of competition, these small chocolate companies are provided the opportunity to draw the attention of an impulse buyer or even a brand loyalist based on an elaborate packaging that peeks the interest of the consumer. The function of packaging design “has now transitioned into a primary tool used by organizations to make its presence felt in a crowd and sell products at point of purchase” (Saka 2011). Tying into the four P’s of marketing, packaging has now been contended as the fifth P, “Because it has now become an integral element of the modern lifestyle and the branding process” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

The power of packaging based marketing with regards to product placement has garnered a momentum that cannot be denied, not only in the chocolate industry but across the board. It is so essential in the chocolate industry however because chocolate is such a high impulse purchase. Majority of consumers usually do not go into food stores with chocolate on their ‘To purchase’ list, it is something that we generally are persuaded to buy. A scientific study done to show the influence of packaging cues, found that students were greatly influenced in purchasing chocolate based on visual cues alone (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).  This find is not surprising because the major consumers of chocolate are the younger generation as opposed to the older ones. This generation is also easily influenced to abandon brand loyalty for whatever happens to be ‘trending’ at the moment. The attention of the younger chocolate consumers can easily be persuaded by strategically placed cues.

There are various aspects of visual cues but the strongest draw to the subconscious is color and shape. “Color is the most important tool for emotional expression of a package because it reflects an image for the product” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). According to Jenn David Connolly, Color in food packaging is so important because it leverages our emotional connection to taste (Connolly 2013). To expound on this, she expresses what several colors denote in food packaging with Red and Yellow taking the chief lead in fast food industry packaging. Orange is said to be an appetizing color, white connotes clean and pure, brown and earth tones symbolize warm, appetizing, wholesome and natural, bright colors shows a pop in flavors and subdued-muted colors are for rich and deep complex flavors (Connolly 2013). Often times several colors can also influence our tastes, for instance, orange is usually associated with citrus, off white with vanilla and red with strawberry, this association of color with taste, ties into the “associational aspect of color” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

The chocolate to a belgian recipe
The Chocolate to A Belgian Recipe. The peaches on the packaging signifies that the chocolate is “peach” flavored.

Shape is another visual cue that also influences the mind. “The shape of a package is normally the first thing a consumer notices in a store, an old fashioned shape of a package could suggest reliability and maturity to the consumer” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). The L.A Burdick chocolate package shape and color was so influential in persuading me to purchase my first chocolate bar from the chocolatier and I have since returned weekly ever since. There was something trusting in the brown, earthy envelope like package that assured me that this was a brand I could trust and the chocolate would be equally as sophisticated. The stamp visible in the front of the package had a personal feel as if the chocolate bar was specifically made for me.

LA burdick chocolate
The old fashioned look of the L.A Burdick chocolate packing makes it more trusting.

In the situation of an impulsive buy, the intention to purchase is determined by what is communicated at the point of purchase, the package is a critical factor in the decision making process because it influences purchase decisions (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). The shape of a chocolate bar can also influence the way it tastes as Cadbury would rudely discover when it attempted to change “the rectangular chunks to carved segments” (Miller 2015), the company received a huge backlash of protest for their efforts. Packaging is a cheap and powerful method of marketing that is slowly changing what chocolate brands consumers patronize, “because it makes a difference in our subconscious mind in what gets noticed and eventually purchased” (smartmarketing n.d.).

The power behind successful packaging lies in its ability to allow the product sell itself. It has an extrinsic value to it because the information on the package is taken into account when deciding whether to purchase or not (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). Packaging allows bean-to bar companies to cut their costs and get their brands out into the market without resorting to advertising. In certain ways, advertising can be limiting because it requires the perfect time slot or location for a billboard or a particular commercial to air on television. A good package is not burdened with these limitations, it has a “wider reach and has strong potential to engage majority of the target market. For a package to be effective it does however need to meet a few requirements. The package needs to be “attractive, informative and also identify with the product; it also needs to continuously communicate the product’s real benefits and create awareness to ensure image and brand preference” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

Packaging is more influential than advertising because it clearly stimulates emotions in the consumer that advertising is not able to pull out. In purchasing decisions, the ability to see, feel and touch easily outshines the strategically filmed commercial any day. The human mind is exceptionally influenced when majority of the senses can be used to influence decisions. Packaging is no longer perceived as a method for safe and effective way to transport a product, but has now become a “contributing factor to its marketability, a vividly beautiful product, to some extent, develops a positive image about it in the minds of the consumers” (Vartak 2013). During the chocolate tasting in the Chocolate Class that held this semester, I was influenced by the artful way in which the Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate packaging was constructed and it seemed to amplify the taste of the chocolate.

dick taylor chocolate
Simplicity of Dick Taylor packaging allows one to focus on the chocolate itself.

The innovation that goes into packaging that clearly shows itself in the world of bean-to-bar chocolate makers today, is one that is clearly missing in the big chocolate companies; this ability to influence has however not gone unnoticed by them.  As of recent, Godiva has changed its packaging and has started marketing ‘specialty’ brands clearly aimed at consumers that are influenced by package based marketing

With the ever growing list of brands in the chocolate industry, loyalty for brand choice is fast becoming a dying era. Consumers are now resorting to more of an impulse buying and are eager to try new products prompting companies to spend more time on packaging based research to add value to their product via means of innovative packaging (Vartak 2013). With the aspect of packaging that leans on brand loyalty based on recognition, it is pertinent to small bean-to-bar chocolate owners to invest in this method of marketing to influence product sales. Not only does the package need to be attractive, it must also be recognizable in order to compete in a fast widening industry.

Gone are the days that consumers are ignorant about the source of their cacao that is sourced to make their chocolate. With increased awareness that has stemmed from globalization, people are more savvy with these  issues and in the face of a pressing need to bridge social and cultural gaps, packaging is used to create an awareness in ways that it never did before. For certain bean-to bar chocolate makers, this is an opportunity that they have already tapped into. The Divine chocolate advertising ploy of featuring women cocoa farmers in their chocolate packaging was a brilliant way to initiate conversation about the binary that has plagued Africa from time immemorial. “In their depiction of women cocoa farmers as glamorous business owners, the images provide a fresh visual re-framing of goods and capital between Africa and Europe and a contrast to postcolonial literature on state capital formations in Africa” (Leissle 2012). In this evocative marketing strategy, it additionally attempts to bridge the cultural gap between Africa as this ‘other’ and the Western world as the ‘isolationist’ that has made it so.

Divine Chocolate
Divine Chocolate
uses women cocoa farmers in ad campaign

Using the women farmers as models was also an effective way of injecting women into the conversation of cacao farming in a way that previously has not been a conversation point. It invites viewers to see women as potent actors in the world of cacao sourcing and chocolate making in addition to being beneficiaries of these same exchanges (Leissle 2012). Another chocolate maker that has followed a similar part is Camino chocolate, “the word Camino stands for “path”, the chocolate packaging futures an intricate design of quirky-named streets with illustrations reflecting the happy, vibrant and sustainable communities’ that Camino supports through its fair trade practices”(Canadian Packaging Staff 2011).

Camino Chocolate
Camino Chocolate
Street paths and names outlined in packaging

Camino chocolate has tapped into packaging as a way to create social awareness of cacao sourcing and the communities that are sustained by this arrangement, thereby aptly informing chocolate consumers with regards to the origins of cacao used to produce their chocolate.

Through the use of innovative packaging, bean-to-bar chocolate companies are now able to influence consumers and create brand loyalty with their product. As the chocolate industry continues to evolve, it will be greatly interesting to see how the ‘big boys’ of chocolate push back against this marketing tactic. It is no longer enough to ply consumers with advertisements, people are becoming a lot more informed about the products they choose to consume and packaging is used as an influential tool in a way advertising is simply unable to do. As more bean-to- bar companies emerge, there will also be a rise in competition between these companies and at that time, perhaps the influence of packaging will need to be re-valuated and perhaps tweaked in other ways. For now, it is clear that the ‘big five’ have competition knocking on their doorstep and it would be ill advised to ignore it. Packaging is the next big thing and it has already arrived for many.

Bibliography

Burdick, L.A. n.d.

Canadian Packaging Staff. 2011. “Social Consciousness right on the package.” canadianpackaging.com. January 28. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.canadianpackaging.com/general/social-consciousness-right-on-the-package-21742/.

Connolly, Jenn David. 2013. Colors That Influence Food Sales. September. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://jenndavid.com/colors-that-influence-food-sales/.

http://www.lasiembra.com/camino/en/chocolate-bars/almonds. n.d. “Camino Chocolate.”

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisments.” Journal of African Cultural Studies (Routledge) (24:2): 121-139. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194.

Miller, Meg. 2015. “How Packaging Influences The Way We Taste Food.” fastcodedesign.com. October 27. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.fastcodesign.com/3052745/evidence/how-packaging-influences-the-way-we-taste-food.

Mosina, Olga. n.d. “The chocolate to a belgian recipe.”

Saka, Kwadwo Emmanuel. 2011. The Design of Packaging Graphics for the Expansion of Ghanian Chocolate Products. Graduate Dissertation, Digital Depository Iowa State University.

Shekhar, Suraj Kushe, and P.T Raveendran. 2014. “The Power of Sensation Transference: Chocolate Packages & Impulse Purchases.” Indian Institute of managment Indore 1-10.

smartmarketing. n.d. “How Can Packaging Increase Sales.” smartmarketingasia. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.smartmarketingasia.com/how-can-packaging-increase-sales/.

Vartak, Darshan. 2013. “Branding And Packaging For The Globalized Market.” packagedesignmag.com. October 18. Accessed May 5, 2016. http://www.packagedesignmag.com/news-from-our-readers/branding-and-packaging-for-the-globalized-market.

W, Brigette. 2015. “Dick Taylor Takes Chocolate Back To Its Roots.” February 7.

 

 

 

 

 

Race and Cultural Insensitivity in Chocolate Advertising

It is impossible to speak on chocolate advertising, through the lens of race and cultural insensitivity without being over-loaded with one image or video after another, of companies pleading ignorance or using deception in their bid to gain more consumers and acquire “target markets”. It is pertinent for the discussion of this subject matter that I utilize a select few images to tell a Story of the constructed prejudices still proliferated today in the world of chocolate advertising. Advertising in the chocolate industry especially in the western world is ignorant of the social, economic and political conditions facing the chocolate products that are marketed to consumers. These advertisements are generated primarily for the purposes of consumerism.  History has been unkind in creating these stereotypes and what is now apparent is that chocolate industries have adopted these attributes to be used thematically in advertising as a means to widen consumer markets and increase sales, the use of racial and cultural insensitive has now become a tool used by certain chocolate companies to sell more ‘chocolate’.

belgian chocolate hands
Belgian ‘Chocolate Hands’

This picture, is of sweets popular in the Antwerp region of Belgium. “Antwerpse handjes in Dutch,  are associated primarily with the myth of the founding of the city, in which the hero Brabo slew the tyrannical giant Antigoon, cut off one of his hands, and threw it in the river” (Dean). Of course the origin of the chocolate hands has been falsely attributed to a mythological story. The Chocolate hands in truth originated from a more sinister series of events that occurred during Belgium’s occupation of Congo by King Leopold II. “ The Belgium forces overseeing the enslaved workers were tasked to meet a daily quota of rubber and ivory harvest, the workers who did not meet the required quota would have their hands severed as punishment” (Dean). A false attribution of this chocolate hands with a local myth, is used to create patriotism and to increase sales. A marketing tool that chocolate advertisers often utilize.

Kina Ad
Swedish Kina Chocolate

The Swedish Kina chocolate company advertisement shows how companies use cultural appropriation to suit their needs. The image features a rice krisp covered chocolate; an Asian woman with a hat is seen perched on top of the chocolate bar. This traditional hat is widely common in Asian countries, it is also common knowledge that people of Asian descent are attributed with rice. After much uproar, Kina went ahead and removed the face but left the hat, a trade mark of the Asian community that simply just is- is used to promote a stereotype.

Sunny chocolate

To push back against the use of race and culturally insensitive as an advertising tool, I have created an image that focuses just on the chocolate itself. Chocolate being consumed by something we all consider gender-less, the sun. An argument could be made that my advertisement has no “target market” and it does not promote sales in anyway. My answer to that, is why should it? Chocolate sells itself, people are drawn to the taste. If chocolate is truly for the young and old, black and white, man and woman, why is a “target market” needed. Why is it that chocolate can’t be advertised to all on the same platform and everyone be allowed to choose without the power of persuasion. It could also be said that my advertisement lacks persuasion, I would refute  with the assertion that persuasion when coupled with stereotypes and prejudice leads to vilification. As chocolate has been deemed to be sinful and even a subject of oppression- in reference to the disparities in Cacao industry.

To better understand the damages perpetuated by chocolate advertising, one should take a closer look at the Critical Race Theory introduced by Professor Martin in Lecture. The six basic tenets of race theory emphasizes certain points that enshroud the problems with race and cultural insensitivity today. 1) Racism is ordinary- these stereotypes are enforced by human beings and only we can change them. 2) Interest convergence- the interest of the power players do not align with an egalitarian initiative. 3) Social construction- stereotypes are used as a tool to promote Dwarnist ideas- some people have to be at the bottom of the food chain while others are on top. 4) Differential Racialization- Different groups are profiled based on what is best suited at the time. Intersectionality and anti- essentialism- No prejudice is above or under the other and one can experience all in a particular situation. For instance, in the Cadbury Ad calling out Naomi Campbell, Not only was she profiled as having a stubborn and unyielding attitude like most black women are that she has to be instructed to “move over”, she is also called out as a “Diva”, a negative image that strong and independent women who know what they want are often associated with.

Naomi Campbell cardbury
Cadbury- Naomi Campbell Ad

6) Unique Voice of Color- People who have experienced prejudice are better at shining light on their plight. Integrating stereotypes in advertisements can be positive when it is used to create awareness or for positive campaigns against prejudice. It should never be used as an advertising tool to promote consumerism.

The Chocolate industry has had damaging effects in the use of “target market” ideology to increase sales. These stereotypes are often times given a pass because people are unaware of them or choose to be undisturbed by them. To condone the stereotypes in chocolate advertising is furthering the damage history has already created and in this case, it is much more insidious because it can go unrecognized or even worse, be tolerated as the norm.

Works Cited

Scholarly Sources:

Dean, Caroline. Chocolates as Cultural Blind Spots: Responding to “Civilization”. 12 February 2013. 5 April 2016. <http://sites.northwestern.edu/akih/2013/02/21/chocolates-as-cultural-blind-spots-responding-to-civilization/&gt;.

Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Chocolate Class. Byerly Hall, Cambridge. 30 March 2016. Lecture

Multimedia Sources:

Meyer, Norma. River cruise celebrates ‘tulip time’. 21 August 2015. 5 April 2016. <http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/aug/21/river-cruise-celebrates-tulip-time/&gt;.

Sweneyy, Mark. Cadbury apologizes to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ ad . 3 June 2011. 5 April 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/03/cadbury-naomi-campbell-ad&gt;.

Waterfield, Bruno. Nordic confectionery giant redesigns ‘racist’ logo. 21 September 2011. 5 April 2016. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/8778820/Nordic-confectionary-giant-redesigns-racist-logo.html&gt;.

Sugar becomes the Opiate of the Masses

 

Sugar was introduced into the British Empire as a luxury of the rich, over time and across many uses, it found its way into the homes of the average man and also became a staple in the everyday diet. How and why this change occurred is of great importance into understanding the shift in the consumption of sugar. Sugar was introduced as a spice and medicine into the British household, but came to included three other uses: as a decoration, sweetener and preservative. As sugar moved down the list of its uses, it also had social and economic impacts. The progression of sugar usage effected consumption in the British society and caused the shift from sugar as a luxurious good to an opiate of the masses.

In the early decades of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Britain established Caribbean plantations for the sole purpose of growing sugar cane. Britain’s first attempt at doing this occurred upon the establishment of Jamestown in 1607 which was the first English colony in the New World (Mintz 36). Sugar cane was brought in 1619 as were the first African slaves to reach the English colony (Mintz 36). Unfortunately, the sugar cane would not grow. The British Empire was hard pressed to see this mission successful as there was a high demand for sugar at home.

Slaves working in a sugar cane plantation in British-West Indies
A Sugar Cane Plantation in the West Indies

The settlement of Barbados in 1627 proved to be the turning point in British attempts as production with the successful production of “clayed sugars” and “muscovado”. (Mintz 37). “The first British sugar islands was Barbados followed by St Kitts, Nevis, Antigua and Jamaica. Grenada and Trinidad were added to the bunch in the late 19th century” (clements.umich.edu). Sugar supply for Britain now came directly from her settlements in the West Indies and added drastically to the consumption of sugar at home as it was now more accessible. “As supply for sugar increased, England’s demands for sugar kept pace. So much so that productions on the islands were barely able to keep up” (Mintz 39). Britain was importing huge amounts of sugar and the condiment in question came to define the “English Character” (Mintz 39).

Sugar Mill, Standard Mill in the West Indies
Sugar Mill

 

The sugar trade was successful because it was a highly priced commodity regardless of the volatility of the sugar market, the demands for it rose as consumption did (clements.umich.edu).  Sugar production increased as a direct correlation of its consumption. As availability of sugar rose in Britain, so did the many uses of sugar. The British households found new ways to incorporate sugar into their social lives.

British sugar consumption chart
British Sugar Consumption Chart

Mintz mentions five uses of sugar: 1) as medicine, 2) spice-condiment, 3) decorative material, 4) as a sweetener, 5) as a preservative. The use of sugar in these many forms although coming into usage progressively, also happened interchangeably. Sugar was first introduced into the British household as a Spice and Medicine, in this form, it remained a luxurious good only available to the rich. “The first written mention of sugar was in the pipe scrolls, the official records of royal income and expenditures in 1154-89(Mintz 82).  The quantities of sugar at this time were relatively small and since this was an account of the expenditures of the rich, meant that only this class of people could afford to consume sugar. “By the thirteenth century, sugar was still being sold by the loaf and by the pound and although still quite pricey and only accessible to the rich, it was now available even in the remotest areas” (Mintz 82). The shift from a luxury to a commodity available to all would happen in the sixteenth and seventeenth century and with the introduction of other uses of sugar.

 

In the seventeenth century, the use of sugar as a spice declined and this time period, “saw the prices, supplies and customary uses of sugar change rapidly” (Mintz 86). Sugar featured as a decorative item after this time and was not only available to the noble and rich but now made its way downward to the middle class. As sugar progressed in the list of uses, so did the decline in its exclusiveness and the more prolific it became, the more it was consumed by all. Sugar consumption also had economic ramification as well, “the decline in sugar importance went hand in hand with its increase in economic and dietary importance” (Mintz 95). As sugar became more plentiful, it now became available to the poor.

Sugar became available to the poor in the form of a sweetener and preservative; this accessibility would be responsible for the upward swing of the consumption of sugar. The rise of chocolate, tea and coffee into the British household massively contributed to the large amount of sugar consumption. The use of sugar as a sweetener in tea propelled the “Sugar Equalization Act” which removed the import tariff and lowered the price of sugar of which the direct result was the proliferation of sugar everywhere (clements.umich.edu). The poor used sugar not only as a sweetener but also to supplement their diets as well.

As sugar become more widely used in many forms, it made its way into the household of all citizens regardless of class, this was directly responsible in the shift of sugar consumption in the British society. Sugar in the form of a sweetener and preservative became an everyday commodity, which meant that consumption would greatly rise as it permeated every single dish that was eaten by the British citizens. This standard has come to hold true across the world as sugar features in every single dietary item we consume. However, there is a marked difference in the reception of this commodity, at some point highly revered, sugar is now a social pariah, an evil that has been thrust upon society and should be eradicated.

 

Bibliography

Scholarly Sources:

Clements.umich.edu. Sugar In The Atlantic World. 1923. Document. 21 March 2016.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York: Penguin, 1985. 274. Print.

Multimedia Sources:

brave.info, land of the. Sugar Act. n.d. image. 21 March 2016.

clements.umich.edu. Sugar In The Atlantic World. 1923. image. 21 March 2016.

czarnikow.com. The Inconvenient Truth about Sugar Consumption. 1 May 2014. image. 21 March 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayans and the Food of the Gods

For most of us consumers, it is easy to have a sense of detachment from the origins of the product which we consume, this statement is most applicable in the case of chocolate. It is arguable that the vast majority of chocolate consumers do not know the etymology of chocolate nor do they know it as a Cacao fruit first before its many transformation into chocolate. The word chocolate is said to have come from the Mayan word xocolatl. We have come to be introduced into the world of chocolate thanks to the many works of the meticulous archaeologists who have gone back in time to examine artifacts from regions in Mesoamerica that has helped to pinpoint the introduction of Chocolate into history, the culture, uses and beliefs of this wonderful beverage that came to be known as “food of the gods” (Presilla 5). The more delicate discoveries of chocolate including pre-Columbian recipes, uses and beliefs stems out of the Mayan civilization. In Mayan culture chocolate was a highly revered beverage both to the living and the dead and in particular to the Mayan elite. It was of utmost importance in Mayan ritual sacrifices and the use of cacao was also prevalent in Mayan dishes. Today, is a treat that can be afforded by both the rich and the poor, this being the case it is so easy to forget that at one point and especially in Mayan culture chocolate was a treat reserved only for the wealthy and the gods. The Mayan use of chocolate in various ceremonies including in sacred ritual sacrifices, marriage ceremonies, funerals and such makes an astounding case that the association of chocolate as “ the food of the gods” had its influences from the Mayan civilization.
It may be argued that cacao made its first appearance in the Olmec civilization but the Mayans came to domesticate this fruit and provide the vast artifacts that gave room to the study and understanding of chocolate. The area known today as Mesoamerica which spans “between central Mexico and Western Honduras, including all of Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador” (Presilla 8); Is said to be the birth place of the cacao and for the most part, this region has been placed as the sites of Mayan settlement.

Image 1:

mesomap
MAP of MESOAMERICA

The first discovery of Cacao in Mayan culture came from the Dresden codex. This historical artifact is “a type of folding screen book that was discovered as part of Mayan writing collections that preceded the Spanish conquest” (Coe 41). From the scenes in which cacao is depicted in this sacred text, it can be deduced that the Mayans saw cacao as a sacred. Cacao also made another appearance in a “far less artistic Madrid codex and in this text, a young god squats while grasping limbs from a cacao tree. We also see a depiction of gods scattering blood over cacao bloods” (Coe 42). This last scene was the first time the association between human blood and chocolate was made one that would come to mean so much later as we discover about the use of chocolate and blood in sacred sacrifices.

Image 2:

743_04_2
A god holding a vessel with cacao beans.

As it has become apparent, the Mayans highly prized cacao, so much so that it was depicted quite often in the presence of gods. For people who held such reverence for this fruit, how so did they consume it?

We know from “inscriptions deciphered from classic period drinking vessels and funerary offerings” (Presilla 12), that cacao was first consumed as a fruit beverage made from the fruit pulp. Mayan glyphs for “tree fresh cacao, was discovered from the Primary Standard Sequence of the Buena vista vase, from Buena vista del Cayo in Belize” (Presilla 12).
Image 3:

mayan drinking vessel
Classic Mayan drinking Vessel

 

The most instrumental discovery for archaeologists in understanding the Mayan use of cacao and chocolate came from the discovery of the tombs at Rio Azul. It proved to be a site of countless evidence of the chocolate drinking culture of the Mayans. On one particular person, that of a “middle aged ruler, archaeologists discovered in his tomb an astounding 14 pottery vessels including six cylindrical vases and on some of the vases evidence that they had contained dark liquid was very apparent” (Coe 46). In this particular tomb, evidence of different recipes of chocolate was also found; a drinking vessel containing for “witik cacao and kox cacao” (Coe 46). In these wonderful discoveries, it is well seen that the Mayans even sent of their dead equipped with chocolate beverages to ensure a feast in the afterlife. The Mayans were also credited for popularizing the frothed chocolate beverage which we still enjoy today. In a vase that was discovered and attributed to be made in the “Nakbe area in the 8th century, of the images illustrated, a lady is seen pouring a chocolate drink from one vessel to another. A discovery that proved to be the first time a picture of a chocolate drink was being made and the introduction of the foaming method” (Coe 48).

Image 4:

mayan glyph for cacao
A replica of the vessel found in a tomb at Rio Azul; highlighted next to it is a Mayan glyph for cacao.

To the Mayans, chocolate was a highly prized beverage, one that found its way into various aspects of Mayan culture including, marriage ceremonies, parties, rite to passage ceremonies, burial ceremonies and sacred ritual sacrifices. Although cacao may have first made its appearance in the Olmec civilization, it was not raised to its level of importance until the Mayans came into the picture. That is, the Mayans are responsible for introducing a level of finesse into the making of the beverage we come to know as chocolate today; The Mayans raised chocolate to its status as the “food of the gods”.

Bibliography
Scholarly Sources:
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013(1996). The True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition. London: Thames&Hudson.
Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural &Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Multimedia Sources:
Herrera, Ashleigh. beloit college. 2012. image. 28 february 2016. <https://www.beloit.edu/wright/honors_term_pilot/mayan_vase/&gt;.
http://www.famsi.org/maps/. n.d. 26 February 2016.
Vail, Dr. Gabrielle. Chocolate in Prehispanic Maya Culture. 8 August 2015. 28 february 2016. <http://www.southfloridamuseum.org/TheMuseum/EastGallery/MayaStories/tabid/218/post/chocolate-in-prehispanic-maya-culture/Default.aspx&gt;.
—. The Food of the Gods: Cacao use among the Prehispanic Maya. 1 August 2014. Image. 27 February 2016. <http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/maya/chocolate/cacao-use-among-the-prehispanic-maya&gt;.