All posts by 2016x173

How Can Awareness Affect Chocolate Consumption?


Chocolate is a unique consumer’s item because it has exhaustive social and historical significance.  Chocolate is created in similar ways but the background of one chocolate bar can vary immensely when compared to that of another chocolate bar. Chocolate bars vary in cacao percentage, sugar amount, cacao origination, labor laws, and so many more complicated factors. When you walk into a store, chocolate seems like another typical food available for purchase, but it is much more complicated than that. The average American consumed almost ten pounds of chocolate in 2015 and that number continues to rise over the years (Satioquia-Tan, 2015). It is very clear that there has been a rise in chocolate consumption that does not appear to be ending anytime soon. In fact, chocolate production and sells bring in billions of dollars per year to many countries (Figure 1), making production a top profitable market (statistica, 2016). The appeal of chocolate is strong and there is no doubt about this.


Figure 1: Consumption of chocolate in dollars in different countries.


It is evident that this rise in chocolate consumption is due to increased advertisement and mass production (Martin, 2016) and the increase of the sugar market (Mintz, 1986). Of course, all of this seems clear because I have taken AfAm119X. I learned firsthand about the joys and perils of the chocolate market. With all the new information I learned about the chocolate industry, I am more skeptical with purchases. I question the fundamentals of where a chocolate originated and the labor laws in place for its production. Unfortunately, not much information is readily available to consumers so they do not have the necessary information to understand the social impacts behind chocolate consumption. If there are no problems associated with the chocolate industry, then new information should not change views on chocolate consumption. This is not the case, however. The easy accessibility of popular brands, constant advertising, and lack of information about exploitation and health consequences all promote chocolate consumption. If people were made more aware of problems in the chocolate industry, then there could be a decline in chocolate consumption which could push industries to better their practices and have more conscious efforts in production. In an interview with a Harvard senior, it was noticed that new information of the problems of the chocolate industry influenced her chocolate consumption.


The woman interviewed for this blog is a Harvard senior who considers herself to be an avid chocolate lover. She agreed to sit down twice for the interview because there were two parts assigned for the interview. Part one of this interview has general questions about chocolate consumption. Part one ended with the interviewee being shown new information, videos, and advertisements intended to bring awareness of some problems of the chocolate industry. Part two of this interview was conducted five days later and was intended to find whether or not the negative information influenced her chocolate consumption. After the entire interview had been conducted, the interviewer was awarded with chocolate of her choosing and her answers were analyzed. It was found that the interviewer lacked background information about chocolate and the new information did influence her choices.


Interviewer: “When I say the word chocolate, what are some of your first thoughts?”

Friend: “Delicious. Chocolate is delicious and I love it. It’s a great dessert and there are so many different chocolates to choose from. You can give it to people as presents or buy it for yourself.”

Interviewer: “How often would you say you buy chocolate?”

Friend: “A few times a week. I usually buy it on the weekends.”

Interviewer: “Is there any particular type that you buy more often?

Friend: “I usually buy Hershey’s or Almond Joy. Sometimes I’ll get Snickers or Kit-Kat.”

Interviewer: “Why these? What do you consider when you buy these?”

Friend: “It’s really easy to get it. It’s in the aisles but usually it is also at the register so it’s very tempting. Also, it is pretty cheap so I can usually get a lot of chocolate for a few dollars.”.

Interviewer: “How much would you say you know about chocolate?”

Friend: “I would say that I know a lot about the types of chocolate and what they have in them.”

Interviewer: “Would you say you know a lot about how they are made or where their products come from?”

Friend: “Probably not. I honestly just know about the chocolate brands that you find at like CVS. I know they are produced in factories and there is a lot of chocolate out there.”

Interviewer: “Would you say that chocolate is healthy?”

Friend” I have heard that dark chocolate is healthy so I think chocolate can have benefits.”


From the interviewee’s responses, it is very clear that she is a frequent consumer, yet she does not know very much information about chocolate production. The majority of her chocolate experiences come from the Big Five because they control 80% of the chocolate market (Martin, 2016). These companies have made buying their chocolate easily accessible and affordable. With their mass production success, they can continue to supply at such a demand. Not only do these chocolate companies mass produce their chocolate, but they also monopolize stores to market their chocolate as much as possible. For example, the interviewee mentioned the convenience of chocolate found at checkout (Figure 2). Consumers are advertised chocolate throughout the store in the aisles, but then they are advertised again at checkout to solidify the sell. This convenience is content merchandising (Blumenfeld, 2015).

Figure 2: Chocolate found at checkout register.

As one would predict, the exploitative side and influential advertising of chocolate production is hidden from the consumer. Chocolate making has a rich process behind it from cacao bean to bar but the consumer is hidden from this. The consumer is only advertised chocolate as a luxurious, desirable good that can only positively affect the consumer.


At this point in the interview, I informed the interviewee that I would give her new information about chocolate that I had learned in AfAm119X. I would proceed to ask her follow up questions and I would take notes of any reactions that she had to the information. I presented the information in the following order:

1. I showed her different advertisements from popular chocolate companies. I told her about how some of these advertisements were often hyper-sexualized women and advertisements were different for men or women audiences (Farhim, 2010). Or some ads were used to promote chocolate to children from a very young age (Fed Up, 2014). chocolate-ad-two       flakeaa0209_468x355

maxresdefault2. I gave her a chart of the benefits of cacao and advised her that popular chocolate bars, such as Hershey’s, were only made of 20% chocolate (Martin, 2016). I presented her with a nutrition label chart of a Snicker’s bar and pointed out that there was no daily value percentage assigned to the sugar information.



3. I told her the statistic that every metric cacao has only a $200 premium most of the profit does not go directly to the farmer (Martin, 2016).

4. I showed her some clips from the documentary “Fed Up”. The clips showed the major control that the sugar industry has on food today and its negative impact on health. I explained that many efforts to control this industry have been denied due to profit concerns (Fed Up, 2014).


Interviewer: “With this new information about chocolate behind-the-scenes, how do you feel about chocolate or what are some thoughts you are having?”

Friend: “I feel like I’ve been lied to before. I didn’t know that a chocolate bar was more sugar than actual chocolate. I also never really considered how much farmers were exploited and overworked just so that I could eat a chocolate bar. All of this information makes me believe that there is a bad side to the chocolate industry that I didn’t know about.”

Interviewer: “Which of these would you say is sticking with you more?”

Friend: “I’m actually quite upset with the Fed Up clips that you showed me. I can’t believe that there is such a monopoly in advertisements. They influence children and adults and work to stop change from happening. I almost feel responsible like I should only buy chocolate that is more socially conscious.”

Interviewer: “Who would you say is responsible for these problems?”

Friend: “The chocolate companies and politics. It is unfair that we don’t know this information because they are afraid that their sales will decrease. It is my fault as well though for not questioning the production of chocolate.”


The interviewee had a very negative reaction to the new information. She was angered by the lack of information available to the consumer. Even though this information is not available to consumers, it affects them indirectly or directly when they consume chocolate. When consumers increase their demand for chocolate, chocolate companies must increase their demand of cacao. This could cause more exploitation of farmers to meet the demand, which is an indirect effect. Directly, chocolate is about 80% sugar so one chocolate bar could exceed the recommended daily consumption amount (Martin, 2016).

A particularly interesting finding of this interview was that the interviewee was mostly offended by the advertising efforts of companies. Many companies target children from very young ages because if they can accustom them to the consumption of their product when young, at older ages they will continue to buy the products (Fed Up, 2014). Children are much more impressionable to such advertisements and companies monopolize on that fact. The advertising efforts begin at home when children watch television and they continue elsewhere. The interviewee’s reaction to this shows that people would be angered if they had the necessary information. Chocolate companies have mastered the act of hiding their problems and promoting the taste of their chocolate.


Interviewer: “How did this new information affect you?”

Friend: “I feel like it prevented me from buying as much chocolate as I normally would. I also bought some different type of chocolate that advertised that it had higher percentages of cacao. I considered buying chocolate that had more of a story on its label. It made me more aware of my purchases.”

Interviewer: “What were your overall feelings when you bought the new chocolate and what did you consider?”

Friend: “When I tried to buy the popular chocolate brands, I felt guilty. I didn’t want to know that I was being a part of the manipulation of the sugar industry. Plus, the other chocolate is healthier and still tastes somewhat good.”


Even though this was only one person, a bit of new information about the problems in the chocolate industry were influential. The information from part one affected what the interviewee considered when buying chocolate. In fact, she no longer considered easy accessibly and cheap cost. Instead, she was more conscious about the background of the chocolate bar and its health benefits. It has been known that chocolate can cause feelings of guilt because there is a false dichotomy (Martin, 2016). However, the feelings of guilt that the interviewee felt were due to her lack of information about exploitation and advertising. After learning the new information, the interviewee made an active change to her consumerism. She avoided Big Five chocolate companies and attempted to buy more socially conscious chocolate.

It is important to acknowledge the social issues that were presented to the interviewee. Sugar consumption is at a high and chocolate companies monopolize on this. Mass production of chocolate leads to high demand which can increase exploitation. Advertisement efforts often target children and women. Each of these issues alone is problematic but they persist anyhow. People are not aware of these issues so there is increasing success of major chocolate companies. One interviewee’s consumption practices were changed with some new information which signals that more awareness about the problems in the chocolate industry could influence many more people.


Chocolate industries have manipulated information available to their consumers. They manipulate country taxes to exploit countries’ cacao profits (Sylla, 2014). They manipulate the health information known about chocolate. Their success in advertisements, mass production, and low cost mask the problems of chocolate production. Even though this is true, a bit of awareness could influence consumers. The interviewee made changes in her consumption and others could too. Next time, buy a Taza Chocolate bar!

Works Cited

Blumenfeld, J. (2015). The art of chocolate: Woo customers with craft, story and health. New Hope Network.

Farhim, J. (2010). Beyond cravings: Gender and class desires in chocolate marketing. Occidental College; OxyScholar.

Fed Up, documentary. (2014). Film.

Martin, C. (2016). Introduction to chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. Harvard College, Lecture.

Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and Power.

Satioquia-Tan, J. (2015). Americans Eat HOW MUCH chocolate?. CNBC. (2016). Statistics and facts on the chocolate industry.

Sylla, N. (2014). The fair trade scandal.

Chocolate Marketing: Sexualization and Objectification of Women


When companies make advertisements to promote the items they are attempting to sale, it is important for companies to consider their target audience. A main problem with such publications over the years is that women have been overly sexualized in these advertisements to the point where is has become normal to see women covered in chocolate in a sexualized pose. In fact, a quick Google search of the phrase “chocolate commercial” shows the following three images in the top results page.

dove-chocolate-eat-up-your-moment-large-5 525942189-chocolate-girl-gettyimages


Advertisements follow gender differences that are present in the everyday lives of people. In a study of shoppers who were asked if they resent the stereotyping and inequalities in marketing, the overall consensus was yes (Fusion, 2016).  However, companies continue to use these marketing strategies to appeal to their shoppers because their products sell. For example, chocolate companies make billions in revenue per year (Martin, 2016). If their marketing strategies are working, there is little reason for chocolate companies to push for a change in their advertisements, regardless of how sexist they may be.


Think back to the last ten times when you watched a chocolate commercial or saw a chocolate advertisement photo. Were they mostly sexualized women who were crazed beyond belief at the sight of chocolate? Because the answer is probably yes, it is evident that chocolate companies use sexist marketing to sell their products. As they continue to make sexualized ads of women, chocolate companies perpetuate the bias that women are crazed and lack self control. They promote inequality for women and portray women as chocolate objects only necessary for sexual need. Unfortunately, when companies adopt sexist marketing, they continue to promote cyclical inequality: the advertisements are sexist when they adapt to the stereotypes present which then reinforces stereotypes.

For the purposes of this post, a present chocolate advertisement will be analyzed and critiqued to explain the problems associated with the advertisement. Then a new advertisement will be created to push back on the problems and attempt to reach a wider audience.

Original Advertisement:

In 2001, Cadbury launched this Snowflake chocolate bar advertisement. The model April Palasthy was the subject of the ad and the ad even made it onto several front pages of different magazines (Cozens, 2001). In this advertisement, Palasthy is pictured shirtless with a chocolate bar in her mouth. She is definitely hyper-sexualized and portrayed to fit the common stereotype of women in chocolate advertisements. Cadbury’s advertisement has at least three problems which perpetuate the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women.


First, Turner is pictured shirtless which sexualizes her from the moment the advertisement is noticed. She appears shirtless but the advertisement is mysterious because it is unknown whether or not she is fully naked. The focus of the advertisement should be the chocolate but instead, the woman’s body is strongly considered. Her nakedness is a marketing strategy that promotes Turner as an object, on an equal level as chocolate. Second, the chocolate is strategically sexually placed in her mouth. This is a common action that chocolate companies do, as seen in these ads.

woman-eating-heart flakeaa0209_468x355

157419194-sexy-woman-holding-chocolate-gettyimages chocolate-ad-two

The mouth is used for eating the chocolate and the lips are used for kissing, which are innocent acts. However, her sexual facial expression proposes that the way in which the chocolate is placed in her mouth is of sexual desire.

Third, the phrase “how much would you like this girl’s job?” is the worst problem of them all because it contributes to the other two. If the phrase is considered at first read, it is interpreted as desiring the girl’s job to eat chocolate and get paid for it. However, the phrase has a very explicit double meaning – the consumer would like to receive a job from the girl. People know a job to be a sexual act performed by women. Adding this phrase to a possibly naked woman with an object in her mouth is very problematic because the woman is depicted as a sexual object ready to bring pleasure. This advertisement targets men who have this sexual desire for what Palasthy sells and women who want to feel sexy like her. Cadbury’s marketing promotes a fetish status in which men and women presume that they will receive these sexualized advances if they buy the chocolate (Fahim, 2010).

New Advertisement:

An advertisement that counteracts the cyclical inequality and sexism in chocolate marketing is needed. It is critical to portray women as more than sexual objects, which the original advertisement strongly fails to do.


The new advertisement fixes the three problems present in the original advertisement because it eliminates the sexism of the model. There is no longer a possibly naked woman present to perform sexual favors. Instead, the women in this ad are dressed in business clothes and are portrayed as successful and important people along with their male counterparts. This creates equality between the two genders by promoting success and insinuating that the pleasure comes from the work and the chocolate itself, not the women.

Each person in this ad is different by either gender or race, but all have the equal opportunity to enjoy the chocolate bar. The new ad focuses on targeting men and women who want to be successful. It promotes feelings of accomplishment because the Flake bar could be enjoyed as a reward for hard work. By depicting women as important people, the marketing strategy no longer involves objectification or hyper-sexualization. Marketing such as this could decrease the bias that women are crazed for chocolate and objects for male pleasure.

A potential problem of this advertisement is that it could alienate people who do not like people in suits, corporate people, etc. However, this ad is not meant to be a one-step solution to marketing problems, but it would be a start in the right direction. Primarily, if chocolate companies depicted women this way, women would be less sexualized which could influence a positive portrayal of women, in society and other markets.




Cozen, C. (2001). Cadbury’s relaunches snowflake. The Guardian.

Fusion, J. (2016). Merketing to men vs women. Chron.

Farhim, J. (2010). Beyond cravings: Gender and class desires in chocolate marketing. Occidental College; OxyScholar.

 Martin, C. (2016). Introduction to chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. Harvard College, Lecture.

Industrial Revolution: Did chocolate contribute to obesity?

People have shifted their opinions on chocolate over time as production of chocolate has changed as well. Just as there has been a dichotomy on opinions on food, there has been a dichotomy of views on chocolate. Chocolate is considered either good or evil and the views shifted, especially since the era of the Industrial Revolution. In the United States, during the late 1800s and throughout the 1900s, there was a rise in manufacturing processes (Martin, 2016). As more machinery erupted, there was a rise in consumption rates of different foods throughout America. The increase in consumption of chocolate can be attributed to mechanization and innovative transportation during the Industrial Revolution. The growing demand and consumption of chocolate contributed to the increase in obesity rates in the United States during that time and those rates continue to rise today (Weiss).

During the 1700s, chocolate was an elite commodity because it was labor-intensive and costly to produce chocolate. People of higher economic status made up the bulk of people consuming chocolate (Coe & Coe, 1996). However, this began to change in the late 1800s with mechanization because chocolate could finally be produced in masses. Van Houten invented the hydraulic press in 1828, Rodolphe Lindt invented the conching process in 1879 (Martin, 2016). These are only two critical examples of machines that were developed during the Industrial Revolution. Mechanization eased companies’ problems with production because it decreased personnel needed to make the chocolate, decreased the time it took to make the chocolate, and overall increased production quantities of chocolate (Figure 1). Because chocolate was no longer expensive and was mass produced, the market of people that could afford chocolate grew immensely in the late 1800s (Atack, 1994).

Figure 1: This is the assembly process for making a chocolate bar. Every step became mechanized and less people were needed to work individual steps.

The accessibility of chocolate led to the growth of chocolate companies who manipulated chocolate for the growing production demand. Chocolate companies added many unhealthy ingredients to their chocolate products to make more profit. For example, the Hershey Company incorporated milk chocolate, instead of using chocolate as natural. The company also increased the amount of sugar put into chocolate. The addition of both of these unhealthy ingredients directly contributed to obesity rates. In fact, the number of people affected by obesity increased by thirty percent, which is correlated with the rise of mass production of chocolate during the Industrial Revolution. Mechanization also pushed for mass production of sugar during the same time, so sugar became a top ingredient for chocolate because it gave chocolate a sweater taste and was a good substitute.

Not only did chocolate become mass produced with large quantities of sugar added to it, chocolate was also spread throughout the country because of faster transportation innovations. The Industrial Revolution brought the railroad (Figure 2),

Figure 2: Example of train on railway.

so chocolate could be transported by train to different states (Freeman, 1997). Also, companies could get ingredients from different states or Mexico and have them more readily available (Martin, 2016). Mechanization produced more chocolate but transportation sourced chocolate to a much larger market.

Both of these reasons contributed to the increase in chocolate consumption throughout America and ultimately to obesity. It is understandable for people to view chocolate as a good and an evil because it has a wonderful taste and can provide benefits but it has been attributed with increase in obesity. Research shows that chocolate has many cardiovascular and antioxidant benefits but these benefits come from more pure forms of chocolate, higher in cacao content (Marie, 2016). Chocolate with higher percentages of cacao could be seen as a good super food (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Benefits of cacao. Chocolate with higher percentage of cacao would have more of these benefits.

The problem with the changes to chocolate during the Industrial Revolution is that companies began to add many unhealthy ingredients such as high amounts of sugar and caramel, which were the root causes of obesity.

If chocolate had remained pure during the Industrial Revolution, maybe it would not be considered good and evil. Unfortunately, companies like Hershey’s did change chocolate to be a completely different product than pure cacao chocolate, which has increased obesity in Americans. Today, some chocolate companies like Hershey’s recognize their negative impact on people’s health and are actively seeking ways to make their chocolate healthier. Hershey’s launched lower-fat chocolate candy (Figure 4) that would reduce their fat content by 30% compared to other milk chocolate (Schultz, 2012). Even with the good efforts of chocolate companies, one cannot help but wonder how obesity rates in America would be different without the effects during the Industrial Revolution.

Figure 4: Hershey’s 2012 chocolate. It contains 30% less fat than its typical milk chocolate.



Atack, J. (1994). A new economic view of american history. p. 282. ISBN 0-393-96315-2.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013[1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson

Marie, J. (2016). Antioxidant Benefits of Raw Cacao. SFGate.

Martin, C. (2016). Introduction to chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. Harvard College, Lecture.

Schultz, E.J. (2012). Hershey to launch lower-fat chocolate candy: Simple pleasures seeks position as indulgent lighter option. Advertising Age.

Weiss, J. Why we eat…and why we keep eating. Insulite Laboratories.

Mayans Influenced Value Placed on Chocolate as a Medicine, Even Today

As an incredibly important product sold and traded worldwide, cacao has had many uses dating back to as early as 600 BC (Hurst, 2002). According to evidence found in the Dresden Codex books (figure 1), the Mayans used cacao for marriage rituals, the earth’s fertility, rites of death, and several other purposes (Martin, 2016). As a catalyst for using cacao beans to produce chocolate for varying reasons, the Mayans continue to have an influence on the status of chocolate today – primarily in search of medicinal uses for chocolate. Even though the degree at which chocolate is valued for use in medicinal context has decreased, Mayan ideals about chocolate as medicine continue to impact research for such benefits today.

Figure 1: Example of Dresden Codex entry. Cacao tree can be seen on the center, right of the photo.

The Mayans were very ritualistic people who valued certain plants from the earth as divine, due to the creation by different gods and goddesses (Bogin, 1997). Cacao was considered a divine gift (figure 2) from the god Sovereign Plumed Serpent, which was the start of cacao as sacred for the Mayans (Dillinger, 2000). Because cacao was gifted by gods and even used in rituals by gods, the Mayans searched for other purposes for cacao. They used cacao to create chocolate beverages to drink during rituals. In their quest for other purposes of chocolate, they found that chocolate had medicinal benefits. It is unsure how effective chocolate was as a medical treatment, but it is well documented how chocolate was used by Mayans for medical purposes.

Figure 2: The exchange of cacao beans between gods. Gods created cacao, a divine gift.


Chocolate had a plethora of medicinal purposes, according to the Mayans. Some ate the cacao beans, but for the majority of medical remedies, the Mayans ground the cacao beans together with seasonings to create a medicinal potion (Lippi, 2009). The medicinal potion was used to gain weight, stimulate the nervous system, improve digestion elimination, cure anemia, kidney stones, stop fevers, and diminish tuberculosis symptoms. Not only was a chocolate beverage potion used, cacao paste was used as a pharmacological drug for stronger medical problems (Wright, 2010). The list for medical purposes of chocolate is long because the Mayans truly believed chocolate was a divine intervention from a god.

It may seem ridiculous that chocolate was so highly regarded as a medicine by the Mayans, but the use of chocolate as a medicine did not end with the Mayans. Pre-Columbian societies used chocolate as a medicine and such influence continued to Europe and the New World (Lippi, 2009). After exploration by Europeans to the Americas, cacao reached a larger global spread and chocolate popularity grew immensely in Europe. Because Europeans did not follow the same cultural rituals as natives, their usage of chocolate varied from them but they did use cacao for medicinal and health related issues, on a smaller scale (Dillinger, 2000).

Figure 3: Example of how cacao is marketed today. These are cacao pills sold for antioxidant support.

Throughout the centuries, chocolate has changed due to the addition of sugar, mass production, and traditional recipes but that has not stopped researchers from expressing interest in chocolate as a use for medicinal purposes. The evidence that we have of the success of chocolate as a medicine in the early 1000s is very limited because the Dresden Codex does not include successes. However, research nowadays shows cacao and chocolate as modern medicine. Cacao has many nutrients such as potassium and iron that contribute to nutritional value of the human body. Studies show that cacao can improve cognitive function, reduce emotional stress, and reduce cardiovascular disease if eaten in appropriate quantities (Wright, 2010). Cacao is also used by the body for antioxidant and antiplatelet qualities which provide other health benefits, figure 3 (Keen, 2013).

In general, it is safe to say that cacao (figure 4) and chocolate provide health benefits (based on research shown). The view of chocolate as a medicinal- or health-related benefit is not a novelty but originated courtesy of the Mayans. Their usage of chocolate to relieve certain health problems continues to influence research today. Even though the views on chocolate have fluctuated over centuries, chocolate is a benefit. As Dr. Lippi wrote, “Chocolate is no longer deemed a guilty pleasure, and it may have positive health benefits when eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet”(2009).

Figure 4. List of some of the nutrients found in cacao beans and the benefits they provide the human body.

Works Cited

Bogin, B. (1997). The evolution of human nutrition. The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method , 98–142.

Dillinger, T. (2010). Food of the gods: Cure for humanity? A cultural history of the medicinal and ritual use of chocolate. The Journal of Nutrition, 2057-2072.

Hurst, W. (2002). Archaeology: Cacao usage by the earliest Maya civilization. Nature, 418, 289-290.

Keen, C. (2013). Chocolate: Food as a medicine/medicine as food. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 20(5), 436-439.

Lippi, D. (2009). Chocolate and medicine: Dangerous liaisons? Science Direct: Nutrition, 25(11-12). 1100-1103.

Martin, C. (2016). Introduction to chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. Harvard College, Lecture.

Wright, C. (2010). Cacao – an ancient medicine validated by modern science. Natural News, Dec 2010.