All posts by 2016x468

The Oh-So-Convenient Sugar Aisle

When you traverse around a convenient store for your necessary groceries and finally make it to the front counter, you begin to notice a bright array of sugary delights staring upwards at you as you wait lethargically in line for the cashier to call “NEXT!” You begin to think, “well, I am craving something sweet…and that’s not too expensive” before picking up a chocolate bar and adding it to your tab. But have you ever stopped to wonder why it may be that the candy isle is so conveniently located at the check-out around waist-level when it already has a bigger isle devoted to it right in the back of the store? Coincidence? Well it is surely far from it.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.28.34 PM.png

A candy selection at the checkout counter of a generic convenient store. Notice the placement of the isle and physical height. 

[https://www.flickr.com/photos/call-to-adventure/5365750201]

In this blog post, a discussion will arise pertaining to the varying types of chocolate bars sold at a convenient store such as CVS, the history and contents of this selection of chocolate, and all in relation to contemporary issues in sugar and obesity in youth, harkening back to the advent in the rise of sugar amidst the chocolate industry historically.

Among the selection of candy bars sold at CVS there include, but are not limited to: Reese’s, Twix, Hershey’s chocolate bar, M&Ms, Butterfinger, Kit Kat, 3 Musketeers, and the like. Such inexpensive candy bars tend to sell at a price at or around $1 USD. Interestingly enough, although there seems to be a wide selection of candy bars at these check-out counters, oftentimes all these bars fall under roughly three major chocolate companies: Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle. After Henry Nestle’s creation of milk chocolate in 1875, the chocolate conglomerate race began. In the 1920s, competition began to run starkly between Hershey’s and Mars with Forest Mar’s cheap but selling creation of the Milky Way. When customers would approach the candy counter back then and see a flat Hershey’s bar adjacent to a bulging, thick Milky Way, they surely chose the latter, raising sales for Hershey’s competitor (Brenner). What was interesting about Mar’s company as well as the big chocolate companies back then, was that even though they were putting out over 20 million candy bars, their infrastructures didn’t actually appear on the outside as manufacturing plants. Instead, they adopted cultural architectural styles, and had magnificent grass lawns; in essence, an emulation of a utopia (Brenner). But competition really wasn’t too strong between Hershey’s and Mars all the time: when Hershey’s was starting out with Mars, Mars was actually helping sales of the former by purchasing its chocolate coating and Hershey’s would make specific chocolate coatings for different Mars bars. Unfortunately, candy spies arose amidst these companies, with workers disguising themselves to find secrets about the chocolate making of these large companies, thereby contributing to a rise in competition (Brenner).

            Soon these companies realized they could add other materials inside their candy bars such as nougat or even peanut butter, racing each other with novel inventions and mass or bulk production of chocolate. And with industrialization underway by the late 1800s, culinary modernism–a period of processed and bulk production of food (especially cacao)–was prominent entering into the 20th century (Laudan, 2001). Representing these industrial manufacturing plants as utopias and embodying American values, companies like Hershey’s would be found producing commercials that represent core American values and common societal motifs. Yet not only was industrialization helping these companies sell their products, but a steep rise in sugar consumption was also attracting customers. In 1830-1840, with a drop in the price of sugar by over 30%, the working and middle class were beginning to outnumber consumption rates over the wealthy, with sugar being added to most foods, especially tea and chocolate products. Children at young ages were now being accustomed to larger caloric intakes of sugar, as sugar began to represent, and continues to represent, the most significant upward production curve of any other food item on the market over the course of several centuries (Mintz, p. 142-145; Martin, Lecture 7).

            Consequently, with a rise in cacao production, the manufacturing of bulk or processed candy, and higher sugar intake in these processed items, major ethical issues have arisen. As a matter of fact, when looking at the nutritional facts and ingredients in a Hershey’s candy bar, one may be surprised to find out that a generic Hershey’s Chocolate Bar only has roughly 11% cacao content. If that is the case, then one may ask what the remaining contents are; the answer being mostly milk and sugar. Simply put, the chocolate bars you may find at a store like CVS may be considered mere imposters or cheats of chocolate bars when you consider that a purchase of such a bar that brands itself as a “chocolate” bar only has at or around a tenth of chocolate in all [See: Washington Post below].

Washington Post: Chocolate By the Numbers 

Article explaining the cacao contents in contemporary chocolate

[http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24276-2004Jun8.html]

More frightening is the fact that such bars contain nearly the entire daily recommended percentage value of sugar intake and over a fifth of the daily amount of fat intake  As a result, it is noteworthy to inquire as to why these candy bars are being purchased in such high quantities, and as to who these companies attract as their target audiences.

Going back to an observation made in the introduction of this discussion, it should be reiterated that not only is the candy isle located both in the back of the store and at the check-out counter, but that it is also conveniently placed at waist level: keyword being convenient. Convenient for whom? Children! The wider selection of the back-of-the-store candy isle can be found stocked with finer chocolates such as Lint Bars or Ghirardelli, but take notice that the front checkout counter merely contains your $1 candy bars supplied by Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle. And this all makes sense now when shining the light on youth. Given the sweet tooth common among children, Lint Bars and 72% cacao may not be enough for their desperate taste buds. Instead, they may desire the high, sugary content of a Reese’s bar or M&Ms, flashing over 24 grams of sugar. Yet oftentimes a caring parent avoids the candy isle. But what he/she cannot avoid is the child’s stare at the array of colorful candy bars as mom/dad pulls out the credit card to pay for the groceries. Clearly, manufacturing companies like Mars team up with store owners to win over their target audiences: youth. Colorful candy wrappers and animated characters, teamed up with a beautifully placed, waist-line presence of candy bars, mom and dad cannot help but cease the wining and begging of their children, ultimately conceding to the purchase of a sugar-packed candy bar from one of the top chocolate conglomerates.

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The animated characters that candy companies utilize to help attract youth. 

[https://www.flickr.com/photos/pareeerica/16877815242/in/photostream/]

As a result, significant ethical issues have arisen, especially over the current decade and continuing on into the present: namely, in relation to sugar consumption and child obesity. As the documentary film “Fed Up” mentions, “They’re in business to make money, not to make America healthy” (“Fed Up”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVX6_LzX4mM ). What is more interesting is to find recent research studies supporting the findings that the human brain reacts similarly to sugar intake as it does to drugs such as cocaine (Serge, Karine, and Youna, 2013). The reward pathway in the brain lights up nearly identical to that of the reaction to the intake of hard drugs. In fact, the dopamine reward pathway of someone who consumes sugar has more activity than someone who is obese, and the person who is obese shows a similarly dulled dopamine response as someone who is addicted to drugs (http://mic.com/articles/88015/what-happens-to-your-brain-on-sugar-explained-by-science#.52zWKxwvS). What this shows is that sugar intake can be a very dangerous aspect of human culture, but more so, that with the rise in sugar production and consumption significantly, and with a target audience of youth for candy companies, issues are arising. Looking back at the 1800s, the average American consumer consumed what is now equivalent to the amount of sugar in one can of soda, but during the length of five days. Now in the second millennium, that 5-day intake has risen to over fifteen cans of soda or nearly 20 times the amount of sugar intake.

The Rise in Sugar Consumption

[http://mic.com/articles/88015/what-happens-to-your-brain-on-sugar-explained-by-science#.52zWKxwvS]

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity rates in youth ages 6-11 years old rose from 7% (1980) to 18% (2012), almost three times the amount, tagging almost one in five children as obese, and one third of youth and adolescence combined falling under the category of obesity. With cheap prices, flashy advertising, and high sugar/calorie contents of these candy bars, the rise in obesity in youth and teens is strongly increasing, posing risks for cancer, cardiovascular health, diabetes, and obesity during adulthood, which may further affect offspring and their further risk for obesity and related health problems (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm).

In summary, current society is posed with a vital issue at hand: obesity. And much of this problem can lend itself to the big candy companies who continue to contribute significantly to the rise in production and consumption of sugar. Adding to their sales repertoire, flashy candy wrappers, color cartoon mascots, joyful commercial advertisements, and conveniently placed candy at convenient stores for youth to run into, candy companies and stores like CVS are only contributing to the problem. The CDC points out that statistics for child and adolescent obesity are rapidly increasing and posing risks for adulthood and future generations. Documentary films such as “Fed Up” attempt to expose the sugar industry and the issues at hand. And parents claim to be trying hard to provide healthy alternatives to their children. Yet issues are still arising and issues will continue to arise until the conglomerates are staunchly confronted. Until then, they may hide behind flashy advertisements and commercials that appear to embody true American values, concealing the truth of crushing these values with issues like obesity.

Works Cited

Ahmed, Serge H., Karine Guillem, and Youna Vandaele. “Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 16.4 (2013): 434-439.

Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. chapters 5, 13 pp. 49-69, 179-194.

 

“Chocolate By the Numbers.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

Kate, Nina. “The Cacao And Cognition Connection | HoneyColony.” HoneyColony. N.p., 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 May 2016.

Laudan, Rachel. “A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food”. Gastronomica 1.1 (2001): 36–44.

Mintz, Sidney W. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power. pp. 142-145

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm)

[https://www.flickr.com/photos/call-to-adventure/5365750201]

[https://www.flickr.com/photos/pareeerica/16877815242/in/photostream/]

[http://mic.com/articles/88015/what-happens-to-your-brain-on-sugar-explained-by-science#.52zWKxwvS]

The Body as a False Medium for Chocolate

In today’s society, many people tend to consider themselves progressive and welcoming, whether it be of race, gender, equality or representation. However, when looking at current advertisements, in particular those pertaining to consumer chocolate, and then delving deep into the historical timeline of chocolate and cacao production/consumption, it becomes more evident that in fact, many ads and the products they represent actually have not been progressing in parallel to our current times but in fact harken to historical inequalities. Such a bold phrase will surely be elaborated on further in relation to the following two photos: the first being a true ad for Dove Chocolate, and the second being my pseudo-ad for Twix chocolate, a satire on the first to shed light on the issues the former poses such as objectification and misrepresentation of race.

Dove Chocolate Abs

Real ad for Dove chocolate featuring objectification and issues of misrepresentation of race 

In the Dove ad, a black, assumingly-nude male is represented in close-up view of his abdominals posed next to a minute-sized piece of Dove chocolate, followed by a witty double entendre pertaining to six-pack abs and the six-piece bar of chocolate. In this case, the advertisement is objectifying individuals, in this particular case black males, focusing in large part on attractive body parts with only about 5% of the ad devoted to a picture of the product being sold. In fact, as Robertson (2010) points out, for a long time in history, the portrayal of black males in advertisements for cacao products was common to symbolize and flaunt status and luxury. In a sense this ad does something very similar to just that as it flaunts a very attractive and strong body, but also uses a dark-skinned male who is fit which can be implied to be similar to the men who worked on cacao production in history’s past.

 

But beyond the idea of racism and misrepresentation in chocolate advertisements, it is also to crucial to mention the previous point of objectification. Although finding less racially sensitive ads may be less common in society today, coming across those which objectify and misrepresent genders is more plentiful. In the seventeenth century, chocolate was highly male-dominated, with chocolate and coffee houses for the men while women continued to be represented as housewives through history (Robertson, 2010). Even today, we come across sexist ads, such as the one above, where a man is being objectified as a bar of chocolate, in ads in Africa where women are showcased as exotic figures (Leissle, 2012), or even in a recent Snickers ad in 2014 which implies that hunger strips a man of his masculinity but that Snickers can solve that problem. Therefore, I decided to create a satirical ad as seen below in response to the Dove ad above.

bikini chocolate2

Fake ad in respnose to Dove to show the misportrayal of a human figure but satired by the “objectification” of a candy bar as sensual 

In this fake Twix ad, there are a couple of tricks. First and foremost, I wanted to cover the theme of 1. Objectification/misrepresentation of gender, and 2. The idea of focus and size. For this first part, I included a picture of an attractive woman on the beach. But in order to satire the first ad, theme number two came in whereby I enlarged the candy bar to appear as if the bar is being “objectified,” in addition to blurring out the women and scaling up the bar. In this sense, this ad is doing the opposite of the first ad: instead of enlarging the male body and misrepresenting the chocolate, this ad enlarges the body and shows that the real product is right in front of the viewer’s eyes; that the need for a female semi-nude figure is irrelevant and non-pertinent to the product being sold.

 

This latter point is the most crucial to my case. Many such advertisers as those who produced the Dove ad attempt to tap into a very select set of emotions and somatosensory feelings of the consumers by showing totally irrelevant images of enticing body parts and sensual scenes. However, when one really stops to think about the ad, it appears as false advertisement: sorry but you do not get the abs or the girl, just a bar of 300-calorie chocolate. If advertisers instead moved forward by showing sensual, enlarged, and slow-motion images of melting chocolate and the biological reactions and positive emotions evoked from chocolate itself, then that would be more true to the product and be void of any objectification or race misrepresentation. Therefore the false ad harkens to this last point of attempting to foreground the actual product being sold whilst portraying it in a satirical manner as an “attractive” and “objectified” beach-bod of a chocolate bar modeling on the sand.

That Dove bar may or may not “melt a girl’s heart,” but that Twix will surely melt in the sun on that beach. 

References

Beach Picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gabrielsaldana/3512510469

Dove Chocolate Picture: http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/dove-chocolate-dove-chocolate-9500755/

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

 

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 20-38.

“This Offensive Snickers Ad Accidentally Shows Exactly How Sexism Hurts Men.” Identities.Mic. N.p., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. Retrieved from: http://mic.com/articles/86327/this-offensive-snickers-ad-accidentally-shows-exactly-how-sexism-hurts-men#.ibSEHFIIE

Twix Picture: http://gal-togoond.blogspot.com/2009_02_01_archive.html

 

The Not-So-Sweet Aspect of Sugar: Coerced Labor and Challenges for Abolition

With the colonization of the New World by the Europeans came great power, and with that great power came great responsibility. However, unfortunately the Europeans, and especially the Spanish colonizers and English empire, did not harness that power solely for good. What was originally planned as a grant or approval by the Spanish authorities in the 1500s to colonize the land of the indigenous people–termed the ‘Encomienda’–to teach them their religions, and have them work for them in return, in reality, became a period of coerced labor, harsh working conditions, and many deaths of the indigenous people (Betchelder and Sanchez, 2013; Martin, 2016). What began to arise further around the sugar and cacao growing regions of Africa and the Caribbean would soon emulate similar conditions for natives and further African Americans up until and somewhat through the mid 1800s. Europeans would continue to usurp land of indigenous people and even enslave natives, forcing them into labor for production of the empire’s desired goods for trade (Martin, 2016). And although throughout time there would be many acting powers and forces against slavery, abolition faced significant challenges leading up to the 1900s. As certain goods like sugar became commodities and goods of all classes, and mass production started to increase, slavery would sky rocket (Richardson, 1987). This blog post will further discuss forces behind the economy of slavery and the consequent challenges abolition faced in the wake of the era of forced labor amidst sugar production. In essence, as sugar production began to emerge as a leading economic stimulus, supporting mass growth of the English empire and economy, the possibility of abolition became tougher and tougher as slavery was in fact, becoming the crux and strength of these growing empires and powers.

As Mintz mentions in Sweetness and Power, as the English began to cultivate sugar in larger amounts of production, it became more of a commodity, one that many classes regarded not only as political or a way to display wealth, but also economical, and a way to increase the economy (Mintz, 1984). In fact, England had the most colonizing and importing of slaves for the cultivation of sugar. Sugar production rose in countries like Barbados and Jamaica which required more slaves to keep up with production (Martin, 2016; Mintz, 1984). As African Americans were shipped along the Atlantic Slave Trade in tens of millions, many millions were still dying off, ceasing the growth rate of the black population and causing more and more African Americans to be traded as property (Martin, 2016).

Slavery pics

The path of trade between the Americas and Africa in terms of slaves as well as sugar and other commodities. As seen in the above picture, Africa was the closet to the Americas for colonizers to bring in mass, coerced labor, so it was most economically sound to them.  

[Source: http://www.slideshare.net/abarnette/chapter-4-section-3-2013%5D

          Yet amidst all of this unethical production, there were still abolitionist movements such as the Haitian Revolution, however even then, when slaves received freedom in Haiti, other regions would pick up from where they left off.

haitain revolution

Early abolitionist attempts and slavery revolts: the Haitian Revolution against the French who enslaved the African Americans for their contribution from their enslavement to 40% of the French economy – hence, the “Crown Jewels”

[Source: http://creofire.com/a-nation-molded-to-fail/]

          In fact, slavery was truly the “crown jewels” of many of these empires (Mintz, 1984). 40% of France’s economic growth would be based on slavery. As sugar became a commodity of all classes in England and people rose their demand for the good for adding it to spices and foods, and calorie consumption, slavery was deemed necessary to keep these empires thriving (Richardson, 1987). Therefore a key, crucial challenge to abolitionism was in fact the economy. These empires had gotten away with slavery for quite a while that it got to the point that with the zero growth rate of the slaves and the sky rocketing economy due to forced labor, slave trade, and sugar and cacao production, slavery was invetiable without the falling of an empire.

However, one may ask why African Americans were enslaved and not other populations. In fact, it has been mentioned to be purely economical, and not racially rooted (Mintz, 1984). If this is fact, then it seems an obvious barrier to abolition. In other words, abolition of slavery was one thing, but specifically abolishing slavery of black individuals was another, even harder attempt, given that Africa was the closest neighbor to the colonizers and therefore the cheapest method to keep the economy growing (Mintz, 1984). If the English empires and even the Spaniards were to move their production and manufacturing to another region of indigenous people, the economy would surely suffer as the distance and resources would drain production costs.

Therefore, although slavery was an immoral and ruthless act taken up by growing empires during the commodification of cacao and sugar, abolition would not significantly be able to emerge until later into the 1800s. However, even then, and through the early 20th century, in areas such as Säo Tomé there would be acts of coerced labor, indentured servitude, and in some extremes, slavery (Martin, 2016). As long as the economy was thriving and production was booming, these empires would consider their people before those of other countries. Not until the Industrial Revolution and amendments along with mass media and the press would abolition have a stronger foot in the door.

References

Batchelder, Ronald W., and Nicolas Sanchez. “The encomienda and the optimizing imperialist: an interpretation of Spanish imperialism in the Americas.” Public Choice 156.1-2 (2013): 45-60.

Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and power. New York: Viking, 1985.

Richardson, David. “The slave trade, sugar, and British economic growth, 1748-1776.” The      Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17.4 (1987): 739-769.

Martin, Carla. “AAAS E-119 Lecture 6: Slavery, abolition, and forced labor.” Harvard University.Cambridge, MA. 2 March 2016.

 

 

Did Chocolate A Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Nowadays society knows chocolate as a pleasure food, something tasteful to complement dinner, a type of candy, or even something to heat up into liquid form for a cold night’s drink. However, historically, chocolate served other uses, one intriguing one of which was that for medicinal purposes.

[See informational video of uses of cacao such as for medicinal uses, by the National Confectioners Association at:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSTuk6PBfT4 ]

In this report it will be discussed how Mesoamericans regarded chocolate as having potential medical usages, applying the food item to certain ailments, sicknesses, and even preventative measures. Finally, the Mesoamerican conception of medical uses of chocolate will be contrasted with scientific descriptions of the actual medical and health benefits that chocolate may actually poses such as its possible involvement in biological effects on humans nowadays. 

It is quite interesting to see that over thousands of years ago, an item that is so commonly taken for granted, chocolate, was thought to be “Food of the Gods” (Dillinger et al, 2000) and believed to poses a multitude of medicinal abilities. For instance, Montezuma would consume superfluous amounts of cocoa, as would his society as well to do exactly what Viagra does for men today (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2015). Yet soon after the Columbian discovery of the cacao bean, Europeans also joined the bandwagon in believing in possible health benefits of chocolate. Accounts from friars and priests discuss consuming and administering chocolate to soldiers for strength, and for diseases such as liver disease and kidney failure, respectively. Oftentimes Europeans would even prepare pure cacao paste to consume as a beverage for alleviating fevers (Grivetti, 2005; Lippi, 2009).

However, not only did both Mesoamericans and early Europeans consume chocolate for beliefs in medical benefits, but they also consumed it together with certain medications and foods to aid in consuming purposes. Ancient Mexican texts of the Aztecs such as the Badianus Manuscript, Florentine Codex, and Princeton Codex all point to combining cacao with certain other foods such as maize or even bark of silk cotton trees to cure a multitude of different sicknesses and pains (Dillinger et al, 2000; Lippi, 2009). Dillinger et al (2000) discuss that through ancient artifacts and manuscripts it can be seen that such ancient civilizations would consume significant amounts of chocolate not only for pleasure, and not just for medical benefits, but in fact simply to help take down other medications and less-tasteful foods. Doctors would even prescribe the food item for energy gain, and interestingly enough, to calm people down. When not used for energy related fixes, it was consumed for weight gain and in other times to detract from more unfavorable tastes and medicines (Givetti, 2005; Lippi, 2009).

Therefore, taken together it can be seen that the ancient civilizations and even early Europeans included chocolate immensely in their daily lives, from not just leisure, but also to medical benefits and in preventing certain ailments. However, one may ask now why current society does not regard the food item so highly. Although it is tried and true that current medication, preventative measures and surgeries, and other ailment fixes are substantially more effective than certain foods like chocolate, there have still been reports of health benefits to cacao and chocolate. In fact, some studies such as that conducted by Hervé Robert in 1990 point to Theobromine and caffeine in chocolate serving as neurological remedies to depression and mood. In fact, serotonin and alkaloids in the cacao have been studied to serve as mood enhancers and diuretics respectively (Hudson, 28-31).

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 7.29.12 PM.png

A detailed news article documenting studies and different physician and psychologist viewpoints on the benefits and health effects on chocolate. Within the article there is an emphasis on mood and anti-depressive effects chocolate may serve on human beings. 

Furthermore, a handful of the discovered 500 or so compounds found in chocolate have been found to serve as antiseptics, and others to be involved in other biological ways (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2015). As a result of discussing former–Mesoamerican and early European–conceptions of possible health benefits of chocolate and relating them to current discussions, beliefs, and findings of the health-related effects of chocolate on humans, it can be seen that although there are not fully conclusive results on the subject, it can be reasoned that cacao may provide interesting and possibly beneficial biological effects on humans. Once serving as a diuretic, erectile fix, and even anti-depressant or energy booster, our common snack food, desert, or nice cup of cocoa may in fact provide related benefits today as our Mesoamerican and European ancestors once thought.

References

Coe, Sophie Dobzhansky, and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Third Edition. London: Thames and Hudson, 20013.28-31.

Dillinger, Teresa L., et al. “Food of the gods: cure for humanity? A cultural history of the medicinal and ritual use of chocolate.” The Journal of nutrition130.8 (2000): 2057S-2072S.

Grivetti, Louis E. “From aphrodisiac to health food: A cultural history of chocolate.” (2005).

Lippi, Donatella. “Chocolate and medicine: Dangerous liaisons?.” Nutrition25.11 (2009): 1100-1103.

William Hurst. “Chocolate as Medicine.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2015 63 (45), 9899-9900. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b04057