All posts by 2016x635

Hello Cocoa


When we think of chocolate in America we often think about a bag of M&M’s or a Snickers bar or a Kit-Kat. Regardless of the specific image it probably makes your mouth salivate thinking about the sugary, chocolate taste we all have come to love. What we don’t think about when we hear the word chocolate are terms such as slavery, child labor, certification or transparency. Chocolate industry analysts predict the global chocolate market will experience annual sales of $98.3 billion by 2016, the result of an annual growth rate approaching 3 percent. The chocolate market is large and rapidly growing but it has also dealt with growing concerns regarding ethical issues in the cacao-chocolate supply chain. Large chocolate corporations are in an arms race with one another to break into emerging markets and produce more efficiently that they are often more concerned with profits than certain ethical issues.

The company Hello Cocoa is a small-batch bean to bar company based in Fayetteville, Arkansas that pride themselves on “connecting people with flavors and cultures around the world.” (8) As they say on their website, “through ethical and direct trade, we strive to create relationships with locals and friends abroad to create an excellent chocolate experience, all in effort to cultivate community around chocolate.” (8) Hello Cocoa is a socially conscious company that combats many of the issues facing large chocolate corporations today. This essay will provide an ethnographic analysis of Hello Cocoa and explain why they are part of the solution to changing the cacao-chocolate supply chain.


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Figure 1. The home page of Hello Cocoa’s website


The most publicized issue in the cacao-chocolate supply chain is the prevalence of child labor. Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean, which grows primarily in Western Africa, Asia and Latin America. In recent years, organizations have begun to expose the widespread use of child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa that supply to some of the industries largest companies such as Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle. In response to this finding, the industry has become incredibly secretive, making it difficult for journalists to access farms that exploit child labor and thus difficult to disseminate information to the public. To put things in perspective, 60% of the Ivory Coast’s export revenue comes from the cacao industry, however, the average cacao farmer earns less than $2 a day. In order to keep prices competitive they often resort to the use of child labor.

There are several obvious issues with child labor such as the long, intensive hours spent on a cacao farm and the day-to-day hazards of working with dangerous tools such as a machete. Above all else though is the deprivation of the rights of the children themselves that violate the International Labor Organizations Child Labor Standards. 40% of child laborers in the Ivory Coast do not attend school. Depriving children of an education is unjust but it also robs them of any hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. The industry has begun to eliminate what the ILO calls the ‘worst forms of child labor’, but they still have a long way to go to create any substantial change. The real transformation will occur when chocolate companies take it upon themselves to not tolerate child labor and refuse to buy beans that were the product of human rights violations.

Hello Cocoa is one company that is ahead of the curve on these issues. They write in their mission statement, “We are passionate about travel and meeting people; this is an essential foundation of the Hello Cocoa experience and was the original inspiration of our company. We want to introduce our fans and chocolate-lovers to friends, lifestyles, cultures & landscapes around the world. And it all starts with a simple greeting, hello.” (8) Since they prioritize human relationships and human connections so highly, they have absolutely no tolerance for farmers that use forced child labor. The mission statement of Hello Cocoa says everything you need to know about the direction this company intends to go. What if we could do a bit of good in the world one chocolate bar at a time? In an industry that is increasingly focused on turning a profit, Hello Cocoa is a leader in ethics and moral sustainability.

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Figure 2. A member of the Hello Cocoa team with farmers in Africa because real face-to-face interaction between the company and the farmers is a cornerstone of their company.


Fair Trade

Another topic that is widely debated in the chocolate industry has to do with fair trade. Fair trade is a certification process that helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities. The Fair Trade USA website claims, “Our rigorous social, environmental and economic standards work to promote safe, healthy working conditions, protect the environment, enable transparency, and empower communities to build strong, thriving businesses.” (7) Any company that is fair trade certified is mandated to comply with the following rules:

  • No child labor (forced or otherwise exploited)
  • No workplace discrimination (gender equity and freedom of association)
  • Regulations on product ingredients
  • Safe working conditions and reasonable work hours
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Traceability and transparency

There is no denying that the intention of Fair Trade organizations is to eradicate issues that trouble the chocolate industry, however, there have been a number of critiques questioning its effectiveness.

Critics of fair trade say that it hurts poor, non-certified farmers whereas it helps rich farmers. This is because the cost of being certified is very high and thus many small farms cannot afford to apply for the certification process even if they are abiding by the fair trade regulations. This means that a chocolate bar you buy at your local grocery store that is not fair trade certified could actually be produced in the same way as chocolate that is fair trade certified. This is harmful to small farms because retailers are willing to pay more for fair trade beans then for regular cacao beans. Further critiques say that the regulations and inspections done by fair trade committees are rather lenient and occasionally allow non fair trade ingredients in fair trade products.

Hello Cacao combats this fair trade issue by engaging in direct trade. “Direct trade is a form of sourcing practiced by some coffee roasters and chocolate companies, referring to direct sourcing from farmers, with standards varying between producers.” (9) Direct trade does a better job of promoting direct communication and price negotiation between buyer and farmer without having to deal with an intermediary. It is typically a more transparent process that places greater emphasis on the quality of production. Their website says, “By doing business with cacao distributors that uphold ethical and sustainable standards, we impart dignity to (or empower) cacao farmers. And when we engage in direct trade, we strive to empower farmers by paying a fair wage directly to the farmer, while also seeking to establish a long-term relationship from which both of us benefit.” (8) Hello Cacao also uses no preservatives, non-GMO pure cane sugar and organic cacao beans to ensure high quality chocolate.

Figure 3. This is the fair trade certification logo.



The first step that must be taken in order to eradicate these issues and reward companies such as Hello Cocoa who conduct their business responsibly has to do with transparency. As has been discussed in this essay the deception and covering up of illegal activity is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with by implementing punishments. In order to hold companies responsible for their actions, regulations have to be put in place that mandate the release of information to the public. Customers have the right to know what they are purchasing and the right to educate themselves. The majority of consumers would not purchase chocolate if they knew it was produced illegally or unethically, however, the majority of consumers today are in the dark regarding many of these issues. Hello Cocoa is one of the rare companies that relishes transparency because they have nothing to hide. Attached to this essay is a video found on their website that details the complete bean-to-bar process of making chocolate. They also outline whom they purchase their beans from and the relationships they maintain with each group of farmers. This is obviously easier to do since they are a small company but they have made it a priority in their business model to place greater importance on ethical chocolate production and that is why other companies in the industry should look to emulate them.


Works Cited

  1. World Cocoa Foundation. March 2012. “Cocoa Market Update.” (2/27/14)
  2. Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer.  March 31, 2011. “Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.” Tulane University.
  3. BBC. March 24, 2010. “Tracing the bitter truth of chocolate and child labour.” (3/01/14)
  4. Sackett, Marjie. “Forced Child Labor and Cocoa Production in West Africa.” Human Rights & Human Welfare (2008). (3/01/14)
  5. Kramer, Anna. March 6, 2013. “Women and the big business of chocolate.” Oxfam America. (3/04/14)
  6. Grossman-Greene, Sarah, and Bayer, Chris. 2009. “A History of Child Labor, Child Rights, and the Harkin-Engel Protocol.” Tulane University.
  7. Fair Trade USA.” What Is Fair Trade? Fair Trade USA, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.
  8. “Our Mission.” Hello Cocoa. Hello Cocoa, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.
  9. Martin, C. (04/06/16). Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization. (Powerpoint Slides). Retrieved from


Godiva Chocolate. It speaks for itself.

Figure 1. This depicts how vast the global advertising industry really is.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary advertising is a form of business marketing used to promote a product. The purpose of advertising is to convince prospective customers that their services are superior to the competition. The issue with modern day advertising is that large corporations will do whatever it takes to turn a profit even at the expense of delivering honest messages about their products. According to Carat – a global media agency – the world spent an estimate of $592 billion dollars on advertising in 2015. What is concerning about the advertising industry is not this rapid growth but the increasing occurrence of manipulative exploitation of race, gender and class in order to turn a profit. Advertisements have become less focused on the products they are trying to sell and more about the consumers they are trying to attract even regardless of the messages the ads may convey. This essay will analyze an existing advertisement from the Godiva chocolate company and propose a counter to their current advertisement.

Figure 2. This Godiva advertisement depicts chocolate as a luxury good and uses sexual appeal to attract the eye of prospective customers. 

Godiva, “You can see it in her eyes”

The Godiva chocolate advertisement displayed above is a perfect depiction of the issues in modern day advertising. Godiva is a chocolate company trying to sell chocolate, however, at first glance it is almost impossible to see that. The focus of the advertisement is on a young, white women gazing into the ad in a very sexual manner with nice clothes and makeup on. The only semblance of chocolate is one small piece placed above her breasts. It is as if the chocolate is a decoration rather than a food. Furthermore, the company name Godiva is written at the bottom of the page, but the ‘GO’ is faded out so that you focus on the ‘DIVA’. Lastly, the slogan of the advertisement is “you can see it in her eyes”, which again places less emphasis on the chocolate product itself and more on the sexuality of the image. As Professor Martin says it is “discrimination and stereotyping on the basis of sex.” (Martin)This sexualization in chocolate advertisements is not a new phenomenon. In the book entitled Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History, author Emma Robertson states that “chocolate marketing followed the cultural trends of the Second World War, in objectifying women as sexual objects to maintain male morale.” (Robertson, 31) Robertson goes on to say that, “the chocolate thus gains in value through association both with a dynamic adventure/romance narrative and with an imagined ideal of feminine beauty.” (Robertson, 32) This infatuation of sexualized advertisements in the chocolate industry is degrading to women but also takes away from the product and everything that goes into producing chocolate.

On that note, this advertisement romanticizes chocolate as a whole. The people who are cultivating cacao beans are making next to nothing and starving but we do not see them on the cover of the advertisement. We see chocolate as a luxurious good, suited for wealthy people in high classes of society. This marketing strategy much like the sexualization of chocolate is also not new. As Robertson mentions in her book, “Cadbury drew explicitly on upper-class stereotypes to distinguish their ‘cup’ brand of cocoa in the early 1930’s. Adverts featured well-dressed, educated and well-travelled consumers pouring themselves a delicate cup of cocoa from an ornamental jug.” (Robertson, 18) Appealing to separate social classes separated Cadbury much like it separates Godiva from its competition but it also appeals to a select portion of the population.

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Figure 3. Our proposed advertisement eliminates issues of sexualization and focuses solely on what is important, the chocolate.

Godiva, “It speaks for itself”

The Godiva advertisement that we created ‘lets the chocolate speak for itself’. A question that professor Martin brought up in class when analyzing advertisements is “who is included in the advertisement and why?” (Martin) Our idea was to remove everyone from the picture entirely so that the focus is purely on the chocolate and nothing else. In a time when ads are intricate and hard to follow, this advertisement is straight to the point and brings your attention directly to the product. The advertisement is merely a piece of chocolate in front of a blank white background. There is no deception or psychological manipulation, it is strictly the product. The other reason we chose this advertisement is that we believe it appeals to a wide array of people. One theme that is apparent in advertisements today is that they focus in on a select audience to sell to. Whether it be high class people, or white people or men it limits who the product appeals to. This advertisement is for everyone, there is no discrimination and no class, race or gender we exclude.


In an ideal world the advertisement for a product would include an unbiased, comprehensive analysis of the product. It would include who produces it, how it is produced and any relevant information a consumer would be interested in. The fact of the matter is that customers may not be looking for that much information at first glance but rather than deceive them through psychological manipulation we believe it is better to keep it simple and ‘let the chocolate speak for itself’.

Works Cited:

  1. Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
  2. Martin, Carla. (2016). Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class in Chocolate Advertisements. (Powerpoint Slides). Retrieved from

Sugar, Sugar


When we think of the word sugar, our mouths salivate as we imagine a candy bar or our favorite sweet dessert. As Professor Martin cited in lecture, “food has a fundamental taste that is desired from infancy”. We recognize sugar as a guilty indulgence; a food that everyone enjoys but knows is unhealthy, a snack that you want in the moment but regret when you are done. This is why it is so popular and so addictive but also why it is associated with obesity and overall poor health. This perception of sugar is how modern society has come to view it but as we have learned, the perception of sugar has evolved over the years. Historical changes in sugar consumption have been effected by a number of factors including significant price decreases and the introduction of mass production of sugar. This essay will attempt to sift through the historical lineage of sugar consumption in Britain and try to explain one of the most fascinating production curves of any major food group in history.


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Figure 1. This graph illustrates the incredible increase in sugar consumption over the last few centuries.

Timeline of Sugar

Sugar, or sucrose is a naturally occurring carbohydrate historically extracted from the sugarcane or sugar beet plants. In 1000 AD, few Europeans knew of the existence of sugar. As Sidney Mintz outlines in her book, it wasn’t until 1200 AD that sugar was introduced to England. From the time period of 1200 AD until around 1650 AD sugar was used as a spice, as medicine, as a decoration and ultimately as a sweetener but it was reserved for the elite and was not available to the general population of Britain. One report from Sugar Nutrition UK suggests that sugar was sold at two shillings per pound in 1319 – the equivalent of 50 euros in today’s money – therefore it was far too expensive to be consumed regularly by most British people. By 1650 as Mintz writes, “the nobility and the wealthy had become inveterate sugar eaters, and sugar figured in their medicine, literary imagery, and displays of rank.” (Mintz) By 1800, “sugar had become a necessity – albeit a costly and rare one – in the diet of every English person and by 1900 it was supplying nearly one-fifth of the calories in the English diet.” (Mintz) Today approximately 150 lbs of sugar are consumed per capita every year.

Figure 2. This is an image of sugarcane that is used to make sugar.

Post Industrial Revolution Sugar Production and Consumption

So what led to this rapid increase in consumption and availability of sugar over the last 200 years? The primary reason is the industrial revolution and the introduction of more efficient ways to produce sugar. This transition allowed for sugar to be produced at much larger scales for much less money. This drastic price decrease allowed people of all financial backgrounds to afford and consume sugary products. By the 1900’s sugar had become a staple in the British diet, but it wasn’t solely because the price had decreased. During the industrial revolution prices of other crops decreased without experiencing the same exponential growth in production as sugar. So what else contributed to this phenomenon?


Effects of Sugar on the Brain

The best explanation is that sugar is a desirable taste from infancy that affects certain brain pathways, which induce cravings for sugar. Sugar activates the same reward pathways in our brain that sex and drugs do. Stimulating these reward pathways releases dopamine in the brain, which produces a pleasurable and harmless response. However, if the reward system is activated too often it could be sent into overdrive. It kick starts a loss of control, craving and increase in tolerance that leads to an addiction to sugar. This is the reason why sugar has become such a problem in developing countries and is associated with diabetes and obesity.


Figure 3. This figure illustrates how sugar and cocaine affect the same parts of the brain, both which induce addiction.



It is important to understand that sugar is not harmful in and of itself. The modern day medical issues associated with chocolate have to do with over consumption and less to do with how bad sugar really is. The issue in developed countries is that individuals consume so much sugar that the body can’t process it. According to the American Heart Association the average male should consume no more than 37g of added sugar a day, however, in 2008 the average intake was around 77g per person. As we have seen throughout history, sugar is a harmless source of energy consumed by people across the world. The problem is that we have reached a point where we are consuming far too much sugar than we should and since it is so addicting it reinforces these cravings we have to consume even more. Sugar consumption has seen a remarkable exponential increase in the last 200 years and we must do our best to limit this upward trend in order to promote healthy living.

Figure 4. This figure shows just how much sugar is in modern day American products.

 Work Cited

  1. Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.
  2. “Healthy Living.” Healthy Living. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. Study on Sugar Intake
  3. Martin, Carla. “Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal” Harvard University, AAS 119
  4. Martin, Carla. “Sugar and Cacao” Harvard University, AAS 119




The Role of Cacao in Aztec Customs

Introduction to Aztecs

The Aztecs were the people of the fifth sun who lived in Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) and spoke the Nahuatl language. From the 14th-16th centuries they dominated much of Mesoamerica, however, history remembers them as cruel, volatile and sadistic people. This stereotype arose because it benefited the Spaniards to paint the Aztec people in a bad light. The quote, “history is written by the victors” illuminates this point. What we study and remember about historical events comes from the eye of those who are able to live and tell the story. The fact of the matter is that we will never know everything about the Aztec culture but one thing we know for sure is that the cacao bean was incredibly significant in their everyday lives.


Making of Chocolate

Figure 1. This image shows the care and time it takes to make the chocolate drink. In this picture the women is moving the chocolate from one basin to another in order to create a layer of foam.

When we think of chocolate today we think of a sweet, brown block of food that is enjoyed as a desert or a sugary snack. This chocolate is derived from the theobroma cacao bean. The Aztecs used these theobroma cacao beans in a very different way. A man known as the Anonymous Conqueror, a gentleman of Hernan Cortez, described the way chocolate was prepared in Tenochtitlan. The seeds of cacao were ground and made into a powder that was put into basins and mixed with water. After mixing for an extended period of time they change it from one basin to another in order to create a layer of foam. When completed, the delicacy is to be served cold as a drink. (Coe and Coe, 87) “The conqueror describes this drink as the healthiest thing and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.”(Coe and Coe, 87) Chocolate in the Aztec culture was not a sweet drink for everyone to enjoy; it had an intense bitter taste and was reserved for the Aztec elite.



Chocolate Drinking, A Royal Pleasure

The drinking of chocolate was primarily for the Royal house, the lords and nobility. The only commoners who had the privilege of drinking chocolate were the soldiers as it was thought to rejuvenate warriors before they entered battle. Chocolate was a delicacy that was not available to everyone in the Aztec culture. The drinking of chocolate was also a civil and ritualized process. According to Fray Bartolome de las Casas, who was one of the first Dominicans in the Americas, royalty drank chocolate out of calabash cups called xicalli in Nahuatl that were painted inside and out. Chocolate was also never drank during the meals rather it was sipped after the meal was over. “It was an ambrosia from the rich and exotic lands of Anahuac, not something to wash down one’s food.”(Coe and Coe, 94)



Role of Chocolate as Currency

The other interesting aspect of cacao that signified its importance in the Aztec culture was how it was used as a form of currency. According to the Codice Mendoza, cacao beans had taken on the status of legal money. “The cacao beans of Soconusco were particularly valued as records indicate an annual tribute of 200 hundred loads of 24,00 beans each to the capital.” (Presilla, 17) Another historical record of the importance of cacao was from Christopher Colombus’ son Ferdinand who recounted in a letter; “they dropped some nuts and immediately stooped to rescue any that dropped as if an eye had fallen from their heads” (Presilla, 17). Ferdinand was referring to the cacao beans when he said ‘nuts’ but the reaction of the Aztec people shows the importance of these beans and is testimony that they may have carried monetary value in addition to their intrinsic value.


Figure 2: The exchange of cacao beans between gods. Cacao was used in many ways and was also used as a form of currency.


Chocolate in Aztec Rituals




Figure 3. This image is a depiction of the heart extraction ritual that was performed once every year by the Aztec people. The use of chocolate in this ritual signifies its importance in the Aztec culture.

Chocolate was engrained in the culture and rituals of the Aztec people. When members of Aztec royalty and nobility hosted guests they would often invite them to partake in the drinking of chocolate. This gesture was meant as a great honor to the guest who received the chocolate. (Presilla, 19) Another specialized ritual that occurred every year among the Aztecs was the sacred heart extraction in Tenochtitlan. One slave would be chosen to dress up and impersonate the great god Quetzalcoatl for 40 days. When the 40 days came to an end the slave would be required to sacrifice himself to the gods. Throughout the process the slave had to act and dance joyously as if he was lucky to be honored as the one chosen to sacrifice himself to the gods. It is said that if the individual became melancholy he would be given a gourd of chocolate to drink. The slave would immediately forget the situation he was in and would return to his usual cheerfulness. (Coe and Coe, 102) The use of chocolate in these types of rituals shows how highly the Aztecs viewed chocolate and how important it was in their culture.





It is clear that the Aztec people viewed cacao as more than just a food or drink. Cacao was reserved for the elite of Aztec society and carried cultural and monetary significance that made it so important and so valuable to the Aztec people.



Works Cited:

  1. Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009. Print.
  2. Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.