All posts by 2016x753

An Experiment to Test Chocolate Preference

To test chocolate preferences, I conducted an experiment on my friends by having them taste a wide variety of chocolates. They didn’t know that they were part of an experiment. They were only told that I was holding a chocolate tasting as part of a course I was taking and I wanted them to rank their preference of each of 7 chocolates, or cacao nibs, from 1 to 7 (1 being the best). Three of my friends were not raised in America which provided some interesting information on the differences in chocolate preference between Americans and people from other parts of the world. Through my experiment I discovered how texture, Fair Trade or organic labels, gourmet or artisan labels, and the distinct taste of Hershey’s chocolate affected preferences.

In an attempt to set up a controlled experience with as little changing variables as possible, I decided to make all the samples I gave my friends look exactly the same. I melted down the 6 types of chocolate bars I bought and molded them using the brown mold pictured below. I did not want my friend’s preferences to be affected by product names or the shape/appearance of the chocolate.

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I presented the chocolates in the same way to everyone, as pictured below. The only noticeable difference between the chocolates was that the chocolate on the left side of the plate was obviously milk chocolate. I kept my samples in plastic bags with the original packaging, as seen in the picture, to ensure that I did not mix up the samples that now looked exactly the same. My friends did not see me set up the plates so they had no way of knowing if I was telling the truth about the chocolates they were eating during the tasting.

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I randomly assigned my 8 friends to two separate groups, Group A and Group B. Sometimes I switched two chocolates on the tasting plate for a particular group. This meant that as I was leading the tasting, I was telling one group that they were eating one type of chocolate when they were really eating another. I did this so I could see if what I said to them about the chocolates had any affect on how much they liked them. I gave each friend a tasting form and a tastes “cheat sheet,” pictured below.

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My cheat sheet was inspired by chocolate tastings done in class and Stuckey’s explanation of the five tastes: “… the only five tastes we Homo sapiens can detect using our tongue alone [are] sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and umami… These tongue sensations are known as the five Basic Tastes” (5). I gave my friends minimal information about the chocolate on the tasting sheets. I left a spot for them to rank the chocolates and another spot for them to write their general thoughts on the chocolate’s taste. As I led the tasting, I explained what any possibly unfamiliar words meant, like Fair Trade, organic, non-GMO, single origin, gourmet. Per recommendations from class, I had my friends taste things in order of highest cacao content to lowest. I decided to include cacao nibs in my tasting as an interesting difference from all the chocolate. I figured that most of my friends had never had cacao nibs so I was eager to see their reactions. The Cacao nibs are pictured below.

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From my friends’ reactions during the debriefing at the end of the experiment, they had no idea that I had lied about which chocolates I gave them. This leads me to believe that my data should be significant. Before I present my data, I will discuss each of the chocolates I used in my tasting, excluding the cacao nibs which I have already mentioned. I used two 80% chocolates which I switched for the groups. One of the chocolates was Taza’s 80% cacao and the other was Equal Exchange’s single origin chocolate from Panama with 80% cacao. The second line on my chocolate tasting sheet describes Equal Exchange’s chocolate while the third line describes Taza’s. I did not switch the fourth chocolate on my tasting sheet for the groups. This chocolate was Equal Exchange’s single origin chocolate from Peru with 71% cacao. Next I had Valrhona’s gourmet, single origin chocolate from Madagascar with 64% cacao (line 5) and Hershey’s dark chocolate (line 6). From my research, Hershey’s dark chocolate has approximately the same cacao percentage as the Valrhona chocolate I chose. Lastly, I gave the groups different milk chocolates with approximately the same percentage cacao. One group received Hershey’s milk chocolate while the other received a milk chocolate meant for chocolate fountains (pictured in the first image). Below are the rankings that my friends gave to each of these chocolates.

Cacao nibs: [2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7]

Taza: [1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7]

Equal Exchange 80%: [1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 6]

Equal Exchange 71%: [2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4]

Hershey’s Dark: [1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 5, 5, 6]

Valrhona: [1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 5, 5, 6]

Hershey’s milk: [6, 6, 6, 7]

Milk fountain chocolate: [2, 4, 5, 7]

From my data, the fair trade, organic and single origin labels did not seem to have any significant impact on chocolate preference. There were varying preferences for the four chocolates that had these labels (Taza, Equal Exchange, and Valrhona). This is interesting given what I read about “Perceptions of the Fairtrade label”:  “thanks in part to the numerous sensitisation campaigns, the Fairtrade label has become increasingly well known. Likewise, the purchase of FT products continues to grow at enviable rates… 50 per cent of people are familiar with the Fairtrade label. Beyond this, various opinion polls also showed that consumers are increasingly aware of the potential consequences of their consumption rates” (Sylla, “The marketing success of FT: some figures). Sylla suggests that increased education about Fair Trade has caused an “enviable” increase in the sale of fair trade products. One can deduce that an increased sale means an increased preference. The ranging ratings of my friends for Fair Trade chocolates (Equal Exchange and Taza), suggest that there is not really a correlation between a chocolate having a Fair Trade label and a higher preference for that chocolate.

Another interesting result in my data was the general feelings about Taza chocolate. Taza chocolate is different from most chocolate because it is stone ground, with the end result of a higher particle size in the chocolate. Part of the reason that chocolate became more popular was the introduction of machines that could grind chocolate into smaller particles, which might explain why my friends did not generally like it. Only 2 of my 8 friends liked Taza, while 4 out of my 8 friends liked it the least of all the samples (including the cacao nibs). There was actually more general dislike for Taza chocolate than the “bitter” cacao nibs. 7 out of my 8 friends described it as “grainy,” “gritty,” or “powdery.” In my mind, these are not positive adjectives for chocolate. I believe it is safe to say that people tend not to like higher particle size chocolates.

One fascinating result from my experiment was the reactions to Hershey’s chocolate. D’Antonia describes how Hershey’s chocolate differs from other chocolates and played a large role in shaping the chocolate preferences of Americans: “Hershey’s milk chocolate… carries a single, faintly sour note. This slight difference is caused by the fermentation of milk fat, an unexpected side effect… Anyone who knew Swiss milk chocolate… may have found Hershey’s candy unpleasant… Hershey’s milk chocolate… would also come to define the taste of chocolate for Americans” (108). The most striking result from my experiment was that 4 out of the 5 Americans chose Hershey’s dark chocolate as their favorite chocolate from the samples. This makes sense given what D’Antonio says, but it is particularly interesting given that milk is an ingredient in Hershey’s dark chocolate, unlike the other dark chocolate samples I tested. The non-Americans gave Hershey’s dark a lower rating (3, 5, and 5).

I included one expensive, gourmet chocolate in my tasting to see if there would be a general preference towards the chocolate. Williams and Beer explain that many consumers cannot recognize the improvements with gourmet or artisan chocolate, asking the question: “So, can consumers learn to slow down, taste, explore, and value the costly complexity of fine flavor?” (146). From my experiment, the answer to this question appears to be no. The very varied rankings of the gourmet chocolate indicate that my friends did not have any particular preference toward it.

Through my experiment I discovered that Americans and non-Americans definitely have different preferences for chocolate. Americans tend to prefer Hershey’s chocolate over other chocolates. Labels like Fair Trade and organic do not seem to have a significant impact on preferences but this might be due to lack of education. The particle size of chocolate also appears to play a big role in preference. Lastly, it is safe to say that people have not yet learned to appreciate the taste of more expensive artisan and gourmet chocolates.

 

Sources:

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126.

Stuckey, Barb. 2012. Taste: What You’re Missing. pp. 1-30, 132-156.

Sylla, Ndongo. 2014. The Fair Trade Scandal.

Williams, Pam and Jim Beer. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. pp. 141-209.

 

Multimedia sources:

All images were taken by me.

Pushing Back on the Sexualization of Women in Chocolate Advertising

The below video is a Dove commercial of a woman experiencing different “senses” as she eats a piece of Dove chocolate. This advertisement epitomizes the sexualization of women in chocolate advertisement as discussed by Emma Robertson and Dr. Martin. With an advertisement I created, I attempt to push back on this type of advertising and present a woman eating chocolate in a different context: while working in a non-stereotypically feminine job. The analysis of my advertisement shows how companies can take a different approach to chocolate advertisements that is less likely to alienate women. Advertisements similar to the one I created provide a multi-faceted view of women as people, rather than women as sexual objects without control of their emotions.

I took some screenshots of key moments in the video to aid in my analysis (with the time in the video included); below is one such screenshot. The woman is depicted sighing as she is draped in a silk chocolate cloth. The sound of her sigh is sexual in nature and she seems not in control of her responses. Robertson explains how women in advertisements “were pictured apparently lashing out” (21-22). Robertson is discussing the idea that women are often depicted in advertisements as out of control and this advertisement is one such example.

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The Dove commercial becomes even more sexual and problematic towards the end, specifically with the scene shown below. A nut explodes at the same moment that a women yells “Oh!” in a manner similar to an orgasm. Robertson describes this trend in Aero chocolate advertisements: “In each advert a different woman is depicted taking a bite of an Aero bar. Some look a little guilty at being caught in the act, while others look sexily at the camera at the camera. The orgasmic pleasure brought about by their ‘urges’ being satisfied is revealed in the projected responses…” (Robertson 35). In this commercial, it is implied that the woman’s response to eating Dove chocolate is an orgasm. This is extremely sexual and problematic. It presents women as sexual beings incapable of controlling their responses.

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Below is my advertisement that attempts to push back against these depictions of women. A woman is pictured eating chocolate while working, specifically programming. Many people, men and women, use chocolate as a quick snack while working, so this is a more realistic view. Additionally, the woman is not posed in a sexual manner and is focused on her work rather than the chocolate. Robertson discusses how there was a trend to fetishize “women as housewives and mothers” (Robertson 20). This advertisement also challenges this trend because it shows a woman working, and on a stereotypically “male” task.

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Leissle writes about Divine’s attempt to place female cocoa farmers in a more realistic manner: “… the Divine women – cocoa farmers who appear in a fashionable, cosmopolitan aesthetic – provide visual evidence of African women’s participation in luxury consumption, while at the same time offering the idea that such African consumerism is possible, and inviting its repetition” (Leissle 134). My advertisement does the same; it attempts to provide visual evidence for a woman’s levelheaded consumption of chocolate in a non-sexual context. As Divine’s advert attempts to provide something that is a “realistic of African women’s lives,” my advert attempts to do the same for American women’s lives (Leissle 136).

The Dove advertisement is clearly meant to suggest a sexual connection between women and chocolate. Sexual music with women sighing and yelling “Oh!” plays in the background throughout. My advertisement attempts to place women’s relationship with chocolate in a more realistic light. In decoupling women’s relationship with chocolate and sex, it provides a less problematic way for advertisers to connect with women and sell their products.

 

Sources:

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010. pp. 1-131

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

 

Multimedia sources:

Dove “Senses” commercial: embedded video

Two still images of video: computer screenshots taken of video

if working image: original advertisement

The Development of Chocolate for the Masses

Throughout the 1800s, the consumption of chocolate and sugar increased significantly. This was due to a combination of decreased sugar prices and technological advancements in the chocolate production. Sugar went from being a rarity to a staple of many people’s diets. This was important to the production of chocolate because sugar was and still is a major ingredient in chocolate. Several people also invented new machines and methods that made it easier for chocolate to be available for the masses. Without the decrease in sugar prices and these inventions, chocolate would not have become as important a part of society as it is today.

In 1828, Van Houten made one of the first big technological advancements in chocolate production by inventing the hydraulic press. The hydraulic press separates chocolate liquor into cocoa powder and cocoa butter. This made it both cheaper and easier to produce chocolate. “Van Houten’s invention of the defatting and alkalizing processes made possible the large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses, in both powdered and solid form” (Coe & Coe 235). His hydraulic press is pictured below. It uses high amounts of pressure to separate the chocolate liquor. Without this invention it would have been much more difficult for further advancements in chocolate production to occur, like chocolate bars.

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Thanks to Van Houten’s invention of the hydraulic press, another man named Fry was able to invent the chocolate bar. As Coe & Coe explains, “[w]ith Van Houten’s breakthrough, the Fry enterprise-and the Fry dynasty-was ready to move into high gear… A milestone was passed in 1847, when the Fry firm found a way to mix a blend of cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter… this produced a thinner, less viscous paste which could be cast into a mold… this was the world’s first true eating chocolate” (Coe & Coe 241). Without the separation of chocolate liquor into cocoa power and butter, it would have been difficult to create a mixture that could have been combined in such a way. Below is an image of an advertisement for Fry’s chocolate bars. This image shows the shift from chocolate as something that only the rich might eat into something available for the masses, and specifically poorer families and children. Sugar and chocolate became a replacement for other foods as their prices decreased. The lack of time required for preparation also contributed to this.

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In 1840-1870 there were big price drops in sugar. Mintz explains that “In the 1800s, the national consumption was about 300 million pounds per year; once the duties began to be equalized and the price to drop, consumption rose, to a billion pounds in 1852… Without the price drops, consumption could not have risen so fast” (243). If sugar prices had not decreased it would not have been so easy for chocolate bars like Fry’s to be made available to the general public. It is also interesting that “the biggest sucrose consumers, especially after 1850, came to be the poor, whereas before 1750 they had been the rich” (Mintz 148). This is especially important because part of the reason that chocolate is so popular today is that it is affordable for everyone. It is also interesting to note that Fry was able to produce chocolate bars around the same time that sugar prices drop. This likely would not have been possible without the drop.

In 1879, Rudolphe Lindt invented “conching,” which improved the quality of chocolate making (Coe & Coe 248). Conching led to an important improvement in the taste of chocolate. The taste and texture of chocolate that most recognize today is largely thanks to Lindt. As Coe & Coe explains, “After 72 or more hours of such rock-and-roll treatment, the chocolate mass reaches the desired flavor, as well as attaining a high degree of smoothness, due to a reduction in the size of particles. Before Lindt, eating chocolate was usually coarse and gritty; now it had achieved such a degree of suavity and mellowness” (248). A conche is shown in the image below. This specific machine was used at Hershey. The ridges and rollers pictured below create this “rock-and-roll” treatment. In some factories, like Hershey’s, there would be entire rooms filled with conche machines.

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The production of chocolate was revolutionized thanks to the above inventions and the decrease in the cost of sugar. Without these things, chocolate would likely not be as pervasive in society as it is today.

 

Sources:

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

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.

 

Multimedia sources:

Hydraulic press: https://i1.wp.com/www.worldstandards.eu/images/cocoa%20press.jpg

Conche: https://static-ssl.businessinsider.com/image/54b55341eab8ea0f7e55d9ab-960-720/this-conching-machine-was-once-responsible-for-mixing-cocoa-butter-into-the-chocolate.jpg

Fry’s chocolate bar: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Fry’s_Chocolate_advertisement.JPG

Maize and Chocolate: A Match Made in Heaven

Upon first glance, corn and chocolate do not seem like two foods that would mix well together, but civilizations as old as the Maya combined them in recipes that people still use today. Maize and cacao both played significant roles in Mayan religion in addition to being major crops. Cacao contains caffeine that the Maya used as a stimulant while maize provided an easy way for them to consume required calories without much effort or significant resources (Coe & Coe 50). The above reasons logically led to the pairing of the two in several recipes with varied uses, but the religious connection provides an explanation for why these recipes were so common.

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The head of the Maize God from a Classic Maya vase

The Maize God played an important role in Mayan religion given that maize was such a staple in the Mayan diet. Interestingly, several times in Mayan art and writing, the Maize God is connected to cacao in some way. In one story in the Popul Vuh, the severed head of the Maize God is hung up in a tree that is portrayed as a cacao tree in the Classic Maya vase above (Coe & Coe 39). In this story, the Maize God is the son of an old couple who created the universe, which clearly makes him an important figure in the Mayan religion.

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The Classic Maya Maize God as a cacao tree

In another Classic Maya artifact, shown above, the Maize god is represented as a cacao tree (Coe & Coe 43). The fact that such an important Mayan God is portrayed as a cacao tree illustrates how significant cacao was to the Maya. This depiction also helps to explain why recipes containing maize and cacao were used in rituals and ceremonies (Coe & Coe 49-50). The two ingredients held significant religious meaning to the Maya so it makes sense they would be mixed together for important events.

The Aztecs also chose to combine maize and cacao in their recipes, but cacao was usually reserved for the elite in their society (Presilla 5). Warriors were supplied with cacao and “the all-important corn” when they were on campaigns (Presilla 5). The cacao acted as a stimulant for the warriors while the corn provided them with the necessary nutrition.

Scholars have found cacao and maize drinks on Mayan artifacts, specifically a vase that shows a bowl of atole—a chocolate corn gruel—next to a dignitary (Presilla 14). Presilla sums up the relationship between maize and chocolate, saying “One is the basic, necessary staff [sic] of everyday life, the other the food most synonymous with luxury and status. But they both bore mythical associations with cosmic life cycles, and it is clear that the two were indeed combined in Maya cuisine” (Presilla 14). As explained by Presilla, abundant evidence exists that cacao and maize were combined to make drinks and gruel, which seems logical given the importance of each, both religiously and as food staples.

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Whisking champurrado

Today this pairing can be found in modern recipes. Mexican champurrado, chocolate corn gruel, is one such recipe. Recipes for atole are also still common in Mexico (Presilla 14). The image above shows chocolate being whisked into corn gruel to make champurrado. It is interesting to see this image juxtaposed against how a similar recipe would have been made in Classic Mayan times. The Mayan recipe survives, but in a world with whisks, chocolate bars, and stoves.

The significance of cacao and maize in the past explains the persistence of recipes containing them today. With the understanding of the religious and social importance of maize and cacao, it is no wonder the two are paired together so frequently.

Sources

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

Presilla, Maricel. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2009.

 

Multimedia sources

Classic Maya vase image: http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/images-6/668_06_2.jpg

Classic Maya Maize God as cacao tree image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/8e/41/08/8e41080bfc3e8bbc27e8031229ce0d8a.jpg

Whisking champurrado image: http://www.seriouseats.com/images/2015/02/20150202-mexican-atoles-drinks-vicky-wasik-7.jpg