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Green & Black’s: Ethical Chocolate, Corrupt Connections

Green & Black’s, a popular bean to bar company offers a chocolate bar completely outside of the realm of the common candy bar. However, the company’s outward ethical stance is at odds with the practices of its parent company Mondelēz International. Green & Black’s believes in a bean to bar ethical standard, meaning they expect co-manufacturers, partners, and sources to uphold certain standards in terms of wages and labor expectations. Green & Black’s marketing centers on their ethics; this is emphasized by their grassroots origin story. According to their website, Green & Black’s, founded in 1991 by Craig Sams and Jo Fairley, launched with a mission to create chocolate with the finest and most sustainable sourcing principles (Green & Black’s: Our Story). Craig Sams, founder of organic food company Whole Earth, was sent a sample of 70% dark chocolate made from organic cocoa beans. He left the half-eaten bar behind, only for his wife Jo Fairley to try it. They fell in love with the taste and set out to sell it to others. Today, Green & Black’s has a wide collection of bars, which are “all expertly crafted with hand-selected, ethically sourced cocoa beans” (Our Story). Green & Black’s were the UK’s first Fair Trade chocolate bar and in 2012, they launched Cocoa Life, a “third party verified cocoa sustainability program” which they certify their bars with (Green & Black’s: Responsibility). The chocolate industry is inundated with bars from major manufacturers that do not offer ethical verifications, no not present an upscale image, and do not offer transparency in their sourcing. Thus, Green & Black’s stands out among  the  common cheap candy bar. However, the Green & Black’s ownership by Cadbury and Mondelēz International (formerly Kraft Foods) undermines the company’s brand. While Green & Black’s seems to offer an ethical choice to consumers, it’s ownership by major manufacturers cheapens it’s brand by tying it to chocolate companies with possible unethical practices.

 

Green & Black’s gourmet chocolate offerings are full of variety. They offer bars under the categories of “dark,” “milk,” “organic,” “white,” “salted,” “nuts,” “caramel,” “fruit,” “mint,” “toffee,” and “ginger.”  With around 17 different bars, Green & Black’s flavors extend from 70% dark to pure milk chocolate to dark with raspberry and hazelnut (Green & Black’s: View Chocolates). Promoting the quality of their products, Green & Black’s writes the green “symbolizes our commitment to always sourcing ethical cocoa” and black stands for “our high quality and the delicious intensity of our chocolate” (Our Story). With an organic line, Green & Black’s successfully creates candy that caters to the rising interest in organic foods. Organic foods are foods grown without pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals (Martin Lecture: Alternative Trade). Foods that do not carry the organic label may possibly use these products in agricultural production, or in other stages of manufacturing. These chemicals can be environmentally dangerous. Claire Williamson writes that “organic food has become an increasingly popular choice for consumer over recent years with salves of organic food increasing tenfold in a decade” (Williamson 231). Green & Black’s organic line thus targets specifically those consumers who buy in the interest of avoiding potentially contaminated food, despite the insufficient amount of studies to suggest that conventionally produced food have worse nutritional value (Williamson 234). However, Green & Black’s ensures that part of its audience includes organic food buyers through their products, which sharply contrasts the typical convenient store chocolate bar brand.

 

In addition to Green & Black’s variation in flavor and target demographic, the company further separates itself from traditional candy by its branding; Green & Black’s distinguishes itself through its narrative, advertising, and packaging. A Green & Black’s bar is a refreshing new take on chocolate, as the use of bright colors, intense flavors, certification stamps, and luxurious designs in its website and social media elevate the bar as a gourmet item and not simply a snack food. Green & Black’s achieves this image through its marketing. Packaging, in particular, relates to food intake (Argo and White 67). The colors and shape of a package influence a consumer’s decision to buy it, by making consumers believe it tastes better (Miller). For example “the yellow hue of a 7Up can make the soda taste more lemon-y” (Miller). Thus, Green & Black’s takes advantage of this psychological phenomenon. Their packages use bright colors with bold fonts. Some of the bars are packaged in paper rectangles, giving the bar a more upscale exterior. The look of a Green & Black’s bar is luxurious and high end, when compared to Snickers or M&M bag.

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Source:  blogspot

In chocolate packaging, visual cues and promotional cues have a “direct positive significant effect in the buying influence of chocolates” (Shekhar and Raveendran 55). Indeed, Green & Black’s takes advantage of the power of color – the most important too for “emotional expression of a package” (Shekhar and Raveendran 56). Shekhar and Raveendran argue that in chocolate packaging the size, shape, and color influence the consumer’s decision to buy. Green & Black’s stands out for its use of elegant black combined with bright colors that suggest refined taste but also gourmet flavoring. Shekhar and Raveendran conducted a study of chocolate buyers and found that students were influenced in purchasing chocolate based on visual cues alone.

 

Green & Black’s chocolate is thus a completely stand out brand. The offerings are diverse, have exciting colors, and their promotional websites and social media brand them as a fine chocolate. However, Green & Black’s packaging further works to attempt accurately represent their ethical stance as well, through certification stamps. The cocoa life and fair trade certification suggest the company engages in ethical practices and works to invest in community development projects (Fair Trade America). However, given the little knowledge consumers have about fair trade and other certifications, Green & Black’s packaging comes off as simply a lifestyle and aesthetic choice for consumers, rather than an ethical choice. For example, Green & Black’s’s Instagram page @greenandblacks has no posts referring it’s certifications or ethical processes. Instead, the Instagram is a lifestyle page of bright colors, coffee cups, fruit bowls, and plants next to chocolate bars. What the Green & Black’s’s Instagram page seems to be selling is not simply chocolate, but a way of life. The biography states, “Green & Black’s create delicious ethically sourced chocolate from the finest ingredients” (@greenandblacks). But a typical posts celebrates Easter or Father’s Day and suggests that followers buy Green & Black’s to celebrate the holiday. Indeed, the branding of Green & Black’s confuses the message of ethically-sourced and organic food by instead promoting a lifestyle full of bright colors and upscale food.

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Source: Instagram

 

In Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate, Pam Williams and Jim Eber suggest that the finest part of fine chocolate is the packaging alone. This is because defining premium chocolate is a grey area (Willams and Eber 168). There is no expectation for cacao percentages bean quality, or location of the chocolate source. Truly, Green & Black’s premium label is a work of personal brand and not simply fact.

 

While Green & Black’s is distinct for its bright colors and certifications, the company holds ties to business that is not as ethical as Green & Black’s claims to be. In 2005, Cadbury bought Green & Black’s and it became part of Mondelēz International (formerly Kraft foods). Both Mondelez and Cadbury have a poor record in sustainable and ethical chocolate sources. NGO Might Earth found that Mondelez was using cocoa grown illegally in protected areas in the Ivory Coast and Ghana (Chocolate’s Dark Secret). In certain areas, the actions of the companies have led to massive deforestation – a study by Marius Wessel and Foluke Quist-Wessel found that the search for new land to accommodate the increasing cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana has led to “large-scale deforestation” as farmers establish new farms in the forest zone (Wessel and Quist Wessel). Since then, however, Mondelez has lead the private sector in forming initiatives to combat deforestation through a Cocoa Life program (Mondelez International). According to a 2015 press release on the Mondelez website, Cocoa Life is a “$400 million investment to empower 200,000 smallholder farmers and create thriving cocoa communities in Côte d’Ivoire and five other cocoa origins. Through Cocoa Life, Mondelēz International will participate in Côte d’Ivoire’s national REDD+ program to support the country’s bold ambition to reach zero-net deforestation in cocoa” (Mondelez International).

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Source: Forbes

 

Although Mondelez is acknowledging deforestation and working to fix it, it’s impact and practices in the region are a stain on the company that now connect it with Green & Black’s. In its report, Might Earth notes that “in West Africa, chocolate is rare and unaffordable to the majority of the population. Most Ivorian cocoa farmers have never even tried chocolate” (Chocolate’s Dark Secret). Mighty Earth underscores the biggest hypocrisy in big chocolate business – that the regions in which major companies create chocolate are the same ones that suffer from its worst environmental impact while simultaneously, the farmers there are not able to enjoy the products they create. Wessel and Quist-Wessel offer to companies proposing to make change: “take also into account aspects of the rural infrastructure such as education, health, and roads and access to credit and inputs” (Wessel and Quist Wessel). Additionally, their analysis pushes for companies to find advancements that allow more cocoa to be grown on less land as climate change and increasing demand for production will have a “negative impact on the size of the present cocoa growing area” (Wessel and Quist-Wessel).

 

Recently, Green & Black’s has also adopted the Cocoa Life stamp for their products. However stamps such as Cocoa Life, while they represent great investments in sustainable food sources, further confuse consumers. Increasingly, more companies are establishing their own forms of certification for their products.  However, this undermines Fairtrade through alternative certifications that simply confuse consumers. For example, Mars established a certification plan. Other certifications include Fair for Life, UTZ Certified, and Rainforest Alliance. However, customers who already don’t understand Fair trade, are negatively affected by this. More certifications lead to disinterest and an unwillingness to understand the differences between the certifications. In 2011, NPR Morning Edition argued that Fair Trade labels confuse coffee drinkers, particularly as what is “fair trade” evolves (Carpenter). The Guardian agrees that Fair Trade is confusing and broad, referencing a survey of 1,000 shoppers conducted by consumer group “Which?” (Smithers). According to the survey, “seven out of 10 UK customers “admitted they would pay more attention to the environmental impact of the foods they buy if labels were clearer and more meaningful” (Smithers).  Green & Black’s “Cocoa Life” only adds to this problem. Fair Trade labels are poorly understood and there are far too many of them for consumers to keep up. The survey also found that “Nearly half the respondents (47%) said there were already too many things to think about already without worrying about the environmental impact of the food they buy” (Smithers). Thus, consumers cannot be left to understand the growing landscape of Fair Trade certifications. It should be on Green & Black’sand Mondelez International to make it clear on their packages what exactly “Cocoa Life” means. At face value, the label looks promising to consumers who look for certifications, however, consumers do not actually understand what separates one form of certification from another.

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Source: MediaFairTrade.org

Ultimately, Green & Black’s stands out as a fine chocolate maker with ethically and sustainably sourced cocoa. Despite this, Green & Black’s suffers from many of the same failures of the major chocolate and candy sellers: they contribute to a business that confuses it’s buyers. Their marketing strategy is more of a lifestyle brand and their use of bright colors attracts buyers more interested in design than content. Additionally, Green & Black’s parent company does not leave them controversy-free; they must work to overcome environmental and economic damage that their products have caused in particular regions.

 

Sources:

Carpenter, Murray. “Fair Trade Labeling May Confuse Coffee Drinkers.” NPR, NPR, 30 Nov. 2011.

“Fairtrade America.” Fairtrade Certified Coffee – Fairtrade America.

“Chocolate’s Dark Secret: Investigation Links Chocolate to Destruction of National Parks.” Mighty Earth, 29 Mar. 2018.

Martin, Carla. Course Lecture: Alternative Trade AAAS 199x: Chocolate. 2018

“Mondelez International to Lead Private Sector Action in Côte D’Ivoire’s Program to Combat Deforestation.” Mondelēz International, Inc., ir.mondelezinternational.com/news-releases/news-release-details/mondelez-international-lead-private-sector-action-cote-divoires.

“Our Story | GREEN & BLACK’S Our Story.” Green & Black’s, us.greenandblacks.com/our-story.

Shekhar, Suraj Kushe, and P. T. Raveendran. “Chocolate Packaging and Purchase Behaviour: A Cluster Analysis Approach.” Indian Journal of Marketing, vol. 43, no. 6, 2013, p. 5., doi:10.17010/ijom/2013/v43/i6/36388.

Smithers, Rebecca. “Food Labelling Confuses Ethical Shoppers, Says Survey.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 27 Sept. 2010.

Wessel, Marius, and P.m. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, vol. 74-75, 2015, pp. 1–7., doi:10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.

Williams, Pam, and Jim Eber. Raising the Bar: the Future of Fine Chocolate. Wilmor Pub., 2012.

Williamson, Claire. “Organic Food: Is It More Nutritious?” Practice Nursing, vol. 19, no. 5, 2008, pp. 231–234., doi:10.12968/pnur.2008.19.5.29218.

Images:

http://w-duffy0912-dc.blogspot.com/2011/03/green-blacks-products.html

https://www.forbes.com/companies/mondelez-international/

https://www.instagram.com/greenandblacks/

http://stage.mediafairtrade.org/fair-trade/

Cacao and its Ancient Literary Significance

Cacao seeds, the source of chocolate, don’t often figure as a divine substance in the modern word. However, cacao holds ancient significance as food of the Gods for the Mayan. The world of the Ancient Maya was in many ways built on chocolate. Today, many understand that chocolate was a drink for kings and nobles. There are dozens of Classic Maya pots and jars that depict chocolate as part of a ritual or feast (Presilla 12). Indeed, the Maya incorporated chocolate into their lives daily. Furthermore, they were among the first people to uncover the intricate process of creating and refining cacao seeds into chocolate drink. However, cacao operated as much more than just a food source; the Mayans used it as currency and wrote it into their creation myth. The Popol Vuh and the Dresden Codex offer a window into the ancient significance of cacao, connecting it to cultural identity. The act of processing  cacao beans, roasting and grinding them, is not only a cooking process but also deeply connected to a symbol of re-birth and power, due to its framing within a creation epic. Cacao is thus a spiritual food deeply connected to the identity of the Maya.

 

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Image: ancientamerica.org

Cacao’s origins begin with the Mayan civilization and the creation of chocolate beverages. According to Maricel E. Presilla, the Maya “consumed the pulp itself and juice made from the cacao fruit pulp (Presilla 12). Additionally, inscriptions from drinking vessels outline a clear culture of drinking cacao, as the Mayans used terminology such as ‘tree-fresh cacao’ and ‘green cacao’ in order to describe certain tastes or preferences (Presilla 12). Historians have uncovered many vases and vessels, such as a painted pottery jar from a tomb at Río Azul, Guatemala. The vessel depicts a chocolate drinking being made and further shows the process of pouring the substance from one vessel into another “to raise the foam” (Coe 48). Thus, artifacts reveal the intricate care and use of chocolate; the Mayans were so particular about their chocolate routine that even specific moments in the process feature in art.

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Image: mexicolore.co.uk

In addition to the clear culture of cacao consummation, cacao plays an instrumental within the Maya creation story. The story centers on the journey of the Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque in a world that precedes the present. Their father, Hun Hunahpu was killed in Xibalba (the underworld) after he and his brother lost to the Lords of the Death in a ball game (Grofe “Xibalba: About”). Hun Hunahpu’s head is placed in a barren tree which magically begins to bear new fruit. According to Michael Grofe, this tree is depicted as a cacao tree, the beans of which make the chocolate drink that the Mayans enjoyed. Ultimately, the Hero Twins fall into a trap from the Lords of the Death who trick them into jumping into fire; they are burned and the Lords dump their bodies into the river. However, the Twins come back within five days as fish. They defeat death and bring about creation (Grofe). Thus, within the story is also the story of cacao. Like the twins returning to Xibalba, chocolate comes from beans which is roasted, refined, and poured into water, only to create something completely new.

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Image: mexicolore.co.uk

The Maya word “kakaw” is spelled with two fish glyphs, further emphasizing the connection between the cacao process and the magical story of the Hero Twins (Grofe “Xibalba: About”). According to the scholar Michael J. Grofe, in the “the famous Rio Azul cacao pot, we find both the two ‘ka’ glyphs together with the reduplication symbol, as well as the final syllable ‘wa’, spelling ‘kakaw’. It therefore seems likely that the story of the Hero Twins transforming into ‘two fish’ derives from a pun on the word ‘kakaw’” (Grofe “Xibalba: About”). Grofe explains the sacrifice of the Twins as parallel to “cacao processing: entrance into the underworld (burial, fermentation), burning (roasting), grinding of their bones on a metate, and pouring them into water” (Grofe “Recipe” 1). Ultimately, Cacao, through symbolic and mythological writing thus serves as a powerful representation of re-birth, underscoring the cultural significance of cacao to the Maya who used it regularly.

The Dresden Codex further illuminates the significance of cacao in literary Mayan culture. The Codex is a “folding-screen book” and in several sections “gods can be seen holding cacao pods, or dishes heaped with cacao beans” (Coe 41). In addition, the Dresden Codex specifically connects gods to cacao; according to Sophie and Michael Coe, “the Opossum God travels a sacred road to the edge of the town carrying the Rain God on his back, while the associated text tells us that ‘cacao is his food [kakaw u hanahl]’” (Coe 42). The Mayan Gods, as depicted in the Dresden Codex, have a clear reverential relationship to cacao. Ultimately, cacao seeds are not merely food, but a divine life source, and connected to the what it means to be Mayan.

Image Sources:

  1. Vessel and Popol Vuh page: http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/maya/chocolate/cacao-use-among-the-prehispanic-maya
  2. Map: http://www.ancientamerica.org/?p=40

Works cited:

  1. Coe, Michael D. True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2013.
  2. Grofe, Michael J. “The Recipe for Rebirth: Cacao as Fish in the Mythology and Symbolism of the Ancient Maya.” Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, 15 Apr. 2009, http://www.famsi.org/research/grofe/GrofeRecipeForRebirth.pdf.
  3. Grofe, Michael J. “Xibalba: About.” Xibalba Cacao, Michael Grofe, http://www.xibalbacacao.com/index.htm.
  4.  Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: a Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009.