All posts by Edward Enriquez

Exploring the Current State of Colombia’s Cacao-Chocolate Industry through Cacao Hunters

As a cacao-producer, Colombia would be considered a minnow when compared to the cacao-growing giants of West Africa––Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Cameron, which constitutes approximately 70% of global production.[1] Even closer to home, Colombia is dwarfed by neighboring Brazil, and is outperformed by smaller Ecuador fourfold.[2] As a result, the cacao sector of Colombia receives less attention both within literature and the media than its fellow Latin American producers. That is finally changing, however. For the past several decades, the Colombian cacao-chocolate industry, with the support of its government, has been hard at work in strategically positioning itself within the fine cacao market, specifically by focusing on growing Fino de Aroma[3] cacao. As a result, it has drawn the attention of confectionary giants the likes of Barry Callebaut AG[4] and Ferrero SPA.[5],[6] Colombia’s pursuit of growing high-quality cacao has additionally obtained the support of several international development initiatives, including those of Swisscontact,[7] USAID[8] and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).[9] Their hope is to foster agro-sustainability and socioeconomic equality that will yield both economic and social upgrading, particularly for the growers. Their goal is to implement much needed improvements throughout Colombia’s cacao-chocolate value chain. As a result, Colombia has alas become one of the most recent entrants to the fine chocolate-making world. In an effort to reduce the knowledge gap in the global map of cacao-chocolate production, I will provide an examination of the current state of Colombia’s cacao-chocolate industry, by focusing on its Fino de Aroma sector and by providing a brief ethnographic summary of one of its newest and most successful fine chocolate brands, Cacao Hunters.[10]

Cacao Hunters in a “Bean-Shell”

Cacao Hunters is the chocolate brand for Cacao de Colombia created by Colombian native Carlos Ignacio Velasco and Mayumi Osaka of Japan. In 2009, Velasco, with his 12 plus-years experience working for the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (Colombian Coffee Growers Federation),[11] created Cacao de Colombia, branding his chocolate by highlighting the origins and the communities from which the beans were acquired.[12] His strategy was a break from mainstream Colombian chocolate-makers, and it paid off. He saw an untapped market, which allowed him to use his expertise and the collaboration of some of his former colleagues at the Federation, to break into the fine chocolate market, seeing that Colombia is poised to becoming one of the world’s leading fine cacao-growing powerhouses.

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Cacao Hunters is part of Cacao de Colombia’s fine bean to bar brand, highlighting the origins and communities from which the cacao are acquired (source: http://www.cacaohunters.com/)

Velasco envisioned a three-pronged strategy: (1) building knowledge; (2) infrastructure; (3) and a business plan that would mutually benefit both buyer and seller. The first and the third were in place. They began transferring their knowledge, by providing classes on technical and sustainable practices on growing and harvesting high-quality cacao to growers throughout the country, incentivizing them toward excellence by offering, in some cases, 50% above market value for quality beans. As for infrastructure, the company needed help, which it successfully obtained from international organizations, such as Swisscontact and USAID; and, won an award for innovation from GIZ, which provided the resources to build a model farm and postharvest plant in the small river town of Aracataca,[13] located nearby the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta[14] mountain range. In 2015, the company sold $1 million USD worth of fine chocolate, winning awards at international competitions including the Gold at the 2015 World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards in London.[15] And with the support of the Acumen fund[16] at the tune of $1.15 million, Cacao Hunters sales for this year are expected to surpass $3 million.[17] Cacao Hunters’ partnership with Acumen and other international players have initiated an economic and social upgrading throughout the company’s value chain. An impressive feat given that this increase was achieved amid a globally depressed commodities market. Nonetheless, the demand for fine chocolate grows. The below is video of Salon du Chocolat, “the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate,” is an important part of the fine chocolate world, including boutique brands like Cacao Hunters, who attended the 2016 Tokyo edition.

Indigenous Shareholders are Represented

Cacao Hunters works closely with one of Colombia’s most geographically remote indigenous nations, the Arhuaco.[18] Although Cacao Hunters purchases its cacao from various sectors of the country, they advocate for socio-responsibility and equitable engagement with their growers in the pursuit of fostering mutual economic and social upgrading. And their engagement with the Arhuaco has paid off, for it was Cacao Hunter’s Arhuaco 72% dark chocolate bar that took Gold at the 2015 World Finals in London. It is a significant achievement for the Arhuaco growers, especially given that they are ill supported and underrepresented within the Colombian government. As part of a campaign to promote their products in the ever-growing Japanese market, Cacao Hunters chose Hernan, one of the Arhuaco tribe leaders, to be part of the team to represent the company at the 2016 Salon du Chocolat-Tokyo.[19]

13087811_780899218713264_4825267167504951975_n1
 photo, taken from Cacao Hunters’ Facebook page, shows co-founder Mayumi Osaka purchasing bean during one of her “market day with Arhuacos: a several hours’ journey down from the Sierra Nevada mountains.” Far right, is Hernan, of one the Arhuaco leaders who was flown to the 2016 Salon du Chocolat – Tokyo edition. (source: Cacao Hunters’FaceBook).

Colombia: A Privileged Ecological Site for Cacao-Growing

Although its neighbors, particularly Venezuela and Ecuador, are known for their fine cacao, Colombia, however, albeit its ecological advantages, is less known. It is only just now coming on line, and for good reasons.[20] The country is ecologically privileged to grow cacao. In fact, Colombia is considered one of the five “megadiverse countries” in the world.[21] With only 0.8% of the world’s land, it hosts close to 15% of the world’s biodiversity, making Colombia, per square kilometer, the most biodiverse country on the planet.[22] This richly endowed nation thus possesses multiple, ideal-growing regions with the capacity to expand exponentially (see figure below).

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The Cacao Growing Regions in Colombia (source: Cacao de Colombia)[23]

This comes as no surprise to many cacao-chocolate scholars as there is strong research showing that the genetic cradle and the most diversified genetic materials of Theobroma cacao is found is in South America, specifically, the large bean-shape area of the Upper Amazon, encompassing southern Perú, to the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the border areas between Perú, Brazil and, of course, Colombia (see image below).[24]

journal.pone.0047676.g004

For a very thorough and scholarly presentation of the genetic origins of Theobroma Cacao L., see the salient contribution of Evert Thomas et al., “Present Spatial Diversity Patterns of Theobroma Cacao L. in the Neotropics Reflect Genetic Differentiation in Pleistocene Refugia Followed by Human-Influenced Dispersal,” ed. Dorian Q. Fuller, PLoS ONE 7, no. 10 (October 24, 2012): e47676, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047676 (source: Journals Plos)[25]

 Colombia to Become the New Powerhouse in Fino de Aroma Cacao Production

The source of Colombia’s cacao-chocolate heritage and its recent boom onto the world market is the Fino de Aroma cacao. The below video on Fino de Aroma is created by one of Colombia largest exporter of chocolate, Casa Luker. Although this video is part of the company’s promotional materials, it nonetheless provides a good explanation of the high-quality variety.

(source: CasaLuker Official YouTube Channel)

The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO)[26] has classified Colombia as a 95% fine cacao exporter.[27] And, along with Venezuela, Ecuador and Perú, Colombia grows 76% of the world’s Fino de Aroma cacao. Currently, it is Ecuador who leads.[28] But that is about to change. Both Perú and Colombia are poised to leapfrog the Ecuadorians. For Perú’s part, if the current growth rate of its exports continues unhindered, their cacao sector could expand beyond 214,000 mt in 2020, which would easily surpass Ecuador’s current exports of 116,000 mt, according to José Iturrios, director of the Alianza Cacao Perú[29] (Perú Cocoa Alliance.)[30] However, Perú, unlike Colombia, is only classified at 75% Fino de Aroma, which means that a significant portion of their yield will not be premium cacao, thus reducing their share of the market. The Colombian government, however, plans to substantially back its growers by adding up to 80,000 ha of Fino de Aroma plantations, as they wish to capitalize on the growing global demand.[31] Since 2005, Colombian cacao production has been rising. Back then it only cultivated 96,000 ha, yielding approximately 17,000 mt of cacao.[32] Today, Colombia’s yield is roughly 50,000 mt, but, with the addition of the 80,000 ha of Fino de Aroma plantations being replanted in the following departments: Santander, North Santander, Nariño, Tolima, Huila, Antioquia and Meta, they will be able to expand their yields to over 138,450 mt, surpassing both Ecuador and Perú, making Colombia the world’s lead Fino de Aroma producers.[33]

Cacao Hunters Bean to Bar Strategy Breaks from the Colonial Scheme and Disrupts the Asymmetric Buyer-Seller Dynamic

All of this is good news for Colombia’s chocolate-makers, especially Cacao Hunters who only uses 100% Colombian premium in their bars. In using their native beans, the company effectively breaks from the colonizer-colony scheme that persists within many developing countries. This is significant given that historically raw materials of erstwhile territories were sent back to the Europe, a pattern that persists today, with the inclusion of US among the major end-product manufacturers. This is especially true with the cacao-chocolate industry. Cacao is 100% grown in the Global South, yet the lion’s share is sent to Europe and the US, in raw form, who then primarily turn it into sugar-laden, artificially saturated, under 15% bulk chocolate food stuff, while reaping 96% of the profits.[34] As discussed in my April 8th post, “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate,” there is additionally gross misreprentation and a highly asymmetric buyer-seller dynamic within the cacao-chocolate global value chain that poorly remunerates growers, while enhancing the coffers of Big Chocolate.[35]

Cacao Hunter’s involvement with their shareholders, which include the aforementioned Arhuaco nation, is premised on mutual sustainable and equitable upgrading for all throughout their value chain. And, by manufacturing their chocolate in their Popayan facility, they successfully break from the asymmetric buyer-seller relationship, and successfully disrupt the north-south paradigm, in which many cacao growers find themselves embedded. There needs to be a transformation of global sourcing, as it has had a negative impact on gender, racial and socioeconomic equality.[36] Lead firms irresponsibly reinforce and drive the prevailing imbalance that further proliferates negative social reproduction within sourced nations. By contrast, the Cacao Hunters’ stratagem highlights the implication of liberalizing global production of cacao at the local level. This is especially important given that cocoa–chocolate global value chains have “significantly consolidated” in recent years.[37] Processors and chocolate companies have merged, leaving a few as lead firms within the industry, severely disadvantaging the market against smaller and localized companies. Cacao Hunters’ engagement with the indigenous and the rural communities proactively seeks to not only disrupt this imbalance but furthermore aims to contribute to their social and economic upgrading.

What Lies ahead for Cacao Hunters

Cacao Hunters joins the ranks of other South American chocolate brands, the likes of Pacari[38] of Ecuador, and Venezuela’s Chocolates El Rey,[39] who themselves are recent phenomena in South America, explains food historian Dr. Maricel Presilla.[40] They “are taking chocolate into their own hands and creating factories that can compete internationally.”[41] They have a good understanding of how to incorporate local ingredients and flavors, creating beautiful creations with ingredients such as guanábana, tamarind and canella, flavors that are unique to Latin America and increasingly becoming more popular in the North American and European mainstreams.[42] The cacao and other ingredients they use to produce their chocolate is directly sourced and locally grown. And Cacao Hunters is a part of it.

Though there is a slow down in world demand and production of bulk cacao, the growth rate and demand for high-quality beans treks firmly upward, and that too is good news for Colombians, including Cacao Hunters.[43] In fact, “there’s real excitement about investment in Colombia” says Dough Hawkins, Managing Director of Hardman Agribusiness.[44],[45] In their 2016 company report on the current state of the world’s cacao production, Colombia is on everyone’s radar, especially given that the government’s peace talks with the FARC is close to conclusion.[46] Moreover, the demand for an expanding Colombian cacao sector is due to a ‘move away’ from West Africa, explains Hardman Agribusiness:

Future cocoa demand will be met by a thriving professionalized sector in Latin America as chocolate makers move away from a “structurally blighted” West African market…[47] Cocoa is a fragmented sector… With the commodity in shortening supply and now being a $12bn plus annually traded segment in the softs market, there is a swell of developing interest in its production and capital flows are increasing to support that production. Our research report lays bare a spiral of decline in Asia and the unpalatable truth about African production whilst shining a spotlight on the exciting developments in Latin America.[48]

It would then behoove all within the Colombian cacao-chocolate sector to continue their pursuit towards producing high-quality beans, not only to satiate the demands of their foreign buyers, but to also support their own native brands. Cacao Hunter not only serves as an excellent model for other native brands to follow, but also for all aspiring bean to bar companies the worldover. They demonstrate good practices, are socially and environmentally responsible, engage growers with dignity, and pursue the mutual upgrading for all within their value chain. And becuase of this, Cacao Hunters has robustly contributed to the sweet taste of Colombian fine chocolate.

Notes and References

[1] Isis Almeida, “Why 2015’s Best Commodity Could Turn Into This Year’s Nightmare – Bloomberg,” Business News, Bloomberg, (January 5, 2016), http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-05/why-2015-s-best-commodity-could-turn-into-this-year-s-nightmare.

[2] Vladimir Pekic, “Colombia Plans to Replant High-Quality Fino de Aroma Cocoa Plantations,” Business News, Confectionery News, (August 18, 2014), http://www.confectionerynews.com/Commodities/Colombia-plans-to-replant-high-quality-Fino-de-Aroma-cocoa.

[3] “Cacao Fino de Aroma,” Food and Chocolate Company, Casa Luker | Food Ingredients, (2016), http://www.lukeringredients.com/en/home.

[4] Barry Callebaut is over 150 year old Swiss company, and one of the largest manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa. See “Barry Callebaut Is a B2B Chocolate & Cocoa Manufacturer,” Chocolate Manufacturers, Barry Callebaut, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.barry-callebaut.com/.

[5] Ferrero SpA is an Italian manufacturer of chocolate and confectionery products and is the third largest chocolate-confectionery company in the world. See “Ferrero Corporate,” Chocolate Manufacturers, Ferrero, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.ferrero.com/.

[6] “Operations At The Cacao Hunter Chocolate Factory As Colombia Aims To Increase Production,” Stock Photo Agency, Getty Images, (October 6, 2014), http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/chocolate-awaits-packaging-after-being-removed-from-molds-news-photo/456939106.

[7] “SwissCompany,” Coporate Legal Consultation, SwissCompany, accessed May 9, 2016, http://www.swiss-company.ch/en/home.asp.

[8] USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid to foreign nations. See “U.S. Agency for International Development,” The United States Agency for International Development, USAID From the American People, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.usaid.gov/.

[9] See “GIZ | Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit,” Owned by German Federal Government for its Economic and Development Initiatives, GIZ, accessed May 10, 2016, https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/germany.html.

[10] “Cacao Hunters®,” Chocolate Company, Cacao Hunters, accessed May 11, 2016, http://www.cacaohunters.com/.

[11] “Colombian Coffee Growers Federation,” Coffee Federation, Federación Nacional de Cafeteros, accessed May 10, 2016, http://www.federaciondecafeteros.org/caficultores/en/.

[12] “Empresa Colombiana Conquista la Élite del Chocolate,” Business News, Dinero, (January 21, 2016), http://www.dinero.com/edicion-impresa/negocios/articulo/carlos-ignacio-velasco-cacao-de-colombia/218326.

[13] Aracataca is best known for being the birthplace of one Colombia’s most famous Nobel literature laureate, Gabriel García Márquez. See “Aracataca – Colombia,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, January 26, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Aracataca&oldid=701840576.

[14] The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain range in the world. It is also home to some of Colombia’s indigenous peoples, including the Arhuaco nation. See “Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, April 12, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sierra_Nevada_de_Santa_Marta&oldid=714813686.

[15] “World Final Winners – 2015,” Chocolate Industry Awards, International Chocolate Awards, (2015), http://www.internationalchocolateawards.com/2015/10/world-final-winners-2015/.

[16] Acumen aims to raise “charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty.” See “Acumen | Who We Are,” Non-profit global venture organization to address poverty, Acumen, (2016), http://acumen.org/about/.

[17] “Empresa Colombiana Conquista la Élite del Chocolate.”

[18] “Arhuaco People,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, December 31, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Arhuaco_people&oldid=697526704.

[19] Salon du Chocolat is the world largest chocolate trade show. See “Le Salon Du Chocolat,” Chocolate Industry Trade Show, Salon Du Chocolat, (2016), http://www.salonduchocolat.fr/accueil.aspx.

[20] “Empresa Colombiana Conquista la Élite del Chocolate.”

[21] “Colombia is listed as one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries, hosting close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity. Worldwide, it ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity and second in plants, butterflies, freshwater fishes and amphibians. With 314 types of ecosystems, Colombia possesses a rich complexity of ecological, climatic, biological and ecosystem components. Colombia was ranked as one of the world’s richest countries in aquatic resources.” See “Colombia – Overview: National Biodiversity,” UN Science Body | Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), UN Convention on Biological Diversity, (2016), https://www.cbd.int/countries/?country=co.

[22] “Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, the country covers “only” 0.8% of the world’s land surface, yet, with between 45,000 and 51,000 species, it is home to some 15% of the all plant species in the world. And with1,752 bird species and 583 amphibians, Colombia has a biodiversity of fauna unrivalled by any other country. Moreover, in terms of the number of species of flora that only occur in one specific region, the so-called endemic species, Colombia is also a world leader.” See: “Implementing the Convention on Biodiversity,” Environmental and Biodiversity, Biodiversity Day, (June 9, 2001), http://www.biodiversity-day.info/2001/english/bday-colombia.html.

[23] “Cacao de Colombia > Cacao Region,” Chocolate Company, Cacao de Colombia, (2012), http://www.cacaodecolombia.com/CacaoRegion.aspx.

[24] For a very thorough and scholarly presentation of the genetic origins of Theobroma Cacao L., see the salient contribution of Evert Thomas et al., “Present Spatial Diversity Patterns of Theobroma Cacao L. in the Neotropics Reflect Genetic Differentiation in Pleistocene Refugia Followed by Human-Influenced Dispersal,” ed. Dorian Q. Fuller, PLoS ONE 7, no. 10 (October 24, 2012): e47676, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047676.

[25] Ibid.

[26] The ICCO is the international monitoring body of cacao-chocolate production and consumption. See “The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) | Cocoa Producing and Cocoa Consuming Countries,” International Cocoa Organization, ICCO.org, (2016), http://www.icco.org/.

[27] Luker Official, Learn More About CasaLuker Food Ingredients – Fino de Aroma Cacao, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=56&v=OZoT7qN1aow.

[28] Pekic, “Colombia Plans to Replant High-Quality Fino de Aroma Cocoa Plantations.”

[29] Alianza Cacao Perú (ACP) is a USAID initiative assisting Peruvian cacao sector with the intent of providing the rural population an alternative to cultivating coca as a cash crop. See USAID Peru, Alianza Cacao Perú, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpxFaVDhYnU.

[30] Vladimir Pekic, “Inca Empire Strikes Back: Perú Could Dethrone Ecuador as Leading Global Producer of ‘Fino de Aroma’ Cocoa by 2020,” News on Confectionery & Biscuit Processing, Confectionery News, (June 26, 2015), http://www.confectionerynews.com/Commodities/Perú-could-overtake-Ecuador-as-fine-flavor-cocoa-king.

[31] Pekic, “Colombia Plans to Replant High-Quality Fino de Aroma Cocoa Plantations.”

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Edward Enriquez, “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate,” WordPress, Chocolate Class, (April 8, 2016), https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/the-real-celebrities-behind-chocolate/comment-page-1/.

[35] For a candid discussion on the misrepresentation and socioeconomic inequality within Mars’ global value chain, see Ibid.

[36] Stephanie Barrientos provides a salient scholarly contribution in her analysis of Big Chocolate cocoa–chocolate sourcing, exploring the interplay between commercial value chains and societal norms. See Stephanie Barrientos, “Gendered Global Production Networks: Analysis of Cocoa–Chocolate Sourcing,” Regional Studies 48, no. 5 (May 4, 2014): 791–803, doi:10.1080/00343404.2013.878799.

[37] Ibid.

[38] “Pacari | History,” Chocolate Company, Pacari, accessed March 23, 2016, http://www.pacarichocolate.com/en/index.php/history.

[39] “Chocolates El Rey Venezuelan Chocolate,” Chocolate Company, Chocolates El Rey, accessed May 11, 2016, http://www.chocolates-elrey.com/.

[40] “Maricel Presilla,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, May 4, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Maricel_Presilla&oldid=718572676.

[41] Ana Sofía Peláez, “One Food Historian’s Mission to Promote Latin America’s Fine Cacao,” News, NBC News, (February 22, 2016), http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/one-food-historian-s-mission-promote-latin-america-s-fine-n511606.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Doug Hawkins, “Destruction by Chocolate – Hardman Agribusiness,” Argibusiness Consultants, Hardman Agribusiness, accessed May 11, 2016, http://www.hardmanagribusiness.com/product/chocolate/.

[44] Hardman Agribusiness is a lead investment consulting agency for agribusiness enterprises. See “Hardman Agribusiness,” Argibusiness Consultants, Hardman Agribusiness, (2016), http://www.hardmanagribusiness.com/.

[45] Oliver Nieburg, “Cocoa’s Future Lies in Latin America: Report,” Confectionary Industry News, Confectionery News, (March 29, 2016), http://www.confectionerynews.com/Commodities/Cocoa-s-future-lies-in-Latin-America-Report.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Hawkins, “Destruction by Chocolate – Hardman Agribusiness.”

Works Cited

“Acumen | Who We Are.” Non-profit global venture organization to address poverty. Acumen, 2016. http://acumen.org/about/.

Almeida, Isis. “Why 2015’s Best Commodity Could Turn Into This Year’s Nightmare – Bloomberg.” Business News. Bloomberg, January 5, 2016. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-05/why-2015-s-best-commodity-could-turn-into-this-year-s-nightmare.

“Aracataca – Colombia.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, January 26, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Aracataca&oldid=701840576.

“Arhuaco People.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, December 31, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Arhuaco_people&oldid=697526704.

Barrientos, Stephanie. “Gendered Global Production Networks: Analysis of Cocoa–Chocolate Sourcing.” Regional Studies 48, no. 5 (May 4, 2014): 791–803. doi:10.1080/00343404.2013.878799.

“Barry Callebaut Is a B2B Chocolate & Cocoa Manufacturer.” Chocolate Manufacturers. Barry Callebaut. Accessed May 9, 2016. https://www.barry-callebaut.com/.

“Cacao de Colombia > Cacao Region.” Chocolate Company. Cacao de Colombia, 2012. http://www.cacaodecolombia.com/CacaoRegion.aspx.

“Cacao Fino de Aroma.” Food and Chocolate Company. Casa Luker | Food Ingredients, 2016. http://www.lukeringredients.com/en/home.

“Cacao Hunters®.” Chocolate Company. Cacao Hunters. Accessed May 11, 2016. http://www.cacaohunters.com/.

“Chocolates El Rey Venezuelan Chocolate.” Chocolate Company. Chocolates El Rey. Accessed May 11, 2016. http://www.chocolates-elrey.com/.

“Colombia – Overview: National Biodiversity.” UN Science Body | Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD). UN Convention on Biological Diversity, 2016. https://www.cbd.int/countries/?country=co.

“Colombian Coffee Growers Federation.” Coffee Federation. Federación Nacional de Cafeteros. Accessed May 10, 2016. http://www.federaciondecafeteros.org/caficultores/en/.

“Empresa Colombiana Conquista la Élite del Chocolate.” Business News. Dinero, January 21, 2016. http://www.dinero.com/edicion-impresa/negocios/articulo/carlos-ignacio-velasco-cacao-de-colombia/218326.

Enriquez, Edward. “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate.” WordPress. Chocolate Class, April 8, 2016. https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/the-real-celebrities-behind-chocolate/comment-page-1/.

“Ferrero Corporate.” Chocolate Manufacturers. Ferrero. Accessed May 9, 2016. https://www.ferrero.com/.

“GIZ | Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.” Owned by German Federal Government for its Economic and Development Initiatives. GIZ. Accessed May 10, 2016. https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/germany.html.

“Hardman Agribusiness.” Argibusiness Consultants. Hardman Agribusiness, 2016. http://www.hardmanagribusiness.com/.

Hawkins, Doug. “Destruction by Chocolate – Hardman Agribusiness.” Argibusiness Consultants. Hardman Agribusiness. Accessed May 11, 2016. http://www.hardmanagribusiness.com/product/chocolate/.

“Implementing the Convention on Biodiversity.” Environmental and Biodiversity. Biodiversity Day, June 9, 2001. http://www.biodiversity-day.info/2001/english/bday-colombia.html.

“Le Salon Du Chocolat.” Chocolate Industry Trade Show. Salon Du Chocolat, 2016. http://www.salonduchocolat.fr/accueil.aspx.

Luker Official. Learn More About CasaLuker Food Ingredients – Fino de Aroma Cacao, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=56&v=OZoT7qN1aow.

“Maricel Presilla.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, May 4, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Maricel_Presilla&oldid=718572676.

Nieburg, Oliver. “Cocoa’s Future Lies in Latin America: Report.” Confectionary Industry News. Confectionery News, March 29, 2016. http://www.confectionerynews.com/Commodities/Cocoa-s-future-lies-in-Latin-America-Report.

“Operations At The Cacao Hunter Chocolate Factory As Colombia Aims To Increase Production.” Stock Photo Agency. Getty Images, October 6, 2014. http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/chocolate-awaits-packaging-after-being-removed-from-molds-news-photo/456939106.

“Pacari | History.” Chocolate Company. Pacari. Accessed March 23, 2016. http://www.pacarichocolate.com/en/index.php/history.

Pekic, Vladimir. “Colombia Plans to Replant High-Quality Fino de Aroma Cocoa Plantations.” Business News. Confectionery News, August 18, 2014. http://www.confectionerynews.com/Commodities/Colombia-plans-to-replant-high-quality-Fino-de-Aroma-cocoa.

———. “Inca Empire Strikes Back: Peru Could Dethrone Ecuador as Leading Global Producer of ‘Fino de Aroma’ Cocoa by 2020.” News on Confectionery & Biscuit Processing. Confectionery News, June 26, 2015. http://www.confectionerynews.com/Commodities/Peru-could-overtake-Ecuador-as-fine-flavor-cocoa-king.

Peláez, Ana Sofía. “One Food Historian’s Mission to Promote Latin America’s Fine Cacao.” News. NBC News, February 22, 2016. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/one-food-historian-s-mission-promote-latin-america-s-fine-n511606.

“Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, April 12, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sierra_Nevada_de_Santa_Marta&oldid=714813686.

“SwissCompany.” Coporate Legal Consultation. SwissCompany. Accessed May 9, 2016. http://www.swiss-company.ch/en/home.asp.

“The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) | Cocoa Producing and Cocoa Consuming Countries.” International Cocoa Organization. ICCO.org, 2016. http://www.icco.org/.

Thomas, Evert, Maarten van Zonneveld, Judy Loo, Toby Hodgkin, Gea Galluzzi, and Jacob van Etten. “Present Spatial Diversity Patterns of Theobroma Cacao L. in the Neotropics Reflect Genetic Differentiation in Pleistocene Refugia Followed by Human-Influenced Dispersal.” Edited by Dorian Q. Fuller. PLoS ONE 7, no. 10 (October 24, 2012): e47676. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047676.

“U.S. Agency for International Development.” The United States Agency for International Development. USAID From the American People. Accessed May 9, 2016. https://www.usaid.gov/.

USAID Peru. Alianza Cacao Perú, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpxFaVDhYnU.

“World Final Winners – 2015.” Chocolate Industry Awards. International Chocolate Awards, 2015. http://www.internationalchocolateawards.com/2015/10/world-final-winners-2015/.

The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate

Mars’ global confectionery sales was a whopping $18.4 billion USD in 2015, according to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), more than doubling Hershey’s sales of the same year.[1] An impressive feat given that Mars is still family owned, the 3rd richest family in America, in fact.[2] To maintain its global dominance, the company heavily invests in advertisement. In the 3 years leading up to 2013, Mars spent an estimated $7.28 billion worldwide, using the familiar trope of linking their products to Hollywood celebrities.[3] For its 2016 Snickers campaign, aired during the 50th edition of the NFL Super Bowl, the company once again featured a host of iconic figures, this time including Willem Dafoe and Marilyn Monroe. See their Snicker ad below:


(Source: YouTube)[4]

This is not, by any means, Mars’ first attempt at associating its products with familiar faces. For its 2013 UK Galaxy campaign, the chocolate giant contracted with the world’s best, AMV BBDO (ad agency) and Framestore (special effects), bringing Audrey Hepburn “back to life” to promote their products in the UK.

(Source: YouTube)[5]

But who are the true faces behind chocolate? Who are the real celebrities responsible for providing the world with one of its most favorite treat? Albeit Mars’ promise of taking “very seriously” the marketing of their brand, “providing you and your family with suitable and transparent information about [their] products,” they have, in my eyes, grossly misrepresented the true heroes behind chocolate.[6] May I present, as an alternative to Mars’, my own original ad below, depicting some of “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate.”


(Source: Prezi.com)[7]

Unlike those chosen by Mars in its Snicker ad, or like those chosen by many of the other chocolate companies for their campaigns, the stars in my counter ad portray a range of contrasting complexions, are not primarily Caucasian, and hail from a vastly different socioeconomic stratum.

How does Mars, in 2016, in good conscience, create a Super Bowl commercial, primarily directed to an American audience, without featuring a single person of color, given that “African-Americans… currently comprise 67.3% of the league’s players,” according to sports and entertainment attorney Jaia Thomas.[8] There is much irony to Mars’ homogeneous selection of ethnicity, especially given that the Global South, who are primarily non-Caucasian, grows 100% of the world’s cacao. People of color were therefore intentionally included in my ad to appropriately and responsibly represent the many hues and races who are at the core of the chocolate supply chain, Mars’ included.

Mars attempts to associate their product with fame, affluence, and eroticism, using the iconic imagery of one of Hollywood’s most memorable senses. Yet it is Willem Dafoe, another iconic celebrity, who is in the famous white dress standing over the subway grate. It’s only after his cranky ranting that he takes a bite of the Snickers bar and once again becomes Marilyn Monroe. It is an obvious tongue-in-cheek attempt by the company to hearken back to the “good ole days.” The quintessential cantankerous, white, male director refers to the only woman on the set as “sweetheart.” Dafoe takes a bite of the bar and is transformed back to the beauty of the “true woman” that Monroe represents: doe-eyed, coquettish, sensuous and vacuous. The ad portrays a woman who is only likable if she eats chocolate, but unsightly and manly when she complains. Mars unfortunately falls into the sexist, racist, and classist trappings of so many other marketing schemes.

My ad was created to hopefully push back on these shortcomings. It was created to heighten public awareness of some of the true faces behind cacao production and its supply chain, depicting the beautiful and vibrant colors of not only the pod themselves, but also the farmers that come from Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. In contrast to the Mars ad, the women in my ad are not monomorphic, they bear a range of shapes and sizes. The women are hardworking, people of the earth, not affected by over-grooming, and are comprised of various ages. My intention was to portray a truer depiction of the women who are intrinsically involved in the world’s chocolate making.

I also wish to illustrate the wealth disparity between cacao growers and Mars. And furthermore, hope to underscore the vast socioeconomic disconnect between these rich chocolate companies and their marketing strategies versus the earnings of cacao growers. In 2014, the chocolate industry grew to a record high of $100 billion, growing by $20 billion in a single year, according to the European Campaign for Fair Chocolate.[9] While cacao growers, on the other hand, earned less than they once did in the 1980s, currently at $1.25/day, a meager six cents on the dollar from the finish product.[10] In other words, these massive chocolate companies, in particular Mars, have profited greatly these past decades, while the earnings of millions of impoverished men, women and children have diminished.

nigeria-cocoawomen-ous_-1220x763
Most cacao growers earn less than $1.25 USD per day. This Nigerian woman, depicted here, is part of Oxfam’s program, “Behind the Brands” campaign in order to support women cocoa farmers in Africa. (Source: Oxfam America)[11]

Addressing such issues as sexism, racism and classism is complex. It calls for a rigorous and courageous examination of the systemic social reproduction of skewed ideals and misrepresentations of others. These issues involve policy changes from all levels of society, including the smallest jurisdiction of cacao shareholders at the local level, all the way up to the national level, and supported by international accords to guide good practices at every stage of the final product, explains chocolate scholar Dr. Carla Martin.[12] And that includes marketing. Mars does not bare the full onus of bringing about that change. We must all play our part, growers, manufacturers, consumers and governments alike. Nonetheless, because of Mars’ global position, the company must bare its share of responsibilities, and must strive to become a proactive player in effecting change. And that can first begin with a rethinking of their marketing campaigns, to communicate a message that is gender empowering, positive and fair, a message to affect both consumers and competitors alike.

Footnotes:
[1] “The Chocolate Industry: Who Are the Main Manufacturers of Chocolate in the World?,” International Cocoa Organization, January 28, 2016, http://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.

[2] “Mars Family | 2015 America’s Richest Families,” Business News, Forbes, accessed April 8, 2016, http://www.forbes.com/profile/mars-1/.

[3] “Mars Inc.advertising Spending Worldwide from 2011 to 2014,” Statista, 2016, http://www.statista.com/statistics/286558/mars-inc-advertising-spending-worldwide/.

[4] SnickersBrand, SNICKERS® – “Marilyn,” 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhfntLl6xx0.

[5] Audrey Hepburn: Galaxy Chocolate Commercial, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx9eDoS76LM.

[6] “Snickers®,” Snickers, 2016, https://www.snickers.com/.

[7] Edward Enriquez, “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate,” Prezi, April 7, 2016, https://prezi.com/avzqbzhyhvcw/the-real-celebrities-behind-chocolate/.

[8] Jaia Thomas, “In Black and White: A Racial Breakdown of the NFL,” UPTOWN Magazine, October 1, 2014, http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/10/racial-breakdown-of-the-nfl-report-card/.

[9] “Cocoa Prices and Income of Farmers,” Make Chocolate Fair! European Campaign for Fair Chocolate, accessed April 8, 2016, http://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Frank Mechielsen, “New Ways to Sweeten the Deal for Women Cocoa Farmers,” Oxfam America | The Politics of Poverty Blog, June 19, 2014, http://politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org/2014/06/new-ways-sweeten-deal-women-cocoa-farmers/.

[12] Carla D Martin, “Lecture 6: Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor” (Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Harvard University, March 9, 2016). See also her blog, Bittersweet Notes, to learn more about chocolate, culture, and the politics of food.

Work Cited

Audrey Hepburn: Galaxy Chocolate Commercial, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx9eDoS76LM.

“Bittersweet Notes.” Open source research project on chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. Bittersweet Notes | Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 2016. http://bittersweetnotes.com/.

“Cocoa Prices and Income of Farmers.” Make Chocolate Fair! European Campaign for Fair Chocolate. Accessed April 8, 2016. http://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0.

Enriquez, Edward. “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate.” Prezi, April 7, 2016. https://prezi.com/avzqbzhyhvcw/the-real-celebrities-behind-chocolate/.

“Mars Family | 2015 America’s Richest Families.” Business News. Forbes. Accessed April 8, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/profile/mars-1/.

“Mars Inc.advertising Spending Worldwide from 2011 to 2014.” Statista, 2016. http://www.statista.com/statistics/286558/mars-inc-advertising-spending-worldwide/.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 6: Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor.” presented at the Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Harvard University, March 9, 2016.

Mechielsen, Frank. “New Ways to Sweeten the Deal for Women Cocoa Farmers.” Oxfam America | The Politics of Poverty Blog, June 19, 2014. http://politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org/2014/06/new-ways-sweeten-deal-women-cocoa-farmers/.

“Snickers®.” Snickers, 2016. https://www.snickers.com/.

SnickersBrand. SNICKERS® – “Marilyn,” 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhfntLl6xx0.

“The Chocolate Industry: Who Are the Main Manufacturers of Chocolate in the World?” International Cocoa Organization, January 28, 2016. http://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.

Thomas, Jaia. “In Black and White: A Racial Breakdown of the NFL.” UPTOWN Magazine, October 1, 2014. http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/10/racial-breakdown-of-the-nfl-report-card/.

Les Îles Chocolat: Past & Present Impact of Cacao on São Tomé and Príncipe

It would almost appear too simplistic to suggest that the tiny cacao bean could have significantly shaped and impacted a nation’s history. However, in large part, that is exactly what cacao did in São Tomé and Príncipe (São Tomé or STP).[1] Although these tiny islands sometimes bear the sobriquet Les Îles Chocolat––the Chocolate Islands, its dark past is far from tasteful. Today, however, São Tomé is once again part of the chocolate world, but this time as both a grower of cacao and an exporter of fine chocolate.

sao-tome-and-principe-location-on-the-africa-map
São Tomé and Príncipe’s location played a vital role in the Portuguese supply chain of sugar, cacao, and coffee as well as Portuguese empire-building stratagem as it was part of the chain of ports that skirted Africa on their way to the East Indies.(source: www.ontheworldmap.com).

Though initially it was the demand for sugar that intrinsically linked São Tomé to the “European centers of commercial and technical power,”[2] it was cacao that ultimately transformed its politics, topography and demographic. São Tomé was a part of a chain of Portuguese ports skirting west Africa, allowing the Europeans to maintain and secure their highly profitable ties to the spice market of the East Indies.[3] However, the ever-increasing demand for sugar in Europe during the early 1400s precipitated European expansion of sugar production to Atlantic islands, which included São Tomé.[4] By 1485, even before the discovery of the Americas, Portugal forced indentured Jews to both settle and grow sugar cane on the islands.[5] It would not be until 1822, however, that José Ferreira Gomes introduced cacao from Brazil.[6] Twenty years later, approximately 1.5 metric tons of cacao beans were exported, subsequently replacing sugar cane as the primary crop.[7] This led the way for São Tomé to become Africa’s first and largest cacao grower by the early 1900s, significantly increasing its export yield to 36,000 metric tons by 1910, and securing trading contracts with international chocolate giants, including Hershey’s and Cadbury.[8]

As a result of the ever-increasing global demand for cacao, a massive labor force was required to sustain such high levels of production, ultimately transforming São Tomé. Given that these islands were uninhabited prior to European arrival, the Portuguese were heavily reliant on an imported labor force, which was readily supplied by slaves from their west African colonies of Benin, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Angola.[9]

By the early 1900s, the journalistic reporting of Henry Nevinson and others began to influence public opinion in Europe regarding the use of slavery in African cacao growing.[10] Nevinson’s contribution vastly impacted both the general reader and other journalists:

Perhaps the most wonderful achievement of this great-hearted man was his exposure of the Portuguese slave trade in Angola and the Cocoa Islands [São Tomé and Príncipe]… He made a lonely journey through the dense forests of Central Africa following the dolorous way by which the slaves were taken to captivity as horrible as any recorded in human history.[11]

Nevinson’s works were collected and published in his book, A Modern Slavery (1906), “which aroused the conscience of this [UK] and other countries and brought him the only reward he sought––the abolition of the system within a few years”.[12] Cadbury’s procurement of STP cacao was exposed, sparking public outcry, forcing Cadbury and the other major European companies to divest from São Tomé.[13] Shockingly, Hershey’s, however, not only continued its procurement of São Tomé cacao without any demands for change, they furthermore took over all of Cadburby’s prior accounts, thus consolidating their cacao supply in the islands.[14] Though it has been suggest by Sydney Mintz that the demand for sugar was the main force driving the need of slavery during the colonial era,[15] it was the demand for cacao, however, that was the primary cause that prolonged slavery well into the 1960s, over 100 years after the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.[16]

enslaved-man
This photo depicts an Angolan slave awaiting transport to São Tomé. They were often left for days before being collected by plantation owners (source: www.chocoalateclass.wordpress.com).

Today, São Tomé is home to one of the world’s finest producers of chocolate. After STP’s independence in 1975, cacao plantations were virtually abandoned. And the 1997 discovery of oil was made cacao growing even less relevant to its economy. However, as result of the civil wars in Zaire––present day Democratic Republic of the Congo, an Italian agronomist by the name of Claudio Corallo relocates to São Tomé in the 1990s, initially to grow coffee.[17] Yet, it was cacao that captured his imagination, sparking his dream to restore São Tomé’s cacao growing heritage.[18] After two decades, and the restoration of two plantations, São Tomé is now not only once again growing cacao, but it is furthermore producing some of the world’s finest chocolate, allowing São Tomé to proudly don one of its more endearing names––the Chocolate Islands. (The below video from the BBCTWO’s Full on Food features Claudio Corallo’s cacao growing and fine chocolate making in São Tomé).

sao_tome_12
Today São Tomé cacao growers are now part of the finished product. This photo captures how the local work force is now part of the fine chocolate-making (source: www.stpauls.it).

The significance of the cacao as a high demand food drug played a large part in shaping the history, economy and politics of many former European colonies, arguably São Tomé’s most of all. Human settlement was initiated on the islands for the production of another food drug, sugar, then perpetuated by the establishment of cacao plantations to further satiate the global consumption of stimulant foods. It is a bitter truth that unfree labor persists today in cacao growing nations, and thus a closer examination must be given to the social issues surrounding the labor rights and treatment of cacao growers, not only in African nations such as São Tomé, but the world over. We must learn from the good practices of conscientious chocolate makers such as Claudio Corallo who have brought a massive turnaround to the Chocolate Islands’ cacao and chocolate heritage if we  wish to support a truly fair and sweet tasting industry.

[1] The official name is the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe; its official UN ISO3 abbreviation is STP, see “Country Codes/Names,” United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (2016), http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles/iso3list/en/#.
[2] Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), 31.
[3] Bamber Gascoigne, “HISTORY OF SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA,” History World, accessed March 11, 2016, http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?gtrack=pthc&ParagraphID=gprb#gprb.
[4] Mintz, Sweetness and Power, 31.
[5] Leonard John Schwarz, Cocoa in São Tomé and Príncipe, Trade Promotion Series 138 (US Government Printing Office, 1932), 1.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Gascoigne, “HISTORY OF SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA.”
[10] Carla D Martin, “Lecture 6: Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor” (Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Harvard University, March 9, 2016).
[11] Howard J Whitehouse, “Henry Nevinson,” The Contemporary Review 161, no. 44 (January 1, 1942): 2, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1294586004?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo.
[12] Ibid., 1.
[13] Martin, “Lecture 6: Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor.”
[14] Ibid.
[15] Mintz, Sweetness and Power.
[16] Martin, “Lecture 6: Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor.”
[17] “About Us,” Claudio Corallo Cacao & Coffee, accessed March 12, 2016, http://www.claudiocorallo.com/index.php?lang=en&Itemid=831.
[18] Ibid.

Work Cited

“About Us.” Claudio Corallo Cacao & Coffee. Accessed March 12, 2016. http://www.claudiocorallo.com/index.php?lang=en&Itemid=831.
“African Slaves Sail for São Tomé.” Blog. Chocolate Class. Accessed March 12, 2016. https://chocolateclass.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/screen-shot-2015-03-12-at-7-11-13-pm.png.
Batista de Sousa, Izequiel. Sao Tomé et Principe de 1485 à 1755, Une Société Coloniale: du Blanc au Noir. Mondes Lusophones. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008.
BBC TWO. Claudio Corallo Chocolate. Full on Food. BBC TWO, 2004. https://youtu.be
/v4gz9yqlDv0.
Butcher, Tim. “Cocoa Passion on Oil-Rich Island.” News. BBC News, July 24, 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/3920167.stm.
Chern, C. J., and E. Beutler. “Biochemical and Electrophoretic Studies of Erythrocyte Pyridoxine Kinase in White and Black Americans.” American Journal of Human Genetics 28, no. 1 (January 1976): 9–17.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.
“Country Codes/Names.” United Nations. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2016. http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles/iso3list/en/#.
Gascoigne, Bamber. “HISTORY OF SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA.” History World. Accessed March 11, 2016. http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?gtrack=pthc&ParagraphID=gprb#gprb.
Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 6: Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor.” presented at the Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Harvard University, March 9, 2016.
Melik, James. “Slave Island Ignites Chocolate Passion.” BBC News. Accessed March 11, 2016. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3935769.stm.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.
Ponting, Clive. World History: A New Perspective. Pimlico 486. London: Pimlico, 2001.
“Sao Tome and Principe | Chocolate Class.” Accessed March 11, 2016. https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/tag/sao-tome-and-principe/.
“Sao Tome and Principe Location on the Africa Map.” Maps. On The World Map. Accessed March 11, 2016. http://ontheworldmap.com/sao-tome-and-principe/sao-tome-and-principe-location-on-the-africa-map.jpg.
Schwarz, Leonard John. Cocoa in São Tomé and Príncipe. Trade Promotion Series 138. US Government Printing Office, 1932.

“The Influence of Public Scrutiny on Cadbury Business Ethics.” Accessed March 11, 2016. https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/the-influence-of-public-scrutiny-on-cadbury-business-ethics/.

Whitehouse, Howard J. “Henry Nevinson.” The Contemporary Review 161, no. 44 (January 1, 1942): 4. http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1294586004?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo.

This Little “chocolate pot…”

Much literary attention has been given to Pre-Columbian cacao artifacts, specifically the cylindrical types used by both the Maya and Aztec for cacao preparation and consumption. Until more recently, however, there has been little attention given to the much older Preclassic spouted vessels excavated throughout Maya highlands and lowlands (see figures below). The pichinga, as these vessels are now called by modern Maya groups living in the Guatemalan highlands, are historically significant as they fit into the earlier segment of the cacao and chocolate narrative; furthermore, these pots have only more recently been able to provide the ethnographic data to substantiate why for the past century “Mayanists have dubbed [these] Preclassic spouted vessels as “chocolate pots”” (Powis et al., 2002).

 

Figure 1: Spouted Vessel, Tomb 1, Mound 1, Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas Mexico 100 BCE-100 CE, 21 x 18.5 cm. (source: http://www.mesoweb.com/lords/feasting.html)

Figure 2: Excavated from the Colha site in northern Belize between 600 BCE-250 CE, is one of 14 vessels that contained substantial amounts theobromine.
(source: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6895/fig_tab/418289a_F1.html)

As early as 1918 the term “chocolate pots” was used in Thomas Gann’s report, “The Maya Indians of Southern Yucatan and Northern British Honduras” to describe the Late Preclassic spouted vessels found in burial sites at Santa Rita Corozal, Belize without any supporting evidence to confirm its accuracy. The term “chocolate pots” has since permeated literature, uncontested albeit the lack of “supporting contextual, residual, phytolith, or iconographic analyses to either confirm or deny” cacao usage (Powis et al., 2002). Why then has this phrase “chocolate pot” become so embedded within the literature? With the discovery of new methods to analyze phytoliths, these vessels now provide substantial data to conclusively determine that these vessels were indeed used during the preparations and consumption of cacao, given the high levels of theobromine found within them (Powis e al, 2002).

Preclassic spouted vessels were associated with the elite class. The contextual findings presented by Powis et al. suggest that approximately 90% of these vessels were excavated in “special deposits”, and were of elaborate forms, suggesting that cacao drinking was incorporated in ceremonial and ritual practices. Patricia McAnany and Eleanor Harrison, in their seminal 2004 work, K’axob: Ritual, Work, and Family in an Ancient Maya Village, confirm these special burial caches, suggesting that the K’axob site yielded “signature pieces” and that “they contain special characteristics such as modeling, gadrooning, incising, and appliqué,” which denoted dedicated function (McAnany and Eleanor, 2004). As is more commonly known, this practice of dedicated vessel usage was exhibited with the Classical cylindrical vessels and continued on up until the arrival of the Spaniards. However, the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS) does not appear on any spouted vessels, only on the Classic cylindrical types. Nonetheless, these elaborate spouted ceramics were part of the elite continuum of cacao’s status among the Mesoamerican people.

Spouted vessels provide the linguistic evidence needed to link the word kakawa or cacao to the Olmecs. Until the discovery of these vessels, there was no strong evidence, either archaeological, botanical, or iconographic to support the Olmec theory of origin for the word, according to David Lentz and Michael Coe (Powis et al., 2002). Within scholarship there were two opposing hypothesis to the origin of the word cacao.  On the one side, as articulated by Karen Dakin and Sren Wichmann (2001), kakawa was a Uto-Aztecan term, of Nahuatl origin. This would then suggest that the history of cacao consumption started sometime during the 5th century CE.  However, Lyle Campbell and Terrence Kaufman’s seminal article in 1976, “A Linguistic Look at the Olmecs”, contended that the term kakawa was of Mixe-Zoquean origin, which the Olmec spoke as early as 1500 BCE, suggesting that Preclassic Mesoamerican cultures produced, distributed, and consumed cacao at least two millennia before the Aztec. Thus the discovery of these pots was significant in that they provided the necessary data to support the much earlier Olmec origin (Powis et al., 2002).

Although it is not definitive as to why Protoclassic Mayans replaced their spouted pots with the Teotihuacan-style tripod cylindrical vases, Powis et al. suggest that the new method for cacao preparation was perhaps introduced by Mayan contact with Mexican highlanders as these new vessels were superior for cacao usages than the spouted variety. Given its form and larger size, the cylindrical vessels provided better storage; made it easier for transportation; provided more space for inscribing glyphs to identify ownership, purpose and location of craftsmanship;  and perhaps most importantly, these new vessels provided wider mouths, openings from which to pour the liquid cacao from one vessel to another in order to create the all coveted foam for their beverages (Powis et al., 2001). Joseph W. Ball, in his 1983 article, “Teotihuacan, the Maya, and Ceramic Interchange,” provides a discussion of the notable homologies between the Mayan and the Teotihuacan ceramics, suggesting that:

…either aesthetic considerations or a desire to emulate a particular vessel form associated with a foreign social system and so connoting high status might have motivated such copying. Consideration should also be given to the possibility that lidded tripod cylinders might have represented specialized commodity containers. Some possible association with the transport, presentation, storage, and/or consumption of cacao or a cacao preparation comes immediately to mind given the Teotihuacan and Guatemala highland distributional foci of such vessels (Ball, 1983).

Although the “chocolate pots” of Preclassic Maya are less known and studied than the more recent cylindrical vessels, these spouted ceramics, nonetheless, play a vital role to understanding the Mesoamerican ethnography surrounding cacao and chocolate. The discovery and analyses of these spouted pots and the important data they provide have enriched scholars and chocolate lovers alike, providing us with a richer picture of how this “food of the gods” has evolved throughout the ages, and how it became intrinsic to the Pre-Columbian peoples: their sustenance, their rituals, their beliefs, and ultimately their enjoyment, a pleasure now indulged throughout the world.

Works Cited

“Archaeology Cacao Usage by the Earliest Maya Civilization : Nature.” Accessed February 20, 2016. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6895/fig_tab/418289a_F1.html.

Ball, Joseph W. “Teotihuacan, the Maya, and Ceramic Interchange: A Contextual Perspective.” In Highland-Lowland Interaction in Mesoamerica: Interdisciplinary Approaches, edited by Arthur G. Miller, 125–45. Washington, D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections, 1983.

Brady, James E., Joseph W. Ball, Ronald L. Bishop, Duncan C. Pring, Norman Hammond, and Rupert A. Housley. “The Lowland Maya ‘Protoclassic.’” Ancient Mesoamerica 9, no. 01 (March 1998): 17–38. doi:10.1017/S0956536100001826.

Campbell, Lyle, and Terrence Kaufman. “A Linguistic Look at the Olmecs.” American Antiquity 41, no. 1 (January 1976): 80. doi:10.2307/279044.

Dakin, Karen, and Sren Wichmann. “Cacao and Chocolate: A Uto-Aztecan Perspective.” Cambridge University Press, Ancient Mesoamerica, 11, no. 1 (2000): 55–75.

“Gadrooning – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadrooning.

Gann, Thomas W. F. The Maya Indians of Southern Yucatan and Northern British Honduras. Bulletin/Bureau of American Ethnology 64. US Government Printing Office, 1918.

“K’axob – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%27axob.

“Lords of Creation: Royal Feasting.” Accessed February 20, 2016. http://www.mesoweb.com/lords/feasting.html.

McAnany, Patricia Ann, and Eleanor Harrison, eds. K’axob: Ritual, Work, and Family in an Ancient Maya Village. Monumenta Archaeologica 22. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California Los Angeles, 2004.

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