All posts by aaas119e48


This is a work of fiction. All characters and scenarios appearing in this story are purely fictitious and originate from the imagination of its author or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents, living or dead, past or present, is purely coincidental. Now gentle reader, “look at this tangle of thorns.”

Dramatis personae:

Dr. James Baldonado……………………………..World-renowned cacao geneticist.
Warner Barrett ……………………..Chairman and largest stakeholder of Kranebury Foods.
Gerald Beard……………. Proprietor of Beard’s Bestes Sweets, a craft chocolate maker.
G. Elwood Dickens………………………………………Chief Executive, Pluto Foods Industries, one of the largest confection companies in North America.
Enzo Fannuci……………. Heir and chief executive of Fannuci Proteins and Nuts SpA.
Marla Heartens…………………………………………… Educator and social activist.
Millard Holmby IV……………………………………Heir and chief executive of Holmby Company, based in Ohio and the largest chocolate manufacturer in the United States.
Franz Tannenbaum………………………………………………….Managing Director of Nectar SA of Lichenstein, makers of chocolate and producers of beverages.
Don Jose Traficante…………………………South American cacao plantation owner.
Abe Watson…………………Craft chocolate maker and founder of Cacao Rebel Fine Sweets.
Emma Watson…………….Co-founder of Cacao Rebel Fine Sweets and wife of Abe Watson.
Itzel Zacapa………………………………………………………………Cacao laborer.


“I welcome you all to Cuba, and I thank you for momentarily placing aside our rivalries and sojourning here, not only for the warm yellow Caribbean sun and hospitable locals, but to discuss an issue that is a growing threat to all our interests,” G. Elwood Dickens smiled. “Mr. Holmby, of the Holmby Chocolate Company of Ohio. Signore Fannuci of Fannuci Proteins and Nuts. Mr. Warner Barrett, who has just taken majority control of Kranebury Foods. And Mr. Franz Tannenbaum, of Nectar, all the way from Lichtenstein.”

None of the men rose, but each nodded and smiled at each other.

“As you know, there has been a rising sea-change in attitudes in our markets. Our consumers are, quite annoyingly,” Dickens tightened his right hand into a fist, “starting to think for themselves.”

The other three men swayed their heads in disapproval as if one of the Cuban servers had toppled one of the tall drinks before them.
“This is true,” Warner Barrett interrupted. “Since purchasing control of Kranebury, our revenue in our top market lines have slowed and is threatening to flat-line.” Rolling his tongue in distaste, “In an environment of growing markets!”

“The main culprit,” G. Elwood Dickens stared hard ahead out of the window into Havana harbor, “is this so-called ‘craft chocolate’ movement. Those animals are raising the ceiling – and thus the floor – of consumer expectations.”


“Tell me what you think of this one,” Marla Heartens told the audience. “Wait not yet! All together. Remember. See the texture first. Then smell it. Snap it off, then let it sit on your tongue.”

The group began to fish the pieces of chocolate in their white paper cups. One boy emptied the contents down his throat at once, his head titled back. He began to chew.

“It’s a bit plumy, almost citrusy. Bit of woodish? A cedarish taste to it.,” smiled one woman, looking up.

“IT TASTES GOOD!” the eager boy replied, getting up to ask for more. “Its not as sweet like the stuff they give out on Halloween! I’ve never had anything like it,” he said, palming more pieces from a cloth covered table.

“Its different because unlike the confections you typically purchase from the drug store or given on Valentines,” Heartens replied. “Its single-sourced. The cacao beans that are the primary ingredients come from just one farm. It has its own unique terroir, a flavor, genetics and history unique to that one region. Regular chocolate doesn’t have much chocolate. Perhaps a few percent. Its mostly fat and sugar that’s chocolate flavored.”

The audience were no longer chewing, their eyes bright and heads titled up.

“Regular candy that’s flavored as chocolate – every step of production wants to eliminate that uniqueness you just tasted. The goal is for their products to taste and look the same all the time. Its costs less to do that and people no longer expect other flavors, just the one they sell you.” Marla Heartens looked at the audience. They were smiling.“Single-sourced chocolate also has another sweet side I think you’ll love even more!” Heartens scanned the audience.

They looked up.

“There’s almost no slave or child labor used farming the cacao. The small craft manufacturers – most of them as far as I know – have very close relationships with the farmers. They pay them very fair prices for their beans and this helps them make a decent living without resorting to cutting corners.”
The audience was beaming, the hungry boy even more so.


“Don Traficante, thank you so much for hosting us again.” Gerald Beard smiled and with both hands offered a large uncovered box of chocolates.

“Welcome. How is your location? I hear the real estate is ‘hot’ in your particular location.” Jose Traficante took the box without looking and handed it to a pair of hands, also without looking.

“Very much so, Don Traficante. The borough is changing. The useless people are disappearing. Probably to jail. The smart and good-looking people are now settling. They’re bringing safety, cleanliness, as well as money. Most of our sales are local.” Gerald Beard smiled.

“I wish fortune would grant us the same here. Too many useless, lost souls. I find it my life’s mission to guide them. Without me, without my farm, there would be chaos. Anarchy. They steal. They fight. They rape. With me, they work. It is my burden to keep the nation in order. Very hard work.” Don Traficante stood up. Gerald Beard again smiled.

Itzel Zacapa bagged the last cacao pod that would fit in her sack, which the taller, older natives had snipped from the tree and deposited in a pile. Her mouth was dry. The water bucket was two thousand feet away beside the husking shed. Itzel wished she and the fifty pounds sack of fruit could simply levitate like a bird and get to the water bucket.
She closed her eyes. FLIGHT!
Her bare feet lifted from the leafy jungle floor and Itzel and the fifty pounds of cacao were released from friction and gravity.
Two men dumped more cacao into the pile.

“Joven,” Jose Traficante said, looking out into the endless tall green horizon, from the wide, clear windows of the vehicle, “You, Gerald, remind me of me. This is the action of a wise man.”

“Yes Don Traficante,” Gerald Beard nodded. “The other men, they care too much about the work preparing the chocolate. Work no one sees. We focus on what people understand. They understand packaging. They understand image. These others, the chocolate is their craft. That’s money. Us, our packaging is the craft. Ink costs less than chocolate.”

“And a man sees before he tastes.”

“They’re suckers, Don Traficante.” Gerald Beard laughed. A waiter moved with a silver tray of drinks. “I almost have as much fun watching them buy the products as raking in the cash.”

Juan Traficante eyes shot and narrowed on Gerald Beard.

“Perception becomes reality, Don Traficante.”

The waiter lingered a bit, then moved to refill Juan Traficante’s glass.

“No Manolo,” Traficante brushed the air with his hand. He turned to Gerald Beard. “You are a capable man who understands the pragmatic world. My men will clear one hundred more hectares for production with the new CCN51 breed. They are rugged plants, strong. They cannot be felled by the fungus. If you remember, our Brazilian friends to the south have suffered much loss from this. I will not allow this here.” Don Traficante’s jaw tightened.

“I hope not Senor Traficante. Twenty years ago, the Brazilians in Bahia were the second biggest export region globally. Now they’re not even top five.”

“The taste will not be an issue correct?” Juan Traficante glanced an eye towards Gerald.

“No issue Don Traficante. Your new CCN51 forests will let us to ramp up production to meet demand. We’re hiring a new package designer, he’s helped sell a lot of shoes with his great artwork in ads. The other small guys don’t stand a chance. We’ll kill them off hard one by one and we’ll look good for the big ones, when they decide to buy in. They’ll pick the strongest pup in the litter.” Gerald Beard took a sip of cold pineapple juice.

“You will get your seeds then. As much as necessary. I shall increase my stakes in our partnership another twenty percent. Si?” Juan Traficante’s eye aimed towards Gerald and right arm outstretched.

Gerald Beard removed his fashionable black, thick framed non-prescription glasses and touched his forehead on Traficante’s hand. “Yes Don Traficante.”


In one efficient motion, Abe Watson held the cacao bag over the stainless steel table and sliced one end open. The beans poured into a brown volcano. His hands caressed the edge of the pile and drew a handful of beans. Abe put his face closer and smiled – this batch looks clean again. His careful selection of reliable farmers and cultivation by friendship and paying well more than fair prices ensured most of the beans that followed him up to his basement were usually outstanding.

“Emma! They’re great! The beans look great!”

Emma was in the kitchen and smiled. She remembered how much time she and Abe had spent making their very first batch – with all their learning errors, it took twice as many beans to make the first five hundred bars, than it will this latest batch. Emma smiled again. That first tasting at the farmer’s market, the most common reaction to Abe’s and her efforts were ‘What the hell is this?’ That was a close run day. Both were praying to simply break even. Towards the end of the day, and nearly despondent at having not sold very many, a well-heeled couple happened on their narrow frail table and found the chocolates to their taste – and bought out the batch.

“Great! Need any help down there?”

“Maybe in a bit!”

Abe could certainly handle the crafting part. He was self-taught. He came from making pastries and learned to bake – bake well. Going out on the ledge, he decided to try make chocolate, straight from the cacao beans. First, he learned how to select the cacao. Learned to differentiate between good beans and not so good ones. Learned to roast the ones that made his cut. Learned to grind. Not to mention learning to build many of his machines himself. Before the inevitable competition when the stronger fish ate the less quick, less strong, less well-connected and less lucky fish, and had gotten bigger, stronger and meaner; the pond was full of small chocolate manufacturers like the Watsons. Most of them used purpose-made machines. But those days were gone. If they were lucky, they might find an antique online that was made when Woodrow Wilson was still in the White House, that the owner was selling for its scrap value. Abe could fix those. A person who couldn’t fix the machines could probably not run them well, either. It went with the job. Other times, he found machines that approximated close enough for what they needed. And with the sorter Abe was using now, that was half of her effort. She had sawed, hammered, nailed – built much of it. Emma headed down. When Abe was working, you could never get him out of the basement.

“How’s it going?”

Abe looked up from the beans. He smiled.

“Just finished the orders. We have buyers from Shanghai again!” Emma smiled.

“Great! I really wish we had a website in Chinese.”

Both nodded in unison. They knew that unlike the American palette, which for generations tapped to the sweet taste of Pluto, Nectar, and Holmby, the Chinese tongue appreciated bitterness. Cacao Rebel Fine Chocolates – theirs, used cane sugar. That was it. The best cacao they could find and sugar cane. Most chocolates had everything but chocolate. Also, the price tag on their chocolates were more in a way more suited for the Chinese, who bought them as gifts. Cacao Rebel Fine Chocolate’s domestic market was trained to see chocolate as a quick – and cheap – treat. Anything above $4 was a non-seller. Emma’s phone twirled.

“Look! Look!” she screamed

“What!” Abe looked up, hitting his head on the bean grinder.

“Someone gave $3000, we’ve met the Puntkicker goal!”

“We’ve got to book tickets soon.”

Emma smiled inside. Financially, the chocolate gig meant life hadn’t been easy. But they were more alive and free than ever, when both had ‘real’ jobs. ‘Real’ as in working for someone else. A captive. Told what they had to do, how to do it, when to do it. And having to force a smile. Sure they were well-fed and were had a home. But so does a wolf at the zoo. There was quite a gap between an animal behind the glass and one out in its element.

“Look at this,” Abe held up a belt buckle.

“Are you serious?” Emma’s jaw fell.

“I’m kidding.” Abe smiled.

Before the chocolate thing, they once went on a tour inside one of the big boys’ factory, while visiting her mom in Ohio. Everyone had a one task and one task only. Management had broken down the production of the candy bar into the most simply and basic steps possible. How would Van Gogh’s paintings look if each brush stroke was categorized by shade, texture, and placement and each assigned to one man. There would be a lot more Van Goghs but they wouldn’t be Van Goghs. Here the masterpiece was theirs to create for the world. Emma put down her laptop and dug her hands in the aromatic volcano.

“Move over will you,” she smiled.


“Gentlemen – colleagues – I present Dr. James Baldonado, one of the foremost cacao geneticist in the world, and consultant scientist of Pluto Foods Industries!”

“Thank you Mr. Dickens.” James Baldonado adjusted his yellow tie, which did not match his green jacket. “As most of you know, the global market for chocolate is fast expanding. There is a great gap between the cacao the world demands, and what the world can produce. This is about 1 million metric tons.”

The eyes in audience took in the scientist.

“In fifteen years, this gap will increase to two million tons.” Baldonado could sense his audience tensing with his words. “The price of the commodity, meanwhile, has increased as well. From 1993 to 2007, the prices of cacao was an average of $1,465 a ton. In the last seven years alone, it has shot up almost 90 percent.”

The audience’s eyes were now narrowed and smoldering.

“With the support of Pluto Foods Industries, my lab believes we have discovered a solution,” Baldonado beamed. “Pests and diseases can decimate a third to 80% of cacao crop yield.”

A drink glass tipped on the table and a small waterfall of liquid cascaded on the floor. Several Cuban attendants appeared at once and rushed to the wet spot.

“We have bred a series that we call Pluto 1, Pluto 4, and Pluto 6. These strains are resistant to all known cacao diseases and exceeds the CCN51 strain in terms of flavor.”

G. Elwood Dickens jumped up. “That is all Dr. Baldonado. You may go.”

Baldonado was rushed from the hall along with all the entire wait staff. Only the principles remained.

“This Pluto Series will be our weapon against the craft-chocolate threat,” Dickens smiled. “Unlike other strains, the Pluto Series are proprietary. Due to the work of others in this room,” Dickens paused and looked out.

The men from Nectar, Fannuci, Kranebury, and Holmby smiled.

“Due to your efforts – and funding – we have finally achieved an amiable political climate, and as a result of our work, cacao boards sympathetic to our views are now forming in all major growing regions. Not a single bean shall be sold without the permission of these boards. We will provide free but binding licenses for the Pluto series to all the regions. Gentlemen, we will achieve standardization. There will only be three strains, which belong to us,” G. Elwood Dickens beamed.

The room thundered in applause.

“This so-called ‘craft chocolate’ movement will have even narrower choices. Choices without any logistical infrastructure.”

The crowd laughed.

“They’ll now pay triple in freight what they bid for the beans.” G. Elwood Dickens smiled. “That or they could walk it out like pack mules.”

“I have a concern, “ Franz Tannebaum of Nectar SA stood up. “Many of these craft makers are attempting to save production costs by dispensing with conching. What are your views?”

“Yes, our accounting department projects a savings of sixty percent in energy costs compared to a conched product,” Spoke Millard Holmby, heir and head of the Holmby Chocolate Company.
“This is true.” Dickens nodded. “Craft chocolate is indeed producing un-conched product. From an accounting perspective, the savings are not insignificant, as Millard has pointed out. And there is a market for it. However,” Dickens took a sip from his glass. “By dancing to their tune, we will loose the initiative. We will never allow them to set the market tempo. Through conching, we dictate the taste of the consumer. They are used it. We define good taste. We will continue to turn its high cost into an advantage, for us! The cost of conching is a massive barrier to entry and competition. They’ll run out of blood long before we do.”

More laughter.

“Also gentlemen, we have a reliable source that has informed us that a certain partnership between one of the most strongest – but not the finest as I understand – craft-chocolate maker and an independent grower are hoping for a buyout, from us. Our source tell us they cast themselves as premium only in marketing and expect premium buyout prices.”

Boos in the crowd.

G. Elwood Dickens stretched both hands and arms out to placate the grumbling. “They expect a bidding war from us. But, we’re all friends, aren’t we?”

Laughter in the crowd.

“If that foolish hipster and old Venezuelan, or any of these fellows think they can pry open our checkbooks…”

“They’ll get the boot,” someone roared.

“A boot with killer fungal spore,” added another.

“We always win, gentlemen,” smiled G. Elwood Dickens. “Or at least we try.”

The crowd laughed.


Original. (Source:

Perusing Businessweek some months ago, the ad before you caught my eye as disarming and warm. Unlike typical advertisements with themes of domination and competition in this periodical and others like it, this ad featured a subject close to many people’s hearts: chocolate. The ad was playful, with a CEO, tie loosened, a drink (ambiguously white) and a grin, seated next to a large chocolate bear encased in gold foil. The spectacle is in an elegant floor of a high rise, oak and gold paneling framing the complacent evening city below. The theme is Lindt & Sprüngli, through collaboration with Credit Suisse, have achieved yet another year of growth! Both Swiss companies, come off as shinny and gleaming as the thin golden foil wrapping the bear.

A more thoughtful view, framed primarily by the lessons from our course, sees a message quite different than the one intended by the advertisers. Cute chocolate gold bears, happy CEOs and proud banks do not simply materialize out of thin air. The smiles, drinks and the gold and oak paneling are at the pinnacle of a business that as we learned, causes enormous misery and hardship for millions.

Most of the cacao that feeds the world’s appetite comes from a region where there is poverty, limited employment possibilities, cultural rationalization of unappetizing life choices, and overwhelming macro economic structures which shove West Africa to the bottom of the global pile – these factors are the primary causes of child labor in the chocolate industry.[i] None of this is depicted in the Lindt and Credit Suisse ad. There is some validity to this, as Lindt claims it does not source cacao from the Ivory Coast[ii], where child labor is endemic in cacao production. However, in a Tulane study from 2008, figures indicate that child labor in cacao production is even more prevalent in Ghana (a source for Lindt) than in the Ivory Coast[iii]. Another study from Tulane for more up to date figures is ongoing[iv]. Several organizations and individuals who have studied this issue further have attempted to compile lists of chocolate companies that are 100% child labor free.[v][vi]None of the big manufacturers appear.

In response to the opaqueness of the situation on the chocolate industry’s dependence on child labor, I present an alternative ad, a parody and satire of chocolate ads, that uses some features of the first ad, namely their declaration of another year of earnings growth and also a few minor aesthetic qualities. It seeks to criticize the use of, and gain from child labor in the chocolate industry as a whole.

Thank you Extension School lab employee for teaching me PS. (Credit: Henrik Ipsen -

The alternative ad uses an image of a child laborer in West Africa, shot by photographer Henrik Ipsen. It was the cover for the film The Dark Side of Chocolate. Besides the barefoot child lugging the sack of cacao pods (each cacao pod weighs almost a pound[vii]), the most prominent figures are the bunnies, each with a fierce growl. They are a dark parody of the numerous invented characters marketers use to pitch chocolate. But our bunnies are different. The one on the far right sports a loosened tie, in flattering imitation of the executive in the first ad. This bunny is a chocolate executive, in a more typical posture of a manager demanding more productivity! More efficiency! Higher earnings! He too, wants to beat analysts’ earnings expectations!

The bunny on the bottom left represents the manager in another guise: enforcing speedup. He is flashing a stopwatch to the child, urging him to work faster, work more, haul more cacao! Speedup is a technique that reduces the workforce, but not the work, meaning the workers remaining have more work on their hands.[viii] Since the kid is all alone, we may easily imagine him doing the task of several men. Above the rabbit on the right is an assault rifle. That represents the physically coercive nature of child labor. Others argue that workers in developed states are duped into slavery through mental coercion[ix], Africans more skeptical must be forced to work using the knife and the gun. On the left side above the managerial rabbit is a financial calculator. It has useful buttons for cash flow, amortization, and especially compounding interest (“the most powerful force in the universe”, says Einstein[x]). But somehow, the button on morality is not featured on this year’s model.

Other images depict the material rewards that the laborer will help bring to the managers and stockholders of the cacao industry, a heteronormative male fantasy: a soaring executive jet with plush seats and phenomenal views to whisk an executive to a vital meeting or a majority shareholder to a getaway. Below the child’s sack, sits a swift and glossy Italian supercar to ride through glitzy boulevards in triumph! Around the necks of many rabbits hang heavy jewelry, fatuous, but expensive nonetheless; the rabbits announcing to the world that they have ‘it’. Behind, a rabbit in black tie, (in respite from his arduous tasks ensuring the constant flow of money to the relevant hands), escorts a harem of female rabbits. Any objections to the gender double standards are silenced by his seven-figure cash compensation and a generous stock option package. Above all is a stock ticker, seemingly telling the world how hard the rabbits worked this year. How much of that was due to the kid’s efforts we do not know. Only he does.

[i] AAAS119E Lecture 3/25/15, Slide 13.

[ii] Letter from Lindt & Sprüngli to Juliet Bennet:

[iii] AAAS119E Lecture 3/25/15, Slide 16.

[iv] Survey Research on Child Labor in West Africa’s Cocoa Growing Areas:

[v] Stop Chocolate Slavery:

[vi] Food Empowerment Project Chocolate List:

[vii] Cacao Pod:

[viii] All Work and No Pay: The Great Speedup:

[ix] Meaningful Democracy:—-.htm

[x] Quotes on Finance:


A water snake sheds its skin. State support of private enterprise across time has taken many forms. (Photo:

In the history of sugar, one faithful aspect has been omnipresent: the nurturing by the state of its domestic sugar industries. Various factors have insured that the degree of care has undergone a bewildering change over time. Some forms of state support such as military intervention were more prevalent in the ‘startup’ years, while other means, such as favorable tariffs follow, and in fact lead sugar across history. This lack of universal consistency in the vigor and application of state support reflect the varying needs of private commercial entities and factions across different periods, does not bequeath itself to an overly simple general pattern, but nonetheless reflects and speaks of a dizzying and powerful change over time.

The sugar colonies and the sugar planter have been described as “business ventures primarily” and “strictly a businessman” respectively[1][2]. From this we can ascertain that plantations nor the individual planter possessed any martial capacity other than the ability to discipline and subdue its own labor force through violence.[3] Plantations did not mount invasions and planters did not lead professional armies.

Jamaica, one of the “crown jewels”[4] of the British Empire was seized by a military expedition, which found the island easier takings than neighboring Hispaniola.[5] With its capture, the British state was able to offer “English sugar interests with as much Caribbean acreage as they wanted.”[6] State nurturing through military force of the sugar planters went beyond terra firma into the high seas. 127 years later, Jamaica was under threat by France and American colonists, who had just swiped six British sugar islands. The Royal Navy was dispatched and beat the French, “saving…the sugar islands”[7]

Islands firmly in hand, state support moved into another phase: providing labor. Sugar planters throughout history have been bewildered by the same issue – the need for labor. Begnaud states that “the central problem was, and is, the labor supply” and “the most acute problem of the planter may well have been securing the labor force needed in sugarcane cultivation.”[8][9] Before chattel slavery, the Crown was able to provide “thieves and whores rounded up” alongside “Scottish and Irish” POWs to the planters[10], who were then coerced to the Indies with indentured servitude contracts. With the Caribbean not exactly meeting the expectations of the “thieves and whores”, “the masters could persuade few laborers whose indentures had expired to stay on”[11] The final solution was the Royal African Company, which was granted the monopoly by the state to trade in slaves and “handled much of the English business between 1673 and 1711”[12] Third party runners who tried to sell outside of the monopoly were pursued by the Royal Navy. With two-thirds of all Black slaves shipped to the Americas “directly related to the production of sugar”[13] the state’s hand in ensuring the sugar plantations’ appetites were fulfilled appear to have been prominent and successful.

Among the presents of military force, poor White servants and Black slaves, another gift of the state to the planter was an insatiable market. To motor forward with industrialization, one needs a labor force. In England, this meant farmers, previously self-sufficient (aside from periods of famine) in food. The Enclosure Acts between the late 18th and early 19th centuries forced farmers to migrate from rural areas and into cities, where “they had to purchase their food”[14] With the steadily declining price of sugar, as slave labor worked fields in Caribbean secured by state military forces, this large, hungry urban population were able to enjoy “Sugar, cheaper and more plentiful than it had been.”[15]

Tariffs are one form of state support that, while varying in form across time, have been a consistent tool to carry favored groups. In the Mercantilist era, the British state set agreeable tariff rates for its West Indies planters, below that for foreign sugars, in return for locking them to the British economy, forcing them to only sell their sugar in Britain (perhaps 50% would be re-exported), but also to buy provisions from England. In exchange they enjoyed a “protected home market.”[16] Their American planter counterparts, a century later found themselves in the same dilemma. The difference was that American sugar was grown in America, and the need would be a protective tariff on foreign sucrose. “The one thing all sugar farmers agreed upon was the necessity for protection from cheap imported sugar, for their business methods were expensive,”[17] writes Begnaud of Louisiana sugar planters. Congress delivered and legislation in 1934 “saved…the domestic sugar industry.”[18] Hodson concludes that “like it or not, the U.S. sugar industry has long been a creature of government policy.”[19] Thus tariffs held back an avalanche of sugar from Hawaii, the West Indies and India from smothering the domestic U.S. sugar industry.

[1] Dunn 25

[2] Dunn 65


[4] Alexander and Parker 1

[5] Dunn 152

[6] Dunn 21

[7] Abbott 172

[8] Begnaud 29

[9] Begnaud 33

[10] Dunn 69

[11] Dunn 72

[12] Dunn 229

[13] Kaplinsky 14

[14] Abbott 63

[15] Abbott 63

[16] Dunn 80

[17] Begnaud 42

[18] Burbin 83

19 Hodson 136


Abbott, Elizabeth. SUGAR: A BITTERSWEET HISTORY. London: Duckworth Publishers, 2009. Print.

Alexander, Robert J. and Eldon M. Parker. A HISTORY OF ORGANIZED LABOR IN THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WEST INDIES. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2004. Electronic.

Begnaud, Allen. “The Louisiana Sugar Cane Industry.” GREEN FIELDS: TWO HUNDRED YEARS OF LOUISIANA SUGAR. Lafayette: University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1980. Print.


Dunn, Richard. S.. SUGAR AND SLAVES: THE RISE OF THE PLANTER CLASS IN THE ENGLISH WEST INDIES, 1624-1713. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1972. Print

Hodson, Charles. “U.S. Sugar Policy Since the 1930s.” GREEN FIELDS: TWO HUNDRED YEARS OF LOUSIANA SUGAR. Lafayette: University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1980. Print.

Kaplinsky, Raphael. SUGAR PROCESSING: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A THIRD-WORLD TECHNOLOGY. Delhi: Oxford Universty Press, 1983. Print.

Myric, Herbert. SUGAR: A NEW AND PROFITABLE INDUSTRY IN THE UNITED STATES. New York: Orange Judd Company, 1897. Print.

Life on Plantations:

(Photo credit: Wikipedia).


Theobroma cacao: a slightly shrunken football shaped husk, filled with perhaps forty seeds entombed in a delectable pulp sought after by moneys and birds, which lives within 20 degrees above and below the earth’s waist. Sucrose (colloquially, sugar): a carbohydrate, born a sweet juice extracted from sugar cane (and sugar beets), heated, crystalized and offered before an eager global palate. Can two seemingly innocuous and edible commodities offer us more besides tickle the periphery of our tongues[1] and a dose of calories? Exploring the history and culture enveloping chocolate and sugar reveal a story less about a fruit and a grass and more about the human predicament, of who wins and who looses, who eats and who feeds, who lives and who dies.


Islamic expansion to 750 C.E. Movement of Islam from the east introduced to Europe, among other things, Sugar. Note Poitiers in modern-day France, where Christian armies halted this push into the continent. (Photo credit: Amherst Central Schools).

Without conquest by empire, our two storied staples may never have left their modest existence as domesticated foods at the foot of the northeastern Andes and in lush New Guinea.[2] The Aztecs were satiated with pochteca importing, or failing that, using persuasive armies to extract the elusive bean from the Soconusco region. It took ocean-crossing European empires to unfurl the global commercial planting of cacao. As the Native labor force in Mexico was decimated by disease and murder, both from the Spanish, the encomiendas (and later, less religious but equally commercial entities) brought cacao enterprises to Ecuador and Venezuela. The Portuguese, carefully treading the lines set in the Treaty of Tordesillas, grew the crop in Brazil, then eventually to Gabon, an island off West Africa. This region now accounts for 70% of the worldwide output.[3] The spread of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula towards the Mediterranean and into the belly of Europe meant, “sugar, we are told, followed the Koran.”[4] Having the doors of Europe shut forcefully on them by Charles Martel in 732 at Poitiers, it was left to the Europeans to carry sugar across the Atlantic. Christopher Columbus was first to bring sugar cane to the New World during his second voyage.[5] Within 150 years, the Portuguese, French, and especially the English established sugar plantations in Brazil, and the West Indies to feed the voracious European home markets.


A diagram of the Triangular trade system, which characterized the cacao and sugar trade before and after the 18th century, as well. What is lacking in most explanations is the profit and development (or underdevelopment) processes underway in each arrow. (Photo credit: West Chester University).

The bane of many history students is the dreaded Triangular Trade. As explained, finished goods from country A are traded to B, who in return send slaves to country C, where they work to mine or harvest commodities to be sent back to country A. What gives? The missing ingredient that clarifies this system is the profit motivation. The finished goods, say a bar of chocolate, have had human labor put into it. It is worth more than its equivalent in cacao beans and sugar (and others) because humans have worked on it. Since it will be sold above the cost it make it, there is profit in it. Therefore, country A will make a profit from selling to B. B on the other hand, hardly makes anything, but is simply a source for labor, who are sent to C, to plant, care for, harvest, and turn cacao pods into beans, ready for processing. B sends the beans to A, where they are made into chocolate. Since the most profit will occur in country A, where the cacao beans will become chocolate, country A has a vast stake in maintaining this triangular system. Country A will also become the most developed, both technologically and economically, since the sophisticated and most profitable part of the manufacturing process will occur there. Country B and C merely supply less profitable and less sophisticated labor and raw materials. In historical terms, we understand this as Spain or England trading “manufactured goods like clothing, weapons, [and tools to Africa]”[6] for human slaves, who are sent to the New World to mine metal ores, cacao and sugar, which are sent to the home country, to be processed into finished items, to repeat the cycle.


A worker harvests cacao in West Africa. (Photo credit: Henrik Ipsen).

Who then benefited from the cacao and sugar trade? And who lost? Who fed who and who ate? The growing of cacao and sugar commercially posed many technical challenges for the European royals, Viceroys, governors, clergymen, and other entrepreneurs. How to create a cacao strain resistant to disease, but is both flavorful and with high yields? How to sequence the planting of cane to get the largest harvest? How to obtain the sweetest cane juice without rotting it, to reach crystallization by precariously maintaining the needed temperature? These and other issues were pressing concerns. But without the labor to plant, care for, and harvest the cacao pods or sugar canes, production did not occur. Availability of labor one was part of the equation, but cost of labor was another figure to look after. To maximize profits and competitiveness, it simply made sense to push the cost of labor towards nothing. In other words, slavery. Human slavery solved this business dilemma: a labor force to replace the dropping Natives and a cheap labor force to reduce the cost of production. The forastero cacao became a mass commodity not simply for its natural higher yield, but because “African slaves had been brought” to produce it[7], as nine of ten Natives perished. [8] The most successful missionary group in the New World, was also the most profitable: Jesuit priests had such a degree of control over labor that they “rang a bell every night to tell the [Native] men it was time to perform their marital duties.”[9] In sum, the cacao and sugar trade allowed European elites to fatten their coffers, as European consumers gorged on chocolate and sugar, and Africans and Natives toiled and died.


[2] Mintz 19.

[3] Coe and Coe 197.

[4] Mintz 25.

[5] Mintz 32.

[6] Coe and Coe 186 and Mintz 43.

[7] Coe and Coe 186.

[8] Coe and Coe 178.

[9] Coe and Coe 189.


Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York: Penguin Books, 1985. Print.

“How does our sense of taste work?” PubMed Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Jan. 6, 2012.