All posts by aaas119e93

Cradle to Crave: How Chocolate Marketing Affects Children

Mars Celebrations Chocolate Advertisement, New York Festivals 2012
Mars Corporation, Celebrations Chocolate Advertisement, New York Festivals 2012, “School Bus”

Introduction

For an adult, chocolate is seen as a decadently delicious sweet treat, but chocolate is not something that  most adults would indulge in on a daily basis.  This is because adults understand that chocolate is not the healthiest food option, and they tend to limit their consumption.  However, children’s’ attitudes towards chocolate and chocolate consumption are very different.  Children equate chocolate with sweetness and fun.  Chocolate is something that they are given on Halloween, Valentines Day, Easter, Christmas, during Birthday parties, and when they can convince their parents to buy it for them at the store.  Children are notorious for demanding sweet things from their parents, and many chocolate companies are capitalizing on this demand by advertising their chocolate to children in a variety of ways.  While marketing to children is quite lucrative, it can also be quite harmful, as there is a growing obesity epidemic both in the US and around the world, and children are uniquely vulnerable to advertising and marketing strategies.

Frys "Five Boys" Milk Chocolate Advertisement
Frys “Five Boys” Milk Chocolate Advertisement

The History

Historically, chocolate makers have advertised their drinks and confections as healthy, nourishing, and a good source of energy for growing children.  In an effort to convince families to choose his chocolate bar, Milton Hershey even went as far as to advertise that Hershey’s milk chocolate bars were “more sustaining than meat”. 

Bar wrapper for Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar. ca. 1912-1926
Bar wrapper for Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. ca. 1912-1926

Defining the Problem

This begs the question, exactly how healthy is chocolate?  The answer to this question is fluid, as not every chocolate bar is made the same way.  A basic chocolate bar contains cacao, cocoa butter, and sugar, which is basically cacao, fat, and sugar.  The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that “children, adolescents, and adults limit intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids), cholesterol, sodium, added sugars” (CDC, 2015).  As even the most basic chocolate bar is loaded with fat and sugar, chocolate bars are not considered to be a healthy food by CDC standards.  These CDC nutrition standards are a direct response to obesity. 

The CDC defines obesity is as having a weight greater than “is generally considered healthy for a given height”.  There has been a marked rise in obesity rates in adults from 13% in 1962 to 34.9% in 2012.  Children’s obesity rates have also been on the rise, and obesity rates have “doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years” (CDC, 2015).  This rapid rise of obesity in the US is a problem, because obesity increases a person’s risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancers, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and in some cases, infertility (CDC, 2015).  A rapid rise in obesity amongst children means that these children live with these conditions for longer, and they are likely to live shorter lives and fewer children of their own.

With so many bad effects stemming from the obesity epidemic, the government should have some kind of regulations in place to protect children from the advertising an marketing of chocolate products to children.  Unfortunately, these regulations are slow in coming, if at all.  Chocolate corporations are allowed to advertise their products specifically towards children and adolescents using the media, television, radio, internet, games, product placement in stores, vending machines in schools, chocolate milk in school cafeterias, and on school buses.  Children and adolescents are literally bombarded with advertisements and marketing campaigns all the time (Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, 2015).  Children see ads like the ones below, that promote the health of chocolate flavored milk, and children are led to believe that chocolate milk is healthy, full of vitamins and nutrients, and an essential part of their day.

This advertisement for chocolate milk shows children that they should undermine their parents in order to get them to buy them the healthy chocolate that they both need and crave.  Notice that the mother gives in to the child after the milk man “angel” explains all the healthy benefits of chocolate milk.

This advertisement for Barny snack cakes plays on the fun that children have when they eat Barny snacks.  Notice that the Barny snacks use a cartoon teddy bear to lead the boy around a Wonka-esque fantasy world of chocolate where they jump on a trampoline mountain made of cake.  Once again, the child has undermined parental authority, as the bear shows that the adventure was a secret when he winks at the boy.  Then, the Barny snacks are shown to be a healthy wholesome food, as they are made with “wheat, chocolate, and eggs”.  When the snack is finally shown, it is a cake filled with chocolate cream, which is obviously not the healthy snack that Barny is trying to promote.

The biggest problem with the marketing strategies listed above is that “until the age of about 8 children do not understand advertising’s persuasive intent” (Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood).  While some companies, such as the Mars corporation, claim that they do not target audiences under 12, ad campaigns, like the one shown, below paint a very different picture.  Campaigns with licensed characters like M&Ms may not be targeted for a younger audience, but the cartoonish nature of the characters themselves make it look like children’s programming.  According to the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood’s website, “very young children can’t distinguish between commercials and program content” when they are watching television, so the M&Ms commercials would likely just look like another cartoon that makes them want to eat M&Ms (Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, 2015).

Mars Corporation, Celebrations Chocolates Advertising Campaign, New York Festival 2012, "Gymastics"
Mars Corporation, Celebrations Chocolates Advertising Campaign, New York Festival 2012, “Gymastics”

Solutions

Many solutions have been thrown around to fix the problems with marketing chocolate and other junk foods to children and adolescents.  These solutions include removing vending machines from schools altogether, regulating how companies market to children, regulating the types of food found in vending machines in schools, and a ban on chocolate milk.  However, food lobbies in the US have tremendous political power, as witnessed during Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! campaign.  This campaign started out as a campaign that was supposed to not only get children to be active and play, but to transform the school lunch system in the US into a healthier and more nutrition program.  Unfortunately, Michelle Obama was not as powerful as the food lobbyists who did not want to see the drop in profits that the removal of processed foods from the school lunch system would have caused (Fed Up, 2015).

Oregon was able to ban chocolate milk from its state school system in 2011.  The chocolate milk ban has been considered a huge victory by advocates of healthier U.S. lunches, but a 2014 Cornell study has criticized the banning of chocolate milk due to the fact that children waste more of the skim milk that chocolate milk was replaced with (Hanks, et al. 2014).  Hanks argues that the loss of “one gram of protein, a decrease of 5 percentage points in the daily recommended intake of calcium, and an additional 1/2 gram of fat per average student’s lunch” is a huge failure on the part of the Oregon state school lunch program, as many US children that use the state school lunch program live in food insecure homes (Freedhoff, 2014). 

Conclusion

With so much political backlash when solutions are proposed by the government, how will we ever be able to regulate how chocolate and food are marketed to our children?  The answer is that there are no easy solutions. 

First, the country needs to admit that we have a problem.  Yes, we live a much more sedentary lifestyle than we did 30 years ago, but we also eat a lot more added sugar.  No, chocolate is not the only villain in the US’s struggle with childhood obesity, but chocolate companies have been using our schools to market their products to our children. 

Parents can limit the use of technology in their homes in order to manage how many advertisements their children are bombarded with, but parents have little to no control over how products are marketed to their children at school.  Children are required to attend school in the US, most parents work outside the home, and private schools are fairly expensive.  So many parents have no choice but to send their children to the same public schools that allow this pervasive marketing to their students.

The CDC believes that limiting our outright banning marketing to school students may reduce the rates of childhood obesity in the US (CDC, 2015).  However, we need strict regulations on how children’s products and food are advertised.  Chocolate companies may feel the need to have “cradle to grave brand loyalty” (Chocolate Class, 2015), but how do they plan to profit off of people who have a drastically reduced lifespan.  You cannot make profits off of someone who has died at an early age from obesity.

Sources

Andrew S. Hanks, David R. Just, Brian Wansink.  “Chocolate Milk Consequences: A Pilot Study Evaluating the Consequences of Banning Chocolate Milk in School Cafeterias” in PLOS One.  April 16, 2014.

Carla Martin.  AAAS E-119.  Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture 9.  “Issues in Advertisement”.  April 1, 2015.

Mike Hughlett. “Few companies got high marks on food marketing to children:

As childhood obesity grows, so does concern over food companies’ marketing tactics”. in The Chicago Tribune.  March 10, 2010.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-03-10/business/sc-biz-0310-food-report-card–20100310_1_marketing-tactics-food-industry-sara-lee (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Stephanie Soechtig.  Fed Up. 2014.

http://FEDUPmovie.com/ (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Susan Linn and Michele Simon.  The Dark Side of Marketing Healthy Food to Children. June 17th, 2013.

http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/2013/06/17/the-dark-side-of-marketing-healthy-food-to-children/ (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Center for Disease Control.

“Adult Obesity Facts”

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

“Youth Obesity Facts”

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

“The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity”

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/ (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

“Defining Overweight and Obesity”

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

“Nutrition and the Health of Young People”

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/nutrition/facts.htm (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. 

“Advertising in Schools”.

http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/issue/advertising-schools (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

“Marketing to Children Overview”.

http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/issue/marketing-children-overview (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

“About that App Gap: Children, Technology and the Digital Divide”.

http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/resource/about-app-gap-children-technology-and-digital-divide (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Yoni Freedhoff.  “No, Banning Chocolate Milk in Schools Didn’t Backfire:

A look at why the milk glass is actually half full”.  April 22, 2014.  http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2014/04/22/no-banning-chocolate-milk-in-schools-didnt-backfire (Retrieved May 10, 2105)

Multimedia Sources

Frys Chocolate.  “Five Boys”.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Frys_five_boys_milk_chocolate.jpg (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Hershey’s Chocolate Bar Wrapper 1912-1926.

http://thingd-media-ec1.thefancy.com/default/298214627_d48fcd334a73.jpg (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Barny.  “Keep the Adventure Going with Barny”. Aug 19, 2013.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr6tHThzz2Q (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Mars Corporation.  M&Ms.  M&M’S “Faint” Commercial.  Nov 19, 2013.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6fvmjuyiLc (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Mars Corporation.  Celebration Chocolates.  New York Festival 2012.

http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/worldsbest/pieces.php?iid=434470&pid=3 (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/worldsbest/pieces.php?iid=434470&pid=2 (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

David Banks.  David Banks in MILK Commercial TRUMOO tru moo. Oct 14, 2009.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxQ4FkFBFG8&feature=youtu.be (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Nestle.  “Carnation Breakfast Essentials – Backpack Commercial”.

Feb 8, 2010.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PubqE8uTEVU (Retrieved May 10, 2015)

Lust and Chocolate

Introduction

The average person sees ads constantly, everywhere, and in all mediums — on television and online, on buses and billboards, and even on our phones. Companies spend substantial amounts of money on advertising campaigns in order to tempt people into buying their products, and to engender brand loyalty. Chocolate companies are no different. They are always trying to come up with new and interesting ways to advertise their chocolate products to get the public talking about their brands. This blog post will examine the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign.  While many would consider this ad campaign smart and interesting, it nevertheless highlights several disturbing trends in the imagery associated with chocolate industry advertisements.

Analysis

"Secretary", by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville "Deliciously Dark Thoughts" Ad Campaign
“Secretary”, by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” Ad Campaign

The advertisement shown above, the “Secretary”, depicts an innocent secretary enjoying a Cadbury Bournville Mint Essence dark chocolate bar (Shau, 2009).  The glass dome on the top of her head shows her “secret fantasy” or her “deliciously dark thoughts” that the chocolate bar inspires (Media Update, 2009).  In this advertisement, the secretary is so overcome by the dark chocolate bar that she fantasizes that she is a dominatrix using her boss as a footstool while she eats her chocolate bar and enjoys her daily newspaper.  The secretary is depicted as overly innocent to the point of childish in an almost pornagraphic way, which is shown by the pigtails and ribbons that she wears in her hair.  In an office setting, her styling would be considered both inappropriate and unprofessional.  This ad also shows how the chocolate allows this woman to tip the balance of power, as the chocolate allows her to completely subjugate her boss to the point of humility. In direct contrast to the childish secretary, the chocolate-fueled dominatrix is clearly a mature woman, shown by the red dress, lipstick, high boots, and the new hairstyle. While not overtly racist from a Western standpoint, the “Secretary” ad was run in South Africa, where the white people are a minority (South African National Census, 2011).   Therefore, a direct link is shown between one’s social class and chocolate consumption.  Like the secretary, “the non-society” (white) woman is expected to “aspire to the romantic lifestyle” and sexual fantasies that are inspired by eating the chocolate bar (Robertson, 2010). 

"Delicious Stereotype" an original ad for the 2015 Chocolate Class blog
“Delicious Stereotype” an original ad for the 2015 Chocolate Class blog

In an effort to complement the stereotypes and sexual images depicted in the “Secretary” ad, I created the “Delicious Stereotype”.  The awkward young man depicted in the “Delicious Stereotype” is  transformed into a hyper-sexualized chocolate superhero upon tasting his “choco-lust” bar.  As a superhero, this boy gains physical prowess and an attractive manly physique that allows the awkward young man to attract both his fantasy woman and his fantasy wife.  This ad plays off of stereotypical heterosexual male fantasies involving multiple women, blonde women, exaggerated female anatomy, superheroes, and the the fetishization of the housewife (Robertson, 2010).  The housewife is fetishized housewife through the images of the apron, perfect hair and makeup, and through image of her serving warm chocolate cupcakes.  The Choco-Lust bar was chosen to highlight the fact that this chocolate ad campaign sells chocolate through the use of lustful fantasies.  The image of two women coexisting in a non-monogamous relationship with the superhero along with their downcast eyes shows that the superhero holds the power in this relationship. Once again, the “Delicious Stereotype” ad is meant to show a link between class and chocolate, as the boy is clearly caucasian, the women are clearly dressed expensively, and the women probably underwent expensive surgical cosmetic enhancement.  This ad was drawn using a male in order to highlight the difference between a socially acceptable female sexual fantasy and a socially acceptable male fantasy.  If the “Secretary” were to be drawn with the exact opposite genders, the narrative would most likely be considered too disturbing by most people, and it would not sell chocolate to target female consumers.

Conclusions

Historically, chocolate ads have contained a wide variety of traditional stereotypes that have come to define the consumers of chocolate who buy chocolate products.  With such a culturally ingrained chocolate narratives, is it possible to sell chocolate using less offensive images? 

"Purely Delicious" an original ad created for the 2015 Chocolate Class Blog (subsequently rejected due to numerous stereotypes, rendering the ad non-virtuous)
“Purely Delicious” an original ad created for the 2015 Chocolate Class Blog (subsequently rejected due to numerous stereotypes, rendering the ad non-virtuous)

While trying to create an ad using innocent rather than provocative imagery, I created “Purely Delicious” (shown above).  I ultimately rejected this ad, because it contained racist, heteronormative, and gender stereotypes.  Changing the skin color, in my mind, made the ad highly racial rather than ambiguous (as was my original goal). Since I could not think of an ad that contained zero stereotypes, I decided to look up other ways to increase chocolate sales. Therefore, I stumbled across an Iranian study that suggested that more sophisticated chocolate packaging design can increase chocolate sales (Giyahi, 2011).  While a change in packaging is not a perfect solution, it is less offensive than an advertising campaign, as most packaging contains class stereotypes alone (Martin, 2015)

.  

"Red Riding Hood" created by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville "Deliciously Dark Thoughts" ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
“Red Riding Hood” created by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
"Bride" created by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville "Deliciously Dark Thoughts" ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
“Bride” created by Natalie Shau for the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
"Deliciously Dark Caramel Crisp" created by Natalie Shau for the 2010 Cadbury Bournville "Deliciously Dark Thoughts" ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)
“Deliciously Dark Caramel Crisp” created by Natalie Shau for the 2010 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign (Added to show the scope of the campaign)

Sources


Giyahi, Yasaman

“An Empirical study on the Relationship of Purchasing a Chocolate Based on its Packaging”. in Growing Science. Volume 2. December 2011.

Robertson, Emma

Chocolate, Women, and Empire:  A Social and Cultural History.  2010.  pp. 1-131

South African National Census, 2011

http://unstats.un.org/unsd/censuskb20/KnowledgebaseArticle10237.aspx (Retrieved April 5, 2015)

Martin, Carla

Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Lecture 9.  Harvard University.  April 2015.

Media Sources


-Shau, Natalie, 

Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign,  “Secretary”, 2009

Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign,  “Bride”, 2009

Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign,  “Red Riding Hood”, 2009

Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign,  “Deliciously Dark Caramel Crisp”, 2009


www.behance.net/gallery/681923/Cadbury-Bournville-%282009%29 (Retrieved April 5, 2015)

https://www.behance.net/gallery/728077/Cadbury-Bournville-(2010) (Retrieved April 5, 2015)

-Media Update

“Deliciously dark campaign delves into women’s secret fantasies”, November 2009

http://www.mediaupdate.co.za/News/Article/20616/Deliciously-dark-campaign-delves-into-womens-secret-fantasies (Retrieved April 5, 2015)

“Cadbury Bournville introduces deliciously dark Caramel Crisp”

http://www.mediaupdate.co.za/News/Article/30103/Cadbury-Bournville-introduces-deliciously-dark-Caramel-Crisp

  

Delicious Medicine

Mary_Poppins5chocolate prescription

In Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews sang a song about how “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” and in the case of chocolate, she was most certainly correct. Medicine has historically been reputed to have a bitter taste, so it makes sense that as far back as the Aztecs (and possibly the Olmecs), chocolate has been attributed as having all sorts of healing properties and positive effects on the body.  In this essay, we will explore the use of chocolate as a health remedy along with how and why these uses have changed over time.

Historically, cacao consumption is believed to have started in Mesoamerica.  Cacao was consumed by Aztec elites as an after dinner treat, and cacao consumption was featured in certain Aztec rituals [1].  However, from European historical accounts by both Bernal Diaz del Castillo and the Franciscan friar, Bernadino de Saharan, we know that the Aztecs used cacao as a sexual stimulant as well as for a variety of health problems including heart trouble, infections, respiratory illness, and hemorrhoids [2].  In Chocolate as Medicine: A Quest Over the Centuries, Mesoamericans are described as using cacao to treat snakebites and to strengthen their warriors for battle [3].  While the consumption of cacao was seen as spiritual amongst the Maya, they were also known to use cacao in order to treat skin ailments, epilepsy, and fever [2].  With so many amazing healing properties, colonial Europeans must have believed cacao to be a medical marvel.

Pietro_Longhi_025

Cacao was transformed when it was brought to the European continent.  Cacao went from a drink that was mostly used by Mesoamericans for ritualistic purposes to a drink that was used primarily for medicinal purposes [1]. The Church played a large role in relegating European chocolate consumption to medical purposes.  This was due to the fact that chocolate was seen as a mind altering substance, a euphoria-inducing experience, and its consumption potentially went against Church fasting rituals [1].  In order to get around Church skepticism, many scholars wrote about the medical uses of chocolate, and they tried to make chocolate fit into the “humoral system” [1].  Using Galen’s theory, early European physicians tried to classify chocolate as hot or cold and wet or dry based on their own observations and most likely their personal taste preferences [1].  In the end, colonial Europeans used chocolate to treat hysteria, melancholy, thinness, fatigue, chest pains, kidney disease, stomach ailments, anemia, fainting, STDs, blood circulation, hypochondria and respiratory ailments [1][2][3].

8653136187_d00eeb0e62

Today, chocolate consumption in the mass quantities seen in Mesoamerica and Europe is considered part of an unhealthy lifestyle.  This has led big chocolate companies like Hersheys and Mars to fund research into the health benefits of cacao in order to reclassify chocolate as a superfood and widen their market shares.  Therefore, many studies have been done in recent years in order to prove that regular cacao consumption will improve a person’s health.  Modern studies have shown that dark chocolate improves heart health, suppresses cough and improves respiratory function, is good for mental health, improves cognitive function, and helps with gastrointestinal disorders [3][4].

In conclusion, moderate dark chocolate consumption is beneficial for a person’s health.  However, it is important to understand that historically medical science has been used to promote the consumption of chocolate and that this tradition continues to this day.  Many of the chocolate health studies are funded by those who have a financial stake in the results, and it is difficult for people to understand that milk chocolate will not confer the same health benefits as dark chocolate.  Therefore, it is fundamentally important that one consume his or her chocolate responsibly.

Sources

[1]  Coe, Sophie D.; Coe, Michael D. (2013-06-28). The True History of Chocolate (Kindle Location 1210). Thames & Hudson. Kindle Edition. 

[2] Thompson, H.  Smithsonian Institute.  “Healers Once Prescribed Chocolate Like Aspirin”. February 12, 2015.  Retrieved March 2015.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/healers-once-prescribed-chocolate-aspirin-180954189/#XCH2vlSAKJQrYxlF.99

[3] Hurst, J., Wilson, P.  Chocolate as Medicine: A Quest Over the Centuries.  Royal Society of Chemistry; 1 edition. October 2, 2012.

[4] Lippi, D.  “Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-Food”. in Nutrients. May 2013. 1573–1584.  Retrieved March 2015.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708337/

Media Sources

Picture of Mary Poppins via Creative Commons. 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c4/Mary_Poppins5.jpg

Chocolate Prescription via Google Images filtered “labeled for noncommercial reuse”.

http://4imgs.com/1075/sys/prod/16_3_0_0.JPG

The morning chocolate by Pietro Longhi; Venice, 1775-1780 picture via Google Images filtered “labeled for noncommercial reuse”. 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9f/Pietro_Longhi_025.jpg

“Eat this not that” picture via Google Images filtered “labeled for noncommercial reuse”.

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8249/8653136187_d00eeb0e62.jpg

The Evolution of Drinking Chocolate

In modern times, hot chocolate is enjoyed by people around the world.  The most familiar types found in the grocery store are made up of a pre-sweetened powder that comes in a small package and may or may not contain 15% cocoa depending on the type of drink.  Other types of drinking chocolate, such as Abuelita, come in pressed chocolate bars that are then dissolved in milk.  Today, hot cocoa is available to people of every social and economic class.  However, historically chocolate drinks were made in a very different manner, and they were most often only available to the elites.

Swiss-Miss-Hot-Chocolateltphotos_chocolate_abuelita_951959486

The cultivation of cacao began as early as 1900 BC with the Olmec civilization (Presilla, 2001, p.10), but the oldest known cacao recipes come from the Maya and the Aztec civilizations.  For the Maya civilization, cacao was available to people of every social and economic class, although little evidence remains of the drinking vessels used by the less affluent members of society (Presilla, 2001, p. 12)  As cacao is difficult to grow, it is likely that the more affluent members of society had easier access to drinking cacao due to its rarity.  Maya drinking chocolate was often made from water that contained the starch of lime-treated corn mixed with the cacao beans that had been ground into a paste.  Mayan cacao was also flavored with ear flower, vanilla, honey, allspice, and chiles (Presilla, 2001, p. 13, 14).  Frothy chocolate was favored by the Maya, and it would later also be favored by the Aztecs and the Spaniards.

Unlike the Maya, the Aztecs limited cacao consumption to the elites and the warrior class.  Aztec cacao drinks were available (to the members of these social classes) in the market, and the makers of these drinks were considered true artisans, as:

“She who sells remade cacao for drinking first grinds it in this fashion:  At the first [grinding] she breaks or crushes the beans; at the second they are slightly more ground; at the third and last they are very well ground, being mixed with boiled and rinsed corn kernels; and being thus ground and mixed, they add water [to the mixture] in any sort of vessel [vaso].  If they add little [water] they have beautiful cacao; if they add a lot, it will not produce froth.” (Saghagun, Historia General)

Frothy cacao was considered to be the very best of the Aztec cacao drinks, and all other cacao drinks were considered inferior (Presilla, 2001, p.19-20).  Today, cacao is drunk throughout the day or as a nightcap, but the Aztec elites drank their cacao at the end of meals (Coe, 2013, Kindle location 1330).  The Aztecs, much like the Maya, used locally available ingredients to flavor their cacao.  These ingredients included honey, ear flower, vanilla, string flower, magnolia, piper sanctum ( pepper flower), heart flower, chiles, and allspice.  According to Coe in The True History of Chocolate, Aztec cacao was made with roasted ground cacao beans and sopata seeds that were mixed with ground corn and spices (Coe, 2013, Kindle location 1314).

Aztec Woman

The Spanish assimilated their own flavors when they brought chocolate over from Mesoamerica, including: cinnamon, sugar, and black pepper (Coe, 2013, Kindle Location 1599).  The Spanish also began mixing cacao with cow’s milk.  In order to grind the beans, a heated metate was used, and the precious and sought after froth was obtained using a molinillo stirring stick (Coe, 2013, Kindle Location 1599-1614).

While the historical flavors of drinking chocolate remain, cacao has become a much sweeter drink in modern times, and flavorings have continuously expanded.  With the current trend towards a diet low in refined sugars, I wonder if the Maya and Aztec way of drinking unsweetened cacao might make a comeback.

Sources

Coe, Sophie D.; Coe, Michael D. (2013-06-28). The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson. Kindle Edition. 

Presilla, Maricel. (2001).  The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press.

Image 1:  Swiss Miss Cocoa Collection, from the Swiss Miss website

Image 2:  Abuelita Cocoa, from the Abuelita website

Image 3:  Maya cocoa frothing, from the course slides