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Green and Black’s: Saving Communities One Certification at a Time

When you see this picture, what do you think about? You see a red chocolate bar, called “Maya Gold”, labeled as “dark chocolate infused with subtle flavors of organic and delicate spices”. To a potential consumer, the name “Maya gold”, along with the flavors listed, may conjure up thoughts about the mythical past of the Mayans, a mysterious ancient culture that is the exotic birthplace of chocolate, spices, and gold riches. While flashy chocolate bars with South American names and alluring descriptions line the aisles of supermarkets, vying for your attention, the most important parts of this product label are actually subtly positioned: the labels “fair trade” and “organic” on the bottom left and under the name of the brand, respectively. These labels quickly reveal that this chocolate is more than just an ordinary chocolate bar; in fact, this Green and Black’s bar is the first UK fair trade certified chocolate bar, with beans that are actually made from modern day Mayans in Belize (About Us: Green and Black’s). With the production of this chocolate bar, Green and Black’s has single handedly rejuvenated the region’s cacao industry, and through fair trade, have brought immense benefits to Belize and its cacao growers. And this is only one of their 13 fair trade and organic certified products. As one of the world’s largest ethnical manufacturers of chocolate, Green and Black’s mission of producing quality chocolate that benefits farmers has not only empowered communities across the world, but has also created a premium, delicious product enjoyed by millions of consumers.

Green and Black’s

In 1991, Craig Sams and his wife, Jo Fairley, sampled organic dark chocolate as part of Sams’ work as founder of Whole Earth, an organic food company. Delighted by the taste and quality of the chocolate, the couple was “sure other confirmed chocoholics would love it as much as [they] did… and with that, Craig and Jo set about making organic chocolate” (About Us: Green and Black’s).

While they started as an organic chocolate company, in 1993 the couple soon worked out a five-year agreement with the Toledo Cacao Grower’s Association (TCGA) of Belize, agreeing to buy the cacao from their farmers at a fair price and to give money to the community, granted the association maintained fair trade and organic standards (TCGA). With this agreement, Maya Gold was born, and it became the first Fair trade Mark certified chocolate bar in the UK (About Us: Green and Black’s). In 2010, with the previous success of Maya Gold, Green and Black’s pledged to switch its entire product line to Fair trade by 2011 (Smithers). Since then, they have launched over ten different bars, from 85% Dark to Ginger, with fair trade chocolate being produced internationally from communities similar to TCGA in Belize (About Us: Green and Black’s).

Green and Black’s Tenants of Organic and Fair Trade Chocolate

Standing firmly behind the quality of their chocolate, Green and Black’s describes their company name as green for “their strict organic principles” and black for “the intensity of the chocolate” (About Us: Green and Black’s). The two components of their namesake closely mimic two tenants of their brand, their organic and fair trade certifications.

Organic products across food industries have seen a dramatic rise in the last decades, and this is no different for chocolate, a food industry that thrives on quality of taste and product. Part of the reason for organic food’s rise has been its benefits over non-organic products, which have even been shown to be harmful (Coe and Coe 263). While organic foods are grown without pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals, non-organic foods use these products in agricultural production bountifully, from fertilizing the soil to spraying produce before reaching market. These chemicals can be environmentally dangerous, as they leech into soils and pollute nearby water sources, causing water and soil pollution (Nutrition and Healthy Eating). They also promote mono crop production because of chemical protection of single-strain plants; this can contribute to decreasing environmental biodiversity (Nutrition and Healthy Eating). Finally, growers and laborers, who come in contact with dangerous amounts of these hazardous chemicals, are often exposed to toxic fumes and liquids that can cause serious health problems, especially if child labor is involved (as it commonly is in the cacao industry) (Nutrition and Healthy Eating).

Green and Black’s advertises themselves as “[having] always been an organic brand”, and as such, they hope to address many of the issues that non-organic farming causes (About Us: Green and Black’s). Besides the risks of non organic farming that can be avoided, Green and Black’s states that their organic product allows “farmers who grow their crops … [to be] more interested in, and concentrate[d] on, the quality and taste of what they grow” (About Us: Green and Black’s). Organic farming can promote biodiversity, as it can promote a more natural environment for growing compared to a mono-crop yield, and Green and Black’s states that “our farmers grow their beans under the shade of rainforest trees alongside other crops like avocado, pineapple, coffee and bananas”. With this advocacy to organic cocoa as a main company goal, Green and Black is able to promote a more environmental and health conscious method of farming from its growers.

In addition to their emphasis on organic products, Green and Black’s additionally focuses on their more recent, but just as important, goal of fair trade. In many industries that find their source crop being grown in third-world, developing nations, such as coffee, sugar, and chocolate, ethical practices are often questionable and troublesome. In the cocoa growing industry, in particular, labor practices are a huge issue. Internally among growers, there is an issue with child labor; children are forced out of schools, and are often subject to work long, unpaid hours on cocoa plantations. They are often given difficult jobs that they are not trained for, including climbing trees with machetes to hack off pods (Coe and Coe 264). Because of the work they are forced to do, these children are unable to lead normal lives, or get proper educations or human rights, including their right to independence and health. As Coe and Coe write, these child laborers “never in their short lives… [receive] medical treatment or [see] the inside of a school” (264).

Beyond labor issues, the cocoa industry and its big chocolate companies often abuse and exploit growers in developing countries. Big chocolate companies often try and keep prices artificially low, refusing to pay farmers more for their produce to keep their final product prices low for consumers. In addition to this artificial price setting, farmers do not see even a quarter of the profits that chocolate makes globally; while chocolate bars may cost a consumer $2.00 or more, farmers often only see about %10 of these earnings (Martin), making their income unsustainable and their lives harsh. This often results in small farmers who do not participate in large cocoa plantations to be forced out of growing cocoa, as they cannot sustain their livelihoods in such a manner. Such forcing of small growers out of the industry became very common especially after the bottom dropped out of the chocolate market in the 1980s (Coe and Coe 263); these trends only continue today, as big chocolate strives to keep prices unrealistically low, all while forcing only a small percentage of profit back to the hands of the farmers.

By certifying their product as Fair Trade, Green and Black’s, along with an increasing number of companies vying for such certification, vow to help developing countries and their producers achieve ethical and sustainable trade conditions. On Green and Black’s website, for example, they state that they “are committed to applying Ethical Sourcing Standards in our own work place… and expect our suppliers, co-manufacturers and business partners to follow suit. Respect for human rights, ethical trading… are fundamental to how [they] work” (About Us: Green and Black’s). In addition to respecting the rights of their suppliers, they = give money directly to worker’s organizations and communities, so that they can fund initiatives for education, clean water, healthcare, etc (Purvis). Most importantly, Green and Black’s pays $1.25 per pound of cocoa, compared to an industry standard of $0.55 (Purvis). In Belize, for example, with the creation of Maya Gold gave the community money from both Fair Trade and organic programs with far reaching consequences. While 10% of children benefited from education in the region, today over 70%, including those from outlying villages, are able to be educated (Purvis). The TCGA has also led initiatives to improve their product through the development of agronomy, nursery management, IT, and administrative education for farmers (Purvis).

In this video from their YouTube page, founder Craig Sams explains many of Green and Black’s ethical and quality goals; he explains how they came to work with the farmers in Belize, and how he hopes new partnerships, such as one in the Dominican Republic, can quickly and effectively move communities in a positive way.

Consumer Response

Behind the scenes, Green and Black’s is an extremely impressive buyer with many ethical guidelines in place to assure safe labor and product. To the consumer, Green and Black’s is an equally impressive producer; as one of the largest organic chocolate manufacturers globally, they have succeeded in launching their chocolate products to the world as a premium product worth paying extra for.

Because of their organic and Fair Trade certifications, Green and Black’s chocolate quality shines through. In lecture earlier this semester, for example, the majority of people loved their Milk Chocolate bar, with a delicious creamy texture. Understandably, Green and Black’s is an extremely popular chocolate with growing fame; a quick Google search indicates that it is sold popularly on Amazon, Walmart, and other websites.

Knowing this, Green and Black’s seeks to brand itself as chocolate that is different from ordinary candy; in this advertisement for their dark chocolate bar, they declare proudly that they are so delicious, that they will make you forget about “chocolate money… chocolate footballs… cinema chocolate…” and even “the first chocolate [you] ever tasted”. They know that their product is delicious, and market it as a more premium product that is worth the price.

In addition to smart advertising of their delicious taste, Green and Black’s also advertise the quality of their product through its organic and Fair Trade roots. In a world where consumers are becoming more conscious of their tastes (the Fair Trade market alone has increased in value from 22M to 635M pounds from 1999 to 2009 (Smithers) ), Green and Black’s knows how to target its advertisement to such individuals. In this advertisement, Green and Black’s teasingly advertise their chocolate as “impeccable” and having a “great body” on the outside. But what truly makes it special is its “insides”, represented by a green leafy heart; this clearly allows consumers to understand that this chocolate is not only delicious but also ethically good.

Today, as healthier, more “green” and ethical products become popular with an increasingly conscious consumer base, Green and Black’s is stronger than ever. With over ten flavored bars selling around the world, they have made many strides to assure quality organic and fair trade chocolate in all their products. In doing so, they are a leader in a new wave of companies that could potentially change the ethical, environmental, and economic issues of the current chocolate industry.

Sources

“About Us: Green & Black’s.” Green & Black’s. Web. May 2015. <http://us.greenandblacks.com/about-us#&gt;.

Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe, and Ryan J. Huxtable. The true history of chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

“TCGA.” TCGA. 2015. Web. 7 May 2015. <http://www.tcgabelize.com/tcga/history/#&gt;.

Smithers, Rebecca. “Green and Black’s to Go 100% Fairtrade.” The Guardian. 2010. Web. May 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jan/28/fair-trade-ethical-living&gt;.

Martin, C. 2015. “African and African American Studies 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food”. Emerson Hall, Harvard University. Lecture.

“Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious? Web. 7 May 2015. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880&gt;.

Purvis, Andrew. “How a 1.50 Chocolate Bar Saved a Mayan Community from Destruction.” The Guardian. 2006. Web. 7 May 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2006/may/28/foodanddrink.features1&gt;.

Multimedia Sources

http:// cdn.expatsgrocery.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/952x/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/1/2/12879_4.1405607144.jpg

https:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPY2H_5WCY0

http:// http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/green-and-blacks-chocolate-dark-mantra-5104305/

http:// http://www.samueljellis.co.uk/07_Green-Black-s

The Innocent, the Grotesque, and the True “Dark” Side of Chocolate  

While advertisements and marketing are meant to draw positive attention to their products, oftentimes they only cause controversy and scandal. Marketing promotions are often riddled with sexist, racist, or classist undertones that overshadow the true meaning of the advertisements; one of the biggest offenders is the food industry, specifically advertisement for sweets and chocolates. Chocolate marketing often relies on portraying women and children as innocent and sweet creatures that turn sinful and corrupt from the sensual tastes of chocolate. However, sometimes these campaigns can backfire, instead causing controversy and scandal that overshadow the initial intents of the advertisements.

Chocolate is a highly sexualized product ever since its popularization as a food product in the early European periods. Even before print adverts of chocolate and its mass production with the growth of large chocolate producers, chocolate was already a food targeted at women. In anecdotes that spread in the in the 1800s, women were portrayed as weak to the ways of chocolate; in Chiapas, Mexico, women would have to interrupt religious ceremonies in order to consume chocolate midday (Robertson, 68). These types of stories imply that women are unable to sustain or fuel themselves without chocolate, going so far as to suggest that they cannot perform basic functions (such as religious Mass) without taking time off to consume chocolate.

Furthermore, these stories paint pictures of women as unable to control themselves in a chocolate-induced rage. Continuing the story above, the women of Chiapas supposedly poisoned the bishop for not allowing them to eat their chocolate (Robertson 68). This paints the image of the typical “chocolate consuming” stereotype of women, creatures unable to control themselves around chocolate, and induced to perform sinful and carnal acts, such as killing, to get what the sweets that they crave. As historian Emma Robertson puts it, “chocolate becomes explicitly associated with sinful temptation in this tale, with women ruthless in its pursuit” (68).

This stereotype of a sinful, craving woman, cultivated by historical anecdotes as old as the history of chocolate in the modern world, persists today stronger than ever. In chocolate commercials, women are still lustful after chocolate. While examples of women depicted with this stereotype abound, this commercial from Nestle in Kazakhstan is particularly representative:

Here, a beautiful woman, happy with a teddy bear gift from her boyfriend, suddenly rips up the cup stuffed animal, and proclaims that it has no almonds or wafers. While this ad might seem harmless and cute, it is a prime example of how chocolate ads depict a woman’s lust and overpowering desire for chocolate. The woman, who is initially cheerful, becomes angry when he finds that she does not receive a sweet treat, leading her to rip up a cute stuffed animal and toss it away with little concern.

While these ads may have tones of sexuality and sinfulness imbued in their images, some ads can take this idea too far. In 2009, an advertisement by Peruvian chocolate company Caribu, produced by the ad agency El Garaje Lowe, generated lots of negative publicity and controversy.

caribucanari

In this print ad, we see an innocent, sweet, smiling young girl playing “kitchen” in her room. However, looking more closely at this ad reveals a truly horrifying scene; the little girl is killing a baby chick by grinding it up in a meat grinder. This innocent scene now looks extremely eerie; the green background of the room becomes creepy, and the girl’s sweet smile suddenly seems perverse and sinister. In the corner of the image, we see the tagline of the image: “The Dark Side of Sweetness”. The dark humor here is revealed; when you give little girls chocolate, their truly “dark” side comes out, and they can be motivated to do horrible things, including killing an animal for fun. While this ad may have intended to be dark humor for the intellectual who could look past the girl’s heinous acts, this ad severely miscalculates how disgusting it is, and is rendered ineffective. People cannot get past the image of a young girl, the usual picture of innocence, killing an animal in a disturbing way, after having consumed chocolate.

This ad attempted to, and failed, to represent a dark humored “dark” side of sweetness; however, what is even more sad and dismaying about this ad is the true “dark” side of the chocolate industry. While ads such as the ones shown above by Caribu and Nestle joke about the sinful acts that chocolate induce, the chocolate industry is suddenly mute at the true sins of the industry regarding child labor practices. In the Cote D’Ivoire, where almost 40% of all cacao beans come from (Mammel), there is a strong prevalence of child labor, where children, 60% of whom are under the age of 14, are forced to toil on cacao farms by their families and “owners” whom their families sell them to. These children make no money, and are often given dangerous and gruesome tasks to do, such as wielding machetes with no protection or hauling bags of cacao for miles (Mammel).

ad-all

With this truly dark side of chocolate in mind, we decided to rebrand our chocolate advertisement from showing (failed) dark humor to depict the true dark side of chocolate: child labor practices. In our revised ad, the true evils of the chocolate industry are revealed; when the children eat chocolate, they are now directly contributing to the child labor present in the chocolate industry. Their lips are stained with red blood, and they are “whipping” the children laborers, who toil to make them their delicious sweets.

While our ad may not actually sell anything, it instead acts as a PSA for the real dark side of the chocolate industry. Instead of continuing to sell chocolate as a sexualized, passionate, and sometimes sinful delight, we hope with our PSA we can contribute to exposing the true evils of the chocolate industry, and close the gap of knowledge between the fantasy of marketing and advertisements, and the true hardships behind what we eat.

 

Bear | Heart | Kitten- Nestle Chocolate TV Commercial Ad. Youtube. Youtube, 14 Oct 2014. Web. 10 Apr 2015.

El Garaje Lowe. “Caribú Bitter: Canari.” Ads of the World. N.p., Jan. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/caribu_bitter_canari.

Mammel, Mitchell. “Child Slavery: The Bitter Truth behind the Chocolate Industry.” Terry. Nov 2013. Web. 10 Apr 2015. http://www.terry.ubc.ca/2013/11/26/child-slavery-the-bitter-truth-behind-the-chocolate-industry/.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-131. Print.

 

 

China and Chocolate: How to Succeed in a Foreign Market

One of the most famous case studies of growing globalization and capitalism is China; since reforms passed in the 1980s to shift economic structure from communalism to a market based economy, over 500 million people have been pulled above the poverty line and GDP growth averages around 10% yearly (1). With this growing economy, now second only to the US, and a massive population of 1.3 billion, China has become a popular target market to break into for global corporate players, including food companies such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey. It is predicted that in the next 5 years, chocolate sales in China will double in value to $4.3 billion in annual revenue (2). However, this growth does not come easy, and companies after the Chinese consumer are faced with marketing to a group that are not familiar, or even impartial to, the taste of sugar and chocolate. While global food companies have been able to successfully grow in Western markets familiar to the allure of sugar and chocolate, these companies have had to come up with new strategies to break into the Chinese market.

The taste for sugar and chocolate have been familiar and universal to the Western world since its introduction from South and Central America to its industrialization that led to companies such as Cadbury and Hershey’s Chocolate dominating the processed food industry. However, in China, the taste for sweets has always been much more absent. In the early 1900s, China was a country of political and economic unrest, resulting in periods of great famine and poverty. In addition, this period of time was marked by strict nationalism and a rejection of foreign goods and beliefs; foreign companies were often barred from the Chinese market completely (3). Even with the economic opening and introduction of capitalism in the 1970s, the Chinese still held these nationalistic views, even pertaining to foods; according to Lawrence Allen in his book Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers, “people became accustomed to a limited range of foods that were predominately indigenous” (3). When chocolate did become introduced, many did not like the taste of it, thinking that it was too sweet and processed (3). This view completely differs from the ubiquitous and second-nature love of sugar and sweets that Westerners have. To food companies, this posed a huge challenge.

To combat these challenges of food preference in entering the Chinese market, sweets companies have had to alter their focus and attention to their other attributes that hold conviction to the Chinese consumer. One of these aspects is their foreign quality and recognition. In China, people often revere foreign products over their own domestic goods; not only are foreign goods considered to be more special and appealing, but with growing health and food safety concerns they are considered to be of highly quality and assurance. In order to appeal to these food beliefs of the Chinese, foreign food companies market themselves as being of foreign controlled quality of high luxury and appeal. They often market themselves heavily as being foreign products by keeping their Western names and faces on their products, and keeping their prices level with Western prices, even though Chinese food goods are often very cheap. Furthermore, they brand themselves as being classic items enjoyed by Westerners; instead of coming of as new, they instead emphasize that these are products already enjoyed by many Westerners around the world, appealing to the Chinese consumer’s adoration of the foreign lifestyle and culture.

In this Kinder commercial, the children already know the Kinder brand and adore it. At the end of the video you can see that the chocolate bar packaging has a picture of a young Western boy, making the product look more foreign and appealing to the Chinese.

By branding themselves as foreign and keeping their prices elevated, chocolate companies in China are also able to emphasize the Chinese culture of gift giving. In China, a country where appearances and status matter immensely to success, gift giving is extremely important. Not only do people give gifts to their loved ones and family, but gift giving during business and political interactions are very common with food products such as alcohol and tobacco (4). Understanding this giving culture in China has been immensely important to food companies hoping to enter the Chinese marketplace- instead of focusing on self-consumption and a playful selfishness involved with eating sweets, companies hoping to gain Chinese customers appeal to a sense charity and lovingness that giving chocolate can elicit.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.42.33 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.43.12 PM

The image on the right is from a Dove chocolate commercial in America; the image on the left is from Dove in China. Notice that in the commercial from China, a man is giving his girlfriend chocolate instead of the woman eating it herself.

Gift giving is a huge part of Chinese culture, especially with ceremonies and celebrations like weddings. Food, such as candy and chocolate, is a hugely popular gift to give.

By emphasizing the aspects of chocolate that aren’t necessarily related to the taste of the food itself, such as the quality, luxury, and lovingness, food companies have been able to quickly take the Chinese market by storm with excitement and popularity. Researchers have speculated that for these companies, their next steps will involve merging with and acquiring local companies, to be able to understand the local market and culture more and diversify their product collection. Furthermore, these acquisitions will allow these foreign companies to grow as they win appeal in the high-end market; as the taste of chocolate becomes more welcome and prevalent, these companies have set themselves up for success with mid-tier cities and regions.

Sources:

1. “China Overview”. World Bank. Web. 14 Mar 2015 <http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/china/overview#1>.

2. “China chocolate market seen growing to $4.3bln by 2019”. Reuters.Web. 14 Mar 2015 <http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/18/hershey-china-chocolate-idUSL1N0VS2MZ20150218&gt;.

3. Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association, 2010. Print.

4. “Chocolate Fortunes”. China Business Review. Web. 14 Mar 2015 <http://www.chinabusinessreview.com/chocolate-fortunes/&gt;.

Media Sources:

Kinder commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEavM7jRV1o

Dove image 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8

Dove image 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eavBWhVLn30

Gift giving: http://marketingtochina.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/give-out-wedding-candy.jpg

From Sacred to Commonplace- The Transformation of Chocolate Consumption

When one hears the word chocolate, images of sweet delicious candies and pastries come to mind, as well as household chocolate company names such as Hershey’s, Nestle, and Cadbury. Chocolate is a ubiquitously loved and enjoyed treat in the modern world; in 2001, 3 billions pounds of chocolate were consumed in the US alone, totaling over $13 billion in sales. Per capita, an American will eat 5.5 kilograms of chocolate annually; this is equivalent to about 150 chocolate bars (The World Atlas of Chocolate, “Chocolate Consumption”). While today people immediately recognize and acknowledge the commonplace consumption of chocolate, in the long human history of chocolate appreciation, spanning over 2000 years, the mass consumption of chocolate as a sweet is a modern phenomenon, occurring only in the last 200 years (“A Brief History of Chocolate”). What spurred the mass production of consumption of chocolate, and how has cacao and chocolate consumption developed from a rare good to a commonplace treat?

The Sacred and Elite Cacao of Mesoamerica

Historically, the beginnings of the role of cacao as a food and commodity has been significantly tied to Mesoamerica, in particular the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. In both societies, cacao was recognized as a delicacy reserved for elite individuals. To the Mayans, cacao was consumed as a ceremonial, ritualistic and “social” food; while commoners were not restricted from consuming cacao, for the most part only the elite could partake in these feasts and ceremonies of indulgence. For the Aztecs, cacao was made into beverages appreciated solely by royalty and elite; it was not thought of as a common beverage to accompany food, but one that would be taken at the end of feasts as a delicacy (Coe and Coe, 95). Aztec scholars called cacao “the heart, the blood”, representing the importance of cacao, and also believed that “the common folk, the needy did not drink it… ‘the heart, the blood are to be feared’” (Coe and Coe, 101). Furthermore, both Mayan and Aztec societies considered cacao to be an important economic good. Cacao was often used as a trading commodity; anything from meat to slaves to prostitutes could be bought with cacao beans. Royalty often demanded cacao beans as tribute and kept them in storehouses as their wealth (Coe and Coe, 59).

The European Introduction to Cacao

When the first European explorers arrived in the Americas, they were introduced to cacao from the Mayans and Aztecs, who revered the product as an elite and important good. Brought back by these explorers of the New World, cacao held the same elite status (albeit without the ritualistic and sacred properties) to European societies. During the Baroque Age (the 17th century), cacao consumption was popular in mansion courts and palaces by the wealthy and royal. Versailles, a palace of over 10,000 officials and noble, regularly served chocolate during its feasts and banquets (Coe and Coe, 156). In England and Spain, these chocolate-serving traditions were similar, and cacao was considered an important economic good, along with coffee and tea, that could bring wealth and riches to those who traded it to the elite and royal.

pic1

Elite in the court of Versailles enjoying a chocolate beverage.

The Industrial Revolution and New Innovations in Cacao Processing

Through the 1700s, Europeans manufactured chocolate in traditional methods that did not differ much from the traditional American methods of production of hundreds of years prior. Workers worked by hand to roast, winnow, and grind cacao to make the cacao liquor, which was at the time thick and grainy and used mainly to produce beverages (Presilla, 39). The work was tedious and could not produce high quality liquor in large batches.

The archaic methods of cacao production severely limited the amount and quality of cacao that was available. However, three innovations during the 1800s completely changed and revolutionized both the quality and quantity of cacao production, leading to the mass consumption of chocolate in the modern world. Firstly, the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s and early 1800s radically changed production and manufacturing across all industries, including the food industry. With the introduction of machines and steam engines, steps in cacao production could be expedited and mechanized. This greatly increased the volume at which cacao could be processed, allowed larger quantities of cacao to be produced and distributed (Presilla, 39).

The next two developments towards the production of modern chocolate improved on the qualities of processed cacao. In 1838, a Dutchman named Conrad Van Houten, along with his father, developed a machine that was able to extract the fatty butter from the cacao bean (Presilla, 39). Previously, this process was done by hand, and could not produce high levels of fat from each bean. However, with Van Houten’s methods, cacao fat butter extraction was increased, and with his machine invention, resulted in a cake-like product of cacao product, or cacao butter (“Conrad Van Houten”). This butter could be used not only to make beverages, but could be combined with other ingredients, including sugar, to make solid foods to be eaten (Presilla, 40). In 1866, the nascent company Cadbury purchased the Van Houten machine, and began to make cacao products to be enjoyed by the masses.

While mechanized production of chocolate and the Van Houten machine improved the capabilities of chocolate production and expanded the horizons for methods of chocolate consumption, the resulting chocolate was still problematic in that it was lumpy and grainy. In 1879, Swiss chocolatier Rodophe Lindt created a machine that allowed for a process called “conching”, which processed the beans for hours to create silky smooth chocolate (Prescilla, 40). This allowed for processed cacao to lose its grainy properties; thus, it could be easily and smoothly incorporated into cake and cookie batters to make sweet treats.

Erste Conche conch

 

Left: The original conching machine, invented by Lindt. Right: Today, conching machines are able to process enormous amounts of chocolate at a time.

With these innovations in the late 1800s, the production and manufacturing of chocolate increased in both quantity and quality. However, most importantly, it resulted in the decreased costs of manufacturing chocolate in bulk. This resulted in a boom of chocolate supply and demand across the globe, leading to the commonplace status of chocolate in our lives today.

 

References:

“A Brief History of Chocolate.” History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places | Smithsonian. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/#0JYhfXylYAAF1VzP.99&gt;.

“Chocolate Consumption.” Chocolate Consumption. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <http://www.sfu.ca/geog351fall03/groups-webpages/gp8/consum/consum.html&gt;.

Coe, S. & Coe, M. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 1996

“Conrad Van Houten: Start of a Chocolate Revolution.” Searching in History. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <http://searchinginhistory.blogspot.com/2014/08/conrad-van-houten-start-of-chocolate.html&gt;.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009.

 

Images:

http://thisisversaillesmadame.blogspot.com/2013/05/chocolate-for-court.html

http://www.chocosuisse.ch/chocosuisse/en/instruction_material/picture_series.html