All posts by aaas119x269

Effects of Nationality on Chocolate Preferences

I once found a 12-pack of Kit Kats in the Amsterdam airport on my layover home from Uganda. I was ecstatic. My idea of “normal” chocolate bars were not available in the places I stayed in Uganda, and why would I buy just one when I could buy this pack of twelve duty-free. I’ll never forget my extreme disappointment when I broke into the first one after the plane had taken off. They tasted awful! Somehow they were too creamy or milky: just plain bad. The crunch was there, but the chocolate was off. I understood chocolate varied by country, but I thought something as normal as a Kit Kat would be the same everywhere. I was severely mistaken. This was my first experience with chocolate differences internationally, and it was eye opening.

This experience exemplifies that the chocolate market has catered to the differences in preferences across countries. How did these preferences come to be? Are European people biologically predisposed to prefer chocolate with more milk than Americans? Probably not. The differences in taste most likely originated from each country’s unique history of chocolate consumption.

With the rise of global consumerism, today you can find Snickers in Germany, Cadbury Dairy Milk in America, and Milo (an Australian chocolate drink) in Canada. Through a series of interviews with various people of different nationalities, I have determined that despite this global market, one’s nationality and country of upbringing definitely affect one’s chocolate preferences. Children’s chocolate preferences across the world are in flux, influenced by advertisements, their family’s preferences, and the preferences of their peers. Likewise, once children become adults, their chocolate preferences are mostly established. All of the factors that influence children vary by country, and continue to lend diversity and complexity to the chocolate market.

The widespread chocolate market began with companies like Cadbury, Nestle, Lindt, and Hershey, as they innovated with chocolate to make it scalable for the masses. Cadbury started in the United Kingdom and had the privilege to be the royal chocolate suppliers for Queen Victoria (Coe, Ch 8). It is no wonder that Cadbury is still so popular among the British. Likewise, Nestle in Switzerland discovered how to make powdered milk, which was able to capitalize on the large Swiss dairy industry (Coe, Ch 8). Today, Swiss chocolate is known for being milkier (Alberts). Hershey, founded in America, wanted to make chocolate affordable for everyone, so focused on cutting costs by lowering the amount of cocoa and increasing the amount of sugar, which was cheaper (Coe Ch 8, “European”). Thus, Americans have grown up with sweeter chocolate that uses less cocoa, whereas Europeans pride themselves on the high cocoa content and smoother chocolate (made by increasing the fat content) (“European”). The Spanish, on the other hand, generally prefer stronger, more bitter chocolate; it is closer to what the original chocolate brought from the New World would have tasted like (Alberts). As certain companies gained traction at the start of the big chocolate expansion, their localized environment developed preferences for their type of chocolate (Alberts). These preferences developed and refined over time, combining with advertising and other factors to create national preferences that still exist today.

The different chocolate markets and general preferences affect children as they are growing up in these countries. Advertisements are a critical source of influence. Numerous studies show the susceptibility of children to advertisements, especially those targeted specifically at kids (Gunter 52). In fact, children are so likely to be influenced by advertisements that strict regulations have been put in place to limit the extent to which children as mislead by advertisements’ exaggerations (Gunter 132).

Because advertisements are directly targeted at children and children have been proven to be extremely susceptible to the influence of advertisements, chocolate advertisements play a large role in children’s chocolate preferences. Of the interviewees who watched television when they were younger, all of them remember at least one chocolate advertisement that stuck with them to this day. An interview with a college student who grew up in Newcastle, England, particularly remembered the Cadbury and Cadbury Dairy Milk advertisements (Nick). If the Cadbury advertisements are as ridiculous as they are today, it is easy to understand why. The following is a Cadbury advertisement from 2009. The advertisement shows no relevance to their actual chocolate product, but will gain the attention of kids nonetheless, insinuating that the joy and fun observed in these videos will be theirs if they eat Cadbury too.

Similarly, an Australian grad student remembers the ads for Milo chocolate energy drinks.

“It’s a chocolaty ‘energy’ drink, but it’s ridiculously delicious and also comes in chocolate bars. Kids grow up on it.” (Timnah).

Notably, only the British interviewees talked about Cadbury advertisements, whereas American interviewees talked about Snickers, Hershey, and other chocolates more popular in America. As someone who grew up in Minnesota, I had never heard of Milo until the Australian interviewee told me of its importance to Australian children. A child’s nationality definitely affects the advertisements they see and are influenced by. These advertisements vary by country, aligning with the companies that are the most popular and have the most market share. Consequently, children develop preferences for the chocolate that is already prevalent in their country.

Children are also influenced by their parent’s chocolate preferences. When children live in a different country from the one their parents grew up in, they still develop preferences for the chocolate of the parents’ nationality. One generation ago, chocolate was more of a localized good. According to an interviewee from Canada with Dutch parents, when her parents were younger, a vast majority of their chocolate consumption was Dutch chocolate (Jessica). Thus, the older generations developed even more specific chocolate preferences than children today. These parents keep certain kinds of chocolate in the house, prefer to buy those kinds at the store, and use chocolate for occasions as they were raised to do in their childhood country. Consequently, children in these families also develop these taste preferences and practices. For example, the same interviewee with Dutch parents prefers Dutch chocolate to American and Canadian chocolate. It is familiar to her because of her upbringing and it reminds her of home. She also talked about the practice of giving chocolate letters on Christmas, and spoke fondly of the chocolate practices surrounding Sinterklass, a Dutch holiday celebrated in the beginning of December. This holiday has special types of chocolate that children receive for putting out hay and carrots for the Dutch “Santa’s” animals (Jessica). Her love for Dutch chocolate practices and preferences were influenced by her families tastes and customs.

However, children are also influenced by their peers and new locations. Children often receive chocolate at school, whether its for Valentine’s Day in America, Halloween in Australia, or other local customs and practices. Children also find chocolate at friend’s birthday parties or other occasions with their peers. These experiences allow children to develop tastes for local chocolate even if their family has different chocolate preferences. The Canadian girl with Dutch parents admitted that she loved Dutch chocolate, but that she became used to Reece’s, Snickers, and other common North American chocolates. Now in college, she finds it hard to buy Dutch chocolate, as it is not commonly sold in stores like CVS. In order to get her chocolate fix, she is just fine with American brands like Hershey and Mars. (Jessica) Another girl who moved to New Jersey from Namibia at the age of five expressed similar experiences. She definitely grew to like American chocolate, and attributes it to the chocolate she had at school and with friends. “Hershey’s is definitely my favorite,” she claimed  (Mimi) It’s hard to get any more American than that. Thus, children develop tastes similar to their friends, due to shared experiences and perhaps even peer pressure to conform.

Unlike children, adults are less likely to switch their chocolate preferences when moving to a new country. This is likely because their preferences were formed and cemented while they were children, from a combination of advertising, familial, and peer influences. An interviewee from Australia illustrated this phenomenon.

“I hate American chocolate, it’s gross! I definitely still prefer Australian chocolate. And I guarantee you that if you ask any other Australian, they will say the same thing. We crave Australian chocolate, probably more than Americans crave American chocolate when they are abroad. Its part of our culture.” (Timnah)

Likewise, the British interviewees who only moved to America to attend college showed express disgust for American chocolate.

“I definitely prefer Cadbury, plain old Cadbury Dairy Milk is the best. American chocolate is disgusting, I don’t know how you live with it.” (Nick)

In summary, national chocolate preferences developed because of a combination of factors, including that chocolate was originally a local good, which led to availability and market power of certain brands. These national taste trends were cemented, especially for the older generations. With the increase in global consumer products, most large brand name chocolate has become available all over the world. Nonetheless, children develop preferences based on their nationality. Within their countries, they are influenced by advertisements, their family’s preferences, and their peers’ tastes. If their family moves locations, they may develop dual preferences associated with both nationalities. However, this preference development stage has an age limit: most people who move to a different country after childhood maintain the chocolate preferences they formed as children based on their nationality. Nationality has an indelible impact on chocolate preferences. Differences like these contribute to the complex and diverse picture of chocolate preferences around the world.

Works Cited

Alberts, Heike, and Julie Cidell. Chocolate Consumption, Manufacturing and Quality in Western (n.d.): 218-26. University of Washington, 2006. Web. 5 May 2015.

Cadbury Eyebrows Advertisement. Web. Accessed May 5 2015. <;

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Chocolate Letter Image. Web. Accessed May 5 2015. < >

“European vs. American Chocolate: What’s the Difference?” Gourmet Boutique Tasting Room. N.p., 03 July 2013. Web. 05 May 2015.

Gunter, Barrie, Caroline Oates, and Mark Blades. Advertising to Children on TV: Content, Impact, and Regulation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005. Print.

Milo Advertisement. Web. Accessed May 5 2015. <;

Tim Tam Image. Web. Accessed May 5 2015. <;

“The hand that picks the cocoa and the hand that reaches for the chocolate bar”

This Cadbury ad shows two well-dressed children wiggling their eyebrows at falsely energetic rates to a goofy tune before fading into the typical four-second Cadbury promotion. Cadbury’s caption offers no further clarification as to the purpose of the video: “We are back with yet another feat of ridiculousness and joy.” The ad is somehow supposed to convince buyers to purchase Cadbury chocolate. There is no chocolate visible in the video, and chocolate is not even offered as the explanation to the hyper eyebrow activity. The target audience of the advertisement is most likely children from Britain (and maybe other high-income countries) who can be entertained by this silly ad.

Instead of simply entertaining, chocolate companies should use their advertisements to shine light on the dire situations of child labor in Africa. The advertisement we designed compares the lives of children in places like America and Europe with the lives of those on African cocoa farms. It does so by juxtaposing the use of a benign object – a basket – put to use in two different ways. In the western communities, a kid’s basket is filled with chocolate as a treat for the holiday celebration of Easter. In Africa, this kid uses a basket to collect and transport cocoa pods. While the Easter celebrations are just one example of the prominent and accessible role of chocolate as a treat in the West, this kid’s contributions are just one example of the child labor practices that sustain the cocoa supply chain in Africa. In Africa, thousands of children work long hours in unsafe conditions for minimal or no compensation. Education is often impossible. This advertisement is intended to inform the public and call attention to the disparities between these children’s lives.


In addition to more purposeful advertisements, chocolate companies should invest their resources in the battle to improve the entire cocoa industry. As is demonstrated by the CNN video in the link below, the media has taken up investigation of child labor within cocoa production.  It is in chocolate companies best interests to invest in this change. As the public becomes aware of the dire situation still existing in the cacao supply chains, it is not only imperative that the chocolate companies strive to make a difference in order to keep their business afloat. It is also their moral responsibility to help improve the lives of those they work with. The industry has taken steps, but more is needed. (CNN)

The child labor practices cannot be solved by consumer or company boycott of cocoa farmed by children. Most children in the cocoa industry are working on small family farms. These families have no choice – they need all the helping hands just to make enough money to survive. These farms have no way to move beyond hand-to-mouth production. Boycotting their products would harm these families and their region’s economy more than the chocolate companies. (Ryan) Thus, we must work to reform the entire system, and not just the supply chain of cacao, but the political, economic, and societal practices that keep so many African laborers dependent on the cycle of poverty.

Off finds elegant, if sensational, words to describe the current situation. “As I look at the young faces, the questions in their eyes are the measure of a vast gulf between the children who eat chocolate on their way to school in North America and those who have no school at all, who must, from childhood, work to survive.” This gulf that Off describes is very real; we are very far from closing the “distance between the hand that picks the cocoa and the hand that reaches for the chocolate bar.” However, with meaningful and responsible investment from chocolate companies, we can hope to make progress against the cycle of poverty that enslaves so many cocoa laborers.

Works Cited

Cadbury Eyebrows (official version). 1/23/09. Youtube video.

CNN. Can the chocolate industry change its ways. The CNN Freedom Project. Video 3/6/14.

Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. pp. 1-8, 119-161

Ryan, Orla. 2011. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. pp. 43-62

Images for created ad:

Easter kids. Professor Smarty Pots. Science Blog.

African kid with basket of cocoa. The Frog Blog. Eradicating child labour- how Rainforest Alliance certification can help.

Shifting Advertising Trends for Big Chocolate in the 20th Century

During and immediately after the rise of big chocolate, the competition was stiff between Mars and Hershey, Cadbury and Rowntree. The relationships between companies, especially Mars and Hershey, were not hostile, but nevertheless, they were both fighting to be the favorite chocolate. (1) Advertisements effectively claimed whatever they wanted without punishment for false advertising. Some targeted consumers’ desires to be more attractive or better citizens, some argued that it improved overall happiness, and others argued that eating any chocolate was good for your health. In contrast, as consumer consciousness (of both advertising and health) improved throughout the 20th century and false advertising began to be punished (2), companies realized they couldn’t say whatever they wanted. While some ads still used basic appeals to consumers’ desire to be attractive or successful citizens, in general by the end of the century, advertising became more realistic, focusing on chocolate as either an indulgence or a super food, depending on the type.

Early ad campaigns capitalized on consumer desires, convincing adult consumers that eating chocolate would make them attractive and better citizens. It could make you “the life of the party” (3). Eating chocolate was even portrayed as patriotic. It was a fighting food, one fit for the brave soldiers who were defending America against foreign enemies. (4) It made soldiers stronger, it made them better fighters, and it made America better off in the war. Just eating Whitman’s chocolates made you more American. (5)

Chocolate was also targeted at kids and parents as something that made their lives better. It was delicious, why shouldn’t parents provide it to their kids? Rowntree’s chocolate gave “Delight in every bite”. (6) It provided an easy, delicious meal for kids. (7)

Numerous ad campaigns tried to convince people of the nutrition benefits of all chocolate. Chocolate was advertised as “building bone and muscle”. (8) Cadbury went so far as to say, “As a beverage it is delicious, and as a foot it contains so many valuable constituents necessary for building up of brain and muscle that no housewife out to be without it.” (9) Cadbury ads even prompted consumers to “Eat More Milk”, boasting that each half-pound contained a “1½ glasses of English full cream milk”, as if the milk in chocolate provided the same health benefits as that of true milk. (10) These claims are made more preposterous by the fact that they are advertising for their milk chocolate, which has as much sugar and fat as possible in order to reduce the amount spent on true cocao.

Chocolate ads today still use various methods to target basic consumer values, but the values they target have modulated. Ads that used to just make women look appealing now use more blatant sex appeal. (11) And as patriotism became less important to Americans throughout the century, ads began to appeal to consumer status instead. (12)

Today, some ads have resorted to portraying chocolate, realistically, as just too good to pass up. These companies aren’t trying to convince consumers chocolate makes them better or healthier. Its benefit comes from the pleasure of indulgence. They let the product speak for itself, either through imagery or witty words. An Aero chocolate ad claims that the gooey caramel bar close up also contains “Ooooooooohs and Mmmmmmmms” (13), which might be a subliminal sexual message to further bolster the consumers’ desire. Filthy chocolate asks the consumer to “Indulge your obsession for chocolate” directly. (14) Dove quips, “Good thing your taste buds can’t read the package”, referring to the fact that their sugar-free chocolate apparently tastes just as good, (15) but also ironically addressing the fact that when consumers eat chocolate, taste buds and desire are contradicted by their common health sense.

Today, if the ads do make health claims, they obtain credibility by being based off scientific studies (16) about health benefits of cocao to convince consumers that this specific chocolate is healthy for you in certain circumstances. Hershey’s message is simple: “Eat Healthy” (17) by consuming our dark chocolate. Most people today realize that normal chocolate is unhealthy because of its high sugar and fat content, but that dark chocolate is better for you because it contains more cacao. By harnessing this knowledge instead of making untenable claims, Hershey is able to capitalize on the current health trend. Got Milk provides another example, piggybacking off recent studies that indicate chocolate milk may have the right balance of sugar, protein, carbs, and other nutrients for a post-workout meal. (18) By aligning their claims with current scientific studies, these chocolate companies actually take advantage of the health craze.

This change in chocolate companies’ approach to health advertising comes from a rise in consumer consciousness regarding health, in addition to enforcement of false advertising. The most memorable false advertising for chocolate nutrition actually ended up in court, though the lawsuit was settled. (19) A mother thought that this video (20) indicated that Nutella provided a healthy breakfast for her kids.

Today, false advertising will be punished, which has resulted in a gradual change in advertising strategy for chocolate companies. Gone are the health ads (unless they are backed by science). Some ads still play to consumers’ desires, such as desire to be attractive and desire for social status, but many others simply try to convince consumers to indulge via visual imagery. Still, chocolate companies continue to harness consumer desires in advertising, whether health, attractiveness, status, indulgence, patriotism, or pleasure.

  1. Scholarly source: Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.
  2. Scholarly source: Federal Trade Commision. “Health Claims.” Truth In Advertising. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015. <;.
  3. Image. Accessed 3.12.15.<;
  4. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  5. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  6. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  7. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  8. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  9. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  10. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  11. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  12. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  13. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  14. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  15. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  16. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  17. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  18. Image. Accessed 3.12.15. <;
  19. Scholarly source: “Nutella Maker May Settle Deceptive Ad Lawsuit For $3 Million.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <;.
  20. Video. Accessed 3.12.15. <;

The money that grew on trees

In the time of the Aztecs, the use of cacao beans as currency, tribute to the emperor, and wages, along with the extensive counterfeiting trade that occurred, demonstrate the value the Aztecs placed on the chocolate beverage.

In the Aztec empire, a thriving trade developed around the cacao bean as currency. It was known as the coin of the realm. Cacao served this economic purpose during both the conquest and colonial eras, but historians have much more information about exchange rates from the latter time period (Coe, 90). A list of some known exchange rates from a Nahuatl document from Tlaxcala in 1545 demonstrates the peoples’ ability to exchange the beans for various food products. However, according to Presilla, cacao beans could be exchanged for anything from a turkey to sex (Presilla, 14).

A turkey hen for 100 full beans or 120 shrunken beans

A turkey cock for 200 beans

A hare for 100 beans

A small rabbit for 30

A turkey egg for 3 cacao beans

An avocado for 3 beans

A large tomato for 1 bean

A large sapote fruit for 1 bean

A tamale for 1 bean

A fish in maize husks for3 beans

The monetary value of cacao fluctuated with respect to its availability (Coe, 90). It is not unlikely the price of a common item, such as a turkey, fluctuated widely from region to region and season to season. Additionally, as the exchange rates were transcribed and translated, they could have been misinterpreted. Because of this, it is not uncommon to find a wide variety of cacao prices. This video indicates that a cacao bean could be traded for twenty small tomatoes, while the document above indicated that one bean would buy one large tomato. 

Cacao beans were also used to pay salaries, such as wages for soldiers or even other laborers (Coe, 98). According to one source, the daily wage of a porter in central Mexico was 100 cacao beans (Coe, 90). In addition to wages, the cacao beans were used to pay tribute to the emperor. For one cacao-growing region in the Aztec world, 200 loads of cacao beans and 400 drinking bowls were expected, as is indicated by the ten flag-like symbols attached to cacao beans in this picture.

The tributes paid to the Aztec emperor included Jaquoire skins and cacao beans.

What defined a load of cacao? Cacao was counted in base 20, so a tzontli of cacao was 400 cacao beans, and a xiquipilli was 8000 beans (Coe 82). A normal load of cacao was three xiquipillis, or 24,000 beans (Coe 82).

In order for something to be used as currency, it had to be sufficiently valuable and rare. It seems that cacao fit those standards in Aztec society. The fact that the people were willing to transform something they could use to pay a necessary tribute into something they could exchange for everyday items only increases its value. Indeed it seems that cacao’s purpose as a food source for the elite was secondary in importance to its use as a payment method for any and all persons in the kingdom.

The value the Aztecs placed on cacao was evident not only from its conversion from food source to currency, but also from the enormous stores of cacao that the emperor required. According to some sources, the king needed four xiquipillis for his daily needs, including making payments and drinking chocolate for the elite (Coe, 82). His warehouse probably held around 40,000 loads of cacao.

The Spanish, always keen on anything that seemed to hold monetary value, made moves to gain access to the rich cacao beans as soon as they realized their societal value. The Spanish began to export cacao back from the New World after acquiring it in various ways. One story even told of a midnight heist of cacao from the emperor that the Spanish carried out with the help of 300 soldiers (Coe, 82). The relationship between the Spanish and Cacao can be further explored at this link

The thriving counterfeiting process also demonstrates the value of cacao beans in Aztec society. Many methods developed to supplement existing stores of beans with similar-looking fakes. Some were made of wax, avocado pit, or dough (Coe, 91). These fake cacao beans were then tossed in with a supply of normal beans to augment the stock. The labor-intensive process of creating fake cacao beans indicates the valuable reward that the beans could attain.

Cacao was extremely valuable to all the people in the Aztec empire, despite the restriction of consumption to only the wealthy elite. Its conversion to currency, the massive stocks cultivated by the empire, and the counterfeiting process that developed all indicate the extreme importance of this natural resource. As Peter Martyr (the same old-world chronicler who coined the phrase “The New World”) indicated, it seems that for the Aztec, money truly did grow on trees (Coe, 98).

Works Cited
Coe, Sophie. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001. Print.