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Mastering Premium Chocolate Beyond Taste: A Case Study of Godiva’s Placement and Promotion Strategies

Celebrating its 89th year as one of the world’s most popular premium chocolate confectionaries, Godiva has expanded its reach far beyond Belgium, where it was first founded, and now operates more than 600 of its own chocolate boutiques and shops globally. The chocolatier has secured a specialized niche spot in the sweets and chocolate industry. While distinct from large chocolate-manufacturing corporations, like Mars and Hershey’s, which sell their products for general casual mass consumption, Godiva also does not have the localized focus of haute craft chocolatiers, which heavily emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to what they sell. With arguably only a few similar direct competitors in this market, such as Lindt and Ghirardelli, Godiva balances the high-end appeal of its products with their accessibility – selling the chocolate as an “affordable luxury”. As measured in terms of profitability and brand recognition, Godiva’s success as a business can be largely attributed to the chocolatier’s understanding of the fine chocolate market and the particular methods it uses to capitalize on that understanding of how the consumers relate to the product. Specifically, Godiva displays the knowledge that for the consumer, chocolate consumption is not purely rooted in taste, but rather encapsulates various other components of the consumption experience, including how it speaks to their identity and relation to society. Chocolate cannot be successfully sold on the basis of the quality and nature of the product itself; rather, the entire context surrounding the product – what it symbolizes, how it’s presented, what purpose it serves, how it relates to other goods – all have to be taken into consideration. Since these social components can vary among different cultures and groups of people, all this contributes to the formation of a personalized chocolate experience that will effectively appeal to consumers.

In contrast to the perspective that taste is a universal and natural quality that people can experience objectively, there are many arguments that explain that taste is actually a social experience – one that is constructed in and affected by the context of the surrounding cultural and social environment (Norton, 2006). There is no pure and ideal form and understanding of “good” and “bad” taste; rather, such values are influenced by the way society is structured and who or what ranks at the top and bottom of the hierarchy. When it comes to consumption, people do not just consume for the sake of consuming. They are constantly thinking about what that consumption says about their identity and about their positioning and status in reference to others. They are thinking about how consuming other alternatives and substitutes may affect those statements they are making about themselves. As Mintz articulated in his 1985 book, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, sugar was once used as a symbol of rank and social prestige that distinguished the superior from the inferior when it was viewed as a luxury good. Over time, as sugar changed from being a good consumed only by the wealthy to one that was for the mass population, the implications of the product and the act of eating it also altered. The same goes for chocolate. Especially as a good that is not an absolute necessity for survival, the connotations of eating it are sometimes even more important for consumers than the actual product itself. Thus, great care has to be taken into shaping those implications surrounding chocolate, which is reflected specifically in how it is produced and sold.

Artisanal chocolatiers frequently elaborate on how specialized and unique their chocolate is in terms of the care that goes into recipe creation, ingredient selection, actual production, and ultimate presentation. These chocolate craftsman also express outrage at large chocolate mass-producing corporations entering the market and selling their products as substitutes to the chocolate works of art concocted by these specialized confectionaries (Terrio, 2000). Furthermore, they express even greater frustration for how most consumers are not even able to distinguish between these mass-produced sweets, which are often formulated with cheap and artificial ingredients and flavoring, and the authentic and high-quality chocolate they make. This simply demonstrates how unless an individual is a thoroughly educated and informed consumer who specifically seeks out fine chocolate because of an understanding of the production and implications of the product, there is a limit to how much consumers know and care, and how much money and effort they are willing to spend on the eating experience of chocolate (Williams & Eber, 2012). Of course, that is not to say that all consumers don’t see a difference between a cheap candy bar they pick up at a local convenience store and an intricately designed truffle they select from a chocolate boutique. What is most significant about this pattern of behavior is that in a sense, for the general consumer, the consumption of chocolate is not solely about the pure quality of the product itself and its taste, but is also highly dependent on external factors, like its packaging, reputation, and purpose.

Godiva appeals to this specific type of consumer – the average person who doesn’t have extensive knowledge (nor really wants to obtain it) about fine chocolate, so relies heavily on the image and story that is marketed to him/her about the product, who at the same time still wants to elevate his/her status and demonstrate an appreciation for goods of higher quality. Recent trends in chocolate sales indicate specifically an increase in the popularity of premium chocolate. Back between 2002 and 2006, the overall chocolate market grew at a rate of about 17%, while the premium chocolate sector grew at a rate of nearly 70% in that same five-year period (Rupani, 2007). Vreeland & Associates, a confectionary industry market research firm, reported that in the United States, the chocolate market grew to $19.29 billion in 2011 and that premium chocolate accounted for $2.7 billion of those sales, with an expected continual growth of 10% annually (Williams & Eber, 2012). People figure that if they are going to indulge, they might as well treat themselves with a product that tastes better, looks better, and feels better than convenience store candy bars, especially if it’s not unreasonably more expensive or effortful to consume. However, what exactly constitutes “premium chocolate” is subjective to the consumer. The standards could consist of the quality of the cocoa beans and other ingredients, the intricacy of the manufacturing process, whether the chocolate is organic or certified, how distinctly different it tastes from other chocolate, whether it’s artfully packaged – some of these characteristics being valued more than others by different people. Chocolatiers play a significant role in defining the standards of what constitutes refined taste and gourmet chocolate and educating the consumers in that regard (Terrio, 2000). After these standards are set, consumers then buy into the system and internalize and reinforce the evaluations by buying, eating, and gifting particular chocolates with specific social agendas in mind. Godiva is able to consistently hold a unique place in consumers’ lives by continually reinforcing the idea that its brand and products do indeed define and embody what consumers want from “premium chocolate”.

One of the greatest strengths of the company that also contribute to it being automatically grouped with higher-end chocolate brands is the longstanding image and recognizable product packaging associated with the chocolatier – people instantly recognize when the chocolate is Godiva.

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/how-naked-woman-horse-and-family-belgium-created-godiva-chocolate-162826
http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/how-naked-woman-horse-and-family-belgium-created-godiva-chocolate-162826

From the embossed trademark of the courageous Lady Godiva who rode naked through Coventry in efforts to repeal unfair taxation on the citizens to the shimmering gold ballotin down to the satin ribbon tying the whole box together, Godiva’s packaging has been making an eye-catching and impressive statement of class, boldness, and timelessness for decades. When consumers think about Godiva, it is not necessarily the chocolate itself that comes to mind, but the entire wrapped package. In fact, the popularity of buying Godiva as gifts, particularly around special occasions like holidays and birthdays, can most likely be attributed to the brand’s exceptionally alluring appearance. Godiva representatives even agrees that their chocolate is specifically packaged in a way that doesn’t require the consumer to gift-wrap, making it the perfect present.

However, in recent years, especially with some of the setbacks in the economy, Godiva has made a move to change the focus of its business to encompass more than the gifting capability of its products. It has slightly rebranded to allow customers to view the chocolatier in a new way – a brand that they can rely on not only for seasonal gifting, but also for personal indulgence and casual sharing any time of the year. In this sense, the company is differentiating itself from the artisanal craft chocolatiers. Godiva recognizes that its customer reach is global and much less niche than these gourmet shops and subsequently, needs to capitalize on the affordability and accessibility of its chocolate to appeal to its wider and more diverse market share. Thus, the chocolatier has now balanced out the boxes of three dozen assorted chocolates that retail for $50 and lines of fancily designed truffles with new $6 soft serve, frozen Trufflelata drinks (that resemble and are priced similarly to Starbucks Frappuccinos), and individually-wrapped chocolate treats called Godiva Gems (Historic Change, 2014). They’ve started putting their chocolate in grocery stores to appeal to consumers who are looking for treats with more casual and everyday purposes in mind. However, at the same time, the chocolatier is still maintaining its high-quality, premium placement in the chocolate market. This new branding strategy has been doing well for the company, with Godiva sales growing at 10% every year since 2008 and putting its worth at $765 million in 2013 (Historic Change, 2014).

Godiva’s consumer-driven strategy and thorough understanding of the aspects of its products that are most marketable are evident in the way it segments its consumer base and how that’s reflected in the chocolatier’s product advertising. There can be distinct comparisons drawn between Godiva’s promotional tactics in the different countries where its chocolate is sold. In the United States, for example, the accessibility, easy-sharing, and delightful self-indulgence appeal of Godiva chocolate is emphasized.

This commercial campaign targeting American consumers sold Godiva as something that people can fill all aspects of their lives with.

Meanwhile, in Asia, other methods are used. The gift-giving functionality of the chocolate for special occasions, like Valentine’s Day, and the unique addition they contribute to extraordinary celebrations, like weddings, are highlighted in the promotional efforts in countries like Japan and China. 

 In this Japanese commercial, the chocolate is specially wrapped in pink for Valentine’s Day and given between lovers in celebration of romance. Another noteworthy component of both this and the U.S. commercial is that they both emphasize the foreign nature of Godiva – the former one choosing to have the commercial star a Caucasian couple rather than an Asian one, and the latter including a narrator with what is presumably a Belgian accent. The European exoticism of the company contributes to the overall special quality and luxury image of the chocolatier.

This next promotional video that introduces the new Godiva wedding collection that will be sold in China includes a famous Chinese actress to market the new product line.

 China has traditionally been a more difficult market for chocolate companies to break into, because the Chinese have a cultural taste for treats that aren’t sweetened with cream-based fillings, which are quite widespread among European desserts (William & Eber, 2012). However, it’s extremely popular for the Chinese to buy chocolates as gifts or as tangible celebration symbols, and when they do so, they want the chocolate to have the appearance and taste of rareness and high quality. The knowledge of the consumer preference in this region of the world shapes Godiva’s marketing strategy here. Instead of following an advertising campaign similar to the one in the U.S., the confectionary went in a different direction to appeal to this particular market. Moreover, Godiva even created a new chocolate collection just this year for Chinese New Year, a holiday that involves plenty of gift giving and celebrations.

https://www.facebook.com/Godiva
https://www.facebook.com/Godiva

The collection was promoted on Godiva’s popular Facebook page in February. The posts and pictures indicate a clear knowledge of the cultural traditions involved with the holiday – placing the plate of Godiva chocolates on a table with other foods that are eaten for Lunar New Year and Chinese decorations that resemble prosperity and luck. The collection’s popularity is evident with the immediate release of the design for next year’s Chinese New Year (Year of the Monkey), which boasts the same recognizable gold and red Godiva holiday packaging, but features an embossed picture of a monkey alongside the Godiva trademark.

http://www.moodiereport.com/document.php?c_id=37&doc_id=43312
http://www.moodiereport.com/document.php?c_id=37&doc_id=43312

Chocolate consumption in the Asia-Pacific region is predicted to grow at almost twice the global chocolate consumption rate over the next four years and is predicted to reach $16.3 billion in 2018 (Chanjaroen, 2014). Godiva takes advantage of the unique market placement of its chocolate – which contrasts with mass-production companies like Hershey’s, which more directly face Chinese domestic competitors – and expands its product lines for these Asian countries based on what it knows the consumers there favor most about the brand.

Godiva’s success as an internationally recognized premium chocolatier has less to do with the actual taste of its chocolate, especially when compared to other high-end gourmet chocolate brands, than with the way it sells the chocolate consumption experience to its consumers. Of course, this is not to say that Godiva chocolate is no better, in terms of ingredients and manufacturing quality, than chocolate mass-producing companies like Nestle and Mars; the luxury and premium quality of the brand indeed comes from somewhere. However, Godiva is not quite categorized in the same group as true artisan and fine chocolate shops that are really focused on the craft of chocolate making and tasting. What the global confectioner’s success and popularity is rooted in is its unique take on the experience of eating chocolate. Godiva expertly addresses every part of this entire consumption experience from beginning to end, from the way the chocolate looks aesthetically to the purpose for which it’s purchased to what it’s like to eat and taste it to what it says about the consumer who buys it, in terms of both individual and social identity. All of these different components are carefully analyzed and personalized for each individual consumer segment in the market that Godiva operates in. Even so, at the end of the day, in all these various regions around the world, the combination of that gold ballotin and satin ribbon conjures up similar overarching notions of decadence, luxury, tradition, and timelessness.

References

A historic change for Godiva’s golden brand. (2014). CBS News. Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/godiva-broadens-appeal-with-soft-serve/

Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin.

Norton, M. (2006). Tasting Empire: Chocolate And The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics. The American Historical Review, 111(3), 660-691

Rupani, S. (2007). The Sweet Business of Gourmet Chocolate. BloombergBusiness. Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2007-08-31/the-sweet-business-of-gourmet-chocolatebusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

Terrio, S. (2000). Crafting the culture and history of French chocolate. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Williams, P., & Eber, J. (2012). Raising the bar: The future of fine chocolate. Vancouver: Wilmor Pub.

Media

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/how-naked-woman-horse-and-family-belgium-created-godiva-chocolate-162826

https://youtu.be/NGclIK36lPU

https://youtu.be/zOuIPPUqGIk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dqOdctwMk4

https://www.facebook.com/Godiva

http://www.moodiereport.com/document.php?c_id=37&doc_id=43312

Dunking Dunkin”s Charcoal Donut Advertisement Campaign

In the context of consumer products, culture plays a significant role in shaping differences in the development of strategies used to package and promote the products and the resulting interpretations of those methods. What sells in one region of the world may be a total marketing failure in another part, what appeals to audiences in one country could be interpreted as offensive in another. During the fall of 2013, Dunkin’ Donuts Thailand released an advertising campaign for their new product, Charcoal Donut. The ad was immediately perceived as controversial and received harsh criticism, especially internationally. In the United States, both the general population and human rights organizations called the advertisement offensive and racist and demanded Dunkin’ Donuts to apologize (Davidson, 2013). Even though companies decide what products to make available, the consumers are really the ones who guide how they are perceived — what sells, what offends, what matters. Even though in hindsight, the CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts Thailand continued to insist that there was nothing wrong with the ad and that in fact, it was a smash hit in terms of increasing sales, ultimately due to the unpopularity of this campaign internationally, Dunkin’ Donuts had to issue a public apology through their Twitter account:

Taken from AfricanGlobe article

The ad displayed a young woman in blackface makeup with bright pink smiling lips and a hairstyle resembling the 1950’s beehive, holding a chocolate donut in her hand. In Thai, the slogan on the ad read, “Break every rule of deliciousness”. This poster was displayed in numerous eye-catching public locations, from commuter trains to magazine pages.

http://www.adweek.com/files/imagecache/node-blog/blogs/dunkin-donuts-blackface-hed-2013.jpg

Clearly, as the critics validly pointed out, there are several problematic aspects to this ad, and it raises thought-provoking questions about the way chocolate is typically marketed in general. First off, the racism evident in this ad campaign is rather blatant. The ad is drawing a connection between eating a chocolate donut and being black. The dark skin, bright pink lips, and elaborate hairstyle are referencing the American stereotypes for black people prominent in the earlier half of the 20th century, which are now perceived as offensive and racist symbols. What makes matters worse is that the woman is clearly not actually black, but rather her skin has been painted that color. If that wasn’t evident enough in the poster, Dunkin’ Donuts also released a commercial as part of this ad campaign:

In the commercial, the Asian woman takes a bite out of the Charcoal Donut, then black paint splashes everywhere, and she suddenly takes on the appearance we see in the print ad. It is obvious that that the ad’s message is that eating the donut makes the consumer more “black”. Coupled with the slogan, black in this context is being associated with rebelliousness, deliciousness, exoticism, and pleasure. Portraying chocolate as an exotic commodity is something that has been regularly done since chocolate first became a popular consumer good (Leissle, 2012; Robertson, 2009). Chocolate and black are used often to sharply contrast against white and blandness, usually drawing upon historical racial assumptions and stereotypes in the process. Advertisements create specific identities for their products and allow consumers to make statements about themselves and their social environment by consuming these goods (Robertson, 2009). This Dunkin’ ad is encouraging the idea that by consuming the Charcoal Donut, one is breaking the “normal” rules of deliciousness and taking on a whole new sensualized and exotic persona that is symbolized through the color black.

There is also a gender component to this advertisement. Starting in the 1940’s and 1950’s, advertisements started emphasizing the integral role of females in chocolate consumption and marketing directly to them. A popular message is a female character at last indulging in chocolate after resisting temptation and being so enamored and addicted to the chocolate that they lose track of all their senses (Robertson, 2009). Another popularly used character is The Modern Girl, who is displayed as a youthful and attractive consumer of all modern products spanning industries and geographical regions (Leissle, 2012). This Dunkin’ ad draws on both of these ideas to market its Charcoal Donut. By indulging in the pleasure that is brought on by eating this donut, the consumer will be just like this Modern Girl in terms of being able to release her inner “blackness” and everything it’s supposed to symbolize.

In response to this ad, we’ve created the one below:

Dunkin' Donuts Chocolate Ad
Lu & Rahman, 2015

With the takeaway message being that “deliciousness has no rules”, our ad depicts consumers of all ages, genders, and races coming together in a circle that resembles the shape of a donut. Instead of focusing on the “black”ness of the donut, our ad more heavily highlights the cohesiveness and unity implications of the product. It is marketed towards all different types of audiences, because it emphasizes how just one taste of the donut can bring people together.

Work Cited

Davidson, J. (2013). Dunkin’ Donuts Run Racist Charcoal Donut Ad In Thailand. AfricanGlobe.net. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from http://www.africanglobe.net/headlines/dunkin-donuts-run-racist-charcoal-donut-ad-thailand/

Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(9), 121-139.

Robertson, E. (2009). ‘A deep physical reason’: Gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 18-55). Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Life Has Always Been Delicious With Hershey’s: Comparing Hershey’s Ads

Hershey’s was the first chocolate company in the industry and still remains one of the largest players today. As a company that possesses such an established history and with a product that has remained relatively consistent at its core through a constantly changing environment, Hershey’s has clearly constructed an unmatched reputation and captured a unique, irreplaceable place in the hearts of consumers. A close study of the company’s branding and advertising techniques over the last few decades reveals that Hershey’s ultimate takeaway messages about its products have remained the same, with a strong emphasis on the pure, universally “good”, quality taste of its chocolate, the positive emotions conjured up by its consumption, and how sharing it strengthens relationships.

Since Milton Hershey founded the company back in 1894, Hershey has been focused on creating chocolate consumed by the general American public (DAntonio, 2006). Although the specific target audience segments have changed a little bit since the beginning, with earlier chocolates being more luxurious and later chocolates being designed for common mass consumption, Hershey’s has always emphasized the central role of the chocolate itself in all of its products, fully mastering the entire process from how the chocolate is produced to how it is packaged and marketed. While similar chocolate companies, such as Mars, have created different candy variations based on chocolate, Hershey’s has continued to be the most steadfast in its focus on the simple quality and taste of its chocolate (Brenner, 2000). Although there certainly are a variety of different Hershey products, they are still more grounded on the fundamental chocolate the company is known for, more so than similar companies, whether that be with the early Hershey’s Kiss and almond bars to Kit-Kats and Reese’s later on (DAntonio, 2006). Whereas, with candy products like Snickers, M&M, and Milky Way that significantly consist of other ingredients, Mars has not always completely centered the development of its products on pure chocolate the way Hershey’s has.

Hershey’s focus on chocolate production and taste is reflected in the way it has advertised its products over the past few decades. Most likely because it is considered the first original chocolate company, Hershey’s didn’t even really need to focus on promotional campaigns until the late 1960s because the brand carried itself (Craig, 2001). However, with consumers being offered a variety of new candy products in the later half of the century, Hershey’s commercials began solidifying what makes their products stand out among the rest.

One key aspect that was particularly emphasized in the 1980s was how timeless, “American”, and reliable Hershey’s chocolate was.

 This commercial stressed how Hershey’s was there since the beginning, was a snack that could be enjoyed at any time, and symbolized the diversity and pride that was America. A 1987 commercial positioned Hershey’s as popular among the period’s most famous stars and icons.

 These ads showed that while society and pop culture continued to change with time, Hershey’s has been consistently “great” through it all.

Another focus of Hershey’s ads is on the pure quality taste of its products and how that makes consumers feel. An ad currently on Hershey’s website epitomizes how its products are still all about the chocolate, with everything else simply as additions to enhance the flavor.

 It’s also interesting to draw similarities between a commercial in 1987 about Hershey’s candy bar and one in 2014 about Hershey’s new chocolate spreads.

While the products have changed, largely dependent on what is currently demanded amongst consumers, both commercials focus on how delightful tasting Hershey’s continues to be.

Finally, the other aspect of Hershey’s that has also remained central to its message is how sharing its chocolate products simply brings people together. From sweet and poignant mother-child bonding over Hershey bars in an older ad to fun family and friends gathering over Hershey chocolate s’mores in a recent commercial, the brand symbolizes not only quality taste, but also quality time with loved ones. 

 

While the specific details of the various advertisements have differed over the years, depending on what activities and references are most salient to target consumers, the main associations Hershey’s wants people to make in terms of their chocolate products have remained clear and consistent. The brand has made a strong statement in saying that no matter how the surrounding environment and society continues to evolve, Hershey’s has been here since the beginning and will be here to stay, with the same simply pure quality taste that makes consumers feel happy.

Media Cited

1987 Hershey’s Commercial (One of the All-Time Greats). Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dZ3svPD32Y

Hershey’s chocolate candy bar commercial 1980. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2qex2cLj_M

We Love It. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA-6PG0Pop8

Hershey’s confectionary – ‘you can’t hide a Hershey’s smile’ (Australian ad, 1987). Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNRZoLoq-cQ

Hershey’s Spreads TV Commercial. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DwJeruGFQs

Let’s Share a Hershey Bar – Vintage Advertisement. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuPcEQWeT_w

Hershey’s TV Commercial, ‘S’mores’. Accessed on March 12, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oROkBRde1pI

Work Cited

Brenner, J. (1999). To the Milky Way and Beyond, Breaking the Mold. In The emperors of chocolate: Inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House.

Craig, D. (2001, April 21). A Taste for Nostalgia: Hershey’s advertising a model of consistency, says visiting COM alum. B.U. Bridge. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.bu.edu/bridge/archive/2001/04-27/hershey.html

D’Antonio, M. (2006). Here There Will Be No Unhappiness. In Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Healthy to Indulge

To this day, people claim that eating chocolate has several health benefits. From building stronger hearts to having antioxidant and antiflammatory properties to improving people’s moods, it’s a wonder how something that is viewed as such a delightful treat in our current social and cultural world can have so many health implications as well. How much of it is true, how much of it is derived from historical beliefs, and how does that all play into the way people perceive chocolate even today?

Multiple health and science websites advocate eating chocolate for a variety of benefits. Photo from: http://www.ilovefoodsomuch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/12-Health-Benefits-of-Dark-Chocolate.jpg

Tracing back to the first references of cacao, the Mayan and Aztec civilizations used it for a variety of purposes, including medicinal reasons (Coe & Coe, 2013). The Mayans were the first to teach the Old World how to drink chocolate. The Aztecs had an incredible knowledge of their surrounding plant world and understood the health effects these plants, including cacao, could have on the body. The two civilizations treated cacao as a “food of the gods”, oftentimes with only the elite and royalty able to access it. Coincidentally, those members of the upper echelon of these populations also lived the longest. The medicinal use of cacao is also described in the Badianus Manuscript, which is dated to 1552 in Mexico (Lippi, 2013). It underlines the use of cacao for remedying common problems like constipation, hemorrhoids, indigestion, and fatigue.

When chocolate was introduced to the Europeans, its effects on people’s moods after consumption were immediately evident and its medicinal implications were quickly cited (Lippi, 2013). At the time, a Hippocratic-Galenic approach to health and medicine was prevalent. People believed that the body contained four humours — blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile, and that one’s diet could balance out any unbalanced areas. Francisco Hernandez, the royal physician to Philip II of Spain, said that the cacao seed could be ultimately characterized as “cold and humid” and thus, “hot” people (ex: someone who has a fever) should drink chocolate to cool off (Coe & Coe, 2013). In Italy, Roman physician, Paolo Zacchia claimed that while the cacao seed is naturally “very cold”, all of the additional flavorings and ingredients added to its recipes make it “very hot” and that while it would aid with digestion, it should be used cautiously as a result. Clearly, different beliefs, sometimes even conflicting and contradictory, were held about cacao consumption back then. People could not say, without a doubt, what exact effects chocolate had on the human body.

From the 17th through the 19th century, a variety of different accounts of chocolate cited its presumed health merits and properties. Those features could be divided into three main categories – the ability to affect weight gain, to stimulate nervous systems, and to improve digestion (Lippi, 2013). Throughout the 20th century, after chocolate started becoming mass produced and consumed popularly, chocolate also began to be perceived in a negative light, with associations to obesity and unhealthy diets. However, there were still positive health features of chocolate that continued to be upheld, even as a greater scientific understanding of the chemical and biological components of chocolate was formed. Dark chocolate’s proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties reinforced its benefits in treating cardiovascular diseases and gastrointestinal and respiratory problems, and maintaining mental health (Lippi, 2013). Especially now, with greater knowledge of caffeine, theobromine, serotonin, and the other chemical compounds found in chocolate, we can more precisely pinpoint what the reasons are for heart palpitations, happier moods, and enhancement of pleasurable activities that are oftentimes associated with eating chocolate.

Some populations still support the direct medicinal effects of cacao. The Kuna Indians of Panama are known for having one of the lowest rates of cardiovascular diseases in the world, and that has been connected to their high consumption levels of cacao. Special websites also still allow people to purchase chocolate that has assumedly been prepared and packaged for medicinal purposes. However, for the most part today, while chocolate is no longer used directly as a medical cure or remedy for illness, it is still acknowledged for having beneficial effects on health and beauty, as promoted frequently:

Promotional posters and advertisements (such as pictured above) assert that including dark chocolate in one’s diet will make it healthier. Photo from: http://www.fitnessrxwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/MARCELA-DARK-CHOCOLATE.jpg
Topical applications of chocolate, such as facial masques, have also become popular for beauty regimens. Topical uses of cacao, such as its “butter” being used to cure hemorrhoids, were also cited in historical descriptions (Lippi, 20213). Photo from: http://images.beautyworldnews.com/data/images/full/13496/chocolate-facial.jpg

It is interesting to trace which beliefs about the properties of chocolate were derived from historical accounts and which were newly discovered as a result of scientific advancements. There is still much more research that needs to be done on chocolate consumption to fully understand all of its long-term health implications and effects. However, the positive note is that with something that tastes as delicious as chocolate, there are plenty of other reasons besides health to consume it.

References

Coe, S., & Coe, M. (1996). The True History of Chocolate (3rd ed.). London: Thames and Hudson.

Lippi, D. (2013). Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-Food. Nutrients5(5), 1573–1584.

Rivero, T. (2011, April 1). Cocoa and the Kuna Indians of Panama. Medicine Hunters. http://www.medicinehunter.com/cocoa-and-kuna-indians-panama

http://www.chocolateapothecary.com/