All posts by aaas119x249

Taking Advantage of the European Narrative

Image 1: A depiction of Columbus landing in the “New World”

Branding, perhaps, is the most critical part of advertising and is the crutch to every corporation’s success. It’s everything. Branding determines which consumers you reach out to, what image you want your product to have, and what you want your consumers to remember about your product. Furthermore, branding as a whole, whether good or bad, plays a large part in your consumer base (how many customers you have), your company’s identity (how iconic you are/become), and your profits. The leading players in the world of chocolate, Hershey’s, Cadbury, Nestle, Mars, and Ferrero Rocher are no strangers to this (Martin). Each have carefully calculated, analyzed, and determined what branding their chocolate will take, with not a single detail going to waste. And what they do does matter, considering Hershey, Mars, and Nestle make up 99.4% of the world’s snack sized chocolate market (Martin). After asking fellow classmates about chocolate and cacao I found out an astonishing fact: while all students acknowledged to some extent the role South America has to play in cacao and chocolate history, very few students acknowledged the role Africa has in chocolate production, and every student gave credit to either the United States or a European nation for having the best chocolate.

Why would such a phenomenon occur, especially when most of the largest players dominating the market have their cacao come from African nations like Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, and Nigeria? The secret behind this lies in the branding. Upon examining chocolate bars, one finds that the location of the beans is rarely advertised. Instead, what dominates the bars appearance is the company’s name and logo. In addition, when taking a closer look at chocolate history Africa as a whole has largely been left out of the common and general narrative. From this, it can be deduced that the world’s largest chocolate makers take advantage of the dominant and nearly exclusive European narrative of chocolate to place consumer focus and loyalty on their own individual corporations rather than the origin of the cacao beans used to make their chocolate, in order to ensure better success, recognition, and protection.

(Data table generated from survey responses of seven subjects)

Data for AFAM

Interested in what general knowledge my classmates had, I interviewed a handful of students in my year, asking general questions such as “Which nations do you associate chocolate with?” and “Where is the most cacao grown?” The main distinction I made in my questions was for simplicity in which chocolate referred to the finished, packaged product and cacao referred to the cacao beans of the tree. Although their overall chocolate knowledge was not extensive or accurate, one trend in particular caught my mind. My classmates consistently associated the “best chocolate” with European nations, cacao and its history with Latin America, and largely left out Africa out of the picture. What was even more interesting was that my classmates identified the nations that had the best chocolate mainly through their own taste—general opinion having minimal influence—citing their favorite brands such as Cadbury, Nestle, Hershey, etc. as the reason for their answer. The results of this survey perplexed me. If my classmates were more associated with and cognizant of larger chocolate brands whose main source of cacao is bulk cacao grown in West Africa, why did they leave West Africa out of the narrative?

One of the answers lies in the general narrative of chocolate. Unfortunately, more often then not, the European narrative of chocolate is the dominant narrative. Few people have been able to experience the voices of Mesoamerica, specifically of those of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Among scholars is the false running idea that the Spaniards found chocolate’s taste so appalling and unappetizing they attempted to fix the bad flavor through means of sweetening with spices like vanilla and sweeteners like sugar (Norton, 660). However, this idea is problematic as it portrays the image of sophisticated Spaniards coming down from Europe and taking chocolate, originally a simple, distasteful food of the locals, and making it “better,” more edible, and delicious. This feeds into the superiority complex of Europe in which everything it comes to touch or own is automatically better and greater than the prior product of the natives. Norton sets to correct this idea, stating, “The Spanish did not alter chocolate to fit the predilections of their palate. Instead, Europeans unwittingly developed a state for Indian chocolate, and they sought to re-create the indigenous chocolate experience in America and in Europe…[leading] to a cross-cultural transmission of taste” (660). Norton argues that colonialism and the transfer of food is not one sided, nor is it “something done to someone else”; instead he argues that it is an exchange with the “struggles and endeavors in the periphery change[ing] the society and culture, as well as the economy, of the metrople” (661). So while it should be seen as Mesoamerica playing a huge role in both cacao and chocolate, it is currently seen as Mesoamerica harvesting cacao (the most basic task) and Europe controlling manufacturing and processing the chocolate—the part where chocolate becomes “good”. Because of the prevailing European narrative that saturates the history of chocolate and seeks to promote Europe’s sophistication, power, and superiority, Mesoamerica’s equal role in developing and making chocolate, not just cacao, has been left out.

The same argument can be extended to explain why my classmates did not include African nations in the chocolate narrative. Africa, as a result of the large European narrative, has been left out of the history and story regarding cacao, its cultivation, and its process to becoming the chocolate we know today, even more so than Meso and Latin America due to the emergence of racism and prejudice against Africa, Africans, African Americans, and Blacks to justify slavery and discrimination. As Eric Williams said “slavery was not born of racism; racism was the consequence of slavery” (7). Although the indigenous people of Mesoamerica did originally serve as the first slave labor, due to “their inefficiency and weakness,” deaths from disease, and limited numbers (Williams, 9), African slaves were chosen over them and the poor, white colonists of the region, to become the labor of choice—not because of their skin color but “because [they] were the cheapest and the best,” with “superior endurance, docility, and labor capacity” (Williams, 20). Racial differences observed through “hair, color, and dentifrice and “subhuman characteristics” (Williams, 20) “made it easier to justify and rationalize Negro slavery, to enact the mechanical obedience of a plough-ox or a cart-horse, to demand resignation and that complete moral and intellectual subjugation which alone make slave labor possible” (Williams, 19). Slavery is much easier to condone and perpetuate when viewing the enslaved as immoral, dark, evil, brutish, animal-like, and overall less human, “warranting” degradation, destruction of human rights and liberties, paternalistic oversight/control, and cruel, life-long servitude. Through this racial justification of slavery was the African narrative intentionally left out. The lack of an African narrative plays perfectly into the hands of the large chocolate corporations of the twentieth and twenty first century who Leissle notes “were more interested in selling the flavors of particular candy bars than bean lineage.” This effectively cuts off the link between the cacao growers in Ghana, Cameroon, and Cote D’Ivoire and the consumer, as “most wrappers give no indication that, with a few exceptions, the cocoa in those candies came from West Africa” (Leissle, 22). By making Africa “largely invisible” in regard to chocolate production (Leissle) and separating consumer from bean origin, large chocolate corporations can turn consumer attention to their own specific brands and flavors, which can be easily seen on their bars as most of the space and writing goes to describing and promoting those items, with the company name always being the largest font (observe image 4).

Bottle of Wine
Image 2: A bottle of wine

Bill Nesto further explores this occurrence through a direct comparison in the preservation of terroir between the chocolate industry and wine industry. Terroir, according to Nesto, “is the web that connects and unifies raw materials, their growing conditions, production process, and the moment of product appreciation” (131). The terroir regarding chocolate is severely broken and in many cases nonexistent. The consumer knows very little about the source of the raw materials and/or the conditions in which they are grown. And even when they possess knowledge of both they cannot connect the two as the concepts have become distinct and dissociated. The only thing a chocolate consumer of Hershey’s or Cadbury has to hold on to is the name Hershey or Cadbury, not the bean origin, harvest, or processing. Thus the consumer’s terroir and chocolate experience is dominated by company name. Nesto also makes this observation noting “the key circumstance that obstructs the expression of terroir in chocolate is the distance, both real and conceptual, between the farmer growing cacao and the factory that transforms the cacao into chocolate” (132). This is so vastly different from wine where the vineyards are very close to the wineries and the labeling is much more “accurate and advanced” (Nesto, 134). In fact, one could argue that people know and crave wine more by the vineyard and the harvesting process rather than the producer, as the producer is defined by their vineyard and harvesting process. For example, the bottle of wine located above explicitly tells us not just the winery, but also the vineyard (Firepeak) the grapes were grown on and the region the wine is from (Edna Valley). If the consumer so desires, they could explore more wines that come from that vineyard or from that region to further develop their wine terroir and palate. Unlike wine makers, Mars isn’t defined by its cacao plantations or chocolate making process; it is defined by its name .

The current and only bridge between the consumer and cacao beans lies in single source origin bars. Single source origin bars are “chocolate made with beans from a single country, region, or plantation” with the cacao producing distinct, unexpected, and irregular flavors (Leissle, 23). The producers of said bars are also very specific about the process the beans go through and need to know every step of production and processing in order to ensure the product’s quality, authenticity, and taste. All this is revealed in packaging. For example, image 3 shown below displays a variety of Tejas single source chocolate bars from various regions and the percent of the chocolate that comes from there. The company made sure to write fire roasted and stone ground so that the consumer has some knowledge of the process the beans went through, and carefully constructed an image to further connect the consumer to the beans as if taking the consumer on an “exotic” trip to the home of the beans for an enjoyable getaway from everyday life. Much different when compared to the very brand name focused packaging of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars that don’t advertise cacao content, origin, or geographic location (see image 4).

sample single origin chocolate
Image 3: Sample single source origin chocolate
Image 4: Hershey’s milk chocolate bar

As good at it sounds even single source chocolate shows similar discrimination towards African cacao like the top five chocolate companies do. The evidence lies in the numbers; there is a huge disparity in the amount of single source bars from West Africa vs. those from South America and other regions of the world. Only 3.8% of single source bars contain cacao exclusively from West Africa (according to Mark Christian’s chocolate database—the largest one in the world). An official reviewer of Britain’s demonstrates the continued prejudice and racial views against Africa by commenting on one of the few 100% Ghanian cacao bars, stating that the Torres bar has an “ominously dark color, though indicative of its Ghanian origins, evokes an unexplainable fear that these nearly black colors usually do” (Leissle, 27). The “unexplainable fear” reflects the internalized fear and aversion to anything resembling Africa and Black people as it’s dangerous, sinful, and uncontrollable—at least according to society’s false narrative of Black people.

Review of Jacques Torress Haven Bar-Ghana Origins

Similarly, top chocolate companies avoid advertising West African cacao due to the negative stereotypes surrounding the region. They don’t want to be associated with the stereotypes of Africa such as “poverty, conflict, human rights violations, HIV/AIDS, debt, lack of urban development and oil (Leissle, 26).” They also don’t want to be associated with the problems and discrepancies regarding worker’s rights, child labor, and working conditions of the 1990s and the 2000s (Martin). Because of the lack of general knowledge regarding the top brands cacao beans used to make their chocolate, the companies can better avoid consumer anger and boycotting of their products since they won’t/can’t connect the working conditions of their farmers to their products. As a result of Africa’s invisible narrative in cacao production and the lack of connection between consumer and farmer, the large chocolate companies of today can avoid labor/processing accountability and giving recognition to West African cacao, holding all the benefits and rewards for themselves.

With chocolate’s diminished terroir, a lack of an African narrative, and almost no connection between the beans of origin and consumer, the world’s largest chocolate corporations can easily brand their bars with complete focus and emphasis on their company rather than the beans or process. Thus their consumers build their loyalty not on cacao bean taste, strand, or origin but on company name and logo. For if consumers knew where the cacao originated, they would no longer be as loyal and focused on say Mars or Cadbury, but much more focused on bean strand and location, seeking out a variety of chocolatiers who source cacao from those locations, decreasing large corporations strength, power, monetary success, and fame. Subject seven nearly had it right when they said, “African cacao isn’t marketed as well (not as widely publicized necessarily) and people don’t know it as well as South America” in regard to what they think of African vs. South American cacao. It’s not that the cacao isn’t marketed well; it’s simply not marketed at all—a huge shame considering it makes up most of the world’s chocolate market.

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3 (2013): 22-31. University of California Press. Web. 6 May 2015.

Martin, Carla . “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market.” Emerson Hall 210, Cambridge . 9 Mar. 2015. Lecture.

Martin, Carla . “Modern Day Slavery.” Emerson Hall 210, Cambridge . 25 Mar. 2015. Lecture.

Nesto, Bill. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10.1 (2010): 131-35. University of California Press. Web. 6 May 2015.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate And The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.4 (2006): 660-91. Oxford Journals. Web. 6 May 2015.

Street, Styles. Bottle of Wine. Digital image. 11 Oct. 2013. Web.

Tejas Chocolate. Tejas Chocolate. Digital image. Http://×1404.jpg. 1 June 2011. Web.

The Hershey Company. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar. Digital image. Web.

Walbert, David. Columbus Taking Possession. Digital image. 1 Aug. 2007. Web.

Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. U of North Carolina, 1994. Print.

From “Jezebel” to “Diva”: How Cadbury Plays Off The Evolution Of Negative Stereotypes Surrounding Black Women  

Cadbury’s May 2011 Ad Targeting Supermodel Naomi Campbell

Since the 19th century, African American women have been the victims of many harsh and untrue stereotypes surrounding their appearance and behavior. Unfortunately this still holds true even for today. In May 2011, Cadbury, a well known and successful United Kingdom (UK) chocolate manufacturer, decided to launch its campaign for its chocolate bar, Dairy Milk Bliss. This campaign proved a wrong move for Cadbury as it displayed overtly racist undertones, inciting anger from Naomi Campbell, the model who was targeted by the ad, and the international African American community. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss not only directly likened Campbell to chocolate but also perpetuated a negative Diva stereotype about African American women, unnecessarily adding to a long history of African American women being wrongly characterized and portrayed at their own expense for the profits of others. By promoting such hurtful stereotypes Cadbury not only further damaged the image of African American women across the globe, but also contributed to the psychological trauma of African American girls of today.

Typically depicted Jezebel

To understand the Diva stereotype, one must first understand the Jezebel, the stereotype from which Diva evolved. The Jezebel was the “young, exotic, promiscuous and over-sexed woman (Stephens, 2003).” She was primitive, attention seeking, and could not control her own sexual appetite (Stephens, 2003). The Jezebel only thrives on the attention of men, using her sexuality to gain her access to her material goods and needs. Light skin, long straight hair, curvaceous, and loose, the Jezebel was used to justify the rape of enslaved women by their masters due to their “insatiable appetites” and continuous “seduction of white men”; in reality these women were continuously abused by their masters, used to satisfy their sexual desires and economic need for more “slave babies (Stephens, 2003).”

Destiny's Child--A group according to Stephens et al, 2003 that has been promoted using the Diva stereotype
Destiny’s Child–A group according to Stephens et al, 2003 that has been promoted using the Diva stereotype

However, around the late 20th century the Diva stereotype broke out. Similar to the Jezebel, the Diva is light skin, long straight hair, and is traditionally pretty in a Eurocentric way (Stephens, 2003). She is considered a high maintenance woman with an attitude. She needs to be at the center of attention, and is incredibly appearance driven, spending tons of dollars and hours to keep up her clean, polished look (Stephens, 2003). Sexually, the Diva diverges from the Jezebel because although she is seductive, sultry, and at times immodest, she is never explicit or overt; she cultivates the image of being attractive yet unattainable through her smoldering looks, tight fitting clothing, and sassy walk (Stephen, 2003). Materialistically driven, the Diva is considered a woman who has made it and can afford to purchase her own goods. On the other hand, the Diva is also looking for a man who can “enhance what she already has” bringing a rise in income and status to her name (Stephens, 2003).

Supermodel Naomi Campbell
Supermodel Naomi Campbell

This is why with such a history behind the word Diva, Cadbury’s ad is 100% inappropriate. First, directly likening Naomi Campbell to chocolate is an insult as chocolate has many negative connotations such as dirty, impure, sinful, and exotic (Martin; Rosenthel et Vanderbeke, 2015). Cadbury cannot argue against this fact because out of thousands of models they chose to single out Campbell because of her race and because of her ability to fit the Diva stereotype. Light skin, long straight hair, and slim, Naomi physically fits the Diva mold. Because of her successful career as a model, she is seen as an African American woman who has “made it.” As a model, she is regarded as seductive and sultry, and is always put together. The materialist needs of the Diva (and essentially Naomi) are exaggerated by Cadbury as the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar is sitting in a sea of gems with a purple backdrop, suggesting luxury. The lines “Move over Naomi” and “I’m the world’s most pampered bar” adds insult to the wound as it continues the idea of Divas, specifically African American women, being rude, spoiled, and high maintenance.

The implication of Cadbury’s ad on young African American girls is also frightening. Currently, African American girls are one of the fastest growing groups contracting HIV and other STDs due to unsafe sexual practices (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013). In an attempt to understand the cause of this, researchers Dr. Davis and Dr. Tucker-Brown went about questioning African American female adolescents about potential causes for such sexual decisions. One topic was mainstream media’s affect. The adolescents felt that status for African Americans was tied into involvement in pop culture, specifically rap videos, where the women depicted were extremely sexualized and degraded. Because status for these girls is tied to luxury items and attention, many desire such status and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it requires degrading one’s body and self, promoting unsafe sexual practices, and having inaccurate portraits painted of one’s self. One of the girls, Peace, reported, “You get the bling [diamonds] when you are a video girl” noting “Everybody wants to wear Gucci or Prada and at our age how else are you going to have that kind of money? (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013)” Sabrina, another study participant, elaborated further stating “that girls her age just want to be known and have stuff (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013).” By perpetuating the Diva stereotype and the need for status and a sexual identity, Cadbury is further harming African American girls who already encounter such negative stereotypes in current mainstream media.


Thus, in an attempt to fix Cadbury’s ad our group created a new ad, removing all race analogies and Diva stereotypes from the article, changing it to reference Mr. Sandman and Dairy Milk Bliss’ superior dream inducing qualities. While we could make those changes, sadly some things could not be changed. For example, by using the color for royalty and fancy, elegant, cursive font, Cadbury is making a divisive statement about its company as a luxury brand, one that can only be afforded and should only be dreamt of by the upper classes. Therefore for future reference and success, our group recommends that Cadbury stop trying to create a divide between the classes and instead employ marketing techniques that attract people from all backgrounds, without it being at the expense of any marginalized community.

Works Cited

Davis, Sarita, and Aisha Tucker-Brown. “Effects of Black Sexual Stereotypes on Sexual Decision Making Among African American Women.” Journal of Pan African Studies 5.9 (2013): 111-28. JPAS (Journal of Pan African Studies). Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <;.

Knowles, Beyonce. Destiny’s Child Playlist. Digital image. 8 Oct. 2012. Web.

Naomi Campbell Calls Out Victoria Beckham About Racism on Runway. Digital image. Http:// Web.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 16:Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Harvard Emerson Hall, Cambridge. 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Rosenthal, Caroline, and Dirk Vanderbeke. “On the Cultural Politics of the Racialized Epidermis.” Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone. Cambridge Scholars, 2015. 88. Print.

Stephens, Dionne. “FREAKS, GOLD DIGGERS, DIVAS, AND DYKES: THE SOCIOHISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF ADOLESCENT AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S SEXUAL SCRIPTS.” Sexuality and Culture 7.1 (2003): 3-49. Http:// Florida International University. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <;.

Sweney, Mark. Cadbury Apologises to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ Ad. Digital image. 3 June 2011. Web.

From a Daily Sweet to a Sexual Fetish: Chocolate’s Transformation Over The Years

We all know the guilty pleasures of chocolate: its alluring qualities, tempting taste, and irresistible sweetness. And how could we not, for commercial upon commercial highlights the benefits of “giving into desire,” “treating ourselves,” and “pleasuring our palate.” However, what we don’t realize is that chocolate’s original nature was far from sexual. Chocolate was very much viewed as a necessity and a daily snack rather than a taboo indulgence (Coe & Coe, 238). Upon examination on advertisements and social media, however, we find that over the years chocolate has gone from being promoted as a sweet, daily food to a naughty sexual experience to which women are extremely vulnerable to.

As mentioned above, chocolate was originally seen as an innocent food meant for women and children. This view is due to the division of labor at home where men were the breadwinners and thus needed the “hardier” meals in order to provide for their families, consuming most of the meats and grain (Martin). Women and children ate food with added sweets in order to make up for the loss of many grains and meats in their diet. This dynamic reflects our gendered perspective on sugar and chocolate as items primarily consumed by women and children (Martin). Thus early marketing was accordingly geared towards both groups, depicting sweet, modest, innocent women focused more on preparation for chocolate for others than themselves.


Therefore, one must ask how did chocolate become something so dirty and perverse?

Chocolate’s naughtiness emerged during the 20th century when health concerns arose around sugary and fatty foods, and when moralists associated with the temperance movement saw chocolate as a vice that lead to other sinful activities such as drinking and gambling (Martin). As a result chocolate changed from something that was consumed everyday as a normal part of one’s meal to an item that one could only occasional partake in. This was reflected in ads that were increasingly telling women to indulge themselves and to take a bite (instead of taking their daily dosage of chocolate as in earlier ads), noting how little harm a small bite could do.

However, chocolate’s transformation did not end there. The major change seen in this century in regard to chocolate was chocolate’s transition to sexually pleasurable item irresistible to women. This transformation was not unnoticed at all by chocolate producers who rapidly took advantage of these changes to promote their product. Many also took advantage of women’s more sexual appearance in media to sell their chocolate products, calling for women to “indulge their obsession with chocolate,” noting women’s hypersensitivity to chocolate as filthy yet exciting, titillating, and necessary to their being.

filthy chocolate adchocolady-28379962124chocolate sex

Commercials were not immune to this change either. As seen by the latest DOVE commercial a woman wearing a sensual look (enticing eyes, red lips, slightly disheveled hair) attempts to lure in a man, piquing his interest by encouraging him to explore a mystery, “take a leap,” and “live his fantasies,” noting how things are “heating up” as he gets closer to her. The scene ends with the woman taking a seductive bite out of the chocolate as the man finds her behind the books–all while slow, seductive piano music plays in the background. This commercial largely plays on sexual innuendos and focuses on letting go of one’s inhibitions and succumbing to desire, with the woman first to fall prey to the chocolate’s “magic.”

The Axe Men’s dark chocolate temptation commercial is no different as women are seen pouncing and devouring a man who has turned into chocolate, the lust and need evident in their bites and touches.

Chocolate’s sexualization, however, hasn’t only been seen in advertising: social media has taken up on it as well. A public account called “It’s Food Porn” recently tweeted a picture of chocolate covered strawberries, something that is universally (within the US) deemed delicious. This account is significant not only in its tweets but also in its own name. The title of Food Porn suggests that some foods can mirror the effect of pornography, creating cravings deep as sexual ones, hinting that orgasmic pleasure and euphoria can also be derived from food. Thus this tweet shows that the author of the account sees chocolate covered strawberries as an organismic worthy food that provides much pleasure and believes that enough people will agree (and thus retweet the tweet) to post it. In fact, the predominant amount of images on the account relate to chocolate foods, further supporting the idea that chocolate is seen as a sexual and pleasure-filled food.

As we can see, chocolate has undergone a large transformation from the innocent meal-time favorite to overwhelming sexual vice for women. Yet several man questions still remain. Was this sexualization of chocolate a societal one or did chocolate manufacturers begin the wave and society followed? Did chocolate commercials have anything to do with the sexualization of women in media or were they a byproduct of it? Finally, how do women across the board view these images and representations of their thirst and need: do they mutually agree or is there dissent?

Works Cited

Bui, Quang. Filthy Chocolate Ad Campaign. Digital image. Https:// 22 May 2011. Web.

Caputo, Paul. Making the World Better With Chocolate. Digital image. 17 May 2010. Web.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. 238. Print.

“DOVE® Fruit Scavenger Hunt (30 Sec Spot).” YouTube. YouTube, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.

Fahim, Jamal. “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing.” Occidental College, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. <;.

It’s Food Porn. “Chocolate Covered Strawberries” 13 Mar. 2015, 2:48 p.m. Tweet

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 13:The rise of big chocolate and the race for the global market.” Harvard Emerson Hall, Cambridge. 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Meadows, Zulu. “Axe Chocolate Man Commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Sept. 2008. Web. 14 Mar. 2015.

Valentine’s Day: Women Being Seduced by Chocolate. Digital image. Http:// 14 Feb. 2012. Web.

How the Change in Consumption of Fine Cacao Represents A Major Shift in Our Global Economic Systems


Hershey Bars or Fran’s Truffles? Snickers or Bonbon’s? Although many of us love chocolate and hold it near and dear to our hearts, there seems to be a general consensus that there are levels of quality, taste, and cost in regard to chocolate. While Hershey Bars and Snicker’s seem delicious and are great for satisfying our sweet tooth, how come they simply don’t hold the same weight and impressiveness as say Norman Love’s chocolates? Why are some chocolates seen as more exquisite, luxurious, and tasteful and others viewed as cheap everyday snacks?

It all lies in the strain of cacao bean the chocolate derives from. Theobroma cacao is the name of the plant that chocolate comes from and the fruits of this plant are called cacao pods. Within the pods are cacao beans (the seeds of the pod) that are surrounded by a fruity, tasty, white pulp. These are the beans that go on to become chocolate through a process that includes fermentation, roasting, husking, grinding, and sweetening/flavoring with sugar, vanilla, peppers, fruits, and other additives.


However, there isn’t simply just one Theobroma cacao tree. Like many other plants, there are different strains of this tree and each strain is grown in a different region of the world, needing its own type of particular care, eventually producing its own variation of the taste we know as chocolate. Because of this difference in taste and quality, there are two names that describe the types of cacao in the world: bulk cacao and fine/flavor cacao.

Bulk Cacao makes up 95% of the cacao in the world, including most industrial chocolate (Martin). Often called the “wrinkle in classification” bulk cacao mostly comes from the beans of Forastero trees; these beans are very big and require large amounts of water to grow, and as a whole have less flavor than their fine counterparts (Martin). They are grown globally with West Africa being the largest producer (Presilla, 123).


On the other hand, fine cacao mostly comes from Criollo trees which are called “the holy grail of pure cacao.” These cacao pods originated in Mesoamerica and are now mostly grown in present day Venezuela and Peru (Martin). It is from fine/flavor cacao that most high quality and gourmet chocolates are made. Because of their superior quality, fine cacao is sold at a much higher price than bulk cacao earning $15,000 per ton versus $3,000 respectively (Martin).


Why then would anyone want to 1) eat bulk cacao and 2) grow bulk cacao?

Part two of the question is answerable. Originally the chocolate industry reflected more equal cacao production in terms fine vs. bulk in the early 1900s (50-50 ratio). However, the last 100 years has lead to fine cacao being produced now at only 5% of the market. The reasoning behind this has to do with our current economic systems. Many economic systems, especially capitalism, drive quantity over quality, favoring mass production of cheap goods over small production of fine goods. Mass production of cheap goods allows one to have greater access and control of the market, target people from low and middle socioeconomic classes, and fulfill demand faster. This sort of system is the one that drives the bulk cacao industry as bulk cacao beans are larger, produce higher yields, and are more disease resistant. On the other hand fine cacao requires a much more intensive labor process, more handling and care, and larger amounts of supervision as it is much more susceptible to disease and has an overall lower yield with smaller beans (Coe & Coe, 26). Because fine cacao is much more delicate and fragile and isn’t as easily or globally grown, many cacao farmers and businesses pursue bulk cacao. In an industry where there are no machines—nearly 100% manual labor—and where farmers lose up to 50% of the crops to disease, fine cacao is simply not favored and ends up losing out big time.

As a consumer though this is a critical issue. Since we are the ones who truly eat most of the chocolate produced (many of the people who produce cacao don’t eat it in the typical ways we do) should we be fine accepting a lower quality product for the profit of businesses. Should we allow business to dictate what is in the market and what are our options? Or should we instead push for a solution to the problems found in growing fine cacao, rather than accepting a mediocre version, especially in an era where research in genetics, agriculture, crop health and resistivity are achieving major feats and could pave the way for making fine cacao much more easier to produce?

Or do we care more about the availability and accessibility of chocolate than the taste, leading us back to the question “why would anyone want to eat bulk cacao?” If the answer is yes, then what does that say about our culture and us as people, where the emphasis on food is no longer taste?

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 26-27. Print.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 7:Sugar and Cacao.” Harvard Emerson Hall, Cambridge. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001. Print.