Category Archives: College

Cacao, A Mesoamerican Treasure


Cacao Pods, pulp and seeds, fermented seeds and Cacao nibs

Cacao grew organically in Pre-Columbian times and was a Mesoamerican cultural staple for the three more well-known civilizations: Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs. These cultures saw it as a divine food crop used to accompany ritualistic human sacrifices. The cacao pod and its seeds (beans, after fermentation,) became a divine treasure consumed, offered, and used as currency in Mesoamerican civilizations.

Map of Mesoamerican Civilizations

The Pre-Columbian Cacao Tree grew wildly along the “Pacific coastal plain of Chiapas (in southeast Mexico,) according to the American archaeologist Michael D Coe, and it grew adjacent to Guatemala in the region formarly known as Soconusco. The tree flourished as an understory tree in the rainforests of mesoamerica. The Theobroma cacao tree pollinated and germinated itself, with the help of midges in the warm, damp, and mulch environment which, created the atmosphere for cacao trees to sprout cacao pods.  Theobroma, (Cacao Tree) in Greek literally means “food for the gods” and right before the Spaniards touched down in the New World, the ancient mesoamericans were drinking xocolatl, literally translated to “bitter-water” as a daily ritual and as a god offering.

In The True History of Chocolate by Michael D. Coe, research by Terry Powis found Theobrama residues in pottery shards that can be traced back to the Olmecs.

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A colossal stone head, of the Olmec civilization (1500 – 400 BC) Courtesy of Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate

The Olmecs are believed to be the first to cultivate and domesticate the cacao seeds from the cacao pods, between 1650 BC and 1500 BC.  The process for creating chocolate included fermenting, drying, and hulling the beans to reveal the nibs. Which were then ground into powder on a metate to formulate pure, unadulterated cacao (Coe, 22-24). Cacao, which derived from kakaw and borrowed from Zoque the Olmec language, is pure from of chocolate.

Public Domain

The word ‘kakaw’, the Mayan for ‘cacao’, written in the Maya script.

Yelkrokoyade Mayan Metate and mano used to grind up cacao beans.

Human Sacrifice and Cacao

Mayan civilization followed, and Cacao would maintain its sacred place in that society. The Mayan’s venerated Ek Chugh, the Cacao god, as he was believed to farmers and merchants whom traded cacao for goods.  Additionally, Mayan’s used cacao beans, and chocolate drinks as gravesite offerings.  Though they are probably best remembered for using chocolate in there during rituals involving human sacrifice.  The ritual human sacrifice was explained by Cameron L. McNeil’s 2006 article, “In Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao,” human as honoring the Mayan gods of mesoamerica. Cacao was drank during sacrifice which was artificially colored by the addition of achiote to strengthen the connection between blood and sacrifice.  The picture of the Mayan tree life below illustrates the Cacao tree’s importance in life and death in their culture

Mayan Cacao“Tree of Life” with Olmec head

The Essential Art of Chocolate Frothing

Cacao drinking was an elite and royal food product. The most important important aspect of preparation was the art of frothing.  This consisted of pouring the chocolate from high enough to create a froth; which was the most desirable portion of drinking chocolate. The chocolate drink was consumed by all in drinking vessels as depicted below from Pre-Columbian times.  The Aztec empire followed that of the Mayans, and they too borrowed customs and practices from the preceding empire.


File:Mayan people and chocolate.jpg

The “Do not touch my chocolate and tamales” motif.

The image above is from a polychrome Mayan vase. It depicts the Mayan lord sitting next to a cacao beverage tinted red with achiote, (note the froth) and tamales in a pot below.

The art of frothing the chocolate, as well as adding native spices to the chocolate is depicted below. The Aztecs again used maize and spices to enhance the taste. In contrast Aztec elite, specifically, royalty, warriors, and rich merchants, were only allowed to legally consume chocolate. The Aztecs also used cacao seeds or beans as currency (Presilla, p17.) Additionally, the art of frothing chocolate for ceremonies played a key role in the experience of drinking.

Public Domain

The “barista– expert frother of chocolate” motif. Codice Tudela, sixteenth century. An Aztec woman preparing the cacao drink. The liquid was poured back and forth from a height to create a frothy head or foam on top. 


The Taste of Chocolate
The taste was not like modern day chocolate but instead was quite bitter, due in large part to the fact that sugar had not yet reached the Americas. There was however local honey to sweeten, maize was used as a filler, and other spices added to produce a tasty food product.  They used these products to honor their gods, celebrate betrothals and marriages, and as sustenance (calories.)cacao-mama-the-history-and-spirit-cacao-served-to-aztec-couple-on-wedding-day


Two Sides Of The Chocolate Coin

While American and European consumers associate chocolate with romance, desserts, and luxury, the disparity between end product consumer and cacao producer is significant. One perspective is that northern consumers provide self-agency and opportunity through a free market economic exchange in an environment that provides few opportunities. While western Africa currently provides 75% of the world’s cacao (Coe &Coe, 2013) the African cacao grower has to rely solely on northern purchasers as they lack the economic resources to purchase, manufacture, or market their product. With labor as their only agency, the African cacao grower is in a disadvantaged position in the food production paradigm despite their high product yield. Corporate complicity in unethical labor, slave legacy that has left southern producers turning to raw materials for economic survival, and consumer apathy created by distance from the food supply chain have culminated in producing very opposing experiences for the cacao supplier and the chocolate consumer.

Success in Cacao

With the steady increase of cacao prices, the cacao-growing region of western Africa has seen steady socioeconomic growth in the industry for decades. According to “CNN Freedom Project,” an organization focused on labor practices worldwide, in 2008-2009 western Africa supplied more than 75% of the world’s chocolate, while Europeans and North Americans were consuming a roughly equal amount (2012). In their book Cocoa in Ghana: Shaping the Success of An Economy, Shashi Kolavalli, and Marcella Vigneri observe the steady increase of cacao prices have allowed for significant improvement via more investment in production yields through transport and infrastructure. (2012). Kolavalli and Vigneri further observe that so lucrative is the cacao production in Ghana  that positive socioeconomic influences of the crop, and improvement in western Africa’s poverty, have been significant by stating,

“economic growth has been solid, averaging more than 5 percent since 2001 and reaching 6 percent in 2005–06. Coupled with the effects of greater access to education, health services, and land ownership (World Bank 2008), this rate of growth has contributed to the near halving of the national poverty rate since the beginning of the 1990s, from 51.7 percent in 1991/92 to 28.5 percent in 2005/06” (p. 205).

For cacao growing countries in Africa, maintaining this resource is critical to prevent sliding backward economically in an already impoverished environment.

Who is Eating All the Chocolate?

According to CNN’s freedom project, northern countries are driving the demand for chocolate. In this breakdown for 2008-09, Europeans and North Americans were responsible for eating an equal amount of western Africa’s entire production, which is 75% annually of the world supply. In simple terms, if you live in the northern hemisphere there is a good chance you are consuming on average between 9 to 24 lbs. of chocolate per year. (Satioquia-Tan, J. 2015)

The Swiss eat 24 lbs. of chocolate per person, per year. That’s roughly equivalent to eating half of a Hershey bar every day for one year (Maxim75, 2016)

World consumption of cocoa: 2008/09
Europe – 49.32%
North America – 24.22% (United States only – 20.19%)
Asia and Oceania – 14.49%
South America – 8.68%
Africa – 3.28%

The demand from northern consumers continues to increase steadily. In his paper, Cocoa production in West Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments, Marius Wessel projects necessary agricultural growth for western Africa to maintain its current supply when he states, “The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) forecasts a 10 percent increase in the world cocoa production and a 25 percent increase of the cocoa price in the next decade. … If West Africa wishes to maintain its present world market share a 10 percent increase in production is needed in the next decade” (Wessel, M., 2015). This is significant in that considerable investment will be required to meet the growing demand, which in turn will offer more employment from land developing to harvesting; boosting the economy even further. The staggering contrast of chocolate consumption between northern consumers and southern producers however, in relation to race and geography is no accident.

A History of Disconnection

After the chocolate drink of Mesoamericans made it to Europe via Spanish colonists in the 16th century, popularity of the drink in Europe began to rise. When Spanish colonists exhausted the Mesoamerican population as a resource for labor, they turned to the middle passage across the Atlantic to Africa for labor to meet the demand (Coe & Coe, 2013). On a continent that functioned tribally with no formal governments, it was quite easy to enslave people into labor for the remainder of their life, which on average due to hard labor and dismal living conditions was about 7 to 8 years after enslavement (Coe & Coe, 2013). This of course, required massive quantities of slaves, which Africa had in abundance. In his book Sweetness and Power Sidney Mintz observes that by the 18th century, the European lower proletariat was adopting the culinary habits of the aristocracy as a way of establishing equality for people in lower social stations (p.181, 1986). The biggest promoter of chocolate consumption for the masses According to Coe & Coe in their book A True History of Chocolate was the industrial revolution when they state,

The Menier Chocolate factory in Paris, France. Mechanized in 1830, and shortly after became France’s largest chocolate supplier. (Expressing Yourself, 2009)

“The Industrial Revolution, which changed chocolate from a costly drink to cheap food, [was] the driving force in this metamorphosis” (Coe & Coe, p. 232, 2013).

Before the industrial revolution the use of people from southern countries as a commodity for labor separated them from society and cultural habits of northern countries. Even had they wished to adopt the habits of their masters, there was no means or opportunity as a consumer base. Having never been ‘folded in” to European culture, they were completely disenfranchised as a chocolate consumer base. The exclusion of southern laborers and slaves from society as citizens, also found them ignored by the industrial revolution; leaving them to lag behind economically and industrially, unable to participate as consumers of chocolate.

State of Labor Today

After northern consumers developed a social conscience for disenfranchised populations and impoverished nations, one might be tempted to think everything has changed, but it has not. Still lagging from being on the outside of the industrial revolution, Cacao farming practices have changed little in the last hundred years. In villages of working adults there is a complete disconnect to their labor once it leaves the village. In her book Bitter Chocolate, Carol Off  tells of a village where all but the chief were ignorant of where the cacao went, none knew how it was used, and only one had ever tasted chocolate. Micheal and Sophie Coe argue that it is not only adults and families working, but that millions of children are trafficked and forced into slavery from neighboring countries (Coe & Coe, 2013). Off supports this claim by observing that slavery is alive and well  particularly in the Ivory Coast where child slavery is so common, it is a sub-industry of cacao with its own economy, as farmers finance networks to traffic children for forced labor who then suffer from starvation, disease and physical abuse while working on cacao farms (Off, C. 2006). While numbers of child slavery are at times sketchy and often disputed, no one denies it exists (Off, C. 2006).

Children from the Ivory Coast. Due to extreme poverty many children seek out work in cacao only to be abducted and worked as slaves. (DFID, 2011)

Consumers Grow Distant

The consumer vending machine selling prepacked processed chocolate adding a further degree of separation from labor to consumer. (Whitehouse, P. 2007)

While slaves grow cacao, consumers grow distant. Though southern laborers have not advanced industrially, this is not the case for northern consumers. The industrialization of food completely changed northern food culture. Through mechanization, transport, and refrigeration, the distance between consumer and food source has grown. Mechanization produced food en mass cheaply, allowing access to goods that were more accommodating to lower budgets, while transport and refrigeration allowed food to travel further than it had before. (Counihan & Van Esterik, 2013) The biggest game changer in food culture was the mechanization of canning and preservation. With better preservation, food sources began to change, ingredients began change, and soon we had processed and prepackaged food embraced by women everywhere for freeing their time and labor (Counihan & Van Esterik, 81-82, 2013). After two or three generations of eating processed food transported from faraway places, with lists of ingredients that are rarely inspected, consumers today know very little about their food, or even what it contains. They are not unlike their southern counterparts in this way who do not know where cacao goes, or what its use is after it leaves the village.


Distance Creates Apathy

Capitalist consumerism breeds competition, creating incentive to keep the consumer

Cacao farmer in Ghana with his crop before it is prepared and bagged to be sent to manufacturers to make chocolate. (Rberchie, 2014)

happy. As modern chocolate consumers in the north are far more concerned with inclusiveness, fair treatment, and food activism than previous generations, the power of the purchase is seemingly an easy solution to the poor working conditions and poverty that are still prevalent in the cacao industry despite its economic growth. Far removed from the supply chain, unaware consumers continue to purchase due to lack of transparency in food product, and manufacturers remain complicit in the absence of financial threat. Manufacturers however also have limited power. Even with strict purchasing policies, and government regulation it is still difficult to know if a supplier is using slaves without constant physical inspections (Martin, C. 2017), and blame shifts all along the supply chain making it easy for manufacturers to be complicit, and consumers to remain uninformed.  Lack of transparency in food sourcing, blame shifting in the industry, and distance from food sources, culminate to create a culture of apathetic food consumers.

How It All Comes Together

The dichotomy between cacao consumer and producer today began with early Europeans and European colonists who failed to view southern peoples as sovereign and instead as a voiceless labor resource. Excluded from global interaction, Southern populations failed to participate in cultural trends, shifts, and innovations that were transforming society and industry elsewhere. Non-participation in the industrial revolution left southern continents behind in what would become a global economy with no agency for economic competition; turning to natural resources and labor for economic survival in a state somewhere between hunting and gathering and industry with little opportunity for growth. While mechanization followed by technology has created decadence in northern populations as compared to southern countries, northern consumers are today ignorant of their food supply chain because of these advancements, and unaware of the poverty and labor practices of those supplying it. Lack of transparency in food products add to this distance, and northern Chocolate manufactures as well as governments are complicit in unethical labor practices, shifting blame along the food supply chain leaving those who are aware unsure of who to even hold accountable (Martin, C. 2017). While northern consumers today have more of a social conscience than their ancestors, the opposing lifestyles of the chocolate consumer and the cacao laborer have failed to come closer together over the last several hundred years due to a legacy of “othering,” and complicit corporate interests protecting their revenue stream that has created an apathetic northern food culture.

Where We Go From Here

Consumer awareness is growing. Projects like Fair Trade, CNN Project Freedom, End Slavery Now, Slave Free Chocolate etc., have been working hard to inform the public. Many consumers now seek out fair trade products when available, and appear willing to pay more for ethical practices. In their paper, Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Multi-Store Field Experiment ,  Hainmueller, Hiscox, & Seguiera state,

“Total sales of Fair Trade goods in the United States in 2011 amounted to roughly $1.4 billion (FLO 2012) … But the average annual rate of growth in U.S. sales of Fair Trade certified goods was close to 40% between 1999 and 2008” (2014).

Fair Trade is not without its problems, as certification can be costly and marginalizes the poorest producers, but it is a start, and one of few ways to access transparency of the food supply chain in a consumer market that provides no source-to-store product information. Legislators are also working to intervene in child slavery practices. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engen introduced a protocol to reduce trafficking in the cacao industry, agreed to by manufacturers and legislators from Ghana and the Ivory Coast as stated by the ILO, “that aims to reduce the worst forms of child labor by 70 percent across the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire by 2020” (ILO, 2017). Currently Fair Trade and other transparent and ethical alternatives have not achieved mainstream mass production, making it difficult for a consumer to use the power of the dollar against corporate complicity even when they choose to. Raising awareness and creating a demand for ethical products can aid in ending consumer apathy by closing the information gap, and denting corporate revenue streams that, with some work, will promote less disparity between southern suppliers and northern purchasers.


Works Cited


Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate (3rd ed.) London, ENG.Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Counihan, C., Van Esterik, P., (Eds.). (2013). Food and culture a reader New York NY. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

CNN Freedom Project (2012) Who eats the most chocolate?. Retrieved from:                

DFID, (2011) Children of the Ivory Coast [digital image].  Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website:

Expressing Yourself (2009) Menier Chocolate Factory. [digital media]. Retrieved from:

Hainmueller, j., Hiscox, M., Sequeira, S., (2014) Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Multi-Store Field Experiment. Retrieved from:

ILO, (2017) Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Fields/ Harkin-Engel Protocol. Retrieved from:    labor/WCMS_159486/lang–en/index.htm

Kolivalli, S., Vigneri, M. (2014) Cocoa in ghana: Shaping the success of an economy. Retrieved from

Martin, C. (2017) Modern Day Slavery. Harvard Extension School. [Mar 22, 2017 Lecture].

Maxim75 (2016) Hershey Bars. [digital media] Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website:

Mintz, S.W. (1986) Sweetness and Power. NY, NY. Penguin Books 1986

Off, C., (2006) Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New   York: The New Press.

Rberchie (2014). Cacao farmer [digital media] Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website:

Satiodqua-Tan, J (Jul, 2015) Americans eat how much chocolate?. Retrieved from:   

Wessel, Marius (Dec, 2015). Cocoa production in west Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments. NJAS-Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, 74-75, 1-7. doi:       

Whitehouse, P.  (2007). Vending machine [digital image]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons Website:


Exploitation or Smart Marketing? Comparing and Analyzing the Business Practices of Hershey’s and Divine Chocolate

Are chocolate companies exploiting workers when they use a values-based approach to promote sales? Although some companies are clearly exploiting its workers, there is a difference between exploitation and smart marketing. 

Let’s compare the practices of Hershey’s Chocolate and Divine Chocolate to illustrate this point: The elements of exploitation exist in the practices of Hershey’s because they are advertising falsehoods and treating their workers as the opposite of what they market; Divine Chocolate is the polar opposite of Hershey’s in this manner because they market values that they  actually practice, making them smart marketers – not exploiters.

Defining Exploitation

Is Divine Chocolate being exploitative? Exploiting in itself is deriving full use of something or someone unfairly (Alberts). Let’s first define exploiting for our own terms when it comes to thinking about chocolate companies – Exploiting is the act of a chocolate company using an element to maneuver, outrank, increase sales, or brand the company in a certain way without giving fair benefit to the people that they are using to achieve these goals.

Exploiting also has the following connotations when it comes to chocolate companies such as (but not limited to) when it comes to what they do; this will be used as our litmus test to determine whether or not true exploitation is at play:

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work

Misrepresenting benefits to workers

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men)

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade)

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think)

Hershey’s Chocolate

Before we analyze the possibility of Divine Chocolate being exploitative, let’s analyze a company that passes the litmus test for exploitation – Hershey’s Chocolate.

By analyzing their pictures in advertisements and their marketing and comparing it to the real picture of the company, we can certainly see how Hershey’s Chocolate is being exploitative.

Hershey’s history of exploitation goes back essentially since the beginning of the start of the company; the company often used farms and factories that did not pay its workers a fair wage, lowered the standard of living, and took part in the enslaving of workers by providing unsafe conditions (Anti-Given that, one would think that the company would have “changed its tune” so to speak. However, Hershey’s has not done so and has continued to abuse their power as a top-tier chocolate company. It has been proven that Hershey’s is still taking part in these kinds of practices, which has been noted by researchers on international student workers that took part in a foreign exchange program in the United States with Hershey’s as their sponsor. According to the New York Times:

The students, who were earning about $8 an hour, said they were isolated within the plant, rarely finding moments to practice English or socialize with Americans. With little explanation or accounting, the sponsor [Hershey’s] took steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance that left many of them too little money to afford the tourist wanderings they had eagerly anticipated (Preston).

How can Hershey’s not be an exploiter if international student workers, who are usually unfamiliar with the United States, cannot afford to even travel to the places that they wanted to see; these international workers took the job with Hershey’s in order to site-see in exchange for work, and Hershey’s is essentially taking that element away from them. Further, the promises that Hershey’s made to the students regarding a certain amount of money given to them was understood by the company to be separate from the housing, transportation, and insurance. Clearly, Hershey’s is exploiting the international workers by lowering their wages in order to get labor in the form of the cheapest way possible; these deductions would not even begin to cover a legal and livable way or manner if an American had this job. Thus, Hershey’s found a way to bypass the legal system in order to get cheaper labor – in the form of exploited international students.

Additionally, one cannot even argue that Hershey’s has learned its lesson on this front – despite the media attention, public outcry, and protests from students alike, Hershey’s is still running this program; imagine the kind of exploitation that could be occurring in more vulnerable areas if this kind of company if this type of exploitation is happening in the United States. If the plant in Pennsylvania is seeing these kinds of abuses, it is safe to assume that the exploitation along the Ivory Coast and the Americas are seeing abuses that are hidden away from the public.

Now, let’s take a look at the advertisements in Hershey’s pictures that are quite different than the actual reality of the company. For instance, in Figure 1, we see how Hershey’s is advertising itself as a chocolate that is a part of “shared goodness:”



(Figure 1. Hershey’s Community Archives)


This advertisement, at first glance, may not seem like a direct link to exploitation, but the company is promoting itself as a brand that is values-based. It draws upon the picture of a happy family and talks about how Hershey’s “good business” practices translates into better chocolate for the family, resulting in a “better life and bright future.” However, just from the proven evidence discussed regarding the student workers, the reality of Hershey’s is very different than what it is advertising. Clearly, Hershey’s is branding itself as a business that is “good,” however, it is not actually being a “good” business with values.

This type of misrepresentation marketing is all throughout many of their advertisements throughout the years. For example, Figure 2 tells another compelling story about how Hershey is actually promoting diversity when it is really not:


(Figure 2. Hershey’s Community Archives)

In this picture, children of different ethnicities and races are being shown; Hershey’s is advertising themselves as a company that promotes inclusiveness across all kinds of ethnic and racial divides. For instance, it talks about how it puts different kinds of candies for all kinds of kids. However, the example of exploitation of its international student workers tells a very different kind of a story. How can a brand that claims to be “inclusive” not be inclusive to its international workers? How could a brand that would never be able to legally get away with reductions in paychecks and amenities for American workers be so inclusive if it takes a legal loophole to do so for its international workers? Clearly, it can be seen how just this one type of exploitation is being used in full force, which passes our litmus test on essentially all fronts. It has abused a sensitive group, misrepresents benefits to workers and unfairly promises them lies, and then brands the company in a way that misrepresents the brand to the consumer, whom otherwise would think that Hershey’s has excellent values just from looking at their advertisements; Hershey’s, knowing that most targeted and loyal consumers are not going to search for their name on the Internet every time they want to buy a bag or piece of chocolate, use this to their advantage.


Divine Chocolate

Now let’s compare how Divine Chocolate uses certain advertisements to help attract consumers, but is not being exploited in their efforts, which is the polar opposite of what Hershey’s is doing:

Divine Chocolate, according to Sam Binkley employed a values-based marketing strategy in order to justify their price:

Divine has moved on from selling mainly on the basis of the solidarity value of its product to material use value taste. [Divine Chocolate] still is slightly more expensive as it must, other than the likes of Nestle and Kraft, fulfill its double bottom line of economic and social viability. So while the product is competitive on a level of quality, its price still needs to be justified in terms of justice or solidarity. In order to go beyond this, Divine [needed] to add symbolic use value to its brand, engage in consciously designed commodity aesthetic in order to push into unchartered mass markets (Binkley).


Divine Chocolate, like Hershey’s, desired to push even further for profits for their already-successful companies so it could stay competitive; however, what makes it different than other companies is that it is a specialty type of chocolate in a specialty kind of market. In order to be competitive within those specific markets, Divine Chocolate desired to break and expand into the mass markets by justifying their price to those kinds of consumers. In turn, it created the Women’s Empowerment Campaign, which promotes the equality of women chocolate workers, in order to attract consumers (Divine Chocolate).


But how is Divine Chocolate, unlike Hershey’s, not being exploitative if they are using mass marketing strategies in the form of women’s empowerment campaigns to sell their product? The difference here is that Divine Chocolate is actually doing what they say and promote in terms of their campaign to sell product.


The women’s empowerment campaign is real because it is empowering women in ways that they have never been empowered before. For instance, Divine Chocolate started their journey to change conditions when they gave 44 percent equity to Kuapa Kokoo, the largest shareholder of the company’s assets; this co-operative represents 85,000 farm members across 1,257 villages, and is now the largest co-operative in the world; it is credited with the rise of female cacao ownership of at least 20 percent (Leissle, Wiego). Divine allows women farmers to take a special part in an ownership that no other chocolate company has seen before; clearly, it is empowering women in a way that not only represents them as true stakeholders, but brings positivism to an industry that can be quit laborious, abusive, and depressing for other workers who are not afforded such basic rights. Further, approximately 2 percent of the turnover from Divine is specifically used to promote programs to help farmers gain more skills such as good governance programs, literacy programs, and model farming lessons. Thus, Divine not only gives more than fair equity to its workers (the largest of its kind in history), but invests even more money from their profit to ensure that their workers are gaining life skills to use both inside and outside the farm; by bringing in educational and quality of life programs, Divine is sending an authentic message with real action to the female farmers of Ghana: Divine wants to support you and your work by uplifting you and the community.

By examining the advertising campaigns of Divine Chocolate, we can see a message of solidarity and unity that runs throughout its campaign. For instance, in Figure 3, Divine Chocolate uses a picture of an attractive, healthy-looking female worker to get their message across loud and clear:


(Figure 3. Divine Chocolate)

Many critics may charge that because the woman is attractive, dressed nicely, and looks happy, Divine Chocolate is exploiting its female workers because it promotes “sexuality” and an “untrue side of the chocolate industry”. However, this picture of the woman is an accurate picture because Divine Chocolate helps uplift women to give them the lifestyle that can afford many of these luxuries; with their fair payouts and fair trade program, Divine Chocolate can accurately use this advertisement as an authentic way to attract consumers. When looking at this advertisement, most consumers, on first glance, would think of Divine Chocolate as a chocolate brand that is an “equality treat” – because it is. They further humanize the female chocolate worker, who is actually a co-operative co-owner, by putting her name on the advertisement; the consumer will be led to think that when they buy a bag or piece of Divine Chocolate, the benefit will be going to female workers like Beatrice – and rightfully so because it actually is doing that. That, in itself, is not exploitation but a smart marketing scheme that is a “win-win” for both Divine Chocolate and female workers like Beatrice. All in all, Divine Chocolate has gone out of their way to make this picture a reality – their own values-based version of the chocolate industry.

In Figure 4, we can see how this values-based campaign continues throughout many of their packaging:


(Figure 4. Divine Chocolate)

In their designs, Divine Chocolate presents itself as a champion for women by placing designs that are aesthetically pleasing to many females and placing a message on top of the packaging reading “Empowering Women Cacao Farmers.” Like in the picture above, some critics may think that by putting this packaging out in this manner, Divine Chocolate is exploiting women workers because they are using designs that attract consumers to think that they are helping women workers. However, like stated in the previous discussion, they actually are helping women. Further critics may charge that this is being used for International Women’s Day to “cash in” on the holiday, but that charge only further hones in on the point that Divine Chocolate is not being a champion of women just on Women’s Day but essentially every day.

 Just because a company uses an element of their system (which, in this case, is championing the female worker) to sell product does not mean that they are being exploitative. On the other hand, if Divine Chocolate was using the same business practices as Hershey’s and using this campaign, they would then be exploitative. But Divine Chocolate is simply promoting the ideas and concepts that they have actually put into practice.

If these points did not already answer the question of whether or not Divine Chocolate is being exploitative for you, let’s take a direct look back at our litmus test for exploitation

Litmus Test: Is Divine Chocolate partaking in any of the following?

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work – No, workers are granted an excellent amount of equity

Misrepresenting benefits to workers – No, workers are actually being empowered by the company

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is authentic

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men) –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is helping women

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade) –No, ideas like fair trade and empowerment are involved

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think) –No, workers are a part of the brand name but also benefiting from the marketing taking place since they get a higher amount of equity, which equals and translates into improved working conditions and lifestyles

Clearly, unlike Hershey’s, Divine Chocolate does not pass the litmus test for exploitation; the Women’s Empowerment Campaign is a real campaign, which Divine Chocolate uses for smart marketing and true empowerment.



Alberts, Heike. “Using Cocoa and Chocolate to Teach Human Geography.” Journal of Geography, 2010.

Binkley, Sam. “Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism.” New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Case Study: Women Cocoa Farmers in Ghana. Wiego. <;

Divine Chocolate. <;

Hershey’s Community Archives. <;

Leissle, Kristie.  “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Studies, 2012.

Preston, Julia. “Pleas Unheeded as Student’s U.S. Jobs Soured.” New York Times, 2011.

The Cocoa Industry in West Africa. Anti-Slavery International, 2004. <;




























































Chocolate with an Impact

There is merit to the ways both the Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company and Guittard Chocolate Company approach chocolate production. For its part, Omanhene sees itself as going “Beyond Fair Trade,”[1] and in its approach, takes into account things such as farmer’s wages, environmental impact, and the use of children as laborers. Guittard, a Fair Trade company, also addresses issues such as these. I contend that while Omanhene’s approach is effective in some regards, Guittard’s is more effective in undermining child slavery.

The terms “global south” and “global north” are classifications for kinds of countries, and such classifications are relevant to discussions of the concept of Fair Trade. Thomas Erikson states that “at a very general level, the Global North is associated with stable state organization, an economy largely under (state) control and – accordingly – a dominant formal sector,” and that “the recipients of foreign aid… belong to the Global South.”[2] As Ndongo Sylla recounts, the concept of “Fair Trade appeared as a specific response to the development challenge in the South. It refers to a form of solidarity approach that aims to ensure decent income for producers and workers of the South,” as it pertains to the trade they engage in with the Global North.[3] One aspect of Fair Trade is that the producer organizations involved are arranged as “associations” or “cooperatives,” mainly because the amounts of goods produced on family farms are too small to be exported.[4]

The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company used to be fair trade certified, but due to disagreements that its founder, Steven Wallace, has with certain aspects of Fair Trade certification, the company has since foregone this practice. One reason for Omanhene’s departure has to do with the fair trade requirement that certified companies buy cocoa beans only from farmer cooperatives. In Ghana, where the company purchases its cocoa, most of the family-owned cocoa farms are not part of such cooperatives, and Omanhene deems it unjust to force these farmers to join one. Wallace also accuses some Fair Trade certification agencies of putting great emphasis on the compensation given to farmer cooperatives, but not putting enough priority on other issues, such as child labor. Moreover, regarding farmer incomes, Omanhene seeks to help Ghanaian farmers obtain revenues not only from raw cocoa beans, but also from the things that the cocoa is used to make (such as chocolate), which are worth more than the raw beans are themselves. Such a goal, at least in Wallace’s view, is not emphasized by Fair Trade. As result of disagreements such as these, Omanhene now engages in business practices that its founder describes as ‘beyond fair trade’.[5]

In his description of Fair Trade’s founders, Ndongo Sylla recounts that they felt that “international aid creates passivity and dependency among beneficiary populations.”[6] Sylla classifies their ideas as reminiscent of the “Trade not Aid” slogan of another, similar movement.[7] Wallace of Omanhene Cocoa seems to echo this aversion to aid, holding that his company is “not a charity.”[8] Moreover, Wallace seems to call into question Fair Trade’s ability to be more than just a charity. He classifies the “ ‘fair trade’ ” price given to cooperatives as a “unilateral subsidy,” which relies on the “charitable intent” of buyers willing to pay this extra amount, and he questions the ability of such a system to continue over time.[9]

One of the issues regarding cocoa production, which Omanhene seems committed to rectifying, is the need to empower communities in which cocoa beans are produced. Partly with the help of wages earned as a result of their partnership with Omanhene, some cocoa farmers in Ghana have been able to send their children to private school.[10] Additionally, however, Omanhene uses cocoa beans that are entirely from Ghana, and also manufactures its chocolate in Ghana. This policy, according to founder Steven Wallace, allows Ghanaians to “reap the added value from the processing of their beans into chocolate.”[11] He articulates that the processing of cocoa “constitutes the most significant portion of wealth in the cocoa value chain, ” and so, manufacturing chocolate in Ghana helps both the cocoa farmers and the factory workers in Ghana that turn the beans into chocolate.[12] The company also provides its factory workers with benefits such as “free medical care for themselves and their families, free meals at the factory, free uniforms, free transportation to work and subsidized housing.” Moreover, all line workers hold equity shares in the factory.[13]

The above video discusses one of the issues with cocoa farming in the Ivory Coast. We see that farmers don’t get compensated enough, and moreover, can’t afford fertilizers that would increase their income. Although the government has fixed the price of cocoa in order to improve the fortunes of farmers, buyers pay it no heed. The video pretty clearly promotes Fair Trade as a way of improving the outcomes for cocoa farmers.

This video depicts another pertinent issue regarding farming on the Ivory Coast– the use of child slavery.

As Orla Ryan recounts, The International Labour Convention 182 puts slavery and hazardous work under its classification of the worst forms of child labor. Hazardous labor on cocoa plantations could include the use of dangerous machinery, equipment or tools, the handling of heavy loads and exposure to pesticides or chemicals. Research in the past has shown that, although there may be some child slave labor used on the Ivory Coast, it is much more often “family labor,” or labor by children for parents or other relatives. Still, it has been estimated that many children (slaves or otherwise) labor on cocoa farms, and that the work they do is often hazardous.[14]

The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company professes to ensure that its cocoa is not harvested with the use of child slavery by not sourcing any of it from places like the Ivory Coast, where such labor has been reported.[15] As previously stated, Omanhene’s cocoa beans are entirely from Ghana, where Omanhene has claimed that “there has been no documented use of child slave labor.”[16] To its credit, Omanhene cites a study conducted by the government of Ghana on Child Labour Practices, the early results of which show that “the overwhelming majority of children [in Ghana] live on farms owned by a close family member… and that over 90% of children on cocoa farms attend school on a regular basis,” which makes child slavery unlikely.[17]

The Guittard Chocolate Company is another company that prides itself on the way it treats the farmers that grow its cocoa. The premiums that Guittard has given farmers have gone toward projects aimed at helping communities. For example, their website states that the Oro Verde cooperative has been able to use such premiums to pay for “ ‘health days,’ ” in which doctors and dentists go to communities and give free medical advice and medication to members of the cooperative. Moreover, the CONACADO cooperative has used premiums to construct an aqueduct and piping system that has brought water to hundreds of families. Regarding education, Guittard’s website mentions a village in the Ivory Coast in which a lack of schools created a burden for children that had to walk long distances just to attend. Thanks to premiums, the CORES cooperative was able to build a school, and many of its attendees are the children of cocoa farmers. Regarding child labor, Guittard is a member of the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), which seeks to ensure the protection of children in communities where cocoa is farmed.[18]

The company’s mention of educational opportunities created in the Ivory Coast calls Omanhene’s approach, which is not to source from the region, into question. By working with cocoa farmers on the Ivory Coast, Guittard allows the country to benefit from the additional premiums they provide. These premiums have been used, in part at least, to benefit the nation’s children by offering them greater educational opportunity. It stands to reason that a child without the opportunity to attend school will be more likely to fall victim to child slavery. Taking a hard stance against working with the Ivory Coast means that its cocoa farmers, and their children, are unable to benefit from Fair Trade (or “Beyond Fair Trade”) practices.

Women’s empowerment has been identified as another crucial aspect of improving the outcomes of cocoa farming families. The above image depicts a female cocoa farmer, and can be found on Guittard Chocolates’ Twitter page. The hash tag #GloCo2017 refers to the Global Conference on Women in Cocoa, which was held on February 16-17, 2017, in Accra, Ghana.[19]

Guittard Chocolate has made a point of counteracting gender inequality in the cocoa market. As its website states, women oftentimes aren’t given access to resources and training for cocoa farmers. This, in addition to negatively affecting women, reduces the income of families as a whole. The company is part of the World Cocoa Foundation’s Cocoa Livelihood Program, through which women are receiving skills that will make them better farmers, which increases their production of cocoa and other food crops. This allows them to bring in more income for themselves.[20]

Guittard, in the aforementioned twitter post, increases public visibility of those involved in the making of chocolate, and also seems to wish to increase awareness regarding the struggles such individuals face. The caption of the tweet reads “The demands on a female cocoa farmer are many,” while the female depicted simultaneously appears to be sorting cocoa beans and carrying a child on her back. However, some might disagree with this kind of imagery. Kristy Leissle speaks of advertisements made by Divine Chocolate, which show female cocoa farmers in Ghana. In these advertisements, women are depicted as “owners of the chocolate company,” as opposed to “narratives that cast Africa as… in an eternal developmental lag.”[21] Although the woman in Guittard’s photo certainly seems happy, there is a stark contrast between this depiction and those used in the Divine chocolate ads.

Environmental sustainability is another pertinent issue as it pertains to cocoa farming. The above video is from Equal Exchange, another company that attempts to source cocoa responsibly. In the video, the company describes its commitment to fighting the effects of climate change, and support of “farm level” solutions. They also elucidate that farmer cooperatives that are supported by Fair Trade are able to share the knowledge of sustainable farming practices amongst one another.

Both Omanhene and Guittard address the environmental concerns present in cocoa farming. As previously alluded, Omanhene “manufactur[es] locally” in Ghana. This reduces the negative environmental impact that would otherwise result from having to transport cocoa beans over large distances to be processed.[22] The Guittard Chocolate Company’s practice of using shade-grown cacao both protects the cacao pods from receiving too much direct sunlight, and helps to protect the jungle environment around the crops.[23] Moreover, the Cocoa of Excellence program, with which Guittard is a partner, increases the capability of countries with cocoa farmers to protect the quality and diversity of the crop.[24]

Guittard and Omanhene seem to represent slightly different philosophies on ethical cocoa sourcing. While Guittard is a Fair Trade member willing to work with farmers in the Ivory Coast, Omanhene has discontinued Fair Trade membership due to ideological issues with the movement, and also, as a matter of policy, refuses to do work in places such as the Ivory Coast. As to which brand has the more effective policies, both seem to be making efforts, in several ways, to improve the lots of the workers that farm the cocoa used to produce their chocolate. However, it is unclear how Omanhene’s policy of not working with the Ivory Coast actually works to counteract the extant child slavery in the nation. In addition, by isolating itself from the Ivory Coast, Omanhene deprives these farmers of the wages and benefits that it, as a company, can help provide. Guittard, it seems, by its involvement in the region, is more poised to make an impact against child slavery.

[1] Steven Wallace, “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017,

[2] Thomas Hylland Eriksen, “What’s Wrong with the Global North and the Global South?” from Concepts of the Global South. Global South Studies Center Cologne, January 2015. Accessed May 6, 2017,

[3] Ndongo Samba Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich, trans. David Clément Leye. Athens, Ohio. Ohio University Press: 2014., p. 64.

[4] Ibid., 77-78.

[5] Wallace, “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017,

[6] Roozen, Nico and van der Hoff, Frans (2002) L’Aventure du Commerce

équitable: une alternative à la mondialisation [The Fair Trade Journey: An

Alternative to Globalization], cited in Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich., p.73.

[7] Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich., p.73.

[8] Wallace, “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017,

[9] Ibid.

[10] Steven Wallace, “The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company’s Communication on Progress 2014: The United Nations Global Compact.” Prepared on March 24, 2015. Accessed May 6, 2017,, title page.

[11] Ibid., 9.

[12] Ibid., 9.

[13] Ibid., 10.

[14] Orla Ryan, Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. New York, NY. Zed Books Ltd: 2011., p.47-48.

[15] Wallace, “The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company’s Communication on Progress 2014: The United Nations Global Compact,” p.8.

[16] Ibid., 8.

[17] Ibid., 7.

[18] Guittard Chocolate Company. “Honorable Sourcing.” Accessed May 6, 2017,

[19]World Cocoa Foundation. “WCF January & February 2017” Accessed May 7, 2017,

[20] Guittard Chocolate Company. “Honorable Sourcing.” Accessed May 6, 2017,

[21] Kristy Leissle, “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139. Routledge: 2012., p. 121.

[22] Wallace, “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017,

[23] Guittard Chocolate Company. “Honorable Sourcing.” Accessed May 6, 2017,

[24] Ibid.


Cocoa of Excellence. Organization, Partners & Sponsors.” Accessed May 8, 2017.

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland. “What’s Wrong with the Global North and the Global South?” from Concepts of the Global South. Global South Studies Center Cologne, January 2015. Accessed May 8, 2017.

Guittard Chocolate Company. “Honorable Sourcing.” Accessed May 6, 2017.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139. Routledge: 2012.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. New York, NY. Zed Books Ltd: 2011.

“Slave Free Chocolate.” Last modified January 19, 2009. Accessed May 5, 2009.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Translated by David Clément Leye. Athens, Ohio. Ohio University Press: 2014.

Wallace, Steven. “ ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ Philosophy.” Accessed May 6, 2017.

Wallace, Steven. “The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company’s Communication on Progress 2014: The United Nations Global Compact.” Prepared on March 24, 2015. Accessed May 6, 2017.,

World Cocoa Foundation. “WCF January & February 2017” Accessed May 7, 2017.

Media Sources:

  1. Ivory Coast’s bittersweet cocoa industry.
  2. Chocolate Child Slaves- CNN.
  4. Equal Exchange: Fair Trade & Our Environment

Monetary vs Dietary Consumption: Men’s role in women’s consumption of chocolate

Bonjour dessert: tout ce que les femmes désirent. The hyperlinked advertisement shows a “sexy” shirtless man, whose apron barely covers him, laboring to make chocolate. The background music and his tone as he whispers French are meant to arouse the female consumer. French is the language of love, and as the male actor concludes in French, Bonjour Dessert are all a woman desires to have. The commercial is actually for a Russian audience and was televised in Bulgaria. While the men are working to produce the chocolate, it seems to be for the consumption of women.

Chocolate consumption can refer to the purchase and eating of chocolate (Fahim 2010). While women eat slightly more chocolate than men (91% versus 87% respectively), the chocolate industry heavily targets women in its advertising (Mintel Research in CNN 2012). Cholust choco.jpgcolate is marketed as sexy, and women exude lust in chocolate advertisements as seen in the advertisement below. I decided to explore the legitimacy of these claims from the perspective of men. Specifically, how does chocolate marketing influence men’s role in women’s consumption of chocolate? I interviewed seven male students who responded to the following up: a male who has ever bought chocolate for a significant other. I will situate my findings in the appropriate historical and contemporary contexts. All names have been changed to preserve the anonymity of my respondents. Based on my analysis, men’s purchase of chocolate is not in direct response to media and marketing influences. Instead, men attribute their motivation to purchase chocolate for significant others because of their semiotic understanding of the product and the expressed needs of their partners, coupled with its affordability.

Chocolate as a romantic gesture

Chocolate is associated with romance or love. When asked about the presence of chocolate in his relationship, John described how he and his girlfriend “once went to the taza chocolate factory; it was an entire date around chocolate. I thought it was a nice date. There was a festival with free chocolate, hot chocolate [and] I bought some. Essentially, chocolate serves as a long memory of that date which was cool”. His girlfriend loves chocolate, but he does not particularly indulge in it. Yet, he planned that date to show his girlfriend that he could be interested in the things that bring her joy. It was a chance for him to be romantic in his actions besides saying I love you. The semiotic association of chocolate with love naturally predates John and all of my respondents. 

marriage choco.jpg

Marriage vows between a couple in ancient Mayan civilization

In addition to exchanging vows, it was customary for a bride and groom in ancient Mayan civilization to give each other five cacao beans in order to finalize their marriage process (Coe 2013:61). As depicted in the photograph above, cacao beans were integral to to relationships in Mesoamerica and chocolate continues to be a placeholder in that sense. For example, Cadbury invented the heart-shaped box of Valentine’s chocolates in 1861 (Coe 2013:243). The commercialization of Valentine’s Day as a holiday around love has persisted until today. Purchasing a heart-shaped box of chocolates has evolved into a commonplace display of affection for a significant other. More importantly, the box is filled with chocolates, which my respondents associated with love. In his thesis, Fahim describes a Hershey’s commercial in which the girlfriend is upset with her boyfriend. She starts to warm up to him when he offers her Hershey’s kisses. The Hershey’s kisses are how he convinces his girlfriend to listen to him and show him affection (Fahim 2010). I asked respondents to contextualize their chocolate gift-giving experiences. Matt explained “If I meet someone for the first time and I’m interested, I might get a Lindt chocolate bar because it’s still high quality but it’s not the deepest and truest thing to my heart”. Matt associates the actual chocolate with romance, and does not value “cliché packaging” like the heart-shaped box. The more interested he is in someone, the higher the quality chocolate he offers her. Because of this, he would not gift a girl Hershey’s chocolate kisses. Nevertheless, the principle of offering chocolate as a romantic gesture persists although Matt and other respondents do not turn to specific brands because of their advertising. Overall, the amount of care and effort put into impressing the potential significant other speaks to his semiotic understanding of chocolate with romance.

Chocolate as comfort food 

Respondents recalled they were likely to purchase chocolate for their girlfriends when the latter needed to be comforted. Brian noted that “whenever [his girlfriend’s] studying, whenever she’s stressed, chocolate is just a go-to. It tastes good, makes her happy, [and in turn] makes me happy”. Chocolate brings relief to his girlfriend in times of stress and provides her with energy. In the nineteenth century, chocolate was marketed to mothers as essential to keeping a healthy family. For example, medicinal recipes involved cocoa and women were meant to make these concoctions, not consume them. Such recipes were perceived solutions to physical ailments like stomach aches and fevers (Grivetti and Shapiro 2009:71). Nowadays, women consume chocolate to calm down. Stressing out or worrying too much can be detrimental to one’s health. So it is interesting to trace the trajectory of chocolate from a remedy to physical illnesses to a potential solution of psychological ones. In the same vein, the gender norms associated with chocolate also changed. Women would traditionally prepare the chocolate-infused medicine for men or their children, but not themselves as it was considered “sinful”. Men now gift chocolate to women to bring them comfort, which signals a change in the target audience for the dietary consumption of chocolate.

Furthermore, I was interested in what sort of chocolate respondents purchased. John admitted his girlfriend likes dark chocolate so he either gets her Dove Dark Chocolate or Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate. Connor always purchases Ghirardelli Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Bar for his girlfriend. Sean recalled, “the particular person I have in mind, she really loved chocolate. So that’s why I bought her chocolate instead of flowers [to help her through a rough time]”. My respondents’ primary motivation for purchasing chocolate to provide comfort was because their girlfriends explicitly said they enjoyed chocolate. They were not consciously responding to chocolate marketing ads. Instead, they were simply trying to be great partners because purchasing chocolate was not an adventure or exploration. Rather than in response to media attempts to sway chocolate consumption, the respondents bought chocolate merely what their significant others already had a strong preference for.


Chocolate is affordable

Overall, chocolate is an accessible treat. I asked respondents why they purchased chocolate for significant others. Six of the seven respondents purchase chocolate for their significant other because it is affordable. John explained that “chocolate is a small constant reminder that I care about her and want her to be happy. I’m willing to pay four bucks for two weeks worth of chocolate to make that point”. Chocolate was not always this affordable. The Industrial Revolution was instrumental to the drop in pricing because of drastic improvements in four areas of manufacturing: preservation, mechanization, retail/wholesale and transportation (Goody 2013:85). These improvements exponentially increased the number of  manufactured foods, which in turn made them more accessible and affordable to the average shopper.

Beyond manufacturing improvements, the production of cacao also influence the supply chain. The cacao-chocolate industry has a long history of ethical problems in its supply chain as it pertains to forced labor and slavery on cacao plantations. From slavery in Latin America to forced labor in Sao Tome and Principe to “the worst forms of child labor” in Ivory Coast, the chocolate we consume is often tainted (Coe 2013:192; Mintz 1985:48-50; Off 2006: 122). Cacao is a commodity that large chocolate manufacturers can buy in huge amounts and farmers are not involved in the price-setting discussions. Furthermore, farmers are not always paid on time and therefore struggle to wholly rely on cacao production to make ends meet (Martin Lecture 2017). The respondents were neither aware of nor concerned with the labor abuses and low standard of living of cacao farmers. Respondents did not seek to buy ethically-sourced chocolate and did not look for logos like FairTrade certification. The one respondent who arguably spent more than “four bucks on chocolate” valued the quality of the chocolate he purchased for significant others. Particularly, he would procure Limonoro Sorrento Madagascar-Tohisoa, an exquisite Italian chocolate bar with single-sourced cacao from Mlimonoro choco.jpgadagascar (pictured to the right).  Still, his primary motivation for purchasing such chocolate was the quality of the chocolate and not its ethical considerations. Therefore acquiring it at a lower price compared to bean-to-bar chocolate makers. There are attempts to ethically source chocolate through certifications like FairTrade, Rainforest Alliance Certified and UTZ Certified . Yet, consumers are largely unaware of the distinctions and from my small sample size, not worried about the ramifications of their dollars. 

Food for thought?

None of my respondents attribute their purchase of chocolate for significant others to successful chocolate marketing. When asked why they thought chocolate was in fact their “go-to treat” for their girlfriends John argued, “if my girlfriend was into licorice, I would always have a supply of licorice in my room [instead of chocolate]. I just want to make her happy”. According to John, chocolate was not the inherent solution to romance or comfort. Instead, it was because his partner explicitly suggested she was into it that he bought it for her. For the most part, my respondents bought chocolate with the direct intent to please their girlfriends. This explains why they stuck to the one brand of chocolate they knew would elicit joy from their girlfriends, whether it was Ferrero Rocher or Dove Dark Chocolate. Chocolate marketing did not influence them to purchase the chocolate that a specific advertisement claimed would help men score points with women. While this key distinction important in men’s understanding of their role in women’s consumption, I cannot fully argue that chocolate marketing played no role in men’s semiotic understanding of chocolate.

While respondents did not buy the advertised chocolate, chocolate marketing as it stands today reinforces and rewards the notion that men should purchase chocolate for women’s consumption. Therefore, there is a possibility that chocolate marketing subconsciously influenced my respondents to feel affirmed in their chocolate consumption and therefore continue purchasing chocolate for their girlfriends. I understand that there are limits to my sample of Harvard students and sample size of seven and I cannot make generalizations on the underlying factors of men’s purchases. Furthermore, the scope of paper is heteronormative because all male respondents had female significant others. Respondents also assumed significant other referred to a girlfriend as opposed to a close friend of any gender.

Overall, this blog post serves as an exploration of men’s understanding of their role in women’s dietary consumption of chocolate, especially when they are in a relationship. My respondents believed purchasing chocolate was an easy and affordable way for them to brighten their girlfriends’ moods. They also purchase it because their girlfriends explicitly asked for chocolate. They did not purchase chocolate as a direct response to chocolate marketing efforts. Still, it does not mean chocolate marketing cannot subconsciously affirm men’s decision to purchase chocolate. The investigation begs the question of women’s motivating factors to consume chocolate and if chocolate marketing efforts play a more salient role in their perspective.


Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing” (2010). Sociology Student Scholarship.

Grivetti, Louis and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Wiley, 2009.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York: The New Press, 2006

Multimedia Sources

Advertisement of woman eating chocolate

Bonjour YouTube commercial

Limonoro Sorrento Madagascar Chocolate

Mayan Marriage



Taking a Critical Look at Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” Campaign

It’s no secret that chocolate companies have been using women in advertisements for several decades. Chocolate advertising was early feminized, starting with targeting women in the domestic sphere and then later transitioning to independent, working single women (Robertson, 2009: 35).  In recent years, chocolate advertisement has also become increasingly sexualized and women’s sex appeal are advertised alongside chocolate to target consumers. Today, typical images in chocolate advertisements portray women as being irrational and impulsive, completely overtaken by their desire to indulge in chocolate. One example of this is the popular advertisement where a woman attempts to set the record for going the longest without closing her eyes and succeeds in doing so for several days, only to succumb at the end to a chocolate which is so good that it forces her to close her eyes as she enjoys the confection. When examining chocolate advertisements closely, one can see the subtle, implicit messages that could have lasting impact on how we think about identity and behaviors.  As such, it is important to have a critical lens as a consumer in order to deconstruct harmful and problematic messages behind gendered advertisement.

In this post, I argue that when chocolate companies exploit gendered stereotypes for advertisements, this is not only degrading to women; but also imposes normative gender structures that reinforce hegemonic masculinity norms. To illustrate my point, I will use the case of Snickers’ “You’re Not you When You’re Hungry” campaign specifically to analyze how gendered marketing attacks imposes normative judgments and behavior regarding gender. In this post, I show four different video advertisements of of Snickers’ campaign and examine closely how they impose normative gender behavior by stigmatizing feminine qualities and glorifying aggressive masculinity.

Background Information

Snickers, a chocolate product of Mars, launched their “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign at the Super Bowl in 2010, placing their advertisement front and center at the screen of millions of American viewers. Since that time, the logo has been wildly successful, raking in millions of dollars for Snickers. The effectively short and catchy logo helped Snickers recover from previously slow sales and increased its global sales by nearly sixteen percent.  The logo has been widely appraised has also won several marketing awards, including Cannes Lions, The One Show, D&AD, and others.  In an interview discussing this campaign with James Miller, the global head of strategy at Mars, he revealed that the catchy phrase helped establish both fame and brand loyalty for Snickers in a way that they were not able to do before. Interestingly, Snickers has been historically branded as a product for adult men. As Miller explains, Snickers looked to find a new approach and story that would connect with everyone. When coming up with the phrase “You’re Not you When You’re Hungry,” the marketing executives talked about a “universal code of conduct by which men abide to stay part of the male pack. This was globally consistent among men, but also something that everyone could recognize or identify with.”  Using this concept, Snickers then capitalized on portraying emotional symptoms of hunger as being oppositional to this normative “code of conduct.” Miller states:

Whether you become cranky, weak or dopey, there are universal “symptoms” of hunger that can prevent a man from living up to the “male code.” But you don’t have to be a guy to recognize them. And, of course, Snickers, the substantial, nut-filled bar that has always been known for satisfying hunger, is the perfect antidote.

In this quote, Miller already presupposes that there is a “male code” — a code that would be broken when individuals experience emotions that would be interpreted as “cranky, weak or dopey.”  By stating this, Miller implies that men by contrast (and by nature) should be strong, energetic, and sociable.  By using this type of rhetoric, a Snickers bar has now been positioned to be seen as not only as an “antidote” to satisfying hunger but also a source of food that will make men fit with prosocial, masculine qualities. In the following videos below, I will further illustrate how this ideology is represented in Snickers’ advertising.

Betty White SuperBowl Ad

This video is one of Snickers’ first advertisements for the “You’re Not you When You’re Hungry” campaign and was aired during the Superbowl. It features Betty White, a popular celebrity. The set-up of the advertisement opens with a scene of grown men playing football on a field. Betty White soon enters the scene, dressed in a light blue sweater and matching pants. As she slowly walks across the grass trying to catch the football, she is aggressively tackled seconds later into the ground by a man on the opposing team.  Afterwards, she is grilled by members on her own team who scold her for “playing like Betty White.”  Betty fights back and bickers with her team member, before a young woman races up to her and offers her a snickers saying, “Baby, come here, eat a snickers.” After eating the bar, Betty White transforms into a young man–and enters the game feeling recharged and ready to play like his normal self again. The subtle and implied messaging in this video is problematic due to the way it portrays Betty White’s character as being weak, fragile, unhelpful, and argumentative.

To start, the choice of casting Betty White was a an extremely strategic on on Snickers’ part. Not only does her name and reputation help with the popularity of the advertisement, but her profile and identity as an older woman in itself adds a certain shock value to the commercial, prompting surprises in many viewers given the stark contrast between her condition and the condition of the other men. For example, it is atypical to find an elderly woman playing in a football game with men; even more, it is a bit startling to see an elderly woman being tackled down to the ground. As the viewer watches the video, there is a sense that Betty White should not be playing football with grown men given her age and lack of athletic ability.  Unfortunately, this feeling is exactly what Snickers’ campaign is able to capitalize on and also why the campaign is so effective. By offering Betty White a snickers that transforms her into a man, Snickers shows who is considered suitable to be the football player: a man who is young, has energy, and is dependable. In this ad, viewers would finish watching thinking that men are not only better players, but that they should not be weak or fragile like women.

Aretha Franklin SuperBowl Ad

In this video, two stars, Aretha Franklin (singer) and Liza Minnelli (entertainer) ride in a car with men who are on a roadtrip together. The video starts with Aretha Franklin, who sits in the back seat of the car and asks if the air conditioning can be turned on. After the front passenger says, “it’s on, can’t you feel it?” Aretha then smacks him on the side of his head, saying, “ can you feel that?”  The man next to Aretha then offers her a Snickers, saying, “Jeff, eat a Snickers please. Every time you get hungry you turn into a diva.” Aretha accepts the bars and after taking a bite magically turns into a young man who has seem to have lost his “diva” image. The video ends with the original front passenger having turned into Liza Minnelli, who then says with an annoyed look, “would you get your knees out of the back of my seat”? By offering a snickers as the antidote to remedying these symptoms of hunger, the video is sending the message that women are naggy and high-maintenance, which would break the “male code” and make them unsuitable for an activity like a road trip. Whereas before, Betty White was being criticized for being too weak, here, Aretha Franklin and Liza Minnelli are being criticized for their “diva” personas. It looks down on women who are vocal and portrays them as outspoken, demanding people who are not likeable. Similar to Betty White’s video, this ad sends the message that men should not possess these qualities.

Marilyn Monroe Ad

In this advertisement, Snickers features Willem Dafoe (actor) who is dressed as the iconic Marilyn Monroe in full dress and heels.  As he attempts to pose for photos, he is knocked off balance and seems uncomfortable standing on top a grate where below someone has a fan blowing air up his dress. This prompts him to angrily say, “This is a disaster! Who’s the genius who puts a girl in heels on a subway grate anyway?” Shortly, a staff member walks up to Willem and hands him a snickers, to say, “Miss Monroe, eat a Snickers. You get a little cranky when you’re hungry.” Following tradition, Willem takes a bit into the Snickers and magically transforms into Marilyn Monroe, smiling happily, and fitting right into character for the photoshoot.

This advertisement is interesting as it starts not with the woman, but the man. Even so, Willem is portrayed as having undesirable traits given that he is “cranky.” And further, what makes this advertisement slightly different from others is the image of Willem, a strong and muscular man wearing heels and a dress. The scene was most likely intended to be humorous, but is also imposes normative judgements about gender expression.  By dressing Willem as Marilyn Monroe, this video attempts to make viewers feel that this is not what is considered “normal.”  Men should not wear dresses and heels as this is directly oppositional to masculinity–this type of expression is only reserved for women like such as Marilyn Monroe. Messages like these and representation of these normative judgements are what contribute to gender binary ideology, restricting people’s imaginations and tolerance to a strict rules about gender expression and identity.

Soccer Ad

In this last video, we return to the sports field. This is an international ad, where a group of men are playing soccer. The victim in this video is the goalkeeper, who, unlike the soccer players is a woman in full makeup, dressed in traditional clothing. The video shows that she repeatedly isn’t able to block any of the incoming soccer balls and obviously out of place given what she’s wearing, which prompts an angry response from a team member who insults the goalkeeper by saying that his grandmother could do a better job. After some bickering, another team member comes up to the goalkeeper and says, “Joe you’re so weak when you’re hungry. Here you need a snickers.” Following with tradition, as the woman takes a bit she instantly transforms into a man who is actually dressed as a real goalkeeper and subsequently starts blocking several incoming soccer balls. This video is interesting because it adds not only a gendered aspect, but a racialized aspect as well. For Snickers, it wasn’t enough to have the goalkeeper be a woman, but she also needed to be dressed in a traditional garb to make her seem even more out of place. The gendered and racialized stereotype plays on tropes that have historically portrayed Asian women to be docile, submissive figures. The opposite, as displayed in the video, should be a strong man who is active and dependable.


As I have demonstrated through these videos, the campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” attacks femininity and promotes aggressive masculinity. In doing so, it reinforces normative gender roles by portraying how men should act, behave, and even dress. In addition, it sends messages that men are at the top of the social order, and that women offer no value to teams and organizations. This is harmful for both men and women and contributes to upholding a cis-hetero patriarchal order.

Works Cited:



Making Makeup Sweet

Warmth, indulgence, luxury – chocolate evokes many images as a sinfully sweet treat. Commodifying these fantasies is profitable because consumers long to be associated “with the romantic construction of chocolate” despite the fact that “systematic exploitation” and manipulative advertisements usually lurk behind chocolate (Robertson 5). In this modern age of cosmetic beauty standards and visually driven social media, the euphoric emotions associated with edible cacao products has spread to a form of non-edible chocolate consumption: chocolate infused makeup. Since chocolate products allow consumers to “express our own sense of identity” while offering ways “to say things about ourselves, our families, [and] our social world,” I situate the marketing of chocolate based makeup products in the same trajectory as the gendered, classed, and raced advertisements of edible chocolate (Robertson 19). This entails comparing a chocolate cosmetic line (Too Faced) from Sephora, a leading beauty retailer chain, to a chocolate bar sold at department stores containing Sephora outlets in order to capture the differences and similarities found when advertising chocolate and chocolate makeup. While both chocolate makeup and edible chocolate advertisements separate Westerners from chocolate’s problematic origins and perpetuate gendered, elitist Western beauty standards, the racism present in the presentation of chocolate infused makeup is more noticeable because it is an object applied to the skin rather than ingested within the body.

Cocoa Cosmetics at Sephora

Sephora is a beauty and fragrance chain founded in France in 1970 (the first U.S. store opened in 1998) under the international luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Sephora offers an array of makeup, perfume, skin care, beauty tools, and body pampering items from different brands, including its own original Sephora line, in large stores complete with mirrors, makeup counters, and tester products to try on for free. Sephora believes that “every stroke, swipe and dab reveals possibility” and the company shares their “client’s love for the confidence that our products … bring to their life every day” ( The store oozes sophistication and style with extensive displays and its connection to the parent company’s elite Louis Vuitton brand. In 2006, J.C. Penney, a large American department store chain, began an exclusive agreement to feature Sephora outlet stores inside many of its locations in order to attract spendthrift younger crowds. In addition to home goods, clothes, and accessories, J.C. Penney also sells an assortment of Lindt chocolates including Lindor truffles, Cioccolata, and Hello chocolate. I will use an advertisement from Lindt Dark Chocolate Excellence, the main type of traditional chocolate candy bar sold in J.C. Penney according to their online inventory, as a lens for critiquing the marketing of chocolate-infused makeup.

The aisle of Sephora stores in Hawaii (left) and Minnesota (right) stocked with Too Faced products (the only cosmetics brand Sephora sells that contains cacao). These images are indicative of Sephora stores everywhere; they capture Sephora’s extravagance and its impeccably clean, classy makeup displays. 

With “about 706 stores in the United States” (both outlets inside J.C. Penney and stand-alone stores) attracting consumers hoping to align themselves with a certain image, Sephora has stores in every inhabitable continent except for one – Africa ( Despite selling chocolate cosmetics through Too Faced, Sephora – one of the world’s most popular makeup retailers – has no stores in the continent that produces 70% of the world’s chocolate (Wessel 2016). Consumers of chocolate infused makeup are divorced from the bean’s origins yet, in the case of makeup and edible chocolate, buy cacao to be associated with its symbolic meanings.

Separating Fact From Fiction

The majority of chocolate sold in America is from bulk cacao of the sturdy Forastero variety produced in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Since lesser developed areas in the global south have an abundance of unskilled labor, they rely on exporting primary products to the global market. Because colonization, slavery, and forced migration disrupted social connections, destroyed culture, and decimated the population, developing countries lack the infrastructure and capital needed to compete with developed places. Neoliberal policies of privatized industries, few regulations, and free trade instead divert international trade profits away from chocolate producing countries, which affects the modern-day chocolate industry. Commodities such as cacao are subject to extreme fluctuations in price because “price evolution is less and less dictated by changes in … supply and demand” and more determined by others in the supply chain (Sylla 40). Market volatility means that cacao farmers are mired in intergenerational debt, since relatives often work on family-owned western African cacao plantations to lower costs. However, consumers are far removed from the instability and inequality facing cacao farmers. Companies use advertisements that reinforce local cultural norms to sell chocolate so that they can entice consumers who want to satisfy and promote certain social standards. Doing so is a long-established tradition; once “chocolate became available for the working classes [in] the nineteenth century, … women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption within the family,” as intimated by chocolate advertisements (Robertson 20). In a feminization of chocolate consumption, doting housewives and loving mothers provided their families with nutritious chocolate milk or sweetened their children’s day with chocolate candies. Chocolate marketing eventually progressed from idealizing familial love to idealizing heterosexual courtship by the mid-twentieth century through a focus on “light-hearted but respectable” stories of “young white couples” with female characters that were “irrational narcissistic consumers … seduced by the chocolate themselves” (Robertson 31, 33-34).

A commercial from 2016 for Lindt Dark Chocolate, which is sold in the same department store (J.C. Penney) that contains Sephora outlets selling chocolate makeup.

In a modern-day example, the commercial for Lindt Excellence dark chocolate (sold at J.C. Penney), hints at chocolate induced female “orgasmic pleasure” (Robertson 35). A woman’s silky voice encourages consumers to “experience the ultimate pleasure with Lindt,” as the chocolate is “luxurious” and “so intense.” She truly is seduced by cacao. These types of advertisements, where women feel “orgasmic pleasure” after eating chocolate, ultimately suggest “how women should project their heterosexual yearnings and fantasies onto chocolate consumption” (35). The dripping chocolate, the chocolatier caressing cacao beans, and the passionate fire add to this sexualized setting while the main character lustfully sniffs a chocolate piece. These sexual, romantic insinuations increase chocolate’s profitability as the fruit growing on cacao plantations in the global south has become fictionalized into a commodity that promises happiness and sensuality in the global north.

Chocolate Bar Palettes

Promises of happiness and feminine sensuality found in modern-day chocolate advertisements have been easily transferred to non-edible chocolate products. Through chocolate, women are encouraged to “project their heterosexual yearnings;” through makeup, women can project related fantasies involved in heterosexual courtship, such as female beauty, wealth, and seductiveness, onto cosmetic products that will allow them to be recognized as such (Robertson 35). In cacao-based makeup, chocolate, an edible item that promises pleasure, becomes a part of the user’s appearance in way that commodifies the body as a physical manifestation of chocolate’s symbolism. Chocolate makeup thereby transfers notions of female sensuality, sweetness, and lusciousness to the body, a reality that cacao cosmetic advertisements subtly emphasize.

Sephora sells a range of chocolate related facial cosmetics through two makeup brands (Bobbi Brown and Too Faced), though only the Too Faced chocolate makeup line lists cacao as an ingredient in the product. Beyond powdered bronzer and foundation, Too Faced offers a range of popular eyeshadow palettes that will be the focus of this analysis because they are packaged to look like traditional chocolate bars. For $49.00, consumers can buy Too Faced’s most reviewed, top rated eyeshadow collection that is “formulated using real cocoa powder” (Sephora).  

Marketed as a “A sweetly tempting array of 16 matte and shimmer shadows,” the Chocolate Bar Eye Palette is shaped, named, scented (with Theobroma cacao fruit powder), and colored (on the outside) like chocolate to attract consumers who want to embody chocolate’s sexy sweetness ( 

The shadow palette comes in a “playful chocolate bar tin,” complete with colors like “gilded ganache,” “black forrest truffle,” “triple fudge,” “haute chocolate,” and “white chocolate,” which evoke chocolate-related feelings of sumptuousness and opulence ( Subtle details, like pink cursive on the outside, cue consumers to the feminized image they are taking part of by using the product, but the wording and visuals are not as overtly sexual as the edible chocolate bar commercial. Edible chocolate like Lindt has been stripped of its physical reality, allowing non-edible products to draw from the sensual fantasy chocolate stirs. Too Faced also offers a Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar with slightly lighter colors and a Chocolate Bon Bons Palette with heart-shaped bright and neutral colors for the same steep price, as well as a smaller White Chocolate Chip Palette with metallic shadows for $26.00.

The three additional types of cocoa powder infused eyeshadow palettes sold at Sephora through Too Faced. All are shaped like chocolate bars and have colors written under each eyeshadow that are named for chocolate-related products.

Norton’s Tasting Empire mentions Bourdieu’s theory that “social subjects classified by their classifications distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make” in a way that is in “accord with social hierarchies” (Norton 663). Those reaching for Too Faced’s cocoa cosmetics are choosing to be recognized as tasteful consumers with a fondness for chocolate and all of its figurative images. The product’s high price and link with Sephora, a high-end makeup retailer, implies an elite status shared by those who use the Chocolate Bar palettes. Lindt chocolate uses similar, but more noticeable tactics beyond price and image to clue consumers in on their chocolate’s elite qualities. The chocolate is from the “Excellence” line and has the “richest flavors” from the “finest cocoa” according to the commercial’s narrator. The chocolate bar is a “thin masterpiece,” and Lindt prides itself on being known as a “Master Swiss Chocolatier since 1845.” These descriptions, plus the logo’s embossed gold, make the chocolate deluxe and top-tier, enticing consumers who seek to embed themselves in a particular class. Consumers play an active role in their product selection, using both chocolate makeup and edible chocolate as a “cultural mode” to express themselves or to “acquire social meaning” (Robertson 19). People aspire to be associated with chocolate whose presentation represents their values.

Race and Chocolate Advertisements

Besides attracting consumers with a promise of beauty and lavishness, the Chocolate Bar line sells racialized femininity and wealth, much like traditional chocolate bars.

This makeup tutorial uses the Chocolate Bar and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette from Too Faced to create a completed look on a white woman who embodies Western standards of beauty and class.

Similar to the woman in the Lindt commercial, the women featured in the makeup tutorials for Too Faced’s collection are white and well-dressed, positioning shoppers “in relation to that product as gendered, classed and raced beings” (Robertson 19). Racism has permeated advertising for edible chocolate throughout history. Though falling prices and diverse products theoretically brought chocolate into the hands of the masses during the 1800s, only certain people were shown as deserving access to the goods. Wholesome, “sugary-sweet white boys and girls” in white families were the idealized consumers who grew “stronger through drinking cocoa;” blacks were often stereotyped in advertisements, depicted as cartoons, “supervis[ed]” by whites, or displayed as a combination of all three trends to support socially constructed racial hierarchies (Robertson 39).

In order to “reinforc[e] dominant contemporary ideologies,” chocolate “adverts created a world of white consumers in which the black producers of cocoa beans and the black consumers of chocolate were at best pushed to the margins, if not excluded completely” (54). Though Robertson is referring to the connection between Chocolate, Women, and Empire with respect to Rowntree and Cadbury, these prominent chocolate companies (founded in 1862 and 1824, respectively) successfully influenced other companies’ cocoa ads. Similar to Lindt’s chocolate advertisements, Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar Palettes also pander to white consumers, but in a more significant and noticeable way. Those with darker skin tones, for example, must guess how the shades show up on their skin, for the fair-skinned woman in the makeup tutorial is the stand-in for Too Faced’s average consumer. Reviews for the palettes are overall very high, but filtering the thousands of reviews by skin type reveals dissatisfaction from women of color. In reviews for the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette, many mention that “a few of the colors are too close for distinction on my deep dark skin” and “they tend to blend together into a muddy mess on my lids” ( Ironically,  once a user “tried the [colors] that were lacking over a white base … then [she] was able to see them” better ( A comprehensive review of the Chocolate Bar Eye Palette from a female user with a dark skin tone claims: 

This is an adorable palette. Pretty colors and it actually smells like chocolate. However, what’s disappointing is that it’s only suitable for lighter skin tones. The colors were pretty on my fair-skined best friend but I found that on me, they were just dull. For you girls with darker skin tones, 90% of the shadows in this palette will just look chalky when applied. Not at all a high end look (

The eyeshadow pigments were not vibrant enough to be seen properly on darker skinned women, but on lighter women the colors look wonderful.

An excerpt from the how-to glamour guide that comes with the Chocolate Bon Bons Palette from Too Faced, which features only light-skinned women.

Reviews for the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar palette when filtered by users with “fair,” “light,” “medium,” and “olive” skin tones are more glowing: “the eye shadows are pigmented, creamy and blend like a dream” raves a fair-skinned woman ( A paper glamour guide comes with the Bon Bons Palette to show consumers possible looks they can create with the shadows, but each eye makeup example comes from the face of a light woman. Despite the fact that the colors in these eyeshadow palettes contain cacao and are named after cacao products, women with brown skin tones are disregarded in the advertisement and testing of this product the way chocolate’s true origins are disregarded by the fictionalized symbolism of chocolate (and chocolate-based makeup). This exclusion mirrors the way female cacao farmers and black women who enjoy chocolate are purposefully left out of chocolate ads.


Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar Palettes and Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate both use similar racialized, gendered, and classist advertising strategies that fictionalize chocolate’s reality and continue the separation between cacao producer and cacao consumer. Though the two items analyzed are sold in J.C. Penney department stores, they have different uses. Lindt Excellence’s commercial focuses on the physical pleasure chocolate brings, while Too Faced’s chocolate line plays into aesthetic beauty standards that exclude people with dark skin. Edible and non-edible chocolate products alike market values that consumers identify with and want to promote. 

Works Cited:

Multimedia Sources

“Chocolate Bar Eye Shadow Collection.” Eyes/Eye Shadow Palettes. Too Faced, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Lindt Excellence Cocoa 70%.” YouTube. Lindt Chocolate World, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Bronze Smokey Eye with a Pop of Color Tutorial featuring Daniel Chinchilla.” YouTube. Sephora, 10 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Chocolate Bon Bons Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced The Chocolate Bar Eye Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced White Chocolate Chip Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Scholarly Sources

Loeb, Walter. “Sephora: Department Stores Cannot Stop Its Global Growth.” Retail. Forbes, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Oxford Journal. Web.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester U Press, 2013. Print.

Wessel, Marius, and P.M. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 74-75 (2015): 1-7. ScienceDirect. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.


Unethical Practices in the Cacao Industry and Direct Trade as the Solution

The Cacao Market was established on the backs’ of slaves, and to this day, the injustices from its origins have continued to haunt the Cacao-Chocolate Supply Chain. With the abolishment of legal slavery in the Cacao Trade, there was indeed hope that the “Free” Market would correct some of the rampant inequalities that existed between cacao producers (farmers) and chocolate suppliers (companies). Unfortunately, economics has allowed an oligopoly to form: Big Chocolate Companies control the majority of the cacao market. These companies have the power to collude and have outsourced the production of cacao almost entirely away from South America, where cacao originated, to West Africa, where labor is much cheaper and the use of modern day slaves is not uncommon. Fortunately, there is a small group of chocolate companies that are working towards correcting the market inequalities that have become the norm in the last century, and this small group is composed is the collection of bean-to-bar chocolate companies that use Direct Trade practices. Bean-to-bar chocolate companies, and specifically, Taza Chocolate, employ unconventional business operations, in what is known as Direct Trade, in order to benefit cacao producers (the supply side of the market), by paying a premium for cacao beans and ensuring that ethical standards in production are met (e.g. no slave labor), while also benefitting chocolate consumers (the demand side of the market), by providing the public with a more rich kind of chocolate.

What is the Problem?

The issues in the cacao market are twofold: an issue of economic inequality, and as a derivative of the economic problem, the issue of unsanctioned slavery. The economic issue has developed due to the oligopoly in the cacao market, and this oligopoly has resulted in Chocolate suppliers having the ability to unfairly set prices below the market equilibrium. Slavery occurs due to the need for uncompensated labor since most cacao producers cannot make a predictable living income. For example, cacao farmers in Ghana typically receive less than $1 per day, and sometimes, these farmers receive as little as $0.50 per day. (Martin, 2017). Since the issue of unsanctioned slavery is a derivative of the economic problem, the economic problem must be solved before slavery is addressed.

How did this Economic Problem happen?

An oligopoly in the chocolate market was able to come about due to the high barriers of entry for chocolate makers. Depicted below is a graph which outlines the original chocolate making process that was used in the early 20th century:


(Coe & Coe, 2013)

As it can be interpreted from the graph, chocolate making is a very complicated process and involves expensive machinery. Since only a handful of firms were able to afford this machinery, those companies quickly rose to dominate the market. These Big Chocolate Companies that quickly rose to the top (Callebaut, Cargill, Blommer, and Cemoi), have come to control over 50% of the industrial chocolate market share, as outlined in the pie chart below.

    Industrial Chocolate Market Share

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 4.12.10 PM

(Martin, 2017)

To have an understanding of the size of the companies: Cargill is the largest privately held company in America and had over $120 Billion in revenue for the year 2016 (Forbes). If Cargill was a publicly traded company, it would rank as Number 15 on the Fortune 500 list (Fortune).

In emerging industries, such as the chocolate industry in the late 19th Century, it is not uncommon for a monopoly or oligopoly to arise. The problem, from an economic standpoint, only occurs when a monopoly or oligopoly persists over time.

Why has the Oligopoly Persisted?

Most modern oligopolies form during the infant years of a new market that possesses high barriers of entry. Unless the oligopoly has a unique limited resource or is protected by the government, the oligopoly will usually be broken apart as technological advancements allow new firms to enter with lower barriers. However, in the market for chocolate, Big Chocolate has been able to maintain their power through the purchases bulk beans, which “account for more than 90 percent of the world’s cacao production” (Presilla 123). “Bulk cacao” refers to the practice of aggregating cheap, low-quality cacao beans from various farmers, which Big Chocolate companies use in order to produce more chocolate at once. Africa produces 75% of the world’s cacao, and almost all of this cacao is in the form of bulk beans (Martin, 2017). Bulk cacao has become the most common form of cacao because it is what almost every major chocolate company chooses to purchase, and the sale of bulk cacao has allowed various middlemen and governments to unjustly benefit from the labor of the cacao farmers.

What can YOU do?

Removing these middlemen would allow cacao producers to sell more pure, high-quality beans, make it easier to increase the wages of cacao farmers, and eliminate slavery from the market. The best way to remove these middlemen is by increasing public awareness of the ethical issues that are supported by Big Chocolate Companies, and also increasing public awareness to the bean-to-bar chocolate companies that have started to emerge. By increasing public awareness, more consumers will make the switch from big brand chocolate to the smaller, bean-to-bar companies. If enough people switch to supporting bean-to-bar over Big Chocolate (including whoever is reading this post), then the companies that support ethical practices will become more profitable, and expand through the marketplace, and the companies that directly or indirectly support unethical practices will become unprofitable, and thus be removed from the marketplace.


Bean-to-bar chocolate companies are those that make chocolate completely in-house, as opposed to the Big Chocolate Companies which buy bulk cacao. Bean-to-bar companies are more likely to use high-quality cacao beans since it is common for bulk cacao to be composed of overly roasted and even rotten beans (Presilla, 2009). The best bean-to-bar companies are those that engage in a form of Direct Trade with cacao farmers, and although a Fair Trade Certification is better than no certification at all, Fair Trade is somewhat a misnomer as the non-profit does little to increase the welfare of farmers.

Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade

Here is a video that quickly overviews the differences between Fair Trade and Direct Trade:

(PBS Foods)

The video paints Fair Trade in a very decent manner, especially considering the high amounts of criticism that Fair Trade has received in recent years. An entire book has even been written on the issues with Fair Trade (The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich by Ndongo Sylla). Overall, the consensus is that companies with Direct Trade practices can be more beneficial to cacao farmers than companies with Fair Trade certifications. Taza Chocolate’s Direct Trade practices have become so transparent that consumers can actually see how cacao farmers benefit by working with Taza Chocolate. For this reason, Taza Chocolate should either expand to work with even more farmers or other bean-to-bar companies should aim to achieve Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certification in their own practices. Both of these options are viable possibilities if more consumers make the switch from big chocolate to bean-to-bar.

Taza Chocolate

Taza Chocolate, located in Somerville, MA, is a bean-to-bar company that employs crazy transparency regarding their Direct Trade practices. These direct trade practices center around one simple belief: “We (Taza Chocolate) believe that both farmer and chocolate maker should share the reward of making a great product” (Taza). Each year, Taza publishes a Direct Trade Transparency Report, which details how their practices have benefited cacao farmers. A summary of the report can be found in the infographic below:



Taza has “said no to predatory middlemen and abusive labor practices” (Taza) by following Direct Trade practices. It is clear that Taza does not support the unethical practices that are normal in the cacao industry, but what is amazing is how all of the economic and ethical problems of the cacao industry could be solved if all companies had a Taza Direct Trade Certification.

Removing Middlemen; Increasing Wages (Solving the Economic Problem)

There are many different types of middlemen in the cacao industry, some of these go by the name of “cacao brokers”, but another kind of middlemen is the governments themselves. Some governments have prevented the oligopoly, and thus the issue of slavery, to be solved by economic markets. For example, Ghana’s government requires all cacao to be sold to the Cocoa Marketing Board, which acts a monopoly in the marketplace. By removing these middlemen, the price of cacao beans, and thus the income of cacao farmers, can increase substantially. Taza Chocolate’s Direct Trade initiative purchases cacao beans directly from farmers. Working directly with farmers allows for farmers to focus on the quality of their beans instead of the quantity that is required to make a living in a market that favors the use of bulk beans. If all companies had Taza Direct Trade Certifications, then all middlemen would be removed and cacao farmers would make more money.

Eliminating Slavery (The Derivate of Economic Problems)

Slavery in the cacao market is sometimes simplified to one or two primary beliefs: either adult cacao farmers are exploiting children by the use of slave labor or adult cacao farmers are using slave labor because they are being exploited by the low market prices and their governments. Unfortunately, the problem is not that simple: a hybrid of both beliefs is correct. At the community level, some cultures view child labor as acceptable. In Ghana specifically, scholars write, “child labour is very much imbedded (sic) in the socio-local dynamics of Ghanaian society” (Berlan 1098). This may be true, and the belief that “it is hard to implement a slavery-free label for cocoa” (Ryan 52) may have also been true at a point in time, but this could all be changed with Direct Trade practices. If all companies had a Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certification, then all companies would be working directly with farmers, and thus, companies could educate farmers as to why child and slave labor is unethical. In the interim, a “slavery-free label for cocao” can now exist, and with enough training at the microeconomic level, cacao farmers in Western Africa could eliminate the use of all child and slave labor. This would also now be a very realistic option since the increase in prices (by cutting out the middlemen) would allow for slave labor to no longer be a necessity in the industry.

In Conclusion– Direct Trade as the Solution

In summary, the cacao industry has been plagued by inequalities ever since the Western World found chocolate. The inequalities started with legal slave labor, and slave labor, albeit illegal, is still seen throughout some parts of the cacao industry. The reason as to why these inequalities are still prevalent is the economic market has failed to provide a competitive environment. Through public education, the market can be corrected with consumers choosing their chocolates more carefully so that Direct Trade practices become the norm for chocolate companies. Taza Chocolate has created a Direct Trade Certification which increases the wages of cacao farmers and eliminates slavery, and every chocolate company should have this certification.


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



Martin, Carla. Class: African Americans Studies 119x (2017)  at Harvard College.

PBS Food. “Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade | The Lexicon of Sustainability | PBS Food.” YouTube. YouTube, 08 May 2014. Web. 05 May 2017.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Revised Edition. Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed, 2012. Print.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2014. Print.

Taza Chocolate.


Trending Chocolate

In my last blog post, I showed how the transformation of chocolate is a reflection of the industrialization of the food industry, as chocolate moved from being a natural, healthy food to a processed item that barely resembles cacao. When we think of modern chocolate, the first thing that comes to mind is often Hershey’s and Mars. The ingredients in these products mark the epitome of highly processed, artificial food. However, there is a whole different market for chocolate out there that counters this type of chocolate. As the food industry has become industrialized and increasingly processed, people have started to become aware of the negative health effects of these foods. They are becoming cognizant of what they are eating and where their food is coming from. This has given rise to a new trend in diet and lifestyle, in which people aim to eat healthier, organic, natural and local foods. Research shows that the rise in organic food production is strongly correlated with knowledge about mass-produced food, including awareness of the public health, environmental and moral risks of the food industry (Guthman). People are looking for something healthy, and Whole Foods has captured this audience, becoming a hugely successful grocery store nationwide. The chocolate selection at Whole Foods is a reflection of this new food trend that directly counters the fast, processed food industry.

The central message of Whole Foods promotes a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. On their website, they claim to be America’s healthiest grocery store and describe eight core values: (1) sell the highest quality natural and organic product; (2) satisfy, delight and nourish customers; (3) support team member excellence and happiness; (4) create wealth through profits and growth; (5) serve and support their local and global communities; (6) practice and advance environmental stewardship; (7) create on-going win-win partnerships with suppliers; (8) promotes the health of stakeholders through healthy eating education. The first thing I noticed when I walked in the store was the emphasis on these values. The signs around the store read: Sweetened by nature, more organic choice everyday, supporting organic and sustainable farming and get more green. This, combined with the imagery around the store, pulls you into their world of health food. There are products for every new fad diet, including paleo, vegan, vegetarian, and most food is labeled as local, organic or natural. The store appears to be the picture of health, ethics and well-being, and it makes you feel like you will be too if you shop there. This plays directly into the mentality of food enthusiasts who oppose the fast food industry. As Guthman describes this consumer, “In contrast to the fast food eater, the reflexive consumer pays attention to how food is made, and that knowledge shapes his or her ‘taste’ towards healthier food” (Guthman). Extensive signs and labeling are intended to draw customers in and help determine which products they want to buy. All of these observations are reflected in the chocolate selection at Whole Foods.


The first chocolate selection that I came upon was a shelf at the end of an aisle, as pictured to the right. The first thing that jumped out at me was the aesthetic of all the chocolate bars lined up. The bars displayed pictures of food, nature, and highlighted the words organic, natural and various other certifications to prove their quality. I then began to investigate each of the bars individually. For the purpose of comparison, I looked at the basic dark chocolate for each brand.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 7.18.05 PM.pngThe first bar I picked up was the Endangered Species brand, pictured to the left. The first thing that caught my attention was the face of a chimpanzee staring at me. This was not something I expected to see on a chocolate bar. The bar is described as natural dark chocolate with 72% cacao. The ingredient list reads as follows: bittersweet chocolate (chocolate liquor, cane sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla). This is a simple list, adding to the picture of being a natural chocolate. The certifications on the front are Fair Trade, Non-GMO project verified, certified gluten free and certified vegan. It also notes that they donate 10% of their profits, which is described further on the back. It says that by choosing this brand, you are supporting conservation programs worldwide. Each bar pictures a different engendered species, with information on that animal inside. This connects with the consumer on a moral level through the animals and certifications.

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Next, I looked at the Whole Foods brand bar, which did not have plain dark chocolate, so I picked the dark chocolate and almond bar, pictured to the right. What stood out first were the three pictures on the front, one of school children, another of a woman working, and the third of a cacao tree. It was labeled “Tanzania Schoolhouse Project” where “a portion of proceeds helps fund the education of children in the Kyela district of Tanzania.” This connects with the consumer on a moral level, making them feel they are making a difference by choosing this bar. It is interesting that this bar only used the term “a portion,” whereas the Endangered Species bar specifies that 10% of their profits are donated. Whole Foods also specifies their sugar is organic and fairly traded. On the front, they have a Whole Trade guarantee certification, which I had not seen before. Their website explains that the product must meet the following criteria: meet our strict product Quality Standards, provide more money to producers, ensure better wages and working conditions for workers, and care for the environment. They also have the USDA organic certification on the front and on they back specify that is it certified organic by Quality Assurance International. They note that it is a product of Belgium, but do not specify where the cacao comes from. The ingredients in this bar were: organic chocolate liquor, organic cane sugar, organic almonds, organic cocoa butter.

While these are just two examples of bars on the shelf, they show a trend. They market a sense of morality in choosing chocolate. Each company pledges to donate a portion of their profits to make a difference in the world, trying to make their bar unique. All of the bars on the shelf were decorated with certifications, including fair trade, organic, vegan, non-GMO and more. They were also similarly priced, each at around $3 for about 3 ounces. The last thing I noticed were the ingredient lists. They all had few ingredients, many of them labeled again as fairly traded or organic. I did not encounter a single refined sugar or ingredient that I could not pronounce, which speaks to the quality of the chocolate. This chocolate is far from the average Hershey’s bar, as each company has tried to make itself authentic and unique.

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The second section of chocolate in Whole Foods was a bit pricier, though was similar in terms of packaging, ingredients and certifications. One brand of interest was Taza, since it is a local company in Somerville. Having tasted this chocolate, I knew the texture was coarser than typical chocolate. It was labeled as stone ground, which suggests less processing, with more thought and effort put into the process. The bars on this shelf ranged from about $5-9 for roughly 2.5-3 ounces. The one bar that did not seem to fit in with the others was a brand called Mast, pictured above. The bar is simple, and the back lists the cacao percentage and ingredients. The bars contain cacao, cane sugar, sometimes an additional flavor and nothing else. I found this very intriguing, so I went to their website to investigate further. The company is located in New York and is owned by brothers Rick and Michael Mast. The design of the website was similar to the bar in its simplicity and lack of information. They claim to “source directly with regions around the world, looking for the rarest, complex and delicious cacao available. Mast pays far beyond commodity and fair trade minimums and has been instrumental in developing new growing regions.” However, they do not provide any further insight into where exactly they are sourcing their cacao. They do offer tours where you can learn more, so maybe they would reveal this information there. According to Rick Mast, “Our mission statement as a company is to provide locally produced craft chocolate…That’s it. We don’t need to design the packaging or do publicity to make sure people are educated in Singapore. That is the importance of the local food movement in general” (Williams and Eber). This is a unique philosophy in the current chocolate market. This bar stood out the most among all of the other brands that were trying so hard to distinguish themselves with promises or donations and certifications.

While Mast may not believe in them, certifications are definitely trending. The two most common themes were various fair trade and organic labels. Fair trade is a very complicated ongoing debate. Fairtrade is the most common fair trade label in the world (Sylla). While their intentions and values may be good, “It seems that the founders of Fairtrade unwittingly opened a Pandora’s box” (Sylla). After they became successful, many other labeling companies emerged and began competing with one another, each with different standards and no uniformity (Sylla). The actual effectiveness of a fair trade label is also questionable. Research shows that for one American consumer dollar spent on a fair trade product, the farmer in a developing country only makes three cents more than it would have otherwise (Sylla). However, consumers are not aware of all these issues, and thus when they see a fair trade label, assume that they are buying a more ethical product. The organic certification is less complicated but has a similar effect on the consumer. There has been a growth in consumer demand for organic-certified products, and people everywhere are willing to pay more for them (Williams and Eber). This holds true in the market for cocoa and chocolate according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Williams and Eber). But what does this really mean? Williams and Eber describe this push for organic chocolate as a big misunderstanding. Organic cacao makes up only about .5% of the cacao market (Williams and Eber). There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get this certification, in addition to it being expensive. More than 90% of the cacao is grown by small families who cannot afford to go through this process. This also does not affect the flavor of the chocolate (Williams and Eber). The certifiers do not understand the process of making chocolate and thus do not adjust their standards accordingly. Small cacao farms are not the same as larger farms and use very few pesticides (Williams and Eber). Organic may in fact not matter in the chocolate industry and in some cases can decreases the quality of the flavor. Organic is just a certification that makes people feel better about buying the product, but in reality they are just government standards that may or may not be improving quality.

This trend does not seem to be unique to the U.S. Europe also underwent a similar industrialization of the food industry, as Hershey’s and Mars became the common chocolate (Martin and Sampeck). In order to combat the big companies and processed chocolate, bean-to-bar chocolate began to emerge, focusing on small-scale manufacturing and single origin fine cacao (Martin and Sampeck). To address the labor and sourcing of the cacao, certifications began popping up everywhere. However, certifications in Europe are being questioned as well. This seems to tell the same story that we have discovered in the U.S. Therefore, this issue is not unique to the U.S. but rather is a global issue surrounding the food industry.

The demand for quality in the chocolate industry has ultimately created a surge of certifications. This makes consumers feel that what they are getting is natural and ethical, and they feel better about it. But is this really what they are getting? It is hard to tell, but it seems like simply putting ever more certifications on bars has become a trend but is not necessarily ensuring a better product. However, in comparison to the highly processed chocolates made by Hershey’s or Mars, is is reasonable to assume that these are better quality. There is still more to be done in the market for quality chocolate. The Mast brothers have realized they don’t necessarily need all of these certifications to produce a quality bar, although they could be more transparent about their sourcing. The selection at Whole Foods demonstrated the trend in the chocolate market towards certifications and ethics, which is a worldwide issue.



Guthman, Julie. “Fast food/organic food: Reflexive tastes and the making of ‘yuppie chow’.” Social & Cultural Geography 4.1 (2003): 45-58.

Hsia, Winnie. “What Is the Whole Trade Guarantee?” Whole Foods Market. N.p., 02 Oct. 2012. Web. 05 May 2017.

“Learn.” Mast Brothers. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe.” SOCIO. HU 2015.3 (2015): 37-60.

“Our Core Values.” Whole Foods Market. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.

Sylla, Ndongo. The fair trade scandal: Marketing poverty to benefit the rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.

Williams, Pam, and Jim Eber. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. BookBaby, 2012.

*Pictures were taken by me at the Whole Foods on River Street in Cambridge.


Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge: With Quality Chocolate, Price Is Not Important

The modern chocolate industry has been changed by the rise of artisanal chocolate makers, historically popular in Europe and newly popular in the United States. Small-scale chocolate manufacturing was seen as a response “to the perceived loss of flavor and quality in industrially manufactured chocolate,” (Martin & Sampeck 2016: 53). In contrast to the “Big Five” industrial chocolate companies—Nestle, Mars, Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Ferrero, (Martin & Sampeck 2016:50), artisanal chocolate makers are “unconcerned with producing identical bars with every batch” and “seek instead to draw out the unique flavors of the beans,” (Leissle 2013: 23). Because chocolate artisans are small-scale manufacturers, their products are primarily available at specialty stores.

On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, I visited a gourmet grocer, Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge—the original of the Formaggio Kitchen family of stores, to examine their chocolate selection. Since it opened in 1978, Formaggio Kitchen has expanded to Boston and New York. From the chocolates of artisans to bean-to-bar chocolate makers (1970s -1980s) to craft chocolate makers (since the mid-2000s) (Martin & Sampeck 2016: 54), all chocolates at Formaggio Kitchen are categorized as small batch. In the chocolate industry, small batch chocolate making has highlighted chocolate and cacao’s “country of origin—the conditions of production” and “local […] tastes—the conditions of consumption” (Martin & Sampack 2016: 37). Through the curation of the chocolate section at Formaggio Kitchen and the packaging of the individual chocolate bars, the importance of the conditions of production and consumption in small-batch chocolate making is echoed. The presentation at Formaggio Kitchen further suggests that the cost of these exceptional chocolate bars is secondary to their high-quality taste.

Initial Observations of the Chocolate Section

Upon finding the chocolate section at Formaggio Kitchen, my attention was initially captivated by the store’s personalized notes in front of or near the numerous chocolate brands available. These notes described how the chocolate bars taste by highlighting any combination of notable ingredients, cocoa content, origin of the cacao beans, place of manufacture, or distinct production technique.

Overview of chocolate section at Formaggio Kitchen on 5/2/2017. No information about the price of each bar is visible.

As a consumer accustomed to knowing the price of a product almost immediately after I see it on a store shelf, I was surprised find the absence of visible price tags. To know the price of the chocolate bars I examined at Formaggio Kitchen, I had to grab the desired bar off the shelf and turn it around. Of all that was emphasized about each chocolate bar, how much it cost was not. Based on the store’s choice to present their chocolate bars in this fashion, I concluded as a potential customer that price came secondary to taste, brand, cultural origin, and so forth.

Overview of chocolate selection at Whole Foods on 5/2/2017. Represents the typical presentation of chocolate with a visible price tag at supermarkets in the U.S.
Whole Foods presentation of chocolate contrasts that at Formaggio Kitchen where price tags are small stickers behind the chocolate bars and not as easily visible to the consumer.

Overall, I also noted the absence of familiar chocolates, including those from any of the Big 5 companies. In fact, I did not recognize the majority of the chocolate brands available at Formaggio Kitchen prior to my visit. The only brands I recognized were those Dr. Martin introduced during lecture (e.g., Dick Taylor, Potomac). Thus, my quest for knowledge about the chocolate selection at Formaggio Kitchen continued with my individual inspection of each chocolate bar and the content on its packaging.

Available chocolate brands (and flavors) at Formaggio Kitchen:

  1. Amedei (white chocolate with pistachios, milk chocolate with hazelnuts, Chuao)–$7.95 – $17.95
  2. Aynouse L’artesa (pure cacao, olive oil, fondant 65%, bitter orange, bitter 85%)–$7.95
  3. Chocolat Moderne —$8.95
  4. EHChocolatier (coconutty bar, peanut butter crunch bar) —$10.95
  5. Dick Taylor (brown butter with nibs and sea salt, black fig, fleur de sel, northerner blend) —$7.95 – $8.95
  6. Donna Elvira (pistachio, Modicana style, Pepperoncino, Mascobado, Cobaita) —$5.95 – $8.95
  7. Madre chocolate (coconut milk and caramelized ginger) —$11.95
  8. Marou (72, 74, 76, 78 single origin dark chocolate) —$2.95, 0.8 oz
  9. Mayana (kitchen sink bar, fix bar, space bar, haute and spicy–made specially for FK) —$8.95
  10. Poco Dolce (Assorted tiles, Aztec Chili tiles, Burnt Caramel tiles) —$23.95
  11. Potomac (San Martin 65 Milk, San Martin 70 dark + salt, 70 dark) —$8.95
  12. Pump Street Bakery (Rye Crumb milk & sea salt, Honduras bread and butter, sourdough and sea salt 66%) —$9.25
  13. Ritual (Belize, Fleur de Sel, Madagascar, Ecuador, Midmountain) —$7.95 – $11.95
  14. Romanengo Amaro (62% and milk) —$16.95
  15. Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé (green spices & matcha tea in white chocolate with lemon oil, caramelized lavender flowers in milk chocolate with star anise, cardamom dark chocolate) —$10.95
  16. Somerville chocolate (lapsang souchocolate, hops infused dark milk, Nicaraguan 70%) —$9.95 – $11.95
  17. Taza (chocolate disks: vanilla, chipotle chili, guajillo chili, coffee, super dark, caca puro, cinnamon, salted almond) –$5.50
  18. Venchi (cremino fondente, chocolate cigars-orange and chocolate, aromatic cocoa, nougatine) —$10.95

In-Depth Analysis of the Chocolate Bars:

Colors and Images:

The majority of the chocolate bars at Formaggio Kitchen had higher quality, and often more elaborate, packaging than industrially produced chocolate. For some bars, the color of the packaging, black in the case of the Amedei Chuao bar, or the lettering, metallic in the case of the Maraou and Ritual bars, conveyed its premium status.

In the case of Chocolat Moderne’s chocolate bars, the clear packaging made visible the vibrant colors infused in the chocolate bar. The intention behind the clear packaging is illuminated by Chocolat Moderne’s mission “to create visually stunning, hand-crafted confections […]” on the Meet the Chocolatier note featured at Formaggio Kitchen.
Supporting Chocolat Moderne’s aforementioned notion of chocolate as a medium of art, a Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé bar declared: “We don’t consider ourselves to be only bean-to-bar chocolate makers, but artists as well. We look at chocolate as an art material, and attempt to surprise and entertain out customers through our chocolates.”

Taza’s stone-grounding and use of chilis in their chocolate most explicitly identifies with the Mesoamerican cultural origin of chocolate and cacao (Norton 2006:684). As indigenous societies did, some of the chocolate bars, including EHChocolatier and Marou, glorified chocolate’s primary ingredient, through their inclusion of on the cacao pod on the package. Some bars, such as Madre, highlighted additional ingredients in their bars, such as coconut and ginger.

Place of cacao’s origin versus place of chocolate manufacture:

The place of manufacture of chocolate and the origin of its primary ingredient, cacao, are not always the same. While cacao can only grow near the equator, the manufacture of chocolate is not bound to any region.

Prior to the rise of industrial chocolate makers, such as Hershey or Mars, the practice of advertising the place of origin of the cacao beans used to make chocolate was common among European artisanal chocolate makers (Leissle 2013: 22). Over time, however, the place of manufacture overshadowed the place of the cacao’s origin as taste was linked to European national palettes (Leissle 2013: 23). Considering Europeans are the largest importers and processors of cacao and consume the most chocolate per capita in the world (Martin & Sampeck 2016:37), I was not surprised to find that chocolates manufactured in Europe were well represented at Formaggio Kitchen: Hungary (Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé); Italy (Amedei; Donna Elvira; P. Romanengo Amaro; Venchi); Spain (Aynouse L’artesa); United Kingdom (Pump Street Bakery).

For some European brands, the culture of the European place of manufacture was reinforced through the use of the corresponding language on the packaging (e.g., Amedei—Italian, Aynouse L’artesa—Catalan, Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé-—Hungarian). The bars that included multiple language translations, such as English, on the package reflect how globalized the chocolate industry is.

Although crafted in Saigon, Vietnam, the use of French (“Faiseurs de chocolat”) on the Marou chocolate bar doubly alludes to the bar’s French manufacturers as well as the history of cacao in Vietnam. France was the one to introduce cacao to Vietnam—the only Asian country represented in the Formaggio Kitchen chocolate section, in the 19th century (Marou Chocolate 2013).

Meanwhile, it was not until the turn of the 21st century that a significant number of small batch chocolate makers began to appear in the United States. Since 2005, “more than thirty fine flavor chocolate brands have been founded in the United States,” (Williams & Eber 2012:155-156). The chocolate bars crafted in the United States, grouped by their specific state of origin, included:

  • California: Dick Taylor, Poco Dolce
  • Hawaii: Madre Chocolate
  • Massachusetts: EHChocolatier, Somerville Chocolate, Taza
  • New York: Chocolat Moderne
  • Virginia: Potomac
  • Wisconsin: Mayana

Of the American craft chocolates, Madre chocolate highlighted its Hawaiian culture by featuring the Hawaiian word chocolate, or kokoleka, on the bar.

At Formaggio Kitchen, Donna Elvira, Madre chocolate, and Pump Street Bakery identified themselves as being bean-to-bar on their chocolate bars.

For bean-to-bar chocolates, the flavor and quality of the chocolate bar is tied to their batch number, listed on the package. Although not pictured, Donna Elvira, Madre, Potomac, and P. Romanengo Amaro chocolate bars also listed their batch numbers. 

Ultimately, the place where the chocolate was manufactured was more heavily advertised than the place of origin of the cacao beans used. Among the chocolate bars that included the place of origin of the cacao beans, an underrepresentation of West African cacao was evident. In general, fine chocolate makers favor Criollo and Trinitario varieties, primarily found in the Central America and the Caribbean, over Forastero breeds, the majority of which are in West Africa (Leissle 2013:23). The gap is significant because 70% of cacao exports are West African, but only 4% of artisan chocolates use West African cacao.

Ingredients, Health Labels, and Social Awareness:

“Many of these US manufacturers may be small, but they have been driving recent changes for the better in the industry: Change the world—make better chocolate. They pride themselves on direct and transparent trade, paying top dollar for the best beans, speaking out against forced labor, investing in education, and making chocolate that tastes nothing like the multinational mass-market brands,” (Williams & Eber 2012: 156).

In response to growing consumer consciousness, many chocolate bars advertised the certified quality of their ingredients, health information, environmental concern, and social consciousness. Research by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows that demand for organic cocoa and chocolate has risen (Williams & Eber 2012: 197-198). In addition, fine chocolate makers have adjusted their products to meet the rising demand for lactose-free, sugar-free, and high-cocoa-content chocolate options from consumers (Williams & Eber 2012:185). Notably, some chocolate brands choose to explicitly label their dark chocolate as vegan and gluten-free even though dark chocolate, in general, is inherently vegan and gluten-free (Williams & Eber 2012:185). The following certifications and health-related labels were featured on some of the chocolate bars at Formaggio Kitchen:

  • Dairy-Free: Amedei, Marou
  • Gluten-Free: Amedei, Aynouse L’artesa, Marou, Potomac
  • GMO-Free: Poco Dolce
  • Kosher: Amedei
  • No soy lecithin added: Romanengo Amaro
  • Nut-free: Potomac
  • Soy-free: Marou, Potomac
  • Organic ingredients: Potomac (cacao); Ritual (organic cacao, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter), Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé (cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, cardamom)
  • Organic chocolate: Taza
  • Vegan: Ritual

As evidenced above, demands from consumers extend to the specific ingredients used in the making of chocolate. In contrast to an industrially produced chocolate bar, such as a Hershey’s bar, most craft chocolate bars have higher cocoa content and lower sugar content. I found that the purity of the chocolate bars is conveyed through the simplicity of their ingredients—no artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, or unrecognizable ingredients were listed on the small batch bars. Ritual and Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé also expressed environmental awareness through a “Please recycle” request and a “We support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International” sticker, respectively. Similarly, Taza advertises its participation in Direct Trade.

Chocolate brands may choose to advertise multiple certifications to catch the range of concerns of consumers may have.

Lastly, a few of the chocolate bars asserted their quality taste through the inclusion of national and international awards: Chocolat Moderne’s (sofi Gold Award 2012, 2013); Pump Street BakeryInternational Chocolate Awards; Madre (Northwest Chocolate Festival 2014 Gold); and Mayana (Food and Wine Editors Top 10).

Concluding Thoughts:

In a study comparing taste preferences for different combinations of fat and sugar, 7.6% sugar with cream containing 24.7% fat was deemed to be the most desired (Benton 2004: 214). Although the sugar content of chocolate tends to be higher than the ideal figure, the widespread attraction of chocolate can be attributed to how closely it resembles the fat-to-sugar content of foods perceived to be the best tasting (Benton 2004:214).

When it comes to optimal palatability, chocolate is nearly perfect. Because most chocolate tastes good by virtue of their composition, I asked one of the employees at Formaggio Kitchen about how their chocolate buyers choose the chocolates in their inventory. She shared, ” Our manager and chocolate buyer do a lot of tastings and attend the sofi awards. Often, when they travel, they’ll find something they like and we end up getting it. They are always looking for something unique and different.” Formaggio Kitchen’s personalized notes asserted the unique tastes of their selection of chocolate bars without attention drawn to the final price of the bar. Concurrently, the chocolate makers represented at Formaggio Kitchen presented the quality of their chocolate through ornate packaging, place of manufacture, origin of cacao beans, certified quality of their ingredients, health information, environmental concern, and social consciousness, and awards.

Still, one must be aware that the chocolate found at Formaggio Kitchen may be financially unsustainable or even inaccessible to average consumers. Most chocolates at Formaggio Kitchen cost anywhere from just under $8 to over $20. This price range is may be at least 8x the cost of $0.99 chocolate bars at convenience stores. Furthermore, because the selection of chocolates available at Formaggio Kitchen is not available at convenience stores or most supermarkets, the intended customer is one that is educated about the source of their food, willing and able to pay a higher price for their food, and interested in discovering unfamiliar food products. Therefore, while price may not be important when it comes to proclaiming the quality of chocolates at Formaggio Kitchen, it does matter when it comes to the accessibility of these small batch chocolates.

Works Cited

Benton, David. 2004. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” pp. 205-218.

Leissle, Kristy. 2013. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. 13 (3): 22-31.

Marou Chocolate. 2013. Published on Jul 20, 2013.

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. 2016. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” pp. 37-60.

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691.

Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. pp. 141-209.