Category Archives: College

How Easy it is to Falsely Sway the Average Chocolate Consumer

Chocolate, today, is one of the most beloved treats in the world with an estimated 7.7 million tons of chocolate to be consumed in 2018/2019 alone (“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide,” Statista). However, even with such interest and demand for chocolate, the average consumer does not necessarily have any strong understanding around chocolate—from what makes certain chocolate better quality to what is a fair price for chocolate. In order to gauge a deeper understanding of what drives chocolate decisions and views, I decided to conduct a small study in Harvard Square with blind taste tests in order to get to the root of how the average consumer with no prior educational or personal experience with the chocolate industry rates and evaluates chocolate. By looking at how consumers blindly view chocolate bars and how they view chocolate packaging it will become clearer that brand stereotypes, the exploitation of certifications and labels, and the use of distinct flavors and fillings all lead the average consumer to falsely attach a certain quality or price to chocolates. It can also be argued that feeding on the surface level understandings of the average consumers could be a fruitful strategy for chocolate companies when trying to grow their brand, customer loyalty, and profitability.

The Study

Before diving into the findings of this blind chocolate taste test, it is important to set up what exactly happened during the taste test. I conducted a study involving ten people around Harvard Square who each sampled twelve unique, distinct chocolates. In my study I bought four different chocolate bars of varying flavors, price points, and qualities from three stores near Harvard Square—CVS, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. Next, I had each of the ten willing participants sample a square from each bar without knowing anything about the bars, including not seeing the packaging, and then have them detail out the flavors, texture, and quality as well as guess as to where I purchased the bar between the three stores available and how much the chocolate was worth per ounce. After detailing out the experience around eating each piece, then I would show the participants the packaging that the bar came in and have them describe the packaging as well as give them an opportunity to update their guesses on where I purchased the bar as well as the price per ounce. Finally, after this part was completed, I would then reveal where I actually purchased the bar and what the price per ounce was for the respective chocolate bar, taking note of any surprised reactions to my reveal. A list of all chocolate bars used as well as the stores they were bought at and the price per ounce for each bar are listed at the end of this blog post.

Stereotypes Around Big Chocolate Brands and Store Brands

A consistent finding throughout the process of tasting all the chocolates was that when there was a bar that had a logo pressed into the piece then that logo held a large swaying power over what the perceived quality and price of the bar was. For example, one of the chocolates sampled was a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar which has the infamous “HERSHEY’S” pressed into each bite. When the volunteers went to sample this bar and saw the logo, the reactions were immediate with people shouting that they already knew this bar and knew it would be very low quality and cheap. People guessed on average that the Hershey’s bar would value at around $0.40/ounce which—based on all the bars surveyed—would be considered incredibly cheap and lower than the $0.59/ounce it actually costs. Surprisingly, though, for such a considerably low-end, mass-produced chocolate bar, most of the participants genuinely loved the taste and “tongue-melting” quality of the texture. Overwhelmingly, the response was favorable because the bar was consistent with their expectations and past experiences. This same response followed with other well-known chocolate bars, including Cadbury and Dove. The fact that these brands are well known and branded so strongly led most participants to associate the chocolate with a lower price point and perceived lower quality, but still the flavor was desired and left people wanting more.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar with infamous “HERSHEY’S” logo pressed into each bite.

This response to the mass-produced chocolate bars in this study is not necessarily surprising given chocolate’s rich history. With Van Houten’s invention in 1828 “on a process for the manufacturing of a new kind of powdered chocolate with a very low-fat content,” he gave birth to the ability to bring chocolate to the masses in a cheap, low quality, fast production form (Coe and Coe, 234). The importance of this chocolate history is that for almost two centuries cheap, mass-produced chocolate has been growing in popularity and has become a common staple in most American’s lives, which is directly correlated with why the average consumer has such a positive association and appreciation for the distinct tastes of such bars. However, given the history, the average consumer also assumes that these bars are very cheap because their brands are specifically generic enough to present an affordable front. Also, interestingly, because these large chocolate companies are linked with affordability and lower quality, they are viewed to be sold at cheaper, more generic locations too. For example, for each of the bars tested that are more mass-produced (Hershey’s, Cadbury, and Dove) the overwhelming responses from taste testers was that these bars were purchased at CVS because similarly that store is also associated with more affordable products when compared to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The stereotype of the chocolate does not end at the bite of the bar but instead carries itself through the branding of any logo in the chocolate, the packaging for the bars, and even the stores that sell the chocolate.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the chocolates tested that instead had unique designs in the chocolate pieces were more likely than not to be viewed as being purchased at Whole Foods because that store seems to carry the stereotype (at least amongst the participants) to be pricier and more connected to unique, well designed products and produce. In the scope of this taste test, the participants on average would guess that high quality, nicer looking bars came from Whole Foods, any decent tasting bars came from Trader Joe’s, and all generically mass-produced bars came from CVS. It became apparent that the value the average consumer attaches to the chocolate bar does not stop at the flavor and bar’s packaging but extends to where the bar is sold.

The branding these chocolate companies and the stores have crafted completely impacts customers’ responses, no matter what the reality is. For example, all participants assumed that every bar sold at Whole Foods must be expensive, but the group was shocked to learn that one of the bars tasted from Whole Foods—Chocolove’s Orange Peel—was essentially the same price per ounce as Dove’s bar from CVS. These reactions are telling of the expectations and the preconceived notions people link the stores to as well as the chocolate.

Strategic Uses of Certifications and “Earthy” Messaging

Beyond stereotyping mass-produced bars and stores based on their histories and assumed values, the use of certifications and labels as well as “earthy” messages overwhelming sway the average consumer to associate higher value to the products. In this blind chocolate tasting test, participants would frequently hold strong views and preferences after tasting some of the chocolates and sometimes rank the bars as lower quality, lower price, but these same people would then completely change their view after seeing the packaging if it had labels—such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, etc.—or was announced to be organic, vegan, etc.

One example of a chocolate bar that has certifications on the wrapping itself.

For example, when the participants were sampling the Endangered Species Chocolate’s Caramel Sea Salt + Dark Chocolate bar, many of the guests absolutely despised and detested the bar because they felt it was too salty and felt cheap in quality compared to some of the other bars sampled already; however, the moment they all saw the bar’s packaging, most of the participants then associated the bar to be high quality because it has certifications that claim the product is “Non GMO Project Verified” and Fairly Traded—not to mention the wrapping claims that ten percent of the net profits are used to save the wildlife. All of a sudden a bar that was unsuccessful in this test group, considered to be bought at CVS, and guessed to be worth roughly $0.70/ounce was then shifted into a luxury bar that must have been bought at Whole Foods and priced around $1.50/ounce—which would place it in an expensive bar category. This is just one example from this taste test that illuminates the importance of perception and the use of labels and how these elements can lead to false views of the product that was just tasted and disliked.

When a product does have such certifications or labels front and center, the average consumer assumes these labels are linked with better quality and more expensive chocolate. However, when asked to the group of people involved if any of them knew what it means to be Rainforest Alliance certified or to be Fairly Traded none of them felt confident to explain what they mean but positively associate them to mean doing good. Interestingly, though, many of these certifications that were created to benefit farmers and create more clarity into the process have actually opened “the door to decrease transparency around trade terms” (Leissle, 147). So instead, the average person who does not know what such labels represent is blindly trusting that having any label means better quality. Ironically, though, even some of the mass-produced bars have labels too—with Dove claiming to be Rainforest Alliance certified and Hershey’s claiming to use farm fresh milk—yet consumers do not necessarily associate these well-known brands to be high quality, suggesting that stereotypes around brands supersede stereotypes around certifications and labels.

Hu’s bar which lists all of the ingredients it purposefully does not include in the recipe.

Similarly, bars that announced on their packaging that they were organic, no soy, vegan, etc. had a comparably positive leap in the perceptions of this test group. For example, Hu’s Cashew Butter + Pure Vanilla Bean Dark Chocolate bar (one of the overall favorites from the taste test) left the participants overly impressed after witnessing the packaging of the chocolate. This bar when blindly tasted was widely enjoyed by the participants, for they seemed to enjoy the nice complexity of flavors and unique inner filling that stood out from other bars sampled; however, even though the group already considered this bar to be valuable and high quality, there was a general lift in appreciation and value after reading the packaging: “organic house-ground cacao, vegan, paleo, no palm oil, no refined sugar, no cane sugar, no sugar alcohols, no dairy, no emulsifiers, no soy lecithin, no vanilla extract.” The seemingly never-ending list of characterizations for the bar seemed to check off boxes the participants did not even know were there—almost setting a new standard for what should be expected of chocolate bars and food in general. With each new “no” read by the participants on the package it seemed to raise the price and quality slightly, even though the consumer could not taste the fact that these ingredients were missing—they had to be told on the wrapping. While, yes, creating a bar that checks off so many different items is most likely expensive and higher quality than a mass-produced bar, the use of presenting these feats on the packaging greatly resulted in the average consumer in this taste test increasing their price and standards—maybe falsely because none of the items presented on the packaging were things the consumers could taste or rather not taste.

Companies that take use of certifications, labels, and “earthy” messages seem to be trying to tap into a pathos and logos approach of swaying consumers into purchasing their products. Such identifiable items on the chocolate bars’ packaging more times than not successfully added more value and clout to the bars overall, whether or not the bar was actually enjoyed by the participants—suggesting that the addition of these elements might be a strong business model for producers in order to gain appreciation and profitability.

Flavors, Fillings, and Cacao

Another major finding and revelation that became prevalent during this conducted chocolate taste test was that bars that used complex flavors—such as fruits, nuts, espresso—, forms of fillings within bars, or higher percentages of cacao contents all left participants at large attributing higher qualities and higher price points to the chocolate bars whether or not they liked the bars.

With flavors, it is not that bars without any non-chocolate flavors are low-valued, but there seemed to be a common, underlying belief in this taste test that the addition of flavors must mean that the bar was more expensive than maybe expected. Interestingly, the use of flavors did not necessarily alter whether participants considered the bars to be higher quality but only dictated the pricing per ounce category. For example, Madécasse’s Sea Salt & Nibs Dark Chocolate was generally appreciated amongst guests but almost everyone was held up by the fact that there seemed to be some type of nut (which was actually nibs) in the chocolate. Even before seeing the packaging for the chocolate bar, participants already were guessing this bar was worth roughly $1.50/ounce, with many of the reasonings being the use of some type of nut that the guests assumed would have cost more.

Additionally, the participants added on a higher price per ounce for Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Chocolate Bar because of the velvety, rich inner filling filled with easily distinguishable espresso. The sharp, strong use of espresso as a filling left the participants excited by the fact that there was a filling and immediate reactions that espresso is expensive at coffee shops so it must be expensive in chocolate bars. Similarly, this notion led many of the people to also assume the bar was purchased at Whole Foods because of the strong general consensus that unique flavors must be only sold at high-end stores like Whole Foods. Ironically, history shows that the addition of fillings with different nuts or flavors was actually a great way to lower the cost of manufacturing the chocolate. This can best be seen with the Milky Way bar that had “malt-flavored nougat” as the main ingredient, allowing for the candy to be “much bigger, tasted just as chocolatey, but cost much less to produce” (Brenner, 54-55). Therefore, even though the consumer might associate fillings with higher price, they might be actually helping attribute to lower costs for the chocolate.

Finally, there was also a strong positive correlation that suggested that as the cacao contents raised in percentage so did the value and quality—claiming the product was more “natural” and “raw.” This became clear with the chocolate bar that had the highest cacao contents of any of the bars, sitting at 85% cacao. Valrhona’s Le Noir Extra Amer 85% Cacao from Trader Joe’s was considered by most in this taste test to be too dark and bitter in flavor, yet there was a unanimous agreeance that this bar must be a luxury bar sold at Whole Foods because of its clearly bitter taste that many guests assumed also meant higher cacao percentages. While they were correct in guessing this bar had high cacao percentages, the group was incorrect in estimating a price per ounce because the bar was $0.85/ounce—not the $2.00/ounce the participants were averaging in guesses.

In all three situations—whether it be non-chocolate flavors, fillings, or cacao percentage—the participants found themselves assuming that the addition of these contents must yield a higher price, yet many were very surprised to find that their assumption did not always turn out to be true. Studies have shown that people cannot actually taste any of these flavors, fillings, or cacao contents by just placing the chocolate on their tongue; instead, it is now assumed that there is “no real flavor” until one smells and sees the chocolate too (Coe and Coe, 261). Chocolate producers are taking advantage of these “neurogastronomical” researches in order to sway consumers. These additional elements in a bar, therefore, successfully fooled the average consumer in this taste test into attributing higher price and assumed value for the product, falsely swaying opinions on chocolates whether or not they were actually liked for their tastes.

What is the Take Away?

While there were a lot of great findings from the taste test that was conducted with ten people around Harvard Square with no extensive experience in the chocolate industry, this study is by no means a conclusive evaluation of how the average consumer values and experiences chocolate. However, this taste test is a chance to better evaluate how some consumers make decisions based on taste, packaging, and stereotypes.

At the end of the day, average consumers are just that, the average majority of people indulging in the chocolate bars being sold globally, and there are many falsifications that lead and sway people into attributing higher or lower quality and price points to bars—from the use of stereotypes, certifications and messaging, and flavors and contents. One general consensus was that no one could properly guess the price for any of the chocolate bars, showing that chocolate producers can maybe take advantage (and already do) of the fact that the average consumer does not have a strong background in what price different qualities of chocolate should be or is fair. The use of stereotypes, labels, and flavors all have a strong ability to falsely lead the average consumer away from the actual value of the product and instead make them willing to spend far more or far less for a product than it is actually worth.

Companies might be doing these things and playing to the fact that the average consumer does not know much because it allows for companies to grow in customer loyalty as well as dictate the pricing for each bar and grow their profits and popularity. Consumers can try to take some of the learning responsibility and conduct their own taste tests to find what types of chocolates they actually enjoy, first, then consider what the price point in reality is because often times our tasting experience or package viewing experience filter how we price and value chocolate.


Chocolates used in this Blind Taste Test

  • CVS
    • Silky Smooth Dove: Dark Chocolate ($0.90/ounce)
    • Endangered Species Chocolate: Caramel Sea Salt + Dark Chocolate (60% Cocoa) ($1.10/ounce)
    • Cadbury Dairy Milk: Milk Chocolate ($0.74/ounce)
    • Hershey’s: Milk Chocolate ($0.59/ounce)
  • Trader Joe’s
    • Trader Joe’s Organic Milk Chocolate Truffle ($0.57/ounce)
    • Valrhona: Le Noir Extra Amer 85% Cacao ($0.85/ounce)
    • Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Chocolate Bar ($0.66/ounce)
    • Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic 72% Cacao Belgian Dark Chocolate Bar ($0.57/ounce)
  • Whole Foods
    • Chocolove XOXOX: Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate ($0.93/ounce)
    • Madécasse: Sea Salt & Nibs Dark Chocolate ($1.51/ounce)
    • Hu: Cashew Butter + Pure Vanilla Bean Dark Chocolate ($3.33/ounce)
    • Cocoa Parlor: Into Dark 80 ($1.66/ounce)

Works Cited

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World on Hershey and Mars. Broadway Books, 2000.

Coe, Sophie D. and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013.

“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide, 2012/13-2018/19 | Statistic.” Statista, Statista, Nov. 2015, http://www.statista.com/statistics/238849/global-chocolate-consumption/.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.


Multimedia Sources

Morris, Jelene. Hershey’s Bar with Chocolate Bloom. Wikimedia Commons, 1 October 2008, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hersheys_Bar_with_Chocolate_Bloom.jpg

All other images provided by author of this blog post.

Final Essay: An Analysis of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe

By Charlie Sandor

Chocolate is a main-stay for American consumers and comes in a variety of forms. In 2016, there were 1,200 firms producing chocolate and cocoa products that were worth around $14.5 Billion (Bureau, U. S. Census, 2019). In Harvard Square, there are several stores that sell significant quantities of chocolate, ranging from mass-produced Hershey and Mars products to gourmet offerings from Godiva, Toblerone, Taza, and many others. After visiting several retailers in Harvard Square that sell chocolate, I decided to focus on Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, which sells a variety of high-quality chocolates. Cardullo’s also has a very visible location, a targeted audience, interesting product placement, and high-quality offerings from well established brands.

Cardullo’s Prime Location

            One of the primary facets of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe is its location. Cardullo’s has two locations with one being centrally located in Harvard Square on Brattle Street and the other being in the up and coming Seaport area of Boston. For this paper, I will be focusing on the store on Brattle Street. This location is in the center of Harvard Square, which provides the store with visibility to students, tourists, and any commuters in the surrounding area as it is across the street from the Harvard Square MBTA stop. Furthermore, the store’s primary competitor in the area, L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, is located a few blocks away on the outskirts of Harvard Square. Cardullo’s is further differentiated from L.A. Burdick, as they offer several complementary products to their chocolate offerings. While, CVS, another provider of chocolate in Harvard Square, is located across the street from Cardullo’s, the stores are not direct competitors as they target separate audiences and have contrasting chocolate offerings.

Cardullo’s Store Front

Intended Audience

           Cardullo’s coveted, central location in Harvard Square allows the store to effectively market its offerings of chocolate and other gourmet goods to a specific audience. The chocolate product offerings within in the store indicate the targeted audience for Cardullo’s as the average chocolate bar in the store sells between $5 and $8. This is significantly higher than the $1-2 price range of the mass-produced Hershey and Mars chocolate products that are sold in the CVS across the street (Cardullo’s, 2019). Furthermore, Cardullo’s also offers gourmet assortment boxes that sell from $15 to $60 depending on the number of chocolate pieces. These product offerings indicate that the store targets an affluent customer that has significant spending power and focuses on the quality of the product, such as a middle-class working individual or tourist.

            This assumed targeted audience based of a Cardullo’s chocolate offerings is further reinforced by the other products that are carried by Cardullo’s, such as high-quality, expensive wife and imported cheeses and deli meats. These products are symbolic of the name of the store, Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe and show the company’s commitment to high-quality products and focus on higher-income individuals.

Product Placement within the Store

            One of the unique features of Cardullo’s is the nature of its product placement and organization. The store is divided into two halves. The left half of the store contains the deli and associated gourmet grocery goods, such as imported olives, caviar, and various charcuterie products. The right half of the store is the primary half of interest as it contains Cardullo’s various gourmet chocolate offerings and its extensive collection of wines. The pairing of chocolate and wine is fitting as both are viewed as luxury goods and carry rather significant prices in this store compared with lower-quality, mass-produced chocolates and wines. The price discrepancy of chocolate offerings between Cardullo’s and CVS Is  discussed above and below the specific brands of chocolate sold in Cardullo’s will be discussed.

Brand Analysis

            Cardullo’s offers a wide variety of chocolate products from companies that range in size from global chocolate producers to independent, family-owned chocolate companies. The primary brands that occupy a significant amount of shelf-space in the store are Godiva, Neuhaus, Taza Chocolate and Lake Champlain Chocolate. In addition to these five brands, there are individual chocolate bars from a variety of small gourmet chocolate companies. Below, I will go into an analysis of each of the five main brands to provide information on their origination, sourcing, production, and any ethical concerns surrounding the companies.

Godiva:

           Godiva is a world-renowned, Belgian producer of gourmet chocolate that was founded in 1926. Godiva’s primary products are gift boxes that contain an assortment of small, bite-sized chocolates. These are the products that are displayed in Cardullo’s with the store offering Godiva truffles for $25, 16-piece assortment boxes for $35, and 32-piece assortment boxes for $60 (Cardullo’s, 2019). Cardullo’s also carries Godiva’s Gift Sets that range from 8-piece, $18, to 36-piece, $50, assortment boxes. These products are at the highest end of prices at the store, reflecting the luxury reputation and high-quality offerings of Godiva. These product offerings are reflective of the tastes of the store’s targeted audience that was previously discussed.

Godiva’s Signature Truffles

           In addition to providing high-quality, expensive products, Godiva places a significant emphasis of conducting a sustainable business and focuses on doing what is right. Godiva’s website provides information on many of the sustainability initiatives that Godiva participates in. They are a member of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), which is a leading non-profit that works to increase the productivity and profits of local cocoa farmers. Additionally, Godiva partners with Save the Children, a non-profit that focuses on improving the conditions of children across nearly 120 countries. This non-profit has over two decades of experience working in Côte d’ Ivoire. Godiva also created its own Lady Godiva Program, which focuses on empowering women. This program partners with FEED Projects, to sell exclusive FEED products with the profits funding over 300,000 school meals for children in countries of West Africa. Lastly, Godiva signed the Cocoa Forest Initiative (CFI) to signal its commit to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain (Godiva Cares, 2019)

            Without a doubt, Godiva’s efforts are at the front of initiatives undertaken by global chocolate producers. However, Godiva has yet to achieve 100% sustainability and ensure that it’s supply chain is completely free of child labor. Godiva has committed to reaching these goals by the end of 2020, so within in the next two years. I believe that the company will be able to reach these goals with all of its current initiatives. Even though Godiva production lines are not entirely ethically secure, I believe the company has done a great of leading by example and committing to a sustainable production line in the future and supporting local communities in Cocoa growing regions.

Neuhaus:

           Neuhaus Chocolate is another Belgian chocolate company that traces its roots back to 1857. Arguably, the most significant contribution of Neuhaus was the creation of the Belgian ‘praline’, a chocolate with a cream ganache center. Similar to Godiva’s offerings in Cardullo’s, Neuhaus products consist of an 8-piece, 15-piece, and 17-piece assortment boxes that sell for $18, $30, and $33, respectively (Cardullo’s, 2019). These offerings span both individual purchases, with the 8-piece assortments, and gift purchases, with the 15 and 17-piece assortments, as well as larger 25-piece assortment boxes.

           Neuhaus specifically produces bite-sized chocolates from high-quality cocoa. They source their cocoa from a variety of countries, such as Peru, Ecuador, Ghana, Côte d’ Ivoire, and Madagascar (Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate). Unfortunately, the website contains very little information on the supply-chain of its chocolates and its sustainability efforts. Furthermore, there is no clear documentation of Neuhaus participating in the wide-branching initiatives, such as the WCF. This lack of transparency with regards to their supply chain leads me to be skeptical of any guarantee towards an ethically sourcing of their cocoa and to question their motivations and priorities as a company.

Taza Chocolate :

            Unlike Godiva and Neuhaus, Taza Chocolate is an American-based company that focuses on producing chocolate bars. Taza is a relatively new company that was launched by Alex Whitmore in 2005. The company’s original chocolate factory is in Somerville, MA, which is only one town over from Cardullo’s Brattle Street Location. The company is a great example of a “Bean to Bar” chocolate company that works directly with cocoa farmers to ethically source their cocoa.

           Taza is known for creating the chocolate industry’s first third-party Direct Trade sourcing program, known as Taza Direct Trade. Taza meets with all of its growers directly to guarantee fair labor practices. Additionally, the company pays their growers prices that are significantly higher than the already premium prices of Fair-Trade Chocolate. Above all of this, the company releases their Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report, which details where they source their chocolate from and the prices they pay for their chocolate. Their Direct Trade claims are also independently verified by Quality Certification Services (Taza Direct Trade).

Taza Direct Trade Logo

            Taza Chocolate sets the gold standard when it comes to ensuring an ethically sound supply chain and commitment to the improvement and sustainability of their cocoa growers. However, the smaller size of Taza Chocolate provides the company with a distinct advantage over global companies, such as Godiva, in its efforts to guarantee ethical practices among its growers.

Lake Champlain Chocolate:

           Similar to Taza Chocolate, Lake Champlain Chocolate is another independent chocolate company located in Vermont. Lake Champlain was founded in 1983 and focuses on producing non -GMO and ethically sourced chocolate. They’re known for their truffles and signature Five-Star Bars. Lake Champlain Chocolate products have the most visible placement within Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe as the display of their products is right as you walk in. Their products range from peanut butter and sea salt caramel chocolates to assort truffles to assortment boxes.

Lake Champlain Chocolate Display within Cardullo’s

           Lake Champlain has taken several steps to ensure and display its commitments to ethical and sustainable sourcing. Lake Champlain is a “B Corporation”, which evaluates the entire business of a company, taking into consideration the company’s impact on their environment, workers, customers, and community with the goal of leaving a positive impact on all of these facets (About B Corps, 2019). Furthermore, the company has 100% fair-trade sourcing for its chocolate with certifications from two third-party organizations, Fair for Life and Fair-Trade USA. These certifications ensure that their suppliers maintain fair labor practices (Fair Trade Chocolate, 2019).

            While Lake Champlain’s sourcing efforts fall short of the gold standard of Taza Chocolate’s Direct Trade approach, the company places a great emphasis on the Fair-Trade nature of all its chocolate. Consumers should have trust that this company’s chocolate is ethically sourced and relies on fair labor practices.

Concluding Comments:

            Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe’s prime location on Brattle Street in the midst of Harvard Square allows the company to effectively market its selection of high-quality, gourmet chocolates to their affluent consumer base. The store benefits from pairing their gourmet chocolate products with high-quality wines and charcuterie products. Furthermore, the selection of chocolates contained within Cardullo’s store, reveals a lot about the focus of the store. A brand analysis of the primary products offered at the Brattle Street store shows that the primary brands are either Direct Trade Certified (Taza Chocolate), Fair-Trade certified (Lake Champlain), or have made significant commitments to sustainable sourcing (Godiva). Neuhaus Chocolate is one exception as the company provides very little transparency with regards to their supply chain and sustainability initiatives. Overall, it can be concluded that Cardullo’s places an emphasis on gourmet chocolate that prioritize ethical sourcing practices and show a commitment to their community.

Works Cited:

About B Corps | Certified B Corporation. https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corps. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Bureau, U. S. Census. U.S. Census Bureau Daily Feature for June 3: Sugar Rush. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-census-bureau-daily-feature-for-june-3-sugar-rush-300276222.html. Accessed 4 May 2019.

“Cardullo’s Gift Baskets and Fine Wines.” Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, https://cardullos.com/. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Certified B Corporation | Lake Champlain Chocolates. https://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/b-corporation. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Chocolate and Candy, America Eats, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans. http://www.lifeintheusa.com/food/chocolate.htm. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Fair Trade Chocolate: What It Is & Where to Buy Fair Trade Chocolates. https://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/fair-trade-chocolate. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Godiva Cares. https://www.godiva.com/godiva_cares/godiva_cares.html. Accessed 4 May 2019.

How Large Is the Chocolate Industry? https://smallbusiness.chron.com/large-chocolate-industry-55639.html. Accessed 4 May 2019.

“Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate USA | Belgian Chocolates | Belgium Chocolate.” Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate, http://www.neuhauschocolate.com/index-en.htm. Accessed 4 May 2019.

“Taza Direct Trade.” Taza Chocolate, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Wine and Chocolate: Race, Supply Chains, and the Creation of Value

In 2018, a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru wine was sold for over five hundred and fifty thousand dollars – an amount that the vast majority of us would be reluctant to spend on a house, let alone one consumer good. Similarly, the most expensive chocolates in the world are not only masterfully crafted but also unique collectors’ items – the To’ak Chocolate 2014-harvest bar, of which only 571 were made; DeLafée of Switzerland’s Gold Chocolate Box, with edible 24-carat gold flakes built-in; and Debauve & Gallais’s Le Livre, arranged in a gold-embossed leather box crafted to resemble a book. However, by stark contrast, the most expensive among these is sold for 440 pounds – nowhere near the incredible value of one bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. By taking a comparative look at the supply chains of both the chocolate and fine wine industries, and the systems of race which govern them, this paper explores how quality and monetary value are created in chocolate and wine, and seeks to understand how this enormous disparity of perceived value may arise.

Creating Craftsmanship in Winemaking

Craftsmanship and quality in wine are determined by a myriad of factors along the supply chain. From characteristics such as the minutiae of the production of grapes in vineyards, to the history of a given winemaker, and even to something as simple as the price of a bottle, wine is eagerly judged by Western audiences for its quality and thus its cultural importance. Wine has the potential to represent sophistication and class, and to hold astounding monetary value; the best-known winemakers capitalize on each of these characteristics to maintain their reputations for the highest quality wines.

The production of wine grapes depends heavily on a tightly controlled agricultural regimen: their quality can be influenced by temperatures throughout the growing season, the amount of precipitation received by the vines, and even the time of ripening and thus of harvest; such information has been painstakingly recorded by vintners across years to catalogue the quality of grapes in each vintage (Chevet et al.). For example, vines are susceptible to water stress – a result of an insufficient water supply – which is intimately connected to the concentration of anthocyanins and phenolics in red wine, the acidity of the fruit, and the incidence of the disease (Goodwin). Each of these features impact not only the flavor and quality of the wine, but also the yield of a given harvest. Then, after the actual production of the grapes the wine must be processed for production and distribution by crushing the grapes and fermenting the must, a process that is labor-intensive and often done by hand (or foot). Additionally, as seen in the case study of the Chilean wine industry, wine distribution requires bottles, barrels, and corks, as well as less tangible input as marketing, advertisement, and label design (Ceroni and Alfaro).

Wines vary vastly in terms of price and quality; bloggers have expounded upon their preferences between boxed wines, which are low-quality, highly standardized in terms of flavor, and apparently excellent for entertaining, with the added enticement of costing as little as fifty-nine cents per glass (Kaminski). From there, wines become more expensive, with price affected by factors such as vintage, age, and rarity. Famous vintners produce classic and traditional wines made from hand-crushed grapes; craft wine makers have established estates in specific locations to lend their wines a complex flavor borne from the ground they were grown in, a concept known as terroir. Interestingly, in a study on Oregon vineyards, it was found that terroir and place of origin of a given wine did not impact its taste as experienced by consumers, nor could it be used as a metric of the agricultural characteristics of a region. However, consumers did valueterroir, associating the area in which a wine was grown with the quality of that wine, not due to inherent agricultural disparities between vineyards, but rather due to the association of a higher price and more valuable experience with certain regions (Cross et al.).

Terroir and the intensely controlled agriculture it requires are two distinctly important qualities affecting the wine supply chain, both of which are capitalized upon by well-known winemakers. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti cites “respect for the soil” and a Pinot Noir with “incomparable genetic heritage” among their tenets for maintaining quality; additionally, the supply of their already-famous wines are restricted by the small size of their estate, located in an area carefully selected for optimum climactic conditions (“Profession of Faith”). Their wines are thus perceived as high-quality due to both their rarity and the inherent advantages of their location. In “A Taste That’s Eternal,” Sotheby’s Serena Sutcliffe speaks with the Drouhin family, one of the sole distributors of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, about the vintages they own (“A Taste That’s Eternal — The Legendary Wines of Robert Drouhin”).

Sutcliffe’s reverence as she speaks about the various vintages and the history of these wines lends significant weight to monetary assertions of their quality, as she states that one bottle generally sells for between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. Additionally, the branding on these bottles – from the elaborately calligraphied logo to the homogeneity of design between the wine labels, bottles, barrels, and cases – are indicative of a strict standard that can be perceived visually as well as through taste. This estate thus represents a microcosm of the method by which winemakers strive from quality, and reinforces the idea that this quality comes from the ground up.

Creating Craftsmanship in Artisan Chocolate

The creation of quality chocolate is, similarly, a question of a quality supply line; yet, the chocolate industry is dominated by two vastly different approaches to fine chocolate: craft bean-to-bar chocolate companies and fine chocolatiers. The similarities and disparities between these two, with regard to sourcing beans, refining them, and ultimately presenting a finished product, reveal significant parallels between the ways in which wine and chocolate are judged for quality.

Cacao has three primary varieties: criollo, trinitario, and forastero. Criollo cacao is the variety grown by the Maya and Aztec, while forastero cacao was sourced originally from South America; trinitario is used to refer to a hybrid of these two (Leissle). While these categorizations are genetically meaningless, they are steeped in historical and modern judgments of quality: criollo as the most prized, and forastero as the more plebeian variety. Modern cacao is sourced primarily from the equatorial regions of South America and Africa, particularly from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Brazil, and Ecuador. Both the genetic origins of modern cacao and the agricultural conditions in which it is grown has a significant impact on taste and flavor of the cacao; for example, heirloom South American cacao has lower tannin levels than most West African cacao, while beans grown at high altitudes show greater fat content; both characteristics significantly impact the flavor of the bean (Stout). Thus, like that of wine grapes, cacao’s environment is strictly controlled in an effort to produce a quality product. Once the bean is grown, it undergoes a long processing chain to become a bar of chocolate. Processes of fermenting, roasting, winnowing, and grinding are dictated by specially designed equipment such as roll mills and longitudinal conches to produce quality chocolate liquor; this liquor is then shaped into bars for distribution (Stout).

At this point in the supply chain, the fine chocolate industry diverges somewhat from that of fine wines. Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers assert the quality of their chocolate with evidence used by many wine makers – impeccable genetic sourcing, single-origin cacao, and the importance of bringing the flavor of the earth to the product. However, another, more public perception of fine chocolate, with roots in both history and fancy, lies not in such craft chocolate makers but with fine, often European chocolatiers, who have worked to create a culture of artisanal chocolate-based sweets – what we call chocolates or bonbons.

This video by L’Ecole Valrhona, a pastry and chocolate school located in Brooklyn, tagged #finechocolate on Instagram, demonstrates how technique and culinary skill can govern the quality of chocolate: the chef’s mastery of the chablon, a difficult-to-make thin chocolate shell, lends value to the chocolate he produces. Importantly, these characteristics of chocolate’s production, which are based on the maker and not the bean, in some cases also determine its price. Bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers, such as Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, and Godiva, are ranked among the best on the international market (Lande and Lande). However, fine chocolate makers such as Teuscher, Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and Richart produce not only chocolates but chocolate-based products, whose price is justified by their use of chocolate rather than by the chocolate itself (Lande and Lande). For example, Richart sells a wooden chocolate vault with seven drawers and climate gauges for 850 pounds, and Valentine gourmet chocolates (containing only a thin shell of dark chocolate) which sell for 61 pounds per box (Browne). Thus in contrast to the fine wine industry, what can be done with chocolate is just as important as the production of the chocolate itself.

Race in the Wine and Chocolate Industries

There are a number of interesting implications of the differences between wine and chocolate which can and should be tied to the inherent racial dynamics within both industries. First and foremost; vineyards are a white industry while cacao growing is not. The top wine producing nations are Italy, Spain, and France; these nations also produce few grapes overall, an indication that nearly all of the grapes grown in these nations are used for wine (Karlsson). This in turn implies that the majority of wine grapes are grown in these regions, where vineyards are economically able to produce a limited number of grapes for the express purpose of winemaking. By contrast, the top cacao producers are Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, nations all made up of people of color. To add some additional perspective: while fine wine-producing and grape growing regions consist of the same set of nations, the finest chocolate makers are housed in Switzerland, France, Belgium, and the United States.

The types of labor abuses in both industries reveal that they exist within a system of production which ultimately uses the labor of black and brown people at the stages of production which do not create either monetary value or quality, and white labor at the stages which do. A good case study are the agrimafias of Italian vineyards, which employ and then exploit undocumented immigrant labor; an estimated third of all agricultural employment in Italy is thus illegal (Seifert and Valente). The majority of these immigrants are refugees of color from the fallout of the Arab Spring, while these agrimafias are owned and employed by white, natively Italian winemakers; the industry shows a clear systemic employment of underpaid workers of color at the agricultural stage of production –the stage at which the profit margins are lowest (Marcus). Similarly, cocoa has a long history of slave labor and forced labor supplied by displaced African slaves; even today, illegal systems of sharecropping and tax evasion in cacao-growing regions such as Brazil mean that worker exploitation and child labor are prevalent in cocoa production (Leissle; Picolotto et al.).

While both industries show a racial disparity between the workers in agricultural production and those further down the supply chain where quality is created, the branch of the chocolate industry focused on culinary excellence with chocolate exacerbates that disparity in particular. The very image of fine chocolate in the public eye involves extensive tempering and specialization; chocolate is not a fine food alone but must be incorporated into pralines, ganaches, and truffles – all recipes created by white cooks (Terrio). Holding a food which is historically Central and South American to standards of quality invented by white Europeans is a racist and colonial ideal; it invalidates the value of chocolate itself and instead instills value through its modification by whiteness. By contrast, wine, already a white product, is valued only for its terroir and vintage – both factors associated intrinsically with the Western European regions in which it is produced.

This principle can be noted in the ways in which chocolate and wine are advertised. Compare the following two advertisements:

Both of these advertisements play on the idea of the displacement of taste – that a taste can belong to a region, and be exported from that region to the consumer. Yet, the original taste of a French wine is implied to be diluted, to lose its gravity, when exported to an American consumer; however, the “exotic” flavors behind chocolate are implied to be packaged and enhanced for the express purpose of pleasing a similar consumer. This is not an isolated case; from the Conguitos of Spain to the Italian Nougatine, chocolate in advertising is linked closely with blackness and caricatures of blackness; chocolate thus becomes a colonial commodity despite the post-colonial world in which we live (Hackenesch).

Conclusion

By comparing the salient features of the fine wine and fine chocolate industries, the systems of race which govern both become clear. Chocolate, as a fundamentally black and brown good, is disproportionately affected within these systems; its exoticism is packaged for white audiences, and subject to white improvement to create quality and to appeal to the white palate. While these systemic factors of race may not be the only ones to explain why one bottle of wine can be sold at a standard of twenty thousand dollars, while equally fine and more difficult-to-grow chocolate can be sold for just 1% of the same value after added white refinement, they present a strong case by which we may examine how Western customers perceive value in the goods they consume.

Bibliography

“A Taste That’s Eternal — The Legendary Wines of Robert Drouhin.” Masterworks: Expert Voices, 15 Aug. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTCXsU_mN-c.

Browne, Valerie. “The World’s Most Expensive Chocolate.” INews, 13 Apr. 2017, https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/food-and-drink/worlds-expensive-chocolate/.

Ceroni, Jose, and Rodrigo Alfaro. “Information Gathering and Classification for Collaborative Logistics Decision Making.” Supply Chain Management – New Perspectives, edited by Sanda Renko, InTech Open, 2011, DOI: 10.5772/23170.

Chevet, Jean-Michel, et al. “Climate, Grapevine Phenology, Wine Production, and Prices: Pauillac (1800-2009).” American Economic Review, vol. 101, no. 3, 2011, pp. 142–46, doi:10.1257/aer.101.3.142.

Cross, Robin, et al. “What Is the Value of Terroir?” American Economic Review, vol. 101, no. 3, 2011, pp. 152–56, doi:10.1257/aer.101.3.152.

Goodwin, Ian. “Managing Water Stress in Grape Vines in Greater Victoria.” Agriculture Victoria, Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Nov. 2002, p. AG1074.

Hackenesch, Silke. “Advertising Chocolate, Consuming Race? On the Peculiar Relationship of Chocolate  Advertising, German Colonialism, and Blackness.” Food & History, vol. 12, no. 1, 2015, pp. 97–114.

Kaminski, Lisa. “We Tried 5 Popular Brands to Find The Best Boxed Wine.” Taste of Home, 29 Aug. 2018, https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/best-boxed-wines/.

Karlsson, Per. “The World’s Grape Production 2000-2012.” BK Wine Magazine, June 2013, https://www.bkwine.com/features/winemaking-viticulture/global-grape-production-2000-2012/.

Lande, Nathaniel, and Andrew Lande. “The 10 Best Chocolatiers in the World.” National Geographic, 28 Dec. 2012, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/intelligent-travel/2012/12/28/the-10-best-chocolatiers-in-the-world/.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Marcus, David. “The Wine Workers We Don’t See.” The Street, 14 Oct. 2018, https://www.thestreet.com/lifestyle/food-drink/the-wine-workers-we-don-t-see-14743573.

Picolotto, Andre, et al. “COCOA SUPPLY CHAIN ADVANCES AND CHALLENGES TOWARD THE PROMOTION OF DECENT WORK: A Situational Analysis.” International Labor Organization, 2018, https://drive.google.com/file/d/12UwXzZ9yKu24bQQ5Noz2VVMNeuU5ibqS/view.

“Profession of Faith.” Domaine de La Romanee-Conti, 2019, http://m.romanee-conti.fr/profession-de-foi.php.

Seifert, Stefan, and Marica Valente. An Offer That You Can’t Refuse? Agrimafias and Migrant Labor on Vineyards in Southern Italy. DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, 2018, https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1735.

Stout, Robbie. Ritual Chocolate. Cambridge, MA.

Terrio, Susan. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, 2000.

Modern Kings: Consumers in the Chocolate Aisle

(https://www.flickr.com/photos /lyza/49545547 )

Grocery stores, supermarkets, food marts, or whatever you call them, the places where millions of Americans get their food each week, are crucial to a vibrant nation.  While their presence influences the economy among many other sectors, this post will examine their relationship with consumer choices.  Modern grocery stores sell much more than food—beverages, hygiene and cleaning supplies, magazines, pharmaceutical goods, alcohol, clothing, gasoline, pet supplies, household items—the list goes on and on.   In 2017, the average number of items carried in a supermarket was over 30,000 (“Supermarket Facts”).  Although there are many products, shelf-space at grocery stores is nevertheless finite, leading to extreme competition among manufacturers to get their products in front of Americans.  After decades of this competition a short list of conglomerates dominate both the grocery store brands and the manufactures that supply them.  These few entities have tremendous influence and are involved in many industries.  An excellent example of this market penetration is the chocolate industry.

Mars, Mondelez, Ferrero, Nestle, and Hershey “dominate the mature markets of Europe and North America” and capture nearly two-thirds of global chocolate market share (Leissle 73-74).  This percentage is staggering, and a quick trip to CVS confirms the dominance.  The image above shows the traditional chocolate selection at the local CVS store in Cambridge, MA and each of The Big Five has a large presence.  Mars brands include Dove, M&M’s, Twix, Milky Way, and Snickers.  The Mondelez brands are Toblerone, Cadbury, and Oreo.  Ferrero surprisingly only has one brand in the pictures which is Butterfinger.  Nestle owns the brands Rolo, Reese’s, KitKat, Crunch, and Raisinets despite some of these brands produced by Hershey here in the United States.  Lastly, Hershey brands are many—Hershey Kisses, Heath, Reese’s, York, Almond Joy, Brookside—just to name a few.  Each of these brands comes in countless varieties and there are over easily several hundreds of bags of chocolate in each store.  So, chocolate is big business, but there is much more to the industry.   Careful analysis of this curated selection of chocolates reveals much more than what meets the eye in an ordinary trip to the grocery store. 

The adventure exploring this multi-faceted industry begins in a surprising place, the non-traditional chocolate selection in the same CVS store.  Aptly titled “Premium Chocolates,” this stand is much smaller and contains more expensive and more exclusive brands.  This premium selection includes only a handful of brands which provide a stark contrast to the brands above.  Ghirardelli, Russell Stover, Whitman’s, and Lindt’s Excellence, are the most prominent and all owned by Lindt & Sprüngli.  Also making an appearance are Ritter Sport, Endangered Species Chocolate, and Turtles.  There are only two Big Five brands—Raffaello and Ferrero Rocher—both which are owned by the company of the same name, Ferrero.  This display encourages the consumer to associate these chocolates with special occasions, luxury, health, romance, extravagance, and celebration, all events worth the companies hope consumers will splurge for.  Intense Dark, Irresistibly Smooth, Salted Caramel Cascade, Hazelnut Heaven, Sea Salt Soiree, Blood Orange Sunset, Raspberry Radiance, Cherry Tango, 90% cacao content, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Non-GMO verified, gluten free, and numerous other slogans and labels all indicate this chocolate is for the advanced palate and educated consumer.  However, more than a label is often needed to convince customers for the surcharge.  Three common avenues of getting higher prices are trade certifications, better cacao quality, and retail product differences.

First, trade certifications are stamps of approval from agencies that generally commit to serving a mission like paying higher cacao prices to farmers, working to end child and forced labor, helping develop community infrastructure in Africa and other cacao-growing regions, and many more.  So many organizations with so many different names and goals pose a difficulty to consumers trying to select which certification is best supporting the industry.  To give an example, one of the most popular is Fairtrade, which is overseen by Fairtrade International.  As Kristy Leissle explains, “Fairtrade International is an intermediary between labeling organizations and producer organizations.  Labeling organizations certify that chocolate companies comply with Fairtrade price terms, and that producer organizations comply with Fairtrade producer terms” (Leissle 141).  These terms touch on working conditions, the environment, sustainability, child labor, discrimination, and more.  The producers who meet these the necessary conditions and pay a certification fee receive a Fairtrade Minimum Prize on all cocoa sold in return.  While it sounds good in theory, issues arise in practice like the price floor not rising quickly enough with inflation and other ingredients in bars not being certified yet taking advantage of the Fairtrade premium.  As one author explains “I do not challenge the sincerity and ambition of [the Fairtrade] approach, nor the purity of its motives,” but she continues and emphasizes that Fairtrade is “the most recent example of another sophisticated ‘scam’ by the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market.  This noble endeavor for the salvation of the free market was tamed and domesticated by the very forces it wanted to fight” (Sylla 18).  Nevertheless, however misguided a consumer’s perceptions may be and despite procedural problems like those raised by Sylla, trade certifications like Fairtrade are working towards higher profits for vulnerable members of the cacao supply chain and are a means for brands to demonstrate why to pay more for chocolate bars. 

Another way these luxury companies convince consumers to pay more for chocolate is the quality or type of cacao, and in this case the classification of the plant species it comes from.  In order to understand this specification, some historical context and geography is provided.  First, criollo, forastero, and trinitario are the three main types.  Criollo is most associated with the original Mesoamerican cacao plants, distinguished by “long, pointed, warty soft, and deeply ridged pods which contain seeds with white cotyledons.”  Forastero is most associated with plants that originated in South American and Africa which have “hard, round, melonlike pods, and the seeds have purplish cotyledons” (Coe & Coe 26).  From this description it follows that criollo cacao is harder to produce, and it is with fewer pods and higher disease susceptibility.  However, with this additional work and higher risk comes a greater reward in the form of better flavor and improved aroma.  This is compared to forastero which is hardier but looks, tastes, and smells different.  In fact, forastero is often translated as “strange” or “foreign” (Leissle 164).  The remaining category, trinitario, is a hybrid of these two varieties that balances the “desirable vigor of the forastero plant with the superior quality of the criollo bean” (Coe & Coe 26).  This simple classification system has faced challenges in recent years as scientific studies claim the existence of many more varieties.  Nonetheless, with this still as the predominant classification, criollo is found only Mesoamerican regions, forasteros mainly in South America and Africa, and trinitarios in North America, South America, Africa, India, and the Philippines/Indonesia region.  For the 2016-2017 season, the African countries of Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria were forecast to comprise about 71% of world cacao production (Leissle 42).  In addition, it is commonly estimated that forastero provides more than 80% of the world’s cacao crop (Coe & Coe 26).  With its clear production advantage and preference by large cacao conglomerates, forastero thus comprises most of what is known as bulk cocoa.  With this historical context and geographical positioning, it is easy to see how both producers and consumers would pay a premium for criollo chocolate varieties. 

The third means to add value addressed in this post is in the handling of the cacao, the machinery used in processing, or the recipe used to make the retail product.  Once again, it is important to essential to have background knowledge on the industry, from a comprehensive cacao vocabulary to an intricate understanding of the many important steps that lie between the cacao tree to final chocolate bar.  First, there are several important terms to clarify for this post.  These definitions are largely sourced from the 2019 spring semester of the Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food course at Harvard College.  Cacao pods refer to the large and colorful fruits that grow on the trunks of the cacao trees.  The three major types are described in the above paragraph.  The cacao beans are the seeds inside of this pod, covered by the cotyledon which is a white, often sweet, pulp that connects the beans.  The cacao shell or husk is the outer layer of the bean, while the nib is the internal, dried, and fully fermented portion we associate with chocolate.  Chocolate liquor is the what forms from the ground cacao nib.  This liquor has two parts, cocoa butter which is a waxy ivory-colored fat and the cocoa powder which is what remains.  Finally, Dutch-process cocoa refers to the powder if it undergoes alkali treatment to neutralize the harsh acids found in the original cacao.   Also, to briefly review the process, the first step is to have ripe cacao pods on cacao trees.  This is difficult because cacao trees only grow in a range near the equator and it takes roughly five years for a tree to bear fruit.  These ripe pods must be removed carefully to avoid damaging the trunk.  Next, the cacao beans and pulp are removed so that the fermentation process can begin.  This process takes usually takes about a week and often involves several stages.  Fermentation can also occur in a variety of containers, from a makeshift pile of leaves to coolers to wooden boxes.  After this stage is complete, the beans move on to drying which also lasts about 7 days.  The beans are then sorted and bagged before they are transported to the manufacturing facility.  The first step here is to roast the beans and then a process called winnowing where the bean is deshelled, and the cacao nib is separated from the husk.  This nib is ground to form the chocolate liquor and then a hydraulic press extracts the cocoa butter.  One of the final steps before molding and wrapping the bar is conching which aims to evenly distribute the cocoa butter and improve the texture of the chocolate. 

Specialty producers understand the cacao plant and the process and seek high-quality materials or develop mission-driven processes in making unique bars.  The uniqueness and craft can enter at many, nearly all the stages along this supply chain.  Some companies embrace the bean-to-bar model and begin by choosing select cacao pods or varieties, and proceed to oversee fermentation, drying, roasting, and more, customizing every stage until the finished product.  These slight differences can have large impacts on the final taste and other attributes of the bar.  The video above highlights Phil Landers of Land Chocolate, a bean-to-bar company based in London.  Other companies set standards for the bean variety, type and length of fermentation and drying, etc. and then focus on the recipe or the work in the kitchen.  Craft chocolate makers produce far fewer batches or quantities of chocolate and thus tend to focus on fine details more effectively than the commodity cocoa supply chain and companies.  In short, specialty chocolate confectioners try to extract the natural flavors of the bean and experiment with unique processes and flavor combinations, while large companies order beans in bulk and strip all the cocoa down to a uniform powder that can be combined with traditional ingredients (sugar, milk, and butter) to make a consistent, inexpensive, candy staple.  They are nearly two distinct industries, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, connected by the thread of making chocolate.

An examination of Fairtrade, the three types of cacao, and the chocolate-making process provides a better understanding of the differences between the premium chocolate section and the traditional chocolate section in CVS.  The premium section takes advantage of each of these paths while the conventional selection almost exclusively offers Big Five chocolate brands.  While there is insufficient room to analyze the chocolate selections of other specialized, higher-end grocery stores or even chocolate-exclusive shops in this blog post, the differences and the attributes discussed here are likely to be amplified.  With this new enhanced understanding, consumers can now enter the candy aisle with more confidence of what some products are and what they are associated with.  Sidney Mintz suggests a challenge to the conventional “we are what we eat” mantra; “In understanding the relationship between commodity and person, we unearth anew the history of ourselves” (Mintz 211-214).  Knowledge and money are power, and consumers can make choices that will transform industries as we know them, should they choose to.  Maybe one day the conventional chocolate selection will look more like the premium offering in CVS today and the cacao industry will no longer suffer from the many issues it currently battles.  This transformation can start one consumer at a time.  So, the next time you enter the grocery store realize the influence you have.  If you won’t take my word for it, listen to Bill Gates—”When I walk into a grocery store and look at all the products you can choose, I say ‘My God!’ No king ever had anything like I have in my grocery store today” (Kurtz & Boone 72).

Works Cited

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

Kurtz, David L., and Louis E. Boone. Contemporary Business. South-Western Cengage Learning, 2009.

Landers, Phil.  “Bean to Bar – Meet London’s Single Origin Chocolate Pioneer.” YouTube, Design Milk, 22 Jan. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3QjYCZ2-xs.

Leissle, Kristy.  Cocoa.  1st ed., Polity Press, 2018.

Lyza.  The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard, https://www.flickr.com/photos /lyza/49545547

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.

“Supermarket Facts.” The Voice of Food Retail, Food Marketing Institute, www.fmi.org/our-research/supermarket-facts.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. 1st ed., Ohio University Press, 2014.

Final Multimedia Essay

Retail Shop Research on Chocolate

For my final multimedia essay, I chose the topic of visiting a retail shop such as CVS, and explaining what I can learn from this section. What I noticed when I walked from work to the Harvard Square CVS not too far from my walk home, was that the section wasn’t that large and most of the chocolates that were being presented were Ghirardelli. When viewing the section, I noticed the sign which said “Premium chocolates’ and as I viewed closer I noticed that the Ghirardelli chocolates came in different varieties. There were chocolates that were in different percentages of cocoa. They ranged from 78%, which is a weird percentage to 85 and 90%. The chocolates also were diverse because some of them that were being sold were white chocolate with coconut, while others were either dark chocolate or chocolate mixed with nuts such as almonds, hazelnut and cranberries. The prices were also another factor when I was observing this small section. Most of the chocolates that were on display had a 2 for 6 option while most of the chocolates were about $5. The section where the chocolates were displayed was next to the fridge area in CVS where most of the frozen foods are. It was also next to the snack aisle where there were tons of donuts, popcorn and other sweet foods. The other side of the premium chocolate section had chocolates that were all mostly Ghirardelli that had chocolates that were nearing $6 but there was a sale going on that made all of the chocolates “buy one get one 50% off”. I believe the chocolates were very inexpensive because the companies have to tend to their audience. Not everyone wants to buy expensive chocolate.

Here is a picture of the Premium Chocolates Section:

The History of Ghirardelli

Why is Ghirardelli such an important brand in chocolate history? Well first, Ghirardelli was first founded in 1852 in San Francisco, California. It is currently the third oldest chocolate company in the U.S. and was founded by the Italian Chocolatier Domenico Ghirardelli. The company has their business partner company, Lindt & Sprungli which is their parent company. Since the company’s start, they have been working on new techniques and different technologies to remain at the forefront of chocolate consumer brands. “The shop has experimented with a variety of products, including a line of alcoholic beverages until 1871, and a variety of goods like coffee, spices, and even mustard throughout the years. Innovation became tradition throughout the company – in 1867 a Ghirardelli employee discovered a flavor-enhancing technique that would eventually become widely used throughout the chocolate industry. Ghirardelli became one of the first American companies to tap into advertising strategies in order to gain popularity, and one of the first to include cacao content on labels to help discerning consumers select the perfect taste (Holcomb, Courtney. “A Brief History Of Ghirardelli Chocolate.” Culture Trip).”

I believe this company is trying to be the main consumer for chocolate because based on learning the classes lectures, about 200 years ago Americans only ate about 2 pounds of sugar a year. Studies from 1970 show that Americans ate even more sugar as the data increased and showed that Americans ate about 123 pounds a year. Today, the average amount Americans consume of sugar is now 152 pounds a year. In 2017, American consumers spent a whopping $22 billion on chocolate, averaging at around 12 pounds per person. America has been well known considering how much they love sweets and how commercials and marketing play a big role.

Chocolate History from Lectures

In 1879, Rudolph Linte, was the first to invent the conching process in Switzerland. This is major in chocolate history because conching helps with increasing viscosity in order to process the chocolate. “In the majority of chocolate manufacturing plants, the conche is preceded by a roll refiner or a hammer mill. These grind the chocolate mass to produce a crumbly paste or powder. One of the main aims of conching is to produce the optimum viscosity for the subsequent processing. The actual viscosity can be reduced by adding more fat, but as the price of the fat is frequently several times that of the other ingredients in the chocolate, this in turn increases the cost of the product. The aim, therefore, becomes one of obtaining the optimum viscosity at the lowest practical/legal fat content (Beckett, S. (2017). Conching).”

Chocolate Company’s Strengths

A lot of a chocolate company’s strength is definitely marketing and publicity  There has been this stigma that anything sweet, and attractive to the tongue is good, and that’s what a lot of chocolate companies have marketed themselves to be. That’s why during certain events such as Easter, companies thrive during those times because they take advantage of the sweet equals good stigma because of the easter marketing standards for kids. Most kids for Easter always go easter egg hunting, and usually what’s in the eggs are chocolate or some sweet. Chocolate companies take advantage over holidays like Easter and Halloween because that helps with their revenue.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli has been so successful that they have their own square in San Francisco, California. In 1893, Domenico Ghirardelli purchased a whole block, so he can make the Ghirardelli headquarters. In the early 1960’s it was sold to a macaroni company and was letter repurchased in 1962. His mother, William M. Roth purchased the land so it wouldn’t be used to create a new apartment complex. “The Roths hired landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and the firm Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons to convert the square and its historic brick structures to an integrated restaurant and retail complex, the first major adaptive re-use project in the United States. It opened in 1964. In 1965, Benjamin Thompson and Associates Renovated the lower floor of the Clock Tower, keeping the existing architectural elements, for a Design Research store. The lower floors of the Clock Tower are now home to Ghirardelli Square’s main chocolate shop. In order to preserve Ghirardelli Square for future generations, the Pioneer Woolen Mills and D. Ghirardelli Company was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 (“Ghirardelli Square.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation).” This company is so well respected and well known, that a whole entire block was dedicated to the company’s main focus, chocolate.

Why is Dark Chocolate so special?

The french are known for eating dark chocolate as a treat, but why? Are there certain benefits towards eating dark chocolate or is it just well known for being such a good treat? During the chocolate production process, to increase the appeal of chocolate, most times the chocolate is processed even further which in turn makes the chocolate lose key ingredients that can be beneficial to our body. For example there is a type of processing of chocolate called Dutch processing and that makes the chocolate lighter. This sucks out all the key ingredients that make chocolate, chocolate. That’s why most companies add tons of sugar in their chocolate bars to make it more appealing to consumers. “And to make milk chocolate, candy makers really do add milk solids, which include saturated fats. According to FDA standards, American milk chocolate can contain as little as 10% cocoa, and the agency is debating a proposal to allow candy makers to substitute vegetable oil for cocoa butter. Bottom line: processing may make chocolate look lighter and taste sweeter, but it also removes healthy ingredients and adds harmful ones (‘Chocolate and your health: Guilty pleasure or terrific treat?).”

Statistics on Chocolate

After reading an article from Rodman media, I noticed that more than 70% of chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is more healthier than white chocolate. “The latest research from Mintel revealed that for just more than half (51%) of all adult consumers, the favorite type of plain chocolate is milk chocolate, followed by 35% who favor dark chocolate and About 73% of all chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is healthier than milk varieties. 8% who prefer white chocolate. In contrast, Mintel’s 2011 report found that 57% of consumers favored milk chocolate and 33% of consumers preferred dark chocolate. Some 46% of men age 55+ and 48% of women over age 55 favor dark chocolate, followed by 38% of men that prefer milk and 40% of women that also prefer milk. These numbers are indicative of the trend toward the increasing favor for dark chocolate. Indeed, 73% of all chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is healthier (‘Dark Chocolate Gains Favor Thanks to Health Benefits’ (2013) Nutraceuticals).”

Cocoa Flavors

Chocolate companies such as Ghirardelli always make sure that they have different rudiments of cocoa flavor so that there is a variety of taste in each chocolate bar. Usually the more cocoa, the more expensive the chocolate is towards the consumer. I believe that sugar and other ingredients that make the chocolate taste more appealing, cheapen the chocolate itself. The more natural the chocolate is , the more untouched and less processed, the more bitter taste it has. That’s why dark chocolate is healthier for chocolate eaters than milk chocolate is. In one of the lecture slides from class, I witnessed a list of different odor active volatiles in cocoa mass. This shows what each odorant is and how their odour quality would be, the qualities range from a malty quality to a fruity one. There are a lot of factors incorporated with cocoa, and its key that all industrial companies follow the many rules in order to have a better consumer base.

Picture of the rudiments of cocoa flavor:

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that one of America’s oldest brands, takes pride in their industrialization of cocoa and how it should be manufactured. By investigating the chocolate section at my nearest CVS, I noticed the different brands in the regular chocolate section VS. the premium chocolate section . I realized the different percentages of cocoa in each chocolate bar and researched the effects of dark chocolate VS. white chocolate. I found it interesting how much Ghirardelli was displayed at the CVS and how there were many buy one get one 50% off deals. I dug deeper into the history of Ghirardelli along with the company’s strengths on consumers which showed me there’s a lot more to chocolate than just manufacturing it. More factors would include, marketing and knowing what your consumers like or don’t like. While researching this company I also learned a lot by viewing past lectures and how they related tremendously to the company and how they process their chocolates. Certain holidays mean a lot as well because in America, chocolate and sugar has been a known ingredient to use in basic cooking ingredients. And a lot of companies used that stigma to take advantage of the use of chocolate. I learned a lot based on the prominence of cocoa and how there is a lot to process before the chocolate is being sold in certain stores. The history of chocolate related to the history of Ghirardelli and other brands because of their processing system and how they plan on improving their company in various ways.

Work Cited

Holcomb, Courtney. “A Brief History Of Ghirardelli Chocolate.” Culture Trip, 1 Dec. 2016, theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/california/articles/a-brief-history-of-ghirardelli-chocolate/.

Beckett, S. (2017). Conching. In Beckett’s Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use (pp. 241-273). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

“Ghirardelli Square.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Mar. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghirardelli_Square.

Dark Chocolate Gains Favor Thanks to Health Benefits’ (2013) Nutraceuticals World, 16(6), p. 16. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=88838381&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Accessed: 3 May 2019).
‘Chocolate and your health: Guilty pleasure or terrific treat? (Cover story)’ (2009) Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 13(7), pp. 1–4. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=36211195&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Accessed: 3 May 2019).

Chocolate Holidays: Consumption and Gifting in Socio-Historical Context

The contemporary cacao-chocolate industry benefits greatly from seasonal sales surrounding major American holidays. In the U.S. market, Easter/Passover, Christmas/Hannukah, Halloween, and St. Valentine’s Day see large spikes in candy and chocolate sales. These contemporary patterns of chocolate purchasing and consumption are intimately bound to a broader historical and social context. By exploring associations between chocolate and each of these major candy-selling holidays, I analyze the legacies of colonialism, religious debates, gender stereotypes, and industrialization in modern consumption and gift-giving patterns.

The candy industry is a giant in the U.S. economy. Nielson (2015) reports that candy, including chocolate and non-chocolate products, is the third top-selling category among food and non-alcoholic beverage categories in America with $20.8 billion in sales in 2014. American consumers buy candy year-round, making up the majority of all candy dollar sales (Nielson 2015). However, seasonal candy sales are a fast-growing sector of the candy industry, increasing by 5.8% in 2014 (Nielson 2015). Nearly 20% of all annual candy sales in 2014 occurred during five top-selling holiday weeks (Nielson 2015). These top 5 holiday weeks are, in order of greatest to least candy sales: Easter/Passover, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Pre-Christmas/Hanukkah, and Christmas/Hanukkah (Nielson 2015). During each of these holiday seasons chocolate sales spike along with the sales of all candies. Chocolate is an illustrative example that sheds light on broader changes in consumption and underlying social meanings over time.

Winter Holidays and Hot Chocolate: A Colonial Legacy

The Judeo-Christian winter holidays of Christmas and Hannukah account for two of the top five weeks of all candy sales in the United States. Chocolate is an important part of these holidays. During Hannukah, traditional chocolate coins wrapped in gold and silver foil are gifted to children (Prichep 2014). During Christmas celebrations, people bake chocolate chip cookies for Santa Claus and exchange chocolates as gifts. Throughout the winter holidays, hot chocolate is a special treat. In the following clip from the Polar Express, a children’s Christmas movie, hot chocolate is associated with the Christmas holiday and is depicted as a childhood luxury.

Chocolate as a beverage has a long and complex history that highlights European colonialism. Chocolate is one preparation of the beans from the tree theobroma cacao. Cacao was first domesticated and consumed by Mesoamerican Olmec, Aztec, and Maya peoples (Coe and Coe 1996). For these indigenous Mesoamericans, cacao was a beverage, not a solid bar (Sampeck and Thayn 2017). The most treasured part of the cacao beverage was the foam, which was produced by pouring the beverage on high from one vessel to another and later by mixing with a molinillo (a colonial invention) (Coe and Coe 1996). The image below depicts a Maya woman pouring cacao to create foam as was common practice. Today, we still add foam to our hot chocolate in the form of marshmallows and whipped cream (Coe and Coe 1996, 49; Leissle 2018). Contrary to modern hot chocolate, cacao was sometimes consumed cold by the Mesoamericans (Coe and Coe 1996). Maya and Aztec elites also exchanged cacao as a gift in royal marriages, military victories, holiday ceremonies, and political negotiations (Leissle 2018). The history of chocolate as a beverage and gift extends to the very origins of domesticated cacao.

Image from Late Classic Maya vessel (c. A.D. 750), known as the Princeton Vase. Woman to the far right pours a cacao beverage to create foam.

Hot chocolate came to resemble what we know today through European colonial modification. Spanish colonizers came to refer to all cacao preparations as chocolate because the most profitable cacao-producing region, Izalcos, was known for a specific preparation named “chocolatl” (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 79). Cacao was introduced to Europe by Spanish colonizers as “chocolate,” a hot beverage. Europeans adapted the traditional cacao beverages to include ingredients that were common in Europe, such as cinnamon, almonds, sugar, and floral elements (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 85). Chocolate-drinking spread among the European royalty via intermarriage, and material culture developed around chocolate (Coe and Coe 1996). The French elite served chocolate in a silver chocolatiere with porcelain cups and saucers, which can also be seen in the clip from Polar Express (Coe and Coe 1996, 158-9). North American chocolate tastes and recipes most closely resemble the British and European preparations of hot chocolate, transmitted to America during our own colonial period (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 89). Thus, the story of hot chocolate and its significant place in our own holidays draws heavily on early Mesoamerican rituals and traditions as well as colonial European modifications. The experience of a creamy hot chocolate today is intimately bound to a legacy of colonialism.

Easter, Chocolate, and the Church

The Easter and Passover spring holidays account for the single greatest week of candy sales annually. In the week preceding Easter in 2014 Americans spent $823 million on candy and purchased 146 million pounds of sweets (Fahey 2016). This level of consumption is interesting given the history of chocolate, the Catholic church, and the Lenten season.

In the Catholic religious tradition, the Easter holiday marks the end of Lent, months of fasting and reflection. Upon cacao’s introduction to European society, the Catholic clergy debated whether consuming chocolate beverages broke the fast. Catholic missionaries were active in the colonization and Christianization of indigenous Mesoamericans and had early exposure to cacao. Beginning in 1591 with Juan de Cardenas, militant clergymen argued that, though beverages (as chocolate was in those days) were generally exempt from the fast, chocolate offered substantial nourishment, which would break the fast (Coe and Coe 1996, 149). Debates raged in the clergy for nearly three centuries over the issue of chocolate and the fast, pitting the chocolate-trading Jesuits against the puritanical Dominicans (Coe and Coe 1996, 149). Seven Catholic popes commented on the issue over the years, arguing that consuming chocolate would not break the Lenten fast (Coe and Coe 1996, 150). Perhaps these clerical debates set us down the path of viewing chocolate as a sinful indulgence. Regardless, the heightened consumption of candy and chocolate for the Easter holiday marks the end of the fast and a time for celebratory indulgence. Had the Dominicans won the debate over chocolate and the fast, perhaps we would not see such excessive candy purchases in the week preceding Easter.

St. Valentine’s Day and Gendered Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is yet another major holiday for the chocolate industry. The holiday on which romantic partners gift heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to one another is also part of a broader context. Chocolate in particular is a common gift on Valentine’s Day because of its historical association with fertility. In indigenous Mesoamerican societies, cacao was considered an aphrodisiac and gifted at weddings for fertility (Coe and Coe 1996). The idea of chocolate as an aphrodisiac carried over into European societies and lingers to this day, though it has no factual basis. As Henderson (2015) and Butler (2018) detail, early chocolate companies began marketing their chocolates with romantic imagery, such as heart-shaped boxes and “kisses.” The association between chocolate and Valentine’s Day is a celebration of heterosexual romance that draws on a history of chocolate as an aphrodisiac.

The gifting of chocolates on Valentine’s Day also draws heavily on gender stereotypes. On Valentine’s Day, men are expected to purchase and gift chocolate to women. In the Russell Stover Valentine’s Day commercial below, the intended audience is men, who are instructed to gift chocolate to women for the holiday.

In chocolate advertising and narratives surrounding Valentine’s Day, women are meant to be seduced by the sinfully indulgent chocolate and-by extension-the men who gifted it to them. The following Ferrero Rocher Valentine’s Day commercial depicts a woman who is seduced by the decadent chocolate and subsequently embraces the romantic partner who gifts these chocolates to her. The message is one of chocolate as a tool in heterosexual relationships that men can use to seduce women.

Gender stereotypes in advertisements for Valentine’s Day chocolates are by no means a recent development. Narratives of male gifting of chocolates and female seduction are prevalent throughout past advertisements as well. The Whitman’s Sampler advertisement below is from 1936. In American society, Valentine’s Day chocolates are associated with a long context of heterosexual romance and the trope of the seduced woman.

1936 Valentines Day ad--Whitman's Chocolates
1936 Whitman’s Sampler Valentine’s Day Advertisement

Halloween and Industrialized Chocolates

Nielson (2015) reports that candy sales in the week preceding Halloween total $787 million, coming in at the second highest week for candy sales in 2014. Halloween in its modern form centers around pre-packaged, standardized candies, but this was not always the case. Kawash (2010) and Nix (2018) provide a brief history of Halloween and candy. In the early 20th century, candy makers were not targeting Halloween as a candy holiday (Kawash 2010). Trick-or-treating first emerged in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and Halloween handouts were not restricted to candy at this time (Kawash 2010). By the 1950’s candy became an inexpensive and convenient Halloween handout, but candy was not yet the exclusive Halloween treat (Kawash 2010). Candy eventually won out as the face of Halloween handouts in the 1970’s because it was industrialized, standardized, pre-packaged, and safe from tampering (Kawash 2010).

These trends between candy and Halloween closely follow developments in the cacao-chocolate industry. In the early 20th century, the big American chocolate manufacturers were just getting started. At the end of the 19th century, Frank Mars, founder of the Mars chocolate company (creator of M&Ms, Snickers, Mars bars, Milky Ways, etc.), was still watching his mother make homemade candies and sweets in the family kitchen (Brenner 2000, 50). For the first decade of the 20th century, Frank Mars was experimenting with small-scale candy distribution and failing repeatedly (Brenner 2000). By the 1920’s Mars had built a profitable chocolate company, but it wasn’t until his son, Forrest Mars, took control of the company in the 1960’s that Mars, Inc. became a giant in the American chocolate industry. Forrest Mars mechanized the factory, vertically integrated production, and industrialized the production and labor at every level (Brenner 2000).

Hershey’s Chocolate Factory

Similar developments were occurring in the Hershey’s chocolate company. In the first decade of the 20th century, Milton Hershey was building his factory town at Hershey, Pennsylvania (D’Antonio 2006). The first Hershey’s Kiss was manufactured in 1907 (D’Antonio 2006). Milton Hershey industrialized his company by vertically and horizontally integrating production. Hershey’s chocolate factory did it all–from building trains to ship sugar from Cuba to housing workers to sourcing milk from local cows (D’Antonio 2006). This consolidation of Hershey’s supply chain took place over the first half of the 20th century. Hershey’s was the well-integrated and undisputed American national chocolate brand until the mid-20th century when competitors like Mars and Reese’s gained power in the national market (D’Antonio 2006; Brenner 2000).

Mars Halloween Candy

By the time Halloween became a major candy holiday in the 1970’s, the American chocolate industry was dominated by Hershey’s and Mars (Martin 2019). Hershey’s and Mars alone make 84.2% of all snack-sized Halloween candy, with another 15.2% contributed by Nestle (Martin 2019). Internationally, the Big 5 chocolate companies (Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Kraft [Cadbury], and Ferrero) dominate the market (Martin 2019). Chocolate manufacturing and distribution is concentrated in an oligopoly of companies. The association of Halloween with pre-packaged, bite-sized candies emerged as these large companies developed and industrialized. Halloween as we know it today is a consequence of the industrialization and integration of the American chocolate industry.

Concluding Thoughts

In analyzing the history of chocolate in each of these major candy-selling holidays, I have uncovered legacies of colonialism, religious debate, gender stereotypes, and industrialization in the modern cacao-chocolate industry. To understand why and how the cacao-chocolate industry operates today, it is important to examine this broader social and historical context. Americans’ holiday favorites of hot chocolate, chocolate bunnies, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, and bite-sized chocolates were all brought to us via interesting legacies in the development of the chocolate industry. Next time you enjoy a foamy hot chocolate or Hershey’s kiss, consider the history of cacao and chocolate from its origins in indigenous Mesoamerica to its modern industrialization and mass marketing.

Works Cited

Amyember. 2010. “Hot Chocolate-The Polar Express.” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/5Uuw3JKLO1g).

Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Broadway Books.

Bruenproductions. 2009. “Russell Stover ‘Women Love Chocolate’ TV Commercial.” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/RfViV598c1k).

Butler, Stephanie. 2018. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day with a Box of Chocolates.” History. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/celebrating-valentines-day-with-a-box-of-chocolates).

By Late Classic, Maya (‘Codex’ style) – Francis Robicsek: The Maya Book of the Dead. The Ceramic Codex, University of Virginia Art Museum (1981), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8309274

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

Cooper, Scott. 2019. “Ferrero Rocher TV Commercial, ‘Valentine’s Day Has Arrived.'” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/JAWCM6xjebE).

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fahey, Mark. 2016. “Easter Wins the Candy Battle.” CNBC. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/24/easter-wins-the-candy-battle.html).

Henderson, Amy. 2015. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-chocolate-and-valentines-day-mated-life-180954228/).

Kawash, Samira. 2010. “How Candy and Halloween Became Best Friends.” The Atlantic. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/10/how-candy-and-halloween-became-best-friends/64895/).

Leissle, Kristy. 2018. Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Maria. 2010. “1936 Valentines Day ad–Whitman’s Chocolates.” Flickr. (https://flic.kr/p/7zykxu)

Martin, Carla. 2019. “20190313 The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” Presented at AAS 119x, March 13, Harvard University. Retrieved May 3, 2019.

Mike G. 2014. “Old Factory Building.” Flickr. Retrieved May 3, 2019 (
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mishagl/14279170335/ ).

Nielson. 2015. “Special Occasions Bring Sweet Sales.” Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/special-occasions-bring-sweet-sales.html).

Nix, Elizabeth. 2018. “The Haunted History of Halloween Candy.” History. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/the-haunted-history-of-halloween-candy).

Pixel1. 2015. Pixabay. Retrieved on May 3, 2019 (
https://pixabay.com/photos/halloween-candy-chocolates-nuts-1014629/ ).

Prichep, Deena. 2014. “Hanukkah History: Those Chocolate Coins Were Once Real Tips.” National Public Radio. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/12/12/370368642/hanukkah-history-those-chocolate-coins-were-once-real-tips).

Sampeck, Kathryn E. and Jonathan Thayn. 2017. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Pps. 72-99 in Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, edited by S. Schwartzkopf and K.E. Sampeck. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

The old, the new, and the fight against injustice

Since chocolate was first discovered and loved by the Europeans, slave labor has been used to grow and harvest cacao. Slaves had to deal with horrific working conditions, malnourishment, and poor treatment from their owners—which caused life expectancy to be incredibly low. Even though slavery was abolished across the globe, many issues of forced labor and child labor still exist today. Cocoa farmers, especially in West Africa, have been depicted as either the exploiters—through their use of child labor and slavery like conditions—or the exploited—by big chocolate companies and the global market (Martin, Lecture 7 slide 23). For example of the exploiters, in Bitter Chocolate, the author points out that “Macko learned of another category of labour that he couldn’t quite fathom. What his informers described sounded a lot like slavery, and what made the stories even more horrifying was that it seemed the slaves were children” (Off 120). In regards to the exploited, when talking about the villagers who farm cacao, the author claims that “their primary activity here is to produce cocoa for the international market. As such, they earn just enough money from cocoa sales to pay for rice and cooking oil. There’s usually nothing left over” (Off 5). However, neither depiction is entirely accurate. There are much deeper issues than this simple binary suggests. According to Video 1 below, the number of child laborers more than doubled in Côte d’Ivoire from 2010 to 2015 to 1.6 million, and the government and big chocolate companies’ efforts to curb the issue have not worked. Also, as is seen in Figure 3, farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana receive only $0.50 and $0.84 per day, respectively—showing a huge divide between the compensation of the farmers and the profit of large chocolate companies. As is evident from these passages, there are major issues that surround the current marketplace for cacao. But, as consumers become more and more socially conscious about what they buy, some chocolate companies—and world organizations—have made it their mission to protect workers, pay them properly, and give their customers an ethically sourced and delicious product.

CACOCO

One such company is CACOCO, a Santa Cruz, California based drinking chocolate company, started in 2014, that has made it their mission to provide ethically sourced chocolate to its customers, and to protect and help the Earth in the process. According to their website, “CACOCO is the purest form of cacao directly sourced from beyond-organic farms, that not only improve the health of the environment but produce a chocolate that showcases the finer nuances of well-maintained soil and cultivation and highlight the terroir of the region” (“About Us”). It is their stated mission to “source the Earth’s purest ingredients from regenerative food systems, provide customers healthy, safe and delicious products with uncompromised quality, service and integrity, [and to] create and implement the most sustainable methods and systems for our organization” (“About Us”).

In this course, we have raised many questions regarding the ethics of cocoa production. One of the main things we talked about is that some companies don’t know where exactly they are getting their cacao from, so they have no idea whether or not their product is ethically sourced. This means that they could be getting cacao from farms who use child labor or slave labor to grow and harvest their product. To counter this, all of CACOCO’s cacao is currently sourced from organic and regenerative farms in Ecuador (“About Us”). This way, they are able to know exactly where their product comes from, and they can more easily make sure that all of their cacao is produced and harvested the right way. Another main issue we discussed  was fair and steady compensation. It is no secret that a very small portion of the profit from a chocolate bar goes to the farmer, but as Figure 2 shows, it is actually the smallest share overall at only 3%. To make matters worse, as the price of cacao—a commodity—fluctuates, so does the income of farmers, meaning a drop in the price of cacao can have a drastic impact on the farmers and their families.

Fortunately, CACOCO’s cacao is Fair Trade Certified, which means that, according to Fair Trade USA, “producers and businesses we work with adhere to strict labor, environmental, and ethics standards that prohibit slavery and child labor and ensure cocoa growers receive a steady income, regardless of volatile market prices” (“Where to Buy”). Thus, given their certification, CACOCO checks the boxes for all these criteria—meaning that our worries of slavery and child labor, as well as unstable and unsustainable income that we discussed in class, are nothing to worry about when purchasing chocolate from CACOCO.

CACOCO even goes a step further in their efforts for ethically and sustainably sourced cacao by trying to help the Earth in the process, as all of their packaging is compostable and made from 100% recycled materials (“About Us”). Their website even claims that “each purchase you make of CACOCO Drinking Chocolate directly supports the vision of a planet where natural ecosystems are managed intelligently, resources are utilized respectfully, and people are treated well at each step of the process” (“About Us”). CACOCO is also working with Terra Genesis International (TGI) “to build a regenerative network of businesses committed to rebuilding supply chains based on regenerative principles” (“About Us”). Thus, CACOCO seems to be doing all it can to create an ethically and sustainably sourced chocolate product.

GHIRADELLI (LINDT)

On the other hand, some companies have been slow to change—or have yet to change much at all. One such example is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which is now owned by Lindt & Sprüngli. I want to specifically name Ghirardelli inside of the Lindt umbrella in order to emphasize how close to home these problems are—because Ghirardelli chocolate is everywhere in the US, especially in retail stores. According to Lindt & Sprüngli’s 2017 annual report, Ghirardelli ranks No. 3 in the US in terms of dark chocolate sales (Lindt). Ghirardelli also became the No. 2 baking brand in the United States in 2011 (“About Ghirardelli”). Thus, it is important to emphasize that when I discuss Lindt & Sprüngli, I am also discussing Ghirardelli (and vice versa).

Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was founded in 1852 in San Francisco, California. In 1865, “a Ghirardelli employee discovers that by hanging a bag of chocolate mass in a warm room, the cocoa butter drips out, leaving a residue that can be processed into ground chocolate. This is known as the Broma process and produces a more intense chocolate flavor than other techniques” (“About Ghirardelli”). Shortly thereafter, the company expanded their business from the western United States to the eastern United States, China, Mexico and Japan (“About Ghirardelli”). In 1965, Ghirardelli Square became an official city landmark, and later received National Historic Register status—solidifying itself as a staple of the Bay Area (“About Ghirardelli”). It has also partnered with Disney to create a Disney Studio Store in Hollywood, and continued to innovate with their famous Ghirardelli Squares—turning classic treats into best-selling holiday and dark chocolate candies (“About Ghirardelli”). They were acquired by Lindt & Sprüngli in 1998 (“About Ghirardelli”).

Ghirardelli chocolate, over the past one hundred and fifty years, has become an American staple in the chocolate industry. However, they have been slow to fight the injustices of the chocolate supply chain. They claim to “comply with high standard of ethics and sustainability in the procurement of our raw materials and in their processing into high-quality LINDT chocolate” (“The Commitment”). However, contrary to CACOCO, Lindt has no fair trade or labor certifications as of 2017 (Figure 1). Instead, they are “self-certified.” Although this beats no certification, their self-certification doesn’t hold them to the rigid standards of Fair Trade Certifications, and they aren’t accountable to anyone outside of themselves. But, in their defense, Lindt has instituted a program called the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, which aims to “to trace ingredients back to their origin and support farmers according to their specific needs” (“Sustainably”). This program supports local farmers and helps them to apply “good agricultural, social, environmental and business practices in the management of their farms” (“Sustainably”). This allows Lindt to also verify social and environmental practices of the farms within the program in order to make sure their cacao is ethically and sustainably sourced (“Sustainably”). Lindt also aims to limit intermediaries—or “middle men”—between themselves and the farms to make sure they receive fair payment for their product (“Sustainably”).

According to their website, “over 85% of Ghirardelli cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli farming program” (“Sustainable Cocoa”). And, as of 2017, 79% of Lindt’s cocoa was certified (Figure 1). Although these numbers are higher than some chocolate companies, that means that 15% of the cocoa beans Ghirardelli gets have unknown origins (at least based on their website, which has no further mention of where the other 15% of cocoa beans come from) and 21% of Lindt’s total cacao in 2017 went uncertified. CACOCO sources 100% of their cacao beans from regenerative and organic farms in Ecuador—meaning none of the cacao’s origins are unknown. Thus, Ghirardelli doesn’t know whether or not some of their cacao comes from farms with poor working conditions, slave and child labor, or unfair wages. However, Lindt has made it their goal to go to 100% certified cacao by 2020—which would be a major step towards fixing issues of the cacao supply chain (Figure 1).

In addition to Lindt’s farming program, they have also introduced the Lindt & Sprüngli Suppler Code of Conduct Agreement and the Lindt Cocoa Foundation. The Code establishes “minimum standards, such as requirements regarding industrial wastewater treatment, air emission and environmental reporting” while also prohibiting the use of “corruption, bribery, discrimination and child labor” (“Sustainably Sourced”). The Code also “insists on freely chosen employment, fair compensation and working conditions, as well as freedom of association and obligates suppliers to pass these principles on to sub-suppliers” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Any purchase order made by Lindt requires the supplier to sign the Code of Conduct Agreement, and failure to uphold these obligations results in termination of the supplier contract (“Sustainably Sourced”). Secondly, the Lindt Cocoa Foundation’s job is “ to work towards achieving social and ecological sustainability in the cultivation, production and processing of cocoa and other ingredients used in chocolate production” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Thus, with these two initiatives, Lindt is trying to fix many of the issues that plague their cocoa supply chain—although without outside certification, it is harder for consumers to judge the strength and reach of these initiatives. Although this is a step in the right direction, Lindt has a lot more to prove to consumers that want to hold them accountable—and it starts with some sort of third-party certification, such as a Fair Trade Certification, and meeting their goal of 100% certified cacao by 2020.

Conclusion

Both companies are running initiatives to try to combat the problems of the cacao supply chain. CACOCO is a relatively new company that epitomizes the direction of which consumers are heading in regards to socially and environmentally conscious consumption. CACOCO is Fair Trade Certified, provides zero waste packaging, and preaches the importance sustainability, responsibility, and health—all in an effort to maximize consumer and producer happiness. Ghirardelli, on the other hand, is not Fair Trade Certified, but they are fighting injustice in other ways. Their farming program, along with the Lindt Cocoa Foundation and the Supplier Code of Conduct Agreement, are making steps towards a more transparent and equitable growing and harvesting environment in their cacao supply chain. With the completion of their goal of 100% certified cacao by 2020, they too would be well on their way towards creating a better, more equitable, and safer world in cacao farming.

As consumers, it is our duty to be as conscious as we can in order to create change. Companies that are doing the right thing, that are fighting the injustices of the cocoa supply chain, are the ones that should receive our money. As more and more issues are brought to light, it is up to us to hold these companies accountable for their sourcing of raw materials, and to make sure it is done as sustainably, and equitably, as possible—because we have as much of a duty to make a difference as they do.

Figure 1
SOURCE: Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 7).
Figure 2
SOURCE: “Is There Child Labor in Your Halloween Candy? Chocolate Scorecard Identified Good, Ghoulish Companies.” Green America, Green America, 11 Oct. 2018, http://www.greenamerica.org/press-release/there-child-labor-your-halloween-candy-chocolate-scorecard-identified-good-ghoulish-companies.
Figure 3
SOURCE: Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 8).
Video 1
SOURCE: Riggs, Ayn. “CREER-Africa Is Featured on News Story about Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector.” YouTube, Aljazeera, 12 Nov. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=64&v=2lk_OMPDlJc.

Works Cited

Scholarly

  • “About Us.” CACOCO, CACOCO, drinkcacoco.com/pages/about.
  • Lindt & Sprüngli. Annual Report 2017 NAFTA Markets. Kilchberg, Switzerland: Lindt & Sprüngli, 2017. Lindt & Sprüngli. Web. 2 May 2019.
  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 7: Modern day slavery.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 27 March 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation.
  • Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.

Multimedia

  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 7).
  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 8).

Chocolate Mysticism and Portraits of Indigenous Culture

Book three: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are riding the Hogwarts Express back to school when they are suddenly attacked by soul sucking Dementors. These ghostly abstractings suck all feeling of joy from their bodies, making them sink deeper and deeper into despair until finally, a teacher banishes them from the train. Shivering and afraid sitting in their compartment, the students accept pieces of chocolate the professor as a cure for the Dementor’s affect. As they eat the chocolate they can slowly feel the warmth returning to their bodies, their spirits brightening slowly as the chocolate melts on their tongue.

This moment in the Harry Potter series expresses the phenomenon of “chocolate magic” in its most literal sense, depicting magical effects of chocolate in young witches and wizards. However, this correlation between chocolate and miraculous effects are all around us in modern society, from shady internet articles claiming that chocolate can cure all kinds of diseases, to recipes for “chocolate magic:” cakes that are so good they can only be made by magic. Although the phenomenon of chocolate magic may seem harmless—only a fun trick of the imagination or a novelty diet—examining the origins of this popular association reveals the problematic aspects of our associations with chocolate. Cacao originally held an important role in the culture of the indigenous population of the Ancient Mayan civilization. By tracking the histories of indigenous communities, we can see how the modern chocolate industry perpetuates colonialist behavior and presents a reductive portrait of indigenous culture.

 

A Brief History of Ancient Maya and Cacao

Ancient Mayans placed cacao in a prominent position in their culture and society, using it not only as currency but also as a religious object. Ancient Mayans believed that the gods themselves discovered cacao in a “mystical mountain,” and given to the Maya by the god Hunahpú (Windelspecht, Cacao: The Mayan “Food of the Gods”). Imagery in ancient religious texts, like the Dresden Codex, depicts the relationship between cacao and the gods. This image found in the Dresden Codex depicts two gods interacting with cacao pods, captioned with the words “cacao is his food.”

Image result for Opossum God carries Rain God on his back, caption is “cacao is his food [kakaw u hanal].”

This connection between the divine and cacao can also be found in a different Mayan codex called the Madrid Codex, in which gods sprinkle their blood over cacao pods (Coe, The True History of Chocolate). Thus, we can trace the roots of the relationship between mysticism, chocolate, and indigenous peoples to these religious texts and beliefs of the Mayan people. As cacao was depicted alongside the gods it took on a mystical property in the Maya’s belief of its divine properties.

The movement of this belief into western culture occured when the Mayans introduced cacao to their colonizers—the Spanish—in 1544 when Dominican friars brought a group of Mayan elders to Prince Philip to feed him a cacao beverage (Windelspecht, Cacao: The Mayan “Food of the Gods”) After this initial introduction cacao spread quickly through the circles of the european elite. Cacao drinks were regarded as a mystical healing substance hailing from the mysterious New World: this european attitude can be evidenced by Alphonse de Richelieu’s action in introducing cacao to seventeenth century France in his use of cacao as a medication for his spleen. Seventeenth century europe’s essentially turned this sacred mayan substance into simply a mystical substance from the new world that could help cure them of their ailments. In this way we can start to see the way in which european and white society has appropriated and fetishized indigenous culture by reducing the significance of cacao as simply a mystic medicine that existed to help them, ignoring the rich history of cacao in mayan culture.

 

Science, Fetishization, and the Modern Chocolate Industry

This kind of fetishization of mayan beliefs has not only persisted into the modern day, but evolved to breach other fields of science. In the 1990s Dr. Norman Hollenberg of the Harvard Medical School and Boston Brigham and Women’s Hospital travelled to Panama to conduct a series of field studies on an indigenous population called the Kuna. Inspired by a 1940’s study that found the population as a whole to have very low blood pressure, he ran his own studies among two sub-groups of the Kuna people: those who stayed in the original island Kuna community and lived a rural and traditional life and a population who had moved into modern society, living in suburban and urban areas (Howe 3). He observed that the traditional Kuna consumed much more cacao than the population that had moved away, stating that “they consume enormous amounts of cocoa daily,” and concluding that “flavanol” in chocolate called epicatechin could “protect against diabetes and cancer as well as high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks” (Howe 4). He went on to widely promote his discoveries as a scientific breakthrough, asserting that all diets should include cacao. His discoveries have even been adopted into the popular beliefs around chocolate: Hollenberg’s work has been cited in websites, clubs, and at least two books (Howe 4).

However, later scientists have found significant evidence to disprove Hollenberg’s claims of the link between the Kuna’s cardiovascular health and cacao. After living amongst the traditional Kuna community, researcher James Howe claims that Hollenberg greatly exaggerated the amount of cacao the Kuna consumes. Instead, he claims, the Kuna much prefer coffee and oatmeal drinks. (Howe 5). In his article, Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health, Hollenberg claims that the Kuna’s extraordinary cardiovascular health can be accounted for by not the amount of cacao they consume, but by their otherwise healthy diets and high level of cardiovascular exercise (Howe 6).

Hollenberg’s false claims demonstrate the willingness and tendency of white, western culture to perpetuate stereotypes of indigenous cultures. In his work, Hollenberg refused to consider the possibility that the Kuna simply lived a healthy lifestyle through regular diet and exercise. Instead, he subscribed to the belief that indigenous populations know something that we don’t, that they hold mystical knowledge that other, more modern culture, cannot recognize. Furthermore, he also perpetuated colonizing behavior by attempting to take what he saw as an indigenous aspect of life and marketing it to the masses as an easy health trick, reducing indigenous life as simply a gimmick in modern dieting. In this way, Hollenberg perpetuated the cycle of fetishization around indigenous beliefs by manipulating science, a field that is supposed to obtain some semblance of objectivity and fact, to only further ingrain the image of the mystical indigenous population into larger societal beliefs. Furthermore, by only focusing on and greatly exaggerating the role of cacao in Kuna society, Hollenberg’s research also served to reduce the complexity and richness of their culture. He left out the many other rituals they hold around other food items, reducing them simply to a gimmick: a cacao fueled society. In this way, Hollenberg’s actions were colonialistic as they reflected a long history of colonizers erasing rich histories of indigenous culture in favor of supporting their own personal endeavours.

Hollenberg’s influence can be found today in the sermons of people wielding “science” to claim mystical properties of cacao. Countless websites and books boast cacao and, more specifically, raw cacao as a kind of “superfood,” or a food with extremely beneficial health benefits. One popular prophet of the incredible properties of cacao is David Wolfe, who claims in this video that cacao is the most “chemically complex food in the world” and has “over twelve hundred constituents of flavor alone.”

 

 

In reality, very few of Wolfe’s claims are scientifically supported. There is no evidence to suggest that cacao is the most chemically complex food in the world. The claim that cacao has “over twelve hundred constituents of flavor” is pure nonsense—a “flavor constituent” is not an term acknowledged by the scientific or gastronomic communities. By promoting unsupported scientific claims on the extreme effects of cacao, people like David Wolfe contribute to the characterization of cacao as a mystic substance and unknowingly perpetuate colonialist behavior. Cacao was a sacred substance to the ancient Mayans: when people like David Wolfe and Dr. Hollenberg diminish the rich history of Mayan religion, as they contribute to the modern chocolate industry, the modern chocolate industry hinders social progress and understanding by popularizing a reductive narrative of indigenous life.

 

Popular Culture in Modern Chocolate Industry

 

Although unsupported science is greatly influential promoting reductive portraits of indigenous culture, other reductive portraits can be found in everyday life. Representations of chocolate in popular culture reflect and perpetuate the way modern society tends to view indigenous culture.

Perhaps one of the most well known representations of the chocolate industry is Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The book centers around the story of a poor boy invited to tour a famous and mysterious chocolate factory run by a man named Willy Wonka. The factory is filled with countless impossible wonders, all made out of chocolate and candy. The factory’s manpower is provided by Wonka’s limitless workforce: oompa loompas. However, although modern adaptations of the book portray the oompa loompas as miniature fantasy characters, in the original text depictions of the workers resembled descriptions of indigenous people. In her book, Chocolate, Women, and Empire, Emma Robertson finds that Roald Dahl originally depicted the workers with “skin […] almost black,” as Willy Wonka “found them in the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had ever been before” (Robertson 1). In fact, even in early illustrations of the book the Oompa Loompas resemble indigenous populations.

By blatantly invoking the slavery of indigenous populations in the mystical chocolate factory, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ties the concept of the mystical properties of cacao to indigenous people. However, although some could perceive this association as Roald Dahl referencing indigenous history with cacao, his attitude towards the enslavement of the Oompa Loompas eliminates a reading of the text as an appreciation of indigenous culture. Dahl portrays the Oompa Loompas as happy to be enslaved, content in serving Wonka and working with magical chocolate. This representation ignores the brutal and long history of the terrible treatment of slaves working in the chocolate industry. Therefore, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory only fetishizes mysticism in chocolate in relation to indigenous populations without truly honoring indigenous cultures, but only erasing the histories of oppression of indigenous groups.

The modern chocolate industry has completely ignored the dark history of this children’s book. The major chocolate producer Nestlé produces a line of Wonka themed candy, including different kinds of chocolate bars. By advertising under the Wonka name, Nestlé is popularizing the narrative of Roald Dahl’s book to the masses, therefore unknowingly—or knowingly—perpetuating the shallow and reductive association of mysticism, chocolate, and indigenous culture.

Image result for wonka bar nestle

This capitalization on chocolate mysticism is not exclusive to the Wonka brand. Many other products link chocolate to magic, and more specifically to Mayan mysticism. For example, this Mayan Magic Chocolate Making Kit claims that it lets “chocolate lovers make and experience pure, decadent chocolate the way ancient Mayans and Aztecs used to create it 3000 years ago” (The Green Head).

Image result for mayan magic chocolate making kit

 

However, the majority of the materials in the kit uses techniques that the ancient Mayans would never have even dreamed about, like the use of molds and refrigeration. In this way, this company presents a greatly reductive portrait of ancient indigenous life in order to sell their product which is unfair to both indigenous people as it diminishes and erases their history, and to the modern consumer by informing them with false information. By advertising these reductive portraits of indigenous culture and history, the modern chocolate industry only further ingrains harmful reductive notions into the consciousness of the public.

 

We Can Do Better

 

After examining different ways in which the contemporary chocolate industry has failed to accurately represent indigenous culture, I propose three actions that the industry can take in order to try and correct their error of promoting this reductive narrative of indigenous culture:

 

  1. Reject unsupported science that exaggerates mystic properties of cacao.
  2. Acquire education about the histories of cacao and indigenous culture and religion.
  3. Alter advertisement to avoid reductive portrayals of indigenous life.

 

Striving to meet these three goals would be at least a step forward towards a more balanced and respectful portrait of indigenous history and culture as it pertains to cacao and chocolate. Reducing indigenous culture through false science, representations in pop culture, and inaccurate advertising only fortifies and perpetuates the colonialistic behavior that our forefathers before us set in motion. Breaking this cycle not only requires us ceasing imperialization and colonization, but also examining and altering the ways in which we think about and resultantly portray indigenous identity today. The long history between cacao and indigenous people makes the contemporary chocolate industry a compelling place to start alterations in our society: the wide influence of chocolate to all people and nations allows it to influence perceptions in communities around the world. In order to progress as a society we must be better than the people who made mistakes before us. Recognizing and fixing mistakes in chocolate is a sweet place to start.

 

Works Cited

 

Coe, Sophie D.. The True History of Chocolate . Thames & Hudson. Kindle Edition.

 

Healthysuperfood, director. Cocoa , The Chocolate Super Food Of The Gods, David Wolfe.

YouTube, YouTube, 4 Jan. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm69os9LIZo.

 

Howe, James. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health.” University of California Press, Vol 12 ,

10/4/13.

 

Martin, Carla. “20190206 Mesoamerica and the “food of the gods”” Chocolate, Culture, and the

Politics of Food, February 30, 2019, Emerson Lecture Hall, Cambridge, MA.

 

“Mayan Magic Chocolate Making Kit.” The Green Head – Finds Cool New Stuff!,

http://www.thegreenhead.com/2010/09/mayan-magic-chocolate-making-kit.php.

 

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2013.

 

“Willy Wonka Chocolate.” FoodBev Media, 13 Aug. 2013, http://www.foodbev.com/news/willy-

 

 

Windelspecht, Devin. “Cacao: The Mayan ‘Food of the Gods’ • Ricochet Science.” Ricochet

Science, 14 Apr. 2016, ricochetscience.com/cacao-mayan-food-gods/.

 

From Drink for Humanity to Drink for Pigs: The Colonization of Mesoamerican Cacao by European Powers

For ancient Mesoamericans, cacao was used as in cultural practices, as currency, and as beverage.[1] Cacao would be used by Maya nobles to demonstrate wealth and power and to signify political and economic agreements, and throughout the Maya people for rituals, such as holidays, life celebrations, and death ceremonies.[2] For these early Mesoamerican peoples, it was also cash, used as a payment to workers and as a unit of wealth for the elite, “money [that] literally grew on trees,” as writes Sampeck and Thayn. [3],[4] As a beverage, cacao was combined with many different indigenous ingredients—honey, flowers, herbs, vanilla, achiote—to satisfy the Mesoamerican tongue.[5] However, through 17th century colonialism, cacao as a beverage would undergo significant changes in taste as it was violently reconstructed for the European palette. In fact, using the words of Kathryn Sampeck and Jonathan Thayn, “Taste offered a way to create distinction between colonizers and colonized and between colonial powers.”[6]

In the Yucatan, Spanish colonizers were initially intrigued by cacao for its economic purpose as currency, but as for its taste, felt that it was “more a drink for pigs, than a drink for humanity,” in the words of conquistador Girolamo Benzoni in 1575.[7] When wine ran low, Benzoni turned to drinking the Natives’ chocolate beverage as an additional source of liquid nourishment besides water, developing an affinity for its bitter flavor and “refesh[ing]” effect on the body.[8] However, such an enticing flavor could not square with colonizers’ preconception of Native culture as savage and inferior. Therefore, through Spanish colonization of Native Mesoamericans, Aztec cacao recipes were made warmer, sweeter, and spicier through imposed European tastes.[9] Europeans preferred their chocolate beverages heated (as appropriated from Maya chocolate preparation), sweetened with cane sugar (supplied by slave labor), and flavored with European spices such as cinnamon and Black Pepper as opposed to the Natives’ achiote, honey, and agave.[10],[11] Furthermore, to make more efficient the commodification of creolized cacao, Europeans also appropriated a Native Mesoamerican production technique of making ground cacao into tablets that could be stored and simply added to water and sweetened with sugar when

a beverage was instantly needed, such as was employed during Aztec wartime.[12]

tablea.png

(Source: http://www.aboutfilipinofood.com)

Pilipino tableya, tablets made from 100% cacao nibs with no additives which can be added to hot water in order to create a chocolate beverage, may be a similar product to the tablets that Spaniards appropriated from Aztec war practices.[13] The Philippines were also historically colonized by Spaniards, resulting in the introduction of cacao from Mesoamerica.[14]

Even the word chocolate itself is a creole product of the colonizing process; while there is an incommensurable number of theories around the production of the word chocolate, Mexican language expert Ignacio Dávila Garibi makes a compelling argument that Spaniards combined the Mayan chocol (meaning “hot”) with Aztec atl (meaning “water”) to create the word chocolatl for their creolized cacao beverage.[15] Before colonization, Mayans described their chocolate beverage as chacau haa (meaning “hot water”) and Aztecs described theirs as cacahuatl (meaning “cacao water”).[16] Over time, in the context of adapting to globalized communication, Spaniards’ chocolatl has become chocolate.[17] In discussing this colonization of cacao foods’ indigenous naming, Sampeck and Thayn poignantly write:

The utterance of a word, a symbol—in this case, the word “chocolate”—rarely correlates with the thing it refers to because words (symbols) in any language are vastly more complex and sophisticated than icons…Europeans created concoctions, recipes that had a pattern that referred to the pre-Columbian preparation but were not that thing itself exactly.[18]

While extracting Native cacao and its cultural practices for the production of chocolate as a food, colonizers also appropriated the medical dimensions of cacao. Coe and Coe write that while Europeans believed in the humoral system—defined by the bodies expression of hotness, coldness, wetness, and dryness—Natives had an expansive knowledge of healing property of plant life, including cacao, consuming it as an energizing supplement before entering war or engaging in heavy labor, for example.[19] The ignorant humoral system of the Europeans could not compare to the effective plant-based practices innovated by the Natives.

Nonetheless, the Spaniard’s creolized chocolate beverage gained popularity among elites in their home country in the early 17th century as more and more cacao was imported by clergy, traveling colonizers, and later commerce.[20] Insofar, this new demand for cacao by the Spanish included forcing Mesoamerican farmers to harvest it.[21] Thus, as the taste of indigenous cacao beverage was itself being perverted through colonization, Leissle writes that “now its trade supplanted [cacao]’s Mesoamerican sociocultural embeddedness, and [cacao] took the first steps toward becoming a global commodity. This shift destabilized and, in some cases, severed cocoa’s links to its Mesoamerican roots.”[22] Originally taking the chocolate beverage from Mesoamerican jícaras made from gourd or clay, Spanish elites eventually replaced the Native devices with their own mancerina, described by Coe and Coe as a porcelain “plate or saucer with a collarlike ring in the middle, into which a small cup would sit without being able to slip” so that it would appeal more to European aesthetics and pose less of a risk of spilling on their fancy apparel.[23] Eventually chocolate made its way throughout European nobility in the 17th century—into Italy, France, and England, for example—where it continued to be transformed by colonizing cultures and tastes.[24]

img-01-74852766-f953-4de4-87aa-c539a97d2d53.jpg

(Source: http://www.erasmusgeografiaehistoria.org)

Painting by Felix Lorente Valencia (1712-1787) of a European woman pouring a chocolate beverage into a mancerina.

Chocolate, along with coffee and tea, became a key component of English life in the 17th century, amidst religious and political tensions, and significant advancement in arts and sciences from the likes of Isaac Newton.[25] After taking over the Spanish colony of Jamaica from Spain in 1655, the island became England’s main provider of cacao, which was described in a newspaper two years later as “cur[ing] and preserv[ing] the body of many diseases.” (165) Unlike France wherein chocolate was only available to nobles, England began commodifying chocolate as a product available for purchase to those who could afford to do so, particularly middle-class Englishmen (described by Leissle as “intelligentsia”) who frequented coffee shops where the chocolate beverages were sold, for business dealings and political discourse.[26], [27]

Coffeehouse01-1024x654.jpg

(Source: http://www.brewminate.com)

Englishmen in a 17th century coffee house.

As demand for sweet taste grew, England and France sought and competed for access to sugar markets in the Global South at this time to sweeten their chocolate beverages, made possible by chattel slavery and coerced labor.[28] Ironically, as writes Mintz, while the British homogenized coffee, tea, and chocolate to taste sweet through the addition of sugar supplied by enslaved people, all of these products had distinct, bitter flavors in their native forms.[29] According to Sampeck and Thayn, sugar was “the most important colonial addition to cacao beverages on both sides of the Atlantic” towards perverting cacao’s original Mesoamerican taste.[30] As part of the colonizing process, sugar assisted in turning indigenous cacao into European chocolate which, unlike the original ritualized, wealthy bean, was “intimately familiar but incompletely known”— characteristic of the alienating effect of colonization needed to sustain that project itself.[31] Mesoamericans and Africans meanwhile suffered the brute of enslavement, the spread of European diseases, cultural erasure and perversion, rape, economic denigration, and other forms of violence to meet their colonizers’ newly developed taste for sweetened cacao.[32] Thus, one might reiterate Sampeck and Thayn’s question: “How was it possible to subsume others (their lives, their labor, their substances, their objects) while at the same time hold them apart, as separate entities and tastes?”[33] In this context, it may be fair to co-opt and apply Benzoni’s view that Europe’s chocolate beverage became “more a drink for pigs [the colonizers], than a drink for humanity [the colonized].”[34]

fullsizeoutput_10b5.jpeg

(Source: http://www.cryssabazos.com)

Enslaved persons harvesting sugarcane, overseen by European managers of the colonial project.

 

Endnotes

[1] Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. (New York City, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2013), 30

[2] Coe and Coe, The True History, 30-31.

[3] Kathryn E. Sampeck and Jonathan Thayn, “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism” from Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, first ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017), 76

[4] Coe and Coe, The True History, 32.

[5] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 81-82.

[6] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 73.

[7] Coe and Coe, The True History, 110.

[8] Coe and Coe, The True History, 110.

[9] Coe and Coe, The True History, 114-115.

[10] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 81-82.

[11] Coe and Coe, The True History, 112-115.

[12] Coe and Coe, The True History, 115.

[13] “Tablea,” About Filipino Food: Get to Know the Cuisine of the Philippines, January 08, 2018, accessed April 22, 2019, https://www.aboutfilipinofood.com/tablea/.

[14] Leissle, Cocoa, 37.

[15] Coe and Coe, The True History, 117-119.

[16] Coe and Coe, The True History, 117-118.

[17] Coe and Coe, The True History, 119.

[18] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 91.

[19] Coe and Coe, The True History, 121-123.

[20] Coe and Coe, The True History, 130-131, 135.

[21] Kristy Leissle, Cocoa (Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018), 34.

[22] Leissle, Cocoa, 34.

[23] Coe and Coe, The True History, 134-135.

[24] Coe and Coe, The True History, 147, 150-157, 161.

[25] Coe and Coe, The True History, 161-162.

[26] Leissle, Cocoa, 36.

[27] Coe and Coe, The True History, 164-168.

[28] Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power (New York, NY: Viking, 1985), 39, 44.

[29] Mintz, Sweetness and Power, 109.

[30] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 84.

[31] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 92-94.

[32] Leissle, Cocoa, 36.

[33] Sampeck and Thayn, “Translating Tastes,” 93.

[34] Coe and Coe, The True History, 110.

Bibliography

“Tablea.” About Filipino Food: Get to Know the Cuisine of the Philippines. January 08, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.aboutfilipinofood.com/tablea/.

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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York, NY: Viking, 1985.

Sampeck, Kathryn E. and Jonathan Thayn. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism” from Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica. First ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017.

 

Raising the Bar with Tony’s Chocolonely

Seldom will the average consumer find a chocolate company as unique as Tony’s Chocolonely. From its irregularly divided bars representing the inequality in the chocolate industry, to its quirky name referencing the founder’s sense of solitude as a crusader against slavery in the industry, all of the company’s efforts aim for ethical reform through delicious chocolate. This Dutch company arose from the investigative journalism work of Teun “Tony” van de Keuken. After discovering the reality of slavery in the cocoa industry, Tony sought to tackle the issue himself. He realized the importance of consumer responsibility in reinforcing these industrial injustices, going so far as to “prosecute [him]self for buying and eating chocolate” that involved slavery in its production (Tony’s, “The Story”).

From chocolate conviction to confectionary: The ethical foundations of Tony’s Chocolonely.

The Mission

Thus, Tony’s Chocoloney was founded on the principle of producing completely “slave free chocolate” and influencing chocolate makers around the globe to follow suit. Its products, characterized by bright colors and eye-catching designs, are emblazoned with company’s mission: “Together we make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate” (Tony’s, Report 11).

This mission is not only applied toward its own products; Tony’s also aspires to elevate the worldwide chocolate industry to this same standard. Tony’s takes a holistic approach to transforming the chocolate industry from within. This begins with grassroots community efforts at the local farmer level, continues through to consumer transparency, and extends beyond to the global chocolate industry. Tony’s Chocolonely hopes to leverage its loyal customer base and prominence in the Dutch market to alleviate ethical issues in the global cacao-chocolate supply chain.

Tony’s dedication to ethical chocolate starts with the social and economic well-being of its cocoa farmers and continues through every ingredient and packaging material. These steps trace the company’s five sourcing principles for 100% slave free chocolate: traceable cocoa beans, higher prices, strong farmers, long-term sustainability, and improved quality and productivity.

The five sourcing principles, on display in Tony’s Chocotruck.

Reliable Relationships

Each of these social, economic, and political tactics is tailored to the key players in Tony’s chocolate supply chain: cocoa farmers, chocolate makers, stores, fans, and governments (Tony’s, Report 13). Beginning with the farmers, Tony’s has been strategic in choosing which cocoa-producing regions to work with. Rather than shying away from countries with severe social abuses in farming, the company has embraced them head-on. After discovering the prevalence of slavery in West Africa, Tony’s formed partnerships with five cocoa farming cooperatives in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. This direct contact with farmers at the local community level has been necessary to target the engrained unjust cultural practices. Tony’s works with farmers on a personal level to address social, financial, and educational issues. The company sources 100% of its cocoa beans from these five cooperatives, establishing balanced relationships through which it can introduce fundamental institutional changes. Tony’s engages in direct trade with these farmers, eliminating profits lost by the farmers to intermediaries in the supply chain. This direct contact also helps develop strong, stable long-term relationships that enable the cooperatives to grow and organize.

Principles Over Profits

Financial stability is one of the most pressing issues facing West African cocoa farmers. This problem has been poorly addressed in the chocolate industry due to incomplete or misdirected efforts. A popular suggestion involves paying higher prices for cocoa; however, this approach fails in many cases if the national government is the intermediary between the farmers and the global market, or if national policies incentivize the cultivation of other crops (Off 146, Martin slide 40). Cocoa farmers are paid the farm gate price for their beans, but this may not reflect the global market price. However, farmers can enhance their earnings through certification premiums. All of Tony’s cocoa farmers are Fairtrade certified; however, this still does not relieve them from financial insolvency. Due to its pervasiveness and widespread effects, poverty is Tony’s target and root cause of labor abuses.

Tony’s cocoa beans are Faitrade certified, so farmers receive both Fairtrade and Tony’s additional premiums.

Considering these challenges, Tony’s goal to pay farmers living wages—enough to hire adult workers and send their children to school—seems almost quixotic. To work towards this goal, the company has instituted an additional Tony’s premium that bypasses institutional middlemen and directly benefits farmers: “We pay the extra Tony’s premium straight to the cooperatives of our partner farmers, so not every link in the chain (such as local and international traders, cocoa processers or bar manufacturers) in the chocolate chain receives a percentage of this higher premium” (Tony’s, Report 27). During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, on top of the Fairtrade premium of $200 per metric ton, Tony’s paid an additional $400 per metric ton in the Ivory Coast and an additional $175 in Ghana (103). Thus, the cooperative farmers in the Ivory Coast received a payment 47% greater than the farm gate price; in Ghana, 21% greater (29). The additional Tony’s premium is also dynamic, taking into account the current cocoa market, farm family size, cost of family sustenance, and agricultural input costs. For example, in response to the 2016 excess Ivorian cocoa harvest, Tony’s more than doubled its premium to compensate for the decline in farm gate price. This contrasts from the nearly static Fairtrade price and premium, which will be updated in late 2019 from their 2011 values (Fairtrade).

The Proof is in the (Chocolate) Pudding

One of the unique aspects of Tony’s relationships with farmers is its comprehensive analysis of progress. Tony’s has partnered with the KIT Royal Tropical Institute, “an independent centre of expertise and education for sustainable development,” to investigate the impact of its efforts on local communities (KIT 2). The interviews documented in the FAIR Report indicate that the farmers have generally positive feelings toward their relationships with Tony’s. The cooperative managers have a greater sense of ownership and confidence in their farms. Women in the cooperatives are more empowered and can contribute tangibly to the cocoa communities. Overall, farmers appreciate the additional Tony’s premium, but there is no explicit evidence regarding the extent to which the premiums have directly increased their incomes (Tony’s, Report 36). Although increased living incomes is one of Tony’s goals for its farmers, these economic efforts are also intended to indirectly prevent systemic causes of slavery and child labor.

The Climb for Ethical Labor with CLMRS

Tony’s efforts at eradicating slavery and child labor extend beyond the economic sphere in its collaboration with the Child Labor Monitoring Remediation System (CLMRS). This system was founded by the International Cocoa Initiative and Nestle to track, target, and eradicate child labor in the cocoa industry (Nestle 23). Tony’s has thoroughly embraced this system by mobilizing local communities to “actively and structurally [search] for child labor” (Tony’s, Report 1). The system is centered on the CLMRS community facilitators. trained individuals who spread awareness of prohibited forms of child labor among local communities. These facilitators visit farmers at their homes to interview both farmers and children to identify the children at greatest risk for child labor. They also hold awareness sessions to teach farmers about fair labor practices. From an interview with KIT, an administrative manager at an Ivorian cooperative indicated his involvement in CLMRS has enabled him to “educate people and strengthen groups” and fulfill a personal goal of being a “role model for the youth” (34).

One of the major strengths of this system is its focus on the collective local identity and social solidarity of cocoa communities through personal interaction. However, this also leads to inefficiencies including incomplete data collection and difficulties in data analysis. In 2017, CLMRS found 268 cases of child labor—primarily children performing dangerous tasks on family farms—and no cases of modern slavery. Very reasonably, Tony’s admits this may be an underestimate. However, after only one year of working with CLMRS, it has visited over 3,000 households and interviewed nearly 4,000 children (Tony’s, Report 40). On a larger scale, CLMRS spans multiple companies in West Africa, and its overall performance shows promising signs of progress. As of 2017, CLMRS as a whole identified nearly 15,000 cases of child labor, over half of whom were longer in child labor three years later (USDOL 74). Considering this broader progress, Tony’s appears to be on an upward trajectory of identifying and eliminating child labor.

Chocolate industry labor abuses and Tony’s central mission, explained on a box of chocolate bars.

Emphasizing Education

Tony’s Chocolonely also prioritizes education—of both producers and consumers—as a proxy for social change. The company invests in agricultural education and works with farmers to improve their yields through sustainable farming practices. They help develop skills for cultivating cocoa and other crops, for higher farm productivity and less dependency on cocoa. Focusing on education helps target and prevent inequalities that arise downstream in the supply chain. The company seeks to “professionalize farming cooperatives and farms, giving them more power to structurally change inequality” (Tony’s, Report 27). In addition to educating farmers and managers, Tony’s also provides children with direct resources to help them attend school. Its efforts range from arranging birth certificates and health insurance to distributing school supplies and bicycles. Rather than fixing surface-level issues of productivity and management, Tony’s targets the core of the problem, laying a solid foundation to enable the farmers to grow.

Scrutiny in Sourcing

Another ethical point of contention along the cocoa-chocolate supply chain is the sourcing and sustainability of ingredients. Since Tony’s engages in direct trade with its five cooperatives for all of its cocoa beans, it is able to maintain complete transparency and traceability throughout the process. All of its cocoa beans are 100% traceable, meaning Tony’s knows exactly who produced the beans, under what conditions they were produced, and the path they took to arrive at its bean warehouse in Antwerp, Belgium (Tony’s, Report 27). Another key ingredient, cocoa butter, has also come under scrutiny regarding sourcing and sustainability. Tony’s produces its cocoa butter in conjunction with Barry Callebaut in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast. The company focuses on improving sustainability in cocoa butter production by using locally grown mid-crop beans (52). Because these beans are out of season and lower in quality, the Ivorian government prohibits them from export. Consequently, cocoa farmers generate significantly less income during the off season. However, these beans can still be used to produce cocoa butter, which is exactly what Tony’s does. It also pays these farmers the same Tony’s additional premium, allowing them to maintain a more stable income year-round.

In addition to its cacao products, Tony’s also pays close attention to the sourcing of its various flavorings and chocolate add-ins. The FAIR Report displays a traceability map of the main ingredients in various chocolate products (80-81). This includes basic ingredients such as Fairtrade cane sugar from Mauritius, to limited edition flavorings such as red wine powder from France. The company doesn’t stop at only the edible ingredients; they also take into consideration their packaging. Their chocolate wrappers are made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified recycled paper and printed with plant-based inks in a climate neutral and environmentally friendly facility. Furthermore, the pages of the FAIR report were printed on paper made from recycled sugar cane leaves and corn cobs (127).

Creative Consumer Contact

The other side of Tony’s chocolate industry mission is its consumer base. The company relies on its loyal Dutch fans and growing international customers to spread its chocolate and mission. One of the most recent initiatives to spread consumer awareness is the Tony’s Chocotruck Tour featuring the “Bean to Bar Journey.” This unique approach to fighting the “‘anonymity’ of the market” sensitizes consumers so they know conditions of production of the goods they consume (Sylla 47).

Tony’s Chocotruck toured the country to spread awareness, consumer responsibility, and of course, chocolate.

The colorful truck is adorned with bright lights and operated by enthusiastic Tony’s employees eager to share both Tony’s chocolate and mission. This fun, jovial atmosphere contrasts from the sobering message that the company is trying to convey: slavery and child labor are ubiquitous in the chocolate industry, and consumers and companies must take action. Through the tour, Tony’s seeks “to meet loads of new chocofans and serious friends who will share our chocolate and our story” (Tony’s “Chocotruck”). The truck contains interactive displays highlighting labor abuses in the chocolate industry, as well as Tony’s efforts to remediate them. It begins with staggering statistics revealing human trafficking, slavery, and child labor on cocoa farms. The displays continue by describing Tony’s various measures and sourcing principles to address the issue. The focus on consumer interaction— “The choice is yours. Are you in?”—makes visitors feel like they are directly involved in impacting these injustices.

The interior of the Chocotruck, filled with fun, educational displays.

Governmental Action

Finally, Tony’s has also worked with the Dutch government in an attempt to pass legislation addressing corporate responsibility of child labor. The “Zorgplicht Kinderarbeid” Child Labor Due Diligence Act would require businesses in the Netherlands to declare that they are taking all necessary measures to prevent child labor, identify the risks of child labor in their supply chains, and address these risks to the best of their abilities (Beltman 1). Although this bill would have only applied to Dutch businesses, it was an earnest attempt at governmentally enforceable change in the political sphere. Despite Tony’s petition including 42 cocoa businesses and over 13,000 signatures, the bill failed to pass the Dutch Upper House (Tony’s, Report 66). The company admitted that efforts at government progress in child labor due diligence have been met with resistance. However, the wide support of the petition demonstrated that the company has succeeded in spreading awareness and inspiring others to act. Despite the lack of political progress, Tony’s shows no signs of resignation.

Solidairy-ty in the Industry

Overall, Tony’s Chocolonely presents a wide array of strategies aimed at their singular mission of 100% slave free chocolate. These principles have helped Tony’s excel in spreading awareness among consumers, and it hopes to further inspire other chocolate companies to act. However, no single company can successfully address every complex ethical issue in the chocolate industry. Tony’s has a significant presence in the Netherlands, but Dutch chocolate is only a fraction of the global industry, in terms of consumption and economy (ICO 39-40). Additionally, Tony’s currently works with approximately 5,000 individual farmers in West Africa, only about 0.2% of the total 2.5 million farmers in region (Tony’s, Report 34). The company values strong personal relationships with its farmers, but this comes as a tradeoff to the breadth of its influence. Finally, Tony’s mission of slave free chocolate may initially seem like too simplistic of a goal. If the company were to approach this mission exclusively through traditional tactics of policy, certifications, or consumer pressure, this would indeed be too low a bar. However, Tony’s uses an innovative, holistic approach to targeting systemic social, economic, and political issues at different stages within the supply chain. These principles, combined with over-the-top enthusiasm for its “chocofan” consumers, are helping Tony’s transform the chocolate industry’s ethical standards from within.

Works Cited: Scholarly Sources

  1. Beltman, Henk Jan. “A Law on the Duty of Care for Child Labour Seriously Tackles the Issue of Child Labour.” Received by Senate of the Netherlands: Standing committee for foreign affairs, defence and development cooperation, 3 October 2017, The Hague, Netherlands.
  2. Fairtrade International. Fairtrade Minimum Price and Fairtrade Premium Table. Bonn, Germany: Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. 28 March 2019.
  3. International Cocoa Organization Executive Committee. The World Cocoa Economy: Past and Present. London, United Kingdom: International Cocoa Organization. 18–21 September 2012.
  4. KIT Royal Tropical Institute. Annual Report 2017. Amsterdam, Netherlands. 2017.
  5. Martin, Carla D. “Modern Day Slavery” AAAS 119X, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University. 27 Mar. 2019.
  6. Nestle Cocoa Plan. Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Vevey, Switzerland. 20 June 2017.
  7. Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: the Dark Side of the Worlds Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.
  8. Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.
  9. Tony’s Chocolonely. “The Bean to Bar Journey – Chocotruck Tour.” Tony’s Chocolonely, 2019, tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/chocotruck.
  10. Tony’s Chocolonely. Tony’s Chocolonely FAIR Report 2017-2018. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Tony’s Chocolonely. 29 November 2018. Print.
  11. United States Department of Labor. Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG) Annual Report 2017. Washington, D.C.: USDOL. 2017.

Works Cited: Multimedia Sources

  1. Fairtrade. Fairtrade Logo. Wikimedia Commons, 7 November 2011. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fairtrade-logo.jpg. Accessed 15 March 2019.
  2. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely – the story of an unusual chocolate bar.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 15 October 2015. Web.
  3. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely – Tony’s Bean to Bar Journey.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 7 March 2019. Web.
  4. Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely USA on Instagram: ‘Girl Power! These Ladies Supply Cocoa Beans to ECOJAD, Our Partner Cooperative in Ivory Coast. This Picture Was Taken on Their Cassava…”.” Instagram, 2 August 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/Bl_lLgXBgts/.
  5. All other photos were taken by the author.