Category Archives: Extension

Ethnography on Chocolate: Socioeconomic Visual Culture, Mesoamerican Origins, & Contemporary Perspectives

The purpose of this small-scale ethnography is to examine the social significance of chocolate from a cross-cultural perspective. Through interviewing various members of my local community that were born in different regions of Mexico and Central America, I document here their experiences and observances of chocolate.

Experienced through consumption or non-consumption, and observed through their emic perspective, there are underscoring themes exposed amongst the roles in which chocolate has played throughout each of their own lives. Within the context of those personal relationships with chocolate, an interaction between social and economic functions of their state and country may be contemporaneous to their outlook. Although this simultaneity is not always the circumstance, motifs emerge as their uniqueness transpires. Effectually, their contributed insight has actualized a microcosm of chocolates’ socio-cultural diversity and likenesses.

While conducting the interviews with members of my community, the aim was to first listen to their observances, and to then ask questions of clarification to assist in their thought process. The framework of my Q&A was designed this way to acquire a qualitative study, so that this retelling would reflect the individual perspectives of each subject, synchronously providing a glimpse into the societal experience. To depict those experiences through a cultural historical lens, that of which illustrated itself during most of the interviews already, I asked questions about their culture as a whole and how they thought chocolate was generally regarded in their own communities.

This study is not meant to define those relationships, but to highlight multiplicities within these individual cross- cultural accounts. Over reflections of my own and of the human subjects in this ethnographic study, I hope to provide sufficient ­imagery of historic milieu within the functional roles chocolate has played in personal experience and in society.

Origins

Theobroma Cacao, or the Food-of-the-God’s Cacao, is widely accepted by botanists and scholars as indigenous to Mesoamerica. Evidence of its cultivation is indicative of the role it played in ancient civilizations like the Mixe-Zoquean-speaking Olmecs (1500 BCE – 400 BCE). At the famed Olmec archaeological site in San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, evidence has been found of the term “Kakawa” used by the Olmec as early as 1000 BCE (Coe & Coe, 1996). See on the map below, San Lorenzo is west of present day Guatemala, and north of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.

 

San Lorenzo on the map 2
San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán is a famed archaeological site, well known for the massive Olmec stone heads excavated there

 

We find in the archaeological record, the ways in which early civilizations illustrated cacao, or “Kakawa” on their pottery. This being a significant attribute to understand the role chocolate played in their livelihoods and rituals. According to Maricel Presilla in her book, The New Taste of Chocolate, “it was the Maya who brought chocolate making to a high art… building on the foundation left behind by other Mesoamerican cultures”, like that of the Olmecs and other sibling tribes (2009).

 

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Buenavista vase, Buenavista del Cayo, Belize

 

See this Classic Maya vase from the seventh century portraying the Maize God in an “unending dance, symbolizing both the creation of the universe and also his cycle of death and rebirth” (Takushi, Pioneer Press).

Maya Classic period (250 – 900 CE) vessels show quite literally the function of cacao as it was for drinking, as well as the relative role it played in Mayan life though various representations of the divine.

This is one of the many Classic period vessels that was found to contain cacao residues inside. We know it was used to hold chocolate because cacao is the only plant in the region with both the compounds Theobromine and Caffeine, “a unique marker for the presence of cacao in pre-Columbian artifacts” (Cheong, 2011). To verify the vessels were used to hold chocolate was an important piece to the archaeological record. It provided contextual knowledge when deciphering the imagery or glyphs depicted on the vessels.

Affirmed in the glyphs of drinking vessels from this period, there is evidence of “well established cacao-chocolate terminology”. On the Buenavista vase shown above, we see “tree-fresh cacao” inscribed.  From the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS) of the glyphs you see banded around the top of the vessel, the characters that make the Maya name for cacao, “Ka-Ka-Wa” were deciphered. What strikes me the most about this piece is the seemingly relative “tree-fresh cacao” to the Maize God’s cyclical existence. (Presilla, 2009)

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Buenavista vase closeup: Maya glyphs depicted translate to “tree-fresh cacao”, “Ta-Tsih-Te’el Kakawa” (Prescilla)

I particularly find this vessel so interesting when we look at the role of chocolate in culture because it reflects a cyclical ideology of their ecological relationship to their land; in the sustenance it provides, the concept of time through death and rebirth, and their Gods all-encompassing role within those cycles.

Field Study

A few years ago in 2013 I came to know a few young men and women from the northern Mexican state of Sonora – (follow the link to read a brief history of Seri Indians of Sonora). They were working and studying here on visa’s while we were employed at a busy restaurant in the heart of downtown Boston. What better place than behind the bar to nose around and pick into people’s lives for cultural insights! Just kidding on the nose-picking… but seriously, even minute conversations with guests created thought-provoking observations. During their multiple terms of residency in Boston over the years, these talented intellectual Sonoran natives and I connected on Mexican – American culture alike, and apart. Upon reaching out to ask if anyone would be interested in participating in this modest ethnographic study, my request was received most graciously. They have all elected to omit fully identifying information, so for the purposes of this study, I will refer to them by their first name only. Below I have included their perspectives on the role chocolate has played throughout their lives.

Andrés began by explaining Mexico as a large country where the culture is full of diversity. “Every state has their own culture about everything – food, traditional parties, our dialect and slang”. With that being said, in the state of Sonora where he lives he doesn’t use chocolate and cacao the way he knows it is used in the southern states of the country like Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Tabasco. Andrés has observed the influence of cacao beans in southern Mexico because the cacao growing region produces a lot of recipes that involve cacao and chocolate.

When I asked what he knows about Mesoamerican uses for cacao, he remembers learning from childhood that they used it as currency, and he understood they sometimes would use it in beauty treatments. On that note, I recollect a fortuitous conversation about skin care had between myself and a female of Mexican ancestry I met while servicing wedding hair and makeup to her cousin’s bridal party, circa summer 2015 in East Boston – Indeed, I am not only an aspiring Anthropologist, also a Cosmetologist. My thoughts are usually occupied by anthropological inquiry on a daily basis, which inevitably grants unique opportunity for cultural discussions with the people I meet. Although not a part of this ethnography, she let me know back then about her family recipe for a skin care regimen that contains cacao. Her grandmother and her aunts would grind down cacao beans into a powder, “cocoa powder” minus the hydraulic press. They would mix the antioxidant rich powder with other grinded down local herbs, add water to create a paste-like texture and apply generously to the skin.

“Lather. Dry. Rinse. Repeat.” – she persisted. Yum.

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The Spa At Hotel Hershey seems to know just how to indulge all the senses with chocolate

 

For the purposes of this study, I was curious about chocolate in spa treatments, as I have heard echoes of the luxury before. Take a look at The Spa At The Hotel Hershey or examples of just a few contemporary accommodations created for chocolate in the beauty industry.

Andrés expressed to me that Sonora being just below Arizona, his culture is more- so “American” than the way Mexicans live in the south. It is in his experience and observation the misconception of Mexican culture as being one. I think any educated person understands culture, language, economy, etc. vary across spaces of human population. Yet, for those who generalize a nation’s people by its borders, Andrés and his community experience the bias. He grew up with a collection of influences “by the things Americans do”. For example, one of his earliest memories of eating chocolate was during Halloween. They’re also heavily influenced by “spring break madness”, as he defined the season. He grew up consuming chocolate predominantly made by the big corporations, like Mars. His notable favorites being the Snicker and M&Ms. “In the south they don’t have that influence, they don’t experience American Halloween as we do”.

Carlos V chocolate bars are the Nestlé- proclaimed “# 1 chocolate brand in Mexico with over 70 years in the market!… Because of its unique and mild flavor, it is considered the reference of chocolate for Mexicans.” The Aztec stylized imagery first designed to brand the chocolate before it was bought by Nestlé sometime in the 1980’s was created by Fabrica de Chocolates La Azteca, S.A. de C.V. Jason Liebig on his blog, Collecting Candy chronicles his findings in the L.M. Kallok Confectioners Collection of antique packaging. Most notable about the evolution of the branding is first the Aztec styling alongside the “Imperial Coat of Arms” for “by the grace of God, Carolus V Imperator (emporer)”. Then with the English labeling introduced we see a change in the ingredients as well (which was apparent of each label seen in Leibig’s compilation from the beginning to the end. “A tie-in with the film Toy Story, which tells us La Azteca was still the brand’s sole owner as late as 1995″ is interesting where we see Quaker Oats leaving its insignia on the label by the late 1990’s.

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Not one of the Sonoran’s I interviewed has tried a Carlos V chocolate bar but they have all heard of it at some point in their life through advertisements. Eduardo attests to Andrés’ personal account of diversity from the southern regions in Mexico. Dia de los Muertos is “not celebrated as much as the south, but we do things like going to the cemetery”, Andrés says. Eduardo told me that they celebrate Dia de los Muertos on November 2. “We celebrate in memory of the people who are no longer with us and usually at the tombstones we put special things they liked when they were alive. Chocolates is usually one of them”. Both Andrés and Eduardo did not have a definitive sense of the historical reason for chocolate being placed on gravesites, but they both know it as a long- standing tradition and ritual in celebrating their deceased ancestors. Fernanda, another Sonoran native, added some insight to this practice of memorial. She told me that usually the graveyards are managed by local churches or publicly owned so in contrast to the majority of graveyards that are privately owned in the US, the families play a greater role in gravesite maintenance of their deceased. In this way, chocolate serves a social function in their celebrations.

Interpretations

Shown below, Dr. Martin presented in class this semester some of the ways Maya and Mixtec society visually depicted the functions that cacao played within their cultural practices and belief systems. Royal marriages necessitated the use of currency in the negotiation, so we see in the Codex Nuttall how cacao was a part of the price for the bride. Eduardo remembers learning in school that Mayans used to used the cacao “as a coin to buy everything, from goods to wives”. A relative topic for further study would be in the ways chocolate was introduced to the elite. Diffused out of Mesoamerica first by the Spanish, the Europeans assimilated to its royal regard and used chocolate in the women’s dowry through royal inter-marriages – that of which played a great role in spreading chocolate throughout Europe.

Another example (seen below) comes from the Madrid Codex where we see cacao being exchanged, portraying a give-and-take linkage between their concepts of cyclical time (lunar goddess) and their environment (rain god). I find this imagery especially expressive to their belief of the divine relationship to their human existence and sustenance on earth. Lastly, from the Codex Nuttall we see a royal funerary procession in “Twelve Movements”. Within the tomb depicted at the bottom right of the artwork lies a “vessel of foaming cacao beverage… to ease the soul’s journey to the underworld”. (Martin)

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Eduardo recounts drinking cups of hot chocolate since he can remember. While traveling south to Puebla state he tried their “typical meal, mole, and it’s made of cacao”. What he knows about the Maya and cacao is how they used to prepare beverages and meals like the Puebla “mole”. “We have different tribes and culture but we learned about it in school and I experiences it myself while traveling south. Cacao is still a huge deal in south Mexico.”

 

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“Mole” Ingredients. Presilla, 2009

 

See the dozen or more ingredients to make the traditional “thick, baroque sauce, mole” from Xalapa, Veracruz (Presilla), north of Puebla state in Mexico. Presilla notes that each ingredient is “processed in sequence, each at its own time” (2009).

As the mole is diverse in ingredients, and rich in unique Mesoamerican culture, so too – as these contemporary perspectives have illustrated, are the people of the region diversely interwoven with it’s history and unique place on Earth’s sphere.

***

 

Sources:

Campbell, Lyle & Kaufman, Terrence. 1976. A Linguistic Look at the Olmecs: American Antiquity, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Jan., 1976), pp. 80-89 Published by: Society for American Archaeology http://www2.hawaii.edu/~lylecamp/LC%20Lx%20look%20at%20Olmecs%20JSTOR.pdf

Cheong, Kong (Powis, T.; Cyphers, A.; Gaikwad, T.W.; Grivetti, L.) 2011. Cacao use and the San Lorenzo Olmec: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 108(21):8595-600 · May 2011 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51110764_Cacao_Use_and_the_San_Lorenzo_Olmec

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996] The True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition. London: Thames & Hudson

Johnston, Bernice. 1997. The Seri Indians of Sonora Mexico. The University of Arizona Press http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/onlinebks/SERIS/HISTORY.HTM

Liebig, Jason. 2012. Carlos V – Building a history for the King of Chocolate Bars http://www.collectingcandy.com/wordpress/?p=2958

Martin, Carla. 2017 AAAS E-119 Lecture Slides. February 1st, pp.23, 47, 53, 57

Mintz, Sidney. 1986 [1985] Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books

Morton, Marcia and Frederic. 1986 Chocolate, An Illustrated History Crown Publishers, Inc. New York, NY

Nestlé. 2017. https://www.nestle.com.mx/brands/carlos-v

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology: Harvard University. 2017. https://www.peabody.harvard.edu/node/287

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

Smithsonian Institute. 2017. Olmec Stone Heads photo: http://anthropology.si.edu/olmec/english/sites/sanLorenzo.htm

Takushi, Scott (Pioneer Press). 2013, December 17. Museum of Belize and House of Culture: NEWSEUM Blog Spot: Belize’s Maya Collection on Displayhttps://mobnmoc.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/belizes-maya-collection-on-display/mayaex1/

Unknown photographer; featured image. 2016, October – November. Nexos. https://americanwaymagazine.com/cacao-route

Unknown photographer; chocolate as beauty regimen image. 2017. The Spa At The Hotel Hershey. http://www.chocolatespa.com/treatments/signature/chocolate.php

Tackling Terroir in Chocolate

For this blogpost, I was curious to explore the idea of terroir as it pertains to chocolate. “Terroir” is, literally, the French word for soil or land and can be defined as “the conditions in which a food is grown or produced and that give the food its unique characteristics.” [i]  According to Kristy Leissle, “cocoa beans, like wine grapes, produce distinct flavors depending on strain and terroir, and showcasing that flavor is the goal of single origin chocolate.” [ii]

Of course, as discussed throughout our chocolate class (Karla Martin, personal communication) the final taste of chocolate is determined by many factors. The taste can be influenced by the type of cacao and where it is grown but can also be influenced by the type of cacao tree, how the cacao beans are fermented and dried and how it is processed. How is it roasted? Is it conched and for how long? Are other ingredients added?  A description of the kinds of factors that influence chocolate flavor can be found here: [iii]  But despite those questions, I was curious to explore what differences we would taste in chocolate bars whose beans were sourced from different countries.

So I took myself off to Whole Foods in Dedham – one of the largest Whole Foods I have ever visited. There I faced an enormous and bewildering display of chocolate: 3 full banks of shelves – ½ of an entire aisle – entirely devoted to chocolate, none of it mass market. I employed the following criteria to restrict my choices:

  • Must be at least 70% chocolate
  • No added ingredients other than sweetener, vanilla, emulsifier
  • Package must state the cacao is sourced from a certain geographic area.

I ended up with 7 bars of chocolate to taste, from 6 different areas: Ghana, Dominican Republic Madegascar, Tanzania, Haiti, and Ecuador. Only one was made in the country of origin. The others were produced in Germany, Massachusetts, Belgium, and Switzerland.

What I found at Whole Foods bears out Leissle’s statement that even though the majority of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, most single single origin chocolate bars are sourced from other regions. She suggests that this is likely because the quality of West African chocolate is often not high. The one bar I found from West Africa was from Ghana. Ghanaian chocolate, which is regulated by a national Cocoa Board is considered the best of the West African chocolate. (Leissle). Tight regulation may be the reason that it is higher quality, but it can also make it difficult for manufacturers to source enough chocolate from Ghana to create single-origin bars. Another issue with West African chocolate is that it is often tainted in the public mind by allegations of child and slave labor, which could affect sales.

Interestingly, all of these chocolates bore a special certification of one kind or another, indicating that the buyer was not just buying chocolate to eat, but also contributing to social good with the purchase. Certifications included Fair trade, Fair for life, direct trade, whole trade.  As Ndongo S. Sylla suggests in his critique of Fair Trade, it is as if “poverty itself has become a commodity. Through this label, it is the idea and the approach that are being sold…The irony is that the new advocates of the poor unknowingly work for the rich, being themselves part of this category.” [iv] The packaging suggests that with your purchase you have become a “compassionate consumer” as Martin and Sampeck [v] label it, and so you can feel good about yourself because you are meeting the needs of others when you spend your money, often justifying a higher price. Of course, one doesn’t know how much of that premium actually reaches the farmer. It’s almost a side benefit to one’s good work in buying the chocolate, that it may also be delicious.

All but two of the bars were organic, and this also seems to play into the idea of doing good with your dollars. The packaging materials themselves are organic-looking/earthy-crunchy with non-shiny paper and arty graphics. Julie Guthman, in her history of the development of organic salad mix (“yuppie chow”), says “eating organic salad mix connoted a political action in its own right, legitimizing a practice that few could afford.”[vi] This notion of eating as a political action could also be applied to organic chocolate. However, as Williams and Eber point out in Raising the Bar [vii], organic chocolate isn’t necessarily the best chocolate. Furthermore, organic certification is an expensive proposition for a small cocoa farmer because the land must come out of production for 3 years and getting a certificate costs money. The premium that organic chocolate can demand tends not to come to the farmer. Furthermore, much cocoa actually is in essence organic, though not certified as such, because many farmers cannot afford pesticides. So how much good are you really doing by buying organic chocolate?

For this project, I convened an after-dinner tasting panel of 3 foodies: myself (a prolific cook-gardener), my friend Emily (an artist/social worker who generally prefers milk chocolate to dark chocolate), and my husband John (a field engineer by day and musician/poet in the off hours). We discussed a common convention of tasting, guided by Barb Stuckey’s article on How the Pros Taste. [viii] She suggests the importance of using other senses in tasting, such as sight, smell, taste, and texture or mouth feel. We placed each sample on a white plate to judge the the color, slowly sniffed it to sense the aroma, snapped it with our teeth to judge crispness, and then placed it on our tongue to savor slowly and see what flavors emerged. We sampled in order of lightest (70%) to darkest (85%). After sampling each, we took a look at the package to see what information we could glean. Our method of palate cleansing after each taste was perhaps unorthodox, but delicious: water, plain crackers, and red wine that had been aged in bourbon barrels.

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THE TASTING:

Divine 70% “Intensely Rich” chocolate. Ghana     IMG_7855

Color: very dark brown. Aroma: rich and lovely. Snap: Nice, crisp.

Savoring notes: we found it sweet but not overly so. Delicious. You could taste the vanilla. It melted slowly with a lingering flavor and was very smooth. John, our poet, said he could taste the savannah. The finish was very earthy. However, at the end it felt a bit chalky and dry, as if it sucked the moisture out of one’s mouth. We decided to call this kind of finish “sere.”  “Sere” is defined as dry or arid. [ix]

Judgment: We all liked this chocolate very much at first taste, though we weren’t fond of the sere finish.

Ingredient %: 70% cacao. 19g fat, 11 g sugar.   Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, vanilla.

Certifications: Non gmo project, halal, fairtrade.

Price: $3.00 for 3.5 oz. (It was on sale; normally $3.99).

Website here

Other Notes:  Divine is made with cocoa beans from a co-op of small-holder farmers in Ghana and is produced in Germany. The package is decorated with Adinkra symbols which are traditional West African motifs. The inside of the package congratulates the buyer for supporting cocoa farmers and displays the photograph of an individual cocoa farmer and tells her story.  It also displays the AYA symbol, representing Endurance and Peaceful Coexistence. It feels like you are invited into the community of cocoa farmers by purchasing this chocolate.

Taza Chocolates 70% stone ground chocolate. “perfectly unrefined” Dominican Republic

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Color: less dark and rich looking than the Divine. Aroma: less intense than Divine, but nice. Less crisp than Divine.

Savoring notes: Tasted sweeter than Divine and the initial taste was less intense at the start. Not buttery and smooth but textural, (unsurprising since it is stone ground and unconched.) Very pleasant to savor, though the texture was distracting. Overall a simpler taste than the Divine. The finish was also less dry (sere) at the end.

Judgment: We all thought this chocolate was o.k., but not a favorite, mostly because of the grittiness and lack of complexity.

Ingredient %: 70% cacao. 14 g. fat, 11 g. sugar.  Ingredients: organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic vanilla beans.

Certifications: USDA Organic, non GMO project, Gluten Free, Vegan, Direct Trade

Price: $4.75, 2.5 oz.

Website here

Other notes: Packaging is simple non glossy paper, quite attractive. It makes a big point of being unrefined and minimally processed with bold flavor and texture. It is made in Somerville, MA

Madecasse, Madagascar.  70% heirloom Madagascar cocoa, “bright with a fruity finish.”

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Color: not as dark as the first two. Aroma: strong, rich and deep. You could almost taste the chocolate as you smelled it. A reasonable snap.

Savoring notes: A bit granular. Not as smooth as the divine. Lingering, complex flavor. Our poet musician called it “beautiful birds” and then described the taste as “symphonic” and “well-orchestrated.” The finish had a little vanilla, it was luscious all the way through, and there was no chalky dryness or “sere” quality at the end.

Judgment: Our favorite so far.

Ingredient %: Fat 16 g, Sugar 10 g.   Ingredients: cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, natural vanilla.

Certifications: Fair Trade, Fair for life.

Price: $4.50 for 2.64 oz.

Website here

Other notes:  The packaging is lovely. Simple yet colorful with a drawing of an opened cocoa pod (revealing the white flesh and the cocoa beans), nestled with leaves, cocoa beans and pieces of chocolate bar. On the back, a map of Africa/Madagascar and the story of the chocolate. Madecasse was started by peace corps volunteers in Madagascar who decided to make chocolate “as a vehicle for social impact.” This bar is not only sourced from Madegascar, it is made there. More than some of the other packaging, this bar seemed to stress the deliciousness of the chocolate, as much as their mission.

Whole Foods 72% “Tanzania Schoolhouse Project Cacao.”

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Color: quite dark, as dark as the divine chocolate. Aroma: rich. Bite: soft.

Savoring notes:  Smooth and delicious. No “sere” finish at the end. We couldn’t say exactly what we were tasting…just that it was delicious.

Judgment: The favorite of Emily, the person who typically doesn’t like dark chocolate. John and I still preferred Madecasse, though we did enjoy this bar.

Ingredient %: 17 g fat and 10 g of sugar.  Ingredients: Organic chocolate liquor, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter. No lecithin and no vanilla.

Certifications: vegetarian, USDA organic, Kosher, Whole trade

Price: $6.00 for 3.5 oz.

No website.

Other notes:  Somehow we didn’t expect this to taste good – perhaps because it seemed to be more about supporting Tanzanian schoolhouses and doing “good works” and less about the chocolate. And perhaps because it was made by the big business of Whole Foods. The packaging wasn’t as appealingly earthy/arty as the others. It was glossier, with photographs of Tanzanian people and cocoa trees rather than compelling graphics. This bar is made in Belgium. We were also surprised to find that we didn’t miss the vanilla in this bar. Interestingly, the Tanzania schoolhouse Project website link which describes their charitable projects makes no mention of this chocolate. The packaging also doesn’t indicate what amount of proceeds are donated to the project. My cynical side thinks Whole Foods may be using the Tanzanian project as a marketing tool, since there is so little transparency about what they are really doing in Tanzania.

Apotheker’s “classic dark”, bee-sweetened 76% chocolate, Dominican Republic.

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Color: This chocolate was the darkest so far. Aroma: wonderful – very rich. Bite: very soft.

Savoring notes: The honey taste was predominant at first and the chocolate tasted very different from the other ones. Although the texture was not smooth, it was enjoyable, more so than the grittiness of the Taza. The taste felt slow to open up, perhaps because it was less sweet, but when it did open was nice. The honey taste lingered throughout and the finish had no “sere” at all. This was definitely a different kind of chocolate and we found it enjoyable.

Ingredient %: 18 g fat, 6g of sugar.  Ingredients: Organic Cacao liquor, organic cacao butter, organic raw honey, sunflower lecithin, organic vanilla beans.

Certifications and claims: direct trade, family owned, gluten, dairy and soy free, single origin, biodynamic, hand-crafted.

Price: $6.50 for 2.5 oz.

Website here

Other notes: The package graphics and the name hint at being like something from an apothecary or a general store, like it might be good for you. It has an old-fashioned, early 20 century look that might draw you in on the basis of sentimentality. It also proclaims in large letters that it is organic raw honey sweetened – so it can draw in people who are drawn to health foods. This bar is made in Dorchester, MA by a husband/wife team who also make soaps, hot cocoa, and bee-sweetened mallows. This was our second bar made with Dominican cocoa and quite different from the first.

Taza “perfectly unrefined” 84% Dark chocolate, sourced from Haiti.

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Color: quite dark. Aroma: very earthy and perhaps a little sharp. Bite: hard but not crisp

Savoring notes: Like the other Taza bar, this was granular, but the texture was almost sandy. It had a very earthy taste, very simple, almost primitive. Emily commented that it was more like a food than a dessert. It finished with a fruity taste.

Judgment: We loved the flavor that opened when we savored a piece of this bar, but we were put off by the grittiness.

Ingredient %: 13 g fat, 6 g sugar.  Ingredients: cacao beans and cane sugar

Certifications and claims: organic direct trade, non gmo, gluten free, dairy soy and vegan free

Price: $7.50 for 2.5 oz.

Website here

Other notes: the packaging of this bar is similar to that of the Taza Dominican bar. It is also made in Somerville. The package makes note that Taza is the first U.S. chocolate maker to source certified USDA organic cacao from Haiti.

Alter Eco, “dark blackout” 85% dark chocolate, from Peru.

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Color: quite dark. Aroma: strong and vegetal, reminiscent of tobacco. Snap: crisp.

Savoring notes: The flavor was very slow to open – perhaps because it had less sugar. The taste was a little acidic. The texture was smooth, waxy at the start. It had a chalky, “sere” finish.

Judgment: Meh. We didn’t care for this chocolate very much.

Ingredient %: 22 g fat, 6 g sugar.  Ingredients: cacao beans, cocoa butter, raw sugar, vanilla beans

Certifications: USDA Organic, Fair trade, gluten free, non gmo.

Price: $3.99 for 2.82 oz.

Website here

Other notes: packaging is the least glossy of all – very recycled looking. There is a lot of comment on the inside of the packaging about their mission: sustainability, replacing coca crops with cacao crops and the importance of cocoa cooperatives and a Carbon Zero reforestation project, along with photographs of people who are presumably cacao farmers. Clearly the intent is to let you know that by buying this chocolate you are doing good. Too bad we didn’t like the taste of it.

Last thoughts on this experience

We were all surprised by how interesting – and enjoyable – it was to use so many senses in experiencing each chocolate bar. Taking the time to savor revealed so many nuances. Emily, who prefers milk chocolate, actually enjoyed most of the bars when she took the time to smell and consider each sample and slowly let it melt in her mouth. We found ourselves with questions about the reasons for the differences in taste: what was due to how the chocolate was processed, how much was terroir, how much was the power of suggestion in packaging, how much was due to the percentage – or type – of ingredients.

There are many avenues for further investigation. For instance, we could compare a number of different chocolates sourced from one region (if we could find them). We could compare chocolates produced with different methods – for instance a variety of unconched chocolates. We could investigate the claims different companies make about bettering the lives of farmers or the environment or contributing to other good causes. How much do they actually do and contribute and how much of the lingo is an attempt to reel in the compassionate consumer by convincing them they are doing good with their consumer dollars? I look forward to  exploring these ideas in future tastings with friends.

Sources Consulted:

[i] Dictionary.com, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/terroir.

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

[iii] Chocolate Review, Chocolatereview.com.au, accessed May 9, 2017.

[iv] Sylla, Ndongo S., The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. 2014. Athens, Ohio University Press.

[v] Martin, Carla D. and Kathryn E. Sampek, The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe. Doi: 10.18030/SOCIO.HU.2015EN.37.

[vi] Guthman, Julie, “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow” in Counihan, Carole and Penny van Esterik, ed., Food and Culture. 2013. New York: Routledge.

[vii] Williams, Pan and Jim Eber, Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. 2012. Vancouver, BC: Wilmor Publishing Corporation.

[viii] Stuckey, Barb, “How the Pros Taste,” in Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good. 2012. New York: Free Press.

[ix] Mirriam Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sere, Accessed May 9, 2017.

From Gene to Bean to Bar: A Tour from USDA Research to Castronovo Chocolate

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Photo of Display at Castronovo Chocolate literally from beans to bars.

I spent a day and a half visiting both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Miami and Castronovo Chocolate, a 700 square foot chocolate factory, 2 hours north of Miami located in Stuart Florida. This posting tells the story of the morning with Mike Winterstein, an agricultural research technician at the USDA and of the afternoon and following morning, spent with Denise Castronovo, an artisan chocolate maker and the owner of Castronovo Chocolate.

It is my opinion that both the USDA and Castronovo are part of solution to problems we have studied in the cacao-chocolate supply chain.

First Stop: USDA Agricultural Research Subtropical Station

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Photo: Mike Winterstein is the Agricultural Research Technician at the USDA Agricultural Sub Tropical Research Service,  He is from Long Island New York, moved to Florida in 1974, as a farmer, and joined the USDA in 1994.

As a grower, Mike maintains plants, going out into the fields and taking care of them from planting to germinating etc.  Indoors, he also formats and stores data, maintaining data on the USDA websites.  Mike works with other researchers verifying collections.  The USDA genome research is publically available.  You can order a species, 13,000 are available, from the USDA for the cost of shipping and the phytosanitary certificate verifying the plant is free of all pathogens ($50 ) The big five crops for the USDA are wheat, rice, soybean, corn and cotton.  However at the station in Miami the primary crops being studied are avocado, mango and cacao, and interestingly also sugar cane.  To paraphrase, Mike, “Even though cacao is not really grown in the US, yes, some is in Puerto Rico (Mayaguez has the main cacao collection) and Hawaii, the research and the storing of the genome and plants are important because lots and lots of jobs in the US are tied into chocolate from the manufacture, to the infrastructure, to the advertising/marketing to the consumption.”

The research at the USDA is funded primarily by the US Government.  CRIS the Current Resource Information System https://reeis.usda.gov/reports-and-documents/cris-reports/cris-overview. Is the “documentation and reporting system for ongoing agricultural, food and nutrition, and forestry research.”

The research is funded through farm bills, approved by Congress and thus is really funded by the US taxpayer.  The USDA is a government agency, funding for research changes (due to changing taste and politics), research is at the mercy of the government.  In the new farm bill you can look up the research being done on specialty crops. Here is the link for 2017 http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/fy17budsum.pdf and a link for programs possible being dropped in 2018 http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/path-to-the-2018-farmbill-stranded-programs/  and another link  from the Council of State Governments for 2018 as proposed by President Trump:  http://www.csg-erc.org/blog/2017/04/10/first-look-president-trumps-usda-budget-2018/

The History

The USDA in Miami started with “The Boys”. (See photo) Walter Tennyson Swingle, (1871-1952)  who graduated from Kansas State at age 16 and had an obsession with chasing citrus (there was no citrus industry yet in Florida, but there was a potential for the crop. http://merrick.library.miami.edu/specialCollections/wtswingle/. Swingle taught himself Mandarin Chinese and German and went looking for crops that could be successful in the US.  He persuaded Henry Flagler, the man who brought his railroad to South Florida, thus opening Florida for development, to give the USDA an acre of land along Biscayne Bay for a lab to study plant disease.  Swingle also persuaded Mary Brickell to give 6 acres to use as a plant introduction site.  The donation was not accepted, but a lease was negotiated.  Plant Explorer, David Fairchild, the same David Fairchild who brought the cherry trees to Washington, D.C.’s tidal basin, is another major player in the history. He sought a piece of land for its climate, not just for the land.

Where the USDA sits today is not shielded by barrier islands.  It receives the warm gulf stream, and because there are no barrier islands, the Atlantic Ocean retains the warmth of the gulf stream, creating a climate fit for cacao.  The land, it is believed,  has always been frost free (important for all subtropical fruits and vegetation).

Viktor Emmanuel Chapman was the first aviator to be killed in France in WWI on November 15, 1918. He trained on this same sight, what is now known as Chapman field with America’s first “Fly Boys” who flew, before the US entered WWI, for the French Foreign Legion in the American Escadrille.  The history of the USDA station at Chapman field in Miami and the breadth of agricultural research currently being done at the USDA subtropical agricultural research center is fascinating and complex.

For more detail of the history see: https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/miami-fl/subtropical-horticulture-research/docs/a-century-of-research-with-usda-in-miami/

1 The Boys

The USDA Mission in Miami is to:

1. Introduce a broad genetic base for tropical and subtropical horticultural crops believed to have economic potential in warm humid regions of the United States or its territories.

2. Evaluate the introduced populations for their genetic structure, horticultural variation, and botanical characteristics.
3. Preserve a diverse sub-set representing a broad genetic base for each crop.
4. Distribute the material to research scientist, botanical gardens, nurserymen and parks as is appropriate.

The National Germplasm Repository (NGR) is one of eighteen such repositories in the NPGS. The NGR-Miami shares responsibility with Mayaguez – Puerto Rico, for maintaining the U.S. clonal collections of mango, avocado, banana and plantain, tropical citrus, annonas, sugarcane and related grasses, palms, Tripsacum, and a few other relatively minor tropical crops.

Germplasm Holdings: 

The NGR-Miami maintains approximately 6000 accessions. Most the holdings (3500) are in the major fruit and grass collections. The remaining 2500 accessions are ornamental, chemurgic, and spice introductions from tropical and subtropical areas of the world. These plants are a unique collection and requests for material come from many scientific disciplines. Small quantities of germplasm are distributed to bona fide scientists for research purposes.” Not true anymore:  the germ plasm is available to landscapers, botanists, landscape architects, nurseries, as well as bona fide researchers.

Cacao is held at the NGR Miami and has been important both to deal with diseases:  witches broom, frost pod, bitofera, pests, parasites, fungus, etc.  benefitting cacao producers worldwide, but also because “significant quantities of milk, sugar, peanuts, almonds, and other materials produced in the U.S. go into the making of chocolate products. The station is one of two quarantine facilities for cacao in the western hemisphere that serve to keep diseases from moving into the area”.  The station also does research for Mars with Mars scientists.  They have sensors monitoring trees for nitrogen, sunlight, humidity etc. monitoring conditions to be able to help cacao farmers in Indonesia.  The cacao is grown in an area that was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp -think the Depression and the New Deal) cement walls that look like Mayan ruins absorb the heat keeping the area warmer.

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Mike will hand pollinate a cacao tree, by collecting pollen at the beginning of the day., The next morning he takes the anther’s off, so the tree can not self pollinate, and he brings the pollen, using a Q-tip or tiny paint brush from another tree.  He said  that when he brings the pollen he sees a little spurt.  Wire mesh to keep rats and mice away are around the trees.

Kathleen Martinez, a researcher at the USDA doing Mars research, took me inside the lab.  I was not allowed to photograph inside.  I was shown how leaf material is organized for genome sequencing.  Kathleen explained pipeters, fill tips, DNA samples, working in small quantities, then working on a plate, sequencing 96 samples on 32 plates , PCR amplifying samples, like 96 little needles into a capillary system, with florescent probes, Single nucleotyde polymorphism genotyping, looking for one single change in the genotyping, 96 samples and 96 markers ,fluidigm EPT.  She talked about raw data, XX meaning homozygous, XY meaning heterozygous, allele.  Basically, taking a physical trait linking that trait to a genotype associating it to a phenotype to predict the physotype.  I was shown how the researchers use the centrifuge to remove the cell wall to get clear DNA, some scientists use the plate method and do 40 samples in a day.  Extractions are done all day long.  I was shown the lypholizer, how the water is removed from the fresh leaf keeping the leaf material for long term storage minus 80 degrees C.  Leaves being worked with regularly are stored at minus 20 degrees C.  The autoclave sterilizes all equipment with heat.  Everything is reused.  Tips are cleaned in bleach.  UV cross linker sterilization washed with ethanol then the UV cross linker sterilizer microwave.

Cacao bred to be resistant to disease that tastes well, horrid, CCN51, is now being bred again,  for flavor. I do not know how much research is being done on flavor at this site.

 “The next time you drive by Chapman Field or enjoy a fine bar of chocolate, ponder the centuries of work that have gone into the making. Agriculture is always a struggle and it never ends.  The climate will change, diseases ravage, breeding lines narrow and humans crave something new.  Behind that fence along Old Cutler [road] is a battleground on which the survival of one of mankind’s most iconic crops depends”

Richard Campbell in Edible South Florida Magasine, Winter 2017, Number 1, Volume

Plant_Science_HD2Photo from USDA website

From Gene to Bean to Bar: Visiting Castronova Chocolate

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The timing of my 2nd visit to Castronovo Chocolate was serendipitous:  I got to see the cacao beans arrive. The driver who delivers them brings them inside and is thanked by Denise with one of her chocolate frozen drinks.

Denise Castronovo is a fine chocolate maker.  Originally from Massachusetts, she went to Lehigh University for her Bachelors and Masters in Environmental Science and Economics, then for 2 years she did her PH.d coursework in Ecology in the Botany Department at the University of Georgia. During her undergraduate years she had visited Costa Rica to study the rainforest. In Florida, she started her own mapping technology consulting business.   She has always been interested in sustainable development and conservation.  At the time she was in Costa Rica, eco-tourism was beginning to grow.  Her studies in Economics linked conservation and the environment.  She was interested in monitoring reforestation using aerial satellite imagery.

In her home life, Denise wanted healthy eating for herself and  for her family, (husband and two young children).  She became interested in superfoods, foods high in anti- oxidants, acai, goji berries.  When she went to Whole Foods and bought cocoa nibs she  became amazed by the flavor notes and chocolate and decided to learn all about chocolate.   All her life was excellent preparation for the opening 5 years ago of her chocolate factory and store.

What Denise is successfully creating and growing parallels the societal changes reflected in the American Artisan and Craft Chocolate time line by Carla Martin, Ph.d Chocolate, The Politics of Culture and Food, Harvard Extension. And just as in France, in American society  today it appears that the food movement is valuing artisan craft makers, (perhaps the consumers are of a certain economic level)  turning to slow, small batch chocolate, that we too are part of a changing culture of chocolate consumption. (See Carla D. Martin-Kathryn E. Sampeck)

Denise’s mission is to raise awareness of chocolate by offering unique varietals of chocolate and flavors, heirloom varieties that are endangered,  to create a market that will preserve the diversity of cacao.  see http://hcpcacao.org    On her website she has written: “Reclaiming the craft of bean to bar chocolate making. At a glance, all chocolate-making looks the same: beans are cultivated and fermented, roasted and ground, sweetened and sold. Large-scale chocolate manufacturers have optimized this process for mass production. The unfortunate result: flat, uninspired, expressionless chocolate – the taste has been engineered out of the bar!
We salute the few, craft chocolate makers that are taking time and care with each part of the chocolate making process, releasing the full potential of the bean; those who are supporting careful farming and fermentation, the ones who ensure farmers are paid a fair wage through an ethical and sustainable supply chain, and those who skillfully grind, roast, and sweeten without diluting the bean’s essence.

We at Castronovo Chocolate are in relentless pursuit of discovering the absolute depths of the chocolate experience knowing full well we may never get there. But along the way, we can all enjoy a bar of the most flavorful chocolate you can find.

Denise receives positive feedback from her customers.  She loves to watch them try a truffle at the store, because most have never had anything quite like the ones she makes. One customer has told her that her truffles are better than any he ever had in Brussels.

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She is succeeding as shown by the numerous  international awards she has already won. As she said modestly “I am winning awards with Bonnat, how incredible!”

International Award-winning Chocolate

Sierra Nevada Dark Milk 63%

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Dominican Republic Dark Milk 50%

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Academy of Chocolate Silver Winner Castronovo Sierra Nevada 72%

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Academy of Chocolate Gold Winner Castronovo Chocolate Maya Mountain Belize 72%

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Academy of Chocolate Silver Winner Castronovo Chocolate Lemon White with Lemon Salt

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Academy of Chcocolate Bronze Winner Castronovo Chocolate Amazonas 72%

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 The Process

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photo of Jean-Marie Auboine Chocolatier Chocolate Map with Descriptions copyright 2012-2015

For a complete description of the chocolate making process see http://expertenough.com/973/chocolate  Both are much like Denise’s process.

Denise with her two employees, wearing gloves, sorts the beans, the beans go on trays.   She roasts them in a convection oven (not in a coffee roaster). A roast of 15 trays is approx. 5 1/2 pounds.  She has a loss (shrinkage) of about 30%. Next she winnows the beans which crack and separate the nibs and shell.  The vacuum suction takes the lighter weight nibs to the bottom.  Again she handsets, making sure there is no shell.  Shell is dirty, having bacteria.  The beans roast at 250 to 270 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.  killing the bacteria.  She does her grinding and mixing in a melanger.  For milk chocolate sugar is added and milk powder.  Her melanger has 2 big granite wheels and a granite bottom.  She does about 90 pounds of chocolate in 3 -4 days.  10,00 in a year.  Refining, Conching and TemperingIMG_0200

Tempering – creating stable crystals.  Denise uses the seeding method.

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an example of a badly tempered bar.

Denise mentioned how clean the beans are from Honduras.  Obviously leaves, twigs, rocks especially are not good for the juicer.  One can hear the rock in the juicer and must pull it out!

Everything in the shop smells so good, the aroma hits you as soon as you enter the door. All the volatile compounds come out mellowing the chocolate.   Denise has a chocolate library, pours the chocolate into hotel pans, pours it into blocks and then uses air conditioned cooling.

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Sample Packaging.

Castronovo chocolates may do more flavored bars in the future, she does 2 right now with coffee.  But the focus will remain on single origin bars.

BEANS

Some of her beans are sourced from the wild.  Her beans from the Sierra Nevada and Honduras are wild.  Beans in her Patenemo, Venezuelan bar are not quite as wild, as they are grown by subsistence farmers.  She sees herself as a small fish in a big pond, but by joining with other craft makers there will be an impact. source: http://www.castronovochocolate.com

If you take the time to look at each Castronovo chocolate bar, read the label: you will see the % of cacao, the type, where it is sourced, a story about the cacao and its origin and flavor notes, and a batch number.

The flavors of chocolate begin with the farming, with the soil, the climate, the elevation, the tree, perhaps the spacing, and then with the process: the harvesting, the fermenting the addition of sugar (or not) or milk (or not) and all the steps leading to the bar . Certain beans, the varietal of chocolate will grow better in one place than another. The difference between a single origin chocolate maker and large companies, is the same as the difference between agriculture and viticulture for wine.  Agriculture seeks standardization, uniformity, high yield and consistency on as large a scale as possible.  With single bar origin done well, the taste brings a sense of connection to the place from which the bean came.  It is “perhaps the most elusive of these concepts and the most difficult to ascertain.  It is the sense you get from …aroma and flavor that could not have come from just anywhere but rather the embodiment of a single piece of earth.  Connectedness makes a thing different and therefore worthy of appreciation. ”

Acknowledgement:

Both Mike and Denise are incredibly knowledgeable, enthusiastic, passionate and generous.  Thank you both for the time you spent with me, guiding me through your factory and your fields and for the information and  the chocolate Denise fed me!  I am enormously grateful.  Thank you Kathleen Martinez for showing me the lab and for making the chocolate genetics research more understandable.

Disclosure:  Next blog post, I would like to make a comparison between wine and chocolate as my husband is a 30 year wine industry consultant, specializing in artesan vintners.  participating in this course through learning about chocolate, and now enthralled with the history, politics, culture, and taste of chocolate (and other foods) has heightened for me the parallels between wine and chocolate.

Sources:

Campbell, R.  Edible South Florida Magasine, Winter 2017, Number 1, Volume 8.

Castronovo, D. , Castronovo Chocolate Factory, Stuart, Florida, conversations and texts May 2017. and website: http://www.castronovochocolate.com

Kiel, K. & Ornelas, K.,200, “North America from 1492 to the Present- Recent Developments in Foodways” The Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, p. 1320.

Leissle, K, Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Fall 2013), pp. 22-31 Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22 .

Martin, Carla D. and  Sampek, Kathryn E , The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe. DOI: 10.18030/SOCIO.HU.2015EN.37.

MacNeil, K. , The Wine Bible,  2001, Workman Publishing, New York.

Martinez, K., Subtropical Research Geneticist, USDA ARS, Miami,  Florida, lab research tour, May 2017

Sethi, S. 2017, “Origin Made Chocolate: The Bars to Beat”, Wall Street Journal, web Feb 9, 2017.

Williams, P. & Eber, J., 2012,”To Market to Market: Craftsmanship,Customer Education, and Flavor Raising the Bar The Future of Fine Chocolate, pp 143- 209, Vancouver, BC Wilmor Publishing.

Winterstein, M. USDA ARS, Miami,  Florida, conversations and emails, May 2017

Websites:

Council of State Governments, http://www.csg-erc.org/blog/2017/04/10/first-look-president-trumps-usda-budget-2018/

Expert Enough Blog http://expertenough.com/973/chocolate

Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund http://finechocolateindustry.org/hcp

Jean Marie Auboine Handcrafted Chocolate Map https://www.jmauboinechocolates.com//

UM Walter Swingle information http://merrick.library.miami.edu/specialCollections/wtswingle/

USDA Agricultural Research website https://www.ars.usda.gov

USDA GRIN System: http://www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/

USDA Station History:https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/miami-fl/subtropical-horticulture-research/docs/history-of-chapman-field/

USDA https://reeis.usda.gov/reports-and-documents/cris-reports/cris-overview.

Interview with EH Chocolatier

It was early February and Catharine Sweeney and Elaine Hsieh, co-owners of EH Chocolatier, were busy working on their Valentine’s Day orders. Sheet trays and whisks clanked against the steel countertops at a steady rhythm. February is one of the busiest time of the year for a chocolatier. Catharine and Elaine anticipated forty to fifty orders for Valentine’s Day; a modest amount for their three-year-old business, but enough to keep EH Chocolatier very busy. Catharine and Elaine make all of their chocolates by hand, as well as overseeing the packaging and shipping. As Valentine’s Day approached, they were hit with a New England curveball: winter storm Nemo, which would become the fifth largest snowfall in Boston history, was forecast to hit the weekend before Valentine’s Day. All around Boston the news warned of shutting down roads, airports, and subways. Authorities urged residents to prepare for a heavy downfall and warned of potential power outages. Nemo could wreck their biggest sale day and reputation.

However, EH Chocolatier had no idea of the real storm coming. On Tuesday, February 12th, Elaine was surprised to see EH Chocolatier featured in The New York Times  day’s “Best in the Box” article. Their salted caramels had been recognized as a top ten best chocolate caramel just in time for Valentine’s Day. Catharine and Elaine said that they did not get their hopes up initially, since  EH Chocolatier had previous exposure in major publications like Food and Wine. But at 9:05 AM Elaine’s email sounded off like an alarm, “bing, bing, bing, bing, bing”–the sound of hundreds of online chocolate orders pouring into her inbox. “It was kind of like an Oprah moment,” Elaine says recalling the experience. “We literally got five hundred orders in thirty-six hours.”

Most entrepreneurs could only dream of the success EH Chocolatier experienced with their first New York Times feature. However, waking up in the morning with five hundred orders of handmade chocolates is a daunting task. The article said chocolates could be ordered by Valentine’s Day–giving the team at EH Chocolatier merely four days to accomplish ten times their expected workload.  And then there was Nemo. “Oh my God, I don’t think we can handle this,” recalls Elaine of the experience. “But we did it.” With the help of friends and family, EH Chocolatier was able to successfully mail their chocolate orders in time for Valentine’s Day. Since The New York Times feature, Elaine and Catharine say that business has picked up at a steady pace.

Despite the publicity, the economic odds were against two mothers starting a business at the tail-end of a recession. “Micro-Chocolatiers” face tough competition from large manufacturers like Godiva or Lindt, who have extensive shipping networks and long shelf-life products. While EH Chocolatier still has room to grow as a business, there are benefits to staying small. “I think where we stand out is that its fresh,” Catharine says in our interview. “We make very small batches. . . . [T]he flavors [in chocolate] dissipate over time and will dry out a little bit. When you eat them and they’ve been made that week, theres no comparison to eating something that you’ve purchased from a large chocolate manufacturer who has [a shelf life of] maybe six months.”

Not only are EH Chocolatier’s confections fresh, but they offer creative flavor combinations. Inspiration for new chocolate flavors is not limited by the world of dessert. “A lot of it comes from our joy of savory eating,” Catharine says. “I have a friend that’s Thai and she cooks for me all the time. . . . [Y]ou start thinking; I wonder if I can pair these flavors with chocolate? [T]hats where our lemongrass Thai chili bonbon came from.” Beyond chocolate, EH Chocolatier also offers a passion fruit caramel  made with passion fruit puree combined with white chocolate.

The heart of EH Chocolatier that keeps the core of the business strong is the bond between Catharine and Elaine. “We knew of and heard of all those horror stories of friends starting businesses together,” says Elaine in the interview. “Catharine and I realized that it wouldn’t really be worth doing business together if we wouldn’t be friends afterwards.” “Because our strengths are very different it really is a match made in heaven,” Catharine says looking to Elaine as they share the kind of unrestrained belly-laugh that can only be had between close friends.

“We’re very ying yang,” says Elaine, who is dressed in a white linen shirt and brushed silver jewelry, with her straight black hair neatly parted down the side. Catharine sits by her side wearing a cherry red sweater with matching red rectangular glasses and red dangle bead earrings. “We are both equal in terms of developing new recipes and creating new ideas and we each sort of come at it from different bends and different palates. We’re equal in terms of strengths,” says Elaine.

Perhaps this strength is ultimately what enables a entrepreneurs to persevere through the difficult initial phases of a new business. After all, a business is fundamentally about relationships between people, whether it’s buyer or seller.  The challenges of winter storm Nemo and an unexpected bump in orders due to the Times article showed the EH Chocolatier has the right business model–and people for success.

Catharine and Elaine are helping to define what it means to be a female entrepreneur. In businesses highly dominated by men, women often forced to repress their femininity in order to be taken seriously. Desirable leadership traits are usually associated with male stereotypes of being aggressive, dominant, and individualistic. Women often feel pressure to be a “woman in a man’s world” and are not given the freedom to be a “woman in a woman’s” world because society has often categorized female-dominated industries as being less important, less deserving of respect, less difficult, and less desireable. As two mothers and entrepreneurs in the chocolate industry, an industry that has long been the domain of women, Catharine and Elaine reflect what it means to be a strong, female leader who fully leans into being a “woman in a woman’s” world.

It is important to see female leadership in the chocolate industry for a few reasons. The story of how chocolate rose to global prominence has largely taken place in the unwritten history of women. For example, many believe European colonists were responsible for innovating on cacao recipes taken from the Mesoamericans and transformed to fit European tastes. For example, Spanish Doctor and Military surgeon Antonio Lavedan wrote in 1796 in Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, cafe, te y chocolate:

“When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in the Americas, the inhabitants there made a cacao liquor which was diluted in hot water seasoned with pepper and other spices . . . all these ingredients gave this mixture a brutish quality and a very savage taste . . . The Spanish, more industrious than the Savages, procured to correct the bad flavor of this liquor, adding to this cacao paste different fragrances of the East and many spices of this country [Spain]. Of all these ingredients we have maintained only the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon” (Lavedan, Antonio).

 

This Eurocentric view is fundamentally flawed but has persisted because historians have routinely overlooked the history of people of color and women. When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in Mesoamerica, they employed the encomienda system and forced women to perform housework and prepare food. As a result, Mesoamerican women introduced European settlers to the different ways of preparing cacao and rather than the Europeans modifying chocolate to fit their different cultural tastes, Europeans developed a cultural taste for Indian chocolate (Marcy Norton, 2006). Historians have often ignored the role of gender in shaping history and as a result, many people fail to realize that Mesoamerican women are largely responsible for introducing chocolate to the world out of obscurity.

For example, many people believe Europeans were the first to sweeten chocolate, however Mesoamericans had been sweetening chocolate for a while.

meso

Martin, Carla. “Colonial Mesoamerican Cacao Beverage Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

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Source: Martin, Carla. “Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

As chocolate made its way through Spain, Italy, France, and Britain, recipes were passed down between women from kitchen to kitchen. This played a formative role in discovering new uses for chocolate but scholars and historians have traditionally ignored studying and documenting this because chocolate has long been considered a “women’s” domain. As a result, the early evolution of chocolate throughout Europe is poorly documented and relatively unknown.

As the industry surrounding chocolate developed in the early 1900s, women were excluded participation in the development of chocolate as a business and it wasn’t until  1970s that Mar’s Chocolate hired a woman named Lone Clark to Vice President of HR, an unprecedented move at the time but still a testament to the newness of welcoming women into ownership of an industry that they by and large laid the foundations to.

Furthermore, chocolate has long been a tool for those in power to set the agenda on the wants and desires of women. Advertising is largely dominated by men and has historically had a lack of diversity of women in senior level positions. As a result, the messages connecting women to chocolate have focused on reinforcing highly gendered, heteronormative stereotypes of femininity. It is yet another way men have defined what constitutes women’s spaces and what it means to be a woman.

Catharine and Elaine’s success as chocolatiers represents women taking ownership of “women’s” domains, and paying homage to the unacknowledged labor of women who introduced the world to chocolate.

 

Bibliography

Dishman, Lydia. “The Gender Divide and the Traits of Effective Leadership: Who Comes Out on Top?” Fast Company, 05/20/2014. Retrieved online: https://www.fastcompany.com/3030754/the-gender-divide-and-the-traits-of-effective-leadership-who-comes-out-on

Hsieh, Elaine, Catharine, Sweeney. Personal Interview about EH Chocolatiers. Conducted March, 2015.

Lavedan, Antonio. “Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, café, té y chocolate : extractado de los mejores autores que han tratado de esta materia, á fin de que su uso no perjudique á la salud, antes bien pueda servir de alivio y curación de muchos males.” Madrid : En la Imprenta Real, 1796.

Retrieved online: https://archive.org/details/tratadodelosuso00lavegoog

Mars Inc. “At Mars, the Evolution of Female Leaders Started Early,” Mars News. Mars.com, 03/23/2017. Retrieved online: http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/womens-history-month-ione-clark

Martin, Carla. “Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Colonial Mesoamerican Cacao Beverage Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.














 

Chocolate Lessons: Knowledge Gleaned from Chocolate Bars Sold in the Natural Foods Aisle

On average, Americans consume 12 pounds of chocolate per person each year or a little less than a quarter pound of chocolate per week. A typical chocolate bar ranges from 1.5-3.5 ounces. Therefore, 12 pounds of chocolate equates to enjoying 55-128 chocolate bars (depending on its size) per year! It is safe to say, for better or for worse, chocolate has become an integral part of the American diet.

Historically, chocolate was consumed for medicinal purposes, primarily as a source of nourishment and energy. Today, the developed world struggles with being simultaneously over nourished and malnourished from an imbalanced diet. Nevertheless, chocolate health claims persist, usually in reference to darker chocolates. Beneficial properties of cocoa include antioxidant, cardiovascular, and psychological enhancement, which are linked to its polyphenol, flavanol, and caffeine content (Castell, Pérez-Cano, and Bisson, 2013). These health claims are not present on chocolate bar labels, though.

In the last couple of decades, food packaging has actually become quite informationally dense. How can you sift through all of the information on chocolate labels to know what’s really important? Additionally, what can we learn from a chocolate bar’s packaging, besides its nutritional content? The goal of this blog post is to help decipher the various symbols, certification meanings, and key words that appear on chocolate wrappers.

Ultimately, you, as the consumer, have to decide what is important to you and what you are looking for in your chocolate purchases, not only in terms of taste but also social responsibility. Equipping yourself with the knowledge to know what to look for, and what symbols, certifications, and other words on chocolate packages mean, makes informed chocolate purchases a much smoother process and ensures you have the best chocolate buying experience possible. Before chocolate tasting can become embodied knowledge, it requires repetition in order to pick up on flavor nuances of single origin chocolate or to be able to tell if a chocolate bar was made with over-roasted cacao beans. In the same way, learning the stories and processes behind the chocolate you are eating requires some research, occasionally beyond the label itself.

I studied the chocolate bars in the natural foods aisle of a Stop & Shop grocery store in the greater Boston area to see what information could be gleaned from the chocolate labels within this section. I did not include enrobed chocolate candies within this aisle, “regular” chocolate bars (i.e., Hershey’s) in the main candy aisle or those present in the checkout lanes. I chose to focus on the chocolate bars within the natural foods aisle because, typically, these brands offer more information and stories about cacao procurement, processing, and its impact on people or the environment, whereas chocolate produced by most Big Five brands only provide nutritional information on the back of the wrapper. The Big Five chocolate brands include well-known companies: Hershey, Mars, Cadbury, Nestle, and Ferrero (Allen, 2010).

The type of consumer who shops for chocolate in the natural foods aisle is most likely not just looking for a sugar fix because there are cheaper ways to meet that need. The intended audience includes individuals who may be interested in supporting social or environmental causes, and who are probably health conscious, even though it is still chocolate. Additionally, he or she may have a sophisticated or informed palate, and prefer quality chocolate with nuanced flavors. The natural foods aisle typically offers products that are slightly more expensive than its conventional counterparts, so the consumer is not making his or her choice of chocolate based solely on price point. Rather, the consumer possibly has a higher disposable income and is able to spend two or three times as much money on a chocolate bar from this section than on chocolate from one of the large chocolate corporations previously mentioned.

The natural foods aisle in Stop & Shop offers eight different brands of chocolate bars: Chocolove XOXOX, Green & Black’s, Divine, Theo, TCHO, LILY’s, Endangered Species Chocolate, and Alter Eco. These bars are being sold for $2.50-$3.99, with Chocolove XOXOX being the cheapest because it was on sale. Divine, LILY’s, and Alter Eco lands at the upper end of the options. The TCHO 70% dark chocolate bar usually retails for $4.29, but happened to be on sale. Still, these are moderately priced “good” chocolate bars compared to other specialty chocolate companies and retailers who sell their bars for about double the price. The juxtaposition of these brands, with a $1.00 (or less) Hershey’s chocolate bar, provides an interesting comparison in both price and taste.

The eight brands offer bars in a variety of flavors ranging from 34% milk chocolate to 85% dark chocolate with the option of added fruit or nut pieces. The white chocolate selection was nonexistent in this section at this particular grocery store. However, just for informational purposes, one brand (outside of the eight focused on here) does contribute a white chocolate peanut butter cup.

Just a few of the brands provide chocolate bars made from single origin cacao, which might be a more common provision at specialty retail stores. Both TCHO and Divine use Ghanaian cacao, and Alter Eco sources its cacao beans from Ecuador. Chocolove XOXOX states on the back of the wrapper that their Belgian chocolate bars are crafted with African cocoa beans. This somewhat vague statement only alludes to the fact that their beans do not come from Central or South America, or Southeast Asia but could be sourced from one or more of the cacao producing countries within the large continent of Africa. Additionally, Green & Black’s credits Trinitario cacao beans for giving their chocolate a rich and unique flavor profile. Trinitario cacao beans are thought to embody the best qualities of its genetic parents, the Criollo and Forastero varieties, with the hybrid cacao being both hardy and possessing a nice flavor profile (Prisilla, 2009). Likewise, the purpose of brands specifying single origin or the use of a single cacao variety suggests an increase in quality or flavor characteristics that add value to the end product. Thus, the price of these types of bars is usually slightly higher compared to mixed bean origin or variety, and especially compared to bulk cacao.

There are a few things that stand out upon taking a closer look at the packages. First, Alter Eco is the only brand that uses a cardboard packaging to house its chocolate. All of the other brands wrap their bars in a glossy paper. In both cases, the chocolate is likely sealed in foil before receiving either the glossy paper or cardboard outer wrapper. While the outer cardboard layer looks visually appealing and feels nice to the touch, it also makes the bar appear larger than it actually is. The 2.8 ounce Alter Eco chocolate bar looks bigger than the 3 ounce LILY’S bar sitting next to it on the shelf, as the image shows below. Thus, most consumers probably believe they are purchasing a larger chocolate bar if they do not read the front of the package and realize the chocolate bar is smaller by weight than some other options.

FullSizeRender-2 2
Alter Eco 2.8 ounce chocolate bar

Like several other brands, Theo includes a brief description about the company and their procurement and processing practices on the back of the package. Here, Theo shares it is a bean to bar chocolate company, which means the company purchases the fermented and dried cacao beans, and then carries out each of the remaining processing steps (about 10) from roasting to packaging, according to their unique preferences. Thus, the company oversees the entire chocolate making process and can tweak each batch according to its needs and the desired outcome, making it a true craft.

Green & Black’s label does not readily offer information about the company’s processing practices other than it uses fair trade and organic ingredients. Interestingly, the backside of the label does say Mondelez Global LLC distributes Green & Black’s chocolate bars. Mondelez is one of the largest global snack food companies and now owns Cadbury, one of the Big Five chocolate companies. Last year, Mondelez even attempted to acquire the Hershey Company, but Hershey declined the offer (Bukhari, 2017). Thus, Mondelez is a significant player within the global food system. This association alone may deter some consumers from purchasing Green & Black’s chocolate.

Another unexpected but perhaps pioneering find is LILY’s, whose chocolate bars are sweetened with the natural sweetener, Stevia, and erythritol, a sugar alcohol. Additionally, LILY’s adds inulin, a fiber commonly used as a bulking agent. These are not traditional chocolate bar ingredients, but perhaps the fewer calories and grams of sugar allow individuals with specific dietary restrictions to still purchase fair trade chocolate. The bar also boasts that it is still “100% indulgent.”

Before dissecting the chocolate bars’ various certifications, I want to look at Divine’s commitment to its producers. In the West, chocolate consumption has long been feminized, associated with temptation and indulgence (Robertson, 2009). Women are important as both chocolate consumers and producers, something Divine has recognized. The two images above depict Divine’s pledge to support the female cacao farmers within Kuapa Kokoo (cocoa co-operative) in Ghana and make sure their voices are heard. In doing so, these female business owners are positioned as powerful actors within the cacao and chocolate industries, rather than being viewed as exploited workers in an underdeveloped country (Leissle, 2012). This has significant implications not only for the female producers, but also culturally, and for future standards within the chocolate industry.

This final section includes a brief discussion on food certifications. Fair trade certification is the most popular certification that the eight brands feature. Other certifications that appear on the chocolate wrappers include USDA Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified Vegan, Kosher (dairy), Fair for Life, and rBST free. I was surprised I did not find the UTZ Certified symbol on any of the chocolate bars, since UTZ is the most common cacao certification related to sustainable farming practices.

Fair trade certifications can be represented in a variety of ways depending on the party providing the certification. The images above show several different certifications present on the different brands’ packaging that symbolize the employment of fair trade practices. In order for a product to be labeled “fair trade,” all members of the processing chain (including producers) must pay into the fair trade system. As a result, producers are promised better trading conditions including long term relationships with buyers, garner presumably higher wages, have better working conditions, and live overall improved lives. However, many question whether this system is as transformative as it claims to be. The terms “fair trade” and “sustainable” have become ubiquitous, and the commodification of the terms also threatens their legitimacy (Sylla, 2014).

When thinking about food certifications, it is important to remember these certifications are neither all encompassing nor meant to solve all social or environmental issues with one label. Companies are now starting to launch their own certifications rather than going through a third party certification. It will be up to the individual company to define the criteria for “fair” or “sustainable,” or any new term it deems important. Whole Foods already uses its “Whole Trade Certified” label. Consequently, continuing to be an educated consumer will be extremely imperative in order to know what the certifications represent and what the companies stand for. It is unclear whether these self-certifications will be viewed as legitimate certifications or just add to the confusion many consumers feel when reading food labels.

While the objective of self-certification is to offer more affordable fair trade items to consumers, it raises the question of whether that should be the ultimate goal of selling fair trade products, and what the tradeoffs are for making fair trade more affordable and part of the mainstream? If large food conglomerates begin to self-regulate certifications, rather than paying third party companies, who is to say the consumer will actual benefit from the money saved? Historically, when the price of goods has dropped, large corporations scoop up the difference and pocket the extra profits, rather than decreasing the cost for the consumer (Albrittion, 2013). However, consumers still have the power to vote with their dollars.

The next time you peruse the chocolate selection within a store, feel empowered to study the information provided on the packaging (and conduct further research if needed) rather than being overwhelmed by various symbols and industry jargon.

 

**All images were taken by the author

 

Works Cited

Albritton, Robert. 2013. “Between Obesity And Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry”. In Food And Culture: A Reader, 3rd ed., 342-352. New York: Routledge.

Allen, Lawrence L. 2010. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle For The Hearts, Minds, And Wallets Of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association.

Bukhari, Jeff. 2017. “Why Investors Are Bingeing On Snack-Maker Mondelez”. Fortune.Com. http://fortune.com/2017/02/22/why-investors-are-bingeing-on-snack-maker-mondelez/.

Castell, Margarida, Francisco Jose Pérez-Cano, and Jean-François Bisson. 2013. “Clinical Benefits Of Cocoa: A Review”. In Chocolate In Health And Nutrition, 1st ed., 265-276. Humana Press.

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194

Prisilla, Maricel E. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. 1st ed. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Robertson, Emma. 2009. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

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

Chocolate in our life

The beginning of chocolate

 

Chocolate comes from Theobroma Cacao.  Theobroma cacao is botanical name for the cacao tree and cocoa tree from the Malvaceae family. Genus Theobroma has 22 different cocoa species. Theobroma cacao is the name given by the European botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. This plant is not special high because has from 4 to 8 meters. The tree comes from tropical forests in South and Central America as well as parts from Mexico. The plant is evergreen.

Chocolate is a preparation of the seeds of cacao. Roasted, husked, ground, it is often sweetened and flavored with vanilla and sugar, although fruits such as raspberries can sometimes be used as well.

Chocolate was invented in South America around 1000 BCE.  While the Olmec were probably the first people who tried it, the Mayan’s civilization were the first to plant the cacao. The chocolate and cocoa were very important in their life. Theobroma means Food of the Gods in the Mayan language. Of their myths, Mayans believed that the Plumed Serpent gave Cacao to them, after people were created from maize by the divine grandparent deity Xmucane. The Mayans took this time celebrate Cacao because they thought that this is a gift from the God.

The Ancient Mayans prepared chocolate just for drinking because they didn’t know a solid chocolate.  The production of this beverage was very similar to the production today. After all processes (harvesting, fermentation, drying, roasting, grounding) they added hot water, honey, vanilla, chili, corn, etc.

Between 1200-1500AD, the Aztecs also were planting cacao. This caused a competition for the Mayans because they dominated and used the cocoa as a currency. For example fish wrapped in maize husks was worth 3 Cacao beans.

The chocolate and cocoa were very important for the Mayans and Aztecs because they used it in lots of religious rituals. Cacao was also perceived like a connection between earth, underworld and sky, royal bloodline. Mayans thought that plant is integral to keeping cycles of death, life, and rebirth. Cacao was thought to boost energy and made the imbiber stronger.

Christopher Columbus was the first European who discovered a cacao tree. . He sent the Cacao to the King Ferdinand. While cocoa was rare for some time, around 20 years after Columbus’ first sample, Prince Philip of Spain received the cocoa drink from a Dominican friar. The reception to this was so positive that France and Portugal didn’t trade cocoa to the rest of Europe for 100 years. At the beginning chocolate was only imported to Spain.

Throughout the rest of Europe, chocolate appeared in the 17th century. The chocolate beverage was very luxury good.

 

Production of chocolate

            The statistics say that the biggest production of cacao is in those countries:

  • Cŏte d’Ivoire
  • Ghana
  • Indonesia
  • Brazil
  • Nigeria
  • Cameroon
  • Malaysia

 

From my ealier blog post I want to remind that:

“The first step of cacao production is harvesting. When the pods are properly ripened it is possible to remove them by knife or machete from the tree. The pods must be pried open to access the beans inside. One pod typically can contain around 30-45 beans.  The beans are placed in bins for few days to await processing. Afterwards they go to specially designed facilities where they can be fermented and dried.

The next step is fermentation. The fermentation process takes around four or seven days. But this is depends on the condition such as: temperature or humidity. During the fermentation, beans are mixed in every 48 hours. This process is very important because we can obtain flavor precursors, kills seeds, activate enzymes, and volatile aromatics produced in the fermenting pulp diffuse into the seeds, adding additional flavors. Fermentation is very important because the quality of the Cacao is depends on this process. When the Cacao is under-fermented the taste is flat, bitter, beany, and astringent. Conversely, when the product is over-fermented the flavor can come off as hammy, wet cardboard, and the sickening sweet-sour taste has been compared to what seems like vomit, parmesan cheese, moldy, cat urine, fruit loops, olives or sour cream.

The third step is drying. This process takes around one or two weeks. The beans are spread out over a large, flat surface. During this time, it is important to rake them often. The beans are usually dried under the direct sun, sometimes is possible to use artificial heating but the first option is preferable because can help to avoid some undesirable flavors like smoke or oil. Drying can also be a part of fermentation because sometimes this process takes first days of drying. Also it helps to reduce moisture in the cacao, avoid molding, start Maillard reactions and ensure good quality of the cocoa.

The next step is sorting. During this is possible to remove moldy as well flat and destroyed beans, as well extra detritus picked up in the previous stages, such as insects, plastics, glass, and dirt.

Finally Cacao can be packed and shipped. It is important to remember that bagging, storage and transports must be climate controlled to preserve the quality of the beans. Like proper temperature, humidity or polyethylene sacks must all be carefully controlled and monitored.”

Roasting and winnowing the cocoa. Those processes have a place in a manufactory. Roasting the cocoa helps to get the properly color and flavor. The shells of cocoa during this process are much more brittle. Inside the shells we can find cocoa nibs (is kind of raw chocolate of cacao beans which have to be roasted). After roasting the nibs are sorted according to size. This step is called winnowing.

The next process is grinding. During this the nibs are turned into cocoa liquor (cocoa mass). Thanks to the heating of granular consistency we can obtain liquid because the nibs are melted. After this the product is mixed with sugar and cocoa butter.

Types of chocolate

 

We have a lot of types of chocolates. The type is depends on the substances which are in the product like sugar, milk, chocolate liquor (ground mass of cocoa beans), cocoa butter (the waxy ivory – yellow fat obtained from chocolate liquor)

            We can distinguish some types of chocolates:

Dark Chocolate – it contains at least 30% to extremely 70-80% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. The taste becomes bitterer when the level of sugar is smaller. Dark chocolate can also contain vanilla and lecithin.

Unsweetened Chocolate – it contains pure chocolate liquor, composed of ground cocoa beans. This product has very bitter taste. It is used for baking when it is possible to add a sugar.

Bittersweet Chocolate – it contains at least 35% of cocoa solids and 50 – 80% of chocolate liquor.

Sweet Dark Chocolate – it contains at least 15% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar.

Milk Chocolate – it contains at least 10% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, 12% of condensed milk or dry milk solids. This kind of chocolate has much more lighter color, and is sweeter than dark chocolate.

White Chocolate – doesn’t contain chocolate liquor and basically is not a chocolate. This product has at least 20% of cocoa butter, 14% of milk solids and no more than 55% of sugar.

 

The most know chocolate’s brands on the worlds are: Lindt (Switzerland), Cadbury (United Kingdom), Milka (Switzerland), Toblerone (Switzerland), Ghirardelli (Italy), Ferrero Rocher (Italy), Taza (United States), Hershey (United States), Mars (United States).

Consumption of Chocolate

 

The consumption of chocolate is huge. People in the United States in 2015 spent around $ 22B USD on chocolate. They ate around 12 lbs of chocolate per person.

We can distinguish five top nations who like chocolate the most:

  • Switzerland 22 lbs per year
  • Austria 20,13 lbs per year
  • Ireland 19,47 lbs per year
  • Germany 18,04 lbs per year
  • Norway 17,93 lbs per year

All of those countries are European. In Europe the most popular chocolate is – milk chocolate.

This kind of chocolate is much sweeter than dark chocolate. One of the most popular chocolate in Europe is “Milka”. This product has many different varieties of taste, for example with strawberries, cherry, Oreo cookies, nuts, raisins, yoghurt, etc. Is also not special expensive. Approximately 1 chocolate package costs $2.

Is chocolate healthy?

            According to the Harvard School of Public Health a few pieces of chocolate per month can make our life longer and sweeter.

Cacao and especially dark chocolate is very rich in magnesium. The chemical symbol is Mg. this is a mineral who participate in many biochemical reactions in our body. Cacao nibs have around 272 mg per 100g.

Chocolate which is very rich in cacao and cacao helps to reduce a weigh. This is because these products have a lot of fiber who helps with digestion. The cacao also helps to keep our bowel movements regular. Also is good to take it when is a problem with constipations because the fiber in cacao work well during the digestion process.

The cocoa and chocolate have a lot of iron. This element is needed to produce red blood cells. When the level of iron is too low the body suffers for anemia. Is a good idea to intake the iron with vitamin C because the absorption of Fe is much better.

The chocolate is very rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, catechins, flavanols which are responsible to absorb free radicals that can damage in the body (for example cancer).  Dark chocolate has much more antioxidants than some fruit lie for example blueberries or Acai berries.

Cacao and dark chocolate can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Also those products have very good influence on blood pressure and insulin resistance. The antioxidants like flavanols stimulate the endothelium to give a gas – Nitric Oxide (NO). This substance is responsible for sending out the signal to the arteries to relax. This process makes our blood pressure lower. The dark chocolate can also reduce the level of oxidized bad LDL which can react with free radicals.

When we are eating chocolate or cocoa our brain is stimulated by them. Cacao can produce in our body two chemicals: phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide. The first one we produce when we are happy or excited (for example during the eating chocolate). Our pulse is much quicker.

The dark chocolate can also protect the skin against the sun. The product has a lot of flavonols which are responsible for improving the blood flow to the skin and increase the hydration, density of the skin. It is a good idea to eat a dark chocolate a few months before for example vacation or visiting places with a lot of sun.

Our brain can also be improved by eating a dark chocolate. It happens because of the flavanol which can improve the blood flow in our brain. The product also contains some substances like theobromine or caffeine which work as a stimulant for the brain.

Chocolate doesn’t have bad influence on our tooth. If we have a tooth decay is because of the sugar which we can find in a lot of food products. We have to remember that dark chocolate with high level of cacao has less sugar. Actually, a chocolate consists an anti – bacterial substances which can help and prevent the tooth illness.

As we can observe the dark chocolate and cacao have good influence on our body. It is recommended to eat a few times per month because those products are rich in some chemical elements which our bodies need to work properly. Is very important to remember that if we want to eat good chocolate we need to choose a product with high percent of cacao without many sugar. We shouldn’t eat it every day because we gain too much weight but is good to eat for dessert a few times per week.

In a 100 gram of dark chocolate (70 – 85% of cocoa) bar we can find:

  • 67% RDA for Iron
  • 58% RDA for Magnesium
  • 98% RDA for Manganese
  • 89% RDA for copper
  • 11 grams of fiber
  • A lot of potassium, selenium, zinc, phosphorus

RDA*  – recommended daily allowance

 

 

As we can see the chocolate is a food product with amazing history. Has good influence on our health and frame of mind. We have to remember that dark chocolate with high consistence of cacao is the best for our body because have a lot of nutrients and very low level of sugar.

 

Bibliography:

Scholarly sources:

1.Chiaki Sanbongi, Naomi Osakabe, Midori Natsume, Toshio Takizawa, Shuichi Gomi and Toshihiko Osawa.  Antioxidative Polyphenols Isolated from Theobroma cacao. Chiaki Sanbongi, Naomi Osakabe, Midori Natsume, Toshio Takizawa, Shuichi Gomi and Toshihiko Osawa, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,volume 46, numero 2, 1998, pages 454–457,

2.Miller, K. B.; Hurst, W. J.; Payne, M. J.; Stuart, D. A.; Apgar, J.; Sweigart, D. S.; Ou, B. (2008). “Impact of Alkalization on the Antioxidant and Flavanol Content of Commercial Cocoa Powders”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 56 (18): 8527–33; 8527.

3.Szogyi, Alex (1997). Chocolate: Food of the Gods. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 199. ISBN: 978-0-313-30506-1

4.Terry G. Powis; W. Jeffrey Hurst; María del Carmen Rodríguez; Ponciano Ortíz C.; Michael Blake; David Cheetham; Michael D. Coe; John G. Hodgson (December 2007). Ochocolate in the world. Antiquity . 81 (314). ISSN 0003-598X. Retrieved 2011-02-15.

Multimedia Sources:

https://www.sfu.ca/geog351fall03/groups-webpages/gp8/history/history.html#anchor2

http://facts-about-chocolate.com/chocolate-history/

http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/RDA

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate/

http://chocolatealchemy.com/

 

Guilty Pleasure: The Dark Side of the Chocolate Supply Chain in West Africa

If you were to stop a few strangers on the street and ask them to name their guilty pleasure you probably wouldn’t be surprised if they all answered chocolate.  The pleasure that chocolate brings to many is undeniable;  French doctor Hervé Robert confirmed that chocolate contains caffeine, theobromine, serotonin and phenylalanine, all of which are known to have mood-enhancing, and possibly aphrodisiac, effects (Coe & Coe, 2013).  But to focus on these health benefits alone is to overlook a darker side of chocolate.  The history of chocolate includes centuries of controversy, particularly in the supply chain and particularly on the African continent. One of the most salient scandals that has continued to plague chocolate production for hundreds of years is the involvement of child labor in the cultivation of cacao in West Africa.  Forced and unpaid labor has long plagued the chocolate industry and today  controversy in the supply chain continues as around 300,000 children in West Africa work on cacao farms (Berlan, 2013).  Fortunately public awareness of this issue is continuing to grow and some present-day chocolate companies have incorporated a zero tolerance policy towards conditions of slavery and child labor involved in their sourcing of cacao.  Nevertheless, recognizing the sobering reality of how many modern brands of chocolate are manufactured with forced labor adds a new dimension to the concept of chocolate as a guilty pleasure.

The use of forced labor is believed to exist in many parts of Africa today.  However, the use of forced labor in cocoa production is hardly novel. The involvement of involuntary laborers working in the cacao industry is documented in many regions worldwide including Mesoamerica, South America, Africa and the Caribbean from as early as the 1650s and into the 21st century (Clarence-Smith, 2000).  In the 20th century, the use of forced labor was uncovered on the island of Fernando Po (now Bioko) off of the West Coast of Africa and in Cameroon, on German plantations (Berlan, 2013).  According to Anti-Slavery International (2004), the use of slaves from Angola was common on Portuguese plantations on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe from the 1880s and continued until 1962. 

Interestingly, some chocolate manufacturers who opposed the use of forced labor in certain cocoa-producing nations seem to have played a role in initiating a custom of child labor elsewhere.  For example, in 1908, William Cadbury switched his supplier from Sao Tome and Principe to Ghana, known then as the Gold Coast, which provided better labor conditions for its workers.  The government there had a policy against slavery and slave trading and the cocoa crop was grown by smallholders rather than plantations, making its production less contentious. However, as demand for chocolate increased farmers relied on using their family labor, including the use of children as unpaid laborers (Berlan, 2013).  Today, the custom continues.  The widespread use of children in cultivation of cacao is sometimes harmless and non-exploitative.  At other times, however, children are exposed to hazardous activities, including handling of toxic chemical pesticides and use of dangerous equipment, as well as child-trafficking (Coe & Coe, 2013)

(A child uses a machete to open a cocoa pod in eastern Ivory Coast) (Lowy, 2016)

Today, child labor in the cacao industry exists in a variety of locations and in a variety of forms throughout the African continent.  Just exactly what constitutes child labor in Africa is confounding to many on both sides of the issue.  The International Labor Organization, or ILO, defined the worst forms of child labor as including slavery and hazardous work including “work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of the child”.  Furthermore, the definition includes children who are not in school, who are forced to withdraw from school because of long hours spent working or who have to combine school attendance with heavy work or long hours (Berlan, 2013). On the cocoa plantation, child labor often involves the use of dangerous machinery or equipment, handling heavy loads and exposure to toxic chemicals and/or pesticides.  The IFO refers to child laborers are those who are either under 15 and are economically active or who are between 15 and 17 and engage in dangerous work (Ryan, 2011). 

Estimates vary regarding the prevalence of child labor in the African cacao industry.  In 2000 a British documentary released by the BBC brought the topic to the public’s attention when it suggested that 90% of cacao farms in Cote D’Ivoire used slave labor, suggesting that hundreds of thousands of adults and approximately 15,000 children in Cote D’Ivoire alone were enslaved (Ryan, 2011).  This statement received an onslaught of backlash from the Ivorian cacao industry, however, which claimed that the estimate was inflated and a subsequent study by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture suggested that forced child labor was present on only 2% of cacao farms in the nation. 

Much of the confusion regarding the prevalence of child labor in West Africa comes from the unclear language which defines the matter.  For example, many in the cacao industry responded to the BBC’s allegations by claiming that child labor should not be conflated with child work.  They claimed,

“traditionally working on family farms and with family enterprises is seen as part of the process by which children are trained towards adulthood…Children’s involvement in the production of cocoa is an age old-tradition which constitutes a traditional way of imparting cocoa farming skills to them” (Berlan, 2013, p. 1090).

Accordingly, the IITA’s study found that child labor is highly prevalent in cocoa farms in West Africa; Results revealed that today 284,000 children work in hazardous conditions on cacao farms in West Africa and two-thirds of them are in Cote D’Ivoire, often working with toxic chemicals or with dangerous equipment.  However, most of these children worked under the supervision of their parents or relatives, disqualifying them from the category of child laborers since they were technically carrying out “chores”. 

Nevertheless the IITA also found that 12,000 children, the 2% in the study’s results, worked on farms where they had no relatives and 2,500 of them were suspected of being smuggled into Cote D’Ivoire for the purpose of toiling on the cacao farms, suggesting that these were the true child laborers by definition (Off, 2006).  Regardless of the nuances surrounding the definition of child labor, evidence suggests that children do labor throughout West Africa.  A study commissioned by the Ghanian government found that in 2005 and 2006 children aged 5 through 12 were indeed involved in tasks such as the spraying of insecticides, application of fertilizer, felling trees and burning brush (Berlan, 2013).  This revelation is particularly concerning because it is clearly in violation of the ILO’s definition of child labor and because Ghana produces the majority of the world’s cacao (O’Keefe, 2016).

Despite the confusion regarding what constitutes child labor in West Africa, the accounts of those who have lived through it provide evidence of the atrocities of the practice.  One report shared the stories of two Malian boys, aged 12 and 14, who were enticed by promises of paid apprenticeships to travel from Mali to Cote d’Ivoire.  After two years the boys were found sharing a windowless mud hut hoping to escape but held in check under threats of violence and eventual payment (which never came) (Manzo, 2005).  The former Malian consul general, Abdoulaye Macko, recounted similar atrocities including situations in which very young boys worked at gunpoint, were starved to near death, were locked in bunk houses at night and endured sores due to both carrying heavy bags of cocoa as well as from physical abuse.  According to Macko, often times Cote D’Ivoire police were aware of the injustices but were bribed to overlook them (Off, 2006).

(Part of an investigative CNN report from 2014 about child trafficking in Mali in the cacao industry.) (CNN, 2015)

Child labor exists in the West African cacao supply chain for reasons both economic and cultural in nature.  Smallholders, small farmers who farm commodities, generally do not own or control the land they work on.  As a result, their profits are small and they suffer when the price of their commodity plummets on the world market.  In order to stay competitive farmers must cut labor costs and they do so using two methods: Increasing their reliance on unpaid family labor in response to a fall in cocoa prices and increasing their reliance on slaves in order to lower costs in an increasingly competitive global market (Anti-Slavery International, 2004).  Families who send their children away in hopes of economic gain do so with the hopes that they are sending their kids off to work, to prosper, and will see them return shortly with earnings to bring back, rather than admitting that they had sold their children into slavery (Off, 2006).

It is easy to wonder whether one way to end forced child labor in the chocolate industry would be to pay more for the beans.  According to Off (2006) this would not work for several reasons.  First, the attorneys for the chocolate companies would claim that this was illegal price-fixing.  Likewise, the prime minister of Cote D’Ivoire claimed that if cocoa companies really wanted to end child labor they would have to pay up to ten times more for the cacao than they were already paying which would certainly eat into their profits if not bankrupt them.  Alternatively, banning the import of cacao until the injustices in the supply chain are rectified might seem like a humane and motivating response but when this happens the very workers who protesters hope to protect are further harmed.  For example, the Harkin Bill was introduced into Congress in 1992 and aimed to prohibit importing products made by children younger than 15.  When the garment industry of Bangladesh, which exported 60% of their goods to the US, found out about the bill they immediately fired child workers and most went on to live in even worse conditions due to their lack of income (Ryan, 2011). 

Cultural factors also influence the continued use of child labor in cacao in West Africa.  Parents are likely to base their decision to involve their children in cacao farming based on their belief that work has a formative value, whether their local school was any good and the economic trade-off made between sending their child to school versus investing in a farm.  In other cases, when parents went through a divorce if mothers remarried it was quite common for the new husband to refuse to pay for the child’s upkeep, which had an impact on whether or not the child entered the workforce  to support himself (Berlan, 2013).  In cases like these, child labor is not forced as in slavery but is instead shaped by sociocultural factors surrounding the child.

Just who is to blame for the existence of child labor in chocolate?  While the answer is hard to pinpoint because of all of the diverse factors influencing the topic, one culpable party might include the government.  When public outrage began to surface in the early 2000’s in response to reports about child trafficking in Mali, Ghanian and Ivorian officials largely shut down these rumors claiming that few children were trafficked on farms and that most of them were taking part in an apprenticeship overseen by their own parents.  Their claims were backed up by a study out of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that found that not all children working in cacao were exploited; In fact when some were returned to their homes by charity workers they left right away to pursue work elsewhere (Ryan, 2011).  However, as child labor has continued to exist in light of the government’s non-involvement, perhaps the government could continue to work with smallholders to find ways for them to cultivate their cacao without depriving their children of an education or selling them into slavery.

Another culpable party includes Big Chocolate itself.  The industry needs to make changes to its practices in order to reduce the incidence of child labor.  According to Ryan (2013) one major problem is the lack of involvement that Big Chocolate has with its smallholders.  Bill Guyton, the president of the World Cocoa Foundation claimed that by having about 2 million small-scale farmers it was hard for large chocolate companies to know what was happening on their farms everyday.  Also, as few bars are made from beans that are all from the same producer it is hard to claim that any one bar of chocolate doesn’t contain ingredients produced by children (Ryan, 2013).  One solution, however, could be the use of certification practices in which a third-party verifies that responsible and sustainable practices are used in the production of chocolate.  For example, the American cocoa processor Cargill works with Utz Certified to train their farmers in responsible practices and checks each farmer every year, with the aim to eliminate the involvement of children in the cocoa supply.  In requiring standards like this for all large chocolate companies, Big Chocolate could at least attempt to solve the child labor crisis.

Child-labor-infographic-portrait1

(UTZ certification: A promise to combat child labor in the cacao supply chain) (Utz, 2017)

In response to the media coverage that child labor in chocolate has received in recent years, many efforts have been made at different levels to end this practice.  At the political level, governments of both cacao-producing and cacao-importing nations have made some steps towards this end.  For example, in the US Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel both proposed a no child labor label for cacao brought into the US.  While it failed to pass due to lobbying by the  industry, the effort did result in the Harkin-Engels protocol, a voluntary agreement into which chocolate manufacturers could enter with the aim of reducing involuntary labor by underage children (Coe & Coe, 2013).  The governments of West African nations have also gotten involved; In 2000 Cote D’Ivoire signed an agreement with Mali to punish people who used and exploited child workers and to send the trafficked children back to Mali (Chanthavong, 2002).

Responses to the child labor crisis have come also from the industrial and the societal levels.  As previously mentioned, companies like Cargill have made steps towards reducing the involvement of this practice in the manufacturing of their own chocolate by using certification like Utz.  Other certifications, like Fair Trade International, ensure that forced labor, child labor and child trafficking are not involved in the manufacturing of the product (Fair Trade International, 2017).  While these certifications are not completely without flaws, companies that choose to align with them are attempting to ensure children’s rights and displace child labor from the cacao supply chain. 

Some chocolate companies have fully committed themselves to excluding child labor from their supply chain altogether.  One such company is Green & Black.  Jo Fairley, who founded the company, contracted a co-operative of Kekchi Maya living in Belize to grow cacao without the use of pesticides and fertilizers by paying them almost double the price for cacao on the world market.  In doing so, she enabled the workers to make enough money to send their children to school, thus decreasing the need for their involvement in labor of any kind (Coe, 2013).  Similarly, Rain Republic, a chocolate company based out of Guatemala, refuses to use child labor and instead focuses on bringing literacy and education to the children of the cacao suppliers involved with the company. 

    

(Rain Republic and Green & Black: Two chocolate companies which pledge not to use child labor in their supply chains) (Left: Montes, 2016) (Right: Green & Black’s, n.d.)

Chocolate is a commodity which has the power to truly polarize people; Consumers consider fine chocolate to be a luxury and an indulgence while the worst off of its producers endure daily human rights abuses to cultivate it.  Despite the existence of the egregious malpractice which is child labor labor in the cacao industry, it would be a disservice to represent the entire industry of chocolate and cacao as scandalous.  Chocolate brings happiness to many of its consumers.  And for its producers it provides much needed income, particularly in the nations of West Africa.  But the evidence seems to suggest that the industry as a whole could benefit from more intervention and oversight at the governmental, societal and industrial level.  The use of more certifications in the industry could hold producers to a higher standard and the introduction of more ethical businesses, like Green & Black and Rain Republic, could turn the tide of chocolate from an industry that exploits children into one which funds their educations and ultimately their futures.

Works Cited:

Anti-Slavery International. (2004).  The cocoa industry in West Africa: A history of exploitation.  London: Anti-Slavery International.

Berlan, A. (2013). Social sustainability in agriculture: An anthropological perspective on child labour in cocoa production in Ghana.  The Journal of Developmental Studies, 49, 1088-1100.

Clarence-Smith, W.G. (2000).  Cocoa and chocolate, 1765-1914.  London, UK: Routledge.

CNN. (2015). Chocolate’s child slaves. [Video]. URL: http://www.cnn.com/videos/ world/2015/05/26/chocolate-child-slaves-ivory-coast-spc-cfp.cnn

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

Fair Trade International. (2017).  Fair Trade International: Child and Forced Labor.  Web.  URL: https://www.fairtrade.net/programmes/child-labour.html

Green & Black’s. Web. URL: http://us.greenandblacks.com/shop-gifts/50-and-up.html

Lowy, B. (2016). A young boy uses a machete to break cocoa pods at a farm near Abengourou in eastern Ivory Coast in December.  [Photograph]. URL: http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/

Manzo, K. (2005).  Modern slavery, global capitalism & deproletarianism in West Africa.  Review of African Political Economy, 32, 521-534.

Montes, Erick. (2016). Rain republic branding and packaging.  Web. URL: http://erickmontes.com/work/rain-republic-branding-and-packaging

O’Keefe, B. (2016).  Big chocolate child labor.  Fortune Magazine. Web.  URL: http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/

Off, C. (2006).  Bitter chocolate: The dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet.  New York, New York: Random House Publishing.

Ryan, O. (2011).  Chocolate nations: Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa.  London, UK: Zed Books.

UTZ. (2017). Child labor. [Photograph].  URL: https://utz.org/what-we-offer/sector-change/child-labor/

 

 

 

The Adaptive Way to Change Cocoa Culture

Chocolate is often marketed as a guilt-free treat. Initial searches online on popular search engines and social media platforms such as Google and YouTube will return with various results ranging from DIY recipes to health-focused usages. Commercially, the “guilt-free” aspect of chocolate can be viewed as both physical – health benefits – and mental – ignorance of its production process. Similar to other products in the modern globalized consumerism, the consumers are often removed from the realities of the production process, which eases one’s mind from inquiring about the history behind a product – faster spending means higher turnaround for businesses. When compared to conscientious shopping[i] that was referenced in my previous blog post, this model of fast-paced consumption can create the high demand, which forces companies to compete for higher profit and even higher inventory. In the technology field, this model of fast-paced production can be observed with electronic products such as DSLR cameras, computer components, smartphones, or TVs and monitors, where handful of major technology companies release slightly modified and upgraded products semiannually. This fast-paced production and consumption cycle also creates the demand for manufacturing and labor, which companies will do their best to minimize the cost of overhead while maximizing profit.

The question of ethics in consumerism is then left to the consumers to “stumble” upon, e.g. my discovery of the history and the reality of cocoa production, and the probabilities of discovery are decreased when companies or governments don’t put a spotlight on the issue. Although they come in different forms and tastes – varieties similar to consumer electronic products – the cocoa products’ sales and marketing are different from electronics. However, due to its global popularity and worldwide consumption, the manufacturing and production demand for both is similar. According to statistical research by the Reed Electronics Research, China led the world in electronics equipment production at 38% in 2015 (Fletcher p. 2,) with many equipment focused on integrated circuit boards and semiconductor chips (see Figure 1). In the most recent report by International Cocoa Organization (ICCO, 2017) Côte d’Ivoire’s 2015 production estimate was approximately 40% (39.87%) of the world (see Figure 2.) Therefore, the model of using one low-cost production country to dominate a large percentage of the overall production is common for many global consumer goods. In the following paper, I’ll draw comparisons between the cultural and social problems of these modern day consumer products and propose adaptive measures to resolve these issues.

The Yearbook of World Electronic Data 2016

Figure 1: The Yearbook of World Electronics Data 2016 — Percentage of Electronics output by Region 1995-2015[ii]

ICCO Quarterly Bulletin of Cocoa Statistics 2017

Figure 2: ICCO Quarterly Bulletin of Cocoa Statistics — Production of Cocoa Beans[iii]

Using Heifetz’s proposed view on adaptive and technical problems, where adaptive solutions work best for hard, adaptive problems such as cultural issues (Heifetz l. 137[iv],) the social issues that cocoa production has faced and continued to face have been cultural – the culture at the regions of production, and the culture at the consumer side. The solutions enacted so far by different agreements such as those proposed by the International Cocoa Organization to counter the social problems at the regions of production, e.g. child laborer and indentured servitude, have been technical solutions that were effective in solving the technical issues by implementing manufacturing and labor policies. However, the technical solutions did not address the established culture at the consumer end. For most consumer products in the U.S., the phrase “Made in China” has been part of our culture in the last few decades. The inquiry into the “Made in China” supply chain only surfaces during geopolitical debates and exploitative labor scandals, e.g. certain brand of sneakers, clothing lines from certain designers, and certain brands of popular electronics. However, cocoa products and their production have received even less attention when compared to the “Made in China” debate. One of the causes of this lack of attention is perhaps the romanticizing of chocolate in our culture through media.

In Robertson’s article on the history of cocoa[v], she referenced an iconic book and film in Willy Wonka, where in mainstream society was viewed, and continued to be viewed with the recent reboot of the film, as a unique story surrounding an eccentric factory owner and not the continuous editing out of the exploitative labor force and the real problems with cocoa production (Robertson p. 1-3.) The popularization of chocolate in media, through advertisements, has been around since the early days of mainstream advertising. Robertson referenced advertising campaigns from the early 1900s such as Rowntree’s Cocoa that presented an alternate reality of whom the audience could be when using the product (Robertson p. 26-40.) The 1900s references used showed the foundation on which modern society and culture’s perception of chocolate was built on. Coincidentally, the transfer of cocoa by the global colonial powers from South America to their respective ports and colonies – Portuguese from Brazil to their ports in the Gulf of Guinea from 1820s to early 1900s, Germany in the late 19th century to Cameroons, and the British and the Dutch to their colonies in the East Indies[vi] – provided the supply and logistics for the subsequent promotion for their demand (Coe & Coe l. 2854.) After decades of exposure to scripted media coverage – in films, printed, and televised advertisement – the image and message of chocolate has been set in our social norms. This understanding makes the ethical issues with cocoa production as much a cultural issue as it is a technical, i.e. policy, issue in the causal effect of supply-and-demand.

From an adaptive solution point-of-view, the cultural problem cannot be solved with technical solutions alone, e.g. Prohibition of the 1920-1930s or the never ending debate of gun control, which we have observed through U.S. history some of the failures of the respective policies’ enactments. Therefore, the adaptive solution for the cultural problem on the demand side is to change the public’s perception and understanding of the ethical issues with the products – cocoa – that they are purchasing. Companies such as Divine Chocolate have been trying to spread the message of fair trade and reinvestment to the local producers, which has been marginally effective when compared to large corporate brands such as Hershey.  In one of the Social Media platforms – YouTube – a side-by-side comparison of the two companies’ channels, Hershey’s and DivineChoc, the differences in the extend of their social outreach are more noticeable: Hershey’s with a relatively small following has only 13,169 subscribers with 11 million views for their most popular video, and in contrast DivineChoc has only 457 subscribers with 55 thousand views for their most popular video[vii] (see Figure 3.) Understandably, the much larger Hershey Corporation’s operating expenses for 2016 was close to $2 million ($1,915,378) USD, which was used for administrative and product marketing[viii]. However, according to Divine Chocolate’s annual report for 2015-2016, the company’s profit was up 40% in the reporting year and certain percentages of the profit were reinvested to the local producer community at a rate of $200 per tonne sold and 2% of the profit is invested in the Producer Support and Development (PS&D) fund, which is used to fund agricultural projects in Africa[ix]. The actions of Divine Chocolate, I believe, contributed to their success in recent years. The positive message of their reinvestment efforts and their fair trade-based practice resounded with consumers. Using the viral nature of modern social media, I believe the low subscriptions and view counts will change in the future as consumers change their perception of the chocolate industry by buying the more ethical product – referring back to the “Will They Pay More?” study.

Social Media Comparison_HersheyvDivineChoc

Figure 3: Social Media Comparison: Hershey’s and Divine Chocolate’s YouTube Accounts

Divine Chocolate’s actions and campaigns of investing in the local producers do pay dividends to the lifestyle and supply-side culture of cocoa production. However, the company’s ability to influence or impact the local producer’s geopolitical environment is limited. The ICCO has signed various technical solutions – policies – to help the lawful enforcement of certain cocoa practices in the region. However, even the ICCO’s political reach is limited to control or impact the region’s political and economic instability brought on by political, social, and tribal conflicts. In Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa, Ryan referenced numerous examples of local changes such as change of political regimes, change in social infrastructure, or lack thereof, that are key factors to majority of the ethical cocoa production issues in West Africa (Ryan p. 54-62.) Ryan argued that in order to solve the child labor issue (one of the main ethical production issues) in the region, the “well-meaning or misguided consumer campaigns” are inadequate and that the fundamental way cocoa farming is performed would need to be addressed[x].

From an adaptive problem solving perspective, Ryan was correct in her assessment that the various campaigns only target the consumer (demand) side to influence the supply side of the equation. However, I argue that Ryan’s perspective only focused on the technical aspect of such campaigns and not on the cultural impact of these campaigns. Although the reach of consumer-side campaigns is very limited, specifically geopolitical influences, the campaigns do influence the changes that they have on public awareness and consumer behavior. The consumer-side campaigns might not have an immediate impact on the socioeconomic or political problems in the cocoa producer nations – supply side; however, these campaigns often include a fundraising charity aspect that redistributes the funds back to the locals of those nations. Similar to Divine Chocolate, another example of changing the consumer-side culture to impact supply-side infrastructure is the “No Child for Sale” campaign of World Vision Canada – a Christian humanitarian organization – that promotes public awareness of the child labor problem in cocoa production as well as invest monetary and human resources to the region to directly impact and improve the living conditions and infrastructure in the region[xi]. These efforts, similar to Divine Chocolate’s reinvestment efforts, contribute to the establishment of a stable local infrastructure and the socioeconomic development – impacts that might not be realized immediately but will be critical in the regions’ long-term development.

The long-term impact of culture and social change can be realized through consumer influences such as social and political campaigns or lobbying. The migration of Foxconn manufacturing plant from Guangdong – a traditionally low-wage and low cost-of-living city – to Sichuan was partially contributed to the public’s awareness of the horrid working conditions at the Foxconn facilities in Shenzhen – an exposé that led to the individual worker’s conditions to improve and whose improvement impacted the local economy and the eventual raise in cost-of-living[xii]. Traditionally, the development model for a developing region is the shift in the economy from agricultural to service based industries such as tourism, financial services, transport, education, etc.[xiii] In the example of Shenzhen, Guangdong China, the increase in individual spending power via the raise in wages enabled the launch of various service-based businesses. For the West African countries like Côte d’Ivoire the change in the regional culture, which is greater than the issues of cocoa production, will have a larger impact to the future of the nation’s development – invest in the people and regional change will follow.

[i] Prasad, M., Kimeldorf, H., Meyer, R., & Robinson, I. (2006). Consumers With A Conscience: Will They Pay More? Contexts, 5, 24-29. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/documents/2013/may/consumer_conscience_study_ME_20130501.pdf

[ii] Fletcher, Andrew. (2016). The Yearbook of World Electronics Data 2016 – An Overview of Global Electronics Production & Markets. Reed Electronics Research. OX:UK. Retrieved from http://www.rer.co.uk/image/data/Downloads/Yearbook%20of%20World%20Electronics%20Data%202016%20-%20Overview%20&%20Sample%20Pages.pdf

[iii] International Cocoa Organization. (2017) ICCO Quarterly Bulletin of Cocoa Statistics, Vol. XLIII, No. 1 — Cocoa Year 2016/2017. Retrieved from https://www.icco.org/about-us/international-cocoa-agreements/doc_download/2582-production-qbcs-xliii-no-1.html

[iv] Heifetz, A. Ronald. (1994). Leadership without Easy Answers. Cambridge: Massachusetts. Harvard University Press.

[v] Robertson, Emma. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire – a Social and Cultural History. New York: New York. Manchester University Press.

[vi] Coe, D. Sophie & Coe, D. Michael. (2013). The True History of Chocolate, Third Edition. London: UK. Thames & Hudson.

[vii] YouTube. (2017). Hershey’s – Social Media Account Information. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/hersheys/videos?sort=p&view=0&flow=grid
YouTube. (2017). DivineChoc – Social Media Account Information. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/DivineChoc/videos?sort=p&view=0&flow=grid

[viii] U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (2017) Hershey Co. 10-K Filing – Statement of Income for Year Ending Dec. 31, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/viewer?action=view&cik=47111&accession_number=0000047111-17-000005&xbrl_type=v#

[ix] Hartzell, Jamie. (2016). Divine Chocolate: Annual Report 2015-2016. Retrieved from http://www.divinechocolate.com/uk/sites/default/files/Divine-Annual-Report-2015-6.pdf

[x] Ryan, Órla. (2011). Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: UK. Zed Books.

[xi] World Vision Canada. (2017). No Child for Sale Campaign. Retrieved from https://nochildforsale.ca/ and http://www.worldvision.ca/ourwork/Pages/default.aspx

[xii] Culpan, Tim. (2013). “Foxconn Inland China Push Spurred by Labor, BI Says.” Bloomberg. March 3, 2013. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-03-03/foxconn-inland-china-push-spurred-by-labor-bi-says

[xiii] Cali, M., Ellis, K., Te Velde, D.W. (2008). The Contribution of Services to Development and the Role of Trade Liberalisation and Regulation – ODI Working Paper 298. Overseas Development Institute. London: UK. Retrieved from https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/3484.pdf

Just What is Premium Chocolate?

When we hear the word premium it conjures up thoughts of luxury, exceptional quality, hand crafted, expensive…I hate to burst your bubble, but some of the fancy premium chocolate you might’ve enjoyed couldn’t be farther from that definition. Well, actually, it probably was expensive. The lack of regulation of “premium” chocolate allows many brands to vigorously market their chocolate products as high end and grab a piece of the burgeoning market. Yet, this lack of definition and regulation is dangerous because consumers are tricked into buying chocolate with false promises that benefit the chocolate company, but not the cocoa farmers, middlemen, or consumers. Premium is then defined by the packaging, presentation and stores, but not the ingredients or labor.

“Premium chocolate” accounted for over 14% of chocolate sales in the United States in 2011 and was projected to expand 10% annually (Williams and Eber 167). However, the problem is there’s no real standard or definition for premium chocolate. One offered definition is, “chocolate that sells for greater than $8.00 a pound” and has “better quality ingredients, execution, packaging” and more (Williams and Eber 168). Yet, fine chocolate ranges anywhere from $24.00 to $100.00 a pound (Williams and Eber 169).

To find out more about premium chocolate around Harvard Square, I visited two stores: CVS and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe.

CVS

Consumer Value Stores (CVS), created in 1963 by two brothers Stanley and Sidney Goldstein, is a national chain of one stop shop stores for everyone (CVS). Walking into the CVS candy aisle is an attack on your eyes. Candy with big flashy packaging line the shelves from the Big five candy companies: Mars, Nestle, Cadbury, Hershey and Ferrero (Allen 21).With their displays, CVS capitalizes on the fact that approximately 70% of chocolate is consumed on impulse (Allen 31). Therefore, loud packaging is key to attract a consumer’s wandering eye. Red or orange wrappers (Reese’s Peanut butter cups, M & M’s, Kit Kats, Snickers, Crunch bars) are prominent because studies have proven that people’s associations with these colors make one hungry (Harrington). In addition to the packaging, placement inside a store is very important. Only 22% of shoppers will ever venture down the candy aisle, so stores need to be creative about attracting attention to chocolate (Allen 32). To address this issue, CVS lines their check-out counter with chocolate bars to entice consumers to grab one for a quick snack. In addition, lots of the chocolates in CVS are on sale. I’ve visited multiple times and can always find bright yellow sale tags on a variety of chocolates. The sales often encourage one to buy multiple chocolates such as 3 for $5.00 or 2 for $6.00. The cheapest chocolate I could find were singular Hershey bars for .88 cents and the most expensive bar were the Chuao bars, at $5.29. However, even these were on sale, buy one get the second half off. The majority of their chocolates (individual bars or bags) were under $3.00. The placement of their chocolate, available brands, and price range, demonstrate that CVS targets consumers who are in a hurry, don’t want to spend much on chocolate, or didn’t intend to buy chocolate until enticed on the way out.

CVS also sells premium chocolate on a separate stand that contrasts nicely with the regular candy aisle. It’s featured on the end of the candy aisle facing sodas and other refrigerated items. The end of an aisle is a prime spot as it gets more foot traffic and attention (Clifford). The stand is made of dark wood (fake), which appears more refined than the other shelves and is filled with Lindt, Ghiradelli, Ferrero Rocher, Ritter, Raffaelo, Chuao and Endangered Species chocolates. However, these brands are misleading because many of these companies are owned by the big five and when one thinks premium, Hershey’s doesn’t come to mind. For example, Lindt owns Ghiradelli and even though it is not a big five chocolate company, Lindt generates over a half of Hershey’s net sales (Scully). In addition, Ritter is distributed in over 100 countries and Fererro owns Raffaelo (Ferrero, Ritter). The only slightly distinct chocolates are the Chuao and the Endangered Species bars. Chuao is a fairly new Venezuelan brand, created in 2002. It is available in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Barbuda in stores such as CVS, Target, Whole Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond, and the Omni and W hotels (Chuao). Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10% of their profits to support wildlife organizations (Endangered Species). This brand is sold at Amazon, CVS, Target and more. Nevertheless, premium chocolate for CVS is still mostly mass produced chocolate from the big five companies or other large companies.

Compared to CVS’ regular chocolate, premium chocolate’s packaging was less flashy and featured gold and shiny touches and script lettering. The packaging used thicker paper or plastic and contained the words: excellence, collection, luscious, and classic to convey to the customer that these bars are distinct and higher quality. The bars also come in a variety of different flavors like fruit, caramel, honey, mint, salt and hazelnut. This example of the hybridization of chocolate or blending of two cultures was distinct from the cheaper chocolate bars that mainly featured peanut butter fillings (Coe and Coe 113). Descriptions on the back of the bar also play into the link between chocolate and sex which traces back the widespread belief that chocolate was an aphrodisiac (Coe and Coe 171). With descriptions such as, “irresistible smooth filling”, “gently caressing all your senses”, and “caramelized honey mingle with deep dark chocolate, like secret lovers meeting on a warm summer night”, these bars capitalize on how women should “project their heterosexual yearnings and fantasies onto chocolate consumption” (Robertson 35). They detail the experience you will have with their chocolate and with the exception of the Endangered Species and Chuao bars, they do not make promises about the source of their cacao or cocoa production. The Chuao bar has an ethically sourced label and the Endangered Species bar has Fair Trade and Organic labels. From CVS’ selection, premium chocolate seems to be chocolate with gold packaging that sells an experience, is slightly more expensive than their regular selection, and is mass manufactured.

Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe

Cardullo’s opened in 1950 and is a specialty food store in Harvard Square. A quick trip to their website shows pages of gourmet foods, gifts, and most importantly: Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate. These three stimulants have gone hand in hand since the colonial era (Mintz 113). Inside the store, there is a stand dedicated to Lake Champlain Chocolates and then a wall of chocolate at the edge of the store near the cashiers. At first glance, bright packaging led me to the Big Five products, except they were European brands: Aero, Maltesers, Flake, and Milka. Next, there were the more specialized bars. The packaging was less flashy overall and they featured muted tones such as a variety of pastels and browns. They also had many more fair trade, organic, and ethically grown stamps than the selection in CVS. However, many of these chocolate labels are misleading. For example, the goal of Fair Trade is to help “cocoa farmers, traders, and chocolate manufacturers participate in long-term, stable relationships that support a dependable living for farmers and their families” (Fair Trade 4). Yet, The Fair Trade Scandal, sheds light on the realities of this label. In fact, Fair Trade unequally distributes its profits and is mostly beneficial to the wealthiest countries (Sylla 205). In addition, Maricel Presilla warns in The New Taste of Chocolate, that organic of Fair Trade cacao can be “mediocre or worse in quality” (133). This is not to say that all of the labels are not producing positive results, but that labels should be noted with caution.

At first glance, I was wowed. There was a large selection of single origin bars and phrases such as “stone ground”, “craft”, and “art of blending”. Some of the brands included, Scharffen berger, Neuhaus, Chocolove and Lake Champlain. I assumed that these brands were artisanal brands that were sold in small batches, but to my disappointment, these brands were available across the U.S and in multiple countries. Their upscale looking appearance led me astray. Scharffen Berger chocolate is owned by Hershey (Lubow)! Once America’s first bean to bar manufacturer that originated cocoa content labeling, Hershey has shut down their artisan factory in California and moved it to Illinois (Scharffen Berger). Fans of the chocolate have noticed a considerable drop in the quality of the chocolate since the factory switch (Lubow). Yet, as Rachel Lauden notes, mass produced and industrialized food does not deserve the negative attention we direct toward it. For example, “the ethnic foods we seek out when we travel are being preserved, indeed often created, by a hotel and restaurant industry determined to cater to our dream of India or Indonesia, Turkey, Hawaii, or Mexico.” Perhaps for chocolate, it is important to recognize how crucial technology such as the conche or refrigerated transportation has been in creating the more refined candy we eat today (Goody 82). Quality, then is not necessarily tied to quantity.

Cardullo’s does sell bean to bar and single origin small batch chocolate. They carry Chequessett, Dolfin, Castronovo, Taza, Chocolat Bonnat and Farvarger. The most expensive bars were from Chocolat Bonnat at a whopping $17.00! A quick trip to their website revealed that these bars are from specific terroirs. I found a bar with beans from Trinite, an island in the Caribbean. These single origin bars are special because the soil, environment, and farming styles affect give their beans a unique taste (Presilla 126).

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Back of a Chocolat Bonnat Grand Crus Trinite bar in Cardullo’s

The more expensive bars only had cocoa beans, cocoa butter, sugar and possibly milk in them. I could count all of the ingredients on one hand, whereas in CVS, even in the premium chocolate section, bars had ten or more ingredients. The bars also featured more hybridized expensive flavors than the ones offered in CVS. For example, there are bars with ginger, orange peel, rose, coconut ash, cranberry pumpkin spice and chili. These ingredients were more exotic and inventive than the raspberry, salt, and peanut butter found in CVS.

Unlike CVS brands, most of the chocolate companies featured in Cardullo’s had pages on their websites dedicated to the environment, labor, conservation and the history of chocolate. Instead of catering to the mass market, it was clear that they wanted to demonstrate a knowledge of the cacao plant and chocolate making process. These brands also described the ingredients or process on the back of the bars in different ways. The wrappers stressed the ethical process and sustainability of their chocolate as well as quality ingredients. The descriptions were also bar specific and did not generalize company history like the CVS bars. They were also more transparent about the ingredients in their chocolate. For example, Milkboy featured Swiss milk, Castronovo describes the types of cacao (Criollo, Trinitario, and forastero), Chequessett labeled the origins or terroir, and nearly every bar listed the percent cocoa content. Cardullo’s chocolate appealed to the customer who would spend their time perusing the selection and carefully reading the back of each bar. The customer cared about the production and quality of chocolate. In contrast, the CVS customer would probably not know the difference between Criollo and Trinitario or how cacao origin or content affects taste.

Pictured: The difference between the backs of chocolate from Cardullo’s and CVS

 

From my two visits, I’ve found that marketing is key to selling “premium” chocolate. It seems to outrank ingredients, flavor or quality of cacao. For example, in the U.S, anything containing 15% cacao liquor can be labeled as chocolate (Food and Agriculture Organization). You could be eating 85% sugar and think that it’s great chocolate. Or, like me, you could be fooled by the packaging into thinking you’ve bought a white chocolate bunny, when it is in fact simply sugar and corn oil. Yet, if the packaging has flecks of gold and can convince you that it is premium, it is. Premium, as demonstrated by both CVS and Cardullo’s, seems to be relative to the chocolate selection you have. Both stores had chocolate from the big five companies which were the cheapest in both stores, so the more expensive brands seem more premium. The higher end chocolates are differentiated through packaging from the quality of the wrapper, the labels or commitments to organic, fair trade, or ethically sourced cacao, to the description of the creation of each bar. Perhaps, similar to the 15% rule, premium chocolate should have requirements that includes a standard for % cacao content, origin of cacao, or a promise for ethically sourced ingredients. Possibly, instead of a industry implemented standard, a chocolate guide or rating system, similar to Wine Spectator would be influential in determining premium chocolate.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L., and Angel Cabrera. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York, American Management Association, 2010.

Chuao. “About.” Chuao Chocolatier, chuaochocolatier.com/about/. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Clifford, Stephanie. “Stuff Piled in the Aisle? It’s There to Get You to Spend More.” The New York Times [New York City], 7 Apr. 2011, Business sec., http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/business/08clutter.html. Accessed 5 May 2017.

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

CVS. “CVS History.” CVS Health, CVS, http://www.cvshealth.com/about/company-history. Accessed 4 May 2017.

Endangered Species Chocolate. “Chocolate Bar Promise.” Chocolate Bar, Endangered Species Chocolate, http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18.

Fair Trade. “Cocoa Impact Report.” Fair Trade, 2011, fairtradeusa.org/sites/default/files/Cocoa_Impact_Report.pdf. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Ferrero. “Brands: Raffaello.” Ferrero Corporate, Ferrero, http://www.ferrero.com/products/ferrero-pralines/raffaello. Accessed 6 May 2017.

Food and Agriculture Organization. “STANDARD FOR CHOCOLATE AND CHOCOLATE PRODUCTS.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, 2003, http://www.fao.org/input/download/standards/67/CXS_087e.pdf. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Goody, Jack. Cooking, Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology. Digital printing. ed., Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2000.

Harrington, Rebecca. “Here’s Why All Fast Food Signs Are Red.” Business Insider, 30 Sept. 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/why-are-fast-food-signs-red-2015-9. Accessed 3 May 2017.

Lubow, Arthur. “My Chocolate Meltdown.” The New York Times [New York], 21 Nov. 2009, Opinion sec., http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/opinion/22lubow.html. Accessed 7 May 2017.

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

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley [Calif.], Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Ritter Sport. “Family Business and Values.” Ritter Sport US, Ritter Sport, http://www.ritter-sport.de/en_US/Family-business-values/zahlen_fakten.html. Accessed 5 May 2017.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Paperback ed., Manchester, UP, 2013.

Scharffen Berger. “Our History.” Scharffen Berger, Hershey, http://www.scharffenberger.com/our-story/history/. Accessed 4 May 2017.

Scully, Carla. “The Top 100 Candy Companies in the World in 2017.” Candy Industry, 27 Jan. 2017, http://www.candyindustry.com/2017-Global-Top-100-Part-4. Accessed 5 May 2017.

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

Williams, Pamela Sue, and Jim Eber. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver, Wilmor Publishing, 2012.

The Big Four In Contemporary Chocolate Marketing

When it comes to buying chocolate consumers are overwhelmed with choices. There are hundreds of different products available at just one store. Dark, milk, white, nutty, fruity, extra sweet, extra dark, candy bar, chocolate bar; all of these come crashing together in one space where the consumer is forced to decide which one will win out among the rest. There are multiple ways that chocolate marketers entice consumers. They use celebrity sponsors, flashy advertising, appeal to certain market segments, and tug on the consumer’s emotions; but all of these tactics can overwhelm the consumer and hide the truth about the products. An analytical investigation reveals that there are four themes that stand out in chocolate marketing.

Strategy #1: Target Your Biggest Market

The largest demographic segment of the chocolate market is women. It has traditionally been thought of as a typical treat for women, but one has to question if this market structure is a result of an actual desire for chocolate by this gender, or if it was socially constructed years before. As Emma Robertson notes in her book Chocolate, Women and Empire since the nineteenth-century women have been the focus for advertisers.[1] During this time, women were constantly told that cocoa was good and wholesome for their families through advertising campaigns. This began the long historical connection between chocolate and the housewife.

Today, mothers are still told that chocolate is what they should be giving their children. Advertisements from Nestlé’s Nesquik, specifically tell mothers that their chocolate milk is nutritious for children.[2] Unfortunately, they rarely disclose in their advertisements that their products contain about half of the recommended daily amount of sugar for kids.[3] Instead, mothers are shown having happy interactions with their children when they give them these chocolate products. This is a strategic move on the part of marketers because every mother wants to give their child something that they believe will make them happy and healthy. However, housewives are not the only segment of the female population that is targeted in chocolate marketing.

Single women are often the ones portrayed eating chocolate in advertisements. In a recent ad from Hershey’s they are selling two of their classic chocolate bars, but only women are shown enjoying the treats.[4] The fifteen-second ad is very revealing because it perpetuates the image that women are the ones who enjoy chocolate the most. It would have been very easy to have a man eat part of the chocolate bar but it was a clear choice by Hershey’s to exclude men. To a chocolate marketer, men constitute only a small portion of the chocolate market, thus they are rarely included in advertisements.

Most chocolate advertisements not only focus on women but also focus on the emotions of women. In the 2015 Super Bowl ad for Snickers, the actor Danny Trejo portrays a hungry Marcia Brady, from the classic American television show The Brady Bunch. Mrs. Brady informs her daughter that she can be hostile when she is hungry, but the Snickers bar turns Marcia Brady back into her chipper self after she eats it.[5] This idea that women will calm down if they have chocolate is another common theme used in marketing chocolate. Women are frequently shown to have their moods altered just by consuming chocolate. They are sold the idea that chocolate can provide you with an emotional or biological experience.

Strategy #2: Packaging Sells

Another strategy that marketers commonly use is creative packaging to make their product stand out among all of the other options. If one walks down the chocolate aisle at any store they will see that all of the chocolate is packaged very differently. Some use bright colors to grab attention, while others have artistic images or use creative fonts. This is important when marketing chocolate because the packaging also denotes who the target audience is. Products wrapped in gold or high-gloss packaging can signal that the company is trying to convey the message that this is a quality product and they are trying to target a luxury consumer. Companies understand that the consumers are not likely to research the quality of the product; therefore the quality of the packaging and the information on the packaging is what will sell the product.

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Image Courtesy of 2017e677

 

A key segment of the chocolate market is the eco-friendly consumer, who will inspect the packaging of the product to make sure the company shares their values. This can involve looking at the packaging to see if it uses sustainable materials, checking the label certifications, or seeing if the company supports the same causes as they do. Purchasing a product is often an emotional experience. If the consumer is purchasing a chocolate without knowing how it tastes, their decision will also be based on whether the packaging grabbed their attention and made them feel a connection to the product.

 

Strategy #3: Play on Your Consumer’s Emotions

Emotions are a key factor when it comes to decision-making. Marketers know that people’s beliefs and feelings will sell products and subsequently, will support causes outside of their industry to make their product stand out among the competition. This is common in the chocolate industry that companies will support other causes in order to lure customers in to support their brand. The moist poignant example is Endangered Species Chocolate, who uses a social cause as their key marketing strategy.

“A snack that gives back”; Endangered Species Chocolate promises their customers that 10% of their net profits each year will be donated to their wildlife conservation partners.[6] They have had a wide variety of partners over the years, which include organizations that help animals in every ecosystem. This is a very clever marketing strategy because it connects their chocolate with a deeper purpose. The consumer feels like they are making a difference in the world if they are buying this chocolate, which is a compelling sales strategy. Endangered Species Chocolate further cements the emotional connection to the product by putting images of animals on every one of their products. While this is a very clear strategy to drive sales, the company is also transparent about the impact their donations have each year by publishing an annual impact report.[7]

Divine Chocolate also uses social causes as a marketing strategy to sell their chocolate. Their chocolate bars are branded as being owned by cocoa farmers and they seek to empower women. Cocoa farming has traditionally been thought of as mainly an industry for men and women have been overlooked.[8] Divine Chocolate changes this common chocolate dichotomy by emphasizing the important roles that women have in cocoa farming. Their advertisements often show African women as strong, well-dressed intelligent women, a stark contrast to the typical primitive images of women in Africa. As Kristy Leissle notes Divine’s advertisements, “reframe Africa’s role in modernity, creating an alluring female figure that envisions and promotes Africa’s contributions to industrial production and luxury consumption.”[9] By changing the typical narrative of chocolate, Divine Chocolate is creating social change. However, these advertisements that inspire change also play into the consumer’s emotions, which was created to highlight the company’s “unique selling point.”[10] Divine Chocolate understands that their ethical values as a company are a selling feature for their products, and as a result, they use these values as a marketing tool.

Strategy #4: Certify Everything

The final, and perhaps most contemporary, marketing tool that marketers use when selling chocolate are all of the different certifications that can appear on the packaging of products. Ideally, one would not have to be concerned about the treatment of farmers or the quality of the ingredients. If that were the case we would not need labels to tell us that this product is not harming the environment, but consumers do not automatically trust that a company will be ethical in their business practices. Consequently, there are many different certifications available: Fair Trade, Certified Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Direct Trade, Certified Vegan, Certified Gluten Free, among many others. For all of these certifications companies and farmers have to pay annual fees and meet certain standards to become a part of these organizations and as a result, they are allowed to use the corresponding label that they qualified for on their products. While the certifications have good intentions they have become a marketing ploy, and one could argue that the labels do not actually benefit the farmers or producers in the altruistic way that is intended.

The Fair Trade certification was created to help farmers improve their lives and ensure fair prices for their products, but these goals have not been realized.[11] It has been found that farmers are not earning more money, the quality of products has not improved, and they do not monitor standards in the way that was promised.[12] This is a significant problem for farmers because they spend a great deal of money to become Fair Trade certified but they are not receiving the benefits that were espoused.[13] Since the economic burden is so substantial many farmers opt out of the certification because they will make more money without it.[14] However, many consumers do not realize that certification labels like Fair Trade are failing to adhere to their promises.

Certifications labels were created to inform consumers that products were ethical in their origin. Nico Roozen and Frans van der Hoff created the first quality label called Max Havelaar.[15] Along with Albert Heijn, in 1988 they launched the first coffee brand that was labeled fair, Max Havelaar coffee.[16] The brand became so successful that more products began displaying the Max Havelaar label throughout Europe and North America.[17] As a result of the popularity of the Max Havelaar label, more certifications have been created. While these certification organizations have good intentions, they have also become an extremely successful marketing tool. Companies have seen large spikes in sales as a result of these labels, but there is the potential for this growth to stop.[18]

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The many certification labels on Theo Chocolate, Endangered Species Chocolate and Taza Chocolate. Images courtesy of 2017e677.

The average consumer does not know the requirements for certification for the majority of the programs that exists. They just assume that a Fair Trade or organic label denotes an ethical or high-quality product. But now that more certifications exist, companies will put multiple certifications on one product potentially confusing the consumer. As Ndongo Samba Sylla notes, companies run the risk of diluting the meaning of these labels by placing too many on one package.[19] By placing so many certifications on one product, the labels begin to be arbitrary and reveal their true purpose, which is a sales device.

Is Chocolate Marketing All a Façade?

With all of these marketing strategies, it begins to look like there is a lack of honesty in the marketing industry. As a result, consumers are left to wonder if they are simply being sold lies. It is true that chocolate marketers will exploit every angle they can in order to sell you a product but they are not necessarily acting unethically, they are just doing their job. Companies need to push boundaries in order to set themselves apart from all of the competition. Ultimately a company cannot be altruistic without selling their products, thus earning the additional money necessary to meet their charity goals. The chocolate industry is a highly competitive world and it is important as a consumer to not get caught up in the strategies that companies implement.

In order to be mislead by all of the marketing schemes, consumers need to do their homework when searching for the chocolate product they want to purchase. There are honest chocolate companies that are very transparent about their processes and openly publish company information. For example, Theo Chocolate is proud to share information about their passions for chocolate and changing the world.[20] On their website they are open about where their beans are sourced from and share their pricing structure publically.[21] In addition, Taza Chocolate publishes a direct trade transparency report that details where they are buying their cacao and from whom.[22] The reports often list farmers by name, giving the consumer more knowledge than is usually possible with the food industry.[23]

While both Taza Chocolate and Theo Chocolate still market their chocolate like any other business would, they also publish information about their respective business practices, which indicates that they are open to additional conversations about their methods. Their honesty is a refreshing change in the chocolate industry. Although transparency is not commonly employed in marketing chocolate, by clearly understanding the tools that companies use to sell their products a consumer can look past all of the sales techniques and find the chocolate product that is right for them.

 

 

 

Works Cited

[1] Emma Robertson, Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Manchester University Press: New York, 2009), 20.

[2] “Postgame Nutrition”, Nestle Nesquik, accessed May 1, 2017, https://www.nesquik.com/postgame-nutrition/.

[3] “Sugar Recommendation Healthy Kids and Teens Infographic”, American Heart Association, accessed May 1, 2017, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-Recommendation-Healthy-Kids-and-Teens-Infographic_UCM_487755_SubHomePage.jsp.

[4] Hershey’s, “HERSHEY’S Love in Every Bite”, YouTube Video, 00:15, Posted February 6, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxYHyZWaK2o.

[5] Wall Street Journal, “Super Bowl 2015: Snickers Ad”, YouTube Video, 00:32, Posted January 29, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UO2A2p-19A.

[6] “Promise”, Endangered Species Chocolate, accessed May 1, 2017, http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18.

[7] Endangered Species Report, Impact Report 2016, Accessed May 2, 2017,

http://www.chocolatebar.com/docs/doc_2016_Impact_Report.pdf.

[8] Divine Chocolate, “Empowering Women”, accessed May 2, 2017, http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/about-us/TrainingWomen.

[9] Kirsty Leissle, “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements”, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 123.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Mission/Values”, Fair Trade USA, accessed May 2, 2017. https://fairtradeusa.org/about-fair-trade-usa/mission.

[12] Carla D. Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization” (Lecture Slides, Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017), Slide 11, accessed May 2, 2017, https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1CkKtJa-PLeSsmfsrheoSqdO2gT7yiizxE7x0DmcwcKA/edit#slide=id.g12aecdfb3_057.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Carla D. Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization” (Lecture, Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017).

[15] Ndongo Samba Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty To Benefit The Rich (Ohio University Press: Athens, 2014), 70-71.

[16] Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 72.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 91.

[19]Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 133.

[20] “Mission”, Theo Chocolate, accessed May 2, 2017, https://www.theochocolate.com/mission.

[21]“Sourcing”, Theo Chocolate, accessed May 2, 2017, https://www.theochocolate.com/sourcing.

[22] “Taza Direct Trade”, Taza Chocolate, accessed May 3, 2017, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade.

[23] “Taza Transparency Report 2015”, Taza Chocolate, accessed May 3, 2017, https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Transparency_Report_2015.pdf?10448975028103371905.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/5126226571