Category Archives: Extension

Saviorism in Chocolate Culture

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The history of chocolate illustrates the dilemma of good intentions and the moral ambiguity of efforts by one culture — in this case that of the wealthy white Christianity-dominated West — to re-form and re-create another culture in their own image. This ambiguity shows itself in the early history of American Christian missionaries bringing their faith — faith in God, and in the sort of education and vocational training they saw as inseparable from the preaching of the gospel — to Ghana in the late 19th and early 20 century, and it shows itself throughout the history of complex cultural interactions around the cultivation of chocolate. It shows itself, too, in the current conditions of the economy of chocolate, and, maybe most poignantly, in the ideological and humanistic battles around the billion-dollar trust created by the vast chocolate wealth of the Hershey family and the extraordinary school it funds. Like chocolate, religious and moral proselytizing often comes in with a sugar coating that can’t be refused, but underneath that sweetness lies something bitter.

White Saviorism

Missionaries promise better lives for the people they preach to, while often completely devaluing and invalidating their existing cultures and lives. In the article “MISSIONARY SPOTLIGHT – Ghana’s Christian legacy” on Evangelical Times, it is claimed that Christianity has “contributed in no small way to the development of Ghanaian society and the well-being of its people.” This article claims that while part of this improvement was due to development of education and medical services, Presbyterian Basel missionaries also helped the people of Ghana by introducing cacao to the region and providing training on how to grow it. The author notes that spreading Christianity in Ghana was not always an easy task. Missionaries were sometimes not welcomed, and “faced the hostility of the priests of traditional African religion, particularly when the latter’s shrines were forsaken by Christian converts” (Dapaah). This article reflects no self-awareness of why the religious reformation of Ghana may not have delighted all, or of the possibility that the traditional religion held value to the people. It is also fascinating that, taking credit for the introduction of cacao in Ghana, Evangelical Times assumes this as a positive influence. In other contexts, the cacao industry in Ghana has been under much moral scrutiny by the Western world.

Ethical Consumption

Consumers of chocolate want to feel good about what they are buying. Chocolate is, after all, the quintessential feel-good product, often connected in buyers’ minds with cozy notions of love and warm indulgence. It is upsetting to consider that we may be causing harm in buying it, and consumers are quick to squelch their guilt by opting for choices that advertise ethical production.

Problems of ethics in chocolate production are often portrayed in the West by stressing the dismal conditions of cacao farmers’ lives, highlighting their poverty, lack of education, or abuses propagated on or by them. We depict them as people who need our help to have any quality of life or morals. Orla Ryan’s Chocolate Nations chapter Child Labor shows that people in the West greatly exaggerate and misinterpret child labor on cacao farms in Africa. It is portrayed as a moral crisis that children are forced to work, and an often-suggested solution is the boycott of any chocolate produced with child labor. However, the children and families themselves view the situation differently. While some children are trafficked or forced to work against their will, it is most common for children to work along with the rest of their family on the family cacao farm. This can be dangerous, but it is not caused by sadism on the part of the perpetrating family members— there is simply such a problem with poverty that everybody has to work to survive. For this reason, boycotting chocolate from these farms would do little good and possibly have disastrous effects by further increasing poverty. Addressing child labor from a place of classist, racist moral superiority is not what the world needs (Ryan).

In the article “Spend & Save: The Narrative of Fair Trade and White Saviorism,” Bani Amor explains that fair-trade companies often are founded by white people seeking to portray themselves as heroic “fixers” of world issues, while suggesting erroneously that the problems of capitalism can be solved through capitalism means. She believes that this “saviorism through consumerism” actually relies on rather than dismantle oppressive structures.

“Saviorism employs a time-honored colonial narrative: The sad state of the savage Other necessitates civilizing via white/Western intervention, which maintains dominion over resources that sometimes trickle down to the needy via acts of charity. In his landmark 2012 essay, ‘The White-Savior Industrial Complex,’ Teju Cole reminds us that saviorism ‘is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.’ …[I]t validates supremacy more than anything, because assuming the role of the savior is also a show of power” (Amor).

Saviorism validates supremacy— the supremacy of the white Western elite, their religion and morals, and what they have to offer. Allowing saviorism to continue is a roadblock to growing as a culture to celebrate diversity and embrace equality.

The Milton Hershey School

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Saviorism is often about race, but it is also about class. The Milton Hershey School is an example of class saviorism within the chocolate culture and industry in America. Milton S. Hershey and his wife Catherine had big dreams when they set up the utopian chocolate town of Hershey, Pennsylvania. They wanted to make a place where people were productive but also happy and well provided for. This was reflected in how Milton Hershey organized his company and town and also in the creation of what was then known as the “industrial school,” a school for orphaned boys established in the town of Hershey in 1909. The school was meant to provide opportunities for the many boys left orphaned in that time period, but also to morally shape these boys so that they would not become “shiftless and criminal men who would spawn another generation of undesirables” as was a great concern of society at the time (D’Antonio 197). In addition to Milton and Catherine’s philanthropic predilections, they found joy in inviting orphans into their lives because they themselves were unable to have children. However, there was a problem with this utopian conception. The program was designed with the purpose of shaping boys to become a certain type of upstanding, honest citizens who had to meet strict standards of behavior, performance, and character. Though the school did not require every pupil to be religious, it did teach Christian morals and expel anyone “incorrigible” or “undesirable”— boys were required to be “healthy” in every way to attend and many boys were sent away when they did not uphold these standards (D’Antonio 199).

The school is now known as the Milton Hershey School. Still funded by a trust made by Hershey, offers more than free tuition— it offers free medical and dental care and will even buy clothes for its students and house them year round if needed. It is no longer a school only for orphaned boys, and the website appeals to parents by offering extraordinary care for children at no cost. Though this may offer a wonderful opportunity for some, it imposes upon parents the idea that if they are poor, their children would be better off removed from their care and transplanted into idyllic Christian wealth with strangers. It is a problematic design to, instead of addressing poverty and education inequality in disadvantaged areas, select a few promising children to remove from their lives and reshape through privilege. Though it is illegal to discriminate against students based on health, the school website still states that children must “be free of serious behavioral problems that are likely to disrupt life in the classroom or student home life” (Admissions Considerations). Children at the Milton Hershey School are also required to attend church regularly, and the website states that “The school encourages students to learn to love God and others, to give service to their community, and to live a morally upright life. Devotions are woven into their daily routine” (Student Activities).

These moral and religious standards have led to problems in recent years at the Milton Hershey School. There have been complaints of discrimination and abuse. In a 2017 article on advocate.com, an incident is detailed in which a teenage student claims to have been forced to watch an hour-long gay conversion therapy video by his house-parents at the Milton Hershey School. The student said that he was also forced to pray with his house-parents to have God help him away from gayness, and was told stories of other gay people who had terrible things happen to them. In 2013, this student was expelled from the school following a suicidal gesture. This is an example of the great harm that can come about from imposing moral and religious values, and it also illustrates the school’s problematic readiness to expell students who displayed signs of mental illness. The school admitted that this incident occurred but denied any official involvement in the showing of the video, though conversion therapy is in line with the original vision of the founder.

“A spokeswoman for the school, Lisa Scullin, who responded to Dobson’s suit against the school by saying conversion therapy is a ‘practice the administration would never allow or condone,’ doubled down on denying official involvement in response to the revelation that conversion therapy had indeed been promoted at Hershey.

‘Unequivocally, the school does not promote or endorse any program that could be remotely characterized as gay conversion therapy,’ Scullin said. ‘Any suggestion otherwise is a gross mischaracterization of our values and the environment on our campus.'”

This was not an isolated incident. Last year, a second former student of the Milton Hershey School claimed that he was forced to watch the same video, and states that he was humiliated in front of others and made to feel “like the scum of the earth” by the incident. Human Rights Campaign states that gay conversion therapy techniques “have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades, but due to continuing discrimination and societal bias against LGBTQ people, some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy. Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.” Because these methods are so injurious, a number of states and municipalities have put laws in place to protect minors from them. It is deeply troubling that an orginization meant to protect children would in fact use their position to attempt to abusively mold them to fit a moral ideal, and these incidents reveal a need for radically increased scrutiny of any such “savior” programs for youth.

Imposition of Culture is Dehumanizing

The world’s privileged white elite often act as though by helping others they gain the right to impose their own “superior” moral values, but fail to recognize that imposition of culture is dehumanizing. This saviorism takes away people’s autonomy and inherent right to self-determination. Although nobody wants to be trapped in poverty or treated unfairly, that does not mean that the Western white Christian capitalist life is the model of supremacy. It is important to improve fairness in the chocolate industry and in education, but in this endeavor it is vital to integrate respect for those we are helping and listen to their values and needs rather than imposing our own—to work with rather than for them.

 

Works Cited

Ryan Órla. Chocolate Nations Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2011.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey Milton S. Hersheys Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Paw Prints, 2008.

Amor, Bani. “Spend & Save: The Narrative of Fair Trade and White Saviorism.” Bitch Media, http://www.bitchmedia.org/article/spend-save.

Depaah, George.”MISSIONARY SPOTLIGHT – Ghana’s Christian legacy.” Evangelical Times, https://www.evangelical-times.org/28075/missionary-spotlight-ghanas-christian-legacy/

“Milton Hershey School.” Milton Hershey School, http://www.mhskids.org/.

Fernandez, Bob. “A 2nd former Hershey School student says he was forced to watch gay conversion film” The Enquirer, http://www.philly.com/philly/business/comcast/a-2nd-former-hershey-school-student-says-he-was-forced-to-watch-gay-conversion-film-20170801.html

“The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.” Human Rights Campaign, https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy

Images

Reaching hand image from pixabay.com CC0 Creative Commons

Milton S. Hershey portrait is from wikimedia commons and is in the public domain

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A Complicated History of Chocolate and Sugar in the Caribbean (and Abroad)

My Childhood Experience: 

I love chocolate and I love sugar even more. I have loved both since I was a child and will continue to love them well into my old age. The first time I tasted a Snickers chocolate bar on a small Caribbean island where almost all chocolate is imported, I was hooked- no other candy bar could compare. The Snickers bar became my cradle to grave candy bar and even today when I have one decades later, I tend to flash back to the nostalgic time when getting that chocolate (or any chocolate really) for me was a rare and expensive sugar-rush to be savored. In Barbados, the nation’s relationship with chocolate in general and sugar more specifically tends to be complicated by its history of slave labor production and British colonization (Beckles, 2017). Even in present day, conversations around the health of locals and sugar consumption are often linked back to the repercussions of this history.

Planting the sugar cane

Growing up in the Caribbean, there was no Halloween, no teachers that would give out candy to their students as rewards for good work in the classroom, no goodie bags filled with a delightful assortment at parties for me. Chocolate was a coveted treat and one that I was taught to respect as a child as something of value for having done good or been good in order to “deserve” it. While other kids would spend their lunch money on snacks, sweets, and chocolate during break, I was under strict rules not to spend money on such frivolities. Back then I was raised with the idea that chocolate and other sugary food was not money well spent and that the over consumption of sugar was a result of a still colonized mind. Although chocolate was not at the time as much of a staple as it is now, especially compared to the developed West, sugar was everywhere and in almost everything, like America and the UK. Bajans consumed large amounts of sugar regularly and have been since the mid 1600s when Britain relied on the colony for crops and began manufacturing sugar cane for their own consumption (Martin, 2018, slides 2-9).

Moreover, my mother- a professional cook and very health conscious- believed there were more potential health risks to eating chocolate and sugary treats and thought the health benefits were minimal. My grandfather had many theories on sugar’s use for the demise of the black population by the British crown.

Barbados-Slave-Code

He would say that the sugar industry used invasive propaganda and historically colonized slave mentality to keep locals pacified in order to maintain control of the island and keep its people unhealthy- like a drug. I had no idea what he meant by that back then, I was barely 7-8 years old when we would have these talks about the aftermath of sugar plantations in Barbados. Not until I was older did I reflect on these conversations and revisit them again in a class on chocolate culture.

My grandfather’s words resurfaced again when I read Sweetness and Power by Sidney Mintz. He wrote, “the upward climb of both production and consumption within the British Empire must be seen as part of an even larger general movement…We know that sugar consumption in the old sugar colonies…was part always very substantial- indeed, that slaves were given sugar, molasses, and even rum during slavery period as part of their rations” (Mintz, 1985, p. 72). When my grandfather would lecture on the perils of sugar- the cause of painful and expensive cavities, my diabetic relatives (one of which had the bottom part of her leg amputated from too my sugar in her diet), or the root of making people sluggish and less intelligent- did I start to develop a profound fear and wonder about the power of confectionaries. How could something so delicious be so dangerous? It took me many years to realize it was not just chocolate that was the primary concern for him. It was the production of sugar in Barbados by the enslavement of black people under British colonization and the exploitation of the island. The impact in which continues to have adverse risks to its citizens still.

Sugar cane harvest post card

There is a long tradition in Barbados to produce sugar in addition to an impulse to consume large amounts as well, which started with Britain’s obsession with the commodity. In fact, the turning point of British sugar production was the settlement of Barbados and thus both nations were transformed. One nation with the need to consume, the other forced to produce for consumption. Mintz aptly writes:

“England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fasted in creating a plantation system. The most important product of that system was sugar. Coffee, chocolate (cacao), nutmeg, and coconut were among the other products, but the amount of sugar produced, the numbers of its users, and the range of its uses exceeded the others; and it remained the principal product for centuries” (Mintz p. 38).

Thus, my relationship with chocolate in my formative years was neither abundant nor overindulgent and my view of sugar was entwined with stories of the colonized bodies of my ancestors. Still I was a child and I had a sweet tooth- like many others from the island-, which made my mother wearier of permitting me to have it out of fear I would become gluttonous, overweight, and doltish. With diabetes prevalent on both sides of the family there were lectures on the perils of sugar and my ultimate demise if I consumed too often. This was ingrained into my childhood. However, kids will be kids and I found ways to get chocolate whenever I could and hide it craftily. My morning tea was mostly sugar. This complicated relationship with chocolate and sugar during my childhood in the Caribbean continued into adulthood abroad.

Barbados is not like other islands in Caribbean for many reasons. First, it is a very small island, one of the smallest. Second, it is the most outside of the Caribbean strip of islands and more isolated with a population of less than 300,000 people. What it does have in common with places such as St. Lucia, Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent, and Jamaica is that they were also ensnared in European and British colonization of their bodies and land for crop production. Now while many of these islands have transformed this into strong chocolate tourism foundation that has begun to flourish in the recent decades along with traditional crops of the past, Barbados struggles to join this cash crop sector. On other islands everything from haute and terroir chocolate to cheap chocolate are being produced. They were able to embrace the agricultural aftermath of slavery to make cacao and sugar into a moneymaking industry that appeals strongly to Western conception of sophistication and acceptability. In contrast, Barbados in the aftermath as a sugar producing island, chose to set up shop as a strong island tourism base and minimize the sugar industry production along with the dark history that came with it. In addition, the island is simply too small to produce many of its own crops, cacao being one of them. This caused many confectionery and snack factories in Barbados to be purchased and moved to Trinidad and Tobago as demand grew.

Looking back, it seems ironic that I thought cheap chocolate was more of an iconic delicacy than it really was. For instance, a $1 Snickers bar in America cost ~$4 USD in Barbados so its value felt more significant. Hence, it is understandable to me now why such chocolate was considered a special treat, especially in a family that thought it a wasteful. Growing up in Barbados, I had literally never eaten chocolate made on the island or any of the surrounding islands. Some factories used our sugar but that was about it, so it seemed like chocolate was a foreign substance from far off lands.

The only exposure to “fine” chocolate I had in the Caribbean was Cadbury Chocolate, a British multinational confectionery company that dominates the island almost single-handedly. Among locals, it is either loved or hated and can oftentimes be highly political because of its connection to the UK. Many believe that Britain as a nation continues to claw its way into the island’s industry via companies such as Cadbury, thus control by the British crown continues invisibility and from afar. Cadbury Chocolate in an island once dominated by a hugely profitable sugar industry that exploited African slaves is a contentious past still being unpacked.

Cadbury can be found everywhere on the island. Although the price is significantly higher than other candy bars, locals love it and consider it more “high end”. Although in the past 5-10 years more variety and quality chocolate is coming into the island and locals are getting a real taste of what good chocolate can be. It can be more than milk chocolate and chocolate covered candy. It has been a slow process because in Barbados dark chocolate is uncommon and unpopular. That is why one of the calls to action by local Bajans (and already promoted by other surrounding islands) is taking advantage of the blooming interest by tourists to try locally made chocolate and and for locals to reclaim untold histories.

In that respect, the island is now revisiting the history of cacao and sugar and getting more involved with the booming industry. In 2010, Agapey Chocolate was founded in Barbados conveniently located at the capital of Bridgetown. It is the only chocolate company on the island and is the only bean to bar chocolate company in Barbados.

agapey-chocolate-factory

Although the company was not very well known at first, it has grown in popularity among tourist and locals are now also taking advantage of their delicacies. The company has won multiple international awards and went through the process of Fair Trade certification (Agapey 2018). They offer in-depth tours of the factory that explain how their chocolate is made and also the history of chocolate and the role of cacao and sugar in the Caribbean. It is a good example of changing attitudes towards dark chocolate and progress in using local ingredients like rum and coconut to stimulate the economy.

agapey-chocolates

An International Cultural Exploration of Chocolate and Sugar

When I journeyed across the North Atlantic Ocean and set up a new home in Somerville, Ma. I soon learned about the abundance of chocolate and its widespread availability for any and every occasion, or no occasion at all. My mind was blown. Now in this wondrous place, chocolate could be found in almost every store, market, gas station, etc. It is not rare or expensive. It can be very expensive with places like L.A Burdick’s or it can be cheap like a Snickers from CVS. With my mother back in Barbados, I had no restrictions on my chocolate or sugar intake and I swiftly sought to make up for lost time, eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. It was liberating; this was America. I ate so much candy my first months of arrival, I could not get enough. Sugar consumption was even more rampant and readily available in almost everything people consumed.

Retrospectively, Somerville turned out to be one of the best places in the U.S to get a real taste of a multicultural experience, including its cuisine, which made for a great exploration of the candied goods of other lands. There has been a long tradition of community building at the foundation of local revitalization and urban development in Somerville that took a great amount of pride in exposing neighbors to “food from back home”. For many longtime residents, organizing community-building initiatives at the neighborhood and local government level has been a strategic way to promote the city’s rich cultural diversity and mixed-income environment. It also created bridges to parts of the population that might otherwise face isolation from resources aimed to empower them to take agency in improving their own socio-economic condition, particularly immigrants and people of color. Food was used to bridge the divide.

One of the first events I attended to increase exposure to different cultures was an annual international food fair held at Somerville High School where all the food was made by students, staff, or donated by local businesses. My recollection of walking through the school’s gymnasium and sampling different foods from over 100+ countries and cultures represented was a lasting experience. My Brazilian friend took me over to a table where I had my first bon-bon, a chocolate covered wafer with more chocolate inside that is widely popular in Brazil and now internationally. Another friend showed me her homemade milky coconut cardamon treats of India. There was table after table with food that I had never tried before, a whole candy world outside of Snickers and Cadbury.

For my first Halloween, my friends who had been trained in this occasion advised me to ditch the Halloween bucket and grab an old pillowcase. A pillowcase I thought, how much candy could we possibly get? The answer to that was a lot, a pillowcase half way full equating to more than four of the buckets I was going to bring. Every holiday and special occasion involved candy and chocolate. In addition, because of Somerville’s immense international population, there was not just the typical American candy, but treats coming from all over the world. I became seasoned quickly on how, where, and when to get candy and what chocolate came from which country. Chocolate became a constant and a source of comfort as I adjusted to life in America. Chocolate was for sharing between friends, indulging with cousins, and for no occasion at all.

Not until college did I learn the meaning behind fair trade, direct trade, or bean to bar- thus my ignorance of chocolate started to unfold. As Maricel Presilla writes, “to know chocolate, you must know that the candy in the box or the chef’s creation on the plate begins with the bean, the complex genetic profile of different cacao strains” (Presilla, 2009, p. 4). So began my segway into learning about chocolate production and saying goodbye to Snickers for a bit. I wanted to know about chocolate beyond what popular culture had taught me and beyond what my childhood experiences had ingrained.

I became engrossed with learning about the history of chocolate. I went to Madrid, Spain where I drank chocolate for the first time. Discovered theobroma cacao comes from Greek and means “food of the gods”.  I learned that Spanish invaders took the word cacao and their first real knowledge of cacao came from the Maya people of the Yucatan Peninsula. They used the word chokola’j, or ‘to drink together’. (Presilla, 2009, p. 10-12) and chocolate is amount one of the bastardized words created because it was easier for Europeans to pronounce. There I saw that even from the naming of cacao that history of chocolate was written and known mostly from a western-centric point of view and that influence continues today. I needed a different more authentic understanding of chocolate and kept traveling. I visited Tlaxcala, a sovereign state in Mexico with a strong connection to its complex history with cacao. There I used a molinillo for the first time- a whisking device to make cacao frothy- and drank a cup of chocolate that I helped prepare using traditional Mexican tools like the metate.

The story of how cacao developed from a sacred drink to the industrialized food that it is today is a complex history that dates back thousands of years. The story of how sugar production exploded in the Caribbean is also connected to the history of cacao. The bodies of black and brown people were used for European gain as was the land. Today, this history can be very complicated for the generations that followed. My relationship with chocolate and sugar has evolved overtime from a child in Barbados to a teen in America, to a traveler of the world. As my own understanding of these topics continues to expand, I will continue to enjoy these goods the best I can and keep educating myself on the topic.

Work Cited:

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

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 28 Feb. 2018. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin, 1985. Print.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA, 2009. Print.

“On Barbados, the First Black Slave Society” via AAIHS. Here is the website link: https://www.aaihs.org/on-barbados-the-first-black-slave-society/.

http://www.agapey.com/

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-ushistory1ay/chapter/consumption-and-trade-in-the-british-atlantic/

Images (in order):

“Planting the sugar-cane” (Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library).

“Slaves Wanted” Advertisement for the Island of Barbados (Credit: Lascelles Slavery Archive)

“Sugar Plantation Barbados, Carting Sugar Canes To The Mill”  W. L. Johnson & Co. Ltd., Barbados. No. 15

Agapey Chocolate Factory Website Photos (Credit: agapey.com)

A century of breaking molds: the women of (Göttle u.) Ritter Sport

“Research from Harvard University, the World Bank, McKinsey, Solidaridad and Oxfam, to name but a few, shows that adding more women to any process results in improved innovation, teamwork, profits and overall positive impact.”



Unfortunately, it seems that the people organizing the Women in Cocoa and Chocolate Forum at last month’s World Cocoa Conference held in Berlin, Germany forgot to share this tidbit of information with the folks inviting speakers to the conference. Not a single woman made the list of keynote speakers, but interestingly, one of the first presentations on sustainability was made by the CEO of the German company, Ritter Sport. IMG_20180509_212657054_LL - Edited.jpgRitter Sport Chocolate has played the capitalist game successfully for over 100 years, repeatedly ending up ahead of the curve of trends in the volatile chocolate industry, most notably now in innovations made on its cacao farm in Nicaragua. The company has been shaped by the contributions of two women, founder Clara Göttle Ritter, a businesswoman at a time when that was quite unusual, and granddaughter Marli Hoppe-Ritter whose longterm vision of environmental and social justice warrants a close look when the consequences of centuries of profit-taking threaten to take an irreversible toll on the very environment that sustains us.

The chocolate industry has always been dependent on a supply chain fraught with iniquity.  Chocolate does not carry this dubious distinction alone but does provide a rather stark example of the pattern of the global north enjoying the literal fruits of the labor of the global south, undercompensated at best, or outright coerced. While the seeds of the fruit of the cacao tree, the raw material required for the manufacture of the chocolate products that the global north enjoys, are by necessity produced in a narrow band on either side of the equator, it is the unexamined traditions of our capitalist system which has allowed the industry to perpetuate a pattern of inequities. But even Big Chocolate recognizes the need for change. “Business as usual in the cocoa sector is no longer an option,” declared the Executive Director of the ICCO, Dr. Jean-Marc Anga, at the opening of the conference in Berlin. “We have to break the mould,” he asserted. Screenshot 2018-05-09 at 11.34.58 PM - EditedBusiness as usual, as practiced by the companies that produce the vast majority of mass market chocolate products, is finally being recognized by the industry as a whole as morally untenable now that environmental and social conditions threaten the supply of cheap cacao.

The last two decades have seen a growing number of consumers and entrepreneurs demand a kind of transparency that Big Chocolate traditional has not been interested in providing. In the US, craft chocolate makers, starting with Scharffen Berger in 1996, have been (re-)introducing American chocolate consumers to the idea that chocolate does not have to be a mass-produced commodity, but rather can be an artisanal product appreciated for the qualities the origin of the beans brings to its flavor and the skill of all the craftspeople involved in its production.  At the same time, awareness of and demand for fair trade practices increased among consumers, leading many craft chocolate makers (like Taza Chocolate and more recently Goodnow Farms) to seek out direct trade relationships with growers and use those relationships not only as a source of quality beans and a marketing tool but also as a sincere attempt at making the world a better place.

But despite the growth of the craft chocolate sector and the impact individual efforts can make on individual farmers (and farming cooperatives), that impact has barely affected the system as a whole, dominated as it is by Big Chocolate. Following Hershey’s acquisition of the Scharffen Berger brand in 2005, many lamented the seeming inevitability of the “swallowing” up of craft quality and personal accountability in the world of chocolate. Mergers between companies and acquisitions of successful competitors are an inherent part of late capitalism as practiced today.  But is there another model – a model that allows for the efficiencies of scale of a large company while still retaining the personality and values of a small one? Is it possible to be a capitalist, to build a global company, and yet function in a way that prioritizes values other than quarterly profits, that isn’t “business as usual”?  

This is the question that journalist Hannes Koch asks in his 2008 expose about Marli Hoppe-Ritter in taz, 1970’s Berlin’s version of (or answer to) The Village Voice.  His answer seems to be yes, if “social capitalism” is possible, Hoppe-Ritter might be the one to lead the way.  But she is the heir, not only to the Ritter fortune, but to ideas hatched much earlier.

Today, Ritter Sport’s square bars are ubiquitous all over Germany, with estimates of market share of sales of 100 g. bars hovering just above 20%, tied for first with or a close second to Milka’s bars. Estimated by Candy Industry as making $536 million in net sales annually, Ritter registers as a mere blip in chocolate sales statistics in a world dominated by huge conglomerates but the company makes no pretensions about being a niche producer. Ritter wants to be a global player and is expanding its marketing reach. Until just a few years ago, you were most likely to find Ritter Sport bars in the US in “ethnic” grocers or vaguely gourmet corner stores. Now there is evidence of Ritter’s international growth in almost every grocery store and many pharmacies. For a glimpse into the variety that Ritter makes available in Germany, you still have to go to a specialty store here in the US, but it is clear that Ritter unapologetically makes a mass market product, distinguishing itself by creating a flavor for every taste, packaged in a rainbow of colors, and sold at an accessible price.

IMG_20180419_143256214 (1) - EditedThe panoramic array of Ritter Sport bars at Karl’s Sausage Kitchen and European Market in Peabody, Massachusetts

The founder

The Ritter company did not always aspire to mass production and global sales.  The history given on the company’s website is short and sweet, indicating that the first Ritter-made chocolates were made after Clara and Alfred Ritter married in 1912. Technically, that may have been true – or not – , but what is clear is that Clara’s experience as a business woman, and as a seller of chocolate predates their marriage.  According to historian Karin de la Roi-Frey, Clara Göttle already had over a decade of experience selling chocolate to the well-heeled spa clientele in the Swabian town of Cannstatt when she married master pastry chef, Alfred Eugen Ritter. Stuttgart-Cannstatt, like a number of other German cities, was a Schokoladenmetropole – a “chocolate metropolis” – with (at least) three solidly established chocolate factories that were founded in the mid-nineteenth century and were locally and nationally famous.  De la Roi-Frey describes Clara’s unusual apprenticeship in the grocery business (at a time when women did not generally train for a trade) and her determination to set up shop on her own, selling luxurious chocolate, luxuriously wrapped to spa-goers. The first evidence I found of Clara’s professional activities was at Marktstrasse 61 in 1910.Göttle 1910 Marktstrasse 61 - Edited At the time of their marriage, Clara was already 35, Alfred her junior by eight years. In 1912, her last name changes to “Ritter” on the listing in the address book, and in 1913 “Klara” disappears from the written record, replaced on paper by her husband’s name. Clara’s name may have disappeared but her business acumen and successful chocolate and candy shop on Marktstrasse were essential to the success of the partnership that would grow into Ritter Sport Chocolate. In 1914, another store was added, near the train station, presumably capitalizing on rested, departing spa visitors who needed gifts to bring home to their family and friends.

Sister of mystery: Another Göttle woman, Clara’s sister, Josephine, is mentioned once in de la Roi-Frey’s book, as having also taken the business-apprentice route, unusual for a woman. Josephine appears for two years (’11 and ’12) as the proprietor of a chocolate shop at the same Bahnhofstrasse address where Alfred opens the second store in 1914.  I wonder what happened to Josephine.  Who occupied the space in 1913?  Did she have to sell her business?  Did she get married and stop working?  Was she around to help out her sister during the war years?

 

De la Roi-Frey describes that with the outbreak of WWI in July of 1914, Alfred was conscripted into the army, but she neglects to note that Clara not only held down the fort at both the old and new stores while her husband was away, but also managed the care of the couple’s first (and only surviving) child, who was born the same year, when she was 37. The story goes that Alfred, after serving for two years in the army in WWI, was conscripted to work in one of the chocolate factories in the area, Stänger u. Ziller, to make the chocolate bars that were included as fortification in care packages sent to soldiers at the front. It was during what was essentially a second apprenticeship that Alfred learned to work with the chocolate that his wife’s business was based upon. So, again, I’d like to point out that Clara was the one who kept the family businesses running until the end of the war! 

The products of 3 of the 4 Stuttgart-area chocolate factories one can imagine Clara Göttle sold in her store in 1910 still exist today although they have been “swallowed” by other companies. Waldbaur Katzenzungen only recently lost the Waldbaur name, now made by Sarotti, which is a division of Stollwerck, which was in turn bought by Baronie in 2011. Stängel u. Ziller’s Eszet chocolate wafers (the  breakfast alternative ?!) are similarly made by Stollwerck/Baronie while Moser-Roth brand chocolates are now made by Storck.

 

After the war, Alfred experimented with his pastry expertise and his new chocolate skills at home, to the delight of neighborhood children and the rest, as they say, is history.  Their first product seems to have been three flavors of filled bars under the brand name “Alrika” (from Alfred Ritter, Cannstatt). Alfred and ClaraScreenshot 2018-05-06 at 12.40.34 PM - Edited were not alone in dabbling in chocolate after WWI. There was a huge boom in chocolate manufacturers in Germany in the 1920’s, with the number almost doubling from 180 to 350. The Stuttgart-Cannstatt area outdid the national average by tripling its number of chocolate manufacturers from the four established chocolate factories in Stuttgart-Cannstatt multiplied to at least twelve in 1925

Whether or not the headstart Alfred and Clara had from Clara’s experience from before the war helped them weather the hyperinflation and the depression of the late 1920’s, I don’t know, but at any rate, their business not only survived but thrived to the point of needing a bigger workspace. In 1930, they moved their factory to the small town of Waldenbuch but the big marketing inspiration that has sustained the company ever since didn’t come until 1932 when Clara supposedly realized that a square chocolate bar in a sports jacket was less likely to break.  Ritter Sportschokolade was born.

De la Roi-Frey reports that Clara and Alfred’s granddaughter, Marli, remembered her grandfather as a gourmet who relished the creative activities of developing (and eating) new products.  Her grandmother, on the other hand, lived for the business and the people who worked there. She instituted a profit-sharing program and benefits for the company’s workers in the early 1950’s. The company became “family” but her largess extended to myriad others who, both during the Nazi regime and in the post-war period did not fair as well as she.

The heir

Unlike her grandmother, Marli Hoppe-Ritter did not have to fight the social norms of her youth to sell chocolate. She was born into the selling of chocolate. Neither she nor her younger brother were particularly enthused about the prospect of entering the family business. Coming of age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, issues of social and environmental justice were closer to their hearts.  Their father, Alfred Otto is credited with getting the company over the 1970’s “merger hump” (that we have seen the other Stuttgart chocolate companies succumb to), at least partially by the introduction of the brightly colored flavor-coded packaging Ritter Sport is recognized by today.  But upon his passing in 1974, outside leadership was hired that threatened at least somewhat socially responsible mission of the company and, according to Koch’s article, that was when the sibling staged a management coup and took over control.

The circumstances of why Hoppe-Ritter made her first trip to the village of Waslala in the mountains north of Matagalpa in Nicaragua are not obvious, but thus began Ritter Sport’s 30-year attempt to source Nicaraguan chocolate equitably.  Ritter Sport is not shy about publicizing the effort of organizing the Cacaonica cooperative in Waslala and then later building a fermenting and drying station outside of Matagalpa. But it doesn’t take much to read between the PR lines and see that the project did not have either the social benefits nor the sourcing results that Hoppe-Ritter was hoping for.  In the 2008 article, Koch writes that in a year the Waslala-Matagalpa project supplied Ritter Sport with a “homeopathic dose” of cacao beans, and that 99% of Ritter Sports cacao was still bought as a bulk commodity on the world market.

In 2011, the company took another tack and bought 2500 hectares of deforested land on the Kama river in the RAAS, the other autonomous, sparsely populated, state on the eastern side of Nicaragua.  This incarnation of the company’s efforts at what they are now calling “sustainability”, direct sourcing of cacao Ritter’s own farm in Nicaragua, was featured in a presentation by current Ritter CEO, Andreas Ronken, at the conference in Berlin last week and is expected to supply around 30% of the company’s cacao needs. “Purchasing land and becoming involved in the sustainable cultivation of cocoa is the most effective way for a medium-sized company like RITTER SPORT to have maximum influence over the ecological and social conditions in cocoa cultivation.”

As described in various articles on Ritter Sport’s German-language blog, having complete control over the conditions on the farm, really is allowing them to bring some of the positive aspects of a successful capitalist enterprise to the business of sourcing cacao: they are providing stable employment to, at least, a cadre of full-time workers; they are able to control quality by training those workers; they are building infrastructure in an area that has up to now been accessible only by boat or plane; they are reforesting in a region that has been plagued by clearcutting for grazing (and possibly laundering of drug cartel money); and they are able to experiment, both with agricultural practices and processing technology, bringing efficiencies of scale and ideas of industrial safety, that heretofore were not a feature of cacao growing. The “fruitcutter” below is one such innovation, eliminating the need for hand-wielded machetes out of at least one part of cacao processing.

fruchtschneider

Interestingly, unlike on Ritter’s website where the idea of “sustainability” is linked exclusively to social and environmental responsibility, at the Berlin conference, the title of Ronken’s presentation is unabashedly “Sustainable Consumption: The Ritter Sport Model (from Nicaragua) for Improving Cocoa and Chocolate Sales”. On the website, consumers are assured that they can eat Ritter Sport chocolate bars “with a clear conscience”:Screenshot 2018-05-09 at 7.06.23 PM - Edited

But among their peers (and admittedly with the Nicaraguan press), typical concerns of the capitalist system come to the fore: it is possible to appease the “conscious consumer” while also controlling both quality and production costs.

It is easy to be cynical about the fanfare with which Ritter Sport announced this past January that the company had achieved it “100% sustainable” sourcing goals two years ahead of time, given the nebulous definition of “sustainable”, as it is easy to be cynical when connecting the dots between the language used on their consumer-oriented website and that used at an industry conference, but I think there is a core to the mission at Ritter Sport that other companies would do well to emulate.  Nicko Debenham, head of sustainability at Barry Callebaut talks about “[overcoming] the cultural problem in the company”, the problem being the need to make a commitment to “think very long-term”. Ritter Sport does not have this “cultural problem”; the ability to think long-term has been an integral part of the company’s DNA from the beginning and the two women, Clara Göttle and Marli Hoppe-Ritter have been instrumental in making this a reality.

We are all heirs to a system that was built on iniquity.  It is right and necessary that as consumers we demand transparency from the companies that sell us both our necessities and our luxuries, as it is right and necessary for us as producers to expect and demand just compensation for our labor. These responsibilities are the burden of our inheritance, and they fall most heavily on the shoulders of those of us who benefit the most from the system as it exists today. Perhaps if we bear it conscientiously, all of our children and grandchildren will be heirs to a system in which north and south are afforded equitably distributed opportunities for life, education, liberty, art, happiness . . . and chocolate.

Works referenced:

https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2018/02/05/What-is-sustainable-cocoa-under-the-Swiss-chocolate-industry-pledge#

____. Geschichte Übersicht: von 1918 bis heute. Retrieved from https://www.theobroma-cacao.de/wissen/geschichte/1918-bis-heute/

____. various articles from the German language Ritter Sport blog.  Retrieved from http://www.ritter-sport.de/blog/

de la Roi-Frey, Karin. Mutig, erfolgreich und gut: Vier schwäbische Unternehmerinnen. Mühlacker: Stieglitz Verlag 2012.

Koch, H. (2008, Feb. 22) Portrait der Ritter Sport-Chefin: Quadratisch. Practisch. Fair. Retrieved from http://www.taz.de/!5186217/

Lubow, A (2009, Nov. 21) My Chocolate Meltdown. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/opinion/22lubow.html

Shankar, D (2017, Feb. 7) Little Chocolate’s Big Moment. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-07/the-rise-of-craft-chocolate

 

The Sticky and Complicated Future of Chocolate

the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.”[1] ― Sarah Vowell

Humorist Sarah Vowell captures much of the history of chocolate (and coffee) in this little quip. However, the history of chocolate is long and its social, economic, and political implications are vast. Putting the positive impacts of invention aside, the negative impacts of imperialism and consumerism more than linger. They have resulted in gross economic inequities and lasting environmental and social damage, particularly in the production end of the cocoa supply chain. It’s going to take the force of consumerism and capitalism to right these inequalities and bring about sustainability.

Approximately 70% of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa by small farms spread out across the area. In the 1980s cocoa farmers received approximately 16% of the chocolate profits, today this percentage has been greatly reduced to 3%.[2] Cocoa farmers are not organized and have little bargaining power against more organized buyers.

Profit shared on cocoa supply chain
Figure 1: Farmers share of chocolate profits is small and has been in decline since the 1980s when global cacao prices were regulated. In the 1980s farmers were receiving around 16% of the chocolate profits. Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture. [3]
The 2018 Cocoa Barometer highlights the many challenges for cacao farmers, including volatile pricing. From September 2016 – February 2017, farmers experienced a 30%-40% decline in income (Ghana farmers were protected by this price drop through government subsidies). Although prices are on the rise again, the overall trend the past 60 years is a decline in prices (see figure 2). With farmers having little, to no, protection from their governments they are hardest hit by market fluctuations, while others on the value chain will see an increase of their profit margins, even if only temporary.[4]

2018 Cocoa Barometer Long-term cocoa price trends
Figure 2: The average production of Ivorian cocoa in the seasons 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 was around 1,600,000 metric tonnes (mt). Cocoa production in 2016/17 and 1017/18 is around 2,000,000 mt, an increase of about 400,000 mt. (ICCO Quarterly Bulletins) The overproduction in 2016/17 was around 300,000 metric tonnes, according to the ICCO Quarterly Bulletin, Volume XLIV no 1, page 50, table 1.[5] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018.http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf
Farmers in West Africa make well below a living wage of $2.51 per day, averaging $0.78 per day (FairTrade).[6] The Cocoa Barometer asserts that the price drops are directly related to improved production due to new farming areas created from deforestation. More than 90% of West Africa’s original forests are gone.

An estimated 2.1 million children work in West African cocoa fields. Structural issues such as poverty, lack of schools, and infrastructure also contribute to the high levels of child labor.[7] Efforts in the past few decades to end child labor, preserve the environment, and to balance these inequities have been challenging and difficult to measure. Currently, third party certification bodies have been the only levers toward implementing and measuring sustainability efforts as well as signals to consumers as to where, and how, their chocolate products are sourced.

Major Certification Bodies
Three major certification bodies associated with cocoa. Note Utz and Rainforest Alliance has merged and will announce new standards in late 2019 for the New Rainforest Alliance.

The three main certification entities are Fairtrade, Utz and the Rainforest Alliance. Fairtrade Standards are designed to support the sustainable development of small producer organizations and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the world.[8] Similarly, Utz certification was created to show consumers that products were sustainably sourced. Rainforest Alliance certification meant farmers met rigorous environmental and social standards.[9] In January 2018, Utz merged with the Rainforest Alliance. The New Rainforest Alliance plans to publish a singular program at the end of 2019.[10]

Certification and bean-to-bar efforts in the specialty chocolate market have many success stories, but compared to the global consumption of chocolate, these efforts have only made a dent.[11] The Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) reports, with caveats intended to illustrated the challenges of obtaining this data, that there are 481 specialty chocolate makers and manufacturers worldwide that represent approximately 6% of the annual global production of cacao.

International Cocoa Organization, ICCO, ultrapremium cacao, fine cacao, bulk, certified
Figure 3: Ultrapremium fine and Fine cacao comprises 246,000 tonnes (6%) of the 4,031,200 tonnes of cacao produced annually (ICCO 2015). [12]
The FCCI defines this market segment as those chocolate makers and manufacturers that choose to purchase specialty cacao at a premium price for purposes of taste quality and/or sustainability reasons.[13] Within this small group, sustainability is but a factor in paying the price premium, but not necessarily a primary factor. In order for sustainability initiatives to have any meaningful impact to cocoa farmers the major chocolate manufacturers need to take the lead and invest in best practices throughout their supply chain that address the environmental, social, and economic challenges their farmers face.

Cocoa Barometer, Certified Cocoa, 2017, Mondelez International, Nestle, Mars, Hersheys, Ferrero, Lindt und Sprungli
Figure 4. Data kindly provided by the companies. Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

Recent Commitments by the Majors / Certifications & Goals

Mondelēz International (a subsidiary of Kraft)
Chocolate Brands: Cadbury, Alpen Gold, Côte d’Or, Toblerone, etc.
Certification provided by FLOCERT through a private labeling partnership.

In 2012 Mondelēz International invested $400 million to create its Cocoa Life program. The program plans to empower 200,000 cocoa farmers and one million community members by 2022. In April 2018 Mondelēz International reported that they have reached 120,500 cocoa farmers, in a variety of programs and they reached 35% certified cocoa.[14]

Mondelēz  International, Cocoa for Life, 2017 Progress
Figure 5: Cocoa Life infographic showing Mondelēz 2017 Progress in Numbers. Includes increases in sustainably sourced cocoa and reach to farmers and communities from previous year.[15]
Cocoa Life is tied to the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), with an emphasis on Goals 1 (no poverty), among others. Cocoa Life has partnered with local governments and NGOs to build community-centric Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS), which educate farming communities on the dangers of child labor, identify children at risk, and remediate cases with its local partners. Cocoa Life CLMRS programs have started in Ghana and continue to increase. Roll out of CLMRS in Côte d’Ivoire will begin in 2018. Nestlé has also implemented CLMRS program into its sustainability programs.[16]

Mondelēz, CLMRS, 2017
Figure 6: Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) deployed by Mondelēz International in 2017 with plans to ramp up in 2018.[17] Mondelēz International. Cocoa Life 2017 Progress Report: From Cocoa Farmers to Consumers Connection Both Ends of the Supply Chain. P. 21. April 2018. Web. April 2018. https://www.cocoalife.org/~/media/CocoaLife/en/download/article/Cocoa_Life_Progress_Report_2017.pdf

Nestlé
Chocolate Brands: Smarties, Nestlé Crunch, Butterfinger, KitKat, etc.
Certifications: Utz and Fairtrade

In their detailed, first report (2017), co-authored with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), Nestlé asserts that certification is not enough and that additional support for the farmer is needed. In fact, Nestlé asserts that certification drove the issue of child labor “underground” as farmers would hide any child laborers when inspectors came around.[18] While Mondelēz set up CLMRS in Ghana, Nestlé set up its CLMRS in Côte d’Ivoire and report a 51% reduction of child labor in a recent sample of 1,056 children over a two-year period. [19]

Nestle, Child Labour, Child Labor, 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report
Figure 7: Nestlé targets child labor by its Child Labor and Monitor Remediation Systems (CLMRS) in Côte d’Ivoire. Nestlé hopes to scale the successful parts of the program to meet the goals of its Cocoa Plan.[20]
Nestlé is also investing in Community Liaison People (CLPs) to educate the community of the dangers of child labor. They are targeting women and mothers as they are more likely to invest their income and education into their family. The CLPs are local young people who are paid to train and the cost of the CLPs are split between Nestlé and the farmer. Remediation is highly individualized, but these activities are ones Nestlé continues to invest.[21] Nestlé hopes to scale their more successful initiatives to meet the goals of its Cocoa Plan, which is set to reach 57% cocoa certification by the end of 2020.

Nestle, CLMRS, Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System, ICI, International Cocoa Initiative
Figure 8: An overview of how Nestlé’s Childe Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) works by engaging the community, assigning monitors, monitoring, reporting, validation, analysis, recommends remediation, remediation carried out by partners, monitoring continues ensure remediation is carried out.[22]  Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.23 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf
Nestle, Cocoa Plan, CLMRS, Certified Cocoa
Figure 9: Infographic on Nestlé Cocoa Plan Challenges and Ambitions in CLMRS program reach and tonnes of certified cocoa.[23] Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.49 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf

Ferrero
Chocolate Brands: Ferrero Pralines, Nutella, Kinder Chocolate
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.[24]

According to its 2016 Social Responsibility Report Ferrero has made a commitment to 100% certified cacao by 2020 and 75% by the end of 2018.[25]

Ferrero, Sustainability Report, Certified Cocoa
Figure 10: Ferrero touts its success toward reaching its certification goals.[26] Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 170 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf
In its April 2018 Cocoa Barometer reports Ferrero is 70% certified (figure 4), and by its own reporting, on track to meet its goal of 75% cocoa certification (figure 10).

Ferrero reports partnerships with cacao cooperative ECOOKIM, the largest in Côte d’Ivoire, which takes part in the Fairtrade Africa program “It Takes a Village to Protect a Child.” Similar to CLMRS, the program establishes a Child Labor Committee to raise awareness about child labor, create child protection policy, and monitor activity at the community level. Ferrero reports that 9,413 children benefitted from this program. [27]

Ferrero also works with Save the Children to work toward ending child labor. It reports 1.2 million children are forced to work in hazardous conditions, however, Ferrero has set relatively modest goals of reaching 500 children, 7,500 members of 10 communities, and 100 representatives of local institutions.[28]

Ferrero, Save the Children, Cocoa, Sustainability, Community Development
Figure 11: Ferrero reports modest results on in their efforts to address child labor.[29]   Source: Save the Children, December 2016 – Protection des enfants vulnérables dans les communautés productrices de cacao dans le département de Soubré en Côte d’Ivoire – Ajournement pour Ferrero. Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 182 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf
In January Ferrero announced it planned to acquire Nestlé’s U.S. confectionary business for $2.8 billion in cash making Ferrero the third largest confectionary company in the U.S.[30] It is anticipated that Ferrero will realign their sustainability goals after the acquisition of Nestlé, but their goals are currently similar.

The Hershey Company
Popular Chocolate Brands: Hershey’s Chocolate Bar, Cocoa, Kisses, and Baking chocolates, Kit Kat, Almond Joy, Mounds, Reese’s, York.
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.[31]

Hershey, Open source map, cocoa farms, sustainability, transparency
Figure 12: Hershey Source Map for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Pictured above is a zoomed in version of W. Africa. Users can zoom in and view the name of Cocoa Coop, educational location, or an area they obtain cocoa. The map also shows locations around the world for ingredients such as milk and sugar, plus other sources of chocolate in South American. Hershey also has a source map for its Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almond Bars. [32] https://open.sourcemap.com/maps/589e10c1e4bac0b357bc3d5f
Hershey, Sustainablity Goal
Figure 13: Hershey reports its on track to reach its goal of 100% certified cocoa by 2020.[37]   The Hershey Company. 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. 2017. Web. April 30, 2018. p. 27. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/dam/corporate-us/documents/csr-reports/2016-hershey-csr-report.pdf
In its 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, The Hershey Company highlights progress in their Learn to Grow agriculture and empowerment program, serving 48,300 farmers in West Africa.[33] The report also highlights its Energize Learning program, which provides Vivi energy bars to students improving overall nutrition. The program is a partnership with the Ghana School Feeding Program and Project Peanut Butter and 50,000 kids in Ghana receive 50,000 Vivi bars every day.[34] Hershey also partnered with The World Cocoa Foundation’s (WCF) Climate Smart Cocoa Program to address climate change impacts to cocoa growing regions. The partnership will pilot a series of programs to develop “climate-smart” best practices to inform the Learn to Grow curriculum and through Hershey’s CocoaLink program knowledge sharing between farmers will be allowed via low-cost mobile technology.[35] Hershey’s report indicates that it is on schedule to reach its 100% certified goal by 2020.[36] In April 2018 the Cocoa Baramoter reports Hershey reached 75% (see figure 4). Also in April 2018, Hershey announced the creation of its Cocoa for Good sustainability programs

Beyond certification, Cocoa for Good seeks to address the most pressing issues facing cocoa-growing communities. The strategy is to target four key areas: increase family access to good nutrition, elimination of child labor and increase youth access to education opportunities, increase household incomes for women and men, zero deforestation and increased agroforestry. The announcement came with a $500 million commitment by 2030 and like Mondelēz International and Mars, aligns its strategy to contribute to the goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.[38]

Mars
Chocolate Brands include: M&M, Snickers, Twix, Dove, Milky Way, etc.
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.

In September of 2017, Mars announced its Sustainable in a Generation Plan, with a pledge to invest $1 billion over the next few years to address threats such as climate change, poverty in its value chain, and scarcity of resources.[39] This is across all their raw products, not just cocoa. Oxfam will serve as an advisor to their Farmer Income Lab, which aligns with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal 1 (no poverty). The Farmer Income Lab will seek to create solutions through research for farmers working in Mars’ supply chain in developing countries.[40] Other actions include improving cocoa farming methods, pests and disease prevention, and unlocking the cocoa genome.[41] Engagement with others actors in the cocoa industry is also key, such as the World Cocoa Foundation and CocoaAction. Mars’ Chief Sustainability & Health and Wellbeing Officer, Barry Parkin, also serves as Chairman of World Cocoa Foundation.

Mars, Cocoa Sustainability
Figure 14: Mars identifies that 5 million cocoa farmers are impacted, but focuses mainly on addressing technology issues in farmer in a belief it will fix the social challenges that farmers face, such as a extreme poverty, child labor, and infrastructure concerns included in other sustainability plans.[47]
Mars may lay claim as the first major chocolate company to commit to 100% certified chocolate by 2020, but its progress has lagged, reporting 50% of their cocoa being certified in 2016[42] and the same percentage being reported by the cocoa barometer in 2018 (figure 4). During this same time frame Ferrero and Hershey have demonstrated increases in certification of cocoa reporting 70% and 75% certificated cocoa, respectively (figure 4).[43] Their website lacks a corporate social responsibility report and the information available on their site appears to be written in 2016, except for recent press releases and Income Position Statement.[44] For example Mars’ claim to be the only major manufacturer to work with all three major certification organizations Utz, Rainforest Alliance, and Fairtrade International is outdated.[45] Hershey and Ferrero include these bodies in their 2016 sustainability reports.

Until the recent announcement of Sustainable in a Generation Plan, Mars’ approach, as described on their website, leans more toward improving farmer yield through technology (fertilizer, farming techniques, mapping the cacao genome) than increasing living wages and address child labor. A press release by Frank Mars in April 2018 urges collaborative scientific approach and extolls their work on breeding higher yield cocoa plants for improving farmer incomes.[46] However, higher yields do not always improve farmer incomes. As previously mentioned, the recent Cocoa Barometer report suggests that higher production results in driving down price, thus less income for farmers. Perhaps Mars’ real progress is tied to the progress of the World Cocoa Foundation.

World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and CocoaAction

CocoaAction is a voluntary industry-wide organization that aligns the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies, cocoa producing governments, and key stakeholders on regional priority issues in cocoa sustainability run by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). The WCF member companies committed to CocoaAction include Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Ferrero, The Hershey Company, Mars, Incorporated, among others.[48] In November of 2017 a Framework of Action was announced by the WCF with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and major chocolate and cocoa companies to end deforestation, restore forest areas, and accelerate investment in long-term sustainable production of cocoa, and the development and capacity-building of farmers’ organizations and farmer’s income. Commitments also include participation of policy creation by farmers and extensive monitoring and reporting. The Framework of Action involves governments and companies that represent 80% of the global cocoa production and usage.[49] If implemented correctly, these commitments should go a long way in repairing the deforestation in West Africa. 

The Future of Chocolate

These efforts are welcome and it is promising that the majors can successfully  collaborate with governments, NGOs, and each other in the important effort to secure the future of chocolate and those that produce it. It is also encouraging to see the major manufacturers release sustainability reports, however, as barometer.org reports, many of their commitments fall well short compared to the actual scope of the problem. The commitment to reach 400,000 children by 2020 would only impact 18% of children in need (figure 15). Similarly meeting commitments to help farmers in CocoaAction would only reach 15% of farmers in need (figure 15). Regarding living income, farmers are only making $0.78 per day, 31% of the living wage of $2.51 per day (figure 15). The Cocoa Barometer report stresses that a living wage, among other factors, is a major component that these initiatives must include in their sustainability initiatives. From available data, all reports aspire to improve farmer income, either by improving productivity or identifying additional income generating activities. However, these plans do not set a living wage as a goal. As mentioned earlier in this article more production doesn’t always result in more income.

Cocoa Barometer, Scale of solutions vs problem, Cocoa Sustainability, CLMRS, CocoaAction, Cocoa Farmer
Figure 15: Scale of solutions vs. scope of the problem. The data for this infographic was publicly available in the case of CocoaAction and Fairtrade. The International Cocoa Initiative graciously provided their data. The authors of the Barometer do not wish to imply that these organisations are doing an insufficient job, but simply that the scale of the interventions chosen by the sector as a whole are dwarfed by the size of the challenges.[50]   Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf
The future of chocolate depends on the fate of cocoa farmers and their fate relies on untangling a mess of social and economic issues caused by imperialism, and exacerbated by free market capitalism and consumerism. The goals set forth in these reports are generally headed in the right direction, but their success is dependent on their ability to make their initiatives successful, then scale up on that success. Accountability and transparency among the industry and at the government level is also paramount to measure the effects of these initiatives. Consumers also have a role in making responsible purchases and applying pressure on corporations and governments to minimize inequality in the supply chain and certification plays an important role. If farmers continue to be marginalized, then there will be little incentive for a younger generation of farmers to take up the trade and chocolate may become a rare treat indeed.

 

Works Cited:

[1] Vowell, Sarah. The Partly Cloudy Patriot. Simon & Schuster. New York, New York. October 2002. p. 42

[2] Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. Web. p. 11. April 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[5] Ibid. p. 52.

[6] Ibid. p. 6.

[7] Ibid. p. 3.

[8] Fairtrade. Aims of Fairtrade Standards. Web. May 8, 2018. https://www.fairtrade.net/standards/aims-of-fairtrade-standards.html

[9] The Rainforest Alliance. What Our Seal Means. Web. May 8, 2018. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/

[10] Utz. Joining Forces: Utz and the Rainforest Alliance. April 24, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. https://utz.org/merger/#QA_merger

[11] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. p. 6. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[12] Martin, Carla. “Sizing the craft chocolate market.” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (blog). August 31. 2017. Web. April 25, 2018. https://chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Mondelēz International. Cocoa Life 2017 Progress Report: From Cocoa Farmers to Consumers Connection Both Ends of the Supply Chain. P. 2. April 2018. Web. April 2018. https://www.cocoalife.org/~/media/CocoaLife/en/download/article/Cocoa_Life_Progress_Report_2017.pdf

[15] Ibid. p. 5

[16] Ibid. p. 21

[17] Ibid. p. 21

[18] Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.24 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf

[19] Ibid. p. 22

[20] Nestlé. Introducing our first report on tackling child labour in cocoa. Web. April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/

[21] Ibid. 37

[22] Ibid. p. 23

[23] Ibid. p. 49

[24] Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 171 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf

[25] Ibid. p. 170

[26] Ibid. p. 170

[27] Ibid. 175

[28] Ibid. p. 181

[29] Ibid. 182

[30] Ferrero. Ferrero to Acquire Nestlé’s U.S. Confectionary Business. January 16, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. https://www.ferrero.com/group-news/

[31] The Hershey Company. Our Certified Ingredients. Web. April 30, 2018. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/responsibility/good-business/responsible-sourcing.html

[32] Hershey. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds Open Source Map. Zoom View. Web. April 2018. https://open.sourcemap.com/maps/589e10c1e4bac0b357bc3d5f

[33] The Hershey Company. 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. 2017. Web. April 30, 2018. p. 11. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/dam/corporate-us/documents/csr-reports/2016-hershey-csr-report.pdf

[34] Ibid. p. 23

[35] Ibid. p. 12

[36] Ibid. p. 27

[37] Ibid. p. 27

[38] Hershey. Hershey Announces Cocoa For Good, the Company’s Half-billion Dollar Sustainable Cocoa Strategy. April 4, 2018. Web. April 30, 2018. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/corporate/en_us/news-center/news-detail.html?2340764

[39] Mars. Unveiling Our Sustainble in a Generation Plan. Sept. 5, 2017. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/newsroom/unveiling-our-sustainable-in-a-generation-plan

[40] Farmers Income Lab. Challenges. Web. May 9, 2018. https://www.farmerincomelab.com/

[41] Mars. Income Position Statement: The Current Situation. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/about-us/policies-and-practices/income-position-statement

[42] Mars. Caring for the Future of Cocoa Out Approach. 2016. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[43] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[44] Mars. Caring for the Future of Cocoa Out Approach. 2016. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[45] Ibid.

[46] Mars. Frank Mars Calls for the Cocoa Industry to Take a Collaborative Scientific Approach to Cocoa. April 26, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/frank-mars-cocoa-collaboration

[47] Mars. Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa, Our Approach. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[48] CocoaAction. World Cocoa Foundation. Web. April 2018. http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/about-wcf/cocoaaction/

[49] World Cocoa Foundation. Two-thirds of Global Cocoa Supply Agree on Actions to Eliminate Deforestation and Restore Forest Areas. Nov. 2017. Web. April 2018.

[50] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

Cacao Labour Accountability and its Interaction with Fairtrade Dynamics Between Producers and Consumers

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Abstract

         This paper examines part of the history behind slavery, specifically child slavery, how it has been impacted by activism, government policy, and corporate social responsibility, and what this means for cacao farmers moving forward. By illuminating courageous accounts like ones from Malian diplomat Macko, along with accounts from the children themselves, the paper aims to bridge the psychological disconnect that often occurs when thinking about those who are struggling around the globe. Keeping these stories and concepts in mind, the paper progresses to examine the Fairtrade movement and its impact on similarly disenfranchised cacao farmers, as well as examine aspects of the demand and consumption side of the marketplace, and how consumer’s preferences will affect future Fairtrade growth, and in turn the well-being of cacao farmers. Furthermore, it goes on to examine the shortcomings of the Fairtrade movement, and details some of the inherent faults in the nature of the system. By delving into the history and specific accounts of child slavery and labor abuse in the cacao industry, and pivoting into an important movement that aims to improve the lives of cacao farmers—that of the Fairtrade movement—this paper explores the supply and demand sides of the marketplace and how each interacts in affecting the future of Fairtrade and the livelihoods of cacao farmers.

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Labour Accountability and the History of Child Slavery

          Historically speaking, cacao has, like many other cash related crops important to colonizing Europeans, relied heavily on slavery for its production. According to Martin and Sampeck, “from roughly 1500 to 1900, between 10 and 15 million enslaved Africans survived forced transport across the Atlantic and began working under chattel slavery, treated as property or what Mintz (1985) has called “false commodities.” Approximately 60% of enslaved Africans arrived in the Caribbean, 30% in Brazil, and less than 10% in British North America (Gomez 2005).” (Martin, 2015) This type of forced labor and servitude doesn’t exist on the same scale as it once did prior to the abolition of slavery, yet in many cases, the working environments and the resulting living wages and conditions that cacao farmers endure ends up being only marginally better than the conditions experienced hundreds of years ago. Images like this one from The New Taste of Chocalate show the potential for cacao farming to produce happy and productive families. However this is not always the case, and through her own ethnographic research in Côte d’Ivoire, Carol Off has often found that “the farmers eke out an existence here in the hills, in a land infested by volatile gunmen. Yet they seem satisfied. Even in the midst of all the trouble around them, they say they are better-off than they would be in their drought-stricken home country, where people are chronically hungry” (2006). The resulting situation in this case is one where these communities become entrenched in maintaining cacao their only known source of economic income, but as Off goes on to add is “a long way from paradise. None of the children here go to school, and there are no services—no electricity, no phones, no clinics or hospitals” (2006). Off’s account of this community is similar to others—it shows the level of pride and attentiveness to cultural history that these people have, and because of this fact, how they are seemingly able to endure hardships and sub-par working conditions that may otherwise be too hard to endure if the object of production did not have such a history within their culture.

          While temporary comfort is provided by the farmer’s admittance that they enjoy their work and take pride in it, the ultimate reality remains that this environment is not one that hard-working farmers who are seeking to make an honest living should have to endure—especially when they are an integral part of the supply-chain for these multi-billion dollar chocolate companies. As her stay in Côte d’Ivoire went on, Off tells a story of when cacao industry reporter Ange Aboa was surprised by how little these workers knew about the future supply chain of the product they were helping harvest (2006). He goes on to explain that “these bars costs about 500 West African francs (roughly equivalent to a Canadian dollar). Their eyes widen in disbelief. The sum strikes them as staggering for such a small treat—almost enough to buy a good-sized chicken or an entire bag of rice. It represents more than the value of one boy’s work for three days, if they are being paid at all”(2006). What this illustrates is that these boys are living in not only a different reality from kids who are consuming confectionery chocolates around the globe, but are also living in a reality which has been unjustly imposed upon them given the information and resources available to the companies who source their cacao. This is a brutal fact to have to face, especially when these kids are working in grueling conditions, and in addition, have little to no access to education, technology, or other outlets that would help them grow as individuals and perhaps spread awareness to develop solutions to these problems.

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Startling imagery of a child struggling to reach a cacao pod while wielding a sharp machete. Photo Credit: Make Chocolate Fair UK

          The unfortunate reality for children trapped in this situation is that they are often left helpless to escape their situation. As Off later goes on to tell in her “The Disposables” chapter, some of these children have no choice but to have to run away due their working conditions being so unpleasant, in doing so risking their lives. When the boys asked for pay, they were beaten and never asked again. One boy, Malick, was able to escape on his own, returning home with diseases his parents were burdened to pay to be treated (Off, 2006). Such tales are harrowing, showing that slavery is still in existence around the world, and that it has crept into particularly devastating manifestations involving children who in many ways are left helpless. According to a 2007 pilot survey on labour practices in cocoa production in Ghana (commissioned by the Ghanaian government’s National Programme for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Cocoa) found that “in the 2005–2006 cocoa season, children aged between 5 and 12 were involved in tasks such as the spraying of insecticides, application of fertiliser, bush burning, clearing land and felling trees” (Berlan, 2013). Like Malick, there are others who face these painful realities, yet it is often difficult to pin down where such labor malpractice

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 is taking place. Reports from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture research on the subject state that “90% of cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire used forced child labour have been revised down to less than 2%” (qtd. in Berlan, 2013). Such a shift can be explained largely by efforts on behalf activists whether they are politically connected or the children themselves, governments being pro-active, and companies becoming more involved in corporate social responsibility. At the same time however, such a shift may also suggest that the number is unreliable and that closer attention needs to be paid to what the real figures are. In the image to the right, a Malian police chief is reported as saying he has records of many missing children (BBC News, 2001).

          Creating avenues and initiatives that attempt to solve these issues of wage equality and working conditions are paramount, and one solution that has arisen is that companies have begun paying closer attention to the ethical side of their supply chain. A combination of factors have contributed to this growing pressure and willingness of companies to begin tackling this long-standing problem, and arguably one of the more compelling tales of activism comes from a Malian diplomat by the name of Macko. Off tells of how Macko, who became incensed upon hearing from witnesses that children were being held at gunpoint and forced to work, took it upon himself to investigate these rumored conditions, having to take a police escort and fight suspicion that the police themselves may be complicit in the operation (2006). Ultimately following his courageous discoveries Macko was able to free hundreds of children from slavery, as well as raise awareness to the government and to the world that this was happening, and it efforts like these, ones that are carried out by people who have the capacity to create change, that are needed to chip away and eradicate the issue of child labor and slavery. Government officials like Macko, who have the ability to investigate and check-in on these types of labor abuses, would be remiss not to take similar action if there is any suspicion of this type of activity. Philosopher and global activist Peter Singer would advise in such a situation for each of us to treat children suffering at a distance around the globe, to think about them, in a way no different than you would the children who went to your son or daughter’s school, and that there is simply much more that we could be doing to help those less-fortunate around the world if we were only able to shift the perceptions of how we think. While Singer’s ideas may be extreme at one end of the spectrum, they are useful when applied to the context of issues that are truly abhorrent such as child slavery. A major factor in ultimately eradicating this issue is being able to create transparency among cacao growing farms and cooperatives, and where that transparency has not yet been achieved, courageous and persistent exploration of them should be pursued.

The Fairtrade Initiative and its Effects on Producers and Consumers 

         One initiative that aims to address these aforementioned issues is the Fairtrade movement. Factors such as rising ethical concerns among consumers, and the resulting pressure that companies have felt from this change in consumption have led the Fairtrade movement to help improve the livelihoods of cacao farmers. According to the Fairtrade Foundation, the “primary purpose is to tackle poverty and empower producers in developing countries” (qtd. in Poelmans, Rousseau, 2015). While in a general sense these goals have begun to see results, there is a deeper layer of complexity to how Fairtrade ends up affecting both producers and consumers on the supply and demand sides of the supply chains.

        A variety of studies have been done surrounding consumer’s preference to Fairtrade products and their presence in the marketplace, and recently statistics show that worldwide Fairtrade sales have increased by 15 percent between 2012 and 2013 (Poelmans, Rousseau, 2015). More recent data from the Fairtrade International website suggests that “Sales of Fairtrade certified cocoa grew by 27 percent in 2015 driven in part by the Fairtrade Sourcing Program (FSP) and increased productivity by Fairtrade cocoa farmers” (2015). Such increases in Fairtrade sales sound promising for farmers, and in many respects the Fairtrade movement has improved the lives of cacao farmers; however, the movement is not without its faults and shortcomings, and faces and uphill battle if it wants to significantly expand its consumer base past its current numbers. A 2016 study found that “only a small segment (14% of Millennials) showed a strong endorsement of ethical products” (McCoy, Young, 2016). Most interesting about this study was that it used two different focus groups to look at how millennials may endorse Fairtrade and other ethical products in one focus group among their peers, but upon actually choosing what chocolate they wanted to eat, the answer was not always the same. Many participants showed that they based their choices on minimal concern with ethical factors, while their declarations in the focus group suggested a different propensity to favor ethical chocolate products (Lindell, 20). Such data shows the obstacles Fairtrade chocolate faces in attracting a genuine consumer base that is interested in ponying up the extra cost, conscious of the supply-chain backing their purchases, and arguably most importantly that enjoy the actual taste of the chocolate. An extensive study on the general effectiveness of Fairtrade labeling found that “overall…consumers value ethical labeling as an important product attribute in the absence of any price differential relative to similar unlabeled products. However, in the presence of a price premium, we observe significant heterogeneity in the weight different consumers place on ethical sourcing when making their purchasing decisions” (Hainmueller, Hiscox, Sequeira, 2014). These findings are important because they show how consumers to hold the desire to make more ethically conscious purchases; however, that in order to combat the added elasticity of Fairtrade product prices, that it will be important to focus on factors such as taste, marketing, and continuing to raise awareness behind ethically sourced products.

          Moving forward, examining the supply chain and the nature of how farmers with Fairtrade certification get their products into the market place yields discoveries that should raise concerns over the long-term effectiveness of such practices. Examining the the nature of the supply-side agreement for cacao is detailed as follows: “A price floor is a determined price that Fairtrade certified farmers receive from Fairtrade certified buyers or traders of their products. The price floor is set above the world market prices and is not based on the physical quality of the product but rather strictly on the nature of the Fairtrade relationship. The price floor for any given Fair Trade product is determined by “cost of production plus cost of living plus cost of complying with Fair Trade standards” (Crooks, 2010). Such claims show that while in the short-run the increased profitability that Fairtrade may offer farmers, that in the long-run, this type of supply-side economic philosophy that focuses on being one of scale rather than one of scope, could potentially prevent Fairtrade chocolate from reaching the wider-spread appeal that it needs due to the conglomerated quality of the cacao.

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A Promotional Image from Fair Trade USA covers many of the positive aspects of Fairtrade, important to realize however is that many of these talking points do no tell the whole story, with many nuances left out that affect both producers and consumers. 

          While the price floors have been instrumental in increasing wages for cacao farmers in many respects, it will remain important to track the effect these price floors, along with how price is set relative to quality, have on the future efficient market outcomes for both cacao producers and consumers. Crooks details this issue further stating that “because 95% of world cocoa production is done on an average of two to five hectacres of forest per farmer, also known as a “smallholder farm,” the blending of beans is essential in order for farmers to collect sufficient enough amounts to sell. If farmers are aware that their products will be mixed with others, there is then no incentive to invest time, money, and energy in cultivating a product of distinct taste and excellence.” (2010) With a system such as this one in place, you can see how what often drives capitalistic markets to succeed such economic motivation to create a superior product to generate future sales, has effectively been removed. Even worse, you are seeing a dis-incentive to produce quality cacao knowing that it will be blended with other cacao. Poelmans and Rousseau embellish further on concerns surrounding Fairtrade policies saying that “Fairtrade alone does not work and that it has to be complemented by other changes in coordination and development policies; that the individual producer knowledge of Fairtrade is still very limited; that the premiums paid by consumers are not going directly to farmers, and that the success or failure of Fairtrade can often be linked to certain types of products” (Poelmans, Rousseau, 2015). In the image below, one can see an example of issue being taken up with how Fairtrade has sourced its cacao.

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“Divine Chocolate says multinationals are escaping fuller Fairtrade commitments under the certification body’s new rules. But Fairtrade says its sourcing program is the only way to reach cocoa farmers at scale” (Nieburg, 2015). 

These concerns among others are important to be aware of when moving forward with the Fairtrade movement, and carefully gauging how to best set policies and requirements that will benefit cacao producers will ensure that the Fairtrade movement’s consumer base doesn’t remain stagnant. While the preliminary introduction of Fairtrade has shown positive outcomes for cacao farmers, there remains a number of different dynamics within the Fairtrade marketplace affecting producers and consumers that need to sorted out and analyzed more in-depth if the movement is to succeed and gain momentum in the long-term. 


Works Cited

BBC News Corp. (2001, April 12). AFRICA | Mali’s children in chocolate slavery. Retrieved May 5, 2018, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1272522.stm

Berlan, A. (2013). Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana. Journal of Development Studies, 49(8), 1088-1100. DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2013.780041

Crooks, Erin. (2010). “Chocolate: An Analysis of Cost Versus Quality in the Fair Trade Movement.” Order No. 10305777, The American University of Paris (France), 2010, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1860233844?accountid=11311 (accessed May 2, 2018).

Eline Poelmans, Sandra Rousseau, (2016) “How do chocolate lovers balance taste and ethical considerations?”, British Food Journal, Vol. 118 Issue: 2, pp.343-361,https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-06-2015-0208

Fairtrade International. (2015). Fairtrade Production and Sales. Retrieved May 5, 2018, from https://monitoringreport2016.fairtrade.net/en/fairtrade-production-sales/

Hainmueller, J., Hiscox, M., & Sequeira, S. (2014). Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Multi-Store Field Experiment. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/conferences/2014-launching-the-star-lab/Documents/FT_final_2_20.pdf

Isern, Jennifer. “Bittersweet Chocolate: The Legality and Ethics of Child Labor in Cocoa Production in Côte d’Ivoire.”Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship11, no. 1 (01, 2006): 115-132, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/203903944?accountid=11311 (accessed May 1, 2018).

Lindell, Crystal. (2016). “Millennials don’t want to pay for certification.”Candy Industry 181, no. 2. EbscoHost (accessed May 6, 2018).

Presilla, Maricel E.. (2009) The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkley, CA.

Nieburg, O. (2015, March 05). Divine Chocolate questions Fairtrade cocoa sourcing program. Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2015/03/05/Fairtrade-cocoa-sourcing-program-questioned-by-Divine-Chocolate

Tulley, Stephen Edward. (2007). “A Culture of Chocolate: Commercial Cacao Processing in Oaxaca, Mexico.” Order No. 3301752, The University of Iowa. http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/304858960?accountid=11311 (accessed May 6, 2018).

CHOCOLATE WASTED: When Overindulgence Goes Wrong

#ChocolateWasted As We Know It

“Chocolate wasted” was not a hashtag when it first presented itself. As a matter of fact, it was blurted out by a six-year-old actress named Alexys Nycole Sanchez (playing Becky Feder) in Adam Sandler’s Grown-Ups. Per the movie’s storyline, “I wanna get chocolate wasted!” was an appropriate phrase for childlike overindulgence that caught every movie-goer’s attention in 2010 (IMDb). The legendary line even helped Alexys win the “Best Line” category at MTV Movie Awards the following year (IMDb). Soon after, headlines like Los Angeles (LA) Times, celebrities and random college students, like myself, were using the term rather frequently. Still today, there are establishments and products named after the infamous idiom such as a Houston-based ice cream truck and a lipstick shade made by Doses of Color, respectively (Chocolate; Dose of Colors). Amazingly, the power of the Internet allows us to revisit its cinematic origination and locate namesake innovations. But truthfully speaking, the denotation of chocolate wasted is not leading in headlines like its figurative interpretation nor being quantifiable in scholarly publications. Prior to diving into a serious topic, I have several questions that will hopefully heighten your interest to want to learn more.

  • What is food waste (including chocolate waste)? What are the associated impacts?
  • What are direct implications from chocolate waste throughout the supply chain?
  • What qualities does a sustainably certified product uphold? Is waste not included in the sustainability assessment? Does waste not contribute to the overexertion of resources and labor? 
  • How do I avoid chocolate waste in my home? Does chocolate have an expiration date? Is chocolate (or cocoa) mulch safe for pets?

 

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By Pakeha [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Läderach Chocolate Factory, a Switzerland-based manufacturer, displays a collection of “cocoa waste” in their in-house museum for tourists’ enjoyment. From right to left there: cocoa with waste materials, extracted waste (like stones, dust, metal or wood), and cleaned cocoa.

 

Food Waste: A Global Problem

On a global scale, 1.3 billion tons of food production meant for human consumption gets lost or wasted annually (FAO). Regarding economic losses, food waste is equivalent to $310 billion in developing countries and $680 billion in industrialized countries with the U.S. leading in food waste and overall wastage than any other country in the world (FAO). Specifically, in the U.S., about 40 percent of food goes uneaten annually which equates to 133 billion pounds with an USD value $161 billion (USDA, n.d.). Conversely, 42 million Americans including 13 million children are facing food insecurity and hunger daily (FAO). Hypothetically speaking, the diversion of 93,000 tons of wasted food could create 322 million meals for people in need and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 714,000 tons (ReFED). This alarming amount of wasted food is not only associated with socioeconomic implications but it also depletes natural resources significantly.

According to Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), U.S. food production utilizes the following: 50% of land, 30% of all energy resources, and 80% of all freshwater (Gunders). Resources consisting of land, water, labor, energy and agricultural inputs (fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides) to produce wasted food are squandered as well, unwillingly inviting resource scarcity and negative environmental externalities. Activating ozone pollution, the misuse of agricultural inputs including irrigated water, pesticides and common fertilizers like nitrogen & phosphorus can cause further damage to ecosystems. Irrigation practices promotes water pollution affecting quality, groundwater accessibility, and potable water accessibility (Moss). Moreover, pesticides are common culprits to human health effects, resistance in pests, crop losses, bird mortality and groundwater degradation (Moss). Other inputs, such as nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, wreak havoc to human health, air quality and aquatic ecosystems (Moss).

The utilization of resources is not the only emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, pertaining to food waste, but also the decomposition of it makes substantial damage to the environment. Postharvest, food waste is the single largest component of municipal solid waste making landfills the third largest source of methane in the country (Gunders). Anthropogenic methane accounts for 10 percent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to a rise in global average temperatures, better known as global warming (EPA, n.d.b). Particularly, landfill methane generates 16 percent of total methane releases compared to carbon dioxide which emits 81% annually (EPA). Although carbon dioxide is the main contributor of global warming, methane carries significant weigh as a pollutant due to its ability to absorb more energy per unit mass than any other greenhouse gas (EPA).

Pinpointing on ecological footprint, the most recent “Earth Overshoot Day” occurred on August 2, 2017 in which the extraction of natural resources exceeded the Earth’s capacity to regenerate in the given year (Earth Overshoot Day). By partnering with Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, Global Footprint Network also reported that a 50% reduction in food waste could push the date of “Overshoot Day” by 11 Days (Earth Overshoot Day).

Chocolate Waste Feeds the Food Waste Problem

The classification of food waste is distinguished by each level of the supply chain including agricultural production, post-harvest handling & storage, processing, distribution and consumption. From a global supply chain perspective, food waste is very difficult to define across countries. The conflicting views of edible versus inedible food waste is one example of cultural variation which impedes the approval of a standardized definition that will cater to all diverse parties and accurately measure waste at the macro level. For instance, the U.S. chocolate market classifies the pulp of a cocoa pod along with the shell of the cocoa bean as inedible products. Thus, cocoa pulp is left at the farmgate level, and at the processing level, cocoa shells are removed and most commonly converted into biofuel or mulch.  Unlike the US, the Brazilian chocolate market produces chocolate with cocoa solids but also makes shell and pulp into sellable products such as loose leaf tea or juice, respectively. Moreover, these value-added practices are present-day testaments of indigenous traditions. The myriad indigenous uses of cacao and chocolate products are analogous to the circular economy that we are yearning for today.

During the Mesoamerican period, chocolate was classified as an esteemed delicacy, a form of payment, ceremonial gift, everyday cooking agent, natural remedy for human health & the environment and so forth. However, during European colonization, the rise of industrialization came with added ingredients, mainly refined sugar, that devalued the quality aspect as well as created a negative image of chocolate over time (Martin, “Sugar”). The health risks of added sugars began to overshadow the medicinal properties of cacao. Even the perception of cacao changed from a specialty crop into a cash crop.  From a socioenvironmental view, terroir of cash crops rose in volatility at the extent of mass enslavement and corruption (Martin, “Health”). At the same time, these characteristic flaws did not stop consumption. Even today, popular chocolate products are sugary, highly processed and in conjunction with unethical sourcing backgrounds. For instance, laborers endure labor-intensive work on a daily basis in top cocoa producing countries, such as West Africa. The average laborer is paid below the global poverty line, uses dangerous tools such as a machete to manually cut down cacao pods, applies fungicides & pesticides typically without the proper protective equipment (PPE) and oftentimes exposed to insects and other dangerous animals. In turn, these hazards can result in serious health complications both physically and mentally.

cocoa_farmers_during_harvest

By ICCFO – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

West African laborers removing beans from the cacao pod. It is a labor-intensive process. 

Nonetheless, the chocolate market has expanded its portfolio over the years, containing commercial chocolate and craft chocolate, in which consumers can be selective among the two categories.  Commercial chocolate is what we usually see in supermarkets in which the supply chain depends on multiple stakeholders (across countries) to meet global demand. Whereas, craft chocolate consists of a relatively small team who produces chocolate in small batches from cocoa bean to bar (Martin, “Haute”). Compared to commercial chocolate, these manufacturers seek to provide quality rather than quantity which typically comes with a higher retail price (Martin, “Haute”).

Once it hits retail, consumers, like myself, are in awe of the multiple offerings, appealing packaging and even sustainability labels that lures us in to help  “save the world” and eliminate any guilt from buying chocolate.  It’s like a race to find the one with the most honorable mentions comprising of Organic Certified (USDA, Non-GMO and an overlap of third-party ethical standards (Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, etc.) However,  after investigating various sustainability standards, retail chocolate waste is not attributable to certifiable requirements nor is it recognized as a concern overall. Based on logical reasoning and what I stated earlier, the primary ingredients of chocolate consisting of refined sugar, cocoa derivatives (cocoa powder and butter), palm oil and/or milk powder that were extracted from its origination to be processed, transported and packaged as a single product. In addition, these ingredients are combined and further processed into chocolate which is then packaged and transported to retail as a finished good. Just imagine the man hours, natural resources and other inputs used within this supply chain. Broaden that imagination to consider the following: consumers discarding “safe-to-eat” chocolate confections due to fat or sugar bloom, retailers not knowing what to do with an overstock of unsold seasonal products, improper storage temperatures ruining a truckload full of chocolate candies, outdated farming techniques producing more waste than yield and slightly related, the packaging of sustainably certified chocolate causing more harm to the environment than conventional chocolate. The latter, wasteful packaging, is another topic that needs assessment and corrective actions. Unfortunately, these scenarios are real-life examples that are being overlooked and emitting an indefinite amount of greenhouse gases.

In actuality, retailers have the potential to be the main change agents for food waste reduction including chocolate waste. However, edible food is commonly thrown away in these spaces due to excess inventory, imperfections, or damaged packaging. A recent study conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Population & Sustainability and Ugly Fruit & Veg Campaign, reported a grade C or below to most of the top ten grocers in the country including Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Publix and Costco (Center for Biological Diversity). The relatively low grades were based on their poor efforts to address and combat food waste in eight focus areas: corporate transparency, company commitments, and supply chain initiatives, produce initiatives, shopping support, donation programs, animal feed programs and recycling programs (Center for Biological Diversity). Both sustainability driven organizations have pronounced a goal for all U.S. grocery stores to eliminate food waste by 2025 (Center for Biological Diversity). Grocers were also pushed to change their current marketing models into sustainable ones by promoting safer handling and lesser stock levels, leveraging new technologies to strengthen inventory management and creating policies on retail spoilage reduction (Center for Biological Diversity).

easter_chocolate_in_suburban_food_store_in_brisbane2c_australia_in_2018

By Kgbo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

A grocer aisle full of chocolate candies wrapped with seasonal packaging.

 

The Rise of Chocolate Production and Waste

Informatively, consumers worldwide indulge in approximately 7.3 million tons of chocolate every year (Sethi). Developing countries, such as India, Brazil and China, are adopting chocolate products that were once inaccessible or unaffordable for their respective populations (Sethi). Since 2008, disposable incomes for each these emerging markets are increasing exponentially due to economic boost from industrialization (Sethi). The rising market of chocolate products equates to a growing demand for global cocoa and sugar production. Industry experts forecasts a 30% growth in demand, from 3.5million tons of cocoa annually to more than 4.5 million in 2020 (Sethi). In consideration, the amount of chocolate squandered throughout the supply chain is currently undetermined or not shared publicly. Based on noticeable discrepancies in definitions and measurements, chocolate waste and even food waste for that matter will continue to intensify and be discussed loosely unless it’s highly prioritized and welcomes a new branch of international cooperation and mutual accountability. A stride that’s executable if all stakeholders collectively build upon a new systematic approach to carbon neutrality, waste diversion and socioenvironmental benefits.

 

Chocolate Commonsense

In the meantime, I’ve provided a list of suggestions below that can help you, as a consumer, avoid chocolate waste or divert it to greener waste streams. 

  • Purchase in moderation.
  • Don’t be alarmed by “Sell By Date”. Depending on care and the type of chocolate (milk, dark or white), chocolate is still safe to consume for longer periods of time.
  • Chocolate bloom, (whether sugar or fat bloom) which gives off a whitish or light coating on the chocolate’s surface, is still safe for consumption.
  • To retain freshness and structure, cool and dark environments are ideal storage locations for chocolate.
  • Have an excessive amount of unopened chocolate? Donate to participating charities like Ronald McDonald House Charities and Operation Gratitude.
  • ONLY FOR CONSUMERS WITHOUT PETS: Add leftover chocolate or raw cocoa shells, particularly organic certified, in compost for home gardening. *Fyi to pet owners, chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats due to its theobromine content. If you have pets, you can distribute waste to a composting facility.
  • Advocate for chocolate waste (and food waste) assessments from involved stakeholders (including local and national governments, non-governmental organizations [Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, etc.] retailers, distributors and manufacturers)

cocoa_mulch_28405161134929

By Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA – Cocoa Mulch, CC BY 2.0.

Cocoa mulch is made out of cocoa shells (most times organic) which are beneficial to soil health.  Organic cocoa mulch contains nitrogen, phosphate and potash and has a pH of 5.8 (Patterson). There is also a noticable warning sign to keep dogs away due to theobromine content, which is scientifically proven to be very harmful to pets.

 

 

 

Works Cited.

IMDb. Alexys Nycole Sanchez. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3465073/?ref_=nmawd_awd_nm

Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream, Co. About Us, 2017. https://chocolatewastedicecream.com/

Dose of Colors. CHOCOLATE WASTED, 2018. https://doseofcolors.com/products/chocolate-wasted

FAO. Food Loss and Food Waste. http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/

ReFED. A Roadmap To Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent, 2016. https://www.refed.com/downloads/ReFED_Report_2016.pdf

Gunders, Dana.“Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill”. Natural Resources Defense Council, Natural Resources Defense Council Issue Paper 12-06-B, 2012, https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf

Moss, Brian.“Water pollution by agriculture”. US National Library of Medicine

National Institutes of Health, 2007, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610176/

EPA. Methane Emissions. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases

Earth Overshoot Day. Food demand makes up 26% of the global Ecological Footprint, 2018,  https://www.overshootday.org/take-action/food/

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 14 Feb 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Health, Nutrition, and the Politics of Food + Psychology, Terroir, and Taste”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 11 April 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 18 April 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Center for Biological Diversity. Checked Out: How U.S. Supermarkets Fail to Make the Grade in Reducing Food Waste. Center for Biological Diversity, 2018, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/grocery_waste/In-

Sethi, Simran.  “The Life Cycle Of Your Chocolate Bar” Forbes. 22 Oct 2017 https://www.forbes.com/sites/simransethi/2017/10/22/the-life-cycle-of-your-chocolate-bar/#42eff5bd66d8

Patterson, Susan. “Cocoa Shell Mulch: Tips For Using Cocoa Hulls In The Garden”, 5 April 2018, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/mulch/using-cocoa-hull-mulch.htm

Pakeha. Reinigung von Kakaobohnen.jpg., WikiMedia Commons.7 December 2017, 17:56:47

Kgbo. Easter chocolate in suburban food store in Brisbane, Australia in 2018.jpg, WikiMedia Commons, 24 February 2018, 10:04:29

Seaton, Leslie. Cocoa Mulch (4051611349).jpg, WikiMedia Commons, 20 October 2009, 15:55

ICCFO. Cocoa farmers during harvest.jpg. WikiMedia Commons, 1 January 2015,

 

 

 

 

Porcelain and Posh: Juxtaposing Global Chinese Export Ware Influences and a Fraught Modern Chinese Chocolate Market

During the 17th to 19th centuries, there was a flourishing trade of export porcelain wares and material goods from China to Europe and the Americas centered around chocolate consumption.  Beautiful and ornate chocolate pots and cups with Chinese patterns and motifs became commonplace in many households and chinoiserie permeated Western decorative arts.  But for all this flow of material culture and ideas in the past, the introduction of chocolate, or the food products and culture of these objects, has been particularly difficult and fraught in Modern China.  The confusion over the Chinese chocolate market is evident in current news and popular articles declaring the rise of a generation of “young chocoholics” with predictions of a promising and expanding chocolate market[i] juxtaposed against downward trends of chocolate confectionary consumption due to greater awareness of healthier diets that contain less sugar.[ii]  This contrast in reception of items we think of as, for example, so quintessentially Chinese or absolutely American, illuminates the complex social interchanges and connectivity between different cultures and ideas.

By the time that Europeans were just discovering chocolate, the Chinese had already developed a thriving ceramics industry due to various major advancements in the sixth to ninth century, such as the “discovery of porcelain” and “the development of high-fired stoneware.”[iii]  In addition, kilns were producing goods to make and serve China’s own stimulant beverage.  Tea, with its own long social history, had taken hold and tea drinking habits expanded across socioeconomic boundaries thanks in part to easier and less expensive transportation channels after the Grand Canal was completed.[iv]  By the 14th century, Jingdezhen in southeast China emerged as the main kiln complex and single center of production due to a popular new technique, the now recognizable “porcelain painted with cobalt blue under a transparent glaze.”[v]

The kilns at Jingdezhen were making millions of products for trade and domestic use in the 15th century and by the 17th century, Chinese “blue-and-white porcelains” were “the most desired and technically advanced ceramics in the world.”[vi]  As trade routes developed, Chinese potters were commissioned to produce specific objects for the Western market, often receiving models and images to copy for some guidance.[vii]

DT200608
A curious example of early East-West trade, this Portuguese ewer made in China around 1520-40, based on an Islamic form, actually has the Portuguese coat of arms upside down most likely because the Chinese painters misunderstood how they were supposed to appear.  From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But it was the imagery that came from “this wondrous, faraway place” that caused “la maladie de porcelaine”, or a craze and madness for porcelain.[viii]  The number of items exported was extensive; documents show that close to 10,000 chocolate cups and saucers out of a total of 150,000 porcelain items were brought over from Canton to Amsterdam for the Dutch East India Company in 1752 on one ship (Gordon 598).[ix]  When Europe developed their own porcelain factories in the early 18th century, they adopted Chinese “shapes and motifs” that became “part of Western ceramic traditions”; even today, common “shapes, sizes, techniques, and decoration” in ceramics are of Chinese origin.[x]

ET2013-39251
This chocolate pot was made in Germany where the first European porcelain was produced. It is still inspired, however, by Chinese and Japanese designs and “rich visual languages” which is evident in the flowers and plants painted on the pot (Evolution of Chinese Ceramics, The Met). From The National Museum of American History – Chocolate pot with wooden handle, porcelain, Meissen. 1987.0896.02ab. Syz Collection (1569).

The demand for porcelain from Europe declined, but a new market emerged in America in the late 1700’s.[xi]

Chinese porcelain ware trade not only brought about a vast exchange and sharing of ideas “that remains unparalleled in world history”[xii], but also extended the global influence of Chinese motifs and decorative themes that deeply permeated Western culture and social realms.  E. Fleming writes that art objects can bear a “double commentary on the society” in both a “passive and an active voice” in that they are an expression of the culture and give “direction, form, energy, and self-consciousness” to the culture (277).[xiii]  The “Chinese taste” filled homes and the intimate social lives of 18th century colonial Americans, influencing a wide spectrum of decorative arts and material goods from landscape gardening to textiles.[xiv]  These objects and their patterns and motifs filled the American aesthetic imagination (we can still see examples of Chinese motif decorative ironwork on the exterior of Beacon Hill homes in Boston to this day) and played a part in the flow of ideas at the time.

83_Mt._Vernon_Street_-_Boston,_MA_-_DSC04648
A closer look at an example of Chinese fret motif on a decorative ironwork balcony in Beacon Hill, Boston. In the background, the architectural style of the building appears to be Greek Revival, but the Chinese-inspired pattern showcases the strong influence of Asian aesthetic ideals. From Wikimedia Commons.

In the 19th century, for example, Eastern art was seen as “uncorrupted” by industrialism and the artistry of skilled handiwork and “good design” [xv] may have been juxtaposed against increasingly uniform factory products.  Moreover, Eastern art provided a new vocabulary and an alternative to revivalist styles based on historical associations[xvi], which would have been important in a time when differentiation in identity and from the tastes of antiquity were being discussed.  Much like Marcy Norton’s argument that Europeans did not change chocolate to suit their own tastes, instead they adopted a taste for indigenous chocolate and sought to recreate the experience[xvii], Europeans and Americans also either brought Chinese decorative art objects into social spheres or sought to emulate Chinese designs and craftwork.  The heart of the matter is that importing Chinese porcelain and goods, and their proliferation throughout society, fundamentally changed European “ideas about itself, its material culture, and its relation to the world” that permeated all levels of society (Cavanaugh and Yonan, 6-7).[xviii]

In contrast, the entry of chocolate confectioneries, as produced by western brands and companies, into Modern China has been particularly challenging and complex.  Chocolate has been present in China since the 17th century, but it has only existed marginally with very limited penetration into local cuisine (though much is still unknown about China’s chocolate history)[xix], unlike in Europe and America.  In modern times, China was isolated from the Western world from 1949 to 1979 during a chaotic period of great social experiments and revolutions, but an Open Door policy was implemented in 1978 to encourage and increase foreign trade and investment.[xx]  Soon after, the “Big Five” global chocolate companies – Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle, Ferrero and Mars – all sought to establish their brand in this perceived massive market with a population of 1.3 billion people, fighting for ways to achieve commercial success and enter the social lives of the Chinese people in the 1980’s and 1990’s.[xxi]  They set up joint-ventures and factories, Mars in the late 1980’s and finally Cadbury, the last to move into China, in 1995, and sold their products mainly as luxury goods.[xxii]  By 2004, the first “international exposition of fine chocolate” or “Salon du Chocolat” was held in Beijing.[xxiii]

Soon thereafter, speculations spread about the potential of the emerging chocolate market in China, but these statistics and predictions have carried over to today with relatively little progress.  In 2005, the average consumption of chocolate in China was about a kilo per person annually and only about 2% of inhabitants could afford luxury goods.[xxiv]  Projections were quite optimistic, however, with a strong value forecast for chocolate and a compound annual growth rate of 11% from 2005-2010[xxv]; China could potentially become the “largest confectionery market in the future.”[xxvi]  By 2010, chocolate sales had increased steadily in China to a little over $1.25 billion USD, however, the per capita sales remained relatively low at a miniscule approximate 1¥ or about 15 cents USD increase per year between 2006-2010.[xxvii]  China remains a small market in comparison, only accounting for about 2% of total chocolate sales in the world.[xxviii]  The spread of chocolate has “met significant resistance” outside of the larger cities and still is hardly present Chinese cuisine today.[xxix]

There are many practical explanations for the difficulties the Big Five faced in penetrating the Chinese market.  Lawrence Allen describes them in great detail: the limited infrastructure and underdeveloped retail channels that prevented widespread distribution (particularly when it came to air conditioning), especially outside of first-tier cities; lack of business information; difficulties working with local ingredients; and potential viable competition from local brands, especially if they reach and succeed in lower-tier cities first.[xxx]  Other challenging factors included the lack of dairy in Chinese cuisine, which, according to Bertram Gordon, “may have been the single most important reason” that there was no “‘takeoff’ of chocolate” in China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[xxxi]  Even more important, perhaps, was the role of sugar – Sucheta Mazumdar argues that Mintz’ theories of sugar consumption’s complex connections to production and realms of power cannot fully explain why it was so limited in China; instead, it was the contrast to Britain’s major population shift from agrarian to urban.[xxxii]  In China, peasant households, which still made up 90% of the population well into the 19th century, simply did not buy many products on the market, and, combined with relatively higher prices and no increases in real wages, sugar did not enter the everyday lives of Chinese people as it did in Britain.[xxxiii]  To this day, there is no dessert course during Chinese meals.  Finally, the familiar concept of cradle to grave product loyalty simply could not be applied to China’s emerging and new consumerism, people spent much more time reading and perusing products before they made a purchase decision.[xxxiv]

The incredible permeation of Chinese porcelain throughout Europe and America can act as a lens to view the remarkable lack of success of Western chocolate companies in the constantly cited great potential of the Chinese chocolate market.  Allen uses the example of the Big Five chocolate companies’ entrance into China to show the global interconnectedness of “China’s destiny”[xxxv], but as the history of Chinese export ware shows, China had tight connections with global interchanges where its own products had been hugely influential and deeply intertwined with other cultures in the past.  The difference is that the Europeans were fascinated by and in wonder of the “Other” they viewed through the images and decorations on porcelain from the Far East, but the “Other” in Modern China from foreign products is often associated with excess.  Some Chinese condemn the “Eurocentrism” of the Chinese chocolate market where the Big Five try to outcompete each other in upselling their “luxurious” products, and they are not fooled by this façade – many are keenly aware that the Big Five produce chocolate for mass consumption and that these manufacturers are not giving them a reason to incorporate chocolate “into their daily consumption habits.”[xxxvi]  In the past, Europeans imitated Chinese porcelain because of the exquisite designs and extraordinary craftsmanship, now in turn, American and European companies are holding up a product to for the Chinese to emulate that has false connotations and is an extension of a lifestyle that is culturally and socially foreign.

Current chocolate ads in China still portray the pinnacle of Western luxury, placing Chinese actors in very “exotic” locales, for example, with tastes and cultural references that can be lost on or too foreign for most Chinese people.

This Dove ad has many elements that would appear distinctly foreign to a Chinese audience from the Parisian location, the dress of the actors, to the pet dogs. Though on the rise, keeping animals as pets is still (relatively) not always a common practice in China, especially outside of major cities. 

When Snickers partnered with a mainstream Chinese boy band, TF Boys, to create an ad campaign with stories of studying and dealing with the pressures of school, with a video game format mixed in, that seems more universally appealing to Chinese children and general audiences, sales skyrocketed within two days.[xxxvii]

Allen continues to offer business advice that centers on a company’s “foreign heritage” that somehow lends them “product quality”, “management depth” and “credibility”.[xxxviii]   But Zhou argues that it is precisely this kind of emulation of “the high-end status of imported chocolate” that will not lead to success or interest mass consumers in China.[xxxix]  Consumerism has a complicated history in China and can still be an ambivalent, problematic topic today.  The Chinese Communist Party was quite “anti-consumerist” in the 1950’s when “revolutionary asceticism” was promoted, but at the same time allowed advertising and some forms of consumerism to persist (Gerth, 2010).[xl]  This dichotomous tension continues in the present day and, even if high-end products are commonplace in some areas and foreign brands can be associated with “credibility”, many Chinese people may still be hesitant and lukewarm towards extensive messages about luxury.  Zhou writes that chocolate manufacturers will need to “go against market norms” and “promote their products on a cultural level”; more importantly, chocolate companies will have to think outside the box, perhaps collaborating with a Chinese culinary institute or engaging in a “cross-cultural dialogue” about chocolate’s different historical roles in Chinese and European societies.[xli]

In conclusion, the challenges of chocolate confectionery companies in China and the stagnating pace of growth of the Chinese chocolate market may be due to many misunderstandings and disconnected cultural interpretations.  While only some aspects of chocolate were touched upon here in a long history of global exchanges, the particular significance of Chinese export ware for chocolate and their remarkable influence in so many aspects of European and American society may be helpful as a foil in thinking about how little the products of the Big Five chocolate companies have permeated Chinese society.

Special thanks to Nancy Hearst, Librarian in the Fairbank Collection of the H.C. Fung Library for finding or suggesting many of the sources on Modern China.

[i] Ren, Daniel. “New Generation of Chocoholics may Turn China into a Major Chocolate Market.”  South China Morning Post, 10 Sept. 2017.  Web.  7 May 2018.

[ii] “Chocolate Confectionery in China Executive Summary.”  Euromonitor International.  Euromonitor International, Aug. 2017.  Web.  8 May 2018.

[iii] “Evolution of Chinese Ceramics and Their Global Influence are Theme of Entirely New Installation on Metropolitan Museum’s Great Hall Balcony.”  The Met.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 14 Sept. 2012.  Web.  8 May 2018.

[iv] Sigley, Gary.  “Tea and China’s Rise: Tea, Nationalism and Culture in the 21st Century.”  International Communication of Chinese Culture, vol. 2, issue 3, 2017, pp. 319-341.

[v] “Evolution of Chinese Ceramics,” The Met.

[vi] “Evolution of Chinese Ceramics,” The Met.

[vii] Munger, Jeffrey, and Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen.  “East and West: Chinese Export Porcelain.”  Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2008.  Web.  8 May 2018.

[viii] High, Rachel.  “Porcelain Obsession: Denise Patry Leidy on Her New Book, How to Read Chinese Ceramics.”  Blogs / Now at The Met.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 11 Sept. 2015.  Web.  8 May 2018.

[ix] Gordon, Bertram M.  “Chinese Chocolate: Ambergris, Emperors, and Export Ware.”  Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage.  Eds. Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro.  Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2009, pp. 595-601.

[x] High, Rachel.

[xi] Munger, J. and A. Frelinghuysen.

[xii] “Evolution of Chinese Ceramics,” The Met.

[xiii] Fleming, E. McClung.  “Early American Decorative Arts as Social Documents.”  The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 25, no. 2, Sept. 1958, pp. 276-284.

[xiv] Fleming, E. McClung, 218.

[xv] Oshinsky, Sara J.  “Exoticism in the Decorative Arts.”  Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2004.  Web.  8 May 2018.

[xvi] Oshinsky, Sara J.

[xvii] Norton, Marcy.  “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.”  American Historical Review, June 2006, pp. 660-691.

[xviii] Cavanaugh, Alden and Michael E. Yonan.  “Introduction.”  The Cultural Aesthetics of Eighteenth-Century Porcelain.  Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2010.

[xix] Gordon, Bertram, 601.

[xx] Wood, L.J. and S. Grosvenor.  “Chocolate in China: the Cadbury Experience.”  Australian Geographer, vol. 28, no. 2, 1997, pp. 173-184.

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

[xxii] Wood, L.J. and S. Grosvenor.

[xxiii] Gordon, Bertram, 600.

[xxiv] Pacyniak, Bernie.  “Chocolates ‘n China.”  Candy Industry.  Stagnito Publishing Co., June 2005.

[xxv] “China’s Chocolate Binge.”  Food Magazine.  Reed Business Information Australia, Ltd., April 2007, pp. 30-31.

[xxvi] Pacyniak, Bernie.

[xxvii] “China Acquires a Taste for Chocolate and Wine.”  China Business Review, July-September 2011, pp. 32-33.

[xxviii] Allen, Lawrence, Battle for China’s Consumers, 203.

[xxix] Gordon, Bertram, 600-601.

[xxx] Allen, Lawrence, Battle for China’s Consumers.

[xxxi] Gordon, Bertram, 600.

[xxxii] Mazumdar, Sucheta.  Sugar and Society in China: Peasants, Technology, and the World Market.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center Press, 1998.

[xxxiii] Mazumdar, Sucheta.

[xxxiv] Allen, Lawrence, Battle for China’s Consumers, 38.

[xxxv] Allen, Lawrence, Battle for China’s Consumers.

[xxxvi] Zhou, Hongcheng.  “Why the  Chinese Are Still Not Sweet on Chocolate.”  Sixth Tone, 2016-2018.  Web.  9 May 2018.

[xxxvii] Yu, Douglas.  “M&M’s, Dove and Snickers Maintain Chocolate Market Lead in China.  Confectionerynews.com.  William Reed, 3 Sept. 2017.  Web.  9 May 2018.

[xxxviii] Allen, Lawrence L.  “Chocolate Fortunes; Lessons Learned by Leading Chocolate Companies Can Help Firms Succeed in the China Market.”  China Business Review, July-September 2011, pp. 28-31.

[xxxix] Zhou, Hongcheng.

[xl] Gerth, Karl.  “Compromising with Consumerism in Socialist China: Transnational Flows and Internal Tensions in ‘Socialist Advertising’.”  Past and Present (2013), supplement 8, pp. 204-232.

[xli] Zhou, Hongcheng.

The Ethical and Economic Rationale for Selling Fair Trade Chocolate

The sale of chocolate is big business. According to the National Confectioners Association, chocolate sales totaled $21.1 billion in the United States in 2014. (Franchise Help). Despite the significant size of the market, growers responsible for cultivating cocoa do not always share the benefits. The Fair Trade movement attempts to address this imbalance and improve the economic plight of cocoa growers. This ethical movement has resonated with consumers, and there is well-documented consumer demand to purchase Fair Trade items. Despite the ethical and economic rationale for selling Fair Trade chocolate, cocoa sold with the Fair Trade label accounts for a very low 0.5% share of the global cocoa market, according to International Cocoa Organization. Based on the ethical and economic benefits companies will attain from distributing Fair Trade products, a strong case can be made for retailers to offer a larger selection of Fair Trade chocolates.  

Despite the significant global demand for cocoa products, producers struggle with economic deprivation & human rights abuses. As a result of oversupply and fluctuating commodity prices, many cocoa growers live below the global poverty line, and earn less than $2 a day (ILPI 14). In addition to the struggle to afford basic life necessities, many cocoa growers are unable to hire sufficient labor and are forced to rely instead on having family members farm, including children who might be pulled from school. Even worse, other children are trafficked as low-salary laborers or even slaves, and forced to work on some cocoa plantations. There are an estimated 880,00 child laborers in Ghana, and 1,150,00 children working in Côte d’Ivoire (ILPI 31). Many of these children work in hazardous conditions, including operating heavy machinery, applying pesticides to foods, and using dangerous tools to harvest cacao pods.

In order to improve economic and human rights conditions, Fair Trade organizations have developed systems that organize cocoa growers to sell their goods as part of collectives which increases their bargaining power and reduces layers of middlemen. Cocoa growers receive a guaranteed minimum price for their goods which allows them to earn a living wage. This helps ensure that cocoa growers have a safety net when cacao falls below a sustainable level as a commodity. This is valuable to the cocoa growers because cocoa prices can be volatile and can move in a wide range, thereby creating uncertainty in the price that the cocoa growers will receive for their crop. 

Cocoa com
Cocoa prices

 

The Fair Trade organization consults producers, traders and other stakeholders and to determine a fair price for cocoa. The cooperatives also receive an additional “Fair Trade premium” where members have discretion to spend the funds in order for the benefit the cocoa growers and their communities. The Fair Trade premium for standard quality cocoa is $150 / ton. (International Cocoa Organization) and the Minimum Price including the Fair Trade Premium is $1,750 / ton. In return for these economic benefits, cocoa growers agree to comply with the organization’s labor standards which prohibit child labor and protect against other human rights abuses. Additional standards include environmental protections. 

Producers of goods that purchase from Fair Trade providers display logos on their products which inform consumers the food was produced under Fair Trade standards. Consumers who purchase these items can be confident that they are supporting the Fair Trade system. 

Fair Trade orGANIZATIONS
Fair Trade logos

 

While there is a strong ethical case to be made for the sale of Fair Trade items, the question remains as to whether consumers are interested in purchasing them. Numerous academic studies have been conducted to investigate the amount of consumer interest in Fair Trade goods.

The first question a retailer should consider is whether or not consumers are interested in buying Fair Trade products and the amount they would be willing to pay. A survey posed to American consumers the questions of whether they value Fair Trade products and how much more they would be willing to pay for Fair Trade coffee. The results of this survey indicated that Americans are interested in Fair Trade products and would to be willing to pay $0.22 /lb. more for Fair Trade coffee than for the non-Fair trade equivalent. (Carlson 5)

Researchers at the Stanford Business School set up an experiment to determine whether coffee carrying a Fair Trade label sold better, equally, or worse than identical coffee not labeled. The results showed that the Fair Trade label had a substantial positive effect both on the quantity sold as well as the price it was able to command. Researchers found that sales rose by almost 10% when a coffee carried a Fair Trade label as compared to the same coffee carrying a generic placebo label. A second study found that demand for Fair Trade coffee was inelastic; sales of the Fair Trade labeled coffee remained fairly steady when its price was raised by 8%. In contrast, coffee without the Fair Trade labels experienced a 30% decline in sales after a similar price increase (Hainmueller et al 2).

In another study, titled “Are Consumers Willing to Pay More for Fair Trade Certified Coffee?” the author looked at items that went through Fair Trade certification and compared the price consumers were willing to pay for the same item before and after the item received its Fair Trade certification. The conclusion was that “consistent with prior work… (the study) finds that Certification has a large positive effect on the price of coffee”, although this paper determined that the premium consumers were willing to pay for Fair Trade certification was smaller than previous studies. (Carlson 16)

Fair Trade labeling produces a measurable response in the brain. Researchers from the University of Bonn conducted a two part study to discern the neural effects of Fair Trade labels. In the first part of the study, subjects were shown pictures of 80 different products, 40 with the Fair Trade emblem, and 40 identical items without the emblem. They were then prompted to choose how much they were willing to pay for each item. Not only were customers willing to pay more for each Fair Trade object, but fMRI scans revealed that while ‘buying’ these objects, the activity of the reward section of the subjects brains increased when the subjects were buying Fair Trade labelled items. For the second part of the study, a conventional chocolate bar was broken up into pieces for every participant and then equally distributed on two small plates. While the chocolate on the two plates were identical, scientists told subjects that one plate contained conventional chocolate, while the other was Fair Trade certified chocolate. When eating what they believed to be Fair Trade chocolate, fMRI scans showed “increased experienced taste pleasantness and intensity for the [Fair trade] label” (Enax et al 11)

At least some of the demand for Fair Trade chocolate can be attributed to positive, albeit unsubstantiated, perceptions that Fair Trade chocolate is healthier than non-Fair Trade chocolate. The ‘Halo Effect’, is a well known psychological phenomenon in which a singular good trait of a person or object leads people to apply additional good traits to the person or item. Companies can often be seen taking advantage of the halo effect by promoting organic, non-GMO, and locally grown products. Likewise, Fair Trade goods also tend to be perceived as having superior characteristics when compared to non-Fair Trade goods. In one study, subjects were given a description of a brand of chocolate. The control group was given no information about the chocolate, while the other group was it was told it was a Fair Trade product produced by a manufacturer that pays cocoa growers “50 percent more than the standard market price for cocoa, to ensure that the growers receive a fair wage for their efforts.” When the participants were later asked whether they believed the chocolate they had been presented with contained more, equal, or fewer calories compared to other brands, those who had been told that the chocolate was Fair Trade perceived it as lower-calorie than other brands. (Jacobs 1).

The moral arguments for Fair Trade products resonate with consumers. Numerous studies conclude because of the ethical considerations, consumers are interested in buying Fair Trade products. Selling Fair Trade chocolate makes sound economic sense and there is a demand for Fair Trade products. Are Fair Trade products readily available for purchase by American consumers? In order assess the availability of Fair Trade chocolate products I conducted a survey of five retailers: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, CVS and Rite Aid drugstores and Key Food supermarkets to determine the extent of their Fair Trade chocolate selection. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s were chosen because they are two out of the three retailers listed on the Fair Trade America’s website. CVS and Rite Aid were chosen as representative of chain drug stores. Key Food was chosen as representative of a neighborhood supermarket. The survey was conducted the week of May 6, 2018. In order to correct for variations in offerings and out of stocks at different locations, two locations for each retailer were surveyed.

Whole Foods
Whole Foods is a supermarket chain with 470 stores, primarily in North America (Securities and Exchange Commission). Whole Foods has a strong history and association with social responsibility. As part of the Core Values listed on the website, Whole Foods highlights “We practice win-win partnerships with our suppliers”, a notion highly aligned with Fair Trade philosophy.  Each of the Whole Foods surveyed had an extensive selection of Fair Trade chocolates which comprised nearly all of the chocolate items for sale. The stores surveyed had approximately 100 different Fair Trade chocolate products for sale, from 16 companies. 

Brand 95 East Houston St. store  4 Union Square store
365 house brand 4  –
Alter Eco 4 5
Barethins 4
Divine 11 8
Endangered Species 11 10
Equal Exchange 4 4
Green & Black 9 7
Jelina  – 4
Lake Champlain 7 9
Lilly’s 9 8
Madecasse (Direct Trade) 7 7
Taza (Direct Trade) 5 5
Theo Chocolate 13 13
Unreal 5 5
Vosages 7
Whole Foods – private label 4 8
Total 97 100
Whole Foods FT chocolate
Whole Foods Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is a supermarket chain with 474 stores nationwide (Trader Joe’s). The company does not highlight social responsibility, but rather “innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods… that cut our costs and save you money.” While the company does not position themselves as placing a high value on socially responsible products, they do maintain lists Vegan, Gluten Free, and Kosher products.  Based on the “Halo Effect” described above, this might lead some customers to make the association with selling Fair Trade items as well. The Trader Joe’s stores surveyed had a very limited selection of Fair Trade Chocolates. 

Brand 14th St. store 31st Street store
TJ Batons 3 3
TJ Fair Trade Organic 1
Total 3 4
Trader Joes FT chocolate
Trader Joe’s Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

CVS / Rite Aid

CVS is a pharmacy/convenience store chain with 8,060 stores and Rite Aid is a chain similar to CVS with 2,550 stores (Securities and Exchange Commision) CVS and Rite Aid cater to a much broader demographic than either Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Of the stores surveyed, the number of Fair Trade chocolate products were far below those sold at Whole Foods, and sold a similar number of Fair Trade chocolate items to Trader Joe’s. 

CVS

Brand 500 Grand Street store 253 1st Ave. store
Chauo 3
Endangered Species 1
Total 4 0
CVS FT chocolate
CVS Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

Rite Aid

Brand 408 Grand St. store 81 First Ave. store
Bark Thins 3 2
Rite Aid FT chocolate
Rite Aid Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

Key Food

Key Food is a cooperative of independently owned supermarkets located in the Northeast. Of the two stores surveyed, one sold no Fair Trade items while the other sold considerably more than CVS, Rite Aid or Trader Joe’s.

Brand 43 Columbia St. – store 52 Ave. A – store
Divine 11
Endangered Species 6
Green & Black 5
Total 0 22
Key Food FT chocolate
Key Food Fair Trade chocolate offerings (photo taken by author)

 

Despite the sound ethical and economic reasons for retailers to sell Fair Trade chocolate, cocoa sold with the Fair Trade label still captures a very low share of the cocoa market. Research indicates that consumers are interested in purchasing Fair Trade products and are willing to pay a premium. Whole Foods has tapped into this demand and demonstrates that it is possible for a retailer to offer an extensive selection of Fair Trade chocolate items. They however seem to be more the exception rather than the rule. If other retailers tapped into the demand and offered a more extensive selection of Fair Trade chocolate, it is likely that more Fair Trade chocolate would be purchased and more cocoa suppliers would share the benefits of Fair Trade.

 

Works cited

Cameron. “KEEP CALM AND ONLY EAT FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE.” Keep-Calm-o-Matic, Keep Calm Network Ltd., http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-only-eat-fair-trade-chocolate/.

Carlson, Adam P. Are Consumers Willing to Pay More for Fair Trade Certified Coffee? Are Consumers Willing to Pay More for Fair Trade Certified Coffee?


“Child Labour in the West African Cocoa Sector.” International Law and Policy Institute, 26 Nov. 2015, ilpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/20151126-Child-labour-in-the-West-African-Cocoa-Sector-ILPI.pdf.


“Chocolate Industry Analysis 2018 – Cost & Trends.” Franchisehelp.com, www.franchisehelp.com/industry-reports/chocolate-industry-analysis-2018-cost-trends/.


“Cocoa | 1959-2018 | Data | Chart | Calendar | Forecast | News.” Trading Economics, TRADING ECONOMICS, tradingeconomics.com/commodity/cocoa.


Enax, Laura, et al. “Effects of Social Sustainability Signaling on Neural Valuation Signals and Taste-Experience of Food Products.” Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 9, 2015, doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00247.

“Fairtrade Certified Products – Fairtrade America.” Fair Trade, Fair Trade, www.fairtradeamerica.org/Fairtrade-Products.


“Fair Trade Labels.” A Fair Trade Place, WordPress,

afairtradeplace.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/fair-trade-logos3.jpg.


Hainmueller, Jens, et al. “Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Field Experiment.” The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 97, no. 2, Feb. 2014, pp. 242–256., doi:10.2139/ssrn.1801942.


“International Cocoa Organization.” International Cocoa Organization, www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.


Jacobs, Tom. “’Fair Trade’ Chocolate Perceived as Healthier.” Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, 5 Jan. 2012, psmag.com/economics/fair-trade-chocolate-perceived-as-healthier-38894.


“Jens Hainmueller: Will People Pay More for Fair Trade Products?” Youtube, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 18 Feb. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMiy1Y55DLA.


United States, Congress, Washington, D.C. “Edgar .” Edgar , SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 17 Nov. 2017.

www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/865436/000086543617000238/wfm10k2017.htm.


United States, Congress, Washington, D.C. “Edgar.” Edgar, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 14 Feb. 2018. www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/64803/000155837018000707/cvs-20171231x10k.htm.


United States, Congress, Washington, D.C. “Edgar.” Edgar, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 26 Apr. 2018. www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/84129/000104746918003207/a2235393z10-k.htm.


“What Is Fair Trade.” Youtube, FairtradeANZ, 12 July 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoIZWd2q2Ec.


“WHERE IN THE DICKENS CAN YOU FIND A TRADER JOES.” http://www.traderjoes.com, www.traderjoes.com/pdf/Trader-Joes-Stores.pdf.

Bitterness and Health of Dark Chocolate: Subtle Backstories Revealed

INTRODUCTION

“Ooooohhh, what’s this?  Free chocolate?!”

So began an informal chocolate tasting with 17 curious volunteers.  Each individual completed a survey that both collected and tested their knowledge of 8 anonymized chocolate samples.  At the end of the survey, respondents selected their favorite sample and attempted to match each one with its wrapper.

While more data was collected than ultimately analyzed, 2 themes cropped up relatively quickly that potentially revealed both underlying historical and contemporary backstories.  The first theme is the participants’ preference to sweet chocolate over dark chocolate, which can be explained by the historical dubious business practices of the Big Chocolate firms as opposed to the more simple explanation that all humans naturally prefer the taste of sweetness.  The second theme consists of the participants’ conflicting knowledge about the extent of dark chocolate’s health benefits.

METHOD

Planning the questionnaire at first proved challenging.  What question(s) would the survey attempt to answer?  Who would participate?  What kinds or brands of chocolate would be included?  Ultimately, it was decided to ask employees at a local Boston start-up company to participate in the survey as this particular office is known for its enthusiasm and participation in events.

The survey had two sections: pre-tasting and post-tasting.  The pre-tasting section focused primarily on the participants’ chocolate consumption (what determines the purchase of chocolate, how much chocolate is consumed, who receives purchased chocolate, what determines the purchase of a particular chocolate brand over others, etc.) with two preparatory questions meant to engage partakers with their chocolate.  The post-tasting section requested subjects to identify their personal favorite chocolate sample and to match all samples with their packaging.

Chocolate Samples
The chocolates sampled by the volunteers. All are advertised on the wrappers as either “dark” or “bitter.”  However, what the participants did not know is that the Hershey’s and Cadbury brands have such low cacao percentages, they are widely considered milk chocolates instead.  Brands were chosen based on their collective ability to compare sweetness, certifications, price, and brand recognition.  All samples were also easy to purchase and obtain.
20180501_205150
To keep participants from using indicators on the actual samples, all brand names and symbols were scraped off with a knife beforehand.  This was the most time-consuming aspect of the entire survey setup.

Neither section was designed to answer any particular predetermined question.  Instead, the resulting analysis was written based on the data collected and the trends it illustrated.  Only one of the biographical data sets was used for the analysis: city and country of birth.  For the reader’s reference, attached is the blank form all contributors received.

SWEETNESS AND BIG CHOCOLATE

The first overall theme from the results and sampling was that the majority of participants (9 of the 15 who responded to the specific prompt) preferred the sweet samples (Hershey’s or Cadbury) to the bitter/darker ones.  One volunteer jokingly referred to the 90% Lindt Supreme Dark chocolate sample as being “offensive” to her taste buds.  This is not surprising as most people exhibit a preference for sweetness.

As described by David Benton, “The attraction of chocolate lies in its taste.  The combination of sweetness and fat approaches the ideal hedonic combination.”  Benton further explains that within experimentation, “when the palatability of combinations of fat and sugar were compared, the optimal combination was found to be 7.6% sugar with cream containing 24.7% fat” and that “the fat content of chocolate is close to this ideal figure, although the sugar content of chocolate is greater” (Benton, 2004).  However, as this Slate article points out, humans “are the descendants of wandering hunter-gatherers with a powerful ability to learn from experience: Like them, we can train our palates and brains to extract some pleasure from almost any kind of food.”  For example, the Aymara of Peru possess genes that predispose them to despise bitterness, yet “their diets depended on a highly bitter strain of potatoes.  So they liked them.”  Ultimately, necessity and culture defeated their genetic predisposition (McQuaid, 2015).

Sidney Mintz also expresses his doubts that a human preference for sugar (a major ingredient in almost all chocolate) lead to the proliferation of sugar around the globe: “That human beings like the taste of sweetness does not explain why some eat immense quantities of sweet foods and others hardly any… There is nothing ‘natural’ or inevitable about these ‘processes’ [of adopting flavor preferences]; they have no inbuilt dynamic of their own” (Mintz, 1986).  Applying this logic to the survey volunteers, it can be suggested that the preference to Hershey’s and Cadbury is due to a lack of necessity and cultural pressure to enjoy bitter chocolate.  This is not difficult to imagine through the lens of Big Chocolate’s business model and ethics.

Chocolate’s history has undergone several drastic changes.  Where it was once solely available to Mesoamericans in Pre-Columbian times, it moved to Europe as a status symbol drunk by elites and eventually became a widely available treat in multiple cultures across the globe.  How this happened is a tale of several factors that include benign technological advances as well as pervasive slave labor.  Much, if not all, the cacao used for chocolate during the Industrial Revolution was harvested by slaves in the New World as “enslaved people were more valuable than indentured because their labor was purchased for life rather than for a limited period of years and the children of enslaved women were declared slaves at birth” (Higman, 2011).  Even after abolition, slave labor persisted in various forms such as indentured labor and debt servitude.  When journalists confronted the Cadbury company in the early 1900s with evidence that they were purchasing cacao from plantations utilizing slave labor, Cadbury did very little to change the status quo, instead hiring its own agent to investigate African plantation practices four years after first hearing rumors of slave labor in Africa.  In four years, the Cadbury company had “accomplished nothing for the slaves who produced the cocoa beans” (Satre, 2005).

By lowering the cost of labor, companies are able to save on production costs and lower the price for consumers, allowing their chocolate to become more widely available on the global market.  As seen by the Hershey’s and Cadbury wrappers used in the survey, neither has fair trade certifications that indicate better ethical business practices compared to their contemporary peers who attempt to solely purchase cacao from farmers and farming cooperatives ensuring child-free labor practices (among other things).  As seen in the figure below, Cadbury Royal Dark and Hershey’s Special Dark are at least 40% cheaper per ounce than their fair trade competitors (Endangered, Trader Joe’s, and Green & Black’s).

Chocolate Prices
Price per ounce of the 8 chocolate samples.

Creating a wider consumer audience was also accomplished with clever business tactics.  For example, Mars’ Milky Way was a creation specifically designed to skimp on expensive quality chocolate but still be considered tasty to consumers.  Forrest Mars recounted this about his father and the Milky Way bar: “He has a candy bar.  And it’s a chocolate malted drink.  He put some caramel on top of it, and some chocolate around it – not very good chocolate, he was buying cheap chocolate – but that damn thing sold.  No advertising.”  The Milky Way was strikingly different from its competitors because the malt-flavored nougat was the bar’s main ingredient.  It made the bar “much bigger, tasted just as chocolatey, but cost much less to produce.”  Forrest Mars bragged, “People walked up to the candy counter and they’d see this flat little Hershey bar for a nickel and right next to it a giant Milky Way.  Guess which one they’d pick?” (Brenner, 2000).

Due to competitive business practices between the various Big Chocolate companies, the American market is saturated with cheap chocolate.  There is also little incentive to purchase chocolate for cultural reasons, the other would-be defender of bitter flavors.  Unfortunately, American society has a less significant cultural history (comparatively speaking) associated with chocolate as “the institution of the chocolate or coffee-house seems never to have crossed the Atlantic to England’s North American colonies.”  Coffee and chocolate houses were hotbeds of sedition in England where men would drink chocolate or coffee and politically foment.  However, “parliamentary democracy did not extend to the colonies, and Americans were isolated from the give-and-take and political deals that were the daily fare of enfranchised Englishmen in [chocolate and coffee] establishments… The colonial well-to-do took their chocolate, but at home,” away from society at large (Coe & Coe, 2013).  This can be seen reflected in the fact that Americans consume less chocolate per person per year (9.5 pounds) than several European countries (UK = 16.3 pounds, Switzerland = 19.8 pounds, Germany = 17.4 pounds, and the Netherlands = 10.4 pounds) (McCarthy, 2015).

At this point, it should be noted that of the 9 participants who preferred the Hershey’s and Cadbury samples, 8 were born in the United States and 1 in Asia (which exhibits different chocolate consumption habits and preferences than in the West) (Allen, 2010).  All European-born participants favored the more bitter chocolates.  Unfortunately, only 15 individuals completed this section of the form, which does not make the survey particularly scientifically or statistically significant.  In future, it would be far more interesting to gather a larger number of participants.

HEALTH PERCEPTIONS

A far lesser but generally accepted theme among the participants was the perception of dark chocolate’s health benefits.  This was displayed during one particular key moment.  A few individuals expressed slight hesitation in joining the sampling due to dieting concerns.  “It’s not my cheat day,” one said of his regimen.  “Oh, don’t worry,” another participant exclaimed, “it’s all dark chocolate, so it’s healthy.”  On the one hand, the vacillating participants had a sense that eating dark chocolate broke their diet.  But then there were colleagues purporting that dark chocolate was healthy enough to break his diet. That was all that seemed necessary for the individual to become a volunteer and join the sampling party with his colleagues.

Unfortunately, the health benefits of chocolate have been vastly sensationalized as contemporary popular “claims confer on chocolate the properties of being a stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” (Bisson et al., 2013).  The woman in the video below is a prime example.

However, for every study suggesting positive benefits, there is a study to suggest that no significant effect is present at all.  For example, one study found that cocoa lowered blood pressure in patients with coronary artery disease, but then “a double-blind placebo trial using flavanol-rich cocoa beverages with natural or added theobromine, concluded that although after 2 [hours] of consumption the central systolic [blood pressure] was significantly lowered by the theobromine-added beverage, the [24-hour] ambulatory or central [blood pressure] was not affected.”  Consumers could theoretically just consume theobromine (a compound found in cacao) in chocolate every 2 hours, but that would mean ingesting a significant amount of calories, which provides its own set of health consequences.  David Benton summarizes this phenomenon succinctly:

“Chocolate contains a range of compounds… These include caffeine, phenylethylamine, magnesium, and anandamide.  A common reason why they are unlikely to have any significant impact is that with any likely consumption of chocolate they are certain to be provided in a dose that is inactive.  For example, to consume the minimal active dose of 1g of phenylethalmine one would need to rapidly eat 15kg of chocolate.  In addition, to prevent its breakdown by the liver the taking of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor is to be recommended… [O]ne would need to consume 25kg of chocolate to obtain a psychoactive dose of anandamide” (2004).

However, participants and readers should not be discouraged.  While much of dark chocolate’s health benefits are not firmly established, it is true “that dark chocolate ‘does no harm,’ to use the Hippocratic phrase – at least to humans… Dark chocolate does not cause diabetes, dental caries, or acne, or produce headaches, as sometimes has been alleged” (Coe & Coe, 2007).

CONCLUSION

Participants in a novel chocolate tasting experience reinforced historical and contemporary trends prevalent in the chocolate industry.  These included the two themes of preferring sweet chocolate to dark chocolate and contradictory notions of dark chocolate’s health benefits.  The first theme revealed Big Chocolate’s history in slavery and dubious business practices as a potential explanation to consumers’ preference of sweet chocolate as opposed to the more obvious reason that humans naturally prefer the taste of sweetness.  The second theme featured the contradictory health notions associated with dark chocolate as described by participants’ hesitation to join the chocolate sampling.  To further improve the results, more participants could be used to capture more statistically significant data to make the analysis more robust.

REFERENCES

Allen, Lawrence. (2010). Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallet of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association.

Benton, David. (2004). “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Bisson, Jean-Francois, et al. (2013). “Clinical Benefits of Cocoa: An Overview.” Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. New York: Humana Press.

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

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. (2007). The True History of Chocolate (3rd ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson.

Higman, B.W. (2011). A Concise History of the Caribbean. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McCarthy, Niall. (2015). “The World’s Biggest Chocolate Consumers [Infographic].” Forbes. Retrieved May 9, 2018 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/07/22/the-worlds-biggest-chocolate-consumers-infographic/#6bb1038f4484.

McQuaid, John. (2015). “Why Do We Like Bitter Foods?” Slate. Retrieved May 9, 2018 from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/01/why_do_we_like_bitter_foods.html.

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

Satre, Lowell J. (2005). Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

 

*** Many thanks to all the volunteers who sat down after a long day of work to eat chocolate and share their thoughtful opinions.

HEXX Chocolate – A Super. Natural. Story on the Las Vegas Strip

Situated in the shadow of a half-sized replica of the Eiffel Tower, amidst the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip, we find the unlikely presence of Nevada’s sole bean-to-bar chocolate concept called HEXX Chocolate (Feldberg). In a city where audacious and artificial are the norm – HEXX’s authentic approach to chocolate they call “Super. Natural.” is breaking the mold of industry paradigms and bridging the huge chasm between chocolate’s primary consumers in the global north and cacao producers in the global south (“Authentic”). In HEXX’s unique approach, they are taking on one of the most pressing social and ethical challenges facing the chocolate industry today – the plight of farmers in cacao producing nations and the general lack of awareness amongst consumers. By examining four key aspects of HEXX: The unique DNA of its leadership; the original way it is presenting its chocolate story to customers; its intentional cultivation of long-term, ethical relationship with its farmers; and its unique challenges, we will see HEXX molding chocolate’s present and future for the better.

HEXX’s Founders and Chocolate Makers – As Unique as Its Brand

As unique as HEXX’s presence is on the Las Vegas Strip, equally as original are its founders and chocolate makers. In the emerging craft chocolate space that has grown from a single company to 200 in the past two decades (Leissle 3; Giller), one might imagine a chocolate maker as a geeky chocolate scientist perfecting chocolate for other geeks (Giller) or perhaps a hipster with a cause (“MAST”). However, at HEXX, we find something quite different. The brain-trust and chocolate makers at HEXX are Matthew Silverman and Matthew Piekarski – established, culinary heavyweights in the Las Vegas dining scene who also lead HEXX’s 24×7 restaurant operation, which shares the same space and name (“Meet Our Chefs”).

Silverman and Piekarski
Chefs Matthew Silverman and Matthew Piekarski head up HEXX’s Restaurant and Chocolate Operations in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip (Morris).

In a town chock-full of celebrities, one could argue Silverman and Piekarski are celebrities in their own right. Silverman traces his culinary roots to the acclaimed Wolfgang Puck (Leach). Piekarski’s resume not only includes an Executive Chef stint working with Eva Longoria Parker but he has the distinction of being named “Las Vegas’ Hottest Chef” (“Chef Matt Piekarski”; Stapleton). Silverman and Piekarski’s culinary chops and earned reputations provide them a perfect platform to share HEXX’s chocolate story from their headquarters on the Las Vegas Strip, which they have been doing since 2015. In doing so, they are not only sharing the story of HEXX, but also the unique locales where its chocolate originates from and the oft-untold stories of farmers who cultivate and harvest cacao – the raw materials from which chocolate is made.

Engaging, Educating, and Expanding Chocolate’s Consumer Base

It is impossible to step-off of Las Vegas Boulevard, into HEXX’s 30,000 square foot restaurant and chocolate factory and not leave with a better appreciation for its chocolate and its origin stories (Womack).

HEXX's Logo
HEXX’s logo highlights the story of cacao farmers 20 degrees north and south of the equator (“HEXX Logo”).

That is exactly Silverman and Piekarski’s intent. From HEXX’s name and chocolate packaging to how it creatively engages customers throughout their restaurant dining experience, HEXX is educating its customers and changing their perceptions about chocolate (Piekarski). Says Silverman about the name HEXX, “The XX represents Roman numerals and speaks to the farms we source our cacao beans from, all of which are located 20 degrees above or below the equator” (Vintage View). Before unwrapping any of HEXX’s 2-oz, single-origin chocolate bars, one learns about the country and farm its cacao is sourced from and the unique flavors and terroir of the region (“Product”).

HEXX Chocoate Bars
HEXX’s single-orgin bars from different regions around the world (from left to right): Venezuela, Tanzania, Peru, Ecuador, and Madagascar (not pictured: Dominican Republic) (“About Our Chocolate”).
HEXX Dark Chocolate - Ecuador, Camino Verde Farm
HEXX’s most popular bar from the Camino Verde Farm in Ecuador (Vintage View). Its flavorings are “well-rounded with sweet marzipan and floral notes” (“Product Catalog”. It contains 73% cacao content (“HEXX Chocolate – Camino Verde Bar”).
Venezuelan Milk Chocolate Cheesecake
Venezuelan Milk Chocolate Cheesecake – one of the ways HEXX highlights chocolate throughout its menu (“Venezuelan Cheesecake”).

HEXX also sprinkles in subtle chocolate highlights throughout its restaurant dining experience – from its use of cocoa nibs as a nut replacement in muffins and salads to its use of Venezuelan Milk Chocolate in a luxurious cheesecake (Piekarski; That’s So Vegas). At the end of each meal, diners are given a petit four, which offers a taste of one of HEXX’s six single-origin chocolates. This end-of-meal ceremony not only serves as a decadent way to culminate one’s gastronomic experience but is an invitation to its patrons to learn more about HEXX’s chocolate story and more importantly connect with its cacao farmers – 20 degrees above and below the equator. 

Petit Four
A petit four, emblazoned with HEXX’s signature XX, and accompanied by a “spell-binding” message similar to those inscribed on the back of HEXX’s chocolate bars (HEXX Chocolate).

While HEXX’s chocolate message to its customers is subtle and sophisticated, its commitment to its farmers is clear and direct and can be traced to Silverman and Piekarski’s own personal culinary backgrounds: “Coming from our roots as chefs we have an appreciation for the farmers and purveyors who grow and raise our food. Developing relationships with the people who grow and import our ingredients is the most important thing that we do. Knowing who grows the ingredients, how they are grown and ensuring that the people growing them are paid a fair price is at the core of our beliefs as chefs and chocolate makers” (“Direct Trade”). It is HEXX’s relationship with its cacao farmers and how it is addressing current labor issues in the chocolate industry that we will explore next.

Cultivating Long-Term, Ethical Trade Relationships

One of the most pressing issues facing the chocolate industry today is the dichotomy between the wealth generated by big chocolate companies in the global north and the extremely low and inconsistent wages of cacao farmers in the global south (Martin “Introduction”). In 2014, the chocolate industry registered over $100 billion dollars in worldwide sales (“Cocoa Prices”). At the same time, in the two highest producing cacao nations of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – responsible for 60 percent of world cacao production – farmers are paid on average $.50 and $.84 a day, respectively (Martin “Introduction”). This is far below the World Bank’s poverty line of $1.90 per day and well below other global minimum wage standards (“FAQs: Global Poverty”; Martin “Introduction”).

Cocoa Barometer
Cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana make $0.50 and $0.84 a day on average. Additionally wages are often irregular, creating other challenges for farmers (“Cocoa Barometer”; Martin “Introduction”).
Cocoa Barometer
While chocolate is a $100 billion dollar industry, just a small percentage of it makes its way back to farmers in cacao producing nations (“Real Cost”).

In response to this disparity, over the years a number of solutions have been developed including coalitions, government initiatives, civil society organizations and ethical trade models (Martin “Introduction”). The most recognizable of these today are the certifications emblazoned on the front of chocolate bars and other food products like Fair-Trade, UTZ, USDA Organic, and Rainforest Alliance (Martin and Sampeck 51; Martin “Alternative Trade”). While HEXX does purchase certified beans from at least two of its six cacao suppliers, in its choice not to exclusively source certified beans, HEXX is highlighting the limitations and critiques leveled against the certification model itself – that it is not always most beneficial to farmers (“About Our Chocolate”; Martin and Sampeck 52). While certifications generate big dollars – over $3 billion in revenue worldwide – very little of it makes its way back to producers (Martin “Alternative Trade”). By some estimations, for every dollar an American consumer pays for a Fair Trade product, a meager $.03 makes its way back to farmers (Sylla 125). Of its decision not to solely purchase certified organic beans in particular, HEXX states, “Not all of our cacao beans are certified organic, because certifications can be a costly expense for our farmers, but all are produced to the same standards that organic certifiers adhere to” (“Direct Trade”). Thus, while quality is of great importance to HEXX, consideration for its farmers is paramount.

Certifications
Certifications generate big dollars but by some estimations, for every dollar an American consumer pays for a Fair Trade product, just $.03 trickles down to farmers (Sylla 125; Martin “Alternative Trade”).

HEXX’s answer to the social and economic conditions of its farmers and the less-than-effective certification model is clear: the cultivation of long-term, direct trade relationships (“Direct Trade”). Advocates of direct trade, including HEXX, argue three primary benefits: first, it enables farmers to negotiate price, resulting in generally higher premiums. Second, it incentivizes farmers to produce higher-quality beans. Lastly and most importantly, it eliminates the layers of middlemen that have historically been a part of the chocolate trade. This fosters learning and mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and chocolate makers (“Direct Trade”; Martin “Alternative Trade”).

Conventional Cocoa Value Chain
Direct trade eliminates the layers of middlemen historically a part of the chocolate supply chain (Phillips).

Their relationships with cacao farmers is something Piekarski and Silverman take very personally. While potential partners are first identified by friend and “Chocolate Sourcerer,” Greg D’Alesandre of Dandelion Chocolate, Piekarski and Silverman take it from there (Piekarski). They travel to each country to meet and establish relationships with potential partners, and see the conditions farmers work under. Piekarski describes these trips as “life changing experiences” that have altered both his business and personal perspectives. Silverman adds, “When we form a partnership with a cacao farm, we are looking to build a long-term relationship with them. There’s no way to do that without going to the farm, trying and testing their cacao beans, and getting to know the owners and operators. Plus, we need to feel good about the culture of the cacao farm. Establishing a business relationship . . . is like getting to know extended family” (“Behind the Scenes”). HEXX’s verbal commitment translates into action. While the global commodity price for cacao has hovered around $1 a pound in recent years, HEXX pays its farmers between $5 and $10 a pound, according to Piekarski.

Silverman and Piekarski - Camino Verde
Piekarski (second from right) and Silverman (far right) visiting Camino Verde in Ecuador – one of the farms HEXX sources its cacao from (“Camino Verde”).

Direct trade is not without its limitations and critiques as well. Critics, particularly as it relates to craft chocolate, point to at least three limitations: first, its reach is very limited. For instance, of the 4.8 million metric tons of cacao purchased each year, HEXX purchases just 30 tons of it (Martin “Alternative Trade”; Martin and Sampeck 55; Piekarski). Second, direct trade partnerships tend to be devoid of farms in West African countries which account for 70 percent of the world’s cacao production (Martin and Sampeck 55; Wessel and Quist-Wessel). This is true of HEXX’s partnerships as well, which are in Madagascar, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Tanzania, and the Dominican Republic (“Product”). Lastly, direct trade relationships can be fragile, in part, because craft chocolate companies that favor these relationships may lack industry experience, financial stability, and face steep learning-curves (Martin and Sampeck 55). To this final critique, HEXX’s response is strong. Silverman and Piekarski’s culinary pedigree and HEXX’s business model set them apart from other craft chocolate companies. While chocolate will always be the foundation and cornerstone on which HEXX is built, its sales account for just $1 million of HEXX’s $30 million in annual combined revenue (Piekarski). This fact puts HEXX in an extremely strong position and affords them creative liberties to take risks with its chocolate brand – a luxury most craft chocolate companies do not have.

When one looks at the entirety of HEXX: The culinary and celebrity gravitas of its two chocolate makers, a $30 million restaurant behind it, and its prime location on the Las Vegas Strip, it is easy to assume HEXX holds the perfect hand in the burgeoning craft chocolate market. However, HEXX is not without its challenges. The very things that make HEXX distinct, also contribute to its biggest challenges. We will close by exploring these challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead for HEXX.

HEXX’s Challenges and Its Future

With its prime location and Silverman and Piekarski at the helm, HEXX has unrivaled access to two atypical markets for a craft chocolate company: the casual consumer dining at its restaurant and the vast number of restaurateurs in Las Vegas, whom HEXX could source its chocolate to. However, in its outreach to both groups, HEXX has faced some resistance. While chocolate is featured throughout HEXX’s menu, Piekarski said they have scaled back use particularly in some of its main dishes. While chocolate connoisseurs might swoon over a chicken mole or steak finished-off with condensed cocoa butter, not all of HEXX’s customers have taken to these flavors. Further, Piekarski said they have reached out to “every casino in town” to offer their chocolate as a source ingredient that could potentially be incorporated into other restaurants’ dishes. This has also been met with resistance. Piekarski states, “We want people to incorporate our chocolate in everything they do not necessarily because we want our brand out there but we want to supply people with a superior quality product at a cheaper price. We understand, as chefs, restaurants operate on very thin margins and this is as important for [other restaurants] as it is for us.”

Alexxa
HEXX’s Book of Chocolate Stories features Alexxa, HEXX’s “mystical muse” who is featured prominently throughout its brand. While appealing to mainstream customers, Alexxa’s presence as well as the absence of certification labels on HEXX’s products may be a hurdle for gourmet grocery stores (“Alexxa”).

HEXX’s location and popular appeal has also proved perplexingly problematic to a typical craft chocolate ally: gourmet grocery stores like Whole Foods. While HEXX has been well-received at events like the Fancy Food Show – the largest food show on the West Coast – it has faced a vexing, uphill battle with gourmet grocery stores precisely because of its mainstream appeal and Las Vegas Strip location (That’s So Vegas; Piekarski). Piekarski explains, “It took us a year and a half to get into Whole Foods in Las Vegas. And we only got there because we are [local].” He continues, “Everything about what we do is not what they look for in terms of craft chocolate. People ask, ‘Where do you produce? On the Las Vegas Strip?’ And that can be the end of the conversation 7 times out of 10.” In just its third year of operations, as the only craft chocolate producer in Nevada, challenges such as these should not come as a total surprise.  And as HEXX steps out further to explore new territory, its opportunities for growth are abundant.

HEXX’s future plans include developing its restaurant presence locally, growing retail sales nationally, and forming new cacao partnerships internationally. After recent renovations to its dining facilities, HEXX is purposefully reintegrating chocolate into its food program in a distinct way, says Piekarski. Weekend diners will now find a cart-wheeling Chocolate Sommelier offering up chocolate for guests to sample, adding another chocolate connection point for its customers. HEXX also recently hired a former Mars and Hershey employee tasked with expanding its retail presence in the Northwest and Midwest, in addition to Central Markets in Texas and Carr Valley Cheese Stores in Wisconsin where HEXX is currently sold (Piekarski; “Where to Find”). Finally, HEXX is looking to extend its international reach to cacao farmers in two additional countries – Trinidad and Granada (Piekarski).

HEXX - James Beard Foundation
Piekarski (third from left) and Silverman (far right) with fellow chefs and friends presenting a 6-course Chocolate Themed Valentine’s Eve Dinner at the historic James Beard Foundation House in New York City (“James Beard”).

Conclusion

In HEXX, we see an immensely compelling craft chocolate concept, connecting multitudes of atypical consumers to the story of its cacao farmers – 20 degrees above and below the equator. Through its authentic message to its customers and ethical relationships with farmers, HEXX is artfully bringing two worlds together that could not be further apart. While HEXX has faced challenges on multiple fronts during its first years, it is impossible not to be incredibly optimistic about HEXX’s industry-altering potential. With two talented and resolute chefs at the helm of its $30 million restaurant and chocolate operations, HEXX has both the gastronomic and financial chops to challenge the chocolate industry’s status-quo, transforming the way consumers see chocolate, and elevating the plight of cacao farmers in the process. In a city built on big wagers, perhaps there is none bigger and more important to chocolate’s sustainable future than HEXX.

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