Buying chocolate in America can be much like any other purchase in terms of the shockingly wide range of options, flavors, and price points made available to the consumer. There are basic candies and bars that will satisfy a craving and there are expensive treats that claim to be so luxurious they go so far as to hint at the possibility of providing for a longer life (https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158). All of these options are available under the name of chocolate and convenience. This essay will focus on comparisons between only two candy aisles at two stores: CVS and Whole Foods; both Fortune 500 companies, neither of which are confectioneries or chocolate houses.
CVS is a $117.4 billion (according to Forbes.com) drug retail company. Not only are they the biggest retailer of prescription drugs and the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S., but they also provide healthcare services through medical clinics and diabetes care centers. In addition, they also sell chocolate.
True to their origins as a pharmaceutical vendor, when one walks into a CVS, it has a compact, efficient, and even slightly clinical look and feel. The open space is brightly lit by overhead fluorescent lights, large red tags indicate where items can be found, and special offers and discounts are loudly displayed and announced overhead. Even the retail staff members are dressed in white lab coats lending to the authenticity of a doctor’s waiting room.
This store prides itself on health, but also low prices and convenience. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers weekly and even daily special discounts. The candy aisle is located at the front of the store near the entrance, across from toys and other fun, spontaneous, instant-gratification type items and extras. Additional chocolate items are lined up under a selection of gum at the register for last-minute impulse purchases, with sale prices highlighted to focus attention on the discount provided.
As one walks to the candy aisle, the packaging and marketing materials (mostly plastic) are immediately noticeable in bright colors, bold fonts, and large labels. The branding, for most American customers, would be quickly recognized as all belonging to the “big chocolate” brands: Hershey’s, Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, Mars, and Cadbury (Martin, “The rise”).
There are bars of chocolate, but the majority of products offered are blended with, or provide a shell coating over, less expensive products. The iconic milk chocolate Hershey’s bar is showcased in the middle row at eye-level, sharing the shelf with Nestle Chunky bars (a chunky-shaped candy bar with milk chocolate, California raisins, and roasted peanuts). Nips (a hard candy, some of which contain a chocolate-flavored filling), Dove chocolate bars and Cadbury Dairy Milk bars are above. Below are larger packages of bars, including:
Hershey’s Special Dark (a semi-sweet chocolate bar)
Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (a white candy bar with pieces of chocolate-flavored cookies interspersed)
York Peppermint Patties (dark chocolate-covered soft peppermint disks)
Hershey’s Mounds (a dark-chocolate covered center made from shredded coconut)
Hershey’s Almond Joy (a milk chocolate-covered coconut-based center topped with almonds)
Mars Snickers (a milk chocolate-covered nougat topped with caramel and peanuts)
Mars Milky Way (a chocolate-covered chocolate malt flavored nougat with caramel)
Nestle Butterfinger (a chocolate-toffee-covered bar with a flaky, crisp, peanut butter-flavored center)
These items can be purchased individually; however, the majority of the products are in gradually increasing sizes and quantities with prices ranging from $0.39 to $0.89 an ounce. While no great mention or display is made with regard to the ingredients, origin, manufacturing practices, ethical concerns, or quality of cacao in these products, three of the four Dove chocolate bars are stamped with the Rainforest Alliance certification.
Based on the selection provided: the absence of cacao mentioned, the presence of larger size packages, the heavy focus on additional ingredients such as nuts, fruits, and/or confections, and lower bulk prices that accompany them, etc., we learn that the CVS’s targeted audience has limited time and money to spend. The intention is “caloric consumption,” grab and go convenience, a meal substitution or perhaps simply to ease a craving.
Whole Foods is an $18.8 billion (according to Forbes.com) supermarket chain that claims to be “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” (www.wholefoodsmarket.com). Their goal is to sell the healthiest foods possible and offer products that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats. There is a welcoming feel to the expansive space. The lighting is warm without being harsh, the walls are lined with soft wood, posted signs are in uniformly calming tones, and helpful employees all wear green aprons. It has the look and feel of an up-scale farmers market.
One can find the candy aisle located next to the produce section, across from organic baby foods, and adjacent to a beautiful display of organic “Whole Body” healing bath salts and soaps. The chocolate bars (mainly bars and mostly dark, only a few milk chocolate or blended confections are offered) are wrapped in expensive papers and foils featuring endangered species, philanthropic organizations and specific causes, picturesque scenes or artistically created designs.
There are no “big chocolate” products to be found.
Each bar appears to have been hand-selected from a variety of artisanal chocolatiers. Some are smaller than others, but all promise their own unique look, feel, story, and taste.
Instead of being recognized and advertised by known “big chocolate” brand names, these brands chose to focus instead on highlighting select ingredients and percentage of cacao. Each bar clearly calls out the selected ingredients, origin and percentage of cacao as well as the origin and processing of any included ingredients. Some examples include:
45% cacao milk chocolate with Congo coffee and cream
55% dark chocolate with chilies and cherries
57% organic dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel
60% dark stone ground chocolate with toffee almond and sea salt
65% dark chocolate with forbidden rice
70% organic fair trade dark chocolate with cherry almond
70% dark chocolate bar with ancho chile, cinnamon, and orange
72% cacao organic dark chocolate, cardamom, cinnamon, and chili
88% cacao – extreme dark
Ethical, health, and religious concerns are also addressed through seals of (sometimes multiple) certifications on each chocolate bar, such as: Demeter, Whole Trade, Fair Trade, Fair for Life, Direct Trade, Non GMO Project Verified, Oregon Tilth, Certified Gluten-Free, Rainforest Alliance, Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan, Kosher Dairy, and USDA Organic. If additional information is desired, the store has also placed a display rack at the entrance to the aisle featuring a free publication titled, “For a Better World, Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.” It even includes a reference guide to fair trade and worker welfare programs provided to educate customers and raise awareness levels of labor practices.
The price points reflect the additional information, attention to detail, and more expensive packaging. Costs per ounce range from $0.59 to $3.85. Not only are costs higher than CVS, but even the cost differential within Whole Foods’ offerings are significant.
Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, stated that “The fair trade chocolate category in our grocery departments has grown by more than 350 percent over the past five years. That’s a true indicator that ourshoppers are really making a positive impact on the lives of cocoa growers in developing countries” (Martin, “Alternative trade”).
The intended audience has time and money to spend. Whole Foods has created a shopping experience that intentionally targets the “conscientious consumer,” someone who is educated on agricultural sourcing and labor practices – or would at least like to be.
These high-end chocolates are being provided for someone who wants to treat themselves to something delicious and feel good about it; a way of thinking that their self-indulgence (via the chocolate and price point) is making a positive impact on the world around them.
Ultimately, both stores sell chocolate while focusing on “health” and “healthier living”, albeit through very different lenses. CVS provides chocolate and chocolate-coated items intended for mass consumption at a lower price point – making the process as quick and efficient as possible through placement and known brands. Whole Foods provides high-end, more artisanal chocolates intended for indulgence at higher price points. Their goal is to provide their customers with a buying experience – chocolate is located in the middle of the store (not as convenient for quick shops) and intended to have time to browse, read, and learn about different products and practices as part of a shopping routine.
Fair World Project. “For a Better World:Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.” Issue 12 Spring 2016.
Martin, Carla D. “Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 27 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 9 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.
Mintz, Sidney. 1986. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.
Defining help can be as simple as saying it is the means whereby one offers assistance to another. And although this is not the official definition offered in some of the world’s most prestigious dictionaries. It reflects what seems to be the working definition that applies to many cases where help has gone wrong. This seems to be the case when it comes to chocolate and it’s connection to the help that has been offered to many groups over the years. It also seems that it is the case that many modern agencies and organizations are using in the 21st century as it relates to chocolate. It is upon this assumption that one might conclude that help, as good as the thought may initially be, may be the last thing those connected to chocolate actually need.
First, help itself must be defined in a way that actually conceptualizes intent and results. When the Spaniards came to the Americas and decided that they wanted to help the natives, it is not so clear that they actually intended to help the natives. To gain a better insight to whether or not their intention were actually positive, one should really look critically at the word help from the perspective of intent and result. Defining help in this way will allow one to define the word and conceptualize the actions of others that may allow them to discern whether help is actually negative or positive. To look at a scenario where help was offered, but help turned wrong and say an individual never meant to help may be a bad judgment call. Moreover, it may be a case where one fails to see the good in one’s heart because of the bad that it produces. Conflicting or not, good can turn bad without negative intent.
So, how does one define help? How can its mechanisms be traced in such a way that positions the outsider to determine whether help is actually help? In order for help to be help it must first be selfless. Yes, help is help. But, overall, help has the most potential to go wrong when it is offered on a premise where the deliverer’s intent is to gain something from their action. It is even worst when this intent is held as a secret. In and of it self, it is nothing actually wrong with a benefactor gaining dividends from the assistance given to a beneficiary. Actually, that is when help is a two-fold win-win situation. However, when one begins the road to help with the intent to gain, it is the platform whereby the failure of help begins. Therefore, we propose that good help is the help that begins with the intention of a benefactor that has no intent to receive any dividends –be those dividends monetary, political, or social gain.
It may seem like a fruitless task defining the portion of help that addresses results. But, we can’t assume that the intended results of help are always good. Yes, it is directly connected with intent. But, one can intend not to benefit from a helpful deed while simultaneously hoping that the help that they are offering will cause one to fail. When the designed results are negative, one cannot truly be helping. Help, in it’s purest form is designed in a selfless frame that is constructed with materials that are prone to strengthen the beneficiaries, and the beneficiaries alone. Although help, and anything else has the potential to produce negative results, from its initial conception, in order for it to be considered help, it must set out to selflessly assistance, build, and expand its beneficiaries.
When looking at the history of slavery, the Spaniards, and the development of the western world, I am not so certain that we can say that they meant to actually help the natives. It seems that the leadership intended to help themselves more than anything else. The natives, who were so called devil worshippers, were the scapegoat used to cover the actual intent of the Spaniards. These individuals came across the world into an unknown territory that was filled with people and somehow ended up in control of the land. The question of all time is, how did Columbus discover America when America was an inhabited land? In the 21st century, one may actually question the intent of his journeys. Is it possible that Columbus and those he served actually knew that the Americas were inhabited and from the beginning intended to conquer it?
Take for instance this notion that the Spaniards were offering the natives protection. The first question that comes to my mind is, what are you protecting these people from? If the natives have lived in the lands for hundreds of years and the Spanish are new to the land, would not it seem more appropriate for the natives to be protecting the Spanish? Well, not if the Spanish were just covering up and attempting to compensate for their negative intents to expand their territory. If you are protecting me from you with the intent to only create a level of allegiance, you have not meant to help me at all. On the contrary, you have set out to manipulate me. It seems that the Spanish were great manipulators. It seems impossible for them to actually have set out to help the natives. The seemingly only plausible protection they could have offered them could have been the introduction to their technologies in warfare. Instead, the Spanish used their technological advancements in warfare to create fear and intimidation. The end result of that was the conquering of Latin America. No, this was not the sole reason and means by which the Spanish conquered that region of the world. But surely, help through protection was a major contributor to their success.
To think, if this kind of help did not take the case, let us consider religion. The Spaniards wanted to help the natives by offering them religion. The results of this help were neither good for the religion or the people it sought to help. Christianity, a religion based on love, took all the rights and humanity of the people it sought to help. If that was a religion that was meant to help people, I am not so sure many individuals would want that kind of help. This Christian help stripped hundreds of natives of their homes, culture, language, and livelihood. From the outset, this help was laced with selfishness and vile intent. As good as a religion may be, it must respect the context in which it is attempting to penetrate. Modern day Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ may even venture to say that the Spanish that set out to conquer the Americas were not good Christians at all. Even though much of Latin America is filled with Christians because of the Spanish conquest. Christians can’t look back and say they are totally proud of such an accomplishment.
The means whereby the Spanish converted Latin America were gruel. Thousands of lives were lost. Rich cultures were demonized and annihilated. This is not an overall good. This, in fact, is an overall bad that got some good out of it. From a Christian’s perspective, having a continent full of disciples of Jesus is very good. But, having hundreds of families, communities, and cultures destroyed was not good at all. In retrospect, the intent and the designed results of the Spanish were not good. Therefore, the help was not necessarily the help. This help was the means and the platform whereby the Spanish conquered nearly an entire continent. Good came from it. But, can we actually confirm that good for the natives were actually the intent?
The history suggests that help is not always help. When one decides that they want to offer help, one must take a deep look into the intentions and the determined results. Moreover, when one decides they would like to receive help, they must take all of these things into consideration. This is especially important when modern Latin American cacao farmers, who are yet being abused by Europeans, consider receiving help from Europeans who recognize that they are being abused.
After hundreds of years of oppression, Latinos in various countries have overcome the oppression of Europeans in many ways. Slavery is outlawed. But there is a new kind of oppression on the loose. It is called help. What is old has become new. The new has become old. Latinos in northern South America are yet producing cacao beans, sugar, and other commodity crops. Unfortunately, there has not been a mechanism created to ensure that cacao farmers are actually being treated fairly. It is just not the cacao growers in northern South America that are suffering, either. Cacao growers in West Africa experience is quite the same.
Each year the chocolate industry brings in millions upon millions of dollars. One would think that those individuals that are raising the raw materials needed to produce the chocolate would benefit as well. This is not the case. Of course we realize that the cacao farmers would not get equal shares of profits like heads of companies like Hershey’s or Mars. But, the average person would not imagine that these cacao farmers are actually making pennies a day relative to what executives are making in big chocolate companies. Maybe it is assumed that cacao farmers are making hundreds a day while the major chocolate companies are making thousands. But that is not the reality.
Over the years there has been a rising awareness of these unfair practices. Individuals in the United States have gained a passion for what they call suffering cacao farmers. From this passion movement, help has began to arise. But, it is not for certain that these movements are actually moving the needle. Dr. Carla Martin reports that in 2015 a study reported that the average income in Ghana for cacao farmers is 80 cents per day. For cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire it is even worst. Cacao farmers in Côte d’Ivoire only make 50 cent per day. Although cacao originated in Latin America, West Africa produces nearly 75 percent of the world’s cacao. “Three of the four million metric tons of cacao come from two countries in West Africa –Ghana and Cout D’voire”(Carla Martin). Humanitarians across the western world have a huge problem with this. These humanitarians cannot seem to understand why these countries in West Africa produces so much cacao and receive so little of the profits.
As a result of these findings, many organizations are rising to the surface to offer help. But the question yet remains, is help actually? One still wonders if these individuals are helping from the standpoint of pure compassion or are they hiding something. Hidden agendas have seemed to be the trend for hundreds of years. The Spaniards said they were helping the native Mesoamericans by offering them protection and Christianity. Now, you have many Americans seeking to help farmers in West Africa. But, it seems altogether to close to the help Mesoamericans received from the Spanish hundreds of years of ago –somebody from outside the culture coming in to save the day.
Some groups are working to make fair trade laws that will get more money into the hands of cacao farmers. Fair Trade Certified and it’s membership organizations agreed to basic fair trade principles.
Long term, direct trading relationships.
Prompt payment of fair prices and wages.
No child or forced or otherwise exploited labor.
Workplace, non-discrimination, and gender equality
Safe working conditions and reasonable working hours
Investments in community development.
Traceability and transparency.
And while all of these terms are very promising it lacks one thing. These terms make the cacao farmer dependent upon Europeans and Americans for their livelihood. It fixes the problem to an extent. But it somehow recreates the exploitation of labor in another fashion. These programs do not position individuals producing cacao to have control of their lives. That is what is most important in a 21st century context. The age has seen enough help that leads to dependency rather than freedom.
The prospect of long term and direct trading relationships is promising. But, the question that remains is, who will control those relationships. Would it not be better to train these cacao farmers in commerce and trade in a way that empowers them to enjoy autonomy of a business in the world market? The tenets seem to keep the cacao famer holding the hand of a European or American. This is control in freedom. A promise to no longer delay payment is great as well. However, the farmers themselves, or someone they hire should be at the helm of payment transactions.
Number four is one of the most questionable tenets of them all. While in the western world we do not promote or agree that it is ethical to engage in child labor. Most fight for the rights of children across the globe. However, how far is too far when it comes to the respect of another people’s culture. This tenet goes beyond pure help. As questionable as the practice may be, it is cultural infringement to offer an ultimatumto a business. These groups are being a great help to cacao farmers across central Africa and northern South America. But, it may be that they are being more of a help to themselves and their agenda than they are to the cacao farmers. It is not beyond reasonable to assume that these individuals would like to change the cultures of others and are covering it up by offering to put more money in the hands of farmers. What would be more powerful is a system of help that empowered these farmers to create their own unions so that they can enjoy a great amount of the wealth of the product they produce. According to Sidney Mintz,“England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system.” It is argued by many scholars that the very same plantation system exists in America today. It does not look the same. But, it holds the same values.
The question then becomes, are these new fair trade systems a part of the evolution of the original European plantation system? The system sought for control and power. Even in America, the descendants of slaves are free. But they are dependent upon a governmental system of power that, unless broken, will never allow them to experience the same freedom as their white counterparts. What cacao farmers need is a system that empowers them. A mechanism that allows cacao famers agility within a system of control is not true help. It is a cover up that keeps those in control on top and the farmers at the low end of the spectrum. It may be that these farmers don’t actually need the Fair Trade system as much as they need the education that farmers and companies in America and Europe have. Furthermore, it may not be the farmers that need the help. It may be the system.
Instead of attempting to help cacao farmers, it may be that the system itself is what really needs the help. Getting rid of the current system and creating a new system may be the best answer –a system that can be created by all who will be involved. Farmers and businessman alike can come to the table and create the system that benefits all. This is commerce. Therefore it is unreasonable to assume that everyone will be equal. The expectation is that everyone would be treated equally fair. For instance, the import tax for cacao beans is significantly lower than the import tax for chocolate. What does this do? This forces individual farmers to only make profit from the beans. It pushes them out of the chocolate business. Where are the humanitarians thought process at when it comes to this type of trade? Without an initiative to address these types of dilemmas, one cannot help but to think there are other motives.
Forcing or coercing companies into buying cacao beans consistently for pennies is one agenda. Forcing or coercing companies and commerce for equal trade rights for countries like Venezuala, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana is another. Over the past few hundreds help has too many times been realized as a selfish attribute. Those helping benefit the most in too many cases while those being helped benefit very little. Cacao farmers need access, not necessarily help. If these farmers had access to education and training, they could fight for their own rights. Truthfully, that is where the help can really step in. Once these farmers receive education and training an
d start to experience inequality in the system, that is when thee humanitarian groups can step in and use their political power for the benefit of the farmers. The help they are offering now is simply a crutch of dependency that does not offer the cacao farmer the independency and freedom his American and European counterparts experience.
As issues like food justice and consumer activism are popularized around certain products, there is an increased demand that food is good concerning not only taste but ethicality as well. When exploring what was being done to make chocolate more ethical and sustainable, I became interested in exploring how chocolate companies were taking action to make their products more “good” for people, the planet, and the sustainability of the industry.
A multi-billion dollar industry with nearly 50 million people along its global value chain, the chocolate industry, is undergoing many challenges which center around its sustainable procurement of cocoa. This is the case not only with respect to rising demands due to the expansion of new middle-class markets in Africa and Asia but is particularly relevant to concerns about the sustainability of its labour force, especially with regard to cocoa farmers and growers, and the environment, specifically with respect to the resilience of the crops affected by climate change impacts; issues like these have affected an increasing global demand for chocolate. In fact, it is projected that by 2020, the global cocoa demand will exceed the supply by almost 1 million metric tons with industry forecasts of a 30% growth in demand amounting to 4.5 million tons by 2020. 
Alongside an increasing demand for chocolate, there has been a rising demand amongst consumers for greater transparency, traceability, and accountability throughout the chocolate value chain particularly at relates to social factors.  For example, chocolate companies are being scrutinized on the production end of its supply chain on issues like generational poverty faced by cocoa farmers, low productivity due to agricultural practices, and increasing the prevalence of many cocoa farmers and growers choosing to walk away from the industry entirely. For instance, according to CNN’s “Cocoa-nomics” series, revealed that compared to 16% received by cocoa farmers for every chocolate bar sold in the late 1980’s, today farmers receive only 3%. 
Also, as the negative impacts of climate change -including increasingly unpredictable differentiation between wet and dry season, intense rains and flooding, longer and prolonged dry periods, as well as subsequent changes in the local ecosystem – continues to grow, many consumers have increased concern about the environmental impact of food production. Together, these focus areas have come to form a basis for the concern about the sustainability of the overall chocolate industry with attention increasingly directed at the both the beginning (farmers and growers) and end (consumers) of the chocolate product supply chains. Through emergence and development sustainability mechanisms like third-party audits, chain-of-custody schemes, direct trade (bean-to-bar chocolate producers), and single-source supply chains, chocolate companies have begun to adopt new and innovative models for sustainable sourcing of cocoa.
Concerning consumers, chocolate companies have increased their marketing efforts at increasing customers’ assurance of their sustainable practices. In particularly, some chocolate producers have implemented market-driven approaches through the use of consumer-facing tools like certification labeling and standards.  However, even with such certifications, there have been some useful questions raised about the effectiveness of certifications at positively impacting the lives of actors at the beginning of the supply chain, particularly for farmers and growers. For example, the Fair Trade certification offers a price premium price for the production of crops grown at higher social and environmental standards; however, questions have been raised around how much of the intended benefit of the certification reaches the poorest farmers and growers.  (Sylla, 2014, p. 208).
And so chocolate producers have begun exploring other market-driven approaches to increasing the sustainability of its industry. Most recently, in November of 2015, many leaders came together for the COP 21, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, where the Paris Agreement was adopted which governs the climate change related measures calling for the reduction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While the Paris agreement does not go so far as to establish what agriculture’s role in reducing global emissions should be, it does outline that the international community “must address climate change’s effects on agriculture to build resilience and enhance food security globally.”The chocolate industry has been sensitive to the devastating effect climate change could have on its industry. In Yasin’s 2014 Salon article titled “Why climate change could mean the end of chocolate”, she points out that that in West Africa, particularly Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana where nearly 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced, temperatures are expected to rise by a 2-degree Celsius (36.5 F) by 2050. Many worry that this increase in temperature could affect a greater amount of water being lost by cocoa trees to evapotranspiration making them too dry. 
Overall, the COP 21’s call-to-action instilled a renewed interest in exploring how the expansion of ecosystem services markets could help industries become more sustainable, including the chocolate industry. Actors from the chocolate industry showed up to the convening to make leaders aware of the world’s first carbon-neutral chocolate company, The Change Chocolate, and distributed their chocolate to remind them of how crucial the outcomes of the talks were to the sustainability of the chocolate industry.
While much attention has been drawn to chocolate industry’s efforts to increase crop productivity, which could include things like monocropping, as a vehicle for farmers to get liveable incomes thus sustaining the cocoa supply chain’s labor force, some have argued that this strategy alone fails to account for the environmental externalities associated with that increased production and adverse impacts like for example the loss of biodiversity.   (Healy, 2001, p. 151). For instance, in the case of no-shade cocoa versus shady cocoa, scholars have found that a trade-off emerges between growing no-shade cocoa that has higher yields, meaning more economic return, but is more environmentally destructive, and shady cocoa which has lower yields but is more sustainable, meaning increased biodiversity, permaculture, and carbon sequestration.  When the only thing valued is the consumption of resources, it can leave many developing nations having to choose between exploiting those resources and their economic development.
To bring balance to key decision-points, people have increasingly looked at valuing the ecological services provided to evaluate in a cost-to-benefit analysis against the exploitation of the said resource. Such valuation looks towards the value of not only what is provided but what may be avoided or lost as well to become the basis of an emerging environmental marketplace. Features of such markets could include tools like payment for ecosystem services (PES).  One of the most readily recognizable examples of PES are carbon credits.
The chocolate industry has begun to explore how to engage in carbon markets both at the beginning and end of the product supply chain. Actors in the chocolate industry are exploring how the economic valuation of environmental services provided by eco-friendly farming practices can work for payment for ecosystem services (PES) program. Such a system would be formed to create new value-streams for its cocoa producers so as to incentivize sustainable agroforestry practices monetarily. Also, as consumers become increasingly concerned with understanding how their consumption and purchasing decision impacts their overall carbon footprint, companies are marketing chocolate products that feature carbon emissions labeling.
Concerning farmers and growers and their communities, more food companies have looked towards working with farmers and growers to introduce more ecological farming practices to curtail environmental degradation and increase the crop’s resilience.  An inspiring example of small-scale farmers benefiting from a PES program focused on the sequestration of carbon in the soil is the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP). The KACP was the first organization in the world to earn verified carbon credits under the verified carbon standard (VCS) through its use of the sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) methodology for carbon sequestered in soil.  Later, the research on the efficacy of KALP adoption of the SALM methodology in the context of the KACP program not only provided benefits to the environment but led to increased agricultural productivity as well.
The SALM methodology is empowering to farmers and growers because of how it engages them in measuring the impact of their eco-friendly farming practices on crop yields and the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil and makes them the PES beneficiaries for their performance of the improved farming methods.
According to Diarietou Gaye, World Bank Country Director for Kenya, “carbon credits are creating a revenue stream that enhances the extension services provided to farmers, which are critical to the adoption of these practices and also adds to farmers’ income beyond their increased crop yields.”  Moreover, methodologies like SALM have found their way into the chocolate world as well on both the large and small scale. For example, German-based ForestFinest Consulting, a well-renowned sustainable land-use expert, works with cocoa farming communities in Panama on a carbon-certified climate-protection project and in turn worked with a small-scale chocolate manufacturer trying to achieve a climate-positive product. On the other end, Mondelēz International, one of the world’s largest manufacturers, promised $400 million USD to support the production of sustainable cocoa with zero net deforestation in Africa.  All in all, this points to how PES is used at the beginning of the chocolate product supply chain by a variety of chocolate industry actors.
Chocolate is a product that has a relatively high carbon footprint associated with it, attributed mostly to its production, and chocolate producers have already started marketing and selling their carbon-neutral or reduced carbon impact chocolate products as a potential buying point for some consumers and in preparation for anticipated legislation requiring such labeling. 
While some chocolate companies have chosen to focus its carbon neutrality or reduction effort on the production side of the chocolate product supply chain, others have decided to steer that focus in other areas. For example, Gru Rococo, a British chocolate company transported its chocolate bars via sail and solar powered ships and then sold famously sold its 3.5 ounces bars for around $21 USD each.  The company’s spokeswoman explained that the price was meant to shock consumers to help them realize that “people are not paying anywhere near the real environmental price for chocolate when they buy an ordinary bar. This is chocolate without an impact.”  While this company is making significant steps in reducing the carbon impact through its use of environmentally-friendly transportation, researchers have agreed that the majority of carbon reduction in the chocolate industry likely has more to do with how the crop is produced. 
Finally, food is about more than just taste, it’s political. With regard to food (and politics for that matter), it’s our responsibility to learn more and do more with that knowledge to increase the wellbeing of ourselves, families, community, and world. Rather than marginalizing certain cocoa growing regions from prime chocolate production markets due its reputation, examining what steps are being taken to create ethical supply chains and better livelihoods for farmers is critical. For instance, while artisan producers may:
“purchase costly flavor beans and can thus improve the livelihoods of poor farmers, they are also unlikely to buy from a place with a negative image—such as West Africa. Colin Gasko, who has not sourced from West Africa, although he is considering it, remarked: ‘How do you buy cacao from West Africa in a way that is socially responsible, given its reputation and political climate?'” (Leissle, 2013, p. 30).
Promoting the work being done to engage farmers in PES programs, brings into focus examples of cocoa cultivation working in ways that are not exploitative to workers through community-level engagement and then markets that as a selling point for buying chocolate from that community. It helps to draw consumers to become aware of the communities it purchases from and imagine their decision to purchase as being supportive of its wellbeing rather than contributing to its exploitation. By focusing on the community-level, it helps to disrupt the biases blanketed over the entire region and helps producers from those regions that are growing cocoa ethically to have access to the lucrative artisan and fine chocolate markets. An excellent example of this approach being used is in the case of Divine Chocolates. (Ibid., p. 27). Essentially, it helps to counter the “dislocation of production and consumption in commodity markets”(Martin & Sampeck, 2015, p. 48) and achieve “the transformation of the relationship between producers and consumers.” (Ibid.)
Food and climate change activism has re-shaped ideas, policies and industries and has led to positive transformations in key agricultural industries, like coffee for example. This was accomplished through the work of multiple stakeholders with communities rather than excluding those communities that needed to improve to lucrative areas of the market. When looking to recent examples of how the chocolate industry is beginning to engage in environmental markets to make itself more sustainable, such programs have the ability to shine a spotlight on ethical and sustainable actors in the industry. Overall, it is exciting to see how the incentives of the industry, farmers and consumers can come together to make the future of chocolate seem a little sweeter while bringing into focus the communities themselves.
 Healy, K. “Cacao Bean Farmers Make a Chocolate-Covered Development Climb.” In Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. Notre Dame, Indiana: the University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.
Healy, K. “Cacao Bean Farmers Make a Chocolate-Covered Development Climb.” In Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. Notre Dame, Indiana: the University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.
Chocolate is truly a gift from the Gods. It’s rich succulent flavor melts on your tongue and forces you to take another bite. The moment it was discovered it has been cherished by all who have consumed it. Therefore, it seemed only fitting to ask someone who hadn’t learned about cacao and find out what role chocolate has played in their life.
People have been consumed with chocolate for centuries and it has become part of many people’s daily lives. I asked a friend of mine of what chocolate has signified and played in her life, she claimed; “It makes me happy and feel better. I have a major sweet tooth but it’s something I crave everyday, I may even be addicted.” In today’s world, chocolate is available to everyone. It’s also in a variety of different things like protein bars or shakes and desserts. It’s so prevalent that most don’t even know where it originated or how it’s even grown which is something everyone should consider learning about. Chocolate is grown on a cacao tree also known as Theobroma cacao. It’s a fastidious plant that can only grow in warm climates no more than twenty degrees north or south of the equator; such as South America and Africa. It prefers to grow under a canopy of other trees with the air still easily breezing threw. Cacao trees are cauliflory meaning that the flower or fruit grows from the main stem or trunk therefore, the cacao pod grows directly on the trunk not from its branches. The trunk of the tree is so fragile that it cannot be damaged when the pod is being removed or it will not be able to grow a pod there again. Midges are tiny flies that help flower the tree, which only happens twice a year, and creates the pods (The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael D. Coe). Once a pod is cut down from the tree it then undergoes a variety of processes. The first is usually fermentation where the little beans are set out to dry in either trays or banana leaves, cleaned, then stored. They then are roasted to kill off any bacteria or contaminants. Finally, they are winnowed where the shell is separated from the bean removing any last remaining germs. At this point you would be left with a raw cacao nib that would be very bitter with a dirt texture if you attempted to taste it. However, the next step would be to process that cacao nib into the chocolate we’ve grown to love. As anyone can see, chocolate isn’t simply plucked off a plant and melted into chocolate, it takes many different and precise processes to get the taste just right.
Chocolate has a competitive side. Originally, Hershey’s was in its very own ball park creating the Hershey Chocolate bar and Kiss and being one of the first to market to the general public. Other individuals saw this opportunity and began creating their own companies such as Henri Nestle with cocoa powder, Mars and the Snicker bar. Again, I asked my friend what her favorite chocolate was, she explained; “Cadbury and Lindor Lindt chocolate are very refined. Cadbury has a unique taste that’s different from other brands with a much thicker candy coating compared to M&M’s. Lindt truffles are fancy with a remarkable soft, melted inside that is so satisfying.” So what makes all of these brands so unique to allow people to have such a preference? Of course every person has specific taste buds and anyone can argue that it’s all personal opinion but there are specific reasons as to why different brands taste differently. Milton Hershey founded his company in 1903, he had a vision to not only create chocolate but to make a better working environment that provided education and extra-curricular activities. His idea to create such a wonderful working environment was inspired by Cadbury who was the first to create a town dedicated to creating a utopian work space, known as Bournville. Hershey’s goal was to find a way to make milk chocolate with actual liquid milk. This proved difficult because others had been attempting to make it with powdered milk but it wasn’t sweet and liquid milk was spoiling too quickly. Eventually, he succeeded by creating a different process during pasteurization that heats the milk to 282 degrees Fahrenheit, also known as Ultra High Temperature milk, instead of the typical 161 degrees Fahrenheit. From there they store the milk in specially packaged bottles that allows it to last until after its been used in the chocolate and the package is opened (Hershey’s Shelf Stable Milk). Cadbury is very precise when creating their traditional taste. Through may years of practice they’ve perfected their milk and chocolate ratio so that when sugar is absorbed in the condensed milk, then added into the cocoa mass, it creates a chocolate liquid with the most authentic Cadbury palate. They use fresh milk instead of powdered milk mixed with why powder that many other European chocolate companies use. (Cadbury.co.au). Both Hershey’s and Cadbury take the utmost care in their chocolate and value fresh, liquid milk in their products. However, both taste very differently from one another because of slight differences in their manufacturing, traditions, and chocolate-to-milk ratios.
Another possible question people may have is when did chocolate become so popular? For as long as most of our ancestors can remember its been available for generations, possibly centuries. This is true because chocolate has been apart of civilizations like the Olmec, Mayan, and Aztecs dating back to 1000 BCE. It was discovered through hieroglyphics that a word kakawa was prevalent and participated in traditional and ceremonial events. All of these cultures believed cacao trees to be sacred, possibly the First Tree, and linked to royal blood lines. It wasn’t until the age of exploration that cacao beans made its first appearance in Europe. Christopher Columbus, in the 16th century, was one of the first to have traded with these fine beans on his fourth voyage when encountering a Mayan trading canoe however, he only knew that they were considered valuable but hadn’t known why. (Sophie and Michael D. Coe). Slowly, they became more prevalent as more explorers were trading them and soon they discovered the sweet, wonderful flavor they possess. Since it was so rare it was only available to Kings and Queens. Eventually nobles and the elite were consuming chocolate and many even created separate kitchens within their homes for the creation of chocolate. Within this time period chocolate was only every consumed as a liquid, it wasn’t until 1847 that the first chocolate bar was created by Joseph Fry that was meant for consumption. Again, my friend had no knowledge of when chocolate was brought to Europe but she did know that the first consumers were the wealthy because of its delectable qualities. Europe during the the medieval years had a very strict class system that consisted of the wealthy versus the poor. It wasn’t until the rise of the middle class, in the 19th century, that chocolate became available to the general public. Cadbury was created in this time, developing its chocolate and advertising it to the masses. From there the rest is history, chocolate has flourished unlike any other food item becoming one of the most consumed sweets with hundreds of billions of dollars spent on chocolate a year. I guess you could thank Columbus for introducing us to what we love.
As many people say, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy chocolate”. Has anyone ever realized what they’re buying into completely? Unfortunately, as happy as chocolate makes us it has also been linked with many social concerns such as child labor and slavery. These topics are not publicized as they should be and are quickly swept under the rug or forgotten about. I asked my friend if she had known much about the social concerns and if they would hinder her consumption of chocolate. She stressed that she knew it had been associated with slavery in the past and that if she knew what companies were possibly still using this she would refrain from buying their products. Slavery has long been associated with with chocolate. This is in part because it originally was for the wealthy who had slaves and believed in lavish lifestyles which slavery slowly came to symbolize. These people were then dehumanized and treated as property to justify their lack of respect for their lives. in the 16th to 20th centuries slavery was very popular especially because the triangular trade emerged that brought many people from Africa, against their will, to the America’s and Europe. This was because sugar, cotton, tobacco, and other commodity crops started to become very popular. They were grown on large plantations that required massive amounts of labor. Of course plantation owners didn’t want to spend actual money on salaries for these hard working men so instead treated them like animals.Sadly, they were overworked, had contracted diseases due to their travel and introduction to foreign lands, and were living under harsh conditions and heat that once arriving to the fields they only lived for another 7 to 8 years. Luckily, by the late 18th century those enslaved in Haiti had a revolution that proved successful. It got the attention of Napoleon, who was the leader of France at the time, and allowed them to declare independence and close the slave trade in 1807. (Sweetness and Power by Sidney W. Mintz). Slowly, many other people began to realize their own power and more revolutions came. Child labor has been another social concern with chocolate. As we know, chocolate is grown in many African and South American countries. Often times these are third would countries where poverty is very high. In order to help support their families, children have begun to work on sugar farms or harvesting chocolate. These jobs are very labor intensive and unfit for a child. Yet, some companies have allowed this so that they could pay them less and over work them (foodispower.org). Although it has been brought up in recent years by the media it hasn’t been closely monitored as it should be. Learning where our food comes from and it’s history is important because it teaches us more about our own world. Everything on this earth comes from somewhere and we should take the time occassionaly to find out where that is and what makes it so great. I encourage everyone to find some of their favorite foods and educate themselves on the primary reasons that make it so great. Who would have known that chocolate has been at the threshold of much of our history throughout the world.
“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Child Labor and Slavery. Food Empowerment Project, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
Union Square, Somerville has experienced growth over the last decade as trendy stores and restaurants have sprung up along its main streets and young professionals have moved into the neighborhood. It sits in that perfect nexus of affordable and cool, offering coffee shops that serve fair trade pour overs and apartments cheap enough that you can fit that pour over into your budget. Union Square’s changing scene has recently caught the notice of the rest of Boston. In 2014, The Boston Globe ran an article titled “Union Square is Hipster Central.” This article describes the neighborhood using the following phrases: skinny jeans, millennial, fixed-gear bike,”house-made bitters,” artisanal, and “classic ’90s hip hop.” Vocabulary like this can only point to one thing: gentrification.
Somerville has been home to shifting communities for a long time. A Boston.com article from 2014, right in the same time frame there was a flurry of articles and op-eds about how Somerville was changing into a hipster’s paradise, points out that this group is the second to gentrify the area. The article explains that there are waves to gentrification. The hipsters (have to take an aside and say I’m adverse to that word because of it’s overuse and implication of obnoxious pretension and because maybe I feel some self hatred about being a little bit of a hipster myself. But I am going to keep using it in this post because it provides a clear way to talk about a group of people.) So, as I was saying, the hipsters who are moving in now are pushing out the first group that gentrified Unions Square: starving artists and broke graduate students. Before this group moved in Somerville was predominantly home to a large immigrant community. Many of these immigrants came from Brazil to learn English and make money and in the process they ended up making Union Square their home. This community has not been entirely displaced through the generations of gentrification. It lives on actively in certain pockets of the neighborhood. One of these safeholds is Mineirão One Stop Market.
Mineirão is a small Brazilian grocery store and cafe. When you walk in the front door, plastered with want ads and concert posters written out in Portuguese, you’ll see in front of you about five rows of groceries: aisles of cans and cookies and dried spices. The very back wall is a small refrigerated and frozen section that stocks Brazilian sodas, ice creams, and fruit. If you turn to your left you’ll see the small cafe area. You can buy cheese-filled pastries like coxinhas and pastels or pile up a place with rice and fried plantains and sit at one of the little round tables that seem to function as hang out spots for the local Brazilian community to sit and gossip.
This small cafe serves Brazilian desserts, including chocolate truffles and cakes, and if you move over to the market side you can find a wide variety of chocolate bars. Aside from Nestle, the brands differed from what you could find at CVS or Stop and Shop. Their labels are in Portuguese and Spanish. They all look unfamiliar to me. You can see that Mineirão is catering to the Brazilian community that has a long history in Union Square. Amidst the new specialty stores that have popped up around it selling trendy donuts and $60 bottle openers, clearly catering to the new hipster crowd, Mineirão serves as a store that still caters to the existent immigrant population.
It’s important that Mineirão fill this niche. With construction underway on the Green Line extension into this area of Somerville, the immigrant community’s concerns about being entirely displaced by new development and a shifting cultural scene are higher than ever. A group of business owners, including representatives of immigrant communities, came together to address the issue of development without displacement. The coalition is called Union United, and they aim to preserve the community that fostered and nurtured Union Square from the beginning so that they can partake in everything the neighborhood has become. Organizations like these are helping to preserve the community that lives on in Union Square.
Now let’s get to the chocolate!
I asked the young girl working the cash register what her favorite chocolate was. She walked me over to the aisle where all the tempting bars were laid out and, to my disappointment, pointed to one white chocolate bar and another that was half milk, half white chocolate. I like dark, rich candy. But I trusted that she knew best so picked up the half and half bar, called Suflair from Nestle, to try later at home.
Some quick research told me that this product is known as an Aero bar in other parts of the world. When I ate it it was sweet and milky and full of porous bubbles that dissolved pleasantly on my tongue. She had led me in the right direction, I liked it! Nestle chocolate is definitely not upscale, and that was reflected in the price. It was $2.99 for the 110g bar.
All of the chocolate bars fit into a similar price range. None of the bars showed the trappings of higher priced chocolates. They were not fair trade or organic, their labels weren’t elegantly designed or made of expensive materials, and there was no mention anyways about these chocolates being artisanal. Chocolate like that is available in the newer stores that have opened in Union Square. And the lack of them in this long-standing market suggests that the Brazilian immigrant community has different priorities, food-wise, than the hipsters of Somerville and Cambridge.
Without assuming that this applies to every person in this community, it seems like a reason for the lack of higher priced chocolate could have to do with greater concern about saving money, about not spending in excess on luxury goods. In a paper on the Brazilian immigrant population in Somerville, researcher Daniel Becker writes:
Fausto da Rocha related the motivation behind his migration experience to that of other immigrants, asserting, “I came, like everyone else, to work. At the beginning, I always thought about going back. After four or five years, I’d save up enough to go back and start up my own business, buy some land, or a store.” (Becker, 41)
In a class lecture we discussed how higher priced chocolates that bear socially conscious labels sometimes benefit the consumer more than they do the producer. And maybe this immigrant community that is getting priced out of their neighborhood, that is concerned with their displacement, is not as pressingly concerned with the satisfaction that comes along with buying a fair trade chocolate bar.
Mineirão offers many Brazilian candies, but I didn’t have the stomach to try them all. I bought a chocolate covered cashew butter truffle called Serenata de Amor by Garoto, and it was nutty, crunchy and sweet. I would recommend it! I’ve included below pictures of all the tasty-looking treats Mineirão sells that I hope to return and buy someday soon.
In addition to selling candies and cookies made with the cacao bean, Mineirão sells bags of frozen cacao pulp.
This is indicative of the clientele they cater to. Many North American consumers are unfamiliar with cacao pulp. Until I took this class I had no idea what a cacao pod looked like, and actually had a half-formed idea that chocolate grew in berry clusters. Not to get too tangential about this, but I had a drawing of tropical fruits as my computer background for long time, and it was only midway through a lecture for this class that something clicked and I realized that the drawing included cacao pods, and that I had been staring at this fruit for about a year without having any idea that it was related to chocolate.
The cultural understanding of cacao differs in Brazil. According to the International Cacao Organization, Brazil is both a large producer and consumer of cacao products. Those who live in a country that grows great quantities of cacao are going to be more familiar with the plant. The presence of this cacao pulp in Mineirão’s freezer section substantiates the idea that the market is not here to cater to the hipsters and artists who have newly moved into the neighborhood, but for those who already call it home.
Union Square has long been home to a thriving Brazilian community. It’s in places like Mineirão One Stop Market that, even in the face of gentrification and impending development because of the Green Line Extension, that this community is preserved.
Chocolate can be found in almost every store depending where you are. If you’re going to Target in search of some pants, chances are that there will be chocolate products available at the checkout line.One can learn many things from the kind of chocolate selection they have in a local store. You can learn about types of chocolate that is being used, ethical concerns, price point, and who the intended audience is.
Depending where someone is from, they can have a limited amount of exposure and knowledge about what is in food (like certain chemicals and additives) and what is good quality. Different stores sell different products that target a certain audience. Some chocolate companies do the same and only sell their products to companies who are their ideal client in revenue.
I grew up in a low income household in a low income community that was highly populated by immigrants. Despite the problems my hometown had, Chelsea, MA is a small and efficient city where stores were so close by that we didn’t have to travel to another city to get our food, clothes, and other supplies. I grew up with a convenient store just down the street from my mom’s apartment, a CVS just 2 blocks away, and a DeMoulas Market Basket a 5 minute drive away.
All of these locations had very similar things when it came down to selling chocolate. I would see candies like a Hershey bar by the Hershey Company, M&M’s candy by the Mars company, and a Butterfinger by Nestle. What these candies have in common is that they are low in cost which makes them more affordable than others. I have learned that the chocolate sweets I grew up eating don’t actually contain a lot of chocolate. What I did like was sugar. Products like a Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar contains approximately 10% of true cacao (Chocolate by the numbers). The first ingredient listed on the back of a Hershey’s bar is sugar (Mikes Candy Bar Page – Hershey Bar).
Stores like CVS don’t sell a wide variety of chocolate. There can be different kinds like Crunch bar, Kit Kat, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Twix, etc…, but the chocolate is still produced by big manufacturers. The manufacturers include Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and Kraft. Most of these candy bars sells for about $1-2. When breaking down the list of ingredients, it is not a surprise that these chocolate bars can be bought at a low price. With a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, there is more peanut butter than chocolate. With the candy the has these cheap (but delicious) fillings, It’s no surprise that the product can be at a really low cost because not much cacao is actually being used in the product.
Aside from most of the chocolates being from these big manufacturers, CVS do have a very small selection of premium chocolates. There are chocolates that are produced by Lindt chocolatier and Ghirardelli chocolates. Growing up to me these were the “expensive” chocolate’s as they contained richer ingredients like a high percentage of cacao, and very bitter to my young taste buds due to the low amount of sugar in the products. In comparison with the ingredients in the Hershey’s bar, the Lindt chocolate bar is better in quality and does not use a lot of ingredients that I have trouble pronouncing. Also to mention that the first ingredient listed in a Lindt chocolate bar is chocolate. The label is also give away since it does say the amount of cacao that is in the bar,which is 70%. A product of this kind f quality is often hard to sell. These bars sell for about $4 each. When CVS cannot sell them all, they go on sale.
Personally, I like that CVS has a very small section of Premium chocolates. It does give people the opportunity to try darker chocolate. They probably won’t like it because they are use to chocolates that contain a high amount of sugar. There is a spectrum from when people mention that they love chocolate. Is it really the taste of the cacao that they enjoy or is it the taste of the sugar in the bar (The Huffington Post).
People may prefer the sugary taste of chocolate because it is what they have been able to afford. Some people may view a chocolate bar which is worth over $4 as too expensive when they can get a cheaper bar for half the price. The battle can by quantity over quality. When people can’t afford a certain product, a barrier is placed that eliminates them from the targeted audience.
Personally, I like that CVS has a very small section of Premium chocolates. It does give people the opportunity to try darker chocolate. They probably won’t like it because they are use to chocolates that contain a high amount of sugar. There is a spectrum from when people mention that they love chocolate. Is it really the taste of the cacao that they enjoy or is it the taste of the sugar in the bar (The Huffington Post).
People may prefer the sugary taste of chocolate because it is what they have been able to afford. Some people may view a chocolate bar which is worth over $4 as too expensive when they can get a cheaper bar for half the price. The battle can by quantity over quality. When people can’t afford a certain product, a barrier is placed that eliminates them from the targeted audience.
Another supermarket that does create create barriers which limits their targeted audience is Whole Foods. Whole Foods is known to have organic and sustainable food.The food is presented to be in higher quality and thus being higher in prices. The running joke that most people say is Whole Paycheck (Urban Dictionary) instead of Whole Foods, because the cost of food from their is worth almost an entire paycheck.
When I visited their chocolate selection, I could not find a chocolate product that was manufactured by Hershey’s, Mars, or Nestle. Instead there were brands that I did not recognize and some that I was a little familiar within the past few year due to furthering my exposure as I began to frequently travel to Cambridge and Boston for school and work.
Going into Whole Foods, and even now, I sometimes feel out of place because I grew up going to a supermarket that was always busy and full and the prices were cheap. It’s also because I see lack of diversity when I go in. The people shopping at whole foods is usually white people and you can tell that they probably earn a high salary. Whole Foods seems target this specific audience as they are the one who can afford their products.
I sometimes think that it is ridiculous to pay $6 for a chocolate bar, (as seens as above). I constantly remind myself that the chocolate is at a fair price because of its quality. Having learned what the process is for making chocolate, how it comes from bean to bar, and understanding the true labour that comes with it, I have no problem with spending $6 on a chocolate bar because I know I am getting quality chocolate and with organizations like Fair Trade, I know that farmers and workers are getting their fair share.
Now, there are other places to purchase chocolate that does not have to come from a chain retail store. There are independent stores that specialize in gourmet foods. In Harvard Square there is a gourmet shoppe called Cardullo’s. Cardullo’s has been around since 1950. They sell a variety of gourmet goods including wine, cheeses, teas, and chocolates.
Cardullo’s sells a lot of chocolate, kinds that I cannot find in Whole Foods. They are truly gourmet and rich in flavour. At my trip to this story I purchase 2 chocolate bars. The first one was an Earl Grey tea infused chocolate by the brand Dolfin. The back of the wrapping was difficult to photograph but the first ingredient on this bar was cacao mass, sugar, cacao butter, and Earl Grey tea at 2,%.
The other bar of chocolate that I purchased was by Taza. Taza Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almond. On the front label it say 80% dark stone ground chocolate. On the back of the bar, the ingredients listed are Organic cacao beans, organic sugar cane, organic almonds, organic cacao butter, organic vanilla beans, and sea salt. I love that everything is organic and that I know what these ingredients are and how to pronounce them.
Each bar was about $8 and they were delicious. I never had tea infused chocolate and now if I want more I know the only place nearest me to purchase it is at Cardullo’s. Taza chocolates can be found in Whole Foods but I do not recall seeing this specific kind with sea salt and almonds. Cardullo’s is a wonderful shop with so many variations of chocolate from different companies to try, but I would need to place a budget to try all of these chocolates.
The chocolates sold here says that they care where the cacao is grown, how it is being processed, and that the laborers are being paid appropriately, and that child labor is not occurring. The cost does out weigh the taste. Know what’s in the chocolate bar, and that the ingredients are organic, this counts more as quality than quantity.
For retail shops to target an audience, they have to see demographically where the need is for their store and who can afford the products. The maps below show the locations comparisons/difference of CVS, Whole Foods, and gourmet shops like Cardullo’s, near Chelsea, MA.
Since my hometown is in Chelsea, MA, I decided to show exactly what is accessible to the people from my community. For CVS or other convenient stores, there are multiple in the area. These stores can be easily accessed by walking, biking, and even public transportation.
From experience i do know that there are more small convenience stores in Chelsea than the ones listed.
The map on top show the closest Whole Foods near Chelsea. The closest one is in one of Boston’s neighborhoods, Charlestown. Getting there would require a car and going through tolls. Whole foods seem to exist areas that are not of low income communities. I am hoping that this will change for good. I think organic food should be accessible to everyone, not be so far away from a community. Whole foods has a store in one of the poorest communities of Chicago called Englwood. An article form the Washington Post talk about the effects of a wholefoods being in a community where not a lot of people can afford their products, but they do try to make it lower. The article mentioned that “the company has tried to set its price points relative to other supermarkets in the city, not relative to its own stores outside of it”. (Washington Post) The goal is to get everyone to eat healthier.
This map shows the closest gourmet shops near Chelsea. As you may see, they lie just outside the city over bridges. If one owns a car, then it is not too much of an ordeal to go to the city to visit one of these gourmet shops. But man other rely on public transportation to travel into the city. When I traveled from Chelsea to Cambridge, it would usually take about one hour to get there, and one hour to head back. It’s not that people don’t want enjoy and eat better, organic food. There are many factors that come into play that don’t make it possible. Affordability, distance, availability are a few to name.
Chocolate products can be found in almost any store. You can easily find chocolate that is popular from the Hershey’s company, Mars company, and the Nestle company. These can be found in supermarkets, convenient stores, and at CVS. Or you may find brands that are more wholesome like Organic 365, Whole Foods brand, and Equal Exchange at a gourmet food stores, at Whole Foods Markets, and Trader Joe’s.
The type of chocolate that you can find in stores do say a lot about what is available to the community and how much they can know about these chocolates. The sophisticated wrapping can have a small history of the company and how the process their chocolate from bean to bar. This occurs more with chocolates that are not part of the large companies.
There are so many things you learn from the chocolate selection in a store. There are many factors
The selection of chocolate that is available in stores can say a lot. It can be a signal of who is who is the targeted audiences for certain brands of chocolate. It can say how you live you lifestyle by choosing to eat healthy and organic foods. You can see who is potentially gaining profit from selling the candy.
So, where do you buy your chocolate ?
Badger, Emily. “Why Whole Foods Is Moving into One of the Poorest Neighborhoods in Chicago.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 May 2016.
One step into Cambridge Naturals, a community natural health store in Cambridge, MA, and the market for organic, fair-trade, vegan, bean-to-bar, local, non-gmo, paleo, environmentally friendly and ethically sourced chocolate products is on full display. A meeting with the store’s manager & grocery lead adds another term to the list of qualities their consumer base is looking for when they step into the store – functional chocolate. This trend shows a probable correlation between what customers are willing to spend on chocolate that makes health claims, based on the way the cacao is processed and additional ingredients added that are promoted to provide nutritional benefits. The functional chocolate trend begs the question – are these health claims regarding various methods of cacao processing and healthful additives substantiated by scientific research, or are they merely a marketing gimmick? This article will analyze recent research on the health benefits of chocolate as a functional food, look at fermentation and processing differences from a nutrient perspective, and consider additional benefits of medicinal additives to chocolate in order to best answer this question.
How are functional foods different from healthy foods?
In a study published in the Academic Food Journal/Akademik (2014) that looked at the development of functional chocolate, the differences between health foods and functional foods were defined as the following:
“Functional foods are a new category of products that promise consumers improvements in targeted physiological functions” (Albak, Fatma, & Tekin, 2014, p. 19).
Whereas, “conventional ‘healthy’ foods are typically presented as types of foods contributing to a healthy diet, e.g. low-fat products, high-fibre products, or vegetables, without emphasizing the role of any single product” (Albak, Fatma, & Tekin, 2014, p. 19).
Functional foods share these characteristics:
Health benefits that can be linked to a specific product
Well-defined physiological effects are directly connected with particular components in the specific product
Scientific evidence about health effects that is used to develop specific functional products
There is novelty for the consumer with the promised benefits
Modern technology is often needed to manufacture the functional foods due to specific components being added, modified or removed (Albak, et al., 2014).
Demand for Functional Foods
The market for functional foods exists in large part due to the rising popularity of healthier products by consumers (Albak, et al., 2014). One contributor to interest in healthy products is their use as a remedy to detrimental lifestyle factors that can contribute to unyielding high levels of inflammation in the body (Jain, Parag, Pandey, & Shukla, 2015). In the book, Inflammation and Lifestyle (2015), the connection between diet and inflammation is emphasized.
“Our diet is one of the leading sources of these chronic illnesses, and changing the diet is the key to prevention and cure. A number of dietary factors, including fiber-rich foods, whole grains, fruits (especially berries), omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins (e.g., C and E), and certain trace minerals (e.g., zinc), have been documented to reduce blood concentrations of inflammatory markers. The best way to correct and eliminate inflammation is to improve comprehensive lifestyle and dietary changes rather than taking pharmaceutical drugs, the latter of which can cause unintended harm in the form of damaging side effects” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 143).
The authors provide this graphic to illustrate what an anti-inflammatory diet pyramid looks like in terms of specific food groups. Note that dark chocolate is positioned on the top of the pyramid.
An introduction to the benefits of superfoods and their role in an anti-inflammatory diet are explained in the publication. “An anti-inflammatory diet is one that is low in processed foods and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, sprouts, nuts and superfoods. Maca, spirulina, purple corn, wheatgrass, coconut butter and raw chocolate are a few of the health promoting superfoods that are gaining international interest” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 144). The inclusion of “raw chocolate” in the category of superfoods versus “chocolate” warrants further examination and will be explored later in this article, but the position remains clear that evidence supports the protective benefits of chocolate as a part of a healthy diet.
Chocolate as a Functional Food
Under the category of functional foods as previously defined, chocolate, as will be further described, fulfills all the requisite characteristics. Even though the term functional food is relatively recent, the practice of consuming chocolate for its specific health benefits is centuries old. “Chocolate has been consumed as confection, aphrodisiac, and folk medicine for many years before science proved its potential health benefiting effects. Main compounds of cocoa and chocolate which contribute to human health are polyphenols that act as antioxidants and have potential anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, antihepatotoxic, antibacterial, antiviral, antiallergenic, and anticarcinogenic properties” (Ackar, Djurdjica, Lendić, Valek,… & Nedić, 2013, p. 1). The studied physiological effects of chocolate include “reported health benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate particularly focus on cardiovascular diseases (but also showing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects), including increased blood flow at the brachial artery and the left descending coronary artery, decreased blood pressure, decreased platelet aggregation and increased HDL cholesterol” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840). Numerous research discoveries have shed light on the complex nature of how these protective benefits of cacao are reduced or encouraged by different methods of sourcing, processing and consuming chocolate (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008).
Polyphenols are found in many food sources including, “vegetables and fruits, green and black tea, red wine, coffee, chocolate, olives, and some herbs and spices, as well as nuts and algae” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). However, “chocolate is one of the most polyphenol-rich foods along with tea and wine” where, “results [have] indicated that dark chocolate exhibited the highest polyphenol content” (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008, p. 2194). In unfermented cacao beans, there are three main groups of polyphenols, “flavan-3-ols or catechins, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Differences in cacao genetics or varieties and country of origin show varying levels of polyphenols by up to 4-fold (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008). “Criollo cultivars contained higher levels of procyanidins than Forastero and Trinitario beans. In addition, crop season and country of origin have impact on polyphenols in cocoa beans” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Findings regarding polyphenol level by country of origin are contentious but include, “highest phenolic content was in Malaysian beans followed by Sulawesian, Ghanian and Côte d’Ivore” (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008, p. 2201) and “cocoa beans and processed products from Ecuador showed the highest levels of anthocyanins, followed by Nigeria and Cameroon” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840). Due to additional factors besides country of origin and genetic variation influencing the polyphenols in cacao, inclusion of the effects of processing cacao on flavor and polyphenol content is important to understand health claims made regarding the finished product, chocolate.
Processing cacao beans (namely the stages of fermentation and drying), and roasting in the chocolate making process greatly affect polyphenol content of the finished product (Ackar, et al., 2013; Bordiga, et al., 2015). “Due to these factors, the ratio and types of these components found in cocoa beans are unlikely to be the same as those found in the finished products” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 841). For functional chocolate enthusiasts driving market trends, the balance between healthy and protective benefits of polyphenols and the effects on their levels through processing are of particular interest. “All these processes are needed to develop characteristic cocoa aroma. Polyphenols give astringent and bitter aroma to cocoa and contribute to reduced perception of “cocoa flavour” by sensory panel. However, nowadays processes are conducted in such manner to preserve as much polyphenol as possible with maintaining satisfactory aroma” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). The debate about the purpose of chocolate is hereby noted between the sensory experience – the aroma development, especially in the roasting stages, versus consumption for health effects with less regard to smell, taste and gustatory pleasure.
The search for a sweet spot between these poles is a lucrative area for producers and retail establishments. As described earlier, development of functional food into specific products uses scientific evidence about health effects, where modern technology is often needed to manufacture those products, in order to observe targeted physiological effects or functions (Albak, et al., 2014).
“Generally, as cocoa beans were further processed, the levels of anthocyanins and flavan-3-ols decreased. The largest observed losses of phenolics occurred during roasting. A progressive decreasing trend in polyphenol concentration was observed in the other processed samples as well. Despite the original content of polyphenols in raw cocoa beans, technological processes imply a significant impact on cocoa quality, confirming the need of specific optimisation to obtain high value chocolate” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840).
In order to preserve antioxidant quality through dark-chocolate products with “high flavonoid contents…these chocolates are produced by controlling bean selection, fermentation, and reduced heat and alkalization treatments” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2201). Although one of the most detrimental effects of processing on polyphenol and antioxidant levels is alkalization (or dutching) of cocoa powder (Ackar, et al., 2013; Jalil, et al., 2008), even the fermentation process significantly reduces flavonoid levels by up to 90% (Jalil, et al., 2008). However, in the search for the sweet spot between flavor and health benefits, fermentation presents a way to reduce bitter compounds due to the presence of flavonoids and polyphenols (Jalil, et al., 2008) and enhance flavor before roasting or further processing like alkalization. For example, some “manufacturers tend to remove [flavonoids] in large quantities to enhance taste quality… the manufacturers tend to prefer Ghanian cocoa beans, which are well-fermented and flavorful than that of Dominican or Indonesian beans, which are considered as less fermented and have low quality cocoa flavor” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2203). In Crafack’s study (2013), besides genetic flavor potentials of cacao beans, fermentation is cited as the most important factor influencing cocoa’s flavor potential.
“A properly conducted fermentation process is considered a prerequisite for the production of high quality chocolates since inadequately fermented cocoa beans will fail to produce cocoa specific aroma compounds during subsequent processing” (Crafack, Petersen, Eskildsen, Petersen, Heimdal, & Nielsen, 2013, p. 1).
In a later study by Crafack (2014), microorganism differences between fermentation practices are shown to produce variations in cacao flavor profiles. “Despite the importance of a properly conducted fermentation process, poor post-harvest practices, in combination with the unpredictable spontaneous nature of the fermentations, often results in sub-optimal flavour development…A microbial fermentation process therefore seems essential for developing the full complexity of compounds which characterises cocoa aroma. In conclusion, the results of the present study show that the volatile aroma profile of chocolate can be influenced using starter cultures” (Crafack, 2014, p. 1). Further research that builds on Crafack’s findings was published by Kadow (2015), explaining the role of multiple factors in the country of origin that characterize the fermentation process.
“During this in most cases spontaneous fermentation of the fruit pulp surrounding the seeds, the pulp is degraded by yeasts and bacteria. This degradation results in heat and organic acid formation. Heat effect and tissue acidification are the key parameters guiding flavour precursor formation. Accordingly, not microorganisms themselves but exclusively their metabolites are necessary for successful fermentation” (Kadow, Niemenak, Rohn, and Lieberei, 2015, p. 357).
This study aimed to further the development of standardization and mechanization of cocoa fermentation for the benefit of cacao production quality purposes. On the ranges of heat tested from fermenting heaps of cacao beans, 30 °C to a maximum of 50 °C was obtained after 24 h of fermentation at the inner part of the heap (Jespersen, Nielsen, Hønholt, and Jakobsen, 2005).
Finally, as an interesting note about polyphenol changes in cacao during fermentation, although “unripe and ripe cacao pods contain solely (−)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin. During fermentation, levels of both of these compounds were reduced, but (−)-catechin was formed due to heat-induced epimerization” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). These findings warrant more studies on the changes that happen during cacao fermentation, where although certain protective antioxidant levels decrease, other chemical compounds are formed due to the process of heat due to microorganism metabolites and acidification to the bean tissue.
After fermentation, the beans are dried to reduce water content for safe transport and storage of the cacao before further processing by chocolate manufactures. “During drying, additional loss of polyphenol occurs, mainly due to nonenzymatic browning reactions” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2) where “high temperatures and prolonged processing times will decrease the amount of catechins” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p.2203). The dried cacao is then shipped to the chocolate manufacturer where roasting is often performed. The roasting and generally the further processing of cacao degrades the levels of polyphenols by triggering the oxidation process (Ackar, et al., 2013; Bordiga, et al., 2015).
Conching is a process of agitation of chocolate mass at temperatures above 50 °C that is used to refine both the cocoa solids and sugar crystals to change the taste, smell, flavor, texture (mouthfeel) and viscosity of chocolate (Chocolate Alchemy, 2016; Di Mattia, Martuscelli, Sacchetti, Beheydt, Mastrocola, & Pittia, 2014) Different procedures for conching exist, including Long Time Conching (LTC) and Short Time Conching (STC). A study by Di Mattia (2014) done on these two conching processes and the implications for bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity found interesting results. The publication stressed the importance of time/temperature combinations as process parameters “to modulate and increase the functional properties of some foods” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, pp.367-368). In the study, STC consisted of “a dry step at 90 °C for 6 h and then a wet step at 60°C for 1h,” while LTC involved, “a dry step at 60°C for 6 h and a then wet step at the same conditions (60 °C, 6 h)” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p. 368). The results of the analysis on phenolic content, antioxidant values defined as radical scavenging properties showed, “that the conching process, and the LTC in particular, determined an improvement of the antiradical and reducing properties of chocolate” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p.372). Recommendation for further studies was suggested to “optimize the conching process for the modulation of the functional properties,” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p.372) but the results remain in favor of longer time and lower temperature processing to preserve health benefits in chocolate during the conching phase.
From the perspective of chocolate makers, assessing combinations of ingredients/additives that can either help or hinder protective compounds in chocolate – including polyphenols and bioavailability, is important. Jalil, & Ismail’s review (2008), considered, “both bioavailability and antioxidant status [important] in determining the relationship between cocoa flavonoids and health benefits” (Jalil, et al., 2008, pp. 2194-2195). Studies focused on epicatechin from chocolate found the polyphenols, “rapidly absorbed by humans, with plasma levels detected after 30min of oral digestion, peaking after 2-3 h and returning to baseline after 6–8 h. In addition, cumulative effect in high daily doses was recorded” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Interestingly, an argument for the benefits of chocolate’s sweetened and rich composition – if cocoa butter and some type of sweetener is used in processing – is explained where the “presence of sugars and oils generally increases bioavailability of polyphenols, while proteins, on the other hand, decrease it” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Milk chocolate lovers may be disappointed to find that, “milk proteins reduce bioavailability of epicatechin in chocolate confectionary…[with] reported inhibition of in vivo antioxidant activity of chocolate by addition of milk either during manufacturing process or during ingestion” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2).
Additional health properties of cacao found especially in dark chocolate, apart from polyphenols, may have a role to play in reports of chocolate cravings and their use as functional food. Theses beneficial components include “methylxanthines, namely caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2197) “peptides, and minerals” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2200). “Theobromine is a psychoactive compound without diuretic effects” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2198). “Cocoa is also rich in proteins. Cocoa peptides are generally responsible for the flavour precursor formation” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2199). Lastly, “minerals are one of the important components in cocoa and cocoa products. Cocoa and cocoa products contained relatively higher amount of magnesium compared to black tea, red wine, and apples” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2200).
A well supported rule of thumb for finding high antioxidant capacity functional chocolate is to look for the percentage of non-fat cocoa solids (NFCS) in chocolate products to determine total phenolic content (Jalil, et al., 2008; Vinson, & Motisi, 2015) “Dark chocolates contain the highest NFCS among the different types of chocolates” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2204) However, due to percentages of cocoa solids on on chocolate labels including polyphenol-free cocoa butter, the accuracy of this measure is not always correct and can lead to overestimating polyphenol content in certain types of chocolate (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2204). That said, a recent study by Vinson and Motisi (2015), performed on commercial chocolate bars found “a significant and linear relationship between label % cocoa solids and the antioxidant assays as well as the sum of the monomers.” From which they concluded that, “consumers can thus rationally choose chocolate bars based on % cocoa solids on the label” (Vinson, & Motisi, 2015, p. 526).
Additions to Functional Chocolate
In health food stores like Cambridge Naturals and Deborah’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, MA, the presence of functional chocolate with additional health boosting ingredients is prevalent. The validity of these claims to improve focus, enhance libido and energy, and other desirable improved physiological functions, based on herbs, powders and additional superfoods mixed with cacao, is intriguing. A study by Albak and Tekin (2014), found that mixing aniseed, ginger, and cinnamon into the dark chocolate mix before conching, “increased the total polyphenol content while they decreased the melting properties of dark chocolate after conching” (Albak, et al., 2014, p. 19).
Other resources that further elucidate specific findings on these superfoods, herbs and spices include:
Afolabi Clement Akinmoladun, Mary, Tolulope Olaleye, and Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi. “Cardiotoxicity and Cardioprotective Effects of African Medicinal Plants.” Toxicological Survey of African Medicinal Plants (2014): 395. This publication includes information on gingko, turmeric among other additives to functional chocolate and how protective vascular effects are formed.
Some consideration for the popularity of raw chocolate, which is used as the base of many functional chocolate products, deserves attention. As explained, there are many reasons chocolate can be considered a functional food, especially due to specific health promoting compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids, peptides, theobromine and minerals present in cacao and in chocolate. Unfortunately, overwhelming scientific evidence points to the detrimental effects on these compounds from processing, especially by heat. “Flavanols largely disappear once the cocoa bean is heated, fermented and processed into chocolate. In other words, making chocolate destroys the very ingredient that is supposed to make it healthy” (Crowe, 2015). Raw chocolate, by the standards of raw foodism, means that food is not supposed to be heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit in order to preserve enzymes. This seems tricky to prove especially when chocolate makers receive cocoa beans from various countries of origin where fermenting and drying practices are not under their direct supervision. Some companies remedy this issue with bean-to-bar practices that ensure they have seen and approved the process that cacao beans undergo before shipment to the company’s own processing facilities, where low temperature winnowing, grinding and conching is under their complete control. The bean-to-bar method (See Taza’s Bean-to-Bar and Direct Trade process) also provides assurance that cacao is ethically (sometimes for organic and wild-crafted cacao if so desired) sourced. These initiatives often promote more sustainable and better processed cacao, which means higher quality cacao for both the farmer, manufacturer and consumer. For these reasons, the popularity of raw cacao seems to fit into the development of functional foods where the consumer is able to enjoy a sometimes more bitter, medicinal tasting chocolate in the anticipation of a powerful physiological boost and a clearer conscience due to sourcing methods.
In the case of Yes Cacao, their Karma MellOwl botanical chocolate bar contains 41% cacao butter, and 59% botanicals which results in a deliciously complex, albeit golden colored bar due to the cocoa butter and turmeric content. Non-fat cacao solids which provide the main anti-inflammatory benefits of cacao are missing, but are replaced with other superfoods, spices and adaptogenic herbs like lucuma, maca, yacon, lion’s mane mushrooms, gingko, turmeric, pine pollen, cinnamon, bacopa, and gynostemma. The creators of the bars deem them functional medicine, as they combine cacao solids and sundried cane juice as a base for superfood and medicinal enhancements. In this video, Justin Frank Polgar recommends that Yes Cacao bars are eaten daily as a staple enhancement for ideal human functionality.
Other raw chocolate companies that are focus on functional chocolate using additional superfoods, spices and herbs include:
Trends in functional foods heading in the direction of ‘naturally healthy’
From the perspective of growers, producers and consumers who want a high quality, healthful and good tasting chocolate product, the scientific findings that support the ideal balance between flavor and preservation of health promoting properties of cacao, are significant. The ideal way to conserve protective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits warrants consideration with the changes in polyphenol content during processing of cacao from raw bean, through fermentation to roasting, conching and mixing with other ingredients. Raw chocolate seems a good way to navigate this balance. Meanwhile, mass produced commercial chocolate companies or “big chocolate” continue to move their products in the direction of high quality premium chocolate and adopting new manufacturing processes in order to preserve cacao’s protective effects. The overarching trend uniting premium, natural and healthful ingredients is referred to in the food industry as naturally healthy foods. “This idea of using food to manage health may, in part, help explain growing consumer interest in fresh, natural and organic products”(Gagliardi, 2015). The melding of healthy, natural and functional foods to chocolate production reflects consumer preferences and industry recognition of the role diet plays on health and provides insights into the future of food. For now, medicinally enhanced, raw, naturally healthy, and functional chocolate seems light years ahead of other natural foods on the market today.
Author’s Note: While researching and writing this article the author happily consumed a great deal of functional, raw and medicinal chocolate and can attest to the powerful effects that far surpass conventional and even ‘premium chocolates’.
Ackar, Djurdjica, Kristina Valek Lendić, Marina Valek, Drago Šubarić, Borislav Miličević, Jurislav Babić, and Ilija Nedić. “Cocoa polyphenols: can we consider cocoa and chocolate as potential functional food?.” Journal of chemistry 2013 (2013).
Albak, Fatma, and Ali Rıza Tekin. “Development of Functional Chocolate with Spices and Lemon Peel Powder by using Response Surface Method: Development of Functional Chocolate.” Academic Food Journal/Akademik GIDA 12, no. 2 (2014).
Afolabi Clement Akinmoladun, Mary, Tolulope Olaleye, and Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi. “Cardiotoxicity and Cardioprotective Effects of African Medicinal Plants.” Toxicological Survey of African Medicinal Plants (2014): 395.
Bordiga, Matteo, Monica Locatelli, Fabiano Travaglia, Jean Daniel Coïsson, Giuseppe Mazza, and Marco Arlorio. “Evaluation of the effect of processing on cocoa polyphenols: antiradical activity, anthocyanins and procyanidins profiling from raw beans to chocolate.” International Journal of Food Science & Technology 50, no. 3 (2015): 840-848..
Crafack, Michael, Mikael Agerlin Petersen, Carl Emil Aae Eskildsen, G. B. Petersen, H. Heimdal, and Dennis Sandris Nielsen. “Impact of starter cultures and fermentation techniques on the volatile aroma profile of chocolate.” CoCoTea 2013 (2013).
Crafack, Michael. “Influence of Starter Cultures, Fermentation Techniques, and Acetic Acid on the Volatile Aroma and Sensory Profile of Cocoa Liquor and Chocolate.” (2014).
Di Mattia, Carla, Maria Martuscelli, Giampiero Sacchetti, Bram Beheydt, Dino Mastrocola, and Paola Pittia. “Effect of different conching processes on procyanidin content and antioxidant properties of chocolate.” Food Research International 63 (2014): 367-372.
Jain, Parag, Ravindra Pandey, and Shiv Shankar Shukla. “Inflammation and Lifestyle.” Inflammation: Natural Resources and Its Applications. Springer India, 2015. 143-152.
Jalil, Abbe Maleyki Mhd, and Amin Ismail. “Polyphenols in cocoa and cocoa products: is there a link between antioxidant properties and health?.”Molecules 13, no. 9 (2008): 2190-2219.
Jespersen, Lene, Dennis S. Nielsen, Susanne Hønholt, and Mogens Jakobsen. “Occurrence and diversity of yeasts involved in fermentation of West African cocoa beans.” FEMS Yeast Research 5, no. 4-5 (2005): 441-453.
Kadow, Daniel, Nicolas Niemenak, Sascha Rohn, and Reinhard Lieberei. “Fermentation-like incubation of cocoa seeds (Theobroma cacao L.)–Reconstruction and guidance of the fermentation process.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 62, no. 1 (2015): 357-361.
Vinson, Joe A., and Matthew J. Motisi. “Polyphenol antioxidants in commercial chocolate bars: Is the label accurate?.” Journal of Functional Foods 12 (2015): 526-529.
Zhang, Dapeng, and Lambert Motilal. “Origin, Dispersal, and Current Global Distribution of Cacao Genetic Diversity.” In Cacao Diseases, pp. 3-31. Springer International Publishing, 2016.
Undone Chocolate is a bean to bar manufacturer that prides itself with combining health with flavor in its cacao beans, or bridging the gap between art and science. It is located in bustling Union Kitchen in Northeast Washington DC, and it sells 2000 chocolate bars a month the three main flavors of Arouse, Nourish, and Replenish. (Undone 2016) Undone was established in December 2014 by Adam and Kristen Kavalier with Adam being a scientist and PhD graduate in plant biochemistry. Adam specializes in perfecting or bringing out the healthful benefits of cacao beans taking them to his lab where he tests them with a mass spectrometer. (Krystal 2015) As the slogan of the company says ‘we are only as good as our beans.’
In addition to prioritizing health and medicinal elements Undone also enhances organic cacao beans through direct trade with sourcing and purchasing bulk cacao bean pods for over $500 three times mo
re than fair trade pricing of $150, and forming direct partnerships with small specialized partners in Central South America. (Undone 2016) The following ethnographic analysis will explore how the bean to bar company Undone is significant for resolving cacao chain problems from the topics of processing with making the chocolate bars, sourcing with buying the beans with direct trade, its knowledge or educational outreach with advertising, and its artisanship equipment. Arguably by focusing on cacao beans botanically pure and valuable origins with health and trade Undone helps to improve cacao chain issues in an organic aspect with focusing on basic but precise steps that enhances both product and production making it more sustainable with reciprocal benefits.
Part I Processing
Undone takes much care and attention in creating their gourmet organic cacao bars. As I observed touring the facility on a muggy Friday in April much love goes into producing the bars made from the basic ingredients of organic cacao and sugar. The harvested beans are placed on trays to be roasted or prepared for winnowing. I could smell the odors and feel the heat from the convection ovens walking through the shared kitchen. Winnowing separates the nib the dark meat of the cacao bean away from the shell as Adam demonstrated breaking the shell and moving the nib away with his fingers. (Presilla 2009, p.116)
A state of the art mélange rinds the nibs for four days reaching the right crystalline texture and removing all of the bitter taste astringent to the tongue. This requires heating and tempering. (Presilla 2009, p.114) The stone slabs help in making the cacao texture liquefied and creamy. The processed cacao is then poured in bins for aging and flavoring taking up to four months depending on the bean grade. Tempering continues but finished bars are trimmed and stored for the right ‘shine, snap and mouthfeel.’ (Benderly 2016, p.3) It was cool to see the Adam’s staff of two Liz and Meryl working around the clock to make this process a reality.
This refined process prizing health and antioxidants makes Undone a solver in cacao chain issues through its enriching elements. Undone’s emphasis on health reflects early Mesoamericans and connoisseurs who consumed cacao for health purposes. (Presilla 2009, p.12) The focus to blend health and flavor helps to bridge the gap between the nutritional and pleasurable benefits of chocolate. This is better than functional chocolate, which includes vitamins and other health enhancements without considering the flavor.
Undone focusing on the flavor of the beans without adding the extra ingredients of vanilla, or milk refines the cacao chain process organically with including less processed ingredients. (Eber 2012, p.185) As co-founder Kristen puts it putting more emphasis on the cacao beans enriches the health quality, and processing the cacao with less ingredients is more challenging to process and ferment according to Adam. (Sidman 2015, p.3) The concentration on including four key flavors help consumer with more clarity and less confusion with selection. (Eber 2012)
Part II. Sourcing
Undone uses direct trade to source its cacao beans. Kavalier says close partnerships with partners are formed on the ground and it keeps local economy sustainable. Undone harvests cacao beans primarily from Central and South American countries such as
Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Ecuador with the Dominican beans providing the most rich antioxidant flavor. (Crawford 2015) Direct Trade networks are important with providing high quality of cacao beans. (Crawford 2015) Relationships are formed with sourcing partners taking direct flights and trips to the site of producers to ensure proper produce. (Crawford 2015) Transparency is promoted with communication and networking to form strong long-term relationships. High quality and selection is promoted with cacao beans themselves where the best are sold at 50% above fair trade prices. (Intelligentsia 2016)
Undone’s policy in applying direct trade to source its cacao beans helps to organically resolve cacao chain problems in reciprocal and existential capacity. Undone purchasing for higher prices at $500 per shipment helps to create more profit for trade partners who are small scale producers, and creates more secure networks for them with larger profits. (Crawford 2015) It also dispels myths that buying smaller batches of cacao are unprofitable with shipping because the quality of the bean is improved. (Eber 2012, p.168) It also improves the quality of cacao with paying more to producers helping them to be more secure in their produce. As Adam puts it in comparing it with fair trade ‘fair trade incentivizes volume not quality,’ and ‘direct trade de-commoditizes cacao beans with ensuring shipment supply with more reliable trade networks.’ (Jacob 2014)
The price of an Undone Chocolate Bar is $8 as a result of direct trade price. Average consumers may purchase a $3 Hershey, but the price of a bean-to-bar Undone bar is worth it considering the stable supply rate and sufficiency. Direct relationships helps to ensure revenue in restrictive low revenue cacao producing nations like Ghana, which limits direct trade partnerships, but ensures quality. (Leissle 2013, p.24) It also ensures more stable or reciprocal trading benefits with neighboring countries in Latin America where cacao was originally produced revitalizing the economy. This helps to form or strengthen existing co-ops in these countries such as El Ceibo, which prizes grass roots organization meeting once every year, and having equal wage and rotating leadership. (Healy 2001, pp.134-135)
Part III. Knowledge Information
Undone prides itself on reaching out to consumers on the health benefits of cacao. The company sets up sampling workshops where Undone Bars are sold such Parcel Holiday Market in DC’s Navy Yard, Yes! Organic Market and Monroe Street. Before formally establishing Undone Adam and Kristen had sampling and tasting parties for friends and colleagues. (Krystal 2015, p.1) As stated Adam’s science background in plant chemistry helps him and Undone understand the medicinal benefits of cacao beans. One of the goals is to have a testing lab and offer courses in chocolate making. (Benderly 2016, p.2) As I looked at my complimentary Undone Bar of pink Himalayan salt I noticed a lot of key attributes about the product.
I noticed in simple terms the amount of ounces and ingredients used to make the bar which is 2.0. ounces. I saw the international locations of where the ingredients were sourced from which the Himalayas and the Dominican Republic. (Undone 2016) I see the nutritional facts of servings and trans fat which are very detailed in percentages. I see the premium and nutritional disclaimers for the health conscious, and the organizational labels that Undone produces its chocolate from which is USDA Organic, Direct Trade and Certified Vegan. (Undone 2016) Most importantly I notice the insignia and labeling which emphasizes the ingredients
used to make the bars, which are assorted in a very appealing and engaging fashion and the Undone symbol which showcases the cacao bean. It’s as if they’re using the ingredients to educate buyers.
Undone’s focus on the ingredients with its advertising and labeling help to educate consumers on the importance of eating single origin organic cacao bars. As Adam notes buyers are interested in what they’re eating. Undone’s knowledge base with reaching out to customers helps to resolve cacao chain problems in a salient and transparent standpoint. Undone with the displaying of its ingredients both in image and words on its labels help demystify chocolate making process with presenting the ingredients.
It also helps to de-exotic cacao with not closely associating it with its country of origin. On Amano chocolate bars containing 70% cacao their wrapper labels features ominously dark colors alludes to its Ghanaian origins ‘invoking an ominous fear.’ It also exoticized the location featuring specific West African locations. (Leissle 2013, pp.26-27) Whereas with Undone the labeling is bright neutral covered reflecting the ingredients. It uses a cardiogram symbol, and the naming of the ingredients is different from other companies in naming the health and nutritive qualities. ‘It is like the name of vitamin water invoking the feeling it promotes’ according to co-founder Kristen. (Sidman 2015, p.2)
Part IV. Artisanship Equipment.
The resourceful and innovative artisanship with the facilities and equipment is the additional factor that Undone instrumental to organically resourceful to resolving cacao chain problems. Undone applies a lot of innovative equipment to its establishment. This includes Indian style grinders that grind the cacao or utilizing the space in Union Kitchen. Adam took up carpentry studying at Cornell and picked up useful process based skills. (Benderly 2016, p.1) As he said chocolate making and repurposing requires a lot of creativity with the remaking of machines.
Undone’s measure with the revamping of equipment helps to resolve cacao chain problems with resourcefulness. Revamping equipment and applying historical artisanal methods creates an ongoing progress of cacao production with resilience and improvisation. Undone as a smaller start up company reflects the issues that small bean-to-bar companies face with starting their own business. (Martin 2016) Undone also helps to organically resolve cacao-chain issues in a connective way by using artisanal measures to reach out to the community. (Martin 2016) I realized this when I received my Undone bar from Adam and given a tour of the facility. US small manufacturers of chocolate ‘pride themselves on changing the world with direct transparent trade, and building their businesses in the European artisanal fashion of reaching out to local communities through quality tasting experiences.’ (Eber 2012, p.156)
Eber, Pam Williams & Jim. 2012. “Raising the Bar The Future of Fine Chocolate ” In To Market, To Market: Craftsmanship, Customer Education, and Flavor 143-209. Vancouver Wilmor Publishing Corp. .
Healy, Kevin. 2001. “Cacao Bean Farmers Make a Chocolate Covered Development Climb ” In Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia 123-154. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
Image 1: A shelter for internally displaced persons during the Ivorian civil war (Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Cocoa has been a major source of wealth as well as one of the major causes of chaos in Africa. The conflict over cocoa resources disrupted the larger political struggle; it created ethnic and socio-economic instability, which became the basis of civil war in countries like Cote d’Ivoire. In 1960, Cote d’Ivoire (or Ivory Coast) won its full independence from France and Félix Houphouët-Boigny became the first president of the independent country. The new Ivorian president welcomed immigrants and made Ivorian land freely available to those who wanted to grow coffee and cocoa. In this decision lies the secret of the economic growth of Cote d’Ivoire and the causes of its downfall.
This essay will argue that literature has tended to focus more on the trade and market issues related to cocoa instead of focusing on dynamics that are largely relevant to the local African context, such as violent political conflicts caused by cocoa farming. Cocoa producing countries in Africa have suffered several outbreaks of conflict, especially in Cote d’Ivoire between 2002 and 2011 which resulted in the death of 3,000 people , yet the role played by these countries in the global chocolate industry is little known. Furthermore, numerous organizations have been established to regulate the trade of cocoa and its distribution; yet nothing has been done to resolve or even advocate the political massacre caused by cocoa farming in African countries. This essay will provide a deep investigation into violent political conflict caused by cocoa farming in African countries by looking at the example of Cote d’Ivoire. Historical complexity and the current state of conflict will be examined. Finally, this essay will conclude with recommendations for contemporary cocoa industry and regulatory organizations on how to tackle such conflict.
Image 2: Culture du Manioc – Côte d’Ivoire (Public Domain)
History of Cocoa and Chaos in Cote d’Ivoire
It was late 19th century when Africa began producing cocoa on a significant scale. The first recorded large-scale production was in the 1880’s from Portuguese plantations on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe . As noted by the 2004 Anti-Slavery report, these cocoa plantations run by French colonists became infamous for using slaves, despite slavery having been officially abolished in 1875. Between 1888 and 1908, over 67,000 people from the African mainland were shipped to Sao Tome and Principe islands.The low oil and rubber prices in Cote d’Ivoire encouraged people to cultivate cocoa and the proper cultivation began by 1890’s .
The history of cocoa and related violence goes back to 1900’s with French authorities “corrupting local chiefs, evicting communities from forests in the south and forcibly displacing tens of thousands of people, mainly from the north and from Burkina Faso to work on the cocoa plantations”, as claimed by the Global Witness report. The report also claims that small farmers protested against the higher cocoa prices paid to the French plantation owners. During this period of time, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, a cocoa farmer himself formed an agricultural union called Syndicat Agricole Africain (SAA) in 1944 and was elected as Côte d’Ivoire’s representative to the French parliament. After spending two years in French parliament, Boigny was able to secure a law in 1946 ending forced labor in Cote d’Ivoire . The ban on forced labor happened at the same time as the cocoa prices were high on the world market. This resulted in large portion of population moving to the forested area of Cote d’Ivoire to cultivate cocoa. Due to his extreme popularity, Boigny was elected as first president of independent Cote d’Ivoire in 1960.
Under the administration of President Boigny, hundreds of thousands of immigrants came in search of land to cultivate cocoa. As Orla Ryan recalls in her book, Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa, some came from Boigny’s own ethnic group, the Baoule. A large portion of farmers came from Northern Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mali. For years, the indigenous tribe, Bete, welcomed and worked alongside migrants and foreigners from Burkina Faso and Mali to cultivate cocoa. Many Ivorians moved to big cities to be part of the new urban economy. They sell or rented their lands to the foreigners who wanted to farm them and plant cocoa. With thousands of cocoa farmers, Cote d’Ivoire produced some 67 000 tons to 880 000 tons of cocoa from 1960 and 1989, which made it world’s largest producer of cocoa. However, the economic growth of the country was also the beginning of the hostile relationship between host and migrant populations.
Map 1: Cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire by Global Witness Report
The country accounted for around 40% of world cocoa production and cocoa became the economic resource of the country, representing on average 35% of the total value of Ivorians exports, worth around $1.4 billion.  To make country open to foreigners, President Boigny issues a statement saying, “The land belongs to he who cultivates it”. This led to the ownership of big portion of land by immigrant population. However, the world price of cocoa was falling which created an atmosphere where foreigners were not welcome in Cote d’Ivoire anymore.
Adding to the problem, in 1933, after 33 years in power, President Boigny died and as did his economic policies. A long government policy to welcome foreigners and to give land to those who want to cultivate cocoa was changed when Laurent Gbagbo, from Bete tribe, was elected as the president. Confronted with a crumbling economy, Gbagbo used his presidency to reinvigorate the Ivorian citizenship rights, attempting to build a campaign by arousing Ivorian patriotism and nationalism. The newly elected president declared that the land given to the settlers under President Boigny cannot be claimed by them and should be returned to the native Ivorian owners.
As Mitchell writes in his paper, Rethinking the Migration-Conflict Nexus: Insights from Côte d‟Ivoire and Ghana, this policy of Gbagbo was central to the conflict and was deeply embedded in the rise and fall of the country’s cocoa sector.Much of the cultivated land was allocated to the foreigners at the time, which made it almost impossible for them to leave their crops. These foreigners became the victims for the financial crisis encountered by the native Ivorians and came under extreme pressure to leave the country. In 1990, non- Ivorians lost their right to vote thus deprived of their right to claim any land.
In 1998, law was passed declaring that only people of Ivorians nationality could own rural land. The law posed several problems for the thousands of immigrants who had cultivated and owned the cocoa crops for generations. The land purchased under President Boigny was rather informal which was often affirmed through handshakes or poorly written documents. Now in legal terms, such informal agreements meant nothing. Riots took place between the foreigners and natives in the west of the country, where most of cocoa was cultivated. The operation to seize land from the foreigners was launched, fueling violent tension between the communities. For the next decade, Cote d’Ivoire was split into two parts: the rebels controlled the north, while the government controlled the south. Where once the fight was over gold and diamonds, cocoa became a weapon of war.
According to a report by United Nations Human Rights Watch, between 1,500 and 2,500 Liberians fought for the government of Côte d’Ivoire, while almost 1,000 were thought to have fought among the ranks of Ivorian rebels. Human right abuses were committed by conflict over land ownership. By the end of 1999, about 15,000 Burkinabe and northern Ivorians left the country in a bloody conflict between migrants and native people.
Image 3: Armed Ivorians next to a French Foreign Legion armored car, 2004 (Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0)
With the new nationalist concept, President Henri Konan Bédié, successor of Boigny, distinguished between “foreigners” and “true Ivorian”. The concept was incorporated into the new electoral code in 1994, which stated that candidates of the Presidency and for Deputy in the National Assembly must be Ivorians by birth, with Ivorian parentage, having neither renounced Ivorian citizenship nor taken the nationality of any other state.  This law was seen as a deliberate effort to prevent Bédié’s rival, Alassane Ouattara, from the presidential elections. Ouattara was Muslim and had Burkinabe origins.In excluding Ouattara from presidential elections, the northerners perceived this as a systematic discrimination. As a result of this, nearly two million Burkinabe (most of them cocoa producers) found themselves subjugated.
Economic stagnation caused by the falling prices of cocoa resulted in a coup in 1999 led by General Robert Guei who ousted President Bédié. When the presidential elections took place in 2010, after years of postponement, the country’s second civil war broke out, claiming the lives of more than 3,000 people.
Role of Cocoa
Cocoa accounts for a significant proportion of the Cote d’Ivoire government’s budget as well as the conflict. The Ivorian economy and especially the trade of cocoa lack transparency and accountability and involves significant amount of corruption. An estimated 10% of Ivorian cocoa production is now under the control of the rebels. These rebels charge indirect tax on the cocoa trade. The conflict in Cote d’Ivoire caused a sharp increase in the price of world cocoa. For example, in October 2002, after the coup attempt, the price of cocoa reached its highest level since the 1970’s and 1980’s at $2,367 per ton. 
According to a 2007 report by Global Witness and World Bank, some leading national cocoa institutions have contributed to the war by providing the government with “money, vehicle and weapons”. As noted by the report, these contributions were made at the same time as the government forces were conducting worst human rights violations. Furthermore, government and rebel leaders in Cote d’Ivoire siphoned off millions of dollars from the cocoa industry to finance the 2002-03 civil war. According to the report, the Ivoirians government received more than $58 million from institutions and cocoa revenues, while the rebel forces pocketed about $30 million since 2004 in taxes and revenues. The profits generated from the cocoa sector remain potential weapon for the conflict and little has been done to break the link between cocoa institutions and armed groups.
Image 4: Displaced Ivorians queue for food at a UNHCR distribution site in Liberia (Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0)
Following are few recommendations for cocoa industry and regulatory organizations such as United Nations:
Companies buying cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire should perform extra considerations on their purchase to demonstrate that they are not providing money that is being used in the war effort, which results in human rights violations. These companies should make their purchase more transparent by publishing the information on how the cocoa was imported from such countries. Especially, if the cocoa was purchased from the areas controlled by government or rebels, how much direct and indirect taxes were paid. These cocoa-buying institutions should also publish information on the locations of their bank accounts (as most of them have off-shore companies) and should publish annual audit reports.
Organizations such as United Nations should be more serious about this conflict. United Nations should apply sanctions on individuals responsible for sending money to promote this conflict. United Nations should hold more Peacekeeping missions in countries such as Cote d’Ivoire . An oversight of the natural resources under United Nations should also be established.
Cote d’Ivoire gained its independence from France in 1960 under the leadership of President Boigny. During his administration, Boigny welcomed immigrants and made Ivoirians land freely available to those who wanted to grow coffee and cocoa. Cote d’Ivoire witnessed a boom in its economy and became world’s largest cocoa producer. The production of cocoa relied on the immigrants who mostly came from Burkina Faso and Mali. To ensure labor rights, President Boigny extended their right to live and gave a decree ensuring ownership of the land they cultivated. As the cocoa prices fell around 1980s, the government replaced taxation with subsidies for the immigrants. The foreigners faced hostility from the natives. Between 2002 and 2011, Cote d’Ivoire suffered several conflicts mostly between the government and the cocoa farmers in the north. This led to the bitterly contested election in 2010, whose outcome led to the Second Ivorian Civil War. Around 3,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Numerous organizations have been established to regulate the trade of cocoa and its distribution; yet nothing has been done to resolve or even advocate the political massacre caused by cocoa farming in African countries. For the past decade, both sides in the conflict-government and rebels-have benefitted from significant corruption through cocoa trade. Companies buying cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire and such other countries should ensure that the money from cocoa trade is not fueling the conflict.
Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed, 2011. Print.
 Clarence-Smith, W.G. & Ruf, F., “Cocoa pioneer fronts: The historical determinants”, Clarence-Smith, W.G. (ed.), Cocoa Pioneer Fronts Since 1800, the role of smallholders, planters and merchants, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1996
As a cacao-producer, Colombia would be considered a minnow when compared to the cacao-growing giants of West Africa––Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Cameron, which constitutes approximately 70% of global production. Even closer to home, Colombia is dwarfed by neighboring Brazil, and is outperformed by smaller Ecuador fourfold. As a result, the cacao sector of Colombia receives less attention both within literature and the media than its fellow Latin American producers. That is finally changing, however. For the past several decades, the Colombian cacao-chocolate industry, with the support of its government, has been hard at work in strategically positioning itself within the fine cacao market, specifically by focusing on growing Fino de Aroma cacao. As a result, it has drawn the attention of confectionary giants the likes of Barry Callebaut AG and Ferrero SPA., Colombia’s pursuit of growing high-quality cacao has additionally obtained the support of several international development initiatives, including those of Swisscontact,USAID and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). Their hope is to foster agro-sustainability and socioeconomic equality that will yield both economic and social upgrading, particularly for the growers. Their goal is to implement much needed improvements throughout Colombia’s cacao-chocolate value chain. As a result, Colombia has alas become one of the most recent entrants to the fine chocolate-making world. In an effort to reduce the knowledge gap in the global map of cacao-chocolate production, I will provide an examination of the current state of Colombia’s cacao-chocolate industry, by focusing on its Fino de Aroma sector and by providing a brief ethnographic summary of one of its newest and most successful fine chocolate brands, Cacao Hunters.
Cacao Hunters in a “Bean-Shell”
Cacao Hunters is the chocolate brand for Cacao de Colombia created by Colombian native Carlos Ignacio Velasco and Mayumi Osaka of Japan. In 2009, Velasco, with his 12 plus-years experience working for the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (Colombian Coffee Growers Federation), created Cacao de Colombia, branding his chocolate by highlighting the origins and the communities from which the beans were acquired. His strategy was a break from mainstream Colombian chocolate-makers, and it paid off. He saw an untapped market, which allowed him to use his expertise and the collaboration of some of his former colleagues at the Federation, to break into the fine chocolate market, seeing that Colombia is poised to becoming one of the world’s leading fine cacao-growing powerhouses.
Cacao Hunters is part of Cacao de Colombia’s fine bean to bar brand, highlighting the origins and communities from which the cacao are acquired (source: http://www.cacaohunters.com/)
Velasco envisioned a three-pronged strategy: (1) building knowledge; (2) infrastructure; (3) and a business plan that would mutually benefit both buyer and seller. The first and the third were in place. They began transferring their knowledge, by providing classes on technical and sustainable practices on growing and harvesting high-quality cacao to growers throughout the country, incentivizing them toward excellence by offering, in some cases, 50% above market value for quality beans. As for infrastructure, the company needed help, which it successfully obtained from international organizations, such as Swisscontact and USAID; and, won an award for innovation from GIZ, which provided the resources to build a model farm and postharvest plant in the small river town of Aracataca, located nearby the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. In 2015, the company sold $1 million USD worth of fine chocolate, winning awards at international competitions including the Gold at the 2015 World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards in London. And with the support of the Acumen fund at the tune of $1.15 million, Cacao Hunters sales for this year are expected to surpass $3 million. Cacao Hunters’ partnership with Acumen and other international players have initiated an economic and social upgrading throughout the company’s value chain. An impressive feat given that this increase was achieved amid a globally depressed commodities market. Nonetheless, the demand for fine chocolate grows. The below is video of Salon du Chocolat, “the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate,” is an important part of the fine chocolate world, including boutique brands like Cacao Hunters, who attended the 2016 Tokyo edition.
Indigenous Shareholders are Represented
Cacao Hunters works closely with one of Colombia’s most geographically remote indigenous nations, the Arhuaco. Although Cacao Hunters purchases its cacao from various sectors of the country, they advocate for socio-responsibility and equitable engagement with their growers in the pursuit of fostering mutual economic and social upgrading. And their engagement with the Arhuaco has paid off, for it was Cacao Hunter’s Arhuaco 72% dark chocolate bar that took Gold at the 2015 World Finals in London. It is a significant achievement for the Arhuaco growers, especially given that they are ill supported and underrepresented within the Colombian government. As part of a campaign to promote their products in the ever-growing Japanese market, Cacao Hunters chose Hernan, one of the Arhuaco tribe leaders, to be part of the team to represent the company at the 2016 Salon du Chocolat-Tokyo.
photo, taken from Cacao Hunters’ Facebook page, shows co-founder Mayumi Osaka purchasing bean during one of her “market day with Arhuacos: a several hours’ journey down from the Sierra Nevada mountains.” Far right, is Hernan, of one the Arhuaco leaders who was flown to the 2016 Salon du Chocolat – Tokyo edition. (source: Cacao Hunters’FaceBook).
Hernan on his way to Japan (source: Cacao Hunters’ FaceBook page)
Colombia: A Privileged Ecological Site for Cacao-Growing
Although its neighbors, particularly Venezuela and Ecuador, are known for their fine cacao, Colombia, however, albeit its ecological advantages, is less known. It is only just now coming on line, and for good reasons. The country is ecologically privileged to grow cacao. In fact, Colombia is considered one of the five “megadiverse countries” in the world. With only 0.8% of the world’s land, it hosts close to 15% of the world’s biodiversity, making Colombia, per square kilometer, the most biodiverse country on the planet. This richly endowed nation thus possesses multiple, ideal-growing regions with the capacity to expand exponentially (see figure below).
This comes as no surprise to many cacao-chocolate scholars as there is strong research showing that the genetic cradle and the most diversified genetic materials of Theobroma cacao is found is in South America, specifically, the large bean-shape area of the Upper Amazon, encompassing southern Perú, to the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the border areas between Perú, Brazil and, of course, Colombia (see image below).
Colombia to Become the New Powerhouse in Fino de Aroma Cacao Production
The source of Colombia’s cacao-chocolate heritage and its recent boom onto the world market is the Fino de Aroma cacao. The below video on Fino de Aroma is created by one of Colombia largest exporter of chocolate, Casa Luker. Although this video is part of the company’s promotional materials, it nonetheless provides a good explanation of the high-quality variety.
The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) has classified Colombia as a 95% fine cacao exporter. And, along with Venezuela, Ecuador and Perú, Colombia grows 76% of the world’s Fino de Aroma cacao. Currently, it is Ecuador who leads. But that is about to change. Both Perú and Colombia are poised to leapfrog the Ecuadorians. For Perú’s part, if the current growth rate of its exports continues unhindered, their cacao sector could expand beyond 214,000 mt in 2020, which would easily surpass Ecuador’s current exports of 116,000 mt, according to José Iturrios, director of the Alianza Cacao Perú (Perú Cocoa Alliance.) However, Perú, unlike Colombia, is only classified at 75% Fino de Aroma, which means that a significant portion of their yield will not be premium cacao, thus reducing their share of the market. The Colombian government, however, plans to substantially back its growers by adding up to 80,000 ha of Fino de Aroma plantations, as they wish to capitalize on the growing global demand. Since 2005, Colombian cacao production has been rising. Back then it only cultivated 96,000 ha, yielding approximately 17,000 mt of cacao. Today, Colombia’s yield is roughly 50,000 mt, but, with the addition of the 80,000 ha of Fino de Aroma plantations being replanted in the following departments: Santander, North Santander, Nariño, Tolima, Huila, Antioquia and Meta, they will be able to expand their yields to over 138,450 mt, surpassing both Ecuador and Perú, making Colombia the world’s lead Fino de Aroma producers.
Cacao Hunters Bean to Bar Strategy Breaks from the Colonial Scheme and Disrupts the Asymmetric Buyer-Seller Dynamic
All of this is good news for Colombia’s chocolate-makers, especially Cacao Hunters who only uses 100% Colombian premium in their bars. In using their native beans, the company effectively breaks from the colonizer-colony scheme that persists within many developing countries. This is significant given that historically raw materials of erstwhile territories were sent back to the Europe, a pattern that persists today, with the inclusion of US among the major end-product manufacturers. This is especially true with the cacao-chocolate industry. Cacao is 100% grown in the Global South, yet the lion’s share is sent to Europe and the US, in raw form, who then primarily turn it into sugar-laden, artificially saturated, under 15% bulk chocolate food stuff, while reaping 96% of the profits. As discussed in my April 8th post, “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate,” there is additionally gross misreprentation and a highly asymmetric buyer-seller dynamic within the cacao-chocolate global value chain that poorly remunerates growers, while enhancing the coffers of Big Chocolate.
Cacao Hunter’s involvement with their shareholders, which include the aforementioned Arhuaco nation, is premised on mutual sustainable and equitable upgrading for all throughout their value chain. And, by manufacturing their chocolate in their Popayan facility, they successfully break from the asymmetric buyer-seller relationship, and successfully disrupt the north-south paradigm, in which many cacao growers find themselves embedded. There needs to be a transformation of global sourcing, as it has had a negative impact on gender, racial and socioeconomic equality. Lead firms irresponsibly reinforce and drive the prevailing imbalance that further proliferates negative social reproduction within sourced nations. By contrast, the Cacao Hunters’ stratagem highlights the implication of liberalizing global production of cacao at the local level. This is especially important given that cocoa–chocolate global value chains have “significantly consolidated” in recent years. Processors and chocolate companies have merged, leaving a few as lead firms within the industry, severely disadvantaging the market against smaller and localized companies. Cacao Hunters’ engagement with the indigenous and the rural communities proactively seeks to not only disrupt this imbalance but furthermore aims to contribute to their social and economic upgrading.
What Lies ahead for Cacao Hunters
Cacao Hunters joins the ranks of other South American chocolate brands, the likes of Pacari of Ecuador, and Venezuela’s Chocolates El Rey, who themselves are recent phenomena in South America, explains food historian Dr. Maricel Presilla. They “are taking chocolate into their own hands and creating factories that can compete internationally.” They have a good understanding of how to incorporate local ingredients and flavors, creating beautiful creations with ingredients such as guanábana, tamarind and canella, flavors that are unique to Latin America and increasingly becoming more popular in the North American and European mainstreams. The cacao and other ingredients they use to produce their chocolate is directly sourced and locally grown. And Cacao Hunters is a part of it.
Though there is a slow down in world demand and production of bulk cacao, the growth rate and demand for high-quality beans treks firmly upward, and that too is good news for Colombians, including Cacao Hunters. In fact, “there’s real excitement about investment in Colombia” says Dough Hawkins, Managing Director of Hardman Agribusiness., In their 2016 company report on the current state of the world’s cacao production, Colombia is on everyone’s radar, especially given that the government’s peace talks with the FARC is close to conclusion. Moreover, the demand for an expanding Colombian cacao sector is due to a ‘move away’ from West Africa, explains Hardman Agribusiness:
Future cocoa demand will be met by a thriving professionalized sector in Latin America as chocolate makers move away from a “structurally blighted” West African market… Cocoa is a fragmented sector… With the commodity in shortening supply and now being a $12bn plus annually traded segment in the softs market, there is a swell of developing interest in its production and capital flows are increasing to support that production. Our research report lays bare a spiral of decline in Asia and the unpalatable truth about African production whilst shining a spotlight on the exciting developments in Latin America.
It would then behoove all within the Colombian cacao-chocolate sector to continue their pursuit towards producing high-quality beans, not only to satiate the demands of their foreign buyers, but to also support their own native brands. Cacao Hunter not only serves as an excellent model for other native brands to follow, but also for all aspiring bean to bar companies the worldover. They demonstrate good practices, are socially and environmentally responsible, engage growers with dignity, and pursue the mutual upgrading for all within their value chain. And becuase of this, Cacao Hunters has robustly contributed to the sweet taste of Colombian fine chocolate.
 Barry Callebaut is over 150 year old Swiss company, and one of the largest manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa. See “Barry Callebaut Is a B2B Chocolate & Cocoa Manufacturer,” Chocolate Manufacturers, Barry Callebaut, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.barry-callebaut.com/.
 Ferrero SpA is an Italian manufacturer of chocolate and confectionery products and is the third largest chocolate-confectionery company in the world. See “Ferrero Corporate,” Chocolate Manufacturers, Ferrero, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.ferrero.com/.
 USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid to foreign nations. See “U.S. Agency for International Development,” The United States Agency for International Development, USAID From the American People, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.usaid.gov/.
 Acumen aims to raise “charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty.” See “Acumen | Who We Are,” Non-profit global venture organization to address poverty, Acumen, (2016), http://acumen.org/about/.
 “Empresa Colombiana Conquista la Élite del Chocolate.”
 “Empresa Colombiana Conquista la Élite del Chocolate.”
 “Colombia is listed as one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries, hosting close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity. Worldwide, it ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity and second in plants, butterflies, freshwater fishes and amphibians. With 314 types of ecosystems, Colombia possesses a rich complexity of ecological, climatic, biological and ecosystem components. Colombia was ranked as one of the world’s richest countries in aquatic resources.” See “Colombia – Overview: National Biodiversity,” UN Science Body | Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), UN Convention on Biological Diversity, (2016), https://www.cbd.int/countries/?country=co.
 “Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, the country covers “only” 0.8% of the world’s land surface, yet, with between 45,000 and 51,000 species, it is home to some 15% of the all plant species in the world. And with1,752 bird species and 583 amphibians, Colombia has a biodiversity of fauna unrivalled by any other country. Moreover, in terms of the number of species of flora that only occur in one specific region, the so-called endemic species, Colombia is also a world leader.” See: “Implementing the Convention on Biodiversity,” Environmental and Biodiversity, Biodiversity Day, (June 9, 2001), http://www.biodiversity-day.info/2001/english/bday-colombia.html.
 For a very thorough and scholarly presentation of the genetic origins of Theobroma Cacao L., see the salient contribution of Evert Thomas et al., “Present Spatial Diversity Patterns of Theobroma Cacao L. in the Neotropics Reflect Genetic Differentiation in Pleistocene Refugia Followed by Human-Influenced Dispersal,” ed. Dorian Q. Fuller, PLoS ONE 7, no. 10 (October 24, 2012): e47676, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047676.
 The ICCO is the international monitoring body of cacao-chocolate production and consumption. See “The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) | Cocoa Producing and Cocoa Consuming Countries,” International Cocoa Organization, ICCO.org, (2016), http://www.icco.org/.
 Pekic, “Colombia Plans to Replant High-Quality Fino de Aroma Cocoa Plantations.”
 Alianza Cacao Perú (ACP) is a USAID initiative assisting Peruvian cacao sector with the intent of providing the rural population an alternative to cultivating coca as a cash crop. See USAID Peru, Alianza Cacao Perú, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpxFaVDhYnU.
 For a candid discussion on the misrepresentation and socioeconomic inequality within Mars’ global value chain, see Ibid.
 Stephanie Barrientos provides a salient scholarly contribution in her analysis of Big Chocolate cocoa–chocolate sourcing, exploring the interplay between commercial value chains and societal norms. See Stephanie Barrientos, “Gendered Global Production Networks: Analysis of Cocoa–Chocolate Sourcing,” Regional Studies 48, no. 5 (May 4, 2014): 791–803, doi:10.1080/00343404.2013.878799.
 Hardman Agribusiness is a lead investment consulting agency for agribusiness enterprises. See “Hardman Agribusiness,” Argibusiness Consultants, Hardman Agribusiness, (2016), http://www.hardmanagribusiness.com/.
“Colombia – Overview: National Biodiversity.” UN Science Body | Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD). UN Convention on Biological Diversity, 2016. https://www.cbd.int/countries/?country=co.
“The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) | Cocoa Producing and Cocoa Consuming Countries.” International Cocoa Organization. ICCO.org, 2016. http://www.icco.org/.
Thomas, Evert, Maarten van Zonneveld, Judy Loo, Toby Hodgkin, Gea Galluzzi, and Jacob van Etten. “Present Spatial Diversity Patterns of Theobroma Cacao L. in the Neotropics Reflect Genetic Differentiation in Pleistocene Refugia Followed by Human-Influenced Dispersal.” Edited by Dorian Q. Fuller. PLoS ONE 7, no. 10 (October 24, 2012): e47676. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047676.
“U.S. Agency for International Development.” The United States Agency for International Development. USAID From the American People. Accessed May 9, 2016. https://www.usaid.gov/.