Category Archives: Final Multimedia Essay

A Student Activist with A Chocolate Addiction

At 2AM each morning Harvard student activist and writer Minahil Khan, awakens from her deep sleep. She describes this disruption in her sleep schedule as “inevitable;” no matter how hard she tries, she wakes up each night, reaches to the ground beside her bed, and grabs a piece of chocolate. Minahil’s nightly chocolate routine began about one year ago, while she visited her parents in their home in New York City, NY and suddenly found herself having a mid-night craving for her mom’s famous chocolate mousse. The seemingly random craving quickly became a consistent necessity in her life, and Minahil has now eaten chocolate every night since. While Minahil’s case is quite extreme, many people have experienced some form of her chocolate “addiction.” So, what is it that makes chocolate such a beloved food product? Through my interview with Minahil, I attempt to uncover the various ways cultural, economic, and emotional factors have influenced consumers relationships to chocolate.

Harvard student activist and writer Minahil Khan, awakens from her deep sleep. She describes this disruption in her sleep schedule as “inevitable;” no matter how hard she tries, she wakes up each night, reaches to the ground beside her bed, and grabs a piece of chocolate. Minahil’s nightly chocolate routine began about one year ago, while she visited her parents in their home in New York City, NY and suddenly found herself having a mid-night craving for her mom’s famous chocolate mousse. The seemingly random craving quickly became a consistent necessity in her life, and Minahil has now eaten chocolate every night since. While Minahil’s case is quite extreme, many people have experienced some form of her chocolate “addiction.” So, what is it that makes chocolate such a beloved food product? Through my interview with Minahil, I attempt to uncover the various ways cultural, economic, and emotional factors have influenced consumers relationships to chocolate.

            Minahil’s chocolate dependence begins with its sentimental value, manifested in its preparation process and centrality to her childhood memories. 

LR: Do you remember the first time you ate chocolate?

MK: “I feel like the earliest memory I associate with chocolate is definitely related to birthdays. I’m from Pakistan and when I was younger we lived in this little engineering township, and I remember my mom just always made these chocolate cakes shaped like a gingerbread man. It’s weird because part of those memories only comes from the pictures of those birthdays. I look back at them now and realize, oh ‘that’s when I first had chocolate.’”

Although Minahil does not completely recall the experience of eating chocolate for the first time, she feels as if she remembers the experience, and notes the reconstruction of that early chocolate memory by her family photos. Her earliest chocolate memories were also significant because they revolved around an important event: birthdays. Chocolate has been a fixture of cultural rituals since it’s Mayan and Aztec origins. In A True History of Chocolate, Sophia and Michael Coe discuss the significance of chocolate in the Dresden codex, a Mayan book dating back to the 13th or 14th century. They write that “in several sections of the Dresden which deal with ritual activities tied in to the Maya’s sacred 260-day cycle, seated gods can be seen holding cacao pods, or dishes heaped with cacao beans” (Coe 42). The Maya viewed chocolate as an essential part of various ceremonies, including celebrations of life and death. Minahil’s birthday chocolate memory, therefore, illustrates a much longer history of chocolate as a center piece in ritualistic events. Chocolate has even become the centerpiece of the modern birthday party itself, with many choosing to have chocolate-themed birthday parties. In this video, for example, a woman throws her young daughter a chocolate-themed birthday party where the children excitedly get a behind the scenes look at chocolate production at a local chocolatier.

Drawing of Mayan chocolate drink

For Minahil, a Pakistani woman, chocolate has come to represent not only a symbol of celebration and ritual, but also of foreign or “westernness.”

LR: What’s your favorite kind of chocolate?

MK: “My mom’s chocolate mousse. That’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s just really airy.

LR: It sounds like a lot of your chocolate memories are associated with your family and childhood. How did chocolate become a part of your food culture in Pakistan? Is chocolate a part of Pakistani cuisine?

MK: “No. Really, not at all. The Pakistani desserts we have are very sugary, but there’s no chocolate involved. I don’t know if I know any dessert that has anything to do with chocolate. It’s the very western side of our upbringing even there.”

LR: Did chocolate represent something foreign to you?

MK: “At the time, no. Now, thinking about it, yeah, the fact that at one point, my mom made a chocolate barbie cake, where the cake was the dress of a barbie doll and she stuck a blonde, white barbie into the middle of it. I hadn’t even ever seen white foreign people in real life.”

As a child, Minahil considered chocolate to be an excited treat because, in addition to its sweet taste, it represented a distant and alluring west. Minahil’s mother paired the chocolate cake with a white barbie doll, demonstrating the consistent association of chocolate with white people and Western society. This association is ironic because, as Professor Martin and Kathryn E. Sampeck discuss in the Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe, the West and Central African nations of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon collectively produce approximately 70% of the world’s cacao today (Martin, Sampeck, 50).  Cacao is then processed in factories and craft chocolatiers in Europe, eventually becoming the recognizable chocolate product. Chocolate is, meanwhile, continuously branded as a luxury product, which is often not intended for consumption by nonwhite people. As Sampeck and Thayne write in Translating Tastes “In some ways, and as part of the colonial protect, chocolate was never meant to be familiar… Europeans maintained the sensory experience of chocolate—sweetness, spices, a simulation of the taste—an embodiment by colonists of Mesoamerican values but framed within the vicissitudes of the humoral scheme” (Sampeck, Thayne, 92). Through effective branding, slow recipe shifts, and colonialism, Europeans managed to construct chocolate as something unattainable to nonwhite people and victims of colonialism, like Pakistanis.

            In his article in Candy Industry, Saif Dewan clarifies the increasing accessibility of chocolate in Pakistan, from a delicacy enjoyed by the English and the wealthy, to a product available to the masses.  He writes that until the mid 1980’s, “chocolates were supposed to be the domain of the upper and upper-middle class segments in Pakistan” (Deiwan 1). In 1983, the chocolate company Mitchell created a product called Jubilee that sold for R.S 3.50 per bar. Its attractive packaging, quality, affordable price and focused media support, gave the brand unprecedented consumer reception, revolutionizing the accessibility of chocolate to the general Pakistani population. It currently exists at varying price points and remains popular in Pakistan. I asked Minahil about her personal chocolate preferences and developing tastes when she immigrated to the US.  

LR: How did your relationship to chocolate change when you came to the U.S.? Or did it at all?

MK: “Oh actually, in Pakistan we used to have Mars bars, but you never find that here. That’s one noticeable difference. Like, I used to remember every time I went to Pakistan, I used to be so excited to see Mars bars. Actually, it’s funny but now I think it’s become more accessible here. I have some Mars bars here in the corner of my room right now. Oh also, dairy… you know that one… dairy cow dairy cream? The purple wrapper? Cadbury! Yes, I had that all the time in Pakistan. I could never find that here. I think Mars is also European? I guess it was more of a British thing, you know, colonialism, so coming here I was more exposed to different brands of chocolates.

LR: What was your favorite chocolate?

MK: Cadbury.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar

Minahil is particularly passionate about Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate, one of the most popular chocolates in Pakistan today. Deiwan explains Cadbury’s place within the chocolate market, writing that that in the early 2000s, Cadbury’s introduced products like Dairy Milk at varying price points and marketed it as “making chocolates the choice for everyone.” He adds that “The role of Cadbury in expanding the chocolate market in Pakistan will become a primer on how to penetrate and grow a fledging segment in an underdeveloped economy.” Cadbury is on the cutting edge of popularizing chocolate in Pakistan, with efforts that began when Minahil was a child in the early 2000s. Today, Cadbury still holds a reputation from people like Minahil and other native Pakistanis as being accessible and delicious. In this Cadbury commercial, a young woman, anxious on the day of her wedding, quells both her and her father’s anxieties with Cadbury chocolate. The commercial illustrates how Cadbury chocolate is not only enjoyable, but also contains healing powers, mending the bride and her father’s relationship and giving them a moment of piece in a stressful day. Cadbury’s prevalence illustrates the globalization of chocolate and its shift towards becoming as an accessible and increasingly culturally essential product.

Minahil is also an activist, who has been heavily involved in organizing efforts on campus. However, when it came to her chocolate consumption, Minahil was fairly unacquainted with chocolate’s violent histories and exploitative present.

LR: Where do you get the chocolate from for the chocolate mousse?

MK: They are Nestle chocolate chips.

LR: Do you ever think about where the chocolate you eat comes from?

MK: Yeah sometimes and it makes me really sad, and I hate it. Like Hershey, Nestle, Nestle’s really messed up.

LR: Why is Nestle messed up?

MK: I think they just like take advantage of their workers and are buying lands and not compensating the people where chocolate is coming from fairly. Chocolate wasn’t as accessible in the west but now it’s more accessible because corporations. But with corporations comes exploitation.”

            As a civically engaged person who is immersed in activist circles, Minahil has adopted an understanding of the chocolate industry as problematic. Beyond that initial understanding however, her evaluation stops short. She is correct in saying that Nestle and Hershey most likely utilize exploitative processes, and that a large amount of that does in fact stem from corporate practices. In Bitter Chocolate, Carol Off explains the continuation of slavery far past emancipation in the 19th century on Cacao Plantations. She highlights a 2000 documentary, Slavery: A Global investigation which exposed indentured servitude in Cote d’Ivoire. The young people in the film were purchased by the plantation owners and described experiencing “beatings, starvation diets and foul living conditions” (Off 134).  Off also mentions the continuation of slavery in Sao Tome and Principe of the coast of West Africa. Minahil didn’t seem to know this connection between chocolate or slavery, despite her understanding of chocolate’s complicated reputation.

            After addressing some of chocolate’s unjust history, I was curious to see if Minahil would be willing to become a more conscious consumer.

LR: So, when you think about where your chocolate comes from, does that make you want to buy other types of chocolate? Does it make you choose between different brands based off of ethics?

MK: I haven’t. That’s not an area where I’ve invested that energy. But maybe it’s something worth thinking about. Um, yeah. I feel like in my home, I didn’t buy the chocolate. It’s just there and I eat it. Part of it is that so much of it is just sold by the same company, right? Like so much of it is just Hershey. So, I guess I’m not thinking about it because I know that already. But maybe between the two or three companies we can choose from.

Interestingly enough, the same sentimental connection to chocolate which makes it so significant to her, is also the connections which prevents Minahil from feeling mobilized to become a more conscious consumer. She understands that she could alter her taste to choose companies that use better practices but feels helpless in committing to that direction. She wants to preserve chocolate as something she can enjoy and not have to think about morally or ethically. She also seems to have convinced herself that no one buys the chocolate in her home, that she just arrives there and it’s waiting for her. She prefers to not confront the reality of her chocolate consumption, with its complicated ethical implications.

            As a Pakistani immigrant and student activist, Minahil is a particularly unique consumer of chocolate. She’s culturally conscious and frequently motivated to enact change. However, she is also extremely attached to chocolate for both its emotional and physical benefits. Ideally, my peers and I could mobilize to become conscious and active consumers of chocolate and other foods, but the personal connection and dependency we often feel towards these items calls into question the extent to which true progress can eventually be made.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2007.

Dewan, Saif. “PAKISTAN: Despite Odds, Pakistan’s Confectionery Industry Continues to Grow.” Candy Industry, Mar. 2011, pp. 18–22.

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in

Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3, 2015, pp. 37–60., doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.

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

2008.

Sampeck citing Clarence-Smith, W. G. Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914. Routledge, 2000.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. 1st ed., Ohio

University Press, 2005.

Schwartzkopf, Stacey, and Kathryn E. Sampeck. Substance and Seduction: Ingested

Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica. First ed., University of Texas Press, 2017.


Chocolate: The Story Behind the Candy Isle

“Close-up Bunch of Chocolate Bars Isolated over the White Background.” Shutterstock.com, 21 Jan. 2013, http://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/closeup-bunch-chocolate-bars-isolated-over-125447003?

Chocolate is so much richer than what the label may portray, pun intended. For my final post I have decided to use the chocolate shelf in the candy isle of Harvard’s local Target to tell a story about the product being sold. At first glance we see a colorful, aesthetically pleasing array of some of the most popular chocolate brands in the U.S. What can we decipher beyond the label, beyond the product itself? What does the pricing tell us? Are there ethical concerns behind the production and history of the chocolate? This blog post aims to explore these questions and take the readers on a journey through which these tasty treats reach our shelves.

              Hershey’s Kisses, M&M’s, Ghirardelli squares, Reese’s Cups, Snickers, Dove milk chocolates, Lindor truffles. Some of the most recognizable and notable chocolate brands in the United States. When looking through the local selection at Target, these chocolate brands line the shelves. Holding the largest market shares in the country, it is no surprise that you see these chocolates literally everywhere. They are household names. Hershey, Mars, and Lindt. These are the titans behind our favorite chocolate brands here in the United States. The analysis of this blog will structure around these three brands and what their product selection in Target tells us about our three critical questions.

Produced by myself solely for the use of this blog. Empirical data obtained from
The Hershey Company. “The Hershey Company Fact Book.” The Hershey Company, Sept. 2018.

Right when you walk into the candy isle of the Target in Central Square, you immediately see Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and the classic Hershey Milk Chocolate Bars before anything else. Hershey’s holds the largest market share in the United States, estimated around 44% (Hershey 2018). The Hershey Company was founded by Milton Hershey in 1894, and is one of the largest chocolate producers in the world. Milton S. started off from humble beginnings, unknowing that he would start a revolution of chocolate mass production. He put years of time and effort into achieving the perfect chocolate recipes, constantly tweaking the smallest inputs to optimize the product. After tireless trial and error, a man named John Schmalbach helped Hershey create the perfect condensed milk that would accept all other chocolate ingredients smoothly and could be stored for long amounts of time without spoiling (D’Antonio 2006). In 1894, Hershey started his confectionary company that boomed and grew quickly. In 1900, Hershey decided to sell the caramel company and focus solely on chocolate. He took his production to Pennsylvania, where the famous Hershey community sits today. The Hershey Company has a rich history and even richer products. How much do these products cost?

              One Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar will run you 89 cents at the local target. One pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups also costs 89 cents. A classic bag of Hershey’s kisses will cost you $3.59. This may seem relatively cheap to what most food stuffs cost in the Unites States, yet Hershey has confirmed that it will raise its prices over the next couple years to keep up with increasing commodity and shipping costs (Hershey 2018). Chocolate prices are pretty volatile and have been at the mercy of fluctuating supply and demand. Typically, small-holder cocoa growers have a tough time managing their production to meet the fluctuations in demand experienced worldwide (Chocolate 2003). Being that these cocoa growers make up a majority of the world’s cocao production, this creates surplus or shortages that affect the equilibrium prices of chocolate. Hershey’s and other big producers deal with this situation by hedging and futures contracts. Essentially big chocolate companies like Hershey and Mars hedge against price fluctuations to smoothen out their cash flow (Leissle 2018). How it works is that these large producers will estimate, or rather guarantee by being conservative, how much of an input like cocao over a certain timeline. So they will agree to acquire that amount of input through the futures market. This allows them to lock in their price of that input regardless of what happens to the market prices over time. So what can these price tags on our Hershey products tell us now? Hershey will raise its prices in accordance to commodity and shipping costs as mentioned before. However most of this is due to the shipping factor. The U.S. economy has created an atmosphere in which producers like Hershey have to compete with other buyers for a capped shipping capacity. So although Hershey can hedge against changing commodity prices, it cannot do much for the consumers when it comes to shipping prices. Now that we have dissected the price points of our favorite Hershey products, we can discuss any ethical concerns behind these treats.

              Big producers like Hershey and Mars need to source their cocao from somewhere. The cocao bean primarily grows in the tropical climates of Latin America, Western Africa and Asia (Leissle 2018). Western African countries supply more than 70% of the world’s cocao, and is purchased by large chocolate producers (Child 2019). This also means that the labor indirectly going into chocolate production is outsourced to these countries. That is where the issue lies, as several journalists and researchers over the years have uncovered the widespread use of slavery and even child labor on many of these cocao farms. Cocao is a commodity crop, meaning that it is primarily grown for export to other countries. The Ivory Coast alone realizes almost 60% of its export revenue from cocao exports alone (Child 2019). As chocolate continues to become more popular around the world and big producers continue to grow, the demand for chocolate increases. This means that the supply must also increase to keep up with demand. When supply and production need to increase, so does labor. Sadly in the case of cocao, this usually means an increase in forced and child labor (Higgs 2012). Many of the children that are put into cocao farming do it because they are forced by poverty, not only physically. It becomes a means to help support their families and livelihood. Without sufficient infrastructure combined with widespread corruption, many local governments actually support forced and child labor. They reap the benefits of the increased exports and have even gone as far to enact violence on those trying to expose and stop the child labor. In 2004, the Ivorian first lady had her entourage kidnap and kill a journalist reporting on the government’s corruption. Six years later three more journalists were kidnapped after publishing an article on the cocao sector corruption (Child 2019). Although Hershey does not partake in any of the forced child labor occurring in these countries, most of the controversy centers around the indirect support of this corruption through the purchase of the cocao. Two separate lawsuits had been filed against Hershey over the past few years. One in 2015 on behalf of the state of California, and one in 2018 on behalf of the state of Massachusetts, where our local Target resides. The lawsuits claimed that Hershey did not disclose its knowing use of child labor in its supply chains. Both cases were dismissed on account that Hershey did not deceive in either case. The law has spoken, but it still remains an ethical debate whether or not it is okay for big producers to supply from places where slavery and child labor is used. As a consumer we purchase these products, so does that mean we support it once-removed as well? Food for thought… Now that we have looked into Hershey products, what else lines the shelves of our local Target?

              M&Ms, Snickers, Milky Ways and Dove chocolates. Some of the delicious and tasty treats created by chocolate titan Mars. Mars is the sixth largest privately held company in the US according to Forbes, and is headquartered in Virginia. It holds about 30% of U.S. market share, making it the second biggest chocolate producer in America behind Hershey. Frank Mars, the founder, contracted polio at an early age and surrounded himself with the science of cooking. Particularly, he was fond of candy and the many processes that went into making them (Brenner 1999). Mars began as the Mar-O-Bar Company in 1911. Over the next decade Frank quickly grew the company. In 1920, Frank Mars created two of the most famous chocolate bars in the U.S., the Snickers bar and the Milky Way bar (Brenner 1999). Fun fact, the Snickers bar actually started off as only the middle of the modern bar we know today. There was no chocolate coating. In 1940 Frank’s son Forrest Mars founded the M&M brand we know and love today. The M&M brand was actually created to strategically solve the problem of chocolate storage over the summer. When the temperatures increase, retailers purchase less chocolate because storing the chocolate becomes more of a challenge. Especially back circa 1940. Forrest manufactured these chocolates in a sugar shell specifically to solve that problem. It was genius! Forrest quickly capitalized on the idea, and it was a huge success. Mars went on to battle with Hershey throughout the 70s and 80s to be the biggest chocolate giant in the United States. Since then, the two titans have created several brands that encompass America’s favorite chocolate candies. Now that we know a bit about the history of chocolate giant Mars, we can dive into the pricing behind Mars.

              One box of M&Ms cost 99 cents, One Kit-Kat bar costs $1.49, one Snickers bar costs 89 cents. Looking at the price and the amount of chocolate you get per package, these price points reign true to competitor Hershey. Especially the Snickers bar, which is the exact same cost and very similar volume of chocolate to the 89- cent Hershey bars. Also very similar to Hershey, Mars is raising its prices by about seven percent (Reports 2019). They claim that this is also in accordance with increasing production costs as well as shipping. Although Mars can control for price fluctuations using futures and hedging as discussed with Hershey, there are still variable costs that cannot be accounted for and must be put onto the consumers, us. With every chocolate titan comes issues regarding the ethics behind their supply chains.

              The same class action lawsuit that was brought against Hershey was brought against Mars by the same court. The suit alleges that Mars has violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which essentially indicates deception (Child 2019). Mars actually does have a reputation of being very secretive and clandestine. Yet just as the case had been dropped by the court against Hershey, Mars got off scot-free on the basis that no actual deception was intended or committed. Most of the court cases brought against Mars and similar producers have been on the basis of deception. Most of the time it is found that these chocolate producers haven’t actually committed any wrongdoing by not deliberately disclosing child labor and slavery on their labels. In the opinion of this blog, it again becomes an issue of how far removed you are from the actual problem. When the origins of a company’s supply chain are tainted by unfair labor practices, does this make the company itself corrupt? Are chocolate giants supporting unfair labor practices by purchasing inputs from where they are readily available? What about us as consumers? All important questions to ask when considering this delicate ethical crossroads.

              The chocolate isle at Target may be a pretty fun and simple place. In reality it really is just the very tip of the iceberg that is the chocolate industry. One small finished product above the waterline while there are years of rich history, complicated economics, and important ethical concerns lurking beneath the surface. There is so much more to chocolate than what the finished product may show, and this blog post was intended to give you a glimpse into what that world is all about.

Works Cited

Multimedia

“2018 Market Share.” Produced by myself.

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, 2019. foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

“Close-up Bunch of Chocolate Bars Isolated over the White Background.” Shutterstock.com, 21   Jan. 2013, www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/closeup-bunch-chocolate-bars-isolated

“Reports and Financials – Investor Relations.” Mars One, 2019. www.mars-one.com/investor- relations/reports-and-financial-calendar.

The Hershey Company. “The Hershey Company Fact Book.” The Hershey Company, Sept. 2018.

Scholarly

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate : inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. 1st ed., Random House, 1999.

“Chocolate Prices Are on the Rise. (Consumables).” Chain Drug Review, vol. 25, no. 3, 2003, p. 12.

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

Higgs, Catherine. “Chocolate Islands :Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa.” Ohio University Press, 2012.

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

How Easy it is to Falsely Sway the Average Chocolate Consumer

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

The Study

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

Stereotypes Around Big Chocolate Brands and Store Brands

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

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

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

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

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

Strategic Uses of Certifications and “Earthy” Messaging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flavors, Fillings, and Cacao

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Take Away?

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

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

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


Chocolates used in this Blind Taste Test

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.


Multimedia Sources

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

All other images provided by author of this blog post.

OoO SHE BAD!

Chocolate, Sex, and Passionate Indulgences

  1. A Contextual History: The Ancient Origins of Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac

Introduction

In class, we discussed the relationship between Valentine’s Day and chocolate.  Because it is a Victorian-created holiday that can seem to a skeptic more of a consumerist ploy than a celebration of love, one may argue that the importance placed upon Valentine’s Day is in our culture is inflated.  Sure, maybe Valentine’s Day is just a (highly-gendered and heteronormative) convention, but nobody can deny the centrality of chocolate in its celebration. Many foods are said to have aphrodisiac qualities, but chocolate is amongst the most renowned.  The passion elicited from its indulgence dates back centuries. The Maya considered cacao sacred, encouraging its consumption during highly emotional or spiritual events like marriage and fertility rituals as well as death rites. In more transgressive accounts, Aztec emperor Montezuma consumed a gluttonous amount of chocolate each day to boost his sexual stamina.  This essay serves to trace the entwinement of chocolate, sex, and passionate indulgences through the contemporary state of the cacao-chocolate industry while situating it in its appropriate historical context.

The ephemeral nature of cacao consumption’s association with aphrodisiac qualities divulges a corollary truth between ancient wisdom and modern science.  While historically chocolate has been taken advantage of in the name of its spiritual effects, science, commerce, and even art contemporarily reveal there is a passion to indulgence.  Whether it is eating chocolate or having sex, fleeting benevolence. Consistent consumption of both nurtures an honest, transgressive air of ambitious pursuit that allows one to stay in tune their desires, promoting health, general well-being, and growth.  If demonstrated truthfully, this post suggests indulgence should not be understood merely as a momentary transgression, but rather an honest, consistent truth that leads to health and progress.

2. Contemporary State of the Cacao-Chocolate Industry: Modern Marketing and Cognitive Science

Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate: How We Fell In Love With Caffeine

Melanie King’s book Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate: How We Fell In Love With Caffeine explores the question of how contemporary culture and modern society became enamored with tea, coffee, and chocolate.  Broadly, she argues it has to do with their stimulative effects on dopamine. Specifically, King posits that drinking chocolate products benefits the consumers “sex life and physical appearance,” a wisdom that can be traced back through history.  The stimulation a consumer achieves increases their propensity to chace the transgressive desires weighing on their heart, promoting longevity and renewal.

Mood State Effects of Chocolate

Putting some science to Melanie King’s argument for ancient wisdom in the positive benefits of cacao consumption on our mood, the University of New South Wales’ School of Psychiatry conducted an academic review on the association of chocolate consumption with enjoyment and pleasure.  Historically, dating back to the Ancient Mesoamerican origins of cacao consumption, chocolate indulgence provokes a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual effects that bestow “stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” properties. Specifically, the UNSW research team focused on the mood altering traits of chocolate.  Investigating chocolate’s psychoactive positionings, the team concluded: “chocolate can provide its own hedonistic reward by satisfying cravings but, when consumed as a comfort eating or emotional eating strategy, is more likely to be associated with prolongation rather than cessation of a dysphoric mood.” Thus, their research provides implications about the ephemeral, fleeting benefits derived from one’s chocolate indulgence.  This is not to say that chocolate consumption is malevolent or harmful, but rather that the endurance of its advantageous emotional effects requires habitual consistency.

Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function

Further, Psychology Today’s article “Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function” claims, “Aztec emperor Montezuma is reputed to have used chocolate in a manner akin to today’s Viagra pill.”  Nowadays, the aphrodisiac link between sex and chocolate is most visible around Valentine’s Day. Dr. Andrea Salonia, an Italian physician, piloted a research project that measured chocolate consumption against female sexual function and depression.  It was found that chocolate consumption increases the female propensity to achieve sexual satisfaction, positing a scientific legitimacy in the human inclination to sin and sin again consequently. The research team also found a correlation between age and scores on the Female Sexual Function Index. Younger women who consumed chocolate daily scored much higher, suggesting maturity impacts the desire to indulge transgressively.  

Sex, Chocolate, and Disability

The cultural perception that there is a transgressive nature to sex and chocolate consumption has influenced commerce, marketing, and media in various controversial ways.  In 2016, Mars-brand Maltesers ran a series of ads that featured disabled people discussing embarrassing intimacies while opening up over chocolate. The first ad featured a wheelchaired woman with cerebral palsy symbolically spilling a bag of Maltesers on the table as she describes an awkward sexual experience with her new boyfriend, implying her spastic disease caused a diuretic explosion during sex.  The risky ad provoked a highly controversial reception, polarizing audiences into camps of insensitivity and effervescence. Maltesers doubled-down, claiming lightheartedness and sense of humor are necessary forces of benevolence in a world of degradation, shame, and censorship. More importantly, these ads provoked public conversation about disability and suggested one ought to be optimistic about what defines their personhood.  

Much of debate surround Maltesers’ ads were concerned with “sensitivity and authenticity,” triggering empathetic ideas about vulnerability outside of oneself.  Remaining optimistic in ethos, a company representative stated, “Maltesers positions itself as a lighter way to enjoy chocolate and its ads encourage people to look on the light side of life. In three previous animated spots, comedians … relay awkward or embarrassing situations they’ve encountered, such as walking around a shop without realising you still have your umbrella up.”

Putting yourself in the shoes of the disabled, one must consider their perception of pity at odds with true equity; yet, the radical transparency of the Maltesers ads surely realized an air of bravery through creativity that encourages the disabled to exit their defensive comfort zones.  Further, Mars’ 2016 advertisements added visibility to the disabled by expanding their personal liberties through the proliferation of opportunities for employment and exposure. There is also an argument to be made about diversity. Rather than tokenism, a representative of Mars claimed, “we got better ideas by not just thinking about the white, middle-class, able-bodied family with two kids. Using a different lens has been a game changer for our creativity.”

3. Personal Analysis and Critique: Healthy Indulgences and Fleeting Flits

Beyond Veggies

Harvard Medical School published an article about the health benefits derived from unorthodox sources, such as chocolate and sex.  Typically considered a devious indulgence, the team wrote: “A steady stream of studies has won chocolate cardiovascular laurels by showing that it improves blood flow through arteries that supply the heart and the brain.”  Further, in 2008, researchers at Harvard found that “two weeks of enhanced chocolate intake quickened blood flow through the middle cerebral artery.” Additionally, Italian researchers found a feeble correlation between increased dark chocolate and reduced inflammation marked by the resultant low levels of C-reactive proteins.  However, this comes with a major caveat: the health benefits of one’s chocolate indulgence are best derived from the organic, raw, unprocessed type. Added sugars and other excessive processes only complicate the body’s ability to receive cacao’s naturally fleeting benefits. As it concerns sex, the article called it obvious that “sexual arousal and orgasm is a source of great pleasure and a sense of well-being,” noting that, “even after the immediate glow fades, there may be residual health benefits.”  While there are rare cases of sex causing heart attacks particularly in men, the effects of sexual activity regardless of gender are found to be overwhelmingly ameliorating. These benefits range from reducing the intensity of headaches and stress to the general wellness of cardiovascular and immune systems. When you put the two together, the consumption of raw chocolate and sex, there is a benevolent implication for overall health. But, it is important to tune into the fleeting nature of these benefits; to achieve a healthy balance, consistency is key.

Love and Chocolate

Love, ideally, is passionate, consistent, and true.  Due to legends involving Montezuma, Don Juan, and even Casanova himself, chocolate and love have been mythically inseparable for centuries.  The presupposition is that chocolate inspires passion. Whether in terms of sex, love, or both, it has been found that chocolate contains aphrodisiac powers of mimicry that can illude the passionate feelings of being in love.  Janet Vine of Aphrodite Chocolates reported that “chocolate contains substances called phenylethylamine and seratonin, both of which are mood lifting agents found naturally in the human brain. They are released into the nervous system by the brain when we are happy and when we are experiencing feelings of love, passion or lust. This causes rapid mood change, a rise in blood pressure and increasing heart rate, inducing those feelings of well being, bordering on euphoria usually associated with being in love.”  When consumed, chocolate releases these agents into the system and boosts a certain euphoric stamina that earns its reputation as an aphrodisiac instigator of passionate action.

Growing The Ultimate Aphrodisiac: Chocolate

Love, to me, is also something you must cultivate and actively work toward.  The Grow Network video “Growing The Ultimate Aphrodisiac: Chocolate” above discusses the modern cultivation of Theobroma cacao trees.  While it is imperative the leaves stay moist, they don’t retain all the water. It is a tropical plant that, in nature, grow as an understory, shaded by other trees so they don’t get the full brunt of tropical sun.  Today, they can be grown in personal backyards or greenhouses, ideally temperature-controlled around 60 degrees. They start from seeds, but reach 5 or 6 feet in about three years when grown in rich organic soil. Once mature, pruning begins; they flower and fruit all year long.  

Chocolate Rain

Artistically too, modern culture connects the indulgence of chocolate and self-permitted growth.  In 2007, YouTuber Tay Zonday went viral with his song “Chocolate Rain.”

Culturally, it was received as a funny video, but deserves to be recognized for its profound social commentary.  Chocolate rain is a metaphor for the tears of African Americans operating in a system of racism. In a way that tugs at the heartstrings, Tay Zonday sings of the pain caused by institutional lies and deceit.  He notes the inescapability of being wronged, for instance, when he sings “the bell curve blames the baby’s DNA,” referencing Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, which argues for the innate intellectual superiority of white men.  It is again an interesting dichotomy between chocolate skin and tears of water.  The emotional act of crying, expressing vulnerability, allows renewal upon a stained existence of unjustified inferiority.  Crying, too, can be a passionate indulgence–a letting go.

Like Water for Chocolate

In other artistic representation of passion and chocolate, it is imperative to reference Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, which is one of my favorite all time works of literature.  Symbolically, the title itself poses water’s purity against chocolate’s mercy; water is eternal like love, while mercy is fleeting like lust:

“it seemed Pedro’s rage dominated the thoughts and actions of everyone in the house. Tita was literally ‘like water for chocolate’—she was on the verge of boiling over.”

The real passion in Like Water for Chocolate exists between Pedro and Tita, star-crossed forbidden lovers. Esquivel’s style of prose, magical realism, portrays the otherworldliness of true love; it is a nature that defies reality and works in an irrational way. The quote above speaks to Tita’s divine feminity, and her arousal, showing her readiness to transgress and receive Pedro’s divine masculinity–she ultimately runs toward him. The novel positions true love as a life-giving force, requiring a nurturing attitude toward spiritual honesty, which brings happiness to pain. The story shows the ways in which truth, to oneself, is freedom.  It is an interesting act of balancing that operates over the twelve months of the book, revealing true love, water, is capable to remedy intermittent affairs and external romance, chocolate. It took a long time for Pedro and Tita to actively run toward the cultivation of a serious relationship. In the final scenes of the book, they let go of their fearful resistance:

“Little by little her vision began to brighten until the tunnel again appeared before her eyes. There at its entrance was the luminous figure of Pedro waiting for her. Tita did not hesitate. She let herself go to the encounter, and they wrapped each other in a long embrace; again experiencing an amorous climax, they left together for the lost Eden. Never again would they be apart.”

Thus, true love is proven an enduring force, but it requires the crossing of boundaries and ultimate indulgence in true passion.  Water’s solvent powers allow the indulgence of soluble chocolate to make for a greater drink, which, as we’ve learned in class, produces “stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” effects that renew the soul.

Bibliography

“Beyond Veggies: The Health Benefits of Chocolate, Sex, Sleep and Social Networks, from the Harvard Health Letter.” Harvard Health Publishing. April 2009. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/beyond-veggies-the-health-benefits-of-chocolate-sex-sleep-and-social-networks.

Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. London: Black Swan, 1998.

Goldstein, Kay. “Love and Chocolate.” HuffPost. May 25, 2011. Accessed May 04, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/love-and-chocolate_n_165040.

Hagi, Sarah. “10 Years Later, ‘Chocolate Rain’ Is Still the Wokest Song Ever.” Vice. April 25, 2017. Accessed May 05, 2019. https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/qkqewv/10-years-later-chocolate-rain-is-more-woke-than-ever.

Kiefer, Brittaney. “Sex, Chocolate and Disability.” Campaign (Sep 09, 2016): 14. http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1825218631?accountid=11311.

King, Melanie. Tea, Coffee & Chocolate: How We Fell in Love with Caffeine. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2015.

Parker, Gordon, Parker, Isabella, and Brotchie, Heather. “Mood State Effects of Chocolate.” Journal of Affective Disorders 92, no. 2 (2006): 149-59.

Saad, Gad. “Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function.” Psychology Today. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/homo-consumericus/201002/chocolate-consumption-and-women-s-sexual-function

Cacao and the Environment

Background:

            Around 2,000 years ago, people in the Americas began the cultivation of a small tropical American evergreen tree, Theobroma cacao, for its fruit, the cacao bean. The bean quickly became part of everyday life for Mesoamericans, who not only consumed cacao but also considered it to have elements of divine nature.  Although it is not certain how cacao arrived in Europe, thought to be by Spanish conquest, by the late 1500s it was a treasured treat that quickly gained popularity with upper class citizens. However, “chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first… but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain,” which led to the creation of chocolate, a sweetened food prepared from roasted and ground cacao seeds (Smithsonianmag). Over the next two centuries, chocolate expanded to include a spectrum of inexpensive treats all with more sugar and additives than the next. The growth in demand and expanding market created a need for large-scale cacao tree farms to produce at unmanageable rates.  Additionally, limited regulation on cacao production has manifested issues that will become unsustainable, given the restricted natural resources found on earth. Initially brewed as a drink for social, medical, and other cultural principles, over time cacao’s role in society has developed into a complex component of societal complications such as climate control, biodiversity, deforestation, and unfair trade on a global scale.

Chocolate Production:

Today, the largest producers of cacao are Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana followed by Nigeria and Cameroon. From 2000-2010 cocoa production increased from about 2,000,000 tons to around 3,000,000 tons. However, the average yield for farms has remained relatively low because many use poor soil and outdated growing methods (Wessel and Wessel).  Consequently, farmers hoping to increase their cocoa output sought out new land within the possible growing regions of cacao.  This exploration for new land has resulted in large-scale deforestation.  This issue has begun to impact the production levels of cacao and working conditions for farmers. In order to sustain production, farmers need to adapt new growing techniques which produce high-yielding harvests with reused cacao trees and farmland, new fair trade policies, and outside investment to improve infrastructure within these developing countries.

            Cacao farming can only take place approximately 15 degrees above or below the Equator.  After planting cacao trees it can take as long as three years for them produce enough to be harvested. A machete or sharp knife must be used to cut cacao pods as the trees are highly prone to disease. The beans are then removed from the pods, fermented, dried, removed from shells, and roasted. The farmers generally rely on cacao for large proportions of their household income selling their product to traders, who sell to exporters. The product is then sold to established companies which process cacao into different products to be sold on the market. This value chain has been subject to positive change within the last 20 years but there are still major flaws which will be address later in this post.

Due to the specific environmental needs for the production of cacao, lowland tropics including Latin America, West African, and Indonesia, the amount of land needed to produce cacao is very significant. “In fact, cocoa had the largest land-use footprint of all crop production in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, accounting for about one quarter… for Nigeria, cocoa has the largest land-use footprint of exported crops, accounting for 55 per cent, while in Indonesia cocoa accounts for 12 per cent of the exported footprint” (resourcetrade). Furthermore, this area continues to grow in countries where investment to improve production technique and equipment has stagnated. Consequently, around seventy percent of total global cacao production is produced by smallholder farmers, where productivity is loosely regulated and labor conditions are extremely poor.  This has given large companies the ability to unfairly treat these laborers by lowering compensation, only adding to the myriad of issues with cacao production.

Another problematic aspect of chocolate production is found during the manufacturing process.  A study published in the journal Food Research International, found that the chocolate industry creates around 2.1 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.  To put in perspective, this is comparable to the annual emissions of a city the size of Pittsburgh, PA. Additionally, it found that it takes as much as 1,000 liters of water to produce a single bar of chocolate (economictimes). There are other factors that could be added to these totals such as transportation costs, dairy production, and the materials used in packaging.

Deforestation and Biodiversity:

            As mentioned above, cacao is a grown by small-scale farmers in humid lowland tropics.  These areas are known to have high biodiversity which is a key element for producing high rates of healthy cacao beans. Farmers tend to use one of two growing techniques, the use of shade to compliment biodiversity benefits or full-sun exposure. With the market price volatility of cacao and the fragile nature of cacao trees, the full-sun exposure practice has become appealing to producers as it helps for a better harvest.  However, this technique results in more likelihood of disease and requires the use of herbicides to eliminate weed growth. Consequently, the different chemicals found in herbicides destroys the land.  Disease, loss of fertile soil, and other difficulties has also impacted the sustainability of such crops. Such concerns result in the continued clearing of new lands threatening biodiversity and deforestation of tropical forests (Franzen and Mulder). “Global forest loss due to cocoa production has been estimated at between 2 to 3 million hectares for the period 1988-2008, equivalent to about 1 per cent of total forest loss over this time,” which is substantial loss for producer countries (resourcetrade). By eliminating forest lands, there is a major reduction in biodiversity and other living systems living in such areas.  Wildlife habitats are eliminated and plant variety is reduced.  The loss of an ecosystem can also have lasting effects on production. As cacao farming becomes more stressful on the environment, the yields of cacao tress will start to diminish. With the increase in greenhouse gases, the higher average temperature is changing the location where cacao can be produced.  If this trend continues, the undesirable effects of production could start to impact more regions around the globe. With current practices in place, this is added pressure to the already high demand for cacao is unmaintainable.

Shade grown cacao
Sun exposure to Cacao plants

Unfair Trade:

            A major reason for this trend is the idea of unequal ecological exchange mentioned in Ndongo Samba Sylla’s work, The Fair Trade Scandal.  It is described as, “the non-observance by market prices of the scarce and sometimes non-renewable nature of environmental resources is the cornerstone of a new form of unequal exchange between North and South. Indeed, according to this approach, the environmental ‘energy’ which is embedded in developing countries’ exports is not factored into the invoicing of the prices they receive” (Sylla 2014).

Furthermore, countries with currently abundant natural resources sell to more developed countries at a price that does not compensate for their environmental deprivation and loss of resources. Cacao production regions have been victims of this crisis since the original European chocolate craze. Although cacao production techniques have many faults, it is not something farmers can control within the procedures of the current system.  The value chain of cacao trade has taken its toll on local farmers.  More specifically, international trade has hindered economic equality not taking into account economic, social, and environmental concerns of underdeveloped countries.

            For countries which produce large amounts of cacao, the private sector the chocolate industry has determined exports, market power, and price. The close relationship between supply and volatile demand has impacted the global markets inconsistency dealing with the price of cacao.  The regulation of production is important for sustainability, yet governments of producing countries have slowly lost the capability to manage international trade markets for cacao, which has deteriorated their ability to maintain domestic regulations. This unregulated market has left farmers susceptible to unjust trade.  Low export prices and privatized purchasing of cacao have therefore had negative externalities on the environment incentivizing farmers to plant and harvest at rate which natural resources cannot support (Ingram et al).

What Can Be Done:

            These economic, political, and market modifications have begun to transform as the cacao industry becomes more and more of a threat to the ecosystem. The United Nations, and groups alike, sustainable growth programs have created capacity to improve outdated farming practices and to reform financial and institutional framework for agricultural production.  A few key elements discussed below are the first steps towards cacao sustainability:

  1. Improve outdated Farming practices.
    • The rehabilitation of existing farms- the economic lifetime of a cacao tree is between 30 and 40 years. Farms that qualify for rehabilitation can integrate good maintenance and innovative disease control which can help raise their harvest yield by forty percent over a 4-year time period (Wessel and Wessel). Additionally, these farms can be partially or completely replanted. Trials have shown that planting young trees among old trees can lead to more successful harvest than planting under temporary shaded fields that have been deforested (Nalley and Popp).
    • Government supported replanting arrangements—the distribution of seeds which have more resistance to disease. Amazon hybrids have been associated with forty-two percent higher yields (Wessel and Wessel).
    • Shade-grown cacao— Naturally cacao grows in the shade of rainforest cover.  Farms have the ability to transition from sun-grown cacao back to more natural ways of farming, either by planting in areas of the rainforest untouched by deforestation or by planting tropical trees and plants around their cacao plantations.
      • The use of more advanced fertilizers, pesticides, modified soil, and improved seeds would supplement these practices (Franzen and Mulder).
    • Technology and Improvements in Knowledge—Due to the small average size of cacao farms, farmers do not have access to new technologies that would increase yields, limiting the need to expand plantations.  Additionally, as the knowledge frontier in farming advances, cacao farmers remain unable to adapt these methods on their lands.  Local governments and the agricultural sector need to incentivize farmers to adopt new, more efficient farming practices through the stabilization of farmer’s incomes, easier access to credit, and more effective land tenure systems (weadapt).
  2. Reform financial and institutional framework for agricultural production
    • The introduction of due diligence requirements for importers
      • Prohibit the import of illegally produced cacao
    • Inclusion of sustainability provisions in trade agreements
      • Negotiate mutual trade agreements with producer countries intended to support legal forest zones through the formation of national systems to certify authorized cacao (resourcetrade).
    • Improvements in infrastructure for production countries
      • Target rural areas to improve education, health, roads, and access to new supplies and credit.

All reforms mentioned above are all needed within the cacao Industry. The high dependence on cacao production and the risks of climate change are both convincing arguments as to a reason for exploration into improving the business and livelihoods of all those involved.  There will be roadblocks establishing truly sustainable cacao trade, economy, and environmental system but there is great motivation to improve the culture around cacao as a whole.

Sources:

blog.generalmills.com/wp-content/uploads/care-cocoa-2.jpg

foodfreedom.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/cabruca.jpg

thebftonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/deforestation.jpg

resources.mynewsdesk.com/image/upload/c_limit,dpr_2.0,f_auto,h_700,q_auto,w_670/xxuzvpvmjg1cphs3boro.jpg

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

Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.

“Cocoa Trade, Climate Change and Deforestation.” Resourcetrade.earth, resourcetrade.earth/stories/cocoa-trade-climate-change-and-deforestation#section-186.

“NCAP Ghana: Assessment of Agriculture Sector.” WeADAPT, www.weadapt.org/knowledge-base/national-adaptation-planning/ghana-agriculture.

“Chocolate Production May Be Harming Environment: Study.” The Economic Times, 2 Apr. 2018, economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/global-warming/chocolate-production-may-be-harming-environment-study/articleshow/63576249.cms?from=mdr.

Franzen, Margaret, and Monique Borgerhoff Mulder. “Ecological, Economic and Social Perspectives on Cocoa Production Worldwide.” Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 16, no. 13, 2007, pp. 3835–3849., doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9183-5.

Ingram, Verina, et al. “The Impacts of Cocoa Sustainability Initiatives in West Africa.” Sustainability, vol. 10, no. 11, 2018, p. 4249., doi:10.3390/su10114249.

Wessel, Marius, and P.m. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, vol. 74-75, 2015, pp. 1–7., doi:10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.

The Switzerland of the Middle East – The Lebanese Chocolate Industry

While Lebanon does not have the conditions or climate to produce its own cacao trees, like the Amazon River Basin or West Africa, and it does not boast the long and storied cultural history with chocolate that many European countries enjoy, it is nonetheless the owner of a unique chocolate story; one of innovation and East-West cultural navigation, as well as its own minor but not insignificant influence on various other parts of the world, including the US itself.  As a person of Lebanese descent, I believe it is a worthy story to tell, and in my own small way, with limited research capacity or industry knowledge, I offer this essay as a small token to that effect.

(Mohammed Azakir/The Daily Star)

Lebanon has been referred to as the “Switzerland of the Middle East” for many reasons since the 1940s, due mainly to its uniqueness among its neighboring countries.  For some, the connection to Switzerland was based on Lebanon’s mountainous regions and accessible ski resorts, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. For others, it was the banking secrecy laws and the gold reserves of Lebanon that most closely reminded Europeans of Switzerland.  But for many, it was the openness that Lebanon attained and promoted after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, and established confessionalism, a unique form of democracy which promoted cooperation among the rival religious groups.  This set Lebanon apart in the Middle Eastern region, and the country enjoyed three decades of prosperity under a free-market economy, taking advantage its connections with Europe and marketing itself as a unique tourist attraction to the European and Middle Eastern elite alike. And within this era of prosperity and growth, Lebanon found a particular niche: the art of chocolate making.

The Lebanese produce chocolate both for their local communities and to export to the surrounding Middle Eastern countries, and the chocolate making industry has grown and adapted to its audiences over the years in many ways.  

Chocolate exports from Lebanon account for over $51 million and are expected to continue rising, according to Blominvest Bank.  As seen in the chart below, chocolate exports from Lebanon have followed an upward trend in recent years. (Mikhael 2016)

Chocolate has become part of the cultural fabric in Lebanon over the last fifty years or so.  Salon du Chocolat, the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate, takes place in Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut each year.  A tribute to everything chocolate, the event showcases the products of more than 60 exhibitors and holds events such as competitions, workshops, domonstrations, and a fashion show, as part of Gourmet Week.  

Only a few months ago, a museum dedicated to chocolate was opened in Beirut.  The Middle East’s very first chocolate museum, Choco-Story is dedicated to “telling the story of the transformation of cocoa into chocolate and to promote the health and quality aspects of Belgian chocolate. (Chocolate: Experience the Ride, 2018) This museum not only establishes Lebanon as an important player on the global chocolate stage, but also reasserts its connection with European chocolate styles, namely that of Belgium.  This connection and cooperation between Lebanon and Europe is a common thread in the story of chocolate as well as many other aspects of culture, taste and industry in Lebanon.

While the Lebanese chocolate industry faces many challenges, the Phoenicians of Lebanon are an enterprising and adaptable people, and they have found ways to ride the waves of a competitive and changing industry and grow to establish their own reputation as expert luxury chocolate makers.

One major challenge that Lebanese chocolate manufacturers face is the high cost of electricity in the country.  Based on a recent study, Lebanese manufacturers can pay as much as 14% of their total budgets for electricity, one of the highest per capita. (Mikhael 2016)  This is true also of the cost of diesel in the country, which manufacturers need to run their generators. The chocolate making process requires a considerable amount of electricity, as this video of a Lebanese chocolatier making Easter chocolate eggs demonstrates.


The cost of importing high quality chocolate from Europe is also a challenge for manufacturers in Lebanon.  Some companies get around this by importing lower quality chocolate from China, but most insist on working with the highest quality European chocolate and balance this by producing equally high quality (i.e. expensive) chocolate for sale in the luxury market. (Mikhael 2016)

Another challenge for Lebanese chocolate makers is the high cost of labor in the country.  As one can see from the video above, the chocolate making process is very labor intensive, and as a democratic and diverse country with a relatively thriving economy, Lebanese labor costs are double those of some of the surrounding countries, including neighboring Syria and Iraq. Lebanon actually a minimum wage mandated by its government, which prohibits employers such as chocolate manufacturers from employing anyone anything below $30,000 pounds per day or $675,000 pounds per month (Lebanon Minimum Wage 2019).  This means that companies are legally prohibited from using any form of coercion, slave labor, or child labor in their manufacturing practices.

(Mohammed Azakir/The Daily Star)

At the same time however, there is anecdotal evidence that companies often employ Iraqi or Syrian laborers instead, as they can legally pay them less than Lebanese citizens.  There is limited research on the existence of these under-the-table or unethical employment practices in the Lebanese chocolate industry, but it is hoped that researchers and concerned parties will continue to seek it out until it can be confidently eliminated as a threat.  As is the case at all levels of the cacao-to-chocolate chain, it is an industry rife with ethical and moral employment practices such as these; even in a country which cannot produce its own cacao trees and must import the raw materials from other countries, eliminating the local extortion of agricultural laborers, the possibility of unequal and unfair treatment of laborers still remains.

Another challenge for the chocolate industry in Lebanon, as shared by Mohammad Taha, owner of La Roche Chocolate factory in Beirut, Lebanon, is the lack of an established industrial zone. (Halawi 2011) These are generally specialized zones located away from residential areas and dedicated to the purpose of manufacturing or other industrial development. The establishment of such an area often provides companies with lower rental costs than residential areas, as well as reliable electricity service and smoother shipping processes.  Since Lebanese chocolate makers are forced to do all their manufacturing in residential areas, they are faced with the location-based challenges that many other countries do not need to navigate.

In order to navigate and overcome these challenges, Lebanese chocolate makers have employed a number of strategies, including diversifying their products and gearing their products and their images towards the high-end and luxury markets, producing a higher yield.  

Leaning into their strong connection with Europe, in particular with France, Belgium and Switzerland, and the unique East-West blend that this connection has generated, Lebanon has managed to establish a reputation for itself as a high quality chocolate producer.  Owning and capitalizing on the influence of the French on the country as a whole, a remnant of the mandate that lasted from 1920 to 1943, as well as the free passage between these countries and the consequential diversity of its cities, has placed Lebanon in a unique cultural situation.  While the official language of Lebanon is arabic, its second language is French, and the french influence, especially in its cities, has informed its unique sense of culture and style, and the local chocolate manufacturing industry has clearly been influenced by this.

As chocolate is not a traditional Arabic treat but was introduced to the region by Europeans, Lebanon has embraced the European chocolate traditions as the height of chocolate making art, while adding local elements and innovations to make it uniquely their own.  The Lebanese have always had a proud tradition of food as an art form, and they have also endeavored to export this on a global scale by way of chocolate.

A number of chocolate manufacturing companies exist in Lebanon, both small and large, from generic companies that produce more “standardized” chocolate for the masses to smaller, specialized companies that experiment with their offerings or appeal to consumers seeking organic, vegan, or unique small-batch products. A great many of these companies are family owned and operated, and they are frequently very proud to share their origin stories and enjoy speaking about local or international success.  

The largest and most financially successful chocolate company in Lebanon is Patchi, founded in 1974.  Today, Patchi produces over 4,000 tons of chocolate yearly. (Mikhael 2016)  Its founder, Nizar Choucair, credits his company’s success to a focus on “finesse, quality, and innovation,” and credits his products with “raising the bar of chocolate elegance and success in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.” (All for the Love of Chocolate 2011) As he tells it, he discovered his love for chocolate as a young boy in Lebanon, and through war, financial hardships, and industry-specific challenges, his innovative spirit and passion for chocolate persevered and led him to “change the way Lebanon and the region perceived chocolate” by introducing the chocolate gifting concept on a commercial level.  (Nizar Choucair: A Success Story 2016)

By taking the time to conduct thorough research on local and global markets, Patchi succeeded in diversifying their products beyond chocolate to items such as silverware and printing.  They then expanded somewhat aggressively to other countries over the years, from neighboring Syria to the United Arab Emirates, establishing themselves as the go-to producer of fine gifting chocolate.  Patchi imports organic cocoa from England, France, the Netherlands, and the Ivory coast, and makes a point of uses extra cocoa butter in their chocolate products. Their process is very similar to the Swiss chocolate making methods, and they are open about their use of “Swiss technology” in their factories. Through their focus on hand-made products on a large scale, as well as paying close attention to their branding strategies (including innovative and customizable wrapping techniques that set them apart from the competition), they are able to produce recognizable high quality luxury chocolate products in massive quantities.  This ability has helped them to capture the market and become one of the most innovative businesses in the Middle East according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. (All for the Love of Chocolate 2011)  Their products are now available in over 35 countries worldwide.

Another innovative Lebanese chocolate company is Gandour.  The first chocolate factory in Lebanon, Gandour was established in 1857 by the Ghandour family, began its operations as a small factory-store in Beirut.  Though headquartered in Saudi Arabia today, it maintains its facilities in Lebanon and maintains its identity as a Lebanese-founded organization. It is a testament to the quality of its products and the company’s shrewd business strategies that Gandour has survived the immense challenge of the 15-year war with such notoriety, as their general policy is to let their products speak for themselves rather than put as much emphasis on promotion as other similar companies.  As co-owner Ali Ghandour puts it, “the product makes its own noise.” (Khatib 2003) One of the smart moves that established the company to a position of power was relocating their headquarters and main production plants to Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s, where they could tap into a larger market with a higher purchasing power.  They capitalized on both the Saudi Arabian sweet tooth and their disposable income, allowing them to grow their business enough to re-establish their plants in Lebanon. Today, the company has also diversified their offerings; they have expanded to serve a number of Asian markets, and they have employed hundreds of Asian consultants to help them adapt to the specific culture and tastes of that region.  This theme of adaptation and cultural exchange appears to be a common theme among Lebanese chocolate manufacturers.

Lebanon can also boast a degree of influence over the US chocolate industry.  Guy DeBas was the son of a Lebanese presidential nominee who survived captivity, assassination attempts, and no less than 22 bullet wounds during the Lebanese civil war.  DeBas and the surviving members of his family escaped to Sweden to recover and then moved to California. When they discovered that his father had left a chocolate factory back in Lebanon, DeBas and his wife returned to try and salvage it, but it was soon destroyed by terrorists, so they returned to the US to develop their chocolate making craft in their own kitchen.  After achieving mixed success as a small gourmet chocolate making business, DeBas won a contract with Trader Joe’s and became the first to introduce “chocolate truffles” to the US market. He was eventually voted “best chocolate innovator in the industry” in 2001, and “Chocolate Trend Setter” in 2005 by Candy Industry. (Executive Profile: Guy DeBas 2019)

Lebanese chocolate truffles, https://homemade-recipes.blogspot.com/2019/02/chocolate-truffles-recipe.html

In addition to the larger chocolate manufacturers, there are a number of smaller specialty chocolate companies who have pioneered the Lebanese emphasis on innovation and novelty goods in the country.  While following international trends, these Lebanese chocolate companies are simultaneously inspired by European traditions and determined to make their products uniquely “Lebanese” through the use of local flavors and ingredients.  Through their work, they personify the Phoenician spirit of invention and exploration, and their products appeal to the unique preferences of the local Lebanese palates.

These smaller chocolate boutiques, while following the European chocolate making traditions, add local ingredients to their creations to reflect the local culture and appeal to their local consumers.  Some of these ingredients include arak (a translucent white anise-flavored beverage with an extremely high alcohol content traditionally enjoyed in Lebanon), pistachios and almonds (grown locally), thyme, rosewater, sesame, honey, cardamom, dates, fresh mint, and even tahini.  Following in the European chocolate tradition and catering to the styles and tastes of the Lebanese well-to-do, there are even chocolate bars, similar to the original chocolate/coffee houses of Europe. The first of these was Elsa Chocolatier Boutique in Beirut.

The chocolate industry of Lebanon has not had a long history in comparison with other countries and regions of the world, but it is indeed an intricate and interesting one; a story of struggle and triumph, perseverance and adaptability, innovation and collaboration.  The country’s chocolate manufacturers have taken what they have – a strong connection with Europe, a generally healthy economy, and a market with some discretionary income and a sweet tooth – and created a niche for themselves in the world chocolate conversation. I hope to do more research on this subject going forward and perhaps help to shed some more light and a deeper understanding of this unique slice of the world, and I look forward to learning more about this fascinating topic in the near future.  

Works Cited

All for the Love of Chocolate. IP Services, 2011, All for the Love of Chocolate.

Antar, Ahmad. Light at the End of the Tunnel in Lebanon’s Electricity Crisis? 2017, Light at the End of the Tunnel in Lebanon’s Electricity Crisis?

“Chocolate: Experience the Ride.” Choco Story Beirut, 2018, choco-storyme.com/about.

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

Darwich, Dalal, and Nour El-Katranji. Al-Ghrawi’s Position in the Lebanese Chocolate Industry. 2016, Al-Ghrawi’s Position in the Lebanese Chocolate Industry.

“Debbas Gourmet: Our Story.” Debbas Gourmet Website, 2018, debbasgourmet.com/aboutgdebbas-1.

“Executive Profile: Guy DeBas.” Bloomberg, 2019, http://www.bloomberg.com/research//stocks/private/person.asp?personId=10254132&privcapId=1154648&previousCapId=144052205&previousTitle=Go Pure Foods Inc.

“First Chocolate Museum in Beirut.” Women Economic Empowerment Portal, 1 Feb. 2019, http://www.weeportal-lb.org/news/first-chocolate-museum-beirut.

Halawi, Dana. “Lebanon Is Chocolate ‘Switzerland of the Middle East’.” Albawaba, 9 Aug. 2011, http://www.albawaba.com/lebanon-chocolate-switzerland-middle-east-387450.

Khatib, Hadi. “Ghandour Prefers Quiet Road to Riches.” The Daily Star Lebanon, 7 June 2003, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2003/Jun-07/38243-ghandour-prefers-quiet-road-to-riches.ashx.

Lebanon Minimum Wage, Labor Law, and Employment Data Sheet. 2019, Lebanon Minimum Wage, Labor Law, and Employment Data Sheet, http://www.minimum-wage.org/international/lebanon.

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe. The Social Meaning of Food. Socio.HU, 2015.

Mikhael, Marwan. Lebanese Chocolate Industry: The Tempting Market for Exports. 2016, Lebanese Chocolate Industry: The Tempting Market for Exports.
http://blog.blominvestbank.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Lebanese-Chocolate-Industry-The-Tempting-Market-for-Exports1.pdf

“Nizar Choucair: A Success Story.” PRWebMe, 13 May 2016, http://www.prwebme.com/2016/05/13/nizar-choucair-a-success-story/.

Final Essay: An Analysis of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe

By Charlie Sandor

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

Cardullo’s Prime Location

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

Cardullo’s Store Front

Intended Audience

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

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

Product Placement within the Store

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

Brand Analysis

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

Godiva:

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

Godiva’s Signature Truffles

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

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

Neuhaus:

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

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

Taza Chocolate :

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

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

Taza Direct Trade Logo

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

Lake Champlain Chocolate:

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

Lake Champlain Chocolate Display within Cardullo’s

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

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

Concluding Comments:

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

Works Cited:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicano Culture and Chocolate

Chocolate’s presence has been traced throughout ancient Mesoamerica since the time of the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations. It has sustained impact on Mesoamerican culture to this day, seen through its integral presence in authentic Mexican cuisine by way of dishes like molé, chilaquiles, and champurrado. However, there has been no research whatsoever about chocolate’s impact on Chicano culture, in order to gather some insight on the matter I decided to interview my grandfather, Bulmaro Farias, for the final term paper. Chicano culture is best described as a sub-culture of Mexican-American identifying people whom reside predominately in California and Texas. My grandfather is a first generation immigrant from Michoacan, Mexico. He was a part of the first ever wave of Chicanos to come to the United States. At the age of 11, to escape poverty, he worked in the Northern California grape fields thanks to the Bracero Program of 1942. The program aimed to bolster the agricultural workforce during World War II by granting temporary United States citizenship for cheap Mexican labor. The conversation I had with my grandfather started as a nostalgic trip through my grandfather’s life with chocolate acting as a guide and turned into a potential course of action for the Chicano community to correct some of its ailments. All in all, I believe there were some very compelling contentions derived in our conversation that offer some much needed unveiling of what chocolate means to contemporary Chicano culture.

Group of laborers working in the fields. Bracero Program of 1942 brought cheap Mexican labor to the states, during wartime.

Compared to the days of ancient Mesoamerican civilizations like the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec the functionality of chocolate in Chicano culture has been intensely diluted. Around a thousand years ago, chocolate was a revered commodity in Mesoamerican culture. In Sampeck’s piece, Substance and Seduction, she discusses the integral role chocolate plays in religious, marriage, death, offering, travel, and health rituals (Sampeck 74). The cosmological impact of chocolate has not persisted into the fibers of Chicano culture. I would argue that the lack of chocolate’s presence in Chicano culture is primarily due to their fervent alignment with Catholicism. When I asked my grandfather about what chocolate meant to him, he responded that he viewed it solely as a treat. Never did he have any intimate connection with chocolate, primarily due to his mother’s intense catholic hand ruling the household at a young age. In Mexican and Chicano culture, the family construct is as such, the patriarch of the house operates primarily as the provider whereas the matriarch of the house rears the children, feeds the family, and maintains the household. As a result, Mexican and Chicano adolescents are mostly raised by their mothers and it is an old adage that the mother is the most religious person in every house, my grandfather would wholeheartedly back up that assertion. Catholicism makes no room for chocolate in any sort of prayer or ritual. There is no wonder why we see chocolate less and less in Mesoamerican rituals after the Spaniards introduce Western religious beliefs to the region. Being that Catholicism is such a central immovable pillar of Chicano culture today, I would assert that the Catholic church plays a major part in explaining why we do not see chocolate impacting Chicano rituals today.

Chicano Churches like these are a central and steadfast pillar of the culture.

My grandfather’s relationship with chocolate dates back to his earliest memories, he used to work on a ranch in Mexico with his father. The owner of the ranch had a few cacao trees that my grandfather helped tend to. During the winter he would remember nights where the men of the ranch would come back to the house when the Moon was up and there would be warm champurrado waiting for him when they got back. My favorite part of the entire interview came when he explained his mother’s secret recipe for champurrado. The ranch where my grandfather grew up was meant for horses, cattle, and corn. The cacao trees they had, were more of a passion project than anything. Being that it was just for fun, they did not have all the materials to make the same kind of chocolate that we buy in a store today. My grandmother would break the pods open and grind the cacao beans down with a metate. Then she would boil milk, add the grounded chocolate, add a few sticks of cinnamon, some spices, and pressed sugar cane. My grandfather’s neighbors would gift the family sugar cane every few weeks, so the sugar that was added was not processed or made in a lab somewhere. The mix would sit over the fire until the ingredients properly fused and coagulated. My grandfather says that to this day, he has never consumed champurrado that comes close to what his grandmother would make. He lauded the freshness and lack of preservatives that you find in a typical champurrado recipe today, which leads to the next portion of our interview which dove into chocolate and health in the Chicano culture.

Champurrado served in a glossy yet traditional gourd.

My grandfather is an athlete and has been one his whole life. He wakes up every morning at 5:30 am to either play tennis with his friends or workout at the local gym. It is safe to say that he is a bit of a health nut. He tries to stay away from sugars altogether with his new diet so chocolate has not been on his menu for the past few years, however, he remembers a time when he loved chocolate. When he first got to the United States, he was not even a teenager. He came with his older brother and the both of them worked in the fields side-by-side until they could afford their own places. The only chocolate that he had in the United States in his early years came in the form of a candy bar. He wants me to be very clear that he loves chocolate, just cannot eat it anymore. As my grandfather got older and learned the negative externalities of a poor diet he saw a way for him to feel better and cut out the sugar altogether. Our family has a history of diabetes so that also played a role in pushing him to a healthier diet. It makes him sad to see that so many Chicano families have very little nutritional education. Childhood obesity among Mexican-American children is higher than the average rate of childhood obesity for the rest of the United States. Hispanic adolescents ages 12-19 living in United States have a 17.4% obesity rate compared to their non-hispanic counterparts who have an obesity rate of 14.5% (Taylor). My grandfather asserts that one of the largest ailments in Chicano culture is their lack of nutritional education. There was a study that interviewed 20 self-identified morbidly obese Chicano females and found four themes that helped explain the status quo, the two most pertinent being multiple sources of excess calories and the family’s personal struggle especially financial pressures (Taylor). To tackle the diet part first, I asked my grandfather if he ever received any formal education about nutrition or diet, he said yes but when he was 50. A large part of the reason why he said that he did not look too much into diet was because money was such a persistent strain on his food selection. He chose food primarily on the basis of affordability. “How long can I stretch my dollar?” is basically how he explained it to me. He would eat chocolate bars, chips, and sugary drinks and not think twice because it was quick, filling, and all that he could afford. Within this, he believes he could have been a little better finding the healthiest option, but diet seemed trivial in comparison to his other obstacles. I believe extrapolating this sentiment to the greater Chicano community would not be far-fetched whatsoever, but rather resonate close to home for most Mexican-American households. To my grandfather, Chocolate’s role in the Chicano community today is rather pessimistic. He believes that the high caloric, low nutritional value of chocolate bars and other junk foods alike are hurting the Chicano community in ways that will hinder life spans and quality of life. Understanding the impact, food has on your body, would do some great service to the Chicano community at large. 

Ubaldo Alexis Garcia Lopez, a eleven year old Mexican boy, attends a monthly consultation with doctors while being treated for symptoms related to obesity. Chicano children have higher rates of obesity than national average.

As for the money issue in the Chicano diet, that is a little more difficult to tackle. Robert Albritton touches on the history of this problem in his piece, Between Obesity and Hunger. He asserts on the very first line that we live in a world with a capacity to have a healthy diet for all (Albritton 342). We definitely do have the capacity for everyone to be taken care of, but not everybody has the means. Cheap food has become important because it allows wages to be lower and it leaves workers with more disposable income for other things. Our laws have even benefitted cheaply produced food, subsidies are handed out to people with the highest yields (Albritton 342). This has pushed out the mom and pop farms in the United States, much like the one my grandfather grew up on in Mexico. The uptick in production has come at the expense of nutritional value. We are seeing hormones and preservatives added to the crops that deteriorate the nutritional benefit to the body. As a result, the food we find packaged in the store, more often then not, end up being pretty inflammatory and not very healthy. These cheap, unhealthy foods are being purchased for very little because they cost close to nothing to produce. The chocolate of ancient Mesoamerica was high in Theobromine and virtually no preservatives involved whatsoever, making it a potent stimulant (Sampeck 73). Whereas today, the chocolate that the Chicanos are exposed to, very unhealthy. For instance, Abuelita, is a Mexican instant-make champurrado company  is jam packed with high sugar and corn fructose. The champurrado the Chicanos are drinking is actually hurting them health wise compared to traditional champurrado which had some great health benefits. It is a different world now, which makes all the more argument for better nutritional education. 

The last question I asked my grandfather, “Do you see chocolate as a luxury?” This was a question that took him a while to respond to, his answer was finally, “No.” But he did qualify to say that chocolate was a treat and operated as a reward in his eyes. Every occasion where he could consume chocolate he was happy and there was a lot of hard work on his end to reap that reward, or at least that is how he viewed it. If anything, he thought it was a deserved break from the regular diet.  The McNiel and Riello piece about Luxury, if anything, offered an explanation of luxury that my grandfather never had the privilege of experiencing. He was too deep in the happenings of his struggle. I did appreciate the piece’s contention that the line was strict between the haves and have-nots (McNiel 6). Unfortunately, my grandfather was only on the side of have-nots and said he never had the opportunity to feel any “luxury.” Because any sort of privilege or break he got in life, in his mind, was rightfully worked for and earned.

This opportunity to interview my grandfather for a final term paper has been the highlight of my time spent in this class. This allowed me the opportunity to give a perspective to this course that I would have not otherwise received. The issues brought up that are plaguing the Chicano culture today are some I plan to focus on changing in my community after graduation. Having my grandfathers perspective on the matter was motivating and maybe would have never happened without this assignment bringing me to do so. For that, I am very thankful.

Work Cited

1. Taylor, Sharonda Alston, et al. “A Qualitative Study of the Day-to-Day Lives of Obese Mexican-American Adolescent Females.” Pediatrics, vol. 131, no. 6, 2013, pp. 1132–8.

2. Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik. Food and Culture: a Reader. Routledge 2019.

3. McNeil, Peter, and Giorgio Riello. Luxury a Rich History. Oxford University Press, 2016.

4. Schwartzkopf, Stacey, and Kathryn E. Sampeck. Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica. University of Texas Press, 2017.


Fair Trade Certified: Can Ethical Consumption Save the Chocolate Industry?

The history of chocolate stretches back thousands of years in time to the first time that humans entered came to North America and discovered the cacao plant. The history of the chocolate industry is much shorter, but even more complex. From its inception, the chocolate industry has been mired in dubious practices, ethical violations, and questionable labor practices that are harmful to the farmers who harvest cacao and the environment writ large. Many of the worst practices have continued into modern times, and even intensified as the industry struggles to meet never-ending global demand.

The fair trade movement seeks to change things by giving consumers more information about how their chocolate was produced to spur companies to improve their practices. The question many are asking now is simple: will it be enough to undo centuries of malpractice? Is the future of chocolate simply the past — or something worse? Or can people continue to love and eat their favorite treat, now without guilt? In this blog post, I will explore these questions and examine the impact fair trade chocolate has had so far.

A History Dipped in Controversy

For many centuries chocolate product was inextricable with chattel slavery in North and Central America, as Spanish colonizers imported slaves to run their cacao plantations and exported the harvests back to Europe. Then, as technological innovations at the turn of the 19th century increased chocolate demand to all time highs amongst Western consumers, the production base of chocolate shifted to Western Africa and the entire industry boomed as the economy began to globalize. Today most people assume that this violent and bloody history of chocolate is behind the industry that creates so much love out of brands like Hersheys or Nestle. However, modern chocolate production continues to have many negative effects on the farmers in Western Africa who are often overworked and underpaid. Worse, child labor and forced labor remain common practices, constraining many from opportunity for social mobility in those societies.

Slaves working to process sugar. While technology has improved, similar labor practices are in use today in modern chocolate production.

While commercial chocolate production stretches back to the time of Cortes, the chocolate industry as most people know it today really began to form in the late 1800’s. Glenn Brenner’s book, The Emperors of Chocolate: inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, chronicles the rise of now household names in the chocolate industry like Mars Bars or Hershey’s Kisses. The founders of these companies capitalized on new technology and innovations in candy to produce hallmark products still eaten today (Glenn 2000). However, as these chocolate startups scaled into multinational brands, they strained the suppliers of cacao beans needed to make the delicious treats.

Since the establishment of Hershey and Mars, the chocolate industry has developed a global supply chain to sustain itself. A vast network of middlemen and trading organizations separate the Hershey Bar sitting in your local CVS from the raw materials that make it up. These layers of providers allow Hershey’s and other chocolate giants to purchase vast quantities of chocolate such that they can satisfy the insatiable demand of the public. The average American eats 10 pounds of chocolate each year, much of it from relative cheap candies picked up at the grocery store.

Global supply chains keep prices cheap, but they have another important benefit for chocolate companies: obfuscation. Because there are so many businesses between Hershey’s and the farmers who harvest cacao beans, Hershey’s has plausible deniability about their involvement in practices like child labor. Because of this, it can be tough for consumers to know where their chocolate has come from — and who suffered to get it to their door. It was this situation that spurred the creation of the Fair Trade Movement in the 1990s.

The Fair Trade Movement

The Fair Trade Movement started with a simple, yet incredibly ambitious goal: reverse the current fortunes of the independent farmers who harvest cacao in Western Africa and South America. Currently these farmers are probably in the lowest position in the entire totem pole of the cacao supply chain. Corrupt government bureaucracies and trading cartels sit above them and seek to siphon off as much of the profit as possible. In addition, competition can lead to a race-to-the-bottom situation, where less scrupulous farming operations who use slave and child labor in conjunction drive prices down and make it harder for ethical farmers. The fair trade movement, since its inception in the 90’s, has sought to change this by increasing transparency into the industry and helping farmers organize for better conditions

Cacao producers have begun to band together in order to secure more profits and better living standards for themselves.

The fair trade movement is fundamentally economic in its ideology. Its response to global capitalism is to work within the system as a reformer, not outside it as a revolutionary. The basic principle the movement operates under is actually the same of the large chocolate companies that it is opposed to in so many ways: The Customer is Always Right. The fair trade movement seeks to educate consumers on how exactly the global chocolate industry works, and provide choices to consciously support farm practices that are fair to workers and also sustainable for the environment. Consumers, the theory goes, will aim to support these ethical practices out of a sense of moral duty, same as why people are altrusitic at all.

The fair trade movement in chocolate is emblematic of a larger debate around capitalism being waged in academia, media, and politics. In the United States, for the first time since Eugene Debs in the 1910s, candidates who openly identify as socialist are running for the office of president, such as Bernie Sanders. Many are starting to question whether capatalism can support ethical labor practices at all. Fair trade movements rely on consumer interest in supporting ethical practices, and there is not exactly a large base of evidence that that is the case.

There are numerous injustices that persist in our supply chains. from factory farming, to greenhouse gas emissions, to human trafficking. None of these causes are conspiracy theories: there is plenty of information public about these problems, and most are tacitly endorsed by governments and institutions. Consumers theoretically could revolt against them: if everyone tomorrow decided to not eat any meat if it came from a factory farm, then factory farming would soon cease to exist.

And yet, it seems vanishingly unlikely that consumers would revolt like this. In fact the trend has to been towards both increased meat consumption and increased factory farming to meet this demand. Consumers, in many ways, have driven these labor practices that have driven price down so far, and the same consumers have benefited tremendously from this with low prices for food. It seems dubious that consumer interest will be the tool to effect change in the same way you can’t dig yourself out of a hole with the shovel that was used to dig the hole.

Another important factor in evaluating the dilemma of the fair trade movement is the problematic racial connotations of the modern chocolate industry. Chocolate advertisements and branding play on colonialist stereotypes of Africans as either “dangerous” or “exotic” (Leissle 2013). These racist stereotypes translate into misguided and incorrect assumptions made by western consumers about the condition of the cacao farmers. The stereotypes can lead to a dehumanization of the African workers and a repudiation of their struggle. Considering the reliance the Fair Trade Movement has on the sentiment of western, mostly white, consumers, these racist dynamics are concerning for the case that the Fair Trade movement has a decent shot at catalyzing real change.

The fair trade movement has grown from its origins to becoming a real part of the industry. Fair trade labels tell consumers in countries like the United States whether different chocolate bars and products were grown in sustainable and humane conditions. Consumers are increasingly aware of unethical practices, and now have options for purchasing products that are good for the world — if they are willing to pay a premium. In the next section, I will explore the impact the Fair Trade movement has had on the chocolate industry, and what the future looks like for chocolate growers and eaters

Fair Trade’s Impact

The impact of the Fair Trade movement on global chocolate consumption is complicated and uncertain. On one hand, there has been impressive growth in the share of chocolate consumption that comes from Fair Trade origins — from a little over 200 millions euros at the turn of the century, to five times that only 6 years later.

Sales volume of Fair Trade Chocolate (source: threefolding.org)

However the total chocolate industry is humungous, and the majority of chocolate continues to come from non-fair trade origins. A study of Belgian chocolate consumers found evidence that only a relatively small minority of the population is willing to pay the premium for fair trade chocolate. Belgium is an especially interesting country to study as it is 1) relatively wealthy, with a high GDP per capita 2) a huge consumer of chocolate, both imported into the country and made natively in the country. Surveys of Belgians show that the highest premium on average they are willing to pay for Fair Trade chocolate is 10%, when in reality the premium is 27%. It turns out that only 10% of Belgians are willing to pay 27% more for chocolate in exchange for ethically grown chocolate. 10% market share is enough for Fair Trade chocolate to have a presence in the economy, but not enough to accomplish the movements ambitious goals of abolition of child labor and improved worker prosperity in the supply chain.

Evidence from the related fair trade coffee movement backs this conclusion up. In Fair trade slippages and Vietnam gaps: the ideological fantasies of fair trade coffee, Gavin Fridell makes a compelling argument that the fair trade movement is as much about social signaling as it is about ethical consumerisms. Specifically, the fair trade movement often focuses more on promoting ideas and fantasies than it does improving the lives of workers. Combine these limitations of western movements in truly empowering African communities with the already marginalized place it has with consumer’s interests and it becomes obvious that the Fair Trade movement is fundamentally limited (Fridell 2014).

Conclusion

The global chocolate industry is humungous and loved by consumers across the world. People love eating chocolate, and love getting it at low prices. However, those low prices don’t come without cost: farmers in South America and Western Africa often have to resort to poor working conditions and exploiting workers. Forced and child labor are commonplace and loosely regulated. Executives and shareholders of western chocolate companies get rich off of chocolate demand, but it does not trickle down to all the workers who make it possible for our candy stores to be lined wall to wall with solid bricks of delicious chocolate.

The Fair Trade movement is a step in the right direction, bravely running counter to the prevailing trend of soulless capitalism and globalism that has pervaded society over the past 8 decades. However, empirical evidence shows that it is insufficient as a solution to problem of ethics in supply chains. The mechanism the movement relies on, moving consumer sentiment through education, is not powerful enough to truly pivot the market. Other solutions must be explored by activists who want to truly improve the social justice of chocolate. Whether that is new technology or new economic structures, more radical actions are needed to effect real change.

Citations

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

De Pelsmacker, P., Driesen, L., & Rayp, G. (2005). Do consumers care about ethics? willingness to pay for fair-trade coffee. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 39(2), 363-385. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1111/j.1745-6606.2005.00019.x

Fridell Gavin (2014) Fair trade slippages and Vietnam gaps: the ideological fantasies of fair trade coffee, Third World Quarterly, 35:7, 1179-1194, DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2014.926108

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22–31. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22.

A Tasting of Ethical Chocolate

Chocolate plays a staple in many people’s modern day to day life whether it be a gourmet ingredient in baking, an aid to lower blood pressure, or just a delicious treat to finish the day.  It played an even larger role in the past with the Mayan and Aztec cultures; commonly used for medicinal, spiritual (marriage and death rites), nutritional, and cooking purposes. Although the use of cocoa transformed over centuries, the demand for it remained high, along with other chocolate ingredients including sugar.  To keep up with high demands, “triangular trade” was used, importing and exporting raw materials, manufactures, and slaves between America, Europe, and Africa. “England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system. The most important product of the system was sugar,” (Mintz, Sweetness and Power). It is estimated that a group of 50,000 slaves was required to produce 20,000 tons of sugar a year for European consumers (Lecture).  In order to meet this quota, enslaved Africans were forced to work 18-hour shifts. Eventually, the Haitian Revolution contributed to the end of the slave trade in 1807. This is commonly known to many Americans through history classes and textbooks. Unfortunately, slavery was not abolished during this event and many famous chocolate companies, such as Cadbury, were exposed for using slave labor in production years later. Forced labor and indentured servitude still exists today and is very popular on cocoa-growing farms. However, there are “Bean to Bar” chocolate companies that produce ethical chocolate and only use cocoa that has a clean history, not connected to slavery or any form of harsh labor.  The theme and goal of my chocolate tasting is to bring awareness to my friends, who consume chocolate daily, about this horrific situation and encourage the purchase of the ethical chocolate I will provide.

When consuming a piece of a chocolate bar or a chocolate chip cookie, the first thing that comes to mind is typically not how it was produced or where the cocoa came from.  Famous brands such as Herseys, Lindt, Cadbury, and Goddiva, we are especially quick to purchase and consume without question due to their popularity and presence in advertising.  However, the Cadbury slavery scandal in the early 1900s demonstrates why we need to be more cautious when buying our favorite chocolates. During the mid-1800s John Cadbury began producing chocolate and cocoa until taken over by his two sons. Richard and George Cadbury focused on improving the quality of cocoa using van Houten’s hydraulic press while preaching Quaker values and attempting to build a better factory village.  The Cadbury factory in Europe was praised for its working conditions and protection of women, but in the early 1900s, it was discovered that the island of São Tomé, where Cadbury purchased 45% of their cocoa beans from, was using thousands of slaves (Satre, Chocolate on Trial). This goes to show that we cannot be so quick to trust famous companies and their production history, especially because their factories require an amount of cocoa beans that is hard to trace back to every plantation.  

West Africa produces around 70% of cocoa used by the 40 to 50 million people who depend on it for their livelihood.  This cocoa is harvested on over 600,000 farms, most of which are small holders. The West African government and economy is driven by cocoa production and when multinational chocolate manufacturers encourage these developing countries to grow more cocoa, these farms are forced to drop prices.  With low prices, the farms are desperate to save their land and resort to cheap, forced labor. It is estimated that the price of cocoa would have to multiply by 10 in order to end forced labor in the industry. “Children are being trafficked every day to work on cocoa farms as slaves. The average cost for a child is $250. [An] Estimated 1.8 million children are at risk for falling under the Worst forms of Child Labor conditions set by the UN (ILO 182). There are over 27 million slaves in the world today. Of them over 9 million are children,” (Slave Free Chocolate).  These facts from the Slave Free Chocolate organization are the harsh reality of the chocolate industry and many big-name chocolate brands.

Even if farms in West Africa are slave free, the labor asked of the workers is extensive and unhealthy.  The hours of the work in the hot sun can cause major fatigue, heat stress, diseases caught from animal and insect bites, and ultimately, death.  These workers also lack access to clean water, bathroom facilities, and clean spaces for food preparation. Children are especially at risk working around sharp tools, pesticides, and heavy loads that can permanently damage their skeletal form.

Although there have been several attempts to solve this labor crisis in the cocoa industry, there are various issues with every solution.  Many national governments have tried to become involved and policies have been made to stop forced labor, but the lack of price setting mechanisms and presence of trade barriers make this difficult. Additionally, chocolate corporations such as the World Cocoa Foundation and MARS have failed to make an impact due to lack of consumer education.  The goal of my chocolate tasting was to increase awareness in this category and encourage my friends to purchase certified trade-free chocolate.

Fortunately, there are several chocolate brands that pride themselves on their ethical production.  I chose to serve these brands at my chocolate tasting to create the theme of fair-trade guilt-free chocolate to bring awareness to an issue that many people are unaware of.  Fair-trade chocolate brands can be hard to find in large retail stores such as CVS, who typically sell larger brands such as Hersey’s and Dove. I headed to Cardullo’s in Harvard Square in search for ethical chocolate and was surprised by the large variety they offered.  When on the hunt for fair-trade chocolate, I learned in lecture that there are stamps and stickers on the wrappers of the brands that prioritize using fair- trade ingredients such as cocoa. I ended up purchasing chocolate from Taza, Scharffen Berger, Chocolove, and Chuao Chocolatier.  The chocolate looked gourmet, but the price point was definitely steeper than your average Hershey’s bar.

My roommates, friends, and fellow Chocolate classmates enjoying Fair Trade chocolate!
The chocolate I provided to my guests, all consisting of ethical backgrounds

Taza chocolate is a stone ground chocolate that emphasizes the taste of pure cacao and I chose the “Toffee Almond and Sea Salt” flavor.  Produced in Somerville, MA, “Taza is a pioneer in ethical cacao sourcing. We were the first U.S. chocolate maker to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification program. We maintain direct relationships with our cacao farmers and pay a premium above the Fair Trade price for their cacao. We partner only with cacao producers who respect the rights of workers and the environment,” (Taza Chocolate).  Introducing this chocolate to my friends, the local production aspect of this brand made it a fan favorite. Although the taste of bold cacao was new for many of them, they all expressed they felt better knowing the clean history of production of the chocolate they were consuming.

Scharffen Berger was next up on the tasting agenda.  Along with Chocolove, Scharffen Berger was stamped with the “Rainforest Alliance Certified” symbol and I chose to serve the “extra rich milk chocolate” flavor.  “The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organization that works to conserve biodiversity and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities,” (Scharffen Berger).  Not only does The Rainforest Alliance prioritize the conditions and well-being of farmers, but it also takes the environment and the preservation of the rainforests and other landscapes of production.  I was surprised at how unaware my friends were about The Rainforest Alliance, but they were extremely excited to learn about how beneficial it was in several aspects. Everyone agreed that this was your average chocolate bar, but more gourmet and rich.

Also a supporter of The Rainforest Alliance, Chocolove, produced in Boulder, Colorado, manufactures over 30 different flavors of decadent chocolate bars.  Chocolove claims to be very invested in sustainability and the social responsibility that comes along with fair-trade production. Not only does Chocolove work with Fair Trade and The Rainforest alliance, they also are a contributor to the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), an organization that “strives to organize and educate farmers on issues of labor,” (Chocolove).  This chocolate was a fan favorite, as the flavor served was “Pretzel Milk Chocolate”. At this point in the tasting, I started receiving feedback that my friends and guests were actually beginning to prefer these ethical brands of chocolate. Prior to this tasting, many of them had the preconceived notion that fair-trade, organic chocolate was strictly dark, gritty chocolate.  They had no idea it came in so many forms and flavors.

The last chocolate I provided, from the company, Chuao Chocolatier, was especially original.  The flavor I purchased, “Sprinkle Dreams” consisted of “crisp waffle cone, hazelnuts, and rainbow sprinkles in milk chocolate”.  “Chuao Chocolatier is the first Venezuelan Chocolatier based in the United States,” (Chuao Chocolatier). Chef Michael Antonorsi and his brother Richard created this company with their ancestor’s history in mind.  They express their respect for cacao and those who grow it along with working with ethical business partners. This chocolate was by far the most gourmet and original chocolate served and this really sealed the deal for the guests that fair-trade chocolate is perhaps the best chocolate.

The majority of cocoa is produced on small, family managed farms in West Africa, making it challenging to track the location and history of the cocoa used by larger businesses in the industry.  When demand for cocoa increases and the price drops, there is often a labor shortage and this led to cheap, forced labor and ultimately, slavery in the 1990s. Fair Trade certification organizations help farmers earn fair prices to ensure safe labor that meet working standards.  Fair Trade also promotes sustainability and social responsibility for not only workers, but also the environment. Unfortunately, Hershey’s, the manufacturer of more than 40% of the chocolate industry has not made an effort to work with Fair Trade Cocoa. However, some big companies such as Ben & Jerry’s do use and work with Fair Trade Cocoa. I have hope that more industies in the market will eventually shift to using Fair Trade ingredients considering all of the positive feedback and entusiasm I received from the guests at my chocolate tasting. If the world continues to educate consumers of chocolate about the slavery that still exists today, people may have a change in taste buds towards a more ethical form of chocolate.

Work Cited

“About Taza.” Taza Chocolate, http://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza.

“Chuao Chocolatier – Gourmet Chocolate from an Artisan Chocolatier.” Chuao Chocolatier – Gourmet Chocolate from an Artisan Chocolatier, chuaochocolatier.com/.

“Ethical Chocolate Companies.” Slave Free Chocolate, http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/ethical-chocolate-companies.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. Viking, 1985.

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