Category Archives: Multimedia Essay 2

Two Sides Of The Chocolate Coin

While American and European consumers associate chocolate with romance, desserts, and luxury, the disparity between end product consumer and cacao producer is significant. One perspective is that northern consumers provide self-agency and opportunity through a free market economic exchange in an environment that provides few opportunities. While western Africa currently provides 75% of the world’s cacao (Coe &Coe, 2013) the African cacao grower has to rely solely on northern purchasers as they lack the economic resources to purchase, manufacture, or market their product. With labor as their only agency, the African cacao grower is in a disadvantaged position in the food production paradigm despite their high product yield. Corporate complicity in unethical labor, slave legacy that has left southern producers turning to raw materials for economic survival, and consumer apathy created by distance from the food supply chain have culminated in producing very opposing experiences for the cacao supplier and the chocolate consumer.

Success in Cacao

With the steady increase of cacao prices, the cacao-growing region of western Africa has seen steady socioeconomic growth in the industry for decades. According to “CNN Freedom Project,” an organization focused on labor practices worldwide, in 2008-2009 western Africa supplied more than 75% of the world’s chocolate, while Europeans and North Americans were consuming a roughly equal amount (2012). In their book Cocoa in Ghana: Shaping the Success of An Economy, Shashi Kolavalli, and Marcella Vigneri observe the steady increase of cacao prices have allowed for significant improvement via more investment in production yields through transport and infrastructure. (2012). Kolavalli and Vigneri further observe that so lucrative is the cacao production in Ghana  that positive socioeconomic influences of the crop, and improvement in western Africa’s poverty, have been significant by stating,

“economic growth has been solid, averaging more than 5 percent since 2001 and reaching 6 percent in 2005–06. Coupled with the effects of greater access to education, health services, and land ownership (World Bank 2008), this rate of growth has contributed to the near halving of the national poverty rate since the beginning of the 1990s, from 51.7 percent in 1991/92 to 28.5 percent in 2005/06” (p. 205).

For cacao growing countries in Africa, maintaining this resource is critical to prevent sliding backward economically in an already impoverished environment.

Who is Eating All the Chocolate?

According to CNN’s freedom project, northern countries are driving the demand for chocolate. In this breakdown for 2008-09, Europeans and North Americans were responsible for eating an equal amount of western Africa’s entire production, which is 75% annually of the world supply. In simple terms, if you live in the northern hemisphere there is a good chance you are consuming on average between 9 to 24 lbs. of chocolate per year. (Satioquia-Tan, J. 2015)

The Swiss eat 24 lbs. of chocolate per person, per year. That’s roughly equivalent to eating half of a Hershey bar every day for one year (Maxim75, 2016)

World consumption of cocoa: 2008/09
Europe – 49.32%
North America – 24.22% (United States only – 20.19%)
Asia and Oceania – 14.49%
South America – 8.68%
Africa – 3.28%

The demand from northern consumers continues to increase steadily. In his paper, Cocoa production in West Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments, Marius Wessel projects necessary agricultural growth for western Africa to maintain its current supply when he states, “The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) forecasts a 10 percent increase in the world cocoa production and a 25 percent increase of the cocoa price in the next decade. … If West Africa wishes to maintain its present world market share a 10 percent increase in production is needed in the next decade” (Wessel, M., 2015). This is significant in that considerable investment will be required to meet the growing demand, which in turn will offer more employment from land developing to harvesting; boosting the economy even further. The staggering contrast of chocolate consumption between northern consumers and southern producers however, in relation to race and geography is no accident.

A History of Disconnection

After the chocolate drink of Mesoamericans made it to Europe via Spanish colonists in the 16th century, popularity of the drink in Europe began to rise. When Spanish colonists exhausted the Mesoamerican population as a resource for labor, they turned to the middle passage across the Atlantic to Africa for labor to meet the demand (Coe & Coe, 2013). On a continent that functioned tribally with no formal governments, it was quite easy to enslave people into labor for the remainder of their life, which on average due to hard labor and dismal living conditions was about 7 to 8 years after enslavement (Coe & Coe, 2013). This of course, required massive quantities of slaves, which Africa had in abundance. In his book Sweetness and Power Sidney Mintz observes that by the 18th century, the European lower proletariat was adopting the culinary habits of the aristocracy as a way of establishing equality for people in lower social stations (p.181, 1986). The biggest promoter of chocolate consumption for the masses According to Coe & Coe in their book A True History of Chocolate was the industrial revolution when they state,

The Menier Chocolate factory in Paris, France. Mechanized in 1830, and shortly after became France’s largest chocolate supplier. (Expressing Yourself, 2009) 

“The Industrial Revolution, which changed chocolate from a costly drink to cheap food, [was] the driving force in this metamorphosis” (Coe & Coe, p. 232, 2013).

Before the industrial revolution the use of people from southern countries as a commodity for labor separated them from society and cultural habits of northern countries. Even had they wished to adopt the habits of their masters, there was no means or opportunity as a consumer base. Having never been ‘folded in” to European culture, they were completely disenfranchised as a chocolate consumer base. The exclusion of southern laborers and slaves from society as citizens, also found them ignored by the industrial revolution; leaving them to lag behind economically and industrially, unable to participate as consumers of chocolate.

State of Labor Today

After northern consumers developed a social conscience for disenfranchised populations and impoverished nations, one might be tempted to think everything has changed, but it has not. Still lagging from being on the outside of the industrial revolution, Cacao farming practices have changed little in the last hundred years. In villages of working adults there is a complete disconnect to their labor once it leaves the village. In her book Bitter Chocolate, Carol Off  tells of a village where all but the chief were ignorant of where the cacao went, none knew how it was used, and only one had ever tasted chocolate. Micheal and Sophie Coe argue that it is not only adults and families working, but that millions of children are trafficked and forced into slavery from neighboring countries (Coe & Coe, 2013). Off supports this claim by observing that slavery is alive and well  particularly in the Ivory Coast where child slavery is so common, it is a sub-industry of cacao with its own economy, as farmers finance networks to traffic children for forced labor who then suffer from starvation, disease and physical abuse while working on cacao farms (Off, C. 2006). While numbers of child slavery are at times sketchy and often disputed, no one denies it exists (Off, C. 2006).

Children from the Ivory Coast. Due to extreme poverty many children seek out work in cacao only to be abducted and worked as slaves. (DFID, 2011)

Consumers Grow Distant

The consumer vending machine selling prepacked processed chocolate adding a further degree of separation from labor to consumer. (Whitehouse, P. 2007) 

While slaves grow cacao, consumers grow distant. Though southern laborers have not advanced industrially, this is not the case for northern consumers. The industrialization of food completely changed northern food culture. Through mechanization, transport, and refrigeration, the distance between consumer and food source has grown. Mechanization produced food en mass cheaply, allowing access to goods that were more accommodating to lower budgets, while transport and refrigeration allowed food to travel further than it had before. (Counihan & Van Esterik, 2013) The biggest game changer in food culture was the mechanization of canning and preservation. With better preservation, food sources began to change, ingredients began change, and soon we had processed and prepackaged food embraced by women everywhere for freeing their time and labor (Counihan & Van Esterik, 81-82, 2013). After two or three generations of eating processed food transported from faraway places, with lists of ingredients that are rarely inspected, consumers today know very little about their food, or even what it contains. They are not unlike their southern counterparts in this way who do not know where cacao goes, or what its use is after it leaves the village.


Distance Creates Apathy

Capitalist consumerism breeds competition, creating incentive to keep the consumer

Cacao farmer in Ghana with his crop before it is prepared and bagged to be sent to manufacturers to make chocolate. (Rberchie, 2014)

happy. As modern chocolate consumers in the north are far more concerned with inclusiveness, fair treatment, and food activism than previous generations, the power of the purchase is seemingly an easy solution to the poor working conditions and poverty that are still prevalent in the cacao industry despite its economic growth. Far removed from the supply chain, unaware consumers continue to purchase due to lack of transparency in food product, and manufacturers remain complicit in the absence of financial threat. Manufacturers however also have limited power. Even with strict purchasing policies, and government regulation it is still difficult to know if a supplier is using slaves without constant physical inspections (Martin, C. 2017), and blame shifts all along the supply chain making it easy for manufacturers to be complicit, and consumers to remain uninformed.  Lack of transparency in food sourcing, blame shifting in the industry, and distance from food sources, culminate to create a culture of apathetic food consumers.

How It All Comes Together

The dichotomy between cacao consumer and producer today began with early Europeans and European colonists who failed to view southern peoples as sovereign and instead as a voiceless labor resource. Excluded from global interaction, Southern populations failed to participate in cultural trends, shifts, and innovations that were transforming society and industry elsewhere. Non-participation in the industrial revolution left southern continents behind in what would become a global economy with no agency for economic competition; turning to natural resources and labor for economic survival in a state somewhere between hunting and gathering and industry with little opportunity for growth. While mechanization followed by technology has created decadence in northern populations as compared to southern countries, northern consumers are today ignorant of their food supply chain because of these advancements, and unaware of the poverty and labor practices of those supplying it. Lack of transparency in food products add to this distance, and northern Chocolate manufactures as well as governments are complicit in unethical labor practices, shifting blame along the food supply chain leaving those who are aware unsure of who to even hold accountable (Martin, C. 2017). While northern consumers today have more of a social conscience than their ancestors, the opposing lifestyles of the chocolate consumer and the cacao laborer have failed to come closer together over the last several hundred years due to a legacy of “othering,” and complicit corporate interests protecting their revenue stream that has created an apathetic northern food culture.

Where We Go From Here

Consumer awareness is growing. Projects like Fair Trade, CNN Project Freedom, End Slavery Now, Slave Free Chocolate etc., have been working hard to inform the public. Many consumers now seek out fair trade products when available, and appear willing to pay more for ethical practices. In their paper, Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Multi-Store Field Experiment ,  Hainmueller, Hiscox, & Seguiera state,

“Total sales of Fair Trade goods in the United States in 2011 amounted to roughly $1.4 billion (FLO 2012) … But the average annual rate of growth in U.S. sales of Fair Trade certified goods was close to 40% between 1999 and 2008” (2014).

Fair Trade is not without its problems, as certification can be costly and marginalizes the poorest producers, but it is a start, and one of few ways to access transparency of the food supply chain in a consumer market that provides no source-to-store product information. Legislators are also working to intervene in child slavery practices. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engen introduced a protocol to reduce trafficking in the cacao industry, agreed to by manufacturers and legislators from Ghana and the Ivory Coast as stated by the ILO, “that aims to reduce the worst forms of child labor by 70 percent across the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire by 2020” (ILO, 2017). Currently Fair Trade and other transparent and ethical alternatives have not achieved mainstream mass production, making it difficult for a consumer to use the power of the dollar against corporate complicity even when they choose to. Raising awareness and creating a demand for ethical products can aid in ending consumer apathy by closing the information gap, and denting corporate revenue streams that, with some work, will promote less disparity between southern suppliers and northern purchasers.


Works Cited


Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate (3rd ed.) London, ENG.Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Counihan, C., Van Esterik, P., (Eds.). (2013). Food and culture a reader New York NY. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

CNN Freedom Project (2012) Who eats the most chocolate?. Retrieved from:                

DFID, (2011) Children of the Ivory Coast [digital image].  Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website:

Expressing Yourself (2009) Menier Chocolate Factory. [digital media]. Retrieved from:

Hainmueller, j., Hiscox, M., Sequeira, S., (2014) Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Multi-Store Field Experiment. Retrieved from:

ILO, (2017) Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Fields/ Harkin-Engel Protocol. Retrieved from:    labor/WCMS_159486/lang–en/index.htm

Kolivalli, S., Vigneri, M. (2014) Cocoa in ghana: Shaping the success of an economy. Retrieved from

Martin, C. (2017) Modern Day Slavery. Harvard Extension School. [Mar 22, 2017 Lecture].

Maxim75 (2016) Hershey Bars. [digital media] Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website:

Mintz, S.W. (1986) Sweetness and Power. NY, NY. Penguin Books 1986

Off, C., (2006) Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New   York: The New Press.

Rberchie (2014). Cacao farmer [digital media] Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website:

Satiodqua-Tan, J (Jul, 2015) Americans eat how much chocolate?. Retrieved from:   

Wessel, Marius (Dec, 2015). Cocoa production in west Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments. NJAS-Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, 74-75, 1-7. doi:       

Whitehouse, P.  (2007). Vending machine [digital image]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons Website:


CVS, Cardullo’s, and Their Consumers

We often see varieties of chocolate neatly arranged in so many stores, and the display is so tempting for customers walking by. Every shopping trip to a convenience or drug store is the same – make a rewarding selection between mainstream (and sometimes exotic) chocolate products. The tastings were set up in a way to acquire as much information as possible. The samples I acquired from CVS were: Ferrero Rocher hazelnut truffles (Italian), Hershey’s milk chocolate (American), Cadbury milk chocolate (English), Toblerone milk chocolate with nougat (Swiss), and Brookside dark chocolate with blueberries and almonds (American). The samples I acquired from Cardullo’s were: Niederegger’s Chocolate with marzipan (German), Truffettes milk chocolate covered marshmallows (French), Chuao Milk chocolate with potato chips (American/Venezuelan based), Vivra 65% dark with candied violets (American), and Taza 50% dark chocolate with guajillo chili. I recruited six tasters, and one taster was unable to try the dark chocolate samples, because dark chocolate disagrees with him. I expected that the tasters I shared various chocolate samples with would prefer more generic and familiar brands, such as the brands offered by CVS. However, by analyzing the results of my research done on various flavors of chocolate, it is apparent that my tasters generally preferred the less common chocolate bars without realizing it. This suggests that people do not put as much thought into their chocolate preferences as they really should be.

When organizing tastings for my research, I tried to get as many tasters as possible to taste my CVS and Cardullo’s products by themselves. There ended up being two groups of two, and two lone tasters. I wanted each person’s response to influence another person’s response as little as possible. Furthermore, none of the tasters were enrolled in Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. The students of the class now have an above average level of training for identifying specific tastes and smells in the chocolate, so I decided to test the abilities of non-chocolate scholars. I must admit that the whole tasting set-up was done by having in the back of my mind Barb Stuckey’s self-observation of her tasting skill after spending time working for the Mattson company. Barb excitedly recalls her “newfound skill” explaining that she “could take one bite of a food, consider it for a millisecond, and know exactly what it was missing that would give it an optimal taste (Stuckey 3)”. However, I was delighted to hear my tasters use descriptions for the samples, such as: dry, “varied texture”, “pop rock texture”, generic, “dull ‘thud’ sound”, sandy, “old book taste”, chalky, and/or matte colored.

The chocolate samples came from two different stores: CVS, and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, both in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Both stores are conveniently located in an area filled with people, some of whom may be hungry for a chocolate snack. Cardullo’s and CVS have their similarities, including the fact that they have their specific chocolate-seeking audiences. However, there is a difference between the chocolate-seeking audiences of Cardullo’s and CVS. Cardullo’s targets consumers of European origin and consumers with an interest in European culture, while CVS targets consumers that are not extremely fussy, and less willing to spend more for chocolate that would satisfy their cravings just as effectively. On a side note: the cost for all of the products between CVS and Cardullo’s totaled $46.34.

CVS’s chocolate is meant to “cater” to the general public. The store manager of the CVS location himself explained the ways in which the companies featured in the store cater to the general public. The confections sold at CVS are internationally recognized American and European brands whose confectionery styles do well with their plain chocolate, but also with commonly added flavors (some additional flavors include: caramel, nougat, nuts, and fruit). Hershey’s is a quintessential product at CVS, and must maintain their consumer loyalty with recognizable packaging, as well as producing creative ideas. For example, Hershey’s has designed resealable packaging to give their consumers a choice to eat some chocolate now and save the rest for later. A better alternative, rather than the consumer being forced to eat the entire product once it has been opened. Chocolate investigator, Kristy Leissle, begins her journal with, “Consider a hershey’s (sic) kiss. At once minimalist and iconic, the twist of silver foil sends a familiar flavor message to the brain, while the wrapper imparts nothing substantial about the chocolate (Leissle 22)”. When we see a chocolate product that is familiar to us, its iconic and memorable packaging prompts us to remember that what the product is. We also can trust familiar looking products to taste delicious if we decide to purchase them, rather than us risking the possibility of feeling like our money has been wasted on a bad tasting product.

Here is a selection of the most common chocolate products that we see for sale. The labels include the company name (i.e. Hershey), or a familiar product from Hershey (i.e. Reese’s). The label names are chosen carefully for consumers to easily recognize the products we want to purchase. The “Hershey’s” label will tell us that we are looking at a bar of plain chocolate, and might have a sub-description of nuts or caramel inside. The “Reese’s” label automatically signals to consumers that there is peanut butter complementing chocolate. “York” is a familiar label to consumers that signifies minty flavor in chocolate (hersheyindia).

The products from CVS have important descriptions that set them apart from the products at Cardullo’s. There were a few products made with dark chocolate, but most of the products sold at CVS were made with milk chocolate. The most popular CVS product was a tie between Toblerone and Ferrero Rocher – all six tasters liked the two products equally. Four out of six tasters especially liked the chocolate center of the truffles. The Toblerone sample was described by four out of six tasters as “better than Hershey’s.” Three out of six tasters did not care for the Brookside product, two tasters thought the product was “okay,” and one taster loved the Brookside product so much that it won CVS over as her favorite store of the two for buying chocolate. Fun fact: Hershey acquired Brookside in 2011 (Schroeder). Hershey’s milk chocolate was the least popular CVS product, and Cadbury’s milk chocolate was described by every taster as “better than Hershey’s,” while Cadbury’s still was not the most popular CVS product.

Most of the products were neatly arranged by brand on the candy aisle. The rest of the products could be found on the end cap of the candy aisle on the side furthest away from the registers. The products on the end cap are known as the “deluxe chocolates.” The Deluxe brands included, but were not limited to Lindt and Chuao. Recall that I bought my Chuao potato chip milk chocolate at Cardullo’s. I had gone shopping at Cardullo’s before shopping at CVS, and was surprised to find the same type of Chuao bar in the Deluxe section of CVS. The Chuao bar was more hidden than the easily seen Cardullo’s Chuao bar, and it was two dollars cheaper at CVS. Perhaps, the Deluxe chocolates at CVS are placed so that the adventurous customers who already know about the products will know where to find them. The specific placement of products could be CVS’s precaution against scaring away most of their customers with expensive, daring flavors of chocolate as the first available chocolate snack.

Cardullo’s confections are meant to cater to people with more sophisticated tastes regarding confections. More specifically, Cardullo’s employees pointed out that the shoppe targets Europeans (and a few other ethnicities) who grew up with their featured products that are hard to find outside of their countries. The store manager of Cardullo’s herself explained that Cardullo’s products are special because they invoke a strong feeling of nostalgia among visitors/immigrants from various countries. You can find a wall stocked with Cadbury products, and Cadbury is one of the few iconic chocolate brands featured in the entire store. There is no chance of finding any products from Hershey when shopping at Cardullo’s. The American products featured at Cardullo’s tend to have avant-garde flavors. For example, Cardullo’s features Vosges, a Chicago based chocolate company. One of Vosges products at Cardullo’s is a chocolate bacon bar. What a combination!

Cardullo's Front
Classy-looking photo of the front of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe in Harvard Square at Cambridge, Massachusetts (Yelp).

As preferred by five out of six tasters, Cardullo’s was the most popular of the two stores for chocolate shopping. The opportunity to taste new flavors of chocolate was a little intimidating, yet exciting to each of my chocolate tasters. Chloé, the chocolate connoisseur featured in Raising the Bar, voices her concern for a general lack of appreciation for chocolate variety, “[c]onsumers can be fickle and even dismissive when it comes to matters of taste… (Raising 147)”. The tasters were enthralled by the Vivra dark with violets, and this product was enjoyed by everyone that could try it. Four out of six people did not care for the Chuao potato chip chocolate, but the two other tasters enjoyed the sweet and salty combination within it. Niederegger’s marzipan milk chocolate was described by three tasters as “too sweet.” The other three tasters liked the marzipan milk chocolate, especially the consistency of the marzipan. When biting into the Truffettes milk chocolate covered marshmallows three tasters experienced them as “too chewy.” The other three tasters enjoyed the consistency of the marshmallow. Five tasters could try Taza’s Guajillo chili. Four tasters did not care for the guajillo chili infusion with the dark chocolate. One taster said that the Taza sample with guajillo chili was “awesome stuff!”

I would especially like to highlight the presence of Taza products at Cardullo’s. Taza is one of the few American chocolate companies with products for sale at Cardullo’s, and they happen to operate locally in Somerville, Massachusetts. What is special about Taza in comparison to many other American products is that the workers of Taza are interested in traditional, authentic Mexican chocolate-making methods. With a high demand in place for their products, Taza has had to find means of efficient production that would still allow for the presence of a Mexican quality surrounding the chocolate. By producing solid chocolate bars, Taza is aware that consumers are seeking a snack with traditional Mexican flavors, rather than traditional Mexican beverages. Taza’s YouTube channel serves as an efficient tool to connect with their customers on a more personal level than relying only on their website and word of mouth to deliver information to consumers. Taza wants its consumers to remember that there is still care involved with Taza’s chocolate making process, as their YouTube page’s introductory paragraph states that, “we hand-carve granite millstones to grind cacao… (TazaChocolate)”. The introductory video on their YouTube channel is an invitation for all who would like to catch a glimpse of the chocolate making process inside the factory:

It is exciting to learn a little bit about another culture’s specific methods for creating products that are so similar, yet so different from what we are usually exposed to.

Truffette’s label for chocolate covered marshmallows is quick to flaunt its French origin. The photo of the confection looks so tempting by featuring a delicious marshmallow covered in smooth, creamy chocolate. The elegant, French words along with the Eiffel tower momentarily remind us of the culture-rich city of Paris, and it is almost as if we are tasting the confection while in France. However, what consumers do not immediately realize is that, as pointed out by Susan J. Terrio, “France itself is not a country historically famous for its luxury chocolates (Terrio 10)”. Perhaps, with the recent European involvement in chocolate, this product is an example of a French confectioner’s take on perfecting a use for solid chocolate. Members of newer generations from France would immediately recognize Truffette’s upon finding their products at Cardullo’s.

It is worth noting that every person has unique preferences for chocolate products, among all other products. There are people who prefer CVS products over Cardullo’s products, as astounding as it may sound to the people who appreciate variance in chocolate. Some people may enjoy every chocolate product presented to them, while others may only accept milk chocolate. Allergies to common foods such as nuts will skew a person’s preferences, because they must work around their health concerns when determining their favorite flavors to have with chocolate. The confections we looked at for this project demonstrate the many creative and culture-specific ideas that so many talented confectioners have cooked up since chocolate became more available around the world. Perhaps, if my tasters were all chocolate connoisseurs that my research would have yielded different results about chocolate preferences.

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3(2013): 22-31. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 6 May 2017. <;.

Schroeder, Eric. “Hershey to Buy Brookside Foods.” Food Business News. Sosland PublishingCo., 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 6 May 2017. < News/2011/12/Hershey to buy Brookside Foods.aspx?cck>.

Slide-img20.jpeg. N.d. Web. 6 May 2017.

Stuckey, Barb. “What Are You Missing?” Introduction. Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Getting More from Every Bite. New York: Free, 2012. 1-29. Print.

TazaChocolate. “Taza Chocolate.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 May 2017.<;.

TazaChocolate. “The Taza Chocolate Story.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 May 2017. <;.

Terrio, Susan J. “People Without History.” Introduction. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. London, England: U of California, 2000. 1-22. Print.

TRUFFETTES DE FRANCE MARSHMALLOWS MILK CHOCOLATE. Redstone Foods, n.d. Web. 8 May 2017.<–truffettes-de-france-marshmallows-milk-chocolate&gt;.

Williams, Pamela Sue., and Jim Eber. “To Market, To Market: Craftsmanship, Customer Education, and Flavor.” Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver, BC: Wilmor Corporation, 2012. 143-209. Print.

V, Sonam. Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe. 2005., Cambridge, MA. Web. 10 May 2017. <;.

Bean to Bar Chocolate Makers and the Process Oriented Generation

Today niche markets blossom as the national food system increases efficiency and homogeneity. These two interconnected trends force us to ask ethical questions that our grandparents never faced. Firstly, technology both mechanical and genetic, have spurred unprecedented efficiency in food production. We see record yields per acre in corn and soybeans every year (Kristy). Discussions about the risks of GMOs aside, most would agree that today’s feast is preferable to the famines our ancestors faced only a few generations ago. As the most privileged consumers in history, we take for granted the concerns of our forefathers; namely, access to safe, nutritious, food at a reasonable cost. Today food is more accessible, cheaper, and safer than any other time in history (Laudan). This is all good news for consumers. As food choices have become unanimously safe and inexpensive, little was left to differentiate one brand from another.

As consumers we are currently experiencing the, “process generation.” Beginning around the time of the organics movement in the late 1990s, process has come to dominate marketing and consumption. Companies all had complete access to the same limitless basket of ingredients, and were producing only marginally different products. Process became king. When choosing the type of pasta, one no longer looked at the nutrition facts, knowing they would all be roughly the same. Rather, one looked for branding that might denote the most ethically, or sustainably produced pasta made by the most charitable and socially conscious company, packaged in the least wasteful and most recycled paper. Food no longer had to be safe and nutritious, those aspects were assumed, food needed a story.

Thankfully food producers were quick to answer the call. The dichotomy of processed versus non-processed has become complicated by the addition of ethical process issues. Shoppers suddenly can choose between Kraft mac-n-cheese and Annie’s organic and all natural mac-n-cheese, never mind both products are made by multinationals. It does not matter what the story is, but if you are a conscious consumer your food needs a story. Morality suddenly sits on the dinner plate, every food option is either, right or wrong, typically buying the, “right” food costs a little more. Your eggs need to be cage free, your fish needs to be caged, your coffee needs to be fair trade, and your beer needs to be a local brew. The birth of the process generation means that food makers can choose one of many social issues to attract customers. Those customers in turn, use their food purchases to signal their values to their communities. Though people have always used food to signal wealth, for the first time in history, your salad dressing can prove to your neighbors what a charitable person you are. Of course the vast majority of the food industry has remained unchanged, but among premium products differentiation comes with a back-story. Though a little slower to the table, the chocolate industry is no different.

Food advocates often refer to consumption decisions as casting a vote. When walking down the chocolate aisle at the grocery store, you can vote for a wide range of social causes. Your chocolate can help save endangered species, fight global warming, empower women, build schools, pay farmers livable wages and stop deforestation. A relatively new niche has developed in the chocolate industry. Bean to bar chocolate makers occupy a tiny portion of the total chocolate industry but claim to impact producer communities while delivering superior chocolate. Bean to bar chocolate makers are the latest iteration of food snobs, combining the artisanal specificity of a craft brewer with the social awareness of a fair trade coffee roaster and the geographic condescension of a wine connoisseur. If your purchase is your vote, we need to understand who’s on the ballot and what exactly it is that they stand for. This post will try to figure out if bean to bar chocolate makers actually reduce inequality in the chocolate industry or if they simply provide the latest luxury for affluent consumers: peace of mind.

Chocolate bars are typically plastered with certifications to prove their ethical engagement. Gluten free, GMO free, organic, and fair trade are all common badges. However bean to bar makers often go beyond these more standard certifications and claim to address problems that more mainstream bars only hint at. Namely bean to bar chocolate makers try to address the issue of inequality in the chocolate industry. Activists often accuse large chocolate makers of selling “blood” chocolate, or chocolate made from cacao produced by exploited people (Ryan). The common narrative paints cacao farmers as impoverished surfs, exploited by the fickle winds of a corrupt commodity market. However, those same farmers are often accused of exploiting children, by forcing them to work in their cacao plantations as slave labor. More than 500,000 children are estimated to be trapped in forced labor between Ghana and Cote D’ivoire, an area that produces roughly 75% of the worlds cacao (Mustapha). For this reason many consumers flock to chocolate certified as fair trade, searching for assurance that their favorite chocolate company pays farmers enough to avoid forcing children to work as forced laborers.

Taza chocolate based in Somerville Massachusetts is often cited as a shining example of social responsibility in the chocolate world. Self described, “chocolate pioneers” Taza created their own certification, “Direct Trade” that supposedly holds producers to higher environmental and fair-labor standers than the current “Fair Trade” certification. Taza is not simply blowing smoke. They seem genuinely committed to their standard, going so far as to employ, “Quality Certification Services” a third party auditor accredited by the USDA, to audit their internal supply standards. To go even further Taza publishes a yearly transparency report that illuminates the amount and price paid for cacao from each producer region. Currently Taza partners with five grower communities in Bolivia, Belize, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The below video describes how Taza has impacted their farmer partners in Haiti and generally how the Direct Trade model is supposed to work.


Though not explicitly stated, the video shows how Direct Trade relies on a framework of intermediaries to organize high quality cacao production. Though Taza found quality cacao in Haiti, investment and technical support were required for industrial production. Pisa is a cacao company that buys raw cacao seeds from farmers and prepares and markets them for export. In addition to coordinating with buyers such as Taza, Pisa supports farmers, helping them grow the most efficient and highest quality cacao possible. The video only briefly referenced Root Capital. This Cambridge based company works to, “connect smallholder farmers to world markets” typically through financing, technical training and business education (Root). Though called, “Direct Trade” Taza’s video shows that farmer – chocolate maker interactions are complicated, and even in their simplest forms require third and fourth party involvement. As ethical consumers, we can celebrate the impact that Taza and their partners have had in Haiti. The Direct Trade model appears to help stabilize demand and provide consistent, fair pricing for farmers. In his book “The Fair Trade Scandal” Ndongo Samba Sylla explains how price fluctuation and market inconsistency are two of the main factors preventing farmers from investing in their farms. His point, as the title might suggest, is that the “Fair Trade” standard falls short of reducing inequality in the chocolate industry. Adding a few hundred dollars to an ever changing global cacao price is often not worth the high certification fees for farmers (Sylla). Taza appears aware of the shortcomings of “Fair Trade” and seems determined to overcome the challenge of inequality. However, is there a point at which too much foreign involvement can hurt a cacao community?


Taza founder Alex Witmore explains about his role as co-founder of “Maya Mountain Cacao” in Belize. Maya Mountain acts much like Pisa did in Haiti, providing industry coordination as well as technical support for new and existing farmers. A cynic might see Taza’s investment in the Belizean company as a step backward toward colonial sugar or cacao production, once so common in Sough America and the Caribbean. However, while some socially conscious consumers might still cringe, Taza appears to be fostering an infant industry in Belize. Firstly, according to Taza’s transparency report, they only bought 3.81 metric tons of cacao from Maya Mountain in 2016. This purchase made up approximately 1.6% of all Taza’s total purchases by weight. Secondly 74.5% of the sale price went to Maya Mountain’s partner farmers, this is on par with, or slightly higher than the percentages paid to farmers in Taza’s other four production groups. At this point it appears that Taza is leveraging their considerable industry knowledge to support cacao cultivation in an infant cacao industry. After going through the literature and the information on Taza’s website, it seems like they are the gold standard for a reason. Taza strives to create legitimate impact in their producer communities. We can’t fault Taza for their limited impact simply because they are a comparatively small company.


As a second case study we examine Lake Champlain Chocolates, a confectioner based in Burlington Vermont. From the start LCC and Taza appear to be from two different generations. Taza embodies the ideals and desires of the “process generation” prominently sporting the option, “learn” next to the, “buy” or, visit buttons on their homepage. This header sits over a slideshow of chocolate close-ups, machinery grinding beans and farmers growing cacao. The website expertly communicates that Taza values process as much as any millennial. LCC on the other hand, is a retail website. The homepage sports glossy images of neatly packaged seasonal gifts. Customers have to scroll to the bottom of the page and hunt through the fine print to find the “About Us” section. While this product-oriented approach to marketing denotes humility on LCC’s part, it misses the importance that current consumers place on a food’s background. On the face of it LCC is appears to be from the generation where luxury meant flavor and packaging, not a social conscience. However beneath the superficiality of websites, LCC and Taza may have much in common.


Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker is one of LCC’s sub-brands. Blue Bandana is a bean to bar chocolate maker, currently producing five, single origin bars. Started in 2012 by LCC’s, now CEO, Eric Lampman Blue Bandana partners with growers and cooperatives to provide consistent income while ensuring the highest quality cacao. One of the ways that Blue Bandana ensures that their partner-farmers are upholding high labor and environmental standards is through site visits. The below video shows follows funder Eric Lampman as he pays a visit to Anselmo Luc, a Guatemalan cacao producer.


I had the good fortune to speak with Nick Hadsel-Mares, the principle chocolate maker at Blue Bandana about the company and the bean to bar industry more generally.


Nick explained that Blue Bandana, and many other bean to bar makers are riding a wave of consumer demand. According to Nick, “Chocolate is a completely different landscape than it was ten years ago.” He added that, “Consumers have shifted, they expect a lot more transparency, they want Fair Trade and organic and are willing to pay a premium for it.” The new tide of consumer interest in transparency is one that Nick thinks is unlikely to end. When asked what drove Blue Bandana to work with a specific community he said, “Well firstly, it’s all about the beans, we’re a company after all and we need to produce exceptional chocolate bars. That being said, we care deeply about the working conditions and practices on our partner’s farms. If a producer is not transparent about their practices, we won’t work with them.” According to Nick, Blue Bandana’s commitments to ethical process and Direct Trade are not unique in the bean to bar community. From his years in the industry, Nick assured me of the earnestness and responsibility that bean to bar makers feel about their partners growing the cacao. Because Blue Bandana is much smaller than Taza, they don’t have the resources to produce an in-depth transparency report. However Nick assured me that part of their direct trade model is paying farmers well above the “Fair Trade” price for premium cacao.

After researching both companies and speaking to Nick, it appears this post is premised on a false dichotomy. Bean to bar chocolate makers might simultaneously impact their producer communities while also providing a product inline with consumers’ ethical standards. Because the bean to bar industry makes up an estimated .47% of the chocolate industry, their impact might go further than critics expect. Consumers are demanding more transparency and more ethical process. Though small, companies like Taza and Blue Bandana are validating that consumer interest. Some, including Nick, hope that Taza and Blue Bandana can teach the rest of the chocolate industry how to be “better” while still turning a profit. When evaluating these companies as consumers it is important to remember one thing; Blue Bandana and Taza never ask consumers to compromise on taste. Both companies are jointly driven by finding powerful and unique flavors while achieving a tangible benefit for their places of origin. Ethics aside, many would argue that the premium for these bars is justified by taste alone. However, knowing that farmers are paid a fair price only makes the bar that much sweeter.


Special thanks to Nick Hadsel-Mares who took time out of his busy schedule to chat. His skill as a chocolate maker is paralleled only by vast knowledge of the industry.


                       Work Cited

Kristy Foster Seachrist | Sep 09, 2016. “Georgia producer sets new world soybean yield record.” Corn and Soybean Digest. N.p., 21 Sept. 2016. Web. 05 May 2017.

Laudan, Rachel. “Plea for Culinary Modernism.pdf.” : n. pag. Print.

Mustapha, Kemi. “Taste of Child Labor Not so Sweet: A Crititue of Regulatory Approaches to Combating Child Labor Abuses by the U.S Chocolate Industry.” 1 (2010): n. pag. Print.

“Root Capital.” Root Capital. N.p., 03 May 2017. Web. 05 May 2017.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. N.p., 2011. Print.

Sylla, Samba Ndongo. The Fair Trade Scandal. N.p., 2014. Print.


Selling Bodies: The Influence of Chocolate Advertisements on Body Ideals and Disordered Eating

The average individual living in the United States encounters over 3,000 advertisements each day. Over the span of our lives, we will spend two years watching television commercials for various services, products and more (Kilbourne 2015). While the success of these advertisement campaigns varies, and is definitely subject to much discussion, it is clear that the chocolate industry has been tremendously successful in promoting its various products. In fact, chocolate has become such a desirable treat that there has even been a term coined for one who consumes significant amounts of chocolate, a “chocoholic.” However, these advertising campaigns are coming at an undeniable price. How do advertisements in general affect our public opinions, specifically surrounding issues pertaining to body image? Could it be that the prevalence of chocolate advertisements in our society may be having a negative impact on our body ideals? If so, to what extent? By closely examining research on the connection between media and eating disorders as well as analyzing a number of prevalent chocolate-related advertisements, it will become clear that the body ideals that we are creating as a society are inherently harmful and that these ideals are directly connected to the advertisements that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Presence of Unhealthy Body Image in our Society

In order to understand how chocolate advertisements have negatively affected our societal body image, it is important to first understand what the societal standards for beauty are at the moment. Body image is defined as, “the physical and cognitive representation of the body which includes values about how we should look along many dimensions (age, size, height, color, attractiveness, etc,)” (Jade). This definition is interesting because the focus is placed on perception, not on reality. For example, very frequently individuals who are at their ideal body weight and BMI for their height and age feel like they must gain or lose weight based on societal body standards. Body image is not rooted in science or health; it is purely determined by our media. “Body types, like clothing styles, go in and out of fashion, and are promoted by advertising,” (Kilbourne 2015). This further supports the fact that body ideals are completely arbitrary.

Unfortunately, there exists a destructive paradox between ideal body image and food advertisement. We are often shown photographs of attractive, skinny, toned men and women eating fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King or Sonic. Although this paradox exists for both men and women, chocolate advertisements are generally focused towards women, so for the purpose of this analysis, we will focus mainly on women. There exists a significant gap between what we view as “beauty” and what is achievable for the average individual. As a matter of fact, only 5% of women who are considered to be healthy are able to even achieve the societal ideal that the media has created (Kilbourne 2015). What is even more frightening is that this number is consistently decreasing, leading more than 95% of females to chase an ideal that is completely impossible for them to reach. Because the ideal is unattainable, this creates a society in which women are conditioned to hate their bodies no matter what. The fact that women are bombarded with constant reminders of what they “should” look like but are not able to achieve this leads to a decrease in self-esteem. This feeling of helplessness has led to an increase in the diagnosis of Bulimia Nervosa, an eating disorder in which individuals engage in a cycle of binging and purging in an attempt to manage their weight (Jade).

Marketing’s Impact on Societal Values

With a strong understanding of the prominence of body image issues in today’s society, we can now delve a bit more into how advertisements, specifically chocolate marketing, have led to these problematic body ideals. Advertising often can have the effect of “’normalizing’ values or behaviors” of the broader society (Make Wealth History). This is interesting because many people would assume that marketing would simply reflect our current values and societal mood rather than set it as this article asserts. One question that arises is how marketing can have such a tremendous impact on the way we view the world? How can a few well-placed ads completely change societal ideals?

The answer is that it is not really a few well-placed advertisements; advertising is a multibillion-dollar market. Given that food accounts for only 12.5% of all purchases, it would stand to reason that it would not be a significant advertiser (Story and French 2004). However, the food industry is the second largest advertiser in all of consumer goods (Story and French 2004). In fact, over half of the commercials in any given hour of television programming are designated to food products (Story and French 2004). Of the average food company budget, upwards of 75% is designated specifically to advertising and marketing (Story and French 2004). This is an obscene number. Many would assume that the vast majority of these budgets would be devoted to the actual development and production of quality goods, but this is clearly not the case.

The important thing to remember is that at the end of the day, the food industry is a business and they are ultimately out to increase their profit through any means necessary. Companies have two responsibilities: one to their consumers to produce beneficial, enjoyable products and one to their shareholders to maximize profits. Unfortunately, the former will almost always take a backseat to the latter. One way that companies do this is by creating advertisements that highlight personal insecurities and inadequacies; the aim is to make consumers believe the product is important or that it will better their lives in some way, compensating for something they lack. For example, if a marketing campaign includes a model with a perfect smile, we may associate the advertised product with a great smile regardless of whether or not there is any actual connection between the product and our smiles. While companies may claim that their advertisements have no negative impacts, this is not the case. We are exposed to these images on such a constant basis that they have significant influence over our priorities as a society. Although this is an unfortunate reality, the advertisers have no reason to change because as long as these campaigns are creating demand, they will continue to employ them no matter how problematic the societal consequences.

 Chocolate Advertisements

Having discussed the implications of advertising campaigns and marketing on our cultural psyche, we can now analyze a few chocolate advertisements and how they negatively impact societal body ideals. Because most chocolate advertisements are targeted at the female-identifying population, we will focus mainly on those such marketing campaigns. However, for good measure, we will include one male implied advertisement.

Advertisement 1:

Retrieved from Pintrest.

In this advertisement, a few things pop out immediately. First of all, the viewer is meant to notice the extravagant curves of the model; the round shape of her buttocks, the side of her breasts peeking out. You can quite literally see the curves in her body. Additionally, it is interesting to note that you can also see her angel bones very prominently as well as the small of her back. These are all signs of skinniness, a modern desirable characteristic among both men and women. Also, there appears to be an almost natural shine to her skin as well. Finally, notice that the consumer cannot see the model’s face. Because you cannot see what she looks like, this advertisement seems to be subtly suggesting that you too could look like this woman. Since she is quite literally made of chocolate, the psychological implication is that eating chocolate can lead to this type of physique.

Advertisement 2:

Retrieved from Pintrest.

This advertisement is somewhat less explicit with its body image narrative, although it is most definitely still present. For one, look at the incredibly defined cheekbones of the model. This is something that is very desirable among females under today’s body ideals. Additionally, she has very slender, long fingers. Her lips are thin as well. All of this is indicative of the ever-present “thin ideal.” Additionally, her appearance is nearly flawless. This conveys the idea that chocolate allows women to achieve this impossible perfection or that women who are “perfect” eat chocolate. The advertisement works mainly through connections, much subtler than the first advertisement.

Advertisement 3:

Retrieved from Pintrest.

This image shows a nude woman bathing in melted chocolate. As seen in the first advertisement, she is seemingly very fit, showing very little excess fat on her figure. Her arms appear long and slender as is the rest of her body. If you look closely, you can see the outline of a very toned stomach. The chocolate is placed very strategically, accenting the model’s curves, reminiscent of the first advertisement, further strengthening the association between being thin and chocolate. The expression on her face is one of bliss and calm. Interestingly, this image seems to combine the messages of the previous two—the perfect physical presentation as well as the idea of being very “put-together.”

Advertisement 4:

Retrieved from Coloribus

The fourth and final advertisement seems to vary greatly from the first three for obvious reasons: the model is a male. In this advertisement, the consumer can see the torso of a man with incredibly defined abdominal muscles. The body ideal for men is often seen as muscular, tall, and lean. This man embodies all of those characteristics. If you look at the tagline of this advertisement, it says “six packs melt a girl’s heart. Dove Chocolate.” This carries a few implications. First of all, the direct one is that since Dove is marketing a six-pack of chocolate, that the chocolate is quite desirable to women. However, this is clearly not the main focus. While the previous three advertisements can negatively impact female body image, this one is incredibly problematic for men. It insinuates that a “six pack” or defined stomach muscles are the key to any woman’s heart. Even further, it can be taken to imply that without them, it could prove difficult to find a significant other. Because abdominal muscle definition is based almost entirely on genetics and body composition, two things over which we as humans have no control, this image enforces very unhealthy body image ideals among men.

Throughout all four advertisements, there is one common idea: there is an inherent connection between chocolate and looking this good and being fit. The implication that there is any connection between chocolate and toned abs or defined cheekbones is ludicrous, and yet that is what we are being told subliminally. This perfectly demonstrates the problem with these chocolate advertisements and marketing campaign in general: they only provide a glimpse of an individual or a product. Advertisements are meant to show thirty seconds of an ideal life—a snapshot—but our lives are not isolated to thirty-second frames. We are bombarded with perfect individuals to whom we are forced to compare ourselves. But this is not a level playing field. We are essentially comparing their highlights to our behind the scenes work. We see their perfect figures and bulging muscles and assume that if we work hard enough, we can achieve those as well. However, as mentioned earlier, a vast majority of individuals are not physically able to reach the “body ideal” at all which makes enforcing it all the more dangerous.


Retrieved from NerdPrint.

Although modern advertising is incredibly problematic, there is a very easy fix: instead of selling bodies, stick to selling products. The focus of advertising campaigns does not have to be the individual who is representing the product. In order to demonstrate this point, observe this fantastic Cadbury advertisement. This chocolate looks absolutely delectable! It is so smooth that the light reflects off of its surface, the caramel dripping out of the hollow center. As a consumer, I would argue that this image presents the product as markedly appealing than any of the other advertisements seen above. Granted, the subliminal lifestyles that are implicated by the other four images are subconsciously appealing, but given their overwhelmingly negative societal impacts, it is more important for companies to focus on products, not people.


Chocolate companies cannot be blamed for creating these problematic body ideals, but they definitely are guilty of propagating them. By running marketing campaigns that include images such as the ones analyzed in this post, they feed on our deeply-seeded body insecurities. The more people see these images, the more desperate they become to look like the models, sometimes engaging in disordered eating because they believe that to be the only way that they can achieve these impossible body standards. By analyzing multiple chocolate advertising campaigns in conjunction with research on the prevalence of eating disorders in modern society, it becomes clear that there is an undeniable causal relationship. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorder Association, “Numerous correlational and experimental studies have linked exposure to the thin ideal in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal, and disordered eating among women,” (National Eating Disorder Association). Although chocolate companies are not solely responsible for propagating these ideas, they are often some of the most egregious offenders of such imagery. It is very seldom, if ever, that you will see a chocolate advertisement with a model who does not adhere to the thin ideal. However, if chocolate companies, and advertisers in general, were to focus less on the models and more on the products they are promoting, our society may begin to stray from these destructive beauty standards and allow people to forge healthy relationships with their bodies, and ultimately, themselves.


Kilbourne, Jean. “Advertising’s Toxic Effect on Eating and Body Image.” Harvard School of Public Health. (March 18, 2015). Retrieved from

Jade, Deanne. “The Media and Eating Disorders.” National Centre for Eating Disorders. Retrieved from

“The Cultural Impact of Advertising.” Make Wealth History. Retrieved from

Story, Mary and French, Simone. “Food Advertising and Marketing Directed at Children and Adolescents.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. (February 10, 2004). Retrieved from

“Media, Body Image and Eating Disorders.” National Eating Disorder Association. Retrieved from

Mahalo: The End of Sugar in Hawaii


Maui sugar cane fields

As I sit in Beat Brasserie, watching Maui sugar crystals disappear into my coffee, I realize that I’m consuming one of the last batches of Hawaiian sugar. The Hawaii Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) closed the last sugar plantation in Hawaii this past December and laid off nearly 700 workers(Solomon). This marks the end of the sugar industry in Hawaii, a place that Mark Twain once described as “the king of the sugar world”(Downes). Sugar wasn’t just a profitable enterprise, it became a way of life because it shaped Hawaii’s culture through land use, employment and ethnic diversity.

The sugar industry grew in Hawaii in the 1860’s because the Civil War cut off sugar supplies from the south(Flynn 302). Then, in 1876, plantations owners struck a deal with the Kingdom of Hawaii that removed tariffs on sugar exported to the U.S(Solomon). Sugar production increased exponentially and American planters couldn’t get enough. Sugar brought in immense wealth to Hawaii and powered politics on the islands. Plantation owners capitalized on this power and helped to overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893(Downes).

Plantation owners rushed to fill the demand for sugar with cheap labor. American consumption of sugar nearly doubled between 1880 and 1890 from 38 pounds of sucrose per person per year to over 70 pounds per person per year(Mintz 188). Plantation owners needed laborers and with the promise of a decent wage, workers from China, Japan, Brazil, and the Philippines immigrated in waves. These contract laborers were mostly young males who agreed to work for 5 years. At its peak in the 1930’s, 50,000 people were employed by sugar in Hawaii(Downes). Some returned home after their contracts expired, but many settled down and married into the community(“Hawaii’s First”). These immigrants shaped the unique ethnic makeup of Hawaii. This history is a source of pride for many residents of Hawaii and they carry on the legacy of their ancestors today. Teri Freitas Gorman, President of the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce stated:

“My ethnic heritage is what I call plantation pedigree. I’m almost in the order that they came: I’m Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese. And I’m Native Hawaiian as well”(Solomon).

This heritage is also important because as Dan Boylan from the University of Hawaii notes, “somehow Hawaii has realized a degree of racial harmony unknown in most parts of the world”(Kent xii). For example, interracial marriage was “unremarkable” long before Loving v. Virginia(Downes).


Due to this heritage, jobs on sugar plantations run generations deep. Mark Lopes, the harvest manager at HC&S, remembers, “I used to ride on the tractor with [my father] and that was pretty cool. And then my son, when he was young, I used to bring him out on the weekends. My granddaughter is not going to be able to experience that”(Solomon). These concerns are echoed by many in the community. The Hawaiian Homes Commissioner, Pua Canto, grew up in the plantation camps in Pu‘unēnē(Solomon). She fondly remembers her father tinkering with the intricate tools in the mill. Jobs were highly specialized and many worry about where the 675 laid off workers will go(Wood 2). For these workers and those like Pua, Gorman, and Lopes, who consider sugar as an integral part of their identity and the only skill set they have, the new era is daunting.

The mills created skills training programs that produced welders, electricians, mechanics, and more. These workers took their skills all over the islands. A former millright stated that, “Other than Pearl Harbor, the state has no other training facility for these skills”(Wood). This is a great loss to the island because the mills invested in the residents.

The impact of the end of the industry is also felt by businesses that supplied the mill with equipment, fertilizer, and irrigation supplies. Some companies had partnerships with HC&S for over 100 years(Solomon). Maui’s small farmers have also been affected because they can no longer benefit from the bulk orders of supplies from HC&S.

The absence of sugarcane also changes the landscape and experience of the islands. Dorothy Pyle used to be able to see the thousands of acres of sugar cane from her house. Now, she states:

“It’s changing us forever because I will never see 35,000 acres of agriculture there again. And so the whole feel of the island, that flying in over these fields and driving through them. It’s never going to be again”(Solomon).

Not only will the fields be missed, but the smell of molasses and the crackling from burning cane have been lost as well.

Dorothy Pyle looks out over the last cane harvest.

As the sugar industry becomes a part of the past, it is important to remember its sweeping impact on the Hawaiian economy, people and culture. For me, it is a reminder to think about the immense history bundled in a small packet of Maui sugar or whatever food I happen to be eating.

Works Cited:

Downes, Lawrence. “The Sun Finally Sets on Sugar Cane in Hawaii.” The New York Times [New York City], 16 Jan. 2017, Editorial Observer sec., Accessed 8 Mar. 2017.

“Hawaii’s First Chinese.” Hawaii History, Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Kent, Noel J. Hawaii, Islands under the Influence. Honolulu, U of Hawaii P, 1993.

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

Siler, Julia Flynn. Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America’s First Imperial Adventure. Grove/Atlantic, 2012.

Solomon, Molly. “The Final Days Of Hawaiian Sugar.” NPR: The Salt, 17 Dec. 2016. NPR, Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

—. “Maui Workers, Residents Say Goodbye To Sugar.” Hawaii Public Radio [Honolulu], 18 Nov. 2016. Hawaii Public Radio, Accessed 8 Mar. 2017.

—. “Sugar plantation closure marks end of a way of life in Hawaii.” Marketplace [Los Angeles, CA], 9 Dec. 2016, Sugar plantation closure marks end of a way of life in Hawaii. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Wood, Paul. “The End of Maui Sugarcane.” Maui No Ka Oi Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2017, Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.

Media Cited:

Thayer, Matt. “Maui.” 16 Nov. 2105,

—. Former HC&S employees Teddy Espeleta (right) and Frank Nakoa greet each other before Monday’s ceremony marking the last haul of sugar cane from the fields. 13 Dec. 2106,

Solomon, Molly. “Sugar plantation closure marks end of a way of life in Hawaii.” Marketplace [Los Angeles, CA], 9 Dec. 2016, Sugar plantation closure marks end of a way of life in Hawaii. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Guilty Pleasures of Chocolate in High Definition

Guilty Pleasures of Chocolate in High Definition


Alexis Parkin – Flickr

In her article, “Hunger as Ideology”, sociologist Susan Bordo claims that chocolate advertisements have long used the symbolism of the idealized female body because the advertisers are aware of the insecurities women have about their bodies (Bordo, 2000, p. 104). Susan Terrio claimed that ads reinforce the stereotype of the female being unable to resist chocolate and therefore surrender to temptation (Terrio, 2000, p. 253). In the advertisement below, one of the related concepts to surrender is portrayed as “Guilty Pleasure”. This image typifies the subtler brand of idealizing the female body (notice the breast shape covered in chocolate with a cherry for the nipple). Not satisfied with the impact of the imagery, the text goes on to reinforce the primal emotional reaction: witness flavors like “Love Hangover”, “Red Hot Lover” “Dangerous Liaison”, and “Afternoon Delight” (“Pleasures,” 2012, p. 1).
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 3.41.45 PM.png


Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 2.23.41 PM.png

Close up of graphic. Photo Credit:


In the following modified advertisement, the aim of the graphic is to take a phrase that has long been assigned a certain meaning (guilty pleasure as a sensual and suggestive meaning) and modify the meaning by promoting the rethinking of the words “guilty” and “Pleasure”. This is being done by stating that child labor (arguably slave labor) is responsible for at least some of the production of chocolate. This concept is married to the guilty pleasure meaning to form a new and (hopefully) powerful meaning and message to the consumer of chocolate. The strength of this approach is that, because of the familiarity of the “guilty pleasure” part of the message, there is a better chance for the new meaning to be found, rather than using the part about child labor by itself.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 4.39.09 PM.png
photo credit: via photopin (license)


Ultimately, this approach removes both the idealized female form, along with the connotation of feminine weakness for chocolate (if that is legitimate, this paper does not address) and replaces it with something completely different. Along with those concepts, the overt sexualization of chocolate is now missing, replaced with something much more disturbing to the eye and the senses. The subtle image of charged energy is now replaced with what seems to be an anonymous person hiding behind a basket. This image has nothing to do with the traditional forms of advertising chocolate, and therefore begin to break the stereotypes and phrases that serve as the foundation of thought structures related to chocolate. Ultimately, the combination of image and message evokes an emotion that is far removed from hunger, craving, sex, idealized physical bodies, innuendo and the privileged class. It is allowed into our mind’s eye because of the usurping of the “guilty pleasure” phrase, and therefore stands a higher chance to make an impression on the viewer.



Bordo, S. (2000). Hunger As Ideology. New York, NY: The New York Press.

Guilty Pleasures Four New Flavors. (2012). Retrieved from

Terrio, S. J. (2000). Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.




From Slavery to Child Labor: chocolate companies and moral ambiguity

The surface area of the earth on which cacao is planted and harvested has expanded greatly over the last few centuries. Indeed, although the cacao plant originated in Mesoamerica, Africa (as seen in the map below) has become by far the largest cacao-producing region in the world. Nevertheless, controversy has accompanied this great growth. In the early 1900s, worries about slavery on the cacao plantations of the Portuguese colony of Sao Tome (off of Africa’s central west coast) eventually led some British chocolate companies to boycott the island’s cacao; one hundred years later, allegations of child labor led to calls for boycotts of companies that bought cacao from other West African nations (Sartre, 2005; Higgs, 2012; Off, 2008). This shift in controversy surrounding the labor used to harvest cacao (from slavery to child labor) is the result of public relations considerations by chocolate companies.

World Cocoa Production – Africa has 72% of worldwide production
Map of Gulf of Guinea – Sao Tome and Ghana are seen here


In order to retain favor in the court of public opinion, companies eventually had to cease purchases from Sao Tome plantations that used slave labor. Some might argue that the Quaker religion of many of the chocolate company heads meant that their religious faith and concern for the needy had pushed them to reject making chocolate using the labor of slaves. However, before the extent of the slavery was made known to the public, many chocolate companies were keen on staying in Sao Tome. One of these most famous British companies was the Cadbury chocolate firm. William Cadbury (the head of the company at the time) had heard and read credible rumors of slavery on Sao Tome by 1901 (Higgs, 2012). Yet, he did not stop buying chocolate from the Portuguese colony until 8 years later, after multiple voyages, investigations, and meetings with other chocolate-makers confirmed these rumors (Higgs, 2012; Coe and Coe, 2013; Sartre 2015). Cadbury’s evident hesitation and reluctance to end his company’s purchase of cacao produced by slaves, shows that the business and image of the company was more important than any ethical considerations.

Photo credit:
Shackles used on slaves in Angola

Once the Cadbury Company, and other British Quaker chocolatiers, ceased purchasing cacao from Sao Tome, they looked to the British Gold Coast colony (now called Ghana) to satisfy the chocolate demand of their customers (Higgs, 2012). The Gold Coast provided a suitable alternative to Sao Tome and Principe because it had clear antislavery laws and relied on small landholders to grow cacao (Berlan, 2013). Although both Portugal and England had outlawed slavery by the early 1900s, the laws for the Gold Coast were clearer and stronger at the time (Berlan, 2013). This signaled to both the company and consumers, that Cadbury chocolates would not be made with slave labor. Another signal came from the labor practices in the Gold Coast. The reliance on small landholders meant that slavery (especially the plantation-style slavery present in Sao Tome and Principe) was very unlikely to develop (Berlan, 2013). Instead, farmers of smaller plots of land recruited family members and sharecroppers to work for them (Berlan, 2013). This resulted in controversy related to child labor.

Child labor

On one hand, child labor was seen as extremely exploitative. It is evident that many children working on the small plots of land on the Gold Coast and neighboring Côte d’Ivoire were mistreated (Berlan 2013). Most were not paid, they often missed school, and some were made to do strenuous, dangerous work (Berlan, 2013; Off, 2008; Ryan, 2011).
Child working on cacao farm

On the other hand, many reports about child labor seem to have been overblown, with great exaggerations in the numbers of children working in truly hazardous conditions (Berlan, 2013). Additionally, terms like “child slavery” and “child trafficking,” while certainly serious concepts and acts, are often misapplied to situations in which children are being trained to be the next generation of cacao farmers or undertaking a rite of passage to find work (Ryan, 2011). This broad categorization of child labor as a particular evil of the cacao industry also neglects to look at broader rates of child labor in society.

This ethical grey area of child labor differentiates it from slavery and makes it a much more manageable public relations issue. The move of the large, British chocolate corporations to Ghana, and then other West African countries, placed companies in a much more morally ambiguous position, where it was often difficult to know if child workers were truly being exploited. This allowed companies to deflect criticism – something that was not possible once evidence of the plantation slavery on Sao Tome had been revealed. By shifting away from buying cacao in an area where slavery was clearly present to an area where child labor was an issue, the chocolate corporations shifted from an illegal, negatively perceived practice to one where uncertainty abounded.


Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social sustainability in agriculture: An anthropological perspective on child labour in cocoa production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies 49.8 (2013): 1088-1100.

Coe, Sophie Dobzhansky, and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Vol. 29. London: Thames and Hudson, 2007.

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

Off, Carol. Bitter chocolate: Investigating the dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet. Vintage Canada, 2010.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate nations: Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa. Zed books, 2011.

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on trial: Slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Ohio University Press, 2005.

Sugar becomes the Opiate of the Masses


Sugar was introduced into the British Empire as a luxury of the rich, over time and across many uses, it found its way into the homes of the average man and also became a staple in the everyday diet. How and why this change occurred is of great importance into understanding the shift in the consumption of sugar. Sugar was introduced as a spice and medicine into the British household, but came to included three other uses: as a decoration, sweetener and preservative. As sugar moved down the list of its uses, it also had social and economic impacts. The progression of sugar usage effected consumption in the British society and caused the shift from sugar as a luxurious good to an opiate of the masses.

In the early decades of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Britain established Caribbean plantations for the sole purpose of growing sugar cane. Britain’s first attempt at doing this occurred upon the establishment of Jamestown in 1607 which was the first English colony in the New World (Mintz 36). Sugar cane was brought in 1619 as were the first African slaves to reach the English colony (Mintz 36). Unfortunately, the sugar cane would not grow. The British Empire was hard pressed to see this mission successful as there was a high demand for sugar at home.

Slaves working in a sugar cane plantation in British-West Indies
A Sugar Cane Plantation in the West Indies

The settlement of Barbados in 1627 proved to be the turning point in British attempts as production with the successful production of “clayed sugars” and “muscovado”. (Mintz 37). “The first British sugar islands was Barbados followed by St Kitts, Nevis, Antigua and Jamaica. Grenada and Trinidad were added to the bunch in the late 19th century” ( Sugar supply for Britain now came directly from her settlements in the West Indies and added drastically to the consumption of sugar at home as it was now more accessible. “As supply for sugar increased, England’s demands for sugar kept pace. So much so that productions on the islands were barely able to keep up” (Mintz 39). Britain was importing huge amounts of sugar and the condiment in question came to define the “English Character” (Mintz 39).

Sugar Mill, Standard Mill in the West Indies
Sugar Mill


The sugar trade was successful because it was a highly priced commodity regardless of the volatility of the sugar market, the demands for it rose as consumption did (  Sugar production increased as a direct correlation of its consumption. As availability of sugar rose in Britain, so did the many uses of sugar. The British households found new ways to incorporate sugar into their social lives.

British sugar consumption chart
British Sugar Consumption Chart

Mintz mentions five uses of sugar: 1) as medicine, 2) spice-condiment, 3) decorative material, 4) as a sweetener, 5) as a preservative. The use of sugar in these many forms although coming into usage progressively, also happened interchangeably. Sugar was first introduced into the British household as a Spice and Medicine, in this form, it remained a luxurious good only available to the rich. “The first written mention of sugar was in the pipe scrolls, the official records of royal income and expenditures in 1154-89(Mintz 82).  The quantities of sugar at this time were relatively small and since this was an account of the expenditures of the rich, meant that only this class of people could afford to consume sugar. “By the thirteenth century, sugar was still being sold by the loaf and by the pound and although still quite pricey and only accessible to the rich, it was now available even in the remotest areas” (Mintz 82). The shift from a luxury to a commodity available to all would happen in the sixteenth and seventeenth century and with the introduction of other uses of sugar.


In the seventeenth century, the use of sugar as a spice declined and this time period, “saw the prices, supplies and customary uses of sugar change rapidly” (Mintz 86). Sugar featured as a decorative item after this time and was not only available to the noble and rich but now made its way downward to the middle class. As sugar progressed in the list of uses, so did the decline in its exclusiveness and the more prolific it became, the more it was consumed by all. Sugar consumption also had economic ramification as well, “the decline in sugar importance went hand in hand with its increase in economic and dietary importance” (Mintz 95). As sugar became more plentiful, it now became available to the poor.

Sugar became available to the poor in the form of a sweetener and preservative; this accessibility would be responsible for the upward swing of the consumption of sugar. The rise of chocolate, tea and coffee into the British household massively contributed to the large amount of sugar consumption. The use of sugar as a sweetener in tea propelled the “Sugar Equalization Act” which removed the import tariff and lowered the price of sugar of which the direct result was the proliferation of sugar everywhere ( The poor used sugar not only as a sweetener but also to supplement their diets as well.

As sugar become more widely used in many forms, it made its way into the household of all citizens regardless of class, this was directly responsible in the shift of sugar consumption in the British society. Sugar in the form of a sweetener and preservative became an everyday commodity, which meant that consumption would greatly rise as it permeated every single dish that was eaten by the British citizens. This standard has come to hold true across the world as sugar features in every single dietary item we consume. However, there is a marked difference in the reception of this commodity, at some point highly revered, sugar is now a social pariah, an evil that has been thrust upon society and should be eradicated.



Scholarly Sources: Sugar In The Atlantic World. 1923. Document. 21 March 2016.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York: Penguin, 1985. 274. Print.

Multimedia Sources:, land of the. Sugar Act. n.d. image. 21 March 2016. Sugar In The Atlantic World. 1923. image. 21 March 2016. The Inconvenient Truth about Sugar Consumption. 1 May 2014. image. 21 March 2016.





















Slave-free Sugar: exploring the economic linkages between sugar, British industrialization, and abolition

As the global commodification of sugar served to enrich European markets, laying the groundwork for an industrialized and pre-capitalist economy, the discourse around the abolition of slavery also shifted. The growing efficacy of arguments for the abolishment of slavery coincided with the emergence of technological advances and changed  labor needs. In short, as the efficiencies around sugar production increased to drastically decrease the amount of human capital required in its production, the need for slave labor diminished.

For example, the scholar Eric Williams, in what is now referred to as the “Williams Thesis”, argued that central to the development of Britain’s economy into a capitalist and industrial one was its accumulation of economic surplus through slavery and that it was the decline of the  sugar economy rather  than morality that led to Britain’s abolishment  of slavery and slave trade in the British West Indies. [1] In Capitalism and Slavery, it was “the commercial capitalism of the eighteenth century developed the wealth of Europe by means of slavery and monopoly. But in so doing it helped to create the industrial capitalism of the nineteenth century, which turned round and destroyed the power of commercial capitalism, slavery” explains Williams. [2] In Sweetness and Power, Mintz explains that during debates against and for both the slave trade and slavery, the future of Britain’s sugar production figured into such discussions. [3] (Mintz, 1985, p. 68)

Not all scholars shared Williams view, for example Solow explains how Eltis and Engerman, respected scholars, countered that Britain’s sugar industry when compared to its others was not its most dominant nor did it have strongest ties to Europe’s economic growth and development. [4] (Solow, 2014, p. 49) While the economic debate around the linkages between Atlantic trade and the industrialization of Britain are contested, scholars like Inikori have clarified that the central concern of Capitalism and Slavery was Williams exploration of the causality between “between industrial capitalism in England and the abolition of the slave trade and slavery by the British government” [5] (Inikori, 2012, p. 14) and demonstrate the overall economic basis of  British abolition. [6]  

On the other hand, economic linkage between slavery and sugar consumption in Britain was very much in the public consciousness; for abolitionists, it was a link they attempted to break through a campaign of public awareness, consumer activism through the boycott of sugar from the British West Indies. [7] (Carmichael, 2015, p. 8) In protesting the horrors of slavery, abolitionists called upon the British people to abstain from consuming and buying sugar from the British West Indies, thought to be derived from slave labor,  to undermine the economic foundations of slavery through collective action. [8] (p. 25)

Changing consumer habits based on increasing consumer awareness of how  a product was produced or not produced was central to the consumer’s economic resistance to slavery, which included buycotts. For example, a strategy adopted included other colonial sugar producers marketing their product as “free sugar” signaling to consumers that the commodity was derived from non-slave labor which may have correlated with “positive brand association (Figure 1). [9] (p. 67) This technique is not too dissimilar from today’s usage of certifications of the ethical and sustainably sourced/produced products, like coffee and chocolate for example. 

Figure 1. East India Sugar Bowl

Finally, the development of print culture introduced new strategies for promoting the boycott campaign included literary and visual materials to shape the public discourse. [10] (p. 26) For example, in 1791 James Gillray released “Barbarities in the West Indies‟ a cartoon satirising horrors and atrocities of sugar slavery (Figure 2) , the image worked to make explicit the link between human suffering  and violence  through the institution of slavery and sugar sourced from the British West Indies.

NPG D12417; 'Barbarities in the West Indies' by James Gillray, published by  Hannah Humphrey
Figure 2. Barbarities in the West Indies, by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, hand-coloured etching, published 23 April 1791 (NGP D12417)

All in all,  historical scholars continue to debate to what extent sugar played a role in Britain’s industrialization and the emergence of capitalism, arguing primarily the economic importance of sugar to Britain overall. However, even while this is the  subject of ongoing  historical debate, it may be reasonably inferred that for many British consumers, the economic link between sugar and their consumer behavior  and consumption habits  was well understood. This is most easily demonstrated in their resistance to slavery using economic strategies like the boycott of British West India sugar and buycott East India sugar. This would become one of the earliest examples of consumer and food activism. 


[1] Selwyn H. H. Carrington. (2003). Capitalism & Slavery and Caribbean Historiography: An Evaluation. The Journal of African American History, 88(3), 304–312.

[2] Williams, Eric (2015-09-17). Capitalism and Slavery (Kindle Locations 5839-5843). Kindle Edition.

[3] Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin.

[4] Solow, B. L. (2014). The Economic Consequences of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

[5] Inikori, J. E. (2002). Africans and the industrial revolution in England: A study in international trade and economic development. New York: Cambridge University Press.

[6]  Ibid.

[7] Carmichael, L. (2015). Fetishism and the Moral Marketplace: How Abolitionist Sugar Boycotts in the 1790s Defined British Consumers and the West Indian” Other” (Master’s Thesis,Victoria University of Wellington). Retrieved from

[8]  Ibid.

[9] Ibid.


Carmichael, L. (2015). Fetishism and the Moral Marketplace: How Abolitionist Sugar Boycotts in the 1790s Defined British Consumers and the West Indian” Other” (Master’s Thesis,Victoria University of Wellington). Retrieved from

Inikori, J. E. (2002). Africans and the industrial revolution in England: A study in international trade and economic development. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin.

Selwyn H. H. Carrington. (2003). Capitalism & Slavery and Caribbean Historiography: An Evaluation. The Journal of African American History, 88(3), 304–312.

Solow, B. L. (2014). The Economic Consequences of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Williams, Eric (2015-09-17). Capitalism and Slavery (Kindle Locations 5839-5843). Kindle Edition.


Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Cacao Production

While theobroma cacao quite literally derives to mean “food of the gods,” cacao has always been created by the labor of the people. Thus, the spread and continued production of cacao from its Mesoamerican origins is somewhat surprising and perhaps very telling. Mintz, when examining the closely related food sugar, remarked that examining these products demonstrate “how the world changes from what it was to what it may become, and how it manages at the same time to stay in certain regards very much the same” (Mintz, 1985; xxix). This is remarkably true when looking at the production of cacao. Comparing the difference and similarities of cacao in the Pre-Columbia era, era of colonization and industrialization reveals much about chocolate’s importance as a foodstuff.

First, examine the differences between the eras, as the differences reflect how production changed to reflect societies’ preferences and roles for cacao. Perhaps the most obvious difference between Pre-Columbian and the later eras of cacao production is the scale and location of the farms. Early cacao was grown in modest garden-style farms, planted near forests or streams (Coe & Coe, 1996). It is likely that while cacao beans were used as money, natives during this era were more focused on sustenance farming. And it was natives doing the farming – importantly – for their own family or city, not on any grand scale.

At first, it might be tempting to argue that they simply lacked the farming knowledge of the later eras, but Pre-Columbian peoples had the knowledge and ability to breed the cacao trees to produce bigger, higher yielding pods (Presilla, 2009; 23). Thus, one must consider that natives were limited by some other factor. One possibility may be that the geographic region for cacao was rather small (see map) and cacao required extensive labor to expand; thus, efforts were expended in areas outside of cacao.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 6.02.40 PM.png
Mesoamerican Growing Region

The early encounters of the Old World with chocolate did not initially push the production of chocolate. The Spanish claimed it was “a bitter drink for pigs” (Fiegl, 2008; Smithsonian) and as such, it was eaten sparingly in the 1500-1600s. After the addition of sugar made chocolate more palatable, however, the demand for chocolate exploded. Chocolate became more than a foods stuff (Mintz, 1985; 108-111); it became a status symbol that rich across Europe would use to demonstrate their wealth and importance. This lead to the creation of large, neatly manicures plantation style farms for cacao (Coe & Coe, 1996). This timeline corresponds with the decline of Mesoamerican farming and, as such, the farming was pushed towards South America (Presilla, 2009; 28), which was in control of the Spanish and Portuguese.

Plantation – neat rows of cacao trees at fruit bearing age (4 years old)

Unfortunately, not only was there a decline in Mesoamerican farming, but there was a decline in native people as well. During early colonization, natives died out in massive quantities due to Old World diseases – at the same time demand for chocolate skyrocketed in Europe (Presilla, 2009; 33). This, as well as the desire for sugar, created the demand for massive numbers of slaves from Africa. They were imported by the millions as a “false commodity” and did the both back breaking and highly skilled labor required by these plantations. This, as well as the location of the cacao, is a departure from the Pre-Columbian era. Whereas natives would have tended to their own trees and paid taxes in their products, now slaves from Africa were producing the bulk of the world’s cacao. Chocolate, once a Mesoamerican product, had become an expensive European desire.

This dynamic between chocolate and slavery, perhaps surprisingly, continues will into the 1900s. Even after slavery was abolished in much of the New World between 1834-1888, it was left to thrive in other regions of the world. During the era of industrialization, chocolate gained a new world capital – Africa. As production costs rose in South America, cacao production was transferred to the cheaper Africa as a means of keeping up with demands in Europe. Lest anyone think otherwise, slave owning “was common” on cacao plantations and even owners of chocolate companies were aware of its existence (Satre, 2005; 4). Men and women were beaten and flogged, set upon by dogs, and likely to work until they died on the plantations (Satre, 2005; 7-11). In this way, the location of the plantations changed from the previous era, but not the people who worked them and produced the cacao.

However, it is important to note that people were outraged when they discovered the chocolate had been produced illegally. In Britain, people protested due to the slow action taken by the chocolate companies (Satre, 2005; 14). Higgs (2012) notes that there was great backlash against slave chocolate. This reflects a second change in society with regards to chocolate. It no longer was the food of the rich and powerful and social mistreatment and injustice to get it were not ok; chocolate was a food of the people. Tracing this history of cacao location mimics something Mintz said about sugar quite strongly, and indeed applies here: at first chocolate (and sugar) was a rarity from afar, then it was an expensive commodity from overseas, and finally became an inexpensive everyday commodity bought and sold in a world-wide free market (Mintz, 1985, 196-197).

There is one glaring similarity in this narrative of cacao from the Pre-Columbian to Industrial era – cacao has always been produced in much the same exact way. Modern technology has allowed for minor changes, like a continual harvest, but the plant remains as temperamental as it ever was (Coe & Coe, 1996). No matter the new technology, however, the steps for harvest have always been the same: fermentation, drying, roasting, and winnowing (Coe & Coe, 1996). It even looks the same – it is largely done by hand with many of the same tools. So cacao is a relatively stable product that has changed location and type of labor over time. In this way, it is uniquely able to highlight parts of society while remaining a constant itself.


Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007[1996]. The True History of Chocolate. pp. 1-105

Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate. pp. 1-160

Mintz, Sidney W. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power. pp. xv-200

Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. pp. 1- 32, 73-99

Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. pp. 133- 165

Goody, Jack. 2013[1982]. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” pp. 72-88

Fiegel. (2008, March 1). A Brief History of Chocolate. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from