Category Archives: Multimedia Essay 3

The Ethical and Economic Rationale for Selling Fair Trade Chocolate

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

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

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

Cocoa com
Cocoa prices

 

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

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

Fair Trade orGANIZATIONS
Fair Trade logos

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trader Joe’s

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

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

CVS / Rite Aid

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

CVS

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

Rite Aid

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

Key Food

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

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

 

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

 

Works cited

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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The Tasty History of Chocolate

Chocolate.jpg

We’re all familiar with what chocolate is. Just walk into your local grocery store and you’ll encounter an array of chocolate brands ranging from Snickers to Kit-Kat to Hershey Bars. No matter where you go, chocolate is ubiquitous, and the various amount of chocolate that these stores have to offer is a sign that chocolate is here to stay. We, however, know only the surface level of what chocolate really is, and more importantly, where it comes from.

Take a look at the different brands that serve their own signature confection: some, like Hershey’s Kisses, taste more milky and sweet, while others like dark chocolate have a more dry and musky taste. With all these different types of chocolate that exists, we are left wondering what kind of magical sorcery goes into the making and packaging of chocolate. Does chocolate taste sweet right from the cacao pods? Or are they actually touched by the gods themselves? What exactly is chocolate, for Christ sakes?

The answer is actually more complicated. Chocolate, as it turns out, is a product of a large and complex supply chain operated by several multinational conglomerates. These conglomerates operate in a majority of African nations. Ghana and Ivory Coast, for example, produce 60% of all cacao in the world. As such, these conglomerates have a history of exploiting third-world countries and have successfully distorted our understanding of chocolate.

So how did we get here in the first place? And most importantly, if big chocolate companies are responsible for what we perceive as chocolate, what exactly is chocolate? It’s exact history?

I wanted to take those questions and explore the history of chocolate in a more tangible way. To do this, I decided to throw a chocolate-tasting party for a couple of friends of mine. For this project, I made chocolate from those consumed during the Mesoamerican era all the way to the present day so that we can taste and observe how chocolate transformed across time. I used recipes found from credible, scholarly sources so that I can replicate them as close to the original as possible. In addition to our experience tasting the chocolate, I also contextualized the history of chocolate from its respective time to offer insights to the importance of chocolate.

Sure, anyone can drink Mesoamerican chocolate loaded with Latin spices. But with a bit of historical context, one can come to learn that the said drink actually holds deeper historical meanings that’s tethered to ancient religious rituals and the complex societal norms of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. This contextualization is important if we want to truly understand what chocolate meant to Mesoamericans and early Europeans as it absolutely enriches our chocolate-tasting experience. I know it did for my friends.

When I first approached the idea of this project, I didn’t know exactly how far I wanted to go back in time in terms of the history of chocolate. Chocolate has existed well over 3,000 years ago since the dawn of the Olmec civilization, so I needed to find a simpler and more relevant time frame for this project (Coe, 552). As such, I decided to make and test chocolate from three distinct, relevant eras: Chocolate from the Aztec era, the industrial era, and finally the modern era.

25331-Xocolatl-Spicy-Aztec-Hot-Chocolate.jpg

While chocolate is easily accessible to anyone today, chocolate during the early days of the Aztec era was considered to be highly valuable. Ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and the Aztecs used chocolate alongside betrothals, religious rituals, and wedding ceremonies, while cacao pods were even used as currencies with value similar to that of gold (Marcy, 14). In essence, they believed that chocolate was the “food of gods.” This perception of chocolate ultimately gave the impression that chocolate was associated with high status, and that only those among the aristocrats and noblemen were “worthy” enough to consume the peculiar concoction. As Spanish missionary Bernadino de Sahagun said while observing pre-conquest customs: “if he who drank [chocolate] were a common person… it was taken as a bad omen” (Marcy, 14).

Chocolate during the Aztec era was a drink based on the mixture of cacao and water with “achiote to give it a reddish tint, chili peppers for a spicy edge, and wild bee honey for sweetening effect” (Marcy, 14). I mixed in all of the ingredients together in a bowl and with the right amount of stir, our concoction seemed to take form. We made sure that the final product was “finely ground, soft, foamy, and reddish bitter”, just like how the Mesoamericans took it (Marcy, 14). The first thing we noticed about the drink was the smell: the drink gave way to a spicy, pungent, chocolate-like aroma that was very distinct from a store-bought chocolate bar. It was deprived of that sweet, sugar-like scent from chocolate that makes one’s mouth salivate, similar to the smell that comes from, say, a Hershey’s bar.

But our reaction to the smell was vastly different to the actual taste. Immediately, all of our faces winced from the unfamiliar taste that was this drink. As we downed our first gulp, our faces shriveled, and our mouths immediately receded inwards as if we ate an intense sour patch. The taste was a confusing combination of sweet and spicy thanks to the honey and chili pepper. Almost reflexively, we all took a huge sip of water to hydrate our dry mouths. Of all the things I’ve eaten in my life, I have never reacted so strongly as I had for this concoction. In this man vs. food scenario, food definitely won.

Almost immediately, we realized that the drink was distinctly red. Of course, it was the addition of chili pepper and achiote, a seed that gives off a yellowish-red color, but there is a deeper meaning to this. Mesoamericans added red food-coloring to chocolate to make it look like human blood, suggesting that they regarded chocolate as a kind of natural life force. This purposeful addition of red coloring meant that chocolate was a sacred drink used only for special, mostly religious-affiliated purposes, almost akin to the tradition of the Eucharist in the Catholic faith. In addition, it can be inferred that the Spaniards’ obsession over Mesoamerica’s mystical worshipping of chocolate played a part in the zeitgeist of Europe’s fascination of the New World, more specifically its obsessive search for fabled legends such as El Dorado in Central America. In a way, chocolate can be used as a lens to understand Europeans’ motives for coming to the Americas. Perhaps Spaniards, then, continued to regard chocolate so highly after they brought it back to Europe because it subconsciously reflected their values and ambitions during the exploration era.

Contrary to popular beliefs, early chocolate in Europe, more specifically those in the 16thand 17thcentury, was similar to the kind of chocolate that Mesoamericans consumed. The only difference was that Europeans added sugar to their chocolate instead of honey as sugar was plenty. This is important to note because of the false notion that early explorers had to calibrate the taste of chocolate in order to make it more appealing to Europeans. In reality, Europeans embraced the new drink and, rather than transforming the confection, they tried to “simulate [the] original tastes” (Marcy, 16).

What did change, however, was the role that chocolate played in society. While Europeans kept the association of chocolate to the noble rankings, they relegated it from a divine food associated with deity-worshipping to a social activity that defined the elite European echelon. This distinction between Mesoamerican chocolate and European chocolate is important to note. This is where we see the birth of what we now know today as chocolate—the sweet confection consumed for pleasure rather than used for religious purposes.

However, the industrial revolution changed the chocolate business forever. The invention of automatic machineries made chocolate production more feasible and the chocolate business more profitable. Like the story of Prometheus from the Greek legends, the Industrial Revolution would steal the elite confection overnight and bring it down to the common people. In 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten, with the help of his father Casparus, discovered a way to separate cacao butter and powder. Houten wanted to make chocolate more soluble so that people at home could easily make chocolate just by adding hot water or milk. To do this, Houten invented the cocoa press method which allows cocoa solids to separate from cocoa butter by adding alkali salt. The Dutch Process Chocolate, as he called his new invention, allowed for chocolate to be eaten as a solid rather than in the traditional liquid form.

In 1875, Daniel Peter, with his neighbor Henri Nestle, invented a way to blend milk with chocolate. They also blended in sugar in lieu of honey. Their experiment proved to be a wild success in Europe and, in 1905, the Nestle’s Chocolate Company was founded.

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Our second chocolate-tasting involved three pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate morsels. For starters, these chocolates looked vastly different from the Aztec chocolate that we sampled earlier: they were light, solid, and cone-shaped with a swirled-finish on the top. While we figured that these were probably made in an obscure factory, the yellow packaging and the Toll House logo with the house insignia gave a positive impression. In essence, all of these extra details were carefully crafted to convince consumers that this company was credible.

The chocolate morsels tasted like any other chocolate I’ve had before. It was sweet, creamy, and melted right away. But when contrasted with the Aztec chocolate that I had earlier, I could taste the obvious difference. The chocolate fragrance was still there save for the spice from the chili pepper, thick sweetness from the honey, and the molasses-like liquid texture. One of my friends pointed out that we were simply eating the chocolate out of our hands instead of drinking it from a sacred gourd, suggesting that the symbolic meanings behind chocolate became obviously relegated once companies started manufacturing it.

world-cocoa-production.jpg

Our final chocolate-tasting product came from Tony’s Chocolonely, a 21stcentury chocolate company based in Amsterdam, Netherlands dedicated to becoming a “100% slave free chocolate industry” (Lidz-Ama). The company was founded as a response to the increasing number of slavery and human trafficking in cacao plantations, particularly those in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where 60% of all cacao production is made. While the advent of industrialization made way for easily-accessible, commercial chocolate, it also encouraged some of mankind’s worst impulses. According to the grassroot organization, Slave Free Chocolate, there are 5 to 6 million cocoa farmers worldwide with 70 percent of all cacao coming from West Africa (Slave Free Chocolate). Worst of all, over 9 million children are working on cacao farms as slaves and are being trafficked every day. We have now become complicit to a supply chain that exploits poor African laborers.

I wanted to see what the future tastes like if more companies commit to a slave-free, chocolate making practice. For the final tasting, I bought Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Chocolate 51% with Almonds & Sea Salt from Amazon. Immediately, I realized that the chocolate cost more than a regular Hershey bar: a 180g bar costs $10 compared to a $2 Hershey bar. I deduced that the slave-free bar was more expensive because the company doesn’t have the kind of sophisticated supply chain that big conglomerates use to cut prices. But still, it’s a small price to pay to support for a noble goal.

bar.png

In all honesty, I thought the taste didn’t taste any different from, say, Lindt’s chocolate, which brands itself as a premium chocolate brand. It was quite sweet and bitter, like any dark chocolate, and went down smoothly. The only difference that I can tell, however, was the feeling of not having a guilty conscience from eating a slave-free chocolate. I’m not sure if that enhanced the flavor or anything, but it definitely eased my conscience after having spent an entire semester mind blown that every chocolate I’ve ever eaten was made from exploiting entire continents. Also, it was delicious.

That about wraps up my chocolate-tasting party. I am so glad that I was able to take everything I learned in class and apply it to this experience. I learned that chocolate transformed dramatically over the course of history, and not just the taste and texture but also its meaning in society. What was once a sacred item used to worship deities is now a sinful delicacy enjoyed by the mass. Pandora’s box has been opened, and we’re enjoying this sinful delicacy by the mass.  reaping all the benefits of this delicious treat.

However, it has come at the cost of human suffering and degradation. Perhaps now it’s time that we as a society start asking the hard questions: Is this all worth it? How long are we going to turn a blind eye to the slave laborers in African countries who put the chocolate in bars? This is not to say that chocolate is a bad thing; like everything else that we have done in history, we took one idea and made it into another. We took an obscure ancient drink and turned it into the most beloved delicacy in the world. That is a testament to our inventiveness. Our impulse to experiment and create new things. In other words, we shouldn’t feel guilty about eating chocolate but rather we should embrace it and even celebrate it. But as we continue to enjoy this delicacy, we should keep in mind the giant companies that exploit poor and defenseless laborers. We need to find better alternatives to produce chocolate, and with more slave-free chocolate companies emerging today, the future is looking sweeter.

 

 

Work Cited

Appiah, Lidz-Ama. “Slave-Free Chocolate: A Not-So-Guilty Pleasure.” CNN, 17 Jun. 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/02/world/tonys-chocolonely-slavery-free-chocolate/index.html

Coe, Michael. D. Coe, Sophie, D. “The True History of Chocolate.” Economic Botany, vol. 54, no. 4, 2000, pp. 552-553.

Norton, Marcy. “Conquests of Chocolate.” Magazine of History, vol. 18, no. 3, 2004, pp. 14-17.

Slave Free Chocolate. Slave Free Chocolate Organization. 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chocolate Renaisscance in Mexico City

Find yourself in Mexico City (CDMX) and you may be overwhelmed with the current culinary scene, namely the exploding revival of one of the country’s oldest exports–cacao. Along the tree-lined streets of the La Condesa neighborhood, next to art deco apartment buildings and vegan cafés, you’ll find yourself among myriad contemporary chocolate shops headed by a new class of Mexican chocolatiers. Head to Mercado Jamaica, one of the city’s oldest traditional public markets, and you may find it hard to resist the allure of seven different types of mole–each made with a distinct combination of cacao and chili. Pop into the city’s recently opened chocolate museum, MUCHO Museo del Chocolate, and sample a mix of traditional chocolate-maiz drinks and triple chocolate tamales. Even a stop into the local Sumesa supermarket yields a unique assortment of both traditional brands like Nestle and Hershey’s and the new artisanal elite. This is where I found myself this week when a last-minute reading period trip to CDMX landed me in one of the hotspots of cacao and chocolate history. Digging deeper into the roots of Mexican chocolate, I visited museums and supermarkets, conducted tastings, and sampled as much as I could get my hands on. In doing so I noted a renaissance of sorts, with the chocolate landscape becoming increasingly dominated by a revival of Mesoamerican techniques and traditions.

An Enduring History

Long before the introduction of foodstuffs like sugar and milk by the Europeans, cacao was an integral element of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultural life. The Olmec civilization of the Mexican Gulf Coast, known for their large head sculptures and use of jade, was originally believed to have been the first one to domesticate cacao–with the Mixe-Zoquean word kakawa coming into use as early as 1000 B.C. It was not until 2006 that Hershey Foods chemist W. Jeffrey Hurst conducted residue analysis on archaeological ceramics and discovered that pre-Olmec villagers of the Chiapas plain in the Soconusco region had actually been some of the first to turn the bean into chocolate nearly 38 centuries ago. As Michael and Sophie Coe point out in their seminal work A True History of Chocolate, the Theobroma cacao tree likely originated in the northwest Amazon basin and was exploited for is sweet pulp before pre-Olmec villagers in Chiapas found a means of turning it into something more reminiscent of modern chocolate.[i] Emerging cultures in other areas of modern-day Mexico grasped on to this new foodstuff, namely the Maya who despite flourishing several centuries after the Olmecs nonetheless employed their tradition of drinking chocolate. Mayan writings the Popol Vuh, as well as the Dresden Codex, include mentions of cacao in creation narratives, and the custom of combining cacao, water, and maize to create a foamy chocolate drink was popular, as was chokola’j–the custom of drinking it with others. The fall of the Maya and the conquest of the southern regions of present-day Mexico by the Aztec Empire between the 12th and 15th centuries brought a new culture in contact with cacao. The Aztecs similarly drank chocolate, as well as utilized it as a form of currency. Sixteenth-century Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagún confirmed these diverse uses, writing at one point about “chocolate kits” given to him by Aztec merchants: “They gave each noble two clay bowls…gave two hundred cacao beans to everyone, as well as one hundred seeds of that plant they call teunacaztli, and a tortoiseshell spoon for mixing the cacao. This was done by all merchants when they came from afar.”[ii] The concept of cacao and its combination with other foodstuffs like vanilla, peppers, and achiote was entirely new to the Spanish when they arrived in the late 15th century, but its flavor quickly became an acquired taste as conquistadors engaged in what Coe and Coe refer to as “crossing the taste barrier.”[iii] Such chocolate scholarship has often credited the Spanish with importing cows and cane sugar, in turn initiating a hybridization of cacao in which both classic tradition and European preference informed its new taste. Marcy Norton rebukes the Coe’s account, however, in “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics,” suggesting that the Spanish internalized Mesoamerican chocolate traditions and instead sought to emulate them on a wider scale in Europe. She writes:

“During the early history of chocolate among Europeans, the transmission of taste did not accord with the top-down structure of society. Instead, it flowed in the opposite direction: from the colonized to the colonizer, from the “barbarian” to the “civilized,” from the degenerate “creole” to the metropolitan Spaniard, from gentry to royalty. The European taste for chocolate emerged as a contingent accident of empire.”[iv]

Across the ocean, the custom of drinking chocolate as a frothy beverage continued, though the Spanish did add their own twist with sweeteners like cane sugar and “New World” spices like cinnamon, anise, and rose in place of spices like chile peppers and achiote.[v] The transformation of chocolate from drink to bar, from small-scale farming to mass production is an important one–but not integral to this story. I plan to focus instead on the centuries-long endurance of these Mesoamerican flavors, namely their contemporary renaissance.

A Visit to El Museo

One of the best places to start is with a visit to MUCHO Museo del Chocolate, in the Juárez neighborhood of CDMX. Finally within a tropical climate, I was able to see a cacao pod in person with the beans, nibs, winnowed shells, and sweet mucilaginous pulp first exploited by pre-Olmec villagers on display.

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The museum’s many rooms contained not only the history of chocolate but several art pieces depicting its enduring cultural value. Pictured below is a recreation of the making of a chocolate drink in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, with the woman pouring a large batch of cacao and water into a separate container. She would most likely pour the mixture several times, in order to achieve the frothy consistency so sought after by its drinkers.

IMG_4780In order to mix the cacao with the water, however, the cacao beans would need to be winnowed (or deshelled) and their nibs rolled on a stone ledge called a metate with a rolling-pin-like “stone mano.”[vi] This would create the paste needed to successfully mix the cacao into a beverage. The reconstruction below, though inaccurate to the extent that most Mayan women wore loose fitting tunics rather than going bare-chested, shows the process of grinding the cacao–namely how physically arduous the process was.

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The museum’s extensive exhibits and popular chocolate shop show just how important not only chocolate itself but its history has become in shaping cultural ideas of Mexico. Museum founder Ana Rita García Lascurain points out at that its inception in 2012, the museum was aimed at helping people understand, “how Mexico gave chocolate to the world.” Below is a feature conducted by Mexico City’s premier cultural news channel, Canal Once, in which you can take your own tour of the unique facilities.

Tasting #1: Chokola’j

The museum’s downstairs chocolatería was emblematic of the city’s larger Mesoamerican chocolate renaissance. After consulting the shop’s owners, I sampled three of their most popular and traditional offerings–agua con chocolate, chocolate caliente con chile picante (in lieu of their sold-out corn and chocolate drink pozol), and a tamal de chocolate. My travel partner and I then engaged in the Mayan tradition of chokola’j–or “drinking chocolate together.” The most prominent element of the agua con chocolate (“water with chocolate”) was its frothy texture and refreshing effect in the heat of an 80-degree day. As pointed out by scholars Louis E. Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro in field work from the late 1990s in Oaxaca, Mexico, contemporary agua con chocolate recipes almost always employ a molinillo, or “long wooden stick with rings at the bottom that spin when the stick is rolled between the palms.”[vii] The woman preparing our agua con chocolate did the same. My travel partner lauded the drink’s lack of milk, noting that they preferred its light and air taste to heavy contemporary American and European recipes. As Mexican pastry chef José Ramon Castillo points out in his blog post entitled “The ABCs of Mexican Chocolate,” the mixture of cacao with water rather than milk, “makes the sensation of the Mexican cocoa butter palpable on the lips, which doesn’t happen with cacao from other countries.”

IMG_4808The chocolate caliente con chile picante (“hot chocolate with spicy chili”) carried the same light texture in its lack of milk but also had a different mouthfeel due to its hot temperature and inclusion of spice. My first sip of the drink was jarring considering that most of the chili flakes were floating at the top of the mug, as pictured below. The spice dimmed down a bit until the drink’s final sips when the grounds at the bottom became salient once again.

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Moving from beverages to food, we sampled the tamale chocolate (“chocolate tamale”), a sponge-cake like combination of the country’s two most traditional exports–corn and chocolate. Due to the shop being sold out of pozol­–the fermented corn and chocolate drink common in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica–I opted for the tamale in the hopes that I could replicate a similar combination.

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It was demure in sweetness, as were the two beverages, but lacked the bite of the chocolate caliente con chile picante or the freshness of the agua chocolate. The three products proved nonetheless to be a strong introduction to the use of cacao outside of chocolate bars. Still in pursuit of the latter, however, I hit the streets of CDMX once again to comb through its many supermarkets and artisanal shops.

Tasting #2: Chocolate Bars

Gathering twelve test subjects from the likes of Australia, the United States, Mexico, and Canada, I conducted my second tasting in the courtyard of the Red Tree House–a small bed and breakfast in La Condesa. The six samples were all made in Mexico, and included Hershey’s 60% Dark Chocolate (Sample A), Ricolino Kracao Milk Chocolate with Pineapple (Sample B), MUCHO Museo’s single-origin Maravilla chocolate (C), Turin 33% Milk Chocolate (D), ki’Xocolatl 72% Dark Chocolate with Spices from Chiapas (E), and Nestle Abuelita Chocolate (F). The results were as follows:

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Hershey’s 60% Dark Chocolate (Sample A)/48.90 MXN, 2.54 USD

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This Mexican Hershey’s bar is notable for its high cacao content, as compared to the classic American flavor. The bar nonetheless contains milk, in order to replicate the mouthfeel of a pastry as indicated on the packaging. Participants were keen on this chocolate’s high cacao content, some going as far as to guess 80%, and lauded its “beautiful earthy tones.” Two of the participants preferred this chocolate to more expensive single-origin samples.

Ricolino Kracao Milk Chocolate with Pineapple (Sample B, pictured right)/16 MXN, .83 USD

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This chocolate-bordering-candy bar was at the tasting’s lowest price point. Participants noted that it was one of the sweetest samples, with “nutty, creamy, [and] floral” tones. Several guessed that the bar contained rice crispy bits or raisins rather than pineapple.

MUCHO Museo’s single-origin Maravilla chocolate (C)/72 MXN, 3.74 USD

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This chocolate is a single-origin criollo variety grown in the birthplace of chocolate as we know it–Chiapas. MUCHO began selling this bar at the museum’s inception in 2012. Most of the participants ranked this chocolate their second choice, raving about its bitter lasting aftertaste and fruity tones.

Turin 33% Milk Chocolate (D)/ 63 MXN, 3.27 USD

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This milk chocolate was dividing for participants. Some lauded its “caramel, dulce de leche, maple” notes while others decried its taste as “too sweet.”

ki’Xocolatl 72% Dark Chocolate with Spices from Chiapas (E)/99 MXN, 5.14 USD

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This 72% dark chocolate, at the highest price point, was the overwhelming favorite among participants. The company was started in 2002 according to their website, with the mission of creating, “Quality products presented with a beautiful and original image that mixes the concept of modernity with the legendary Mayan culture.” Tasting participants were fans of the bar’s “floral” tones and noted flavors of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper.

Nestle Abuelita Chocolate (F)/20.50 MXN, 1.06 USD

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The final sample, Nestle’s Abuelita chocolate, was well received despite being typically dissolved in water or milk for hot chocolate. Originally Mexican-born, Nestle acquired the brand in the 1990s. Participants tasted “cardamom, brown sugar, cinnamon, [and] pepper” and noted its “crystalline, crunchy” texture. When interviewing Mexican participants about the chocolate, they shared that most younger generations blend the chocolate into drink form while older generations prefer it plain. It was clear that Abuelita had clear cultural resonance, with several participants noting that they had grown up on the product.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that Mexico City has undergone a revival of Mesoamerican chocolate techniques and traditions through the establishment of museums, chocoloterías, and artisanal shops. Even supermarkets have featured an emergence of offerings, where brands like ki’Xocolatl sit next to modern household names like Nestle and Hershey’s. The question then becomes how to make Mexican-based brands with higher cacao content and less sugar and milk content more moderately priced. If brands are truly fixed on reviving Mesoamerican traditions, like the conceptualization of chocolate as a health food and medical panacea for example, then their products should be accessible and affordable. A $5 chocolate bar is not, after all, the most economically feasible choice.

 

[i] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013, 71.

[ii] de Orellana, Margarita, Richard Moszka, Timothy Adès, Valentine Tibère, J. M. Hoppan, Philippe Nondedeo, Nikita Harwich et al. “Chocolate: Cultivation and Culture in pre-Hispanic Mexico.” Artes de México 103 (2011): 75.

[iii] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013, 220.

[iv] Norton, Marcy. “Tasting empire: chocolate and the European internalization of Mesoamerican aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111, no. 3 (2006): 660-691.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 2013, 128.

[vii] Grivetti, Louis E., and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: history, culture, and heritage. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

*Note: Scholarly sources are featured above, while multimedia sources are embedded.

 

Alter Eco – Changing The Chocolate Industry As We Know It

The chocolate industry has received significant criticism in the past decades for unsustainable practices stemming from questionable labor practices, use of low quality ingredients, poor production standards and problematic advertisements trends. These troubled elements combined have been brought to light by professionals analyzing the human, environmental, economic and social impact of chocolate on communities across the world. Indeed, most of the problems highlighted within the industry are still rampant today. Very few companies can pride themselves for having sustainable practices from a bean-to-bar perspective. Alter Eco, based out of California, France and Australia, prides itself in providing its clients with “healthy, sustainable and socially responsible foods” (Alter Eco, 2015). Through its high standards for quality and social responsibility, Alter Eco is a powerful response to the problems highlighted with today’s chocolate industry and attempts to mitigate the problems rampant within the multi-billion-dollar industry of cacao.

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Alter Eco Foods provides its clients with a multitude of products ranging from chocolate bars, truffles, quinoa, and rice. Mathieu Senard, the co-founder and CEO of Alter Eco, states: [The company] started with chocolate, and then [evolved to] grains such as quinoa and rice. Our goal is to buy directly from cooperatives and, more importantly, pay a fair price” (Kaye, 2017). Alter Eco’s mission remains the same through its line of products. The company prides itself in its concept of “full circle sustainability” for all the products in its line. Full circle sustainability, in its most basic form, presents solutions to most of the problems highlighted by specialists in the chocolate industry. Most of the problematic companies view sales and production as a two-way street between the client and the business. Alter Eco views its everyday business practices from a different perspective by adding the environmental impact of production in their equation. With its globalized market, Alter Eco Foods is showing its competitors that sustainable practices in the labor, ingredients, production and marketing spheres is both attractive and delicious to consumers across the world.

The issue of child labor is an epidemic in Cacao plantations across the globe, and even more dominantly in Cote D’Ivoire. Chanthavong, in his analysis of child labor in chocolate production, writes: “Slave traders are trafficking boys ranging from the age of 12 to 16 from their home countries and are selling them to cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire. They work on small farms across the country, harvesting the cocoa beans day and night, under inhumane conditions.” The problem of child labor, regardless of the production goals, is an incredibly sensitive issue that many governmental and non-governmental organizations are attempting to handle. In its efforts to limit the spread of child labor in Cote D’Ivoire and across the glove, Alter Eco sources its cacao beans from South American farmer-owned plantations, more specifically Peru and Ecuador. Furthermore, the company sources its Cacao butter from Dominican Republic, cutting any sort of possibility for economically- or socially-encouraging abusive labor practices. The company undoubtedly prides itself in its “single origin, highest quality cacao beans.” Alter Eco’s sustainable labor standards go much further than avoiding cacao originating from questionable sources with risk of child labor involvement. The company aims to rectify the issue of unsustainable labor practices through fair trade relationships, development programs, and women empowerment programs. Fair trade relationships are at the forefront of the sustainable labor practices push forth by the company’s values. Professor Martin from Harvard University writes: “Landlessness remains a serious problem among the descendants of enslaved people throughout the cocoa producing world today.” To further remedy these rampant issues, Alter Eco prides itself in sourcing all of its products from small-scale, farmer-owned cooperatives. Alter Eco is partners with the Institute of Marketecology (IMO), Fair Trade USA and the Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FTLO). This list of high-level certifications provides clients with the certainty that the labor practices for producers are socially acceptable and sustainable and that the values of the company for providing producers with good living and working conditions are followed.

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Alter Eco’s efforts to offer a socially- and ethically-acceptable product do not stop at the location and origin of its labor force. The company put in place a variety of development programs in order to increase the likelihood of sustainability of its producers and workers. Its Fair Trade Premiums, which allocate money throughout the supply chain, have allowed Alter Eco’s sugar cooperative, Alter Trade, to build a training center for their employees in the Philippines, simultaneously serving as an assistance center for families to visit. Furthermore, in its full-circle attempt to provide all workers with social and economic support, Alter Eco addresses an underlying issue in today’s farming practices in its development of leadership and empowerment programs for women. Women within the farming industry are often viewed as second-class individuals due to the utterly and outrageously outdated assumption that they will not be as useful as men on the land. Alter Eco writes: “Gender equality is an important aspect of the Alter Eco business model, all the way down to the field.” Through such a stance, Alter Eco attempts to remedy the gender disparity and inequality within the farming industry through maintaining that “women will assert their due role and space in both the management of the homestead farming economy and in the governance of [the land]” (AlterEco.com).

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The issue of unsustainable environmental practices within the chocolate industry is one Alter Eco addresses with strength. Indeed, as stated earlier, Alter Eco prides itself in adding the environment in its equation for sustainable production practices, which is something very few businesses work towards. Professor Martin from Harvard University, in her presentation entitled “Psychology, Terroir, and Taste,” states that Terroir and Harvesting practices can strongly affect, both positively and negatively, cacao quality and quantity. Furthermore, “the use of pesticides on the farms can lead to the destruction of part of the soil flora and fauna through both physical and chemical deterioration” (Ntiamoah, 2008). Alter Eco prides itself in assuring that all of its cooperative farms maintain their fields within American and European standards for organic certification. Such a certification makes sure the consumers are aware of what they are getting: a product “free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and [that] must not [have been] processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering” (Henry, 2012). Such sustainable ecological and organic practices put forth Alter Eco’s values in promoting a product that is good for farmers, earth, and consumers. Alter Eco’s efforts in promoting sustainable environmental practices do not end at the farm or on the plantation. Although the company goes to great lengths to maintain its organic certification, it even goes steps further in pushing forward its values of sustainability. Through its commitment to becoming a carbon-negative business, Alter Eco has already received its Carbon-neutral certification, which confirms the company offsets the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) as it produces. “Alter Eco works closely with PUR Project and [its] farmers to plant trees for the amount of CO2 [produced]” (Alter Eco, 2017). Furthermore, in its efforts to become a carbon negative business, Alter Eco started its emission subdivision called PUR Project. “Contrary to offsetting, which consists in handling carbon compensation in other places by uncorrelated people and means, the insetting includes the handling of carbon compensation into the commercial dynamics of the company” (PUR Project, 2017). In other words, Alter Eco’s insetting efforts are rooted deeply in the idea that you must give back to the soil and air from which you took. In having an impact within its supply line, Alter Eco can assure that its efforts are not in vain, and that, although it plans to plant an additional 7,776 trees in 2017, the 28,639 trees (Alter Eco, 2017) already planted since 2008 are truly being put to good use to reinvigorate the soil from which so much is produced.

Alter Eco’s efforts to make their products more environmentally-friendly do not stop at their carbon-neutral status. They indeed go even further to make their products truly “full circle sustainable.” The packaging in which their chocolate and truffles are placed are fully compostable. Plastic and the conventional polyethylene packaging are quite detrimental to the environment due to the astronomical quantity of plastic sent to landfills or that finishes its life course in the oceans. The packaging developed by Alter Eco provides an eco-friendly alternative to the original plastic packaging found for most chocolate bars. This new packaging is made from compostable materials, GMO free, and without any toxic ink. Mathieu Senard adds: ““We believe the impact of our packaging is just as important as the product itself. How could we call ourselves a responsible, sustainable company when much of our packaging was going to landfills to live for hundreds of years?” (Alter Eco, 2015). This question raised by Senard is one answered by very few companies, which makes Alter Eco that much more efficient in its goal of changing the dynamics of chocolate production across the globe. To top off its environmental goals, Alter Eco has partnered with the 1% For the Planet Fund, which gives 1% of the company’s sales to a non-profit with environmental improvement goals.

 

 

Businessman David Ogilvy was once quoted for saying: “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” Advertisements and marketing are truly at the forefront of the chocolate industry’s sales. Whether it is for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, or Halloween, chocolate advertisements are all over television networks, the internet, and social media. Nonetheless, there are many problems and complaints associated with today’s chocolate industry and its marketing techniques. During her lecture at Harvard University about “Race, Ethnicity and Gender” in today’s chocolate industry, Professor Carla Martin elaborated on today’s chocolate marketing techniques and its associated prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. Most of this discrimination comes in the form of racism or sexism. Women are portrayed as irrational in the presence of chocolate while men are portrayed as sexualized bodies. Simultaneously, race is also being portrayed in stereotypical and offensive ways. Alter Eco attempts to go against all these rampant problems with marketing for chocolate. The company presents its potential buyers with an honest, informative advertising. Fagerhaug (Honest Marketing, 1997) writes: “The main point about honest marketing is to run the business in such a way that a customer at any time can feel the certainty any customer longs for; that he or she made the right choice.” When a customer purchases a product from Alter Eco, there is a directly associated certainty in the quality and honesty of the product received.

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In conclusion, Alter Eco attempts to provide its clients around the world with a sustainable chocolate product that tackles most, if not all the problems associated with today’s chocolate market. Through its fair labor practices, honest ingredients, conscientious production techniques and reliable advertisements, Alter Eco gives its customers exactly what they can expect. If more companies put as much care and attention in their products as Alter Eco does, the world would be a much better place. Alter Eco is undoubtedly part of the solution to the problems in the world’s chocolate and cacao industries.

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Works Cited:

“Alter Eco – B Corporation”. B Corporation Website. Fair Trade & Organic Foods, 2017.

“Alter Eco Foods”. AlterEco.com, Web. Accessed 05.03.2017.

“Alter Eco 2015 Impact Report”. AlterEco.com. Pages 7/7. 2017.

Business Wire Magazine. Alter Eco Logo Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160419005633/en/Alter-Eco-Unveils-Annual-Full-Circle-Sustainability-Social

Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote D’Ivoire.” TED Case Studies. American University. Pages 17/17. 2017.

Fagerhaug & Andersen. “Honest Marketing: A Coherent Approach to Conscientious Business Operation.” Norwegian University of Science and Technology. 2017.

Henry, Alan. “What Does Organic Really Mean, And Is It Worth my Money?” Lifehacker.com. 2012.

Laye, Keon. “Alter Eco Wants to Make Chocolate a Regenerative, not Extractive, Industry.” Triple Pundit Online Publishing, 2017.

Lovely Package. Alter Eco Packaging Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://lovelypackage.com/alter-eco/

Martin, Carla D.“Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Psychology, Terroir, and Taste”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

“Mission/Values.” Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade USA, 2016.

Ntiamoah, Augustine. “Environmental impacts of cocoa production and processing in Ghana: life cycle assessment approach.” Journal of Cleaner Production, Print. 2008.

Plan Vivo. Pur Project Logo image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.planvivo.org/

Smedley, Tim. “Forget About Offsetting, Insetting is the Future.” The Guardian. Web, 2015.

Squicciarini & Swinnen. “The Economics of Chocolate”, Oxford Scholarship Online, 2016.

Slave Free Chocolate. Chocolate’s Slave Trade Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

The Problem of Child Labor in the Cocoa Plantations. Africa News Service, Feb 2, 2012

WordPress.Willandmegan. Alter Eco Chocolate Bar Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://willandmegan.wordpress.com/tag/alter-eco/

Chocolate- can you taste the bitterness?

Chocolate one of the most well liked foods in all the world. So how it has been bad for America?

 Chocolate is consumed all across the developed world and has become a staple in millions of people’s diets. As a marketable, consumable product, its rise to fame was harmonious with the modernization of American culture. Chocolate gained more and more popularity as western civilization developed. Chocolate has a plethora of desirable dimensions. Traditionally it has been used as a spice, sweetener, medicine, satisfying treat or symbolic gift. In the modern era however, chocolate has gained a lot of attention through what it may symbolize- lust, joy, peacefulness to name a few. The branding and marketing of chocolate is what has truly taken control of how we view chocolate. This has lead to more delicious chocolate in our lives over a wider scale, however it has also opened the door to a slew of relatively unspoken negativity in America surrounding social issues, like race, ethnicity, gender, and class.

Cacao was first cultivated in Mesoamerica, and was very prominent in early civilizations there. For example, the Mayans who were known for “agriculture, art, architecture, astronomy, and foodstuffs, calendar system, math, religion and writing” (Martin, 2016) Our first example of how chocolate adds a negative to our culture socially is through its influences in the way we think about it as part of Mayan culture. MAYA GOLDCompanies such as Green and Blacks, or Lara Bar use the appeal of mayan chocolate to come across a more authentic. Although it doesn’t seem outwardly offensive, I argue that it objectifies their culture and leads to subtle racism limiting an entire thriving culture to just one of their many wonderful facets.

Interestingly enough chocolate in our society can have negative implications surrounding class. Chocolate can have really great impacts on health but only dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has been proven to reduce blood pressure, “Dark chocolate, lowers high blood pressure says Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany.” (DeNoon, 2003). Chocolate is also it a potent antioxidant, this is very valuable because “antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments”(DeNoon, 2003). These benefits are a great aspect of dark chocolate especially along with its great flavor. However when we start to produce milk chocolate we run into major health problems.

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“Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate … and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate.” Additionally chocolate, primarily milk chocolate, is very high in calories, LDL cholesterol, fats and carbs for what you are getting out of it. (Lee, 2016) This leads to obesity. What it also leads to is a divide in economic class. This is less the fault of the chocolate itself and more the fault of the American economic situation. However, one could still even make the argument that its dishonest for chocolate companies to sell a product that knowingly makes people unhealthy. However in a capitalist, consumerist society this is a pretty unreasonable request. Still though, the fact remains there is a divide in who can afford to enjoy chocolate and stay healthy by paying more for dark chocolate, and who will enjoy chocolate but suffer health-wise because the only chocolate within their economic range is processed milk chocolate.

Chocolate has also led to negativity surrounding gender in America. Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, has become a hyper sensualized product. Women are the ones modeling with chocolate, appearing to lust for chocolate, and have been objectified sexually in order to market it.

godivaTake this woman in the above Godiva chocolate image for example, her sensual expression combined with the chocolate up to her lips emit a certain sexual desire that is being associated with chocolate. Combine this action with the slogan on the ad, “Every woman is one part chocolate” makes it seem as though woman are bound to chocolate, especially in a sexual way. To make the claim that women are bound to chocolate takes away their sense of choice, it is subtly but effectively taking away a portion of their rights.

Sadly this is not the only case of woman being objectified for the sale of chocolate. Cadbury, another major Chocolate company launched a new line of advertisements for their snowflake chocolate. Here is a picture of one of their ads:

cadbury Snowflake2This ad is completely hyper sexualized. The chocolate is again interacting with her mouth in a sensual fashion, additionally she appears not to be wearing a shirt, which takes the focus off of the chocolate bar and puts it on her exposed body. This marketing approach objectifies her and exploits her as a human. There was a study conducted where consumers talked about their thoughts on these objectifications of women as well as the discriminations between the women in men in the in advertisements of chocolate, most of those asked stated that what they were seeing was wrong. (Fusion, 2016) Sadly, the marketing still is effective and there is a population out there that takes to this kind of marketing because it wouldn’t exist if it weren’t successful, especially when analyzing how two of the biggest companies utilize this strategy (Godiva and Cadbury).

The last social injustice that chocolate brings out is about race. Racism in the current chocolate political climate is far reduced today then in the 20th century. However as the chocolate industry was growing there were countless examples of racist representation in chocolate. Roald Dahl’s Charlie in the Chocolate Factory is a great example that shows the evolution of racism surrounding chocolate. At first Roald Dahl included in his story that the oompa loompas in his factory were dark colored and from a place deep, deep in Africa. Wonka brought them to western civilization and now they work for free in his factory. (Robertson pg. 12009) However as rewrites of the novel continued to come out through them we see a decline in racist tendencies on how the oompa loompas are portrayed. By now, in the most recent re-write the oompa loompas are white, rosey-cheeked and come from Loompaland a made up place with absolutely no connection or mention of Africa. (Robertson pg. 2, 2009)
This chocolate babies advertising is an example of how racism and objectifying culture once was prominent. candy-babiesThis advertisement portrays small “babies” that come across as older men implying that they are called chocolate babies only because of the skin color and size. This is racist advertising at its maximum. The other idea that comes into play here has to do with chocolate being a skin color, and an identifier when it comes to race. Carla Martin in talks about how “Chocolate and vanilla have become cultural metaphors for race, chocolate is to blackness as whiteness is to vanilla” (Martin, 2016). Chocolate has provided one more medium in our culture for racism to exist. As unfortunate as it may be, whiteness has come to be associated with purity and cleanliness, while blackness has come to be associated with impurity and dirtiness. The fact that chocolate has come to represent a whole race of people narrows who that culture is and what they stand for, especially because they’re already battling the stereotype of impurity that is associated with their “color.” By being looked at as chocolate, it sets black culture up to be objectified because it equates them with an object, not as people.

As seen through the examples of race, ethnicity, gender, and class chocolate can bring about some major social issues. Chocolate holds a lot of power because of its popularity. Especially through advertising there are countless examples of how many companies exploit certain groups for marketability purposes or objectify entire demographics. In the case of class and certain aspects of race, chocolate inadvertently helps to reinforce certain negative trends or stereotypes that have to do with those demographics. To combat living in a world where prejudice, objectivity, and unfairness exist all around us we must be consumers with a critical lens with the understanding that even in the sweetest chocolate there may a hidden bitter flavor.

Works Cited
DeNoon, Daniel. “Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate.” WebMD. WebMD, 2003. Web. 06 May 2016.
Lee, Mathew. “Can Chocolate Make You Fat?” Editorial. SF Gate [San Francisco] 2016: n. pag. 2016. Web. 6 May 2016.
Fusion, J. (2016). Marketing to men vs women. Chron.
Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” CGIS S, Cambridge. 5 May 2016. Lecture.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

 

Resistance and Submission- The Power of Negative Publicity

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https://donkeyhotey.wordpress.com

 

      While the power of publicity is a well-known tool of business, it is a less understood fact that negative publicity can create more business and public awareness in its wake. Witness British sugar consumption levels in the 18th century. At the time, vast commercial interests were beginning to build commerce networks in Europe and around the world. Chocolate and sugar were among those products that were highly desired among the privileged class in Europe. This fact made the consumption of chocolate and sugar somewhat of an elite hobby–more reserved for the elites/well moneyed in Europe. As far as chocolate and sugar sales, this may not have been the best way to maximize your chocolate/sugar company sales. It is interesting to note that, just like today, when these two products (sugar in particular) began to experience pushback in the form of negative publicity, the sales of these products started to head upward. For example, when British traveler and philanthropist Jonas Hanway stated that sugar creates: ” fantastic desires and bad habits in which nature has no part”, his was a mild form of protest of the perceived evils of sugar (Levinovitz, 2015, p. 1). Of course, Hanway also considered tea to be akin to drinking gin and that “there is not quite so much beauty in this sand as there was” due to the British tea habit sapping the beauty of the woman of Britian (“Tea,” 2015, p. 1). At the time, the English consumed around four kilograms of sugar per year (“Sugar,” 2000, p. 3).

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photo credit: Mary likes cake via photopin (license)

 

It was not long after that in 1852 when sugar came under a more rigorous attack from physicians like James Redfield, who claimed that every time the carbohydrate was refined, it was another “stage in the down-hill course of deception and mockery, of cowardice, cruelty, and degradation” (Kawash, 2013, p. 75). This harsh criticism from a credible authority was accompanied by the doubling of British sugar consumption (“Sugar,” 2000, p. 3). Of course, there were many other factors involved with the exponential rise in the popularity of sugar in this time: a budding global economy, a rapidly expanding industrial capability and the beginnings of international commerce and banking all had a hand in it. Yet, it is a classical psychological trait that the beginnings of sugar’s negative publicity was also the time when sugar was beginning to be written about as something that gives the consumer “fantastic desires” and the like (“Reactance,” 1977, p. 1).

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 3.58.23 PM.pngSugar’s meteoric rise to popularity (credit enclosed in graphic)

 

Fast-forward to the present alarmist press being given to sugar and compare it with the popularity of it now. “Sugar: Killing us Sweetly. Staggering Health Consequences of Sugar on Health of Americans” is an article by Dr. Gary Null on the GlobalResearch.ca website. His findings indicate: “30%–40% of healthcare expenditures in the USA go to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar and suggests that our national addiction to sugar is around $1 trillion in healthcare costs each year (Null, 2014, p. 1). You might accurately guess that sugar consumption is up as well. How much? 60 Kilograms per person per year, almost ten times the amount when it began its meteoric rise to popularity. One might consider comparing the health consequences over the same period of time to see if there has been an impact in sugar’s negative publicity–are those who are in the know keeping an arm’s length from sugar? It is not within the scope of this paper to address this issue, but the fact that them more strident the negative publicity, the more popular the product. This reminds one of the rises in popularity of certain presidential candidates in this day and age.

 

References

     A Social History of the Nation’s Favourite Drink. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.tea.co.uk/a-social-history

Kawash, S. (2013). Candy: a Century of Panic and Pleasure. [https://books.google.com/books?id=g_5DAwAAQBAJ&dq=James+Redfield+sugar&source=gbs_navlinks_s]. Retrieved from Google Books

Levinovitz, A. (2015). No, Sugar is not the New Heroin. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2015/06/17/sugar-health-effects/

Null, G. (2014). Sugar: Killing us Sweetly. Staggering Health Consequences of Sugar on Health of Americans. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/sugar-killing-us-sweetly/5367250

Several Examples of Reactance Research. (1977). Retrieved from http://www1.appstate.edu/~beckhp/reactance.htm

The Taste for Sugar. (2000). Retrieved from http://naturalmedicineworks.net/sugar-trial-really-need-know/

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Edible Bodies

The fetishization of Black people, particularly their skin, in cocoa advertising has been posited to relates to the peculiar historical relationships founded on the commodification of both. [1] According to Silke Hackensech, a German scholar, chocolate is  “a commodity that has historically been produced, in the first stage of the production process, on cocoa farms by enslaved Africans, or people working under conditions akin to slavery.”[2]   Through historical and complex systems of global trade, labour, and production, chocolate and Blackness have been linked together, particularly as it relates to the marketing of and advertisements for chocolate whereas the “usage of the chocolate signifier . . . illustrates how configurations of vision and visuality invest the body with social meaning.”[3] 

In the first four chocolate advertisement provided, the adverts reenact colonial fantasies through its representation of the Black body, particularly the skin, as something produced and to be consumed for a mainstream mass market audiences. These marketing images perpetuate “[W]estern sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption” [4] and symbolically fetishize the Black bodies (as proxy for chocolate) as a consumable commodity.

This is exemplified in Figure 1, 2 and 3, whereas the subjects are disembodied and dominate the adverts with very little reference to the actual product itself. In both of these adverts the subjects are Black but shown only in pieces as if not human and their skin is meant to visually allude to chocolate.

 

dove-chocolate-dove-chocolate-small-500651
Figure 1. Dove Chocolate (2007)
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Figure 2. Magnum Chocolate (2012)
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Figure 3. An Unknown Brazilian Chocolate Company’s Ad

By visually alluding to these images as chocolate, these ads seem to invite consumers to consume these black bodies. In the essay “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance”, Bell Hooks examines how racial difference is commodified and represented as the “Other” for the figurative consumption of white audiences and further explain that as “cultural, ethnic, and racial differences will be continually commodified and offered up as new dishes to enhance the white palate–that the Others will be eaten, consumed, and forgotten.” [5] In all of the example adverts provided, they demonstrate a dehumanizing effect by showing the photo subjects as dismembered black bodies with eyes that cannot be met by the viewer.

Essentially, these adverts invoke the trope of the eroticized “edible black body” explained as “a devouring cultural connections between black bodies and food objects . . . bring to the forefront the violence and ambivalence of American racial politics in which desire and disgust for black bodies.” [6] Moreover, images like the examples shown visually “produce representations of market, parlor, and kitchen cannibalism”[7] and “at its most extreme . . . the representation of the black body as food itself.”[8] The representation of Black bodies as consumable is troublesome as it harkens back to the tendency for the humanity of Black people to be diminished due to the racial stereotype of them being not quite human.

While the linkages between women, chocolate, and sex are common themes found in cocoa advertising [9], Figure 4. Is racially problematic in a different way found through its use of Blackface minstrelsy.

magnum-chocolate-possession
Figure 4. Magnum Chocolate Ad (2012)

In this instance, the advertisement showcases a model painted brown evoking images of not only being covered in chocolate but Blackface. What is striking is the contrasted poses of the subject  without Blackface and with Blackface. When unpainted, she strikes a  direct pose which is contained and features her thoughtful gaze into the camera. However, once painted, she is posed in a sexualized and oddly disjointed manner that is completely divorced and seemingly oblivious of the camera in what is assumed to be due to her being in some sort of sexual ecstasy.  This advert comes to  represent what scholar Michael Pickering termed commodity racism, which is the selling of not only what is produced but racial stereotypes as well for consumers.[10]

In all of examples of Figures 1-4,  a theme is repeated where the subject is presented as a sexualized objects with that sexuality seemingly imbued in the festishization of Black skin. Moreover, these images engages in the harmful reproduction of the harmful racial stereotypes that Black people are hypersexual and subhuman. [11] This is meaningful to analyze as scholars like Robertson recognize that the “textual analysis of chocolate advertising has, then, been useful in illuminating contemporary understandings of gender, race and the nation.”[12]

After analysing many of the themes I found problematic in several chocolate advert examples, I decided to try my hand at creating an advert that is able to subvert the racially discursive content found above while featuring a Black person enjoying chocolate shown in figure 5.

stock-video-73729883-attractive-african-american-woman-eating-chocolate-bar
Figure 5. My Chocolate Ad

 

For instance, in my reimagined chocolate ad, like all of the others, this ad focuses on the visual. However, unlike the other examples, the subject of my photo is fully-dressed, stands in a non-sexualized pose, and stares straight into the camera, her gaze meeting with her audience easily. This photo exhibits strength, agency, and the subject as an individual  human being that can be related to by  the audience. Most importantly, this ad is clearly showing what is to be consumed as food, chocolate bar, and the subject as the consumer rather than the consumable. 

Footnotes

  1. Hackensesch, S. (2015). ‘To Highlight My Beautiful Chocolate Skin’: On the Cultural Politics of the Racialised Epidermis. In C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.), Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (pp. 73-91). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Pg. 88)
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 10)
  5. Hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (pp. 21-39). South End Press. (Pg. 39)
  6. Tompkins, K. W. (2007). ” Everything ‘Cept Eat Us”: The Antebellum Black Body Portrayed as Edible Body. Callaloo, 30(1), 201-224. (Pg. 201)
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 34)
  10. Pickering, M. (2013). Commodity Racism and the Promotion of Blackface Fantasies. Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism, 4, (Pg. 119)
  11. Yancy, G. (2008). Black bodies, white gazes: The continuing significance of race. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (Pg, 144)
  12. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 20)

Sources

  • Hackensesch, S. (2015). ‘To Highlight My Beautiful Chocolate Skin’: On the Cultural Politics of the Racialised Epidermis. In C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.), Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (pp. 73-91). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Pg. 88)
  • Hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (pp. 21-39). South End Press. (Pg. 39)
  • Pickering, M. (2013). Commodity Racism and the Promotion of Blackface Fantasies. Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism, 4, (Pg. 119)
  • Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 10)
  • Tompkins, K. W. (2007). ” Everything ‘Cept Eat Us”: The Antebellum Black Body Portrayed as Edible Body. Callaloo, 30(1), 201-224. (Pg. 201)
  • Yancy, G. (2008). Black bodies, white gazes: The continuing significance of race. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (Pg, 144)

Images

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Consumption: Its Full of Poop!

It has long been accepted that chocolate has been the food of the gods. It is just that over the centuries the definitions of the gods has changed. One thing is for sure, chocolate and cacao has been reserved for the elite. Through imagery archaeologists have been able to prove that from the origins of chocolate culture, it has been connected with elitism. Records from earlier Spanish explorers show that at one point in history cacao seeds were used as a form of currency. In our Chocolate Class, Dr. Martin has even referred to it as the “food of the gods”. unnamed

 

Fast-forwarding to our present time in history you would not see advertisement or hear phrases like that. Truthfully, although some may still have this sentiment, to refer to any human as a god would not be politically correct. However, there are many subtle ideologies being promoted though advertisement that imply that this ideology of chocolate and elitism still exists. Think about it, when was the last time you seen a malnourished Ghanaian child advertising for Hershey’s chocolate? Well of course that would not be the “right thing to do”. Well, what about a well-to-do Nigerian farmer advertising his own seeds? That would not be so right either, would it? After all, chocolate is not for the gentleman or the lady of African descent. It is clearly for the European descendent. Of course, it has to be. A great deal of it’s advertisements imply such.

 

Unless its Halloween or Easter, you see advertisements of beautiful European women or well Advertising and Societybuilt European men advertising rich decadent silk chocolates.  Yes, most times the imagery of advertisements reflect the people the product is intended for. The height of these modern sexual gods is during Valentine season. You see love, implied purity, fantasy fulfillment, and satisfaction all connected to chocolate and it’s European counterparts. It’s a perfect scene, to some at least.

 

No, you can’t generalize this presumption to all Europeans or White Americans. But, it is attached to many and most in the chocolate business. While, there has been much criticism in this post, credit must be given to those individuals who have sought to change the story. There are many great efforts on the global scale to bring equality to those on the suffering end of the chocolate industry. However, on a large scale, there is much work to be done. There is still a lot of not-so-good practices going on in the industry. While many see a sexual goddess attached to chocolate, others see a monstrous bear.

 

For many on the outside, they do not see the pure goddess that is actually being portrayed. They see a monster that is likened to a polar bear consuming chocolate. The more this polar bear consumes chocolate, the more poop that it produces. While there are many efforts that seem to be pushing for equality, it seems that the more the world consumes chocolate the more poop is produced in the lives of the African Farmers. Countless lives are being affected. Children are still being trafficked in African countries.  There is still unfree labor contributing to the production of cacao for chocolate. Children are risking their health. Long-term physical ailments will be the results of children carrying heavy loads and not being trained to use sharp machetes. To add insult to injury, these farmers who risk their lives -in a sense- to produce cacao, still receive a considerably low revenue from the sales of the chocolate.  While many look at chocolate as a pleasurable delight, there are many with insight of how cacao farmers are treated who look at chocolate consumption as a poop producer!ChocBear

Moments: Sexualized only for an Elite Few or to be Enjoyed by All?

Long a symbol of wealth, prestige, and power, in contemporary European (and now in North American cultures as well), chocolate is also associated with “romantic love, personal indulgence, and festive occasions.” (Leissle, 131)

This play on personal indulgence has led modern day marketers to not only continue to target the elite, but more specifically to women, sexualizing them by creating a narrative that they can be aroused and sinfully satisfied through the act of eating chocolate.

Many foods are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, including chocolate (e.g. asparagus, almonds, avocados, bananas, basil, arugula, garlic, eggs, figs, oysters, chili peppers, honey, wine, pomegranates). (Martin, “Chocolate expansion”)

Dove Chocolate, a subsidiary of MARS (https://www.dovechocolate.com/aboutdove), has perpetuated this stereotype through a series of advertisements for their new chocolate with almonds. The message delivered through the campaign (print and video) is that only Dove can provide a chocolate so pure and silky.  Its visuals, taglines, and representation tell a story that focuses on sensations and indulgent “moments” where true joy seems to live, but only for the exclusive, privileged few.

Dove Commercial_Senses

https://youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8&index=1&list=RDSwPwQ4S4op8&nohtml5=False

Dove’s Original Print

Blog Post 3_Dove Ad

Dove’s original print invites the viewer to “nourish” one’s soul through the saturation of one’s senses.  This is shown as a guilty pleasure.  An attractive woman with flawless skin is seen up-close, enveloped in silky rich fabric.  Caught up in the bliss of her “moment,” she appears to be perfectly at ease, naked, a glow in her cheeks, bedroom eyes, hair blowing in an unseen breeze as she rests amid the silk with a secretive smile.  This smile seems to imply something intimate, nearly post-coital, as if the viewer has caught a glimpse of her in this luxurious moment; as if she is basking in the delight of a chocolate-induced orgasm.

Chocolate advertisements create these moments, selling the notion that, “women become irrational, narcissistic, or excessively aroused due to chocolate.” (Martin, “Race”)

Dove’s Revised Advertisement

Blog Post 3_Dove Ad_Revised

Dove’s revised advertisement also focuses on cherished, magical moments, but instead of the erotic or exclusive, they are moments, alone or shared, that celebrate life’s milestones – monumental or mundane.

The new print focuses on strength and challenging oneself (as seen in the woman rock climbing), unity (a family enjoying an afternoon outdoors), joy (friends jumping on the beach), support and teamwork (a game of wheelchair basketball), firsts (teaching a child to fish), celebration (a group of elderly friends dancing), romantic love (a couple holding a heart), and health (a family sitting down to share a balanced meal). Inspirational natural beauty is also included with the sun setting over a lake and then rising again. The new print encourages viewers to “nourish” their souls and “saturate” their senses through beautiful moments for all.

In sum, chocolate is not a sexualized joy or moment for an elite few, but a food and experience to be enjoyed by all.

 

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London, 2013. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate expansion.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 10 Feb. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 30 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139. Class Reading.

http://carlyjaneproductions.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/17.DoveAds_-Michael-Thompson.jpg; Carly Jane. 17 September 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2016

https://dovechocolate.com; Dove Chocolate commercial – Senses; May 6, 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2016

https://youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8&index=1&list=RDSwPwQ4S4op8&nohtml5=False; Dove Chocolate commercial – Senses; May 6, 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2016

 

The Over Sexualization of Chocolate Marketing

Sex sells. It is a phrase, a method, and/or  a motto that is used to advertise certain products. From cars, to Carl Jr.’s burgers, to chocolate, there is always a sex appeal to advertisements for their products. I can remember when I was little girl that I would usually see these advertisements between commercials of my favorite TV shows and/or in magazines. Since I was young, I was also naïve and not really aware of what was going on. I would mostly look at the chocolate rather than the actress in the advertisement. While watching Univision, a channel that’s in Spanish, with my mother advertising it but then my mom would say sometimes like “okay, that’s ridiculous”. The next time I would see the commercial,I would try to pay more attention the actress in the commercial.

20-things-which-make-women-so-women-15.jpg
Figure 1.

 

In Figure 1, you see a woman relaxing on a white couch, planning to eat an entire box of chocolates alone and she looks like she’s taking immense pleasure of eating chocolate. In my opinion this picture looks silly. First of all, I would never eat chocolate on the couch that way. That just seems like you’re asking a chocolate accident to happen. But this picture does have context and is relatable from its original source. This picture came from an article by Mirror UK, stating the 10 reasons why chocolate is good for you.
They state, “ One theory why we love chocolate so much is that a brain-active chemical called phenylethylamine in cocoa allegedly stimulates the same reaction that we experience when we’re falling in love”.

The model in the photo does seem to be in love with her chocolate. Maybe that’s what the marketing team was going for when they were trying to find a picture to match this article.

chocolate-ad.jpg
Figure 2.

 

In Figure 2, This is an ad for Godiva chocolate that was found in a magazine. This displays a beautiful woman laying down somewhere in a not so casual pose but emphasizing the piece of chocolate that is among her chest. Why is she not eating it? Godiva Chocolate is really good it shouldn’t just be on your chest is someone else going to eat it? Is that what they’re trying to sell? That there can be a lucky person looking at the magazine can find a beautiful woman with a piece of chocolate on her chest that they can eat from?

Rita_small_V_10jan11_639.jpg
Figure 3.

Figure 3 is a very different kind of advertisement compared to the others. A lot of what these advertisements show the slogan that sex sells. We are seeing  woman experiencing some sexual euphoria when she eats or is around chocolate. We don’t learn exactly where this chocolate came from, where it came to be,  and where was the Cacao from. There should be more marketing telling us more about the process of chocolate and its history. Figure 3 is an advertisement for Divine Chocolate. They have a more campaign ads similar to the one I selected  that represent more about chocolate where it came from and who’s producing it.

 

IMG_0101.JPG
Figure 4.

In figure 4, I chose to recreate an ad  to something simple, an image of what eating chocolate is really like without the ludicrous sex appeal. Chocolate can be a dessert or a snack that can be either consumed alone or with friends but I am not completely consumed by the thought of eating chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate alone and relish in immense pleasure from it. I eat while I’m doing my homework or writing papers or blog posts. Chocolate can take form in memories.  Some of my memories of eating chocolate is sharing it up the movie theaters with friends, or growing up with my mom making Abuelita hot chocolate from Nestle.New memories of chocolate include taking this chocolate class.

Figure 1. – http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/10-reasons-why-chocolate-is-good-for-you-1369798

Figure 2. – http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/godiva-dark-chocolate-6481905/

Figure 3. – http://www.vogue.co.uk/blogs/livia-firth/2011/01/18/livia-firth-divine-chocolate-competition

Figure 4. – Provided by me.