Category Archives: Multimedia Essay 3

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.


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.


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]” (


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.


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.


Works Cited:

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

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

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

Business Wire Magazine. Alter Eco Logo Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17.

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?” 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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

“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



      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).


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 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.



     A Social History of the Nation’s Favourite Drink. (2015). Retrieved from

Kawash, S. (2013). Candy: a Century of Panic and Pleasure. []. Retrieved from Google Books

Levinovitz, A. (2015). No, Sugar is not the New Heroin. Retrieved from

Null, G. (2014). Sugar: Killing us Sweetly. Staggering Health Consequences of Sugar on Health of Americans. Retrieved from

Several Examples of Reactance Research. (1977). Retrieved from

The Taste for Sugar. (2000). Retrieved from







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.


Figure 1. Dove Chocolate (2007)
Figure 2. Magnum Chocolate (2012)
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.

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.

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. 


  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)


  • 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)







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 (, 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

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.; Carly Jane. 17 September 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2016; Dove Chocolate commercial – Senses; May 6, 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2016; 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.

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.

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?

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.


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. –

Figure 2. –

Figure 3. –

Figure 4. – Provided by me.




Empowering Women in Advertisments

I wanted to open this blog post with a witty sentence introducing my topic, why the era of sexualizing women in advertisements needs to end, and googled ‘sex sells’ for inspiration. The second hit had the following description:

Here is the cold hard truth, “Sex Sells.” Hate it or love it, sex attracts the eye more than any other type of advertisement (Ovsyannykov).

In lieu of this, here is my introduction, albeit angrier and less witty than I had originally intended:

Here is the cold hard truth, we live in a patriarchal society: women currently earn $0.79 to every dollar made by men and it will be another century before gender equality is achieved in top management positions if we continue at the current pace (Bloomberg). Hate it or love it, barriers and obstacles to gender parity are rampant in society, one of the most pervasive being the presentation of women in advertisement as sexual and trivial beings. “Sex sells,” it attracts the eye, capturing the attention of audiences, but it is not the only means of effective advertising. In fact, for products or services that have nothing to do with sex, sexual advertisements can be less effective than non-sexual advertisements (Lynn).

The chocolate industry is plagued by marketing campaigns that marginalize women, depicting them as sexual objects unable to resist the temptation of chocolate. By portraying women in this light, these advertisements are helping to maintain gender stereotypes and harming the mental health of young girls. The chocolate industry, particularly as a non-sexual industry, has a moral obligation to move away from using gendered stereotypes in advertisements.

Chocolate Advertisements: A Gendered Portrayal  

In “Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History,” Emma Robertson discusses the portrayal of women in the chocolate industry versus the reality of their position. She traces chocolate from the harvest of the cacao in Africa to production in factories to consumption, and offers that advertising “failed to represent the actual economic, political, and social conditions in which Rowntree and Cadbury products, and ultimately profits, were produced” (Robertson, 19). Women were fetishized as housewives and mothers, shown as irrational narcissistic consumers, and objective as “sexual objects to maintain male morale” (Robertson, 30). Prior to WWII, they were solely depicted in the workplace during wartime although they were responsible for the production of chocolate bars in factories during peace times.

For more examples of the sexualization of women in chocolate advertisements, check out this web page from Carla Martin’s “Bittersweet Notes: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.”

The Sexualization of Women: Dramatic Effects

By depicting women in such a sexualized way, the chocolate industry is subliminally enforcing the antiquated stereotype that women are objects. This bolsters the current societal inequities and provides supporting evidence to stereotypes. This has a couple noteworthy implications for the workplace: it may make people less likely to inherently trust and support the rise of women in managerial positions, and also can serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly bombarded by the idea that women are meant for the house not office, women can internalize this message and consequentially not try to rise the corporate ranks or stand up for themselves and demand an earned salary/position.

In 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a study that found that the sexualization of women in the media has negative effects on young girls who are exposed to it, effecting cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development (Zurbriggen). Research finds a strong linkage between sexualization and eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression, three of the most commonly diagnosed mental problems in girls and women (Zurbriggen). This means that the take away for young girls viewing the sexy chocolate ads described above is not the product advertised but the characteristics of the oftentimes female model.

 Changing the Dialogue: Our Kit Kat Advertisement

In hopes of changing the focus of chocolate advertisements, we chose to recreate a Nestlé Kit-Kat advertisement from the “One-minute break” campaign created by Zoopa, an Italian agency in 2008. Inspired by the “One-Minute Sculptures” of Erwin Wurum, this ad campaign features various professionals in silly positions with a Kit Kat bar. Unlike the featured men who are shown in appropriate workplace clothing, the woman is shown in a revealing skirt with a high front slit even though skirt suits generally have a small slit in the back for the sole purpose of allowing for greater leg mobility when walking. While the painter is shown with brushes and a ladder, the doctor with a stethoscope, and the businessman with a laptop, the woman is shown solely with a rolling chair, an object that does not increase productivity whatsoever, particularly as standing desks become more and more popular in the workplace.

Our advertisement (below on the right; the original advertisement is below on the left) is empowering: we clothed our model in a pantsuit just like the other members of the campaign. The laptop she carries and the added tagline, “Two perfect presentations down, two to go. Have a break, you earned it”, not only stress her professionalism but also the role of Kit-Kats as an enjoyable midday energy-booster. With her head turned, the focus is on the Kit-Kat bar, not the model, with the red packaging standing out starkly against the light backdrop. These changes keep the main intended message from the original advertisement intact, “Have a break. Have a Kit Kat,” while dramatically improving the subliminal message – that women can be powerful agents in the workplace.

Moving Forward: A Moral Obligation

The portrayal of women in advertisements has not naturally followed nor kept pace with the changing social roles of women, and it is time chocolate companies, particularly the Big 5, transform their marketing practices. To encourage change, governments should follow the European Union, who in 2008 passed a resolution urging Member States to honor the ‘European Pact for Gender Equality’ by tackling marketing and advertising (Van Hellemont and Van den Bulck). Specifically, they called on Member States to ensure:

“by appropriate means that marketing and advertising guarantee respect for human dignity and integrity of the person, are neither directly nor indirectly discriminatory nor contain any incitement to hatred based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”

Although enforcing this type of legislation can be difficult, it can create incentives for change. The resolution suggested Member States create public awards for companies and campaigns that create advertisements emphasizing gender equality. This incentivizes companies by providing them with the opportunity to gain free media attention across a large population. The legislation also starts a dialogue, and public pressure can be the strongest catalyst for change.

Work Cited

“Cadbury’s Flake – Bath (1992, UK)”.YouTube. 2016. Web.
Colby, Laura. “Women’s C-Suite Equality is Only 100 Years Away.” Bloomberg. 2015. Web.
Lynn, Ann Louise. “The effects of female sexual images on persuasion.” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (1995). Web.
Martin, Carla. “Valentine’s Day: Women Being Seduced by Chocolate.” Bittersweet Notes: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. 2012. Web.
Nestlé S.A. Kit Kat. Ads of the World. Zooppa, June 2008. Web.
Ovsyannykov, Igor. “Sex Sells, 50 Creative Sexual Advertisements.” Inspiration Feed (2011). Web.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press (2010). Print.
Van Hellemont, Corinne, and Hilde Van den Bulck. “Impacts of advertisements that are unfriendly to women and men.” International Journal of Advertising 31 (2012). Web.
Zurbriggen, Eileen L. et al. Report Of The APA Task Force On The Sexualization Of Girls. Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2007. Web.

What’s Fair About Fair Trade?

The cocoa industry has been plagued by issues of forced labor since its inception, and while awareness surrounding these issues have begun to come to light, the seriousness and effectiveness of action is often undercut by marketing campaigns that make vague promises of fair trade and improved living conditions. The advertisement above, for example, produced by Fair Trade Certified, suggests that buying Fair Trade Certified labeled products contributes to the building of infrastructure, community, and better agricultural standards in certain products’s countries of origins. When consumers buy coffee, chocolate, or sugar with this label, there is the implication that guilt associated with these commodities can be assuaged. However, this implication holds little or no merit, and it is unclear how a daily cup of coffee, gift of chocolate, or spoonful of raw cane sugar is exactly contributing to the betterment of lives abroad. What percentage of the surcharge for these products is going directly to farmers? How are these funds allocated and distributed? What are the standards for fair trade and can these standards be quantified? Are they being enforced? Advertisements like this leave many questions unanswered in their vague claims. The real aim of this marketing strategy is arguably the commodification of poverty and selling the experience of helping those in need. The advertisement ends with a slogan stating, “Every purchase matters. Look for the label. Buy Fair Trade. Do more good.” The fair trade movement would benefit greatly from an approach that moves away from the cultivation of a savior complex through the purchase of goods and, instead, focus on transparent communication of how surcharges are calculated and used. The “feel good” approach engenders false consumer empowerment and perpetuates the mystification of how products are produced and where consumer money is being allocated.

Transparency has been a buzzword in consumer goods and marketing in recent years and can also be problematic at times, especially as companies navigate their markets and legality of labeling and disclosure. Kevin Goldberg, Nestlé Nutrition’s general counsel, in an interview, stated that the new challenge “will be to effectively demonstrate how committed we are to all of those concerns. The issues will remain the same, but the bars for all of them will definitely be raised even higher than they are today” [1]. Demonstration of commitment has thus far been awareness focused and vague in terms of resolution. Nestle’s Cocoa Plan, a major initiative aimed at improving the livelihood of cacao farmers, chronicles many of the underlying factors that contribute to child labor and provides a clearer picture of the company’s strategies to mitigate child labor practices through a series of statistics. While helpful in communicating the company’s larger goals, it is difficult to draw a connection between the consumer, the products they buy, and this transaction’s impact on affected communities.

Image by author

While not connected to the cocoa industry, Everlane, a clothing company, deals with similar issues tied to apparel, and has reacted with “radical transparency.” Their company slogan in ”Know your factories. Know your costs. Always ask why.” This attitude is manifested in infographics about their products that break down the raw costs of production and reveal profit margins. The numbers are quite simple and do not speak to the myriad of factors that contribute to forced labor, but they provide a straightforward explanation of where consumer dollars go. Taza Chocolate’s Direct Trade initiative similarly pushes for transparency, but at the scale of the company’s operation as opposed to the scale of the consumer. Capitalizing on the potentials of empowerment for the consumer through transparency can be very effective if information is also disclosed at the scale of every purchase. Companies and certification processes that have gotten by with lax standards would be further and rightly scrutinized by a more informed customer base. As Goldberg states, “The new empowered consumer environment has certainly helped our already high standards evolve to become even more stringent” [2]. The re-imagined advertisement above breaks down the cost of a single, well sourced, chocolate bar in the fashion of Everlane’s marketing strategy. These numbers, while still abstract, begin to illustrate the inner workings of the cocoa industry in more neutral terms. Emotional campaigns are detached from these graphics, allowing consumers to consider what is fair in terms of their dollars and where they go and demystifying the relationship between goods bought and the labor that made it possible. By maintaining transparency in pricing, it may lead to stabilization in the volatility of the market for primary goods [3] as the siphoning of profit margins by middlemen are brought to light.

[1] Silver, Jeff. “Nestle Prioritizes Transparency in Advertising.” Modern Counsel. Accessed April 08, 2016.

[2] ibid.

[3] Sylla, Ndongo Samba, and David Clement Leye. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. 2014. 





Pouring down rich dark pellets: examining racial stereotypes in Finnish lakristi

In 2007 the Scandinavian candy company Fazer came under fire for using African pejoratives on the licorice candy Lakistri where Black persons are depicted in a racially offensive fashion. Fazer is known to use racial caricatures in its most notable Kina snacks featuring stereotypical Asian in style and color. (Dalston 2012) While Fazer removed offensive images in favor of more neutral shapes that still conveyed racial messages, there is one that remains in use with distinct racial connotations. This is Lakristi Pastilleja,

Image 1: Revised Lemon Lakristi Candy 

which are a sensationalized Finnish treat of flat small licorice circles stored in boxes that look like movie candy. This post will explore the Lakristi Pastiilleja brand in closer detail, and the harmful implications it has with connecting black persons with commercial commodities like licorice. A secondary ad in challenging and bringing a conscience to the current ad will be explored, in addition to the sociocultural histories behind racial stereotyping in candy advertisements.

The current Pastilleja ad contains a black background with grinning faces and red smiles. The other colors the ad features are yellow for the lettering and white for the facial features of wide eyes and mouths. Fazer first started packaging licorice and using black persons in advertisements in 1927. (Ron 2012) The Lakristi ad conveys playfulness with

licorico 008
Figure 2: Current Lakristi licorice ad Finland

gazes, but the poses and coloring have deeper constructs. Although color is not explicitly pinpointed as with the Likristi lemon ads, the black background does allude to African persons. The wide smiles can be pinpointed to earlier advertisements depicting African Americans with oversized heads and large eyes and lips associated with minstrels. (Robertson 2009, p.36) The other stereotype is the pickaninny frieze. (Merleaux 2015, p.126) Also the wide exaggerated smiles allude to American slavery where African captives were forced bear wide smiles. (Martin 2016)


The advertisement in response to the current Pastrilleja ad features Scandinavian caricature and the Lakristi candy itself. It challenges the previous ad through cultural symbolism and consumptive patterns. In this ad a young reindeer is depicted as licking

Scan 2
Image 3: Revised Lakristi pastileja ad

Lakristi drops falling from a tree. The young deer is depicted as innocent, and effortlessly but satiable in enjoying the product. The doe alludes to African children caricatured in earlier chocolate ads with the wide eyes and mouth. It also has the same naïve senses except instead of using vernacular English it wanders for food. (Robertson 2009, p.38) It symbolizes the addictive and thoughtless consumption in Finnish Scandinavian culture. The doe enjoys the candy at exorbitant rate, but doesn’t think of the source.

Placed in contact with each other Image 2 helps Image 1 in confronting its racial insensitivity with advertising. The new ad without using a person or a certain nationality uses an image to make Finnish persons confront themselves on racial sensitivity. This is opposite of historical candy ads that made images far from European likenesses with ‘harnessing differences. (Robertson 2009, p.40)’ The new ad also teaches the original Pastilleja ad that licorice does not have to be associated with a specific race specifically African, and all nationalities should be embraced as evidenced with the different color lettering, and the band on the doe which respects Finnish culture.

Examining racial undertones in the Lakristi ad, and the responding ad on national or conscious identity helps to understand the sociocultural contexts of racial stereotyping in advertising. The widened gazes in the original Pastrilleja ad allude to Conguitos chocolate advertisement where chocolate malted milk balls in Spanish commercials are depicted as primitive Congolese African warriors. (Martin 2016) The second ad depicting the small doe does have imagery constructs, but in a more dignified racially sensitive fashion that respects nationalities. Finally the candy touches on the less refined quality of sweets, and how that affects lower income populations children specifically. (Merleaux 2015, p.126) (Martyris 2015) The ads help to debunk racial stereotyping by making majority consumers see and confront themselves in the images.


Dalston. 2012. “Title.” dalstonliteraryreview, April 1, 2016.

Martin, Carla D. 2016. Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. In AAAS E 119, edited by Harvard Extension School: Harvard Extension School.

Martyris, Nina. 2015. “Tainted Treats: Racism And The Rise Of Big Candy.”

Merleaux, April. 2015. “From Cane to Candy: the racial geography of new mass markets for candy in the 1920s.” In Sugar and civilization : American empire and the cultural politics of sweetness, 125-146. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Robertson, Emma. 2009. “‘A deep physical reason’: gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption.” In Chocolate, women and Empire: a social and cultural history, 18-63. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.

Ron. 2012. “Title.” US Slave, April 1, 2016.

Image Credits

Figure 1:

Figure 2:

Figure 3: self; deer doe image used from Disney Pixar’s Frozen coloring book 2015