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Bonbons and Bad Moms: An Anthropological Exploration of Chocolate and Gender

The “bonbon-eating housewife” narrative is so pervasive that it has become a rallying cry for stay-at-home-moms who feel underappreciated and overworked despite their reputation for laziness. In dozens of blog posts, these stay-at-home mothers decry the injustice of this stereotype, mocking the image of the bon-bon obsessed housewife in satirical articles and feminist op-eds. It seems as though this stereotype became widely accepted with the advent of the multi-camera situational comedy — one of the most widely-known models of how American family life is and should be. Since the earliest days of the multi-camera sitcom, the modern housewife has been stereotyped in the media as indulgent, lazy, and chocolate-crazy. The 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy and the 1990s sitcom Married … With Children provide perspective on the evolution of this stereotype and gendered assumptions we make about chocolate confections and the people who consume them. Through analyzing contemporary criticism of the “lazy housewives with bonbons” archetype, we can develop an understanding of how modern feminism challenges this narrative and how chocolate could be less strongly associated with femininity in the future. This association between housewifery, misogynistic narratives about women’s economic value, and the bonbon can help us to more clearly understand the cultural relationship between chocolate and femininity.

First, we must explore what a chocolate bonbon is and how it became associated with middle-class womanhood. A bonbon is typically a piece of candy — usually nougat, caramel, or other soft candies — covered in a thin coating of chocolate. While truffles are traditionally defined as balls of chocolate ganache covered in a thicker layer of chocolate, Americans often use the terms “bonbon” and “truffle” interchangeably to describe a small, bite-sized, chocolatey piece of candy. “Bonbon” can be roughly translated to “goody goody” in French, and French confectioners have been creating these sweet, delicate treats for centuries ( In the pre-industrial period, bonbons were handmade luxury goods, filled with expensive ingredients like candied fruit and nuts. Without mechanized equipment, confectioners had to hand-temper chocolate and cook candy with unreliable heat sources, hand-craft and coat each morsel of candy with chocolate, and sell them in small storefronts (France Today). Therefore, bonbons were a small-batch luxury good rather than a treat that any housewife could afford.

With the dawn of industrialization, many confectioners could streamline the process of producing bonbons. By the 19th century, confectioners could use mechanized equipment to produce bonbons more quickly and reliably — they no longer had to hand-sculpt each candy. The benefits of this more efficient bonbon-making process can be seen in the below video, in which a confection uses industrial cooking vessels and molds to easily produce many bonbons (Insider).

Increased sugar production in the Caribbean and other European colonial territories made sugary goods of every variety more affordable for middle- and working-class families (Mintz, 174). By the 20th century, a variety of bonbons and truffles were being produced in the United States, including the ice cream bonbon, which were largely sold in movie theaters and sports stadiums in addition to grocery stores (The Nibble). A 1988 New York Times article mentioned ice cream bonbons as one of international food conglomerate Nestle’s most popular chocolate products (Feder). Today, Americans buy over 36 million boxes of chocolate (typically filled with bonbons) for Valentine’s Day every year (Shah)! Clearly, the chocolate bonbon is one of America’s most treasured chocolate confections, but it is not clear how modern Americans came to associate bonbons with lazy stay-at-home mothers and the fraught gender politics of womanhood and work.

Perhaps the earliest example of this “lazy bonbon-eating housewife” stereotype can be found in Lucille Ball and Desi Arnazs’ semi-autobiographical 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. In the show, Lucy is depicted as a funny, confident, and somewhat scatterbrained wife and mother. In contrast to other television mothers from the so-called “Golden Age of Television” (the late 1940s to the early 1960s), Lucy was the star of the show and frequently proved her husband wrong. Where Leave it to Beaver’s June Cleaver was demure, Lucy was vibrant and opinionated. Where The Honeymooners’ Alice Kramden was bitter, Lucy was witty and pleasant. However, despite her character’s originality and complexity, Lucy was still subject to the gender expectations of her time. Like many married woman of her time, Lucy was a housewife and stay-at-home mother, and I Love Lucy frequently focused on disagreements between breadwinner Ricky Ricardo and his supposedly-lazy wife.

This conflict came to a head in the famous I Love Lucy episode “Job Switching” ( In the episode, Ricky accuses Lucy of being a lazy spendthrift who doesn’t appreciate how hard he works to put food on the table. In turn, Lucy accuses Ricky of failing to understand how difficult it is to be a homemaker. To settle their disagreement, Lucy and Ricky agree to switch jobs — Lucy and her friend Ethel spend a day making bonbons in a chocolate factory because they are talented makers and consumers of bonbons. At the same time, Ricky and Ethel’s husband Fred spend the day as “housewives.” Both groups fail spectacularly at their new “jobs,” as seen in the clips below.

This seems to reinforce the idea that Lucy and Ethel are naturally suited to housewifery while Ricky and Fred are naturally suited to work outside the home. When Lucy and Ricky resolve their differences at the end of the episode, Ricky presents Lucy with a five pound box of chocolates to show his appreciation for her hard work (This Was Television). This joke is ironic because Lucy has just spent a terrible day working in a chocolate factory, but also because housewives stereotypically love a box of chocolate bonbons. Early 1950s sitcoms were largely not as interested in subverting or exploring gender stereotypes as they were in reinforcing these stereotypes. Because Lucy in many ways represented the “model housewife,” she was traditionally feminine, took pleasure in domestic work and motherhood, and devoted to her husband. Her stereotypically feminine love of chocolate bonbons was an integral part of this “zany domestic goddess” image.

By the 1990s, many sitcoms were significantly less interested in upholding “traditional family values.” For example, in the irreverent sitcom Roseanne, eponymous main character Roseanne was a beleaguered working mother rather than a cheerful, polished housewife, and family comedy Full House abandoned the traditional nuclear family model altogether, instead centering around three men raising a family together. Perhaps no series embodies the genre-bending 1990s sitcom better than Married… With Children. The show centers around the Bundy family: Al, a misanthropic shoe salesman; Peggy, a profoundly lazy housewife; and their often-bratty children, Kelly and Bud. In many ways, Married… With Children is a perverse satire of the traditional family sitcom a la I Love Lucy, particularly because Peggy Bundy makes little effort to be an exemplary wife, mother, and homemaker. Instead, Peggy spends every day literally sitting on her couch and eating chocolate bonbons. Bonbons have become so closely associated with the character of Peggy Bundy that multiple recipes can be found online for “Peggy Bundy’s Bonbons,” including a recipe for “Peggy Bundy’s Lazy Day Coconut Bonbons.” The recipe description characterizes Peggy as “selfish and lazy” and associates theses qualities with Peggy’s habit of “watching Oprah and eating bonbons” (Eat Out Loud).

This association between Peggy’s gender, occupation, character, and love of chocolate bonbons is an extreme example of the way in which the “housewife with bonbons” stereotype had become widespread by the late 20th century. Peggy Bundy was the embodiment of every negative stereotype about housewives in the 1990s, when the female employment rate reached its all-time high of 57.4% by the end of the decade (Statista). Her ever-present box of chocolate bonbons signaled to the audience that she was the quintessential self-indulgent housewife who did not “produce” anything. Today, many online articles about the character, published by news and tabloid outlets like Time, Newsday, and Us Magazine mention her love of bonbons in describing her laziness and self-centeredness. Clearly, bonbons have been largely recast as an affordable, indulgent treat for the lazy housewife rather than handmade luxury items at the pinnacle of haute-patiserie. Peggy Bundy embodies our contemporary anxieties around the role of women as housewives as many women seek employment outside of the home, as well as our understanding of once-expensive goods as mass-produced commodities in the industrial era.

This popular association between one of television’s most dysfunctional mothers and the chocolate bonbon has sparked an online movement among housewives. The “housewives and bonbons” stereotype has become a reference point for many discussions of the value of women’s domestic work, like an Ohio housewife’s blog Bonbons and Martinis: The Diary of a Modern Housewife (BonBons & Martinis); satirical articles on housewife-oriented media outlets like the article “Children Removed From Home Where SAHM Eats Bonbons And Watches TV All Day” on (Sammiches and Psych Meds); and practical columns in women’s magazines, like the article “9 Things Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home-Mom” in Women’s Day. This rejection of the “housewives and bonbons” stereotype isn’t necessarily an anti-feminist paean to the virtues of motherhood. Rather, they can be understood as a feminist reclamation of the value of traditionally-female domestic labor, whether the authors of these articles would label themselves feminists or not. In the same way that I Love Lucy’s Lucy Ricardo refused to let her husband degrade her work as a housewife and Married… With Children’s Peggy Bundy embraced her box of bonbons instead of becoming a picture-perfect stay-at-home-mom, these housewives are rejecting the stereotype that they are either a Lucy Ricardo or a Peggy Bundy.

Works Cited

“The Life and Times of Chocolate, Part 4.” Chocolate Noise.

“French Bonbons.” France Today.

“How BonBons are Made.” YouTube, uploaded by Insider, 2 May, 2017.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, Penguin Books, 1985.

“Product: Ice Cream Bonbons.” The Nibble: Great Food Finds, 14 November, 2010.

Feder, Barnaby J. “Carnation’s Big Ice Cream Bet.” The New York Times, 1988.

Shah, Khushbu. “Americans Will Spend $18.9 Billion on Valentine’s Day.” Eater, 9 February, 2015.

“Televising Masculinities: I Love Lucy: Expectations of the Sitcom Husband in the early 1950s (Part 2).” This Was Television, 11 September, 2002.

“I Love Lucy: Job Switching.” YouTube, uploaded by calvin Fx, 16 January, 2016.

“I Love Lucy’s Famous Chocolate Scene.” YouTube, uploaded by History104WWU, 19 May, 2010.

“Peggy Bundy’s Lazy Day Coconut Bonbons (Married With Children.” Eat Out Loud, 12 February, 2017.

“Employment Rate of Women in the United States from 1990 to 2017.” Statista.

“Top 10 TV Moms June Cleaver Would Hate.” Time, 18 October, 2010.

“Memorable Moms in TV and Movies.” Newsday, 13 May, 2018.

“Sofia Vergara Gets a Sexy Peggy Bundy Makeover and Asks, ‘Do You Like This Look, Ed O’Neill?’” US Magazine, 3 September, 2015.

“About.” BonBons & Martinis: The Diary of a Modern Housewife.

“Children Removed From Home Where SAHM Eats Bonbons And Watches TV All Day.” Sammiches and Psych Meds.

“9 Things Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home-Mom.” Women’s Day, 30 January, 2012.

Chocolate = Happiness in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

Image result for willy wonka and the chocolate factory

A scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)


          On June 2, 1971, Paramount Pictures released what was to become one of the most nostalgic musical films of all time: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Mel Stuart. The film, based on the 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, is about a young boy named Charlie who wins a golden ticket to tour the Wonka Chocolate Factory in his local town with none other than Willy Wonka, the eponymous owner of the factory. What starts out as a whimsical factory tour ends up becoming the most transformative day of this life, as Charlie wins not just the lifetime supply of chocolate but the factory itself. As Wonka explains in the film “I can’t go on forever. I had to give it to a child”. He goes on to explain that an adult would want to do things his own way, whereas a pure and honest child would do it the right way (the Wonka way).

          Continue reading Chocolate = Happiness in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

Ethical Just Tastes Better


Photo by Amano Artisan Chocolate

How do you get someone to create unbelievably delicious and exceptionally creative chocolate? In the case of Art Pollard, you tell him it can’t be done. A somewhat unlikely candidate for a future chocolatier, Pollard started his journey at Brigham Young University in Orem, Utah in the Physics Department. He and fellow physics student Clark Goble, became fast friends and business partners with their first venture in a successful software company. With their joint love of food and hard sciences, they teamed up again to co-found Amano Artisan Chocolate. When Pollard first told friends he wanted to make chocolate they were skeptical, he was determined, and the rest is history. (Pollard, n.d.) Today Amano stands as a beacon in the chocolate community for ethically produced chocolate, preserving authentic ways of chocolate production and overall just a delicious product. Pollard describes the company beginnings and a little about their everyday work life in this interview produced by Park City Television.

(TV P.C. , 2007)

One of the most unusual things about Amano is their commitment to authentic techniques using vintage chocolate machinery when crafting their product. Their winnowing machine, in particular, is quite spectacular. At the beginning, they built their own winnowing machine with their own design but quickly realized it had many flaws including a back-breaking flaw in the design and the inordinately loud noises it made while processing. Eventually, they were approached by a friend with an amazing 100-year-old winnowing machine from Spain. Although they were overwhelmed with the amount of work needed to restore the antique, they carefully brought it back to life and it now stands as one of their most prized pieces of equipment.

For a peek at the actual machine in action, take a look at these videos produced by Amano.

(The History, 2014)

(Roasting, 2011)

Not a single process is rushed resulting in a superior product. Pollard had this to say about their very precise conching process.

“We conche our chocolate until it is done. Various manufacturers claim that they conch their chocolate for a certain number of hours. One number that is frequently thrown around is 72 hours. In our opinion, this is like asking how long do you cook a fine sauce, roast, or turkey? Just as it takes differing amounts of times to cook items for a nice meal, it takes differing amounts of time to conche fine chocolate…  Just as it is possible to over-cook a meal, it is also possible to over- conche chocolate. Chocolate that has been over-conched will often taste flat and uninteresting because many of its flavor components have evaporated off. Rather than saying that our chocolate   has been conched a certain number of hours, we prefer to say that our chocolate has been conched until it is”just right.” (Pollard, n.d. How Long)

What qualifies chocolate as craft chocolate?

Making craft chocolate takes just the right patience. Although an official definition has not been agreed upon, it is recognized in the chocolate community that craft chocolate companies agree to meet the following standards:

  1. Chocolate must be crafted from the bean and from scratch in their own facilities.
  2. Chocolate production is small ranging between 1 metric ton and 200 metric tons per year.
  3. The company must be independent, or 75% of the company owned by craft chocolate companies or craft chocolate company employees.
  4. Traditional methods are used for production including batch roasting, winnowing, refining, and tempering and depositing chocolate (optional: sometimes outsourced) (Martin, 2018)

Using these guidelines, Amano Artisan Chocolate most certainly qualifies as a craft chocolate company.

 Fair Trade Chocolate

Pollard and Goble’s company adheres to strict guidelines for ethically produced chocolate. They are proud to be a part of a distinct group of producers who work tirelessly to make sure the labor practices of the farms they purchase from are humane. They choose to not be a part of the certified Fair Trade family and they explain in detail on their website why they feel this is better for the farmers they work with.

“Since Amano is concerned only with the highest quality cocoa beans, Amano always pays farmers and co-ops significantly more for their product that is set by the “fair trade” organizations. Unfortunately, it costs significant amounts of money (often upwards of $10,000US / year) for the farmers to become fair-trade certified in addition to it being a long drawn out process. Many farmers simply cannot afford it. The Fair-Trade certification organizations don’t have operations in many of the cocoa growing countries. We would hate to leave these country ’s farmers out in the cold just because some other organization decides not to work in their country.

At Amano, we believe in paying a premium price for premium cocoa beans. The prices we pay are measured in multiples (i.e., 3-4 times) the London Cocoa Terminal Market price. This not only ensures that we obtain the highest quality beans available but this also ensures that the farmers we work with not only can provide for their families but are encouraged to produce a high-quality product and improve their farms. We don’t pay the prices we pay to get a label on our box — we do it because it is the right thing to do.” (Are you n.d.)

favorite moment

Enjoying the Moment

Pollard’s business thrives because he cares about his product and where it comes from. His favorite chocolate moment came early in his career when they were making their third bar with some very special beans from Cuyagua Valley in Venezuela. The finished product was amazing and they were very excited about taking the finished product back to the source in Venezuela. When they arrived at the farm, they spent the day working side by side with the farmers and watched them and the tenderness they used while caring for the cacao trees. Finally, at the end of the day, they passed out a finished chocolate bar for each of the workers to enjoy. It was at this moment that a very elderly farmer approached Pollard and said, “This chocolate is like a river.” Being confused by the statement, Pollard asked him to elaborate. The gentleman continued and said, “This chocolate takes you on a journey. Its flavor takes you to all the wild and wondrous places, and it goes on and on — like a river.” This was a pivotal moment for Pollard and he realized at that moment the power their product had to move someone in a meaningful way. (Cuyagua, n.d.)

 Great Chocolate Starts with Great Cacao

The best chocolate makers know that great tasting chocolate starts at the source, the cacao beans. Amano chocolate goes to great lengths ensuring that their customers are not only receiving the best quality cacao, but they have gone a step further and joined the fight to preserve existing heirloom varieties of cacao. Global chocolate makers have been fighting against a cacao enemy named CCN-51 since 1960.


Photo by Amano Artisan Chocolate
(A photo of CCN-51which was responsible for the loss of an extensive number of heirloom cocoa varieties)

This new variety of cacao created by researcher Homer Castro is very seductive with its highly productive and disease-resistant qualities, but it doesn’t taste good and the chocolate made from these cacao beans is very inferior to properly crafted chocolate from traditional cacao varieties. Industrial chocolate companies have lobbied with vigor for CCN-51 to be introduced in areas such as Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, and Venezuela.

Recently Pollard was given the opportunity to speak to the Ecuadorian Congress. There he made his case with 5 reasons to stop the proliferation of CCN-51:

  1. Ecuador should fight to preserve the legendary flavor of its cocoa.
  2. The flavor of CCN-51 is simply not good.
  3. By planting CCN-51, Ecuador will be entering a bidding war with other countries who will plant the same cacao and can charge less. Instead, they should focus on their local flavor of Nacional.
  4. As CCN-51 becomes more prolific, Ecuador may lose its Nacional cacao due to cross-pollination involving CCN-51 and native varieties. This would be a significant loss of national heritage that goes back thousands of years.
  5. 5.CCN-51 faces the problem that all mono-cropping plants do of the same genetic identity; meaning that they are essentially clones. When you have plants with the exact same genetics they are extremely susceptible to extermination due to disease.

He finished his presentation by providing samples of Amano chocolate and imploring the Ecuadorian congress to please consider the ramifications. Although Pollard is unsure of the future of CCN-51, he is committed to not let this agricultural vermin contaminate his product and Amano is proud of their cacao sources in over seven different countries(Pollard, 2014)


Photo by blog author


After reading so much about Amano’s chocolate I had to try some for myself. My family joined me in a tasting party and we tried four bars (image above). The Raspberry Rose bar called to me right away from the packaging alone. It was hands down the favorite of most with bright bits of raspberry crunch and a smooth floral note to finish. Next, we tried the Mango Chili. Here we noticed the individuality of personal taste. While some enjoyed the mango and not the chili, others enjoyed the chili but not the mango. For many, it was the perfect combination of warmth and sweetness. Finally, I wanted to compare two bars identical in composition with one notable difference: the cacao bean sources. Each bar was 70% cocoa with pure cane sugar, cocoa butter, and whole vanilla beans but one bar’s cocoa beans were sourced in Madagascar and the other in the Dominican Republic. I was a little skeptical that we would taste a significant difference but I was proven wrong. It was unanimous that the bars tasted vastly different. While the Madagascar bar had a smooth, but strong berry essence, the Dominican bar had an astringency with potent citrus and slightly herbal notes. Surprisingly, our taste buds agreed with the experts.

Amano had the following to say about their award-winning Madagascar bar (gold medal at the prestigious 2011 London Academy of Chocolate awards),

“This chocolate is what first put Amano Chocolate on the map of chocolate makers. It is an untraditional cacao with strong fruity flavors that include hints of citrus and berry. When we introduced our Madagascar we followed the inspiration of the great American Chef, Alice Waters.   We wanted to be as true to the ingredients as possible.” (Madagascar, 2018)

And the Dos Rios is also no stranger to recognition; recently winning a silver at the 2016 International Chocolate Awards-Americas Round. Here is Amano’s description of their very unique Dos Rios bar:

“Since we burst on the market in 2007 many chocolate makers have copied Amano Chocolate in bringing out unique flavors of cacao beans from around the world. However, Amano has exclusive rights to these most unusual cacao beans. They taste like chocolate mixed with oranges with cinnamon and clove. When we make our Dos Rios chocolate we do not add any fruit or flavorings. All the flavors you taste come from these very special cocoa beans grown from the Dominican Republic. They are the true flavor of the beans. Our job as chocolate makers is to be as true to the beans as we can. The flavor of cocoa beans can change depending on where they are from. That’s why no two single origin bars taste exactly the same. The bean genetics, the skill of the farmer, and the care and methods of producing the chocolate all go into the final flavor of the chocolate.      Here, they all come together magically to create one of the world’s most unusual and flavorful chocolates.” (Dos Rios, 2018)

Ethical just tastes better

 In the Amano Artisan Chocolate company, Art Pollard and Clark Goble have produced more than a delicious and beautifully crafted chocolate. They have invested their hearts and souls into a product that they can be proud of. A product that is painstakingly made with techniques that preserve centuries-old chocolate crafting techniques on antique machinery that they resurrected. Their end product is a superior tasting chocolate using only the best of the best in ingredients. A product that is ethically produced with careful considerations of the cacao producers, their farms, their countries, and the future of cacao. As for me, I’ve got a new favorite chocolate company that I am excited to support. Why? Because in the end, for me, ethical just tastes better.



Are you “Fair Trade” Certified? (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2018, from

Cuyagua: Art’s Most Favorite Chocolate Experience. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2018, from

Dos Rios 70% 3oz Dark Chocolate Bar. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2018, from

Eagranie. (2013, July 23). Meet the Maker: Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate. Retrieved    May 6, 2018, from    maker-art-pollard-of-Amano-chocolate/

Madagascar 70% 3oz Dark Chocolate Bar. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2018, from

Martin, C. D., PhD. (2018, April 18). Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food           justice: The future?Lecture presented in Harvard Extension School, Cambridge,     Massachusetts.

Roasting, Cooling, and Winnowing at Amano Artisan Chocolate. (2011, August 18).          Retrieved from Posted by DallasFood

Pollard, A. (n.d.). How Long do You Conche Your Chocolate? Retrieved May 8, 2018            from

Pollard, A. (n.d.). Who Founded Amano Chocolate? Retrieved May 7, 2018, from   

Pollard, A. (2014, February 15). Speaking to the Ecuadorian Congress-against CCN-51.    Retrieved May 7, 2018, from  to-the-Ecuadorian-congress/#lightbox/0/

The History of Amano’s Winnowing Machine. (2014, February 19). Retrieved May 7,      2018, from          machine/

TV, P. C. (2007, December 17). Amano Chocolate. Retrieved May 8, 2018, from


Sex and Chocolate

The Maya believed that the gods created human beings out the fruits of the land. (Popol Vuh) This association between fruits like cacao and creation informed a strong cultural link with fertility. It was said that mother-in-laws would give their son-in-laws cacao to help cure impotence and produce grandchildren. Cacao was often applied to medicinal purposes beyond fertility by later Aztecs and invading Europeans over the following centuries, but its first use was as a fertility rite. Gods were depicted in art exchanging cacao in order to maintain the fertility of the world that humans mirrored in marriage rituals.Cacao was an integral part of many Maya rituals, but marriage was arguably the most significant. Below, in the image borrowed from Professor Carla Martin’s in her lecture “Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods’”, we see the structure of Maya marriage negotiation. The men, namely the potential groom and the father of the potential bride, discuss the potential marriage as representatives and advisors of both parties watch on and the potential bride and bride’s mother listen in while being separated by a barrier. As the potential groom and father of the bride discuss marriage arrangements such as brideprice, cacao is exchanged ritualistically and often served as the brideprice. (Martin, “Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods’”)


Similar practices are still used by the descents of Maya people today but instead of a cacao used as a ritualized currency, real money is used. (Brintnall 81) Aside from the shift to modern currency, the rest of the ritual and general marriage practices remain the same in these communities. Young men wishing to marry in these communities still seek a representative, meet with the young woman’s father formally to negotiate a brideprice over drinks of cacao. (Brintnall 81) Similarly, in Mixtec society, ceremonial exchanging and drinking of cacao was part of the marriage ceremony itself and often symbolized the establishment and fertility of the union.

Fertility as connected to cacao was a concept that ingrained itself deeply into Aztec culture. The Spanish reported that Moctezuma not only had a treasury of almost a billion cacao beans, but that he would take cacao every night as a source of energy and poteninence before retiring to his harem for the evening. When the Spanish colonizers first encountered cacao, they were initially confused by this alien staple of an alien world but were successful in quickly incorporating it into their diets. (Coe and Coe 111) The Benzoni, in his History of the New World, even wrote of cacao as “a drink for pigs” and refused to try it for over a year while in Mexico. When he had tried it, he said of cacao that “it satisfies and refreshed the body.” (Coe and Coe 110) Once adopted, the effect of cacao as a stimulate quickly gained infamy among the Spanish with wild claims of its effectiveness as an aphrodisiac that were by no means helped by the already established rumors of the late Moctezuma’s cacao intake.

As cacao was popularized among European colonists in Mexico, it also began to spread to Europe due to many Spanish women taking it with them back to Europe while travelling for marriage. Whether this was the start of the association between women and chocolate is unclear, but within a few centuries cacao became a product dominated by female consumption. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, gendered associations of chocolate began to emerge. (Few 2) In Santiago de Guatemala, chocolate became culturally associated with women and their disorderly behavior in public in a way that closely mirrors the complaints of the clergy in Mexico of women standing in the doorways of churches, drinking chocolate, and disrupting sermons. (Few 3) “Chocolate acted as a central vehicle of women’s ritual power, used as the basis for magical potions to cast supernatural illness, in sexual witchcraft practices, and even, at times, as a flash point for women’s disorderly behavior in public settings.” (Few 1)

The stereotype of chocolate turning women crazy is still present today. Women statistically like chocolate more than men. “Liking and craving for chocolate and related substances were surveyed in a sample of University of Pennsylvania undergraduates (n = 249) and their parents (n = 319). Chocolate was highly liked in all groups, with a stronger liking by females.”  (Rozin, Levine and Stoess) These high rates of craving chocolate are reflected in consumer reports. Today, women are still the primary consumers of chocolate and are primary purchasers of chocolate 51 weeks out of the year. The only week women are not the primary purchaser’s is the week of Valentine’s Day which traditionally sees men purchasing chocolate for women. (Martin) The strong cultural association between women and chocolate as well as female chocolate cravings have led the chocolate industry to market almost exclusively to women. (Martin) Any men who do appear in these commercials are rarely consuming chocolate. Instead, men are making the chocolate, buying the chocolate, getting in the way of chocolate, or are the victims of intense rage resulting from a lack of chocolate for the woman. Chocolate commercials being geared towards women does not prevent the commercials from being hypersexualized. In fact, many chocolate commercials are sexual in nature. Many women are depicted as nude or semi-nude. The consumption of chocolate is portrayed as orgasmic. Often enjoying chocolate is described by the commercial narrator as a “sin” or something generally “forbidden.” The sin aspect of chocolate may relate me to the way society views female sexuality than it does chocolate. It would hardly seem a savvy marketing strategy to tell a potential consumer that consuming the product results in moral judgement from God unless the purpose is invoke the erotic undertones that words like sin have taken on culturally. Our association between chocolate and sex is a marketing ploy that is recycled for other food advertisements such as the infamous Carl’s Jr. super model advertisement seen below.

maya carls jr

Using sex to sell food is by no means unique to chocolate. However, the association between sex and chocolate is so strong that companies like Durex have flipped the model of using sex to sell chocolate and used chocolate to sell sex. On its website, under the title Sex and Chocolate: The Ultimate Guide, Durex states, “Chocolate’s unique combination of taste and attraction makes it alluring to both men and women. Not only does the effects of chocolate impact our mood, energy and sexual function in remarkable ways, but it can positively impact our health. For a sinful treat you can’t resist, here are five reasons why you should indulge in chocolate this winter:” And goes on to list rather mundane but sensually worded facts about chocolate that sound like they have been pulled straight from a chocolate advertisement. Durex does not sell chocolate. Durex sells condoms and lube. The only product of Durex mentioned in the article is a passing reference to strawberry flavored lube which could be used to make the experience of eating chocolate “sweeter.” No reference to any specific chocolate product, made by Durex or otherwise, was promoted. Even though this Durex advertisement is overtly advertising chocolate while somewhat subtly selling sex, it is so similar to advertisements overtly about sex while somewhat subtly selling chocolate that chocolate and sex could be completely interchanged and no difference would be made. The Durex advertisement serves as a clear example of how interchangeable chocolate and sex are in marketing and, by extension, how interchangeable chocolate and sex are in the minds of consumers absorbing information from said advertisements, particularly women living in the Western world since they are the target of most chocolate advertisements.

The interchangeable nature of sex and chocolate is also reflected in actions and opinions of everyday people. According to a Cadbury Chocolate survey conducted in the United Kingdom, the majority of women in the UK would rather have a chocolate bar than have sex with a man. The reasoning, as one woman is reported as having given, is that “Chocolate provides guaranteed pleasure.” (Daniel) The statement that it is a matter of which source of pleasure is more reliable implies that the pleasure received from chocolate comparable to chocolate. Even if consuming chocolate is considered less pleasurable than sex, it is still close enough that the guarantee of the pleasurable chocolate is worth risking losing the chance at potentially more pleasurable sex. If chocolate was not a extremely pleasurable snack, it would be worth ignoring in lieu of a potentially superior experience like orgasm. Therefore, it can be assumed that sex and chocolate have similar degrees of associated pleasure in the minds of UK women if not equal degrees of pleasure. In short, the pleasure of chocolate is on par with the pleasure of sex. Equating sex and chocolate and presenting them in popular culture through publicity stunts and advertisements sends the message that sex and chocolate are interchangeable to the general public which feeds further into the mythos of chocolate that companies exploit in their marketing. The interchangeable nature of chocolate with sex is largely why sensual and explicitly sexual imagery is so digestible thus can be made common in advertisements without seeming strange to the viewer: Sex and chocolate go together. Where there is one, it is natural to find the other. It would be weird to watch a hypersexual yogurt commercial. The close relationship with sex is unique to chocolate. Despite common use of sexual imagery to try to sell food, sex is not nearly as prevalent in advertisements for any other food due to cultural constraints making the tactic of sexual imagery a distinct trope of chocolate advertisements. Sex sells, but it sells chocolate best since we have been associating chocolate with sex for hundreds of years. The sexualized bodies of men and women in chocolate advertisements have also swayed the way everyday people, women especially, view their sexuality and sexual prowess.

Today’s pop science culture provides seemingly endless evidence of chocolate’s sexual powers. Popular articles such as Best Foods for Better Sex , 13 Reasons Why Chocolate is Good for Your Health and Sexuality, and How Can Eating Chocolate Improve My Sex Life are easily found with a quick google search. These articles go on to discuss horoscopes and whether or not a woman should talk dirty during sex so are perhaps not the most rigorous scientific sources.

On Facebook, there are numerous active dating and semi-pornigraphic groups using chocolate euphemisms in their name. “Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl World,” with 268,000 members, and “Chocolate Gurlz Are Us,” with 76,000 members, are the most popular but have spin off groups such as “Chocolate and vanilla swirl World 2” and “Chocolate & Peanut Butter.” The relationship between these groups is not clear and multiple membership of individuals in multiple groups makes the exact number of participants hard to calculate, however it is clear from the online presence of other “chocolate and vanilla swirl” on sites like Pinterest that the use of chocolate to describe sexual relationships is quite common. (Lampley)

Sex and chocolate are married within the cultural consciousness. Chocolate has become so sexualized that even referring to an object with a chocolate euphemism sexualizes the object. This does not happen with Cool Ranch Doritos or Oreos. It is a chocolate exclusive phenomenon. Baser pleasures like consuming chocolate can be argued to be construed with sex due the pleasurable chemical compounds that chocolate shares with sex. The human brain’s reward center is quick to release dopamine whenever a sweet food item like chocolate is consumed. The stimulate theobromine is an additional kick to give the consumer pleasure in the consumption of chocolate. However, we do not have the same sexual association with the comparable food item of coffee, which is often filled with sugar and provides a caffeine induced energy boost similar to that of theobromine. Chocolate is a sex food in the minds of people all around the world due to its long standing reputation as an aphrodisiac and the aggressive marketing of the chocolate industry.



Anitei, Stefan. 13 Reasons Why Chocolate Is Good for Your Health and Sexuality. 17 October 2007.

Brintnall, D E. 1979. Revolt Against the Dead. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1979.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter. n.d. Facebook. 2018.

Chocolate & Vanilla Swirl World. n.d. Facebook. 2018.

Chocolate and vanilla swirl World 2. n.d. Facebook. 2018.

Chocolate Gurlz R Us. n.d. Facebook. 2018.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1996.

Cwynar, Eva B. How can eating chocolate improve my sex life? n.d. 2018.

Daniel, Kaayla T. Like Sex or Chocolate n.d. Psychology Today 2018.

Few, Martha. “Chocolate, Sex, and Disorderly Women in Late-Seventeenth and Early-Eighteenth-Century Guatemala.” American Society for Ethnohistory (2005).

Martin, Carla.“Chocolate expansion”, Harvard University, (2018).

Martin, Carla.“Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods’”, Harvard University, (2018).

Martin, Carla.“Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements”, Harvard University, (2018).

Greene, Lauren. Eat Chocolate for Better Sex. 13 February 2012.

Lampley, Tatiana. Chocolate Vanilla Swirl. n.d. Pinterest. 2018.

Popol Vuh. 1558.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009.
Rozin, Paul, Eleanor Levine and Caryn Stoess. “Chocolate craving and liking.” Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania U.S.A. (1991).

Chocolate: Good Food, Good for Mood

Oh chocolate; how we love it so. We eat it when we are happy, we serve it at celebrations and use it to show affection when we are feeling amorous; Hersey’s Kiss, anyone? We eat it when we are sad, we send it in gift baskets to show sympathy to others and we devour it in high doses when we are feeling lonely; Hersey’s Hug, anyone? No matter what the happy chocolateemotion or situation, there’s a Hersey’s for that. While I’m sure that team Snickers and team Kit Kat will argue that their confections work just as well, if not better, the point is that chocolate is synonymous with our happy place. We seem to be convinced that it has occult powers that can enhance the tolerability of any circumstance. To put it plainly, chocolate makes us feel good. To achieve the energetic and emotional stimulation of chocolate we will travel to supermarkets and specialty shops and even have it shipped to us in bulk. We crave it, but why? Have you ever wondered why we look to the “food of the gods” for comfort and a remedy for emotional turmoil? And just who were the first group of people who munched on cacao seeds and said, “oh I feel great?”


As early as 1900 B.C, “Olmec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations found chocolate to be an invigorating drink, mood enhancer and aphrodisiac, which led them to believe that it possessed mystical and spiritual qualities. The Mayans worshipped a god of cacao and reserved chocolate for rulers, warriors, priests and nobles at sacred ceremonies” (Klein, 2014). These Mesoamerican natives have been credited with introducing cacao to the world. With that said, I have a question with respect to how much the indigenous people of Mexico and Central America understood about the chemicals included in cacao and whether they had knowledge of any psychotropic effects that the beans had on those who consumed them. Sophie and Michael Coe, authors of the book The True History of Chocolate, state that “psychologists tend to dismiss the possibility that any one of the myriad chemical compounds that constitute chocolate, or any combination of them, could have a physical effect on the consumer” (Coe, 1993), but what effects does it have on the mind? Does chocolate really affect one’s mood, and if yes, is it a psychotropic stimulant or an inhibitor? Cacao and its believed benefits were discovered centuries ago. Since that time the concentration of actual cacao included in drinks and edibles has been significantly reduced. In the United States, the FDA only requires that confections contain at least 10 percent cacao in order to be labeled as chocolate (Chocolate, As Defined By FDA, 2015). With this dilution of cacao, it seems arguable that the benefits received by consuming chocolate would be significantly decreased when compared to the euphoric or mind-altering reaction that the Mesoamericans would have experienced. This blog intends to focus on the psychological benefits of cacao, particularly on depression and whether it can be altered based of the levels of cacao concentration

major-depressionThis graph shows Depressive episode among adults in the U.S.

Depression is one of the most common mood disorders in the United States. There are several types of depression. These types include persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), postpartum depression, psychotic depression and seasonal affective disorder. The symptoms associated with these types of depression can range from mild “blues” to more severe and even suicidal actions. The National Institute of Mental Health lists the risk factors for depression as having personal or family history of depression, major life changes, trauma or stress and certain physical illnesses and medications (Depression, 2018). That being said, there are treatment options for even the most severe cases of depression. Most cases can be managed by antidepressant medications. The effects of these medications can take up to four weeks to be realized. It is suggested by medical professionals that patients continue taking their medication up to 12 months before stopping or requesting a decreased dosage. Studies show that holistic treatments for depression can be effective alternatives to pharmaceutical options. According to Dr. Hervé Robert, author of Les vertus thérapeutiques du chocolat, “the caffeine, theobromine, serotonin, and phenylethylamine that chocolate contains make it a tonic, and an anti-depressive and anti-stress agent, enhancing pleasurable activities, including making love” (Coe, 1993).

Live Science reports that though chocolate can induce a high from the stimulants that it contains such as tyramine and phenylethylamine, however the potency of these compounds is too low to serve as an antidepressant. “Chocolate may interact with neurotransmitter systems that contribute to appetite, reward and mood regulation, such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, according to the 2013 article in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (BJCP). However, the authors noted, the effects may have more to do with chocolate’s taste and smell than its chemical effects” (Szalay, 2018). BJCP found that though “It is a common belief that eating chocolate can improve mood states and make people feel good. Chocolate is often associated with emotional comfort. This effect seems to be linked to the capacity of carbohydrates including chocolate to promote this type of positive feelings through the release of multiple gut and brain peptides” (Nehlig, 2013).


Though this research indicates that the euphoria associated with chocolate is all in our heads, contrast to these scientific findings, popular polling would conclude that consuming chocolate definitely has a major chemical affect. Bryn Mawr College student, Kristen Coveleskie, would agree that chocolate has healing powers. She wanted to research the best things to take to a friend in the hospital and found that “One of the more unique neurotransmitters released by chocolate is phenyl ethylamine. This so called “chocolate amphetamine” causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels leading to feelings of excitement and alertness. It works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression, but it does not result in the same tolerance or addiction. Phenyl ethylamine is also called the “love drug” because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when someone is in love” (Coveleskie, 2004). Coveleskie also found that the effects of eating diluted chocolate to only nominal. Particularly, the United States only requires that a product contain 10% of cacao for it to qualify as chocolate, while other countries such as Germany have a higher requirement. She suggests eating chocolate that contains at least a 30% cacao.

In contrast to BJCP’s findings that chocolate is more of a comfort food than an actual emotional stimulant, A Moment of Science reports that chocolate is actually a drug, like cannabis or opiates. “Chocolate also contains a cannabinoid, a drug similar to the cannabis in marijuana, which produces feelings of euphoria and well-being. Other chemicals, that inhibit the breakdown of cannabinoids naturally produced by your brain, prolong this feeling long after chocolate is consumed. As if the opiate and cannabinoid high aren’t enough, chocolate also contains theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine, and phenyl ethylamine, a chemical thought to be related to the feeling of love. (Chocolate-a drug?, n.d.) An article posted on Everyday Health lists 10 delicious reasons to eat chocolate; fighting  depression is one of them. The article says that good mood starts with good diet. Among the foods recommended in the article is dark chocolate. “Dark chocolate helps to release serotonin and relaxes the blood vessels of the cardiovascular system” (Myers, 2018). Another article on this site says that chocolate containing at least 65 percent cacao is the most effective.

With reports that supports chocolate’s mood lifting abilities and popular belief that like these, I was ready to establish in a lifelong regime of daily truffles and bon-bons, that was until a little more digging uncovered an article on Psychology Today that says more chocolate could mean more depression, and even an increase in suicide rates. The article faults added ingredients such as trans-fats and fillers, which has “detrimental effects on the brain” (Deans, 2015). This study subscribes to the idea that a higher the cacao content, means a higher flavanol and polyphenol concentration, which will be more beneficial to consumers. The article recommends a dose of cocoa containing 500 mg of polyphenols over a 30 day period in order to improve mood.

Works Cited

Chocolate, As Defined By FDA. (2015). Retrieved from Registrar Corp:

Chocolate-a drug? (n.d.). Retrieved from Moment of Science:

Coe, S. D. (1993). The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson LTD.

Coveleskie, K. (2004). Chocolate On The Brain. Retrieved from

Deans, E. M. (2015). Your Brain on Chocolate. Retrieved from

Depression. (2018). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health:

Klein, C. (2014). The Sweet History of Chocolate. Retrieved from

Myers, W. (2018). 8 Foods That Fight Depression. Retrieved from Everyday Health:

Nehlig, A. (2013). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Szalay, J. (2018). Chocolate Facts, Effects & History. Retrieved from Live Science:


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 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. 


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.,

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,

“Chocolate Industry Analysis 2018 – Cost & Trends.”,

“Cocoa | 1959-2018 | Data | Chart | Calendar | Forecast | News.” Trading Economics, TRADING ECONOMICS,

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,

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

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,

Jacobs, Tom. “’Fair Trade’ Chocolate Perceived as Healthier.” Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, 5 Jan. 2012,

“Jens Hainmueller: Will People Pay More for Fair Trade Products?” Youtube, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 18 Feb. 2015,

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

United States, Congress, Washington, D.C. “Edgar.” Edgar, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 14 Feb. 2018.

United States, Congress, Washington, D.C. “Edgar.” Edgar, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 26 Apr. 2018.

“What Is Fair Trade.” Youtube, FairtradeANZ, 12 July 2017,


Destined for Contention: Chocolate’s Place in a “Healthy” World

Chocolate, and what it means to people, differs across time and space. From its inception as the seeds of a fruit tree to the myriad ways in which it is transformed and eventually consumed by humans, chocolate’s potential variety seems limitless. The history of chocolate merits this variety; it is a fascinating story across multiple continents and cultures. What becomes ever more apparent when studying chocolate’s history as a food, and potentially as a healthy food, is that human obsession with food – in general, but more pertinent to this paper as a source of health – is no new phenomenon. The Western diet has undergone huge transformation since the industrial revolution, chocolate was transformed along with it, and both have not slowed in their development. When chocolate was first encountered by Europeans, the scientific reasoning behind food knowledge was based on a 1500-year-old system developed in Ancient Greece and Rome. Today, modern science allows us to measure the nutritional content of anything and everything we can think of ingesting. But, alas, this technological exactitude has not led to uniform consensus when it comes to which foods are healthy and which are not. Diversity, in both our options of foods and the opinions on which of them we should choose to consume, still reigns supreme. This paper will track chocolate, from its birth place to the continents where it is now most widely and voluminously consumed, and attempt to appraise its value as a beneficial dietary supplement. It will also discuss what effect the perception of chocolate as a health food might have on the industry today. What becomes apparent is that, while Galen’s humours may no longer hold sway in the scientific realm, the Hellenic wisdom from Apollo’s temple that prescribes, “Everything in Moderation,” is as true today as it was two thousand years ago.

According to Michael and Sophie Coe, in their exhaustively well-researched book, The True History of Chocolate, feelings have been mixed about the legitimacy of chocolate as a health food for a long time. The Aztecs, who did not discover or invent the cacao seed and its most valued product, but were controlling the product across its empire with an iron fist, did not view chocolate as a panacea like some Europeans came to do. For the Aztecs, the chocolate drink, as it was consumed then, was taken chiefly as a preferable option to wine – drunkenness being hugely frowned upon (Coe: 75). There were some supposed benefits, that were reported by the Spanish mendicant friars, including increased “success with women” (Coe: 96), and as a cooling drink that could be taken before hard labour to avoid overheating (Coe: 123). But there were also warnings against chocolate, with a myth purporting that chocolate had made Aztecs fat and weak, distancing them from their superior forebears (Coe: 77). In Europe, chocolate arrived as a medicine (but Coe notes, “it soon became a medicine that was appreciated for its taste, its filling nature, and its stimulation, 126). However, the guise under which it came, the now utterly refuted Galenic humoral system, makes its supposed benefits interesting but not pertinent to this discussion. To sum up briefly, chocolate was claimed to benefit a host of ailments including: angina, constipation, dysentery, dyspepsia, kidney disease, liver disease, breast and stomach illness, asthenia, indigestion, fatigue, gout, haemorrhoids, erectile dysfunction, and the list goes on.1 It was not until modern medical research took root in the 19th century that false claims started to become harder to make (though they have never been completely extinguished).

So what claims can be made about chocolate? Unfortunately, because chocolate in the United States only has to be 10% or more made from cacao, very little can be said uniformly about chocolate.2 So it is important to clarify that the only chocolates that can be said to have possible health benefits (at least benefits that derive from the cacao) must be those produced with a significant cacao content. Much has been said recently about the health benefits of dark chocolate, some of it true, some of it exaggerated, and some of it quite misleading. If one googles, “dark chocolate health,” the vast majority of articles one will find will boast of the “superfood” qualities of high cacao content chocolate or of the benefits of adding raw powdered cacao as a supplement to one’s diet.3 The nutritional properties of cacao most touted are its antioxidants – polyphenols and flavonoids – with claims that they are good for cardiovascular health, protection from disease, anticancer properties, lower cholesterol, cognitive health, and lower blood pressure.4 Antioxidants has become a “buzzword” in the health community, especially the health selling community, and so anything that can be provably claimed to contain antioxidants and can also be produced and sold will appear in advertising before long. However, scientific research results have not proved as exciting as the claims of fitness and holistic-living “experts.” The antioxidant immunity boost from chocolate has showed to be extremely short-lived in humans5 and studies have revealed, like that of red wine’s supposed health benefits, that the amount of chocolate (or wine) that would need to be consumed to enjoy the rewards from the antioxidants contained would be such an enormous amount that the damage caused by the fat and sugar (or alcohol) would far outweigh the goodness done.6 Thus, the health benefits of chocolate, if any, must be attainable from a small amount, as its fat content is so high.

So if the antioxidants in chocolate are too small in number, are there any other benefits to eating dark chocolate? In short, yes. Small amounts of very dark chocolate, approximately 85% cocoa content, do boast three important nutrients that, while less glamorous than immortality-inducing antioxidants, are incredibly important to human health. High cacao content chocolate boasts impressive amounts of fibre, iron, and magnesium. While the numbers are not uniform brand to brand, a comparison of eight brands at a Somerville, Massachusetts convenience store (Perugina, Green and Blacks, Jelina, Scharffen Berger, Newman’s Own, Lindt, Chocolove, and Divine) showed enough correlation to warrant discussion. The average fibre content from the eight brands darkest products (ranging from 72%-85%) was 19% of a person’s recommended daily amount; for iron it was 27.5%. Magnesium is generally not listed on FDA required packaging and so product to product this number is hard to acquire. However, Humana Press’s comprehensive compendium, Chocolate in Health and Nutrition, is not vague when it comes to chocolates magnesium content claiming, “Chocolate has one of the highest magnesium levels reported of all foods.” (Watson 430) Are these facts about chocolate’s nutritional profile important? Possibly. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service claims that 57% of Americans do not have enough magnesium in their diet; it also claims, more dramatically, that 92% of Americans do not get sufficient fibre in their diet.7 Magnesium deficiency is not trivial. The American National Institutes of Health claims:

“Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It has been recognised as a cofactor for more than 300 enzymatic reactions, where it is crucial for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) metabolism. Magnesium is required for DNA and RNA synthesis, reproduction, and protein synthesis. Moreover, magnesium is essential for the regulation of muscular contraction, blood pressure, insulin metabolism, cardiac excitability, vasomotor tone, nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. Imbalances in magnesium status—primarily hypomagnesemia as it is seen more common than hypermagnesemia—might result in unwanted neuromuscular, cardiac or nervous disorders. Based on magnesium’s many functions within the human body, it plays an important role in prevention and treatment of many diseases. Low levels of magnesium have been associated with a number of chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease (e.g., stroke), migraine headaches, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”8


For anyone living in America, sadly, these diseases and afflictions are not unfamiliar. Fiber deficiency too poses health risk with the Harvard School of Public Health claiming, “Fiber appears to reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, and constipation.”9 Iron deficiency is not, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, a seriously prevalent issue among Americans with 89.5% getting enough in their diet. Although the risks associated with iron deficiency, for one in ten Americans,

“can delay normal infant motor function (normal activity and movement) or mental function (normal thinking and processing skills… can increase risk for small or early (preterm) babies. Small or early babies are more likely to have health problems or die in the first year of life than infants who are born full term and are not small, … cause fatigue that impairs the ability to do physical work in adults. Iron deficiency may also affect memory or other mental function in teens.”10

Iron deficiency is not a huge issue at the moment, but with the amount of meat being consumed in the American diet coming under attack, alternative sources of iron might be important to a new generation of health and environmentally conscious consumers looking to eat considerably less meat, and with it the iron it provides.

The number not yet mentioned, but most important when discussing the possible benefits or dangers of high cacao content chocolate is that of the fat, and especially saturated fat, content. The average saturated fat content from a single serving of one the eight brands mentioned previously is 58% of the recommended daily amount, according to the FDA packaging. This number is astronomically high. The dangers of saturated have been widely reported for many decades10 but recently there has been contention within the medical community. The British Medical Journal posted a controversial article in 2017 claiming “Saturated fat does not clog the arteries… Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong.”13 The article came under fire, not for necessarily being outright wrong, but for being misleading.14 Fat is still something that should be monitored, whatever the type is being consumed. So, unlike a food source like a kiwi, which boasts enormous health benefits and can be added to any diet with no known drawbacks (unless one is allergic), chocolate can only be effectively employed as a source of nutrients to a diet low in fat. For many this is bad news. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service reports that only 40% of Americans are staying within the guidelines of consuming 10% or less of their calories from saturated fat.15 Ultimately, this means for a large section of society the only way to employ dark chocolate as a health food is if they restructure their diet to include significantly less saturated fats.

So, if it can be argued that a small amount of high quality dark chocolate can be employed as a nutritious source of food to an already health conscious individual, what could this man for the industry today? One positive effect that has started to occur is that people’s dissatisfaction with the amount of sugar in their diet has caused producers to start making chocolate with much higher cacao content. With cacao content coming under focus, the origin, quality, and ethical standards in production of the cacao have come out of the shadows for mainstream consumers to take a better appreciation of the politics behind what they put in their bodies. Chocolate has a dark past that unfortunately it has not completely shed. But with cacao becoming the star of the show for many selective buyers, attention is increasing, albeit too slowly, to cacaos often third-world origins and the ethics of production in countries like Ghana and The Ivory Coast. Unfortunately, healthy (or at least healthier) chocolate does not mean ethical chocolate. Lindt is a brand that has not exonerated itself with total transparency after accusations of turning a blind eye to the unethical means of production of its chocolate. Yet its 85% bar is a favourite among fitness enthusiasts for its nutritional content and great flavour.16

What is exciting is the recent explosion of craft chocolate in the United States and beyond. Craft chocolatiers are typically willing to pay more for their beans, and as Dr Martin of Harvard University has written, “buyers must pay more for cacao, uncertified and certified. Both practically and morally, consistent cacao farmer poverty in an industry replete with wealth is unacceptable.”17 Craft chocolate is also inherently made from higher quality ingredients, and with an emphasis on a robust amount of cacao per bar. An often reliably healthier option than mass-produced chocolate. The craft chocolate market is still small and producers have for the most part stayed clear of buying beans from West Africa, where the bulk of ethical concerns lie. However, increase in chocolate consumption is rising rapidly according to an article publish recently in Vox, “Chocolate retail sales in the US have risen from $14.2 billion in 2007 to $18.9 billion in 2017, the market research group Euromonitor International found, at a time when candy sales overall have been waning.”18 If demand for craft chocolate increases, perhaps a future where farmers are able to choose to sell their beans to craft chocolatiers over mass-producing corporations is possible.



Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 1996. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Watson, RR, Preedy, VR & Zibadi, S 2013, Chocolate in health and nutrition. Humana Press Inc. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-61779-803-0

Dandelion Chocolate: Transparency and Accountability in Craft Chocolate

Dandelion Chocolate is a bean-to-bar craft chocolate company operating out of California (“Visit Us,” Dandelion), with factories in San Francisco (Masonis 14) and Tokyo (“Sourcing Report,” 2016) and bars on the shelves of numerous retailers in numerous countries (“Retailers,” Dandelion) . The company was founded by Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring in 2010 (“Company Overview of Dandelion Chocolate, Inc.,” Bloomberg), after the pair sold their social networking startup and Masonis spent a year abroad tasting European chocolate. Dandelion’s mission is a simple one: “to bring small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate back to the Bay Area,” striving for care, quality, and transparency in their operations along the way. This quest has led them not only to great-tasting craft chocolate, but admirable accountability with regards to their cocoa supply.

The world of industrial chocolate has notoriously been fraught with ethical issues since Conquest; the complexity, opacity, and exploitation involved in getting cocoa from equatorial farms to American supermarkets has drawn intense criticism from social awareness fronts (Ryan 43-44; O’Keefe 2016; Rivero 2017). Implementing measures to address such problems is difficult; promises from the biggest chocolate companies in the world (“Responsible Sourcing,” Hershey; “Tackling Child Labor 2017 Report,” Nestle, 49; “Modern Slavery Statement,” Mars Inc.; “Home,” Slave Free Chocolate;  “Compliance and Integrity,” Mondelez International; Sequeira 2016) to contribute to industry overhauls in exploitative labor conditions and practices have been pushed further and further back year by year (“Ferrero sets date to end cocoa slavery,” CNN; Clarke 2015; O’Keefe 2016), and even well-meaning efforts by certification organizations such as Fair Trade (“Fair Trade Cocoa from Cote D’Ivoire,” Fair Trade Certified) may be more exclusionary than truly impactful in the lives of primary producers (“Sourcing Report,” 2015; Claar & Haight 2015; Sylla 92, 233). It is in this troubled environment that Dandelion has made a name for itself (Shute 2013; Crowley 2015), emphasizing fair relationships with cocoa farmers with an eye toward improved consumer education; and various measures to correct and avoid traditional supply chain problems can be seen in Dandelion’s dealings with the multiple grower enterprises from whom they buy. In their investment in direct trade, farmer education and training initiatives, fairness of pricing, and environmental consciousness, Dandelion are putting their money behind a better kind of chocolate trade and production.


Since initiatives like Fairtrade first began drawing attention to market anonymity and other trade and industry problems disadvantaging cacao producers (Sylla 66, 83), understanding of where and how Western manufacturers get the material for their product has become a key measure of accountability in the marketplace, signaling that farmers have power in relationships with the organizations that buy from them (Sylla 92, Macatonia 2013). Dandelion is an excellent example of what to do right. Working closely with the estates and cooperatives that grow and ferment its cacao beans is an important part of Dandelion’s mission as stated on its website: “We believe that good business practices can help foster positive social, environmental, and economic change, and we are committed to increasing transparency in … our own process as well as across the supply chain” (“Our Beans and Sugar,” Dandelion); “To us, Direct Trade means the way we source beans is more relationship-based than it is purely transactional” (“Sourcing Report,” 2015, p. 9). Dandelion has made information on where its product comes from openly available on the company website, including thorough “sourcing reports” for the years of 2014, 2015, and 2016, which detail where they buy their beans and how many metric tonnes have come from each source (“Sourcing Report,” 2014; “Sourcing Report,” 2015; “Sourcing Report,” 2016); this allows customers to keep abreast of changes in supply as the still relatively young company shifts purchasing, and offers assurance that the crop is coming from real people concerned for its quality at ground level—confirmed by Dandelion’s budgeting of regular in-person visits to sources (“Sourcing Report,” 2015). Dandelion’s attitude toward sourcing offers reassurance for concerned chocolate buyers, but moreover it constitutes a much-needed corrective to an industry historically cynical about disclosing source information or addressing the need for it (Ryan 44; Off 140, 142-145).

Dandelion touts its hands-on approach to working with sources largely as the most effective means of assuring product quality (“Source Report,” 2015, p. 8); but they are careful to stress that it also loops back to value for the producers: “Chocolate makers like us are willing to pay far more than the world market price for high quality beans … We believe that improving quality is a more sustainable means of increasing the price that producers can charge” (“Sourcing Report,” 2015, p. 8). Part of their effort to maximize bean quality has been to ensure that the enterprises and cooperatives they partner with give farmers access to training and educational support – a resource the lack of which has proven prohibitive for many “bulk cacao” producers in terms of getting the best crop out of their land as well the best money for that crop (“Unsustainable farming,” Make Chocolate Fair; Rolden et al 121, 125-129). Dandelion’s concern for and investment in this issue is reflected in their business arrangements with several of their sources. Their page on an Ecuadorian source, Camino Verde fermentary (“Camino Verde, Ecuador,” Dandelion), gives pride of place to the fact that this source has shared advice and information about cacao processing not only with farmers in Ecuador, but with Dandelion’s Dominican Republic and Tanzanian partners. ADIOESMAC (Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Ox’ Eek Santa María Cahabón), Dandelion’s Guatemalan source for nutty-tasting beans (“Cahabon, Guatemala,” Dandelion), works with Cacao Verapaz, a “social enterprise and export group” begun by sourcing enterprise Uncommon Cacao (“Cahabon, Guatemala,” Dandelion; “Quien Somos,” Cacao Verapaz), to sell and export beans to Dandelion; but Cacao Verapaz fills a role beyond this by providing training in cacao processing to cooperative members, so that processing and quality control remain largely in farmers’ hands (“Cahabon, Guatemala,” Dandelion). Meanwhile, Zorzal in the Dominican Republic—from whom Dandelion purchased 10.2 metric tonnes of cacao in 2016—lists education services and “supporting … neighboring farms with best practices to garner higher prices for their produce” among the tenets of its organization (“Home,” Zorzal Cacao); and Kokoa Kamili in Tanzania sends their own trained agricultural expert to local farms, “providing training on Good Agronomy Practices to help increase both the yields and the quality of cocoa,” plus organizing “Farmer Field Schools to make sure we can educate larger numbers of farmers on some of the basics” (“IMPACT,” Kokoa Kamili). Maya Mountain Cacao, Dandelion’s Belize source on which the company again partnered with Uncommon Cacao, prioritizes farmer training as well; in 2016, following the reception of Dandelion funding for new facilities, the enterprise gathered their first harvest from a demonstration farm, “an educational space for producers to learn best practices and receive technical support” (“Maya Mountain, Belize,” Dandelion), as Dandelion’s website proudly notes—a testament to the strength of the company’s support for farmer education and empowerment.

In addition to addressing issues of anonymity and supporting training resources for farmers, Dandelion’s chosen investments show an interest in the ecological sustainability of its product (“Life in Belize,” Dandelion). This is again in contrast to industry norms regarding chocolate production (“Bittersweet: Chocolate’s Impact on the Environment,” World Wildlife Fund; Konstantas et al 2018;  Schroth & Harvey 2007; “Chocolate production may be harming environment: study,” The Economic Times; Maclean 2017; “Cutting Deforestation Out of the Cocoa Supply Chain,” World Bank), wherein unsustainable practices contribute to deforestation and loss of biodiversity, among other concerns. Part of the way Dandelion shows its concern for impact on forests is through its support of Zorzal Cacao in the Dominican Republic. Zorzal, a fermentary and estate which shares land with the Reserva Zorzal bird sanctuary, was cofounded by Chuck Kerchner, Sesar Rodriguez, Jamie Phillips, and Jesus, Jaime and Angelica Moreno, on the belief that production of goods like chocolate could go hand-in-hand with, and even promote, responsible conservation efforts (“Home,” Zorzal Cacao; “Zorzal, Dominican Republic,” Dandelion). In addition to its work helping to preserve the Bicknell’s Thrush on the sanctuary side of the operation (“The Reserve,” Zorzal Cacao), Zorzal works with other landowners under the Plan Vivo project to reforest the DR. Per Zorzal’s website: “The Plan Vivo project is a long-term program that directly addresses the 50 year goal of the Conservation Action Plan for Bicknell’s thrush … The unique … aspect of the Plan Vivo certificate[] is that it links farmers in the Cordillera Septentrional (the northernmost of the DR’s four highest mountain ranges; Bencosme 17)  to chocolate companies … who are willing to invest in restoration activities” (“Conservation Programs,” Zorzal Cacao) –one of which is Dandelion (“Partners,” Zorzal Cacao), whose each purchase of a tonne of Zorzal cacao is accompanied by a purchase of $200 worth of Plan Vivo carbon offset credits (“Zorzal, Dominican Republic,” Dandelion). These credits go toward the planting of native trees by local farmers on and off the reserve proper, contributing to reforestation and increasing biodiversity. Moreover, Dandelion’s sugar—the only ingredient in each bar besides cacao—is sourced from the Native Green Cane project (“Green Cane Project: Production Methods,” Native), which produces a third of all organic sugar on the market and is described as the world’s biggest organic agricultural project (“Our Sugar,” Dandelion). The Green Cane Project grows and harvests sugarcane self-sustainably; instead of burning, the leaves are air-stripped using a specially developed harvester, and then fed back into the ground as mulch. Pest control is accomplished via the introduction of natural predators which do not harm the environment (“Green Cane Project: Biological Pest Control,” Native; “Our Sugar,” Dandelion), while light, slightly deflated harvester tires help to minimize soil compression. The result is a harvesting process which is non-destructive and, indeed, facilitates dramatic increases in land biodiversity, “maintain[ing] soil fertility, creating a favorable environment for the action of beneficial microorganisms and water and air infiltration, essential for plant growth” (“Green Cane Project: Green Cane Harvesting,” Native; “Our Sugar,” Dandelion) –and offering a green sweetness to each Dandelion bar.

Throughout all these operations, fair prices going to producers is of paramount importance to Dandelion. Pricing is a huge problem in the chocolate industry at large (“Cocoa Farmers,” Fairtrade Foundation; Nieburg 2017; “Chocolateis a Bittersweet Way of Life in Ghana,” NBCNews ); bulk cacao can pass through a huge or sometimes unknowable number of hands from the point it leaves a farm to when it hits the retail market (“An Overview of Cocoa Production in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana,” World Agroforestry Centre), and by the time profit returns to farmers it is often no profit at all. Dandelion addresses this issue by buying dried cacao directly from the fermentary facilities of organizations that either grow that cacao themselves, or purchase it fresh from nearby farmers, so that the only hands the crop goes through before it is shipped to Dandelion are the farmers’ and the fermenters’. One such organization is Kokoa Kamili, Dandelion’s source for Tanzanian cacao. Kokoa Kamili’s founders established their fermenting enterprise in a remote farming community in the Kilombero Valley, miles from the nearest town or tarred road, where they started out buying “wet,” unfermented cacao directly from producers at high prices—the same practice is followed by Dandelion’s Belize and Ecuadorian sources (“Maya Mountain, Belize,” Dandelion; “Camino Verde, Ecuador,” Dandelion)—which they then ferment and dry in their own facilities before selling it on to companies like Dandelion (“CHOCOLATE,” Kokoa Kamili). Not only does this shorten distance-to-sale dramatically for those farmers who might otherwise have to travel a long way—Kokoa Kamili picks up cacao lots from farmers daily, and transports larger quantities for no charge—but per the group’s website, “farmers get paid more, quicker, for less work. The time and effort spent fermenting and drying beans can now be spent tending their cocoa, working on their farms, starting a small business, or just enjoying a little down time” (“OPERATIONS,” Kokoa Kamili). Kokoa Kamili are able to pay high prices for undried cacao because they can exert a lot of control over the quality of beans they dry themselves; when the process is complete, the beans are highly desirable to craft chocolate makers like Dandelion, who are willing to pay what they are worth (“Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania,” Dandelion). ADIOESMAC in Guatemala has been able to do similarly thanks to support from Cacao Verapaz and Dandelion; where once middlemen called coyotes set unsustainably low prices for Guatemalan cacao, “Cacao Verapaz has offered more equitable and stable payments directly to the farmers [and] established a standard of transparency, simultaneously connecting producers with a more diverse, international market of chocolate makers. Dandelion currently purchases as much as the association is able to produce” (“Cahabon, Guatemala,” Dandelion). In addition to a general policy of good pricing, Dandelion strives for fairness and non-exclusionary practices in what it expects from its sources—namely, quality product, not necessarily certified product: “If we want proof that the producers we buy from do not use bad chemicals, unfair labor practices, or environmentally unsound cultivation methods, we visit the farm and find out for ourselves … In Tanzania, it costs $8,000 just to get the organic certification auditors to visit a farm … what we pay depends upon the quality of the cacao” (“Sourcing Report,” 2015, p. 8). The work Dandelion does to seek equitable treatment of its producers sets it apart from much of the chocolate world and demonstrates its overall commitment to improving the way craft chocolate is manufactured.

With the chocolate market so consistently plagued by the moral and financial misfires of capitalism, and solutions often difficult to find, Dandelion Chocolate and the initiatives it works with to source its product shines through as a hopeful counterpoint. The company still has a ways to go in its social approach—while it has accessed East Africa by way of Tanzania, and reported a Liberian source in 2014, the most recent 2016 report does not mention any sources in West Africa (“Sourcing Report,” 2014; “Sourcing Report,” 2016), where the vast majority of the world’s cacao-growing families live and work (“Our Work,” World Cocoa Initiative); and the company recently backed out of its partnership with a women-led cooperative when the company Tisano shifted operations away from Venezuela due to “challenges” (“Mantuano, Venezuela,” Dandelion). But the company is still new, and in the efforts it has made to establish connections that foster direct relationships with producers, educational initiatives, conservation efforts, and proper pricing, it has set the ethical bar higher for its peers in the industry; future success for Dandelion and companies like it could translate into better regulations, market-wide restructuring of the supply chain and higher-quality product overall. In the meantime, Dandelion continues to grow into its success, learning along the way.


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“OPERATIONS.” Kokoa Kamili, Accessed May 9, 2018


“Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania.” Dandelion Chocolate, Accessed May 9, 2018


“Our Work.” Cocoa & Forests Initiative | World Cocoa Foundation, Accessed May 9, 2018


“Mantuano, Venezuela.” Dandelion Chocolate, Accessed May 9, 2018



A Crafty Future

There is a revolution going on in America.  It exists as almost a counter to the industrial revolution that drove this country forward a hundred years before it.  Craft artisans are taking over in the wake of a society that has been built by mass production.  As this revolution moves across foodstuffs, it is of no surprise that craft chocolate is currently on the rise.  However, it is important to understand why this revolution is taking place now, and some of the hurdles it must overcome to continue its success.

The Lay of the Land

Currently two chocolate companies, Hershey’s and Mars, account for over 50% of chocolate sales in the U.S. (Euromonitor, 2017). It should be of no surprise that these two particular companies own so much of the market share. They were both founded on the idea of bringing chocolate, which was previously a luxury treat, to the masses.  Milton Hershey was a pioneer in mass production, revolutionizing and streamlining much of the industrial process.  Hershey’s team discovered that by using condensed sweetened skim milk they could create a product with longer shelf life and that blended easily with cocoa powder.  This meant that not only could he ship his chocolate bars further, but lasting longer on the shelf meant less profit losses due to spoilage.  Hershey also looked at supply chain optimizations, investing in his own dairy farms and even building a sugar mill operation in Cuba, complete with its own railroad.  This allowed Hershey to control both the costs of commodities for his chocolate bar and the quality.  Mars, on the other hand, was more successful due to marketing than anything else.  His Milky Way bar (which originally sourced chocolate from Hershey) was more nougat than chocolate, making it larger on shelf and seem a comparatively good value to the Hershey bar. That said, both had the same result, taking an indulgence that was once almost exclusive to the wealthy and middle classes and democratizing it for every day enjoyment.

chocolate sizingMass production allowed for chocolate to be produced cheaper, allowing those savings to be passed on to the consumer – or more importantly, from a marketing sense, for them to outprice their competitors.  But while price is important, so are the products themselves.  While it may have taken a while for consumers to acclimate to the flavor of Hershey’s and Mars bars when they first came on the market, the particular blend of milk, sugar and other ingredients insured that they were universally palatable and they now exist as the template for what we expect chocolate to taste like.  Similarly, both companies have hero products that are specifically designed for easy consumption.  Both Hershey’s Kisses and M&Ms were made for portability (individually wrapped/ melts in your mouth, not in your hand) and their small, poppable size makes it easy for consumers to lose track of mindfulness and eat large quantities in one sitting. These products have other advantages, as they are easily adaptable to innovation.  As consumers are desiring more variety and novelty across the board, these products have proven to be the most flexible in introducing new flavors – and easily acceptable to consumers who are familiar with their form and have built brand trust.  These companies have leveraged seasonality, larger cultural trends, and limited time offers to drive new product news and sales.

pumpkin(wait.  Is she wearing an infinity scarf and hipster glasses?)

So, if big chocolate is designed for palatability and companies are responding to consumers desires for more interesting, topical flavors, why are we seeing a proliferation of craft chocolate providers? When we look at the numbers, the story becomes more telling.   When looking at sales growth, mass chocolate has remained flat year over year (CSP daily news, 2016).  This despite their innovation and the fact that chocolate consumption overall is growing.  Instead, the growth seems to be predominantly driven by premium and craft chocolates, suggesting not just changing tastes, but a changing attitude about where our food is actually coming from.

Big Food Backlash

There is growing negativity towards giant corporations and conglomerates, particularly when it comes to food. From an economic standpoint, consumers have watched as these corporations get massive tax breaks which have translated into bonuses for the executive suite, while the working class continues to struggle.  While this issue impacts most major corporations, it is of particular concern when it comes to the chocolate industry and growing awareness around fair labor practices, forced labor, child labor and the ethical price people pay for their chocolate.  There is a lot of skepticism that these companies will make ethical choices when given the opportunity, particularly when people see so many examples in the news of them pursuing profits over people, such as Nestle bottling drinkable water in the middle of the Flint, Michigan water crisis (the guardian, 2017).  More and more often, buying in to big brands feels like an investment against your own interests.

The Big Middle creates more space for differentiation

The sheer nature of big brands as they fold in to one another may be working against them. “When you have increasing concentration of producers in the center, you leave room on the periphery for specialization,” says Elizabeth G. Pontikes, associate professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. (Shanker, 2017) In other words, these multinational conglomerates are creating their own sea of sameness.  In a society that is increasingly valuing individuality, particularly when it comes to the millennial and younger generations, brands and products that lack differentiation also lack appeal.  We can see this even in the most famous of branding cases, Coke vs. Pepsi with beverage drinkers now migrating to new choices like LaCroix and energy drinks.

The obvious choice might be for these mass chocolate brands to create verticals that touch these periphery spaces, but they have struggled breaking in.  Hershey’s introduced their Cacao Reserve premium line in 2006.  The brand lasted three years, suffered several price drops and the need for mass market advertising support, before they dropped it from store shelves. (Thompson, 2007) Their next move was to build their premium line using borrowed equity.  At the same time they launched Cacao Reserve, they purchased Scharfeen Berger, a premium line of chocolates out of California. As they pushed to mass market the brand, they switched suppliers, using cheaper beans from West Africa.  The result was severed relationships with brands like Whole Foods, who were concerned that Hershey’s could not guarantee that the beans weren’t sourced through child labor (Bloomberg, 2017).  The brand has somewhat rebounded, but the initial loss is still being recovered, and leaves the question as to whether or not big brands can ever play credibly in the premium/ craft space.

A wake up call for food

The obesity crisis in America was a wake up call about the food we consume and how it is being produced.  A series of films, articles and exposes, while at times misleading and ignores the true labor of food, caused people to rethink what they are getting out of processed food.  The consumer take-away was that mass produced food lacks quality and nutritional value, is predominantly artificial fillers, and is potentially detrimental to your overall health. Quality, whole ingredients, and care has become increasingly synonymous with healthfulness, regardless of traditional markers like fat and calories.

While all of these things make craft chocolate more appealing, it still has hurdles to overcome to convince people to pay the enormous price tag that comes along with it.

As noted, industrial chocolate is the baseline for people’s orientation to what chocolate should look and taste like, as well as what it should cost.  For Craft chocolate to succeed, they don’t just need to overcome the shift to premium pricing, they need to overcome expectations set by mass market chocolate.  There is a need to educate people on to the true value of the chocolate they are consuming and the difference that craft chocolate provides. There are four key ways in which craft offers a point of difference that both provides a difference that supports craft’s value proposition and requires consumer education: process, taste, ingredients and sourcing and ethics.

Understanding the process

Over time, manufactures have swapped out real ingredients for cheaper artificial substitutes such as vanillin instead of vanilla.  (Martin-Sampeck, 2016). This has impact on the flavor, consistency and mouthfeel of the chocolate itself. Craft chocolate’s smaller production model in of itself creates a different end product, but some companies have gone further, focusing on minimizing the process.


Taza chocolate, a bean to bar company located in Somerville, MA, takes great pains to educate consumers as to their process.  They describe their bars as “chocolate with true grit.” Their mission is to return chocolate to its pre-industrial roots.  They believe that less processing allows for more complexity in flavors. Their chocolate is stone ground on hand carved molinos (mill stones) with little refinement between that and the end product.  The result is, to their description, a chocolate bar that lacks the smoothness that consumers have come to expect, but with a stronger chocolate flavor and more complexity in experience overall.



Expanding your palate

“When most people eat a piece of chocolate we want that pleasure immediately: boom!  That’s the music of mass-market chocolate.” (Williams, 2012)

Historians have theorized (incorrectly) that when chocolate came to the old world, that it was appropriated to suit Europeans’ tastes (Norton, 2016).  In fact, chocolate’s evolution from its new world form to the substance we know today was a process that took over a century of innovation.  The chocolate that Europeans first enjoyed was a fairly close recreation of how it was consumed in Mesoamerica.  The Europeans had just acquired a taste for it.  That said, they had a lot of motivation to do so – chocolate was seen as exotic, a luxury (due to both its scarcity and use as currency), and had potential new health benefits.  Additionally, unlike today, there was no basis for comparison.  For today’s consumers, their palates have been educated in the world of mass produced chocolate – and what they have come to expect is a very sweet, creamy, almost single note experience.  Craft chocolate, on the other hand, leans in to chocolate’s bitter notes, and offers way more complexity.  Not only do consumers need to adjust to the new flavor profile, but they need help recognizing the flavor notes to truly appreciate the difference they are getting from craft.

Dick Taylor chocolates started in a small factory in Eureka, California by Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor.  They started their factory out of a love of craftsmanship and making things with their hands (both worked in woodworking and boat building).  In addition to educating consumers on the sourcing of their beans, they seek to educate consumers on how craft processing changes the flavor and experience of their chocolate.  From their website “by not cutting corners or taking shortcuts in our process we are able to leave out vanilla, additional cocoa butter or other emulsifiers, in hopes of capturing and highlighting the subtle flavor nuances in the cacao we source from around the world.”

In this they set expectations that their chocolate will be less sweet and have more complexity of flavors.  To further support that, their packaging calls out the specific flavor notes that the chocolate bar offers, much in the way that wine and craft beers call out tasting notes.


XOCOLATL, a “micro-factory” chocolatier out of Atlanta similarly looks to highlight chocolate’s natural flavors.  Their bars are blended with spices and other elements that call out chocolate’s flavor components.  For example, their Americana bar contains no apples, but uses familiar pie spices to highlight that quality within the chocolate.


Origin/ localization

While mass chocolate uses the blending of not only several different types of beans, but beans from multiple locations, there is a rising trend in single origin chocolate.  This has arisen both out of an increased interest in food provenance and small chocolate purveyors interest in highlighting the different unique flavor profiles of the beans.  (Norton, 2013) By doing so, they are able to not only show off the different flavor varietals, but capitalize on the exotic locales to add a sense of rarity and uniqueness to their product lines.

Amedei Chocolates, a craft company out of Tuscany, Italy, builds their sourcing education in to their product offerings.  Each of their bar product lines serves as an exploration in the difference that cacao content, origin and the beans themselves can make.  Their Toscano Black line offers three different (though relatively close) percentages of dark chocolate – 63%, 66%, and 70%.  Their cru product line is all single origin dark chocolate – allowing consumers to taste the subtle differences between each region.  But where they go one step further than many bars is to focus and educate consumers on the strains of cacao available.  They offer both a Blanco de Criollo and a Porcelana bar.  The external packaging on each features a botanical drawing of the bean.  The inside explains the history, origin and flavor notes.  For the Porcelana bar, it notes the Venuzuela plantation, it’s small production of only 3,000 kilos of beans, and the rarity of this particular strain. Tasting notes are described as “toasted almonds that alternates with pressed olives.” This reinforces the specialness of the bar and the unique experience that it offers, while simultaneously pushing the consumer’s palate to recognize more subtleties in flavor.


Ethical Sourcing

One of the major challenges in the chocolate industry overall is the issue of labor practices and sourcing.  Even setting aside the more dire problems of forced and child labor, very little of the profits made from chocolate sales actually makes its way back to the farmers that grow it.  While there are a variety of certification schemes (i.e. Fair Trade, UTZ Certified, IMO Fair for Life), the cost of participating is high, and consumer demand has yet to drive a higher price in goods that can be translated back to the farmer. (Martin-Sampeck, 2016)  Additionally, there are those who don’t think that programs like Fair Trade go far enough, and result in a minimal profit increase for the farmer.

Companies like Taza and Askinosie chocolates instead have focused on direct trade, which cuts out middlemen and insures that more profits go back to the hands of the farmers.  Askinosie notes on their website “we hold the craft and quality of our chocolate in almost equal balance with doing as much good as we can in the world.”  As part of educating consumers at to the importance of direct trade, their bars feature the actual farmers that they work with on the front.  The back label tells that person’s story, how they became acquainted with Askinosie chocolate, and how their contribution insured the quality of the product you are holding.  It also features the following guarantee:  A stake in the Outcome. We guarantee to our farmers more than fair prices, open books and a share in our success.   In the way that they tell the story of their trade relationships, Askinosie doesn’t just insure the consumer of the ethics of their bar, they humanize it and translate that in to a real value to the consumer in the quality and craft of the final product itself.


The future of craft

Craft still has some educational and orientation challenges to overcome, but as more and more people migrate away from big food and big chocolate, the opportunity to create a wider variety of chocolates leveraging ethical sourcing and quality ingredients remains as promising and sweet as the product itself.

Sources used:

Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007 (1996) The True History of Chocolate.

CPS News (September 15, 2016) Premium Chocolate Driving US Sales Growth.  CPS Daily News. Retrieved from:

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams.

Glenza, Jessica. (September 29, 2017) Nestle Pays $200 a Year to Bottle Water Near Flint Michigan.  The Guardian. Retrieved from

Laudan, Rachel (May 5, 2015) A Plea for Culinary Modernism. Jacobin Magazine Retrieved from

Leissle, Kristy. (2013) Invisible West Africa: the Politics of Single Origin Chocolate. Gastronmics: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 13. No. 3 (Fall 2013)pp.22-31

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. 2016. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” pp. 37-60.

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.”The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691

Shanker, Deena (February 7, 2017) The Rise of Craft Chocolate. Bloomberg News. Retrieved from

Terrio, Susan J. 2000. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. pp. 1-65

Thompson, Stephanie. (March 6, 2007) Reservations about Reserve Haunt Hershey. Adage Magazine. Retrieved from:

Trout, Jack. Differientate or Die: Survival in our Era of Killer Competition. New York. Wiley, Second Edition 2008

Williams, Pam and Jim Beer. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. pp.141-209

Yu, Douglas. (March 29, 2018) Lindt Will Most Certainly Come Back to Growth in US. Confectionary News. Retrieved from


Seductive Chocolate: A Comprehensive Look Into the Chocolate Industry’s Obsession with Sex

The industry surrounding the chocolate biz has a long tradition of designing appetizing advertisements for the masses with the sole intention to grab the viewers mind and transport them to a place that’s filled with chocolate fantasies. Often times, these advertisements, notably television commercials, advertently display sexualized portrayals of women having an intimate moment alone with a piece of chocolate; giving potential buyers mixed messages as to whether or not they’re in the market for a chocolate bar or a sensual adventure. Through these portrayals, the chocolate industry has successfully sold consumers an idealized illusion surrounding women and chocolate, singlehandedly shaping the way in which females are viewed and categorized within these advertisements. These long-standing dreamy commercials have dominated shoppers since the birth of chocolate ads, and thanks to daring companies looking to push the envelope, the ways in which females are portrayed in chocolate commercials have easily become some of the most erotic ads on television, coupling the idea of chocolate and sex into the minds of patrons amid every commercial break. By analyzing these televised commercials and taking an in-depth look at the industry’s sensual selling approach, we can begin to interpret these gendered stereotypes that command the chocolate business in more ways than simply peddling chocolate. 

In 1991, Cadbury chocolate initiated a bold, new advertisement for their best-selling Cadbury Flake chocolate bar, a candy bar that consists of crumbly milk chocolate layers (see fig. 1). 

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 12.19.23 PM.pngFigure 1. “Cadbury Flake.” Cadbury,

The process for creating these bars is said to be “a closely guarded secret” within the Cadbury company, and the television advertisement that followed definitely proved how secretive this bar can be (Cadbury, “Cadbury Flake”).  The ad scored film director Nick Lewin, alongside the popular British production company, Lewin & Watson; together they hired model Rachel Brown to be their official “Flake Girl” in the commercial entitled Bath (The Hall of Advertising, “Cadbury’s Flake – Bath, 1992, UK). The cinematic-style commercial (00:54 seconds long) is set in a large bathroom, with a bathtub in the middle of the room, adoring Rachel Brown, by herself, in the sudsy water (see fig. 2).

Figure 2. Cadbury’s Flake – Bath (1992, UK). Uploaded by The Hall of Advertising. Published on March 17, 2015.

Close-up shots of her face, along with the bathtub handles (dripping in water) are used at the beginning of the ad, giving viewers a small taste of what is yet to come. About halfway through the commercial, viewers begin to see Rachel Brown whip out a Cadbury Flake bar and open it up, as she takes a delicate bite and sinks back into the water, as the tub begins to overflow and spill onto the bathroom floor. After a few dramatic splashing shots, the camera pans to a wide-shot of Rachel Brown in the overflowing bathtub (with an aesthetically beautiful painting of gods and angels behind her) as the camera slowly backs away toward the bathroom door, which eventually shuts on the intimate moment the Flake Girl is having with her chocolate bar. The commercial ends with the doors closed, but water continues to flush from the bathroom and out into the hallway, as viewers are left assuming she is still having a euphoric moment with her chocolate bar and has yet to know she has flooded her bathroom. A dozen dead roses lie outside the door, as the narrator, in hushed, secretive tones, says, “Cadbury’s Flake, the crumbliest, flakiest, milk-chocolate in the world,” (The Hall of Advertising, “Cadbury’s Flake – Bath, 1992, UK).

This commercial was downright daring for the early 1990s, but it wasn’t unheard of, as the chocolate industry has always relied on selling chocolate and sex together. The marketing trick behind ads like Cadbury’s Bath is the notion that women crave their alone time, and with that silence comes the need for a tantalizing and mysterious experience. Jamal Fahim, author of the article, Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing, describes the motivation behind the booming sexual chocolate duo, and goes on to say, “Chocolate advertisements encourage women to take a break from their normal routine and seek pleasure in a chocolate fantasy, thus promoting a “mentalistic hedonism” within consumers,” (19). Cadbury’s Bath commercial displays such a scene that the woman depicted on-screen is so enveloped within her “mentalistic hedonism,” that she completely foregoes the dramatic flooding scene happing all around her, giving this fantastical moment the upper-hand over reality. Fahim also argues, what he calls, the “taboo aspect of desires” within chocolate advertisements and the fantasies they portray, and continues to say, “Chocolate commercials require the sexual taboo because it enables women to transfer their wants and desires into a chocolate sexual fantasy,” (19).

While watching Cadbury’s Bath commercial, viewers can’t help but feel as though they’re peeping into a woman’s bathroom while she’s naked in the comfort of her own tub, which begs the question: what does this private moment have to do with a bar of chocolate? Many sexualized chocolate commercials spark this inquiry if one sits down and truly considers what’s being played on their television screen, but the question is rarely answered, as marketers assume one would rather buy their chocolate bar and feel the sensation similar to the one depicted on their television screen, versus question why this dualism between sex and chocolate is being shown to the masses. Lorna Stevens and Jacob Ostberg discuss Cadbury’s Bath commercial in their article entitled, Gendered Bodies: Representations of femininity and masculinity in advertising practices, and go on to exclaim, “Such ads [Cadbury’s Bath] draw clear parallels between food consumption and sexual surrender. This ad is still considered to be one of the all-time most sexy ads, according to a poll conducted in 2008,” (398). Almost ten years after Cadbury’s Bath debut, viewers still remember the erotic nature this ad displayed, showing the long-lasting effects these advertisements have on the people they’re marketing to. Nonetheless, passionate chocolate commercials have been around for ages, and in our modern-day society, many chocolate companies have upped the ante when it comes to displaying women and chocolate. 

The Chocolat Poulain chocolate company has been in business since the nineteenth-century, priding itself on being France’s “jewel” chocolatier, as their website claims they, “offer a range of chocolates to accompany you in your gourmet moments,” (Chocolat Poulain, Homepage). In 2009, the veteran company debuted a television commercial (00:48 seconds long) selling their 1848 chocolate bar, a piece that commemorates the founding year of the company. However, viewers probably didn’t grasp the tribute to their legendary past, as the commercial itself displayed a woman having an orgasmic moment with her 1848 chocolate bar (see fig. 3).

Figure 3. SEXY CHOCOLATE commercial. Uploaded by Modelstvcm3. Published on April 28, 2009.

Interestingly, the commercial opens with images of cacao beans and cocoa powder, as close-up camera shots of a woman are shown, grasping tightly onto the beans and she seductively touches the cocoa powder in a moment of ecstasy, all while low-toned sexual sighs are heard in the background (Modelstvcm3, “SEXY CHOCOLATE commercial”). At one point, the cocoa powder sifts over her face as the woman breathes in loud and heavy with her eyes closed. The next sequence shows chocolate liquid dripping over her face, as if the scene was hot enough to melt the cocoa powder from the previous camera angle. The woman continues to thrust her head back with her eyes still closed as the camera follows the dripping of the chocolate over her lips. The commercial ends soon after with the woman (presumably naked due to the medium side-shot of her topless) eating a piece of candy while a large booming sound comes through the speakers as if the erotic moment leading up to this chocolate ingestion has abruptly ended, as the screen fades to an image of the chocolate bar itself and then fades to black. What’s striking about this commercial, in comparison to Cadbury’s Bath advertisement, is the use of sound throughout the ad. While one still feels as though they’re watching an intimate moment of a woman, alone, enjoying herself with a piece of chocolate, the tone throughout the commercial is extremely carnal due to the heavy breathing and sexualized moans, all of which point to the obvious: the woman was experiencing an orgasmic moment with her 1848 Chocolat Poulain chocolate bar (see fig. 4). 

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 12.46.55 PMFigure 4. “Chocolat Poulain.” Chocolat Poulain,

Fahim argues chocolate marketers have, “Turned chocolate into a sexual, self-indulgent, private experience that invokes a taboo similar to that of masturbation,” a spectacle we can clearly see proceeding in commercials similar to the 1848 Chocolat Poulain advertisement (21). It’s been assumed by people for quite some time that chocolate acts as an aphrodisiac, and in recent times, scientists have studied the properties of chocolate to see if these presumptions ring true. According to an article in the New York Times, entitled, The Claim: Chocolate Is an Aphrodisiac, author Anahad O’Connor describes the two chemicals in chocolate scientists have studied, tryptophan (a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal) and phenylethylamine (a stimulant that releases into the brain when people fall in love), both substances thought to evoke sexual arousal in the individual consuming the chocolate. However, the article goes on to say, “Most researchers believe that the amounts of these substances in chocolate are too small to have any measurable effect on desire. Studies that have looked for a direct link between chocolate consumption and heightened sexual arousal have found none,” (O’Connor 1). Although chocolate advertisements continually link the sexual suspicion between personal arousal and chocolate, the effects are most likely intellectually linked in a person’s mind due to the erotic nature of these ads, versus a physical stimulant effect a chocolate bar is giving off. In spite of this, the chocolate industry, alongside their clever marketing schemes, want to sell their consumers on more than just a chocolate bar; they want to sell an experience solely linked to their chocolate, one that evokes more than just a flurry in one’s taste buds. 

Be that as it may, chocolate marketers are obsessed with selling women chocolate and will go to extreme lengths to sell their brand and the experience it exudes to the female population. Carla D. Martin, a lecturer at Harvard University, explains the role women play in the chocolate industry and goes on to say, “Women are the world’s largest consumers of chocolate. They’re not eating the most chocolate, men are eating just as much chocolate, but women are buying the most chocolate, except in that one week leading up to Valentine’s Day where men go out and buy the most chocolate.” With that said, it’s no wonder why the chocolate industry heavily targets women and their desire for chocolate, especially if they are the number one consumer of chocolate worldwide.

However, a line is crossed when chocolate companies prefer to sell to women based on the numbers, versus selling a tantalizing experience for women to enjoy all across the globe. These gendered stereotypes within the chocolate biz are crucial to consider when marketers discuss their latest advertisements, but unfortunately, sex must sell because we continue to see new and improved versions of these highly sexualized commercials. To be fair, the chocolate industry isn’t the only group that singles out women in a sensual manner and men also bear the brunt of highly sexualized advertisements when it comes to materials they’re more likely to buy (e.g., deodorant). Still, the marketing-sphere has planted their feet on the idea that chocolate and sex should be coupled together for a lifetime, and the only way we’re going to see a change in these stereotypes is if women collectively come together and use their voice against such advertising and blatantly sexualized portrayals, coupled with the chocolate industry truly listening to these pleas and changing their stance for good. Only then will we see a direct change in the ways in which the chocolate industry illustrates women in these ads; a change which is much needed in our modern-world toward the accurate representation of women across the globe. 

Works Cited

“Cadbury Flake.” Cadbury, Accessed on 4 May 2018.

Cadbury’s Flake – Bath (1992, UK). Uploaded by The Hall of Advertising. Published on March 17, 2015.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing” (2010). Sociology Student Scholarship.

“La Marque.” Chocolat Poulain, Accessed on 4 May 2018.

Martin, Carla D. “Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 28 March 2018, Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts, MA. Lecture.

Ostberg, Jacob, and Stevens, Lorna. “Gendered Bodies: Representations of femininity and masculinity in advertising practices.” Marketing Management: A Cultural Perspective. 2012, Chapter 24.

SEXY CHOCOLATE commercial. Uploaded by Modelstvcm3. Published on April 28, 2009. 

The Claim: Chocolate Is an Aphrodisiac.” The New York Times, 18, July 2006,