Category Archives: Uncategorized

How will I ever find the item I’m looking for?

too many choicesStrategic tactics are employed throughout retail to capture the attention of the potential consumer, stimulate product, generate buyers interest for future purchase, remind shoppers of forgotten necessities, and create opportunities for point of sale impulse buys. In a highly saturated product markets, like chocolate, creating unique distinction between brands is essential to attract sales. We will examine some of the general and brand specific strategies in use by manufactures, product vendors and chain retailers to promote sales.

Miriiam-Webster defines marketing as the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service. For retailers, everything inside and outside the store is marketing. Location, position of entryways, aisle layout, traffic flow of consumers, fixtures, lighting, temperature, signage, flagging, product placement, proximity to other goods – all contribute to the amount of time a shopper is in contact with their inventory, which products and in which order the consumer is exposed to their goods, and the likelihood that the customer will leave with more than they came for. The effectiveness of these methods is known as the conversion rate – number of people that make purchases as a percentage of people that enter the store.

Manufacturers rely on similar strategies of product placement, packaging, price point, product delineation, colors, and graphics to attract consumers and distinguish their product from competitors.


(fig.1) Typical planogram for merchandising layouts for supermarkets

Shelves are arranged in four foot increments, (eight feet of beans, twenty four feet of breakfast cereal) no more than six feet tall, typically with endcaps to display additional merchandise in the “racetrack” around all the aisles. Goods will be stocked in horizontal, vertical or pyramidal arrangements, single or in bulk on a wide variety of display types to create focal points for attention and maximized exposure.  Products can be flat stacked, “book-shelved”, front face or “bill-boarded” depending on a variety of factors including: eye level appeal, price point, profitability, age of the targeted consumer, vendor’s contract, volume of product, age of stock, etc.

Billboarding and front facing process Solid and continuous wall (

Obvious similarities exist between the strategies used in merchandising chocolate and other retail products. Examine the two images below:

clothing(fig. 2) Examples of horizontal, vertical, flat stacking and bill-boarding.unnamed (16)

(fig. 3) Examples of horizontal, vertical, flat stacking and bill-boarding

In the following images (fig 4 and 5), “breath freshener” products are vertically arranged together as are sours, gummies, hard suckers, and salty snacks. This display was consistent in the all retail stores examined during this study. All similar items had a specific designated locations in the store with a group of similar items.

(fig. 4 and 5)

A typical convention used for most large retail is, that most commonly purchased and highest profit items are located in the center of the racks and at the mid point of the aisle. Items that queue shoppers toward those items are placed next to the side of the racks creating a “leading effect” – guiding them towards the profit center. Leading is the strategic placement of goods that steers the consumer toward what the retailer hopes is their next purchase. In the figure 6, brightly colored candy is placed next to baking goods.

unnamed (6)

Notice the baking goods are in plain wrappers but the candy is glossy. Also note, the Sour Patch gummy candy, with its brilliant rainbow of color, is exactly one shopping cart’s length away from the baking flour. Additionally note that the candy is at children’s eye level. Research on the psychology of supermarket traffic patterns indicate that shoppers will likely shop on the right side of the aisles and often push the cart with their left hand while placing items in their cart with their right hand.

Envision this: you’re shopping for flour with your child in the cart. With the cart stopped in one cart length from the flour. Your child then sits directly in front and at eye level with the Sour Patch gummies. You can imagine the rest.

Some things to note here. First, there is direct marketing toward the child. Second, even if there is no sale of the Sour Patch at that moment, the child has still been exposed to the product setting the stage for a future consumer. Lastly, your attention and eye have now been drawn down the aisle.

unnamed (9)


One push of the cart further down the aisle and the child is directly in front of the M&Ms and Reeses – the number one and two top selling candy in the US respectfully. Coincidence? In retail “eye level is buy level”.

unnamed (11)


Figure 8 is an example of further leading the consumer toward the lessor selling but more luxury brands. It’s worth noting that these less profitable brands, with less marketing power, cannot secure the same prominent position on the shelves as the larger brands. Lindt, considered a luxury brand by some consumers, is next in line on the shelves to Mars and Hershey products.

In the US, 3 Billion pounds of chocolate are consumed annually – roughly 12 pounds per person. According to a 2014 BloobergMarket report, out of the “Big Five” chocolate companies – Ferrero, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle and Mars – Mars and Hershey dominate the $18B market with nearly 70% of sales while Nestle and outsider Lindt combined can only claim 10%. Note in fig. 9 below, that the Lindt products are sandwiched between bulk packs of M&Ms. At half the price M&Ms are targeting Lindt bulk truffles directly.

unnamed (14)


While competition for the market is aggressive, consumers don’t always select their products based on price or location within the stores. LOHAS stands for the Lifestyle Of Health and Sustainability, a $300 Billion dollar market comprised of every type of good from cars to travel destinations to dog food. Glenn Rudberg, a partner and Director of Brand Strategy at ETHOS stated in a in a January 2017 interview about LOHAS consumers “They look for honesty, authenticity, and alignment of principles and values. They want real”. LOHAS consumers are willing to spend up to a 20% primium for an item that they perceive is in line with their political, personal or cultural views. Organic, Green, Sustainable, Artisan, Local, All Natural, Free Trade, Non-GMO, BPA free are all terms common to the LOHAs market. Both obvious and subtle differences in packaging suggest clear distinctions between products. Fig. 10 below shows a distinct difference in product placement, shelf layout and packaging as the consumer travels from the major brands toward the specialty, LOHAS, brands.

unnamed (12)


Direct story telling has enormous impacts on consumers especially effective with the LOHAS client. The top three means of intriguing and engaging consumers listed in a 2013 Forbes article 5 Secrets to Use Storytelling for Branding Marketing Success are 1. Telling the truth, 2. Giving the product a personality, and 3. Getting the consumer to support the underdog or do-gooder. Each of the brands in fig 11 have their own story to tell. The packaging is simpler often flat not glossy, earth tones are favored over bold colors, typically stocked vertically in single packages not bulk. Directly at eye level is Lily’s. A quick glance at Lily’s website ( shows every strategy listed by Forbes. Lilly is a brain cancer survivor who selflessly raises money for kids with cancer. All of her products are NonGMO and Fair Trade. How could anyone not support Lily?

A closer look reveals that every statement on Lily’s website uses a LOHAS term. Endangered Species Chocolate, Chuao, Love and others are grouped together and all employ similar practices.

unnamed (17)

References Cited:

Billboarding and front facing process Solid and continuous wall (

Merchandising Basics and Display Opportunities

emotions of target consumers

eye level is buy level… clear intent to purchase

80% of our produce that gets touched




The Era of Ethical Consumerism is Here: How to Market to LOHAS Consumers | Ethos

Glossary of marketing terms

Big Five






Monocrops, Poverty, and The Ethical Shortcomings of Global Capitalism

Julia Naumowicz

10 May 2017

Chocolate, Culture, and The Politics of Food

Monocrops, Poverty, and The Ethical Shortcomings of Global Capitalism

When Christopher Columbus first sailed west to find a new passage to India, it was by design that the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria were to instead take harbor in South America.  Columbus’s goal was to circumvent the Silk Road, which was an ancient network of trade routes connecting the whole of the Asian continent to Europe and Africa[1].

The Silk Road of Columbus’ era

By forging a direct naval route, Columbus hoped to secure for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of what is now Spain access to the means of producing and trading goods that had been cut off to Europe by the Ottoman Empire.  Instead, Columbus, and subsequent Conquistadores, returned to Spain with cargo holds stuffed with new and exotic plants, animals, and people.  It was not until after Columbus’s voyage that the value of cacao to the Indigenous Americans was revealed, and it would be nearly one hundred years before cacao became commonplace in the Western world.

The phenomenon of chocolate, as first a religious elixir, then transported to Europe as a medicine before becoming a widespread delicacy of the European aristocracy, is one of strange dichotomies.  As mentioned above, the French aristocracy kept a special place on their banquet tables for small chocolate statues or chocolate served in quaint moulds, and the Italians were renowned for their love of chocolate in their cooking, as evidenced by pappardelle and chocolate polenta which was popular in the eighteenth century.[2]  (Ironically, however, it was in the chocolate houses of the 1600s, turned coffee houses by the reign of Louis XVI, which became the gathering places of the overworked proletariat who overthrew the French aristocracy in 1789.)  With the Industrial Revolution came newer and less costly technologies for preparing chocolate, and by the mid nineteenth century the chocolate bar was born.

But it is with cacao as a monocrop that the phenomenon of global capitalism can be analyzed in its entirety within a single industry.  From its role as a religious elixir and a beverage specifically preserved for the Mayan and Aztec elite to an ordinary Hershey bar, the evolution of cacao as a cash crop exemplifies the collaborative nature of Imperialism and Capitalism as well as it places in stark contrast the realities of global poverty.

Cacao is a notoriously difficult plant to grow.  According to Michael Coe, co-author of The True History of Chocolate:

… With very few exceptions, it refuses to bear fruit outside of a band of 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the Equator.  Nor is it happy within this band of the tropics if the altitude is so high as to result in temperatures that fall below 60℉ or 16℃.  If the climate is one with a pronounced dry season, irrigation is a necessity, for cacao demands year-round moisture; if it does not get it, it sheds its otherwise evergreen leaves in a protest that is described as looking like autumn in New England.  Poor growing conditions make it even more susceptible than it normally is to the multitude of diseases which attack it, including pod rots, wilts, and fungus-produced, extraneous growths called “witches’ brooms.”  Squirrels, monkeys, and rats steal the pods to enjoy the pleasant-tasting white pulp which envelops the seeds that they contain, but they avoid the bitter-tasting seeds themselves (although they may disseminate them)[3].


This is an extremely narrow band of growing conditions, which means in turn an extremely narrow band of countries and regions capable of cultivating the cacao tree.

Côte d’Ivoire is one such nation in which cacao can be cultivated, and it has been a world leader in cacao production since the 1970s.  Originally a French colony, the small African nation declared independence under the leadership of Félix Houphouët-Boigny.  In the 1960s, Houphouët-Boigny made the famous speech in which he guaranteed that “… he would turn the jungle into an Eden, and that everyone who lived there would enjoy the fruits of their own labor.”[4]  It was by creating and cultivating huge cacao plantations that Côte d’Ivoire fueled its economy, and, after his death in 1993, it was cacao which has caused the greatest turmoil in the small African nation.  By 1998, the trafficking of children to the cacao farms of Côte d’Ivoire was an international story.[5]

Despite public outcry in the United States in the early 2000s, the public quickly forgot why they were angry in the first place, and the Harkin-Engel Protocol was written up by large chocolate corporations and the congressmen who are in their pockets.  According to Slave Free Chocolate, a non-governmental organization that campaigns to end child slavery in the cocoa industry, which directly quotes Wikipedia on their website, the Harkin-Engel Protocol covers six major points:

The parties agreed to a six-article plan:

  1. Public statement of the need for and terms of an action plan—The cocoa industry acknowledged the problem of forced child labor and will commit “significant resources” to address the problem.
  2. Formation of multi-sectoral advisory groups—By 1 October 2001, an advisory group will be formed to research labor practices. By 1 December 2001, industry will form an advisory group and formulate appropriate remedies to address the worst forms of child labor.
  3. Signed joint statement on child labor to be witnessed at the ILO—By 1 December 2001, a statement must be made recognizing the need to end the worst forms of child labor and identify developmental alternatives for the children removed from labor.
  4. Memorandum of cooperation—By 1 May 2002, Establish a joint action program of research, information exchange, and action to enforce standards to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Establish a monitor and compliance with the standards.
  5. Establish a joint foundation—By 1 July 2002, industry will form a foundation to oversee efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. It will perform field projects and be a clearinghouse on best practices.
  6. Building toward credible standards—By 1 July 2005, the industry will develop and implement industry-wide standards of public certification that cocoa has been grown without any of the worst forms of child labor.[6]


Thus the actual problem of child slavery and widespread poverty in West Africa was able to be completely ignored.  So long as corporations could squirm their way into the vague definition of “certifying that cocoa has been grown without any of the worst forms of child labor”, whether or not children should have to work at all was seemingly not up for debate.

As of 2015, the Gross Domestic Product of the United States was 1.3 trillion dollars.  That is, $1,300,000,000,000.  From the website Brain Decoder , “Now, can you imagine how [much money] that is? Probably not. The way our brains are set up, truly understanding that vast a number is pretty much impossible.

‘Our cognitive systems are very much tied to our perceptions,” said Daniel Ansari, a researcher at the Numerical Cognition Laboratory at Western University in Canada. “The main obstacle is that we’re dealing with numbers that are too large for us to have experienced perceptually.’”[7]

So, for our reference, here is a handy infographic:

What this is to highlight is that $1.3 trillion is an unimaginably large number.  In reality it is a number that only exists in computers, because there has never been 1.3 trillion of anything large enough for the human eye to count in one place.  There are nearly one-hundred seventy-three times more dollars just in the United States than there are humans in the world as of 2017, and none of it has an actual value.[8]

For some more mind-bogglingly large numbers, There are more than 2.3 million documented homeless children in the United States as of 2014, and that number can only have gotten larger in the subsequent years.[9]  795 million people in the world live without enough food to eat.[10]

The Gross Domestic Product per capita as of 2015 in Côte d’Ivoire is $1,398.69, and trailing far behind it are neighboring Mali ($744.35) and Burkina Faso ($613.04).  Comparatively, the GDP per capita in the United States is $55,836.79.

((NOTE: The difference between these four countries’ GDP per capita is so staggering that in order to show the reader what the GDP per capita for Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso are the United States initially had to be omitted entirely.))

To put that into perspective, the average Ivorian is expected to survive on what the average American makes in a little over a week.

It is difficult to fathom, then, how cocoa sells for roughly one dollar per pound,[11]  and the average chocolate bar costs about one dollar,[12] how Michele Buck, CEO of Hershey Corporation as of March 2017, can justify making almost ten million dollars11  every year from the profit of chocolate sales.  In the same country where one in five children goes without food, we waste 165 billion dollars—or 133 billion pounds—of food each year, and often grocery stores purposely sabotage their products or lock their dumpsters so that starving people with no money are unable to take their garbage.  (In fact, as of 2016 France is the only country in the world that has written a law to prevent grocery stores from wasting food in such a fashion[13].)

It is difficult, when viewed from a rational perspective, to truly understand why it is that there are people dying from lack of a high enough number attached to their name.  It is confusing that for every homeless person in the United States there are about five homes standing empty[14], because someone doesn’t have a high enough number to have adequately “earned” the privilege of having shelter, which is a human necessity[15].  It is difficult to fathom how, when every human needs water and food to live, we have devised a system where in order to survive one must prove that they deserve the opportunity to not starve to death by producing valueless numbers for other people who have higher numbers attached to their names.  It is difficult for this writer to understand how, in a world of driverless automobiles and a medical cure for Hepatitis C at our fingertips, there are children who have been bought and sold to produce a food item that they will never in their lives get the chance to taste.



Works Cited


[2] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “Chocolate in the Age of Reason.” The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. 218-19. Print.

[3] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “The Tree of the Food of the Gods.” The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. 19. Print.

[4] Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate. St Lucia, Qld.: U of Queensland, 2008. 4. Print.

[5] Off, Carol. “The Disposables.” Bitter Chocolate. St Lucia, Qld.: U of Queensland, 2008. 130-31. Print.

[6] “Iii.d.8 Ilo Convention (No 182) Concerning The Prohibition And Immediate Elimination Of The Worst Forms Of Child Labour.” International Law & World Order: Weston’s & Carlson’s Basic Documents (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

[7] Baggaley, Kate. “Why We Can’t Grasp Very Large Numbers.” Braindecoder. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[8] “Lexicon.” Fiat Money Definition from Financial Times Lexicon. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[9] Business. “One in 30 American Children Is Homeless, Report Says.” NBCUniversal News Group, 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 May 2017.

[10] “Know Your World: Facts About World Hunger & Poverty.” The Hunger Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[11] “Cocoa Futures End of Day Settlement Price.” Cocoa Beans – Daily Price – Commodity Prices – Price Charts, Data, and News – IndexMundi. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[12]  “U.S. Candy and Chocolate Average Price by Segment, 2016 L Statistic.” Statista. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

[13] Dvorsky, George. “Why the US May Never Pass a Food Waste Law Like France.” Gizmodo., 05 Feb. 2016. Web. 16 May 2017.

[14] Desk, MintPress News. “Empty Homes Outnumber The Homeless 6 To 1, So Why Not Give Them Homes?” MintPress News. N.p., 02 July 2015. Web. 16 May 2017.

[15] “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 May 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.

[16] The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry. YouTube, n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

Ethnography on Chocolate: Socioeconomic Visual Culture, Mesoamerican Origins, & Contemporary Perspectives

The purpose of this small-scale ethnography is to examine the social significance of chocolate from a cross-cultural perspective. Through interviewing various members of my local community that were born in different regions of Mexico and Central America, I document here their experiences and observances of chocolate.

Experienced through consumption or non-consumption, and observed through their emic perspective, there are underscoring themes exposed amongst the roles in which chocolate has played throughout each of their own lives. Within the context of those personal relationships with chocolate, an interaction between social and economic functions of their state and country may be contemporaneous to their outlook. Although this simultaneity is not always the circumstance, motifs emerge as their uniqueness transpires. Effectually, their contributed insight has actualized a microcosm of chocolates’ socio-cultural diversity and likenesses.

While conducting the interviews with members of my community, the aim was to first listen to their observances, and to then ask questions of clarification to assist in their thought process. The framework of my Q&A was designed this way to acquire a qualitative study, so that this retelling would reflect the individual perspectives of each subject, synchronously providing a glimpse into the societal experience. To depict those experiences through a cultural historical lens, that of which illustrated itself during most of the interviews already, I asked questions about their culture as a whole and how they thought chocolate was generally regarded in their own communities.

This study is not meant to define those relationships, but to highlight multiplicities within these individual cross- cultural accounts. Over reflections of my own and of the human subjects in this ethnographic study, I hope to provide sufficient ­imagery of historic milieu within the functional roles chocolate has played in personal experience and in society.


Theobroma Cacao, or the Food-of-the-God’s Cacao, is widely accepted by botanists and scholars as indigenous to Mesoamerica. Evidence of its cultivation is indicative of the role it played in ancient civilizations like the Mixe-Zoquean-speaking Olmecs (1500 BCE – 400 BCE). At the famed Olmec archaeological site in San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, evidence has been found of the term “Kakawa” used by the Olmec as early as 1000 BCE (Coe & Coe, 1996). See on the map below, San Lorenzo is west of present day Guatemala, and north of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.


San Lorenzo on the map 2
San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán is a famed archaeological site, well known for the massive Olmec stone heads excavated there


We find in the archaeological record, the ways in which early civilizations illustrated cacao, or “Kakawa” on their pottery. This being a significant attribute to understand the role chocolate played in their livelihoods and rituals. According to Maricel Presilla in her book, The New Taste of Chocolate, “it was the Maya who brought chocolate making to a high art… building on the foundation left behind by other Mesoamerican cultures”, like that of the Olmecs and other sibling tribes (2009).


FullSizeRender (4)
Buenavista vase, Buenavista del Cayo, Belize


See this Classic Maya vase from the seventh century portraying the Maize God in an “unending dance, symbolizing both the creation of the universe and also his cycle of death and rebirth” (Takushi, Pioneer Press).

Maya Classic period (250 – 900 CE) vessels show quite literally the function of cacao as it was for drinking, as well as the relative role it played in Mayan life though various representations of the divine.

This is one of the many Classic period vessels that was found to contain cacao residues inside. We know it was used to hold chocolate because cacao is the only plant in the region with both the compounds Theobromine and Caffeine, “a unique marker for the presence of cacao in pre-Columbian artifacts” (Cheong, 2011). To verify the vessels were used to hold chocolate was an important piece to the archaeological record. It provided contextual knowledge when deciphering the imagery or glyphs depicted on the vessels.

Affirmed in the glyphs of drinking vessels from this period, there is evidence of “well established cacao-chocolate terminology”. On the Buenavista vase shown above, we see “tree-fresh cacao” inscribed.  From the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS) of the glyphs you see banded around the top of the vessel, the characters that make the Maya name for cacao, “Ka-Ka-Wa” were deciphered. What strikes me the most about this piece is the seemingly relative “tree-fresh cacao” to the Maize God’s cyclical existence. (Presilla, 2009)

Buenavista vase closeup: Maya glyphs depicted translate to “tree-fresh cacao”, “Ta-Tsih-Te’el Kakawa” (Prescilla)

I particularly find this vessel so interesting when we look at the role of chocolate in culture because it reflects a cyclical ideology of their ecological relationship to their land; in the sustenance it provides, the concept of time through death and rebirth, and their Gods all-encompassing role within those cycles.

Field Study

A few years ago in 2013 I came to know a few young men and women from the northern Mexican state of Sonora – (follow the link to read a brief history of Seri Indians of Sonora). They were working and studying here on visa’s while we were employed at a busy restaurant in the heart of downtown Boston. What better place than behind the bar to nose around and pick into people’s lives for cultural insights! Just kidding on the nose-picking… but seriously, even minute conversations with guests created thought-provoking observations. During their multiple terms of residency in Boston over the years, these talented intellectual Sonoran natives and I connected on Mexican – American culture alike, and apart. Upon reaching out to ask if anyone would be interested in participating in this modest ethnographic study, my request was received most graciously. They have all elected to omit fully identifying information, so for the purposes of this study, I will refer to them by their first name only. Below I have included their perspectives on the role chocolate has played throughout their lives.

Andrés began by explaining Mexico as a large country where the culture is full of diversity. “Every state has their own culture about everything – food, traditional parties, our dialect and slang”. With that being said, in the state of Sonora where he lives he doesn’t use chocolate and cacao the way he knows it is used in the southern states of the country like Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Tabasco. Andrés has observed the influence of cacao beans in southern Mexico because the cacao growing region produces a lot of recipes that involve cacao and chocolate.

When I asked what he knows about Mesoamerican uses for cacao, he remembers learning from childhood that they used it as currency, and he understood they sometimes would use it in beauty treatments. On that note, I recollect a fortuitous conversation about skin care had between myself and a female of Mexican ancestry I met while servicing wedding hair and makeup to her cousin’s bridal party, circa summer 2015 in East Boston – Indeed, I am not only an aspiring Anthropologist, also a Cosmetologist. My thoughts are usually occupied by anthropological inquiry on a daily basis, which inevitably grants unique opportunity for cultural discussions with the people I meet. Although not a part of this ethnography, she let me know back then about her family recipe for a skin care regimen that contains cacao. Her grandmother and her aunts would grind down cacao beans into a powder, “cocoa powder” minus the hydraulic press. They would mix the antioxidant rich powder with other grinded down local herbs, add water to create a paste-like texture and apply generously to the skin.

“Lather. Dry. Rinse. Repeat.” – she persisted. Yum.

The Spa At Hotel Hershey seems to know just how to indulge all the senses with chocolate


For the purposes of this study, I was curious about chocolate in spa treatments, as I have heard echoes of the luxury before. Take a look at The Spa At The Hotel Hershey or examples of just a few contemporary accommodations created for chocolate in the beauty industry.

Andrés expressed to me that Sonora being just below Arizona, his culture is more- so “American” than the way Mexicans live in the south. It is in his experience and observation the misconception of Mexican culture as being one. I think any educated person understands culture, language, economy, etc. vary across spaces of human population. Yet, for those who generalize a nation’s people by its borders, Andrés and his community experience the bias. He grew up with a collection of influences “by the things Americans do”. For example, one of his earliest memories of eating chocolate was during Halloween. They’re also heavily influenced by “spring break madness”, as he defined the season. He grew up consuming chocolate predominantly made by the big corporations, like Mars. His notable favorites being the Snicker and M&Ms. “In the south they don’t have that influence, they don’t experience American Halloween as we do”.

Carlos V chocolate bars are the Nestlé- proclaimed “# 1 chocolate brand in Mexico with over 70 years in the market!… Because of its unique and mild flavor, it is considered the reference of chocolate for Mexicans.” The Aztec stylized imagery first designed to brand the chocolate before it was bought by Nestlé sometime in the 1980’s was created by Fabrica de Chocolates La Azteca, S.A. de C.V. Jason Liebig on his blog, Collecting Candy chronicles his findings in the L.M. Kallok Confectioners Collection of antique packaging. Most notable about the evolution of the branding is first the Aztec styling alongside the “Imperial Coat of Arms” for “by the grace of God, Carolus V Imperator (emporer)”. Then with the English labeling introduced we see a change in the ingredients as well (which was apparent of each label seen in Leibig’s compilation from the beginning to the end. “A tie-in with the film Toy Story, which tells us La Azteca was still the brand’s sole owner as late as 1995″ is interesting where we see Quaker Oats leaving its insignia on the label by the late 1990’s.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not one of the Sonoran’s I interviewed has tried a Carlos V chocolate bar but they have all heard of it at some point in their life through advertisements. Eduardo attests to Andrés’ personal account of diversity from the southern regions in Mexico. Dia de los Muertos is “not celebrated as much as the south, but we do things like going to the cemetery”, Andrés says. Eduardo told me that they celebrate Dia de los Muertos on November 2. “We celebrate in memory of the people who are no longer with us and usually at the tombstones we put special things they liked when they were alive. Chocolates is usually one of them”. Both Andrés and Eduardo did not have a definitive sense of the historical reason for chocolate being placed on gravesites, but they both know it as a long- standing tradition and ritual in celebrating their deceased ancestors. Fernanda, another Sonoran native, added some insight to this practice of memorial. She told me that usually the graveyards are managed by local churches or publicly owned so in contrast to the majority of graveyards that are privately owned in the US, the families play a greater role in gravesite maintenance of their deceased. In this way, chocolate serves a social function in their celebrations.


Shown below, Dr. Martin presented in class this semester some of the ways Maya and Mixtec society visually depicted the functions that cacao played within their cultural practices and belief systems. Royal marriages necessitated the use of currency in the negotiation, so we see in the Codex Nuttall how cacao was a part of the price for the bride. Eduardo remembers learning in school that Mayans used to used the cacao “as a coin to buy everything, from goods to wives”. A relative topic for further study would be in the ways chocolate was introduced to the elite. Diffused out of Mesoamerica first by the Spanish, the Europeans assimilated to its royal regard and used chocolate in the women’s dowry through royal inter-marriages – that of which played a great role in spreading chocolate throughout Europe.

Another example (seen below) comes from the Madrid Codex where we see cacao being exchanged, portraying a give-and-take linkage between their concepts of cyclical time (lunar goddess) and their environment (rain god). I find this imagery especially expressive to their belief of the divine relationship to their human existence and sustenance on earth. Lastly, from the Codex Nuttall we see a royal funerary procession in “Twelve Movements”. Within the tomb depicted at the bottom right of the artwork lies a “vessel of foaming cacao beverage… to ease the soul’s journey to the underworld”. (Martin)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eduardo recounts drinking cups of hot chocolate since he can remember. While traveling south to Puebla state he tried their “typical meal, mole, and it’s made of cacao”. What he knows about the Maya and cacao is how they used to prepare beverages and meals like the Puebla “mole”. “We have different tribes and culture but we learned about it in school and I experiences it myself while traveling south. Cacao is still a huge deal in south Mexico.”


FullSizeRender (3)
“Mole” Ingredients. Presilla, 2009


See the dozen or more ingredients to make the traditional “thick, baroque sauce, mole” from Xalapa, Veracruz (Presilla), north of Puebla state in Mexico. Presilla notes that each ingredient is “processed in sequence, each at its own time” (2009).

As the mole is diverse in ingredients, and rich in unique Mesoamerican culture, so too – as these contemporary perspectives have illustrated, are the people of the region diversely interwoven with it’s history and unique place on Earth’s sphere.




Campbell, Lyle & Kaufman, Terrence. 1976. A Linguistic Look at the Olmecs: American Antiquity, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Jan., 1976), pp. 80-89 Published by: Society for American Archaeology

Cheong, Kong (Powis, T.; Cyphers, A.; Gaikwad, T.W.; Grivetti, L.) 2011. Cacao use and the San Lorenzo Olmec: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 108(21):8595-600 · May 2011

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996] The True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition. London: Thames & Hudson

Johnston, Bernice. 1997. The Seri Indians of Sonora Mexico. The University of Arizona Press

Liebig, Jason. 2012. Carlos V – Building a history for the King of Chocolate Bars

Martin, Carla. 2017 AAAS E-119 Lecture Slides. February 1st, pp.23, 47, 53, 57

Mintz, Sidney. 1986 [1985] Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books

Morton, Marcia and Frederic. 1986 Chocolate, An Illustrated History Crown Publishers, Inc. New York, NY

Nestlé. 2017.

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology: Harvard University. 2017.

Presilla, Maricel. 2009 The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Smithsonian Institute. 2017. Olmec Stone Heads photo:

Takushi, Scott (Pioneer Press). 2013, December 17. Museum of Belize and House of Culture: NEWSEUM Blog Spot: Belize’s Maya Collection on Display

Unknown photographer; featured image. 2016, October – November. Nexos.

Unknown photographer; chocolate as beauty regimen image. 2017. The Spa At The Hotel Hershey.

The Invisible Influence of Women in the Production of Chocolate

The preparation of chocolate is a realm that has historically been dominated by women. In ancient Mesoamerican societies, women would prepare a chocolate drink by drying, roasting, and grinding cacao beans. The resulting paste was then mixed with water and maize and repeatedly poured from one vessel to another in order to create a frothy top layer. Though consumed by both men and women, Mayan and Aztec cultures emphasized consumption of this chocolate drink by men, as it provided warriors with energy during long treks and battles. It was also consumed by men, including the groom and the bride’s father, during wedding negotiations (Coe & Coe, 2013).

This ancient history placing women as the producers of chocolate and men as the consumers contradicts current notions of chocolate making, which feature men as the producers of the sweet and women as the primary consumers. Thousands of ads around the world push the message that women rabidly crave chocolate products, going to extreme lengths to get them and becoming increasingly aroused when consuming chocolate. The following video shows a man turning into chocolate after using chocolate-scented Axe Body Spray. Nearly every woman he passes becomes unable to control herself, with one woman even taking a bite out of his pants on public transportation.

Despite the extremes that these women appear to go to for the rich delicacy, preparation of chocolate is not included in any of their actions. Of course, chocolate companies have little reason to advertise their preparation of chocolate for consumers since they are selling already prepared chocolate for consumers. In fact, many large companies endeavor to keep their preparation methods a secret from competitors, going so far as to hire detectives to investigate potential employees to weed out spies from other companies and having all workers sign confidentiality agreements before beginning work (Brenner, 2000). Yet even when company advertisements include idealized portrayals of preparation methods, women are noticeably sparse. The following commercial by Lindt Chocolate shows “Lindts master chocolatiers,” all of whom are male, preparing their signature chocolate truffles. The next scene shows attractive women sensually consuming these truffles. Not only does this commercial play on stereotypes of men’s and women’s roles in chocolate production and consumption, but it also reinforces these stereotypes by eliminating contact between the male chocolatiers and the female consumers.

Commercials like these, which push the notion that women do not make chocolate but only consume it, reflect and reinforce societal notions of what professional chocolatiers look like. The International Chocolate Awards 2016 World Final granted 151 awards, out of a total of 263 awards—almost three fifths of its awards—to male chocolatiers; only 50 awards went female chocolatiers. The remaining 62 went to companies that didn’t list the head chocolatier or listed both a male and a female chocolatier (International Chocolate Awards, 2016).

The lack of women working and being acknowledged as professional chocolatiers reflects the larger societal issue of women being underrepresented in traditionally male occupations, including that of professional chefs. The job of professional chef, however, seems to be inherently contradictory. Traditionally, across many cultures, women have occupied the domestic sphere, which included the preparation of food for the family. Whenever men were involved in the preparation of food, it was a much more public—and thus more important—affair than home cooking, such as the preparation of meals for ancient Egyptian royalty or the ritualistic sacrifice and preparation of meat by priests (Harris & Giuffre, 2015). Compare these examples to modern ideas of the male realms of food preparation, including celebrity chefs and outdoor barbeques, and the evolution of modern notions of gendered spheres of cooking become apparent.

Harris and Giuffre, 2015, note that as men began working for wages, women’s “unpaid labor in the home became defined as unproductive.” When women finally did begin entering the workforce, the jobs they were given were often assistant jobs to men (e.g. secretary to businessman, nurse to doctor, flight attendant to pilot, etc.) and were much less valued than the jobs performed by men. In addition, women were still expected to complete their domestic duties, including the nourishment of families.

In the same pattern, as men began earning wages for professional cooking and other food-related jobs, domestic cooking became devalued. Despite the fact that male chefs were originally seen as a servant class, preparing food for elites, personal chefs were a sign of wealth, positioning their culinary expertise above that of homemakers. The first personal chef to garner celebrity status was Marie Antoine Careme, who is credited with separating the importance of medicinal properties from food served in restaurants and emphasizing, instead, the artistic value of food (Harris & Giuffre, 2015). With the fall of aristocracy, personal chefs turned to restaurants to showcase their creative works. These centers of gastronomic indulgence became associated with promiscuity, and as such were deemed inappropriate for women to not only work in, but also enter (Ferguson, 2006).

Despite the devaluation of women’s work, the emergence of professional cooking as a male occupation was very much dependent on the knowledge of women in the domestic sphere. Rural women, often faced with scarce resources, combined whatever was available to create flavorful and diverse meals. “Despite this inventiveness and creative innovation by domestic women cooks, most historians of food and cooking, both male and female, focus almost exclusively on the ‘great culinary achievements’ of famous male chefs and gastronomes,” (Swinbank, 2002).

The dependence on women’s knowledge of food extends into the chocolate industry as well. During the colonization of Mesoamerica by Spain, many Spanish men often took indigenous wives, who were in charge of domestic duties in the household, including the preparation of chocolate (Norton, 2006). As argued by Norton, 2006, “Europeans unwittingly developed a taste for Indian chocolate, and they sought to re-create the indigenous chocolate experience.” The experience that Europeans sought to recreate was based entirely on the chocolate recipes of indigenous women. Additionally, some chocolate makers of the Bean-to-Bar movement have pushed for a return to these indigenous recipes in modern chocolate placing more traditional ingredients in their bars, highlighting the lasting impact that indigenous women have had on the product.

Another example of the influence of women’s knowledge in the production of chocolate is that of the Mars Corporation. Frank Mars’s first ventures into the candy industry were built on confections he made using his mother’s personal recipes. Although his first attempts at the candy business failed, the main ingredient of his signature creation, the Milky Way, is the nougat he made using his mother’s knowledge. Although the bar has undergone many changes since it first hit the market, the initial success of the Milky Way is undeniable, bringing in nearly $800,000 in sales its first year, the equivalent of over $11 million today (Brenner, 2000).

While the devaluation of women’s cooking has contributed to the underrepresentation of female chefs, and subsequently, of female chocolatiers, the positioning of women as consumers of chocolate rather than producers of chocolate in advertisements, as noted above, has also played a large role. Advertisements for chocolate have targeted women since the early twentieth century. Many of these early advertisements appeal to notions of heterosexual romance, implying that chocolate gifts for women were the best way to show affection (Robertson, 2009). These advertisements formed the foundation of the stereotype of the irrational woman who can only be calmed down with chocolate.

During the 1960s, a different sort of advertisement began to appear. Taking advantage of the second-wave feminist movement, these advertisements featured more independent women. Companies began to appeal to women’s newfound financial independence (Nutter, 2009). The women of these advertisements were consumers completely who were unapologetic about enjoying chocolates, as in the example below. They also appealed to more relaxed attitudes about women’s sexuality, serving as precursors to modern advertisements such as the Axe commercial shown earlier.


Presently, advertisements continue to play off of ideas and stereotypes set up by advertisements created nearly a century ago. These stereotypes contribute to the barriers that women face in the world of chocolate. The 2009 film, Kings of Pastry, documents the competition for the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, France’s most prestigious award for professional craft trades. A scene from the movie is shown below. Notably, not only are the head chefs all male, but so are the assistant chefs.

The production of haute chocolate is a relatively new phenomenon seeking to distance itself from mass-produced cheap chocolates. The movement melds art with chocolate to create new experiences, both visually and gastronomically, for consumers. Haute chocolatiers create massive and beautiful sculptures and include some of the world’s most expensive ingredients. The following video shows Chef Marc Guibert’s chocolate pudding, which doubles as a replica of a Faberge egg.

Haute chocolatiers include world-renown culinary experts as well as small chocolate producers hoping to increase the quality of chocolate available to consumers. Despite the wide range of advocates, however, women in haute chocolate are sorely underrepresented. This conceals the influence that women have had in the preparation of chocolate throughout history, and speaks to a larger societal problem about the lack of women in professions traditionally reserved for men.

Although the International Food Awards awarded less than one fifth of its awards to women owned and run chocolate companies, the contributions that women have made to the field of chocolate are immense. The positioning of women as consumers of chocolate in advertisements as well as the exclusion of women in the realm of professional cooking have contributed to the scarcity of female chocolatiers. As women begin to gain traction in fields that were traditionally reserved for men, the number of female chocolatiers receiving recognition through these awards will likely increase as well.


Works Cited

Brenner, J. G. (2000). The emperors of chocolate: Inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. Broadway.

Coe, S. D., Coe, M. D., & Huxtable, R. J. (2013). The true history of chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson.

Ferguson, P. P. (2006). Accounting for taste: The triumph of French cuisine. University of Chicago Press.

Harris, D. A., & Giuffre, P. (2015). Taking the heat: Women chefs and gender inequality in the professional kitchen. Rutgers University Press.

International Chocolate Awards. (2016). World Final Winners – 2016. Retrieved from

Norton, M. (2006). Tasting empire: chocolate and the European internalization of Mesoamerican aesthetics. The American Historical Review, 111(3), 660-691.

Nutter, K. B. (2008). From romance to PMS: Images of women and chocolate in twentieth-century America. Edible ideologies: Representing food and meaning, 201.

Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, women and empire: a social and cultural history. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Swinbank, V. A. (2002). The sexual politics of cooking: a feminist analysis of culinary hierarchy in western culture. Journal of Historical Sociology, 15(4), 464-494.


Image sources

Image 1:



Bipolar Self-Medication with Chocolate: How Science Has Confirmed Chocolate’s Place as a Mood-Enhancer

Ever since the Spaniards discovered the new world, and along with it, discovered chocolate, chocolate consumption has been associated with medicinal benefits.

In The True History of Chocolate, Sophie and Michael Coe tell us:
“the Spaniards had stripped [chocolate] of the spiritual meaning which it had for the Mesoamericans, and imbued it with qualities altogether absent among the Aztecs and Maya: for the invaders, it was a drug, a medicine, in the humoral system to which they all adhered. It is hardly surprising to find that it was under this guise that chocolate travelled in Europe, from one court to another, from noble house to noble house, from monastery. But it soon became a medicine that was appreciated for its taste, its filling nature, and its stimulation.” (Coe and Coe 126)

We have several early Spanish attestations to medicinal properties of the newly discovered chocolate. Girolamo Benzoni, author of the History of the New World (1575), was among the first to write of chocolate’s beneficial effects on the body, though he did not exactly liken it to medicine or medicinal effects. He writes that chocolate “satisfies and refreshes the body” (Coe and Coe 110). These generalized benefits of chocolate consumption for the body soon developed into medicinal effects, as the Spanish began to encorporate chocolate consumption into their Galenic views of medicine (Coe and Coe 122). In 1570, Philip II had sent his Royal Physician Francisco Hernández to Mesoamerica on what would ultimately be a seven-year expedition to document native plants so that the Spanish might benefit from Mesoamerican medicinal practices, which were far superior to their own (Coe and Coe 122). Coe and Coe describe Hernández’s incorporation of chocolate into the Galenic system:
“Cacao and chocolate naturally attracted Hernández’s attention. The cacao seed is ‘temperate in nature,’ he says, but leaning to the ‘cold and humid’; on the whole, it is very nourishing […]. Because of its cool nature, drinks made from it are good in hot weather, and to cure fevers. Adding the mecaxochitl flavoring to chocolate not only gives it an agreeable taste, but because it, like most cacao spices, is ‘hot’ by nature, it ‘warms the stomach, perfumes the breath … [and] combats poisons, alleviates intestinal pains and colics,’ and so on.” (Coe and Coe 122)
Hernández’s description firmly set chocolate in the medicinal conversation of Europe forevermore.

The use of chocolate as medicine persisted in European history. The medicinal properties of chocolate beverages were cited by Francesco Maria Brancaccio in 1664 as an argument for why chocolate beverages should be permitted during times of ecclesiastical fasting (Coe and Coe 149). Most 18th century authorities believed that, as long as it was not consumed in excess, chocolate was on the whole very beneficial to one’s health.

Though much of the conversation about chocolate as medicine was centered around its physical benefits, people also began to suggest mental benefits of chocolate consumption as well. In his 1591 treatise on New World foods, Juan de Cárdenas asserted that chocolate consumption, among its other properties, could make one “happy” (Coe and Coe 123). Later, in the 1600s, marquise de Sévigné, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, advises a correspondent who was apparently not sleeping that “chocolate will set you up again” (Coe and Coe 155).

These early attestations to beneficial psychological effects of chocolate consumption paved the way for modern beliefs in chocolate’s psychological effects, as a mood enhancer. The public’s belief that consuming chocolate will boost their mood has greatly impacted the modern chocolate market. A recent report by Mintel (2016) “found 24% of British consumers say they have bought chocolate confectionery in the last three months to boost their mood, while 64% of Chinese consumers agree that eating chocolate is an effective way to relieve stress” (Yu). Many chocolate companies advertise in such a way as to capitalize on the mood-enhancing effects of chocolate.

Depicting many of the psychological effects attributed to chocolate consumption in the modern age, this particular image is used by Fondant Chocolate, a premier chocolate company in India, as part of its marketing. This demonstrates how the modern chocolate market benefits from public belief in the positive psychological effects of chocolate consumption.

Many people seek out chocolate for its mood-enhancing benefits, but this essay will focus on a group of people who use chocolate for much more than cheering themselves up on a bad day: those diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 11.33.23 PM
This medically reviewed article on Healthline shows that not only do bipolar people self-medicate and crave chocolate, but it is actually being medically recommended as a remedy for bipolar symptoms. (Krans)

For the purposes of this essay, it is useful to give a brief overview of what bipolar disorder, a mood disorder, entails. The International Bipolar Foundation describes:
“Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. […] Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings– from overly ‘high’ and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.” (“Learn”)
It should also be mentioned that people with bipolar have low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is considered to be a naturally occurring mood stabilizer (Peeke).


First, I will mention that the reason I picked this topic is because I am, myself, bipolar, and I, like many other bipolar people, have used chocolate to self-medicate. Many others with bipolar also use other, actual drugs to self-medicate (such as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin) and often develop substance abuse problems. I, however, never found comfort in a bottle. Chocolate was my self-prescribed mood-stabilizer, long before I had even received my diagnosis. It is my intention to share a little bit about my own use of chocolate as a mood-enhancer, before delving into the science and explicating why the use of chocolate as medicine, though not treating the same ailments as chocolate beginning in the 1500s, may actually have more clout than a simple urban myth.

I am not exactly sure when my bipolar disorder began manifesting symptoms, but in hindsight, I can definitively say that by junior high, it was definitely in full-swing. My pre-teens through early college life were categorized by all the typical signs: extreme mood swings with intermittent periods of normalcy, ‘bipolar rage’ (blind, irrational, near-violent anger with no traceable cause), crippling anxiety, et cetera. I am not sure at what point my childhood love of chocolate became a realization that eating chocolate helped my mood, but at some point, I began to associate my turbulent moods with a solution: the consumption of chocolate. It made me feel better, especially in the moment, but eventually I would come crashing down, as my mood spiraled downward. I would thus seek out more chocolate to ease that depression, and thus I became as dependent on chocolate as an alcoholic is on alcohol to self-medicate. I became so dependent on chocolate as my self-prescribed mood enhancing drug that I actually developed compulsive-eating and binge-eating disorders (see also a blog about another bipolar person’s experience with this). Even my family recognized the power that chocolate had to improve my moods, and when they saw that I was struggling on a given day, their go-to method of cheering me up was giving me something with chocolate in it.

I was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until I was 20 years old, and it took until I was 22 to finally be put on the right dosage of the right medication: lithium. Lithium is arguably the oldest psychiatric medication around (in use during Classical times (Angst and Marneros)) and is a mood-stabilizer. Lithium will be very important in the science on chocolate as a mood-stabilizer that I outline below. Still, even though I am now on the right dose of the right medication, I still have mood swings, and when I do, my family still suggests chocolate as a remedy.

Many studies have been conducted on chocolate as a mood enhancer. According to UNH Staff in their article, “2 Chocolate Benefits for Your Brain: Improves Memory and Mood”, “chocolate has been shown to improve depression and anxiety symptoms and help enhance feelings of calmness and contentedness. Both the flavanols and methylxanthines are believed to play a role in chocolate’s mood enhancing effects” (UNH Staff). In addition, the article cites several studies that showed chocolate consumption improved mood, and another study in which participants “felt more calm and contented after consuming a daily dark chocolate drink containing a high amount of polyphenols” (UNH Staff).  These studies show that chocolate does indeed have a connection to ‘good feelings’, much as Juan de Cárdenas had asserted that chocolate could make one happy centuries earlier.

Chocolate also contains phenylethylamines, which are a neurotransmitter that “in low levels, is associated with depression […] Phenylethylamines work by releasing endorphins in the brain and promote feelings of attraction and giddiness” (Chitale and ABC News Medical Unit). Between the low levels of serotonin, which cause cravings for carbs and sweets to spark pleasure centers in the brain and elevate mood (Peeke), and the low levels of phenylethylamines, people with mood disorders may actually be self-medicating with chocolate consumption, which compensates for those low levels.

I must here take a slight detour from the discussion of the science-supported benefits of chocolate to set precedent for my conclusion. The American Chemical Society put out a summary of research that was delivered at one of their meetings, in an article entitled “Good Mood Foods: Some Flavors in Some Foods Resemble a Prescription Mood Stabilizer.” The research is exactly what the title suggests: “New evidence reveals the possibility of mood-enhancing effects associated with some flavors, stemming at least in part from natural ingredients bearing a striking chemical similarity to valproic acid, a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug” (“Good Mood Foods”). This suggests that some foods, far from simply providing a quick mood boost, could actually be used to medicate mood disorders, even if it were just as a supplement to actual medications.

Nuno Rodrigues-Silva considers the science behind the question: why do we crave chocolate? One view he considers argues that craving for chocolate is a “homeostatic response to nutrient deficiency (e.g., magnesium deficiency)” (Rodrigues-Silva 430). He goes on to explain why someone with magnesium deficiency would crave chocolate specifically:
“Chocolate has one of the highest magnesium levels reported of all foods, approximately 100 mg/g, except white chocolate which contains magnesium in much lower amounts, about 12 times lower than milk chocolate. Magnesium deficiency results in selective depletion of dopamine in the CNS [central nervous system], a major neurotransmitter involved in euphoria, satisfaction, and addiction. Additionally, magnesium deficiency is related to anxiety, and its administration has been related to reduced hyperexcitability in children and attenuated posttraumatic depression/anxiety in rats.” (Rodrigues-Silva 430)

However, Rodrigues-Silva fails to mention an important function of magnesium: magnesium is frequently used as a supplement to aid in sleep for those with sleep disorders (common for people with bipolar disorder), but most importantly, recent studies suggest that magnesium can produce improvements in bipolar disorder similar to the improvements seen in patients who take lithium (Lake). That would put magnesium on the list of mood-stabilizers.

You might remember how I said that the medication that stabilized my bipolar was lithium, and that before that, I was regulating my mood with chocolate consumption. If I, as a person with bipolar, craved chocolate when my moods were out of control, that would indicate that I might have been experiencing magnesium deficiency, according to Rodrigues-Silva. If magnesium, according to recent research, might be a mood-stabilizer, that would mean that when my bipolar disorder reared its ugly head, I was actually craving chocolate not as a quick mood enhancer but as a medication. I was, in all reality, actually self-medicating my bipolar with chocolate.

Star Wars star Carrie Fisher, outspoken about her bipolar disorder until the day she died, describes in her second memoir Shockaholic her “craving for salad– chocolate salad.” (Fisher)

It is not just an urban myth that chocolate will boost your mood — chocolate has, now, a firmly rooted place as a medicine, just as the Europeans had claimed centuries earlier, though for different ailments.

So, what does this mean for the future of the chocolate industry? The chocolate industry already markets to and profits from people who believe that chocolate will boost their mood. Taking daily medications to manage mental illness is a hassle at best and impossible to remember at worst– and many people with bipolar simply do not want to take medication. Imagine if chocolate manufacturers began to market chocolate as an alternative or supplement to traditional mood-stabilizers. How many people would buy into that option? A lot of people, I reckon– and they would also need to consume chocolate en masse in order to get enough of a mood-stabilizing benefit day to day, sky-rocketing sales. It could be a great new direction for the chocolate market.




“About Us – Fondant Chocolate.” Fondant Chocolate. Fondant Chocolate, n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.
Angst, Jules, and Andreas Marneros. “Bipolarity from Ancient to Modern Times: Conception, Birth and Rebirth.” Journal of Affective Disorders 67.1-3 (2001): 3-19. Web.
Baker, Kelley Thorpe. “Until I Pop: Emotional Eating and Bipolar Disorder.” Blog post. Bipolar Hope. Bipolar Magazine, 26 May 2015. Web. 10 May 2017.
Chitale, Radha, and ABC News Medical Unit. “You Feel What You Eat.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 05 Mar. 2008. Web. 10 May 2017.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
Fisher, Carrie. Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill eat chocolate. Digital image. Daily Mail. Daily Mail, 9 May 2014. Web. 10 May 2017.
Fisher, Carrie. Shockaholic. London: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.
“Good Mood Foods: Some Flavors in Some Foods Resemble a Prescription Mood Stabilizer.” American Chemical Society. American Chemical Society, 19 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 May 2017.
Krans, Brian. “7 Foods That Help to Calm Your Nerves During Bipolar Mania.” Healthline. Healthline Media, 12 Sept. 2016. Web. 10 May 2017.
Lake, James. “Integrative Treatment of Bipolar Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Recommendations: Page 2 of 4.” Psychiatric Times. UBM Medica, 03 July 2013. Web. 10 May 2017.
“Learn.” International Bipolar Foundation. International Bipolar Foundation, 2017. Web. 10 May 2017.
Mental Benefits of Chocolate Consumption. Digital image. Fondant Chocolate. Fondant Chocolate, n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.
Peeke, Dr. Pamela. “Mood, Food and Bipolar Disorder: A New Prescription.” The Huffington Post., 21 July 2014. Web. 10 May 2017.
Rodrigues-Silva, Nuno. “Chocolate: Psychopharmological Aspects, Mood, and Addiction.” Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. Ed. Ronald Ross. Watson, Victor R. Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. Totowa, NJ: Humana, 2013. 421-36. Print.
Thompson, Dennis, Jr. “Sugar and Bipolar Disorder.” Everyday Health Media, LLC, 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 May 2017.
UNH Staff. “2 Chocolate Benefits for Your Brain: Improves Memory and Mood.” University Health News. Belvoir Media Group, 20 Apr. 2017. Web. 10 May 2017.
Yu, Douglas. “Happiness Factor: Emotional Benefits Are Top Chocolate Sales Drivers, Says Mintel.” William Read, 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 May 2017.

Model Firms and Firm Models: Fashion, Africa, and Chocolate.

Africa sells, there is not any doubt. It would be hard to estimate the time lag between Livingstone hacking his way through the jungle and the first pretty blonde in a pith helmet, posed in the swath of jungle immediately behind him, selling some consumable product; selling the very idea of Africa. Real life in Africa, offline and out of camera range, is still more than a little bit of a mystery. We consider here the exploitation of Africa and the simultaneous advertisement of the exploitation of Africa: what it means for a model to be authentic, what it means for a product to be modern, the moral responsibilities of a corporation, and how the modern chocolate bar fits into the grand scheme of all these things.

The First Chocolate Advertising.

The chocolate business is an old business, as in thirty-five centuries old. Because of the limited suitability of the cocoa tree to anywhere but the most humid and hottest part of the tropics, cocoa was a trade product from the very beginning. In Central America and the south of Mexico elaborate trade routes sprung up and cocoa was also acquired by theft and by warfare; these cocoa proto-businesses and their ethics make for an interesting comparison or even parallel to what came later. The Princeton Vase (Mayan, 8th century AD) and other antiquities depict fashionably attired and accessorized young women caught in various poses of making chocolate, and while not advertisements, they are a related form; they are examples or models connecting the food product chocolate with its various meanings. The illustrations on these early ceramic vessels can exemplify class aspirations, luxury, conspicuous consumption, and ritual. In any case, the total meaning of chocolate is not yet separated from its act of production.

Privatization and Modernization in the New World.

It was not long after conquest of the New World that the existing cocoa businesses “merged” with the Spanish enterprises, and not long after that the cocoa trade was privatized and duly licensed by the Viceroyalty. Through forced labor, warfare, European diseases, and lack of foresight the Spanish began to lose their cocoa producers and consumers at an ever increasing rate; within a century 90% of the Preconquest indigenous population was gone. Meanwhile the Spanish modernized and in their view improved the indigenous chocolate recipes, primarily through the substitution of their own spices and the addition of more and more sugar. Chocolate at this time began to lose the religious and ritual meanings it carried for the native peoples. Likewise, since here we will be interested in clothing and fashion, we note how the Spanish began a simultaneous modernization of the clothing of the indigenous peoples, for example imposing their ideas of Christian modesty, etc. on clothing that already carried religious or cultural meanings for the natives. An odd example is the banishing of a transparent huipil (blouse) worn by women in southern Mexico; for the indigenas this look had only the connotation of formality, but thanks to the Spanish, the outlawed blouse became a headdress with sleeves intact (Covarrubias, 1954).

As time went by the New World was carved out into Spanish, English, Dutch, and Portuguese colonies and the (now mostly inferior) cocoa stock was greatly expanded. With eyes cast back across the Atlantic, new markets and uses for chocolate were developed in Europe. Already at this time the necessary connection of the idea of “modernity” with evolution and civilization is called into question. At the level of the chocolate recipe, the indigenous recipes with their greater palette of spices and flavors had more in common with today’s artisanal chocolate than the Spanish recipes (Presilla, 2009).

While entire cultures were erased in the New World, it is important to note that the indigenous peoples also willingly adopted some materials and aspects of European culture, and not every effect of colonization was automatically negative and for the worse. For example, the native peoples incorporated many foods brought from Europe into their own kitchens; likewise Spanish sheep and wool, the backstrap loom, and European techniques of construction enabled new heights of creative expression in the native clothing (Schevill, 1986). Most importantly, modernized indigenous food and clothing often became the “traditional” food and clothing in a natural and inevitable process one author has called “cultural authentification” (Rabine, 2002).

The Rise of the Model.

From the 16th century onwards, as New World products began to pour back to the European markets, the chocolate drink began its infiltration of the upper class parlor and likewise the representational painting of the age. Once again, pre the age of advertising, the beautiful young woman fair of skin and fair of French or French-inspired fashion, is caught in the act of drinking or preparing chocolate; no longer nameless she is now the Artist’s Model; hardly mute, her clothing and her chocolate consumption signal her social status, her economic status, and her taste for the good life. If we enquire into her “authenticity,” she is a real young woman in a studio, possibly British or Italian or Spanish, possibly a professional model or a countess or a maid. She is also an organic synthesis of the woman who posed and the artist who posed her. With an expressively arched hand placed here, a thumb hidden there, the dress draped just so, weight placed on this leg and not that one, in a “pantomimic gesture” (Mortensen, 1956, p. 104), she is more real than a real woman in a real room. Like the chocolate that is pressed, beaten and heated into a pleasing form that is beyond the natural, the model is an improvement on nature and engenders the aspirational aspect of the painting. The viewer that wears the same dress and drinks the same chocolate becomes the particular woman in the painting; the artist’s model is the viewer’s “future self” (reference needed).

And on to Africa.

From the 16th century onwards the cocoa trade blossomed: Guns, liquor, shackles, and all manner of manufactured goods flowed to African ports, labor in the form of Africans flowed to the New World cocoa fields, and cocoa flowed back to Europe to complete the vicious circle. African slaves now substituted for the indigenous labor force mostly exterminated in the colonization. Producers and consumers were now widely separated in geography and conscience; black hands cut cocoa pods from trees in sweltering heat while porcelain white hands rested on sterling cups of chocolate in the drawing rooms of Europe. In time with great blights of disease in the New World cocoa fields, occasional slave rebellions against greatly outnumbered plantation masters, and continually increasing world-wide competition, the forced export of so much African labor became so economically unviable it was abolished in late 19th century resignation. At this time ships were pointed to the new colonies in Africa. In one sense, this was following a natural trail along an equator that provided the necessary growing conditions for cocoa; in another sense since Africans could no longer be brought to the plantations by force, the plantations would now be brought to the Africans. Direct management of slave or slave-like labor was eventually outsourced when planters became “buyers”.

The Rise of the Model Firm.

Good business or bad business? Before the 19th century the question could scarcely be asked, as any business enterprise in cocoa necessarily involved human slavery in one form or another. The moral fragility of such a long supply chain stretching back across an ocean that had barely just been crossed in the 16th century should be obvious; by the 19th century tarnishing of the chain at both ends was clearly visible. On the one end were the graves of 10-15 million Africans hauled to the New World to work in the cocoa and other plantations, on the other end of the chain was ever increasing adulteration of factory-made chocolate to increase profits. In the midst of all this, as modern society became increasingly more concerned with labor and the other conditions of production, and companies being reflections of the society at large, the chocolate trade (which by now was concentrated into a small number of very large companies) set out to improve the safety of their products and the conditions of their labor force. British companies like Rowntree and Cadbury and their counterparts in other countries sought to become “model firms” (Robertson, 2009, p. 7).

The earliest model firms, the companies of William Cadbury and Rowntree in particular, had their work cut out for them, but the literature on these two companies shows leaders with genuine empathy for their producers/laborers in Africa (Higgs, 2012; Satre, 2005). By the 19th century the cocoa business was predicated on modern advertising, and the 20th century spirit of reform which sought to unite, in a way, the production and consumption of chocolate was balanced by the nature of advertising to conceal the conditions of production. Again it was often up to the female model (freed at last from the canvas, and readily relocatable to a magazine photo or a tin of cocoa), to articulate new meanings for chocolate. In early Rowntree advertisements pretty native girls in neatly pressed exotic garb carried baskets on their heads through cocoa fields (Robertson, 2009). This model was a type from the early 20th century: in America she dressed as a Hawaiian maiden, in Mexico she wore the Tehuana skirt and roses in her hair, and in South America the basket of cocoa became a basket of fruit. She danced her way across the first glossy magazines and the first dim cinema screens, associating products like chocolate with the hard-to-get and the exotic. Not since the Mayan chocolate vessels described above had the model represented the actual producer of the chocolate (for better or worse); because she was fashionably dressed, she represented also the fashionable young woman consumer, bringing the two a little closer than they were before. This kind of advertisement, however, can never represent the actual conditions of production because of the very nature of the fashion system: fashion never refers to any reality and only refers to itself (Barthes, 1983).


We recall that chocolate was a luxury and a status drink that eventually trickled down through the classes, acquiring new meanings along the way. Models in chocolate advertising changed their clothes accordingly. Later, beautiful and healthy young female models on bicycles or on the way to tennis matches consumed chocolate, the health food (Kit Kat bar); as chocolate by this time was mostly sugar, and sugar at this time was still considered a healthy source of calories, the authenticity of the advertisements was not automatically a problem. Chocolate advertisements in this vein continued on through the golden age of women’s magazines and into the 1970s. Again, the model in a woman’s magazine represented the consumer’s better and future self: a better mother, a better wife, or a healthier and more alluring woman.

Ghana Today.

Above we have made only the roughest sketch of the idea of the model in the history of chocolate advertising; we conclude with a 2005 advertising campaign of the Divine Chocolate company (Britain), which appeared in magazines such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, etc. The models used are described as owners of their own cocoa farms and part owners of the Divine Chocolate company (

In the first advertisement a woman poses in a Ghana cocoa field in the noon day sun in a Western manner: her weight shifts to one leg as her hip slides out to the side, as her head tilts to the same side in a curve associated with the 18th century painter Hogarth (and used ever since in modeling). We note that Western magazines like Elle and Cosmopolitan are well known in the cities of West Africa and are frequent sources for custom dress making, while larger cities sponsor European-style fashion shows (Rabine, 2002). The off-the-shoulder dress in a yellow and green floral print is tailored in a European style, and described as a Holland print (i.e. literally from Holland) brought over from England by the advertising agency.

West Africa sets the fashion, i.e. the traditional fashion, for much of Africa, even though use of the word “traditional” is problematic. Most of what is considered traditional today by historians of dress, or better yet Africans themselves, are materials and styles that have been brought from one place to another. World-wide, the familiar cuts are long squares and rectangles with dignified straight cuts. Most traditional clothing, however, is made in one-offs by small tailoring shops who use curvilinear Western cuts; by now this is considered to be traditional. Traditional prints are dyed by hand using stitch resist (tie dye), flour resist, or wax resist methods. From the beginning of the 19th century to the present, the most sought-after materials are the wax resist dyed fabrics brought in immense quantities from Holland, and the Holland print is considered to be the most traditional and most African one can get (Rabine, 2002). Thus the model in the advertisement is actually traditionally dressed.

The Divine Chocolate ad is such a great contrast with the history of labor conditions in the cocoa trade that it gives one pause, and maybe some hope for the future. The advertising campaign at long last connects chocolate buyers with the actual producers in the field, and that cannot be but a good thing. The women may be artificially lighted and a stylist may be standing just outside of the frame, but the advertisement still manages to capture a small part of their real lives. The women seem healthy and happy, and they are beautiful by any standard. The world will only get smaller as time passes, and contacts get closer and closer, and through this West African cocoa farmers stand a chance to gain in real power and improve the conditions of their lives.


Barthes, R. (1983). The fashion system. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Coe, M. (2013). The true history of chocolate. London, England: Thames & Hudson, Ltd.
Covarrubias, M. (1954). Mexico South: the Isthmus of Tehauntepec. New York, NY: Knopf.
Higgs, C. (2012). Chocolate Islands. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.
Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2), 121-139.
Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and power. New York, NY: Penguin.
Mortensen, W. (1956). How to pose the model. New York, NY: Ziff-Davis.
Powis, T. (2008). The origins of cacao use in Mesoamerica. Mexicon [sic], 30, 35-38.
Presilla, M. (2009). The new taste of chocolate. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
Rabine, L. (2002). The global circulation of African fashion. Oxford, England: Berg.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
Satre, L. (2005). Chocolate on trial: slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Athens, OH: Ohio University
Shevill, M. (1986). Costume as communication. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

** Ava Gardner in Helen Rose dress (C) 1953 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, “The cup of chocolate” by Pierre-August Renoir (1878) is in the public domain, dark-skinned beauty ad and bicycle model ad are in the public domain, “Women with attitude” ad (C) 2005 by Divine Chocolate.

From Gene to Bean to Bar: A Tour from USDA Research to Castronovo Chocolate


Photo of Display at Castronovo Chocolate literally from beans to bars.

I spent a day and a half visiting both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Miami and Castronovo Chocolate, a 700 square foot chocolate factory, 2 hours north of Miami located in Stuart Florida. This posting tells the story of the morning with Mike Winterstein, an agricultural research technician at the USDA and of the afternoon and following morning, spent with Denise Castronovo, an artisan chocolate maker and the owner of Castronovo Chocolate.

It is my opinion that both the USDA and Castronovo are part of solution to problems we have studied in the cacao-chocolate supply chain.

First Stop: USDA Agricultural Research Subtropical Station


Photo: Mike Winterstein is the Agricultural Research Technician at the USDA Agricultural Sub Tropical Research Service,  He is from Long Island New York, moved to Florida in 1974, as a farmer, and joined the USDA in 1994.

As a grower, Mike maintains plants, going out into the fields and taking care of them from planting to germinating etc.  Indoors, he also formats and stores data, maintaining data on the USDA websites.  Mike works with other researchers verifying collections.  The USDA genome research is publically available.  You can order a species, 13,000 are available, from the USDA for the cost of shipping and the phytosanitary certificate verifying the plant is free of all pathogens ($50 ) The big five crops for the USDA are wheat, rice, soybean, corn and cotton.  However at the station in Miami the primary crops being studied are avocado, mango and cacao, and interestingly also sugar cane.  To paraphrase, Mike, “Even though cacao is not really grown in the US, yes, some is in Puerto Rico (Mayaguez has the main cacao collection) and Hawaii, the research and the storing of the genome and plants are important because lots and lots of jobs in the US are tied into chocolate from the manufacture, to the infrastructure, to the advertising/marketing to the consumption.”

The research at the USDA is funded primarily by the US Government.  CRIS the Current Resource Information System Is the “documentation and reporting system for ongoing agricultural, food and nutrition, and forestry research.”

The research is funded through farm bills, approved by Congress and thus is really funded by the US taxpayer.  The USDA is a government agency, funding for research changes (due to changing taste and politics), research is at the mercy of the government.  In the new farm bill you can look up the research being done on specialty crops. Here is the link for 2017 and a link for programs possible being dropped in 2018  and another link  from the Council of State Governments for 2018 as proposed by President Trump:

The History

The USDA in Miami started with “The Boys”. (See photo) Walter Tennyson Swingle, (1871-1952)  who graduated from Kansas State at age 16 and had an obsession with chasing citrus (there was no citrus industry yet in Florida, but there was a potential for the crop. Swingle taught himself Mandarin Chinese and German and went looking for crops that could be successful in the US.  He persuaded Henry Flagler, the man who brought his railroad to South Florida, thus opening Florida for development, to give the USDA an acre of land along Biscayne Bay for a lab to study plant disease.  Swingle also persuaded Mary Brickell to give 6 acres to use as a plant introduction site.  The donation was not accepted, but a lease was negotiated.  Plant Explorer, David Fairchild, the same David Fairchild who brought the cherry trees to Washington, D.C.’s tidal basin, is another major player in the history. He sought a piece of land for its climate, not just for the land.

Where the USDA sits today is not shielded by barrier islands.  It receives the warm gulf stream, and because there are no barrier islands, the Atlantic Ocean retains the warmth of the gulf stream, creating a climate fit for cacao.  The land, it is believed,  has always been frost free (important for all subtropical fruits and vegetation).

Viktor Emmanuel Chapman was the first aviator to be killed in France in WWI on November 15, 1918. He trained on this same sight, what is now known as Chapman field with America’s first “Fly Boys” who flew, before the US entered WWI, for the French Foreign Legion in the American Escadrille.  The history of the USDA station at Chapman field in Miami and the breadth of agricultural research currently being done at the USDA subtropical agricultural research center is fascinating and complex.

For more detail of the history see:

1 The Boys

The USDA Mission in Miami is to:

1. Introduce a broad genetic base for tropical and subtropical horticultural crops believed to have economic potential in warm humid regions of the United States or its territories.

2. Evaluate the introduced populations for their genetic structure, horticultural variation, and botanical characteristics.
3. Preserve a diverse sub-set representing a broad genetic base for each crop.
4. Distribute the material to research scientist, botanical gardens, nurserymen and parks as is appropriate.

The National Germplasm Repository (NGR) is one of eighteen such repositories in the NPGS. The NGR-Miami shares responsibility with Mayaguez – Puerto Rico, for maintaining the U.S. clonal collections of mango, avocado, banana and plantain, tropical citrus, annonas, sugarcane and related grasses, palms, Tripsacum, and a few other relatively minor tropical crops.

Germplasm Holdings: 

The NGR-Miami maintains approximately 6000 accessions. Most the holdings (3500) are in the major fruit and grass collections. The remaining 2500 accessions are ornamental, chemurgic, and spice introductions from tropical and subtropical areas of the world. These plants are a unique collection and requests for material come from many scientific disciplines. Small quantities of germplasm are distributed to bona fide scientists for research purposes.” Not true anymore:  the germ plasm is available to landscapers, botanists, landscape architects, nurseries, as well as bona fide researchers.

Cacao is held at the NGR Miami and has been important both to deal with diseases:  witches broom, frost pod, bitofera, pests, parasites, fungus, etc.  benefitting cacao producers worldwide, but also because “significant quantities of milk, sugar, peanuts, almonds, and other materials produced in the U.S. go into the making of chocolate products. The station is one of two quarantine facilities for cacao in the western hemisphere that serve to keep diseases from moving into the area”.  The station also does research for Mars with Mars scientists.  They have sensors monitoring trees for nitrogen, sunlight, humidity etc. monitoring conditions to be able to help cacao farmers in Indonesia.  The cacao is grown in an area that was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp -think the Depression and the New Deal) cement walls that look like Mayan ruins absorb the heat keeping the area warmer.


Mike will hand pollinate a cacao tree, by collecting pollen at the beginning of the day., The next morning he takes the anther’s off, so the tree can not self pollinate, and he brings the pollen, using a Q-tip or tiny paint brush from another tree.  He said  that when he brings the pollen he sees a little spurt.  Wire mesh to keep rats and mice away are around the trees.

Kathleen Martinez, a researcher at the USDA doing Mars research, took me inside the lab.  I was not allowed to photograph inside.  I was shown how leaf material is organized for genome sequencing.  Kathleen explained pipeters, fill tips, DNA samples, working in small quantities, then working on a plate, sequencing 96 samples on 32 plates , PCR amplifying samples, like 96 little needles into a capillary system, with florescent probes, Single nucleotyde polymorphism genotyping, looking for one single change in the genotyping, 96 samples and 96 markers ,fluidigm EPT.  She talked about raw data, XX meaning homozygous, XY meaning heterozygous, allele.  Basically, taking a physical trait linking that trait to a genotype associating it to a phenotype to predict the physotype.  I was shown how the researchers use the centrifuge to remove the cell wall to get clear DNA, some scientists use the plate method and do 40 samples in a day.  Extractions are done all day long.  I was shown the lypholizer, how the water is removed from the fresh leaf keeping the leaf material for long term storage minus 80 degrees C.  Leaves being worked with regularly are stored at minus 20 degrees C.  The autoclave sterilizes all equipment with heat.  Everything is reused.  Tips are cleaned in bleach.  UV cross linker sterilization washed with ethanol then the UV cross linker sterilizer microwave.

Cacao bred to be resistant to disease that tastes well, horrid, CCN51, is now being bred again,  for flavor. I do not know how much research is being done on flavor at this site.

 “The next time you drive by Chapman Field or enjoy a fine bar of chocolate, ponder the centuries of work that have gone into the making. Agriculture is always a struggle and it never ends.  The climate will change, diseases ravage, breeding lines narrow and humans crave something new.  Behind that fence along Old Cutler [road] is a battleground on which the survival of one of mankind’s most iconic crops depends”

Richard Campbell in Edible South Florida Magasine, Winter 2017, Number 1, Volume

Plant_Science_HD2Photo from USDA website

From Gene to Bean to Bar: Visiting Castronova Chocolate



The timing of my 2nd visit to Castronovo Chocolate was serendipitous:  I got to see the cacao beans arrive. The driver who delivers them brings them inside and is thanked by Denise with one of her chocolate frozen drinks.

Denise Castronovo is a fine chocolate maker.  Originally from Massachusetts, she went to Lehigh University for her Bachelors and Masters in Environmental Science and Economics, then for 2 years she did her PH.d coursework in Ecology in the Botany Department at the University of Georgia. During her undergraduate years she had visited Costa Rica to study the rainforest. In Florida, she started her own mapping technology consulting business.   She has always been interested in sustainable development and conservation.  At the time she was in Costa Rica, eco-tourism was beginning to grow.  Her studies in Economics linked conservation and the environment.  She was interested in monitoring reforestation using aerial satellite imagery.

In her home life, Denise wanted healthy eating for herself and  for her family, (husband and two young children).  She became interested in superfoods, foods high in anti- oxidants, acai, goji berries.  When she went to Whole Foods and bought cocoa nibs she  became amazed by the flavor notes and chocolate and decided to learn all about chocolate.   All her life was excellent preparation for the opening 5 years ago of her chocolate factory and store.

What Denise is successfully creating and growing parallels the societal changes reflected in the American Artisan and Craft Chocolate time line by Carla Martin, Ph.d Chocolate, The Politics of Culture and Food, Harvard Extension. And just as in France, in American society  today it appears that the food movement is valuing artisan craft makers, (perhaps the consumers are of a certain economic level)  turning to slow, small batch chocolate, that we too are part of a changing culture of chocolate consumption. (See Carla D. Martin-Kathryn E. Sampeck)

Denise’s mission is to raise awareness of chocolate by offering unique varietals of chocolate and flavors, heirloom varieties that are endangered,  to create a market that will preserve the diversity of cacao.  see    On her website she has written: “Reclaiming the craft of bean to bar chocolate making. At a glance, all chocolate-making looks the same: beans are cultivated and fermented, roasted and ground, sweetened and sold. Large-scale chocolate manufacturers have optimized this process for mass production. The unfortunate result: flat, uninspired, expressionless chocolate – the taste has been engineered out of the bar!
We salute the few, craft chocolate makers that are taking time and care with each part of the chocolate making process, releasing the full potential of the bean; those who are supporting careful farming and fermentation, the ones who ensure farmers are paid a fair wage through an ethical and sustainable supply chain, and those who skillfully grind, roast, and sweeten without diluting the bean’s essence.

We at Castronovo Chocolate are in relentless pursuit of discovering the absolute depths of the chocolate experience knowing full well we may never get there. But along the way, we can all enjoy a bar of the most flavorful chocolate you can find.

Denise receives positive feedback from her customers.  She loves to watch them try a truffle at the store, because most have never had anything quite like the ones she makes. One customer has told her that her truffles are better than any he ever had in Brussels.


She is succeeding as shown by the numerous  international awards she has already won. As she said modestly “I am winning awards with Bonnat, how incredible!”

International Award-winning Chocolate

Sierra Nevada Dark Milk 63%


Dominican Republic Dark Milk 50%


Academy of Chocolate Silver Winner Castronovo Sierra Nevada 72%


Academy of Chocolate Gold Winner Castronovo Chocolate Maya Mountain Belize 72%


Academy of Chocolate Silver Winner Castronovo Chocolate Lemon White with Lemon Salt


Academy of Chcocolate Bronze Winner Castronovo Chocolate Amazonas 72%


 The Process



photo of Jean-Marie Auboine Chocolatier Chocolate Map with Descriptions copyright 2012-2015

For a complete description of the chocolate making process see  Both are much like Denise’s process.

Denise with her two employees, wearing gloves, sorts the beans, the beans go on trays.   She roasts them in a convection oven (not in a coffee roaster). A roast of 15 trays is approx. 5 1/2 pounds.  She has a loss (shrinkage) of about 30%. Next she winnows the beans which crack and separate the nibs and shell.  The vacuum suction takes the lighter weight nibs to the bottom.  Again she handsets, making sure there is no shell.  Shell is dirty, having bacteria.  The beans roast at 250 to 270 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.  killing the bacteria.  She does her grinding and mixing in a melanger.  For milk chocolate sugar is added and milk powder.  Her melanger has 2 big granite wheels and a granite bottom.  She does about 90 pounds of chocolate in 3 -4 days.  10,00 in a year.  Refining, Conching and TemperingIMG_0200

Tempering – creating stable crystals.  Denise uses the seeding method.


an example of a badly tempered bar.

Denise mentioned how clean the beans are from Honduras.  Obviously leaves, twigs, rocks especially are not good for the juicer.  One can hear the rock in the juicer and must pull it out!

Everything in the shop smells so good, the aroma hits you as soon as you enter the door. All the volatile compounds come out mellowing the chocolate.   Denise has a chocolate library, pours the chocolate into hotel pans, pours it into blocks and then uses air conditioned cooling.


Sample Packaging.

Castronovo chocolates may do more flavored bars in the future, she does 2 right now with coffee.  But the focus will remain on single origin bars.


Some of her beans are sourced from the wild.  Her beans from the Sierra Nevada and Honduras are wild.  Beans in her Patenemo, Venezuelan bar are not quite as wild, as they are grown by subsistence farmers.  She sees herself as a small fish in a big pond, but by joining with other craft makers there will be an impact. source:

If you take the time to look at each Castronovo chocolate bar, read the label: you will see the % of cacao, the type, where it is sourced, a story about the cacao and its origin and flavor notes, and a batch number.

The flavors of chocolate begin with the farming, with the soil, the climate, the elevation, the tree, perhaps the spacing, and then with the process: the harvesting, the fermenting the addition of sugar (or not) or milk (or not) and all the steps leading to the bar . Certain beans, the varietal of chocolate will grow better in one place than another. The difference between a single origin chocolate maker and large companies, is the same as the difference between agriculture and viticulture for wine.  Agriculture seeks standardization, uniformity, high yield and consistency on as large a scale as possible.  With single bar origin done well, the taste brings a sense of connection to the place from which the bean came.  It is “perhaps the most elusive of these concepts and the most difficult to ascertain.  It is the sense you get from …aroma and flavor that could not have come from just anywhere but rather the embodiment of a single piece of earth.  Connectedness makes a thing different and therefore worthy of appreciation. ”


Both Mike and Denise are incredibly knowledgeable, enthusiastic, passionate and generous.  Thank you both for the time you spent with me, guiding me through your factory and your fields and for the information and  the chocolate Denise fed me!  I am enormously grateful.  Thank you Kathleen Martinez for showing me the lab and for making the chocolate genetics research more understandable.

Disclosure:  Next blog post, I would like to make a comparison between wine and chocolate as my husband is a 30 year wine industry consultant, specializing in artesan vintners.  participating in this course through learning about chocolate, and now enthralled with the history, politics, culture, and taste of chocolate (and other foods) has heightened for me the parallels between wine and chocolate.


Campbell, R.  Edible South Florida Magasine, Winter 2017, Number 1, Volume 8.

Castronovo, D. , Castronovo Chocolate Factory, Stuart, Florida, conversations and texts May 2017. and website:

Kiel, K. & Ornelas, K.,200, “North America from 1492 to the Present- Recent Developments in Foodways” The Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, p. 1320.

Leissle, K, Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Fall 2013), pp. 22-31 Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: .

Martin, Carla D. and  Sampek, Kathryn E , The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe. DOI: 10.18030/SOCIO.HU.2015EN.37.

MacNeil, K. , The Wine Bible,  2001, Workman Publishing, New York.

Martinez, K., Subtropical Research Geneticist, USDA ARS, Miami,  Florida, lab research tour, May 2017

Sethi, S. 2017, “Origin Made Chocolate: The Bars to Beat”, Wall Street Journal, web Feb 9, 2017.

Williams, P. & Eber, J., 2012,”To Market to Market: Craftsmanship,Customer Education, and Flavor Raising the Bar The Future of Fine Chocolate, pp 143- 209, Vancouver, BC Wilmor Publishing.

Winterstein, M. USDA ARS, Miami,  Florida, conversations and emails, May 2017


Council of State Governments,

Expert Enough Blog

Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund

Jean Marie Auboine Handcrafted Chocolate Map

UM Walter Swingle information

USDA Agricultural Research website


USDA Station History:


Against the March of Time: Challenges Facing Chocolate Makers Attempting to Return Chocolate to its Roots

That path of the development of American chocolate has been at its core, a circular one. Initially introduced before the United States was an independent country, its form has shifted many times over the years. Initially sold in the colonies as blocks of processed cocoa to be grated, melted down, and consumed as a liquid, the formulation changed as chocolate morphed from drink to edible bar, and again as it became a mass-produced product. In the past 50 years, however, there has been an effort to return chocolate to its roots- starting with increased research on the history of chocolate in the 1960’s and 1970’s, continuing with the emergence of single origin chocolate and ideals of purity in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and continuing into the 2000’s and 2010’s with an explosion craft “bean to bar” chocolate manufacturers. However, while the modern artisanal chocolate movement is attempting to bring traditional chocolate to to the masses, chocolatiers face two major challenges on this path- the reliance on European primary sources in chocolate scholarship, and the inherited taste preferences of the chocolate-consuming public.

To understand the reasons for this, one first has to know a bit about the history of chocolate. Residue on ancient pottery suggests that Cacao was consumed as a drink in what is now Mexico as early as 1900 BCE, predating the arrival of Europeans in the Americas by thousands of years. During the entirety of that time, the civilizations that consumed it, from the Olmecs to the Mayans and Aztecs, drank chocolate rather than ate it. This was the most ancient form of chocolate- a frothy drink, served either hot or cold. If sweetened, it was sweetened with honey, and was often seasoned using chili peppers. Unfortunately for us, most firsthand accounts of how these civilizations lived has been lost to time- destroyed by conditions under which paper records decompose or by invading forces. What is known is that pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas were large and complex- to the point it is suspected that exchange of ideas (and possibly trade) occurred between the Aztec of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. (Chard, pg 13) This is an important fact, as it has a direct bearing on what ingredients may have been used to flavor chocolate at the time of Columbus’ arrival in South America.

It is important to note that the accounts of the consumption of chocolate at the time of its discovery by the Spanish discovery are not unbiased accounts. While often presented as being firsthand accounts, these accounts are from the perspective of outsiders, new to both the culture, and the land.  A quote found in Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe’s A True History of Chocolate from Jose de Acosta in 1590 captures the significance of this well –


The main benefit of this cacao is a beverage which the make called Chocolate, which is a crazy thing valued in that country. It disgusts those who are not used to it, for it has a foam on top, or a scum-like bubbling…”.


Coe and Coe go on to explain that


To cross the ethnocentric taste barrier and be accepted as a normal beverage by the Spanish-born and the Creoles, the cold, bitter, usually unsweetened drink had to undergo its own process of hybridization.”(Coe and Coe, pg. 114)


but fail to mention that as a result of this hybridization it is quite possible that many of the subtleties around the creation and consumption of chocolate may have been lost to them.

Let us look at a specific example- the type of pepper used to flavor the chocolate drink consumed by the Aztec at the time of European arrival in the Americas. Many texts write of this flavor pairing being common among the Maya and Aztec, and speak of recipes being adapted to European tastes by substituting black pepper for chillis. But what do these “firsthand” accounts mean when they mention chili peppers? There are many species of Capsicum commonly called “chili peppers”. Many scholars including Coe and Coe, refer to the spice used to flavor chocolate at the time of Spanish arrival specifically as Capsicum Annuum, without going into any detail as to why they suspect this- perplexing, given the dizzying array of pepper plants in the world. The characteristics of these plants vary greatly from variety to variety, and even more greatly from species to species. Capsicum Annuum contains everything from sweet bell peppers to jalapenos. Hot peppers belonging to the species Capsicum Annuum are rarely sweet, and are often said to have a bitter flavor that accompanies their heat. But other species, most notably Capsicum Chinense and Capsicum Baccatum are described as being sweet and fruity, while still ranging from mild to blazingly hot.

Furthermore, without a keen eye for botany and extensive study of the plant while it is producing fruit, it is next to impossible to determine which species a particular pepper belongs to. Mesoamerican civilizations are likely to have had exposure to all of these types of peppers, yet we have no indication of which types were used to flavor their traditional chocolate drinks. Since it is established the Inca and the Maya likely had contact shortly before the arrival Columbus, it is entirely possible Capsicum Baccatum may have been one of the types of pepper used to flavor chocolate when the Spanish first encountered it. Without context-specific firsthand accounts, this sort of specific information is difficult to establish.

Similarly, it is important to note that another type of Theobroma commonly known as Pataxte (Theobroma Bicolor) was traditionally cultivated alongside Cacao (Theobroma Cacao), and that a third species, Theobroma Angustifolium, grows in Costa Rica, which is thought to have been on Olmec trade routes. Many organizations which compile information about the Maya people indicate that these uncommon species may have also been used in the production of chocolate, including FLAAR, who have associated articles on both their site for Maya Ethnobotany and their site for Maya Archeology.   However, neither Pataxte or Theobroma Angustifolium are commonly mentioned in texts about the history of chocolate. This is partly due to the European bias in what we consider primary sources- early Spaniards declared that Pataxte was an inferior grade of cacao, and thus it was both phased out of common cultivation and of literature. This significantly underplays the role that Pataxte had in Mayan society, where it was used as a form of tribute and is mentioned many times in the Popol Vuh, often in the same context Cacao was mentioned.

In the half-century since chocolate was discovered by Europeans, it has been through changes- from personal drink to a mass marketed commodity.

But a recent trend in the market has been a shift back towards hand-crafted, small batch artisanal products. With this return to its roots, chocolate has also seen a resurgence of chili peppers, a notable nod to the original recipes practiced by the Mayan and the Aztec.

Chocolate and chili bar taste-off – a round up of 11 Chili Chocolate bars-

A survey of chocolate bars containing Chili peppers available on Amazon reveals a few interesting facts. Notably, the vast majority of the packaging for these bars feature peppers that have the characteristics of Capsicum Annuum – with the only other pepper commonly pictured is mentioned by name as a Habanero (Capsicum Chinense).

Another interesting thing to note is that most of these chocolates hover around 70% Cacao- with the remaining part generally comprising mostly of pure cane sugar. Many of these also have additional dried fruits pressed into the bars in order to further sweeten and provide flavoring.

Nowhere among this multitude does there appear to be a chili-chocolate bar incorporating Aji type peppers(Capsicum Baccatum)– a particularly surprising fact for a few reasons, first being the modern popularity of these peppers throughout the South and Central Americas. Aji peppers can be used fresh, or powdered. While they are more expensive than some of the more commonly used peppers (about 30% more expensive than Ancho or Chipotle chilis on, they are significantly less expensive than the next most common- the habanero. The flavor profile of Aji peppers seems to match many of the desires of chocolate consumers- as well as being spicy, they are extremely sweet to the point of being compared to candy and have a strong fruity pungency to them that varies in flavor from lemon to mango and passion flower.

Aji Dulce review in which a man describes the sweetness of a Capsicum Baccatum specimen-


Even as some of the spices traditionally associated with chocolate make a comeback in the modern chocolate market, it seems that one main adulterant not found in the original recipe is nearly ubiquitous – sugar.


“A rarity in 1650, a luxury in 1750, sugar had been transformed into a virtual necessity by 1850” (Mintz, 148)

This change in status was mirrored by a massive increase in its consumption as well.  Today, the amount of sugar consumed by the average American is staggering, comprising over 20% of annual calories consumed, in part because sugar found its way into a myriad of other products- including chocolate.

“…the per-capita ‘disappearance’ figure for all nondietary sugars (i.e. sugars not occurring naturally, as in fruits) is nearly 130 pounds per year. If disappearance is the same as consumption, then the daily total nondietary consumption of sugars is nearly six ounces per day.” (Mintz,207)


Though the Mayans and Aztecs often drank their chocolate completely unsweetened, they also sometimes sweetened their chocolate using honey. Surprisingly, this is a technique a few luxury chocolate manufacturers have adopted, choosing instead to rely on refined sugar in place of the natural product traditionally used to make chocolate more palatable.

Further drastically changing chocolate’s flavor profile was the invention of milk chocolate, which helped increase widespread consumption of chocolate and capitalized on an overproduced resource. By adding milk to chocolate, enterprising entrepreneurs were able to make it more palatable to European consumers, as well as to decrease the cost of it’s production significantly.

This milk chocolate is the most commonly consumed type of chocolate in the American marketplace- which remains by far the largest consumer of chocolate in the world. By using at little as 7-10% cocoa, large corporations are able to mass produce tons of chocolate at a fraction of the cost of . These mass produced chocolate bars are also packed full of sugar- in fact, the sugar and milk in bars such as Hershey’s or Nestle far surpass the amount of cocoa. The ubiquity of these bars at every supermarket, every pharmacy, and every gas station has had a significant effect on the perception of chocolate by the American public. As you can see in this video on Bon Appetit, even American children associate chocolate with sweet taste, and barely at all with the bitter flavor of the chocolate of centuries prior. According to Thamke, Dürrschmid, and Rohm, “Product with the highest Cocoa content was characterized as ‘dry, mealy, and sticky’… ”  not the most pleasant of associations.


Here in the 2010’s, the face of chocolate is changing once again. There is a quickly growing market for chocolate sold as a luxury good, often at exorbitant prices. Artisanal, small batch chocolate bars can cost more than $3 per ounce. To compare, a large size Hershey’s milk chocolate bar is $0.36 per ounce- roughly one tenth of the price of chocolate from companies that currently sell it as a luxury good.


LA Times news article on the recent explosion of Artisanal Chocolate Producers –

The marketing for many of these luxury chocolate companies tends to highlight the idea that the chocolate is closer to that made by the Aztec and the Maya. Many of these brands use the imagery of Aztec and Mayan writing, or have names which reference Mesoamerica. Though it is true these companies tend not to produce milk chocolate, they remain a far cry from the original form of chocolate consumed by the Aztec and Mayan peoples- it is a difficult find the balance between commercial appeal and traditional ingredients and practices.

Interesting to note is that while there are many dark chocolates that contain chili peppers available on the internet, there appears to be only one bar that combines both Chili and the use of Honey as a sweetener.


Works referenced:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe., The True History of Chocolate 3rd Edition. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Mintz, Sidney W. , Sweetness and Power- The Place of Sugar in Modern History, Penguin Group, 1985

Chard, Chester S., Pre-Columbian Trade Between North and South America, Berkley, <;

Ines ThamkeKlaus Dürrschmid, and Harald Rohm , Sensory Description of Dark Chocolate by Consumers, LWT- Food Science and Technology, Volume 42, Issue 2, March 2009, Pages 534–539







Parliament Chocolate: Bean-to-Bar and the Future of Craft Chocolate

Parliament Chocolate is a small Southern California chocolate company that epitomizes the bean-to-bar craft chocolate movement. With a focus on artisanship and direct trade single origin beans, Parliament makes it known that their goal is to produce great quality, ethical chocolate. Although not a perfect solution to all the problems of inequality in the cacao supply chain, bean-to-bar companies such as Parliament are making a positive impact through educating consumers and providing an alternative to big chocolate.

The Parliament Chocolate shop is nestled in the charming historic district of the small city of Redlands, California. Set amid a background of mountains and palm trees, Redlands is known by area residents for its bustling farmers market and trendy downtown businesses. Parliament can be found a block from the center of downtown, in an understated white washed one story building. Once the location of the White Owl Café, now the tiny space has been re-appropriated as Parliament’s kitchen and retail shop.

Front of Parliament Chocolate Shop
Figure 1. Parliament Chocolate Building

Ryan Berk established Parliament chocolate four years ago with his wife, Cassi. According to Berk in a Life and Thyme Magazine’s Letter to the editor (2015) “Our main principle behind the company is to have a relationship with the farmers and vendors behind the products we present to you.” He continues on in his story to discuss going to remote locations in Belize and Guatemala to visit the farmers he is sourcing his cacao beans from, and to express his appreciation for the hard work required to make good quality chocolate. His letter is filled with his personal photos of lush tropical landscapes and indigenous people. The photos depict an idealized notion of going back to chocolate’s origins. In an L.A. Times article Bark’s direct sourcing has been further romanticized. “Ryan Berk makes his chocolate from scratch. That means flying to Central America four times a year, hiking over Maya ruins to remote jungle villages and meeting face-to-face with the farmers who supply his cocoa beans” (Pierson, 2015).

Although lacking some of the passion and colorful imagery found in Berk’s writing, the Parliament Chocolate website explains direct trade, the bean-to-bar concept and their pride in making craft chocolate. On the About Us page, in three short paragraphs, Parliament conveys their mission in a simple, straightforward manner. Their website, store and product packaging all are representative of this simple, open and sincere brand. The grand opening video below also shows their commitment to being ethical and creating a unique product.

Large chocolate companies are not known for revealing detailed information about their processes or supply chain. In direct opposition to this, transparency is clearly important to Parliament Chocolate. Not only in the origin of their beans, but also in their daily operations. Large street facing windows provide views of the retail space and the kitchen. From inside the tiny retail area another window offers a full view of the equipment, ingredients and workers.  The photo below shows the kitchen space as seen from the retail space.

View of Chocolate Kitchen
Figure 2. View of Parliament Chocolate Kitchen


For those interested in seeing the areas not clearly visible from the window, Parliament also provides twice weekly tours of the facility. Factory tours are common for small craft chocolate companies. “Whether it is Theo Chocolate in Seattle or TCHO in San Francisco, small manufacturers are opening their doors to packed tours of people eager to learn about flavor, how chocolate is made, and where it comes from” (Williams & Eber, 2012, p. 157).

Parliament produces just four types of chocolate bars, each of which is made with only two ingredients; seventy percent cacao and thirty percent cane sugar. Each bar is made with single origin beans. This year they have Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Tanzania bars. All the bars are packaged in white textured craft paper and adorned with a drawing of an owl. The owl drawings are made by a local artist, four different owls representing the four different countries. The name of the company, Parliament, came from this parliament of owls.

Additionally, they also make chocolate syrup and an array of freshly prepared confections. On the day I visited their caramel and toffee truffles were the most popular treats. Samples of the chocolate bars are displayed for every guest to try, and they are happy to discuss the qualities and tasting notes of each with customers.

Parliament Samples
Figure 3. Parliament Samples


Pictured above are the Parliament Chocolate bars, each cut into sample cubes. The bars are 1.7 ounces, and thicker than most bars on the market. One might think that thinner, wider bars with larger packaging would give consumers the impression that they were getting more value for their money. Parliament does not seem to be worried about standing out against other craft bars. Currently, not being supplied in any

ParliamentChocolate-Bar Size
Figure 4. Parliament Bar Size

large markets, there would be little concern to be noticed and chosen among the masses. Pictured on the right is a Parliament Chocolate bar next to a Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate bar. A 1.7 ounce bar versus a 2.0 ounce bar.


Parliament’s bars sell for six dollars a bar, or twenty dollars for the pack of all four varieties. This price does not seem particularly outlandish, considering the price of most craft chocolate bars. The question becomes, with this type of product being still relatively new, is the average consumer willing to pay a premium price for a single origin dark chocolate bar?

We know that there is a market for ethically conscious consumers that enjoy fine dark chocolate. We have yet to see how quickly that market could potentially grow. It seems likely to consider that the explosion of craft chocolatiers into this arena is happening faster than the growth of consumers. Research by Torres-Moreno, Tarrega, Torrescasana, and Blanch (2011) indicates that consumers prefer a familiar brand with a known quality, and that consumers of dark chocolate like products based on taste with little importance given to information on packaging.  Labeling information claiming single origin beans did not cause consumers to presume it would be better quality nor did they find it to be a feature that improved the product (p. 670).

Claims on product labels about the geographical origin of chocolates have been shown to be a distinctive characteristic of high quality products. However, the results presented here indicate that consumers in this study did not perceive the claim about geographical origins as a positive feature for dark chocolate (Torres-Moreno et al., 2011, p. 670).

Although the data from their research seems to hint at a barrier for craft chocolate expansion, in time the results could change. Currently, in the Unites States, many people still associate the excessively sweet, almost sour, quality of a Hershey’s bar with the taste of chocolate. Learning to appreciate dark chocolate, and the nuanced flavors of beans, takes exposure and education. “The spectacular growth of quality chocolate during recent decades has led to a vocabulary of connoisseurship previously seen only in the wine industry. (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 260) Chocolate connoisseurs will grow in numbers with increased experience. It will be up to the craft chocolate maker to provide excellent tasting products. Single origin still might not be a driving factor behind consumer purchases, but a great tasting product will be.

With a market already saturated with cheap, well known chocolate brands, craft companies have a difficult road ahead.  Community engagement could help keep many of these craft companies in business. Parliament Chocolate sells their chocolate syrup to a local Redlands coffee company for their mocha lattes. This has caught on, and now Parliament sells to multiple coffee shops in several cities.  A day spa in the downtown area even offers a chocolate body scrub treatment using Parliament Chocolate.

This type of local exposure helps make the company, and their mission, more widely known. Not only is there a market for ethical food, there is also one for locally produced goods. Being well known in a small community drives business because many people feel a strong desire to help their neighbor, the little guy, succeed. Consumers wish to feel good about their purchases. Yes, thinking that they have paid a higher price to help a poor farmer is incentive for many, but so is seeing a small local community store flourish. Having set up shop in Redlands, a community that prides entrepreneurship and local artisanship, Parliament chocolate is a good place to continue doing well.

Regardless of whether or not some of these types of small companies thrive, the more craft chocolatiers entering the market, the more people will see this type of chocolate and become aware of its existence. Even by perhaps failing as a business, craft companies can succeed at making positive change by educating people and increasing appreciation for artisanal chocolate.

As much as bean-to-bar companies tout about being ethical and fair to their famers, paying higher prices for presumably better beans, artisanal chocolate is not fully explained without a discussion of West African cacao. The Ivory Coast and Ghana produce most of the world’s cacao supply, and yet these two countries are nearly nonexistent in the fine cacao market. There are many reasons for this. In the industry, the quality of the beans from West Africa are seen as subpar. Bean flavors from Central America, most notably the criollo variety, are seen as more desirable and sought after. There is also a nostalgia for cacao from its original source. To make matters worse, Africa is globally stigmatized for child labor abuses.

Coe and Coe (2013) express the concern that “The gravest and most troubling issue confronting practically all of the major players in the chocolate business concerns child labor-usually unpaid-on the great West African cacao plantations.” (p. 264) Of course we need to acknowledge the truth of the situation, but we also need to look at these societies without the lens of western cultural thinking. West African cacao farmers are trying to survive on meager incomes. Villainizing the farmers does not solve the problem, nor does thinking of them as a charity case. If farmers in this area were making a livable wage, if adults in a family were better able to provide for their dependents, then children would not need to work so much. Incidences of child slavery and abuse would diminish greatly.

Could direct trade be the answer to help this area? It might take a long time to find out. “U.S. artisans are, on the whole, stout in their commitment to both ethics and quality. While they purchase costly flavor beans and can thus improve the livelihoods of poor farmers, they are also unlikely to buy from a place with a negative image – such as West Africa” (Leissle, 2013, p.29). West Africa’s global image is not likely to change soon.

To be fair to U.S. craft chocolate companies, it would be a much bigger expense and logistics project to source their beans from West Africa, especially the Ivory Coast, than someplace closer to the U.S. such as the Dominican Republic. Many small craft chocolate makers are doing so as a side hobby. Berk owns three popular ice cream shops in addition to Parliament Chocolate. Working with such small profit margins does not allow a large amount of capital for such an endeavor. If a company was capable of doing so, I think they would see that the West African stigma is not as big of an issue as it might seem. As we have learned, consumers care more about taste than origin.

Craft chocolate companies promoting a bean-to-bar artisanal chocolate product, such as Parliament Chocolate, will not make much of a dent in the overall volume of chocolate produced. Realistically, not every chocolate bar produced could come from a single, direct traded source. This is not to discredit these types of newly emerging companies. They are having a positive impact. “Many of these US manufacturers may be small, but they have been driving recent changes for the better in the industry; change the world-make better chocolate” (Williams & Eber, 2012, p. 156). Even with narrow profit margins and the likelihood of many startups to fail, these companies are providing public awareness. Through enthusiastically engaging those in their communities, overtime a shift in thinking and taste preferences will occur.



Berk, R. (2015). Cacao Sourcing: A First Hand Account. Life & Thyme: Reflections. Retrieved from

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Leissle, K. (2013). Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. 13(3), 22-31

Pierson, D. (2015) Artisanal, hand-crafted chocolate is a growing niche. L.A. Times. Retrieved from

Parliament Chocolate website,

Torres-Moreno, M. , Tarrega, A. , Torrescasana, E. , & Blanch, C. (2012). Influence of label information on dark chocolate acceptability. Appetite, 58(2), 665-771

Williams, P. & Eber, J. (2012). Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver: Wilmor Publishing.

Figures 1-4. Personal Photos taken at Parliament Chocolate, Redlands, CA. March 7, 2017.

Parliament Chocolate Grand Opening Video, retrieved from

Chocolove: Premium or not?

chocolove 2

My chocolate obsession is a life-long craving I have had since I was very little and one that was definitely encouraged by my chocolate-loving father. I remember as a small child going to seven-eleven with my dad on a regular basis to indulge in the five cent candy bins. Contributing to my chocolate craze is that my birthday falls just before Halloween and therefore I always had Halloween/costume themed birthday parties that never were without a piñata filled with candy and chocolate. My favorite chocolate as a kid was Reese’s peanut butter cups, created in 1928. As a child of the 1980s and 1990s, bulk chocolate was what I indulged in and the only chocolate I knew. Now, in my thirties I continue to crave chocolate but my taste for it has evolved over the last 20 years, as has the market for chocolate. Nowadays, I tend to purchase my chocolate at higher end grocers and specialty stores. Until taking this chocolate class, I knew very little about the history, culture and politics of chocolate and knew nothing about the supply chain. Gaining valuable insight from the Harvard Extension School chocolate course, I now have some tools to analyze chocolate in terms of its quality. For this project I will analyze the ‘Chocolove’ chocolate company and my go-to chocolate bar in recent years, the Almonds and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar, which contains 55% cocoa content and claim’s to be of premium quality. I will examine this particular bar according to ingredients, bean quality and certifications to determine if this bar warrants the ‘premium’ label and meets the ethical standards being disseminated by the industry.

chocolove 1

In the U.S. for a product to be called “chocolate”, it must contain a minimum of fifteen percent liquor (Williams and Eber p170). Chocolate liquor, also called cocoa mass, is both the cocoa powder and the cocoa butter combined after the bean is harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, and grinded. Many times, additional cocoa butter will be added to the liquor in making chocolate. In evaluating the ingredients of the Almonds and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar made by Chocolove, let us first look at the ingredients section on the wrapper. In this particular bar, the ingredients are broken down into three key components: Dark chocolate (cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla) almonds, sea salt. Dark chocolate is a product of the prepared cacao beans that come from the cacao pods, a large colorful fruit found on the cacao tree (Theobroma Cacao).  One point of confusion for me prior to taking this course was the difference between Cacao and Cocoa? Many premium chocolate bars list their cacao percentage on their labels, but Chocolove lists its cocoa content. To clarify, cacao refers to the raw material that comes from the cacao tree while cocoa is the Anglicization of the word cacao and refers to the commodity once it is processed, as learned in our lecture by Carla Martin. In recent years, the use of the word cacao has increased as a way to connect the product to its historical links and to differentiate it from bulk commodity cocoa.


The Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar is 55% cocoa and therefore well above the minimum standard to be considered chocolate. It is also located in the “fine” and “premium” chocolate section of the store, suggesting to me that they must be of higher quality than the bulk chocolate made by the largest chocolate companies, namely Hershey, Mars, Ferrero and Nestle. When determining whether a chocolate is of premium quality, a definition for premium is needed. According to Williams and Eber there is no universal standard for premium chocolate and it can be whatever one claims it to be but it is widely understood that premium chocolate is linked with its cacao origin and percentage (p 168), as I have suggested above. In researching the source of Chocolove’s cacao, I discovered that the company is a chocolatier, rather than a chocolate maker. As a chocolatier, they buy finished Belgian chocolate and then melt it, re-temper it, add inclusions (nuts, fruit, etc.), pour it into molds, pop it out and wrap it in fine paper. In comparison, a chocolate maker makes their own chocolate from dried cacao beans and then proceeds to add other ingredients, etc.

Chocolove purchases its chocolate from Callabaut, a century old Belgian chocolate company that supplies premium quality chocolate to chefs and chocolatiers around the world and whose website says its chocolate is made with the best, sustainable beans of West Africa.  For much of the 20th century, “the place of manufacture became more important to appreciating chocolate than the place of origin” and thus (Leissle, p22) Belgian chocolate, where this product is made, stood out as desirable quality to consumer’s rather than the place of origin, say Ghana. In other words, chocolate’s flavor/style was organized by its place of manufacture which can be described as follows: “French (dark, heavy roast), Swiss (extra cocoa-butter creamy), Belgian (soft milk), British (caramel milk), and American (milky, slightly sour Hershey flavor)” (Leissle, 22-23). During the height of this period, other notions of  chocolate quality developed as well, such as Emma Robertson’s finding that it was believed that “the best qualities of cocoa come from the West Indies, South American and the East Indies” (p 74) rather than Africa which may be linked to racial discrimination due to the African ownership of these cacao farms vs. the white owners of the non-African cacao producing areas. Toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, single-origin chocolate has emerged as the leading quality in a craft chocolate market. Craft chocolate is a whole new dimension, whereby small-scale bean to bar chocolate production using vintage equipment is the newest and greatest thing (Martin and Sampeck, p53). While Chocolove is housed on the same shelves as craft chocolate companies, craft chocolate is in different class, entirely, and at a much higher price point.

The other factor to consider in quality, are the other ingredients in the bar. In this case, sugar, soy lecithin and vanilla are added. The type of sugar used in this bar is non-GMO beet sugar from Europe as claimed on Chocolove’s FAQs ( Chocolove uses this information as part of a marketing tool that appeals to individuals who are health conscience about the ways in which foods are grown.  In evaluating the amount of sugar added to this bar, the nutrition panel is very helpful, as it states the number of grams per serving size. As a caveat, one should be aware that there are no guidelines or rules for how companies determine a serving size. In this case, there are three servings in this 3.2 ounce bar. Each serving contains 11 grams of sugar. One must do a bit of math to determine the amount of sugar in the entire bar, which happens to be 33 grams or eight teaspoons. Recent Food and Drug Administration guidelines suggest limiting added sugar to less than 50 grams a day and less than 10% of your daily caloric intake ( Upon realizing that this bar contains 30 grams of sugar, more than half of the FDA suggested daily limit, I am displeased with this finding as I tend to consume the entire bar in one sitting. I would guess that other chocolate bars with higher cocoa content would contain a lot less sugar, but in comparing other Chocolove bars with 65% and 70% cocoa content, this is not the case. They also contain high amounts of sugar.

I will also examine Chocolove’s sustainability and socially responsibility. They showcase an entire page of their website on this subject and have an additional “Chocolove social website” where one can go to more thoroughly engage in their programs and certifications. Chocolove works with several organizations and is engaged with a number of ways, but it is important to point out that these engagements do not affect the taste of Chocolove’s chocolate bars.

Fair trade, “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair trade organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade” (Sylla, p64-65). This certification is highly sought after by ethically conscience high-end chocolate connoisseurs. Chocolove offers three of its 30 distinct bars as Fair trade chocolate and do so because of the demand for it. At the same time, they decisively educate their consumer that manufacturer’s of fair trade chocolate can legally mix non-fair trade chocolate into their bars as long as there is a ‘mass balance’ system in place. This is just one of many of the issues with the fair trade certification. Other findings shared by Carla Martin in Lecture suggest that little money reaches the developing world, there is a failure to monitor systems and that the burden lies on the consumer among other troubles.

for life image

IMO for Life is another certification held by Chocolove, and their bars are labeled with this certification, which states, “This bar is made with cocoa certified by IMO as for Life which means it was farmed in a socially responsible and ethical manner. All of the cocoa bean derived ingredients are certified for Life”. The Sea Salt and Almond Dark Chocolate bar is 45% for Life certified content. This labeling can be traced directly to the farming coop in the producing country. Chocolove’s factory has also been inspected and certified. Chocolove is a contributor to the World Cocoa Foundation, funds projects at the USDA and belongs to the GGC program, all of which are working toward educating farmer’s, improving working conditions, and preserving cacao. They are transparent in their work and seek to engage in layers of sustainability and socially responsible practices. Additionally, Chocolove states their commitment to the consumer and to their employees, whom they offer competitive wages and health care benefits fully paid.

In using the knowledge learned in class, I have analyzed the Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar in terms of quality, ingredients and ethical practices to discover that Chocolove is a Chocolatier rather than a chocolate maker and therefore does not fit in the craft chocolate category, but can still fall under premium chocolate, depending on how one defines it. Additionally, Chocolove may not know exactly how its cacao is sourced but does claim to use quality beans and practice sustainable practices. More research will have to determine if the company is truly socially responsible or is just claiming to be, as so many companies do. Lastly, I learned how much sugar this bar and that alone may deter me from purchasing it on a regular basis. Instead, I may open my wallet and my mouth to finer, darker, less sweet options in the future.

Leissle, Kristy. 2013. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture.

Mother Jones.

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

Sylla, Ndongo. 2014. The Fair Trade Scandal.

Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate.