When an aptly named German chocolate brand “Super Dickmann’s” posted this image of Meghan Markle, some people got upset while others laughed at their sensitivity.
The German employee in charge of the corporate Facebook account was likely not aware that the comparison between African women and chocolate is imbued with historical misogynoir. Misogynoir, a term coined by black feminist Moya Bailey (Anyangwe, 2015), is double discrimination faced by black women where bias is both race and gender-based (Verve Team, 2018).
While women have long been seen as buyers, preparers and religious devotees of chocolate, the earliest depictions associated with chocolate were those of infants such as cupids or angels (Martin, 2020). Later, chocolate became associated with an idealized image of white womanhood, as society women became an important consumer demographic. An 1874 New York Times issue announced that wealthy women were the biggest purchasers of an “elaborate style of French candies.” New ads featured elegant white women and were meant to appeal to both the tastes of upper-class consumers and the aspirations of lower-class ones (Robertson, 2010).
Such ads put white consumers at the forefront and minimized chocolate’s roots in West African agriculture. Romanticized images of white agricultural workers such as of this milkmaid carrying pails attempted to further erase chocolates’ African origins (Robertson, 2010).
These fictionalized images associated the labor required to produce chocolate with “wholesome whiteness” in the minds of consumers (Robertson, 2010). Notably, a 1930 Cadbury ad that does feature African women, shows them as faceless silhouettes balancing baskets brimming with cocoa pods on their heads (Robertson, 2010). While white women associated with chocolate were bestowed with good taste and wholesomeness, black women were dehumanized and fetishized through racist depictions.
In 1947 a new character “Honeybunch” was created to advertise Rowntree’s Cocoa (Robertson, 2010). Honeybunch looked infantile – barefoot and with bows in her hair. In this ad, she is dehumanized through the juxtaposition of her “imagined” character to “real” white people in the ad (Robertson, 2010).
A 1950 ad goes further to depict Honeybunch as a spring bouncing out of tin of cocoa – an example of a common trope of Africans drawn as actual cocoa (Robertson, 2010) This association of a person with an edible object further solidifies the idea that black people are false commodities (Polanyi, 2001). According to Polanyi, labor is one of those fictitious commodities to which the market mechanisms should not apply (2001). According to Polanyi, not only labor but also the laborer can become commodities for sale if the commodity function of labor is prioritized (2001). Commodity function of labor is the low labor cost for the sake of lower prices, and in the case of chocolate, low labor costs help support higher remuneration for cocoa processors and chocolate producers instead of African workers. This problem persists into modernity: according to the Cocoa Barometer, cocoa farmer households earn merely 37% of living income in Côte d’Ivoire, the leader in cocoa bean production supplying 40% of world’s cocoa (2018).
Blackness is also objectified and commodified through the association between black skin and chocolate – a trope that still pervades today. Food-related descriptions have long been used to describe dark skin. While light foundation shades are often called “nude” or “fair,” darker shades are often named after commodities such as cocoa or coffee. This further solidifies the toxic idea that white womanhood is the default, and objectifies black womanhood through comparisons with edible objects.
Even black women of the same status as the white women in chocolate ads are not immune to dehumanizing fetishization. In 1976, a magazine editor described supermodel Iman as “a white woman dipped in chocolate,” (Oliver, 2015). The editor’s baffling comment is akin to Charlie’s question about whether the Oompa Loompas, which were distinctly African in the original book, are made out of chocolate (Robertson, 2010).
The fact that class cannot protect black women from misogynoir sheds critical light on “respectability politics,” an ideology that emphasizes the need for black people to gain respect and “uplift the race” by correcting ‘undesirable” characteristics and embodying desirable ones (Harris, 2014). Racist treatment of Iman despite her social prominence parallels the way companies such as Rowntree or Cadbury used depictions of black girls and women like Honeybunch for their “distinct difference” while dehumanizing them.
Pat McGrath, one of the most prominent makeup artists of the century, also had a cocoa related story that shed light on how designers who hire black models failed to provide them with equal supplies. McGrath often had to use cocoa powder on set because she wasn’t provided with darker makeup shades (Prinzivalli, 2019).
A group of black women has found a way to use the association between dark skin and chocolate for their benefit, creating a food-inspired makeup brand “Beauty Bakerie,” which counts cocoa-flavored powder among its products.
And what about Pat McGrath who had to use food instead of makeup? Her beauty empire is now worth almost a billion dollars – and her dark foundation colors are named Medium Deep and Deep instead of cocoa and chocolate (Mpinja, 2018).
The exploitation of people of color in the chocolate industry is almost as old as chocolate itself. Ever since Europeans utilized native peoples in Mesoamerica and later enslaved Africans to produce cacao, there has existed an inherent link between race and chocolate, a relationship not only seen in the production of chocolate but also in chocolate advertising. Just as Black individuals were and are utilized for their physical labor, they were and are being exploited for advertising.
The consumption of
cacao dates back to the Mayan and Aztec societies of Mesoamerica. When settlers
came to the Americas, exploitation and forced labor came with them. The Spanish
introduced the encomienda system in which Spanish settlers were supposed to
protect and care for native peoples in return for voluntary labor when in
reality the settlers seized lands and forced natives into pseudo-slavery
working long hours without pay resulting in the deaths of many. Though cacao had
been introduced to and was being brought back to Europe, it was primarily used
for medicinal purposes until sugar began being added to cacao which made it
more palatable for Europeans. Emma Robertson, a professor and scholar at La
Trobe University, states that “this was ‘thanks to the emergent slave-based sugar
cane economy of the Americas’. The story of chocolate subsequently becomes increasingly
intertwined with that of European imperial politics…Chocolate thus first gained
meaning in England as a product of imperialism” (Robertson 67). As time went on—around
1900—some cacao production shifted from the West Indies to West Africa,
particularly in São Tomé. The Cadbury company became a center of attention for
its labor practices and accusations that it utilized slavery in São Tomé during
this period. William Cadbury responded to these claims by stating, “I do feel
that there is a vast difference between the cultivation of cocoa and cold or
diamond mining, and I should be sorry needlessly to injure a cultivation that
as far as I can judge provides labour of the very best kind to be found in the
tropics: at the same time we should all like to clear our hands of any
responsibility for slave traffic in any form” (Satre 19), though he refused to reveal
a bill of sale for the plantation as it “specifically identified human beings
as property” (Satre 19). This is an example of chocolate companies blatantly
and knowingly minimizing the perceived severity of their production practices
of Black individuals goes well beyond just labor practices. As Robertson
explains, “The use of black people in advertising has a long history. As Jan
Pieterse demonstrates, products made available through the use of slave labour,
such as coffee and cocoa, often used, and many still use, images of black
people to enhance their luxury status” (Robertson 36).
The exploitation of Black people did not stop with cacao production. The image above is an advertisement for Rowntree, an early 20th century power-house chocolate and sweets corporation that still exists today and has developed the Kit Kat among other recognizable treats. It depicts a young Black girl named Honeycomb using broken and stereotypically Black verbiage to convey the benefits of her Rowntree beverage. It is one of many chocolate advertisements to utilize a caricatured Black subject to sell a product. On using Honeycomb specifically for a powdered cacao beverage, Robertson states, “Though processed by western industry, cocoa powder is closest to the ‘raw’, colonial material. The two Rowntree characters only exist through their relation to the cocoa, effectively disempowering them. There is no recognition of the actual connections between the commodity and the labour of black people in the colonies” (Robertson 42). Thus, not only does the Rowntree company exploit and make a caricature of the idea of blackness, they either intentionally or unintentionally, directly linked their advertisements and the subject therein to slavery.
In a similar vein, above is the advertisement used for Banania, a French chocolate drink, from 1915. It depicts a Senegalese infantry soldier with a red fez, a uniform item worn by Senegalese soldiers. This advertisement presents a caricature of this man by depicting him with a stereotypically large smile as well as the slogan for the product “y’a bon” (translating to “it’s good”) which is derived from the pidgin French commonly spoken by these Senegalese solders. The popularity of the product cemented the character with the slogan, making the Black man portrayed on the ad and packaging and this lower form of language inseparable.
Finally, the above
video is an advertisement for the Spanish chocolate, Conguitos. This commercial
goes even farther to portray Black individuals as “the other.” Whereas the Rowntree
and Banania advertisements both push racial and colonial traits and themes on
the subjects of their ads, this commercial depicts the subjects as extremely stereotyped
natives, completely naked, living in small straw huts, and carrying spears. The
music in the background aids in this stereotyping, a light flute and
tribal-sounding drum. In the final scene of the commercial, the animated character
rolls uncontrollably and the video fades into the character essentially being
turned into a ball of chocolate which is then consumed by a white actress. This
is concerning on a number of levels. This aspect of the advertisement effectively
conveys that the people of color in their eyes are consumable and expendable at
the hands of a white individual, a clear similarity to the treatment of Black
slaves and laborers in cacao producing regions. Overall, these advertisements
speak volumes for the influence that the chocolate labor practices and
production had on advertising and how much the colonial mindset permeated every
level of the chocolate industry.
Looking toward the
modern-day chocolate industry, in terms of production and cultivation, much has
changed and yet much has stayed the same. Today, a majority of the world’s
cacao comes from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Though the methods and aspects of
production may have changed—for instance, instead of massive plantations owned by
large corporations and companies, today a vast majority of cacao is produced by
smallholder farmers on relatively small plantations—the exploitation of African
peoples for labor and production of cacao seems to be a constant in the
chocolate industry. The same way companies utilized slavery and pseudo-slavery
in centuries past, even in the cacao industry of today’s day and age, companies
have established a form of pseudo-slavery by offering the lowest prices
possible for beans and creating a cycle of debt or living for growers.
After a series of
small wars and conflicts around the turn of the century, some of which had to do
with conflict over coveted cocoa groves, Côte d’Ivoire was in shambles. Carol
Off, a Canadian journalist and author, states, “By the end of the millennium, Côte
d’Ivoire was one of the most indebted nations on earth, even as it supplied
almost half of the world’s cocoa to the multi-billion-dollar industry and helped
to satisfy the world’s addiction to chocolate” (Off 118). This situation of
debt and vulnerability resulted in mass corruption and exploitation of labor,
essentially slavery. Cacao growers had no other choice. Due to the fact that
cacao is a tricky crop to grow and harvest, only being able to do so by hand
for the most part, the amount able to be produced per unit area tends to be
very low. This dilemma is exacerbated due to the smaller cacao farms of today. Órla
Ryan, an author for the Financial Times, a publication in London, explains, “On
most the production per hectare is either low or very low. In many cases, yields
have been stagnant for some time. Roughly one-third of farms yield as little as
137.5 kg per hectare. What this means is that the poorest farmers can make just
$500 a year, an income which makes it impossible to do little more than survive”
(Ryan 59-60). When looking at the differences between slavery and this modern
system of cacao production, there is an obvious difference in that today the
growers are getting paid an actual wage, but looking realistically, $500 is not
an income that can sustain a healthy life for one person let alone families in
which the farmer making the $500 is the primary income source. Thus, farmers
must look for options to solve their situations since most cannot afford to hire
laborers which usually comes in the form of using their own families to work on
the farm, which includes their children.
work is a slippery slope as there are many instances in which it is completely
fine and others where it is not. Ryan describes how the International Labor
Organization’s (ILO’s) standards for what constitutes the worst forms of child
labor is contextualized in the chocolate industry: “‘work which, by its nature
or the circumstances in which it is carrier out, is likely to harm the health,
safety or morals of children.’ On the cocoa plantation; this is generally
defined to include work which involves dangerous machinery, equipment or tools,
the handling of heavy loads and exposure to pesticides or chemicals” (Ryan 47-48).
Child labor offers just another area of exploitation in the cacao production
process. In many cases, child trafficking also plays a role as children are
brought to plantations and intimidated out of reaching out to authorities (Ryan).
Off describes the story and mission of Abdoulaye Macko, a man who took it upon
himself to liberate conscripted child workers from the cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire.
“The farmers, or their supervisors, were working the young people almost to
death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during
the night, and were frequently beaten They had horrible sores on their backs
and shoulders, some as a result of carrying the heavy bags of cocoa, but some
likely the effects of physical abuse” (Ryan 121). This goes beyond helping
parents, cousins, or other family with light work around the farm. This is
systematic and calculated abuse and exploitation of a vulnerable population for
the purpose (knowingly or unknowingly) of improving the profit margins of the
large chocolate corporations.
We have now looked at how labor practices have changed (or refused to change) but how have chocolate advertisements changed to adjust to the modern market? First, let us take a look at Banania, the company with the stereotyped Senegalese soldier, above. The lifelike depiction of the character has been traded out for the head and hand of an animated version of the same character. The identifiable red fez remains a constant. One major change is the smile which is still distractingly large but now the lips are thick and bright red. This aspect simply adds to the stereotyping involved in this character. In an attempt to solve an outdated and stereotyped subject, Banania did away with most of the harmless aspects of the character and kept or amplified the caricature aspects, though the French pidgin slogan is gone which is for the best.
The next advertisement, shown above, is for Magnum ice cream. It depicts a Black woman whose shoulder is cracked resembling the cracking of the chocolate shell of a Magnum ice cream bar. Overlooking the issue of the sexualization and fetishism of the ad (which is common in chocolate advertising and too extensive of a topic to cover here), Magnum uses the woman’s race in a botched attempt at visual wit, thus adding to the extensive history of utilization and exploitation of Black people. In addition, the fact that the inside ice cream is vanilla further degrades the woman shown as, in an ice cream bar, the ice cream is the thing that matters, thus the chocolate shell and therefore this woman’s race are simply things one must get through into order to reach the vanilla (read: white) center. Finally, this ad for Dove chocolate below further demonstrates the blatant utilization of race and the exploitation of Black individuals for the benefit of the chocolate company. In this case, the man’s face is not even shown, hammering home the idea that this does not need to be anyone in particular, just a Black man. The Magnum and Dove advertisements are not intentionally reminiscent of the racially charged ads of the prior century, but advertising companies and departments need to both understand the society we live in today in which no one’s race should be utilized for commercial gain as well as a basic background of the history chocolate as to not make these kinds of mistakes.
Just as labor and cacao production has evolved and yet also held onto key defining elements up through the modern era, so has chocolate advertising. In both cases, basic improvements were made, such as there no longer being colonialism or slavery in their truest forms or no longer having racially charge language and stereotyping in advertisements. Yet, both also held onto elements of their past. The economic and commercial model that chocolate producers work within keep them in a state of pseudo-slavery and advertisements still use race to sell products and link chocolate to the race of people that cultivate cacao in its rawest form.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive
Sweet. The New Press, 2008.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2013.
Ryan, Órla. Chocolate Nations Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2012.
Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of
Business. Ohio Univ. Press, 2006.
Given the long and complex history
that the role of chocolate has been able to have in each and every one of our
lives, it is certainly surprising to see that, even in contemporary times,
chocolate continues to be a driving and compelling force in individual’s lives.
Given this significant impact, it is important to consider the manner(s) in
which some individual’s lives are changed and altered by a single food. For
this particular research study, I decided to meet with a friend whom I knew for
a fact has chocolate ranked as her favorite food item. Not only that, but the
majority of times that I have been able to meet with my friend in the past, she
has invariably either wanted grab a quick hot chocolate or has been eating a
chocolate bar herself. While this may seem as too much for some individuals,
for my friend, eating chocolate in the variety of different forms that the
product takes is a favorite pastime for her. Therefore, the premise of this
study will be analyzing an interview I was able to have with my friend and
being able to critique the manner in which there might have been certain
societal constructs that may or may have not contributed to the manner in which
she thinks about chocolate within her everyday life. More specifically, the aim
of this study was to figure out what impact, if any, the chocolate advertising
industry was able to shape the way my friend thought about chocolate as well as
to see if she felt that the chocolate industry could be doing something better
in terms of advertising its chocolate. For the purposes of this study, it
should be duly noted that my friend has requested to remain entirely anonymous
for this interview and, as such, the pseudonym, Angelica, has been assigned to
When starting the interview, my aim was to be able to keep the questions as unbiased as possible so as to make for a constructive use of our time and to keep the verbal data that was provided as clear from marginal error as possible. The first question that was asked of Angelica was regarding how she felt about chocolate and the way they advertise their products. Almost immediately, Angelica pointed out how the chocolate industry has been doing better than previous years in terms of being able to keep their advertisements out of the gender identity spectrum. To elaborate on this, Angelica was able to point to a particular advertisement that she saw a few years ago that she claims may have had a part in shaping the manner in which she thought about the chocolate industry as a whole. In the advertisement, the company, Dove, produced a commercial that seems to be hyper-sexualizing a woman eating chocolate whilst saying “The feeling of chocolate slowly melting on my tongue. The ultimate enjoyment should be as silky smooth as this.”V
seeing this, it is not difficult to see the manner in which the advertising
industry has aimed at shifting women’s role in chocolate, whom Emma Robertson,
author of Chocolate, Women and Empire: A
Social and Cultural History, states was pivotal in the success of the
chocolate industry as a whole (Cleall). In fact, upon mentioning this,
Angelica immediately showed me a different advertisement, this time displaying
men as the sexual objects of the chocolate industry.
be seen from these two sets of advertisements is that the chocolate industry
has been able to effectively incorporate what seem to be individual’s wants and
desires into the advertisements themselves. In a way, the advertisements serve
as indicators that if and when individuals decide to purchase the products that
are being sold to them, they will ultimately be able to feel very similar to
the way that the individuals in the commercials feel.
Having said this, it can then be
assumed that the chocolate advertising industry is comparable to a double-edged
sword. On one hand, advertising is that which allows different individuals to
become aware about a variety of products that they might not know about otherwise.
However, on the same token, it is equally important to acknowledge the fact
that the advertising industry is also able to have a degenerative effect on society
as a whole, especially when the intentions behind the advertising are malicious
in their very nature. For instance, a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics focused
on the effect of marketing on younger individuals. In particular, the study was
able to come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, an influx of benefits
that could be extracted from advertising. At the same time, however, the study
was also able to find that advertising companies can very often have a distinctly
negative effect on children if and when the advertising is done with the wrong
intentions in mind (Lapierre). Such an example of this
would be if and when a chocolate company might be directing their marketing
efforts towards children in an attempt to be able to draw them out to purchase
their products at quite a young age. Given the fact that advertisers have an
in-depth understanding regarding how one’s psychological systems function, they
are able to understand that if and when a habit is formed at an early age, it
then becomes much more difficult to break such a habit later in one’s life.
What this means for the chocolate industry is the fact that a variety of these
chocolate companies might often times be directing their marketing efforts
towards children for the sole purpose of being able to draw them in, without keeping
their health in mind. Of course, these companies are well aware of the fact
that inducing a chocolate eating habit in a child’s life is certainly not the
healthiest option for a child, but for the sake of profit, these companies do
not seem to mind much.
In following with the interview,
when Angelica was specifically asked about what she thought about the manner in
which a high number of these chocolate companies would focus on drawing these children
in, her response was one of anger. Despite the fact that Angelica has been a
chocolate lover for as long as she can remember, it was quite evident that she
was upset about the manner in which these companies would spend such vast
amount of resources in order to be able to capture a child’s attention. At the premise
of this anger was her response, “Children do not know any better than to eat whatever
they deem delicious, yet companies certainly know much better.” Upon saying
this, Angelica pointed my attention to a 2013 advertisement that was produced
by Kit Kat, a well-recognized brand known for its production of chocolate bar
snacks. In the advertisement, it can be seen how children are in what appears
to be a hospital and these young individuals begin to dance and be overjoyed
the moment they notice that a doctor has a Kit Kat bar. V
being analyzed from an objective point of view, it could be clearly seen that
the advertisement should not be taken literally, as a simple chocolate bar
would most probably not be able to cause an influx of happiness for such a
large amount of people. However, the problem that should be of main concern
here is the fact that it is the children themselves who might be the ones who
watch an advertisement such as this one. Due to the manner in which children
would certainly not know any better but to accept the advertisement at face
value, this then goes to prove that the advertisement would be entirely
misleading. From a children’s perspective, a chocolate bar would indeed be able
to have the exact effect on a large number of other children, so a logical
train of thought for them would indicate that the children watching these advertisements
would condition themselves to believe that, they too, should be big advocates
for chocolate. By making use of this type of group mentality, big chocolate companies
are easily able to draw the attention of unsuspecting children who might not know
any better but to believe and therefore desire everything that they might see
on the Internet or any other form of media outlet for that matter.
Towards the end of the interview,
Angelica was then asked how she believed the overall candy industry could improve
their efforts in terms of who they market and how they go about doing this type
of marketing. With a prompt response, Angelica pointed out that the reason as
to why such a vast amount of companies are so willing to pursue these type of
advertising tactics is because it is often times what is easiest to do in order
to make profits. Given just how repeatable and easily replicated these types of
advertising tactics are, she pointed out that these companies have and will
continue to target young demographics in order to make their companies relevant
and to be able to sustain healthy revenues throughout the course of their existence.
In fact, in an article published by the United States National Library of
Medicine, the research found that “foods
marketed to children are predominantly high in sugar and fat, and as such are
inconsistent with national dietary recommendations” (Story).
Further, it discovered that food advertising brands will integrate themselves
into the lives of the average child in terms of being able to associate
themselves into the child’s mind at school, at home, or elsewhere. The impact of
this is that since these children are continually exposed to the clever
marketing tactics being employed by a variety of these companies, they fall
victims to their products, ultimately resulting as a negative externality on
Moving forward, one of the final questions that Angelica was asked was whether she believed that the chocolate industry targeted men or women equally. Here, Angelica pointed out that while not all chocolate advertisements objectify men and women, they go far lengths in order to draw out emotion from individuals. What is meant by this is the fact that an increasing amount of these chocolate advertisements focus more on the emotion that they might be able to draw from their audience instead of focusing on the product itself. One good example of this is pictured below, in which a woman portrayed running away from what appears to be a wave of chocolate.V
Whilst running away, the advertisement
is quite indicative of the fact that the woman is gladly running away and
appears to be in a state of bliss doing so. What can be seen here is that a lot
of these companies are well aware that since it is difficult to differentiate oneself
via the product of chocolate, they must therefore innovate and find other means
by which they might able to reach their target audience. This is evidenced by a
study conducted by the American Marketing Association, in which researchers
were interested in the correlation between emotional advertisements and engagement
on Internet advertisements (Teixeira). Having concluded in a positive correlation, it
can be clearly seen why so many of these companies opt to follow this course of
action as opposed to simply focusing on the product that they are intending to
Upon the conclusion of my interview with Angelica, she
pointed out that while a large portion of her life revolves around chocolate
and how much happiness it is ultimately able to bring her, she is saddened by
the manner in which a lot of the industry itself is run. In order to fix things,
she says companies should start to be entirely transparent about their true intentions
when running advertisements. Further, she stated that these very same companies
should stop their efforts in trying to “recruit” children into their brands at
such a young age. This change should not be expected anytime soon, however, given
the amount of money that these brands made from advertising to children. As
such, it is up to one’s own responsibility to continually question the things
that they see either online or offline when it comes to advertisements.
Lapierre, Matthew A., et al. “The Effect of Advertising on
Children and Adolescents.” Pediatrics, American Academy of
Pediatrics, 1 Nov. 2017,
Story, Mary, and Simone French. “Food Advertising and Marketing
Directed at Children and Adolescents in the US.” The International
Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, BioMed Central, 10
Feb. 2004, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC416565/.
Teixeira, Thales, et al. “Emotion-Induced Engagement in Internet
Video Advertisements – Thales Teixeira, Michel Wedel, Rik Pieters, 2012.” SAGE
When it comes to buying chocolate consumers are overwhelmed with choices. There are hundreds of different products available at just one store. Dark, milk, white, nutty, fruity, extra sweet, extra dark, candy bar, chocolate bar; all of these come crashing together in one space where the consumer is forced to decide which one will win out among the rest. There are multiple ways that chocolate marketers entice consumers. They use celebrity sponsors, flashy advertising, appeal to certain market segments, and tug on the consumer’s emotions; but all of these tactics can overwhelm the consumer and hide the truth about the products. An analytical investigation reveals that there are four themes that stand out in chocolate marketing.
Strategy #1: Target Your Biggest Market
The largest demographic segment of the chocolate market is women. It has traditionally been thought of as a typical treat for women, but one has to question if this market structure is a result of an actual desire for chocolate by this gender, or if it was socially constructed years before. As Emma Robertson notes in her book Chocolate, Women and Empire since the nineteenth-century women have been the focus for advertisers. During this time, women were constantly told that cocoa was good and wholesome for their families through advertising campaigns. This began the long historical connection between chocolate and the housewife.
Today, mothers are still told that chocolate is what they should be giving their children. Advertisements from Nestlé’s Nesquik, specifically tell mothers that their chocolate milk is nutritious for children. Unfortunately, they rarely disclose in their advertisements that their products contain about half of the recommended daily amount of sugar for kids. Instead, mothers are shown having happy interactions with their children when they give them these chocolate products. This is a strategic move on the part of marketers because every mother wants to give their child something that they believe will make them happy and healthy. However, housewives are not the only segment of the female population that is targeted in chocolate marketing.
Single women are often the ones portrayed eating chocolate in advertisements. In a recent ad from Hershey’s they are selling two of their classic chocolate bars, but only women are shown enjoying the treats. The fifteen-second ad is very revealing because it perpetuates the image that women are the ones who enjoy chocolate the most. It would have been very easy to have a man eat part of the chocolate bar but it was a clear choice by Hershey’s to exclude men. To a chocolate marketer, men constitute only a small portion of the chocolate market, thus they are rarely included in advertisements.
Most chocolate advertisements not only focus on women but also focus on the emotions of women. In the 2015 Super Bowl ad for Snickers, the actor Danny Trejo portrays a hungry Marcia Brady, from the classic American television show The Brady Bunch. Mrs. Brady informs her daughter that she can be hostile when she is hungry, but the Snickers bar turns Marcia Brady back into her chipper self after she eats it. This idea that women will calm down if they have chocolate is another common theme used in marketing chocolate. Women are frequently shown to have their moods altered just by consuming chocolate. They are sold the idea that chocolate can provide you with an emotional or biological experience.
Strategy #2: Packaging Sells
Another strategy that marketers commonly use is creative packaging to make their product stand out among all of the other options. If one walks down the chocolate aisle at any store they will see that all of the chocolate is packaged very differently. Some use bright colors to grab attention, while others have artistic images or use creative fonts. This is important when marketing chocolate because the packaging also denotes who the target audience is. Products wrapped in gold or high-gloss packaging can signal that the company is trying to convey the message that this is a quality product and they are trying to target a luxury consumer. Companies understand that the consumers are not likely to research the quality of the product; therefore the quality of the packaging and the information on the packaging is what will sell the product.
A key segment of the chocolate market is the eco-friendly consumer, who will inspect the packaging of the product to make sure the company shares their values. This can involve looking at the packaging to see if it uses sustainable materials, checking the label certifications, or seeing if the company supports the same causes as they do. Purchasing a product is often an emotional experience. If the consumer is purchasing a chocolate without knowing how it tastes, their decision will also be based on whether the packaging grabbed their attention and made them feel a connection to the product.
Strategy #3: Play on Your Consumer’s Emotions
Emotions are a key factor when it comes to decision-making. Marketers know that people’s beliefs and feelings will sell products and subsequently, will support causes outside of their industry to make their product stand out among the competition. This is common in the chocolate industry that companies will support other causes in order to lure customers in to support their brand. The moist poignant example is Endangered Species Chocolate, who uses a social cause as their key marketing strategy.
“A snack that gives back”; Endangered Species Chocolate promises their customers that 10% of their net profits each year will be donated to their wildlife conservation partners. They have had a wide variety of partners over the years, which include organizations that help animals in every ecosystem. This is a very clever marketing strategy because it connects their chocolate with a deeper purpose. The consumer feels like they are making a difference in the world if they are buying this chocolate, which is a compelling sales strategy. Endangered Species Chocolate further cements the emotional connection to the product by putting images of animals on every one of their products. While this is a very clear strategy to drive sales, the company is also transparent about the impact their donations have each year by publishing an annual impact report.
Divine Chocolate also uses social causes as a marketing strategy to sell their chocolate. Their chocolate bars are branded as being owned by cocoa farmers and they seek to empower women. Cocoa farming has traditionally been thought of as mainly an industry for men and women have been overlooked. Divine Chocolate changes this common chocolate dichotomy by emphasizing the important roles that women have in cocoa farming. Their advertisements often show African women as strong, well-dressed intelligent women, a stark contrast to the typical primitive images of women in Africa. As Kristy Leissle notes Divine’s advertisements, “reframe Africa’s role in modernity, creating an alluring female figure that envisions and promotes Africa’s contributions to industrial production and luxury consumption.” By changing the typical narrative of chocolate, Divine Chocolate is creating social change. However, these advertisements that inspire change also play into the consumer’s emotions, which was created to highlight the company’s “unique selling point.” Divine Chocolate understands that their ethical values as a company are a selling feature for their products, and as a result, they use these values as a marketing tool.
Strategy #4: Certify Everything
The final, and perhaps most contemporary, marketing tool that marketers use when selling chocolate are all of the different certifications that can appear on the packaging of products. Ideally, one would not have to be concerned about the treatment of farmers or the quality of the ingredients. If that were the case we would not need labels to tell us that this product is not harming the environment, but consumers do not automatically trust that a company will be ethical in their business practices. Consequently, there are many different certifications available: Fair Trade, Certified Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Direct Trade, Certified Vegan, Certified Gluten Free, among many others. For all of these certifications companies and farmers have to pay annual fees and meet certain standards to become a part of these organizations and as a result, they are allowed to use the corresponding label that they qualified for on their products. While the certifications have good intentions they have become a marketing ploy, and one could argue that the labels do not actually benefit the farmers or producers in the altruistic way that is intended.
The Fair Trade certification was created to help farmers improve their lives and ensure fair prices for their products, but these goals have not been realized. It has been found that farmers are not earning more money, the quality of products has not improved, and they do not monitor standards in the way that was promised. This is a significant problem for farmers because they spend a great deal of money to become Fair Trade certified but they are not receiving the benefits that were espoused. Since the economic burden is so substantial many farmers opt out of the certification because they will make more money without it. However, many consumers do not realize that certification labels like Fair Trade are failing to adhere to their promises.
Certifications labels were created to inform consumers that products were ethical in their origin. Nico Roozen and Frans van der Hoff created the first quality label called Max Havelaar. Along with Albert Heijn, in 1988 they launched the first coffee brand that was labeled fair, Max Havelaar coffee. The brand became so successful that more products began displaying the Max Havelaar label throughout Europe and North America. As a result of the popularity of the Max Havelaar label, more certifications have been created. While these certification organizations have good intentions, they have also become an extremely successful marketing tool. Companies have seen large spikes in sales as a result of these labels, but there is the potential for this growth to stop.
The average consumer does not know the requirements for certification for the majority of the programs that exists. They just assume that a Fair Trade or organic label denotes an ethical or high-quality product. But now that more certifications exist, companies will put multiple certifications on one product potentially confusing the consumer. As Ndongo Samba Sylla notes, companies run the risk of diluting the meaning of these labels by placing too many on one package. By placing so many certifications on one product, the labels begin to be arbitrary and reveal their true purpose, which is a sales device.
Is Chocolate Marketing All a Façade?
With all of these marketing strategies, it begins to look like there is a lack of honesty in the marketing industry. As a result, consumers are left to wonder if they are simply being sold lies. It is true that chocolate marketers will exploit every angle they can in order to sell you a product but they are not necessarily acting unethically, they are just doing their job. Companies need to push boundaries in order to set themselves apart from all of the competition. Ultimately a company cannot be altruistic without selling their products, thus earning the additional money necessary to meet their charity goals. The chocolate industry is a highly competitive world and it is important as a consumer to not get caught up in the strategies that companies implement.
In order to be mislead by all of the marketing schemes, consumers need to do their homework when searching for the chocolate product they want to purchase. There are honest chocolate companies that are very transparent about their processes and openly publish company information. For example, Theo Chocolate is proud to share information about their passions for chocolate and changing the world. On their website they are open about where their beans are sourced from and share their pricing structure publically. In addition, Taza Chocolate publishes a direct trade transparency report that details where they are buying their cacao and from whom. The reports often list farmers by name, giving the consumer more knowledge than is usually possible with the food industry.
While both Taza Chocolate and Theo Chocolate still market their chocolate like any other business would, they also publish information about their respective business practices, which indicates that they are open to additional conversations about their methods. Their honesty is a refreshing change in the chocolate industry. Although transparency is not commonly employed in marketing chocolate, by clearly understanding the tools that companies use to sell their products a consumer can look past all of the sales techniques and find the chocolate product that is right for them.
 Emma Robertson, Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Manchester University Press: New York, 2009), 20.
Warren Buffet, among the top five richest men in the world, once said: “I’ll tell you why I like the cigarette business. It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It’s addictive” (Albritton 344). Sugar, which is fairly cheap (wasn’t always the case), produces a craving, and is essentially addicting. Not only is sugar addicting, but it plays a role that “food choices and eating habits reveal distinctions of age, sex, status, culture, and even occupation” (Mintz). This post argues how sugar made a rigorous transformation on many different variables as a whole. I begin by describing an ambiguous term “meaning”, and give my feedback on how one pursues it. Then, I describe how capitalism was created, and give my feedback on the results and impacts that capitalism not only allowed, but created. Capitalism therefor rigged our food choices, and shaped our social, cultural, economic and political ordering in the sugar world, particularly in so far as leading to an obesity epidemic.
In imagining a meaning of life, I believe we are collecting bits of our own thoughts and experience to build a realm of our own based on our own beliefs. This realm is what I would call our ego, or consciousness. While meaning is ultimately a personal, artistic creation that is changeable, it has been defined “very broadly-encompassing many other psychological constructs, such as goals, beliefs, well-being and satisfaction and life narrative-and very deeply, referring to the core of human existence. It is also defined as a process where one increases his or her understanding in a way that allows one to regain a sense of purpose” (Park 3). Therefore, meaning can be everywhere if one’s imagination created such a realm, and unfortunately possibly be discovered in a false mortality, perceived incorrectly causing one to find significance in addiction or harmful sustenance. In this realm of consciousness, one builds a model of who they are, and thus derives what their life to be. In order for the mind to build a model, knowledge and experience must be available. But where does this knowledge come from to create meaning? It comes from our ever-changing society, foods, culture, friends, studies, and our teachers. One great change that has changed very rapidly is the impact of different meaning of sugar through its transformation from a rarity to a necessity with the invention of capitalism.
Although a few Europeans knew of the existence of cane sugar around 1100 CE, it was still a “rarity until the 1650’s, only a luxury in the 1750’s, and a necessity by 1850’s” (5-6, Mintz). In turn, sugar took on its social role as a produce that marked one’s socio-economic class, becoming valuable and cherished by anyone who could get a hold of it. The role as an indicator of social status that sugar took on between the 16th and 17th century was key to the change of sugar to sweetener, as the demand for sugar among individuals across socio-economic class boundaries greatly increased, creating a new market and an opportunity for businesses to seek out an economically viable supply of sugar, especially since sugar could not be cultivated in Europe. This source came to be overseas, part of the notorious supply chain known as the Transatlantic Slave trade. Thus, the alteration in British consumption of sugar as a spice to a sweetener was deeply rooted in the creation of chattel slavery. Chattel Slavery, slavery in which people are treated as the chattel (personal property) of an owner, and are bought and sold as commodities had the greatest result from sugar (Martin). “The institutionalization of slavery in the New World led directly to the slave trade due to the fact that demand for slaves outpaced the growth in supply by natural increase nearly everywhere in the Americas” (Cumo). As there was massive demand for labor, the Europeans looked to Africa. The African’s themselves sold African slaves as a commodity in return for goods such as rum, guns, textiles and other goods to exchange for slaves, and then transported them across the Atlantic to sell to plantation-owners, and then returned with sugar and coffee, also fueled the first great wave of economic globalization (The Economist). The slaves had “little relaxation, hard fare, and hard usage, to wear them out before they became useless, and unable to do service; and then to buy new ones, to fill their places” (Fraser-Reid 4). By the Africans selling their own people, they enriched their own realms and strengthened them too. This is not only where the dehumanization aimed at Africans begins, but where capitalism starts as Mintz states: “The English people came to view sugar as essential; supplying them with it became as much a political as an economic obligation. At the same time, the owners of the immense fortunes created by the labor of millions of slaves stolen from Africa, on millions of acres of the New World stolen from the Indians – wealth in the form of commodities like sugar, molasses, and rum to be sold to Africans, Indians, colonials, and the British working class alike – has become even more solidly attached to the centers of power in English society at large. Many individuals’ merchants, planters, and entrepreneurs lost out, but the long-term economic successes of the new commodity markets at home were never in doubt after the mid-seventeenth century. What sugar meant, from this vantage point, was what all such colonial production, trade, and metropolitan consumption came to mean: the growing strength and solidity of the empire and of the classes that dictated its policies.” ( Mintz, p. 157)
Here what Mintz is really arguing here is that capitalism, the strength of empire as defined by access to wealth, and the ability to dictate policies, to govern, developed as a result of this work to supply, and to create demand for sugar. Linking the development of our current economic system with this sweet taste of sugar that we biologically evolved to desire. (Martin lecture 6)
Focusing on an excerpt from Tasting Empire, Norton states that “Spaniards learned to like chocolate because of their continued material dependence on Indians” (Norton 677). Converging on this, the capitalist modernization model expresses a lot. As Bourdieu states that “taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed” (Norton 663). While some of the most pleasurable and enjoyable memories of a person has to do with sweets, such as on one’s birthday eating a delicious cake that mother or father made decorated with frosting and glazes, or getting a lollipop after going through getting a shot at the doctor’s office, we usually seek sweets as a reward system, or celebration. Digging into this deeper, since we were just a baby, we grow up with these classifications of sweets being used all the time for rewards, and usually classify sweets with the distinctions of a substance that is beautiful on top of advertisements being at fault for these illusions. Not only do we have a dependence on sugar, but we biologically crave it.
Being no longer unified due to capitalism, most of us don’t know what’s really going on at the supply chain of our foods, and we can only build an illusory view such as the classification one may create in the advertisement above, which we create a particularly false meaning. The ad above gives the power of the perception of how sugar can demonstrate itself through various social parameters but only extensively. The gorgeous woman is portraying her love for powdered donuts, and is displaying the power of sugar in reference to a much more highly addictive, yet dangerous substance, cocaine. This ad slightly speaks volumes to the traditions of modern western culture that invoke the greatest effect, as “adverts have perpetuated western sexist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption which have divorced foods from the conditions of production” (Robertson 10). The misguided meaning many ads portray, now aids in creating mass cultural stereotypes from building false illusions and separate us from the reality of the production of our sugar, although this ad is particularly true in sugar being addictive, many other advertisements such as ads regarding McDonald’s or other fast food chains give most of us a false message, allowing one to see the desire of the substance, and not the dangerous aftereffects when consuming sugar, and carbs at large, not in moderation. Sugar should be used in moderation, but it is not due to the capitalist society we live in today.
Not only do we build these craving memories which is a factor that leads one to the over consumption of sugar, but it is also evolutionary as Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University states, “sugar is a deep, deep ancient craving” (Spector). Refined sugars were absent in the diet of most people until very recently in human history as sugar was “rarity until the 1650’s, only a luxury in the 1750’s, and a necessity by 1850’s” (6, Mintz). Apart from honey, most of the foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate were no sweeter than a carrot and that “15 million years ago in a time of global cooling, a mutation occurred that increased the apelike creatures’ sensitivity to fructose so that even small amounts were stored as fat. This adaptation was a survival mechanism: Eat fructose and decrease the likelihood you will starve to death” (Spector). Thus, looking back at our ancestors, we have biologically trained ourselves to crave sweets.
While our prehistoric ancestors trained themselves to crave sweets biologically, the problem we face today is that humans have too much of the sweet stuff available to them, which is why over consumption of diets rich in sugars contributes together with other factors to drive the current obesity epidemic due to capitalism and sugar.
Depending on the sociologist, causes and solutions can be different. To begin with, Karl Marx views social issues as a issue due to economic inequality. In a capitalist society, he believes each individual acts selfishly and does what best suits him or her. A more appropriate society I would argue would be one in which people had equal access to different aspects of modern day culture (Cliggett 102). Thus, when looking at the rise in obesity, Marx would blame the issue on three major issues: power, poverty and education. When looking at a case, where the “UN’s World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture proposed a guideline widely supported by nutritionists, which recommended that added sugars should not exceed 10 percent of daily calorie intake, congress was threatened to cut off $400,000 annual funding if they did not remove the offending norm from their report” (Robert 345). As the UN bodies gave in, this scenario once again expresses the image above where the first two tiers “rule and fool you” as they are the ones with the power to feed poison to poor, and uneducated people. When looking at price distinctions in foods, there is a drastic difference between the cost of healthy foods and junks foods. Even if an individual can find fresh produce, cheaper usually means worse quality. Organic foods also tend to be more costly than conventional items. In the view of Marx, these price differences lead to the fact that poorer people do not have the same access to healthy food options as more affluent. In reverence to modern society and obesity, different groups have access to different levels of education and different types of food options. Varying levels of education leads to different knowledge about nutrition. One status group will understand the meaning of calorie counts and fat percentages but another group will not. The less knowledgeable group will make worse decisions when determining what to eat. The lack of understanding adds to the rise rate of obesity. Status groups may also be separated by their abilities to access food choices. A less fortunate group may only have access to unhealthy foods, such as fast food, while another group has the choice of organic meals. While the structure of the food market is rapidly changing around individuals, they will be unable to adjust their actions in order to prevent obesity.
In conclusion sugar is the driver behind two of the worst tragedies we face today, slavery and obesity, by allowing a greedy rigged system that shapes our social, cultural, economic and political ordering that some of us have little to no control over. In the video below, one can see how the government is in power with the obesity epidemic we now face, as sugar is all around us and money is a very powerful tool.
Cumo, Christopher. “The Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1750–1900.” World History Encyclopedia. Alfred J. Andrea. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011. Credo Reference. Web.
Cliggett, Lisa, and Richard R. Wilk. Economies and Cultures: Foundations of Economic Anthropology. Boulder: Westview, Array. Anthropology Online. Web. 12 May 2016.
Fraser-Reid, Bertram O. From Sugar to Splenda: A personal and Scientific Journey of a Carbohydrate Chemist and Expert Witness. Heidelberg: Springer, 2012. Print.
International: Breaking the chains; slavery. (2007, Feb 24). The Economist, 382, 64-73. Web.
Martin, Carla. “AAAS E-119 Lecture 5: Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. 2016. Lecture.
Sex sells. It is a phrase, a method, and/or a motto that is used to advertise certain products. From cars, to Carl Jr.’s burgers, to chocolate, there is always a sex appeal to advertisements for their products. I can remember when I was little girl that I would usually see these advertisements between commercials of my favorite TV shows and/or in magazines. Since I was young, I was also naïve and not really aware of what was going on. I would mostly look at the chocolate rather than the actress in the advertisement. While watching Univision, a channel that’s in Spanish, with my mother advertising it but then my mom would say sometimes like “okay, that’s ridiculous”. The next time I would see the commercial,I would try to pay more attention the actress in the commercial.
In Figure 1, you see a woman relaxing on a white couch, planning to eat an entire box of chocolates alone and she looks like she’s taking immense pleasure of eating chocolate. In my opinion this picture looks silly. First of all, I would never eat chocolate on the couch that way. That just seems like you’re asking a chocolate accident to happen. But this picture does have context and is relatable from its original source. This picture came from an article by Mirror UK, stating the 10 reasons why chocolate is good for you. They state, “ One theory why we love chocolate so much is that a brain-active chemical called phenylethylamine in cocoa allegedly stimulates the same reaction that we experience when we’re falling in love”.
The model in the photo does seem to be in love with her chocolate. Maybe that’s what the marketing team was going for when they were trying to find a picture to match this article.
In Figure 2, This is an ad for Godiva chocolate that was found in a magazine. This displays a beautiful woman laying down somewhere in a not so casual pose but emphasizing the piece of chocolate that is among her chest. Why is she not eating it? Godiva Chocolate is really good it shouldn’t just be on your chest is someone else going to eat it? Is that what they’re trying to sell? That there can be a lucky person looking at the magazine can find a beautiful woman with a piece of chocolate on her chest that they can eat from?
Figure 3 is a very different kind of advertisement compared to the others. A lot of what these advertisements show the slogan that sex sells. We are seeing woman experiencing some sexual euphoria when she eats or is around chocolate. We don’t learn exactly where this chocolate came from, where it came to be, and where was the Cacao from. There should be more marketing telling us more about the process of chocolate and its history. Figure 3 is an advertisement for Divine Chocolate. They have a more campaign ads similar to the one I selected that represent more about chocolate where it came from and who’s producing it.
In figure 4, I chose to recreate an ad to something simple, an image of what eating chocolate is really like without the ludicrous sex appeal. Chocolate can be a dessert or a snack that can be either consumed alone or with friends but I am not completely consumed by the thought of eating chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate alone and relish in immense pleasure from it. I eat while I’m doing my homework or writing papers or blog posts. Chocolate can take form in memories. Some of my memories of eating chocolate is sharing it up the movie theaters with friends, or growing up with my mom making Abuelita hot chocolate from Nestle.New memories of chocolate include taking this chocolate class.