Tag Archives: Advertising

Choco-lot of Deceit: How Chocolate (and Sugar) Culture and Ads Impact Children’s Health


Chocolate is a staple for U.S. children, whether they consume it in the form of chocolate milk at schools; receive chocolate gifts for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween; or whether they indulge in chocolate through impulse purchases and conscious consumption at restaurants. It can hardly come as a surprise that this consumption–which includes the ingestion of copious amounts of sugar within various forms of chocolate–has seen the same upward trend as many chronic illnesses now affecting children, including diabetes and obesity.

Children cannot be blamed for this uptrend. They are reliant on their parents to regulate their dietary consumption. Furthermore, they are seen as a valuable target audience for chocolate and confectionery makers, who create appealing targeted messages aimed to make children (and their parents) more receptive to consuming chocolate, establishing brand loyalty early on, and exacerbating the rise of the aforementioned chronic illnesses.

This analysis of the chocolate market and its ties to children will first give a general overview of the global and U.S. chocolate markets, looking specifically at the chocolate sales aimed at and purchased by children and teenagers. It will then examine the history of chocolate, the intertwined narrative of chocolate and sugar, the addictive qualities of sugar, and the intentional misdirection away from the negative impacts of sugar by the industry itself.

Setting the Stage: The History of Chocolate and Sugar

The History of Chocolate

Cacao, chocolate, and chocolate beverages were first consumed by the Olmecs as far back as 2,600 years ago, which was regarded to have aphrodisiac, spiritual, medicinal, and godly qualities. It was subsequently used by the Mayans and the Aztecs, with both preparing the beverage similarly, although the former consumed it hot, while the latter consumed it cold. This cacao was used for legal tender, an elite commodity (as a beverage), and rituals. It was also used in marriage discussions and fertility rituals [1].

For instance, the Aztecs held enormous storehouses of cacao beans, since they had to be transported 900 miles to the Aztecs cities, as the Mexican soil did not favor cacao tree growth. For a trader, one load of cacao was three xiquipillis, or 24,000 beans; the major courts, such as that of Netzahualcoyotl, had to be stocked with 4 xiquipillis daily, equivalent to 11,680,000 beans annually, or 486 loads [2].

Cacao was highly revered as a godly commodity. The foam itself was seen as the most sacred part of the drink [3] and was seen as an elixir for the soul. When depicted on ancient artifacts, it is often featured being consumed by the gods or depicts the royal bloodline of deities by portraying the deity blossoming forth among pods and flowers [4].

However, the chocolate produced and exalted in these Mesoamerican civilizations did not remain unchanged after the arrival of Columbus, nor is this ancient the most commonly consumed in contemporary America, especially among the young children in question, who would not be receptive to unsweetened, bitter chocolate.

According to The True History of Chocolate, some of the older ingredients Europeans began to substitute out were:

  • “Ear flower”
  • Chili pepper

These new ingredients included:

  • Cinnamon
  • Anise seed
  • Black pepper

However, the largest change was the regular addition of cane sugar [5]. Before chocolate became the tantalizing treat of children’s dreams (and dieticians’ nightmares), it had to become intimately interwoven with sugar. Just like cacao, sugar has a complex narrative often full of deceit and exploitation.

The Human Toll of Sugar Production

Enslaved people on a Caribbean sugar plantation harvesting sugar cane

Sugar was first produced in 500 C.E., with Hindu religious texts mentioning the boiling of molasses and crystallization. Before sugar was produced in the New World, it was grown in the Middle East. Sugar spread through conquest, trade, and travel, with Europe first having access to sugar in 700 C.E and having continued exposure during the Crusades. However, even after Middle Eastern sugar production slows when operations were moved to the New World, the sugar plantations were supposedly transplanted [6].

The warm, moist climate of the Caribbean, which facilitated cacao growth, also proved extremely favorable for sugar crops. Once the sugar cane is ready to harvest, it is collected, chopped, and then ground into a pulp. This pulp is then pressed, pounded, or soaked in liquid. Next, the liquid is heated, which causes it to evaporate and concentrate into sugar crystals. The video below demonstrates the complexity of creating sugar even the available modern technology [7]. For production in the 1800s, the process was much more difficult.

Because of the labor-intense process required to produce sugar, sugar company owners turned to slaves to reduce costs. Overall, 12.5 million abducted Africans were shipped to the New World, of which 10.7 million survived the Middle Passage; in other words, 14.4% of kidnapped people died. Once there, 95% were sent to Brazil and the Caribbean, with only 5% being sent to the present-day U.S. In the Caribbean from 1701 to 1810, Barbados had 252,500 and Jamaica has 662,400 African slaves [8].

Corruption Continues: Sugar Lies in the 1960s

“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades.”

Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of JAMA Internal Medicine

The deceit around sugar continued into the 1900s, where the sugar industry used its immense power to prioritize profit over health, a trend seen by many confectionery companies and other large corporations that purposefully target children without any regard for their health. During the 1960s, and for the next five decades, the sugar industry paid scientists to shift the blame for the rising trend in obesity rate onto fat [9].

The trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid 3 Harvard scientists to “minimize the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat” [10].

However, this was not an isolated incident, with Coca-Cola also having bribed researchers with millions in 2015 to have them downplay the connection between sugary drinks and obesity. Moreover, more directly connected to chocolate makers, in June 2016, The Associated Press reported that candy makers were also funding biased reports to claim that children that who ate candy weight less than those who did not [11].

As these cases show, these large sugar and candy industries are not interested in the well-being of American children; in fact, they are perfectly willing to fabricate lies that directly impact children and their health to generate revenue. In the case of the candy makers, their corruption of scientific research is especially concerning because it prevents parents from making informed decisions for their children’s health, and it demonstrates that any targeted action toward children, especially regarding food advertising, should be viewed with scrutiny.

Before examining the role of marketing to children and the harmful impact of advertising on youth, a brief overview of the chocolate market is necessary.

Overview: Global and U.S. Chocolate Markets

Global Markets

Globally, 300 million people consumed 7.3 billion tons of retail chocolate confectionery annually during 2015-2016, with it expected to reach 7.7 million tons by 2018-2019 [12]. This comes out to around 12 pounds per person [13]. These global sales of chocolate reached $98.2 billion USD during the same years, with the U.S. comprising the largest percentage [14]. However, these numbers only portray a minuscule portion of the narrative for the contemporary chocolate market. The average omits the unequal distribution of both producers and consumers; ignores the nuanced intersections with race, class, gender, age, and sexuality that impact target audiences and their consumption; and obscures the immense power disparities between the poorest cacao farmers and the most profitable chocolate corporations.

This enormous industry is incredibly homogeneous; for instance, only 3 companies make up 99.4% of snack-sized candy on the market [15]:

U.S. Markets

The U.S. makes up the largest portion of the industry, with 4 of the top 10 global confectionery companies by net sales value originating in the U.S [16] :

  1. Mars Wrigley Confectionery, division of Mars Inc (USA) – $18,000
  2. Mondelēz International (USA) – $12,390
  3. Hershey Co (USA) – $7,779
  4. Kellogg Co (USA) – $1,890

Overall, the U.S. market in 2015 amounted to approximately $18.3 billion USD in global of the total global sales of $98.2 billion [17], meaning the U.S. market accounts for 18.6% of the global market.

Marketing to Children

Young toddler reaching for sugary cereal

Children are a valuable market for advertisers, especially in industries that directly appeal to children and teenagers, such as toys, clothing, license and merchandise, and of course, food. Marketing to kids is a large, profitable business, with $17 billion spent annually on advertisements specifically targeting them (up from $100 million in 1983). Likewise, children under 14 spend approximately 40 billion annually and teenagers spend $159 billion, with children overall influencing $500 billion in purchases yearly [18].

These children spend their lives constantly bombarded with branding, holding 145 brand conversations a week; witnessing more than 25,000 ads a year just on television from the ages of 2-11; and consuming ads via the Internet, cell phones, video games, and even in school [19]. With such a constant stream of advertising, chocolate makers stand to make generous profits from children, even at the expense of their health.

Federal Trade Commission Regulations on Advertising to Children

Under the Advertising and Promotion Law 1997, Minnesota Institute of Legal Education, the Deception and Unfairness Authority, under Section 5 of the FTC Act, prohibits unfair and deceptive acts in commerce, as set by their Deception Policy Statement. They identify deceptive advertising toward children as:

“An interpretation that might not be reasonable for an adult may well be reasonable from the perspective of a child. Claims tend to be taken literally by young children” [20].

Starek, III, Roscoe B. “The ABCs at the FTC: Marketing and Advertising to Children.” Federal Trade Commission, July 18, 2013.

They clearly consider the more limited ability of children to “detect exaggerated or untrue statements,” which may have been used in ads to further promote sales. Of course, teenagers have a much easier time discerning between truth and exaggeration in advertisements, but they can also still be reasonably misled by advertising, especially in a field as dynamic and unstable as nutrition.

The FTC includes a special page dedicated to addressing food marketing to children and adolescents, especially since irresponsible advertising would only serve to exacerbate the increasing obesity and chronic illness rates in the U.S. However, the FTC did note that: “responsible marketing can play a positive role in improving children’s diets and physical activity level” [21]. Perhaps chocolate companies, especially since many have been making public commitments to provide ethically sourced, sustainable chocolate, can also make a similar commitment to responsible marketing toward youth.

Nesquik banned from describing hot chocolate as a “great start to the day” in the UK.

The Negative Effects of Advertising on Children and Adolescents

As advertising in media (and to children) evolves, the line between entertainment and advertising blurs (ex. The production and entertainment value of Super Bowl commercials). This line, already more ambiguous for younger children and teens, becomes harder and harder to differentiate, and with that, the impact of advertising on children should be carefully examined. How much is too much? Where does it fall into exploitation? How do large chocolate corporations appeal to one of their target demographics–children–ahead of their competition without falling into manipulation? Besides carefully following the FTC’s regulations, the psychological and behavioral impact of marketing to children should be clearly understand by both the government and chocolate companies, and clearer regulations for what is or is not acceptable should be drafted to manage chocolate and other food companies.

For instance, some of the themes conveyed in ads toward children can influence poor behavior in children. Just as advertisers seek children for marketing because they are malleable and are still developing their life-long preferences and tastes [22], children can be exposed to detrimental themes such as unhealthy food brand preferences, tobacco, etc. Likewise, children, particularly girls (although it also affects boys) may be harmed or have negative body/self esteem issues exacerbated by harmful marketing [23].

Children under 7 are especially vulnerable because, according to Piaget, they are not able to detect “persuasive intent,” meaning they are much easier to fool and manipulate [24]. Likewise, although there are calls to educate children about advertising to help them protect themselves from malicious ads, but current efforts may not be effective; in fact, some studies have shown that the <7 may be much higher, with “children…not capable of understanding the ‘commercial intent’ of advertising until they reach the age of 12” [25].

Example of Rejected Chocolate Advertising

Kinder Egg Websites

In the UK, several Kinder egg websites (a subsidiary of Ferraro) promoting Kinder toys and eggs have been banned for promoting junk food advertising toward children. Some, like Kindernauts, had activity pages and child-friendly crafting activities, while others, like magic.kinder/en, have Kinder-themed video games for children aged 3+. In the UK, these violate their Committee of Advertising Practice rules of not promoting food with high fat, salt, or sugar for youth [26].


  • [1] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [2] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [3] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [4] ibid.
  • [5] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [6] Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History.
  • [7] Discovery UK. SUGAR | How It’s Made.
  • [8] Eltison and Richardson, “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.”
  • [9] O’Connor, Anahad. “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat.”
  • [10] ibid.
  • [11] ibid.
  • [12] “Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide, 2012/13-2018/19.” Statista.
  • [13] Martin, Carla D. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and the Race for the Global Market.”
  • [14] “Chocolate Retail Sales Worldwide 2016.” Statista.
  • [15] Martin, Carla D. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and the Race for the Global Market.”
  • [16] “The Chocolate Industry.” International Cocoa Organization.
  • [17] “Chocolate Market Retail Sales Worldwide by Country, 2015.” Statista.
  • [18] Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.”
  • [19] ibid.
  • [20]  Starek, III, Roscoe B. “The ABCs at the FTC: Marketing and Advertising to Children.” Federal Trade Commission.
  • [21] “Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents.” Federal Trade Commission.
  • [22] “Marketing and Advertising to Children.” ICC – International Chamber of Commerce.
  • [23] Lapierre, Matthew A., Frances Fleming-Milici, Esther Rozendaal, Anna R. McAlister, and Jessica Castonguay. “The Effect of Advertising on Children and Adolescents.”
  • [24] ibid.
  • [25] Watson, Bruce. “The Tricky Business of Advertising to Children.”
  • [26] Smithers, Rebecca. “Websites of Kinder Chocolate Banned over Ads Targeting Children.”

Works Cited

Multimedia Cited

The Luxury Chocolate Tasting of R-Dizzle Rich

Purpose of the Tasting

The purpose of my chocolate tasting was to see whether the attendees could discern between the four various categories for the sourcing and materialization of chocolate as discussed in class and the readings: (1) Direct Trade, (2) Fair Trade, (3) Organic, and (4) Industrialized. Because much of Chocolate class was about the social, anthropological, and economic impacts of and differences between each of these chocolate types, I thought this would be an excellent theme to my tasting that brings historical, socioeconomic, and taste-related views.


Figure 1. The fancy invitations I used to invite 7 participants to my tasting.


Figure 2. The participants of my chocolate tasting.

Types of Chocolate in the Tasting

(1) Direct Trade There are four general types of chocolate (based on its production processes) that we have learned in Chocolate class. The first is Direct Trade, also known as bean-to-bar chocolate, as these companies have control of its manufacturing process from growing and harvesting of the cacao bean all the way to its packaging and selling into a bar. Direct Trade chocolate is usually a chocolate company that directly deals with farmers. There’s a bit of variation in its manufacturing processes, but this leaves more room for negotiation from the different chocolate companies. Direct Trade companies may place environmental and labor factors into consideration, but not to as far of an extent as other chocolate types such as Fair Trade. In Direct Trade, there is less regulation because it is assumed that there is maximum control between the cacao harvesters, manufacturers, and packagers of the chocolate product. However, the very direct control of these Direct Trade chocolate companies costs a high premium, making their products quite expensive. Because of the rarity of a chocolate company having complete control of an entire chocolate farm, which is usually located outside of the U.S., solely for their company, the quantity of Direct Trade producers which exists is very low.

(2) Fair Trade The second category of chocolates presented was the Fair Trade chocolate type. These mass-produced confections are intended to guarantee a consistent smell and taste, achieved through rigorous oversight and a careful blending of cacao. According to Michael D’Antonio of Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, using liquid condensed milk instead of the powdered milk that the Swiss favored, Schmalbach’s mixture was easier to move through various processes: “…it could be pumped, channeled, and poured — and it required less time for smoothing and grinding. Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster, and therefore cheaper, than the Europeans” (D’Antonio 2006: 108). With techniques like these that were melded again and again by Hershey a century ago, efficiency of methods for the mass-production and -distribution of chocolate was possible. However, these efficient industrialized methods definitely compromise the ethics of labor, environmentalism, and health-focuses of these chocolates.

(3) Organic The third type of chocolate that is explored in this tasting is Organic chocolate. Organic chocolates place an emphasis on health and the environment. They do not use pesticides, and because it places such a large, conscious emphasis on these issues, there is a loss of yield that occurs in terms of its production and consumption. These chocolate products also tend to be extremely expensive, for there is usually a rearrangement premium placed on their price tag. Additionally, although organic chocolate products focus on health-related and environmental issues, there is no standard for the laborers of its production. Organic chocolate products must also all undergo certification, and usually the bars themselves are sold in small proportions.

(4) Industrialized The final category of chocolates which were presented during the tasting was Industrialized chocolate. Fair Trade chocolates emphasize the moral ethics of the chocolate production. They prioritize producing ethical, labor-regulated goods, and for this reason they also weigh between ingredient and product. These products also require a certification by one or more of the various Fair Trade certification companies. These groups usually require a type of price threshold, which makes this type of chocolate a little bit more expensive. Fair Trade chocolates also take the environment into account, although oftentimes not as much as Organic chocolates do. Fair Trade chocolates also focus on community development.



Figure 3. The advertising and packaging used for each of the four chocolates used in my tasting.

(1) Direct Trade:

Taza Chocolate, Seriously Dark, 87% Cacao, Organic Dark Chocolate

Screenshot 2019-05-16 16.00.59

Observations of Packaging:

  • Girly
  • Bright colors
  • Easy-to-read font that pops out

(2) Fair Trade:

Seattle Chocolate, Pike Place Espresso, Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Decaf Espresso

Screenshot 2019-05-16 16.01.55

Observations of Packaging:

  • “Adult-like”
  • “Rainy coffeehouse hipster”
  • Elegant
  • Cloudy color scheme (not as bright)

(3) Organic:

Lake Champlain Chocolates, Cacao Nibs & Dark Chocolate, 80% Cocoa

Screenshot 2019-05-16 16.03.04

Observations of Packaging:

  • Simple
  • “Typical coffee colors”
  • Compromise between adult- and kid-themed packaging (could theoretically work for either audience)

(4) Industrialized:

Cadbury, Royal Dark, Dark Chocolate

Screenshot 2019-05-16 16.04.53

Observations of Packaging:

  • Shiny
  • “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
  • Regal, luxurious


Works Cited

“Here There Will Be No Unhappiness.” Hershey Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, by Michael D D’Antonio, Simon & Schuster, 2006, pp. 106–126.



Chocolate Advertising

John Stivers

Professor Martin

AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food

May 3, 2019


Since the colonizers of the new world heard of the cacao plant, they have sold myths of not only its tastes and pleasures, but also of its healing powers, religious importance, and cultural ties. And while advertisements today do not preach the same stories as our old world ancestors, they still perpetuate false promises to consumers. Concepts such as health, gender, and race have been and are still manipulated by the chocolate industry to entice consumers to buy their brand. This paper will discuss the wrongdoings of chocolate advertisements over the years as it pertains to race, health, and gender. Similarly, the paper will look into solutions to create more integrity and honesty in today’s chocolate industry.


To fully understand the scope of chocolate advertisements and how they mislead consumers, it’s important to start when the product first hit the mainstream media. A major issue at the start of the chocolate industry, and particularly in advertising, was race.  

Rowntree Chocolate ad in 1947 (Martin)

Rowntree’s Cocoa created an African American girl (seen above) in 1947 as part of a new advertising campaign to display their chocolate. And as was common with other advertisements at the time, the Rowntree Chocolate portrayal of this African American girl was as not well spoken, poor, and simply dressed. Emma Robertson, in “Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History,” discusses the negative race relations that Rowntree had in its production as well as in its advertisements of chocolate. Furthermore, she discussed how Rowntree was just a microcosm of the greater problems at stake regarding race in the chocolate industry (Robertson 86). Specifically, common portrayals of African American people as poorly dressed and with simple language created a negative and offensive perception of the black community during that time.

But what about today? Does the chocolate industry still implement race in their advertisements? 

Conguitos chocolate bag (OCOLATE BALLS CONGUITOS ‘LACASA’ (90 G)”)

The answer is yes. Above is a current Spanish chocolate brand known as Conguitos. The Atlanta Black Star’s article, 12 Racist Logos You Didn’t Know Were Used by Popular Brands, points out the racist overtones the brand’s character still holds. But while the company altered the image to have the character’s spear removed after receiving extensive criticism, the character still retains its main characteristics (Moore). 

Diana Palardy, in “The Evolution of Conguitos: Changing the Face of Race in Spanish Advertising,” discusses the offensiveness of these characteristics. A bald head, red lips, as well as the name Conguitos, which derives from the word Congo, all perpetuate the same offensive stereotypes we saw in the 1940s with Rowntree Cocoa’s ad with the young African American girl (Palardy 48). The character stays because it is a Spanish household name and its removal would risk Conguitos losing sales of their chocolate. The very idea that Conguitos survives and won’t remove a racially controversial figure from its advertisements because it’s profitable demonstrates that racism is still very much alive in the chocolate industry.


Although problems still exist, there has been extensive work to eradicate racism from the chocolate industry. But while Racism is fading out or trying to fade out of chocolate advertising, false claims of chocolate’s health benefits are steadily rising.

Healthline released a news article recently outlining the various health benefits of dark chocolate. The article claims promises of chocolate lowering blood pressure and reducing heart disease all under the pretext that it is evidence-based and scientifically backed (“7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate”). To Healthline’s credit, they are not the first nor last media source to proclaim chocolate as the next big breakthrough in health science. Under unclear evidence, various research done on the backs of the chocolate industry has found cacao to have numerous health benefits. 

In fact, the Guardian released a news article releasing findings of some of these scientific studies. They claim health benefits such as chocolate reducing heart flutters, strokes, and cognitive decline (Fleming). And while some of these reports and news articles aren’t trying to mislead consumers, there still are not factual. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, explains why we have seen the myth of chocolate’s health arise in the media as of late. 

In her book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew The Science of What We Eat, Nestle demonstrates how the research performed on foods like chocolate are financially backed by the food industry itself, so the results usually come out in favor of the producer (Nestle). She writes,  ‘“Industry-funded research tends to set up questions that will give them desirable results”’ (Fleming). The chocolate health myth, therefore, is continuing in the world today because the companies that benefit most from chocolate being a health food are backing the research that says it is healthy.

Moreover, even researchers not backed by the chocolate industry can make mistakes and perpetuate the current chocolate-health hoax. James Howe in “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered” looks at a popular study, the Kuna Case, that claimed chocolate led to numerous health benefits. Dr. Norman Hollenberg of the Harvard Medical School did research on the Kuna people, finding those still living in the indigenous areas along the northeast coast of Panama experienced much lower blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease than their migrant cousins in Panama City. Hollenberg’s study found that the Kuna people had significantly low blood pressure and healthy hearts because they consumed a lot of chocolate (Howe 45).

James Howe, however, debunked Hollenberg’s claims in 2013. The researcher pointed to numerous other environmental factors besides the drinking of cacao that led to healthier hearts in the indigenous Kuna people. Howe exclaims, “Among the friends and colleagues I consulted, some of them Kuna themselves and the others anthropologists, not one found the key claims of the chocolate researchers plausible” (Howe 45). 

The Kuna Case anecdote is a perfect representation of the current state of chocolate advertising as it pertains to health. Findings that are favorable to the chocolate industry itself, whether initially performed with a bias or not, are taken as true because that is what people want to hear. Consumers would love to think that one of their favorite snacks, chocolate, is healthy for them. The problem is that it’s not. The myth will keep spreading, however, because the chocolate industry has and will keep trying to perpetuate this lie and the public will likely not refute it because they want the lie to be true (Nestle).


The last malpractice chocolate advertising uses is its mistreatment of gender. And like with race, it is important to look at the history of gender in chocolate advertising before diving into the contemporary problems the industry still faces. 

Picture of How women were portrayed in Old Chocolate Advertisements (Whitman’s Chocolate Valentine’s Day Ad”)

Chocolate has always been geared toward women. Whether advertised toward romance or housewife ideals, chocolate targeted and still targets the female gender. In her book, “Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History,” Emma Robertson discusses how early on the housewife ideal was fetishized by chocolate advertising. Starting during the war and into the 1950s and beyond, chocolate geared its ads towards woman buying chocolate to make their husbands, children, and themselves happy. In other words, chocolate companies advertised that by buying chocolate a woman would be a good mother and wife. The companies rationalized the ad campaigns as saying their main consumers were families so it only made sense to advertise toward the main shopper in the house: the mother (Robertson 20). 

Chocolate advertising, therefore, changed when women began to digress from the typical American household. As women entered the workplace, chocolate advertisements changed to target the sexuality of women rather than the housewife ideals. Rowntree’s ‘“My Wife’s a Witch”’ Campaign demonstrates this switch in chocolate advertising. The campaign, while still focussing the positives of a woman based on her ability to be a housewife, also centered her beauty as a main part of the ad. The pitch of the advertisement was to make it seem as though men fall in love with a woman’s looks, cleaning and cooking abilities, and the chocolate she buys. So, according to the ad, if a woman bought this chocolate, her husband or boyfriend would love her more (Robertson 22). 

The sexualizing of women, which started as soon at this Rowntree’s ad in the 1950s, is still present today. Whether it be for valentines day, a romantic occasion, or a simple indulgence, contemporary advertisements make out chocolate to be a highly sexualized product skewed towards women. 

Contemporary Advertisement showing a woman infatuated with Chocolate (Kaufman)

As the above advertisement represents, women, sex, indulgence, and love are associated with chocolate. It not only satisfies their hunger for food but hunger for something else more taboo. It’s a representation that does not extend to men in the advertising world and creates a  stereotype based on gender.

But is it true? Do women love chocolate more than men? The National Institute of Health did a survey on the cravings of men and women in a college population and found no difference between indulgences of chocolate based on gender (Weingarten & Elston). According to Katherine Parkin, an associate professor of history at Monmouth University and the author of  Food is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America, the stereotype that women love chocolate more than men is due to marketing and a societal flaw. “Men have more freedom to indulge in all kinds of pleasures,” she writes. Therefore, women are less likely to buy chocolate without hard advertising geared toward them (Parkin).  

As Parkin articulates, the problem with chocolate, sex, and women is both in part a fault of the industry and of society itself. Women are less free to indulge, so chocolate advertisements try to convince women indulgence is okay when they are consuming their chocolate brand (Parkin). As a result, there is a back and forth between society and industry that creates a culture that lies about the fact that women are obsessed or infatuated with chocolate. Why? Because it sells.

Overview and Solution

Overall, the chocolate industry has perpetuated three myths to help their sales. First, some companies still portray race in demeaning and offensive ways because some of the brands have become household names and to change them and their characters would risk losing profits (Palardy). Second, the chocolate industry has backed false research to prove chocolate is a health food with numerous benefits such as heart health, low blood pressure, and better cognitive function (Nestle). Lastly, the industry had portrayed women as infatuated with chocolate even though research has shown no difference between chocolate cravings in men and women (Parkin) (Weingarten & Elston). So what do we do to create more integrity and honesty in the chocolate industry?

The first and possibly most important step is demanding more from consumers. Catherine Higgs in “Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, And Colonial Africa” discusses the problems that Portugal had with cocoa production using slave labor in places such as São Tomé and Príncipe. One of the main solutions she and others at the time had was to have consumers boycott and demand only chocolate that was not produced from slave labor (Higgs 148). We can do the same with chocolate today. We can boycott those products that use racially offensive advertisements, lie about health benefits, and use false gender stereotypes.

Another solution used in Catherine Higgs book to solve the issue of slave labor in the chocolate industry was for government intervention (Higgs 147). Government regulation of offensive material for both gender biased and racist adds can reduce the negative advertisements we see in the media today. Furthermore, demanding reviewed and verified studies on the health benefits of chocolate can help inform consumers on whether chocolate is truly healthy for them.

Overall, government regulation and consumer boycotts, which we have seen work in the past as in the case with reducing Portuguese slave-produced chocolate, can help solve the contemporary advertising issues we see with race, gender, and health today. It may take effort, as many attempts to make changes in society do, but it will lead to a stronger and more integrity driven chocolate industry. 


At the end of the day, there are problems present in the chocolate industry that many would expect to have been eradicated a long time ago. Race, gender, and health all are misused and taken advantage of by the chocolate industry in their advertising campaigns. But with consumer and government support these problems can be reduced and eventually stopped. All it takes is a concentrated effort from a grassroots and consumer level as well as support from increased government regulation in the industry. If these are done, long-standing problems can be either fixed or eliminated from the chocolate industry’s advertising campaigns.

Works Cited

“7 Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 2019, http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate.

“CHOCOLATE BALLS CONGUITOS ‘LACASA’ (90 G).” Your Spanish Corner, yourspanishcorner.com/en/sweets-and-candies-for-parties/2655-chocolate-conguitos- lacasa-90-g.html.

Fleming, Nic. “The Dark Truth about Chocolate.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Mar. 2018, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/25/chocolate-the-dark-truth-is- it-good-for-you-health-wellbeing-blood-pressure-flavanols.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2013.

Howe, James. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” University of California Press, vol. 12, no. 1, 2012, pp. 43–52.

Kaufman, Stella. “What’s Eating You?” Mark Fisher Fitness, 10 Aug. 2016, markfisherfitness.com/whats-eating-you/.

Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” 3 Apr. 2019.

Moore. “12 Racist Logos You Didn’t Know Were Used by Popular Brands.” Atlanta Black Star, 8 May 2014, atlantablackstar.com/2014/05/07/12-racists-logos-you-didnt-know-were-used- by-popular-brands/4/.

Nestle, Marion. Unsavory Truth How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat. Basic Books, 2018.

Palardy, Diana. “The Evolution of Conguitos: Changing the Face of Race in Spanish Advertising.’” TRANSMODERNITY: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, 2014.

Parkin, Katherine J. Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2013.

Weingarten, H D, and D Elston. “Food Cravings in a College Population.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 1991.

“Whitman’s Chocolate Valentine’s Day Ad. | Stupid Cupid | Vintage Candy, Whitman Chocolate, Vintage Valentine Cards.” Pinterest, www.pinterest.com/pin/96897829455625621/.

Chocolate Holidays: Consumption and Gifting in Socio-Historical Context

The contemporary cacao-chocolate industry benefits greatly from seasonal sales surrounding major American holidays. In the U.S. market, Easter/Passover, Christmas/Hannukah, Halloween, and St. Valentine’s Day see large spikes in candy and chocolate sales. These contemporary patterns of chocolate purchasing and consumption are intimately bound to a broader historical and social context. By exploring associations between chocolate and each of these major candy-selling holidays, I analyze the legacies of colonialism, religious debates, gender stereotypes, and industrialization in modern consumption and gift-giving patterns.

The candy industry is a giant in the U.S. economy. Nielson (2015) reports that candy, including chocolate and non-chocolate products, is the third top-selling category among food and non-alcoholic beverage categories in America with $20.8 billion in sales in 2014. American consumers buy candy year-round, making up the majority of all candy dollar sales (Nielson 2015). However, seasonal candy sales are a fast-growing sector of the candy industry, increasing by 5.8% in 2014 (Nielson 2015). Nearly 20% of all annual candy sales in 2014 occurred during five top-selling holiday weeks (Nielson 2015). These top 5 holiday weeks are, in order of greatest to least candy sales: Easter/Passover, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Pre-Christmas/Hanukkah, and Christmas/Hanukkah (Nielson 2015). During each of these holiday seasons chocolate sales spike along with the sales of all candies. Chocolate is an illustrative example that sheds light on broader changes in consumption and underlying social meanings over time.

Winter Holidays and Hot Chocolate: A Colonial Legacy

The Judeo-Christian winter holidays of Christmas and Hannukah account for two of the top five weeks of all candy sales in the United States. Chocolate is an important part of these holidays. During Hannukah, traditional chocolate coins wrapped in gold and silver foil are gifted to children (Prichep 2014). During Christmas celebrations, people bake chocolate chip cookies for Santa Claus and exchange chocolates as gifts. Throughout the winter holidays, hot chocolate is a special treat. In the following clip from the Polar Express, a children’s Christmas movie, hot chocolate is associated with the Christmas holiday and is depicted as a childhood luxury.

Chocolate as a beverage has a long and complex history that highlights European colonialism. Chocolate is one preparation of the beans from the tree theobroma cacao. Cacao was first domesticated and consumed by Mesoamerican Olmec, Aztec, and Maya peoples (Coe and Coe 1996). For these indigenous Mesoamericans, cacao was a beverage, not a solid bar (Sampeck and Thayn 2017). The most treasured part of the cacao beverage was the foam, which was produced by pouring the beverage on high from one vessel to another and later by mixing with a molinillo (a colonial invention) (Coe and Coe 1996). The image below depicts a Maya woman pouring cacao to create foam as was common practice. Today, we still add foam to our hot chocolate in the form of marshmallows and whipped cream (Coe and Coe 1996, 49; Leissle 2018). Contrary to modern hot chocolate, cacao was sometimes consumed cold by the Mesoamericans (Coe and Coe 1996). Maya and Aztec elites also exchanged cacao as a gift in royal marriages, military victories, holiday ceremonies, and political negotiations (Leissle 2018). The history of chocolate as a beverage and gift extends to the very origins of domesticated cacao.

Image from Late Classic Maya vessel (c. A.D. 750), known as the Princeton Vase. Woman to the far right pours a cacao beverage to create foam.

Hot chocolate came to resemble what we know today through European colonial modification. Spanish colonizers came to refer to all cacao preparations as chocolate because the most profitable cacao-producing region, Izalcos, was known for a specific preparation named “chocolatl” (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 79). Cacao was introduced to Europe by Spanish colonizers as “chocolate,” a hot beverage. Europeans adapted the traditional cacao beverages to include ingredients that were common in Europe, such as cinnamon, almonds, sugar, and floral elements (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 85). Chocolate-drinking spread among the European royalty via intermarriage, and material culture developed around chocolate (Coe and Coe 1996). The French elite served chocolate in a silver chocolatiere with porcelain cups and saucers, which can also be seen in the clip from Polar Express (Coe and Coe 1996, 158-9). North American chocolate tastes and recipes most closely resemble the British and European preparations of hot chocolate, transmitted to America during our own colonial period (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 89). Thus, the story of hot chocolate and its significant place in our own holidays draws heavily on early Mesoamerican rituals and traditions as well as colonial European modifications. The experience of a creamy hot chocolate today is intimately bound to a legacy of colonialism.

Easter, Chocolate, and the Church

The Easter and Passover spring holidays account for the single greatest week of candy sales annually. In the week preceding Easter in 2014 Americans spent $823 million on candy and purchased 146 million pounds of sweets (Fahey 2016). This level of consumption is interesting given the history of chocolate, the Catholic church, and the Lenten season.

In the Catholic religious tradition, the Easter holiday marks the end of Lent, months of fasting and reflection. Upon cacao’s introduction to European society, the Catholic clergy debated whether consuming chocolate beverages broke the fast. Catholic missionaries were active in the colonization and Christianization of indigenous Mesoamericans and had early exposure to cacao. Beginning in 1591 with Juan de Cardenas, militant clergymen argued that, though beverages (as chocolate was in those days) were generally exempt from the fast, chocolate offered substantial nourishment, which would break the fast (Coe and Coe 1996, 149). Debates raged in the clergy for nearly three centuries over the issue of chocolate and the fast, pitting the chocolate-trading Jesuits against the puritanical Dominicans (Coe and Coe 1996, 149). Seven Catholic popes commented on the issue over the years, arguing that consuming chocolate would not break the Lenten fast (Coe and Coe 1996, 150). Perhaps these clerical debates set us down the path of viewing chocolate as a sinful indulgence. Regardless, the heightened consumption of candy and chocolate for the Easter holiday marks the end of the fast and a time for celebratory indulgence. Had the Dominicans won the debate over chocolate and the fast, perhaps we would not see such excessive candy purchases in the week preceding Easter.

St. Valentine’s Day and Gendered Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is yet another major holiday for the chocolate industry. The holiday on which romantic partners gift heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to one another is also part of a broader context. Chocolate in particular is a common gift on Valentine’s Day because of its historical association with fertility. In indigenous Mesoamerican societies, cacao was considered an aphrodisiac and gifted at weddings for fertility (Coe and Coe 1996). The idea of chocolate as an aphrodisiac carried over into European societies and lingers to this day, though it has no factual basis. As Henderson (2015) and Butler (2018) detail, early chocolate companies began marketing their chocolates with romantic imagery, such as heart-shaped boxes and “kisses.” The association between chocolate and Valentine’s Day is a celebration of heterosexual romance that draws on a history of chocolate as an aphrodisiac.

The gifting of chocolates on Valentine’s Day also draws heavily on gender stereotypes. On Valentine’s Day, men are expected to purchase and gift chocolate to women. In the Russell Stover Valentine’s Day commercial below, the intended audience is men, who are instructed to gift chocolate to women for the holiday.

In chocolate advertising and narratives surrounding Valentine’s Day, women are meant to be seduced by the sinfully indulgent chocolate and-by extension-the men who gifted it to them. The following Ferrero Rocher Valentine’s Day commercial depicts a woman who is seduced by the decadent chocolate and subsequently embraces the romantic partner who gifts these chocolates to her. The message is one of chocolate as a tool in heterosexual relationships that men can use to seduce women.

Gender stereotypes in advertisements for Valentine’s Day chocolates are by no means a recent development. Narratives of male gifting of chocolates and female seduction are prevalent throughout past advertisements as well. The Whitman’s Sampler advertisement below is from 1936. In American society, Valentine’s Day chocolates are associated with a long context of heterosexual romance and the trope of the seduced woman.

1936 Valentines Day ad--Whitman's Chocolates
1936 Whitman’s Sampler Valentine’s Day Advertisement

Halloween and Industrialized Chocolates

Nielson (2015) reports that candy sales in the week preceding Halloween total $787 million, coming in at the second highest week for candy sales in 2014. Halloween in its modern form centers around pre-packaged, standardized candies, but this was not always the case. Kawash (2010) and Nix (2018) provide a brief history of Halloween and candy. In the early 20th century, candy makers were not targeting Halloween as a candy holiday (Kawash 2010). Trick-or-treating first emerged in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and Halloween handouts were not restricted to candy at this time (Kawash 2010). By the 1950’s candy became an inexpensive and convenient Halloween handout, but candy was not yet the exclusive Halloween treat (Kawash 2010). Candy eventually won out as the face of Halloween handouts in the 1970’s because it was industrialized, standardized, pre-packaged, and safe from tampering (Kawash 2010).

These trends between candy and Halloween closely follow developments in the cacao-chocolate industry. In the early 20th century, the big American chocolate manufacturers were just getting started. At the end of the 19th century, Frank Mars, founder of the Mars chocolate company (creator of M&Ms, Snickers, Mars bars, Milky Ways, etc.), was still watching his mother make homemade candies and sweets in the family kitchen (Brenner 2000, 50). For the first decade of the 20th century, Frank Mars was experimenting with small-scale candy distribution and failing repeatedly (Brenner 2000). By the 1920’s Mars had built a profitable chocolate company, but it wasn’t until his son, Forrest Mars, took control of the company in the 1960’s that Mars, Inc. became a giant in the American chocolate industry. Forrest Mars mechanized the factory, vertically integrated production, and industrialized the production and labor at every level (Brenner 2000).

Hershey’s Chocolate Factory

Similar developments were occurring in the Hershey’s chocolate company. In the first decade of the 20th century, Milton Hershey was building his factory town at Hershey, Pennsylvania (D’Antonio 2006). The first Hershey’s Kiss was manufactured in 1907 (D’Antonio 2006). Milton Hershey industrialized his company by vertically and horizontally integrating production. Hershey’s chocolate factory did it all–from building trains to ship sugar from Cuba to housing workers to sourcing milk from local cows (D’Antonio 2006). This consolidation of Hershey’s supply chain took place over the first half of the 20th century. Hershey’s was the well-integrated and undisputed American national chocolate brand until the mid-20th century when competitors like Mars and Reese’s gained power in the national market (D’Antonio 2006; Brenner 2000).

Mars Halloween Candy

By the time Halloween became a major candy holiday in the 1970’s, the American chocolate industry was dominated by Hershey’s and Mars (Martin 2019). Hershey’s and Mars alone make 84.2% of all snack-sized Halloween candy, with another 15.2% contributed by Nestle (Martin 2019). Internationally, the Big 5 chocolate companies (Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Kraft [Cadbury], and Ferrero) dominate the market (Martin 2019). Chocolate manufacturing and distribution is concentrated in an oligopoly of companies. The association of Halloween with pre-packaged, bite-sized candies emerged as these large companies developed and industrialized. Halloween as we know it today is a consequence of the industrialization and integration of the American chocolate industry.

Concluding Thoughts

In analyzing the history of chocolate in each of these major candy-selling holidays, I have uncovered legacies of colonialism, religious debate, gender stereotypes, and industrialization in the modern cacao-chocolate industry. To understand why and how the cacao-chocolate industry operates today, it is important to examine this broader social and historical context. Americans’ holiday favorites of hot chocolate, chocolate bunnies, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, and bite-sized chocolates were all brought to us via interesting legacies in the development of the chocolate industry. Next time you enjoy a foamy hot chocolate or Hershey’s kiss, consider the history of cacao and chocolate from its origins in indigenous Mesoamerica to its modern industrialization and mass marketing.

Works Cited

Amyember. 2010. “Hot Chocolate-The Polar Express.” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/5Uuw3JKLO1g).

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

Bruenproductions. 2009. “Russell Stover ‘Women Love Chocolate’ TV Commercial.” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/RfViV598c1k).

Butler, Stephanie. 2018. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day with a Box of Chocolates.” History. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/celebrating-valentines-day-with-a-box-of-chocolates).

By Late Classic, Maya (‘Codex’ style) – Francis Robicsek: The Maya Book of the Dead. The Ceramic Codex, University of Virginia Art Museum (1981), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8309274

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

Cooper, Scott. 2019. “Ferrero Rocher TV Commercial, ‘Valentine’s Day Has Arrived.'” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/JAWCM6xjebE).

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fahey, Mark. 2016. “Easter Wins the Candy Battle.” CNBC. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/24/easter-wins-the-candy-battle.html).

Henderson, Amy. 2015. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-chocolate-and-valentines-day-mated-life-180954228/).

Kawash, Samira. 2010. “How Candy and Halloween Became Best Friends.” The Atlantic. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/10/how-candy-and-halloween-became-best-friends/64895/).

Leissle, Kristy. 2018. Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Maria. 2010. “1936 Valentines Day ad–Whitman’s Chocolates.” Flickr. (https://flic.kr/p/7zykxu)

Martin, Carla. 2019. “20190313 The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” Presented at AAS 119x, March 13, Harvard University. Retrieved May 3, 2019.

Mike G. 2014. “Old Factory Building.” Flickr. Retrieved May 3, 2019 (
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mishagl/14279170335/ ).

Nielson. 2015. “Special Occasions Bring Sweet Sales.” Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/special-occasions-bring-sweet-sales.html).

Nix, Elizabeth. 2018. “The Haunted History of Halloween Candy.” History. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/the-haunted-history-of-halloween-candy).

Pixel1. 2015. Pixabay. Retrieved on May 3, 2019 (
https://pixabay.com/photos/halloween-candy-chocolates-nuts-1014629/ ).

Prichep, Deena. 2014. “Hanukkah History: Those Chocolate Coins Were Once Real Tips.” National Public Radio. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/12/12/370368642/hanukkah-history-those-chocolate-coins-were-once-real-tips).

Sampeck, Kathryn E. and Jonathan Thayn. 2017. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Pps. 72-99 in Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, edited by S. Schwartzkopf and K.E. Sampeck. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Then and Now: Exploitation in Cacao Production and Chocolate Advertising

Brenden Rodriquez

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 and exploitation.

The exploitation 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.

Having 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.

Works Cited


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.


“Banania Breakfast Mix.” Simply Gourmand, http://www.simplygourmand.com/banania-breakfast-mix/.

conguitosTV. “Anuncio Conguitos: Tribu Color.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Sept. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=wFOXOeBbhD8.

“Tin Signs Banania Tirailleur.” Camille Vintage, http://www.camille-vintage.com/en/advertising-aluminiummetal-plates/324-tin-signs-banania-tirailleur.html.

Dove and Magnum Ads: Google Images

Marketing Tactics Continually Employed by the Chocolate Industry

            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 her.

           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

Upon 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.  

What can 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

Upon 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 their health.

           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 sell.

            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.

Works Cited

Chocolates, Schmitten Luxury. “Priyanka Gets Wrapped in the Luxury of Schmitten Chocolates‎ in New TV Ad.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Nov. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeSPVANamAA.

Cleall, Esme. “Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. By Emma Robertson.” Cultural and Social History, vol. 9, no. 3, 2012, pp. 475–476., doi:10.2752/147800412×13347542916945.

exoteeelis. “Chinese Sihua Dove ASMR Ad Campaign – Angelababy.” YouTube, YouTube, 16 Apr. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhwYbH5n15c.

FANDA, Genius. “Kit Kat Ad 2013.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Mar. 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrUEO261tU8.

Lapierre, Matthew A., et al. “The Effect of Advertising on Children and Adolescents.” Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Nov. 2017, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/140/Supplement_2/S152.

Show, The Ad. “Hot Chicks Lick Chocolate Man: Seducing Tongues.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Sept. 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myxGr1uuGiw.

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 Journals, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1509/jmr.10.0207.

The Immorality of Chocolate Advertising on Affecting Obesity

Today in our world, obesity reigns as a prominent problem for millions of the human population. Statistics from the World Health Organization (2018) detail just how big the problem of obesity is, stating facts such as that 1.9 billion adults are overweight, and that of these, 650 million are obese. They also stated how in 2016, 41 million children under the age of 5 were underweight or obese, and 340 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5-19 were overweight or obese (World Health Organization, 2016). And obesity greatly increases the risk of many other health problems, such as ones they mention like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, some cancers, and much more (World Health Organization, 2016). These statistics are staggering, and show the great problem we have on our hands in stopping obesity.  When understanding causal factors of this, the first one that has the most impact is diet, and specifically poor diets. Poor diets include components such as unworked-off carbs and, the specific component looked at in this paper, sugar consumption. Sweetness is a widespread preference of taste for people across the world, and chocolate is included in being one example of that. Some of the largest brands of chocolate contain large amounts of sugar, contributing to these problems with diets that are causing obesity problems. This widespread love of chocolate is rooted into people’s diets today, and for most this starts early in life, and starts presenting this risk factor in obesity from an early age. In this paper, I plan to evaluate the literature at hand on the cognitive and physiological mechanisms at play in obese and overweight children and how that can be played upon by large chocolate companies across the world in contributing to this problem of obesity. Given the research on the underlying cognitive and physiological mechanisms for obese and overweight children, I argue that marketing and advertising of chocolate towards children is immoral in nature and contributing greatly to this global problem of obesity.

            In order to better study this problem, background information on the problem is necessary before discussing the actual problem. Today, the largest chocolate companies’ main products contain very large amounts of sugar. In visiting the local CVS, I examined multiple candy bars and recorded how much sugar was in each product. My recordings are as follows: a Hershey’s bar had 33g of sugar added, a Hershey’s dark chocolate bar had 20g of added sugar, a Snickers’ bar had 46g of sugar added, a Three Musketeers’ bar had 35g, a bag of M&M’s had 20g, and a pack of Reese’s cups was 25g of added sugar. These numbers were pretty surprising, especially in that the bars themselves, which would probably be expected to have less sugar than items such as the bag of M&M’s or the two cups of Reese’s, having such high contents of added sugar. While this data is valuable, it becomes even more valuable when considering the statistics of sugar consumption. In looking at Robert Albritton’s piece Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry (2010), he quotes nutritionist Marion Nestle who states that Americans (in 2010) were on average consuming 31 teaspoons of added a day, with 40% of that (12.4 teaspoons) coming from soft drinks. So factoring out that soft drink data and converting teaspoons to grams, one sole Snickers bar would take up almost 20% of the expected daily added sugar consumption. Even having one chocolate bar and some sort of chocolate ice cream (which would not be considered atypical for the average American in a day) would contribute a lot of added sugar to one’s diet even in such a seemingly low portion. Especially when much of the rest of the percentage would be taken up by added sugar in people’s main courses, that is a staggering statistic on how much sugar is being consumed just by eating one chocolate bar in any given day. This data is important for helping set the stage for how the sugar added to most mainstream chocolate bars can affect the average person’s diet as well as set up the possible implications.

            Additional information necessary to back the argument at hand is the previously mentioned psychological and physiological mechanisms at hand in obesity. As a psychology major, I always am interested in the cognitive mechanisms at hand in shaping people’s lives, and the literature did not disappoint in this aspect. The first article to look at is on the topic of advertising, and how children react to it. In a study by Tarabashkina, Quester, and Crouch (2016), the researchers studied the relationship between children and their food choice. In the study, they found that children’s food choice was much more malleable after persuasion (advertising/marketing), despite getting knowledge of the nutritional information (Tarabashkina, Quester, and Crouch, 2016). Furthermore, they assorted the children that participated into different clusters dependent upon their choices and knowledge, and found that obese children fell into the cluster of possessing these hedonic-driven behaviors as well as less nutritional knowledge. Going off the first finding, this is incredibly important in understanding how effective even simple persuasion can be on children, in that they can be persuaded into choosing something they may know is not good for them, giving evidence for the strength of potential advertising for chocolate companies.

Additionally, the other results are important in understanding the cognitive mechanisms behind obesity, in that these children are acting upon this hedonic-motivation (pleasure-driven) and choosing behaviors that fulfill this pleasure-seeking. This gives us insight into the psychology behind obesity, and how foods like chocolate that are very sweet and create pleasure can be very intriguing and persuading for children with this predisposition. Another study that is important in understanding these mechanisms in play is a study on looking at taste receptors of children. In the study, it was found that obese children carrying this certain gene involved in sweet taste reception had a higher waist-to-height ratio and higher chocolate powder intake (Pioltone, Edna de Melo, Santos, et al., 2018). These results are substantial evidence for understanding chocolate’s role in the obesity problem, in that these children with this biological predisposition are seeing higher intakes of this sweetness that is chocolate. Both the cognitive and physiological mechanisms introduced are vital to understanding the role of chocolate and its sweetness in affecting this problem of obesity, and set the stage for seeing the effects of marketing and advertising on children furthering this problem at hand.

            So more specifically on the effects of advertisement on children, a study by Brody, Stoneman, Lane, and Sanders (1981), there was further evidence that children are easily persuaded and it was found that children viewing the advertisements wanted the advertised food more than the control condition did. More importantly though, they found that while mothers were having conversations with their children when watching these television programs, they were not informing them on competing pieces of evidence against the advertised food (Brody, Stoneman, Lane, and Sanders, 1981). This shows a very strong potential problem in advertising, especially in the case of chocolate and other high-sugar containing foods, in that these children, whom are shown to be easily persuaded already, are not told the negatives of these foods they see in all these advertisements. This easily leads to lack of understanding the potential long-term effects of eating these foods that are constantly advertised to children, even when their parents are present.

Given the previously mentioned literature, it is appropriate to look at an actual advertisement by a major chocolate company, Reese’s.

Reese’s Advertisement: https://youtu.be/mI1SPUDMDEM

There are many takeaways from this advertisement related to this previously mentioned literature on advertising and children. The first is relating to the finding of obese children displaying more pleasure-driven behaviors, and that is no exception. In the advertisement, you see Reese’s do a common practice in the food industry altering their products depending upon the season. Egg-hunting and finding is a common practice on Easter, and the pleasure associated with finding Easter eggs and the overall sense of the holiday associated with eggs could potentially create a relationship in which these particular children are motivated to experience this pleasure by “getting” and eating these eggs. This form of appealing to the joy these kids feel could very well have a strong-impact on their food choices using the findings from the literature. Additionally, there comes the aspect of the advertisement really emphasizing the prevalence of their product in every location possible, mentioning places such as grocery stores, supermarkets, and even chiropractor offices. Using the findings from Brody, Stoneman, Lane, and Sanders’ (1981) study, without contesting knowledge from parents, there lays the possibility that children associate this prevalence of the product with normalcy, and that it is normal to be able to have the ability to eat this chocolate so much. This allows for the possibility of children to be persuaded to choose these products more and take in the heavy sugar contents (Reese’s was recorded at around 25g of added sugar) that can be threatening to a good diet, a necessity for preventing obesity.

            To further evaluate the problem of marketing and advertising in the chocolate industry, we turn to the article by Andrew Jacobs and Matt Ritchel (2017) on the problem of big businesses in getting lower-class citizens of Brazil hooked on junk food. The article focuses on Nestle, a company largely known for their chocolate products, and how they have increased their presence in developing countries over the past few years. They detail how these processed foods that companies such as Nestle provide are “essential to feeding a growing, urbanizing world of people, many of them with rising income, and demanding convenience,” (Jacobs and Ritchel, 2017). This article shows how this increased presence and marketing of a necessity for these products, chocolate included dues to its relative cheapness, is causing this problem of obesity in these developing countries and presenting more problems to developing countries already with many problems. This is displayed in the image in how these developing countries have had massive increases in obesity rates since 1980. You can see the room for problem in looking at studies such as Pioltone, Edna de Melo, Santos, et al.’s (2018) in there potentially being children across these developing countries with these taste receptor predispositions that are being constantly fed these sweet foods and seeing a correlation with higher weights and greater health problems. Jacobs and Ritchel’s article provides a lot of information that shows the downsides of heavy market influence by big companies and especially chocolate companies like Nestle.

            In reviewing the literature on the psychological and physiological mechanisms at play in potentially causing obesity on top of the prevalence of chocolate advertising despite the health concerns from the heavy content of added sugar, it is easy to see the potential problem of heavy advertising and marketing towards children in the chocolate industry. Some counter-arguments to always consider are the benefits of a balanced diet which can include sweets such as chocolate, as well as the freedom for companies to be able to achieve success in people buying their products. But in this paper, I have laid out the argument of the very negative potential consequences and immorality of advertising in the chocolate industry. Here is another example of an advertisement from a major chocolate company that can be seen as rather immoral when it comes to advertising to children.

Hershey’s Advertisement: https://youtu.be/Plf9bzri6Rw

We can find many potential problems from this advertisement, with the first being the use of a song from a famous kid’s movie, Snow White, in setting the happy mood of the advertisement. By appealing to these kid’s emotions on top of the literature of how easily persuaded children are in food advertisements, there is great potential in influencing children to ask for and desire this candy more when going to any store really. Additionally, the part at the end in which the kid shares one of the Hershey’s Kisses with his mother can be looked at as a way for kids to make their parents happy, something kids are typically very fond of, and make them desire this product even more. Hershey’s Kisses do not come by themselves either, as they are only bought in packages in which 9 Kisses is around 20g of added sugar, showing the potential negative consequences on having a healthy diet.

            In reviewing the literature and current forms of chocolate company advertisements, there is great evidence that there are problems on our hand. Chocolate throughout history has been a favorite for people across all cultures and that is no exception today, as chocolate can provide people with happiness in the taste and use in our lives. But the health consequences of added sugar in the major chocolate companies we have come to love today provide reason for concern, and calls upon questioning the morality of advertising chocolate products to children whose diets are crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially in today’s world where the threat of obesity reigns heavy and causes many health problems. The problem of obesity has a long way to go before being taken care of, but one way we can start is considering alternatives to this problem of this constant advertising of these unhealthy products to children across the world.

Works Cited

Albritton, Robert. 2012[2010]. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” pp. 342-354

Brody, G. H., Stoneman, Z., Lane, T. S., & Sanders, A. K. (1981). Television Food Commercials Aimed at Children, Family Grocery Shopping, and Mother-Child Interactions. Family Relations, 30(3), 435. doi:10.2307/584039

Jacobs, A., & Richtel, M. (2017, September 16). How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html

Obesity and overweight. (2018, February 16). World Health OrganizRetrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight

Pioltine, M., Melo, M. D., Santos, A., Machado, A., Fernandes, A., Fujiwara, C., . . . Mancini, M. (2018). Genetic Variations in Sweet Taste Receptor Gene Are Related to Chocolate Powder and Dietary Fiber Intake in Obese Children and Adolescents. Journal of Personalized Medicine, 8(1), 7. doi:10.3390/jpm8010007

Tarabashkina, L., Quester, P., & Crouch, R. (2015). Food advertising, children’s food choices and obesity: Interplay of cognitive defences and product evaluation: An experimental study. International Journal of Obesity, 40(4), 581-586. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.234

Video Links:

            Reese’s Commercial: https://youtu.be/mI1SPUDMDEM

            Hershey’s Commercial: https://youtu.be/Plf9bzri6Rw

Image Sources:

            Adults Obese Statistics: https://ourworldindata.org/obesity

            Country Obesity Rate Changes: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html

Chocolate Representation and Marketing in Boston’s Italian Market, Eataly

Upon entering Boston’s Italian market, Eataly, one can immediately feel the pervading sense of luxury. Starting with quality wines, cheeses, meats, and small bites, customers begin their mini Italian journey. After passing through sections of delicious selections of appetizer-like foods, customers move through the center of the marketplace where restaurants and food stands create a complete sensory experience analogous to the main meal in a gustatory journey. Throughout the entire experience, the Italian market presents itself in a very raw and natural form, turning away from luxury in the form of material wealth and focusing the customer on what people commonly associate with Italy to be a certain luxury of life. In fact, although one could easily see how expensive all of the products were in the market, the wealth required to lead this sort of “Italian” lifestyle is hidden behind the fact that it does not present many directly obvious or glaring forms of material luxury. However, the one place where it failed with this consistency in the representation of Italian luxury was, surprisingly, in the chocolate section.

The first important aspect to note about the section of the market that sold chocolate was that it came at the very end. A customer would have to travel through the rest of the store in order to reach this final area. This works for Eataly in the sense that it is logical to structure the market in the same way that a typical meal is structured. Chocolate and desserts come at the very end, clearly serving as an indulgence to finish off a gustatory experience in a perfect way. It is one last peek into paradise.

Throughout the journey up to this point, the experience and the luxurious ambiance has stayed fairly consistent. The customer is reminded of a simple, farmer’s market style of Italian life, and the luxury is communicated through quality of life rather than quality of material ownership. This is a crucial strategy that appeals widely to consumers given the new, developing concept of luxury, as Peter McNeil and Giorgio Riello describe in Luxury: a rich history

“… ‘luxury is today more a condition than an object’. In other words, luxury is not just about acquiring an object, but is rather a way of living, of thinking, and of aspiring. Luxury aims to recover its uniqueness … by providing an experience that is unique in the acquisition and enjoyment of such goods … that might not necessarily be exceptional per se,” (McNeil and Riello 235). 

However, there is a sudden shift from that environment when approaching the chocolate section. In fact, the brands and types of chocolate displayed convey two different messages to the customer, both of which distinguish themselves from the marketplace as a whole. 

The first of the two atmospheres is one of material luxury, appealing to the artisanal quality of a product. These chocolates exhibited common packaging themes of shiny gold and silver labels, dark backgrounds, and text like “premium chocolate”, “product of Italy”, or “classic”. Many included obscure and unreadable Italian words in an attempt to appeal to consumers through use of smooth, sophisticated sounding words. Additionally, on signs that describe the brands, the customer can read various quotes that generally embody this appeal to Italian artisanry:

“Since 1826, Caffarel has been making chocolate in the traditional Piemontese way.”

“Baratti & Milano is part of the history and tradition of Italian confectionery.”

“Novi’s passion for chocolate stems from the ancient confectionery traditions of Piemonte.”

An example of chocolate packaging with gold labeling.
Baratti & Milano chocolates, whose labeling and packaging uses themes of gold.

These bars and products were almost entirely pure dark chocolate products and the most commonly added ingredients (if any) were “Italian” additions like whole hazelnuts, coffee, or lemon. Price points were incredibly high, with products costing, for example, $55/lb, $44/lb, $36/lb, or $77/lb, to name a few.

An important aspect to note is that these brands that appealed to the artisanal and “pure Italian” quality of chocolates often failed to connect their story to the rest of the chocolate supply chain. As elaborated upon by McNeil and Riello: “A great deal of the national appeal of brands is created by cultural associations cemented through the clever use of advertising at a global level. Globalization, however, creates at the same time a sense of brand displacement. The ‘country of production’ of a product is often different from the ‘country of origin’ of the brand …, ” (McNeil and Riello 283). These companies are clearly seeking to appeal to a national identity in advertising their products, but consequently end up obscuring the entire supply chain and ignoring the regions and people that play a crucial role in the farming of cacao.

Unsurprisingly, these brands thus did not often cite any sort of certification or effort to integrate their chocolate production story with the rest of the supply chain. The focus was restricted to chocolate’s journey in Italy. This seems to be a characteristic that plagues smaller and more specialized chocolate producers in general: 

“In the small, specialty chocolate maker category, there is some transparent trade, but in general the information about amount of specialty cacao purchased and price paid for that cacao provided by individual companies is minimal, and the burden thus falls to producers, consumers, or researchers to seek it out for themselves, an often impossible task,” (Martin). 

The entire journey of cacao before reaching the hands of Italian chocolate manufacturers is nonexistent. This phenomenon is most often characteristic of nations that have been able to establish an international chocolate reputation. As Kristy Leissle states in Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate:

“… somewhere along the way, the place of manufacturebecame more important to appreciating chocolate than the place of origin of the beans. ‘Belgian chocolate’ has more purchase than ‘Ghanaian cocoa,’ because chocolate eaters have become accustomed to the particular styles preferred by a handful of national palates…,” (Leissle 22).

So, clearly, while the rest of the market exudes a raw form of lifestyle luxury, these bars communicate a very different message. They create an association with material wealth – that of an elite and distinguishing sense. 

However, this is not the only theme established in the chocolate market in Eataly. There exists another subset of chocolates that seem almost completely removed from the Italian artisanal quality of chocolate. These brands instead focus all of their energy in promoting an exotic image. The packaging is smaller, squarer, and rarely employs dark, luxurious colors. Packages are white or colorful, made with plastic or thin cardboard. They do not frequently employ gold text or luxurious images. Yet, almost all of the chocolate sold remained dark, with few products dipping below 60% dark chocolate.

These brands add various unique ingredients like Sichuan pepper, matcha, passionfruit, goji berries, ginseng, and more into their products. The choice of ingredient addition tends to go along with what is commonly associated with Western perception of health or medicine in foreign (particularly Eastern) countries. Western culture has adopted exactly these ingredients (tropical fruits, Asian spices, and more) as a part of a new, hipster health fad. The fact that these “healthy” ingredients were chosen to be added to chocolate makes it clear that these brands are trying to appeal to chocolate’s exotic, fantastical quality: that is has “magical” health benefits. Other brands on the shelves made an even more obvious appeal to this common conception of chocolate, associating specific bars with arbitrary qualities such as “health”, “beauty”, or “leisure”.

T’a Milano chocolates, with various exotic flavors added.
Giraudi chocolates with added ingredients such as matcha and goji berries.
Sabadìchocolates that are associated with qualities such as health and leisure.

This is an interesting characteristic of these brands, since they seem to advertise more strongly the idea of “quality of life/condition” as described by McNeil and Riello: “[f]ood, but also wine, spirits, and confectionery, are appreciated not just because of their price or intrinsic taste but because of their lifestyle association,” (McNeil and Riello 240). This would seem to be consistent with the ambience of the rest of the market. However, the aggressive attempt to mash together the rest of the world under the single label of “exotic” in order to distinguish their chocolate makes it difficult to see how it connects to the apparent Italian authenticity of the rest of the store or even to the regions of world that it is trying to represent. 

Maybe because of this appeal, these chocolates also have very high price points. Prices included $40/lb, $60/lb, $74/lb, and even reached $180/lb at times. Yet, we can see that none of these brands have truly succeeded in representing the world for what it is through chocolate; thus, they justify their price points through an incomplete image of the world and the consumer’s role in the supply chain. Evidently, the mixing of ingredients from various nations that are known to have an exotic appeal to western customers is a testament to the fact that these chocolate brands may be choosing to oversimplify the gastronomical complexity and value of other cultures and nations, choosing instead to group it under a single category meant to entertain western customers more than educate them. 

As an example of this, the brand “Domori” focuses very seriously on the origin of the cacao bean used to produce each bar, making that the focus of the packaging on their chocolate products. However, taking a closer look at this “origin conscious packaging” reveals a slightly different story. For example, for chocolate from Venezuela, one can see that the center of the image on the packaging is that of a sloth on a tropical tree. However, sloths have absolutely nothing to do with cacao besides the fact that are both present in Venezuelan ecosystems. 

Domori’s Venezuelan chocolate packaging.

On another packaging, the focus is on criollo cacao, with the central image being a cacao tree and a single pod broken open to reveal the inside. Yet, the cacao pod is represented poorly, with seeds looking more like dry nuts loosely packed in the pod than the real, dense, fruit covered seeds.

Domori’s criollo cacao chocolate packaging.

From all of this information, it appears that the brand appeal to the Italian craft of chocolate provides a more accurate and consistent story than the exotic brands. Although they may not present a complete representation of Italy through their chocolate products either, the other exotic brands fall more easily into traps of misrepresentation. As Leissle states, “Packaging aesthetics range from whimsical … to sober … but the primary lure is nearly always an exotic representation of chocolate’s origins,” (Leissle 25), and this is exactly what can be seen in the products presented at Eataly. 

As another example, the brand donna Elvira’s chocolate packaging includes winding and twisting tree branches, with cacao pods growing not from the trunks of these trees, but from the ends of flimsy, almost twig-like branches, which is known to be inaccurate. Cacao grows on the trunks of the tree as well as on the lower, thicker, and sturdier branches. Additionally, climbing through these branches are figures that appear to be half monkey, half human, with facial features reminding one of blackface. As Robertson says, 

“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). 

So it is not surprising, given this information, that we find a brand that egregiously and unacceptably exploits this same advertising scheme that has been used since the times of colonialism. Moreover, 

“… images of Africa in U.S. media fall generally into one or two categories – Africa as ‘trouble,’ which includes poverty, conflict, debt, and HIV/AIDS, and Africa as ‘curiosity,’ which involved tribal people wearing colorful clothes and beads, hunting, gathering, and living close to nature,” (Leissle 26). 
From this, it is evident that the brand donna Elvira has appealed strongly to the second stereotype, depicting black people as wild, silly monkeys in a natural environment gathering cacao pods. Not only does this packaging serve as a misrepresentation of cacao farming, but of an entire race and region of the world. 

An example of donna Elvira’s chocolate packaging.
A closer look at the design shows cacao pods growing off of tropical trees and monkeys with what appears to be blackface harvesting them.

Additionally, these brands appealed to exoticism through modes of production, truly extending their attempts to distinguish themselves in every manner possible. Chocolate brands advertised modica chocolate, cold pressed chocolate, or handmade chocolate. In fact, as Leissle writes, “ … images are powerful, because they generate an escapist fantasy, inviting the shopper to experience a place more wonderful and tropical than wherever they are (probably) standing when buying the bar … Unusual, seductive words – Sambirano, Dos Rios, Esmeraldas – localize the chocolate in a mysterious place, always far distant,” (Leissle 25). 

Therefore, when one looks close enough, it is quite obvious that these brands are looking for an exotic appeal, trusting that their customers will not pay too much attention to the details (or overlooking them themselves). This basic exotic appeal avoids a truly in-depth connection between the customer and the journey of the cacao bean to the chocolate bar.  The goal is to create a fantastical world for the customer, not to represent the reality of the regions and cultures that it is taking advantage of.  

On the other hand, those brands appealing to luxury and quality fell into another trap with these exotic brands of associating quality with perfection, sustainability, and success. “Even more, it is not uncommon to encounter the dangerous idea that quality of chocolate is directly linked with quality of life of cacao producer. That a cacao sample is of superior quality does not imply that those who produced it have better lives. Flavor is insufficient evidence,” (Martin). It seems like this is the mistake that many customers of Eataly could potentially be making, thinking that quality of chocolate is directly associated with a perfect brand engagement with all aspects of the supply chain.

It is clear that the chocolate section of Eataly presents an inconsistent image with regards to the rest of the marketplace, and the various messages that it attempts to communicate obscure many aspects of the cacao supply chain. It attracts people with claims of luxury and exoticism that end up creating a false sense of “chocolate consciousness”. This is not to say that the chocolates are of poor quality. In fact, they are very likely to be delicious. However, this is to say that whether or not these brands are aware of it, they appear to still fall victim to common stereotypes and marketing strategies, overlooking the complete impact of their products on the way they represent the chocolate supply chain and their actions to consumers.

Works Cited:

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” University of California Press, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22–31., http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22.

Martin, Carla D. “Sizing the Craft Chocolate Market.” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, 31 Aug. 2017, chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/.

McNeil, Peter, and Giorgio Riello. Luxury: a Rich History. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2009.

Going Gourmet: Curating Fine Chocolate in Harvard Square

Image result for cardullo's harvard square

Having opened in 1950 and located in the heart of Harvard Square, Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe is one of the best places to find artisanal and worldly foodstuffs like wine, beer, cheese, meats, and sweets. Perhaps what is most exciting about this store is its extensive selection of fine chocolates, both local and imported, that are difficult to find anywhere else. Many of these sweets hail from places often considered by Americans as the birthplace of chocolate royalty- France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy- and as such, are willing to pay the store’s often steeper prices. The popularity of places like Cardullo’s, which feature carefully curated products from both Europe and all over the world, is not necessarily unique though in today’s era. In what has been called the gentrification of taste, distinctive regional culinary styles and local foodstuffs are being rediscovered and marketed by chefs, restaurateurs, and retailers (Bestor 1992). This appropriation and aesthetic presentation of regionally produced foodstuffs appeals to sophisticated urbanites who desire food with both cultural authenticity and esoteric cachet (Terrrio 2000). Harvard Square is a broader microcosm of such a phenomenon, with Cardullo’s in particular serving as an excellent example of this regional aesthetic, and organizes its chocolate section largely by the country or area it is imported from.

Chocolate Selection:

Image result for cardullos chocolate selection


Unlike many of the chocolates we analyzed in class, most of the Belgian selection in Cardullo’s doesn’t make any sort of activist claims for fairtrade or organic materials on its packaging. In fact, the Belgian selection is remarkably sleek- from gold lettering on a Neuhaus truffle to Dolfin’s signature crown stamp to Godiva’s literal silk ribbon packaging, the Belgian grouping screams luxury, and for good reason. The marketing strategy for these sweets is simply to promote the idea that their chocolate is lush, elegant, and second to none. People will buy these chocolates not because they stand for a good cause or because they in any way give back, but because they are the best in the world. When people think of Belgium, they think of beer, waffles, fries, and chocolate, and companies like Godiva and Neuhaus know it. They can afford to keep their packaging as simple and elegant as possible because they know that everything they need to convey has already been said by reputation alone. A great deal of the power of luxury goods is based on their reputations, which is built by both high quality craftsmanship and skillful image-building (McNeil and Riello 2016). Neuhaus in particular wields quite a bit of this power, as its founder Jean Neuhaus was the inventor of the praline, a chocolate shell with a soft center, which launched the Belgian chocolate industry onto the forefront of the worldstage. Even the websites of these chocolate giants communicate the elevated status of their products over lesser brands like Hershey or Cadbury bthrough the use of muted color schemes, an emphasis on craftsmanship and authenticity, and a long history of artisanal tradition. Cardullo’s is right to place this bunch front and center near the store entrance, as this selection is emblematic of the store’s raison d’être as a curator of gourmet goods from specialized markets.


Located just underneath the store’s fine Belgian selection, are some of the more well known French brands: Chocolat Bonnat and Valrhona. Similarly to their Blegian counterparts, these chocolates also communicate an unspoken status of luxury. In an era of global markets and instantaneous linkages, foodstuffs and cuisine circulate globally, and the national pallets they represent are shaped by transnational culture and taste. The search for differentiation and authenticity in the consumption of chocolate, is reflected in the growing international demand for gourmet cuisine, an area in which the French occupy a notable hegemony (Terrio 2000). Perhaps most notable about these bars though,aside from actual flavor or quality of content, is the price. The “cheapest” amongst the Chocolat Bonnat grouping is still a whopping $10.99 for a mere 3.5 ounces, while at the other end of the spectrum it costs $19.99 for the same serving. The cost of these bars is so high it’s almost impossible for the average consumer to justify, and indeed I usually try avoiding that section altogether when making my rounds so I’m not tempted. However, the taste of these bars is almost good enough to justify the extravagant pricing (I say almost simply because it is difficult to imagine any bar justifying $20), and the small size actually allows the shopper to not have to compound any feelings of guilt from their ruining their diet with that from emptying their wallet. The expensive price of these bars is not entirely novel though, as many chocolatiers  have begun increasing their prices in response to the willingness of consumers to buy them. The rising levels of per capita income, greater disposable income, and new structures of consumption have produced a broader largely urban middle class of consumers whose financial means allow them to adopt a reflexive attitude toward the consumption of goods in general and foods in particular (Zurkin 1991). The Chocolat Bonnat bars are also unique from the Belgians in terms of packaging. While they still stick with the muted color schemes and fancy script, these bars clearly communicate the percent of cocoa in the dark chocolate as well as the cocoa’s origin- from Madagascar to the Ivory Coast.

Image result for chocolate bonnat selection

Similarly the Valrhona bars are also sold at a hefty price- $9.99 for a mere 2.46 oz. And while the packaging on the Chocolat Bonnat bars are reminiscent of a history of French culinary tradition (old script, faded gothic castle), the packaging on the Valrhona bars is much more modern in its use of two tone block coloring and limited wording. The Valrhona bars also communicate the percentage of cocoa content in each type as well as some brief language describing the flavor profile (e.g. “Powerful and Tannic”) and origin (single versus blended). In terms of overall impression, these bars are much more akin to those you would find from American craft chocolate makers rather than many of the other European brands Cardullo’s tends to stock.

Misc.: Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria

Continuing down the aisle, one can also find a miscellaneous assortment of other European goodies such as Venchi chocolates from Italy (featuring their signature hazelnut and cocoa flavor combinations), Ritter Sport Bars from Germany (with their distinct colorfully square and playful packaging), Mirabell’s Mozartkugel from Austria (boxed in the classically kitsch violin shape), and unmistakable Toblerone bars from Switzerland. Even the Dutch cocoa powder from Droste, with its old fashioned lettering and portrait of a nun in classic garb, can be found in Cardullo’s impressive and expansive stock of gourmet imports. While these countries certainly have their own long and delicious traditions of chocolate making with a multitude of options to choose from, Cardullo’s has instead chosen to highlight just a few selections from each. While this decision is likely due to the physical limitations of the store itself, it is still representative of the way Americans (their primary customers) view and appreciate foreign chocolate.

As briefly mentioned earlier, countries like Belgium and France are known the world over as masters of the chocolate arts, while probably less people in the Boston-area are familiar with the goodness of these other brands. This reputation of Belgian and French chocolate makes it an easy choice for the staff at Cardullo’s to stock up on and curate a larger selection of. In pursuing their mission of providing a number of fine delicacies, Cardullo’s has to evaluate the needs of their target customers and balance them with the nearly endless assortment of gourmet options in the European market.

North America

On section that does contain quite a large assortment is that from American craft chocolatiers. Nestled amongst all the imported sweets are more local luxuries from places Taza, Goodnow Farms, and Lake Champlain. Other, lesser known companies like Antidote, Askinosie, and Raaka Chocolate can also be found, as well as some Canadian choices such as Jelina or Galerie au Chocolat. The latter chocolate is worth mentioning in more detail simply because its packaging boldly claims, “the finest Belgian chocolate”, despite the fact their company headquarters is located in Quebec, and strict rules in Belgium state that any chocolates labelled as Belgian must be produced within the country. Nevertheless, this positive, though misleading, association with Belgium and its status within the world of fine chocolate leads consumers into incorporating this bar within the ranks of chocolate royalty such as those from Neuhaus or Godiva.

The North American bars are also different from their European counterparts in terms of their packaging. Most of these bars proudly displays stamps of approval from do-gooder organizations like USDA Organic, FairTrade, or the Rainforest Alliance in ways vaguely reminiscent of how a girl scout would display her hard earned patches of fire-starting and orienteering on her sash. Because American companies are unable to compete with the long history and reputations of Europeans companies, they need to place marketing emphasis elsewhere. For many craft chocolate makers, this emphasis is on health, social responsibility, and environmental activism- areas that in recent years has been at the centre of attention is their responsibility towards the environment, and the respect shown in the use of natural resources and towards human beings (McNeil and Riello 2016). This sense of ‘social responsibility’ relates both to the products that they sell and their role as companies in terms of wider society and overall impact. Through the inclusion of these seals on a chocolate bar’s packaging, there exists a contract of trust between company and consumer that promises a certain level of ethical production, sustainability, and environmental consciousness. This do-gooder contract often also demands a higher price for the product it represents, and so long as this trust isn’t breached, that price is willingly paid.


At the end of their main chocolate aisle, Cardullo’s also features an impressive stock of Cadbury chocolates as well as a number of other British candies. Though not necessarily “gourmet” these sweets are certainly novel to the average American chocolate connoisseur and allow them to break away from their usual Hershey habits. Cadbury classics such as Flake, Brunch Bar, Twirl, Snack, and many others decorate multiple shelves adjacent to to the wine and beer section at Cardullo’s, suggesting that here too, can be a one-stop kind of shop. Unlike the other European candies and sweets kept in stock here, the Cadbury collection is reasonably priced. In balancing that cheaper price though, is the knowledge that this chocolate is of much lower quality than that of the bars staged directly to the left. Much of the products in this section contain significantly less cocoa than most of the other chocolates sold in the store, and significantly more sugar, milk, and other additives like caramel or nuts. Purchasing amongst these chocolates is intentionally not done for the luxury or decadence of the item, but for the novelty and maybe even nostalgia of younger days and less sophisticated palates.

What was once thought of as simply, undifferentiated commodities are today perceived as luxuries (McNeil and Reillo 2016). For a long time chocolate was an undifferentiated commodity that was a part of consuming habits of the entire North American population. Today, it is both a commodity and a luxury, and the resulting segmentation of the market has allowed for niche chocolate to find its customers. In carefully curating such and expansive and thorough selection of chocolates and fine foodstuffs, Cardullo’s has set a high bar in Harvard Square when it comes to making gourmet and luxury items accessible. In breaking away from the usual chocolate fare- Hershey’s, Mars, and even now Lindt and Ferrero- the shop also provides a platform for local and less-known chocolatiers to access a broader market. Although many of its selection sacrifices some of this accessibility from lower-income customers (due to inevitably higher pricing of gourmet goods), Cardullo’s instead highlights unique chocolates that are finely crafted, ethically sourced, and environmentally friendly-  treats that are both tasty and socially conscious. And, in conveniently placing these delectable sweets next to arguably the best wine and beer selection in the square, this shop proves that it is truly a one stop destination for enjoying all of the finer things in life.


  1. Bestor, Theodore. “The raw, the cooked, and the industrial: commoditization and food culture in a Japanese commodities market.” Department of Anthropology, New York University. 1992.
  2. Cardullo’s. “Our History.” Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, cardullos.com/pages/about-us.
  3. McNeil, Peter and Riello, Giorgio. Luxury: A Rich History. “Everything that Money Can Buy?”. Oxford University Press.2016. p. 267.
  4. McNeil, Peter and Riello, Giorgio. Luxury: A Rich History. “Luxury Capitalism: The Magic World of Luxury Brands”. Oxford University Press.2016. p. 261.
  5. Mollet, Olivia. “Chocolate Country.” The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2006, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/fodors/top/features/travel/destinations/europe/belgium/brussels/fdrs_feat_35_10.html.
  6. Savage, Maddy. “Is Belgium Still the Capital of Chocolate?” BBC News, 31 Dec. 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20810103.
  7. Terrio, Susan J., Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. p. 56.
  8. Zukin, Sharon.1991. Landscapes of power: from Detroit to Disney World. Berkeley: University of California Press.

The Consumption of Black Bodies as Chocolate

My 2ndgrade classroom has a diverse group of children with a range of ethnicities and complexions. On Valentines Day, our teacher brought us different kinds of candies and deserts to celebrate the occasion. As we ate, admired, and traded our treats together, a dialog with heavy historical, political, and racial ties quickly developed.

“Your skin looks like this chocolate!” one white student said to a black student. “Are black people made of chocolate?” he asked. The child’s tone of voice had a kind of playfulness and naiveté that is typical of young children, and so the question did not feel like a racial attack at the time, but I distinctly remember leaving class that day with the question, “What am made of?”

As a person of mixed heritage with both white and black family lineage, I have always occupied a unique space in the conception and conversation of race in America. The question of, “What am I made of” extends far beyond the scope of a child’s comments about chocolate, for it is rooted in the larger question of the nature of identity for people with a multiracial composition. My skin is pretty light, and so it would not appear that I am made of chocolate, but I still identify as a black person in every way. 

Comments such as the ones made by my 2ndgrade classmate are actually quite common in our society. Black women with dark complexions are often referred to as “dark chocolate” in a sexualized and racialized way. Chocolate and vanilla have become well-established cultural metaphors for whiteness and blackness. And in the scope of racism and prejudice that black people experience, these comments can often appear trivial or even meant to be complements. But are these comments and associations merely benign connections between the color of chocolate or vanilla with various skin tones, or is this another product of white supremacy and other historical factors? In order to answer this question, we must take a look into the history of chocolate manufacturing and consumption as it relates to blackness.

A bitter-sweet history

When we look at the history of chocolate production, we are looking at a history of African slave labor. Between 10 and 15 millions slaves were stolen from Africa and brought to work in various farms and plantations that manufactured cacao, cotton, and sugar in the Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas. In addition to the alarming number of slaves that were forced into labor, 40 out of every 100 slaves dies in the process of being transported across the Atlantic. The African people were considered property under the system of chattel slavery, and the conditions were so severe that the life expectancy for a slave in the Caribbean and Brazil was only about 7 to 8 years. (Martin, 2019)This statistic shows the horrific nature of the violence that was involved in chocolate production. The system known as Encomienda allowed Spanish colonists in America to force indigenous people in to permanent servitude. It is important to understand that racism against these African slaves emerged and grew out of a desire to continue to justify the extremely profitable system of slavery. Even after the abolitionist movements that eventually banned legal slave labor, indentured servitude and other forms of slavery still persisted.  (Martin, 2019) Here we see the dehumanization of black people and the link between the ownership of black bodies and the products that their labor creates. If people began to feel that slavery was in fact the exploitation of human bodies and lives for profit, it would become more problematic to continue this practice. So the dehumanization of black people emerged from an incentive to maximize product, rather than some innate quality of black people. Just like we cannot accurately consider the history of this country without looking at slave labor, we cannot consider the social, political, or economic history of chocolate without acknowledging the gruesome history of violence and exploitation that made chocolate manufacturing so profitable. (Orla 2011)

Image of “Middle Passage” slave ship (http://mrwatkinsclass.com/mini-lesson-mercantilism-middle-passsage/)

Dehumanization of black bodies in modern advertisements and pop-culture

But this connection between the ownership of black bodies and the production of chocolate has been preserved and enhanced by the original and modern systems of chocolate consumption and advertisement. While in many ways the history of slavery as it relates to chocolate have been hidden and erased, in other alarming ways this history has shaped the consumption of chocolate in very tangible ways. This can be seen very clearly in the product design and advertisements of several different chocolate products. Here are some examples:

Advertisements from the French company “Banania”

The French company Banania used a common racial caricature of a primitive, smiling black face in its advertisements. These ads perpetrate the notion that black people are simple, and it removes any notions of coercive labor or violence by including the well-known wide smile. Another non-so-subtle implication of these advertisements is the association between black people and primitive beings such as monkeys, through the use of bananas and the way in which black people are drawn, which has been a long-standing racist notion.

Image of a product sold by the Spanish company “Conguitos”

The Spanish company Conguitos sells a product that explicitly resembles the black body, which further reinforces the association between the consumption of blackness and the consumption of chocolate. The name “Conguitos” roughly translates to “little person from the Congo”. Here, the black person is also diminished into a childlike, primitive being that is designed for consumption, as emphasized by the tribal spear, lack of detail, simple facial expression, emphasized lips, and wide eyes. All of these factors contribute to the dehumanization of black people through this product. 

Image of Belgium’s famous chocolate hands/ Congolese children who’s hands were cut off

Perhaps the most disturbing example of the connection between chocolate and the consumption of black bodies is the case of Belgium’s chocolate hands. These chocolate hands are considered a delicacy in Belgium, but they have a truly horrifying origin. When the Belgian King Leopold II occupied the Congo, it was common practice to cut off and collect the right hands of Congolese slaves. The hands became a symbol of allegiance to the throne and even a form of currency. The chocolate hands symbolize and glorify this history, while reinforcing the notion that black bodies are meant for consumption. (Martin 2019) When gruesome practices such as collecting Congolese hands are normalized and removed from their violent origins, the violence and racism is maintained while the awareness of the true history is diminished.


Another example from popular culture of the ways in which the history of slavery is still preserved in chocolate culture is the original depiction of the Oompa Loompas in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.It turns out that in the original version of the story, the Oompa Loompas, Willy Wonka’s labor force, were described as dark skinned, childlike ‘pygmies’ that Willy Wonka found in the African jungle to bring back to his factory. (Robertson 2010) Not only are the Oompa Loompas radicalized in a manner that glorifies the history of slave labor in chocolate production, but they are made to be unthreatening and primitive beings who work without conscious and sing songs. I find this knowledge about the Oompa Loompas origins very disturbing for several reasons. It dehumanizes black people and glorifies slavery in a way that erases the aspects of violence and cruelty of slavery, transforming the suffering of millions into some sort of comic relief for the story. It also displays how acceptable and common the concept of having slave labor was that Roald Dahl thought to include it in a children’s story. But perhaps why I find this particular example of the connection between chocolate and slavery so relevant to my narrative is because within the original dialog of the story, the protagonist Charlie Bucket actually asks if the Oompa Loompas are made of chocolate because as he describes, “Their skin is almost black!” (Robertson 2010) This reminds me of the same question that my 2ndgrade classmate asked, and the ways in which the legacy of slavery that was glorified in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory still persists today. Even though the blackness of the Oompa Loompas has since been written out of the story, the knowledge of the original story provides us with important insight on the connection between black bodies and chocolate.

What these examples and the horrific nature of the history of slavery for chocolate production show is that there has been a long-standing monetary interest in the ownership and consumption of black bodies. The profit of slave labor and the products that come as its result has incentivized the large-scale dehumanization of black people and has lead to the fetishization and fantasy of black bodies as representing the products that they create, rather than the reality of their existence, pain, or humanity. In a sense, the black body has been so ‘delicious’ for whiteness to consume that it has become a deeply embedded aspect of our culture, because its consumption has been associated with the sweetness of sugar and chocolate and not the bitter truth of slave labor. While the origins of this slave system have been hidden and pushed out of the public conscious, these dangerous notions about ownership of the black body extend to our culture today, and this is seen in more than just chocolate consumption. Look at the tendency for white people to touch black women’s hair without permission, the constant appropriation of black ideas, features, and culture, and the hyper-policing, monitoring, and brutalization of black youth by police. These are all current manifestations of the notion that black bodies are meant to be owned, controlled, exploited, and consumed, just like the association between chocolate and blackness. These are features of a system of white supremacy that distorts or erases the evidence of past atrocities while preserving the dehumanization that arose from it. (Lowell 2005)

Who is made of what?

So in the context of chocolate’s long history of exploiting black people, and the racism that emerged as a means of preserving these systems through dehumanization, the seemingly innocent question of “Are black people made of chocolate” appears to be rooted in decades of racism, slavery, and ignorance. This is not to say that my classmate (or Charlie Bucket) asked the question with malicious intent, but rather that he was conditioned at such a young age to associate black people with the product of their labor. In fact, this question also can serve as evidence of this history, considering that people with light complexions are not asked if they are made of wheat, wood, or another substance with similar tone, even by children. After studying this history, I now feel that I have an answer for my classmate. Black people are not made of chocolate, but chocolate is made of black people, in the sense that it has been historically created through their oppression and forced labor. And as for my questions of what am made of, I have come to realize that I am both a product and consumer, in the sense that my ancestors were both consumed to make chocolate and consumers of chocolate itself. I feel that this identity allows me to look at my own internalized biases that stem from slavery and understand the ways in which I have both suffered and benefitted from these systems. This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy chocolate anymore because of its violent history, just like it doesn’t mean we can’t still feel pride for a country with a violent foundation. Instead, it should serve as a reminded for us to critically analyze our conceptions of race and recommit ourselves to understanding the true history of our world, regardless of how unpleasant it might be. 


Scholarly Resources:

1. Sampeck, Kathryn, and Jonathan Thayn. 2017. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.”

2. Martin, Carla. “20190403 Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Emerson Lecture Hall, Cambridge, MA

3.Martin, Carla. “20190306 Slavery, abolition, and forced labor ” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Emerson Lecture Hall, Cambridge, MA

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

5.Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. pp. 

6. Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History

7. Ryan, Orla. 2011. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa

Multimedia links:

  1. http://mrwatkinsclass.com/mini-lesson-mercantilism-middle-passsage/
  2. http://vintagenewsdaily.com/controversial-advertisements-by-banania-the-brand-emphasized-the-racist-stereotype-of-dumb-black-people-for-years/
  3. https://www.reddit.com/r/AccidentalRacism/comments/80s26o/this_typical_spanish_candy_conguito_little_man/
  4. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.africanexponent.com/amp/post/9695-black-hands-whether-real-or-made-of-candy-are-belgian-delicacies
  5. https://literatipulp.com/2016/07/04/disturbing-history-of-oompa-loompas/