Tag Archives: Advertising

Chocolate Advertisements and Children


“When we get to the store, do not ask for anything.”

As a young girl, this is what my mother would tell me in a very stern and matter of fact voice before we would go food shopping. She would hear me in the living room back at home watching the commercials on the television excitedly saying “I want that! I want that!” about every product advertised. She knew my nagging would continue in the store if she did not put a stop to it. Twenty years later and my mother is doling out the same warning to my five year old brother – except now, the product advertising does not just stop when the commercials end and the television program resumes. Today, my brother and millions of other children are bombarded with images of food products nearly everywhere they go.

From “television advertising, in-school marketing, product placements, kids clubs, the Internet, toys and products with brand logos, and youth-targeted promotions, such as cross-selling and tie-ins,” (Story & French, 2012, p.1) food and beverage companies spend an estimated $10 to $15 billion marketing to children (Eggerton, 2007). In just the first six months of 2014, Hershey’s had already spent $149.5 million on television ad placements and Reese’s had spent $86.2 million (Tadena, 2014). This marketing is not done in vain as children yield considerable consumer power not only as spenders but also as influencers and future adult buyers. This is what James McNeal (1999) describes as a three in one market. It is estimated that children spend $25 billion to $40 billion annually (Story & French; Martin, 2018) and influence up to $500 billion in purchases made by families (Martin). Additionally, as children get older they will have more disposable income as well as greater autonomy on their purchasing decisions.

Martin Marketing to Children

(Martin, Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements, 2018)

Television advertising is the primary way food and beverage companies market their products. According to the Nielsen Co. children between the ages of 2 to 5 years old watch an estimated 32 hours a week of television and children ages 6 to 8 spend 28 hours per week in front of the TV (McDonough, 2009). With all this television watching children are barraged with commercials. Holt, Ippolito, Desrochers, and Kelley (2007) found that children in 2004 were exposed to over 25,000 commercials and over half of the advertisements were promoting a food product. In a study done on food advertisements seen by children researchers found that, “children’s networks had the highest percentage of food-related commercials,” (Bell, Cassady, Culp, & Alcalay, 2009) and the majority of these commercials were for unhealthy foods. Compared to other networks, the children’s programming featured 76% more food commercials – more specifically, “7.7 food commercials per hour appeared in programming on the children’s networks, which is approximately 1 food commercial every 8 minutes,” (Bell et al., 2009). This astounding frequency makes children extremely vulnerable to the marketing ploys used by the food companies.

One way in which people have tried to combat the over saturation of unhealthy food advertisements targeted to children is with the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Established in 2007, the CFBAI is a self-regulation program that encourages its participants to advertise more nutritious food and healthier lifestyles to children under the age of 12 (CFBAI and CARU Fact Sheet, 2012). Companies who have signed up to be in this initiative are The Hershey Company, Mars. Inc., Nestle Global, and Ferrero USA Inc. (CFBAI Participating Companies, 2018). From participating in this program these companies have promised to not promote their candy directly to children. However, in a study examining how much candy advertising was being seen by children researchers discovered children viewed 485 candy advertisements in 2011, a 74% increase from the number of advertisements viewed in 2008. The researchers found that 65% of the advertisements in 2011, “were for brands that CFBAI companies pledged they would not include in child-directed advertising,” (Harris, LoDolce, Dembek, & Schwartz, 2015, p.589). Mars, Hershey, and Nestle were some of the CFBAI companies that had a 152% increase in ads from 2008 to 2011. Despite these companies’ promises to self-regulate their advertisements, children are still being overexposed to unhealthy food commercials.

The United States is not the only country dealing with unhealthy advertisements marketed toward children. A content analysis of 229 Iranian food commercials shown during children’s programming mostly featured unhealthy food such as chocolate, ice cream, and cookies (Amini, Omidvar, Yeatman, Shariat-Jafari, Eslami-Amirabadi, & Zahedirad, 2014). Researchers in Melbourne, Australia found a positive correlation between the amount of TV commercials a child watches and their preference for junk food as well as the amount of junk food they eat (Dixon, Scully, Wakefield, White, Crawford, 2007). In India, Rathod and Parmar (2012) looked at the influence of Indian advertisements targeted to children. The children were very familiar with chocolate advertisements and stated that Cadbury and Five Stars were their favorite chocolate brands. The researchers stated that children often asked their parents to buy confectionary products for them after viewing the products’ commercial. Mexico banned the broadcasting of commercials featuring chocolate, soda, and candy during children’s movies in theaters as well as during children’s television shows in 2014. It was estimated that over 10,000 commercials would be affected by the new rule. However, a week after this regulation went into effect Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risk claimed ads for Hershey’s, Nesquik, and Nestle were not compliant (Pekic, 2014). Some of the ads that the authorities singled out for not following the regulation were promoting chocolate foods – “chocolate-flavored Nesquik Duo cereals…Hershey’s chocolate flavored milk and Holanda chocolate-topped vanilla ice cream products,” (Pekic, 2014).

Emotional appeal is a widely used tactic in advertising to children. In their marketing, companies associate their products with positive emotions that are desirable to children. Page and Brewster (2007) examined product appeals in food advertisements for children in the United States and found that the most popular appeals used by companies were fun/happiness, fantasy/imagination, social enhancement/peer acceptance, and coolness/hipness. In Belgium, 46.3% of the children involved in De Pelsmaker, Schouteten, and Gellynck’s study (2013) associated Cécémel, a popular chocolate milk brand, with happiness, “cozy, desire, enjoyment and pleasure,” (p. 283).

Emotional appeal is seen throughout Hersheypark where, since 1907, Hershey Co. has welcomed families from all over the world to forge memories and experience fun in a way that goes beyond simply eating their chocolate bars. From its roller coasters, zoo, and official hotels Hersheypark is associated with adventure, family, excitement, and happiness. I remember going to Hersheypark as a young girl and staying in one of their hotels. The wallpaper was designed with illustrations of tiny chocolate bars and chocolate was available everywhere. I thought it was the coolest thing and still to this day when I think about Hersheypark I am reminded of the fun I had there with my family.

Another tactic in which companies attract children to their products is through their use of brand mascots. Mascots and cartoon characters are an easy way for children to identify products. Companies create brand mascots in the hopes of developing an emotional relationship with the young child consumer who is, “cognitively immature and vulnerable to targeted marketing because of their limited ability to differentiate between facts and persuasive marketing communications,” (Kraak & Story, 2014, p.108). Harkening back to McNeil’s three in one description of child consumers these mascots are also used to create brand loyalty with the child who will eventually grow into an adult consumer. Oftentimes, the mascots are depicted in fun and happy situations and are associated with a catchy phrase (Kraak & Story, 2014) which can help foster, “market nostalgia through transgenerational, parent-child interactions that generate…fun emotional appeals…towards company brands and products,” (Kraak & Story, 2014, p.110). The relationships that the children form with the mascots have great influence on their dietary choices. Kraak and Story examined the influence of brand mascots on children’s diet and found that children preferred their food to have a character associated with it than no character. The researchers also found that when unhealthy food and fruits or vegetables were branded with the same familiar character, the children favored the unhealthy snacks. Furthermore, children were more likely to request chocolate over fruit if there was a familiar media character associated with it.

Sonny the Cuckoo Bird was introduced in 1962 to promote General Mills’ cereal Cocoa Puffs. In the 56 years Sonny has been on television, he simply cannot resist the cereal made with “real Hershey’s cocoa”. Try as he might to keep his mind off the cereal he is always pulled back in and by the end of the commercials has gone manic off of the Puffs’ delicious chocolatey flavor. In one commercial, Sonny even goes so far as to lock his box of Cocoa Puffs in a safe but the cereal manages to find him everywhere he goes – the chocolate deliciousness is inescapable. Sonny’s love for the cereal is contagious. In many of the commercials, he is surrounded by children who are just as crazy about Cocoa Puffs as he is. In some instances the children do not think Cocoa Puffs are as good as Sonny claims they are until they get a taste of it for themselves.

In the Cocoa Puffs commercials, chocolate is depicted as a food so good it will make the person eating it go crazy. One bite of the cereal and Sonny and the Cocoa Puffs children are out of control with happiness. Many of the commercials are animated cartoons and have a very short storyline featuring Sonny either trying to avoid the cereal, persuading children to eat it, or on an adventure to find the cereal. However, when it comes time for the narrator to talk about the cereal it switches from animation to real life images. The viewers shortly leave the cartoon story. There is usually an image of some type of chocolate looking vortex followed by a close up shot of the Cocoa Puffs in a bowl of chocolate milk. The shot is against a backdrop of rich creamy chocolate. The entire scene is meant to depict chocolate.

Like Sonny, the children go crazy over the “chocolatey taste you go cuckoo for”. Sonny’s slogan, “I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!” is repeated many times throughout the commercial by him and the Cocoa Puffs children. Sonny’s energetic demeanor and propensity to be in fun situations make him a likeable character to children consumers. By inserting children cartoon characters into the Cocoa Puffs commercials, the children viewers can relate to them. Furthermore, children are likely to believe the commercial’s claim that Cocoa Puffs are a part of a nutritional and well-balanced breakfast. In nearly every Cocoa Puffs commercial I viewed there was an image of the cereal alongside a glass of milk, a glass of orange juice, and a plate of toast as the narrator states Cocoa Puffs is “the chocolatey part of this good breakfast”.

Sonny the Cuckoo Bird is not the only mascot associated with chocolate breakfast. The Nesquik Bunny was introduced in 1973 and is used in commercials to promote Nesquik’s chocolate milk as well as its cereal. Like Cocoa Puffs, Nesquik cereal is touted as being delicious because of its chocolate flavor and how it turns regular milk into chocolate milk. The Nesquik Bunny also claims that the cereal is, “the chocolatey part of this good breakfast” as the bowl of cereal is shown alongside a glass of milk, a muffin, and an orange. This mascot, too, is energetic and happy – easy for the children viewers to relate to him.

Along with emotional appeal and brand mascots, logo recognition is another way companies capture children’s attention. Logo recognition increases with age and are used to build “product recognition and brand awareness in young children,” (Page & Brewster, 2007, p. 336). I am able to see the effect of brand recognition with my five year old brother. Every morning he drinks a glass of chocolate milk made with Hershey’s chocolate syrup. My brother is very particular about his chocolate milk and if it is not made the way he enjoys he will not drink it. Despite not being fully comprehensive with reading yet if he notices that the chocolate syrup does not have the Hershey’s logo on it he automatically does not like the chocolate milk.

Children are vulnerable to the marketing tactics used by food and beverage companies. These companies have developed a number of ways to appeal to the innocent minds of children and these ways are working. By marketing their products as child-friendly, children and parents are more likely to fall for the companies’ traps. In this already overly media-saturated environment children are living in, people need to be made aware of the ways food companies bombard children. The over-saturation likely will not stop but if people are aware of companies’ tactics, hopefully, their effects will have less of an impact.



Amini, M., Omidvar, N., Yeatman, H., Shariat-Jafari, S., Eslami-Amirabadi, M., & Zahedirad, M. (2014). Content analysis of food advertising in Iranian children’s television programs. International journal of preventive medicine, 5(10), 1337.

Bell, R. A., Cassady, D., Culp, J., & Alcalay, R. (2009). Frequency and types of foods advertised on Saturday morning and weekday afternoon English-and Spanish-language American television programs. Journal of nutrition education and behavior41(6), 406-413.

CFBAI and CARU Fact Sheet. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.bbb.org/storage/16/documents/cfbai/CFBAI%20and%20CARU%20Fact%20Sheet%20August%202012.pdf.

CFBAI Participating Companies. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.bbbprograms.org/programs/CFBAI/cfbai-participants/

De Pelsmaeker, S., Schouteten, J., & Gellynck, X. (2013). The consumption of flavored milk among a children population. The influence of beliefs and the association of brands with emotions. Appetite, 71, 279-286.

Dixon, H. G., Scully, M. L., Wakefield, M. A., White, V. M., & Crawford, D. A. (2007). The effects of television advertisements for junk food versus nutritious food on children’s food attitudes and preferences. Social science & medicine, 65(7), 1311-1323.

Eagle, B., & Ambler, T. (2002). The influence of advertising on the demand for chocolate confectionery. International Journal of Advertising, 21(4), 437-454.

Eggerton, J. (2007). Food-Marketing Debate Heats Up. Retrieved from http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/food-marketing-debate-heats-82753.

Harris, J. L., LoDolce, M., Dembek, C., & Schwartz, M. B. (2015). Sweet promises: Candy advertising to children and implications for industry self-regulation. Appetite, 95, 585-592.

Kraak, V. I., & Story, M. (2015). Influence of food companies’ brand mascots and entertainment companies’ cartoon media characters on children’s diet and health: a systematic review and research needs. obesity reviews, 16(2), 107-126.

Martin, C. (2018). Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.

McDonough, P. (2009). TV Viewing Among Kids At An Eight-Year High. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2009/tv-viewing-among-kids-at-an-eight-year-high.html.

McNeal, J. U. (1999). The kids market: Myths and realities. Paramount Market Publishing.

Page, R. M., & Brewster, A. (2007). Emotional and rational product appeals in televised food advertisements for children: analysis of commercials shown on US broadcast networks. Journal of Child Health Care, 11(4), 323-340.

Pekic, V. (2014). Children see, children do: Will Mexican kids slim down by watching less candy ads? Retrived from http://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2014/07/28/Mexico-restricts-confectionery-and-chocolate-advertising-to-children.

Rathod, D. R. M., & Parmar, B. J. (2012). Impact of Television Advertisements on Children: An Empirical Study with Reference to Chocolate Brands. Pacific Business Review International, 5(5), 85-94.

Story, M., & French, S. (2004). Food advertising and marketing directed at children and adolescents in the US. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 1(1), 3.

Tadena, N. (2014). Hershey’s and Reese’s are the Sweetest TV Spenders in the Candy Sector. Retrieved from http://www.blogs.wsj.com/cmo/2014/07/24/hersheys-and-reeses-are-the-sweetest-tv-spenders-in-the-candy-sector/.

United States. Federal Trade Commission. Bureau of Economics, Holt, D. J., Ippolito, P. M., Desrochers, D. M., & Kelley, C. R. (2007). Children’s Exposure to TV Advertising in 1977 and 2004: Information for the Obesity Debate. US FTC.












A Survey Investigating Gendered Advertising in Chocolate

Introduction and Historical Context

Chocolate has long been associated with gender and sex; in particular, narratives and advertisements regarding chocolate have sexualized women. Records dating back to the Guatemalan Inquisition of the sixteenth century note that that women were accused of using chocolate to bewitch men into sexual submission (Grivetti and Shapiro 5999). This narrative makes it is clear that chocolate had sexual associations with women and that chocolate was a tool for women to control men. As chocolate entered the European market, witchcraft-related connections between women and chocolate faded, and luxurious self-indulgence and irresistibility toward chocolate began to take shape. Van Houten’s defatting process – an 1828 invention – brought on the development of bonbons, which were quickly associated with sexuality (Grivetti and Shapiro 6077). Popular women’s magazines of the nineteenth century were behind this association, using media to sexualize the sweet morsels. In fact, James Wadsworth claimed that chocolate would make women “… long for you know what, [i]f they but taste chocolate” (Wadsworth 137). This admittedly grotesque assertion stems from the idea that women have a higher temptation for luxurious things and self-indulgence, which in turn increased media-driven sexual desire for bonbons (Grivetti and Shapiro 6097).

Female cookbook writers also contributed to the sexualization of chocolate in the nineteenth century. Writers associated chocolate with decadence, sin, and femininity. Interestingly, the idea of chocolate as a ‘sinful pleasure’ has maintained relevance to the present-day (Grivetti and Shapiro 6057). During the mid-1800s, boxes of chocolate were designed to appeal to women. Designers added lacey frills, suggestive pictures, and romantic imagery (Grivetti and Shapiro 6058). Eventually, advertisers turned to more evocative forms of marketing. For example, some French chocolate companies resorted to overt sexuality, e.g. depictions of women in lingerie and high heels, to advertise chocolate. Overt sexuality in chocolate advertising dissipated during the first half of the twentieth century, only to make a reappearance after the Second World War (Robertson 10).

Early twentieth century advertisements took a different, more wholesome approach to target female consumers. Rowntree advertisements dating back to the 1930s focused on mothers as the target consumer-base; Rowntree’s ‘Special Mothers Campaign’ initiated this push (Robertson 20).

Image 1: Rowntree’s 1930s advertisement that focuses on family strength (source: http://www.advertisementsindia.com/2011/05/rowntrees-cocoa/)

Marketers honed in on this demographic, because families with children were the chief buying agents of chocolate. Women typically brought food into the home (Robertson 21). Chocolate companies continued to paint the loveable housewife as their primary target consumers through the 1950s – healthy, happy children and satisfied husbands often accompanying them. The roles of women in chocolate ads began to expand post-wartime. Women entered the workplace in chocolate ads, and they became more explicitly sexualized during the 1940s. Rowntree’s Judy, for example, wore skimpy outfits and delivered more seductive glares (Robertson 31).

Image 2: Rowntree’s Judy sporting hot pants and tight-fitting shirt (source: https://easyontheeye2.wordpress.com/packaging/judy-says-happy-easter/)

From that point on, chocolate advertisers focused on heterosexual love as a purchasing point for chocolate. Later, in the 1950s, women in advertisements became obsessed with chocolate (Martin). One of the most salient traditions in female chocolate advertisement is the woman being seduced by chocolate (Martin). It appears that advertisers began to diverge from the idea that female purchasers had the power, and instead that men wishing to court these irrational women ought to lure them in with irresistible chocolate. This vision of women as tempted by the powers of chocolate has permeated the chocolate ad space, culminating with hyper-sexualized images of women and chocolate of the last decade. 

Godiva image 3
Image 3: Sensual Godiva ad featuring young woman with chocolate on breast, 2004 (source: http://files.coloribus.com/files/adsarchive/part_648/6481905)

Fascination and focus on feminine sexuality and chocolate begs one to question the effectiveness on such advertising practices. Are women actually more inclined than men to enjoy chocolate? Are women more likely than men to purchase chocolate? Do the wrappers around chocolates truly make or break the purchase decision for women more than men? In order to explore these questions, I conducted a survey with 34 participants (21 women and 13 men) to find gender differences in the consumption of chocolate. Additionally, I explored the efficacy of chocolate advertising via wrappers to observe if they sway participants’ opinions of the chocolates.


Members of the Harvard community were recruited to conduct the study. The population of Quincy House was invited, as were the Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving Team, members of Eleganza Show, Expressions Dance Company, and the Fly Club (For Gentlemen). I attempted to make the survey known to as many groups that I am involved in to get as close to a random sample as possible. Once those interested returned inquiries with availability, I put equal numbers of men and women in time slots. Naturally, Harvard students did not follow these time slots, so the ratio of men and women was skewed, as was the number of participants in each iteration (the first iteration – discussed in further detail below – had 12 participants (3 men and 9 women), while the second iteration contained 22 participants (10 men and 12 women)).

Both iterations contained the exact same 18 questions. The first 12 questions concerned 6 types of chocolates that each participant sampled. For each chocolate, participants were asked how much they enjoyed the chocolate, and also how likely they would be to buy the chocolate. The latter 6 questions asked:

  • How much do you generally enjoy eating chocolate?
  • How much does price affect your decision to buy a chocolate bar?
  • How much do the ethical practices of a chocolate maker affect your decision to buy a chocolate bar?
  • How much do you associate chocolate with sensuality/romance?
  • How much do you associate chocolate with loss of control?
  • What is your gender?

The first iteration of the survey was a traditional blind taste test; the second iteration, however, allowed participants to see and to inspect the chocolate wrappers. Participants were encouraged to read the wrappers in full. The final question asked for gender identity. This question allowed me to filter results to investigate gender differences in how participants answered questions (although ‘gender non-binary’ and ‘prefer not to disclose’ were options for this question, no participant identified with these answers, thus a pure female-male comparison could be conducted).

Image 4: Participants of Study 2 taste chocolate while inspecting wrappers and completing the survey on their mobile devices (source: David Pfeifer)

Gender-Based Results

Results will be broken down between the answers of men and the answers of women. Because Study 2 had a more balanced ratio of men and women, and because the quantity of participants was more robust (n=22), I used the data from study 2 more reliably. As mentioned before, participants were asked to rate 6 types of chocolate. While eating each one, they answered how willing they would be to buy and how much they enjoyed each chocolate. Specifically looking at those who responded that they are ‘likely’ or ‘extremely likely’ to buy the chocolates, I averaged the responses across each chocolate and between genders. Using the results of Study 2 (wrappers visible), women reported that they are 10% more ‘likely’ to buy chocolate and 10% more ‘extremely likely’ to buy chocolate than men.

Figure 1

While continuing to look within Study 2, women appear to generally enjoy eating chocolate more than men. According to figure 2, women are 27% more likely to ‘enjoy [chocolate] a great deal’ than men. Contrastingly, figure 3 shows that women are not only 7% more likely to ‘not at all’ be effected by price, but women are also 20% less likely to be effected ‘a great deal’ by price. In other words, women seem to care less about price when they are considering purchasing chocolates. Men, therefore, care more, even though they enjoy it less (see fig. 3). Although results regarding sensuality and romance are mixed when looking at men and women, it is clear that women have a 13% higher likelihood of ‘moderately’ associating chocolate with romance, and a 5% higher likelihood of associating chocolate with romance ‘a great deal’ (see fig. 4).

figure 2

Figure 3

figure 4

Control versus Subject-Based Results

Results will be detailed beginning with broad Study 1 versus Study 2 insights  – those independent of gender and purely based on whether participants had access to the wrappers or not. Participants from Study 1 (pure blind taste test) will be referred to as ‘Controls’; Participants in Study 2 (inspected wrappers) will be referred to as ‘Subjects’.

As figure 5 signifies, subjects reported that they ‘enjoy [chocolate] a great deal’ 13% more than controls. Additionally, Subjects reported that they ‘dislike’ chocolate 12% less than Controls. In other words, exposure to the wrappers – complete with Fair Trade insignias, personal stories about ethics, etc. – caused Subjects to enjoy chocolate more and dislike it less than Controls. Figure 6 details how price affects the decision to buy a chocolate bar. As the graphic indicates, 67% of Controls answered that price affects their decision ‘a lot’, whereas 18% of Subjects indicated the same. Additionally, 0% of Controls reported that they are ‘not at all’ affected by price, but 14% of Subjects said they were ‘not at all’ affected. Effectively, those exposed to wrappers were less likely to care about price regarding their decision to buy chocolate. The awareness of the ethics of chocolate manufacturers appear to have marginal impact, if any, on whether participants are more willing to buy a chocolate bar. Figure 7 shows that, although Subjects are slightly more likely to buy a chocolate bar with the knowledge of fair trade, ethical sourcing, etc., Subjects are also slightly more likely to report that they are ‘not at all’ impacted by the ethics of chocolate companies. Results regarding associations between chocolate and romance (see fig. 8) appear to be insignificant. It is worthwhile to point out, however, that 23% of Subjects reported associating chocolate with romance ‘a lot’, while 0% of Controls reported so. Question 15 (“how much do you associate chocolate with loss of control”) on the survey was vague and uninformative. “Loss of control” may mean a host of different things to participants, and the results in figure 9 show that the question was not clear. There are few differences in the answers from either group, which indicates that the question missed the mark on clarity and salience.

figure 5figure 6figure 7figure 8figure 9

Discussion and Limitations

From a historical standpoint, women were the initial targets of chocolate advertising in the Wester World. Eventually, advertisers attempted to target men with the idea of tempting sexy women with irresistible chocolate. The study conducted above sought to investigate how useful these tactics were by attempting to quantify if women actually do enjoy chocolate more and if they are more likely to buy chocolate. Additionally, the study sought to shed some light on the effectiveness of branding chocolate to appear ethical or feminine.

Results show that women do enjoy chocolate more than men; a higher percentage of women ‘enjoy [chocolate] a great deal’. Results also show that price affects men’s decision to buy a chocolate bar more than it does for women. This could indicate that advertisers accurately predicted that men are the current purchasers of chocolate; because they are concerned with buying chocolate not to consume, but to court, they are more aware of the prices of chocolate. My results, when looking at opinions of romance between men and women, were mixed. When looking at results between women across studies, however, results are relatively robust (see fig. 10 below). That is to say that women in Study 1 (blind taste test) associate chocolate and romance markedly less than women in Study 2 (wrappers available). I suspect that, because some wrappers contained very romantic and feminine themes, women associated chocolate and romance more in Study 2, because they had access to such visuals. For example, one chocolate bar, the Chocolove XOXOX Strong, contains a Shakespeare Sonnet. The Divine Chocolate Bar has hearts on the logo and on the packaging in general. This finding demonstrates that marketing chocolate bars with romantic themes causes women to associate chocolate more with romance. The women did not, however, show any more enjoyment for these particularly romantic chocolate bars than any other chocolate.

figure 10


This survey was extremely fun to conduct, and I enjoyed hosting 34 people to eat chocolate, drink rosé (21+ of course!), and help me to find some answers about wrapper advertising and gender differences in chocolate consumption. That being said, this study has some serious setbacks that prevent it from yielding truly objective, statistically significant results. For one, the participants were not random. The very vast majority of participants enjoy chocolate, and chances are there was some selection bias, because only those who enjoyed chocolate offered to do my study. Additionally, the beforementioned balance issues with men and women in Studies 1 and 2 caused study 1 to be extremely unreliable. Only 12 people showed up, and 9 of them were women, so the results were too small to do a proper comparison.

Additionally, I think I could have done more than simply have the wrappers out and encourage participants to read them. Having personalized documents that detail the company’s message and ethics could have yielded more salient results. Explaining ‘loss of control’ more thoroughly would have cleared up confusion regarding question 15. It also could have been useful to ask a question regarding whom the participants buy chocolate for: themselves or for others. Having 5 responses (e.g. hate it; dislike; indifferent; enjoy; love it) made data analysis difficult. I would decrease it to 3 to be able to supply more relevant data analysis.

Chocolate advertisers target certain consumers, because they believe tactics of sexuality and femininity will increase their bottom lines. It appears that targeting women is advantageous, because they do in fact enjoy chocolate better. Whether they buy more chocolate is unknown (according to this study), because they appear to be less likely to buy due to price. Chocolate advertising has changed over the centuries, but women – whether in wholesome housewife stereotypes, or sexualized stereotypes – have remained a focal point throughout.



Sources Cited

Grivetti, Louis E.; Shapiro, Howard-Yana. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage (Kindle Location 5939). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 9: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Aframer 119x. CGIS, Cambridge. 28 March 2018. Lecture.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010.   1-131. Print.

Wadsworth, J. A curious history of the nature and quality of chocolate. Quoted in: Fuller, L. K. Chocolate Fads, Folklore, and Fantasies. New York: Haworth Press, 1994

Cacao-Chocolate Industry and Sugar Addiction

Chocolate is one of the most consumed products in the world. The industry has been extremely successful in marketing chocolate as a healthy product. The industry relies on advertising chocolate as a healthy product. In recent times, researchers have proven that sugar has a negative impact on health. The effect of sugar on health continues to be a controversial topic because the industry has consistently misled the public, creating a perception that its products are healthy. The reality, though, is that a majority of chocolate products have more sugar additives than cacao content.

The global chocolate industry was worth $98.3 billion in 2016. Currently, the U.S. industry is worth $22 billion. The industry has been growing steadily for the last four decades. Chocolate is popular because of its rich, unique and sweet taste. In addition, ever since ancient times, chocolate had been used in a variety of different ways to treat different medical conditions as demonstrated by the image below taken from this class’s lecture.

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Image 1: Historical Medical Uses of Chocolate/Cacao

The perceived health benefits of chocolate products continue to drive the growth of the industry today. The problem though is that these products contain added sugar which plays an important role in making them palatable and tasty. Sugar is also the ingredient that makes chocolate problematic for the long-term health of consumers. The consumption of chocolate is closely associated with the development of conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes because of the sugar in it (Stanhope 52). The industry has spent vast amounts of resources in promoting the healthy aspects of chocolate. Advertising plays an important role in creating consumer awareness but it can also be used to mislead consumers about the nutritional and health value of a product. Deceptive advertising has been used to promote the nutritional value of chocolate and to obscure the negative consequences of sugar additives.

Contemporary State of the Cacao/ Chocolate Industry

Chocolate is one of the most consumed products in the world. The industry is driven by innovation because of intense competition. There are numerous chocolate products and brands that are available for different market segments. In the chocolate market, the quality and richness of a chocolate product is usually defined by the cocoa content. For example, milk chocolate contains 10% cocoa and dark chocolate contains a minimum of around 60% cocoa. With the exception of dark chocolate, any other “chocolate ” product actually contain large amounts of added sugar. Think Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Buttercups, Nutella. All of these aforementioned famous “chocolate” products contain a higher sugar content than cacao content. The pictures below are from the lecture slides found here. They outline the ingredients found in the Hershey’s Kiss and the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. By convention, the first ingredient listed is the most occurring in the substance, and it is no surprise to find that sugar is at the top of the list of ingredients for both chocolate products. What is important to notice as well is that the other ingredients present in these chocolates such as milk is primarily made up of a sugar itself, lactose.

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Image 2: Hershey’s Kiss Ingredients
Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 1.34.03 AM.png
Image 3: Reese’s Cup Ingredients

The perceived health benefits of chocolate products continue to drive sales. The Chocolate Industry has spent vast amounts of resources to promote the healthy aspects of its products. Chocolate is marketed as a healthy product that keeps consumers looking young, lowers blood pressure, and makes people feel good. Marketing campaigns have claimed that chocolate delays the onset of heart disease. Ultimately, dark chocolate is popular because the industry has succeeded in managing consumer perception through effective branding.

The advertising of products plays an important tool for chocolate makers to market their products. It is no longer adequate for chocolate makers to produce high-quality products because there are many strong competitors and many channels of distribution. Besides, chocolate competes with many other confectionaries. As such, advertising is a critical success factor in the industry because it creates consumer awareness and provides information about the benefits and uniqueness of the products.

Manufacturers of chocolate have used branding with considerable success. Branding has been focused on managing the perception of chocolate in the minds of consumers (Emari, Jafari, and Mogaddam 5692). The industry has taken advantage of consumer interest in health and wellness in order to position its products. For decades, chocolate brands have made well-targeted health claims. The industry has also succeeded in making their products ubiquitous. The products are readily available to consumers in drug stores, supermarkets, high-end stores and the internet. There are many products that have chocolate in them and are chocolate flavored.

Manufacturers of chocolate products have developed sophisticated targeting strategies. They have developed a universal demographic by targeting every category with different products. The product is universally appealing and is consumed by people of all ages (Shekhar and Raveendran 306). Psychological segmentation plays a critical role in the positioning of chocolate products. For example, marketers target impulse buyers with well-placed products near the supermarket check-out counter. Looking at the local CVS and you notice the many different chocolate and other confectionary products placed near the check-out counters.

Packages additionally play an important role in the marketing of chocolate products because they have nutritional claims that influence consumer decision-making (Shekhar and Raveendran 303). Apart from nutritional claims, visual cues also play an essential role in shaping consumer choices.

Big Chocolate and Health

Global chocolate production has been on a consistent upward trend from the 16th century. Chocolate is rich in cocoa which contains flavonoids which are important because they lower both cholesterol and blood pressure (Drayer n.p.). Dark chocolate has the highest amount of flavonoids. The presence of flavonoids is the basis for the health claims that are made by chocolate companies (Drayer n.p.). The challenge that chocolate companies face though, is that flavonoids have a bitter taste. Bitter chocolate does not appeal to many and the most used way to make chocolate palatable and more flavorful is to add sugar.

In the 1960s, the sugar industry withheld research findings that revealed the negative health effects of sucrose. The industry’s largest companies worked tirelessly to prevent public awareness about the harmful effects of added sugar that linked excessive sugar consumption to heart disease. Through the Sugar Research Foundation, the industry used funding to divert public attention from the negative consequences of sugar (O’connor n.p.). Scientists, such as Harvard’s Frederick Stare were paid to blame saturated fats for heart disease (O’connor n.p.). In hindsight, the unethical conduct of the industry and researchers prevented an early debate about the links between sugar consumption and heart disease. For decades, the public was unaware that excessive sugar consumption could harm human health.

Excessive consumption of sugar has been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes (Stanhope 52). The consumption of added sugars leads to insulin resistance and hyperuricemia. Also, the metabolism of fructose causes liver lipid accumulation and decreased insulin sensitivity (Stanhope 52). Researchers have also established that fructose consumption leads to reduced energy expenditure and increased energy uptake.

Excessive intake of sugar has also been linked to obesity. People who consume high amounts of sugar are more likely to be overweight or obese (Stanhope 52).   For a long time, the public has been misinformed that sugar has nothing to do with obesity. The popularity of sugar products has contributed to the obesity epidemic. Sugar constitutes a significant portion of the daily diet of most people (Stanhope 52). Obesity is a risk factor for the most severe chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Furthermore, sugar consumption is a risk factor for metabolic disease. Indeed, excessive consumption of fructose leads to the deregulation of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.

Sugar Addiction

Sugar addiction is a serious condition that is caused by excessive consumption of sugar. Scientists have proven that sugar has an addictive character that is harmful to human health and wellness. Experimental research on both humans and rats has confirmed that sugar is addictive (DiNicolantonio, O’Keefe, and Wilson 1).  Sugar stimulates the same parts of the brain that cocaine and heroin do. In addition, sugar has a significant impact on the mesolimbic dopamine system and activates the reward system of the brain that causes the release of dopamine (Stanhop 52). Some people find it hard to resist chocolate because of the cravings that can only be satisfied through rewarding by the high sugar content. Sugar also alters the mood by inducing reward and pleasure (Danicolantonio et al. 2).  Excessive sugar consumption creates dependence and should be considered as a public health problem. A YouTube video, albeit a pretty long one, by Ashley Gearhardt, Yale and Rudd Center for Policy and Obesity, demonstrates the complex science of sugar addiction here.

Increased sugar consumption leads to sugar tolerance. Repeated consumption of sugar leads to increased demand because the reward system adapts to the frequent stimulation. Consumers take in more sugar because the body needs more intakes for the same reward (Danicolantonioet al. 2).  Therefore, sugar consumers experience the same tolerance that is experienced by drug addicts (Danicolantonio et al. 2). Cutting sugar from the diet is not easy because of addiction and the deceptive advertising tactics of the industry.

Deceptive Advertising

Deceptive advertising refers to the use of false, misleading, and untrue statements while marketing a product. It describes marketing practices that mislead and misinform (or fail to inform) prospective buyers about the nutritional value or ingredient composition of the product they are looking to purchase.The Big Five chocolate manufacturers have engaged in deceptive advertising to obscure the health consequences of sugar products.

In 2012, Ferrero paid a California mother a total of three million dollars for false advertising (Tepper n.p). The company had depicted Nutella, a chocolate product, as healthy. The case exemplifies the misrepresentation of chocolate products on mass media, and the video here shows a Nutella ad where they intentionally neglect to mention the high sugar and fat content in it and simply present it as a mixture of cacao, hazelnut, and skimmed milk.

Marketers use words commonly associated with health and fitness and specifically gear their ads to a certain target audience. These companies have targeted women with specifically tailored messages that tie sugary products to self-worth (Union of Concerned Scientists n.p.). Children, moreover, have also been the target of customized messages and advertisements by chocolate marketers (Union of Concerned Scientists n.p.) Research indicates that children are vulnerable to advertising and failure to regulate marketing to children has been one of the shortcomings of the Federal Communications Commission.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the corn sugar industry to stop deceptive advertising by using the term “corn sugar” instead of high fructose corn syrup, a product found in many household products. The industry has invested in a marketing campaign aimed at portraying “corn sugar” as natural sugar that is safe. Scientists have argued that high fructose corn syrup is more damaging than regular sugar. The corn industry has been misleading consumers that the added sugar, the high fructose corn syrup, is natural sugar.

Aggressive and misleading advertisements have contributed to the increased consumption of sugar. Most products have “hidden sugar” in their ingredients. In the current environment, it is not enough to rely on the information provided on the label. Sugar-free labels are often misleading (Reichelt n.p). In some cases, sugar-free simply means that there is no added sugar (Reichelt n.p). In other cases, it is that the product is manufactured with sugar substitutes (Reichelt n.p). Products that contain artificial sweeteners are usually labeled as sugar-free. Moreover, sugar-free products may contain carbohydrates or fruits which have sugar components (Reichelt n.p). Most sugar-free products contain naturally occurring sugars such as lactose and fructose.

Deceptive advertising by the sugar industry targets low-income populations. A disproportionate amount of advertising for sugary products is aimed at African-Americans. These low-income areas are less likely to be aware of the harms sugar-free or sugar substitutes, such as high fructose corn syrup, actually cause.   Another method to lure people in these low-income areas to purchase sugary products is by retail outlets providing coupons and discount offers for them.

Government Regulations

The advertising of food products is highly regulated because of safety and health concerns. False or deceptive advertising is unethical and illegal. The Federal Trade Commission Act contains regulations that define false advertising. The federal trade commission (FTC) is charged with the mandate of protecting consumers from deception in the marketplace. Section 5 and 12 of the FTC Act prohibit misleading advertisements. The FTC has made clear statements about the misuse of corn sugar instead of high fructose syrup in advertisements on the internet.

The Food and Drug Agency (FDA) protects consumers by ensuring that chocolate manufacturers comply with labeling regulations. Chocolate manufacturers are expected to comply with specific labeling requirements. Chocolate product labels have to label the quantity of natural sugar and added sugar. The FDA uses warning letters to inform industry players that they are breaching labeling regulations. The regulator has already warned against the use of corn sugar instead of high fructose syrup. Also, the FDA has strict regulations governing the claims that can be made by advertisers on product labeling. Health claims can only be made if they are supported by scientific evidence. The FDA has stated that science experts must support such evidence.

Government regulations provide a basis for legal action by consumers. Chocolate makers have been sued because of deceptive advertising. Consumers who are victims of misleading advertising can contact a lawyer and take legal action. Ferrero and Nestle have settled claims out of court because of misleading advertisements. Youth targeted marketing has been one of the challenges posed by deceptive advertising tactics. However, both the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission have failed to address the marketing of chocolate to children (Union of Concerned Scientists n.p.).

What To Do With What We Know?

The chocolate industry has continued to experience growth because of the popularity of its products. Its products have been marketed as healthy and there is an increase in the amount of sugar-free or healthier foods that keep popping up on the market. It is a fair conclusion to come to that most chocolate products have more sugar additives than actual cacao. Also it is fairly evident that sugar is an addictive substance, and their presence in these chocolates makes them more desirable and more addictive.

Despite all the evidence that correlates increased sugar consumption with an increase in diabetes and fueling of the obesity epidemic, the debate about the ill effects of sugar is still ongoing.  However, due to the ever-increasing restrictions and stricter rules by the government, consumer’s rights are finally being protected. Chocolate companies are culpable to sanctions and lawsuits if they are guilty of deceptive advertising and neglectful labeling . Consequently, consumers are better protected and educated to make their own choice, whether they opt for a healthy option or not. By having the proper information available to them, whether that is understanding the names of sugar substitutes (high fructose corn syrup, etc.) or being skeptical about what is meant by sugar-free, consumers are now able to understand the harms of what it is they would be consuming. Having this information, awareness and healthy skepticism allows consumers to understand how these sugary products are being advertised to them, what is in them , and the potential effects of consuming them.

The big question that we face now though, despite the information at our disposal, is this: the next time you are at your local supermarket/CVS, will you grab a chocolate or sugary product from by the counter?



Continue reading Cacao-Chocolate Industry and Sugar Addiction

Naughty but Nice: Gendered Sexualization in Chocolate Advertising

Chocolate is recognized as one of the most craved foods in the world, resulting in the coinage of terms such as chocoholic or chocolate addict. However, going from targeted marketing by most chocolate companies around the world, one would assume that the majority of the chocolate addicts or chocoholics were, women. As soon as a woman takes her first bite, in an advertisement, a sense of ecstasy follows triggered by the chocolate, invariably showing the relationship between women’s sexual pleasure and chocolate. Women’s sexual pleasure, much like the attitude towards chocolate, is considered sinful; the juxtaposition of these two views woven into narratives through chocolate commercials, only solidifies the concept of “naughty but nice” as they objectify women sexually while they are consuming chocolate.

Women tend to be sexually depicted in commercials in two ways, one, in which women are aroused by consuming chocolate, or two, women become attractive to men after they consume chocolate. Below are examples of two ads from Dove and Godiva that exemplify these two categories of portrayal of women in chocolate advertising. 

In both the commercials, chocolate is seen as a sinful treat that women consume. In the first Dove commercial, a woman is being wrapped in chocolate coloured silk as she sighs and savors the luxury of consuming chocolate whilst being wrapped around by a luxurious fabric. It is depicting the after effects of consuming the chocolate whilst showing what a privilege it is to be able to consume chocolate. The background music and noises further alludes to the effect of sexual arousal post consumption and the use of silk in the commercial shows luxury and class, and at the same time, it represents a material that is often used to portray sex. In the Godiva commercial, three women are shown in three different locations wearing long dresses that represent three kinds of Godiva chocolates; dark, milk and white. Three men can be seen gifting chocolates to the women, which in turn sexually arouses the women and thus excites the men. It is interesting to note that the commercial does not show men consuming the chocolate, but only women. In one instance in the commercial, one of the women almost shares the chocolate with the man but then teases him as she eats the whole truffle herself, because she just cannot share it or resist it.

Professor Peter Rogers, from the University of Bristol, explains: “A more compelling explanation lies in our ambivalent attitudes towards chocolate – it is highly desired but should be eaten with restraint”, he further states that “Our unfulfilled desire to eat chocolate, resulting from restraint, is thus experienced as craving, which in turn is attributed to ‘addiction’.” (Rogers, 2007) Women in the above commercials depict this relationship of resistance and indulgence with chocolate, not only through the consumption of chocolate itself but also through their sexual desires. Due to the perception that “nice” women and their sexual pleasures should be restrained as opposed to men’s sexual pleasures, chocolate gives them the narrative, the chance of indulgence, and gives them the opportunity to be “naughty”. Chocolate then starts to show women’s relationship with their own sexual desires, that relies on chocolate to be fueled.

Chocolate, then hence is portrayed to being the food for women by commercials. In contrast, a Burger King commercial shows meat as the food for men, aptly titled “I am Man”. The commercial shows men eating burgers while chanting socially accepted norms that make them men; these are men who are strong and can lift cars and pull heavy weights, men who cannot survive on “chick food” such as quiche. Commercials such as the one by Hungry Man, as well as Mc Donald’s McRib advertisement, show only men, consuming meat products. When catered to men such as the ones that are shown in these commercials, chocolate becomes delicate and feminine. When contrasted, meat becomes the socially accepted food for men while chocolate becomes the socially accepted food for women. 

Without any concrete scientific evidence, chocolate is now widely believed to be craved by women more than men. Dr. Julia Hormes from University of Albany states in her study published in Appetite in 2011 that “half of the women [in the U.S.] who crave chocolate say they do so right around menstruation,”. (Hormes, 2011) Hormes’s study tried to correlate menstruation with chocolate craving however, she arrived at the conclusion that “These biochemical, physiological hypotheses didn’t pan out.”  (Hormes, 2011) Hormes believes that the strong influence of culture, particularly the kind portrayed in commercials plays a role in how women tend to react to chocolate.

In an interview with Kate Bratskeir of Huffington Post, Hormes talks about chocolate marketing, she says;

“Chocolate is marketed as a way for women to deal with negative emotion (like, say, the stress and headaches that come with PMS), Hormes said. It is an “indulgence” because it is an exception to the rule — women who diet and subscribe to a certain ideal of beauty should only consume chocolate when they “need” it.”…“Only in America. In Spain, for example, women don’t report craving chocolate perimensturally nearly as much as women in the U.S. do. It’s not that Spanish women have a different make-up to their cycle, it’s really that tampon and chocolate ads aren’t aired during the same commercial break. In the U.S., it seems, there’s something so strongly feminine about chocolate that fewer men report wanting it. But, “Spanish men are almost as likely to crave chocolate as Spanish women.” In Egypt, neither men nor women really report craving chocolate; “They tend to crave savory foods,” Hormes said.” (Hormes, 2011)

The need that is described above by Hormes is a culturally manufactured one that is fabricated through commercials showing women needing chocolates, specially when it comes to sex.

Ferrero Rocher Print ad. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/12/02/guest-post-sex-desire-and-chocolate-propaganda-research/

Chocolate advertisements not only play into women’s sexual desires but also women’s body image and various insecurities. The above print ad from Ferrero Rocher shows a naked model being tempted by chocolates that are growing from the tree. The ad is attaching the narrative of Eve and the forbidden fruit to chocolate, depicting this woman as a “sinner” for consuming chocolate and having sexual desires. The ad also shows a skinny model indulging in the sinful act of consuming chocolate. The inclusion of a model, gives off an image that makes it okay for women of regular sizes to indulge in chocolate. It shows that women can still be thin and be naughty, and consume chocolate as a guilty pleasure. While talking about the relationship of female body image and chocolate marketing, in his paper, Occidental College student, Jamal Fahim writes,

In order to remain slim and attractive, women must avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories. Images of the ideal body have permeated the minds of many consumers who are inclined to view the body as an object of admiration and a model for self-construction. Moreover, consumer goods may serve to compensate for a person’s “feelings of inferiority, insecurity or loss, or to symbolize achievement, success or power” (Campbell 1995:111)”.

Dove Print ad. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/12/02/guest-post-sex-desire-and-chocolate-propaganda-research/

Chocolate companies tend to play up various different feelings that Campbell described whilst talking about consumer products, however in most cases those feelings within the wide spectrum from insecurity to success are usually related to sex and women in chocolate advertising. The print Dove advertisement above, for example, associates itself with an insecurity that is often linked with sex, lasting longer. The ad compares indulging the Dove bar to lasting longer while showing the face of a woman who is satisfied.

All the advertisements mentioned above adds to the misconception of chocolate as an aphrodisiac and that it works more on women. The New York Times article, tries to evaluate this claim stating;

“Nowadays, scientists ascribe the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, if any, to two chemicals it contains. One, tryptophan, is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal. The other, phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine, is released in the brain when people fall in love. But most researchers believe that the amounts of these substances in chocolate are too small to have any measurable effect on desire. Studies that have looked for a direct link between chocolate consumption and heightened sexual arousal have found none. The most recent study, published in May in the journal Sexual Medicine, looked specifically at women, who are thought to be more sensitive to the effects of chocolate. The researchers, from Italy, studied a random sample of 163 adult women with an average age of 35 and found no significant differences between reported rates of sexual arousal or distress among those who regularly consumed one serving of chocolate a day, those who consumed three or more servings or those who generally consumed none.” (O’ Connor, 2006)

The article concludes by stating that, “if chocolate has any aphrodisiac qualities, they are probably psychological, not physiological” (O’ Connor, 2006).

This psychological perception of chocolate and sex is one that is manufactured by chocolate advertising bringing out various themes that are associated with female sexuality starting from the perception that female sexual desires are akin to a sin, to body image issues that perpetuates women’s need to be slim to various other insecurities associated with sex such as lasting longer or overall satisfaction. Even though the findings and correlation between chocolate and sex are negligible, the marketing for chocolate continues to perpetuate chocolate’s association with sex and its implied special relevance to women’s sexuality as it plays into societal expectations from women, that require them to be and make them more attractive if they are “naughty but nice”.

Work Cited:

Bratskeir, Kate. “This Is Why Women Crave Chocolate, Men Want A Burger” Huffington Post. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/10/chocolate-craving-pms-men-vegetables_n_6102714.html&gt;

Campbell, Colin. 1995. “The Sociology of Consumption.” Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies. London, England: Routledge.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing”. 2010. Sociology Student Scholarship <http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_student&gt;

Hormes, Julia M, Alix Timko. “All cravings are not created equal. Correlates of menstrual versus non-cyclic chocolate craving”. Appetite. Vol 57. 2011. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21440592&gt;

Lindell, C.  Women and chocolate: A history lesson. Candy Industry, 180(3), 21. 2015

O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Chocolate Is an Aphrodisiac”. The New York Times. 2006. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/18/health/18real.html&gt;

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire. New York: Manchester UP, 2009. 

University of Bristol. “Chocolate Is The Most Widely Craved Food, But Is It Really Addictive?.” ScienceDaily. September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911073921.htm>.


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

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

The First Chocolate Advertising.

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

Privatization and Modernization in the New World.

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

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

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

The Rise of the Model.

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

And on to Africa.

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

The Rise of the Model Firm.

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

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


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

Ghana Today.

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

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

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

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


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

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

Exploitation or Smart Marketing? Comparing and Analyzing the Business Practices of Hershey’s and Divine Chocolate

Are chocolate companies exploiting workers when they use a values-based approach to promote sales? Although some companies are clearly exploiting its workers, there is a difference between exploitation and smart marketing. 

Let’s compare the practices of Hershey’s Chocolate and Divine Chocolate to illustrate this point: The elements of exploitation exist in the practices of Hershey’s because they are advertising falsehoods and treating their workers as the opposite of what they market; Divine Chocolate is the polar opposite of Hershey’s in this manner because they market values that they  actually practice, making them smart marketers – not exploiters.

Defining Exploitation

Is Divine Chocolate being exploitative? Exploiting in itself is deriving full use of something or someone unfairly (Alberts). Let’s first define exploiting for our own terms when it comes to thinking about chocolate companies – Exploiting is the act of a chocolate company using an element to maneuver, outrank, increase sales, or brand the company in a certain way without giving fair benefit to the people that they are using to achieve these goals.

Exploiting also has the following connotations when it comes to chocolate companies such as (but not limited to) when it comes to what they do; this will be used as our litmus test to determine whether or not true exploitation is at play:

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work

Misrepresenting benefits to workers

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men)

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade)

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think)

Hershey’s Chocolate

Before we analyze the possibility of Divine Chocolate being exploitative, let’s analyze a company that passes the litmus test for exploitation – Hershey’s Chocolate.

By analyzing their pictures in advertisements and their marketing and comparing it to the real picture of the company, we can certainly see how Hershey’s Chocolate is being exploitative.

Hershey’s history of exploitation goes back essentially since the beginning of the start of the company; the company often used farms and factories that did not pay its workers a fair wage, lowered the standard of living, and took part in the enslaving of workers by providing unsafe conditions (Anti-Given that, one would think that the company would have “changed its tune” so to speak. However, Hershey’s has not done so and has continued to abuse their power as a top-tier chocolate company. It has been proven that Hershey’s is still taking part in these kinds of practices, which has been noted by researchers on international student workers that took part in a foreign exchange program in the United States with Hershey’s as their sponsor. According to the New York Times:

The students, who were earning about $8 an hour, said they were isolated within the plant, rarely finding moments to practice English or socialize with Americans. With little explanation or accounting, the sponsor [Hershey’s] took steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance that left many of them too little money to afford the tourist wanderings they had eagerly anticipated (Preston).

How can Hershey’s not be an exploiter if international student workers, who are usually unfamiliar with the United States, cannot afford to even travel to the places that they wanted to see; these international workers took the job with Hershey’s in order to site-see in exchange for work, and Hershey’s is essentially taking that element away from them. Further, the promises that Hershey’s made to the students regarding a certain amount of money given to them was understood by the company to be separate from the housing, transportation, and insurance. Clearly, Hershey’s is exploiting the international workers by lowering their wages in order to get labor in the form of the cheapest way possible; these deductions would not even begin to cover a legal and livable way or manner if an American had this job. Thus, Hershey’s found a way to bypass the legal system in order to get cheaper labor – in the form of exploited international students.

Additionally, one cannot even argue that Hershey’s has learned its lesson on this front – despite the media attention, public outcry, and protests from students alike, Hershey’s is still running this program; imagine the kind of exploitation that could be occurring in more vulnerable areas if this kind of company if this type of exploitation is happening in the United States. If the plant in Pennsylvania is seeing these kinds of abuses, it is safe to assume that the exploitation along the Ivory Coast and the Americas are seeing abuses that are hidden away from the public.

Now, let’s take a look at the advertisements in Hershey’s pictures that are quite different than the actual reality of the company. For instance, in Figure 1, we see how Hershey’s is advertising itself as a chocolate that is a part of “shared goodness:”



(Figure 1. Hershey’s Community Archives)


This advertisement, at first glance, may not seem like a direct link to exploitation, but the company is promoting itself as a brand that is values-based. It draws upon the picture of a happy family and talks about how Hershey’s “good business” practices translates into better chocolate for the family, resulting in a “better life and bright future.” However, just from the proven evidence discussed regarding the student workers, the reality of Hershey’s is very different than what it is advertising. Clearly, Hershey’s is branding itself as a business that is “good,” however, it is not actually being a “good” business with values.

This type of misrepresentation marketing is all throughout many of their advertisements throughout the years. For example, Figure 2 tells another compelling story about how Hershey is actually promoting diversity when it is really not:


(Figure 2. Hershey’s Community Archives)

In this picture, children of different ethnicities and races are being shown; Hershey’s is advertising themselves as a company that promotes inclusiveness across all kinds of ethnic and racial divides. For instance, it talks about how it puts different kinds of candies for all kinds of kids. However, the example of exploitation of its international student workers tells a very different kind of a story. How can a brand that claims to be “inclusive” not be inclusive to its international workers? How could a brand that would never be able to legally get away with reductions in paychecks and amenities for American workers be so inclusive if it takes a legal loophole to do so for its international workers? Clearly, it can be seen how just this one type of exploitation is being used in full force, which passes our litmus test on essentially all fronts. It has abused a sensitive group, misrepresents benefits to workers and unfairly promises them lies, and then brands the company in a way that misrepresents the brand to the consumer, whom otherwise would think that Hershey’s has excellent values just from looking at their advertisements; Hershey’s, knowing that most targeted and loyal consumers are not going to search for their name on the Internet every time they want to buy a bag or piece of chocolate, use this to their advantage.


Divine Chocolate

Now let’s compare how Divine Chocolate uses certain advertisements to help attract consumers, but is not being exploited in their efforts, which is the polar opposite of what Hershey’s is doing:

Divine Chocolate, according to Sam Binkley employed a values-based marketing strategy in order to justify their price:

Divine has moved on from selling mainly on the basis of the solidarity value of its product to material use value taste. [Divine Chocolate] still is slightly more expensive as it must, other than the likes of Nestle and Kraft, fulfill its double bottom line of economic and social viability. So while the product is competitive on a level of quality, its price still needs to be justified in terms of justice or solidarity. In order to go beyond this, Divine [needed] to add symbolic use value to its brand, engage in consciously designed commodity aesthetic in order to push into unchartered mass markets (Binkley).


Divine Chocolate, like Hershey’s, desired to push even further for profits for their already-successful companies so it could stay competitive; however, what makes it different than other companies is that it is a specialty type of chocolate in a specialty kind of market. In order to be competitive within those specific markets, Divine Chocolate desired to break and expand into the mass markets by justifying their price to those kinds of consumers. In turn, it created the Women’s Empowerment Campaign, which promotes the equality of women chocolate workers, in order to attract consumers (Divine Chocolate).


But how is Divine Chocolate, unlike Hershey’s, not being exploitative if they are using mass marketing strategies in the form of women’s empowerment campaigns to sell their product? The difference here is that Divine Chocolate is actually doing what they say and promote in terms of their campaign to sell product.


The women’s empowerment campaign is real because it is empowering women in ways that they have never been empowered before. For instance, Divine Chocolate started their journey to change conditions when they gave 44 percent equity to Kuapa Kokoo, the largest shareholder of the company’s assets; this co-operative represents 85,000 farm members across 1,257 villages, and is now the largest co-operative in the world; it is credited with the rise of female cacao ownership of at least 20 percent (Leissle, Wiego). Divine allows women farmers to take a special part in an ownership that no other chocolate company has seen before; clearly, it is empowering women in a way that not only represents them as true stakeholders, but brings positivism to an industry that can be quit laborious, abusive, and depressing for other workers who are not afforded such basic rights. Further, approximately 2 percent of the turnover from Divine is specifically used to promote programs to help farmers gain more skills such as good governance programs, literacy programs, and model farming lessons. Thus, Divine not only gives more than fair equity to its workers (the largest of its kind in history), but invests even more money from their profit to ensure that their workers are gaining life skills to use both inside and outside the farm; by bringing in educational and quality of life programs, Divine is sending an authentic message with real action to the female farmers of Ghana: Divine wants to support you and your work by uplifting you and the community.

By examining the advertising campaigns of Divine Chocolate, we can see a message of solidarity and unity that runs throughout its campaign. For instance, in Figure 3, Divine Chocolate uses a picture of an attractive, healthy-looking female worker to get their message across loud and clear:


(Figure 3. Divine Chocolate)

Many critics may charge that because the woman is attractive, dressed nicely, and looks happy, Divine Chocolate is exploiting its female workers because it promotes “sexuality” and an “untrue side of the chocolate industry”. However, this picture of the woman is an accurate picture because Divine Chocolate helps uplift women to give them the lifestyle that can afford many of these luxuries; with their fair payouts and fair trade program, Divine Chocolate can accurately use this advertisement as an authentic way to attract consumers. When looking at this advertisement, most consumers, on first glance, would think of Divine Chocolate as a chocolate brand that is an “equality treat” – because it is. They further humanize the female chocolate worker, who is actually a co-operative co-owner, by putting her name on the advertisement; the consumer will be led to think that when they buy a bag or piece of Divine Chocolate, the benefit will be going to female workers like Beatrice – and rightfully so because it actually is doing that. That, in itself, is not exploitation but a smart marketing scheme that is a “win-win” for both Divine Chocolate and female workers like Beatrice. All in all, Divine Chocolate has gone out of their way to make this picture a reality – their own values-based version of the chocolate industry.

In Figure 4, we can see how this values-based campaign continues throughout many of their packaging:


(Figure 4. Divine Chocolate)

In their designs, Divine Chocolate presents itself as a champion for women by placing designs that are aesthetically pleasing to many females and placing a message on top of the packaging reading “Empowering Women Cacao Farmers.” Like in the picture above, some critics may think that by putting this packaging out in this manner, Divine Chocolate is exploiting women workers because they are using designs that attract consumers to think that they are helping women workers. However, like stated in the previous discussion, they actually are helping women. Further critics may charge that this is being used for International Women’s Day to “cash in” on the holiday, but that charge only further hones in on the point that Divine Chocolate is not being a champion of women just on Women’s Day but essentially every day.

 Just because a company uses an element of their system (which, in this case, is championing the female worker) to sell product does not mean that they are being exploitative. On the other hand, if Divine Chocolate was using the same business practices as Hershey’s and using this campaign, they would then be exploitative. But Divine Chocolate is simply promoting the ideas and concepts that they have actually put into practice.

If these points did not already answer the question of whether or not Divine Chocolate is being exploitative for you, let’s take a direct look back at our litmus test for exploitation

Litmus Test: Is Divine Chocolate partaking in any of the following?

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work – No, workers are granted an excellent amount of equity

Misrepresenting benefits to workers – No, workers are actually being empowered by the company

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is authentic

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men) –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is helping women

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade) –No, ideas like fair trade and empowerment are involved

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think) –No, workers are a part of the brand name but also benefiting from the marketing taking place since they get a higher amount of equity, which equals and translates into improved working conditions and lifestyles

Clearly, unlike Hershey’s, Divine Chocolate does not pass the litmus test for exploitation; the Women’s Empowerment Campaign is a real campaign, which Divine Chocolate uses for smart marketing and true empowerment.



Alberts, Heike. “Using Cocoa and Chocolate to Teach Human Geography.” Journal of Geography, 2010.

Binkley, Sam. “Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism.” New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Case Study: Women Cocoa Farmers in Ghana. Wiego. <http://www.wiego.org/wiego/case-study-women-cocoa-farmers-ghana&gt;

Divine Chocolate. <http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/&gt;

Hershey’s Community Archives. <http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/category/hershey-chocolate/marketing/&gt;

Leissle, Kristie.  “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Studies, 2012.

Preston, Julia. “Pleas Unheeded as Student’s U.S. Jobs Soured.” New York Times, 2011.

The Cocoa Industry in West Africa. Anti-Slavery International, 2004. <http://www.antislavery.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1_cocoa_report_2004.pdf&gt;



























































How You Choose Your Chocolate

Chocolate has been a staple of Western culture since the time that it was brought over from Mesoamerica by the Europeans. Big Chocolate companies like Cadbury, Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and Ferrero Rocher now control over 99% of this market (Martin, “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market”). On the other hand, single origin chocolate companies make up a much smaller margin of this market. Now that there are so many options – including brand, flavor, and texture to choose from – how does one make their ultimate decision? Factors like consumer awareness of production methods, the way that it is marketed, and convenience play crucial roles in the kind of chocolate people choose to consume.

“Fair” Trade

To begin, it’s important to illustrate what Fair Trade is and who exactly it affects. Making chocolate is a ten-step process, and most of those steps are conducted by people in places like West Africa, specifically in Cote de’Ivoire and Ghana (Martin, “Modern Day Slavery”). In addition to the big companies controlling the vast majority of the market, Big Chocolate also retains over 90% of the money from the sale of the chocolate, while the actual producers are left with what little remains (Martin, “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market”). This is one of the many problems in the relationships between Big Chocolate and their African farmers, as will soon be further illustrated.

Fair Trade Certifications and other labels indicating positive labor treatment are becoming more sought-after by consumers to the point where companies are creating labels of their own (cite – lecture). The goal of Fair Trade is to help farmers build sustainable businesses that can continue to prosper and be beneficial benefit all parties involved (Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization”). Since the conditions in other countries aren’t being monitored by their government, it is important for them to be monitored by some sort of organization to ensure ethical treatment. However, the goals of Fair Trade are often far from what is actually achieved. While they’re trying to invest in the local communities, Fair Trade can lead to an inefficient marketing system where corruption flourishes (Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization”). It’s also been known to hurt the non-certified farmer (Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization”) because a positive addition to the circumstances in Africa shouldn’t be a negative one for those that aren’t able to be a part of it. In order to have a Fair Trade Certification label on a product, only 20% of the ingredients have to be produced under the specified conditions (Fair Trade USA), which can be incredibly misleading for the people who aren’t aware of this. The Fair Trade system, while it does have positive goals and some positive outcomes, can’t necessarily be relied on for regulating the labor conditions under which chocolate is produced.

Who Cares about Fair?

Consumers today are becoming more aware of ethically sourced chocolate, which Maricel Presilla talks about in New Taste of Chocolate: “Many consumers today share such concerns about cacao farming. They are starting to ask questions about farming methods and the well-being of farmers. There are people who as a matter of principle won’t buy anything produced without Fair Trade or organic certification” (133). This definitely doesn’t represent all consumers, however, a trend has begun in this direction as it hasn’t before – the consumer is being made aware of the conditions of the producer. Although these certifications are marked on many items and are advertised for their positive regulation of conditions, disregarding the efficacy of the certification, the fact that not all ingredients have to be ethically sourced goes entirely unpublished to the general consumer. If searched for, the companies’ websites will generally provide all information, but that isn’t accomplished without significant individual time and effort.

“In its press release announcing the launch, the Co-op indicated that it wished to ‘start a race amongst major UK supermarket groups anxious to demonstrate that they care and are eager to establish their ethical credentials’” (Nicholls & Opal, 101). This trend was also seen across the world as Starbucks changed all of its own-brand chocolate to Fair Trade Certified in 2002 (Nicholls & Opal, 101). While Starbucks is generally known to be a socially conscious brand in America and its consumers are a wide range, they still reach a huge number of people with their positive message of certification. When people are aware of why certain products are Free Trade certified, it is generally assumed that some of them would take that into account when making a purchase. However, it can be difficult to rely on consumers for such a task since Big Chocolate companies, which often aren’t certified, produce such large quantities for such an inexpensive price.

Big Chocolate

Mass production of any goods tends to lower the quality, whether in regard to cars, clothing, or chocolate. Yet affordability is such an important aspect when buying a treat on the way out of the store – a tendency that is specific to Americans (Martin, ““The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market”). Rosie Wigglesworth, a sophomore at Harvard University, said that she never spends the money required to purchase a single origin chocolate bar from a specialty shop when she can spend a fraction of that money to buy the same amount or more chocolate from CVS.

In addition to being less expensive, Big Chocolate companies get their customers to keep coming back by marketing to what we celebrate most – holidays. So often, the marketing insinuates all that will come out of giving chocolate as a gift, like falling in love on Valentine’s Day. Consumers have been conditioned to accept chocolate as such an important aspect of many holidays that intrinsically have nothing to do with it. As soon as Valentine’s Day is over, being inside a CVS can be both a sad and exciting thing. For chocolate lovers, it is a great day since all of the themed candy is now 50% off, but it is generally a mess and broken. Next to the Valentine’s Day themed candy shoved in the corner is all of the fresh Easter candy that has just been shelved and waiting for Easter to come in order for it to reach its many consumers. Since much of the candy that is bought is done so for the sake of festiveness and quantity, the general consumer wouldn’t even consider buying it at a specialty shop that likely wouldn’t attend to the holiday in such a dedicated way. This form of specialized advertising can be seen multiple times throughout the year, and is one of the ways that Big Chocolate companies retain its customers.


This Cadbury product represents how the Big Chocolate companies advertise and market their chocolate specifically for holidays.

Another strong reason for so much popularity of the cheap chocolate is its convenience. Located next to every CVS register, it is incredibly easy for a consumer to just grab it on his way out, even if he wasn’t originally planning on getting any. In The Economics of Chocolate, Squicciarini and Swinnen talk about nudging, which can get someone to make one decision over another due to convenience (161). Given the observation that food decisions are often made relatively mindlessly and the environmental cues can therefore play a large part in steering these decisions, we explore the possibility that nudging is a potentially powerful technique to trigger behavioral change” (Squicciarini & Swinnen, 161). People go to CVS every day for things that meet their needs for medicine, beauty, and school. Sometimes they probably have chocolate in mind when they come in, but regardless, it definitely is when they are heading out. This kind of store, where almost all shopping needs can be met, is an excellent place for such an easy temptation to be stored. Big Chocolate knows this, and they can afford to acquire the shelf space and deliver the profit margins to stores like CVS that keep this cycle going.

Single Origin Chocolate

Unlike Big Chocolate, single origin brands pride themselves on the way that their chocolate is produced. While companies like Cadbury are incredibly secretive and have very rarely given the world insight on their chocolate-making process, these single origin businesses tend to be incredibly upfront about their production methods and values. They use this fact as a marketing alternative to that of Big Chocolate. These can easily be found on their websites, which is not what one would find on Hershey’s. This chocolate is made in small batches, so the quality is significantly higher.

These companies are known for outsourcing in ways that allow for ethical treatment in the production process, and therefore, many of them are Fair Trade Certified. Small chocolate companies tend to be founded for reasons other than mass expansion and market takeover in the way that the Big Chocolate companies currently dominate, such as passion or happening to be in the right situation.

Single origin companies advertise, but in a way much different than Big Chocolate does. Of course there is the difference of scale to which they are able to market but also the chocolate they choose to display. Instead of it being about what chocolate can do for you, as is the case for some Big Chocolate marketing, they focus more on its origin and quality. It’s not about the big events going on that it is a gift for, but rather appeal to consumers to make the ethical and environmentally sound choice when choosing to buy chocolate.


Green & Black’s Fair Trade Certified company focuses on the natural elements of the chocolate in their marketing.

A major difference in terms of convenience of the products, is that these are much more difficult to find in a price-conscious store like CVS. The small batches with attention to detail plus the Fair Trade prices result in a single specialty bar commonly reaching about $9. This is not the kind of thoughtless purchase one generally makes at the register.

Public Awareness

Most people have a general knowledge of Fair Trade Certification’s existence and the fact that it benefits people at the bottom of the production ladder. Many people don’t know the details, especially the negative aspects that can be so severe that struggling groups of farmers in other countries make the choice to not be a part of it. The general public consensus right now, from the people I spoke to about it, is that Fair Trade is an overall positive certification and group to be a part of.

I decided to test how much of an effect on taste preference this knowledge of Fair Trade had on consumers. I did this by recruiting people I know and asking how much they knew about Fair Trade. I then divided them into three groups – one that knew almost nothing but assumed that it was good; one that knew some details about the way that it operated; and one that was fully aware of both the goals and consequences since two of them are also in the class. All three groups were part of trials conducted separately, but they all received the same chocolate in the same order. The only difference is what I said about each piece they were about to eat. All four pieces were from Potomac’s 70% dark chocolate, including bars with cacao beans from Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Each trial I changed which ones I said were from Fair Trade Certified companies, always changing the two I said that were and the two I said that weren’t. I then asked everybody to rank the four chocolates in order of the favorite.


Kristen and Christina tasting the different kinds of chocolate during our taste test.

The results showed that everyone always had at least one of the “Fair Trade Certified” bars in their top two preferences. While these four bars did vary slightly in flavor, I still conclude that people were affected by the knowledge of where the chocolate came from and how it was made.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 2.14.33 AM

These 70% dark Potomac chocolates were being tasted in order to determine preference in relation to Fair Trade Certification.

A lack of awareness can play a huge role in the conditions that still exist for chocolate producers today. Millions of children are involved in child labor today, specifically to produce chocolate, by being trafficked mostly from Mali to Cote de’Ivoire and Ghana (Coe & Coe, 263-264). Blatant racism is also unrecognized because people miss the subtly that exists now as a byproduct of the extremely long history connecting chocolate and slavery. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas, Spanish Conguitos, and Belgian chocolate hands have all been discreetly displaying racism in a way that few perceive. These “cultural blindspots” show the gaps that exist in knowledge about where such images and concepts came from (Martin, “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements”), which holds us back as a whole.


While not everybody can be convinced to spend more money to buy Fair Trade Certified chocolate bars, many more people could be swayed against buying chocolate that depicts slavery in such a way. Not everyone knows about the way that chocolate is made, and that along with how it’s marketed and convenience of consumption is how people make the decision of what chocolate to buy.


Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.

2Collier, Dan. “Green & Black’s.” Dan Collier. Green & Black’s, n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.

1“EXCLUSIVE: Cadbury’s Tapping the Specific Occasional Gifting Opportunity: Anil Viswanathan.” Pitchonet. Pitch Magazine India, n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.

3Friends trying different types of chocolate, Cambridge. Personal photograph by author. 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge. 5 Apr. 2017. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge. 22 Mar. 2017. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge. 29 Mar. 2017. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge. 15 Mar. 2017. Lecture.

“Multiple Ingredients Product Policy.” Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade USA, 2017. Web. 03 May 2017.

Nichollis, Alex, and Charlotte Opal. Fair Trade: Market Driven Ethical Consumption. London: Sage, 2011. Google Books. Google. Web. 1 May 2017.

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

4“Shop.” Potomac Chocolate. Potomac Chocolate, 2017. Web. 03 May 2017.

Squicciarini, Mara P. and Johan Swinnen. The Economics of Chocolate. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Google Books. Google. Web. 1 May 2017.

Chocolate Demonization and the Growth of Sexualized Chocolate Marketing in the Western World

Chocolate has had romantic and sexual connotations essentially since its birth, or at least dating back to “the European conquest of Mexico,” which was dually a conquest of the Aztec Empire (Coe & Coe, 29). Even in ancient use, chocolate was seen as both an aphrodisiac and a necessary facet of marital ceremonies. Such an association has accompanied chocolate to the modern world, though not without undergoing transformations in its exact manifestation in social customs and thus marketing. These transformations are not unfounded; instead, they took place alongside and were the result of historical change. One such change, which substantiates the focus of this paper, is the demonization of obesity which consequently led to the demonization of chocolate. Chocolate entered the Western world as almost a healthy option, which doesn’t come as a surprise given that it was considered a medicine in both ancient and early European societies. This thought survived only until the 17th century, when William Harvey’s work advanced knowledge of the cardiovascular system which disproved the Galenic medical model in which chocolate was included. But even after that, chocolate was revered for its ability to sustain and give energy. Take, for example, its role as a “fighting food” in World War II.                    warman.pngChocolate enjoyed this favorable role until around the mid-twentieth century, when chocolate and candy were exposed for their role in weight gain during a post-WWII stigmatization of obesity. The unhealthy aspects of chocolate were brought to light, and public attitudes toward it were fundamentally changed. And although a focus on women had always been congenital to the marketing of chocolate, this shift brought with it a change in exactly how this focus was manipulated. Women in chocolate advertisements went from being depicted as wholly domestic and in charge of family matters to being depicted as overly sexual and out of control. This shift was made in order to overcome chocolate’s newly immoral image by equating it to sex, which is socially acceptable but also technically sinful. But since women remained central to chocolate marketing, this pairing exudes deeper implications about women in relation to chocolate and sex, which are ultimately unfounded and yet have profoundly impacted public sentiment.

I was brought to such a conclusion through an interview regarding chocolate that I conducted with a good female friend of mine at Harvard College. We sat down in a café and had the following conversation.

Q: What is your favorite kind of chocolate?

A: Mostly white chocolates, but I also love the Cadbury Curly Wurly and Reese’s in particular.

Q: What kind of chocolate do you consider high quality?

A: Dark chocolates, or I guess specific brands like Lindt, or Lindor truffles…definitely not Hershey’s or Snickers. Do you know Milka? I think that’s European and it’s different but I’d probably consider that nice. The kinds that people give as gifts are usually nice.

Q: To whom do you gift chocolate, if ever?

A: You! Haha. But also my little sisters and anyone I feel bad for. It’s a nice quick way to make someone feel better. It’s easy, convenient, and everyone likes chocolate.

Q: Do people ever give you chocolate?

A: My family at holidays, and sometimes guys.

Q: In what situations do you eat the most chocolate?

A: Holidays and if I feel bad or upset about something. Chocolate is nice because it makes you feel happy. I think there are studies on that, that it makes you feel happy because of the sugar. Some people are addicted to it I think.

Q: Understandable. Lastly, in what context do you see chocolate most often advertised?

A: Oh! Wait. This is something I can really go on about because it’s so weird to me, and so interesting. Advertisements use women and eating, and sexualize the women eating it, which makes it seem doubly attractive because of both the woman and the chocolate.  It makes you think of sex and like, sinning, because chocolate’s unhealthy and sex is associated with sin. Not that sex is something to be ashamed of, but they’re associated. If you’re writing a paper on this you should do it on that!

My friend’s influence on my topic is pretty evident from my last question, which excited her to the extent that she insisted I use the interview to highlight that correlation. But even her answers to other, non-explicitly gender-based questions contribute evidence to the sexualization of women in chocolate advertising, its exact form, and the misconceptions it generates even to someone so obviously aware of it. To elaborate, her responses demonstrate how higher quality chocolate in particular is gifted to women by men or by other woman, but rarely to men. Furthermore, she clearly buys into the indulgent role of chocolate, and its ability to make her feel better instantly. This thought, unbeknownst to her, is also partially the result of chocolate advertising. But the advertising does not function this way arbitrarily; it acts on associations which, despite having morphed over time, are in fact grounded in chocolate’s roots.

Chocolate’s ancient romance-based role as an aphrodisiac and a factor in betrothal may be the starting point of the focus on women in particular since these connotations include heteronormative and monogamous assumptions. Women are therefore necessarily involved. In Mayan culture, kings purportedly sent messengers equipped with beaten chocolate out to found them wives (Coe & Coe, 61). And at the ceremony itself, the bride and groom would give each other five grains of cacao (Coe & Coe, 61). The first instance clearly illustrates that chocolate would, in that case, be expected to woo such a bride. Thus, chocolate’s supposed love-inducing power on women is seen even here. This concept was somewhat exempt from some of the early to mid-twentieth century chocolate advertising campaigns, which had other intentions, but it resurfaces in the current environment.

The aforementioned campaigns, which took place in the first half of the twentieth century, lack this concept because they sought to situate women and chocolate in the domestic realm. They were particularly prolific following the First and Second World Wars, due to the fact that women had worked traditionally male jobs in place of men who had been drafted. Female empowerment and the beginnings of an understanding of equal ability regardless of sex had emerged, and a heady effort was made to re-establish gender roles and thus reduce any competition with women for jobs. One way of doing this was to trumpet the image of the “housewife,” generally in an overwhelmingly positive light, so that women understood that this was still their primary role. Naturally advertising campaigns are an efficient way of making public statements, and so it isn’t surprising that cocoa and chocolate ads in this era worked to this end. Instead of focusing on women in a sexual manner, they focused on them in their roles as “the main shopper of the family, or at least the coordinator of the all the family shopping” (Robertson 23). A Rowntree poster depicts a woman carrying cups of cocoa for her children while they play with her outfit, which is starkly reminiscent of a maid’s uniform. This design is purposeful, and is included to insinuate that the purpose of wives and mothers is directly comparable to that of a maid. And a 1937 Baker’s Chocolate ad shows happy children and, separately, a woman eating dessert with her husband with a description that exclaims, “Gee, Mother’s a parent with swell ideas! (She’s smart, too, to make her soufflé with Baker’s Chocolate.” Ultimately, this illustration of women gives them some kind of power, even if it comes from a distinct “feminine knowledge” which was gleaned through being relegated to full-time housewife status (Robertson 23). rowntreebakers.png

In the 1940s and 50s in America, however, nutritional health concerns suddenly became paramount and obesity was increasingly stigmatized. Although being overweight was viewed as unappealing in previous decades, “psychiatrically-oriented postwar medical thinking about obesity was more stigmatizing…newer biomedical theory linked fatness to the already stigmatized condition of addiction and authorized attribution of moral blame to the fat” (Rasmussen 880). This new psychiatric attitude also directly blamed mothers for the obesity of children. Hilde Bruch, a New York psychoanalyst claimed that the “key element of a family environment promoting obesity…was a domineering mother too invested in mothering…this overmothering involved overfeeding” (Rasmussen 883). Given this blame-oriented reaction to unhealthiness and fat, chocolate advertisements naturally needed to alter their methodology and move away from the idea that smart mothers feed their children large amounts of chocolate and cocoa. Because although chocolate served as a sustainer, in its most popular form it also contained large amounts of sugar and fat. But the question then became one of what the new appeal of chocolate would be. This was an especially difficult issue, for the reason that unhealthy foods like candy and chocolate were not only stigmatized…they were essentially demonized (Lecture note, 8. March 2017). This is largely due to timing and grouping— “addiction and fatness attracted widespread popular stigma at about the same time—and for the same set of reasons based in a Protestant morality strained by the abundance of industrial capitalism” (Rasmussen 881). Opiate and cocaine addiction came to the forefront of societal concerns at the beginning of the twentieth century, and addicts were gradually seen as incurable and even criminal (Rasmussen 881). And those involved in the temperance movement which was in full swing until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 continued to condemn alcohol consumption largely for the addiction it was so disposed to cause. Now that obesity was also thought to be the result of addiction, but to food, the overweight were similarly denounced and eating junk food was, through this parallel, equated to committing a sin.

The best way to conquer this new face of chocolate was ultimately to embrace this idea of sin by pairing it with sex and lust. This pairing made sinning out to be a good thing, grounded in the understanding that sex is technically a “sin,” or morally perverse, and yet people engage in it regardless and with pleasure. If chocolate had instead been paired with a sin that has virtually no nuance and which is inhumane as opposed to immoral for religious reasons which not all people agree with, such as murder or theft, such a method would plainly fail. Needless to say, no advertising agency would assume this position—the comparison seeks only to elucidate how the choice of lust is one of few ways to save a name which had been thrust into the realm of immorality. From the pairing of sex and chocolate, emerges a concept of dual indulgence in both. The thought is that although eating chocolate is wrong for health reasons, it is addictive and pleasurable and understandable in the eyes of modern society, as is sex. This manifested itself in commercials and posters of beautiful women eating chocolate in a notably seductive fashion, and acting as though the chocolate itself is as pleasurable as sex. Some advertisements even make a point of acting as though the women are so drawn to the chocolate that it makes them irrational and out-of-control. This idea is pervasively linked to romance, where women are also stereotypically (albeit unfairly) thought to be irrational when inextricably involved with men. And sex in particular is thought to be a cause of this irrationality. The other common form of chocolate advertising features men gifting chocolate to women with “implied meanings of gratitude and sexual submission” (Robertson 33). Random gifting takes on the insinuation of seduction, or of chocolate’s ability to literally seduce a woman both in its intrinsic role as an addictive delicacy and in its role as reasoning to be grateful to a man and therefore be willing to indulge him. And in another chocolate-gifting trope, chocolate is given to appease a woman who is angry with her significant other. In these scenarios, the woman “overcome[s] such faults as a bad temper…the man is never really bad and there is a reason for his moodiness” (Robertson 30). Therefore, here too is the idea that women are inherently irrational, and that they can be either “subdued by the gift of chocolate” or simply seduced by it (Robertson 32). Regardless, they are often portrayed as out of control through images of them being both driven crazy by and placated by chocolate. It is important to note that this type of advertising was originally restricted mostly to nice chocolates and chocolate assortments—Emma Robertson qualifies that “at least until the 1970s, the link between sex and chocolate had become circumscribed according to the type of chocolate being marketed” (30). Cocoa powder and chocolate geared toward children remained innocuous. This is still the case on some level, which is why my friend equated nice, dark chocolates with the kinds one would gift. But this is a qualifier mostly only when concerning gifting—modern advertisements such as those first described tend to link women and sexiness regardless of quality. The sexual connotation now comes across in most marketing of chocolate.


Clearly, even before the health revolution of the 1950s, women were a focus of advertising efforts. Marketing is often gendered—commercials for traditionally “masculine” commodities such as cars and razors and cologne focus conversely on men to promote a masculine association with their product. An example of this which ironically coincides with gendered chocolate marketing is this Axe commercial. While still primarily featuring a man, it insinuates that the passion women ostensibly have for chocolate and the passion they will have for men that wear Axe deodorant are equivocal. For this to be appealing to men, this passion is necessarily sexual.

Aside from highlighting the toxic masculinity that emerges in advertising from companies such as Axe, this campaign functions for our purposes on two levels. As previously touched upon, it proves that chocolate has been shaped into something that the public feels women are literally attracted to in a sexual manner. The man is happy because, in his role as a man made entirely of chocolate, he is a recipient of the sexual desire men crave. Secondly, the fashion in which women respond to him is intentionally almost animalistic, so crazed are they by chocolate. While this implicitly lends proof to the earlier idea that gifted chocolate is meant to elicit a sexual response, it also speaks to the broader theme of female irrationality and impulsiveness at the hands of both chocolate and sex.

This theme can be proven to be artificially manufactured, however, at least in terms of chocolate. Societal views on female irrationality regarding sex are more nuanced and deserve to be more deeply analyzed separately. The trajectory of chocolate and a lack of control began when chocolate and other junk foods, after being caught up in the wave of altered medical and psychiatric thought of the mid-twentieth century, were classified as addictive. But the chocolate industry clearly decided to use this to their benefit. By subsequently linking chocolate to sex, the addictive classification was exacerbated. Sex is also considered classically addictive—Jamal Fahim notes that we “typically associate addictive behavior with drugs, alcohol, or sexual behavior” (13). So the link to sex compounded the addictive label and implied that chocolate can elicit reactions similar to those elicited by drugs and alcohol—chemical and unnatural. This made chocolate into a necessary indulgence, which is one way of increasing sales. Advertising is therefore necessarily involved, since it is the realm in which the association grew. It is also interesting to note that, in an age where addictions to such substances were under heavy criticism, “tobacco and alcohol are socially deemed masculine luxuries” (Fahim 12). Thus, it appears that the addictions plaguing the public were largely those associated with masculinity. It is therefore convenient that a new addiction emerged which was almost concretely linked to women through the media. Though it cannot be stated with any certainty, it is possible that likening chocolate to an addiction and then placing it in the female realm redistributed blame for a societal problem which previously had more of a male affiliation. After all, women were also targeted in Hilde Burch’s aforementioned concept that the overfeeding mother is responsible for child obesity. Regardless, claims of the addictive properties of chocolate are for the most part unsubstantiated— “studies on chocolate have indicated that the amounts of these mood-enhancing chemicals, such as alkaloids or Phenethylamine, are at such a low level that it is unlikely that they are the reason behind the euphoria one feels when they consume chocolate” (Aaron and Bearden 2008:169, as qtd. in Fahim, 14). Yes, chocolate tastes good and the alkaloids that it contains (caffeine and theobromine) may have some positive effects on mood and stimulation, but it is not addictive in the same way that drugs and sex are. Research that portrays it in such a manner in order to “validate a deeper relationship to sex [is] so negligible and trivial that one must conclude that it is only chocolate marketing that perpetuates chocolate’s association with love and sex and its implied special relevance to women” (Fahim 15).

The lack of scientific evidence to back chocolate addiction theories doesn’t change the fact that the stereotypes crafted by the advertising world have genuinely imbedded themselves in society. This is evident in the interview with my friend. For example, the gender-based one-way gifting is validated by her anecdotal evidence, in that she recalls giving gifts to me and her sisters alone, while receiving them from men. She also has a little brother, and so it is significant that she didn’t mention him while describing giving chocolate to little siblings. The history of chocolate’s public image makes the gifting of chocolate to boys and men seem almost outlandish. She also touched upon her tendency to eat chocolate when she’s upset because it makes her feel happier, even adding that this is why some people are possibly addicted to it. This made me realize that misconceptions put forth by the marketing of chocolate have been widely accepted by the public, because her description of chocolate betrays a belief that chocolate has powers similar to that of a drug in enhancing mood. And this notion has been strongly influenced by advertising’s exaggerated depictions of the female reaction to chocolate.

There is, however, probably some validity to the natural mood-enhancing capabilities of chocolate. Recent years have yielded an abundance of literature heralding positive effects of chocolate on maladies such as depression, blood pressure, and inflammation. It is important to keep in mind that, in such research, “reported results are based upon dark rather than milk chocolate” (Coe & Coe, 30). But since entirely dark chocolate is not sweet like milk chocolate, it has not been incredibly popular with the public. Thus, even if such research is valid, it wouldn’t apply to the vast majority of the mainstream chocolate onto which the media projects its fabricated claims.

What is most interesting to me about the marketing of chocolate is its loyalty to a feminine focus. When the basis of the domesticity-based chocolate and cocoa campaigns was uprooted by the obsession with thinness and the stigmatization of obesity of the mid-twentieth century, marketers of chocolate turned to sex in connection with women in particular to make chocolate similarly alluring and deserving of indulgence. The link to sex also purposefully deepened chocolate’s addictive connotation, so that consumers would feel chocolate was a necessary purchase. But the new methodology didn’t fail to maintain the strong feminine association of the domestic campaign. Although men are implicit in the sexually-tinged gifting policies, it is women that appear in almost all advertisements and often alone with their chocolate, being seduced by it and also seducing the viewer. This propensity to preserve the pairing of women and chocolate, combined with what appears to be growing acknowledgement of dark chocolate and its health benefits, leads me to wonder what kind of marketing we can expect to see if chocolate’s image shifts again. One might think that the focal point of its advertising strategy would simply revert back to domestic life as in the early twentieth century and earlier, but I would argue that the economic equality of women, although not complete, has advanced to the extent that this would not be the new structure. Instead, I think it would be based on the modern focus on women and a societal expectation that they will maintain their health and their body image. For example, I can picture marketing similar to that of this Special K commercial, but trumpeting mental health or blood pressure as opposed to weight loss.

Because unfortunately, it appears that the marketing of chocolate is insistent on keeping a gendered focus. But we can at least hope that, if dark chocolate’s health benefits become fact and are widely understood by the public, chocolate consumption will lose the connection to immorality which likens it to sex, and that women in chocolate advertising will thus cease to be over-sexualized. Granted, this could be replaced by the gendered double standards of health maintenance, but I consider those to be the lesser of two evils. Lastly, needless to say, in the best case scenario the gendered focus of the advertising would be eradicated entirely—but given no guarantee of this, I aim only to predict a slightly better alternative.

                                                                        Works Cited:

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

“Chocolate Advertisements.” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2017.                      <http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slideshows/double_x/doublex/2012/02/13/chocolate-advertisements/jcr%3Acontent/slideshow/6/images%252Fslides%252FChocolate_7.jpg >.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester and New York: Manchester U Press, 2009. Print. Distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.

Elsey, Brian. Retro Image, Rowntree’s Chocolates and Cocoa. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017. <http://www.historyworld.co.uk/retroimage.php?opt=retro&pic=123&gt;.

Rudolph, Janet. “Dying for Chocolate.” Thanksgiving Weekend: Baker’s Vintage 1937 Ad & Recipes. N.p., 27 Nov. 2011. Web. 01 May 2017. <http://dyingforchocolate.blogspot.com/2011/11/thanksgiving-weekend-bakers-vintage.html&gt;.

Rasmussen, Nicolas. “Weight stigma, addiction, science, and the medication of fatness in mid-twentieth century America.” Sociology of Health & Illness 34.6 (2012): 880-95. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

Lecture Notes: information recorded in class, provided by Professor Carla D. Martin.

Bmt27. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2006. Web. 01 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcbhHOZZXnI&gt;.

Elliott, Stuart. “Godiva Rides in a New Direction.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Nov. 2009. Web. 01 May 2017. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/16/business/media/16adnewsletter1.html&gt;.

“BLACK MAGIC CHOCOLATE ADVERTISEMENT 1939.” Flickr. Ed. Star1950. Yahoo!, 17 July 2008. Web. 01 May 2017. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/castlekay/2678319672&gt;.

Matheuscp. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 30 Jan. 2008. Web. 02 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZK7HS9J46Y>.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing” (2010). Sociology Student Scholarship. http://scholar.oxy.edu/sociology_student/3

Johnklin. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 29 Sept. 2009. Web. 04 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPJpkgqLQ_M&gt;.




Altruism vs. Individual Gain – Effectiveness of Alternative Marketing Strategies for Chocolate

It’s finals period. I want chocolate, you want chocolate, everyone wants chocolate. But, it’s not as simple as it sounds – we are people of the 21st century, we have options. I’m not just going to go to the store and buy a bag of generic “Chocolate,” no, I’m going to weigh my options. Do I want the smooth milky taste of a Hershey’s bar, or do I want a euphoric crunchiness with each bite with a Crunch bar? But, there is more to this selection than just pure taste and texture. As the chocolate market grows increasingly competitive, marketing strategies have to evolve as well. Some chocolate companies try to market their products as worthy impulses, and others have taken the approach of appealing to your innate desire to help others, by advertising their chocolates as synonymous to charity.

At the end of the day, you’re not just buying chocolate – you’re buying happiness. Short-term, immediate happiness. Each chocolate company takes you to a magical world, where everything is good. So, what is this ultimate and magical “good?” That depends on which chocolate company you ask. Chocolate companies such as Hershey’s and Cadbury paint a more personal view of happiness, while other companies such as Endangered Species Chocolate and Taza promote a wider utopian view of worldwide harmony, where all people and animals live in harmony with mutual respect for each other. But the point of this blog post is not to discuss which view is more correct, but rather which one has more influence among consumers. Before beginning, I will make my bias clear: I love chocolate. The more sugar, the better. I primarily care about taste. I will demonstrate how my view is a commonly held one, and that the average consumer, or at least those willing to voice their opinions, do not prioritize environmental or social impacts. I will do so using these four mentioned companies as case studies, as a representative sample of the greater chocolate industry.

To begin, let us take a look at how these four companies promise to bring about happiness. Hershey’s explicitly states that its product is designed with the consumer’s happiness in mind. Its website features a promotional video, equating the word “Hershey’s” to simplicity, deliciousness, and happiness. Its website goes on further to describe how its founder, Milton Hershey, was someone who always had other people’s happiness in mind, “Milton Hershey believed that everyone should have the choice to be happy, and enjoy simple goodness,” (Hershey’s). It further goes on to suggest that consuming its product is the key to happiness, saying “Thanks to Milton’s vision, we remind ourselves everyday that we always have a choice about how we feel – and so do you. So why not say hello to happy?” The Hershey company paints its product as a euphoric snack, an item unlocking the door to carefree happiness, and this is further exemplified by their amusement park, the self-proclaimed “Sweetest Place On Earth.” Yes, its website does mention the Milton Hershey School for orphan boys, but this is not featured on its website nearly as predominantly as its promise of delivering happiness. Cadbury, too, promotes itself to the individual’s self-interest, equating its brand with “fun.” Its website’s homepage boldly features the promise of its chocolate being full of fun, and invites consumers to participate with the hashtag: #CADBURYWORLD. Cadbury also features an amusement park, which promises to “whisk you away on an adventurous journey,” with some of its attractions being described as “a magical journey full of surprises,” ultimately declaring that “It’s great fun – especially for kids,” (Cadbury). Both Cadbury and Hershey’s sell their products as opportunities to enjoy life more, via fun or happiness, and both promote a sense of a better life for the individual consumer.

Companies such as Taza and Endangered Species Chocolate, however, advertise themselves as an opportunity for their consumers to feel good about themselves, by participating in a cause improving the lives of others. Endangered Species Chocolate’s website features its “Promise” as the first link on the website, in which it promotes its giveback of 10% of net profits to its GiveBack partners. It also lists how it supports farmers (notably at a cost to itself), and shares links for the animal organizations it’s donating to, complete with cute animal photos encoded with relevant links. Further, even on its specific product information pages, it focuses just as much, if not more, on the animals associated with the product as the product itself, even if the connection between the chocolate and the specific animal is unclear. Its products feature pictures of sad-eyed animals that are pleading for your help, and even the brand’s name makes it clear that purchasing this product is not just about chocolate – it is about the difference you can make. Investing in Endangered Species Chocolate is more than just purchasing a snack, it is about saving the planet. Endangered Species Chocolate utilizes altruism to promise a fulfilling snacking experience, so that its consumers know their snack did so much more good in the world than just satisfy their hunger (or sweet-tooth). This type of “poverty porn” makes it easy for consumers to feel good about themselves, all you have to do is buy the ‘charity’ product, “and you’ve done a thing,” (Dortonne). Taza chocolate too promotes itself as a “pioneer in ethical cacao sourcing,” (Taza), claiming to have a deep concern for its laborers and the environment. Taza utilizes both altruism and personal investment to sell its products, with claims of both quality and sustainability.

Now that I’ve established how these companies attempt to advertise their chocolate, let’s take a look at how effective they are. To do so, we will look at how consumers view their products, by viewing customer comments of their products, and by interviewing self-proclaimed chocolatiers and chocoholics (note: I will change the names of the interviewees, for anonymity). To begin with, let us look at how these products are reviewed by consumers, by using Amazon comments as a sample of opinions. Hershey’s chocolate bars are given generally positive reviews. The user Natasha says that the products are great for sharing with your whole family; a nameless user commented that the products were loved by his girlfriend (and followed it with a winky face); and the user Western Trans even commented that the Hershey’s products are an “instant happy for my sister,” (Amazon, HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate Bars). Similarly, with Cadbury products, consumers focused on the taste and overall personal experiences. The user Andrew W. comments on how having Cadbury chocolate again was a nostalgic experience, which brought him back to loving the same product during his childhood (Amazon, Original Cadbury Creme Egg); user P. Breeds calls them luxurious treats that need to be hidden from his children (followed by a smiley face), (Amazon, Cadburys Chocolate Spread); and user Angilena even thanks Cadbury: “thanks for making our dreams of eating this again come true,” (Amazon, Cadbury Dairy Milk Egg ‘n’ Spoon with Oreo). The comments clearly center around the taste and the overall personal experiences resulting from the chocolates, exactly what Hershey’s and Cadbury’s advertisements promote. Their consumers comment on their products in the way they were marketed, indicating that the two companies’ marketing strategies are effective in influencing the way consumers interact with their products. Similarly, the reviews for Taza and Endangered Species Chocolate focus on the taste of the products. However, while Hershey’s and Cadbury promote these aspects of their products, Taza and Endangered Species Chocolate do not do so as prevalently. In Amazon’s top comments for Taza Wicked Dark Chocolate, there is not one single mention of their direct trade policies or their role as an ethical cacao sourcing pioneer; instead, comments focus on taste. Further, in Amazon’s top comments for Endangered Species Panther’s Dark Chocolate bar, only two comments even mention their charitable nature, and both only do so tangentially. User ZapNZs writes a comment entirely void of Endangered Species Chocolate’s good cause, but does refer to it as so in the last five words of his 18-word title (Amazon, Endangered Species Panther, Dark Chocolate). Similarly, Lizzy Throckmorton writes in a Facebook review that Endangered Species Chocolate is delicious, and then ends her comment with “The fact that a portion of the proceeds goes to a very worthy cause is just icing on the cake,” (Facebook, review of Endangered Species Chocolate). None of the comments focus on the charitable aspect of Endangered Species Chocolate, and at most mention it in passing, or humorously to justify consuming the product.

In an interview with Julia, a self-proclaimed chocolatier, I asked for her opinions on these brands. Regarding Hershey’s, Julia said, “My mom would only give it to me during special occasions, and those were always so much fun… Hershey’s reminds me of playing with my sister and mother!” Then, when I asked her about the Endangered Species Chocolate, she had not heard of the brand. After purchasing one for her, she said “What does the chocolate have to do with the animal? … It tastes fine, but if I really wanted to protect the animals, I’d donate all of the money [I spent on the chocolate bar] directly to their organizations, not just 10%.” In this interview, Julia followed the trend of focusing on taste and personal memories instead of the intended cause of Endangered Species Chocolate, and also had the reaction to Hershey’s intended from its advertisement plans. Similarly, in an interview with David, a self-proclaimed chocoholic, I asked the same questions. Growing up in England, he had fond memories of Cadbury products more so than Hershey’s: “Cadbury [chocolates] were simply delightful. My dad would bring some home when he came home from work, so it always reminds me of spending time with him.” When asked about Endangered Species Chocolate, he said “I think it’s a wonderful cause, I love how they’re supporting the animals!” Yet, upon asking him if he’d ever purchased an Endangered Species Chocolate product, he said “I never really considered buying it.”

Thus, it is clear that marketing chocolate as a charity instead of a source of personal enjoyment has not proven effective by these measures. However, it is important to ask if this is specific to chocolate, or just the nature of online commentary. To do this, I will compare chocolate Brand Aid products to Brand Aid products of a different type of product: footwear. Take the well-known example of TOMS shoes, a famous company whose main slogan of “one for one” refers to how it donates a pair of shoes to children in Africa for every pair of TOMS shoes purchased. TOMS will serve as a strong comparison point because it is also a company that promotes itself as a charitable investment, instead of just promoting its product on its own. To use this as an accurate comparison point, we have to assume that TOMS does have noble and undisputed intentions. Thus, we will have to omit the commentary provided by skeptics, as the legitimacy of TOMS’ charitable nature is not the subject of this blog post, and the skeptics would not find purchasing the product an act of charity. We are not analyzing the legitimacy of TOMS or other Brand Aid initiatives, which are undoubtedly controversial (Ponte), but instead, we shall analyze if TOMS is able to influence how its consumers view them. TOMS advertises itself as a charitable organization, so let us now see if its more vocal online consumers agree. On Amazon, user Jeffrey Wittig commented that he “love[s] the new shoes, and [is] happy to know that a child somewhere also got a pair,” (Amazon, TOMS Men’s Classic Canvas Slip-On). Most of the other comments fitting our criteria follow the same pattern, commending TOMS on its noble intentions. A study published in the Journal of Human Rights Practice researching TOMS’ effect found that TOMS has had much success in marketing itself in terms of philanthropy, and is widely known for it (Kingston). It is also important to note that this study argues that it has been vital for TOMS’ success that it lists its Giving Report annually. This leads me to conclude that while philanthropy has had a huge impact in promoting footwear brands, it has not had the same effect for chocolate. Thus, it is apparent that Endangered Species Chocolate and Taza are not as effective as TOMS has been in redirecting their consumers’ thoughts to their charitable intentions.

Chocolate is more than just collections of sugar and cacao; it is an investment towards future happiness. Different chocolate marketing approaches represent different ways of advertising, and thus emphasizing, happiness. Some chocolate companies promote a more individualized vision of personal sanctity, while others promote a more holistic and universal vision of harmony. It appears that this personal approach leaves a bigger impact on consumers than the charitable and altruistic one. That explains why, in Tubular Insight’s ranking of the top ten chocolate advertisement, none focus on charity or giving back of the chocolate products, but instead focus on taste, memories, and feelings of happiness (Tubular Insights). This is also made abundantly clear in pop-culture. Think of the renounced film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The movie depicts a chocolate utopia, benefitting the individuals lucky enough to win a Golden Ticket for themselves and a loved one, but almost no attention is given to the working conditions of the laborers, the Oompa Loompas (Burton). When their labor is mentioned, it focuses only on how they were removed from an awful country, not their current labor conditions. As the narrator in this video mentions, Willy Wonka downplays the severity of slavery. Instead, what’s much more heavily emphasized is how their chocolate will help enhance your happiness, letting you live “in a world of pure imagination” (Burton).

Chocolate has many different forms. As I sit here, writing this last paragraph, I’m currently eating 2 different types of chocolate. There is no one generic “chocolate,” nor is it as simple as a dichotomy – chocolate exists in many different shapes and tastes, and fulfill different purposes. It is no longer enough to just advertise chocolate by their tastes and textures, but now they must be marketed in the ways that they will improve your day. Different companies have different approaches, but not all approaches have equally meaningful impacts. Even when certain companies try to shift the focus onto philanthropic contributions, their chocolate is still viewed for what it is – chocolate, not acts of charity. The joy obtained from eating chocolate is a deeply personal phenomenon, and does not lend itself to holistic generosity as much as it does to immediate satisfaction and happiness. But I would be remiss if I did not add that in all the chocolate advertisements I have viewed I have never seen a fat pimply faced happy person eating a chocolate bar– but that will remain the subject of a further blog.


Works Cited:

Allen, Lawrence L. “Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers.” Thunderbird International Business Review 52.1 (2010): 13-20.

Cadbury. “Home.” Franchise. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2017.

D’antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. Simon and Schuster, 2007.

Eagle, Bob, and Tim Ambler. “The influence of advertising on the demand for chocolate confectionery.” International Journal of Advertising 21.4 (2002): 437-454.

Endangered Species Chocolate. “Home.” Franchise. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2017.

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Marshall, Carla. “Top 10 Most Shared Chocolate Ads Ever: Brands are Huge, Giant Losers.” Tubular Insights. N.p., 22 Dec. 2015. Web. 1 May 2017.

Nestle, Marion. Food politics: How the food industry influences nutrition and health. Vol. 3. Univ of California Press, 2013.

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TOMS Shoes. YouTube. YouTube, 02 July 2012. Web. 1 May 2017.

Women in Chocolate Advertising – Does Sex Sell?

Gender has been an important aspect of chocolate consumption since its introduction into the west. Although chocolate was mostly consumed in male-dominated coffee and chocolate houses in the seventeenth century, the eighteenth century marked the feminization of chocolate as it became associated with luxury and leisure in the domestic setting. As industrial manufacturing developed over the nineteenth century, chocolate became affordable to all, and in consequence, women were made responsible for providing ‘wholesome cocoa’ for their families (Robinson 2010). However, even today, when men consume as much chocolate as women, being a ‘chocoholic’ is a trait that is mostly identified with, by women. The portrayal of women in advertising however, often presents women in a fairly negative light. They emphasize a supposed female weakness for temptation, depicting women in a sensual setting, mesmerized by the product that brings them to near ecstasy. Moreover, the seductive nature of the women in the advertisements seem to be undeniably linked with what society believes to be the ideal of female beauty, to the point where a critical observer would be skeptical of whether the model in question would ever eat a piece of chocolate. The issue of nutritional value, is a key problem that marketers of chocolate had to overcome, as the product they are promoting is inherently high in sugar and fat, while their key audience has become increasingly more health and body conscious. This is, in part, due to the fact that today’s society has become more obsessed with outward appearance and resembling the ‘ideal’ female body, so much so that over-indulgence has become taboo. Yet, this is exactly where lies the tension of the sensual depictions of women in chocolate advertising. How is the chocolate industry getting away with using skinny models usually in a seductive setting, an advertising choice offensive to many women, to entice this very consumer base to buy their inherently fattening product?


A Brief History of Chocolate in Advertising

Chocolate advertising has always targeted women according to the different roles they play in society. In the early 20th century, prominent chocolate companies such as Rowntree and Cadbury developed entire marketing strategies around housewives and mothers. Although these advertisements most certainly did not have sexual connotations associated with them, advertisers back then already knew how to manipulate their key audience, as proven by the following statement from Rowntree’s advertising firm: “Any technique by which we can appeal to the mother’s concern for the well-being of her family or her related anxiety about being a successful mother and winning the loyalty and gratitude of her husband and children might serve as a vehicle to make her think of Rowntree’s Cocoa in the way we want her to think of it”(Robinson 2010). In contrast, chocolate, in the form of luxury assortments, was the epitome of heterosexual love and romance. Many advertisements from the early 20th century show chocolate consumption as the ultimate sign of courtship, as chocolate was to be a gift from a man to a woman and a way to “keep your sweetie sweet” (Robinson 2010). Towards the end of the 20th century however, chocolate advertising begins to target women as individuals, and not as gateways to their husbands and children, and even in the more romantic advertisements, men start to fade into the background. Simultaneously, chocolate advertising became increasingly more sexualized. The women are depicted independent of any man, and have found a new obsession: chocolate. An example of this, is the 1960 advertisement for Cadbury Flake. The actress looks flirtatiously at the chocolate and seems to be constantly battling temptation, until she finally gives in, at which point the music speeds up and becomes more high-pitched. The slogan “Cadbury’s Flake, a heaven all of your own” underscores how the product can bring a woman pleasure in the absence of a man. Although the sexual reference is made abundantly clear, this commercial is relatively tame in comparison to the more sexually explicit commercials and advertisements of the present day. What caused the chocolate industry to drastically increase the sexualization of women in their marketing strategies?

The Demonization of Chocolate & The Sin of Overindulgence

During the early 1900s, the United States was known to many as a “great candy eating nation”. Athletes swore on the performance-enhancing abilities of candy, aviators survived record-breaking flights on chocolate bars and the National Confectioners’ Association campaigned for daily candy eating. Candy advertising even framed it as a weight-loss agent. An example of this is the Curtiss Butterfinger advertisement. Their slogan “Candy…enriched with dextrose” made the added sugar seem like some kind of nutritional perk. The popularity of candy, and thus chocolate, soared as housewives and mothers were encouraged to incorporate sweets into the diets of their children. Towards the end of the 20th century however, as the negative health effects of candy became known to the public, an anti-candy movement was started in which candy was demonized (Dr. Carla Martin, Lecture March 8th). The consumption of fatty, sugary foods became taboo for women who were expected to be skinny in order to maintain their feminine allure. Eating chocolate, a product inherently high in sugar and fat, became associated with overindulgence and harmful to a women’s sexual appeal. Being overweight would signal an inability for self-constraint, something that wasn’t desired in a future spouse (Parsons 2015). Although this ideal of self-constraint and a women’s responsibility to fight off temptation wasn’t novel, in combination with the temperance movement against candy gaining popularity, it posed a real threat to the chocolate industry. Many companies moved to make their products bite-sized, in order to create the allusion of a more moderate, and thus healthier, snack. But it wasn’t enough. Marketing strategies had to find a way to distance their product from the sin of overindulgence and the taboo of food in order to entice their audience to buy the products society told them not to consume.

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Figure 1: A 1952 Curtiss Butterfinger advertisement promoting their candy enriched with dextrose


Chocolate as the Forbidden Fruit

Chocolate has had a long-standing relationship with love and romance, but also sex. Even in ancient times, the Aztecs and the Mayans believed that chocolate could cure impotence and, although modern science has found no significant scientific basis for this, many people today still think of chocolate as an aphrodisiac. Advertisers, looking for a different way to attract their target demographic, happily tapped into this misconception and rebranded the chocolate experience as a sexual experience. Chocolate advertising no longer promised to fulfill one’s energy needs, but vowed to provide intense pleasure and satisfy all sexual desires, portraying chocolate as a substitute for sex. Interestingly, advertisers chose to maintain the element of sin, as demonstrated by the advertisement for Ferrero Rocher. Besides the very blatant reference to Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the model is holding in place, with her hand on her inner thigh, what could be bedsheets and her hair has been teased to make it appear as if she has just had sex. That being said, she is still eying the Ferrero Rocher and is fighting temptation not to grab the “forbidden fruit”, underscoring the boundless obsession women supposedly have for chocolate. The text on the left-hand side, “Are you a chocolate sinner?”, encourages the consumer to identify her craving for chocolate with (a lack of) sexual gratification, while the text “And that dream is just one sin away…” invites her to buy their product and give in to sin. The consumer is made to believe that if a model with the perfect female body gives in to temptation now and then, who is she to resist it? Although this particular advertisement takes the relationship between sin and chocolate quite literally by incorporating “The Ultimate Sin” into their campaign, references to sexual transgressions are abundant in chocolate advertising. As cleverly observed by Fahim, advertisers have “turned chocolate into a sexual, self-indulgent, private experience that invokes a taboo similar to that of masturbation” (Fahim 2010). It might seem superfluous to replace one taboo, that of food and overindulgence, with another taboo, that of self-indulgence, if the ultimate plan is to maintain the ‘sin’ aspect of consuming chocolate. But these taboos have very different, if not contrasting, connotations in today’s society. Although both are associated with losing control and the inability for self-restraint, overindulgence in food is thought to harm a women’s feminine appeal by harming her figure, while the sexual taboo brings her more in touch with her femininity through sexual satisfaction. The fattening nature of chocolate would seem to make it impossible to advertise it as a product that would make women more attractive. Nevertheless, advertisers try to persuade women into thinking that consuming chocolate can enhance their femininity while it is known to do the opposite.

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Figure 2: Ferrero Rocher likening their product to ‘the forbidden fruit’


Sex Sells?

The taboos are inherently linked. Nevertheless, the chocolate industry has been able to emphasize one, while pushing the other to the background. But there is another aspect as to why it’s so surprising the chocolate industry is successful in its usage of sexual references in its marketing strategies. Research has shown that women have a marked negative response to sexually explicit images in advertising, questioning the old saying that sex sells (Dahl 2009). Dahl et al. argue that this is the case because advertisements with blatant sexual references place sex outside of the whelm of a committed relationship, which is not in line with most women’s perceptions of sex. However, they found that if the sexual references in the ad could be seen in a broader context related to a committed relationship, rather than casual, non-emotional sex, through subtle cues such as gift-giving, the response would be less negative. Interestingly, that is exactly what the chocolate industry moved away from in targeting women. Ads have become more individualistic and chocolate is less frequently represented as the token of courtship and something that has to be gifted by a man. Instead they portray chocolate as a substitute for sex through their sexually explicit campaigns. In contrast, the same study showed that men had no issues with gratuitous sexual references and in consequence, chocolate, and its characteristic association with sex, has been used to promote male products virtually unrelated to chocolate. For instance, in an ad for Axe Dark Temptation, the deodorant turns the man into a chocolate man, after which he is virtually assaulted by the women he encounters. Although the ad is clearly targeted towards men, it still shows women to be obsessed by chocolate, unable to restrain themselves from getting their fix and taking a bite out of this chocolate man. This idea is perpetuated by the name, “Axe Dark Temptation”, further implying that women won’t be able to resist men wearing this deodorant, like they are unable to resist chocolate. There is even a scene in which women working out in the gym, jump off their treadmills in order to get a glimpse of the chocolate man, once again emphasizing that when chocolate is presented in a sexual setting, women are portrayed to forget all about the harmful effects chocolate may have on their figure, effects society tells them to be mindful of.


Creating ‘Chocoholics’ Everywhere

Although chocolate marketing efforts have targeted predominantly women since the beginning of the 20th century, chocolate advertising has undergone drastic transformation since then. While the early 1900s marked the time of appealing to women’s more wholesome roles as mothers, housewives, or as the subject of heterosexual courtship, contemporary chocolate advertisements have consistently portrayed women as irrational and obsessed, always fighting and losing to temptation. Chocolate advertising has become increasingly more sexualized, despite the fact that research has shown that women seem to have an aversion for sexually explicit images in advertising. Nevertheless, the chocolate industry seems to be succeeding in persuading women to buy their products, as proven by the many self-proclaimed ‘chocoholics’ out there. Moreover, they’ve been able to convince their key demographic that their product will enhance their femininity through its connotation with sexual satisfaction, by eating a product that has also been demonized for causing women to lose their female figures, and thus their sex appeal. To complicate the already complex relationship even further, the models used in the ads and commercials are often thought to represent the ideal female body. A skeptical observer would question whether these models have ever even tasted the product they are selling. But perhaps this further reinforces women to buy the chocolate. If the gorgeous, slim woman is able to enjoy the occasional chocolate and still looks the way she does, then why couldn’t the consumer? One could imagine that the relationship is even stronger than that, in which case the consumer might think that the model looks the way she does, because she eats the product she is selling. One way or another, the chocolate industry has found a way to emphasize one taboo, while letting the other fade into the background, and although both taboos seem to be inherently united in their product, women all around the Western world are falling for it.


Works Cited

Dahl, Darren., Sengupta, Jaideep, Vohs, Kathleen. 2009. Sex in Advertising: Gender Differences and the Role of Relationship Commitment. Journal of Consumer Research Gainesville: 36(2): 15-231

 Fahim, Jamal. 2010. Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing. Sociology Student Scholarship. http://scholar.oxy.edu/sociology_student/3

Martin, Carla. 2017. Lecture March 8th – The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.

Parsons, Julie. 2015. Gender, Class and Food – Families, Bodies and Health. pp. 108-133. Print.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 1-131. Print.

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