Tag Archives: Big 5 chocolate

Taza Chocolate: A Step in the Right Direction, but Still Room for Improvement

As you have probably discovered when looking through the chocolate display in various retail and grocery stores, five large players dominate the global chocolate market. Their prevalence allows them to dictate the rhetoric and information synthesized by chocolate consumers on a daily basis. However, the industry is fraught with serious issues that these companies are not taking drastic enough steps to solve. Instead, we must look to other companies, although less well known and smaller-scale, that are forging innovative paths to solve these very real problems, in order to learn from them but also recognize where there is room for improvement. One such company is Taza Chocolate. 

 Taza Chocolate is a bean to bar chocolate company based in Somerville, Massachusetts. It was founded in 2005 by CEO Alex Whitmore, who was inspired by the stone ground chocolate he had tasted on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. He apprenticed under a molinero in Oaxaca in order to learn how to make and work with traditional Mexican stone mills. The result of these unique mills and minimal processing is chocolate with bolder flavors and a grittier consistency than the smoothness that is usually expected from more mainstream companies. 

Summary of the Taza Chocolate production process

Taza chocolate can be bought online through its website or at Amazon and can be found at retailers such as Whole Foods. According to the Taza Website, “We do things differently. We do things better. We are chocolate pioneers” (Taza Website: Direct Trade). They are pioneers not just because of their unique production process and flavor, but also because of their commitment to addressing the problems that plague the industry today through supply-chain transparency. 

Problems: Slavery, Economics and Gender Inequality

In order to critically analyze Taza’s attempted solutions, it is important to first understand the problems, which unfortunately are not new but rather have plagued the industry for centuries. Slavery was an integral part of chocolate’s history, and can be traced back to the 1500’s when the Spanish Encomienda system forced natives in Mesoamerica to grow cocoa and perform labor without pay. The terrible working conditions and disease spread by the Spaniards ravished the native population, and Africans were brought in to replace them. From 1500-1900, between 10 and 15 million enslaved Africans were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean to grow cocoa and other commodity crops. However, even after slavery was abolished, it continued and continues to plague the industry today, mostly in the form of child labor. The International Labour Organization defines child labor as, “all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery… work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children” (ILO). Carol Off found evidence of such child labor in Cote D’Ivoire, with some farmers or their supervisors “working… young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten” (Off, 121). A 2009 study by Tulane corroborated Off’s discoveries when it found that more than half a million children in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire were working in conditions that violated ILO guidelines as well as national laws on minimum wage and minimum hours (Berlan).

Another prevalent problem is the poverty that many cocoa farmers face, particularly in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, due to the economics of cocoa farming. Unlike many northern countries where jobs are salaried, wages for day laborers on farms are “neither guaranteed nor generally regulated” (Leissle, 106). Farm owners only receive cash when they sell their crop; thus, they earn 80% of their annual income in the six months of the main growing season, making budgeting for the rest of the year extremely difficult, especially because many inputs are needed at the start of the growing season when farmers are the lowest on cash. This can result in farmers having to take loans or credit, which often have incredibly high interest rates and can be impossible to pay back. The price fluctuations of chocolate also make it difficult to budget, as anything from bad weather to political turmoil can drastically affect chocolate’s price. Lastly, the prices farmers receive are often too low to support their costs. Farmers rarely sell their product directly to the big chocolate companies, instead selling to middlemen who have more negotiating power and can mislead them. Therefore, even if the price paid for chocolate goes up, there is no guarantee that the farmers actually receive this increase.  As a result of all of these factors, many farmers struggle to make a living.

Finally, gender inequality is an important problem that is often disregarded, in part because literature has minimized the role of women in chocolate production. Women are thought of as having only light and non-essential tasks, when in reality “female labor play[s] a central role in almost every aspect of cocoa production and sale… statistics undoubtedly underestimate the role of women” (Robertson, 100/104). But the industry is male-dominant, which has negative effects on women. For example, social norms dictate that even if women grow the cocoa, men are the ones that actually sell the crop and receive the cash (Leissle, 122). This means not only that women have no proof they are getting the right amount of money, but also that men of the household have control of the cash, which they often use to pay for needs they find most important before distributing the rest, if any, to women and children. Consequently, even though women contribute greatly to chocolate production, they have very little power. 

Taza’s Solution: Direct Trade Model

In order to combat some of these issues, according to Taza it developed, “The first third-party certified direct trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all.” (Taza Website: Direct Trade). Because it is the first of its kind, Taza published five guidelines and commitments for its direct trade system that it holds itself accountable to. 

  1. Develop direct relationships with cacao farmers:  Taza began by purchasing cocoa from La Red Guaconejo cooperative in the Dominican Republic and shipping it directly to Boston so that there were no middlemen involved. This direct method shrinks, “a commodity chain that is often far-flung, [so that] no step of the trade exchange, from farm to factory, was unknown or untraceable to Taza’s founders” (Leissle, 154). They later expanded their sources to include other producers in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ghana, all of which they have personal relationships with. Their single origin bars reflect and appreciate the uniqueness of each location. 
  2. Pay a price premium to cacao producers: Taza commits to paying at least $500 per MT above market price for its beans
  3. Source the highest quality cacao beans: Taza emphasizes fine flavor beans rather than bulk beans, and directs resources over the long term to assist producers in maintaining high quality output 
  4. Require USDA certified organic cacao: As part of its commitment to source only the best cocoa, Taza requires its producers to be organic certified. 
  5. Publish an annual transparency report: Taza was the first chocolate company ever to publish such a report. It includes the quantity of beans bought from each individual producer, the price Taza pays for these beans, and an intimate look at the individual producers they partner with. 
Overview of Taza’s Direct Trade Program in 2018

Pros of Taza’s Direct Trade Model

Taza’s direct trade model has improved the economics of farmers while simultaneously promoting transparency in the industry. In paying a large premium (15-20%), Taza ensures that the farmers do not have to worry about not being able to earn enough to survive fluctuations in cocoa price that are entirely outside of their control. This gives farmers much-needed predictability and visibility into future income and improves their standard of living. Furthermore, by publishing the exact prices they buy the seeds at and having all of their numbers and reports independently verified each year by the Quality Certification Services, Taza guarantees integrity and transparency. This is a stark contrast to the rest of the industry; many companies in recent years have introduced “even more ambiguity into the landscapes of its practice” by relying on internal certification and accountability schemes (Leissle, 147). For example, Cadbury recently stopped fair trade certification and instead initiated an in-house sustainability guarantee, which has decreased transparency because, “when a certification scheme is internal to a company, it is more difficult to assess whether they are rigorous and consistently applied. The only option is to take the company’s words that they are” (Leissle, 147-148). The same can be said for craft chocolate companies, who claim to pay several times the world market price for cocoa, yet there is no way for the consumer to verify. In publishing its prices, Taza has set a new standard for the industry, and others, such as Dandelion Chocolate, are following suit.

 Taza’s production process also allows for stronger relationships with producers and greater visibility into the company’s supply chain, ensuring no child labor is used to produce its products. In interacting directly with each of their producers, and visiting at least once a year, Taza can guarantee the use of fair labor. Furthermore, in Ghana, where, as discussed earlier, child labor is especially prevalent, Taza has invested in education programs for children and their family. For example, the local producers Taza partners with coordinate workshops in local schools for students and parents to “educate around age-appropriate farm activities… versus dangerous ones” (2018 transparency report). Additionally, Taza has patterned with the non-profit International Cocoa Initiative and its buyer Tony’s Chocolonely, to “proactively address any instances of unsafe work through a combination of family resources and training that rewards transparency and addresses core issues of poverty and lack of education” (2018 transparency report). 

Finally, Taza’s single origin bars promote consumer awareness about the countries where it sources its chocolate. Each bar, according to the website, “is minimally processed to let the bold flavors and unique terroir of our Direct Trade Certified beans shout loud and proud”  (Taza website: Origin Bars). 

Taza’s single origin chocolate bars

By indicating where the chocolate is grown, these single origin bars can help consumers learn that the taste of chocolate differs from place to place, and “invite shoppers to consider the politics and economics of exporting cocoa… By offering a range of chocolate experiences that can change even day by day, single origin chocolate reminds us that there are real people, institutions, and power structures behind every bar” (Leissle, 170). A more informed consumer is likely to make more informed decisions in the future, which can help promote sustainable, ethical chocolate production by creating demand for such products. 

How Taza can Improve

Although the Taza model has many strengths, there are areas where it is still lacking. For example, the prices listed in the transparency reports indicate the amount paid per metric ton to producer organizations, but they do not indicate the farm gate price, or how much the individual farmer receives. The farm gate price is distinctive from the price paid to the producers, but by not including both, the reports can mislead the consumer into thinking the listed price is entirely received by the farmers. In only one year, 2016, Taza reported the price that was actually received by farmers, which ranged from 51-76% of the price that was received by producer organizations (2016 transparency report). However, no other transparency report published these numbers, and this percentage could have changed substantially in the years since, especially because a few of the producer organizations they work with have changed. While Taza is exemplary in its transparency, there is room to be even more transparent by consistently publishing the farm gate price in its reports. 

Additionally, even though gender inequality is an important problem in cocoa production, Taza does not explicitly address it in its transparency reports. Photos of women farmers have been featured in some of the past reports, and the number of women farmers is included in each report (ranging from 15% to 45% of each producer organization). These inclusions are important in disproving the misconception that women are not involved in cocoa production. However, there is no reference to the struggles women face due to the power dynamics of the industry. Taza had the opportunity to do so in its 2018 report, when it mentions that its partner in El Majagual, Dominican Republic donated his chocolate factory to an association of local women. However, they do not even name the women’s association or delve into what it does, and it seems as though the sale was a decision made independently by the producer with no help or influence from Taza. This is an area where Taza can really improve and learn from organizations such as Kuapa Kokoo, a Ghana based company that sets gender quotas for elected representation at the community and district levels of governance and organizes conscious-raising women’s groups and women’s literacy programs (Leissle, 149). An essential next step for Taza is to acknowledge the unequal distribution of power and wealth due to gender, because according to field work and research by Kristy Leissle and Stephanie Barrientos , “Apart from explicit, well-directed efforts to empower women, most assistance…[goes] directly or indirectly to men” (Leissle, 173). 

Conclusion

In summary, Taza Chocolate is changing the way chocolate is sourced, produced and consumed. In addressing the economic problems farmers face, ensuring its producers do not use forced labor, and investing in programs that combat child labor, Taza is making a positive impact on cocoa production. However, there are many areas where Taza can still learn and grow— the transparency reports would be greatly improved if they included farm gate prices, and just as the company has invested in programs to fight against child labor, it should invest in programs that are actively looking to support women.  That being said, Taza’s direct trade program is truly innovative, and its transparency reports are challenging other companies to improve their own practices. Although the direct trade model is not feasible for the larger scale companies that dominate the industry, consumers must demand the same level of commitment to ethical production that Taza demonstrates.  

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088–1100. 

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018. 

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2006.

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

https://www.ilo.org/global/standards/subjects-covered-by-international-labour-standards/child-labour/lang–en/index.htm

https://www.tazachocolate.com

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2016-transparency-report

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2018-transparency-report

Images Cited

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Chocolate_Making_Process.pdf?10043542871181577895

https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade

http://www.tazachocolate.com/collections/bars

David vs. Goliath- the emerging market of small bean-to-bar chocolate makers and how packaging plays an important role

The competition in the chocolate industry isn’t as linear as it used to be with only the ‘big boys’: Cadbury, Nestle, Ferrero, Mars and Hershey, sharing territory and profits. This age has seen the introduction of a more diverse group of craft bean-to bar-chocolate makers. There is a niche in the market for this small group but first, they are tasked with prying away the ‘cradle to the grave’ brand loyalists from the big five. One apparent way that has evidenced itself in the way these competing David’s against the Goliath’s of the chocolate industry has shown itself, is through careful and innovative packaging. Bearing that in mind, this paper will look at various ways packaging influences consumerism and how it has made a former monopoly into a battle ground for the most creative minds.

Arguably, these companies do not have the disposable budget that is privileged to the big chocolate companies with regards to advertising. Therefore, they resort to a more packaging focused marketing tactic which is a cheaper and effective method that has a targeted and far reaching aspect to it. Specifically, packaging has three unique aspects of it that can influence consumerism and increase sales. 1) Packaging can be used to target impulse buyers not only by using promotional cues but most specifically, visual cues- students are found to be highly influenced by visuals. 2) Packaging is cheap and effective and when done correctly, allows the product to sell itself without much intervention. 3) Packaging can also be used as a tool for social and cultural consciousness. With the rise in interest of bridging gaps culturally in the face of increased globalization, chocolate packaging can be used as a tool to promote these ideals and garner patrons via shared ideologies.

The big chocolate companies over the last couple of years have kept packaging changes to a bare minimum because they have created a bond with their consumers where it is easy to spot a Snicker bar or M&M’s package from a mile away. These companies have relied on the ability of the consumer to recognize their package and help in sustaining sales. This is not so with the growing contenders in the chocolate industry. They do not have the recognizable packaging that these companies have established over the years. In order to break this boundary bean-to-bar chocolate makers have paid specific attention to packaging to target impulse buyers.

The moment one walks into a store, there is a small window of time for purchases that are on one’s list but majority of other purchases are impulse based buying. “81% of in store purchases are due to impulse buying, with a vast majority of these purchases being the design that catches the consumer’s eye” (Saka 2011). Within this small period of time and amidst a plethora of competition, these small chocolate companies are provided the opportunity to draw the attention of an impulse buyer or even a brand loyalist based on an elaborate packaging that peeks the interest of the consumer. The function of packaging design “has now transitioned into a primary tool used by organizations to make its presence felt in a crowd and sell products at point of purchase” (Saka 2011). Tying into the four P’s of marketing, packaging has now been contended as the fifth P, “Because it has now become an integral element of the modern lifestyle and the branding process” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

The power of packaging based marketing with regards to product placement has garnered a momentum that cannot be denied, not only in the chocolate industry but across the board. It is so essential in the chocolate industry however because chocolate is such a high impulse purchase. Majority of consumers usually do not go into food stores with chocolate on their ‘To purchase’ list, it is something that we generally are persuaded to buy. A scientific study done to show the influence of packaging cues, found that students were greatly influenced in purchasing chocolate based on visual cues alone (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).  This find is not surprising because the major consumers of chocolate are the younger generation as opposed to the older ones. This generation is also easily influenced to abandon brand loyalty for whatever happens to be ‘trending’ at the moment. The attention of the younger chocolate consumers can easily be persuaded by strategically placed cues.

There are various aspects of visual cues but the strongest draw to the subconscious is color and shape. “Color is the most important tool for emotional expression of a package because it reflects an image for the product” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). According to Jenn David Connolly, Color in food packaging is so important because it leverages our emotional connection to taste (Connolly 2013). To expound on this, she expresses what several colors denote in food packaging with Red and Yellow taking the chief lead in fast food industry packaging. Orange is said to be an appetizing color, white connotes clean and pure, brown and earth tones symbolize warm, appetizing, wholesome and natural, bright colors shows a pop in flavors and subdued-muted colors are for rich and deep complex flavors (Connolly 2013). Often times several colors can also influence our tastes, for instance, orange is usually associated with citrus, off white with vanilla and red with strawberry, this association of color with taste, ties into the “associational aspect of color” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

The chocolate to a belgian recipe
The Chocolate to A Belgian Recipe. The peaches on the packaging signifies that the chocolate is “peach” flavored.

Shape is another visual cue that also influences the mind. “The shape of a package is normally the first thing a consumer notices in a store, an old fashioned shape of a package could suggest reliability and maturity to the consumer” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). The L.A Burdick chocolate package shape and color was so influential in persuading me to purchase my first chocolate bar from the chocolatier and I have since returned weekly ever since. There was something trusting in the brown, earthy envelope like package that assured me that this was a brand I could trust and the chocolate would be equally as sophisticated. The stamp visible in the front of the package had a personal feel as if the chocolate bar was specifically made for me.

LA burdick chocolate
The old fashioned look of the L.A Burdick chocolate packing makes it more trusting.

In the situation of an impulsive buy, the intention to purchase is determined by what is communicated at the point of purchase, the package is a critical factor in the decision making process because it influences purchase decisions (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). The shape of a chocolate bar can also influence the way it tastes as Cadbury would rudely discover when it attempted to change “the rectangular chunks to carved segments” (Miller 2015), the company received a huge backlash of protest for their efforts. Packaging is a cheap and powerful method of marketing that is slowly changing what chocolate brands consumers patronize, “because it makes a difference in our subconscious mind in what gets noticed and eventually purchased” (smartmarketing n.d.).

The power behind successful packaging lies in its ability to allow the product sell itself. It has an extrinsic value to it because the information on the package is taken into account when deciding whether to purchase or not (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). Packaging allows bean-to bar companies to cut their costs and get their brands out into the market without resorting to advertising. In certain ways, advertising can be limiting because it requires the perfect time slot or location for a billboard or a particular commercial to air on television. A good package is not burdened with these limitations, it has a “wider reach and has strong potential to engage majority of the target market. For a package to be effective it does however need to meet a few requirements. The package needs to be “attractive, informative and also identify with the product; it also needs to continuously communicate the product’s real benefits and create awareness to ensure image and brand preference” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

Packaging is more influential than advertising because it clearly stimulates emotions in the consumer that advertising is not able to pull out. In purchasing decisions, the ability to see, feel and touch easily outshines the strategically filmed commercial any day. The human mind is exceptionally influenced when majority of the senses can be used to influence decisions. Packaging is no longer perceived as a method for safe and effective way to transport a product, but has now become a “contributing factor to its marketability, a vividly beautiful product, to some extent, develops a positive image about it in the minds of the consumers” (Vartak 2013). During the chocolate tasting in the Chocolate Class that held this semester, I was influenced by the artful way in which the Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate packaging was constructed and it seemed to amplify the taste of the chocolate.

dick taylor chocolate
Simplicity of Dick Taylor packaging allows one to focus on the chocolate itself.

The innovation that goes into packaging that clearly shows itself in the world of bean-to-bar chocolate makers today, is one that is clearly missing in the big chocolate companies; this ability to influence has however not gone unnoticed by them.  As of recent, Godiva has changed its packaging and has started marketing ‘specialty’ brands clearly aimed at consumers that are influenced by package based marketing

With the ever growing list of brands in the chocolate industry, loyalty for brand choice is fast becoming a dying era. Consumers are now resorting to more of an impulse buying and are eager to try new products prompting companies to spend more time on packaging based research to add value to their product via means of innovative packaging (Vartak 2013). With the aspect of packaging that leans on brand loyalty based on recognition, it is pertinent to small bean-to-bar chocolate owners to invest in this method of marketing to influence product sales. Not only does the package need to be attractive, it must also be recognizable in order to compete in a fast widening industry.

Gone are the days that consumers are ignorant about the source of their cacao that is sourced to make their chocolate. With increased awareness that has stemmed from globalization, people are more savvy with these  issues and in the face of a pressing need to bridge social and cultural gaps, packaging is used to create an awareness in ways that it never did before. For certain bean-to bar chocolate makers, this is an opportunity that they have already tapped into. The Divine chocolate advertising ploy of featuring women cocoa farmers in their chocolate packaging was a brilliant way to initiate conversation about the binary that has plagued Africa from time immemorial. “In their depiction of women cocoa farmers as glamorous business owners, the images provide a fresh visual re-framing of goods and capital between Africa and Europe and a contrast to postcolonial literature on state capital formations in Africa” (Leissle 2012). In this evocative marketing strategy, it additionally attempts to bridge the cultural gap between Africa as this ‘other’ and the Western world as the ‘isolationist’ that has made it so.

Divine Chocolate
Divine Chocolate
uses women cocoa farmers in ad campaign

Using the women farmers as models was also an effective way of injecting women into the conversation of cacao farming in a way that previously has not been a conversation point. It invites viewers to see women as potent actors in the world of cacao sourcing and chocolate making in addition to being beneficiaries of these same exchanges (Leissle 2012). Another chocolate maker that has followed a similar part is Camino chocolate, “the word Camino stands for “path”, the chocolate packaging futures an intricate design of quirky-named streets with illustrations reflecting the happy, vibrant and sustainable communities’ that Camino supports through its fair trade practices”(Canadian Packaging Staff 2011).

Camino Chocolate
Camino Chocolate
Street paths and names outlined in packaging

Camino chocolate has tapped into packaging as a way to create social awareness of cacao sourcing and the communities that are sustained by this arrangement, thereby aptly informing chocolate consumers with regards to the origins of cacao used to produce their chocolate.

Through the use of innovative packaging, bean-to-bar chocolate companies are now able to influence consumers and create brand loyalty with their product. As the chocolate industry continues to evolve, it will be greatly interesting to see how the ‘big boys’ of chocolate push back against this marketing tactic. It is no longer enough to ply consumers with advertisements, people are becoming a lot more informed about the products they choose to consume and packaging is used as an influential tool in a way advertising is simply unable to do. As more bean-to- bar companies emerge, there will also be a rise in competition between these companies and at that time, perhaps the influence of packaging will need to be re-valuated and perhaps tweaked in other ways. For now, it is clear that the ‘big five’ have competition knocking on their doorstep and it would be ill advised to ignore it. Packaging is the next big thing and it has already arrived for many.

Bibliography

Burdick, L.A. n.d.

Canadian Packaging Staff. 2011. “Social Consciousness right on the package.” canadianpackaging.com. January 28. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.canadianpackaging.com/general/social-consciousness-right-on-the-package-21742/.

Connolly, Jenn David. 2013. Colors That Influence Food Sales. September. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://jenndavid.com/colors-that-influence-food-sales/.

http://www.lasiembra.com/camino/en/chocolate-bars/almonds. n.d. “Camino Chocolate.”

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisments.” Journal of African Cultural Studies (Routledge) (24:2): 121-139. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194.

Miller, Meg. 2015. “How Packaging Influences The Way We Taste Food.” fastcodedesign.com. October 27. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.fastcodesign.com/3052745/evidence/how-packaging-influences-the-way-we-taste-food.

Mosina, Olga. n.d. “The chocolate to a belgian recipe.”

Saka, Kwadwo Emmanuel. 2011. The Design of Packaging Graphics for the Expansion of Ghanian Chocolate Products. Graduate Dissertation, Digital Depository Iowa State University.

Shekhar, Suraj Kushe, and P.T Raveendran. 2014. “The Power of Sensation Transference: Chocolate Packages & Impulse Purchases.” Indian Institute of managment Indore 1-10.

smartmarketing. n.d. “How Can Packaging Increase Sales.” smartmarketingasia. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.smartmarketingasia.com/how-can-packaging-increase-sales/.

Vartak, Darshan. 2013. “Branding And Packaging For The Globalized Market.” packagedesignmag.com. October 18. Accessed May 5, 2016. http://www.packagedesignmag.com/news-from-our-readers/branding-and-packaging-for-the-globalized-market.

W, Brigette. 2015. “Dick Taylor Takes Chocolate Back To Its Roots.” February 7.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Chocolate / Bad Chocolate: A Gradient of Chocolate Qualities in Harvard Square

The history of chocolate and its relation to society is long and full of dichotomies, some true, and some false: the use of chocolate by Aztec male soldiers and nobility as an energizing, strengthening elixir in preparing for battles, while women grinded and prepared the cacao (Coe); the consumption of chocolate drinks by European aristocrats, while those of lower classes were could not really afford indulging in tea, coffee, and cacao beverages (Coe); advertisements where women do the chocolate-indulging and men are the providers who gift it; chocolate as a healthy superfood or chocolate as an evil, sugary cavity-causing agent (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 28). These are just some of the instances in the history of chocolate where there are binary instances in who is eating chocolates and what kinds of chocolate consumers can eat.

With my new background surrounding the culture, history, and food politics of chocolate products from class, I went into Harvard Square to examine what the stores there had to offer. Two of the shops that I explored sold a wide variety of products. I noticed the stores seemed to offer two very different sorts of chocolate- a dichotomy in chocolate price, quality, and social-consciousness. This observation is based on just a glance at the labels and the price tags at the chocolates sold at the two different stores: CVS and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe. Considering the labels and inconsistencies between them, however, I found that there was no binary in chocolate quality between the two stores, but that each offered an array of production process differences to consider.

Big 5, Small Prices:

I first browsed the chocolate offerings at the Harvard Square CVS on the corner of Brattle Street. CVS arranged their chocolates in two different sections. Through the aisles of the store, on a shelf facing the back wall was a small shelf labeled “Premium Chocolate.” On this shelf, there were a dozen or so types of chocolates, composed of fewer brands than the other “non-Premium” chocolate shelves of the store contain. About six feet away, in the direction of the register, is a second panel of chocolate bars, not labeled “Premium.”

image1

CVS’s “Premium” assortment of chocolates.

CVS does not spell out what Premium actually means, and how the chocolates on the “Premium” shelf differ from the others. To me, the difference seems to be defined by the brands of chocolate: Ghiradelli, Lindt, and Ferrero Rochers, which all have more decadent images on their gold and metallic-hued wrappers than the loud and bibrant wrappers in CVS’s second chocolate section. The bars in the “Premium Chocolate” section are pricier, also, but only by a few dollars.

The CVS chocolates, made up of inexpensive impulse buys and the more expensive “Premium” Chocolates, which I found were still not as costly as the chocolate products in Cardullo’s, were not always the cheap, industrialized foods they are on these shelves. Once a luxury reserved for drinking in elite chocolate houses in Europe, the price of chocolate was driven down by industrialization of the chocolate production process. Chocolate making began as a laborious process, the ability to mechanically winnow, mill, and conch in chocolate making made cacao products a more easy-to-make and available foodstuff, driving down the price (Martin, Lecture 5, Slide 66).

Moreover, the less expensive chocolate products of CVS were mostly products of the “Big 5.” The Big 5 are mainly composed of enormous food companies that have dominated in the chocolate industry for centuries. They include Ferrero, Nestlé, Cadbury, Hershey, and Mars (Allen, 7). Each company has its own unique historic roots that make it a well-established and sought-out brand. The five complete with one another for power in the chocolate market, driving down the cost of their products. These corporations do not label where their chocolate comes from, and bulk cacao can come from many sources, often through middle men who make an unfair share of the pay coming from bigger chocolate producers (Martin, Lecture 10, Slide 42). As a result, those who shop for Ferrero, Nestlé, Cadbury, Hershey, and Mars get these outstandingly low prices, like those I found at CVS, but sacrifice the knowing social consciousness of smaller chocolate producers, who often pinpoint on wrappers where their cacao is from. Because the cacao is sourced from many different places and obtained using these “middle men,” it is less likely that these bigger companies have long-term relationships with the cacao farmers they are using, and there is no way the “Big 5” can make sure the farmers themselves are being fairly paid for their work in the cocoa supply chain (Martin, Lecture 10).

Furthermore, child labor has been accounted as an issue in parts of West Africa where farmers depend on cacao as a livelihood (Off, 130). In some instances, young boys help of farms as a way to assist the family, but when labor is physically injurious and keeps children from school or a normal childhood, these farming sources are problematic and unethical (Martin, Lecture 8, Slide 49). By not properly and informatively labeling chocolates or certifying them in some way to warn customers, there is no way of knowing who farmed the cacao in the bar or how those people were paid, even if evidence of child labor on cacao farms is varied (Ryan, 47). Still, even in the 21st century it is a consideration for chocolate consumers to think about.

The chocolates at CVS are all ones that I recognized by name. As is the nature of chain stores, the CVS candy selection was not different at all from that of other CVS stores I had been to. Moreover, the products are ones I have been exposed to at cash registers, on TV, in magazines, and all around my in advertising from a very young age. An important part of the business of these major chocolate companies is a cradle-to-grave loyalty established with consumers of chocolate from a very young age (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 20). By going into CVS, customers are guaranteed to find brands that they know well and most likely have been exposed to over time.

The CVS selection overall was quite different from that of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe. Its selection offered familiar, inexpensive chocolate bars produced by major well-established food corporations was a trade off for the possible unethical qualities along the chocolate production line, which could not really be indicated to the uneducated chocolate consumer buying at CVS. I did, however find one instance of more “ethical” chocolate at CVS. Among the shelves of non-”Premium” chocolate, there was a brand of chocolate called “Endangered Species Chocolate.” This bar was a stark contrast from all others at CVS, which had no ethical chocolate certifications, and instead advertised that its contents are “Fairtrade,” “Non-GMO Verified,” “Certified Gluten Free,” and “Certified Vegan.” This stood out to me as an indication that not all of the chocolate at CVS is evil and corporate (in fact, chocolate being affordable and accessible is a great thing about the CVS candy selection, it just comes with supply chain trade offs to consider). CVS offered the majority of certification-free, big corporation candy bars, but definitely had something to offer for customers looking for another, perhaps more informative option.

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Endangered Species Chocolate was an enormous contrast the the other chocolate bars I found at CVS. It had lots of informational certifications on the wrapper, and was still much less expensive than most of the Cardullo’s options.

A “Gourmet” Selection:

Across the street, at Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, there is a very different selection of chocolate offerings. Cardullo’s is not a chain store like CVS. The store sells all sorts of specialty gourmet foods, including candy, syrup, tea, coffee, seasonings, and wine. On the store’s left wall, is their panel labeled “Chocolate.” The shelves are taller than me by a few feet, and it seems that the chocolate selection is wider than CVS’s selection. The wrappings and brands enveloping the candies are all less loudly colorful than the candies I saw in CVS. Overall, the chocolates are less familiar to my eyes- not the brands I find at my supermarket in my home town. None of these candies are produced by any of the “Big 5” corporations represented in CVS. Anyone shopping for chocolates at Cardullo’s has to be willing to spend more than they might at CVS. The prices here are higher, between seven and thirty dollars. Part of this is because not many of the chocolates sold at Cardullo’s are from the “Big 5” corporate chocolate manufacturers. Many are instead from smaller chocolate companies that emphasize an assortment of certifications on their labels, which indicate the chocolates are “Fairtrade,” “Non GMO Project Verified,” “Certified Gluten Free,” and “USDA Organic” among other things.

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A picture of just some of the diverse selection of chocolates Cardullo’s had to offer.

These are what separate the chocolates at Cardullo’s from the chocolates at CVS. I could conclude two things a customer might be looking in chocolate here: more “ethical” chocolates, and chocolates that have some “health benefits.” Many of the products emphasized, right on the wrappers, where the cacao came from, empowering Cardullo’s customers with the ability to decide about single-source chocolate and the kind of relationship the chocolate company has the the cacao farmers. Often times, these smaller chocolate companies have more direct relationships with the farmers and offer long-term business to them, as well as fair working wages. Still, chocolate with higher prices can mean that the middle man is being paid more also, and that the farmer’s wages are not being increased as much as a customer thinks (Martin, Lecture 10, Slide 9). So while there is this ethical choice customers at Cardullo’s are able to make, unclarity and inconsistency in the way the chocolate is labeled obfuscates this decision.

Fairtrade-logo

A fair trade certification on food labels, like this, lets customers know that the workers in the farming and production process of the food they are purchasing were paid fair wages, still there are other similar certifications and sorting out their meaning in relation to each other can be a lot for customers to consider.

Of course, just like at CVS, there were exceptions to the surface idea that one store has better or more ethical chocolate than the other. Cardullo’s had an enormous selection of Cadbury chocolates. Cadbury is included in the Big 5 so prominently marketed at CVS. The Cadbury chocolates, unlike many of the chocolates from smaller companies at Cardullo’s, did not have any fair trade certifications or special health labels. A customer at Cardullo’s buying the Cadbury chocolates there would be less sure of the origins and contents of the chocolate than if he or she were buying and of the Taza chocolate or Chuao chocolate. Just like CVS had options outside of the Big 5 majority on its shelves, Cardullo’s offered Cadbury chocolates free of labels indicating any superfood or healthy benefits to the candy or socially conscious certifications, so neither store sold exclusively chocolate from either sort of company, and even within these companies are more differences in food content and social responsibility.

Conclusion

While certainly confusing and perhaps in need of some sort of standardization to help customers decide what chocolate they would like to buy, the selection at Cardullo’s does offer more information for customers to consider according to their values in a way the Reese’s, Snickers, and 3 Musketeer’s of the CVS shelves do not. In this way, the Cardullo’s customer is seemingly more empowered and aware of the social consequences of the chocolate they buy. Still, there are chocolate options at Cardullo’s that are from Big 5 chocolate companies and chocolate that does not include fair trade certifications or informations about the cacao’s origins. Moreover, while CVS was filled with familiar big brand chocolate bars, customers looking for more “ethical” chocolate there will not be at a complete loss.

Additionally, besides considering the stores themselves based on their offerings, the companies cannot be properly compared using any kind of binary. Bigger chocolate companies are often placed into this role with their cacao sources where the corporation is the exploiter and the farmers are being exploited. However, there are many parts to the problems in unethical chocolate. Its continuation on shelves can be attributed to consumer action, government regulations, the cultures in the communities the cacao comes from, and relationships between countries that trade cacao (Martin, Lecture 8, Slide 22). It is a complex and important problem which cannot be blamed solely on the Big 5 or CVS. Customers of Cardullo’s and CVS can help chocolate move in the ethical direction by educating themselves in social problems surrounding cacao and using that to their power in buying.

In considering the manifold options while buying chocolate bars and candies, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. For many, price is one of the most important considerations, and companies that purchase bulk cacao like Hershey and Mars are the sought out options. Beyond price, chocolate buyers can be provided with information about the ingredient origins, the company’s relationships with farmers, and nutritional details to consider. This is a lot to think about, and until there is some standardized certifications or rating across all chocolate labels for customers to read and compare, it makes buying “better chocolate” pretty tricky. Because of these inconsistencies in labeling and certification, as well as evidence of chocolate from both major chocolate producers and smaller companies in both stores, the binary “good chocolate/bad chocolate” that I had first considered upon glancing over the stores’ selection was rejected. Instead, Harvard Square’s chocolate destinations offer an assortment of options that customers who know about chocolate quality and food politics must consider for themselves and their own values.

 

Sources:

Allen, Lawrence L. “Chocolate Fortunes.” New York: AMACOM, 2009. Print.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000. Print.

Martin, Carla. Lecture 5.

Martin, Carla. Lecture 7.

Martin, Carla. Lecture 8.

Martin, Carla. Lecture 10.

Off, Carol. “Bitter Chocolate The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.” New York: The New Press, 2008. Print.

Ryan, Orla. “Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa.” New York: Zed Books, 2011. Print.

Image:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fairtrade-logo.jpg (Fair Trade logo)

(All other images taken by the author)

Unethical Practices: Hershey Corruption Domestically & Internationally

The United States of America is one of the most powerful countries in the world: we have an established democracy protected by a series of checks and balances, a burgeoning universal health care system, social services aimed at helping the impoverished, and we rank among the wealthiest countries in the world. Our success and that of other first-world countries has lead to global partnerships aimed at reducing extreme poverty and its many dimensions. Corporate America plays a unique role in this philanthropic commitment, on one hand providing international support to various civil rights groups and on the other lobbying in Washington to ensure their businesses secure the most advantageous positions possible. These contradictory positions collide cataclysmically in the chocolate industry.

Hershey’s public image is inspiring: founded in 1894 on Mennonite ideals by Milton Hershey, the company is now “controlled by a multi-billion-dollar child-care charity for the poor” (Fernandez). In reality, however, the company’s economic power has allowed them to use the Trust how they please, with no concern for the orphans, as the Pennsylvania attorney general looks the other way. Hershey’s web page is covered in links relating to their philanthropic endeavors, with titles like “A World of Good: Our Vision for the Future,” “Nourishing 1 Million Minds by 2020,” and “1.7 Million Gallons and 10,500 Acres Saved.” But behind this calculated presentation lies a history of corruption traversing the Atlantic. Over the past two decades, countless reports have been published credibly documenting the widespread use of child labor in the countries from which the chocolate industries, including Hershey, source their cacao. Gubernatorial action, such as the Harkin-Engel Protocol, have proven useless in motivating Hershey to divest from its unethical supply chain and will continue to be ineffective until the government is able to successfully escape the grasp of Corporate America. By allowing Hershey’s domestic and international transgressions to go unnoticed by the public eye, the government has indirectly enabled the chocolate industry’s continued abuse of human rights.

Milton Hershey: History & (Intended) Legacy

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Milton      &     Kitty     Hershey,     1910. Source: Hershey Community Archives

Milton Hershey was a man of humble beginnings. Born in 1857 to a poor family in rural Pennsylvania, Hershey dropped out of school after the fourth grade to apprentice in a confectionary shop. His first two candy businesses failed before he successfully founded Lancaster Caramel Company (D’Antonio). After attending the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Hershey became fascinated by chocolate-making and bought two chocolate making machines. After much trial and error, he was able to create a unique recipe using skim milk that allowed him to mass-produce chocolate, selling bars at prices afforded by all. Hershey sold the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1900 and used the proceeds to buy farmland near Derry, Pennsylvania where Hershey began constructing his empire, building a state-of-the-art chocolate manufacturing factory, houses, businesses and churches.

Hershey was particularly devoted to his wife, Kitty, who suffered from an unknown disease that left her chronically sick and in pain. Due to her disease, the couple were unable to have children, prompting the foundation of the Hershey Industrial School (D’Antonio). In an interview with the New York Times, Hershey is quoted explaining his decision to found the school: “Well, I have no heirs – that is, no children. So I decided to make the orphan boys of the United States my heirs” (Fernandez). The Deed of Trust created by the Hershey family specified that the boys attending the orphanage had to be “fatherless, white, healthy, between the ages of four and eight, and good companions”. The boys would live in group home and attend school while performing age-appropriate chores on the farms and in the houses.

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Milton    Hershey    &    Milton    Hershey        School       students.  Source: Hershey Community Archives

In 1930, “Hershey put the entire assets of the Hershey company – along with the Hershey mansion, Cuban sugar plantation, thousands of acres of Pennsylvania and the town of Hershey itself – into the huge and sophisticated legal trust ‘exclusively devoted’ to his orphanage, that was to exist into perpetuity” (Fernandez). The Trust came to have the controlling share in the company and the board of the Trust was meant to ensure the legal stipulations specified by Hershey in the Trust were upheld.

Domestic Corruption

After Hershey’s death, profit at the Hershey company soared and by 1962 the total value of Hershey’s orphans’ fund was over $395 million. Many recommendations in accordance with the Deed were made to use the profit to improve the lives of orphans, including admitting more types of students (i.e. races, genders) and modernizing the tuition-free Junior College or converting it to a low-cost four-year university. However, the president of the board, Sam Hinkle, an alumni of Penn State, pushed for the funds to be used to build a medical university for the state college. This technically violated the Deed and would not have received the approval needed had the board not found a loophole. The attorney general at the time, Alessandroni, was looking to make a run for governor and the board privately presented their idea to him, emphasizing the thousands of jobs the medical center would create. Ultimately, the money was given to fund the medical university but the board did not follow official channels with no taken appeal, written opinion, or official reports (Fernandez). Throughout the next few decades, the board would repeatedly find backroom ways to use the Trust, that was to be exclusively devoted to the orphanage, to support the failing Hershey Entertainment and Resort Company. These purchases include the controversial Hershey Links Golf Course, purchased in the early 2000s for nearly three times its independently appraised value (Miller).

The board of the Hershey Trust all but neglected the orphanage, failing to update practices as new studies and research were done in child psychology. No members of the board were child-care experts and school enrollment began to fall. In a recent decade, more poor children dropped out or were kicked out for misbehavior than graduated (Fernandez). The Milton Hershey School has also failed to protect the wellbeing of its students: by 2013, the school had suspended at least thirteen children diagnosed with depression, including Abbie Bartels who was barred from her eighth grade graduation; Abbie later committed suicide (Eisenberg). In 2012, the school denied admission to a boy with HIV, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (CBS News). The school later settled out of court, paying the family $700,000. Despite being the wealthiest secondary school in the nation with an endowment of over twelve-billion-dollars AND a founding mission to assist the impoverished population with limited resources, the school felt they were unable to help these children.

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Hershey Links Golf Course & Rear of Clubhouse. Source: Dan Gleiter

Attorney General Kathleen Kane began to investigate the board’s actions in allocating the Trust’s dividends but ultimately ruled publicly that they had not violated their fiduciary duty (Malawskey). The board did make minor changes before this statement was published, closing the golf course to build student homes on the land just eight years after declaring their plan to run a “championship-caliber golf course” in a press release. A spokeswoman of the Trust has said that the five-million-dollar restaurant and bar was build with the intention of repurposing it in the future for the poor students, although remains vague about what exactly those intentions are. It is interesting to note that Kane’s top aide is the brother-in-law of one of the Trust’s board members. The announcement of these modifications right before the ultimate decision of Kane’s two-year judicial review of the board is oddly coincidental.

Trouble in Africa

In the early 2000s, the documentary Slavery: A Global Investigation was released and the world began to take notice of the unethical practices of the chocolate industry. The film explores cacao plantations in Côte d’Ivoire, interviewing young workers who vividly explain the “beatings, starvation diets and foul living conditions” they are forced to endure to make the delectable treat so often taken for granted in the developed world (Off 134). One of the people interviewed, “Diabe Demeble, president of the Malian Association of Daloa, a major city in western Côte d’Ivoire in the heart of cocoa land, made the controversial (though not provable) statement that ninety per cent of the cocoa farms probably used child labor or slaves” (Off 134). The scenario presented in Côte d’Ivoire sounded eerily similar to the São Tomé and Principe scandal of the early 20th century, when the major chocolate manufacturers disregarded reports of forced labor that were ultimately verified.

Trailer for another documentary about child trafficking and labor, The Dark Side of Chocolate, released in 2010: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y882AajKo1s

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The Big 5 Chocolate Companies Source: Wikimedia Commons

A similar series of articles about the cacao plantations in West Africa, Knight Ridder, reached the desk of Congressman Eliot Engel in 2001. Concerned, Engel added a rider to an agricultural appropriations bill about to be voted on in the House of Representatives that proposed a “labelling system for chocolate that would proclaim the candy to be ‘slave free’ if it could be documented that the product hadn’t involved the work of exploited children” (Off 139). The rider passed easily in the House of Representatives but the chocolate industry quickly enlisted the help of lobbyists before it reached the Senate. On the behalf of the Big 5 chocolate companies, the lobbyists argued that the cocoa chain was outside of their control and that it was the government of Côte d’Ivoire’s responsibility to guarantee ethical cacao. Ultimately, Congress and the Big 5 settled on what is now known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary “six-point program designed to eliminate child slave labor in the cocoa chain by 2005” (Off 144). Congress warned that if “the industry failed to eradicate ‘the worst forms of child labor’ on cocoa farmers within that time,” they would reevaluate the the previously proposed ‘slave free’ labelling system (Off 145). Timing played an interesting role in this compromise: elections of 2002 were less than a year away and candidates needed money to finance their elections, much of which comes from big corporations. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate’s Agricultural Committee who championed the bill in the Senate, received sizeable donations from Archer Daniels Midland, sugar companies, and the dairy industry, all of whom would have suffered with the passage of the originally proposed labelling system.

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“Their attitude surprised me… I thought they would say ‘We don’t think this is a problem but we’ll investigate.’ Instead it was all    about    the   bottom   line.” – Congressman Eliot Engel  Source: Off; US Congress

The chocolate industry had not met all of the requirements of the Harkin-Engel Protocol by the deadline in 2005 and the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a contract to the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University to evaluate the cacao supply chain in 2008/2009 and again in 2013/2014. Between these periods, the amount of children working in hazardous work in cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana combined increased almost 20% to 2.03 million: Côte d’Ivoire individually saw a 46% increase in children working in hazardous work in cocoa production (School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine). Progress was made and lost in various hazardous activities in cocoa agriculture, with less children participating in land clearing, down 29% in both countries combined, but more children children working with agro-chemicals, up 44% in both countries combined. The Payson Center found a 51% increase in the overall number of children working in the cocoa industry and that 1.1 million children were living in slave-like conditions, a 10% increase from the 2009/2008 report.

Over a decade after the original deadline of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the chocolate industry is still using unethically sourced cacao beans in their production. Hershey has made a commitment to source 100% certified cocoa by 2020 and is expected to hit 50% this year, a year ahead of schedule (Gunther). This commitment may not be enough to put an end to child labor and hazardous working conditions: certification must be attained by individual farmers and is very expensive. There is corruption in the system and a failure to monitor standards (Martin).

Moving Forward

How can we expect to eliminate unethical practices in the chocolate industry if Corporate America continually avoids accountability and the government constantly makes exceptions for them? Isn’t it ironic that even Hershey, a company ‘controlled’ by a twelve-billion-dollar child-care charity for poor kids, is unable to make a real commitment to an ethical supply chain?

This is not an easy problem to solve: there are many actors, internationally and domestically, enabling the unethical use of child labor in the chocolate industry. Holding these corporations responsible for their transgressions will not solve the problem overnight but it is a step in the right direction. Government, both federal and state, need to commit to their oath of office and let the law and morality dictate their decisions, not the checkbooks of Corporate America. These corporations are ‘bottom line driven,’ and protecting them not only allows them to evade monetary consequences in the form of fines but also prevents the public from becoming aware of the situation and possibly altering their buying habits away from dirty chocolate.

References

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.

Eisenberg, Pablo. “Suicide Of An Expelled Student Raises New Questions About Hershey Trust”. Huffington Post, 2014. Print.

Fernandez, Bob. The Chocolate Trust: Deception, Indenture And Secrets At The $12 Billion Milton Hershey School. Philadelphia: Camino Books, Inc., 2015. Print.

“File:Cadbury.svg”. Wikimedia Commons, 2008. Web. 2016.

“File:Logo Ferrero.svg”. Wikimedia Commons, 2008. Web. 2016.

“File:Nestle textlogo blue.svg.” Wikimedia Commons, 2014. Web. 2016.

Gleiter, Dan. The Hershey Links Clubhouse Seen From The Back.. 2010. Print.

Gunther, Marc. “Hershey’s Uses More Certified Sustainable Cocoa, But Farmers May Not Be Seeing The Benefits”. The Guardian, 2015. Print.

Hershey Co. “File:Hershey logo.svg”. Wikimedia Commons, 2014. Web. 2016

Hershey Community Archives. Milton And Catherine Hershey, 1910. 2011. Web. 2 May 2016.

Hershey Community Archives. Milton Hershey And Milton Hershey School Students, 1923. 2011. Web. 2 May 2016.

Malawskey, Nick. “Attorney General Kathleen Kane On Hershey Trust Reforms: ‘A Great Step Forward'”. Penn Live, 2013. Print.

Mars. “Datei:Mars-Chocolate-Deutschland.jpg”. Wikimedia Commons, 2010. Web. 2016.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 10: Alternative Trade And Virtuous Localization/Globalization”. 2016. Presentation.

Miller, Barbara. “Golf Course Rezoning For Milton Hershey School Homes Approved In South Hanover Twp.”. Penn Live, 2013. Print.

Off, Carol. “Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet”. New York: The New Press, 2008. Print.

School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Survey Research On Child Labor In West African Cocoa Growing Areas. New Orleans: Tulane University, 2015. Web. 3 May 2016.

United States Congress. “File:Eliot Engel, official photo portrait.jpg”. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 2016.

Advertising, Psychology, and Fair Trade

It is interesting, and often undervalued, what factors go into the decision-making process when consumers buy chocolate. Although it is often a subconscious process, a typical chocolate consumer unknowingly takes many elements into account before purchasing a chocolate bar. Undoubtedly, factors such as price comparisons, taste and ingredients, consumer preferences, and reputation of chocolate companies play a dominant role in these decisions. This partially explains how companies like the Big 5 have been so successful in integrating their products into many populations. These companies pride themselves in creating brand loyalty, or a “cradle to grave” attitude among consumers (Martin, Lecture 12). This was evident in Hershey’s attempt to become the iconic American chocolate by aligning their advertisements with American values (Martin, Lecture 12). Furthermore, they have been able to maximize profits by diminishing production costs, allowing them to sell their products at a lower price. As a result, these companies and their products have become globalized and they are all known to have a reputation of producing easily accessible, affordable chocolate.

However, a growing concern in the chocolate industry surrounds the cacao-chocolate supply chain and emphasizing the necessity for ‘ethically based cacao’ (Barrientos, 2006). This term applies to a broad range of topics including environment sustainability, fair treatment of cacao farmers, and direct contact with workers (Barrientos, 2006). These concerns arose mainly from speculations of unfair treatment of workers and exploitation of children in West African cacao regions, such as Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire (Martin, Lecture 15). In response, various certifications have arisen that attempt to motivate chocolate companies to engage in these efforts. The three main ones are organic, fair trade, and direct trade certifications. Fair trade and direct trade certifications are similar in that they both address fair treatment and pay of farmers (Barrientos, 2006). However, some argue that direct trade is a better alternative to fair trade as it addresses many of the critiques associated with fair trade. Organic certification, on the other hand, stipulates that produce has to have been grown without the use of pesticides or other fertilizers (Martin, Lecture 18).

There are now multiple chocolate companies that make a conscious effort to obtain these certifications. They identify themselves as ‘ethically sourced’ and attempt to target consumers who wish to purchase chocolate that not only tastes good, but also is ethically produced (Barrientos, 2006). However, one of the main problems with these companies is that their products are often more expensive since their production costs are higher and they are paying a premium to farmers (Martin, Lecture 18). Furthermore, there has been some controversy over the certifications themselves and whether there is accountability in some of their promises (Martin, Lecture 18). This raises some interesting questions: are consumers thinking about these issues when they make purchasing decisions? What are the tradeoffs between cost and ethics? And most importantly, what influences consumers to choose ethically sourced chocolate bars over other chocolate bars?

The challenges associated with motivating consumers to buy ethically sourced chocolate is a major barrier that companies face when producing certified chocolate bars. In order to make an impact in relation to the cacao-chocolate supply chain, the consumer has to be willing to purchase the products. The efforts of fair and direct trade chocolate companies don’t summate to anything if no one is purchasing their products. If one were to turn to the success of the Big 5 chocolate companies, they have attracted consumers primarily through advertising and marketing strategies. Since direct trade chocolate companies have additional barriers, such as inflated costs, marketing their products is even more critical to their success. As such, I would argue that the sole placement of the term ‘ethically sourced’ on a chocolate bar is not sufficient to sway the typical chocolate consumer to buy their products over a ‘more affordable’ option. Instead, these companies need to both focus on ethically based initiatives and also enable a way to connect with consumers to establish the same brand loyalty that is seen among the Big 5 chocolate companies. Thus, when it comes to influencing consumer decisions, the most impactful companies will be able to both prioritize direct trade relationships over profits as well as find an effective way to advertise their brand to appeal to the general consumer.

The importance of advertising can be assessed by closely examining a direct trade chocolate company, and gauging its overall impact on both the main issues of fair trade and of gaining consumer interest. If these two components are addressed, direct trade chocolate companies will be more successful and influential overall.

Taza Chocolate Factory is situated in Somerville, MA and was founded in 2005 by Alex Whitmore (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). Taza chocolate-makers pride themselves in producing “stone ground, organic chocolate” (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). From the beginning, Taza’s mission was “to make and share stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all” (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012).

The process of making Taza chocolate is relatively unique compared to other US companies. First, they use solely organic products and aim to include as few ingredients as possible. This is meant to enhance the flavors of cacao as well as promote environment sustainability (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). Their chocolate is also unconched, giving it a grainy/course texture. This is interesting as most chocolate these days undergoes a conching process, so this aspect creates a distinctive tasting experience for consumers.

Taza chocolate was the first in the USA to establish direct trade certification. They have partnered with La Red Guaconejo, a cooperative of cacao farmers that is based in the Dominican Republic (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). They pay a premium to these farmers upon the sale of cacao beans and make an effort to visit these cacao farms at least once per year. In order to ensure accountability, Taza chocolate produces a transparency report once a year that provides a detailed account of their impact on the cacao industry (“TAZA chocolate”, 2012). This report is highly visual and makes it easy for consumers to understand.

Some of the more valuable components of these reports are the pictures of Taza workers with the cacao farmers. These pictures really emphasize Taza’s direct relationship with cacao farmers and presents the farmers as valuable members of their business. Since the challenges associated with cacao farming are often ignored or not revealed to consumers, these pictures provide meaningful insight to a crucial element of the chocolate-making process.

As indicated, Taza chocolate claims to be ethically sourced in two respects. First, they claim to only use organic ingredients in their recipes and second, they are direct trade certified. What makes Taza chocolate stand out, however, is their high accountability and transparency to consumers, which builds a reputation in the product. While Taza’s efforts address some of the cacao-supply chain issues, the problem of attaining consumer interest still remains.

There has certainly been more interest in buying ethically sourced products. As Low and colleagues (2005) state, fair trade sales are continually growing and it is evolving to become more mainstream. They describe this shift as an ethical consumer movement, where the consumer has the ability to create positive change by choosing one good over another (Low & Davenport, 2005). Given this rise in popularity, they emphasize the importance of building fair trade brands and marketing their products to consumers (Low & Davenport, 2005). On average, a typical consumer spends about 4 seconds examining a shelf before making a purchasing decision (Low & Davenport, 2005). In this time, they are likely not considering the details of each company, but rather choosing products based on the labels and taste preferences.

While people enjoy the idea of being an ethical consumer, they are not always willing to incur the additional costs associated with it. An average Taza chocolate bar sells for about $7.50, whereas a regular-sized Hershey’s bar sells for about $1.00 (“TAZA Chocolate”, 2012; “The Hershey’s Company”, n.d.). This is a significant gap between prices. This means that there has to be additional incentives to purchase fair trade chocolate. As such, in order to compete with the sales of the Big 5 companies, fair trade companies like Taza need to be able to effectively advertise their products to the public.

If we look to the success of companies like Hershey’s, it has become such an iconic brand in the USA because they are able to align themselves with mainstream values. This is commonly displayed in their advertisements as they integrate elements of taste and pleasure to create a sense of desire among consumers. That way, consumers are primed to crave Hershey’s chocolate before they even step into the store.

For example, in their S’mores Around The Campfire commercial, it takes a popular social gathering and makes it seem more appealing with the addition of a Hershey’s chocolate bar.

The ad features adults and children, all smiling, and sitting around a campfire enjoying a s’more that is made complete with a Hershey bar. It plays on elements of taste by capturing people biting into the s’more as well as showing close up shots of the construction of the s’more. Even though it’s only a 15 second clip, it builds an association with a pleasurable event that consumers can draw on when making purchasing decisions.

If fair trade chocolate companies could integrate similar marketing strategies, consumers could build positive associations with the product, which would ultimately increase the likelihood of buying their products. As of now, Taza chocolate company does market their brand in some respects. They have online videos that are meant to increase brand awareness and make consumers aware of their story.

These videos are targeted toward the ethical consumer and are meant primarily to be educational. In the first video, the viewer is taken through a brief story of the creation of Taza chocolate. This video is interesting as there is no script, just festive music playing in the background.

The second video, on the other hand, focuses on children and educates them on the processes that go into making the chocolate. Both these videos were likely created with the intention of raising awareness and maintaining their image of transparency.

However, both these videos lack the psychological elements that implicitly draw consumers to chocolate. David Benton (2004) states that the consumption and craving for chocolate is highly psychological. Eating chocolate is a very emotional process and is often craved due to its association with mood elevation (Benton, 2004). Given this knowledge, it seems as though the implementation of psychological elements in advertising is necessary to attract a wide consumer-base.

In sum, the increase in direct trade initiatives is positively impacting the cacao-supply chain in numerous ways. Companies, such as Taza Chocolate, have been able to generate more interest in ethically sourced cacao and sustain relationships with their cacao-supplying nations. However, while fair trade companies excel at portraying these efforts to consumers, they lack in their ability to directly relate and incentivize their brands over others. Since marketing and advertising has a tremendous effect on consumer purchasing decisions, improving in this area would likely lessen the discrepancy in profits between the Big 5 chocolate companies and fair trade companies. Thus, the ability to influence consumer decisions plays a big role in the success of chocolate companies, and is an area that is lacking in the fair trade industry.

Works Cited

  1. Barrientos, S. (2006). Transformation of Global Food: Opportunities and Challenges for Fair and Ethical Trade. In Ethical sourcing in the global food system. Sterling, VA: Earthscan.
  2. Benton, D. (2004). The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving. Nutrition, Brain and Behavior, 205-218.
  3. Chocolate Products, Recipes, Nutrition Information. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://www.hersheys.com
  4. Low, W., & Davenport, E. (2006). Has the medium (roast) become the message?: The ethics of marketing fair trade in the mainstream. International Marketing Review, 494-511. Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/doi/full/10.1108/02651330510624354
  5. Martin, C. (2015, March 9). The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market. AAAs 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food . Lecture conducted from , Cambridge.
  6. Martin, C. (2015, March 25). Modern Day Slavery. AAAS 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food . Lecture conducted from , Cambridge.
  7. Martin, C. (2015, April 6). Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization. AAAS 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food . Lecture conducted from , Cambridge.
  8. Taza Chocolate | stone ground chocolate. (2012). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://www.tazachocolate.com

Multimedia Sources

  1. Curious George Visits The Chocolate Factory, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MY_wD10tszA
  1. Hershey’s “S’mores Around the Campfire” Commercial, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGRAmQeu2xo
  2. Taza Workers and Cacao Farmers, Image http://www.tazachocolate.com/documents/image/DirectTrade.jpg
  1. The Taza Chocolate Story, 2012.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tcA51tUOxU