Tag Archives: Big Chocolate

What Do You See?

Chocolate seems to permeate our lives. It saturates the grocery shelves during the holiday seasons and appears on our television screens. It is a true constant in our rapidly-changing world. Because our modern world is always developing, how has chocolate maintained permanent-product status? The easy answer is: sugar. Several hundred years ago when sugar first emerged onto the European food scene, it was a new and exciting ingredient from Mesoamerica that served many uses. It began as an expensive superfluous supplement to the natural European diet, but after two centuries, sugar had become a staple to the English diet and essential to the rest of Europe (Prof. Martin Lecture). This kind of integration was not isolated to sugar. Chocolate made the journey from a fancy, elite delicacy to a common household item… or so it seems. As this article of fun facts reveals, Modern day “Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, or over 11 pounds per person” which is much more than the average for Europeans. I argue that although statistics show that the common person consumes great amounts of chocolate, it still retains its original status as a highbrow item despite its price. This is best showcased by the chocolate sections at CVS.

There are a couple of different places to find chocolate at CVS, each with their own chief marketing purpose. The first is in the candy aisle. Here you can find the label “bagged chocolate” and see an assortment of chocolate from big, well-known companies like Hershey, Reese’s, etc. They all have seemingly endless variations of dark, milk, and white chocolate, sometimes mixed with peanut butter, nuts, or other embellishments. As you walk into the aisle, the sheer amount of options is overwhelming. The range of your selection makes them all seem to blend together. It is even hard to read each label individually because your eye is constantly being drawn elsewhere by cartoon images and bright colors. Eventually, you just go with what you know. This is either a run-of-the-mill choice like plain milk chocolate or something slightly more niche like salted caramel dark chocolate. In the case of a more niche preference, you will likely already know its position in the aisle because it does not change. Never at eye-level, your bag of salted caramel dark chocolate is eternally juxtaposed to the bag of mint milk chocolate, both sold by the same company. At any given CVS, they will sometimes be on a high level but more often than not, they will be off to the side. This particular bag of chocolate will reside at shin-level so you have to bend down to pick it up. It never goes on sale. But your friend has a slightly different experience. You see, she is a big fan of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, no almonds or other extras. She needs two bags because finals are coming up and she stress eats when she feels bloated. She turns into the candy aisle, finds the sign indicating the chocolate, and walks right up to inspect her choices. She does not have to look for long. As she glances to the side, her eyes find the Hershey’s label and her brain immediately recognizes the color. She grabs two bags since there is a sale that applies to this type of chocolate (second bag is 50% off!) and you both head to the front of the store to pay.

Photo taken by me.

Now let’s say that you and your friend prefer the finer things in life. Pretend that there has been a tragic epidemic and every chocolatier in your immediate vicinity has been destroyed. This leaves CVS as your only option for buying chocolate. The two of you cannot eat “commoners chocolate,” whatever that means (you and your friend are chocolate-snobs) so you head to the “Premium Chocolates” stand that CVS has on display. There is a notable absence of plastic bags and cartoon labels, no bright colors that remind you of late Halloween nights. The characteristics of this section that stand out to you are the highbrow-looking packaging, lack of “Big Chocolate” name brands (or so you think), and the fact that the vast majority of the packaging features some sort of picture of smooth chocolate.

Photo taken by me.

Because you and your friend prefer everyone to know the percentage of cocoa that your chocolate is, you grab a package from eye-level that advertises “85% Cocoa” in big, bold letters beneath the word “Excellence” written in a super fancy script font. This chocolate is slightly pricier than the chocolate in other areas of CVS so you and your friend agree to split the bag. Then you both head to the counter to pay.

In both situations, you have to pass the “impulse buy” test. As you wait in line to pay, you are surrounded by shelves of mini-sized candy. It is a slue of small packaging, with candy, gum, donuts, and chocolate all mixed together. The gum is at the top because it is the easiest to justify in a situation where you need to freshen up your breath. Directly below the gum are four entire shelves of candy, mostly chocolate. This is a departure from the fancy marketing you saw earlier. It is a return to the “Big Chocolate” name brands like Hershey. In contrast to the chocolate aisle, this chocolate is being sold in much smaller quantities. Its small size and location in the store point to a popular marketing ploy that stores like to use, especially in America. In America, we are very susceptible to the “impulse buy.” It is very easy to justify buying a small chocolate candy bar on your way out of CVS than buying a whole bag. Even further, these candies are not at adult-eye level but they are positioned perfectly to draw the attention of any child who walks past them. You, however, are not a child. You wait your turn and pay for your chocolate at the cash register. Then you leave CVS, concluding your shopping experience.

Photo taken by me.

These elaborate scenarios showcase various ways that chocolate plays a part in our everyday lives. For instance, the way that companies choose to visually represent their chocolate speaks to how we perceive chocolate. The “Premium Chocolates” section is a perfect example of this. In “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics”, Mary Norton discusses how sociologists and cultural historians “have eschewed biological or economic determinism and instead theorize taste as socially constructed” (Norton, 663). She uses Mintz’ work on sugar’s development “from a medicinal additive to a luxury good among the upper classes” to complement his argument that “sugar ‘embodied the social position of the wealthy and powerful.’ He points to ‘sugar’s usefulness as a mark of rank—to validate one’s social position. To elevate others, or to define them as inferior.’” (Norton/Mintz). This seems antiquated to us in modern day but it really holds true to society’s perception of chocolate. If you take into account the countless ads like this one that present chocolate as a luxury item that should be desired, then it becomes easier to see why presenting their product as “Premium Chocolates” is an effective marketing tactic used by Lindt and Ghirardelli in CVS.

Looking at this commercial, the first thing to notice is the incredible CGI they have used to recreate Audrey Hepburn, an icon of class and elegance. There is classic music playing in the background. Audrey Hepburn leaves the public transport bus and makes the transition into a handsome man’s car where he proceeds to act as her chauffeur as she eats chocolate in the backseat. This is a very clear way of associating chocolate with a certain lavish lifestyle that mirrors the purpose of the upscale display at CVS. This demonstrates how chocolate is still thought of as a luxury good despite its frequency.

Similarly, you can discern the intended audience from the location and price of the chocolate. In the chocolate aisle and the section right before the cash register, the position of the chocolate can reveal many things. If it is at eye-level for an adult, odds are that product is very popular. An example of this is the Hershey’s chocolate staple: plain dark chocolate. If the product is more particular, it is likely that it will be on a different shelf in order to make room for the standard products. One exception to this rule is when products are placed at the eye-level of children. Today, ads everywhere target kids because they want to create costumers for life. This has various ethical complications, not the least of which are explored in the article “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies” by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens. Their article describes the way sugar’s detrimental effects on public health were covered up by greedy corporations. Along the way, scientific research has found that “sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars” (Taubes). The ethical complications arise when the companies knowlingly advertised their product that contained unhealthy ingredients without making the public fully aware of their effects. There is also research that links the overconsumption of sucrose and HFCS to obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which disproportionately affect young people. Ad campaigns like this one from Cadbury target young people in an effort to foster a relationship between the child and the brand so that as an adult, their potential purchasing power increases because of their trained loyalty to the specific company.

The ad works likes a commercial to kids for kids. The use of children and upbeat music to advertise chocolate is a convincing strategy to associate chocolate with fun. This targeting of children as consumers is demonstrated in stores like CVS where chocolate is placed in the perfect position for children to recognize them from ads on television and the internet.

Chocolate might seem like a normal treat that you indulge in after a difficult day, but if you look deeper into your own perception of chocolate, you will learn that it is integral to multiple societal structures. Not only can you see from the different placements of chocolate in CVS that it is associated with elitism and opulence, but it is also incredibly gendered. This post on reddit.com by user Te1221 establishes the subconscious connection between chocolate and women.

Reddit, posted by user Te1221 in 2014.

The caption is “CVS boosted chocolate sales this year” which implies that its location next to female hygienic products would help it sell more. The suggestion that women on their period are more likely to buy chocolate is widely spread idea. This is just a small example of how chocolate can really represent institutions within our society like gender (like power through its elitism).

Just from looking at chocolate placement in a CVS in Harvard Square, you can begin to understand its intrinsic nature. Chocolate is a symbol of delicacy, power, femininity, and sinfulness (both in relation to physical health and sexually). All you need to do is look.

Works Cited

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691

Mintz, Sidney W. “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” (New York, 1985), 140, 139, 153, 166–167.

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, Feb. 15, 2017.

Taubes, Gary, and Cristin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” Mother Jones. Nov/Dec. 2012. Web. 04 May 2017. <http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign&gt;.

Experiences of a Cocoa King

I recently spoke with my uncle, Ronald D. Waugh Jr., who served as Vice President of Business Development for W.R. Grace Cocoa and later Archer Daniels Midland from the years 1993 to 1999. W.R. Grace Cocoa had factories in Amsterdam and Wisconsin, and he worked in both locations over the course of his career. In our conversation, he spoke about the intricacies of supplying cocoa products to large clients like Nabisco and Unilever, as well as his experience visiting their business partners in the Côte d’Ivoire (pictured below). When he left in 1999, he estimates that the company was processing roughly twenty-five percent of the world’s cacao. Although his company took corporate social responsibility seriously and was regarded as a progressive employer by many of its workers at the time, he acknowledges that these terms have taken new meaning in modern times. This new level of social awareness is especially evident in Portland, Oregon, the city he now calls home.


Courtesy of Ronald D. Waugh — he is on the right (circa 1999)

W.R. Grace Cocoa’s European headquarters in Amsterdam specialized in the processing of cacao beans and chocolate products including liqueur, cocoa butter, cocoa cakes, and cocoa powder. For sourcing, Grace turned towards cacao growing regions in countries throughout West Africa such as Ghana, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire, as well as East Asian countries like Indonesia. At its height, Grace Cocoa sold more than $700 million in industrial cocoa and chocolate products around the world annually (New York Times 1996). Grace was able to do so because of the diversity of their clients’ products. Their needs differed based on the intended use of the cocoa, and my uncle facilitated many of these corporate relationships.

One of the first distinctions he made in our conversation was that between actual chocolate, and what is considered “chocolate flavor.” Chocolate liqueur, which is made from the pressing and grinding of cacao beans, is divided into two main substances: cocoa and cocoa butter. In order for a product to legally labeled as containing chocolate in the United States, cocoa butter must still be present. Otherwise, the product must be denoted as “chocolate flavored.” Fat-content impacts the flavor of the products, and more legal standards of identity determine these ratios. Low-fat content chocolate must contain between ten and twelve percent cocoa butter, while high-fat content chocolate must contain between sixteen and eighteen percent cocoa butter (Waugh 2017). Because cocoa butter is the more expensive ingredient of chocolate, Grace Cocoa was able to generate savings for their clients when they could optimize the fat content. Sometimes, this also required the blending of cocoa from different batches, the processes of which also had to be developed in their labs. According to Waugh, they would aim for 10 percent fat-content in their low-fat chocolate products, and sixteen percent in the high-fat chocolate products, as to fulfill fat-content standards, and minimize input costs for their clients (2017).

Common substitutes for cocoa butter are forms of vegetable fats and oils. These substitutes can be made for reasons of cost, as cited above, but also desired physical properties of the final product, such as melting point or mouthfeel. True cocoa butter melts at the temperature of the human body, eighty-six degrees fahrenheit, while compound chocolate has a higher melting point (Muir 2015). The higher melting point of these coatings make them ideal for use on ice cream products, compared to a candy which the consumer will eat right away. Appropriately, Grace Cocoa was contracted to supply the chocolate coatings for Unilever’s Magnum ice cream bars, which were made from Grace’s variety of chocolate flavorings. Other attributes of cocoa also came to be important to Grace Cocoa’s clients.

Unilever’s Magnum ice cream bars (left) and Nabisco’s Oreos (right)

Other factors clients cared about included grittiness, viscosity, and color. Adjustments in these could save or cost their customers money over time. One example he cited, was if the chocolate was intended to go on top of oatmeal cookies, the smoothness of their chocolate did not matter as much. The oatmeal would mask any grittiness in the chocolate, and they could save money in the production process, which Grace Cocoa would pass onto their customers. Viscosity of the chocolate Grace sold was also important, as it would come into direct contact with the customer’s machinery. A chocolate liqueur that had too much viscosity could potentially clog up a client’s machines, leaving them unable to produce their final products. Finally, the color consistency of the cocoa powder was of utmost importance. Grace Cocoa was one of the only companies that had the resources to consistently produce black cocoa powder — as result, they developed an exclusive relationship with Nabisco to provide the cocoa for their iconic Oreo cookies. The popularity of these international brands puts pressure on companies like Grace Cocoa in order to satisfy the world’s demand.

Demand for chocolate is relatively inelastic. In my uncle’s experience at Grace, their predictions for the growth of demand in a particular country would roughly mirror population growth (Waugh 2017). If the population was expected to grow by one percent, they could also expect a one percent growth in the demand for chocolate products. The only exception to this rule being Asian countries, where chocolate only caught on through the cultural practices of gift-giving. As result, marketing strategies are different in Asia. Authors of the book, The Economics of Chocolate explain, “foreign chocolate makers devote much in advertising and packaging efforts to promote chocolate as a gift that symbolizes love and friendship” (Squicciarini and Swinnen 2016). Waugh says that he and his colleagues used to joke, that if they could get every person in China to eat one chocolate bar per year, they would all be able to retire. With demand being predictable and constant, any challenges that those in the cocoa industry would face almost always came on the supply side.

Managing the supply of cacao was paramount to Grace Cocoa’s success. Cacao is a notoriously difficult crop to grow, and its successful growth is subject to various environmental factors. The author of Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet, explains the variables likely to impact worldwide cacao supply:

“The quality of beans, the capricious rains, the unpredictable harvests, the cost of pesticides, the threat of witch’s broom (a disease of the Theobroma tree), the see-saw prices and the exorbitant government taxes. These farmers know everything about the difficulties of growing cocoa in this region” (Off 2008).

Cacao rose to prominence as a cash crop in West and Central Africa due to the regions’ favorable growing climates. In these areas, politics have become greatly intertwined with the cultivation of cacao, and consequently many hurdles and question marks exist for the villages who make their livelihood farming cacao. Companies that must meet the world’s demand for cacao, like Grace Cocoa, are forced to mitigate the risk of fluctuations in supply by sourcing their beans from African business groups with ties across their countries, instead of the farmers themselves. My uncle worked directly with these people, and even visited Côte d’Ivoire periodically throughout his time working in the industry.

In his visits to the Côte d’Ivoire, Waugh and his colleagues frequently interacted with figures like Pierre Billon, father of the current Ivorian Minister of Commerce, Jean-Louis Billon. Pierre Billon, who has since passed away, is described as, “a tycoon and close confidant of Côte d’Ivoire’s founding father, Félix Houphouët-Boigny” (Abidjan 2013). Navigating these relationships was challenging, because unlike in Western countries, these were the types of men which influenced everything within the country, even on a governmental level. On one of his trips, my uncle was awarded an officer medal from Côte d’Ivoire’s Ordre de Mérite Agricole, or the Order of Agricultural Merit. Admittedly, he said this was fun to receive, but he also acknowledges this gesture may have been an attempt to warm up to him. He was able to visit several farms and see the harshness of the wilderness, but he never expected the modern revelations that more sinister practices were taking place.

Waugh describes the cacao production he saw within the Côte d’Ivoire as much more “artisan” than plantations he’d seen in other parts of the world like Indonesia (2017). Plantations didn’t exist in Côte d’Ivoire, or at least he wasn’t shown them. It was explained to Waugh that primarily Lebanese men called pisteurs, would travel the treacherous terrain to the farms around the country in order to collect the cacao beans. Carol Off explains her experience navigating Côte d’Ivoire’s bush country, “Tangled vines and shrubbery encroach on both sides of our vehicle while we push through what resembles a dark, leafy tunnel. Constant precipitation — a perpetual cycle from warm mist to torrential thundershowers to steam — seems to stimulate the new jungle growth before my eyes” (Off 2001). The density of the unforgiving wilderness seemed to distract from the idea that forced labor could exist in the area.

Another circumstance which may have covered up the forced labor practices to visitors like my uncle, was the small size of the cacao farms within the country. Duguma, Gockowski and Bakala explain, “In the humid west and central Africa, cacao (Theobroma cacao Linn.) is one of the most important cash crops and it is grown largely (> 80%) by the small-scale farmers” (2001). The average farm size is only 2.5 hectares, or just over 6 acres (see table below). Waugh explained that the farms he saw were also home to animals like pigs and chickens. Although it never crossed his mind that inhumane conditions could’ve existed, he does admit that he feels somewhat complicit in the things that were happening (2017). Looking at the larger picture of the cocoa processing operations, both Grace Cocoa and Archer tried to spread out production means, in turn helping several regions throughout the world.

Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC).png

Source: Federation of Cocoa Commerce (FCC)

Waugh says that production operations were based out of Amsterdam, because the Netherlands had readily available means of processing the cacao beans. The technology that they relied to do so was ancient, and it was the windmill. Grace Cocoa used the means of production that was convenient, and because much of the world’s cacao was entering Europe through Amsterdam, it simply made sense to station their operations here. Waugh says he was often asked why Grace or Archer Daniels did not build processing plants in Africa — and his response? They did. In 1997, following the acquisition of Grace Cocoa, ADM became a shareholder and later the outright owner of Union Ivoirienne de Traitement de Cacao (Unicao). Unicao, a local cocoa trader and processor owned a plant in the city of Abidjan (Squicciarini and Swinnen 2016). Photos of the factory can be seen below. Having these operations within the country certainly cut some of their overhead costs of shipping unprocessed beans, but it also limited their supply to Ivorian cacao. The company was forced to blend their cocoa cakes in this factory, and Waugh says this worked for some applications, but not all.

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Photos courtesy of Ronald D. Waugh (circa 1999)

Conditions in communities throughout Côte d’Ivoire are still rough today, but Grace and later Archer, did what they could to help out at the time. Carol Off writes, “The community’s livelihood comes from growing “the food of the gods,” but this is a long way from paradise. None of the children here go to school, and there are no services — no electricity, no phones, no clinics or hospitals” (2008). Waugh explained that both Grace and Archer were regarded as progressive employers in the Côte d’Ivoire. In the city where their processing plant was located, they built several schools and a medical clinic. They also provided housing for the African managers of their factory. Community members believed that they were a fair employer and as result, both parties felt better off because of the balance of loyalty.

In the era of the internet, corporate responsibility has gained a lot of prominence. Perhaps, it is because heightened transparency has increased the accountability of corporations. One brand that brings that close to home (literally and figuratively) for my uncle is called Tony’s Chocolonely. With locations in Portland, Oregon, and Amsterdam, the brand directly sources their cocoa from farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. The reason? They want to ensure that the cacao is not grown, harvested, or processed by slave labor in any way, shape, or form (see link below). At one point not too long ago in history, corporate responsibility simply entailed treating employees, communities, consumers and the environment with respect. Building housing, schools and clinics would’ve been considered going above and beyond one’s obligations. In today’s globalized world, that may not be enough. I don’t think that means any firm in particular was in the right or in the wrong, but future generations have a responsibility to learn and grow from history. I’m grateful that through this project, I was able to learn more about the complexities chocolate production through my uncle’s expertise and experiences.



Works Cited

Abidjan, A. R. “A Rising Star.” Blog Post. The Economist. The Economist, 3 May 2013. Web. 5 May 2017.

“Archer in $430 Million Deal to Buy W.R. Grace Cocoa Unit.” New York Times, Dec. 24, 1996. pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times.

Duguma, B. Gockowski, J. & Bakala, J. “Smallholder Cacao (Theobroma Cacao Linn.) Cultivation in Agroforestry Systems of West and Central Africa: Challenges and Opportunities.” Agroforestry Systems 51 (2001): 177-88. Springer Link. Web. 5 May 2017.

Muir, April. “Candy Making: Facts about Chocolate Compound Coating.” Sephra. Sephra, 03 Oct. 2015. Web. 05 May 2017.

Squicciarini, Mara P., and Swinnen, Johan. “Chocolate Brands and Preferences of Chinese Consumers.” The Economics of Chocolate. Oxford: Oxford Univ, 2016. N. pag. Oxford Scholarship [Oxford UP]. Web. 5 May 2017.

Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. pp. 1-8, 119-161

Waugh, Ronald D., Jr. Telephone interview. 3 May 2017.

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.

Knowing Chocolate: Common Knowledge vs “Big Chocolate” Marketing


Chocolate is sinful and mature; it has the power to make people happy, especially women. That exact set of information could come from any chocolate commercial like the “Dove Senses” one linked above, but also came from three people interviewed on their relationship with chocolate both in their childhood. All three subjects came from different regions of the United States, were born in different generations, and were of different ethnicity and genders. Throughout the interviews conducted, chocolate was described as a happy food, lightening people’s moods and comforting them after long days of work. When remembering their childhood experiences with chocolate and their feelings about eating it as adults, they all thought it to be indulgent and somewhat sinful, two of the three linking chocolate with weight gain. Two of the three interviewees were born before 1985 and mentioned how chocolate commercials have markedly transitioned from focusing on children to more adult and mature marketing tropes. Lastly, in each interview, women were thought to enjoy and like chocolate more than men regardless of the gender of the interviewee. “Big chocolate” has taken these commonly held beliefs about chocolate and based their marketing off of it, and, in turn, has convinced an even larger audience that chocolate will make them happier, curb their desire, and is not just for children, but also adults.


The Butler’s Chocolates ad above assumes that giving a gift of chocolate is gifting happiness; all three interviewees would agree. One interviewer, Andrew*, would go so far as call it a “natural craving”; he believed that if you’ve eaten chocolate once, you want to eat it again, comparing it to a drug. Chocolate has been described as a drug, a craving, and an addiction, but the actual attraction that chocolate has to human taste buds is theorized to come from the high fat and sugar contents or its palatability (Benton 215). Because the body wants as much fat and sugar as possible for survival, it releases endorphins inside the brain making consumers happier and more energized. Endorphins allow the brain to understand and calculate faster and with ease which naturally makes people happier; chocolate being seen as a gift of happiness is not far off from the physiological and psychological truth (Wenk, 17). Humans naturally crave food, but crave chocolate more commonly than other foods because of its palatable contents like junk foods (Benton 206). Chocolate could not be considered as addictive though. Drugs of abuse release endorphins and dopamine into the brain similarly to chocolate, but the craving for these drugs after first-time usage comes from a place of loss rather than a physiological craving (Benton 215). When the brain recognizes that a food is high in fat and sugar content, it craves the food, sometimes without the subject ever tasting it; chocolate consumption has a physiological purpose to the human brain whereas drugs of abuse do not until used for a first time.

Although positive reactions were the first reactions to questions about chocolate, interviewees listed negative emotions and feelings as well. An interviewee, Matt, said that it sometimes made him feel fat, uncomfortable, and overwhelmed if he ate too much. The two others, Andrew and Jessica, linked chocolate to unhealthy weight gain and obesity, Jessica claiming it as a possible gateway food to an unhealthy lifestyle. Unprompted, negative reactions were listed after positive reactions felt about chocolate and its consumption. On the surface and in television commercials and ads, chocolate brings joy, happiness, and celebration, but consumers recognize the dark consequences of eating too much chocolate or becoming too reliant on it as a mood booster. Chocolate physiologically and psychologically makes people happy so marketers play off of it as a cure-all for a hard day or stressful week.

A Deadly Sin

In every interview, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was described as an important childhood memory of chocolate; the famous chocolate river surrounded by a confectionery forest is delightful to the eye and the stomach, leaving a lasting impression into adulthood. The film may have a sweet candy coating, but the theme itself is all sin. Throughout the film, spoiled kids get whisked away because of disrespect, gluttony, greed, pride, etc. The first of these exits by the character Augustus Gloop meant to portray gluttony. Note that of all the candies and confectioneries within the forest and river, the chocolate river is what destroys Augustus. As Wonka sits back and watches Augustus move towards and into the pipe, he casually begins to eat a chocolate bar cheekily saying, “The suspense is terrible… I hope it will last.” while the crowd of parents and children panic around him. The choice of a chocolate bar, rather than a colorful candy, shows how indulgent and unfazed he is even amidst panic and chaos. Chocolate here brings out the worst in Augustus and in Wonka and commercials like to take part in that as well. The “Dove Senses” commercial posed chocolate as indulgent, luxurious, and tempting, all more positive symbols of sinful behavior.

Matt’s first memory of chocolate was when he was about five years old; he had gone inside a convenience store with his mother and, on the way out, had grabbed and stolen a bag of Mars M&M’s. When his mother saw him eating them the in car on the way home, he denied that he had been eating chocolate and was marched straight back to the store to apologize for the theft. To Matt, chocolate has a vivid memory of guilt whereas the other two, Jessica and Andrew, negatively associated it with weight gain. Those who have more negative emotions about eating chocolate generally focus more on their health, dieting, and appearances (Benton 207). They are more likely to feel sick after eating chocolate and more often use a rationale like “to keep my energy levels up” to validate their chocolate consumption. The sinfulness and guilt associated with chocolate is transformed into indulgence, desire, and often lust to help marketers mask negative emotions or feelings from chocolate.

Chocolate Ads Then and Now

With both Jessica and Matt who were born before 1985, both remembered a distinct change in chocolate and confectionery commercials and ads from their childhoods to the current day. Chocolate ads during both of their childhoods were primarily concerned with marketing towards children using bright cartoon characters and catchy jingles. Commercials for chocolates currently have become distinctly more mature with references to pop culture, adult relationships, and the real world. Take a look at M&Ms commercials. The first one here was aired during the 1970s while the second ad was aired in April 2017:

You can immediately notice the distinct change of cartoon to CGI M&M people. Although that change does come with technological progression, the M&M men are placed in a modern world where things are not as forgiving or magical. Other M&Ms ads over the past six years have been similar, making their cartoon candy men into snarky, modern characters set in the real world. In the 1980s, the chocolate industry surged as the baby boomer generation became adults and continued to buy chocolate for themselves; “big chocolate” began to target adults with commercials during sports events, daily news programs, and weekly sitcoms (Winters). The target audience of chocolate commercials had grown up and so did their cartoon characters and tones. By the time the twenty-first century came around, commercials for chocolates were targeting both children and adults. More mature variations of chocolate like Dove sprung into the market and found success from a new generation of adults. When asked to recollect the evolution of chocolate marketing, both Jessica and Matt remarked on how many varieties of chocolate products have developed and the rainbow of candy wrapping colors in convenience stores. As the chocolate industry exploded so did the amount of possibilities; “big chocolate” started adding fruity and minty flavors, new textures, and larger sizes of candy bar for consumption. Almost any type of candy bar thought of is on the market today and has moved from its basic consumption during the 1960s and 1970s. “Big chocolate” had no choice when it made its marketing more mature. Its largest consumer group, the baby boomers, had become adults; to make the most profits, “big chocolate” would have to find a way to appeal to them, making chocolate a treat for both adults and children.

Women and Chocolate

Mature chocolate ads like the “Dove Senses” commercial usually depict women living luxuriously and indulging in sinful desires. Dove as a product exclusively targets adult women through their marketing as a product that will make women happy and more positive during their days. When asked during interviewing why people like chocolate, both Matt and Andrew expressed that women got more pleasure and consumed more chocolate than men. Although chocolate consumption by men and women is markedly the same, almost all chocolate ads targeting adults specifically target women or have a woman as the primary focus of the ad. With brands like Dove stressing the idea of chocolate for women, women may be physiologically and psychologically more drawn to chocolate than men. Palatable foods with high fat and sugar content like chocolate are most pleasurable when a subject is under some form of psychological stress. Hormonally, women are more often under psychological stress from menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and a higher likelihood for unipolar depression (Briollo and Di Renzo 166). Chocolate craving and consumption becomes more frequent before, during, and after menstrual cycles and also during pregnancy.

When asked about the time she ate the most chocolate in her life, Jessica said it was during her first pregnancy; she was craving chocolate all the time and every day. During pregnancy, rapid hormonal changes within the brain strike indicators of stress making the subject crave more palatable foods (Briollo and Di Renzo 170). Chocolate’s pleasurableness to eat and familiarity to women often leaves its mark in cravings. Chocolate consumption during pregnancy has been proven in multiple cases to be beneficial or relatively harmless, but it does boost the mental well-being of pregnant women and reduces stress. Women do find chocolate more pleasurable than men because of natural hormonal changes that induce physiological stress on the brain and body so they often crave chocolate more often than their male counterparts. The endorphins in chocolate reduce stress for both men and women, but more often in women because of physiological stress caused by menstruation and pregnancy.  “Big chocolate” targets female consumers because women buy more chocolate than men, not because they consume more chocolate than men. Because of physiological stress, women are more likely to give in to buying chocolate on a craving over men although men and women consume about the same amount of chocolate each year.


Advertisements for chocolate are influenced by common beliefs about chocolate’s properties and characteristics. Chocolate does provide stress relief and boosts mood, but often makes people feel guilty for eating it, especially those focused on body image or weight loss. These advertisements target people’s already held beliefs and enhance them making chocolate seem almost lustful, overwhelmingly happy, and for every type of consumer. Chocolate ads have ditched their colorful cartoon imagery and swapped it for dry, realistic humor or sexual chocolate fantasies all because its consumer base began to age. Chocolate marketing has only swollen and spread commonly held beliefs and updated itself to stay current and sell to wider audiences. Matt, Andrew, and Jessica were all interviewed with twenty questions about their experiences, relationships, and reactions towards chocolate. The last question in the interview asked if they had any knowledge of cacao farming or production; all three interviewees had no knowledge of how chocolate is produced, yet could name specific chocolate commercials from their childhood forty or fifty years in the past. Commonly held beliefs about chocolate are informed by marketing and vice versa, but consumers of “big chocolate” know very little about the product they are actually buying.

*All names of those interviewed have been changed.

Works Referenced

Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. Ed. Astrid Nehlig. Boca Raton, FL: CRC, 2004. 205-18. Print.

Brillo, Eleonora, and Gian Carlo Di Renzo. “Chocolate, Cocoa and Women’s Health.”Chocolate and Health: Chemistry, Nutrition and Therapy. By Philip K. Wilson. London: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015. 160-72. Print.

Wenk, Gary L. “Euphoria, Depression, & Madness.” Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015. N. pag. Print.

Winters, Patricia. “Chocolate Marketing No Longer Kids’ Stuff.” Advertising Age 57.31 (1986): 22. Web.

Chocolate: Caloric Convenience or Conscientious Confection

Buying chocolate in America can be much like any other purchase in terms of the shockingly wide range of options, flavors, and price points made available to the consumer.  There are basic candies and bars that will satisfy a craving and there are expensive treats that claim to be so luxurious they go so far as to hint at the possibility of providing for a longer life (https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158).  All of these options are available under the name of chocolate and convenience.  This essay will focus on comparisons between only two candy aisles at two stores:  CVS and Whole Foods; both Fortune 500 companies, neither of which are confectioneries or chocolate houses.


CVS is a $117.4 billion (according to Forbes.com) drug retail company.  Not only are they the biggest retailer of prescription drugs and the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S., but they also provide healthcare services through medical clinics and diabetes care centers.  In addition, they also sell chocolate.

True to their origins as a pharmaceutical vendor, when one walks into a CVS, it has a compact, efficient, and even slightly clinical look and feel.  The open space is brightly lit by overhead fluorescent lights, large red tags indicate where items can be found, and special offers and discounts are loudly displayed and announced overhead.  Even the retail staff members are dressed in white lab coats lending to the authenticity of a doctor’s waiting room.

This store prides itself on health, but also low prices and convenience.  It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers weekly and even daily special discounts.  The candy aisle is located at the front of the store near the entrance, across from toys and other fun, spontaneous, instant-gratification type items and extras.  Additional chocolate items are lined up under a selection of gum at the register for last-minute impulse purchases, with sale prices highlighted to focus attention on the discount provided.

CVS counter
Display at the CVS checkout counter. Candy bars, placed under the gum, are all on sale for $0.88 or buy one and get the second one at a 50% discounted price.

As one walks to the candy aisle, the packaging and marketing materials (mostly plastic) are immediately noticeable in bright colors, bold fonts, and large labels.  The branding, for most American customers, would be quickly recognized as all belonging to the “big chocolate” brands:  Hershey’s, Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, Mars, and Cadbury (Martin, “The rise”).

There are bars of chocolate, but the majority of products offered are blended with, or provide a shell coating over, less expensive products.  The iconic milk chocolate Hershey’s bar is showcased in the middle row at eye-level, sharing the shelf with Nestle Chunky bars (a chunky-shaped candy bar with milk chocolate, California raisins, and roasted peanuts). Nips (a hard candy, some of which contain a chocolate-flavored filling), Dove chocolate bars and Cadbury Dairy Milk bars are above.  Below are larger packages of bars, including:

  • Hershey’s Special Dark (a semi-sweet chocolate bar)
  • Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (a white candy bar with pieces of chocolate-flavored cookies interspersed)
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (large chocolate coated peanut butter confections)
  • York Peppermint Patties (dark chocolate-covered soft peppermint disks)
  • Hershey’s Mounds (a dark-chocolate covered center made from shredded coconut)
  • Hershey’s Almond Joy (a milk chocolate-covered coconut-based center topped with almonds)
  • Mars Snickers (a milk chocolate-covered nougat topped with caramel and peanuts)
  • Mars Milky Way (a chocolate-covered chocolate malt flavored nougat with caramel)
  • Nestle Butterfinger (a chocolate-toffee-covered bar with a flaky, crisp, peanut butter-flavored center)

These items can be purchased individually; however, the majority of the products are in gradually increasing sizes and quantities with prices ranging from $0.39 to $0.89 an ounce.  While no great mention or display is made with regard to the ingredients, origin, manufacturing practices, ethical concerns, or quality of cacao in these products, three of the four Dove chocolate bars are stamped with the Rainforest Alliance certification.

CVS aisle
CVS aisle stocked mostly with large-packaged chocolates.

Based on the selection provided:  the absence of cacao mentioned, the presence of larger size packages, the heavy focus on additional ingredients such as nuts, fruits, and/or confections, and lower bulk prices that accompany them, etc., we learn that the CVS’s targeted audience has limited time and money to spend.  The intention is “caloric consumption,” grab and go convenience, a meal substitution or perhaps simply to ease a craving.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is an $18.8 billion (according to Forbes.com) supermarket chain that claims to be “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” (www.wholefoodsmarket.com).  Their goal is to sell the healthiest foods possible and offer products that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.  There is a welcoming feel to the expansive space.  The lighting is warm without being harsh, the walls are lined with soft wood, posted signs are in uniformly calming tones, and helpful employees all wear green aprons.  It has the look and feel of an up-scale farmers market.

Whole Foods aisle
Candy aisle at Whole Foods.

One can find the candy aisle located next to the produce section, across from organic baby foods, and adjacent to a beautiful display of organic “Whole Body” healing bath salts and soaps.  The chocolate bars (mainly bars and mostly dark, only a few milk chocolate or blended confections are offered) are wrapped in expensive papers and foils featuring endangered species, philanthropic organizations and specific causes, picturesque scenes or artistically created designs.

There are no “big chocolate” products to be found.

Each bar appears to have been hand-selected from a variety of artisanal chocolatiers.  Some are smaller than others, but all promise their own unique look, feel, story, and taste.

Instead of being recognized and advertised by known “big chocolate” brand names, these brands chose to focus instead on highlighting select ingredients and percentage of cacao.  Each bar clearly calls out the selected ingredients, origin and percentage of cacao as well as the origin and processing of any included ingredients.  Some examples include:

  • 45% cacao milk chocolate with Congo coffee and cream
  • 55% dark chocolate with chilies and cherries
  • 57% organic dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel
  • 60% dark stone ground chocolate with toffee almond and sea salt
  • 65% dark chocolate with forbidden rice
  • 70% organic fair trade dark chocolate with cherry almond
  • 70% dark chocolate bar with ancho chile, cinnamon, and orange
  • 72% cacao organic dark chocolate, cardamom, cinnamon, and chili
  • 88% cacao – extreme dark
  • 99% cacao
Whole Foods_chocolate
Some of Whole Foods’ chocolate selection.

Ethical, health, and religious concerns are also addressed through seals of (sometimes multiple) certifications on each chocolate bar, such as: Demeter, Whole Trade, Fair Trade, Fair for Life, Direct Trade, Non GMO Project Verified, Oregon Tilth, Certified Gluten-Free, Rainforest Alliance, Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan, Kosher Dairy, and USDA Organic. If additional information is desired, the store has also placed a display rack at the entrance to the aisle featuring a free publication titled, “For a Better World, Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.”  It even includes a reference guide to fair trade and worker welfare programs provided to educate customers and raise awareness levels of labor practices.

Whole Foods_chocolate2
Whole Foods’ chocolate selection.
Whole Foods_magazine
Fair World Project free magazine provided to customers at Whole Foods.

The price points reflect the additional information, attention to detail, and more expensive packaging.  Costs per ounce range from $0.59 to $3.85.  Not only are costs higher than CVS, but even the cost differential within Whole Foods’ offerings are significant.

Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, stated that “The fair trade chocolate category in our grocery departments has grown by more than 350 percent over the past five years. That’s a true indicator that ourshoppers are really making a positive impact on the lives of cocoa growers in developing countries” (Martin, “Alternative trade”).

The intended audience has time and money to spend.  Whole Foods has created a shopping experience that intentionally targets the “conscientious consumer,” someone who is educated on agricultural sourcing and labor practices – or would at least like to be.

These high-end chocolates are being provided for someone who wants to treat themselves to something delicious and feel good about it; a way of thinking that their self-indulgence (via the chocolate and price point) is making a positive impact on the world around them.

Ultimately, both stores sell chocolate while focusing on “health” and “healthier living”, albeit through very different lenses.  CVS provides chocolate and chocolate-coated items intended for mass consumption at a lower price point – making the process as quick and efficient as possible through placement and known brands.  Whole Foods provides high-end, more artisanal chocolates intended for indulgence at higher price points.  Their goal is to provide their customers with a buying experience – chocolate is located in the middle of the store (not as convenient for quick shops) and intended to have time to browse, read, and learn about different products and practices as part of a shopping routine.


Works Cited

Fair World Project. “For a Better World:  Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.” Issue 12 Spring 2016.

Forbes.  The World’s Most Valuable Brands. http://www.forbes.com/companies/cvs-health/.  N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 27 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 9 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.

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

Theo Chocolate, Inc.  Chocolate Bars. https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Whole Foods Market.  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

The Oh-So-Convenient Sugar Aisle

When you traverse around a convenient store for your necessary groceries and finally make it to the front counter, you begin to notice a bright array of sugary delights staring upwards at you as you wait lethargically in line for the cashier to call “NEXT!” You begin to think, “well, I am craving something sweet…and that’s not too expensive” before picking up a chocolate bar and adding it to your tab. But have you ever stopped to wonder why it may be that the candy isle is so conveniently located at the check-out around waist-level when it already has a bigger isle devoted to it right in the back of the store? Coincidence? Well it is surely far from it.

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A candy selection at the checkout counter of a generic convenient store. Notice the placement of the isle and physical height. 


In this blog post, a discussion will arise pertaining to the varying types of chocolate bars sold at a convenient store such as CVS, the history and contents of this selection of chocolate, and all in relation to contemporary issues in sugar and obesity in youth, harkening back to the advent in the rise of sugar amidst the chocolate industry historically.

Among the selection of candy bars sold at CVS there include, but are not limited to: Reese’s, Twix, Hershey’s chocolate bar, M&Ms, Butterfinger, Kit Kat, 3 Musketeers, and the like. Such inexpensive candy bars tend to sell at a price at or around $1 USD. Interestingly enough, although there seems to be a wide selection of candy bars at these check-out counters, oftentimes all these bars fall under roughly three major chocolate companies: Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle. After Henry Nestle’s creation of milk chocolate in 1875, the chocolate conglomerate race began. In the 1920s, competition began to run starkly between Hershey’s and Mars with Forest Mar’s cheap but selling creation of the Milky Way. When customers would approach the candy counter back then and see a flat Hershey’s bar adjacent to a bulging, thick Milky Way, they surely chose the latter, raising sales for Hershey’s competitor (Brenner). What was interesting about Mar’s company as well as the big chocolate companies back then, was that even though they were putting out over 20 million candy bars, their infrastructures didn’t actually appear on the outside as manufacturing plants. Instead, they adopted cultural architectural styles, and had magnificent grass lawns; in essence, an emulation of a utopia (Brenner). But competition really wasn’t too strong between Hershey’s and Mars all the time: when Hershey’s was starting out with Mars, Mars was actually helping sales of the former by purchasing its chocolate coating and Hershey’s would make specific chocolate coatings for different Mars bars. Unfortunately, candy spies arose amidst these companies, with workers disguising themselves to find secrets about the chocolate making of these large companies, thereby contributing to a rise in competition (Brenner).

            Soon these companies realized they could add other materials inside their candy bars such as nougat or even peanut butter, racing each other with novel inventions and mass or bulk production of chocolate. And with industrialization underway by the late 1800s, culinary modernism–a period of processed and bulk production of food (especially cacao)–was prominent entering into the 20th century (Laudan, 2001). Representing these industrial manufacturing plants as utopias and embodying American values, companies like Hershey’s would be found producing commercials that represent core American values and common societal motifs. Yet not only was industrialization helping these companies sell their products, but a steep rise in sugar consumption was also attracting customers. In 1830-1840, with a drop in the price of sugar by over 30%, the working and middle class were beginning to outnumber consumption rates over the wealthy, with sugar being added to most foods, especially tea and chocolate products. Children at young ages were now being accustomed to larger caloric intakes of sugar, as sugar began to represent, and continues to represent, the most significant upward production curve of any other food item on the market over the course of several centuries (Mintz, p. 142-145; Martin, Lecture 7).

            Consequently, with a rise in cacao production, the manufacturing of bulk or processed candy, and higher sugar intake in these processed items, major ethical issues have arisen. As a matter of fact, when looking at the nutritional facts and ingredients in a Hershey’s candy bar, one may be surprised to find out that a generic Hershey’s Chocolate Bar only has roughly 11% cacao content. If that is the case, then one may ask what the remaining contents are; the answer being mostly milk and sugar. Simply put, the chocolate bars you may find at a store like CVS may be considered mere imposters or cheats of chocolate bars when you consider that a purchase of such a bar that brands itself as a “chocolate” bar only has at or around a tenth of chocolate in all [See: Washington Post below].

Washington Post: Chocolate By the Numbers 

Article explaining the cacao contents in contemporary chocolate


More frightening is the fact that such bars contain nearly the entire daily recommended percentage value of sugar intake and over a fifth of the daily amount of fat intake  As a result, it is noteworthy to inquire as to why these candy bars are being purchased in such high quantities, and as to who these companies attract as their target audiences.

Going back to an observation made in the introduction of this discussion, it should be reiterated that not only is the candy isle located both in the back of the store and at the check-out counter, but that it is also conveniently placed at waist level: keyword being convenient. Convenient for whom? Children! The wider selection of the back-of-the-store candy isle can be found stocked with finer chocolates such as Lint Bars or Ghirardelli, but take notice that the front checkout counter merely contains your $1 candy bars supplied by Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle. And this all makes sense now when shining the light on youth. Given the sweet tooth common among children, Lint Bars and 72% cacao may not be enough for their desperate taste buds. Instead, they may desire the high, sugary content of a Reese’s bar or M&Ms, flashing over 24 grams of sugar. Yet oftentimes a caring parent avoids the candy isle. But what he/she cannot avoid is the child’s stare at the array of colorful candy bars as mom/dad pulls out the credit card to pay for the groceries. Clearly, manufacturing companies like Mars team up with store owners to win over their target audiences: youth. Colorful candy wrappers and animated characters, teamed up with a beautifully placed, waist-line presence of candy bars, mom and dad cannot help but cease the wining and begging of their children, ultimately conceding to the purchase of a sugar-packed candy bar from one of the top chocolate conglomerates.

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The animated characters that candy companies utilize to help attract youth. 


As a result, significant ethical issues have arisen, especially over the current decade and continuing on into the present: namely, in relation to sugar consumption and child obesity. As the documentary film “Fed Up” mentions, “They’re in business to make money, not to make America healthy” (“Fed Up”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVX6_LzX4mM ). What is more interesting is to find recent research studies supporting the findings that the human brain reacts similarly to sugar intake as it does to drugs such as cocaine (Serge, Karine, and Youna, 2013). The reward pathway in the brain lights up nearly identical to that of the reaction to the intake of hard drugs. In fact, the dopamine reward pathway of someone who consumes sugar has more activity than someone who is obese, and the person who is obese shows a similarly dulled dopamine response as someone who is addicted to drugs (http://mic.com/articles/88015/what-happens-to-your-brain-on-sugar-explained-by-science#.52zWKxwvS). What this shows is that sugar intake can be a very dangerous aspect of human culture, but more so, that with the rise in sugar production and consumption significantly, and with a target audience of youth for candy companies, issues are arising. Looking back at the 1800s, the average American consumer consumed what is now equivalent to the amount of sugar in one can of soda, but during the length of five days. Now in the second millennium, that 5-day intake has risen to over fifteen cans of soda or nearly 20 times the amount of sugar intake.

The Rise in Sugar Consumption


According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity rates in youth ages 6-11 years old rose from 7% (1980) to 18% (2012), almost three times the amount, tagging almost one in five children as obese, and one third of youth and adolescence combined falling under the category of obesity. With cheap prices, flashy advertising, and high sugar/calorie contents of these candy bars, the rise in obesity in youth and teens is strongly increasing, posing risks for cancer, cardiovascular health, diabetes, and obesity during adulthood, which may further affect offspring and their further risk for obesity and related health problems (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm).

In summary, current society is posed with a vital issue at hand: obesity. And much of this problem can lend itself to the big candy companies who continue to contribute significantly to the rise in production and consumption of sugar. Adding to their sales repertoire, flashy candy wrappers, color cartoon mascots, joyful commercial advertisements, and conveniently placed candy at convenient stores for youth to run into, candy companies and stores like CVS are only contributing to the problem. The CDC points out that statistics for child and adolescent obesity are rapidly increasing and posing risks for adulthood and future generations. Documentary films such as “Fed Up” attempt to expose the sugar industry and the issues at hand. And parents claim to be trying hard to provide healthy alternatives to their children. Yet issues are still arising and issues will continue to arise until the conglomerates are staunchly confronted. Until then, they may hide behind flashy advertisements and commercials that appear to embody true American values, concealing the truth of crushing these values with issues like obesity.

Works Cited

Ahmed, Serge H., Karine Guillem, and Youna Vandaele. “Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 16.4 (2013): 434-439.

Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. chapters 5, 13 pp. 49-69, 179-194.


“Chocolate By the Numbers.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

Kate, Nina. “The Cacao And Cognition Connection | HoneyColony.” HoneyColony. N.p., 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 May 2016.

Laudan, Rachel. “A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food”. Gastronomica 1.1 (2001): 36–44.

Mintz, Sidney W. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power. pp. 142-145






The Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food course ended with a very interesting question: What is the future of chocolate? We would like to think that chocolate has a future, especially in the it-should-always-be-available-for-my-consumption sense, but if you have ever really wondered about the future of chocolate, this report might shed some light on the long-term sustainability of cacao and the livelihood of farmers who do their best to meet the growing demand in the age of global warming and projected climate change.

Note: Cacao and cocoa will be used interchangeably for the purposes of this report.


It is probably the most uncontested fact about cacao: Africa is its major supplier. Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana alone produce over 50% of the world’s cacao. When the nations of Nigeria and Cameroon are included in this unbalanced equation, the total contribution to cacao production stands at 70% (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012; Barometer Consortium; Laderach, Martinez-Valle, Schroth, & Castro, 2013). In other words, there is a lot of chocolate at stake in Africa! And yet, the “entire African continent is the least studied region in terms of ecosystem dynamics and climate variability” (Anyah & Qiu, 2012, p.347). This is even after projections and the Global Climate Model (GCM) predict Africa to be in a very precarious position following extreme weather patterns, including long-term droughts (IPCC). This is especially troubling considering that the majority of Africa’s crops are rain-fed (Anyah et al., 2012). Connolly, Boutin, and Smit (2015) describe a 20-50% drop in cacao yield by 2050. While we cannot control the weather or be certain about cacao yield predictions, researchers have offered various solutions to buffer some of the impacts from climate change and global warming. This report will present some of these solutions and highlight a case study in Bahia, Brazil, where a resurgence in cacao production is occurring-this, after having experienced a crippling blow. The spotlight needs to be on Africa, especially its biggest cacao-producing countries and states, to ensure the future of cacao, its farmers, and ultimately chocolate.

Western Africa: An agriculture-based economy

According to Hamzat, Olaiya, Sanusi, & Adedeji (2006), the survival of cacao in West Africa up till now is entirely due to the Forastero Amazon strain introduced by Posnette (a plant pathologist credited with saving the West African cocoa industry)* and the West African Cocoa Research Institute (WASRI) in the mid-20th century (p.18). One of the major issues that arise from an agriculture-based economy are pests and diseases which can devastate crops. Black Pod Disease and Cocoa Swollen Shoot Disease (CSSV) are the two prominent diseases affecting the cacao crop in western Africa (Hamzat et al., 2006). Farm-maintenance management practices have also been known to inadvertently attract pests (i.e. brown and black cocoa mirids). It might seem like a terrible paradox, but food scarcity is also a major problem in an agriculture-based economy like western Africa’s, considering that “cocoa occupies 2.4 million hectares in Cote d’Ivoire and 1.5 million in Ghana, more than in any other country in the world” (Laderach et al., 2013, p.842). Farmers in this region usually do not combine and/or rotate crops and are left without food supply, detrimentally affecting their nutritional intake (Schmitz et al., 2012). The fact that most cacao farmers are producing on a small-scale also comes into play: in Nigeria, small holdings of farmers account for 60% of Nigeria’s total (cacao) output. Most of these farmers are in remote, rural areas and do not have access to the best seedlings or the equipment/infrastructure needed to produce higher, better quality yield (Hamzat et al., 2006). According to Hamzat et al. (2006), these farmers have a difficult time obtaining credit to make the necessary improvements. This might not appear to be a deal breaker considering that most small cacao farmers have been in business for years without high-tech machinery assisting them, but Schmitz & Shapiro (2012) state that modern farming techniques can make a drastic difference; at least 1,000 kilograms per hectare or more. At the same time, the next generation of would-be (cacao) farmers are leaving the rural areas en masse (Hamzat et al., 2006). The rural-to-urban migration is largely influenced by the fluctuating price of cocoa and the fact that cocoa is very labor intensive and the crop itself is fickle and susceptible to disease (Hamzat et al., 2006). This situation results in an aging farmer population who are less willing to adapt their farming techniques to produce more cacao and are looking to leaving the cacao industry altogether. West Africa’s history with cacao is not particularly rosy either- the use of child slave labor uncovered as late as 2000’s, has blacklisted the region.

Black Pod Disease.jpg Black Pod Disease

Photo Credit: Schmitz, H. & Shapiro, H.Y. (2012). 

Africa will also have to contend with a projected population boom (Miller, Waha, Bondeau, Heinke (2014). This may interrupt the cacao industry in that farmers will be forced to grow food, rather than their cash crop. The surge in population might also alter farming completely in that water will become an even more precious resource not to be wasted on cacao farms. Together, these social, economic, and technical issues will be exacerbated with the addition of above-average climate change for the region in the 21st century.

*To read more about Dr. A.F. Posnette, visit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1467914/Peter-Posnette.html

Rising demand and the major chocolate actors in West African

The sustainability of cacao is a topic at the forefront of Big Chocolate, namely Mars and Hershey. Schmitz & Shapiro (2012), scientists working on behalf of Mars, quantify the expected increase in world-wide chocolate demand: “currently, farmers produce approximately 3.7 million metric tons of cocoa, where expected demand is said to reach over 4 million metric tons of cocoa by 2020 (p.62-63). Due in part to this pressing timeline, Mars has connected with scientists, universities, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to essentially “save” chocolate. Mars and Hershey have both committed to buying 100% of their cacao supply from farms using sustainable practices by 2020. To qualify “sustainable,” Mars and Hershey have partnered with The Fair Trade Foundation. Of course, there are many equity (and other) issues surrounding Fair Trade (see Prof. Martin’s April 6, 2016 lecture). For the past 50 years, Hershey has bought the bulk of their cacao from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire (Hershey Cocoa Sustainability Strategy). These big chocolate corporations have provided funding to organizations like Fair Trade to “help cocoa farmers improve their processes, yield, and profits” (DesMarais, 2014). While cocoa farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are benefitting from the help extended to them by Big Chocolate, Hershey and Mars have plenty to lose if the cocoa crop is neglected in this region, specifically in terms of supply. Mars and Hershey (among other Big Five chocolate actors) have been vying the Chinese market for the last few years (Allen, 2009), and now, the demand from these new markets has presented more urgency regarding the sustainability of cacao in western Africa.


Credit: Cocoa Barometer 2015

Is cacao’s future in the hands of science?

The World Cocoa Foundation estimates that 30-40% of the cacao crop is lost to pests and disease. With a race against time, scientists and researchers have been engineering a new super breed of cacao. With a projected rise in temperature by 2’C (or approximately 35’F) in western Africa, scientists are in search of a drought-tolerant, disease-immune cacao strain. So far, Mars and the USDA have sequenced the cacao genome in an attempt to breed hardier trees (Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012, p. 63). Critics of this super breed are worried about the flavor; CCN51, is said to be resistant to witches’ broom, but according to certain palettes (i.e. The C-spot), this breed is described as “weak basal cocoa with thin fruit overlay; lead and wood shavings; astringent and acidic pulp; quite bitter” (Schatzker, 2014). If we can appreciate anything about chocolate, it is its flavor profile and depth, making the problem of taste all the more relevant. Schatzker (2014) suggests that Big Chocolate might not be so concerned with flavor given that they can use fillers to fortify their chocolate (e.g. vegetable fat, milk, vanilla, flavor chemicals). So, to answer the question if cacao’s future is in the hands of science-certainly Big Chocolate seems to think so.

Global Efforts to boost cacao crops_scientific american

Credit: Schmitz, H. & Shapiro, H.Y. (2012). 

If the history of the coffee crop can teach us anything, however, it is that science does not always offer the best alternative. Arabica coffee, like the cacao tree, grows best under shade (they are understory trees), but when a hybrid (that could tolerate the sun) was introduced to boost the coffee bean yield, many environmental issues arose, among these: The use of herbicides and fertilizer (which led to contamination of groundwater), deforestation, and the trees having to be replaced more often (Craves, 2006).

To summarize what climate experts predict will happen by mid-century (Miller et al., 2014, p.2507):

Freshwater availability will decrease.

Flooding probability will increase.

Dry periods will increase.

Irrigation water required will increase.

Crop yield will decrease.

Scientists, at times working for Big Chocolate, hope to address these climate issues by breeding superior genotypes of Theobroma cacao. It is in the interest of the Big Five to keep up research efforts in western Africa as most of their cacao comes from this region. Again, for the past fifty years or so, Hershey and Mars have benefitted from the region, amassing fortunes; it is time they give back to the land and people that have given up so much. But keeping pace with increased demand in chocolate is not just their problem. Indeed, there are others working on behalf of chocolate. The International Group for the Genetic Improvement of Cocoa (INGENIC) has sprouted out of concern for the future of cacao and were established to collaborate and coordinate on cocoa breeding and management of germplasm resources (INGENIC). Still others, like members of the Cocoa Barometer Organization, are turning to raising awareness and education to reach consumers and farmers alike. Small-scale farmers in western Africa, already experiencing the impacts of climate change, seek some certainty for their very uncertain future, whether in the form of science or other.

Case Study: Bahia, Brazil and traditional farming

Brazilian cacao farmers call it “cabruca.” It is their traditional method of farming cacao-using the shade of other food crop and timber trees, they have maximized the use of the land. Another name for this form of farming is known as mixed agroforestry systems. This method of farming is known to improve the water-holding capacity of the trees (Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012). It is sustainable and environmentally-friendly because 1. It provides corridors for wildlife increasing biodiversity; 2. The trees and surrounding plants capture more carbon; 3. It generally requires less water; and 4. More of the (dwindling) forest is preserved (Sambuichi, Vidal, Piasentin, Jardim, Viana, Menezes, Mello, Ahnert & Baligar, 2012; Schroth, Faria, Araujo, Bede, Van Bael, Cassano, Oliveira, & Delabie, 2011). Bahia is also currently experimenting with a second method: planting cacao trees at higher altitudes, out of pests’ normal range (Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012). In the 1980’s, this region of Brazil experienced a devastating blow to their prized cacao crop-a reduction of 80% in cacao yield-collapsing the cacao economy (Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012). Limited genetic variation led to a near wipeout of cacao trees in the area (most succumbed to witches’ broom). Today, Bahia, has reemerged as a contender in the cacao industry and is recognized for its flavorful cacao beans. In light of global warming, researchers have begun to explore the potential “lessons-learned” from Bahia that could be applied to western Africa; however, most agree that site-specific strategies are needed.


Cabruca Farming

Photo Credit: eCacaos


Although this blog attempted to touch on the current situation regarding cacao in West Africa and cover a wide range of potential climate change scenarios projected for this region, there are probably more questions than answers. In obtaining feedback for this paper, there was a comment about global warming and climate change involving a lot of speculation. And in truth, no one can really know the impacts climate change will bring. What we can stand firm on is the fact that climate change will happen. In other words, it is not a question of if, but when. West Africa has become a living lab of sorts, but a question one might have about cacao coming from this specific region may involve the major chocolate buyers. Should we care about Big Chocolate like Hershey and Mars running out of supply? The simple answer is yes. The livelihoods of so many farmers depend on corporations like Mars to buy their product, and if organizations like Fair Trade can lead the sustainability efforts, farmers will benefit. The places cacao is sourced from may change-according to NOAA cacao can only grow within 20’ north and south of the equator today, but in the future, higher altitudes may be called for-but terroir and consistent quality cacao will always be a good selling point. It is in everyone’s best interested to be invested in the future of chocolate, cacao farmers, and the West African region in particular. Finally, it was important to introduce the Bahia case study to demonstrate how one region, in the midst of global warming projections and a near wipeout under the belts, are still finding ways to minimize their ecological footprint. We do not have to wait for 2020 or 2050 to arrive, the future of chocolate is now.

Works Cited

A.F. “Peter” Posnette. Telegraph online. Accessed from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1467914/Peter-Posnette.html

Allen, L.L. (2009). Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers. New York: AMACOM.

Anti-Slavery International (2004). The Cocoa Industry in West Africa: A history of exploitation.

Anyah, R.O. & Qiu, W. (2012). Characteristic 20th and 21st century precipitation and temperature patterns and changes over the Greater Horn of Africa. International Journal of Climatology, 32.

Cocoa Barometer 2015. Accessed from: http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Home.html

Connolly-Boutin, L., & Smit, B. (2016). Climate change, food security, and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. Regional Environmental Change, 16.

Craves, J. (2006, February 5). The problems with sun coffee. Accessed from: http://www.coffeehabitat.com/2006/02/the_problems_wi/

DesMarais,C. (2014, March 20). Hershey’s and Mars sweeten market for West African cocoa farmers. Greenbiz online. Accessed from: https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/03/20/hersheys-mars-sweeten-market-cocoa-farmers

Hamzat, R.A., Olaiya, A.O., Sanusi, R.A., & Adedeji, A.R. (2006). State of cocoa growing, quality and research in Nigeria: Need for intervention. Presented at The Biannual Partnership Programme of the World Cocoa Foundation.

Hershey’s Cocoa Sustainability Strategy. Accessed from: https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/responsibility/good-business/creating-goodness/cocoa-sustainability.html

INGENIC. Accessed from: http://www.incocoa.org/ingenic/

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change 2013, Chapter 14. Accessed from: http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Home.html

Laderach, P., Martinez-Valle, A., Schroth, G., & Castro, N. (2012). Predicting the future climatic suitability for cocoa farming of the world’s leading producer countries, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Climatic Change, 119.

Mars Sustainability Strategy. Accessed from: http://cocoasustainability.com/2015/02/mars-and-fairtrade-extend-partnership-to-certify-cocoa-for-mars-bars/

Muller, C., Waha, K. Bondeau, A. & Heinke, J. (2014). Hotspots of climate change impacts in sub-Saharan Africa and implications for adaptation and development. Global Change Biology, 20.

NOAA. Climate and chocolate. Accessed from: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-chocolate

Sambuichi, R. H. R., Vidal, D.B., Piasentin, F.B., Jardim, J.G., Viana, T.G., Menezes, A.A., Mello, D.L.N., Ahnert, D. & Baligar, V.C. (2012). Cabruca agroforests in southern Bahia, Brazil: Tree component, management practices and tree species conservation. Biodiversity Conservation, 21.

Schatzer, M. (2014, November 14). To save chocolate, scientists develop new breeds of cacao. Bloomberg Markets online. Accessed from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-14/to-save-chocolate-scientists-develop-new-breeds-of-cacao

Schmitz, H. & Shapiro, H.Y. (2012). The future of chocolate. Scientific American.

Schroth, G., Faria, D., Araujo, M., Bede, L., Van Bael, S. A., Cassano, C.R., Oliveira, L.C., & Delabie, J.H.C. (2010). Conservation in tropical landscape mosaics: The case of the cacao landscape of southern Bahia, Brazil. Biodiversity Conservation, 20.

Silberner, J. (2007, November 19). How chocolate can save the planet. NPR online. Accessed from: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16354380

World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). Accessed from: http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/category/knowledge-center/manuals/



An Analysis of the Chocolate Selection at Cardullo’s and CVS

The chocolate selection at any store indicates who their consumers are, what the most popular products are, and the overall price will indicate its purchase by the consumer. I have chosen to investigate the chocolate selection at Consumer Value Stores, better known as CVS, and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe. The two shops are conveniently across the street from each other in Harvard square. The location of CVS and Cardullo’s is important to mention because that may indicate what products they have and the price points of each product. I chose the CVS location in Harvard square believing there may be some higher end options offered here due to the location and demand of Harvard square. I selected Cardullo’s as they are gourmet shoppe with foreign and unknown brands of chocolate.


Personal perceptions of each store prior to research:

Cardullo’s is a specialty shop and they pride themselves on providing an array of products from all over the world. You walk into their shop and you can buy jam from Greece, honey from Zambia, wine from California, bread from Somerville, and crackers from Latvia. When I think of Cardullo’s, I begin to have images of chocolates from far away, companies and brands I have never encountered before, and high prices. I generally would go here if I am looking for something new to try or window shopping to see what new items they have.

As for CVS, in my mind they are a one stop shop. I can buy toiletry items, have my prescription filled, and purchase chocolate all at the same time. I believe they have fair and equivalent prices for all of their products, so I generally don’t worry about getting the best deal when I shop here. This is a store where I can find all the popular brands, from food, to medications, to paper towels, and a CVS equivalent of the same brand name product. With the use of CVS yellow sticker prices indicating sale items, it is easy to locate the cheapest product when searching for the best deal.



CVS Chocolate Selection
CVS chocolate selection

All the chocolate you find at CVS is a popular brand name and the CVS brand chocolate. From the Nestle company, I could easily locate KitKat, Crunch, and Butterfinger chocolates. The Mars company selection consisted of M&M’s, Snickers, Dove, Twix, Milky Way, and Mars chocolate. Cadbury, Milka, and Toblerone from the Kraft Company. Throughout the chocolate aisle, I could find these chocolates in bar form, mini snack size, bite size, and in bags (bulk).

Big Five Chocolate Companies [1]
Big Five Chocolate Companies [1]
There were two other prominent chocolate bars to select from, Lindt and Ghirardelli, that are not associated with the large corporations mentioned above. For Ghirardelli, each bar variety that was displayed there was a CVS bar to match it. Not only were the flavors the same, but the packaging style and design are very similar. The bars were not the only ones replicated, but the small bag that contains 12 pieces of small Ghirardelli squares, that can be found in individual packing, was also replicated. As for Lindt, the same thing could be found – for every bar flavor, you could find the CVS brand directly underneath it. Similar to Ghirardelli, the small bag that contains about twenty-five Lindt chocolate truffles was replicated and found beneath it. Even though the CVS brand could be located beneath these chocolates you really have to search for it, as the display makes these choices close to the ground. When searching for chocolate at CVS you are overwhelmed with the choices present and it would be rare that the shelves closer to the ground would be immediately located.

The selection of CVS chocolate was limited to the Ghirardelli and Lindt as I described above, except for the few packages I saw of chocolate covered fruit, chocolate covered nuts, mint chocolate bites.

The chocolate selection at the CVS registers are easily located so while you are waiting in line, you can see the chocolate selection and ponder purchasing a last minute treat. Even at the self-checkout registers there is a small chocolate, candy, and gum rack for very last minute purchases while you are checking your items out. The chocolate choices that can be found here are the most popular purchases such as Snickers, Reese’s, and KitKat.

Cardullo's chocolate wall
Cardullo’s chocolate wall

Cardullo’s has a very wide selection of chocolate from all over the world. They have small batch, craft chocolate maker, and chocolatier chocolates such as Francois Pralus pure origin bars and Chocolat Bonnat single origin bars. They carry craft chocolate makers such as Taza, Vosges, and Chuao. Craft chocolate makers are are companies that creates small batches of chocolate from bean to bar (Coe & Coe 2013). Cardullo’s also carries the Big Five chocolates such as Toblerone, KitKat, D’Or, and Cadbury. Then there are is the popular Belgian chocolate companies such as Godiva, Nehaus, and Dolfin that are regularly in stock.

Looking around at Cardullo’s selections, I was most attracted to the packaging of Francois Pralus pure origin bars. The front of the bar clearly and in the largest text states the country of origin for the cacao used in the bar. Directly under the country’s name you can immediately see what type of cacao was used in preparing this chocolate bar. Third, the chocolate bar also has the longitude and latitude of the location of the farm where the beans are grown! The bars seen at Cardullo’s indicates what we have learned in class, that cacao generally is grown 20 degrees above and below the equator (Presilla 2009:9). The packaging also has a map of the world with an indication as to where this cacao come from to give the consumer a better idea of how far the cacao farm is from your local grocer. I could imagine this map as a tool to indicate how far the chocolate is coming from and why the price costs as much as it does. This was the most expensive bar I could find at Cardullo’s, with a price of $11.99!

Francois Pralus pure origin chocolate bars


CVS Chocolate aisle selection
CVS chocolate aisle selection

Depending on what kind of chocolate is being displayed, the display can vary at CVS. All of the chocolates that come in bags with multiple small size candy bars can be found in silver metal baskets. The individual chocolate bars are found on the general shelving, slanted at a 30 degree angle. This angle provides the consumer first with the type of chocolate rather than the brand name of the chocolate. This is because your eyes start at the bottom of the bar and move up to the top of the bar where the brand name is positioned.

The way CVS has their chocolate organized is by the most popular at eye level. Their shelving consists of five rows, and the second and third shelves have the most popular brands occupying that space. These shelves are prime at the prime height for most consumers, therefore their eyes are attracted to these shelves first and they generally will purchase a product from here. The other shelves hold the other less popular items and the CVS brand items.

As a consumer, I personally did not think much about what is being used to display the chocolate at CVS prior to this research. However, when comparing it to Cardullo’s, it is now more striking to me how plain and unattractive the displays are for chocolate at CVS. For chocolate that is known as the the food of the gods (Coe & Coe 2013)! The display at Cardullo’s was slightly more attractive, and that was not on the part of the shop, it is on the part of the product. Many of the packaging from the different companies were bright, attractive, and stood out from each other. Since the packaging was more attractive, this is what made the display more attractive.

What was interesting about the Lindt, Ghirardelli, and CVS knock-off brand of both of these chocolates, they were located in the front of the store. The display at the front of the store did start off the chocolate aisle, but it is also a prime place for the store clerks to keep an eye on their most expensive chocolate.

At Cardullo’s, the display of chocolate is very different than what I saw in CVS. First, you find no chocolates in bags. Almost all the chocolate is sold individually and in bar form only. Second, all the chocolate bars were kept in their original manufacturing boxes. These boxes were was used to prop the chocolate up, price of the chocolate, and to ensure the company’s logo is accurately displayed. I did notice some of the shelves did have a black, sleek, metal shelving unit in them, where bars who did not have manufacturing boxes were displayed on. However, this was not common. What was more interesting about these chocolate bars, was the fact that they contained no prices on them.

I personally was shocked to discover that Cardullo’s carries the general Kraft, Mars, and Nestle brands along with the higher end chocolates. My perceptions of this shop is of new foreign brands with high prices. I also stick to one area of their chocolate wall and never wander down the aisle enough to see what else they sell.

Since the checkout area at Cardullo’s is small, I have not found any chocolate that can be purchased last minute at the register. I believe this says something about Cardullo’s general customers, they have the luxury of time to make a full decision before checking out. Cardullo’s is a place where many customers have in mind what they would like to purchase and know their selection is very unique. You cannot walk into this store and buy anything you need, like you can at CVS. However, what you can find at the register is small pocket candies and sticks of marzipan for last minute purchases.


The price for an individual chocolate bar varied from $1.99 – $4.19 depending on the brand, flavor, and size. The prices at CVS are easy to read and understand with clear labels. As I mentioned above, there are also yellow price tags indicated sales and promotions throughout the chocolate aisle. If a price could not be located on a chocolate product, I could go to the price check machine at the front of the store to find the price. Overall, the pricing at CVS is easy to read, accurately placed, and a great customer value.

The most expensive bar chocolate I could find at CVS was Ghirardelli chocolate at $4.19 for a single bar. CVS brand, which is a replica of Ghirardelli bar was selling for $3.19 with almost exact packaging.

At Cardullo’s some of the bars of chocolate are easily accessible and labeled with prices. However, it seems that some of the more expensive chocolates do not have their prices clearly labeled. Some of the bars either had no price on them or they were on the back of the bar. Here I feel intimidated going to the cashier to ask them the price of a chocolate bar. If I do have the guts to do it, I try to control my emotions as much as I can and brace myself for an elaborate price for a product that is unknown to me. I feel if I walk in here I should know I am going to pay high prices and should not care about the price of it at all.

CVS is the type of store where I would not be intimidated to go to the cashier and ask for a price check. Cardullo’s, on the other hand, is a store where I would rather not approach the cashier and ask them for a price check. If I do happen to have gathered the courage, I would mentally prepare myself to control my emotions when I hear the price. This may sound extreme, but Cardullo’s is not a value store and many of their items are priced high.

CVS pricing for Cadbury chocolate bar
CVS pricing for Cadbury chocolate bar
Cardullo's Cadbury chocolate price
Cardullo’s Cadbury chocolate price

What I found most interesting as I was doing my research, CVS was selling Cadbury chocolate for a higher price than Cardullo’s was! The price difference was about 30 cents, but still important difference to note. One would think that purchasing chocolate at CVS would be the cheapest and best way to go, but this case proved otherwise!


Target Audience

After a thorough analysis of the chocolate selection at CVS I believe that their chocolate is branded, packaged, and priced for the average consumer of chocolate. Prior to this class, I would have been perfectly fine purchasing chocolate from CVS, whether from the Big Five or CVS brand as they generally had the best prices. CVS chocolate is for the consumer who may lack time and would need to purchase their chocolate, while running other errands, instead of going to a speciality shop. CVS chocolate is for the consumer who may lack finances to purchase any chocolate that is over $4.50, so they are limited to what they may consume. Additionally, offering chocolate in bulk, bags, is an ideal product for many consumers who believe they are getting a deal when buying a large quantity of items.

Cardullo’s is a shop that carries many imported goods as well as locally produced goods. They cater to the consumer who likes to purchase foreign goods, possibly a consumer who misses a certain product from home. Or possibly for a consumer who once travelled to a specific place and wants to enjoy those products again in their own home. Or for a consumer who has never travelled to such a destination, but can have a try of it through their foods. What ever the case, I see this as a store who promises fond memories for the consumer who purchases their goods.

Francois Pralus, the bar from Sao Tome and Principe, is made with Forastero chocolate. As we have learned and discussed in class, Forastero is the type of cacao that is used to make 90% of all chocolate consumed today (Presilla 2009:72). With that in mind, for a bar that costs $11.99 I am not sure it is worth it to purchase and consume a bulk cacao variety for that price.



Chocolate has been transformed dramatically over the years through hybridization or creolization. Hybridization or creolization is, a combination of multiple cultures to create a new and unique culture. This is evident in chocolate in America as we can see the addition of ingredients only palatable to the American consumers such as peanut butter. “Entirely new, creolized culture was taking form that partook elements from both cultures …” (Coe & Coe 2013:113).

At Cardullo’s you can see the wide array of hybridization of chocolate with many unique choices. Chuao chocolate was the brand that stood out to me the most that had such a grand display of hybridization of chocolate. They had a selection of chocolate potato chips, popcorn chocolate, rocky road chocolate, s’more chocolate, cinnamon cereal, and so much more! As a matter of fact, I could not locate a single plain chocolate bar from Chuao company! With the varying types they had to offer, it is hard not to notice these.

Chuao chocolate bar selection [2]
Chuao chocolate bar selection [2]
While at CVS, you can see the hybridization as well, but not with as unique flavors Cardullo’s is offering. Peanut butter was the most common additional ingredient added to the chocolate that could be found at CVS. In second, caramel was found to be the additional ingredient in many chocolate bars. This small variety of hybrid chocolate is uninspiring and uniform. If a consumer was shopping for chocolate at CVS and looking for something new to try, CVS would not be able to provide that variety.

In conclusion, CVS provides the popular companies chocolates at a low price, with low variety. While at Cardullo’s they provide not only the bean to farm chocolate, but also popular companies, all on the same shelf! If you are looking for something new to try, stop at Cardullo’s while in Harvard square. If you are looking for the typical American chocolate, stop at CVS to purchase your chocolate.



I would like to make one last point of my research – My research at CVS and Cardullo’s may not be accurate of their general display, stocking techniques, or general product variety. A majority of my research was completed in a two day period, a very short window of time. I want to take a moment to acknowledge that I may have been at their stores on an empty day, prior to shipment arriving. This could have skewed my research and some points discussed in this post. Please let me know if you have realized other products or if you have any comments!


Works Cited:

[1] Martin, Carla D. 2015. Lecture 7: The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market on March 11, 2015.

[2] Chuao Chocolatier, chocolate selection. http://chuaochocolatier.com/chocolate-bars.html.

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

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2013. True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition. London: Thames and Hudson.

Goody, Jack. 1982. Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine. pp. 72-88.

Nesto, Bill. 2010. Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. 10(1):131-135.

–All photography was taken by the author of this post. —

A Growing Taste for Chocolate: An Analysis of Chocolate Displays in CVS and FamilyMart

Globalization has created incredible challenges for modern marketing, as companies must win over new markets that feature the unique tastes and desires of a different society. When we take a look at how chocolate is marketed and sold in both American and Chinese drugstores, we can analyze how the stores display the chocolate products. Through this analysis, we can also realize how those reflect the social perception of chocolate in each country, in turn directing how those changing perceptions turn around and drive the marketing, thus creating one large feedback loop. In this analysis, we will examine the displays that sell chocolate in one Harvard Square branch of CVS and compare that with chocolate displays in a parallel store in Shanghai, China called FamilyMart.

Mass-produced chocolate in CVS "Premium Chocolate" display in CVS

To set the scene for our argument, we will begin with a basic overview of the two stores and their respective displays. CVS is the second largest pharmacy chain the USA, after Walgreens; in Harvard Square alone, there are two branches opened. Taking a look at the display of chocolate in newly opened branch on JFK Street, we can see that chocolate is sold throughout the store, with one primary area for most of the chocolate being sold. The standard bulk chocolate is sold clumped together in one aisle, with various other candies and sweets, while the “Premium Chocolate” display is placed at the end of that aisle.

Bulk chocolate bins in FamilyMart FamilyMart logo Chocolate on shelves in FamilyMart

Most readers will be familiar with CVS, but not so much FamilyMart. FamilyMart is in fact a Japanese convenience store that has flourished in China, where there are currently 1,235 stores in operation, and it can be considered a Chinese equivalent to CVS. In this Shanghai franchise of FamilyMart, we can see that chocolate is also being sold in two sections, but with significant differences in strategy. Instead of choosing bags of prepackaged chocolates, customers can instead choose their desired amount of snack-sized mass-produced chocolates (like Snickers, M&Ms, or Chinese brands) and buy that amount for a price based on the weight of chocolate. These bins stretch down the entire aisle; the shelves on either side hold the prepackaged gift-type chocolates, bars, and even displays devoted to entire brands.

With the scene set for the two drugstores in the United States and in China, we can begin to examine the specific strategies used to create those displays and how they reflect each country’s habits and perceptions of chocolate. There are two important aspects of these displays that we can focus on: the chocolate and its packaging, as well as the context of the displays themselves.

The assortment available in the regular chocolate aisle of CVS is what one would expect of any American retailer, with all the “big chocolate” players trying to assert their presence. Often, there will be yellow stickers to indicate special deals resulting in astoundingly low prices associated with a huge variety of products. This can only speak to the power of multinational corporations, which is reflected in their ability to produce and distribute millions of pounds of chocolate worldwide. This ability, as detailed by anthropologist Jack Goody in Industrial Food, is mainly due to improvements in mechanization and transportation in the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Coupled with this technical revolution of mass production was the increased volume of trade, and as a result, retailers are able to provide many of the same products worldwide. As a result, in the Chinese counterpart to CVS, we can see many of the same goods: M&Ms, Hershey Kisses, Ferrero Rocher. In that sense, the variety of goods that companies are trying to market do not vary much, and so they do not have to create entirely new marketing strategies for a completely different set of products.

However, in the clash of cultures that is “East Meets West”, companies must tackle the task that comes with marketing to Chinese consumers. China is one of the most famous cases of growing globalization and capitalism: reforms in the 1980s shifted the Chinese economic structure from communalism to a market-based economy, and according to the World Bank, over 500 million people have been pulled above the poverty line with GDP growth rate averaging around 10% yearly. With this quickly growing economy and a population of 1.3 billion, China became the popular target for the big chocolate companies. Access to this market has not been easy for many of the companies, and these companies have had to come up with new strategies from those used in the United States to break into the Chinese market.

Thus, when we take a look at the packaging, we can see obvious differences that show that these companies are reacting towards the different perceptions that Chinese people hold about chocolate. The first main difference is that in CVS, the bulk chocolate is already packaged in bags of about ten to twelve ounces for consumers to buy. As mass production become increasingly easier for companies to use, the West saw that “choices to be made about eating…are made…by what are perceived as time constraints” (Mintz 202). Americans began prioritizing the convenience of food and snacks, and so these packs are ready-made with a variety of products for customers to grab and go.

Hersheys Spring Assortment Mars Halloween Assortment

In American society, the “experience of time…is often one of an insoluble shortage, and this perception may be essential to…the principle of ever-expanded consumption”(Mintz 202). As people in America feel increasingly pressed for time due to the pressure to do more and be more successful, these conveniently packages have unconsciously driven the mass consumption of chocolates, which in turns fuels the support for selling chocolate in such method. In other words, the packaging in CVS showcases the American impulse of buying chocolate on a whim, often to self-indulge themselves with large quantities of chocolate, which only reinforces that particular marketing strategy.

Contrast this to the packaging in FamilyMart, which reflects the more careful and thoughtful selection of Chinese consumers. Customers instead get to scoop their own bags and combinations of chocolates. This Chinese strategy of selling snack-sized chocolates has a much more practical air, in that customers can pick exactly how much of what they want to eat without the trouble of having to buy at least ten or so ounces of it. This process of selecting their chocolate and having it weighed, similar to how one would buy chocolate or candy from a specialty store in the United States, requires more upfront investment in the purchase, perhaps due to an underlying purpose of gift giving.

Gift giving itself is an act that requires much more thought and preparation, and the importance of gifts is a Chinese cultural code that successful companies have recognized while marketing in China. While the bulk chocolate can be catered towards someone’s particular tastes for chocolate, other products on the FamilyMart shelves can be seen packaged very ornately to leave a positive impression upon receipt. The M&Ms are packaged in the fun shape of the M&M mascot and even with a gift inside, while the Dove chocolate has been placed in a respectable tin. In fact, Mars has adopted this tactic of appropriate packaging rather well, and the commercial below is just one example that reflects Mars’ overall strategy of emphasizing the appropriateness of Dove chocolate for a gift.

[Chinese Kinder ad]

This commercial is the second of a two-part series of ads that focuses on the same actor and actress. The smitten man brings chocolate to the door of the woman he pursued in the first installment, and gives it as a gift of his season’s greetings. She shares the chocolate with her friends and then coyly asks him to bring another box just for her, and so the commercial ends on a promising note. We could also examine this ad for the way it plays into stereotypical gender roles and associations with chocolate, but will instead keep the focus on the action of gift giving. This ad targets the gift giving aspect of Chinese culture incredibly well, giving the audience positive images of love and associating that with Dove chocolate. As Professor Martin discussed in lecture, Mars has been able to win over the hearts of Chinese consumers more successfully than the other companies, simply by showing a distinguished knowledge of and dedication to Chinese consumers.

After analyzing the product availability and packaging in each of the stores, we can also look at the particular placement of the displays themselves within the store. As described earlier, CVS has most of its chocolate in one main aisle with the “Premium Chocolate” display labeled as such, and at the end of that aisle. This has several effects, the first of which is the mere placement of more chocolate at the end of one aisle. Because customers only pick an aisle if they know the product is in that aisle, they are more likely to walk past all the ends of the aisles. Having chocolate on the end of the aisle thus promotes its visibility in the store and entices people to pick up some “premium” chocolate, in this case various bars and packages of Ghiradelli, Lindt, and Ferrero Rocher. In the case where they prefer other kinds of chocolate, they have still been distracted by the mere image of chocolate and are then pulled into the aisle in search of the chocolate they want instead. In this particular CVS, and most American stores in general, there chocolate and candy even at the counter, which has the same effect of distracting the customer and relies again on the impulse and self-indulgence snacking tendencies that Americans tend to display.

Counter of CVS selling chocolate snacks

This snacking tendency actually has been seen as a historical trend away from full and separate meals, to smaller snacks in between main mealtimes. The French anthropologist Fischler, “appalled by the way “snacking” has supplanted meal taking…raises questions about the trend toward desocialized, aperiodic eating” (Mintz 212). This tendency is so common and has become so ingrained in our diets that it aligned perfectly with Western packaging of chocolate in convenient grab-and-go sizes. Mintz further goes on to say that today one might sense the “quickening of such diffusion, a speeding up, even in large, ancient societies that were apparently once resistant to such processes, such as China and Japan”.

In FamilyMart too, there were small packets of chocolate at the register for people to glance at and perhaps buy to snack on. However, the mass of the chocolate in FamilyMart was deep within the aisles of the store. The pictures have shown the large self-scoops of mass-produced chocolate, as well as the shelf displays of more nicely packaged chocolate. These displays were on either side of the bulk chocolate, and although it makes sense at first to group all the chocolate together, seems to have other effects. In order to look at those chocolates, customers must literally turn their backs on the bins in order to look at the shelves. This causes a literal separation between the two types of packaged chocolate, which directly contrasts with the placement in the American display. The chocolate in CVS at the end of the aisle drew the customer in, whereas the bins are what will catch the Chinese consumer’s eyes and potentially keep them there and cause them to be completely distracted from the contents of the shelves.

How then, can chocolate companies be so successful with the ornate packaging in FamilyMart that is actually rarely seen in generic drugstores like CVS? This apparent contradiction can be explained through the perception of chocolate in China and the nature of the consumers’ purchases. We have also explained the impulse buys that mark American purchases, and contrasted that with the gift-oriented purchases of the Chinese. The separation of the shelves and the bins push this explanation even further, in that Chinese consumers must truly have given genuine thought to the idea of purchasing chocolate as a gift rather than whimsically deciding to buy it for someone after seeing it. After all, the likelihood that they look at the shelves is very low when the large bins of chocolate capture their eyes first. Even when consumers buy chocolate as gifts in CVS, it still may be marked by impulsive tendencies merely because their thoughts have been primed by the image of chocolate. The placement of certain chocolate on the shelves was further emphasized by flashy displays. Of particular mention were the following two displays for Ferrero Rocher and Kinder.

Ferrero Rocher display in FamilyMart Kinder display in FamilyMart

These displays were of particular interest due to the fact that Mars has been so successful relative to the other chocolate companies in China. Ferrero, another of the big five companies, owns these two brands. As a matter of fact, Ferrero has carved out its own “niche in China by taking the path of least resistance” and successfully employing tactics aimed at the Chinese culture of gift giving. In Chocolate Fortunes, Lawrence Allen tells of how Ferrero “successfully sold the Chinese people on its delicate, foil-wrapped hazelnut treats”, using its foreign and exclusive image to promote the value of its chocolate as a luxury gift (Wharton article). Thus, placed in this historical context, the display in FamilyMart of Ferrero with its predominantly gift-oriented goods and personalized spotlights makes complete sense.

With this explanation, the other display of Kinder chocolate then seems somewhat of an anomaly, since the packaging looks too simple to mark the goods as gifts. We often do not see Kinder chocolate in the United States; the CVS in this comparison certainly did not sell Kinder products. The reason for its presence and marketing is in fact driven by another aspect of Chinese culture – that of the value placed in children. The marketing of this product was likely developed through the social valuation of children in Chinese culture, and the parental desire to raise successful children. In the following ad, the mother has prepared Kinder chocolate for the children when they say that they want to eat something tasty. The chocolate is further described as having the nutritional value of a large glass of milk within the bar, and the children are shown playing outside happy and healthy. These images really draw on the parents’ desires to have similarly happy and healthy children, and so Ferrero demonstrates truly effective marketing that plays on aspects of Chinese culture that Mars does not.

Following the examination of chocolate displays in an American CVS and a Chinese FamilyMart, we can see that both the variety of goods, their packaging, as well as the environment of their displays all reflect the societal perceptions of chocolate. These in turn show how each culture has particular values that are played upon by chocolate companies in order for them to successfully sell their product; and in doing so, these chocolate companies further reinforce the same habits that then continue to draw sales of chocolate. Yet in the Chinese market, we can see two divisive approaches that sell chocolate: one approach sells chocolate in customized bulk purchases of snack-sized chocolate, while the other approach leads to elaborate packaging the name of gift giving. These approaches, although both effective thus far, are signs that Mars has perhaps a slippery hold on the Chinese market for chocolate. There remains still an enormous amount of potential in a market of this size, and through the continued, careful analysis of Chinese culture, any company can emerge successful in the years to come.

Works Cited

Taking Advantage of the European Narrative

Image 1: A depiction of Columbus landing in the “New World”

Branding, perhaps, is the most critical part of advertising and is the crutch to every corporation’s success. It’s everything. Branding determines which consumers you reach out to, what image you want your product to have, and what you want your consumers to remember about your product. Furthermore, branding as a whole, whether good or bad, plays a large part in your consumer base (how many customers you have), your company’s identity (how iconic you are/become), and your profits. The leading players in the world of chocolate, Hershey’s, Cadbury, Nestle, Mars, and Ferrero Rocher are no strangers to this (Martin). Each have carefully calculated, analyzed, and determined what branding their chocolate will take, with not a single detail going to waste. And what they do does matter, considering Hershey, Mars, and Nestle make up 99.4% of the world’s snack sized chocolate market (Martin). After asking fellow classmates about chocolate and cacao I found out an astonishing fact: while all students acknowledged to some extent the role South America has to play in cacao and chocolate history, very few students acknowledged the role Africa has in chocolate production, and every student gave credit to either the United States or a European nation for having the best chocolate.

Why would such a phenomenon occur, especially when most of the largest players dominating the market have their cacao come from African nations like Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, and Nigeria? The secret behind this lies in the branding. Upon examining chocolate bars, one finds that the location of the beans is rarely advertised. Instead, what dominates the bars appearance is the company’s name and logo. In addition, when taking a closer look at chocolate history Africa as a whole has largely been left out of the common and general narrative. From this, it can be deduced that the world’s largest chocolate makers take advantage of the dominant and nearly exclusive European narrative of chocolate to place consumer focus and loyalty on their own individual corporations rather than the origin of the cacao beans used to make their chocolate, in order to ensure better success, recognition, and protection.

(Data table generated from survey responses of seven subjects)

Data for AFAM

Interested in what general knowledge my classmates had, I interviewed a handful of students in my year, asking general questions such as “Which nations do you associate chocolate with?” and “Where is the most cacao grown?” The main distinction I made in my questions was for simplicity in which chocolate referred to the finished, packaged product and cacao referred to the cacao beans of the tree. Although their overall chocolate knowledge was not extensive or accurate, one trend in particular caught my mind. My classmates consistently associated the “best chocolate” with European nations, cacao and its history with Latin America, and largely left out Africa out of the picture. What was even more interesting was that my classmates identified the nations that had the best chocolate mainly through their own taste—general opinion having minimal influence—citing their favorite brands such as Cadbury, Nestle, Hershey, etc. as the reason for their answer. The results of this survey perplexed me. If my classmates were more associated with and cognizant of larger chocolate brands whose main source of cacao is bulk cacao grown in West Africa, why did they leave West Africa out of the narrative?

One of the answers lies in the general narrative of chocolate. Unfortunately, more often then not, the European narrative of chocolate is the dominant narrative. Few people have been able to experience the voices of Mesoamerica, specifically of those of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Among scholars is the false running idea that the Spaniards found chocolate’s taste so appalling and unappetizing they attempted to fix the bad flavor through means of sweetening with spices like vanilla and sweeteners like sugar (Norton, 660). However, this idea is problematic as it portrays the image of sophisticated Spaniards coming down from Europe and taking chocolate, originally a simple, distasteful food of the locals, and making it “better,” more edible, and delicious. This feeds into the superiority complex of Europe in which everything it comes to touch or own is automatically better and greater than the prior product of the natives. Norton sets to correct this idea, stating, “The Spanish did not alter chocolate to fit the predilections of their palate. Instead, Europeans unwittingly developed a state for Indian chocolate, and they sought to re-create the indigenous chocolate experience in America and in Europe…[leading] to a cross-cultural transmission of taste” (660). Norton argues that colonialism and the transfer of food is not one sided, nor is it “something done to someone else”; instead he argues that it is an exchange with the “struggles and endeavors in the periphery change[ing] the society and culture, as well as the economy, of the metrople” (661). So while it should be seen as Mesoamerica playing a huge role in both cacao and chocolate, it is currently seen as Mesoamerica harvesting cacao (the most basic task) and Europe controlling manufacturing and processing the chocolate—the part where chocolate becomes “good”. Because of the prevailing European narrative that saturates the history of chocolate and seeks to promote Europe’s sophistication, power, and superiority, Mesoamerica’s equal role in developing and making chocolate, not just cacao, has been left out.

The same argument can be extended to explain why my classmates did not include African nations in the chocolate narrative. Africa, as a result of the large European narrative, has been left out of the history and story regarding cacao, its cultivation, and its process to becoming the chocolate we know today, even more so than Meso and Latin America due to the emergence of racism and prejudice against Africa, Africans, African Americans, and Blacks to justify slavery and discrimination. As Eric Williams said “slavery was not born of racism; racism was the consequence of slavery” (7). Although the indigenous people of Mesoamerica did originally serve as the first slave labor, due to “their inefficiency and weakness,” deaths from disease, and limited numbers (Williams, 9), African slaves were chosen over them and the poor, white colonists of the region, to become the labor of choice—not because of their skin color but “because [they] were the cheapest and the best,” with “superior endurance, docility, and labor capacity” (Williams, 20). Racial differences observed through “hair, color, and dentifrice and “subhuman characteristics” (Williams, 20) “made it easier to justify and rationalize Negro slavery, to enact the mechanical obedience of a plough-ox or a cart-horse, to demand resignation and that complete moral and intellectual subjugation which alone make slave labor possible” (Williams, 19). Slavery is much easier to condone and perpetuate when viewing the enslaved as immoral, dark, evil, brutish, animal-like, and overall less human, “warranting” degradation, destruction of human rights and liberties, paternalistic oversight/control, and cruel, life-long servitude. Through this racial justification of slavery was the African narrative intentionally left out. The lack of an African narrative plays perfectly into the hands of the large chocolate corporations of the twentieth and twenty first century who Leissle notes “were more interested in selling the flavors of particular candy bars than bean lineage.” This effectively cuts off the link between the cacao growers in Ghana, Cameroon, and Cote D’Ivoire and the consumer, as “most wrappers give no indication that, with a few exceptions, the cocoa in those candies came from West Africa” (Leissle, 22). By making Africa “largely invisible” in regard to chocolate production (Leissle) and separating consumer from bean origin, large chocolate corporations can turn consumer attention to their own specific brands and flavors, which can be easily seen on their bars as most of the space and writing goes to describing and promoting those items, with the company name always being the largest font (observe image 4).

Bottle of Wine
Image 2: A bottle of wine

Bill Nesto further explores this occurrence through a direct comparison in the preservation of terroir between the chocolate industry and wine industry. Terroir, according to Nesto, “is the web that connects and unifies raw materials, their growing conditions, production process, and the moment of product appreciation” (131). The terroir regarding chocolate is severely broken and in many cases nonexistent. The consumer knows very little about the source of the raw materials and/or the conditions in which they are grown. And even when they possess knowledge of both they cannot connect the two as the concepts have become distinct and dissociated. The only thing a chocolate consumer of Hershey’s or Cadbury has to hold on to is the name Hershey or Cadbury, not the bean origin, harvest, or processing. Thus the consumer’s terroir and chocolate experience is dominated by company name. Nesto also makes this observation noting “the key circumstance that obstructs the expression of terroir in chocolate is the distance, both real and conceptual, between the farmer growing cacao and the factory that transforms the cacao into chocolate” (132). This is so vastly different from wine where the vineyards are very close to the wineries and the labeling is much more “accurate and advanced” (Nesto, 134). In fact, one could argue that people know and crave wine more by the vineyard and the harvesting process rather than the producer, as the producer is defined by their vineyard and harvesting process. For example, the bottle of wine located above explicitly tells us not just the winery, but also the vineyard (Firepeak) the grapes were grown on and the region the wine is from (Edna Valley). If the consumer so desires, they could explore more wines that come from that vineyard or from that region to further develop their wine terroir and palate. Unlike wine makers, Mars isn’t defined by its cacao plantations or chocolate making process; it is defined by its name .

The current and only bridge between the consumer and cacao beans lies in single source origin bars. Single source origin bars are “chocolate made with beans from a single country, region, or plantation” with the cacao producing distinct, unexpected, and irregular flavors (Leissle, 23). The producers of said bars are also very specific about the process the beans go through and need to know every step of production and processing in order to ensure the product’s quality, authenticity, and taste. All this is revealed in packaging. For example, image 3 shown below displays a variety of Tejas single source chocolate bars from various regions and the percent of the chocolate that comes from there. The company made sure to write fire roasted and stone ground so that the consumer has some knowledge of the process the beans went through, and carefully constructed an image to further connect the consumer to the beans as if taking the consumer on an “exotic” trip to the home of the beans for an enjoyable getaway from everyday life. Much different when compared to the very brand name focused packaging of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars that don’t advertise cacao content, origin, or geographic location (see image 4).

sample single origin chocolate
Image 3: Sample single source origin chocolate
Image 4: Hershey’s milk chocolate bar

As good at it sounds even single source chocolate shows similar discrimination towards African cacao like the top five chocolate companies do. The evidence lies in the numbers; there is a huge disparity in the amount of single source bars from West Africa vs. those from South America and other regions of the world. Only 3.8% of single source bars contain cacao exclusively from West Africa (according to Mark Christian’s chocolate database—the largest one in the world). An official reviewer of Britain’s seventypercent.com demonstrates the continued prejudice and racial views against Africa by commenting on one of the few 100% Ghanian cacao bars, stating that the Torres bar has an “ominously dark color, though indicative of its Ghanian origins, evokes an unexplainable fear that these nearly black colors usually do” (Leissle, 27). The “unexplainable fear” reflects the internalized fear and aversion to anything resembling Africa and Black people as it’s dangerous, sinful, and uncontrollable—at least according to society’s false narrative of Black people.

Review of Jacques Torress Haven Bar-Ghana Origins

Similarly, top chocolate companies avoid advertising West African cacao due to the negative stereotypes surrounding the region. They don’t want to be associated with the stereotypes of Africa such as “poverty, conflict, human rights violations, HIV/AIDS, debt, lack of urban development and oil (Leissle, 26).” They also don’t want to be associated with the problems and discrepancies regarding worker’s rights, child labor, and working conditions of the 1990s and the 2000s (Martin). Because of the lack of general knowledge regarding the top brands cacao beans used to make their chocolate, the companies can better avoid consumer anger and boycotting of their products since they won’t/can’t connect the working conditions of their farmers to their products. As a result of Africa’s invisible narrative in cacao production and the lack of connection between consumer and farmer, the large chocolate companies of today can avoid labor/processing accountability and giving recognition to West African cacao, holding all the benefits and rewards for themselves.

With chocolate’s diminished terroir, a lack of an African narrative, and almost no connection between the beans of origin and consumer, the world’s largest chocolate corporations can easily brand their bars with complete focus and emphasis on their company rather than the beans or process. Thus their consumers build their loyalty not on cacao bean taste, strand, or origin but on company name and logo. For if consumers knew where the cacao originated, they would no longer be as loyal and focused on say Mars or Cadbury, but much more focused on bean strand and location, seeking out a variety of chocolatiers who source cacao from those locations, decreasing large corporations strength, power, monetary success, and fame. Subject seven nearly had it right when they said, “African cacao isn’t marketed as well (not as widely publicized necessarily) and people don’t know it as well as South America” in regard to what they think of African vs. South American cacao. It’s not that the cacao isn’t marketed well; it’s simply not marketed at all—a huge shame considering it makes up most of the world’s chocolate market.

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3 (2013): 22-31. University of California Press. Web. 6 May 2015.

Martin, Carla . “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market.” Emerson Hall 210, Cambridge . 9 Mar. 2015. Lecture.

Martin, Carla . “Modern Day Slavery.” Emerson Hall 210, Cambridge . 25 Mar. 2015. Lecture.

Nesto, Bill. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10.1 (2010): 131-35. University of California Press. Web. 6 May 2015.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate And The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.4 (2006): 660-91. Oxford Journals. Web. 6 May 2015.

Street, Styles. Bottle of Wine. Digital image. http://www.stylesstreetchildcare.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Bottle-of-wine.jpg. 11 Oct. 2013. Web.

Tejas Chocolate. Tejas Chocolate. Digital image. Http://tejaschocolate.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/BarsBanner-2464×1404.jpg. 1 June 2011. Web.

The Hershey Company. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar. Digital image. http://www.hersheys.com/pure-products/details.aspx?id=3480. Web.

Walbert, David. Columbus Taking Possession. Digital image. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/uploads/2007/08/columbus_taking_possession.jpg. 1 Aug. 2007. Web.

Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. U of North Carolina, 1994. Print.