Tag Archives: Big Chocolate

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.28.34 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.42.12 PM.png

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.

European vs. American Tastes and Trends: Comparing Cardullo’s and CVS’s Chocolate

Chocolate is a delicious commodity enjoyed throughout the world.  However, chocolate tastes and consumption patterns vary from region to region.  For example, chocolate produced for Americans is often made very sweet, contains less cacao and cocoa butter, and many times becomes an impulse buy or guilty pleasure.  Chocolate is also heavily marketed towards children in the United States, and most of the chocolate consumed by Americans is from Big Chocolate companies such as Hershey.  However, in many European countries, chocolate is often more luxurious and rich, is complemented with a variety of fruity and spicy flavors, and is marketed more towards the adult population.  In addition, European chocolate is often more expensive given its target audience and higher cacao content.  It is important to note that each country within Europe makes chocolate slightly different and has its own unique consumption trends, but in general, most European chocolate is made with more sophistication and higher quality ingredients when compared to American chocolate which is often heavily corporatized and mass-produced.  The differences between American and European chocolate are so stark that we can even witness them when comparing the chocolate found in international stores in the United States to the chocolate sold in American grocery stores.  For the purposes of this paper, the chocolate sold in Cardullo’s and CVS will be compared and contrasted in order to demonstrate the differences between European and American chocolate.  It will be argued that variations in ingredients, target audiences, and packaging are what influence and distinguish European and American chocolate tastes, advertising, and consumption trends.

Cardullo’s is a gourmet shop in Harvard Square that sells food ranging from fresh deli meats to jams to dried pasta.  Many people, including myself, believe that the store is meant to be reflective of a European shop or cafe because the store sells mainly imported brands and gives off an international vibe with its rustic and crowded interior.  What is interesting is that the only thing I have ever purchased from Cardullo’s has been chocolate, and when I revisited the store this past week I realized why: their chocolate selection is outstanding!  Moreover, four out of the five times I bought chocolate from Cardullo’s, the chocolate wasn’t even for me, it was meant to be a gift for someone else.

When I think about why I chose Cardullo’s for the chocolate gifts, it was because I wanted my present to feel unique, luxurious, and thoughtful.  I was not about to buy someone special a plain Hershey’s bar or a bag of Reese’s.  I knew that Cardullo’s sold European chocolate brands and felt that European chocolate was high quality.  I feel that this is a common perception, that European chocolate is more luxurious and better than American chocolate.  This bias may be based on the idea that European chocolate often contains more cacao and cocoa butter than American chocolate, which is considered a sign of quality.  This is because the United States only requires its chocolate to contain 10% cacao, while in Europe to be considered “chocolate”, a bar must be at least 20% cacao (Gourmet Boutique).  Many argue that American chocolate producers care more about cost than quality when it comes to their chocolate which is why they use lower quality ingredients and mass-produce their chocolate unlike many European companies (Alberts and Cidell, 224).  American chocolate companies using less cacao in their bars dates back to the beginnings of the Mars Company.  Frank Mars tried several times to create a popular chocolate bar and eventually ran himself into debt (Brenner, 53).  However, once he and his son invented the Milky Way in 1923 (which is chocolate nugget covered in a thin layer of chocolate) the company’s costs of production fell drastically because the bars contained less cacao (Brenner, 54-55).  The bars immediately became popular because they were larger and cheaper than the other current chocolate bar at the time, Hershey’s (Brenner, 55).  It was partially Mar’s usage of a cheaply made filled bar that led other American chocolate producers to try to use less cacao in their bars.  The fact that the Hershey company mass-manufactured and got people habituated to milk chocolate with less cacao may be another reason why Americans accept chocolate with a lower cacao content today.

Getting back to the matter at hand, the imported chocolate at Cardullo’s did contain a significant amount of cacao, the lowest cacao content I saw being 23% in a standard chocolate bar.  Most of the imported European chocolate also highlighted the cacao percentage on the front of their packaging, which is something I do not recall being included on most American-produced chocolate wrappers (see Figure 1 below).  This marketing tactic enables European chocolate producers to tout the high levels of cacao they are using (Wolke).

Figure 2: Cardullo’s chocolate selection (left) vs. CVS’s selection (right)
Figure 1: European Chocolate Wrappers with Cacao Content on the Front vs. An American Hershey Bar

I remember that selecting the chocolate gifts at Cardullo’s was extremely difficult because of the wide variety of chocolate brands and flavors they sold.  On one occasion, I had trouble deciding and ended up buying five bars each with a different flavor: chili with cherry, dark milk, 88% dark, orange, and sea salt caramel.  Upon revisiting the shop, I re-discovered some of these specific chocolate bars whose brands were Chocolat Bonnat (France), Valrhona (France), and Dolfin (Belgium).  What enticed me about these particular bars were their intriguing flavors, some of which I had never seen before.  Most of the flavors in Cardullo’s chocolate include nuts, spices, or fruits, which is actually common for European chocolate and contrasts with American chocolate which is usually complemented with caramel, nugget, and other sugary fillings.  These more savory flavors used in European chocolate tie back to the Mesoamerican origins of chocolate.  In fact, several scholars believe that “Europeans developed a taste for Indian chocolate, and they sought to recreate the indigenous chocolate experience” (Norton).  These scholars also claim that this “cross-culturalization of taste” led Europeans to develop an appetite for spices and vanilla (Norton).

I also chose the bars because they had intricate and fancy wrappers that made the chocolate look expensive.  These fancy wrappers are probably a marketing ploy, again to promote the perception that European chocolate is higher in quality and more glamorous.  This perceived quality is also probably factored into the price of the chocolate because the chocolate bars were not the cheapest.  The price of chocolate sold at Cardullo’s ranges from $5-$65 with the pricier chocolate items being gift baskets and large boxes of chocolates.  To me, the prices are justified by the fact that the chocolate is imported and because of the customer base of the shop.  Whether Cardullo’s intends to attract older people or not, their clientele is mainly working men and women and arguably international students.  It is understandable that middle aged and older people visit this store: they can afford the food and have more singular tastes.  It is also interesting to note that chocolate is mainly marketed towards adults in Europe which may be why it is more expensive and takes on a more sophisticated look (Graham).

European chocolate has not always been luxurious or marketed in this way, especially in France.  Today, France creates some of the most artistic, romanticized, and well-known chocolate in the world, but this was not always the case (Terrio, 10).  Until the 1970s, French confections were very traditional and quite plain.  But towards the 1980s, French chocolatiers wanted to re-brand their chocolate and make it more of a specialty item.  In order to do this, they began distinguishing themselves from pastry makers and confectioners, created a new taste standard for bitter dark chocolate, worked with the government and local authorities to establish themselves, and looked to the past to make sure their chocolate had cultural authenticity and didn’t appear mass-produced (Terrio, 12-15).  Finally by 1990, French chocolatiers were being recognized as craftsmen and artisans for their authentic and creative work.  The French chocolatiers were ultimately able to establish themselves because they placed a tremendous amount of time and effort into making small-batch chocolate which contrasted the mass-production and lower quality work conducted at larger chocolate factories and companies at the time (Terrio, 30-35).  Nowadays, there are several fine French chocolate makers such as Valrhona and Bonnat.

Some of my concluding observations about Cardullo’s were that the store mainly sells its chocolates in single bar form as compared to in bulk, but also sells several chocolate confections such as bonbons and truffles.  During my revisit, I also made sure to check the sugar content, fat content, and cacao content of many of the bars in the shop in order to compare them to the chocolate bars in CVS.  Finally, on my way out, I asked an employee what chocolate he preferred, European or American.  He quickly replied, “European of course!  It is much more creamy and rich, and I am pretty sure it doesn’t contain weird ingredients like those used in Hershey’s”.  Another employee chimed in saying, “It is definitely the smoothness that distinguishes the two”.  This smoothness probably derives from the European’s use of extra cocoa butter, or can be attributed to the fact that Europeans (especially the Swiss) prefer smoother chocolate so they conche their chocolate for longer (Presilla, 126).  Studies have found that American chocolate companies typically conche their chocolate for 18-20 hours, whereas Western European chocolate companies conche for 72 hours (Alberts and Cidell, 222).

Now onto CVS.  CVS is a large drug store chain that offers everyday use items from beauty supplies to medications to snacks.  When it comes to chocolate, American CVSs have a surprisingly decent selection.  However, most of the chocolate sold is from Big Chocolate brands such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey, which can be found in most convenience stores.  CVS also carries some semi-luxurious brands such as Lindt and Godiva (both European brands), but on a small scale.  Walking down the candy aisle at CVS was a much different experience than at Cardullo’s.  For one, I actually felt quite overwhelmed by the bright packaging of the chocolate (a common color theme was using yellow or red).  I also noticed that most of the chocolate brands used animated lettering on their wrappers.  This eye-catching color scheme and lettering clearly contrasted Cardullo’s calm and intricate chocolate packaging and is most likely to attract children (see Figure 2 below).  To reiterate, in the United States, chocolate companies often target children in their advertisements.  As a side note, chocolate marketing towards children is actually a highly controversial topic, as it takes advantage of children’s developmental vulnerabilities and may be contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic (Martin).

cardullos vs cvs
Figure 2: Cardullo’s chocolate selection (left) vs. CVS’s selection (right)

Moreover, just like at Cardullo’s, the price of the chocolate at CVS is probably influenced by its targeted population and the type of people who visit the store.  Since American chocolate is mainly marketed to children in the US, and CVS seems to be a weekly stop for the average person, it makes sense that their chocolate prices are extremely reasonable, ranging from $1-$15.  This affordability allows the chocolate to be an impulse or everyday purchase.  Another thing that somewhat differed between Cardullo’s and CVS chocolate was its placement in the store.  The Cardullo’s chocolate was on the wall sort of close to the register as was the CVS chocolate, but CVS also had a row of chocolate bars right under the register to entice impulse buyers.  Chocolate is considered to be more of a guilty pleasure or impulse purchase in America versus in Europe where people eat chocolate more regularly.  This is because in Europe chocolate is viewed as a food rather than an indulgence (Alberts and Cidell, 224).  This is also revealed in reports showing that Europeans consume about half of the world’s chocolate whereas the United States only consumes about 20% (CNN’s “Who consumes the most chocolate?”).  This trend is possible because many European countries consume more chocolate per capita than the US (see Figure 3 below).  Furthermore, in CVS the chocolate treats were mainly in bar form, were often sold in bulk, and did not come in luxury forms such as bonbons or truffles, again speaking to the target audience’s tastes and trends.  This yet again reveals that American chocolate producers value cost over quality.

Figure 3: Top 20 Chocolate Consuming Nations (2012)

Finally, when examining the nutrition labels, it was evident that the chocolate in CVS contained more sugar, less fat from cocoa butter, and less cacao altogether.  For example, a Cadbury Milk Bar from Cardullo’s contained 23% cacao, while a Hershey’s Bar from CVS only contained 11%.  What was even more striking was when comparing the same Cadbury Milk Bars, an imported one from Cardullo’s and one from CVS, the nutrition facts and packaging were not equal (see Figure 4 below for a video of a family comparing the British Cadbury bar to the American one).  It is also interesting to point out that the chocolate sold at Cardullo’s was mainly dark chocolate while CVS was capitalized by milk chocolate.  This may be because children prefer sweeter milk chocolate to bitter dark chocolate which is a more acquired taste, or that dark chocolate is truer to the origin of chocolate which is why it is produced more often for European audiences.  Regardless, this finding is not a coincidence in that Americans prefer lighter milk chocolate and Europeans prefer darker chocolate (Presilla, 119).

Figure 4: Video of a Family Trying a Cadbury Milk Bar from the UK vs. the US

In summary, I found Cardullo’s European chocolate and CVS’s American-produced chocolate to be radically different.  What I discovered was that European chocolate contains more cacao, is occasionally complemented with unique spices and flavors, has more sophisticated packaging, and targets a more mature population.  Moreover Europeans tend to prefer dark chocolate and consume chocolate more regularly than Americans.  On the other hand, American-produced chocolate is sweeter with less cacao and more sugary fillings, utilizes bright and animated wrappers, is often mass-produced, and is marketed more towards children.  With these differences in ingredients, packaging, and target audience, it is no wonder that European and American chocolate tastes, consumption trends, and advertising differ.

For added entertainment, click on this link to see a video of two British boys comparing American and British chocolate bars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyD74bJJOTk

Works Cited:

Alberts, Heike C., and Julie L. Cidell. “Chocolate Consumption Manufacturing and Quality in Western Europe the United States.” Geography (2006): 218-226.

Brenner, Joel Glenn. The emperors of chocolate: Inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. Broadway, 2000. 48-55.

Graham, Caroline. “Too Sweet, Too Cheap and Full of Ghastly Chemicals – Why Even Americans Can’t Stand American Chocolate.” Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd., 21 Nov. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1229924/Too-sweet-cheap-ghastly-chemicals–Americans-stand-American-chocolate.html.

Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Class. Harvard University, Cambridge. 1 Apr. 2015. Lecture.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org/content/111/3/660.full.pdf html.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 2001. 119, 126.

Terrio, Susan Jane. Crafting the culture and history of French chocolate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 1-40.

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN. 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 May 2015. http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/

Wolke, Robert. “Chocolate by the Numbers.” The Washington Post. 9 June 2004. Web. 2 May 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24276-2004Jun8.html

Images Cited:

Figure 1: My personal IPhone at Cardullo’s and CVS

Figure 2: My personal IPhone at Cardullo’s and CVS

Figure 3: http://www.confectionerynews.com/Markets/Interactive-Map-Top-20-chocolate-consuming-nations-of-2012 (Accessed May 1, 2015)

Figure 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cgDAQXZ-LA (Accessed April 29, 2015)

Governments, Companies, Consumers, and Breaking the Tradition of Exploitation

Two centuries ago, the rise of chocolate consumption was tied to the proliferation slave labor. While Europeans enjoyed their sipping chocolate behind luxuriant palace walls or even in humble Cadbury utopian villages, millions of slaves were being transported to the New World and exploited as cheap labor. Yet, slavery was abolished in 1800s, so how does this practice continue to impact our consumption of chocolate today? The tradition of exploitation and mistreatment of labor tied to the cultivation of cacao still taints the sweet decadent treats that we love to eat. The continued mistreatment of cacao producers and lukewarm responses from governments and many big chocolate companies mirror historical practices in the chocolate industry; however, chocolate consumers today have greater access to information, allowing them to have greater leverage in ending exploitation in the modern era.

Even after slavery was abolished, the exploitation and abuse of laborers was, and still is, a prevalent problem. In the mid-19th century, laws were put in place in British colonies to “prevent the newly freed from either securing a livelihood independent of the sugar industry, or from using collective bargaining” (Mintz). The lack of government protection of workers remains a problem today in cacao-producing West Africa today. UNICEF estimates that approximately 500,000 children work on Ivory Coast farms, which produces 40% of the world’s cacao, and efforts by the government and chocolate companies to stop child trafficking have not borne fruit (McKenzie and Swails). CNN’s “Chocolate’s Child Slaves” documented interviews with local West African child laborers who lamented the situation, bearing physical and emotional scars (McKenzie and Swails). Although the Ivorian government may not be intentionally fostering an exploitive environment as the imperial powers did centuries ago, weak governance in West Africa makes it difficult to monitor cacao growers and enforce protocols against child labor. Thus, the current poor labor conditions for cacao farmers can be understood as a continuation of the exploitative practices of European imperial powers and government failings.

Photograph of child laborers in West Africa (McKenzie and Swails)

As governments are not strong enough to defend their local farmers, as evidenced in the aforementioned CNN report, it is important to remember that chocolate companies also bear the responsibility to remedy this grave human rights abuse. In the early 1900s, the Cadbury company faced public uproar when news reports uncovered that the company utilized slave labor for their cacao but refused to address the situation with urgency (Higgs). Today, certain Cadbury bars bear the “Fair Trade” symbol (as seen in the Youtube video below), acting as a symbol of Cadbury’s social conscientiousness. However, Cadbury and other big chocolate companies do not only produce fair trade chocolate. In the news clip below, the companies’ responses to why they do not produce 100% fair trade chocolate mirror the paltry response of the Cadbury brothers to the issue of slave labor in the early 1900s. Many chocolate companies, especially Cadbury, are conscientious of maintaining a benevolent public image but only seem to be doing the bare minimum to simply social responsibility to their consumers, echoing the historic practice of chocolate companies.

Nevertheless, the threat of consumer discontent and public outrage remains an impactful impetus for corporate social responsibility. In the aftermath of the media outcry and public outrage over use of slave labor, consumers decried Cadbury as “You pious Frauds” and “You Anointed Hypocrites” (Higgs). The scars of this public relations debacle loom over the industry today as well; resolving the exploitation of cacao growers has increasingly become the duty of consumers. Whereas 19th century consumers did not necessarily have access to information about the production of their chocolate, modern chocolate consumers can gather information about the supply chain of their chocolate and boycott manufacturers that do not meet standards of fair trade. For example, Fair Trade USA (below) provides a list of chocolate companies that meet their certification standards. When using certified agriculture sources, manufacturers pay a premium for the good, a cost that is usually passed on to consumers who look for the “Fair Trade” symbol to support this fair practice. Therefore, modern chocolate consumers are implicated in the exploitative practices of cacao cultivation today even more so than our historic counterparts because we have access to more information about the sourcing and production of our chocolate goods.

Chocolate consumption is often bittersweet—sweet for the blissfully unaware consumers and bitter for the exploited laborers. However, consumers, manufacturers, and governments all must work together to end this abusive tradition. Armed with information and modern communication, consumers can demand fair trade products and challenge companies that engage in exploitative practices. As consumers of chocolate, we are all implicated in this inhumane practice and must raise our voices against this injustice.

Works Cited:

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Athens: Ohio UP, 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.

“How to Help — The CNN Freedom Project Ending Modern-Day Slavery.” YouTube. YouTube, 4 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFsnmubifqw >.

Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power : The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1986. Print.

McKenzie, David, and Brent Swails. “Child Slavery and Chocolate: All Too Easy to Find.” The CNN Freedom Project Ending Modern Day Slavery. CNN, 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/19/child-slavery-and-chocolate-all-too-easy-to-find/ >.

“Products: Cocoa.” Fair Trade USA, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2015. <http://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners/cocoa >.

Hershey’s Goodness



Growing up in America, I became accustomed to the taste of various chocolates, but Hershey’s Milk Chocolate will always be one of my favorites. Chocolate today is available at the tip of our fingers and Hershey is just one of many companies that display this treat with a broad accessibility. However, this was not always the case. It wasn’t until the dawn of the Industrial Revolution that Milton Hershey, the founder of this beloved chocolate company, began to mass-produce his products. The Industrial Revolution facilitated a way for chocolate producers, such as Hershey, to mass-produce and therefore expand consumerism of chocolate.

This video of the production of Hershey’s chocolate kisses suggests that the company values coexist with the perceived American values. The mass-production is glamorized and portrayed as flawless perfection: the kisses are beautifully wrapped and even admire themselves in the mirror. The red carpet on which they are cheered simulates the obsession America has for its celebrities, as they launch for production (Hershey’s Kisses Off to Work We Go). I couldn’t help but see the irony in the advertisement’s phrase “One-of-a-Kind Kisses” (Hershey’s Kisses Off to Work We Go) because the mass-production clearly illustrates no difference among the kisses. Even the value between mother and her children is advertised by this video, offering chocolate as a medium of family and social unity.


The production of Hershey chocolate did not always reach such a wide range of consumers. But their ultimate success, made possible through mass-production, had remarkable results. “Because the eventual profits made at the factory were to be shared with his community, Hershey and his company were also associated with progressive idealism. This meant that people who purchased Hershey Chocolate weren’t just buying a treat, they were contributing to a grand experiment that was going to prove that big business, often feared and resented, could do remarkable good” (D’Antonio, 115). The concept of the Hershey bar extended much further than a standard business making a profit—it demonstrated the power of a normalized good in a progressive movement (D’Antonio, 115). This movement not only allowed expanded the consumers within Hershey’s company, but also it appreciably created a standard and “perfect American town in a bucolic natural setting, where healthy, right-living, and well-paid workers lived in safe, happy homes” (D’Antonio, 115). Therefore, Hershey was not just a company but a home and a producer of a highly regarded type of chocolate.

The result of mass-production upon Hershey has shifted a once small homestead chocolate refinery into a large-scale business full of workers and products ready to supply consumers (D’Antonio, 108). Hershey Chocolate may not be a universally favorite chocolate but without the Industrial Revolution enabling its mass production, it is unlikely that it would have had such a universal outreach to potential consumers. I couldn’t imagine life without chocolate, especially growing up tasting Hershey’s, and it seems that I have the Industrial Revolution to thank for allowing me to purchase Hershey’s Milk Chocolate wherever I please.



Works Cited

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

“Hershey’s Kisses “Off to Work We Go”” YouTube. N.p., 37 Jan. 2009. Web. Mar. 2015.

Milton Hershey. Digital image. Milton S. Hershey. Timetoast, n.d. Web.

From Classy Chic to Childish Cheek: A Century of Cadbury Easter Egg Advertisements

Displayed prominently in springtime candy aisles across the globe, Cadbury Eggs appear to have long been a mainstay of the Easter candy market. However, their arrival is in fact relatively recent – and their accessibility to the masses even more so. Originating in early 19th century France and Germany, chocolate eggs demanded time and highly skilled labor, with chocolatiers having to hand-paint chocolate “paste” (cocoa liquor) into moulds due to its high viscosity, causing the eggs to be made at a slow, small, and costly scale (Cadbury, 2014c; Coe and Coe, 2013). So, how did Cadbury transform an elite, artisanal product into a widely available “treat”? Tracing the company’s marketing style over time helps provide an answer. Changes in the advertising for Cadbury Easter Eggs reflected and reinforced their shift from a luxury, “adult” product to one marketed for everyone’s “inner child.”

The earliest Cadbury egg advertisements were hardly strong publicity. Following the 1873 launch of chocolate Easter eggs in Britain by rival Joseph Fry, the Cadbury company began making chocolate Easter eggs in 1875 (Shed, 2013). Made from dark chocolate and lacking any exterior decoration, the eggs were designed for more elegant, “adult” tastes (Cadbury, 2014c). Fillings reinforce the sense of luxury, consisting of sugared almonds (Cadbury, 2014c), which were a common feature of medieval European royal tables (Mintz, 1985). “Advertisements” for such an artisanal, elite product were accordingly minimal. At the start, they were essentially inventory lists (Fig. 1), listing the egg varieties available and their prices. No catchy slogans or mouthwatering pictures were used to capture consumers’ imaginations or pique their appetites. As individuals able to afford a “Pure Ribbed Chocolate Egg,” whose 13 pound cost was 10% of a typical late-19th century English laborer’s salary (Lindert, 1986), consumers were expected to be the rich, cultured sort able to make a proper choice.


Fig. 1. 1870s Cadbury egg “advertisement.” Eggs sold included chocolate Easter eggs (boxed in blue) as well as (cheaper) “Plush” and “Satin” eggs, which consisted of egg-shaped cloth boxes filled with chocolates. Explicitly displaying egg’s prices and lacking embellishment, the “advertisement” hardly attempts to appeal to consumers. Figure is a modified image from Cadbury: http://www.cadbury.co.uk/~/media/cadburydev/com/images/story/HERITAGE_IMAGES_0010_10_IMAGE_EASTER-EGG-PRICES.png.

Buoyed by competition from rival firms for the growing British chocolate market, Cadbury abandoned listing inventory to market its products in earnest by the turn of the century (Cadbury, 2010). Nevertheless, the subtle, catalogue-style late 19th-century Easter egg advertisements (Fig. 2) implied that Cadbury eggs were still marketed such as a product for the social elite, or those aspiring to join it. British chocolate consumption skyrocketed during the 1890s, going from 20 million pounds to 43 million pounds per year in the course of a decade (Cadbury, 2010). Seeing the appeal of the milder and creamier-tasting Swiss milk chocolate to this wider market, Cadbury began making its own milk chocolate in 1897 (Cadbury, 2014b). Yet, as the Easter egg advertisements evince, the company still marketed its products as luxury items for connoisseurs – those who would prefer tastefully decorated eggs, made from the bitterer and costlier dark variety. Thus, two of the three eggs advertised are made from dark chocolate.


Fig. 2. Turn of the century Cadbury Easter egg advertisement. Eggs are minimally decorated, with flowers and linear etchings, and consist of primarily dark chocolate (“Bournville”; boxed, in red) varieties. Notably, the milk chocolate egg is not given the company’s “Bournville” name. Image modified from: http://www.anorak.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Egg9.jpg.

The names given to milk and dark chocolate lines reinforce the latter’s superiority. The dark chocolate eggs are explicitly linked to Cadbury and its carefully cultivated reputation for purity and quality by being called “Bournville Chocolate Eggs,” after the “model town” the company established for its workers (Cadbury, 2010). Lacking the “Bournville” seal, the “Milk Chocolate Egg” is tacitly set apart as an inferior alternative. Milk or dark, the “decorated” eggs in fact have relatively minimal decoration, being adorned with only sprigs of spring flowers (roses or daffodils) and etched lines. Prices continue to be listed, albeit somewhat less overtly (flanking the images of eggs), suggesting that eggs are being marketed toward those for whom price is no object. Though Cadbury’s more overt marketing and incorporation of cheaper options suggest that they are starting to try to capture a wider market, the overall effect remains one of upper-crust propriety. Regardless of the consumer’s true socioeconomic status, he or she is buying a symbol of elite “good taste.”

As British chocolate consumption continued to rise over the course of the early 20th century, Cadbury grew with it, becoming the nation’s leading vendor (Cadbury, 2010). Alterations in chocolate marketing provided a visible symbol of this shift to chocolate “colossus”: examining a Cadbury Easter egg advertisement from the early 1920s (Fig. 3), for instance, reveals a far different product and target consumer than in the prior century. Depicting a young, rosy-cheeked girl riding in a motorcar with the (Easter) bunny, with a gargantuan chocolate Easter egg in the trunk, the ad implies that Cadbury eggs are intended for children, and/or those intending to buy chocolate for them. The gargantuan Easter egg and car’s Easter egg “headlights” reinforce its sense of youth and whimsy: in contrast to the ads in Figs. 1 and 2, Cadbury chocolate is portrayed as taking consumers back to the lighthearted fun of childhood, rather than helping them show or earn themselves a place in elite society.

Notably, the Cadbury logo (boxed, in blue) is repeatedly and prominently displayed, being written on the chocolate egg’s bow, on the foreground, and on the hood. Little attention is paid to the type and/or quality of chocolate egg: aside from its size, its sole notable feature is its pebbled texture, or “crocodile finish,” which Cadbury adopted from German chocolatiers to help disguise “minor imperfections” in the (cheap, factory-produced) chocolate (Cadbury, 2014c). Explicit mentions of price are likewise absent. Having shifted from selling undecorated, dark chocolate eggs to those made with sweet, creamy Dairy Milk chocolate and, as of 1923, filled with sugary fondant “crème,” Cadbury’s Easter egg market was now all British children, rather than epicurean, upper class adults. Accordingly, how chocolate was advertised was likewise suited to children’s tastes, filled with the fantasy and adventure of bunnies and oversized eggs, rather than practical concerns over chocolate price or quality. The goal was not to inform the discerning consumer, but appeal to his or her impulses – and, through repeated use of the Cadbury logo, cause him or her to forever associate the company with all the pleasure and adventure (whether real or imaginary) a chocolate egg could bring.


Fig. 3. Cadbury Easter egg advertisement from the early 1920s. The repeated use of the Cadbury logo (boxed, in blue), whimsical features (Easter bunny, oversized egg), and lack of prices all convey the shift in Cadbury Easter eggs being marketed to the masses of British children. Image modified from: http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2010/10/27/Cadbury_Eggs_verta1d36864f953163e5a1d9ac46415be8a9ce0ac85.jpg

Television advertising catapulted Cadbury Easter eggs to the head of the mass Easter chocolate market: today, eight of the ten top-selling Easter eggs in Britain are made by Cadbury (Cadbury, 2014a). The top seller, the Cadbury Crème Egg, was released in 1971 (Cadbury, 2014b). Consisting of (sweetened) Dairy Milk chocolate shell encasing a white and yellow-colored (sugar) fondant filling (the egg’s “white” and “yolk”), the Crème Egg suited children’s love of hyper-sweet foods (Ventura and Mennella, 2011) and love of brightly-colored, whimsically-shaped, and individually-portioned “fun” foods (Elliott, 2008; Moss, 2013). Crème Eggs’ cheapness furthered their appeal to the mass youth market: adoption of automated assembly production in 1955 allowed Eggs to be made – and sold – at a price in line with many weekly allowances (Cadbury, 2014c). Accordingly, the Egg was advertised using playful commercials, reinforcing it as a “fun” product for a wider audience, such that it could reach everyone’s “inner child.” For example, a 1974 advertisement displays a group of young boys buying all of the Crème Eggs sold by their local candy shop. The purchase of “6000 Crème Eggs” symbolizes the triumph of children’s spirit over the sour, middle-aged shopkeeper, making Egg consumption a form of youthful empowerment. The explicit denotation of the eggs as “Cadbury Crème Eggs” links the brand’s name to not only a “delicious” treat, but also the joyful, cheeky, and wholly impractical triumph of buying “6000 Crème Eggs.” Heeding a corporate call for consumption not only promises hedonic pleasure, but is also transformed into an act of self-assertion.

Ultra-processed, hyper-palatable, and inexpensive, the contemporary Cadbury Easter Egg epitomizes modern, “industrial food” (Goody, 1982; Laudan, 2010), appealing to the innate taste for sweetness and mischief that is most visible during childhood, but persists in adults. Yet, this character reflects historical change as well as tradition. The transformation of the Easter egg from a hand-crafted, seasonal gift for discerning adult palates to a cheap, cheeky “treat” for all reflects profound shifts in cultural ideals of what constitutes “good” chocolate – including how it should be marketed as well as manufactured. Simply informing consumers of inventory does not suffice when trying to capture a mass market, using a product defined by its popular image rather than its ingredients. Rather, advertising is needed to fabricate and fortify desire (Allen, 2010; Richins, 1995): to make individuals discover a “need” that they never knew they had, and keep them coming back for more. By forsaking bitter dark for sweet milk chocolate, hand-molding for assembly-line production, and most importantly, earlier, utilitarian advertisements for explicitly branded, playful imagery, Cadbury altered their eggs to both suit and sustain the new, cheap and “cheeky” mass chocolate market.

Works Cited

Allen, L., 2010. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. AMACOM, USA.

Cadbury, 2014a. Easter Brand Fact Sheet.

Cadbury, 2014b. The History of Chocolate. Mondelez International.

Cadbury, 2014c. The Story of Easter and Easter Eggs. Mondelez International.

Cadbury, D., 2010. Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers. Public Affairs, New York, NY.

Coe, S.D., Coe, M.D., 2013. The True History of Chocolate Thames and Hudson, London.

Elliott, C., 2008. Marketing fun foods: A profile and analysis of supermarket food messages targeted at children. Canadian Public Policy-Analyse De Politiques 34, 259-273.

Goody, J., 1982. Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine, in: Counihan, C., van Esterik, P. (Eds.), Food and Culture: A Reader. Routledge, New York, NY.

Laudan, R., 2010. A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food. Gastronomica Reader, 280-292.

Lindert, P.H., 1986. Unequal English Wealth since 1670. Journal of Political Economy 94, 1127-1162.

Mintz, S., 1985. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin, New York, NY.

Moss, M., 2013. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House, New York, NY.

Richins, M.L., 1995. Social-Comparison, Advertising, and Consumer Discontent. American Behavioral Scientist 38, 593-607.

Shed, M., 2013. A Bristol Curriculum: Chocolate!, in: Water, B. (Ed.), Bristol, UK.

Ventura, A.K., Mennella, J.A., 2011. Innate and learned preferences for sweet taste during childhood. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 14, 379-384.