At Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe in Cambridge, Massachusetts there is an extensive selection of chocolate. In fact, the offerings cover an entire wall of the store and are split up into 5 sections. Upon inspection of the makeup of the selection of Cardullo’s chocolate, it is apparent that several groups of sections are broadly representative of certain types of chocolate. It further becomes apparent that the categories of chocolate one finds in Cardullo’s progresses from the front to the back of the store as follows: luxury chocolate, bean to bar craft manufactured chocolate, cheap and common chocolate. I will examine the brands representative of each of these categories at Cardullo’s and identify that luxury chocolate brands offer brand name and popular flavoring, bean to bar brands offer ethical supply chains, and that common chocolate offer the lowest prices. As such, Cardullo’s commitment to being a “gourmet” shop reveals the word “gourmet” can have many meanings in the world of chocolate. Gourmet chocolate can have to do with brand recognition as luxurious, or with being an ethically committed niche craft maker, or as being in line with popular tastes.
There are complex ethical concerns involved with cacao production, most importantly regarding child labor and unsustainable living conditions for cacao farmers. The center of these ethical issues is West Africa. There is considerable evidence that cacao production in West Africa has used and continues to use child labor (Berlan, 1089). Child labor on farms in West Africa was first brought to attention by reports of such slavery in 2000 (Ryan, 44). Orla Ryan in Chocolate Nationdescribes,
“Traffickers preyed on children at bus stops in Mali, promising riches on cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire. Once children got to the farm, they survived on little food, little or no pay and endured regular beatings…. They were essentially slaves, harvesting the beans that were the key ingredient for chocolate” (Ryan, 44).
Given the evidence provided to the public the Harkin-Engel protocol was introduced, which was a voluntary agreement among chocolate manufacturers to end child labor. However, Ryan asserts that “nearly a decade later, very little has changed on the farm” (Ryan, 44).
Although the use of children on farms in West Africa is prevalent, it has been argued that this is in fact necessary and part of the culture. Ryan spoke with a Ghanaian buyer who asserted “In an African household, everyone contributes to the family’s welfare, a Ghanaian buyer told me. He had accompanied his mother to the farm from the age of 5” (Ryan, 45-46). Amanda Berlan articulates that “In the broader context of Ghanaian society, child labour is well-documented. Of children aged 5–17 years, 39 per cent are known to be engaged in economic activities, of which 57 per cent are engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing and 88 per cent are unpaid family labour or apprentices” (Berlan, 1090). This is a framing of child labor as “apprenticeship,” rather than slavery. However, it remains that children do not really have a choice in these situations. If their parents require them to work on the farm and learn the business, the children are not in a position to pursue other options. Further, this can be argued to be a manipulation of facts from remote areas to advance interests not aligned with the interests of those who live there (Off, 160). Even if this is true, however, there is the necessity of improving these farming communities in general. As Ryan notes, “It is also doubtful a boycott of slave-produced beans would make matters better. A ban on beans from the region would devastate millions of families reliant on cocoa to survive. These kinds of threats or bans, however well-intentioned, can backfire dramatically” (Ryan, 51-52). As such, a rejection of West African producers should not occur, especially for bean to bar chocolate manufacturers. Kristy Leissle aptly asserts,
Certainly media attention to slavery allegations makes it easy for consumers to reject West Africa as a ‘‘safe’’ source of chocolate. But when artisans or mid-size companies (such as Tcho) offer a bar from West Africa, they apparently can generate significant sales. As Tcho has proven with its best-selling Ghana bar, and Divine with its entire product line, West Africa bars can be successfully sold in the U.S.—provided the maker has already inspired trust with a clear statement of its social mission” (Leissle, 29).
West African cacao can be used responsibly, even given its history. In fact, it is necessary that manufacturers involve themselves with these farming areas in order to help them benefit and grow, rather than harming their economic situation further. As such, policies of fair trade and direct trade have developed in which chocolate producers are directly involved in the sustainability of the cacao growing communities. It is in this context of ethical issues within the cacao supply chain that we will examine the chocolate companies offered at Cardullo’s and compare how ethical commitments within the chocolate manufacturers align with price and brand recognition as well as how these relationships affect placement within the store.
The first section of Cardullo’s chocolate selection, closest to the storefront is a collection of luxury (i.e. recognizable brand and highly priced) chocolate companies. However, these companies are variable in their ethical commitments. Here we can see the sections we are talking about:
The most prevalent company in all of Cardullo’s selection is Godiva. Godiva chocolates are allocated four shelves in the store. The offerings are mainly boxes of a variety of chocolate truffles. These boxes go for a high price of $20 – 40 each. Godiva had successfully branded itself as a luxury brand, as we can see in this advertisement.
The use of gold and wine associates Godiva with a luxurious existence. Godiva’s cacao, however is sourced from West Africa, the center of the child labor matters. Nonetheless, on Godiva’s website, they describe that they are a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, a leading nonprofit that fosters sustainable farms, strengthening the cacao farming communities. They write, “Godiva believes that protecting children is a shared responsibility across the cocoa industry… We have a policy that requires all of our suppliers to be in compliance with applicable labor laws and regulations.” Yet, Godiva received an F from Green America’s evaluation of their supply chain ethics. This was due to their having no labor certifications and none of their cacao having been certified as ethically sourced to date even though they have a promise to be 100% certified by 2019.
There are two other brands, Neuhaus, and Chocolat Bonnat, that appear to fit into the same category as Godiva, that is, highly priced (and thus luxury items) and not apparently or fully committed to pursuing an ethical supply chain. Most similar to Godiva, Neuhaus is given three shelves in the store and also is mainly boxes of mixed chocolates. These boxes sell for $40-70 and as such can be characterized as luxury items. Further, on the Neuhaus website there is an emphasis on the deep history of the company. This history tracks its ups and downs as well as innovations. However, there is no suggestion of concern with supply chain ethics. Chocolat Bonnat has two shelves in Cardullo’s and offers bars of dark chocolate sourced from different areas for around $12. Although their cacao beans are sourced from areas that haven’t been hubs of child labor (e.g. Mexico, Peru, Madagascar, Brazil), there is nonetheless no mention of ethical concerns on their website. Like Neuhaus, they have an extensive history of the company. They also have a seven minute video on the process and soul of cacao harvest, but not mention of the moral issues that accompany that harvest.
There are however, luxury priced chocolate brands that reveal concern for the ethical supply chain in the Cardullo’s selection: Butlers, Castronova, and Milkboy. Butlers is represented by only a couple of bars in Cardullo’s, which sell for $22 and thus are luxury items. Butlers, on their website articulates, “We use sustainably sourced cacao through Cocoa Horizons because we believe that sustainably sourced cocoa makes for better chocolates and better livelihoods for the farmers who grow and nurture it.” In fact, in 2018 the chairman of Butlers went to meet with women that they had been empowering in these communities by training them in the techniques of growing cacao on the Ivory Coast, exhibiting a commitment to the improvement of these communities. Castronova is another brand priced in a luxury range of $15 for a bar. This chocolate is made from Colombian cacao beans, likely separated from child labor issues. As the founders write on their website,
“We salute the few, craft chocolate makers that are taking time and care with each part of the chocolate making process, releasing the full potential of the bean; those who are supporting careful farming and fermentation, the ones who ensure farmers are paid a fair wage through an ethical and sustainable supply chain, and those who skillfully grind, roast, and sweeten without diluting the bean’s essence.”
Milkboy chocolate also falls under this category with bars priced at $20. Milkboy chocolate is UTZ certified, which requires good agricultural practices, social and living conditions, and farm management. This certification requires investment in farming practices that aid individuals at all stages of the supply chain, ensuring better futures for the cacao farming communities.
The next section, located one step further toward the back of the store, is composed of bean to bar chocolate manufacturers as well as Fairtrade and Direct Trade certified manufacturuers. Here we can see the sections we are speaking about:
Bean to bar means that the companies are fully involved in every step of the creation of their chocolate, from the growth of the beans to the manufacturing process. The main bean to bar brands in these sections are Fossa, Antidote, and Taza. Fossa is a bean to bar craft chocolate maker priced around $13 for a bar. Taza likewise is a bean to bar manufacturer priced around $5 for a bar. Finally, Antidote is a bean to bar manufacturer priced at around $10 per bar. We can note a symmetry here between bean to bar companies and Direct Trade certified companies. Antidote, a bean to bar manufacturer claims they practice direct trade, writing on their website, “Prioritizing quality and flavor over certification allows us to foster direct relationships without Ecuadorian partners and pay them wages that are far above market rate. We are practicing direct trade with all cacao beans and some other ingredients cutting our any middleman.” Taza likewise is Direct Trade certified. The alignment between direct trade and bean to bar is that direct trade is focused on the quality of the beans. And, as Antidote succinctly explains, this focus forces the manufacturer to be closely involved with the farming communities it sources from. This intimacy leads to a care and necessary ethical unveiling of the harvesting process. Note that these companies tend to have a lower price point as well.
The other ethical certification is the Fairtrade certification, which is an explicit commitment to bettering the farming communities. The companies in this section that have this certification are Chuao and Pure 7. The Fairtrade certification ensures safe, healthy working conditions for cacao farmers as well as bettering the communities they live in. Chuao articulates that part of the additional income they make goes back to the farming communities to invest in education and healthcare. These also sell at a lower price point, Chuao at $6 a bar and Pure 7 at $5 a bar.
The final category of chocolate at Cardullo’s is the cheaper and common chocolates, such as Kinder and Milka. Here we see this section:
Both of these cholate producers offer milk chocolate that is highly sweetened, appealing to the common appeal of sweet soothing chocolate candy. They also both sell for about $2 a bar. Now, both of these companies have some sort of ethical commitment. Kinder is UTZ certified, part of the Fairtrade cocoa program, and also Rainforest Alliance certified. Milka is part of the Cocoa life sustainable sourcing program. Thus, these mass producing and popular manufacturers do not sacrifice ethical sourcing in their production.
Cardullo’s we have examined the central three categories offered: luxury, bean to bar and Fairtrade certified, and cheaper, common candy. Within the luxury category, there is a mix of ethically bound and non-ethically bound companies. The bean to bar and Fairtrade certified are necessarily ethically bound. Finally, the common candy chocolates are also ethically bound. Given this variation in price and ethical commitment, it appears Cardullo’s is not taking a strong stand on what “gourmet” chocolate is. They offer to their consumer the option of viewing gourmet as expensive, as ethical, or as simply tasty. Indeed, the luxury items are toward the front of the store, but this does not imply a judgement on what is important, but more common business sense to have the more expensive items more prevalent. Nonetheless, Cardullo’s wide variety of ethically sourced chocolate products is impressive and aids in exposing consumers to the possibility of chocolate that is produced via an ethical supply chain, aiding in the issues that face chocolate production today.
Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol 49, 2013, . pp. 1088-1100.
Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22–31.JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22.
Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed, 2011. Print.
Off, Caroline. Bitter Chocolate : the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York :New Press, 2008. Print.