In the words of Sidney Mintz, “…Sugar is sweet, and human beings like sweetness” (1986). But what about this liking for sugar made chocolate bars one of our most symbolic pieces of food, taking over holidays like Valentine’s Day and Easter? How do we approach the problems of fair working conditions for the farmers who cultivate the cacao and sugar cane? In this blog post I will explore the biological reasoning for why sugar made chocolate such a hot commodity in so many parts of the world. I also offer that this biological predisposition to love the taste of sweetness is, in part, what has given chocolate such a high place in the food industry and our society, despite the moral wrongs associated with chocolate production. To resolve the moral dilemma of chocolate consumption, we must fight against the behind-the-scenes production story, which threatens the basic rights of millions of farmers.
Sugar and the Brain
Let us begin by exploring why taking a sweet bite of anything gives us so much pleasure. It is important to remember that sugars are a part of a large family of carbohydrates, which is one of the main energy sources for our bodies. So, it makes sense that sweetness on the tongue, which signals to our brains that we are consuming carbohydrates, causes a pleasurable response (Reed & McDaniel, 2006). Moreover, following this evolutionary perspective is the reasoning that poisonous foods are not usually sweet-tasting, so our bodies have more justification for why we meet sweet-tasting foods with a positive reaction (Reed & McDaniel, 2006). The short video below describes the science behind sugar consumption; in other words, how sugar affects your brain and body.
It is not surprising, then, that using sugar as a sweetener for chocolate made us go crazy for it. The cacao that chocolate is derived from was once “food of the gods” served as a bitter drink in Mayan civilizations. However, the sweet candy we know now became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries upon the revolutionary cocoa press, invented in 1828 by Coenraad Johannes van Houten (Klein, 2018). And now we are at the present day, where “the average American consumes 12 lbs. of chocolate each year, and more than $75 billion worldwide is spent on chocolate annually” (Klein, 2018).
The Moral Dilemma
This human quasi-addiction to sugar begins to answer the question, why do we allow the violation of human rights for millions of people just so that we can have our cacao and sugar cane grown? This question, which definitely implicates much more research and perspective, is one that I will only be able to graze the surface of. Nonetheless, I do believe that a biological perspective does hold some merit here, as we find ourselves in a moral dilemma as we enjoy pieces of sweetened chocolate which were produced through the back-breaking and inhumane labor of other human beings, including children. The farmers, not the distributors in the high-income countries, are the ones who are hit the hardest when the market prices fluctuate – For instance, farmers on the Ivory Coast see their cocoa income decrease “by as much as 30-40% from one year to the next” (Fountain & Huetz-Adams, 2018). This is on top of the fact that millions of these farmers are children, and they are making about 31% of a living wage (Fountain & Huetz-Adams, 2018).
What Can We Do?
So, while we are evolutionarily inclined to enjoy this chocolate, cycles of slavery and cruel treatment to farmers all over the world would tell us not to indulge. While there is no straightforward answer here, I suggest that what we should push for is more Fairtrade schemes, which need to be more heavily supported by the governments of rich countries, since these products would be more expensive than non-Fairtrade products. As explained by Peter Singer and Jim Mason, these schemes support the farmers by generating “hundreds of millions of additional dollars for small products in developing countries” and the schemes also protect the farmers rights, including “freedom of association and protection from sexual harassment” (Singer & Mason, 2007).
Additionally, the farmers from these low-income countries need to be making a living wage, and they need more subsidies to protect them from immediate income fluctuation in response to market price changes. They need to be protected from this price volatility and the disproportionate risk that they bear in this supply chain. This is only possible with major support from the governments involved as well as international actors. This also requires consumer awareness – that is, all of us being invested in the dialogue around and action against this structural oppression and poverty.
In conclusion, the harm does not come from our inherent love for all things sweet; rather from our indifference towards the means to get that sweet chocolate bar in our hands. Until we fight against the oppressive labor conditions of the farmers who make it possible for chocolate to be such a symbol in our societies, we will be faced with this very bitter moral dilemma.
Fountain, A., Huetz-Adams, F. (2018). Cacao Barometer 2018. N.p.
Centuries after the 350 year long transatlantic slave trade, it is hard to imagine that such a horrific worldwide trade could emerge from one sole underlying purpose: money. As the slave trade continued over time, everything became a price tag from crops to the people, justified on malicious racial grounds fabricated by the elite. I argue that the slave trade emerged as a result of economics that enabled the expansion of the chocolate industry, which resulted in challenges to abolishing slavery in cacao growing regions. Furthermore, I argue that cacao-based slavery is still not abolished to this day.
Economics of the Slave Trade
Europe had weapons, the Americas had crops, and what did Africa have? People. Europe wanted crops from the Americas, the Americas did not have enough people to support this, and Africa wanted the weapons (and some textiles) from Europe (UNESCO). Thus, a trade emerged. The economics of the trade started with the origin of “African Kingdoms” who”prospered from the slave trade,” but after only a few years, “meeting the European’s massive demand created intense competition” between kingdoms (Hazard). A deep-rooted moral complex soon surfaced: “capturing slaves became a motivation for war rather than it’s result” (Hazard). Kingdoms now needed more weapons from Europe to defend themselves during slave raids.
The economic prosperity continued in the New World where the slaves were sold. As seen in the images from Flickr below, which detail how humans were priced, slaves were viewed as a price tag and treated as a mere commodity. The entire slave voyage was seen simply as a “financial venture for owners and investors,” which “proved to be greatly profitable” (UNESCO). A slave could be sold multiple times in a lifetime multiplying their economic effect. Trade workers’ ultimate job was to sell the slaves at the highest price possible, meaning they often “disguise[d] the physical bruises and wounds… in order to hide their ailments” further contributing to the unethical economic driven tragedies of the trade (UNESCO). The slave trade altered societies and economies across the continent.
The greater economic impact came not from the increase in economic prosperity of the trade at the time, but rather the long lasting impact the trade placed upon Africa, still permeating society today. As Anthony Hazard explains in his TedEd video, “not only did the continent lose tens of millions of its able-bodied population, but because most of the slaves taken were men, the long term demographic effect was even greater” (Hazard). He continues explaining by the time the Americas and Europe finally outlawed the trade, “the African kingdoms whose economies it had come to dominate collapsed” (Hazard). Because of the slave trade, the future of Africa was devastatingly rewritten forever.
Why does chocolate play such an important role in the slave trade? Chocolate comes from Cacao beans, which date back to Mesoamerican societies, as early as the Olmec Empire (Dr. Martin, Lecture). Cultivating cacao is a labor intensive process that requires a humid tropical climate. For this reason, Europeans could not and did not want to grow cacao. Thus, when the Europeans discovered chocolate from South America—as early as 1591—and demand for cacao continually increased, colonialists forced local indigenous people to supply the cacao that would be transported to Europe (C-Spot). Eventually, this practice proved difficult with not enough people to maintain the expanding cacao fields, and eventually the slave trade emerged. This simply shows that “one of the stimuli of the… slave trade was Europe’s appetite for not only sugar but chocolate, too” (Duducu). As it was a “brutal, backbreaking job that nobody wanted to do,” it became the “standard job or slaves” (Duducu). The cacao industry now relied, grew, and thrived on the backs of slaves.
Challenges to Abolition in Cacao Growing Regions
Why did challenges to abolition arise specifically in cacao growing regions? Because chocolate had transformed into a good available to everyone, not just for the elite (Dr. Martin, Lecture). By the 18th century, sugar and chocolate was involved in almost every aspect of European life including medicine, religion, socioeconomic class, gender and sexuality, and politics (Dr. Martin, Lecture). It is no coincidence that cacao demand grew even further in the 1820s, as innovations in chocolate production began with Coenraad Johannes van Houten inventing a new process resulting in powdered chocolate that “soon led to the creation of solid chocolate” (Fiegl). This caused a “cascade of further developments” in chocolate production allowing for easier consumption with better taste (Christian). Not only did this cause cacao demand to increase, but it also came at a time when abolition movements were at their peak worldwide encouraging a heightened resistance from slaves as their labor demands increased. Had chocolate not recently transitioned into the realm of daily consumption by Europeans, then there is sufficient evidence to believe that abolition would have taken hold sooner.
As the market for chocolate expanded, “a number calculated at ‘nearly ten percent of the volume of the whole transatlantic slave trade’ went to work on the cacao plantations in Brazil” (Moss and Badenoch, 30). During this time, Brazil was a colony of Portugal. Although Portugal was one of the forerunners of Europe to abolish slavery within, they did not abolish slavery in Brazil until 1888, nearly 20 years after Portugal abolished slavery in their African Portuguese colonies (Brown Univeristy). This shows just how important chocolate was to Portugal, resisting abolition only in Brazil for an extra two decades with the purpose of maintaining their cacao production.
Cacao Expansion into Africa
Although slavery was abolished everywhere in the Caribbean chocolate producing colonies by the start of the 18th century, chocolate production in Africa was beginning to boom as a replacement. As formerly mentioned, when the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed, the African economy crumbled and desperately needed a replacement for revenue. The first expansion of cacao from its previously limited production region in the Americas occurred in 1822 (a few years after the end of the slave trade) when it arrived in Africa (Christian). By the end of the century, cacao production would spread across the continent exponentially as seen in the bar graph below. The cacao industry would shift from its homeland in the Americas to Africa at the turn of the century producing over 70% of the world’s cacao today (Winton).
With 60% of revenue coming from cacao on the Ivory Coast, farmers still earn less than $2 a day (Food Empowerment Project). This forces them to turn to slave and child labor. Most children are aged 12-16 and face dehumanizing workloads and violence inflicted from the farm owners (FEP). African cacao farmers violate almost all of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Laws (FEP). The video below shows how slavery in cacao production truly has not been abolished, only transformed. The current cacao workers are still battling demoralizing working conditions, unpaid labor, minimal food, and no access to education; the only difference between the 17th century and today is that these workers are now children.
It is impossible to put a numerical dollar value that the slave trade revenued economically due to the incalculably large number of 17 million slaves that were sold and due to the long lasting economic impediment forever placed on the African economy. But it is certain that the slave trade permanently set Africa back economically which inarguably in one of the reasons cacao farmer poverty, and as a byproduct child slave labor, has become so prevalent in present day society, even decades later. Although Africans outside of Africa fought so hard to abolish slavery, it still exists to this day within the continent as a direct result from the exportations of tens of millions those people that would fight to stop it.
“Brazil: Five Centuries of Change.” Brazil Five Centuries of Change, library.brown.edu/create/fivecenturiesofchange/chapters/chapter-3/slavery-and-aboliton/.
Hazard, Anthony, director. The Atlantic Slave Trade: What Too Few Textbooks Told You – Anthony Hazard. TED, TED-Ed, 22 Dec. 2014, ed.ted.com/lessons/the-atlantic-slave-trade-what-your-textbook-never-told-you-anthony-hazard.
Around 2,000 years ago, people in the Americas began the cultivation of a small tropical American evergreen tree, Theobroma cacao, for its fruit, the cacao bean. The bean quickly became part of everyday life for Mesoamericans, who not only consumed cacao but also considered it to have elements of divine nature. Although it is not certain how cacao arrived in Europe, thought to be by Spanish conquest, by the late 1500s it was a treasured treat that quickly gained popularity with upper class citizens. However, “chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first… but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain,” which led to the creation of chocolate, a sweetened food prepared from roasted and ground cacao seeds (Smithsonianmag). Over the next two centuries, chocolate expanded to include a spectrum of inexpensive treats all with more sugar and additives than the next. The growth in demand and expanding market created a need for large-scale cacao tree farms to produce at unmanageable rates. Additionally, limited regulation on cacao production has manifested issues that will become unsustainable, given the restricted natural resources found on earth. Initially brewed as a drink for social, medical, and other cultural principles, over time cacao’s role in society has developed into a complex component of societal complications such as climate control, biodiversity, deforestation, and unfair trade on a global scale.
Today, the largest producers of
cacao are Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana followed by Nigeria and Cameroon. From
2000-2010 cocoa production increased from about 2,000,000 tons to around 3,000,000
tons. However, the average yield for farms has remained relatively low because many
use poor soil and outdated growing methods (Wessel and Wessel). Consequently, farmers hoping to increase their
cocoa output sought out new land within the possible growing regions of cacao. This exploration for new land has resulted in
large-scale deforestation. This issue
has begun to impact the production levels of cacao and working conditions for
farmers. In order to sustain production, farmers need to adapt new growing
techniques which produce high-yielding harvests with reused cacao trees and farmland,
new fair trade policies, and outside investment to improve infrastructure
within these developing countries.
Cacao farming can only take
place approximately 15 degrees above or below the Equator. After planting cacao trees it can take as
long as three years for them produce enough to be harvested. A machete or sharp
knife must be used to cut cacao pods as the trees are highly prone to disease.
The beans are then removed from the pods, fermented, dried, removed from
shells, and roasted. The farmers generally rely on cacao for large proportions
of their household income selling their product to traders, who sell to
exporters. The product is then sold to established companies which process
cacao into different products to be sold on the market. This value chain has
been subject to positive change within the last 20 years but there are still
major flaws which will be address later in this post.
Due to the specific environmental needs
for the production of cacao, lowland tropics including Latin America, West
African, and Indonesia, the amount of land needed to produce cacao is very
significant. “In fact, cocoa had the largest land-use footprint of all crop
production in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, accounting for about one quarter… for
Nigeria, cocoa has the largest land-use footprint of exported crops, accounting
for 55 per cent, while in Indonesia cocoa accounts for 12 per cent of the
exported footprint” (resourcetrade). Furthermore, this area continues to grow
in countries where investment to improve production technique and equipment has
stagnated. Consequently, around seventy percent of total global cacao production
is produced by smallholder farmers, where productivity is loosely regulated and
labor conditions are extremely poor. This
has given large companies the ability to unfairly treat these laborers by
lowering compensation, only adding to the myriad of issues with cacao
Another problematic aspect of chocolate production is found during the manufacturing process. A study published in the journal Food Research International, found that the chocolate industry creates around 2.1 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. To put in perspective, this is comparable to the annual emissions of a city the size of Pittsburgh, PA. Additionally, it found that it takes as much as 1,000 liters of water to produce a single bar of chocolate (economictimes). There are other factors that could be added to these totals such as transportation costs, dairy production, and the materials used in packaging.
Deforestation and Biodiversity:
As mentioned above, cacao is a grown by small-scale farmers in humid lowland tropics. These areas are known to have high biodiversity which is a key element for producing high rates of healthy cacao beans. Farmers tend to use one of two growing techniques, the use of shade to compliment biodiversity benefits or full-sun exposure. With the market price volatility of cacao and the fragile nature of cacao trees, the full-sun exposure practice has become appealing to producers as it helps for a better harvest. However, this technique results in more likelihood of disease and requires the use of herbicides to eliminate weed growth. Consequently, the different chemicals found in herbicides destroys the land. Disease, loss of fertile soil, and other difficulties has also impacted the sustainability of such crops. Such concerns result in the continued clearing of new lands threatening biodiversity and deforestation of tropical forests (Franzen and Mulder). “Global forest loss due to cocoa production has been estimated at between 2 to 3 million hectares for the period 1988-2008, equivalent to about 1 per cent of total forest loss over this time,” which is substantial loss for producer countries (resourcetrade). By eliminating forest lands, there is a major reduction in biodiversity and other living systems living in such areas. Wildlife habitats are eliminated and plant variety is reduced. The loss of an ecosystem can also have lasting effects on production. As cacao farming becomes more stressful on the environment, the yields of cacao tress will start to diminish. With the increase in greenhouse gases, the higher average temperature is changing the location where cacao can be produced. If this trend continues, the undesirable effects of production could start to impact more regions around the globe. With current practices in place, this is added pressure to the already high demand for cacao is unmaintainable.
reason for this trend is the idea of unequal ecological exchange mentioned in
Ndongo Samba Sylla’s work, The Fair Trade Scandal. It is described as, “the non-observance by
market prices of the scarce and sometimes non-renewable nature of environmental
resources is the cornerstone of a new form of unequal exchange between North
and South. Indeed, according to this approach, the environmental ‘energy’ which
is embedded in developing countries’ exports is not factored into the invoicing
of the prices they receive” (Sylla 2014).
Furthermore, countries with currently abundant natural resources sell to more developed countries at a price that does not compensate for their environmental deprivation and loss of resources. Cacao production regions have been victims of this crisis since the original European chocolate craze. Although cacao production techniques have many faults, it is not something farmers can control within the procedures of the current system. The value chain of cacao trade has taken its toll on local farmers. More specifically, international trade has hindered economic equality not taking into account economic, social, and environmental concerns of underdeveloped countries.
For countries which produce large amounts of cacao, the private sector the chocolate industry has determined exports, market power, and price. The close relationship between supply and volatile demand has impacted the global markets inconsistency dealing with the price of cacao. The regulation of production is important for sustainability, yet governments of producing countries have slowly lost the capability to manage international trade markets for cacao, which has deteriorated their ability to maintain domestic regulations. This unregulated market has left farmers susceptible to unjust trade. Low export prices and privatized purchasing of cacao have therefore had negative externalities on the environment incentivizing farmers to plant and harvest at rate which natural resources cannot support (Ingram et al).
What Can Be Done:
These economic, political, and market
modifications have begun to transform as the cacao industry becomes more and
more of a threat to the ecosystem. The United Nations, and groups alike, sustainable
growth programs have created capacity to improve outdated farming practices and
to reform financial and institutional framework for agricultural production. A few key elements discussed below are the
first steps towards cacao sustainability:
Improve outdated Farming practices.
The rehabilitation of existing farms- the economic lifetime of a cacao tree is between 30 and 40 years. Farms that qualify for rehabilitation can integrate good maintenance and innovative disease control which can help raise their harvest yield by forty percent over a 4-year time period (Wessel and Wessel). Additionally, these farms can be partially or completely replanted. Trials have shown that planting young trees among old trees can lead to more successful harvest than planting under temporary shaded fields that have been deforested (Nalley and Popp).
Government supported replanting arrangements—the distribution of seeds which have more resistance to disease. Amazon hybrids have been associated with forty-two percent higher yields (Wessel and Wessel).
Shade-grown cacao— Naturally cacao grows in the shade of rainforest cover. Farms have the ability to transition from sun-grown cacao back to more natural ways of farming, either by planting in areas of the rainforest untouched by deforestation or by planting tropical trees and plants around their cacao plantations.
The use of more advanced fertilizers, pesticides, modified soil, and improved seeds would supplement these practices (Franzen and Mulder).
Technology and Improvements in Knowledge—Due to the small average size of cacao farms, farmers do not have access to new technologies that would increase yields, limiting the need to expand plantations. Additionally, as the knowledge frontier in farming advances, cacao farmers remain unable to adapt these methods on their lands. Local governments and the agricultural sector need to incentivize farmers to adopt new, more efficient farming practices through the stabilization of farmer’s incomes, easier access to credit, and more effective land tenure systems (weadapt).
Reform financial and institutional framework for agricultural production
The introduction of due diligence requirements for importers
Prohibit the import of illegally produced cacao
Inclusion of sustainability provisions in trade agreements
Negotiate mutual trade agreements with producer countries intended to support legal forest zones through the formation of national systems to certify authorized cacao (resourcetrade).
Improvements in infrastructure for production countries
Target rural areas to improve education, health, roads, and access to new supplies and credit.
All reforms mentioned above are all needed within the cacao Industry. The high dependence on cacao production and the risks of climate change are both convincing arguments as to a reason for exploration into improving the business and livelihoods of all those involved. There will be roadblocks establishing truly sustainable cacao trade, economy, and environmental system but there is great motivation to improve the culture around cacao as a whole.
“Chocolate Production May
Be Harming Environment: Study.” The Economic Times, 2 Apr. 2018,
Franzen, Margaret, and
Monique Borgerhoff Mulder. “Ecological, Economic and Social Perspectives on
Cocoa Production Worldwide.” Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 16, no.
13, 2007, pp. 3835–3849., doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9183-5.
Ingram, Verina, et al. “The
Impacts of Cocoa Sustainability Initiatives in West Africa.” Sustainability,
vol. 10, no. 11, 2018, p. 4249., doi:10.3390/su10114249.
Wessel, Marius, and P.m.
Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of
Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, vol.
74-75, 2015, pp. 1–7., doi:10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.
In the summer after my sophomore year of college, I conducted
research on sustainable development in Costa Rica and Panama. This was one of
the most enriching academic and personal experiences in my life to-date,
especially the week that I spent living on a small-scale cacao farm in
Mastatal, Costa Rica. That magical week involved working and eating alongside
the absolutely lovely family that has owned the land its cacao trees for
Mastatal is a unique agricultural community that lies in the
south west region of the San Jose Province. It is a town that has always relied
on agriculture, usually on a small scale. It has never industrialized and found
a comfortable place in the larger Costa Rica economy, but since the turn of the
century it has revived its economy through agricultural tourism, or agritourism.
Wait… what is agritourism?
Agricultural tourism is a subset of the larger trend toward
ecotourism, a style of travel that involves leaving a small footprint on the
environment, while connecting on a deeper level with it. Agritourism involves staying
and working on a farm with the goal of getting closer to the source of the food
you eat. This trend is generally being driven by global changes in food and dining,
climate and energy conservation, health and wellness, and heritage conservation
(Ciglovska, 278). Four farms in Mastatal, all focusing on different products, use
agritourism as a source of additional income, hosting visitors, giving tours, making
local dishes, and putting the travelers to work. Where I was staying, La Iguana
Chocolate, was the main attraction, because everybody loves chocolate.
The group of students that I was a part of worked alongside
the family that owned the cacao operation, while conducting field research on
the budding agritourism industry in the small town as a whole. The work was
hard but rewarding and gave me closer insight into the process of harvesting cacao
and making chocolate, as well as the struggles of a small scale producer. Chocolate
is made from the beans inside a fruit that grows from a tree, something that I
was unaware of before my time on the farm. Upon arriving we were given a full
tasting, one of the services that is offered to travelers each day. The couple
that operates the farm greeted us with an interesting looking fruit that
reminded me of a squash, and when they broke it open it was filled with small
white fuzzy pods. They encouraged us to take one of the pods and eat the white
fuzzy material off of it, and that was the moment that I found my favorite
fruit. Yes, cacao is my favorite fruit. It sounds crazy… most people have no
idea where the cocoa powder and butter that makes their favorite treat comes from,
or that the raw fruity product could be so delicious. For those of you struggling
to believe me, I have attached a video of a tasting. That first sight of the
cacao pods was only the beginning of my time spent with them over the course of
my time at La Iguana.
The most rewarding part of the whole week was the time spent in the fields harvesting the cacao pods. The work is eye-opening in its difficulty. We started our day with a quick breakfast at around seven o’clock in the morning before packing lunch and all the necessary tools onto the back of a single horse. We then set off through the back of the immediate property, down a dirt, and then mud, road for about a mile until we came to a river. Shoes were removed and the river was crossed, the small dog accompanying us was carried, of course. After we scaled a large hill we finally reached the edge of a forest, situated in higher altitude than we were previously. The walk alone was enough to exhaust the group, but it is highly necessary that the cacao trees are in the perfect environment to grow effectively. Cacao trees need to be in an area with high moisture but good draining, usually shaded by other trees and surrounded by a heavy underbrush of leaves. This is knowledge that has been passed down for generations, since the first cacao tree was brought to Mastatal. These very particular conditions were perfect in this hillside forest, and the journey to reach the trees is absolutely worth it when the trees are highly productive. This is especially true when your livelihood depends on it.
Once we got to the vast area of cacao trees there was important
training that needed to take place. There were several strains of cacao growing
in the field. This meant that the ideal color and shape of the pods that were
ready for harvest could differ from tree to tree. Green pods turn a deep
yellow, but yellow pods turn a bright red. Clearly there is room for confusion. Beyond
that, any pod that has black spots on it must be taken down despite its level
of ripeness. The black spots are a disease that can ruin an entire harvest, Moniliophthora
roreri, but more on
that later. We also had to learn how to properly use the sharp tools to cut the
pods from the trunks of the cacao trees. It seemed like at every step in the
process of growing and harvesting cacao there was only one very specific way of
doing things. While we may have been a bit unprepared, we were set off into the
forest, machete and large hemp bag in hand.
Aside from the
cliff of mud and rushing river that had to be passed to reach the crop, the work
itself was awfully dangerous as well. Costa Rica is home to the Fer-de-Lance,
an incredibly venomous viper who likes to live in underbrush… underbrush much
like that required to grow cacao. Some of the pods are also out of reach,
making climbing a tree with a machete in hand necessary. Once our bags were
full with pods, we hauled them to the center of the forest and all dumped them
out to extract the beans. While working on the pods, we chatted with the family
about how they got started in cacao, and what the biggest challenges have been
in making a living from the crop.
While roughly two thirds of the worlds cacao production happens in West Africa, the plant is indigenous to Central and South America, an area that produces only five percent of the worlds cacao today (Leissle, 16). This is due to the colonial exportation of the production means to an area that was understood as having cheap and abundant labor that could support the booming chocolate industry. La Iguana is one of the few farms still producing cacao in the Mastatal area. We were told that cacao trees were brought to the area in the middle of the twentieth century because the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture saw it as an opportunity to breathe life into the economy of the area. In essence, small scale subsistence and fruit farmers were forced to change their production techniques and land use to cater to cacao. Encouraging shaded agro-ecosystems like cacao also “provide a promising means of addressing the challenges of creating a forest‐like habitat for tropical biodiversity in a rapidly deforested landscape, while simultaneously providing a lucrative crop for local agricultural communities” (Phillips‐Mora et al.).
However, many of the farmers that were planting cacao in Mastatal had to stop in the mid-90s when Monilio, the fungal disease discussed above, was spread through the area. We were told that there was no concrete understanding of how the disease came to the area, perhaps on the clothes of a traveler studying cacao. It was clear that this disease could cause hardship that seemed unsurmountable. It was well known that Monilio could be destroy long-term economic viability if even one yield was infected (Evans et al.). After the disease initially hit the La Iguana farm, they could not get enough pure cacao pods and had to revert to selling only fruit from their smaller fruit farm for a living. A highlight is that even in pods with black spots covering most of the fruit, it is possible that the fungus has not yet reached the beans on the inside, and the cacao is still useable.
While La Iguana has implemented a few techniques to diminish the impact of the Monilia on their crop that has allowed them to maintain good harvests, there have been other struggles for the small farm in establishing a sustainable business model. The largest struggle for them, as well as the other farms shifting towards an agritourism model, was attracting the right crowds of people. The research that I ultimately produced from my time there looked at the marketing techniques of each of these farms, and how they are perceived by the surrounding community. I found that the initial launch of these farms as tourist destinations brought the wrong kind of people to the town, creating a tension between the farms and other locals. Jarkko Saarinen is a scholar who has done extensive research in the field, and he made a similar generalization that “high development goals of rural tourism may separate rural communities and tourism actors, which can cause economic and social conflicts, insecurity and locally unwanted changes in rural landscapes.” However, once La Iguana was able to control the crowds they were attracting, and their ability to bring new people to the area started having a positive impact on the greater community, they reached a new level of stability and social sustainability.
However, both the control of tourists coming to eat chocolate from the source, and the control of Monilio are ongoing battles for La Iguana Chocolate as well as other small scale cacao farmers in the region. I am infinitely grateful for the time I was able to spend there, and the friends I made in Mastatal. The knowledge that I gained from living and working in a small agricultural town going through a beautiful economic transformation will allow me to better navigate these communities in the future and work with them on their long term development and sustainability: environmental, economic, and social.
C., et al. “What’s in a Name: Crinipellis, the Final Resting Place for the
Frosty Pod Rot Pathogen of Cocoa?” Mycologist, vol. 16, no. 4, Nov.
2002, pp. 148–52. Cambridge Core, doi:10.1017/S0269915X02004093.
Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity, 2018.
Phillips‐Mora, W., et al. “Biodiversity and Biogeography of the Cacao
(Theobroma Cacao) Pathogen Moniliophthora Roreri in Tropical America.” Plant
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Saarinen, Jarkko. “Traditions of Sustainability in Tourism Studies.” Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 33, no. 4, Oct. 2006, pp. 1121–40. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.annals.2006.06.007.
“CANDY!!!” This is what you hear kids of all ages scream when they find out they are rewarded with a delicious candy bar. In many ways we condition the children of society to behave for these treats. Adults and children alike are at the mercy of said delicacies which have been perfected by candy makers all around the globe and the influence candy does have is evident in the way it is advertised and marketed towards us. Children are bribed with these sweets during holidays, any time they receive high marks in school, and overall for just behaving in general. With that being said, it is almost tragic to think that in another part of the world, candy is one of the only ways a child can reward themselves with another day of life. More specifically the production of Cacao and how its successful manufacturing or lack thereof determines the fate of the children who help produce the candy we identify as Chocolate. In this post I will attempt to highlight the negative impact the slave trade has had on children in third world countries when it pertains to the Cacao slave trade and how the high demand for chocolate in the United States and beyond is a direct cause of these children’s misfortune.
It goes without saying that slavery is one of the most inhumane practices to ever be documented by the human race. To force another individual to produce a resource in high commodity through grueling work processes and unsafe work environments for minimal pay is despicable, and yet this practice is ever so prevalent in society today. In regard to Cacao farming, children in West Africa are taken from their homes at a young age and are sold to cacao farms where they are forced to produce cacao beans from the pods they are sent to collect. These children range anywhere from five to sixteen years of age, and a large majority of them continue this work well after they have matured. They are paid less than five dollars for a days work and are expected to produce a substantial amount of product in a short time frame. Who is to blame for this injustice done upon these children who are simply trying to survive and provide for their families in areas where resources are limited? To avoid asking another rhetorical question let’s get straight to the point and acknowledge the fact that we are the source of the problem. Chocolate or rather Cacao, has become as crucial a resource in America similar to wheat, agriculture, and livestock. As previously mentioned above, our society has integrated cacao into our everyday lives in such a way that it would be virtually impossible to reverse the ever growing issue that our high demand for cacao has on the children forced into the slave trade in other countries.
Large corporations that sell chocolate such as Hershey and Nestle to name a few are prime contributors to the continuation of the slave trade as they have yet to stop dealing with the slave traders that take advantage of the children they have producing cacao for them. Due in part to the fact that they are a business making a large profit off of selling chocolate, why would these corporations modify their business strategies if the return on the dealings are more than what they are putting out? Anyone with a brain could see the logistics behind it, but there is a lack of morality in it all that we must acknowledge if we want to prevent future generations from experiencing something similar. The other cause of the never ending cycle that is the slave trade in the Cacao business is the consumer. These corporations pander to the people to ensure a sizeable return from satisfied consumers of their product. We play a sizeable role in the continuation of the diabolical process known as slavery and we must stop turning a blind eye to its prevalence and seek out alternatives that will not come at the expense of children trying to carve out a life for themselves.
According to a company called Slave Free Chocolate, these larger corporations
that produce chocolate, which have become a primary source of happiness in our
country and around the world, are doing very little to ensure the wrong doings placed
upon these innocent children are addressed and rectified. Hershey and Nestle
are two companies that have acknowledged the harsh reality that is child labor
and how they will attempt to limit their contributions to these farms that make
a profit off of the backs of younglings due to slave labor. However, in the
years following these announcements they have done nothing but prove that they
are incapable of changing their business practices to a healthier alternative.
Both corporations have been taken to court on a number of occasions in an
attempt to uncover the truth behind their business dealings, as well as hold
them accountable for negligence in regard to who they choose to do business
with. Their contributions to the slave labor running rampant in third world
countries like Ghana and Côte d’Ivoireare the reason these children are still
fighting for their lives.
salvaging alone for Cacao beans is not a simple process that your average adult
could simply begin without the proper tools and some form of guidance. Yet
children are being sent into the forest with sharp machetes and large sacks. They
climb dangerously tall trees in an attempt to harvest the cacao pods and bring
them back to their slavers so that they can begin farming for the cacao beans.
They are rushed by their slavers to cut open these Cacao pods to collect the
beans found inside, and the only way they can do this effectively is by using
the machetes provided to them. Many children are injured during this process as
the bean extraction from the plant requires them to hack open the pod with a
machete. There is always a risk that skin and appendages could be taken and still
these children partake in this dangerous task because they have no other
choice. The market calls for a high demand of Cacao and forcing an abundance of
children to produce a plethora of cacao is easier to do rather than hiring
adults and paying them a set wage.
The question then becomes are we to blame for being complicit, considering the children are in another country and are not our primary concern because they are not citizens of the United States? So long as they continue to contribute to a service that is provided to us, who cares if we turn our heads in the other direction right? Personally, I feel we have failed these individuals simply because as a country we are considered a super power and we control the eb and flow of the overall market. So, while we have the power to course correct these injustices our demand for the same product presents us with a paradox that is almost impossible to rectify. This alone demonstrates how subconsciously we are complicit because we possess the ability to correct these injustices and yet we are the reason they exist. Not all countries have the liberties we possess here in the United States, and eventually we have to acknowledge the fact that the ease of access to resources in the U.S. has created the lives these children currently lead. Subconsciously, we have been groomed in a way that allows us to be comfortable with getting what we want despite the steps taken to get us there. To take it a step further, let us acknowledge how much food is experimented with here and how America’s irregular consumption of the same foods in different forms has had an inverse effect on the slave trade and by extension the children.
popular belief cacao beans are not solely used to make chocolate. While there
are a variety of chocolates that are crafted from the plant, it is also the
reason we have certain drinks and alcoholic beverages such as Coffee and Brandy. Not to mention cacao
powder, liquor, butter, jam, marmalade etc. are all resources produced from
this one plant. Coffee which is a huge resource utilized by the American people
is right up there with chocolate as a hot commodity item. Corporations like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have perfected their sales techniques to make coffee an
adults signature “sweet treat.” Seasonal drinks like Pumpkin Spice Lattes and
Peppermint Mochas drive the masses wild and selling them during the
holidays means more work for the children.There are endless examples of how food has its properties modified to be
made into something else useful, but for the sake of this post it illustrates
why the cacao slave trade continues to make a sizeable profit. We have become codependent
on cacao and the many forms it takes and in the end the ones paying the price
are the children working to keep up with our demand for more of this popular
resource. What is even more tragic is the fact that we do not have to support
companies that make their profit off of the backs of innocent children when there
are companies out there that have demonstrated a suitable alternative exists.
There are small companies and corporations that are willing to pay foreigners a livable wage in order to produce the same chocolate products that we love, without putting children in harm’s way. Corporations like Tony’s Chocolonely make it their mission to deliver the consumer a product that is manufactured free from slave labor and in doing so take the fight directly towards corporations like Hershey and Nestle who refuse to change their business practices. They are so proud of these accomplishments that they label their products “free of slave labor” to encourage the consumer to purchase their product over their competitors. One of the primary reasons this is done is the hope that this will encourage larger corporations like Nestle and Hershey to stop dealing under the table with those who continue to practice the use of slave trade with children on their farms. Once they begin to lose business perhaps this cruel individuals may change the way they hire and pay their workers to something a bit more legal.
Keeping all of this in mind, what role can we play in fighting the war against slave labor to ensure that the number of children inducted into this terrifyingly inhumane practice are safe from trafficking moving forward? For starters we must stop funding these mega corporations that are only in the business to make a profit, and refuse to purchase from them again until they present substantial evidence that they are no longer doing business with slavers. As difficult as that may seem, considering these chocolate companies are already so ingrained into our everyday lives, and we as a society are subconsciously unaware of our complicities’ that have led to the slave trades continuous growth, we owe it to the children whose livelihoods are being sacrificed for a profit to bring forth positive change. We should focus our efforts and fund businesses like Tony’s Chocolonely as they have presented us with a more viable alternative for foreign workers who help produce cacao. Livable wages, safer work environments and zero slave labor. Furthermore, we owe it to future generations of children who are raised in the United States and beyond to seek out a safer alternative for years to come. If we did not try to undo these wrongs, how can we look our kids in the eyes and gift them with a candy bar that another child halfway around the world sacrificed so much to make? To that end, no matter the cost we have to do better and it starts by holding everyone accountable including ourselves for past discretions. When I become a parent, I would like to look into my child’s eyes one day and imagine I am looking at the eyes of a child halfway around the world whose future does not look as bleak as it originally used to.
Chocolate is a product whose production is too often ambiguous and somewhat unethical. It is never one’s intention to consume a product made through an unethical venue unless one is an especially evil and demented person whose goal is to exploit another for their own satisfaction. Sometimes, a delicious bite of chocolate comes with an unknown consequence. Ever since the public has become more aware of the exploitative process of child labor, slavery, and unfair pay that sometimes accompanies making chocolate, some companies have risen to the forefront of responsible chocolate by ensuring their process does not take advantage of anyone and by using the bean to bar tactic. Alter Eco is one of these companies who makes responsible bean to bar chocolate. They directly source 100 percent of their products from small scale farmers. They responsibly pay their farmers through the fair trade act and even provide their farmers with assistance that goes beyond fair trade pricing. They ensure their chocolate is quality by producing it in a controlled environment so it can be delivered to one’s door guilt free.
To understand why Alter Eco is such a responsible and rare company in the chocolate business, one must understand the meaning of bean to bar and why it is so important in today’s chocolate making climate. Bean to bar is a simple concept but seems to not be as prevalent as it should be in the chocolate industry. Bean to bar refers to a model of trade in which the company making the chocolate controls every aspect in the production of the chocolate itself.(1) This means that the company does not use middlemen when buying cacao, and controls where and how the chocolate is made up until the product is finished.(2) A common misconception with bean to bar is that it is conflated with the chocolate being artisan high quality chocolate. Many bean to bar chocolates are in fact high quality artisan chocolate still, including Alter Eco’s fine chocolates. A common misconception with bean to bar is that it is conflated with the chocolate being artisan high quality chocolate.(3)Many bean to bar chocolates are in fact high quality artisan chocolate still, including Alter Eco’s fine chocolates.
Problems plaguing the chocolate industry are extremely worrisome for the international community. Chocolate is too often not a victimless product, and child labor that breaks international law such as close to 1.8 million children who are subject to the worst forms of child labor on the Ivory Coast alone is used to produce the cacao that is consumed in chocolate bars.(4)The amount of child laborers being used is much higher than acceptable, although this problem is much more complicated than one might think. A lot of families depend on their children to help them with bringing in the cacao beans in farming season, but this also is not considered the worst form of child labor. (5)Slavery was the foundation of cacao production from its inception from the encomienda system up to the triangular trade system, and has not fully left the cacao production industry.(6) From the Cadbury case after slavery was abolished in West Africa where the Cadbury company continually bought cacao from known slave using farms to the forms of child slavery and slavery in the Ivory coast of Africa, slavery has plagued cacao production. (7)Too often farmers are forced to sell to middlemen for below the fair trade price which is a set price that has been adopted by some chocolate companies they have agreed to pay cacao farmers. (8) According to Green America’s chocolate scorecard, Mars, Nestle, and Hershey do not purchase sustainable cacao from farmers- sustainable meaning cacao is sold at a price at which the farmers can live off of- at a rate of 100%. In fact, Mars only purchases 50% certified cacao, Hershey checks in at around 70%, and Nestle at 42%.(9)This means that three of the top chocolate producers are not paying their cacao producers prices that they can even live off of.(10) This is an atrocity that Alter Eco is trying to address in their bean to bar process.
Alter Eco directly deals with their cacao farmers unlike many bigger corporations such as the Mars company who only used 50% certified cacao in 2017, and was given a C grade in the Chocolate scorecard which grades companies on where they get their cacao from, how much of it is certified and sustainable for farmers, and the programs that company has in place to help improve the cacao farmers situations.(17)Alter Eco received an A grade on this.(18) Alter Eco values their relationships with their small farm farmers, and they make it possible for small-scale, farmer owned cooperatives to be able to invest their profits directly into improving the quality of life and the quality of products in their communities.(19)All of Alter Eco’s products are 100% fair trade certified, which means that all of their farmers are paid fairly for their cacao and other products being bought from them.(20) This price ensures sustainable production and living conditions for the farmers and their families, and comes with a premium to help support the growth of cooperatives in the community.(21)This is much different than other larger chocolate corporations. These larger corporations have more capital and influence, yet do not wield it as well as Alter Eco does. For example, many larger companies buy cheap cacao through middlemen rather than directly going to the source like Alter Eco.(22) This is unsustainable cacao and Green America does a good job of measuring just how much sustainable cacao larger corporations purchase- not a lot. This is irresponsible on the part of these larger companies because of the potential of good they could do for the farmers- who on average are three times their yearly income in debt- if they just tried to be more conscious of social issues surrounding cacao production and chocolate production as Alter Eco is.
Not only does Alter Eco buy directly from small farmers at fair trade prices, but they provide assistance to their farmers past just a simple economic deal. Alter Eco supports programs that train members on the farms with programs ranging from agricultural workshops all the way to entrepreneurial workshops and education workshops for the children of the farmers. This is a long way from buying cacao from farms that employ children for little to no pay or even use child slavery.(23)They also provide medical exams for the farmers and their families, help to provide reforestation in the regions in which they buy chocolate, and even provide the farmers and their families with new stoves to combat the poorly ventilated stoves that a lot of cacao farmers typically have in their homes.(24)They also provide financial loans to their farmers if required which helps the farmers -who are often struggling financially- to be able to provide for their families in seasons that do not produce as much cacao as they might have hoped for.(25)Alter Eco clearly is socially responsible and has the people, not the payout on their mind as they go about buying their cacao beans straight from the source. This is why they received the high mark of an A from one of the most reputable social justice watchdogs in the food industry in Green America.
Once Alter Eco pays a Fair Trade price for their cacao that they buy directly from farmers that they have relationships with, they leave the beans to ferment for a week in a wooden crate.(26) This allows for the cacao’s pulp to liquify and for complex chemical changes in the bean itself to take place to enhance the flavor of the cacao. Once this process is finished, the beans are laid out under the sun until their moisture content reaches approximately seven percent. This can take up to three weeks to complete. Once the beans are dried, they are shipped to Alter Eco’s chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland.(27) When the beans arrive to Switzerland, they are roasted for hours to which brings out the flavor of the bean, and then the roasted beans are broken down and their skins are taken off. (28) These broken down pieces of cacao are known as nibs.(29)The nibs then are put under a heavy stone and ground down.(30) This process brings out cocoa butter from the beans and leaves the remaining cocoa mass. (31)The cocoa butter and cocoa mass are then put into the conching process. This process consists of the cocoa products being slowly mixed into other ingredients while slowly being heated throughout the conching process.(32) This process takes multiple hours, and the longer the cacao and other ingredients are conched, the better and smoother the chocolate will be.(33)Once the conching process is done, the chocolate is molded and packaged to be sent out for chocolatiers to enjoy.
Bean to bar chocolate is often one of the most socially responsible ways to make chocolate, especially when Alter Eco does it. There are plenty of issues in the chocolate industry that can not be fixed all at once, but Alter Eco is doing everything they can to ensure that they are making a difference in an industry packed with powerful corporations who should be more socially responsible than they are. The chocolate industry is plagued with child labor and modern day slavery that dehumanizes people. Farmers are not paid as well Alter Eco buys straight from the farmers of their cacao at a sustainable price for the farmers 100% through fair trade, so the farmers can have an income that will support their family year round, even in down years. Not only do they pay sustainable prices, but they go the extra mile to ensure that the farmer’s families are healthy, ensure their equipment is safe, loan extra money if they need, and have outreach programs to advance the lives of the farmers’ families and improve the quality of their products. They go above and beyond for their farmers because Alter Eco believes in contributing more into the world than they get out of it. From purchasing the beans from farmers who they have a relationship with up until the cacao is sent to Switzerland to be made into fine chocolate, Alter Eco is the premier responsible chocolate making bean to bar company. They provide a blueprint for what larger companies ought to be doing and contribute to the community of chocolate by making the most responsible bean to bar chocolate in the world.
In this paper, I argue that the production and consumption of chocolate has reproduced and perpetuated stereotypes of women as housewives and mothers in less pronounced ways from the eighteenth century to modern day. Not only does it cause this toxic, negative ideology of women in first world countries but it also makes women in third world countries, like Nigeria, become completely invisible to consumers. They are demoralized, undervalued, and subjected to poor working conditions as women working in the agricultural field. This paper will explore class-ism, racism, and sexism within the confines of the chocolate industry through advertisements and images. For supplementary evidence, I describe an interview that I have conducted. It will reveal common chocolate brands that many Americans enjoy, take for granted, and how they are unaware of ethical concerns associated with the everyday chocolate we consume. This will also include gender roles viewed in modern day.
I interviewed a woman that revealed a common and interesting relationship with chocolate. When I asked her what her favorite chocolates were, she said, “Lindt, the swiss brand, dark chocolate. You can get it at the mall and grocery stores. Its fancy but not difficult to access. I like the hollow dark chocolate bunny around Easter. Otherwise, Wegman’s semi-sweet chocolate chips because they are vegan and I like using them for recipes & baking.” The interviewee revealed a lot of information about her relationship with chocolate that can be echoed in many American preferences. One contemporary use is “Its fancy but not difficult to access.” Chocolate has become an inexpensive commodity since the nineteenth century to today, whereas in the sixteenth century after chocolate arrived in Europe, chocolate was predominantly enjoyed by the royal classes (“History of Chocolate”). Now our relationship with chocolate is one where it is easily accessible as the interviewee pointed out “at the mall and grocery stores” in places such as Europe, America, and Canada. Chocolate like Lindt could signify class mobility as the chocolate comes off “fancy” when consuming/enjoying or presenting it as a gift.
Chocolate advertisements portray the opportunity for class mobility (or giving the illusion to raise one’s class status), and they also are problematic because they sexualize and objectify women. Lindt while not only allowing people to appear “fancy,” Lindt aims to make women come off as sexy by portraying sexual readiness. Lindt (as well as many other well-known chocolate companies) attempt to appeal to women by using chocolate in or next to women’s mouths implying sexual connotations that depreciates the value and integrity of women. The ad may also have an effect on male purchasers of chocolate to “win over” a sexually available woman.
This ad (“LINDOR”) for Lindt chocolate represents how women are continuously portrayed as sexual objects rather than people. Viewing this ad, women may be led to believe that they will become the object of promiscuity and desire while men will view this and believe that chocolate can be used as some sort of aphrodisiac to unleash the wild side of the woman of their dreams perhaps.
Not only was the interview interesting because of class changes analyzed over time and objectification of women in relation to chocolate but the interview also availed domestic roles associated with baking recipes using chocolate. When asked about using chocolate in social contexts, the interviewee stated, “ I like making chocolate chip banana bread or chocolate peanut butter pie and bringing it to friends.” Alexis Szmodis in “The Feminization of Baking and Pastry Work: Dissecting Gender Roles in the Foodservice Industry” helps us to understand the fetishization of women using food in domestic roles. Szmodis elicits, “our perception of women as ‘sweet’ and desserts as feminine, which may explain why more women are showing interest in the baking and pastry field” (2018, p.10). Szmodis explains that women today are more likely to be interested in baking and creating sweets as a metaphor for their perceived behaviors (2018). I believe the influence is related to the socialization of women and commercial advertisements encourage these “motherly,” nurturing behaviors. Although women no doubt often hold professional careers, they also hold domestic roles in lesser frequency but while this role is not as visible it is still salient the role of women in families and romantic partnerships as a part-time housewife, who plays two roles in the domestic sphere and professional world. The below traditional advertisement (“New Recipes for Good Eating”) from the 1940’s and 1950’s exemplifies the ideology of fetishizing women as domestic housewives and the mindset has even spread partly in more modern times.
The cover of this cookbook (“New Recipes for Good Eating”) shows just how deep the cocoa industry has invaded the homes of families. We know now that sweets have next to no nutritional value and yet they are featured in a cookbook entitled “New Recipes for Good Eating” and yet this is hardly good eating. You can see that the woman’s role in the home is in the kitchen while watching over the children. Furthermore, you can see the kids trying to grab some of the food on the table to which the mother smiles gleefully in the background. She is meant to be proud of the food she’s cooked/baked as the kids desperately trying to grab the products of her labor indicates her success as a homemaker.
Women were depicted in sexists ways in chocolate advertisements starting in the 1930’s approximately. Early advertisements targeted women and embedded a gendered role. Old ads aimed to normalize the oppression of women and encouraged “motherly” duties: “This particular campaign (Special Mothers Campaign of 1930’s), designed for women’s magazines, showed children attempting to help their parents (usually the mother, particularly for girls) in gendered ways. Daughters attempt to bake and clean, for example, while sons try to polish their father’s shoes” (Robertson, 2009, p. 21). Women were assigned these roles and in the postwar, late 1940’s and 1950’s ads targeted women as housewives that would serve the family hot chocolate drinks (Robertson, 2009, p. 21) and catered to their husbands needs (with domestic tasks like cooking) (Robertson, 2009, p.22). Rowntree was a well known English company to create racist and sexist ads that still have an impact today in society even though his ads are not presented today (“Chocolate and women: The gendered history behind your sweet snack”).
This photo (“Chocolate and women: The gendered history behind your sweet snack”) illustrates how chocolate companies in the early 1900’s targeted mothers as providers of cocoa. Owning cocoa was not optional. It was a part of everyday life. In fact, this ad makes it seem as if the only way to get the family together (including the pets!) was to have cocoa on hand at all times. Even further, by using the word “danger” in the caption “Mother’s cocoa in danger,” the valuation of the cocoa is shown to be of paramount importance as if there’s a need to protect it.
The desirability of a housewife has been on a continuum until today. We see T.V. emphasizing domestic roles like Desperate Housewives and The Housewives of New York amongst other states in the U.S.. Interestingly shows like The Housewives of New York portray women with busy careers but still label these career-oriented women as “housewives.” We have yet to see a T.V., article, or other advertisement that has positive connotations for househusbands. A study discovered the attitude towards women today. The study states, “The results revealed that feminists were evaluated less favorably than housewives, and that the most negative attitudes toward feminists were expressed by authoritarian men” (Haddock and Zanna, 1994, p.1). This reveals that women are not as empowered as we have hoped. Women are preferred to stay at home and perform domestic duties rather than fight for and maintain equal rights in the workplace to have higher roles, equal pay, reproductive rights, and more. The modern Nesquik ad (“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) below encourages the role of women as mothers. The woman below is playful with her daughter (“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) and it implies she will be a good caregiver by providing her daughter with a chocolate drink.
This image (“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) was created for marketing purposes by Nesquik which is a purveyor of cocoa. There is a motherly figure holding a child which one can easily assume is the woman’s daughter. There are no male figures in the photo whatsoever. Next to the woman and girl is an advertisement for a Nesquik breakfast drink. The advertisement shows that in order to nurture a child and grow into the role of a mother, the consumption of Nesquik, and by associated cocoa is a must.
When men in society try to take on a domestic role, society does not share positive perceptions of men as we still associate domestic responsibilities as “feminine” or the woman’s obligation. A study discovered that “Research has found that househusbands suffer alienation and ostracism from a variety of sources” (Smith, 1998, p. 1). When roles are reversed or shared, hostility towards househusbands is great. Househusbands are sadly not welcomed in a society that looks favorable on men as the provider (not the sole one) as they are seen as taking away their masculinity when taking on these roles. Modern and tradition advertisements of food and domestication have taken part in encouraging these more traditions roles in less transparent ways. The language of modern advertisements does not blatantly say or imply sexist statements and promote housewife roles but through the actions of ads by looking more closely, one may see the inherent messages of promoting a double role of housewife and to a lesser degree career-oriented acceptance.
In Nigeria, women were meant to harvest and transport cocoa from the cocoa farms to markets where they would be sold for a great profit (Robertson, 2010). While the cocoa was revered and held high value amongst the land owners, the women who worked the fields to care for and then transport the cocoa were anything but. These women were not valued for the efforts they put into taking care of this cash crop (Robertson, 2010) and were treated similarly to beasts of burden as a consequence. In addition, despite their important role in the cocoa trade, women were paid less than men (Robertson, 2010). While men made approximately 50 to 60 cents per day for their labors, women were only paid approximately 30 to 35 cents per day (Robertson, 2010, p. 95). This is especially unfair due to the fact that these women were also expected by both society and their husbands to assume the role of caretaker of the children in their family while working as manual laborers simultaneously (Robertson, 2010).
As a result of the hard work output by them, these women aged in a harsher manner and grew weaker quicker as a result (Robertson, 2010). They were exposed to harsh conditions such as the raw elements as they worked outside, as well as to the harmful/poisonous pesticides used on a daily basis (Robertson, 2010) to protect the cocoa from their natural predators. It is unfortunate that modern technology was not made available to them in order to assist with the harvesting and transportation of cocoa (Robertson, 2010).
The chocolate industry has worked hard to appeal to white women and reinforce a domestic role and reduced women to objects available for display. In contrast, women in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa have been made invisible to the chocolate products we enjoy everyday as a method to keep consumers ignorant about the injustices the agricultural laborers are subjected to. While women in cacao take part in all stages of its production, women are devalued by not being given credit for their work, discriminated about what job tasks they are capable of, not paid fairly, face harsh working conditions, and have to do “housewife-like” tasks by taking care of children and are required to take care of the farm too. The chocolate industry has done a convincing job of oppressing women in different contexts and societies. White women are made very visible and West African women very invisible but both have devaluing principles in different ways. Chocolate companies are sexist and racist, and have actively reproduced inequalities for women through agricultural labor and their images they portray that help support traditional roles in a modern world. While changes of women’s roles are certain intact, women as equals in the workforce has a long way to go to stop oppressive mechanisms that encourage the modern housewife ideology and invisibility of African women laborers from the chocolate products we consume everyday.
E. R. (2010). Introduction and One: ‘A deep physical reason’: Gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption. In Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History(pp. 1-63). Manchester and New York, NY: Manchester University Press.
Robertson, E. (2010). Two: ‘The Romance of the Cocoa Bean’: Imperial and colonial histories. In Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History(pp. 64-131). Manchester and New York, NY: Manchester University Press.
Since chocolate was first discovered and loved by the Europeans, slave labor has been used to grow and harvest cacao. Slaves had to deal with horrific working conditions, malnourishment, and poor treatment from their owners—which caused life expectancy to be incredibly low. Even though slavery was abolished across the globe, many issues of forced labor and child labor still exist today. Cocoa farmers, especially in West Africa, have been depicted as either the exploiters—through their use of child labor and slavery like conditions—or the exploited—by big chocolate companies and the global market (Martin, Lecture 7 slide 23). For example of the exploiters, in Bitter Chocolate, the author points out that “Macko learned of another category of labour that he couldn’t quite fathom. What his informers described sounded a lot like slavery, and what made the stories even more horrifying was that it seemed the slaves were children” (Off 120). In regards to the exploited, when talking about the villagers who farm cacao, the author claims that “their primary activity here is to produce cocoa for the international market. As such, they earn just enough money from cocoa sales to pay for rice and cooking oil. There’s usually nothing left over” (Off 5). However, neither depiction is entirely accurate. There are much deeper issues than this simple binary suggests. According to Video 1 below, the number of child laborers more than doubled in Côte d’Ivoire from 2010 to 2015 to 1.6 million, and the government and big chocolate companies’ efforts to curb the issue have not worked. Also, as is seen in Figure 3, farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana receive only $0.50 and $0.84 per day, respectively—showing a huge divide between the compensation of the farmers and the profit of large chocolate companies. As is evident from these passages, there are major issues that surround the current marketplace for cacao. But, as consumers become more and more socially conscious about what they buy, some chocolate companies—and world organizations—have made it their mission to protect workers, pay them properly, and give their customers an ethically sourced and delicious product.
One such company is CACOCO, a Santa Cruz, California
based drinking chocolate company, started in 2014, that has made it their
mission to provide ethically sourced chocolate to its customers, and to protect
and help the Earth in the process. According to their website, “CACOCO is the
purest form of cacao directly sourced from beyond-organic farms, that not only
improve the health of the environment but produce a chocolate
that showcases the finer nuances of well-maintained soil and cultivation
and highlight the terroir of the region” (“About Us”). It is their stated
mission to “source the Earth’s purest ingredients from regenerative food
systems, provide customers healthy, safe and delicious products with
uncompromised quality, service and integrity, [and to] create and implement the
most sustainable methods and systems for our organization” (“About Us”).
In this course, we have raised many questions regarding the ethics of cocoa production. One of the main things we talked about is that some companies don’t know where exactly they are getting their cacao from, so they have no idea whether or not their product is ethically sourced. This means that they could be getting cacao from farms who use child labor or slave labor to grow and harvest their product. To counter this, all of CACOCO’s cacao is currently sourced from organic and regenerative farms in Ecuador (“About Us”). This way, they are able to know exactly where their product comes from, and they can more easily make sure that all of their cacao is produced and harvested the right way. Another main issue we discussed was fair and steady compensation. It is no secret that a very small portion of the profit from a chocolate bar goes to the farmer, but as Figure 2 shows, it is actually the smallest share overall at only 3%. To make matters worse, as the price of cacao—a commodity—fluctuates, so does the income of farmers, meaning a drop in the price of cacao can have a drastic impact on the farmers and their families.
Fortunately, CACOCO’s cacao is Fair Trade Certified, which
means that, according to Fair Trade USA, “producers
and businesses we work with adhere to strict labor, environmental, and ethics
standards that prohibit slavery and child labor and ensure cocoa growers receive a steady income,
regardless of volatile market prices” (“Where to Buy”). Thus, given their
certification, CACOCO checks the boxes for all these criteria—meaning that our
worries of slavery and child labor, as well as unstable and unsustainable
income that we discussed in class, are nothing to worry about when purchasing
chocolate from CACOCO.
CACOCO even goes
a step further in their efforts for ethically and sustainably sourced cacao by
trying to help the Earth in the process, as all of their packaging is
compostable and made from 100% recycled materials (“About Us”). Their website
even claims that “each purchase
you make of CACOCO Drinking Chocolate directly supports the vision of a planet
where natural ecosystems are managed intelligently, resources are utilized
respectfully, and people are treated well at each step of the process” (“About
Us”). CACOCO is also working with Terra Genesis International (TGI) “to build a
regenerative network of businesses committed to rebuilding supply chains based
on regenerative principles” (“About Us”). Thus, CACOCO seems to be doing
all it can to create an ethically and sustainably sourced chocolate product.
On the other hand, some companies have been slow to change—or have yet to change much at all. One such example is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which is now owned by Lindt & Sprüngli. I want to specifically name Ghirardelli inside of the Lindt umbrella in order to emphasize how close to home these problems are—because Ghirardelli chocolate is everywhere in the US, especially in retail stores. According to Lindt & Sprüngli’s 2017 annual report, Ghirardelli ranks No. 3 in the US in terms of dark chocolate sales (Lindt). Ghirardelli also became the No. 2 baking brand in the United States in 2011 (“About Ghirardelli”). Thus, it is important to emphasize that when I discuss Lindt & Sprüngli, I am also discussing Ghirardelli (and vice versa).
Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was founded in 1852 in San
Francisco, California. In 1865, “a Ghirardelli
employee discovers that by hanging a bag of chocolate mass in a warm room, the
cocoa butter drips out, leaving a residue that can be processed into ground
chocolate. This is known as the Broma process and produces a more intense
chocolate flavor than other techniques” (“About Ghirardelli”). Shortly thereafter, the company expanded their business
from the western United States to the eastern United States, China, Mexico and
Japan (“About Ghirardelli”). In 1965,
Ghirardelli Square became an official city landmark, and later received
National Historic Register status—solidifying itself as a staple of the Bay
Area (“About Ghirardelli”). It has also
partnered with Disney to create a Disney Studio Store in Hollywood, and continued
to innovate with their famous Ghirardelli Squares—turning classic treats into
best-selling holiday and dark chocolate candies (“About Ghirardelli”). They were acquired by Lindt & Sprüngli in 1998 (“About Ghirardelli”).
Ghirardelli chocolate, over the past one hundred and fifty years, has become an American staple in the chocolate industry. However, they have been slow to fight the injustices of the chocolate supply chain. They claim to “comply with high standard of ethics and sustainability in the procurement of our raw materials and in their processing into high-quality LINDT chocolate” (“The Commitment”). However, contrary to CACOCO, Lindt has no fair trade or labor certifications as of 2017 (Figure 1). Instead, they are “self-certified.” Although this beats no certification, their self-certification doesn’t hold them to the rigid standards of Fair Trade Certifications, and they aren’t accountable to anyone outside of themselves. But, in their defense, Lindt has instituted a program called the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, which aims to “to trace ingredients back to their origin and support farmers according to their specific needs” (“Sustainably”). This program supports local farmers and helps them to apply “good agricultural, social, environmental and business practices in the management of their farms” (“Sustainably”). This allows Lindt to also verify social and environmental practices of the farms within the program in order to make sure their cacao is ethically and sustainably sourced (“Sustainably”). Lindt also aims to limit intermediaries—or “middle men”—between themselves and the farms to make sure they receive fair payment for their product (“Sustainably”).
According to their website, “over 85% of
Ghirardelli cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli farming
program” (“Sustainable Cocoa”). And, as of 2017, 79% of Lindt’s cocoa was
certified (Figure 1). Although these numbers are higher than some chocolate companies,
that means that 15% of the cocoa beans Ghirardelli gets have unknown origins
(at least based on their website, which has no further mention of where the
other 15% of cocoa beans come from) and 21% of Lindt’s total cacao in 2017 went
uncertified. CACOCO sources 100% of their cacao beans from regenerative and organic
farms in Ecuador—meaning none of the cacao’s origins are unknown. Thus,
Ghirardelli doesn’t know whether or not some of their cacao comes from farms
with poor working conditions, slave and child labor, or unfair wages. However,
Lindt has made it their goal to go to 100% certified cacao by 2020—which would
be a major step towards fixing issues of the cacao supply chain (Figure 1).
In addition to Lindt’s farming program,
they have also introduced the Lindt & Sprüngli Suppler Code of Conduct Agreement
and the Lindt Cocoa Foundation. The Code establishes “minimum standards, such
as requirements regarding industrial wastewater treatment, air emission and
environmental reporting” while also prohibiting the use of “corruption,
bribery, discrimination and child labor” (“Sustainably Sourced”). The Code also
“insists on freely chosen employment, fair compensation and working conditions,
as well as freedom of association and obligates suppliers to pass these
principles on to sub-suppliers” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Any purchase
order made by Lindt requires the supplier to sign the Code of Conduct
Agreement, and failure to uphold these obligations results in termination of
the supplier contract (“Sustainably Sourced”). Secondly, the Lindt Cocoa
Foundation’s job is “ to work towards achieving social and ecological
sustainability in the cultivation, production and processing of cocoa and other
ingredients used in chocolate production” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Thus,
with these two initiatives, Lindt is trying to fix many of the issues that
plague their cocoa supply chain—although without outside certification, it is
harder for consumers to judge the strength and reach of these initiatives. Although
this is a step in the right direction, Lindt has a lot more to prove to consumers
that want to hold them accountable—and it starts with some sort of third-party
certification, such as a Fair Trade Certification, and meeting their goal of
100% certified cacao by 2020.
Both companies are running initiatives to try to combat
the problems of the cacao supply chain. CACOCO is a relatively new company that
epitomizes the direction of which consumers are heading in regards to socially
and environmentally conscious consumption. CACOCO is Fair Trade Certified,
provides zero waste packaging, and preaches the importance sustainability, responsibility,
and health—all in an effort to maximize consumer and producer happiness. Ghirardelli,
on the other hand, is not Fair Trade Certified, but they are fighting injustice
in other ways. Their farming program, along with the Lindt Cocoa Foundation and
the Supplier Code of Conduct Agreement, are making steps towards a more
transparent and equitable growing and harvesting environment in their cacao
supply chain. With the completion of their goal of 100% certified cacao by
2020, they too would be well on their way towards creating a better, more
equitable, and safer world in cacao farming.
As consumers, it is our duty to be as conscious as we can in order to create change. Companies that are doing the right thing, that are fighting the injustices of the cocoa supply chain, are the ones that should receive our money. As more and more issues are brought to light, it is up to us to hold these companies accountable for their sourcing of raw materials, and to make sure it is done as sustainably, and equitably, as possible—because we have as much of a duty to make a difference as they do.
One of the most pressing ethical issues concerning the chocolate industry is the poverty suffered by many cacao farmers around the world. Cacao farmers in Ghana, for example, generally make less than $2USD per day, which is insufficient for farmers to feed themselves and their families, even though the cost of living in Ghana is much lower than in the United States and other Western nations (Leissle 2018). Farmers also rarely have any control over the price of their cacao, as large corporations, weather, and politics all exert a large amount of influence on the price of cacao beans. Furthermore, this economic poverty is only amplified by the environmental degradation that often accompanies large amounts of agriculture. Recently, there has been a movement among chocolate companies, facilitated by consumer demand, to produce chocolate using ethically-sourced cacao in order to mitigate the destructive forces of capitalism in the Global South. One company working in this realm is Madécasse. By facilitating close relationships with cacao producers in Madagascar, Madécasse demonstrates how chocolate companies can work to provide better pay and living conditions for cacao farmers and invest in an environmentally sustainable enterprise – all while making chocolate that tastes great.
Madécasse was founded in 2008 by two Americans, Tim McCollum and Brett Beach, who had both previously served on the Peace Corps in Madagascar (Madécasse LLC 2019). This experience prompted McCollum and Beach to want to do more to help the people of Madagascar, and thus Madécasse was born. On the Madécasse website, their mission is stated as “a journey to flip the chocolate world right-side up” (Madécasse LLC 2019). This suggests that their purpose is revolutionary, and that in their view, the chocolate industry is in need of serious reform. Their stated mission is two-fold: first, to make the best-tasting, highest-quality chocolate from organic, “heirloom cacao” from Madagascar, and second, to remove middlemen from the chocolate production chain (Madécasse LLC 2019). One of the biggest problems in the chocolate industry that they aim to tackle through their business is “the thousands of miles and layers of middlemen” that separate farmers from chocolate producers and consumers, and they do this by conducting every stage of the chocolate production chain in Madagascar itself (Madécasse LLC 2019).
One major way in which Madécasse is working to create a better Madagascar is by implementing business processes that work to ameliorate the poverty suffered by farmers in Madagascar. This is incredibly important, as Madagascar is considered one of the poorest countries in the world today, with 90% of people living on less than $2 USD per day, and 62% of the population living below the extreme poverty line, which is defined by the International Monetary Fund as an income that is less than what it would cost to consume 2,100 calories per day (Engstrom et al. 2015). Additionally, approximately 80% of the population lives in rural areas, and most of these people rely on subsistence farming to make a living.
The cacao industry in Madagascar is also relatively small compared to that of nations such as Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, as Madagascar produces less than 1% of the world’s cacao (Schatz 2016). However, Malagasy cacao is very highly-valued among Western chocolate companies, because it is genetically distinct and has a unique flavor (Watkins 2012). Combined with the high poverty in Madagascar, the value of cacao has led people to start stealing it (Katz 2014). The photo below depicts a cacao producer who keeps a gun at his desk to deter thieves. This display highlights not only how valuable cacao is to the farmers that grow it in Madagascar, but also how desperately poor so many Malagasy people are.
But despite how coveted cacao is as a primary product, cacao farmers globally tend to only receive an extremely small proportion of the profits from sales of chocolate. In the diagram below from Make Chocolate Fair!, a European organization that advocates for fair trade in the chocolate industry, cocoa producers on average only receive approximately 6.6% of the profits from chocolate.
Additionally, prices for primary agricultural products such as cacao tend to have the most volatile prices. Prices are not determined by typical supply and demand processes, rather, these products are treated as investments, and prices are determined by investor speculation (Sylla 2014). Both the low share of the profits from chocolate given to farmers and the unstable prices contribute to the economic inequalities between the Global North and South. However, there has been a growing movement to correct these issues and achieve greater equity in global trade. As a result, a few different strategies have been implemented, with the goal of correcting the trade injustice that leads to the majority of the profits going to the company, while farmers live in poverty. One of the most well-known of these initiatives is Fairtrade.
Fairtrade is a label overseen by Fairtrade International, a non-profit organization that oversees third-party labelling of products that confirms that both companies and farmers are complying with specific trade terms (Leissle 2018). Fairtrade has several requirements, including that producers must practice environmentally sustainable farming, and that they adhere to International Labor Organization rules for hired workers, including protecting children from the worst forms of child labor. Fairtrade producers also receive a minimum price for their cocoa, as well as a price premium for upholding Fairtrade policies, which both serve to protect producers from price volatility. The major benefit of Fairtrade is that this labelling helps to make consumers more aware of where their food is coming from, which can create greater accountability among consumers when they are choosing which products to buy.
However, Fairtrade is not a perfect system. For example, producer organizations are required to pay a fee to be certified, which can add to the financial challenges that producers of agricultural products already face (Leissle 2018). It becomes increasingly problematic because this cost is not passed on to consumers through, for example, making Fairtrade chocolate more expensive. This is done to keep Fairtrade chocolate competitively priced. Furthermore, the price floor set by Fairtrade International is still quite low, at around $2000 USD per metric ton of cacao (Leissle 2018). While this prevents cacao prices from dropping below that value, it does not incentivize chocolate companies to pay any more for their cacao, and thus the Fairtrade price of cacao has remained fairly stagnant. Finally, Fairtrade labelling can have the negative side effect of decreasing transparency among major players in the chocolate industry. While the increase in demand for ethically-sourced cacao has pressured major chocolate producers to communicate more information about the sources of their cacao, some companies like Cadbury have opted to use internal certification schemes, which are difficult to assess the robustness of (Leissle 2018).
According to Madécasse, Fairtrade is simply a label that allows large chocolate companies to remain disconnected from cacao producers, but to still indicate to some unspecified extent that they are ethically sourcing their cacao (Madécasse LLC 2019). Madécasse is not Fairtrade certified; rather, they are Direct Trade certified, and they believe that this distinction not only makes their operations more transparent to consumers, but also allows them to do a better job than other companies of improving conditions for cocoa farmers.
In contrast to Fairtrade, which is basically just a labelling system, Direct Trade actually alters the structure of the commodity chain in chocolate production. Essentially, Direct Trade removes middle men from the commodity chain (Leissle 2018; Madécasse LLC 2019). Companies buy directly from farmers, which increases the amount that farmers can make for their products. In her book, Cocoa, Kristy Leissle describes the process of Direct Trade with the example of Taza Chocolate. Taza’s goal is primarily to source the highest-quality cacao, but in order to do that, they are willing to pay a higher price for the beans (Leissle 2018). For example, Taza paid cacao suppliers Maya Mountain Cacao and Cacao Verapaz over 75% more than the 2015 average price of bulk cacao. Not only does Taza pay more, but they pay farmers directly, and this also allows them to invest resources to help producers maintain a high standard of quality of their cacao.
Similarly, Madécasse emphasizes the importance of maintaining close relationships with cacao farmers in Madagascar and paying producers more than average for their cacao. On the company website, Madécasse emphasizes that they are fully integrated into communities in Madagascar, and it is this close connection with the local people that allows them to make a positive impact. One way in which Madécasse has contributed to growth of the cacao and chocolate industry in Madagascar is by providing farmers with the infrastructure to ferment and dry cacao beans themselves so that they can sell dried cacao beans instead of wet ones, which allowed farmers to increase their income by 60% (Madécasse LLC 2019). Dry beans are much more profitable than wet cacao beans because they have gone through the extra processing steps of fermenting and drying (Leissle 2018). By providing Malagasy cacao farmers with the equipment to begin the processing of cacao, Madécasse has made an investment that will help cacao farmers begin to make more money for their product in the long term.
Furthermore, Madécasse is unique because they have pledged to make chocolate where it is grown in Madagascar. To date, they have made over 4 million chocolate bars in Madagascar (Madécasse LLC 2019). By integrating cocoa farmers and the Malagasy people into the commodity chain of chocolate production, it gives them more agency over the final product. Additionally, it helps to expand the chocolate market beyond just Western nations. For example, South African consumers have expressed a demand for chocolate made in Madagascar (Watkins 2012), which indicates that high-quality chocolate can be made in Africa, and the demand for it does exist.
However, the work that Madécasse is doing in Madagascar is not without its challenges. One major issue is scaling the business up in order to meet increasing demand, as Madécasse chocolate can now be found in Whole Foods stores in the U.S. (Schatz 2016). The challenges with producing chocolate in the country where it is grown are exemplified in the graph below, from the Madécasse website, which depicts the proportion of their chocolate that is made in Madagascar.
In the initial years of the business, 100% of their chocolate was produced in Madagascar, but as demand increased, Madécasse elected to move a large percentage of their production outside of Madagascar (Schatz 2016). Madécasse states that they are committed to eventually moving 100% of their production back to Madagascar in the next few years (Madécasse LLC 2019). However, the necessity of moving production outside of Madagascar until factories have the capacity to produce a sufficient volume of chocolate highlights one of the major issues with the ethical, bean-to-bar chocolate business model, which is that making a tangible difference for cacao farmers and their families requires well-developed infrastructure that many cacao-producing countries simply lack. Therefore, the challenge of scale is one that small chocolate companies like Madécasse must address going forward.
A second problem that Madécasse is becoming increasingly involved in helping to fix is deforestation and biodiversity loss in Madagascar. Madagascar is home to a large number of endemic species – over 85% of the animals on Madagascar are unique to the island – and over 90% of those species depend on the forest as their habitat (England, Ratsimbazafy, and Andrianarinana 2017; Harper et al. 2007). Furthermore, between 1950 and 2000, Madagascar lost 40% of its already-diminishing forest cover, and much of that deforestation can be linked to subsistence farming (Harper et al. 2007).
Madécasse has become increasingly vocal about environmental issues in Madagascar; the company recently published a report on their environmental impact, based on work with local people (England, Ratsimbazafy, and Andrianarinana 2017). This report demonstrated that cacao farms are actually a common habitat for many of Madagascar’s endemic species. This discovery led to a partnership with Conservation International and the Bristol Zoo to research the lemurs that live in the cacao forests. The importance of conservation in the company’s values is reflected in their packaging. As of 2016, Madécasse has redesigned their logo to include a lemur holding a cacao pod, which signifies that the company is aware that their business is tightly intertwined with the ecosystem of Madagascar. Furthermore, this packaging signals to consumers that Madécasse is interested in working to save and expand habitats for endangered species in Madagascar. Indeed, in an interview with Forbes, Madécasse co-founder Tim McCollum says that the company hopes to reforest an entire valley to use as a habitat for rescue lemurs (Schatz 2016). This is possible, he says, because the increased value of their cacao has allowed some farmers to replant old rice land, previously used for subsistence farming, into cacao forests. Thus, Madécasse is aware that their business’ positive impact on the people of Madagascar can also extend to the island’s ecosystem.
Madécasse is thus an exceptional model for other chocolate companies. The goal of making chocolate from start to finish in the places where it is grown provides companies a great opportunity to make a positive impact on cacao farmers who today often barely make enough income to feed their families. Maintaining close relationships with cacao farmers and providing them with the resources to earn a sustainable, higher income is beneficial for the cacao farmers, chocolate producers, chocolate consumers, and for the environment as a whole. The result of business practices, such as those applied by Madécasse, is a high-quality product that consumers can feel good about purchasing and that truly makes a difference for those involved in every stage of its production.
Engstrom, Lars, Patrick Imam, Priscilla Muthoora, and Alex Pienkowski. 2015. “Republic of Madagascar: Selected Issues.” 15. IMF Country Report. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund.
Harper, Grady J., Marc K. Steininger, Compton J. Tucker, Daniel Juhn, and Frank Hawkins. 2007. “Fifty Years of Deforestation and Forest Fragmentation in Madagascar.” Environmental Conservation34 (4): 325–33. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0376892907004262.
Seldom will the average consumer find a chocolate company as unique as Tony’s Chocolonely. From its irregularly divided bars representing the inequality in the chocolate industry, to its quirky name referencing the founder’s sense of solitude as a crusader against slavery in the industry, all of the company’s efforts aim for ethical reform through delicious chocolate. This Dutch company arose from the investigative journalism work of Teun “Tony” van de Keuken. After discovering the reality of slavery in the cocoa industry, Tony sought to tackle the issue himself. He realized the importance of consumer responsibility in reinforcing these industrial injustices, going so far as to “prosecute [him]self for buying and eating chocolate” that involved slavery in its production (Tony’s, “The Story”).
Thus, Tony’s Chocoloney was founded on the principle of producing completely “slave free chocolate” and influencing chocolate makers around the globe to follow suit. Its products, characterized by bright colors and eye-catching designs, are emblazoned with company’s mission: “Together we make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate” (Tony’s, Report 11).
This mission is not only applied toward its own products; Tony’s also aspires to elevate the worldwide chocolate industry to this same standard. Tony’s takes a holistic approach to transforming the chocolate industry from within. This begins with grassroots community efforts at the local farmer level, continues through to consumer transparency, and extends beyond to the global chocolate industry. Tony’s Chocolonely hopes to leverage its loyal customer base and prominence in the Dutch market to alleviate ethical issues in the global cacao-chocolate supply chain.
Tony’s dedication to ethical chocolate starts with the social and economic well-being of its cocoa farmers and continues through every ingredient and packaging material. These steps trace the company’s five sourcing principles for 100% slave free chocolate: traceable cocoa beans, higher prices, strong farmers, long-term sustainability, and improved quality and productivity.
Each of these social, economic, and political tactics is tailored to the key players in Tony’s chocolate supply chain: cocoa farmers, chocolate makers, stores, fans, and governments (Tony’s, Report 13). Beginning with the farmers, Tony’s has been strategic in choosing which cocoa-producing regions to work with. Rather than shying away from countries with severe social abuses in farming, the company has embraced them head-on. After discovering the prevalence of slavery in West Africa, Tony’s formed partnerships with five cocoa farming cooperatives in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. This direct contact with farmers at the local community level has been necessary to target the engrained unjust cultural practices. Tony’s works with farmers on a personal level to address social, financial, and educational issues. The company sources 100% of its cocoa beans from these five cooperatives, establishing balanced relationships through which it can introduce fundamental institutional changes. Tony’s engages in direct trade with these farmers, eliminating profits lost by the farmers to intermediaries in the supply chain. This direct contact also helps develop strong, stable long-term relationships that enable the cooperatives to grow and organize.
Principles Over Profits
Financial stability is one of the most pressing issues facing West African cocoa farmers. This problem has been poorly addressed in the chocolate industry due to incomplete or misdirected efforts. A popular suggestion involves paying higher prices for cocoa; however, this approach fails in many cases if the national government is the intermediary between the farmers and the global market, or if national policies incentivize the cultivation of other crops (Off 146, Martin slide 40). Cocoa farmers are paid the farm gate price for their beans, but this may not reflect the global market price. However, farmers can enhance their earnings through certification premiums. All of Tony’s cocoa farmers are Fairtrade certified; however, this still does not relieve them from financial insolvency. Due to its pervasiveness and widespread effects, poverty is Tony’s target and root cause of labor abuses.
Considering these challenges, Tony’s goal to pay farmers living wages—enough to hire adult workers and send their children to school—seems almost quixotic. To work towards this goal, the company has instituted an additional Tony’s premium that bypasses institutional middlemen and directly benefits farmers: “We pay the extra Tony’s premium straight to the cooperatives of our partner farmers, so not every link in the chain (such as local and international traders, cocoa processers or bar manufacturers) in the chocolate chain receives a percentage of this higher premium” (Tony’s, Report 27). During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, on top of the Fairtrade premium of $200 per metric ton, Tony’s paid an additional $400 per metric ton in the Ivory Coast and an additional $175 in Ghana (103). Thus, the cooperative farmers in the Ivory Coast received a payment 47% greater than the farm gate price; in Ghana, 21% greater (29). The additional Tony’s premium is also dynamic, taking into account the current cocoa market, farm family size, cost of family sustenance, and agricultural input costs. For example, in response to the 2016 excess Ivorian cocoa harvest, Tony’s more than doubled its premium to compensate for the decline in farm gate price. This contrasts from the nearly static Fairtrade price and premium, which will be updated in late 2019 from their 2011 values (Fairtrade).
The Proof is in the (Chocolate) Pudding
One of the unique aspects of Tony’s relationships with farmers is its comprehensive analysis of progress. Tony’s has partnered with the KIT Royal Tropical Institute, “an independent centre of expertise and education for sustainable development,” to investigate the impact of its efforts on local communities (KIT 2). The interviews documented in the FAIR Report indicate that the farmers have generally positive feelings toward their relationships with Tony’s. The cooperative managers have a greater sense of ownership and confidence in their farms. Women in the cooperatives are more empowered and can contribute tangibly to the cocoa communities. Overall, farmers appreciate the additional Tony’s premium, but there is no explicit evidence regarding the extent to which the premiums have directly increased their incomes (Tony’s, Report 36). Although increased living incomes is one of Tony’s goals for its farmers, these economic efforts are also intended to indirectly prevent systemic causes of slavery and child labor.
The Climb for Ethical Labor with CLMRS
Tony’s efforts at eradicating slavery and child labor extend beyond the economic sphere in its collaboration with the Child Labor Monitoring Remediation System (CLMRS). This system was founded by the International Cocoa Initiative and Nestle to track, target, and eradicate child labor in the cocoa industry (Nestle 23). Tony’s has thoroughly embraced this system by mobilizing local communities to “actively and structurally [search] for child labor” (Tony’s, Report 1). The system is centered on the CLMRS community facilitators. trained individuals who spread awareness of prohibited forms of child labor among local communities. These facilitators visit farmers at their homes to interview both farmers and children to identify the children at greatest risk for child labor. They also hold awareness sessions to teach farmers about fair labor practices. From an interview with KIT, an administrative manager at an Ivorian cooperative indicated his involvement in CLMRS has enabled him to “educate people and strengthen groups” and fulfill a personal goal of being a “role model for the youth” (34).
One of the major strengths of this system is its focus on the collective local identity and social solidarity of cocoa communities through personal interaction. However, this also leads to inefficiencies including incomplete data collection and difficulties in data analysis. In 2017, CLMRS found 268 cases of child labor—primarily children performing dangerous tasks on family farms—and no cases of modern slavery. Very reasonably, Tony’s admits this may be an underestimate. However, after only one year of working with CLMRS, it has visited over 3,000 households and interviewed nearly 4,000 children (Tony’s, Report 40). On a larger scale, CLMRS spans multiple companies in West Africa, and its overall performance shows promising signs of progress. As of 2017, CLMRS as a whole identified nearly 15,000 cases of child labor, over half of whom were longer in child labor three years later (USDOL 74). Considering this broader progress, Tony’s appears to be on an upward trajectory of identifying and eliminating child labor.
Tony’s Chocolonely also prioritizes education—of both producers and consumers—as a proxy for social change. The company invests in agricultural education and works with farmers to improve their yields through sustainable farming practices. They help develop skills for cultivating cocoa and other crops, for higher farm productivity and less dependency on cocoa. Focusing on education helps target and prevent inequalities that arise downstream in the supply chain. The company seeks to “professionalize farming cooperatives and farms, giving them more power to structurally change inequality” (Tony’s, Report 27). In addition to educating farmers and managers, Tony’s also provides children with direct resources to help them attend school. Its efforts range from arranging birth certificates and health insurance to distributing school supplies and bicycles. Rather than fixing surface-level issues of productivity and management, Tony’s targets the core of the problem, laying a solid foundation to enable the farmers to grow.
Scrutiny in Sourcing
Another ethical point of contention along the cocoa-chocolate supply chain is the sourcing and sustainability of ingredients. Since Tony’s engages in direct trade with its five cooperatives for all of its cocoa beans, it is able to maintain complete transparency and traceability throughout the process. All of its cocoa beans are 100% traceable, meaning Tony’s knows exactly who produced the beans, under what conditions they were produced, and the path they took to arrive at its bean warehouse in Antwerp, Belgium (Tony’s, Report 27). Another key ingredient, cocoa butter, has also come under scrutiny regarding sourcing and sustainability. Tony’s produces its cocoa butter in conjunction with Barry Callebaut in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast. The company focuses on improving sustainability in cocoa butter production by using locally grown mid-crop beans (52). Because these beans are out of season and lower in quality, the Ivorian government prohibits them from export. Consequently, cocoa farmers generate significantly less income during the off season. However, these beans can still be used to produce cocoa butter, which is exactly what Tony’s does. It also pays these farmers the same Tony’s additional premium, allowing them to maintain a more stable income year-round.
In addition to its cacao products, Tony’s also pays close attention to the sourcing of its various flavorings and chocolate add-ins. The FAIR Report displays a traceability map of the main ingredients in various chocolate products (80-81). This includes basic ingredients such as Fairtrade cane sugar from Mauritius, to limited edition flavorings such as red wine powder from France. The company doesn’t stop at only the edible ingredients; they also take into consideration their packaging. Their chocolate wrappers are made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified recycled paper and printed with plant-based inks in a climate neutral and environmentally friendly facility. Furthermore, the pages of the FAIR report were printed on paper made from recycled sugar cane leaves and corn cobs (127).
The other side of Tony’s chocolate industry mission is its consumer base. The company relies on its loyal Dutch fans and growing international customers to spread its chocolate and mission. One of the most recent initiatives to spread consumer awareness is the Tony’s Chocotruck Tour featuring the “Bean to Bar Journey.” This unique approach to fighting the “‘anonymity’ of the market” sensitizes consumers so they know conditions of production of the goods they consume (Sylla 47).
The colorful truck is adorned with bright lights and operated by enthusiastic Tony’s employees eager to share both Tony’s chocolate and mission. This fun, jovial atmosphere contrasts from the sobering message that the company is trying to convey: slavery and child labor are ubiquitous in the chocolate industry, and consumers and companies must take action. Through the tour, Tony’s seeks “to meet loads of new chocofans and serious friends who will share our chocolate and our story” (Tony’s “Chocotruck”). The truck contains interactive displays highlighting labor abuses in the chocolate industry, as well as Tony’s efforts to remediate them. It begins with staggering statistics revealing human trafficking, slavery, and child labor on cocoa farms. The displays continue by describing Tony’s various measures and sourcing principles to address the issue. The focus on consumer interaction— “The choice is yours. Are you in?”—makes visitors feel like they are directly involved in impacting these injustices.
Finally, Tony’s has also worked with the Dutch government in an attempt to pass legislation addressing corporate responsibility of child labor. The “Zorgplicht Kinderarbeid” Child Labor Due Diligence Act would require businesses in the Netherlands to declare that they are taking all necessary measures to prevent child labor, identify the risks of child labor in their supply chains, and address these risks to the best of their abilities (Beltman 1). Although this bill would have only applied to Dutch businesses, it was an earnest attempt at governmentally enforceable change in the political sphere. Despite Tony’s petition including 42 cocoa businesses and over 13,000 signatures, the bill failed to pass the Dutch Upper House (Tony’s, Report 66). The company admitted that efforts at government progress in child labor due diligence have been met with resistance. However, the wide support of the petition demonstrated that the company has succeeded in spreading awareness and inspiring others to act. Despite the lack of political progress, Tony’s shows no signs of resignation.
Solidairy-ty in the Industry
Overall, Tony’s Chocolonely presents a wide array of strategies aimed at their singular mission of 100% slave free chocolate. These principles have helped Tony’s excel in spreading awareness among consumers, and it hopes to further inspire other chocolate companies to act. However, no single company can successfully address every complex ethical issue in the chocolate industry. Tony’s has a significant presence in the Netherlands, but Dutch chocolate is only a fraction of the global industry, in terms of consumption and economy (ICO 39-40). Additionally, Tony’s currently works with approximately 5,000 individual farmers in West Africa, only about 0.2% of the total 2.5 million farmers in region (Tony’s, Report 34). The company values strong personal relationships with its farmers, but this comes as a tradeoff to the breadth of its influence. Finally, Tony’s mission of slave free chocolate may initially seem like too simplistic of a goal. If the company were to approach this mission exclusively through traditional tactics of policy, certifications, or consumer pressure, this would indeed be too low a bar. However, Tony’s uses an innovative, holistic approach to targeting systemic social, economic, and political issues at different stages within the supply chain. These principles, combined with over-the-top enthusiasm for its “chocofan” consumers, are helping Tony’s transform the chocolate industry’s ethical standards from within.
Works Cited: Scholarly Sources
Beltman, Henk Jan. “A Law on the Duty of Care for Child Labour Seriously Tackles the Issue of Child Labour.” Received by Senate of the Netherlands: Standing committee for foreign affairs, defence and development cooperation, 3 October 2017, The Hague, Netherlands.
Fairtrade International. Fairtrade Minimum Price and Fairtrade Premium Table. Bonn, Germany: Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. 28 March 2019.
International Cocoa Organization Executive Committee. The World Cocoa Economy: Past and Present. London, United Kingdom: International Cocoa Organization. 18–21 September 2012.
KIT Royal Tropical Institute. Annual Report 2017. Amsterdam, Netherlands. 2017.
Martin, Carla D. “Modern Day Slavery” AAAS 119X, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University. 27 Mar. 2019.
Nestle Cocoa Plan. Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Vevey, Switzerland. 20 June 2017.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: the Dark Side of the Worlds Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.
Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio University Press, 2014.
Tony’s Chocolonely. “The Bean to Bar Journey – Chocotruck Tour.” Tony’s Chocolonely, 2019, tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/chocotruck.
Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely – the story of an unusual chocolate bar.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 15 October 2015. Web.
Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely – Tony’s Bean to Bar Journey.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 7 March 2019. Web.
Tony’s Chocolonely. “Tony’s Chocolonely USA on Instagram: ‘Girl Power! These Ladies Supply Cocoa Beans to ECOJAD, Our Partner Cooperative in Ivory Coast. This Picture Was Taken on Their Cassava…”.” Instagram, 2 August 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/Bl_lLgXBgts/.