Tag Archives: Cadbury

Cadbury Bros. and the Chocolate Islands Scandal

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (28)
Image displayed on page 28 in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton. The image shows an early Cadbury’s Cocoa advertisement. Printed in 1907 version. By Isabella Beeton. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1908, a report by Cadbury Bros. agent Joseph Burtt detailing practices of slave labor in the Portuguese-owned “chocolate islands” of Sao Tome and Principe began circulating in Britain (Satre 73); and in March of the following year, the Quaker-owned firm announced its decision to cease the purchase of cocoa from the islands (Higgs 148). These announcements were met not with acclaim but coldness (Higgs 152-153); an article in the Standard attacked Cadbury’s policies, and Cadbury’s libel suit against the paper won them only a farthing in damages (152). The problem? The firm had known about the existence of slave labor on the chocolate islands for upwards of six years before Burtt’s report was ever made available or the boycott instated (Satre 32, 98)—and thanks to already-aired evidence (Satre 20), including a series of articles by journalist Henry Nevinson, so had much of Cadbury’s political peerage (Satre 12, 82; Higgs 152; Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, 566–568.) The firm’s disregard of evidence and lengthy delays (Satre 76) led to accusations of hypocrisy (Higgs 143, 152-153; Satre 78, 82), inaction (Satre 76), and greater concern for international politics than for the plight of those who provided their livelihood (Satre 75), all of which threatened to render null Cadbury’s righteous core. The story sheds a troubling light on the conflict between good business and good ethics (Higgs 165), and leaves open dark questions about how Western culture treats its less-seen, less-valued workers.

Cadbury's Cocoa advert with rower 1885
“Drink Cadbury’s Cocoa” advertisement with rower and lady friend – B&W engraving – 1885. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Cadbury became aware of slave labor in practice on the island of Sao Tome in 1901, by “an offer of a plantation for sale … that listed as assets two hundred black laborers worth £3555” (Satre 18). Lowell J. Satre marks this bill of sale as the initial point of concern for William A. Cadbury, then in charge of purchases for the company (18); but “ample” evidence was available to William through his connections with England’s Anti-Slavery Society (20)—reports describing starving workers, ships full of bought men and women, and brutal death rates of “servicaes” (Grant 1), or indentured servants, on the plantations (Satre 22-24). Cadbury Bros. was a Quaker company founded on Quaker ideals (Satre 14), with close ties to the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Societies (Satre 21) and a reputation for taking care of its workers at home (15-16), even building the Bournville Village Trust for factory employees (15-16), in addition to which the Cadbury-owned Daily News had run stories railing against slavery-like work conditions and “sweated trades” (16). Their treatment of the prospect that the plantations from which had come 45% of its beans in 1900 (Satre 19, 24) were practicing an evil they had long publicly opposed would have heavy implications for their hold on their moral high ground. Would the company apply the same stringent ethics they championed at home, and against other countries and trades, to matters that affected their own business? William Cadbury aired on the side of patient and cautious inaction; he never published the bill of sale, citing the document’s vagueness (as Satre icily puts it, his reasoning made “little sense, as the document specifically identified human beings as property”; Satre 19), and continued to dither in the face of distressing accounts. This silence would stretch until 1904 (22-24), when with new Portuguese labor legislation, and permission from the company’s board, William hired Joseph Burtt to travel to the Portuguese West African colonies (Satre 30-32) and investigate whether the whole unsavory matter had been put to rest on its own.

The beginning of Burtt’s journey to Sao Tome overlapped with the end of journalist Henry Nevinson’s (Satre 32); Burtt would return to England in 1907 (Satre 32, 73), by which time Nevinson’s articles and subsequent book (A Modern Slavery, 1906) about what he had seen in the islands were already two years published and on the market (Satre 32, 73). Burtt produced what Nevinson declared “an abstract of my book and no more” (Higgs 137), which nevertheless echoed Nevinson and the reports William Cadbury had heard: slavery, under a euphemistic title and technical obfuscations (Satre 76, Grant 1, Higgs 136-137), was producing the chocolate that Cadbury Bros. was buying (Satre 74). The onus was now on Cadbury, and its industry peers and allies, to put pressure on the Portuguese (78, 79)—but while the Aborigines’ Protection Society demanded an immediate boycott of the islands’ chocolate, international politics (one wonders if the companies’ bottom line and need for product didn’t also figure in) begged for another solution (Satre 81-82). William Cadbury’s decision to carry out the wishes of the Foreign Office (Higgs 135) by delaying Burtt’s report in lieu of a diplomatic meeting between the chocolatiers and the Portuguese planters (Higgs 134, Satre 75) nearly started a full-blown war with the outraged H.R. Fox Bourne of the APS (Higgs 134-136, Satre 78-80). The meeting with the planters took place in late 1907, with ineffective compromises, pleasantries, and technicalities exchanged (Higgs 141-142); it was followed by further negotiation the next year (143), by which William ended up taking a personal trip in October to Principe, Sao Tome (145) and the coast of Africa (146) to see if reform had been instated – and to look at the construction site of a railroad on the Gold Coast.

Cadbury’s almanack for 2,000 years – a literary & useful curiosity
Print shows a young boy dressed as a chef carrying a tray on which are a steaming ewer and cup of “cocoa essence”; also shows various graphics around the central motif and states that it is “Registered”. Digital file from original print. No known restrictions on publication. Manchester, England: Henry Blacklock & Co., [1885?] Via Library of Congress.
After meetings with reasonably cooperative planters and recalcitrant officials (146), William finally recommended the long-in-limbo boycott in January 1909, and in March Cadbury ceased buying cocoa from the chocolate islands – but not before the firm had purchased fourteen acres of land on the Gold Coast, near the new railroad, for a factory (147). Inaction, compounded by desire to maintain positive relations with the Portuguese in spite of the colonies’ violent and oppressive practices (Satre 77, 81), had forestalled the boycott for eight years; and though the guilt of the islands was off the company’s hands, and something of a backup plan in place, more sticky consequences had been set in motion. Cadbury Bros. was fighting a veritable media circus, demanding apologies from multiple papers for articles questioning the company’s actions regarding the islands (Higgs 143). By the time William left for Africa in 1908, a libel suit against the Standard was underway for a blistering (though hardly hypocrisy-free) article wondering “why the solicitude for the ‘white hands of the Bournville chocolate makers’ seemed not to extend to ‘African hands’” (Higgs 145).  William returned home in plenty of time to testify at the trial, which ruled in favor of Cadbury—awarding them all of a quarter-penny (152). Letters from Cadbury customers delivered their version of this scathing verdict—one addressed the company as “You pious Frauds,” “You Anointed Hypocrites” (152-153).

Cadbury’s Quaker morals, so intact in their home country, were proven by the chocolate islands scandal to be shaky with regard to their business dealings and their concern for what Fox Bourne phrased as “putting an end to a monstrous evil, for the tolerance and development of which Great Britain is to a large extent responsible” (Satre 77). William Cadbury taking earlier action might have been risky, but his caution and protection of trade interests in the face of oppressive practices led him to conflict and embarrassment. A review of Nevinson’s A Modern Slavery published in 1908 reads: “After reading Nevinson’s most interesting book one cannot doubt that slavery is still a tremendous problem, and that its origin and continuance are due to the fact that, for the present, peculiar … conditions have appealed to the selfishness of the Portuguese so strongly as to overcome all scruples” (Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, vol. 40, no. 9, 567-568). In light of the long years it took to acknowledge and boycott the slavery that gave them their cocoa, such a statement could well be applied to Cadbury Bros.

Grant, Kevin. A civilised savagery: Britain and the new slaveries in Africa, 1884-1926. Routledge, 2005.

E.H. “Bulletin of the American Geographical Society.” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, vol. 40, no. 9, 1908, pp. 566–568. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/198362.

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on trial slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Ohio University Press, 2006.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate islands: cocoa, slavery, and colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2013.

“Cadbury’s almanack for 2,000 years – a literary & useful curiosity.” Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2015651603/. Image. Accessed March 11, 2018.


Not So Sweet: Slavery in the Cacao Industry

dairy-milk-barsChocolate is arguably one of the greatest culinary achievements in human history. I currently do not have a citation for that statement, however I am banking on scholars and researchers to catch up to my sweeping generalizations. Chocolate, and cultivation of Cacao have been interwoven into the fabric of societies all across the globe. These connections have happened in so many ways that are not just appealing to the pallet but also to the spirit. Chocolate confections for some are the corner stone to childhood, and to others it is a symbol of ancestral connection. For some groups and societies, this connection has a more malevolent feel, either due to historical significance or even current trends in the chocolate marketplace. Chocolate and cacao production, have and continue to be connected to one of the darkest parts of the human experience. Slavery and forced labor are probably not what most consumers of chocolate think when they pick up their favorite chocolate candy in the local grocery aisle. This is likely due to the disparity and disconnection of the consumer from chocolates actual production. Chocolate production has been, and can continue to be, a marker for where such social disparity exists in our global market places. Using examples of past and present issues related to cacao production, it may be possible to shed light on how practice and policy of large candy manufacturers could potentially impact the lives of some of the most vulnerable communities in the world.
screen-shot-2015-03-12-at-7-11-13-pmGeorge Santayana said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Building on this philosophy, it is important to acknowledge our past mistakes in order to inform our future practice. On the other side of the coin, we can also adopt what was successful into the same playbook. One instance that is important to highlight takes place over 100 years ago with a Quaker owned chocolate producer called Cadbury. The Cadbury family was not just associated with the prominent industrialist family, but also with the Quaker philosophy of passivity and equity. In the workplace, it was also important to the Cadbury brand and philosophy that this applied to the treatment of those in their employ. In the early 1900s, William Cadbury investigated allegations that the primary source of their chocolate was being produced with slave labor. Their chocolate was being imported from the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, just off the western coast of the African continent. Once the allegations were verified, Cadbury petitioned the Portuguese government to change the labor practices and laws in their colony, however was not successful in its initial attempts. During this time, Cadbury continued to import a great deal of chocolate from the island, and in response faced a tremendous outpouring of public pressure. Due to their inability to appeal to the Portuguese government, Cadbury refocused their chocolate production elsewhere, and urged other chocolate companies to do the same. (Satre, 2005) While it was not a solution to the problem, it did demonstrate a morality in business practices that can be emulated in today’s chocolate industry.

So why look to Cadbury and the action of a chocolate maker 100 years ago? Well in the past two decades, allegations of chocolates connection to slavery have surfaced again. One of the countries that has been a focus for this issue has been Côte d’Ivoire. The accusations stated that nearly 90% of all chocolate produced there, had been involved in some form of slave labor. The international community was outraged, as Côte d’Ivoire was responsible for almost half of the world’s supply of chocolate. (John, 2002) cocoa-productin-and-consumption-map This practice also involves children, who are sometimes sold into labor from bordering nations like Mali. A great deal of pressure was put onto some of the largest chocolate manufactures such as Nestle, due to international laws and increased media attention on the subject. (Schrage & Ewing, 2005) One of the major differences in this instance and the Cadbury example is the speed of information and the influence of the global media. The outcry from the international community was enormous and promises were made from major manufactures because of it.

That was almost 20 years ago that light was shed on this issue. What about today? Côte d’Ivoire, along with others, is still listed by the U.S. Department of Labor as an exploiter of forced/child labor. (U.S. Department of Labor, 2016) Apart of their research found that in 2016, 2.1 million children had been involved in cacao production in an “inappropriate form.” (Lowy, 2016) 13E10CBB-C119-4185-AF0F-985DBD4FDAFE
Using Cadbury as a case study, it is possible to show that morality in business practice does not just positively affect the global community, but also can still be lucrative for a company. Cadbury did not solve the issue of slavery in the instance of the Portuguese colony, however they did influence the other chocolate makers to change their business practices which ultimately did leave a lasting impact on the islands need for forced labor. By doing so, they did not cease to exist, and by all accounts still flourish today. In today’s global economy, large manufactures have the opportunity to follow Cadbury’s example, and even potentially go a step further to create more sustainable practices for the global community.

Works Cited:

John, A. V. (2002, June). A new slavery? History Today; London, 52(6), 34–35.

Lowy, B. (2016). Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem. Retrieved March 9, 2018, from http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/

Satre, L. J. (2005). Chocolate on trial: slavery, politics, and the ethics of business (1st ed.). Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Schrage, E. J., & Ewing, A. P. (2005). The Cocoa Industry and Child Labour. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, (18), 99–112.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2016). List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Retrieved March 9, 2018, from https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods/

Cadbury and his Legacy on the History of the Cocoa Industry

         In 1824, an industrious 22-year-old named John Cadbury, opened a grocer’s shop where he sold coffee, tea, drinking chocolate, and cocoa in Birmingham in England. As a Quaker in early 19th century England, Cadbury was forbidden from applying to a university and he did not want to serve in the military due to his pacifist beliefs. Because of the government’s restrictions and commonplace discrimination against Quakers, many Quakers turned to entrepreneurial pursuits and became businesspersons; although none of them would reach the success that John Cadbury did (Ella 2009). The Cadbury chocolate company and its Quaker roots have an impressive legacy in the cocoa industry rooted in ethical, sustainable and revolutionary business practices. It would not be a stretch to suggest that John Cadbury’s strongly held religious beliefs and adherence to the Quaker tradition profoundly impacted the evolution of the Cadbury and by extension, the entire cocoa industry. John Cadbury’s empathy is clear by his reasoning for first opening up his shop at such a young age. He believed alcohol was a main cause of poverty and he hoped that selling chocolate and cocoa would be an alternative to people buying alcohol (Ella 2009). 194 years later and today, Cadbury is a powerhouse in the confectionary industry with more than $3 billion in global net revenues and over 70,000 employees (Ella 2009).

George Cadbury believed human beings should be treated equally

            Although John Cadbury never witnessed the titanic success his company is today, Cadbury worked hard and saw some early success. In 1854, Cadbury and his brother Benjamin who formed Cadbury Brothers received a Royal Warrant as the official manufacturers of chocolate and cocoa to Queen Victoria, a notorious sweet tooth. Their growing business was not able to fit in that small shop they first started in so they purchased 330 acres of land in the countryside out of Birmingham. Cadbury, out of his own pocket, built a model village known as Bournville with over 300 homes scattered across the countryside with large gardens, schools, parks, swimming pools, bowling greens, a fishing lake, and a large factory. Conditions at this model village were revolutionary for the age and were inspired by Cadbury’s desire to ‘’alleviate the evils of modern, more cramped living conditions’ (Ella 2009). The brothers set new standards for working and living conditions in Victorian Britain and the Cadbury plant in Bournville became known as “the factory in a garden” (Ella 2009).

Bournville became known as “the factory in a garden” 

            Over the years since then, Cadbury and his family built a company that placed a high priority on the welfare of the workers and set new standards for working and living conditions. These standards are now the benchmarks of safe, ethical, and sustainable benchmarks for cocoa manufacturers globally. Despite the wonderful model that Cadbury has developed, other companies like Hershey’s have not taken significant steps to ensure that their chocolate is made without exploitative labor.

            The chocolate industry is inherently dangerous from growing to harvesting to shipping and most cocoa farms are surrounded by intense poverty in Western Africa and Latin America. In Western Africa, several chocolate giants like Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle are directly connected to horrific human rights abuses including child labor, human trafficking, and slavery (Jamison 2016)) . Child labor is particularly prevalent on the cocoa farms where child labor is used to keep prices competitive. A UN report illuminated the rampant child labor in a horrific report where they observed that, “a child’s workday typically begins at six in the morning and ends in the evening. Some of the children use chainsaws to clear the forests. Other children climb the cocoa trees to cut bean pods using a machete. Holding a single large pod in one hand, each child has to strike the pod with a machete and pry it open with the tip of the blade to expose the cocoa beans. Every strike of the machete has the potential to slice a child’s flesh. The majority of children have scars on their hands, arms, legs or shoulders from the machetes” (ILO 2005). Cadbury demonstrated its commitment to ethical working conditions first envisioned by their founder, John Cadbury, by only selling Fair Trade certified chocolates. In addition, Cadbury brought together 10 of the largest chocolate companies to create an ambitious program, CocoaAction. With over $500 million in funding, they are aiming to reach 3000,000 farmers in western Africa with training programs and education with the hope that healthier economies will translate to better conditions for the employees (O’Keefe 2016). Farmers who agree to these training programs learn how to properly use pesticides and fertilizers and sign a pledge not to exploit child labor. As a reward, they can earn bonuses on every ton of beans sold if they are certified (O’Keefe 2016) .

Screenshot 2018-03-09 21.47.42
Worker in Burkina Faso breaking apart the cocoa pods

            John Cadbury’s legacy of compassion, humanity, and philanthropy combined with a happy knack for creating amazing chocolate has forever influenced the history and the future of the cocoa industry. On the face of it, what Cadbury did when he was alive – treating humans fairly and justly – should not have been revolutionary then and should not be a groundbreaking perspective to take today. In fact, Cadbury showed that a company can manage a viable business while also maintaining high standards for ethical and sustainable conduct. And that is worth raising a bar for.

Works Cited

“Combatting Child Labor in Cocoa Growing.” (2005): n. pag. International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor. International Laber Office (ILO), 2010. Web. 9 Mar. 2018. <http://www.ilo.org/public/english//standards/ipec/themes/cocoa/download/2005_02_cl_cocoa.pdf>.

Ella, Jill. “Cadbury: The Legacy in Birmingham.” BBC. BBC, 15 Dec. 2009. Web. 09 Mar. 2018. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/birmingham/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8412000/8412655.stm>.

Jamison, Richard. “Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Is Power. Food Empowerment Project, 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2018. <http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/>.

Martin, Carla D.“Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Psychology, Terroir, and Taste”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

O’Keefe, Brian. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” Fortune. Fortune Magazine, 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2018. <http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/>.

Smith, Janet. “John Cadbury.” Quakers in the World. Chilterns Quaker Program, 2010. Web. 09 Mar. 2018. <http://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/16/John-Cadbury>.

The Fine Line of Cadbury Business Ethics

We are often reminded that it is wise to toe a fine line and adhere to a certain code of moral conduct; but at what cost exactly?  This is a question that Britain’s chocolate giant Cadbury wrestled with during the beginning of the 20th century.  They flourished when it came to business ethics in their own Utopian village, Bourneville, yet struggled to maintain the same integrity when dealing with the horrific slave labor producing its most precious cacao supply.

In Lowell Satre’s article entitled Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics and the Ethics of Business, the trial of the Cadbury chocolate company begins when a young journalist by the name Henry Nevinson embarked on a field assignment for Harper’s monthly magazine of New York in 1904.  The focal point of Nevinson’s field research was centered predominantly in the Portuguese controlled Angola territory in Africa.


Shortly after the United States of America had abolished slavery in 1865, Portugal had followed suit during the 1870’s by legally outlawing forced labor in all of its controlled colonies as well.  However, Satre writes “plantation owners still desperately craved workers” as this sweeping outlaw of slavery threatened the convenience of free labor by tipping the economic scale slightly out of their favor.  Satre continues, “To satisfy this constant demand for labor, a state-supported system of “contract labor” emerged, wherein government agents certified the natives could, or of their own free will, sign contracts committing themselves to five years of labor for a set wage” (Satre, pg. 2).  These “contract jobs” also came with the so called benefits of being treated humanely and having the ability to return to their homeland after their contract expired.  However, Henry Nevinson would soon discover, and corroborate an earlier tip that the Cadbury Company received in 1901, that these were empty promises and the idea of working voluntarily under humane conditions was clearly not the case.

The Cadbury Chocolate Company was located somewhere north of 4000 miles away from where Nevinson carried out his expedition.  This was a Quaker owned firm, which meant that they were very serious in regards to their Christian religious beliefs; abstaining from particular vices that could be frowned upon – such as alcohol.  The Cadbury Company in particular experienced a boom in business which warranted moving from the smaller shop that John Cadbury, founder and sole proprietor, operated out of in Birmingham; to a factory town that his son George Cadbury had designed himself.  After John’s first son, Richard passed away suddenly in 1899, George became chairman of Cadbury’s board of directors along with he and Richard’s sons serving as board members.  If you visit the Cadbury website, you can get their account of their story here:

The Story of Cadbury

            Interestingly enough, Lowell Satre reveals what the Cadbury Company site dared not mention; the 1901 trip, when William Cadbury (George’s nephew) visited Trinidad.  The company owned a small cocoa bean plantation there and he was told that slave labor was being used on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe.  Shortly after, this rumor was “given credence when the Cadbury company received an offer of a plantation for sale in Sao Tome that listed as assets two hundred black laborers worth 3,555 dobra” (Satre, pg. 18).  Despite the reports of slave labor and its corroboration by Henry Nevinson’s trip to Africa, the Cadbury Company began sourcing cacao from Sao Tome and Principe indicating that they needed to seek out additional confirmation that the laborers’ treatment there was indeed slavery.

William’s Cadbury’s uncle, George, had created a village called Bourneville in England with the intention for its portrayal to highlight what it meant to take care of company workers.  Bourneville had no pubs – further emphasizing the Quaker lifestyle that the Cadbury family believed in – and was “built upon George Cadbury’s vision of improved dwelling, light, space and air for his employees” (YouTube: Barton’s Britain: Bourneville).


The contradiction was stark however, as the admirable gesture was tainted by the charges of knowingly benefiting from slave labor in Sao Tome and Principe.  It raised the eyebrows of the media as they began to question the integrity of the company for its blatant hypocrisy.  On one hand, they demanded further proof of people dying in Africa due to gruesome work conditions; while on the other hand politely fired female employees in Bourneville who announced they were pregnant so they can endure less stress and prepare for parenthood.

It is my inclination to believe that William Cadbury did not want to swiftly back out of using these cacao plantations because he did not want to affect the bottom line of his family’s business.  So instead, he bided his time looking for a second voyager to travel to Africa and double down on Nevinson’s account to a) protect the company’s investment and b) not offend their Portugal partners overseeing the plantation operation.  While the Cadbury Company strategically dragged their feet with these goals in mind, pressure was mounting from activist groups such as the Anti-Slavery Society and the Aborigines’ Protection Society.  Along with the press, these entities were pushing for the relationship between the Quaker company and slave labor it employed to officially be brought to light.  Finally, William Cadbury elected Joseph Burtt to travel to Africa and confirm what everyone already knew.

In Catherine Higgs article entitled Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa, Higgs details how Joseph Burtt embarked on his journey to Africa and found that Henry Nevinson’s account of slavery occurring was more than accurate.  It was so accurate that Joseph Burtt’s initial report, in the interest of Cadbury needed to be edited multiple times to lessen the impact of the ugly truth and not upset their cacao supplier.  Higgs states that “Cadbury argued that publishing the report in the English press without first giving the Portuguese the opportunity to respond – which Burtt favored doing – would give them “every right to say, as they have done with Nevinson’s report, that they consider the whole attitude as unfriendly and unfair” (Higgs, pg.  134).  William Cadbury was more concerned with protecting his brand, along with his business partners interest that he’d go as far as sugar coating (no pun intended) the truth about their operation rather than taking a stand against what was morally unacceptable.

Shortly after Burtts report had circulated within media circles in October of 1908, William Cadbury had diligently tried to walk back the implications of his company being accused of hypocrisy.  In the end, the Cadbury Company backed out of Sao Tome and Principe, leaving the door wide open for the Hershey Chocolate Company of the United States to swoop in and assume the position of having no moral compass.  In 1839, British colonial administrator Herman Merivale wrote, “Every trader who carries on commerce with those countries, from the great house which lends its name and funds to support the credit of the American Bank, down to the Birmingham merchant who makes a shipment of shackles to Cuba or the coast of Africa, is in his own way an upholder of slavery: and I do not see how any consumer who drinks coffee or wears cotton can escape from the same sweeping charge” (Martin, Lecture #6).  While Herman’s words were about 60 years before the Cadbury controversy in Sao Tome and Principe, they eloquently capture the struggles William Cadbury and his company faced in attempting to tight rope the fine line of running a successful business while being an honorable one simultaneously.




Works Cited

“Barton’s Britain: Bournville.” Gaurdian.co.uk, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz6tyxHlRlA.

“The Bournville Cadbury Site.” The Manufacturer, 16 Jan. 2015, http://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/200-workers-take-voluntary-redundancy-cadbury-plant/.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2013.

Katz, Frau. “A Map of Angola.” Pinterest, http://www.pinterest.com/pin/345510602641044139/?autologin=true.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture #6.”

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on Trial Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio Univ.Press, 2006.

http://www.iconinc.com.au, Icon.Inc -. “The Story of Cadbury.” Cadbury, http://www.cadbury.com.au/about-cadbury/the-story-of-cadbury.aspx.


Cadbury Ethics

In the early twentieth century, the Cadbury Brothers Limited was a prominent chocolate producer in Britain. In 1901, a member of the Cadbury company, William Cadbury, was exposed to the accusation of slavery in his company’s cocoa farms. The situation was such that “he was told that slave labor was used on the island of São Tomé. Shortly thereafter this unsubstantiated comment was given credence when the Cadbury company received an offer of a plantation for sale in São Tomé that listed as assets two hundred black laborers” (Satre 18). With the rumor of slavery existing and having a direct tie to the Cadbury company, William did not immediately conclude that slavery was going on because “he did not equate the labor of São Tomé to that of other forms of slavery reported in Africa” (Satre 19). Cadbury was not incorrect in observing that the labor conditions were different than the historical slavery in Africa, but it was still slavery and leads to the questioning of his ethics.

The slavery in São Tomé was different from other historical forms of slavery in Africa. “Portugal had abolished slavery in all of its colonies, including Angola, in the 1870s, but plantation owners and others still desperately craved workers” (Satre 2). “To satisfy this constant demand for labor, a state-supported system of ‘contract labor’ emerged. Wherein government agents certified that natives could, of their own free will, sign contracts committing themselves to five years of labor at a set wage.” The plantation owners abused these contracts, which lead to slavery. Nevinson, who was researching slavery in West Africa, described several reasons why people might become slaves, including the following:
“[s]ome had broken native customs or Portuguese laws, some had been charged with witchcraft by the medicine man because of a relative died, some sould not pay a fine, some were wiping out an ancestral debt, some had been sold by uncles in poverty, some were indemnity for village wars, some had been raided on the frontier, others had been exchanged for a gun; some had been trapped by Portuguese, others by Bibéan thieves; some were but changing masters” (Satre 7).
The exploitation of labor was in fact slavery, but William Cadbury wanted to be thorough in his obtainment of information because “he wanted to be absolutely fair to the responsible parties on the cocoa plantations and in Portugal” (Satre 19).
In order to come to a definitive conclusion regarding the possibility of slavery in the Cadbury cocoa farms, William Cadbury enlisted the services of Joseph Burtt, who would travel to São Tomé in order to uncover whether the rumors of slavery were true. Before Burtt could begin investigating, he had to first learn Portuguese. Cadbury might of had an expedited report if he had chosen someone who already knew Portuguese, but Burtt eventually found explicit evidence of slavery. When the time came for Burtt to publish his findings, he “added to the delays by pushing, in addition, for a ‘personal and private appeal to the planters’ to ensure they understood’ that the whole question has been taken up from a desire for decent conditions of coloured labour and not from English’ self-righteousness and hypocrisy” (Higgs 135). The delays in the report mounted to the extent that even though Burtt had been commissioned by the Cadbury family in 1905, he did not return to England till 1907. After William Cadbury read Burtt’s report and visted Africa, “he found a system he called ‘slavery in disguise’” (Vertongen).

Meanwhile, another party was uncovering the truth behind the working conditions. Henry Nevison was on an assignment to investigate the working conditions in West Africa. Nevison worked for Harper’s Monthly Magazine and would end up writing “a series of articles and a subsequent book describing slavery in Portuguese West Africa” (Satre 2). He witnessed explicit slavery and periodically published his findings in Britain. Nevison publically called for a boycott of the slave plantations.
With the information from Burtt’s report and the public scrutiny caused by Nevison’s exposure of the slavery conditions and pressure for change, William Cadbury came to the conclusion that a boycott was necessary. “1909, Cadbury Brothers wrote to Fry and Rowntree to recommend that all three firms ‘cease buying S. Thome cocoa’” (Higgs 147). All three firms began the boycott and were particularly effective in Britain because “[a]t the turn of the twentieth century, the British cocoa and chocolate business was dominated by three Quaker-owned firms-Cadbury, Fry, and Rowntree-although European companies continued to claim a large part of the British market” (Satre 14). The companies moved their cocoa farms to the Gold Coast in West Africa, where they knew slavery was not employed.

The ethics pertaining to William Cadbury’s actions in combating slavery need to be further examined. A substantial amount of time passed from when he first learned about the labor conditions in the cocoa farms and the action of the Cadbury company to boycott the slave labor being used. William is partly at fault for this delay. Although being prudent and securing a definitive report of the possibility of slavery may be wise, his choosing Burtt was problematic, since the latter had to learn Portuguese before beginning his research. The delays in the publishing of Burtt’s report were the result of Cadbury’s desire to not offend. Ultimately, William Cadbury can be criticized that the developments to end the slavery could have been conducted on an expedited time frame. Another reason for the delay was his not being convinced that the rumored conditions were in fact slavery, due to the differences between it and prior forms in Africa. He wanted more evidence of the exploitation as the Portuguese government even pledged to create better working conditions for the labors. Since “he obviously wanted to believe that the Portuguese government officials were sincere in their promise to enforce the new rules” (Satre 15), Cadbury’s delay in boycotting might be somewhat justified. In conclusion, enlisting Burtt to provide more evidence of slavery and allowing the Portuguese government time to correct the slavery problem are valid reasons for some of the delay in action, and given that the boycott of the slavery did ultimately occur, William Cadbury should not be regarded as unethical.

Works cited

Satre, L. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business

Higgs, C. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa

Vertongen, D. (Director), & Hargrave, G. (Producer). (2000). Extra Bitter: The Legacy of the Chocolate Islands [Video file]. Filmakers Library. Retrieved May 13, 2017, from Alexander Street.

From Cadbury to Nestlé: Big Chocolate & Forced Labor

While chocolate is a sweet delicacy enjoyed by millions around the world, the underlying forces of cacao production often leave a sour taste in consumers’ mouths. After Europeans “discovered” chocolate in Mesoamerica, its dissemination in Europe relied on the forced labor of indigenous populations and later African slaves on cacao plantations. Slavery was abolished on paper in England in 1833. Yet, it persisted under new names from serviçal in Sao Tome e Principe to “worst forms of child labor” in Côte d’Ivoire. I will compare the response of two influential companies in the cocoa industry–Cadbury and Nestlé–when faced with evidence of forced labor  in their cacao supply chain. While both companies’ actions are ultimately profit-driven, Cadbury took more legitimate actions to divest from forced labor than Nestlé, as the latter has yet to fully invest in ethically-sourced cacao.


William Cadbury’s awareness of forced labor in cacao plantations started with rumors of horrible work conditions in Sao Tome and Príncipe in 1901. At the time, Cadbury obtained 55% of its cacao from the area (Higgs 2012:9). He met with Portuguese authorities who assured him that new labour legislation addressed concerns of minimum wage (Satre 2005:23). Still, Cadbury commissioned Joseph Burtt in 1905 to investigate the work conditions in Sao Tome e Principe. Prior to Burtt’s return, Henry Nevinson published his investigative journalism in Harper’s Magazine in 1905.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 07.27.43
Cadbury's_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885Nevinson shed light on the forced labor of indentured servants (serviçal) in Sao Tome e Principe (Martin 2017). It was indistinguishable from slavery. Burtt returns in 1907, and his report supports Nevinson’s research. Yet, British authorities request Burtt revise his findings to assuage Portuguese authorities because Portuguese authorities were instrumental to British colonial interests in South Africa (Satre 2005: 76, 24). Up to then, Cadbury’s actions were behind the public eye. While the company researched forced labor and attempted to negotiate with both British and Portuguese authorities with no divestment in sight, their consumers continued purchasing their “guaranteed pure and soluble” cacao. 

Nevinson persevered with his reporting and published “The Angola Slave Trade” in The Fornightly Review, which garnered a lot of publicity. Forced labor alarmed British consumers because although England had abolished slavery in 1833, they were still complicit to it. Slavery did not align itself with the Quaker values of the time. As consumers started demanding Cadbury take action, Cadbury takes a final trip to Sao Tome and Principe.

Upon his return, he convinces J.S. Fry and Rowntree, other British chocolatemakers to join him as Cadbury boycotts cacao production in Sao Tome and Principe. Presumably, Cadbury divests because of the continuous failed promises by the Portuguese government to ameliorate working conditions in both islands. While the Portuguese government was not intent on ending slavery in cacao production, Cadbury did not suddenly reach enlightenment in 1909. At the time of initial evidence of slavery in Sao Tome and Principe, Cadbury had no other sustainable source of cacao if it wanted to maintain its leading status amongst British consumers. A viable option was needed as the British confectionners turned to mainland West Africa. Hence, the boycott from its main source of cacao did not hurt Cadbury because during his backdoor negotiations with various stakeholders, cacao trees were being planted in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana). From his visit to the Gold Coast in 1906 to the official boycott from Sao Tome’s cacao in 1909, cocoa harvest in the Gold Coast increased from 9004 to 20,534 metric tons (Grant 2005: 175). Therefore, in addition to being ethically sound, the move to the Gold Coast in 1909 was also business-proof.


A century later, big chocolate makers are still guilty of profiting from the fruits of forced labor in their supply chain. In 1998, A Taste of Slavery: How Your Chocolate May be Tainted was published. The UNICEF  report was one of the first to highlight evidence of child labor in West Africa, particularly in Côte d’Ivoire. Young people were often worked almost under horrible conditions: “the [Malian] boys had little to eat, slept in bunk-houses that were locked at night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders, some as a result of carrying the heavy bags of cocoa, but some likely the effects of physical abuse” (Off 2008: 121). Child labor in cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire involves familial and contracted labor, often including human trafficking of children from neighboring countries like Mali and Burkina Faso. Such labor conditions violate the International Labor Organization (ILO) Minimum Age Convention and the ILO Forced Labour Convention (Schrage and Ewing 2005: 101-102).

Increasing media attention to such reports of child slavery pushed the cocoa industry to stop dawdling and take action because “the mistreatment of children posed a clear threat to corporate reputation and sales” (Schrage and Ewing 2005: 104). As the United States Congress began the legislative process of banning Ivorian cacao, the industry proposed a protocol to address the reports. In September 2001, the Chocolate Manufacters Association (CMA) and the World Cocoa Foundation signed the Protocol for the Growing and Processing of Cocoa Beans and their Derivative Products in a Manner that Complies with ILO Convention 182 Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Chila Labor also known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol. Ever since its inception, the protocol has continuously been extended as chocolate companies fail to eradicate the worst form of child labor from their supply chain by their own deadlines. Many have critiqued the protocol as too lenient because a voluntary plan does not ensure the industry will be accountable.

Nestlé has undertook actions to adhere to the Harkin-Engel Protocol. The company joined the Global Issues Group (GIG), “an ad-hoc, pre-competitive association of cocoa industry participants formed in response to the agreements as spelled out in the Harkin-Engil Protocol” (Tulane research). Furthermore, Nestlé contracted UTZ Certified, a product certification organization, to be held accountable for its cacao consumption. Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 16.27.24In 2009, Nestlé established the Cocoa Plan. The hyperlinked video highlights the work of the Cocoa Plan in Côte d’Ivoire. Through the International Cocoa Initiative, the Cocoa Plan has built schools throughout Côte d’Ivoire in order to provide alternatives for children who were previously child laborers or could potentially be involved in cacao production.This iniative, among others, empowers local communities and seeks to reduce the prevalence of the “worst forms of child labor” in cacao production.In addition, Nestlé has supported further investigation into their cacao sourcing. The Fair Labor Association (FLA) conducted a thorough investigation of the company’s cacao supply chain, making it the first chocolate-maker to undertake such a process (CNN 2012). The FLA has continued these investigations, which attest to Nestlé’s investment in an ethical supply chain. Nestlé’s actions were in response to growing criticism. The company had to handle lawsuits and respond to documentaries about the persistence of forced labor in Côte d’Ivoire in order to appease its consumer base, who was demanding more accountability in the cacao supply chain.


Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 16.28.53Consumer demand for and consumption of ethically produced chocolate is highest in the United Kingdom. This trend explains why Kit Kat chocolate bars in the UK bear the Faitrade mark and Kit Kat chocolate bars in Germany do not. While both bars have the Cocoa Plan logo, Nestlé reveals that it only purchases 14.5% of its cocoa through the Plan, of which 75% is either UTZ or Fairtrade-certified (Nestle 2013: 160). While Nestlé has taken steps to ethically source its cacao, this has only been for consumers who actively demand it.

Similar to Cadbury, Nestlé is acting in a profit-maximizing way. Ethics are secondary because the investment in the Cocoa Plan for all of its chocolate would not be be as profitable beyond the UK. Unlike Cadbury, Nestlé has unfortunately not significantly addressed the Protocol because shared responsibility with other big chocolatemakers and lack of significant consumer demand diffuse the pressure to immediately conform.


Cadbury’s Advert with Rower 1885. 2010. Wikimedia Commons

CNN,. 2012. “Nestleé Advances Child Labor Battle Plan”. Retrieved March 23, 2017 (http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/29/nestle-advances-child-labor-battle-plan/).

Grant, Kevin. A Civilised Savagery: Britain and the New Slaveries in Africa, 1884-1926.  London: Routledge, 2005.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012.

Martin, Carla. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 01, 2017.

Nestlé,. 2013. Nestlé In Society: Creating Shared Value And Meeting Our Commitments 2013. Nestlé. Retrieved March 21, 2017 (http://storage.nestle.com/Interactive_CSV_Full_2013/files/assets/common/downloads/Creating%20Shared%20Value%20Full%20Report%202013.pdf).

Nevinson, Henry Woodd. “The Slave-Trade of to-Day. Conclusion–the Islands of Doom.” Harper’s Monthly, 1906, 327-37.

Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate. 1st ed. New York [u.a.]: The New Press.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business.  Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005.

Schrage, Elliot, and Anthony Ewing. 2005. The Cocoa Industry And Child Labour. Journal of Corporate Citizenship. Retrieved March 22, 2017 (http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/Trafficking/MainDocs/The_Cocoa_Industry_and_child_labour.pdf).

Cadbury: The Canary in an Unethical Coal Mine

Any company that can admit to contaminating a food product, and supporting forced labor and still retain the leading market share must understand its customers. For this reason, Cadbury’s advertisements may offer a unique perspective into European consumer culture during the late 1980s and early 1900s. Advertisements candidly portray the desires of their consumer base. For this reason Cadbury’s advertisements are a window into English consumer values. I argue that the Cadbury Company’s advertisements capture nineteenth century consumer culture as one that conflated personal purity with ethical behavior. Additionally these values inadvertently supported forced labor long after the official abolition of slavery.

Victorian era consumers were highly concerned with the idea of purity. As lower economic classes attained access to previously unattainable foods such as chocolate and tea, producers contaminated the foods with filler ingredients to maximize profits. In 1850, England’s newly created Health Commission found that, 39 of 70 chocolate samples contained red ocher, a color obtained from ground bricks. While most samples revealed the addition of starches from potatoes and various grains. The passage of the “British Food and Drug Act of 1860 and the Adulteration of food act of 1872, suggests that the British public were highly concerned with the purity of their foods (Coe, 2013).

Cadbury became England’s chocolate in the in the late 1800s and early 1900s through an aggressive advertising campaign that emphasized purity. Cadbury, though also implicated in starch contamination, understood customer concerns and adeptly rebranded as the only company that could guarantee purity (Coe, 2013).

Cadbury's_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885 (1)
An 1885 advertisement for cadbury cocoa

The above advertisement captures the ideals and aspirations of the English consumer in the late 1800s. The strapping rower, an icon of English vitality enjoys a day of leisure watching boat races. He holds his cup of Cadbury cocoa at the center of the image. By framing the cocoa, on two sides with the rower’s spotless white pants and shirt, and on the third side with the woman’s impossibly pale face, the artist emphasizes the purity associated with the beverage. The advertisement’s sub header, “Guaranteed Pure and Soluble,” explicitly restates the focus on purity. Because Cadbury captured consumer’s interest in purity, they were able to out compete Fry’s, an older company that dominated the market in the early 1800s.

Fry’s 1910, milk chocolate advertisement

The above advertisement demonstrates a different understanding of English consumer values during the time. Fry’s, one of the first English chocolate companies sold 2.5 times more chocolate than Cadbury in 1870. However Cadbury won the hearts of English men and women, largely through advertising, and out sold Fry’s at the turn of the century (Fitzgerald, 2006). Fry’s emphasized nostalgia for childhood in their advertisement. A small girl holds a box with five portraits describing the emotions associated with chocolate consumption. Cadbury’s market success suggests that, English consumers preferred assurances about purity to a trip down memory lane.

Consumers conflated product purity with ethical behavior. Cadbury and Fry, both Quaker chocolate makers, were lauded for their ethical behavior. Temperance campaigns swept over the UK during the Victorian era. As per capita beer consumption decreased, consumers turned to chocolate for comestible indulgence. One strategy of the temperance movement was to tie ethical and spiritual purity to the purity of a diet. The messaging was of course focused on reducing alcohol consumption, but this rhetoric likely spilled over into other food consumption behaviors. Therefore, Cadbury’s Quaker image as evidenced by their “ideal,” and importantly ,dry village, Bournvile appealed to consumers of the day (Fitzgerald 2006; Johnson and Pochmara 2016).

However as consumers and companies focused on purity standards, horrific human rights abuses went over looked. Both advertisements focus on the consumer and the ritual of consumption. In a way these advertisements capture what the English population wanted to see in their consumer products. However even more informative are the ideas consumers did not want to portrayed in their advertisements. Any reference to location of origin, or producers is glaringly absent in advertisements of the day.

A prison cell used to hold enslaved people before their journey to Sao Tome or Principe

The above picture is of a prison in Elmina Castle, used to hold enslaved people before their forced voyage to a life of forced labor. Elmina was often the last place an enslaved person, captured in Angola, would set foot on the mainland (Finley 2004). Cadbury, Fry’s and other English chocolate makers bought cacao from Portuguese cacao plantations that depended on forced labor on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe. Though the Portuguese called this system, indentured servitude or “Servical,” a report by journalist Henry Nevinson, made it clear that Servical was indistinguishable from slavery. Though England outlawed slavery in 1833, Cadbury, the supposed icon of Victorian business ethics had been providing the English people chocolate made from cacao farmed by enslaved people as late as 1907. After an attempt at reparations, Cadbury and other English chocolate makers boycotted the islands of Sao Tome and Principe (Martin, 2017). However little changed on the islands, as the Hershey Company filled the consumer void left by the English companies. I contend that consumer interest focused so heavily on ideas of purity that consumers associated purity with ethical process and were therefore slow to examine the supply chain of their favorite chocolate.

Today chocolate companies often differentiate their products by advertising their location of origin. Additionally, fair trade products often command price premiums for ensuring ethical process. This expansion of consumer options suggests that consumers value ethical process as much as they value nutritional quality or taste. However, modern consumers we cannot forget the lessons of Victorian era chocolate makers. We must constantly investigate the supply chains of our favorite products to reduce our contribution to forced labor. Follow the below link to learn how many enslaved people are involved in producing your favorite products.

Find out how your consumption connects you to slavery.



Cadbury’s Advert with Rower 1885. 2010. Wikimedia Commons.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Finley, Cheryl. 2004. “Authenticating Dungeons, Whitewashing Castles: The Former Sites of the Slave Trade on the Ghanaian Coast.” Architecture and Tourism.

Fitzgerald, Robert. 2006. “Products , Firms and Consumption : Cadbury and the Development of Marketing , 1900 – 1939 Products , Firms and Consumption : Cadbury and the” 6791 (May). doi:10.1080/00076790500132977.

Fry’s Five Boys . 2005. Wikimedia Commons.

Ghana Elmina Castle Slave Holding Cell. Wikimedia, Wikimedia Commons

Johnson, Amelia E, and Anna Pochmara. 2016. “Tropes of Temperance , Specters of Naturalism : Tropología de La Abstinencia Y Fantasmas Del Naturalismo En Clarence and Corinne de Amelia E . Johnson” 2: 45–62.

Martin, Carla. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 01, 2017.

Chocolate the Aphrodisiac and its Love Affair with Valentine’s Day

Chocolate has held an allure as an aphrodisiac for about as long as modern conceptions of chocolate have existed; The True History of Chocolate states that people have believed chocolate is an aphrodisiac since at least the European conquest of Mexico (Coe and Coe 29). Chocolate has a reputation as a sensual, even sinful, food, and not only is it supposed to actually increase sexual potency and desire when consumed, but its reputation has preceded it so that simply the idea of eating chocolate has become erotic. Over time, chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac and its conflation with romance has resulted in the necessity of the chocolate actually being consumed for this effect to be negated; now, one only needs to give or receive chocolate in order to inspire romantic and sensual feelings. Thus is the case in our celebrations and gift-giving traditions of Valentine’s Day. But Valentine’s Day and chocolate were not always synonymous. How did this relatively new holiday and this revered food become so impossibly intertwined?

Chocolate, of course, has its roots in Mesoamerica, where it was it was considered to be a valuable food both in terms of its value as a currency and its cultural value; it was an important part of social gatherings, religious practices and was considered ‘the food of the gods’ (Martin) (“Chocolate and Holidays- a Long History”). Chocolate had an almost mystical reputation, and was believed to have many properties, including curing ailments and having an effect as an aphrodisiac. A recipe for chocolate that was supposedly known for its aphrodisiacal properties survives to us from Francisco Hernández; it contains several other ingredients that were popular flavorings for chocolate amongst the Aztecs, including vanilla (Coe and Coe 87-88, 93). Together, these ingredients made for an aphrodisiacal chocolate, according to Hernández; however, there is “not a hint that the Aztecs considered it to be an erotic stimulant” (Coe and Coe 93). The idea that chocolate was an aphrodisiac would capture the European mind. As Coe & Coe write, “the probably baseless claim that chocolate has aphrodisiac properties was one that was to arise again and again in Europe, and obviously also appeals to modern authors” (Coe and Coe 87).

In Europe, by the 1600s, chocolate had become an increasingly popular food: “By the early 1600s, the vogue for chocolate had swept across Europe. In London, chocolate houses began to rival coffee houses as social gathering spots. One shop opened on Gracechurch Street in 1657 advertising chocolate as “a West Indian drink (which) cures and preserves the body of many diseases.” In France, Madame de Sevigne wrote about enormous chocolate consumption throughout the court at Versailles in 1671; Louis IV drank it daily and Madame du Barry was said to use chocolate mixed with amber to stimulate her lovers” (Henderson). The use of chocolate to stimulate sexual appetite had seized ahold of the European imagination, and it was only a matter of time before aphrodisiacal chocolate would find its perfect mate in the romantic holiday, Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day was not always a popular holiday, but following Chaucer’s mention of the romantic holiday in his poem Parlement of Foules, the holiday’s popularity began to rise as a way and day to celebrate romantic love and that special someone in your life (Henderson).The tradition of gift-giving and romantic gestures on Valentine’s Day was quickly cemented, but the tradition of giving candy (and later chocolate) was slower on the uptake, as “sugar was still a precious commodity in Europe” (Henderson). However, eventually it was “no longer considered a sign of elevated rank to stuff one’s guests with sugar” and writing in and molding sugar was a special treat reserved for occasions such as weddings, birthdays, Christmas, and, yes, Valentine’s Day (Mintz 94).

It wasn’t until sugar and chocolate had been more economized and popularized that

Cadbury’s ingenious marketing of beautiful boxes of chocolate that could be repurposed as mementos firmly entrenched chocolate in the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

the ultimate marriage would happen on Valentine’s Day. Richard Cadbury, attempting to expand the reaches of chocolate into the hands of more people and on more occasions, came up with the brilliant idea of ‘eating chocolates’, which he packaged in beautiful boxes that he had designed himself (Henderson). In 1861, he used his marketing genius to marry chocolate and Valentine’s Day forever: “Cadbury began putting the Cupids and rosebuds on heart-shaped boxes in 1861: even when the chocolates had been eaten, people could use the beautiful boxes to save such mementos as love letters” (Henderson). The association between chocolate and Valentine’s Day has been everlasting since Cadbury’s special Valentine’s boxes emerged.

Fascination with chocolate and the romantic and erotic has persisted into the modern era.

Russell Stover’s Secret Lace Heart is easily accessible at just $12.99 and marketed as “sultry” and “tantalizing.” Its easy accessibility further entrenches chocolate in the celebration of Valentine’s Day, and its marketing enhances the idea that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.

Valentine’s Day officially became commercialized in the early 1900’s when chocolate itself became commercialized and mass-produced; Hershey began mass-producing chocolate in 1907, and Russell Stover quickly followed them by selling their Valentine’s chocolates in department stores (Henderson). According to Smithsonian, one of Russell Stover’s biggest sellers is “the ‘Secret Lace Heart,’ a chocolate box covered in satin and black lace. The so-called ‘lingerie box’ is affordable and easily-accessible stocked on store shelves for easy grab-and-go sales” (Henderson).

Modern science has also perpetuated the idea that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. According to Coe and Coe, the most extensive medical study of chocolate is by a French doctor, Hervé Robert, who published a book in 1990 called Les vertus therapeutiques du chocolat. He finds that the caffeine, theobromine, serotonin, and phenylethylamine that chocolate contains make it a tonic, and an antidepressive and antistress agent, enhancing pleasurable activities, including making love” (Coe and Coe 29). The people of the modern age take this science as a confirmation that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, even going so far, in my personal observations, as to use these scientific findings as an excuse to eat chocolate.

This is a very blatant example of the use of the suggestivity of chocolate in advertising. It is supposed to excite the woman- as this woman is very happy- and suggest to the man that if the woman eats this chocolate, she will also want him.

Lastly, the association between chocolate and romantic or erotic love has dominated culture in advertisements and television/film. A gift of chocolate from a man to a woman on screen is at once suggestive and also romantic. Advertisements make strategic use of women seductively eaten chocolate to both excite the men and tantalize women with the feeling of sexual bliss that eating chocolate will supposedly make them feel. These advertisements are even more blatant on Valentine’s Day—when the association between chocolate and romantic and erotic love is at its strongest.













Butler, Stephanie. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day With a Box of Chocolates.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
“Chocolate and Holidays- a Long History.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 29 Mar. 2002. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Martin, Carla. “Lectures 1-2.” Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Cambridge, MA. Lecture.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.

Cacao Moves Across the World

What catalyzed the relocation of the world’s cacao cultivation from Central America to the West African coast?


Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 9.09.03 PM

(Source: Nicolas Rapp via Fortune, 2016)

Although cacao and chocolate are native to Central America, 70 percent of the world’s cacao is produced in Africa. According to a 2012 cacao market report, the majority of cacao is specifically produced in West Africa, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana as the leading producers of cacao, respectively (Presilla, 2009:123). The Ivory Coast and Ghana are followed by Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, and Ecuador, respectively (Coe and Coe, 2013:196-197). The relocation of the world’s cacao cultivation from Central America to the West African coast was catalyzed by 1) the transformation of cacao cultivation into a for-profit venture by European colonial powers and 2) the Portuguese transportation of Forastero cacao to West Africa.

Cacao’s Journey Across the Equator

(Source: Google Maps, 2017)
Cacao trees thrive in the climate conditions existing near the equator, between 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south (Presilla, 2009:44). Because the cacao trees need a hot climate, rainfall, and little fluctuation in temperature, only a select number of countries are capable of producing cacao.


Genetic origins of cacao:

Modern scientists locate the genetic origins of the cacao tree in South America, specifically in the Amazon River basin and in modern-day Venezuela (Presilla,2009:8).

Cultural origin of cacao cultivation:

By the second millennium BC, the seeds of cacao trees native to South America were brought northward to Mesoamerica, or the modern-day area between Mexico and Honduras, including Guatemala, Belize, and El Salvador (Presilla, 2009:8). From the Olmec to the Maya and the Aztecs, the chocolate mixtures were used to prepare hot and cold beverages (Presilla, 2009:8). Initially, natives had cultivated cacao trees to consume cacao as a fruit, but over time, natives discovered that the seeds could be dried, fermented, and ground to create chocolate mixtures.

Europeans encounter chocolate, and like it (A LOT):

Until Christopher Columbus arrived in Mesoamerica in the sixteenth century, no European had encountered cacao. Although Columbus returned to Spain from the New World with cacao beans, the Spanish would not taste chocolate until 1544 when the beverage was presented to the future Phillip II by a delegation of Kekchi Maya.

Upon taking up the drinking of chocolate, the Spanish made cacao cultivation a for-profit venture in its colonies. (Presilla, 2009:24). Hence, cacao was transformed from a barter item into a cash crop in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador (Presilla, 2009:28). The cultivation of cacao as a cash crop required an immense amount of labor. In the beginning, indigenous peoples worked the cacao plantations, but their populations would be decimated by disease introduced by the Europeans (Presilla, 2009:28). Cacao production could not keep up with a rising demand for chocolate, especially as chocolate-drinking spread through Europe. Within 50-60 years, the practice of drinking chocolate had spread to France, Italy, and England (Presilla, 2009:24).

The Search for New Markets for Cacao Cultivation:

To meet demand, the Spanish relocated primary cacao cultivation from Mesoamerica back to Venezuela by the seventeenth century (Presilla, 2009:28). Here still, the challenge of insufficient labor to work the cacao plantations in Venezuela and South America persisted. As a result, slave labor from Africa was imported to keep cacao cultivation profitable in the colonies.

To further increase the production of cacao, the Spanish brought cacao to its eastern colonies, including the Philippines, Java, Indonesia (Presilla, 2009:43).

Other European colonial powers desired to similarly profit from cacao cultivation in their colonies. In the New World, the Portuguese ruled over Bahia, or modern-day Brazil. The Portuguese took Lower Amazon cacao seeds from Bahia to West Africa in the nineteenth century (Presilla, 2009:43). Cacao cultivation continued to spread from Portuguese West Africa to modern-day Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast by 1905 (Presilla, 2009:43; Coe and Coe, 2013:197). The British spread cacao to modern-day Sri Lanka, and the Dutch spread cacao to Java and Sumatra. By the 20th century, Europeans brought cacao to the New Hebrides, New Guinea, and Samoa in Oceania (Coe and Coe, 2013:197).

The Rise of West African Cacao

Colonialism spread cacao seeds across the equator, but West Africa, in particular, became the largest producer of cacao because it is the primary region where Forastero cacao grows. Crucially, the Portuguese had brought Forastero cacao from Brazil to Sao Tome (Coe and Coe, 2013: 197). Although Brazil also grows Forastero cacao, cacao production declined in the 1950s following the devastation of cacao-producing regions by witches’ boom and black pod rot (Presilla, 2009:123). Modern-day chocolate corporations favor Forastero cacao because its disease-resistance makes it the more dependable, cost-effective cacao to source relative to the other two major breeds of cacao: Criollo and Trinitarto. As reflected in the 2012 cacao market, the business practices of modern-day chocolate corporations who source cacao from West Africa, where Forastero cacao thrives, reinforce the profit-driven cacao cultivation established during the colonial period: 80 percent of the world’s cacao is of the disease-resistant Forastero variety (Coe and Coe, 2013:197).


(© Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons, 2009)

Because Forastero cacao (green) is absent in non-West African regions–Criollo cacao (red) grows in Central America and Trinitario cacao (brown) grows in South and Southeast Asia, profit-driven chocolate corporations source less cacao from these regions.


Profit Above All: The Case of Cadbury

 In Great Britain, three firms dominated the cocoa and chocolate market: Cadbury, Fry, and Rowntree (Satre, 2005:14). By 1900, nearly half of the cocoa beans purchased by Cadbury were from the Portuguese colony of Sao Tome (Satre, 2005:19) when it was brought to Cadbury’s attention that the cacao plantations in Sao Tome were being worked by Angolans against their will (Satre, 2005:7). Under the guise of state-supported contact-labor system that could be renewed every five years, around four thousand Angolans were being captured and shipped Sao Tome and Principe to work on the cacao plantation (Satre, 2005:2-7). Although Portugal formally abolished slavery in its colonies in 1879 (Satre, 2005:2), a new slave labor arose on the cacao plantations in the twentieth century.

Nearly a decade after first learning of the inhumane labor conditions on the islands passed before Cadbury would officially boycott cacao from Sao Tome and Principe in 1909 (Higgs, 2012:148). Notably, his decision was preceded by his acquisition of fourteen acres in the Gold Coast, or modern-day Ghana, to be used for a Cadbury factory (Higgs, 2012:148). Despite having sufficient evidence for the inhuman labor conditions years before, Cadbury waited to boycott cacao from Sao Tome until he secured an alternate source of cacao for his company.

Although American chocolate corporations immediately filled the void left by the British boycott of Sao Tomean cacao, cacao production in Sao Tome eventually fell. The island’s cacao-producing regions were affected by swollen shoot disease in 1918 (Higgs, 2012:160). Since, Sao Tome and Principe have been unable to compete with the Ivory Coast and Ghana, chocolate corporations’ primary suppliers of cacao (Higgs, 2012:164). Ultimately, the profit venture begun by European colonial and the Portuguese transportation of disease-resistant Forastero cacao to West Africa primed the West African coast’s economies to flourish through cacao cultivation.




Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013[1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. pp. 133-165.

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

Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. pp. 1-32, 73-99.


“City of Wonder:” Cadbury’s Troubled Utopia

An image of strong social consciousness had long been a part of the Cadbury chocolate company’s guiding ethos. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Cadbury positioned itself as a socially conscious manufacturer, emphasizing the purity of its chocolate and its health benefits to children in advertisements (Martin 2/22). Even as it embraced industrialism and struggled internally with entanglements in questionable overseas labor practices, the company strove to present itself as a model corporate citizen deeply concerned with the lives of its workers and consumers.

In the late nineteenth century, those branding efforts took a new and fascinating turn. Seeking to expand the production capacity of the business they had inherited from their father, George and Richard Cadbury moved the manufacturing works to a greenfield site some four miles outside of the industrial hub of Birmingham (Bournville Village Trust). It was 1879. Over the next twenty years, the factory project morphed to take on a new dimension: George facilitated the construction of model homes, and, eventually, extensive garden and recreation areas for employees. The village became a playground for Cadbury’s vision of a garden-factory town girded by Quaker morals (the consumption of alcohol was forbidden in the village)(Robinson). By 1900, a Village Trust was established, signaling the formation of a full-fledged civic community(Bournville Village Trust).

The Bournville factory would eventually form the hub of the model garden village.

Breathlessly described as “a city of wonder—the living monument of an altruistic merchant prince” by a 1902 observer, Bournsville  was indeed a testament to Cadbury’s social and mercenary goals (Dewsbury Reporter, quoted in Bryson and Lowe 21). It also reflected many of the issues endemic to planned communities, which are by their very nature exclusionary and moralizing. Like many of Cadbury’s endeavors, Bournville was a carefully calibrated balance of social mission and marketing appeal. George Cadbury, ever conscious of the public gaze and the ways in which he could craft the company’s image in order to sell chocolate, shaped and presented the model town as part of a larger effort at personal branding. Cadbury capitalized on the growing backlash to industrialism, turning what was quintessentially a major industrial and development project—the formation of a large suburban factory and accompanying dwellings—into the poster child for a nostalgic garden city movement. That image persisted and grew into a mythic persona: Bournville is today hailed by many as a foundational part of the Garden City movement, a legend that owes much to the publicity efforts of George Cadbury (Robertson 181).

The fact that Bournville eventually became a historic touchstone of social planning is no surprise given the extensive strategies Cadbury undertook to package the town for the public. “At the invitation of George Cadbury, about thirty-five of us…visited the Bournville Works, the name given to all those institutions for social betterment connected with the Cadbury cocoa works” wrote Edith Winder in a 1906 issue of Friends’ Intelligencer, an American Quaker magazine. Winder marveled at the lush gardens, well appointed missionaries’ residences, and recreational spaces of the settlement. She lavished praise on the village, and seemed thoroughly convinced by Cadbury’s hope that his plan would lead to “the alleviation of the evils which arise from the insanitary and insufficient accommodation supplied to large numbers of the working class” (Winder 362).

The circumstances of that visit are telling: by the turn of the century, Cadbury had begun offering carefully curated tours to reformers and city designers (Winder notes that the tour circumvented the actual factory itself). A Visitor’s Department was formed to accommodate and promote the flow of interested tourists and journalists, hosting 3,844 visitors in 1903 and an impressive 163,827 by 1938 (Robertson 182).  These tours rested perfectly at the nexus of social consciousness and image-building that epitomized the entire project: Visitors like Winder were impressed by the extensively planned, well-cultivated village outside Birmingham, and spread word of the idyllic town and its strong community values abroad. Much of the information gathered on such tours was provided via press materials produced by Cadbury Brothers Ltd; in other words, they were a perfect opportunity for free and positive publicity for the company. Perhaps most influentially, Cadbury produced a booklet, Factory in a Garden (Robertson 186). As Cadbury’s reputation as a socially conscious company rose, the image of Cadbury as a post-industrial company producing quality products in an idyllic suburban setting would remain prevalent for decades to come.

Today, idyllic Bournville is hailed as an originator of the Garden City movement. But it also reflects a complicated combination of economic and marketing goals.

Relatedly, another expression of the mixed social and commercial goals of the village was its extensive use in advertising Cadbury products. Advertisements for tins of “Bournville biscuits” and chocolates abounded in early twentieth century periodicals (Lancet advertisement). These ads emphasized the fact that the chocolate was “made under ideal conditions,” playing into the near-mythic associations of the garden city with ideal living, working, and manufacturing conditions (Pictures and The Picturegoer advertisement).The recreational grounds at Bournville served as decoration on Bournville chocolate tins which proudly proclaimed the chocolate’s origin in “a factory in a garden.” Bournville had become the perfect marketing tool—by using its name and image, Cadbury was able to sell chocolate via the idyllic setting in which it was purportedly made. 

The fact that Bournville was able to attain a reputation as a utopian post-industrial village is important not just for what it reveals about Cadbury’s publicity strategy, but also because such claims downplay the experiences of real citizens and the conflicts that arise from the creation of model cities. Like all planned cities, Bournville necessarily struggled to reconcile a utopian vision with the realities of mixed-dwelling life. From Burnsville to Celebration, Florida, utopian planned communities are forced to make demographic and exclusionary decisions which can undercut their status as perfect communities: usually, lines are drawn along socioeconomic, class, or racial lines. And, in Bournville’s case, these issues may have arisen from the fact that the “Garden City” image eventually associated with the town was retroactively applied to what may have been a mercenary venture. Bournville had branded itself as a home for laborers and as a charitable mission for the poor (Winder notes the presence of “almshouses” on the fringes of the estate” (361)), but the reality was slightly different. As Bryson and Lowe note, the first houses in the community were priced high enough to “exclude unskilled workers, semi-skilled workers, as well as individuals from the lower and middle classes,” attracting instead real estate spectators who may have been the actual intended target demographic for the project (22). But because Cadbury controlled the presentation of the village to visitors and in texts, this original goal could easily be downplayed and supplanted with one that focused on social consciousness.

Girl's Recreation Ground.  Bournville.  Photo.
Bournville was known for its gardens and public recreation areas, promoting George Cadbury’s image of a moral suburban community.

Formed at the turn of the century, Bournville was perhaps one of the first self-reflexively nostalgic planned garden communities created as a pushback to industrialism, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Like these later cities, Bournville embodied the contradictions inherent to the building of a utopian city for ultimately commercial ends. Visitors to the city saw a socially aware attempt at combatting the ills of modern city life; but for Cadbury, the village and its reputation were also powerful tools for marketing. Like so many other aspects of the company and its branding, Bournville represented a carefully controlled effort to craft a socially conscious image while carrying out clearly mercenary goals.

Works Cited

Bailey, Adrian R., and John R. Bryson. “Stories of Suburbia (Bournville, UK): from Planning to People Tales.” Social & Cultural Geography, vol. 7, no. 2, 2006, pp. 179–198.

“BOURNVILLE CHOCOLATES.” The Lancet, vol. 218, no. 5652, 1931, p. 1442.

“BOURNVILLE.” Pictures and The Picturegoer (Archive: 1922-1925), vol. 9, no. 52, 1925, p. 64.

Bournville Village Trust. The Bournville Story. Bournville: Bournville Village Trust, 2010. Print.

Bryson, and Lowe. “Story-Telling and History Construction: Rereading George Cadbury’s Bournville Model Village.” Journal of Historical Geography, vol. 28, no. 1, 2002, pp. 21–41.

Robinson, James. “Bournville: The Town That Chocolate Built.” The Guardian. N.p., 22 Jan. 2010. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.

Winder, M. “BOURNVILLE.” Friends’ Intelligencer (1853-1910), vol. 63, no. 23, 1906, p. 361.