The purpose of my chocolate tasting was to see whether the attendees could discern between the four various categories for the sourcing and materialization of chocolate as discussed in class and the readings: (1) Direct Trade, (2) Fair Trade, (3) Organic, and (4) Industrialized. Because much of Chocolate class was about the social, anthropological, and economic impacts of and differences between each of these chocolate types, I thought this would be an excellent theme to my tasting that brings historical, socioeconomic, and taste-related views.
Figure 1. The fancy invitations I used to invite 7 participants to my tasting.
Figure 2. The participants of my chocolate tasting.
Types of Chocolate in the Tasting
(1) Direct Trade There are four general types of chocolate (based on its production processes) that we have learned in Chocolate class. The first is Direct Trade, also known as bean-to-bar chocolate, as these companies have control of its manufacturing process from growing and harvesting of the cacao bean all the way to its packaging and selling into a bar. Direct Trade chocolate is usually a chocolate company that directly deals with farmers. There’s a bit of variation in its manufacturing processes, but this leaves more room for negotiation from the different chocolate companies. Direct Trade companies may place environmental and labor factors into consideration, but not to as far of an extent as other chocolate types such as Fair Trade. In Direct Trade, there is less regulation because it is assumed that there is maximum control between the cacao harvesters, manufacturers, and packagers of the chocolate product. However, the very direct control of these Direct Trade chocolate companies costs a high premium, making their products quite expensive. Because of the rarity of a chocolate company having complete control of an entire chocolate farm, which is usually located outside of the U.S., solely for their company, the quantity of Direct Trade producers which exists is very low.
(2) Fair Trade The second category of chocolates presented was the Fair Trade chocolate type. These mass-produced confections are intended to guarantee a consistent smell and taste, achieved through rigorous oversight and a careful blending of cacao. According to Michael D’Antonio of Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, using liquid condensed milk instead of the powdered milk that the Swiss favored, Schmalbach’s mixture was easier to move through various processes: “…it could be pumped, channeled, and poured — and it required less time for smoothing and grinding. Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster, and therefore cheaper, than the Europeans” (D’Antonio 2006: 108). With techniques like these that were melded again and again by Hershey a century ago, efficiency of methods for the mass-production and -distribution of chocolate was possible. However, these efficient industrialized methods definitely compromise the ethics of labor, environmentalism, and health-focuses of these chocolates.
(3) Organic The third type of chocolate that is explored in this tasting is Organic chocolate. Organic chocolates place an emphasis on health and the environment. They do not use pesticides, and because it places such a large, conscious emphasis on these issues, there is a loss of yield that occurs in terms of its production and consumption. These chocolate products also tend to be extremely expensive, for there is usually a rearrangement premium placed on their price tag. Additionally, although organic chocolate products focus on health-related and environmental issues, there is no standard for the laborers of its production. Organic chocolate products must also all undergo certification, and usually the bars themselves are sold in small proportions.
(4) Industrialized The final category of chocolates which were presented during the tasting was Industrialized chocolate. Fair Trade chocolates emphasize the moral ethics of the chocolate production. They prioritize producing ethical, labor-regulated goods, and for this reason they also weigh between ingredient and product. These products also require a certification by one or more of the various Fair Trade certification companies. These groups usually require a type of price threshold, which makes this type of chocolate a little bit more expensive. Fair Trade chocolates also take the environment into account, although oftentimes not as much as Organic chocolates do. Fair Trade chocolates also focus on community development.
Figure 3. The advertising and packaging used for each of the four chocolates used in my tasting.
(1) Direct Trade:
Taza Chocolate, Seriously Dark, 87% Cacao, Organic Dark Chocolate
Observations of Packaging:
Easy-to-read font that pops out
(2) Fair Trade:
Seattle Chocolate, Pike Place Espresso, Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Decaf Espresso
Observations of Packaging:
“Rainy coffeehouse hipster”
Cloudy color scheme (not as bright)
Lake Champlain Chocolates, Cacao Nibs & Dark Chocolate, 80% Cocoa
Observations of Packaging:
“Typical coffee colors”
Compromise between adult- and kid-themed packaging (could theoretically work for either audience)
Cadbury, Royal Dark, Dark Chocolate
Observations of Packaging:
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
“Here There Will Be No Unhappiness.” Hershey Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, by Michael D D’Antonio, Simon & Schuster, 2006, pp. 106–126.
The definition of chocolate in the Oxford dictionary is, “a food in the form of a paste or solid block made from roasted and ground cacao seeds, typically sweetened and eaten as confectionary,” (Oxford 2019). This definition is very broad and it includes many different varieties and flavors of chocolate. The taste of a chocolate bar may be attributed to many factors, including the type of cacao used, the processing of the cacao, and the ingredients in the chocolate bar. We will explore the production process of Cadbury and Taza chocolate. While both Taza and Cadbury products fall under the definition of chocolate, they are made from very different cacao under distinct production processes. We can examine these elements to explain their differences in taste. Additionally, by analyzing the growing and purchasing practices of these two companies, we can look at their impact on the farmers and farming communities.
The Cadbury company, founded in 1824, receives the majority of its cacao from Ghana in West Africa (“Our Story” 2019). The cacao beans come from many small cacao farms in Ghana (“Cocoa Growing Countries” 2019). Each farm ferments and dries the beans and then they bring the cacao beans to large drying stations where workers combine the beans from many farms, weigh them and pack them into sacks. Merchants then send the cacao sacks to the Ghana Cocoa Board. From here, the Ghana Cocoa Board takes the sacks to a port where the Cadbury company selects and purchases their beans and then ships the beans to processing factories (one in Singapore and another in Chirk, North Wales (“Chocolate Making” 2019; “Fact Sheet: Chocolate Manufacturing,” n.d.). At these factories, workers separate the cacao into cocoa powder and cocoa butter using a hydraulic press. Other workers then send the cocoa powder and the cocoa butter to Cadbury factories in Australia and New Zealand for chocolate production (“Chocolate Making” 2019). Here, workers add condensed cream and sugar to the cocoa to create a “cocoa crumb” that they mix with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter and a “special chocolate flavoring,” the composition of which the company does not disclose. The mixture then undergoes refining, conching, and tempering (“Chocolate Making” 2019).
Taza, a much newer, smaller chocolate company founded in 2005, has a production process that differs drastically from that of Cadbury (“About Taza” 2015). Trading directly with the farmers, Taza purchases high quality cacao beans from the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Haiti (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). Taza then ships the beans back to its factory in Somerville, Massachusetts and roasts and winnows the beans. They then use molinos, or traditional Mexican stone mills, to grind the cacao beans in order to preserve the flavor. This is where Taza’s “stone ground” chocolate comes from. The chocolate mass then undergoes tempering, molding, and cooling (“Our Process” 2015).
To emphasize, one of the major differences between Cadbury’s and Taza’s purchasing practices is that Cadbury purchases cacao in bulk from the Ghana Cocoa Board whereas Taza purchases cacao directly from the farmers. Cadbury previously received Fairtrade certification for following regulations for free and fair labor practices in the trade of ethical goods. However, Cadbury now follows free trade practices (“Cocoa Life” 2019; Leissle 2018). Free trade is a business model whereby companies purchase the cacao at market price, which is the lowest price for purchasing cacao. The cacao is likely not high quality. The Ghana Cocoa Board has instituted measures for quality control, including giving farmers training in agriculture and spraying to control for pests and diseases. The Cocoa Board also performs quality tests and bean classifications (Leissle 2018). Yet, the cacao comes from numerous farms and it is combined in bulk. Therefore, the purchaser does not know exactly what farms in Ghana or the types of cacao pods that the cacao beans come from. Additionally, since the farmers and farm workers do not know exactly what chocolate company will be purchasing their cacao, they do not have a direct relationship with the company and therefore, they may not have incentives to produce a high quality of cacao bean, rather they are more concerned with producing a large quantity of cacao beans. The majority of cacao farmers are involved in free trade because most of the big chocolate companies use the free trade business model to achieve the lowest possible price for the cacao. In purchasing cacao at market price, these companies can afford to sell their final chocolate products at a cheap price for chocolate consumers (Leissle 2018). Thus, consumers from all classes can afford to purchase Cadbury’s chocolate products, which will continue to increase Cadbury’s revenue (Albritton 2013). As a result of this free trade system, the farmers receive lower wages. In Ghana, the Ghana Cocoa Board pays the farmers and takes out taxes, which can be a large percentage. Additionally, the farmers’ payment may have further deductions depending upon farm labor and environmental certifications (Leissle 2018).
At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, Cadbury had issues with slavery in cacao farming on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe, its main suppliers of cacao at the time. Through various investigations and after several years, the Cadbury company decided to boycott the cacao grown in Sao Tome and Principe in an attempt to rectify the situation. After the start of the boycott, Cadbury began purchasing cacao from other countries in West Africa (Higgs 2012; Satre 2005). In a large company where there are many exchanges and intermediaries involved from the cacao bean to the final chocolate product, it can be difficult to monitor labor practices in third-world cacao growing regions, especially under the free trade business model. As previously mentioned, Cadbury’s cacao comes from the Ghana Cocoa Board. Thus, the Cadbury company is not aware of exactly what cacao farms the cacao comes from and Cadbury cannot easily monitor the labor practices on these farms. Nevertheless, Cadbury has launched a new initiative to partake in the Cocoa Life program (“Cocoa Life” 2019). This program is centered on educating cacao farmers and farming communities with the goals of lifting them out of poverty and giving them life skills in order to allow farmers to benefit from and participate more in the cocoa supply chain (“Cocoa Life – About the Program” 2019). Currently, in the cacao farming world, large companies in first world countries control the supply chain while farmers in third world countries live in poverty (Leissle 2018). Many feel that it is imperative for farmers to be educated and play a larger role in the cacao supply chain such that they can earn better and fair wages to support their farms and, in turn, pay their workers fair wages (Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute 2019).
Taza, on the other hand, practices direct trade. The company created the Taza Direct Trade Program for the chocolate industry to promote transparency and quality (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). In fact, Leissle refers to Taza as the “direct trade pioneer for chocolate,” (Leissle 2018). Direct trade involves a firsthand relationship between the purchaser (Taza) and the farmers (Leissle 2018). As such, Taza pays the farmers 15 percent to 20 percent above the market price for this high quality cacao. This ends up to be at least $500 above market price per metric ton of cacao (“2018 Transparency Report” 2018). Therefore, the final chocolate product is more expensive for consumers. This is due to the fact that the company (Taza) pays the farmers a higher price for the cacao to ensure that the cacao is high quality (Leissle 2018).
Taza’s direct relationship with cacao farmers, whom Taza refers to as its “grower partners,” plays a large role in the company’s ability to monitor the labor practices of the cacao farms (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). In contrast to Cadbury, Taza has no intermediaries or middlemen in the cacao purchasing process. Therefore, with the direct contact, purchasers from Taza can monitor the growing conditions and labor practices on the farm to ensure that they are non-abusive and environmentally sound (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). Furthermore, Taza publishes an annual transparency report that contains the price they paid for cacao among other statistics about the farmers and the farms.
While both the direct trade and the free trade models have little third party regulation, the direct trade model can provide more transparency since it is less complicated with fewer middlemen involved in the cacao purchasing process. Additionally, since Taza pays higher prices for the cacao, the farmers earn higher wages. This leads to the prevention and mitigation, and even eradication of, unfair or forced labor on these farms. On the other hand, through the free trade model of paying market price for the cacao, the farmers earn much lower wages. This can be conducive to exploitative or forced labor environments since the farm owners may not be able to afford to pay their workers fair wages.
In addition to the effect of cacao purchasing practices on labor conditions, cacao purchasing practices affect the taste of the final chocolate product. This is due to the fact that Cadbury purchases lower quality cacao at market price in bulk from the Ghana Cocoa Board whereas Taza purchases higher quality cacao at a higher price via direct trade practices (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015; “Cocoa Growing Countries” 2019). This difference in cacao quality leads to different chocolate production practices. Since the cacao is low quality, Cadbury, like other large chocolate companies, hides the flavor of the cacao in the final chocolate product via various processing steps such as adding their “special chocolate flavoring,” which includes sugar and condensed milk (“Chocolate Making” 2019; “Fact Sheet: Chocolate Manufacturing,” n.d.). On the contrary, Taza’s production process preserves the flavor of the high quality cacao such that it is detectable in the chocolate.
In order to gain some more knowledge about the differences in taste between Cadbury and Taza chocolate, I had some friends do a tasting of the two. They each tasted a square of the Cadbury Royal Dark Chocolate bar and the Taza Chocolate Mexicano 70% Dark Cacao Puro stone ground disk. The only ingredients in the Taza chocolate are organic cacao beans and organic cane sugar. In the Cadbury bar, the ingredients are sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milk fat, natural and artificial flavor, soy lecithin, and milk. Looking at the ingredients of the two chocolates, some of the major differences are that there are no additives aside from organic sugar in the Taza disk whereas there are several ingredients besides cocoa in the Cadbury bar. Some major contrasts between the descriptors for the two types of chocolate were that the Cadbury chocolate was smooth, silky, and sweet, whereas the Taza chocolate was gritty, bitter, and not as sweet. These differences demonstrate the fact that Taza’s processing methods bring out the taste of the cacao for the consumer whereas Cadbury’s processing methods create a uniform flavor where the other ingredients mask the cacao.
In all, chocolate takes on many different forms depending on the type of cacao processing and production methods. Direct trade cacao purchasing creates a firsthand relationship between the company and the farmers. By excluding middlemen from the process, the direct trade purchasing is less convoluted than free trade, making it easier to monitor labor practices and ensure fair labor practices. This is not to say that all free trade chocolate involves child labor or unfair labor, but that labor practices are more difficult to monitor when there are more parties involved in the purchasing. In addition to the labor aspects of direct trade versus free trade, a byproduct of direct trade is that Taza is able to create a unique flavor from the high quality cacao beans rather than concealing the flavor of the cacao using other ingredients as in a Cadbury chocolate bar.
Companies use Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, where they publicly make an effort to behave ethically or give back to some cause, not only to improve the ethics of their operations but also as a marketing ploy. A related phenomenon, Cause-Related Marketing (CRM), capitalizes on consumers’ desires to feel like they are supporting an ethical business with ethical practices.
Marketing and strategy experts have written papers about how CSR and CRM campaigns work best when the campaign aligns with the corporation’s history and existing strategy, and cannot work if there is conflict (Porter and Kramer, 2006). For example, McDonald’s has been criticized for publicizing its support for children’s charities while also promoting unhealthy eating habits among children, and a tobacco company would not be able to believably promote a group that aims to prevent smoking amongst minors. Other campaigns fail simply because they are too broad in scope or jostling with other companies to be the one company that consumers understand are working in that problem space. But some companies are able to pull it off by selecting a specific area related to their brand: ConAgra Foods decided to promote its food brands by starting a campaign called Feeding Children Better, and Avon promoted breast cancer awareness as a woman-focused cosmetics company (Cone, Feldman, and DaSilva, 2003). Environmental sustainability practices have been called out as a particularly good way for companies to incorporate CSR because they are usually able to see financial savings as well as build consumer goodwill (Porter and Kramer, 2006).
The chocolate industry has been leading the field in terms of corporate social responsibility and cause marketing for generations. Chocolate companies such as Cadbury and Hershey have fostered reputations for caring work environments from the start, and Mars has been an early leader in operational effectiveness. With their multi-million dollar marketing budgets, each firm is definitely investing in doing CSR and CRM right, and their current CSR and CRM emphases can be traced back to their namesake founders’ values and priorities. Each firm has had its own unique journey from founding to current marketing strategy, and each strategy highlights the unique properties of that company.
Cadbury, now owned by Kraft, is extremely explicit that the latest Cadbury marketing campaign is designed explicitly to remind consumers about Cadbury’s history as a Quaker company with Quaker morals (Roderick, 2018). However, the path back to its Quaker roots after its acquisition by Kraft has been circuitous.
“Our founder John Cadbury was a philanthropist, and there are so many examples of acts of kindness that he did. The best example is the creation of Bournville, where he provided homes for factory workers, there was a doctor’s surgery and cricket and football pitches. That was a real example of his generosity, and we want our new global brand platform to shine a light on our roots, but also shine a light on acts of kindness existing today.”
Benazir Barlet-Batada, Cadbury brand equity lead
When Cadbury was initially founded during the height of the Industrial Revolution, factories were considered awful places; Cadbury built Bournville to be a “garden city” where workers could live happy lives as well as work productively in the chocolate factory. This was a moral imperative for Cadbury as a Quaker, and although critics pointed out that Cadbury’s paternalistic policies were not exactly perfect and rent in Bournville was too expensive for many Cadbury employees, the British government lauded Cadbury’s “model village” as an exemplar for other companies to follow (Satre, 2005). This glowing reputation survived the Sao Tome slavery scandal, and the public stance that the company took about caring about its sourcing may have inspired it to make Dairy Milk the first Fairtrade certified mass-produced chocolate bar generations later (Freedman, 2009).
Cadbury used its ethical reputation as an argument when fighting a hostile takeover bid from Kraft (Freedman, 2009). The hostile takeover succeeded in 2010, much to the chagrin of many Brits who were proud of Cadbury and the ideals it stood for and were worried that the acquisition would cause it to prioritize profits over social good. Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury became an example of greedy American-style capitalism crushing the wholesome British chocolate company, with one reporter subtitling her article “How one of Britain’s best-loved brands went from a force for social good to the worst example of brutal corporate capitalism” (Fearn, 2016).
Their fears have been warranted: Kraft almost immediately broke (admittedly unrealistic from a business standpoint) promises to keep production in the UK, outsourcing production to Poland, as well as announcing that they would move away from Fairtrade and towards their own, in-house label called Cocoa Life (Martin, 2017). While Fairtrade UK published a defense of Cadbury, stating that “Fairtrade is going to be working even more closely with Cadbury from now on” to help them develop Cocoa Life standards, some critics are concerned that the lack of transparency if all companies begin constructing in-house policies will damage efforts for international fair trade standards (Crowther, 2016; Ionova, 2017).
Some marketing analysts imply that marketing campaigns after the takeover also lost touch with the British consumer base, and Cadbury cut short its planned 10-year campaign centered around Joy in the product (which began in 2012) to transition to the current one centered around Kindness (Roderick, 2018). Despite now being owned by a multinational giant, Cadbury hopes to remind people about its roots as an ethical company. Whether this new marketing campaign is effective at removing the shadow cast by Kraft’s ownership still remains to be seen, but you can watch one of their first ads of the campaign below:
To look beyond marketing campaigns at Cadbury’s stated Corporate Social Responsibility goals, we can look at Cadbury’s site, cadbury.co.uk, which has a section titled “Our Community” which lists their CSR projects: the Cadbury Foundation (donations to a diverse portfolio of initiatives), Cocoa Life (their Fairtrade replacement), and 30% less sugar (“helping chocolate-lovers manage their sugar intake better”). I would argue that the last example isn’t a great example of Corporate Social Responsibility, since it is more of a marketing point and not paired with any initiatives to proactively encourage healthier chocolate consumption, such as nutrition education. However, Cadbury does make it clear that its priority is communities like Bournville, emphasizing projects that its employees are passionate about, pointing back to the founders and their “investment in the welfare of their employees”, and writing about Cocoa Life’s impact on “cocoa communities”.
Cadbury interprets John Cadbury’s mission as one of community-building and philanthropy, and due to issues of brand perception after the Kraft takeover it is focusing its entire current marketing strategy on emphasizing that to consumers.
Like John Cadbury, Milton Hershey held strong moral views. As Michael D’Antonio describes in his 2006 book Hershey, he was very personally involved in every aspect of the development of his factory town down to the details of house construction. His policies of treating his workers fairly and with respect earned him great loyalty, and although it was tempered with the times when he overreacted, firing people for trivial offenses, the external world saw him as a kindly, paternalistic industrialist (D’Antonio, 2006). From the start, the Hershey Company focused on ethics as a marketing strategy.
People who purchased Hershey Chocolate weren’t buying a treat, they were contributing to a grand experiment that was going to prove that big business, often feared and resented, could do remarkable good
Michael d’antonio, author of hershey
Hershey has consistently maintained that image through the generations. However, it is difficult to maintain a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign on a general broad ideal, especially when the focal point of the ideals is one mortal man. Therefore, since Milton S. Hershey cannot live forever, and some of the factory town utopia ideals did not age extremely well, the Hershey Company had to narrow down its Corporate Social Responsibility focus.
The Hershey Company decided to focus on children as its unique differentiator to help its cause marketing initiatives stand up. Although Hershey’s work establishing his factory town was ground-breaking in the US, Cadbury had done the same work in the UK, and others had done similar work with less publicity around the world. But Milton and his wife Catherine’s pet philanthropic project, the Milton Hershey School, is unique to Hershey’s, and Hershey marketers seized on the theme of helping children.
Hershey’s website lists its CSR initiatives under a tab called “Shared Goodness“, which also lauds its history as “one of America’s first companies built with a purpose”. In addition to sponsoring the school, Hershey’s other CSR initiatives include “Shared Futures: The Heartwarming Project” for encouraging teens and their communities to make meaningful connections in the US and “Shared Business: Cocoa for Good” to work with the UN to improve conditions for children in cocoa-producing regions in addition to general policies for ethical operations. In the case of Cocoa for Good in particular, Hershey’s understands that the problem of improving conditions in cocoa-producing regions is a complex problem, so it doesn’t claim to solve any of the issues outright. Instead, it explains how its initiatives align with UN Sustainable Development Goals (The Hershey Company, 2018)
On its website, the Milton Hershey School proudly proclaims that it has been “providing life-changing opportunities for 110 years and counting”. In its Cocoa for Good press release, Hershey’s relates its goal to “nourish one million minds by 2020” back to the Hershey School, pointing out that both share the overall goal of “giving children the chance at a better future” (The Hershey Company, 2018).
Hershey has always been consistent with its value propositions and execution of CSR initiatives. Hershey’s proudly publishes an annual Corporate Social Responsibility report, signaling the importance that it places on those initiatives by elevating CSR to the same level of importance as annual financial reports. It also produces videos, one of which you can watch below:
Because it has been more consistent than Kraft-owned Cadbury in recent years, Hershey’s has room to explore with its marketing strategy, and its most recent ad campaign “heartwarming the world” is not as explicitly connected to Hershey’s progressive ideals (Wohl, 2018). However, it does share the basic theme of generosity and spreading the pleasure of Hershey’s, just as the company wants consumers to remember Hershey would have wanted.
Ever since the initial glowing reviews of Milton Hershey in the press, Hershey’s has been able to successfully position itself as an ethical chocolate producer that gives back. Regardless of whether the reputation is deserved, it has certainly been earned by 125 years of consistent marketing.
Like Hershey, Forrest Mars was very personally involved in the development of his business. Unlike Hershey and Cadbury, he did not have any pretensions of philanthropy. Instead, Forrest Mars made it very clear that he was in the chocolate business for the challenge of succeeding in the market. He was an early pioneer of Total Quality Management techniques, enforcing in the 1930s policies that it would take other American manufacturers until the 1980s to even begin to recognize the importance of. He could be compared to Steve Jobs in terms of personality, standards, and treatment of his employees, but his area of expertise makes him more of a Tim Cook. He built an emphasis on operations and quality into the backbone of his company (Brenner, 1999).
Forrest ran his businesses strictly by the numbers, but not in an accounting sense.
Joel Glenn Brenner, author of Emperors of chocolate
The concept that excellence in operations can be a corporate strategy in and of itself is a relatively new one, but it is a philosophy that Forrest Mars clearly supported. It requires an emphasis on quality and efficiency throughout the organization to ensure that the company can produce a better quality product faster and cheaper than any of their competitors. In order to succeed at this strategy, the reputation of the product should be able to stand for itself, and it should be relatively affordable, especially for such a high-quality product. Such an organization aligns extremely well with sustainability initiatives.
Sustainability initiatives have the dual benefit of being good ethically, and therefore building goodwill among potential consumers, as well as being good for the company’s profits as they are able to produce more efficiently when they produce less waste or use less raw material (Porter and Kramer, 2006). Forrest Mars’s hatred for waste and encouragement of rework very naturally evolves into a CSR initiative for sustainability.
Mars very recently rebranded to bring the focus away from candy, hinting that it would like to explore possibilities of conquering new markets, exactly as Forrest Mars would have wanted (Dworski, 2019). In fact, it is extremely difficult to tell from its website exactly what it is that the company sells. However, it is clear that sustainability is a major priority.
Mars has a very broad definition of “sustainability”, counting pretty much anything that could have a positive impact on the future, from analyzing its supply chain to find room for improvement to assisting veterinarians with student loan debts. While supply chain analysis makes perfect sense given Forrest Mars’s penchant for operations research, some of the more philanthropic examples might seem like a bit too much of a financial drain with no payoff for such a pragmatic company. However, investing in meeting high quality standards can also seem like a financial drain initially. Eventually, though, the investment pays out dividends, and it seems clear that Mars is continuing to follow that strategy.
Cadbury’s work with Fairtrade and its current owner Kraft’s return to the philosophy of kindness, Hershey’s work with children, and Mars’s work on sustainability are easily derived from their founding goals and priorities.
Porter, Michael E. and Kramer, Mark R. “The Link between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility”. Harvard Business Review, December 2006, pp. 78-93.
In 1901, the Cadbury company, which employed workers in Britain to make chocolate, started becoming aware of a brewing ethical crisis. Though the company prided itself on caring for its employees with Quaker hospitality, they now learned that São Tomé and Príncipé, African islands in the Portuguese Empire, were potentially using a form of labor that was effectively slavery on the cocoa farms. The drama primarily unfolded amidst the clash between the harsh reality of economic self-interest and a universal liberal moral consensus of antislavery. Ultimately, the work of investigative journalists made it untenable for Cadbury and other stakeholders to continue to triangulate between the two contradictory forces, and the forces of liberal consensus proved to be more powerful for Cadbury.
To understand how Cadbury ended up in this quagmire, it is helpful to understand that the company’s identity held contradictory elements from its beginning. The company insisted that its mission was not solely to make money, but to also model a morally superior Quaker society. Religious discrimination prevented Quakers from many areas of social and political power, but the Quakers provided support for each other, and many were able to succeed in business (Satre 14). The Cadbury family was highly involved in charity work, and aimed to build the rural village of Bournville (also the name of the factory) into a model city as part of the “Garden City movement, designed to improve the living conditions of its people” (Satre 16).
Still, even before the Cadbury debate, there were hints that this best of both worlds narrative, which portrayed the company as both morally and economically superior, was covering over disheartening contradictions. Specifically, the company often would choose money over morals. The company operated under a “marriage bar,” which forced female employees to leave upon becoming married. Cadbury justified it by explaining that “Cadbury did not want to take mothers away from their homes and children” (Newkey-Burden). Yet Cadbury employed large numbers of single women to keep expenses down, and had to separate the sexes in the factory to protect the single women. Further, many Cadbury workers could not afford the rents in Cadbury’s model village (Satre 16). These factors raise fair suspicious that Cadbury’s actions were sometimes motivated more by economic factors (i.e. young, single women could be paid less) rather than by their proclaimed moral intentions (i.e. promoting motherhood).
As the scandal burst onto the public awareness after journalist Henry Nevinson’s articles (Satre 82), Cadbury’s reputation was in a particularly vulnerable position. Its predicament was summed up well by a journal’s wry observation that “the cocao and chocolate which are turned out in this country by philanthropic manufacturers with the most scrupulous of care for the welfare of their employees, should have been grown under the most infamous and revolting conditions of murderous slavery” (Satre 83). This contrast can be displayed through a 1960 BBC video clip of Bessbrook model village (link, BBC) with images from slave condition. Bessbrook served as inspiration for Bournville, and the BBC reporter notes its “quiet dignity,” and remarks that the park and childrens playgrounds are “well-kept and free from litter”. As a goose gracefully swims in lake, the reporter nostalgically describes the bygone era in which the Quaker companies “were concerned with the social welfare of their workers.” Even after scandals of São Tomé and Príncipé, the benevolent image continued to hold its place in the public’s mind, as evidenced by the wistful mood of the video.
In contrast, Nevinson’s image (link, Nevinson) of the slaves being transported by ship encapsulates the complete disempowerment of the slaves. While the BBC video extols the parks and playgrounds, the mass of woman and their children are crowded lifelessly on the deck, with no space to leisurely roam about even if they wanted to. Only a few of the women in the picture have the energy to sit up, and of those, many appear to avert the gaze of the camera, perhaps in shame. The two women who do make eye contact appear mournfully resigned to their predicament.
The advertisement for Cadbury provides another contrasting example. Two woman happily look down at the expansive, well-manicured soccer field that the children are playing on (link, Wilson). The field is surrounded by impressive architecture of Cadbury, perhaps signifying the benevolently paternalistic ethos of Cadbury. The women appear pleased to be contributing members of the model society, and their lively children on the soccer field contrast sharply with the hapless children resting in the laps of the women slaves.
Not only was slavery against the proclaimed morals of the Quaker’s, but the major players in the debate were united, at least ostensibly, in a liberal moral consensus of antislavery. Slavery had already been officially banned in both the British and Portuguese empires, so the debate was not over a moral dispute about slavery, but over a dispute of fact (Satre 2). Portugal claimed that the native laborers were voluntarily entering five year labor contracts, but Nevinson brought forth evidence the Portuguese system of “contract labor” was effectively the same as slavery (Satre 7).
Portugal’s insistence on its own propriety had a practical effect of constraining its ability to reign in threats such as Nevinson. Even though the “slave traders were aware of Nevinson’s presence and purpose” (Satre 5), he was allowed to proceed in peace (except for a poisoning incident which was possibly intentional). Instead of actively confronting Nevinson, slave traders avoided Nevinson by taking alternative paths, camouflaging the slaves as carriers, and taking other steps to disguise their practices (Satre 5). Since the Portuguese insisted they had nothing to hide, they even promoted visits to a “‘model’ plantation in São Tomé, ‘a show-place for the intelligent foreigner or for the Portuguese shareholder who feels qualms as he banks his dividends” (Satre 10). Nevinson was not impressed with the “model” plantation, especially when the doctor admitted a twelve to fourteen percent annual death rate, with the chief cause being “‘anaemia’ brought on by ‘unhappiness’” (Satre 10).
When Cadbury company decided to send William Burtt as a representative to investigate the allegations of slavery, the Portuguese not only tolerated Burtt, but actually consistently displayed hospitality to him (Higgs 141). As Cadbury negotiated with the Portuguese over reforms to the labor system, the Portuguese emphasized that they shared the company’s “‘liberal and humane sentiment’”(Higgs 141). While the Portuguese might have secretly wished to forcefully end the investigations from Nevinson and Burtt, their options were limited by their official stance of antislavery.
Cadbury was rightfully fearful of the consequences of the public outrage generated by journalists such as Nevinson. It was a “public relations nightmare” for the firm, with consumers mailing Cadbury with comments such as “You pious Frauds” (Higgs 153). The public image fallout even impacted the members of a jury, in which they ruled in favor of Cadbury’s libel lawsuit against a critical article, but only rewarded one farthing (one quarter of a penny) in damages, strongly implying their lack of sympathy for the company (Higgs 152). While a cynical interpretation is that companies and countries only act in their own self-interest, journalists such as Nevinson demonstrate that when journalists are allowed to do their jobs, the public has a chance to demand changes to the status quo.
Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial:
Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business.
Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands:
Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa
Wilson, An. 2010. How the Cadbury family of the Victorian age would put
today’s fat cats to shame
Nevinson, Henry. 1906. A
Newkey-Burden, Chas . 2018.Who were the Cadbury Angels?
Cacao production into chocolate was quite an exclusive market in its infancy, but as the world became smaller and opportunities became more available for the right price the world of chocolate became more competitive. Chocolate no longer was the product of the British elites; both commoner and royalty could enjoy the foreign and exotic delight. In order to make it in the industry one not only had to make their mark in the chocolate market, but also reduce costs in order to at minimum come out even, and at maximum come out with a profit. Companies had to invest in confectionary techniques, land, import and export services, as well as labor. The Cadbury Brothers and their descendants are no exception. Despite clears laws passed to eliminate the usage of any form of slave labor in any industry the Cadbury Family knowingly purchased raw materials from companies that utilized forced labor. Due to the Cadbury Company remaining complicit to the nature of their retrieval of cacao it provided the legacy for continued forced labor to this day.
On the Cadbury website when exploring the timeline of the
Cadbury Family history there are multiple years deemed noteworthy by the
company of years that marked major milestones in their development. One of the
years of significance was 1861 when the company was handed down from John
Cadbury to his sons Richard and George. A particular excerpt from the passage
about the transfer of power of the company not only highlights the complete
disregard for how the product was collected, but the companies skewed view of
how it became the chocolate giant it is today.
“Although they’d both worked for the company for a number of years, taking control must still have been a daunting prospect for Richard and George. Other cocoa manufacturers were going bust; and they must have been worried that Cadbury Bros would soon be joining them. Luckily they had a financial lifeline: each invested £4,000 in the business, money that had been left to them by their mother. It was equivalent of about £600,000 today, but it didn’t solve all their problems. The first few years were tough. To keep the business alive, the brothers worked long hours and lived frugally…[Richard] commented that if they business ever made a profit of a thousand pounds a year he would retire a happy man.”
The comments of living “frugally” and the aspiration for profit must’ve range true for Richard’s sons and nephews because Barrow, William, Edward, and George Jr. continued the legacy of doing whatever it took to see a profit. Henry Nevinson, a journalist, insured to inform the public on how the Cadbury Bros reached that profit and the lives they were willing to exploit. Nevinson claimed that Cadbury chocolate was investing in slavery in order to keep their profit margins high and cost low. Nevinson’s report was met with shock from many of Cadbury’s consumers. William Cadbury in pursuit to distance the company from the slavery rumors and to highlight the fair treatment of the laborers on the cacao plantations hired his good friend Joseph Burtt to perform a private investigation into the claims. The goal was the to refute Nevinson’s claims, but all that Burtt saw was the dark reality Nevinson was briging to the light.
Joseph Burtt traveled to São Tomé and Príncipe to investigate the treatment of the laborers on the plantation, and while there had met Nevinson and was able to engage with Nevinson about his research and gain further knowledge of the practices. Though Burtt was hired as a “nonpartisan” observer, he is not a practiced journalist or expert in slavery, so it was necessary to utilize all resources to provide a clear picture of the conditions. Through his time in São Tomé and Prícipe Burtt could find no evidence to contradict Nevinson’s findings. On May 2, 1907 Joseph Burtt met with the board of directors of Rowntree, competitors with Cadbury Brothers, and made clear that “beyond all doubt…the negro labourers in the Cocoa plantation of S. Thomé and Príncípe are in the condition of practical slavery, and the methods by which this negro labour is obtained from the mainland of Africa is cruel and villainous” (Satre 74).
Burtt on the heels of his investigation had a report ready for release, but was stopped by the Cadbury Brothers and British Foreign office and was encouraged to delay the release of the report in order to allow the Portuguese government to review the report and to initiate the proper departments to halt the vicious practices. Both the British government and the Cadbury family actively censured Burtt. As earlier highlighted, the Cadbury Family was focused on keeping low costs and having consistent consumers, a report of actively engaging with and receiving materials from slave labor would have massive negative implications for the company. “The report that finally emerged in mid-July 1907 was several pages shorter than the December 1906 original. More than a few of Burtt’s lengthy descriptive passages had been excised…the most striking difference between the two reports was the careful language in the 1907 version. As Burtt acknowledged, great care was taken to avoid ‘referring to the services as slaves or to the servical system as slavery, because, approaching the matter as I did with an open mind, I have wished to avoid question-begging epithets’” (Higgs 136). The active censure of words, misinformation, and pursuit to deceive the public not only illustrates the massive problem of government agencies and private companies looking to subvert law, but also Cadbury Brothers Limited actively engaging in slave labor.
Due to the legacy of companies like Cadbury Brothers the practice of forced labor is a continued practice today. In countries like the Ivory Coast and Ghana there is child labor and workers making nowhere close a living wage. Companies like Cadbury Brothers had the opportunity to be above the profit margin but they refused and continue to not engage that part of their history, or work to stop the current work force.
One can only hope that one of the “chocolate giants” will take a stand against the slave labor, and set a precedent that a profit is not more important than respect for a human’s life and rights.
Below are current examples of the continued practice of forced labor.
Anywhere you go in the world, you can find people enjoying various brands of chocolate with a smile on their face. With chocolate being so widely consumed, nobody ever thinks about how a market was actually born from the universal enjoyment of chocolate. It originated in the Pre-Columbian times as a ritualistic treat for Mesoamericans. Chocolate was not as sweet back then, but they nonetheless added sweeteners to try to improve the taste. Nowadays, much more complex ingredients are used to obtain the sweet, rich, and creamy goodness that is chocolate. Chocolate can be found in grocery stores and homes all over the world; it’s so commonly seen that if you went to a check out line in any store and they weren’t selling chocolate bars, you might actually question the legitimacy of their business. For as long as many of us have been alive, chocolate has been bought and sold abroad but it wasn’t always so widely industrialized.
Chocolate first arrived in Spain in the early 16thcentury. It took some time to become widely accepted, as many Spaniards were initially skeptical of the foreign, bitter drink (Norton 2004). Eventually, acceptance of chocolate became widespread in Spain as the Spanish royal court began to develop a growing taste for it and certified it as an elite delicacy. From then on, all of Europe had a different respect and interest for chocolate.
Until 1828 when a technique was developed to separate cocoa butter from cacao solids, chocolate was something you could only drink. Casparus van Houten created the cocoa press method and his son, a Dutch Chemist by the name of Conraad Johannes van Houten, perfected it. In an attempt to make chocolate more soluble, Houten was able to effectively separate the cacao butter from cacao solids by adding alkaline salt. This would make it so that chocolate could be made in the home fairly easily and therefore would be more accessible to the common man. With the invention of the cocoa press method, chocolate became more than something you could just drink; people were for the first time able to eat it as a snack (Cox 1993). Chocolate as a solid bar caught the attention of the entire continent and eventually became more prevalent than its previously enjoyed liquid form. The chocolate that results from the cocoa press method is now referred to as Dutch-Process cocoa. Dutch-Process cocoa is one of the standard ingredients in most of the chocolate we consume today.
With the European chocolate industry growing rapidly throughout the 19th century, people continued to try to find new ways to optimize the taste of it and make it more marketable. In 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle invented milk chocolate by blending milk with chocolate. Milk chocolate boomed in Europe, but the growing market for chocolate was increasingly more crowded. As more and more people got into the market and tried to develop better chocolate than their competitors, the quality of chocolate inevitably improved. With inventions like the conching machine in 1879 by Rodolphe Lindt, the texture of chocolate became much smoother and was able to be made much faster, pushing further industrialization. In order to attack a new market that had never seen the type of chocolate they specialized in, Peter and Nestle brought their product to America and created Nestle’s Chocolate Company in 1905. From the invention of milk chocolate and the introduction of it to the American market sprung the industry we are most familiar with today. Major chocolate companies today would not be so profitable if it weren’t for Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle.
Since 1905, a few (and I do mean a few) other companies have also gotten in on the mega-market that the sale of chocolate has grown to produce. The top companies that make close to all of the brands of chocolate sold around the world are Nestle (who is till the biggest company), Cadbury, and Mars. These companies drive what has turned into an ever-growing market that we all are guilty of contributing to on a regular basis.
Chocolate has come a long way from the time when it was first consumed on Earth to the much more marketed chocolate we are familiar with today. It went from being a hand made commodity to being produced through a much more mechanized process and from being consumed in one particular part of the world to being consumed worldwide. Chocolate is and will always be a part of our lives, as our love for it seems that it will never fade. Hopefully this Food of the Gods, as it was once regarded (Presilla 2009), will be waiting for us in the afterlife.
Cox, Helen. 1993. “The Deterioration and Conservation of Chocolate from Museum Collections”. Studies in Conservation, vol. 38, no. 4.
Norton, Marcy. 2004. “Conquests of Chocolate”. OAH Magazine of History, vol. 18, no. 3.
Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
In the classic times of the Aztec and Mayans,
cacao was a sacred and cultural food icon. Over the next centuries it would
develop into a taste for the rich and noble in Europe and then be disseminated into
the general population where a mass production of chocolate soon became
necessary to meet the demands of the people. When the demands for chocolate rose
it became normal for companies to abuse foreign labor to maintain the supply for
chocolate and sugar. This has created a legacy of oppression that still exists
to this day. Profit is the bottom line of any corporation and they will do
whatever they can to keep their costs low, which is why such unethical
practices have existed. Ultimately, the control of the corporations profit
comes from the hands of the consumer.
Thus, the responsibility is on us as consumers to hold chocolate corporations
accountable for their unethical practices if we want the industry to leave
behind its legacy of oppression.
To meet the growing demands in Europe for chocolate, cacao plantations were set up across the world from the West Indies to Africa. Mesoamerican workers were used, but as they soon died to disease enslaved Africans soon became the principle labor force behind the cultivation of cacao (Martin, 2019). Cacao as a cash crop then became so profitable that it became one of the common commodities involved with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Slavery became a foundation of the cultivation of cacao as the as the cost efficiency of forced labor made it a very enticing choice. As the abolitionist movement progressed slavery eventually became outlawed throughout the Western world, yet even when slavery became outlawed the profitability of oppression meant that those at the bottom to the food chain would continue to work in unfavorable conditions.
Cadbury was a company that prided itself on being one of the most popular names in chocolate and even today Cadbury continues to find popular commercial success. As this ad shows Cadbury had been doing so well that it became the chocolate of choice for Queen Victoria herself in the mid 1800s. However, their high quality cacao was derived from the Portuguese colony of Sao Tome & Principe, a place with troubling ethics for the cacao laborers. Despite slavery being outlawed in Portuguese colonies, the treatment for the African farmers was akin to slavery (Martin, 2019). When the initial reports of the work conditions first reached the ears of Cadbury, they did nothing to remedy the situation other then send one researcher Joseph Burtt who’s report would end up taking years. Meanwhile, independent journalist Henry Nevinson went to Sao Tome & Principe and had already been publishing information about the use of slaves on the island. It would take 8 years before Cadbury would change where they sourced their cacao from after William Cadbury went to visit the island to see the work conditions himself. There were certainly various factors, such as foreign relations with Portugal that played into why it took Cadbury before making the decision to boycott Sao Tome & Principe. What pushed William Cadbury to finally visit the island was mounting pressure from consumers and the public. Other chocolate companies attempted to distance themselves from the public ire by also boycotting cacao from Sao Tome & Principe. The Cadbury incident is a perfect example that the power to end inequality inflicted by corporations lies in the hands of the consumer.
While the Cadbury days where companies could get away with having chattel slavery in their supply chains have passed, today a new form of oppression has become the norm. Ghana and the Ivory Coast now account for 60% of cacao produced in the world (World Cocoa Foundation, 2018). In these countries oppression through the chocolate industry has become a capitalistic slavery where the people at the bottom of the chocolate supply chain have such unequal wages that they live in conditions close to or in poverty. Even after decades of farming cacao, some farmers have not even tried chocolate before. The video below shows how far removed these farmers are from our comfortable world of well-wrapped and boxed sweets.
The reason these laborers get paid so little is because corporations want to keep their costs low in the supply chain to keep up with global demand. Perhaps the cheapest sources of labor suppliers have turned to, to increase productivity rates are in child laborers. This issue began gaining awareness back in the mid 2010s, but since the initial outrage there has actually been an increase in child labor associated with the chocolate industry (Balch, 2018).
From the Cadbury Company in the late 1800s to child slave
laborers today it is clear that there has been an unfortunate legacy of inequality
in the production of chocolate. This legacy exists because companies want to
source from cheap labor to make the most profit possible while keeping up with
high global demand companies. Ultimately, it is the workers at the bottom of
the supply chain that are the most hurt. If there is any lesson to learn from
the example of Cadbury incident it is that we the consumers have the power in
our hands to improve the lives of these workers. The profit that these
corporations care so much about is in our control and it is our responsibility
to make a difference for the farmers and children who face unfair wages because
of the products that we choose to buy.
Balch, O. (2018). Child Labour: The dark truth behind chocolate production.
Martin, C. (2019) “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor” [Powerpoint slides].
In the 1870s, the Portuguese government abolished slavery in
all of its colonies. Although slavery was abolished, there still was a very
high demand for labor from plantation owners. To solve this problem, Portugal
elected to introduce the concept of “contract labor” where “natives, of their
own free will, could sign contracts committing themselves to five years of
labor at a set wage.” (Satre, 2). It was established that the government would
be responsible for protecting workers and labor conditions.
In the early 1900s, about 30 years after Portugal had
formally abolished slavery, British journalist Henry Nevinson went to Portuguese
colonies in West Africa, where he couldn’t help but notice the obvious signs
that indicated slavery was still prevalent. Nevinson described what he found,
such as “human bones littering the sides of the trails,” and shackles used to
restrain slaves hanging from trees so “they could be recovered by later trading
parties.” (Satre, 1). Despite what the Portuguese government stated, Nevinson
concluded that contract labor was no different than slavery.
The discovery of the use of slavery had large implications
for the chocolate industry due to the reliance on the production of cocoa in this
region. William Cadbury, who was an owner of Cadbury, one of the largest
chocolate companies in England, responded to Nevinson’s reports by sending an
investigator, Joseph Burtt, to Sao Tome, one of the chocolate islands, to
further look into the allegations of the use of slavery in chocolate production
(Satre, 13). During this trip, Burtt concluded that slavery was still very much
alive in the production of chocolate.
Upon returning back to England confirming Nevinson’s
findings, Burtt sent a report of his investigation results to Cadbury. These
reports experienced a significant delay before being released to the public for
multiple reasons. The release of the report had many implications. Not only
would the report impact the chocolate industry, but it had potential diplomatic
implications between the British and Portuguese governments. The findings in
the report directly accused Portugal of failing to uphold their declaration of
abolition. Knowing this, the England Foreign Office requested to Cadbury that
parts of the report be edited to become more sensitive towards Portugal as not
to upset them and create conflict (Higgs, 133). In addition to foreign policy
concerns from the government, Cadbury had to delay the publication of the
report in order to have the report accepted by other chocolate makers, such as Fry,
Rowntree, and Cologne. The companies all had to negotiate the report, which
proved to be very challenging and time consuming. The original report was
written in December 1906, but the report did not become public until July 1907,
and was much shorter as many descriptive passages were removed (Higgs, 136).
Despite the publication of the report, Cadbury still failed
to stop its reliance on the production of cocoa in Sao Tome and other chocolate
islands. There are multiple potential reasons for this lack of action. First of
all, from a strictly business standpoint, production in Sao Tome was very good
for Cadbury. The product was very high quality and was cheap, so it was very attractive.
The concerns for Cadbury were ethical. Secondly, from Cadbury’s viewpoint, it
did not make sense to simply leave these islands. By just leaving, Cadbury would
not be doing anything to stop the slavery, as new competition would take
advantage of the products. Not only would Cadbury be doing nothing to stop the
slavery, but they also would be allowing competitors to take advantage and make
them worse off as a company. By stopping utilizing Sao Tome, no one would be
better off, and Cadbury would be worse off.
Upon lack of action by Cadbury, a British newspaper, The Standard, published an article
heavily criticizing Cadbury for failing to act despite clear evidence. This
upset William Cadbury, who in response successfully sued for libel (Martin, 65).
In an effort to save face in the public eye, William Cadbury personally took a
trip to the islands to investigate. Upon seeing for himself, Cadbury finally
admitted the presence of slavery and the failure of Portugal to enforce abolition
(Higgs, 148). Cadbury no longer purchased cocoa from Sao Tome or other chocolate
islands using slavery.
While they did finally respond to everything that had
happened, one might wonder why it ultimately took Cadbury four years to stop
buying cocoa after the initial report came out from Nevinson. There are some explanations
for this significant amount of time. In preparation to publicizing the report
of Burtt’s investigation, there were many moving parts between Cadbury, the
Foreign Office, and other chocolate makers. It was necessary to be careful in
wording in order to not upset the Portuguese. Additionally, the distance
between England and Sao Tome forced communication and investigating to be very
lengthy, as it is not easy to travel between the two places. Ultimately, while
it may have taken longer than necessary, Cadbury did eventually make the
appropriate ethical decision regarding the role of slavery in their chocolate
production in Sao Tome.
Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and
the Ethics of Business. pp. 1-32, 73-99
Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and
Colonial Africa. pp. 133-165
Martin, Carla D. 2019. Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.
Although Slavery has long been abolished, the chocolate industry has been utilizing coerced labor and slavery, knowingly or unknowingly, to this day. The most essential ingredient of chocolate, cocoa, must be mass produced for major corporations that produce a majority of the world’s chocolate. This entails extensive manpower, which was once provided by slaves before the abolishment of slavery. The chocolate industry chose to turn a blind eye to a form of modern slavery in the case of the Cadbury company in Sao Tome, a Portugal controlled area off the Coast of Africa in the early 1900s. Cadbury, one of the biggest chocolate companies in the world today, directly bought cocoa from plantations who used slave labor, and did not immediately condemn it, thereby indirectly supporting post abolition slave labor.
Cacao Beans Used to Make Chocolate
In the 1900s, the Cadbury company employed over tons of workers in controlled factory settings. They were a formidable player in the chocolate game. In 1901, William Cadbury visited some cocoa plants in Trinidad. There he learned of instances of slave labor on cocoa plantations Cadbury bought cocoa from on the island of Sao Tome, a Portuguese controlled colony Cadbury and other chocolate companies bought cocoa from off the coast of Western Africa. By this time, Portugal had banned slavery in the 1870’s, and had put in place a system of contract labor, where natives of the area could sign contracts for up to five years of labor at a dirt cheap wage.(Satre 2) A british journalist, Henry Nevinson, visited West Africa Portugal in 1905 to study the conditions that laborers had to work in in Sao Tome and surrounding areas. (Martin) He wrote in detail about the post abolition slavery he was witnessing during his trip and even went as far as to call the new contract labor put in place by the Portuguese government just another form of slavery.(Satre 2) He wrote a book about it titled “A Modern Slavery” which included pictures and details about the forms of slavery he witnessed. (Flewelling)
Interested in the claims of slavery in the West African Portuguese colonies, William Cadbury himself sent a young man by the name of Joseph Burtt to investigate what was going on. Burtt was a devout Quaker, and held deep Quaker values. Burtt returned back to Cadbury after his two year trip with similar results to that of Nevinson. (Satre 13) He found that slave labor had in fact been in use on the islands. He submitted a report to Cadbury, but they took a long time to reach the public eye for a number of reasons. The foreign office of Great Britain was keen on not offending the Portuguese government, so they requested certain aspects of the report be deleted.(Flewelling) The report was also to be adopted by other players in the chocolate game because they were all buying from these islands as well.(Flewelling) This lead to long negotiations as to what the final report would contain and was ultimately another delay to the process. The Cadbury brothers depended too much on cocoa from these regions to be able to boycott them until they found another source of cocoa that did not use slave labor, and they did just that in 1909.(Flewelling) After Cadbury took a trip himself to Sao Tome and the surrounding islands, he realized that the reports were in fact true, and that the Portuguese government really could not enforce abolition in these areas.(Higgs 148) They chose the Gold Coast as it had better quality cocoa than the Portuguese slave labor areas. All of this combined to allow the Cadbury company along with other chocolate producers in Great Britain to announce their boycott of the Portuguese held cocoa producing islands that were employing slave labor.
This is one of the first, but sadly not the last, well documented and notable incidents where companies use the morally reprehensible tactic of post abolition slave labor to make profits margins rise and costs lower. William Cadbury knew of the transgressions in the Portugal controlled West African province cocoa plantations, yet he waited until it was convenient for his company to come out and condemn the labor situation in the affected areas. He found another way to get high quality cocoa beans for just as cheap, and then he stopped buying from the well documented slave laborers. Politics and fear of offending the Portuguese government also got in the way of doing what is morally correct and having the type of integrity that a giant corporation should have because of the type of power and influence they wield. Cadbury objectively participated in illegal and disgusting schemes with the incentive of higher profits and convenience. This type of action to farm cocoa still goes on today, but it often has deeper layers and complexities that must be dove into to truly understand. Child labor and quasi slave labor in the eyes of the global community is considered wrong in America and among many other countries, but for some, it is ingrained in their culture. Is this still slavery or is it just a part of a culture that has yet to prescribe to the modern ideals of labor ethics? You be the judge.
Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. pp. 130-160
Martin, Carla D. Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor .
Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. pp. 1-30
“William Cadbury, Chocolate, and Slavery in Portuguese West Africa.” Isles Abroad, 11 Feb. 2017, britishandirishhistory.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/william-cadbury-chocolate-and-slavery-in-portuguese-west-africa/.Flewelling, Lindsey.
Slavery has played a role in the European production of Chocolate since the inception of the industry. Although slavery and the acceptance of slavery has changed quite a bit since the Spanish first instituted the encomienda system to provide cheap labor for the production of chocolate, it still remains a major cost cutting measure that some chocolate farmers employ to produce cacao at market rates. In recent years some consumers have become increasingly concerned about the ethics of the food and products that they consume, which has opened the door more expensive fully vertically integrated chocolate producers that can guarantee that their products are ethically produced. These companies are generally small because their business model generally requires their chocolate to be more expensive than their bigger competitors. As consumers become more ethically conscious about what they consumer bigger companies could adopt this business model and still be able to compete in the market.
The first Europeans to make chocolate where the Spanish in their Central and South American colonies. Since the process of picking and processing the cacao was very labor intensive the Spaniards relied on several different forms of slave labor. Initially they the used Native Americans through the Encomienda system (Sampeck, 44). This was because the natives already had many of the skills required to harvest and process cacao and there were plenty of them living in the area. In the encomienda system the natives technically were not slaves, in the sense that the land owners did not own them, but the landowners were the only place that the natives could get living essentials and the only way to get those were to work the landowners land (Sampeck, 45). During this time slavery was generally accepted and the Europeans were also trying to convert the natives to Christianity, so they thought that they were doing them a favor.
The encomienda system fell out of favor quite soon though, because many of the natives were killed by disease and there were not enough of them to work the farms. The production remained in Central America at the time, but the labor shifted to enslaved Africans (Sampeck, 45). Since enslaved Africans were constantly being shipped in their numbers were not being decreased by European diseases or the high mortality rate while working on plantations. They also did not run away as much because they did not know the land as well as the natives did.
As Chocolate production became more globalized the amount of slaves used in its production increased. Between the years 1500 and 1900 between 10 and 15 million slaves were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas. 60% percent of the slaves went to the Caribbean where English colonies produced quite a bit of sugar, which is an important ingredient in chocolate. After the slaves arrived they were generally expected to survive only 8 (Sampeck, 47). In the beginning this system was very profitable and was moral tolerated. The fact that this system was profitable tells you that a single slave cost less than 8 years worth of wages, although such a number it completely ridiculous it is worth remembering that these slaves were made to work extremely long hours without much rest in between.
In the early 1800 the world began to slowly phase out and abolish slavery. At this time to keep chocolate production profitable producers moved production to places that had a similar climate to Central America, but had more cheap labor. The Portuguese colony of Sao Tome and Principe became the biggest producer of cacao in the world during the early 1900 and this is where we can see a company struggling between competing in the Chocolate market and utilized slave labor to do it (Satre, 13). The labor used on this island was not the traditional slave labor that was common in American colonies, this labor instead was indentured servants with exploitative contracts. This was an important distinction because slavery was illegal in Portugal, but these workers were technically free and could return home as soon as their contracts expired. None of these workers ever chose to return home. A large plantation on the island even admitted to having a 25 percent child mortality rate (Satre, 11). The Cadbury company was a large chocolate company in England run by quakers, who supported many anti-slavery causes. This company bought 45% of its cacao from the island of Sao Tome and Principe. After the company heard about the possible use of slave labor in the production of their chocolate they send a person to investigate that claim (Satre, 13). After extensive investigation Cadbury eventually concluded that the working conditions at their chocolate supplier were unacceptable, but when they confronted the Portuguese they were told that they were free to buy their chocolate elsewhere. The problem with that is that Cadbury would have to pay more for the same product (Satre, 24). Although the company might have been able to afford this increase in costs Cadbury decided that the slavery in Sao Tome and Principe was not as bad as American slavery and certain farmers there promised to improve conditions. However as the social climate changed and the evidence of slavery in Sao Tome and Principe mounted Cadbury eventually decided to boycott them (Higgs, 153). Although slavery was not generally accepted at the time people did not feel very strongly about exploitative labor practices.
In modern times consumers feel very strongly about slavery and exploitative labor practices, so companies cannot admit to knowing about slavery and keep buying from those same suppliers. However there are about 2 million children working in hazardous conditions in West Africa in the Cocoa industry. Many small craft companies such as Tony’s Chocolonely are controlling their entire supply chain to make sure that the chocolate is ethically produced (Appiah). This increases costs for the company, but in today’s woke culture people are willing to pay significantly more for products and are cruelty free and ethically sourced. Currently this is only profitable for small companies that are trying to make a statement, but as priorities change more larger companies might be able to take control of their supply chains and provide ethically sourced chocolate.
Slave labor has played a major role in the history of the chocolate industry. Without slaves chocolate would have been a much more expensive commodity and might not have risen to the same popularity that it enjoys today. As the culture changes more companies are trying to make ethical chocolate that does not require and coercive labor practices and slavery. At this point this is mainly done by small companies, but as this trend grown larger companies are starting to consider imposing stricter standards on their supply chains.