To begin chocolate is used worldwide for many different reasons. The uses have changed over time and in the recent years it has been pretty consistent, but over the centuries the uses and meanings behind chocolate has changed drastically. To show these changes I interviewed a fellow friend who has grown up using chocolate. It also has been a part of her family and childhood. Chocolate was used for holidays such as Easter, Valentines day and halloween, and festivities such as birthdays and finally for leisure. The use and reasons for using and consuming chocolate has changed over time, also how the prices of chocolate have been different over time. Along with the uses and reasons for why my classmate uses chocolate I will discuss what chocolates uses evolved from.
First I will discuss the connection and role chocolate has played in my fellow classmates life then proceed to elaborate and explain how it has changed over time. To begin my fellow classmate who I will refer to as Jessica for privacy reasons said she grew up on chocolate. Chocolate for her was a cornerstone of many events. First example would be holidays. My fellow classmate said during christmas time her family would give each other chocolate candy along with hot chocolate and other chocolate treats. This goes for holidays such as Easter, Valentines day and Halloween. All these holidays utilize chocolate as a focal point and when one hears these holidays they can automatically associate chocolate with them. This is the chocolate companies utilizing the importance of children being the main audience for these events and then catering their candy to their liking.
On the other hand when referring to chocolate in connection to holidays such as Valentines the meaning has stayed consistent for years. If one analyzes the reasons why companies use Valentines to promote chocolate it is been apparent for years. The chocolate industry has been using women to sensualize the idea and feelings around chocolate. Since early times of chocolate it has been believed that chocolate raises women’s sex drive. It is also believed women are physically aroused by chocolate and the sensation it brings when consumed. This is a textbook way to cater to one’s audience and has been done for years. The chocolate companies know that men are infatuated with women so therefore if they see a woman on TV passionately enjoying chocolate then they will assume women love it. This is how men work.This now entices men to buy their significant other chocolate on valentines day due to the stigma the chocolate community has created around chocolate and women (Robertson 138). This is one of the greatest marketing moves, and now the whole world associates women and valentines with chocolate. As for Easter and Halloween the chocolate companies simply took over the candy market.
Speaking on the sexualization of chocolate relating to women comes the war on candy. As seen in the movie shown in class chocolate was viewed originally as delicacy and a upper class snack and dish then transition to a middle class snack. During this time candy and chocolate became demonized and seen as a vice or sin. This was around the time of the temperance movement against alcohol and drunkenness. This then leaked over into the world of candy. The church took up arms against chocolate because they felt it was associated with sensual feelings and indulgence. It said that chocolate is a gateway indulgence similar to a slippery slope. Therefore, the church felt threatened by the rising commodity that was affordable and loved. This also lead to sugar phobia which was the fear of too much candy and junk food.
The second way chocolate was apart of her life that chocolate would be the fact it was always available. This means from her youth to her age now she was always able to find, purchase and enjoy chocolate. No matter the location she could always find it for a reasonable price. This is also a major factor because she would receive it as gifts, presents and rewards in class even. Availability also relates to holidays such as Halloween because people can purchase a huge quantity for a low price making it easy access for children. This also explains how chocolate is a huge part of many childrens’ childhood despite economic background or location.
This is the new age where chocolate is a child’s luxury and now the market is catered towards children (Campaign). As a child in modern era chocolate has been the shifted from the rich and upper class to everyone and all children. But, the audience of chocolate has changed dramatically. Originally the use and consumption of chocolate was only for the upper class and the rich of Europe. Also, the use of chocolate has changed in the ancient and early years between 1700-1900’s the main uses of chocolate was religion, socioeconomic class and politics. This was due to the fact chocolate back then was not cheap and or abundant, therefore having chocolate and displaying it was a sign of your wealth and prestige . This is the largest difference between now and back then when it comes to accessing chocolate and consuming it. Another change would be the consumption of chocolate as stated previously the consumption has changed dramatically. In the early ages chocolate was not truly eaten for pleasure, it was mostly was done to show status. But, soon it became more and more mainstream as a product. To show this the chart above this paragraph displays the consumption per capita per year. This tells you how many kilograms of chocolate a single person per year consumes. For the United States the kilograms per person in 2013 was approximately 35 kilograms, which a large amount. 35 kilograms is roughly 77 pounds. This is an insane amount of consumption for a country who does not produce any cocoa. This shows the change in the sheer quantity of chocolate which is being produced and distributed world wide compared to the 1700-1900’s.
Along with availability comes the change in the social class companies target in today’s market. Another huge difference is price, and how cheap it is now. In today’s society chocolate is a cheap treat anyone can purchase from a gas station on any corner. In today’s society the low prices are nice for the consumer and the cheap costs for production are good for the companies, but for the producers, the farmers, it is terrible. The farmers must work long and hard hours for scraps. The companies are not close to bankruptcy either they simply choose to pay the lowest possible price for the coacao. On top of this the farmers get paid once a year because they can only harvest the cocoa once a year to sell. Therefore, they must make all the money last a year and support their family till the next harvest. People do not realize that to maximize profit companies utilize child labor and slavery even till very recently. In modern times they make the pay closest to zero as possible since slavery is illegal (Cleveland 609). Therefore, people need to become informed and aware that there life style stems from slavery and unfair wages placed upon those on cocoa production farms. The only way to change this is to boycott major companies who refuse to pay their workers more even if it means paying a slightly higher price for chocolate.
Building on the point that farmers need to paid more for fair compensation for the work they do there are not many places on earth that produce large amounts of cacao. 60% of the cocoa production stems from two countries. Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana are the leading producers for cocoa and these are not large countries on top of that. It would not take much out of the multi billion dollar industries that the major five have created to put more funding into these countries. Chocolate companies spend up to 17 billion dollars on advertising alone a year. It would take only fraction of this to increase the wages of the farmers in those countries.
Along with the unfair wages and huge amount of cocoa coming from a small part of the world the farmers try to save money by having children work for them for low to no money. This is known as child labor it is seen as one of the worst forms of labor because it is robbing a child of their childhood. Children in these conditions according to Professor Martin have to “clear trees, planting, grafting, applying fertilizers/pesticides/fungicides, weeding, pruning, harvesting” this is a list of some task among others that the children would have to do. This is first not right to force a child to work when they should be getting their education. Another reason would be the dangers of making a child do work meant for a skilled adult. There are many dangers in the process of harvesting and planting cocoa according to Professor Martin such as “fatigue, musculoskeletal injury, cuts or other wounds, sunburns and heat stress”. These are simply cruel and unacceptable conditions for anyone let alone a child to be working in.
The labor even though still unjust has also evolved in the chocolate industry. The use of child labor and regular labor , but workers being paid much less is a major change in the production of chocolate on the labor side. It shifted from slavery to now forms of intensive child labor and underpaid farmers. In both instances people are being majorly exploited. Of course slavery is a more pressing problem but at the same time the exploitation of cocoa farmers is unacceptable and easily changeable. The fact that in today’s society it should be the main focus and priority to change the situation in these countries and farms there. People can not condone and proceed to purchase chocolate from major companies knowing that they use child labor to produce cocoa for low prices.
In conclusion chocolate plays a fundamental role in many people’s lives in modern times. Like my fellow classmate said chocolate was the cornerstone of her childhood. Chocolate ran holidays such as Valentines day, Easter, Halloween and others. It was a social snack along with a coping food for when she was sad, happy sick and everything in between. Chocolate was viewed as Americas’ candy. It brought people together and brought with it feelings of happiness to kids. The fact chocolate was available and affordable throughout the country makes it even more desirable. These traits would make it a perfect present, I am sorry gift and surprise treat. These aspects make people love chocolate and associate it with happiness and good times. When in reality chocolate is not all happiness and joy. From the dark association of women and sexualizing chocolate for advertising reasons, to the connection to wealth and social status and slavery. Also it may be all joy for the consumer of the sweet cheap treat, but not for those who are suffering on the other side of this transaction. The chocolate companies are exploiting and using people and children to maximize their gain. In forms such as slavery and even child labor in modern times. When referring to social status chocolate was not always a treat for kids of all backgrounds. It used to not be available to kids who were not wealthy and or did not have much money. These are the major changes that chocolate has undergone in the many years people have been utilizing this product. It was once an expensive and exclusive treat for the upper echelon of europe produced by slaves from africa and islands, and used to show status and wealth. Now it has become a household snack and treat widely accessible to the public and kids of all backgrounds. Also, now the product does not represent wealth and status, but when it comes to the production side people are still being used and not properly compensated.
Scholarly Sources Cited:
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire : A Social and Cultural History. Manchester
University Press ; Distributed in the United States Exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, commercialfreechildhood.org/.
Cleveland, Todd. “Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa.” Agricultural
History, vol. 88, no. 4, 2014, pp. 608-610. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1640565903?accountid=11311.
Pedzich, Joan. “The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the
Cocoa Industry.” Library Journal, vol. 137, no. 7, 2012, p. 53.
Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 10, 2019
Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 3, 2019
Professor Carla Martin Lecture March 20, 2019
Professor Carla Martin Lecture March 27, 2019
Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 17, 2019
Multimedia Sources Cited:
Low wages for cocoa workers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4c7l_CVwFc&feature=youtu.be
Women sexualizing Chocolate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA6e8CrNiDc&feature=youtu.be