Tag Archives: Candy

Chocolate Now and Then: The Evolution of Chocolate

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.

Women Sexualizing Chocolate

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.

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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.

Cocoa production for low wages

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.

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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

Arab-Islamic Civilization and Sugar: Laying the Foundation of Modern Sweets and World Food Culture

The Arab-Islamic Civilization spread the cultivation and consumption of sugar, changing worldwide habits and trends in food culture and creations to the modern day.  Straddling three continents, Islamic empires in the medieval era allowed an intermingling of cultures and traditions, from East to West. “The Arab expansion westward marked a turning point in the European experience of sugar…the Arabs introduced sugar cane, its cultivation, the art of sugar making, and a taste for this different kind of sweetness.” (Mintz, 23) It would change the course of history and affect lands and peoples much far away; laying the foundations of large scale plantations that would eventually be established in the Americas and Caribbean Islands.

In a few centuries, sugar went from being a scarce spice and medicine, to a widely consumed, daily staple product of people of all economic standing, all over the world. The crystallization of sugar first started in India and was used in Persia by the sixth century. After the rise of Islam, the Arabs entered Persia and were introduced to the age-old process of sugar produced from cane, adopting and further developing these techniques.  They planted sugar-cane in plantations across their empires, in Mesopotamia, the Levant, Egypt, North Africa, Al-Andalus (Spain and Portugal), and by the tenth century the Arabs were growing the crop in Sicily, all the while perfecting the process of refining it in sugar mills. (Salloum, 4)

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Picture 1: Map Showing Sugar Cultivation by Muslims

In the lands of the Mediterranean, Arabs developed agriculture and introduced new crops to the land, such as, orange, lemon, banana, saffron, fig, date trees, and most importantly, sugar cane. Wherever the Arabs went, they brought sugar, the product and technology of its production with them, to the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, Crete and Malta. (Mintz, 25) During the Muslim rule in Spain, there was numerous contributions of irrigation, soil management, and scholarly efforts in farming innovation. (Hughes, 68) These plants were used not only in agriculture, but for pharmacy, gardens, luxury trade, and arts.

For nearly eight centuries, under her (Muslim) rulers, Spain set to all of Europe a shining example of a civilized and enlightened State.  Her fertile provinces, rendered doubly prolific by the industry and engineering skill of her conquerors, bore fruit an hundredfold.  Cities innumerable sprang up in the rich valleys of the Guadalquivir and the Guadiana, whose names, and names only, still commemorate the vanished glories of their past. (Lane-Poole, vii)

Irrigation and agricultural practices established then has had a lasting impact. “The knowledge, handwork, commodities, and luxuries of the East were brought by caravans to the farther East, and came by shipping from the Levant to the Mediterranean ports of Spain.  Seeds and plants were thus transported; thus, came rice and cotton and the sugar-cane”.  (Coppee, 397) Sugar was cultivated as far north as Castellon, which is probably the most northerly point of its commercial cultivation. To the south, it was grown in Arabia Felix, Abyssinia, and the islands and the mainland of East Africa from the ninth century.  From Arabia Felix, or directly from Oman, the plant was brought to Zanzibar, where it was reported the finest sugar came.  From Zanzibar, the plant could have been taken to Madagascar.  (Watson, 30)

Sugar was at first regarded an important spice and medicinal component and was consumed in large quantities in the Middle East.  It was used by physicians from India to Spain, slowly entering European medical practice via Arab Pharmacology.  (Mintz, 80) As early as the eleventh century a treatise on sugar was written by a Baghdadi doctor. (Watson, 27) In addition to the medicinal component, Arabs had a rich development of recipes and cuisine that strongly featured sugar at the time of its movement to Europe. In the Medieval Islamic world, sugar enriched many dishes: sour foods, fish, meats, and stews. Of course, pastries and jams especially were a “paradise of sugar”, using syrups made of white sugar and crystals of colored sugar.  Specific sweets using sugar such as stuffed cannoli, squash jam, caramelized semolina, jelly, among others. In Europe, the names of a number of several medieval dishes reveal their Arab origin. (Zaouali, 44)

“The decades that followed the Moors’ conquest of the Iberian Peninsula brought in a dominant Arab influence—in culture, food, and drink, but especially in the introduction of sugarcane-based sweet treats… And there the foundation was laid for sugar-cane based sweet treats of the world as well…In the history of sweet treats, few “events” had the impact on Western civilizations as did the near-800-year occupation of the Iberian Peninsula by Muslim peoples.   Their main sweet treat legacy—sugarcane” (Roufs, 304)

There was a further East to West transmission of food culture as well.  Figures such as Ziryab, credited with the renewal of the culinary arts in Spain and Europe.  In the ninth century, he moved from Abbasid Baghdad to the ruler’s court in Cordoba.  He led a renewal of culinary understanding and elegance, introducing low tables, tablecloths, cups made from glass, and the succession of courses in a definite order, ending with a sweet dessert. (Zaouali, 41).

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Picture 2: Fourteenth century manuscript document from Ibn al-Bitar’s “Book of Simples” depicting sugar cane. 

The dispersal of Arab inspired sweets left a mark especially on Southern Europe, Spain, Portugal, and Sicily; also transmitted to the Americas with later conquests of the Spanish and Portuguese empires.  Sweet dishes found in Mexico and Latin America such Bunuelos, Alfajores, and Arroz con Leche, were inherited from the medieval Arab chefs in Damascus and Baghdad.  (Salloum, 8) The Arab legacy on sweet foods remains in modern day commodities, many deriving their name directly from the Arabic language. The word ‘Candy’ comes from the Arabic qandi, stemming from the Sanskrit khanda (piece of sugar).  Sherbet, Syrup and Sorbet derive from the Arabic word shariba or sharab (to drink).  The ubiquitous drinks Soda Suwwad (saltwort), Coffee (qahwa), and Alcohol are all derived from Arabic.  Other food term that originate from Arabic, include fruits and vegetables such as Lemon, Lime, Orange, Shaddock, Apricot, Artichoke, Spinach, as well as spices such as Sumac, Saffron, Carob, Caraway, and Tamarind. Rice and pasta were also transmitted to Europe via the Arabs (Watson, 23). Marzipan and sugar decorations were documented in the Middle East centuries before its appearance in Europe, especially in festive times such as Ramadan. (Mintz, 88).

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 11.19.40 PM.png Continue reading Arab-Islamic Civilization and Sugar: Laying the Foundation of Modern Sweets and World Food Culture

There is No Pleasure in Guilty Chocolate!

Why do you love chocolate? Because it is good! It tastes good and makes you happy. It is all that is good in the world wrapped in a beautiful candy bar. What if you learned that your delicious candy bar is a by-product of something bad, the output of someone else’s suffering?  A child’s suffering? Would you enjoy it just the same? Eating is not just a means to satisfy hunger; it is also an emotional and psychological experience.  We like to eat, and we like to eat good food without any negative connotations. Chocolate does not taste as good when it is served with a side of guilt. Chocolate tastes better when you wholeheartedly know that it came from a good place and produced in an ethical and social responsible manner.

Did you know that the global chocolate industry is nearly $100 billion dollars a year? The United States alone spends a little over 18 billion dollars in chocolate (2015), and that the average American consumes approximately 4.3 kilograms / 9.5 pounds of chocolate a year (2015). In comparison, beating the Americans at chocolate consumption are the Swiss who consume approximately a little over 9 kilograms / 20 pounds per person, then tied for second place are the Germans and the Austrians who approximately consume 3.6 kilograms / 7.4 pounds per person (Satioquia-Tan). Chocolate can be found anywhere around the world and is affordable to the masses especially to those who live in the developed world. Chocolate can be found in candy bars, truffles, fudge, cakes, muffins, biscuits, breakfast cereals, pancakes, health bars, sauces, drinks, in your café mocha, and anywhere you can sprinkle chocolate syrup. You can buy it in a specialty shop, supermarket, mini-market, drugstore, or any corner street gas station.

The majority of chocolate eaters are rather naïve in knowing the history and the current nature of the chocolate-making business. They simply eat it because they love chocolate without really knowing what it is, where it comes from, who makes and how; or any related social issues. For those consumers who are more aware of the social and economic impacts of the chocolate industry are a little more selective in choosing and enjoying their chocolate. To fully appreciate food is to experience it through all the possible senses, the physiological and psychological (Stuckey 13). Only twenty percent of what we physiologically taste happens in our mouths, the rest of the tasting experience happens through our remaining senses of sight, smell, touch, and sound. We, also, want to psychologically feel good about what we are eating. We want to know about the origins, the farming practices, and the ethics of what we are tasting (Stuckey 14). We want to know the context, the beautiful story, of what we are eating so we can enjoy it fully. The other option is to choose to remain a little ignorant of the subject as not to sour our chocolate taste, however this pleasure would be more superficial and would not represent the fullest appreciation of what we are eating. To fully appreciate today’s chocolate, we will have to fully experience it with the body and mind in full awareness of its origins, present journey and social impacts.

  1. What is Chocolate?

Cocoa is the main ingredient for all chocolate recipes.  Cocoa derives from cacao seeds, or more commonly referred to as cacao beans, which grow on the Theobroma Cacao tree.  Cacao trees are finicky trees that can only bear fruit in hot and humid tropical climates,twenty degrees from the equator at a specific altitude. These trees are highly dependent on midges, an insect, for its flowers to pollinate and bear fruit (Coe and Coe 19-21, 27). Cacao beans grow inside a fruity, pulp filled pod, approximately 30-40 beans grow inside one pod. Unlike most trees, where fruit grow dangling down from branches, cacao pods sprout directly from the tree trunk. In raw form, cacao beans constitute half its size in fat, cocoa butter. When cocoa butter is extracted from the cacao bean, what remains is the cocoa (or cocoa powder), the main ingredient of all chocolate (Coe and Coe 27). Before cacao beans turn into chocolate, cacao fruit is first farmed.  Upon harvest, fruit pods are removed from trees and cracked open to extract its beans with machetes. Cacao beans are then fermented, dried, sorted, roasted, transported, winnowed (deshelled), ground to a liquor, pressed (to remove the cacao butter), conched, and then what remains is added to chocolate-making recipes. Chocolate is the result of a labor intensive and highly processed food.

  1. Where Does Cacao Come From?

Cacao is native to the New World, the South American’s amazon basin region (Coe and Coe 25), and the Mesoamerican native cultures of the Mayans and Aztecs and predecessors were the first peoples to ever make chocolate dating back as far as 1500 BCE (Coe and Coe 33). Cacao was precious and a sacred food reserved for the elite, special occasions, and sacred rituals. Mayan and Aztecs Gods often appear alongside or in the form of cacao trees in their native hieroglyphs and surviving art (Coe and Coe 42). So precious, cacao beans were even used as a means of monetary currency. In 1545, documented is the commodity price of a tamale: one tamale equals one cacao bean (Coe and Coe 98-99). Upon colonizing Mesoamerica, the Spanish conquistadors were the first Europeans to discover and spread the taste of chocolate to Europe starting in the 1500’s (Coe and Coe 108). At the beginning of the chocolate history in Europe, chocolate was rare, expensive, and for the upper class.  Then as time passed and soon after the industrial revolution, chocolate became relatively common and affordable to the masses.

Amazon Basin
Amazon basin (based on Wikipedia, Amazon basin article, by Kmusser, using Digital Chart of the Word and GTOPO data)

After the end of the American colonial period, in the late 1800’s, the Spanish and the Portuguese introduced cacao to West Africa. Due to favorable climate conditions, cacao flourished in West Africa.  Today, approximately seventy percent of the world’s cacao comes from West Africa (Wessel and Quist-Wessel 1). The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two major countries that supply cacao.  There are 2 million, small (3 hectares acres in size), independent farms (Ryan 52) in West Africa that supply three million metric tons of cacao per year (World Cocoa Foundation).

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West Africa, Ivory Coast depicted in orange and Ghana  depicted in green (based on Wikipedia, Ghana-Ivory Coast Relations article)

  1. What Are the Social Issues Involving the Chocolate Industry?

Since the first Europeans, the Spanish conquistadors, landed in the New World, the cacao industry has been tainted with slavery and forced labor since 1650’s (Berlan 1092). Upon colonizing Mesoamerica, the Spanish forced the natives to pay tribute in labor and cacao to their new Spanish Crown.  After millions of natives died of diseases, the Spanish, like other colonists in the Americas, resorted to using chattel slavery from Africa to extract New World resources (Presilla 24, 33). Chattel slavery officially ended in 1884, however it continued in disguise in Portuguese West Africa well into the 1900’s in the cacao industry and some reports state that it persisted until 1962 (Berlan 1092).

Today, cacao farmer incomes are very volatile for it depends on operating profits, and since cacao is a commodity, the market price.  Farmers need to sell their cacao at a high enough price in order to pay off their operation expenses which includes labor, a major expense, just like most businesses. Unexpected operating expenses and / or a fall in market price can be devastating on farmer revenues/incomes. Cacao farmers, per capita, constantly live without the security of a reliable living wage. In 2015, cacao farmers earned 50 to 84 cents on the American dollar a day (Cocoabarometer). As it is, cacao farmers barely break even, and there is little economic incentive for them to stay in the cacao farming business.  Due to local poverty and lack of other options, farmers continue to grow cacao under pressure to lower operating costs and often resort to desperate means to make a profit, break even, or just enough to pay for rice and cooking oil (Off 5).

In more recent history in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, a wave of newspaper stories and documentary films exposed the existence of child labor, trafficking, and slaves in West African cacao farms which caused much consumer outrage. The media graphically showed the world the extreme poverty and hard lives of cacao farmers in West Africa and the desperate measures farmers take to lower operating costs by using child slave labor (Berlan 1089).

The documentary, Slavery: A Global Investigation (2000), especially shocked viewers by showing how easy it was to find child slaves working on cacao farms and how the local people seem to accept the practice as a way of life. On camera, journalists were able, with relative ease, to overtly interview real child slaves and get first-hand testimony about their hardships, a farm owner who openly admitted to having slaves and in how to get them, and a local official who confirmed as matter of fact that at least 90% of the Ivory Coast farms use child slave labor.  Ninety percent implies the existence of hundreds of thousands of slaves (Ryan 118). A 2000 US State Department report estimated that 15,000 Malian children worked on Ivory Coast cacao farms and that many of were under 12 years old and sold into indentured service (Off 133). Two of the local documentary crew even demonstrated how easy it was to buy slaves, posing as buyers, they went to the marketplace and were able to purchase two boys for the total of forty British pounds (approximately $40) within thirty minutes. Economics, low cacao market price, was credited as being the main reason why these farmers resorted to using slavery.  With such low cacao market prices, farmers cannot afford to pay employee wages and still make a profit, and they have no other income options. In contrast, in a free and mature economy, if a business is not profitable it goes out of business, and one can start a new business or find a new job, this is not the case for the West African cacao farmers.

Since the West African child labor scandals, there has an increased awareness and legislation attempts to eradicate forced and most hazardous child labor. Child labor in general is so embedded into the West African culture, not all children who work on farms are slaves or working with hazards. Most children work as part of the family on their family farms. It was deemed impossible and impractical to create a law that would abolish all form of child labor, however a voluntary agreement, The Harking-Engel Protocol, was signed among the Ivory Coast and the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry in accordance with the International Labor Organization to end the worst forms of child labor in 2001 (Ryan 44, 47). Because of extreme poverty and lack of options, there are children who are better off working for they will at least have access to some food. Today, consumers are more aware, corporations have put efforts in demonstrating social responsibility in self-certifications, and nonprofit/advocacy organizations, have emerged and increased advocacy. There is still much poverty among cacao farmers, and many children  are still working on farms and some are still suspected of being forced to work against their will.  The child labor problems still exist today.  We, the world, hoped for that the state of child labor in West Africa would be better, however it could be worse.

It is natural that corporations would seek to do business with a poorer and less mature economies so to benefit from cheaper labor costs, but there should be limits when business practices violate human rights and the ability for workers to make a livable wage. It is evident that cacao farmers need more money so can they afford to hire farm workers to help cultivate their labor intensive cacao farms. In the least, the cacao market price needs to go up. It may mean that consumers would have to pay a little more for their chocolate treats. Would you be willing to pay a little more for your candy bar if it would end child and forced labor?

I realize that blindly throwing more money at the problem will not necessarily fix it if local corrupt governments and other stakeholders are still there to scheme away the extra money intended for the cacao farmers. This is a complex issue which requires multi-approach solution. We, the consumers, the governments, NGOs, the corporations, the media (or lack of media), the farmers, are all part of the problem, and we could also all be part of the solution. West African farmers and their children need special consideration for they are the most powerless demographic group in the chocolate food chain. The ones with the most power in the chocolate food chain by default have the most ability, and therefore the greater responsibility, to effect change. Wealthy companies and consumers are in the best position to invest and apply influence in the solution. We, the consumers, should expect that our chocolate companies to conduct business in an ethical and social responsible manner or make better consumer choices if they do not.

Here, in the first world, we would not accept the practice of child labor or slavery in our backyard, and we should not accept it elsewhere and in the products that we use and the foods we eat.  The West African modern-day slave issue is especially heartbreaking for it involves children in producing sweets that we all so enjoy so much. If we all knew that children were being kidnapped and forced to cultivate cacao, we would all enjoy the taste of our chocolate a little less. As consumers, we need to be more conscious about what we eat and learn as much as possible so we can make better consumer choices, maybe write a customer complaint to your chocolate provider or your congressman to influence change in law.  There is no better tasting chocolate than the one that is free from social guilt. In the end, we should all have the right to enjoy good and good-tasting chocolate.

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana. The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088-1100. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2013.78004.

Cocoa Barometer 2015 report, USA Ed. Cocoabarometer.org. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/International_files/Cocoa%20Barometer%202015%20USA.pdf

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.

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

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2011.

Satioquia-Tan, Janine. Americans East How Much Chocolate? CNBC.com, 23 Jul. 2015, 7:41 PM ET.  http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/23/americans-eat-how-much-chocolate.html

Stuckey, Barb. Taste What You Are Missing: The  Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good. Free Press, 2012.

Slavery: A Global Investigation. Produced and directed by Brian Woods and Kate Blanchet.  A True Vision Production in Association with HBO, 2000. TopDocumentaryFilms, topdocumentaryfilms.com/slavery-a-global-investigation.

Wessel, Marius, and Foluke Quist-Wessel. Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments. NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences., vol. 74-74, pp. 1-7, 12-2015. doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.

World Cocoa Foundation, http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/category/program-region/africa.

Delicious Products, Admirable Sentiments, Unreal-istic Mission

Bar

Walking through Whole Foods one Sunday afternoon in Nashville, TN, two years ago, a small crowd caught my eye near the front of the store. The reason turned out to be peanut butter cups, halved and waiting on parchment paper for the avid samplers to consume. Organic and fair trade, these chocolates lacked any artificial preservatives or coloring, boasted higher protein and fiber content than any of their peers, and featured dark chocolate almond butter and coconut quinoa crunch. I recently rediscovered the Unreal brand on Facebook, thanks to an aggressive social media campaign. Additional research has confirmed that Unreal’s latest project offers a quality product that tastes as good, or better, than its competitors. The product is well worth purchasing for the taste and healthier ingredients alone, and corporate values do enhance the value of the product. However, when analyzing the founders’ claims to operate as small company in order to combat unethical sourcing and, more importantly, nutritional deficiency, it becomes clear that the lofty mission proclaimed on the website falls a bit short in practice.

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First, it is important to understand the background of the company. Viewers who open the Unreal website find a barrage of fluorescent colors and pithy slogans. One of the last pages on the website tells the well-publicized story of Unreal’s founding.[1] In a TEDx Teen talk delivered in 2013, a few months after the first iteration of Unreal products hit stores, 18-year-old Nicky Bronner delivered a 15-minute presentation about his company’s story, mission, and products. Calling his parents “junk food pirates,” Nicky shared the very marketable story of the moment that led him and his brother to set out to change the candy industry. Three years before, the 12-year-old Nicky and his 15-year-old brother, Kris, returned from trick-or-treating to have their candy confiscated from their health conscious parents. After conducting some online research to attempt to prove them wrong, the brothers found that the ingredients in their favorite candies were, in fact, damaging to health for their chemical additives and contribution to obesity. After 1,000 recipes by acclaimed Spanish chef Adam Melonas, Unreal bars launched to 25,000 stores nationwide and featured unpaid endorsements by Bill Gates, Matt Damon, Gisele Bundchen, Tom Brady, and Jack Dorsey. In a very direct fashion, Nicky proclaimed that his mission is “not to sell candy, but to sell you on an idea, which is that you can change the world, because the world needs change.”[2] Coming from a gangly, nervous 18-year-old, this seems a bit heavy-handed, but his passion and enthusiasm for his product are clearly genuine.

Founder1
Co-founder Nicky Bronner with 1st edition of products (2012)

From 2013 to today, the story and the products have changed somewhat, but the mission has stood fast. Today, interviews for the company feature the CEO and CMO, who discuss product alignment and core messaging to target consumers alongside merchandizing strategies and bring-to-market plans. The initial plan targeted all stores and matched the price point of Mars and Hershey products, but the black packaging and numbered, QR-code inspired naming system deterred consumers. Simply renaming the products did not boost sales sufficiently. The company scaled back. Unreal created new recipes based on the peanut butter cups and M&M’s with trendy ingredients (ie. quinoa, coconut, almond butter), re-designed colorful packaging with a quirky style, and re-launched in 1,000 health foods stores. [3]

The chocolate itself might be tasty, but Unreal has always marketed itself as more than just another candy bar. How, then, does the corporate structure of the company compare to Hershey and Mars, two direct competitors that Unreal seeks to unseat in the marketplace? Initially, in 2012, Unreal planned to move into non-processed snacks, breakfast foods, and soda. The initial CEO John Burns, managing partner at the VC investors Raptor Consumer Partners, promoted their selection of the candy sector not due to a teenage whim but in response to a lack of innovation in the marketplace, which focused instead on product line extensions and new packaging. Raptor provided $8 million in Series A funding, and many of the stars who promoted the product have, rather than receiving compensation for their endorsement, actually invested in the company. However, far from two inquisitive, motivated teenagers creating a company from nothing, Forbes revealed that their father, Michael Bronner, was a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who funded Unreal’s first steps. Moreover, he was a family friend of the Boston-based celebrities who highlighted the brand, especially Bundchen, Brady, and Damon.[4]

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Another early backer, Bill Gates, invested in Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla’s VC firm that provided the next wave of funding for Unreal. Gates wrote on his website:

Let’s be honest. Even with better ingredients, candy is still candy. But this candy may be an example of how innovation can be successful when it creates a better product, and proves that all of the junk and high amounts of sugar in many of our most popular foods (also exported around the world) may not need to be there in the first place.[5]

Far from Nicky’s seemingly innocent comment at his TEDx Talk, “it turned out we needed money to start a company, and investors loved our mission and saw the potential to create change,” the Bronners were able to leverage their family connections to get their company off the ground. For someone who shared that he was “up for adventures of all kinds,” a teenager proud that he climbed Kilimanjaro, played tennis in Antarctica, and went skydiving in New Zealand, Nicky clearly had a rather advantageous platform for launching his company as a homeschooled boy in Boston.[6] As Bon Appetit wrote in October 2012,

But hey, slightly more healthy candy bars made by a vastly wealthy 15-year-old are still slightly more healthy candy bars—let’s just hope that his love for candy matures into a well-funded grown up passion for actually changing the world for the better. [7]

So how does Unreal compare to Hershey and Mars, two notoriously secret companies? Industry specialists have speculated that one or both of these companies may bid to buy Unreal, or copy its marketing techniques, if the brand picks up steam.[8] One Business Insider writer who grew up in Hershey, PA boasted a close personal connection to the Hershey Company. She loved the products after Unreal sent them to her for a tasting, the first in a series of promotional efforts after an additional $18.7M in funding helped the company roll out the new line of products in 2015.[9] Like Bronner, Milton Hershey founded a company at the turn of the twentieth century that always sought to go beyond providing a product for consumers. “The Hershey idea,” biographer Michael D’Antonio wrote, was “a business that would create something nobler than profit…at the very height of the progressive movement’s power.” Hershey founded a utopian community in 1904 with ready built homes and an ordered town park, which tied in his company to the local community’s economy, and Hershey bequeathed his fortune to found a philanthropic school.[10]

Mars, on the other hand, has earned renown for its intense privacy. Despite earning $33 billion in global revenue each year and 200 million consumer transactions per day, Mars maintains a nondescript world headquarters in McLean for 80 employees. Still 100% family owned without any debt, Mars boasts incredible employee loyalty, as seen through unparalleled retention rates, and ranks among the best companies to work for in the United States.[11] Both Hershey and Mars control a disproportionate share of the chocolate, and snack foods more broadly, industry. In the United States, Hershey held on to 44.1% and Mars to 29.3%, together accounting for 73.4% of the domestic market.[12] In this context, despite the significant advantages that the Bronner brothers received from their father and the funding accessible to them through his connections, Unreal is clearly trying to shake-up the industry from a weaker financial position. They deserve significant credit for this courageous move.

Companybreakdown
Segmentation of Major Consumer Product Conglomerates, Featuring Mars and Nestle (major players in the candy industry) as well as Kellogg, General Mills, Pepsico, CocaCola, and Kraft

This very structure, as an industry disruptor, has allowed Unreal to challenge the status quo for ingredients and recipes in the candy industry. First, Unreal’s pledges to be organic, fair trade, and sustainably harvested, certified gluten free and vegan. The company associates its product with “good,” opening with “good is back,” then “good never tasted better,” and finally “doing good isn’t so hard.” Declaring themselves “people people and planet people,” the company proceeds to discuss how it creates color in the M&M-like candy through vegetable dyes, uses 93% Fair Trade ingredients, and engages in sustainable sourcing of palm oil—for every hectare harvested, the supplier plants two more.[13] Organic and Fair Trade have become important trends in sustainable chocolate, in particular, over the last decade. The Fair Trade platform pledges to build:

A trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers—especially in the South. Fair trade organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.[14]

Though it is debatable whether the proceeds of fair trade benefit farmers as much as its proponents claim, both Fair Trade and Organic certifications are important steps toward improving wage and labor conditions for cacao farmers in the Third World.[15] Although these labels features prominently on the Unreal website, the company focuses less on its ethical considerations than its nutritional mission for health.[16]

Second, and most importantly for Unreal’s corporate success, the Bronner’s recognized that candy companies have not changed their recipes to reflect the medical consensus linking processed foods to obesity over the last century. The Sugar Association of lobbyists disregarded scientific evidence that sugar was poisonous and slowly killing millions of Americans. Private documents show how this turn recalls that of Big Tobacco decades earlier. Government regulations accordingly speak of sugar in vague generalities in response to industry pressure, funded by companies like Hershey and Mars through the Sugar Association. Those who testified to Congress about the wholesome nature of sugar earned millions from the very companies whose business they defended. In an industry still “facing the inexorable exposure of its product as a killer,” companies like Hershey and Mars, whose mass production model is based inherently on the addictive properties of sugar, are trying desperately to forestall such public knowledge of sugar’s true properties.[17] Scientists have conducted studies to confirm that sugar is addictive, in addition to impairing liver performance and inhibiting digestive capacity.[18] Among ancient cultures, chocolate was used in more pure forms, ground up as cacao and added to beverages intended to provide stimulation or serve ritual importance among the elite.[19] It did not have the sugar and preservatives added to candies today.

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The documentary Fed Up! explored the damage that processed foods wrought on the health of Americans and, to an increasing extent, the rest of the world that consumes our exported foods. Exposes like this provided the basic information for the Bronner’s as they created their mission. Though the McGovern Report, issued in 1979, warned that obesity would soon be the #1 form of malnutrition in the United States, the industry pegged fat as the culprit, rather than sugar. Companies replaced fat with chemicals, so raw sugar and high fructose corn syrup increased psychoanalytical tendencies toward behaviors associated with obesity. Commercials targeted children to solidify the social constructs surrounding processed foods, especially chocolate candy. When individual senators, President Bush, and First Lady Michelle Obama attempted to combat the obesity crisis in schools and in grocery stores, lobbyists paid off doctors, politicians, and companies to suppress their efforts.[20] Even the Clinton Foundation, which claimed to fight child obesity and large corporations, takes donations from The Coca-Cola Company ($5M-$10M) and The Coca-Cola Foundation ($1M-$5M). This conflict of interest undermines the forcefulness of President Clinton’s message in the documentary.[21]

Given this complicated reality, by which the close intersection between business and politics prevents concerted public health efforts to combat the obesity epidemic, how can Unreal, such a small company, despite its funding, make a difference? One of the statistics that Unreal used in its early promotional materials emphasized the troubling fact that, by 2020, 40% of Americans will be clinically obese and 50% will be diabetic. As a result, its first candy bars averaged the following, as compared to their traditional equivalents: 45% less sugar, 13% less fat, 23% less calories, 149% more protein, 250% more fiber. In addition, they registered as low Glycemic Index and avoided hydrogenated oils or synthetic colors.[22] Unreal tried to promote its status as a healthy food with initially absurd comparisons to fruit, which analysts and food bloggers aptly criticized.[23] Later efforts used Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady’s reputations as exceptionally health conscious to bolster their brand.[24] Some blogs even misinterpreted the basic nutritional facts around the candy. Vegan bloggers, for example, claimed that Unreal’s mission was “about veganizing popular candy bars” to remove “animal products and additives,” a claim far beyond what the founders intended.[25]

This reputation, however, is largely unfounded. Unreal’s nutrition comparisons are complicated by the fact that the packages were, on average, 19.4% smaller. This amplifies the value of the increased protein and fiber, but it reduces the significance of the caloric, sugar, and fat adjustments.[26] However, the primary issue at stake is that, as even Bill Gates acknowledged, Unreal is, at its core, a candy, not a health food. An early Huffington Post article that took issue with Unreal argued, “Candy is candy, not fruit, not food, not the stuff of everyday sustenance…Americans don’t need more obfuscation when it comes to food.”[27] As discussed in Fed Up!, a key issue with the obesity epidemic is that companies offer too many products and alternatives, adding more rather than taking options off the shelf.[28]

Unreal’s strong mission undercuts the corporate conglomerates like Hershey and Mars, whose reliance on the sugar industry has hampered any significant progress toward recipe change. However, replacing one dessert with a healthier version cannot rectify economic inequality or solve the magnitude of the obesity epidemic, for a candy is still a candy. For consumers seeking a treat with a little less guilt, Unreal offers a great alternative to traditional candies. For those seeking to address series ethical and medical issues, however, the solution must aim much higher and reach much further than the Unreal brand is currently capable of doing.

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End Notes

[1] “Chocolate Snacks Made Good,” Unreal Chocolate, accessed May 3, 2017, http://getunreal.com/.

[2] How to Change the World, TEDx Teen (New York, N.Y.: Scholastic Auditorium, 2013), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd7dz0HKGb4.

[3] Abigail Watt, “Unreal Relaunches Line of Unjunked Candy,” Candy Industry, February 17, 2015, http://www.candyindustry.com/articles/86634-unreal-relaunches-line-of-unjunked-candy.

[4] Caleb Melby, “Meet UNREAL, A Natural Candy Maker Endorsed By Jack Dorsey, Matt Damon, Gisele And Tom Brady,” Forbes, September 28, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/calebmelby/2012/09/28/meet-unreal-a-natural-candy-maker-endorsed-by-jack-dorsey-matt-damon-gisele-and-her-husband/.

[5] Bill Gates, “Candy Innovation That’s Really Unreal,” Gatesnotes.com, October 26, 2012, https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Candy-Innovation-Thats-Really-Unreal.

[6] Bronner, How to Change the World (TEDx Talk).

[7] Sam Dean, “Unreal, the New Candy Made by a Super-Rich 15-Year-Old (and Promoted by Tom Brady),” Bon Appetit, October 1, 2012, http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/unreal-the-new-candy-made-by-a-super-rich-15-year-old-and-promoted-by-tom-brady.

[8] “Unreal Brand Candies – A Better Choice?,” Fooducate, January 18, 2013, http://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=post&id=57A34A73-F78C-9C05-476E-8D4F3A8DC556.

[9] Maya Kosoff, “I Tried ‘Unreal’ Peanut Butter Cups, and They Tasted Better than the Real Thing,” Business Insider, February 4, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/unreal-candy-tastes-just-like-the-real-thing-2015-2.

[10] Michael D’Antonio, Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Reprint edition (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 115.

[11] David A. Kaplan, “Mars Incorporated: A Pretty Sweet Place to Work,” Fortune, accessed May 4, 2017, http://fortune.com/2013/01/17/mars-incorporated-a-pretty-sweet-place-to-work/.

[12] “U.S. Market Share of Chocolate Companies,” Statista, 2016, http://www.statista.com/statistics/238794/market-share-of-the-leading-chocolate-companies-in-the-us/.

[13] “Chocolate Snacks Made Good.”

[14] Carol Off, Bitter Chocolate: Anatomy of an Industry, Online edition (New York: The New Press, 2014).

[15] Jack Goody, “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine,” in Food and Culture: A Reader, ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, 3 edition (New York: Routledge, 2012), 88.

[16] As discussed during Bronner’s TEDx, How to Change the World.

[17] Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens, “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies,” Mother Jones, accessed May 4, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign.

[18] Nicole M. Avena, Pedro Rada, and Bartley G. Hoebel, “Evidence for Sugar Addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake,” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 32, no. 1 (2008): 20–39, doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.04.019; for a detailed overview of additional studies, refer to “Chocolate in Health and Nutrition,” Nutrition and Health (New York: Humana Press, 2013).

[19] For a detailed history of the origins of cacoa, see Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. (London: Thames & Hudson, 2013).

[20] Stephanie Soechtig, Fed Up, Documentary, (2014).

[21] “Contributor and Grantor Information,” Clinton Foundation, accessed May 4, 2017, https://www.clintonfoundation.org/contributors.

[22] Gates, “Candy Innovation That’s Really Unreal.”

[23] “Unreal Brand Candies – A Better Choice?”

[24] Sarah Shemkus, “Tom Brady Inflates Sales for Boston ‘healthy’ Candy Company,” Boston Globe, October 30, 2015, https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2015/10/29/tom-brady-inflates-sales-for-boston-healthy-candy-company/SqYCbLsiI7cEql2AN9tueL/story.html; Tom Brady, Watching Tom Brady Eat Halloween Candy in Slow Motion Will Be the Highlight of Your Day (Boston, MA: Brady Family Kitchen, 2016), http://people.com/food/tom-brady-unreal-candy-video-diet/.

[25] Hannah Sentenac, “Unreal Is Veganizing Popular Candy Bars; Dark Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Peanut Butter Cups Hit Stores,” Latest Vegan News, April 15, 2015, http://latestvegannews.com/unreal-is-veganizing-popular-candy-bars/.

[26] Melby, “Meet UNREAL, A Natural Candy Maker Endorsed By Jack Dorsey, Matt Damon, Gisele And Tom Brady.”

[27] Rachel Marie Stone, “The Problem With ‘Unreal’ Candy and Nutrition Facts Labels,” Huffington Post, January 15, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-marie-stone/misleading-nutrition-labels_b_2477807.html.

[28] Soechtig, Fed Up.

Works Cited

Avena, Nicole M., Pedro Rada, and Bartley G. Hoebel. “Evidence for Sugar Addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 32, no. 1 (2008): 20–39. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.04.019.

Brady, Tom. Watching Tom Brady Eat Halloween Candy in Slow Motion Will Be the Highlight of Your Day. Boston, MA: Brady Family Kitchen, 2016. http://people.com/food/tom-brady-unreal-candy-video-diet/.

“Chocolate in Health and Nutrition.” Nutrition and Health. New York: Humana Press, 2013.

“Chocolate Snacks Made Good.” Unreal Chocolate. Accessed May 3, 2017. http://getunreal.com/.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.

“Contributor and Grantor Information.” Clinton Foundation. Accessed May 4, 2017. https://www.clintonfoundation.org/contributors.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Reprint edition. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Dean, Sam. “Unreal, the New Candy Made by a Super-Rich 15-Year-Old (and Promoted by Tom Brady).” Bon Appetit, October 1, 2012. http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/unreal-the-new-candy-made-by-a-super-rich-15-year-old-and-promoted-by-tom-brady.

Gates, Bill. “Candy Innovation That’s Really Unreal.” Gatesnotes.com, October 26, 2012. https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Candy-Innovation-Thats-Really-Unreal.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” In Food and Culture: A Reader, edited by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, 3 edition. New York: Routledge, 2012.

How to Change the World. TedX Teen. New York, N.Y.: Scholastic Auditorium, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd7dz0HKGb4.

Kaplan, David A. “Mars Incorporated: A Pretty Sweet Place to Work.” Fortune. Accessed May 4, 2017. http://fortune.com/2013/01/17/mars-incorporated-a-pretty-sweet-place-to-work/.

Kosoff, Maya. “I Tried ‘Unreal’ Peanut Butter Cups, and They Tasted Better than the Real Thing.” Business Insider, February 4, 2015. http://www.businessinsider.com/unreal-candy-tastes-just-like-the-real-thing-2015-2.

Melby, Caleb. “Meet UNREAL, A Natural Candy Maker Endorsed By Jack Dorsey, Matt Damon, Gisele And Tom Brady.” Forbes, September 28, 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/calebmelby/2012/09/28/meet-unreal-a-natural-candy-maker-endorsed-by-jack-dorsey-matt-damon-gisele-and-her-husband/.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Anatomy of an Industry. Reprint edition. New York: The New Press, 2014.

Sentenac, Hannah. “Unreal Is Veganizing Popular Candy Bars; Dark Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Peanut Butter Cups Hit Stores.” Latest Vegan News, April 15, 2015. http://latestvegannews.com/unreal-is-veganizing-popular-candy-bars/.

Shemkus, Sarah. “Tom Brady Inflates Sales for Boston ‘healthy’ Candy Company.” Boston Globe. October 30, 2015. https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2015/10/29/tom-brady-inflates-sales-for-boston-healthy-candy-company/SqYCbLsiI7cEql2AN9tueL/story.html.

Soechtig, Stephanie. Fed Up. Documentary, 2014.

Stone, Rachel Marie. “The Problem With ‘Unreal’ Candy and Nutrition Facts Labels.” Huffington Post, January 15, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-marie-stone/misleading-nutrition-labels_b_2477807.html.

Taubes, Gary, and Cristin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” Mother Jones. Accessed May 4, 2017. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign.

“Unreal Brand Candies – A Better Choice?” Fooducate, January 18, 2013. http://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=post&id=57A34A73-F78C-9C05-476E-8D4F3A8DC556.

“U.S. Market Share of Chocolate Companies.” Statista, 2016. https://www.statista.com/statistics/238794/market-share-of-the-leading-chocolate-companies-in-the-us/.

Watt, Abigail. “Unreal Relaunches Line of Unjunked Candy.” Candy Industry, February 17, 2015. http://www.candyindustry.com/articles/86634-unreal-relaunches-line-of-unjunked-candy.

The “Power of Sweet”: An Anthropological Perspective on the NCA and Visual Interpretations of Chocolate & Sugar in Industrialized Society

National Confectioners Association, founded in 1884 began as a coalition of trades-people to organize and create viability for their products. The contemporary mission statement on their official website perpetuates that original undertaking; “NCA exists to advance, protect and promote the confectionery industry… serving as a transparent and trustworthy source while building and promoting a responsible industry”. Is anyone else raising their brow at this proclamation of transparency – as it would presumably associate to promoting responsible nutritional standards?

“The medicinal and nutritional aspects of sugar’s role were never far apart, any more than they are today (mid-1980s)” persisted Sidney Mintz in her book Sweetness and Power (106). In 1715, well before the inception of the NCA, the Englishman Dr. Frederick Slare published A Vindication of Sugars Against the Charge of Dr. Willis, Other Physicians, and Common Prejudices: Dedicated to the Ladies. From a contemporary feminist perspective, the title alone makes me chuckle. I’m visualizing Slare on a platform pointing into a crowd, “I’m talking to you there, you miss, and you my lady”. Slare believed that “sugar is a veritable cure-all, its only defect being that it could make ladies too fat”. Well – No thank you Dr. Slare for that prejudgment upon female metabolism, a proclamation which surely added to a persisting gender bias. A notion for refute, Dr. Willis shed light on the topic with his anti-sugar views and clinical findings of what would be later known as diabetes mellitus, (Mintz, 106).

“NCA is proud of the role it plays in the public’s understanding and appreciation of candy’s unique role in a happy, balanced lifestyle.” Certainly, they are proud of their $35 billion-dollar industry totaling 55,000 employees in the U.S. alone. I do not intend to be overly jaded on the matter, but I can’t help but recognize the various clinical analyses and public profiles of high fructose corn syrup in our diets as we understand it today, but that’s a larger discussion in and of itself that would require deeper comparative research. Primarily my concerns lie in the fact that HFCS is often mislabeled as ‘natural flavor’ and during the last three decades, has grown to replace what used to be natural cane sugar in our common grocery foods and candies. Generations before us had already grown accustomed to foods preserved with sugar, becoming complacent with their expectations of taste and economical value through visual culture in advertisements. In my opinion, not much public transparency occurs where reliance on less expensive groceries is present.

The Life & Candy ideology expressed by NCA is particularly interesting in how they use the age old economical reach upon our physical and social values. Influenced by hegemonic notions of pollution and purity of the body, nutritional attitudes across all human societies have interpreted this punitive dichotomy for generations. NCA’s marketing lingo is reflective of the influential nature in which our collective emotional experiences in health, reinforce our ritualized notions within cultural practices surrounding holidays and special events.

Never mind the daily addicted chocolate and candy consumer- See this promotional video echoing the “power, power, power of sweet”, as seen through the lens of the confectioners’ industry workers.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/

We see a progressive move towards less expensive goods that used to be considered only for the elite prior to 18th century Europe and American society. The custom of drinking and consuming chocolate had spread through most of Europe and “one thing that didn’t change – at first, anyhow – was the association of drinking chocolate with high social standing” (Prescilla, 25).

See in the Cadbury ad to your right just how politically inclined a chocolate company was in 1901. The advertising poster was a rousing salute to Edward VII and his wife when he took the British throne (Morton, 86).

Cadbury.Edwardvii“In 1898 in the United States a dollar bought forty-two percent more milk, fifty-one percent more coffee, a third more beef, twice as much sugar, and twice as much flour as in 1872” (Laudan, 41). The NCA began actively lobbying for chocolate companies in the early decades of the 1900s to commercialize chocolate for holidays, and as noted earlier, to this day the NCA still portrays a high relevance with candy to our community practices. I ponder, as Laudan suggests, has “culinary modernism provided what was wanted… the food of the elite at a price everyone could afford”? On that notion, has the National Confectioners Association also prevailed a political platform for chocolate, sugar, and food companies to exploit on the desire to consume what is considered socially elite?

Throughout the creation of anthropology as formal discipline during the 19th century, a new worldview was being introduced, one with scientific tools. With the arrival and maturation of the scientific revolution, the period of enlightenment facilitated human consciousness for the means to alter old world views. In a cultural setting, when interpellation is presumably present, “the experience of the viewer influences the images meaning”. With this known, hegemonic Cadbury.firemangeneralizations can become an illogical way of analyzing an influence of an image upon the whole group of viewers. Therefore, counter-hegemony is an “alternative force that leads us to undo concepts of hegemony”, allowing us to see how the image influences the viewer from a comparative perspective (S & C, 2009).

Coffee, tea, sugar and chocolate long being known as stimulants, we see this reflected in the early 1900s in another – among many – Cadbury advertisements, portraying its popularity with English firemen. Sugar promoting stamina was a lasting notion. See this Baby Ruth ad below that speaks to just that.

babyruth.dextroseGendered advertising was also sewn into most visual aspects of material culture, including in the marketing of candy such as the Tootsie Roll. I think we can reflect upon our social context during these time periods and find parallels between social constructs within advertisements. From a counter-hegemonic perspective, it’s not to say this image below is meant to reinforce gender roles with the consumption of chocolate and sugar products, yet it does create a lens into the artists’ view of the American social scene. tootsieroll.lifeoftheparty

We see thirteen men pictured here, strategically positioned facing this seemingly gleeful American woman holding a Toostie Roll. She, alike the Tootsie, “is the life of every party” as the text reads. I don’t know about you, but if thirteen men were staring at me eating a Tootsie Roll at a party, I’d be finding the closest exit and calling 1-800-N0-T00T$I3!

During a time when women were subjective to the ideologies imposed by men, we see this through the material culture we create. Where heterosexuality is the normal or preferred sexual orientation in most American households. Heteronormative notions in our visual culture is nothing new and we still see advertisements daily, selling sex, and I can’t help but reflect upon Dr. Slares remarks. They indulge the viewer or the reader into a glimpse of the cultural attitudes of the time. The National Confectioners Association has been no stranger to it.

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Sources:
Cartwright, Lisa and Sturken, Marita   2009   Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York, NY  Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe   2013 [1996] The True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition. London: Thames & Hudson
Martin, Carla    2017 AAAS E-119 Lecture Slides. Laudan, Rachel on Culinary Modernism (p.41)
Mintz, Sidney   1986 [1985] Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books
Morton, Marcia and Frederic.   1986   Chocolate, An Illustrated History Crown Publishers, Inc. New York, NY   Cadbury Limited images (pg.82 + 87)
National Confectioners Association, 2017
The Power of Sweet – That Power. National Confectioners Association advertisement
Organic Consumers Association, 2017 (Mercola)   2007    How High Fructose Corn Syrup Damages Your Body.
Presilla, Maricel   2009   The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Toop, C. R., Muhlhausler, B. S., O’Dea, K. and Gentili, S.   2014    Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. Consumption of sucrose, but not high fructose corn syrup, leads to increased adiposity and dyslipidaemia in the pregnant and lactating rat.
Unknown Artist, “The LIFE of the Party” Tootsie Roll advertisement
Unknown Artist, “Keep Going with Baby Ruth”

 

The Public Fight Over Chocolate Purity

Chocolate and sugar consumption were both generally trending upwards as the 20th century began, and attitudes about both goods were in flux. People were obsessed with pseudo-scientific categorization of their foods, in both moral and Humoral schemes. Chocolate and sugar, relatively recent imports that defied easy categorization, were a challenge. However, the Industrial Revolution brought these foods to the forefront of the consciousness of many countries, particularly America, as it allowed them to be mass-produced. Giant candy companies like Mars and Hershey grew to prominence and began to saturate the market. These companies had to try to shape their own public perceptions to combat prejudices and increase sales, though. In particular, the early 20th century was characterized by a war over the purity of chocolate between chocolate advertisements and American moralists, particularly those in newspapers. The fate of a potentially multi-billion-dollar industry hung in the balance.

The moral trepidation about chocolate and its big companies can be traced back to European roots. The Cadbury Company faced a debilitating scandal in the mid-1800’s when a Lancet study found that they were using brick dust and other impure items in their chocolate; furthermore, Cadbury was accused in the early 20th century of procuring raw materials from Brazilian islands Sao Tome and Principe, where slavery was still practiced (Lecture Notes). Though Cadbury earnestly tried to combat this stigma, the idea that chocolate companies were immoral remained omnipresent in society afterwards.

Cadbury’s issues of adulteration plagued its American cousins, too. In her article “Blame Candy” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Samira Kawash reports that, “candy makers were suspected of cutting corners… [and] boosting the bottom line by adding fillers like plaster or sawdust…, replacing chocolate with wax or nuts with cardboard, employing toxic dyes to create eye-catching colors.” American candy makers were accused of dishonesty, a practice that seemed especially immoral when one considers that their main consumer base was children. To make matters worse, as the same author reports in a different article for The Journal of American Culture, entitled “The Candy Prophylactic, Danger, Disease, and Children’s Candy Around 1916”, a sudden epidemic of infant paralysis in 1916 was incorrectly blamed on food adulteration in the candy industry.

Indeed, as Kawash notes, “if one were to read the daily papers, it was a miracle that any candy-eating child survived.” Indeed, investigation into contemporary newspapers reveals a multitude of headlines linking candy with death. Some include, “Baby Chokes to Death on Peanut in Candy” (Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1925), “Boy Eats Candy, Dies” (Washington Post, June 26, 1921) and “Seven Escape Death From Poisoned Candy” (Baltimore Sun, January 5, 1924). The immorality of candy did not even stop with adulteration of food. In 1937, New York mayor Henry LaGuardia declared war on New York penny candy sellers, claiming that they were taking advantage of children by selling them candy with the lure of potential prizes to lucky purchasers (foodtimeline.org). In the 1920’s and 1930’s, candy had an image problem.

In order to combat this problem with their reputation, larger candy companies utilized advertisements in print publications to communicate with their public and disseminate a narrative centered around the purity of both chocolate candy and its purveyors. This advertisement in the New York Herald in 1933 provides an example of such practices:

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This full-page advertisement painstakingly spells out to consumers why Loft candies are different. The banner at the bottom proclaims that “Pure Candies are Better For You”, and Loft reiterates this by proclaiming its candies are “absolutely pure” in the text of the ad. Furthermore, in its proclamation that it doesn’t charge consumers for the box, Loft distances itself from any demonizing accusations about cheating consumers.

The idea of Loft being a company that treats consumers right reappears in later Loft ads, like this one.

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The banner at the bottom proclaims that, “Loft has 150 stores to serve you right” and the emphasis on the ad remains firmly on the consumer, who is addressed with repeated use of the word “you”. Phrases like “You’ll find that Loft is the best candy for you” and the “Loft Guarantee” that “if you ever ate better candies at double the price, bring back the empty box and Loft will cheerfully refund your money.” The implication here is that Loft is not a company out for its own selfish aims—it simply wants to give you the best candy possible.

Large candy companies even went to lengths to deflect the negative stereotypes associated with candy onto their local competition. Though big companies were implicated in impurity accusations, they wanted to perpetuate the narrative that bigger company products were more reliable than shoddily-crafted corner store alternatives. One Mars ad provides an example of such practices.        

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With a full page to work with, this ad utilizes a multitude of tactics in order to get its point across. It underscores traditional notions of maternal mothers watching out for their children and paternal fathers understanding how business works. It makes the point that not only is the candy-maker in question immoral for cutting corners in his production, he is a bad businessman for not selling Mars bars, which would sell out quicker. The implications of the ad are strong. Mars bars are reliable and delicious—it is the alternatives that parents should worry about.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, American chocolate companies sought to distance themselves from notions of impurity and impropriety that had long pursued their brands. Newspapers and moralists were quick to blame candy companies for deaths and the degradation of society, and chocolate companies sought to break this narrative in their print advertisements. This war determined the future of the candy industry, which, thanks in large part to its less deadly current reputation, is thriving.

Works Cited: 

Kawash, Samira. “Blame Candy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 60.08 (2013). Biography in Context. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Kawash, S. (2010), The Candy Prophylactic: Danger, Disease, and Children’s Candy Around 1916. The Journal of American Culture, 33: 167–182. doi: 10.1111/j.1542-734X.2010.00742.x

“Penny Candy”, Food Timeline. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcandy.html#modernamericancandy

“Display Ad 58–No Title”. Daily Boston Globe (1928-1960); May 18, 1933; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Boston Globe.

“Display Ad 62–No Title”. New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962); Oct 20, 1933; Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Tribune/Herald Tribune

“Display Ad 24–No Title”. New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962); Jun 3, 1933; Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Tribune/Herald Tribune

“Search Results: ‘Candy’, ‘Death’; Publication date: 1920-1929”. ProQuest Historical Newspapers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Symbols of Chocolate

Chocolate as a Symbol

Over the years, chocolate has drastically changed, in terms of preparation style, taste, who it is consumed by, etc… Chocolate is no longer seen only as a food of the elite, but the variability of chocolate  has allowed for it to become a ubiquitous and accessible treat to many. The evolution of chocolate has gone through many stages, however, it has always served as a political, social and economic symbol in society . This is evident through the uses of chocolate in the Aztec Empire, the Industrial Revolution and post world war II uses.

 

Chocolate in the Aztec Empire

Going back to the times of the Aztec Empire we already see politically charged moves motivated by cacao. Focusing on the “Aztec conquest taking place during the reign of Ahuitzotl,” we can see their motives were to economically driven.(coe aspaceout-1.gifnd coe71) This conquest was to obtain the land of “Xoconochoco… already famed for the high production and top quality of its cacao.”(71)  Cacao held great economic power in the Aztec empire which motivated the conquest of land. Already, we can see that the Aztecs revered cacao economically. Cacao also served as political and social symbol for this empire as well. This is evident by those who consumed chocolate or cacao. “The Aztecs considered chocolate a far more desirable beverage, especially or warriors and the nobility.” (78) Drinking chocolate in this time period was  a symbol of nobility, signifying ones wealth and status.

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photo courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec_warfare

 

Chocolate in Europe

With the introduction of chocolate into Europe, again we see chocolate become a symbol of aristocracy. “It had been an elite drink among the copper-skinned, be feathered Mesoamericans, and it stayed that way among the white-skinned, perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility of Europe.” ( coe and coe, 125) As we move into the the Industrial Revolution chocolate comes to take on a different meaning and symbol. The industrial revolution is characterized by improvements in transportation, materials, machinery, etc. For chocolate, industrialization stood as a large social change, allowing chocolate for the masses. With the popularization of chocolate amongst the masses, chocolate served as a symbol of economic efficiency. Moving along in history, the establishment of the companies like Cadbury, Fry’s and Rowntree, “had a social conscience in the midst of all this money making, unlike many Victorian captains of industry.” This had important social implications, as these companies because branded and known for “ factories with adequate housing for their workers, even  a dining room and reading room.” (245) Not only was this effective on a local scale but on a global scale. “The Fry family was deeply distressed by the wretched working conditions, approaching slaver, which then prevailed on the plantations of Portuguese West Africa and they boycotted cacao from those parts until the situation improved.” (245) In these times we can see that chocolate has held a special place in society. It was once for the elite and then it was accessible to everyone. It had been a symbol of wealth and eventually through the social conscientiousness of certain brands became a moral symbol.

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This is one of Fry’s chocolate bar covers. The Fry company was known for their quaker and moralistic ways. 

photo courtesy of: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/topcat_angel/2343618575/

 

Chocolate Post World War II

In 1948-1949, Post World War II diplomatic relations among countries were tarnished. Germany was split up into Eastern and Western zones. The West was divided by France, Britain and the U.S while the East was controlled by the Soviet.  Tensions soon began to grow between the Soviet, it the East, and the Allies, who were in the West. The Soviet formed a blockade allowing no supplies to the west, even thought the roads were blocked, the Allies thought of “supplying the cities with supplies by air.” (The Candy Bomber) Though the soviet was blockading the West, these airlifts helped prove the blockade useless. One of the Airlift pilots, Halvorsen,  wanted to do more, as he saw children on the East, excited by the idea of candy. Though these relations between the East and West were rocky, one pilot wanted to do more, to make a diplomatic gesture. In the case of Operation Little Viddles, chocolate and candy was the mending power that brought these zones to better terms. “Nearly overnight, Halvorsen became the face of the Berlin Airlift and a symbol of American goodwill.” (Volk). In this instance, it is clear that the gesture of providing these kids with chocolate was a political and diplomatic move, trying to better the relationships between the East and West of Germany, while also easing the relationship with Germany and the U.S.

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This photo shows the excitement children had over candy and chocolate. For them to receive candy from the Operation Little Viddle was a huge deal for them. 

photo courtesy: http://jackiewhiting.net/AP/ColdWar/BerAirlift.htm

Chocolate over the years has gone through many alterations.  In different cultures, chocolate has served as different types of political, economic and social symbols. In the Aztec empire chocolate was used to signify wealth and nobility. This symbol stayed the same as chocolate traveled to Europe. Through the industrial revolution and the Victorian age, chocolate and certain brands came to symbolize morality. In post War War II chocolate and candy were important for symbolizing a diplomatic gesture. Chocolate is always changing and varying, however, it always finds its place in society

 

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie Dobzhansky, and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Vol. 29. London: Thames and Hudson, 2007.

Volk, Greg. “How One Pilot’s Sweet Tooth Helped Defeat Communism.” Mental Floss. N.p., 13 June 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2016

“The Berlin Candy Bomber.” The Berlin Candy Bomber. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.