Tag Archives: certifications

The Sticky and Complicated Future of Chocolate

the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.”[1] ― Sarah Vowell

Humorist Sarah Vowell captures much of the history of chocolate (and coffee) in this little quip. However, the history of chocolate is long and its social, economic, and political implications are vast. Putting the positive impacts of invention aside, the negative impacts of imperialism and consumerism more than linger. They have resulted in gross economic inequities and lasting environmental and social damage, particularly in the production end of the cocoa supply chain. It’s going to take the force of consumerism and capitalism to right these inequalities and bring about sustainability.

Approximately 70% of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa by small farms spread out across the area. In the 1980s cocoa farmers received approximately 16% of the chocolate profits, today this percentage has been greatly reduced to 3%.[2] Cocoa farmers are not organized and have little bargaining power against more organized buyers.

Profit shared on cocoa supply chain
Figure 1: Farmers share of chocolate profits is small and has been in decline since the 1980s when global cacao prices were regulated. In the 1980s farmers were receiving around 16% of the chocolate profits. Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture. [3]
The 2018 Cocoa Barometer highlights the many challenges for cacao farmers, including volatile pricing. From September 2016 – February 2017, farmers experienced a 30%-40% decline in income (Ghana farmers were protected by this price drop through government subsidies). Although prices are on the rise again, the overall trend the past 60 years is a decline in prices (see figure 2). With farmers having little, to no, protection from their governments they are hardest hit by market fluctuations, while others on the value chain will see an increase of their profit margins, even if only temporary.[4]

2018 Cocoa Barometer Long-term cocoa price trends
Figure 2: The average production of Ivorian cocoa in the seasons 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 was around 1,600,000 metric tonnes (mt). Cocoa production in 2016/17 and 1017/18 is around 2,000,000 mt, an increase of about 400,000 mt. (ICCO Quarterly Bulletins) The overproduction in 2016/17 was around 300,000 metric tonnes, according to the ICCO Quarterly Bulletin, Volume XLIV no 1, page 50, table 1.[5] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018.http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf
Farmers in West Africa make well below a living wage of $2.51 per day, averaging $0.78 per day (FairTrade).[6] The Cocoa Barometer asserts that the price drops are directly related to improved production due to new farming areas created from deforestation. More than 90% of West Africa’s original forests are gone.

An estimated 2.1 million children work in West African cocoa fields. Structural issues such as poverty, lack of schools, and infrastructure also contribute to the high levels of child labor.[7] Efforts in the past few decades to end child labor, preserve the environment, and to balance these inequities have been challenging and difficult to measure. Currently, third party certification bodies have been the only levers toward implementing and measuring sustainability efforts as well as signals to consumers as to where, and how, their chocolate products are sourced.

Major Certification Bodies
Three major certification bodies associated with cocoa. Note Utz and Rainforest Alliance has merged and will announce new standards in late 2019 for the New Rainforest Alliance.

The three main certification entities are Fairtrade, Utz and the Rainforest Alliance. Fairtrade Standards are designed to support the sustainable development of small producer organizations and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the world.[8] Similarly, Utz certification was created to show consumers that products were sustainably sourced. Rainforest Alliance certification meant farmers met rigorous environmental and social standards.[9] In January 2018, Utz merged with the Rainforest Alliance. The New Rainforest Alliance plans to publish a singular program at the end of 2019.[10]

Certification and bean-to-bar efforts in the specialty chocolate market have many success stories, but compared to the global consumption of chocolate, these efforts have only made a dent.[11] The Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) reports, with caveats intended to illustrated the challenges of obtaining this data, that there are 481 specialty chocolate makers and manufacturers worldwide that represent approximately 6% of the annual global production of cacao.

International Cocoa Organization, ICCO, ultrapremium cacao, fine cacao, bulk, certified
Figure 3: Ultrapremium fine and Fine cacao comprises 246,000 tonnes (6%) of the 4,031,200 tonnes of cacao produced annually (ICCO 2015). [12]
The FCCI defines this market segment as those chocolate makers and manufacturers that choose to purchase specialty cacao at a premium price for purposes of taste quality and/or sustainability reasons.[13] Within this small group, sustainability is but a factor in paying the price premium, but not necessarily a primary factor. In order for sustainability initiatives to have any meaningful impact to cocoa farmers the major chocolate manufacturers need to take the lead and invest in best practices throughout their supply chain that address the environmental, social, and economic challenges their farmers face.

Cocoa Barometer, Certified Cocoa, 2017, Mondelez International, Nestle, Mars, Hersheys, Ferrero, Lindt und Sprungli
Figure 4. Data kindly provided by the companies. Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

Recent Commitments by the Majors / Certifications & Goals

Mondelēz International (a subsidiary of Kraft)
Chocolate Brands: Cadbury, Alpen Gold, Côte d’Or, Toblerone, etc.
Certification provided by FLOCERT through a private labeling partnership.

In 2012 Mondelēz International invested $400 million to create its Cocoa Life program. The program plans to empower 200,000 cocoa farmers and one million community members by 2022. In April 2018 Mondelēz International reported that they have reached 120,500 cocoa farmers, in a variety of programs and they reached 35% certified cocoa.[14]

Mondelēz  International, Cocoa for Life, 2017 Progress
Figure 5: Cocoa Life infographic showing Mondelēz 2017 Progress in Numbers. Includes increases in sustainably sourced cocoa and reach to farmers and communities from previous year.[15]
Cocoa Life is tied to the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), with an emphasis on Goals 1 (no poverty), among others. Cocoa Life has partnered with local governments and NGOs to build community-centric Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS), which educate farming communities on the dangers of child labor, identify children at risk, and remediate cases with its local partners. Cocoa Life CLMRS programs have started in Ghana and continue to increase. Roll out of CLMRS in Côte d’Ivoire will begin in 2018. Nestlé has also implemented CLMRS program into its sustainability programs.[16]

Mondelēz, CLMRS, 2017
Figure 6: Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) deployed by Mondelēz International in 2017 with plans to ramp up in 2018.[17] Mondelēz International. Cocoa Life 2017 Progress Report: From Cocoa Farmers to Consumers Connection Both Ends of the Supply Chain. P. 21. April 2018. Web. April 2018. https://www.cocoalife.org/~/media/CocoaLife/en/download/article/Cocoa_Life_Progress_Report_2017.pdf

Chocolate Brands: Smarties, Nestlé Crunch, Butterfinger, KitKat, etc.
Certifications: Utz and Fairtrade

In their detailed, first report (2017), co-authored with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), Nestlé asserts that certification is not enough and that additional support for the farmer is needed. In fact, Nestlé asserts that certification drove the issue of child labor “underground” as farmers would hide any child laborers when inspectors came around.[18] While Mondelēz set up CLMRS in Ghana, Nestlé set up its CLMRS in Côte d’Ivoire and report a 51% reduction of child labor in a recent sample of 1,056 children over a two-year period. [19]

Nestle, Child Labour, Child Labor, 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report
Figure 7: Nestlé targets child labor by its Child Labor and Monitor Remediation Systems (CLMRS) in Côte d’Ivoire. Nestlé hopes to scale the successful parts of the program to meet the goals of its Cocoa Plan.[20]
Nestlé is also investing in Community Liaison People (CLPs) to educate the community of the dangers of child labor. They are targeting women and mothers as they are more likely to invest their income and education into their family. The CLPs are local young people who are paid to train and the cost of the CLPs are split between Nestlé and the farmer. Remediation is highly individualized, but these activities are ones Nestlé continues to invest.[21] Nestlé hopes to scale their more successful initiatives to meet the goals of its Cocoa Plan, which is set to reach 57% cocoa certification by the end of 2020.

Nestle, CLMRS, Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System, ICI, International Cocoa Initiative
Figure 8: An overview of how Nestlé’s Childe Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) works by engaging the community, assigning monitors, monitoring, reporting, validation, analysis, recommends remediation, remediation carried out by partners, monitoring continues ensure remediation is carried out.[22]  Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.23 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf
Nestle, Cocoa Plan, CLMRS, Certified Cocoa
Figure 9: Infographic on Nestlé Cocoa Plan Challenges and Ambitions in CLMRS program reach and tonnes of certified cocoa.[23] Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.49 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf

Chocolate Brands: Ferrero Pralines, Nutella, Kinder Chocolate
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.[24]

According to its 2016 Social Responsibility Report Ferrero has made a commitment to 100% certified cacao by 2020 and 75% by the end of 2018.[25]

Ferrero, Sustainability Report, Certified Cocoa
Figure 10: Ferrero touts its success toward reaching its certification goals.[26] Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 170 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf
In its April 2018 Cocoa Barometer reports Ferrero is 70% certified (figure 4), and by its own reporting, on track to meet its goal of 75% cocoa certification (figure 10).

Ferrero reports partnerships with cacao cooperative ECOOKIM, the largest in Côte d’Ivoire, which takes part in the Fairtrade Africa program “It Takes a Village to Protect a Child.” Similar to CLMRS, the program establishes a Child Labor Committee to raise awareness about child labor, create child protection policy, and monitor activity at the community level. Ferrero reports that 9,413 children benefitted from this program. [27]

Ferrero also works with Save the Children to work toward ending child labor. It reports 1.2 million children are forced to work in hazardous conditions, however, Ferrero has set relatively modest goals of reaching 500 children, 7,500 members of 10 communities, and 100 representatives of local institutions.[28]

Ferrero, Save the Children, Cocoa, Sustainability, Community Development
Figure 11: Ferrero reports modest results on in their efforts to address child labor.[29]   Source: Save the Children, December 2016 – Protection des enfants vulnérables dans les communautés productrices de cacao dans le département de Soubré en Côte d’Ivoire – Ajournement pour Ferrero. Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 182 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf
In January Ferrero announced it planned to acquire Nestlé’s U.S. confectionary business for $2.8 billion in cash making Ferrero the third largest confectionary company in the U.S.[30] It is anticipated that Ferrero will realign their sustainability goals after the acquisition of Nestlé, but their goals are currently similar.

The Hershey Company
Popular Chocolate Brands: Hershey’s Chocolate Bar, Cocoa, Kisses, and Baking chocolates, Kit Kat, Almond Joy, Mounds, Reese’s, York.
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.[31]

Hershey, Open source map, cocoa farms, sustainability, transparency
Figure 12: Hershey Source Map for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Pictured above is a zoomed in version of W. Africa. Users can zoom in and view the name of Cocoa Coop, educational location, or an area they obtain cocoa. The map also shows locations around the world for ingredients such as milk and sugar, plus other sources of chocolate in South American. Hershey also has a source map for its Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almond Bars. [32] https://open.sourcemap.com/maps/589e10c1e4bac0b357bc3d5f
Hershey, Sustainablity Goal
Figure 13: Hershey reports its on track to reach its goal of 100% certified cocoa by 2020.[37]   The Hershey Company. 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. 2017. Web. April 30, 2018. p. 27. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/dam/corporate-us/documents/csr-reports/2016-hershey-csr-report.pdf
In its 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, The Hershey Company highlights progress in their Learn to Grow agriculture and empowerment program, serving 48,300 farmers in West Africa.[33] The report also highlights its Energize Learning program, which provides Vivi energy bars to students improving overall nutrition. The program is a partnership with the Ghana School Feeding Program and Project Peanut Butter and 50,000 kids in Ghana receive 50,000 Vivi bars every day.[34] Hershey also partnered with The World Cocoa Foundation’s (WCF) Climate Smart Cocoa Program to address climate change impacts to cocoa growing regions. The partnership will pilot a series of programs to develop “climate-smart” best practices to inform the Learn to Grow curriculum and through Hershey’s CocoaLink program knowledge sharing between farmers will be allowed via low-cost mobile technology.[35] Hershey’s report indicates that it is on schedule to reach its 100% certified goal by 2020.[36] In April 2018 the Cocoa Baramoter reports Hershey reached 75% (see figure 4). Also in April 2018, Hershey announced the creation of its Cocoa for Good sustainability programs

Beyond certification, Cocoa for Good seeks to address the most pressing issues facing cocoa-growing communities. The strategy is to target four key areas: increase family access to good nutrition, elimination of child labor and increase youth access to education opportunities, increase household incomes for women and men, zero deforestation and increased agroforestry. The announcement came with a $500 million commitment by 2030 and like Mondelēz International and Mars, aligns its strategy to contribute to the goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.[38]

Chocolate Brands include: M&M, Snickers, Twix, Dove, Milky Way, etc.
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.

In September of 2017, Mars announced its Sustainable in a Generation Plan, with a pledge to invest $1 billion over the next few years to address threats such as climate change, poverty in its value chain, and scarcity of resources.[39] This is across all their raw products, not just cocoa. Oxfam will serve as an advisor to their Farmer Income Lab, which aligns with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal 1 (no poverty). The Farmer Income Lab will seek to create solutions through research for farmers working in Mars’ supply chain in developing countries.[40] Other actions include improving cocoa farming methods, pests and disease prevention, and unlocking the cocoa genome.[41] Engagement with others actors in the cocoa industry is also key, such as the World Cocoa Foundation and CocoaAction. Mars’ Chief Sustainability & Health and Wellbeing Officer, Barry Parkin, also serves as Chairman of World Cocoa Foundation.

Mars, Cocoa Sustainability
Figure 14: Mars identifies that 5 million cocoa farmers are impacted, but focuses mainly on addressing technology issues in farmer in a belief it will fix the social challenges that farmers face, such as a extreme poverty, child labor, and infrastructure concerns included in other sustainability plans.[47]
Mars may lay claim as the first major chocolate company to commit to 100% certified chocolate by 2020, but its progress has lagged, reporting 50% of their cocoa being certified in 2016[42] and the same percentage being reported by the cocoa barometer in 2018 (figure 4). During this same time frame Ferrero and Hershey have demonstrated increases in certification of cocoa reporting 70% and 75% certificated cocoa, respectively (figure 4).[43] Their website lacks a corporate social responsibility report and the information available on their site appears to be written in 2016, except for recent press releases and Income Position Statement.[44] For example Mars’ claim to be the only major manufacturer to work with all three major certification organizations Utz, Rainforest Alliance, and Fairtrade International is outdated.[45] Hershey and Ferrero include these bodies in their 2016 sustainability reports.

Until the recent announcement of Sustainable in a Generation Plan, Mars’ approach, as described on their website, leans more toward improving farmer yield through technology (fertilizer, farming techniques, mapping the cacao genome) than increasing living wages and address child labor. A press release by Frank Mars in April 2018 urges collaborative scientific approach and extolls their work on breeding higher yield cocoa plants for improving farmer incomes.[46] However, higher yields do not always improve farmer incomes. As previously mentioned, the recent Cocoa Barometer report suggests that higher production results in driving down price, thus less income for farmers. Perhaps Mars’ real progress is tied to the progress of the World Cocoa Foundation.

World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and CocoaAction

CocoaAction is a voluntary industry-wide organization that aligns the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies, cocoa producing governments, and key stakeholders on regional priority issues in cocoa sustainability run by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). The WCF member companies committed to CocoaAction include Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Ferrero, The Hershey Company, Mars, Incorporated, among others.[48] In November of 2017 a Framework of Action was announced by the WCF with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and major chocolate and cocoa companies to end deforestation, restore forest areas, and accelerate investment in long-term sustainable production of cocoa, and the development and capacity-building of farmers’ organizations and farmer’s income. Commitments also include participation of policy creation by farmers and extensive monitoring and reporting. The Framework of Action involves governments and companies that represent 80% of the global cocoa production and usage.[49] If implemented correctly, these commitments should go a long way in repairing the deforestation in West Africa. 

The Future of Chocolate

These efforts are welcome and it is promising that the majors can successfully  collaborate with governments, NGOs, and each other in the important effort to secure the future of chocolate and those that produce it. It is also encouraging to see the major manufacturers release sustainability reports, however, as barometer.org reports, many of their commitments fall well short compared to the actual scope of the problem. The commitment to reach 400,000 children by 2020 would only impact 18% of children in need (figure 15). Similarly meeting commitments to help farmers in CocoaAction would only reach 15% of farmers in need (figure 15). Regarding living income, farmers are only making $0.78 per day, 31% of the living wage of $2.51 per day (figure 15). The Cocoa Barometer report stresses that a living wage, among other factors, is a major component that these initiatives must include in their sustainability initiatives. From available data, all reports aspire to improve farmer income, either by improving productivity or identifying additional income generating activities. However, these plans do not set a living wage as a goal. As mentioned earlier in this article more production doesn’t always result in more income.

Cocoa Barometer, Scale of solutions vs problem, Cocoa Sustainability, CLMRS, CocoaAction, Cocoa Farmer
Figure 15: Scale of solutions vs. scope of the problem. The data for this infographic was publicly available in the case of CocoaAction and Fairtrade. The International Cocoa Initiative graciously provided their data. The authors of the Barometer do not wish to imply that these organisations are doing an insufficient job, but simply that the scale of the interventions chosen by the sector as a whole are dwarfed by the size of the challenges.[50]   Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf
The future of chocolate depends on the fate of cocoa farmers and their fate relies on untangling a mess of social and economic issues caused by imperialism, and exacerbated by free market capitalism and consumerism. The goals set forth in these reports are generally headed in the right direction, but their success is dependent on their ability to make their initiatives successful, then scale up on that success. Accountability and transparency among the industry and at the government level is also paramount to measure the effects of these initiatives. Consumers also have a role in making responsible purchases and applying pressure on corporations and governments to minimize inequality in the supply chain and certification plays an important role. If farmers continue to be marginalized, then there will be little incentive for a younger generation of farmers to take up the trade and chocolate may become a rare treat indeed.


Works Cited:

[1] Vowell, Sarah. The Partly Cloudy Patriot. Simon & Schuster. New York, New York. October 2002. p. 42

[2] Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. Web. p. 11. April 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[5] Ibid. p. 52.

[6] Ibid. p. 6.

[7] Ibid. p. 3.

[8] Fairtrade. Aims of Fairtrade Standards. Web. May 8, 2018. https://www.fairtrade.net/standards/aims-of-fairtrade-standards.html

[9] The Rainforest Alliance. What Our Seal Means. Web. May 8, 2018. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/

[10] Utz. Joining Forces: Utz and the Rainforest Alliance. April 24, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. https://utz.org/merger/#QA_merger

[11] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. p. 6. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[12] Martin, Carla. “Sizing the craft chocolate market.” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (blog). August 31. 2017. Web. April 25, 2018. https://chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Mondelēz International. Cocoa Life 2017 Progress Report: From Cocoa Farmers to Consumers Connection Both Ends of the Supply Chain. P. 2. April 2018. Web. April 2018. https://www.cocoalife.org/~/media/CocoaLife/en/download/article/Cocoa_Life_Progress_Report_2017.pdf

[15] Ibid. p. 5

[16] Ibid. p. 21

[17] Ibid. p. 21

[18] Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.24 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf

[19] Ibid. p. 22

[20] Nestlé. Introducing our first report on tackling child labour in cocoa. Web. April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/

[21] Ibid. 37

[22] Ibid. p. 23

[23] Ibid. p. 49

[24] Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 171 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf

[25] Ibid. p. 170

[26] Ibid. p. 170

[27] Ibid. 175

[28] Ibid. p. 181

[29] Ibid. 182

[30] Ferrero. Ferrero to Acquire Nestlé’s U.S. Confectionary Business. January 16, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. https://www.ferrero.com/group-news/

[31] The Hershey Company. Our Certified Ingredients. Web. April 30, 2018. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/responsibility/good-business/responsible-sourcing.html

[32] Hershey. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds Open Source Map. Zoom View. Web. April 2018. https://open.sourcemap.com/maps/589e10c1e4bac0b357bc3d5f

[33] The Hershey Company. 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. 2017. Web. April 30, 2018. p. 11. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/dam/corporate-us/documents/csr-reports/2016-hershey-csr-report.pdf

[34] Ibid. p. 23

[35] Ibid. p. 12

[36] Ibid. p. 27

[37] Ibid. p. 27

[38] Hershey. Hershey Announces Cocoa For Good, the Company’s Half-billion Dollar Sustainable Cocoa Strategy. April 4, 2018. Web. April 30, 2018. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/corporate/en_us/news-center/news-detail.html?2340764

[39] Mars. Unveiling Our Sustainble in a Generation Plan. Sept. 5, 2017. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/newsroom/unveiling-our-sustainable-in-a-generation-plan

[40] Farmers Income Lab. Challenges. Web. May 9, 2018. https://www.farmerincomelab.com/

[41] Mars. Income Position Statement: The Current Situation. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/about-us/policies-and-practices/income-position-statement

[42] Mars. Caring for the Future of Cocoa Out Approach. 2016. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[43] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[44] Mars. Caring for the Future of Cocoa Out Approach. 2016. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[45] Ibid.

[46] Mars. Frank Mars Calls for the Cocoa Industry to Take a Collaborative Scientific Approach to Cocoa. April 26, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/frank-mars-cocoa-collaboration

[47] Mars. Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa, Our Approach. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[48] CocoaAction. World Cocoa Foundation. Web. April 2018. http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/about-wcf/cocoaaction/

[49] World Cocoa Foundation. Two-thirds of Global Cocoa Supply Agree on Actions to Eliminate Deforestation and Restore Forest Areas. Nov. 2017. Web. April 2018.

[50] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

Chocolate Tasting: Creating Conscientious Consumers Through Increased Awareness

After spending a semester studying the history, culture and politics of chocolate at Harvard University with Professor Carla D. Martin, I decided to host a chocolate tasting to put to test what had been presented in class and in our readings. My invitation to the tasting was enthusiastically accepted by several friends who love, of course, all things chocolate. My goal was threefold: to educate them about the anatomy of a chocolate bar, to explore some of the issues facing the chocolate industry today, and to examine the packaging and significance of certifications.  By increasing their awareness of these topics, I hoped to inspire them to become more conscientious consumers.


The challenge quickly became which chocolate bars to include in my taste test.  Walking down the aisles of a few local grocery and convenience stores proved daunting.  There were just so many bars to choose from.  In The New Taste of Chocolate, Maricel E. Presilla writes, “the face of chocolate has changed fantastically in the last few years in that shoppers now find themselves confronted with some bewildering choices” (p 126).  And bewildered I was. When surveying the multitude of labels, I considered ingredients, certifications, and messaging. Ultimately, I arrived at a sample of seventeen bars including three different milk chocolates, a few dark chocolates with varying amounts of cocoa, and a selection of bars with additional ingredients such as almonds, mint, caramels, and sugar substitutes.  I also included one raw cacao bar to see how it would fare.  In addition, I selected several bars that had specific certifications and messaging on their packaging to prompt discussion about the issues in the chocolate industry today.

I elected to host a blind taste test so that my friends could judge each chocolate free from pre-conceived notions, preferences, and packaging information.  I assigned each bar a letter and created a spreadsheet which the participants used to record their results.  I instructed them to use all of their senses to fully experience each chocolate bar.  First, they looked at each sample for color and sheen.  They then smelled the chocolate to enjoy the aroma.  After breaking each sample to experience the “snap”, they tasted them.  My group proved to be very enthusiastic and shared their findings with great description using terms such as “sweet,” “too sweet,” “artificial,” “chalky,” “salty,” “milky,” “creamy,” “delicious,” “nutty,” “fruity,” “bleh” and “awful.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 4.38.53 PM.png

The general consensus among this group was that they preferred dark chocolate to milk, and favored a bar with a cocoa content of around 70%, finding a bar with 85% cocoa too bitter. As a group of mostly affluent, educated and health conscious women, they liked bars with natural and organic ingredients rather than artificial flavors and soy lecithin.  In her article “Fresh off The Farm”, Patricia Unterman explains, “when you choose to eat organic and sustainably raised produce, a little karma rubs off on you and makes everything taste better,” which resonated with this group. I found it interesting that they all readily identified the Hershey’s milk chocolate bar and agreed it reminded them of their childhoods. Though they admitted they don’t regularly consume Hershey’s, they still enjoy it as a key ingredient in s’mores.  Most of them enjoyed chocolate bars with nuts, few liked fruit additives, and only one liked the raw bar.  Some were pleasantly surprised by the bars with the artificial sweetener Stevia. They considered them to be “less guilty” treats having no sugar and fewer calories.


I concluded the tasting with an analysis of the packaging of the different bars. We looked at the manufacturer, their messaging, list of ingredients, bean origination and certifications. While some of the participants were familiar with the various certifications, most were not and only one was familiar with the issues present in the chocolate industry today. The group expressed a desire to gain a broader understanding of these issues so that they could be more discriminating in their choices and use their purchasing power to support the causes they felt most strongly about.  In Eating Out: Social Differentiation, Consumption and Pleasure, Warde and Martens note “consumption practices are driven by a conscious reflexivity such that people monitor, reflect upon and adapt their personal conduct in light of its perceived consequences.”

The industry today is fraught with many interrelated challenges including the worst forms of child labor, poverty, and sustainability to name a few, and certifications allow consumers to learn which chocolate companies support ethical and sustainable practices.  Worst forms of child labor include slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and any work by its nature that is harmful to the health, safety and morals of children (Martin, April 21). In The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty To Benefit The Rich , Ndogo Sylla explains child labor is extensively utilized in cacao harvesting and estimates that 2 million children work in the West African countries of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.  Cacao farmers labor under difficult circumstances and are subject to physical injury and exposure to toxic pesticides while earning on average $.50 to $.80 per day per capita making it virtually impossible to support a paid labor force or sustainable farming practices (Warde and Martens, p 497).


The idea of fair trade dates back to the late 1940’s and has evolved over the past 70 years with the goal to reduce poverty through everyday shopping.  A multitude of organizations strive to tackle poverty in the poorest countries by improving workers’ social, economic and environmental conditions.  Others raise awareness and work to protect endangered species and the planet.  The images and links below represent some of the different certifications we discussed:


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Fairtrade International(FI) is a multi-stakeholder, non-profit organization focusing on the empowerment of producers and workers in developing countries through trade. Fairtrade International provides leadership, tools and services needed to connect producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and work towards sustainable livelihoods. https://www.flocert.net/glossary/fairtrade-international-fairtrade-labelling-organizations-international-e-v/

Fair Trade Certified enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, fishermen, consumers, industry, and the earth. We achieve our mission by certifying and promoting Fair Trade products. https://www.fairtradecertified.org

Equal Exchange Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world. http://equalexchange.coop/about

UTZ Certified shows UTZ stands for sustainable farming and better opportunities for farmers, their families and our planet. The UTZ program enables farmers to learn better farming methods, improve working conditions and take better care of their children and the environment.Through the UTZ program farmers grow better crops, generate more income and create better opportunities while safeguarding the environment and securing the earth’s natural resources.  Now and in the future, consumers that products have been sourced, from farm to shop shelf, in a sustainable manner. To become certified, all UTZ suppliers have to follow our Code of Conduct, which offers expert guidance on better farming methods, working conditions and care for nature. https://utz.org

Rainforest Alliance Our green frog certification seal indicates that a farm, forest, or tourism enterprise has been audited to meet standards that require environmental, social, and economic sustainability. It is a non-governmental organization (NGO) working to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land- use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/faqs/what-does-rainforest-alliance-certified-mean


After much deliberation, considering aroma, color, sheen, snap, flavor and texture, the group unanimously agreed the Hachez Cocoa D’Arriba 77% Classic was their favorite. One taster exclaimed, “It’s so creamy and the flavor is so rich.”



Joseph Emile Hachez, a chocolatier of Belgian origin, established The Bremer HACHEZ Chocolade GmbH & Co. KG in 1890 in Bremen, Germany. Though the company has changed hands several times over the past century, Hachez remains one of the most well-regarded producers of superior chocolates in Germany. As highlighted on their packaging, “Hachez offers authentic chocolates of superior quality and craftsmanship-from the cocoa bean to the chocolate bar.”

“Still using the original recipes, they are one of the few German chocolate manufacturers to do everything in one location – from cleaning the cocoa beans to roasting them, molding the chocolate and packaging them. This allows them to oversee each stage of manufacturing to ensure every last piece of chocolate meets their high standards” (Chocoversum.de).


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About 100 hours of work are put into every cocoa bean which leaves the factory in Bremen as chocolate. The CHOCOVERSUM shows the tradition and the attention to detail, which is practiced in the HACHEZ chocolate factory in Bremen by over 350 employees on a daily basis. (Chocoversum.de)


Though their packaging displays no certifications or social, political or environmental messaging, Hachez belongs to both BDSI, the Association of German Confectionary, and GISCO, the German Institute on Sustainable Cocoa, which aim to address some of the issues facing the cacao industry today. The BDSI works to improve the standard of living for cocoa farmers and their families by promoting sustainable farming and education, and by offering loans to farmers to fund investments to increase productivity, quality and efficiency.  They find exploitive child labor practices unacceptable and are working with local communities to eliminate it through education and schooling. BDSI intends to boost the percent of sustainable cocoa in manufacturing to 50% by 2020 and to 70% by 2025 and to increase the share of responsibly produced cocoa in chocolate and confections sold in Germany.  Similarly, GISCO’s focus is to improve the living conditions of cocoa farmers and their families and to conserve natural resources and biodiversity in cocoa producing countries.


To understand the anatomy of any chocolate bar, it is essential to consider all of the ingredients and workers that contribute to the final product. The basis for chocolate is cacao, which is derived from the seed of the tree, Theobroma cacao, or “food-of-the-gods cacao.” These trees grow in a band around the world, hugging the equator, and thriving only where there are perfect temperatures and plentiful moisture (Off, p 10). Approximately 70% of the worlds cocoa comes from West African, in particular, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana.  Latin America accounts for 16% of cocoa production and Asia and Oceana account for another 12%.  Over 10% of the global harvest is processed in Germany where Hachez is based.

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Farmers gently separate the cacao pods from the trees and crack them open to remove the pulp which encases the precious beans.  Once cleaned of debris, the beans and surrounding pulp are covered in banana leaves to begin the important process of fermentation which develops the flavor of the beans. The fermentation process can take between two and six days.  When fermentation is complete, the beans are dried, sorted and bagged for shipment.

At Hachez, they claim to use only the finest cocoa varieties from farmers whom they consider to be socially responsible, environmentally friendly and practice sustainable farming. The unique flavor characteristics of the variety of beans they use reflect their terroir, “loosely translated as ‘a sense of place,’ which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment and people have had on the production of the product” (Martin, April 18).

Upon receiving the beans, Hachez’s chocolatiers sort them and run them through a machine to remove stones, sticks, and other foreign substances.  Next, the beans are “roasted in traditional drums using hot air currents to extract the optimal development of flavor and aroma” (Chocoverse.de). After a winnower separates the husks from the nibs, Hachez grinds the nibs specifically to a granular diameter of .0014 mm to produce a more delicate texture. Next, the chocolate is put through a conche for up to 72 hours to reduce the size of the particles in order to fully refine the aroma and to enhance the smoothness and delicate consistency. The chocolate is then tempered: “the temperature of the mass is raised, then carefully lowered so that the crystal structure of the fat may be destroyed to prevent the bar from becoming blotchy and granular, with a poor color.  Tempering remains a vital step in the manufacture of the finest quality chocolate” (Coe and Coe, p 248). The end result is a chocolate bar with great aroma, sheen, snap, flavor and texture.  As one taster exclaimed, “This bar is amazing.  The rich flavor and creamy texture make it the best one by far.”


Near the end of the tasting, we explored the health benefits of chocolate when consumed responsibly.  Chocolate with the greatest health benefits has a minimum 70% cacao, is organic, has limited amounts of cocoa butter and added fats, and is enjoyed in small amounts of about 2 oz. per day (Martin, April 11). Scientists have identified in cacao antioxidant properties which reduce disease causing free radicals. Antioxidants like this help ward off cancer, repair damaged cells, and impact the effects of aging.  Dark chocolate in particular is high in polyphenols and flavonoids providing a large dose of antioxidants per serving.  Flavanols, the main type of flavonoid found in dark chocolate, also are known to positively affect heart health because they help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.

The tasters left feeling much smarter about the bean to bar process, more aware of the issues facing the chocolate industry today, enlightened about the health benefits of dark chocolate, and most important, empowered as shoppers.  I would argue I succeeded in turning them into conscientious consumers.


Works Cited

Coe, Sphie D. and Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2006 (3rd Edition).

Mintz, Sydney W., Sweetness and Power. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1985.

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

Martin, Carla D.  “Modern Day Slavery”, Harvard University, AAS E119, March 21, 2018.

Martin, Carla D. “Health, Nutrition, and Politics of Food”, Harvard University, AAS E119, April 11, 2018.

Martin, Carla D. “Psychology, Terroir and Taste”, Harvard University, AAS E119,  April 18, 2018.

Presilla, Maricel E., The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2001.

Unterman, Patricia, “Fresh off the Farm”, SF Examiner, Aug 20, 2000.

Warde, A. and I. Martens, Eating Out: Social Differentiation, Consumption and Pleasure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty To Benefit The Rich. 1st ed. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University, 2014.

Chocoversum by Hachez. https://www.chocoversum.de/en/

Association of the German Confectionary Industry. https://www.bdsi.de

German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa. https://www.kakaoforum.de/en/






72% Packaging: Package Design and Perception in Craft Chocolate

Any lover of fine chocolate is familiar with the dilemma of standing in front of a craft chocolate display, especially those who are inclined to try new things and consider more than flavor in making a choice. “The choices in fine chocolate are almost as overwhelming as the possibilities” (Williams and Eber 2012, 145). So how do you decide? Will you grab the bar that appears to be making a social impact on the production end? Or the bar that promotes the conservation of wildlife? How about that new lemongrass and coconut bar, though? And then there’s the masterful, graphic, nuanced package design that is incredible and beautiful for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with chocolate. The wallpaper. The problem that I want to unpack here, if you will, is how consumer decisions are affected and obscured by package design and why it’s important in the world of craft chocolate. (In my references to consumers and the craft chocolate market, I am speaking specifically about that of North America and Europe.)

chocolate display
Image: Maja | For Emma, Forever Ago

There’s no universal rule about what the consumer is looking for, so chocolate packaging is all over the board. The primary goal is, or at least should be, according to fine flavor chocolate manufacturers and chocolatiers, buying chocolate that tastes exceptionally good. But flavor is a perception, and an individual’s perception of flavor is affected by all of the senses, not just taste, as well as complex cognitive function (Shepherd 2012). For most consumers, this perception begins with sight and, thus, packaging. Visual cues have a profound effect on our perceived acceptability and expectation of a food, as well as the associations we have from learned and past experience (Delwiche 2012). The packaging is our first visual cue, in fact our first sensory cue in most cases, in making a decision on a bar of chocolate.

Image: the Dieline

“If we turn back to the phenomena [of perception], they show us that the apprehension of a quality, just as that of size, is bound up with a whole perceptual context, and that the stimuli no longer furnish us with the indirect means we were seeking of isolating a layer of immediate impressions” (1962, 8). When we choose a chocolate bar based on our perception of the package, we’re not always able to isolate that ‘immediate impression’ from the ‘whole perceptual context’ of how good the bar will taste, what it represents, and how it actually impacts people and environment. So purveyors can leverage the power of that immediate impression of the package design to sell the idea and the anticipated gestalt of what lies within that layer.

This is not a new concept. Merleu-Ponty wrote that in 1962 and advertisers have long been aware of this reality, appealing to specific consumer bases in whatever way is most effective to them at that point in time. The success of the industrial and processed food market is a glaring example of this. In terms of the craft market, of which fine (or craft) chocolate is a part, it must be done for a slightly more discerning audience. It can be argued that designing for consumer appeal and marketability enhances the viability of a craft chocolate industry that can afford to purchase high-quality beans and support socially conscious business practices, but it also greatly increases the fetishism of chocolate and reinforces the “positive fantasy of the commodity” (Duncombe 2012, 360). Furthermore, the methods, circumstances, and governing bodies discerning what constitutes fine cacao are wrapped up in representational politics, historical narratives, market interests, and social tensions (Leissle 2013). The package design of fine and craft chocolate seems to exist on a spectrum of exoticism to localization, with a confounding dose of social justice and a decent measure of health claims in between.

Whole Foods Market came onto the grocery scene in the early 2000s with a remarkable new approach to retail food marketing – taking into account the burgeoning food movement that promoted local, sustainable, and socially conscious products in an increasingly mysterious food industry, they designed their stores to appeal not just to the gustatory pleasures of their consumers but also their liberal politics and, arguably, upscale aesthetics (Mack 2012). This new sensory design approach in grocery retail brought the firm great success – Whole Foods now has 456 stores in the United States, Canada, and the UK (Statista 2017). Chocolate packaging has undergone a similar re-design in the sense that the way in which it appeals to the gustatory, ethical, and aesthetic inclinations of the consumer. But ther is a distinct difference between chocolate and, say, the grains and dairy products sold at Whole Foods (though their sensory design approach has been criticized by Michael Pollan, who claims that the size and scale of the firm has pushed the small-scale, sustainable farmers they appear to support out of their the supply chain, Mack 2012).

Though local markets for craft and fine chocolate are growing, the great majority of craft and fine chocolate is consumed far from the places where it is produced and that production has a controversial history, which obscures consumer understanding of the impact of their choices on the production end of the value chain. But just like organic and non-GMO labels affect consumer perception of truly local products, there is a vast crop of certifications and labels (including organic and non-GMO) in chocolate that draw on consumer notions of ethics, morality, and socially conscious buying practices. These certifications are pervaded by international politics, financial inaccessibility, and general misunderstanding, and often do not have the transformative effect on producers or environment that they claim. Nonetheless, the average consumer lacks the information or experience to understand the labels and, thus, they are perceived as valuable. The obscurity of certifications has motivated producers like Taza chocolate, a chocolatier based in Somerville, MA, to create their own direct trade label and the company also publishes an annual transparency report that includes purchase prices and information about producers. The readership of that report is very low as it relates to the consumption of their product, which suggests consumers don’t seek out that information beyond the package and its labels even when it is available.

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Image: Dr. Carla Martin, Harvard Extension School Course

The “mythology of chocolate” has been pervasive since the early days of its popularization in Europe and is evident throughout the chocolate industry, especially as it pertains to femininity and romanticism in marketing (Robertson 2009). That mythology has extended to a whole new exoticism of the industry, using imagery, language, and semiotics to market the allure of the exotic and build that “positive fantasy of the commodity” (Duncombe 2012, 360). That fantasy includes not just the romanticized provenance and culture of cacao but also an ever-growing array of flavors, many of which are far removed from the geographic and cultural origins of cacao, all of which brings up deeply embedded issues of class, race, and otherness (Martin and Sampeck 2015).

Images: (L-R) the Dieline, bpando.org

On the other hand, there is the ‘localization’ of chocolate – a response to the food movement of recent years and the subsequent, ever-growing appeal of local foods. The know-your-farmer consumer approach doesn’t hold in the chocolate market of North American and Europe because cacao is not, in fact, a local product. Instead, the ‘localization’ of chocolate, at its core a foreign product, has been achieved through packaged farmer narratives, in the growth of single origin chocolates, an emphasis on local manufacture and craftsmanship, and the notion of terroir (Leissle 2013, 23, e.g. Williams & Eber 2012, 148, Presilla 2009). All three of those abstractions of chocolate as a ‘local’ product rely on consumer perception and the successful communication of the concept by manufacturers and chocolatiers by way of package design.

Image: (L-R) The Chocolate Path, Notey, Mast Brothers

Cacao’s early association with wealth – the Mesoamericans used the beans as currency and the Spanish eagerly adopted the practice by acquiring great amounts of the valuable cacao beans, most often by unjust means – carried right over to early European consumption of chocolate. Chocolate started as a luxury commodity only accessible to the rich but, despite eventually becoming available and widely consumed by the masses, the notion of ‘richness’ in chocolate persists today (Coe and Coe 2013). Whether it’s the gold foil, the font, or a box or package that is decorative in and of itself, the package design of many a fine chocolate draws consumers in with its aesthetic representations of luxury, class, and richness.

Image: La Muse Bluse

Chocolate also has been connected to notions of health since the first Mesoamerican imbibers of chocolate celebrated the its medicinal properties in treating illness and myriad ailments. The association fit nicely into the Spanish obsession with health and they eagerly adapted cacao into their own medicinal frameworks (Coe & Coe 2013). The benefits now touted by ‘functional chocolate’ advocates are different than past iterations of ‘chocolate as medicine,’ but the notion persists in the perception of chocolate’s antioxidant properties, the benefits of flavonoids for cardiac health, the positive effects on mental and emotional health, as well as the nutritional value of raw chocolate and its adherence to increasingly common dietary restrictions (Castell, Pérez-Cano, and Bisson 2013).

Images: (L-R) the Dieline, Nohmod, the Designers Dose


Makers of craft chocolate source high-quality beans with ‘fine flavor.’ They use small-scale, traditional tools and finish the bars largely by hand. So craft chocolate is expensive. “Manufacturers and chocolatiers will tell you they follow their hearts in creating their chocolate and bonbons but too many consumers follow the herd and buy into marketing and the power of packaging” (Williams and Eber 2012, 146). Those manufacturers and chocolatiers emphasize that their primary, driving goal is great flavor and they are enthusiastic about educating the consuming public about their craft and what constitutes great flavor. Makers like the Mast brothers in Brooklyn, NY, and TCHO in Berkeley, CA, have opened their doors to chocolate lovers for tours, tastings, and flavor education. While this access does help a small batch of consumers better understand the price tag on their favorite bar of craft chocolate and identify the flavor profiles they love, the focus on flavor and craft largely dismisses the socio-political implications of chocolate. And for the makers who do incorporate that narrative into their educational endeavors, what of the consumers who don’t have access to this first-hand experience and education? It’s left to the packaging. Thus, this type of education misses a great deal of the consumer market and ‘knowing’ your chocolate becomes more a matter of cultural capital than a keen understanding of the product in all its complexity.

Image: Mast Brothers shop in Brooklyn by Eunice Choi

Williams and Eber write about the wealth of information available to consumers and claim that “consumers are becoming more educated about the origins of cacao and chocolate worldwide [as they learn] how flavor varies depending on terroir, postharvest processing, and chocolate making” but this focus on flavor and ‘craft’ obscures the crucial social and local-global implications of chocolate and the effectiveness of all that information places arguably too much responsibility on the consumer for interpreting and comprehending the market to drive their choices (2012, 161). Moreover, the consumption and enjoyment of chocolate, a ‘nonessential’ product, is hedonistic. Consumers of fine chocolate are attempting to make good choices in the midst of looking for gustatory pleasure and an intoxicating flavor experience, and the perception of the package is crucial in that moment of choice.

The demand for chocolate in general isn’t likely to subside – people report craving chocolate more than any other food item and studies have found a well of explanations and dimensions for the near-universal chocolate habit (Benton 2014). Package design in chocolate is not only confounding in the obscurity of information about chocolate, but it exploits that habit. In appealing to the socially constructed aesthetic tastes of consumers, package design further obscures the reality of cacao production, deepens the gap between producer and consumer, and perpetuates a disconnect between chocolate consumerism in capitalist societies and ongoing poverty in production areas.

GIF: Emily Henderson

All too often, “’premium chocolate’ may not be any more “fine” than the paper it’s packaged in” and the controversy and confusion around certifications, origins, cacao content, and production practices has even motivated some manufacturers and chocolatiers to leave that information off the package altogether (Williams and Eber 2012, 168). Some of those packages look more like a skilled graphic designer’s canvas than the wrapper of an actual food product. Chocolate packaging has taken on a life all its own, fully crossed over into the lifestyle and design world, and the aesthetic pursuits even carry over to the chocolate itself, with highly refined molds, coloring, and décor.

Image: knstrct

All of this is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with designing a beautiful, unique package or that the fault of the craft chocolate industry is in the design. Many, if not most, of these companies have good intentions and admirable business practices. And marketing is marketing. In their article “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe,” Martin and Sampeck (2015) write that “while there is much to recommend fine and craft, there is also much left to be done. In other words, the problems of the local-global divide and socially unequal state of cacao-chocolate production and consumption described throughout this essay persist in the present day, despite many of our perceived solutions” (2015, 56). In light of all this, what is the right and just way to market fine and craft chocolate that will be viable but also judiciously attend to those problems and observe the craftsmanship of fine chocolate? Can there be congruence in branding and design, good business practices, and telling genuine, impactful narratives about chocolate?

Ethical and effective package design must “avoid the pitfalls of rhetoric obscuring reality,” to borrow a phrase from Martin and Sampeck (2015). “Products have to be three-dimensional in terms of the product quality, its price, and value proposition, and the impact that it is having on the community and the rest of the world. That’s where the future is” (Christian Aschwanden as cited in Williams and Eber 2012, 171). The packaging needs to convey those dimensions of the product, and that is no easy feat when it comes to package design.

In the complexities and obscurity of the industry itself, there isn’t a simple, catch-all solution to ethical and effective package design, but purveyors who keep it simple, present understandable and supportable information, and use non-essentialized representations of plant and people seem to be on the right track, for now. But perhaps the future of chocolate packaging is a way to use today’s technology and the highly skilled designers already being employed by the chocolate industry to fill in the gaps between bean and bar – a way to communicate important information and non-binary narratives to consumers, specifically from sources without commercial investment in those narratives like Yellow Seed. But the fine chocolate industry itself may have a long way to go before that information is designable and fully digestible to chocolate lovers.

Images: Taza Chocolate, bpando.org, Giselle Kennedy Lord

Works Cited –

Adam Mack. 2012. The Politics of Good Taste. The Senses and Society, 7(1): 87-94, DOI: 10.2752/174589312X13173255802166

Benton, David. 2014. The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving. In Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. ed. Astrid Nehlig, 205-218. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Castell, Margarida, Francisco Jose Pérez-Cano , and Jean-François Bisson. 2013. Chapter 19: Clinical Benefits of Cocoa: An Overview. In Chocolate in Health and Nutrition, Nutrition and Health 7DOI 10.1007/978-1-61779-803-0_19

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2013, The True History of Chocolate: Third Edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Delwiche, Jeannine F. 2012. You Eat with Your Eyes First. Physiology & Behavior 107: 502-504.

Duncombe, Stephen. 2012. It Stand On its Head: Commodity Fetishism, Consumer Activism, and the Strategic Use of Fantasy. In Culture and Organization 18(5): 359-375. DOI: 10.1080/14759551.2012.733856

Leissle, Kristy. 2013. West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 13(3): 22-31. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22. Date of access, May 1, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. and Kathryn E. Sampeck. 2015. The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe. doi: 10.18030/SOCIO.HU.2015EN.37

Merleau-Ponty, M. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Presilla, Maricel E. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao. New York: Ten Speed Press.

Robertson, Emma. 2009. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester; New York: Machester Universoty of Press.

Shepherd, Gordon. 2012. How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters. New York; Chichester: Columbia University Press.

Statista. 2016. Number of Stores of Whole Foods Market Worldwide from 200 to 2016. Date of Access, May 5, 2017. https://www.statista.com/statistics/258682/whole-foods-markets-number-of-stores-worldwide/

Williams, Pam, and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: the Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver: Wilmor Publishing Corporation.


Chocolate: Caloric Convenience or Conscientious Confection

Buying chocolate in America can be much like any other purchase in terms of the shockingly wide range of options, flavors, and price points made available to the consumer.  There are basic candies and bars that will satisfy a craving and there are expensive treats that claim to be so luxurious they go so far as to hint at the possibility of providing for a longer life (https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158).  All of these options are available under the name of chocolate and convenience.  This essay will focus on comparisons between only two candy aisles at two stores:  CVS and Whole Foods; both Fortune 500 companies, neither of which are confectioneries or chocolate houses.


CVS is a $117.4 billion (according to Forbes.com) drug retail company.  Not only are they the biggest retailer of prescription drugs and the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S., but they also provide healthcare services through medical clinics and diabetes care centers.  In addition, they also sell chocolate.

True to their origins as a pharmaceutical vendor, when one walks into a CVS, it has a compact, efficient, and even slightly clinical look and feel.  The open space is brightly lit by overhead fluorescent lights, large red tags indicate where items can be found, and special offers and discounts are loudly displayed and announced overhead.  Even the retail staff members are dressed in white lab coats lending to the authenticity of a doctor’s waiting room.

This store prides itself on health, but also low prices and convenience.  It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers weekly and even daily special discounts.  The candy aisle is located at the front of the store near the entrance, across from toys and other fun, spontaneous, instant-gratification type items and extras.  Additional chocolate items are lined up under a selection of gum at the register for last-minute impulse purchases, with sale prices highlighted to focus attention on the discount provided.

CVS counter
Display at the CVS checkout counter. Candy bars, placed under the gum, are all on sale for $0.88 or buy one and get the second one at a 50% discounted price.

As one walks to the candy aisle, the packaging and marketing materials (mostly plastic) are immediately noticeable in bright colors, bold fonts, and large labels.  The branding, for most American customers, would be quickly recognized as all belonging to the “big chocolate” brands:  Hershey’s, Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, Mars, and Cadbury (Martin, “The rise”).

There are bars of chocolate, but the majority of products offered are blended with, or provide a shell coating over, less expensive products.  The iconic milk chocolate Hershey’s bar is showcased in the middle row at eye-level, sharing the shelf with Nestle Chunky bars (a chunky-shaped candy bar with milk chocolate, California raisins, and roasted peanuts). Nips (a hard candy, some of which contain a chocolate-flavored filling), Dove chocolate bars and Cadbury Dairy Milk bars are above.  Below are larger packages of bars, including:

  • Hershey’s Special Dark (a semi-sweet chocolate bar)
  • Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (a white candy bar with pieces of chocolate-flavored cookies interspersed)
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (large chocolate coated peanut butter confections)
  • York Peppermint Patties (dark chocolate-covered soft peppermint disks)
  • Hershey’s Mounds (a dark-chocolate covered center made from shredded coconut)
  • Hershey’s Almond Joy (a milk chocolate-covered coconut-based center topped with almonds)
  • Mars Snickers (a milk chocolate-covered nougat topped with caramel and peanuts)
  • Mars Milky Way (a chocolate-covered chocolate malt flavored nougat with caramel)
  • Nestle Butterfinger (a chocolate-toffee-covered bar with a flaky, crisp, peanut butter-flavored center)

These items can be purchased individually; however, the majority of the products are in gradually increasing sizes and quantities with prices ranging from $0.39 to $0.89 an ounce.  While no great mention or display is made with regard to the ingredients, origin, manufacturing practices, ethical concerns, or quality of cacao in these products, three of the four Dove chocolate bars are stamped with the Rainforest Alliance certification.

CVS aisle
CVS aisle stocked mostly with large-packaged chocolates.

Based on the selection provided:  the absence of cacao mentioned, the presence of larger size packages, the heavy focus on additional ingredients such as nuts, fruits, and/or confections, and lower bulk prices that accompany them, etc., we learn that the CVS’s targeted audience has limited time and money to spend.  The intention is “caloric consumption,” grab and go convenience, a meal substitution or perhaps simply to ease a craving.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is an $18.8 billion (according to Forbes.com) supermarket chain that claims to be “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” (www.wholefoodsmarket.com).  Their goal is to sell the healthiest foods possible and offer products that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.  There is a welcoming feel to the expansive space.  The lighting is warm without being harsh, the walls are lined with soft wood, posted signs are in uniformly calming tones, and helpful employees all wear green aprons.  It has the look and feel of an up-scale farmers market.

Whole Foods aisle
Candy aisle at Whole Foods.

One can find the candy aisle located next to the produce section, across from organic baby foods, and adjacent to a beautiful display of organic “Whole Body” healing bath salts and soaps.  The chocolate bars (mainly bars and mostly dark, only a few milk chocolate or blended confections are offered) are wrapped in expensive papers and foils featuring endangered species, philanthropic organizations and specific causes, picturesque scenes or artistically created designs.

There are no “big chocolate” products to be found.

Each bar appears to have been hand-selected from a variety of artisanal chocolatiers.  Some are smaller than others, but all promise their own unique look, feel, story, and taste.

Instead of being recognized and advertised by known “big chocolate” brand names, these brands chose to focus instead on highlighting select ingredients and percentage of cacao.  Each bar clearly calls out the selected ingredients, origin and percentage of cacao as well as the origin and processing of any included ingredients.  Some examples include:

  • 45% cacao milk chocolate with Congo coffee and cream
  • 55% dark chocolate with chilies and cherries
  • 57% organic dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel
  • 60% dark stone ground chocolate with toffee almond and sea salt
  • 65% dark chocolate with forbidden rice
  • 70% organic fair trade dark chocolate with cherry almond
  • 70% dark chocolate bar with ancho chile, cinnamon, and orange
  • 72% cacao organic dark chocolate, cardamom, cinnamon, and chili
  • 88% cacao – extreme dark
  • 99% cacao
Whole Foods_chocolate
Some of Whole Foods’ chocolate selection.

Ethical, health, and religious concerns are also addressed through seals of (sometimes multiple) certifications on each chocolate bar, such as: Demeter, Whole Trade, Fair Trade, Fair for Life, Direct Trade, Non GMO Project Verified, Oregon Tilth, Certified Gluten-Free, Rainforest Alliance, Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan, Kosher Dairy, and USDA Organic. If additional information is desired, the store has also placed a display rack at the entrance to the aisle featuring a free publication titled, “For a Better World, Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.”  It even includes a reference guide to fair trade and worker welfare programs provided to educate customers and raise awareness levels of labor practices.

Whole Foods_chocolate2
Whole Foods’ chocolate selection.
Whole Foods_magazine
Fair World Project free magazine provided to customers at Whole Foods.

The price points reflect the additional information, attention to detail, and more expensive packaging.  Costs per ounce range from $0.59 to $3.85.  Not only are costs higher than CVS, but even the cost differential within Whole Foods’ offerings are significant.

Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, stated that “The fair trade chocolate category in our grocery departments has grown by more than 350 percent over the past five years. That’s a true indicator that ourshoppers are really making a positive impact on the lives of cocoa growers in developing countries” (Martin, “Alternative trade”).

The intended audience has time and money to spend.  Whole Foods has created a shopping experience that intentionally targets the “conscientious consumer,” someone who is educated on agricultural sourcing and labor practices – or would at least like to be.

These high-end chocolates are being provided for someone who wants to treat themselves to something delicious and feel good about it; a way of thinking that their self-indulgence (via the chocolate and price point) is making a positive impact on the world around them.

Ultimately, both stores sell chocolate while focusing on “health” and “healthier living”, albeit through very different lenses.  CVS provides chocolate and chocolate-coated items intended for mass consumption at a lower price point – making the process as quick and efficient as possible through placement and known brands.  Whole Foods provides high-end, more artisanal chocolates intended for indulgence at higher price points.  Their goal is to provide their customers with a buying experience – chocolate is located in the middle of the store (not as convenient for quick shops) and intended to have time to browse, read, and learn about different products and practices as part of a shopping routine.


Works Cited

Fair World Project. “For a Better World:  Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.” Issue 12 Spring 2016.

Forbes.  The World’s Most Valuable Brands. http://www.forbes.com/companies/cvs-health/.  N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 27 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 9 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.

Theo Chocolate, Inc.  Chocolate Bars. https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Whole Foods Market.  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Chocolate consumption patterns in the United States and India through time

I recently interviewed a couple regarding the role of chocolate in their lives and how this has changed through time. During this interview, we discussed how their interaction with and consumption of chocolate changed significantly after they emigrated from India to America in the late 1980s. When they immigrated to America, their perception of chocolate and its relation to status and health shifted based on price and accessibility. This shift can be used to explain and predict perception of chocolate in the United States and India, depending on its quality, labor ethics and environmental sustainability. When examining this couple’s experience in the 1980s, a large discrepancy in consumption is apparent. However, analyzing their experience along with the modern industry suggests that consumption patterns in the United States and India may actually be converging.

After chocolate was introduced to Europe, it failed to gain traction of the same intensity in other parts of the world. Chocolate didn’t become popular in India, Southeast Asia or the Far East with the exception of the Philippines (a Spanish possession until 1898) (Coe&Coe 177). Many Jesuit missionaries and Portuguese businessmen in the Philippines drank chocolate drinks during this time and people in the region today still do (Coe & Coe 178). While chocolate wasn’t a popular item in India, production of chocolate in India actually existed well before either the man or woman I interviewed was born. In 1906-1907, there was an Indian Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition at Calcutta. In this exhibition, Indian chocolates made by companies like Soyaji Chocolate Manufacturing Company Ltd. were exhibited along with milk and milk powder (Ray 24). Therefore, Indian chocolate companies did exist, yet their products were not very accessible to the public.

When the people I interviewed were growing up in India in the 1960s and 1970s, they had limited access to chocolate. I was surprised to hear that the woman had not tried chocolate until she was around 18 years old and the man when he was around 10 years old. Although she didn’t consume chocolate as a child, she would eat toffee candies, which were called chocolate. This misnomer indicates that knowledge of and desire for chocolate were not barriers to consumption, rather availability was. One of the major concepts that we covered in class was a significant disparity in consumption of chocolate across the world. This interview highlights this difference in amount of chocolate consumed across the world, as children growing up in the United States have most likely tried chocolate at a younger age.

In the limited chocolate market that existed, Cadbury had almost a complete monopoly. In fact, the only brand that this couple remembers seeing growing up was Cadbury, a British company. Cadbury began operating in India in 1948, using imported chocolate. This early introduction of Cadbury influenced the market of chocolate in India, also creating a strong brand recognition. Even today, it has above 65-70% of the market share in Indian chocolate, with a slew of popular products including Cadbury Dairy Milk and Perk.

The fact that Cadbury, a British company, had, and still has, such a large share of the market, is reflective of India’s earlier colonial ties to Britain. Although cacao production in India isn’t significant on a global scale, there is substantial production of sugar cane, which is essential for chocolate products. Sugar itself also has colonial ties. Following the abolition of slavery, Britain brought Indian workers to grow sugar, a highly labor intensive crop, in the British West Indies (Mintz 70). With this trend, we see a dichotomy between consumption and production emerge. It is particularly interesting to note that the type of sugar often consumed by people in producing regions was unrefined, not white sugar (which was processed and consumed elsewhere) (Mintz xxi-xxii). This was also reflected in my interview. The couple say that they prefer brown sugar to white sugar in terms of taste and usage (as jaggery) in cooking. This varied consumption of sugar across the globe corresponds to different chocolate consumption patterns, particularly between India and United States in the 1980s, as seen in this interview.

Due to a lack of accessibility, consumption of chocolate remained low in the 1960 and 1970s. For this couple, these factors, as well as a higher cost, meant that chocolate was often considered a luxury item- one that was a symbol of higher economic status. Moving to America, this perception changed. The couple encountered a wide array of different brands of chocolate and chocolate products- ones that I also recognize today- including Hershey’s bars, Snickers, Kit Kat etc. Chocolate was available in multiple forms, all at a low cost. This shift in chocolate consumption from the wealthy to the masses mirrors consumption patterns in Europe after chocolate was introduced. Sophie & Michael Coe, in their book, The True History of Chocolate, write that for over 28 centuries, chocolate was considered a drink for the elite, yet it eventually became a solid food for all. Following the French Revolution, the Church lost legitimacy and authority, dismantling much of the aristocracy’s credence in Catholic Europe. This social upset, coupled with the Industrial Revolution, which greatly lowered the costs associated with producing chocolate, meant that chocolate became a cheap food that all social classes could consume (Coe & Coe 235-236).

Following this shift in accessibility and price, this couple began consuming chocolate in much larger quantities than they did in India. For them, chocolate was no longer a symbol of status, it was commonplace. Although, they both began to consume additional chocolate, it is interesting to note that they did so at varying levels. The woman consumes more chocolate than the man does, and when he does consume chocolate, he mostly does so when she purchases it. This variation in chocolate consumption fits with the gendered advertising of most chocolate companies.

Women are the primary consumers and buyers of chocolate and often the target audience of advertisements. Chocolate companies have a long history of trying to appeal to women. For example, Rowntree chocolate in the early 1900s marketed its products towards women in a number of ways. For certain products, they used the image of a “high society woman” who is rich, in the hopes that women either identify with the image or aspire to achieve it (Robertson 26). In advertisements, there is generally a strong connection between class and chocolate. Companies projected an image of chocolate as a status symbol, even encouraging people to serve their guests chocolate drinks (Robertson 26). This image similar to the perception that the couple had when living in India. Additionally, products like Black Magic and Dairy Box, while mass produced at lower cost still had some luxury appeal (Robertson 29). This marketing strategy attempts to appeal to contradictory perceptions of chocolate in the same product. More recently, the industry has separated these perceptions in a diversified market. In advertising and branding, women are often the subject of messages and are almost always the intended audience.

In the United States, we are starting to see a return of chocolate as almost an economic status symbol (which it was for this couple when they were living in India) with products labeled as Fair Trade or Organic Certified. These products, which claim to either be more beneficial for farmers or the environment (or both) command a higher market price. Therefore, in the United States, there has been a diversification of chocolate- both cheaper “junk” chocolate and expensive “ethical” chocolate exist in tandem. This trend is also emerging in India, although the chocolate industry overall is much larger in the United States than India. A relatively new bean to bar India based company, Mason & Co serves as a case study for this phenomenon. The company currently works directly with three farms and claims that money goes directly to these farmers not intermediaries. They want to involve farmers and work with them to improve farming practices and taste since they typically don’t have a stake in chocolate post-harvest (for example, through the fermentation and drying process) All three farms are IMO Organic Certified and India Organic Certified and one is also USDA Organic Certified. The farms also grow the cacao trees along with coconut trees, nutmeg and pepper. Therefore, the type of image the company puts forth is one of environmental sustainability. With the current crop growing conditions, the company is avoiding monoculture and is instead pursuing an ecologically diverse farm. Organic foods indicate no pesticide, which is seen as better for the environment and is also associated with consumer health. On their website, Mason & Co tout cacao as a “superfood” that is rendered unhealthy by the addition of milk, sugar and “compound” (similar to vegetable fat and replaces cocoa butter) in typical Indian chocolates. The company attempts to offer an alternative to this type of chocolate that is both better for the environment and consumer health. As mentioned above, these types of certifications often come at a higher price. For example, a 70g 70% sea salt dark chocolate bar, pictured below costs Rs 295. For comparison, a 60g Cadbury Dairy Milk bar costs Rs 65.

Mason & Co Chocolate

While this specific company does not have Fair Trade certification, it is possible that they may in the future or other bean to bar companies will. Ndongo Samba Sylla writes, in his book, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich, that India has 56 Fair Trade Certifications (as of 2009), primarily for products like cotton and tea, items he describes as “exotic oddities” for the region (Sylla 217). Therefore, chocolate, similarly not an item that is exported in large numbers from India, may also be a product associated with Fair Trade certification on a large scale in the future. Since this type of chocolate is more expensive and the targeted consumers are generally wealthier, it is seen as almost a status of economic wealth. Therefore, the same perception of chocolate as a status symbol that this couple experienced, still exists in India, through a different type of product.

Alongside the development of bean to bar companies like this, cheaper chocolate is also becoming increasingly available in India. Recently Cadbury has introduced very low prices for certain products. They are selling at Rs 5 for Cadbury Dairy Milk, Rs 7 for Perk and Rs 6 for Five Star, in an attempt to reach a broader base of people. In this way, in both the United States and India, there is a diversified market for chocolate. On one end of the spectrum, cheap products attempt to appeal to large number of people and on the other, “ethical” and expensive chocolate aims to appeal to a certain, wealthier cohort of consumers. While this couple associated chocolate with wealth in India and upon moving to America, began to perceive it as ordinary, as time has progressed a different trend is emerging. In both countries, chocolate is contradictorily coming to be associated as both an expensive and cheap item through a diversification of products.

This contradictory nature of chocolate does not exist solely for wealth; it extends to and is often tied to perceptions of health as well. Now that this couple has been consuming chocolate for several years, they view chocolate as more of a “junk food.” Throughout history, chocolate has been described as both healthy and unhealthy. Chocolate drinks were widely consumed among the Maya and the Aztec, often seen as a stimulant with several significant health benefits. However, one myth also warns against consumption of cacao. In the myth, an elder says that “those foods will bring death” and a goddess says that “this is what has burdened you” in reference to chocolate. (Coe & Coe 79-80). The introduction of chocolate to Europe also came with health questions and remedies. Cocoa powder was seen as a meal replacement for children (Martin). In 1591, Juan de Cárdenas wrote that “green” chocolate would hurt digestion and cause melancholy, paroxysms and irregular heartbeats but that roasted cacao is sustaining and aids digestion (Coe & Coe 124) Today, chocolate is mainly paired along with other high sugar foods as an unhealthy food option. However, recent studies have tried to advocate for increased consumption of cacao. One study, in particular, led by Dr. Norman Hollenberg, looked at the Kuna people (indigenous to Panama) who had very low blood pressure levels and attributed this to their consumption of chocolate drinks (Howe). Although this study has been criticized, especially in its portrayal of the Kuna people and their diets (Howe), it speaks to contradictory perceptions of chocolate as being both healthy and unhealthy in today’s society. Today, in general, cheaper chocolate is perceived to be unhealthy and more expensive chocolate is perceived as healthier. As mentioned above, companies like Mason & Co claim that their products are all-natural healthy alternatives to the typical chocolate products on the market. Therefore, perceptions of health and wealth are linked, each existing in contradictory forms.

When this couple immigrated to America from India around 30 years ago, their perception of chocolate changed from a status of economic wealth to a cheap, junk food. Today, in the United States, chocolate that is expensive and healthy as well as chocolate that is considered unhealthy and cheap exist concurrently. The same phenomenon is also appearing in India as well, albeit on a smaller scale since the chocolate market is smaller in India than in the United States. When this couple immigrated, perceptions of chocolate were very different in the United States and India, but an analysis of the market today suggests that chocolate’s role may be converging in the two countries.


Works Cited


Academic Sources:

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, NY: Viking, 1985. Print.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.’

Sylla, Ndongo Samba., and David Clément. Leye. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Athens: Ohio UP, 2014. Print.

Ray, Utsa. Culinary Culture in Colonial India: A Cosmopolitan Platter and the Middle-class. Delhi: Cambridge UP, 2015. Print. (https://books.google.com/books?id=fDXJBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false)

“Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 12.1 (2012): 43-52. Web.

Martin, Carla. Lecture 5, Slide 43


Multimedia Sources:

“Top 10 Most Popular Chocolate Brands in India – Listz.” Listz. 2014. Web. 04 May 2016. <http://listz.in/top-10-chocolate-brands-in-india.html&gt;.

“Organic Chocolate.” Mason CO Craftsmen of Chocolate. Web. 04 May 2016. <http://www.masonchocolate.com/&gt;.

“Chocolate Industry in India with Special Reference to Cadbury.” Chocolate Industry in India with Special Reference to Cadbury. Web. 04 May 2016. <http://www.slideshare.net/payalgupta96343405/chocolate-industry-in-india-with-special-reference-to-cadbury&gt;.

“Funds Drop State Securities From Portfolio.” India News, Latest News Headlines, BSE Live, NSE Live, Stock Markets Live, Financial News, Business News & Market Analysis on Indian Economy. Web. 04 May 2016. <http://www.business-standard.com/article/specials/funds-drop-state-securities-from-portfolio-199101501061_1.html&gt;.

“18,000 Products to Shop from.” Best Online Grocery Store in India. Save Big on Grocery Shopping. Web. 04 May 2016. <http://www.bigbasket.com/pb/cadbury/chocolate/&gt;.

“Mason & Co. 70% Sea Salt Dark Organic Exotic Artisanal Chocolate Bar – 70 Grams.” : Amazon.in: Grocery & Gourmet Foods. Web. 04 May 2016. <http://www.amazon.in/Mason-Co-Organic-Artisanal-Chocolate/dp/B011E9G99Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=grocery&gt;.

Image: “70% Sea Salt.” Mason CO Craftsmen of Chocolate. Web. 04 May 2016. <http://www.masonchocolate.com/product/70-sea-salt/&gt;.

Is Fair Trade the Answer?

For much of the history of chocolate production, it has been the farmers who have suffered the tolls of exploitation. Unfair prices continue to leave many cacao farmers in poverty while the intermediaries between farmers and the consumer market are reeling in large profits. The current practices have created a standard of living that many farmers believe is not worth the work. So where traditionally the family farming business would be passed down to kin, it seems only logical to ask just how long will these farmers accept this mistreatment before they drop the family business all together? Such talk has fueled worrisome predictions about the future of chocolate. The small-scale farmers who endure the greatest exploitation are actually the ones who contribute approximately 90% of the world’s cacao (Lamb, 2014). If the children of these farmers do not take over for their parents, the world’s cacao sources will dwindle, chocolate prices will skyrocket, and companies will likely be forced to reduce cacao content in their products. To add

Cocoa farmer in Ghana 345x288
Small-scale farmers produce about 90% of the world’s cacao and thus are an integral part of the chocolate production supply chain.

on to the problem, cacao trees that live in much of West Africa are producing lower yields as they age and farmers do not possess the funds to help combat the shrinking cacao numbers (Fair Trade USA, 2011). To help solve these problems, Fair Trade has made huge steps towards improving the situation for farmers and the cacao production process in general. Fair Trade has brought into light issues that were previously in the dark and set into motion plans to fix them. But just how effective is Fair Trade? Is it actually achieving what it sent out to do? Fair trade has without a doubt set its sights on a noble cause but, as one will discover in this paper, the organization’s plan still has some deficiencies that must be addressed if the any substantial change is to be solidified.

Cacao Production

The majority of cacao farmers fall at the mercy of local collectors and intermediaries who move their cacao to exporters and processors. These intermediaries are purchasing cacao from farmers for prices much lower than what is considered “fair.” These practices have suppressed farmers into states of poverty, with little chance of rising out of it. As mentioned earlier, cacao yields have also been suffering, which has in turn put a larger stress on labor needs (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Economic hardship has likely been a major contributor towards the use of child and salve labor in West Africa. Identifying these issues as problems that need to be addressed, Fair Trade has stepped in and placed into action a plan to rid farmers of the injustices that have been pushed upon them.

Fair Trade

Fair Trade has set its sights on helping “cacao cocoa farmers, traders and chocolate manufacturers participate in long-term, stable relationships that support a dependable living for farmers and their families” so as to allow them to “provide a reliable, high quality cocoa supply for the industry” (Fair Trade USA, 2011). The Fair trade system consists of: encouragement of farmers to organize as cooperatives, certification that ensures the absence of child labor, a framework to increase environmental sustainability, a ban on the use of agro-chemicals, a Fair Trade price guarantee, and community development premiums (Fair Trade USA, 2011).

Farmer owned and governed cooperatives and associations, essentially give farmers leverage to aid in the achievement of higher and more fair prices for their products. So whereas, in the past, farmers were often economically exploited as the result of possessing little power, cooperatives are essentially helping to restore balance to the chocolate production chain.

The Fair Trade guarantee of no use of child labor helps assure consumers that they are not supporting such injustices by buying the product, thus making not only the end product more desirable to consumers, but also the cacao more desirable to intermediaries, exporters, and processors. This is an incentive to farmers to resist the temptation to hire cheap labor in the form of child workers, contributing towards a higher ethical standard.

The importance placed on environmental sustainability and the ban on agro-chemicals helps to insure not only the quality of the product, but also the future prospects of prosperity and the continued production of cacao. To help with this, Fair Trade has implemented premiums designated to community development to “increase product quality, build infrastructure, train cooperative leadership, bring safe drinking water to their communities and establish local health clinics and schools” (Fair Trade USA, 2011). A large focus has been set on increasing the living conditions of farmers, essentially giving them a lifestyle worth investing in.

There have been numerous efforts aimed to improve cacao production. Many of these approaches were centered around increasing yields and creating new disease resistant cacao plants. It is Fair Trade’s opinion, however, that these plans failed to address the root cause of the problem, the economical exploitation of farmers resulting in their inability to invest in their work and create an environment that allows for a sustainable business (Fair Trade USA, 2011).

Fair Trade in Action

Within the Fair Trade system, as of 2011, there are 62 cacao-growing cooperatives worldwide, including 14 small-holder farmer cooperatives in Côte d’Ivore with 200 to 6700 members in each (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Fair Trade has seen implications in aspects of life that go beyond higher prices. Kavokia, a cooperative certified since 2004, now owns a big health center that offers free treatment and health care to its members (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Another cooperative, Coopaga, invested in trucks, computers, and other tools for its members and also helped contribute to the building of a local hospital (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Two other cooperatives, COOPAAAKO and COOPAYA, achieved organic certification of their crops after investing in organic production methods (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Fair Trade has also led to the first farmer owned Fair Trade chocolate, the Divine Fair Trade milk chocolate bar, made by The Day Chocolate Company (Oxfam, 2010). “We have taken our destiny into our own hands,” says Comfort Kwaasibea, a

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 9.39.35 PM.png
Farmers have been able to allocate much of their Fair Trade premium towards establishing a better standard of living.

member of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative (Oxfam, 2010). In 2013, Fair Trade producer organizations earned £4 million in Fairtrade premium alone, earnings that have allowed producer organizations in West Africa to allocate 36% of their premium (suggested minimum is 25%) on projects to increase productivity and cacao quality (Galandzij, 2014). These examples point to the positives of the Fair Trade system and the outcomes it can produce; however, they do not paint the whole picture. In order to understand Fair Trade in its full context one must acknowledge its shortcomings.


Upon first glance, the Fair Trade system seems hugely successful. In 2014, global sales reached £4.4 billion, which is up 10% from the year prior (Clifton, 2015). In fact, The Swedish and German markets saw 37% and 27% increases respectively in Fair Trade sales (Clifton, 2015). However, things aren’t as rosy as they appear to be for small-scale farmers. Solidaridad’s 2012 report reveals that even the best performing smallholders earn less than US$10 per day (Clifton, 2015). So it seems that despite Fair Trade’s success on the market level, small-scale farmers are still falling victim to economic exploitation. Dutch trade campaigner and current Executive Director of Solidaridad, Nico Roozen describes the reality for small-scale farmers as “a shift from poverty to certified poverty” (Clifton, 2015). The limitations of Fair Trade don’t stop here.

The Fair Trade certification stamp was designed to distinguish products that have essentially passed the ethical tests of the supply chain. Fair Trade products are supposedly free of child labor and the farmers who grew the cacao were justly paid. To the consumer, these are attractive guarantees and they allow the individual to feel good about the products they are buying. On the surface, the idea seems pretty reasonable. Companies who use Fair Trade cacao in their products will not only support an ethical cost, but will also hold an advantage on the consumer market. But unfortunately, things are not this straightforward. The Fair Trade system was largely implemented to help the too often exploited small-scale farmers move their products to new markets in order to allow them to compete with large-scale farmers. However, the Fair Trade certificate no longer guarantees tha
t small-scale farmers are step 1 in the supply chain, expanding their programs to large-scale farmers (Lindgren, 2015). As a result, products from large-scale farmers have now begun being labeled with the same Fair Trade certificate, essentially pushing small-scale farmers right back to the unfavorable and disadvantaged status from which they started.

Child labor/slavery continues to be a problem in the cacao production industry.

Fair Trade seems to also be failing on its commitment towards ensuring the absence of child labor from the production process. Anti-Slavery International Director Aidan McQuade claims that when they met with Fair Trade, Fair Trade stated that their primary responsibility is producers, not children (Clifton, 2015). McQuade also claimed that child labor and child slavery is common and a part of the culture in Ghana and Côte d’Ivore (Clifton, 2015). Moreover, although Fair trade bans the use of child labor, they also claim that they cannot guarantee that a product is free of child labor (Clifton, 2015). Regardless, it doesn’t seem like Fair Trade cares about investing the efforts needed to completely eradicate child labor. But under these standards, what does the certificate even represent?

This question can be asked again in response to the variability of products who all wear the same certificate. To be clear, some labels require significantly lower Fair Trade ingredients than others, providing misleading information to the consumer (Lindgren, 2015). A company who uses a larger percentage of cheap, non Fair Trade ingredients while still maintaining the Fair Trade certificate will obviously have an advantage over a company that pays the higher price for a greater amount of Fair Trade products. This obviously isn’t just and doesn’t help those who are largely dedicated to using Fair Trade ingredients.


As farmers continue to be left in poverty, the world may soon face the consequences of malcontent farmers, and thus a lack of new farmers to overtake the current businesses. The Fair Trade system seems to claim a desire for better lives for farmers, especially those of small-scale, however motives will not change these farmer’s lives, only action will. The practicality of the current plan is not enough to pull small-scale farmers out of poverty, which is what Fair Trade initially set out to do.

Fair Trade’s current certifications do little to help close the gap between large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers.

Fair Trade’s certifications seem to have lost their power to distinguish between large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers. The current labels provide no advantage to the already disadvantaged small-scale farmers, giving them little chance to pull themselves out of poverty. In order to fix this, Fair Trade needs to create a language that helps create a distinction between small-scale farmers and large-scale farmers so that consumers can know who they are supporting. A language could also be created to help differentiate between the varying degrees of Fair Trade ingredient use so as to provide a better representation of the product. Fair Trade could also increase the standards required to be considered Fair Trade certified for large-scale farmers to help small-scale farmers fair better in the market (Lindgren, 2015).

Lastly, in response to the lack of enforcement of the ban on child labor within the Fair Trade community, Fair Trade could implement a third party who would be observing the current labor practices with “a rigorous human rights lens” so as to be able to enforce the laws without a bias for the use of cheap labor through whatever means possible.

The Big Picture

Fair Trade’s efforts to confront unjust practices in the supply chain has consequently associated the brand’s mark with a commitment to high ethical standards. However, the organization may be getting more credit than it deserves. It is without a doubt a major step in the right direction to acknowledge the injustices that have plagued the success of small-scale farmers. However, there are a number of changes that must be implemented in the system if it is to have any significant effect on the lives and businesses of small-scale farmers. So is Fair Trade the answer? It may be the beginnings of an answer; however, it is one that currently remains incomplete.




Works Cited

Clifton, Helen. “Is It Time to Rethink Fair Trade?” Equal Times. N.p., 6 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.


“Fair Trade Certified Cocoa Review.” Fair Trade Certified TM COCOA Review(2011): n. pag. Fair Trade USA, 2011. Web. 1 May 2016.


Galandzij, Anna. “Choose Fair Trade to Make a Positive Impact for Cocoa Farmers.” Fairtrade Foundation. N.p., 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.


Haglage, Abby. “Lawsuit: Your Candy Bar Was Made By Child Slaves.” The Daily Beast. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.


“Kupa KoKoo.” KUAPA KOKOO (2010): n. pag. Oxfam Australia, Apr. 2010. Web. 1 May 2016.


Lamb, Harriet. “There Is a Solution to the Looming Chocolate Shortage – Pay Farmers a Fair Price.” The Guardian. N.p., 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.


“Why Fair Trade?” Kopali Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2016.