Tag Archives: Children

Choco-lot of Deceit: How Chocolate (and Sugar) Culture and Ads Impact Children’s Health


Chocolate is a staple for U.S. children, whether they consume it in the form of chocolate milk at schools; receive chocolate gifts for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween; or whether they indulge in chocolate through impulse purchases and conscious consumption at restaurants. It can hardly come as a surprise that this consumption–which includes the ingestion of copious amounts of sugar within various forms of chocolate–has seen the same upward trend as many chronic illnesses now affecting children, including diabetes and obesity.

Children cannot be blamed for this uptrend. They are reliant on their parents to regulate their dietary consumption. Furthermore, they are seen as a valuable target audience for chocolate and confectionery makers, who create appealing targeted messages aimed to make children (and their parents) more receptive to consuming chocolate, establishing brand loyalty early on, and exacerbating the rise of the aforementioned chronic illnesses.

This analysis of the chocolate market and its ties to children will first give a general overview of the global and U.S. chocolate markets, looking specifically at the chocolate sales aimed at and purchased by children and teenagers. It will then examine the history of chocolate, the intertwined narrative of chocolate and sugar, the addictive qualities of sugar, and the intentional misdirection away from the negative impacts of sugar by the industry itself.

Setting the Stage: The History of Chocolate and Sugar

The History of Chocolate

Cacao, chocolate, and chocolate beverages were first consumed by the Olmecs as far back as 2,600 years ago, which was regarded to have aphrodisiac, spiritual, medicinal, and godly qualities. It was subsequently used by the Mayans and the Aztecs, with both preparing the beverage similarly, although the former consumed it hot, while the latter consumed it cold. This cacao was used for legal tender, an elite commodity (as a beverage), and rituals. It was also used in marriage discussions and fertility rituals [1].

For instance, the Aztecs held enormous storehouses of cacao beans, since they had to be transported 900 miles to the Aztecs cities, as the Mexican soil did not favor cacao tree growth. For a trader, one load of cacao was three xiquipillis, or 24,000 beans; the major courts, such as that of Netzahualcoyotl, had to be stocked with 4 xiquipillis daily, equivalent to 11,680,000 beans annually, or 486 loads [2].

Cacao was highly revered as a godly commodity. The foam itself was seen as the most sacred part of the drink [3] and was seen as an elixir for the soul. When depicted on ancient artifacts, it is often featured being consumed by the gods or depicts the royal bloodline of deities by portraying the deity blossoming forth among pods and flowers [4].

However, the chocolate produced and exalted in these Mesoamerican civilizations did not remain unchanged after the arrival of Columbus, nor is this ancient the most commonly consumed in contemporary America, especially among the young children in question, who would not be receptive to unsweetened, bitter chocolate.

According to The True History of Chocolate, some of the older ingredients Europeans began to substitute out were:

  • “Ear flower”
  • Chili pepper

These new ingredients included:

  • Cinnamon
  • Anise seed
  • Black pepper

However, the largest change was the regular addition of cane sugar [5]. Before chocolate became the tantalizing treat of children’s dreams (and dieticians’ nightmares), it had to become intimately interwoven with sugar. Just like cacao, sugar has a complex narrative often full of deceit and exploitation.

The Human Toll of Sugar Production

Enslaved people on a Caribbean sugar plantation harvesting sugar cane

Sugar was first produced in 500 C.E., with Hindu religious texts mentioning the boiling of molasses and crystallization. Before sugar was produced in the New World, it was grown in the Middle East. Sugar spread through conquest, trade, and travel, with Europe first having access to sugar in 700 C.E and having continued exposure during the Crusades. However, even after Middle Eastern sugar production slows when operations were moved to the New World, the sugar plantations were supposedly transplanted [6].

The warm, moist climate of the Caribbean, which facilitated cacao growth, also proved extremely favorable for sugar crops. Once the sugar cane is ready to harvest, it is collected, chopped, and then ground into a pulp. This pulp is then pressed, pounded, or soaked in liquid. Next, the liquid is heated, which causes it to evaporate and concentrate into sugar crystals. The video below demonstrates the complexity of creating sugar even the available modern technology [7]. For production in the 1800s, the process was much more difficult.

Because of the labor-intense process required to produce sugar, sugar company owners turned to slaves to reduce costs. Overall, 12.5 million abducted Africans were shipped to the New World, of which 10.7 million survived the Middle Passage; in other words, 14.4% of kidnapped people died. Once there, 95% were sent to Brazil and the Caribbean, with only 5% being sent to the present-day U.S. In the Caribbean from 1701 to 1810, Barbados had 252,500 and Jamaica has 662,400 African slaves [8].

Corruption Continues: Sugar Lies in the 1960s

“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades.”

Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of JAMA Internal Medicine

The deceit around sugar continued into the 1900s, where the sugar industry used its immense power to prioritize profit over health, a trend seen by many confectionery companies and other large corporations that purposefully target children without any regard for their health. During the 1960s, and for the next five decades, the sugar industry paid scientists to shift the blame for the rising trend in obesity rate onto fat [9].

The trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid 3 Harvard scientists to “minimize the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat” [10].

However, this was not an isolated incident, with Coca-Cola also having bribed researchers with millions in 2015 to have them downplay the connection between sugary drinks and obesity. Moreover, more directly connected to chocolate makers, in June 2016, The Associated Press reported that candy makers were also funding biased reports to claim that children that who ate candy weight less than those who did not [11].

As these cases show, these large sugar and candy industries are not interested in the well-being of American children; in fact, they are perfectly willing to fabricate lies that directly impact children and their health to generate revenue. In the case of the candy makers, their corruption of scientific research is especially concerning because it prevents parents from making informed decisions for their children’s health, and it demonstrates that any targeted action toward children, especially regarding food advertising, should be viewed with scrutiny.

Before examining the role of marketing to children and the harmful impact of advertising on youth, a brief overview of the chocolate market is necessary.

Overview: Global and U.S. Chocolate Markets

Global Markets

Globally, 300 million people consumed 7.3 billion tons of retail chocolate confectionery annually during 2015-2016, with it expected to reach 7.7 million tons by 2018-2019 [12]. This comes out to around 12 pounds per person [13]. These global sales of chocolate reached $98.2 billion USD during the same years, with the U.S. comprising the largest percentage [14]. However, these numbers only portray a minuscule portion of the narrative for the contemporary chocolate market. The average omits the unequal distribution of both producers and consumers; ignores the nuanced intersections with race, class, gender, age, and sexuality that impact target audiences and their consumption; and obscures the immense power disparities between the poorest cacao farmers and the most profitable chocolate corporations.

This enormous industry is incredibly homogeneous; for instance, only 3 companies make up 99.4% of snack-sized candy on the market [15]:

U.S. Markets

The U.S. makes up the largest portion of the industry, with 4 of the top 10 global confectionery companies by net sales value originating in the U.S [16] :

  1. Mars Wrigley Confectionery, division of Mars Inc (USA) – $18,000
  2. Mondelēz International (USA) – $12,390
  3. Hershey Co (USA) – $7,779
  4. Kellogg Co (USA) – $1,890

Overall, the U.S. market in 2015 amounted to approximately $18.3 billion USD in global of the total global sales of $98.2 billion [17], meaning the U.S. market accounts for 18.6% of the global market.

Marketing to Children

Young toddler reaching for sugary cereal

Children are a valuable market for advertisers, especially in industries that directly appeal to children and teenagers, such as toys, clothing, license and merchandise, and of course, food. Marketing to kids is a large, profitable business, with $17 billion spent annually on advertisements specifically targeting them (up from $100 million in 1983). Likewise, children under 14 spend approximately 40 billion annually and teenagers spend $159 billion, with children overall influencing $500 billion in purchases yearly [18].

These children spend their lives constantly bombarded with branding, holding 145 brand conversations a week; witnessing more than 25,000 ads a year just on television from the ages of 2-11; and consuming ads via the Internet, cell phones, video games, and even in school [19]. With such a constant stream of advertising, chocolate makers stand to make generous profits from children, even at the expense of their health.

Federal Trade Commission Regulations on Advertising to Children

Under the Advertising and Promotion Law 1997, Minnesota Institute of Legal Education, the Deception and Unfairness Authority, under Section 5 of the FTC Act, prohibits unfair and deceptive acts in commerce, as set by their Deception Policy Statement. They identify deceptive advertising toward children as:

“An interpretation that might not be reasonable for an adult may well be reasonable from the perspective of a child. Claims tend to be taken literally by young children” [20].

Starek, III, Roscoe B. “The ABCs at the FTC: Marketing and Advertising to Children.” Federal Trade Commission, July 18, 2013.

They clearly consider the more limited ability of children to “detect exaggerated or untrue statements,” which may have been used in ads to further promote sales. Of course, teenagers have a much easier time discerning between truth and exaggeration in advertisements, but they can also still be reasonably misled by advertising, especially in a field as dynamic and unstable as nutrition.

The FTC includes a special page dedicated to addressing food marketing to children and adolescents, especially since irresponsible advertising would only serve to exacerbate the increasing obesity and chronic illness rates in the U.S. However, the FTC did note that: “responsible marketing can play a positive role in improving children’s diets and physical activity level” [21]. Perhaps chocolate companies, especially since many have been making public commitments to provide ethically sourced, sustainable chocolate, can also make a similar commitment to responsible marketing toward youth.

Nesquik banned from describing hot chocolate as a “great start to the day” in the UK.

The Negative Effects of Advertising on Children and Adolescents

As advertising in media (and to children) evolves, the line between entertainment and advertising blurs (ex. The production and entertainment value of Super Bowl commercials). This line, already more ambiguous for younger children and teens, becomes harder and harder to differentiate, and with that, the impact of advertising on children should be carefully examined. How much is too much? Where does it fall into exploitation? How do large chocolate corporations appeal to one of their target demographics–children–ahead of their competition without falling into manipulation? Besides carefully following the FTC’s regulations, the psychological and behavioral impact of marketing to children should be clearly understand by both the government and chocolate companies, and clearer regulations for what is or is not acceptable should be drafted to manage chocolate and other food companies.

For instance, some of the themes conveyed in ads toward children can influence poor behavior in children. Just as advertisers seek children for marketing because they are malleable and are still developing their life-long preferences and tastes [22], children can be exposed to detrimental themes such as unhealthy food brand preferences, tobacco, etc. Likewise, children, particularly girls (although it also affects boys) may be harmed or have negative body/self esteem issues exacerbated by harmful marketing [23].

Children under 7 are especially vulnerable because, according to Piaget, they are not able to detect “persuasive intent,” meaning they are much easier to fool and manipulate [24]. Likewise, although there are calls to educate children about advertising to help them protect themselves from malicious ads, but current efforts may not be effective; in fact, some studies have shown that the <7 may be much higher, with “children…not capable of understanding the ‘commercial intent’ of advertising until they reach the age of 12” [25].

Example of Rejected Chocolate Advertising

Kinder Egg Websites

In the UK, several Kinder egg websites (a subsidiary of Ferraro) promoting Kinder toys and eggs have been banned for promoting junk food advertising toward children. Some, like Kindernauts, had activity pages and child-friendly crafting activities, while others, like magic.kinder/en, have Kinder-themed video games for children aged 3+. In the UK, these violate their Committee of Advertising Practice rules of not promoting food with high fat, salt, or sugar for youth [26].


  • [1] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [2] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [3] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [4] ibid.
  • [5] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [6] Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History.
  • [7] Discovery UK. SUGAR | How It’s Made.
  • [8] Eltison and Richardson, “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.”
  • [9] O’Connor, Anahad. “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat.”
  • [10] ibid.
  • [11] ibid.
  • [12] “Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide, 2012/13-2018/19.” Statista.
  • [13] Martin, Carla D. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and the Race for the Global Market.”
  • [14] “Chocolate Retail Sales Worldwide 2016.” Statista.
  • [15] Martin, Carla D. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and the Race for the Global Market.”
  • [16] “The Chocolate Industry.” International Cocoa Organization.
  • [17] “Chocolate Market Retail Sales Worldwide by Country, 2015.” Statista.
  • [18] Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.”
  • [19] ibid.
  • [20]  Starek, III, Roscoe B. “The ABCs at the FTC: Marketing and Advertising to Children.” Federal Trade Commission.
  • [21] “Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents.” Federal Trade Commission.
  • [22] “Marketing and Advertising to Children.” ICC – International Chamber of Commerce.
  • [23] Lapierre, Matthew A., Frances Fleming-Milici, Esther Rozendaal, Anna R. McAlister, and Jessica Castonguay. “The Effect of Advertising on Children and Adolescents.”
  • [24] ibid.
  • [25] Watson, Bruce. “The Tricky Business of Advertising to Children.”
  • [26] Smithers, Rebecca. “Websites of Kinder Chocolate Banned over Ads Targeting Children.”

Works Cited

Multimedia Cited

Chocolate Now and Then: The Evolution of Chocolate

To begin chocolate is used worldwide for many different reasons. The uses have changed over time and in the recent years it has been pretty consistent, but over the centuries the uses and meanings behind chocolate has changed drastically. To show these changes I interviewed a fellow friend who has grown up using chocolate. It also has been a part of her family and childhood. Chocolate was used for holidays such as Easter, Valentines day and halloween, and festivities such as birthdays and finally for leisure. The use and reasons for using and consuming chocolate has changed over time, also how the prices of chocolate have been different over time. Along with the uses and reasons for why my classmate uses chocolate I will discuss what chocolates uses evolved from.

First I will discuss the connection and role chocolate has played in my fellow classmates life then proceed to elaborate and explain how it has changed over time. To begin my fellow classmate who I will refer to as Jessica for privacy reasons said she grew up on chocolate. Chocolate for her was a cornerstone of many events. First example would be holidays. My fellow classmate said during christmas time her family would give each other chocolate candy along with hot chocolate and other chocolate treats. This goes for holidays such as Easter, Valentines day and Halloween. All these holidays utilize chocolate as a focal point and when one hears these holidays they can automatically associate chocolate with them. This is the chocolate companies utilizing the importance of children being the main audience for these events and then catering their candy to their liking.

On the other hand when referring to chocolate in connection to holidays such as Valentines the meaning has stayed consistent for years. If one analyzes the reasons why companies use Valentines to promote chocolate it is been apparent for years. The chocolate industry has been using women to sensualize the idea and feelings around chocolate. Since early times of chocolate it has been believed that chocolate raises women’s sex drive. It is also believed women are physically aroused by chocolate and the sensation it brings when consumed. This is a textbook way to cater to one’s audience and has been done for years. The chocolate companies know that men are infatuated with women so therefore if they see a woman on TV passionately enjoying chocolate then they will assume women love it. This is how men work.This now entices men to buy their significant other chocolate on valentines day due to the stigma the chocolate community has created around chocolate and women (Robertson 138). This is one of the greatest marketing moves, and now the whole world associates women and valentines with chocolate. As for Easter and Halloween the chocolate companies simply took over the candy market.

Women Sexualizing Chocolate

Speaking on the sexualization of chocolate relating to women comes the war on candy. As seen in the movie shown in class chocolate was viewed originally as delicacy and a upper class snack and dish then transition to a middle class snack. During this time candy and chocolate became demonized and seen as a vice or sin. This was around the time of the temperance movement against alcohol and drunkenness. This then leaked over into the world of candy. The church took up arms against chocolate because they felt it was associated with sensual feelings and indulgence. It said that chocolate is a gateway indulgence similar to a slippery slope. Therefore, the church felt threatened by the rising commodity that was affordable and loved. This also lead to sugar phobia which was the fear of too much candy and junk food.

The second way chocolate was apart of her life that chocolate would be the fact it was always available. This means from her youth to her age now she was always able to find, purchase and enjoy chocolate. No matter the location she could always find it for a reasonable price. This is also a major factor because she would receive it as gifts, presents and rewards in class even. Availability also relates to holidays such as Halloween because people can purchase a huge quantity for a low price making it easy access for children. This also explains how chocolate is a huge part of many childrens’ childhood despite economic background or location.


This is the new age where chocolate is a child’s luxury and now the market is catered towards children (Campaign). As a child in modern era chocolate has been the shifted from the rich and upper class to everyone and all children. But, the audience of chocolate has changed dramatically. Originally the use and consumption of chocolate was only for the upper class and the rich of Europe. Also, the use of chocolate has changed in the ancient and early years between 1700-1900’s the main uses of chocolate was religion, socioeconomic class and politics. This was due to the fact chocolate back then was not cheap and or abundant, therefore having chocolate and displaying it was a sign of your wealth and prestige . This is the largest difference between now and back then when it comes to accessing chocolate and consuming it. Another change would be the consumption of chocolate as stated previously the consumption has changed dramatically. In the early ages chocolate was not truly eaten for pleasure, it was mostly was done to show status. But, soon it became more and more mainstream as a product. To show this the chart above this paragraph displays the consumption per capita per year. This tells you how many kilograms of chocolate a single person per year consumes. For the United States the kilograms per person in 2013 was approximately 35 kilograms, which a large amount. 35 kilograms is roughly 77 pounds. This is an insane amount of consumption for a country who does not produce any cocoa. This shows the change in the sheer quantity of chocolate which is being produced and distributed world wide compared to the 1700-1900’s.

Along with availability comes the change in the social class companies target in today’s market. Another huge difference is price, and how cheap it is now. In today’s society chocolate is a cheap treat anyone can purchase from a gas station on any corner. In today’s society the low prices are nice for the consumer and the cheap costs for production are good for the companies, but for the producers, the farmers, it is terrible. The farmers must work long and hard hours for scraps. The companies are not close to bankruptcy either they simply choose to pay the lowest possible price for the coacao. On top of this the farmers get paid once a year because they can only harvest the cocoa once a year to sell. Therefore, they must make all the money last a year and support their family till the next harvest. People do not realize that to maximize profit companies utilize child labor and slavery even till very recently. In modern times they make the pay closest to zero as possible since slavery is illegal (Cleveland 609). Therefore, people need to become informed and aware that there life style stems from slavery and unfair wages placed upon those on cocoa production farms. The only way to change this is to boycott major companies who refuse to pay their workers more even if it means paying a slightly higher price for chocolate.

Cocoa production for low wages

Building on the point that farmers need to paid more for fair compensation for the work they do there are not many places on earth that produce large amounts of cacao. 60% of the cocoa production stems from two countries. Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana are the leading producers for cocoa and these are not large countries on top of that. It would not take much out of the multi billion dollar industries that the major five have created to put more funding into these countries.  Chocolate companies spend up to 17 billion dollars on advertising alone a year. It would take only fraction of this to increase the wages of the farmers in those countries.

Along with the unfair wages and huge amount of cocoa coming from a small part of the world the farmers try to save money by having children work for them for low to no money. This is known as child labor it is seen as one of the worst forms of labor because it is robbing a child of their childhood. Children in these conditions according to Professor Martin have to “clear trees, planting, grafting, applying fertilizers/pesticides/fungicides, weeding, pruning, harvesting” this is a list of some task among others that the children would have to do. This is first not right to force a child to work when they should be getting their education. Another reason would be the dangers of making a child do work meant for a skilled adult. There are many dangers in the process of harvesting and planting cocoa according to Professor Martin such as “fatigue, musculoskeletal injury, cuts or other wounds, sunburns and heat stress”. These are simply cruel and unacceptable conditions for anyone let alone a child to be working in.

The labor even though still unjust has also evolved in the chocolate industry. The use of child labor and regular labor , but workers being paid much less is a major change in the production of chocolate on the labor side. It shifted from slavery to now forms of intensive child labor and underpaid farmers. In both instances people are being majorly exploited. Of course slavery is a more pressing problem but at the same time the exploitation of cocoa farmers is unacceptable and easily changeable. The fact that in today’s society it should be the main focus and priority to change the situation in these countries and farms there. People can not condone and proceed to purchase chocolate from major companies knowing that they use child labor to produce cocoa for low prices.


In conclusion chocolate plays a fundamental role in many people’s lives in modern times. Like my fellow classmate said chocolate was the cornerstone of her childhood. Chocolate ran holidays such as Valentines day, Easter, Halloween and others. It was a social snack along with a coping food for when she was sad, happy sick and everything in between. Chocolate was viewed as Americas’ candy. It brought people together and brought with it feelings of happiness to kids. The fact chocolate was available and affordable throughout the country makes it even more desirable. These traits would make it a perfect present, I am sorry gift and surprise treat. These aspects make people love chocolate and associate it with happiness and good times. When in reality chocolate is not all happiness and joy. From the dark association of women and sexualizing chocolate for advertising reasons, to the connection to wealth and social status and slavery. Also it may be all joy for the consumer of the sweet cheap treat, but not for those who are suffering on the other side of this transaction. The chocolate companies are exploiting and using people and children to maximize their gain. In forms such as slavery and even child labor in modern times. When referring to social status chocolate was not always a treat for kids of all backgrounds. It used to not be available to kids who were not wealthy and or did not have much money. These are the major changes that chocolate has undergone in the many years people have been utilizing this product. It was once an expensive and exclusive treat for the upper echelon of europe produced by slaves from africa and islands, and used to show status and wealth. Now it has become a household snack and treat widely accessible to the public and kids of all backgrounds. Also, now the product does not represent wealth and status, but when it comes to the production side people are still being used and not properly compensated.

Scholarly Sources Cited:

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

University Press ; Distributed in the United States Exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, commercialfreechildhood.org/.

Cleveland, Todd. “Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa.” Agricultural

History, vol. 88, no. 4, 2014, pp. 608-610. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1640565903?accountid=11311.

Pedzich, Joan. “The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the

Cocoa Industry.” Library Journal, vol. 137, no. 7, 2012, p. 53.

Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 10, 2019

Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 3, 2019

Professor Carla Martin Lecture March 20, 2019

Professor Carla Martin Lecture March 27, 2019

Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 17, 2019

Multimedia Sources Cited:

Low wages for cocoa workers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4c7l_CVwFc&feature=youtu.be

Women sexualizing Chocolate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA6e8CrNiDc&feature=youtu.be

Chocolate Advertisements and Children


“When we get to the store, do not ask for anything.”

As a young girl, this is what my mother would tell me in a very stern and matter of fact voice before we would go food shopping. She would hear me in the living room back at home watching the commercials on the television excitedly saying “I want that! I want that!” about every product advertised. She knew my nagging would continue in the store if she did not put a stop to it. Twenty years later and my mother is doling out the same warning to my five year old brother – except now, the product advertising does not just stop when the commercials end and the television program resumes. Today, my brother and millions of other children are bombarded with images of food products nearly everywhere they go.

From “television advertising, in-school marketing, product placements, kids clubs, the Internet, toys and products with brand logos, and youth-targeted promotions, such as cross-selling and tie-ins,” (Story & French, 2012, p.1) food and beverage companies spend an estimated $10 to $15 billion marketing to children (Eggerton, 2007). In just the first six months of 2014, Hershey’s had already spent $149.5 million on television ad placements and Reese’s had spent $86.2 million (Tadena, 2014). This marketing is not done in vain as children yield considerable consumer power not only as spenders but also as influencers and future adult buyers. This is what James McNeal (1999) describes as a three in one market. It is estimated that children spend $25 billion to $40 billion annually (Story & French; Martin, 2018) and influence up to $500 billion in purchases made by families (Martin). Additionally, as children get older they will have more disposable income as well as greater autonomy on their purchasing decisions.

Martin Marketing to Children

(Martin, Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements, 2018)

Television advertising is the primary way food and beverage companies market their products. According to the Nielsen Co. children between the ages of 2 to 5 years old watch an estimated 32 hours a week of television and children ages 6 to 8 spend 28 hours per week in front of the TV (McDonough, 2009). With all this television watching children are barraged with commercials. Holt, Ippolito, Desrochers, and Kelley (2007) found that children in 2004 were exposed to over 25,000 commercials and over half of the advertisements were promoting a food product. In a study done on food advertisements seen by children researchers found that, “children’s networks had the highest percentage of food-related commercials,” (Bell, Cassady, Culp, & Alcalay, 2009) and the majority of these commercials were for unhealthy foods. Compared to other networks, the children’s programming featured 76% more food commercials – more specifically, “7.7 food commercials per hour appeared in programming on the children’s networks, which is approximately 1 food commercial every 8 minutes,” (Bell et al., 2009). This astounding frequency makes children extremely vulnerable to the marketing ploys used by the food companies.

One way in which people have tried to combat the over saturation of unhealthy food advertisements targeted to children is with the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Established in 2007, the CFBAI is a self-regulation program that encourages its participants to advertise more nutritious food and healthier lifestyles to children under the age of 12 (CFBAI and CARU Fact Sheet, 2012). Companies who have signed up to be in this initiative are The Hershey Company, Mars. Inc., Nestle Global, and Ferrero USA Inc. (CFBAI Participating Companies, 2018). From participating in this program these companies have promised to not promote their candy directly to children. However, in a study examining how much candy advertising was being seen by children researchers discovered children viewed 485 candy advertisements in 2011, a 74% increase from the number of advertisements viewed in 2008. The researchers found that 65% of the advertisements in 2011, “were for brands that CFBAI companies pledged they would not include in child-directed advertising,” (Harris, LoDolce, Dembek, & Schwartz, 2015, p.589). Mars, Hershey, and Nestle were some of the CFBAI companies that had a 152% increase in ads from 2008 to 2011. Despite these companies’ promises to self-regulate their advertisements, children are still being overexposed to unhealthy food commercials.

The United States is not the only country dealing with unhealthy advertisements marketed toward children. A content analysis of 229 Iranian food commercials shown during children’s programming mostly featured unhealthy food such as chocolate, ice cream, and cookies (Amini, Omidvar, Yeatman, Shariat-Jafari, Eslami-Amirabadi, & Zahedirad, 2014). Researchers in Melbourne, Australia found a positive correlation between the amount of TV commercials a child watches and their preference for junk food as well as the amount of junk food they eat (Dixon, Scully, Wakefield, White, Crawford, 2007). In India, Rathod and Parmar (2012) looked at the influence of Indian advertisements targeted to children. The children were very familiar with chocolate advertisements and stated that Cadbury and Five Stars were their favorite chocolate brands. The researchers stated that children often asked their parents to buy confectionary products for them after viewing the products’ commercial. Mexico banned the broadcasting of commercials featuring chocolate, soda, and candy during children’s movies in theaters as well as during children’s television shows in 2014. It was estimated that over 10,000 commercials would be affected by the new rule. However, a week after this regulation went into effect Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risk claimed ads for Hershey’s, Nesquik, and Nestle were not compliant (Pekic, 2014). Some of the ads that the authorities singled out for not following the regulation were promoting chocolate foods – “chocolate-flavored Nesquik Duo cereals…Hershey’s chocolate flavored milk and Holanda chocolate-topped vanilla ice cream products,” (Pekic, 2014).

Emotional appeal is a widely used tactic in advertising to children. In their marketing, companies associate their products with positive emotions that are desirable to children. Page and Brewster (2007) examined product appeals in food advertisements for children in the United States and found that the most popular appeals used by companies were fun/happiness, fantasy/imagination, social enhancement/peer acceptance, and coolness/hipness. In Belgium, 46.3% of the children involved in De Pelsmaker, Schouteten, and Gellynck’s study (2013) associated Cécémel, a popular chocolate milk brand, with happiness, “cozy, desire, enjoyment and pleasure,” (p. 283).

Emotional appeal is seen throughout Hersheypark where, since 1907, Hershey Co. has welcomed families from all over the world to forge memories and experience fun in a way that goes beyond simply eating their chocolate bars. From its roller coasters, zoo, and official hotels Hersheypark is associated with adventure, family, excitement, and happiness. I remember going to Hersheypark as a young girl and staying in one of their hotels. The wallpaper was designed with illustrations of tiny chocolate bars and chocolate was available everywhere. I thought it was the coolest thing and still to this day when I think about Hersheypark I am reminded of the fun I had there with my family.

Another tactic in which companies attract children to their products is through their use of brand mascots. Mascots and cartoon characters are an easy way for children to identify products. Companies create brand mascots in the hopes of developing an emotional relationship with the young child consumer who is, “cognitively immature and vulnerable to targeted marketing because of their limited ability to differentiate between facts and persuasive marketing communications,” (Kraak & Story, 2014, p.108). Harkening back to McNeil’s three in one description of child consumers these mascots are also used to create brand loyalty with the child who will eventually grow into an adult consumer. Oftentimes, the mascots are depicted in fun and happy situations and are associated with a catchy phrase (Kraak & Story, 2014) which can help foster, “market nostalgia through transgenerational, parent-child interactions that generate…fun emotional appeals…towards company brands and products,” (Kraak & Story, 2014, p.110). The relationships that the children form with the mascots have great influence on their dietary choices. Kraak and Story examined the influence of brand mascots on children’s diet and found that children preferred their food to have a character associated with it than no character. The researchers also found that when unhealthy food and fruits or vegetables were branded with the same familiar character, the children favored the unhealthy snacks. Furthermore, children were more likely to request chocolate over fruit if there was a familiar media character associated with it.

Sonny the Cuckoo Bird was introduced in 1962 to promote General Mills’ cereal Cocoa Puffs. In the 56 years Sonny has been on television, he simply cannot resist the cereal made with “real Hershey’s cocoa”. Try as he might to keep his mind off the cereal he is always pulled back in and by the end of the commercials has gone manic off of the Puffs’ delicious chocolatey flavor. In one commercial, Sonny even goes so far as to lock his box of Cocoa Puffs in a safe but the cereal manages to find him everywhere he goes – the chocolate deliciousness is inescapable. Sonny’s love for the cereal is contagious. In many of the commercials, he is surrounded by children who are just as crazy about Cocoa Puffs as he is. In some instances the children do not think Cocoa Puffs are as good as Sonny claims they are until they get a taste of it for themselves.

In the Cocoa Puffs commercials, chocolate is depicted as a food so good it will make the person eating it go crazy. One bite of the cereal and Sonny and the Cocoa Puffs children are out of control with happiness. Many of the commercials are animated cartoons and have a very short storyline featuring Sonny either trying to avoid the cereal, persuading children to eat it, or on an adventure to find the cereal. However, when it comes time for the narrator to talk about the cereal it switches from animation to real life images. The viewers shortly leave the cartoon story. There is usually an image of some type of chocolate looking vortex followed by a close up shot of the Cocoa Puffs in a bowl of chocolate milk. The shot is against a backdrop of rich creamy chocolate. The entire scene is meant to depict chocolate.

Like Sonny, the children go crazy over the “chocolatey taste you go cuckoo for”. Sonny’s slogan, “I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!” is repeated many times throughout the commercial by him and the Cocoa Puffs children. Sonny’s energetic demeanor and propensity to be in fun situations make him a likeable character to children consumers. By inserting children cartoon characters into the Cocoa Puffs commercials, the children viewers can relate to them. Furthermore, children are likely to believe the commercial’s claim that Cocoa Puffs are a part of a nutritional and well-balanced breakfast. In nearly every Cocoa Puffs commercial I viewed there was an image of the cereal alongside a glass of milk, a glass of orange juice, and a plate of toast as the narrator states Cocoa Puffs is “the chocolatey part of this good breakfast”.

Sonny the Cuckoo Bird is not the only mascot associated with chocolate breakfast. The Nesquik Bunny was introduced in 1973 and is used in commercials to promote Nesquik’s chocolate milk as well as its cereal. Like Cocoa Puffs, Nesquik cereal is touted as being delicious because of its chocolate flavor and how it turns regular milk into chocolate milk. The Nesquik Bunny also claims that the cereal is, “the chocolatey part of this good breakfast” as the bowl of cereal is shown alongside a glass of milk, a muffin, and an orange. This mascot, too, is energetic and happy – easy for the children viewers to relate to him.

Along with emotional appeal and brand mascots, logo recognition is another way companies capture children’s attention. Logo recognition increases with age and are used to build “product recognition and brand awareness in young children,” (Page & Brewster, 2007, p. 336). I am able to see the effect of brand recognition with my five year old brother. Every morning he drinks a glass of chocolate milk made with Hershey’s chocolate syrup. My brother is very particular about his chocolate milk and if it is not made the way he enjoys he will not drink it. Despite not being fully comprehensive with reading yet if he notices that the chocolate syrup does not have the Hershey’s logo on it he automatically does not like the chocolate milk.

Children are vulnerable to the marketing tactics used by food and beverage companies. These companies have developed a number of ways to appeal to the innocent minds of children and these ways are working. By marketing their products as child-friendly, children and parents are more likely to fall for the companies’ traps. In this already overly media-saturated environment children are living in, people need to be made aware of the ways food companies bombard children. The over-saturation likely will not stop but if people are aware of companies’ tactics, hopefully, their effects will have less of an impact.



Amini, M., Omidvar, N., Yeatman, H., Shariat-Jafari, S., Eslami-Amirabadi, M., & Zahedirad, M. (2014). Content analysis of food advertising in Iranian children’s television programs. International journal of preventive medicine, 5(10), 1337.

Bell, R. A., Cassady, D., Culp, J., & Alcalay, R. (2009). Frequency and types of foods advertised on Saturday morning and weekday afternoon English-and Spanish-language American television programs. Journal of nutrition education and behavior41(6), 406-413.

CFBAI and CARU Fact Sheet. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.bbb.org/storage/16/documents/cfbai/CFBAI%20and%20CARU%20Fact%20Sheet%20August%202012.pdf.

CFBAI Participating Companies. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.bbbprograms.org/programs/CFBAI/cfbai-participants/

De Pelsmaeker, S., Schouteten, J., & Gellynck, X. (2013). The consumption of flavored milk among a children population. The influence of beliefs and the association of brands with emotions. Appetite, 71, 279-286.

Dixon, H. G., Scully, M. L., Wakefield, M. A., White, V. M., & Crawford, D. A. (2007). The effects of television advertisements for junk food versus nutritious food on children’s food attitudes and preferences. Social science & medicine, 65(7), 1311-1323.

Eagle, B., & Ambler, T. (2002). The influence of advertising on the demand for chocolate confectionery. International Journal of Advertising, 21(4), 437-454.

Eggerton, J. (2007). Food-Marketing Debate Heats Up. Retrieved from http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/food-marketing-debate-heats-82753.

Harris, J. L., LoDolce, M., Dembek, C., & Schwartz, M. B. (2015). Sweet promises: Candy advertising to children and implications for industry self-regulation. Appetite, 95, 585-592.

Kraak, V. I., & Story, M. (2015). Influence of food companies’ brand mascots and entertainment companies’ cartoon media characters on children’s diet and health: a systematic review and research needs. obesity reviews, 16(2), 107-126.

Martin, C. (2018). Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.

McDonough, P. (2009). TV Viewing Among Kids At An Eight-Year High. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2009/tv-viewing-among-kids-at-an-eight-year-high.html.

McNeal, J. U. (1999). The kids market: Myths and realities. Paramount Market Publishing.

Page, R. M., & Brewster, A. (2007). Emotional and rational product appeals in televised food advertisements for children: analysis of commercials shown on US broadcast networks. Journal of Child Health Care, 11(4), 323-340.

Pekic, V. (2014). Children see, children do: Will Mexican kids slim down by watching less candy ads? Retrived from http://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2014/07/28/Mexico-restricts-confectionery-and-chocolate-advertising-to-children.

Rathod, D. R. M., & Parmar, B. J. (2012). Impact of Television Advertisements on Children: An Empirical Study with Reference to Chocolate Brands. Pacific Business Review International, 5(5), 85-94.

Story, M., & French, S. (2004). Food advertising and marketing directed at children and adolescents in the US. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 1(1), 3.

Tadena, N. (2014). Hershey’s and Reese’s are the Sweetest TV Spenders in the Candy Sector. Retrieved from http://www.blogs.wsj.com/cmo/2014/07/24/hersheys-and-reeses-are-the-sweetest-tv-spenders-in-the-candy-sector/.

United States. Federal Trade Commission. Bureau of Economics, Holt, D. J., Ippolito, P. M., Desrochers, D. M., & Kelley, C. R. (2007). Children’s Exposure to TV Advertising in 1977 and 2004: Information for the Obesity Debate. US FTC.












Cadbury and his Legacy on the History of the Cocoa Industry

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

George Cadbury believed human beings should be treated equally

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

Bournville became known as “the factory in a garden” 

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is No Pleasure in Guilty Chocolate!

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

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

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

  1. What is Chocolate?

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

  1. Where Does Cacao Come From?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate as a Device for Inequality

It is easy to think of chocolate as a sweet treat that stirs up fond memories of a happy stomach. Yet, there are further issues involving the nature by which we view chocolate as a society. We are going to think critically and assess the inequality and more problematic elements in the production and sales end of chocolate. Chocolate, as a commercialized product, is not only an exploitative product by nature, but it also in several ways serves to exacerbate race and age disparities in our communities through its marketing strategies.


Big chocolate companies present several problematic elements through their exploitation of not only the cacao farmer, but additionally through their exploitive marketing strategies.

Ethically Sourced Cacao

Chocolate has a long history of using forced and coerced labor for its cultivation: “…abuses…have been well-documented for much longer, even if the use of coercion has not been consistent across cocoa production globally and throughout time” (Berlan 1092). However, it is not widely known that our consumption of  chocolate is still based off of the exploitation of others. Even now, big chocolate companies exploit cacao farmers through multiple venues. First, cacao labor is extremely laborious and often farmers are not supplied with the right facilities: “Farm workers often lack: access to bathroom facilities, filtered water, clean spaces for food prep, lesser exposed areas to res/cool down” (Martin Lecture 3/22). Additionally, farming cacao is associated with a very volatile income. Cacao farmers are not paid in wages or salaries, as cacao is a commodity with a fluctuating price in the world economy. This irregular source of income leads to an unstable source of livelihood for cacao farmers and their families: “and yet almost every critic of the industry [chocolate industry] has identified the key problem: poverty among the primary producers” (Off 146). Historically, the exploitation of the laborer exacerbated racial distinctions and categories: “Overall, both Rowntree and Cadbury adverts created a world of white consumers in which the black producers of cocoa beans and the black consumers of chocolate were at best pushed to the margins, if not excluded completely” (Robertson 54). Yet, there is even a further subcategory within the Ivory Coast cacao farmers that is subjected to the chocolate industry’s exploitation. Child labor is often used on cacao farms: In a 2000 report on human rights in Cote d’Ivoire, the US State Department estimated, with startling candor, “‘that 15,000 Malian children work on Ivorian cocoa and coffee plantations…Many are under 12 years of age, sold into indentured servitude…’” (Off 133). The International Labor Organization has explicitly defined the worst forms of child labor. It is universally accepted that not only is child labor unethical, but further, that coerced child labor is morally wrong. Yet, the alarming part is not that child labor is being utilized in cacao farming, but rather, the extent to which children are being exploited: “‘15,000 Malian children work on Ivorian cocoa and coffee plantations…Many are under 12 years of age, sold into indentured servitude…’” (Off 133). Cacao has become a product tainted with coerced and unethically sourced labor. In doing so, chocolate, itself, becomes an exploitative product.

This graph featured above is from Alders Ledge. It shows the primary cacao producing countries in the “Gold Coast” of West Africa. The graph shows that about 71% of the world’s cacao is sourced using child labor and 43% uses forced labor.

Marketing and Advertisement in the Chocolate Industry

Chocolate companies additionally manipulate their consumer base through their marketing strategies. First, chocolate companies have chosen to market specifically to children. Companies target the vulnerabilities of children through specific practices. For example, “until the age of about 8, children do not understand advertising’s persuasive intent” (Martin Lecture 3/29). Chocolate companies manipulate children through advertisements on television, packaging, and social media. Companies are now spending billions of dollars to manipulate children and maximize their profits: “Companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children, a staggering increase from the $100 million spent in 1983” (Martin Lecture 3/29).

The advertisement, featured by Kinder, depicts a smiling (happy) young boy on a delicious looking candy bar. The bottom reads “Invented for Kids Approved by Mums”, thereby playing off children’s vulnerabilities and telling them that this bar was specifically made for them.

In addition to chocolate companies’ manipulation of children, their advertisements of chocolate have also been used to dehumanize blackness: “The use of black people in advertising has a long history” (Robertson 36). However, there is some sort of logic to using blackness and black people to represent products like chocolate: “…products made available through the use of slave labor such as coffee and cocoa, often used, and many still use, images of black people to enhance their luxury status” (Robertson 36). Yet, does the logic of its representation make it any less inherently racist? The presentation of blackness and the use of that exploitation of coerced labor to maximize profit is morally incorrect. The imperial history of cacao and slavery make the use of its laborers as an advertising tool even more ethically wrong. Yet, we have historically, and still do, use blackface and such caricatures to represent chocolate products.


This is an advertisement by Dunkin’ Donuts in Thailand. It features a smiling woman in blackface makeup holding a charcoal (chocolate) flavored donut. The slogan “Break every rule of deliciousness” is featured next to the blackfaced woman. Not only is this an example of linking chocolate to blackness in advertising, but it also links chocolate and subsequently blackness to sin.

Yet, even when companies attempt to manipulate their consumer base by marketing themselves as leaders of fairly sourced cacao, they do not always succeed. In Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in DivineChocolate Advertisements, Kristy Leissle describes Divine Chocolate’s ad, featuring female Ghanan cacao farmers as a “positive contribution” (Leissle 123) to the depictions of Africa in British culture. However the way that Divine Chocolate depicts these women with their products seems detached from reality: “Divine Chocolate expends considerable effort to make Kuapa Kokoo farmers – and Ghana as a cocoa origin site – visible to Britain’s chocolate shoppers…Divine Chocolate and St. Luke’s supplied the women’s outfits and gave them a stipend to have their hair styled for the shoot…” (Leissle 124). I would argue that if Divine Chocolate had really wanted to showcase the cacao farmers, not only would they have included the male farmers, but they wouldn’t have expended resources to change the women’s outward appearances. Further, much like the popular Western chocolate ads, Divine Chocolate’s ads sexual and objectify women. Divine Chocolate is seeking to maximize both sales and profits from the chocolate industry and are playing off of what they think the consumers want to see. Rather than this advertisement being associated with an educational or philanthropic aura, I would argue that this ad, in reality, fetishizes these female, African cacao farmers. Additionally, the advertisement validates and reinforces stereotypes regarding Africans. Thus, because of its manipulative nature, cacao, as a commodity, becomes an exploited commodity.

Linguistic Tool

Chocolate has become a linguistic tool that exacerbates not only racial distinctions but also racial tensions.

Colloquial Context

Chocolate has become a euphemism for sin; while it’s counterpart vanilla has become linked to purity. Through this symbolism, a standard of uncleanliness versus cleanliness is created. This leads one to wonder if the basis for linking chocolate to blackness is purely based on skin color, or rather does it have a deeper, race related background? In Slavery & Capitalism (1940), Eric Williams argues that racism is a byproduct of slavery and not the cause of slavery (Martin Lecture 3/1). Perhaps chocolate is commonly related to black people because of its historical exploitation of forced labor in the “Gold Coast” of West Africa? Or rather, is the fact that chocolate is also associated with dirtiness and sexuality a factor? Are these racist notions of uncleanliness associated with chocolate and blackness because of our inherent racism towards those that we previously subjugated?

Chocolate as associated with blackness becomes marginalized in society. The Western ideals reign supreme: “The commodity chain model is not ideal, then, creating a progress narrative in which western consumption is prioritized as a symbol of economic development and modernity” (Robertson 4). The association comes through the means by which cacao is cultivated. And in part stems from the inequality in the sourcing, in terms of workers: “The history of chocolate corresponds to some extent with the more well-documented histories of tea, coffee and sugar: notably in the early dependence on coerced labor, and in the transformation of the product from luxury to everyday commodity…Chocolate has been invested with specific cultural meanings which are in part connected to such conditions of production” (Robertson 3). Yet, this relation between chocolate as a symbol for black people and vanilla, seen as the opposite, for white people, creates yet another barrier of difference. And in doing so further paints black people as “othered”.

However, it is important to note, that the relation between chocolate and race is not entirely detrimental. In several contexts, the link and its subsequent meaning have been reappropriated to carry a more positive connotation. For example, “chocolate city”, referring to cities with a very large black population, has become more of a term of empowerment, rather than one of subjugation. Additionally, the book featured below, I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla, uses blackness as related to chocolate as merely a term to describe two halves of the same being, just different flavors. Thus, while the initial linking of blackness to chocolate may or may not come from racist and subjugated origins, the term is not entirely negative.

The book by Marguerite Wright, I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla is meant as a teaching tool to help parents guide their children as a minority in the community. In this context, chocolate as a euphemism for blackness is not necessarily racist nor prejudice. However, the fact that the parallel between race and chocolate exists at all, and the connotations of the parallel are inherently racist.


One Could Argue that Free Trade is the Issue

However, one could argue that the problem of exploitation is not applicable just to the chocolate industry; rather, it is an issue with free trade and the laissez-faire economy itself. One could argue that the exploitative nature of the commodity and the exploitation by which it is cultivated is really a break down of fair trade. Fair trade is supposed to regulate the working conditions yet, in The Fair Trade Scandal, Ndongo Sylla argues that “…Fair Trade is but the most recent example of another sophisticated ‘scam’ by the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market” (Sylla 18). Sylla would argue that the system itself is at fault for the worker’s exploitation, rather than the companies employing them: “In the West African context where I worked, Fair Trade was barely keeping its promises. For older producer organizations, there were initially significant benefits; then, hardly anything followed. Newcomers to the system were still waiting for promises to come true. For those who wanted to join the movement, it was sometimes an obstacle course” (Sylla 19). One could also use Marx’s notion of the exploited worked and the systematic oppression involved in capitalism as the issue at hand. One could use Marx’s theory that the sole purpose of capitalism is to exploit the worker and estrange him from not only the commodity that he produces, but further from the capitalist and the land itself. Thereby showing that the exploitation involved in the chocolate industry is not only applicable to other commodities, but this exploitation is also a natural progression in a capitalistic society. The argument that the system is, in actuality, at fault for the exploitative nature of the product is valid. However, this still does not discount the racialized slurs that are a product of this estrangement and exploitation. The free market itself is problematic; but my argument here, is that chocolate is an exploitative product and it can be improved, even if the market is inherently compromised. This is a critique of the system and the mindset that this exploitation creates in society; rather than an essay that provides the means by which we can implement a long-term systemic change.


Chocolate through its advertisement and forms of cultivation becomes an exploitative commodity. Further, the means by which it is cultivated leads society to provide specific and racialized associations with chocolate. Thereby allowing chocolate to exacerbate race and age gaps in society.

Work Cited

Academic Sources

Berlan, Amanda. 2013. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An AnthropologicalPerspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.”

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in DivineChocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121139

Martin, Carla. Lectures (3/1, 3/22, 3/29).

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

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Sylla, Ndongo. 2014. The Fair Trade Scandal.


Beaut.ie. “Maeve and Her Tiny Babies: Ads That Drive Me Crazy!” Beaut.ie. Beaut.ie, 12 May 2013. Web. 04 May 2017.
Jones, Jane. “The Taste of Inequality: Chocolate Is Too Expensive for Many Cocoa Farmers to Eat.” Ravishly. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.
Lee, Jack. “Alders Ledge.” Guilt Free Chocolate. N.p., 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 04 May 2017.
Stanley, T. L. “Dunkin’ Donuts Apologizes for Blackface Ad, but Not Everyone Is Sorry.” – Adweek. Adweek, n.d. Web. 04 May 2017.
Wright, Marguerite A. I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-conscious World. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000. Print.

Hershey in War, from Rations to Friendship

Headquartered in rural Pennsylvania, over 87% of Hershey’s total revenues are based in North America, despite corporate strategies promoting global market expansion. Of Hershey’s twelve production facilities, ten are in North America and only two are in Asia.[1] Despite production and consumption based in the United States, the Hershey name has made a significant impact internationally through its association with the American military. This relationship heightens the dichotomy between cacao as a source of sustenance and a luxurious treat. Cacao promotes athletics and war on the one hand, pleasure and enjoyment on the other. In the U.S., Hershey supplied ration bars for soldiers. Its classic candies have bridged cross-cultural divides from World War I through the Berlin Airlift, the swamps of Vietnam to the deserts of Iraq.

The first documented histories of chocolate reveal the origins of the bean’s association with both indulgence and nutrition. Civilizations in Latin and South America recognized that “Armies travel on their stomachs.” The Aztecs, for example, believed that chocolate provided energy to fighters, who consumed the beverage before battle. [2] This tradition extended to European society. Britain’s Cadbury proclaimed that its cocoa, “Makes men stronger,” while Hershey deemed its chocolate bar “A meal in itself.”[3] Enjoyment of chocolate thereby spread from royal circles to the masses while it maintained its association with energy and success.[4]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Soldiers continued to rely on chocolate as portable, high-energy fuel. In the French and Indian War, Benjamin Franklin sent each colonial officer six pounds of chocolate. The Continental Congress set price controls on cocoa, and the Americans rejoiced after the British left behind pounds of chocolate at the Fort of Ticonderoga.[5] World War II marked the intersection between the commercialization of chocolate production and the mass mobilization of armies. Mars created M&M’s in 1932, after Forrest Mars saw Spanish troops eating chocolate beads encased in sugar (to prevent melting). Mars sold M&M’s exclusively to the US military during WWII until turning to the public market in 1948.[6]

While Mars approached the U.S. to begin their relationship, the state reached out to Hershey.[7] The Office of War Information popularized the “militarization of food” through posters, film shorts, radio broadcasts, and propaganda that the Allie would win from combining democratic institutions with productive capitalism.[8] The initial request for Hershey in 1937 was for a 4 ounce bar, high in energy, resistant to heat, and tasting “little better than a boiled potato.”[9] The resulting product was terribly dense, earned the moniker “Hitler’s Secret Weapon” for its effect on the digestive system, and found itself more often discarded than eaten. Hershey continues to revise the recipe, introducing new iterations from Korea to Vietnam.[10]

Sugar-filled, traditional version of American chocolate became tools of diplomacy across language, culture, and generational gaps, a narrative that Hershey helped build. World War I saw troops from opposing trenches across the western front held a temporary truce in December of 1914.[11] British soldiers shared Rowntree chocolate biscuits, sent to support soldiers from its headquarters in York. They broke the biscuits together and then they played friendly games of football, at least until the war resumed the next week.[12] During World War II, this process began at home. Hotel Hershey interned 300 Vichy diplomats in the United States from 1942 through late 1943, since C-suite officials of Hershey offered the Hotel to the State Department.[13] Diplomats and wealthy businessmen, including the Hershey family and even the Vichy diplomats, continued to frequent luxury French dining establishments to enjoy chocolate, despite rationing restraints.[14] Meanwhile, the general public was forced to remove sugar from large parts of their diet.[15] Thus, the elite continued to mix chocolate and business, while soldiers and the poor traded in traditional sweet treats for subpar alternatives.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chocolate from the United States began to foster goodwill among noncombatants soon thereafter. Operation Vittles earned international acclaim during the Berlin Airlift, when 1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen included a few pieces of candy for children in his drops. Soon, his fellow soldiers began to participate, chipping in Hershey treats from their rations. As the public grew aware of the effort, corporations began to donate massive shipments of candy. Ultimately Halvorsen dropped 12 tons of candy and gum for the children of West Berlin from his C-47.[16]

Memoirs of American soldiers exchanged dropping candy out of planes for personal contact with children through candy. David Todeschini arrived in Vietnam as a medical aid provider at age 19. In his first visit to an orphanage, he recalled how,

[The children] ran out to greet us, asking for candy bars, and to have their pictures taken. We had a box full of assorted candies, chocolate, and peanuts donated by the GIs on base, which we distributed immediately upon our arrival; the cache being depleted in less time than it took for the medics to unload their medicine and equipment from the jeeps.[17]

Though the friendship began with sugar and smiles, he argued that the children “sure took notice of us, and it certainly goes beyond the fact that they always begged us for chocolate and candy—you could see it in their eyes, and many of us could see ourselves in their faces.”[18] Steven Alexander expressed similar sentiments in his memoir. The soldiers dreaded receiving C-ration boxes with tropical Hershey chocolate bars, too hot ever to melt and inedible. He instead found joy through chocolate by giving children Hershey bars and then seeing their reactions. Alexander reflected, “I only wished I had a real chocolate Hershey bar from home so she could really enjoy the candy. But she seemed to be happy with what I gave her.”[19] His tropical bar ration may not have added to his happiness, but the classic Hershey treat let him give temporary good cheer to others.

However, these relationships sometimes soured. Todeschini recounted a horrific, heart-wrenching dilemma that faced some of his comrades. The Vietcong began using children as weapons, playing on the moral affinity of American soldiers for local children:

Here comes an innocent child running down a dirt path, barefoot, and carrying about five or 6 pounds of high explosives heading right for you. The child may be racing several others to get there first; to be the first to get a Hershey bar. You know that in 10 seconds, you, your comrades, and the children will die.[20]

Could any man bring himself to shoot? The Vietnam War left behind some valid, anti-American sentiment. However, many of the soldiers attempted to build relationships with local communities based on trust, companionship, and shared appreciation for Hershey. These efforts sometimes ended tragically, but they facilitated an image of generosity regarding American soldiers toward Vietnamese children.

Most recently, the U.S. Air Force has been engaged in dropping food, water, and medicine to people struggling in remote areas, separated from relief by fighting. Another single pilot began this wave, this time Master Sergeant Stephen Brown, who added a little candy to each drop before his peers joined him.[21] Of the 109 bundles of 10,545 gallons of water and 7,056 Halal Meals Ready to Eat, each contained Hershey bars, Starbursts, or other sweets. Brown reflected that they hoped to provide “something that will make a dire situation a little brighter, even if it’s just for a few moments.”[22] Though Hershey remains a distinctly American brand, its reputation has thus extended overseas through the military, from the trenches of France to the desserts of Iraq. Hershey chocolate’s role in military rations and in civilian contacts recalls a dichotomy that has existed since the earliest days of chocolate, between sustenance and pleasure. However, the reality that Hershey chocolate, in both cases, is provided by Americans to soldiers and to children, respectively, shows that it continues to reflect a legacy of luxury and elite access, even in this arena.

[Word Count: 1293]

[1] “The Hershey Company,” 10-K (Hershey, PA, December 31, 2015), https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/47111/000004711116000095/a2015_formx10-kq4.

[2] Sophie Coe and Michael Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 3rd ed. (London: Thames & Hudson, 2013), 73.

[3] Ibid., 239.

[4] Ibid., 234. The rise of financial systems in Protestant countries, with capital stores and technological framework, facilitated this democratization of chocolate. The estates of sugar plantations in outposts of empire reduced the price of sugar. And two inventions specifically improved taste and lowered price: Van Houten’s addition of alkaline (to reduce bitterness) and Fry’s creation of milk chocolate (to increase sweetness and lower price).

[5] Though these blocks did not have sugar added, their caffeine content energized soldiers just as they had the Aztecs. Rodney Synder, “History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies,” Colonial Williamsburg, http://www.history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/volume9/jan11/featurearticle.

[6] Mars formed a partnership with Hershey’s, founded in 1898, to supply the milk chocolate for this confection until he could produce the filling internally. M&M’s remain a part of Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) today. Laura Schumm, “The Wartime Origins of the M&M,” History.com, 2017, http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/the-wartime-origins-of-the-mm.

[7] Allison Carruth, “War Rations and the Food Politics of Late Modernism,” Modernism/Modernity 16, no. 4 (January 1, 2010): 767–95, doi:10.1353/mod.0.0139.

[8] Carruth, 770; U. S. Office of War Information, Food for Fighters, 1943, http://archive.org/details/FoodforF1943. This short film argued that “Food correctly used means fighting strength for our soldiers and better health for civilians,” discussing food plants, university laboratories, and quartermaster corporal studies. These promoted “good food in plenty of variety,” supplied on the front using repurposed assembly lines from candy companies.

[9] Stephanie Butler, “D-Day Rations: How Chocolate Helped Win the War,” History.com, http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/d-day-rations-how-chocolate-helped-win-the-war.

[10] For more information on the evolution of Hershey through military research, alongside other food developments, see Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat (New York, New York: Current, 2015). These chocolate bars have remained relatively unpalatable given the difficulty of replicating the melting temperature of good chocolate once eaten without turning into a puddle in desert heat.

[11] Iain Adams, “A Game for Christmas? The Argylls, Saxons and Football on the Western Front,” International Journal of the History of Sport 32, no. 11 (June 2015): 1395.

[12] Gemma Mullin, “New Exhibition Reveals How Chocolate Was Morale Booster for Soldiers,” Mail Online, July 22, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2701170/How-chocolate-helped-win-WW1-New-exhibition-reveals-important-confectionary-morale-booster-troops-trenches.html.

[13] This hotel was the center of the resort town centered on the Hershey factory in Pennsylvania. The State Department did pay Hershey a $256,643 bill, and the Hotel reopened to the public the next year. Jackie Kruper, “A Sweet Prison Camp,” World War II 20, no. 2 (May 2005): 58–60.

[14] Carruth, 779.

[15] The poor, at this point, relied on inexpensive treats like chocolate for 30% of their daily calories, so the rationing significantly impaired their nutrition. Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power (New York: Penguin, 1985), 256.

[16] “Berlin Airlift: The Chocolate Pilot,” PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/airlift/sfeature/candy.

[17] David Todeschini, Land of Childhood’s Fears – Faith, Friendship, and the Vietnam War (Lulu.com, 2005), 105.

[18] Ibid., 19.

[19] Steven Alexander, An American Soldier in Vietnam (Page Publishing, 2013), chpt. 9; 10.

[20] Todeschini, 258.

[21] Dorian de Wind, “The ‘Candy Bombers’ of Iraq,” Huffington Post, September 4, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dorian-de-wind/the-candy-bombers-of-iraq_b_5769316.html.

[22] “The ‘Almost’ Candy Bombers of Iraq,” U.S. Air Force, accessed March 16, 2017, http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/494965/the-almost-candy-bombers-of-iraq.aspx.


Works Cited

Alexander, Steven. An American Soldier in Vietnam. Page Publishing Inc, 2013.

Butler, Stephanie. “D-Day Rations: How Chocolate Helped Win the War – Hungry History.” HISTORY.com. Accessed March 15, 2017. http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/d-day-rations-how-chocolate-helped-win-the-war.

Carruth, Allison. “War Rations and the Food Politics of Late Modernism.” Modernism/Modernity 16, no. 4 (January 1, 2010): 767–95. doi:10.1353/mod.0.0139.

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

Kruper, Jackie. “A Sweet Prison Camp.” World War II 20, no. 2 (May 2005): 58–60.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York: Penguin, 1985.

Mullin, By Gemma. “New Exhibition Reveals How Chocolate Was Morale Booster for Soldiers.” Mail Online, July 22, 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2701170/How-chocolate-helped-win-WW1-New-exhibition-reveals-important-confectionary-morale-booster-troops-trenches.html.

Salcedo, Anastacia Marx de. Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat. New York, New York: Current, 2015.

Schumm, Laura. “The Wartime Origins of the M&M – Hungry History.” HISTORY.com. Accessed March 16, 2017. http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/the-wartime-origins-of-the-mm.

Synder, Rodney. “History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies.” Colonial Williamsburg. Accessed March 16, 2017. http://history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/volume9/jan11/featurearticle.cfm.

“The ‘Almost’ Candy Bombers of Iraq.” U.S. Air Force. Accessed March 16, 2017. http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/494965/the-almost-candy-bombers-of-iraq.aspx.

“The Berlin Airlift: The Chocolate Pilot.” PBS. Accessed March 15, 2017. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/airlift/sfeature/candy.html.

“The Hershey Company.” 10-K. Hershey, PA, December 31, 2015. https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/47111/000004711116000095/a2015_formx10-kq4.htm.

Todeschini, David. Land of Childhood’s Fears – Faith, Friendship, and the Vietnam War. Lulu.com, 2005.

S. Office of War Information. Food for Fighters, 1943. http://www.archive.org/details/FoodforF1943.

Wind, Dorian de. “The ‘Candy Bombers’ of Iraq.” Huffington Post, September 4, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dorian-de-wind/the-candy-bombers-of-iraq_b_5769316.html.

Moms and Chocolate Milk: A Century-Long Storyline

Outside of models seductively pressing squares of milk chocolate to lips with a playful look and women with dark satiny fabrics outlining their curves in the name of chocolate bars, there is another stereotype being framed for women by chocolate company advertisements that is less loud and glamorous than the sexualization in chocolate advertising, but still problematic. For more than a century, and still in the present, chocolate companies have advertised their products to mothers as nutritional food products to feed children. The role of chocolate buying as a part of motherhood has historically been portrayed to consumers through advertising once as a nutritional obligation for mothers who want to nurture their families well, and later on as a way to appease children and husbands and be the best kind of mother. These messages, while less obvious today, can still be picked up on from commercials, especially for chocolate milk, and while some advertising has moved on to include women in roles outside of motherhood, chocolate milk industries still seems to fetishize the housewife role (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 25).

The identity of women as mothers and housewives in chocolate advertisements became this controversial way after chocolate became less of a luxury and more commonplace through improved packaging, preparing, and distributing (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 6). Chocolate was no longer for male-dominated chocolate houses, and instead being pushed to consumers as an energy-renewing and restorative snack and household necessity (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 25). Industrialization of chocolate manufacturing made it more available to families for buying, and it became apparent to chocolate companies that they should advertise to the mothers of children buying food for their young ones. Shortly after, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, teaching women domestic skills became extremely popular, as evidenced by cookbooks by Maria Parloa and Fannie Farmer (Martin, Brownies). As a result, chocolate companies shifted to advertising their products to women, and encouraging them to feed their children and husbands chocolate as a healthful food (Robertson, 20).

Those creating these advertisements saw housewives as their target customers and in their advertising, showed these women as the family members in charge of the domestic jobs of food shopping and feeding children, and this influences the way mothers are portrayed in a hugely domestic role in chocolate milk advertising today. One example is the TruMoo commercial below.

In this advertisement from TruMoo, the woman considering the product is cast in a specific role that is not very different from the target audience of chocolate advertising in the past century.

This shows that even today, mothers are a target audience for many chocolate drink advertisements. These commercials still appeal to the concerned emotions mothers have for the health of their families. Boasting fortifying vitamins and energetic properties, chocolate milk commercials tell moms that they should feed their children chocolate milk if they have their health in mind. In these advertisements, young ones look to moms with wide, approving, grins while swirling Hershey’s and Nesquik. The companies are marketing children’s approval alongside the healthful benefits of the products vitamins and minerals. The role women play in grocery stores, pushing carts, and making important decisions about brands, health, and prices is a historic and sexist storyline women which chocolate companies have chosen to use.  As ultimate grocery decision-maker, women in these commercials do not have jobs or interests or lives outside of the light we see them in, a strict domestic, housewife sort of role. Ultimately, the TruMoo commercial mother listens to “the voice of reason” angelic advice and decides on TruMoo. Her son’s satisfaction suggests to women (and their children) that buying TruMoo makes women nurturing and fun moms.

An alternative I’d like to see? Dads shopping. Moms and dads shopping together. Two moms shopping together. Grandpas and grandmas and uncles and aunts shopping. I’ve included an example of a response to all of the shopping moms are doing in chocolate milk advertisements. In it, parents visit the grocery store together alongside their child, and both have a say in the approval and denial of supermarket products.


Besides the unbridled obsession with mothers that chocolate milk advertisements seem to have, what this response advertisement also addresses is the manipulative way the commercials portray chocolate milk as a wholesome treat for growing kids. Today, advertisements like the TruMoo one included in this post boast vitamins, minerals, and other dietary bonuses. Like Rowntree’s adverts from almost a century ago, TruMoo and other chocolate milk advertisers appeal to moms’ concern for the health and nutrition of her family. It is an effective marketing ploy, but duplicitous, indeed: a glass of chocolate milk can have more sugar than a can of soda (Martin, Lecture 9, Slide 23).

It also is an old technique of chocolate companies. Rowntree cocoa sold itself to mothers as “more bone and muscle-building than ordinary cocoa” (Robertson, 21). The company aimed to sell to mothers in this manipulative way, deciding that women were the “purchasing agent” they had to win over by tapping into their desires to nurture their families and husbands (Robertson, 20). This sounds cringy and sexist, but what TruMoo and other chocolate milk sellers are campaigning with the “health benefits” in their own products, combined with the supermarket-mom scene is not far at all from Rowntree’s manipulative principles. My advertisement counteracts this message by selling the chocolate as a fun and special occasion treat, which is still enjoyable, instead of as a nutritional form of sustenance, which sugary chocolate cannot be when eaten in access.

One way these gendered advertisements are being changed, but not necessarily for the good, is through Hershey’s recent advertisement which includes a father and his daughter enjoying chocolate together. While this advertisement is a shift from chocolate marketing normally aimed toward women and children, and instead toward men (specifically dads!) and their kids, it still does so in a way that shows dad, who is absorbed in Skype conference calls and too busy to leave work to spend time with his eager daugher, as the breadwinner. The man in this commercial never leaves his house to grocery shop for Hershey’s, and instead his daughter purchases chocolate for the two to share. While this advertisement refrains from the traditional chocolate advertisement portrayal of women as the housewives and domestic gurus, its storyline with a father still casts the man as the working parent. He is completely uninvolved in the nutritional and health concerns for his daughter in his role as her parent, like a mother in so many chocolate commercials might.

In an age where the awareness of these advertising messages and the roles in which women are portrayed are scrutinized and considered more than in Rowntree’s advertising days, it is still a shame to think of the sexist ideologies in chocolate commercials like TruMoo’s and Hershey’s. And while the examples of women fetishized in housewife roles and men as breadwinners is less conspicuous, it is absolutely prevalent and problematic.


Works Cited:

Martin, Carla. Lecture 9.

Martin, Carla. Lecture 7.

Martin, Carla. 2016. “Brownies: The History of A Classic American Dessert.” US History Scene. http://ushistoryscene.com/article/brownies/. Accessed 4 April 2016

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010. 1-131. Print.

Changing Symbols of Chocolate

Chocolate as a Symbol

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


Chocolate in the Aztec Empire

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


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


Chocolate in Europe

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

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

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


Chocolate Post World War II

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

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

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

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


Works Cited

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

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

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


Facilitating Change: Promoting Social Justice through Consumer Initiative in the Chocolate Industry

Chocolate has been revered in America and all over the world for centuries. From the presumed invention by the ancient Olmec civilization (Coe 35) to the present-day global market, the demand for chocolate is ever-increasing. Despite the almost universal love for this sweet treat, made from the beans of the cacao tree, most people remain unaware of the complex issues that exist throughout the industry. The cacao tree is notoriously difficult to grow, “refusing to bear fruit outside a band of 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the Equator” and demanding very specific growing conditions (Coe 19). But putting aside the many logistical and environmental issues faced by cacao farmers, whose livelihood depends upon the successful cultivation of cacao, there are also more sinister issues that affect farmers, and in turn, threaten the availability and quality of chocolate as we know it. Corruption throughout the supply chain and by the governments of the countries that grow cacao has led to the extreme poverty of many cacao farmers, despite initiatives seemingly introduced to combat these problems, and has resulted in the trafficking of and dependence upon child labor, gender inequality, the interference of expensive cooperatives that often take profits from the farmers while making it harder for them to compete in the marketplace, and ultimately, lower quality beans being produced. Though there is no easy fix for the social injustice and numerous ethical problems, we as consumers can help facilitate industry change by spreading knowledge about these atrocities and making educated purchasing decisions, in addition to committing to become more mindful of the origins of our food.

Children working with cacao. Attribution: Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Children harvesting cacao. Attribution: Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
Evidence of child trafficking and slavery in the cacao industry began to emerge in the 1990s, and by the 2000s it was beginning to get noticed by the public. “Traffickers preyed on children at bus stops in Mali, promising riches on cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire. Once children got to the farm, they survived on little food, little or no pay and endured regular beatings. There were no chains and no irons, but, unable to leave their place of work, they were effectively slaves, harvesting the beans that were the key ingredient for chocolate” (Ryan, 44). Children were found to be doing dangerous tasks, using harmful chemicals and machetes without being afforded any training or protection, often resulting in, “injury and sickness, musculoskeletal disorders, sprains, lacerations, fractures, eye injuries, rashes, and respiratory irritation” (Martin). In 2009, a study conducted by Tulane University found that, “more than 800,000 children in Ghana had worked on cocoa-related activities in the previous twelve months,” (Ryan, 49). However, an important distinction to note is that many of the children were found not to be trafficked slaves but children working on family farms and plantations, contributing to the livelihood and economic success of their families and communities. This is often a cultural norm for many underdeveloped regions where poverty is a reality, and where there is no extra money to hire laborers to do the work. In addition to child labor, there is the issue of gender discrimination. Women in Ghana, “receive lower incomes than men, with many below the local poverty line or minimum wage” (Barrientos), despite the fact that women were found to be critical in caring for the early crops, and in the processes of fermenting and drying the cacao beans. “Within the chocolate industry these activities [performed by women] are seen as critical for ensuring productivity and quality” of the cacao (Barrientos). In an attempt to find a solution to some of these problems that result in injustice on the farming end of the supply chain, Gwendolyn Mikell theorizes that policies are needed, “that explicitly recognize that rural vibrancy contributes to national stability” by working to lessen the gap between the rural and the urban, “allowing local agricultural organizations to address local socio-economic needs as well as facilitate national economic linkages”, encouraging a gender-balanced labor force through policy, and depending more heavily on domestic instead of imported food (253). This proposed solution, though admirable, still begs the question, how do we encourage these policies that connect the different segments of the chocolate production industry in a way that does not exploit anyone, and provides economic opportunity for all? Do we, as consumers, even have any power to encourage such policy implementations, so far removed from the beginning of the process? Isn’t it those in power who must ultimately choose to make these changes, at their own economic expense, for the sake of humanity?

The Fair Trade credential was offered as a solution to help farmers receive fair prices, but instead has appeared to often contribute to the problem, creating another layer of middlemen in the form of cooperatives that take profits from farmers via large membership fees, and make it even more difficult for small farms who cannot afford membership to compete. The nonprofit organization’s website claims that, “Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated”, and purchasing fair trade products has become a popular way for customers to feel good, believing they are helping to deliver a solution to rural poverty through their purchasing decisions. The reality, however, is much different. “Countries ranked by the World Bank as upper middle-income account for 54% of producer organisations having received Fair Trade certification against 21% in the case of low-income countries. As for least developed countries, they only account for 13.5% of effective certification demand. Whatever definition of poverty and economic vulnerability is used, the conclusion is the same: Fair Trade tends to exclude the poorest countries” (Samba Sylla). Finally, most consumers assume that Fair Trade beans are of a higher quality, when the reality is that the best beans fetch the highest prices as specialty beans, and therefore it is the lesser quality beans that end up certified as Fair Trade (Nolan, Sekulovic, Rao).

Click here to watch the Fair Trade Shell Game.

Though many of these issues have gained some backseat media attention for decades, they are still not widely known to the majority of American consumers. As we have shifted from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, many people are simply overloaded with too much information. “According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986”, despite the fact that, “the processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited” (Levitin). It is therefore reasonable to assume that things that are farthest removed from us personally will garner the least amount of our attention. Many Americans do not even know how chocolate is made, let alone are familiar thumbSurveywith industry issues, and have become complacent about the origins of our food. In an attempt to gather some basic information about how much my contemporaries know about the chocolate industry, I created and posted a Chocolate Survey on social media, inviting my chocolate-loving friends to participate. Of the 24 respondents, 50% claimed to know how chocolate was made, while only 37.5% were aware of any production problems or ethical dilemmas within the chocolate industry. It is also worth noting that 75% of respondents would willingly pay more for chocolate if they had knowledge that farmers were not being fairly compensated and that higher prices were a solution to this issue. Most people, at the core, want to do the right thing.

Another barrier to becoming an informed consumer is the difficulty of extracting information about our food. Even consumers who are aware of the problems that exist in the food supply chain will have an incredibly difficult, and often unsuccessful, time finding out where their food comes from, even if they make the attempt. I reached out to a popular Connecticut chocolate company that was a staple in my childhood, to inquire as to how much they knew about the production and origin of their beans. Though the company representative was polite and forthcoming with a response, it was vague and indicated that while most of their beans came from West Africa and Indonesia, the specifics depended on “type” and constituted proprietary information, though I was assured that their farms did not accept beans derived under abusive or illegal conditions. I was also sent a link to a video about how chocolate is made, but it was a generic video that did not provide information about the beans their company purchases. When a company claims the origin of their product is “proprietary”, it creates another unfortunate roadblock for consumers who are interested in and actively attempting to make informed purchasing decisions.

It can be frustrating for the enlightened consumer to determine how to best avoid contributing to these complex problems in our food supply chain, but there are productive steps in the right direction that may be taken. According to journalist Orla Ryan, “consumers increasingly want to know where their products come from and understandably don’t want to buy goods made by children. But, this problem is too complex to solve with a simple consumer initiative… child labour is an economic problem. Solve the poverty and you solve the child labour problem” (54). However, it is not necessarily true that consumer initiatives cannot solve complex problems in big industries; McDonald’s discontinuation of of the use of ammonium hydroxide in its hamburgers, in response to the “pink slime” uproar by consumers, is one example (Johnson). In both cases, and in most cases, economics and greed are at the root of these issues. Though there is obvious risk in boycotting product from nations where underpaid farmers rely on what little wages they receive in order to survive, putting consumer pressure on some of the big companies may be necessary to induce the change that will eventually better serve all cacao farmers in the future. Though the Harkin-Engel Protocol, “an international agreement aimed at ending the worst forms of child labor” (Martin), was signed in 2001, fifteen years later it is unclear if it has resulted in any change at all. It is unlikely that Big Industry will make any changes resulting in less profit for them unless they are left without a choice, which can only come about with pressure from consumers. Supporting organizations who have taken on this challenge is one thing that can be done. Concerned consumers should consider joining the campaigns of organizations such as Anti-Slavery International, who are fighting for the end of child labor use in the cacao industry. Gathering friends and peers together and hosting a screening of “The Dark Side of Chocolate” is one way to make these issues known to others, as suggested by the International Labor Rights Forum. Social media is also a very effective method for promulgating information. Sharing articles and data about the issues facing the chocolate industry on Facebook, Twitter, and other networking sites is a good way to ensure awareness of these critically important matters.

An example of a tool designed for circulation on popular social media sites, in an attempt to bring attention to the issues facing Chocolate
An example of a tool designed for circulation on popular social media sites, in an attempt to bring attention to the issues facing Chocolate

Though not always effective, consumer boycotts can also be successful if executed strategically by people committed to following through. Harvard Business Review describes the strategies undertaken by successful boycotters who have created industry change through their initiatives. Consumer passion is the first necessary ingredient, “the main driver being moral outrage” (Diermeier). “The cost of participation must be low” (Diermeier), which is why successful activists will often choose one particular offending company to boycott, enabling the public to easily participate. The issues should also be easy for the general public to understand and follow, and the successful involvement of the media is the final critical ingredient in a successful boycott (Diermeier).

Another thing the concerned consumer can do is strive to seek out small, ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate companies that have a direct connection to the farmers who grow their beans, keeping in mind that there will likely be a higher cost associated with doing business with a small company trying to compete with the large industry players. In a Q & A session with the founders of Rogue Chocolatier, Colin Gasko explained that he can’t ever know for certain when his next batch of beans will arrive due to the market competition; that even if he has a relationship with a particular farmer, he could never ask that farmer to do business with him if it would be in the best interest of the farmer to do business with a company offering a higher wage that can better support the farmer and his family. Informed and concerned consumers should be willing to pay a high price to reward small companies for doing what they can to combat these numerous issues in the chocolate industry. Additionally, artisan chocolate companies are striving to bring back the nuances and deep flavors of the beans that have been lost due to industrialization. Large industrialized companies are more concerned about consistency than quality, as they are selling a brand and want their product to always taste the same, even if it’s always sub par. “The artisans do something very different. The artisans are much more attune to the flavor profile of each individual batch of beans. So they’re working on a small scale because they’re working with batches from one farm, one plantation, or a cooperative, fine-tuning the chocolate to bring out the best flavor of that bean” (Leissle).

Click here to get a glimpse of the Rogue Chocolatier operations when they were starting out in Minneapolis, courtesy of Martha Stewart

There is no simple answer that will address and correct the many complex social justice and ethical issues that affect the chocolate industry. Poverty-stricken farmers deserve to earn not only a liveable wage but a profit, selling the cacao beans that fetch billions of dollars in revenue each year for those further up the supply chain. It is only by becoming and staying informed of these issues, spreading knowledge to others, participating in strategically executed boycotts, and making deliberate purchasing decisions that we can hope to make a change for the better and work toward creating a system that is fair for everyone, and one that preserves the nuances and quality of chocolate-making that has been threatened so many times by chocolate-making on an industrial scale. It is the decision of every consumer to become part of the problem or part of the solution. I choose the latter, and hope that one day companies will have no choice but to enact real changes that lead to not only to a healthier, higher quality product, but to economic freedom for all segments of this billion dollar industry.

Footnote for Maggie: Regarding the chocolate meme as a social networking tool: it is cited below as per the wikimedia image guidelines, which indicate they hold true whether or not I alter the image (which I did, with the text overlay). Also, I’m still not able to add any new tags, so I cannot add the most appropriate tags to this post.

Works Cited:

aaas119e43. Private Correspondence with chocolate company, “Inquiry and response regarding origin of company’s beans”. Email. 17 Apr. 2015.

aaas119e43. Chocolate Survey. Survey Monkey. 7 May 2015. Web.

Anti-Slavery International. Website. 11 May 2015. http://www.antislavery.org/

Barrientos, Stephanie. “Women in cocoa production: where is the gender equity?” The Guardian. 8 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 May 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/women-cocoa-production-gender-equity

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

Diermeier, Daniel. “When Do Company Boycotts Work?” Harvard Business Review. 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 May 2015. https://hbr.org/2012/08/when-do-company-boycotts-work

Fair Trade USA. Website. 11 May 2015. http://fairtradeusa.org/

Gasko, Colin. Q&A, Rogue Chocolatier. Harvard Extension School. Cambridge, MA. 6 May 2015. Classroom interview.

International Labor Rights Forum. Website. 11 May 2015. http://www.laborrights.org/

Johnson, M. Alex. “McDonald’s drops use of gooey ammonia-based ‘pink slime’ in hamburger meat.” NBC News. 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 13 May 2015. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/01/31/10282876-mcdonalds-drops-use-of-gooey-ammonia-based-pink-slime-in-hamburger-meat

Kurkdjian, O. & Co. NV (Fotostudio), photographer unknown. “Harvesting Cacao,” 1890-1917. Tropenmuseum. Wikimedia.org. Web. 12 May 2015. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACOLLECTIE_TROPENMUSEUM_Het_oogsten_van_cacao_TMnr_60022625.jpg

Leissle, Kristy, Lauren and Bob Ridgely. “Bean to Bar, a film about Artisan Chocolate.” Online Video. 2013. Indieflix.com. 10 May 2015. https://indieflix.com/indie-films/bean-to-bar-a-film-about-artisan-chocolate-36641/

Levitin, Daniel J. “Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain.” The New York Times. 9 Aug. 2014. 12 May 2015. Web. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/opinion/sunday/hit-the-reset-button-in-your-brain.html

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. “Rogue Chocolatier.” Online Video. 7 May 2015. http://www.marthastewart.com/250124/martha-tours-rogue-chocolatier-minneapolis#250124

Martin, Carla. “AAAS E-119 Lecture 8: Modern Day Slavery.” Google Slides, iSite, Slide 17. 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 11 May 2015.

Mikell, Gwendolyn. Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana. New York: Paragon House, 1989. Print.

Nolan, Markham, Dusan Sekulovic, and Sara Rao. “The Fair Trade Shell Game.” Vocativ. 20 Dec. 2013. Web. 11 May 2015. http://www.vocativ.com/video/money/business/fair-trade-shell-game/

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

Samba Sylla, Ndongo. “Fairtrade is an unjust movement that serves the rich.” The Guardian. 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 May 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/sep/05/fairtrade-unjust-movement-serves-rich

Unknown Photographer. Chocolate. Wikimedia. 5 May 2015. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate02.jpg#file