From frothy Mesoamerican ceremonial beverage to widespread currency system to sugary candy bars consumed by millions daily, chocolate has taken many forms since its discovery thousands of years ago. Its current uses and perception by Western society have been largely influenced by the first Europeans to encounter chocolate in the late 16th century. The use of chocolate as a medicinal and luxury item by the early Europeans is largely the reason why chocolate is still viewed as an insubstantial food item linked with holidays and romance in Western society today.
Europeans were first introduced to cacao sometime in the decade following Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World, and began paying attention to it after noticing how highly the native Mesoamericans regarded the beans. Explorer Ferdinand Columbus says of the Mayans, “They seemed to hold those almonds [cacao beans] at a great price; for when they were brought on board ship with their goods, I observed that whenever any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen” (Coe 109). Explorer Hernán Cortez planted a vast plantation of twenty thousand cacao trees, recognizing their value as currency (Presilla 23-24). The colonizing Spanish who settled in the New World first scoffed at the odd, bitter-tasting beverage that the natives held so dear, but soon grew fonder of the substance. They altered the traditional Mesoamerican recipe of cold, frothy chocolate powder mixed with water and spices by adding sugar and drinking it hot rather than cold (Coe 114-115). This Europeanized form of the beverage was introduced to the Spanish court, where it became a fashionable drink among nobility. Due to cacao’s exoticness and to the high labor intensity required to prepare the cacao for consumption, chocolate remained a beverage for the upper classes only. Intricate porcelain teacups and saucers were specifically designed for the consumption of chocolate so that ladies of the Spanish court would be able to drink the beverage without spilling on themselves (Coe 131). A new cooking utensil, the molinillo, was invented for the sole purpose of frothing chocolate beverages, and special chocolate pots were crafted (Presilla 26). An aura of luxury and exclusivity was built up around the consumption of chocolate among the first Europeans to experience it (Presilla 25). This exclusivity was in stark contrast to chocolate consumption among several Mesoamerican cultures that came before them, or to the South Americans of the same time period, who often mixed chocolate with ground maize, water, and spices, and drank it as a nutrient-providing meal (Presilla 28-30). The Europeans largely ignored this use of chocolate and regarded it only as a sweet treat. Thus, when chocolate was finally introduced to the European working class, it did not occur to European chocolate companies to serve it as anything other than a sugary beverage.
Since modern Western culture is largely influenced by early Europe, chocolate has continued to be regarded as a dessert and not as something of nutritional value. An example of this is in Dove chocolate advertising.
The inside of the chocolate wrappers contain often contain messages telling consumers to indulge in the delicious chocolate and give themselves a treat, such as in this image. This chocolate wrapper conveys the message to consumers that Dove recognizes the frivolousness of chocolate consumption, but endorses it anyway because it brings joy. Dove does not even try to make chocolate sound healthy, but instead capitalizes on its deliciousness. This current perception of chocolate is very close to and stems from the early European perception of chocolate as a tempting luxury item that should be eaten sparingly.
Chocolate had a second purpose in its early days of discovery by the Europeans. Not only was it viewed as an elite product, but it was also praised for its medicinal properties. The Spanish colonists noticed the stimulant properties of chocolate and believed it to be an aphrodisiac (Coe 29). The Spanish physician Francisco Hernandez was sent to the New World by the Spanish king Phillip II to study undiscovered plants in Mesoamerica and document them. He classified chocolate according to the traditional Galenic medicinal method and called it “cold and dry,” thus making chocolate suitable for treating illnesses such as fevers, stomachaches, dysentery, and constipation (Dillinger et al). The medicinal properties of chocolate were touted across Europe, and in the 16th and 17th centuries, “medical complaints treated with chocolate/cacao have included anemia, poor appetite, mental fatigue, poor breast milk production, consumption/ tuberculosis, fever, gout, kidney stones, reduced longevity and poor sexual appetite/ low virility” (Dillinger et al). As such, chocolate was carefully consumed in small quantities; one seventeenth-century noblewoman remarks, “I observe my chocolate diet, to which I believe I owe my health. I do not use it crazily or without precaution” (Coe 136). Physicians often recommended that chocolate be drunk in small quantities with precaution (Coe 123-172). Chocolate was treated almost like a miracle drug in early Europe.
The early European view that chocolate has medicinal properties has also continued to have influence on Western perception of chocolate. Coe points out that it is fairly common for products to start out as medicinal items and then eventually be used recreationally. The most famous example of this is Coca-Cola, which was initially used medicinally but became a wildly popular beverage (Coe 126). Chocolate underwent a similar transformation. It was believed to be healthy in small doses, as we can see from this 1935 Hershey’s advertisement.
Here, Hershey is telling us that eating chocolate makes one healthy. Although chocolate started to be consumed more for its taste than for its health benefits, the rumor that chocolate was an aphrodisiac stuck around and furthered its recreational usage. This has caused Western society to link certain types of chocolate with romance and sex. Valentine’s Day and wedding anniversaries are often celebrated with a box of chocolates. The message that chocolate is sexually stimulating still makes its way into our advertising. For example, the advertisement below for Aero chocolate features an attractive half-dressed man who talks about chocolate in terms of sexual puns, such as when he remarks, “And that, ladies, makes the pleasure even more intense.”
Another advertisement for 1848 chocolate features a woman closing her eyes and making excited noises interspersed with footage of cacao being processed into chocolate.
In both advertisements, the companies are pushing the idea that eating chocolate is linked with sexual arousal and that making chocolate can make one sexier. Clearly, chocolate and sex are still linked in popular culture, and this stems from early European optimism that chocolate was a medicine and aphrodisiac.
In conclusion, chocolate has had many roles in many different cultures, but its current usage in Western society is largely influenced by early European chocolate customs. These customs will continue to influence Western chocolate consumption for years to come.
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson.
Digital Image. More of the Chocolate, Less of the Sexuality. Accessed March 10, 2017. https://chocolateclass.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/dove-wrapper.jpg.
Dillinger, Teresa L., Patricia Barriga, Sylvia Escarcega, Martha Jimenez, Diana Salazar Lowe, and Louis E. Grivetti. “Food of the gods: cure for humanity? A cultural history of the medicinal and ritual use of chocolate.” Journal of Nutrition 130, no. 8 (August 2000): 057S-2072S. Accessed March 10, 2017. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/8/2057S.long.
Hershey Company. Digital Image. The History of Hershey Advertising. Accessed March 10, 2017. http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-488-488-90/17/1721/HP13D00Z/posters/hershey-s-syrup.jpg.
Kmclan80. “Jason Lewis Looking HOT in new Aero Bubbles ad”. Filmed [April 2007]. YouTube video, 00:31. Posted [April 2007]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Brz8jjXuKyg.
Chocolate at the Disneyland Resort is found in nearly every retail and food location in and around the resort with it primarily being portrayed with the same innocence surrounding the founding of Disneyland and its characters (Marciodisney, 2011): yet the marketing of the chocolate that primarily uses Disney characters and images to sell its products while delightful is tainted because a theme of secrecy, sex, and exclusivity exist in and around the resort where chocolate is concerned.
Chocolate and products that contain chocolate surround most of us in our daily lives as consumers (Allen, 2010). As I contemplated what to write about in my final post on chocolate for this class I could not think of another place that I desired to explore how chocolate is used, influences, and motivates behavior than at the Disneyland Resort, a place that holds a special place in my heart. In order to fully explore the relationship between chocolate and Disneyland I traveled to California and spent two days “researching” how chocolate is used, where Disney sources the chocolate they use, and the role that marketing plays in the production and sale of chocolate at Disneyland. What I found was that chocolate, like many other foods and products at the Disneyland Resort is influenced by many factors both positive and negative. Several of the factors used to motivate and guide consumer behavior to purchase chocolate in Disneyland are enjoyment, food, and it is an outlet for consumers to entertain themselves, however it appears that some of the motivation is driven under the often subtle guise of providing a source of supplemental income for the resort at the cost of violations of morals and stereotypes that fuel and drive consumer behavior.
History of Products in Disneyland
Nestled in Anaheim California, Disneyland is advertised as the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland, 2014), but is more than a tourist destination, it is a beacon American capitalism generating more than 3 million dollars per day in revenue (Disneyland Resort Public Affairs, 2012). When Disneyland opened in 1955 Walt Disney proclaimed that “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America” (Disneydreamer, n.d.), with no hard facts more true that those of capitalism and marketing. Since the beginning Disneyland has incorporated products and businesses into its operational structure to offset costs and guide consumer behavior, a strategy that is still used today as evidenced through my exploration of how chocolate is used and sold in the park and how the success of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop
Image Source, personal photo, May 7, 2016
continues the trend of outsourcing products and brands for profit. In addition to bringing in the popular chocolate brand Ghirardelli to the resort (Disneyland Resort Public Affairs, 2012), Disneyland sells several products that capitalize on the characters and animations that they have developed and created often using these in seductive and sexually enticing ways, ways that are often copied by other companies as they attempt to capitalize on the success of Disneyland (Coe & Coe, 2013).
Exploring the Chocolate Selection at the Disneyland Resort
Throughout the Disneyland Resort several shops sell a variety of chocolate items that are both prepackaged and “made” at the resort. The items that are available include chocolate bars, prepackaged chocolate items such as nuts and non-perils, items hand created out of chocolate including dipped apples, a variety of desserts at restaurants, and other chocolate items where chocolate is used not as a main ingredient but as a decorative and supplemental additive such as when it is drizzled on fruit and used as a tool to write a message on a plate. Several products are available throughout the resort and most of the stores that sell them all have similar if not an identical selection available no matter where I shopped for chocolate.
As I was shopping throughout the resort for chocolate I noticed a striking similarity, in addition to all of the products being similar and identical in every store all of them, including the products sold exclusively at the Ghirardelli Soda and Chocolate Shop, shared the common characteristic of not being sourced as to where the chocolate originated. Additionally, the packaging on both the prepackaged and in-house packaged chocolate items (see figure 1)
Figure 1, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
made no representation as to where the chocolate originated nor where it was processed aside from where the final product was made (see figure 2).
Figure 2, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Even upon further investigation and asking employees where the chocolate originated I was left unfulfilled in my quest to find out the source of the chocolate that the use in their products. At one register I inquired if the cashier knew where the chocolate came from and she stated that it “came from the chefs in the back” of which I asked her where the chefs get it and she said it was all made at the resort (A. Cast member, personal communication, May 7, 2016), something that I knew was not accurate because I believe that they would advertise if Disneyland was a bean to bar operation, therefore I believe that they are operating a type of chocolatier making and selling items originally and repackaged.
Disney cast members making chocolate items, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
Exploring the Originally Produced Items
A large variety of items are offered for sale throughout the resort that are produced by hand and not mass produced. Many of these items are quite unique and include a variety of chocolate covered apples, various items dipped in chocolate including nuts, peanut butter, fruit, marshmallows, and candy (see figure 3 & 4).
Various items available for sale in Disneyland, Figures 3 & 4, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
While these items were unique and quite tasty with a desirable aroma, good color, and a flavor characterization that merged into one another in a seamless manner (Presilla, 2009) based on empirical observations conducted using several taste samples, all of the chocolate products shared similar characteristics. The similarities that existed centered around three common themes, the first was chocolate items that represented Disney cartoon characters and other fictional characters such as Darth Vader and Tigger (see figure 5 & 6).
Figures 5 & 6, source personal photos, May 7, 2016
The second theme was several products were created to represent and celebrate the 60th anniversary celebration that is underway at the Disneyland Resort (see figure 7).
Figure 7, source personal photo, May 6, 2016
The third theme that was observed throughout my shopping adventures was that traditional items that are not associated with any Disney specific character or event itself were also available for purchase. In addition to the in-house made chocolate items available for sale several already packaged items were offered for sale as well that included chocolate bars, nuts, and other items all packaged and sold as products that depicted either a Disney character or promoted the Disneyland Resort itself (see figure 8)
Figure 8, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Exploring the Prepackaged Items
The prepackaged items that were available for sale fell into two categories, those that were formal and directed toward any audience and those that attempted to use humor by portraying Disney characters or Disney quotes in an attempt to grab the consumers interest and motivate them to buy. Within the products that attempted to use humor some were funny, some were silly, and some were offensive and portrayed women in sexual ways that I thought were inappropriate. Some examples of the items that I found to be funny was a chocolate bar that portrayed Mickey Mouse as Sorcerer Mickey with the title “And now I will make this chocolate disappear”(see figure 10). A chocolate item that I thought was silly was a milk chocolate caramel item that was titled “Mood Chocolate” and stated “If you’re feeling Grumpy, it can make you Happy. But don’t be Dopey and eat too much… or you’ll have to see the Doc!” using a portrayal of the Dwarfs from Snow White (see figure 9)
Figures 9 & 10, source personal photos, May 7, 2016
The chocolate bar that I was offended by featured a picture of Jessica Rabbit from Roger Rabbit wearing a low cut dress and showing a great deal of her animated breasts with the caption “I’m not bad I’m just drawn to chocolate” (see figure 11).
This chocolate item in particular is one that Disney is crossing the barrier from cute to sexism because they are using sex to sell chocolate. Despite the overarching theme of innocence in most Disney characters, having this chocolate bar puts Disney into the same category as many other chocolate manufacturers who use sex and sexual innuendo to sell products by reinforcing the dominate ideologies that classify women as sexual objects (Robertson, 2009). While the marketing is at times distasteful and offensive one cannot argue its success with the lines at the chocolate shops often stretching a dozen or more people at any given time of the day or night which not only promotes marketing of this type it reinforces it as well financially.
In addition to the creative and sometimes distasteful marketing that exists surrounding the chocolate for sale at the Disneyland Resort many other concerns exist regarding the price point of the products for sale. Because the Disneyland Resort only sells their own chocolate with the exception of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop they are free to set whatever price point they desire for their products. Because many consumers who visit plan to spend disposable income on food and beverage purchases a market of willing consumers pays for the privilege to buy the chocolate offered for sale with no possibility of free market competition to help regulate the price market demanded for some of their items. Because this situation exists several chocolate items are priced well above traditional pricing normally found for similar items sold outside the gates of the resort. An example of this can be found when looking at the chocolate covered apples available that are priced between $10.99 and $13.99 apiece (see figure 12).
Figure 12 & 13, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
These prices coupled with 16 ounce box of assorted chocolates being sold for over $23 and a variety of items at Ghirardelli offered for sale over $30 makes buying chocolate at the Disneyland Resort a potentially pricey scenario, all for chocolate that is not sourced, described, or explained outside of its affiliation with the Disney marketing on the packages and the availability to only purchase many of the items inside of the Disneyland Resort after admission is paid which varies but averages $100 per person per day (Disneyland, 2016).
Summary of Chocolate at the Disneyland Resort
During my two-day chocolate consuming adventure, I learned several things including the chocolate at Disneyland is geared toward an American pallet using a formula and process that is very similar to chocolate commonly found produced by mass American chocolate companies (Coe & Coe, 2013). The second thing I learned was that despite the commonality of the chocolate, where the source is kept secretly hidden and the “nothing unique” thoughts I had about its taste, I loved the presentation and the creativity that is put into the manufacturing of the items. Disney does a great job of having their employees visible to the general public as they are producing and packaging many of the chocolate items that they sell. As a consumer I found this to be delightful because I could see for myself how many of the items I purchased were being made. This added a great deal to the experience and motivated me to spend even more of purchasing items to see what they tasted like as I had just seen them being made and was curious.
Aside from the unique items produced in-house at the Disneyland Resort I found many of the prepackaged items to have a similar taste as the in-house made items despite them being produced in a factory. Overall the quality of these items was good and the only drawback that would dissuade me from purchasing more of these items would be the price. In addition to the items available for purchase in the store the restaurant original items that were themed and created were wonderful and would be a motivation for me to return to the park again with friends because the flavors that Disney used created a chocolate taste that mixed fruit, nuts, and cake to make unique flavor combinations that would be perfect to share as a way to bond and come together as we consume items that perhaps may not be the best for us nutritionally but would fill social needs (Mintz, 1985). Even though the price was high for most items, the marketing was somewhat offensive on one item, and the variety between and among brands was lacking I would still recommend sampling items available at the Disneyland Resort because it is one of the most unique chocolate adventures and tastings one will ever have.
Source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Allen, L. L. (2010). Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers. New York: American Management Association.
Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.
The competition in the chocolate industry isn’t as linear as it used to be with only the ‘big boys’: Cadbury, Nestle, Ferrero, Mars and Hershey, sharing territory and profits. This age has seen the introduction of a more diverse group of craft bean-to bar-chocolate makers. There is a niche in the market for this small group but first, they are tasked with prying away the ‘cradle to the grave’ brand loyalists from the big five. One apparent way that has evidenced itself in the way these competing David’s against the Goliath’s of the chocolate industry has shown itself, is through careful and innovative packaging. Bearing that in mind, this paper will look at various ways packaging influences consumerism and how it has made a former monopoly into a battle ground for the most creative minds.
Arguably, these companies do not have the disposable budget that is privileged to the big chocolate companies with regards to advertising. Therefore, they resort to a more packaging focused marketing tactic which is a cheaper and effective method that has a targeted and far reaching aspect to it. Specifically, packaging has three unique aspects of it that can influence consumerism and increase sales. 1) Packaging can be used to target impulse buyers not only by using promotional cues but most specifically, visual cues- students are found to be highly influenced by visuals. 2) Packaging is cheap and effective and when done correctly, allows the product to sell itself without much intervention. 3) Packaging can also be used as a tool for social and cultural consciousness. With the rise in interest of bridging gaps culturally in the face of increased globalization, chocolate packaging can be used as a tool to promote these ideals and garner patrons via shared ideologies.
The big chocolate companies over the last couple of years have kept packaging changes to a bare minimum because they have created a bond with their consumers where it is easy to spot a Snicker bar or M&M’s package from a mile away. These companies have relied on the ability of the consumer to recognize their package and help in sustaining sales. This is not so with the growing contenders in the chocolate industry. They do not have the recognizable packaging that these companies have established over the years. In order to break this boundary bean-to-bar chocolate makers have paid specific attention to packaging to target impulse buyers.
The moment one walks into a store, there is a small window of time for purchases that are on one’s list but majority of other purchases are impulse based buying. “81% of in store purchases are due to impulse buying, with a vast majority of these purchases being the design that catches the consumer’s eye” (Saka 2011). Within this small period of time and amidst a plethora of competition, these small chocolate companies are provided the opportunity to draw the attention of an impulse buyer or even a brand loyalist based on an elaborate packaging that peeks the interest of the consumer. The function of packaging design “has now transitioned into a primary tool used by organizations to make its presence felt in a crowd and sell products at point of purchase” (Saka 2011). Tying into the four P’s of marketing, packaging has now been contended as the fifth P, “Because it has now become an integral element of the modern lifestyle and the branding process” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).
The power of packaging based marketing with regards to product placement has garnered a momentum that cannot be denied, not only in the chocolate industry but across the board. It is so essential in the chocolate industry however because chocolate is such a high impulse purchase. Majority of consumers usually do not go into food stores with chocolate on their ‘To purchase’ list, it is something that we generally are persuaded to buy. A scientific study done to show the influence of packaging cues, found that students were greatly influenced in purchasing chocolate based on visual cues alone (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). This find is not surprising because the major consumers of chocolate are the younger generation as opposed to the older ones. This generation is also easily influenced to abandon brand loyalty for whatever happens to be ‘trending’ at the moment. The attention of the younger chocolate consumers can easily be persuaded by strategically placed cues.
There are various aspects of visual cues but the strongest draw to the subconscious is color and shape. “Color is the most important tool for emotional expression of a package because it reflects an image for the product” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). According to Jenn David Connolly, Color in food packaging is so important because it leverages our emotional connection to taste (Connolly 2013). To expound on this, she expresses what several colors denote in food packaging with Red and Yellow taking the chief lead in fast food industry packaging. Orange is said to be an appetizing color, white connotes clean and pure, brown and earth tones symbolize warm, appetizing, wholesome and natural, bright colors shows a pop in flavors and subdued-muted colors are for rich and deep complex flavors (Connolly 2013). Often times several colors can also influence our tastes, for instance, orange is usually associated with citrus, off white with vanilla and red with strawberry, this association of color with taste, ties into the “associational aspect of color” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).
Shape is another visual cue that also influences the mind. “The shape of a package is normally the first thing a consumer notices in a store, an old fashioned shape of a package could suggest reliability and maturity to the consumer” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). The L.A Burdick chocolate package shape and color was so influential in persuading me to purchase my first chocolate bar from the chocolatier and I have since returned weekly ever since. There was something trusting in the brown, earthy envelope like package that assured me that this was a brand I could trust and the chocolate would be equally as sophisticated. The stamp visible in the front of the package had a personal feel as if the chocolate bar was specifically made for me.
In the situation of an impulsive buy, the intention to purchase is determined by what is communicated at the point of purchase, the package is a critical factor in the decision making process because it influences purchase decisions (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). The shape of a chocolate bar can also influence the way it tastes as Cadbury would rudely discover when it attempted to change “the rectangular chunks to carved segments” (Miller 2015), the company received a huge backlash of protest for their efforts. Packaging is a cheap and powerful method of marketing that is slowly changing what chocolate brands consumers patronize, “because it makes a difference in our subconscious mind in what gets noticed and eventually purchased” (smartmarketing n.d.).
The power behind successful packaging lies in its ability to allow the product sell itself. It has an extrinsic value to it because the information on the package is taken into account when deciding whether to purchase or not (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). Packaging allows bean-to bar companies to cut their costs and get their brands out into the market without resorting to advertising. In certain ways, advertising can be limiting because it requires the perfect time slot or location for a billboard or a particular commercial to air on television. A good package is not burdened with these limitations, it has a “wider reach and has strong potential to engage majority of the target market. For a package to be effective it does however need to meet a few requirements. The package needs to be “attractive, informative and also identify with the product; it also needs to continuously communicate the product’s real benefits and create awareness to ensure image and brand preference” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).
Packaging is more influential than advertising because it clearly stimulates emotions in the consumer that advertising is not able to pull out. In purchasing decisions, the ability to see, feel and touch easily outshines the strategically filmed commercial any day. The human mind is exceptionally influenced when majority of the senses can be used to influence decisions. Packaging is no longer perceived as a method for safe and effective way to transport a product, but has now become a “contributing factor to its marketability, a vividly beautiful product, to some extent, develops a positive image about it in the minds of the consumers” (Vartak 2013). During the chocolate tasting in the Chocolate Class that held this semester, I was influenced by the artful way in which the Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate packaging was constructed and it seemed to amplify the taste of the chocolate.
The innovation that goes into packaging that clearly shows itself in the world of bean-to-bar chocolate makers today, is one that is clearly missing in the big chocolate companies; this ability to influence has however not gone unnoticed by them. As of recent, Godiva has changed its packaging and has started marketing ‘specialty’ brands clearly aimed at consumers that are influenced by package based marketing
With the ever growing list of brands in the chocolate industry, loyalty for brand choice is fast becoming a dying era. Consumers are now resorting to more of an impulse buying and are eager to try new products prompting companies to spend more time on packaging based research to add value to their product via means of innovative packaging (Vartak 2013). With the aspect of packaging that leans on brand loyalty based on recognition, it is pertinent to small bean-to-bar chocolate owners to invest in this method of marketing to influence product sales. Not only does the package need to be attractive, it must also be recognizable in order to compete in a fast widening industry.
Gone are the days that consumers are ignorant about the source of their cacao that is sourced to make their chocolate. With increased awareness that has stemmed from globalization, people are more savvy with these issues and in the face of a pressing need to bridge social and cultural gaps, packaging is used to create an awareness in ways that it never did before. For certain bean-to bar chocolate makers, this is an opportunity that they have already tapped into. The Divine chocolate advertising ploy of featuring women cocoa farmers in their chocolate packaging was a brilliant way to initiate conversation about the binary that has plagued Africa from time immemorial. “In their depiction of women cocoa farmers as glamorous business owners, the images provide a fresh visual re-framing of goods and capital between Africa and Europe and a contrast to postcolonial literature on state capital formations in Africa” (Leissle 2012). In this evocative marketing strategy, it additionally attempts to bridge the cultural gap between Africa as this ‘other’ and the Western world as the ‘isolationist’ that has made it so.
Using the women farmers as models was also an effective way of injecting women into the conversation of cacao farming in a way that previously has not been a conversation point. It invites viewers to see women as potent actors in the world of cacao sourcing and chocolate making in addition to being beneficiaries of these same exchanges (Leissle 2012). Another chocolate maker that has followed a similar part is Camino chocolate, “the word Camino stands for “path”, the chocolate packaging futures an intricate design of quirky-named streets with illustrations reflecting the happy, vibrant and sustainable communities’ that Camino supports through its fair trade practices”(Canadian Packaging Staff 2011).
Camino chocolate has tapped into packaging as a way to create social awareness of cacao sourcing and the communities that are sustained by this arrangement, thereby aptly informing chocolate consumers with regards to the origins of cacao used to produce their chocolate.
Through the use of innovative packaging, bean-to-bar chocolate companies are now able to influence consumers and create brand loyalty with their product. As the chocolate industry continues to evolve, it will be greatly interesting to see how the ‘big boys’ of chocolate push back against this marketing tactic. It is no longer enough to ply consumers with advertisements, people are becoming a lot more informed about the products they choose to consume and packaging is used as an influential tool in a way advertising is simply unable to do. As more bean-to- bar companies emerge, there will also be a rise in competition between these companies and at that time, perhaps the influence of packaging will need to be re-valuated and perhaps tweaked in other ways. For now, it is clear that the ‘big five’ have competition knocking on their doorstep and it would be ill advised to ignore it. Packaging is the next big thing and it has already arrived for many.
Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisments.” Journal of African Cultural Studies (Routledge) (24:2): 121-139. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194.
Chocolate has fallen from its archaic divinity; as industrial chocolate manufactures, such as Hershey, Ghirardelli, Cadbury, Mars, L.A. Burdick and the multitudes of other small and large confectionary manufactures have strategically subverted religion and evaded the creation of a static definition of what can be classified as health food (Off, 2008). This has been done on a global scale (Allen, 2010). Yet, for all of the exploitation of natural and human labor resources in the mad capitalist race to net exponentially larger profits, methods of chocolate consumption have changed. Chocolate has invaded every home in America and continues to spread into even the most remote regions of the world were chocolate is merely grown as a exported market good (and the farmers have never tasted the finished product) (Leissle, 2012) (Martin 2016) (Stuckey, 2012). Modern chocolate consumption has continuously increased and transformed from a relished delicacy into an addiction, one that has fostered a cultic fanaticism in its omnipresence in American culture (Martin, 2016). Chocolate addiction has been fostered by dynamic consumption practices, various health benefits, ideals of beauty, sexualization of female chocolate consumption, and the reframing of sales advertisements to secularize and/or create holidays revolving around chocolate consumption (Leissle, 2012) (Howe, 2012) (Robertson, 2009) (Martin, 2016). Addiction is an all encompassing cultural mindset which has gone further in the continued liminal state of chocolate’s meaning to contemporary American society (Benton, 2004) (Robertson, 2009). Average American households often are not aware that their chocolate consumption is irrevocably linked to the various external methods of ideological implantation of chocolate as a religious iconographic good. A brief ethnographic analysis of an average New England household, comprising of my future in-laws, engenders a radical deviation from chocolate as a coveted, addictive necessity and furthers chocolate’s ideological transformation by coming full circle to again reify chocolate’s worship as a physical manifestation of divinity.
Cacao, or Kakawa, is a substance similar to maize, corn, in its purveyance in Mesoamerican culture and religious iconography (Coe & Coe, 2013). Cacao is also shown in Mayan iconography to have been conflated with the Maize god, this has rendered archaeological interpretations of cacao as the food of the gods (Coe & Coe, 2013). Ancient associations of cacao with the food of divinity has not been lost in modern methods of advertisement (Leissle, 2012). Even analyses of chocolate advertisements can be interpreted to illustrate that chocolate and divinity are intrinsically linked. Capitalism has not so subtlety transformed and secularized religious holidays by constructing the consumption of chocolate as a ritualized activity, in which participants (consumers) will be glorified and feel euphoria through acts the giving and receiving chocolates (Martin, 2016) (Robertson, 2009). Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and even the forty days of Lent have all become associated with chocolate consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). Lent is the most indicative of chocolate’s association with divinity, through its construction as a vice (particularly for women) which should be avoided so as to liken oneself to the divinity of Christ’s fast and then temptation by Lucifer in the desert. My fiancée’s (F) family is traditionally Irish-Catholic, like much of the greater Boston area, and has their roots firmly set in the nomenclature of religious etiquette. However, like many religious followers, they merely retain a religiously linked ethnic identity. This is not to say that they do not follow a set of religious rituals that underpin their daily lives, but the god (chocolate) to which they devote both cognitive and subconscious worship, is revealed through the family’s vocalization and ritualization of chocolate consumption. Through almost a year of total emersion into their household I have observed both passively and actively their emphasis on the importance of ritual chocolate consumption. By cooking, and baking, with the father (FD); observing F’s sister’s food habits (FS); and through consensual approval to inquire about their chocolate habits during informally structured interviews, I have captured a snapshot of the ethnographic phenomenon by which chocolate has been re-deified.
Anonymity Disclaimer: all proper names are changed to protect anonymity and personal privacy.
The demographic biological sex ratio in my fiancée’s family, including myself, is three females to two males. I entered their household in June 2015, as it was the most convenient way to save up money for our wedding and attend school. My fiancée and her sister both have severe cases of mental illnesses, and have self-proclaimed themselves vegetarians, which has inhibited their ability to consume a wide variety of food products. Prior to my debut, F’s family cooked for and brought FS any food that FS desired, while FS was unable to leave her bedroom due to severe agoraphobia. During this period and into the first several months of living with the F-in-laws, the father (FD) and mother (FM) brought FS mass quantities of sweets (per her request)- the vast majority of which contained chocolate in some form. These sweets were then incorporated into FS’s daily diet through both home cooked treats and purchased delicacies. So pervasive was chocolate into the kitchen and pantry, I could not open the refrigerator without stumbling upon 8 out of 10 items containing chocolate. Even F considered pancakes unsatisfying is they did not contain chocolate chips, accompanied by chocolate milk, and chocolate croissants, from FD’s crafting or purchased from the local French bakery. Upon my alien perspective into this near total emersion of chocolate into every aspect of nutrition, as I prefer recipe purity without the forced inclusion of chocolate, F’s mother (FM) made it quite clear that the extant to which chocolate was considered medicinal. Even long-standing family recipes, such as their grandmother’s scone recipe, that originally contained fruit changed to substitute chocolate chips; this was celebrated not only by F’s immediate family but the extended relatives as well. F, FD, and FM prefer dark chocolate; FS prefers milk chocolate. Methods of dietary consumption are among the easiest to witness, but also the amount to which F’s family purchases or crafts feminine hygiene products known to contain cocoa butter, and the amount of objects, utensils, and other paraphernalia used in the consumption, production, promotion, or distribution of chocolate.
Saying that their mass consumption of all things chocolate is a product of the historical engendering of chocolate as healthy for dietary consumption limits the extent to which FM’s concept of medicinal use resonates with the subjectivity of healthy consumption (Albritton, 2012) (Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FS suffered tremendous weight gain from overconsumption of carbohydrates and sugars (Albritton, 2012), most in the form of chocolate pastries and confections, but FM continued to supply these “medicinal” chocolates. In accordance with popular conceptions of the medicinal use of chocolate, it historically has been linked to a healthy state of mind and postulated to aid the treatment of mental illnesses such as “hypochondriac melancholy“(Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FM’s utilization of chocolate as a medical ritual to expedite the healing of FS’s mental faculties echoes: the Mesoamerican use of cacao as a restorative of the deities, the early European adoption of cacao as a similar but secularized restorative devoid of divine embodiment, and contemporary literature on chocolate’s ability to illicit pleasure responses from the brain. Contemporary concepts of chocolate’s medicinal use illuminate the chocolate industry’s persistent norms of advertisement and the increase of processed sugar consumption and sugar additives into nearly all forms of processed foodstuffs. Yet FM’s use goes beyond these analyses and parallels the sentiments that “‘chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea, and universal medicine'” (Coe & Coe, 2013: 206). While FM’s use may be a product of the historical connections of chocolate and sugar with pleasure and medicine, through the incorporation of chocolate into the entirety of the family’s diet, chocolate has been ritualized and elevated beyond the simple medicinal binary to that of a religious deity, with whom daily worship will foster inner-peace, health, and happiness in its followers. FM’s deification of chocolate retains striking parallels to the Christian description of a personal daily relationship with God, as advertised by the Bible.
F’s family’s ritual utilization of chocolate’s medicinal benefits are the product of historical polemics concerning the increase of sugar consumption, the socio-economic shift of chocolate from Mesoamerican stable to European luxury to plebian stable, and subliminally engendering advertisements (Coe & Coe, 2013). Sugar has been directly linked to diabetes, obesity, and increasing addictive behaviors, akin to drug addiction, through it’s association with pleasurable reinforcement as a reward (Benton, 2004)(Mintz, 1985). The historical shift in utilizing sugar as a preservative (Goody, 2013) directly led to the chocolate industry’s use of sugar as a stabilizing agent which also happened to increase sweetness aka. desirability, and thus “unintentionally” producing a method of engendering consumer addiction for chocolates at a early stage of industrialization (Brenner, 1999) (D’Antonio, 2006: 107) (Mintz, 1985). By keeping in context the link between sugar and addiction, the increase of sugar in chocolate opened new possibilities of advertising. Not only was chocolate now sweet, it also had been historically constructed as medicinal; it could now be produced in vast quantities previously unavailable until the industrial revolution (Brenner, 1999) (Coe & Coe, 2013). Chocolate could now be produced cheaply, containing adulterated products and sweeteners, masking the purity of the roasted cacao bean’s savory nature, and enabled new advertising strategies, informed by chocolate’s newly found socio-economic versatility (Stuckey, 2012) (Allen, 2010). These advertising campaigns have been able to pander to chocolate’s versatility in its ability to render multiple positive responses from consumers. F’s family utilization of chocolate as a restorative “cure-all” is the product of sugar’s addictive qualities, but their daily, weekly, monthly consumption of chocolate as a dietary necessity (only in the manner to which it produces a mental release of endorphins via the sugar and the Pavlovian association of chocolate with sugar) goes beyond this sweet binary to echo the mental and physical rejuvenation that religious ritual produces (Benton, 2004).
Mars’ Snickers campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry, Snickers Satisfies” illustrates the multi-faceted approach that the Mars company takes in its marketing (Brenner, 1999). Mars’ advertisements embody the concept of satisfaction through one of it’s original marketing strategies to simply make a larger candy bar cost the same as the competition’s small one, through the incorporation of peanuts, caramel, and nougat (the primary ingredient of two of these is sugar)(Brenner, 1999). The campaign simultaneously engenders the concept that the Snickers’ bar will satisfy the physical manifestation of hunger and that the consumption of the candy will elevate the psyche back to normalcy (Benton, 2004). This engenders the ritualization of chocolate consumption as a divine facilitator of both inner (mental) and outer (physical hunger) peace; thus similarly paralleling the act of taking communion at Catholic Mass, this advertisement reifies a foodstuff to miraculously facilitate the divine restoration of the mortal self. F’s family reflects this theological embodiment of chocolate consumption as a canonized ritual, yet this advertisement does not alone explain why the three women are so captivated by chocolate’s allure.
Hershey’s Dove chocolate campaign (above) has a clear agenda engendering a gender stereotype of women being the primary consumers of chocolate (Robertson, 2009). F’s family represents this as the three women (F, FS, and FM) are the primary consumers of chocolate, while FD is the primary facilitator of consumption through his production of meals and snacks that prominently incorporate chocolate. This stereotype of women as chocoholics is rooted in historical contexts and has long been debunked as an “[addiction not] to chocolate but to sugar” (Robertson, 2009) (Coe & Coe, 2013: 260) (Benton, 2004). However, no matter the scientific or psychological realities of sugar addicts (Benton, 2004), this advertisement embodies chocolate’s reconstructed relationship with divinity by directly linking the consumption of Dove chocolate with the Mesoamerican concept of deification of oneself through the consumption of divine foodstuffs: particularly in their artistic conflation of the Maize god with cacao trees (Coe & Coe, 2013: 39), and through Mayan recipes mixing maize and cacao (Tokovinine, 2015). The Maya considered all objects to be of divine embodiment (Tokovinine, 2015), particularly those containing maize, which they believed was the physical embodiment of their physical selves as they were created from sacred Maize, stated in their sacred origin text the Popul Vuh, and were also divinely given the sacred crops of maize and cacao for consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). By conflating the Maize god with a cacao pod the Mayans set a ritual precedent for the divine consumption of chocolate as enabling humanity to transcend into a divine state of epiphany. The Dove advertisement then conflates this ancient cultic practice with the more modern concept of women as the primary consumers of chocolate. Women, constructed in the advertisement as the downtrodden and oppressed gender (Bourdieu, 2001), can escape this existence through consuming chocolate and experiencing their own “moment” or existential epiphany outside of this oppression (Robertson, 2009). F’s family’s near unilaterally gender-stratified consumption of chocolate represents the religious epiphany of transcendental existence, which also reinforces the earlier discourse concerning chocolate as a parallel of Communion. Chocolate consumption now enables modern humanity to embody divinity.
Hershey furthers this gender binary of chocolate consumption through Dove’s “Only Human” advertisement campaign, which in chocolate consumption provides and escape from being female (Benton, 2004). The women are shown to be weak and “Only Human,” but Dove chocolate then provides a “real” comfort from the harsh realities of femininity (Benton, 2004). Going beyond this advertisement’s sexist engenderment, chocolate can now be associated with another of religion’s coveted abilities: the offerance of sanctuary. Chocolate makes the difficulties of human existence tolerable by offering brief sanctuaries, at the ‘moment’ of consumption, meta-physically separated from the human experience. The sanctuary that chocolate provides in these ‘moments’ parallels the sanctuary offered to praticioners of prayer, which provide a ‘moment’ with divinity meant to rejuvenate and make right the pain of a human existence. F’s family’s incorporation of chocolate into nearly all foodstuffs is now clearly representative of ritual prayers for protection from the evils and difficulties of a modern human, explicitly female, existence.
Other modes of ritual chocolate consumption are woven throughout the family’s daily lives: that of hygienic products. It has been well documented that cocoa butter, made from hydraulically pressing cacao liquor (Coe & Coe, 2013: 255), is highly effective in the treatment and prevention of various skin, and hair ailments. Placement of cocoa butter into hygienic products echoes both Baptism and the Catholic ritual of the Anointment of the Sick. Both of these religious rituals engage in a ritual purification of the body and soul. Chocolate can be religiously vindicated through the purification of the human existence, and divinely heal the physical manifestations of the human condition. Dissenters, who would disagree with this statement, are to be reminded of the Christian Science movement, whose belief in the healing power of prayer is thought to heal all physical ailments (thought to be sins’ physical manifestations), and scientific medical treatments are spurred as sinful disregard of God’s will (Norton, 1899). Thus a conflated argument to be made is that the consumption of chocolate is equal to prayer, regardless of the science behind cocoa butter’s ability to remedy topical ailments of the skin and hair. Even through dissent, contemporary chocolate consumption has reified itself as divine through F’s family’s hygienic self anointment with sacred cocoa butter.
Ritual can be identified easily through archaeological interpretation of material culture- that is to say, the artifacts by which rituals are carried out with. Chocolate manufacturing has built megalithic structures dedicated to the continual production of chocolate, such that entire communities sprung into existence to support its cultic fanatical production. Milton Hershey’s factory communes illustrate this quite succinctly (Brenner, 1999)(D’Antonio, 2006). Even the consumption of chocolate has ritual implements, such as: stylized porcline serveware, chocolatière, and the appropriated Mesoamerican molinillo (Martin, 2016). F’s family does not have all such ritual implements as modern technology’s updated versions of the chocolatière and molinillo (serving kettle and whisks), but they do have stylized ceramic ware for the sole consumption of chocolate, indicated by the imprinted logo of L.A. Burdick (a chocolatier company). F’s house has designated chocolate cabinets for the storage of preserved “instant” chocolate beverages, edible chocolates, and hygenic cocoa products; while this cabinet space is shared with similar items for drink, eating, and hygeine, the totality of chocolate’s combination with these other products merely increases the variety by which chocolate’s ritual artifacts are incorporated into daily life.
Chocolate’s transtitional state speaks to the originial liminal state by which the Mayans contextualized their existence around divinity. Chocolate has come full circle in the historical utilizations and perperonderances by which chocolate consumption has been stereotyped, redefined, and ritualized. Through the analysis of F and her family’s cultic ritual habits of chocolate, they are revealed to be the ultimate by-product of a centuries-long polemic that has created a new world religion focused on the ritualized production and consumption, based on an engendered, constructed faith that chocolate is divinely able to elevate the human condition out of the mire of oppression, through psychological and physical restoration of peace, harmony, happiness, and self-satisfaction.
Albritton, R. (2012). Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry. In Food and Culture: A Reader (3rd ed., pp. 342-352). S.l.: Routledge.
Allen, L. L. (2010). China and Chocolate: East Meets West. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 7-39). New York: American Management Association.
Allen, L. L. (2010). Going the Distance: China’s 10L Chocolate Race. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 201-223). New York: American Management Association.
Allen, L. L. (2010). One Country, Three Centuries. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 1-6). New York: American Management Association.
Presilla, M. E. (2009). The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes (Revised ed.). Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter One: ‘A deep physical reason’: Gender, race, and the nation in chocolate consumption. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 18-63). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter Three: ‘There is no operation involved with cocoa that I didn’t do’: Women’s experiences of cocoa farming. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 91-131). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter Two: ‘The Romance of the Cocoa Bean’: Imperial and colonial histories. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 64-90). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
CVS versus Whole Foods Market? Many, to include myself, would say hands down, there is no comparison or competition. Considering the distinctive customer, core values, accessibility of brands, ingredients, and price tags of chocolate displayed in each establishment, Whole Foods stands as bar none (no pun intended). According to Nielsen’s Global consumer study, which conducted a survey on snacking with a poll of 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries to identify what attributes were most important to them–in regards to consumption, confection (led by chocolate) accounted for $20 billion USD in sales (Nielsen 5). Furthermore, in a span of 30 days, 64% of global respondents consumed chocolate (6). Moreover, consumers chose chocolate second to fruit out of 47 snacking options as their favorite (6). Thereby, results concluded that in addition to chocolate being favored by consumers through mass consumption: chocolate is big business.
As one who adores all things Whole Foods, frequenting the store no less than ten times a week, yet also familiar with the convenient trappings of CVS, I tasked myself with curiosity in my search to examine the differences between these consumer giants more critically. In addition to online research of their histories and ethics, I perused the aisles to investigate their chocolate products, price points and distinctive experiences of each visit. Among obvious differences, my findings revealed incongruenciesin the mission and ethics of one giant, and a resolve to the question of why each giant may serve a valid purpose beyond health consciousness.
History and Mission
For centuries chocolate has represented a broad range of symbolisms–including wealth, delicacy, medicinal healing, religious rituals, and pleasure. Over a period of the 16th through 20th century, Europe and New Spain produced 100 medicinal uses for cacao/chocolate, which included treatment of anemia, exhaustion, bowl dysfunction and skin irritations (Dillinger et al. 2057S). Today, we consume chocolate mainly for the purposes of pleasure and indulgence. This pleasure and indulgence is heightened by the allure of marketing and availability of chocolate products produced by manufacturers who have industrialized their brand for affordable global mass consumption and maximized profits. This industrial mass globalization of products were well represented in my visit to CVS, where I found the allure of chocolate advertisements and products to be excessive. In comparison, Whole Foods displayed a much smaller and more refined chocolate section.
Consumer Value Stores (CVS), now CVS Health Corporation, was founded in 1963 by two brothers, and became the first store to sell health and beauty products, later expanding into pharmaceuticals and health management in 1967. CVSs mission statement reads: “Millions of times a day, close to home and across the country, we’re helping people on their path to better health” (CVS Health, Our Story).
With a closing revenue of $41.1 billion USD in 2015, a first quarter revenue of $20.1 billion USD as of March 2016 (Marketwatch), and the recent acquisition of Target’s pharmacies and clinics (CVS Health, History 2010s), CVS stands as the top national retail pharmaceutical company nationwide. Apart from their financial success, ethically I find their choice to sell Hershey, Nestle and Mars chocolate brands–all produced by GMO and child slave labor–where children are forced to pick cocoa beans to be sold to companies, beaten, abused and denied compensation for their work–to be deplorable and incongruent with their mission statement. From this, I can only assume that CVS is either ignorant to the truth that “better health” is not limited to pharmaceutical drugs and healthcare, but include the standards of ingredients of the food we consume. Moreover, “better health” should include and extend to the environmental conditions and treatment of labor workers who are responsible for creating chocolate for retail profit. The alternative possibility is that CVS just doesn’t care about the bean-to-bar process, rather reserving interest in chocolate reaching their shelves and retail portfolio. Overall, I find these possibilities to be the most disparate among these two giants.
In 1980 Whole Foods Market was founded by four local businessmen/women during a time when fewer than six natural food supermarkets existed in the United States. Their goal was to integrate the natural foods industry into a supermarket experience (Whole Foods Market, History). Today, Whole Foods Market closed 2015 with sales of $15 billion USD and reached $3.7 billion USD in sales the first quarter of this year. Their mission statement reads: “[H]ealthy means a whole lot more… [b]eyond good for you, to also encompass the greater good. [W]e offer a place for you to shop where value is inseparable from [our] values.” In line with their mission, they provide a list of unacceptable foods that contradict their values and standards, which they refuse to sell to their consumers.
Unlike CVS, Whole Foods value system is committed to creating health from a whole perspective, to include food consumption. Whole Foods prides the purchase of their chocolate through ethical sources (Whole Foods Market, Why Your Chocolate Choices Matter). In addition to their Organic Standards, which confirm a product has been produced through approved methods and met specific USDA verified requirements prior to labeling (Whole Foods Market, Organic), the foundation of their value system largely exists on Whole Trade. Whole Trade is a program which highlights their commitment to ethical trade, the environment and quality products sourced from developing nations (Whole Foods Market, Whole Trade). Many of the chocolate bars are also certified by Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, and third-party certifier which audits and certifies transactions between domestic companies and their international suppliers, to ensure that farmers and workers are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment and receive community development funds to empower and improve their communities (Whole Foods Market, Fair Trade).
In further alignment with their mission and values, in 2012, Whole Foods ended their relationship with Scharffen Berger Chocolate, a high-end product of Hershey’s, over child labor abuses (International Labor Rights Forum). As Hershey provided no evidence to disprove their use of child labor abuse in producing their product when requested, Scharffen Berger was removed from Whole Foods shelves nationwide. Although this move was considered just and honorable by many, Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, thought it to be contradictory. According to Gearhart, in more than one instance Whole Foods has “turned a blind eye” to the conduct of other suppliers who violate workers’ rights, by refusing to hold them equally accountable as Hershey (International Labor Rights Forum). Although there are arguments and critiques of the fairness involved in Fair trade, one being the exorbitant costs to farmers to attain certification for which they lack resources, I still view Whole Foods choice to partner with organizations and programs that pay attention and care about both the workers that produce the product, and the product ingredients, to be ethically honorable and socially responsible.
In data retrieved from Nielsen’s Global consumer study, respondents reported to care more about the ingredients which create their chocolate and preferring to “stick to the basics” (Nielsen 9). Nature-based ingredients scored 45% (9), but it was the environmentally conscious consumers that counted sustainability and organic among the most important in their snacking [experiences] (9). Based on these results, why do we continue to purchase chocolate from CVS?
Products and Price
In my visit to CVS, I had no challenge locating chocolate. From the registers near the front of the door leading to the aisle, I was surrounded by daunting quantities and advertisements of chocolate. Upon first observation, the magnitude of sale stickers and value buys that were gifted with increased quantities of purchase, were distracting. Noticeably leading in options were the Big Five chocolate competitors: Cadbury, Ferrero, Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle (the “Big Five”). The Big Five were the top five chocolate brand competitors who waged a chocolate war in China during the 1980’s – 90’s, with the purposes of introducing the then new product to Chinese consumers by creating a dominating brand presence. In the end, Mars emerged as the superior battle champion.
In CVS, the average cost of a chocolate bar was $2.50, with promotional sales for Buy 1- get-the 2nd 50% off and 2-for-$3.00. The lowest priced bar by Hershey’s Chocolate, cost $1.19. Shockingly, there was only one health conscious brand available, appearing to the far right: Endangered Species Chocolate. The Endangered Species Chocolate label advertised Fair Trade, Non-GMO Verified, Gluten Free Certified and Certified Vegan, at a modest price of $2.99 for 3 ounces. As socially conscious as Endangered Species Chocolate brand appears to be, with products rated at nearly five stars by consumers, I was disappointed when visiting their website that they chose to use an image of a young African child’s face to appear in connection to the phrase endangered species. Is there no consideration or awareness of how this image connotes racist beliefs about people of color? Moreover, is it their responsibility to be aware, or our responsibility to know the history of chocolate to bring awareness?
In my visit to Whole Foods, along with overwhelm and oversaturation of choices and products found at CVS, noticeably absent were the beloved Big Five. Available brands were Taza Chocolate, Icelandic Chocolate, Lake Champlain Chocolates and Whole Foods 365 Chocolate (to name a few). Though unfamiliar, I felt an instant attraction to these brands mainly due to the simplicity and sophistication of their wrappers and refined ingredients. Aesthetically and logistically, Whole Foods displays their chocolate in a small section–nestled amongst other products, with equal promotion. As there were sale advertisements on select chocolate products, similar to CVS of 2-for $3, the quality of chocolate was healthier and certified Fair Trade.
The average price for a chocolate bar was $4.00 for 3 ounces. The most inexpensive bar was their Whole Foods 365 brand, boasting a label of Whole Trade and USDA Organic certifications at $2.49 for 3 ounces. The most expensive was $7.99 by El Ceibo, a fine dark chocolate brand from Bolivia. Although Ceibo’s label did not promote the popular certifications (e.g., Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, etc.) of their less expensive competitors, their core driving principle is environmentally sustainable production and respect for life, cultures and the environment. While fine chocolate is expected to be more expensive, do higher prices equal a better product?… According to Clay Gordon, creator of the chocolate lover’s website, The Chocolate Life, and internationally recognized independent authority on all things chocolate: Not so. Gordon states that “[although certain] bars might cost significantly more than… [CVS at] $7 [plus] per bar, [it is] because [you are] paying a fair price that actually accounts for the labor, shipment, and processing of the beans, instead of one artificially subsidized by abusive practices” (Shanker, 2013). Nevertheless, the ingredients of both bars pictured below bare clear distinctions of unknown ingredients, versus whole ingredients available in our kitchens and local supermarkets.
In conclusion, I am left to wonder if the most overlooked distinction between CVS and Whole Foods is the why and how we choose to consume chocolate? A trip for snacks is usually a quick in-and-out venture that can happen anytime of the day or night. Avoiding the possibility of long lines at the grocery store is a deterrent. Nielsen reported 58% of consumers do not plan their snack purchases (Nielsen 13) and prefer them at arms-reach (15); with 31% purchased at the check-out counters; and 43% on sale (13). While chocolate sales do not affect my purchase choices, I admit that as much I love Whole Foods, when my sweet tooth aches for candy, I don’t immediately consider healthy options. Instead I beeline for convenience and the uber unconscious Snickers with Almonds, Raisinets, Almond M&M’s and Tootsie Rolls (not all at once, promise) – which are all available at CVS. However, on the days when I am more health conscious about my chocolate choices, I intentionally visit Whole Foods for my favorite Dark Chocolate and Almonds Bar with Sea Salt by Chocolove. I admit that there is a difference in how I feel when I purchase and indulge in my beloved Chocolove bar in comparison to Snickers and Kit Kat from CVS. In addition to taste and quality, the most important difference is that purchasing from Whole Foods feels more deliberate and rewarding–knowing that my investment in my personal wellness extends to the social, economic and financial wellness of others.
Both CVS and Whole Foods hold clear and distinct ideas and values on health, wellness and integrity. However, I count leading a company whose integrity corresponds with the brands they market and sell to their consumers as the greatest distinction. As a supermarket, Whole Foods has not limited their product offerings to just food; medicinal and healthcare products are also made available to their customers. In view of that fact, why does CVS limit their offerings of health and wellness to pharmaceutical products and healthcare? Perhaps as we continue to rise socially and globally to the occasion of conscious responsibility for our wellness and environmental safety, CVS will revisit their mission and branding to fully align the practices of chocolate manufacturers’ with their intent to “… help people on their path to better health.” In the meantime, I will continue my occasional beeline visits to conveniently fulfill my moments of unconscious consumption.
CVS Health. Web. 9 May 2016.
“CVS Health Reports First Quarter Results; Confirms 2016 Adjusted EPS Guidance.” Marketwatch Online, 2016. Web. 9 May 2016.
Dillinger, T.L. et al. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” The Journal of Nutrition 130 (2000): 2057S-2072S. Web. 9 May 2016.
Nielsen. “Snack Attack. What Consumers are reaching for around the world.”September 2014. Web PDF. 9 May 2016.
Shanker, Deena. “A Guide to ethical chocolate.” Grist, 13 Feb. 2002. Web. 9 May 2016.
Whole Foods Market. Web. May 2016.
“Whole Foods Drops Hershey’s Scharffen Berger Chocolates Over Child Labor Abuses.” International Labor Rights Forum. Press Releases, 2012. Web. 9 May 2016.
The chocolate industry is evolving. Though major companies like Hershey and Mars have dominated it for its entire existence, new artisan or boutique chocolatiers are appearing, ready to challenge them for supremacy. The idea of small, local competition is nothing new for the behemoths, who had to combat independent grocers earlier in the 20th century. These new companies are more legitimate than an independent grocer, though. Some, like Taza, experience enough success that they grow into fairly large companies, and others, though they may remain small, still carry a distinct air of legitimacy.
These two sectors are quite different in scale, so how do they differentiate themselves in terms of how they advertise themselves to customers? Historian Emma Robertson notes that, “chocolate has long-standing associations with female sexuality” and discusses how this manifests itself in chocolate marketing in her book, Chocolate Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Robertson, 1-3). Though these sexualized undertones are strong throughout the chocolate industry and sometimes become painfully explicit in advertising, I will not focus on them here. Instead, I will be concerned with how the two sectors of companies differentiate themselves from each other in how they discuss and market their products. My two main examples will be Jacques Torres Chocolate and two subsidiaries of Mars, Dove and Galaxy. On the whole, the Jacques Torres material focuses on the quality of the product and the personality of Torres, while the Mars subsidiaries focus on chocolate’s larger connotations and its idealized worlds, which represents an evolution in the larger cultural discussion about chocolate in advertisements.
Historically, these two subsets of the chocolate industry have had to jointly combat the stigma of adulteration. Chocolate contains a multitude of ingredients, which, dating back to Cadbury in 1869, have a long history of being adulterated to cut costs. In her article “Blame Candy” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Samira Kawash reports that, “candy makers were suspected of cutting corners… [and] boosting the bottom line by adding fillers like plaster or sawdust…, replacing chocolate with wax or nuts with cardboard, employing toxic dyes to create eye-catching colors” (Kawash). Though large companies like Cadbury were often implicated, this stigma was attached to all chocolate, including chocolate made by independent producers. One newspaper ad from the early 1900’s produced by Mars was entitled “You’ll Never Sell Her Cheap Candy Again” and introduced a short vignette with parents blaming their daughter’s stomach ache on cheap candy purchased at the local corner store, as opposed to the fine Mars products that “give you more quality” (Proquest Database). The branding war between large companies and small, independent producers, then, is nothing new.
Not only did small grocers and large companies compete over who would be stuck with chocolate’s negative associations, they also have differentiated themselves in their advertising for as long as chocolate has been mass produced. In their book Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage, Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro note that in the late 1800’s, chocolate “manufacturers would supply retail merchants with large chromos [small cards with designs and advertisements on them] to stimulate sales.” While, “Victorian sentimentality prevailed” with larger chocolate companies’ ornate designs, the authors note that, “cards for grocers were much more business-like,” and often just listed prices or products (Grivetti & Shapiro, 185-7). This difference in marketing was probably merely one of necessity, as the smaller grocers could not afford the ornate designs of the larger companies. The underlying trend, however, of smaller chocolatiers focusing on their product exclusively and bigger companies worrying more about its connotations and ancillary benefits, persists to this day.
In 2016, the two groups wage a similar war, one that is played out online and on television as opposed to in newspapers. On Jacques Torres’s website, the company asserts itself as a provider of high quality, artisan, hand-crafted chocolate. The most subtle way it does this is through its name. Jacques Torres, nicknamed “Mr. Chocolate” is a relatively famous personality, but Torres’ name gives the company clout even independent of his reputation. The fact that the company is named after a specific person makes the customer feel as though they are personally interacting with Torres every time they engage with his company. It adds a level of personality and specificity that a big company cannot match. The “About Us” section goes on to detail Torres’s many accomplishments in his culinary career, granting him an air of absolute legitimacy. Nothing Mars puts out can compete with something personally crafted by an award-winning French chef. The section goes on to write that, “Jacques Torres Chocolate is proud to produce real food bursting with real flavor made without taking any shortcuts or adding any preservatives, extracts or ‘essences.'” Here, the company is appealing to the fraught history of chocolate, and assuring potential customers that they have no part of that. Jacques, it seems, is above such tricks.
Other parts of the website underscore this point. In the picture above, Torres appears to be in touch with nature, and therefore healthy. The About Us section does claim, after all, that Torres’ chocolate is “better for you”. Though it does not elaborate on exactly what the chocolate is better than, any discerning chocolate customer may easily guess. The section closes with the words, “Real. Authentic. Original.” All of these words are variations on the same idea, which is that Jacques Torres chocolate creates a personal connection with the customer, and leverages that connection to gain legitimacy.
The video appearing prominently on the site achieves a similar effect.
This video is something called “A Taste of The Terminal”, and was produced by Grand Central Terminal. In its decision to include it in their website’s promotional material, though, the company elaborates upon the personableness and legitimacy that it has built in its “About Us” section. First, Jacques seems eminently likable. He is very nice to all whom he interacts with, posing for pictures and doing fist bumps with random strangers. The viewer wishes that he or she could have been in the station when he was handing out his crepe samples. Perhaps oddly, though, the video does not discuss chocolate much. The main focus, one could argue, is crepes. Here again, though, the company has shrewdly positioned Jacques as a culinary authority, a master of all. In establishing his ability as a maker of crepes, the video has established his ability as a chef overall, which makes him seem even more legitimate to a customer. Through all of his company’s promotional materials, Jacques Torres appears as a world-renowned pastry chef, who has come to personally cater to his customers’ needs.
Mars company, on the other hand, cannot quite compete with Jacques on a personal level. What it can do, is emphasize certain connotations about its products and those that eat them.
According to an article in the advertising journal The Spot, this advertisement was meant to “give the brand a fresh look, and spur more everyday purchases by customers” (Nudd, The Spot). The advertisement accomplishes this goal by using actors that appear more normal and even quirky. These are not the “classically” beautiful models from stereotypical perfume or chocolate commercials. The decision to film the advertisement as a stop-motion movie increases the quirkiness of the environment, and makes the magical enhancement of the environment by the characters seem more normal. The advertisement ties in these environmental expansions by telling the viewers, “It’s always better when there’s a little more to love”, connecting the bigger bar with the bigger landscape features. This advertisement is working on a much more implicit scale than the Jacques Torres promotional material, though. Whereas Torres touts the craftsmanship of the product and the legitimacy of the chef, Dove focuses on an idealized vision of the world in which its chocolate exists. If you want to live in that world, then you want to eat Dove chocolate.
The vision of an idealized world shines through even more clearly in this Galaxy advertisement, which Dove also used a shortened version of in America. The actress depicted is Audrey Hepburn, who has been CGI’ed into the scene. This detail already sets up the world as a sort of idealized fantasy-land, as Hepburn, long dead, could not possibly appear in a new advertisement–and yet, there she is. Inspired by her Galaxy bar, Hepburn leaves her bus and gets into the back of a man’s car and speeds away from a generic quaint European town into a generic quaint European countryside. The slow fade-in of the song, which is “Moon River”, a song from one of Hepburn’s most famous films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, increases the sentimentality, as non-diagetic sound gradually overpowers diagetic sound. In this fantasy-land, Galaxy chocolate reins supreme. It has driven Hepburn to act boldly and run away with the man of her dreams (we may assume). People who would like a window into such a world or perhaps to be like Hepburn must eat Galaxy chocolate in order to attain such dreams.
The central difference between the Dove and Galaxy advertisements and the promotional material for Jacques Torres is that the Jacques Torres material focuses on the quality of the product and the Mars subsidiaries focus on its connotations. It seems that now, with chocolate under fire as an unhealthy food, the smaller artisans are attacking that stigma head on, while the larger companies are skirting it entirely and trying to reframe the conversation around not what chocolate contains, but, rather, what it means. Mars’ side-stepping of the debate positions it not so much as a food company, but as a lifestyle company. If you want to eat well, eat Jacques Torres. If you want to live well, eat Dove and Galaxy.
Kawash, Samira. “Blame Candy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 60.08 (2013). Biography in Context. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.
Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History
Grivetti, Louis, and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. Print.
Chocolate is a unique consumer’s item because it has exhaustive social and historical significance. Chocolate is created in similar ways but the background of one chocolate bar can vary immensely when compared to that of another chocolate bar. Chocolate bars vary in cacao percentage, sugar amount, cacao origination, labor laws, and so many more complicated factors. When you walk into a store, chocolate seems like another typical food available for purchase, but it is much more complicated than that. The average American consumed almost ten pounds of chocolate in 2015 and that number continues to rise over the years (Satioquia-Tan, 2015). It is very clear that there has been a rise in chocolate consumption that does not appear to be ending anytime soon. In fact, chocolate production and sells bring in billions of dollars per year to many countries (Figure 1), making production a top profitable market (statistica, 2016). The appeal of chocolate is strong and there is no doubt about this.
Figure 1: Consumption of chocolate in dollars in different countries.
It is evident that this rise in chocolate consumption is due to increased advertisement and mass production (Martin, 2016) and the increase of the sugar market (Mintz, 1986). Of course, all of this seems clear because I have taken AfAm119X. I learned firsthand about the joys and perils of the chocolate market. With all the new information I learned about the chocolate industry, I am more skeptical with purchases. I question the fundamentals of where a chocolate originated and the labor laws in place for its production. Unfortunately, not much information is readily available to consumers so they do not have the necessary information to understand the social impacts behind chocolate consumption. If there are no problems associated with the chocolate industry, then new information should not change views on chocolate consumption. This is not the case, however. The easy accessibility of popular brands, constant advertising, and lack of information about exploitation and health consequences all promote chocolate consumption. If people were made more aware of problems in the chocolate industry, then there could be a decline in chocolate consumption which could push industries to better their practices and have more conscious efforts in production. In an interview with a Harvard senior, it was noticed that new information of the problems of the chocolate industry influenced her chocolate consumption.
The woman interviewed for this blog is a Harvard senior who considers herself to be an avid chocolate lover. She agreed to sit down twice for the interview because there were two parts assigned for the interview. Part one of this interview has general questions about chocolate consumption. Part one ended with the interviewee being shown new information, videos, and advertisements intended to bring awareness of some problems of the chocolate industry. Part two of this interview was conducted five days later and was intended to find whether or not the negative information influenced her chocolate consumption. After the entire interview had been conducted, the interviewer was awarded with chocolate of her choosing and her answers were analyzed. It was found that the interviewer lacked background information about chocolate and the new information did influence her choices.
PART ONE OF INTERVIEW: GENERAL QUESTIONS
Interviewer: “When I say the word chocolate, what are some of your first thoughts?”
Friend: “Delicious. Chocolate is delicious and I love it. It’s a great dessert and there are so many different chocolates to choose from. You can give it to people as presents or buy it for yourself.”
Interviewer: “How often would you say you buy chocolate?”
Friend: “A few times a week. I usually buy it on the weekends.”
Interviewer: “Is there any particular type that you buy more often?
Friend: “I usually buy Hershey’s or Almond Joy. Sometimes I’ll get Snickers or Kit-Kat.”
Interviewer: “Why these? What do you consider when you buy these?”
Friend: “It’s really easy to get it. It’s in the aisles but usually it is also at the register so it’s very tempting. Also, it is pretty cheap so I can usually get a lot of chocolate for a few dollars.”.
Interviewer: “How much would you say you know about chocolate?”
Friend: “I would say that I know a lot about the types of chocolate and what they have in them.”
Interviewer: “Would you say you know a lot about how they are made or where their products come from?”
Friend: “Probably not. I honestly just know about the chocolate brands that you find at like CVS. I know they are produced in factories and there is a lot of chocolate out there.”
Interviewer: “Would you say that chocolate is healthy?”
Friend” I have heard that dark chocolate is healthy so I think chocolate can have benefits.”
From the interviewee’s responses, it is very clear that she is a frequent consumer, yet she does not know very much information about chocolate production. The majority of her chocolate experiences come from the Big Five because they control 80% of the chocolate market (Martin, 2016). These companies have made buying their chocolate easily accessible and affordable. With their mass production success, they can continue to supply at such a demand. Not only do these chocolate companies mass produce their chocolate, but they also monopolize stores to market their chocolate as much as possible. For example, the interviewee mentioned the convenience of chocolate found at checkout (Figure 2). Consumers are advertised chocolate throughout the store in the aisles, but then they are advertised again at checkout to solidify the sell. This convenience is content merchandising (Blumenfeld, 2015).
As one would predict, the exploitative side and influential advertising of chocolate production is hidden from the consumer. Chocolate making has a rich process behind it from cacao bean to bar but the consumer is hidden from this. The consumer is only advertised chocolate as a luxurious, desirable good that can only positively affect the consumer.
PART TWO OF INTERVIEW: NEW INFORMATION
At this point in the interview, I informed the interviewee that I would give her new information about chocolate that I had learned in AfAm119X. I would proceed to ask her follow up questions and I would take notes of any reactions that she had to the information. I presented the information in the following order:
1. I showed her different advertisements from popular chocolate companies. I told her about how some of these advertisements were often hyper-sexualized women and advertisements were different for men or women audiences (Farhim, 2010). Or some ads were used to promote chocolate to children from a very young age (Fed Up, 2014).
2. I gave her a chart of the benefits of cacao and advised her that popular chocolate bars, such as Hershey’s, were only made of 20% chocolate (Martin, 2016). I presented her with a nutrition label chart of a Snicker’s bar and pointed out that there was no daily value percentage assigned to the sugar information.
3. I told her the statistic that every metric cacao has only a $200 premium most of the profit does not go directly to the farmer (Martin, 2016).
4. I showed her some clips from the documentary “Fed Up”. The clips showed the major control that the sugar industry has on food today and its negative impact on health. I explained that many efforts to control this industry have been denied due to profit concerns (Fed Up, 2014).
Interviewer: “With this new information about chocolate behind-the-scenes, how do you feel about chocolate or what are some thoughts you are having?”
Friend: “I feel like I’ve been lied to before. I didn’t know that a chocolate bar was more sugar than actual chocolate. I also never really considered how much farmers were exploited and overworked just so that I could eat a chocolate bar. All of this information makes me believe that there is a bad side to the chocolate industry that I didn’t know about.”
Interviewer: “Which of these would you say is sticking with you more?”
Friend: “I’m actually quite upset with the Fed Up clips that you showed me. I can’t believe that there is such a monopoly in advertisements. They influence children and adults and work to stop change from happening. I almost feel responsible like I should only buy chocolate that is more socially conscious.”
Interviewer: “Who would you say is responsible for these problems?”
Friend: “The chocolate companies and politics. It is unfair that we don’t know this information because they are afraid that their sales will decrease. It is my fault as well though for not questioning the production of chocolate.”
The interviewee had a very negative reaction to the new information. She was angered by the lack of information available to the consumer. Even though this information is not available to consumers, it affects them indirectly or directly when they consume chocolate. When consumers increase their demand for chocolate, chocolate companies must increase their demand of cacao. This could cause more exploitation of farmers to meet the demand, which is an indirect effect. Directly, chocolate is about 80% sugar so one chocolate bar could exceed the recommended daily consumption amount (Martin, 2016).
A particularly interesting finding of this interview was that the interviewee was mostly offended by the advertising efforts of companies. Many companies target children from very young ages because if they can accustom them to the consumption of their product when young, at older ages they will continue to buy the products (Fed Up, 2014). Children are much more impressionable to such advertisements and companies monopolize on that fact. The advertising efforts begin at home when children watch television and they continue elsewhere. The interviewee’s reaction to this shows that people would be angered if they had the necessary information. Chocolate companies have mastered the act of hiding their problems and promoting the taste of their chocolate.
PART TWO OF INTERVIEW
Interviewer: “How did this new information affect you?”
Friend: “I feel like it prevented me from buying as much chocolate as I normally would. I also bought some different type of chocolate that advertised that it had higher percentages of cacao. I considered buying chocolate that had more of a story on its label. It made me more aware of my purchases.”
Interviewer: “What were your overall feelings when you bought the new chocolate and what did you consider?”
Friend: “When I tried to buy the popular chocolate brands, I felt guilty. I didn’t want to know that I was being a part of the manipulation of the sugar industry. Plus, the other chocolate is healthier and still tastes somewhat good.”
Even though this was only one person, a bit of new information about the problems in the chocolate industry were influential. The information from part one affected what the interviewee considered when buying chocolate. In fact, she no longer considered easy accessibly and cheap cost. Instead, she was more conscious about the background of the chocolate bar and its health benefits. It has been known that chocolate can cause feelings of guilt because there is a false dichotomy (Martin, 2016). However, the feelings of guilt that the interviewee felt were due to her lack of information about exploitation and advertising. After learning the new information, the interviewee made an active change to her consumerism. She avoided Big Five chocolate companies and attempted to buy more socially conscious chocolate.
It is important to acknowledge the social issues that were presented to the interviewee. Sugar consumption is at a high and chocolate companies monopolize on this. Mass production of chocolate leads to high demand which can increase exploitation. Advertisement efforts often target children and women. Each of these issues alone is problematic but they persist anyhow. People are not aware of these issues so there is increasing success of major chocolate companies. One interviewee’s consumption practices were changed with some new information which signals that more awareness about the problems in the chocolate industry could influence many more people.
Chocolate industries have manipulated information available to their consumers. They manipulate country taxes to exploit countries’ cacao profits (Sylla, 2014). They manipulate the health information known about chocolate. Their success in advertisements, mass production, and low cost mask the problems of chocolate production. Even though this is true, a bit of awareness could influence consumers. The interviewee made changes in her consumption and others could too. Next time, buy a Taza Chocolate bar!
Blumenfeld, J. (2015). The art of chocolate: Woo customers with craft, story and health. New Hope Network.
Farhim, J. (2010). Beyond cravings: Gender and class desires in chocolate marketing. Occidental College; OxyScholar.
Fed Up, documentary. (2014). Film.
Martin, C. (2016). Introduction to chocolate, culture, and the politics of food. Harvard College, Lecture.
Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and Power.
Satioquia-Tan, J. (2015). Americans Eat HOW MUCH chocolate?. CNBC.
Statista.com. (2016). Statistics and facts on the chocolate industry.
Earlier in the semester, we discussed how consumers may have as much responsibility as companies when it comes to impacting the social and ethical concerns surrounding chocolate. Some of these concerns are classism, unethical forms of labor and fair wages for cacao farmers. One way to study these issues is by focusing on a store and seeing what selection it offers; this post will discuss these issues surrounding chocolate and consumerism by looking at two retail chains, namely CVS and Whole Foods.
CVS is a pharmacy retailer with more than 9,600 stores in the United States, making it one of the top hundred drugstores in the nation (“Company”). In addition to offering pharmacy services, it usually contains an extensive retail portion in the store. Most CVSs are large enough to have an aisle dedicated to snacks and chocolate. If not, they are sure to include chocolate in the bins near the registers. In this post, we will first look at the chocolate aisle. Unsurprisingly, we see the Big Five: Ferrero, Nestle, Mars, Hershey’s and Cadbury. Most were fairly affordable as they ranged from roughly $1 to $6. The more expensive chocolate, however, were fairly large bags of chocolate consisting of at least 8 ounces of chocolate or more (up to 20 ounces). The selection ranged from individually wrapped chocolates in large bags to single chocolate bars. CVS also offered ways to cut down costs, often applying “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” deals or “Buy 2 for $6” deals. From this, it seems that CVS targets people who are less willing to spend exorbitant amounts on chocolate and are looking for convenience and value instead.
An interesting part was that CVS offered “Premium Chocolates” at the end of the aisle. While the unit price in the aisle chocolate did not usually exceed $0.80, the “premium” chocolates often had unit prices of around $0.95 to $1.39. Although one of the Big Five, it seems that Ferrero appeals to a slightly different audience that may spend more on chocolate, as a product line of Ferrero, Ferrero Rochers, were designated as “premium.” Some brands in this section were Lindt and Ghirardelli, with a large majority being Lindt chocolate bars. Lindt and Ghirardelli are both products of the Swiss company Lindt & Sprüngli. Lastly, most of the chocolate offerings were dark chocolate, often labeled “intense” or incorporating other flavors such as spice and fruits. As we will later see, even these “premium” chocolates were cheaper than the majority of the chocolates sold at Whole Foods.
The cheaper price point of chocolate is a double-edged sword. Although the ability to provide cheap chocolate has extremely negative connotations associated with it such as child slavery and other unethical practices, cheap price points allow for chocolate to be distributed to a wider amount of people. This helps negate discriminating against certain classes. First, we can discuss how chocolate manufacturers are able to get such cheap prices and the history behind this. One important factor was industrialization. Goody notes that four immediate factors made this possible: 1) preserving, 2) mechanization, 3) retailing (and wholesaling) and 4) transport (72). Because of industrialization, foods like chocolate were able to be shared worldwide and costs were able to be decreased. Compared to its initial beginnings as an upper-class commodity in Europe and North America in the 1600’s, chocolate has been significantly democratized in terms of price and accessibility (Coe & Coe 138).
This desire to drive down prices was also historically relevant, especially with the Big Five as they competed against each other for larger market shares. For example, in the early 1900s, Frank Mars originally depended on Hershey’s for their chocolate coating, but eventually stopped contracting out this manufacturing need. Frank Mars wanted total control of his chocolate, so that he could go head-to-head with Hershey (Brenner 181). Thus, we see the results of this fierce competition as the chocolate prices are quite comparable for the most part among these giants.
While capitalism and industrialization have helped democratize chocolate, there are also ethical concerns associated with such low price points. One of the largest ethical concerns are the types of labor used to farm the cacao. Big Chocolate, especially, has had trouble with this. In 2001, a scandal erupted with headlines saying that American chocolate was made from child slavery (Off 139). Many Big Chocolate companies were blind-sided and U.S. companies like Mars and Hershey’s “insisted that the cocoa chain in Cote d’Ivoire was outside their control” (140). Despite this pushback from the industry, the Harkin-Engel Protocol came to fruition.
The Harkin-Engel Protocol was a fully voluntary arrangement for regulating industry in the U.S. In this agreement, chocolate companies agreed to follow this program to “eliminate child slave labour in the cocoa chain” (144). Although well-intentioned, it ran into many obstacles including but not limited to: debates on what was considered child slavery, lack of increase in farmers’ wages, meddling by Big Chocolate to downplay the scandal, and not meeting the deadline of 2005 to eliminate slavery (145-46). Carol Off says the Harkin-Engel Protocol was significant in that it forced the chocolate industry to recognize forced child labour, but it “amount[ed] to window dressing” (161).
There has been a history of slavery in chocolate and it shouldn’t be ignored by consumers. For example, in the 1900s, Cadbury was scandalized for its cacao grown by forced laborers in São Tomé and Príncipe. Although industry and government should perhaps try to combat this, consumers also have the power to influence the market through their purchases. Thus, evaluating the history of chocolate as well as its present situation helps consumers make more educated decisions in their purchasing.
Lastly, something to note was the chocolate selection offered near the registers. Compared to the chocolate selection in the aisles, the chocolate near the registers were smaller and thus, cheaper on the whole. However, while these items near checkout account for only 1% of a store’s final sales, they account for 4% of its profits. Hershey’s and other big chocolate manufacturers took note of this and have implemented ways to profit from the psychological effect of chocolate. For example, Hershey’s has conducted research on “chocolaty gratification” to study why people are so apt to buy items near checkout and have increased the visibility of their products near the register (Harwell). At CVS, there were either bins of chocolates on the counter itself or below the counter.
Compared to CVS, Whole Foods Market is a supermarket chain with about 300 to 400 stores in the United States. It focuses on selling foods that are “free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.” In their company values, they promote quality and the well-being of their customers (“Quality”). There is an overall emphasis on health and “natural, whole” foods and ingredients, appealing to a certain niche market.
The chocolate section in Whole Foods seemed smaller than CVS’s. Whereas the chocolate in CVS seemed to take up one whole aisle, the Whole Foods chocolate section was only a portion of the aisle. First, I noticed the lack of Big Five’s products. Instead, there were some recognizable products from smaller brands. Some of these brands included Taza Chocolate, Green & Black’s, Theo Chocolate, Pure7 Chocolate, and Not Your Sugar Mama’s. Several of these brands were also local, such as Pure7 Chocolate and Taza Chocolate.
In discussing the market of CVS versus Whole Foods, Whole Foods appeals to a different customer who 1) is willing to spend more on chocolate, 2) is health-conscious, and 3) is perhaps conscious about forms of labor and the purity of the ingredients. Off the bat, the prices of the chocolates at Whole Foods were more expensive. Although there were $6 bags of chocolate sold at CVS, it was a bulk purchase. However, in Whole Foods, for $6.99 it was a 2 oz. bar of chocolate. As education grows around chocolate, there seems to be an increasing trend of people who are willing to spend more for a luxury item. High prices don’t necessarily mean that chocolate may be “slave-free,” though, or fully ethical; high prices aren’t the end-all-be-all situation for ameliorating the ethical concerns surrounding chocolate. However, these smaller companies often pay farmers much more, sometimes triple the price, for their beans, suggesting that these smaller chocolatiers are trying to address some of these labor and wage issues (Martin). Taza Chocolate, in particular, is known for its “Taza Direct Trade” philosophy where there is transparency for the consumer about the farmer’s wages.
In addition to labels concerning fair prices and labor practices, there are also labels more oriented towards health-conscious consumers. For example, there was an abundance of chocolates labeled as “USDA Organic” and “Non-GMO Certified.” At CVS, there were much fewer chocolates if at all with these labels. Furthermore, many of these chocolates were labeled as “antioxidant-rich superfoods,” suggesting that chocolate is a healthy food. In addition, many chocolates marketed their sugar-free alternatives. For example, Pure7 emphasizes its use of honey as a sugar alternative.
Health and chocolate have had a long relationship, so it is unsurprising that a health-conscious store would select chocolates that tout its health benefits. The Mesoamericans (the Olmec, Maya and Aztecs) were known for their medicinal uses of cacao, which were often recorded by Europeans in the 1500s. For example, Fray Bernardino de Sahagún wrote the Florentine Codex (1590), documenting detailed cacao prescriptions for ailments such as infection, diarrhea and cough used by the Aztec (Dillinger et al.). Europeans adopted some of these medical uses and also applied their Galenic theory of hot, cold, wet, and dry onto cacao in the 1600s. Health and chocolate still have strong ties today. Most recently, in 2007, Norman Hollenberg associated chocolate with the low blood pressure in the Kuna people. However, James Howe, an anthropologist, criticizes medical research for its sometimes unilateral methods and oversimplification when dealing with communities of people (Howe 50). Lastly, some scientists have further explored the clinical benefits of chocolate some of them being: cardioprotection by improving endothelial function, enhanced antioxidant defenses, mood elevation, and anti-inflammatory effects (Castell 265).
Evaluating two different stores with different markets in terms of chocolate consumers reveals a lot about consumers’ habits. Whole Foods was, on the whole, more expensive, but had more labels and fewer added ingredients in their chocolate. However, its chocolate was more expensive, perhaps excluding those who are unable or unwilling to spend over $6 for a bar of chocolate. CVS, on the other hand, had more bulk chocolate at more affordable prices. This high price versus low price shouldn’t be the only focus, though, as high prices don’t necessarily correlate with fairer practices. For example, labeling can often be vague or unclear about its purposes and methods. Perhaps through better education about chocolate and food, one can make more socially conscious purchases as well as be aware of certain marketing ploys, whether it be in stores like CVS or stores like Whole Foods.
Brenner, Joël. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.
Castell, Margarida, Jean-François Bisson and Francisco Perez-Cano. “Clinical Benefits of Cocoa: An Overview.” Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. Ed. Ronald Watson, Victor Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. N.p.: Springer, n.d. 265-75. Print.
Coe, Sophie, and Michael Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000. Print.
Dillinger, Teresa, Patricia Barriga, Sylvia Escárcega, Martha Jimenez, Diana Lowe, and Louis Grivetti. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” The Journal of Nutrition 130.8 (2000): 20575-0725. Web.
Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Esterik. New York: Routledge, 1997. 72-90. Print.
Harwell, Drew. “Hershey’s Plan to Hook Americans onto Impulse-buying Chocolate Again.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
Howe, James. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 12.1 (2012): 43-52. Web.
Martin, Carla. “Haute Patisserie, Artisan Chocolate, and Food Justice: The Future?” African and African American Studies 119x Lecture. Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge. 27 Apr. 2016. Lecture.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York: New, 2008. Print.
Dove Chocolate, a product made by the Mars company, released the following commercial as part of their recent advertising campaign in the United States.
As you can see, the video very obviously sexualizes Dove chocolate, and presents it as a sort fetish for the woman in the commercial. Her flowing, silky brown nightwear, resembling a form of lingerie, helps to portray the sexiness that chocolate represents in this advertisement.
The commercial includes multiple shots of a woman closing her eyes and smiling as she consumes delicious-looking Dove chocolate. Close ups of her lips, mouth, the soft skin on her shoulders, and specifically the visual of the chocolate slowly being put into her mouth, all aim to further sexualize the woman and the chocolate in the commercial. When she consumes the chocolate she looks incredibly happy, although a more accurate or appropriate way to describe her expression would be: pleased.
Throughout the commercial, sensual music plays in the background and a provocative female whisper describes how the chocolate makes women “savor,” “sigh,” and “melt” – all things that can very obviously used to describe sexual pleasure. The commercial ends with a silky blanket uncovering the chocolate, much like someone would uncover his or herself in bed.
Ultimately, the commercial’s message is that chocolate for this woman is the same thing that silky lingerie is for men – a tantalizing fetish. Incredibly, the Mars company is so convinced that women feel this way about chocolate that they explicitly conveyed this message as a way to attract women to their product.
This commercial comes into production after a longstanding history of women being targeted by chocolate companies in an effort to sell their product. Chocolate companies have long umbrellaed females into a group that perceives chocolate as a fetish or guilty pleasure. By making a commercial like this, they only perpetuate such inaccurate stereotypes.
To combat the stereotypical portrayal of women being enthralled or seduced by chocolate, I created the following ad:
The advertisement is simply three bathrooms, one male, one female, and one multi-gender. The slogan reads:
“Just like everyone poops, everyone loves chocolate. Be more like these bathrooms and just include everyone.”
The first line of the slogan “Just like everyone poops…” pays homage to a popular children’s book entitled “Everyone Poops.” It is primarily incorporated in the ad to catch the viewers attention and provide a sense of humor, as memorable one liners and humor are both psychologically proven to resonate more with the human brain. This line also does a very good job of making the ad incredibly un-sexy, which is perfect in light of the Dove commercial it was created to contrast.
The main message of the ad is very clearly to acknowledge that chocolate companies need to stop targeting specific groups with advertisements that promulgate negative stereotypes, and to include every group in their advertisement campaigns, and to do it fairly.
It has long been accepted that chocolate has been the food of the gods. It is just that over the centuries the definitions of the gods has changed. One thing is for sure, chocolate and cacao has been reserved for the elite. Through imagery archaeologists have been able to prove that from the origins of chocolate culture, it has been connected with elitism. Records from earlier Spanish explorers show that at one point in history cacao seeds were used as a form of currency. In our Chocolate Class, Dr. Martin has even referred to it as the “food of the gods”.
Fast-forwarding to our present time in history you would not see advertisement or hear phrases like that. Truthfully, although some may still have this sentiment, to refer to any human as a god would not be politically correct. However, there are many subtle ideologies being promoted though advertisement that imply that this ideology of chocolate and elitism still exists. Think about it, when was the last time you seen a malnourished Ghanaian child advertising for Hershey’s chocolate? Well of course that would not be the “right thing to do”. Well, what about a well-to-do Nigerian farmer advertising his own seeds? That would not be so right either, would it? After all, chocolate is not for the gentleman or the lady of African descent. It is clearly for the European descendent. Of course, it has to be. A great deal of it’s advertisements imply such.
Unless its Halloween or Easter, you see advertisements of beautiful European women or well built European men advertising rich decadent silk chocolates. Yes, most times the imagery of advertisements reflect the people the product is intended for. The height of these modern sexual gods is during Valentine season. You see love, implied purity, fantasy fulfillment, and satisfaction all connected to chocolate and it’s European counterparts. It’s a perfect scene, to some at least.
No, you can’t generalize this presumption to all Europeans or White Americans. But, it is attached to many and most in the chocolate business. While, there has been much criticism in this post, credit must be given to those individuals who have sought to change the story. There are many great efforts on the global scale to bring equality to those on the suffering end of the chocolate industry. However, on a large scale, there is much work to be done. There is still a lot of not-so-good practices going on in the industry. While many see a sexual goddess attached to chocolate, others see a monstrous bear.
For many on the outside, they do not see the pure goddess that is actually being portrayed. They see a monster that is likened to a polar bear consuming chocolate. The more this polar bear consumes chocolate, the more poop that it produces. While there are many efforts that seem to be pushing for equality, it seems that the more the world consumes chocolate the more poop is produced in the lives of the African Farmers. Countless lives are being affected. Children are still being trafficked in African countries. There is still unfree labor contributing to the production of cacao for chocolate. Children are risking their health. Long-term physical ailments will be the results of children carrying heavy loads and not being trained to use sharp machetes. To add insult to injury, these farmers who risk their lives -in a sense- to produce cacao, still receive a considerably low revenue from the sales of the chocolate. While many look at chocolate as a pleasurable delight, there are many with insight of how cacao farmers are treated who look at chocolate consumption as a poop producer!