Tag Archives: Chocolate Advertising

Final Paper: Chocolate and ADHD

I Introduction

To better understand the thought process that a stakeholder, such as a parent of a child with ADHD, might go through as they attempt to understand what role chocolate should play in their child’s life, this project simulates the experience from the point of view of the parent. To that end, this project first explores a typical informational website that a parent might find through a simple web search with the keywords ‘chocolate’ and ‘ADHD,’ since that would likely be how many parents would start their journey of information gathering. Then, anticipating that some parents might wish to further explore the relevant scientific literature, this project explores a couple of representative scientific studies on PubMed that a parent might find. In order to best reflect the agency of the parent as they try their best to make complex decisions for their children, this project attempts to narrate the diverse range of potential considerations for the parent to grapple with as they progress through their journey of information gathering.

II Thesis

For both the educational websites and the scientific articles, parents can find multiple legitimate reasons to second guess the trustworthiness, especially when pharmaceutical advertisements and industry ties create, at least appearance of, potential influence. While the information on chocolate and ADHD was relatively sparse for both educational websites and scientific literature, the general consensus was that chocolate, and other dietary choices, do not cause ADHD or worsen the symptoms. There were a small number of studies that suggested various mechanisms in which chocolate could in fact be therapeutic, but these studies all appeared to be isolated from each other, suggesting that this specific line of research is still in its infancy stages; parents of an ADHD children should probably wait for these studies to be reliably replicated by other studies before putting too much faith in any preliminary study’s findings.

III Online Resources: ADDitude Website

One of the few articles online that explicitly mentions chocolate and ADHD is an article from ADDitude5. The website describes itself as being “the trusted resource for families and adults living with ADHD and related conditions and the professionals who work with them”1. They further elaborate, “since 1998, millions have trusted ADDitude to deliver expert advice and caring support, making us the leading media network [emphasis added] for parents and adults living with attention-deficit disorder, and for professionals working in the field.”

Before reading what the article states about chocolate and ADHD, parents of children with ADHD often first make decisions regarding how trustworthy the content is. If they do not find it trustworthy, they might not even bother to read the article.

One factor to promote trust is the stamp of medical authority. Next to the author’s name is the author’s title (‘PH.D.’), and underneath that is a note “Reviewed on January 18, 2019,” which seems to echo the language of a peer-review scientific process5. At the bottom of the website is a disclaimer that “ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only”5. This disclaimer appears to flatly contradict the website’s claim that they “deliver expert advice,” and arguably undercuts the importance of highlighting the author’s authority status. Of course, this is assuming that the reader actually scrolls down to the bottom of the page to read the disclaimer, which is probably unlikely overall. This suggests that the disclaimer’s primary aim to avoid future legal risk, rather than to inform the current reader about the nature and limitations of the website.

Another factor to consider is the pharmaceutical advertising, and whether the revenue from pharmaceutical companies could influence the website’s content. The screenshot (see above) captures at least once incident in which the article displays an advertisement for Vyvanse â, which is a prescription stimulant medication for ADHD. There is a hint of irony that right above the headline (which is about ADHD brains craving stimulation) is an advertisement with bright green colors meant to grab the reader’s attention. A purple button pops out in contrast against this bright green background, beckoning the reader to click to “Learn more.” The section for “important safety information” is quietly placed to the side in small font, perhaps so that a parent might overlook the warning that Vyvanse is a controlled substance with risk for abuse/dependence.

III Online Resources: Pharmaceutical Advertisements

Parents may wish to better understand the history of marketing ploys that the makers of Vyvanse have employed in the past as they decide whether they can trust ADDitude in spite of the website’s financial relationship with Vyvanse. In other instance of Vyvanse attempting to incorporate their ads against the backdrop of an ostensibly educational medium, readers may wish to take a look at a live TV interview on ABC News featuring Ty Pennington, a celebrity who is open about having ADHD (see clip above)2. At the end of the segment, the interviewer asks him for recommendations for ADHD resources. Pennington repeatedly struggles to recall the exact name of a certain ADHD support website; he ultimately settles on recommending ‘Vyvanse.com,’ which suggests that Vyvanse could have played a financial role for Pennington and/or the ABC News interview. Given that Pennington misspelled Vyvanse with a ‘c’, it could suggest that he does not personally make it a habit to visit that website, and that instead he was coached to give this shout out to the Vyvanse website.  

Readers may be further surprised to learn that Shire, the company that owns Vyvanse, also owns Adderall â (they sold away the rights to the immediate release (IR) formulation, but still own the extended release (XR) versions)4. Vyvanse and Adderall both rely on amphetamine as the active drug, but Vyvanse is a prodrug formulation of amphetamine, which means that the amphetamine in Vyvanse does not become activated until it has passed through the patient’s digestive system7. Theoretically, this can reduce the temptation for the patient to abuse the medication (snorting, intravenous, etc.) compared to non-prodrugs such as Adderall. As such, Shire had hoped that the FDA would classify it as a schedule 4 substance instead of a schedule 2 substance (such as Adderall, Ritalin, and other stimulant medications)7. This lower classification would allow prescribers and patients to face fewer government regulations. For instance, prescribers would then be allowed to write scripts that include monthly refills (instead of needing to write a new prescription each month). Though Shire ultimately failed to persuade the federal government, Shire appears to have convinced the medical establishment to accept its claims about Vyvanse’s hypothetical safety advantages7.

Shire’s need to promote Vyvanse, perhaps even at the expense of their existing Adderall XR product, begins to make more sense to the reader once they understand the context of Shire’s competition from generics. After Shire’s patent protections on Adderall XR expired, Shire’s sales plummeted from nearly 300 million dollars per quarter in 2009 to 67.4 million dollars in Q2 20104. While this decline was to be expected, even desired from the public’s perspective, Shire shockingly later managed to increase its sales by 21 percent to $111 million in Q1 20114. According to legal complaints by generic competitors, Shire first further raised the price of their brand name Adderall XR, and then manipulated the complex national supply chain of the raw amphetamine such that the generic manufactures had a shortage of raw material4. Thus, even though affordable generics were theoretically available, many patients had to resort to paying for the exorbitantly expensive brand name version. Even after the shortage of generic Adderall XR eventually cleared up, Shire was able to continue to benefit long term from this chaos, due to its new product, Vyvanse. During the shortage, patients who could not afford the brand name Adderall XR, or who perhaps could not physically locate any pharmacies that had any Adderall XR, naturally could be incentivized to try Vyvanse, which was not undergoing a shortage, and which was less expensive at the time than brand name Adderall XR4. By building a long-term customer base for Vyvanse, which is still is patent protected until 2023, Shire retains a dominant share of the ADHD medication market4.

III Online Resources: Chocolate and ADHD

The factors mentioned above are just some examples of the considerations that could be in the back of the mind of an actively engaged reader who encounters this ADDitude article on ADHD and chocolate. Some might read the article with heavy skepticism (or perhaps choose to skip the article entirely), while others might decide to grant credibility to the claims made in the article.

The article explains that the impulsive ADHD brain has trouble with self-regulation, particularly in the dopamine reward center5. As such, “chocolate is appealing to ADHD brains because it increases glucose and has the added stimulation of caffeine.” The glucose satisfies the ADHD brain’s cravings, which leads to a release of dopamine in the dopamine reward center. While this can bring needed “please and greater calm” to the ADHD brain, “many people with ADHD chide themselves for indulging in [pleasurable foods], when their brains are actually demanding those foods instead of salad.” The article sympathizes, “It is no wonder that those with ADHD struggle with diet and nutrition. When they self-medicate with food, their brains enjoy a surge of dopamine,” and their various chemical imbalances are addressed, at least temporarily. Addressing more broadly the general life struggle of an ADHD individual, the article explains, “understanding what ADHD brains want makes it clear that the struggle for self-regulation is neurological, and has nothing to do with character deficiencies.”

This article does not explore treatment options, so it does not explicitly address the issues of whether chocolate (and/or poor diet) is the cause of ADHD, or whether or not it can worsen ADHD symptom severity. It does seem to suggest that the ADHD leads to the overeating, rather than the other way around, but an explicit clarification would have been helpful. Also, it broadly lumps chocolate together with carbs, pastas, and cookies as being generally unhealthy foods; the author might be scientifically justified with this system of classification, but she never cites any outside sources or evidence. One possible explanation was that her main purpose of the article was not to give dietary advice, but rather to increase self-compassion in ADHD individuals who might otherwise be berating themselves for not being able to stick to their own dietary goals. In the context of the Vyvanse ads, the reader may wonder whether this article is attempting to emphasize a chemical imbalance view of ADHD in order to render the reader more amenable to the idea of a pharmaceutical treatment.

IV Medical Literature: Chocolate Does Not Cause ADHD

For stakeholders who are still are looking for hard, scientific reassurance that ADHD is not caused by poor dietary habits, the general medical consensus is that diet does not cause ADHD. A metareview notes that “parents and teachers alike attribute excessive motor activity and other disruptive behaviors to candy consumption,” which are often hypothesized to harm children through a combination of sugar, food additives/coloring, and through chocolate itself3. However, after combing through numerous placebo-controlled studies, the researchers could not find a single study that supported any of those hypotheses. They conclude, “for children with behavioral problems, diet-oriented treatment does not appear to be appropriate. Rather, clinicians treating these children recommend a multidisciplinary approach. The goal of diet treatment is to ensure a balanced diet with adequate energy and nutrients for optimal growth”3.

IV Medical Literature: Dark Chocolate Can Improve Attention

A study on humans found that dark chocolate improved alertness and attentiveness as measured by EEG scans6. A negative side effect was that it raised blood pressure due to the stimulants in the cocao. However, the side effect of raised blood pressure could be offset by adding L-theanine to the dark chocolate. Unfortunately for consumers, chocolate bars with L-theanine are not yet available, so Larry Stevens, one of the authors of the paper, opines that companies should heed the results of the study and consider developing such a chocolate bar6.

Certainly, at least one chocolate company will be carefully examining the results: Hershey, which is listed in the paper as a sponsor of the study. On the website of the press release that accompanied this paper, one online visitor commented, “We’re supposed to expect unbiased results for a study on chocolate sponsored by Hershey? Hello- this isn’t good.” See screenshots below6.

Someone who is presumably Larry Stevens himself (based on the user name) responds with a long defense (see screenshots below)6. Stevens first acknowledges and thanks the commenter for raising awareness of this important issue. He unequivocally stands by the impartiality of the research and explains that “Hershey’s role was only to respond affirmatively to my request to provide the chocolate confections used in the study and to quite astutely suggest the addition of the L-Theanine additive.” He elaborates on all the effort that the research team did by themselves (without any involvement or help by Hershey), and that clarifies that the team members never received any offers of gifts or rewards.

While his explanations, if they are to accepted at face value, could adequately explain away the ethical concerns, it may not have been worth it from a public perception standpoint to have accepted the free chocolate confections, especially if the expense of chocolate confections is negligible compared to the rest of the expenses of running this human clinical experiment. Further, by accepting the advice from Hershey on adding the L-Theanine test group, it could feed a public perception that public taxpayer dollars for research are being diverted for Hershey’s own purposes; after all, if Hershey is indeed interested in experimenting with L-Theanine, they could have conducted their own private experiment with their own money. Of course, this criticism may or may not be fair, but the public’s perception of these issues can influence how receptive the public is to accepting scientific findings and to politically supporting public research funding.

V Conclusion

Ultimately, the parents of children with ADHD must make their own judgments regarding which pieces of advice to heed and which to ignore. Parents must constantly screen for signs of potential sources of biasing influence, such as pharmaceutical or food industry ties. Similarly, educational websites and scientific articles must remain cognizant of the myriad of ways in which they can be scrutinized by parents, and they must earn the trust of the parents if they are to succeed at spreading their intended information.

Works Cited

  1. “About Us.” ADDitude, 17 Apr. 2019, http://www.additudemag.com/contact-us/about/.
  • Debra A. Krummel, Frances H. Seligson, Helen A. Guthrie & Dr. Dian A. Gans (1996) Hyperactivity: Is candy causal?, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 36:1-2, 31-47
  • Montopoli, M., Stevens, L., Smith, C. J., Montopoli, G., Passino, S., Brown, S., … Wu, J. (2015). The Acute Electrocortical and Blood Pressure Effects of Chocolate. NeuroRegulation, 2(1), 3–28.
  • Rosack, Jim. “Novel Drug for ADHD Wins FDA Approval.” Psychiatric News, 6 Apr. 2007, psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/pn.42.7.0001a.

A Lot Can be Learned from the Selection of Chocolate at CVS

As a massive international corporation, CVS offers numerous products and services to their customers around the globe. Traditionally, they have acted as a pharmacy and drug store. Yet, within recent decades, CVS has become more of a convenience store in that it still offers pharmaceutical services and drugs, but it also now offers everything from cleaning supplies to ice cream. Furthermore, considering the fact that many Americans live relatively close to a CVS, it could be argued that many of the smaller consumables, such as chocolate, are purchased there. Thus, in analyzing the modern-day chocolate market for the majority of the public, CVS is an excellent case study to examine how chocolate is being sold to the masses. Thus, this multimedia essay will utilize the chocolate selection from CVS as a case study to determine how chocolate is being marketed to the public.

Race, Gender, Luxury and How Chocolate is Advertised

            The history of chocolate advertisement is one that is extremely rich with influence from countless external forces and cultures. Since its conception, chocolate, and the advertisement for its consumption, have been heavily influenced by both race and gender. The relationship between chocolate and race is strong and the two have related to one another since the Europeans found out about chocolate. Chocolate and chocolate production have historically been related to slavery, particularly African slavery, which continues to this day. The enslavement of African men and boys does still continue to this day and, “in a 2000 report on human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, the U.S. State Department estimated, with startling candour, ‘that 15,000 Malian children work on Ivoiran cocoa and coffee plantations… Many are under 12 years of age, sold into indentured servitude for US$140 and work 12-hour days for $135 to $189 a year’” (Off 133). Along with gender, race’s long connection with chocolate and chocolate production can still be seen to this day within the form of chocolate advertisement. That is, many of the ways in which chocolate is advertised play on these relationships between gender and race and chocolate. This can be seen in the fact that, “contemporary chocolate advertisements as well as wrappings feature black bodies or distorted images of blackness in order to promote chocolate products” (Hackenesh 98). Within the context of gender, “the consumption of chocolate in the west became feminized early in its history” (Robertson 20). That is, “women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption within the family” (Robertson 20). Along with race and gender, the idea of chocolate as a luxury item is yet another aspect of its history that can be seen to this day. This early western idea of chocolate as a luxury good can best be seen within the coffee and chocolate houses of the seventeenth century. That is, “from the male-dominated coffee and chocolate houses of the seventeenth century, chocolate became associated with luxury and leisure in the domestic sphere from the eighteenth century” (Robertson 20). The influence of this idea of chocolate as a luxury item cannot be overstated and its influence can be seen to this day. This influence has been so powerful that it remains one of the most utilized tropes within modern chocolate advertisement. Thus, although race and gender have influenced chocolate throughout its history, and can be seen within many forms of multimedia chocolate advertisements, this idea of chocolate as a luxury good remains one of the strongest advertising tropes and one that can be seen throughout the selection of chocolate available at stores such as CVS. So, because of this, the luxury aspect of chocolate advertising will be the main focus of the remainder of this case study of the chocolate selection available at CVS.

A racist chocolate advertisement relating African skin color to chocolate treats
Source: Lecture 4, Slide 5
A classic feminized add for chocolate
Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/opinion/sex-and-candy.html

The Chocolate Selection at CVS

            As CVS has expanded its selection of items, particularly its selection of consumables, its chocolate so too has expanded. When you search for chocolate on the CVS website or you enter a physical CVS location, you are immediately confronted with the classic brands that you would expect. This includes brands such as: Dove, Hershey, Cadbury, Toblerone, Mars, Lindt etc. These brands have remained staples throughout America, and the world, for decades and thus they have garnered loyal support from many customers. That is, “the main reason for this longevity [of the major chocolate producers] is consumers’ usually strong loyalty to the taste of their chocolate; many consumers make a lifetime commitment to thei favorite chocolate brands” (Allen 21). Seeing these brands immediately made me feel comfortable. I felt that because I knew these brands, I could make an informed decision based on the brand name. At no point was I concerned with how the chocolate was produced, or even the ingredients of the chocolate, my decisions were based solely on brand name and packaging. Furthermore, as I view chocolate as a luxury and not something that should be eaten all the time or in large quantities, I was not concerned with the calorie content of any of the items. I knew that I was buying this luxury good to splurge and thus, calories were of no concern to me. Many of the large brands utilized images and colors on their packages so that they seemed luxurious and special. Dark purple and blue are often used on the packaging, as well as gold, in order to exude a certain type of luxury and exclusivity. Although much of the selection from the larger brands, such as Mars and Hershey, revolved around their classic treats, there was also a number of chocolates that were a darker chocolate with more cocoa. These chocolates were attempting to be more luxurious and exclusive even though they come from a well-known and inexpensive brand like Mars, Hershey, or Cadbury. An example of this can be seen in the Hershey’s Kisses Special Dark. Hershey’s kisses are a classic product from Hershey, and arguably one of the most famous chocolate treats in America. They are inexpensive and not considered to be the highest-end or most luxurious chocolate treat. Yet, by changing the packaging by adding a dark purple color and wrapping the Kisses in purple tinfoil rather than the classic silver foil the treats seem much more luxurious and high-end. The addition of ‘Special Dark’ on the label speaks to a certain level of prestige and luxury, and it also hints at the ingredient content of the treats which seem to be of better and higher quality. This attempt of a large brand that is not necessarily known for extremely high-quality and luxurious chocolate, like Hershey, attempting to advertise a luxurious and high-end product differs from a large brand that is more synonymous with high-end chocolate. This can be seen in the packaging of the Lindt Lindor chocolates. Lindt is more synonymous with a higher-end and more luxurious chocolate than is Hershey, thus all of their products immediately have that luxury cachet simply because of the brand name. The Lindt Lindor packaging is simple and elegant and includes colors such as dark blue and gold.

The ‘luxurious’ packaging for Lindt Lindor chocolates which are synonymous with luxury and exclusivity
Source: https://www.cvs.com/shop/lindt-lindor-truffles-dark-chocolate-prodid-271345
A screenshot from the first products that come up when one searches ‘chocolate on the CVS website
Source: https://www.cvs.com/search?searchTerm=chocolate

The Dangers of Chocolate Advertising

            One aspect of these attempts at utilizing luxury as a selling-point for chocolate is that these companies use this idea of luxury without backing it up through an explanation how the chocolate is produced and why it is of better quality than other treats. The containers focus on textures and mouthfeels of the various products, yet do not speak about what makes the particular chocolate more expensive and of better quality than other products. The Lindt Lindor packaging, for example, says “Irresistibly Smooth” on the front, yet does not speak to the actual quality of the chocolate and the ingredients of the product. This is an ingenious ploy by the chocolate companies because they need not drastically increase their cost of production, but rather just adjust the advertising and increase the price to create the lure of luxury and exclusivity. Thus, consumers must become aware of these ploys by the chocolate manufacturers and ensure that they are paying for quality of production and ingredients, not luxurious advertising.


Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes :the Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s

            Consumers. AMACOM, American Management Association, 2009.

Hackenesch, Silke. “Advertising Chocolate, Consuming Race? On the Peculiar Relationship of

            Chocolate Advertising, German Colonialism, and Blackness.” Vol. 12, no. 1, 2014, pp.


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

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

The Chocolate Metamorphosis

Word Count: 2372

The Chocolate Metamorphosis

Chocolate is an exceptionally human product. When one observes a cacao pod next to a bar of chocolate, it turns strikingly clear that the contents of a cacao pod must have undergone significant transformations before taking the shape and taste of a chocolate bar. And all of these transformations are inherently at the mercy of human decisions. As a matter of fact,“during nine tenths of its long history, chocolate was drunk, not eaten,” (Coe and Coe, 12). But, humans eventually metamorphosed chocolate back into a solid. To gain any insight on the present state of the chocolate industry, it is therefore essential to focus on the engagement between humans and chocolate. Hence, interviewing a Brazilian woman was an ideal, taken opportunity to better understand a 21st-century individual’s relationship with chocolate, the role chocolate plays on the individual’s life, and how chocolate’s significance may or may not have changed over time. Among other important themes, the interview leads to a two-faced thesis that the qualitative aspects of chocolate and its production are more dependent than ever on the desires of the consumers (the demand side of the market), and that cultural preferences and tastes for chocolate have changed.

Taking on the pseudonym “Marcela,” the subject of this interview has consumed chocolate all her life. As a child, Marcela had a preference for sweet, chocolaty treats. Today, Marcela consumes only dark chocolate, usually the 70% Lindt chocolate bar. Transitioning from sweet, cheaper chocolates to darker, more expensive chocolates, Marcela said she developed a more refined taste as she got older. But, while her tastes for chocolate changed over time, she thinks she remained hooked to chocolate mostly because of the addictive caffeine and sugar it contains. Discussing the contents of chocolates, Marcela actually was aware of the presence of flavonoids, which she thought to be “good for the heart.” Cacao contains hundreds of compounds, one of which is the antioxidant flavonoid compound, quercetin, “known to have not only antioxidant but also anti-inflammatory activity,” (Coe and Coe, 31). Since the Olmec civilization, cacao has indeed been associated with medical benefits, but also it has served as a sacred symbol, supposed aphrodisiac, source of energy and strength, unit of currency, and congregational drink. Today, though not all the potential benefits from the complex chemical structure of cacao are understood, at least dark chocolate can be recommended as a healthier alternative to sweeter, milky chocolates. Marcela revealed that the primary reason why she stopped eating sweet, milk-containing chocolate was because she took a conscious decision to regulate her sugar and fat intake.

Interestingly, Marcela drew a parallel between her consumption of chocolate and coffee: Both contain caffeine, and she does not go a day without either of them. Moreover, one should add that not only do chocolate and coffee contain caffeine in common, but they also each contain one more alkaloid (methylxanthine), theobromine and trigonelline, respectively. Marcela came to the conclusion that a piece of dark chocolate and a cup of coffee are like substitute goods for her: hence, in a kind of tradeoff between chocolate and coffee, she notices that she consumes more of one when she reduces the consumption of the other, and vice-versa. This characteristic of the demand side could have significant implications for the supply side of the markets of chocolate and coffee.

If coffee and dark chocolate were indeed substitute goods, and consumers behaved like Marcela, in theory the cross-price elasticity of demand should always be positive (Hayes). Since chocolate’s caffeine is addictive, people tend to be less sensitive to changes in its price. But, if coffee is a kind of substitute for chocolate, the demand for chocolate could perhaps be less inelastic than previously thought. So, ceteris paribus, if for instance dark chocolate’s price were to increase, some of the consumers could consume more coffee instead, and the relative strength of this substitution could impact the profitability and survival of the chocolate business. Unfortunately, cacao trees are pickier than humans when it comes to survival in the environment they live in, and cacao trees are very susceptible to diseases, too.

With climate change, and the potential variation of temperatures and humidity away from the desirable conditions for cacao to prosper, cacao producers may gradually have to transition away from cacao and into other crop plantations. Interestingly, some of this transition away from cacao in some regions may be partially offset by flexible businesses like Mayorga Organics. One of their food scientists, Melanie, mentioned in a lecture to college students in Massachusetts that Mayorga Organics is transitioning from coffee production to cacao production due to global warming. Meanwhile, large chocolate companies are investing in genetic modification as an alternative: In September 2018, “the 35 billion dollar corporation [Mars] pledged $1 billion as part of a plan to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 60 percent or more by 2050,” (Vandette, Kate). Plus, Mars and UC Berkeley are collaborating in the exploration of gene editing by using CRISPR technology, as supported by an account in the World Economic Forum, (Brodwin, Erin).

Consumers today are surprisingly more educated about supply chain issues than they used to be. But how much do consumers know about the factors of production involved in the chocolate business, and how much do they care? During a significant period in history, both crops of cacao and coffee were dependent on human enslavement as a source of labor. Having visited cacao farms in Brazil before, Marcela knew that today the initial stages in the production process are still very manual, with no machinery; in big chocolate businesses the next parts are more industrialized. She remembered the strong smell she scented when walking in the shade of seemingly randomly-sorted cacao trees, and the humid tropical weather which makes her skin sticky. Today, in the typical production process of chocolate from bean to bar, there are several steps and technological components involved: machetes are generally used in the hand-labor-intensive harvesting of cacao pods within 20 degrees from north and 20 degrees south of the equator; extracted beans are fermented, dried, sorted and bagged, roasted, potentially Alkali-processed, winnowed, ground; pressing (in a hydraulic press) and conching happen last (Coe and Coe, 19). A chocolate bar may be complemented with additives such as milk, sugar, salt, pepper, other spices, nuts, or fruits, too.

Though Marcela might know a bit more than the average person about the process of chocolate, on an ordinary day she does not interrupt her chocolate eating to think of all the work which happens behind the scenes, before she purchases the packaged, final product at a supermarket. Even while Marcela was well-aware of the sad demise of cacao farms in Brazil affected by the witches’ broom disease, she was not aware that there are still concerns regarding illegal kinds of child labor found today in cacao farms, including some in Brazil (for example, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H6088tpE8c and https://vimeo.com/332509945). Fortunately, Brazil has several programs for whistleblowing on child labor, and some are focused on publishing the names of those who need to be held accountable for. There are also several certifications through which companies may commit to avoid child labor. But, when it comes to chocolate production, it is a true endeavor to detect and regulate child labor in rural settings with weak infrastructure and limited access to technology, like Medicilândia in Pará, Brazil. Yet again, this is the time in history where consumers have perhaps the biggest say on supply than ever.

Millennials account for approximately one fourth of the world population, and play an increasingly significant role in the establishment of consumer trends. As a matter of fact, in the U.S., Millennials amount to the largest consumer group ever in the history of the country (Das Moumita, 76). Millennials are exerting their power through demands for more socially and environmentally sustainable processes (The Nielsen Company). Hence, moving forward, they are expected to continue having an important role in impacting the supply chain processes for chocolate production all around the world.

The targeting of the Millennial audience is already present in a very recent innovation – a “fourth” kind of chocolate. In her interview, Marcela mentioned that during Easter she read about a newly-created “Ruby Chocolate” in a section of the newspapers on palate. It is important to note that Easter is a very important in Brazil not just because the holiday has a large following population, but also because the nation as a whole adopted the custom of creating and consuming chocolate eggs during Easter. Regardless of the religious affiliations they may associate themselves with or without, Brazilians consume large quantities of chocolate during Easter. So, when Marcela set out to buy some Easter eggs, she decided to try Callebaut’s new chocolate:


“After dark, milk, and white chocolate, the ruby chocolate is the most incredible discovery of the last 80 years! // It is a new experience of flavor and color, obtained from ruby cacao almonds. With pink coloration and fruity, slightly acidic flavor, the ruby has unique characteristics which come from ingredients naturally present in cacao, without artificial coloring or flavoring. // The almonds of ruby cacao are found in diverse producing regions in the world, like Ecuador, Ivory Coast and even Brazil. // The authentic Belgian ruby chocolate of Callebaut is done with cacao cultivated in a sustainable manner, and its sales contribute with programs supporting cacao farmers and their families. // [In pink font] Give in to this experience and discover the color and flavor of ruby, the pink chocolate of Callebaut.”

This picture Marcela took provides a great opportunity to analyze the marketing strategy of the company. The first line of the propaganda markets ruby chocolate as a brand new, innovative product by placing it as “the most incredible discovery of the last 80 years.” This is probably especially attractive to Millenials, who are all about market disruptions. The choice of pink coloration is an interesting way to contrast with the tones of brown chocolate and white chocolates that consumers are used to. Perhaps it is a way to further target women, given the stereotypical association of pink with women. Plus, the possibility that this ruby chocolate is targeting women would actually make sense in the larger context of chocolate advertisements: if observed closely, many of the video advertisements for chocolates usually use the figure of a woman. In fact, the chocolate gift-giving culture overarchingly centers around men giving women chocolate – take Valentine’s day for example. So, with its pink coloring, ruby chocolate does seem to fit in this more general tendency to focus on attracting the more feminine consumers. This appeal to the status quo, or cultural recurrence, is then followed by a reference to the sources for the raw cacao materials in this chocolate bar. With strict adherence to the words used, one might be consuming ruby chocolate made with cacao from the Ivory Coast (the world’s largest cacao producer) or Ecuador, but the inclusion of Brazil as a source among these others may sway the Brazilian consumer towards thinking that ruby chocolate is actually Brazilian. That is thus a clever strategy to attract Brazilian consumers. This aspect of nationalism is also seen in the selling of the product as Belgian, which prompts the reputation of Belgium as a competent, quality chocolate producer. The next complement is again an appeal especially to Millennials: “The authentic Belgian ruby chocolate of Callebaut is done with cacao cultivated in a sustainable manner, and its sales contribute with programs supporting cacao farmers and their families.” With that, Callebaut leverages its social and environmental causes, without necessarily pinpointing exactly what these programs do, how effective they are, or what “a sustainable manner” means. The final phrase, in pink, circles back to the theme of women in chocolate media while also hinting at a sensual tension with chocolate through the imperative command, “give in.”

Regarding the actual experience Marcela had tasting the ruby chocolate, she reported that she did indeed feel a more fruity, citric taste. In her case, it turns out that she did not really enjoy that acidic feel. Taste is really something personal, as each individual consumer has his/her own particular preferences. Marcela likely would have preferred the taste of a chocolate with greater alkali (Dutch) processing, which reduces acidity and darkens the color of chocolate.

With the generous amount of time devoted by this interviewee in sharing her experiences with chocolate, two important insights stand out. First is a confirmation of the increasingly important say of consumers in the chocolate market. Second is the realization that cultural preferences and tastes for chocolate have changed over time. The adoption of cacao in different cultures, with changing preferences of taste, coupled with technological innovations meant the world could eventually reap the benefits of democratization and widespread consumption of chocolate. At the heart of the expansion of the chocolate market is the critically important increase in the social and economic power of women as consumers. Meanwhile, more sophisticated machinery and methods of processing further viabilized mass chocolate consumption and the rise of big chocolate industries.

Just as Marcela the interviewee changed her preferences from childhood to adulthood, so did the world’s consumers in a longer run. Today it is no longer common to see cacao beans used as barter currency, or to have chocolate drinks before going to war in ritual of Aztec warriors. Instead, chocolate is now more popularly consumed in a solid state, is frequently sweetened and mixed with milk, and is often purchased as a gift; the stereotypical gift-giving of chocolate is associated with a woman on the receiving end. Plus, cacao fruits themselves might be induced to change in the human led effort to genetically modify them, increase yields, improve immunity to diseases, and sustain the supply in the midst of climate change.

More than 2 centuries ago, John Phillips, founder of Phillips Exeter Academy, claimed that “[…] goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.” The truth in these words has not changed. But, the relationship between humans and chocolate certainly has, and is constantly subject to alteration. So, looking into the future, change is the one thing people can be certain about. Hopefully, change shall come for the better, under the influence of both knowledge and goodness, together.


Ashihara, Hiroshi. “Metabolism of Alkaloids in Coffee Plants.” Brazilian Journal of Plant Physiology, vol. 18, no. 1, Mar. 2006, pp. 1–8. Crossref, doi:10.1590/S1677-04202006000100001.

Brodwin, Erin. “Chocolate Could Be Extinct by 2040.” World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/chocolate-is-on-track-to-go-extinct-in-40-years/. Accessed 15 Mar. 2019.

Coe, Sophie D, and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Das, Moumita. “Connecting With The Most Powerful Consumer Generation.” Promotional Products Association International, p. 11.

The Nielsen Company (US), LLC. “Green Generation: Millennials Say Sustainability Is a Shopping Priority.” Nielsen, http://www.rhizalab.org/pk/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority. Accessed 2 May 2019.

Hayes, Adam. “Understanding the Cross Elasticity of Demand.” Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cross-elasticity-demand.asp. Accessed 3 May 2019.Vandette, Kate. “Genetically Modified Cacao Could Stop Chocolate from Running Out.” Earth.Com, 3 Jan. 2018, https://www.earth.com/news/genetically-modified-cacao-chocolate/.

The Relationship Between Class and Nutrition as Evidenced by Chocolate

Cambridge, Massachusetts presents consumers with a number of different retailers from whom to buy chocolate. And within and across these retailers, consumers are presented with a number of different options of flavors and brands of chocolate. I visited four stores in the Cambridge area that sell chocolate: CVS, Cardullos, Cambridge Naturals, and Formaggio Kitchen. After my visit to each of these stores, as well as spending time on each one’s respective website, I noticed an interesting dynamic surrounding the implied social class of each expected consumer base created through the selection of chocolate within each store. Helping to situate these findings are a number of academic sources that aided my discovery of this dynamic. By looking at the varying role of chocolate across markets, as evidenced by price and quantity, packaging and marketing, and surrounding retail items, one is able to use chocolate to determine the underlying social dynamics that connect contemporary ideas of nutrition and consumer class.

Price and Quantity

The price of food has an important impact on the quantity and quality of consumption for the global population. As Robert Albritton points out in his book “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry”, price and quantity inextricably link nutrition and class. One quarter of the population suffers from a price point on food that is too high and are malnourished as a result of insufficient quantity (Albritton 342). A second quarter suffers at the hands of the price point in relation to quantity being too low, driving up their consumption and causing high levels of obesity (342). While the first example seems intuitive, the second deserves more exploration.

It seems counterintuitive that a corporation, created to profit from its sold goods, would provide a surplus of food to consumers at a low price. Why would these corporations not either reduce the amount of food they sell or raise prices? Why would consumers pay for more food than they need, and not spend the equivalent amount of money on appropriate portion sizes? The answer to the first question is that these corporations, often denoted as fast food companies, compete with each other for business, so it is in their interest to provide consumers with the most food at the lowest price, so as to win business. This works because of the incredibly low costs of production of this kind of food (344). The profit margin of cheap food is barely lowered by the addition of one more patty on a burger or a few more chicken nuggets in a meal. Therefore, the competition among fast food corporations results in lower prices and larger quantities of food, in a way that is not present in other types of restaurants that have the higher costs of production associated with a higher (and often times healthier) quality of food. As for consumers, the psychology of taste reveals that this type of food leads to over consumption as a result of its better taste and lack of the kinds of nutrients needed for a person to feel full (Benton 211). Lower classes that may be priced out of consistently eating healthy must turn to alternatives that are not only unhealthy but psychologically addicting. This means income not only affects material possessions, but health as well, which is much more concerning. While the example used above was fast food restaurants, a similar problem is visible today in the industry of chocolate consumerism.

An important example is the comparison of the chocolate selections in two stores in the Cambridge area, CVS and Cardullos. When comparing the average prices of similar quantities (as measured in ounces) of chocolate between the two stores, CVS appears to average .58 cents per ounce, while Cardullo averages .75 cents per ounce. Additionally, while the costs of CVS bars were lower on average, the average number of calories from each CVS bar was higher than Cardullos’ bars, with the majority of the caloric difference coming from a higher sugar content in CVS chocolate. While these are rough estimates I calculated by hand, the significant difference between them, along with what we know about the price and quantity relationship for cheap goods, is in line with what is to be expected from a store like CVS, known for its everyday items, and Cardullos, which prides itself on its “Gourmet international and local chocolates” suitable for the “chocolate connoisseurs” of Cambridge (Cardullos Web).

A second example of nutrition and class and how its relationship is demonstrated through the economic factors of price and quantity is found in chocolate’s role as a gift. Cambridge Naturals, a health and wellness store just outside of Porter Square, displays chocolate in a manner that provides evidence of the problematics of this relationship. The store sells chocolate mostly in small quantities meant for individual consumption. The chocolate is marketed alongside self-care products such as cbd oils, moisturizers and lotions.

Cambridge Naturals

Of note though, is the larger quantities of chocolate, which come packaged in a mock gift wrap, as if to say that while the buyer of the gift would never purchase such a quantity of chocolate for himself or herself, he or she would if it were to be given as a gift. It shows the consumers personal commitment to health, while also demonstrating their ability to pay more for a larger quantity of chocolate that will be given as a gift. The individual chocolate only exists in unornamented wrap, while the larger exists, with few exceptions, in decorative packaging. From this, the store seems to imply negative social connotations around both the giving of a single bar of chocolate as a gift as well as the purchase of a large quantity of chocolate for oneself. One could also make the argument that Cambridge Naturals is trying to balance the image of health it hopes to be associated with, with the higher profit margins that come from selling a larger amount of chocolate at a more expensive price. The store offers the consumer the ability to purchase the larger box of chocolate under the pretense that it is a gift, as the consumer would be remiss to indulge in such a quantity of chocolate by himself or herself.

Marketing and Packaging

This point segues nicely into what the packaging and marketing of chocolate say about the connection between class and nutrition. As discussed by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens in their blog “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies,” many corporations, especially those selling goods with potentially detrimental effects to consumes’ health, have an incentive to put profits above human well-being. The most effective way they have done this in the past is through targeted marketing campaigns that address the controversial aspects of their business. The Sugar Association, which faced potential regulation from the FDA in the 1960s, spent millions on convoluting the idea that sugar was unhealthy. The crux of their argument was that “there was no conclusive evidence” sugar had negative effects to a person’s health (Taubes par. 3). Of course, no study is infallible, and the exercise of picking independent details off as inaccurate in order to invalidate an entire study feels like a reprehensible strategy. The Sugar Association shifted the burden of proof off of themselves and onto other agents, meaning they did not have to prove sugar was healthy, rather, until it was proved definitively by these outside agents that it was categorically unhealthy, no judgment could be made (par. 8).

While Taubes and Couzens focused on how marketing fought against the idea their products were not nutritious, Emma Robertson’s analysis of marketing in “Chocolate Women and Empires” shows how companies would reinforce social stereotypes through their ads depicting idealized consumption. There has been a long standing class separation between industrialized chocolate as that of the working class and craft as that of the sophisticated intellectuals (Robertson 3). Robertson focuses on the example of Rowntree’s attempt to associate their various chocolates with different social classes based on price and quality. For example, Rowntree depicted a sophisticated woman consuming one of their more expensive bars of chocolate (26). This not only targeted people within a certain class, but also those of a specific gender. Rowntree attempted to idealize all the classes in their activities. By doing so, they maintained an appeal to all markets across price points. Those in the lower class saw an idealized version of themselves eating a Rowntree chocolate bar. This type of advertising would have been more realistic, and therefore more appealing, than if they saw a wealthy person consuming chocolate. The message of Rowntree was not that if a person ate this chocolate they would elevate their social status, this would have been difficult to be convincing for obvious reasons. Instead the message was that if one eats this chocolate they become a better version of themselves. When the only difference between a person and the idealized version of that person was a bar of chocolate, that idealized version became more attainable. With this type of marketing, Rowntree bucketed people by social class and reinforced social inequity through expectations of the type of chocolate that person was consuming.

Coupled with Taubus’s and Couzens’s argument on nutrition, Emma Robertson’s analysis of marketing in “Chocolate Women and Empires” evidences how advertisers have pushed narratives in nutrition and class for the benefit of their own sales. These narratives have continued into contemporary society. Returning to the four chocolate stores, there are again two prime examples that can be explored. The first compares the packaging and marketing of CVS products with that of Formaggio Kitchen. These two stores share the largest discrepancy in price point of the four, which makes for a good comparison around how each advertises and packages their respective chocolates. CVS sections all of their chocolate under one category, arranged by increasing quantities, not by brands. In doing so they focus more on quantity than quality. The below image shows the increase sizes in quantity. The movement from right to left in the store is reflected in the below image moving top to bottom, with the right corresponding to top and far left corresponding to the bottom.

CVS Chocolate Selection

Consumers are expected to search by consumption and price. Formaggio Kitchen on the other hand, arranges their chocolates by brand, reflecting a consumer base that knows the kind of chocolate they want to purchase, with the quantity being of secondary consideration. CVS retails producers who package their chocolate in wrappers with larger amounts being encased by plastic bags. Formaggio Kitchen also uses wrappers for individual bars, but a comparison of the touch of the wrappers of those bars retailed by Formaggio Kitchen and those retailed by CVS exhibit’s a noticeable different in quality of wrapping. Many of the chocolates in Formaggio Kitchen contain thicker, smoother wrappers than those in CVS. While small, it is noticeable and enhances the experience of the consumer as he thumbs through the potential chocolate for purchase. Finally, nearly all of CVS advertises the price of their chocolate as being on sale, be it buy one–get one free, or a markdown from the original price. Formaggio Kitchen,on the other hand, is not as concerned with letting their consumer know the price, subtly displaying it below the bar. The differences in presentation of chocolate in these retail stores affirms who each store is trying to market to. Consumers who buy their chocolate at CVS are expected to be concerned with how much they want, and where they can get the best deal. Formaggio Kitchen consumers need to come in with more knowledge of the chocolates they are presented with, as traditional name brands are absent from the selection. Consumers are also expected to be less concerned with the price, a quality of those with higher incomes. The contrast between these two retail stores highlights contemporary class distinctions that markets, such as chocolate, attempt to capitalize on.

A second comparison is the online presence of these chocolate companies. Most notably is the prevalence of Cambridge Naturals Instagram page.

Cambridge Naturals Instagram

It is full of pictures of healthy, largely white, millennials holding Cambridge Natural products. The Instagram feed is linked at the bottom of every page one could visit within the Cambridge Naturals website, often with their most recent posts displayed. For context, all three other stores in this comparison do have Instagram’s, but the link is confined to the home page and only appears as a small icon at the bottom. And each Instagram appears to cater to a consumer base that is much more diverse than the one Cambridge Naturals hopes to attract. Through a handful of posts, Cambridge Naturals reinforces stereotypes that those who enjoy its craft chocolates are wealthy, white, healthy millennials. This depiction of the ideal consumer is dangerous. It shows a disregard for thoughtful advertising that can appeal to a consumer base without excluding a social class or body type. Again through these examples, as situated by scholarly articles, the link between nutrition and class becomes increasingly problematized through the chocolate industry.

Surrounding Retail Items

Finally, the last example I would like to present here is the importance of the experience for consumers, and the role it plays in connecting nutrition and class. Julie Guthman provides a good example of this with the consumption of organic salad mix by the noveau riche of San Francisco in her book, “Fast food/organic food: reflexive tastes and the making of ‘yuppie chow.’” Organic salad was first introduced as an organic food in restaurants that provided its consumers with the experience of dining with other sophisticated members of society who could also appreciate the importance of organic food (Guthman 503). The markups in restaurants made the salad mix inaccessible to the common people, and the idea of organic food as healthy caused body weight to be used as a measure of separation between social classes. Peter McNeil and Giorgio Riello also write about the importance of consumer experience and the role it played for members of various classes in “Luxury a Rich History.” Those who can afford to do so, have shifted their preferences away from brands as a measure of luxury and focused more on achieving the extraordinary through paid experience (McNeil 235). For retailers, the challenge is to create an environment that convinces the consumer of the value of their product. They can no longer rely on brand name and recognition, so the selection of the various kinds of products the retailer includes in the store is what creates the environment.

For CVS, their store has everyday items, ranging from school supplies and cleaning products to other snack foods. They aim to capture the everyday consumer who stops by to grab supplies in small amounts, such as laundry detergent, a snack, or shampoo. In many ways it is a better stocked, convenient store. The surrounding environment to the chocolate situates it as a low cost, everyday item that fits in with the overall consumer environment created by CVS. They hope to move product in large quantities, and their chocolate selection reflects this. The environment does its best to cater across classes by being accessible to the lowest one. Its food selection captures this approach, and as a result, explains why much of that food is not fruit or vegetables, but highly processed foods, including chocolate made by companies with an eye toward profits.

Cardullos, on the other hand, advertises a quintessential New England experience. The store contains a deli restaurant, wine selection and even “New England” goods. Their chocolate selection is meant to both benefit and enhance this environment for the consumer. Catered to those looking to experience New England, the store appears to appeal to tourists visiting Cambridge. It provides a place to get lunch, as well as purchase souvenirs in the form of wine or chocolate.


Those who can afford to travel are often in the upper echelons of society, and those who eat fresh deli food are at least somewhat health conscious, especially given the other food options they would have passed over in the square, such as Flat Patties and Felipe’s. By marketing the deli as quintessentially New England, an identity appealing to those who do not spend extended amounts of time in New England regularly, the chocolate is selected to reflect healthier and wealthier consumers. This deduction on its own may seem contrived, but given the large amount of evidence of such connection existing between nutrition and class, this assertion is well founded.

As mentioned previously, Cambridge Naturals selects products and brands that will collectively create an experience to appeal to their target demographic. Outside of chocolate, there are no other food products sold at Cambridge Naturals. The majority of the store is focused on self-care products, arranged cleanly in rows of the store. Given mainstream knowledge of chocolate is that it is generally unhealthy, seeing it in the store might seem somewhat out of place. Yet it is one of the three FCCI retailers that sells fine cacao, which minimizes additional ingredients to chocolate outside of cacao and sugar (Martin 4). As a healthier version of non-mainstream chocolate, the target consumer base of wealthier millennials can rely on the qualities of craft chocolate as an explanation for why it is marketed along health products. The variety of chocolate offered also indicates this approach has worked. Craft chocolate now comprises a significant part of the store and the brands have carved out a place among the consumerism of healthy, wealthy millennials.

Finally, the environment of Formaggio Kitchen is the most upscale. They market cheese, wine, and chocolate. The pairing of fine cheese and wine is known to be a practice engaged by the upper echelons of society. Formaggio Kitchen must feel then that their selection of chocolate would correspond to the type of luxurious environment those searching for wine and cheese would like to experience. In addition to food, Formaggio Kitchen also offers tasting classes that range from $40 to $100. Access to these classes being restricted to those with the desire and ability to pay for a class focused on learning about finer foods. The dynamics surrounding these types of classes are important, unlike cooking classes, Formaggio Kitchen does not teach you a skill but rather a knowledge. This knowledge can only be further utilized through the continual purchase of these more expensive foods one has learned about. So while the price of the class can be between $40 and $100, there are undoubtedly continued expenses to allow the student to utilize this knowledge.

Formaggio Kitchen

This upper tier and what it says about nutrition and class are important. Unlike CVS, consumers are not purchasing chocolate based on cost, and unlike Cardullos and Cambridge Naturals, consumers are not even consuming healthier chocolate for the purposes of better nutrition. Formaggio Kitchen situates itself in a class of people that consume its product solely for the experience. Cheese, wine, and craft chocolate do not contain many of the essential calories needed for a complete meal. They are not consumed for their nutrition but rather for their taste, demonstrating how in the most elite parts of society, consumption of food may transcend nutritional value if it presents the consumer with an experience of luxury.

In conclusion, the versatility of chocolate makes it a very interesting food that is consumed across classes for a number of different reasons. As a result, an analysis of how it is retailed gives insights into the connected role class plays with nutrition. Those most worried about nutrition often seek to maximize their caloric intake with minimum price. Those seeking healthier chocolate often do so because they are able, and willing to pay more. And then those simply searching for the modern luxury of experience do so through chocolate, which has found a place alongside wine and cheese as a fine food that can provide such an experience.

Works Cited

Albritton, Robert. 2012[2010]. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” pp. 342-354

Benton, David. 2004. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” pp. 205-218

“Cardullo’s Gift Baskets and Fine Wines.” Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, cardullos.com/.

Guthman, Julie. 2012[2003]. “Fast food/organic food: reflexive tastes and the making of‘yuppie chow.’” pp. 496-509

McNeil, Peter and Giorgio Riello. 2015. Luxury: A Rich History. pp. 1-10, 225-293

Martin, Carla, “Sizing the craft chocolate market,” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (blog),

August 31, 2017, https://chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/.

Taubes, Gary and Christin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.”

Image Citation

“Cambridge Naturals” https://www.cambridgenaturals.com/

“Cardullo’s Gift Baskets and Fine Wines.” Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, cardullos.com/.

“CVS” https://www.cvs.com/

“Formaggio Kitchen.” https://www.formaggiokitchen.com/

Marketing Tactics Continually Employed by the Chocolate Industry

            Given the long and complex history that the role of chocolate has been able to have in each and every one of our lives, it is certainly surprising to see that, even in contemporary times, chocolate continues to be a driving and compelling force in individual’s lives. Given this significant impact, it is important to consider the manner(s) in which some individual’s lives are changed and altered by a single food. For this particular research study, I decided to meet with a friend whom I knew for a fact has chocolate ranked as her favorite food item. Not only that, but the majority of times that I have been able to meet with my friend in the past, she has invariably either wanted grab a quick hot chocolate or has been eating a chocolate bar herself. While this may seem as too much for some individuals, for my friend, eating chocolate in the variety of different forms that the product takes is a favorite pastime for her. Therefore, the premise of this study will be analyzing an interview I was able to have with my friend and being able to critique the manner in which there might have been certain societal constructs that may or may have not contributed to the manner in which she thinks about chocolate within her everyday life. More specifically, the aim of this study was to figure out what impact, if any, the chocolate advertising industry was able to shape the way my friend thought about chocolate as well as to see if she felt that the chocolate industry could be doing something better in terms of advertising its chocolate. For the purposes of this study, it should be duly noted that my friend has requested to remain entirely anonymous for this interview and, as such, the pseudonym, Angelica, has been assigned to her.

           When starting the interview, my aim was to be able to keep the questions as unbiased as possible so as to make for a constructive use of our time and to keep the verbal data that was provided as clear from marginal error as possible. The first question that was asked of Angelica was regarding how she felt about chocolate and the way they advertise their products. Almost immediately, Angelica pointed out how the chocolate industry has been doing better than previous years in terms of being able to keep their advertisements out of the gender identity spectrum. To elaborate on this, Angelica was able to point to a particular advertisement that she saw a few years ago that she claims may have had a part in shaping the manner in which she thought about the chocolate industry as a whole. In the advertisement, the company, Dove, produced a commercial that seems to be hyper-sexualizing a woman eating chocolate whilst saying “The feeling of chocolate slowly melting on my tongue. The ultimate enjoyment should be as silky smooth as this.”V

Upon seeing this, it is not difficult to see the manner in which the advertising industry has aimed at shifting women’s role in chocolate, whom Emma Robertson, author of Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History, states was pivotal in the success of the chocolate industry as a whole (Cleall). In fact, upon mentioning this, Angelica immediately showed me a different advertisement, this time displaying men as the sexual objects of the chocolate industry.  

What can be seen from these two sets of advertisements is that the chocolate industry has been able to effectively incorporate what seem to be individual’s wants and desires into the advertisements themselves. In a way, the advertisements serve as indicators that if and when individuals decide to purchase the products that are being sold to them, they will ultimately be able to feel very similar to the way that the individuals in the commercials feel.

            Having said this, it can then be assumed that the chocolate advertising industry is comparable to a double-edged sword. On one hand, advertising is that which allows different individuals to become aware about a variety of products that they might not know about otherwise. However, on the same token, it is equally important to acknowledge the fact that the advertising industry is also able to have a degenerative effect on society as a whole, especially when the intentions behind the advertising are malicious in their very nature. For instance, a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics focused on the effect of marketing on younger individuals. In particular, the study was able to come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, an influx of benefits that could be extracted from advertising. At the same time, however, the study was also able to find that advertising companies can very often have a distinctly negative effect on children if and when the advertising is done with the wrong intentions in mind (Lapierre). Such an example of this would be if and when a chocolate company might be directing their marketing efforts towards children in an attempt to be able to draw them out to purchase their products at quite a young age. Given the fact that advertisers have an in-depth understanding regarding how one’s psychological systems function, they are able to understand that if and when a habit is formed at an early age, it then becomes much more difficult to break such a habit later in one’s life. What this means for the chocolate industry is the fact that a variety of these chocolate companies might often times be directing their marketing efforts towards children for the sole purpose of being able to draw them in, without keeping their health in mind. Of course, these companies are well aware of the fact that inducing a chocolate eating habit in a child’s life is certainly not the healthiest option for a child, but for the sake of profit, these companies do not seem to mind much.

            In following with the interview, when Angelica was specifically asked about what she thought about the manner in which a high number of these chocolate companies would focus on drawing these children in, her response was one of anger. Despite the fact that Angelica has been a chocolate lover for as long as she can remember, it was quite evident that she was upset about the manner in which these companies would spend such vast amount of resources in order to be able to capture a child’s attention. At the premise of this anger was her response, “Children do not know any better than to eat whatever they deem delicious, yet companies certainly know much better.” Upon saying this, Angelica pointed my attention to a 2013 advertisement that was produced by Kit Kat, a well-recognized brand known for its production of chocolate bar snacks. In the advertisement, it can be seen how children are in what appears to be a hospital and these young individuals begin to dance and be overjoyed the moment they notice that a doctor has a Kit Kat bar. V

Upon being analyzed from an objective point of view, it could be clearly seen that the advertisement should not be taken literally, as a simple chocolate bar would most probably not be able to cause an influx of happiness for such a large amount of people. However, the problem that should be of main concern here is the fact that it is the children themselves who might be the ones who watch an advertisement such as this one. Due to the manner in which children would certainly not know any better but to accept the advertisement at face value, this then goes to prove that the advertisement would be entirely misleading. From a children’s perspective, a chocolate bar would indeed be able to have the exact effect on a large number of other children, so a logical train of thought for them would indicate that the children watching these advertisements would condition themselves to believe that, they too, should be big advocates for chocolate. By making use of this type of group mentality, big chocolate companies are easily able to draw the attention of unsuspecting children who might not know any better but to believe and therefore desire everything that they might see on the Internet or any other form of media outlet for that matter.

            Towards the end of the interview, Angelica was then asked how she believed the overall candy industry could improve their efforts in terms of who they market and how they go about doing this type of marketing. With a prompt response, Angelica pointed out that the reason as to why such a vast amount of companies are so willing to pursue these type of advertising tactics is because it is often times what is easiest to do in order to make profits. Given just how repeatable and easily replicated these types of advertising tactics are, she pointed out that these companies have and will continue to target young demographics in order to make their companies relevant and to be able to sustain healthy revenues throughout the course of their existence. In fact, in an article published by the United States National Library of Medicine, the research found that “foods marketed to children are predominantly high in sugar and fat, and as such are inconsistent with national dietary recommendations” (Story). Further, it discovered that food advertising brands will integrate themselves into the lives of the average child in terms of being able to associate themselves into the child’s mind at school, at home, or elsewhere. The impact of this is that since these children are continually exposed to the clever marketing tactics being employed by a variety of these companies, they fall victims to their products, ultimately resulting as a negative externality on their health.

           Moving forward, one of the final questions that Angelica was asked was whether she believed that the chocolate industry targeted men or women equally. Here, Angelica pointed out that while not all chocolate advertisements objectify men and women, they go far lengths in order to draw out emotion from individuals. What is meant by this is the fact that an increasing amount of these chocolate advertisements focus more on the emotion that they might be able to draw from their audience instead of focusing on the product itself. One good example of this is pictured below, in which a woman portrayed running away from what appears to be a wave of chocolate.V

Whilst running away, the advertisement is quite indicative of the fact that the woman is gladly running away and appears to be in a state of bliss doing so. What can be seen here is that a lot of these companies are well aware that since it is difficult to differentiate oneself via the product of chocolate, they must therefore innovate and find other means by which they might able to reach their target audience. This is evidenced by a study conducted by the American Marketing Association, in which researchers were interested in the correlation between emotional advertisements and engagement on Internet advertisements (Teixeira). Having concluded in a positive correlation, it can be clearly seen why so many of these companies opt to follow this course of action as opposed to simply focusing on the product that they are intending to sell.

            Upon the conclusion of my interview with Angelica, she pointed out that while a large portion of her life revolves around chocolate and how much happiness it is ultimately able to bring her, she is saddened by the manner in which a lot of the industry itself is run. In order to fix things, she says companies should start to be entirely transparent about their true intentions when running advertisements. Further, she stated that these very same companies should stop their efforts in trying to “recruit” children into their brands at such a young age. This change should not be expected anytime soon, however, given the amount of money that these brands made from advertising to children. As such, it is up to one’s own responsibility to continually question the things that they see either online or offline when it comes to advertisements.

Works Cited

Chocolates, Schmitten Luxury. “Priyanka Gets Wrapped in the Luxury of Schmitten Chocolates‎ in New TV Ad.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Nov. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeSPVANamAA.

Cleall, Esme. “Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. By Emma Robertson.” Cultural and Social History, vol. 9, no. 3, 2012, pp. 475–476., doi:10.2752/147800412×13347542916945.

exoteeelis. “Chinese Sihua Dove ASMR Ad Campaign – Angelababy.” YouTube, YouTube, 16 Apr. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhwYbH5n15c.

FANDA, Genius. “Kit Kat Ad 2013.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Mar. 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrUEO261tU8.

Lapierre, Matthew A., et al. “The Effect of Advertising on Children and Adolescents.” Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Nov. 2017, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/140/Supplement_2/S152.

Show, The Ad. “Hot Chicks Lick Chocolate Man: Seducing Tongues.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Sept. 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myxGr1uuGiw.

Story, Mary, and Simone French. “Food Advertising and Marketing Directed at Children and Adolescents in the US.” The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, BioMed Central, 10 Feb. 2004, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC416565/.

Teixeira, Thales, et al. “Emotion-Induced Engagement in Internet Video Advertisements – Thales Teixeira, Michel Wedel, Rik Pieters, 2012.” SAGE Journals, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1509/jmr.10.0207.

The Quest for Asian Markets

Can Japanese confectionery companies surpass the Chocolate Giants?

Meiji Chocolate Products.

I love Pocky. I grew up eating Pocky, chocolate Koala March, and chocolate covered almonds. When you walk into a Japanese or Taiwanese convenience store, there are American and British chocolate products, but they are also overwhelmed by the plethora of choices offered by Japanese brands like Glico and Meiji. Even in the United States, people in more urban areas are becoming increasingly familiar with Meiji and Glico products, enthusiastically buying their products when available. However, their products do not have close to the name brand recognition here as in Asian markets. While some companies like Hershey’s sales are slowing down in China, Japanese companies have slowly increased its sales all over Asia. Although many of the top companies such as Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé still dominate the Chinese market, will Japanese companies soon dominate the rest of Asia and join the mix in China? Have they figured out the secret to succeeding in this unique market?

Chocolate confectionery giants have long identified Asia as a potential market to boost sales and increase brand recognition. However, it has proven difficult to penetrate with the traditional flavors and offerings of the West (Martin, lecture, March 13, 2019). What many western chocolate companies such as Hershey’s, Cadbury, Nestle and Mars have realized is that the Asia’s cultural differences and attitudes towards chocolate demands not just different marketing, but different products as well.

Just some of the many snack products offered by Ezaki Glico.

Japan’s chocolate confectionery companies seem to have tapped into these consumption patterns, targeting countries in distinct ways to cater to the domestic market. They use these cultural tastes and differences to target Asian consumers, such as creating commercials portraying people presenting chocolate as a perfect gift, not just for significant others but for friends as well. They use celebrities’ star power to market their goods, using “idols” in many marketing campaigns.  Companies like Glico and Meiji also have a diversity of offerings, much of which caters more to Asian taste buds as shown in the plethora of products above. Moreover, these companies strive to create more localized relationships with sellers of products in emerging markets and tweak their products to make them more budget-friendly, catering to each localities’ needs and wants. These Japanese companies’ endeavors serve to give a more local feel to the products and facilitate increased consumption of their goods. They have also been able to take advantage of the expansion of convenience stores in Southeast Asia to stock their own products. That, combined with Japan’s reputation for selling products of consistently quality, has facilitated increased sales as well as their entry into gourmet chocolate. Furthermore, these companies have tapped into creating fads around their goods common within Asian markets, popularizing trying different flavors of products such as pocky and instagramming their limited edition products. Simultaneously, like many other confectionery companies around the world, these marketing strategies employed by Meiji and Glico also contribute to reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes by utilizing idealized versions of Asian women in advertisements in order to increase sales.

Defying Uniformity

When marketing research company Kadence International conducted a consumer survey in Asian markets, they realized that rather than seeing Asia as a uniform market, chocolate companies should sell different chocolate goods based on their taste preferences. Patrick Young, a director at Kadence, posits that this variety of taste preferences is indicative of the lack of dominance of any one chocolate brand in Asia (Nieburg and Young, 2016). For example, consumers in Taiwan, Singapore, India and Malaysia all prefer a crunchy texture while Japan stresses a more health-conscious product (Nieburg and Young, 2016). Rather than forcing sales of creamy textured chocolate bars popular in the U.S., Japanese confectionery companies started with cookie or biscuit based chocolate products that better align with consumer preferences. Many popular products such as Meiji’s chocolate almonds or Glico’s Pocky cater to a large population that prefer crunchiness over smooth, silky textures.

Chart of the results found in the consumer survey conducted by Kadence. Posted in Confectionery News.

In Singapore, Meiji’s Hello Panda (a chocolate-filled cookie snack pack) and Yan Yans (biscuit sticks with a chocolate dipping sauce) are now offered in every major supermarket (Miyazumi, 2014). These crunchy, bite-sized snacks are extremely popular and have become staples in Singapore and other parts of Asia. The fact that Japanese brands have a reputation for quality products have facilitated the growth in their popularity not just in Singapore but all over Asia (Miyazumi, 2014).

Hello Pandas are one of the signature products for Meiji in Singapore and are one of the first Meiji products sold in India.

While Meiji has a strong foothold in Singapore, they are expanding to new Asian markets such as India. Rather than starting to send the same products that cater to east Asian and southeast Asian tastes, Meiji has set up preliminary testing of certain products in the emerging market. The company has been sending representatives every month for weeks at a time to establish personal relationships with individual vendors (Miyazumi, 2014). Meiji is also experimenting with prices and product sizes as the cost of living in India is significantly different to the buying power of Japanese and Singaporean consumers (Miyazumi, 2014). Glico has done something similar in Thailand where Pocky (chocolate coated biscuit sticks) are sold in smaller packets for the equivalent of 15 cents (Sese, 2014). The majority of their Pocky sales in both Thailand and Indonesia are a result of smaller sales in small shops in rural areas.

In Japan, Meiji, Glico and other companies have shifted their products as consumers have become increasingly health-conscious as reflected in the consumer survey (Nieburg and Young, 2016). Since 2016, the chocolate market in Japan has been growing about 4-5% per year, exceeding the growth rate of the global market (Boyd, 2018). Both Glico and Meiji have introduced chocolate products with supposed health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and reduce stress (Boyd, 2018). Touting the supposed health benefits of chocolate is an age-old tradition as evidenced in the medicinal practices used in Mesoamerica and in Europe (Coe and Coe, 2013, 120-129). Japanese confectioners also took advantage of the supposed health benefits of chocolate and advertised it at the turn of the 20th Century (Mitsuda, 2014, 189). These new chocolate products go further by not just promoting the health benefits of chocolate itself, but to incorporate new elements into the chocolate that have health benefits as well (Boyd, 2018). The reintroduction of chocolate as a healthy indulgence in a society whose population is skewing towards the older generations has boosted sales for these companies. In Thailand, also growing increasingly health conscious, Glico also introduced sugar-free chocolate products to cater to the growing consumer base (Nikkei Asian Review, 2017).

One of Japanese companies’ strengths is refusing to assume that products will work and sell uniformly in the whole of the Asian market. Companies such as Hershey have been largely criticized for their inability to adapt to Chinese tastes, opting to stay with flavorings popular in North America and Europe (Reuters, 2017). Japanese companies are trying to ingrain themselves in specific domestic markets that reflect the consumers’ preferences and tastes.

Playing to the Culture- Both Good and Bad

One advantage of Japanese companies is an innate understanding of the culture surrounding chocolate of gift giving as Japanese consumers fall into this category as well. Commercials such as the one shown below are typical, targeting younger females with both star power and message. The female students are giving each other chocolates, trying to reinforce the idea that chocolates gifts are not just for significant others, but also for friends. A pivotal moment in the commercial is the comparison in the size of the gifts, encouraging consumers to buy bigger chocolate products.

Meiji Chocolate commercial for Valentine’s Day.

Women as targets for Valentine’s Day ads also reveal a cultural difference between Western and Asian practices. While it is typically the men that gift chocolate in western countries, it is the opposite in Asia. Women are expected to gift chocolate on Valentine’s Day to significant others, potential significant others, and/or friends and coworkers. In return, men are expected to respond by returning the favor on White Day, exactly a month after Valentine’s Day (Adelstein,”How Japan Created White Day,” 2018). This new holiday created in Japan in the 1970s has spread to other parts of Asia and played into gender norms and expectations.

These commercials also serve to perpetuate female gender stereotypes of how Asian girls should look and act. Emma Robertson in Chocolate, Women and Empire identified many of the gendered marketing techniques utilized in the chocolate industry in the West such as women in maternal roles or slaves to chocolate (2010, 20, 33). Japanese companies have followed in that tradition in similar yet different ways. The idealized “cute” Japanese girl in the uniform is a typical, one-dimensional archetype that dominates portrayals of women in the media. Commercials like the one above are typical representations that caters to that image. The chocolate gift is also neatly packaged in a cute, girly manner that reinforces the stereotype.

These types of commercials propagating gender stereotypes have also aired in other Asian countries. In Indonesia, Glico used the stars of Indonesia’s JKT48, a spin-off girl group from the highly popular Japanese group AKB48, to market Pocky. Some of these girls portray mannequins that come to life after seeing Pocky, a message similar to the slaves of chocolate narrative identified by Robertson (33).

These commercials are part of an overarching marketing strategy that buys into and bolsters the feminization of chocolate. Due to the success of these marketing campaigns, stereotyping does not seem to be going away anytime soon. The use of celebrity star power serves in much of the Asian market to increase brand recognition and using national as well as international celebrities provides endorsement and increases sales. Thus, while companies like Meiji and Glico have managed considerable insight in recognizing the different tastes and needs of difference consumer bases, they have fallen into the trap of exploiting gender stereotypes to market their goods.

Jumping on the Gourmet Chocolate Bandwagon

THE Chocolate, a new gourmet chocolate line that went viral on Instagram, won both the Gold and Silver the International Chocolate Awards and Superior Taste Awards from the International Taste and Quality Institute (Adelstein, “The Meteoric Rise of Meiji,” 2018). Sold for 220 yen, Meiji sold 30 million bars in its first year.
Source: Meiji

THE Chocolate signaled Meiji’s entry into the gourmet chocolate world. Buoyed by Japan’s overall reputation of high quality products and the company’s history of fostering direct relationships with cacao farmers, THE Chocolate was a hit for both consumers and Instagram (Adelstein, “The Meteoric Rise of Meiji,” 2018). Similar to western gourmet chocolate brands, THE Chocolate includes a flavor profile and has a distinct take on the chocolate bar. Despite the overall quality and thought placed into THE Chocolate, it was sold for just ¥220, equalling less than $2.00 USD. It became so popular that the wrapping was replicated on phone cases.

Inside THE Chocolate bar.
Source: Meiji

Meiji’s foray into gourmet chocolate reflects the changing landscape of Japanese consumers as well as other portions of the east Asian middle class. With its emphasis on understanding the origins of the cacao bean, health benefits of dark chocolate, and complexity of taste, it caters to an increasingly sophisticated palate indicative of the growing number of chocolate connoisseurs. Whether it be regarding wine, fine dining, or chocolate, Meiji tapped into a bourgeoning base of chocolate fanatics present among the middle and upper class. Thus, while it caters to a smaller niche of individuals, the affordability of the bar also makes it the perfect gift: it offers fancy, high quality goods for an affordable price. It also echoes the diversity of the Asian market, even within the domestic sphere. The popularity of THE Chocolate proves the varied, transforming tastes of consumers in Asia.

The Future of Asian Markets?

Though companies such as Mars, Nestlé and Mondelez still dominate China’s chocolate market, Japanese companies are slowly carving a space in the broader Asian market. For example, Meiji is looking to expand their presence in China and in Southeast Asia by 2020 (2010, 21). Whether you are in a convenience store in urban Taipei or a rural store in Cambodia and you will find delicious, chocolatey snacks from Glico or Meiji for sale. In Japan, tourists flood convenience stores to stock up on the assortment of Pocky and snacks to take home (“Japanese Snack Makers Expanding in SE Asia,” 2017). These companies aim to capitalize on the obsession with Japanese snacks by expanding their foreign markets. Moreover, the expansion of these convenience stores into much of Southeast Asia holds a wealth of potential as Glico, Meiji, other major snack providers such as Lotte and Calbee as well as smaller companies like Yuraku gain easier access to distribute their goods (Iguchi, 2018).

Whether Japanese confectionery companies will actually surpass the chocolate giants is yet to be determined, but their plans for expansion into the Asian market seem to be chugging along. However, they have fallen into the same trap of utilizing gender stereotypes in their marketing strategy that serve to reinforce gender norms in societies like Japan where gender expectations are stifling its population and actually limiting its economic growth (Goto, 2016, 443). Nonetheless, Japanese companies’ knack for providing a wide array of products for a varied and increasingly sophisticated consumer base as well as providing Instagram-worthy goods may give Mars, Nestlé and Mondelez a run for their money.


Adelstein, Jake. “How Japan Created White Day, East Asia’s Alternate Valentine’s Day.” Forbes Magazine, March 13, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/adelsteinjake/2018/03/13/how-japan-created-white-day-east-asias-alternate-valentines-day/#1d599fa4348b

Adelstein, Jake. “The Meteoric Rise Of Meiji: How A Japanese Chocolate Bar Took Over Instagram And Sold 30M Bars In 1 Year.” Forbes Magazine, January 18, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/adelsteinjake/2018/01/18/the-meteoric-rise-of-meiji-how-a-japanese-chocolate-bar-took-over-instagram-and-sold-30m-bars-in-1-year/#313948b1203a

Boyd, Chris. “Japan’s chocolate market: Sweet spot for investors.” Investment Europe, July 4, 2018. https://www.investmenteurope.net/investmenteurope/opinion/3722234/japan%E2%80%99-chocolate-market-sweet-spot-investors

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

“Chocolate Confectionery in Japan.” 2004. Chocolate Confectionery Industry Profile: Japan. MarketLine, a Progressive Digital Media business. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=14752072&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

“Glico- What you Need to Know about this Japanese Product.” Image.JapanWalker. Accessed April 25, 2019. https://japanwalkersea.com/glico-what-you-need-to-know-about-this-japanese-product/

Goto, Hiroko. “Will Prime Minister Abe’s “Womenomics” Break Glass Ceilings in Japan?” Hastings International and Comparative Law Review 39, no. 2 (2016): 457.

“ICCO: Asian Demand for Chocolate Products to Grow Over 10% in 2012.” Dow Jones Institutional News, Feb 02, 2012. http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/2129317764?accountid=11311.

Iguchi, Kosuke. “Japanese candy makers ride Southeast Asia convenience store wave.” Nikkei Asian Review, February 26, 2018. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Business-trends/Japanese-candy-makers-ride-Southeast-Asia-convenience-store-wave

Oyatsu Cafe. “Japanese Commercial for Meiji Chocolate.” Youtube. Accessed April 30, 2019. https://youtu.be/bF1sEEtXk2I

“Japanese snack makers expanding in Asia.” Nikkei Asian Review, January 17, 2017. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Japanese-snack-makers-expanding-in-Asia

DiaryJKT48. “JKT48, Pocky CM.” Youtube. Accessed May 1, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yni43OyVvzQ

Martin, Carla. Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. March 13, 2019.

Meiji Co., Ltd. “Meiji THE Chocolate STORY.” Accessed April 30, 2019. https://www.meiji.co.jp/sweets/chocolate/the-chocolate/en/story/

Meiji Holdings Co., Ltd. “Meiji Group 2020 Vision.” Meiji, September 14, 2010. https://www.meiji.com/global/investors/business-plans/2020-vision/pdf/101108_01_e.pdf

“Meiji Photos.” Favim.com. Accessed April 25, 2019. http://favim.com/meiji/

Mitsuda, Tatsuya. “From Reception to Acceptance: Chocolate in Japan, C. 1870–1935.” Food and History 12, no. 1 (2014): 175-200.

Miyazumi, Tatsuro. “Meiji trying to hit Asia’s sweet spots.” Nikkei Asian Review, October 20, 2014. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Meiji-trying-to-hit-Asia-s-sweet-spots

Nieburg, Oliver. “Restacking BRICs: Chocolate makers to rethink future growth markets, says Euromonitor.” Confectionery News, July 24, 2016. https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2016/07/25/Restacking-BRICs-Chocolate-makers-to-rethink-future-growth-markets

Nieburg, Oliver and Young, Patrick. “APAC not a ‘Universal Market’: Asia’s Multifaceted Taste and Texture Preferences for Chocolate.” Confectionery News, September 18, 2016. https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2016/09/19/What-are-Asian-consumers-looking-for-in-chocolate-Kadence-research

Reuters. “Hershey results disappoint as demand hurt by China.” South China Morning Post, February 4, 2017. https://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2067981/hershey-results-disappoint-demand-hurt-china

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

Sese, Shuichiro. “Glico looks to SE Asia to build Pocky’s popularity.” Nikkei Asian Review, February 4, 2014. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Glico-looks-to-SE-Asia-to-build-Pocky-s-popularity

Chocolate- Beyond the Shelf

Its 10pm and all of the sudden it hits you- that late night craving for something sweet. You try to resist the temptation at first but finally you give in. You pause your new Netflix show you have been binge watching, get up from your bed, and go to the cabinet where you keep all the goodies. To your dismay you open the cabinet to bare drawers with nothing but canned food and ramen in sight. However, your craving is strong so you decide to make the trip to the local convenience store around the corner. Given that you are an undergrad at Harvard University you make you’re way to the center of the square where you have a number of options- CVS, Shaw’s, Cardullo’s, and Formaggio. You want to try something new so you decide on Cardullo’s and make a beeline for the sign that reads “Chocolate”. To your surprise there are shelf filled with different brands of chocolate that you have never seen before. You survey the selection not even knowing what terms like “Raw 100% Cacao” mean, let alone what that would taste like. You ask yourself questions like “Is this $13 chocolate bar going to be that much better that a Hershey’s?” and “How is hand-crafted chocolate different from regular chocolate?”

These are all fine questions for the average chocolate consumer to ask. In fact, I would argue that the average chocolate consumer should ask even more questions about their chocolate! The goal of this post is to help the average consumer better understand the options they face when they are searching for their next late night chocolate fix. This post will actually look at some of the selections that are available from Cardullo’s in Harvard Square and explain what one can learn from the selection. Some of the points that’s will be considered include the type of chocolate, ethical concerns, price point, and intended audience of all the different chocolate bars. With the vast number of selections available at Cardullo’s, the examination of each individual chocolate offering is out of the scope of this paper. Rather, this post will look in depth at two different chocolate selections with the hopes that the reader can become better informed about the diverse world of chocolate.

The first type of chocolate offering we will examine is the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar. This bar gives us the standard milk chocolate bar that so many of us have come to know and love. The first milk chocolate bar dates back to 1879 when Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter were able to utilize a newly discovered cooking process to produce these bars. (Coe and Coe 246-247). As time went on milk chocolate increased in popularity as a result its sweet taste and marketed health benefits. With milk chocolate still very popular today one should be aware of the process through which milk chocolate is produced. The chart below gives a detailed picture of the current milk chocolate production process.

Chocolate Processing Flow Chart
Source: http://www.c-spot.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/flowchart.jpg

As you can see the initial steps are similar and then there is more specific steps needed in order to make milk chocolate. The key ingredients in milk chocolate that separate it from the other forms of chocolate are the milk and sugar added in the product. Additionally, the milk chocolate that most of us consume today actually has a very low percentage of cacao compared to other chocolate selections.

With the rise in popularity of milk chocolate over the last 150 years or so there have also been a rise in the number of companies producing chocolate products. However, Cadbury did not just hop on this trend in recent years. The Cadbury Company was founded by John Cadbury, who in 1824 opened a coffee and tea shop in Birmingham, U.K. where they sold the traditional coffee drink at that time. (Coe and Coe 241). Eventually, the Cadbury developed their family coffee shop into the largest chocolate producer in Great Britain. The Cadbury Company is credited with a number of firsts in the chocolate industry one of which includes the creation of the box of chocolates (Coe and Coe 242). The effort to make sure that the Cadbury Company was using responsible sourcing actions began in the early 20th century. It was at this time when “William Cadbury (who was disillusioned by labor abuses in São Tomé and Principe and under considerable pressure to find a more ethical alternative) reported to his friend and confidant, E.D. Morel, who was a journalist and human rights campaigner, that he had heard positive things about the British colonial authorities in Ghana (still the Gold Coast at the time)” (Berlan 1092-1093). As a result of all the positive things Cadbury had heard “Ghana became Cadbury’s main supplier of cocoa” (Berlan 1093). Overall, Cadbury is one of the most established chocolate companies on the planet that played a critical role in the introduction of milk chocolate to the U.K. Now when you bite in to one of their signature Cadbury Dairy Milk bars you will have an idea of how much work went into that product.

Classic Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar

The next selection that we will explore is the Antidote chocolate bar. I am not going to lie, the main reason that I want to further analyze this option is because of the packaging of the bar, which bright orange, pink, and blue color options stood out from the rest. While this may seem like a trivial point, the company has surely thought about the best way to brand their chocolate. The packaging has a very modern style and with circles surrounding each letter of the company name and on the top of the packaging you can see that it is “Raw 100% Cacao with crunchy nibs”. It is clear that the company is trying to market itself as a more luxury brand of chocolate. That is if the $10 per bar price point had yet to get that message across. While this price may seem ridiculous to some, there are a number of consumers who are fine with paying this much for a chocolate bar. For years it seemed that people viewed a chocolate bar as a commodity, a cheap snack that you could buy at the check out counter of your local gas station. However, the general public is starting to see more high priced, luxury chocolate bars like Antidote come to market. This all has to do with how people perceive chocolate; is it a commodity or a luxury? While the movement to promote chocolate as a luxury may seem to relatively new, chocolates was introduced to the world as one of the most exclusive luxury goods across the world. In early 17th Europe chocolate could only be consumed by the upper class elite. “Chocolate became such a popular repast at the seventeenth century French court and in noble salons that in 1705 the crown finally allowed the Guild of Paris coffeehouse owners (limonadiers) to produce and sell it by the cup”(Terrio 10). Today, all people are able to consume chocolate in many forms, not just through drinking it. If the consumer does decide to choose a “premium” chocolate bar they should know why they are paying more. This raises the question: What makes a premium chocolate bar better than an average chocolate bar?

Antidot Chocolate Selection
Source: antidotechoco.com

To answer this question, one must look at the sources of the chocolate that they are consuming. When one does this they will see that there chocolate is being produced by a company that falls into one of two categories. The first category is the big five chocolate companies which include Nestle, Mars, Hershey, or Mondelez. These are the five largest chocolate companies in the world that produce a disproportionate amount of the chocolate we consume. The second category a chocolate company can fall into is craft chocolate company. These companies are usually much smaller and distribute their product to the region in which it is produced. These craft companies charge more for their bars for a few reasons. First, there smaller scale may inhibit them from negotiating cheaper prices for their ingredients. Second and most important is the quality of their products. Craft chocolate companies are able to produce bars with higher cacao content, which are the most expensive ingredients in chocolate. Additionally, craft chocolate companies tend to be more mindful about the quality of their ingredients and focus on buying cacao grown in a safe environment with little chemical exposure. Furthermore, the smaller scale of these craft chocolate companies allows them to implement strict bean cleaning, roasting, and sanitation processes. It is the combination of all these factors that lead to craft chocolate brands like Antidote to charge a higher price for their product. While many craft producers are independent companies it should be noted that there is the possibility that a company may appear to be a small craft company but is owned by one of the big five.

A high price point makes these chocolate bars appear as a more luxury brand of chocolate, one that can only be consumed by wealthier people. Similarities can be drawn between this fact and the role chocolate played when it was first introduced in Europe. Although, it is all about how the public perceives chocolate. If you view chocolate as a luxury good then maybe you have no problem splurging on a nice chocolate bar even if your financial situation differs from the average person who buys a $12 chocolate bar. This is an important factor consider not just for the chocolate you consume but also all the goods and services you pay for.

European Elite Enjoying Chocolate Drink

Humans have consumed chocolate for approximately 400 years, a relatively short time period considering the how long humans have been around. However, in this short period of time chocolate has gone from a beverage only consumed by the elites, to a food enjoyed by everyone. This transition was not come easy. Along the way, chocolate had to overcome certain stigmas amount its consumption such as its association with gluttony and sin. There has been controversy surrounding the big five chocolate companies and the use of child slaves in the harvesting of their cacao. These issues are not completely resolved but the chocolate community has been able to learn and grow from them. While the chocolate industry has seemed unstable at times, we all knew that a chocolate bar’s present would be constant at the store down the street when that late night craving hit. Next time that craving does come about and you go looking for your options I hope you are able to draw on the information presented in this article and feel good knowing that you are a better-informed chocolate consumer. Being well informed feels good but I know it will never feel as good as the taste of chocolate since “there is a built in human likeness for sweet taste”(Mintz 14), a likeness that chocolate has been able to satisfy so well.

Works Cited

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

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088–1100.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power : the Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.

Terrio, Susan J. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, 2000.

Pot May be the New “Sugar”: The Rise of Cannabis Chocolate

The combination of sugar and chocolate used to be the most pleasing with sugar consumption skyrocketing, mostly through the consumption of chocolate. Now the combination of chocolate and marijuana is beginning to have the same effect. Sugar was initially added to beverages such as tea and coffee and grew more popular after joining with chocolate. The historic consumption curve of sugar can be used to predict future marijuana consumption. Pot could become the sugar of this century. Similar to sugar and chocolate, marijuana has taken on medicinal uses. Its legalization in many states is analogous to when sugar became cheaper and more readily available. A n expanded market of people now can partake in chocolate and pot in cannabis chocolates. With the combination of marijuana and chocolate entering the market, its uses are similar to sugar’s, which is also often added to chocolate and cacao is becoming a conduit for a new type of drug as edibles sales are on the rise. The similarities between sugar and cannabis do not end there because their uses extend beyond just their addition to chocolate, such as expansion and marketing strategies. Noting this parallel between sugar and marijuana is helpful in considering how cannabis may be used in the future, perhaps being added to drinks or facial creams to appeal to a broader audience and create a pot revolution. 

Sugar was thought to have medicinal properties, which aided in its mass consumption and demand. When sugar first entered diets, the majority of English people did not consume enough food or the right kinds of food. They suffered nutritional deficiencies due to lack of income or food safety. However, cane sugar started as a luxury and supplemented their diets (Coe & Coe, 2013). Sugar was seen as medicinal, as it was an ingredient in many medicines and could be applied to open wounds (Coe & Coe, 2013). The taste was pleasing, and some would use it to help consume their bitter medicine. The movie Mary Poppins depicts how sugar played a role in a health context.

The lyrics “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” explain how sugar can sweeten the bitter taste of medicine and improve mood afterwards. Demand grew and production expanded; eventually sugar became cheaper and more available. It was added to cereal in breakfast, trail mix in afternoon snacks, salad dressing, and many beverages. In 1910, one-fifth of the English diet calories came from cane sugar (Martin, 2019). Although sugar today is seen as contributing to the obesity epidemic in America, its medicinal properties aided in its wide popularity historically, and one of the favorite things it was added to was chocolate beverages and bars. Before comparing sugar to cannabis, it is important to provide context for one of the ways in which sugar has been used.

Marijuana also has served medicinal purposes. The whole marijuana plant or just extracts can be used to treat specific sicknesses. There are chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids. The main psychoactive ingredient is delta 0 tetrahydrocannabinol, abbreviated THC, that gives people a “high” (Huddelston, 2019). Chocolate contains cannabinoid and anandamide, a neurotransmitter that affects the same structure as THC in Cannabis (Parker et al., 2006). Cannabidiol CBD, on the other hand, is in marijuana from the hemp plant but does not cause a high” (Huddelston, 2019). These properties of marijuana have led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid and used to relieve anxiety, chronic pain, seizures, and acne. Animal studies have even shown that parts of marijuana can help kill cancer cells (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018). Marijuana has been recognized for nutritional benefits as have chocolate and sugar; it is accepted as a way to treat specific illnesses and is featured in many medications.

It is perhaps logical then that the food to which sugar and marijuana have been added has a similar relation to medicine. Chocolate also was believed to have medicinal properties as it contains antioxidants and can improve mood. Mesoamericans acknowledged chocolate as healthy. Mayan warriors would wear cacao pods on their belt to give them energy for battle (Martin, 2019). Also, it was used as medicine to treat seizures and fevers. Cacao could be combined with many ingredients, such as pepper and honey, to form botanical remedies (Coe & Coe, 2013). The Spanish even thought that chocolate had the potential to increase chances of becoming pregnant so it was used in many rituals. Cacao was seen as nourishing and still is thought to have aphrodisiac qualities. Men gift it to women on Valentine’s Day for this reason. Sugar and chocolate both developed their popularity partly due to the medicinal properties associated with their consumption.

While sugar and chocolate may seem different from a drug like marijuana, they have addictive properties and chocolate could be considered a drug. Chocolate affects neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin that deal with mood regulation and appetite. It contains flavenols, a physiologically active plant compound (Mintz, 1986). Flavenols in cocoa can help with cardiovascular diseases and blood clotting. In addition, caffeine and theobromine affect consumers psychologically (Mintz, 1986). Although the amount of anandamide is minuscule, chocolate is so addicting and mind altering that some do consider it a drug. A Belgian chocolatier Dominique Persoone even created a device to snort cocoa powder as one would do to intake a drug (Youtube, 2010).

The video shows how the chocolate shooter can be used by putting cocoa snuff powder on the spoon and catapulting it into the nose to create a chocolate high. Chocolate has many drug-like properties and it makes for the perfect delicious addition to conceal the weed flavor of cannabis.

The mixture incites calm, happy feelings as shown in this meme (Davidwolfe, 2015).

The demand for recreational marijuana is growing, and the combination of cannabis and chocolate is a popular one. Just as sugar and chocolate had medicinal properties and were combined, marijuana and chocolate are now being added together.

In the same way that sugar and chocolate were viewed as medicinal and a dietary supplement for the British, cannabis chocolate is being marketed as a health product. One example of a cannabis chocolate brand is “Good Vibes” (Freeman, 2019).

The label shows a beach and indicates the relaxed feeling that comes with consuming the delicious product.

There are several other similar successful brands, such as “Therapeutic” and “Leif Goods.” “This is Not Pot” targets consumers by playing up the health benefits of the product.

The edibles are sold in a vitamin-like container (Vegan CBD Gummies).

They are made of hemp but sweetened with maple sugar, raw cacao, and contains the herb ashwagandha (Vegan CBD Gummies). Its bottle contains the words “chill af,” “cbd,” “happy hemp,” and “not pot.” It is technically “not pot” because it only contains CBD. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid but is not an ingredient. The way “not pot” is sold in a vitamin container depicts it as a dietary supplement to calm spirits. Products containing marijuana are increasing in popularity, but there still are flaws in edibles.

Sugar, chocolate, and marijuana are similar in how their consumption expanded. One of the main ways sugar was consumed was in chocolate. While chocolate was mostly consumed by the elite in in Baroque Europe, it was enjoyed more broadly in England (Martin, 2019). During the democratization of chocolate in England, “chocolate houses” emerged where people could converse about politics or social matters over a chocolate drink (Coe & Coe, 2013). People grew fond of the sweet taste, and many alterations of the treat formed. In 1828, the Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes Van Houton invented the hydraulic press, which produced solid chocolate by withdrawing cocoa butter from the beans (Coe & Coe, 2013). This creation led to the first chocolate bar in 1847; subsequently small candies featured chocolate and sugar (Coe & Coe, 2013). New inventions during the industrial revolution, such as the steam engine, allowed for mass cheap chocolate production. 

Analogous to when sugar became cheaper and more accessible due to the slave trade, marijuana is now becoming more accessible due to legalization in many states. Sugar was never illegal but was limited to the elite class due to high prices and shortages (Mintz, 1986). Marijuana was limited to only those who needed it for health reasons but is now fully legal in ten states (Forbes, 2018). Other states have legalized medical marijuana or have allowed for CBD products, which can be used to treat anxiety or muscle pains but do not cause a high. Both medical and recreational marijuana sales have added to $125 million in January this year, approximately 6% higher than sales in January 2018 (Mitchell, 2019). Millennials are now using pot in social circumstances just as sugar and chocolate were consumed in groups in the past. The relaxation of marijuana laws has allowed for it to be more socially acceptable to smoke. Only 25% of millennials smoke alone as of 2018, and the percentage of 12th graders who use marijuana daily has risen (Paul, 2018). Recently, marijuana consumption has increased similar to the past spike in sugar consumption.

Just as chocolate production technology became more advanced and allowed for branching products from chocolate beverages, the production of cannabis chocolate is experimenting with new methods to create different products. Factories combine chocolate with cannabis in varying ratios of THC to CBD, with the most common being 1:1 (Freeman, 2019). “To whom it may cannabis” focuses on creating nutty truffles and boozy bon bons.

The video shows how they start their creations by first mixing cannabis oil and coconut oil.

They use graduated cylinders, distillation apparatuses, flasks, and pipettes. The most difficult part of the process it to control temperature to avoid “blooming,” which is when a layer of sugar forms on top of the chocolate (Chester, 2019). There is an intricate process to make the products as it is even more complicated than making pure chocolate given the presence of cannabis. Successful brands often have strict regulations on ingredients, methods, and recipes in order to assure their products do not have varying ratios of drugs and different effects, but the process will be altered as brands work toward various products containing cannabis to satisfy demand.

Chocolate sweetened with sugar and chocolate containing marijuana have been used to target specific emotive effects.  One example of example of sugary chocolate changing emotions in people is in Snickers commercials.

The marketing campaign includes the slogan “You are not you when you are hungry.”

The commercial depicts how the treat can not only make you feel different but literally transform you into a different person.  Now companies have added cannabis to delicious chocolate and have altered the recipes to target specific mind-altering effects in consumers. Chocolate conceals the “weedy” taste and blends well with hemp CBD oil. 1906 Chocolates markets “new highs” (Chester, 2019). They offer products with names such as “high love” and “pause.” “High love” plays on the aphrodisiac quality of chocolate. It is composed of herbs that increase blood flow to the pelvic and thus lead to more sexual desire. “Pause” makes one feel relaxed and relieves anxiety. “Midnight” is to help with pain and insomnia; it is made of the plant corydalis (Chester, 2019). “Bliss” improves energy and attitude. Finally, “go” is packed with caffeine, the amino acid l-theanine, THC, and CBD. Therefore, it increases energy and can be used for athletes. A new brand Serra offers a completely customizable experience for its customers. People can enter their stores and fill out a card describing what feelings they desire (Giller, 2017).

The image shows a “feeling card,” where customers document what kind of product they want.

Sugar and marijuana have played similar roles in diets by being added to chocolate in order to achieve a specific emotive change.

While they have played similar roles in diets, sugar and marijuana both have taken on multiple purposes in society. When people from all classes were introduced to sugar and chocolate, sugar gained even more uses than just a sweetener and medicine (Mintz, 1986). Sugar also was a preservative, decoration, and spice. It was used to preserve jams and jellies, preventing the growth of yeasts and other microorganisms. It was also a main ingredient, not only in decadent desserts but in decorative centerpieces on tables. The versatile ingredient was used a spice to season foods such as meat, similar to how salt is used. Sugar was versatile and accessible, which is why its consumption accelerated from zero to millions of tons annually; marijuana is beginning to show the same properties. From this combination of chocolate and cannabis, there are potential new uses and wide marketability. There is potential for cannabis chocolate to be used in many facets of life, since it can be a workout enabler by increasing energy or a sleep aid by relaxing muscles. Serra employs a chocolatier in addition to a compliance officer to make sure they are following legal medical and recreational marijuana laws (Giller, 2017). Their stores are clean, organized, and respectable, which leads to a mass appeal and avoids making marijuana seem illicit.

The products are featured in chic glasses with “quality drugs” written on leaves to resemble marijuana plants.

For Serra, cannabis has already spread beyond chocolate. They sell pre-rolls, concentrates, topicals, and soaking salts (Forbes, 2018). Chocolate was immediately loved for its aphrodisiac qualities and medicinal properties in the past. Now weed is being taken advantage of as people enjoy choosing the feelings the drugs will bring and are open to different types of products. Soon marijuana will be featured in more skincare products, drinks, pills, shampoos, and edibles.

Sugar and marijuana have commonalities in medicinal uses, expansion, and role in diets. The main overlap is their popular addition to chocolate. Sugar in the 1800s resembles pot today. Its consumption was limited initially, but later it was used in various contexts and consumed in great quantities. Marijuana’s consumption was illegal except for medical purposes until recently, and it is now being added to chocolate. Sugar and marijuana have played similar roles in diets by causing a change of emotions, and their uses have greatly expanded. Just as sugar was used as a decoration, preservative, sweetener, spice, and medicine, marijuana is being added to chocolate and now skincare products and beverages along with medicine. CBD can be extracted from cannabis and hemp plants to be added to pills, vaporizers, creams, shampoos, cocktails, and more. Pot is becoming as mainstream as sugar did when it became more affordable. The striking similarities between sugar and marijuana provide insight into how cannabis use may expand even further in the future.

Works Cited

Chester, Britt. “Cuckoo for Cannabis: 1906 Chocolates Aim for Specific Effects.” Westword, 4, 14 Mar. 2019, http://www.westword.com/marijuana/1906-edibles-aim-for-specific-marijuana-effects-in-chocolate-and-beyond-11235027.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition.         London: Thames & Hudson.

Freeman, Jeremy. “Best CBD Chocolate: Who Won Our Taste Award.” Pure Green Living, 2019, puregreenliving.com/best-cbd-chocolate.

Giller, Megan. “This High-End Edibles Startup Targets A New Kind Of Cannabis Consumer.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Apr. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/megangiller/2017/04/20/this-high-end-edibles-startup-targets-a-new-kind-of-cannabis-consumer/#33d261647313.

Huddleston, Tom. “Why People Love CBD – the Cannabis Product That Won’t Get You High.” CNBC, CNBC, 10 Nov. 2018, http://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/09/what-is-cbd-these-popular-cannabis-products-wont-get-you-high.html.

Humphries, Barbara Sally. “Spoon Full of Sugar – Mary Poppins.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 May 2008, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrnoR9cBP3o.

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao.’” Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 13 Feb. 2017. Lecture.

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

Mitchell, Thomas. “Marijuana Sales on Pace for New Heights in 2019.” Westword, 4, 12 Apr. 2019, http://www.westword.com/marijuana/colorados-2019-marijuana-sales-on-fast-pace-11266948.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Marijuana as Medicine.” NIDA, June 2018, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine.

Parker, Gordon, et al. “Mood State Effects of Chocolate.” Journal of Affective Disorders, Elsevier, 20 Mar. 2006, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016503270600084X.

Paul, Kari. “Why Millennials Prefer Cannabis to Booze: ‘Zero Enjoyment out of Drinking’ (and Pot’s Cheaper, Too).” MarketWatch, 27 Oct. 2018, www.marketwatch.com/story/millennials-appear-to-like-cannabis-more-than-booze-2018-09-26.

“Snickers Commercial – Football – You Are Not You When You Are Hungry.” YouTube, YouTube, 19 Dec. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbpFpjLVabA.

“The Science of Chocolate and Cannabis: How They Combine To Make Powerful Medicines.” DavidWolfe.com, 11 Oct. 2015, http://www.davidwolfe.com/the-scientific-secrets-of-chocolate-and-cannabis-how-and-why-chocolate-and-cannabis-are-medicines/.

“Vegan CBD Gummies, 30-Day Supply.” Not Pot, notpot.com/products/vegan-cbd-gummies.

Confronting Gender Inequality in West African Cocoa Production Through Chocolate Advertisements

Chocolate has been a fascination in the West since its discovery in Mesoamerica centuries ago. Early in the history of the Western consumption of chocolate, it became feminized. Chocolate was associated with luxury and leisure in the eighteenth century, but as it became more accessible to the working class in the nineteenth century, women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption in the family (Robertson, 2009). Due to the persistent feminization of chocolate, women have been the focus of marketing campaigns to sell chocolate. Cocoa adverts have fetishized images of western housewives, mothers, and women in heterosexual relationships to sell their products (Martin, 2019a). These women are often depicted as becoming irrational, narcissistic, or excessively aroused due to chocolate. However, these advertisements reveal the underlying prejudice and stereotyping that exists in the cocoa supply chain. Chocolate largely originates from the cocoa farmed in West Africa, which produces 75% of the world’s cocoa. Although this arrangement began in the 1800s, West Africans only consume 4% of the world’s chocolate (Martin, 2019b). This is due to the fact that most African-grown cocoa is exported abroad for production and the primary markets for these chocolate producers are thus outside of Africa. The romanticized image of chocolate in Western advertisements neglects the labor that goes into farming cocoa and the challenges that cocoa farmers in West Africa face. Furthermore, the dilemmas within the cocoa supply chain are exacerbated for women cocoa farmers, who are often denied privileges their male counterparts are afforded and are especially susceptible to certain dangers. Rather than focusing on Western women, who are not involved in the production of chocolate, a newer campaign has emerged to empower West African women cocoa farmers and bring light to just how integral they are in the production of chocolate.

It has been documented that women have been involved in the cocoa industry since its inception in West Africa, specifically Ghana (Robertson, 2009). Cocoa farming would not have gotten to where it is today without the labor of women, as it was central in almost every aspect of cocoa production and sale (Robertson, 2009). However, these contributions have not been met with the appropriate amount of recognition and credit. This blog will highlight women farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which are two of the world’s largest cocoa-growing countries and both are found in West Africa. In Ghana, women cocoa farmers earn 25%-30% less than their male counterparts and in Côte d’Ivoire women cocoa farmers earn up to 70% less than their male counterparts (Pacyniak, 2014). Also, in both countries women are met with more obstacles, such as lower farm productivity, smaller farms, and less access to financing and farm inputs. Gender gaps beyond cocoa income and productivity plague women cocoa farmers in Ghana, as women have a 25% lower level of training, a 20% lower receipt of loans, and 30%-40% lower access to critical farm inputs (e.g. fertilizer). According to women cocoa farmers, they lack the funds necessary to hire labor, making it difficult to produce cocoa (Odoi-Larbi, 2008). Gender inequality in Ivorian cocoa farming manifests in almost none of the 4% of women in cocoa co-operatives having leadership positions. Furthermore, in Côte d’Ivoire 86% of men had legal rights to their plots, while in 67% of cases, the land accessed by women was not owned by them. Although Fairtrade is an institutional arrangement designed to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions, not all West African cocoa farmers benefit equally from Fairtrade (“Does Fairtrade mean a fair deal for female cocoa farmers?”, 2016). For instance, even though Fairtrade is a positive force in Ghana, women cocoa farmers are not benefitting from Fairtrade to the same extent as their male counterparts. It was found that many of the poorest and most marginalized cocoa farmers in Ghana are excluded from participating in such co-operatives, and most of these farmers are women.

The previously mentioned trials and tribulations of women cocoa farmers are addressed in the video below. As was mentioned earlier, the global cocoa supply comes from small farms in West Africa, but these farmers are often paid poorly for what they grow. Typically, women take on the heavy lifting when it comes to their share of the work, but they see minimal profits. The women in this video are from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and although they do most of the work, only a quarter of the cocoa farms are owned by women. The women explain this disparity, as they discuss the patriarchy that prohibits them from inheriting land. More recently, however, Fairtrade has made strides to ensure that support exists that helps women raise their income and their voices. This includes eliminating women’s dependency upon their husbands and giving women their own land on which they can produce their own cocoa. With their own farms, these women are more independent and can flourish with the right resources available to them. The video ends by urging consumers around the world to choose Fairtrade chocolate in order to support these women cocoa farmers. Other efforts have been started to raise awareness about these farmers, as the injustice of women working for nothing to produce the chocolate that we love must end.

Fairtrade and gender inequality in West Africa

Several efforts have commenced to promote corporate social responsibility, which would aid in the fight for equality for women in the cocoa supply chain. One such effort is Cocoa Life, which began in 2008 and is empowering women in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities (Amekudzi, 2013). Cocoa Life was created by Mondelēz International, a company looking to advance the rights of women cocoa farmers by increasing the emphasis on gender equality in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and advocating for industry-wide action (Pacyniak, 2014). To address the aforementioned challenges women cocoa farmers face, Mondelēz International presented new action plans to build upon its Cocoa Life program. This plan was a $400 million, 10-year effort set in motion in 2012. In Ghana, this project is farmer centered and based on Cocoa Life’s Cadbury Cocoa Partnership in Ghana. Specifically, Cocoa Life encourages entrepreneurship among women cocoa farmers through farmer education on cocoa agronomy and farmer training at the village level. The video below, produced by Cocoa Life, involves interviews of women cocoa farmers in Ghana who recount the times when they were excluded from the ins and outs of cocoa farming. They have been encouraged to mobilize and learn how to manage their own farms. Their situations have been improved and they have set the stage for future women cocoa farmers to prosper in their communities.

Mondelēz International, Cocoa Life, and Ghanaian women’s rights in cocoa farming

Another example of an attempt at corporate social responsibility to help women in West African communities is The Cargill Cocoa Promise. Cargill recognized that women are forced to balance household work with cocoa farming, in conjunction with having unequal access to training, inputs, and education (“Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire”, 2014). The Cargill Cocoa Promise aims to understand how gender barriers limit access to skills, information, and inputs amongst women cocoa farmers. This project kickstarted inclusive training sessions and raised awareness of gender issues. Practical steps were proposed to improve the day-to-day activities of these farmers. The people in the video below discuss how this project was conceived and executed in Côte d’Ivoire. Researchers found that culture was a driving force that exacerbated the issues plaguing women cocoa farmers, as culture determined who got to own land. They encouraged discussions within the communities in order to facilitate change and overcome the cultural biases. Also, this project increased financial literacy among women cocoa farmers, as the organizers established village savings and loan schemes, which would aid in entrepreneurship efforts.

The Cargill Cocoa Promise, corporate social responsibility, and women empowerment in West Africa

As was preliminarily mentioned, a newer campaign has emerged to shed light on the West African women who make large contributions to the production of chocolate. Divine Chocolate Limited is a purveyor of Fairtrade chocolate and although it was originally established in the United Kingdom, it is co-owned by the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farmers’ co-operative in Ghana. In order to emphasize to UK chocolate shoppers that Ghana is a cocoa origin site, Divine Chocolate released a set of advertisements that feature women cocoa farmers from Ghana, and these advertisements appeared in British editions of women’s magazines, such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Red, and OK! (Leissle, 2012). As is shown in the images below, the women cocoa farmers are depicted as glamorous business owners who participate in transnational exchanges of raw materials and luxury goods, and as beneficiaries of these exchanges. These women are a part of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, which makes them co-owners of Divine Chocolate. The advertisements emphasize the women’s position as co-owners, as they state each woman’s name along with her position. Also, Ghana’s adinkra symbols appears on Divine Chocolate’s bar wrappers and this is shown in the photographs. Furthermore, the background of each advertisement shows ‘Africa’, which is represented by images of Ghana’s agricultural economy. This includes cocoa drying tables, plantain trees, coconut trees, mud buildings, and dusty roads. Each woman appears in the foreground holding pieces of chocolate, which is a luxury food made from the fruit they farm. These images are paired with titles such as ‘Equality Treat’, ‘Decadently Decent’, and ‘Serious Chocolate Appeal’ in order to suggest to consumers that their own enjoyment of Divine Chocolate bars should come not only from the joy of eating chocolate, but from the fact that the women who farm the cocoa also enjoy it. This implies that the Kuapa Kokoo women cocoa farmers not only grow the raw materials, but they also consume the chocolate. This is a far cry from the statistic reported earlier that said only 4% of West Africans consume the world’s chocolate.

Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Beatrice Mambi.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.
Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Priscilla Agyemeng.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.
Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Rita Nimako.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.

Divine Chocolate’s advertisements are revolutionary in that they do not rely on the stereotypical and romanticized images of Western women to sell their chocolate. Instead, this company is knocking down two birds with one stone: they are empowering West African women cocoa farmers while challenging the notion that Africa is not modern. Leissle states that “the Divine images pose a challenge to narratives that cast Africa as continually on the losing side of harmful dualisms and reframe Africa’s role in modernity” (2012). In Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa”, he challenges Western literature that persistently refuses to disperse a picture of a “well-adjusted African” (unless he or she has won a Nobel Prize), neglects the fact that the continent is dynamic in that it is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, and savannahs, and depicts the African woman as starving, nearly naked, and waiting for the aid of the West (2006). However, the Divine Chocolate adverts pose the Ghanaian women cocoa farmers as “attractive, socially mobile beneficiaries of their own development efforts” (Leissle, 2012). The videos previously discussed highlighted that West African women are commonly held back in their farming endeavors by the patriarchal notion that women are only instrumental in uplifting the family. However, the Divine women are not tethered to their responsibilities as wives and mothers and are not viewed as reproductive laborers in these advertisements. These women are framed as “active agents of a self-gratifying transnational business arrangement” (Leissle, 2012). Overall, the combinations of the Divine women’s playful, yet strong, poses, the invitation to enjoy chocolate, and the text present West African women cocoa farmers as savvy luxury consumers and implies their individual participation in the privileged aspects of modernity narratives (Leissle, 2012).

One way to address and combat the gender inequality that exists in the cocoa supply chain is to draw attention to West African women as primary contributors. The fetishization of Western women in chocolate advertisements only exacerbates the issue at hand because it masks the labor that was invested into producing the chocolate. In looking at the origins of the chocolate, one will find that West Africa as the world’s primary cocoa growing region is faced with many critical challenges, such as volatile income, unfair farm economics, and lack of laborers (Martin, 2019b). Women cocoa farmers are especially harmed by these challenges as the patriarchy in West Africa makes it difficult for them to overcome these obstacles. However, some solutions have gone into effect to empower these women. Additionally, Divine Chocolate’s campaign presents “a fresh visual reframing of the exchanges of goods and capital between Africa and Europe” (Leissle, 2012). Other purveyors of chocolate should follow in Divine Chocolate’s footsteps when it comes to advertisements and give credit to the people who make eating chocolate possible.


Amekudzi, Y. P. (2013, February 28). Cocoa Life- the project empowering women in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://businessfightspoverty.org/articles/yaa-peprah-amekudzi-cocoa-life-the-project-empowering-women-in-ghanas-cocoa-growing-communities-2/

Does Fairtrade mean a fair deal for female cocoa farmers? (2016). European Union News.

Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire. (2014, April 15). Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.cargill.com/story/empowering-women-cocoa-farmers

Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2), 121-139.

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture April 3: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements. Harvard University.

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture March 27: Modern day slavery. Harvard University.

Odoi-Larbi, S. (2008). Female Cocoa Farmers Cry for Help. Africa News Service.

Pacyniak, B. (2014). Mondelez affirming women’s rights in cocoa-growing areas. Candy Industry, 179(6), 12-13.

Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Studies in imperialism (Manchester, England)). Manchester; New York: New York: Manchester University Press; Distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.

Wainaina, B. (2006, January 19). How to Write About Africa. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://granta.com/how-to-write-about-africa/

Multimedia sources

Cargill. (2016, March 7). Women in agriculture: empowering African cocoa farmers [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYeGiFHlDm4

Fairtrade Foundation. (2019, March 5). Meet the Women Cocoa Farmers Facing Adversity in the Ivory Coast [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP5NR3BbdKE

Mondelez International. (2013, November 12). Cocoa Life: Community leaders – Interview with Gladys and Vida in Ghana [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/REMKY62MHno

Images retrieved from Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2), 121-139.