As the gates of the Chinese market began to open in 1978 through Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernization Policy, western industries began scrambling to access the 1 billion prospective customers within China’s borders. The chocolate industry in particular made a noticeable effort in trying to alter the Chinese diet so that it could include the massive quantities of the sweet treat that western societies have grown so fond of. However, despite their efforts throughout these years, the average person in modern day China only consumes about “1.8 ounces of chocolate annually”. In comparison, Switzerland consumes “22 pounds per person” and the U.S. consumes “11.7 pounds per person” annually (Allen, 28). But what factors in China have contributed to this stark difference? This blog will address how cultural barriers and distrust in dairy products have deterred the spread of chocolate within China’s rapidly growing populace.
The disparate cultural layout of China’s provinces has proven to be difficult for chocolate companies to maneuver. For starters, although the Chinese ethnic diversity is mainly homogenous with “92 percent” of the population being Han Chinese, the culinary traditions are not. For example, the north prefers “salty” foods, while the south favors “sweet and fresh”; “spicy” is the ideal flavor in the east, as opposed to the west, which adheres to “sour” flavors (Allen, 23). This amalgamation of preferences has made it difficult for chocolate companies to create products that would satisfy the majority of the population and make lasting impressions on anyone that is willing to go out of their comfort zone to purchase the exotic confectionaries.
Furthermore, older generations of Chinese were accustomed to a “limited range of foods” due to the tough economic times of the 40’s and 50’s. This caused monotony in the citizens’ diets, as their palates became accustomed to eating the same salty foods well beyond the moment China’s borders opened to foreign lands. As a result, the introduction of chocolate into the Chinese diet in the ‘80’s was not well received because “the sweetness of chocolate [was] too foreign and too extreme” (Allen, 27). This deterred people from consuming it in their daily lives due to how abnormal it was when compared to the average Chinese foods at the time; thus, it was considered a luxury to eat chocolate, which could be equated to how westerners view fine wine. This also proved that traditional marketing methods that worked on average westerners would not function with the Chinese populace. To account for this, the exotic and sweet treat was introduced as something one would give as a gift during a special occasion rather than for self-consumption. The following Chinese Dove Commercial is a perfect example of this practice. During the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, chocolate as a gift accounted for “over half” of the sales in China, but so long as chocolate continued to be viewed as a gift, it would never reach the heights that we see in the west. Younger generations of Chinese citizens, who have grown up eating the popular dessert, have been known to be more likely to purchase it for self-consumption. According to a study by the New York Times, modern Chinese chocolate consumers mostly consist of young people ages fifteen to twenty-four, which shows that there is still hope for chocolate as a commodity in China’s future.
One other reason why Chinese people have avoided chocolate and other dairy-based products has been because of a general distrust in the quality of Chinese milk. One incident, in particular, caused Chinese trust in milk products to dwindle. According to a Harvard Business School case study, in 2008, Sanlu, a milk provider, started adding increased amounts of melamine in their products in order to maintain protein content standards. These increased chemical levels killed six infants and made 300,000 other people sick. This article by Forbes gives more details on how this incident has effected the Chinese dairy industry. After this incident, many other milk brands were found to have this exact same problem with their products, thus, causing widespread skepticism towards Chinese dairy. Chocolate in China, which contains at least 15% milk powder, took a major hit within this scene. One article from Reuters recalls how on September 29, 2008 Cadbury had to shutdown eleven of its Chinese chocolate products due to the suspicion that they were contaminated by melamine. Eventually, the company was forced to close three of its chocolate factories within China. Below, you can find a chart to visualize how much of the Chinese chocolate market the top companies had during the year of 2008. As expected, Cadbury was not doing so well after the milk scandal.
As a result of this scandal, the confectionary industry has since slowed down, but the Chinese government has imposed tighter regulations on the milk industry in order to regain customer loyalty and trust. For instance, in 2009, the government passed a series of legislation that mandated dairy product producers to raise industry standards, bolster the barriers of entry, and promote the development of large-scale dairy farms, which tended to have higher quality products than their smaller counterparts. These tight regulations allowed for our favorite confectionary treat to make a comeback in the country years later. In 2012, CNN declared that chocolate sales in China grew about 19%, which accounted for $1.9 billion in sales, so we can see that chocolate is here to stay in the long run and is slowly making its way into the Chinese hearts and stomachs.
Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes. American Management Association, 2010.
Burke, Samuel. “Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Jan. 2012, thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/.
Jones, David, and Tan Ee Lyn. “Cadbury Withdraws China Chocolate on Melamine Concern.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 29 Sept. 2008, uk.reuters.com/article/uk-cadbury/cadbury-withdraws-china-chocolate-on-melamine-concern-idUKTRE48S2B520080929.
Kirby, William and Dai, Nancy Hua. (2016) Yili Group: Building a Global Dairy Company. 9-317-003. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School.
Chocolate is arguably one of the greatest culinary achievements in human history. I currently do not have a citation for that statement, however I am banking on scholars and researchers to catch up to my sweeping generalizations. Chocolate, and cultivation of Cacao have been interwoven into the fabric of societies all across the globe. These connections have happened in so many ways that are not just appealing to the pallet but also to the spirit. Chocolate confections for some are the corner stone to childhood, and to others it is a symbol of ancestral connection. For some groups and societies, this connection has a more malevolent feel, either due to historical significance or even current trends in the chocolate marketplace. Chocolate and cacao production, have and continue to be connected to one of the darkest parts of the human experience. Slavery and forced labor are probably not what most consumers of chocolate think when they pick up their favorite chocolate candy in the local grocery aisle. This is likely due to the disparity and disconnection of the consumer from chocolates actual production. Chocolate production has been, and can continue to be, a marker for where such social disparity exists in our global market places. Using examples of past and present issues related to cacao production, it may be possible to shed light on how practice and policy of large candy manufacturers could potentially impact the lives of some of the most vulnerable communities in the world.
George Santayana said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Building on this philosophy, it is important to acknowledge our past mistakes in order to inform our future practice. On the other side of the coin, we can also adopt what was successful into the same playbook. One instance that is important to highlight takes place over 100 years ago with a Quaker owned chocolate producer called Cadbury. The Cadbury family was not just associated with the prominent industrialist family, but also with the Quaker philosophy of passivity and equity. In the workplace, it was also important to the Cadbury brand and philosophy that this applied to the treatment of those in their employ. In the early 1900s, William Cadbury investigated allegations that the primary source of their chocolate was being produced with slave labor. Their chocolate was being imported from the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, just off the western coast of the African continent. Once the allegations were verified, Cadbury petitioned the Portuguese government to change the labor practices and laws in their colony, however was not successful in its initial attempts. During this time, Cadbury continued to import a great deal of chocolate from the island, and in response faced a tremendous outpouring of public pressure. Due to their inability to appeal to the Portuguese government, Cadbury refocused their chocolate production elsewhere, and urged other chocolate companies to do the same. (Satre, 2005) While it was not a solution to the problem, it did demonstrate a morality in business practices that can be emulated in today’s chocolate industry.
So why look to Cadbury and the action of a chocolate maker 100 years ago? Well in the past two decades, allegations of chocolates connection to slavery have surfaced again. One of the countries that has been a focus for this issue has been Côte d’Ivoire. The accusations stated that nearly 90% of all chocolate produced there, had been involved in some form of slave labor. The international community was outraged, as Côte d’Ivoire was responsible for almost half of the world’s supply of chocolate. (John, 2002) This practice also involves children, who are sometimes sold into labor from bordering nations like Mali. A great deal of pressure was put onto some of the largest chocolate manufactures such as Nestle, due to international laws and increased media attention on the subject. (Schrage & Ewing, 2005) One of the major differences in this instance and the Cadbury example is the speed of information and the influence of the global media. The outcry from the international community was enormous and promises were made from major manufactures because of it.
That was almost 20 years ago that light was shed on this issue. What about today? Côte d’Ivoire, along with others, is still listed by the U.S. Department of Labor as an exploiter of forced/child labor. (U.S. Department of Labor, 2016) Apart of their research found that in 2016, 2.1 million children had been involved in cacao production in an “inappropriate form.” (Lowy, 2016)
Using Cadbury as a case study, it is possible to show that morality in business practice does not just positively affect the global community, but also can still be lucrative for a company. Cadbury did not solve the issue of slavery in the instance of the Portuguese colony, however they did influence the other chocolate makers to change their business practices which ultimately did leave a lasting impact on the islands need for forced labor. By doing so, they did not cease to exist, and by all accounts still flourish today. In today’s global economy, large manufactures have the opportunity to follow Cadbury’s example, and even potentially go a step further to create more sustainable practices for the global community.
John, A. V. (2002, June). A new slavery? History Today; London, 52(6), 34–35.
The purpose of this small-scale ethnography is to examine the social significance of chocolate from a cross-cultural perspective. Through interviewing various members of my local community that were born in different regions of Mexico and Central America, I document here their experiences and observances of chocolate.
Experienced through consumption or non-consumption, and observed through their emic perspective, there are underscoring themes exposed amongst the roles in which chocolate has played throughout each of their own lives. Within the context of those personal relationships with chocolate, an interaction between social and economic functions of their state and country may be contemporaneous to their outlook. Although this simultaneity is not always the circumstance, motifs emerge as their uniqueness transpires. Effectually, their contributed insight has actualized a microcosm of chocolates’ socio-cultural diversity and likenesses.
While conducting the interviews with members of my community, the aim was to first listen to their observances, and to then ask questions of clarification to assist in their thought process. The framework of my Q&A was designed this way to acquire a qualitative study, so that this retelling would reflect the individual perspectives of each subject, synchronously providing a glimpse into the societal experience. To depict those experiences through a cultural historical lens, that of which illustrated itself during most of the interviews already, I asked questions about their culture as a whole and how they thought chocolate was generally regarded in their own communities.
This study is not meant to define those relationships, but to highlight multiplicities within these individual cross- cultural accounts. Over reflections of my own and of the human subjects in this ethnographic study, I hope to provide sufficient imagery of historic milieu within the functional roles chocolate has played in personal experience and in society.
Theobroma Cacao, or the Food-of-the-God’s Cacao, is widely accepted by botanists and scholars as indigenous to Mesoamerica. Evidence of its cultivation is indicative of the role it played in ancient civilizations like the Mixe-Zoquean-speaking Olmecs (1500 BCE – 400 BCE). At the famed Olmec archaeological site in San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, evidence has been found of the term “Kakawa” used by the Olmec as early as 1000 BCE (Coe & Coe, 1996). See on the map below, San Lorenzo is west of present day Guatemala, and north of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.
We find in the archaeological record, the ways in which early civilizations illustrated cacao, or “Kakawa” on their pottery. This being a significant attribute to understand the role chocolate played in their livelihoods and rituals. According to Maricel Presilla in her book, The New Taste of Chocolate, “it was the Maya who brought chocolate making to a high art… building on the foundation left behind by other Mesoamerican cultures”, like that of the Olmecs and other sibling tribes (2009).
See this Classic Maya vase from the seventh century portraying the Maize God in an “unending dance, symbolizing both the creation of the universe and also his cycle of death and rebirth” (Takushi, Pioneer Press).
Maya Classic period (250 – 900 CE) vessels show quite literally the function of cacao as it was for drinking, as well as the relative role it played in Mayan life though various representations of the divine.
This is one of the many Classic period vessels that was found to contain cacao residues inside. We know it was used to hold chocolate because cacao is the only plant in the region with both the compounds Theobromine and Caffeine, “a unique marker for the presence of cacao in pre-Columbian artifacts” (Cheong, 2011). To verify the vessels were used to hold chocolate was an important piece to the archaeological record. It provided contextual knowledge when deciphering the imagery or glyphs depicted on the vessels.
Affirmed in the glyphs of drinking vessels from this period, there is evidence of “well established cacao-chocolate terminology”. On the Buenavista vase shown above, we see “tree-fresh cacao” inscribed. From the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS) of the glyphs you see banded around the top of the vessel, the characters that make the Maya name for cacao, “Ka-Ka-Wa” were deciphered. What strikes me the most about this piece is the seemingly relative “tree-fresh cacao” to the Maize God’s cyclical existence. (Presilla, 2009)
I particularly find this vessel so interesting when we look at the role of chocolate in culture because it reflects a cyclical ideology of their ecological relationship to their land; in the sustenance it provides, the concept of time through death and rebirth, and their Gods all-encompassing role within those cycles.
A few years ago in 2013 I came to know a few young men and women from the northern Mexican state of Sonora – (follow the link to read a brief history of Seri Indians of Sonora). They were working and studying here on visa’s while we were employed at a busy restaurant in the heart of downtown Boston. What better place than behind the bar to nose around and pick into people’s lives for cultural insights! Just kidding on the nose-picking… but seriously, even minute conversations with guests created thought-provoking observations. During their multiple terms of residency in Boston over the years, these talented intellectual Sonoran natives and I connected on Mexican – American culture alike, and apart. Upon reaching out to ask if anyone would be interested in participating in this modest ethnographic study, my request was received most graciously. They have all elected to omit fully identifying information, so for the purposes of this study, I will refer to them by their first name only. Below I have included their perspectives on the role chocolate has played throughout their lives.
Andrés began by explaining Mexico as a large country where the culture is full of diversity. “Every state has their own culture about everything – food, traditional parties, our dialect and slang”. With that being said, in the state of Sonora where he lives he doesn’t use chocolate and cacao the way he knows it is used in the southern states of the country like Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Tabasco. Andrés has observed the influence of cacao beans in southern Mexico because the cacao growing region produces a lot of recipes that involve cacao and chocolate.
When I asked what he knows about Mesoamerican uses for cacao, he remembers learning from childhood that they used it as currency, and he understood they sometimes would use it in beauty treatments. On that note, I recollect a fortuitous conversation about skin care had between myself and a female of Mexican ancestry I met while servicing wedding hair and makeup to her cousin’s bridal party, circa summer 2015 in East Boston – Indeed, I am not only an aspiring Anthropologist, also a Cosmetologist. My thoughts are usually occupied by anthropological inquiry on a daily basis, which inevitably grants unique opportunity for cultural discussions with the people I meet. Although not a part of this ethnography, she let me know back then about her family recipe for a skin care regimen that contains cacao. Her grandmother and her aunts would grind down cacao beans into a powder, “cocoa powder” minus the hydraulic press. They would mix the antioxidant rich powder with other grinded down local herbs, add water to create a paste-like texture and apply generously to the skin.
“Lather. Dry. Rinse. Repeat.” – she persisted. Yum.
For the purposes of this study, I was curious about chocolate in spa treatments, as I have heard echoes of the luxury before. Take a look at The Spa At The Hotel Hershey or examples of just a few contemporary accommodations created for chocolate in the beauty industry.
Andrés expressed to me that Sonora being just below Arizona, his culture is more- so “American” than the way Mexicans live in the south. It is in his experience and observation the misconception of Mexican culture as being one. I think any educated person understands culture, language, economy, etc. vary across spaces of human population. Yet, for those who generalize a nation’s people by its borders, Andrés and his community experience the bias. He grew up with a collection of influences “by the things Americans do”. For example, one of his earliest memories of eating chocolate was during Halloween. They’re also heavily influenced by “spring break madness”, as he defined the season. He grew up consuming chocolate predominantly made by the big corporations, like Mars. His notable favorites being the Snicker and M&Ms. “In the south they don’t have that influence, they don’t experience American Halloween as we do”.
Carlos V chocolate bars are the Nestlé- proclaimed “# 1 chocolate brand in Mexico with over 70 years in the market!… Because of its unique and mild flavor, it is considered the reference of chocolate for Mexicans.” The Aztec stylized imagery first designed to brand the chocolate before it was bought by Nestlé sometime in the 1980’s was created by Fabrica de Chocolates La Azteca, S.A. de C.V. Jason Liebig on his blog, Collecting Candy chronicles his findings in the L.M. Kallok Confectioners Collection of antique packaging. Most notable about the evolution of the branding is first the Aztec styling alongside the “Imperial Coat of Arms” for “by the grace of God, Carolus V Imperator (emporer)”. Then with the English labeling introduced we see a change in the ingredients as well (which was apparent of each label seen in Leibig’s compilation from the beginning to the end. “A tie-in with the film Toy Story, which tells us La Azteca was still the brand’s sole owner as late as 1995″ is interesting where we see Quaker Oats leaving its insignia on the label by the late 1990’s.
Not one of the Sonoran’s I interviewed has tried a Carlos V chocolate bar but they have all heard of it at some point in their life through advertisements. Eduardo attests to Andrés’ personal account of diversity from the southern regions in Mexico. Dia de los Muertos is “not celebrated as much as the south, but we do things like going to the cemetery”, Andrés says. Eduardo told me that they celebrate Dia de los Muertos on November 2. “We celebrate in memory of the people who are no longer with us and usually at the tombstones we put special things they liked when they were alive. Chocolates is usually one of them”. Both Andrés and Eduardo did not have a definitive sense of the historical reason for chocolate being placed on gravesites, but they both know it as a long- standing tradition and ritual in celebrating their deceased ancestors. Fernanda, another Sonoran native, added some insight to this practice of memorial. She told me that usually the graveyards are managed by local churches or publicly owned so in contrast to the majority of graveyards that are privately owned in the US, the families play a greater role in gravesite maintenance of their deceased. In this way, chocolate serves a social function in their celebrations.
Shown below, Dr. Martin presented in class this semester some of the ways Maya and Mixtec society visually depicted the functions that cacao played within their cultural practices and belief systems. Royal marriages necessitated the use of currency in the negotiation, so we see in the Codex Nuttall how cacao was a part of the price for the bride. Eduardo remembers learning in school that Mayans used to used the cacao “as a coin to buy everything, from goods to wives”. A relative topic for further study would be in the ways chocolate was introduced to the elite. Diffused out of Mesoamerica first by the Spanish, the Europeans assimilated to its royal regard and used chocolate in the women’s dowry through royal inter-marriages – that of which played a great role in spreading chocolate throughout Europe.
Another example (seen below) comes from the Madrid Codex where we see cacao being exchanged, portraying a give-and-take linkage between their concepts of cyclical time (lunar goddess) and their environment (rain god). I find this imagery especially expressive to their belief of the divine relationship to their human existence and sustenance on earth. Lastly, from the Codex Nuttall we see a royal funerary procession in “Twelve Movements”. Within the tomb depicted at the bottom right of the artwork lies a “vessel of foaming cacao beverage… to ease the soul’s journey to the underworld”. (Martin)
Eduardo recounts drinking cups of hot chocolate since he can remember. While traveling south to Puebla state he tried their “typical meal, mole, and it’s made of cacao”. What he knows about the Maya and cacao is how they used to prepare beverages and meals like the Puebla “mole”. “We have different tribes and culture but we learned about it in school and I experiences it myself while traveling south. Cacao is still a huge deal in south Mexico.”
See the dozen or more ingredients to make the traditional “thick, baroque sauce, mole” from Xalapa, Veracruz (Presilla), north of Puebla state in Mexico. Presilla notes that each ingredient is “processed in sequence, each at its own time” (2009).
As the mole is diverse in ingredients, and rich in unique Mesoamerican culture, so too – as these contemporary perspectives have illustrated, are the people of the region diversely interwoven with it’s history and unique place on Earth’s sphere.
It is not a secret to those who know me well that I love chocolate. I specially enjoy super dark, extremely bitter (70-90%) Cacao bars. I also like—the unfortunately less nutritious—white chocolate products. I regularly buy white chocolate bars or bon bons from local grocery stores. Yet, my finest inclinations—as a chocolate taster—are always in favor of the darkest, unsweetened, highly concentrated cacao bars.
According to content learned in Harvard University professor Carla D. Martin’s class Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, I am a hypertaster orsomeone who has“more papillae that are very closely arranged and smaller” (Martin, 13).This can make me an unreliable taster, and it probably explains my experience with tasting food—I always sound either very excited or really disgusted about flavors in contrast to most of my friends, who seem balanced in their perception of taste. Regardless of the odds, I continue to be their main “adviser” on good local restaurants. This is probably due to my “passionate” approach, which grabs their interest.
I regularly walk to a nearby Walgreens drugstore to get my prescriptions (see fig. 1 and fig. 2). It was not until joining professor Martin’s class that I paid attention to their chocolate section. It actually happened around Valentine’s, when most of us (particularly females) are targeted with advertisements and offers of candy and chocolates. Very curious—recalling our class’ discussions—I explored these isles at the store and I found—not surprisingly—an “avalanche” of well known chocolate brands (like Lindt, Cadbury, Nestle) lying next to the candy section (see fig. 4).
Fig. 1. Walgreens drugstore at Vermont Avenue and 6th Street, Los Angeles, California.
Fig. 2. Pinned location of Walgreens at Vermont Avenue and 6th Street, Los Angeles, California.
Walgreens was founded in 1901 by Charles R. Walgreens in Dixon, Illinois. He started Walgreens as a “50 feet by 20 feet” (“Our Story”) drugstore, which later developed into a giant chain of pharmacies, and successfully expanded across the United States. In the Walgreens website, its motto reads,“A history of our company: How a neighborhood drugstore became America’s most trusted pharmacy… and changed the shopping habits of a nation”(“Our Story”) . That seems consistent with the Walgreens of today, which steadily renovates its inventory to offer beauty, household and even grocery products (see fig. 3).
Fig. 3. Walgreens’ online shopping portal.
The Walgreens Experience
So, who goes to Walgreens for chocolates? Is it just me? Highly doubtful! I visit the store at least once per month. Since last Valentine’s their chocolate supply was re-stocked. I was shocked to see some of the brands that professor Martin reviewed in class (i.e. Endangered Species Chocolate) at my local Walgreens. Their wide list of product categories, makes Walgreens a good candidate for casual grocery and retail shopping. And when it comes to chocolate and candies, I am not alone. The day that I chose to take pictures for this assignment, I had to move aside several times to let other shoppers shop, and to let their children run wild over the candy section.
It is perhaps its versatility—as business scholar Katy Mullis suggests in her paper A SWOT Analysis of Walgreens in the Competitive Pharmacy Marketplace—what keeps the retailer thriving. Mullis describes the advantage of their extensive product selection, “The company strives to offer a merchandise mix in line with this focus, providing customers with one-stop stopping for not only prescription drugs, 6 but also over-the-counter-drugs, health care products, grocery selections, gifts, holiday and seasonal items, and one-hour photo developing” (Mullis, 5-6). Walgreens—based on Mullis’ work—holds strongly as a convenience market. People go there to order prescriptions, and spend no less than fifteen minutes waiting for them to be ready. This gives the company a tremendous advantage to sell more than just pharmaceutical goods. I personally buy candles and incense at Walgreens since 2015—and now, I additionally buy their chocolates and wine.
Judging The Book By Its Cover
Although Walgreens sells a great variety of chocolates, it is not a specialty shop for cacao products. It conveniently stocks brands that are popular and generally available in other food markets. Therefore, I was not expecting to find fancy delicacies there—and none else should. It would be an exception from their purchasing habits if it ever happened. Nevertheless, their chocolate selection is sufficiently versatile—considering that Walgreens is primarily a pharmacy, and not a grocery chain like Ralphs or Gelson’s.
Fig. 4. Walgreens’ “Chocolate-Candy” section at a Walgreens store in Los Angeles, California.
The chocolate bars sold at Walgreens range from low to very good quality—as far as branding and taste. Some of their prevalent brands were mentioned atprofessor Martin’s class: Hershey’s, Cadbury’s, Nestle, Lindt, etc. It is uncommon to see organic products there (I did not find any at all), or certified products in general. But sometimes random supplies make it to their shelves and one stumbles upon a deliciously crafted chocolate bar.
With this research in mind, I selected and purchased a few items that attracted me. Recalling the chocolate tasting activities performed by professor Martin, I bought two of the Endangered Species Chocolate brand. I also picked the Chili and White Coconut—of course—bars from Lindt and a few others, nicely appealing (presentation-wise and content-wise). Notwithstanding, I avoid Hershey’s and Cadbury’s almost all the time. I feel that they make products that are so sweet and “distressed” that I am unable to taste any real chocolate in them.
Tasting And Researching Chocolate
My “repertoire” consisted of the items shown below (see fig. 5).Fig. 5. Chocolate Tasting Selection.
The description of the products in the picture is the following (in random order):
1 Damak Fine Chocolate with Pistachios bar by Nestle, $2.89 / 2.80 oz.
1 Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios bar by Nestle, $2.89 / 2.80 oz.
1 Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond with Blood Orange Flavor bar by Brookside, $3.89 / 3.17 oz.
1 Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds bar by Endangered Species Chocolate, $4.29 / 3 oz.
1 Dark Chocolate With Cranberries & Almonds bar by Endangered Species Chocolate, $4.29 / 3 oz.
1 Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate bar by Lindt, $2.50 / 3.50 oz.
1 Excellence White Coconut White Chocolate bar by Lindt, $2.50 / 3.50 oz.
The results of the experiment produced the following graph, showing percentages (fig. 6):
Fig. 6. Measuring Chocolate Tasting Results.
The tastiest bar: Endangered Species Chocolate’s Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds.
The best deal: Lindt’s Chili Dark Chocolate.
The worst product: Nestle’s Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios.
The worst tasting experience corresponds to Nestle’s Damak series. Professor Martin remarked during her lectures about processing chocolate, that over-conching can result in a “flat, lifeless” (Martin, 56) and dull product—which was evident when tasting the Damak series. In regards to Brookside’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate with Blood Orange Flavor, I was dazzled by its fancy name and its presentation. Beautifully enclosed in a delicate foil envelope, it featured sketches of almonds, cranberries and an orange tree etched in silver color over a dark red background (see fig. 7). Whereas its base cacao mix did not feel over-conched or poorly processed, the presence of so many strong flavors (orange, almonds, cranberries) created an ambiguous taste that did not impress my palate, so I classified it as too busy.
Decidedly, my preferred choice became the Endangered Species’ Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds. It has a sharp, lively, delicious chocolate presence along with salty, crispy notes of sea salt and almond chunks. The only downside of this brand is that it is pricey—looking at the cost and its net weight. However, all of its certifications and its quality make it seem worth the investment. Regardless, certifications should be interpreted with caution—according to professor Martin’s research titled The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe, co-authored with Kathryn E. Sampeck—because often they result in misguided efforts that do not really support cacao farmers as they claim to, and that benefit primarily “wealthy consumers” (Martin and Sampeck, 52) frequently halting “innovation by prioritizing consensus among participating companies and incentivizing only baseline standards adherence, ultimately becoming part of the problem” (Martin and Sampeck, 52). The problem—in this case—refers to the ever-growing poverty in many cacao-producing nations, and in the difficulties experienced by cacao farmers to sell their raw materials and to collect their earnings afterwards, whether they participate or not in certification programs.
Fig. 7. Brookside’s Refined Cranberry Almond With Blood Orange Bar.
In the next section are the details about the ratings from the chocolate tasting experiment.
Observations From The Experiment
Nestle’s Damak Fine Chocolate with Pistachios:
Mild taste, almost like candy
Burnt garlic after taste
Cacao: regular (non specified)
Certifications / Program: SadeOfset
Caloric Information: Yes
Nestle’s Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios:
Dark Chocolate (55%)
Soil-like taste, almost like dirt
Bitter after taste
Cacao: regular (non specified)
Certifications / Program: SadeOfset
Caloric Information: Yes
Brookside’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate with Blood Orange Flavor:
Fruity flavor, citric
Cacao: regular (non specified)
Certifications / Program: Smartlabel
Caloric Information: Yes
Lindt’s Excellence White Coconut:
Cacao: regular (non specified)
Certifications / Program: N/A
Caloric Information: Yes
Lindt’s Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate:
Dark Chocolate (47%)
Cacao: regular (non specified)
Certifications / Program: N/A
Caloric Information: Yes
Endangered Species’ Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds:
These are certifications reported by the products:
Contents (fig. 8):
NON GMO Verified
Certified Gluten Free
Fig. 8. Product Certifications.
Packaging (fig. 9):
Fig. 9. Packaging Certifications.
A curious detail revealed by the experiment, was the ubiquity of packaging certifications. Almost every chocolate product at Walgreen’s shelves displayed one or more packaging certification logos—even when the product itself was not certified. This proves that consumers are not only interested in eating well: they are also concerned about the impact that the products they consume have in the environment. Hopefully, consumers will succeed in voicing their interest to chocolate manufactures and cause them to buy more certified raw materials, and to support standardized certification programs.
Putting It All Together
Shopping at Walgreens for chocolates was quite an experience. If it was not because of taking professor Martin’s class, it would have likely skipped it. Yet, her class succeeded in making me a more conscious food shopper. I feel now compelled to read food labels and to check for certifications, which—other than USDA Organic—sounded irrelevant to me before enrolling in Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Understanding the difference between Fair Trade, USDA Organic and other classifications does make a difference in the “wholesomeness” and perception of a product. I am specially keen about the complex chain of connections that begins at a chocolate farm and ends on the hands of the consumer. I “pledge” to use more discernment in my future purchases by supporting transparent, environmentally and socially conscious chocolatiers.
An additional takeaway from professor Martin’s class—which becomes obvious while shopping for groceries—is that sugar and chocolate are quasi inseparable. Often, they are displayed in contiguous shelves, so that it is hard to define where the candy ends and the chocolate begins—this was the case at Walgreens (and many other stores). Perhaps, the subliminal reason for this is that most chocolate products nowadays are so overwhelmingly processed that—as author Samira Kawash puts it in her Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure book—there is an “ancestral” link between them:
“The ancestral relation between candy and today’s ultraprocessed foods is a compelling reason to look a little more closely at the rise of the candy industry and the controversies and worries that accompanied it. The story of candy in America is a story of how the processed, the artificial, and the fake came to be embraced as real food. And it’s also the story of how it happened that so much of what we call food today is really candy.(Kawash, 26)
What Kawash suggests has been historically documented and marked by the evolution of the advertisement and media. Today’s most renown chocolate brands in America (i.e. Hershey’s) produce hyper-processed, hyper-sweetened chocolate goods. There is almost no difference between eating these chocolates and eating pure candy. But there is new is hope for a positive change that arises from consumer awareness. We—as consumers—can and are transforming the current food market. The dangers of sugar addiction and chemical processing are being exposed, and food shoppers are turning to natural alternatives. We are all hopeful about the rise of healthier and tastier food (and chocolate) that—most definitely—will lay in the hands of our millennials!
*Disclaimer: This essay is drawn from a personal experience. Therefore, it is written in First-Person.
Faith, Arleena. Brookside’s Refined Cranberry Almond With Blood Orange Bar. 2017.
Digital photograph. Los Angeles, California.
Faith, Arleena. Chocolate Tasting Selection. 2017. Digital photograph. Los Angeles,
Faith, Arleena. Measuring Chocolate Tasting Results. 2017. Digital graph. Los Angeles,
Faith, Arleena. Packaging Certifications. 2017. Digital collage. Los Angeles, California.
Faith, Arleena. Product Certifications. 2017. Digital collage. Los Angeles, California.
Faith, Arleena. Walgreens’ Chocolate-Candy Section. 2017. Digital photograph. Los
Kawash, Samira . Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
2013, New York, Print. Apr. 2017.
Martin, Carla D. (2017). Lecture 4: Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal [PowerPoint
presentation]. Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Martin, Carla D. (2017). Lecture 12: Psychology, Terroir, and Taste [PowerPoint
presentation]. Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in
Europe.” Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2015. Print. 2017 May 2.
Mullis, Katy. “A SWOT Analysis of Walgreens in the Competitive Pharmacy
Marketplace.” College of Health and Human Sciences Oregon State University, Corvallis,
Warmth, indulgence, luxury – chocolate evokes many images as a sinfully sweet treat. Commodifying these fantasies is profitable because consumers long to be associated “with the romantic construction of chocolate” despite the fact that “systematic exploitation” and manipulative advertisements usually lurk behind chocolate (Robertson 5). In this modern age of cosmetic beauty standards and visually driven social media, the euphoric emotions associated with edible cacao products has spread to a form of non-edible chocolate consumption: chocolate infused makeup. Since chocolate products allow consumers to “express our own sense of identity” while offering ways “to say things about ourselves, our families, [and] our social world,” I situate the marketing of chocolate based makeup products in the same trajectory as the gendered, classed, and raced advertisements of edible chocolate (Robertson 19). This entails comparing a chocolate cosmetic line (Too Faced) from Sephora, a leading beauty retailer chain, to a chocolate bar sold at department stores containing Sephora outlets in order to capture the differences and similarities found when advertising chocolate and chocolate makeup. While both chocolate makeup and edible chocolate advertisements separate Westerners from chocolate’s problematic origins and perpetuate gendered, elitist Western beauty standards, the racism present in the presentation of chocolate infused makeup is more noticeable because it is an object applied to the skin rather than ingested within the body.
Cocoa Cosmetics at Sephora
Sephora is a beauty and fragrance chain founded in France in 1970 (the first U.S. store opened in 1998) under the international luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Sephora offers an array of makeup, perfume, skin care, beauty tools, and body pampering items from different brands, including its own original Sephora line, in large stores complete with mirrors, makeup counters, and tester products to try on for free. Sephora believes that “every stroke, swipe and dab reveals possibility” and the company shares their “client’s love for the confidence that our products … bring to their life every day” (Sephora.com). The store oozes sophistication and style with extensive displays and its connection to the parent company’s elite Louis Vuitton brand. In 2006, J.C. Penney, a large American department store chain, began an exclusive agreement to feature Sephora outlet stores inside many of its locations in order to attract spendthrift younger crowds. In addition to home goods, clothes, and accessories, J.C. Penney also sells an assortment of Lindt chocolates including Lindor truffles, Cioccolata, and Hello chocolate. I will use an advertisement from Lindt Dark Chocolate Excellence, the main type of traditional chocolate candy bar sold in J.C. Penney according to their online inventory, as a lens for critiquing the marketing of chocolate-infused makeup.
The aisle of Sephora stores in Hawaii (left) and Minnesota (right) stocked with Too Faced products (the only cosmetics brand Sephora sells that contains cacao). These images are indicative of Sephora stores everywhere; they capture Sephora’s extravagance and its impeccably clean, classy makeup displays.
With “about 706 stores in the United States” (both outlets inside J.C. Penney and stand-alone stores) attracting consumers hoping toalign themselves with a certain image, Sephora has stores in every inhabitable continent except for one – Africa (Forbes.com). Despite selling chocolate cosmetics through Too Faced, Sephora – one of the world’s most popular makeup retailers – has no stores in the continent that produces 70% of the world’s chocolate (Wessel 2016). Consumers of chocolate infused makeup are divorced from the bean’s origins yet, in the case of makeup and edible chocolate, buy cacao to be associated with its symbolic meanings.
Separating Fact From Fiction
The majority of chocolate sold in America is from bulk cacao of the sturdy Forastero variety produced in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Since lesser developed areas in the global south have an abundance of unskilled labor, they rely on exporting primary products to the global market. Because colonization, slavery, and forced migration disrupted social connections, destroyed culture, and decimated the population, developing countries lack the infrastructure and capital needed to compete with developed places. Neoliberal policies of privatized industries, few regulations, and free trade instead divert international trade profits away from chocolate producing countries, which affects the modern-day chocolate industry. Commodities such as cacao are subject to extreme fluctuations in price because “price evolution is less and less dictated by changes in … supply and demand” and more determined by others in the supply chain (Sylla 40). Market volatility means that cacao farmers are mired in intergenerational debt, since relatives often work on family-owned western African cacao plantations to lower costs. However, consumers are far removed from the instability and inequality facing cacao farmers. Companies use advertisements that reinforce local cultural norms to sell chocolate so that they can entice consumers who want to satisfy and promote certain social standards. Doing so is a long-established tradition; once “chocolate became available for the working classes [in] the nineteenth century, … women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption within the family,” as intimated by chocolate advertisements (Robertson 20). In a feminization of chocolate consumption, doting housewives and loving mothers provided their families with nutritious chocolate milk or sweetened their children’s day with chocolate candies. Chocolate marketing eventually progressed from idealizing familial love to idealizing heterosexual courtship by the mid-twentieth century through a focus on “light-hearted but respectable” stories of “young white couples” with female characters that were “irrational narcissistic consumers … seduced by the chocolate themselves” (Robertson 31, 33-34).
A commercial from 2016 for Lindt Dark Chocolate, which is sold in the same department store (J.C. Penney) that contains Sephora outlets selling chocolate makeup.
In a modern-day example, the commercial for Lindt Excellence dark chocolate (sold at J.C. Penney), hints at chocolate induced female “orgasmic pleasure” (Robertson 35). A woman’s silky voice encourages consumers to “experience the ultimate pleasure with Lindt,” as the chocolate is “luxurious” and “so intense.” She truly is seduced by cacao. These types of advertisements, where women feel “orgasmic pleasure” after eating chocolate, ultimately suggest “how women should project their heterosexual yearnings and fantasies onto chocolate consumption” (35). The dripping chocolate, the chocolatier caressing cacao beans, and the passionate fire add to this sexualized setting while the main character lustfully sniffs a chocolate piece. These sexual, romantic insinuations increase chocolate’s profitability as the fruit growing on cacao plantations in the global south has become fictionalized into a commodity that promises happiness and sensuality in the global north.
Chocolate Bar Palettes
Promises of happiness and feminine sensuality found in modern-day chocolate advertisements have been easily transferred to non-edible chocolate products. Through chocolate, women are encouraged to “project their heterosexual yearnings;” through makeup, women can project related fantasies involved in heterosexual courtship, such as female beauty, wealth, and seductiveness, onto cosmetic products that will allow them to be recognized as such (Robertson 35). In cacao-based makeup, chocolate, an edible item that promises pleasure, becomes a part of the user’s appearance in way that commodifies the body as a physical manifestation of chocolate’s symbolism. Chocolate makeup thereby transfers notions of female sensuality, sweetness, and lusciousness to the body, a reality that cacao cosmetic advertisements subtly emphasize.
Sephora sells a range of chocolate related facial cosmetics through two makeup brands (Bobbi Brown and Too Faced), though only the Too Faced chocolate makeup line lists cacao as an ingredient in the product. Beyond powdered bronzer and foundation, Too Faced offers a range of popular eyeshadow palettes that will be the focus of this analysis because they are packaged to look like traditional chocolate bars. For $49.00, consumers can buy Too Faced’s most reviewed, top rated eyeshadow collection that is “formulated using real cocoa powder” (Sephora).
Marketed as a “A sweetly tempting array of 16 matte and shimmer shadows,” the Chocolate Bar Eye Palette is shaped, named, scented (with Theobroma cacao fruit powder), and colored (on the outside) like chocolate to attract consumers who want to embody chocolate’s sexy sweetness (Sephora.com).
The shadow palette comes in a “playful chocolate bar tin,” complete with colors like “gilded ganache,” “black forrest truffle,” “triple fudge,” “haute chocolate,” and “white chocolate,” which evoke chocolate-related feelings of sumptuousness and opulence (Sephora.com). Subtle details, like pink cursive on the outside, cue consumers to the feminized image they are taking part of by using the product, but the wording and visuals are not as overtly sexual as the edible chocolate bar commercial. Edible chocolate like Lindt has been stripped of its physical reality, allowing non-edible products to draw from the sensual fantasy chocolate stirs. Too Faced also offers a Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar with slightly lighter colors and a Chocolate Bon Bons Palette with heart-shaped bright and neutral colors for the same steep price, as well as a smaller White Chocolate Chip Palette with metallic shadows for $26.00.
The three additional types of cocoa powder infused eyeshadow palettes sold at Sephora through Too Faced. All are shaped like chocolate bars and have colors written under each eyeshadow that are named for chocolate-related products.
Norton’s Tasting Empire mentions Bourdieu’s theory that “social subjects classified by their classifications distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make” in a way that is in “accord with social hierarchies” (Norton 663). Those reaching for Too Faced’s cocoa cosmetics are choosing to be recognized as tasteful consumers with a fondness for chocolate and all of its figurative images. The product’s high price and link with Sephora, a high-end makeup retailer, implies an elite status shared by those who use the Chocolate Bar palettes. Lindt chocolate uses similar, but more noticeable tactics beyond price and image to clue consumers in on their chocolate’s elite qualities. The chocolate is from the “Excellence” line and has the “richest flavors” from the “finest cocoa” according to the commercial’s narrator. The chocolate bar is a “thin masterpiece,” and Lindt prides itself on being known as a “Master Swiss Chocolatier since 1845.” These descriptions, plus the logo’s embossed gold, make the chocolate deluxe and top-tier, enticing consumers who seek to embed themselves in a particular class. Consumers play an active role in their product selection, using both chocolate makeup and edible chocolate as a “cultural mode” to express themselves or to “acquire social meaning” (Robertson 19). People aspire to be associated with chocolate whose presentation represents their values.
Race and Chocolate Advertisements
Besides attracting consumers with a promise of beauty and lavishness, the Chocolate Bar line sells racialized femininity and wealth, much like traditional chocolate bars.
This makeup tutorial uses the Chocolate Bar and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette from Too Faced to create a completed look on a white woman who embodies Western standards of beauty and class.
Similar to the woman in the Lindt commercial, the women featured in the makeup tutorials for Too Faced’s collection are white and well-dressed, positioning shoppers “in relation to that product as gendered, classed and raced beings” (Robertson 19). Racism has permeated advertising for edible chocolate throughout history. Though falling prices and diverse products theoretically brought chocolate into the hands of the masses during the 1800s, only certain people were shown as deserving access to the goods. Wholesome, “sugary-sweet white boys and girls” in white families were the idealized consumers who grew “stronger through drinking cocoa;” blacks were often stereotyped in advertisements, depicted as cartoons, “supervis[ed]” by whites, or displayed as a combination of all three trends to support socially constructed racial hierarchies (Robertson 39).
In order to “reinforc[e] dominant contemporary ideologies,” chocolate “adverts created a world of white consumers in which the black producers of cocoa beans and the black consumers of chocolate were at best pushed to the margins, if not excluded completely” (54). Though Robertson is referring to the connection between Chocolate, Women, and Empire with respect to Rowntree and Cadbury, these prominent chocolate companies (founded in 1862 and 1824, respectively) successfully influenced other companies’ cocoa ads. Similar to Lindt’s chocolate advertisements, Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar Palettes also pander to white consumers, but in a more significant and noticeable way. Those with darker skin tones, for example, must guess how the shades show up on their skin, for the fair-skinned woman in the makeup tutorial is the stand-in for Too Faced’s average consumer. Reviews for the palettes are overall very high, but filtering the thousands of reviews by skin type reveals dissatisfaction from women of color. In reviews for the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette, many mention that “a few of the colors are too close for distinction on my deep dark skin” and “they tend to blend together into a muddy mess on my lids” (Sephora.com). Ironically, once a user “tried the [colors] that were lacking over a white base … then [she] was able to see them” better (Sephora.com). A comprehensive review of the Chocolate Bar Eye Palette from a female user with a dark skin tone claims:
This is an adorable palette. Pretty colors and it actually smells like chocolate. However, what’s disappointing is that it’s only suitable for lighter skin tones. The colors were pretty on my fair-skined best friend but I found that on me, they were just dull. For you girls with darker skin tones, 90% of the shadows in this palette will just look chalky when applied. Not at all a high end look (Sephora.com).
The eyeshadow pigments were not vibrant enough to be seen properly on darker skinned women, but on lighter women the colors look wonderful.
Reviews for the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar palette when filtered by users with “fair,” “light,” “medium,” and “olive” skin tones are more glowing: “the eye shadows are pigmented, creamy and blend like a dream” raves a fair-skinned woman (Sephora.com). A paper glamour guide comes with the Bon Bons Palette to show consumers possible looks they can create with the shadows, but each eye makeup example comes from the face of a light woman. Despite the fact that the colors in these eyeshadow palettes contain cacao and are named after cacao products, women with brown skin tones are disregarded in the advertisement and testing of this product the way chocolate’s true origins are disregarded by the fictionalized symbolism of chocolate (and chocolate-based makeup). This exclusion mirrors the way female cacao farmers and black women who enjoy chocolate are purposefully left out of chocolate ads.
Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar Palettes and Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate both use similar racialized, gendered, and classist advertising strategies that fictionalize chocolate’s reality and continue the separation between cacao producer and cacao consumer. Though the two items analyzed are sold in J.C. Penney department stores, they have different uses. Lindt Excellence’s commercial focuses on the physical pleasure chocolate brings, while Too Faced’s chocolate line plays into aesthetic beauty standards that exclude people with dark skin. Edible and non-edible chocolate products alike market values that consumers identify with and want to promote.
“Chocolate Bar Eye Shadow Collection.” Eyes/Eye Shadow Palettes. Too Faced, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
Loeb, Walter. “Sephora: Department Stores Cannot Stop Its Global Growth.” Retail. Forbes, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.
Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Oxford Journal. Web.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester U Press, 2013. Print.
Wessel, Marius, and P.M. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 74-75 (2015): 1-7. ScienceDirect. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.
When you think of warfare, you probably think of soldiers, tanks, or guns; you probably do not think of chocolate, however, chocolate played an integral part in World War II. The military in the first half of the 20th century had a problem. Men were fighting on the front lines were in conditions where field kitchens could not be established. Sustenance would have to be shipped in and it would have to be compact and portable. It was to this end that Captain Paul Logan, of the office of the U.S. Army Quartermaster General, turned to chocolate. He met with William Murrie, then president of Hershey Chocolate Corporation, and Sam Hinkle, his chief scientist, in 1937 about developing a chocolate bar emergency ration that could stand up to the rigorous military standards required for field rations. Chocolate was uniquely qualified as a choice for rations as it is not only lightweight and portable but it is also is a stimulant, provides a quick burst of energy and is fairly nutritious. There were, however, some technical issues that need to be dealt with before chocolate was ready for duty on the front lines.
As anyone who has left a chocolate bar in their pocket on a summer’s day knows, chocolate tends to melt in moderately high temperatures. This gives chocolate its wonderful mouthfeel but also makes it a challenge to transport it hot climates. This is due to one of chocolate main ingredients; cocoa butter, which has a melting point of 78 degrees Fahrenheit, turning any chocolate above that mark, whether in your mouth or in your pocket, from a solid bar to a mushy mess.
Furthermore, as it was to be an emergency ration, this chocolate couldn’t be the tempting treat you usually think of when you think chocolate bar. According to Sam Hinkle, chief scientist at Hershey at the time, “Captain Logan said that he wanted it to taste not too good, because, if so, the soldier would eat it before he faced an emergency and have nothing to eat when the emergency came,” Hinkle said. “So he said, ‘Make it taste about like a boiled potato.'”
Hershey scientists and the US Army Quartermaster Corps set out together to engineer a chocolate that could stand up to the military’s exacting standards. As Joel Glenn Brenner states in her book, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, “The result was the famous Field Ration D, nutrition-packed “subsistence” chocolate made from a thick paste of chocolate liquor, sugar, oat flour, powdered milk and vitamins …it could withstand temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and contained 600 calories in a single serving.” (Brenner 8). That was all well and good but the military needed to make sure that these Ration D bars could stand up to the challenge of the harsh environment of war. According to the Hershey Community Archives, “The first of the Field Ration D bars were used for field tests in the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama, the Texas border, and at various Army posts and depots throughout the United States. These bars also found their way to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd’s last expedition in 1939. The results of the test were satisfactory and Field Ration D was approved for wartime use.”
Once assured of these chocolate bars being up to snuff, the military put them into production. In her book, Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, Anastacia Marx de Salcedo describes the packaging process: “The finished bars were sealed in foil and then paper-wrapped in sets of three, for a total of 1,800 calories, enough to sustain a man for a day. (Later, when foil became scarce during World War II and the use of chemical weapons seemed imminent—mustard and chlorine gas had been used frequently in World War I—waterproof cellophane and wax coated boxes were used [to prevent any deadly chemicals from leaching into the soldiers’ food]). By the end of 1945 Hershey was producing 24 million bars a week.
As for what the soldiers thought of them, their thoughts can be seen in the nickname they gave it; “Hitler’s secret weapon”. In his article, “Chocolate! The war’s secret weapon: our GIs went to war well supplied with weapons, clothing–and chocolate!”, Terry W. Burger interviews John Otto, a platoon leader in Company A of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 505th Parachute Regiment, for his experience with the Ration D bars, “They were awful,” “They were big, thick things, and they weren’t any good. I tried ’em, but I had to be awful hungry after I tried them once…. Whatever they put in didn’t make them taste any better.” Nevertheless, the Ration D bars kept the soldiers alive on the battlefield and in other precarious situations. Not only that, because chocolate contains stimulants such as theobromine and caffeine, it kept the soldiers awake and alert, which was vital to their survival and success, especially in hostile territories like Nazi-occupied France. Some of the soldiers dislikes of the bar may have stem from their quick consumption; the instructions clearly stated the bars are to be eaten slowly (in about half an hour the label says), so a soldier on the move who consumed his Ration D bar a little too quickly may have experienced quite a bit of gastronomic distress.
Either way, the Ration D bars served also as a diplomatic tool, turning many starving Europeans into friends of the United States, as described by 82nd Airborne Veteran John Otto, “People wanted them, You’d give them to kids. In some places they were very hungry. And they sure helped relax people about American soldiers.”
Chocolate has been part of the military ever since. In 1943, Hershey created the Tropical Bar, the Ration D’s ever-so-slightly better tasting cousin, for consuming in the hot and humid Pacific. This bar saw action during the Korean War (1950-53) up through the early days of the Vietnam War. In 1990 Hershey created the Desert Bar, which tasted like an original Hershey bar but could withstand temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Not that Hershey was the only game in town; Forrest Mars introduced M&M’s in 1940; just in time for the chocolate candy that “melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” to be added to soldiers rations. Today soldiers receive chocolate in a variety of places, whether it’s in a MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) ration or a care package that boosts their spirit and gives them a little taste of home.
 Terry W. Burger, “Chocolate! The war’s secret weapon: our GIs went to war well supplied with weapons, clothing–and chocolate!”
 Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, page 87
 Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, page 87
 Joel Glenn Brenner, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, page 10
 Joel Glenn Brenner, The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, page 46
 John C. Fisher and Carol Fisher, Food in the American Military, page 183
Marx de Salcedo, Anastacia. Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat. Penguin. 2015.
Brenner, Joel Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey And Mars. Random House, Inc. 1999.
Fisher, John C., and Carol Fisher. Food in the American Military: A History. McFarlan & Company, Inc. 2011.
Burger, Terry W. “Chocolate! The war’s secret weapon: our GIs went to war well supplied with weapons, clothing–and chocolate!” America in WWII, Feb. 2007, p. 36+. General OneFile, libraries.state.ma.us/login?gwurl=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GPS&sw=w&u=ntn&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA400957701&asid=4593f3eb2321afb7732288b7e5322620. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.
For those who are interested in the ethnic and historical origins of foods, chocolate and sugar may be two of the most exciting elements of the traditional English diet (see fig. 1). Linked by their indigenous sourcing and early production during the British colonial period, the bitter taste of chocolate and the ground sweetness of sugar grew in demand and influenced the commercialization of one another. Both, used as food condiments or spices, in medical remedies or as a source of energy and calories share a history of conquest, adventure, social evolution and slavery. Thus, when it comes to England and perhaps other European nations, it is fair to believe that today’s spike in sugar consumption –as suggested by Harvard University professor Carla Martin in her “Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food” class is owed in great part to the expansion and ever-growing demands of the chocolate industry.
Long before Colombus arrived to the Americas, sugar was known in Europe thanks to the Crusades and the conquests of the British empire (SKIL – History of Sugar). The European expansion beyond the Caribbean plateau brought the discovery of the cacao tree and chocolate, highly praised by the natives, according to chapters One and Two from The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe. This discovery increased the European interest in the region causing the assimilation of local elements that helped export indigenous recipes, traditions and beliefs to the wealthiest European social groups and consequently, to the British. This is commonly known as “hybridization” and it resulted in the adoption and rapid commercialization of chocolate throughout Europe (see fig. 2).
Chocolate quickly became a sensation among the British bourgeoisie. The enigmatic cocoa powder traditionally obtained by a long process of selecting cacao beans, drying, toasting and hand-grinding them with an hand made “molinillo” (Presilla 26) was an edible bounty for the wealthy. Early colonizers learned from the Mesoamerican aborigines that chocolate was “food of the gods” and such was the official name they gave to it as described in The True History of Chocolate (D. Coe and D. Coe 18). The belief that it had magical and medical properties head its way into England where soon the chocolate drink and the cocoa powder were used in medical recipes, as sources of energy and as mood enhancers.
Around the same period of time, sugar had also medical and multiple other uses in Britain. Sugar was an “everything” type of remedy or food condiment. The influence of sugar in the Anglo-Saxon world was such that as professor Martin denoted in class, it moved beyond the Hollywood era so we can recall popular movies like Mary Poppins carry the reminiscent of it in song lyrics that talk about sugar and sweetness, as for instance Disney’s “A Spoonful of Sugar” shown below.
“A Spoonful of Sugar” from the Mary Poppins film.
In 1847, the English company J.S. Fry & Sons produced a chocolate bar from the mixture of sugar and chocolate powder with cocoa butter, which according to the authors of the research paper Welcome to ChE: Chocolate Engineering “had a grainy texture and lacked the smooth flavor of today’s chocolates” (Patton, Ford and Crunkleton 2). This, in turn, prompted Henry Nestle and Daniel Peters to experiment further by adding milk to the mixture, creating the first milk chocolate bar as early as 1876 (Patton, Ford and Crunkleton 2).
Henceforth, sugar and chocolate crossed a common path: that of the “bitter-sweetness.” This bitter-sweetness is a descriptive metaphor derived from their combination: chocolate is naturally bitter and sugar is the embodiment of sweet. From the history of their discovery, production and consumption the bittersweet blend evokes a distant grief infused with human slavery which was viewed by its wealthy consumers like the “necessary evil” –as professor Martin puts it, to achieve the finest tasting, sweetest chocolate cup or chocolate bar.
Knowing the historical and socio economical factors that made possible a “rendezvous” of chocolate and sugar, it is possible to find correlation between the sugar consumption and the production of chocolate. Professor Martin illustrates this in class with visualizations of the rise in sugar consumption from the colonial times before chocolate was brought to Europe up to the present times. Those graphs shown by professor Martin reveal a dramatic curve of growth. It is then evident that the discovery and commercialization of chocolate influenced the consumption and demand of sugar. The image below illustrates the period of time in which the sugar consumption rose in England, which coincides with the time in which chocolate began to commercialize during the 1800’s, as well as the corresponding price depreciation per pound (fig. 3).
In conclusion, the social contexts of contemporary Britain, the Anglo-Saxon culture and all of Europe keep sugar and chocolate forever bound in tasty combinations. Often is our own “sweet tooth” that helps move chocolates off the shelves because some of us suffer a disease called “chocolate craving.” Yet, one thing is certain: today’s chocolates are generally sweeter than those of yesterday… either because they have thrice the amount of sugar, or because they no longer come from the bitter tears of slavery.
Chocolate House in London (18th Century). Digital image. “The World of Chocolate.” Worldstandards.eu. 2017. Web. 6 Mar. 2017.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “The Tree of the Food of the Gods.” The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson, Inc., 1996, New York, Print. Feb. 2017.
Fry’s Five Boys Milk Chocolate. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Jarrold & Sons, Ltd., 2 Dec. 2005. Web. 6 Mar. 2017.
One step into Cambridge Naturals, a community natural health store in Cambridge, MA, and the market for organic, fair-trade, vegan, bean-to-bar, local, non-gmo, paleo, environmentally friendly and ethically sourced chocolate products is on full display. A meeting with the store’s manager & grocery lead adds another term to the list of qualities their consumer base is looking for when they step into the store – functional chocolate. This trend shows a probable correlation between what customers are willing to spend on chocolate that makes health claims, based on the way the cacao is processed and additional ingredients added that are promoted to provide nutritional benefits. The functional chocolate trend begs the question – are these health claims regarding various methods of cacao processing and healthful additives substantiated by scientific research, or are they merely a marketing gimmick? This article will analyze recent research on the health benefits of chocolate as a functional food, look at fermentation and processing differences from a nutrient perspective, and consider additional benefits of medicinal additives to chocolate in order to best answer this question.
How are functional foods different from healthy foods?
In a study published in the Academic Food Journal/Akademik (2014) that looked at the development of functional chocolate, the differences between health foods and functional foods were defined as the following:
“Functional foods are a new category of products that promise consumers improvements in targeted physiological functions” (Albak, Fatma, & Tekin, 2014, p. 19).
Whereas, “conventional ‘healthy’ foods are typically presented as types of foods contributing to a healthy diet, e.g. low-fat products, high-fibre products, or vegetables, without emphasizing the role of any single product” (Albak, Fatma, & Tekin, 2014, p. 19).
Functional foods share these characteristics:
Health benefits that can be linked to a specific product
Well-defined physiological effects are directly connected with particular components in the specific product
Scientific evidence about health effects that is used to develop specific functional products
There is novelty for the consumer with the promised benefits
Modern technology is often needed to manufacture the functional foods due to specific components being added, modified or removed (Albak, et al., 2014).
Demand for Functional Foods
The market for functional foods exists in large part due to the rising popularity of healthier products by consumers (Albak, et al., 2014). One contributor to interest in healthy products is their use as a remedy to detrimental lifestyle factors that can contribute to unyielding high levels of inflammation in the body (Jain, Parag, Pandey, & Shukla, 2015). In the book, Inflammation and Lifestyle (2015), the connection between diet and inflammation is emphasized.
“Our diet is one of the leading sources of these chronic illnesses, and changing the diet is the key to prevention and cure. A number of dietary factors, including fiber-rich foods, whole grains, fruits (especially berries), omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins (e.g., C and E), and certain trace minerals (e.g., zinc), have been documented to reduce blood concentrations of inflammatory markers. The best way to correct and eliminate inflammation is to improve comprehensive lifestyle and dietary changes rather than taking pharmaceutical drugs, the latter of which can cause unintended harm in the form of damaging side effects” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 143).
The authors provide this graphic to illustrate what an anti-inflammatory diet pyramid looks like in terms of specific food groups. Note that dark chocolate is positioned on the top of the pyramid.
An introduction to the benefits of superfoods and their role in an anti-inflammatory diet are explained in the publication. “An anti-inflammatory diet is one that is low in processed foods and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, sprouts, nuts and superfoods. Maca, spirulina, purple corn, wheatgrass, coconut butter and raw chocolate are a few of the health promoting superfoods that are gaining international interest” (Jain, et al., 2015, p. 144). The inclusion of “raw chocolate” in the category of superfoods versus “chocolate” warrants further examination and will be explored later in this article, but the position remains clear that evidence supports the protective benefits of chocolate as a part of a healthy diet.
Chocolate as a Functional Food
Under the category of functional foods as previously defined, chocolate, as will be further described, fulfills all the requisite characteristics. Even though the term functional food is relatively recent, the practice of consuming chocolate for its specific health benefits is centuries old. “Chocolate has been consumed as confection, aphrodisiac, and folk medicine for many years before science proved its potential health benefiting effects. Main compounds of cocoa and chocolate which contribute to human health are polyphenols that act as antioxidants and have potential anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, antihepatotoxic, antibacterial, antiviral, antiallergenic, and anticarcinogenic properties” (Ackar, Djurdjica, Lendić, Valek,… & Nedić, 2013, p. 1). The studied physiological effects of chocolate include “reported health benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate particularly focus on cardiovascular diseases (but also showing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects), including increased blood flow at the brachial artery and the left descending coronary artery, decreased blood pressure, decreased platelet aggregation and increased HDL cholesterol” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840). Numerous research discoveries have shed light on the complex nature of how these protective benefits of cacao are reduced or encouraged by different methods of sourcing, processing and consuming chocolate (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008).
Polyphenols are found in many food sources including, “vegetables and fruits, green and black tea, red wine, coffee, chocolate, olives, and some herbs and spices, as well as nuts and algae” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). However, “chocolate is one of the most polyphenol-rich foods along with tea and wine” where, “results [have] indicated that dark chocolate exhibited the highest polyphenol content” (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008, p. 2194). In unfermented cacao beans, there are three main groups of polyphenols, “flavan-3-ols or catechins, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Differences in cacao genetics or varieties and country of origin show varying levels of polyphenols by up to 4-fold (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008). “Criollo cultivars contained higher levels of procyanidins than Forastero and Trinitario beans. In addition, crop season and country of origin have impact on polyphenols in cocoa beans” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Findings regarding polyphenol level by country of origin are contentious but include, “highest phenolic content was in Malaysian beans followed by Sulawesian, Ghanian and Côte d’Ivore” (Jalil, & Ismail, 2008, p. 2201) and “cocoa beans and processed products from Ecuador showed the highest levels of anthocyanins, followed by Nigeria and Cameroon” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840). Due to additional factors besides country of origin and genetic variation influencing the polyphenols in cacao, inclusion of the effects of processing cacao on flavor and polyphenol content is important to understand health claims made regarding the finished product, chocolate.
Processing cacao beans (namely the stages of fermentation and drying), and roasting in the chocolate making process greatly affect polyphenol content of the finished product (Ackar, et al., 2013; Bordiga, et al., 2015). “Due to these factors, the ratio and types of these components found in cocoa beans are unlikely to be the same as those found in the finished products” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 841). For functional chocolate enthusiasts driving market trends, the balance between healthy and protective benefits of polyphenols and the effects on their levels through processing are of particular interest. “All these processes are needed to develop characteristic cocoa aroma. Polyphenols give astringent and bitter aroma to cocoa and contribute to reduced perception of “cocoa flavour” by sensory panel. However, nowadays processes are conducted in such manner to preserve as much polyphenol as possible with maintaining satisfactory aroma” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). The debate about the purpose of chocolate is hereby noted between the sensory experience – the aroma development, especially in the roasting stages, versus consumption for health effects with less regard to smell, taste and gustatory pleasure.
The search for a sweet spot between these poles is a lucrative area for producers and retail establishments. As described earlier, development of functional food into specific products uses scientific evidence about health effects, where modern technology is often needed to manufacture those products, in order to observe targeted physiological effects or functions (Albak, et al., 2014).
“Generally, as cocoa beans were further processed, the levels of anthocyanins and flavan-3-ols decreased. The largest observed losses of phenolics occurred during roasting. A progressive decreasing trend in polyphenol concentration was observed in the other processed samples as well. Despite the original content of polyphenols in raw cocoa beans, technological processes imply a significant impact on cocoa quality, confirming the need of specific optimisation to obtain high value chocolate” (Bordiga, et al., 2015, p. 840).
In order to preserve antioxidant quality through dark-chocolate products with “high flavonoid contents…these chocolates are produced by controlling bean selection, fermentation, and reduced heat and alkalization treatments” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2201). Although one of the most detrimental effects of processing on polyphenol and antioxidant levels is alkalization (or dutching) of cocoa powder (Ackar, et al., 2013; Jalil, et al., 2008), even the fermentation process significantly reduces flavonoid levels by up to 90% (Jalil, et al., 2008). However, in the search for the sweet spot between flavor and health benefits, fermentation presents a way to reduce bitter compounds due to the presence of flavonoids and polyphenols (Jalil, et al., 2008) and enhance flavor before roasting or further processing like alkalization. For example, some “manufacturers tend to remove [flavonoids] in large quantities to enhance taste quality… the manufacturers tend to prefer Ghanian cocoa beans, which are well-fermented and flavorful than that of Dominican or Indonesian beans, which are considered as less fermented and have low quality cocoa flavor” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2203). In Crafack’s study (2013), besides genetic flavor potentials of cacao beans, fermentation is cited as the most important factor influencing cocoa’s flavor potential.
“A properly conducted fermentation process is considered a prerequisite for the production of high quality chocolates since inadequately fermented cocoa beans will fail to produce cocoa specific aroma compounds during subsequent processing” (Crafack, Petersen, Eskildsen, Petersen, Heimdal, & Nielsen, 2013, p. 1).
In a later study by Crafack (2014), microorganism differences between fermentation practices are shown to produce variations in cacao flavor profiles. “Despite the importance of a properly conducted fermentation process, poor post-harvest practices, in combination with the unpredictable spontaneous nature of the fermentations, often results in sub-optimal flavour development…A microbial fermentation process therefore seems essential for developing the full complexity of compounds which characterises cocoa aroma. In conclusion, the results of the present study show that the volatile aroma profile of chocolate can be influenced using starter cultures” (Crafack, 2014, p. 1). Further research that builds on Crafack’s findings was published by Kadow (2015), explaining the role of multiple factors in the country of origin that characterize the fermentation process.
“During this in most cases spontaneous fermentation of the fruit pulp surrounding the seeds, the pulp is degraded by yeasts and bacteria. This degradation results in heat and organic acid formation. Heat effect and tissue acidification are the key parameters guiding flavour precursor formation. Accordingly, not microorganisms themselves but exclusively their metabolites are necessary for successful fermentation” (Kadow, Niemenak, Rohn, and Lieberei, 2015, p. 357).
This study aimed to further the development of standardization and mechanization of cocoa fermentation for the benefit of cacao production quality purposes. On the ranges of heat tested from fermenting heaps of cacao beans, 30 °C to a maximum of 50 °C was obtained after 24 h of fermentation at the inner part of the heap (Jespersen, Nielsen, Hønholt, and Jakobsen, 2005).
Finally, as an interesting note about polyphenol changes in cacao during fermentation, although “unripe and ripe cacao pods contain solely (−)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin. During fermentation, levels of both of these compounds were reduced, but (−)-catechin was formed due to heat-induced epimerization” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). These findings warrant more studies on the changes that happen during cacao fermentation, where although certain protective antioxidant levels decrease, other chemical compounds are formed due to the process of heat due to microorganism metabolites and acidification to the bean tissue.
After fermentation, the beans are dried to reduce water content for safe transport and storage of the cacao before further processing by chocolate manufactures. “During drying, additional loss of polyphenol occurs, mainly due to nonenzymatic browning reactions” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2) where “high temperatures and prolonged processing times will decrease the amount of catechins” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p.2203). The dried cacao is then shipped to the chocolate manufacturer where roasting is often performed. The roasting and generally the further processing of cacao degrades the levels of polyphenols by triggering the oxidation process (Ackar, et al., 2013; Bordiga, et al., 2015).
Conching is a process of agitation of chocolate mass at temperatures above 50 °C that is used to refine both the cocoa solids and sugar crystals to change the taste, smell, flavor, texture (mouthfeel) and viscosity of chocolate (Chocolate Alchemy, 2016; Di Mattia, Martuscelli, Sacchetti, Beheydt, Mastrocola, & Pittia, 2014) Different procedures for conching exist, including Long Time Conching (LTC) and Short Time Conching (STC). A study by Di Mattia (2014) done on these two conching processes and the implications for bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity found interesting results. The publication stressed the importance of time/temperature combinations as process parameters “to modulate and increase the functional properties of some foods” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, pp.367-368). In the study, STC consisted of “a dry step at 90 °C for 6 h and then a wet step at 60°C for 1h,” while LTC involved, “a dry step at 60°C for 6 h and a then wet step at the same conditions (60 °C, 6 h)” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p. 368). The results of the analysis on phenolic content, antioxidant values defined as radical scavenging properties showed, “that the conching process, and the LTC in particular, determined an improvement of the antiradical and reducing properties of chocolate” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p.372). Recommendation for further studies was suggested to “optimize the conching process for the modulation of the functional properties,” (Di Mattia, et al., 2014, p.372) but the results remain in favor of longer time and lower temperature processing to preserve health benefits in chocolate during the conching phase.
From the perspective of chocolate makers, assessing combinations of ingredients/additives that can either help or hinder protective compounds in chocolate – including polyphenols and bioavailability, is important. Jalil, & Ismail’s review (2008), considered, “both bioavailability and antioxidant status [important] in determining the relationship between cocoa flavonoids and health benefits” (Jalil, et al., 2008, pp. 2194-2195). Studies focused on epicatechin from chocolate found the polyphenols, “rapidly absorbed by humans, with plasma levels detected after 30min of oral digestion, peaking after 2-3 h and returning to baseline after 6–8 h. In addition, cumulative effect in high daily doses was recorded” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Interestingly, an argument for the benefits of chocolate’s sweetened and rich composition – if cocoa butter and some type of sweetener is used in processing – is explained where the “presence of sugars and oils generally increases bioavailability of polyphenols, while proteins, on the other hand, decrease it” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2). Milk chocolate lovers may be disappointed to find that, “milk proteins reduce bioavailability of epicatechin in chocolate confectionary…[with] reported inhibition of in vivo antioxidant activity of chocolate by addition of milk either during manufacturing process or during ingestion” (Ackar, et al., 2013, p. 2).
Additional health properties of cacao found especially in dark chocolate, apart from polyphenols, may have a role to play in reports of chocolate cravings and their use as functional food. Theses beneficial components include “methylxanthines, namely caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2197) “peptides, and minerals” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2200). “Theobromine is a psychoactive compound without diuretic effects” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2198). “Cocoa is also rich in proteins. Cocoa peptides are generally responsible for the flavour precursor formation” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2199). Lastly, “minerals are one of the important components in cocoa and cocoa products. Cocoa and cocoa products contained relatively higher amount of magnesium compared to black tea, red wine, and apples” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2200).
A well supported rule of thumb for finding high antioxidant capacity functional chocolate is to look for the percentage of non-fat cocoa solids (NFCS) in chocolate products to determine total phenolic content (Jalil, et al., 2008; Vinson, & Motisi, 2015) “Dark chocolates contain the highest NFCS among the different types of chocolates” (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2204) However, due to percentages of cocoa solids on on chocolate labels including polyphenol-free cocoa butter, the accuracy of this measure is not always correct and can lead to overestimating polyphenol content in certain types of chocolate (Jalil, et al., 2008, p. 2204). That said, a recent study by Vinson and Motisi (2015), performed on commercial chocolate bars found “a significant and linear relationship between label % cocoa solids and the antioxidant assays as well as the sum of the monomers.” From which they concluded that, “consumers can thus rationally choose chocolate bars based on % cocoa solids on the label” (Vinson, & Motisi, 2015, p. 526).
Additions to Functional Chocolate
In health food stores like Cambridge Naturals and Deborah’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, MA, the presence of functional chocolate with additional health boosting ingredients is prevalent. The validity of these claims to improve focus, enhance libido and energy, and other desirable improved physiological functions, based on herbs, powders and additional superfoods mixed with cacao, is intriguing. A study by Albak and Tekin (2014), found that mixing aniseed, ginger, and cinnamon into the dark chocolate mix before conching, “increased the total polyphenol content while they decreased the melting properties of dark chocolate after conching” (Albak, et al., 2014, p. 19).
Other resources that further elucidate specific findings on these superfoods, herbs and spices include:
Afolabi Clement Akinmoladun, Mary, Tolulope Olaleye, and Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi. “Cardiotoxicity and Cardioprotective Effects of African Medicinal Plants.” Toxicological Survey of African Medicinal Plants (2014): 395. This publication includes information on gingko, turmeric among other additives to functional chocolate and how protective vascular effects are formed.
Some consideration for the popularity of raw chocolate, which is used as the base of many functional chocolate products, deserves attention. As explained, there are many reasons chocolate can be considered a functional food, especially due to specific health promoting compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids, peptides, theobromine and minerals present in cacao and in chocolate. Unfortunately, overwhelming scientific evidence points to the detrimental effects on these compounds from processing, especially by heat. “Flavanols largely disappear once the cocoa bean is heated, fermented and processed into chocolate. In other words, making chocolate destroys the very ingredient that is supposed to make it healthy” (Crowe, 2015). Raw chocolate, by the standards of raw foodism, means that food is not supposed to be heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit in order to preserve enzymes. This seems tricky to prove especially when chocolate makers receive cocoa beans from various countries of origin where fermenting and drying practices are not under their direct supervision. Some companies remedy this issue with bean-to-bar practices that ensure they have seen and approved the process that cacao beans undergo before shipment to the company’s own processing facilities, where low temperature winnowing, grinding and conching is under their complete control. The bean-to-bar method (See Taza’s Bean-to-Bar and Direct Trade process) also provides assurance that cacao is ethically (sometimes for organic and wild-crafted cacao if so desired) sourced. These initiatives often promote more sustainable and better processed cacao, which means higher quality cacao for both the farmer, manufacturer and consumer. For these reasons, the popularity of raw cacao seems to fit into the development of functional foods where the consumer is able to enjoy a sometimes more bitter, medicinal tasting chocolate in the anticipation of a powerful physiological boost and a clearer conscience due to sourcing methods.
In the case of Yes Cacao, their Karma MellOwl botanical chocolate bar contains 41% cacao butter, and 59% botanicals which results in a deliciously complex, albeit golden colored bar due to the cocoa butter and turmeric content. Non-fat cacao solids which provide the main anti-inflammatory benefits of cacao are missing, but are replaced with other superfoods, spices and adaptogenic herbs like lucuma, maca, yacon, lion’s mane mushrooms, gingko, turmeric, pine pollen, cinnamon, bacopa, and gynostemma. The creators of the bars deem them functional medicine, as they combine cacao solids and sundried cane juice as a base for superfood and medicinal enhancements. In this video, Justin Frank Polgar recommends that Yes Cacao bars are eaten daily as a staple enhancement for ideal human functionality.
Other raw chocolate companies that are focus on functional chocolate using additional superfoods, spices and herbs include:
Trends in functional foods heading in the direction of ‘naturally healthy’
From the perspective of growers, producers and consumers who want a high quality, healthful and good tasting chocolate product, the scientific findings that support the ideal balance between flavor and preservation of health promoting properties of cacao, are significant. The ideal way to conserve protective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits warrants consideration with the changes in polyphenol content during processing of cacao from raw bean, through fermentation to roasting, conching and mixing with other ingredients. Raw chocolate seems a good way to navigate this balance. Meanwhile, mass produced commercial chocolate companies or “big chocolate” continue to move their products in the direction of high quality premium chocolate and adopting new manufacturing processes in order to preserve cacao’s protective effects. The overarching trend uniting premium, natural and healthful ingredients is referred to in the food industry as naturally healthy foods. “This idea of using food to manage health may, in part, help explain growing consumer interest in fresh, natural and organic products”(Gagliardi, 2015). The melding of healthy, natural and functional foods to chocolate production reflects consumer preferences and industry recognition of the role diet plays on health and provides insights into the future of food. For now, medicinally enhanced, raw, naturally healthy, and functional chocolate seems light years ahead of other natural foods on the market today.
Author’s Note: While researching and writing this article the author happily consumed a great deal of functional, raw and medicinal chocolate and can attest to the powerful effects that far surpass conventional and even ‘premium chocolates’.
Ackar, Djurdjica, Kristina Valek Lendić, Marina Valek, Drago Šubarić, Borislav Miličević, Jurislav Babić, and Ilija Nedić. “Cocoa polyphenols: can we consider cocoa and chocolate as potential functional food?.” Journal of chemistry 2013 (2013).
Albak, Fatma, and Ali Rıza Tekin. “Development of Functional Chocolate with Spices and Lemon Peel Powder by using Response Surface Method: Development of Functional Chocolate.” Academic Food Journal/Akademik GIDA 12, no. 2 (2014).
Afolabi Clement Akinmoladun, Mary, Tolulope Olaleye, and Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi. “Cardiotoxicity and Cardioprotective Effects of African Medicinal Plants.” Toxicological Survey of African Medicinal Plants (2014): 395.
Bordiga, Matteo, Monica Locatelli, Fabiano Travaglia, Jean Daniel Coïsson, Giuseppe Mazza, and Marco Arlorio. “Evaluation of the effect of processing on cocoa polyphenols: antiradical activity, anthocyanins and procyanidins profiling from raw beans to chocolate.” International Journal of Food Science & Technology 50, no. 3 (2015): 840-848..
Crafack, Michael, Mikael Agerlin Petersen, Carl Emil Aae Eskildsen, G. B. Petersen, H. Heimdal, and Dennis Sandris Nielsen. “Impact of starter cultures and fermentation techniques on the volatile aroma profile of chocolate.” CoCoTea 2013 (2013).
Crafack, Michael. “Influence of Starter Cultures, Fermentation Techniques, and Acetic Acid on the Volatile Aroma and Sensory Profile of Cocoa Liquor and Chocolate.” (2014).
Di Mattia, Carla, Maria Martuscelli, Giampiero Sacchetti, Bram Beheydt, Dino Mastrocola, and Paola Pittia. “Effect of different conching processes on procyanidin content and antioxidant properties of chocolate.” Food Research International 63 (2014): 367-372.
Jain, Parag, Ravindra Pandey, and Shiv Shankar Shukla. “Inflammation and Lifestyle.” Inflammation: Natural Resources and Its Applications. Springer India, 2015. 143-152.
Jalil, Abbe Maleyki Mhd, and Amin Ismail. “Polyphenols in cocoa and cocoa products: is there a link between antioxidant properties and health?.”Molecules 13, no. 9 (2008): 2190-2219.
Jespersen, Lene, Dennis S. Nielsen, Susanne Hønholt, and Mogens Jakobsen. “Occurrence and diversity of yeasts involved in fermentation of West African cocoa beans.” FEMS Yeast Research 5, no. 4-5 (2005): 441-453.
Kadow, Daniel, Nicolas Niemenak, Sascha Rohn, and Reinhard Lieberei. “Fermentation-like incubation of cocoa seeds (Theobroma cacao L.)–Reconstruction and guidance of the fermentation process.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 62, no. 1 (2015): 357-361.
Vinson, Joe A., and Matthew J. Motisi. “Polyphenol antioxidants in commercial chocolate bars: Is the label accurate?.” Journal of Functional Foods 12 (2015): 526-529.
Zhang, Dapeng, and Lambert Motilal. “Origin, Dispersal, and Current Global Distribution of Cacao Genetic Diversity.” In Cacao Diseases, pp. 3-31. Springer International Publishing, 2016.
As a cacao-producer, Colombia would be considered a minnow when compared to the cacao-growing giants of West Africa––Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Cameron, which constitutes approximately 70% of global production. Even closer to home, Colombia is dwarfed by neighboring Brazil, and is outperformed by smaller Ecuador fourfold. As a result, the cacao sector of Colombia receives less attention both within literature and the media than its fellow Latin American producers. That is finally changing, however. For the past several decades, the Colombian cacao-chocolate industry, with the support of its government, has been hard at work in strategically positioning itself within the fine cacao market, specifically by focusing on growing Fino de Aroma cacao. As a result, it has drawn the attention of confectionary giants the likes of Barry Callebaut AG and Ferrero SPA., Colombia’s pursuit of growing high-quality cacao has additionally obtained the support of several international development initiatives, including those of Swisscontact,USAID and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). Their hope is to foster agro-sustainability and socioeconomic equality that will yield both economic and social upgrading, particularly for the growers. Their goal is to implement much needed improvements throughout Colombia’s cacao-chocolate value chain. As a result, Colombia has alas become one of the most recent entrants to the fine chocolate-making world. In an effort to reduce the knowledge gap in the global map of cacao-chocolate production, I will provide an examination of the current state of Colombia’s cacao-chocolate industry, by focusing on its Fino de Aroma sector and by providing a brief ethnographic summary of one of its newest and most successful fine chocolate brands, Cacao Hunters.
Cacao Hunters in a “Bean-Shell”
Cacao Hunters is the chocolate brand for Cacao de Colombia created by Colombian native Carlos Ignacio Velasco and Mayumi Osaka of Japan. In 2009, Velasco, with his 12 plus-years experience working for the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (Colombian Coffee Growers Federation), created Cacao de Colombia, branding his chocolate by highlighting the origins and the communities from which the beans were acquired. His strategy was a break from mainstream Colombian chocolate-makers, and it paid off. He saw an untapped market, which allowed him to use his expertise and the collaboration of some of his former colleagues at the Federation, to break into the fine chocolate market, seeing that Colombia is poised to becoming one of the world’s leading fine cacao-growing powerhouses.
Cacao Hunters is part of Cacao de Colombia’s fine bean to bar brand, highlighting the origins and communities from which the cacao are acquired (source: http://www.cacaohunters.com/)
Velasco envisioned a three-pronged strategy: (1) building knowledge; (2) infrastructure; (3) and a business plan that would mutually benefit both buyer and seller. The first and the third were in place. They began transferring their knowledge, by providing classes on technical and sustainable practices on growing and harvesting high-quality cacao to growers throughout the country, incentivizing them toward excellence by offering, in some cases, 50% above market value for quality beans. As for infrastructure, the company needed help, which it successfully obtained from international organizations, such as Swisscontact and USAID; and, won an award for innovation from GIZ, which provided the resources to build a model farm and postharvest plant in the small river town of Aracataca, located nearby the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. In 2015, the company sold $1 million USD worth of fine chocolate, winning awards at international competitions including the Gold at the 2015 World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards in London. And with the support of the Acumen fund at the tune of $1.15 million, Cacao Hunters sales for this year are expected to surpass $3 million. Cacao Hunters’ partnership with Acumen and other international players have initiated an economic and social upgrading throughout the company’s value chain. An impressive feat given that this increase was achieved amid a globally depressed commodities market. Nonetheless, the demand for fine chocolate grows. The below is video of Salon du Chocolat, “the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate,” is an important part of the fine chocolate world, including boutique brands like Cacao Hunters, who attended the 2016 Tokyo edition.
Indigenous Shareholders are Represented
Cacao Hunters works closely with one of Colombia’s most geographically remote indigenous nations, the Arhuaco. Although Cacao Hunters purchases its cacao from various sectors of the country, they advocate for socio-responsibility and equitable engagement with their growers in the pursuit of fostering mutual economic and social upgrading. And their engagement with the Arhuaco has paid off, for it was Cacao Hunter’s Arhuaco 72% dark chocolate bar that took Gold at the 2015 World Finals in London. It is a significant achievement for the Arhuaco growers, especially given that they are ill supported and underrepresented within the Colombian government. As part of a campaign to promote their products in the ever-growing Japanese market, Cacao Hunters chose Hernan, one of the Arhuaco tribe leaders, to be part of the team to represent the company at the 2016 Salon du Chocolat-Tokyo.
photo, taken from Cacao Hunters’ Facebook page, shows co-founder Mayumi Osaka purchasing bean during one of her “market day with Arhuacos: a several hours’ journey down from the Sierra Nevada mountains.” Far right, is Hernan, of one the Arhuaco leaders who was flown to the 2016 Salon du Chocolat – Tokyo edition. (source: Cacao Hunters’FaceBook).
Hernan on his way to Japan (source: Cacao Hunters’ FaceBook page)
Colombia: A Privileged Ecological Site for Cacao-Growing
Although its neighbors, particularly Venezuela and Ecuador, are known for their fine cacao, Colombia, however, albeit its ecological advantages, is less known. It is only just now coming on line, and for good reasons. The country is ecologically privileged to grow cacao. In fact, Colombia is considered one of the five “megadiverse countries” in the world. With only 0.8% of the world’s land, it hosts close to 15% of the world’s biodiversity, making Colombia, per square kilometer, the most biodiverse country on the planet. This richly endowed nation thus possesses multiple, ideal-growing regions with the capacity to expand exponentially (see figure below).
This comes as no surprise to many cacao-chocolate scholars as there is strong research showing that the genetic cradle and the most diversified genetic materials of Theobroma cacao is found is in South America, specifically, the large bean-shape area of the Upper Amazon, encompassing southern Perú, to the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the border areas between Perú, Brazil and, of course, Colombia (see image below).
Colombia to Become the New Powerhouse in Fino de Aroma Cacao Production
The source of Colombia’s cacao-chocolate heritage and its recent boom onto the world market is the Fino de Aroma cacao. The below video on Fino de Aroma is created by one of Colombia largest exporter of chocolate, Casa Luker. Although this video is part of the company’s promotional materials, it nonetheless provides a good explanation of the high-quality variety.
The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) has classified Colombia as a 95% fine cacao exporter. And, along with Venezuela, Ecuador and Perú, Colombia grows 76% of the world’s Fino de Aroma cacao. Currently, it is Ecuador who leads. But that is about to change. Both Perú and Colombia are poised to leapfrog the Ecuadorians. For Perú’s part, if the current growth rate of its exports continues unhindered, their cacao sector could expand beyond 214,000 mt in 2020, which would easily surpass Ecuador’s current exports of 116,000 mt, according to José Iturrios, director of the Alianza Cacao Perú (Perú Cocoa Alliance.) However, Perú, unlike Colombia, is only classified at 75% Fino de Aroma, which means that a significant portion of their yield will not be premium cacao, thus reducing their share of the market. The Colombian government, however, plans to substantially back its growers by adding up to 80,000 ha of Fino de Aroma plantations, as they wish to capitalize on the growing global demand. Since 2005, Colombian cacao production has been rising. Back then it only cultivated 96,000 ha, yielding approximately 17,000 mt of cacao. Today, Colombia’s yield is roughly 50,000 mt, but, with the addition of the 80,000 ha of Fino de Aroma plantations being replanted in the following departments: Santander, North Santander, Nariño, Tolima, Huila, Antioquia and Meta, they will be able to expand their yields to over 138,450 mt, surpassing both Ecuador and Perú, making Colombia the world’s lead Fino de Aroma producers.
Cacao Hunters Bean to Bar Strategy Breaks from the Colonial Scheme and Disrupts the Asymmetric Buyer-Seller Dynamic
All of this is good news for Colombia’s chocolate-makers, especially Cacao Hunters who only uses 100% Colombian premium in their bars. In using their native beans, the company effectively breaks from the colonizer-colony scheme that persists within many developing countries. This is significant given that historically raw materials of erstwhile territories were sent back to the Europe, a pattern that persists today, with the inclusion of US among the major end-product manufacturers. This is especially true with the cacao-chocolate industry. Cacao is 100% grown in the Global South, yet the lion’s share is sent to Europe and the US, in raw form, who then primarily turn it into sugar-laden, artificially saturated, under 15% bulk chocolate food stuff, while reaping 96% of the profits. As discussed in my April 8th post, “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate,” there is additionally gross misreprentation and a highly asymmetric buyer-seller dynamic within the cacao-chocolate global value chain that poorly remunerates growers, while enhancing the coffers of Big Chocolate.
Cacao Hunter’s involvement with their shareholders, which include the aforementioned Arhuaco nation, is premised on mutual sustainable and equitable upgrading for all throughout their value chain. And, by manufacturing their chocolate in their Popayan facility, they successfully break from the asymmetric buyer-seller relationship, and successfully disrupt the north-south paradigm, in which many cacao growers find themselves embedded. There needs to be a transformation of global sourcing, as it has had a negative impact on gender, racial and socioeconomic equality. Lead firms irresponsibly reinforce and drive the prevailing imbalance that further proliferates negative social reproduction within sourced nations. By contrast, the Cacao Hunters’ stratagem highlights the implication of liberalizing global production of cacao at the local level. This is especially important given that cocoa–chocolate global value chains have “significantly consolidated” in recent years. Processors and chocolate companies have merged, leaving a few as lead firms within the industry, severely disadvantaging the market against smaller and localized companies. Cacao Hunters’ engagement with the indigenous and the rural communities proactively seeks to not only disrupt this imbalance but furthermore aims to contribute to their social and economic upgrading.
What Lies ahead for Cacao Hunters
Cacao Hunters joins the ranks of other South American chocolate brands, the likes of Pacari of Ecuador, and Venezuela’s Chocolates El Rey, who themselves are recent phenomena in South America, explains food historian Dr. Maricel Presilla. They “are taking chocolate into their own hands and creating factories that can compete internationally.” They have a good understanding of how to incorporate local ingredients and flavors, creating beautiful creations with ingredients such as guanábana, tamarind and canella, flavors that are unique to Latin America and increasingly becoming more popular in the North American and European mainstreams. The cacao and other ingredients they use to produce their chocolate is directly sourced and locally grown. And Cacao Hunters is a part of it.
Though there is a slow down in world demand and production of bulk cacao, the growth rate and demand for high-quality beans treks firmly upward, and that too is good news for Colombians, including Cacao Hunters. In fact, “there’s real excitement about investment in Colombia” says Dough Hawkins, Managing Director of Hardman Agribusiness., In their 2016 company report on the current state of the world’s cacao production, Colombia is on everyone’s radar, especially given that the government’s peace talks with the FARC is close to conclusion. Moreover, the demand for an expanding Colombian cacao sector is due to a ‘move away’ from West Africa, explains Hardman Agribusiness:
Future cocoa demand will be met by a thriving professionalized sector in Latin America as chocolate makers move away from a “structurally blighted” West African market… Cocoa is a fragmented sector… With the commodity in shortening supply and now being a $12bn plus annually traded segment in the softs market, there is a swell of developing interest in its production and capital flows are increasing to support that production. Our research report lays bare a spiral of decline in Asia and the unpalatable truth about African production whilst shining a spotlight on the exciting developments in Latin America.
It would then behoove all within the Colombian cacao-chocolate sector to continue their pursuit towards producing high-quality beans, not only to satiate the demands of their foreign buyers, but to also support their own native brands. Cacao Hunter not only serves as an excellent model for other native brands to follow, but also for all aspiring bean to bar companies the worldover. They demonstrate good practices, are socially and environmentally responsible, engage growers with dignity, and pursue the mutual upgrading for all within their value chain. And becuase of this, Cacao Hunters has robustly contributed to the sweet taste of Colombian fine chocolate.
 Barry Callebaut is over 150 year old Swiss company, and one of the largest manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa. See “Barry Callebaut Is a B2B Chocolate & Cocoa Manufacturer,” Chocolate Manufacturers, Barry Callebaut, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.barry-callebaut.com/.
 Ferrero SpA is an Italian manufacturer of chocolate and confectionery products and is the third largest chocolate-confectionery company in the world. See “Ferrero Corporate,” Chocolate Manufacturers, Ferrero, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.ferrero.com/.
 USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid to foreign nations. See “U.S. Agency for International Development,” The United States Agency for International Development, USAID From the American People, accessed May 9, 2016, https://www.usaid.gov/.
 Acumen aims to raise “charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty.” See “Acumen | Who We Are,” Non-profit global venture organization to address poverty, Acumen, (2016), http://acumen.org/about/.
 “Empresa Colombiana Conquista la Élite del Chocolate.”
 “Empresa Colombiana Conquista la Élite del Chocolate.”
 “Colombia is listed as one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries, hosting close to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity. Worldwide, it ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity and second in plants, butterflies, freshwater fishes and amphibians. With 314 types of ecosystems, Colombia possesses a rich complexity of ecological, climatic, biological and ecosystem components. Colombia was ranked as one of the world’s richest countries in aquatic resources.” See “Colombia – Overview: National Biodiversity,” UN Science Body | Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD), UN Convention on Biological Diversity, (2016), https://www.cbd.int/countries/?country=co.
 “Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, the country covers “only” 0.8% of the world’s land surface, yet, with between 45,000 and 51,000 species, it is home to some 15% of the all plant species in the world. And with1,752 bird species and 583 amphibians, Colombia has a biodiversity of fauna unrivalled by any other country. Moreover, in terms of the number of species of flora that only occur in one specific region, the so-called endemic species, Colombia is also a world leader.” See: “Implementing the Convention on Biodiversity,” Environmental and Biodiversity, Biodiversity Day, (June 9, 2001), http://www.biodiversity-day.info/2001/english/bday-colombia.html.
 For a very thorough and scholarly presentation of the genetic origins of Theobroma Cacao L., see the salient contribution of Evert Thomas et al., “Present Spatial Diversity Patterns of Theobroma Cacao L. in the Neotropics Reflect Genetic Differentiation in Pleistocene Refugia Followed by Human-Influenced Dispersal,” ed. Dorian Q. Fuller, PLoS ONE 7, no. 10 (October 24, 2012): e47676, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047676.
 The ICCO is the international monitoring body of cacao-chocolate production and consumption. See “The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) | Cocoa Producing and Cocoa Consuming Countries,” International Cocoa Organization, ICCO.org, (2016), http://www.icco.org/.
 Pekic, “Colombia Plans to Replant High-Quality Fino de Aroma Cocoa Plantations.”
 Alianza Cacao Perú (ACP) is a USAID initiative assisting Peruvian cacao sector with the intent of providing the rural population an alternative to cultivating coca as a cash crop. See USAID Peru, Alianza Cacao Perú, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpxFaVDhYnU.
 For a candid discussion on the misrepresentation and socioeconomic inequality within Mars’ global value chain, see Ibid.
 Stephanie Barrientos provides a salient scholarly contribution in her analysis of Big Chocolate cocoa–chocolate sourcing, exploring the interplay between commercial value chains and societal norms. See Stephanie Barrientos, “Gendered Global Production Networks: Analysis of Cocoa–Chocolate Sourcing,” Regional Studies 48, no. 5 (May 4, 2014): 791–803, doi:10.1080/00343404.2013.878799.
 Hardman Agribusiness is a lead investment consulting agency for agribusiness enterprises. See “Hardman Agribusiness,” Argibusiness Consultants, Hardman Agribusiness, (2016), http://www.hardmanagribusiness.com/.
“Colombia – Overview: National Biodiversity.” UN Science Body | Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD). UN Convention on Biological Diversity, 2016. https://www.cbd.int/countries/?country=co.
“The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) | Cocoa Producing and Cocoa Consuming Countries.” International Cocoa Organization. ICCO.org, 2016. http://www.icco.org/.
Thomas, Evert, Maarten van Zonneveld, Judy Loo, Toby Hodgkin, Gea Galluzzi, and Jacob van Etten. “Present Spatial Diversity Patterns of Theobroma Cacao L. in the Neotropics Reflect Genetic Differentiation in Pleistocene Refugia Followed by Human-Influenced Dispersal.” Edited by Dorian Q. Fuller. PLoS ONE 7, no. 10 (October 24, 2012): e47676. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047676.
“U.S. Agency for International Development.” The United States Agency for International Development. USAID From the American People. Accessed May 9, 2016. https://www.usaid.gov/.
The country of Brazil is known for many things, including samba, sandy beaches, and of course, beautiful women. True, the country has all of these things in abundance, but beneath the surface there exists many more wonderful attributes. I discovered Brazilian chocolate on my first visit to Brazil, in June of 2007. Newly married, my husband took it upon himself to introduce me to his culture and heritage, and so one of the very first places we went was his neighborhood candy and newspaper shop. I recall the selection being enormous, and I tried many different types of candy, but it was the chocolate that kept me coming back daily for more. My favorites at this time were all made by a company called Garoto, under the parent company Nestle (they own Garoto but operate separately).
Garoto, a bean-to bar company that was established in 1929, is today one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in Brazil, along with Barion and Mondélez. These three companies own nearly 75% of the market share in Brazil. The remaining 25% is shared between several smaller, premium chocolate companies, including Kopenhagen and Cacau Show. It is only in the last ten years or so that premium chocolate has become desirable for the Brazilian market, and only very recently has organic and fair trade chocolate even been introduced to the country. And this is for a country that produces over 350 thousand tons of cocoa per year, is home to more than 50 thousand cocoa farmers,and is in the top four chocolate producers in the world (Brazil Business, 2015).
To get an idea of the role chocolate played in Brazilian culture, I interviewed one of my closest friends in Brazil. Her replies were originally in Portuguese; for the purposes of this post I have translated her replies as accurately as possible.
What chocolates do you remember most from your childhood?
Yes, well, we ate a lot of candy when I was a child! My mother had an account so we could have anything from the little store. My favorite was Baton, which means lipstick in Portuguese…a chocolate in the shape of a lipstick. It was the best thing to have this chocolate on Sundays…we would watch the races on TV, do you know Ayrton Senna, Formula 1? And enjoy Baton, Serenata de Amor, Diamante Negro…and it was family, and tradition. Every time I eat this chocolate now I remember those Sundays.
What chocolates do you and your family enjoy today?
My children will eat many of the same things I have liked…for me now these things have too much sugar, they taste too sweet. I prefer very dark chocolate, maybe 70% cacao or more. My husband also, he really loves 90% cacao but this is very difficult to find, usually only when we travel outside of Brazil to USA we can find this at your supermarkets. Whole Foods has many, many chocolates we love! But my children, they do not like American chocolates…I think the taste is strange for them, unfamiliar.
Several years after my first trip to Brazil, I had the opportunity to return for three months. Progress marches on in all respects, but with regards to the chocolate market I noticed how things had changed…all of my same favorites were there, but there were a couple of new and popular places in the large shopping centers that everyone was recommending. The first one I visited was Kopenhagen, a premium chocolate shop.
It was obvious that they were trying to sell the upscale premium chocolates to a more discerning consumer. The menu included such things as European Hot Cocoa (a very thick melted chocolate drink), handmade truffles, and my personal favorite, a chocolate and marshmallow concoction called Nha Benta.
I also visited a place called Cacau Show, which specialized in many different flavors of bonbons displayed in a tower. Whereas Kopenhagen focused primarily on the consumer, Cacau Show catered more to the gift market, offering a large selection of colorful prepackaged options in every price range.
But why had it taken so long for premium chocolate products to become popular in Brazil? According to Dartmouth History Professor Timothy Walker, it all goes back to the slave labor in Brazil’s past. Up until the early 19th century, nearly all cacao was produced by slaves. After the abolitionist movement, production declined steeply, even exploitative labor proctices were still a widely occuring problem. Chocolate became an expensive commodity at this point and national consumption declined. This began a push towards exportation, and today accounts partly for why approximately 90% of Brazil’s cocoa is exported. (Slave Labor and Chocolate in Brazil, 2007).
I asked my friend if she knew about this part of chocolate’s history in Brazil; she replied that she knew a little, but not much, and that it wasn’t really something she thought about on a daily basis. She seemed interested in exported and imported chocolates, so I continued the interview.
Have you had chocolate from other countries? If so, how does it compare in your opinion?
Yes, I have had Swiss chocolate, American, and British. The different types have different tastes…Swiss is very creamy while American is too sweet…and the British also. Brazilian chocolate to me tastes very rich and smooth.
Do you give chocolates as gifts? If so, what kind do you buy?
It’s common to do this…we give welcome gifts all the time, usually wine or liquor, with chocolates. For this we go to an expensive place, Kopenhagen or Cacau Show in the shopping mall…sometimes a bakery for special bonbons. It’s an important thing in Brazilian culture, this giving of chocolates. It means friendship and respect…and if you receive chocolates you must offer to share, it’s good manners.
During my most recent trip to Brazil last year, I noticed that in addition to the traditional and premium chocolate offerings, there were several new players in the cocoa game. Amma Chocolate, Nugali, and Harald, just to name a few. Amma specializes in “tree to bar, organic chocolate making” with an emphasis on sustainble farming practices. Their website offers a welcome transparency about their processes.
Nugali and Harald, by comparison, offer single-origin chocolate, mainly for domestic consumption, that has the distict terroir of Brazil. According to Bill Nesto, writing for Gastronomica, terroir is complicated to explain, but easy to taste. Generally speaking it is the particular combination of factors that combine to represent the chocolate’s particular origin (Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate, 2010). Brazilian chocolate, explains a Nugali representative, has an underlying flavor reminiscient of banana, with a tiny hint of citrus (Single Origin Brazilian Chocolate, 2015). I asked my friend if she had any interest in these newer products.
Do you look for products that have organic or fair trade labels on them? What does that mean to you?
I like to buy organic chocolate when I can find it…it is a newer thing here, organic products…and it is much more expensive, maybe triple the price of ordinary products…but I think it’s better for my health. I have seen Fair Trade on some types but I don’t really know what that means. But again, very expensive for many Brazilian people.
Do you consider chocolate to be healthy, as in, do you feel that it offers you some health benefits?
Yes the antioxidants I have read about I feel are good for me…this is partly why I prefer dark chocolate. I have a nutritionist…she says to eat one square of dark chocolate per day. But also, my trainer at the gym says no sweets so I don’t know! I don’t know if there are any other benefits. I believe the commercial chocolates in the supermarket have too much sugar to be healthy. But also, there is a benefit to my mind…chocolate makes me happy, so I like to do what makes me happy. I don’t think a little sweets will hurt me in the long run. I think my trainer is too strict about this, so I don’t mention it!
Dark chocolate has health benefits that go beyond antioxidants, according to recent studies. In particular, consuming chocolate has shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, including fighting diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease (Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health, 2012). Furthermore, consumption of theobromine (a main component of chocolate) has shown promising reductions in the risk of preeclampsia, a dangerous medical condition that can affect pregnant women (Chocolate Consuption in Pregnancy, 2008).
Has any of the information I’ve shared with you today changed your views on chocolate, or changed the way you will buy it in the future?
Of course; I am always interested in healthy improvements to my life. I will share this about chocolate with my pregant women friends…that is very good news, and a good reason to eat more chocolate. I would like to learn more about Fair Trade also. If I can I will look for more organic chocolates in the future. And try to get my children to eat more dark chocolate, though that won’t be easy!
In conclusion, the gourmet chocolate market is a new and emerging sector in Brazil, one that I will be interested in watching in the coming years. Hopefully on future visits to the country I will continue to find and explore the many wonderful ways that Brazilians put their particular zest for life into the very chocolate they make.
“Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 12.1 (2012): 43-52. Web.
“Chocolate Market in Brazil.” The Brazil Business. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2016.
Nesto, Bill. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10.1 (2010): 131-35. Web.
“Single Origin Brazilian Chocolate to Compete alongside Lindt and Godiva in the U.S.” ConfectioneryNews.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2016.
Triche, Elizabeth W., Laura M. Grosso, Kathleen Belanger, Amy S. Darefsky, Neal L. Benowitz, and Michael B. Bracken. “Chocolate Consumption in Pregnancy and Reduced Likelihood of Preeclampsia.” Epidemiology 19.3 (2008): 459-64. Web.
Walker, Timothy. “Slave Labor and Chocolate in Brazil: The Culture of Cacao Plantations in Amazonia and Bahia (17th–19th Centuries) 1.” Food and Foodways 15.1-2 (2007): 75-106. Web.