Tag Archives: chocolate consumption

“We have more Chocolate”: Chocolate Innovation in the Industrial Revolution.

Walter Baker & Co Ltd. Brand Logo
(Walter Baker Co.,1917)

Chocolate Industry Before the Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution took place about 1760 to 1850, all across Europe (especially Great Britain), and the United States (especially New England) (Allen, 2011).  When most think of revolution they envision an oppressed people abruptly overthrowing the existing government and starting a new system of government.  Like the American Revolution or the French Revolution, or the revolution that’s currently taking place in Venezuela.  The industrial revolution was certainly a transition to a new system or way of producing things, but I like to think of it as more of an era of direct or indirect collaboration and healthy competition 😊 .  I guess the industrial collaboration and competition just doesn’t have the same “oomph” to it.

The industrial revolution represented a transition to new manufacturing processes in many different sectors, that had previously been done manually or by hand (Allen, 2011). 

Increase and efficient use of steam and water power, chemical and iron manufacturing and the development of machine tools and culminating in the mechanized factory system (Wikipedia, 2019).  It also led to a sustained increase in population and economic growth.  The textile industry primarily benefited from the Industrial Revolution, but the Chocolate industry certainly benefited from this era of innovation (Wikipedia, 2019).

Chocolate in different simple forms had been produced for consumption for Europe and the United States since its Spanish “discovery”, from the Mesoamerican peoples, in the 16th century (Coe & Coe, 2013).  Spain had long had a monopoly on chocolate production and kept the price point high so when it was first introduced to other countries, only the wealthy could afford to buy it (Walter Baker & Co., 1884).  This likely delayed an increase in chocolate production and also chocolate manufacturing and product innovations.

The processing of the raw material of cacao beans to edible chocolate had not changed significantly; roasting, winnowing, grinding, and milling (Leissle, 2018).  Most of the process was done manually using simple devices and on a small scale.  There was large scale chocolate production going on but that was producing chocolate in just wafer form for beverages and still done by hand.  Like any developing industry, chocolate product costs were high, and there was not much availability or product variation (Coe & Coe, 2013).   

17th Century Cacao Grinding
(Walter Baker Co.,1917)

Revolution is in the Air and in the Chocolate

One of earliest documented uses of power machinery being utilized for chocolate production was by Dr. James Baker of Dorchester Massachusetts and John Hannon of Ireland (Walter Baker & Co., 1884).  Hannon was a chocolate maker.  Dr. Baker had some knowledge of the cacao bean and chocolate and provided the funding for the startup business. Together, in 1765, they rented space in a grist mill in Milton Lower Falls, Massachusetts and ground cacao beans using hydro power (Coe & Coe, 2013).  Previously, the grist mill had been used for flour for many years.

1822 Milton, MA Lower Mills from a to scale model.  Baker mill on the right.
(Walter Baker Co.,1917)

In 1772, Dr. Baker and Hannon marketed and sold their product as Hannon’s Best Chocolate, in the cake form.  In 1799, Hannon disappeared en route to the West Indies and Dr. Baker continued the chocolate business under his name (Coe & Coe, 2013).  Imagine starting and growing ANY type of business during the American Revolutionary War, near Boston, Massachusetts.  Incredible.

Bing Map of Boston Area, with Dorchester outlined

A Revolution Takes Time

What many do not remember or never fully learned, was that Independence Day (4th of July), was the date (July 4, 1776) that the 13 colonies of America, declared their independence from Great Britain (Wikipedia, 2019).  The Revolutionary War continued for another 7 years until 1783 when the Paris treaty was signed (Wikipedia, 2019).  A revolution takes time.

In 1820, Dr. Baker’s grandson Walter, took over the business and the chocolate company was reorganized with other contributors and investors under the name of the Walter Baker & Company (Coe & Coe, 2013).

Walter Baker & Co. Founders
(Walter Baker Co.,1917)

Birds-Eye view of Walter Baker & Co’s Mills at Dorchester and Milton
(Walter Baker Co.,1917)

Chocolate Machine at Walter Baker & Co. could produce 10,000 lbs. daily (Walter Baker Co.,1917)

It produced many chocolate products like unsweetened cocoa powder and sweetened chocolate (named for John German (Walter Baker & Co., 1884)) for baking, dipping and candy making.  Or any of their recipes.

Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Bar Product : Image from Joy of Baking website

Another major milestone for chocolate production was accomplished by Coenraad Johannes Van Houten in Amsterdam in 1828 (Coe & Coe, 2013).   Instead of boiling and skimming to remove the cacao butter from the chocolate liquor, he developed a mechanized hydraulic press for that process function (Coe & Coe, 2013).

Early cocoa press in Van Houten’s Factory, using manual labor (Coe & Coe, 2013)
Houten’s Mechanized Hydraulic Press

Van Houten used the mechanized hydraulic press to press the fat from roasted cacao beans (Coe & Coe, 2013).  This hydraulic process created a cacao cake which then could be pulverized into cacao powder, which could be used in all manufacturers.

Van Houten also innovated the use of alkaline salts to remove the bitter taste and made it more water soluble.  This is known as Dutching (Coe & Coe, 2013).  Baker did not approve of Dutching or adding anything, including chemicals, to cacao.  He believed the chemical process diminished the natural aroma and flavor of the cacao seeds (Walter Baker & Co., 1884).

Joseph Fry and his legacies had been making chocolate in Great Britain since 1728.  In 1789, Fry purchased Watt’s steam engine (The steam engine was perfected by James Watt in the late 1700’s, for many different industrial applications) to be the motive force to grind his cacao beans, instead of hydro power (Coe & Coe, 2013).

In 1847, The Fry Company went on to create a blend of cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter, instead of warm water, so a thinner viscous chocolate could be cast into a mold. This was the world’s first true eating chocolate, not brittle and dry as before (Coe & Coe, 2013).

Van Houten and Fry Take Production Skyward

With the Van Houten processing break through, and Fry perfecting a way to mechanize the grinding process, and other companies following suit,  overall chocolate production on both sides of the Atlantic was able to increase substantially and meet consumer demands (Coe & Coe, 2013).

There were other chocolate innovations during the Industrial Revolution.

Such as, in 1826, Swiss Phillipe Suchard, began making chocolate with his invented machinery which included the world’s first melangeur or mixing machine (Coe & Coe, 2013).

Innovation Continues

And just because the Industrial Revolution ended, chocolate manufacturing processes continued to improve and innovate, and the chocolate product continued to be refined to satisfy all consumers tastes and thereby increase chocolate production.

In Great Britain, the Cadbury Brothers, who had a long history of making innovative chocolate and cocoa products, would always be competing with Fry to outdo each other with new product and gain more market share (Coe & Coe, 2013).

In 1867, Henri Nestle’ and Daniel Peter worked together to create the first milk chocolate bar. Peters, a swiss chocolate manufacturer came up with the idea of using Nestle’s invented powdered milk in his process (Coe & Coe, 2013).

In 1879, Swiss Rudolph Lindt invented the conche machine and the conching process.  Conching is the process of rolling chocolate liquor and using that frictional heat to achieve a desired taste and smoothness. Chocolate was no longer coarse or gritty.  Chocolate consumers loved it.  Lindt called this chocolate fondant and the conching process became the standard for making chocolate (Coe & Coe, 2013).   

And in 1903, like Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, Milton S. Hershey, would bring all the product and process development and innovation, together, that occurred before his time, and launch his chocolate company (Coe & Coe, 2013).  

Over the many years, chocolate of all types, used in all applications were produced at lower and lower prices, and chocolate “went viral”.   Adults and children everywhere can’t get enough of chocolate (and sugar, which has been a prevalent ingredient in chocolate and also has driven chocolate consumption (Mintz, 1986)).

Trending Chocolate Consumption

In 1830, both in the U.S. and U.K., we were eating about 3/5  oz. per capita (Walter Baker & Co. Ltd., 1917).  In 1860, the U.S. and U.K were eating about 2 oz.  per capita (Walter Baker & Co. Ltd., 1917).  By 1915 we were eating over 30 oz. of chocolate per capita (Walter Baker & Co. Ltd., 1917).  Clearly, we have loved chocolate and the companies and innovators of the industrial revolution learned to make a lot of inexpensive and a variety of quality chocolate for us. 


And that love relationship continues with the world today. In 2015, just in the U.S. alone, we ate 9.5 lbs. per person per year.

World’s Biggest Chocolate Consumers in 2015

So the next time you tear open a Ghirardelli dark chocolate square, or unwrap a Hershey chocolate kiss, or a nice someone uses Baker’s Chocolate to actually bake you chocolate frosted chocolate cupcakes for your birthday…..before you devour that sweet mind altering chocolate treat, maybe tip your hat or give props to the chocolate industry innovators of the industrial revolution.  They certainly enabled modern day chocolate manufacturing processes like the ones featured in this YouTube video by Tesco (Tesco, 2015).


Allen, R. C. (2011). Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Baker’s Sweet German’s Chocolate Product Image. (2019, March 13). Retrieved from https://www.joyofbaking.com/GermanChocolate.html

Coe, M. D., & Coe, S. D. (2013). The True History of Chocolate, 3rd Edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Leissle, K. (2018). Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.

Niall McCarthy. (2015, July 22). The World’s Biggest Chocolate Consumers. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/07/22/the-worlds-biggest-chocolate-consumers-infographic/#2b4abcc84484

Tesco. (2015, Dec 9). Scrumptious Chocolate: How is chocolate made? Tesco.

Walter Baker & Co. (1884). Cocoa and Chocolate: A Short History of Their Production and Use. Dorchester: Walter Baker & Co.

Walter Baker & Co. Ltd. (1917). Cocoa and Chocolate: A Short History of Their Production and Use. Dorchester: Walter Baker & Co. Ltd.

Wikipedia. (2019, March 10). American Revolutinary War. Retrieved from http://www.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolutionary_War

Wikipedia. (2019, March 10). Industrial Revolution. Retrieved from http://www.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution

An Extraordinary Food, An Extraordinary Woman: Maria Sibylla Merian and Cacao

Almost everybody loves chocolate, and if they don’t love it, chances are they have tasted it at some point in their lives. It is no challenge to find chocolate, and most people encounter chocolate on a daily basis: staring at them from its staple position next to the cash register at their favorite store, featured on the desert menu at the restaurant they go to for dinner, or melting over itself on a TV commercial. But what most people don’t know about the delicious brown chocolate they see in bar or fondue form, is that is comes from the seeds of a fruit tree (and that the fruit itself is secretly delicious). This ignorance is due to the fact that most of the people eating chocolate live in the Northern Hemisphere, in places with what Kristy Leissle calls “mature” chocolate markets (19). These are places whose climates cannot grow a cacao tree. But this does not stop many from claiming to be experts on chocolate, on why you should enjoy milk chocolate to treat yourself after a long day or dark chocolate on date night. These people are what I like to call armchair experts, or people who are very far removed from the origins of the things they seem to know so much about.

Graphic visualizing the relative production and consumption patterns of cacao products.

When it comes to the history of chocolate, Europeans have filled this same mold since its introduction to the continent when it reached Spain in the 16th century. As chocolate became a popular food item throughout Europe, the people enjoying the products from cacao knew little to nothing about the fruit tree from which it came in classic imperial fashion. As chocolate spread throughout the Iberian Peninsula in the first half of the 17th century, it became known as a new staple of elite Spanish culture. In 1701 a traveler from England published his “Choice Remarks” from his time in Spain, and includes an account of how Spaniards made their chocolate (Coe 133-134). The starting product in his account is “cacao nuts,” which is how the product arrived in Spain. Because the cacao seeds were imported after being processed in the New World, Europeans had no idea what the starting product looked like.

A photo of Maria Sibylla Merian was a sucessful botanist, artist, and entomologist.

This changed when Maria Sibylla Merian published a book with illustrations of the Flora and Fauna from the New World. In this publication, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensuim, she describes how she had been concerned with the study of insects from her youth onward. While she was living in Holland she “saw with wonderment the beautiful creatures brought back from the East and West Indies,” but was unable to see “their origins and subsequent development” (Merian 22). Merian was concerned with her role as an armchair expert, and took action to address it, travelling with her young daughter to Surinam to “carry out more precise investigations.” She produced the illustration of cacao seen below as the habitat of the caterpillar she was interested in. The image shows the full lifecycle of the insect, and she also depicted the various stages of growth for the cacao pods to mirror that of the caterpillar.

Branch of Cacao, Plate 26, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, 1705

When her work was published, it was the first time many Europeans could see what the plant that produced the cacao beans that magically arrived on ships actually looked like. Even though she was focusing on the insects—not plants and foods—of the New World, her ability to capture the magnificent nature of the cacao pod allowed consumers to be a little more connected to the food they were enjoying. Her work was also used by others who had not seen the tree with their own eyes in their writings, the most famous is Carl Linnaeus, who looked to her work while creating what we know as modern taxonomy.

Through taking a daring risk and traveling across the ocean with her daughter to an unknown land at the age of 52, she produced work that helped those less brave understand the origins of chocolate. Armchair experts all over Europe and the developed world were able to look to her illustrations to increase their knowledge. Next time you are enjoying a chocolate bar, or suggesting a dessert with hot fudge, think of where the cacao that went into it came from. Think of how Maria allowed people all over the world to do this in the 18th century with her own bravery and hard work. And finally, strive to take steps in your own life that can connect you more meaningfully with products that you love. Having hands on experience is so much more valuable than making, or not making, assumptions from your comfortable throne.


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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Merian, Maria Sibylla, and Sarah O’brien-Twohig. “From Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium ( Or, Transformations of Surinamese Insects ).” Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, vol. 45, no. 1, 2012, pp. 21–28.


Image 1. Cocoa production and consumption. International Cocoa Organization/ FOuntain, A.C. and Hütz-Adams, F. (2018) Cocoa Barometer 2018. Adopted from Raconteur: https://www.raconteur.net/business-innovation/child-labour-cocoa-production

Image 2. Credit Jacob Houbraken, after Georg Gsell, via Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, Amsterdam 1705, The Hague, National Library of the Netherlands. Adopted from New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/23/science/maria-sibylla-merian-metamorphosis-insectorum-surinamensium.html

Image 3. Maria Sibylla Merian, Branch of Cacao, Plate 26, Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, 1705.

The Industrial Revolution: Chocolate for All!

Take a moment to Imagine not having access to the luxury of indulging in chocolate. It’s hard to believe that prior to the Industrial Revolution, chocolate was considered more of an elite privilege that was practically out of the common man’s reach. This was partially due to the fact that the cost of growing and producing chocolate was extremely high –  it was a laborious and time-consuming task, and only the earnings of the elite could support consumption on a regular basis. The Industrial Revolution birthed the modernization and development of chocolate production through mechanization, completely changing the effects around consumption. The Industrial Revolution lowered the production cost, increased efficiency, and improved taste, texture, and appearance of the product as a whole. Today, chocolate is everywhere! From well-known candy bars such as Hershey’s, and Mars (currently known as the Milky Way bar), to chocolate syrup mixed into mocha’s that is available at almost every coffee shop. For the purpose of this blog post, I would like to touch on a few of the incredible advances in the chocolate making industry made possible by the Industrial Revolution: the conche, winnowing machine, hydraulic press, and the marriage of chocolate and sugar.

Often referred to as the “food of the gods,” cacao was used by the Maya, Aztec, and Spanish to create a chocolatey drink that would most likely taste pretty bitter and unappealing compared to the endless forms, tastes, and textures available to us today. However, by the time the Industrial Revolution occurred, a man by the name of Rudolf Lindt was also craving something different – an indulgence that was far less coarse and gritty. He craved a chocolate that was smooth, offering that irreplaceable melt-in-your-mouth texture. Thanks to Lindt, his dream became a reality using a machine called the conche. The conche was developed in 1879 and radically changed the texture, taste, and appearance of chocolate. Instead of grinding the chocolate using a metate (just like the Maya, Aztec, and Spanish), the conche continuously stirred the chocolate while using heat to create a creamy, melty, heavenly texture. Rumor has it that Lindt discovered this technique by accidentally leaving the conche running for a few days at a time. In my opinion, what started out as an accident actually turned in to one of the tastiest chocolate making discoveries.

This youtube video, “Production of Dark Chocolate Bean to Bar”, demonstrates the use a conche. As you can see, the chocolate is being stirred and particles are being polished in order to achieve that flawlessly smooth texture we experience when eating a Lindt truffle.

Another important improvement in the quality and texture of chocolate came about by the development the winnowing machine. As Kristy Leissle explains, “Prior to the Industrial Revolution, cocoa beans had to be broken and winnowed by hand” (Leissle 50). The process of winnowing by hand was extremely tedious and oftentimes excruciating, due to the fibrous husks that could easily cut the laborers’ hands and slip underneath their fingernails. Leissle goes on to explain the modern process as much more forgiving and user friendly. “Today, a machine usually cracks the beans, loosening or removing parts of the shell and breaking the seed into smaller pieces, which are then called nibs. A winnower sorts the nibs into piles of similar size, most often by vibrating them through screens with varying mesh” (Leissle 50). The winnowing process is crucial because when shells are not properly removed the taste and texture is compromised. The process is further explained and demonstrated in the video below.

This video from Craft Chocolate Tv explains/demonstrates modern day cracking and winnowing with the help of a winnowing machine.

One of the most impactful inventions in the chocolate industry was developed during the 18th century – The Hydraulic Press. Coenraad Johannes Van Houten’s hydraulic press completely transformed chocolate by pressing the chocolate liquor with immense force until two products appeared: cocoa butter and a solid cake. This process came about in 1828 when Van Houten decided that he wanted to create a powdered chocolate with a much lower fat content than what was already available. So, “For this, he eventually developed a very efficient hydraulic press; untreated chocolate ‘liquor’ –  the end result of the grinding process – contains about 53 percent cacao butter, but Van Houten’s machine managed to reduce this to 27-28 percent, leaving a ‘cake’ that could be pulverized into fine powder” (Coe & Coe 234). Applying this type of pressure with the hydraulic press made the production of chocolate much faster and more cost effective. Additionally, the Dutch chemist used alkaline salts to improve the flavor and prevent bitterness, which was well received by the masses.

Photo from world standards images — hydraulic press invented by Coenraad Johannes Van Houten

Lastly, I would like to discuss the important concept of wedding of chocolate and sugar. This marriage of these two products played a huge part in the development and appeal of chocolate. Sugar was so important that “During the period 1750-1850 every English person, no matter how isolated or how poor, and without regard to age or sex, learned about sugar… A rarity in 1650, a luxury in 1750, sugar had been transformed into a virtual necessity by 1850” (Mintz 148). Manufacturer’s such as Cadbury and Fry began to flourish. As a result of utilizing sugar instead of other more expensive ingredients (such as vanilla), chocolate became available to the different classes due to the significant cost reduction. It also boosted chocolate’s appeal to children through advertisements using images of smiling kids like the boy featured in the picture below.

Fry’s chocolate advertisement is trying to demonstrate how their chocolate can please everyone — even an unhappy child previously throwing a tantrum. This advertisement appeals to both parents and children.

Because of the Industrial Revolution, chocolate went from being an expensive drink that appealed to an elite group of wealthy individuals, to a treat that men, women, and children could enjoy regardless of the social class they belonged to. As mentioned above, the conche, winnowing machine, hydraulic press, and the marriage of chocolate and sugar all played a role in making chocolate appealing and readily available to a much broader audience.

Works cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

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


Cracking & Winnowing Cacao – Episode 3 – Craft Chocolate Tv CraftChocolateTV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R35XDPNy93Q

Fry’s Chocolate advertisement.JPG.” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 28 Nov 2016, 03:40 UTC. 15 Mar 2019, 19:52 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Fry%27s_Chocolate_advertisement.JPG&oldid=222289146>.

Van Houten’s Hydraulic Press, http://www.worldstandards.eu/images/cocoa%20press.jpg

KADZAMA. “Production of Dark Chocolate Bean to Bar / Melangeur 50 Kg | KADZAMA.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 Apr. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhIF_V2Y7Zo.

Cacao as it Exists Today

Cacao Plants hanging from branches

We are a species that seeks to discover all of the wonders of this world so that we may collect and consume them of our own volition. Everyday items that are utilized such as minerals, oil, money, and food are things we collectively yearn for, and there is no limit to what will satisfy our appetite. Among these everyday items exists one that has been a part of our history for as long as we can remember. Cacao plants and what can be created with them have navigated their way into our hearts, minds and influence our appetites daily. Whether it be beans, liquids, or solid chocolate bars, we have become far more engrossed with Cacao than those who originally possessed it long ago. These Ancient civilizations, which consisted of Mesoamerican’s such as the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec’s utilized Cacao in a controlled and market fashion similar to our own. However, we are on a much different playing field than they were back then.

Cacao in Mesoamerica…

As early as 900 AD is when it is believed that the Mayans discovered the Cacao plant. Almost immediately afterwards did the plant and it’s properties become ingrained into every faucet of life during the height of Mesoamerican society. The Olmec, Maya, and Aztec’s each ensured that the Cacao which was produced, was shared with royalty before any other societal class. It is fascinating to think about how the Cacao they were producing quickly became an important part of their lifestyles. Their understanding of it and its significance in regard to their culture during this time period laid the groundwork for how we indulge in the delicacies we have today. Additionally, it was during this era that Cacao began to take different forms that we have simply grown to know as Chocolate. Chocolate beverages were of the most popular amongst rulers that had the power to obtain large portions of Cacao, and they were usually representative of one’s nobility as well as one’s wealth during extravagant parties.

Mesoamerican’s indulging in a Chocolate beverage

Aside from that, there were a number of other uses those with access to Cacao stumbled upon. Considering the scarcity amongst common folk, the beans from the Cacao plant became a form of currency. Slightly more disturbing was it’s use in ceremonies where a selected citizen was sacrificed to the Gods and consumed copious amounts of chocolate before being killed. It is safe to say that the obsession this era had with Cacao is the reason why we cannot get enough of it now. Due to how the Cacao plant was held in such high regard by those in power, as well as the way the common folk idolized it since they lacked an abundance of said delicacy at their disposal during this time period, it comes to no surprise how that influence has undoubtedly played a role in the market we have today.

Cacao Now…

So, with all that being said what does that mean for us today? In what ways were the Mesoamericans influential in the way we produce and consume our Cacao? For one, the chocolate beverage these people were so obsessed with has soared to heights no one could have imagined. Whether it be coffee, milkshakes, or hot chocolate, Cacao has evolved into something everyone craves. Coffee being the most predominant of the chocolate drinks, as it has been commercialized and sold to a market that has fallen in love with the tasty beverage. Starbucks, Hershey, Godiva, the list goes on.

These companies that practice selling Cacao in its newly fashioned state have identified what makes it so special and have capitalized on it. Firstly, the healthy abundance of Chocolate as well as how affordable it is in the United States allows citizens to consume as much of the popular product, more so than that of a noble person during the Mesoamerican era. Coupled with their ability to mass produce chocolate in multiple ways while simultaneously producing new ways to sell it, they have effectively created a system in which they can sell us cacao in any shape or form and we will still purchase it. Although we do not force individuals to consume chocolate before sacrificing one another to the Gods, it is still revered as something that everyone cherishes deeply, almost on a ritualistic level. Valentine’s Day, birthday’s, treats, snacks etc. Whatever your preference may be, chocolate is a delicacy that is near and dear to millions and for some it is considered a blessing to receive it as a gift.

What Cacao could look like in the future…

Now although Cacao (or chocolate) in this instance is an important product in circulation around the globe, some issues do arise with how it is produced and what that may look like for us in the future. As I stated earlier, Cacao has been highly influential in our market. It’s found on every corner in the U.S. as well as thriving sections of the world. Yet we are not truly indulging in a complete Cacao product. A vast majority of the companies making a profit off of chocolate are working with a product that is for the majority, made up of sugar. Compared to our Mesoamerican ancestors, we are consuming far less Cacao than we are sugar whenever we enjoy a delicious Cacao “treat.” Perhaps this is done in part to sustain the Cacao plants for a bit longer. However, the production of processed Cacao is not allowing people to experience it as the Aztecs, Maya and Olmec did. Because of this, we may reach a point in society where Cacao no longer exists in any of the “chocolate” products we consume and a vast majority would be none the wiser.

Works Cited

Garthwaite, Josie. “What We Know About the Earliest History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/archaeology-chocolate-180954243/.

The History of Chocolate: The Mayans and Aztecs, http://www.godivachocolates.co.uk/the-history-of-chocolate-mayans-aztecs.html.

Cartwright, Mark. “Chocolate in Mesoamerica.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 14 Mar. 2019, http://www.ancient.eu/Chocolate_in_Mesoamerica/.

From the Food of the Gods to the Food of the People: How Chocolate Became Democratized

Referring to chocolate, the Italian conquistador Girolamo Benzoni wrote that it “seemed more a drink for pigs, than a drink for humanity” (Coe and Coe 110). Given this statement, it seems incredible that today in much of the world, we have come to know chocolate as a sweet, decadent luxury food. Much of chocolate’s transformation – from a bitter drink reserved for elites to a sweet, inexpensive candy – has to do with changes that occurred in Europe beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing through the Industrial Revolution. Colonialism, along with the advent of plantation agriculture and industrial technology, all functioned to alter the perceptions and attitudes surrounding chocolate in Europe and the New World, democratizing it, until it eventually became the mass-produced food that so many people know and love today.

Chocolate, the solid food that it is most commonly known today, comes from the fruit of the cacao tree. In ancient Mesoamerica, the cacao tree was sacred; images of cacao trees are linked to gods and the afterlife in Aztec and Maya religions (Leissle). This religious association is what led Linnaeus to give cacao the genus name Theobroma, which translates to “food of the gods” (Leissle). Archeological evidence also suggests that cacao was made as a drink primarily for Aztec and Maya elites. After Spanish conquistadors arrived in Central America and became accustomed to cacao, the association between cacao consumption and elites was transferred to Europe. The Spanish were the first to introduce cacao to Europe in 1544, when Dominican friars brought a Kekchi Maya delegation to meet Prince Philip of Spain, and they brought cacao with them (Coe and Coe). Soon after, consumption of chocolate drinks, inspired by Mesoamerican recipes, became popular in European royal courts. As chocolate’s popularity grew in Europe, its association with aristocracy was solidified. For example, it became a potent status symbol for French nobility to own a silver chocolatière, or chocolate pot, as seen in the image below. In Baroque France, distinctive silver pieces such as this one signified that the owner was of a high enough social class to be able to purchase cacao and enjoy chocolate drinks on a regular basis.

Image of a traditional French chocolatière. From: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/196366

As European nations colonized the Caribbean and Central and South America, the resulting increase in agricultural production through slave labor allowed chocolate’s popularity to grow even further as it became increasingly accessible to working-class people. The establishment of New World cacao plantations and using the labor of African slaves allowed European powers to control the production of cacao and import it at lower costs (Martin and Sampeck). Additionally, transatlantic triangular trade allowed cacao to be transported to West Africa and Indonesia, where it was also cultivated for European consumption, with West Africa, specifically Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, becoming the primary production center of cacao after the abolition of slavery (Martin and Sampeck; Leissle). Thus, under colonial influence, cacao production was able to expand to meet the growing demand for chocolate among the upper classes.

This increasing desire for chocolate was reinforced by the massive growth of the sugar industry at the same time and by the same means of production (Mintz). However, it was not until the rise of capitalistic economies and increasing industrialization that sugar and chocolate consumption really increased dramatically in Europe (Coe and Coe). Until the Industrial Revolution, chocolate was primarily consumed as a drink; a number of industrial processes were important for transforming chocolate into solid food. For example, the process for manufacturing Dutch process cocoa powder involved a more efficient method of separating cocoa butter from cocoa powder, which allowed the powder to mix more easily with water (Coe and Coe). Using this technology, the Fry company was able to create a recipe for the first true chocolate bars, involving cocoa powder, sugar, and melted cocoa butter. From then on, chocolate was on its way to being considered primarily as a relatively inexpensive food, especially as the number and size of chocolate companies grew and other technological innovations emerged for creating desirable and marketable chocolate confections.

Demand for eating chocolate and cultivation of cacao in West Africa mutually reinforced each other’s growth, which incentivized large chocolate companies to create more efficient and cost-effective manufacturing techniques. One such company is Hershey’s, an American-based enterprise which is responsible for creating a recipe for milk chocolate that could be mass produced faster and cheaper by using liquid condensed milk rather than powdered milk as European companies did (D’Antonio). The image below, from a booklet produced by Hershey’s, showcases an additional aspect that contributed to their manufacturing success: their factory. The photos of the interior of the factory underscore the massive scale of their operations, and this indicates that chocolate production had become fully mechanized at this point in time – a far cry from the small-scale production of chocolate by hand in ancient Mesoamerica.

Pages from The Hershey Corporation’s “The Story of Chocolate and Cocoa”. From: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/18558585

The printing of this pamphlet also highlights not only that Hershey’s was committed to utilizing the most current manufacturing technology, but also that large companies’ success depended a large part upon public opinion of their operations. As chocolate became increasingly affordable and available to people in Europe and America, companies needed to compete for customer loyalty within the capitalist market. Advertising was and remains crucial for companies to target specific consumers and persuade them to buy their product instead of a similar product from another company. Ads such as the one for Fry’s chocolate below often associated chocolate with images of innocence and the desire for sweetness. The customer buying the chocolate is a young girl, which associates childhood, innocence, and femininity with chocolate and sweetness. The children outside are all gazing longingly at the chocolate, too, which suggests that Fry’s chocolate is something that everyone wants to enjoy. Most importantly, the Fry name is written all over the ad, so that everyone who views the ad remembers the name.

Fry's Chocolates
Fry’s Chocolate advertisement. From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/muohio_digital_collections/3092807797/

Advertising helped chocolate companies become household names, and led to chocolate brands developing recognizable, signature tastes. Thus, chocolate was completely transformed into a commodity for all people to enjoy. None of chocolate’s evolution to this status as an industrialized, highly processed, and popular food would have been possible without the increases in production of cacao and sugar as a result of colonialism and plantation slavery, as well as technological improvements during the Industrial Revolution. All of these changes allowed chocolate’s price to drop significantly, and it also led to chocolate’s shift from drink to solid food. So, when we eat a chocolate bar, we can credit its existence to the changes in production and consumption that corresponded to industrialization and globalization in the past few hundred years.

Works Cited:

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

D’Antonio, Michael D. “Here There Will Be No Unhappiness.” Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Simon & Schuster, 2006, pp. 106–26.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.Hu, vol. 3, 2015, pp. 37–60.

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

Multimedia Sources:

Collections, Miami University Libraries-Digital. Fry’s Chocolates. 8 Dec. 2008. Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/muohio_digital_collections/3092807797/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2019.

Hershey Chocolate Corporation. The Story of Chocolate and Cocoa Booklet. 1926. National Archives at Philadelphia (RE-PA), US National Archives Research Catalog, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/18558585. Accessed 14 Mar. 2019.

“Pierre Vallières | Chocolate Pot | French, Paris | The Met.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/196366. Accessed 14 Mar. 2019.

Health Conscious Humans: Changes in Chocolate Consumption

Dating back to the Olmec civilization starting around 1500 BCE, cacao has taken on uses in religious, cultural, and medicinal contexts (Coe & Coe, 2013). It was featured in early colonial documents alleviating fevers and treating fatigue. Global consumption of sugar and chocolate skyrocketed so that it contributed to the obesity epidemic in America. Americans now question the “healthy” snack that used to “food of the gods” (Lippi, 2009). As our society becomes more health conscious, chocolate consumption declines. Brands like Hershey’s and Mars are adjusting their products, and snackers opt for vitamin-rich dark chocolate, smoothies, and salads. For years to come in the United States, chocolate most likely will remain integral to social events but be consumed in smaller amounts and different contexts, such as protein shakes and bars, more frequently than caloric snacks off the shelves at the cash register.

           Although chocolate was consumed in religious rituals, social settings, and used for decorations, it was also applied to cure illnesses. The ancient Maya believed it had many benefits, including aphrodisiac qualities, which is why we gift it on Valentine’s day (Martin, Feb. 13 Lecture). Manuscripts featured chocolate in medical applications, such as the Badianus Codex of 1552 using cacao flowers to treat fatigue, the Florentine Codex of 1590 using cacao beans to treat hearts, and the Badianus Manuscript of 1552 applying cacao flowers to energize men in public office (Dillinger et al., 2000). The books of Chilam Balamand and The Ritual of the Bacabs are copies of codices and also feature cacao being used as medicine (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008). The Maya used it during ceremonies to alleviate fevers, seizures, and skin abnormalities. Their botanical remedies typically featured cacao as the main ingredient to cure such ailments.

This image is from Codex Borgia and depicts an epidemic with vomiting and diarrhea (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008).

Alphonse de Richeliu introduced the treatment to France, and it was taken on for energy, digestion, breast milk production, kidney stones, poor appetite, and other purposes (Coe & Coe). The Spanish even believed it improved conception probability and breast milk quality (Dillinger et al., 2000). Chocolate was thought to have many nutrients, so the Church banned consuming it during religious fasts unless for medicinal purposes. Chocolate was considered a cure for almost any ailment.

Chocolate consumption grew exponentially throughout the 1900s due to several innovations that allowed mass production of cheaper chocolate and enabled it to spread beyond the elite. Incomes rose and production costs fell after the Industrial Revolution. Coenraad Johannes Van Houton invented the hydraulic press, which separated cocoa solids from cocoa butter (Coe & Coe, 2013).

This machine, the hydraulic press, led to Joseph Fry & Son creating the first chocolate bar in 1847.

As shown above, the press is comprised of cylinders, pistons, and hydraulic pipes. A piston is inserted into the small cylinder to create pressure so liquid cocoa can move through the pipes (Coe & Coe, 2013). As it goes through the press, the fat is squeezed out and the result is fat free cocoa powder. Another development was conchin, a stirring process to make chocolate smooth. These inventions allowed chocolate to change from a foamy drink only consumed by the elite to a cheap and delicious option for all classes. Fry & Nestle even created a solid form of chocolate, which further increased accessibility (Coe & Coe, 2013). Mintz noted that sugar production increased so much that it became integral to the English diet (Mintz, 1986). By 1900, sugar constituted 20% of English calories consumed and chocolate was a major part of their diets.

There are positive effects to chocolate. Dark chocolate has a high cocoa content and antioxidants. Harvard Health notes that dark chocolate can help athletes’ oxygen availability during competition (Tello, 2018). Americans adopted chocolate as a delicious treat but had difficulty consuming it in moderation. Today, chocolate mostly is seen as a contributor to obesity. Many favorite snacks are loaded with sugar and fat. Cacao butter is filled with saturated fat and harmful for cholesterol (Mintz, 1986). With America wrestling with an obesity epidemic, chocolate and sugar are identified as culprits.

People take to Twitter to vent about the terrible impact high sugar content has on health (Twitter, 2018).

Rather than focusing on the medicinal qualities of chocolate, society now raises concerns about high sugar content (Twitter). Low prices of huge sharing size bags lead to some consuming excessive amounts of sugar in one sitting. A bag of Hershey’s individually wrapped chocolate bars contains up to 81 grams of sugar (Google Images). The negative health effects commercial chocolate contains are gaining media attention, and people are adjusting their eating habits accordingly.

The image shows nutrition facts and total sugars in a sharing bag of chocolate that people sometimes consume by themselves.

Consumption of chocolate is now falling in America because of trends toward being healthier and losing weight. Diet brands are raking in dollars as consumers opt for more nutritious options with less sugar. Salad chains, Weight Watchers, and workout classes such as Barry’s Boot Camp and Soul Cycle have become popular. Chocolate consumption drops. The average American ate 12.6 lbs of chocolate in 2007 but only 9.5 lbs in 2015 (Wong, 2016). Healthier brands like Atkins and Kind are selling better than Hershey’s and forcing companies to adjust to their audiences. A recent Skinny Pop commercial depicts the new trend:

The commercial shows children examining snack ingredients.

The commercial ends with a child remarking, “It’s all real, that’s pretty cool” regarding the three ingredients in Skinny Pop (popcorn, sunflower oil, salt). The next generation is being raised to be more health conscious and to consume natural ingredients rather than sugar and saturated fat.

The consumption decline is shown by dominant brands diversifying as they lose market share. More than 50% of confectionary market share was controlled by only five brands: Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Craft, and Ferrero (Coe & Coe, 2013). Hershey’s recently acquired amplify snack brands, which owns Skinny Pop, in a $1.6 billion deal (Global News Wire, 2017). Hershey’s is even beginning to produce meat bars, as their former best sellers are no longer sailing off shelves. Hershey’s isn’t the only old dominant brand struggling. Mars invested in Kind Bars, which features health conscious mottos on their labels (Global news Wire, 2017). Chocolate brands adjust their products and tailor to a changing audience, which will alter how chocolate is consumed.

Not only are Americans consuming less chocolate, but when they do it is in different contexts. Fitness spots such as Equinox still sell chocolate but offer bars that are gluten, dairy, sugar alcohol, and trans fat free.

Barry’s featured a photo of a chocolate recovery shake on Instagram (Instagram, 2018)

Chocolate is featured in low sugar bars and protein shakes more frequently than in caloric foamy drinks. The turn in society towards healthier lifestyles, less sugar consumption, and increased fitness has caused vendor diversification and is changing the way chocolate is consumed.

Despite chocolate and cacao’s widespread medicinal uses in the past, it has been demoted to a sugary dessert in America. As people fight the obesity crisis, consumers practice self-control and grab alternative foods off the shelves. Brands with “skinny” in the name have grown in number: skinny pop, skinny cow, and halo top with the number of calories in huge print. Advertisements featuring natural ingredients, such as the Skinny Pop commercial, are successful. The chocolate market may never be the same—Hershey’s with the famous brown sealed chocolate bar now is selling popcorn and even meat bars (yuck). Not only has chocolate consumption declined, but the way the population consume it has changed because it is being revamped into healthier foods and not just sweet desserts.


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

Dillinger, Teresa, et al. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” Oxford Academic The Journal of Nutrition, Oxford University Press, 1 Aug. 2000, academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/8/2057S/4686320.

Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Edgar Greenhill. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods. University of Arizona Press, 2008.

Google Search, Google, www.google.com/search?q=hersheys%2Bsharing%2Bbag%2Bnutrition%2Bfacts&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS768US769&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqu6TVzOzgAhWQg-AKHSS6DLkQ_AUIDigB&biw=1009&bih=658#imgrc=ovjpEWmHHdY-uM:

Google Image Search, Google, www.google.com/search?rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS768US769&biw=1418&bih=658&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=1z5_XKqZPOuxggfR-7uAAw&q=hydraulic%2Bpress%2Bmaking%2Bchocolate&oq=hydraulic%2Bpress%2Bmaking%2Bchocolate&gs_l=img.3…1922.4213..4249…1.0..0.206.1336.14j2j1……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i8i30j0i24.hcnFkDDU_Rk#imgrc=aSVPvbsdA1Cf1M:

Hershey Company. “Hershey Enters Into Agreement to Acquire Amplify Snack Brands, Inc.” GlobeNewswire News Room, “GlobeNewswire”, 18 Dec. 2017, globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/12/18/1263249/0/en/Hershey-Enters-Into-Agreement-to-Acquire-Amplify-Snack-Brands-Inc.html.

Lippi, D. “Chocolate and Medicine: Dangerous Liaisons?” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19818277.

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

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.Popcorn, SkinnyPop. “SkinnyPop | Simple Tastes Better.” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Aug. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iCta8t7BmU.

Tello, Monique. “Can Dark Chocolate Improve Vision?” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 1 May 2018, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-dark-chocolate-improve-vision-2018050313767?utm_content=buffer4fdfe&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=buffer.

Wong, Venessa. “Hershey Shifts Gears As Chocolate Consumption Slows.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 26 Apr. 2016, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/venessawong/people-just-dont-eat-chocolate-like-they-used-to.

Chocolate: A Shift From Elitism to Convenience Store Staple

A Shift From Elitism to Convenience Store Staple

If you were to walk in to any grocery or convenience store today, chances are you would find a vast selection of chocolate at a relatively low price. At any given moment, it is safe to say that chocolate is within reach. For these reasons, we don’t seem to associate the consumption of chocolate with any form of elitism: eating chocolate is something that we’ve grown accustomed to in the United States. In fact, the average American consumes roughly twelve pounds of chocolate every year (Martin, “The Rise of..”, 2019). Despite playing such a huge role in our diet today, chocolate hasn’t always been accessible to everyone. Once reserved for only elite Europeans, we’ve seen chocolate shift to being consumed by a much broader audience. With this shift, however, we are left to question what led to our society’s chocolate craze;  is it the rich, indulgent taste, or is it the sense of prestige that comes with it?

When chocolate was first introduced to Europeans, it looked much different than it does today. While we commonly associate chocolate as a food that we eat, chocolate was first consumed exclusively as an unsweetened beverage called “xocoatl” (Coe & Coe, 2000). This was a bitter drink that was created by brewing cacao beans (beans from the Theobroma Cacao tree) and played a major role in mesoamerican culture among groups like the Olmec, Aztecs, and Mayans. In mesoamerican culture, the cacao bean was thought to have many medicinal, spiritual, and even magical properties. Because of this, cacao was a major part of many religious ceremonies, sacrifices, and a key player in medical practices of the time (Coe & Coe, 2000).

A depiction of how the Aztecs would typically prepare the xocoatl beverage for ceremonies and special occasions (Image sourced from: Martin, “Mesoamerica…”, 2019).

While it is uncertain as to exactly when Europeans first came into contact with cacao, it is believed to have been offered to Spanish explorer, Hernando Cortes, by Aztec King Montezuma when he and his men first arrived in the Americas. Believe it or not, when the traditional beverage was initially tasted, the explorers hated it, describing it as, “a bitter drink for pigs”. This initial opinion of chocolate is ironic now because with time, and with the addition of sweeteners like honey or cane sugar, the drink soon became popular throughout Spain and eventually the rest of Europe  (Fiegl, 2008).

Similar to how the mesoamericans thought of the cacao bean as having magical powers, a huge part of the success of chocolate in Europe can be attributed to the fact that it was believed to have many medicinal, nutritional, and aphrodisiac properties. At the time of its initial introduction in Europe, however, it was a luxury that only the rich could afford. This is because it had to be imported from the far-off chocolate growing regions of the world (Central/South America and later West Africa), and couldn’t be produced in large quantities. Because the ability to consume chocolate was directly linked to wealth, partaking in such activity came to be seen as a mark of status in an elite social class (Coe & Coe). Chocolate was truly a luxury.

As consumption of chocolate increased, so did production. This created a positive feedback loop, eventually making chocolate more affordable and therefore more accessible to a broader range of people. Several developments led to higher consumption of chocolate. First was the creation of “dutch cocoa” by a dutch chemist in 1828.  He found that by removing the cocoa butter, or fat, from the pulverized cocoa beans, you could create a form of powdered chocolate, namely, cocoa powder. This led to an increase in chocolate consumption among a broader range of people because it allowed for the creation of solid chocolate that could be made from a mixture of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and other additives like sugar and milk. This meant that chocolate became cheaper because manufacturers could make more product with the same amount of cacao (Fiegl, 2008). A second major development was made by Rudolphe Lindt when he created the chocolate conche: a mechanical way to distribute cocoa butter in chocolate and improve the overall palatability. The conche increased chocolate consumption by streamlining the chocolate making process, allowing it to be produced in higher quantities for a lower cost. By the end of the 19th century, chocolate was no longer only consumed by the elite, but it was also enjoyed by the general public (Martin, “Sugar and Cacao”, 2019).

A modern example of the chocolate conching process. Take note of the extreme efficiency that comes from using this machine. (Sourced from: ProXES, 2018)

The widespread consumption of chocolate across all socioeconomic levels can be attributed to advances in technology and increases in production, which led to decreases in price,  but there is another factor that we must consider. Given that chocolate was once an indulgence that only the elite could afford, it is possible that people desire chocolate because they want to attain the same prestige that once surrounded the food. Ordinary people are able to treat themselves to a supposed luxury for as little as a dollar. The rich, decadent taste of chocolate could certainly be the main culprit in drawing so many people in, but it is definitely worth considering the desire to taste the finer things in life, or to see how “the other half” lives, as a driving force in the spread of chocolate consumption from the wealthy elite to broader audiences. As shown in the advertisement below, chocolate is still depicted as a food for the elite, even if we can buy it at any convenience store.

This advertisement from Ferrero Rocher suggests that their chocolate is a luxury fit for royals and the elite, even if it may be on the shelves of convenience stores (Sourced from: Commercials, 2017).

Works Cited :

Chocolate, ProXES, director. Conching Chocolate with STEPHAN Universal MachineYouTube, YouTube, 2 Sept. 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lTI3Ux9nsc.

Coe, Sophie, and Michael Coe. “The True History of Chocolate .” Goodreads, Thames and Hudson, 1 Oct. 2000, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/88456.The_True_History_of_Chocolate.

Commercials, director. Ferrero Rocher Hazelnut Chocolate Truffles | Ferrero Rocher Commercial AdYouTube, YouTube, 27 Dec. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ReCI64d34U.

Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.

Hocking, Abby. Influential Candy Bars. 2018. (Cover Photo)

Martin, Carla. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” 6 Feb. 2019, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University.

Martin, Carla. “Sugar and Cacao.” 20 Feb. 2019, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University.

Martin, Carla. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” 13 Mar. 2019, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University.

What Would you do for a Chocolate Bar? The Development of the Industrial Revolution and its effects on consumerism.

Today if someone wanted to have a chocolate bar, they would go to the supermarket and find at least ten different kinds of chocolates, in different shapes, flavors, and fillings. If you asked someone to name at least three chocolate companies they would be able to list at least five off the top of their head. Thanks to the industrial revolution (1760- 1840) chocolate is one of them most popular treat available today. In the 17th century, chocolate became a fashionable drink through Europe and was a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine which allowed not only mass production to be a possibility but also eliminated the socio-economic divide between classes due to chocolate’s availability. Throughout the industrial revolution chocolate went through several advancements including: the invention of the hydraulic press, dutching, inclusion of milk in chocolate, and conching.

In the book The True History of Chocolate, authors Sophie and Michael Coe write about the history of chocolate consumption before the industrial revolution “for at least 28 centuries, chocolate had been a drink of the elite and the very rich… the Industrial Revolution, which changed chocolate from a costly drink to a cheap food” (Coe & Coe 232 -233). Before chocolate could be made available for the masses a few advancements needed to take place starting with invention of the hydraulic press. In 1828, Dutch Chemist Coenraad Johannes Van Houten took out a patent on a process for the manufacture of a new kind of powdered chocolate with a very low fat content eventually creating the hydraulic press. “This allowed untreated chocolate “liquor”—the end result of the grinding process—which contains about 53 percent cacao butter, but Van Houten’s machine managed to reduce this to 27–28 percent, leaving a “cake” that could be pulverized into a fine powder” (Coe & Coe 260)  creating what today is known as cocoa. Van Houten treated this cocoa mix with alkaline salt (potassium or sodium carbonates) to mix better with water. This process became known as “Dutching” it improved the powder’s miscibility (not, as some believed, its solubility) in warm water, it made the chocolate darker in color and milder in flavor. Even today, many people prefer “Dutch” chocolate, thinking it to be stronger in taste, when it is only the difference in color that makes it seem so” (Coe & Coe 260). Van Houten’s discover lead to a large scale manufacture of cheap chocolate in both powdered and solid form for everyone regardless of their social class or economic status.

Twenty years after Van Houten’s discovery, Francis Fry of Fry Enterprises figured out how to mix a blend of cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter and cast it into a mold. Thus creating the first ever edible chocolate bar.  

The Fry Enterprise first chocolate bar.
Idea of little girls and sweetness seen in the first advertisement for Fry Chocolate bars.

Due to the demand for chocolate bars, the price of cacao butter increased, once again creating a class barrier for chocolate, by providing chocolate bars for the elite. However, this price increase of chocolate bars and cacao butter, decrease the price of cocoa powder making it available to the masses. With the emergence of chocolate companies in the United States chocolate bars soon became available for the masses. In the United States of America, the production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world.

One of the most important evolutions of chocolate consumption includes the use of milk. the addition of milk to chocolate bars is credited to two people the first is Henri Nestlé, a swiss chemist and Daniel Peter, a chocolate manufacturer. In 1867, Nestlé discovered a process to make powdered milk by evaporation; when mixed with water, this could be fed to infants and small children (Coe & Coe 268). In 1879, Peter used nestlé’s powder in the fabrication of a new kind of chocolate, thus the first milk chocolate bar was created. “The process was simple: they dried out the moisture in the mix and replaced it with cacao butter, so that it could be poured into a mold” (Coe & Coe 268). Without this the discovery of  Hershey Chocolate Kisses or famous Chocolate bars would not exist today.

One of the last advancements made during the industrial revolution was the process of conching created by Rudolphe Lindt in 1879, which improved the quality of chocolate confectionary. A very meticulous process, “The traditional conche is formed by a flat, granite bed with curved ends, upon which heavy granite rollers attached to robust steel arms move backwards and forwards; the rollers slap against the curved ends, causing the chocolate liquor to splash back over the rollers into the main body of the mechanism. Since the action of the process causes friction and therefore heat to build up in the chocolate dough or paste, the preliminary roasting of the cacao beans may sometimes be omitted. After 72 or more hours of such rock-and-roll treatment, the chocolate mass reaches the desired flavor, as well as attaining a high degree of smoothness, due to a reduction in the size of particles. ”(Coe & Coe 268 ). This advancement allowed chocolatiers to make smoother chocolate bars, tasting almost like fondant, getting rid of the coarse and gritty texture it used to have, conching then became a common practice among the business.

A history of how Chocolate is made as well as how the Industrial Revolution impacted the production of Chocolate.
The process of how Chocolate is manufactured and stored.

In The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe Carla Martin and Kathryn Sampeck explore the role of race, gender, and class inequality attributed with chocolate production and consumption. While analyzing the social inequality and popularization of chocolate Martin and Sampeck write “ With the industrialization of chocolate, it was no longer a commodity for the the elite, expensive or consumed primarily as a drink but rather an inexpensive cocoa powder to be drunk or low-cacao-content chocolate bar to be consumed as a food by elite and non-elite alike” ( 49).  Chocolate became a treat that anyone can purchase and enjoy, well known companies like Lindt, Nestlé, Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Mars, attempted to produce a product that would taste the same every time thereby commercialize a product that had gone through enormous changes since the pre-columbian mesoamerica days.

While seen in the past a commodity to establish social identity in Kirsty Leissle’s book Cocoa she writes that today modern American companies including Cadbury and Hershey have contributed to the pre-existing social identity of chocolate. “ The companies most successful at crafting this social identity, including Cadbury and Hershey, have helped steer consumer desire for chocolate in certain directions – as an affordable luxury, holiday accompaniment, and surrogate for romantic love” (Leissle, 9). This remains true today, often during Valentine’s day Chocolate hearts, boxes shaped like hearts containing chocolate or even chocolate cake at restaurants on this holiday connect the idea of love to chocolate. The effects of the industrial revolution remains a strong component of consumer consumption of chocolate today, due to the advancements of the past it has never been easier to produce chocolate or purchase. Today people can enter almost any store and find a chocolate bar and that should be celebrated!


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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Martin, C. D., & Sampeck, K. E. (2015). The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe. Socio.hu, (Special issue 3), 37-60. doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37

Image Sources (in order of appearance):



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

The Spread of Chocolate: From Elites to the Masses and Back to the Elites Again

As with many of our favorite foods, like beer, coffee, bread, etc., chocolate has also fallen prey to the recent trend of reverting away from mass production and more towards the smaller scale worlds of “craft” and “artisanal”. For many, the appeal in craft products lies in the idea that the product is made by hand, individually, with the unspoken secret ingredient- love. On the other hand, the craft movement can be understood as yet another new face of class warfare- a way for the upper echelons of society to once again prove their superiority over those who are unable to afford the “finer things in life”. And indeed, chocolate is just one of those finer things. Though not strikingly different in taste, the innate understandings we have of a dark chocolate bar from brands like Hershey’s, Mars, or Cadbury are worlds apart from those with labels from Chocolat Bonnat, Godiva, or Neuhaus. But why? Shouldn’t something as wholesome, delicious, and universally loved as chocolate be an equalizer amongst us? The answers lie in the history of chocolate consumption itself, and its journey from popularity only amongst the European and North American elite, to that of the masses.

Shortly after European colonizers “discovered” cacao and its delicious byproducts, chocolate soon made its way into the hearts of the Spanish elites. Although the Spanish sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon, one thing remained unchanged: chocolate was still a delectable symbol of luxury, wealth and power. Chocolate was sipped by royal lips, and only Spanish elites could afford the expensive import. Chocolate soon spread to other elite circles throughout Europe, such as those in France and England, and the demand for it quickly became greater than that which was being brought over from the New World. In order for the pace of production to meet the increased demand, Europeans had to establish colonial plantations in equatorial regions around the world to grow cacao and sugar.

Chocolate was, in every sense, a fashionable thing throughout the 18th century and only became accessible to the lower classes with the invention of a cocoa press by a Dutch chemist in the early 1800s. The cocoa press revolutionized the way Europeans made, sold, and consumed chocolate. What was once a quite labor intensive process was now easily able to be conducted on a mass scale. The cocoa press could squeeze the fatty cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder that could be mixed with liquids and other ingredients, poured into molds and solidified into edible, easily digestible chocolate. The product became known as “Dutch cocoa” and soon led to the creation of solid chocolate.

Not long after, chocolate bars were being made and sold on a massive scale, and being enjoyed across all classes. Companies such as Cadbury, Mars and Hershey that ushered in a chocolate boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s that has yet to abate. In America, chocolate was so valued during the Revolutionary War that it was included in soldiers’ rations and used in lieu of wages. Today, the average American consumes 12 lbs. of chocolate each year, and more than $75 billion worldwide is spent on chocolate annually. Interestingly enough, most of what we would consider “chocolate” today tends to be made with significantly more sugar and extra additives than actual cacao.

Recently however, there’s been a new revolution in the world of chocolate: the craft food industry. Similar to its fallen brethren beer and coffee, chocolate has now begun to reverse course in its journey toward universally affordable and enjoyable. Although many artisanal brands claim an aspiration to change the chocolate industry for the better- sustainable, effective cacao farming and harvesting methods – the reality is that they have created another avenue by which class division and elitism can be fostered. Today, it is considered trendy and hip to side against Big Food corporations in favor of these homemade delicacies. This apparent rejection of candy as a commodity, with identical shapes and sizes, is also an embrace of candy as status symbol. After all, why spend a buck for a pack of M&Ms when you can spend twenty times that amount for a single bar?

While it is all well and good to pursue sustainability and support local farmers, it is also important for us as consumers to understand the societal implications of such endeavors. For all the faults of Big Food and mass production (and there are indeed many), we needn’t be so quick to forget the good that this production has done as well. In the U.S., chocolate is one of the few non-essential items nearly everyone can afford; 85 percent of consumers buy it. Whether we realize it or not, chocolate plays a massive role in our everyday lives, and we ought to think more critically about its history of exclusivity before we bemoan the incredible inclusivity we have with it today.

Works Cited:

  1. Fiegl, Amanda. A Brief History of Chocolate. Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.
  2. Kintzer, Brad. Inside The World Of Craft Chocolate. National Confectioners Association, http://www.candyusa.com/nca-news/cst/defining-craft-chocolate/.
  3. Klein, Christopher. “The Sweet History of Chocolate.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Feb. 2014, http://www.history.com/news/the-sweet-history-of-chocolate.
  4. Lindell, Crystal. “Mintel: U.S. Chocolate Market to Hit $25B in 2019.” Global Chocolate Report, Candy Industry, 9 June 2015, http://www.candyindustry.com/articles/86698-mintel-us-chocolate-market-to-hit-25b-in-2019.
  5. Shanker, Deena. Little Chocolate’s Big Moment. Bloomberg, 7 Feb. 2017, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-07/the-rise-of-craft-chocolate.

Chocolate Consumption and Societal Divides

Chocolate in Europe, brought to Spain originally from Mesoamerica in the 1500s, has amassed into a staple of almost everyone’s diet today. However, the history of chocolate consumption and its social constructs have expanded and changed over the centuries since chocolate’s first venture into Europe. Chocolate began as a drink, medicine, and eventually a snack “among the white-skinned, perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility of Europe” (Coe and Coe, 125). However, as time went on, and the price and availability of chocolate began to expand to beyond the upper circles of Europe, the elitism that surrounded chocolate still existed. Even today, when majority of people consume chocolate—often times in similar forms, for example as a bar or hot beverage—there still is a separation between chocolate for commoners and chocolate for the wealthy. How come even though there have been drastic consumption changes over the centuries, in quantity and form, there is still a strong social tension amongst different types of chocolate? By looking at the history of chocolate, it will become clearer that chocolate has always had societal divisions and it is merely impossible to fully break away from those constructs that are inherent to chocolate.

Chocolate for European Elites

In order to understand how consumption in Europe has and has not changed over the centuries, it is important to start at the beginning of chocolate in Europe. Once chocolate was brought over to Europe through Spain during the Renaissance, it was immediately viewed as for elites only— “it was in Baroque palaces and mansions of the wealthy and powerful that it was elaborated and consumed” (Coe and Coe, 125). While Spaniards more or less “stripped [the chocolate beverage] of the spiritual meaning” attached to it by the Aztec and Maya, they did start by consuming the beverage as a drug or medicine for healing (Coe and Coe, 126). This consumption was often matched with mix-ins custom to Spain and Europe, such as “atole and sugar” for a colder drink or “honey and hot water” for a more soothing hot beverage (Coe and Coe, 134).

However, this beverage was still strictly for the elites of Europe even once it started to spread throughout the continent. As time progressed, the royals started to create more recipes of chocolate beverages to be served to special guest, with a princess in 1679 recalling: “There was iced chocolate, another hot, and another with Milk and Eggs; one took it with a biscuit…besides this, they take it with so much pepper and so many spices” (Coe and Coe, 136). With the spread of popularity amongst chocolate beverages, there also were technical advances to enhance the experience. For example, the Spanish royals invented mancerina, a decorative saucer and small plate that helped avoid spills on fancy clothing (Coe and Coe, 134-5).

Spanish porcelain mancerina used by royalty to avoid spilling their chocolate beverages. The cocoa drink would be placed in the middle ring of the mancerina.

Sugar Becomes a Chocolate Equalizer

Skipping ahead, with the addition of sugar mass production, chocolate became a consumable good for almost everyone around Europe and the world, breaking down many original societal barriers. During the early 1800s, the British “national consumption [of sugar] was about 300 million pounds per year,” rising to over a billion pounds in 1852 as prices continued to drop (Mintz, 143). The addition of sugar allowed for chocolate to more easily become mass produced, creating more affordability and accessibility throughout Europe. By 1856, “sugar consumption was forty times higher than it had been only 150 years earlier,” allowing for everyone—wealthy and poor alike—to enjoy such treats in different forms (Mintz, 143).

1885 Cadbury advertisement markets towards the “public,” claiming their cocoa is “exhilarating, comforting, and sustaining” as well as “guaranteed absolutely pure.”

Sugar was a major success in creating access to chocolate throughout history, giving way for major chocolate companies such as Lindt and Cadbury to become the “producers of majority of the world’s chocolate” (Martin and Sampeck, 49). For the first time in history, chocolate was being consumed in similar forms at similar price points by both the wealthy and poor because of these large manufactures—arguably stripping away many societal differences inherent to chocolate by creating a consistent form of chocolate everyone could enjoy. However, as the prices decreased, the quality of chocolate also decreased, with many large manufacturers “even cutting out…the substance that gives quality to superior chocolates: cacao butter” (Coe and Coe, 257). As lower quality chocolate created by major companies became a staple of poorer and working-class citizens, the elites often would opt to fly to specific regions of Europe—such as Switzerland or Belgium—to indulge in their high-quality chocolate from chocolatiers (Coe and Coe, 258). Therefore, even though sugar allowed for some narrowing of the social constructs surrounding chocolate, there was still a market for superior forms that are only accessible for a wealthier audience.

Still a Divide with Chocolate Today

Today, chocolate still holds of great importance to many peoples’ lives, with chocolate consumptions estimates for 2018/2019 at 7.7 million tons globally (“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide,” Statista). However, even with the advances in chocolate consumption over the many centuries, there are still similar societal constraints around chocolate. While the different forms of chocolate are often times similar amongst upper and lower classes—ranging from hot beverages or bars to baked goods—the quality and price ranges can heavily vary, instilling a separation and exclusivity in societal groups that existed even in the 1500s when chocolate was introduced to Europe. For example, the range in quality of chocolate products is vast: there exist fair trade chocolate sourced in more humane manners, specific species of cacao pods with better characteristics and richer flavors, granulated texture differences, and even different percentages of cacao in chocolate mixtures. One can go to a deluxe chocolatier shop somewhere in Switzerland or Belgium and purchase extreme, rare examples of certain types of chocolate—frequently at higher prices. However, these levels of chocolate are often inaccessible to others of not a higher social class because they require having more money and the ability to reach the areas where superior-quality chocolate is created—such as expensive regions in Switzerland. For these other social groups, the desire for chocolate could still be just as strong, but the more realistic options are to purchase mass-produced chocolate, such as Hershey’s chocolate bars or M&Ms, that are often associated with quick, convenient snacks that are affordable.

This social distinction around chocolate exists even in Harvard Square today, where one could purchase a quality, single source hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick from specific locations such as Ecuador (with an “earthy finish”) or Madagascar (with “fruity notes”) at a starting price of $5.50 (“Single Source Drinking Chocolate.” L.A. Burdick). On the other hand, one could instead go to CVS in Harvard Square and purchase a 10 pack of Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix for $2.79, averaging $0.28 per serving (“Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix.” CVS). There is clearly an audience for both choices, but the more accessible version is at CVS because it is drastically more affordable and easily accessible at any CVS around the world, while L.A. Burdick is a specialty chocolate shop with a much higher price point and only a few locations. So even though there have been major advances in chocolate and the levels of consumption over the last few centuries—including the expansion of different forms of consumptions and the spread of accessibility beyond the upper-class nobilities—there still persists a divide when it comes to chocolate today.

Based on the history of chocolate, it seems unlikely that societal constructs around chocolate will ever completely disappear because there will always be a market for better quality, more elaborate chocolate consumption as well as affordable, accessible chocolate. However, as the interest in “fine flavor” chocolate continues to grow in more recent decades, then more “small-batch chocolate companies” will begin to come around “with a heavy focus on batch production, flavor, quality, and perceived ethical sourcing of raw ingredients,” creating more access and maybe eventually lower prices of higher quality product for everyone to enjoy (Martin and Sampeck, 54). While the future is uncertain, one steadfast is that chocolate will still be present in most peoples’ lives because of its unifying, joyous, cherished qualities that impact people on a daily basis—no matter one’s social rank.

Works Cited

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

“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide, 2012/13-2018/19 | Statistic.” Statista, Statista, Nov. 2015, http://www.statista.com/statistics/238849/global-chocolate-consumption/.

Martin, Carla D., and Sampeck, Kathryn E. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3, 2016, pp. 37–60., doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.

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

“Single Source Drinking Chocolate.” L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolate, http://www.burdickchocolate.com/DrinkingChocolate/single-source-drinking-chocolate.aspx.

“Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix.” CVS, http://www.cvs.com/shop/swiss-miss-milk-chocolate-flavor-hot-cocoa-mix-prodid-828715?skuid=828715.

Multimedia Sources

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Anonymous, Interior of a London Coffee-house, 17th century. Wikimedia Commons, 6 August 2013, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Interior_of_a_London_Coffee-house,_17th_century.JPG. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Daderot. Talavera mancerina (chocolate cup holder), ceramic – Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas – Madrid, Spain. Wikimedia Commons, 10 October 2014, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Talavera_mancerina_(chocolate_cup_holder),ceramicMuseo_Nacional_de_Artes_DecorativasMadrid,_Spain-_DSC08143.JPG. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Lam, Willis. Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa. Flickr, 2 December 2014, https://www.flickr.com/photos/85567416@N03/15826425118/in/photolist-q7wyNA-4Vi3xj-2c1quQF-bAR6UB-5KXJTX-4uvVPN-e14Lxw-8Wa8AZ-nLpJvi-Cbm1VF-dqASpX-2ampJbb-Rd9TCh-2bZA3Mz-2bZ2eHi-RetAk7-7jSCz3-8h4wTf-bAqsAk-LuMes-2dotp4v-oRr31-axSjhw-98qkXu-ihJDzj-227rKBA-i2LSJm-iupoqe-5ro6Ux-HxgKn6-7qkecG-8WYapy-2ch8p7d-PkuWzx-hjPRMw-4m3SWK-2dfdft2-2cggZSf-PzRfGR-2chxsFj-2cg2pA7-Rft18y-PBbapT-PASK2P-3k8YWU-CDyBre-2dhZJb5-2diX3ZC-ReRqrL-9Sp3i. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Phelan, John. L A Burdick Chocolate, Walpole NH. Wikimedia Commons, 26 April 2014, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:L_A_Burdick_Chocolate,_Walpole_NH.jpg. Accessed 11 March 2019.