Imagining a childhood without the sweet taste of a Hershey’s bar proves unfathomable: Chocolate lines the shelves of every convenience store while entire holidays have become synonymous with the consumption of chocolate products. In other words, chocolate is everywhere and loved by everyone. However, chocolate did not always represent a cherished staple found in every household. From the advent of chocolate beverages in Mesoamerica to the sophisticated chocolate houses of seventeenth-century Europe, chocolate constituted an experience only afforded by the very rich, powerful, and influential. As much a status symbol as a food to be enjoyed, chocolate remained a bastion of society’s elite until the inception of cost-reducing machinery of the Industrial Revolution. During the Industrial Revolution, breakthroughs in the manufacture of chocolate transformed cocoa from a beverage consumed exclusively by the upper class to a mass-produced commodity of every socioeconomic status.
To fully appreciate chocolate’s rise to widespread popularity, its exclusive origins amongst society’s elite cannot be overlooked. As described by anthropologists Sophie and Michael Coe, “for at least 28 centuries, chocolate had been a drink of the elite and the very rich” (Coe 232). Indeed, the Maya – who mostly consumed chocolate in its liquid form – served cocoa during feasts for the political and economic elite as a display of power and wealth. Viewed as a food of the gods, the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs regarded chocolate, and particularly chocolate foam, as a status symbol amongst wealthy merchants and nobility (Leissle 30–31). Moreover, once trade introduced cocoa to European society, chocolate remained a staple among the elite as a “validation of social position” due to its high production costs and laborious manufacturing process (Mintz 90). Spanish royalty craved chocolate, even crafting ornate dishware such as the mancerina solely for the consumption of liquid chocolate (Coe 137). By the late seventeenth century, chocolate houses became well-established all throughout European cities, serving aristocrats, upper class individuals, and eventually, those seeking to discuss society’s most contentious political issues (Coe 210). Thus, chocolate became cemented amongst Europe’s elite as the only social class able to afford the new commodity.
Van Houten’s invention of the hydraulic press in 1828 revolutionized the manufacturing process of chocolate, driving consumption across socioeconomic levels. Prior to Houten’s hydraulic press, manufacturers manually boiled and skimmed cacao butter from chocolate in a time-consuming and expensive process. In response, Houten invented a powerful hydraulic press that pulverized cacao butter out of chocolate, leaving a solid cake of grindable cocoa powder. This much more efficient process, known as defatting, reduced production costs and made the solid consumption of chocolate easier in cakes, ice creams, and biscuits (Coe 242). Additionally, Houten introduced the process of “Dutching,” which utilized alkaline salts to improve cocoa powder’s miscibility in water. Dutching also made the powder darker in color, leading many consumers to believe it possessed a stronger chocolate flavor (Leissle 55). This defatting and alkalizing method simplified cocoa production and led to the “large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses, in both powdered and solid form” (Coe 242). Overall, Houten’s innovative production reduced manufacturing costs, which in turn allowed more widespread consumption of chocolate outside the upper class.
The firm of J.S. Fry & Sons’ breakthrough discovery in 1847 introduced the first solid chocolate fully intended for eating, rather than drinking. Following Van Houten’s invention of the hydraulic press, much more cacao butter could be separated from cocoa than ever before. Francis Fry and Joseph Storrs Fry capitalized on this increased production of cacao butter in their invention of the Chocolat Délicieux à Manger, or more commonly, the “chocolate bar.” To create chocolate bars, the Fry firm invented a way to mix cocoa powder and sugar with cacao butter from Houten’s defatting process. By mixing cocoa powder with cacao butter as opposed to warm water, Fry could produce a thinner paste capable of being molded into chocolate bars (Coe 243). While a short-term high demand for cacao butter concentrated solid chocolate bar consumption amongst the wealthy, the price of cocoa powder plummeted, placing chocolate well “within the reach of the masses” (Coe 242). Nonetheless, Houten’s hydraulic press and Fry’s mixing techniques allowed for the mass-production of chocolate, causing a substantial reduction in price that dramatically increased chocolate consumption (Alberts and Cidell 123). Consequently, chocolate no longer constituted a bastion of European elites to symbolize their wealth, but rather, progressed towards becoming a household staple.
Revelations in Switzerland revamped chocolate from a bitter and gritty product into a smooth and varied decadence. Although the Englishman Nicholas Sanders first combined milk with chocolate in 1727, his product did not constitute “milk chocolate” per se, but rather, a beverage mixing chocolate liquor with hot milk (Coe 249). The chocolate industry could not produce true milk chocolate as they lacked a design that prevented dairy from spoiling (Alberts and Cidell 124). In 1867, however, Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé discovered how to create milk powder via evaporation. In collaboration with the Swiss chocolate manufacturer Daniel Peter, the two men combined Nestlé’s powder with cacao butter to produce the first true milk chocolate bar. Perhaps, more importantly, Rudolph Lindt significantly improved the quality of chocolate with his invention of “conching” in 1879 (Alberts and Cidell 124). A traditional conche used heavy granite rollers to grind cocoa and sugar mixtures into small particles that produced smoother chocolate with intensified flavor. As a result, the conching process induced a boom in worldwide chocolate popularity and soon became a standard procedure in the industry (Coe 250–51). Therefore, Swiss inventions of the late nineteenth-century heightened chocolate popularity (and consumption) through the emergence of milk chocolate and a final product with smoother texture.
Industrial Revolution developments in chocolate production culminated in the application of the assembly line. Perhaps, Milton S. Hershey’s chocolate empire represents the most sophisticated implementation of the chocolate assembly line. Described as “the Henry Ford of Chocolate Makers,” Milton Hershey established a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania calibrated for mass-production (Coe 253). Without the hydraulic press, conche, powdered milk, and other mechanistic breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution, Hershey would not have been able to adopt machinery for the widespread production of standardized chocolate recipes. The efficiency of the assembly line – made possible by the Industrial Revolution – dramatically increased production of chocolate, helping offset manufacturing costs and boost consumption across socioeconomic levels. For instance, by the late 1920s, Hershey’s factory produced about 50,000 pounds of cocoa every day (Coe 256). As such, the adoption of a mechanized assembly line increased efficiency and production while creating chocolates of identical taste, texture, and quality for all of society.
Chocolate, as it is known today, would have never been possible without the manufacturing breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution. Lindt’s conche introduced the smooth texture of chocolate loved throughout the world while Houten’s alkalization process paved the way for Oreo to become “milk’s favorite cookie.” More importantly, Houten’s hydraulic press, Fry’s mixing techniques, and Hershey’s assembly line have allowed chocolate to become adored by all of society regardless of socioeconomic status. Thanks to these major breakthroughs, chocolate has transcended social disparities, making the world just a tad sweeter.
For my final multimedia essay, I chose the topic of visiting a retail shop such as CVS, and explaining what I can learn from this section. What I noticed when I walked from work to the Harvard Square CVS not too far from my walk home, was that the section wasn’t that large and most of the chocolates that were being presented were Ghirardelli. When viewing the section, I noticed the sign which said “Premium chocolates’ and as I viewed closer I noticed that the Ghirardelli chocolates came in different varieties. There were chocolates that were in different percentages of cocoa. They ranged from 78%, which is a weird percentage to 85 and 90%. The chocolates also were diverse because some of them that were being sold were white chocolate with coconut, while others were either dark chocolate or chocolate mixed with nuts such as almonds, hazelnut and cranberries. The prices were also another factor when I was observing this small section. Most of the chocolates that were on display had a 2 for 6 option while most of the chocolates were about $5. The section where the chocolates were displayed was next to the fridge area in CVS where most of the frozen foods are. It was also next to the snack aisle where there were tons of donuts, popcorn and other sweet foods. The other side of the premium chocolate section had chocolates that were all mostly Ghirardelli that had chocolates that were nearing $6 but there was a sale going on that made all of the chocolates “buy one get one 50% off”. I believe the chocolates were very inexpensive because the companies have to tend to their audience. Not everyone wants to buy expensive chocolate.
Here is a picture of the Premium Chocolates Section:
The History of Ghirardelli
Why is Ghirardelli such an important brand in chocolate history? Well first, Ghirardelli was first founded in 1852 in San Francisco, California. It is currently the third oldest chocolate company in the U.S. and was founded by the Italian Chocolatier Domenico Ghirardelli. The company has their business partner company, Lindt & Sprungli which is their parent company. Since the company’s start, they have been working on new techniques and different technologies to remain at the forefront of chocolate consumer brands. “The shop has experimented with a variety of products, including a line of alcoholic beverages until 1871, and a variety of goods like coffee, spices, and even mustard throughout the years. Innovation became tradition throughout the company – in 1867 a Ghirardelli employee discovered a flavor-enhancing technique that would eventually become widely used throughout the chocolate industry. Ghirardelli became one of the first American companies to tap into advertising strategies in order to gain popularity, and one of the first to include cacao content on labels to help discerning consumers select the perfect taste (Holcomb, Courtney. “A Brief History Of Ghirardelli Chocolate.” Culture Trip).”
I believe this company is trying to be the main consumer for chocolate because based on learning the classes lectures, about 200 years ago Americans only ate about 2 pounds of sugar a year. Studies from 1970 show that Americans ate even more sugar as the data increased and showed that Americans ate about 123 pounds a year. Today, the average amount Americans consume of sugar is now 152 pounds a year. In 2017, American consumers spent a whopping $22 billion on chocolate, averaging at around 12 pounds per person. America has been well known considering how much they love sweets and how commercials and marketing play a big role.
Chocolate History from Lectures
In 1879, Rudolph Linte, was the first to invent the conching process in Switzerland. This is major in chocolate history because conching helps with increasing viscosity in order to process the chocolate. “In the majority of chocolate manufacturing plants, the conche is preceded by a roll refiner or a hammer mill. These grind the chocolate mass to produce a crumbly paste or powder. One of the main aims of conching is to produce the optimum viscosity for the subsequent processing. The actual viscosity can be reduced by adding more fat, but as the price of the fat is frequently several times that of the other ingredients in the chocolate, this in turn increases the cost of the product. The aim, therefore, becomes one of obtaining the optimum viscosity at the lowest practical/legal fat content (Beckett, S. (2017). Conching).”
Chocolate Company’s Strengths
A lot of a chocolate company’s strength is definitely marketing and publicity There has been this stigma that anything sweet, and attractive to the tongue is good, and that’s what a lot of chocolate companies have marketed themselves to be. That’s why during certain events such as Easter, companies thrive during those times because they take advantage of the sweet equals good stigma because of the easter marketing standards for kids. Most kids for Easter always go easter egg hunting, and usually what’s in the eggs are chocolate or some sweet. Chocolate companies take advantage over holidays like Easter and Halloween because that helps with their revenue.
Ghirardelli has been so successful that they have their own square in San Francisco, California. In 1893, Domenico Ghirardelli purchased a whole block, so he can make the Ghirardelli headquarters. In the early 1960’s it was sold to a macaroni company and was letter repurchased in 1962. His mother, William M. Roth purchased the land so it wouldn’t be used to create a new apartment complex. “The Roths hired landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and the firm Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons to convert the square and its historic brick structures to an integrated restaurant and retail complex, the first major adaptive re-use project in the United States. It opened in 1964. In 1965, Benjamin Thompson and Associates Renovated the lower floor of the Clock Tower, keeping the existing architectural elements, for a Design Research store.The lower floors of the Clock Tower are now home to Ghirardelli Square’s main chocolate shop. In order to preserve Ghirardelli Square for future generations, the Pioneer Woolen Mills and D. Ghirardelli Company was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 (“Ghirardelli Square.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation).” This company is so well respected and well known, that a whole entire block was dedicated to the company’s main focus, chocolate.
Why is Dark Chocolate so special?
The french are known for eating dark chocolate as a treat, but why? Are there certain benefits towards eating dark chocolate or is it just well known for being such a good treat? During the chocolate production process, to increase the appeal of chocolate, most times the chocolate is processed even further which in turn makes the chocolate lose key ingredients that can be beneficial to our body. For example there is a type of processing of chocolate called Dutch processing and that makes the chocolate lighter. This sucks out all the key ingredients that make chocolate, chocolate. That’s why most companies add tons of sugar in their chocolate bars to make it more appealing to consumers. “And to make milk chocolate, candy makers really do add milk solids, which include saturated fats. According to FDA standards, American milk chocolate can contain as little as 10% cocoa, and the agency is debating a proposal to allow candy makers to substitute vegetable oil for cocoa butter. Bottom line: processing may make chocolate look lighter and taste sweeter, but it also removes healthy ingredients and adds harmful ones (‘Chocolate and your health: Guilty pleasure or terrific treat?).”
Statistics on Chocolate
After reading an article from Rodman media, I noticed that more than 70% of chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is more healthier than white chocolate. “The latest research from Mintel revealed that for just more than half (51%) of all adult consumers, the favorite type of plain chocolate is milk chocolate, followed by 35% who favor dark chocolate and About 73% of all chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is healthier than milk varieties. 8% who prefer white chocolate. In contrast, Mintel’s 2011 report found that 57% of consumers favored milk chocolate and 33% of consumers preferred dark chocolate. Some 46% of men age 55+ and 48% of women over age 55 favor dark chocolate, followed by 38% of men that prefer milk and 40% of women that also prefer milk. These numbers are indicative of the trend toward the increasing favor for dark chocolate. Indeed, 73% of all chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is healthier (‘Dark Chocolate Gains Favor Thanks to Health Benefits’ (2013) Nutraceuticals).”
Chocolate companies such as Ghirardelli always make sure that they have different rudiments of cocoa flavor so that there is a variety of taste in each chocolate bar. Usually the more cocoa, the more expensive the chocolate is towards the consumer. I believe that sugar and other ingredients that make the chocolate taste more appealing, cheapen the chocolate itself. The more natural the chocolate is , the more untouched and less processed, the more bitter taste it has. That’s why dark chocolate is healthier for chocolate eaters than milk chocolate is. In one of the lecture slides from class, I witnessed a list of different odor active volatiles in cocoa mass. This shows what each odorant is and how their odour quality would be, the qualities range from a malty quality to a fruity one. There are a lot of factors incorporated with cocoa, and its key that all industrial companies follow the many rules in order to have a better consumer base.
Picture of the rudiments of cocoa flavor:
In conclusion, I believe that one of America’s oldest brands, takes pride in their industrialization of cocoa and how it should be manufactured. By investigating the chocolate section at my nearest CVS, I noticed the different brands in the regular chocolate section VS. the premium chocolate section . I realized the different percentages of cocoa in each chocolate bar and researched the effects of dark chocolate VS. white chocolate. I found it interesting how much Ghirardelli was displayed at the CVS and how there were many buy one get one 50% off deals. I dug deeper into the history of Ghirardelli along with the company’s strengths on consumers which showed me there’s a lot more to chocolate than just manufacturing it. More factors would include, marketing and knowing what your consumers like or don’t like. While researching this company I also learned a lot by viewing past lectures and how they related tremendously to the company and how they process their chocolates. Certain holidays mean a lot as well because in America, chocolate and sugar has been a known ingredient to use in basic cooking ingredients. And a lot of companies used that stigma to take advantage of the use of chocolate. I learned a lot based on the prominence of cocoa and how there is a lot to process before the chocolate is being sold in certain stores. The history of chocolate related to the history of Ghirardelli and other brands because of their processing system and how they plan on improving their company in various ways.
Holcomb, Courtney. “A Brief History Of Ghirardelli Chocolate.” Culture Trip, 1 Dec. 2016, theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/california/articles/a-brief-history-of-ghirardelli-chocolate/.
Beckett, S. (2017). Conching. In Beckett’s Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use (pp. 241-273). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
“Ghirardelli Square.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Mar. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghirardelli_Square.
Chocolate is an exceptionally human product. When one observes a cacao pod next to a bar of chocolate, it turns strikingly clear that the contents of a cacao pod must have undergone significant transformations before taking the shape and taste of a chocolate bar. And all of these transformations are inherently at the mercy of human decisions. As a matter of fact,“during nine tenths of its long history, chocolate was drunk, not eaten,” (Coe and Coe, 12). But, humans eventually metamorphosed chocolate back into a solid. To gain any insight on the present state of the chocolate industry, it is therefore essential to focus on the engagement between humans and chocolate. Hence, interviewing a Brazilian woman was an ideal, taken opportunity to better understand a 21st-century individual’s relationship with chocolate, the role chocolate plays on the individual’s life, and how chocolate’s significance may or may not have changed over time. Among other important themes, the interview leads to a two-faced thesis thatthe qualitative aspects of chocolate and its production are more dependent than ever on the desires of the consumers (the demand side of the market), and that cultural preferences and tastes for chocolate have changed.
Taking on the pseudonym “Marcela,” the subject of this interview has consumed chocolate all her life. As a child, Marcela had a preference for sweet, chocolaty treats. Today, Marcela consumes only dark chocolate, usually the 70% Lindt chocolate bar. Transitioning from sweet, cheaper chocolates to darker, more expensive chocolates, Marcela said she developed a more refined taste as she got older. But, while her tastes for chocolate changed over time, she thinks she remained hooked to chocolate mostly because of the addictive caffeine and sugar it contains. Discussing the contents of chocolates, Marcela actually was aware of the presence of flavonoids, which she thought to be “good for the heart.” Cacao contains hundreds of compounds, one of which is the antioxidant flavonoid compound, quercetin, “known to have not only antioxidant but also anti-inflammatory activity,” (Coe and Coe, 31). Since the Olmec civilization, cacao has indeed been associated with medical benefits, but also it has served as a sacred symbol, supposed aphrodisiac, source of energy and strength, unit of currency, and congregational drink. Today, though not all the potential benefits from the complex chemical structure of cacao are understood, at least dark chocolate can be recommended as a healthier alternative to sweeter, milky chocolates. Marcela revealed that the primary reason why she stopped eating sweet, milk-containing chocolate was because she took a conscious decision to regulate her sugar and fat intake.
Interestingly, Marcela drew a parallel between her consumption of chocolate and coffee: Both contain caffeine, and she does not go a day without either of them. Moreover, one should add that not only do chocolate and coffee contain caffeine in common, but they also each contain one more alkaloid (methylxanthine), theobromine and trigonelline, respectively. Marcela came to the conclusion that a piece of dark chocolate and a cup of coffee are like substitute goods for her: hence, in a kind of tradeoff between chocolate and coffee, she notices that she consumes more of one when she reduces the consumption of the other, and vice-versa. This characteristic of the demand side could have significant implications for the supply side of the markets of chocolate and coffee.
If coffee and dark chocolate were indeed substitute goods, and consumers behaved like Marcela, in theory the cross-price elasticity of demand should always be positive (Hayes). Since chocolate’s caffeine is addictive, people tend to be less sensitive to changes in its price. But, if coffee is a kind of substitute for chocolate, the demand for chocolate could perhaps be less inelastic than previously thought. So, ceteris paribus, if for instance dark chocolate’s price were to increase, some of the consumers could consume more coffee instead, and the relative strength of this substitution could impact the profitability and survival of the chocolate business. Unfortunately, cacao trees are pickier than humans when it comes to survival in the environment they live in, and cacao trees are very susceptible to diseases, too.
With climate change, and the potential variation of temperatures and humidity away from the desirable conditions for cacao to prosper, cacao producers may gradually have to transition away from cacao and into other crop plantations. Interestingly, some of this transition away from cacao in some regions may be partially offset by flexible businesses like Mayorga Organics. One of their food scientists, Melanie, mentioned in a lecture to college students in Massachusetts that Mayorga Organics is transitioning from coffee production to cacao production due to global warming. Meanwhile, large chocolate companies are investing in genetic modification as an alternative: In September 2018, “the 35 billion dollar corporation [Mars] pledged $1 billion as part of a plan to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 60 percent or more by 2050,” (Vandette, Kate). Plus, Mars and UC Berkeley are collaborating in the exploration of gene editing by using CRISPR technology, as supported by an account in the World Economic Forum, (Brodwin, Erin).
Consumers today are surprisingly more educated about supply chain issues than they used to be. But how much do consumers know about the factors of production involved in the chocolate business, and how much do they care? During a significant period in history, both crops of cacao and coffee were dependent on human enslavement as a source of labor. Having visited cacao farms in Brazil before, Marcela knew that today the initial stages in the production process are still very manual, with no machinery; in big chocolate businesses the next parts are more industrialized. She remembered the strong smell she scented when walking in the shade of seemingly randomly-sorted cacao trees, and the humid tropical weather which makes her skin sticky. Today, in the typical production process of chocolate from bean to bar, there are several steps and technological components involved: machetes are generally used in the hand-labor-intensive harvesting of cacao pods within 20 degrees from north and 20 degrees south of the equator; extracted beans are fermented, dried, sorted and bagged, roasted, potentially Alkali-processed, winnowed, ground; pressing (in a hydraulic press) and conching happen last (Coe and Coe, 19). A chocolate bar may be complemented with additives such as milk, sugar, salt, pepper, other spices, nuts, or fruits, too.
Though Marcela might know a bit more than the average person about the process of chocolate, on an ordinary day she does not interrupt her chocolate eating to think of all the work which happens behind the scenes, before she purchases the packaged, final product at a supermarket. Even while Marcela was well-aware of the sad demise of cacao farms in Brazil affected by the witches’ broom disease, she was not aware that there are still concerns regarding illegal kinds of child labor found today in cacao farms, including some in Brazil (for example, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H6088tpE8c and https://vimeo.com/332509945). Fortunately, Brazil has several programs for whistleblowing on child labor, and some are focused on publishing the names of those who need to be held accountable for. There are also several certifications through which companies may commit to avoid child labor. But, when it comes to chocolate production, it is a true endeavor to detect and regulate child labor in rural settings with weak infrastructure and limited access to technology, like Medicilândia in Pará, Brazil. Yet again, this is the time in history where consumers have perhaps the biggest say on supply than ever.
Millennials account for approximately one fourth of the world population, and play an increasingly significant role in the establishment of consumer trends. As a matter of fact, in the U.S., Millennials amount to the largest consumer group ever in the history of the country (Das Moumita, 76). Millennials are exerting their power through demands for more socially and environmentally sustainable processes (The Nielsen Company). Hence, moving forward, they are expected to continue having an important role in impacting the supply chain processes for chocolate production all around the world.
The targeting of the Millennial audience is already present in a very recent innovation – a “fourth” kind of chocolate. In her interview, Marcela mentioned that during Easter she read about a newly-created “Ruby Chocolate” in a section of the newspapers on palate. It is important to note that Easter is a very important in Brazil not just because the holiday has a large following population, but also because the nation as a whole adopted the custom of creating and consuming chocolate eggs during Easter. Regardless of the religious affiliations they may associate themselves with or without, Brazilians consume large quantities of chocolate during Easter. So, when Marcela set out to buy some Easter eggs, she decided to try Callebaut’s new chocolate:
“After dark, milk, and white chocolate, the ruby chocolate is the most incredible discovery of the last 80 years! // It is a new experience of flavor and color, obtained from ruby cacao almonds. With pink coloration and fruity, slightly acidic flavor, the ruby has unique characteristics which come from ingredients naturally present in cacao, without artificial coloring or flavoring. // The almonds of ruby cacao are found in diverse producing regions in the world, like Ecuador, Ivory Coast and even Brazil. // The authentic Belgian ruby chocolate of Callebaut is done with cacao cultivated in a sustainable manner, and its sales contribute with programs supporting cacao farmers and their families. // [In pink font] Give in to this experience and discover the color and flavor of ruby, the pink chocolate of Callebaut.”
This picture Marcela took provides a great opportunity to analyze the marketing strategy of the company. The first line of the propaganda markets ruby chocolate as a brand new, innovative product by placing it as “the most incredible discovery of the last 80 years.” This is probably especially attractive to Millenials, who are all about market disruptions. The choice of pink coloration is an interesting way to contrast with the tones of brown chocolate and white chocolates that consumers are used to. Perhaps it is a way to further target women, given the stereotypical association of pink with women. Plus, the possibility that this ruby chocolate is targeting women would actually make sense in the larger context of chocolate advertisements: if observed closely, many of the video advertisements for chocolates usually use the figure of a woman. In fact, the chocolate gift-giving culture overarchingly centers around men giving women chocolate – take Valentine’s day for example. So, with its pink coloring, ruby chocolate does seem to fit in this more general tendency to focus on attracting the more feminine consumers. This appeal to the status quo, or cultural recurrence, is then followed by a reference to the sources for the raw cacao materials in this chocolate bar. With strict adherence to the words used, one might be consuming ruby chocolate made with cacao from the Ivory Coast (the world’s largest cacao producer) or Ecuador, but the inclusion of Brazil as a source among these others may sway the Brazilian consumer towards thinking that ruby chocolate is actually Brazilian. That is thus a clever strategy to attract Brazilian consumers. This aspect of nationalism is also seen in the selling of the product as Belgian, which prompts the reputation of Belgium as a competent, quality chocolate producer. The next complement is again an appeal especially to Millennials: “The authentic Belgian ruby chocolate of Callebaut is done with cacao cultivated in a sustainable manner, and its sales contribute with programs supporting cacao farmers and their families.” With that, Callebaut leverages its social and environmental causes, without necessarily pinpointing exactly what these programs do, how effective they are, or what “a sustainable manner” means. The final phrase, in pink, circles back to the theme of women in chocolate media while also hinting at a sensual tension with chocolate through the imperative command, “give in.”
Regarding the actual experience Marcela had tasting the ruby chocolate, she reported that she did indeed feel a more fruity, citric taste. In her case, it turns out that she did not really enjoy that acidic feel. Taste is really something personal, as each individual consumer has his/her own particular preferences. Marcela likely would have preferred the taste of a chocolate with greater alkali (Dutch) processing, which reduces acidity and darkens the color of chocolate.
With the generous amount of time devoted by this interviewee in sharing her experiences with chocolate, two important insights stand out. First is a confirmation of the increasingly important say of consumers in the chocolate market. Second is the realization that cultural preferences and tastes for chocolate have changed over time. The adoption of cacao in different cultures, with changing preferences of taste, coupled with technological innovations meant the world could eventually reap the benefits of democratization and widespread consumption of chocolate. At the heart of the expansion of the chocolate market is the critically important increase in the social and economic power of women as consumers. Meanwhile, more sophisticated machinery and methods of processing further viabilized mass chocolate consumption and the rise of big chocolate industries.
Just as Marcela the interviewee changed her preferences from childhood to adulthood, so did the world’s consumers in a longer run. Today it is no longer common to see cacao beans used as barter currency, or to have chocolate drinks before going to war in ritual of Aztec warriors. Instead, chocolate is now more popularly consumed in a solid state, is frequently sweetened and mixed with milk, and is often purchased as a gift; the stereotypical gift-giving of chocolate is associated with a woman on the receiving end. Plus, cacao fruits themselves might be induced to change in the human led effort to genetically modify them, increase yields, improve immunity to diseases, and sustain the supply in the midst of climate change.
More than 2 centuries ago, John Phillips, founder of Phillips Exeter Academy, claimed that “[…] goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.” The truth in these words has not changed. But, the relationship between humans and chocolate certainly has, and is constantly subject to alteration. So, looking into the future, change is the one thing people can be certain about. Hopefully, change shall come for the better, under the influence of both knowledge and goodness, together.
Ashihara, Hiroshi. “Metabolism of Alkaloids in Coffee Plants.” Brazilian Journal of Plant Physiology, vol. 18, no. 1, Mar. 2006, pp. 1–8. Crossref, doi:10.1590/S1677-04202006000100001.
São Tomé, and its sister
island Príncipe, were once the biggest producers of cacao in the world. Over
the last half century, however, cacao farming there collapsed. Today, the
farmers of São Tomé are working to regenerate the country’s reputation, but
this time with a focus on quality cacao rather than just quantity.
Visiting São Tomé and Príncipe
today, one would find islands of incredible beauty. Yet, one would also see
inactive and ruined “roças”, showing an architectural and economic vitality of
the past that no longer exists.
Once the World’s Leading Cacao Producer
Back in 1913, despite
being Africa’s second smallest country, São Tomé & Príncipe was the world’s
largest producer of cacao, thus nicknamed the “Chocolate Islands”. More
than a century has passed since the small West African twin island state held that title.
Though a global demand for craft chocolate along with investments from Fair
Trade companies have put São Tomé & Príncipe back on the chocolate map, it
is rather unlikely that the tiny West African country will ever compete on an
international scale again.
Over the last century,
global demand for cacao to produce chocolate for global consumption has grown
immensely. With a surface area of 1,001 square kilometers and a population of approximately
200,000, the Portuguese-speaking country would not be able to cope with the
high volume of cacao needed by the global chocolate industry (World Bank,
One hundred years ago,
when São Tomé & Príncipe emerged as the world’s leading cacao producer, the
country had an annual output 36,500 tons per year, representing 12 percent of
world production (Schwarz, 1932). Today, the world leading cacao grower is the
Ivory Coast, producing around 2 million tons, with global output at over 4
million tons, according to the International Cocoa Organization (2019). Comparing
those figures, it is evident that São Tomé & Príncipe has been displaced
from the top spot it attained in 1913, predominantly due to the rapid surge in
cacao cultivation and output over the last century.
Today’s leading cacao
producers, the Ivory Coast and Ghana, not only have more land, but also a
higher population with more experienced farmers, more financial resources, as
well as international support than São Tomé & Príncipe could ever bring
together, thus making it implausible for the country to return to the number
one spot in world cacao production.
According to the World
Bank (2019), “the limited number of people and workers in the country often
prevent the efficient production of goods and services at the scale needed to
meet the demand of both local and export markets.” It further states that since
the country’s independence in 1975, agriculture production has declined and is
no longer the main driver of economic growth. Today, however, agricultural
goods, especially cacao, still constitute the bulk of the country’s export
(World Bank, 2019).
A Bittersweet History
After 1450, São Tomé
& Príncipe was one of the leading suppliers of sugar, however, it was
ultimately a different crop that would transform its politics and demographics
many centuries later (Mintz, 1986). Cacao trees were first planted in the
country around 1822, when José Ferreira Gomes brought cacao seedlings from
Brazil, introducing the crop as an ornamental plant (Schwarz, 1932). Approximately
1.5 metric tons of cacao were exported from the main island only twenty years
later (Schwarz, 1932). By then, cacao had already replaced sugar cane as the
primary crop. A few decades later, by the early 1900s, Portuguese colonizers
were reveling in the fact that they had turned the small island into the
biggest producer and exporter of cacao. Sending heavy volumes of the crop to
Bourneville, London, Liverpool, and Hamburg, São Tomé & Príncipe was
clearly transforming the world’s cacao market. With exports bound for major
European chocolate manufacturers like Cadbury Brothers, JS Fry & Sons and
Rowntrees & Co., the islands became famous in the global market with its cacao
and coffee outputs (Schwarz, 1932).
Global demand for cacao
was increasing and business was booming – a feat that could only be achieved
through the labor of about 20,000 slaves.
Toward the end of the
19th century, William Cadbury, of Cadbury chocolate, began to investigate the
supply chain of the cacao his company purchased (Kiesow, 2017). The
investigation led by Henry Nevinson happened due to allegations that the
British chocolate company was using slave-grown cacao (Higgs, 2013).
With the revelation of
slave workers on cacao plantations, Western consumers reacted with shock and
disgust and much of the production moved from São Tomé to the plantations of
Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which did not make use of slave labor. As Ghana and
the Ivory Coast had increased their cacao production to meet demand, many of
the plantations in São Tomé were unable to sustain themselves. In 1975, after
the country’s eventual independence, the once glorious plantations were
completely neglected across the islands and subsequently, the cacao industry
fell into disrepair (Leissle, 2018).
colonial rule, production on the islands was dominated by a system of
plantations known as roças (estates). A hundred years later, the colonial
buildings still stand, but like the cacao industry, they are a far cry from what
they once were.
After independence, in
1975, collapsing global prices and a lack of investment saw the pinnacle of São
Tomé’s cacao-coated boom slowly melt away. Today, the roças lie in atmospheric
ruins, with the jungle having now reclaimed many of the former plantations.
Nationalization of Cacao Plantations
With the revelation of slave workers on cocoa plantations,
which caused uproar in Europe and elsewhere, the cacao industry in São Tomé & Príncipe began
to go under. The two world wars also affected the revitalization of plantations
for cacao and coffee in São Tomé & Príncipe. Shortly after its independence
in 1975, the government of the tiny West African country announced the
nationalization of the cacao plantation complex, which allowed previous workers
to own pieces of land in the plantation and harvest their own subsistence.
Soon, however, it became clear that this was not the solution. Some would
harvest, others would sell the land, and some would use the property for
purposes other than harvesting.
plantations and their surroundings are home to squatters. This makes it obvious
that the phenomenon of the houses being occupied is a direct result of people’s
lack of means right after the independence and the nationalization of the cacao
plantations by the Saotomeans. It was clearly a solution stemming from the lack
At the time
of independence, about 90% of the cultivated area was occupied by Portuguese-owned
plantations (International Business Publications, 2013). The boom of high cacao
prices in the late 1970s boosted earnings by São Tomé & Príncipe. However, when
the high prices collapsed, the country’s export earnings fell by over 70%
between 1979 and 1981 (International Business Publications, 2013). Due to the
sharp decline in cacao prices from the 1980s onward, the country’s cacao
industry completely crumbled.
government created state enterprises at the time of independence, in order to manage
the nationalized cacao plantations abandoned by the Portuguese. Those
enterprises, however, had a variety of problems causing the decline in cacao
output and productivity. Weak management, lack of qualified manpower and
investments, drought and falling global prices of cacao were some key issues.
These problems caused the eventual collapse of the state-owned plantations
virtually ending the island’s dependence on cacao.
even if the colonizers and other foreign companies invested in the country’s cacao
sector and prevented its collapse, the island would not have been able to
remain as the world`s largest cacao producer because of its tiny population and
small land size.
Intervention by the United Nations
The collapse of the cacao
industry on the islands remained until 2009 when the United Nation`s
International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD) and Cafédirect started working with farmers on the island to produce Fair
Trade cacao beans using a co-operative model (IFAD, n.d.)
The National Statistics
Institute (INE) of the country stated that its cacao
sales accounted for 93.5% of all agricultural exports. The remaining 6.5% of
the list of agricultural exports was mostly made up of coconut, flowers,
coffee, and pepper. Cacao exports rose from 2,794 tons in 2015 to 3,000 tons in
2017, according to the INE.
Today, several farmers are growing organic or fair-trade certified cacao
for the international chocolate industry, followed by a positive intervention
by IFAD and its partners.
French organic chocolate producer Kaoka, undertook a quick assessment of the
country’s cacao sector in 2000 and concluded that the rich genetic origin of
São Tomé cacao varieties could produce superior aromatic cocoa beans that would
fetch higher and more stable prices than ordinary cocoa (IFAD, n.d.)
gathered by IFAD clearly show that by combining organic production and fair
trade principles, Saotomean cacao farmers can greatly boost their income.
Chocolate (Factory) in a Box
cultivation in São Tomé is over 100 years old, it is interesting to note that
at no time was chocolate ever made on the islands. It has, in fact, only just gotten
its first-ever chocolate factory, which resulted from a cooperation between a
South African and a British business. The enterprises are HBD Venture Capital, an enterprise of IT billionaire
and astronaut Mark Shuttleworth, and Coeur de Xocolat, a venture
of British chef and master chocolatier David Greenwood-Haigh.
been investing in sustainable tourism on
the island of Príncipe, by setting up a small chain of hotels and stimulating
local agriculture. Given the historical circumstances, the obvious focus
was on the revival of cacao production. The island has the ability to produce, limited-yield,
single origin, superior-grade cacao of the highest quality. Since the land has
never had pesticides or other chemicals applied to it, the island’s cacao
production is naturally organic. The revival of commercial cacao production
created the possibility of making chocolate locally on the islands. “HBD
invited me to visit the island to advise and train a team of locals to make
chocolate on Príncipe for the first time, keeping as much of the value on the
island as possible (raise trade),” Greenwood-Haigh wrote in his blog.
“We discovered that Príncipe volcanic soil produces rich-tasting chocolate with
flavor peaks of red and yellow fruits, has a very intense and complex taste, rich
in roasted cacao, and with lots of refreshing fruity notes, including apricot,
red fruits, citrus” (Greenwood-Haigh, n.d.) One of the company’s services,
which was also provided in São Tomé, is a so-called “chocolate factory in a
box”. It supplied a shipping container that holds all
the equipment necessary to launch a chocolate factory.
this project, the chocolate facility can now produce natural cacao powder, cacao
butter, cacao vinegar, roasted cacao nibs, and couverture, ready for conversion
into bars, with all products being organic (Greenwood-Haigh, n.d.).
Just like with the explosion of barista-made coffee, as well as craft
beer, a similar trend has emerged in the chocolate industry. As consumers are
becoming more interested in premium chocolate, they are also increasingly
conscious of where their chocolate comes from. This makes it an exciting time
for São Tomé & Príncipe and its local chocolate industry.
Quality over Quantity
Though it lost its title as the biggest producer of cacao
in the world a long time ago, the people of São Tomé are slowly regenerating the country’s reputation.
This time, however, with a focus on quality cacao rather than just quantity.
Over the past decades, the global
chocolate industry has seen growing consumer demand for high quality products
with clear origins. There has been a real shift away from the packaged,
processed foods seen since the 1950s (Leissle, 2018). With that shift in
consumer demand, craft chocolate, like beer and coffee before it, has gone
Artisan craft chocolate, i.e. chocolate
that differentiates itself by the type of bean, origin of the ingredients, flavor,
and cacao content in the bar, has become a growing business. “Cocoa beans, like
wine grapes, produce distinct flavors depending on strain and terroir, and
showcasing that flavor is the goal of single origin chocolate” (Leissle, 2013,
p.23). In the current decade, there are now more than 230 bean-to-bar craft
chocolate makers, as well as a growing movement of fine chocolatiers (Martin,
Craft makers are traveling to new parts of
the world, as they seek out new flavors in order to diversify their options. With
its productive co-op schemes and historic cacao plantations, São Tomé seems to
have been the perfect place to be rediscovered.
One of the first people to put São Tomé
& Príncipe back on the chocolate map was Claudio Corallo. In 1997, the Italian coffee businessman
purchased a disused plantation on the island and brought it back to life. For two
decades, Corallo has been championing the island and its cacao produce, used in
his dark chocolate bars, which he sells for a steep price of €16.50 each.
While Corallo owns Nova Moca, the biggest producer of coffee on São Tomé, he also owns Terreiro Velho on Príncipe, a plantation that produces the island’s
best cacao. Corallo, who is famously known as the Chocolate King of West Africa,
runs his empire from the islands and exports the bulk of what he describes as
“the best chocolate in the world” to France, Italy, Portugal, and the U.S. This
makes him one of just a few bean-to-bar chocolate makers working in Africa,
rather than exporting the cacao beans to Europe, like his bigger competitors,
where both the end product and real profit is made.
Unlike many of his competitors, Corallo
does not believe in adding many things to his cacao, especially milk and
famous chocolatier drawing attention to São Tomé & Príncipe is François Pralus,
who produces the “Sao
Tomé bar” featuring a map of the country on the front of the wrapper. The bar is advertised according to its
“intense and distinct flavor”.
the Kennyson group, known for its interest in the rural development of Africa,
helped the revival of the century-old plantation of Diogo Vaz on São Tomé. Dating
back to 1880, the plantation has produced organic certified cacao since it was
plantation ensures the entire production process from the manual
harvesting of the pod until it is molded into a chocolate bar (calling
their process “Tree to Bar”) and wrapped in a delicate paper cover. This
allows the plantation to guarantee traceability and an exceptional
Though it is doubtful that São Tomé will ever regain its title as the world’s largest producer of cacao, I believe the future of the country’s cacao industry is bright, particularly because of the work farmers on the island have done to engage a new generation in the industry.
Thanks to chocolatiers like Claudio Corallo, the country will continue to produce chocolate bars that allow its consumers to taste more than just its bittersweet notes. Biting into an artisanal product such as Corallo’s 100% cacao mass bar, one will taste earthy volcanic soil, sweet African sunshine, and, hopefully, a brighter, chocolate-inspired future for these divine islands after decades of neglect.
For as long as chocolate’s popularity has reigned, questions about the ethicality of cacao production across the world have also been prevalent. When chocolate was first introduced to Europe, its influence was fairly restricted to only the most elite members of society, with limited influence beyond the one percent of society. In a similar vein, sugar as a commodity was only consumed by the wealthy, with limited medicinal influence. As European Historian Woodruff D. Smith explained in his paper “Complications of the Commonplace: Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism”, “sugar was the object of a sustained vogue in Northern Europe” in the 1500s and 1600s. But as sugar and chocolate, became increasingly popular across the continent, its production was forced to catch up with the suddenly commonplace consumer good. In order to make sugar and chocolate available to the consumer population, there had to be significant “growth of West Indian plantation production and the high level of integration between production and distribution” (Smith, 262). These concerns over labor conditions and plantations have continued across the ensuing centuries, as many cacao farmers in Africa are still not paid a living wage, forced to work arduously for minimal pay. This struggle highlights one of the fundamental problems with the cacao production chain, as the lion’s share of profit is enjoyed by the retailers, who are most removed from the cacao production process. Meanwhile, cacao farmers tend to see less than seven percent of the value of cocoa sales (Cocoa Barometer 2015). The website https://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0 is a resource that demonstrates the struggles of many people that are lower on the chain of production, like farmers and traders, especially relative to manufacturers and retailers. It is along this backdrop of unfairness and inequality, that arrangements like Fair Trade arise.
The central principle of Fair Trade was designed to protect the interests of producers, in order to pay them a living wage. Fair Trade guarantees farmers a baseline price, which enables them to put food on the table and make ends meet on a more consistent basis year-round. I had the opportunity to interview Jonathan Rosenthal, one of the early pioneers of the American Fair Trade movement, from the 1980s onwards. Rosenthal, along with Rink Dickinson and Michael Rozyne, helped popularize Fair Trade in the form of a business that would reconnect people to their food in an ethical and just manner (Just-Works.com). Rosenthal’s foray into the Fair Trade movement morphed into idea of Equal Exchange coffee, a worker-owned Fair Trade company, and later into Oke USA, the first American Fair Trade fruit company.
“Three of us decided we would set up our own food company, somewhat in response to all the things that we couldn’t do in the consumer food coop world, so we decided to set up a worker-owned Fair Trade food company,” Rosenthal said. “We set out to set up a food company to basically see how idealistic we could be and still survive. So now how I summarize it is instead of paying as low a price as possible to farmers, what would it mean to have the aspiration to pay farmers as high a price as possible and still survive in the market.”
Articles previously written about Rosenthal demonstrate the breadth of his knowledge, and touch upon his impressive experience in the Fair Trade world. https://grist.org/article/rosenthal/ My conversation with Rosenthal helped shed light on the relationship between Fair Trade and chocolate, as well as the importance of continuing to improve working conditions for farmers worldwide.
“The idea of Fair Trade is, how can we, in a practical way, integrate our core social, spiritual, economic, political values in how we live our lives. In the case of Fair Trade, that’s about how products are sourced, especially since very little of our population knows where their food comes from,” Rosenthal said. “My work in Fair Trade was about helping people connect or reconnect to food, and connecting to understanding who produced the food, and how it was produced. Feeling like it’s ethical and sustainable, and that people are being treated well enough. Take the case of coffee or cacao, most of those products are grown in very terrible conditions, but it’s so far away and so far removed through processing from our daily lives of eating a chocolate bar, you have no idea how people lived that helped produce this. The simple idea of Fair Trade is to provide some transparency and fairly compensate farmers.”
In the past several decades since Rosenthal’s foray into the food world, and as Fair Trade has grown in prominence across the United States, some influential companies have taken steps towards sourcing their products in a more ethical manner. An archetypal example of this is Kraft Foods, that created “the Cocoa Partnership, established by Cadbury, [which] has committed approximately $70 million to invest in cocoa farming over ten years” (Kruschwitz). The Cocoa Partnership in Ghana was designed to help sustain the next generation of cacao farmers in Ghana, and demonstrate a desire to improve working conditions for farmers nationwide. This Partnership is an example of one of the ways in which large conglomerates can take positive steps towards change. While initiatives like these constitute movement in the right direction, there is still much more work to do from a corporate perspective. One of the biggest problems is that as larger companies like Kraft and Starbucks become increasingly involved in Fair Trade movements, the meaning and radicalism of these movements can become changed or watered down.
“I think trying to create transformational change in corporate America by threatening and attacking and policing is really really difficult and it’s hard to see a long term win in that,” said Rosenthal, about Fair Trade’s initial strategy of being combative towards corporations like Kraft Foods. “Working with large corporations, large NGOs and nonprofits, and governments is important, because those are areas with a lot of resources, so if you can convince those people to do things differently, you can have a big impact. The challenge of this of course, is that a lot of those big institutions and people that have a lot of power and have a lot of responsibility, it’s really hard for them to create big change, even small things, because systems have momentum. And it’s really hard to shift the momentum. So it’s often not because they’re bad people or bad CEOs, but they’re in a system that has momentum and structure.”
Not only have the fluctuation of world market cocoa prices impacted farmers’ incomes, but taxes and local trading structures have had a similarly negative effect. For example, over the past decade, farmers in the Ivory Coast have been able to retrieve merely between 40 to 50% of the world market price for their beans (Makechocolatefair.org). The volatility of the world market prices for cocoa also result in unpredictability for the livelihood of farmers. While Rosenthal’s experience with these problems are more concentrated in the coffee and fruit industries, he sees the chocolate production chain as similarly problematic, but potentially remedied by Fair Trade organization.
“One of the things about Fair Trade certification is that they usually have a floor price, and farmers and never paid lower than that price,” Rosenthal explained. “So that provides a lot of stability for farmers, knowing that at least the product that they sell to the Fair Trade system, they will always get at least a certain price. And so they can always afford basic necessities for most of the year and can help put food on the table, and send their kids school, those kinds of things. So for me, that gets us to another one of the core things that Fair Trade does, which is to create that stability.”
The implications of low incomes for farmers extends well beyond putting food on the table. These problems can result in farmers’ employment of child labor, as well as reducing salaries and farming using less environmentally sustainable techniques (Makechocolatefair.org). While this might not sound like a significant issue, utilizing less sustainable methods of farming for cacao production can have ecological and environmental consequences. As our planet enters a more critical juncture in the battle against climate change, it is important to understand the ways in which unjust labor and production chains can result in less sustainable farming. Against this backdrop, Fair Trade movements are all the more important.
“I think overall, Fair Trade and environmental work overlap a lot,” Rosenthal said. “One of the big dilemmas is that the more success Fair Trade has, and the more integrated into the market and capitalism it becomes, which is inevitable if you’re gonna succeed, is that the opportunity to create change is less. In the earlier days of Fair Trade it was easier to create change or talk about making change in a more revolutionary way.”
Fair Trade hasn’t always been as prevalent as it is today, however. One of the struggles that the Fair Trade movement has consistently sought to resolve is consumer’s willingness to spend more money for ethically sourced products. A study conducted by Patrick De Pelsmacker, Liesbeth Driesen, and Glenn Rayp sought to determine the premium that Belgian consumers were willing to pay for Fair-Trade coffee. The three scholars, all academics at Ghent University in Belgium, sampled over 800 consumers in Belgian supermarkets to determine their purchasing practices. On average, consumers were willing to pay approximately 10 percent more for their Fair Trade coffee, than they would otherwise spend on a normal brand (De Pelsmacker et. al, 376). Unfortunately, the price premium for coffee in Belgium during the study was around 27 percent, which is 17 percent more than the average consumer was willing to spend. Therefore, amongst the sample, only around 10 percent of the 808 consumers were willing to pay a 27 percent premium for their coffee, while 90 percent were either unwilling to pay a premium or were willing to pay a premium of less than 27 percent (De Pelsmacker et. al, 379).
While this study was focused on coffee in Belgium, its results have implications beyond this one specific example, capturing one of the core questions at the heart of the Fair Trade movement. If it costs more, are consumers willing to pay for more ethical sourcing? If cacao farmers are going to be paid fairly for their work, allowing them to farm more sustainably, avoid child labor, while earning a living wage, it will require willingness on the part of the consumer. Many experts, Rosenthal included, believe that future generations are more aware of the concept of Fair Trade, making them more likely to lean into the idea of spending more money for ethical products.
“In terms of it becoming more popularized, I think people are willing to pay more for quality. The social values, the ethical criteria, are becoming part of the quality menu for younger people. There’s a lot more awareness today that part of quality is social relationships embedded in the products. When I started in this industry, none of that really was around,” contextualized Rosenthal on how newer generations of consumers are becoming increasingly aware. “Younger generations, take it for granted, they know to look for some label, whether it’s organic, or fair trade products, or it’s a direct trade or there’s cage free, like, there’s so many now, different programs, hundreds, really, for all different kinds of products. And so I think, to me, that’s very exciting. The downside is that most people have no idea what those things really stand for.”
Ultimately, much of Rosenthal’s work and experience have serious implications for the cacao industry. The plight of cacao farmers is undeniable, as the large majority, particularly in Africa, struggle to consistently provide for their families. Unfair production chains and fluctuating costs mean that many are unable to have reliable income, forcing some child labor among a myriad of other problems. In order to help ameliorate conditions, alternatives like Fair Trade can help provide a fair price to farmers, and provide them with stability and structure. Fair Trade is not without its flaws, however, as some believe that it creates a price ceiling instead of a price floor, and it can reward lower quality beans with higher prices. Despite these drawbacks, overall, Fair Trade’s effects seem reliably more positive than allowing the market to regulate itself, particularly for farmers. From a consumer perspective, the choice seems fairly straightforward as well, for those that can afford to be ethically conscious.
“I think we are what we eat to some extent,” Rosenthal said. “We all have dreams and aspirations about who we want to be and what we want the world to be. Fair Trade is, in a way, a microcosm of that same dilemma.”
De Pelsmacker, P., Driesen, L., & Rayp, G. (2005). Do Consumers Care about Ethics? Willingness to Pay for Fair‐Trade Coffee. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 39(2), 363-385.
Kruschwitz, N. (2012). Why kraft foods cares about fair trade chocolate. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(1), 1-4.
Smith, W. (1992). Complications of the Commonplace: Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 23(2), 259-278.
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.
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,
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,
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 &
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.
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.
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,
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).
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.
Another major milestone for chocolate production was accomplished
by Coenraad Johannes Van Houten in Amsterdam in 1828 (Coe &
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,
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,
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,
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).
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 &
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 &
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.
WE WANT MORE CHOCOLATE!!
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.
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.
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.
Chocolate is consumed worldwide in large amounts. Many people enjoy chocolate and savor this wonderful taste and flavor that come from this popular treat. It is also the foundation for many other treats that we consume especially in America and Europe. However, the process in which chocolate is made is a tedious, thorough process. Consumers lack appreciate for the months and years that go into making the chocolate that is often devours in a matter of minutes. Outlining the process from the beginning to the end is important because the dedication and hard work that goes into this drives an industry that supplies so much to the world.
Chocolate comes from the cacao plant. The cacao tree’s origin is central and South American rainforest. Many tree plantations have since been started in other rainforests worldwide. Cultivating these trees requires a great deal of skill and expertise in which the consumer takes for granted.
The trees are dispersed amongst larger trees in the area, typically banana or coconut trees, in order to provide adequate shade from the sun and also protection from strong winds. After being planted and cared for, it takes about 3 years for a cacao pod to grow. These trees are classified as cauliflory, referring to the fact that the fruits grow directly from the main trunk (Prof Martin. Lecture 7). There are three types of pods produced worldwide. Criollo , the first of three, is considered “the holy grail of pure cacao” and originated in Mesoamerica. The second is Forasteros, which originated in Latin America and is now grown worldwide. Lastly, is Trinitarios. This pod has its origins rooted in Trinidad and is a cross breed of Criollo and Trinitarios.
Each of these pods is unique in their own manner, however the growth and harvesting procedure for them are universal. Harvesting cacao plants is extremely demanding. One must use extreme care when doing so in order to protect the rest of the tree and pods. Workers must manually inspect the pod and using a machete carefully cut the pod from its root. This process is intense and grueling. The pods are about the size of a melon or football and are not light-weighted. Workers typically carry these around for quite some time while out working. To reach pods that are high a hooked blade connected to a long rod is used, helping to provide precision. There are two harvest periods each year. Trees often provide about 20-30 pods in total per year. These pods, which are large and heavy, are carried in a basket atop workers heads and consolidated into one place for splitting, which is also manually executed.
Post-harvest there are 4 steps to making what we recognize as chocolate: fermentation, drying, roasting, cooling and winnowing. Fermentation is typically performed in one of two ways, with the desired result being the aging of the pulp on the beans to liquid, which is drained away. After fermentation the beans must be dried out. Usually this is a moderately simple process that is done by laying the beans on a mat in the sun and letting them naturally dry. Next is the process of winnowing. The beans are cracked open and the cacao nibs are broken up. They are run through a number of processing machines that separate them by sized. After this they are ground and blended and the cacao liquor is then molded into the desired shape.
The process of making chocolate takes dedication and hard work. Many people, families, and communities dedicate a lot of time and effort into growing and producing this wonderful treat that is so widely consumed. The work that they put forth is the foundation of a massive industry that is a multi-million perhaps billion-dollar industry. These people are truly helping power the world.