Tag Archives: chocolate production

The Missing Story: The Spread of Cacao and the Popularity of Cocoa Production in Asia

It is no secret that chocolate was popularized in the Western world by the Europeans, particularly the Spanish, after discovering cacao in the New World. However, since Europeans began to dominate the chocolate industry, particularly relying on colonialism to exploit and export cacao from their colonies, the preeminent narrative has become one of widespread European production and consumption of chocolate. However, the historical focus on how chocolate spread from the European royalty to more broad audiences, such as the “common people” in Europe and in North America, limits the scope of understanding for the global popularity of cacao and chocolate production. The existing research tends to focus on chocolate as it spread from Europe to America, but this leads to a more narrow understanding of cacao and its popularity in other regions like East Asia.

The global narrative of chocolate cultivation, production, and consumptions begins in Mesoamerica. Cacao cultivation and chocolate production originated in Mesoamerica during the early BCE era, and for the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs, and other Mesoamerican civilizations, cacao (or kakawa) was reserved primarily to produce drinks for the elite (although it also functioned as a form of currency) (Coe 2013, 78-81). Beginning around the early sixteenth-century, chocolate was introduced into the Spanish culture by Hernán Cortes and originally was similarly regarded as a popular delicacy of the European royalty. “It had been an elite drink among the copper-skinned, befeathered Mesoamericans, and it stayed that way among the white-skinned, perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility of Europe,” (Coe 2013, 125). Chocolate remained an elite drink in Europe during the Baroque Age, as it spread in popularity from Spain and Portugal to Italy to France. In fact, the French are credited with the invention of the silver chocolatiére, pictured below, which was a chocolate-pot used to produce and serve the chocolate beverage produced from cocoa. The chocolatiére is significant because the invention evolved from the Mexican practice of producing a cacao beverage using a wooden molinillo, also depicted below. However, the French took this concept and produced the silver chocolatiére in which the European nobles could consume their chocolate beverages (Coe 2013, 156-157).

18th century French silver chocolatiére pictured third from the left, among other styles and types of chocolate-pots.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2017-11-09_17-54-58_ILCE-6500_DSC09407_(26520185009).jpg

However, once chocolate spread to Britain in the seventeenth century, it also began to spread in popular consumption from the elites to the general public. Like the already-established popular coffee and tea houses, chocolate houses too began to pop up, one of which is depicted below. Chocolate houses were originally frequented by the British nobles and upper class citizens, as demonstrated by the noble style of dress (including the British wigs seen worn by the men in the image), as chocolate still cost more than did coffee (although not as much as tea). While chocolate was still an expensive commodity, the prevalence of the chocolate houses contributed to the spread of chocolate consumption from the elites to the masses as chocolate became popularized in British culture (Coe 2013, 167).

London Chocolate-house c.1708. Silver chocolatiéres can be seen on the tables, while British nobles (dressed accordingly) enjoy the delicacy. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate-house-london-c1708.jpg

Much of the existing literature on the global spread of chocolate focuses primarily on its path between South and Central America, Europe, and North America. In the 1660s, however, cacao began to spread not only to Europe but also across the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines and the South Pacific region (C-spot, A Concise History of Chocolate). Cacao cultivation was especially successful in the Philippines, which at the time was a Spanish colony: “They have brought from New Spain to the Philippines the Cacao plant,” Italian merchant and voyager Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Carreri wrote of his travels to the Philippines in the seventeenth century. “[The Cacao plant] has multiplied so well, although it has degenerated a bit, that in a short while they can do without that of America,” (Coe 2013, 173). The Philippines was chocolate’s “one Asian success,” according to Sophie and Michael Coe; but cacao continued to spread beyond just the Philippines.

Map depicting the main routes for the spread of cacao globally, including to the Philippines and South Pacific/Southeast Asia regions. http://www.c-spot.com/atlas/historical-timeline/

As pictured in the map above, from the islands of the Philippines cacao cultivation first spread south to Indonesia, where the suitable climate, vast unused land, and large and inexpensive labor supply made the two Southeast Asian regions prime for Spanish exploitation (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 93). Cacao cultivation grew in popularity in the Philippines and Indonesia specifically because their agrarian systems were characterized by the plantation sector, which excelled at producing tropical cash crops like cacao (Hayami 2001, 181-182).  Cocoa farming remained popular, however, because local farmers and large-scale plantation systems alike could cultivate cacao; the video below demonstrates that even now, cocoa farming continues to be popular in the Philippines, despite the global narrative about European production of chocolate and American consumption of chocolate.

Indonesia particularly grew in their share of the global cocoa market, while the Philippines began to grow in production of coconut oil instead (Hayami 2001, 190). Later in the nineteenth century, cacao spread from Indonesia westward across Asia and into Sri Lanka (C-spot, A Concise History of Chocolate). Not only was cocoa farming successful in the Philippines and Indonesia, the video below shows that ecological and technological advances allowed cocoa farming to become even more accessible, widespread, and environmentally conscious in the Philippines than it originally had been. So why does the narrative often stop at the introduction of cacao to the Philippines as a Spanish colony when there is so much more to the story? 

Although the widespread acceptance of chocolate in the Western world is a crucial element in the global history of chocolate, much of the existing research focuses solely on the European and North American cultivation, production, and consumption of chocolate as it spread from the elites to the masses. This leaves out an important element in the story of how chocolate rose to popularity in the global market: Asia, particularly regions in Southeast and South Pacific Asia, played a vital role in contributing to the successful cultivation and production of cocoa.

Works Cited

Chocolate House London C.1708. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate-house-london-c1708.jpg.

“Cocoa Farming – The Good Chocolate.” Video, 05:33. Youtube. Posted by John Croft, January 20, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOgksl9DDqI.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate: With 99 Illustrations, 14 in Colour. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.

“A Concise History of Chocolate.” C-spot. http://www.c-spot.com/atlas/historical-timeline/.

French Chocolatieres. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2017-11-09_17-54-58_ILCE-6500_DSC09407_(26520185009).jpg.

Hayami, Yujiro. “Ecology, History, and Development: A Perspective from Rural Southeast Asia.” The World Bank Research Observer 16, no. 2 (Fall 2001): 169-98.

Sampeck, Kathryn E., and Jonathan Thayn. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” In Substance and Seduction. Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, by Stacey Schwartzkopf and Kathryn E. Sampeck, 72-99. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017.

The Biology and Morality of Chocolate and Sugar Consumption

In the words of Sidney Mintz, “…Sugar is sweet, and human beings like sweetness” (1986). But what about this liking for sugar made chocolate bars one of our most symbolic pieces of food, taking over holidays like Valentine’s Day and Easter? How do we approach the problems of fair working conditions for the farmers who cultivate the cacao and sugar cane? In this blog post I will explore the biological reasoning for why sugar made chocolate such a hot commodity in so many parts of the world. I also offer that this biological predisposition to love the taste of sweetness is, in part, what has given chocolate such a high place in the food industry and our society, despite the moral wrongs associated with chocolate production. To resolve the moral dilemma of chocolate consumption, we must fight against the behind-the-scenes production story, which threatens the basic rights of millions of farmers. 

Sugar and the Brain

Let us begin by exploring why taking a sweet bite of anything gives us so much pleasure. It is important to remember that sugars are a part of a large family of carbohydrates, which is one of the main energy sources for our bodies. So, it makes sense that sweetness on the tongue, which signals to our brains that we are consuming carbohydrates, causes a pleasurable response (Reed & McDaniel, 2006). Moreover, following this evolutionary perspective is the reasoning that poisonous foods are not usually sweet-tasting, so our bodies have more justification for why we meet sweet-tasting foods with a positive reaction (Reed & McDaniel, 2006). The short video below describes the science behind sugar consumption; in other words, how sugar affects your brain and body. 

Video 1. How sugar affects the brain, by Nicole Avna. Source: TedEd.

It is not surprising, then, that using sugar as a sweetener for chocolate made us go crazy for it. The cacao that chocolate is derived from was once “food of the gods” served as a bitter drink in Mayan civilizations. However, the sweet candy we know now became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries upon the revolutionary cocoa press, invented in 1828 by Coenraad Johannes van Houten (Klein, 2018). And now we are at the present day, where “the average American consumes 12 lbs. of chocolate each year, and more than $75 billion worldwide is spent on chocolate annually” (Klein, 2018).

The Moral Dilemma

This human quasi-addiction to sugar begins to answer the question, why do we allow the violation of human rights for millions of people just so that we can have our cacao and sugar cane grown? This question, which definitely implicates much more research and perspective, is one that I will only be able to graze the surface of. Nonetheless, I do believe that a biological perspective does hold some merit here, as we find ourselves in a moral dilemma as we enjoy pieces of sweetened chocolate which were produced through the back-breaking and inhumane labor of other human beings, including children. The farmers, not the distributors in the high-income countries, are the ones who are hit the hardest when the market prices fluctuate – For instance, farmers on the Ivory Coast see their cocoa income decrease “by as much as 30-40% from one year to the next” (Fountain & Huetz-Adams, 2018). This is on top of the fact that millions of these farmers are children, and they are making about 31% of a living wage (Fountain & Huetz-Adams, 2018). 

Figure 1. Map of the Top 10 Cocoa Producing Countries. Source: Chocolate Phayanak.

What Can We Do?

So, while we are evolutionarily inclined to enjoy this chocolate, cycles of slavery and cruel treatment to farmers all over the world would tell us not to indulge. While there is no straightforward answer here, I suggest that what we should push for is more Fairtrade schemes, which need to be more heavily supported by the governments of rich countries, since these products would be more expensive than non-Fairtrade products. As explained by Peter Singer and Jim Mason, these schemes support the farmers by generating “hundreds of millions of additional dollars for small products in developing countries” and the schemes also protect the farmers rights, including “freedom of association and protection from sexual harassment” (Singer & Mason, 2007).  

Figure 2. Nestle Kit Kat Bard with Fairtrade symbol. This symbol is visible on food items of companies with Fairtrade certification. Source: Campaign.

Additionally, the farmers from these low-income countries need to be making a living wage, and they need more subsidies to protect them from immediate income fluctuation in response to market price changes. They need to be protected from this price volatility and the disproportionate risk that they bear in this supply chain. This is only possible with major support from the governments involved as well as international actors. This also requires consumer awareness – that is, all of us being invested in the dialogue around and action against this structural oppression and poverty.

In conclusion, the harm does not come from our inherent love for all things sweet; rather from our indifference towards the means to get that sweet chocolate bar in our hands. Until we fight against the oppressive labor conditions of the farmers who make it possible for chocolate to be such a symbol in our societies, we will be faced with this very bitter moral dilemma.


Fountain, A., Huetz-Adams, F. (2018). Cacao Barometer 2018. N.p.

Klein, Christopher (2018). The Sweet History of Chocolate. Retrieved 25 March 2020 from <https://www.history.com/news/the-sweet-history-of-chocolate>

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

Reed, D., McDaniel, A. (2006). The Human Sweet Tooth. BMC Oral Health 6(Suppl 1): S17.

Singer, P., Mason, J. (2007). The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. Pennsylvania: Rodale Books.

Figure 1. Chocolate Phayanak (2017). Top 10 Cocoa Producing Countries. [map]. Retrieved from <https://chocolatephayanak.com/unkategorisiert/where-is-cocoa-grown-around-the-world/>

Figure 2. Charles, Gemma (2010). Kit Kat: Nestle Brand. [photo]. Retrieved from <https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/nestle-launches-biggest-ever-cross-category-push/1015362>

Video 1. Avena, Nicole (2014). How Sugar Affects the Brain. . Retrieved from YouTube (TedEd) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=lEXBxijQREo&feature=emb_title>

Chocolate Consumption and Production: How Mesoamerican Cacao Culture has Faded

The significance of chocolate holds a profound and broad importance in our modern day American society. Chocolate has been incorporated in our everyday life as an indulgence.The commonly found sweet treat melts in one’s mouth, and in American culture, is used to melt one’s heart! However, chocolate is not bound by its asset of sweetness, as that asset was incorporated into chocolate fairly recently; chocolate can be bitter and brittle, and can even be featured as a drink! There are many types of chocolate varying by texture and taste, and the good has evolved over the ages, and so has its pairwise culture as it has moved from society to society, but all types stem from cacao. The original chocolate/cacao and its production can be traced all the way back to Pre-Columbian civilizations where it was valued highly and reserved for nobility and important people. In that time, Cacao was much more than a sweet, refreshing treat: it was a vital and versatile part in Pre-Columbian traditions including religion, status, and health. These traditions are portrayed in several interesting artifacts allowing us to better understand cacao’s significance in the Aztec, Mayan, Olmec and other Mesoamerican societies. Analysis of these artifacts allows us to discern that the culture of cacao has been distorted and watered down over the ages, and this can be seen in a comparison of modern day chocolate related activities to its ancient roots.

Modern day practices with chocolate primarily involve mass production and consumption of chocolate. Because of the bustling chocolate industry, people from all over the world are able to experience and indulge in a version of cacao, thus somewhat honoring the importance of cacao through enjoying its consumption. However, historical companies like Cadbury and others have significantly watered down the original culture of the product in order to capture a larger target market. The process of making chocolate used to be a niche and special thing and rarely resulted in the type of sugar-infused chocolate bars that we love today. There were various unique recipes and methods of production for the cacao beans. In cacao’s historical roots, every part of production was done by hand. Cacao beans were obtained from open cacao pods and were fermented, then dried, then roasted and winnowed, and then finally ground into the “chocolate liquor” paste.

Once this product was created, there were various ways to proceed in the making of the final product. Popular preparations of the time included fresh cacao pulp batidos, cacao and chile balls, and cacao and corn based beverages.

The production of the final cacao product in Mesoamerican tradition is very laborious but feels raw and real. Here, a woman follows traditional practices in making the highly regarded cacao-corn beverage

However, as the world became more interconnected over time, cacao production was adopted and altered primarily by Europeans in the mid to late 1600’s. “Europe is the biggest processor of cacao as well as the largest per-capita consumer of cacao” (Martin & Sampeck 2016, 37). Thus, Europeans altered cacao recipes to better suit their taste and culture. “The industrial chocolate that they produced was higher in sugar and less complex in taste compared to the variety of local chocolate makers” (Martin & Sampeck 2016, 37). So as the primary production center of cacao shifted from Mesoamerica to Europe, variety and quality of the product mattered less to the masses, and cacao’s original tastes were neglected. The driving force for this change in chocolate production was the introduction of chocolate to the world, and the resulting different chocolate consumption.

Cacao consumption was extremely significant in Mesoamerican culture. There weren’t many who were able to consume it every day, especially because of its cultural importance, not just because of its scarcity. “People in Central America and Mexico linked cacao and vital cosmological forces. These associations made cacao the proper offering in rituals related to fertility, health and travel as well as consecrating social unions such as marriage” (Sampeck & Schwartzkopf 2017, 74). Cacao was held in high regard in its original culture and we can confirm this through the analysis of Mesoamerican artifacts. Inscriptions on “monogrammed vases”, such as the one presented, reflect how the Mesoamericans “invested meaning in cacao” through their consumption and production (Martin & Sampeck 39). Analyzing a variety of inscriptions allows us to further understand the presence of cacao and chocolate in one’s life, and we can discern that cacao was pivotal during major social events such as religious practices, marriage rituals and funerals. In marriage ceremonies, cacao beverages were shared between the groom and the bride’s father during a pre-martial discussion. Cacao was dried and dyed red during funeral procession and was believed to ease the soul into the afterlife.

“Princeton Vase”, a Maya cacao-drinking cup depicting a rite of passage during a marriage ceremony – the presentation of a cacao beverage

These cacao beverages were prepared in a very sacred practice in ancient Mesoamerica. The primary ingredients were corn and cacao. In the making and drinking of the beverage, it was crucial that it had a frothy foam on top as it was believed that it “satisfies the soul.”

Depiction of the preparation of the frothy cacao-corn beverage – a tall pour to create bubbles
“Codex Nuttal”, Mixtec funeral scene with funeral procession

On the contrary, once the primary consumption and production of cacao shifted away from Mesoamerica, chocolate lost a little part of its identity. All of the tangible practices of production and consumption of cacao were stolen – the Europeans even crafted their own chocolate consumption drinking vessels – and barely any of the cultural practices that made cacao so special in its original culture were adopted. Instead, Europeans looked to make cacao production the most efficient. They imposed on Africa and coerced African labor for cacao production. And those historical shifts have had lasting impacts today. The ones on the frontline – the farmers – who wether the hot sun and the excruciating physical labor to harvest cacao beans have almost no power in the supply chain of chocolate. According to the “Cocoa Barometer 2018” smallholder cocoa farmers in Cote d’lvoire, already struggling with poverty, have seen their income from cocoa decline by as much as 30-40% from one year to the next”(Fountain & Huetz-Adams 2018, 10), and this is just on example of the perpetuated injustice that grips the chocolate industry. Although Europeans found a way to globalize chocolate for the taste buds of all, the sacrifice of culture and humanity is too monumental.

In conclusion, traditional ways of producing and consuming cacao have been neglected in exchange for the health of an industry that was built upon the tired backs of Africans and South Americans. The significance of cacao in the Pre-Columbian era can be examined in artifacts and documents dating back to the 15th century, and we can learn a lot from them about this faded culture. We can see through these artifacts that their beliefs and culture revolved around these special Theobroma trees, and it is quite fascinating to see how the ancients interacted with cacao.

Works Cited:

“Toledo Ecotourism Association – making a chocolate drink.” Youtube. May 10, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vC4dq69rqE&feature=youtu.be

Fountain, Antonie, and Friedel Huetz-Adams. “Cocoa Barometer 2018.” VOICE Network. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.voicenetwork.eu/cocoa-barometer/.

Martin, Carla D, and Kathryn E Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, 16 June 2015, socio.hu/uploads/files/2015en_food/chocolate.pdf.

“The Princeton Vase (y1975-17).” Princeton University, The Trustees of Princeton University, artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/32221.

Schwartzkopf, Stacey, and Kathryn E. Sampeck. Substance and Seduction. Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica. University of Texas Press, 2017.

Gaddis, Donald. “The Codex Nuttall: Funeral Scene.” Pinterest, http://www.pinterest.com/pin/13581236346174560/. IMG.

The Disovered but Hidden Usage of Child Labor in Chocolate Production


When thinking of chocolate and its production, one often thinks about cocoa and the ways in which it is harvested to make the chocolate bars that we all know and love. However, the narrative that is often left out is that of child labor and slavery that is entailed within production. Beginning in the late 1990’s the involvement of large corporations in child labor become publicized leading to a great number of documentaries and articles releasing evidence of child trafficking and labor(1). While this issue did not simply arise during this time period, it was something that was hidden and kept from the public for not only years prior but also years to come. Child labor has been deeply embedded into the world of chocolate seen through slavery and child human trafficking that Henry Nevinson recounts in the early 1900’s. When a family was appealing to an official in Belmonte in order, “to help pay off the debt, parents sold children into slavery… ‘so the matter stands, and the villagers must go on selling more and more of their wives and children that the white man’s greed may be satisfied’ Nevisnson wrote in disgust”(2). This is just one account of a journalist in the 1900’s that witnessed this, however many more began to come forward in the late 1990’s to early 2000s. 

Background of a Child’s Duty:

Many children who are surrounded by poverty are forced at a young age to either support their families through work or are sold into it. Child labor is of importance to to the chocolate industry because, “On average, cocoa farmers earn less than $2 per day, an income below the poverty line.  As a result, they often resort to the use of child labor to keep their prices competitive”(3). These children are often between the ages of 12 and 16, however the youngest reported was 5 years old. Their day consists of using chainsaws to clear the forest, machetes to cut bean pods from the cocoa trees (both of which are against international labor laws), and carrying the sacks of pods(4). While forced into this labor, children are also exposed to harsh conditions like poor nutrition, inadequate sleeping and living, and toxins from the industrial insecticide chemicals sprayed on the pods. 

Rules and Regulations:

While it took several years to expose child labor and trafficking, rules and protocols were soon to follow. This can be seen through the Harkin-Engel Protocol of 2001 which was, “a voluntary international agreement aimed at ending some of the worst forms of child labour”(5). Many debate whether or not this agreement had any effect on the situation at hand seeing that nothing changed after not only this promise by chocolate industries but also ones made in 2005 and 2010. It took a report by Tulane in 2015 detailing the worst forms of child labor for mass attention to be brought to the issue and for things to begin to change. Not only are companies like Nestle now in collaboration with companies like the International Cocoa Intiative (ICI) but Nestle has started the Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS)(6). These organizations still aren’t doing enough seeing that, “child labour remains at very high levels in the cocoa sector, with an estimated 2.1 million children working in cocoa ields in the Ivory Coast and Ghana alone”(7). Much will need to change in order children’s rights to be protected from large companies producing chocolate. 

Hidden Stories Exposed:

In order for this to happen transparency must be obtained, which is something that is still a fight today. Nestle has made significant steps towards this seen through the fact that they have been in collaboration with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) which forces them to publish a plan of action. This however is still not enough seeing that full access to stories and research is limited exemplified by The Washington Post discoveries. Whoriskey and Siegel went to the Ivory Coast interviewing children and while doing so they came across a boy Abou Traore who claimed to be nineteen, however, “when the farmer is distracted, Abou crouches and with his finger, writes a different answer in the gray sand:15”(8). This shows the ways in which these farms try to hide the facts and details in order to keep their business. He also stated that he came here to go to school but hadn’t been in five years. The problem as explained is that, “nearly 20 years after pledging to eradicate child labor, chocolate companies still cannot identify the farms where all thier cocoa comes from, let alone whether child labor was used in producing it”(9). With the new deadline pushed to 2020 (this year) there is still no possible way for child labour to be completely eradicated, leaving children under hashing conditions stuck in a life they have no control over. With this being said there needs to be a call to all consumers making such inequality and injustice known in order for change to be made and a better future for these children. 


  1. Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3 (2015): 51. https://doi.org/10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.
  2. Satre, Lowell J. “Henry W. Nevinson and Modern Slavery.” In Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business, 5–6. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005.
  3. “Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.
  4. “Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.
  5. Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3 (2015): 51 . https://doi.org/10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.
  6. Fountain, Antonie, and Friedel Huetz-Adams. “Cocoa Barometer 2018.” VOICE Network. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.voicenetwork.eu/cocoa-barometer/.
  7. Fountain, Antonie, and Friedel Huetz-Adams. “Cocoa Barometer 2018.” VOICE Network. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.voicenetwork.eu/cocoa-barometer/.
  8. Whoriskey, Peter, and Rachel Siegel. “Hershey, Nestle and Mars Won’t Promise Their Chocolate Is Free of Child Labor.” The Washington Post. WP Company, June 5, 2019. shorturl.at/zCHN2
  9. Whoriskey, Peter, and Rachel Siegel. “Hershey, Nestle and Mars Won’t Promise Their Chocolate Is Free of Child Labor.” The Washington Post. WP Company, June 5, 2019. shorturl.at/zCHN2

Multimedia sources:

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

Nestlé. “Tackling Child Labor”. Filmed [December 2019]. Youtube video, 2:49. Published [December 10, 2019]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hws6TlSNcj0

Whoriskey, Peter, and Rachel Siegel. “Hershey, Nestle and Mars Won’t Promise Their Chocolate Is Free of Child Labor.” The Washington Post. WP Company, June 5, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/business/hershey-nestle-mars-chocolate-child-labor-west-africa/.

Scholarly sources:

Fountain, Antonie, and Friedel Huetz-Adams. “Cocoa Barometer 2018.” VOICE Network. Accessed March 25, 2020. https://www.voicenetwork.eu/cocoa-barometer/.

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

Satre, Lowell J. “Henry W. Nevinson and Modern Slavery.” In Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business, 5–6. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005.

More Chocolate, More Quickly!: Changes in Chocolate Consumption brought about by the Industrial Revolution

The Bigger Picture: How did we get here?

“200 years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year . . . Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year” (Martin 2020).  But what contributed to this major uptick in consumption?

Sketch of sugar consumption over time, based on (Martin 2020).

As portrayed in my sketch of a graph above, sugar consumption (and consequently chocolate consumption) has always been on the rise.  However, the inflection point in the exponential curve was in the late 1700s to early 1800s, precisely the time of the Industrial Revolution. (Martin 2020)

During the Industrial Revolution, various technological developments not only further augmented the supply and demand for chocolate, but also altered the way in which it was consumed, especially among the working class.

More chocolate for everyone!

Several technological advancements drove the industrialization of chocolate (among other foods) via developments in the preservation, mechanization, retailing, and transport of food (Goody 2013).  While the production process once required much more manual labor with tools like the molinillo and metate, industrialization led to the automated mechanization of roasting, winnowing, grinding and milling, among many other steps diagrammed below (Coe and Coe 2013).

Diagram of chocolate manufacture process (Mintz 1965).

In 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes Van Houten developed an incredibly efficient hydraulic press along with the Dutch process; these particular inventions would forever change the chocolate industry in enabling the large-scale manufacture of both powdered and solid chocolate (Coe and Coe 2013).

As delineated in the production process like the one filmed below, these developments were taken up by Big Chocolate companies like Lindt, Nestlé, Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Mars, further helping to scale up the chocolate industry through the utilization of this machinery (Martin and Sampeck 2016, 49). 

(How Hershey’s Chocolate Is Made and Packaged HD 2015)

Beyond this, the industry giants would continue to cast their net to an even wider consumer base, by introducing even more changes to chocolate production: Fry’s tempering process would lead to the manufacture of the first chocolate bars (pictured below), Lindt’s conching process would enable chocolate to be filled with other ingredients, and Hershey would develop the means of improving shelf life and producing even larger quantities of chocolate (Martin 2012).

(Fry’s Milk Chocolate Enamel Advertising Sign 2013)
(Frys Five Boys Milk Chocolate 2005)

With all these developments, the ever-growing demand for chocolate was better supported, and the mass production led to an overall deflation of chocolate prices that allowed it to become more accessible to the masses (Martin and Sampeck 2016, 55).  “It was no longer an elite, expensive product primarily consumed as a beverage, but instead an inexpensive cocoa powder to be drunk or low-cacao-content chocolate bar to be consumed as a food by elite and non-elite alike” (Coe and Coe 2013).

The busy consumer

Industrialization not only revolutionized chocolate production, but also created more employment opportunities and expanded the workforce.  As a result, many people’s schedules underwent a dramatic shifted in order to accommodate their new work hours.  Naturally, this directly affected people’s eating patterns as well; with more limited time came a need for quicker meal preparation.

As nations became “more urban and industrialized” over the next century, they “[changed] eating schedules to meet work schedules, teaching laborers to eat away from home, to eat prepared food more frequently, and to consume more sugar along the way. Managers of such societies recognized the potentiality of workers to increase their own productivity if sufficiently stimulated, and to open themselves to new, learnable needs” (Mintz 1986, 181).  In addition, division of labor, in conjunction with familial gender roles, affected eating patterns as well.  With more women in the workforce, women were spending less time at home, shifting the traditional reliance on women’s cooking and labor for food production.  Therefore, family diets were unequivocally affected (Martin 2020).

The sudden spike in chocolate production, in conjunction with the rise of the working class, changed not only the quantity but the very way in which chocolate was consumed, with the birth of various new recipes.  Chocolate provided people with the ability to take “shortcuts while maintaining effective results” and the food industry successfully took advantage of this; for example, through their novel marketing and advertising, “cake and brownie mix producers were able to convince home cooks around the country to purchase their products, while forever altering the American relationship to home cooking and taste” (Martin 2012).  Later in the twentieth century, with advancements like microwaveable technologies, products like microwaveable brownies were made possible as well, simultaneously addressing both the need for speed and the growing demand for chocolate.

Chocolate today

The developments made during Industrialization indefinitely transformed not only the way chocolate was produced, but the quantity and quality in which it was consumed.  In fact, we continue to employ many of the same advancements in the production process and enjoy much of the new eating patterns that came about during that time.  The Industrial Revolution is to thank for transforming chocolate to become what we know it as today, and for making it possible for us to even enjoy it.

To many of our delights, most of us have the privilege of consuming chocolate, and on any occasion in present day.  Although we have the industrial period to be grateful for, it is worth noting that chocolate has an incredibly rich history extending beyond industrialization as well, and that chocolate consumption still fails to be fully equitable.  As contemporary consumers of chocolate, it is important to be mindful of both the sweet and bitter history of chocolate.


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

Frys Five Boys Milk Chocolate. Wikimedia Commons, 2005. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frys_five_boys_milk_chocolate.jpg

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine,” 2013.

How Hershey’s Chocolate Is Made and Packaged HD. YouTube, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MytilMhNUq8.

Martin, Carla. “Brownies: The History of a Classic American Dessert,” 2012, http://www.ushistoryscene.com/uncategorized/brownies/.

Martin, Carla. “Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Class lecture at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 2020.

Martin, Carla, and Sampeck, Kathryn. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe,” 2016.

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

Traynor, Kim. Fry’s Chocolate Enamel Advertising Sign. Wikimedia Commons, 2013. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fry’s_Chocolate_advertisement.JPG.

The Economic Emergence of the Slave Trade and Abolition Resistance of Slavery in Cacao Growing Regions

Centuries after the 350 year long transatlantic slave trade, it is hard to imagine that such a horrific worldwide trade could emerge from one sole underlying purpose: money. As the slave trade continued over time, everything became a price tag from crops to the people, justified on malicious racial grounds fabricated by the elite. I argue that the slave trade emerged as a result of economics that enabled the expansion of the chocolate industry, which resulted in challenges to abolishing slavery in cacao growing regions. Furthermore, I argue that cacao-based slavery is still not abolished to this day. 

Economics of the Slave Trade

Europe had weapons, the Americas had crops, and what did Africa have? People. Europe wanted crops from the Americas, the Americas did not have enough people to support this, and Africa wanted the weapons (and some textiles) from Europe (UNESCO). Thus, a trade emerged. The economics of the trade started with the origin of “African Kingdoms” who”prospered from the slave trade,” but after only a few years, “meeting the European’s massive demand created intense competition” between kingdoms (Hazard). A deep-rooted moral complex soon surfaced: “capturing slaves became a motivation for war rather than it’s result” (Hazard). Kingdoms now needed more weapons from Europe to defend themselves during slave raids.  

The economic prosperity continued in the New World where the slaves were sold. As seen in the images from Flickr below, which detail how humans were priced, slaves were viewed as a price tag and treated as a mere commodity. The entire slave voyage was seen simply as a “financial venture for owners and investors,” which “proved to be greatly profitable” (UNESCO). A slave could be sold multiple times in a lifetime multiplying their economic effect. Trade workers’ ultimate job was to sell the slaves at the highest price possible, meaning they often “disguise[d] the physical bruises and wounds… in order to hide their ailments” further contributing to the unethical economic driven tragedies of the trade (UNESCO). The slave trade altered societies and economies across the continent.

The greater economic impact came not from the increase in economic prosperity of the trade at the time, but rather the long lasting impact the trade placed upon Africa, still permeating society today. As Anthony Hazard explains in his TedEd video, “not only did the continent lose tens of millions of its able-bodied population, but because most of the slaves taken were men, the long term demographic effect was even greater” (Hazard). He continues explaining by the time the Americas and Europe finally outlawed the trade, “the African kingdoms whose economies it had come to dominate collapsed” (Hazard). Because of the slave trade, the future of Africa was devastatingly rewritten forever.

Why does chocolate play such an important role in the slave trade? Chocolate comes from Cacao beans, which date back to Mesoamerican societies, as early as the Olmec Empire (Dr. Martin, Lecture). Cultivating cacao is a labor intensive process that requires a humid tropical climate. For this reason, Europeans could not and did not want to grow cacao. Thus, when the Europeans discovered chocolate from South America—as early as 1591—and demand for cacao continually increased, colonialists forced local indigenous people to supply the cacao that would be transported to Europe (C-Spot). Eventually, this practice proved difficult with not enough people to maintain the expanding cacao fields, and eventually  the slave trade emerged. This simply shows that “one of the stimuli of the… slave trade was Europe’s appetite for not only sugar but chocolate, too” (Duducu). As it was a “brutal, backbreaking job that nobody wanted to do,” it became the “standard job or slaves” (Duducu). The cacao industry now relied, grew, and thrived on the backs of slaves.

Challenges to Abolition in Cacao Growing Regions

Why did challenges to abolition arise specifically in cacao growing regions? Because chocolate had transformed into a good available to everyone, not just for the elite (Dr. Martin, Lecture). By the 18th century, sugar and chocolate was involved in almost every aspect of European life including medicine, religion, socioeconomic class, gender and sexuality, and politics (Dr. Martin, Lecture). It is no coincidence that cacao demand grew even further in the 1820s, as innovations in chocolate production began with Coenraad Johannes van Houten inventing a new process resulting in powdered chocolate that “soon led to the creation of solid chocolate” (Fiegl). This caused a “cascade of further developments” in chocolate production allowing for easier consumption with better taste (Christian). Not only did this cause cacao demand to increase, but it also came at a time when abolition movements were at their peak worldwide encouraging a heightened resistance from slaves as their labor demands increased. Had chocolate not recently transitioned into the realm of daily consumption by Europeans, then there is sufficient evidence to believe that abolition would have taken hold sooner. 

As the market for chocolate expanded, “a number calculated at ‘nearly ten percent of the volume of the whole transatlantic slave trade’ went to work on the cacao plantations in Brazil” (Moss and Badenoch, 30). During this time, Brazil was a colony of Portugal. Although Portugal was one of the forerunners of Europe to abolish slavery within, they did not abolish slavery in Brazil until 1888, nearly 20 years after Portugal abolished slavery in their African Portuguese colonies (Brown Univeristy). This shows just how important chocolate was to Portugal, resisting abolition only in Brazil for an extra two decades with the purpose of maintaining their cacao production. 

Cacao Expansion into Africa

Although slavery was abolished everywhere in the Caribbean chocolate producing colonies by the start of the 18th century, chocolate production in Africa was beginning to boom as a replacement. As formerly mentioned, when the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed, the African economy crumbled and desperately needed a replacement for revenue. The first expansion of cacao from its previously limited production region in the Americas occurred in 1822 (a few years after the end of the slave trade) when it arrived in Africa (Christian). By the end of the century, cacao production would spread across the continent exponentially as seen in the bar graph below. The cacao industry would shift from its homeland in the Americas to Africa at the turn of the century producing over 70% of the world’s cacao today (Winton). 

With 60% of revenue coming from cacao on the Ivory Coast, farmers still earn less than $2 a day (Food Empowerment Project). This forces them to turn to slave and child labor. Most children are aged 12-16 and face dehumanizing workloads and violence inflicted from the farm owners (FEP). African cacao farmers violate almost all of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Laws (FEP). The video below shows how slavery in cacao production truly has not been abolished, only transformed. The current cacao workers are still battling demoralizing working conditions, unpaid labor, minimal food, and no access to education; the only difference between the 17th century and today is that these workers are now children. 

It is impossible to put a numerical dollar value that the slave trade revenued economically due to the incalculably large number of 17 million slaves that were sold and due to the long lasting economic impediment forever placed on the African economy. But it is certain that the slave trade permanently set Africa back economically which inarguably in one of the reasons cacao farmer poverty, and as a byproduct child slave labor, has become so prevalent in present day society, even decades later. Although Africans outside of Africa fought so hard to abolish slavery, it still exists to this day within the continent as a direct result from the exportations of tens of millions those people that would fight to stop it.

Works Cited

“Brazil: Five Centuries of Change.” Brazil Five Centuries of Change, library.brown.edu/create/fivecenturiesofchange/chapters/chapter-3/slavery-and-aboliton/.

Cambridge, St John’s College. “Mr John Broomfield’s ‘Gang of Negroes.’” Flickr, Yahoo!, 30 June 2015, http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjc_cambridge/19294928711/in/photostream/.

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

Chocolate Child Slaves- CNN. CNN, 16 Jan. 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHDxy04QPqM&list=TLPQMDgwMzIwMjCEN3nmhnAbkw&index=3.

Christian, Mark. “A CONCISE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE.” Spot, http://www.c-spot.com/atlas/historical-timeline/.

Duducu, Jem. “The Bloody History of Chocolate.” The History Vault, The History Vault, 16 Nov. 2014, thehistoryvault.co.uk/the-bloody-history-of-chocolate/.

“Economics and Slave Trade.” Slavery and Remembrance, United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), slaveryandremembrance.org/articles/article/?id=A0095.

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

Hazard, Anthony, director. The Atlantic Slave Trade: What Too Few Textbooks Told You – Anthony Hazard. TED, TED-Ed, 22 Dec. 2014, ed.ted.com/lessons/the-atlantic-slave-trade-what-your-textbook-never-told-you-anthony-hazard.

“A History of Cocoa – 200 Years in Charts.” Winton, 11 July 2017, http://www.winton.com/longer-view/cocoas-bittersweet-bounty.

Moss, Sarah, and Alexander Badenoch. Chocolate a Global History. Reaktion Books, 2009.

“Slavery and Abolition in the 19th Century.” Brazil Five Centuries of Change, Brown Univeristy, library.brown.edu/create/fivecenturiesofchange/chapters/chapter-3/slavery-and-aboliton/.

“Transatlantic Slave Trade: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.” Transatlantic Slave Trade | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/slave-route/transatlantic-slave-trade/.

Madécasse: Fueling Economic Growth in Madagascar

The chocolate industry is afflicted by a number of issues ranging from child labor, low standards of living for cocoa farmers, and environmental degradation. In recent years, consumer dialogue around choosing a brand of chocolate on merits other than price has gained momentum. Now more than ever before, consumers want to know how ethical the chocolate they are purchasing is. Many smaller chocolate companies believe in careful sourcing of beans and labor as a way of assuring their customers that their chocolate is indeed ethical. A company that seeks to eliminate questionable practices while promoting economic growth and prosperity for the farmers and workers is Madécasse. In this article, I will briefly elaborate on the prevalent issues that plague the chocolate industry, then closely examine the operations of Madécasse and discuss how this company is tackling such issues. Lastly, I will elaborate on responses from a survey study done among students asking about their opinions on the Madécasse brand.

Prevalent Problems in the Chocolate Industry

Child labor is a major problem in the chocolate industry. It is common across West Africa and other cocoa growing regions to have children working on plantations. A large portion of child labor is rooted in family and socioeconomic pressures. This personal connection makes it harder to tackle the problem. Regardless, many large corporations look past the issue and benefit from low labor costs. Despite international efforts to end such practices, it is a reality that child labor is a prevailing problem in cocoa plantations (Berlan, 1091).

Standards of living for cocoa farmers are low as a result of their minimal and volatile incomes. In 2016, the chocolate market sold an estimated $100 billion, yet only $12 billion was allocated to the value of the raw cacao (Leissle, 30). This serves to show how little of the value extracted from chocolate in the global market is given to farmers. Cocoa farmers are subject to price fluctuations as well as oligopolistic power in cocoa purchasing. This leaves farmers powerless and suffering from price instability.

Environmental degradation is prevalent in cocoa growing regions. Farmers seeking to maximize profits to earn livable wages, commonly employ practices that contribute to environmental problems. For example, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides or clearing cocoa fields to begin growing other cash crops (Marshall, R. Scott, et al., 7). These practices also affect endemic species that have to adjust to changing landscapes.

How does Madécasse approach these problems?

The founders of Madécasse are Brett Beach and Tim McCollum. They spent two years in Madagascar while they were volunteering for the Peace Corps and fell in love with the country’s culture, people and landscape. Years after returning to the U.S they decided that they wanted to give back to Madagascar by fueling economic growth for its people. They landed on the idea of creating a chocolate company entirely run in Madagascar to provide jobs and fair wages. They sought to leverage the high quality cocoa already in the region to produce high quality chocolate. They wanted to create chocolate entirely made in Madagascar that could be sold in global markets, but whose profits would be more evenly distributed along the supply chain.

The founders of Madécasse call their business model the Direct Trade model. This model seeks to maximize the value added to the final product in Madagascar. Essentially deliver four times the value as other companies would. This business model is composed of four main parts: 1. Building strong relationship with cocoa farmers; 2. Collaborating with a chocolate factory in Madagascar; 3. Sourcing ingredients and materials from Madagascar; 4. Exporting the finished product to global markets. It is through this holistic four fold system that the founders of Madécasse were able to create a model that delivers four times the social and economic benefit than the standard Fair Trade system (Marshall, R. Scott, et al., 15). The video below summarizes what the brand is about and their business model. It shows the artisanal values that the company holds and how closely they work with the people from Madagascar.

Step 1: Relationship with Cocoa Farmers

Madécasse partners with 70 cocoa farmers in the Sambirano Valley of Madagascar. The founders had to invest time and money when determining which farmers to partner with, as they were looking for farmers committed to fostering long-term relationships. Madécasse provides training to farmers on fermentation and drying of cocoa beans. By introducing these farmers to new techniques, equipment and training, Madécasse helps them substantially increase the value of the beans they are selling. It is estimated that on average, Madécasse offers farmers a price that is 20% higher than the market price for cured beans. It is worth nothing that farmers are allowed to sell to other buyers, however they rarely choose to. The partnership in turn provides farmers with financial stability through higher income streams to help cover costs and provide for their families.

The image above shows how a Madécasse worker is teaching the farmers on site about cocoa production techniques.

Step 2: Collaboration with Chocolate Factory

Madécasse partners with a chocolate factory in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar to process the high quality beans they sourced from local farmers. This factory employs 20 Malagasy men and 20 Malagasy women, in addition to a full-time manager. The process of making chocolate begins with trucks that bring the beans into the factory, where they are roasted in large batches. Ingredients are then added to create a wide range of flavors in the Madécasse product line. The chocolate is conched on site. It is then wrapped in foil and inserted into the wrapper and placed in 12 count display boxes. All the processing steps are done by hand in the factory.

The image above shows a completed box of chocolate in the classic wrapping.

Step 3: Sourcing from Madagascar

As mentioned previously, all of the beans and materials for making the chocolate and processing it are obtained from Madagascar. The only material that is imported is the French wrapper paper but otherwise all color printing is done on site. It is important to highlight that Madécasse’s production chocolate has resulted in the establishment of secondary industries in Madagascar. These secondary industries include utilities and packaging. In this way, along with the direct benefits to the farmers, Madécasse generates much greater social impact than exporting Fair trade cocoa alone.

Step 4: Exporting the finished product to global markets

The finished boxes of chocolates are transported in trucks owned by the chocolate factory. Madécasse chocolates are shipped to international markets, mostly to the United States and Europe. In terms of the U.S, the chocolates are shipped overseas and they arrive in Brooklyn where they are then distributed to stores all over the country. As of July 2012, there were more than 1,250 stores in the U.S carrying Madécasse chocolate, including 300 Whole Foods stores (Marshall, R. Scott, et al., 17)

Social and Environmental Impact

Madécasse’s measure of social and environmental impact is measured in “bars.” For example, the company estimates that it takes about 18 minutes to produce a bar. Of those minutes, farm labor accounts for 8 minutes of 43%. This shows that the labor in Madagascar is almost doubled due to Madécasse’s business model. This additional labor is met in the form of utilities or packaging and it essentially increases the number of people employed in the country. Additionally, $0.88 per bar is kept in country as opposed to $0.13 per bar kept when using the fair trade system. This means that seven times more profits are staying in Madagascar (Marshall, R. Scott, et al., 19). In terms of environmental impact, Madécasse is committed to preserving the natural environment. It is common in Madagascar for farmers to turn cocoa plantations into plantations of other more profitable cash crops. This damages the ecosystem of the area by eliminating the biodiversity that exists. To prevent this, Madécasse trains farmers on how to increase crop yields and use techniques that will allow them to get more money for the cocoa they grow. Additionally, the company started to collaborate with Conservation International organization and the Bristol Zoological Society to monitor species like lemurs that live in cocoa plantations in Madagascar. These efforts help protect endemic species in the area (Mironska and Steuwe, 89).

The image above shows a special edition wrapper created by Madécasse to promote a campaign to save the lemur.

In an effort to increase transparency and objectivity in measuring social impact, Madécasse entered into a partnership with Wildlife Returns organization. This third party entity helps in tracking the environmental and social impact of the company’s activities. The company published the first iteration of their analysis in 2017. The report outlines specific economic benefits as well as interviews with farmers who work with Madécasse. These farmers cite how much the company has done to train them and allow them to obtain higher crop yields and subsequently how much more they pay them for their cocoa (Madécasse Impact Report, 5-9).

Survey Results

The market for ethical chocolate is growing rapidly. This makes it ever more pressing for Madécasse to project to customers what makes their model for producing chocolate unique. In an effort to test if the story Madécasse is selling to customers is working, I interviewed two students to gauge their response to the brand. I first showed them the bar of chocolate and had them look at the wrapping that had the certifications listed and comment. Next I had them taste it and comment on the flavor. Lastly, I had them read “Direct Trade” tab on the website that explains what makes them better than the conventional “Fair Trade” system and comment (“Madécasse Direct Trade”, 1). Part of it is reproduced below.

Fair trade is a label. It’s used by large companies, to verify that farmers who live thousands of miles away from where the chocolate is made are paid a fair price for their cocoa … We go way beyond fair trade. We know the farmers we work with on a daily basis. And they know us. We share meals in their homes and we share a vision for prosperity.

The first student commented on the lemur on the wrapper and wondered if it was endemic to Madagascar. The student commented on the direct trade certification but did not know how it differed from fair trade. In terms of flavor, they liked the taste and said it tasted much more bold than regular dark chocolate. Lastly, after reading the website the student said he would be more willing to buy the bar because he saw the value of a direct trade system as opposed to the traditional fair trade certification. The second student had similar initial thoughts about the wrapper and the flavor. However, this student’s ending conclusion was distinct. The student felt that the direct trade website was not convincing enough. He felt that the fact that it was their “direct trade” certification instead of an institutional certification took away from their credibility. These varying conclusions speak to the fact that the company should consider doing more to explain the validity of their system.

Madécasse has a unique business model that strives to produce the maximum economic and social benefit for the people in Madagascar. Through their Direct Trade model they are able to educate farmers, provide higher cocoa prices to them, and create new jobs for locals in Madagascar. However, the small survey shows that Madécasse should strive to tell their story to attract customers as to why their brand is unique. As a whole, it is encouraging to see brands like Madécasse who are making an effort to tackle the issues that prevail in the chocolate industry.

Works Cited

Scholarly Sources

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” pp. 1088-1100

“Madécasse Impact Report (2017).” Madécasse, 2017, madecasse.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Madécasse-2017-Impact-Report.pdf.

“Madécasse Direct Trade”, Madécasse, 2019, http://www.madecasse.com/direct-trade

Marshall, R. Scott, et al. “Case 3. Madécasse: Competing with a ‘4x Fair Trade’ Business Model.” Case Studies in Social Entrepreneurship: The Oikos Collection Vol. 4, pp. 54–86., doi:10.9774/gleaf.978-1-78353-049-6_5.

Mironska, Dominika, and Inga Steuwe. Journal of Corporate Responsibility and Leadership, vol. 5, no. 2, ser. 2018, 3 Jan. 2018. 2018, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/JCRL.2018.013.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Multimedia Sources

Madécasse Cocoa Bars. Digital image. Couture Candies. 2019 http://www.couturecandies.com/madecasse-dark-chocolate-mint-crunch-2-64-oz-bar/

Madécasse Save the Lemur. Digital image. FoodBev. June 8, 2016. https://www.foodbev.com/news/madecasse-launches-line-of-bars-to-help-protect-endangered-lemurs/

Madécasse Teaching Farmers. RSF. July 5, 2015. https://rsfsocialfinance.org/2015/07/09/madecasse-breaks-the-mold-by-making-chocolate-at-the-source/

“We Are Madécasse.” YouTube, Madécasse Chocolate & Vanilla, 20 Oct. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUxhgqyYuGk.

The Chocolate Process and the Inconsistency of Consistency

What are some descriptors that pop into your head when you think about chocolate? Smooth? Creamy? Velvety? Those are some of the feelings Dove wants you to imagine when you are viewing their ads like the one above which show gleaming liquid chocolate on and even comparing their chocolate to silk throughout. Though these are some of the modern connotations of chocolate, its origins were anything but. As technologies improved, the goal of chocolate makers moved towards smoother and smoother chocolate, that is, until technologies allowed for chocolate to become “too smooth,” after which consistency became more of a conscious choice by chocolate makers.

Evidence of cacao consumption dates back to as early as 1900 BC according to tests on pre-Olmec vessels found at archeological sites in Mexico and Central America. The word cacao is sometimes thought to come from the Olmec word “kakawa.” The Olmecs, whose civilization prospered from approximately 1500 BC to 400 BC, likely used cacao for religious and medicinal purposes. They were also possible ancestors of the Mayans who are thoroughly documented—primarily from the Dresden Codex—as having used cacao in many aspects of their lives. When the Maya consumed cacao, it was often in the form of a frothy beverage, often mixed with maize and spices. One technique involved grinding the cacao nibs with a metate, a curved volcanic stone slab. The individual grinding the nibs uses a stone roller with a curvature almost matching that of the metate. Then, while the nibs are being ground, small amounts of water are tossed in, creating a sort of cacao paste. When this is mixed with other ingredients in water, granules are still very much present and noticeable. There will not be any whole nibs, but particles will still be distinguishable. In the video below, at approximately the 2 minute mark, we can see a woman, affectionately referred to as Señora Ruiz, grinding roasted beans on a metate. Usually, the beans would be deshelled, or winnowed, which leaves only the nibs, but this is not necessarily a mandatory step. We can see that even after she grinds it into a “fine” powder, the cacao paste is still visibly granular. In addition, in the video, Señora Ruiz adds sugar—among other ingredients—to the cacao paste. Sugar was not introduced in Mesoamerica until the Europeans brought it over during colonization, thus the recipe that Señora Ruiz is concocting is, in fact, not a true ancient Mesoamerican recipe.

            The metate and other instruments like it were among the only ways to grind cacao until around the early 1800s as the industrial revolution ushered in new mechanized methods for refining chocolate past what was possibly by hand. The first major breakthrough in this was when Coenraad Johannes van Houten patented the hydraulic press in 1828. The hydraulic press allowed cocoa powder to be separated from the cocoa butter, “a peculiar mild fat…to the amount of 43 per cent according to Bousingault, and 53 per cent according to Lampadius” (Scientific American 3). Not only could this process separate the two which allowed the cocoa powder to become finer, the cocoa butter could then be added later in different quantities which alters consistency and texture. The same Scientific American article that described the proportion of cocoa butter per bean also outlines another new technology of the time, a granite cacao milling machine, “a machine consisting of an annular trough of granite, in which two speroidal granite millstones are turned by machinery” (Scientific American 3). This is yet another step in the road to finer, smoother chocolate. The technology is not immensely complicated. It is still, at its core, a stone that is grinding cacao, just like the metate, yet this machine can do the process more intensely, more efficiently, and with more precision.

            1879 brought the concept of conching into the world of chocolate thanks to Rudolphe Lindt (yes, the same Lindt as Lindt Chocolate). Conching involves the cocoa butter being re-added and the chocolate liquor being continuously turned in a large vat, evenly distributing the cocoa butter and any other ingredients that are added at this stage. According to F. H. Banfield, Director of Research at the British Food Manufacturing Industries, conching along with controlled grinding “can standardize the smooth-eating qualities of his product” (Banfield 299). It is interesting to note that in this article, he mentions chocolate as a couverture, in which the consistency matters a great deal as flow rate and viscosity are vital factors due to the chocolate not flowing evenly if it is too thick and draining off if it is too thin. Thus, consistency is not only important for the mouthfeel it gives a consumer eating it straight, but also with its performance around other food items.

           Lastly, an invention that debuted in 1912 but is still widely used to this day is the three-roll mill (or five-roll mill depending on the preferred end consistency). During this process, the chocolate liquor is run through a number of tightly spaced rollers that squeeze the liquor through, reducing its particle size. The more times this process is run, the finer the texture of the chocolate gets. Most chocolate makers today aim for 18-20 microns for their particle size. Particle size is a delicate balance. A particle size too large and the consumer can feel individual granules within the chocolate—which is not necessarily a bad thing and at times done intentionally, especially by more artisanal chocolate makers. A particle size too small and the consistency of the chocolate comes off as almost gooey. The video below shows the chocolate process as a whole but does a good job of describing the rolling process and its significance with consistency. Not only does it get the particles to a desired size, it shapes them into almost “pearl-like” spheres so that they roll, instead of sticking to the palette.

            In ancient Mesopotamia, the most advanced form of chocolate grinding came in the form of the metate resulting in cacao products and beverages with rough and gritty cacao particles. The Industrial Revolution was the impetus for many chocolate related inventions, the first of which being van Houton’s hydraulic press which allowed for the separation of cocoa butter from cocoa powder. The conching process, invented by Rudolph Lindt, allowed for a smoother chocolate by re-adding cocoa butter and thoroughly mixing the chocolate liquor. The final game changer with regards to consistency was the three-roll mill. It was this invention that allowed for the chocolate liquor to become not only fine enough where individual particles are indistinguishable by the tongue, but too fine to where the chocolate feels gooey. Whereas originally, chocolate consistency was a factor of the present technology, after many inventions and adaptations of technologies, consistency has become a conscious choice.

Works Cited

Banfield, F. H. “FROM COCOA BEAN TO CHOCOLATE.” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 105, no. 4998, 1957, pp. 298–300. JSTOR.

“Chocolate.” Scientific American, vol. 8, no. 1, 1852, pp. 3. JSTOR.

Edgar, Blake. “The Power of Chocolate.” Archaeology, vol. 63, no. 6, 2010, pp. 20–25. JSTOR.

Lee, Owen. “Preparing Drinking Chocolate near Oaxaca, Mexico.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Apr. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlAg7zIR57k.

Mars, Incorporated. “Dove Chocolate Commercial – Senses.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 May 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8.

Tasty. “How Chocolate Is Made.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Nov. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPe1jMuX32s.