Tag Archives: chocolate. production

The Dangers of Ghirardelli’s Sensationalized Story: How Ghirardelli Avoids Chocolate Production Scrutiny

Ghirardelli Square is open to the public from 9 am to midnight

Unbeknownst to many chocolate consumers, Ghirardelli, the second oldest American chocolate maker, has called San Francisco home for over one hundred fifty years (Lawrence 90). Since its mid-nineteenth century beginnings, Ghirardelli has secured worldwide partnerships, opened twenty-three shops across the United States, and established its reputation as a delectable square chocolate treat and outstanding baking ingredient. Ghirardelli has even left its mark in public spaces. Most notably, the company worked with San Francisco leadership to open Ghirardelli Square, a living and breathing landmark, in the heart of San Francisco’s Marina District.

Flip through any San Francisco travel guide and you’re bound to stumble upon Ghirardelli Square as a must see destination. With reviews raving about the Square’s incredible view of the Pacific Bay, majestic marquee lights, and fun shops and restaurants for both tourists and non tourists, it has become an iconic part of the San Francisco map. However, Ghirardelli’s influence in San Francisco doesn’t end with this monumental Square. With three Ghirardelli stores flourishing in San Francisco, including Ghirardelli on the Go at Westfield Shopping Center, and a elaborate food booth at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, Ghirardelli continues to imprint its sentimental value in the hearts and minds of San Francisco residents.

Due to its long history in San Francisco, Ghirardelli’s name evokes two meanings. On one hand, Ghirardelli’s brand elicits an image of a regional, premium, and specialty chocolate business rather what it truly is: a company owned by chocolate conglomerate Lindt & Sprüngli. On the other hand, the Ghirardelli refers to places and rituals including its landmark Square in San Francisco, the company’s small factory experiences scattered across the country, and the numerous company events promoting their chocolate, such as the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. These two evocations of the Ghirardelli name allow the company to champion their status as a community driven, morally righteous, high-quality chocolate company, and unfairly avoid the scrutiny that “Big 5” chocolate companies receive.

Domenico Ghirardelli

In order to understand how people perceive Ghirardelli today, it is important to contextualize the company’s long history. Born in the early nineteenth century, Domenico Ghirardelli, the founder of Ghirardelli, grew up surrounded by Italian culture and cuisine naturally due to his dad’s spice trader job in Genoa, Italy. When his interest in food peaked during his teenage years, Domenico apprenticed at luxury chocolate store Romanengo where he learned to craft and sell chocolate, candies, and chocolate paste that melts into boiling water (Lawrence 90). Equipped with immense knowledge about the chocolate industry and in search of new beginnings away from home, Domenico moved from Genoa to Uruguay to Lima, Peru, all within the span of one year (Lawrence 91).

Domenico finally settled in Lima for its compatible Latin culture; the similar language and the friendly patrons reminded him of his Italian home. As Ghirardelli prepared to establish his own confectionary and spice business in Lima, he changed his name to Domingo to appeal to Peru’s Spanish speaking clientele (Lawrence 92). His chocolate shop, located in the heart of the city’s central square, attracted flocks of customers waiting to sample candies he modeled from his lessons at Romanengo. Settled in Lima, Domingo prospered as a confectionary shop keeper by churning out daily chocolate and candy recipes. But his newfound permanence, a sense of belonging in the Lima community, did not last long.

James Lick, a piano and cabinet shop keeper next to Ghirardelli, followed the immigration movement to America, and more specifically San Francisco. As he set sail, he loaded up about 600 pounds of Ghirardelli’s hand pressed chocolate, promising Ghirardelli he would sell every last pound (Lawrence 92). While Ghirardelli was comfortable operating in Lima, Lick and Ghirardelli’s forged friendship and the temptation of a fresh start in a new country compelled Ghirardelli to follow Lick to America in 1849 (Lawrence 92).

Ghirardelli advertisement from the late 19th century

As Ghirardelli immigrated to San Francisco, the city was facing its own set of monumental events. 1849 signaled the the Gold Rush where 300,000 hopeful miners flocked to San Francisco to strike rich. Sensing a lucrative business model, Ghirardelli opened several grocery stores in Stockton, California to market his chocolate and sweets to hungry Gold Rush miners (Lawrence 92). Since his shop was the second chocolate maker in the United States, many customers savored their first bite of chocolate in his store, and praise for his chocolates quickly spread. Despite his shops being open for only a few years, he became known as one of San Francisco’s “Money Men,” a title reserved for people making close to $25,000 or more (Lawrence 92). This prominence jumpstarted his career as an American chocolate maker and gave him the confidence to open his first operation and sales confectionary shop at the Verandah building in Portsmouth Square (Lawrence 92).

After several more years of perfecting the chocolate formula, establishing connections to cocoa bean farmers, and cementing its business as a household name in San Francisco, Ghirardelli Square, which once housed Ghirardelli’s factory and businesses, opened as a public landmark on 1964 (Lawrence 114). This triumphant opening came after many months of fighting group of real estate developers who wanted to demolish and purchase the property. To further ensure the Square’s future prospects, the Ghirardelli Square owners applied for and received National Historic Register status in 1982 (Ghirardelli). Nowadays, the Square rents out space to local businesses such as The Cheese School of San Francisco and San Francisco gift shop Jackson & Polk.

Ghirardelli’s present-day logo

Ghirardelli’s elaborate journey from Italy to San Francisco and the story behind the locally cemented chocolate empire feels heartwarming, which makes it such an effective marketing tool. The company emphasizes the story’s significance on their website, in academic journals, and in Ghirardelli Chocolate’s cookbooks. The company’s logo even features a flying eagle and banners with its the founding date (1852) and location (San Francisco), which creates an image of a craft chocolate bar company.

Unlike other cheaper chocolate bars placed at the cash register, Ghirardelli’s shiny packages sit on the shelf next to local confectioners and fair trade chocolate bars such as Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Taza chocolate. Furthermore, Ghirardelli’s price point is similar to many premium chocolate bars, which may give customers the impression that Ghirardelli serves fancy and ethical chocolate. According to Amazon, Ghirardelli’s most popular package with fourteen squares costs twenty-six dollars, which is much more than any of the popular chocolate bars manufactured by the “Big 5” Chocolate companies (Amazon). Because of Ghirardelli products’ placement in grocery stores, Ghirardelli can assume close relationships with ethical and fair trade chocolate companies without much questioning.

The company’s chocolate packaging also lists the percentage of pure cacao in each square, whether that be Dark 60% or 72%, which makes it appear as if the company is transparent about the product’s ingredients. Packaging features luxurious images of fillings such as mint, caramel, and raspberry. Furthermore, many reputable baking websites such as Epicurious cite Ghirardelli chocolate chips as the best products on the market (Sevier). By employing specific marketing strategies on their packaging and seizing its notable reputation in the online recipe world, Ghirardelli comes across as an ethical and high quality company that cares about its consumers.

People make videos trying San Francisco Chocolate

While consumers often come away with a positive image of Ghirardelli, there are more ambiguous, and potentially nefarious, production details in the background. In the many accounts of Ghirardelli’s story, the company never discloses how its beans are sourced or never divulges their commitment to fair trade ingredients. Only by searching online, readers will find out that Ghirardelli is owned by major chocolate conglomerate Lindt & Sprüngli (Lawrence 115). Lindt & Sprüngli, headquartered in Switzerland and most known for their Lindor chocolate truffles, takes in around four billion dollars in revenue each fiscal year (Lindt & Sprüngli). Ghirardelli controls all aspects of the bean to bar production process, but like Lindt & Sprüngli, does not source fair trade ingredients (Nieburg).

Ghirardelli’s cocoa bean production webpage proudly mentions that “over 85% of Ghirardelli cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli farming program” (Ghirardelli) While this initially seems like a promising percentage, the sourcing behind the other 15% of beans never comes up, which ultimately discredits this bold statement. Additionally, Lindt & Sprüngli claim to source 100% of their West African cocoa beans from Ghana “because of the high quality of the cocoa beans in the region” (Ghirardelli). Lindt & Sprüngli also underscores the quality training they provide to Ghana farmers and their genuine investments in West African villages resource centers, a point further emphasized by pictures of smiling West African farmers. While Ghirardelli wants to associate themselves with sustainable farming practices, they do not succeed. They use vague language to describe the stories behind the ingredients and continue to source ingredients from the West African region, known for its questionable labor practices (Ghirardelli).

The Good Shopping Guide, which rates chocolate companies on a variety ethical factors including their environmental report, political donations, and animal welfare, does not list Ghirardelli’s name. The company’s owner, Lindt & Sprüngli, is given a C grade (Good Shopping Guide). This suggests that the company’s seemingly genuine transparency does not provide the whole story for the labor and sourcing. Since Ghirardelli can substitute their company name with Lindt & Sprüngli when talking about cocoa production, their name becomes less attached to questionable sourcing methods.

One Ghirardelli account positively portrays Ghirardelli’s impact: “Italian yet American, immigrant yet old-line, and authentically San Franciscan throughout, it has given California a captivating, emblematic lens through which to reflect on it” (Lawrence 115). This account, written in 2002 after its merging with Lindt & Sprüngli, fails to disclose the company’s worldwide association with the chocolate conglomerate. While Ghirardelli remains anchored to San Francisco communities, it has adopted many business practices from Lindt such as cocoa bean sourcing, as evidenced from their website. Overall, Ghirardelli fails to provide consumers with a clear and comprehensive picture of their sourcing methods.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival Highlights from 2012

In addition to Ghirardelli’s clever marketing that distances their company from questionable cocoa harvesting conditions and their relationship with Lindt & Sprüngli, Ghirardelli hosts a variety of San Francisco events to craft their image of local company rather than exacerbate their connections to a large corporation. Every year, Ghirardelli hosts the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, reminiscent of the Classical Period Mayan chocolate rituals, in the middle of Ghirardelli Square. Featuring 50 local vendors, chocolate purveyors, and local celebrity chef speakers, the Chocolate Festival celebrates the diverse ways chefs introduce and adapt chocolate into their recipes. At ancient Mayan festivals, diners feasted on meticulously prepared “tamales, relleno negro, tortillas, atole, boiled chicken, roasted pigs, chocolate, and rum” (LeCount 943). Mayans even concocted a mix of maize and chocolate, called chilate, for diners to sample (Kufer 83). This parallels how Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival attendees can sample rums, beers, Bay Area wines, and other local specialties from the Ghirardelli Chocolate lounge. The similarities do not stop there. In what mirrors the barrier to entry for elite hosted Maya rituals, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival is not open to the public, and requires that participants buy entrance tickets. While the Festival seemingly promotes chocolate and its magical qualities, the branded Festival title along with its location in Ghirardelli Square turn the Festival into a marketing ploy targeting San Francisco residents and tourists than an attempt to seriously engage with and address issues in the problematic chocolate industry.

The iconic Ghirardelli name has achieved even more fame through its portrayal in popular culture, distancing the brand further and further from its chocolate company status. When San Francisco hosted the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the Ghirardelli company claimed a prime location opposite Fillmore Street entrance where they served Ghirardelli’s famous Ground Chocolate (The International Confectioner). In a similar extravagant display, the San Francisco musical Beach Blanket Babylon featured a character named Val Diamond wearing a star studded hat with the company’s giant marquee lights in Ghirardelli Square (Lawrence 113). As San Francisco’s reputation continued to grow during the twentieth century, Ghirardelli’s landmark similarly gained West Coast fame and subsequently worldwide fame.

Ghirardelli’s presence in San Francisco landmarks, shops, and restaurant menus has cemented a positive and nostalgic image in the people’s minds. People from all over the world flock to San Francisco to tour Ghirardelli Square and try Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes in booths. While many San Francisco residents cherish the name Ghirardelli and swear by Ghirardelli chocolate ingredients, people have ignored the company’s more questionable business practices for too long. Ultimately, while it is possible to enjoy Ghirardelli sweets and support the local spirit in Ghirardelli Square, consumers, especially San Francisco residents, must push Ghirardelli to do become more transparent about their company practices and rituals.

Works Cited

  1. Amazon. (2019). Shop Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares, Dark Chocolate, 5.25 oz., (Pack of 6). Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Ghirardelli-Chocolate-Squares-Dark-5-25/dp/B001G0MG0K/ref=asc_df_B001G0MG0K/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241977055433&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=6768309403911426287&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9001999&hvtargid=pla-571287736743&psc=1
  2. At the Exposition. (1915, May). The International Confectioner, Inc. Vol. 24. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=-9xOAAAAYAAJ&lpg=RA4-PA58&ots=2TF9acIzes&dq=ghirardelli%20Panama-Pacific%20International%20Exposition&pg=RA4-PA58#v=onepage&q=ghirardelli%20Panama-Pacific%20International%20Exposition&f=false
  3. Ethical Table. Adapted From the Good Shopping Guide, The Ethical Company Organisation.
  4. Ghirardelli. (2019). Sustainable Cocoa Production. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.ghirardelli.com/sustainable-cocoa-production.
  5. Ghirardelli (2019). The History of Ghirardelli Square. Retrieved May 1, 2019 from https://www.ghirardellisq.com/history.
  6. Lindt & Sprüngli. (2017).  Lindt & Sprüngli Annual Report 2017.  KILCHBERG, SWITZERLAND: Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG.
  7. Kufer, J., Grube, N., and Heinrich, M. “Chocolate III: RITUAL, ART AND MEMORY.” Artes de México. No. 110 (2013): 72-96.
  8. Lawrence, Sidney. “The Ghirardelli Story.” California History. Vol. 81, No. 2 (2002): 90-115.
  9. LeCount, Lisa J. “Like Water for Chocolate: Feasting and Political Ritual among the Late Classic Maya at Xunantunich, Belize.” American Anthropologist, Vol. 103, No. 4 (Dec., 2001): 935-953. Print.
  10. Nieburg, Oliver. “Going Its ‘Own Way’: Lindt Invests $14m in Sustainable Cocoa in Last Eight Years.” Confectionerynews.com, William Reed Business Media Ltd., 13 Mar. 2017, www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2017/03/13/Lindt-sustainable-cocoa-program-Analysis.
  11. Sevier, Joe. “Taste Test: Chocolate Chips.” Epicurious, Epicurious, 4 Sept. 2018, http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/the-best-chocolate-chips-for-baking-cookies-and-more-article.

Media Citations

  1. “Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival 2012 Highlights.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Oct. 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFI92iaxeZQ.
  2. “Irish People Try San Francisco Chocolate.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Jan. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxRJ3Kaa9-Y.
  3. Ghirardelli Square. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ghirardelli_Square.jpg#filehistory.
  4. Domenico Ghirardelli. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Domenico_Ghirardelli.jpg.
  5. The 1864 California Miner’s Almanac – Ghirardelli Chocolate. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_California_Miner%27s_Almanac_-_1864_-_Ghirardelli_Chocolate.jpg.
  6. Ghirardelli Chocolate Company Logo. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ghirardelli_Chocolate_Company_Logo.svg.

Confronting Gender Inequality in West African Cocoa Production Through Chocolate Advertisements

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

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

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

Fairtrade and gender inequality in West Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multimedia sources

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

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

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

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

Chocolate: A Shift From Elitism to Convenience Store Staple

A Shift From Elitism to Convenience Store Staple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate in our life

The beginning of chocolate


Chocolate comes from Theobroma Cacao.  Theobroma cacao is botanical name for the cacao tree and cocoa tree from the Malvaceae family. Genus Theobroma has 22 different cocoa species. Theobroma cacao is the name given by the European botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. This plant is not special high because has from 4 to 8 meters. The tree comes from tropical forests in South and Central America as well as parts from Mexico. The plant is evergreen.

Chocolate is a preparation of the seeds of cacao. Roasted, husked, ground, it is often sweetened and flavored with vanilla and sugar, although fruits such as raspberries can sometimes be used as well.

Chocolate was invented in South America around 1000 BCE.  While the Olmec were probably the first people who tried it, the Mayan’s civilization were the first to plant the cacao. The chocolate and cocoa were very important in their life. Theobroma means Food of the Gods in the Mayan language. Of their myths, Mayans believed that the Plumed Serpent gave Cacao to them, after people were created from maize by the divine grandparent deity Xmucane. The Mayans took this time celebrate Cacao because they thought that this is a gift from the God.

The Ancient Mayans prepared chocolate just for drinking because they didn’t know a solid chocolate.  The production of this beverage was very similar to the production today. After all processes (harvesting, fermentation, drying, roasting, grounding) they added hot water, honey, vanilla, chili, corn, etc.

Between 1200-1500AD, the Aztecs also were planting cacao. This caused a competition for the Mayans because they dominated and used the cocoa as a currency. For example fish wrapped in maize husks was worth 3 Cacao beans.

The chocolate and cocoa were very important for the Mayans and Aztecs because they used it in lots of religious rituals. Cacao was also perceived like a connection between earth, underworld and sky, royal bloodline. Mayans thought that plant is integral to keeping cycles of death, life, and rebirth. Cacao was thought to boost energy and made the imbiber stronger.

Christopher Columbus was the first European who discovered a cacao tree. . He sent the Cacao to the King Ferdinand. While cocoa was rare for some time, around 20 years after Columbus’ first sample, Prince Philip of Spain received the cocoa drink from a Dominican friar. The reception to this was so positive that France and Portugal didn’t trade cocoa to the rest of Europe for 100 years. At the beginning chocolate was only imported to Spain.

Throughout the rest of Europe, chocolate appeared in the 17th century. The chocolate beverage was very luxury good.


Production of chocolate

            The statistics say that the biggest production of cacao is in those countries:

  • Cŏte d’Ivoire
  • Ghana
  • Indonesia
  • Brazil
  • Nigeria
  • Cameroon
  • Malaysia


From my ealier blog post I want to remind that:

“The first step of cacao production is harvesting. When the pods are properly ripened it is possible to remove them by knife or machete from the tree. The pods must be pried open to access the beans inside. One pod typically can contain around 30-45 beans.  The beans are placed in bins for few days to await processing. Afterwards they go to specially designed facilities where they can be fermented and dried.

The next step is fermentation. The fermentation process takes around four or seven days. But this is depends on the condition such as: temperature or humidity. During the fermentation, beans are mixed in every 48 hours. This process is very important because we can obtain flavor precursors, kills seeds, activate enzymes, and volatile aromatics produced in the fermenting pulp diffuse into the seeds, adding additional flavors. Fermentation is very important because the quality of the Cacao is depends on this process. When the Cacao is under-fermented the taste is flat, bitter, beany, and astringent. Conversely, when the product is over-fermented the flavor can come off as hammy, wet cardboard, and the sickening sweet-sour taste has been compared to what seems like vomit, parmesan cheese, moldy, cat urine, fruit loops, olives or sour cream.

The third step is drying. This process takes around one or two weeks. The beans are spread out over a large, flat surface. During this time, it is important to rake them often. The beans are usually dried under the direct sun, sometimes is possible to use artificial heating but the first option is preferable because can help to avoid some undesirable flavors like smoke or oil. Drying can also be a part of fermentation because sometimes this process takes first days of drying. Also it helps to reduce moisture in the cacao, avoid molding, start Maillard reactions and ensure good quality of the cocoa.

The next step is sorting. During this is possible to remove moldy as well flat and destroyed beans, as well extra detritus picked up in the previous stages, such as insects, plastics, glass, and dirt.

Finally Cacao can be packed and shipped. It is important to remember that bagging, storage and transports must be climate controlled to preserve the quality of the beans. Like proper temperature, humidity or polyethylene sacks must all be carefully controlled and monitored.”

Roasting and winnowing the cocoa. Those processes have a place in a manufactory. Roasting the cocoa helps to get the properly color and flavor. The shells of cocoa during this process are much more brittle. Inside the shells we can find cocoa nibs (is kind of raw chocolate of cacao beans which have to be roasted). After roasting the nibs are sorted according to size. This step is called winnowing.

The next process is grinding. During this the nibs are turned into cocoa liquor (cocoa mass). Thanks to the heating of granular consistency we can obtain liquid because the nibs are melted. After this the product is mixed with sugar and cocoa butter.

Types of chocolate


We have a lot of types of chocolates. The type is depends on the substances which are in the product like sugar, milk, chocolate liquor (ground mass of cocoa beans), cocoa butter (the waxy ivory – yellow fat obtained from chocolate liquor)

            We can distinguish some types of chocolates:

Dark Chocolate – it contains at least 30% to extremely 70-80% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. The taste becomes bitterer when the level of sugar is smaller. Dark chocolate can also contain vanilla and lecithin.

Unsweetened Chocolate – it contains pure chocolate liquor, composed of ground cocoa beans. This product has very bitter taste. It is used for baking when it is possible to add a sugar.

Bittersweet Chocolate – it contains at least 35% of cocoa solids and 50 – 80% of chocolate liquor.

Sweet Dark Chocolate – it contains at least 15% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar.

Milk Chocolate – it contains at least 10% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, 12% of condensed milk or dry milk solids. This kind of chocolate has much more lighter color, and is sweeter than dark chocolate.

White Chocolate – doesn’t contain chocolate liquor and basically is not a chocolate. This product has at least 20% of cocoa butter, 14% of milk solids and no more than 55% of sugar.


The most know chocolate’s brands on the worlds are: Lindt (Switzerland), Cadbury (United Kingdom), Milka (Switzerland), Toblerone (Switzerland), Ghirardelli (Italy), Ferrero Rocher (Italy), Taza (United States), Hershey (United States), Mars (United States).

Consumption of Chocolate


The consumption of chocolate is huge. People in the United States in 2015 spent around $ 22B USD on chocolate. They ate around 12 lbs of chocolate per person.

We can distinguish five top nations who like chocolate the most:

  • Switzerland 22 lbs per year
  • Austria 20,13 lbs per year
  • Ireland 19,47 lbs per year
  • Germany 18,04 lbs per year
  • Norway 17,93 lbs per year

All of those countries are European. In Europe the most popular chocolate is – milk chocolate.

This kind of chocolate is much sweeter than dark chocolate. One of the most popular chocolate in Europe is “Milka”. This product has many different varieties of taste, for example with strawberries, cherry, Oreo cookies, nuts, raisins, yoghurt, etc. Is also not special expensive. Approximately 1 chocolate package costs $2.

Is chocolate healthy?

            According to the Harvard School of Public Health a few pieces of chocolate per month can make our life longer and sweeter.

Cacao and especially dark chocolate is very rich in magnesium. The chemical symbol is Mg. this is a mineral who participate in many biochemical reactions in our body. Cacao nibs have around 272 mg per 100g.

Chocolate which is very rich in cacao and cacao helps to reduce a weigh. This is because these products have a lot of fiber who helps with digestion. The cacao also helps to keep our bowel movements regular. Also is good to take it when is a problem with constipations because the fiber in cacao work well during the digestion process.

The cocoa and chocolate have a lot of iron. This element is needed to produce red blood cells. When the level of iron is too low the body suffers for anemia. Is a good idea to intake the iron with vitamin C because the absorption of Fe is much better.

The chocolate is very rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, catechins, flavanols which are responsible to absorb free radicals that can damage in the body (for example cancer).  Dark chocolate has much more antioxidants than some fruit lie for example blueberries or Acai berries.

Cacao and dark chocolate can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Also those products have very good influence on blood pressure and insulin resistance. The antioxidants like flavanols stimulate the endothelium to give a gas – Nitric Oxide (NO). This substance is responsible for sending out the signal to the arteries to relax. This process makes our blood pressure lower. The dark chocolate can also reduce the level of oxidized bad LDL which can react with free radicals.

When we are eating chocolate or cocoa our brain is stimulated by them. Cacao can produce in our body two chemicals: phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide. The first one we produce when we are happy or excited (for example during the eating chocolate). Our pulse is much quicker.

The dark chocolate can also protect the skin against the sun. The product has a lot of flavonols which are responsible for improving the blood flow to the skin and increase the hydration, density of the skin. It is a good idea to eat a dark chocolate a few months before for example vacation or visiting places with a lot of sun.

Our brain can also be improved by eating a dark chocolate. It happens because of the flavanol which can improve the blood flow in our brain. The product also contains some substances like theobromine or caffeine which work as a stimulant for the brain.

Chocolate doesn’t have bad influence on our tooth. If we have a tooth decay is because of the sugar which we can find in a lot of food products. We have to remember that dark chocolate with high level of cacao has less sugar. Actually, a chocolate consists an anti – bacterial substances which can help and prevent the tooth illness.

As we can observe the dark chocolate and cacao have good influence on our body. It is recommended to eat a few times per month because those products are rich in some chemical elements which our bodies need to work properly. Is very important to remember that if we want to eat good chocolate we need to choose a product with high percent of cacao without many sugar. We shouldn’t eat it every day because we gain too much weight but is good to eat for dessert a few times per week.

In a 100 gram of dark chocolate (70 – 85% of cocoa) bar we can find:

  • 67% RDA for Iron
  • 58% RDA for Magnesium
  • 98% RDA for Manganese
  • 89% RDA for copper
  • 11 grams of fiber
  • A lot of potassium, selenium, zinc, phosphorus

RDA*  – recommended daily allowance



As we can see the chocolate is a food product with amazing history. Has good influence on our health and frame of mind. We have to remember that dark chocolate with high consistence of cacao is the best for our body because have a lot of nutrients and very low level of sugar.



Scholarly sources:

1.Chiaki Sanbongi, Naomi Osakabe, Midori Natsume, Toshio Takizawa, Shuichi Gomi and Toshihiko Osawa.  Antioxidative Polyphenols Isolated from Theobroma cacao. Chiaki Sanbongi, Naomi Osakabe, Midori Natsume, Toshio Takizawa, Shuichi Gomi and Toshihiko Osawa, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,volume 46, numero 2, 1998, pages 454–457,

2.Miller, K. B.; Hurst, W. J.; Payne, M. J.; Stuart, D. A.; Apgar, J.; Sweigart, D. S.; Ou, B. (2008). “Impact of Alkalization on the Antioxidant and Flavanol Content of Commercial Cocoa Powders”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 56 (18): 8527–33; 8527.

3.Szogyi, Alex (1997). Chocolate: Food of the Gods. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 199. ISBN: 978-0-313-30506-1

4.Terry G. Powis; W. Jeffrey Hurst; María del Carmen Rodríguez; Ponciano Ortíz C.; Michael Blake; David Cheetham; Michael D. Coe; John G. Hodgson (December 2007). Ochocolate in the world. Antiquity . 81 (314). ISSN 0003-598X. Retrieved 2011-02-15.

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