Tag Archives: chocolate

Harvard Square CVS Chocolate Selection

CVS Pharmacy is a popular retail store across the United States offering everything from school supplies to pharmaceutical needs. It can be found in pretty much every corner of the country and most everyone has been inside one at least a dozen times in their lives. Of course a store with so much general merchandise also offers a selection of foods, not in the least of which is chocolate. For this blog post, I travelled to the local CVS pharmacy in Harvard Square and examined their chocolates to see what kind of standard one of the most widespread stores in America holds for their selection of chocolate. After all, because of how standardized CVS stores are in what they carry, these same chocolates are likely everywhere being offered everywhere else in the U.S. as well. It is because of this reason that makes their selection of chocolate so important, its availability to the general populace means these brands get the most face time and highest likelihood of being bought by consumers. Unfortunately, after examining the Harvard Square CVS selection I found that it was inadequate. With consideration of price point and intended audience, I believe that because of concerns of variety and ethical concerns I believe that CVS Pharmacy can do still do a better job curating their chocolate collection.

First of all, I want to note that I suspected that many CVS shoppers don’t usually go to CVS for chocolate directly. However, just because many people don’t go to CVS for chocolate doesn’t mean that CVS can just offer any type of chocolate. So I began to make a thorough exploration of the store and I found that it wasn’t actually very well organized for chocolates likely because CVS’s primary audience is not at CVS to buy chocolate. There was a small main section for sweets including candy and chocolates, but this wasn’t the only place for chocolate – there was chocolate everywhere in the store often mixed into other sections of snacks. Probably the most notable alternative section to the main chocolate area was there a small stand that had a selection of “premium” chocolates.

The Premium Section at CVS

Throughout the store there were many different types of chocolate. There was a fair assortment of different forms from bars, pretzels to balls. On the face of it, it seemed like most of these chocolates all belonged to different companies. However, on closer inspection of the companies behind the chocolate, it turns out that despite a plethora of chocolates, most of the brands of chocolate throughout the store were one of these four companies: Lindt, Hersheys, Mars, and Nestle.

Of course, this wasn’t really a surprise. These four companies are giants in the chocolate world. It makes sense that a popular and generalist store like CVS would of course carry the most popular and general chocolate companies. It is also in line with the intended audience of CVS. It’s meant for everybody and so for this reason it’s clear that the intended audience for all their products (and not just chocolate) is just average consumers. Average consumers that are coming in are more likely to be buying chocolate more on a whim. Even if it’s not on a whim, it’s likely in junction with purchasing other items from CVS. CVS is such a general merchandise store that there seem to be little reason to go to CVS solely for the reason to be buying chocolate. If the latter were the case then these consumers would likely go to a higher end chocolate store that offers more gourmet options. If one buys chocolate on a whim, they’re most likely to be choosing brands and types of chocolate that they are familiar with. Familiarity and brand recognition is what companies like the four mentioned above are king of.

In terms of price points, I found that most of the chocolates offered were anywhere form $2.00 to $4.00 on average. The highest priced chocolates I found were in the premium chocolate section with Lindt’s Lindor Truffles costing $5.29. Very often a lot of the chocolates, whether premium or not, would have promotions where it wouldn’t be uncommon to get a small deal for purchasing two of the same chocolates. For example, the Truffles were going on sale 2 for $8.00 despite the fact that they’re being listed as premium chocolates.

Every item has a promotional sale on it

There are two things that are clear from their price points and promotions. Promotions tend to show either that chocolates are not being sold well and I think this helps support my reasoning that the primary audience of CVS is not travelling to CVS for chocolates and might need incentive to purchase more. Secondly, the low price points all around show the lack of diversity the CVS selection of chocolate is. It is precisely because of how mainstream the types chocolates are that CVS can order in bulk, sell in bulk and price them in bulk. Hersheys for example even back in 1910 had such a “low cost… every grocer, druggist, and candy store owner in America could stock Hershey products” (D’Antonio, 2006).  I think it shows how much of a conglomerate both CVS and these chocolate corporations are. There isn’t really any sort of care in the selection, its just purchasing whatever big brand is out there and having as much of it as possible. As you can see from the picture below CVS’ selection ends up being in line with the present American nature of having too much stuff and an excess of consumerism. I think Goody puts it best when describing the revolution of industrial food that “larger stores offer lower prices, wider choices and the impersonality of selection that a socially mobile populations appears to prefer” (Goody 1982).

So many chocolates, so impersonal

However, is there really any way that we can buy chocolate in bulk this cheaply without hurting someone down the supply line? If anything, big corporations are the most likely to be perpetrators of sourcing practices that aren’t up to ethical standards. While they have been trying to improve over the years, it still isn’t good enough. Bottom lines for corporations tend to be profit so its easy to skim out and take shortcuts, but this ends up hurting very real people. As we can learn from  This video shows how for our relatively cheap chocolate bars a farmer ends up working for so little he has never even tasted chocolate.

Farmers who have never tasted their own work before
A Chocolate Scorecard on Ethical behavior by chocolate company

The certified cocoa from the above chart mean cacoa that is both ethically and sustainably sourced. We can see that compared to some compard to some more boutique companies, ethical concerns aren’t really the top concerns of the big corporations companies. Its not a surprise when for Forrest Mars, his concern was to just produce as much chocolate as possible and out churn the competition (Brenner, 1998). Sure, these corporations have pledged to turn out ethical and sustainable chocolate, but this is very much more likely to be lip service and a want for not upsetting consumers than it is because they truly care. If they did care, they would have already changed their supply lines years ago. Cadbury’s debacle back in the early 1900s with slave labor sourced chocolate is a similar example of this. They took their time because they didn’t know the extent of slavery that was ongoing, but they didn’t care enough to actually check for years. As we can see from another example, author Ryan’s experience with an industry executive in 2005 found that he believed there was no real child slavery in chocolate and that he ‘found it a joke’ (Ryan, 2011).These things just go to show how some of the most prominent corporations that we see in our everyday lives can really have a lack of empathy and in the end this effects those at the bottom of the supply chain the worst.

The only part of the entire section of chocolate in CVS that didn’t belong to one of the big brands was a small hidden narrow shelf in the premium chocolate section. It offered Endangered Species Chocolates, but its selection was so small it didn’t even fill up the whole shelf. It’s not put at eye level either and if one was looking for chocolates that weren’t from a giant corporation, they would have had to really put in some level of effort to find these.

Hidden, tucked away in the shadows is an actually ethical brand of chocolate

I understand that CVS’ audience is an average consumer who is likely not there to purchase chocolate and if they do so it’s on a whim. It also makes sense that for big chocolate corporations the bottom line ends up being about selling as many chocolate in bulk as they can. The low prices in CVS are in line with both the audience’s intentions and the goals of CVS and the corporations. But, I am not propose that CVS should become a place where there is only a selection of fair-trade premium chocolates. I do think that big companies are part of the problem when it comes to the ethical concerns of a supply line and its not just the chocolate corporations themselves, its also the retail stores.  I believe that CVS should begin transitioning to offer a larger variety of chocolates that are not just from large corporations. Instead of a just offering a premium chocolate section, they could just put up another stand that allows them to offer “Fair-trade” chocolate or “ethical” chocolates. They could even just make one part of the premium chocolates shelf solely for these new brands. Given how chaotic their current array of chocolates already are in the present, it wouldn’t be too much farther of a stretch to offer a better selection. If they could do this then it would go a long way in supporting ethical concerns in the supply line of chocolate because of how widespread CVS stores are. Doing just a small part could make a big difference and they wouldn’t even lose out on their normal profits. CVS really has much of a duty to the underpaid farmers as the big chocolate corporations. You can be better CVS.

Works Cited:

Brenner, J. G. (1998) The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. (pp. 183).

D’Antonio, M. (2006). Hershey. New York, NY. (pp. 121).

Goody, Jack. (1982). Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine. (pp. 87).

Ryan, O. (2011) Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. (pp. 45)

Multimedia:

Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard. (2018, October). Retrieved from https://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard

VPRO Metropolis. [VPRO Metropolis]. (2014, February 21). First taste of chocolate in Ivory Coast [Video file].

A Mestizo Tradition in Cacao: The Introduction and Incorporation of Molinillos

The history of chocolate mirrors the history of mestizaje from Mesoamerica to modern-day Mexico and Central America, with the contemporary product serving as the result of both Mesoamerican and Spanish influences. Even the production of authentic, ancient, or traditional Mesoamerican cacao beverages and chocolate are infused with post-colonial influences, from the addition of new ingredients to entirely new techniques for crafting chocolate. Of these, the introduction of the molinillo, now considered a staple component in crafting traditional Mexican chocolate, represents the culmination of indigenous and Spanish techniques.

Pre-Conquest Mesoamerican Chocolate

Cacao was harvested and consumed as early as the Olmec civilization, with cacao originating from their word for currency, ka-ka-w [1]. The Mayans adopted cacao into their respective civilization–for consumption, as legal tender, and for rituals.

Cacao was essential for social, physical, and spiritual well-being, regarded for its medicinal, spiritual, and aphrodisiac qualities. The Mayan would prepare the batidos and other hot chocolate beverages from the ground cacao pulps. They were also used for arranging marriages, with the term tac haa, “to serve chocolate,” commonly used to describe the discussions in which they would determine marriages while drinking chocolate. Mixtec went a step further, using “cacao” as a phrase for royal marriage [2]. For the Aztecs, only the elites and wealthy consumed it because it couldn’t grow in Mexico, so they had to transport it 900 miles on their back [3].

Aztec sculpture holding a cacao pod.

Early pre-Columbian religious references to cacao are also prevalent in both Mayan and Aztec artifacts, with the Popol Vuh ascribing cacao with godly qualities and the Dresden Codex featuring cacao throughout, including consumption by the gods [4]. Likewise, in the Madrid Codex, Aztecs believed that cacao beans were the physical manifestation of Quetzalcoatl [5]. Other religious depictions included:

  • Cacao in fertility rites, with Ixchel and the rain god exchanging cacao.
  • Cacao tree depictions of royal bloodlines, with deities emerging from cacao trees with pods and flowers to symbolize their royal blood [6].

Figure: Aztec statue holding a cacao pod.

“Chocolate for the body; foam for the soul.”

Meredith Dreiss, Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods [7]

The foam produced was of special religious importance, with the foam seen as the most sacred part of the drink [8]. With this reverence toward the froth, the molinillo, as the instrument used to facilitate easier production of the froth, would also be revered and would become deeply intertwined in the chocolate-making process.

Molinillo in Mesoamerica? The Spanish Arrive

Many would expect that the Mayans and Aztecs used molinillos, since they are now regarded as crucial instruments when crafting authentic traditional chocolate beverages, but in fact, the molinillo was most likely introduced by the Spanish, possibly during the 16th century. While it is true that pre-Columbian texts mentioned turtle/tortoise shell stirring spoons and stirrers, there were no mentions of molinillos in pre-Columbian texts. Moreover, it was noticeably absent from the first Nahuatl-Spanish dictionary in 1571 [9].

Some of the possible confusion could stem from anachronistic depictions of the molinillo, such as the one below:

 “The artist has misunderstood the use of the metate [curved cacao grinding stone], and has mistakenly included the post-Conquest molinillo. (From J. Ogilby, America, London, 1671.) 

Instead, they used “small, hemispherical bowls” as drinking and mixing vessels, made with materials ranging from ceramics, to decorated calabash gourds (Crescentia cujete tree), to gold (huei tlatoani). Foam was created by pouring chocolate repeatedly between drinking vessels to produce the foam [10].

Left: 6-9th century Mayan ceramic vessel, Guatemala  | right: 7-8th century Mayan ceramic vessel, Mexico
Mayan woman producing foam via pouring technique

It wasn’t until 1780, when Jesuit Francesco Saverio Clavigero, mentioned the molinillo but not the traditional method of pouring the beverage to produce foam [11].

Molinillo: The Basics

The molinillo, a kitchen tool used to froth hot chocolate beverages, is a carved, handcrafted wooden stick, with a slender handle at one end and a knob at the other [12]. Its name is derived from its circular shape and its motion when used for producing foam resembling that of a molino (windmill) [13]. Each molinillo is unique and varies in size depending on the amount of beverage to be produced. The first iterations involved a simple ball or square at the end of a long handle. However, these soon were adapted to better facilitate frothing. Modern molinillos are crafted from a single block of wood, forming a slender wooden “whisk” with a long tapered handle and a carved knob with rings and other movable parts on the other end [14].

Each molinillo is unique, and the basic design can be flourished with details such as colored accents or ivory pieces, as well as square tops instead of rounded [15].

Molinillo with Color Accents
Molinillo with Squarish Top

Using a Molinillo

Frothing hot chocolate beverages with a molinillo is straightforward. Simply put, the slender handle is gripped between the palms, which are then rubbed together to rotate the carved knob back and forth. This motion grinds the chocolate discs used for the beverages against the pestle bottom of the drinking vessel [16], allowing the beverage to froth within a few minutes.

A Mexican Cook, “Using A Molinillo to Make Hot Chocolate.”

The motion is so simple, in fact, that the molinillo frothing process is even a popular rhyme among Mexican children and their teachers:

Bate, bate, chocolate,
tu nariz de cacahuate.
Uno, dos, tres, CHO!
Uno, dos, tres, CO!
Uno, dos, tres, LA!
Uno, dos, tres, TE!
Chocolate, chocolate!
Bate, bate, chocolate!
Bate, bate, bate, bate,
Bate, bate, CHOCOLATE![17]

Bate = Stir or whip
tu nariz de cacahuate = roughly "your peanut nose"
Uno, dos, tres = One, two, three

Crafting Molinillos

“Molinillo and chocolate depend on each other–one cannot exist without the other. “

Molinillos are carved from a single piece of wood rotating on an axis. Typically soft wood from trees like the aile mexicano (Alnus acuminata ssp. glabrata) are used for carving because they are odorless and flavorless as to not impact the flavor of the chocolate. The black sections of the molinillo are not painted; rather, the friction from the velocity of the wood spinning on the axis of the machine burns the wood a darker color, which the crafter then polishes. Once the base is completed with all the large grooves, all the smaller notch carvings (helpful for circulating the milk to increase frothiness) are completed by hand [18].

Molinillo Tradicional [Making a Molinillo from Wood]

Each molinillo is unique, and the basic design can be flourished with details such as colored accents or ivory pieces:

Artisanal Molinillo Crafting

For molinillo artisans in areas popular for their chocolate, such as 3rd generation crafter Jesus Torres Gomez, carving molinillos, among other wooden kitchen utensils, is both a skill and an artform, passed down for over 100 years as they continue to modify and perfect their craftsmanship. While he uses a motor to facilitate the rotation of the wood piece, all the carvings are completed by hand. He produces 3 types of molinillos:

  • Criollo, for making the foam for chocolate atole in the central valleys.
  • For making the foam for hot chocolate.
  • More elaborate item to serve as a decorative souvenir for tourists in Oaxaca (not meant to be used).

Similar to the more extravagant uses of chocolate and chocolate-producing equipment in Mesoamerica, these items are often also used for special events, including weddings and quinceañeras (coming of age celebration for 15th birthday) [19].

Jesus Torres Gomez, “Artesano de Molinillos”

Modern-Day Molinillos and “Authentic Recipes”

Contemporary molinillos serve more as a nostalgic artifact than a necessary tool for the average chocolate beverage consumer. For champurrado–traditional Mexican chocolate-based atole– and hot chocolate, recipes available online often include many modifications to traditional recipes, incorporating many ingredients not available to pre-Columbian Mesoamericans. For the thicker champurrado, they are often flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, cloves, and other spices, as well as grated piloncillo (raw, undefined sugar cane)[20].

Likewise, they often include milk instead of water, and they are frothed with whisks or spoons. For “authentic Mexican hot chocolate” recipes, chocolate beverages are not strictly based on traditional Mayan or Aztec chocolate recipes; similar to the effect of molinillos on chocolate crafting, they combine indigenous and Spanish influences. However, molinillos are still incorporated into more traditional recipes, particularly Oaxacan hot chocolate, which uses water instead of milk and is whisked with a molinillo [21].

Endnotes:

  • [1] Khan, Gulnaz. “Watch the Ancient Art of Chocolate-Making.”
  • [2] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [3] Festa, Jessica. “Sweet Guatemala: A Look At The Country’s Mayan Chocolate History And Modern Experiences.”
  • [4] Martin, Carla D.
  • [5] De la Fuente del Moral, Fatima.
  • [6] Martin, Carla D.
  • [7] Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Greenhill. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods.
  • [8] Martin, Carla D.
  • [9] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [10] ibid
  • [11] ibid
  • [12] Edwards, Owen. “A Historic Kitchen Utensil Captures What It Takes to Make Hot Chocolate From Scratch.”
  • [13] CORTV. Jesús Torres Gómez artesano en molinillos.
  • [14] Bowman, Barbara. “Molinillo – Mexican Chocolate Whisk (Stirrer).”
  • [15] ibid
  • [16] “Molinillo: Hot Cocoa Frother | Mexico, Wooden Stick, Traditional Hot Chocolate Grinder, Frothing Stick, Molinillos.” UncommonGoods.
  • [17] Fain, Lisa. “Mexican Hot Chocolate and a Molinillo.”
  • [18] Cocinando con Rita. Molinillo Tradicional.
  • [19] CORTV.
  • [20] Rodriguez, Vianncy. “How to Make Champurrado.”
  • [21] “How to Make Authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate.” A Side of Sweet.

Works Cited

Multimedia Cited

———. Molinillo with Squarish Top. Gourmet Sleuth, Molinillo – Mexican Chocolate Whisk (Stirrer). Accessed May 16, 2019. https://www.gourmetsleuth.com/images/default-source/articles/molinillo-3.jpg?sfvrsn=2.

Final Paper: Chocolate and ADHD

I Introduction

To better understand the thought process that a stakeholder, such as a parent of a child with ADHD, might go through as they attempt to understand what role chocolate should play in their child’s life, this project simulates the experience from the point of view of the parent. To that end, this project first explores a typical informational website that a parent might find through a simple web search with the keywords ‘chocolate’ and ‘ADHD,’ since that would likely be how many parents would start their journey of information gathering. Then, anticipating that some parents might wish to further explore the relevant scientific literature, this project explores a couple of representative scientific studies on PubMed that a parent might find. In order to best reflect the agency of the parent as they try their best to make complex decisions for their children, this project attempts to narrate the diverse range of potential considerations for the parent to grapple with as they progress through their journey of information gathering.

II Thesis

For both the educational websites and the scientific articles, parents can find multiple legitimate reasons to second guess the trustworthiness, especially when pharmaceutical advertisements and industry ties create, at least appearance of, potential influence. While the information on chocolate and ADHD was relatively sparse for both educational websites and scientific literature, the general consensus was that chocolate, and other dietary choices, do not cause ADHD or worsen the symptoms. There were a small number of studies that suggested various mechanisms in which chocolate could in fact be therapeutic, but these studies all appeared to be isolated from each other, suggesting that this specific line of research is still in its infancy stages; parents of an ADHD children should probably wait for these studies to be reliably replicated by other studies before putting too much faith in any preliminary study’s findings.

III Online Resources: ADDitude Website

One of the few articles online that explicitly mentions chocolate and ADHD is an article from ADDitude5. The website describes itself as being “the trusted resource for families and adults living with ADHD and related conditions and the professionals who work with them”1. They further elaborate, “since 1998, millions have trusted ADDitude to deliver expert advice and caring support, making us the leading media network [emphasis added] for parents and adults living with attention-deficit disorder, and for professionals working in the field.”

Before reading what the article states about chocolate and ADHD, parents of children with ADHD often first make decisions regarding how trustworthy the content is. If they do not find it trustworthy, they might not even bother to read the article.

One factor to promote trust is the stamp of medical authority. Next to the author’s name is the author’s title (‘PH.D.’), and underneath that is a note “Reviewed on January 18, 2019,” which seems to echo the language of a peer-review scientific process5. At the bottom of the website is a disclaimer that “ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only”5. This disclaimer appears to flatly contradict the website’s claim that they “deliver expert advice,” and arguably undercuts the importance of highlighting the author’s authority status. Of course, this is assuming that the reader actually scrolls down to the bottom of the page to read the disclaimer, which is probably unlikely overall. This suggests that the disclaimer’s primary aim to avoid future legal risk, rather than to inform the current reader about the nature and limitations of the website.

Another factor to consider is the pharmaceutical advertising, and whether the revenue from pharmaceutical companies could influence the website’s content. The screenshot (see above) captures at least once incident in which the article displays an advertisement for Vyvanse â, which is a prescription stimulant medication for ADHD. There is a hint of irony that right above the headline (which is about ADHD brains craving stimulation) is an advertisement with bright green colors meant to grab the reader’s attention. A purple button pops out in contrast against this bright green background, beckoning the reader to click to “Learn more.” The section for “important safety information” is quietly placed to the side in small font, perhaps so that a parent might overlook the warning that Vyvanse is a controlled substance with risk for abuse/dependence.

III Online Resources: Pharmaceutical Advertisements

Parents may wish to better understand the history of marketing ploys that the makers of Vyvanse have employed in the past as they decide whether they can trust ADDitude in spite of the website’s financial relationship with Vyvanse. In other instance of Vyvanse attempting to incorporate their ads against the backdrop of an ostensibly educational medium, readers may wish to take a look at a live TV interview on ABC News featuring Ty Pennington, a celebrity who is open about having ADHD (see clip above)2. At the end of the segment, the interviewer asks him for recommendations for ADHD resources. Pennington repeatedly struggles to recall the exact name of a certain ADHD support website; he ultimately settles on recommending ‘Vyvanse.com,’ which suggests that Vyvanse could have played a financial role for Pennington and/or the ABC News interview. Given that Pennington misspelled Vyvanse with a ‘c’, it could suggest that he does not personally make it a habit to visit that website, and that instead he was coached to give this shout out to the Vyvanse website.  

Readers may be further surprised to learn that Shire, the company that owns Vyvanse, also owns Adderall â (they sold away the rights to the immediate release (IR) formulation, but still own the extended release (XR) versions)4. Vyvanse and Adderall both rely on amphetamine as the active drug, but Vyvanse is a prodrug formulation of amphetamine, which means that the amphetamine in Vyvanse does not become activated until it has passed through the patient’s digestive system7. Theoretically, this can reduce the temptation for the patient to abuse the medication (snorting, intravenous, etc.) compared to non-prodrugs such as Adderall. As such, Shire had hoped that the FDA would classify it as a schedule 4 substance instead of a schedule 2 substance (such as Adderall, Ritalin, and other stimulant medications)7. This lower classification would allow prescribers and patients to face fewer government regulations. For instance, prescribers would then be allowed to write scripts that include monthly refills (instead of needing to write a new prescription each month). Though Shire ultimately failed to persuade the federal government, Shire appears to have convinced the medical establishment to accept its claims about Vyvanse’s hypothetical safety advantages7.

Shire’s need to promote Vyvanse, perhaps even at the expense of their existing Adderall XR product, begins to make more sense to the reader once they understand the context of Shire’s competition from generics. After Shire’s patent protections on Adderall XR expired, Shire’s sales plummeted from nearly 300 million dollars per quarter in 2009 to 67.4 million dollars in Q2 20104. While this decline was to be expected, even desired from the public’s perspective, Shire shockingly later managed to increase its sales by 21 percent to $111 million in Q1 20114. According to legal complaints by generic competitors, Shire first further raised the price of their brand name Adderall XR, and then manipulated the complex national supply chain of the raw amphetamine such that the generic manufactures had a shortage of raw material4. Thus, even though affordable generics were theoretically available, many patients had to resort to paying for the exorbitantly expensive brand name version. Even after the shortage of generic Adderall XR eventually cleared up, Shire was able to continue to benefit long term from this chaos, due to its new product, Vyvanse. During the shortage, patients who could not afford the brand name Adderall XR, or who perhaps could not physically locate any pharmacies that had any Adderall XR, naturally could be incentivized to try Vyvanse, which was not undergoing a shortage, and which was less expensive at the time than brand name Adderall XR4. By building a long-term customer base for Vyvanse, which is still is patent protected until 2023, Shire retains a dominant share of the ADHD medication market4.

III Online Resources: Chocolate and ADHD

The factors mentioned above are just some examples of the considerations that could be in the back of the mind of an actively engaged reader who encounters this ADDitude article on ADHD and chocolate. Some might read the article with heavy skepticism (or perhaps choose to skip the article entirely), while others might decide to grant credibility to the claims made in the article.

The article explains that the impulsive ADHD brain has trouble with self-regulation, particularly in the dopamine reward center5. As such, “chocolate is appealing to ADHD brains because it increases glucose and has the added stimulation of caffeine.” The glucose satisfies the ADHD brain’s cravings, which leads to a release of dopamine in the dopamine reward center. While this can bring needed “please and greater calm” to the ADHD brain, “many people with ADHD chide themselves for indulging in [pleasurable foods], when their brains are actually demanding those foods instead of salad.” The article sympathizes, “It is no wonder that those with ADHD struggle with diet and nutrition. When they self-medicate with food, their brains enjoy a surge of dopamine,” and their various chemical imbalances are addressed, at least temporarily. Addressing more broadly the general life struggle of an ADHD individual, the article explains, “understanding what ADHD brains want makes it clear that the struggle for self-regulation is neurological, and has nothing to do with character deficiencies.”

This article does not explore treatment options, so it does not explicitly address the issues of whether chocolate (and/or poor diet) is the cause of ADHD, or whether or not it can worsen ADHD symptom severity. It does seem to suggest that the ADHD leads to the overeating, rather than the other way around, but an explicit clarification would have been helpful. Also, it broadly lumps chocolate together with carbs, pastas, and cookies as being generally unhealthy foods; the author might be scientifically justified with this system of classification, but she never cites any outside sources or evidence. One possible explanation was that her main purpose of the article was not to give dietary advice, but rather to increase self-compassion in ADHD individuals who might otherwise be berating themselves for not being able to stick to their own dietary goals. In the context of the Vyvanse ads, the reader may wonder whether this article is attempting to emphasize a chemical imbalance view of ADHD in order to render the reader more amenable to the idea of a pharmaceutical treatment.

IV Medical Literature: Chocolate Does Not Cause ADHD

For stakeholders who are still are looking for hard, scientific reassurance that ADHD is not caused by poor dietary habits, the general medical consensus is that diet does not cause ADHD. A metareview notes that “parents and teachers alike attribute excessive motor activity and other disruptive behaviors to candy consumption,” which are often hypothesized to harm children through a combination of sugar, food additives/coloring, and through chocolate itself3. However, after combing through numerous placebo-controlled studies, the researchers could not find a single study that supported any of those hypotheses. They conclude, “for children with behavioral problems, diet-oriented treatment does not appear to be appropriate. Rather, clinicians treating these children recommend a multidisciplinary approach. The goal of diet treatment is to ensure a balanced diet with adequate energy and nutrients for optimal growth”3.

IV Medical Literature: Dark Chocolate Can Improve Attention

A study on humans found that dark chocolate improved alertness and attentiveness as measured by EEG scans6. A negative side effect was that it raised blood pressure due to the stimulants in the cocao. However, the side effect of raised blood pressure could be offset by adding L-theanine to the dark chocolate. Unfortunately for consumers, chocolate bars with L-theanine are not yet available, so Larry Stevens, one of the authors of the paper, opines that companies should heed the results of the study and consider developing such a chocolate bar6.

Certainly, at least one chocolate company will be carefully examining the results: Hershey, which is listed in the paper as a sponsor of the study. On the website of the press release that accompanied this paper, one online visitor commented, “We’re supposed to expect unbiased results for a study on chocolate sponsored by Hershey? Hello- this isn’t good.” See screenshots below6.

Someone who is presumably Larry Stevens himself (based on the user name) responds with a long defense (see screenshots below)6. Stevens first acknowledges and thanks the commenter for raising awareness of this important issue. He unequivocally stands by the impartiality of the research and explains that “Hershey’s role was only to respond affirmatively to my request to provide the chocolate confections used in the study and to quite astutely suggest the addition of the L-Theanine additive.” He elaborates on all the effort that the research team did by themselves (without any involvement or help by Hershey), and that clarifies that the team members never received any offers of gifts or rewards.

While his explanations, if they are to accepted at face value, could adequately explain away the ethical concerns, it may not have been worth it from a public perception standpoint to have accepted the free chocolate confections, especially if the expense of chocolate confections is negligible compared to the rest of the expenses of running this human clinical experiment. Further, by accepting the advice from Hershey on adding the L-Theanine test group, it could feed a public perception that public taxpayer dollars for research are being diverted for Hershey’s own purposes; after all, if Hershey is indeed interested in experimenting with L-Theanine, they could have conducted their own private experiment with their own money. Of course, this criticism may or may not be fair, but the public’s perception of these issues can influence how receptive the public is to accepting scientific findings and to politically supporting public research funding.

V Conclusion

Ultimately, the parents of children with ADHD must make their own judgments regarding which pieces of advice to heed and which to ignore. Parents must constantly screen for signs of potential sources of biasing influence, such as pharmaceutical or food industry ties. Similarly, educational websites and scientific articles must remain cognizant of the myriad of ways in which they can be scrutinized by parents, and they must earn the trust of the parents if they are to succeed at spreading their intended information.

Works Cited

  1. “About Us.” ADDitude, 17 Apr. 2019, http://www.additudemag.com/contact-us/about/.
  • Debra A. Krummel, Frances H. Seligson, Helen A. Guthrie & Dr. Dian A. Gans (1996) Hyperactivity: Is candy causal?, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 36:1-2, 31-47
  • Montopoli, M., Stevens, L., Smith, C. J., Montopoli, G., Passino, S., Brown, S., … Wu, J. (2015). The Acute Electrocortical and Blood Pressure Effects of Chocolate. NeuroRegulation, 2(1), 3–28.
  • Rosack, Jim. “Novel Drug for ADHD Wins FDA Approval.” Psychiatric News, 6 Apr. 2007, psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/pn.42.7.0001a.

Appealing to the Chinese Palate: The Struggle of Chocolate Companies in the Emerging Chinese Market

Chinese Traditions:

I grew up in a very traditional Chinese household, where my mother and father took care in buying foods from Chinese markets back in my small suburban Midwest hometown.  The dishes I had growing up were the same dishes that my mom and dad grew up eating in China, nutritionally balanced both in terms of the U.S. government’s MyPlate standards and the Yin-Yang balance that is rooted deep in Chinese culture and tradition.  However, chocolate was never an element of these meals.  That is not to say that I’ve never had chocolate before (whether it be in the sense of chocolates handed out at school during a Valentine’s Day event or the occasional chocolate gift from friends); nevertheless, our family has never had the habit of buying chocolate.  Our family’s traditions give a peek at how China’s isolationist culture has created a barrier to cacao-chocolate industries due to both traditional food tastes as well as an ethnocentric pride against foreign products.  These long-standing traditions that tie back thousands of years into China’s past provide insight into how some of the Big Five Companies— specifically Ferrero Rocher, Cadbury, and Nestle—struggled to market chocolate to a Chinese populace with virtually no exposure to the sweet treat.

A few years ago, I travelled back to China with my father and lived in Hangzhou, Zhejiang for two months.  During this time, I was able to understand a lot of the atmosphere and culture surrounding one of China’s most popular cities.  One of my biggest understandings in terms of food culture in Hangzhou was a very significant bias towards salty and umami foods.  The supermarket shelves were lined with a large assortment of salty snacks; fish tofu snacks decorate the central aisle and classic sweet potato chips stand beckoningly one the cashier shelves.  In the middle of the supermarket, small vendor-like counters offer mountains of steamed buns filled with a variety of meats, curries, and vegetable mixed filling.  Every direction one looks gives sign after sign of foods that satisfy salty and umami tastes.  On the other hand, a stark contrast between American and Chinese supermarkets is the distinct lack of assorted chocolate bars and snacks that are seen lining the cashier counters of stores in the U.S.; instead, these chocolate products are replaced by more traditional Chinese snacks such as bags of salted or seasoned sunflower seeds, an essential welcoming snack that is almost always offered to guests of the house in addition to fruit.  This lack of presence in chocolate in China again ties into China’s traditional tastes.  Because of the distinct food tastes among China’s population, chocolate has a hard time of showing up on supermarket shelves. 

This struggle of incorporating chocolate into Chinese markets began in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Big Five companies all tried their hand at assimilating China’s near one billion population into the chocolate-loving consumerism, with each company bringing its own strategy and experience into China’s budding and diversifying market (Allen 15).  Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing these companies was trying to make chocolate desirable.  From the beginning of China’s history, China has mostly isolated itself from the rest of the world.  It wasn’t until the late 1900s when China marked the beginning of its transition from communism to market socialism (Allen 14).   This transition came with consequences, as not all of China’s one billion citizens could catch up to the upcoming sweep of technological and social changes over the next few decades.  In fact, less than 50 million people are living in the twenty-first century, while the rest of China’s population are in living conditions alike to that of the twentieth century or even from the late 19th century.  This disconnect of most of China’s population to changes from modern day society probably was the main cause in the struggle that surrounded big cacao-chocolate companies.  When chocolate first arrived in China in the 1980s, the isolated people of China perceived chocolate as a foreign good, something that they’d never interacted with in the past (Allen 11).  Many families in China struggle to feed their families even today, so people prioritize more well-rounded nutrition over the luxurious delicacy that is chocolate.  Knowing this, the Big Five chocolate companies all set foot into China’s emerging global market with the same amount of inexperience with Chinese consumers, all trying their hand at winning over one billion Chinese mouths whose tongues had never touched chocolate in any shape or form.

Ferrero Rocher:

With its delicately wrapped chocolates in a golden-colored box, Ferrero Rocher was a brand that portrayed the good life.  Despite the company being relatively new to the global confectionery scene (introduced in 1982 in comparison to 1907 for Hershey and 1923 for Mars), Ferrero Rocher has been the most successful in establishing a large presence in the global market, and it became one of the first companies to enter China and depict the ideal image of chocolate in the minds of Chinese consumers (Allen 42-43).  Ferrero’s success in marketing chocolate to Chinese consumers originated from its intensely aggressive strategy of portraying its chocolate as the perfect gift.  One of the integral parts of Chinese social etiquette is the concept of giving gifts.  Regardless if the occasion is a wedding, a means to say thank you, or even just welcoming visiting guests into one’s home, gifts are deemed as a necessary and polite gesture towards each other.  It’s not uncommon to see families offer baskets of fruit or home-cooked dishes as gifts to strengthen social connections and express good tidings.  Ferrero Rocher saw this is a prime opportunity to take advantage of, targeting major festivals such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year (Allen 62).  The company mass produced its finely wrapped chocolates just before these holidays and placed them on shelves in popular shopping districts.  The look of Ferrero Rocher’s chocolate satisfied the criteria that Chinese citizens look for in a gift: its lucky round shape and golden color combined with its status as a high-quality brand with fancy packaging strike a luxurious image in consumers’ hearts (Hermesauto).  Ferrero Rocher’s mission was to ensure the quality of its chocolate, giving Chinese consumers something that they could enjoy by guaranteeing its high quality and elevating it to a social status worthy of gift giving.

Cadbury:

Cadbury followed a similar initial path of chocolate distribution to Ferrero Rocher, but later the company took a new direction.  Cadbury believed that the key to achieving success with chocolate in China would be to build infrastructure to mass produce chocolate within China itself.  And so, in 1993, Cadbury established the first chocolate producing factory in the suburbs of Beijing (Coe & Coe 173).  This marketing move came with drawbacks; Cadbury took many gambles on the ingredients it used, including using China’s fresh milk production system for its milk chocolate instead of the safer, albeit lesser quality powdered milk (Allen 75-76).  Cadbury and Ferrero Rocher both show a willingness to adapt to the customs and traditions of the foreign land that they were trying to sell their chocolate to.  In Ferrero’s case, it was adapting to the culture of gift-giving, while Cadbury took a stand at using China’s natural ingredients.  On the other hand, Cadbury’s mission was different from Ferrero Rocher’s; instead of marketing their chocolate as a high-end luxury product that acted as a superior gift, Cadbury intended to make their chocolate a form of self-conception, to win over the pockets of Chinese consumers on the daily.  However, the previously established image of chocolate as a luxury good would prove a painful stake in trying to incorporate chocolate into Chinese customers’ daily consumption (Zhou).  Furthermore, the production of chocolate on mainland China came with many high costs: the risk that Cadbury took with using fresh milk from Chinese farm of questionable quality resulted in a cheesy smell and taste in their milk chocolate, a result of pasteurized milk.  As a result, Cadbury’s reputation sank to a low point, and the company would continue to struggle in regaining the hearts of Chinese consumers.  Another problem with Cadbury’s production came with its portioning; Chinese consumers favored food products that came in smaller portions, as that would present a smaller investment risk when purchasing the product for the first time (Allen 81).  These problems would haunt Cadbury up to this day as it still has been unable to place a strong, cohesive foot onto the chocolate market in China.

Nestlé:

Today, Nestlé’s brand is “Good Food, Good Life” (Nestle.com).  This message embodied Nestlé’s results and efforts in the global market.  Out of the Big Five companies, Nestlé is unique in its diverse line of products that offer not only rich chocolates but also included other offerings that would improve the health and nutrition of its consumers.  Nestlé’s products earned the company a reputation for healthy products that would flood Chinese pantries and incorporate itself into the lives of millions of Chinese citizens, a feat that the other four big companies continue to struggle to achieve (Allen 145).  This emphasis on health and nutrition ties in closely with Chinese traditions for maintaining health.  One of the challenging aspects of selling chocolate in China is the product’s innate nature as a sugary food.  These simple carbohydrates are often stigmatized by news and entertainment as a source of unhealthy calories, depicting chocolate as an indulgence rather than a staple food.  On the other hand, branding is an essential part of China’s consumer culture; as Jason Cieslak from Forbes Councils notes, a brand is “a purpose that attracts and unites employees who bring the product and customer experience to life; a purpose that connects different market segments and product offerings into a broader story and an emotional connection to customers who see a brand as an extension of their own value system” (Cieslak).  In other words, building up the brand of a company is important to establish a positive reputation with the consumer audience, thus leading to trust and connection between the brand and the consumer.  Nestlé built its brand first through non-chocolate products such as developing milk hydrating and processing technology, which ultimately improved the health and nutrition of Chinese citizens (Allen 147-148).  With this trust in place, Nestlé began exporting its chocolate, Kit-Kat, into Hong Kong, in the same way Cadbury and Ferrero Rocher began their chocolate expansion into China.  Nestlé also ran into a similar problem as Cadbury in terms of the portioning of its chocolate.  However, Nestlé decided that Kit-Kat’s seventy percent chocolate to thirty percent wafer composition possessed the light chocolate taste that would appeal to Chinese consumers, which preferred smaller proportions in food.  This proved successful for Nestlé, and Kit-Kat became the most popular of Nestlé’s chocolates in China’s global confectionary market (Allen 150).

These three of the Big Five companies—Ferrero Rocher, Cadbury, and Nestlé—all had to adapt to the traditions and cultural habits of Chinese consumers.  Ferrero Rocher conformed chocolate into a symbol of gift-giving.  Cadbury utilized domestic practices and incorporated local fresh ingredients for their domestic chocolate production in China.  And finally, Nestlé built its brand as a nutritious, healthy choice and formed a trustworthy partnership with Chinese consumers that gave its chocolate bar a solid reputation.  Overall, all the cacao/chocolate companies that try to capitalize on China’s emerging market face the same problems of adjusting to the vastly different customs of Chinese customers by understanding the needs and wants of people that have virtually never laid eyes on a bar of chocolate.

References:

Allen, Lawrence. “Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers.” Thunderbird International Business Review, vol. 52, no. 1, 2010, pp. 13–20.

Cieslak, Jason. “Why Brand Building Is China’s Key To The Future.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 30 Aug. 2018, http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/08/30/why-brand-building-is-chinas-key-to-the-future/#da9ac9266e44.

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

Hermesauto. “Chocolate Is Big Business in China.” The Straits Times, 15 Feb. 2019, www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/chocolate-is-big-business-in-china.

Zhou, Hongcheng. “Why the Chinese Are Still Not Sweet on Chocolate.” Sixth Tone, 16 Mar. 2017, http://www.sixthtone.com/news/2061/why-the-chinese-are-still-not-sweet-on-chocolate.

Multimedia Sources:

“10 Asian Snacks You’ve Been Missing Out On.” Spoon University, 27 June 2017, spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/the-10-best-asian-snacks-you-have-been-missing-out-on.

“Cadbury Dairy Milk.” Cadbury, http://www.cadbury.co.uk/products/cadbury-dairy-milk-11327.

Ferrero Chocolate Boxed Chocolates. http://www.walmart.ca/en/ip/ferrero-rocher-boxed-chocolates/6000189677536.

“KitKat Lose Trademark Appeal for Its Shape.” Trademark Lawyer Magazine, trademarklawyermagazine.com/kitkat-lose-trademark-appeal-shape/.

Nestle.com, http://www.nestle.com/.

An Examination of Unethical Practices in the Cocoa Industry

An Examination of Unethical Practices in the Cocoa Industry

(Food Empowerment Project)

Introduction

This semester we looked intensively at the use of slave labor in the chocolate industry, and the responsibility of chocolate companies to do their part in ensuring that the chocolate they sell is not coming from unethical child labor. Top chocolate selling companies like Nestle and Hershey have all taken accountability for their role in the problem and pledged to fight to eliminate child labor in the production of cocoa.  In fact, a couple of years ago, Nestle made the news with its pledge that its iconic KitKat bars would be made with cocoa that has been verified by third party agencies to ensure that it was supplied from ethical sources. Yet, KitKat is only one type of bar that Nestle makes, and no statement was issued regarding whether or not the rest of their chocolate products would be subjected to this new guideline. This small step was not highly regarded by those looking for chocolate companies to take legitimate steps towards fighting this issue. Although Nestle hoped that their pledge would take some pressure off of them, it had no such effect. In 2018, a U.S. federal appeals court reopened a lawsuit filed by a group of former child slaves accusing Nestle of perpetuating child labor in the Ivory Coast. (Bellon) Nestle was also sued by a legal firm who alleges that they deceived consumers about the use of slave labor to provide cocoa for their brands Crunch and Butterfinger. This same legal firm has also opened a lawsuit against Hershey and Mars on similar grounds. So, the three largest chocolate companies in the world, are all facing lawsuits over using chocolate that is the result of slave labor. Anyone who is familiar with the horrors children face on cocoa farms would surely be angered and disgusted. Due to the history of this country, the term slavery should be enough of a trigger word alone to dissuade any company from wanting to be associated with any product that is the result of slave labor. This, coupled with the fact that chocolate companies are consistently being sued for their role in perpetuating slave labor on cocoa, makes me wonder why chocolate companies are not doing more to distance themselves from these unethical cocoa farms. 

Background

First, let’s take a look at some statistics that contribute to the problem. There are about 5 to 6 million cocoa farmers in the world, and another 40-50 million who depend on the cocoa industry for their livelihood. (USDOL) Almost 70% percent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa. Nearly 40% of the Ivory Coast’s population is involved in some form of cocoa farming and 60% of the Ivory Coast’s export revenue is funded by the cocoa industry. (USDOL) As you can see, West African countries heavily depend on the cocoa industry for economic stability. For many of them, it is their most consistent and stable form of income for the country. Thus, it makes sense that they want to minimize their costs as much as possible. The typical cocoa farmer in the Ivory Coast and Ghana is paid an average of $2 per day. This forces many farmers to turn to the cheapest form of labor possible, child/slave labor. Because many in West Africa live in poverty, children are often forced to start working to help support their families at very young ages. This makes them a lot more susceptible to being trafficked, kidnapped, or sold into slave labor. The children can work up to 100 hours a week and perform a number of dangerous tasks such as: operating a machete, carrying bags of cocoa pods that weigh over 100 lbs, and operating in close proximity with chemicals without protective gear. (slavefreechocolate) If they try to escape or aren’t working fast enough, they are beaten and whipped. Some of the children involved in slave labor are as young as 5 or 6 years old.

 (International Labor Rights Forum)

Chocolate Companies’ Role

With the knowledge of all the horrors children face in the cocoa industry, it would seem that everyone, including the major chocolate companies, would want to fight to end this issue. Yet, chocolate companies have been largely idle. In 2001, the US House of Representatives decided to take action and voted to consider a bill which would require all chocolate companies to confirm that they were child labor free and to label their products this way. (Willow) American chocolate companies responded with a fierce lobbying campaign against this law. They argued that there was no way for them to control what happened on cocoa farms across the world, and that cocoa supply lines were usually so long and complex that it was nearly impossible to verify that the cocoa they receive came from a farm that did not make use of child labor. Because of the lobbying efforts of American chocolate companies, the protocol the house wanted to vote on was watered down and released in 2001 as the Harkin-Engel Protocol. (Willow) The Harkin-Engel protocol did not require companies to verify that their chocolate is not supplied by slave labor, and the issue of labeling seemed to be completely forgotten. We are almost 20 years removed from the release of the protocol and almost nothing substantial seems to have been accomplished. Even KitKat’s gesture is not even close to the type of support needed to spark real change in the industry. This was a major win for chocolate companies, whose response to the original protocol is indicative of the fact that they just don’t have any real interest in solving this issue.

(Bellon, 2018)

 There are a couple reasons the chocolate giants are disinterested in putting forth any real effort towards solving the child/slave labor issue we have examined so far. One, as stated earlier, is that it would require effort on the part of the chocolate companies to ensure that their cocoa is produced ethically. Supply chains in the cocoa industry are long and complex, and because of the enormous child labor problem in Western Africa, it would take a lot of verification on their end to determine that the companies they are buying from are using ethical practices. However, second and probably most important, is the fact that it would require chocolate giants like Hershey and Nestle to sacrifice some of their profit. According to the Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast, chocolate companies will have to pay around 10 times the current price of price of cocoa if they want to end the use of unethical child labor there. This would obviously drive up the price of their products, and cut into a big percentage of their profits. Any strategy that encourages corporations to sacrifice profit in the name of morality is one that is flawed. So, let’s look at some alternative ways to end dangerous child labor on the Western Africa cocoa farms.

Causes

The biggest reason that this situation exists is poverty. The West African economy depends so heavily on the cocoa industry, however there is not even a minimum wage or minimum price for farmers to sell their cocoa. This was not the case until the cocoa industry was privatized in 1999. Once the industry was privatized, cocoa prices fell drastically, poverty became widespread, and the government stopped spending money on necessities such as healthcare and education. (USDOL) This all came at the expense of the cocoa farmers who work in isolation on small farms with no way to communicate with each other about market cocoa prices. World cocoa prices have been well below the price of production costs since the industry was privatized. Some countries refuse to buy cocoa from West African countries who they suspect of using slave labor on their farms. This causes West African farmers to have to sell their cocoa at an even lower price. Farmers do not even make enough money to afford trucks to transport their beans so they are forced to rely on exploitative middlemen, who give them cash for the beans and haul them away. Without the knowledge of the worth of their beans, farmers are unable negotiate better prices for them. Instead, they must just accept the prices that these exploitative buyers are willing to pay or risk not selling their beans at all. So, even if cocoa prices rise, the farmers themselves will not be able to benefit from it.

Solutions

A major step towards a solution would be for more advanced countries, like the United States, who purchase large amounts of cocoa from countries who use slave labor and are concerned about slave labor in Africa to invest in the farmers in those countries. Equipping farmers with something simple like trucks to transport their beans to markets would allow them to have an understanding of world prices, negotiate better prices for themselves, and cut out exploitative middlemen who take away a lot of their profit. This alone would increase producer surplus exponentially and allow farmers to be able to rely on more ethical forms of labor to produce their cocoa. Another possible solution would be a mandate of a minimum price for cocoa. Thanks to Fair Trade Certified producer groups, this is the case in some countries in Western Africa. These groups cover different nine African countries and represent thousands of farmers. Chocolate companies who buy from farms belonging to a Fair Trade Certified group pay the farmers the world market price plus a stipend that guarantees farmers have livable wages. (Food Empowerment Project) Farms that belong to these groups are inspected once a year and there is zero tolerance for unethical labor practices. Although only a small portion of the world’s cocoa is produced on Fair Trade Certified farms, they represent a possible solution to the problem. A more drastic approach would be to standardize groups like this, and to force all farms to join a group like this in order to be legally able to sell cocoa beans. This approach would likely be seen as problematic because the chocolate giants are not buying their cocoa from Fair Trade Certified farms. However, to combat that point, we must hold large chocolate-selling companies like Nestle and Hershey accountable. Countries who allow these chocolate giants to sell their products should pass legislation similar to that of the original Harkin-Engel protocol proposal. These companies should not be allowed to sell their products without verifying that their cocoa is supplied by ethical sources. This is extremely important because, like the farmers, these companies are looking to minimize their production costs. Changing the way the farmers do business won’t completely eradicate child labor if the chocolate giants are not forced to also make the switch to more ethical practices. Forcing the chocolate companies’ hand will ensure that the farmers are not the ones who suffer the consequences of changed legislation. Because, as we have seen, when the farmers suffer, they turn to cheap, unethical solutions.

Conclusion

West African countries depend heavily on the cocoa industry for economic success. Their reliance on this industry, cocoa farmers struggle to sell their product for a livable wage and chocolate companies refusal to acknowledge their role in the situation resulted in this large-scale slave labor problem that we see today. If we truly want to eradicate this problem in Western Africa, solutions like the one laid out in this paper are a good start. I hope that through this paper you have a better understanding of the horrors of slave labor on cocoa farms. However, I also hope that you are optimistic about the future, because solutions are right in front of us. We just have to hold the major players in this cruel game accountable.

References

Media Citations

  • International Labor Rights Forum, 2014

Overcoming a History of Human Rights Abuses: Cocoa’s Evolution from Contributing to the Slave Trade to Combatting Child Labor

The well-documented history of cocoa tells the story of an industry driven by greed. However, the picture that is often painted does not speak to how this has evolved.

Dating back as far as 1500 BCE to 400 BCE, the period spanning the Olmec civilization, discoveries and research have firmly validated the significant role that cocoa has long-played in both culture and religion (Coe and Coe, 2013). The same history speaks to a past whereby:

  • origins and producers were exploited by explorers, instigating and contributing to the slave trade for years;
  • industrialized nations seeking to dominate processing and control greater market share, sparked proxy wars with the imposition of tariffs on imports originating from colonies other than their own (present and/or former); and
  • saw industrialized nations assume a patriarchal stance that significantly limited powers and diminished the voice of producing origins (former colonies)—lost ground that would take them years to recapture.
Map of Mesoamerica – Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI)

The following seeks to detail cocoa’s dark past—one whose opacity perpetuated years of human rights abuses including forced and child labor. Having evolved as an industry, the following will also outline industry’s transition into an ever-increasingly transparent and responsible global industry that remains challenged by perceptions based on its past and wrestling to break free from its dark history.

Cocoa’s Sordid Past and Contribution to the Slave Trade

Spanning the Pre-Classic (2000 BCE to 300 CE) to Post Classic (900 to 1500 CE) periods, the number and diversity of explorers ballooned, ultimately leading to a dramatic shift in where and by whom cocoa was produced, as well as who (specifically which nations and companies) would profit from its trade, increasingly efficient processing, and mass manufacturing.

Due largely to voluntary and involuntary migration (i.e., the slave trade) the movement of goods and saw Theobroma cacao cultivation spread from its genetic origins of the Amazon Basin and cultural and religious roots which have been traced back to Mesoamerica (present-day Mexico through Central America) (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Global flow of goods and movement of people during the height of the slave trade.

In what is now present-day Central and South America, during the early 1500s, under the encomienda system, Spanish conquistadors were granted rights to force indigenous inhabitants to perform labor in their favor (Martin, 2019). This led to an irreparable deterioration of culture and loss of land (Martin, 2019). On the other side of the Atlantic, chattel slavery, the practice whereby people are treated as property, between 1500 and 1900, it is estimated that up to 15 million Africans were enslaved, of which 40 out of every 100 died in waiting or during transatlantic transport. In both cases, indigenous peoples were forced to cultivate cocoa while seeing little to no profit in return. In addition, favoritism played into economic positioning among industrialized nations as tariffs and quotas sought to control production and supply with demand (Leissle, 2018).

As cocoa’s production footprint broadened, applications and formulations evolved, popularity within consumer markets increased, and its importance as a traded commodity destined for processing units around the world surged.

As competition grew fiercer, regulation became an ever more critical element to ensure the crop’s viability. But most importantly, it was introduced to ensure economic stability for countries and operators who relied on the trade. This period gave rise to regulatory standards and voluntary certification programs in cocoa—both of which grew more diverse and exacting during the late 1980s present day.

Perhaps the most prolific shift, and marking industry’s acknowledgment that improvements were both possible and needed, with the enactment of the Harkin Engel Protocol in 2001, accountability, and requirements to proactively identify instances, address breakdowns, and prevent arrange of defined human rights abuses took center stage. When introduced, regulatory requirements and elements core to voluntary certification systems fundamentally changed how supply chain operators engaged producers, managed their businesses, interacted with the market, and reported.

During the same period, industry associations were established, and collective efforts launched. Among them were groups such as the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), and the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG), all groups representing interests at every level from all sides.

In due course, regulations and certifications designed to promote best practices, ensure worker (producer), crop, and environmental protections, combat fraudulent claims, and ensure accurate reporting and labeling (i.e., of provenance, certification claims, production practices, quality, etc.) have improved, expanded, and been welcomed.

Adoption, adaptation, replication, and the proliferation of programs, as well as their capabilities and level of sophistication, continue to evolve rapidly. Not glued simply to factors related to compliance, conformity, or competitiveness, companies are investing significant amounts of resources to align with and exceed regulatory, consumer, and commercial standards and expectations. However, despite advances, and an elongating track record of progress and proactive effort, the industry is often chastised for not doing enough, investing enough, or sharing enough.

Stuck in the Past and Unable to Break the Cycle: The Vilification of the Cocoa Industry

Sampling of Collective Industry Efforts – Programs and Reporting

Seeking to address systemic constraints perpetuating or exacerbating breakdowns, the industry has demonstrated its willingness and ability to come to affect change.

For example, after launching, implementing, and learning from the original and subsequent iterations of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) Cocoa Livelihoods Program (CLP), after several years of complex negotiations (balancing risk, exposure, and financial implications), WCF and its member companies launched, and have developed good traction with Cocoa Action, one of several WCF initiatives designed, developed, and implemented with and through its members.[1] While they admit that it took more time to lay the groundwork that they had initially anticipated, they ultimately emerged with a thoughtful and thorough platform that continues to progress well.[2]

Additionally, since its founding in 2002, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) has significantly influenced positive movement on all fronts concerning child labor, including the development of new tools, systems, and metrics to measure progress. This includes the consultative process that led to the development of standards for collective and individual Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS).

Recognizing that they can only harness so much, Industry has teamed with governments, international standard-setting bodies, research institutions, and others to advance efforts to combat forced and child labor, address its root causes, and improve reporting practices to bolster transparency.

Sampling of Individual Company Efforts – Programs and Reporting

Having worked inside and alongside the world’s leading cocoa companies, I recall several meetings where heads of responsible sourcing and on-the-ground activities expressed concern that not enough was being done to address the root causes. Without taking on migration, land, voting, and school registration issues, efforts would continue to face challenges. To do this, the group discussed land ownership and migratory movements of Burkinabe to Côte d’Ivoire, their inability to secure land, and in many cases, to register their children in school. While it was not the first, and certainly not the last, this was a good reminder that addressing the child labor issue was not as clear-cut as many often like to think.

Beyond programs that tighten controls, incentivize parents for producing school registration certificates, third-party certification audits that verify adherence to specific standards and practices, and collective and individual company efforts to refine and expand CLMRS, the industry continues to improve the technical scope of their programs.

The following list provides a snapshot of reports detailing global efforts to address a wide range of unique challenges faced by cocoa farming communities—including child labor. These are offered in response to comments made during the recent film screening and panel discussion “Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain.” – May 2019 Discussion

Key takeaways from the May 2019 discussion [and report] aligned with similar panels and studies that point to:

  1. The complexity and scope of the issue;
  2. range and number of actors and implications along the value chain at each stage;
  3. need for leaders, officials, and representatives from all sides (public and private), and on all levels (municipal, regional, national, and international) to work together to develop and enact responses that effectively address root causes; and
  4. calls for greater transparency.

Specific to claims around the lack of transparency and access, deficiencies noted during the discussion included the following:

  1. Visibility into supply chain monitoring plans, geographical scope, findings, and improvements; and
  2. the number, frequency, and quality of public disclosures of internal reports.

In practice, the following are evident:

  1. Companies are proactively and thoughtfully engaged in addressing child and forced labor—not merely in response to regulations or calls from consumers or international bodies;
  2. companies are leading in investments in certification programs, traceability systems, coordinating industry-wide efforts and policy formulation; and
  3. the quality and frequency of reporting are there despite claims that it is absent of lacking.
Excerpt from the Cocoa Life progress report outlining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

These are vital considerations to bear in mind when looking at the balance of what is being done, by whom, how it financed, and what is being said about those leading the way and reporting on it as appeals for greater transparency play into the vilification of cocoa companies instead of praise for their role in realizing progress.

While there is much more to bring into the frame, the above does tell speak to the other side of the story—one that is rarely shared.

Things have come a long way; however, despite grand efforts to date, many forms of forced and child labor still exist, and the number of instances of human rights violations are still far too prevalent. To that end, much more can and will continue to be done. Going forward, stakeholders must move forward together with the mindful that this is an ever-evolving and continuously improving process in terms of design, implementation, and measurement.

So while independent company activities and collective industry-wide efforts have evolved and improved with learnings over the years, there are programmatic gaps and blind spots that must be proactively and constructively addressed.

Works Cited

Casara, M., Dallabrida, P., Martin, Carla D. “Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. April 24, 2019. Film Screening and Discussion.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. March 6, 2019. Lecture.

“Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa”. March 22, 2018. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Accessed April 30, 2019. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/child-labor-cocoa.

“Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa”. March 22, 2018. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Accessed April 30, 2019. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/child-labor-cocoa.

“Cocoa Life 2017 Progress Report”. 2017. Mondelez International. Accessed April 28, 2019. https://www.cocoalife.org/~/media/CocoaLife/en/download/article/Cocoa_Life_Progress_Report_2017.pdf.

“How We Measure Progress”. Mondelez International. Accessed April 28, 2019. https://www.cocoalife.org/impact#.

“Assessment of Forced Labor Risk in the Cocoa Sector of Côte d’Ivoire”. Verité, 2019. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.verite.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Verite-Report-Forced-Labor-in-Cocoa-in-CDI.pdf.

“Nestle Cocoa Plan, Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report”. Nestle. 2017. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.nestle.com/asset-library/documents/creating-shared-value/responsible-sourcing/nestle-cocoa-plan-child-labour-2017-report.pdf.

Picolotto, A., Giovanaz, D., Casara, J., Loth, Laura W., Lambranho, L., Casara, M., Dallabrida, P., Sabrina, R., and Kruse, T. “Cocoa Supply Chain: Advances ad Challenges Toward the Promotion of Decent Work”. 2019. International Labour Organization (ILO), Public Labour Prosecutor’s Office (MPT), Papel Social. https://cocoainitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cocoa_EN.pdf.

“2017 Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group Annual Report”. United States Department of Labor. 2017. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ilab/CLCCG2017AnnualReport.pdf.

“Harkin-Engel Protocol”. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs. 2001. Accessed April 24, 2019.

https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ilab/Harkin_Engel_Protocol.pdf.

“Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain: Film Screening and Discussion, Part 1” [Multimedia Video]. Retrieved from the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute YouTube Channel. April 27, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKr2_0egfzA.

“Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain: Film Screening and Discussion, Part 2” [Multimedia Video]. Retrieved from the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute YouTube Channel. April 27, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKr2_0egfzA.

“Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) in the Société Coopérative Ivoirienne du Négoce des Produits Agricoles (SCINPA) Cooperative”. Olam International. 2017.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

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


[1] Initiatives, World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), https://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/initiatives/

[2] CocoaAction 2017: What We Have Learned, World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), https://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/2017cocoaactiondata/

A Student Activist with A Chocolate Addiction

At 2AM each morning Harvard student activist and writer Minahil Khan, awakens from her deep sleep. She describes this disruption in her sleep schedule as “inevitable;” no matter how hard she tries, she wakes up each night, reaches to the ground beside her bed, and grabs a piece of chocolate. Minahil’s nightly chocolate routine began about one year ago, while she visited her parents in their home in New York City, NY and suddenly found herself having a mid-night craving for her mom’s famous chocolate mousse. The seemingly random craving quickly became a consistent necessity in her life, and Minahil has now eaten chocolate every night since. While Minahil’s case is quite extreme, many people have experienced some form of her chocolate “addiction.” So, what is it that makes chocolate such a beloved food product? Through my interview with Minahil, I attempt to uncover the various ways cultural, economic, and emotional factors have influenced consumers relationships to chocolate.

Harvard student activist and writer Minahil Khan, awakens from her deep sleep. She describes this disruption in her sleep schedule as “inevitable;” no matter how hard she tries, she wakes up each night, reaches to the ground beside her bed, and grabs a piece of chocolate. Minahil’s nightly chocolate routine began about one year ago, while she visited her parents in their home in New York City, NY and suddenly found herself having a mid-night craving for her mom’s famous chocolate mousse. The seemingly random craving quickly became a consistent necessity in her life, and Minahil has now eaten chocolate every night since. While Minahil’s case is quite extreme, many people have experienced some form of her chocolate “addiction.” So, what is it that makes chocolate such a beloved food product? Through my interview with Minahil, I attempt to uncover the various ways cultural, economic, and emotional factors have influenced consumers relationships to chocolate.

            Minahil’s chocolate dependence begins with its sentimental value, manifested in its preparation process and centrality to her childhood memories. 

LR: Do you remember the first time you ate chocolate?

MK: “I feel like the earliest memory I associate with chocolate is definitely related to birthdays. I’m from Pakistan and when I was younger we lived in this little engineering township, and I remember my mom just always made these chocolate cakes shaped like a gingerbread man. It’s weird because part of those memories only comes from the pictures of those birthdays. I look back at them now and realize, oh ‘that’s when I first had chocolate.’”

Although Minahil does not completely recall the experience of eating chocolate for the first time, she feels as if she remembers the experience, and notes the reconstruction of that early chocolate memory by her family photos. Her earliest chocolate memories were also significant because they revolved around an important event: birthdays. Chocolate has been a fixture of cultural rituals since it’s Mayan and Aztec origins. In A True History of Chocolate, Sophia and Michael Coe discuss the significance of chocolate in the Dresden codex, a Mayan book dating back to the 13th or 14th century. They write that “in several sections of the Dresden which deal with ritual activities tied in to the Maya’s sacred 260-day cycle, seated gods can be seen holding cacao pods, or dishes heaped with cacao beans” (Coe 42). The Maya viewed chocolate as an essential part of various ceremonies, including celebrations of life and death. Minahil’s birthday chocolate memory, therefore, illustrates a much longer history of chocolate as a center piece in ritualistic events. Chocolate has even become the centerpiece of the modern birthday party itself, with many choosing to have chocolate-themed birthday parties. In this video, for example, a woman throws her young daughter a chocolate-themed birthday party where the children excitedly get a behind the scenes look at chocolate production at a local chocolatier.

Drawing of Mayan chocolate drink

For Minahil, a Pakistani woman, chocolate has come to represent not only a symbol of celebration and ritual, but also of foreign or “westernness.”

LR: What’s your favorite kind of chocolate?

MK: “My mom’s chocolate mousse. That’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s just really airy.

LR: It sounds like a lot of your chocolate memories are associated with your family and childhood. How did chocolate become a part of your food culture in Pakistan? Is chocolate a part of Pakistani cuisine?

MK: “No. Really, not at all. The Pakistani desserts we have are very sugary, but there’s no chocolate involved. I don’t know if I know any dessert that has anything to do with chocolate. It’s the very western side of our upbringing even there.”

LR: Did chocolate represent something foreign to you?

MK: “At the time, no. Now, thinking about it, yeah, the fact that at one point, my mom made a chocolate barbie cake, where the cake was the dress of a barbie doll and she stuck a blonde, white barbie into the middle of it. I hadn’t even ever seen white foreign people in real life.”

As a child, Minahil considered chocolate to be an excited treat because, in addition to its sweet taste, it represented a distant and alluring west. Minahil’s mother paired the chocolate cake with a white barbie doll, demonstrating the consistent association of chocolate with white people and Western society. This association is ironic because, as Professor Martin and Kathryn E. Sampeck discuss in the Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe, the West and Central African nations of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon collectively produce approximately 70% of the world’s cacao today (Martin, Sampeck, 50).  Cacao is then processed in factories and craft chocolatiers in Europe, eventually becoming the recognizable chocolate product. Chocolate is, meanwhile, continuously branded as a luxury product, which is often not intended for consumption by nonwhite people. As Sampeck and Thayne write in Translating Tastes “In some ways, and as part of the colonial protect, chocolate was never meant to be familiar… Europeans maintained the sensory experience of chocolate—sweetness, spices, a simulation of the taste—an embodiment by colonists of Mesoamerican values but framed within the vicissitudes of the humoral scheme” (Sampeck, Thayne, 92). Through effective branding, slow recipe shifts, and colonialism, Europeans managed to construct chocolate as something unattainable to nonwhite people and victims of colonialism, like Pakistanis.

            In his article in Candy Industry, Saif Dewan clarifies the increasing accessibility of chocolate in Pakistan, from a delicacy enjoyed by the English and the wealthy, to a product available to the masses.  He writes that until the mid 1980’s, “chocolates were supposed to be the domain of the upper and upper-middle class segments in Pakistan” (Deiwan 1). In 1983, the chocolate company Mitchell created a product called Jubilee that sold for R.S 3.50 per bar. Its attractive packaging, quality, affordable price and focused media support, gave the brand unprecedented consumer reception, revolutionizing the accessibility of chocolate to the general Pakistani population. It currently exists at varying price points and remains popular in Pakistan. I asked Minahil about her personal chocolate preferences and developing tastes when she immigrated to the US.  

LR: How did your relationship to chocolate change when you came to the U.S.? Or did it at all?

MK: “Oh actually, in Pakistan we used to have Mars bars, but you never find that here. That’s one noticeable difference. Like, I used to remember every time I went to Pakistan, I used to be so excited to see Mars bars. Actually, it’s funny but now I think it’s become more accessible here. I have some Mars bars here in the corner of my room right now. Oh also, dairy… you know that one… dairy cow dairy cream? The purple wrapper? Cadbury! Yes, I had that all the time in Pakistan. I could never find that here. I think Mars is also European? I guess it was more of a British thing, you know, colonialism, so coming here I was more exposed to different brands of chocolates.

LR: What was your favorite chocolate?

MK: Cadbury.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar

Minahil is particularly passionate about Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate, one of the most popular chocolates in Pakistan today. Deiwan explains Cadbury’s place within the chocolate market, writing that that in the early 2000s, Cadbury’s introduced products like Dairy Milk at varying price points and marketed it as “making chocolates the choice for everyone.” He adds that “The role of Cadbury in expanding the chocolate market in Pakistan will become a primer on how to penetrate and grow a fledging segment in an underdeveloped economy.” Cadbury is on the cutting edge of popularizing chocolate in Pakistan, with efforts that began when Minahil was a child in the early 2000s. Today, Cadbury still holds a reputation from people like Minahil and other native Pakistanis as being accessible and delicious. In this Cadbury commercial, a young woman, anxious on the day of her wedding, quells both her and her father’s anxieties with Cadbury chocolate. The commercial illustrates how Cadbury chocolate is not only enjoyable, but also contains healing powers, mending the bride and her father’s relationship and giving them a moment of piece in a stressful day. Cadbury’s prevalence illustrates the globalization of chocolate and its shift towards becoming as an accessible and increasingly culturally essential product.

Minahil is also an activist, who has been heavily involved in organizing efforts on campus. However, when it came to her chocolate consumption, Minahil was fairly unacquainted with chocolate’s violent histories and exploitative present.

LR: Where do you get the chocolate from for the chocolate mousse?

MK: They are Nestle chocolate chips.

LR: Do you ever think about where the chocolate you eat comes from?

MK: Yeah sometimes and it makes me really sad, and I hate it. Like Hershey, Nestle, Nestle’s really messed up.

LR: Why is Nestle messed up?

MK: I think they just like take advantage of their workers and are buying lands and not compensating the people where chocolate is coming from fairly. Chocolate wasn’t as accessible in the west but now it’s more accessible because corporations. But with corporations comes exploitation.”

            As a civically engaged person who is immersed in activist circles, Minahil has adopted an understanding of the chocolate industry as problematic. Beyond that initial understanding however, her evaluation stops short. She is correct in saying that Nestle and Hershey most likely utilize exploitative processes, and that a large amount of that does in fact stem from corporate practices. In Bitter Chocolate, Carol Off explains the continuation of slavery far past emancipation in the 19th century on Cacao Plantations. She highlights a 2000 documentary, Slavery: A Global investigation which exposed indentured servitude in Cote d’Ivoire. The young people in the film were purchased by the plantation owners and described experiencing “beatings, starvation diets and foul living conditions” (Off 134).  Off also mentions the continuation of slavery in Sao Tome and Principe of the coast of West Africa. Minahil didn’t seem to know this connection between chocolate or slavery, despite her understanding of chocolate’s complicated reputation.

            After addressing some of chocolate’s unjust history, I was curious to see if Minahil would be willing to become a more conscious consumer.

LR: So, when you think about where your chocolate comes from, does that make you want to buy other types of chocolate? Does it make you choose between different brands based off of ethics?

MK: I haven’t. That’s not an area where I’ve invested that energy. But maybe it’s something worth thinking about. Um, yeah. I feel like in my home, I didn’t buy the chocolate. It’s just there and I eat it. Part of it is that so much of it is just sold by the same company, right? Like so much of it is just Hershey. So, I guess I’m not thinking about it because I know that already. But maybe between the two or three companies we can choose from.

Interestingly enough, the same sentimental connection to chocolate which makes it so significant to her, is also the connections which prevents Minahil from feeling mobilized to become a more conscious consumer. She understands that she could alter her taste to choose companies that use better practices but feels helpless in committing to that direction. She wants to preserve chocolate as something she can enjoy and not have to think about morally or ethically. She also seems to have convinced herself that no one buys the chocolate in her home, that she just arrives there and it’s waiting for her. She prefers to not confront the reality of her chocolate consumption, with its complicated ethical implications.

            As a Pakistani immigrant and student activist, Minahil is a particularly unique consumer of chocolate. She’s culturally conscious and frequently motivated to enact change. However, she is also extremely attached to chocolate for both its emotional and physical benefits. Ideally, my peers and I could mobilize to become conscious and active consumers of chocolate and other foods, but the personal connection and dependency we often feel towards these items calls into question the extent to which true progress can eventually be made.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2007.

Dewan, Saif. “PAKISTAN: Despite Odds, Pakistan’s Confectionery Industry Continues to Grow.” Candy Industry, Mar. 2011, pp. 18–22.

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in

Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3, 2015, pp. 37–60., doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New Press,

2008.

Sampeck citing Clarence-Smith, W. G. Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914. Routledge, 2000.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. 1st ed., Ohio

University Press, 2005.

Schwartzkopf, Stacey, and Kathryn E. Sampeck. Substance and Seduction: Ingested

Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica. First ed., University of Texas Press, 2017.


Chocolate: The Story Behind the Candy Isle

“Close-up Bunch of Chocolate Bars Isolated over the White Background.” Shutterstock.com, 21 Jan. 2013, http://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/closeup-bunch-chocolate-bars-isolated-over-125447003?

Chocolate is so much richer than what the label may portray, pun intended. For my final post I have decided to use the chocolate shelf in the candy isle of Harvard’s local Target to tell a story about the product being sold. At first glance we see a colorful, aesthetically pleasing array of some of the most popular chocolate brands in the U.S. What can we decipher beyond the label, beyond the product itself? What does the pricing tell us? Are there ethical concerns behind the production and history of the chocolate? This blog post aims to explore these questions and take the readers on a journey through which these tasty treats reach our shelves.

              Hershey’s Kisses, M&M’s, Ghirardelli squares, Reese’s Cups, Snickers, Dove milk chocolates, Lindor truffles. Some of the most recognizable and notable chocolate brands in the United States. When looking through the local selection at Target, these chocolate brands line the shelves. Holding the largest market shares in the country, it is no surprise that you see these chocolates literally everywhere. They are household names. Hershey, Mars, and Lindt. These are the titans behind our favorite chocolate brands here in the United States. The analysis of this blog will structure around these three brands and what their product selection in Target tells us about our three critical questions.

Produced by myself solely for the use of this blog. Empirical data obtained from
The Hershey Company. “The Hershey Company Fact Book.” The Hershey Company, Sept. 2018.

Right when you walk into the candy isle of the Target in Central Square, you immediately see Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and the classic Hershey Milk Chocolate Bars before anything else. Hershey’s holds the largest market share in the United States, estimated around 44% (Hershey 2018). The Hershey Company was founded by Milton Hershey in 1894, and is one of the largest chocolate producers in the world. Milton S. started off from humble beginnings, unknowing that he would start a revolution of chocolate mass production. He put years of time and effort into achieving the perfect chocolate recipes, constantly tweaking the smallest inputs to optimize the product. After tireless trial and error, a man named John Schmalbach helped Hershey create the perfect condensed milk that would accept all other chocolate ingredients smoothly and could be stored for long amounts of time without spoiling (D’Antonio 2006). In 1894, Hershey started his confectionary company that boomed and grew quickly. In 1900, Hershey decided to sell the caramel company and focus solely on chocolate. He took his production to Pennsylvania, where the famous Hershey community sits today. The Hershey Company has a rich history and even richer products. How much do these products cost?

              One Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar will run you 89 cents at the local target. One pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups also costs 89 cents. A classic bag of Hershey’s kisses will cost you $3.59. This may seem relatively cheap to what most food stuffs cost in the Unites States, yet Hershey has confirmed that it will raise its prices over the next couple years to keep up with increasing commodity and shipping costs (Hershey 2018). Chocolate prices are pretty volatile and have been at the mercy of fluctuating supply and demand. Typically, small-holder cocoa growers have a tough time managing their production to meet the fluctuations in demand experienced worldwide (Chocolate 2003). Being that these cocoa growers make up a majority of the world’s cocao production, this creates surplus or shortages that affect the equilibrium prices of chocolate. Hershey’s and other big producers deal with this situation by hedging and futures contracts. Essentially big chocolate companies like Hershey and Mars hedge against price fluctuations to smoothen out their cash flow (Leissle 2018). How it works is that these large producers will estimate, or rather guarantee by being conservative, how much of an input like cocao over a certain timeline. So they will agree to acquire that amount of input through the futures market. This allows them to lock in their price of that input regardless of what happens to the market prices over time. So what can these price tags on our Hershey products tell us now? Hershey will raise its prices in accordance to commodity and shipping costs as mentioned before. However most of this is due to the shipping factor. The U.S. economy has created an atmosphere in which producers like Hershey have to compete with other buyers for a capped shipping capacity. So although Hershey can hedge against changing commodity prices, it cannot do much for the consumers when it comes to shipping prices. Now that we have dissected the price points of our favorite Hershey products, we can discuss any ethical concerns behind these treats.

              Big producers like Hershey and Mars need to source their cocao from somewhere. The cocao bean primarily grows in the tropical climates of Latin America, Western Africa and Asia (Leissle 2018). Western African countries supply more than 70% of the world’s cocao, and is purchased by large chocolate producers (Child 2019). This also means that the labor indirectly going into chocolate production is outsourced to these countries. That is where the issue lies, as several journalists and researchers over the years have uncovered the widespread use of slavery and even child labor on many of these cocao farms. Cocao is a commodity crop, meaning that it is primarily grown for export to other countries. The Ivory Coast alone realizes almost 60% of its export revenue from cocao exports alone (Child 2019). As chocolate continues to become more popular around the world and big producers continue to grow, the demand for chocolate increases. This means that the supply must also increase to keep up with demand. When supply and production need to increase, so does labor. Sadly in the case of cocao, this usually means an increase in forced and child labor (Higgs 2012). Many of the children that are put into cocao farming do it because they are forced by poverty, not only physically. It becomes a means to help support their families and livelihood. Without sufficient infrastructure combined with widespread corruption, many local governments actually support forced and child labor. They reap the benefits of the increased exports and have even gone as far to enact violence on those trying to expose and stop the child labor. In 2004, the Ivorian first lady had her entourage kidnap and kill a journalist reporting on the government’s corruption. Six years later three more journalists were kidnapped after publishing an article on the cocao sector corruption (Child 2019). Although Hershey does not partake in any of the forced child labor occurring in these countries, most of the controversy centers around the indirect support of this corruption through the purchase of the cocao. Two separate lawsuits had been filed against Hershey over the past few years. One in 2015 on behalf of the state of California, and one in 2018 on behalf of the state of Massachusetts, where our local Target resides. The lawsuits claimed that Hershey did not disclose its knowing use of child labor in its supply chains. Both cases were dismissed on account that Hershey did not deceive in either case. The law has spoken, but it still remains an ethical debate whether or not it is okay for big producers to supply from places where slavery and child labor is used. As a consumer we purchase these products, so does that mean we support it once-removed as well? Food for thought… Now that we have looked into Hershey products, what else lines the shelves of our local Target?

              M&Ms, Snickers, Milky Ways and Dove chocolates. Some of the delicious and tasty treats created by chocolate titan Mars. Mars is the sixth largest privately held company in the US according to Forbes, and is headquartered in Virginia. It holds about 30% of U.S. market share, making it the second biggest chocolate producer in America behind Hershey. Frank Mars, the founder, contracted polio at an early age and surrounded himself with the science of cooking. Particularly, he was fond of candy and the many processes that went into making them (Brenner 1999). Mars began as the Mar-O-Bar Company in 1911. Over the next decade Frank quickly grew the company. In 1920, Frank Mars created two of the most famous chocolate bars in the U.S., the Snickers bar and the Milky Way bar (Brenner 1999). Fun fact, the Snickers bar actually started off as only the middle of the modern bar we know today. There was no chocolate coating. In 1940 Frank’s son Forrest Mars founded the M&M brand we know and love today. The M&M brand was actually created to strategically solve the problem of chocolate storage over the summer. When the temperatures increase, retailers purchase less chocolate because storing the chocolate becomes more of a challenge. Especially back circa 1940. Forrest manufactured these chocolates in a sugar shell specifically to solve that problem. It was genius! Forrest quickly capitalized on the idea, and it was a huge success. Mars went on to battle with Hershey throughout the 70s and 80s to be the biggest chocolate giant in the United States. Since then, the two titans have created several brands that encompass America’s favorite chocolate candies. Now that we know a bit about the history of chocolate giant Mars, we can dive into the pricing behind Mars.

              One box of M&Ms cost 99 cents, One Kit-Kat bar costs $1.49, one Snickers bar costs 89 cents. Looking at the price and the amount of chocolate you get per package, these price points reign true to competitor Hershey. Especially the Snickers bar, which is the exact same cost and very similar volume of chocolate to the 89- cent Hershey bars. Also very similar to Hershey, Mars is raising its prices by about seven percent (Reports 2019). They claim that this is also in accordance with increasing production costs as well as shipping. Although Mars can control for price fluctuations using futures and hedging as discussed with Hershey, there are still variable costs that cannot be accounted for and must be put onto the consumers, us. With every chocolate titan comes issues regarding the ethics behind their supply chains.

              The same class action lawsuit that was brought against Hershey was brought against Mars by the same court. The suit alleges that Mars has violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which essentially indicates deception (Child 2019). Mars actually does have a reputation of being very secretive and clandestine. Yet just as the case had been dropped by the court against Hershey, Mars got off scot-free on the basis that no actual deception was intended or committed. Most of the court cases brought against Mars and similar producers have been on the basis of deception. Most of the time it is found that these chocolate producers haven’t actually committed any wrongdoing by not deliberately disclosing child labor and slavery on their labels. In the opinion of this blog, it again becomes an issue of how far removed you are from the actual problem. When the origins of a company’s supply chain are tainted by unfair labor practices, does this make the company itself corrupt? Are chocolate giants supporting unfair labor practices by purchasing inputs from where they are readily available? What about us as consumers? All important questions to ask when considering this delicate ethical crossroads.

              The chocolate isle at Target may be a pretty fun and simple place. In reality it really is just the very tip of the iceberg that is the chocolate industry. One small finished product above the waterline while there are years of rich history, complicated economics, and important ethical concerns lurking beneath the surface. There is so much more to chocolate than what the finished product may show, and this blog post was intended to give you a glimpse into what that world is all about.

Works Cited

Multimedia

“2018 Market Share.” Produced by myself.

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, 2019. foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

“Close-up Bunch of Chocolate Bars Isolated over the White Background.” Shutterstock.com, 21   Jan. 2013, www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/closeup-bunch-chocolate-bars-isolated

“Reports and Financials – Investor Relations.” Mars One, 2019. www.mars-one.com/investor- relations/reports-and-financial-calendar.

The Hershey Company. “The Hershey Company Fact Book.” The Hershey Company, Sept. 2018.

Scholarly

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate : inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. 1st ed., Random House, 1999.

“Chocolate Prices Are on the Rise. (Consumables).” Chain Drug Review, vol. 25, no. 3, 2003, p. 12.

D’Antonio, Michael. “Hershey : Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and   Utopian Dreams.” Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Higgs, Catherine. “Chocolate Islands :Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa.” Ohio University Press, 2012.

Leissle, Kristy. 2018. Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press.

How Easy it is to Falsely Sway the Average Chocolate Consumer

Chocolate, today, is one of the most beloved treats in the world with an estimated 7.7 million tons of chocolate to be consumed in 2018/2019 alone (“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide,” Statista). However, even with such interest and demand for chocolate, the average consumer does not necessarily have any strong understanding around chocolate—from what makes certain chocolate better quality to what is a fair price for chocolate. In order to gauge a deeper understanding of what drives chocolate decisions and views, I decided to conduct a small study in Harvard Square with blind taste tests in order to get to the root of how the average consumer with no prior educational or personal experience with the chocolate industry rates and evaluates chocolate. By looking at how consumers blindly view chocolate bars and how they view chocolate packaging it will become clearer that brand stereotypes, the exploitation of certifications and labels, and the use of distinct flavors and fillings all lead the average consumer to falsely attach a certain quality or price to chocolates. It can also be argued that feeding on the surface level understandings of the average consumers could be a fruitful strategy for chocolate companies when trying to grow their brand, customer loyalty, and profitability.

The Study

Before diving into the findings of this blind chocolate taste test, it is important to set up what exactly happened during the taste test. I conducted a study involving ten people around Harvard Square who each sampled twelve unique, distinct chocolates. In my study I bought four different chocolate bars of varying flavors, price points, and qualities from three stores near Harvard Square—CVS, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. Next, I had each of the ten willing participants sample a square from each bar without knowing anything about the bars, including not seeing the packaging, and then have them detail out the flavors, texture, and quality as well as guess as to where I purchased the bar between the three stores available and how much the chocolate was worth per ounce. After detailing out the experience around eating each piece, then I would show the participants the packaging that the bar came in and have them describe the packaging as well as give them an opportunity to update their guesses on where I purchased the bar as well as the price per ounce. Finally, after this part was completed, I would then reveal where I actually purchased the bar and what the price per ounce was for the respective chocolate bar, taking note of any surprised reactions to my reveal. A list of all chocolate bars used as well as the stores they were bought at and the price per ounce for each bar are listed at the end of this blog post.

Stereotypes Around Big Chocolate Brands and Store Brands

A consistent finding throughout the process of tasting all the chocolates was that when there was a bar that had a logo pressed into the piece then that logo held a large swaying power over what the perceived quality and price of the bar was. For example, one of the chocolates sampled was a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar which has the infamous “HERSHEY’S” pressed into each bite. When the volunteers went to sample this bar and saw the logo, the reactions were immediate with people shouting that they already knew this bar and knew it would be very low quality and cheap. People guessed on average that the Hershey’s bar would value at around $0.40/ounce which—based on all the bars surveyed—would be considered incredibly cheap and lower than the $0.59/ounce it actually costs. Surprisingly, though, for such a considerably low-end, mass-produced chocolate bar, most of the participants genuinely loved the taste and “tongue-melting” quality of the texture. Overwhelmingly, the response was favorable because the bar was consistent with their expectations and past experiences. This same response followed with other well-known chocolate bars, including Cadbury and Dove. The fact that these brands are well known and branded so strongly led most participants to associate the chocolate with a lower price point and perceived lower quality, but still the flavor was desired and left people wanting more.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar with infamous “HERSHEY’S” logo pressed into each bite.

This response to the mass-produced chocolate bars in this study is not necessarily surprising given chocolate’s rich history. With Van Houten’s invention in 1828 “on a process for the manufacturing of a new kind of powdered chocolate with a very low-fat content,” he gave birth to the ability to bring chocolate to the masses in a cheap, low quality, fast production form (Coe and Coe, 234). The importance of this chocolate history is that for almost two centuries cheap, mass-produced chocolate has been growing in popularity and has become a common staple in most American’s lives, which is directly correlated with why the average consumer has such a positive association and appreciation for the distinct tastes of such bars. However, given the history, the average consumer also assumes that these bars are very cheap because their brands are specifically generic enough to present an affordable front. Also, interestingly, because these large chocolate companies are linked with affordability and lower quality, they are viewed to be sold at cheaper, more generic locations too. For example, for each of the bars tested that are more mass-produced (Hershey’s, Cadbury, and Dove) the overwhelming responses from taste testers was that these bars were purchased at CVS because similarly that store is also associated with more affordable products when compared to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The stereotype of the chocolate does not end at the bite of the bar but instead carries itself through the branding of any logo in the chocolate, the packaging for the bars, and even the stores that sell the chocolate.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the chocolates tested that instead had unique designs in the chocolate pieces were more likely than not to be viewed as being purchased at Whole Foods because that store seems to carry the stereotype (at least amongst the participants) to be pricier and more connected to unique, well designed products and produce. In the scope of this taste test, the participants on average would guess that high quality, nicer looking bars came from Whole Foods, any decent tasting bars came from Trader Joe’s, and all generically mass-produced bars came from CVS. It became apparent that the value the average consumer attaches to the chocolate bar does not stop at the flavor and bar’s packaging but extends to where the bar is sold.

The branding these chocolate companies and the stores have crafted completely impacts customers’ responses, no matter what the reality is. For example, all participants assumed that every bar sold at Whole Foods must be expensive, but the group was shocked to learn that one of the bars tasted from Whole Foods—Chocolove’s Orange Peel—was essentially the same price per ounce as Dove’s bar from CVS. These reactions are telling of the expectations and the preconceived notions people link the stores to as well as the chocolate.

Strategic Uses of Certifications and “Earthy” Messaging

Beyond stereotyping mass-produced bars and stores based on their histories and assumed values, the use of certifications and labels as well as “earthy” messages overwhelming sway the average consumer to associate higher value to the products. In this blind chocolate tasting test, participants would frequently hold strong views and preferences after tasting some of the chocolates and sometimes rank the bars as lower quality, lower price, but these same people would then completely change their view after seeing the packaging if it had labels—such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, etc.—or was announced to be organic, vegan, etc.

One example of a chocolate bar that has certifications on the wrapping itself.

For example, when the participants were sampling the Endangered Species Chocolate’s Caramel Sea Salt + Dark Chocolate bar, many of the guests absolutely despised and detested the bar because they felt it was too salty and felt cheap in quality compared to some of the other bars sampled already; however, the moment they all saw the bar’s packaging, most of the participants then associated the bar to be high quality because it has certifications that claim the product is “Non GMO Project Verified” and Fairly Traded—not to mention the wrapping claims that ten percent of the net profits are used to save the wildlife. All of a sudden a bar that was unsuccessful in this test group, considered to be bought at CVS, and guessed to be worth roughly $0.70/ounce was then shifted into a luxury bar that must have been bought at Whole Foods and priced around $1.50/ounce—which would place it in an expensive bar category. This is just one example from this taste test that illuminates the importance of perception and the use of labels and how these elements can lead to false views of the product that was just tasted and disliked.

When a product does have such certifications or labels front and center, the average consumer assumes these labels are linked with better quality and more expensive chocolate. However, when asked to the group of people involved if any of them knew what it means to be Rainforest Alliance certified or to be Fairly Traded none of them felt confident to explain what they mean but positively associate them to mean doing good. Interestingly, though, many of these certifications that were created to benefit farmers and create more clarity into the process have actually opened “the door to decrease transparency around trade terms” (Leissle, 147). So instead, the average person who does not know what such labels represent is blindly trusting that having any label means better quality. Ironically, though, even some of the mass-produced bars have labels too—with Dove claiming to be Rainforest Alliance certified and Hershey’s claiming to use farm fresh milk—yet consumers do not necessarily associate these well-known brands to be high quality, suggesting that stereotypes around brands supersede stereotypes around certifications and labels.

Hu’s bar which lists all of the ingredients it purposefully does not include in the recipe.

Similarly, bars that announced on their packaging that they were organic, no soy, vegan, etc. had a comparably positive leap in the perceptions of this test group. For example, Hu’s Cashew Butter + Pure Vanilla Bean Dark Chocolate bar (one of the overall favorites from the taste test) left the participants overly impressed after witnessing the packaging of the chocolate. This bar when blindly tasted was widely enjoyed by the participants, for they seemed to enjoy the nice complexity of flavors and unique inner filling that stood out from other bars sampled; however, even though the group already considered this bar to be valuable and high quality, there was a general lift in appreciation and value after reading the packaging: “organic house-ground cacao, vegan, paleo, no palm oil, no refined sugar, no cane sugar, no sugar alcohols, no dairy, no emulsifiers, no soy lecithin, no vanilla extract.” The seemingly never-ending list of characterizations for the bar seemed to check off boxes the participants did not even know were there—almost setting a new standard for what should be expected of chocolate bars and food in general. With each new “no” read by the participants on the package it seemed to raise the price and quality slightly, even though the consumer could not taste the fact that these ingredients were missing—they had to be told on the wrapping. While, yes, creating a bar that checks off so many different items is most likely expensive and higher quality than a mass-produced bar, the use of presenting these feats on the packaging greatly resulted in the average consumer in this taste test increasing their price and standards—maybe falsely because none of the items presented on the packaging were things the consumers could taste or rather not taste.

Companies that take use of certifications, labels, and “earthy” messages seem to be trying to tap into a pathos and logos approach of swaying consumers into purchasing their products. Such identifiable items on the chocolate bars’ packaging more times than not successfully added more value and clout to the bars overall, whether or not the bar was actually enjoyed by the participants—suggesting that the addition of these elements might be a strong business model for producers in order to gain appreciation and profitability.

Flavors, Fillings, and Cacao

Another major finding and revelation that became prevalent during this conducted chocolate taste test was that bars that used complex flavors—such as fruits, nuts, espresso—, forms of fillings within bars, or higher percentages of cacao contents all left participants at large attributing higher qualities and higher price points to the chocolate bars whether or not they liked the bars.

With flavors, it is not that bars without any non-chocolate flavors are low-valued, but there seemed to be a common, underlying belief in this taste test that the addition of flavors must mean that the bar was more expensive than maybe expected. Interestingly, the use of flavors did not necessarily alter whether participants considered the bars to be higher quality but only dictated the pricing per ounce category. For example, Madécasse’s Sea Salt & Nibs Dark Chocolate was generally appreciated amongst guests but almost everyone was held up by the fact that there seemed to be some type of nut (which was actually nibs) in the chocolate. Even before seeing the packaging for the chocolate bar, participants already were guessing this bar was worth roughly $1.50/ounce, with many of the reasonings being the use of some type of nut that the guests assumed would have cost more.

Additionally, the participants added on a higher price per ounce for Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Chocolate Bar because of the velvety, rich inner filling filled with easily distinguishable espresso. The sharp, strong use of espresso as a filling left the participants excited by the fact that there was a filling and immediate reactions that espresso is expensive at coffee shops so it must be expensive in chocolate bars. Similarly, this notion led many of the people to also assume the bar was purchased at Whole Foods because of the strong general consensus that unique flavors must be only sold at high-end stores like Whole Foods. Ironically, history shows that the addition of fillings with different nuts or flavors was actually a great way to lower the cost of manufacturing the chocolate. This can best be seen with the Milky Way bar that had “malt-flavored nougat” as the main ingredient, allowing for the candy to be “much bigger, tasted just as chocolatey, but cost much less to produce” (Brenner, 54-55). Therefore, even though the consumer might associate fillings with higher price, they might be actually helping attribute to lower costs for the chocolate.

Finally, there was also a strong positive correlation that suggested that as the cacao contents raised in percentage so did the value and quality—claiming the product was more “natural” and “raw.” This became clear with the chocolate bar that had the highest cacao contents of any of the bars, sitting at 85% cacao. Valrhona’s Le Noir Extra Amer 85% Cacao from Trader Joe’s was considered by most in this taste test to be too dark and bitter in flavor, yet there was a unanimous agreeance that this bar must be a luxury bar sold at Whole Foods because of its clearly bitter taste that many guests assumed also meant higher cacao percentages. While they were correct in guessing this bar had high cacao percentages, the group was incorrect in estimating a price per ounce because the bar was $0.85/ounce—not the $2.00/ounce the participants were averaging in guesses.

In all three situations—whether it be non-chocolate flavors, fillings, or cacao percentage—the participants found themselves assuming that the addition of these contents must yield a higher price, yet many were very surprised to find that their assumption did not always turn out to be true. Studies have shown that people cannot actually taste any of these flavors, fillings, or cacao contents by just placing the chocolate on their tongue; instead, it is now assumed that there is “no real flavor” until one smells and sees the chocolate too (Coe and Coe, 261). Chocolate producers are taking advantage of these “neurogastronomical” researches in order to sway consumers. These additional elements in a bar, therefore, successfully fooled the average consumer in this taste test into attributing higher price and assumed value for the product, falsely swaying opinions on chocolates whether or not they were actually liked for their tastes.

What is the Take Away?

While there were a lot of great findings from the taste test that was conducted with ten people around Harvard Square with no extensive experience in the chocolate industry, this study is by no means a conclusive evaluation of how the average consumer values and experiences chocolate. However, this taste test is a chance to better evaluate how some consumers make decisions based on taste, packaging, and stereotypes.

At the end of the day, average consumers are just that, the average majority of people indulging in the chocolate bars being sold globally, and there are many falsifications that lead and sway people into attributing higher or lower quality and price points to bars—from the use of stereotypes, certifications and messaging, and flavors and contents. One general consensus was that no one could properly guess the price for any of the chocolate bars, showing that chocolate producers can maybe take advantage (and already do) of the fact that the average consumer does not have a strong background in what price different qualities of chocolate should be or is fair. The use of stereotypes, labels, and flavors all have a strong ability to falsely lead the average consumer away from the actual value of the product and instead make them willing to spend far more or far less for a product than it is actually worth.

Companies might be doing these things and playing to the fact that the average consumer does not know much because it allows for companies to grow in customer loyalty as well as dictate the pricing for each bar and grow their profits and popularity. Consumers can try to take some of the learning responsibility and conduct their own taste tests to find what types of chocolates they actually enjoy, first, then consider what the price point in reality is because often times our tasting experience or package viewing experience filter how we price and value chocolate.


Chocolates used in this Blind Taste Test

  • CVS
    • Silky Smooth Dove: Dark Chocolate ($0.90/ounce)
    • Endangered Species Chocolate: Caramel Sea Salt + Dark Chocolate (60% Cocoa) ($1.10/ounce)
    • Cadbury Dairy Milk: Milk Chocolate ($0.74/ounce)
    • Hershey’s: Milk Chocolate ($0.59/ounce)
  • Trader Joe’s
    • Trader Joe’s Organic Milk Chocolate Truffle ($0.57/ounce)
    • Valrhona: Le Noir Extra Amer 85% Cacao ($0.85/ounce)
    • Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Chocolate Bar ($0.66/ounce)
    • Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic 72% Cacao Belgian Dark Chocolate Bar ($0.57/ounce)
  • Whole Foods
    • Chocolove XOXOX: Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate ($0.93/ounce)
    • Madécasse: Sea Salt & Nibs Dark Chocolate ($1.51/ounce)
    • Hu: Cashew Butter + Pure Vanilla Bean Dark Chocolate ($3.33/ounce)
    • Cocoa Parlor: Into Dark 80 ($1.66/ounce)

Works Cited

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World on Hershey and Mars. Broadway Books, 2000.

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

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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.


Multimedia Sources

Morris, Jelene. Hershey’s Bar with Chocolate Bloom. Wikimedia Commons, 1 October 2008, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hersheys_Bar_with_Chocolate_Bloom.jpg

All other images provided by author of this blog post.

OoO SHE BAD!

Chocolate, Sex, and Passionate Indulgences

  1. A Contextual History: The Ancient Origins of Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac

Introduction

In class, we discussed the relationship between Valentine’s Day and chocolate.  Because it is a Victorian-created holiday that can seem to a skeptic more of a consumerist ploy than a celebration of love, one may argue that the importance placed upon Valentine’s Day is in our culture is inflated.  Sure, maybe Valentine’s Day is just a (highly-gendered and heteronormative) convention, but nobody can deny the centrality of chocolate in its celebration. Many foods are said to have aphrodisiac qualities, but chocolate is amongst the most renowned.  The passion elicited from its indulgence dates back centuries. The Maya considered cacao sacred, encouraging its consumption during highly emotional or spiritual events like marriage and fertility rituals as well as death rites. In more transgressive accounts, Aztec emperor Montezuma consumed a gluttonous amount of chocolate each day to boost his sexual stamina.  This essay serves to trace the entwinement of chocolate, sex, and passionate indulgences through the contemporary state of the cacao-chocolate industry while situating it in its appropriate historical context.

The ephemeral nature of cacao consumption’s association with aphrodisiac qualities divulges a corollary truth between ancient wisdom and modern science.  While historically chocolate has been taken advantage of in the name of its spiritual effects, science, commerce, and even art contemporarily reveal there is a passion to indulgence.  Whether it is eating chocolate or having sex, fleeting benevolence. Consistent consumption of both nurtures an honest, transgressive air of ambitious pursuit that allows one to stay in tune their desires, promoting health, general well-being, and growth.  If demonstrated truthfully, this post suggests indulgence should not be understood merely as a momentary transgression, but rather an honest, consistent truth that leads to health and progress.

2. Contemporary State of the Cacao-Chocolate Industry: Modern Marketing and Cognitive Science

Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate: How We Fell In Love With Caffeine

Melanie King’s book Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate: How We Fell In Love With Caffeine explores the question of how contemporary culture and modern society became enamored with tea, coffee, and chocolate.  Broadly, she argues it has to do with their stimulative effects on dopamine. Specifically, King posits that drinking chocolate products benefits the consumers “sex life and physical appearance,” a wisdom that can be traced back through history.  The stimulation a consumer achieves increases their propensity to chace the transgressive desires weighing on their heart, promoting longevity and renewal.

Mood State Effects of Chocolate

Putting some science to Melanie King’s argument for ancient wisdom in the positive benefits of cacao consumption on our mood, the University of New South Wales’ School of Psychiatry conducted an academic review on the association of chocolate consumption with enjoyment and pleasure.  Historically, dating back to the Ancient Mesoamerican origins of cacao consumption, chocolate indulgence provokes a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual effects that bestow “stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” properties. Specifically, the UNSW research team focused on the mood altering traits of chocolate.  Investigating chocolate’s psychoactive positionings, the team concluded: “chocolate can provide its own hedonistic reward by satisfying cravings but, when consumed as a comfort eating or emotional eating strategy, is more likely to be associated with prolongation rather than cessation of a dysphoric mood.” Thus, their research provides implications about the ephemeral, fleeting benefits derived from one’s chocolate indulgence.  This is not to say that chocolate consumption is malevolent or harmful, but rather that the endurance of its advantageous emotional effects requires habitual consistency.

Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function

Further, Psychology Today’s article “Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function” claims, “Aztec emperor Montezuma is reputed to have used chocolate in a manner akin to today’s Viagra pill.”  Nowadays, the aphrodisiac link between sex and chocolate is most visible around Valentine’s Day. Dr. Andrea Salonia, an Italian physician, piloted a research project that measured chocolate consumption against female sexual function and depression.  It was found that chocolate consumption increases the female propensity to achieve sexual satisfaction, positing a scientific legitimacy in the human inclination to sin and sin again consequently. The research team also found a correlation between age and scores on the Female Sexual Function Index. Younger women who consumed chocolate daily scored much higher, suggesting maturity impacts the desire to indulge transgressively.  

Sex, Chocolate, and Disability

The cultural perception that there is a transgressive nature to sex and chocolate consumption has influenced commerce, marketing, and media in various controversial ways.  In 2016, Mars-brand Maltesers ran a series of ads that featured disabled people discussing embarrassing intimacies while opening up over chocolate. The first ad featured a wheelchaired woman with cerebral palsy symbolically spilling a bag of Maltesers on the table as she describes an awkward sexual experience with her new boyfriend, implying her spastic disease caused a diuretic explosion during sex.  The risky ad provoked a highly controversial reception, polarizing audiences into camps of insensitivity and effervescence. Maltesers doubled-down, claiming lightheartedness and sense of humor are necessary forces of benevolence in a world of degradation, shame, and censorship. More importantly, these ads provoked public conversation about disability and suggested one ought to be optimistic about what defines their personhood.  

Much of debate surround Maltesers’ ads were concerned with “sensitivity and authenticity,” triggering empathetic ideas about vulnerability outside of oneself.  Remaining optimistic in ethos, a company representative stated, “Maltesers positions itself as a lighter way to enjoy chocolate and its ads encourage people to look on the light side of life. In three previous animated spots, comedians … relay awkward or embarrassing situations they’ve encountered, such as walking around a shop without realising you still have your umbrella up.”

Putting yourself in the shoes of the disabled, one must consider their perception of pity at odds with true equity; yet, the radical transparency of the Maltesers ads surely realized an air of bravery through creativity that encourages the disabled to exit their defensive comfort zones.  Further, Mars’ 2016 advertisements added visibility to the disabled by expanding their personal liberties through the proliferation of opportunities for employment and exposure. There is also an argument to be made about diversity. Rather than tokenism, a representative of Mars claimed, “we got better ideas by not just thinking about the white, middle-class, able-bodied family with two kids. Using a different lens has been a game changer for our creativity.”

3. Personal Analysis and Critique: Healthy Indulgences and Fleeting Flits

Beyond Veggies

Harvard Medical School published an article about the health benefits derived from unorthodox sources, such as chocolate and sex.  Typically considered a devious indulgence, the team wrote: “A steady stream of studies has won chocolate cardiovascular laurels by showing that it improves blood flow through arteries that supply the heart and the brain.”  Further, in 2008, researchers at Harvard found that “two weeks of enhanced chocolate intake quickened blood flow through the middle cerebral artery.” Additionally, Italian researchers found a feeble correlation between increased dark chocolate and reduced inflammation marked by the resultant low levels of C-reactive proteins.  However, this comes with a major caveat: the health benefits of one’s chocolate indulgence are best derived from the organic, raw, unprocessed type. Added sugars and other excessive processes only complicate the body’s ability to receive cacao’s naturally fleeting benefits. As it concerns sex, the article called it obvious that “sexual arousal and orgasm is a source of great pleasure and a sense of well-being,” noting that, “even after the immediate glow fades, there may be residual health benefits.”  While there are rare cases of sex causing heart attacks particularly in men, the effects of sexual activity regardless of gender are found to be overwhelmingly ameliorating. These benefits range from reducing the intensity of headaches and stress to the general wellness of cardiovascular and immune systems. When you put the two together, the consumption of raw chocolate and sex, there is a benevolent implication for overall health. But, it is important to tune into the fleeting nature of these benefits; to achieve a healthy balance, consistency is key.

Love and Chocolate

Love, ideally, is passionate, consistent, and true.  Due to legends involving Montezuma, Don Juan, and even Casanova himself, chocolate and love have been mythically inseparable for centuries.  The presupposition is that chocolate inspires passion. Whether in terms of sex, love, or both, it has been found that chocolate contains aphrodisiac powers of mimicry that can illude the passionate feelings of being in love.  Janet Vine of Aphrodite Chocolates reported that “chocolate contains substances called phenylethylamine and seratonin, both of which are mood lifting agents found naturally in the human brain. They are released into the nervous system by the brain when we are happy and when we are experiencing feelings of love, passion or lust. This causes rapid mood change, a rise in blood pressure and increasing heart rate, inducing those feelings of well being, bordering on euphoria usually associated with being in love.”  When consumed, chocolate releases these agents into the system and boosts a certain euphoric stamina that earns its reputation as an aphrodisiac instigator of passionate action.

Growing The Ultimate Aphrodisiac: Chocolate

Love, to me, is also something you must cultivate and actively work toward.  The Grow Network video “Growing The Ultimate Aphrodisiac: Chocolate” above discusses the modern cultivation of Theobroma cacao trees.  While it is imperative the leaves stay moist, they don’t retain all the water. It is a tropical plant that, in nature, grow as an understory, shaded by other trees so they don’t get the full brunt of tropical sun.  Today, they can be grown in personal backyards or greenhouses, ideally temperature-controlled around 60 degrees. They start from seeds, but reach 5 or 6 feet in about three years when grown in rich organic soil. Once mature, pruning begins; they flower and fruit all year long.  

Chocolate Rain

Artistically too, modern culture connects the indulgence of chocolate and self-permitted growth.  In 2007, YouTuber Tay Zonday went viral with his song “Chocolate Rain.”

Culturally, it was received as a funny video, but deserves to be recognized for its profound social commentary.  Chocolate rain is a metaphor for the tears of African Americans operating in a system of racism. In a way that tugs at the heartstrings, Tay Zonday sings of the pain caused by institutional lies and deceit.  He notes the inescapability of being wronged, for instance, when he sings “the bell curve blames the baby’s DNA,” referencing Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, which argues for the innate intellectual superiority of white men.  It is again an interesting dichotomy between chocolate skin and tears of water.  The emotional act of crying, expressing vulnerability, allows renewal upon a stained existence of unjustified inferiority.  Crying, too, can be a passionate indulgence–a letting go.

Like Water for Chocolate

In other artistic representation of passion and chocolate, it is imperative to reference Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, which is one of my favorite all time works of literature.  Symbolically, the title itself poses water’s purity against chocolate’s mercy; water is eternal like love, while mercy is fleeting like lust:

“it seemed Pedro’s rage dominated the thoughts and actions of everyone in the house. Tita was literally ‘like water for chocolate’—she was on the verge of boiling over.”

The real passion in Like Water for Chocolate exists between Pedro and Tita, star-crossed forbidden lovers. Esquivel’s style of prose, magical realism, portrays the otherworldliness of true love; it is a nature that defies reality and works in an irrational way. The quote above speaks to Tita’s divine feminity, and her arousal, showing her readiness to transgress and receive Pedro’s divine masculinity–she ultimately runs toward him. The novel positions true love as a life-giving force, requiring a nurturing attitude toward spiritual honesty, which brings happiness to pain. The story shows the ways in which truth, to oneself, is freedom.  It is an interesting act of balancing that operates over the twelve months of the book, revealing true love, water, is capable to remedy intermittent affairs and external romance, chocolate. It took a long time for Pedro and Tita to actively run toward the cultivation of a serious relationship. In the final scenes of the book, they let go of their fearful resistance:

“Little by little her vision began to brighten until the tunnel again appeared before her eyes. There at its entrance was the luminous figure of Pedro waiting for her. Tita did not hesitate. She let herself go to the encounter, and they wrapped each other in a long embrace; again experiencing an amorous climax, they left together for the lost Eden. Never again would they be apart.”

Thus, true love is proven an enduring force, but it requires the crossing of boundaries and ultimate indulgence in true passion.  Water’s solvent powers allow the indulgence of soluble chocolate to make for a greater drink, which, as we’ve learned in class, produces “stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” effects that renew the soul.

Bibliography

“Beyond Veggies: The Health Benefits of Chocolate, Sex, Sleep and Social Networks, from the Harvard Health Letter.” Harvard Health Publishing. April 2009. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/beyond-veggies-the-health-benefits-of-chocolate-sex-sleep-and-social-networks.

Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. London: Black Swan, 1998.

Goldstein, Kay. “Love and Chocolate.” HuffPost. May 25, 2011. Accessed May 04, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/love-and-chocolate_n_165040.

Hagi, Sarah. “10 Years Later, ‘Chocolate Rain’ Is Still the Wokest Song Ever.” Vice. April 25, 2017. Accessed May 05, 2019. https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/qkqewv/10-years-later-chocolate-rain-is-more-woke-than-ever.

Kiefer, Brittaney. “Sex, Chocolate and Disability.” Campaign (Sep 09, 2016): 14. http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1825218631?accountid=11311.

King, Melanie. Tea, Coffee & Chocolate: How We Fell in Love with Caffeine. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2015.

Parker, Gordon, Parker, Isabella, and Brotchie, Heather. “Mood State Effects of Chocolate.” Journal of Affective Disorders 92, no. 2 (2006): 149-59.

Saad, Gad. “Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function.” Psychology Today. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/homo-consumericus/201002/chocolate-consumption-and-women-s-sexual-function