Tag Archives: cocoa

The Sticky and Complicated Future of Chocolate

the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.”[1] ― Sarah Vowell

Humorist Sarah Vowell captures much of the history of chocolate (and coffee) in this little quip. However, the history of chocolate is long and its social, economic, and political implications are vast. Putting the positive impacts of invention aside, the negative impacts of imperialism and consumerism more than linger. They have resulted in gross economic inequities and lasting environmental and social damage, particularly in the production end of the cocoa supply chain. It’s going to take the force of consumerism and capitalism to right these inequalities and bring about sustainability.

Approximately 70% of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa by small farms spread out across the area. In the 1980s cocoa farmers received approximately 16% of the chocolate profits, today this percentage has been greatly reduced to 3%.[2] Cocoa farmers are not organized and have little bargaining power against more organized buyers.

Profit shared on cocoa supply chain
Figure 1: Farmers share of chocolate profits is small and has been in decline since the 1980s when global cacao prices were regulated. In the 1980s farmers were receiving around 16% of the chocolate profits. Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture. [3]
The 2018 Cocoa Barometer highlights the many challenges for cacao farmers, including volatile pricing. From September 2016 – February 2017, farmers experienced a 30%-40% decline in income (Ghana farmers were protected by this price drop through government subsidies). Although prices are on the rise again, the overall trend the past 60 years is a decline in prices (see figure 2). With farmers having little, to no, protection from their governments they are hardest hit by market fluctuations, while others on the value chain will see an increase of their profit margins, even if only temporary.[4]

2018 Cocoa Barometer Long-term cocoa price trends
Figure 2: The average production of Ivorian cocoa in the seasons 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 was around 1,600,000 metric tonnes (mt). Cocoa production in 2016/17 and 1017/18 is around 2,000,000 mt, an increase of about 400,000 mt. (ICCO Quarterly Bulletins) The overproduction in 2016/17 was around 300,000 metric tonnes, according to the ICCO Quarterly Bulletin, Volume XLIV no 1, page 50, table 1.[5] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018.http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf
Farmers in West Africa make well below a living wage of $2.51 per day, averaging $0.78 per day (FairTrade).[6] The Cocoa Barometer asserts that the price drops are directly related to improved production due to new farming areas created from deforestation. More than 90% of West Africa’s original forests are gone.

An estimated 2.1 million children work in West African cocoa fields. Structural issues such as poverty, lack of schools, and infrastructure also contribute to the high levels of child labor.[7] Efforts in the past few decades to end child labor, preserve the environment, and to balance these inequities have been challenging and difficult to measure. Currently, third party certification bodies have been the only levers toward implementing and measuring sustainability efforts as well as signals to consumers as to where, and how, their chocolate products are sourced.

Major Certification Bodies
Three major certification bodies associated with cocoa. Note Utz and Rainforest Alliance has merged and will announce new standards in late 2019 for the New Rainforest Alliance.

The three main certification entities are Fairtrade, Utz and the Rainforest Alliance. Fairtrade Standards are designed to support the sustainable development of small producer organizations and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the world.[8] Similarly, Utz certification was created to show consumers that products were sustainably sourced. Rainforest Alliance certification meant farmers met rigorous environmental and social standards.[9] In January 2018, Utz merged with the Rainforest Alliance. The New Rainforest Alliance plans to publish a singular program at the end of 2019.[10]

Certification and bean-to-bar efforts in the specialty chocolate market have many success stories, but compared to the global consumption of chocolate, these efforts have only made a dent.[11] The Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) reports, with caveats intended to illustrated the challenges of obtaining this data, that there are 481 specialty chocolate makers and manufacturers worldwide that represent approximately 6% of the annual global production of cacao.

International Cocoa Organization, ICCO, ultrapremium cacao, fine cacao, bulk, certified
Figure 3: Ultrapremium fine and Fine cacao comprises 246,000 tonnes (6%) of the 4,031,200 tonnes of cacao produced annually (ICCO 2015). [12]
The FCCI defines this market segment as those chocolate makers and manufacturers that choose to purchase specialty cacao at a premium price for purposes of taste quality and/or sustainability reasons.[13] Within this small group, sustainability is but a factor in paying the price premium, but not necessarily a primary factor. In order for sustainability initiatives to have any meaningful impact to cocoa farmers the major chocolate manufacturers need to take the lead and invest in best practices throughout their supply chain that address the environmental, social, and economic challenges their farmers face.

Cocoa Barometer, Certified Cocoa, 2017, Mondelez International, Nestle, Mars, Hersheys, Ferrero, Lindt und Sprungli
Figure 4. Data kindly provided by the companies. Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

Recent Commitments by the Majors / Certifications & Goals

Mondelēz International (a subsidiary of Kraft)
Chocolate Brands: Cadbury, Alpen Gold, Côte d’Or, Toblerone, etc.
Certification provided by FLOCERT through a private labeling partnership.

In 2012 Mondelēz International invested $400 million to create its Cocoa Life program. The program plans to empower 200,000 cocoa farmers and one million community members by 2022. In April 2018 Mondelēz International reported that they have reached 120,500 cocoa farmers, in a variety of programs and they reached 35% certified cocoa.[14]

Mondelēz  International, Cocoa for Life, 2017 Progress
Figure 5: Cocoa Life infographic showing Mondelēz 2017 Progress in Numbers. Includes increases in sustainably sourced cocoa and reach to farmers and communities from previous year.[15]
Cocoa Life is tied to the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), with an emphasis on Goals 1 (no poverty), among others. Cocoa Life has partnered with local governments and NGOs to build community-centric Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS), which educate farming communities on the dangers of child labor, identify children at risk, and remediate cases with its local partners. Cocoa Life CLMRS programs have started in Ghana and continue to increase. Roll out of CLMRS in Côte d’Ivoire will begin in 2018. Nestlé has also implemented CLMRS program into its sustainability programs.[16]

Mondelēz, CLMRS, 2017
Figure 6: Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) deployed by Mondelēz International in 2017 with plans to ramp up in 2018.[17] Mondelēz International. Cocoa Life 2017 Progress Report: From Cocoa Farmers to Consumers Connection Both Ends of the Supply Chain. P. 21. April 2018. Web. April 2018. https://www.cocoalife.org/~/media/CocoaLife/en/download/article/Cocoa_Life_Progress_Report_2017.pdf

Chocolate Brands: Smarties, Nestlé Crunch, Butterfinger, KitKat, etc.
Certifications: Utz and Fairtrade

In their detailed, first report (2017), co-authored with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), Nestlé asserts that certification is not enough and that additional support for the farmer is needed. In fact, Nestlé asserts that certification drove the issue of child labor “underground” as farmers would hide any child laborers when inspectors came around.[18] While Mondelēz set up CLMRS in Ghana, Nestlé set up its CLMRS in Côte d’Ivoire and report a 51% reduction of child labor in a recent sample of 1,056 children over a two-year period. [19]

Nestle, Child Labour, Child Labor, 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report
Figure 7: Nestlé targets child labor by its Child Labor and Monitor Remediation Systems (CLMRS) in Côte d’Ivoire. Nestlé hopes to scale the successful parts of the program to meet the goals of its Cocoa Plan.[20]
Nestlé is also investing in Community Liaison People (CLPs) to educate the community of the dangers of child labor. They are targeting women and mothers as they are more likely to invest their income and education into their family. The CLPs are local young people who are paid to train and the cost of the CLPs are split between Nestlé and the farmer. Remediation is highly individualized, but these activities are ones Nestlé continues to invest.[21] Nestlé hopes to scale their more successful initiatives to meet the goals of its Cocoa Plan, which is set to reach 57% cocoa certification by the end of 2020.

Nestle, CLMRS, Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System, ICI, International Cocoa Initiative
Figure 8: An overview of how Nestlé’s Childe Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) works by engaging the community, assigning monitors, monitoring, reporting, validation, analysis, recommends remediation, remediation carried out by partners, monitoring continues ensure remediation is carried out.[22]  Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.23 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf
Nestle, Cocoa Plan, CLMRS, Certified Cocoa
Figure 9: Infographic on Nestlé Cocoa Plan Challenges and Ambitions in CLMRS program reach and tonnes of certified cocoa.[23] Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.49 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf

Chocolate Brands: Ferrero Pralines, Nutella, Kinder Chocolate
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.[24]

According to its 2016 Social Responsibility Report Ferrero has made a commitment to 100% certified cacao by 2020 and 75% by the end of 2018.[25]

Ferrero, Sustainability Report, Certified Cocoa
Figure 10: Ferrero touts its success toward reaching its certification goals.[26] Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 170 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf
In its April 2018 Cocoa Barometer reports Ferrero is 70% certified (figure 4), and by its own reporting, on track to meet its goal of 75% cocoa certification (figure 10).

Ferrero reports partnerships with cacao cooperative ECOOKIM, the largest in Côte d’Ivoire, which takes part in the Fairtrade Africa program “It Takes a Village to Protect a Child.” Similar to CLMRS, the program establishes a Child Labor Committee to raise awareness about child labor, create child protection policy, and monitor activity at the community level. Ferrero reports that 9,413 children benefitted from this program. [27]

Ferrero also works with Save the Children to work toward ending child labor. It reports 1.2 million children are forced to work in hazardous conditions, however, Ferrero has set relatively modest goals of reaching 500 children, 7,500 members of 10 communities, and 100 representatives of local institutions.[28]

Ferrero, Save the Children, Cocoa, Sustainability, Community Development
Figure 11: Ferrero reports modest results on in their efforts to address child labor.[29]   Source: Save the Children, December 2016 – Protection des enfants vulnérables dans les communautés productrices de cacao dans le département de Soubré en Côte d’Ivoire – Ajournement pour Ferrero. Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 182 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf
In January Ferrero announced it planned to acquire Nestlé’s U.S. confectionary business for $2.8 billion in cash making Ferrero the third largest confectionary company in the U.S.[30] It is anticipated that Ferrero will realign their sustainability goals after the acquisition of Nestlé, but their goals are currently similar.

The Hershey Company
Popular Chocolate Brands: Hershey’s Chocolate Bar, Cocoa, Kisses, and Baking chocolates, Kit Kat, Almond Joy, Mounds, Reese’s, York.
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.[31]

Hershey, Open source map, cocoa farms, sustainability, transparency
Figure 12: Hershey Source Map for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Pictured above is a zoomed in version of W. Africa. Users can zoom in and view the name of Cocoa Coop, educational location, or an area they obtain cocoa. The map also shows locations around the world for ingredients such as milk and sugar, plus other sources of chocolate in South American. Hershey also has a source map for its Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almond Bars. [32] https://open.sourcemap.com/maps/589e10c1e4bac0b357bc3d5f
Hershey, Sustainablity Goal
Figure 13: Hershey reports its on track to reach its goal of 100% certified cocoa by 2020.[37]   The Hershey Company. 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. 2017. Web. April 30, 2018. p. 27. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/dam/corporate-us/documents/csr-reports/2016-hershey-csr-report.pdf
In its 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, The Hershey Company highlights progress in their Learn to Grow agriculture and empowerment program, serving 48,300 farmers in West Africa.[33] The report also highlights its Energize Learning program, which provides Vivi energy bars to students improving overall nutrition. The program is a partnership with the Ghana School Feeding Program and Project Peanut Butter and 50,000 kids in Ghana receive 50,000 Vivi bars every day.[34] Hershey also partnered with The World Cocoa Foundation’s (WCF) Climate Smart Cocoa Program to address climate change impacts to cocoa growing regions. The partnership will pilot a series of programs to develop “climate-smart” best practices to inform the Learn to Grow curriculum and through Hershey’s CocoaLink program knowledge sharing between farmers will be allowed via low-cost mobile technology.[35] Hershey’s report indicates that it is on schedule to reach its 100% certified goal by 2020.[36] In April 2018 the Cocoa Baramoter reports Hershey reached 75% (see figure 4). Also in April 2018, Hershey announced the creation of its Cocoa for Good sustainability programs

Beyond certification, Cocoa for Good seeks to address the most pressing issues facing cocoa-growing communities. The strategy is to target four key areas: increase family access to good nutrition, elimination of child labor and increase youth access to education opportunities, increase household incomes for women and men, zero deforestation and increased agroforestry. The announcement came with a $500 million commitment by 2030 and like Mondelēz International and Mars, aligns its strategy to contribute to the goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.[38]

Chocolate Brands include: M&M, Snickers, Twix, Dove, Milky Way, etc.
Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.

In September of 2017, Mars announced its Sustainable in a Generation Plan, with a pledge to invest $1 billion over the next few years to address threats such as climate change, poverty in its value chain, and scarcity of resources.[39] This is across all their raw products, not just cocoa. Oxfam will serve as an advisor to their Farmer Income Lab, which aligns with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal 1 (no poverty). The Farmer Income Lab will seek to create solutions through research for farmers working in Mars’ supply chain in developing countries.[40] Other actions include improving cocoa farming methods, pests and disease prevention, and unlocking the cocoa genome.[41] Engagement with others actors in the cocoa industry is also key, such as the World Cocoa Foundation and CocoaAction. Mars’ Chief Sustainability & Health and Wellbeing Officer, Barry Parkin, also serves as Chairman of World Cocoa Foundation.

Mars, Cocoa Sustainability
Figure 14: Mars identifies that 5 million cocoa farmers are impacted, but focuses mainly on addressing technology issues in farmer in a belief it will fix the social challenges that farmers face, such as a extreme poverty, child labor, and infrastructure concerns included in other sustainability plans.[47]
Mars may lay claim as the first major chocolate company to commit to 100% certified chocolate by 2020, but its progress has lagged, reporting 50% of their cocoa being certified in 2016[42] and the same percentage being reported by the cocoa barometer in 2018 (figure 4). During this same time frame Ferrero and Hershey have demonstrated increases in certification of cocoa reporting 70% and 75% certificated cocoa, respectively (figure 4).[43] Their website lacks a corporate social responsibility report and the information available on their site appears to be written in 2016, except for recent press releases and Income Position Statement.[44] For example Mars’ claim to be the only major manufacturer to work with all three major certification organizations Utz, Rainforest Alliance, and Fairtrade International is outdated.[45] Hershey and Ferrero include these bodies in their 2016 sustainability reports.

Until the recent announcement of Sustainable in a Generation Plan, Mars’ approach, as described on their website, leans more toward improving farmer yield through technology (fertilizer, farming techniques, mapping the cacao genome) than increasing living wages and address child labor. A press release by Frank Mars in April 2018 urges collaborative scientific approach and extolls their work on breeding higher yield cocoa plants for improving farmer incomes.[46] However, higher yields do not always improve farmer incomes. As previously mentioned, the recent Cocoa Barometer report suggests that higher production results in driving down price, thus less income for farmers. Perhaps Mars’ real progress is tied to the progress of the World Cocoa Foundation.

World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and CocoaAction

CocoaAction is a voluntary industry-wide organization that aligns the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies, cocoa producing governments, and key stakeholders on regional priority issues in cocoa sustainability run by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). The WCF member companies committed to CocoaAction include Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Ferrero, The Hershey Company, Mars, Incorporated, among others.[48] In November of 2017 a Framework of Action was announced by the WCF with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and major chocolate and cocoa companies to end deforestation, restore forest areas, and accelerate investment in long-term sustainable production of cocoa, and the development and capacity-building of farmers’ organizations and farmer’s income. Commitments also include participation of policy creation by farmers and extensive monitoring and reporting. The Framework of Action involves governments and companies that represent 80% of the global cocoa production and usage.[49] If implemented correctly, these commitments should go a long way in repairing the deforestation in West Africa. 

The Future of Chocolate

These efforts are welcome and it is promising that the majors can successfully  collaborate with governments, NGOs, and each other in the important effort to secure the future of chocolate and those that produce it. It is also encouraging to see the major manufacturers release sustainability reports, however, as barometer.org reports, many of their commitments fall well short compared to the actual scope of the problem. The commitment to reach 400,000 children by 2020 would only impact 18% of children in need (figure 15). Similarly meeting commitments to help farmers in CocoaAction would only reach 15% of farmers in need (figure 15). Regarding living income, farmers are only making $0.78 per day, 31% of the living wage of $2.51 per day (figure 15). The Cocoa Barometer report stresses that a living wage, among other factors, is a major component that these initiatives must include in their sustainability initiatives. From available data, all reports aspire to improve farmer income, either by improving productivity or identifying additional income generating activities. However, these plans do not set a living wage as a goal. As mentioned earlier in this article more production doesn’t always result in more income.

Cocoa Barometer, Scale of solutions vs problem, Cocoa Sustainability, CLMRS, CocoaAction, Cocoa Farmer
Figure 15: Scale of solutions vs. scope of the problem. The data for this infographic was publicly available in the case of CocoaAction and Fairtrade. The International Cocoa Initiative graciously provided their data. The authors of the Barometer do not wish to imply that these organisations are doing an insufficient job, but simply that the scale of the interventions chosen by the sector as a whole are dwarfed by the size of the challenges.[50]   Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf
The future of chocolate depends on the fate of cocoa farmers and their fate relies on untangling a mess of social and economic issues caused by imperialism, and exacerbated by free market capitalism and consumerism. The goals set forth in these reports are generally headed in the right direction, but their success is dependent on their ability to make their initiatives successful, then scale up on that success. Accountability and transparency among the industry and at the government level is also paramount to measure the effects of these initiatives. Consumers also have a role in making responsible purchases and applying pressure on corporations and governments to minimize inequality in the supply chain and certification plays an important role. If farmers continue to be marginalized, then there will be little incentive for a younger generation of farmers to take up the trade and chocolate may become a rare treat indeed.


Works Cited:

[1] Vowell, Sarah. The Partly Cloudy Patriot. Simon & Schuster. New York, New York. October 2002. p. 42

[2] Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. Web. p. 11. April 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[5] Ibid. p. 52.

[6] Ibid. p. 6.

[7] Ibid. p. 3.

[8] Fairtrade. Aims of Fairtrade Standards. Web. May 8, 2018. https://www.fairtrade.net/standards/aims-of-fairtrade-standards.html

[9] The Rainforest Alliance. What Our Seal Means. Web. May 8, 2018. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/

[10] Utz. Joining Forces: Utz and the Rainforest Alliance. April 24, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. https://utz.org/merger/#QA_merger

[11] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. p. 6. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[12] Martin, Carla. “Sizing the craft chocolate market.” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (blog). August 31. 2017. Web. April 25, 2018. https://chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Mondelēz International. Cocoa Life 2017 Progress Report: From Cocoa Farmers to Consumers Connection Both Ends of the Supply Chain. P. 2. April 2018. Web. April 2018. https://www.cocoalife.org/~/media/CocoaLife/en/download/article/Cocoa_Life_Progress_Report_2017.pdf

[15] Ibid. p. 5

[16] Ibid. p. 21

[17] Ibid. p. 21

[18] Nestlé. Nestlé Cocoa Plan Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report. Web. P.24 April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/sites/default/files/2017-10/NestleCocoaPlanReport2017_EN_0.pdf

[19] Ibid. p. 22

[20] Nestlé. Introducing our first report on tackling child labour in cocoa. Web. April 2018. https://www.nestlecocoaplanreport.com/

[21] Ibid. 37

[22] Ibid. p. 23

[23] Ibid. p. 49

[24] Ferrero. Sharing Values to Create Value Corporate Social Responsibilty Report 2016. Ferrero. Web. P. 171 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ferrero-static/globalcms/documenti/2807.pdf

[25] Ibid. p. 170

[26] Ibid. p. 170

[27] Ibid. 175

[28] Ibid. p. 181

[29] Ibid. 182

[30] Ferrero. Ferrero to Acquire Nestlé’s U.S. Confectionary Business. January 16, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. https://www.ferrero.com/group-news/

[31] The Hershey Company. Our Certified Ingredients. Web. April 30, 2018. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/responsibility/good-business/responsible-sourcing.html

[32] Hershey. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds Open Source Map. Zoom View. Web. April 2018. https://open.sourcemap.com/maps/589e10c1e4bac0b357bc3d5f

[33] The Hershey Company. 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. 2017. Web. April 30, 2018. p. 11. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/dam/corporate-us/documents/csr-reports/2016-hershey-csr-report.pdf

[34] Ibid. p. 23

[35] Ibid. p. 12

[36] Ibid. p. 27

[37] Ibid. p. 27

[38] Hershey. Hershey Announces Cocoa For Good, the Company’s Half-billion Dollar Sustainable Cocoa Strategy. April 4, 2018. Web. April 30, 2018. https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/corporate/en_us/news-center/news-detail.html?2340764

[39] Mars. Unveiling Our Sustainble in a Generation Plan. Sept. 5, 2017. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/newsroom/unveiling-our-sustainable-in-a-generation-plan

[40] Farmers Income Lab. Challenges. Web. May 9, 2018. https://www.farmerincomelab.com/

[41] Mars. Income Position Statement: The Current Situation. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/about-us/policies-and-practices/income-position-statement

[42] Mars. Caring for the Future of Cocoa Out Approach. 2016. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[43] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf

[44] Mars. Caring for the Future of Cocoa Out Approach. 2016. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[45] Ibid.

[46] Mars. Frank Mars Calls for the Cocoa Industry to Take a Collaborative Scientific Approach to Cocoa. April 26, 2018. Web. May 9, 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/frank-mars-cocoa-collaboration

[47] Mars. Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa, Our Approach. Web. April 2018. http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa

[48] CocoaAction. World Cocoa Foundation. Web. April 2018. http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/about-wcf/cocoaaction/

[49] World Cocoa Foundation. Two-thirds of Global Cocoa Supply Agree on Actions to Eliminate Deforestation and Restore Forest Areas. Nov. 2017. Web. April 2018.

[50] Fountain, A.C. and Hutz-Adams, F. Cocao Barometer Report. 2018. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Cocoa_Barometer/Download_files/2018%20Cocoa%20Barometer%20180420.pdf


CHOCOLATE WASTED: When Overindulgence Goes Wrong

#ChocolateWasted As We Know It

“Chocolate wasted” was not a hashtag when it first presented itself. As a matter of fact, it was blurted out by a six-year-old actress named Alexys Nycole Sanchez (playing Becky Feder) in Adam Sandler’s Grown-Ups. Per the movie’s storyline, “I wanna get chocolate wasted!” was an appropriate phrase for childlike overindulgence that caught every movie-goer’s attention in 2010 (IMDb). The legendary line even helped Alexys win the “Best Line” category at MTV Movie Awards the following year (IMDb). Soon after, headlines like Los Angeles (LA) Times, celebrities and random college students, like myself, were using the term rather frequently. Still today, there are establishments and products named after the infamous idiom such as a Houston-based ice cream truck and a lipstick shade made by Doses of Color, respectively (Chocolate; Dose of Colors). Amazingly, the power of the Internet allows us to revisit its cinematic origination and locate namesake innovations. But truthfully speaking, the denotation of chocolate wasted is not leading in headlines like its figurative interpretation nor being quantifiable in scholarly publications. Prior to diving into a serious topic, I have several questions that will hopefully heighten your interest to want to learn more.

  • What is food waste (including chocolate waste)? What are the associated impacts?
  • What are direct implications from chocolate waste throughout the supply chain?
  • What qualities does a sustainably certified product uphold? Is waste not included in the sustainability assessment? Does waste not contribute to the overexertion of resources and labor? 
  • How do I avoid chocolate waste in my home? Does chocolate have an expiration date? Is chocolate (or cocoa) mulch safe for pets?



By Pakeha [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Läderach Chocolate Factory, a Switzerland-based manufacturer, displays a collection of “cocoa waste” in their in-house museum for tourists’ enjoyment. From right to left there: cocoa with waste materials, extracted waste (like stones, dust, metal or wood), and cleaned cocoa.


Food Waste: A Global Problem

On a global scale, 1.3 billion tons of food production meant for human consumption gets lost or wasted annually (FAO). Regarding economic losses, food waste is equivalent to $310 billion in developing countries and $680 billion in industrialized countries with the U.S. leading in food waste and overall wastage than any other country in the world (FAO). Specifically, in the U.S., about 40 percent of food goes uneaten annually which equates to 133 billion pounds with an USD value $161 billion (USDA, n.d.). Conversely, 42 million Americans including 13 million children are facing food insecurity and hunger daily (FAO). Hypothetically speaking, the diversion of 93,000 tons of wasted food could create 322 million meals for people in need and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 714,000 tons (ReFED). This alarming amount of wasted food is not only associated with socioeconomic implications but it also depletes natural resources significantly.

According to Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), U.S. food production utilizes the following: 50% of land, 30% of all energy resources, and 80% of all freshwater (Gunders). Resources consisting of land, water, labor, energy and agricultural inputs (fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides) to produce wasted food are squandered as well, unwillingly inviting resource scarcity and negative environmental externalities. Activating ozone pollution, the misuse of agricultural inputs including irrigated water, pesticides and common fertilizers like nitrogen & phosphorus can cause further damage to ecosystems. Irrigation practices promotes water pollution affecting quality, groundwater accessibility, and potable water accessibility (Moss). Moreover, pesticides are common culprits to human health effects, resistance in pests, crop losses, bird mortality and groundwater degradation (Moss). Other inputs, such as nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, wreak havoc to human health, air quality and aquatic ecosystems (Moss).

The utilization of resources is not the only emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, pertaining to food waste, but also the decomposition of it makes substantial damage to the environment. Postharvest, food waste is the single largest component of municipal solid waste making landfills the third largest source of methane in the country (Gunders). Anthropogenic methane accounts for 10 percent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to a rise in global average temperatures, better known as global warming (EPA, n.d.b). Particularly, landfill methane generates 16 percent of total methane releases compared to carbon dioxide which emits 81% annually (EPA). Although carbon dioxide is the main contributor of global warming, methane carries significant weigh as a pollutant due to its ability to absorb more energy per unit mass than any other greenhouse gas (EPA).

Pinpointing on ecological footprint, the most recent “Earth Overshoot Day” occurred on August 2, 2017 in which the extraction of natural resources exceeded the Earth’s capacity to regenerate in the given year (Earth Overshoot Day). By partnering with Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, Global Footprint Network also reported that a 50% reduction in food waste could push the date of “Overshoot Day” by 11 Days (Earth Overshoot Day).

Chocolate Waste Feeds the Food Waste Problem

The classification of food waste is distinguished by each level of the supply chain including agricultural production, post-harvest handling & storage, processing, distribution and consumption. From a global supply chain perspective, food waste is very difficult to define across countries. The conflicting views of edible versus inedible food waste is one example of cultural variation which impedes the approval of a standardized definition that will cater to all diverse parties and accurately measure waste at the macro level. For instance, the U.S. chocolate market classifies the pulp of a cocoa pod along with the shell of the cocoa bean as inedible products. Thus, cocoa pulp is left at the farmgate level, and at the processing level, cocoa shells are removed and most commonly converted into biofuel or mulch.  Unlike the US, the Brazilian chocolate market produces chocolate with cocoa solids but also makes shell and pulp into sellable products such as loose leaf tea or juice, respectively. Moreover, these value-added practices are present-day testaments of indigenous traditions. The myriad indigenous uses of cacao and chocolate products are analogous to the circular economy that we are yearning for today.

During the Mesoamerican period, chocolate was classified as an esteemed delicacy, a form of payment, ceremonial gift, everyday cooking agent, natural remedy for human health & the environment and so forth. However, during European colonization, the rise of industrialization came with added ingredients, mainly refined sugar, that devalued the quality aspect as well as created a negative image of chocolate over time (Martin, “Sugar”). The health risks of added sugars began to overshadow the medicinal properties of cacao. Even the perception of cacao changed from a specialty crop into a cash crop.  From a socioenvironmental view, terroir of cash crops rose in volatility at the extent of mass enslavement and corruption (Martin, “Health”). At the same time, these characteristic flaws did not stop consumption. Even today, popular chocolate products are sugary, highly processed and in conjunction with unethical sourcing backgrounds. For instance, laborers endure labor-intensive work on a daily basis in top cocoa producing countries, such as West Africa. The average laborer is paid below the global poverty line, uses dangerous tools such as a machete to manually cut down cacao pods, applies fungicides & pesticides typically without the proper protective equipment (PPE) and oftentimes exposed to insects and other dangerous animals. In turn, these hazards can result in serious health complications both physically and mentally.


By ICCFO – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

West African laborers removing beans from the cacao pod. It is a labor-intensive process. 

Nonetheless, the chocolate market has expanded its portfolio over the years, containing commercial chocolate and craft chocolate, in which consumers can be selective among the two categories.  Commercial chocolate is what we usually see in supermarkets in which the supply chain depends on multiple stakeholders (across countries) to meet global demand. Whereas, craft chocolate consists of a relatively small team who produces chocolate in small batches from cocoa bean to bar (Martin, “Haute”). Compared to commercial chocolate, these manufacturers seek to provide quality rather than quantity which typically comes with a higher retail price (Martin, “Haute”).

Once it hits retail, consumers, like myself, are in awe of the multiple offerings, appealing packaging and even sustainability labels that lures us in to help  “save the world” and eliminate any guilt from buying chocolate.  It’s like a race to find the one with the most honorable mentions comprising of Organic Certified (USDA, Non-GMO and an overlap of third-party ethical standards (Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, etc.) However,  after investigating various sustainability standards, retail chocolate waste is not attributable to certifiable requirements nor is it recognized as a concern overall. Based on logical reasoning and what I stated earlier, the primary ingredients of chocolate consisting of refined sugar, cocoa derivatives (cocoa powder and butter), palm oil and/or milk powder that were extracted from its origination to be processed, transported and packaged as a single product. In addition, these ingredients are combined and further processed into chocolate which is then packaged and transported to retail as a finished good. Just imagine the man hours, natural resources and other inputs used within this supply chain. Broaden that imagination to consider the following: consumers discarding “safe-to-eat” chocolate confections due to fat or sugar bloom, retailers not knowing what to do with an overstock of unsold seasonal products, improper storage temperatures ruining a truckload full of chocolate candies, outdated farming techniques producing more waste than yield and slightly related, the packaging of sustainably certified chocolate causing more harm to the environment than conventional chocolate. The latter, wasteful packaging, is another topic that needs assessment and corrective actions. Unfortunately, these scenarios are real-life examples that are being overlooked and emitting an indefinite amount of greenhouse gases.

In actuality, retailers have the potential to be the main change agents for food waste reduction including chocolate waste. However, edible food is commonly thrown away in these spaces due to excess inventory, imperfections, or damaged packaging. A recent study conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Population & Sustainability and Ugly Fruit & Veg Campaign, reported a grade C or below to most of the top ten grocers in the country including Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Publix and Costco (Center for Biological Diversity). The relatively low grades were based on their poor efforts to address and combat food waste in eight focus areas: corporate transparency, company commitments, and supply chain initiatives, produce initiatives, shopping support, donation programs, animal feed programs and recycling programs (Center for Biological Diversity). Both sustainability driven organizations have pronounced a goal for all U.S. grocery stores to eliminate food waste by 2025 (Center for Biological Diversity). Grocers were also pushed to change their current marketing models into sustainable ones by promoting safer handling and lesser stock levels, leveraging new technologies to strengthen inventory management and creating policies on retail spoilage reduction (Center for Biological Diversity).


By Kgbo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

A grocer aisle full of chocolate candies wrapped with seasonal packaging.


The Rise of Chocolate Production and Waste

Informatively, consumers worldwide indulge in approximately 7.3 million tons of chocolate every year (Sethi). Developing countries, such as India, Brazil and China, are adopting chocolate products that were once inaccessible or unaffordable for their respective populations (Sethi). Since 2008, disposable incomes for each these emerging markets are increasing exponentially due to economic boost from industrialization (Sethi). The rising market of chocolate products equates to a growing demand for global cocoa and sugar production. Industry experts forecasts a 30% growth in demand, from 3.5million tons of cocoa annually to more than 4.5 million in 2020 (Sethi). In consideration, the amount of chocolate squandered throughout the supply chain is currently undetermined or not shared publicly. Based on noticeable discrepancies in definitions and measurements, chocolate waste and even food waste for that matter will continue to intensify and be discussed loosely unless it’s highly prioritized and welcomes a new branch of international cooperation and mutual accountability. A stride that’s executable if all stakeholders collectively build upon a new systematic approach to carbon neutrality, waste diversion and socioenvironmental benefits.


Chocolate Commonsense

In the meantime, I’ve provided a list of suggestions below that can help you, as a consumer, avoid chocolate waste or divert it to greener waste streams. 

  • Purchase in moderation.
  • Don’t be alarmed by “Sell By Date”. Depending on care and the type of chocolate (milk, dark or white), chocolate is still safe to consume for longer periods of time.
  • Chocolate bloom, (whether sugar or fat bloom) which gives off a whitish or light coating on the chocolate’s surface, is still safe for consumption.
  • To retain freshness and structure, cool and dark environments are ideal storage locations for chocolate.
  • Have an excessive amount of unopened chocolate? Donate to participating charities like Ronald McDonald House Charities and Operation Gratitude.
  • ONLY FOR CONSUMERS WITHOUT PETS: Add leftover chocolate or raw cocoa shells, particularly organic certified, in compost for home gardening. *Fyi to pet owners, chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats due to its theobromine content. If you have pets, you can distribute waste to a composting facility.
  • Advocate for chocolate waste (and food waste) assessments from involved stakeholders (including local and national governments, non-governmental organizations [Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, etc.] retailers, distributors and manufacturers)


By Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA – Cocoa Mulch, CC BY 2.0.

Cocoa mulch is made out of cocoa shells (most times organic) which are beneficial to soil health.  Organic cocoa mulch contains nitrogen, phosphate and potash and has a pH of 5.8 (Patterson). There is also a noticable warning sign to keep dogs away due to theobromine content, which is scientifically proven to be very harmful to pets.




Works Cited.

IMDb. Alexys Nycole Sanchez. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3465073/?ref_=nmawd_awd_nm

Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream, Co. About Us, 2017. https://chocolatewastedicecream.com/

Dose of Colors. CHOCOLATE WASTED, 2018. https://doseofcolors.com/products/chocolate-wasted

FAO. Food Loss and Food Waste. http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/

ReFED. A Roadmap To Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent, 2016. https://www.refed.com/downloads/ReFED_Report_2016.pdf

Gunders, Dana.“Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill”. Natural Resources Defense Council, Natural Resources Defense Council Issue Paper 12-06-B, 2012, https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf

Moss, Brian.“Water pollution by agriculture”. US National Library of Medicine

National Institutes of Health, 2007, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610176/

EPA. Methane Emissions. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases

Earth Overshoot Day. Food demand makes up 26% of the global Ecological Footprint, 2018,  https://www.overshootday.org/take-action/food/

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 14 Feb 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Health, Nutrition, and the Politics of Food + Psychology, Terroir, and Taste”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 11 April 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 18 April 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Center for Biological Diversity. Checked Out: How U.S. Supermarkets Fail to Make the Grade in Reducing Food Waste. Center for Biological Diversity, 2018, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/grocery_waste/In-

Sethi, Simran.  “The Life Cycle Of Your Chocolate Bar” Forbes. 22 Oct 2017 https://www.forbes.com/sites/simransethi/2017/10/22/the-life-cycle-of-your-chocolate-bar/#42eff5bd66d8

Patterson, Susan. “Cocoa Shell Mulch: Tips For Using Cocoa Hulls In The Garden”, 5 April 2018, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/mulch/using-cocoa-hull-mulch.htm

Pakeha. Reinigung von Kakaobohnen.jpg., WikiMedia Commons.7 December 2017, 17:56:47

Kgbo. Easter chocolate in suburban food store in Brisbane, Australia in 2018.jpg, WikiMedia Commons, 24 February 2018, 10:04:29

Seaton, Leslie. Cocoa Mulch (4051611349).jpg, WikiMedia Commons, 20 October 2009, 15:55

ICCFO. Cocoa farmers during harvest.jpg. WikiMedia Commons, 1 January 2015,





Mindo Chocolate Makers: A Leader in the Ethical Bean to Bar Supply Chain

Mindo Chocolate Makers (2018) is a bean to bar chocolate company based in Mindo, Ecuador and Dexter, Michigan.  Their company values not only have the potential to change the chocolate supply chain for the better, but to change chocolate itself.  In order for bean to bar chocolate companies to pay fair wages throughout, not use forced labor, and be environmentally friendly, the company has to be willing to worry about the quality of product they are producing opposed to the amount of product they are producing.  This is exactly what Mindo Chocolate does and if other companies begin to follow their business model, it could drastically impact the chocolate industry for the better.

Mindo prides itself on being “a small business, and no matter how big we grow, we’ll always have a small business mentality that relies on great people coming together –  our growers, our employees, our customers –  to create the most delicious chocolate experience possible” (Mindo, 2018, para. 8).  By creating a sense of community from the moment the beans are harvested, all the way through the time chocolate is served to consumers, this already differs greatly from vast companies such as Hershey.  Mindo also has a goal of putting “more money into the hands of cocoa farmers and their farms, while providing our customers with superior quality, direct-trade, organic cocoa products” (Mindo, 2018, para. 1).  They do this by being a community supported chocolate company, in which their farmers are presented with upfront capital so they can harvest the maximum amount of product during peak season instead of losing income and product due to a lack of funding during harvest season.  One of the main ways Mindo has the potential to change the chocolate industry is by “paying two to three times the fair trade price for cocoa beans” (para. 6).  Doing this “encourage[s] the farmers to resist the hybrid and deforestation trend” (para. 6).  All of Mindo’s beans are from Nacional varieties of cocoa, which is an heirloom variety of cocoa bean, and they will, under no circumstances, accept diseased or hybridized beans (para. 6).

One of the main points that Mindo makes abundantly clear is their focus on community.  When consumers feel a connection to a product and its maker, they are more likely to actually consider the origins and production of the product, in contrast to faceless companies that mass produce chocolate in less than tasteful ways.  For “nine tenths of its long history, chocolate was drunk, not eaten” (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 12).  The act of drinking is often a communal activity (e.g., tea, alcohol, coffee, etc.).

Ecuadorian Drinking ChocolateEcuadorian drinking chocolate (Mindo, 2018).  Description: A creamy intensely flavorful chocolate. Natural cocoa, single origin, organic, shade grown, ethically sourced, made from Nacional cocoa beans.  Ingredients: 77% dark chocolate (organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar) , natural cocoa powder, organic cane sugar.

 In that, for most of its history, chocolate was actually consumed as a beverage, Mindo is committed to preserving the integrity of chocolate, though it is now more often consumed in solid forms; they are maintaining a sense of community even without it being in liquid form.  While companies like Hershey produce vast quantities of chocolate, they are a brand whose main goal is to make money.  They do not strive to be the highest quality and most community involved chocolate company.  By interacting with the community, Mindo is promoting an inquisitory attitude towards the bean to bar process, thus bringing ethics into play.

The question of ethical practices in the food industry is of utmost importance.  With the rising world population, more food is needed, and with this increase in food production, a rise in unfair labor practices is a major risk.  Fair trade is one of the combatants for the practice of unfair production in the food industry:

When you see a product with the Fair Trade Certified™ seal, you can be sure it was made according to rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards. We work closely on the ground with producers and certify transactions between companies and their suppliers to ensure that the people making Fair Trade Certified goods work in safe conditions, protect the environment, build sustainable livelihoods, and earn additional money to empower and uplift their communities. (Fair Trade Certified, 2018, para. 2)

Unfortunately, their claims of a seemingly impeccable system do not exactly hold up.  Some of their critiques include “Little money reaches developing world; [l]ess money reaches farmers; [l]ack of evidence of impact; [c]ost of Fair Trade certification, shouldered by farmers, is quite high; [i]nefficient marketing system (corruption); [q]uality concerns (no incentive); [f]air Trade never meant to be a one-stop shop for solving all social problems” (Martin, 2018a, slide 11).  While on the surface, Fair Trade seems to be an ideal system for bean to bar chocolate production, these issues prevent it from being so.

Mindo is not Fair Trade certified, and is taking fair practices into their own hands.  By paying farmers three times the fair trade value directly, they are ensuring that funds actually reach the farmers themselves and do not get lost in a system instead.  By not being Fair Trade certified and, instead, being independently, extremely dedicated to fair conditions throughout their bean to bar practice, they are able to avoid the hefty fee for Fair Trade certification and invest in fair practices themselves.  Their involvement in Community Supported Chocolate (CSC) (Mindo, 2018) is one of the main components of their upstanding practices.  As a customer you can “[make] a one-time payment that covers three months of a CSC share.  This one-time payment provides [their] farmers with the upfront capital required in cocoa production” (Mindo, 2018, para. 3).  Not only does this benefit the farmers themselves, but those that help fund the farmer’s harvest receive chocolate for being a CSC member.  This reinforces the feeling of community that Mindo strives to accomplish.  Members get the opportunity to actually taste their ethical practices.

By putting the CSC program into action, Mindo has the potential to change the bean to bar supply chain.  The Spaniards viewed “Emperor Moctezuma II drinking frothed chocolate with a degree of ceremony clearly marking it as an exalted food” (Presilla,2009, p. 18).  Chocolate being viewed as an exalted food has become a notion of the past.  Today, chocolate is an everyday commodity and is not viewed as a food for the wealthy.  According to the Hershey Company (2017), in the fourth quarter of 2017 alone, they sold $1,939.6 million worth of products.  The industrialization of the chocolate industry is borderline nullifying the beauty of cocoa.  By having people fund cocoa farmers and then experience chocolate made with cocoa beans they helped to harvest, it promotes an appreciation of the product.  Promoting an appreciation of the cocoa could then lead consumers to shy away from commercialized products such as Hershey bars and Kisses, which are more sugar than cocoa.

Sadly, the sugar industry is a profoundly unethical world.  Throughout history, sugar plantations utilized slave labor as commonplace; now it is still utilized, but since condemned by modern standards, is hidden from the public eye.  Sugar became popularized as a result of “underlying forces in British society and of the exercise of power” (Mintz, 1986, p. 150).  Sugar was for the rich and powerful, which, in turn, made the masses want it.  In order to reach the masses, “England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system.  The most important product of the system was sugar” (Mintz, 1986, as cited in Martin, 2018b, slide 10).  Sugar production today still often utilizes slave labor and exploits farmers in order to produce cheap products, and lots of them.  Mindo’s refusal to exploit workers in any stage of their bean to bar process is a step against this system.

Some of the main challenges with companies such as Mindo are price point and notoriety.  Mindo is at the higher end of price points for chocolate products because they refuse to use hybridized or unhealthy beans, and pay their workers fair wages.  They are also a small company lost in the sea of media attention for big name companies.  Hershey is able to spend hundreds of millions a year on advertising, enabling them to reach everyone, anywhere.  Smaller companies like Mindo are unlikely to make as much money in five years as Hershey spends solely on advertising in a year long period.  They have a high rate of face to face communication in their company, but not the level of product to consumer communication as Hershey.  A pure 77% chocolate bar from Mindo

Pure 77% Chocolate Bar Description: Pure 77% chocolate, stone-ground to optimal flavor. This is our “flagship” flavor and cacao percentage as it reflects what we do best: dark chocolate made from organic Nacional cocoa beans. Heirloom variety and only fine flavor beans. No milk, no soy, nothing added. Ingredients: organic cocoa beans, organic evaporated cane juice (vegan), Made with cacao (Mindo, 2018).

is seven dollars, whereas a Hershey chocolate bar (usually) is under two dollars.  To consumers, Hershey seems to be the obvious choice because it is far cheaper and more recognizable.  Consumers equate notoriety with trust. What they are unaware of, however, is that Hershey’s chocolate contains roughly the minimum amount of cocoa that can be in a product while still being called chocolate: 10%.  It is at a lower price point because it is mainly sugar and other additives instead of what consumers think they are actually paying for – chocolate.

Mindo pays a premium for their cocoa in order to maintain the integrity of the bean and preserve its true flavor profile.  One of the main reasons that they use the Nacional variety of cocoa is because it “grows intermixed with other plants and trees that promote habitats for midge pollinators, birds, and other animals” (Mindo, 2018, para. 5).  This illustrates their dedication to helping preserve the environment instead of participating in harmful practices of deforestation and hybridization that other companies use.  They are also concerned about consumer safety:  “[a]ll of our beans are dried on long beds at the farmers’ cooperative – a fact that you take for granted until you realize that much of the cacao in the world is dried on the ground or on the side of the road where gasoline and other pollutants can easily seep into the beans” (para. 8).  As a whole, Mindo seems to be doing everything right.  The problem that arises, however, is how do they spread their practices and make their product know to the masses?

In today’s technology driven society, big name companies such as Hershey dominate the advertising industry.  Luckily, of late, social media has been able to bring smaller name brands to the forefront of the sales industry.  There is beginning to be a shift in the consumer trend; people want to feel good about what they are purchasing.  For example, the company Sand Cloud (2018) donates 10% of all of its proceeds to saving marine life and makes ocean-safe sunscreen as well as clothing out of old plastic bottles.  Consumers are willing to pay a higher amount for these products because they feel like they are being socially conscious and actually see, via social media, how their purchase is helping the environment.  Mindo is in a special place in which not only can they take advantage of this new wave of marketing, but their business is founded on it.  Even their inside and outside packaging is made from recycled, compostable material from the bean to bar process – sugar cane pulp.

Pure 77% Chocolate Bar

Pure 77% Mindo (2018) Chocolate Bar – See text at bottom of wrapper.

When buying Mindo Chocolate, not only are consumers helping the environment, but they are helping real people.

The less people buy from commercialized companies and the more they buy from companies such as Mindo, cocoa will become a beacon of change.  Cocoa was originally “ranked with gold and gems in records of solemn offerings to the dead, and [the Spaniards] gathered that its use was restricted to certain prestigious classes” (Presilla, 2009, p. 18).  Thus, cocoa went from being viewed as something reserved for the wealthy to something you can buy for a couple dollars at a convenient store.  Though the masses should be able to enjoy cocoa, it deserves to be respected, and everyone involved in the bean to bar process deserves to be as well.  Mindo is respecting the beans, the people growing them, creating a high quality product, and is inviting consumers to enjoy their community of respect for cocoa in the process.

Mindo is a brand not focused on sales, but on ethics.  It is a passionate company that not only takes pride in their product every step of the way, but is improving the chocolate industry while doing so.  This seemingly small company is utilizing methods that are drastically improving farmers’ lives, helping to preserve the environment, not utilizing slave labor, and still managing to please taste buds in the process.  If quality comes into question, it cannot be disputed that Mindo follows extremely rigorous standards to insure that their cocoa products are of the highest quality and are not diluted with sugar and additives in order to mass produce.  They treat every aspect of cocoa processing with respect and if able to spread their methods and message, can bring the respect cocoa deserves back to the masses.


Coe, S.D., & Coe, M.D. (2013). The true history of chocolate.  London: Thames and Hudson  LTD.

Fair Trade Certified. (2018). Our global model. Retrieved from https://www.fairtradecertified.org/why-fair-trade/our-global-model

Hershey. (2017). Hershey announces fourth-quarter and full-year 2017 results; Provides 2018 outlook. Retrieved from https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/dam/corporate-us/documents/past-presentations/2017/Q4_2017_Press_Release.pdf

Martin, C. (2018a). 20180404 Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization [PowerPoint presentation].

Martin, C. (2018b). 20180228 Slavery, abolition, and forced labor [PowerPoint presentation].

Mindo Chocolate Makers. (2018). Mindo chocolate makers. Retrieved from https://mindochocolate.com/pages/our-process

Mintz, S. W. (1986). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history.  New York, NY: The Penguin Group.

Presilla, M. E. (2009). The new taste of chocolate revised: A cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. New York, NY: Crown Publishing.

Sand Cloud. (2018). Our mission. Retrieved from https://www.sandcloud.com/pages/our-mission


Cacao and Climate Change: Implications and Recommendations

At some point in our lives, we all hear Forrest Gump’s famous quote: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Climate change is no different. Mother Nature is currently harnessed by an increasingly volatile system that continues to alter our earth each and every day, and by failing to change our destructive ways, humans are allowing this force to perpetuate. According to NASA, average global temperature has increased by 1.7 percent since the late nineteenth century, and 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 (MacLennan). Additionally, carbon dioxide levels in the air are at the highest they have been in 650,000 years (MacLennan). Because all agricultural systems are sensitive to these changes, cacao and therefore chocolate are equally subject to adversity. Between the monstrous chocolate industry and diligent cacao farmers, countless constituents are at stake in this sensitive predicament. Given the escalating atmospheric constraints on cacao-growing regions due to the intensification of climate change, cacao farmers must carefully adapt while simultaneously seeking out responsible, innovative ways to keep the beloved cacao crop from becoming obsolete in the coming decades. 

Geographically, cacao can only grow within 20 degrees latitude both north and south of the equator, as illustrated by Figure 1 (Scott). As we learned from a course book, cacao trees flourish under strict conditions including high humidity, abundant rain, uniform temperatures, nitrogen-rich soil, and protection from the wind (Presilla 95). In short, cacao trees thrive in tropical rainforests. The vast majority of the world’s cacao is produced by smallholders, meaning those owning less than five acres of land (de Groot). Currently, there exist about two million smallholder farmers in West Africa alone, all of whom depend on cacao for their livelihoods (Schroth et al 231). Their vulnerability to climate change derives from the fact that they are predominately located in the tropics, but I strongly believe we should remain equally concerned by the various demographic, socioeconomic, and policy trends we discussed in class that hinder their capacity to adapt to change. The world’s leading producers are Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, and research highlighted in a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that, under a “business as usual” scenario, those countries will experience a 3.8°F increase in temperature by 2050, which I suspect would connote a marked reduction in suitable cultivation area (Scott). 


Figure 1. A geographical representation of the cacao belt, which spans across the equator.

Cacao will face a distinct challenge from the changing climate compared to that of many other crops. Coffee, for example, suffers direct harm from rising temperatures, but this paradigm alone won’t necessarily hinder cacao production (Jaramillo et al). Cacao cultivation areas in Malaysia, for instance, already endure a warmer climate than West Africa without any obvious negative effects (Scott). Upon briefly conversing with one of our guest lecturers after a guided tasting this semester, I learned that one of the greatest dangers to cacao arising from climate change is the increase in evapotranspiration, particularly given that higher temperatures projected for West Africa by 2050 are unlikely to be accompanied by an increase in rainfall (Scott). Evapotranspiration is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere through both soil evaporation and plant transpiration (Handley). In other words, as higher temperatures coax more water from soil and plants, rainfall likely will not increase enough to offset the moisture loss. In order to avoid generalizing, one should note that this situation will not necessarily represent that of all cacao-growing regions; a study on a Nigerian research farm, for example, found that a combination of optimal temperature (84°F) and minimal rainfall (900 to 1000mm)—both less than the current yearly averages—would result in the best yields (Ojo et al 353). This mélange in the effects and remedies of climate change is a fantastic example of why farmers must adopt such a dynamic attitude moving forward.

As we approach 2050, rising temperatures will push the suitable cacao cultivation areas uphill. The optimal altitude for cacao cultivation in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, for example, is expected to rise from 350-800 feet to 1,500-1,600 feet above sea level (Scott). Generally, areas anticipated to show improved cultivation conditions look to be rugged, hilly terrain. But herein lies the problem: Ghana’s Atewa Range, for example, is a forest preserve where cultivation isn’t permitted, so inhabitants are left with the difficult choice of illegally gutting the forest to grow cacao in the name of global demand or preserving the natural habitat in which they live and losing their only source of income. Given that our class dedicated a substantial amount of time to discussing the already turbulent livelihoods of cacao farmers, I am troubled to see that they may soon face such an unfair quandary. One study examined nearly 300 locations in the world’s primary cacao-growing regions and found that only 10.5% showed increasing suitability for cacao production by 2050, while the remaining 89.5% showed the opposite (Scott). Figure 2 shows current suitability and projections for future conditions under a changing climate (Schroth et al 233):


Figure 2. Maximum temperature of the warmest month under current and projected 2050 climate conditions in the West African cacao belt. The dotted area shows the extent of current cacao production as used for model calibration. The red lines show areas of cacao production.

The area depicted above is known as the West African cacao belt. Once entirely covered by the Nigerian lowland forests in the east and the Guinean lowland forests in the west, much of the area has now been converted to agriculture (Schroth et al 235). The world’s cacao industry depends largely on this belt for raw material due to the sheer volume of cacao produced as well as the abundance of high-quality bulk cacao that cannot be readily replaced by other cacao origins. As we learned in lecture, blended cacao typically goes to large industrial producers (unlike exclusive-derivation cacao, which exemplifies the traits of terroir through individual nuances), so this region is undeniably crucial to the future success of the large chocolate industry. Climate change aside, production in this region faces a wide variety of challenges, all of which we addressed in lecture: most trees are over-aged and therefore unproductive in the already small farms; low prices—until the recent price inflation—and variability make it difficult for farmers to afford costly inputs such as fertilizers; absence or insufficiency of technical assistance in most countries make maintenance difficult (Schroth et al 236). Perhaps while addressing climate change, whether internally or through foreign aid, actors should undertake these challenges alongside those directly associated with climate change itself.

Due in part to the aforementioned adversities, cacao farming has been a major driver of deforestation in West Africa, most notably in Côte d’Ivoire. Historically, cacao has been a “pioneer crop” grown after forest clearing, meaning that rather than replanting aging plantations, farmers have typically opted to migrate to the forest frontiers to establish new cacao farms. During the second half of the twentieth century, the cacao frontier moved from the drier east to the wetter southwest of the country, a migration fueled by massive immigration of prospective cacao farmers from the savannah (Ruf et al 101). From my perspective, it appears that the climate gradient was a major driver of these east-west migrations and that, by replacing forest with farmland over vast areas, cacao farmers contributed to the further drying of the climate in what appears to be a positive feedback loop. This is precisely the type of damage we as a civilization must avoid in the coming decades. In order to help facilitate a greater awareness of sustainability, governments and supply chain actors should discourage forest frontier dynamics by helping farmers adapt to environmental change through more intensive and diversified farming practices.

The question of whether water availability or maximum temperatures during the dry season will be more limiting to the survival, growth, and yield of cacao trees in a future climate is of particular importance when considering the design of climate resilient production systems. One highly efficient—and, in my opinion, the only practical—method of protecting cacao trees from high temperatures is through overhead shade from appropriately selected, spaced, and managed companion trees such as banana and plantain as seen in Figure 3 (Colina). This practice can reduce cacao leaf temperatures by up to 40°F, sequester carbon that would otherwise be lost from the soil, make cacao trees less vulnerable to pests, and provide nutrient-rich leaf litter as well as protection from wind and soil erosion (Rajab et al). With that said, adequate ventilation is also important as a complementary measure, as it helps to reduce the prevalence of fungal disease in cacao (Schroth et al 240). The general takeaway here is that farmers need to be properly trained such that they can correctly execute these methods.


Figure 3. Young cacao plants in a nursery under shade trees in Mindanao, Philippines.

When considering shadow crops such as those pictured above, we must recognize that an expectation of severe water limitation during the dry season may complicate things. Under such conditions, there could eventually not be enough water available for both cacao and shade trees during the dry season, thereby stressing the trees and leaving farmers in a tough position. Although I feel this is an unlikely extreme, we should prepare for all possibilities. Temperature struggles aside, another mitigation strategy could be to provide cacao growers with selectively bred seeds that have superior drought resistance. Farmers could, however, be skeptical of genetically modified seeds given the stereotypically low trust between farmers and large agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto. While I am not sure how feasible this final point is given my unfamiliarity with the growing techniques behind these commodities, it may be beneficial for cacao farmers to raise animals or cultivate honey in order to spread climate risk (de Groot). In general, climate-smart agriculture—an approach that combines various sustainable methods under a climate-change umbrella—that assesses climate change-related risks and requirements of a farm and subsequently tackles those challenges using practices crafted for that particular situation is key to success in the coming decades.

In our class, we discussed industrial chocolate production as well as consumption, both practices that are generally decoupled from on-farm production. Fortunately, industrial chocolate corporations have a large incentive to help with damage control and mitigation. MARS is a fantastic example of corporate initiative: the company plans to slash carbon pollution from its products by 67 percent come mid-century (Simon). This includes reducing emissions from land use changes and agriculture, and the company has even gone a step further by offering resources to help farmers increase yields, though they don’t disclose any specifics (Simon). The five global titans of chocolate—Ferrero, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle, and Mars—should work together with consumers and defy the ugly “Big Sugar” stereotype considering we all share a common enemy: climate change. In terms of consumers themselves, our research from class suggests that people should seek out responsible, sustainable companies that give fair treatment to farmers. Whole Foods and other specialty stores, for example, boast a great selection of fair trade and organic bars such as Taza, Chuao, and Endangered Species. Consumers who have already caught wind of the possible “cacao crisis” are understandably uneasy, but they’ll be happy to know that research suggests climate change will not have an effect on the taste of cacao—that is, assuming the crop isn’t wiped out entirely (Sukha et al 255). For further information, videos such as the following can help to spell things out in a more informative and empowering way:

Realistically, we simply have no way of accurately predicting what the future climate will look like. With that said, the cacao belt appears to have a strong differentiation of climate vulnerability across its latitudinal axis, with the most susceptible areas near the forest-savanna transition in eastern Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, and the least vulnerable areas in the southern parts of Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Cameroon. Farmers will face the challenging task of controlling as many factors as possible in a progressively erratic world, so I recommend they look towards specialized companies such as The Climate Corporation—a digital agriculture company that examines weather, soil, and field data to help farmers determine potential yield-limiting factors on their fields—while employing the many protective measures mentioned above. Moving forward will require a team effort that ranges across the chocolate production and consumption chains, but because most changes in climatic suitability are predicted to take place over a time period of nearly 40 years, we have a full generation of cacao trees and farmers to adapt.

So, who will win the fight: climate or chocolate? Let’s not leave it to chance.


Works Cited: 

Anga, Jean-Marc. “International Cacao Organization.” The International Cacao Organization; Cacao Producing and Cacao Consuming Countries, ICCO, May 2018.

Bunn, Christian, and Mark Lundy. “Bittersweet Chocolate: The Climate Change Impacts on Cacao Production in Ghana.” CGIAR Research Program, 2015.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., vol. 1, Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Colina, Antonio. “Cacao Developemnt in Davao Region.” Davao Integrated Development Program, 2014.

de Groot, Han. “Preparing Cacao Farmers for Climate Change.” Rainforest Alliance, EarthShare, 20 Sept. 2017.

Handley, Liam. “The Effects of Climate Change on the Reproductive Development of Theobroma Cacao.” ProQuest, vol. 1, no. 1, 2016.

Jaramillo, Juliana, and Eric Muchugu. “Some Like It Hot: The Influence and Implications of Climate Change on Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus Hampei) and Coffee Production in East Africa.” PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 9, 14 Sept. 2011.

MacLennan, David W. “Our Changing Climate.” Our Changing Climate: Supporting Farmers to be Resilient in the Face of Changing Weather Patterns, Cargill, 2018.

Morton, J. F. “The Impact of Climate Change on Smallholder and Subsistence Agriculture.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 50, 11 Dec. 2007, pp. 19680–19685.

Ojo, A.D., and I. Sadiq. “Effect of Climate Change on Cacao Yield: a Case of Cacao Research Institute (CRIN) Farm, Oluyole Local Government Ibadan Oyo State.” CABI , vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 350–358. CAB Direct.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. 2nd ed., vol. 1, Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Rajab, Yasmin Abou, and Christoph Leuschner. “Cacao Cultivation under Diverse Shade Tree Cover Allows High Carbon Storage and Sequestration without Yield Losses.” PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 2, 29 Feb. 2016.

Ruf, François, et al. “Climate Change, Cacao Migrations and Deforestation in West Africa: What Does the Past Tell us about the Future?” Sustainability Science, vol. 10, no. 1, 18 Nov. 2014, pp. 101–111.

Schroth, Götz, and Christian Bunn. “Vulnerability to Climate Change of Cacao in West Africa: Patterns, Opportunities and Limits to Adaptation.” Science of The Total Environment, vol. 556, 15 June 2016, pp. 231–241. ELSEVIER.

Scott, Michon. “Climate and Chocolate .” Climate.gov, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10 Feb. 2016.

Simon, Rosie. “Climate Change Could Hurt Chocolate Production.” Yale Climate Connections, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 19 Oct. 2017.

Stroman, Lee. “Rethinking the Cacao Supply Chain.” AgThentic, Medium Corporation, 16 July 2017.

Sukha, D.a., and D.r. Butler. “The Impact Of Processing Location And Growing Environment On Flavor In Cacao (Theobroma Cacao L.); Implications For ‘Terroir’ and Certification.” Acta Horticulture, no. 1047, 2014, pp. 255–262. ISHS.

Chocolate Lessons: Knowledge Gleaned from Chocolate Bars Sold in the Natural Foods Aisle

On average, Americans consume 12 pounds of chocolate per person each year or a little less than a quarter pound of chocolate per week. A typical chocolate bar ranges from 1.5-3.5 ounces. Therefore, 12 pounds of chocolate equates to enjoying 55-128 chocolate bars (depending on its size) per year! It is safe to say, for better or for worse, chocolate has become an integral part of the American diet.

Historically, chocolate was consumed for medicinal purposes, primarily as a source of nourishment and energy. Today, the developed world struggles with being simultaneously over nourished and malnourished from an imbalanced diet. Nevertheless, chocolate health claims persist, usually in reference to darker chocolates. Beneficial properties of cocoa include antioxidant, cardiovascular, and psychological enhancement, which are linked to its polyphenol, flavanol, and caffeine content (Castell, Pérez-Cano, and Bisson, 2013). These health claims are not present on chocolate bar labels, though.

In the last couple of decades, food packaging has actually become quite informationally dense. How can you sift through all of the information on chocolate labels to know what’s really important? Additionally, what can we learn from a chocolate bar’s packaging, besides its nutritional content? The goal of this blog post is to help decipher the various symbols, certification meanings, and key words that appear on chocolate wrappers.

Ultimately, you, as the consumer, have to decide what is important to you and what you are looking for in your chocolate purchases, not only in terms of taste but also social responsibility. Equipping yourself with the knowledge to know what to look for, and what symbols, certifications, and other words on chocolate packages mean, makes informed chocolate purchases a much smoother process and ensures you have the best chocolate buying experience possible. Before chocolate tasting can become embodied knowledge, it requires repetition in order to pick up on flavor nuances of single origin chocolate or to be able to tell if a chocolate bar was made with over-roasted cacao beans. In the same way, learning the stories and processes behind the chocolate you are eating requires some research, occasionally beyond the label itself.

I studied the chocolate bars in the natural foods aisle of a Stop & Shop grocery store in the greater Boston area to see what information could be gleaned from the chocolate labels within this section. I did not include enrobed chocolate candies within this aisle, “regular” chocolate bars (i.e., Hershey’s) in the main candy aisle or those present in the checkout lanes. I chose to focus on the chocolate bars within the natural foods aisle because, typically, these brands offer more information and stories about cacao procurement, processing, and its impact on people or the environment, whereas chocolate produced by most Big Five brands only provide nutritional information on the back of the wrapper. The Big Five chocolate brands include well-known companies: Hershey, Mars, Cadbury, Nestle, and Ferrero (Allen, 2010).

The type of consumer who shops for chocolate in the natural foods aisle is most likely not just looking for a sugar fix because there are cheaper ways to meet that need. The intended audience includes individuals who may be interested in supporting social or environmental causes, and who are probably health conscious, even though it is still chocolate. Additionally, he or she may have a sophisticated or informed palate, and prefer quality chocolate with nuanced flavors. The natural foods aisle typically offers products that are slightly more expensive than its conventional counterparts, so the consumer is not making his or her choice of chocolate based solely on price point. Rather, the consumer possibly has a higher disposable income and is able to spend two or three times as much money on a chocolate bar from this section than on chocolate from one of the large chocolate corporations previously mentioned.

The natural foods aisle in Stop & Shop offers eight different brands of chocolate bars: Chocolove XOXOX, Green & Black’s, Divine, Theo, TCHO, LILY’s, Endangered Species Chocolate, and Alter Eco. These bars are being sold for $2.50-$3.99, with Chocolove XOXOX being the cheapest because it was on sale. Divine, LILY’s, and Alter Eco lands at the upper end of the options. The TCHO 70% dark chocolate bar usually retails for $4.29, but happened to be on sale. Still, these are moderately priced “good” chocolate bars compared to other specialty chocolate companies and retailers who sell their bars for about double the price. The juxtaposition of these brands, with a $1.00 (or less) Hershey’s chocolate bar, provides an interesting comparison in both price and taste.

The eight brands offer bars in a variety of flavors ranging from 34% milk chocolate to 85% dark chocolate with the option of added fruit or nut pieces. The white chocolate selection was nonexistent in this section at this particular grocery store. However, just for informational purposes, one brand (outside of the eight focused on here) does contribute a white chocolate peanut butter cup.

Just a few of the brands provide chocolate bars made from single origin cacao, which might be a more common provision at specialty retail stores. Both TCHO and Divine use Ghanaian cacao, and Alter Eco sources its cacao beans from Ecuador. Chocolove XOXOX states on the back of the wrapper that their Belgian chocolate bars are crafted with African cocoa beans. This somewhat vague statement only alludes to the fact that their beans do not come from Central or South America, or Southeast Asia but could be sourced from one or more of the cacao producing countries within the large continent of Africa. Additionally, Green & Black’s credits Trinitario cacao beans for giving their chocolate a rich and unique flavor profile. Trinitario cacao beans are thought to embody the best qualities of its genetic parents, the Criollo and Forastero varieties, with the hybrid cacao being both hardy and possessing a nice flavor profile (Prisilla, 2009). Likewise, the purpose of brands specifying single origin or the use of a single cacao variety suggests an increase in quality or flavor characteristics that add value to the end product. Thus, the price of these types of bars is usually slightly higher compared to mixed bean origin or variety, and especially compared to bulk cacao.

There are a few things that stand out upon taking a closer look at the packages. First, Alter Eco is the only brand that uses a cardboard packaging to house its chocolate. All of the other brands wrap their bars in a glossy paper. In both cases, the chocolate is likely sealed in foil before receiving either the glossy paper or cardboard outer wrapper. While the outer cardboard layer looks visually appealing and feels nice to the touch, it also makes the bar appear larger than it actually is. The 2.8 ounce Alter Eco chocolate bar looks bigger than the 3 ounce LILY’S bar sitting next to it on the shelf, as the image shows below. Thus, most consumers probably believe they are purchasing a larger chocolate bar if they do not read the front of the package and realize the chocolate bar is smaller by weight than some other options.

FullSizeRender-2 2
Alter Eco 2.8 ounce chocolate bar

Like several other brands, Theo includes a brief description about the company and their procurement and processing practices on the back of the package. Here, Theo shares it is a bean to bar chocolate company, which means the company purchases the fermented and dried cacao beans, and then carries out each of the remaining processing steps (about 10) from roasting to packaging, according to their unique preferences. Thus, the company oversees the entire chocolate making process and can tweak each batch according to its needs and the desired outcome, making it a true craft.

Green & Black’s label does not readily offer information about the company’s processing practices other than it uses fair trade and organic ingredients. Interestingly, the backside of the label does say Mondelez Global LLC distributes Green & Black’s chocolate bars. Mondelez is one of the largest global snack food companies and now owns Cadbury, one of the Big Five chocolate companies. Last year, Mondelez even attempted to acquire the Hershey Company, but Hershey declined the offer (Bukhari, 2017). Thus, Mondelez is a significant player within the global food system. This association alone may deter some consumers from purchasing Green & Black’s chocolate.

Another unexpected but perhaps pioneering find is LILY’s, whose chocolate bars are sweetened with the natural sweetener, Stevia, and erythritol, a sugar alcohol. Additionally, LILY’s adds inulin, a fiber commonly used as a bulking agent. These are not traditional chocolate bar ingredients, but perhaps the fewer calories and grams of sugar allow individuals with specific dietary restrictions to still purchase fair trade chocolate. The bar also boasts that it is still “100% indulgent.”

Before dissecting the chocolate bars’ various certifications, I want to look at Divine’s commitment to its producers. In the West, chocolate consumption has long been feminized, associated with temptation and indulgence (Robertson, 2009). Women are important as both chocolate consumers and producers, something Divine has recognized. The two images above depict Divine’s pledge to support the female cacao farmers within Kuapa Kokoo (cocoa co-operative) in Ghana and make sure their voices are heard. In doing so, these female business owners are positioned as powerful actors within the cacao and chocolate industries, rather than being viewed as exploited workers in an underdeveloped country (Leissle, 2012). This has significant implications not only for the female producers, but also culturally, and for future standards within the chocolate industry.

This final section includes a brief discussion on food certifications. Fair trade certification is the most popular certification that the eight brands feature. Other certifications that appear on the chocolate wrappers include USDA Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified Vegan, Kosher (dairy), Fair for Life, and rBST free. I was surprised I did not find the UTZ Certified symbol on any of the chocolate bars, since UTZ is the most common cacao certification related to sustainable farming practices.

Fair trade certifications can be represented in a variety of ways depending on the party providing the certification. The images above show several different certifications present on the different brands’ packaging that symbolize the employment of fair trade practices. In order for a product to be labeled “fair trade,” all members of the processing chain (including producers) must pay into the fair trade system. As a result, producers are promised better trading conditions including long term relationships with buyers, garner presumably higher wages, have better working conditions, and live overall improved lives. However, many question whether this system is as transformative as it claims to be. The terms “fair trade” and “sustainable” have become ubiquitous, and the commodification of the terms also threatens their legitimacy (Sylla, 2014).

When thinking about food certifications, it is important to remember these certifications are neither all encompassing nor meant to solve all social or environmental issues with one label. Companies are now starting to launch their own certifications rather than going through a third party certification. It will be up to the individual company to define the criteria for “fair” or “sustainable,” or any new term it deems important. Whole Foods already uses its “Whole Trade Certified” label. Consequently, continuing to be an educated consumer will be extremely imperative in order to know what the certifications represent and what the companies stand for. It is unclear whether these self-certifications will be viewed as legitimate certifications or just add to the confusion many consumers feel when reading food labels.

While the objective of self-certification is to offer more affordable fair trade items to consumers, it raises the question of whether that should be the ultimate goal of selling fair trade products, and what the tradeoffs are for making fair trade more affordable and part of the mainstream? If large food conglomerates begin to self-regulate certifications, rather than paying third party companies, who is to say the consumer will actual benefit from the money saved? Historically, when the price of goods has dropped, large corporations scoop up the difference and pocket the extra profits, rather than decreasing the cost for the consumer (Albrittion, 2013). However, consumers still have the power to vote with their dollars.

The next time you peruse the chocolate selection within a store, feel empowered to study the information provided on the packaging (and conduct further research if needed) rather than being overwhelmed by various symbols and industry jargon.


**All images were taken by the author


Works Cited

Albritton, Robert. 2013. “Between Obesity And Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry”. In Food And Culture: A Reader, 3rd ed., 342-352. New York: Routledge.

Allen, Lawrence L. 2010. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle For The Hearts, Minds, And Wallets Of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association.

Bukhari, Jeff. 2017. “Why Investors Are Bingeing On Snack-Maker Mondelez”. Fortune.Com. http://fortune.com/2017/02/22/why-investors-are-bingeing-on-snack-maker-mondelez/.

Castell, Margarida, Francisco Jose Pérez-Cano, and Jean-François Bisson. 2013. “Clinical Benefits Of Cocoa: A Review”. In Chocolate In Health And Nutrition, 1st ed., 265-276. Humana Press.

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194

Prisilla, Maricel E. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. 1st ed. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Robertson, Emma. 2009. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. 2014. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty To Benefit The Rich. 1st ed. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Chocolove: Premium or not?

chocolove 2

My chocolate obsession is a life-long craving I have had since I was very little and one that was definitely encouraged by my chocolate-loving father. I remember as a small child going to seven-eleven with my dad on a regular basis to indulge in the five cent candy bins. Contributing to my chocolate craze is that my birthday falls just before Halloween and therefore I always had Halloween/costume themed birthday parties that never were without a piñata filled with candy and chocolate. My favorite chocolate as a kid was Reese’s peanut butter cups, created in 1928. As a child of the 1980s and 1990s, bulk chocolate was what I indulged in and the only chocolate I knew. Now, in my thirties I continue to crave chocolate but my taste for it has evolved over the last 20 years, as has the market for chocolate. Nowadays, I tend to purchase my chocolate at higher end grocers and specialty stores. Until taking this chocolate class, I knew very little about the history, culture and politics of chocolate and knew nothing about the supply chain. Gaining valuable insight from the Harvard Extension School chocolate course, I now have some tools to analyze chocolate in terms of its quality. For this project I will analyze the ‘Chocolove’ chocolate company and my go-to chocolate bar in recent years, the Almonds and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar, which contains 55% cocoa content and claim’s to be of premium quality. I will examine this particular bar according to ingredients, bean quality and certifications to determine if this bar warrants the ‘premium’ label and meets the ethical standards being disseminated by the industry.

chocolove 1

In the U.S. for a product to be called “chocolate”, it must contain a minimum of fifteen percent liquor (Williams and Eber p170). Chocolate liquor, also called cocoa mass, is both the cocoa powder and the cocoa butter combined after the bean is harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, and grinded. Many times, additional cocoa butter will be added to the liquor in making chocolate. In evaluating the ingredients of the Almonds and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar made by Chocolove, let us first look at the ingredients section on the wrapper. In this particular bar, the ingredients are broken down into three key components: Dark chocolate (cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla) almonds, sea salt. Dark chocolate is a product of the prepared cacao beans that come from the cacao pods, a large colorful fruit found on the cacao tree (Theobroma Cacao).  One point of confusion for me prior to taking this course was the difference between Cacao and Cocoa? Many premium chocolate bars list their cacao percentage on their labels, but Chocolove lists its cocoa content. To clarify, cacao refers to the raw material that comes from the cacao tree while cocoa is the Anglicization of the word cacao and refers to the commodity once it is processed, as learned in our lecture by Carla Martin. In recent years, the use of the word cacao has increased as a way to connect the product to its historical links and to differentiate it from bulk commodity cocoa.


The Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar is 55% cocoa and therefore well above the minimum standard to be considered chocolate. It is also located in the “fine” and “premium” chocolate section of the store, suggesting to me that they must be of higher quality than the bulk chocolate made by the largest chocolate companies, namely Hershey, Mars, Ferrero and Nestle. When determining whether a chocolate is of premium quality, a definition for premium is needed. According to Williams and Eber there is no universal standard for premium chocolate and it can be whatever one claims it to be but it is widely understood that premium chocolate is linked with its cacao origin and percentage (p 168), as I have suggested above. In researching the source of Chocolove’s cacao, I discovered that the company is a chocolatier, rather than a chocolate maker. As a chocolatier, they buy finished Belgian chocolate and then melt it, re-temper it, add inclusions (nuts, fruit, etc.), pour it into molds, pop it out and wrap it in fine paper. In comparison, a chocolate maker makes their own chocolate from dried cacao beans and then proceeds to add other ingredients, etc.

Chocolove purchases its chocolate from Callabaut, a century old Belgian chocolate company that supplies premium quality chocolate to chefs and chocolatiers around the world and whose website says its chocolate is made with the best, sustainable beans of West Africa.  For much of the 20th century, “the place of manufacture became more important to appreciating chocolate than the place of origin” and thus (Leissle, p22) Belgian chocolate, where this product is made, stood out as desirable quality to consumer’s rather than the place of origin, say Ghana. In other words, chocolate’s flavor/style was organized by its place of manufacture which can be described as follows: “French (dark, heavy roast), Swiss (extra cocoa-butter creamy), Belgian (soft milk), British (caramel milk), and American (milky, slightly sour Hershey flavor)” (Leissle, 22-23). During the height of this period, other notions of  chocolate quality developed as well, such as Emma Robertson’s finding that it was believed that “the best qualities of cocoa come from the West Indies, South American and the East Indies” (p 74) rather than Africa which may be linked to racial discrimination due to the African ownership of these cacao farms vs. the white owners of the non-African cacao producing areas. Toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, single-origin chocolate has emerged as the leading quality in a craft chocolate market. Craft chocolate is a whole new dimension, whereby small-scale bean to bar chocolate production using vintage equipment is the newest and greatest thing (Martin and Sampeck, p53). While Chocolove is housed on the same shelves as craft chocolate companies, craft chocolate is in different class, entirely, and at a much higher price point.

The other factor to consider in quality, are the other ingredients in the bar. In this case, sugar, soy lecithin and vanilla are added. The type of sugar used in this bar is non-GMO beet sugar from Europe as claimed on Chocolove’s FAQs (https://www.chocolove.com/faq/). Chocolove uses this information as part of a marketing tool that appeals to individuals who are health conscience about the ways in which foods are grown.  In evaluating the amount of sugar added to this bar, the nutrition panel is very helpful, as it states the number of grams per serving size. As a caveat, one should be aware that there are no guidelines or rules for how companies determine a serving size. In this case, there are three servings in this 3.2 ounce bar. Each serving contains 11 grams of sugar. One must do a bit of math to determine the amount of sugar in the entire bar, which happens to be 33 grams or eight teaspoons. Recent Food and Drug Administration guidelines suggest limiting added sugar to less than 50 grams a day and less than 10% of your daily caloric intake (http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/11/sugar-is-the-devil). Upon realizing that this bar contains 30 grams of sugar, more than half of the FDA suggested daily limit, I am displeased with this finding as I tend to consume the entire bar in one sitting. I would guess that other chocolate bars with higher cocoa content would contain a lot less sugar, but in comparing other Chocolove bars with 65% and 70% cocoa content, this is not the case. They also contain high amounts of sugar.

I will also examine Chocolove’s sustainability and socially responsibility. They showcase an entire page of their website on this subject and have an additional “Chocolove social website” where one can go to more thoroughly engage in their programs and certifications. Chocolove works with several organizations and is engaged with a number of ways, but it is important to point out that these engagements do not affect the taste of Chocolove’s chocolate bars.

Fair trade, “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair trade organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade” (Sylla, p64-65). This certification is highly sought after by ethically conscience high-end chocolate connoisseurs. Chocolove offers three of its 30 distinct bars as Fair trade chocolate and do so because of the demand for it. At the same time, they decisively educate their consumer that manufacturer’s of fair trade chocolate can legally mix non-fair trade chocolate into their bars as long as there is a ‘mass balance’ system in place. This is just one of many of the issues with the fair trade certification. Other findings shared by Carla Martin in Lecture suggest that little money reaches the developing world, there is a failure to monitor systems and that the burden lies on the consumer among other troubles.

for life image

IMO for Life is another certification held by Chocolove, and their bars are labeled with this certification, which states, “This bar is made with cocoa certified by IMO as for Life which means it was farmed in a socially responsible and ethical manner. All of the cocoa bean derived ingredients are certified for Life”. The Sea Salt and Almond Dark Chocolate bar is 45% for Life certified content. This labeling can be traced directly to the farming coop in the producing country. Chocolove’s factory has also been inspected and certified. Chocolove is a contributor to the World Cocoa Foundation, funds projects at the USDA and belongs to the GGC program, all of which are working toward educating farmer’s, improving working conditions, and preserving cacao. They are transparent in their work and seek to engage in layers of sustainability and socially responsible practices. Additionally, Chocolove states their commitment to the consumer and to their employees, whom they offer competitive wages and health care benefits fully paid.

In using the knowledge learned in class, I have analyzed the Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar in terms of quality, ingredients and ethical practices to discover that Chocolove is a Chocolatier rather than a chocolate maker and therefore does not fit in the craft chocolate category, but can still fall under premium chocolate, depending on how one defines it. Additionally, Chocolove may not know exactly how its cacao is sourced but does claim to use quality beans and practice sustainable practices. More research will have to determine if the company is truly socially responsible or is just claiming to be, as so many companies do. Lastly, I learned how much sugar this bar and that alone may deter me from purchasing it on a regular basis. Instead, I may open my wallet and my mouth to finer, darker, less sweet options in the future.


Leissle, Kristy. 2013. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture.

Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/11/sugar-is-the-devil

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

Sylla, Ndongo. 2014. The Fair Trade Scandal.

Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate.

Hotel Chocolat: An Ethnographic Analysis

When it comes to bean-to-bar chocolate companies, Hotel Chocolat is certainly one of the most distinguished. The Hotel Chocolat website offers a plethora of information about the brand, but what seems to stand out the most is that this company is not simply a maker of fine chocolate. This company is an architect of experiences, and these experiences are all founded in the company’s commitment to growing its own cocoa on the island of St. Lucia. Even the logo on the website reads “Hotel Chocolat British Cocoa Grower”. The experiences that this carefully grown cocoa sponsors range from entry to the Hotel Chocolat “Club”, a subscription chocolate service starting at about 10 British pounds per month, to private parties and reservations at their restaurants and “cocoa bar cafes”, to a stay at their resort in Saint Lucia. These amenities are extensions of the original craft confections of Hotel Chocolat, bringing the idea of chocolate tourism into a quite literal sense. Loyal customers of Hotel Chocolat might choose to follow the company across the globe for an incredible, one-of-a-kind experience, all aimed at an experience in which you can “experience cocoa like never before” (Hotel Chocolat, 2017).

While this company seems to have an incredibly nuanced grasp of the importance of changing the agricultural traditions surrounding the production of chocolate, elite model of quality assurance, and thorough commitment to customer accountability, it appears to be perpetrating certain chronic illnesses of the chocolate industry as well. Certain aspects of the Hotel Chocolat’s agricultural model are troublesome, namely in certain decisions that the company made in regards to their ethics policy, as well as the very location where they decided to set up shop. Additionally, Hotel Chocolat seems to cater to an elite, establishing a binary of fine chocolate consumers and cocoa producers that unfortunately does little to update the status quo of cacao that has been established over centuries. In the following post, I will first examine the rise of Hotel Chocolat in historical context, examine the strengths and weaknesses of the company, and recommend certain changes that might bring Hotel Chocolat closer to what they describe their goals to be.

First of all, it is crucial to begin with a thorough understanding of the historical trajectory of Hotel Chocolat. While the company began selling chocolates online in 1993, the first storefront opened in 2004, founded by Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris, two entrepreneurs set on “making chocolate exciting again” (Hotel Chocolat, 2017). Taking a step back, it is crucial to ask what was happening with chocolate at this point in time, and what had gotten it there. Why was there a need to make chocolate exciting again? In colonial Europe, when chocolate was first brought to the Europeans, it was an expensive and special luxury, one that only the ruling class could afford. As Coe and Coe describe it, “it had been an elite drink among the Mesoamericans, and it would stay that way among the white-skinned, perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility of Europe” (Chapter 5). England, uniquely, was a more entrepreneurial society, and therefore shopkeepers and businessmen were able to pedal their wares to the larger population, although it was still the mostly upper class and well to do that could afford chocolate in the beginning (Coe and Coe, Chapter 5).  Thus, even in its earliest stages, chocolate in England was diverging from its traditional role as sumptuous luxury. As Professor Martin and her colleague Sempak explain, by the 1800s, chocolate was for everyone, due to a plethora of revamped factors which had maximized efficiency of the treat for mass production (49). One of these newly cheapened factors was of course, sugar, which by 1900 provided “1/5 of calories in an English diet”(Mintz 6). While the price of sugar has certainly fluctuated over time, as exemplified by Figure 1, in 2004, the year of Hotel Chocolat’s birth, the price of sugar was extremely low, and this was not a fact that was wasted on the company’s founders.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 3.28.29 PM
Figure 1


In their story, the company explains that “as sugar prices have dropped, British chocolate has focused increasingly on sweetness… Today sugar is 20 times cheaper than cocoa”, and later they even explain that their motto is “More Cocoa, Less Sugar.” With this in mind, it seems that perhaps Hotel Chocolat, in its founding, was not only intent on creating a high quality brand, but also moving back to the original vision of chocolate as a food for the elite. In it’s mission statement, Hotel Chocolat describes sugar as “cheap”, citing its qualities of being “sweet”, and “flavor-dulling”, and contrast this image with their abundant use of cocoa, which they describe as “nuanced”, and “fine”. This distinction between simple and complex, basic and fine, seems to be creating a strict binary. There is mass-produced chocolate for the masses, and then there is Hotel Chocolat, for the higher class individual, in need of an elevated experience.

Additionally, as mentioned before, the company’s commitment to growing its’ own cocoa for its chocolate, restaurants, cafes, and hotel is the backbone of what makes Hotel Chocolat unique. The company owns a plantation in St. Lucia, and is proud of a nuanced “Ethical Engagement” program by which they procure all of their cocoa—their answer to an inability to participate in Direct Trade, which they explain on their website that they are ineligible for (Hotel Chocolate 2017). The company bought the Rabot Plantation is St. Lucia in 2006, and has been growing their own cacao and working with farmers on the island ever since then (Hotel Chocolat 2017). In historical context, this was an incredibly business savvy method. As Martin and Sempak explain, the 1990s were wrought with revelations of the worst forms of child labor, and individuals searching for ways to get their chocolate fix without exploiting vulnerable populations (51). Therefore, by taking production into their own hands, Hotel Chocolate was able to make certain that certain exploitations were not occurring, and offer their clientele a clear conscience in consumption.

Since the purchase of this plantation, the company has continued to thrive. Along with the hotel, the company has 92 cafes, 2 restaurants, and a seemingly endless selection of unique, handcrafted chocolates. As the Telegraph reported last year, Hotel Chocolat went public on the London stock exchange at a value of 150 million pounds (Yeomans and Chan).

Hotel Chocolat Goes Public

With this in mind, it is now possible to take a look at the ethical implications of the company. One thing that is truly incredible is Hotel Chocolat’s “Engaged Ethics” model (EE). The ultimate goal of EE is to “make life as a cocoa farmer truly sustainable”. Thus, this is a many-layered initiative. One of the staples of EE is the Hotel Chocolate Cocoa Growers Programme of Engaged Ethics (HCCAPEE). Within it, farmers are guaranteed a premium price all of a farmers harvested “wet” cocoa, which the company specifically prefers over the dry, fermented product, preferring to complete that step themselves in-house. Hotel Chocolat explains that prior to this program, St. Lucian farmers were subjected to exploitive prices from middlemen and untrustworthy vendors. Under HCCAPEE, a fixed price above fair trade, which is $.75 kg/wet and $1.88/kg dry, which is 28 cents hire than the world trade price.   Other perks of the program are access to Hotel Chocolat’s fine quality seedlings, quick turnaround for payday, easy drop off sites, fair measurements, and a local consultant who helps with the process. Membership is free to all cocoa farmers on the island. What is one of the most striking aspects of this program is the fact that the company guarantees to pay a fixed price for all cocoa produced by a farmer, giving the farmer security in income even if there is an issue with the season’s harvest. Additionally, in its business model, Hotel Chocolat cites an even greater goal, which is positively impacting the entire agricultural sector of St. Lucia. Hotel Chocolat explains a greater goal “to use knowledge and skills to help formulate sound agricultural policies and laws; to challenge and correct untrue statements about the agricultural industry and to foster dialogue among agriculturists, other professionals, landowners, and the public regarding agricultural policies” (Hotel Chocolat 2017). With nearly 168 cocoa farmers now taking part in the program, it seems that Hotel Chocolat is indeed working towards a more ethical future for the agricultural future of St. Lucia (Hotel Chocolat 2017).

St. Lucia
St. Lucia and the Piton Mountains. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

However, some distinctly important issues emerge on closer analysis of the Hotel Chocolat model. First of all, as mentioned previously, the company does place a premium on using trope that separates low quality chocolate from high quality, implying a social class divide along with it. Words like “luxury,” “private,” “distinctive,” “fine,” and more dominate the language on the company website, making it clear that this chocolate is of the highest caliber. As Robertson explains, chocolate companies have historically focused marketing to a “refined” taste palette, suggesting that a high quality of chocolate is meant for a high class individual (26). For example, in a Rowntree marketing campaign, advertisements for Black Magic were utilized high-class women, emphasizing luxury and expense. When Rowntree advertised their lower cocoa content chocolate, the Dairy Box, they used words that emphasized cheapness and accessibility (27). This is practically identical to the binary set up by Hotel Chocolat in its description of their product. Thus, it seems that Hotel Chocolat is perpetuating a chocolate class distinction, one of the more serious issues that the chocolate industry faces today.

Additionally, while the HCCAPEE program is undoubtedly doing some fantastic things, there are certain critiques to be found there as well. One of the most glaring issues to me comes from the fact that the company asks its farmers to sell their cocoa to them “wet” rather than “dry”. This means that the farmers are not being trained by Hotel Chocolat in the artisanship of fermentation, and are thus kept at a level of crude labor, with little opportunity for growth. Hotel Chocolat defends itself, stating that buying it wet allows the farmers to do less work and receive the same payday, and even claims that if a farmer is interested in fermentation, Hotel Chocolat will send an inspector to their facility. However, there is no evidence that any farmers partake in this option. Therefore, farmers in the Hotel Chocolat system stay at just that- farmers. Something that immediately comes to mind is Berlan’s concept of “unfree” labor. Berlan explains that in Ghana, farmers and their children have “varying degrees of agency over their lives,” and that this is what sometimes results in individuals having no other choice but to seek out labor on cocoa farms (1094-1095). Hotel Chocolat themselves explains that St. Lucia’s cocoa industry was riddled with poverty, and this historical context makes it difficult to believe that farmers on the island had options besides participating in the HCCAPPEE program.

The last critique I offer looks at HCCAPEE’s policy of only allowing cocoa farmer’s to experience the benefits of the program. As the CIA’s world fact book presents, St. Lucia’s agricultural industry is largely based off of bananas, with this commodity making up 41% of the country’s exports (CIA 2017). If Hotel Chocolat were truly committed, as they claim to be, to improving the agricultural situation of St. Lucia, then they would be hard pressed to find a better medium than by including the banana farmer’s in their program.

After studying the company, I feel that in order to truly meet its goals, several key changes should be put into action. First of all, the distinction between cheap and expensive should be diminished. By perpetuating an elitist mindset with chocolate, they take away from their commitment to incredible chocolate, and instead, create a vision that lacks diversity. As chocolate connoisseur Chloe explains, “chocolate is like music or friends, each person must make his own opinion and those opinion evolve” (Williams and Eber 146). With this in mind, I think that Hotel Chocolat should focus more on taste preferences between the individual, rather than the exclusivity of the chocolate itself. An integration of testimonials from their own workers in St. Lucia would go a long way to show that Hotel Chocolat is not about where you come from, or what you do, but rather, the kind of chocolate you love. Second, I would be thrilled to see some sort of chocolate academy launched on the Rabot Plantation. If Hotel Chocolat committed itself to providing farmers with unique, valuable skills, then farmers may have more autonomy over their own lives, which would be a fabulous improvement from the current situation. Lastly, I think that Hotel Chocolat needs to actively recruit banana farmers to diversify their farms with the company’s cocoa seedlings. This would provide support to the St. Lucian agricultural sector, and give Hotel Chocolat an even greater opportunity to make an impact, all while crafting delicious chocolate.

In ending, Hotel Chocolat’s Engaged Ethics program is a fabulous step in the right direction for the future of ethical chocolate making, and certain tweaks could make it an even more efficient initiative.



Armstrong, Ashley. “Hotel Chocolat Enjoys a Sweet Start after IPO.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 12 July 2016. Web. 05 May 2017.

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies 49.8 (2013): 1088-100. Print.

“Chocolate Gifts & Luxury Presents.” Hotel Chocolat – Luxury Chocolates and Gifts. Hotel Chocolat, 2017. Web. 04 May 2017.

CIA. “The World Factbook St. Lucia.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 01 Apr. 2016. Web. 05 May 2017.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Martin, Carla D and Sampeck, Kathryn E (2015) The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe. SOCIO.HU, 2015 (No. 3). pp. 37-60.

Robertson, Emma. (2009) Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history. Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press.

Williams, Pamela Sue., and Jim Eber. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver, BC: Wilmor Corporation, 2012. Print.

Tasting Chocolate or Tasting Sugar?

I held a chocolate tasting with 8 of my friends, and my goal of this chocolate tasting was to assess my friends’ preferences regarding cacao and sugar content. I selected 6 varieties of chocolate containing cacao percentages ranging from 11% to 95%. My theory was that people would prefer chocolate that contains more sugar per serving and less cacao. I believed this to be true because of the way modern Western society thinks about sugar. The results highlighted Western society’s taste for sugar, but they also illustrated other ideas related to what we have been studying.

I tried to create a controlled experiment by removing wrappers and breaking each bar into similar sized pieces. I put the chocolate samples into bowls and had my friends begin with Sample 6, the darkest sample, because of what Professor Martin mentioned in class.

Like the process Barb Stuckey writes about when tasting food, I wanted the subjects to taste the food from “two different perspectives.” First, to “think critically about what [they] taste” and second “to consider whether [they] like it or not” (Stuckey, 134). Following this guideline, I had comment cards for each sample where my friends would write about what they tasted and on the back rank how much they liked the sample from a scale of 1 to 5.

The samples arranged from least to most cacao (left to right).

After the test was finished, I averaged the rankings into a decimal value. I first will present the results of the experiment, and then I will analyze the results. In lieu of including every comment, I will list any words that appeared more than once, or any descriptors that stand out in the context of what we have been learning in class. Many of the comments touch upon social and historical issues regarding the history of chocolate in America and the world.


SAMPLE 1: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar:  Hersheybar

Cacao: 11%

Sugar: 24g per serving

Average taste ranking: 3.05

Frequent descriptions: sweet (5), hersheys (2), waxy (2)

Notable descriptions: “God, heaven, promised land,” “tastes the most like chocolate”, “sour, milk”

SAMPLE 2:  Chocolove XOXOX Milk chocolate 176046b9870bda4f8b0a145311f326ac.jpg

Cacao: 33%

Sugar: 16g per 1/3 bar

Average taste ranking: 3.74

Frequent descriptions: creamy (4), smooth (2), caramel (3), sweet (3), sugary (2)

Notable descriptions: “aggressively sweet aftertaste,” “luxurious,” “melts in mouth”

SAMPLE 3: Original Lily’s Dark Chocolate Lilys-Original_WS_LLR1

Cacao: 55%

Sugar: less than 1g, sweetened with Stevia**

Average taste ranking: 3.36

Frequent descriptions: sweet (3), coconut (3), not bad (2), simple/one-note (2)

Notable descriptions: “no kick” “not as bad but still not good”

SAMPLE 4: Raaka Smoked Chai 

Cacao: 66%41RLxHTcxsL

Sugar: 10g per half bar

Average taste ranking:  3.67

Frequent descriptions: sweet (6), vanilla (3)

Notable descriptions: “maybe 60% cocoa,” “chalky texture”

SAMPLE 5: GREEN & BLACK’S Organic DARK 85% green-blacks-organic-85-percent-dark-cacao-bar.jpg

Cacao: 85%

Sugar: 5g per 12 pieces

Average taste ranking: 2.78

Frequent descriptions: bitter (3), fruity (2), citrusy (2),

Notable descriptions: “hard to take a big bite”

SAMPLE 6: Taza Wicked Dark 95% wicked_dark_bar_large

Cacao: 95%

Sugar: 2g per ½ packaging

Average taste ranking: 1.64

Frequent descriptions:  bitter (3), sour (3), chalky (2), acidic (2)

Notable descriptions: “can still taste it 5 minutes later,” “earthy,” “almost like black coffee,” “This is Taza”

A brief video of my friends’ reaction to the very dark chocolate


Based on taste preferences, the group liked the chocolate in this order:

Sample 2 (33%), Sample 4 (66%), Sample 3 (55%), Sample 1 (11%), Sample 5 (85%), Sample 6 (95%)

My original theory was not exactly correct – people did not like the Hershey’s chocolate the most. However, my hypothesis that milk chocolate was favored over dark chocolate remains true. The two darkest varieties of chocolate were ranked last, and the highest ranked chocolate was milk chocolate.

First and foremost, I would like to analyze the involvement of sugar and how that relates to chocolate as well as the distinguishable taste of Hershey’s chocolate.


Hershey’s is such a distinctive brand, there are stores fully devoted to selling it.

Hershey’s chocolate (Sample 1) was the most polarizing, with a scale from 0.5 (Although the scale started at 1, I included this piece of data anyway) to a 5. No other sample had both the lowest and highest ranking. I believe that the polarizing nature of Hershey’s comes from both the high sugar content and the unique ingredients.

In his book Hershey, Michael D’Antonio writes that “Hershey’s milk chocolate has had a distinct flavor. It is sweet… but it also carries a single, faintly sour note. This slight difference is caused by the fermentation of milk fat, an unexpected side effect of Schmalbach’s process.” (D’Antonio, 108) The comment “sour milk” reflects that flavor. Hershey’s is certainly distinctive. I want to address the two notable comments, “God, heaven, promised land” and “tastes the most like chocolate.”  D’Antonio writes that Hershey’s “define[s] the taste of chocolate for Americans” (D’Antonio, 108). My tasting proved that for at least two of my friends, this idea is true.


Robert Albritton, in “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry” writes that “Sweetness is the most desired taste to the point that many if not most people can easily be caught up in an ‘excessive appetite for it.’” Americans consume about 31 teaspoons of added sugars every day, he writes (Albritton, 343). According to Albritton, “the addictive quality of sugar can be compared to that of cigarettes.” (Albritton, 343).

My mother finds sugar incredibly addictive. She has combated sugar’s negative health effects by avoiding all added sugar all year except for her birthday. I asked her to tell me about her experience with sugar…

“In college, after a night out, we decided to get a midnight snack. For me it ended up being an entire ice cream pie. Even though I felt sick about a third of the way through, I couldn’t stop eating it until there was none left. I decided that night that I would never eat sweets again—or anything with processed sugar if I could avoid it. Then I decided I could have sugar once a year-on my birthday. To me, the idea of eating a few M&M’s and then stopping is impossible. It is FAR easier to eat no sweets, rather than sweets in moderation. The hardest day of the year to continue this is the day after my birthday. I wake up wanting M&M’s. The rest of the year it’s easy. I don’t crave sweets or feel I’m missing out. Zero is easier then some.”

For most people, cutting out sugar completely is not the answer because it is very hard to do. Added sugar is in everything. But the facts are there—Americans eat too much sugar, and diabetes and obesity are on the rise. What is one to do?

From scientific and anecdotal evidence, it is clear that sugar is addictive and unhealthy in excess. So why isn’t the government doing anything about it? This question leads us to examine the role of government as a whole. In fact, according to Albritton, the sugar industry has an enormous impact on legislation passed by congress. He mentions the 2003 instance where the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) proposed that “added sugars should not exceed 10 percent of daily calorie intake.” However, “this was too much for the US sugar industry to swallow, and they threatened to lobby congress to cut off its $400,000 annual funding of the WHO and FAO if they did not remove the offending norm from their report” (Albritton, 345). And in fact, the UN did remove the guideline. This one example highlights a larger problem – the sugar industry is massive and can control parts of the government. Since the government currently is unable to provide solutions to the “obesity pandemic,” I believe that the next best thing is to educate children about what they are eating and try and provide affordable healthy options. This idea is obviously a much more complex problem, and requires much more thought and analysis than this one blog post. However, one potential solution for excessive sugar intake is sugar substitutes.


As a sort of experiment within my tasting, I included a sample that was sweetened with Stevia rather than sugar. Stevia is a plant-based zero-calorie sweetener. Stevia, like other

The Stevia plant that the sweetener is derived from.

artificial sweeteners, is between 100 and 300 times sweeter than sugar (Stevia, 2017). Sample 3, containing 55% Cacao and no sugar was ranked 3rd overall in the results. Many of the comments about Sample 3 included some variation of “simple.” After trying it myself, I must agree that the flavor is not very nuanced – once on your tongue there is no evolution. However, not one person questioned the contents of this bar or noted that it tasted fake, a common criticism of artificial sweeteners. According to the testers, this chocolate fit in with the others, and during the taste test, none of them knew it was sweetened with Stevia. While scientists and nutritionists debate the merits and side effects of artificial sweeteners, this Stevia sweetened chocolate bar appears to be an alternative for a person trying to limit sugar intake. Artificial sweeteners do not address the larger problems with the sugar industry. However, this experiment has shown that there are other options for those trying to eat less “real” sugar, and they taste pretty good too! One other caveat is the price point of this chocolate bar—At Whole Foods it cost $4.89, compared to a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar that costs $0.98 at Walmart, so these alternatives are not accessible to everyone.



After analyzing the comments, I believe that sugar and sweetness was not the only reason Chocolove was ranked the highest.

David Benton in The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving posits that chocolate cravings come from the “sensory experience associated with eating chocolate, rather than pharmacological constituents” (Benton, 214).

According to Benton, the optimal combination of sugar and fat for palatability “was found to be 7.6% sugar with cream containing 24.7% fat” (Benton, 214). Chocolate contains way more than the “optimal” amount of sugar for taste, however, more sugar is needed “to counteract the bitterness of chocolate.”

Therefore, milk chocolate has “the optimal combination of sweetness and fat.”

Benton also refers to “the melting of chocolate just below body temperature with the resulting mouth-feel,” which adds to the “hedonic experience” and thus the pleasure of eating chocolate. The comments about Sample 2, the Chocolove bar are consistent with this data—this winning chocolate was mostly referenced as creamy, with a note about “melts in mouth.” In direct opposition with those comments, the highest cacao content bar (Sample 6) had notes about its texture too. Many listed it is “chalky.” To me, it is grainy. Chalky and grainy are the opposite of smooth and melty, so perhaps this texture contributed to people’s not liking it.


Overall, this tasting resulted in new ideas and affirmed old ones.

Some other details of this not-so-scientific study may be important to note. My taste testers were all in between the ages of 18 and 20 and all grew up consuming American chocolate. I expect the results might have changed with people from other countries.

If I were just focusing on cacao content, it would have been more effective to use different bars from the same brand. However, I wanted to look at other aspects of chocolate, like stevia as a sweetener and texture, which was why I used a variety of brands. In fact, subjects commented on the terroir of the chocolate without even realizing. Sample 3 and Sample 5 both had comments about flavors that were not listed in the ingredients, illustrated how flavor can be affected by many different things. In Sample 3, three people noted a “coconut” flavor that does not appear in the ingredients. For Sample 5, four people tasted fruity or citrusy notes Even those untrained in chocolate could pick up different notes in different bars of chocolates.

Finally, although some comments mentioned aftertaste, I did not instruct the testers to think about it or aroma. I should have, as they contribute to the overall experience of chocolate.

The testing and subsequent conversations with friends revealed the way chocolate and sugar fit into our lives. In today’s society, we crave sugar, and this study showed that chocolates containing more sugar were perceived as “better” than those containing very little.

The leftovers from the tasting further illustrate the preference for milk chocolate. In the tasting, most people did not finish the full piece of Sample 5 or 6. After the tasting was finished, I offered the leftover samples to everyone, and Samples 1, 2 and 3 were gone almost immediately. Even though Hershey’s chocolate ranked lower on the scale, people ate more of it. Based off of this tasting and conversations with friends and family, Chocolate is hard to resist and even harder to stop eating once we start. The results reflect America’s obsession with sugar by the less distinctive higher fat/sugar chocolate being ranked higher.

Benton argues that addiction may not be the correct word in the context of chocolate “Most people eat chocolate on a regular basis without any signs of its getting out of control, without signs of tolerance or dependence” (Benton, 215). Yet, from my personal experience and that of my friends, many of us do have a problem with chocolate eating getting out of control. I asked my sister what happens when she eats chocolate.

“If it’s in front of me, especially when I have no energy to control myself, I just eat it all. I can’t eat just some,” she said. My twin brother said the same: “For me, sugar is addictive in the very short term; once I start eating I can’t stop.”

Even babies love chocolate!

A friend from the tasting talked about the same thing. “Usually I eat more than I planned to,” my friend Simone said. For some, dark chocolate can circumvent this overeating issue. My friend Rachel said about chocolate: “I love chocolate. But if it’s super rich. I love it for a bit and then I’m done.”

Overall, the testing showed that most people prefer milk chocolate and chocolate containing more sugar over very dark chocolate, highlighting issues with the sugar industry.



Albritton, Robert. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” Food and Culture. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. 342-51. Print.

Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2004. 205-19. Print.

“Comprehensive Online Resource for Articles, Recipes & News.” Stevia.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.

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

Stuckey, Bark. Taste What You’re Missing: the Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Food Tastes Good. New York: Free Press, 2012. Print.

Image sources:

Image 1: My photography

Image 2:  Wikipedia. Hershey bar wrapper image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hershey_bar.

Image 3:  Jet.Chocolove XOXOX Milk bar. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. jet.com/product/Chocolove-XOXO-Milk-Chocolate-Bar-32-oz/dfd113b9fd134cca9e6a2c1c4d7f187f.

Image 4:  Lily’s Sweets. Lily’s Dark Chocolate Bar Wrapper. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://lilyssweets.com/dark-chocolate-bars/

Image 5:  Amazon. Raaka Smoked Chai Bar. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://www.amazon.com/Raaka-Smoked-Chai-Cacao-Chocolate/dp/B00QOU89I0

Image 6:  Green And Black. Organic 85% Cacao Bar Wrapper.Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://us.greenandblacks.com/organic-85-dark-cacao-bar.html

Image 7: Taza Chocolate. Wicked Dark Chocolate Wrapper. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://www.tazachocolate.com/products/wicked-dark

Image 8: Supercarwaar. Hershey World Outside.Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHershey’s_Chocolate_World.jpg

Image 9:Robert Lynch. Stevia Plant Leaf. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://pixabay.com/en/stevia-leaf-sugar-plant-sweetness-74187/

Image 10:  Maurajbo. Baby Wit Chocolate on Face. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:10_month_old_baby_eating_chocolate.jpg



A Pretense of Ethics: Slavery in Cocoa and Sugar Production

While slavery has technically been abolished in much of the world since the end of the 19th century, that does not prevent it from still occurring. Specifically, the chocolate and sugar production industries are notorious for slavery and poor labor conditions in the production of their products. Tactics were used by various chocolate and sugar producers to distance themselves from slavery while still supporting the system. The companies and its leadership would appear to be anti-slavery and pro-livable working conditions, however, those same companies used slaves in their production chains or ignored the use of slavery elsewhere. This allowed the companies to continue to use free and cheap labor to increase their profit while maintaining a positive public image.

The major concerns of all companies are profit and public image. Profit keeps the business afloat and successful. Public image ensures that consumers will continue to buy the company’s product, further helping their profit. These aspects take precedence over ethical dilemmas that companies may face even if the leadership of that company might strongly believe in resolving the ethical dilemma. A prime example of this is how the Cadbury company handled allegations that slavery existed in São Tomé and Príncipe, where they purchased over 45% of their cocoa for chocolate production (Satre 18).

The Cadbury family was known not only for being liberal and progressive but also decidedly anti-slavery. George Cadbury, the chairman, was a Quaker with many humanitarian and abolitionist friends, a member of the Anti-Slavery Society and the owner of the Daily News (London), which he used as a platform for the Liberal Party to advance its agenda that included abolition (Satre 16, 21). Cadbury even has a blue plaque publicly displayed in the United Kingdom professing his dedication to philanthropy, suggesting that he had an ethical and moral compass.

Blue Plaque to George Cadbury in England (Wikipedia Commons)

William Cadbury, another member of the company, when dealing with the issue of slavery in São Tomé and Príncipe constantly expressed interest in stopping it. In June 1902, he wrote, in reference to the Angola slave trade “I am willing to help any organised plan that your Society may suggest for the definite purpose of putting a stop to the slave trade of this district,” (Satre 22) clearly showing his support for ending the slave trade. However, all this talk of support was met with very little action that benefited the enslaved community in São Tomé and Príncipe that produced nearly a majority of the cacao purchased by the Cadbury company. It was not until seven years after Cadbury received the initial reports of slavery that their own commissioned report on the problem was hesitantly released (Satre 32).

The image of morality extended to the company itself. Scholar Charles Dellheim discusses the company culture of Cadbury and throughout the beginning, he attests to the ethical values held by Cadbury. The first things he says about Cadbury is “The Quaker beliefs of the Cadbury family shaped the ethic of the firm” and “The Cadburys practiced benevolence” (Dellheim 14). The fact that he opened with this praise of Cadbury ethics shows that the public image of Cadbury as an ethical company was strong and prominent. And they still had yet to actually stop purchasing cacao from plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe where slavery was present.

This disconnect between their talk and action was largely driven by Cadbury’s desire to increase profits and maintain a positive public image. William Cadbury, who was known to be liberal and anti-slavery, explained that the slavery he faced with his company now appeared different to him. He “admitted that one ‘looks at these matters in a different light when it affects one’s own interests’” (Satre 19) and he displayed this inability to see the issue of slavery as the same because it affected his own interests when he explained that Cadbury “should all like to clear our hands of any responsibility for slave traffic in any form” (qtd in Satre 19). This approach to slavery is very different from what he portrayed before about putting an end to the slave trade. Here, he wants to dissolve any responsibility that he or the company has with the existence of slavery, but it does not necessarily follow that slavery must be abolished for this to happen. In fact, when they eventually boycotted cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe, slavery was not eradicated, instead, they were no longer responsible and another chocolate company took their spot in purchasing cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe.

Despite the Cadbury’s professed commitment to abolition, they still allowed slavery to continue in São Tomé and Príncipe because ending it would “affect [their] own interests,” meaning the profit of their country. It would be costly to try to move production elsewhere and additionally pay more to purchase the new cacao because the laborers would actually be paid wages. Even Cadbury said, as paraphrased by Sir Martin Gosselin, that “this might mean paying a somewhat higher price at first; but they were ready to make this sacrifice, if by so doing they could put a stop to a disguised slave Trade” (Satre 24). Unfortunately, if this were truly the case, Cadbury would have worked to end the slave trade in São Tomé and Príncipe rather than just leave the region, still open to slavery, because they started to get pressure from their consumers.

Through all of this, Cadbury was additionally protecting their public image. While publicly they seemed to be anti-slavery, it is clear that their actions did not reflect that. However, they continued to push the image that they were moral, ethical and fair. Cadbury had several ads claiming that they chocolate was “pure”. Once such ad is shown below. While pure probably literally meant that there were physically no additives that might contaminate the chocolate, the word choice connotes a sort of innocence. Purity is associated with something clean, moral and without scandal.

Cadbury Advertisement in 1900 (The Advertising Archives)

Even in the report, they had commissioned on the working conditions in São Tomé and Príncipe, they sugar-coated the issue. There was an initial report that was revised to be less offensive to the Portuguese government and Higgs describes the difference in Chocolate Islands saying “The most striking difference between the two reports was the careful language in the 1907 version. As Burtt acknowledged, great care was taken to avoid ‘referring to the serviçaes as slaves or to the serviçal system as slavery, because, approaching the matter as I did with an open mind, I have wished to avoid question-begging epithets”(Higgs 136). Intuitively it would follow that Cadbury would look to end slavery in order to preserve their public image. However, their public image did not depend on whether slavery exists, it depended on whether they were tied to the slavery that exists, or as Cadbury put it, they were responsible for the slavery. Instead of actually working to end slavery, Cadbury looked to distance itself from the slavery that existed in their supply chain. This meant that they moved their production elsewhere, but did not ensure that slavery actually ended. As a result, the slavery continued even after they stopped purchasing from São Tomé and Príncipe.

In the following podcast, the story of William Cooper is explored. William Cooper was similarly anti-slavery and even started his own sugar production company that did not use slave labor. However, he owned slaves himself. Again, there is a contradiction between what is ultimately done versus the principles he held.

Ultimately, the motivations of profit and public image drive companies to do things that may not seem to fit with what they believe ethically. This creates a huge gap in justice and equality in production. It also allows the companies to feign ethics and morality without actually acting in defense of those things.


Works Cited

Cadbury. Cadbury magazine advertisement. The Advertising Archives. 1900,



Catherine Higgs. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press,

2012, Athens, Ohio. 136.

Charles Dellheim. “The Creation of a Company Culture: Cadburys, 1861-1931.” The

             American Historical Review, vol. 92, no. 1, February 1997, pp. 13-44.

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

University Press, 2005, Athens, Ohio. 16-32.

Oosoom. Blue plaque to George Cadbury at 32 George Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham,

England. Wikimedia Commons. April 7, 2007,

2007, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blue_plaque_George_Cadbury.jpg.

“Sweet Talk: A History of Sugar.” From BackStory, 7 February

2014, http://backstoryradio.org/shows/sweet-talk.



Churning into the “Chocolate Age:” How Industrial Age Technologies Created a New Chocolate Era

You may be surprised to find out that the chocolate that we know today is a relatively new, tasty discovery- one that came about from the Industrial Age.

When the Industrial Revolution took place, the world revolutionized with it, and industries of all kinds were forever altered. The chocolate industry, still in the Mayan age, sprouted into a new field and its effects can still be traced today. The technology in the Industrial Revolution provided the tools to advance the field of chocolate, which allowed for mass consumption and commercialization, giving way to the “Chocolate Age.”

Chocolate’s “God-Like” Beginnings

Cacao was considered the “food of the gods,” and was treated as such: before the Industrial Age, chocolate was made the traditional way that the Mayans made it with a long, drawn-out process of cracking shells and traditional grinding to create a bitter chocolate drink (unlike the chocolate of today) (Szogyi, 1997).


Modern Mayan woman demonstrating how her ancestors

would grind cacao (Smithsonian)

This treat was considered to be a drink that was both a commodity and spiritual experience; although it was available to the masses, the wealthy certainly had more access to the treat because they could afford it. Cacao was taken as such a serious product that the Mayans used its seeds as currency; further, it was used to promote fertility and life, and cacao pods are found all over elite and ancient artifacts, temples, and palaces. Clearly, these uses and techniques demonstrate how luxurious chocolate was to them; these processes stayed this way even during the era of the Aztec empire and many centuries later (Horn, 2016 & Szogyi).

The Industrial Difference

This process of chocolate was so revered that it essentially did not change until the Industrial Age with a ground-breaking invention for grinding that used the newly-innovated steam and hydraulic process; in 1778, Doret, a Frenchman, invented a hydraulic machine that grinds cocoa beans into a paste (Beckett, Horn). Before then, the process of grinding was long and tedious and this machine allowed the process to become easier to create for the masses. Soon after, more inventions came along for grinding that further made consumption more popular. For instance, Dubuisson invented a steam chocolate grinder in France because it was even cheaper to replicate than Doret’s product, which allowed for an even higher level of mass consumption of chocolate. The Industrial Age created the environment to allow for this change – without steam and hydraulics, and the friendly and booming business atmosphere for support, Doret and Dubuisson would certainly not have been able to create these inventions. Where would be chocolate be today? One could reasonably predict that we could have eventually have had these technologies, but it is safe to assume that it would have taken the chocolate industry much longer to reach its glory.

The steam engine and hydraulic system are considered staples of this Industrial Age with new technologies across the boards for trains, factories, and buildings, but we can also appreciate how these technologies allowed for the advancement of chocolate technology. The value of chocolate significantly decreased because it was accessible to everyone; from here on, it was no longer an “elite” product or just a “food of the gods,” but, rather, a food for everyone. Thus, the Industrial Age that changed the world on so many fronts quickly churned into the “Chocolate Age” as well.

The idea of the mass consumption of chocolate from the Industrial Age can be traced along the later part of the history of chocolate. Quickly after the revelation with the cocoa beans came a new way to make chocolate an even more accessible product with commercialization – via “dutching” (Squiciarinni & Swinnen, 2016). In 1828, Van Houten, a Dutch chemist, invented a method to press cocoa by separating the cocoa butter by pressing it with alkali, making the matter soften up enough to produce cocoa powder, which was light and fluffy; unlike the current chocolate of that time, dutching made chocolate highly digestible, which would attract new consumers and open up a whole new market for chocolate – just like these technologies helped do so in other industries such as the construction field (i.e. making materials more affordable and attractive for building).

Van Houten’s cocoa press (World Standards)



Additionally, cocoa powder was the secret ingredient needed for the chocolate industry and companies to seamlessly make solid chocolate bars and coat them as well as bring in new flavors such as white chocolate. From there, a second wave of the Chocolate Age had been set and was about to take place.


A Second Wave of the Age – Mass Commercialization and the Chocolate Bar

With the mass consumption of chocolate from these new Industrial technologies came mass commercialization. Quite simply, we can see that chocolate companies would not be what they are today without this commercial influence; specifically, the dutching process sparked a spread of commercialization across Europe, which allowed for the worldwide chocolate industry we have come to know and love. For example, Cadbury, one of the largest chocolate companies today, and Joseph Fry (founder of what is known as Mondolez International today) bought the dutching press; these two companies are credited to be the first companies to create and sell the chocolate bar. They also made the chocolate bar a highly accessible treat with aggressive advertising; this marketing scheme raked in millions of dollars for these companies (Beckett, Horn). It was the catalyst behind the beginning of giant factories built to keep up with this demand.

Thus, the chocolate bar became (and still is) a symbol for a quick, delicious treat for everyone and anyone.


Fry’s chocolate bar packaging (Foods of England)

Moreover, the dutching system then inspired the chocolate exportation business that brought chocolate on to an international stage – a few decades after the start of the chocolate bar, the Van Houten presses became powered by steam engines, and, just like with the Dubuisson’s steam engine, came with another Chocolate Revolution. The mass consumption and commercialization of chocolate began in European countries such as Germany and France, which eventually led its way to the United States (Beckett, Szogyi). These countries then started their own chocolate giants such as Hershey’s and Nestlé, which embody the same mass consumption and commercialization ideals that have advanced the history of chocolate along and allowed it to further churn.

Without the Industrial age, chocolate would just not be the same. It is literally unrecognizable from its Olmec and Mayan roots. From the Industrial Age, the Chocolate Age churned on and on – all starting with the advancements in steam and hydraulics.



Beckett, S.T, et al. Industrial Chocolate – Manufacture and Use. Wiley Publishers: Hoboken.

Horn, Jeff. The Industrial Revolution: History, Documents, and Key Questions. (2016). ABC-CLIO: Santa Barbara.

Squicciarini, Mara P & Swinnen, Johan. (2016). The Economics of Chocolate. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Smithsonian. Retrieved from http://newsdesk.si.edu/releases/power-chocolate-reveals-true-roots-celebrated-food

Szogyi, Alex. (1997). Chocolate: Food of the Gods. Greenwood Publishing Group: Westport.

The Foods of England. Retrieved from http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/chocolate.htm

World Standards. Retrieved from http://www.worldstandards.eu/chocolate%20-%20history.html