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An Examination of Unethical Practices in the Cocoa Industry

An Examination of Unethical Practices in the Cocoa Industry

(Food Empowerment Project)

Introduction

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

Background

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

 (International Labor Rights Forum)

Chocolate Companies’ Role

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

(Bellon, 2018)

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

Causes

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

Solutions

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

Conclusion

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

References

Media Citations

  • International Labor Rights Forum, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Cocoa’s Sordid Past and Contribution to the Slave Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sampling of Collective Industry Efforts – Programs and Reporting

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

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

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

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

Sampling of Individual Company Efforts – Programs and Reporting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In practice, the following are evident:

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

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


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

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

Cocoa production and trade in Ivory Coast: Comparative advantage, Colonialism and Post-colonial ethnic conflicts.

Introduction

The history of cocoa in West Africa goes back to late 1800’S where it was grown in the  Western parts of the Ivory Coast, close to Liberia, but it did not capture the attention of colonists until two decades later.(1) One of the many colonial legacies is that a lot of African countries inherited economies that relied heavily on the exportation of one commodity. Ivory Coast, for example, has become the leading producer of cocoa and it accounts for more than 15% of its GDP. While this is not necessarily a negative thing in itself, such a narrow economic base places the country at risk of volatile world prices and spillover effects from foreign markets that linked to cocoa. In article featured in Africa Business, early March 2019, the author notes that “between September 2016 and February 2017, the cocoa Barometer for 2018 reported that the global market price declined steeply, with a tonne of cocoa…declining from $3000 to $1900.”(2) This was a result of many factors including the lack of domestic infrastructure to store cocoa beans in season of high yield and less demand. This results in pressure to sell all the beans from one season before they go bad and the farmers have to throw them away.(2) Expectedly, farmers and labor workers who work in this industry were hit the hardest and the Ivory Coast lost about $1billion.

The story of cocoa production is very much an individual story as it is a national one. Source: MGgill Journal of Political Studies

Following this crisis, the government of Ivory Coast has been working with the African Development bank to “rehabilitate the industry with new programs and schemes to attract more young people into the industry.” (3) They are also focusing on creating more domestic chocolate processing factories to capitalize on their raw materials and capture more value from the production of cocoa.(3) However, this cocoa industry, like the agriculture industry in general, is still a risky business and can easily crumble down in times of floods, pest epidemics and other natural disasters. In this essay, I discuss the colonial origins that have shaped the current cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast, their influence on the ongoing conflicts over cocoa related resources, and finally the need for Ivory Coast to diversify their economy to avoid the brutal effects of trade imbalances that may arise and exacerbate the conflicts.

Colonial roots of cocoa production in West Africa.

The colonial rule in most African countries not only shaped the economic evolution of many African states but also the political and the social. In order to understand this, it is important to understand the framework of institutions and how colonial rule helped shape the subsequent nature and shape that African institutions took in the postcolonial era. In their paper on institutions, “Understanding Institutions”, Acemoglu and Robinson argue that institutions- in other words how society is organized and functions- affect the economic performance of a country and account for the varying success in the performance of African countries post-colonialism. They find a strong correlation between extractive institutions and poor economic performance over a certain period of time. While there are some endogenous weaknesses in this analysis, it provides us the framework we need to understand the colonial effects of French rule in the Ivory Coast and how the cocoa industry became a battleground for elite ethnic groups.(4)

For the Ivory Coast, French colonial rule influenced how labor and land policies evolved over time- through both what it did and what it did not do. Firstly, because the country was sparsely populated, European settlers maintained strict laws on labor distribution through a quota system that prohibited African farmers from hiring labor until white farmers had their adequate supply of labor.(5) After the second world war, labor became increasingly scarce and many local farmers rallied against forced labor laws which led to “the cocoa boom of the 1950’s.”(5)  However, this also meant that demand for land increased dramatically as both locals and migrants scrambled to take part in the booming industry of cocoa production. Secondly, the colonial legacy of taking land without formal political and legal processes has fueled the culture of entitlement for most ethnic groups. In her paper on, “Neocolonialism or Balanced Partnership? Reframing Agricultural Relation Between the EU and Africa”, Ioana Lungu discusses the influence of colonial history in perpetuating the culture of land grabbing within a modern context. She argues that “land grabbing can be understood as a crisis of neoliberalism intersecting with neoliberal development narratives…” (6)

To reframe this within the Ivorian context, by claiming land without any institutional accountability, colonists set a foundation for future conflicts over land redistribution. As Dwayne Woods, an associate professor of political science, notes “generous concessions of land from forest reserves were authorised”. (5) To summarize, while the French had a legal framework for the distribution of labor from which Ivorians could build their own, there was none for land. A clear example of poor institutions is the absence of solid property rights that leave the elite in charge of redistribution. Thus, setting in motion the trend that would ultimately lead to extreme violence between tribes when these resources were no longer enough.The increasing costs of forest rent have become a major factor in the ethnic conflicts that are tearing apart the once socially and politically state of Ivory Coast. Forest rent is defined as the difference between “the cost of producing a kilogram of coca after clearing forest land and the cost of producing a kilogram of cocoa upon replanting.”(5)

This increase is as a result of multiple factors including the rise of land and labor costs over time as demand for arable land became higher. This also stems from the increasing marginal costs associated with re-planting cacao trees which was not there at the pioneer front- “sporadic development of unexploited tropical forest lands to plant cocoa trees”.(5) These marginal costs result from the increasing need for fertilizers, labor and better seeds to maintain the same level of production once the soil starts losing its original richness. With all these moving pieces, farmers become anxious to acquire more tropical forestland and the “cost of reclaiming land with violence is less than trying to mobilise the increased labour and capital costs to maintain the forest rent.” (5) However, one can argue that this aggressive demand for land is tied to the narrow economic base that the Ivory Coast, like many other African countries, inherited from their colonial histories. These populations have limited options for economic activities and continue to fight each other over the “most profitable” economic activity available to them- cocoa production.

Ethnic conflicts continue to increase within the region and cocoa seems to be at the center of this battle.

Economic development through Trade

This is going to become an even bigger problem as environmental groups push for less deforestation- that happens when farmers clear the forest in order to plant cocoa trees(7)- and land share becomes smaller for the demands rising population. Pests and diseases, old age cocoa farms and lack of soil nutrients have also contributed to the continuous decline of productivity and farms might not be able to meet the global demand for cocoa.(8) This would have larger implications if major buyers had to shift to other countries to acquire their supply demands. Yet, cocoa production still remains a major contributor to economic growth and urbanization in Ivory Coast. The question thus arises on whether Ivory Coast should invest in diversifying its economy away from the cocoa industry or if it should focus on creating interventions that increase productivity in the cocoa sector. There are various implications of either choice. As the lead producer of cocoa in the world, the Ivory Coast has gain tremendous economic profits from trading on the world market. These developments have gone beyond trading and had spillover effects in the rest of the economy resulting in urbanization and other economic development improvements.  

Fast growing economy over the last few years but declining over time.
Source: April, 2017 IMF outlooks

According to researcher Remi Jedwab, in his paper on, “Why is African Urbanization Different? Evidence from Resource Exports in Ghana and Ivory Coast”, argues that cocoa booms have led to city booms and consequently economic growth. He disputes the idea that structural transformations such as the green economy and the industrial revolution that accounted for the development of cities through their effect on labor mobility in the West apply in the African context. He then proceeds to argue that, for countries like the Ivory Coast, urbanization trajectory has been closely interconnected with that of cocoa production.(7) He notes that cocoa production, like urban growth, started in the East of the country and moved towards the West, but cities in the East did not collapse as more cities were formed in the West. He found that about 80% urban growth in the Ivory Coast happened in areas suitable for cocoa production and traces the trajectory as it moved East to West. That being said, it is important to maintain that correlation is not necessary causation. This urbanization could be a result of infrastructural investment and labor migration to areas of cocoa production due to its central place in the general economy. If most jobs are generated within the Agriculture sector, and more precisely cocoa production, then more people will follow wherever the industry seems to be heading.

Yet, we have seen that Ivory Coast is moving towards industrialization. The government is investing increasing both yield per ha and factories that manufacture various cocoa products. This means capturing as much value from the supply chain as possible through creating a range of factories from grinding entities to chocolate-making companies.(9) It is working towards expanding the secondary market that processes products from cocoa to reduce tensions surrounding land acquisition. This is also an attempt to create a market for their surplus and address the issue of declining cocoa prices that has resulted from a supply surplus and “substantial reserve held by consuming countries”.(9) The latter is another consideration for the Ivory Coast when evaluating its position in the world market as a country with the highest comparative advantage in cocoa production. As noted by the OECD, in a report on cocoa production by the Ivory Coast, developed countries took advantage of falling prices to store reserves and thus changing the trading landscape. Ivory Coast, and other African producers of cocoa, remain price takers because of low investment in reserves and the lack of regulation policies that protect local farmers. The result of a limited market creates tensions in which the elites struggle to accumulate all profits from cocoa along ethnic and tribal lines. This leaves farmers insecure about the safety and sustainability of their businesses and in turn affects their production capacity as well as their livelihood.

Conclusive remarks

So far, we have studied two difficult problems. On one hand, the comparative advantage that Ivory Coast has in cocoa production has not realized its full potential due to lack or limited complimentary infrastructure and policy framework to protect farmers and the economy in general. This lack of policy framework and infrastructure is a result of a combination of factors including the legacy of colonial institutions, poor leadership, and ethnic diversity along economic lines. On the other hand, we have seen an opportunity within this problem. The possibilities to diversify within the cocoa producing sectors by creating secondary markets through which the now majority youth working in the cocoa sector can transfer. I also discussed, briefly, the need for diversification to other sectors and other exports that do not rely on acquisition of big lands and that doesn’t require high labor demands. Alternatively, the Ivory Coast can consider investing in mechanized systems of cocoa production along with new education practices that allow the current labor surplus to transition in other sectors. Additionally, the new trade agreement among African countries to open borders- remove tariffs, allow labor mobility might help address this issue in the long run as more people have the choice of immigrating to other countries where they can contribute. That being said, this cannot solved without a political commitment by the government to address these challenges without partiality and with accountability.

References1

1.Oecd.org. Retrieved 3 May 2019, from https://www.oecd.org/swac/publications/39596493.pdf

2. Adding value is way forward for cocoa producers – African Business Magazine. (2019). African Business Magazine. Retrieved 3 May 2019, from https://africanbusinessmagazine.com/sectors/agriculture/adding-value-is-way-forward-for-cocoa-producers/

3. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire seek $1.2bn loan to revitalize cocoa industries. (2018). confectionerynews.com. Retrieved 3 May 2019, from https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2018/08/09/Ghana-and-Cote-d-Ivoire-seek-1.2bn-loan-to-revitalize-cocoa-industries

4.(2019). Economics.mit.edu. Retrieved 3 May 2019, from https://economics.mit.edu/files/1353

5. Woods, D. (2003, December 23). The tragedy of the cocoa pod: Rent-seeking, land and ethnic conflict in Ivory Coast | The Journal of Modern African Studies. Retrieved from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies/article/tragedy-of-the-cocoa-pod-rentseeking-land-and-ethnic-conflict-in-ivory-coast/0BC296AE5413C02D81255DF2FE1356A7

6. Lungu, & Ioana. (2017, December 01). Neocolonialism or Balanced Partnership? Reframing Agricultural Relations Between the EU and Africa. Retrieved from https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/83112/

7.(PDF) Why Is African Urbanization Different? Evidence from … (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267386204_Why_Is_African_Urbanization_Different_Evidence_from_Resource_Exports_in_Ghana_and_Ivory_Coast

Then and Now: Exploitation in Cacao Production and Chocolate Advertising

Brenden Rodriquez

The exploitation of people of color in the chocolate industry is almost as old as chocolate itself. Ever since Europeans utilized native peoples in Mesoamerica and later enslaved Africans to produce cacao, there has existed an inherent link between race and chocolate, a relationship not only seen in the production of chocolate but also in chocolate advertising. Just as Black individuals were and are utilized for their physical labor, they were and are being exploited for advertising.

The consumption of cacao dates back to the Mayan and Aztec societies of Mesoamerica. When settlers came to the Americas, exploitation and forced labor came with them. The Spanish introduced the encomienda system in which Spanish settlers were supposed to protect and care for native peoples in return for voluntary labor when in reality the settlers seized lands and forced natives into pseudo-slavery working long hours without pay resulting in the deaths of many. Though cacao had been introduced to and was being brought back to Europe, it was primarily used for medicinal purposes until sugar began being added to cacao which made it more palatable for Europeans. Emma Robertson, a professor and scholar at La Trobe University, states that “this was ‘thanks to the emergent slave-based sugar cane economy of the Americas’. The story of chocolate subsequently becomes increasingly intertwined with that of European imperial politics…Chocolate thus first gained meaning in England as a product of imperialism” (Robertson 67). As time went on—around 1900—some cacao production shifted from the West Indies to West Africa, particularly in São Tomé. The Cadbury company became a center of attention for its labor practices and accusations that it utilized slavery in São Tomé during this period. William Cadbury responded to these claims by stating, “I do feel that there is a vast difference between the cultivation of cocoa and cold or diamond mining, and I should be sorry needlessly to injure a cultivation that as far as I can judge provides labour of the very best kind to be found in the tropics: at the same time we should all like to clear our hands of any responsibility for slave traffic in any form” (Satre 19), though he refused to reveal a bill of sale for the plantation as it “specifically identified human beings as property” (Satre 19). This is an example of chocolate companies blatantly and knowingly minimizing the perceived severity of their production practices and exploitation.

The exploitation of Black individuals goes well beyond just labor practices. As Robertson explains, “The use of black people in advertising has a long history. As Jan Pieterse demonstrates, products made available through the use of slave labour, such as coffee and cocoa, often used, and many still use, images of black people to enhance their luxury status” (Robertson 36).

The exploitation of Black people did not stop with cacao production. The image above is an advertisement for Rowntree, an early 20th century power-house chocolate and sweets corporation that still exists today and has developed the Kit Kat among other recognizable treats. It depicts a young Black girl named Honeycomb using broken and stereotypically Black verbiage to convey the benefits of her Rowntree beverage. It is one of many chocolate advertisements to utilize a caricatured Black subject to sell a product. On using Honeycomb specifically for a powdered cacao beverage, Robertson states, “Though processed by western industry, cocoa powder is closest to the ‘raw’, colonial material. The two Rowntree characters only exist through their relation to the cocoa, effectively disempowering them. There is no recognition of the actual connections between the commodity and the labour of black people in the colonies” (Robertson 42). Thus, not only does the Rowntree company exploit and make a caricature of the idea of blackness, they either intentionally or unintentionally, directly linked their advertisements and the subject therein to slavery.

In a similar vein, above is the advertisement used for Banania, a French chocolate drink, from 1915. It depicts a Senegalese infantry soldier with a red fez, a uniform item worn by Senegalese soldiers. This advertisement presents a caricature of this man by depicting him with a stereotypically large smile as well as the slogan for the product “y’a bon” (translating to “it’s good”) which is derived from the pidgin French commonly spoken by these Senegalese solders. The popularity of the product cemented the character with the slogan, making the Black man portrayed on the ad and packaging and this lower form of language inseparable.

Finally, the above video is an advertisement for the Spanish chocolate, Conguitos. This commercial goes even farther to portray Black individuals as “the other.” Whereas the Rowntree and Banania advertisements both push racial and colonial traits and themes on the subjects of their ads, this commercial depicts the subjects as extremely stereotyped natives, completely naked, living in small straw huts, and carrying spears. The music in the background aids in this stereotyping, a light flute and tribal-sounding drum. In the final scene of the commercial, the animated character rolls uncontrollably and the video fades into the character essentially being turned into a ball of chocolate which is then consumed by a white actress. This is concerning on a number of levels. This aspect of the advertisement effectively conveys that the people of color in their eyes are consumable and expendable at the hands of a white individual, a clear similarity to the treatment of Black slaves and laborers in cacao producing regions. Overall, these advertisements speak volumes for the influence that the chocolate labor practices and production had on advertising and how much the colonial mindset permeated every level of the chocolate industry.

Looking toward the modern-day chocolate industry, in terms of production and cultivation, much has changed and yet much has stayed the same. Today, a majority of the world’s cacao comes from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Though the methods and aspects of production may have changed—for instance, instead of massive plantations owned by large corporations and companies, today a vast majority of cacao is produced by smallholder farmers on relatively small plantations—the exploitation of African peoples for labor and production of cacao seems to be a constant in the chocolate industry. The same way companies utilized slavery and pseudo-slavery in centuries past, even in the cacao industry of today’s day and age, companies have established a form of pseudo-slavery by offering the lowest prices possible for beans and creating a cycle of debt or living for growers.

After a series of small wars and conflicts around the turn of the century, some of which had to do with conflict over coveted cocoa groves, Côte d’Ivoire was in shambles. Carol Off, a Canadian journalist and author, states, “By the end of the millennium, Côte d’Ivoire was one of the most indebted nations on earth, even as it supplied almost half of the world’s cocoa to the multi-billion-dollar industry and helped to satisfy the world’s addiction to chocolate” (Off 118). This situation of debt and vulnerability resulted in mass corruption and exploitation of labor, essentially slavery. Cacao growers had no other choice. Due to the fact that cacao is a tricky crop to grow and harvest, only being able to do so by hand for the most part, the amount able to be produced per unit area tends to be very low. This dilemma is exacerbated due to the smaller cacao farms of today. Órla Ryan, an author for the Financial Times, a publication in London, explains, “On most the production per hectare is either low or very low. In many cases, yields have been stagnant for some time. Roughly one-third of farms yield as little as 137.5 kg per hectare. What this means is that the poorest farmers can make just $500 a year, an income which makes it impossible to do little more than survive” (Ryan 59-60). When looking at the differences between slavery and this modern system of cacao production, there is an obvious difference in that today the growers are getting paid an actual wage, but looking realistically, $500 is not an income that can sustain a healthy life for one person let alone families in which the farmer making the $500 is the primary income source. Thus, farmers must look for options to solve their situations since most cannot afford to hire laborers which usually comes in the form of using their own families to work on the farm, which includes their children.

Having children work is a slippery slope as there are many instances in which it is completely fine and others where it is not. Ryan describes how the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) standards for what constitutes the worst forms of child labor is contextualized in the chocolate industry: “‘work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carrier out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.’ On the cocoa plantation; this is generally defined to include work which involves dangerous machinery, equipment or tools, the handling of heavy loads and exposure to pesticides or chemicals” (Ryan 47-48). Child labor offers just another area of exploitation in the cacao production process. In many cases, child trafficking also plays a role as children are brought to plantations and intimidated out of reaching out to authorities (Ryan). Off describes the story and mission of Abdoulaye Macko, a man who took it upon himself to liberate conscripted child workers from the cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire. “The farmers, or their supervisors, were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders, some as a result of carrying the heavy bags of cocoa, but some likely the effects of physical abuse” (Ryan 121). This goes beyond helping parents, cousins, or other family with light work around the farm. This is systematic and calculated abuse and exploitation of a vulnerable population for the purpose (knowingly or unknowingly) of improving the profit margins of the large chocolate corporations.

We have now looked at how labor practices have changed (or refused to change) but how have chocolate advertisements changed to adjust to the modern market? First, let us take a look at Banania, the company with the stereotyped Senegalese soldier, above. The lifelike depiction of the character has been traded out for the head and hand of an animated version of the same character. The identifiable red fez remains a constant. One major change is the smile which is still distractingly large but now the lips are thick and bright red. This aspect simply adds to the stereotyping involved in this character. In an attempt to solve an outdated and stereotyped subject, Banania did away with most of the harmless aspects of the character and kept or amplified the caricature aspects, though the French pidgin slogan is gone which is for the best.

The next advertisement, shown above, is for Magnum ice cream. It depicts a Black woman whose shoulder is cracked resembling the cracking of the chocolate shell of a Magnum ice cream bar. Overlooking the issue of the sexualization and fetishism of the ad (which is common in chocolate advertising and too extensive of a topic to cover here), Magnum uses the woman’s race in a botched attempt at visual wit, thus adding to the extensive history of utilization and exploitation of Black people. In addition, the fact that the inside ice cream is vanilla further degrades the woman shown as, in an ice cream bar, the ice cream is the thing that matters, thus the chocolate shell and therefore this woman’s race are simply things one must get through into order to reach the vanilla (read: white) center. Finally, this ad for Dove chocolate below further demonstrates the blatant utilization of race and the exploitation of Black individuals for the benefit of the chocolate company. In this case, the man’s face is not even shown, hammering home the idea that this does not need to be anyone in particular, just a Black man. The Magnum and Dove advertisements are not intentionally reminiscent of the racially charged ads of the prior century, but advertising companies and departments need to both understand the society we live in today in which no one’s race should be utilized for commercial gain as well as a basic background of the history chocolate as to not make these kinds of mistakes.

Just as labor and cacao production has evolved and yet also held onto key defining elements up through the modern era, so has chocolate advertising. In both cases, basic improvements were made, such as there no longer being colonialism or slavery in their truest forms or no longer having racially charge language and stereotyping in advertisements. Yet, both also held onto elements of their past. The economic and commercial model that chocolate producers work within keep them in a state of pseudo-slavery and advertisements still use race to sell products and link chocolate to the race of people that cultivate cacao in its rawest form.

Works Cited

Academic:

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2013.

Ryan, Órla. Chocolate Nations Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2012.

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio Univ. Press, 2006.

Multimedia:

“Banania Breakfast Mix.” Simply Gourmand, http://www.simplygourmand.com/banania-breakfast-mix/.

conguitosTV. “Anuncio Conguitos: Tribu Color.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Sept. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=wFOXOeBbhD8.

“Tin Signs Banania Tirailleur.” Camille Vintage, http://www.camille-vintage.com/en/advertising-aluminiummetal-plates/324-tin-signs-banania-tirailleur.html.

Dove and Magnum Ads: Google Images

Chocolate Now and Then: The Evolution of Chocolate

To begin chocolate is used worldwide for many different reasons. The uses have changed over time and in the recent years it has been pretty consistent, but over the centuries the uses and meanings behind chocolate has changed drastically. To show these changes I interviewed a fellow friend who has grown up using chocolate. It also has been a part of her family and childhood. Chocolate was used for holidays such as Easter, Valentines day and halloween, and festivities such as birthdays and finally for leisure. The use and reasons for using and consuming chocolate has changed over time, also how the prices of chocolate have been different over time. Along with the uses and reasons for why my classmate uses chocolate I will discuss what chocolates uses evolved from.

First I will discuss the connection and role chocolate has played in my fellow classmates life then proceed to elaborate and explain how it has changed over time. To begin my fellow classmate who I will refer to as Jessica for privacy reasons said she grew up on chocolate. Chocolate for her was a cornerstone of many events. First example would be holidays. My fellow classmate said during christmas time her family would give each other chocolate candy along with hot chocolate and other chocolate treats. This goes for holidays such as Easter, Valentines day and Halloween. All these holidays utilize chocolate as a focal point and when one hears these holidays they can automatically associate chocolate with them. This is the chocolate companies utilizing the importance of children being the main audience for these events and then catering their candy to their liking.

On the other hand when referring to chocolate in connection to holidays such as Valentines the meaning has stayed consistent for years. If one analyzes the reasons why companies use Valentines to promote chocolate it is been apparent for years. The chocolate industry has been using women to sensualize the idea and feelings around chocolate. Since early times of chocolate it has been believed that chocolate raises women’s sex drive. It is also believed women are physically aroused by chocolate and the sensation it brings when consumed. This is a textbook way to cater to one’s audience and has been done for years. The chocolate companies know that men are infatuated with women so therefore if they see a woman on TV passionately enjoying chocolate then they will assume women love it. This is how men work.This now entices men to buy their significant other chocolate on valentines day due to the stigma the chocolate community has created around chocolate and women (Robertson 138). This is one of the greatest marketing moves, and now the whole world associates women and valentines with chocolate. As for Easter and Halloween the chocolate companies simply took over the candy market.

Women Sexualizing Chocolate

Speaking on the sexualization of chocolate relating to women comes the war on candy. As seen in the movie shown in class chocolate was viewed originally as delicacy and a upper class snack and dish then transition to a middle class snack. During this time candy and chocolate became demonized and seen as a vice or sin. This was around the time of the temperance movement against alcohol and drunkenness. This then leaked over into the world of candy. The church took up arms against chocolate because they felt it was associated with sensual feelings and indulgence. It said that chocolate is a gateway indulgence similar to a slippery slope. Therefore, the church felt threatened by the rising commodity that was affordable and loved. This also lead to sugar phobia which was the fear of too much candy and junk food.

The second way chocolate was apart of her life that chocolate would be the fact it was always available. This means from her youth to her age now she was always able to find, purchase and enjoy chocolate. No matter the location she could always find it for a reasonable price. This is also a major factor because she would receive it as gifts, presents and rewards in class even. Availability also relates to holidays such as Halloween because people can purchase a huge quantity for a low price making it easy access for children. This also explains how chocolate is a huge part of many childrens’ childhood despite economic background or location.

2013-2008-world-sugar-per-capita-consumption.jpg

This is the new age where chocolate is a child’s luxury and now the market is catered towards children (Campaign). As a child in modern era chocolate has been the shifted from the rich and upper class to everyone and all children. But, the audience of chocolate has changed dramatically. Originally the use and consumption of chocolate was only for the upper class and the rich of Europe. Also, the use of chocolate has changed in the ancient and early years between 1700-1900’s the main uses of chocolate was religion, socioeconomic class and politics. This was due to the fact chocolate back then was not cheap and or abundant, therefore having chocolate and displaying it was a sign of your wealth and prestige . This is the largest difference between now and back then when it comes to accessing chocolate and consuming it. Another change would be the consumption of chocolate as stated previously the consumption has changed dramatically. In the early ages chocolate was not truly eaten for pleasure, it was mostly was done to show status. But, soon it became more and more mainstream as a product. To show this the chart above this paragraph displays the consumption per capita per year. This tells you how many kilograms of chocolate a single person per year consumes. For the United States the kilograms per person in 2013 was approximately 35 kilograms, which a large amount. 35 kilograms is roughly 77 pounds. This is an insane amount of consumption for a country who does not produce any cocoa. This shows the change in the sheer quantity of chocolate which is being produced and distributed world wide compared to the 1700-1900’s.

Along with availability comes the change in the social class companies target in today’s market. Another huge difference is price, and how cheap it is now. In today’s society chocolate is a cheap treat anyone can purchase from a gas station on any corner. In today’s society the low prices are nice for the consumer and the cheap costs for production are good for the companies, but for the producers, the farmers, it is terrible. The farmers must work long and hard hours for scraps. The companies are not close to bankruptcy either they simply choose to pay the lowest possible price for the coacao. On top of this the farmers get paid once a year because they can only harvest the cocoa once a year to sell. Therefore, they must make all the money last a year and support their family till the next harvest. People do not realize that to maximize profit companies utilize child labor and slavery even till very recently. In modern times they make the pay closest to zero as possible since slavery is illegal (Cleveland 609). Therefore, people need to become informed and aware that there life style stems from slavery and unfair wages placed upon those on cocoa production farms. The only way to change this is to boycott major companies who refuse to pay their workers more even if it means paying a slightly higher price for chocolate.

Cocoa production for low wages

Building on the point that farmers need to paid more for fair compensation for the work they do there are not many places on earth that produce large amounts of cacao. 60% of the cocoa production stems from two countries. Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana are the leading producers for cocoa and these are not large countries on top of that. It would not take much out of the multi billion dollar industries that the major five have created to put more funding into these countries.  Chocolate companies spend up to 17 billion dollars on advertising alone a year. It would take only fraction of this to increase the wages of the farmers in those countries.

Along with the unfair wages and huge amount of cocoa coming from a small part of the world the farmers try to save money by having children work for them for low to no money. This is known as child labor it is seen as one of the worst forms of labor because it is robbing a child of their childhood. Children in these conditions according to Professor Martin have to “clear trees, planting, grafting, applying fertilizers/pesticides/fungicides, weeding, pruning, harvesting” this is a list of some task among others that the children would have to do. This is first not right to force a child to work when they should be getting their education. Another reason would be the dangers of making a child do work meant for a skilled adult. There are many dangers in the process of harvesting and planting cocoa according to Professor Martin such as “fatigue, musculoskeletal injury, cuts or other wounds, sunburns and heat stress”. These are simply cruel and unacceptable conditions for anyone let alone a child to be working in.

The labor even though still unjust has also evolved in the chocolate industry. The use of child labor and regular labor , but workers being paid much less is a major change in the production of chocolate on the labor side. It shifted from slavery to now forms of intensive child labor and underpaid farmers. In both instances people are being majorly exploited. Of course slavery is a more pressing problem but at the same time the exploitation of cocoa farmers is unacceptable and easily changeable. The fact that in today’s society it should be the main focus and priority to change the situation in these countries and farms there. People can not condone and proceed to purchase chocolate from major companies knowing that they use child labor to produce cocoa for low prices.

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In conclusion chocolate plays a fundamental role in many people’s lives in modern times. Like my fellow classmate said chocolate was the cornerstone of her childhood. Chocolate ran holidays such as Valentines day, Easter, Halloween and others. It was a social snack along with a coping food for when she was sad, happy sick and everything in between. Chocolate was viewed as Americas’ candy. It brought people together and brought with it feelings of happiness to kids. The fact chocolate was available and affordable throughout the country makes it even more desirable. These traits would make it a perfect present, I am sorry gift and surprise treat. These aspects make people love chocolate and associate it with happiness and good times. When in reality chocolate is not all happiness and joy. From the dark association of women and sexualizing chocolate for advertising reasons, to the connection to wealth and social status and slavery. Also it may be all joy for the consumer of the sweet cheap treat, but not for those who are suffering on the other side of this transaction. The chocolate companies are exploiting and using people and children to maximize their gain. In forms such as slavery and even child labor in modern times. When referring to social status chocolate was not always a treat for kids of all backgrounds. It used to not be available to kids who were not wealthy and or did not have much money. These are the major changes that chocolate has undergone in the many years people have been utilizing this product. It was once an expensive and exclusive treat for the upper echelon of europe produced by slaves from africa and islands, and used to show status and wealth. Now it has become a household snack and treat widely accessible to the public and kids of all backgrounds. Also, now the product does not represent wealth and status, but when it comes to the production side people are still being used and not properly compensated.

Scholarly Sources Cited:

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

University Press ; Distributed in the United States Exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, commercialfreechildhood.org/.

Cleveland, Todd. “Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa.” Agricultural

History, vol. 88, no. 4, 2014, pp. 608-610. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1640565903?accountid=11311.

Pedzich, Joan. “The Dark Side of Chocolate: Child Trafficking and Illegal Child Labor in the

Cocoa Industry.” Library Journal, vol. 137, no. 7, 2012, p. 53.

Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 10, 2019

Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 3, 2019

Professor Carla Martin Lecture March 20, 2019

Professor Carla Martin Lecture March 27, 2019

Professor Carla Martin Lecture April 17, 2019

Multimedia Sources Cited:

Low wages for cocoa workers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4c7l_CVwFc&feature=youtu.be

Women sexualizing Chocolate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA6e8CrNiDc&feature=youtu.be

Big Chocolate, Little Town

Introduction:

This blog post will focus on the relationship between Mars, Incorporated, and UC Davis. I chose to write about this topic for two reasons: 1) I am a lifelong native of Davis, CA 2) I was caught by surprise when I read in my local paper that Mars, Incorporated was opening a research and development cocoa ‘hub’ in my small college town, and wanted to learn more about the ‘hub’ (Ternus-Bellamy, 2019). As we have discussed throughout this course, Mars, Inc. is one of the major ‘players’ not just in the chocolate arena, but also in the gum and dog food arena (Martin, 2019 Lecture 7). Despite their vast success, their company still remains somewhat mysterious to the outside world. Mars, Inc.’s secretness only adds to my fascination that they decided to come to my small college town. While I knew that UC Davis was a major player in agricultural research, I was not aware of their relationship with Mars, Inc. (Filmer, 2019 paragraph 4). This blog post will be divided into three parts: 1) the history of Mars, Incorporated 2) the relationship with UC Davis 3) discussion of their new research and development ‘hub’. The post will then end with a short conclusion.

The History of Mars, Incorporated:

Throughout its years as a company, Mars, Inc. has remained somewhat of a mystery to the outside world (Martin, 2019 Lecture 7). As Dr. Martin described in lecture, Mars, Inc. is “very secretive, and very perfectionistic and have some of the most forefront research on cacao,” (Martin, 2019 Lecture 7). The company is based in McLean, Virginia and “has more than $35 billion in annual sales and operates in more than 80 countries,” (Boykin, 2019 paragraph 7). Frank Mars cultivated his interest in candy and chocolate from an early age, having watched his mother cook and bake candy (Brenner, 2000 pg. 49).

Frank Mars and his mother Elva
from: https://www.mars.com/about/history

Frank began his own business shortly after he graduated from high school during a time in which “the candy-making industry was in its infancy, with fewer than one hundred large-scale manufacturers in operation,” (Brenner, 2000 pg. 50). At the turn of the century (when Frank opened his business) “‘old-fashioned’ favorites like Necco Wafers, Boston Baked Beans, Red Hots and Good & Plenty, didn’t exist […] neither did candy bars,” (Brenner, 2000 pg. 50). Frank’s initial product was ‘penny candy’ which was difficult to sell given its limited duration of freshness (Brenner, 2000, pg. 51). Frank’s company took a turn for the worst, and his wife divorced him and took away his son, Forrest (who will later come back into the picture) (Brenner, 2000 pg. 51). Frank then married again and moved to Seattle where he tried to start another candy company (Brenner, 2000 pg. 51). The second company failed as well, as did the third candy company that he tried to start in Tacoma (Brenner ,2000 pg. 51). He moved back to Minnesota with his wife, and started another candy company: Mar-O-Bar Co. (Brenner, 2000 pg. 52).

Flash forward some time, and Frank is reunited with his son Forrest, who was himself a businessman (Brenner, 2000 pg. 53). Shortly after reuniting, Frank produces the Milky Way bar, which Forrest claims was his idea (Brenner, 2000 pg. 54). The Milky Way bar was successful for two reasons: 1) the bar could stay fresh for far longer than normal candies 2) the bar was bigger and cheaper to produce because of the nougat in the middle (Brenner, 2000 pg. 54-55). The Milky Way bar made Mars a success overnight (Brenner 2000 pg. 55). Soon thereafter, Frank opened a new factory in Chicago and launched two new candy bars: the Snickers bar and the 3 Musketeers (Brenner, 2000 pg. 57-58). Interestingly enough, despite being the two forefront leaders in the candy industry, Mars and Milton Hershey were friends, and Mars even used Hershey chocolate for Mars’s candy bars (Brenner, 2000 pg. 58). Despite his success, Frank was content on continuing on with the status quo, but Forrest wanted to expand even further (Brenner, 2000 pg. 59). Frank then suddenly died, and Forrest, still angry with his father, moved to Europe to study chocolate (Brenner, 2000 pg. 60).

Milky Way Advertisement (1923)
from: https://www.mars.com/about/history

Upon ‘learning all there was to know’ about chocolate, Forrest opened his own company in England and launched a re-envisioned version of the Milky Way bar- the Mars bar (Brenner, 2000 pg. 65). Forrest was difficult to work for- but his employees were rewarded with high pay in exchange for chocolate perfection (Brenner, 2000 pg. 66-67). He was very successful in England, but was forced to leave upon the outbreak of WWII (Brenner, 2000 pg. 69). Despite his short stay in England, England still celebrates Forrest as one of their own.

In 1964, Forrest took over as the head of Mars, Inc., and upon his arrival he parted ways with Hershey (Brenner, 2000 pg. 179). This move, along with Forrest’s refusal to join the National Confectioners Association rubbed many chocolatiers the wrong way (Brenner, 2000 pg. 179-180). Nello Ferrara of Ferrara Pan Candy Co. said the following regarding Forrest Mars:

“In the candy business, nobody shared information; it was very competitive and everybody understood that […] but it was common decency to join the National Confectioners Association, to attend the conventions. Everybody was there- except him. He didn’t participate in anything He didn’t pay dues; he didn’t help sponsor any industry initiatives. He wouldn’t serve on any committees. It was a real insult to the rest of us.” (Nello Ferrara quoted in Brenner, 2000 pg. 180). Forrest’s refusal to participate with the National Confectioners Association was a break from Mars, Inc. longtime involvement prior to his joining of the company (Brenner, 2000 pg. 180).

In an additional move that stunned members of the chocolate world, Forrest ended Mars’ use of Hershey’s chocolate for their coatings (Brenner, 2000 pg. 181-182). Describing Forrest’s decision, Brenner states the following:

“Forrest wanted not only to make his own chocolate, but to turn his father’s company into a manufacturing powerhouse- a dynamo of quality and efficiency that would overtake Hershey and leave every other candy maker far behind. His drive for preeminence was not simply a matter of ego, but stemmed from his fundamental belief that success could be assured only by being the industry leader.” (Brenner, 2000 pg. 182)

Forrest wanted to have control over all aspects of Mars’ candy production (Brenner, 2000 pg. 183). Mars became the preeminent candy company in terms of manufacturing, and efficiency (Brenner, 2000 pg. 183-184). However, Forrest refused to sacrifice quality for efficiency or cost (Brenner, 2000 pg. 186).

“Forrest believed that the only way to achieve success was to offer the consumer the best product on the market. Cost could never justify sacrificing quality. When other candy makers began replacing cocoa butter with cheaper fats like vegetable oil, Forrest refused. When others started using vanillin instead of vanilla, he refused. He insisted on the freshest ingredients, and he managed all of his factories so that raw materials arrived daily and were used immediately,” (Brenner, 2000 pg. 186).

Forrest was fixated on being the best and employing the best, which could be a reason as to why Mars, Inc. is involved with UC Davis (Brenner, 2000, pg. 190-191). UC Davis is a preeminent research institute in terms of agriculture and plant science (Filmer, 2019, paragraph 7).

The Relationship with UC Davis:

According to David Mackill, the director of Cocoa Genetics and Breeding at Mars, “the project [the new research and development hub] builds on the relationship we [mars] have developed with UC Davis over the last 35 years,” (Mackill quoted in Filmer, 2019 paragraph 3). The relationship between UC Davis and Mars “has included collaboration on research projects related to agriculture, food, nutrition, biology, and veterinary health, including sequencing the cacao genome in 2010 and founding the African Orphan Crops Consortium focused on improving yield, productivity, and adaptability of key crops.” (Filmer, 2019 paragraph 4). The sequencing of the cocoa genome “was a major breakthrough that [did] lead to much-needed research on improving yields and disease resistance of the cocoa plant,” (Hebets, 2015 paragraph 9). Moreover, Mars, Inc. has contributed to the building of “a state-of-the-art greenhouse complex on campus that will allow university and Mars scientists to maintain a collection of cacao clones that reflect the diversity of the species and to use the collection to breed new clones with higher productivity, resistance to diseases and pests, and high-quality chocolate,” (Filmer, 2019 paragraph 5). Mars, Inc. also pledged to donate $40 million to UCD’s Innovation Institute for Food and Health (Ternus-Bellamy, 2019, paragraph 7).

Regarding the ‘research and development hub’ itself, Mars, Inc. hopes to employ 15 plant scientists/contractors from the Mars, Inc., “who will be working in collaboration with UC Davis faculty and students on research projects.” (Ternus-Bellamy, 2019 paragraph 1). In their explanation as to why they remain committed to researching cacao, Mars, Inc. argues that “typically funded by governments, agricultural agencies or universities, research into cacao cultivation has long been under-resourced, receiving far too little funding support […] Mars believes its research efforts can help boost the productivity of the farmers we depend on by further encouraging greater funding into cacao research and making the research available unrestricted in the public domain,” (Mars, Inc. quoted in Ternus-Bellamy, 2019 paragraph 14). Both UC Davis and Mars, Inc. believe that their research will help cacao farmers live better lives (Boykin, 2019 paragraph 5). As the Davis mayor stated, the research and development ‘hub’ will be a private-public partnership (Ternus-Bellamy, 2019 paragraph 16).

The building that will house the new research and development ‘hub’ for Mars, Inc.
from: https://www.commercialcafe.com/commercial-property/us/ca/davis/richard-e-lyng-building/

Discussion of Mars, Inc. New Research and Development ‘Hub’:

By analyzing Mars Inc.’s relationship with UC Davis, it is clear that Mars, Inc. is dedicated to researching cacao and implementing better farming practices (Filmer, 2019, paragraph 4). Mars, Inc. has pledged millions of dollars to cacao research at UC Davis, and launching their own research and development ‘hub’ downtown next to the University (Ternus-Bellamy, 2019 paragraph 1, 7). And yet, given their history as a company, I am left wondering whether these are genuine moves by the company, or whether they are looking out for their own self-interest? Does Mars, Inc. actually care about “improving the lives of cacao farmers around the world,” as UC Davis’s vice chancellor for research claims (Boykin, 2019 paragraph 5)? Or, does Mars want to “[boost] the productivity and quality of cacao” in order for farmers to be able to produce more quality cacao at the same cost, and then Mars will be able to gain a higher profit (Boykin, 2019, paragraph 5)? Many of the actions that Forrest Mars took while he was in charge of Mars, Inc. may have appeared to be ‘kind’ (i.e. paying very high salaries), but they were done to improve Mars’ bottom line (Brenner, 2000 pg. 191). Forrests’ management style employed the use of “numerical models to understand the tradeoffs among ROTA, profits and sales, setting annual targets for each. If you met those targets it meant you were managing his business as efficiently as possible. If you failed, it meant he wasn’t getting the most out of his investment,” (Brenner, 2000 pg. 191). Given the military-like way in which Forrest ran Mars, Inc., it would surprise me if the company did anything that was not also benefiting them financially (Brenner, 2000 pg. 190-191). Mars, Inc. themselves said that “cacao farmers produce less than 20 percent of the output they could achieve under perfect conditions with best practices,” so it is not an unfair assumption to make that perhaps Mars, Inc. may be focused on increasing their profits with the cocoa research, and not necessarily “the lives cacao farmers around the world,” (Ternus-Bellamy, 2000 paragraph 13; Boykin, 2019 paragraph 5). On a more theoretical note, let’s say that Mars, Inc. was funding and conducting research on cacao in order to produce better cacao and higher profits, would that necessarily be a bad thing? Does it matter if the major chocolate companies care about the farmers on a human level if their actions as a company benefit the farmers? These are difficult questions that may go forever unanswered, but setting that aside, the research that is being conducted by Mars, Inc. and UC Davis is creating lasting, positive change in the cacao industry (Filmer, 2019, paragraph 4-7).

Conclusion:

Learning more about Mars, Inc. role in cacao research, and their relationship with UC Davis was quite fascinating for me as a Davis native, and a member of this course. I had always known that UC Davis was a major research institution for agriculture, but I did not know they were involved in cacao research as well (Filmer, 2019 paragraph 4). I was initially interested in Brenner’s ‘The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars’ when we discussed it during Unit 2, so I was eager to learn more about Mars. Inc’s involvement in my own town. Moreover, I found it interesting to learn more about the work that a major chocolate company like Mars, Inc. is doing to support cacao research. It is my hope that the research being conducted by Mars, Inc. and UC Davis will continue to “develop more productive, resilient and profitable cocoa that improves the livelihoods of farmers and reduces negative impacts on the environment,” (Filmer, 2019 paragraph 6). I will just have to wait to see what Mars, Inc. and UC Davis do in the future to improve cocoa farming!

Bibliography:

Post Sources:

Boykin, S. (2019, March 19). Mars Inc. collaborates with UC Davis on new research facility. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2019/03/19/mars-inc-collaborates-with-uc-davis-on-new.html

Brenner, J. (2000). The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and

Mars (chapters 5, 13 pp. 49-69, 179-194). New York, NY: Random House.

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture 7 [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from course website.

Filmer, A. (2019, March 21). New Research Facility for Mars, Inc. and UC Davis. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/news/new-research-facility-mars-inc-and-uc-davis

Hebets, J. (2015, June 15). Mars, Incorporated and UC Davis Launch Innovation Institute for Food and Health. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://gsm.ucdavis.edu/blog/mars-incorporated-and-uc-davis-launch-innovation-institute-food-and-health

Ternus-Bellamy, A. (2019, March 20). Mars cocoa hub means more partnerships with UCD researchers. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/mars-cocoa-hub-means-more-partnerships-with-ucd-researchers/

Image Sources:

https://www.commercialcafe.com/commercial-property/us/ca/davis/richard-e-lyng-building/ provided the image of the building that will house the research and development ‘hub’ for Mars, Inc.

https://www.mars.com/about/history provided the image of Frank Mars and his mother Elva and the image of the Milky Way advertisement

https://twitter.com/MarsUKNews @Mars UK News on twitter provided the tweet celebrating Forrest Mars

Askinosie: A Company with a Social Mission

Chocolate is a $100 billion industry yet the majority of these profits are enjoyed by a handful of multinational companies. Those who actually grow the cocoa beans and provide the raw ingredient for the world’s chocolate see but a miniscule fraction of these profits: 3% according to the image below.

real-cost-of-a-chocolate-bar_orig
Farmers earn only 3% of the profits from chocolate sales. The largest share goes to those who process and sell the finished product.

The majority of the value of chocolate sales is captured by retailers and chocolate manufacturers while the farmers at the bottom of the supply chain receive the smallest share. This inequality lies at the heart of the chocolate industry today. One bean-to-bar chocolate company called Askinosie seeks to do things differently. This post examines some of the challenges inherent in the structural inequality of the cocoa supply chain then looks at Askinosie’s mission and how it attempts to combat the dark side of chocolate production.

The truth behind the chocolate bar  

70% of the world’s cocoa is grown in only four West African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria (Martin and Sampeck 50). The majority of this cocoa production is spread over two million small, independent family farms (Martin and Sampeck 50). Yet most of these farmers live well below the poverty line, a threshold defined by the World Bank as $1.90 per day (The World Bank). In fact, the typical average income for a family producing cocoa in Ghana is between $0.50 and $0.80 per day (Martin). These farmers work to survive on incomes that are volatile and irregular. Their wages are loosely tied to the weight of the cocoa beans, but even that is an oversimplification, as many other factors impact how much they earn (Martin). The profitability of their farms may fluctuate based on circumstances outside of their control: changing commodity prices of cocoa, weather and climate change, deforestation, political unrest and even war.

The Middleman

One major factor that determines how much or how little a farmer receives is the next step in the supply chain, the buyer. Farmers often have no choice but to sell cocoa to local buyers, a practice often rife with corruption and little oversight. In some cases, scales may be fixed to reflect an incorrect cocoa weight or farmers may not even be permitted to look at the scales when the cocoa beans are being weighed, relying solely only on the buyer’s word (Leissle 110).

Unpaid Labor

Many of these farmers may not be the owners of the farms but farm workers, which ties into another pressing issue in cocoa production: the harmful exploitation of labor. The cocoa industry has had a long history of egregious labor practices, including the worst forms of child labor. Though many statistics have been put forth over the past few decades and studies have been conducted by independent organizations finding evidence of child trafficking and slavery, the exact number of forced child labor in cocoa production today remains difficult to measure (Berlan 1089). This in no way diminishes the gravity of the situation, and any evidence of the worst forms of child labor must be addressed and eradicated. The challenge is that many of these children work on family farms where they are expected to be involved in the daily activities of the farm and perhaps learn the necessary skills to one day take the farm over themselves (Berlan 1090). Often, farm work is simply considered to be part of the child’s chores. The difficulty arises when children are not enrolled in school and are involved in long hours and heavy work that harms their physical or mental health and safety. A common thread among all these cases is that farm owners simply do not earn enough to hire labor and therefore depend on unpaid labor for basic survival.

The Fairtrade Label

Certification systems such as Fairtrade tackle these issues directly by ensuring that all products bearing the Fairtrade label comply with its terms, such as sustainable and environmentally safe farming practices, fair labor conventions according to the International Labour Organization that prohibit discrimination, forced labor, and the worst forms of child labor. As long as producer organizations can pay a certification fee and comply with the terms, they are ensured a Minimum Price for cocoa and receive a Fairtrade Premium (Leissle 141). Though well-intentioned, the Fairtrade label is not without criticism and controversy. Charging a certification fee to growers only adds to their existing financial hardships. As for the Minimum Price paid to cocoa producers, it has been criticized as being too low and stagnant to significantly improve the lives of cocoa farmers (Leissle 142).

Nonetheless, Fairtrade has successfully raised consumer awareness of the inequality and human rights injustices in cocoa production. The dialogue and media attention it has created has stirred industry giants into action, forcing the largest players in the chocolate industry to take more corporate responsibility. Nestlé, Mars, Cadbury, and Ferrero have all committed to sourcing Fairtrade certified cocoa in some of their products (Leissle 147). Just this month, CNN published an article stating that Mondelēz had publicly pledged to use 100% sustainable cocoa by 2025, albeit through its internal Cocoa Life program (Wiener-Bronner). The fact that said cocoa would be certified by its in-house sustainability program, of course, raises the question of just how rigorous the program will be and if it will be transparent at all.

cadburys-dairy-milk-140g1.jpg
Is Cadbury, given its questionable ethical history, being opportunistic by placing a Fairtrade label on its most popular product?

In fact, the lack of transparency in sourcing methods has been a constant criticism of the Big Five companies. For example, Hershey claims that a third of its cocoa comes from certified sustainable sources, however, little is known of their origins (Leissle 147). The ability of these multinational companies to pick and choose some, but not all, of their products to be Fairtrade certified is not a positive step towards eliminating the injustices in the cocoa industry. As Ndongo Sylla points out in The Fair Trade Scandal, certifying only products rather than the organizations themselves allows companies with unethical practices and a controversial history to maintain a positive public image without committing in any significant way (130). How do we differentiate between opportunistic companies that are jumping on the Fairtrade bandwagon and those that are morally committed to corporate activism and responsibility?

Askinosie & Social Responsibility  

Askinosie is a bean-to-bar chocolate company founded in Springfield, Missouri by Shawn Askinosie who retired from a 20-year career as a defense attorney in 2005 in order to start making his own chocolate. The company sources the beans directly from cocoa farms and processes the beans itself into the chocolate products that they sell. While many small companies today employ the same bean-to-bar model, Askinosie is unique in its dedication to social responsibility. Shawn Askinosie states on the Askinosie website: “I can confidently say the greatest opportunity and challenge has been weaving social responsibility into everything we do; it’s not just a buzzword, it’s who we are. Askinosie Chocolate was born committed to fairness, sustainability, minimal environmental impact and community enhancement” (Askinosie).

Direct Trade

What sets Askinosie apart is its direct trade model. It buys beans directly from the grower, eliminating the need for intermediary buyers and middlemen and allowing each step of this very short supply chain to be traceable (Leissle 154). This allows Askinosie to source fine flavor beans that meet its standards of quality. By having a say in every step of the post-harvesting process such as fermentation and drying, Askinosie is able to “ensure the resulting beans taste as perfect as possible” as well as spot defective beans before they arrive at the factory (Askinosie). The company is also able to control pre-shipment storing methods, the types of bags the cocoa beans are shipped in, as well as the actual importation and transportation of the beans themselves

Profit-sharing

Everything starts with quality–and an appreciation of farmers. We honor farmers as experts and craftsmen, so we treat them as such and consider them partners in our business. We work together with our farmer partners to create exceptional chocolate from exceptional cocoa beans.”    (Askinosie)

Askinosie prides itself in knowing the name of every farmer it works with and being able to trace the beans directly to the source, whether that source is a single farmer or a cooperative of smallholder farmers. And in addition to paying farmers prices that are, on average, 35% higher than world market price and 25% higher than the Fairtrade price, Askinosie shares its profits directly with its farmers. In doing so, farmers are treated as business partners, sharing in up to 10% of the net profits of the company (Askinosie). Because every single origin can be traced to the exact source, the very farm or cooperative, growers are able to get a percentage of the sales of products made with those beans. Both sides benefit in this mutually supportive model. Askinosie can source excellent beans and control a large part of the process that impacts flavor and quality, and the farmers are able to earn more. 

Askinosie also shares with the farmers its financial statements in what it calls its “Open Book Management policy.” In frequent trips to the farms, Askinosie shares the numbers and how each bean purchase affects the net profits of the company. These discussions “enable the farmers to connect the quality of their beans to the outcome of each chocolate bar,” showing farmers how improvements on post-harvest techniques can “ensure an even greater profit margin in the future, which means more opportunities for the farmers to share in a success they helped create” (Askinosie).

Transparency

In sharp contrast to multinational companies that offer consumers vague or almost no information about its supply chains, Askinosie publishes a Transparency Report detailing its purchase history from its inception. Following in the footsteps of Taza Chocolate, the first company to practice direct trade and also publish an annual transparency report, Askinosie fully discloses yearly prices paid for beans, how much was paid directly to farmers, the amount of profit shared, and even details of Shawn Askinosie’s yearly visits to the farms (Leissle 153; Askinosie). Unlike Taza, however, Askinosie provides detailed figures about the farm gate price paid to farmers, which allows consumers to know exactly how much farmers receive (Leissle 157). This remarkable level of transparency not only enhances consumer trust in the company but also raises the bar for the industry as a whole.

Community Development

Askinosie sources its beans from four origins: Davao, Philippines; Mababu, Tanzania; San Jose del Tambo, Ecuador; and Zamora, Amazonia in Ecuador. In each of these locations, Shawn Askinosie has built and maintained long-term relationships with each of the farmers who supplies his beans through the company’s direct trade practices (Askinosie).

In Davao and Mababu, Askinosie has worked to directly support the local communities through a sustainable lunch program called A Product of Change. In a pledge to ensure that local school children eat more than one meal a day, Askinosie sells local food products from those regions in its online store, storefront, and to other food retailers. 100% of the profits from those products go back to the schools to provide lunches for their students. In Mababu, Askinosie funded the first textbooks and computers at a local school and a deep water well delivering potable water to the entire village. In both Zamora and Mababu, Askinosie partners with female-led farmer cooperatives, recognizing and empowering a traditionally marginalized and undervalued demographic in cocoa production (Askinosie).

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 1.24.04 AM
Monica Guaman, lead farmer partner in Zamora, is prominently featured on the front of Askinosie’s single-origin Zamora bar. Askinosie features the actual individuals who farm the beans that go into each single-origin chocolate bar. (Source: Askinosie)

Education

In addition to developing the communities of its farmer partners, Askinosie seeks to involve the local community of Springfield through the establishment of Chocolate University, which is funded by proceeds from chocolate tours at the Askinosie factory. This learning program for local elementary, middle school, and high school students provides a hands-on experience with the goal of inspiring the youth “through the lens of artisan chocolate making to be global citizens and embrace the idea that business(es) can solve world problems” (Askinosie). The program even takes a group of high school students every year to Mababu, Tanzania where students engage with cocoa farmers on the farms and learn about small business and direct trade, allowing them to witness sustainable business practices firsthand and inspiring them to be agents of change within their own communities.

TourPage_Banner_3
Proceeds from tours of Askinosie’s chocolate factory go directly towards funding the Chocolate University (Source: Askinosie)

Final Thoughts

Social responsibility lies at the core of Askinosie’s mission, which it successfully executes through its direct trade and profit-sharing with its farmer partners. Direct trade eliminates the need for middlemen, ensuring that farmers receive their just pay. The transparency of its pricing and sourcing practices allows the public to see that these farmers are receiving above market price for their cocoa beans, which in turn, allows them to hire employees on their farms and support their local economies. 

The company also recognizes the importance of knowledge at all points in the cocoa supply chain. Askinosie team members in Springfield and farmer partners on cocoa farms alike receive financial education on the company’s numbers. The Transparency Report informs the public. Students of Chocolate University learn about corporate social responsibility, of the work that goes into cocoa farming, and the challenges in cocoa production. This level of transparency within the supply chain and the initiative to educate and inform consumers are refreshing in an industry that is often shrouded in so much ambiguity.

Askinosie should be lauded for its exemplary practices. However, so much more work needs to be done in the cocoa industry for large-scale change to occur. Direct trade is one step in the right direction, but it is limited in scale as top-quality beans are prioritized over bulk beans, which make up the majority of beans produced in the world and in whose production we find so many of the industry’s complex problems. Notice the absence from Askinosie’s selection of origins any West African country where these inequalities abound. This is likely due to sourcing challenges by any small craft company in this region of the cocoa-producing world, further indication of the many challenges in the global cocoa supply chain (Martin and Sampeck 55). The reality is that many consumers do not want to pay $10 for a bar of chocolate. And the market of cheap chocolate continues to perpetuate the system of structural inequality that exists today. Farmers depend on cocoa production for their livelihood and survival which are inextricably tied to global consumption and demand. Until the largest players in the cocoa industry start to adopt fair practices and corporate social responsibility on a global scale, until more consumers are made aware of the complexities behind that chocolate bar, the problems we see today, sadly, will continue to exist.  

 

Scholarly Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088-1100.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 27 Mar. 2019, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Lecture.

Martin, Carla, and Kathryn Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” 2016, pp. 37-60.

Sylla, Ndongo. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Translated by David Clément Leye, Ohio University Press, 2014.

Multimedia Sources

Askinosie Chocolate. Askinosie, http://www.askinosie.com. Accessed 2 May 2019.

“The Real Cost of a Chocolate Bar.” Raisetrade, http://www.raisetrade.com/real-cost-of-a-chocolate-bar.html. Accessed 2 May 2019.

“Fairtrade Certified Cadbury Dairy Milk.” Chocablog, http://www.chocablog.com/features/how-fair-is-fairtrade-chocolate. Accessed 2 May 2019.

The World Bank, 2019, http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview. Accessed 2 May 2019.

Wiener-Bronner, Danielle. “Toblerone and Cadbury will be made with sustainable cocoa.” CNN Business, 29 Apr. 2019, amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/04/29/business/mondelez-cocoa-sustainability/index.html. Accessed 2 May 2019.

 

Chocolate: From Sheep Droppings to American Staple

Chocolate is arguably the most versatile candy in the United States. From cakes to brownies to fondues, Americans consume chocolate in a multitude of ways. Not only is chocolate extremely versatile, it is one of the most popular forms of candy in America. According to internal sales data examined by candystore.com, last year almost half (eleven to be exact) of the top 25 candies sold on Halloween in the United States were some form of chocolate. (Daily Meal 2018) However, this wasn’t always the case. English-speaking Europeans weren’t very impressed by cocoa beans upon first meeting. In fact, the first English and Dutch sailors to discover cocoa beans on a Spanish treasure ship threw them overboard, confusing the beans with sheep droppings. (Cadbury) So how did chocolate make the transition from sheep droppings to a staple American delicacy that is easily available to anyone? Let’s take a look at its long journey.

Cocoa beans are home to Central and South America, and is speculated to have been a central part of Olmec culture since as far back as 1500 B.C.. (History 2018) The Olmecs passed their knowledge of chocolate on to the Mayans, who primarily used it in drinks to make something most similar to what we know today as hot chocolate. Although cocoa was a central part of Mayan culture, it was available to pretty much everyone in society. The rich and the poor were able to enjoy hot chocolate as a delicacy. However, the Aztecs saw chocolate in a completely different light. To them chocolate was a gift from their gods and was only available to the lower class at celebrations like weddings. Because it came from the gods, chocolate was believed to have divine properties and was used in the most Sacred rituals in Aztec society such as birth, death, marriage and sacrifice. Chocolate was regarded so highly in the culture that Aztec ruler Montezuma II drank gallons of chocolate a day as an energy boost and an aphrodisiac, and also kept cocoa beans reserved for the military should they ever go to war. In Aztec culture, cocoa beans were more valuable than gold, and it is speculated that many European countries were first introduced to chocolate by the Aztecs.

There are differing stories about how and when chocolate first arrived in Europe, however most agree that chocolate arrived in Spain first. The Spanish took the Mayan recipe and added some of their own spices like cinnamon and cane sugar. Soon after arrival, hot chocolate became a popular commodity, and by 1585, Spain was importing chocolate into its ports.  As its popularity continued to soar in Spain, simultaneously other European countries were visiting parts of Central America and bringing cocoa beans back to their individual countries. By the 17th century, chocolate was a popular drink throughout much of Europe, though it was reserved for the upper class. Similar to the Mayans and Aztecs, Europeans believed chocolate had medicinal, nutritional and even aphrodisiac properties. Chocolate would remain exclusive to the upper-class until the late 1700s when the steam engine made mass production possible. As imperialism spread to the Americas, chocolate went with it. Chocolate arrived in the British colony Florida in the late 1690s and by 1773 it was available to all people in the American colonies. Like the Aztecs, Americans believed that chocolate was beneficial in war, and thus soldiers were rationed chocolate in the Revolutionary War. In fact, chocolate was so highly regarded, that it was often given to soldiers instead of actual wages.

There were a number of different factors that led to chocolate being able to be mass-produced at an affordable price, and in the different forms that we are familiar with today.  First and foremost, Imperialism played a major role in the spread of chocolate. As European countries attempted to conquer the Americas and spread their influence across the world, they came in contact with chocolate. Some historians believe that Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes was the first to  discover chocolate when the Aztecs mistook him for a deity and welcomed him with a big feast where they served him large amounts of chocolate. (History 2018) This allowed him to bring the beans back to Spain, and aid in the spread of chocolate across Europe. A major breakthrough occurred in 1828 when a Dutch chemist discovered a way to make chocolate powder. (Fiegl 2008) His discovery paved the way for solid chocolate and the many different forms of chocolate that we are familiar with today. Later in the 1800s companies in Europe and America began making and selling different forms of chocolate candies. For the first time, chocolate became available to consume in different forms to everyone in society.  Another breakthrough, and perhaps most important was the creation of the steam engine. Before the steam engine, the process of creating chocolate was still very remedia, and hadn’t improved much from the formula used by the Aztecs. Before the introduction of the steam engine, grinding cacao beans into chocolate was a grueling process done by hand. It was inefficient to say the least. However, the steam engine allowed chocolate makers to make much larger quantities of chocolate. Joseph Storrs Fry was the first to buy a steam engine for chocolate production, and his success inspired others to do the same. (Coe and Coe 2013) As more people began streamlining their chocolate process, the price of chocolate also fell, which allowed all classes of people to enjoy it.  

Works Cited:

The Daily Meal, 2018. The 25 Most Popular Halloween Candies in America. https://www.thedailymeal.com/holidays/most-popular-halloween-candies-america-gallery

History.com, 2018. History of Chocolate.

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-americas/history-of-chocolate

Fiegl, A., 2008. A Brief History of Chocolate

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/?no-ist

Coe, Sophie D., Coe, Michael D., 2013. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, London. Image Citations:

Mostafa, H., 2016., Chocolate And Children’s Teeth And Gums https://www.gumsaver.co.uk/chocolate-and-childrens-teeth-and-gums/

World Kids, 2017., A Sweet (and not so sweet) History  

https://kids.wng.org/node/2055

Johns, A., Spych, B., Kompler, C., Caruthers, D., Caruthers, D., & Green, R. (n.d.). James Watts Steam Engine, 2018. 18th Century Canvas Print https://fineartamerica.com/featured/james-watts-steam-engine-18th-century-dave-king–dorling-kindersley–science-museum-london.html?product=canvas-print

Equal Potential, Unequal Opportunity

A Historical Analysis of Gender Imbalances in Ghanaian Cocoa Production

Women in cocoa.
Photo by K. Keukelaar in the village Mantukwa, Ghana.

West Africa is the greatest regional producer of cocoa in the world (Leissle 2018, p. 4). In Ghana alone, there are 720,000 farmers growing cocoa, 25 percent of which are women (Barrientos 2014, p. 796). Despite exhibiting both quality and productivity levels equal to if not greater than men, women’s income and farm ownership are severely disproportionate to men. Women sell a mean of 8 bags of cocoa per year, equalling ~$980 in annual income. Men, meanwhile, sell a mean of 23 bags of cocoa per year for an annual income of ~$2,817.50 (Leissle 2018, p. 23). Through an analysis of Ghana’s cocoa farming history, there are several sociopolitical factors that have led to the development of gender inequality in the sector. The combination of exogenous changes in the agricultural market and women’s social roles in farming and the household have shifted cocoa production power to men and constrained how women participate in the cocoa market. Traditional land inheritance laws have constrained women’s access to farming plots. Finally, the gendering of work in the cocoa sector has perpetuated the gender gap and prevented women from becoming independent cocoa farm owners. While the historical development of cocoa farming has led to these gender imbalances, the success of female cocoa farmers despite these adversities has spurred new initiatives to eliminate gender inequality in the cocoa sector.

Cocoa arrived in the Portuguese colonies of Sao Tome and Principe in the early 1800’s and expanded throughout mainland Africa by the end of the century. Before, most cocoa had been produced in South America and the Caribbean. During the nineteenth century, the abolishment of slavery throughout the region and disease such as witch’s broom severely limited the amount of cocoa South America and the Caribbean could provide. This supply restriction coincided with an acute increase in demand for cocoa. More successful marketing strategies and new innovations such as the Dutching process and the Swiss conche made smoother, creamier milk chocolate products that attracted more consumers. Since South America and the Caribbean could no longer support rising production demands, chocolate manufacturers turned their eyes to Africa, where cocoa trees had been found to flourish (Leissle 2018, p. 1–47).

West Africa saw a phenomenal rise in cocoa production first in Sao Tome and Principe. The cruel labor practices being encouraged on the islands were exposed in the early 1900’s, and British chocolate manufacturing giant Cadbury was forced to boycott cocoa from these islands as protests against these labor abuses rose. Major cocoa production moved to colonized regions of mainland West Africa as production subsequently declined in Sao Tome and Principe, particularly in Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, and Cameroon (Leissle 2018, p. 40–42). Nigeria’s rise as a prominent cocoa producer was not solely the result of imperial pressure but also of farmer’s own enthusiasm to begin growing cocoa. Around the turn of the twentieth century, coffee and rubber prices were low while cocoa prices were steadily rising with Europe’s voracious demand for chocolate. Gold Coast farmers jumped on the opportunity, and cocoa became the most important export of any category by 1910 (Allman and Tashjian 2000, p. 3).

Agricultural goods in Ghana have historically been gendered such that either men or women are solely responsible for their respective crops and their proceeds. How these crops were gendered resulted from household roles. Women were responsible for childcare, food processing, cleaning, and other household chores. This gave men much more time for cultivating crops other than subsistence goods, and men indeed devoted this extra time women spent on household labor devoted to commodity production and trading. Women became increasingly involved in trading subsistence goods in local markets while men pursued more lucrative occupations in cocoa farming or waged work (Allman and Tashjian 2000, p. 13–14). This genderization of crops and general markets became culturally cemented over time, and cocoa farming became a male–dominated sector while subsistence farming and local market trading became a feminized domain. As cocoa farming became more valuable and generated a more substantive part of a household’s income, women and children became increasingly involved as informal laborers on the household cocoa farm, with the husband/father acting as the central, mediating figure through whom the value of wives’ and children’s labor was realized (Allman and Tashjian 2000, p. 106).

Women cocoa farmers lack equal land right access.
Photo by K. Keukelaar in the village Mantukwa, Ghana.

The increasingly valuable role of women and children in cultivating the household cocoa farm upset traditional land inheritance practices. Prior to colonization, Ghanaian land inheritance was typically matrilineal in which a husband’s family land would be bequeathed to his sister’s sons and rarely to his own wife and children. A husband’s self–acquired land, however, could be bequeathed to his children and wife if “he had been well–served by the child” (Allman and Tashjian 2000, p. 107). Self–acquired land became much more popular with the cocoa boom, as women cultivated family land for subsistence farming and men cultivated new additional land for the cocoa farms. By 1920–1930, the value of a deceased man’s self–acquired property rivalled and even surpassed family land, causing tension between potential matrilineal inheritors and the husband’s wife and children. This tension remained throughout the twentieth century, although a few laws were instituted to make bequeathing nonfamily land to a man’s wife and children easier. In the mid–1980’s, revisions to land inheritance laws were implemented to facilitate family land inheritance to female spouses, but few Ghanaians have actually appealed to this law (Allman and Tashjian 2000, p. 107–109). Due to this system of land inheritance, and because women rarely acquired land for themselves due to their responsibility to other household duties and expectations, land ownership laws and land acquisition processes in Ghana have inhibited women from pursuing farm ownership. More than 90 percent of cocoa comes from smallholder farmers who cultivate a few hectares of land or less, and women have faced more limited access to the already restricted allocation of land than men (Leissle 2018, p. 3).

The cultural gendering of important work in the cocoa sector has also limited women’s growth in the cocoa sector. Cocoa farming involves many steps, and as new agricultural innovations have been introduced into the sector, women’s work has been devalued. As more technological advancements such as the use of fertilizers and pesticides have been produced, women were delegated to planting and harvesting. The male–dominated mechanical application of pesticides and herbicides became more highly valued because these activities more noticeably increase yields in the short run (Barrientos 2014, p. 797). The most gender–restricted activity is the point of sale. Since men have come to control the market for cash crops as women have come to predominate the markets for subsistence goods, social norms usually demand that only men are involved at the point of cash exchange. As female cocoa farmers must enlist men to sell their cocoa, they may not realize their full earnings potential, especially when wives combine their cocoa output with their husbands, as these women cannot tell who earned how much (Leissle 2018, p. 121–122). Women’s cultural exclusion from the most lucrative activities and important positions of agency have continued to perpetuate gender inequality in cocoa farming.

Kuapa Kokoo seeks to empower female cocoa farmers.

Several historical socioeconomic forces led to the development of gender inequality in the cocoa sector, including exogenous changes to the agricultural market, land access, and the perpetuation of cultural and social conditions disadvantageous to female cocoa farmers. Today, however, many initiatives are taking place to close this gap. Chocolate manufacturing and processing giants Cadbury and Cargill, working with NGO Care, have supported female farmers’ cooperative groups since 2006 (Barrientos 2014, p. 6). Land in Ghana’s western region is being transferred significantly more often from husbands to wives and daughters instead of sons and matrilineal inheritors. Two LBCs in Ghana, Kuapa Kokoo and Akuafo Adamfo, encourage women’s participation at the point of sale (Leissle 2018, p. 122). While women’s advancement in the cocoa sector has been limited by socioeconomic factors, women’s increasing involvement and success in cocoa farming despite these challenges has instead begun to contest this inequality and inspire change in the sector.

Bibliography

Allman, Jean Marie., and Victoria B. Tashjian. I Will Not Eat Stone : A Women’s History of Colonial Asante. Social History of Africa. Portsmouth, NH : Oxford [England] : Cape Town: Heinemann ; J. Currey ; D. Philip, 2000.

Barrientos, Stephanie. “Gendered Global Production Networks: Analysis of Cocoa–Chocolate Sourcing.” Regional Studies 48, no. 5 (May 4, 2014): 791–803. https://doi.org/10.1080/00343404.2013.878799.

Keuklaar, K. Many more women may work in cocoa than official statistics suggest. In “‘A long way to go’ to equality for women cocoa farmers.” Mantukwa: Confectionary News, 2017, https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2017/11/02/Women-cocoa-farmers-A-long-way-to-go-to-equality.

Keuklaar, K. Women cocoa farmers lack equal land right access, but could significantly boost yields, improve child nutrition and help reserve global warming.In “‘A long way to go’ to equality for women cocoa farmers.” Mantukwa: Confectionary News, 2017, https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2017/11/02/Women-cocoa-farmers-A-long-way-to-go-to-equality.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Newark, UNITED KINGDOM: Polity Press, 2018. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/harvard-ebooks/detail.action?docID=5294996.

Quisumbing, Agnes R, Ellen M Payongayong, and Keijiro Otsuka. “Are Wealth Transfers Biased Against Girls? Gender Differences in Land Inheritance and Schooling Investment in Ghana’s Western Region,” n.d., 43.

Vigneri, Marcella, and Rebecca Holmes. 2009. “When being more productive still doesn’t pay: gender inequality and socio-economic constraints in Ghana’s cocoa sector.” Paper presented at the FAO-IFAD-ILO Workshop on Gaps, trends and current research in gender dimensions of agricultural and rural employment : differentiated pathways out of poverty, Rome, (31 March – 2 April 2009). Rome: FAO-IFAD-ILO. http://www.fao-ilo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/fao_ilo/pdf/Papers/20_March/Vigneri-Holmes-final.pdf.

From Cultural to Commercial: Cocoa’s Geopolitical Transformation

Molded by years of exposure to masterfully crafted marketing campaigns, average consumer knowledge of cacao [or cocoa] is limited to its function as an ingredient and source from which their beloved chocolate is derived. There is much more to the birth, rise, and spread of Theobroma cacao.

The following seeks to explain how a culturally significant crop among early civilizations dating back to 1500 BCE (Coe and Coe, 2013) transformed from a highly treasured ingredient and social currency cultivated within a fairly limited zone to a globally produced and traded commodity: a highly reformulated, mass-produced, and readily available confectionery product.

This journey traces cacao back to its genetic and cultural beginnings where it was religious and cultural fixture among early civilizations; how exploration and migration played into the geographical expansion of its cultivation and rise in popularity as a food; role in accelerating industrialization; and transformation from a social currency and treasured ingredient to a heavily traded commodity and mass manufactured consumer product.

Genetic and Cultural Beginnings

From births and burials, recipes and rituals, cacao’s cultural origins are linked to Mesoamerica (present day Mexico through Central America), where its social and religious significance among the Olmec dates back to 1500 to 400 BCE (Coe and Coe, 2013). The rise of Maya and Aztec civilizations gave way for cacao’s evolution utility and proliferation as a consumable.

Cacao’s Role in Society and Religion

Evidenced by archeologic discoveries, translated texts, and scientific testing, several vessels and writings have been unearthed, clarifying and validating cacao’s significance, religious ties, and early application as a currency.

Mayan and Aztec civilization associated cacao with the gods. As such, they were believed to enrich and afford protections during and after life, playing a central role in offerings and rituals (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Ceramic vessels similar to those pictured here which date back to 455 to 465 CE were found in burial tombs at Río Azul (Martin, 2019). Further testing confirmed positive traces of caffeine and theobromine—two of cacao’s alkaloid signatures (Martin, 2019).

Dating back to 455 to 465 CE, “funerary vessels” similar to those pictured here were discovered in tombs at Río Azul. As testing revealed traces of caffeine and theobromine, two of cacao’s signature alkaloids, this further supported evidence of cacao’s religious significance (Martin, 2019).

As a food or drink, cacao took many forms. Popular among the Maya and Aztec, “cacahuatl” was a frothy preparation often transferred from one vessel to another and served cold (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Described by Coe and Coe in The True History of Chocolate and drawn by Diane Griffiths Peck, this illustration provides a glimpse into one of many Maya and Aztec cacao preparation and serving methods.
Of the 15 discovered, translated, and still intact, the Dresden Codex contains the aforementioned Mayan hieroglyphic depiction of cacao being consumed by gods and used in rituals (Martin, 2019). Other major works include the Popol Vuh or “Book of Counsel” is a colonial document later translated by Friar Francisco Ximénez that reveals the importance of cacao among early civilizations.

Exploration and Migration: Changes in Cultivation and Consumption

By definition, explorers were bound to make new discoveries and learn from their experience. Capturing the innocent confusion and eye-opening experience (only to be realized years later), the following briefly details just how one explorer mistakenly thought that cacao beans were almonds.”

Mistaken for Almonds: When recounting observations from his 1502 landing at Guanaja, one of many landmasses that make up the Bay Islands archipelago, Ferdinand Columbus, one of Christopher Columbus’ sons wrote about cherished “almonds” that traded hands similarly to how currency would pass between customers and merchants (Coe and Coe, 2013). It was not until years later after multiple interpretations and sources concluded that what he presumed to be almonds were in fact cacao beans.

As it came to be more widely known, not far from where Ferdidnad landed, throughout the Rio Ceniza Valley (present day coast of El Salvador), cacao was an increasingly popular form of currency being produced and traded in record volume—something . In time, this led to further learnings about the “Nahua counting system” and subsequent adoption of cacao as payment for “protection” by Spanish conquistadors.

Generally relegated to tropical climates falling 10-15 degrees north and south of equator, is was inevitable that cacao would make its way around the world. So as people moved, and culture spread, so too did the cacao, as a crop, currency, and curiosity, ultimately leading to its introduction to new geographies, and paving the way for new industries and traditions around the world (Martin, 2019).

New Formulations and Complementary Ingredients

As ingredients such as vanilla, chili, and many others traveled around the world, pairings and formulations rapidly evolved. Marking a major development and informing direction for the confectionery side as we know it today, sugar was introduced to Europe around 1100 CE and chocolate followed shortly thereafter in 1500 CE (Martin, 2019).

Cacao’s Role in Accelerating Industrialization and Expanding its Place in Society

While cacao consumption continued to be reserved for certain classes during its journey around the world, increasingly sophisticated processing methods streamlined productions, regulation eventually brought its price down, and despite medical and religious challenges to its place in society, cacao products were increasingly available to a grander population.

By the 1600 and 1700s, advances in processing continued to align with rising and more diverse consumption habits. Of course, by this time, the separation between “producing” and “processing” countries (read: colonies vs. industrialized nations) was increasingly clear.

So while cultivation and production spread across Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa to meet demand, industry began to take shape on the consumer side as well with the emergence of social gathering halls or “Chocolate Houses” in Britain, France, Spain, the United States, and other “industrialized” nations who had transitioned to managing the cacao’s trade as a commodity and processing for various food and beverage applications. It was not until Rudolphe Lindt’s invention of the conche in 1879, an advancement that bolstered flavor and feel (among other things), and set the stage for quality, processing, and mass production to take off (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Illustrated above, the matete, grinder, and conche are examples of what cacao processing tools were used by early civilizations (and are still used in the same or similar forms today) and evolved or industrialized processing equipment employed today (Martin, 2019).

From early civilizations to present day, cacao’s role in society, cultural significance, availability and consumption have evolved tremendously. However, its mystique and association as something special are still true to this day—just as they were in different and more elaborate forms among early civilizations. Perhaps this condensed history will give pause and reason for the average consumer to think beyond commercialization of cacao, cocoa, or chocolate, and value and validate its history and claims made by brands to improve global understanding, perception, and consumer habits.

Works Cited

  • Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd Edition, Thames & Hudson, 2013.
  • Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.Hu, Vol. 3, 2015, pp. 37–60.
  • Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.
  • Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018

Media Cited

  • Hansen, Magnus Pharao. “Cacao: How a Single Word Holds the Key to Understanding the Mesoamerican Past”. Nawatl Scholar. January 1, 1970. Accessed March 15, 2019. http://nahuatlstudies.blogspot.com/2015/01/cacao-how-contested-history-of-single.html?spref=tw.
  • Olver, Lynne. “Food Timeline FAQs: Aztec, Maya, & Inca foods and recipes”. Lynne Olver 2000. March 1, 2015. Accessed February 17, 2019. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodmaya.html.
  • Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies. “Map of Mesoamerica.” Accessed February 17, 2019. http://www.famsi.org/maps/.
  • Río Azul [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Wikimedia Commons. File:Popol vuh.jpg. (January 16, 2015). Retrieved February 17, 2019. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Popol_vuh.jpg&oldid=146695431.
  • Matete [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Grinder [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Conche [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.

Lectures Cited

  • Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. February 13, 2019. Lecture.
  • Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. February 20, 2019. Lecture.
  • Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.