Why is it that chocolate advertisements, more often than not, focus on women enjoying chocolate and not men? In this blog post, I will challenge that idea. In this groundbreaking Galaxy Chocolate commercial, we see a woman who is clearly enjoying the amazing views around her, the attractive man in front of her, but really, she’s just loving that chocolate. At the end of this article, we’ll explore ideas about an alternate scenario, in which I have created a more inviting and diverse take on the ad, demonstrating a man and a woman sharing chocolate without the divide of the back and front seats of the car.
This Galaxy chocolate ad from 2013, features a computerized rendering of Audrey Hepburn, who is on a bus that seems to have crashed into a farm stand’s cart. After seeing the Galaxy chocolate bar in her purse, she glances out the window and immediately locks eyes with a handsome man, who gestures to the front passenger seat of his car. The music and mood changes as Audrey scoots her way off the bus and walks to the man’s car, stealing the bus driver’s hat in the process. Instead of getting into the front seat like any normal human, she places the bus driver’s hat onto the man’s head and earns a glance of confusion. As Audrey magically appears in the back seat, the man drives off into a landscape of paradise. Audrey tears open the Galaxy chocolate bar wrapper, breaks off a piece, and as she enjoys the chocolate we see another wide pan view of the luxurious oceanside. She has the stereotypical female losing herself to chocolate reaction, without ever sharing a piece with her driver, who was never formally introduced to us.
This ad is definitely marketed towards women as it features one so heavily. Not only is this ad speaking to women and saying “wow, Audrey Hepburn is dead and she likes that chocolate, I’m alive I’ll like it too” It also comments that, “this chocolate will make a hunky man show up in a shiny car.” Now why didn’t she share her chocolate with any of the men surrounding her in this commercial? Well, obviously Audrey Hepburn is not a zombie and couldn’t go off script in this ad to add in her own personality…But with all of the men in this commercial, why can’t we see past the woman?
According to Laura Tan (2), chocolate presented distinctly to women by women may be on its way out. Tan shows that men are currently eating more chocolate than women, and by popularity, sugar is now more evil than fat. This means that today’s modern woman yearns for permission to consume such villainous delicacies, that is, only if their food tracking apps say they have enough room for a candy bar will they spend a dollar or so at CVS. Conversely, there are also studies that show dark chocolate can be beneficial to heart health. While it has it’s health benefits, those women actively counting and scrimping every last detail of their diet, are likely to only feast on chocolate for a “treat yourself” dessert once in a while. So, if more and more women are jumping onto the fad of being overly healthy, why are they still the main stars of chocolate ads?
To challenge the motif of men as background characters; I inlisted the help of two colleagues.
Instead of a beautiful, sunny landscape in paradise with an elegant celebrity sensually consuming chocolate, we see cold and grey urban day with two people in ordinary street clothing. A woman is in the driver’s seat with a man accompanying her in the passenger seat, completely opposite from what we previously saw in the Galaxy chocolate ad where the woman is in the backseat while the man drove. Instead of only seeing a woman enjoy her chocolate, we also see a man enjoying his. One of the stereotypes challenged by this mock ad is that chocolate is always a sexualized object. Shown clearly, both parties are genuinely enjoying their chocolate, not forcing an overly stimulated emotion on top of it. Unlike other stereotypical advertisement images, the woman in this photo is happily enjoying her chocolate, instead of sensually taking a bite while wearing red lipstick and silk surrounds her. Seeing a man enjoying his chocolate not only markets to men who will think “oh if he is enjoying his chocolate with that girl, I can too!” it continues to market to women as well.
In conclusion; if ads were more inclusive, products would in turn be more inclusive. For example, Aerie (the lingerie line by American Eagle), started its campaign “Aerie Real” or #aeriereal. With this, Aerie put an end to retouching and photoshopping of their models leaving in traits that make their models human: unlike other companies that will retouch every freckle and wrinkle until their models are plastic. Their demographic ranges from young women aged 15-21 (6) and these real unretouched women are an inspiration for them to be happy and proud of the body they have. If any of the major chocolate companies out there started advertising with real people; and no, not the “real” people used in car commercials, but actual real live people that go to work every day, cook dinner for their families, and occasionally want a chocolate bar, their ads would be diverse and inclusive to a broader range of individual customers.
In 2012 JELL-O responded to the Mayan Calendar scare with an attempt at viral marketing.
Playing upon the craze of a world ending 12/21/2012, Kraft Foods decided to cash in by poking fun at the Mayan religion. In this admittedly semi-genius advertisement, JELL-O asks if chocolate will save us from the Mayan foretold apocalypse. They trek far and wide to the top of an obscure Mayan ruins to offer chocolate JELL-O to the gods in hopes that the world will see 12/22/2012. Will chocolate JELL-O save the world?
This ad does several things cleverly. It plays upon people’s curiosity of an already publicized Mayan event. This leaves people associating JELL-O with the apocalypse. Which brings me to the second part of the ad’s clever anchoring.
It specifically states that if the world is not destroyed and Earthlings live to see 12/22/2012, it was the chocolate pudding sacrifice that appeased the gods.
A rundown of the commercial’s racist elements reveal many associations with the historical exploitation of exotic culture to sell chocolate.
A cartooned map of the Yucatan. (an exotic locale)
A cliched and sarcastic representation of an ancient culture. The narrator even goes so far as to call their religious practices lame. “No wonder the gods decided to end the world.”
An expedition “deep into the jungle” led by a white man, and his native looking crew. They reach a fictitious ruin and offer chocolate JELL-O pudding to the gods. Will it appease?
In Chocolate, Women and Empire, Robertson shares a history of tactics big business advertisements use by implementing race to sell chocolate. With this colonized/colonizer paradigm (Robertson, 36) this ad not only blatantly and unapologetically undermines the Mayan religion, it uses these various forms of racism to sell a product.
By leaving viewers hanging, it would be obvious that should the world still be in tact on 12/22/2012, it was Kraft who saved the world. The video ends with a tag “JELL-O, FUN THINGS UP.”
In response to Kraft’s commercial offering chocolate pudding to the Mayan gods, I’ve created an equally sarcastic ad by a fictitious company called Creamy Criollo.
The idea behind this advertisement is to show what a would be Mayan god’s reaction is to a modern day version of what a big chocolate company considers “chocolate”.
A quick look at the JELL-O chocolate pudding ingredient list reveals the following:
Sugar, Modified Food Starch, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Disodium Phosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Salt, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Artificial Color, BHA (Preservative)
With cocoa ranking third on the list (even then it is diluted with other ingredients) it’s no wonder the Mayan gods decided to destroy the world in 2012.
I did not use race, gender, or class in my advertisement, but rather a shocking portrayal of what this world has come to with its processed ideas of food throughout the last two centuries. What this portrayal hopefully shows, is that use of quality ingredients is the only ancient stereotype that should be acceptable in marketing.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
As we’ve discussed this semester, throughout history, chocolate has grown from a form of currency in Mesoamerica, to a drink for the elite in Europe, into the solid form we know and love today that makes up the chocolate industry that brings in an estimated 110 billion dollars every year, according to “Cocoa-nomics”, a CNN article that is apart of their CNN Freedom Project. This industry is made up of large manufacturing companies, such as Hershey and Mars, chocolatiers (who use already-made chocolate to create something new), and craft chocolate makers, who are small companies and are usually bean-to-bar manufacturers. All three types produce chocolate that is, in most cases, distributed nationally, or even internationally, but there are a few companies that only sell locally. Most big name chain stores like CVS, Wal-Mart, and 7-11 carry only the chocolate made by the “big five” manufacturing conglomerates: Hershey, Mars, Ferrero, Cadbury, and Nestle, and possibly a few various other smaller, yet still internationally recognizable, brands. One would be hard-pressed to find chocolate from craft chocolate manufacturers in big chain stores, however, some national stores that pride themselves on stocking smaller, more socially conscious brands, such as Whole Foods and Central Market, will carry products from these craft chocolate companies. My goal was to analyze the selection of chocolate that a local brand name store, in this case CVS, carried and what kinds of different aspects of each brand I noticed when looking at them.
Walking into a chain store like CVS, it is easy to spot the candy aisle with a broad assortment of candies, and more specifically, chocolates that people have come to be familiar with. At first glance, there are dozens of options for one to choose from, whether it is Kit Kat, Milky Way, Toblerone, or one of many other choices offered; however, after a quick glance at the back of the wrapper, it is possible to see that almost all of the available choices are all made by the same two or three companies. Milky Way, Twix, Three Musketeers, Dove, and M&M are all manufactured by Mars Inc., while Kit Kat, Reese’s, Whoppers, Symphony, and others are manufactured by Hershey. That represents a large portion of chocolate that people consume, and it’s all made by only two companies, so while there is an illusion of choice when it comes to chocolate, it is an industry consistently dominated by two or three companies. The companies that have established themselves as the major players in the chocolate industry have, without coincidence, been in business since the very early days of solid chocolate, and in some cases like Nestle and Lindt, have invented the processes that made some of the products that are popular today possible. Hershey and Mars have a long history between them, and actually used to be allies before becoming big rivals in the industry. In The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, by Joël Glenn Brenner, he details the little known trading of information between the two companies during World War II which changed the chocolate landscape forever. Hershey sent technology and information to Mars (for M&M’s) in order to help them manufacture for the military, but Mars “exploited the opportunity. Brenner notes that, “Few people outside the industry are aware of this part of M&M’s success. Neither company is quick to advertise it. But the truth is, the histories of these two industry rivals are closely intertwined,” and goes on to make the bold claim that, “one could argue that Mars would not have succeeded without Hershey, and vice versa” (Brenner 48).
While the “big five” companies have been around for close to a century, if not longer, last few decades has brought about the rise of craft chocolate makers, who also benefit from the rise of both social and health consciousness. While each company has a different reason for doing what they do, craft companies have caught on with customers who strive to make an impact on changing how the chocolate and food industry treats both laborers and the environment. A Washington Post article detailed the founding of several different craft chocolate companies and the reasons behind each, and each had different motivations for why they decided to start making chocolate. Adam Kavalier, who launched Undone Chocolate with his wife, wanted to merge his knowledge of science with his love for chocolate. According to the article, Kavalier, who has a PhD in plant biochemistry, “started looking at the chemical makeup of chocolate using a process called mass spectrometry. He has placed an emphasis on antioxidants and on determining how the type of bean and the way it’s treated affect the amount of antioxidants that end up in the chocolate.” He took his expertise from his educational background and turned it into a successful craft chocolate company. Another example from the Washington Post article was that, “When Colin and Sarah Hartman, the married co-founders of Concept C, decided to launch their brand, they had a different health interest in mind: that of the rain forests in Sarah’s native Brazil.” They both were in graduate school together at Penn, Sarah for sustainability, Colin for business, and came up with an idea to use chocolate to help create environmental sustainability and restoration of the rain forests in Brazil, where they frequently travel to do research and build their brand.
Although the same few companies make all of these popular chocolate products found in stores, one thing that is interesting to note from these different brands is how they are marketed to their target audience. For instance, although M&M’s and Dove Chocolates are both manufactured by Mars, Dove is branded as a smoother, more elegant, higher class product (which is reflected by the price point), whereas M&M’s are more of an everyman’s candy, good for any type of person or event, and it is a lower price point which goes hand-in-hand with how it is marketed. I noticed that the products that were branded with a sense of high class to them (Cadbury Chocolate, for example) were also priced higher than the standard, familiar products. The marketing and packaging of these products was one of the main factors in determining at what kind of price point they were available to consumers.
Russell Stover Assrmt.
As one can see from this chart, the companies that do a very good job of branding themselves as luxury, high class brands (i.e. Ghirardelli and Lindt), are able to price their products a little higher than normal because they have done a great job marketing their product as superior and very fine. Also to be noted from this chart is the fact that two companies that pride themselves on signature packaging, Russell Stover and Cadbury, with the packaged boxes and purple wrappers, respectively, were able to also have their prices be higher than the standard chocolate bar manufactured by Hershey’s or Mars. Those two companies, two of the biggest chocolate producers in the world, sell enough chocolate by sheer volume that they don’t depend on the higher price points in order to gain revenue, like a Ghirardelli might. This means that their packaging and branding is able to be a little more “common” and less flashy and convincing because their brands are well-known enough to sell without those things. The packaging of these products from the “big five” found in stores like CVS is very different from bars we have in class seen from smaller, craft companies. Only one bar in the store had any reference to their process for making the chocolate, and that was Ghirardelli, and none of the bars examined had any mention of where their cacao beans came from or whether or not they were from Fair Trade production.
The packaging details the process which we learned in class, from selecting beans all the way to conching, in order to get the texture and melting right on the finished product. Many craft chocolate companies include where they get their beans and advertise the fact that they value social issues like workers’ rights and the environmental impact of their manufacturing, but information on those things were nowhere to be found on the packaging of the large brands’ products. They don’t need to sell their brand on those specific things like certain craft companies do to attract a niche group of customers, so they leave it off their packaging. Despite this omission on their packaging, on Mars.com and Thehersheycompany.com, the official websites of Mars and Hershey, respectively, they do have sections where they describe what kinds of efforts they make to ensure both environmental sustainability and human rights. In this day and age, it is demanded of companies to be open and transparent in their business practices in order to show their customers and the chocolate/food community that they are proponents of Fair Trade practices.
Wrapping up (no pun intended), I think that while there is an appearance of diversity within the chocolate, a lot of the products that people see everyday and have come to know and enjoy are really under the manufacturing umbrella of the same two or three companies. The main takeaway from the analysis of the chocolate selection at a big chain store like CVS, is that a large part of the differential in price comes from how the brand chooses to market and package its products. This is why the advertising aspect of the chocolate industry is so crucial to a company and product’s success, and also why their ads come under so much scrutiny to get them perfect. Smaller, craft companies are very likely to use their morals and values to attract a certain customer base, whereas the established, big name brands have more success playing to the strength of their brands to sell product. Overall, the products tasted a very similar quality, and the price point is really a reflection of how the companies choose to brand, market, and advertise their products.
Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.
Krystal, Becky. “Washington’s Craft Chocolate Industry Continues to Grow.” Washington Post 10 Feb. 2015: n. pag. Washington Post. Web.
Schumm, Laura. “The Wartime Origins of the M&M.” History Channel. N.p., 2 June 2014. Web. 6 May 2015.
Celebrating its 89th year as one of the world’s most popular premium chocolate confectionaries, Godiva has expanded its reach far beyond Belgium, where it was first founded, and now operates more than 600 of its own chocolate boutiques and shops globally. The chocolatier has secured a specialized niche spot in the sweets and chocolate industry. While distinct from large chocolate-manufacturing corporations, like Mars and Hershey’s, which sell their products for general casual mass consumption, Godiva also does not have the localized focus of haute craft chocolatiers, which heavily emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to what they sell. With arguably only a few similar direct competitors in this market, such as Lindt and Ghirardelli, Godiva balances the high-end appeal of its products with their accessibility – selling the chocolate as an “affordable luxury”. As measured in terms of profitability and brand recognition, Godiva’s success as a business can be largely attributed to the chocolatier’s understanding of the fine chocolate market and the particular methods it uses to capitalize on that understanding of how the consumers relate to the product. Specifically, Godiva displays the knowledge that for the consumer, chocolate consumption is not purely rooted in taste, but rather encapsulates various other components of the consumption experience, including how it speaks to their identity and relation to society. Chocolate cannot be successfully sold on the basis of the quality and nature of the product itself; rather, the entire context surrounding the product – what it symbolizes, how it’s presented, what purpose it serves, how it relates to other goods – all have to be taken into consideration. Since these social components can vary among different cultures and groups of people, all this contributes to the formation of a personalized chocolate experience that will effectively appeal to consumers.
In contrast to the perspective that taste is a universal and natural quality that people can experience objectively, there are many arguments that explain that taste is actually a social experience – one that is constructed in and affected by the context of the surrounding cultural and social environment (Norton, 2006). There is no pure and ideal form and understanding of “good” and “bad” taste; rather, such values are influenced by the way society is structured and who or what ranks at the top and bottom of the hierarchy. When it comes to consumption, people do not just consume for the sake of consuming. They are constantly thinking about what that consumption says about their identity and about their positioning and status in reference to others. They are thinking about how consuming other alternatives and substitutes may affect those statements they are making about themselves. As Mintz articulated in his 1985 book, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, sugar was once used as a symbol of rank and social prestige that distinguished the superior from the inferior when it was viewed as a luxury good. Over time, as sugar changed from being a good consumed only by the wealthy to one that was for the mass population, the implications of the product and the act of eating it also altered. The same goes for chocolate. Especially as a good that is not an absolute necessity for survival, the connotations of eating it are sometimes even more important for consumers than the actual product itself. Thus, great care has to be taken into shaping those implications surrounding chocolate, which is reflected specifically in how it is produced and sold.
Artisanal chocolatiers frequently elaborate on how specialized and unique their chocolate is in terms of the care that goes into recipe creation, ingredient selection, actual production, and ultimate presentation. These chocolate craftsman also express outrage at large chocolate mass-producing corporations entering the market and selling their products as substitutes to the chocolate works of art concocted by these specialized confectionaries (Terrio, 2000). Furthermore, they express even greater frustration for how most consumers are not even able to distinguish between these mass-produced sweets, which are often formulated with cheap and artificial ingredients and flavoring, and the authentic and high-quality chocolate they make. This simply demonstrates how unless an individual is a thoroughly educated and informed consumer who specifically seeks out fine chocolate because of an understanding of the production and implications of the product, there is a limit to how much consumers know and care, and how much money and effort they are willing to spend on the eating experience of chocolate (Williams & Eber, 2012). Of course, that is not to say that all consumers don’t see a difference between a cheap candy bar they pick up at a local convenience store and an intricately designed truffle they select from a chocolate boutique. What is most significant about this pattern of behavior is that in a sense, for the general consumer, the consumption of chocolate is not solely about the pure quality of the product itself and its taste, but is also highly dependent on external factors, like its packaging, reputation, and purpose.
Godiva appeals to this specific type of consumer – the average person who doesn’t have extensive knowledge (nor really wants to obtain it) about fine chocolate, so relies heavily on the image and story that is marketed to him/her about the product, who at the same time still wants to elevate his/her status and demonstrate an appreciation for goods of higher quality. Recent trends in chocolate sales indicate specifically an increase in the popularity of premium chocolate. Back between 2002 and 2006, the overall chocolate market grew at a rate of about 17%, while the premium chocolate sector grew at a rate of nearly 70% in that same five-year period (Rupani, 2007). Vreeland & Associates, a confectionary industry market research firm, reported that in the United States, the chocolate market grew to $19.29 billion in 2011 and that premium chocolate accounted for $2.7 billion of those sales, with an expected continual growth of 10% annually (Williams & Eber, 2012). People figure that if they are going to indulge, they might as well treat themselves with a product that tastes better, looks better, and feels better than convenience store candy bars, especially if it’s not unreasonably more expensive or effortful to consume. However, what exactly constitutes “premium chocolate” is subjective to the consumer. The standards could consist of the quality of the cocoa beans and other ingredients, the intricacy of the manufacturing process, whether the chocolate is organic or certified, how distinctly different it tastes from other chocolate, whether it’s artfully packaged – some of these characteristics being valued more than others by different people. Chocolatiers play a significant role in defining the standards of what constitutes refined taste and gourmet chocolate and educating the consumers in that regard (Terrio, 2000). After these standards are set, consumers then buy into the system and internalize and reinforce the evaluations by buying, eating, and gifting particular chocolates with specific social agendas in mind. Godiva is able to consistently hold a unique place in consumers’ lives by continually reinforcing the idea that its brand and products do indeed define and embody what consumers want from “premium chocolate”.
One of the greatest strengths of the company that also contribute to it being automatically grouped with higher-end chocolate brands is the longstanding image and recognizable product packaging associated with the chocolatier – people instantly recognize when the chocolate is Godiva.
From the embossed trademark of the courageous Lady Godiva who rode naked through Coventry in efforts to repeal unfair taxation on the citizens to the shimmering gold ballotin down to the satin ribbon tying the whole box together, Godiva’s packaging has been making an eye-catching and impressive statement of class, boldness, and timelessness for decades. When consumers think about Godiva, it is not necessarily the chocolate itself that comes to mind, but the entire wrapped package. In fact, the popularity of buying Godiva as gifts, particularly around special occasions like holidays and birthdays, can most likely be attributed to the brand’s exceptionally alluring appearance. Godiva representatives even agrees that their chocolate is specifically packaged in a way that doesn’t require the consumer to gift-wrap, making it the perfect present.
However, in recent years, especially with some of the setbacks in the economy, Godiva has made a move to change the focus of its business to encompass more than the gifting capability of its products. It has slightly rebranded to allow customers to view the chocolatier in a new way – a brand that they can rely on not only for seasonal gifting, but also for personal indulgence and casual sharing any time of the year. In this sense, the company is differentiating itself from the artisanal craft chocolatiers. Godiva recognizes that its customer reach is global and much less niche than these gourmet shops and subsequently, needs to capitalize on the affordability and accessibility of its chocolate to appeal to its wider and more diverse market share. Thus, the chocolatier has now balanced out the boxes of three dozen assorted chocolates that retail for $50 and lines of fancily designed truffles with new $6 soft serve, frozen Trufflelata drinks (that resemble and are priced similarly to Starbucks Frappuccinos), and individually-wrapped chocolate treats called Godiva Gems (Historic Change, 2014). They’ve started putting their chocolate in grocery stores to appeal to consumers who are looking for treats with more casual and everyday purposes in mind. However, at the same time, the chocolatier is still maintaining its high-quality, premium placement in the chocolate market. This new branding strategy has been doing well for the company, with Godiva sales growing at 10% every year since 2008 and putting its worth at $765 million in 2013 (Historic Change, 2014).
Godiva’s consumer-driven strategy and thorough understanding of the aspects of its products that are most marketable are evident in the way it segments its consumer base and how that’s reflected in the chocolatier’s product advertising. There can be distinct comparisons drawn between Godiva’s promotional tactics in the different countries where its chocolate is sold. In the United States, for example, the accessibility, easy-sharing, and delightful self-indulgence appeal of Godiva chocolate is emphasized.
This commercial campaign targeting American consumers sold Godiva as something that people can fill all aspects of their lives with.
Meanwhile, in Asia, other methods are used. The gift-giving functionality of the chocolate for special occasions, like Valentine’s Day, and the unique addition they contribute to extraordinary celebrations, like weddings, are highlighted in the promotional efforts in countries like Japan and China.
In this Japanese commercial, the chocolate is specially wrapped in pink for Valentine’s Day and given between lovers in celebration of romance. Another noteworthy component of both this and the U.S. commercial is that they both emphasize the foreign nature of Godiva – the former one choosing to have the commercial star a Caucasian couple rather than an Asian one, and the latter including a narrator with what is presumably a Belgian accent. The European exoticism of the company contributes to the overall special quality and luxury image of the chocolatier.
This next promotional video that introduces the new Godiva wedding collection that will be sold in China includes a famous Chinese actress to market the new product line.
China has traditionally been a more difficult market for chocolate companies to break into, because the Chinese have a cultural taste for treats that aren’t sweetened with cream-based fillings, which are quite widespread among European desserts (William & Eber, 2012). However, it’s extremely popular for the Chinese to buy chocolates as gifts or as tangible celebration symbols, and when they do so, they want the chocolate to have the appearance and taste of rareness and high quality. The knowledge of the consumer preference in this region of the world shapes Godiva’s marketing strategy here. Instead of following an advertising campaign similar to the one in the U.S., the confectionary went in a different direction to appeal to this particular market. Moreover, Godiva even created a new chocolate collection just this year for Chinese New Year, a holiday that involves plenty of gift giving and celebrations.
The collection was promoted on Godiva’s popular Facebook page in February. The posts and pictures indicate a clear knowledge of the cultural traditions involved with the holiday – placing the plate of Godiva chocolates on a table with other foods that are eaten for Lunar New Year and Chinese decorations that resemble prosperity and luck. The collection’s popularity is evident with the immediate release of the design for next year’s Chinese New Year (Year of the Monkey), which boasts the same recognizable gold and red Godiva holiday packaging, but features an embossed picture of a monkey alongside the Godiva trademark.
Chocolate consumption in the Asia-Pacific region is predicted to grow at almost twice the global chocolate consumption rate over the next four years and is predicted to reach $16.3 billion in 2018 (Chanjaroen, 2014). Godiva takes advantage of the unique market placement of its chocolate – which contrasts with mass-production companies like Hershey’s, which more directly face Chinese domestic competitors – and expands its product lines for these Asian countries based on what it knows the consumers there favor most about the brand.
Godiva’s success as an internationally recognized premium chocolatier has less to do with the actual taste of its chocolate, especially when compared to other high-end gourmet chocolate brands, than with the way it sells the chocolate consumption experience to its consumers. Of course, this is not to say that Godiva chocolate is no better, in terms of ingredients and manufacturing quality, than chocolate mass-producing companies like Nestle and Mars; the luxury and premium quality of the brand indeed comes from somewhere. However, Godiva is not quite categorized in the same group as true artisan and fine chocolate shops that are really focused on the craft of chocolate making and tasting. What the global confectioner’s success and popularity is rooted in is its unique take on the experience of eating chocolate. Godiva expertly addresses every part of this entire consumption experience from beginning to end, from the way the chocolate looks aesthetically to the purpose for which it’s purchased to what it’s like to eat and taste it to what it says about the consumer who buys it, in terms of both individual and social identity. All of these different components are carefully analyzed and personalized for each individual consumer segment in the market that Godiva operates in. Even so, at the end of the day, in all these various regions around the world, the combination of that gold ballotin and satin ribbon conjures up similar overarching notions of decadence, luxury, tradition, and timelessness.
With the growing international popularity of chocolate, the number of chocolate companies has increased dramatically and the competition between each has become more and more fierce. Along with the growth in chocolate companies, the number of chocolate certification organizations has also increased, to a point where the numerous labels are confusing to the normal American consumer. Today, chocolate companies can choose from a wide array of certifications to apply for, including Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade UK, Fair for Life, Rainforest Alliance, Direct Trade, USDA Organic and more. A question we should consider is: are these fair trade certifications actually creating the social impact they say they are in the chocolate industry and around the world? In considering this question, we will take a look at the history and business of one craft chocolate company without any certifications – Askinosie Chocolate. Askinosie Chocolate, through their direct relationship with farmers, is able to have a sustainable impact on the chocolate growing community and their own local community while maintaining the high quality of its products, without the distraction of any third-party certifications or labels.
The term “fair trade” was defined by the international Fair Trade Federation in 2003 and is as follows: “Fair Trade is a movement promoting trading partnerships based on dialogue, transparency and respect, and that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading condition to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.” (Witkowski) In order to achieve its goals, the Fair Trade movement relies on secondary organizations, such as the International Fair Trade Association, Fair Trade Federation, or Ten Thousand Villages, to implement an auditing system for supply chains to ensure they meet the standards. However, the goals of Fair Trade are broad and vague, and the standards of each Fair Trade organization can vary widely. For example, Rainforest Alliance, a non-profit, claims to certify fair trade products, but does not include standards for compensating producers above market price and in actuality has worked closely with Kraft and Chiquita, big food corporations, which may lead to competing interests (Witkowski).
According to a 2009 study, fair trade consumers tended to value universalism, for example unity with nature and protecting the environment, as well as self-direction, or freedom and control over their own individual decisions, more than non-consumers of fair trade products (Doran). This study demonstrated that the values the fair trade movement promotes are important to a sizeable number of consumers. However, whether or not purchasing all products certified by a certain “fair trade” label is productively achieving those values is a question for further research.
As the market for fair trade products has grown, it seems the way in which the original values have been manifested have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Because of the numerous fair trade certifications and the incongruent nature of their standards and information provided to consumers, consumers should question the true value of any fair trade certified product they choose to purchase (Ballet). The case of Askinosie Chocolate is an exemplary model for transparency and social impact in the chocolate industry today.
Askinosie Chocolate was founded in 2006 by Shawn Askinosie, originally as a new hobby to replace his stressful criminal defense lawyer day job. Like some of the big chocolate companies today, for example, Hershey’s, Askinosie Chocolate started out as a family business. Shawn began by making chocolate in his office kitchen, perfecting recipes with his wife, and then managing the business side with his high school aged daughter. As the company grew, it made a noticeable effort to maintain the personal touch in their products, as evidenced through the personal stories of Shawn’s family members who are involved in the business as well as their business practices.
One major practice that sets Askinosie Chocolate apart from its bean-to-bar competitors is their commitment to direct trade with farmers. Unlike its competitors, Askinosie Chocolate has not sought fair trade certification or established a third party organization to certify its direct trade practices. In fact, Askinosie Chocolate doesn’t use any type of certification for its cocoa or chocolate at all (their sugar, however, is certified organic). Shawn himself travels to the farm sites and establishes partnerships with farmers through acquaintances and business partners, and then evaluates the beans and the cacao farming process himself in person. By avoiding a broker/middleman, Askinosie Chocolate is able to incorporate their value of cooperation and transparency throughout their supply chain.
Askinosie Chocolate’s direct trade model is especially beneficial for the producers of cacao because producers are paid a higher price than the set fair trade commodity price as well as 10% of the company’s profits every year (Attoun). Because the beans are routinely tested before providing the bonus profits, the producers have an incentive to produce the highest quality cacao beans for Askinosie Chocolate. Instead of relying on a middleman to inspect quality, Askinosie Chocolate sends a company representative, often Shawn himself, to visit the sites and to meet the farmers while drawing up a contract and developing a partnership with them (“Askinosie Chocolate”).
Although fair trade programs originally set out to shorten the supply chain that causes brands profit disproportionately compared to farmers, in reality, fair trade itself has become a cumbersome instrument like those it has tried to change.
In contrast with fair trade certification programs, which often require the farmers and cooperatives to front a cost of anywhere between $2,500 – $10,000 for annual inspection and certification fees, the Askinosie Chocolate model doesn’t cost the farmers money because it is a business partnership (Tellman). The combination of these yearly fees as well as the fixed commodity price for fair trade chocolate inhibit small farmers from participating in the system and limit the impact of fair trade overall. Askinosie Chocolate on the other hand plays a role in each step of the supply chain, ensuring that the business runs smoothly and that the partnership with farmers is fair at every single step. From finding the beans, building partnerships, shipping the beans, and actually making the chocolate, Askinosie Chocolate personally touches each part of their production process.
Since the founding of the company, Askinosie Chocolate asserts that they have been “weaving social responsibility into everything we do” (“Askinosie Chocolate”), and that company value is evidenced by their numerous philanthropic ventures and careful business endeavors.
Beginning in 2009, Askinosie Chocolate started Chocolate University, an18-month program for local high school students to learn about the bean-to-bar company, beginning from the bar that is completed in their town and ending with a visit to Tanzania – a site of one farm where Askinosie gets their beans (“Askinosie Chocolate: Bringing”).
This program is a way for the company to empower the youth in the community to become global citizens while teaching them about the ethics of the chocolate business and experience first-hand the types of decisions chocolate companies may face, for example, choosing a farm at which to source cacao beans. Before the trip to a cacao source, students in the program research the needs of the community and raise funds in order to address those needs and create a social impact during their visit.
In addition to their community impact, Askinosie weaves their value of transparency into every part of their business. By creating personal connections with the farmers, Shawn is able to put a face to the product, and the company literally uses farmer’s faces as images on some of their products.
The personal touch on the marketing of the chocolate bars indicates to consumers that there are real people behind the products they are buying, and tempt the already socially-minded consumer to purchase even more. In addition, Askinosie Chocolate claims that their products are “100% traceable”, and their website has a tool for consumers to input the identification code of their product to track where individual ingredients actually come from (“Askinosie Chocolate”).
Besides enriching the lives of consumers, Askinosie Chocolate takes care to also educate their farmers on their products. When Shawn visits farms to do yearly inspections, he will bring with him official sales numbers and even samples of the finished chocolate to allow the farmers to actually taste what their raw food product can create. By being transparent in their partnership with farmers and their relationship with consumers, Askinosie Chocolate is solving the problem fair trade certifications face today of unclear communication/information.
In conclusion, Askinosie Chocolate is able to have a sustainable impact on the cacao growing community through their equitable direct-trade relationship with farmers, and company value of transparency by foregoing cumbersome fair trade certification programs. In addition, Askinosie Chocolate empowers its own local community through its social initiatives, such as Chocolate University. However, the question of how to scale their impact remains. As we have seen with fair trade certification, although it began with ethical values and goals, as the programs expanded, the desire for profit and larger impact outweighed the earlier ideals and distracted the movement from its origins. The direct trade movement and the family owned craft chocolate business should also be aware of the potential dangers of scaling while still maintaining its product quality.
Ballet, Jèrôme. “Fair Trade and the Depersonalization of Ethics.” Journal of Business Ethics 92.Supplement 2: FAIR TRADE IN DIFFERENT NATIONAL CONTEXT (2010): 317-30. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.
Doran, Caroline Josephine. “The Role of Personal Values in Fair Trade Consumption.” Journal of Business Ethics 84.4 (2009): 549-63. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.
Tellman, Beth. “Not Fair Enough: Historic and Institutional Barriers to Fair Trade Coffee in El Salvador.” Journal of Latin American Geography 10.2 (2011): 107-27. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.
Witkowski, Terrence H. “Fair Trade Marketing: An Alternative System for Globalization and Development.” Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice 13.4, Globalization and Its Marketing Challenges (2005): 22-33. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.
There is a common chef’s maxim that states: people first eat with their eyes. The visual aspects of experiencing, tasting, and consuming food have been an important consideration of food culture for centuries. Within this landscape, chocolate and desserts have played a significant role in the evolution of the visualization of indulgence. From the laborious construction of marzipan hedgehogs and elaborate sugar structures of the 16th century to the highly technical making of contemporary chocolate commercials, the emphasis on the importance of visual perfection has remained constant, though motivations and meanings have evolved and expanded alongside technology.
Today, the term “food porn” has emerged as a way to describe the pervasiveness of images of food in media and the fascination with capturing images of what we eat. The Urban Dictionary entry for “food porn,” created in April 2005 defines the term as: “Close-up images of delicious, juicy food in advertisements” (Urban Dictionary). The term, first coined in feminist writer Rosalind Cowards’s 1984 book Female Desire, was vastly ignored until the early 2000s when it exploded in the media with Flickr’s “Food Porn” category in September of 2004 (Atlantic). Since then, food blogs, Pinterest boards, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages have more frequently been including pictures of food. Within these pages, chocolate and chocolate desserts capture special attention as objects of indulgence that play on historical associations with lust, sex, and romance (Robertson, 30). Even the very name, “food porn,” has obvious connotations and references to the satisfaction of one’s desires through a visual outlet. But why do people enjoy viewing and sharing mere images of food? Do these mouthwatering images induce cravings or, rather, act as a substitute for the actual experience of eating?
Unfortunately, when one looks to science for an explanation of this visual phenomenon, the research can be contradicting. Some studies, such as this one published in 2012, found that just looking at images of food could be enough to trigger an increase in the hunger-hormone ghrelin (Schussler et al., 2012). Other studies, including this 2013 study out of Nature Neuroscience, suggest the brain’s reward centers may not respond as much to visual “food cues” when the brain signals the stomach is full (Labouebe et al., 2013). Clearly, more research needs to be done in this complex arena to fully understand the visual, psychological, and neurological underpinnings of taste and food. Thus, in my opinion, a more interesting and ripe avenue for analysis lies in the social and historical influences that have shaped the pursuit of food’s visual perfection. By first tracing the history of displaying lavish desserts as a marker of social status and power through the contemporary phenomenon of televised, dessert-centered competitions, food blogs dedicated to chocolate, and finally the influence of social media, I hope to illustrate a common thread of food as an important part of the culture of social currency, as well as an evolving motivation for the visual perception of food as whole through the lens of chocolate and other examples of indulgence.
Today, we can share food with the snap of an iPhone and a few clicks. However, food sharing and the pursuit of visual perfection was historically a much more physical undertaking motivated by the desire to exhibit class, wealth, and power. In the introductory chapters of Sweetness and Power, Sidney Mintz describes the connection between food and sociality as, “food and eating have not lost their affective significance, though as a means for validating existing social relations their importance and their form are almost unrecognizably different” (Mintz, 5). However, a historical analysis confirms a great amount of care has always been paid to the visual perception of food.
For example, Mintz identifies several examples of significant effort put into perfecting the visual appeal of desserts. During the height of the 17th century, marzipan confections were meant to be admired before eaten and often molded into animal-like forms to adorn the tables of the wealthy (Mintz, 93). Cookbooks from the eighteenth century included instructions for elaborate displays, “graced with as many as ten different dessert items,” to transform sweet delicacies into a form of bourgeois entertainment (Mintz, 94). The video below illustrates how elaborate structures of sugar, spices, and even gold were transformed into symbols of power and privilege. In the nineteenth century, however, these grand confections lost their association with the high-class, because sugar as a commodity had permeated to the lower classes. While these examples may seem extreme, the historical motivations of food sharing and the importance of visual perfection serve to illustrate the origin of more contemporary meanings, and can help explain why the way food looks remains a primary concern in contemporary culture.
Fast-forward to recent years and the obsession over making indulgences appeal to a visual appetite has evolved. However, the cultural capital and social currency that is gained through the exhibition of visually astounding sweets remains. For example, the spirit of competition is embodied in the various cooking competitions aired on television that are for dessert commodities. Ace of Cakes, Baker’s Dozen, Chocolate with Jacques Torres, Cupcake Wars, DC Cupcakes, Dessert First, The Dessert Show, Kid in a Candy Store, Last Cake Standing, Passion for Dessert, Sugar Rush, and Sweet Genius, are a handful of The Food Network’s television offerings, and all of them are exclusively focused on desserts or sweets. Even Top Chef has created its own sweet division, Top Chef: Just Desserts. Clearly, America enjoys visually indulging. Sugar, chocolate, and even buttercream frosting are ingredients available to the vast majority of Americans; thus the thrill of watching these competitions focuses more so on the talent and attention to detail exhibited through the construction of such elaborate desserts. Though the on screen judges obviously taste the desserts prior to voting on the winner, I would argue that the visual perception and attractiveness of the desserts is much more important, as the show is designed primarily for the distant audience at home. They must be able to “taste” with their eyes.
Another example of conveying taste through visualization is illustrated in the design and production of commercials for chocolate and other desserts. Gü Puds is a British brand of desserts introduced in the early 2000s, and they sell a wide variety of chocolate and fruit desserts in small, single-serving “puds.” The video above details the highly technical labor that goes into the making of their commercials and illustrates the importance of creating exactly the right visual effect. The directors and producers used a Photron BC2 High Speed camera recording at nearly 2000 frames per second in high definition to capture the slow motion image. The time, resources, manpower, and technology involved in the creation of this commercial (lasting less than a minute!) clearly exemplify the importance of the visual identity of foods, and more specifically, desserts. When customers feed their cravings to indulge, they value the visual appeal as an insight to how the product may taste, and therefore marketing campaigns use this association to their advantage.
In addition to commercialized exploitations of the visual appetite with profit and sales in mind, food blogs have also become an interesting component of food culture from a different sector of the popular. Rather than relying on the published food critics in the New York Times, people looking for an excellent dining experience can check one of a plethora of blogs online. This article illustrates how the restaurant experience is being shaped by these food bloggers, armed with iPhones and not afraid to kneel on the ground to find the best angle from which to snap a shot of an orange infused chocolate soufflé. Mark Jahnke, who, along with his wife, started the food and wine blog, F. Scott and Zelda says, “A lot of our friends are foodies, and we just wanted to let people know what we had tried over the weekend and whether it was good” (La Gorce, 2010). While food is typically the highlight, the restaurant atmosphere is often communicated through the images, and illustrates the importance of context within food blogs. In addition to restaurant recommendations, most food and dessert blogs also highlight recipes and at-home suggests via posted images. For example, the Tumblr “Mostly About Chocolate” features recipes, restaurant recommendations, and newsworthy links to articles about chocolate related topics. While scrolling through the blog one can find two adjacent entries, one of an image of a freshly baked dessert and the other of a freshly purchased chocolate croissant (images below). This comparison illustrates the value of both types of visual representations and social currency that can be gained by sharing images of our food. On one hand, the blogger has asserted his or her culinary expertise, and on the other, a well-rounded knowledge of the best bakeries.
This clearly “homemade” dessert (Curly Wurly brownies) reflects the talent and ability of the baker. The blogger also noted she needed to “let them cool down before cutting then I’ll take proper pictures that look decent.”
In this post, the blogger gave a shout out to a local bakery. Compared to the homemade dessert, this image represents a refined taste and a well-traveled consumer offering expert selections from only the best.
Beyond televised cooking shows, visual marketing campaigns, and structured food blogs however, the culture of the visual appetite has permeated even deeper into the facets of society through a contemporary culture centered on technology used for every day tasks, especially through social media. Because social media is a ubiquitous platform for sharing content, the meaning of sharing food has drastically expanded to encompass the casual sharing and the capacity to do so extends to anyone with an iPhone. Most individuals have the technological capacity to snap a photo of a mouthwatering chocolate torte and share it via Instagram, Pinterest, or simple as a picture message to a friend. Rather than physically sharing a meal over a table, people can share their thoughts and experiences regarding food to anyone in the world, in seconds. This brings a new dimension of the capacity of food to unite people.
Today, the meaning of sharing visual representations of food has clearly expanded. Rather than an indication of class and power exclusively, as was common in earlier centuries, visual representations of food now represent a social currency of taste in many forms. From Food Network episodes, to million-dollar Super Bowl commercials that make our mouths water, to the picture posted on Facebook of the chocolate birthday cake baked for a friend, capturing and consuming images of food marks us as highly visual consumers and illustrates the importance food has beyond simply feeding our bodies, that of cultural connections and multi-faceted social currency.
We have all seen commercials on television that play heavily on stereotypes, especially those regarding gender and romance. According to the commercial advertisements of our generation, women are obsessed with chocolate, and thus chocolate can be the key to a successful heterosexual romance. Such stereotyped themes are the chocolate industry’s attempts at luring consumers to purchase their products by typecasting buyers as certain kinds of consumers in order to “position us in relation to that product as gendered, classed, and raced beings,” (Robertson 19). This is certainly the case in the Dove chocolate-covered cranberry commercial depicting a woman seductively leaving clues around a library, so that a man can ultimately discover her eating chocolate. The implication here is that consuming the Dove chocolate can allow women the opportunity to experience her fantasies of seducing a man. By remedying the gendered relationship, location, verbiage, and slogan used by Dove in the commercial, we created an image that serves as an effective advertisement for Dove chocolate without relying on stereotypes of heterosexual romance and sexual desires.
In the original advertisement by Dove, we see a woman romantically courting a man through a library. This heterosexual romance builds through a clue seeking scavenger hunt, where the ultimate treasure is the woman seductively eating Dove chocolate. Such images of heterosexual romance are typical in chocolate commercials, and are problematic because they both assume heterosexuality and highlight an unequal status between men and women. While in this specific advertisement, the woman is courting the man and not the other way around, we still are faced with the dilemma of a gendered image: “Consumed as part of courtship, or within the institution of marriage, chocolate could reinforce… unequal relations between men and women,” (Robertson 32-33). Our advertisement chooses to move away from the gendered stereotype of romance within a heterosexual couple by focusing on a father-son relationship between two males instead. Where the original commercial uses the hunting of clues as a courting device, our image depicts a father sending his son on a scavenger hunt. In this way, we place less social pressure on the chocolate as necessary for romance and characteristic of heterosexuality, and depict the product as something enjoyable among family.
Another significant element of the original advertisement is the location, as the setting is a library. Libraries are typically associated with the stereotype of an opportunity to pursue something in a mischievous or inappropriate environment. The unsuitable environment of a library is countered through coupling with chocolate, as chocolate is commonly depicted as a vehicle through which women can pursue their fantasies: “Chocolate… appears as a way of practicing safe sin,” (Moss and Badenoch 117). To move away from the association of chocolate with guilty pleasures, our image depicts the scavenger hunt as occurring in a park, where the son can search for the Dove chocolate behind leaves and trees. Using the park as the location supplants the theme of guilty pleasures with the trope of good, clean fun, which is a less controversial and more accessible message to portray in a commercial.
In addition, through the duration of the original Dove advertisement, the woman uses clues to lure in the man. These clues are the phrases “mystery”, “take the leap”, “free your mind”, “live your fantasies”, and “heating up”. All of these phrases both refer to trying Dove’s unique chocolate covered fruit product, while also hinting to an underlying tone of seduction and romance. Using such phrases and quotes to elicit a romantic response is characteristic of Dove chocolate, known for including seductive expressions on the insides of their individually packaged chocolate wrappers. To move away from the stereotypes of romance and attraction, the image that we created also has verbiage that serves as clues to help the son find the Dove chocolate: “stop and smell the roses”, “fun under the sun”, and “down to earth delicious”. All of these clues are hints to finding the chocolate, while also describing and depicting the chocolate-eating experience itself without relying on the images of seduction and romance.
Finally, at the end of the advertisement, the slogan “Choose a Pleasure Less Ordinary” appears on the screen. This tagline serves a dual purpose, as it applies to both the less ordinary character of chocolate with fruit inside and the less ordinary circumstance of romance kindling through a scavenger hunt in a library. We chose to incorporate the slogan “Make Every Day Extraordinary” to still serve the purpose of an advertisement by highlighting both the extraordinary nature of the chocolate and its ability to be used for everyday enjoyment, such as a scavenger hunt in the park. Dropping the word “pleasure” from the original slogan also alleviates the tone of sexuality from the advertisement and makes it more broadly relevant.
As we can see, images of chocolate consumption as associated with heterosexual romance and sexual desires are common in advertising, especially in this Dove chocolate-covered cranberry commercial. However, when we remove the gendered romance, the inappropriate environment, the seductive verbiage, and the sexual slogan, we are still left with an effective advertisement and much less of the controversy. With that said, the new advertisement, while avoiding tropes of gender, seduction, and romance, positions itself within stereotypes of class and family structure. The scavenger hunt between a white father-son pair implicitly situates chocolate within the space of families characterized by a present father, and a father with the luxury of time to spend in a park with his son implies a degree of financial stability. While creating one image to combat sexualized stereotypes in a chocolate advertisement does not eliminate the trend altogether, and still remains susceptible to other stereotypes, it does show we are capable of interacting with advertising that does not necessarily impose classifications of gender and sexuality upon its audience in order to sell a product.
We all know the guilty pleasures of chocolate: its alluring qualities, tempting taste, and irresistible sweetness. And how could we not, for commercial upon commercial highlights the benefits of “giving into desire,” “treating ourselves,” and “pleasuring our palate.” However, what we don’t realize is that chocolate’s original nature was far from sexual. Chocolate was very much viewed as a necessity and a daily snack rather than a taboo indulgence (Coe & Coe, 238). Upon examination on advertisements and social media, however, we find that over the years chocolate has gone from being promoted as a sweet, daily food to a naughty sexual experience to which women are extremely vulnerable to.
As mentioned above, chocolate was originally seen as an innocent food meant for women and children. This view is due to the division of labor at home where men were the breadwinners and thus needed the “hardier” meals in order to provide for their families, consuming most of the meats and grain (Martin). Women and children ate food with added sweets in order to make up for the loss of many grains and meats in their diet. This dynamic reflects our gendered perspective on sugar and chocolate as items primarily consumed by women and children (Martin). Thus early marketing was accordingly geared towards both groups, depicting sweet, modest, innocent women focused more on preparation for chocolate for others than themselves.
Therefore, one must ask how did chocolate become something so dirty and perverse?
Chocolate’s naughtiness emerged during the 20th century when health concerns arose around sugary and fatty foods, and when moralists associated with the temperance movement saw chocolate as a vice that lead to other sinful activities such as drinking and gambling (Martin). As a result chocolate changed from something that was consumed everyday as a normal part of one’s meal to an item that one could only occasional partake in. This was reflected in ads that were increasingly telling women to indulge themselves and to take a bite (instead of taking their daily dosage of chocolate as in earlier ads), noting how little harm a small bite could do.
However, chocolate’s transformation did not end there. The major change seen in this century in regard to chocolate was chocolate’s transition to sexually pleasurable item irresistible to women. This transformation was not unnoticed at all by chocolate producers who rapidly took advantage of these changes to promote their product. Many also took advantage of women’s more sexual appearance in media to sell their chocolate products, calling for women to “indulge their obsession with chocolate,” noting women’s hypersensitivity to chocolate as filthy yet exciting, titillating, and necessary to their being.
Commercials were not immune to this change either. As seen by the latest DOVE commercial a woman wearing a sensual look (enticing eyes, red lips, slightly disheveled hair) attempts to lure in a man, piquing his interest by encouraging him to explore a mystery, “take a leap,” and “live his fantasies,” noting how things are “heating up” as he gets closer to her. The scene ends with the woman taking a seductive bite out of the chocolate as the man finds her behind the books–all while slow, seductive piano music plays in the background. This commercial largely plays on sexual innuendos and focuses on letting go of one’s inhibitions and succumbing to desire, with the woman first to fall prey to the chocolate’s “magic.”
The Axe Men’s dark chocolate temptation commercial is no different as women are seen pouncing and devouring a man who has turned into chocolate, the lust and need evident in their bites and touches.
Chocolate’s sexualization, however, hasn’t only been seen in advertising: social media has taken up on it as well. A public account called “It’s Food Porn” recently tweeted a picture of chocolate covered strawberries, something that is universally (within the US) deemed delicious. This account is significant not only in its tweets but also in its own name. The title of Food Porn suggests that some foods can mirror the effect of pornography, creating cravings deep as sexual ones, hinting that orgasmic pleasure and euphoria can also be derived from food. Thus this tweet shows that the author of the account sees chocolate covered strawberries as an organismic worthy food that provides much pleasure and believes that enough people will agree (and thus retweet the tweet) to post it. In fact, the predominant amount of images on the account relate to chocolate foods, further supporting the idea that chocolate is seen as a sexual and pleasure-filled food.
As we can see, chocolate has undergone a large transformation from the innocent meal-time favorite to overwhelming sexual vice for women. Yet several man questions still remain. Was this sexualization of chocolate a societal one or did chocolate manufacturers begin the wave and society followed? Did chocolate commercials have anything to do with the sexualization of women in media or were they a byproduct of it? Finally, how do women across the board view these images and representations of their thirst and need: do they mutually agree or is there dissent?
Bui, Quang. Filthy Chocolate Ad Campaign. Digital image. Https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/10328493/disp/3fddea0fd5e88799dc06db43246b8505.jpg. 22 May 2011. Web.
Hershey’s was the first chocolate company in the industry and still remains one of the largest players today. As a company that possesses such an established history and with a product that has remained relatively consistent at its core through a constantly changing environment, Hershey’s has clearly constructed an unmatched reputation and captured a unique, irreplaceable place in the hearts of consumers. A close study of the company’s branding and advertising techniques over the last few decades reveals that Hershey’s ultimate takeaway messages about its products have remained the same, with a strong emphasis on the pure, universally “good”, quality taste of its chocolate, the positive emotions conjured up by its consumption, and how sharing it strengthens relationships.
Since Milton Hershey founded the company back in 1894, Hershey has been focused on creating chocolate consumed by the general American public (DAntonio, 2006). Although the specific target audience segments have changed a little bit since the beginning, with earlier chocolates being more luxurious and later chocolates being designed for common mass consumption, Hershey’s has always emphasized the central role of the chocolate itself in all of its products, fully mastering the entire process from how the chocolate is produced to how it is packaged and marketed. While similar chocolate companies, such as Mars, have created different candy variations based on chocolate, Hershey’s has continued to be the most steadfast in its focus on the simple quality and taste of its chocolate (Brenner, 2000). Although there certainly are a variety of different Hershey products, they are still more grounded on the fundamental chocolate the company is known for, more so than similar companies, whether that be with the early Hershey’s Kiss and almond bars to Kit-Kats and Reese’s later on (DAntonio, 2006). Whereas, with candy products like Snickers, M&M, and Milky Way that significantly consist of other ingredients, Mars has not always completely centered the development of its products on pure chocolate the way Hershey’s has.
Hershey’s focus on chocolate production and taste is reflected in the way it has advertised its products over the past few decades. Most likely because it is considered the first original chocolate company, Hershey’s didn’t even really need to focus on promotional campaigns until the late 1960s because the brand carried itself (Craig, 2001). However, with consumers being offered a variety of new candy products in the later half of the century, Hershey’s commercials began solidifying what makes their products stand out among the rest.
One key aspect that was particularly emphasized in the 1980s was how timeless, “American”, and reliable Hershey’s chocolate was.
This commercial stressed how Hershey’s was there since the beginning, was a snack that could be enjoyed at any time, and symbolized the diversity and pride that was America. A 1987 commercial positioned Hershey’s as popular among the period’s most famous stars and icons.
These ads showed that while society and pop culture continued to change with time, Hershey’s has been consistently “great” through it all.
Another focus of Hershey’s ads is on the pure quality taste of its products and how that makes consumers feel. An ad currently on Hershey’s website epitomizes how its products are still all about the chocolate, with everything else simply as additions to enhance the flavor.
It’s also interesting to draw similarities between a commercial in 1987 about Hershey’s candy bar and one in 2014 about Hershey’s new chocolate spreads.
While the products have changed, largely dependent on what is currently demanded amongst consumers, both commercials focus on how delightful tasting Hershey’s continues to be.
Finally, the other aspect of Hershey’s that has also remained central to its message is how sharing its chocolate products simply brings people together. From sweet and poignant mother-child bonding over Hershey bars in an older ad to fun family and friends gathering over Hershey chocolate s’mores in a recent commercial, the brand symbolizes not only quality taste, but also quality time with loved ones.
While the specific details of the various advertisements have differed over the years, depending on what activities and references are most salient to target consumers, the main associations Hershey’s wants people to make in terms of their chocolate products have remained clear and consistent. The brand has made a strong statement in saying that no matter how the surrounding environment and society continues to evolve, Hershey’s has been here since the beginning and will be here to stay, with the same simply pure quality taste that makes consumers feel happy.
Despite the long history of cacao and indeed even of European associations with cacao products since the fifteenth century, the rise of what we today think of as chocolate occurred only around 100 years ago and hinged on the successes of the “emperors of chocolate” – small confectionary businesses that within a short time became massive companies. The role of industrialization and mass production in this development of modern chocolate, as well as the production of a consumer market, is epitomized by the Hershey’s Kiss commercials that continue to grace TV screens and the internet. Commercials such as this and others which can be seen here have aired in recent years, at a time when many people are increasingly seeking out organic, locally sourced foods. The focus on the inner workings of the Hershey’s factories, then, shows the level to which such companies as Hershey’s associate with their roots stemming from developments in industrial production, and also speaks to the fact that Americans are comfortable with this image of mass-production at least in relation to some foods.
The Hershey’s Kisses “Off to Work We Go” represents the role of industrialization and production lines in chocolate making by big companies.
While showing the process of a Kiss being created, the advertisement only starts at the piping of the chocolate into the desired shape and skips the earlier steps of the chocolate-making process that we have learned about and that create the quality and texture of the chocolate in the first place (though we do catch glimpses of cacao beans off to the side). We can view this omission of earlier steps as Hershey recognizing that the company does not need to show the consumers where their product comes from, but rather that they simply care about the finished product that arrives, as in the commercial, neatly wrapped and ready to be eaten. The industrial production, which signaled a significant change in chocolate manufacturing, are the highlight of this video and therefore show the importance placed on these processes in terms of enabling Hershey’s to grow into such a large company and mass-produce chocolate at this level. Additionally, in the commercial the only people present are the on the other side of the wall – the consumers. No factory workers or trace of human presence appears within the industrial settings, though the commercial still managed to tie into the American sense of industry as hard work through the anthropomorphic Kisses. The lack of human workers, though, reflects the level of mechanization pioneered by Forrest Mars, who “studied the production of steel to learn how to conduct a product with his plant without touching it” (Brenner 67).
Whereas the Hershey’s commercial is lighthearted and does not feel the need to provide justification or explanation as to why the consumer should purchase the product or where the ingredients are from, in contrast this commercial for Horizon Organic milk shows a very different angle and focuses almost exclusively on that which the Kiss commercial omits:
This commercial for Horizon Organic milk is much more descriptive than the Hershey’s Kisses commercial and therefore represents consumer concerns about milk.
We see that Horizon Organic’s commercial is much more informative, and that it discusses what the company does, how it partners with family farms, where the milk comes from, and what the state of the cows producing the milk is. The commercial also notes what will not be found in the milk – namely pesticides, antibiotics, added growth hormones, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors and colors. This seems to address potential concerns of consumers, showing that Horizon believes those who buy its products care about this background knowledge. This milk commercial is an interested example of contrast to the chocolate one because milk production was mechanized and industrialized – with a change from manual to machine labor – around the same time as that of chocolate, largely the mid-twentieth century and continuing up to present day (Guptill, Copelton, and Lucal 108). Yet we focus on where milk comes from but chocolate and the cacao it is made from seems largely exempt from this scrutiny. Another commercial, this one for the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bubbly, also highlights this fact – in exploring the origins of the bar, the video travels not to the plantations where the cacao is grown but rather to a farm where fictional cows float in the air, supposedly providing the “bubbly” milk that makes the chocolate.
Though incorporating fantastical elements, this commercial for Cadbury Dairy Milk Bubbly chocolate represents the desire the know about origins of milk, whereas the origins of the other chocolate ingredients – namely cacao – are not addressed.
There is a constant impetus to exhibit the milk as fresh, whereas in the chocolate commercials examined here there is no such push for the cacao used. For chocolate, the focus is much more on the industrial process, and as consumers it appears that in general consumers are satisfied with this and require no further information about chocolate in order for it to sell, in contrast with how we view other foods.
Overall, then, we see that the crux of change that industrialization and mechanized equipment provided for the chocolate industry is a factor that chocolate companies such as Hershey’s are able to accept and do not need to shy away from – it is intimately tied to their roots and to their present dominance of the American market. And just as the companies are able to accept this important aspect of how they function, American consumers too largely then must accept this fact – as evidenced by the fact that the chocolate commercials viewed here showcase the factory and provide no information about the origins of the materials, whereas milk-related commercials have a bigger onus to address the quality of the milk and where it has come from, an onus likely driven by the consumer drive to know more about how their food is sourced. Chocolate, then, can be thought of as a consumable product for which we have a collective “sweet spot” – it seems Americans largely do not need to know where the ingredients come from or see people involved in the process of making the chocolate, rather it can simply be placed in front of us and we will consume it. However, more change is upon us – and with the rise of fair trade chocolate and an increased emphasis on knowing the origins of foods extending now even to cacao, it will certainly be interesting to see how these associations and viewpoints of both company and consumers develop in years to come.
Brenner, Joel Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.