Tag Archives: commercial

Our Sweet Spot: America, Chocolate, and Industrialization as viewed through Commercials

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.

Works Cited

Brenner, Joel Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.

“Cadbury Dairy Milk Bubbly Television Commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, 7 Aug. 2012. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xJKMrkYNIM&gt;.

Guptill, Amy Elizabeth, Denise A. Copelton, and Betsy Lucal. Food & Society: Principles and Paradoxes. Malden, MA: Polity, 2013. Print.

“Hershey’s Kisses “Off to Work We Go”” YouTube. YouTube, 27 Jan. 2009. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09-WlGhfIG8>.

“Horizon Organic: Why Horizon?” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHgg3X49FkU>.

Martin, Carla. AAAS 119x Lecture 7: Sugar and Cacao. 2015.

The Paradoxical Selflessness of China’s Chocolate Market

The experience of eating and purchasing chocolate in our western society can often be defined by our individual love for its taste and its self-indulgent nature. It would make sense that in trying to extend this experience to the Chinese marketplace, the “Big Five” producers (Ferrero, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle, and Mars) should try to replicate many of these same factors. Interestingly, China’s adoption of chocolate as something not primarily for oneself was rather backwards when compared with our traditional western practices, so much so that some may even consider it paradoxical. Yet it is this paradox that reveals that power of a specific culture to shape the experience of chocolate into one that is suitable for its audience.

In the taste arena, chocolate was very foreign to the Chinese palate. As described by Lawrence Allen in his work China and Chocolate: East Meets West, China had gone through a period of austerity from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. During this time, “people became accustomed to a limited range foods that were predominantly indigenous…variety was not only limited, it was also highly seasonal” (Allen 27). As such, existing populations found “the taste, texture, and particularly the sweetness of chocolate too foreign and extreme” (27). Frank McCafferty, a senior manager for chocolate product development in Asia, describes the dichotomy between westerners’ and China’s tastes well: “In the U.S. it has to be sweet, sweet, sweet, more sugar is better — not in China” (Doland). Thus, rather than embracing the rational attraction of its sweet taste, the Big Five had to take a much different strategy and promote chocolate as a “foreign and exotic curiosity” (Allen 23). The means to do this would be through the Chinese culture of gift giving.

Trends revealed that Chinese consumers were not largely buying chocolate for themselves. Not only does this support the idea that the fundamental chocolate taste was not playing a major factor in consumption, but also that chocolate for self-consumption was a rather underdeveloped market, again defying much of our traditional views on the self-indulgent nature of chocolate. For other established chocolate markets, the gift-giving purpose of chocolate only accounted for less than 10 percent of total sales (Allen 27). This was not the case in China. With over half of chocolate sales attributed to gifting, Allen puts it well when he writes, “Chocolate gift sales do not require the purchaser to have a taste for chocolate – only that he or she be willing to pay the price” (26). In this way, it almost appears that the inherent food qualities of chocolate were secondary to its role as a good gift, a symbol of “prosperity and fashionable good taste” (Allen 26). As seen in this media post by Shanghai Jungle, the author writes about how much of the success seen by Ferrero in China can be linked to its good gifting qualities, such as a the company’s premium gold packaging as seen in the image below from a Hong Kong shop.

Chocolate: A Gift That Conveys Love

Come 2008, despite economic challenges in China, Ferrero was doing well with the sales of their gift boxes outperforming the overall growth of the chocolate market. However, the development of their self-consumption products remains “elusive” (Allen 204).

It’s helpful to keep in mind that China’s chocolate market is still very young. Chocolate has only been around for a little over 20 years, as pointed out by the reporter in the following news video.

Yet so much of the market has been shaped by chocolate’s introductory role as a high end gift. The Godiva store shown in the video is just one example of the Chinese desire for chocolate as a luxury item for social interaction, rather than an everyday candy for personal enjoyment. Possible reasons for this are the geographic, demographic, and logistical barriers of reaching the masses in China. While high-end “first tier” cities have been tapped into, “consumers who lived beyond third-tier city standards were physically, culturally, and financially inaccessible for chocolate” (Allen 35). Indeed, this is just a start. Starting with China’s major cities, it will be fascinating to see how demand for chocolate will evolve over these next few decades and spread out to the masses. In many ways, the development of a selfless gift giving chocolate market not revolving around its good taste and personal satisfaction is highly paradoxical. But it does show a side of China’s gift-giving culture that chocolate has helped to illuminate.

Multimedia Sources:





Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association, 2010. Print.

Doland, Angela. “Who’s Winning China’s Chocolate War?” Advertising Age. N.p., 8 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

Stratos: Make Good Better

This commercial offers a glimpse at two important points in a young boy’s life.  The commercial begins with the boy practicing soccer alone on a cold fall day when he schemes to combat his loneliness.  The viewer watches the boy’s plan unfold.  Then the commercial skips about 9 months to a scene with his family when the boy’s plan is fully realized.  Watch this heartfelt commercial below:

This ad is for Stratos chocolate, a Norwegian chocolate bar distributed by Nidar.

Nidar Stratos Chocolate

Unfortunately, I could not find out when or where this commercial was aired.  This commercial is long compared to most 30-second ads that air.  This ad is 1 minute and 20 seconds.  There is surprisingly little research that has been done regarding the lengths of commercials (Zhou), but from my own experience, somebody who did not feel an emotional connection to this commercial would lose interest in it after the first minute.  The bored viewer would never even see chocolate in the advertisement—it’s not until the last 5 seconds that chocolate makes its appearance in this commercial! This length enables the commercial to appeal to the viewer who feels a connection with the child, the parents, or the story.  I think that this appeals to mothers of young children, and especially mothers who worry about the happiness of their children.  I know that when I watched the “P&G Thank You, Mom” commercials with my mom, she was really touched.  (If you’re interested, watch the one a ski racer I grew up with, Mikaela Shiffrin here!)

The boy in this commercial is good at soccer-he has a great shot and he scores.  When he scores, he is excited, but he is overcome with a sense of loneliness.  Practicing soccer alone day after day must be taking a toll on this child.  The boy gets his ball from the goal, and an idea pops into his head.  Suddenly soccer is no longer important. He storms home, abandons his soccer ball in the entrance, and gets to work preparing a romantic dinner for his parents.  The commercial shows the boy cooking pasta, setting the table, and putting together the finishing touches, all the while struggling to do so because he is too small for the kitchen and he has no companion to help him.  There is a natural ending place in the commercial when the boy pretends to yawn, thereby giving himself an excuse to leave his parents alone, to dim their bedroom light, and go to bed.  This happens after about a minute of the commercial.  But the commercial continues, much to the surprise of the viewer.  In the ensuing scene, the boy and his father walk into a hospital.  The boy is distressed and seems very unhappy.  When he shoves the door into his mother’s hospital room, he barely makes eye contact with her, ignores her attempt to reach out to him, and walks past her and around her bed.  In this tense scene, the viewer realizes the mother is in the hospital with a newborn child.   The viewer also realizes that the parents are probably very concerned that their eldest son will not accept the new sibling.  On the other side of the hospital bed, the boy inspects the crib.  When he realizes he has a new brother, the boy nods his approval to his parents and gently places a pair of soccer cleats on the stomach of the newborn.  This comes as an enormous relief, both to the parents and to the viewer, leaving all involved stunned.  The commercial pans to a view of the boy pulling a Stratos chocolate bar from his shorts pocket.  He opens the bar, takes a bite, and plops down on a chair in the hospital room.  At this point, there are only several seconds left in the commercial.  In the remaining time, the slogan “makes good better” is displayed to the viewer.

This commercial is long, involved, and nuanced.  It took me several viewings to appreciate the commercial.  At first I thought it was cute but I didn’t realize how much the commercial was about the little boy scheming.  One aspect of the commercial that I didn’t immediately pic up on is the boy’s clothing.  In the soccer scene, the boy wears his manchester United jersey over a sweatshirt.  In the hospital, the boy wears the same shirt, but with no undershirt.  My guess is this is exactly 9 months after the lonely soccer day.  Perhaps this red jersey is used to trick the viewer into thinking the commercial is for Vodafone, leaving the chocolate as a surprise for those who pay attention to the end of the commercial.  Another part of the commercial that was not apparent in the beginning is that the boy doesn’t make dinner with the sole intention to impress his parents.  He constructs an evening for his parents to feel close to each other, appreciate their child, and decide to move to the bedroom to try and have another child.  This boy is very enterprising, discrete, clever, and creative.  The chocolate brings out the best of these qualities-it “makes good better.”

The commercial leaves the viewer with the notion that chocolate was responsible for the angel-like characteristics of the boy.   This still advertisement helps somebody who has been exposed to the commercial make sense of it by guiding them with the familiar “if you give a mouse a cookie…” book model.


In Emma Robertson’s book entitled Chocolate, women, and empire: a social and cultural history, one of they types of chocolate advertisements Robertson describes is those of Rowntree in the 1930s that featured children, especially girls, helping their parents in “gendered ways” (Robertson 21).  In this specific Stratos chocolate ad, the young boy performs household tasks to compel his parents to have another child.  This commercial is interesting because while it features a child helping his parents, the child has an ulterior motive that is not apparent until a close analysis of the ad.  This commercial does not have any racial undertones, which seems rare in chocolate advertisements.   Perhaps this is because the intended audience is European, not American.  The only time in this commercial there is speaking is when the boy exclaims “Yes!” when he scores a goal.  The music is in English, but this ad was probably aired in a country where English is not the primary language.  Combined with the Manchester United jersey and the English music, perhaps the creator of this ad was trying to present the chocolate in an English light to appeal further to a subset of mother consumers.



Works Cited

Robertson, Emma.  Chocolate, women, and empire: A social and cultural history.  Manchester University Press.  2009.

Zhou, Wen.  The Choice of Commercial Breaks in Television Programs: The Number, Length, and Timing.  The Journal of Industrial Economics, Vol. 51, No. 3.  September 2004.  Paes 315-326.