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Where to buy chocolate ?: A Comparative Analysis of Chocolate Markets in Harvard Square

Chocolate uniquely embodies a number of contradictions. It’s almost universal, yet very personal. Consistent, yet incredibly diverse. Sweet, yet bitter. Luxurious and expensive, yet cheap and ubiquitous. Valentine’s day for adults, halloween for children—there is a chocolate for everyone. Considering all the different profiles and qualities that chocolate has taken on in its millennia-long history, it follows that there are a number of establishments consumers can go to in order to enjoy this versatile treat. Walking through Harvard Square, one can find themselves at any of the three main purveyors of chocolate—each of which carries its own unique implications, connotations, and ‘personality.’

The first such setting is perhaps best characterized by convenience, and in the context of Harvard Square, there is no store more convenient than CVS (so convenient that, not long ago, there were three within a one block radius of each other). Though technically a pharmacy, most CVS locations are better known for their general merchandise, including everything from toiletries to convenience foods. With its vast and diverse offerings, and over 9,800 stores across the United States, CVS is the epitome of a chocolate purveyor to the masses. That is, similar to grocery stores or large chain supermarkets such as Walmart, Stop & Shop, or Kroger, which is where the majority turn to for confectionary purchases (IBISWorld). That being said, chocolate is far from the focal point of these stores.

Figure 1

Just across the street from CVS, one may find themselves at Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, which is representative of a different type of setting for buying chocolate, perhaps best described as ‘specialty stores.’ Cardullo’s in particular offers an array of fresh foods and gourmet delicacies from around the world, including wine, cheese and, of course, chocolate. There are a number of other stores nearby (and across the country) with a similar premise as Formaggio Kitchen or Bacco Wine & Cheese, where chocolate is not necessarily the focus or the sole product featured, but the food categories offered are still limited. Consequently, each such category is theoretically given more ‘weight’ in how important it is to the store. This specialization also carries the implication that the products offered are carefully/deliberately curated, and are of high quality.

The last stop on this chocolate journey through Harvard Square brings us to L.A. Burdick, which takes specialization to the next level. At L.A. Burdick, one can find themselves in a chocolate heaven of Larry Burdick’s creations, which is the clear and primary focus of the establishment. Other such stores in the greater Boston area may include the Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland, Beacon Hill Chocolates, and EHChocolatier, representing the most niche of the three main ‘purchasing settings’ as they all primarily sell gourmet chocolate goods of their own creation.

The differences between these purveyors could not be more stark and yet they are all places consumers go to buy chocolate. Their various focal points and priorities are reflected in their respective selections, pricing, sourcing, and messaging.

Variety

Walking through the ‘Candy’ and ‘Chocolate’ aisle at CVS, one is immediately struck by the bold, bright colored packaging that marks almost all of their chocolate products. As displayed below, many of these are variations of the big name chocolate candy bars/treats that pervade the US such as Kit Kat, M&M’s and Reese’s Cups. But perhaps the first thing to note about the CVS chocolate section is how the overwhelming majority are more candy bar than actual chocolate. That is, there is a limited selection of primarily chocolate-based products (those with few additional ingredients such as caramel or ‘fruit & nut’), even fewer options for plain milk chocolate (four to be exact, of which three are owned by the same parent company), and only three options for dark chocolate. In a separate aisle, however, there is a stand for what CVS labels “Premium Chocolates,” where they have three additional labels with a ‘pure’ chocolate option—Ghirardelli, Lindt, and Endangered Species. Ghirardelli and Lindt both have multiple choices for cacao percentage (they are also owned by the same parent company).

The variety of chocolates at CVS is relatively new phenomenon that reflects the evolving tastes of American consumers. Indeed, “American consumers are expanding their consumption beyond traditional mass market chocolate such as Hershey”s” (Squicciarini & Swinnen). That being said, this notion of variety can be misleading considering that around 80% of the 45+ chocolate products found in these sections at CVS are owned/distributed by just 4 corporations, half of which are Hershey products and the other half of which are Mars, Lindt, and Ferrero products (Ferrero acquired Nestlé’s U.S. chocolate business in 2018). The selection at CVS mirrors U.S. overall market share, with these four companies controlling just about 80% of the market (Wilmot & Back). Indeed, large scale deals between retail chains like CVS and chocolate conglomerates likely perpetuate the dominance of these companies’ products in the chocolate market. Thus while the amalgam of packaging colors, shapes, and sizes may give the impression of diversity, it becomes clear that most of the chocolate and brand variety is superficial with the only differentiator being the flavoring.

Figure 3: Just four companies control about 80% of the overall chocolate market share, which mirrors the selection variety at CVS.

Compare this to Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe—a family-owned, local specialty store that’s been at the heart of Harvard Square for nearly 70 years and it’s a completely different story. While they still have their fair share of ‘industrial chocolate’ varieties, i.e. “mass-produced confections [that] are intended to guarantee a consistent smell and taste, achieved through rigorous oversight and a careful blending of cacaos” (Sethi), it’s the relative variety of craft chocolate brands that leaves the greatest impression upon arriving at their designated chocolate and dessert sections. With their selection including around 15 companies producing craft chocolate who specialize solely in chocolate production, it’s easy to get a hint of the diversity in the market—as well as in taste.

Figure 4: Portion of industrial chocolate available at Cardullo’s

Moreover, within their rather vast chocolate selection, there are two columns that, at first glance, may be reminiscent of CVS’s offerings in terms of its colorful packaging and familiar brands (see Figure 4). Upon further inspection however, their place at Cardullo’s becomes evident. While chocolates in this section are indeed of the ‘industrial’ variety, they are included at Cardullo’s because the brands or country of origin are uncommon for the U.S. For example, Figure 5 illustrates that the Kit Kat at Cardullo’s has an origin and branding difference—the Cardullo’s version is manufactured by Nestlé, as is the case for all Kit Kats outside the US, while the U.S. version is made under license by a division of The Hershey Company.

Figure 5: Left side is Kit Kat sold at CVS, right side is that sold at Cardullo’s

Such differences have notable implications for the chocolate itself, which trace back to around the 1930s when the “process of manufacturing chocolate was gradually shifting from improvisation to exact science as manufacturers experimented with various ways to render the essence from roasted cocoa beans. No two companies employed the same practices […] Each process produced its own unique flavor, and over time, these differences translated into distinct national tastes” (Brenner 63). In the case of a Kit Kat for instance, the European version contains less sugar and a higher cocoa and fat content than its American counterpart. This national preference has even gone as far as affecting legislation such that in the UK a product is required to be at least 25% cocoa solids in order to be called milk chocolate, whereas in the US such a designation requires only that it contain a minimum of 10% chocolate liquor (Spector).

Unlike Cardullo’s and CVS, L.A. Burdick sells all its chocolate under its own brand name. It is a charming store that specializes in chocolate creations of all forms. Here, one finds a very different kind of variety wherein all of the chocolate is made from, and branded as, the same source (i.e. L.A. Burdick), but there are numerous varieties with different shapes, sizes, types, flavorings, consistencies, etc. Specifically, they offer a number of regular and themed “collections” or assortments featuring different combinations of their 36+ truffle and bonbon varieties. While some of these, usually those that are on the smaller side such as their “Chocolate Bee Collection” are displayed for purchase in the shop, the majority are available to order online as customizable gifts or for a range of special events. In the physical store, however, there is also the option to purchase several of their bonbons and truffles on an individual basis. Alongside these delicacies, they also sell chocolate-covered nuts and dried fruits, an impressive collection of more conventional chocolate bars, as well as an array of (mostly) chocolate pastries and confections. Considering these products are all made under the same name, the extent of their chocolate bar collection is particularly noteworthy: they offer 18 varieties covering a range of cacao percentages, flavorings/added ingredients, and cacao bean origin. Throughout the store there are also a handful of artfully crafted, intricate chocolate creations (e.g. Rocher nest), with one even explicitly labeled as ‘display only,’ further emphasizing the blurry line between these artisanal chocolates and art. Lastly, and perhaps most popular, is their variety of drinking chocolate options. This includes three standard drink preparations in addition to a ‘single source dark chocolate’ option, whose source rotates every month among seven different locations, each with a specific and unique flavor profile that they detail on their menu.

Quality

Quality is perhaps one of the most cited traits in chocolate, but it is also one of the most ambiguous. Depending on who you ask, quality in chocolate can refer to any number of traits–be it the cacao plant variety or origin, the maker, the consistency, the taste, the process, or even the brand. Indeed, perceptions of quality vary country by country and are often reflective of the level of a country’s economic development. Cidell and Alberts found that “quality is based on material characteristic whose relative importance in determining quality depends on the country in which different stages of economic innovation took place.” Different producers catering to different audiences tend emphasize different things with the mass market producers we tend to find at CVS emphasizing taste, consistency and lifestyle elements (think “Have a break. Have a Kit Kat”). The smaller capacity chocolate makers we find at Cardullo’s (and potentially L.A. Burdick), on the other hand, emphasize the handmade nature, small production runs, ‘pure’ ingredients and natural tastes.

There are real differences between brands of chocolate, though the effect of those differences on the esoteric notion of quality is up for debate. For example, soy lecithin is used in the majority of chocolate products as a surfactant, meaning it lowers the viscosity of the chocolate during the production process, thereby making it easier to work with for tempering and molding. While the same can be achieved by adding more cocoa butter, this is a lot more expensive as well as more time consuming as it requires a longer period of conching (Terenzi, Chess). As a result, many of the mass produced chocolates—including all of those sold at CVS employ the former process and ingredients. The chocolates at Cardullo’s tend to communicate their quality through a varied selection of single-origin bars, thereby suggesting the use of high-quality beans and/or specialty cacao which subscribes to “a notion of quality that is linked to lack of defects and the presence of fine flavor and aroma(s)” (Martin). Similarly, they imply that an “artisanal” approach to chocolate-making leads to a higher quality product—though this is not necessarily as straightforward as it may seem since the term has no standardized implication for their cacao bean sourcing or production practices. Rather, it can be more a marketing effort to increase perceived quality. On the other hand, Cardullo’s does carry some mass produced well-branded chocolates as well with dubious quality relative to their price. For example, Valrhona, Neuhaus and Godiva, all carried by Cardullo’s, have extremely strong reputations and consumer perceptions of quality, yet all contain soy lecithin and other additives in their dark chocolate products (on the other hand, Cardullo’s was the only store visited to carry some chocolate bars with just cocoa constituents and cane sugar—all of L.A. Burdick’s bars contain the ingredient). One area where consumers can gain real insight into the chocolates at Cardullo’s are the bean to bar varieties—while these chocolates are not guaranteed to be good, this increases the likelihood that the cacao is deliberately sourced as opposed to using bulk commodity cacao.

I would be remiss if, in a discussion of quality, I ignored the significant role that marketing and branding have on perceived quality, regardless of the actual ingredients, tastes, origins, etc. of the chocolate. Indeed, consumer information is imperfect and, as with wines, the majority of consumers tend to rely on factors like brand reputation, package appearance, cacao percentage, and, of course, price. Many of L.A. Burdick’s chocolates, though sold at a specialty store under a specialty brand, lack complete transparency as to their origins and are, in fact, private labeled chocolates made by other companies (potentially some of the same companies that make lower cost chocolate for stores like CVS). There are infinite ways to define quality in chocolates and most would agree the chocolates at Cardullo’s are of “higher quality” than those at CVS, but that is not universally true and the processes and ingredients used to deride more mass market chocolates can still find themselves in the ‘higher end’ line up of specialty shops like Cardullo’s. Unsurprisingly, CVS’s selection doesn’t stand out on the quality front—the majority of their chocolate options are in the form of candy bars, which were historically designed with the express purpose of using cheaper ingredients under the guise of a chocolate product, which in pn packaging would appear comparable in size to a plain chocolate bar (Lecture, The Rise of Big Chocolate).

Price

The difference in cost between these three distinct chocolate purveyors is a little more straightforward in that, unsurprisingly, there is a linear, upward trajectory of sale price as the stores become more specialized. As the stores became more expensive, their range of prices also grew significantly, with L.A. Burdick’s, the most expensive store, having the largest gulf between its lowest cost and highest cost products. In discussing pricing however, it is important to consider the fact that it’s not only a function of the cost of the product—though that is an important consideration—but also a deliberate marketing and brand positioning decision. That being said, in the stores considered here, there is a difference in the underlying cost of producing the chocolate products that correlates with their final price. The chocolates sold at CVS, made in large manufacturing facilities targeted at the mass market, and often with bulk commodity cacao, are cheaper because such processes and resources cost less per product. On the other hand, some of the options at Cardullo’s were largely higher priced because they were made in smaller batches, used more manual or time-consuming processes and/or employed more expensive (and fewer) ingredients—as an example, Dick Taylor’s single-origin dark chocolates only have two ingredients (i.e. cacao and cane sugar) (Abesamis). Such craft chocolates often exist at “a disadvantage to the bulk, industrial market, as they often operate along lines less traditional to capitalist production” (Martin), but make up for this disadvantage by positioning their brands as premium products deserving of a higher price point.

Perception and branding is another extremely powerful driver of pricing (Lybeck, et al.). Consumers often associate specialty shops with artisan-like quality and higher prices, just as they might believe a dedicated butcher shop has higher quality meats than the butcher at a supermarket. The same phenomenon plays out in the stores that I visited, with the most specialized store, L.A. Burdick, having higher priced chocolates than Cardullo’s even though it is unclear if the underlying cost or quality of the chocolates each sells is as different. The premium at L.A. Burdick is placed on the perceived additional care a specialty shop would put into their product because, after all, it’s the only product they sell. L.A. Burdick’s website emphasizes this care (and the associated costs) when they emphasize the “hand-made” elements, even though there is likely no discernible difference between a hand-packed and machine-packed high quality chocolate: “each artisan bonbon is hand-cut or shaped, hand-garnished, hand-finished, and hand-packed” (“Chocolate Assortments”).

Takeaway: Intended Audience

Much of the reasoning behind the decisions described above, from product selection to pricing strategy, boil down to their respective target audience/consumer. As such, there is no ‘better’ place to buy chocolate (as far as chocolate for chocolate’s sake goes, this can be a different story with respect to ethical considerations), but rather the right place to suit your specific wants and needs. This is indeed reflected in the variety, quality, and cost of their respective selections. That is, at CVS, nearly everything from their chocolate options and placement in store to their pricing strategy screams convenience, accessibility, and a focus on impulse purchases (the majority of their chocolate selection is scattered by the registers and self-checkout stations) making it no secret that their chocolate selection is not a priority—nor should it be. Rather, open 24/7 in a college town with busy students and professionals, CVS is appealing to the average consumer. Specifically, it relies on those who go there for convenience because in addition to its uninterrupted hours, it’s an established, nationwide brand where people know they can go to find a little bit of everything. In this vein, it wouldn’t even make sense for CVS to offer more exclusive (and by extension, more expensive) options as they’re not targeting consumers with the deliberate intention of buying chocolate, but rather as an add-on to toothpaste at the register, a last minute ‘get well soon’ gift, or a quick snack. The other shops, however, can be destinations where consumers often come in with strong chocolate purchasing intent.

Thus while these three purveyors differ significantly in their stocking, quality and pricing strategy when it comes to chocolate, they each fill a large desire for their respective products. Indeed, their coexistence and success in different parts of the market is emblematic of the versatile role chocolate plays in our society—one that can be a low-cost treat, a delicacy, a consolation gift or an expression of love.

Works Cited

Abesamis, Abigail. “What’s Fancy Chocolate Made Of That Makes It So Expensive?” HuffPost Life, HuffPost News, 28 Aug. 2018, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/fancy-chocolate-expensive_n_5b7d8c4de4b07295150f25c6.

Amir, Anna. “Industry Report 31135: Chocolate Production in the US.” IBISWorld, IBISWorld, Feb. 2019, clients1.ibisworld.com/reports/us/industry/default.aspx?entid=230.

Berger, Jonah, et al. “The Influence of Product Variety on Brand Perception and Choice.” Marketing Science, vol. 26, no. 4, 1 July 2007, pp. 460–472., doi:10.1287/mksc.1060.0253.

Brenner, Joel Glenn. “Chapter Five: To the Milky Way and Beyond.” The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, Broadway Books, 2000, pp. 49–69.

Chess, Kate. “Soy-Free Chocolate.” The Equal Exchange Blog, Equal Exchange, 28 Sept. 2018, blog.equalexchange.coop/soy-free-chocolate/.

“Chocolate Assortments.” L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolate, L.A. Burdick Chocolate, http://www.burdickchocolate.com/chocolate-assortments.aspx.

Chocolate Industry Analysis 2018 – Cost & Trends, FranchiseHelp, 2018, http://www.franchisehelp.com/industry-reports/chocolate-industry-analysis-2018-cost-trends/.

Cidell, Julie L., and Heike C. Alberts. “Constructing Quality: The Multinational Histories of Chocolate.” Geoforum, vol. 37, no. 6, 2006, pp. 999–1007., doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2006.02.006.

Lybeck, Annika, et al. “Store Brands vs. Manufacturer Brands: Consumer Perceptions and Buying of Chocolate Bars in Finland.” The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, vol. 16, no. 4, 2006, pp. 471–492., doi:10.1080/09593960600844343.

Martin, Carla D. “Sizing the Craft Chocolate Market.” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (Blog), 31 Aug. 2017, chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/.

Martin, Carla D. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. 13 Mar. 2019, Harvard University: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University: Cambridge, MA.

Sethi, Simran. “What Separates ‘Craft’ from Industrial Chocolate? It’s about Diversity.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Feb. 2017, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/the-elusive-qualities-that-separate-craft-from-industrial-chocolate/2017/02/07/1e5452a8-ecb8-11e6-b4ff-ac2cf509efe5_story.html?utm_term=.0c7775ef6e2c.

Spector, Dina. “Why British And American Chocolate Taste Different.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 27 Jan. 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/why-british-and-american-chocolate-taste-different-2015-1.

Squicciarini, Mara, and Johan Swinnen. Economics of Chocolate. Oxford Univ Press, 2016.

Terenzi, Sharon. “Soy Lecithin in Chocolate: Why Is It So Controversial?” The Chocolate Journalist, 9 Oct. 2018, thechocolatejournalist.com/soy-lecithin-chocolate/.

Wilmot, Stephen, and Aaron Back. “Are Americans Falling Out of Love With Chocolate?” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 5 Feb. 2018, http://www.wsj.com/articles/are-americans-falling-out-of-love-with-chocolate-1517832874.

There is No Pleasure in Guilty Chocolate!

Why do you love chocolate? Because it is good! It tastes good and makes you happy. It is all that is good in the world wrapped in a beautiful candy bar. What if you learned that your delicious candy bar is a by-product of something bad, the output of someone else’s suffering?  A child’s suffering? Would you enjoy it just the same? Eating is not just a means to satisfy hunger; it is also an emotional and psychological experience.  We like to eat, and we like to eat good food without any negative connotations. Chocolate does not taste as good when it is served with a side of guilt. Chocolate tastes better when you wholeheartedly know that it came from a good place and produced in an ethical and social responsible manner.

Did you know that the global chocolate industry is nearly $100 billion dollars a year? The United States alone spends a little over 18 billion dollars in chocolate (2015), and that the average American consumes approximately 4.3 kilograms / 9.5 pounds of chocolate a year (2015). In comparison, beating the Americans at chocolate consumption are the Swiss who consume approximately a little over 9 kilograms / 20 pounds per person, then tied for second place are the Germans and the Austrians who approximately consume 3.6 kilograms / 7.4 pounds per person (Satioquia-Tan). Chocolate can be found anywhere around the world and is affordable to the masses especially to those who live in the developed world. Chocolate can be found in candy bars, truffles, fudge, cakes, muffins, biscuits, breakfast cereals, pancakes, health bars, sauces, drinks, in your café mocha, and anywhere you can sprinkle chocolate syrup. You can buy it in a specialty shop, supermarket, mini-market, drugstore, or any corner street gas station.

The majority of chocolate eaters are rather naïve in knowing the history and the current nature of the chocolate-making business. They simply eat it because they love chocolate without really knowing what it is, where it comes from, who makes and how; or any related social issues. For those consumers who are more aware of the social and economic impacts of the chocolate industry are a little more selective in choosing and enjoying their chocolate. To fully appreciate food is to experience it through all the possible senses, the physiological and psychological (Stuckey 13). Only twenty percent of what we physiologically taste happens in our mouths, the rest of the tasting experience happens through our remaining senses of sight, smell, touch, and sound. We, also, want to psychologically feel good about what we are eating. We want to know about the origins, the farming practices, and the ethics of what we are tasting (Stuckey 14). We want to know the context, the beautiful story, of what we are eating so we can enjoy it fully. The other option is to choose to remain a little ignorant of the subject as not to sour our chocolate taste, however this pleasure would be more superficial and would not represent the fullest appreciation of what we are eating. To fully appreciate today’s chocolate, we will have to fully experience it with the body and mind in full awareness of its origins, present journey and social impacts.

  1. What is Chocolate?

Cocoa is the main ingredient for all chocolate recipes.  Cocoa derives from cacao seeds, or more commonly referred to as cacao beans, which grow on the Theobroma Cacao tree.  Cacao trees are finicky trees that can only bear fruit in hot and humid tropical climates,twenty degrees from the equator at a specific altitude. These trees are highly dependent on midges, an insect, for its flowers to pollinate and bear fruit (Coe and Coe 19-21, 27). Cacao beans grow inside a fruity, pulp filled pod, approximately 30-40 beans grow inside one pod. Unlike most trees, where fruit grow dangling down from branches, cacao pods sprout directly from the tree trunk. In raw form, cacao beans constitute half its size in fat, cocoa butter. When cocoa butter is extracted from the cacao bean, what remains is the cocoa (or cocoa powder), the main ingredient of all chocolate (Coe and Coe 27). Before cacao beans turn into chocolate, cacao fruit is first farmed.  Upon harvest, fruit pods are removed from trees and cracked open to extract its beans with machetes. Cacao beans are then fermented, dried, sorted, roasted, transported, winnowed (deshelled), ground to a liquor, pressed (to remove the cacao butter), conched, and then what remains is added to chocolate-making recipes. Chocolate is the result of a labor intensive and highly processed food.

  1. Where Does Cacao Come From?

Cacao is native to the New World, the South American’s amazon basin region (Coe and Coe 25), and the Mesoamerican native cultures of the Mayans and Aztecs and predecessors were the first peoples to ever make chocolate dating back as far as 1500 BCE (Coe and Coe 33). Cacao was precious and a sacred food reserved for the elite, special occasions, and sacred rituals. Mayan and Aztecs Gods often appear alongside or in the form of cacao trees in their native hieroglyphs and surviving art (Coe and Coe 42). So precious, cacao beans were even used as a means of monetary currency. In 1545, documented is the commodity price of a tamale: one tamale equals one cacao bean (Coe and Coe 98-99). Upon colonizing Mesoamerica, the Spanish conquistadors were the first Europeans to discover and spread the taste of chocolate to Europe starting in the 1500’s (Coe and Coe 108). At the beginning of the chocolate history in Europe, chocolate was rare, expensive, and for the upper class.  Then as time passed and soon after the industrial revolution, chocolate became relatively common and affordable to the masses.

Amazon Basin
Amazon basin (based on Wikipedia, Amazon basin article, by Kmusser, using Digital Chart of the Word and GTOPO data)

After the end of the American colonial period, in the late 1800’s, the Spanish and the Portuguese introduced cacao to West Africa. Due to favorable climate conditions, cacao flourished in West Africa.  Today, approximately seventy percent of the world’s cacao comes from West Africa (Wessel and Quist-Wessel 1). The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two major countries that supply cacao.  There are 2 million, small (3 hectares acres in size), independent farms (Ryan 52) in West Africa that supply three million metric tons of cacao per year (World Cocoa Foundation).

2000px-Ghana_Côte_d'Ivoire_Locator.svg
West Africa, Ivory Coast depicted in orange and Ghana  depicted in green (based on Wikipedia, Ghana-Ivory Coast Relations article)

  1. What Are the Social Issues Involving the Chocolate Industry?

Since the first Europeans, the Spanish conquistadors, landed in the New World, the cacao industry has been tainted with slavery and forced labor since 1650’s (Berlan 1092). Upon colonizing Mesoamerica, the Spanish forced the natives to pay tribute in labor and cacao to their new Spanish Crown.  After millions of natives died of diseases, the Spanish, like other colonists in the Americas, resorted to using chattel slavery from Africa to extract New World resources (Presilla 24, 33). Chattel slavery officially ended in 1884, however it continued in disguise in Portuguese West Africa well into the 1900’s in the cacao industry and some reports state that it persisted until 1962 (Berlan 1092).

Today, cacao farmer incomes are very volatile for it depends on operating profits, and since cacao is a commodity, the market price.  Farmers need to sell their cacao at a high enough price in order to pay off their operation expenses which includes labor, a major expense, just like most businesses. Unexpected operating expenses and / or a fall in market price can be devastating on farmer revenues/incomes. Cacao farmers, per capita, constantly live without the security of a reliable living wage. In 2015, cacao farmers earned 50 to 84 cents on the American dollar a day (Cocoabarometer). As it is, cacao farmers barely break even, and there is little economic incentive for them to stay in the cacao farming business.  Due to local poverty and lack of other options, farmers continue to grow cacao under pressure to lower operating costs and often resort to desperate means to make a profit, break even, or just enough to pay for rice and cooking oil (Off 5).

In more recent history in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, a wave of newspaper stories and documentary films exposed the existence of child labor, trafficking, and slaves in West African cacao farms which caused much consumer outrage. The media graphically showed the world the extreme poverty and hard lives of cacao farmers in West Africa and the desperate measures farmers take to lower operating costs by using child slave labor (Berlan 1089).

The documentary, Slavery: A Global Investigation (2000), especially shocked viewers by showing how easy it was to find child slaves working on cacao farms and how the local people seem to accept the practice as a way of life. On camera, journalists were able, with relative ease, to overtly interview real child slaves and get first-hand testimony about their hardships, a farm owner who openly admitted to having slaves and in how to get them, and a local official who confirmed as matter of fact that at least 90% of the Ivory Coast farms use child slave labor.  Ninety percent implies the existence of hundreds of thousands of slaves (Ryan 118). A 2000 US State Department report estimated that 15,000 Malian children worked on Ivory Coast cacao farms and that many of were under 12 years old and sold into indentured service (Off 133). Two of the local documentary crew even demonstrated how easy it was to buy slaves, posing as buyers, they went to the marketplace and were able to purchase two boys for the total of forty British pounds (approximately $40) within thirty minutes. Economics, low cacao market price, was credited as being the main reason why these farmers resorted to using slavery.  With such low cacao market prices, farmers cannot afford to pay employee wages and still make a profit, and they have no other income options. In contrast, in a free and mature economy, if a business is not profitable it goes out of business, and one can start a new business or find a new job, this is not the case for the West African cacao farmers.

Since the West African child labor scandals, there has an increased awareness and legislation attempts to eradicate forced and most hazardous child labor. Child labor in general is so embedded into the West African culture, not all children who work on farms are slaves or working with hazards. Most children work as part of the family on their family farms. It was deemed impossible and impractical to create a law that would abolish all form of child labor, however a voluntary agreement, The Harking-Engel Protocol, was signed among the Ivory Coast and the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry in accordance with the International Labor Organization to end the worst forms of child labor in 2001 (Ryan 44, 47). Because of extreme poverty and lack of options, there are children who are better off working for they will at least have access to some food. Today, consumers are more aware, corporations have put efforts in demonstrating social responsibility in self-certifications, and nonprofit/advocacy organizations, have emerged and increased advocacy. There is still much poverty among cacao farmers, and many children  are still working on farms and some are still suspected of being forced to work against their will.  The child labor problems still exist today.  We, the world, hoped for that the state of child labor in West Africa would be better, however it could be worse.

It is natural that corporations would seek to do business with a poorer and less mature economies so to benefit from cheaper labor costs, but there should be limits when business practices violate human rights and the ability for workers to make a livable wage. It is evident that cacao farmers need more money so can they afford to hire farm workers to help cultivate their labor intensive cacao farms. In the least, the cacao market price needs to go up. It may mean that consumers would have to pay a little more for their chocolate treats. Would you be willing to pay a little more for your candy bar if it would end child and forced labor?

I realize that blindly throwing more money at the problem will not necessarily fix it if local corrupt governments and other stakeholders are still there to scheme away the extra money intended for the cacao farmers. This is a complex issue which requires multi-approach solution. We, the consumers, the governments, NGOs, the corporations, the media (or lack of media), the farmers, are all part of the problem, and we could also all be part of the solution. West African farmers and their children need special consideration for they are the most powerless demographic group in the chocolate food chain. The ones with the most power in the chocolate food chain by default have the most ability, and therefore the greater responsibility, to effect change. Wealthy companies and consumers are in the best position to invest and apply influence in the solution. We, the consumers, should expect that our chocolate companies to conduct business in an ethical and social responsible manner or make better consumer choices if they do not.

Here, in the first world, we would not accept the practice of child labor or slavery in our backyard, and we should not accept it elsewhere and in the products that we use and the foods we eat.  The West African modern-day slave issue is especially heartbreaking for it involves children in producing sweets that we all so enjoy so much. If we all knew that children were being kidnapped and forced to cultivate cacao, we would all enjoy the taste of our chocolate a little less. As consumers, we need to be more conscious about what we eat and learn as much as possible so we can make better consumer choices, maybe write a customer complaint to your chocolate provider or your congressman to influence change in law.  There is no better tasting chocolate than the one that is free from social guilt. In the end, we should all have the right to enjoy good and good-tasting chocolate.

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana. The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088-1100. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2013.78004.

Cocoa Barometer 2015 report, USA Ed. Cocoabarometer.org. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/International_files/Cocoa%20Barometer%202015%20USA.pdf

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

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

Presilla, Maricel. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2011.

Satioquia-Tan, Janine. Americans East How Much Chocolate? CNBC.com, 23 Jul. 2015, 7:41 PM ET.  http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/23/americans-eat-how-much-chocolate.html

Stuckey, Barb. Taste What You Are Missing: The  Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good. Free Press, 2012.

Slavery: A Global Investigation. Produced and directed by Brian Woods and Kate Blanchet.  A True Vision Production in Association with HBO, 2000. TopDocumentaryFilms, topdocumentaryfilms.com/slavery-a-global-investigation.

Wessel, Marius, and Foluke Quist-Wessel. Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments. NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences., vol. 74-74, pp. 1-7, 12-2015. doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.

World Cocoa Foundation, http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/category/program-region/africa.

The Big Four In Contemporary Chocolate Marketing

When it comes to buying chocolate consumers are overwhelmed with choices. There are hundreds of different products available at just one store. Dark, milk, white, nutty, fruity, extra sweet, extra dark, candy bar, chocolate bar; all of these come crashing together in one space where the consumer is forced to decide which one will win out among the rest. There are multiple ways that chocolate marketers entice consumers. They use celebrity sponsors, flashy advertising, appeal to certain market segments, and tug on the consumer’s emotions; but all of these tactics can overwhelm the consumer and hide the truth about the products. An analytical investigation reveals that there are four themes that stand out in chocolate marketing.

Strategy #1: Target Your Biggest Market

The largest demographic segment of the chocolate market is women. It has traditionally been thought of as a typical treat for women, but one has to question if this market structure is a result of an actual desire for chocolate by this gender, or if it was socially constructed years before. As Emma Robertson notes in her book Chocolate, Women and Empire since the nineteenth-century women have been the focus for advertisers.[1] During this time, women were constantly told that cocoa was good and wholesome for their families through advertising campaigns. This began the long historical connection between chocolate and the housewife.

Today, mothers are still told that chocolate is what they should be giving their children. Advertisements from Nestlé’s Nesquik, specifically tell mothers that their chocolate milk is nutritious for children.[2] Unfortunately, they rarely disclose in their advertisements that their products contain about half of the recommended daily amount of sugar for kids.[3] Instead, mothers are shown having happy interactions with their children when they give them these chocolate products. This is a strategic move on the part of marketers because every mother wants to give their child something that they believe will make them happy and healthy. However, housewives are not the only segment of the female population that is targeted in chocolate marketing.

Single women are often the ones portrayed eating chocolate in advertisements. In a recent ad from Hershey’s they are selling two of their classic chocolate bars, but only women are shown enjoying the treats.[4] The fifteen-second ad is very revealing because it perpetuates the image that women are the ones who enjoy chocolate the most. It would have been very easy to have a man eat part of the chocolate bar but it was a clear choice by Hershey’s to exclude men. To a chocolate marketer, men constitute only a small portion of the chocolate market, thus they are rarely included in advertisements.

Most chocolate advertisements not only focus on women but also focus on the emotions of women. In the 2015 Super Bowl ad for Snickers, the actor Danny Trejo portrays a hungry Marcia Brady, from the classic American television show The Brady Bunch. Mrs. Brady informs her daughter that she can be hostile when she is hungry, but the Snickers bar turns Marcia Brady back into her chipper self after she eats it.[5] This idea that women will calm down if they have chocolate is another common theme used in marketing chocolate. Women are frequently shown to have their moods altered just by consuming chocolate. They are sold the idea that chocolate can provide you with an emotional or biological experience.

Strategy #2: Packaging Sells

Another strategy that marketers commonly use is creative packaging to make their product stand out among all of the other options. If one walks down the chocolate aisle at any store they will see that all of the chocolate is packaged very differently. Some use bright colors to grab attention, while others have artistic images or use creative fonts. This is important when marketing chocolate because the packaging also denotes who the target audience is. Products wrapped in gold or high-gloss packaging can signal that the company is trying to convey the message that this is a quality product and they are trying to target a luxury consumer. Companies understand that the consumers are not likely to research the quality of the product; therefore the quality of the packaging and the information on the packaging is what will sell the product.

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Image Courtesy of 2017e677

 

A key segment of the chocolate market is the eco-friendly consumer, who will inspect the packaging of the product to make sure the company shares their values. This can involve looking at the packaging to see if it uses sustainable materials, checking the label certifications, or seeing if the company supports the same causes as they do. Purchasing a product is often an emotional experience. If the consumer is purchasing a chocolate without knowing how it tastes, their decision will also be based on whether the packaging grabbed their attention and made them feel a connection to the product.

 

Strategy #3: Play on Your Consumer’s Emotions

Emotions are a key factor when it comes to decision-making. Marketers know that people’s beliefs and feelings will sell products and subsequently, will support causes outside of their industry to make their product stand out among the competition. This is common in the chocolate industry that companies will support other causes in order to lure customers in to support their brand. The moist poignant example is Endangered Species Chocolate, who uses a social cause as their key marketing strategy.

“A snack that gives back”; Endangered Species Chocolate promises their customers that 10% of their net profits each year will be donated to their wildlife conservation partners.[6] They have had a wide variety of partners over the years, which include organizations that help animals in every ecosystem. This is a very clever marketing strategy because it connects their chocolate with a deeper purpose. The consumer feels like they are making a difference in the world if they are buying this chocolate, which is a compelling sales strategy. Endangered Species Chocolate further cements the emotional connection to the product by putting images of animals on every one of their products. While this is a very clear strategy to drive sales, the company is also transparent about the impact their donations have each year by publishing an annual impact report.[7]

Divine Chocolate also uses social causes as a marketing strategy to sell their chocolate. Their chocolate bars are branded as being owned by cocoa farmers and they seek to empower women. Cocoa farming has traditionally been thought of as mainly an industry for men and women have been overlooked.[8] Divine Chocolate changes this common chocolate dichotomy by emphasizing the important roles that women have in cocoa farming. Their advertisements often show African women as strong, well-dressed intelligent women, a stark contrast to the typical primitive images of women in Africa. As Kristy Leissle notes Divine’s advertisements, “reframe Africa’s role in modernity, creating an alluring female figure that envisions and promotes Africa’s contributions to industrial production and luxury consumption.”[9] By changing the typical narrative of chocolate, Divine Chocolate is creating social change. However, these advertisements that inspire change also play into the consumer’s emotions, which was created to highlight the company’s “unique selling point.”[10] Divine Chocolate understands that their ethical values as a company are a selling feature for their products, and as a result, they use these values as a marketing tool.

Strategy #4: Certify Everything

The final, and perhaps most contemporary, marketing tool that marketers use when selling chocolate are all of the different certifications that can appear on the packaging of products. Ideally, one would not have to be concerned about the treatment of farmers or the quality of the ingredients. If that were the case we would not need labels to tell us that this product is not harming the environment, but consumers do not automatically trust that a company will be ethical in their business practices. Consequently, there are many different certifications available: Fair Trade, Certified Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Direct Trade, Certified Vegan, Certified Gluten Free, among many others. For all of these certifications companies and farmers have to pay annual fees and meet certain standards to become a part of these organizations and as a result, they are allowed to use the corresponding label that they qualified for on their products. While the certifications have good intentions they have become a marketing ploy, and one could argue that the labels do not actually benefit the farmers or producers in the altruistic way that is intended.

The Fair Trade certification was created to help farmers improve their lives and ensure fair prices for their products, but these goals have not been realized.[11] It has been found that farmers are not earning more money, the quality of products has not improved, and they do not monitor standards in the way that was promised.[12] This is a significant problem for farmers because they spend a great deal of money to become Fair Trade certified but they are not receiving the benefits that were espoused.[13] Since the economic burden is so substantial many farmers opt out of the certification because they will make more money without it.[14] However, many consumers do not realize that certification labels like Fair Trade are failing to adhere to their promises.

Certifications labels were created to inform consumers that products were ethical in their origin. Nico Roozen and Frans van der Hoff created the first quality label called Max Havelaar.[15] Along with Albert Heijn, in 1988 they launched the first coffee brand that was labeled fair, Max Havelaar coffee.[16] The brand became so successful that more products began displaying the Max Havelaar label throughout Europe and North America.[17] As a result of the popularity of the Max Havelaar label, more certifications have been created. While these certification organizations have good intentions, they have also become an extremely successful marketing tool. Companies have seen large spikes in sales as a result of these labels, but there is the potential for this growth to stop.[18]

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The many certification labels on Theo Chocolate, Endangered Species Chocolate and Taza Chocolate. Images courtesy of 2017e677.

The average consumer does not know the requirements for certification for the majority of the programs that exists. They just assume that a Fair Trade or organic label denotes an ethical or high-quality product. But now that more certifications exist, companies will put multiple certifications on one product potentially confusing the consumer. As Ndongo Samba Sylla notes, companies run the risk of diluting the meaning of these labels by placing too many on one package.[19] By placing so many certifications on one product, the labels begin to be arbitrary and reveal their true purpose, which is a sales device.

Is Chocolate Marketing All a Façade?

With all of these marketing strategies, it begins to look like there is a lack of honesty in the marketing industry. As a result, consumers are left to wonder if they are simply being sold lies. It is true that chocolate marketers will exploit every angle they can in order to sell you a product but they are not necessarily acting unethically, they are just doing their job. Companies need to push boundaries in order to set themselves apart from all of the competition. Ultimately a company cannot be altruistic without selling their products, thus earning the additional money necessary to meet their charity goals. The chocolate industry is a highly competitive world and it is important as a consumer to not get caught up in the strategies that companies implement.

In order to be mislead by all of the marketing schemes, consumers need to do their homework when searching for the chocolate product they want to purchase. There are honest chocolate companies that are very transparent about their processes and openly publish company information. For example, Theo Chocolate is proud to share information about their passions for chocolate and changing the world.[20] On their website they are open about where their beans are sourced from and share their pricing structure publically.[21] In addition, Taza Chocolate publishes a direct trade transparency report that details where they are buying their cacao and from whom.[22] The reports often list farmers by name, giving the consumer more knowledge than is usually possible with the food industry.[23]

While both Taza Chocolate and Theo Chocolate still market their chocolate like any other business would, they also publish information about their respective business practices, which indicates that they are open to additional conversations about their methods. Their honesty is a refreshing change in the chocolate industry. Although transparency is not commonly employed in marketing chocolate, by clearly understanding the tools that companies use to sell their products a consumer can look past all of the sales techniques and find the chocolate product that is right for them.

 

 

 

Works Cited

[1] Emma Robertson, Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Manchester University Press: New York, 2009), 20.

[2] “Postgame Nutrition”, Nestle Nesquik, accessed May 1, 2017, https://www.nesquik.com/postgame-nutrition/.

[3] “Sugar Recommendation Healthy Kids and Teens Infographic”, American Heart Association, accessed May 1, 2017, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-Recommendation-Healthy-Kids-and-Teens-Infographic_UCM_487755_SubHomePage.jsp.

[4] Hershey’s, “HERSHEY’S Love in Every Bite”, YouTube Video, 00:15, Posted February 6, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxYHyZWaK2o.

[5] Wall Street Journal, “Super Bowl 2015: Snickers Ad”, YouTube Video, 00:32, Posted January 29, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UO2A2p-19A.

[6] “Promise”, Endangered Species Chocolate, accessed May 1, 2017, http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18.

[7] Endangered Species Report, Impact Report 2016, Accessed May 2, 2017,

http://www.chocolatebar.com/docs/doc_2016_Impact_Report.pdf.

[8] Divine Chocolate, “Empowering Women”, accessed May 2, 2017, http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/about-us/TrainingWomen.

[9] Kirsty Leissle, “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements”, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 123.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Mission/Values”, Fair Trade USA, accessed May 2, 2017. https://fairtradeusa.org/about-fair-trade-usa/mission.

[12] Carla D. Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization” (Lecture Slides, Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017), Slide 11, accessed May 2, 2017, https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1CkKtJa-PLeSsmfsrheoSqdO2gT7yiizxE7x0DmcwcKA/edit#slide=id.g12aecdfb3_057.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Carla D. Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization” (Lecture, Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017).

[15] Ndongo Samba Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty To Benefit The Rich (Ohio University Press: Athens, 2014), 70-71.

[16] Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 72.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 91.

[19]Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 133.

[20] “Mission”, Theo Chocolate, accessed May 2, 2017, https://www.theochocolate.com/mission.

[21]“Sourcing”, Theo Chocolate, accessed May 2, 2017, https://www.theochocolate.com/sourcing.

[22] “Taza Direct Trade”, Taza Chocolate, accessed May 3, 2017, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade.

[23] “Taza Transparency Report 2015”, Taza Chocolate, accessed May 3, 2017, https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Transparency_Report_2015.pdf?10448975028103371905.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/5126226571

Walgreens: My Unlikely Source Of Chocolates*

About The Taster

It is not a secret to those who know me well that I love chocolate. I specially enjoy super dark, extremely bitter (70-90%) Cacao bars. I also like—the unfortunately less nutritious—white chocolate products. I regularly buy white chocolate bars or bon bons from local grocery stores. Yet, my finest inclinations—as a chocolate taster—are always in favor of the darkest, unsweetened, highly concentrated cacao bars. 
 
According to content learned in Harvard University professor Carla D. Martin’s class Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, I am a hypertaster or someone who has “more papillae that are very closely arranged and smaller” (Martin, 13). This can make me an unreliable taster, and it probably explains my experience with tasting food—I always sound either very excited or really disgusted about flavors in contrast to most of my friends, who seem balanced in their perception of taste. Regardless of the odds, I continue to be their main “adviser” on good local restaurants. This is probably due to my “passionate” approach, which grabs their interest. 

Why Walgreens? 

I regularly walk to a nearby Walgreens drugstore to get my prescriptions (see fig. 1 and fig. 2). It was not until joining professor Martin’s class that I paid attention to their chocolate section. It actually happened around Valentine’s, when most of us (particularly females) are targeted with advertisements and offers of candy and chocolates. Very curious—recalling our class’ discussions—I explored these isles at the store and I found—not surprisingly—an “avalanche” of well known chocolate brands (like Lindt, Cadbury, Nestle) lying next to the candy section (see fig. 4).
Fig. 1. Walgreens drugstore at Vermont Avenue and 6th Street, Los Angeles, California.

Fig. 2. Pinned location of Walgreens at Vermont Avenue and 6th Street, Los Angeles, California. 

Walgreens was founded in 1901 by Charles R. Walgreens in Dixon, Illinois. He started Walgreens as a “50 feet by 20 feet” (“Our Story”) drugstore, which later developed into a giant chain of pharmacies, and successfully expanded across the United States. In the Walgreens website, its motto reads, “A history of our company: How a neighborhood drugstore became America’s most trusted pharmacy… and changed the shopping habits of a nation” (“Our Story”) That seems consistent with the Walgreens of today, which steadily renovates its inventory to offer beauty, household and even grocery products (see fig. 3).
Fig. 3. Walgreens’ online shopping portal.

The Walgreens Experience

So, who goes to Walgreens for chocolates? Is it just me? Highly doubtful! I visit the store at least once per month. Since last Valentine’s their chocolate supply was re-stocked. I was shocked to see some of the brands that professor Martin reviewed in class (i.e. Endangered Species Chocolate) at my local Walgreens. Their wide list of product categories, makes Walgreens a good candidate for casual grocery and retail shopping. And when it comes to chocolate and candies, I am not alone. The day that I chose to take pictures for this assignment, I had to move aside several times to let other shoppers shop, and to let their children run wild over the candy section. 
 
It is perhaps its versatility—as business scholar Katy Mullis suggests in her paper A SWOT Analysis of Walgreens in the Competitive Pharmacy Marketplace—what keeps the retailer thriving. Mullis describes the advantage of their extensive product selection, “The company strives to offer a merchandise mix in line with this focus, providing customers with one-stop stopping for not only prescription drugs, 6 but also over-the-counter-drugs, health care products, grocery selections, gifts, holiday and seasonal items, and one-hour photo developing” (Mullis, 5-6). Walgreens—based on Mullis’ work—holds strongly as a convenience market. People go there to order prescriptions, and spend no less than fifteen minutes waiting for them to be ready. This gives the company a tremendous advantage to sell more than just pharmaceutical goods. I personally buy candles and incense at Walgreens since 2015—and now, I additionally buy their chocolates and wine. 

Judging The Book By Its Cover 

Although Walgreens sells a great variety of chocolates, it is not a specialty shop for cacao products. It conveniently stocks brands that are popular and generally available in other food markets. Therefore, I was not expecting to find fancy delicacies there—and none else should. It would be an exception from their purchasing habits if it ever happened. Nevertheless, their chocolate selection is sufficiently versatile—considering that Walgreens is primarily a pharmacy, and not a grocery chain like Ralphs or Gelson’s.

 Fig. 4. Walgreens’ “Chocolate-Candy” section at a Walgreens store in Los Angeles, California.

The chocolate bars sold at Walgreens range from low to very good quality—as far as branding and taste. Some of their prevalent brands were mentioned at professor Martin’s class: Hershey’s, Cadbury’s, Nestle, Lindt, etc. It is uncommon to see organic products there (I did not find any at all), or certified products in general. But sometimes random supplies make it to their shelves and one stumbles upon a deliciously crafted chocolate bar.
 
With this research in mind, I selected and purchased a few items that attracted me. Recalling the chocolate tasting activities performed by professor Martin, I bought two of the Endangered Species Chocolate brand. I also picked the Chili and White Coconut—of course—bars from Lindt and a few others, nicely appealing (presentation-wise and content-wise). Notwithstanding, I avoid Hershey’s and Cadbury’s almost all the time. I feel that they make products that are so sweet and “distressed” that I am unable to taste any real chocolate in them. 

Tasting And Researching Chocolate 

My “repertoire” consisted of the items shown below (see fig. 5). Fig. 5. Chocolate Tasting Selection.

The description of the products in the picture is the following (in random order):
  • 1 Damak Fine Chocolate with Pistachios bar by Nestle, $2.89 / 2.80 oz.
  • 1 Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios bar by Nestle, $2.89 / 2.80 oz.
  • 1 Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond with Blood Orange Flavor bar by Brookside, $3.89 / 3.17 oz.
  • 1 Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds bar by Endangered Species Chocolate, $4.29 / 3 oz.
  • 1 Dark Chocolate With Cranberries & Almonds bar by Endangered Species Chocolate, $4.29 / 3 oz.
  • 1 Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate bar by Lindt, $2.50 / 3.50 oz.
  • 1 Excellence White Coconut White Chocolate bar by Lindt, $2.50 / 3.50 oz.
The results of the experiment produced the following graph, showing percentages (fig. 6):
 
Fig. 6. Measuring Chocolate Tasting Results.
  • The tastiest bar: Endangered Species Chocolate’s Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds.
  • The best deal: Lindt’s Chili Dark Chocolate.
  • The worst product: Nestle’s Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios.
The worst tasting experience corresponds to Nestle’s Damak series. Professor Martin remarked during her lectures about processing chocolate, that over-conching can result in a “flat, lifeless” (Martin, 56) and dull product—which was evident when tasting the Damak series. In regards to Brookside’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate with Blood Orange Flavor, I was dazzled by its fancy name and its presentation. Beautifully enclosed in a delicate foil envelope, it featured sketches of almonds, cranberries and an orange tree etched in silver color over a dark red background (see fig. 7). Whereas its base cacao mix did not feel over-conched or poorly processed, the presence of so many strong flavors (orange, almonds, cranberries) created an ambiguous taste that did not impress my palate, so I classified it as too busy. 
 
Decidedly, my preferred choice became the Endangered Species’ Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds. It has a sharp, lively, delicious chocolate presence along with salty, crispy notes of sea salt and almond chunks. The only downside of this brand is that it is pricey—looking at the cost and its net weight. However, all of its certifications and its quality make it seem worth the investment. Regardless, certifications should be interpreted with caution—according to professor Martin’s research titled The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe, co-authored with Kathryn E. Sampeck—because often they result in misguided efforts that do not really support cacao farmers as they claim to, and that benefit primarily “wealthy consumers” (Martin and Sampeck, 52) frequently halting “innovation by prioritizing consensus among participating companies and incentivizing only baseline standards adherence, ultimately becoming part of the problem” (Martin and Sampeck, 52). The problem—in this case—refers to the ever-growing poverty in many cacao-producing nations, and in the difficulties experienced by cacao farmers to sell their raw materials and to collect their earnings afterwards, whether they participate or not in certification programs.
Fig. 7. Brookside’s Refined Cranberry Almond With Blood Orange Bar.
 
In the next section are the details about the ratings from the chocolate tasting experiment. 

Observations From The Experiment

Nestle’s Damak Fine Chocolate with Pistachios:
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Mild taste, almost like candy
  • Burnt garlic after taste
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: SadeOfset
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 3/10
  • Presentation: 2/5
  • Price: 2/5
Nestle’s Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios:
  • Dark Chocolate (55%)
  • Soil-like taste, almost like dirt
  • Bitter after taste
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: SadeOfset
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 3/10
  • Presentation: 2/5
  • Price: 2/5
Brookside’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate with Blood Orange Flavor:
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Fruity flavor, citric
  • Mildly bitter
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: Smartlabel
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 7/10
  • Presentation: 5/5
  • Price: 4/5
Lindt’s Excellence White Coconut:
  • White Chocolate
  • Fruity, coconut
  • Sweet
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: N/A
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 8/10
  • Presentation: 5/5
  • Price: 5/5
Lindt’s Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate:
  • Dark Chocolate (47%)
  • Spicy, chili
  • Sweet
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: N/A
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 9/10
  • Presentation: 5/5
  • Price: 5/5
Endangered Species’ Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds:
  • Dark Chocolate (72%)
  • Sharp, salty and crunchy
  • Just perfect
  • Cacao: Fair Trade, Non-GMO
  • Certifications / Program: Fair Trade, NON GMO Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified Vegan
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 10/10
  • Presentation: 4/5
  • Price: 3/5
Endangered Species’ Dark Chocolate with Cranberries & Almonds:
  • Dark Chocolate (72%)
  • Fruity, spicy and crunchy
  • Just perfect
  • Cacao: Fair Trade, Non-GMO
  • Certifications / Program: Fair Trade, NON GMO Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified Vegan 
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 9/10
  • Presentation: 4/5
  • Price: 3/5
These are certifications reported by the products:
Contents (fig. 8):
  • Kosher, Dairy
  • Fair Trade
  • NON GMO Verified
  • Certified Gluten Free
  • Certified Vegan
Fig. 8. Product Certifications. 
Packaging (fig. 9):
  • SadeOfset
  • Smartlabel
  • PCW Certification

Fig. 9. Packaging Certifications.
 
A curious detail revealed by the experiment, was the ubiquity of packaging certifications. Almost every chocolate product at Walgreen’s shelves displayed one or more packaging certification logos—even when the product itself was not certified. This proves that consumers are not only interested in eating well: they are also concerned about the impact that the products they consume have in the environment. Hopefully, consumers will succeed in voicing their interest to chocolate manufactures and cause them to buy more certified raw materials, and to support standardized certification programs. 

Putting It All Together 

Shopping at Walgreens for chocolates was quite an experience. If it was not because of taking professor Martin’s class, it would have likely skipped it. Yet, her class succeeded in making me a more conscious food shopper. I feel now compelled to read food labels and to check for certifications, which—other than USDA Organic—sounded irrelevant to me before enrolling in Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Understanding the difference between Fair Trade, USDA Organic and other classifications does make a difference in the “wholesomeness” and perception of a product. I am specially keen about the complex chain of connections that begins at a chocolate farm and ends on the hands of the consumer. I “pledge” to use more discernment in my future purchases by supporting transparent, environmentally and socially conscious chocolatiers.
 
An additional takeaway from professor Martin’s class—which becomes obvious while shopping for groceries—is that sugar and chocolate are quasi inseparable. Often, they are displayed in contiguous shelves, so that it is hard to define where the candy ends and the chocolate begins—this was the case at Walgreens (and many other stores). Perhaps, the subliminal reason for this is that most chocolate products nowadays are so overwhelmingly processed that—as author Samira Kawash puts it in her Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure book—there is an “ancestral” link between them: 

“The ancestral relation between candy and today’s ultraprocessed foods is a compelling reason to look a little more closely at the rise of the candy industry and the controversies and worries that accompanied it. The story of candy in America is a story of how the processed, the artificial, and the fake came to be embraced as real food. And it’s also the story of how it happened that so much of what we call food today is really candy.(Kawash, 26)

What Kawash suggests has been historically documented and marked by the evolution of the advertisement and media. Today’s most renown chocolate brands in America (i.e. Hershey’s) produce hyper-processed, hyper-sweetened chocolate goods. There is almost no difference between eating these chocolates and eating pure candy. But there is new is hope for a positive change that arises from consumer awareness. We—as consumers—can and are transforming the current food market. The dangers of sugar addiction and chemical processing are being exposed, and food shoppers are turning to natural alternatives. We are all hopeful about the rise of healthier and tastier food (and chocolate) that—most definitely—will lay in the hands of our millennials! 
*Disclaimer: This essay is drawn from a personal experience. Therefore, it is written in First-Person.

Works Cited

Faith, Arleena. Brookside’s Refined Cranberry Almond With Blood Orange Bar. 2017.

Digital photograph. Los Angeles, California.   

Faith, Arleena. Chocolate Tasting Selection. 2017. Digital photograph. Los Angeles,

California. 

Faith, Arleena. Measuring Chocolate Tasting Results. 2017. Digital graph. Los Angeles,

California.

Faith, Arleena. Packaging Certifications. 2017. Digital collage. Los Angeles, California.

Faith, Arleena. Product Certifications. 2017. Digital collage. Los Angeles, California.

Faith, Arleena. Walgreens’ Chocolate-Candy Section. 2017. Digital photograph. Los

Angeles, California.

Kawash, Samira . Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Farrar, Straus and Giroux,

2013, New York, Print. Apr. 2017. 

Martin, Carla D. (2017). Lecture 4: Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal [PowerPoint

presentation]. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Martin, Carla D. (2017). Lecture 12: Psychology, Terroir, and Taste [PowerPoint

presentation]. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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

Europe.” Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2015. Print. 2017 May 2.

Mullis, Katy. “A SWOT Analysis of Walgreens in the Competitive Pharmacy

Marketplace.” College of Health and Human Sciences Oregon State University, Corvallis,

Oregon. 2006. Web. 2017 April 20. http://www.teschi.edu.mx/TESCHI-web/TESCHI-papelera/%20cevm/diapositvas/Anexos%20Modelos/Anexos%20Modelo%20Empresa/DAFO/A%20SWOT%20Analysis%20of%20Walgreens.pdf

“Our Past.” Walgreens, 2017. Web. 2017 April

28, https://www.walgreens.com/topic/history/ourpast.jsp

“Shop” Online shopping portal. Chicago: Walgreen Co., 2017. Walgreens. Walgreen

Company. 2017. Web. 2017 April 28.

“Walgreens.” Online map. Los Angeles: Google Inc., 2017. Google Maps. Google

Maps. 2017. Web. 2017 April 28.

Walgreens. 2017. Photograph. Google Maps. Google, Inc. Web. 2017 April 28. 

Chocolate: Caloric Convenience or Conscientious Confection

Buying chocolate in America can be much like any other purchase in terms of the shockingly wide range of options, flavors, and price points made available to the consumer.  There are basic candies and bars that will satisfy a craving and there are expensive treats that claim to be so luxurious they go so far as to hint at the possibility of providing for a longer life (https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158).  All of these options are available under the name of chocolate and convenience.  This essay will focus on comparisons between only two candy aisles at two stores:  CVS and Whole Foods; both Fortune 500 companies, neither of which are confectioneries or chocolate houses.

CVS

CVS is a $117.4 billion (according to Forbes.com) drug retail company.  Not only are they the biggest retailer of prescription drugs and the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S., but they also provide healthcare services through medical clinics and diabetes care centers.  In addition, they also sell chocolate.

True to their origins as a pharmaceutical vendor, when one walks into a CVS, it has a compact, efficient, and even slightly clinical look and feel.  The open space is brightly lit by overhead fluorescent lights, large red tags indicate where items can be found, and special offers and discounts are loudly displayed and announced overhead.  Even the retail staff members are dressed in white lab coats lending to the authenticity of a doctor’s waiting room.

This store prides itself on health, but also low prices and convenience.  It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers weekly and even daily special discounts.  The candy aisle is located at the front of the store near the entrance, across from toys and other fun, spontaneous, instant-gratification type items and extras.  Additional chocolate items are lined up under a selection of gum at the register for last-minute impulse purchases, with sale prices highlighted to focus attention on the discount provided.

CVS counter
Display at the CVS checkout counter. Candy bars, placed under the gum, are all on sale for $0.88 or buy one and get the second one at a 50% discounted price.

As one walks to the candy aisle, the packaging and marketing materials (mostly plastic) are immediately noticeable in bright colors, bold fonts, and large labels.  The branding, for most American customers, would be quickly recognized as all belonging to the “big chocolate” brands:  Hershey’s, Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, Mars, and Cadbury (Martin, “The rise”).

There are bars of chocolate, but the majority of products offered are blended with, or provide a shell coating over, less expensive products.  The iconic milk chocolate Hershey’s bar is showcased in the middle row at eye-level, sharing the shelf with Nestle Chunky bars (a chunky-shaped candy bar with milk chocolate, California raisins, and roasted peanuts). Nips (a hard candy, some of which contain a chocolate-flavored filling), Dove chocolate bars and Cadbury Dairy Milk bars are above.  Below are larger packages of bars, including:

  • Hershey’s Special Dark (a semi-sweet chocolate bar)
  • Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (a white candy bar with pieces of chocolate-flavored cookies interspersed)
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (large chocolate coated peanut butter confections)
  • York Peppermint Patties (dark chocolate-covered soft peppermint disks)
  • Hershey’s Mounds (a dark-chocolate covered center made from shredded coconut)
  • Hershey’s Almond Joy (a milk chocolate-covered coconut-based center topped with almonds)
  • Mars Snickers (a milk chocolate-covered nougat topped with caramel and peanuts)
  • Mars Milky Way (a chocolate-covered chocolate malt flavored nougat with caramel)
  • Nestle Butterfinger (a chocolate-toffee-covered bar with a flaky, crisp, peanut butter-flavored center)

These items can be purchased individually; however, the majority of the products are in gradually increasing sizes and quantities with prices ranging from $0.39 to $0.89 an ounce.  While no great mention or display is made with regard to the ingredients, origin, manufacturing practices, ethical concerns, or quality of cacao in these products, three of the four Dove chocolate bars are stamped with the Rainforest Alliance certification.

CVS aisle
CVS aisle stocked mostly with large-packaged chocolates.

Based on the selection provided:  the absence of cacao mentioned, the presence of larger size packages, the heavy focus on additional ingredients such as nuts, fruits, and/or confections, and lower bulk prices that accompany them, etc., we learn that the CVS’s targeted audience has limited time and money to spend.  The intention is “caloric consumption,” grab and go convenience, a meal substitution or perhaps simply to ease a craving.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is an $18.8 billion (according to Forbes.com) supermarket chain that claims to be “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” (www.wholefoodsmarket.com).  Their goal is to sell the healthiest foods possible and offer products that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.  There is a welcoming feel to the expansive space.  The lighting is warm without being harsh, the walls are lined with soft wood, posted signs are in uniformly calming tones, and helpful employees all wear green aprons.  It has the look and feel of an up-scale farmers market.

Whole Foods aisle
Candy aisle at Whole Foods.

One can find the candy aisle located next to the produce section, across from organic baby foods, and adjacent to a beautiful display of organic “Whole Body” healing bath salts and soaps.  The chocolate bars (mainly bars and mostly dark, only a few milk chocolate or blended confections are offered) are wrapped in expensive papers and foils featuring endangered species, philanthropic organizations and specific causes, picturesque scenes or artistically created designs.

There are no “big chocolate” products to be found.

Each bar appears to have been hand-selected from a variety of artisanal chocolatiers.  Some are smaller than others, but all promise their own unique look, feel, story, and taste.

Instead of being recognized and advertised by known “big chocolate” brand names, these brands chose to focus instead on highlighting select ingredients and percentage of cacao.  Each bar clearly calls out the selected ingredients, origin and percentage of cacao as well as the origin and processing of any included ingredients.  Some examples include:

  • 45% cacao milk chocolate with Congo coffee and cream
  • 55% dark chocolate with chilies and cherries
  • 57% organic dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel
  • 60% dark stone ground chocolate with toffee almond and sea salt
  • 65% dark chocolate with forbidden rice
  • 70% organic fair trade dark chocolate with cherry almond
  • 70% dark chocolate bar with ancho chile, cinnamon, and orange
  • 72% cacao organic dark chocolate, cardamom, cinnamon, and chili
  • 88% cacao – extreme dark
  • 99% cacao

Whole Foods_chocolate
Some of Whole Foods’ chocolate selection.

Ethical, health, and religious concerns are also addressed through seals of (sometimes multiple) certifications on each chocolate bar, such as: Demeter, Whole Trade, Fair Trade, Fair for Life, Direct Trade, Non GMO Project Verified, Oregon Tilth, Certified Gluten-Free, Rainforest Alliance, Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan, Kosher Dairy, and USDA Organic. If additional information is desired, the store has also placed a display rack at the entrance to the aisle featuring a free publication titled, “For a Better World, Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.”  It even includes a reference guide to fair trade and worker welfare programs provided to educate customers and raise awareness levels of labor practices.

Whole Foods_chocolate2
Whole Foods’ chocolate selection.

Whole Foods_magazine
Fair World Project free magazine provided to customers at Whole Foods.

The price points reflect the additional information, attention to detail, and more expensive packaging.  Costs per ounce range from $0.59 to $3.85.  Not only are costs higher than CVS, but even the cost differential within Whole Foods’ offerings are significant.

Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, stated that “The fair trade chocolate category in our grocery departments has grown by more than 350 percent over the past five years. That’s a true indicator that ourshoppers are really making a positive impact on the lives of cocoa growers in developing countries” (Martin, “Alternative trade”).

The intended audience has time and money to spend.  Whole Foods has created a shopping experience that intentionally targets the “conscientious consumer,” someone who is educated on agricultural sourcing and labor practices – or would at least like to be.

These high-end chocolates are being provided for someone who wants to treat themselves to something delicious and feel good about it; a way of thinking that their self-indulgence (via the chocolate and price point) is making a positive impact on the world around them.

Ultimately, both stores sell chocolate while focusing on “health” and “healthier living”, albeit through very different lenses.  CVS provides chocolate and chocolate-coated items intended for mass consumption at a lower price point – making the process as quick and efficient as possible through placement and known brands.  Whole Foods provides high-end, more artisanal chocolates intended for indulgence at higher price points.  Their goal is to provide their customers with a buying experience – chocolate is located in the middle of the store (not as convenient for quick shops) and intended to have time to browse, read, and learn about different products and practices as part of a shopping routine.

 

Works Cited

Fair World Project. “For a Better World:  Issues & Challenges for a Just Economy.” Issue 12 Spring 2016.

Forbes.  The World’s Most Valuable Brands. http://www.forbes.com/companies/cvs-health/.  N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 27 Apr. 2016. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 9 Mar. 2016. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.

Theo Chocolate, Inc.  Chocolate Bars. https://www.theochocolate.com/product/158. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

Whole Foods Market.  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com. N.p. N.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

David vs. Goliath- the emerging market of small bean-to-bar chocolate makers and how packaging plays an important role

The competition in the chocolate industry isn’t as linear as it used to be with only the ‘big boys’: Cadbury, Nestle, Ferrero, Mars and Hershey, sharing territory and profits. This age has seen the introduction of a more diverse group of craft bean-to bar-chocolate makers. There is a niche in the market for this small group but first, they are tasked with prying away the ‘cradle to the grave’ brand loyalists from the big five. One apparent way that has evidenced itself in the way these competing David’s against the Goliath’s of the chocolate industry has shown itself, is through careful and innovative packaging. Bearing that in mind, this paper will look at various ways packaging influences consumerism and how it has made a former monopoly into a battle ground for the most creative minds.

Arguably, these companies do not have the disposable budget that is privileged to the big chocolate companies with regards to advertising. Therefore, they resort to a more packaging focused marketing tactic which is a cheaper and effective method that has a targeted and far reaching aspect to it. Specifically, packaging has three unique aspects of it that can influence consumerism and increase sales. 1) Packaging can be used to target impulse buyers not only by using promotional cues but most specifically, visual cues- students are found to be highly influenced by visuals. 2) Packaging is cheap and effective and when done correctly, allows the product to sell itself without much intervention. 3) Packaging can also be used as a tool for social and cultural consciousness. With the rise in interest of bridging gaps culturally in the face of increased globalization, chocolate packaging can be used as a tool to promote these ideals and garner patrons via shared ideologies.

The big chocolate companies over the last couple of years have kept packaging changes to a bare minimum because they have created a bond with their consumers where it is easy to spot a Snicker bar or M&M’s package from a mile away. These companies have relied on the ability of the consumer to recognize their package and help in sustaining sales. This is not so with the growing contenders in the chocolate industry. They do not have the recognizable packaging that these companies have established over the years. In order to break this boundary bean-to-bar chocolate makers have paid specific attention to packaging to target impulse buyers.

The moment one walks into a store, there is a small window of time for purchases that are on one’s list but majority of other purchases are impulse based buying. “81% of in store purchases are due to impulse buying, with a vast majority of these purchases being the design that catches the consumer’s eye” (Saka 2011). Within this small period of time and amidst a plethora of competition, these small chocolate companies are provided the opportunity to draw the attention of an impulse buyer or even a brand loyalist based on an elaborate packaging that peeks the interest of the consumer. The function of packaging design “has now transitioned into a primary tool used by organizations to make its presence felt in a crowd and sell products at point of purchase” (Saka 2011). Tying into the four P’s of marketing, packaging has now been contended as the fifth P, “Because it has now become an integral element of the modern lifestyle and the branding process” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

The power of packaging based marketing with regards to product placement has garnered a momentum that cannot be denied, not only in the chocolate industry but across the board. It is so essential in the chocolate industry however because chocolate is such a high impulse purchase. Majority of consumers usually do not go into food stores with chocolate on their ‘To purchase’ list, it is something that we generally are persuaded to buy. A scientific study done to show the influence of packaging cues, found that students were greatly influenced in purchasing chocolate based on visual cues alone (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).  This find is not surprising because the major consumers of chocolate are the younger generation as opposed to the older ones. This generation is also easily influenced to abandon brand loyalty for whatever happens to be ‘trending’ at the moment. The attention of the younger chocolate consumers can easily be persuaded by strategically placed cues.

There are various aspects of visual cues but the strongest draw to the subconscious is color and shape. “Color is the most important tool for emotional expression of a package because it reflects an image for the product” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). According to Jenn David Connolly, Color in food packaging is so important because it leverages our emotional connection to taste (Connolly 2013). To expound on this, she expresses what several colors denote in food packaging with Red and Yellow taking the chief lead in fast food industry packaging. Orange is said to be an appetizing color, white connotes clean and pure, brown and earth tones symbolize warm, appetizing, wholesome and natural, bright colors shows a pop in flavors and subdued-muted colors are for rich and deep complex flavors (Connolly 2013). Often times several colors can also influence our tastes, for instance, orange is usually associated with citrus, off white with vanilla and red with strawberry, this association of color with taste, ties into the “associational aspect of color” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

The chocolate to a belgian recipe
The Chocolate to A Belgian Recipe. The peaches on the packaging signifies that the chocolate is “peach” flavored.

Shape is another visual cue that also influences the mind. “The shape of a package is normally the first thing a consumer notices in a store, an old fashioned shape of a package could suggest reliability and maturity to the consumer” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). The L.A Burdick chocolate package shape and color was so influential in persuading me to purchase my first chocolate bar from the chocolatier and I have since returned weekly ever since. There was something trusting in the brown, earthy envelope like package that assured me that this was a brand I could trust and the chocolate would be equally as sophisticated. The stamp visible in the front of the package had a personal feel as if the chocolate bar was specifically made for me.

LA burdick chocolate
The old fashioned look of the L.A Burdick chocolate packing makes it more trusting.

In the situation of an impulsive buy, the intention to purchase is determined by what is communicated at the point of purchase, the package is a critical factor in the decision making process because it influences purchase decisions (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). The shape of a chocolate bar can also influence the way it tastes as Cadbury would rudely discover when it attempted to change “the rectangular chunks to carved segments” (Miller 2015), the company received a huge backlash of protest for their efforts. Packaging is a cheap and powerful method of marketing that is slowly changing what chocolate brands consumers patronize, “because it makes a difference in our subconscious mind in what gets noticed and eventually purchased” (smartmarketing n.d.).

The power behind successful packaging lies in its ability to allow the product sell itself. It has an extrinsic value to it because the information on the package is taken into account when deciding whether to purchase or not (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014). Packaging allows bean-to bar companies to cut their costs and get their brands out into the market without resorting to advertising. In certain ways, advertising can be limiting because it requires the perfect time slot or location for a billboard or a particular commercial to air on television. A good package is not burdened with these limitations, it has a “wider reach and has strong potential to engage majority of the target market. For a package to be effective it does however need to meet a few requirements. The package needs to be “attractive, informative and also identify with the product; it also needs to continuously communicate the product’s real benefits and create awareness to ensure image and brand preference” (Shekhar and Raveendran 2014).

Packaging is more influential than advertising because it clearly stimulates emotions in the consumer that advertising is not able to pull out. In purchasing decisions, the ability to see, feel and touch easily outshines the strategically filmed commercial any day. The human mind is exceptionally influenced when majority of the senses can be used to influence decisions. Packaging is no longer perceived as a method for safe and effective way to transport a product, but has now become a “contributing factor to its marketability, a vividly beautiful product, to some extent, develops a positive image about it in the minds of the consumers” (Vartak 2013). During the chocolate tasting in the Chocolate Class that held this semester, I was influenced by the artful way in which the Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate packaging was constructed and it seemed to amplify the taste of the chocolate.

dick taylor chocolate
Simplicity of Dick Taylor packaging allows one to focus on the chocolate itself.

The innovation that goes into packaging that clearly shows itself in the world of bean-to-bar chocolate makers today, is one that is clearly missing in the big chocolate companies; this ability to influence has however not gone unnoticed by them.  As of recent, Godiva has changed its packaging and has started marketing ‘specialty’ brands clearly aimed at consumers that are influenced by package based marketing

With the ever growing list of brands in the chocolate industry, loyalty for brand choice is fast becoming a dying era. Consumers are now resorting to more of an impulse buying and are eager to try new products prompting companies to spend more time on packaging based research to add value to their product via means of innovative packaging (Vartak 2013). With the aspect of packaging that leans on brand loyalty based on recognition, it is pertinent to small bean-to-bar chocolate owners to invest in this method of marketing to influence product sales. Not only does the package need to be attractive, it must also be recognizable in order to compete in a fast widening industry.

Gone are the days that consumers are ignorant about the source of their cacao that is sourced to make their chocolate. With increased awareness that has stemmed from globalization, people are more savvy with these  issues and in the face of a pressing need to bridge social and cultural gaps, packaging is used to create an awareness in ways that it never did before. For certain bean-to bar chocolate makers, this is an opportunity that they have already tapped into. The Divine chocolate advertising ploy of featuring women cocoa farmers in their chocolate packaging was a brilliant way to initiate conversation about the binary that has plagued Africa from time immemorial. “In their depiction of women cocoa farmers as glamorous business owners, the images provide a fresh visual re-framing of goods and capital between Africa and Europe and a contrast to postcolonial literature on state capital formations in Africa” (Leissle 2012). In this evocative marketing strategy, it additionally attempts to bridge the cultural gap between Africa as this ‘other’ and the Western world as the ‘isolationist’ that has made it so.

Divine Chocolate
Divine Chocolate
uses women cocoa farmers in ad campaign

Using the women farmers as models was also an effective way of injecting women into the conversation of cacao farming in a way that previously has not been a conversation point. It invites viewers to see women as potent actors in the world of cacao sourcing and chocolate making in addition to being beneficiaries of these same exchanges (Leissle 2012). Another chocolate maker that has followed a similar part is Camino chocolate, “the word Camino stands for “path”, the chocolate packaging futures an intricate design of quirky-named streets with illustrations reflecting the happy, vibrant and sustainable communities’ that Camino supports through its fair trade practices”(Canadian Packaging Staff 2011).

Camino Chocolate
Camino Chocolate
Street paths and names outlined in packaging

Camino chocolate has tapped into packaging as a way to create social awareness of cacao sourcing and the communities that are sustained by this arrangement, thereby aptly informing chocolate consumers with regards to the origins of cacao used to produce their chocolate.

Through the use of innovative packaging, bean-to-bar chocolate companies are now able to influence consumers and create brand loyalty with their product. As the chocolate industry continues to evolve, it will be greatly interesting to see how the ‘big boys’ of chocolate push back against this marketing tactic. It is no longer enough to ply consumers with advertisements, people are becoming a lot more informed about the products they choose to consume and packaging is used as an influential tool in a way advertising is simply unable to do. As more bean-to- bar companies emerge, there will also be a rise in competition between these companies and at that time, perhaps the influence of packaging will need to be re-valuated and perhaps tweaked in other ways. For now, it is clear that the ‘big five’ have competition knocking on their doorstep and it would be ill advised to ignore it. Packaging is the next big thing and it has already arrived for many.

Bibliography

Burdick, L.A. n.d.

Canadian Packaging Staff. 2011. “Social Consciousness right on the package.” canadianpackaging.com. January 28. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.canadianpackaging.com/general/social-consciousness-right-on-the-package-21742/.

Connolly, Jenn David. 2013. Colors That Influence Food Sales. September. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://jenndavid.com/colors-that-influence-food-sales/.

http://www.lasiembra.com/camino/en/chocolate-bars/almonds. n.d. “Camino Chocolate.”

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisments.” Journal of African Cultural Studies (Routledge) (24:2): 121-139. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194.

Miller, Meg. 2015. “How Packaging Influences The Way We Taste Food.” fastcodedesign.com. October 27. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.fastcodesign.com/3052745/evidence/how-packaging-influences-the-way-we-taste-food.

Mosina, Olga. n.d. “The chocolate to a belgian recipe.”

Saka, Kwadwo Emmanuel. 2011. The Design of Packaging Graphics for the Expansion of Ghanian Chocolate Products. Graduate Dissertation, Digital Depository Iowa State University.

Shekhar, Suraj Kushe, and P.T Raveendran. 2014. “The Power of Sensation Transference: Chocolate Packages & Impulse Purchases.” Indian Institute of managment Indore 1-10.

smartmarketing. n.d. “How Can Packaging Increase Sales.” smartmarketingasia. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://www.smartmarketingasia.com/how-can-packaging-increase-sales/.

Vartak, Darshan. 2013. “Branding And Packaging For The Globalized Market.” packagedesignmag.com. October 18. Accessed May 5, 2016. http://www.packagedesignmag.com/news-from-our-readers/branding-and-packaging-for-the-globalized-market.

W, Brigette. 2015. “Dick Taylor Takes Chocolate Back To Its Roots.” February 7.

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate,Chocolate Everywhere

As I ponder the selections of chocolate available in my local Trader Joe’s , it is important to understand a bit of the history of chocolate that is included in The True the History of Chocolate by  Coe & Coe .Cacao, Chocolate originated in Meso-America and is referred to as the “Food of the Gods” consumed by the elite and used in sacrifices to please the gods.  

Did you know that unlike money cacao really does grow on the pods and barks of trees.The chocolate trees were scientifically named Theobroma cacao in 1753 by the “great Swedish Naturalist” Linnaeus (1707-78). 

Theobroma cacao

Linnaeus- Swedish Naturalist that named the cacao tree-theobroma cacao

Raw Cacao beans don’t taste anything like the chocolate bars we consume.  After the cacao beans are harvested the cacao and pulp are fermented once fermentation is complete the beans are laid out to dry in the sun.  Once dried the beans are then sorted and roasted.  After the beans are roasted they are winnowed and finally  the cacao nibs that are used to make chocolate reveal themselves. The cacao nibs are naturally bitter therefore sugar and other ingredients are added when making chocolate to reduce the acidity and bitterness and increase the sweetness.

Sidney Mintz in his book Sweetness and Power reminds us that sugar and sweetness is introduced to us at a very young age , “the first non milk food that a baby is likely to receive in North American hospital is a 5% glucose and water solution used to evaluate its postpartum functioning because newborns tolerate glucose better than water.”(Mintz, 1985)  The fondness for sugar influences the chocolate that we consume as “most Americans instinctively go for blends with a high West African cacao content – this is a dominant cacao in some mass-produced brands that most American have eaten since childhood that is naturally identified with full chocolate flavor. Americans gravitate towards very light chocolate.” ( The New Taste of Chocolate, p. 136) Sweetness is a preferred taste from a very young age Cacao and sugar go together sort of like peanut butter and jelly. Alone each tastes okay but together they taste wonderful.

Chocolate has always evoked pleasant happy memories for me. From my childhood I can remember the heavenly aroma of chocolate from the Lowney Chocolate Factory wafting  through the air as we walked to school, the anticipation of devouring my  grocery store chocolate Easter bunny after Mass and the way the chocolate icing on a Honey Dew Donuts éclair melts in your mouth in an explosion of chocolate mixed with Bavarian cream. 

As I matured my love of chocolate did not waver and I stayed loyal to brands like Hersey and Nestle and for special occasions Godiva was the go to brand.  Then one day in 1987 a local chocolate shop called Puopolo’s Candies opened nearby.  As a big believer in supporting local business I felt that it was my duty to check out the new chocolate shop.  It was heaven!  The aroma and the wide assortment of chocolate confections was astounding. There wasn’t a Snickers, Milky Way or Kit Kat in the place and it didn’t matter because these chocolates didn’t require brand recognition as one could see, smell and anticipate the chocolate truffles melting smoothly on your tongue while the milk chocolate flavors come to life. I never knew exactly why I came to prefer the chocolate sold at Puopolo’s over Hersey, Nestle or even Godiva, until now.

The big chocolate manufactures like Hershey, Nestle and Godiva appeal to the masses for both taste and price of their products.  The chocolate  is made in huge factories using industrial equipment. Each batch of chocolate is made to taste exactly the same as the other so that there is no variation  of taste, color or texture in the thousands of candy bars that are made each day. Chocolate manufactured in this manner is referred to as industrial chocolate.

 

Shops like Puopolo’s are known as chocolatiers’ that appeal to people who appreciate and will pay for high quality chocolate . Chocolatiers’ produce chocolate creations on a much smaller scale and create confections in small batches by melting large bars of chocolate.

 

Sailboat and Anchor Favors
Puopolo chocolatiers’ confection

Another player has come on the scene and companies like  Taza chocolate  are part of a growing movement of small companies that produce  bean to bar products.

Image result for taza chocolate

 

The bean to bar companies are conscious of the long history of exploitation in the chocolate industry including children being used as forced labor on cacao plantations. (Off, 2006)  The bean to bar companies produce an ethical and sustainable product by controlling all stages of their chocolate making including choosing and grinding their own cacao beans.
The advantage of industrial chocolate for the consumer is that whether you purchase a Hershey bar in Alaska or Massachusetts the wrapper texture, color and taste of the chocolate will be the same. Whereas the smaller manufacturers including chocolatiers and bean to bar, aim to produce small unique batches of products.  Cacao beans alone are bitter thus sugar and sometimes other flavorings like vanilla and milk are added to cocoa beans to make the chocolate bars more palatable.  The more cacao content in a product the more intense the chocolate flavor which to many tastes bitter.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a local chocolatiers nearby so I set out to my local Trader Joe’s  to utilize my new-found knowledge and analyze their chocolate section.

Mintz states ” food choices and eating habits reveal distinctions of age, sex, status , culture and even occupation.” (Sweetness and Power).  Trader Joe’s is a slighty upscale, funky progressive full service grocery store who cater to their customers food and need to shop at a socially responsible store. Customers that shop here generally care about where and how the ingredients in their food come from . Trader Joe’s listened to their customers and according to the timeline listed on their website in 1997 they “made a commitment to eliminate artificial trans fats from all private label products (along with artificial flavors, artificial preservatives & GMO ingredients… but that’s old news by now).”

Trader Joe’s shoppers are diverse and span the  socio economic scale. They want to feel as if they are being socially and environmentally responsible without spending a lot of cash. They will however spend a bit more for a product if it makes them feel like they are achieving the goals of being a responsible consumer.   One such chocolate bar checks all those boxes the  Fair Trade Organic Belgium Chocolate Bar is  included in the wide selection of chocolate products that are displayed throughout the store. These bars were included in the chocolate bar section located at the back of the store at the end of an aisle near the milk.  The majority of the chocolate bars were 3.5 ounces with price points between $1.99 for the Fair Trade Organic Belgium Chocolate bars , $2.99 for a Valrhona dark chocolate bar and for $4.99 you could purchase a milk and almond pound plus bar.  There were quite a few chocolate products located in the impulse buy zone at the front of the store including dark chocolate peanut butter cups and chocolate covered almonds for $4.99 each.

As I strolled the isles I noticed some chocolate bars above the seafood section that had pretty and exotic looking labels.  Upon closer inspection it is revealed that these are dark chocolate bars made with 70% cacao and delicious fillings like coconut caramel and toffee and walnuts.  Along side these bars there was a 65% Dark Cacao bar that is made from single origin fairly traded beans from Ecuador. These chocolate bars highlight the cacao content to entice those that believe the claim that chocolate is good for your heart . However,  James Howe  advises  that the claim that chocolate is heart healthy  is not scientifically proven that chocolate consumption alone is the primary element in increasing cardiovascular health. ( Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health, 2012) The artwork depicts nature scenes to enhance the natural allure of these chocolate bars that are priced at just $1.89.

IMG_1449

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In spite From the  lovely artwork and detailed descriptions highlighting the cacao content and country of origin of the beans it is clear from the price points of $1.89 that these are mass marketed  industrial made chocolate bars covered in cleverly  designed Trader Joe’s wrappers. The wrappers contain all the buzz words and images  the consumer wants to see so they feel like they are purchasing socially responsible products.  When I questioned the  store manager about the private label chocolate bars he did not know what company Trader Joe’s bought the chocolate bars from however he assured me that they were made from the finest organic ingredients yet… only a few chocolate bars are labeled organic or Fair Trade.

IMG_1461IMG_1462 IMG_1463

The Trader Joe’s Chocolate truffles look decadent on the shiny red background of the package. They even provide directions on how to”taste these delicate truffles”.  Trader Joe’s selections so far were on target for their consumers, good cacao content, some organic selections. therefore  I was very surprised when the first ingredient listed in the Cocoa Truffles was vegetable oil , the second sugar and finally cocoa powder appears as the third ingredient. This was disappointing  as it is not as high quality chocolate product as it appears and not consistent with the prior products viewed.

After reviewing the chocolate bar and other chocolate products at Trader Joe’s  I’ve concluded that Trader Joe’s should expand their chocolate selections to include more Fair Trade chocolate products and add a few  Bean to Bar and local chocolatiers products to the inventory.  It would be a clear statement to Trader Joe’s customers and the chocolate industry  that  Trader Joe’s cares about ethics and is committed to providing  their customers with more Fair Trade, organic and local chocolate products.  While the typical Trader Joe’s customer appreciates a bargain , many would be willing to pay more for chocolate if they know that their purchase directly benefits the cacao farmer or the small business person.  Trader Joe’s has the opportunity to make a difference in the chocolate industry if they go beyond selling private label chocolate bars and include bean to bar and local chocolate makers.
If you want to make an effort to consume Fair Trade organic chocolate the key is read the labels or find your local chocolate shop , either bean to bar or chocolatiers you won’t be disappointed.

 

Works Cited

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

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

“Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 12.1 (2012): 43-52. Web.

The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ed. Maricel E. Presilla. New York: Ten Speed, 2009. 61-94. Print.

Carol Off, Bitter Chocolate: the dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet.2006. The New Press.  print.

 

Multimedia and internet sources

Google Images , date accessed 5/7/16. http://exhibits.mannlib.cornell.edu/chocolate/images/content_img/CacaoGod.jpghttps://madhuwellness.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/cacoa.jpg
http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/~/media/fairtradeuk/farmers%20and%20workers/images/text%20images%20440px/fw_cocoa_440px.ashx?la=en&h=280&w=440
http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0738/3955/products/Taza_Stone_Ground_Chocolate_80_perc_Dark_B_grande.jpg?v=1438702196
http://newwoodbridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/WelcomeTJ.jpghttps://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners/cocoa#
http://www.traderjoes.com/images/fearless-flyer/uploads/article-428/95474-Trader Joes 95475_Fair_Trade_Chocolate.jpg

Websites referenced.
http://www.traderjoes.com

Hershey’s Chocolate Making Process. htttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TcFYfoB1BY-
http://www.traderjoes.com/our-story/timeline
http://cspinet.org/transfat/timeline.htm
http://honeydewdonuts.com/
http://www.nestleusa.com/brands/chocolate/nestle-milk-chocolate
https://www.hersheys.com/en_us/home.html
http://www.godiva.com/
https://www.snickers.com/
http://www.milkywaybar.com/
https://www.kitkat.com/http://www.puopolocandies.com/
https://www.tazachocolate.com/
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/02/13/171891081/bean-to-bar-chocolate-makers-dare-to-bare-how-its-done.
USDA Organic guidelines.  https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification

 

Chocolate and Class in the Twenty-First Century: An Analysis and Tasting/Conversation

From its origins, chocolate has been linked to notions of class, and, in particular, chocolate has been associated with upper class culture. Elites, from Mesoamerica to Baroque Europe, have been principal consumers of chocolate, devoted to perfecting the preparation and consumption of the commodity. For example, the European nobility built a complex material and social culture around chocolate, crafting specialized objects and recipes to enhance the quality and presentation of chocolate. (Coe and Coe, 125) However, as the historiography contends, from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, with mass production technologies and the rise of companies such as Hershey’s and Mars, chocolate was transformed from an elite privilege to a cheap commodity consumed widely throughout society, and sold at every corner store in America and throughout much of the world.

In my project, I seek to examine the extent to which chocolate remains linked to class, and re-evaluate the narrative that chocolate was transformed from an elite privilege into a universally consumed staple food, and today exists simply as a symbol of our universal sweet tooth. While the industrialization of food enabled chocolate to be consumed by the whole of society, I contend that recent trends in the chocolate industry, specifically the growth in fine chocolate producers and the increasing differentiations between different brands and products, particularly the new emphasis on Fair Trade, organic, single origin, and artisan, have cemented distinctions in food consumption as indicators of class and identity. By further analyzing the contemporary link between chocolate and class, we can learn more about food as a social differentiator, and individual consumption preferences.

The industrialization of food, and particularly the developments of preservation, mechanization, retailing and transportation, were central to democratizing access to food (Goody). Indeed, these innovations and “culinary modernism” generally  “has provided…the food of the elite at a price everyone could afford” (Laudan, 40).  However, the growing distinctions between different chocolate producers and types of chocolate, as I explored with a tasting and interviews with Harvard students, indicate the extent to which chocolate functions as a differentiator of class and consumers’ preferences for particular chocolates, show social identity.

“Taste has come to play a role in defining social ranking and identity… Taste as an aesthetic has become a sign of privilege” – Julie Guthman, Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow,” p. 497

Pierre Bordieu, French sociologist, anthropologist and author of Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, contended that “cultural consumption are predisposed, consciously and deliberately or not, to fulfill a social function of legitimating social differences” (Bordieu, 7). In this vein of thought, Julie Guthman argues that the growth of the organic industry was driven by “gentrification and the class differentiation that necessarily entailed” (Guthman, 497). The growth of the artisan chocolate industry, including organic chocolate, has been driven by similar factors, as producers recognize the opportunity to earn a devoted customer base by catering to an upper-class clientele who are inclined to consume distinctly “high-end” foods that separate them from, as one survey/tasting participant put it, “the Hershey’s consuming public.” For American producers, the craft business can be lucrative and satisfying, and allow them to compete in the international economy as they turn to gourmet shops, specialty stores, and community gatherings to target the bourgeois market and capitalize on the eagerness of more affluent Americans to buy specialized food (Eber, 155).

As Jim Eber notes in Raising the Bar: the Future of Fine Chocolate, there has been a recent explosion in the number of small manufacturers and chocolatiers (Eber, 144) and at the time of the book’s publication (2012), nearly fifty American fine flavor chocolate brands had been established in the past seven years (Eber, 155). Consumers are buying more fine cacao; premium chocolate accounted for $2.9 billion of the $20 billion in US chocolate sales in 2013, with an expected annual growth of 10% (Eber, 167). Author and philosopher Carolyn Korsmeyer argues in Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy that “the pursuit of taste for pleasure alone…seems a frivolous pursuit permitted only to a leisured few” (Korsmeyer, 1). Bordieu, too, argues that it is uniquely the “upper classes, who are more interested in treating food as an art form” (Korsmeyer, 89). The fine chocolate market is driven by the keenness of the wealthiest consumers to “indulge” in a distinctly gourmet treat, and one that is healthier from its mass-market, chemical-filled alternatives.

“Food has become the premier marker of social distinctions, that is to say — social class” – Adam Drewnowski, What Food Says About Class in America

To look further into this issue of chocolate preferences as related to social class and lifestyle, I conducted individual sampling/tastings with twenty Harvard College students. I selected six chocolate bars, and presented all six to each person that I spoke to, carefully explaining the details of each bar, before asking each student to answer a few questions. I asked the students to consider: 1) Are all of these chocolates appealing to you? 2) Which of these chocolates is most appealing to you and why? 3) Which of these chocolates is least appealing to you and why? 4) When choosing a chocolate to consume, what factors determine your preference? before sampling. Students were given the option to sample all six chocolate, but many declined to taste all. Here is a list of the chocolates I used, and the elements about each that I pointed out or read:

  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate: Purchased at CVS, note the large company logo emblazoned across the front.
  • Divine Dark Chocolate with Mint: Fair Trade label, Purchased at Cardullo’s,“Cocoa, vanilla, and sugar in chocolate: traded in compliance with Fairtrade Standards, total 94% of the product’s ingredients,” “Divine chocolate is made with the finest quality Fairtrade cocoa beans from Kuapa Kokoo, a co-operative of small-holder farmers in Ghana. The cocoa is grown in the shade of the tropical rainforest, and slowly fermented and dried in the sun by the farmers, who take great pride in the chocolate company they co-own.”
  • Mast Goat Milk Chocolate: Purchased at Cardullo’s,“Goat Milk Chocolate: Made in New York,” “60% Cacao, Cane Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Goat Milk Powder”
  • Taza 70% Dark Stone Ground Organic Chocolate: Purchased at Cardullo’s,USDA Organic label, Taza Direct Trade Certified Cacao label, Non GMO Project Verified label, Certified Gluten-Free label, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Vegan Label, “Dominican Republic Single Origin,” “Organic,” “We keep the bean in the bar. We make stone ground, organic chocolate, Cacao is so complex in flavor that we want to let it shout loud and proud. That is why we do less to bring you more. We stone grind cacao beans into perfectly unrefined, minimally processed chocolate with bold flavor and texture, unlike anything you have ever tasted.”
  • Dolfin 38% Cacao: Purchased at Cardullo’s, “Made in Belgium,” “The Art of Blending, Natural & Tasty, Tradition & Quality,”
  • Dove Dark Chocolate: Purchased at CVS, Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa label, “Our special patented and proprietary Cocoapro process helps retain much of the naturally occurring cocoa flavanols.”

Fast food and organic/slow food are posed as class binaries (Guthman, 506). Likewise, as articulated through readings and demonstrated by my tastings and conversations with Harvard students, mass-market chocolates, such as Hershey’s and Dove, are perceived in opposition to “fine chocolate.” While the Harvard students I spoke with were not necessarily clear about the specific differences between different types of chocolate, they unanimously preferred the more expensive Mast, Divine, Dolfin, and Taza bars — I did not disclose exact price to my student subjects, although the different presentations of the bars serve as an indication of price —  to the CVS-distributed Hershey’s and Dove varieties. When discussing the difference between these two groups, in relation to the chocolates we tasted, students used descriptors like “organic,” “better quality,” “artisanal,” “healthier,” “better for the environment and the world,” and “fair trade” to articulate why they preferred the above. “I prefer chocolate with a high quality reputation, whatever that means,” one student remarked when asked about his consumption preferences. “If someone offered me Hershey’s for free, like you are doing right now, I would never take it,” another added.

Most students selected their preferred chocolate on the basis of packaging, labeling, and/or percentage of cacao. Commentary included: “Either the Dolfin or Mast chocolate. Cute wrappers,” “I definitely prefer the pink one because it looks the best from the packaging,” and “I think I will like the Mast chocolate because the design is simplistic and modern.”

IMG_4914
Student holds up her preferred chocolates, selected on the basis that they “seem the most natural.”

Angelo Agostoni, President of Italian chocolate producer ICAM, notes a recent “purist trend,” in which consumers have a preference for a “single origin, a bean type or a percentage of cacao” (Eber, 161). Many participants that I spoke to claimed that the main, or only, factor they considered when purchasing or consuming chocolate was the percentage of cacao. “I like to buy dark chocolate, at least 60 percent cacao,” one remarked. Participants did not seem as concerned with the origin of the cacao. “Other than the percentage, I don’t care about specific factors of the chocolate, like what country it comes from,” said another.

Curtis Vreeland of Vreeland & Associates, confectionary industry leader in market research and analysis, notes that premium chocolate is considered to be “chocolate selling for greater than $8.00 a pound… qualitative factors: better quality ingredients, better execution, upscale packaging etc” (Eber, 168). Are these distinctions significant beyond the price differential and their appeal to the high-end consumer? While fine cacao or fine chocolate is indeed sold at a higher price based on perceived quality (Martin, “Popular sweet tooths or scandal”),  as we discussed in lecture, Fairtrade, Direct Trade, and organic certifications do not necessarily indicate a higher quality product. During my chocolate tasting, a participant recognized that her partiality for so-called natural or healthier products was likely grounded in rhetorical appeal, rather than objective quality distinction. After expressing her preference for the Taza bar, she noted the effectiveness of the slogan “Stone ground chocolate.” “Stone ground chocolate makes me think that the Taza chocolate is natural and artisanal, even though for all I know, all chocolate could be stone ground, or the stone grinding could have absolutely no effect on the taste of the chocolate,” she admitted.

As the commentary of my sample population of the Harvard student body indicates, the presentation of chocolate, including the retail channel, brand name, package design, information included on the packaging, phrasing of the information, and any included labels signal to the consumer whether or not the chocolate bar is one that they would want to consume, without any awareness of the taste of the actual product, or, in fact, perhaps despite the taste. A participant, who initially expressed her preference for the Divine bar, remarked that although she had not tried the brand before, “I like the Fair Trade aspect and not all the processed junk in it.” Upon sampling the Divine chocolate, she did not like the taste of the mint as much as she expected. However, she still asserted that she would prefer to eat the Divine bar over the Hershey’s bar, despite the fact that she preferred the taste of the Hershey’s. “I don’t want to eat a chocolate that I can’t imagine being sold at Whole Foods, such as Hershey’s. And even if I prefer the taste, I also assume that there are a ton of unhealthy chemicals that I don’t want to put in my body.” One student cited the relative difficulty of reading the list of ingredients in a Hershey’s bar as a concern: “You have to really fold back the flap and open the wrapper to read the list.”

For higher-income, highly educated consumers concerned with the consumption of socially conscious, healthy, or natural products, of which I will classify the population of Harvard students that I sampled as generally falling under, presentation and labeling are paramount. However, according to fine flavor industry experts, “up to 90% of what you read on the average chocolate package is “marketing” (or “lies” or “propaganda”)” (Eber, 169). Additionally, there are several major issues with certification labels specifically: certification is very costly for many farmers (who must bear a significant portion of the costs themselves) to obtain, and furthermore, there is little evidence of impact or higher quality associated with certification (Martin, “Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization”).

 

Looking to the future, it is important that we recognize the extent to which chocolate preferences, as representative of a larger trend in consumer behavior, are dictated by personal identity, social class, and lifestyle motivations, and the degree to which chocolate, like many other foods, is, often falsely, perceived as existing in dichotomy (e.g. mass market vs. fine). For the consumer who can afford to spend over $8 on a chocolate bar, likely in search of a product that is delicious, high quality, natural, healthier, and artisanal, as supported by research and personal inquiry, the presentation of the good is significant. Producers and consumers alike should evaluate the factors that draw an individual to a particular chocolate product to reflect on the influence of social milieu and the realities of the commodity.

Works Cited

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984. Print.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson, 1996. Print.

Goody, Jack. Fast Food/Organic Food: Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 1997. 72-88. Print.

Guthman, Julie. Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow” Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 1997. 496-509. Print.

Korsmeyer, Carolyn. Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy. Cornell UP, 2014. Print.

Laudan, Rachel. “A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food.” Gastroeconomics: the Journal of Food and Culture 1.1 (2001): 36-44. Web.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/globalization.” AAAS 119x Lecture. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” AAAS 119x Lecture. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge, MA. 24 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” AAAS 119x Lecture. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge, MA. 9 Mar. 2016. Lecture.

Miller, Lisa. “What Food Says About Class in America.” Newsweek 22 Nov. 2010. Web.

Trigg, Andrew B. “Veblen, Bourdieu, and Conspicuous Consumption.” Journal of Economic Issues 35.1 (2001): 99-115. Web.

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

 

 

 

Do You Know Your Cacao Farmer? Looking Beyond Fair Trade Certified with Direct Trade Initiatives and ‘Bean-to-Bar’ Companies

Imagine this scenario: you’re looking through a magazine at the Doctor’s office one day and you see this ad –

ice-cream-fair-trade-cocoa-600-93572

And it makes you think, “Isn‘t that interesting… I know Ben and Jerry’s was bought by Unilever and ever since I’ve stopped buying their ice cream, but if they’re using Fair Trade ingredients maybe I will pick-up some on my way home – this decision makes me feel better about buying this delicious product again.

If you identify with this thought process you might think of yourself as a socially conscious and ethical consumer. You wouldn’t be wrong to think this but you probably haven’t heard the intricacies of the Fair Trade debate or of any other alternatives to this often idealized one-stop solution.

Let’s start by digging deeper into the public relations information promoted by the Fair Trade Certified™ organization reflected in the Ben & Jerry’s advertisement.

To see how companies market their products as having a value added benefit to farmers, producers and consumers using these standards, check out this article on What is Fair Trade by Cocoa Couriers a specialty chocolate website that sells a variety of Fair Trade Chocolate from around the world.

But there are some draw backs to Fair Trade as Maricel Presilla explains: “the Fair Trade Federation price system is meant to ensure just compensation to cacao farmers in developing nations, but it doesn’t guarantee substantially higher income for any individual farmer… organic or Fair Trade cacao can be mediocre (or worse) in quality. Moreover, the certification programs involved in such campaigns introduce layers of bureaucracy between grower and consumer that can cut into a farm’s profits.”1

To delve deeper into the underside of Fair Trade, take a look at this Introduction of Ndongo Sylla’s The Fair Trade Scandal. In her book she explores the very messy world of International Trade Regulations by WTO, effects of neoliberal globalization, and the history of Fair Trade and its relations to new buzz words like sustainable. Here Sylla examines the business of poverty and how it relates to advertising:

“Fair Trade nevertheless seeks to change the world by extending the empire of commodities further. How can it do so? Poverty itself has become a commodity. Poverty is being labelled. Through this label, it is the idea and the approach that are being sold. The label gives poverty a visibility it did not have before. It gives it an identity. A seal is applied on commodities produced by the poor – in fact by a minority among the poor – so that consumers of the North can distinguish between the ‘Fair’ approach and others. In theory, this label guarantees that the higher price paid will be put to good use and benefit impoverished workers. But Fair Trade needs advertising in order to attract clients, as all sellers do. Marketing and awareness campaigns are necessary to promote its cause.”2

After reading, you might feel more educated on the subtleties regarding why Fair Trade was created and what issues it faces, while also feeling more confused than ever. So what’s the alternative, isn’t buying a Fair Trade product the lesser evil? Yes, and no: increasingly some companies and growers are realizing the pitfalls of Fair Trade certifications and addressing them with new trade models. Companies like Taza Chocolate are using the terminology ‘bean-to-bar’ and ‘Direct Trade’ to label these decisions. Here is what Taza has to say about their Direct Trade Certified Cacao:

Direct Trade Certified

Taza makes stone ground chocolate that is seriously good and fair for all. From farm to factory, we do things differently. We do things better. We are chocolate pioneers.

It starts with Taza Direct Trade. We said no to predatory middlemen and abusive labor practices. We created the chocolate industry’s first third-party certified Direct Trade cacao sourcing program, to ensure quality and transparency for all. We have real, face-to-face relationships with growers who respect the environment and fair labor practices. They provide us with the best organic cacao, and we pay them prices significantly higher than Fair Trade. In fact, you can
see exactly what we pay them, in our groundbreaking Annual Cacao
Sourcing Transparency Reports.

Taza Direct Trade means more money for farmers, the best cacao for us, and seriously good chocolate for you.3

With this information about Direct Trade initiatives in mind, why don’t we see more advertisements that invite consumers to learn about this alternate business model and support companies that are implementing better trade practices and providing higher quality products? Would this advertisement catch your eye?

CacaoGrowersWantToKnow-DirectTradeMeme

Did this advertisement I created make you think more than the Ben & Jerry’s ad regarding what you can do to educate yourself about direct trade models and get you interested in Askinoise, a company that the growers are advocating for?

If so, you might also consider:

  • What are the benefits of having direct relations with the growers of my food?
  • How can I support companies like Taza, Choba Choba and Askinosie who partner with and compensate their growers with ‘a stake in the outcome™‘ of their product?
  • How can I go beyond advertisements and learn more about the products I buy and the impact of their claims?

By asking questions like these you have the power to unlock real change in the cacao supply chain and other commodities by supporting companies with solutions to: Tariff barriers, global indexing of the global North vs the global South perpetuated with unethical and disastrous results that feed binaries of exploiter/exploited and do little to change the economic models that feed this inequality.

To Askinosie Chocolate, answers to these issues looks like these reasons for Direct Trade from their website:

Because you get better chocolate

Because it’s better Farmernomics

Because we all get better communities

So, why do we practice Direct Trade? Very few chocolate makers do, after all, and almost none go to the lengths we do to be involved every step of the way. It’s certainly not cheaper, easier or simpler, and it definitely doesn’t carry less financial risk for us. We practice Direct Trade because we think it’s the right way and the best way.4

Choba Choba, another company moving beyond Fair Trade shares this video that explains how they have imagined change in the supply chain:

Chobachobameme1.jpg

What can be done to keep building more company, supplier alliances like these? Support organizations like TechnoServe who bring these partnerships together.

Additional Resources for Further Understanding Chocolate Trade Solutions:

Try some Direct Trade and Bean-to-Bar chocolate!

 

References:

1 Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate. pp. 133.

2 Sylla, Ndongo Samba. “The Fair Trade Scandal.” Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich (Pluto (2014).

3 “Taza Direct Trade.” Taza Chocolate. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. <https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade&gt;.
4 Askinosie Chocolate. A Stake in the Outcome. Web. 8 Apr. 2016. <https://askinosie.com/learn/direct-trade.html>

Images:

Choba Choba. ChobaChobaBlog1. 2014. Http://chobachoba.com/a-chocolate-revolution-is-about-to-star/a-chocolate-revolution-is-about-to-star/. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.
Askinosie Chocolate. A Stake in the Outcome. Web. 8 Apr. 2016. <https://askinosie.com/learn/a-stake-in-the-outcome.html&gt;.
Unilever. Ben & Jerry’s: “FAIR TRADE COCOA” Print Ad. 2010. Amalgamated New York. Coloribus. Web. 8 Apr. 2016. <http://files1.coloribus.com/files/adsarchive/part_1661/16612555/file/ice-cream-fair-trade-cocoa-600-93572.jpg&gt;.

The Depiction of Women as Impulsive, Sex-Driven Consumers

Since the Victorian era, chocolate advertising has been slanted towards a female consumer audience. By the end of the 1860s, John Cadbury created and marketed the first heart-shaped box of chocolates for sale on Valentine’s Day which began to center the focus of marketing towards women as well as women involved in heterosexual relationships (Coe and Coe). As chocolate became a more popular sweet, advertising to the female population became a more popular marketing strategy.

Consumers are not “passive recipients of goods,” in fact, consumers use goods as a way to express identity; however, goods may define consumer perceptions of social meanings such as family dynamics, the social world and even the identity of the consumer herself (Robertson 19). This marketing curve towards women resultantly developed a social construction of women as impulsive, emotional consumers who tend to buy products on a more desire-based foundation than male consumers. Chocolate manufacturers often plea to stereotypical and dramatized qualities in women such as a heightened perception of body image, high emotionality, a desire to be comforted and their sexuality. Advertisements use chocolate to represent the fulfillment of hidden and subdued sexual desires and, by doing so, degrade the female consumer into a sex-driven, unsatisfied, impulsive consumer who will buy food products in an attempt to allow herself indulge in her pleasure. These advertising strategies have resultantly created real, permeating social constructs that alter the general perception of how a woman will react to the temptations of both chocolate and sex.

Women, particularly single women, are culturally constructed as constantly negotiating temptation it is their responsibility to maintain a pure body by resting male sexual advances except within marriage, and afterwards to remain monogamous. In the later twentieth century it has extended to maintaining ‘beauty’ by resisting the temptation of sweet and fatty foods such as chocolate. Succumbing to chocolate addiction momentarily allows the pleasurable surrender to such temptation. (Robertson 35)

Advertising to women can take many forms. The addition of chocolate into a woman’s day can range from comforting and relaxing, as shown in this Dove commercial:

 

to a slightly more sensual and elegant experience, as shown here:

to the most prominent and notable portrayal of the borderline orgasmic experience of a woman eating chocolate:

and…

As shown in the last video, chocolate has been transformed into an object of lust, as a commodity that will both reward and satisfy the insatiable female sexual appetite. Buying and consuming chocolate is portrayed to be the sexual experience women are apparently missing in life. Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac allow advertisers to play on the idea that it will both heighten a woman’s sensuality and upgrade her beauty as well as allow herself to finally indulge in her sinful sexual desires. Bringing sexuality to the scene under the disguise of enjoyment of food reflects the idea that a woman’s sexuality is often hidden from the public eye. Sex and sexuality are very private ideas, especially for “respectable,” women, so market teams encourage women to finally give in to their lust for the forbidden- both chocolate (chocolate is forbidden due to its undesirable fattening qualities) and sex.

ferrerorocher

This ad for Ferrero Rocher begs women to “Redeem,” their “sin.”  The surface meaning is a ploy to collect participants for a contest through which a consumer can win a prize after consuming Ferrero’s “sinful,” chocolate; however, the use of the word “sin,” accompanied by the sexualized nature of the model implies that her “sin,” is more than chocolate consumption. The dark color scheme of the ad supports this association of chocolate with sinfulness, obscurity, and intrigue. Although the advertisement objectifies the portrayal of this woman model, it is clearly aimed to target a female audience by both encouraging them to embrace their sensual nature and to redeem their own sins. This advertisement degrades the female consumer into a very sex-driven, sensual being.

lily edit.jpg

I have created an advertisement that parodies this idea of hyper sexualization of women, especially for the purchase of a simple food good such as chocolate. Here, we have a female model, similarly posed to the model in the Ferrero ad, who does not present any striking references to her sexuality. Her hand is not placed near her lower body; in fact, she is eating the chocolate being advertised. Although I chose to use a female model to parallel the original advertisement, the revised female model portrays a more realistic connection between her feminine identity and chocolate. She does not sexualize her experience of eating chocolate, nor does her posture imply that she is indulging sinful desires. She will most likely to female consumers more than male consumers due to her identity; however, there is not the same obvious gendered target as is apparent in the Ferrero advertisement.  I chose to have this woman pose in a white sheet, rather than a dark sheet, to go against the inclusion of color themes that play on the sinful, dark nature of chocolate and sex. Here, the white sheet creates a more straightforward tone in the picture. I have also replace the script slogan of “Redeem Your Sin,” with “Because it is just chocolate,” to reiterate the idea that the act of a woman eating chocolate is not an earth-shattering representation of a sexual experience. This portrayal is a much more realistic depiction of a female consumer enjoying chocolate. It fights against the current of hyper-sexualizing women in chocolate ads and does not support the social construct of women as impulsive, sexual consumers who indulge in chocolate to replicate forbidden sexual desires.

 

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

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