Tag Archives: consumer

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.

A Journey in Vain: Introducing My Husband to Craft and Fine Dark Chocolate

This Tranquilidad chocolate bar is made by Rogue Chocolatier, a fine bean-to-bar chocolate maker located in Western Massachusetts and considered by many to be the best such maker in North America (Martin “Rogue”). Photo by the author.
This Tranquilidad chocolate bar is made by Rogue Chocolatier, a fine bean-to-bar chocolate maker located in Western Massachusetts and considered by many to be the best such maker in North America (Martin “Rogue”). Photo by the author.

The chocolate in our house is typically mass-produced chocolate purchased from Trader Joe’s, our usual grocery store stomping grounds. Frequent fliers include the mini milk chocolate peanut butter cups, sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds, Belgian milk chocolate bars 3-packs, and more recently, a selection influenced by this course, mini Valrhona 56% dark chocolate bars, as well as their more formidable 71% cousins. All of these chocolates are milk and/or high in sugar and cacao butter, with the exception of the 71% bar, making these products extremely palatable to the average American consumer. Also, with the possible exception of both Valrhona bars, all of these products are most likely produced with bulk cacao, the term used to describe over 90 percent of the world’s cacao, which is grown with the intent of producing “a solid core of satisfactory—or better—chocolate flavor” (Presilla 123-124; Presilla 118). Uniformity is key for bulk cacao, since the Big Five chocolate manufacturers prize consistency of taste above all else to cater to their customers’ strong brand (and flavor) loyalty (Allen 21).1 Although I have long been familiar with dark chocolate and some bean-to-bar chocolate, particularly the Somerville-based Taza Chocolate, taking this class has exposed me to the world of craft and fine chocolate. The obvious end result was a trip to the gourmet food store, Formaggio Kitchen, to purchase four bars of craft and fine dark chocolate to share with my husband, and, as a counterpoint, with some of my coworkers. As the title suggests, sharing these new flavors with my husband was a spectacular failure, but my journey revealed the elitist side of craft and fine chocolate, as well as the hold that the flavors of milk and sugar have on (an admittedly very small sample of) American chocolate consumers.

Seen here is part of the storefront of Formaggio Kitchen’s Cambridge location, which is tucked away in a semi-residential area, accessible by car, several bus lines, or by foot from Harvard Square (as I did). Photo by the author.
Seen here is part of the storefront of Formaggio Kitchen’s Cambridge location, which is tucked away in a semi-residential area, accessible by car, several bus lines, or by foot from Harvard Square (as I did). Photo by the author.

My trip to Formaggio Kitchen was an experience in privilege in and of itself—my ability to access these chocolates, let alone pay for them, would not be true of many Americans. Formaggio Kitchen is an excellent gourmet food shop with locations in Cambridge, Boston, and New York City, as well as an online store. It focuses on cheese, but its list of products from the website includes, “Artisan Cheese, Chocolate, Cheese Clubs & Samplers, Specialty Seafood, Olives & Antipasti, Olive Oils & Specialty Oils, Candy & Confections” (formaggiokitchen.com), and others, with language that advertises products from an expensive, high quality store. Two levels of remove put this establishment at a distance from most Americans—first, there are only three physical locations, so if you do not live in the greater Boston or NYC area, you are out of luck. The second level of remove is the placement of the two Formaggio Kitchen locations within Cambridge and Boston. The Cambridge location is located on 244 Huron Avenue, about a 20-25 minute walk from Harvard Square, in what feels more like a residential neighborhood than a commercial district. While the Boston location is slightly more accessible, both stores are pretty out of the way for anyone who is reliant on public transportation and/or the commercial hubs of the city that spring up around major transit centers. Certainly, the internet, theoretically the world’s great equalizer, could partially remedy this situation, but the delicate nature of Formaggio Kitchen’s perishable products requires expensive shipping, which is a deterrent for many consumers in this age of free shipping and even free returns from many large online retailers. In short, Formaggio Kitchen is designed to be accessible to those with the resources to afford its products.

This image shows the main chocolate section of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. Note the small selection and tiny square footage, the curated feel of the display, and the signs handwritten in elegant script. Photo by the author.
This image shows the main chocolate section of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. Note the small selection and tiny square footage, the curated feel of the display, and the signs handwritten in elegant script. Photo by the author.

Indeed, these craft and fine chocolate bars are not cheap. I purchased four bars, two of the Rogue Tranquilidad variety, each for $16.95 for 2.12 ounces or 60 grams, one bar of Amedei 70% Chocolate for $9.95 for 1.75 ounces or 50 grams, and one bar of Aynouse L’Artesa for $6.95 for 5.3 ounces or 150 grams, coming to a total of $50.80 spent on 11.29 ounces of chocolate. This kind of cost is intentionally contrary to the trend that Coe and Coe describe as “the near-disappearance of the connoisseurship that had typified the aristocratic and clerical chocolate drinkers of a bygone era [such that] [inexpensive] mass-produced chocolates seem to have conquered all” (257). Presilla notes similarly that “even excellent chocolate had become faceless and anonymous, for the great majority of customers had no way of seeing and judging the cacao from which it was made” (41). Formaggio Kitchen’s shelves, while fairly inaccessible to many, are working to counteract the trend of chocolate as a cheap, mass-produced, faceless indulgence. According to their online webpage dedicated to “Artisan Chocolate,” “Ahhh, the power of chocolate. Touted for its health benefits and enjoyed by just about everyone, this is certainly one of our favorite food categories. We focus on bean-to-bar producers who eschew emulsifiers and create their wondrous chocolates with nothing more than sugar and cacao” (formaggiokitchen.com). Although problematic in several places—most notably, Castell, Pérez-Cano, and Bisson’s article makes it clear that further studies are need for conclusive connections between chocolate consumption and health, as well as at what doses (271)—this statement sums up one of the newer trends in conscientious chocolate consumption, one that has given rise to these fine and craft chocolate bars.

Note the handwritten label identifying the chocolate's origins, cacao percentage, and flavor notes.
Note the handwritten label identifying the chocolate’s origins, cacao percentage, and flavor notes. Photo by the author.

Accordingly, Formaggio Kitchen curates its selection to include chocolate makers doing relatively small batch chocolate production, which sometimes, but not always, indicates greater ethical standards in cacao production and sourcing. Also, the in-store labels describe individual bars’ flavor profiles, identifying nutty, floral, or earthy notes in the chocolate, as well as (in most cases) the company, source of the beans, percentage of cocoa solids, and type of chocolate. While the labels do not explicitly name the individual people who grow cacao or who make chocolate, restoring connoisseur vocabulary and culture to the chocolate industry may begin to put a human face and intrinsic value on the production of fine chocolate similar to the cachet of excellent wine, craft beer, or artisan cheese. That being said, Colin Gasko of Rogue Chocolatier is concerned about the viability of the future of craft and fine chocolate (Gasko), let alone the reality that any shifts in consumer culture defined by such a large conglomerate of the Big Five chocolate companies, as well as larger mid-size companies, is an uphill battle.

This Amedei Jamaica Cru 70% bar is made from cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla, according to the label. Donal and I (really, I) tasted this bar third, after the Trader Joe’s milk and Valrhona 56% dark bars. Photo by the author.
This Amedei Jamaica Cru 70% bar is made from cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla, according to the label. Donal and I (really, I) tasted this bar third, after the Trader Joe’s milk and Valrhona 56% dark bars. Photo by the author.

Sharing these craft and fine dark chocolate bars with my husband, Donal (name changed), was not a success based on his taste preferences but was more successful than the tasting with my coworkers in terms of flavor analysis. I selected three different chocolate bars that I hoped would appeal to his taste buds, which I knew to have a strong preference for milk chocolate and a dislike for even the mildest dark chocolate. Based on these criteria, the Rogue Tranquilidad bar was a stretch at best, but I hoped that he might try it after getting through the Amedei 70%, chosen for its sweeter flavor profile, and the Aynouse L’Artesa 65%, chosen for its high sugar content and similarity to Taza chocolate, with which Donal is familiar. We also began with a Trader Joe’s Belgian milk chocolate bar and a Valrhona 56% dark chocolate bar, again to try to ease into the tasting. I went over the steps of tasting with him, using methods modified from class tastings, Presilla’s The New Taste of Chocolate, and Stuckey’s Taste What You’re Missing. We began by looking at the chocolate and evaluating its color and gloss, then smelling it for any underlying flavor notes. Next, we broke the piece of chocolate to determine the sharpness of its “snap,” and smelled it again to see what other scents we could determine. Finally, we tasted it for texture, letting it melt on the tongue, and then for flavor.

This roughly processed Aynouse L’Artesa Fondant 65% bar is made from cocoa paste, sugar cane, and cocoa butter, according to the label. We tasted it fourth. Photo by the author.
This roughly processed Aynouse L’Artesa Fondant 65% bar is made from cocoa paste, sugar cane, and cocoa butter, according to the label. We tasted it fourth. Photo by the author.

Donal enjoyed tasting the milk chocolate, which he is used to eating, and learning about the influence that cocoa butter and cocoa solids have on the snap of a piece of a chocolate bar. Given that milk chocolate has a high fat content from the added milk and cocoa butter, the break in the first chocolate sample was not smooth, like a bar high in cocoa solids would have. Having taken a Science of Wine class for his science requirement in college, Donal is familiar with the steps in a wine tasting, which are quite similar to those for chocolate tasting. He identified a slight citrus flavor in the milk chocolate that I was unable to detect, but that was overwhelmed by caramel when I told him that was the main note that I could sense. When we moved to the Valrhona chocolate and I asked him what he smelled, he said with a pronounced frown, “dark chocolate.” He did not finish the sample. After that, he chose not to taste the Amedei or the Rogue bars, but he was willing to smell each one for the flavor notes. He did give the Aynouse L’Artesa bar a brief nibble, being familiar with Taza’s roughly finished dark chocolate, but the rest of that piece was also returned to me. He did note that the chocolate bar wrappers all gave the impression of imitating high-end wine labels, with frequently minimalist or otherwise elegant design and layout. While we enjoyed seeking out the different notes in the smells and tastes of the bars, we concluded that I need to bring back dark milk chocolate from Formaggio Kitchen, although I am unconvinced that anything darker than traditional milk chocolate will be a success in this (hopeless? helpless?) case.

This Rogue Chocolatier 75% bar is made only with cacao and cane sugar, making it the darkest chocolate of the group. I saved it for tasting last (with Donal, so to speak). Photo by the author.
This Rogue Chocolatier 75% bar is made only with cacao and cane sugar, making it the darkest chocolate of the group. I saved it for tasting last (with Donal, so to speak). Photo by the author.

The tasting I conducted with two colleagues, Sarah and Adam (names changed), was better received in terms of taste but less nuanced in terms of flavor than the tasting with Donal. It was also a much more informal and quick tasting due to the nature of the workplace setting. I talked a little about smelling, snapping, and tasting the chocolate, as well as the difference between chocolate made with pure cacao solids and sugar versus that with added cocoa butter and/or other additives or flavorings, but I was not able to do so in as much detail as I was with Donal. Adam, who has similar tastes to Donal, actually enjoyed the Rogue chocolate quite a bit, which surprised me. He did not have any significant flavor feedback, but he did enjoy the “snap” too. Clearly, the physical engagement with the “snap” can be a satisfying “in” for people who have not done much or any intentional chocolate or food tasting. Sarah sampled both the Rogue and the Aynouse L’Artesa bars, and while she enjoyed the Rogue sample, she seemed to like the second sample better. Her immediate reaction to the Aynouse L’Artesa was to say that the flavor profile was more complex, but upon further consideration, she asserted that perhaps it had more to do with what seemed to be a greater amount of sugar in that bar when compared to the Rogue bar.

Donal did not appreciate the complex flavors in this piece of dark chocolate from Rogue chocolatier.
Donal did not appreciate the complex flavors in this piece of dark chocolate from Rogue Chocolatier. Photo by the author.

Combining the feedback from these two tastings leads to some interesting commentary on the types of tasters and an affirmation of the common flavor preferences for some, if not many, American chocolate consumers. While it was somewhat disappointing for me that Donal was not able to enjoy the craft and fine dark chocolate in the tasting, Barb Stuckey’s article suggests one possible reason why. Her husband, who cannot stomach many bitter flavors like red wine, green vegetables, or dark chocolate, is what is known as a supertaster, or as Stuckey prefers to say, a hypertaster. Both labels describe a member of the population with the highest number of taste buds on the tongue, which renders that person extra sensitive to strong or bitter flavors (20-21). It is possible that Donal is a supertaster, but it is also possible that he is a taster or tolerant taster (nontaster) who simply does not enjoy bitter flavors—Stuckey’s article makes it clear that the breakdown between hypertasters, tasters, and tolerant tasters cannot account for all food preferences, just as one way to understand some of them (29). Donal was familiar with these categories of tasters from his Science of Wine course, and we were able to have a conversation about taste and flavor preferences in the context of Linda Bartoshuk’s system.2

Dark chocolates like the ones sold at Formaggio Kitchen may simply not have the same flavor appeal for the average American as an industrially processed milk chocolate bar.
Dark chocolates like these ones sold at Formaggio Kitchen may simply not have the same flavor appeal for the average American as an industrially processed sugar-and-milk chocolate bar. Photo by the author.

Another outcome from this wider chocolate tasting experiment was anecdotal evidence that supports the theory that many Americans prefer sweeter, milkier chocolate as a general rule. In “Big Sugar’s Little Lies,” Taubes and Couzens have documented the aggressive tactics of the American sugar industry to resist regulation of sugar consumption guidelines, to the detriment of Americans’ health. Unsurprisingly, thanks to these efforts, as well as other trends in food production and marketing, most Americans now have a strong taste for sugar and other sweet foods. I would argue that these marketing efforts have been so influential that they may have led Sarah to think initially that the more sugary chocolate was more flavorful, when in fact it simply had more sugar and cocoa butter in the recipe. Donal’s reactions also reflect the widespread preference for milk chocolate over dark chocolate in our society. While these preferences themselves are not “good” or “bad,” per se, they do have a strong influence on what types of foods we choose to consume, and they may be something for the craft and fine chocolate industry to consider as it evolves.3

The three main dark chocolate barwrapperss from the tasting placed together for comparison.
The three main dark chocolate bar wrappers from the tasting placed together for comparison. Photo by the author.

My next steps, following this expedition? In short, to try more fine chocolate and share it with more people. While I have identified some of the issues with high end gourmet foods, and fine and craft chocolate in particular, Formaggio Kitchen is an excellent place to start for trying bean-to-bar chocolate if you are interested and live in the Boston or Cambridge area. I am curious to see what some of my other family and friends, particularly those who already have an affinity for dark chocolate, think of brands like Rogue and others. I also look forward to trying some dark milk chocolate with Donal, if he will consent to being a guinea pig one more time. While I acknowledge the problematic elitism of fine and craft chocolate, I also believe these products are providing a much needed perspective in an industry so otherwise dominated by only five companies. I look forward to supporting these small bean-to-bar companies, particularly the ethically sourced ones, now and in the future.

Notes

  1. The Big Five chocolate companies—Hershey, Mars, Cadbury, Ferrero Rocher, and Nestlé (Allen 21)—do not include Trader Joe’s, of course, but they do dominate the market with incredible control over what kind of cacao is most commonly grown and therefore available to other chocolate manufacturers.
  2. Donal has in fact taken one of the tests that assesses taster type, as a requirement for his Science of Wine class, and he is unsurprisingly either a taster or a hypertaster (supertaster).
  3. Indeed, a growing number of small batch chocolate makers are offering “dark milk” chocolate bars, which are intended to appeal to consumers who prefer their fine chocolate with larger amounts of milk and sugar (Martin “Haute Patisserie”).

Thanks to Formaggio Kitchen for permission to take the pictures included in this blog post. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

Works Cited

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

Castell, Margarida, Francisco Jose Pérez-Cano, and Jean-François Bisson. “Clinical Benefits of Cocoa: An Overview.” Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. Ed. R.R. Watson et al. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, 2013. 265-275. Print.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 2013. Print.

formaggiokitchen.com. Formaggio Kitchen. Web. 10 May 2015.

Gasko, Colin. “Film Viewing and Rogue Chocolatier Tasting and Interview.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 6 May 2015. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Film Viewing and Rogue Chocolatier Tasting and Interview.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 6 May 2015. 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. 29 Apr. 2015. Class Lecture.

“Mini Peanut Butter Cups.” traderjoes.com. Trader Joe’s, 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 May 2015.

Presilla, Marciel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes, Revised. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.

“Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Chocolate Almonds.” traderjoes.com. Trader Joe’s, 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 May 2015.

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

Taubes, Gary and Cristin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” MotherJones. 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

tazachocolate.com. Taza Chocolate. Web. 10 May 2015.

“Three Chocolate Bars.” traderjoes.com. Trader Joe’s, n.d. Web. 10 May 2015.

“Valrhona Le Noir.” finedarkchocolate.com. Fine Dark Chocolate, n.d. Web. 10 May 2015.

“Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71% Cacao Dark Bittersweet Chocolate (Pack of 5).” amazon.com. Amazon, n.d. Web. 10 May 2015.

Chocolate, Love, and the Promise of Happiness: How Valentine’s Day Forever Changed Chocolate Advertising

In an episode on the TV show, Mad Men, ad executive Don Draper is sitting across the table from Rachel Menken, a woman he is dating and talking to her about the meaning of love. He says to her, much to her chagrin, “Love doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by people like me to sell Nylons.”

While Rachel might disagree with him and even be right in pointing out that his is a pessimistic way go through life, there is a certain truth in Don’s words. Today, like in Don Draper’s 1950s when the modern age of advertising began, advertisements wield an unparalleled amount of power over how we feel, think, and perceive ourselves (Monbiot 2011). At its core, an advertisement makes a promise. That promise makes us think that by buying a product we can be transformed, we can become the “ideal woman,” the “sexy husband,” the carelessly laughing beauty taking a vacation in the sun. All we need to do is mimic the person on the television screen. And this is Don’s point. While advertisements might be influenced by culture, they have an immensely powerful role in in creating culture: in influencing tastes, preferences, and identities, and in doing so creating people who are “ideal” modern consumers.

Chocolate advertisements are one area in which this influence is particularly clear. Today, we associate chocolate with women, sex, femininity, and love. In fact, while women are generally underrepresented in advertisements, in almost all cases where they are present, they act out their femininity exclusively as wives, mothers, and sexual gatekeepers (Collins 2011). Often, they are shown wearing provocative clothing and rarely portrayed as professionals (Collins 2011). Images like those below, for example, are found in nearly all chocolate advertisements, centering on women divulging in chocolate, looking oddly sensual, and deeply satisfied by what they are eating.

Images from various commercials showing women eating chocolate
Images from various commercials showing women eating chocolate

In fact, most chocolate advertisements today either present an idealized woman, who is most often white, skinny, with perfect hair and makeup, consuming chocolate (either entirely happy or entirely sexualized while doing so) or focus on how all women cannot resist the powers of chocolate, a treat that somehow singularly calls out to them, that they need for their emotional well-being in a way that men do not. In an example of the former, the commercial below not only shows chocolate as being inextricably tied to female sexuality, it draws a distinct link between chocolate production and sex (which is separately problematic because of the realities of chocolate production, though there is not enough space to delve into that here). The woman in this ad is portrayed as being flawless: she has flowing hair and perfect skin, and she is supposed to be everything one might want to be in a woman.

In another ad, it is similarly only women who are consuming the chocolate product, though they are no longer sexualized, but have voracious, unbridled appetites instead. The ad shows hordes of women who are running and screaming to get their hands on the low calorie chocolate product. Instead of linking chocolate with sex, this ad portrays chocolate consumption as a distinctly feminine activity and one that is irresistible – the thought of the chocolate product makes all of the women almost irrational. The female appetite as presented here can only be satiated by chocolate, though of course, chocolate that is low in calories because the ideal woman is also obsessively concerned about her weight.

These associations are so deeply embedded in our cultural imagination that we have come to see them as biological fact: we have come to believe that there is something physically different about women that draws them to chocolate. These theories, such as one that posits that menstruation causes a chocolate craving, have been, unsurprisingly, debunked (Bratskeir 2014). In fact, other research has shown that while 60 percent of American women surveyed crave chocolate pre-menstruation, only about 24 percent of Spanish women do, showing that “chocolate cravings” are culturally constructed, and in our culture, it is almost exclusively women who are shown to consume chocolate, though often men who buy it for them. (Zelner et al 2004; Osman 2006).

While it may be no great surprise that advertisements have shaped how we think about chocolate, what is surprising is that chocolate was not always a distinctly feminine product in the American psyche. In fact, before the 1950s chocolate was not shown to be consumed by women any moreso than men. In this ad from 1901, the woman is actually feeding the man a piece of chocolate as a sort of peace offering. While chocolate is still associated with pleasure and intimacy here, it is a role reversal from what we see in advertisements today.

1901 advertisement of Whitman's chocolate
1901 advertisement of Whitman’s chocolate

Similarly in this ad from 1913 while the main focus is on an image of a woman, she is not indulging in the chocolate herself, rather she is presenting it to others, completely counter to today’s association between chocolate and feminine consumption.

1913 NYLO Chocolates Advertisement
1913 NYLO Chocolates Advertisement

Another advertisement from the early 1920s shows what is presumably a couple looking longingly at a box of chocolates. While the image is somewhat sexualized, with both of them standing close and implying a certain sort of intimacy, it does not single out the woman as the center of sexual attention as we might see today.

1921 Rowntree's Chocolates Advertisement
1921 Rowntree’s Chocolates Advertisement

Even in 1927, chocolate was not shown as being uniquely feminine. On the contrary, as can be seen in this ad, it was advertised as a post-workout treat which, although serving to reinforce the notion of woman as homemaker, did not focus on woman as chocolate consumer.

1927 Whitman's advertisement
1927 Whitman’s advertisement

So how did we get from this :

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To this?

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The answer: Valentine’s Day. Specifically, the commercialization and transformation of Valentine’s Day from an ancient fertility festival to a day in which men shower women with gifts (namely flowers and chocolates) as a token of their love, in exchange for physical and emotional affection. Some scholars posit that Valentine’s Day first started as an Ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia where naked men would “swat women with raw hides to increase their fertility” (Reese 2015; Seipel 2011). Though these ancient origins are somewhat contested, the transformation of Valentine’s day into a celebration of love in the late 18th century as a result of the mass production of Valentine’s cards is not (Reese 2015). These greeting cards entirely catalyzed the commercialization of Valentine’s Day making it a holiday that carried tremendous profit potential for companies, though it was not until the 1950s that Valentine’s Day had been fully transformed into a gendered holiday – where men were, and are, expected to show women affection in a sort of one-way relationship. The greeting cards and advertisement show below, for example, are from the early 20th century and capture the relatively gender-neutral focus of Valentine’s Day at that time. The flower advertisement, in fact, actually shows a woman purchasing flowers.

Blog 4 Image 9 Blog 4 Image 10 Blog 4 Image 8

In the post-war era, however, as men returned home from war, women were relegated to domestic tasks (PBS, The American Experience). Advertisements in this era, like the one shown below, perpetuated the idea of the woman as a homemaker and her husband as the only person who held the key to her happiness.

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1950s Hoover Advertisement

It was in this sociocultural environment, where women were expected to raise children and take care of the home and men expected to provide them with physical and emotional satisfaction, that Valentine’s Day acquired a new meaning. This advertisement, unlike the one shown above, targets men who are presumably traveling on business, reassuring them that they can still make their wives happy with the gift of flowers.

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It was in this era of female domesticity and idealized masculinity that chocolate came to be associated with Valentine’s Day and this association forever changed the lens through which Americans view chocolate consumption. While the first heart-shaped chocolate box was created by Richard Cadbury in Great Britain 1861, it was not until the consumerist post-war era that the idea gained popularity in the United States (Henderson 2015). During that time, companies like Russell Stover (which owned Whitman’s) began to market their chocolate as a Valentine’s Day gift, like flowers, that husbands could (and should) buy for their wives. The link between chocolate and Valentine’s Day necessarily centered on female consumption of the chocolates because women were the consumers of all things Valentine’s Day that their husbands bought for them.

Advertisements like the one below tapped into this domestic relationship between spouses, where women rarely worked, and instead were provided for. The advertisement here makes a promise to men, that by buying chocolate they will be able to “remember the way to her heart,” because female happiness and love is tied entirely to chocolate consumption.

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In another post-war advertisement we see one of the first instances in which a woman is eating chocolate alone and has a huge smile on her face as she indulges herself, an image that has been since duplicated hundreds, if not thousands of times.

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This image of the woman who enjoys the gift of chocolate slowly led to the development of the image of the woman who was constantly craving it and could not resist it when offered to her. In the 1960s, chocolate was advertised as not only the path to female happiness but also the path to sexual satisfaction for men. In 1967, Brach’s advertised, “Free kisses with every box of Brach’s Valentine Chocolates you give to her” (LeBesco and Naccarato 2012). In these ads, chocolate is shown as a sort of investment for men, as Kathleen Parkin, author of the book, Food is Love, explained in a recent Slate interview, because it carries with it the promise of sex (Anderson 2012). Women, simultaneously, were shown as giving themselves or being given permission by others to indulge in the chocolate (partially because in the 1970s Americans grew more health consciousness and chocolate was seen as unhealthy), whereas men do not require that same sort of permission (LeBesco and Naccarato 2012).

While in its origin, this link between chocolate and love was influenced by the culture of the historical era, over time, it also played a substantial role in cementing and perpetuating notions of idealized femininity. All advertisement campaigns rely on repetition and pervasiveness because through these methods they become embedded in culture and are no longer questioned by audiences (Monbiot 2011). The pervasiveness of advertisements which pair chocolate with female sexuality and appetite have triggered our expectation that all woman want chocolate and cannot control themselves if it is given to them. This pattern has acted, and continues to act, as a positive feedback loop, whereby the more we see women associated with chocolate on TV the more we associate chocolate with certain types of femininity and the stronger that association, the more likely advertising agencies are to run ads affirming that notion.

While our modern era has complicated this image in some ways, as the rise of feminism has called certain representations of women in the media into question, and women entering the workforce has allowed them to purchase gifts, not only receive them, in many respects the traditions surrounding Valentine’s Day, borne out of post-1950s domesticity, have not changed. This ad below, for example, aired just 4 years ago on Valentine’s Day.  The ad’s focus on women wanting to be gifted chocolate by men (as opposed to buying it for themselves or buying chocolate for their partners) is nearly identical to those from the 1950s.

It is not unusual today to hear people talk about how much women love chocolate or to see this association shown on TV shows and in advertisements. The association however, is based on a deep-seated history of sexism which idealized a certain type of woman who acted out her feminity in accordance with prevailing gender expectations. As shown above, chocolate advertisements continue to present women in this unequal way today and in doing so contribute to a wider culture of gender stereotyping and the unnecessary feminization of chocolate.

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Works Cited (Including both multimedia and scholarly sources)

“1950s Ads/commercials Aimed at Women.” Technologies of the Family. N.p., 31 July 2011. Web. 06 May 2015.
The American Experience. “Women and Work After World War II.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Anderson, L.V. “What’s Up with the Stereotype That Women Love Chocolate?” Slate. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 06 May 2015.
“Be Mine over Time.” Hallmark. N.p., n.d. Web.
Bratskeir, Kate. “This Is Why Women Crave Chocolate, Men Want A Burger.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 Nov. 2014. Web.
Collins, Rebecca L. “Content Analysis of Gender Roles in Media: Where Are We Now and Where Should We Go?” Sex Roles 64.3-4 (2011): 290-98. Web.
“Don Draper’s Best Quote.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated For Life.” Smithsonian. N.p., 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 May 2015.
LeBesco, Kathleen, and Peter Naccarato. Edible Ideologies: Representing Food and Meaning. Albany: State U of New York, 2008. Print.
Monbiot, George. “Advertising Is a Poison That Demeans Even Love – and We’re Hooked on It.” The Guardian. N.p., 24 Oct. 2011. Web.
“Oreo Cakesters 100 Calorie Mini Cakesters TV Commerical.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Osman, Jamie L., and Jeffery Sobal. “Chocolate Cravings in American and Spanish Individuals: Biological and Cultural Influences.” Appetite 47.3 (2006): 290-301. Web.
Reese, M R. “Day of Love – the Complex Origins of Valentine’s Day.” Ancient Origins. N.p., 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 May 2015.
“Russell Stover 2011 Valentines Day-“Men Should Go with the Heart Shaped Box”” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Seipel, Arnie. “The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day.” NPR. NPR, 11 Feb. 2011. Web. 06 May 2015.
“Sexy Chocolate Commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Zellner, Debra A., Ana Garriga-Trillo, Soraya Centeno, and Elizabeth Wadsworth. “Chocolate Craving and the Menstrual Cycle.” Appetite 42.1 (2004): 119-21. Web.

Divine Intervention: Helping or Hurting?

One day after our chocolate class let out, I was, unsurprisingly, craving chocolate. I happened to be traveling in the direction of the Market in the Square on Brattle Street, so I decided to stop inside and check out their chocolate selection. The market had wide range of chocolate from many parts of the world, but one bar stood out to me. The Divine Milk Chocolate with hazelnuts bar was colorfully and uniquely decorated; I had never seen anything like it before. When I looked a little closer, it seemed it could have a potentially problematic design. After close analysis of the bar’s wrapper, I found that the design, due to the history of Ghanaian chocolate, attempts to make purchasing the bar a charitable act that closes the gap between farmers and chocolate lovers. Sadly, it only increases the divide between the consumer and the producer of cacao.

When I first picked up the bar, I was attracted to the shiny Divine logo and the many blue and tan symbols that graced the packaging. I have to admit, I did not know anything about the Divine chocolate company before encountering this chocolate bar. I decided to analyze the bar as an inexperienced consumer in order to best understand how Divine was marketing their products. As I walk through my experience as a first time consumer of Divine, I will show how the bar is marketed toward closing the gap between the consumer and the producer, and in reality how it does the opposite.

Here is the outside of the Divine Milk Chocolate wrapper:

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As I mentioned before, one of the first things I noticed about the milk chocolate bar’s packaging was its being covered in many tribal-esque symbols. I thought at first that these symbols were an homage to cacao’s Mesoamerican origins. However, when I opened the bar and looked on the inside of the wrapper, I found an explanation on the bottom. In order “to celebrate [their] Ghanaian ownership” Divine decorated the bar with Adinkra symbols which are “traditional West African motifs”. This bar emphasized the symbol “Kokrobotie which represents co-operation and teamwork”.

At first I thought “oh that’s nice, they are celebrating the culture of the farmers.” And then I considered the wording of “West African motifs”. The rest of the wrapping all contained very specific references to the Kuapa Kokoo co-op from which they get their cacao, even the home regions of farmers in Ghana. The vagueness of the symbols’ origins indicates that they are most likely not from Kuapa Kokoo or Ghana. This is problematic, as it is careless to claim that Divine’s image is specifically in the co-op, then use images that are not from there but “close enough” for the Western consumer. It indicates that the company is going for a look rather than sincere representation of culture and leads to their exotification.

We can guess that the symbols exist to create a sense of understanding between the cacao farmers and the consumers. The specific symbol Kokrobotie meaning co-operation and teamwork is ambiguous as well. Perhaps the ambiguity is meant to make the consumer feel as if they are co-operating with the farmers.The connection between farmer and shopper is one that is not often made, and the connection is quite appealing to consumers (Doherty and Tranchell).

An explanation of the symbols found on Divine chocolate bars
An explanation of the symbols found on Divine chocolate bars

Scholar Lucia Hulsether in her work on Tom’s shoes, a company with a mission to help those in developing countries just as Divine does, identifies the appeal of this connection as part of the spiritual politics of neoliberalism. Essentially, the consumer today feels disconnected with those who produce their goods. They feel more ethically satisfied when purchasing goods that close the gap between consumer and producer, especially ones that create a sense of all people buying into global community (Hulsether). The symbols create the sense that the buyer better understands the culture of those producing her food, so she feels more connected, more a part of a global community.

After I noticed he symbols that grace the Divine milk chocolate bar’s packaging, I moved on to the treatment of the farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo co-op.

The backside of the bar contains a few sentences mentioning that their beans are of high quality from the Kuapa Kokoo co-op. I found on the inside of the bar, though, paragraphs of information about the co-op and its farmers. There was a specific section called “Meet Gladys” introducing consumers to Gladys Okai, one of the community members of the co-op (it is unclear whether she is a farmer herself). The profile is similar to this video from Divine’s YouTube channel:

The main difference between the wording on the bar and the video is that Gladys has a voice in the video. On the bar, she is referenced in the third person and some of what she says is the video is translated into abbreviated quotes. The wrapper mentions how the co-op has provided water for her community and what a difference that makes. Her photo is included next to her information.

I’ll admit, at first I was touched by the story. I was glad to have found a chocolate bar that was making such a change in the lives of others. I felt that I was voting, so to speak, with my purchase for more companies with such a mission. And that is exactly how the consumer is supposed to feel.

This is all part of the connection that Hulsether identifies in her work. I can purchase a good, but I am really purchasing the ethical satisfaction that I am not contributing to the exploitation of unknown farmers. I see a face, I hear the story of someone who makes my food, and by making my food her life is improving. I feel like part of a global community working for social change.

I found I had a couple of lingering questions for Divine. The first was whether or not their mission is effective. Scholars have questioned how much the fair trade and alternative trade can make a difference in the communities they claim to help. In one instance, an investigation of a coffee producer in Nigeria found that fair trade impact was limited by the debt from paying the licensing fee, lack of government support and other factors (Utting-Chamorro). The owners of Divine wrote a case study article on whether by going mainstream their mission became “clean-washed”. Clean-washing occurs when a company benefits from the increased sales from being fair trade, but does little to bring about the changes they promise by being fair trade (Doherty and Tranchell). While their report concludes that they have not been clean-washed, we have to consider that this report was written by the owners of the company. While the article is peer reviewed, there’s definitely a conflict of interest here.

We can take with a grain of salt Divine’s claims that they are bringing about change in the Kuapa Kokoo co-op, but my last, most concerning question for Divine was the nature of their leadership and how they market it.

I went back to Gladys’ story on the inside of the wrapper, and I made a key observation after a close reading of the bar. Gladys is referred to in the third person, supposedly by whomever owns Divine. However, right above her profile is a seal claiming “owned by chocolate farmers, made for chocolate lovers”. A large part of Divine, is in fact owned by the farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo co-op (Divine). Why then, are Gladys and other farmers on Divine’s materials referred to as an other? Instead of using language that reads as “this is our co-op, and through our business we have made this change for our community” the language reads as “this company, one that helps this co-op, is what is changing the community”. The marketing of  Divine’s products has created a middle man that does not need to exist.

From Divine's website, the company is clearly proud to say they are partially owned by chocolate farmers
From Divine’s website, the company is clearly proud to say they are partially owned by chocolate farmers

Why then, does this middle man exist? I would argue that is has to do with how Ghanaian chocolate is perceived in Western society. West Africa primarily grows lower quality bulk cacao, but Ghana is the exception. Government regulations have kept the quality of bulk cacao high on many farms in Ghana, and this is well known in the chocolate world (Leisse). Western artisans, though, are hesitant to source Ghanaian beans because of tight purchasing regulations, but also because of perceptions that exotify West African and remind them of slavery (Leisse). Another factor to consider is the perception Americans have of West African labor practices. An American 2005 case study of cacao workers in West Africa found many counts of child labor that resulted in harmful lacerations and/or pesticide exposure (Kirkhorn and Mull). It is worth noting that the researchers did not use a nonrandom population of workers, which casts a shadow of doubt over their finding. Regardless of the strength of their findings, when Western society considers Ghanaian chocolate, they are reminded of poor labor practices both in the past and present.

Here lies the appeal of the middle man. Western consumers can trust a Western third party to go in and make a social change. The chocolate wrapper still emphasizes the changes they bring about so that the consumers feels like they are connected to those who produce their food from across the globe.

And here’s the problem: by using a third party Divine is exotifying, speaking for the farmers and widening the divide between consumer and producer. The Milk Chocolate with Hazelnut bar’s package is condescending in nature, which makes the chocolate buyer feel they are connecting with chocolate farmers, but on a shallow level. The consumer does not consider the innovation, hard work, or humanity necessarily of the farmer. They see a face they are saving. Thus, the divide between consumer and producer on increases.

Works Cited:

“About Us.” Divine Chocolate. Web. 6 May 2015.

Doherty, Bob, and Sophi Tranchell. ““Radical mainstreaming” of fairtrade: the case of The Day Chocolate Company.” Equal Opportunities International 26.7 (2007): 693-711.

Hulsether, Lucia. “TOMS Shoes and the Spiritual Politics of Neoliberalism.” Religion and Politics: Fit for Polite Company. John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, 1 Oct. 2013. Web. 6 May 2015.

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.”Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3 (2013): 22-31.

Mull, L. Diane, and Steven R. Kirkhorn. “Child labor in Ghana cocoa production: focus upon agricultural tasks, ergonomic exposures, and associated injuries and illnesses.” Public Health Reports 120.6 (2005): 649.

Utting-Chamorro, Karla. “Does fair trade make a difference? The case of small coffee producers in Nicaragua.” Development in Practice 15.3-4 (2005): 584-599.

Images

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http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/sites/default/files/img_front/cocoa-farmers-button-new.jpg

Chocolate: A Way of Life

Being a chocolate lover for as long as I can remember, I have ventured around Cambridge the past four years in hopes of discovering locations where I could buy a quality selection of the gift of the gods so as to broaden my tastes. It was not long before I stumbled upon Cardullos, a gourmet shoppe located right in the middle of Harvard Square. Walking into the store my eyes grew wide as I saw the beautifully colored wall filled from floor to ceiling with chocolate bars! I was amazed to count around thirty different products of chocolate from at least 15 different countries. It was amazing that so many different types, flavors, and forms could all be classified under the same name. Chocolate, historically prepared to serve as a hot drink (Norton, 660), has undergone immense changes to get to its current state and analyzing various features of this fascinating and delicious product, I learned something about the way it affects the consumer. Because chocolate is a massively available good, contains addicting ingredients, and has a complex and unclear origin, it is hard to change consumption preferences.

The industrialization of food has provided consumers with a massively available production of chocolate (Goody, 88). Walking into a store, like Cardullos, consumers have an endless amount of chocolate and varying brands at their fingertips — literally an entire massive section dedicated purely to chocolate. As a creature of habit, when forced to choose from with such a huge selection I tend to form a preference for a certain product. But generally the variety of prices, flavors, and sizes of the chocolate bars may play into a typical preference. Depending on the chocolate bar, some brands provide a condensed backstory of their company along with the ingredients and products used to produce the delectable chocolate. Nowadays, this product can be found all over the world, even when scarcity of more necessary goods persist, demonstrating that chocolate grew to be such a common and illustrious commodity.

Not only is chocolate readily available at a limitless number of locations, but it also has addictive properties that keep the consumer wanting more. The sugar and fat content of chocolate are just some examples of what prolongs its consumerism, no doubt serving as partial contributor to the obesity epidemic that has struck the United States. “Given that fat and sugar constitute 50 percent of the caloric intake of the average American, it is also not surprising to find that over two-thirds of All Americans are overweight, while the very obese (at least 100 pounds overweight) are the fastest-growing group” (Albritton, 344). This evidence is not saying that chocolate is the sole reason that people are unhealthy, but it seems to be a factor influencing and contributing to generally unhealthy food choices because of the addictive properties of fat and sugar.

In addition to the massive able production of chocolate and the addictive properties that perpetuation consumerism, the complex and unclear origin of chocolate contributes to the difficulty in altering consumption preferences. Concerning Market Ethics and the slave trade, Lowell Satre writes about how the demand for slaves and labor was so much greater than the supply available; there was an unquenchable thirst for labor that only helped in sustaining the slave trade (Satre, 11). Just about everything functions in a supply and demand relationship and therefore chocolate, without exception, maintained this; as a result its production disgustingly treated human beings as commodities of trade. Sāo Tomé and Príncipe are just two of the many countries within in the extensive line of cocoa production where slavery was capitalized upon for the cacao trade (Satre, 98). Non-resolved labor conditions may mean that, despite all of the work done to improve labor, trade, and standard of business environments, there is still likelihood that chocolate companies that fail to acknowledge the origin of their cacao beans are linked to unacceptable source.

Along with the slave trade generating a great amount of controversy regarding the production of chocolate, the true origin of the product is also often questionable. When it comes to chocolate, every ingredient influences the resulting taste and the origin, or the cocoa beans, could have a determining influence. By and large consumers want to know what they are putting into their bodies and an important component of this ties in where the product came from. In Food Justice vs. Food Power, Levkoe portrays the problems that may arise when people are forced into consumerism, without knowing the sources of the product they put into their bodies (Levkoe, 589). Food justice movements engage activists of all sorts to consider the rights of consumers, human and environmental health, the importance of the production and distribution of food, and the political coalitions capable of making a difference. Through these community promoting and individual empowering campaigns society can learn a more valuable way to live. The consumption of chocolate can serve as representation for general consumerism because it too reflects on the common phrase you are what you eat in regards to ones actions concerning its production. Despite the origin or the cacao beans that are used to produce chocolate being predominantly unknown, the consumption of chocolate persists all over the world.

Seeing that chocolate is a massively available good, contains addicting sugar and fat contents, and stems from a controversial history with an unclear origin, I would argue that it would be quite difficult to change consumer preferences. It is not difficult to learn about contentions surrounding chocolate, but I surmise that each consumer feels incapable of making a crucial impact by changing the product they purchase. When I took stock in the huge variety of chocolates in Cardullos, I reflected on the industrial taste of the chocolate that portrays high quality with a higher price. Can we be certain that what is in each wrapper truthfully corresponds to its label? Food adulteration was once a common occurrence in the industrialization production (Goody, 86) that I wonder if there could still be a trace of misconduct when producing chocolate. It does not seem like it would be very difficult to tinker with certain ingredients, such as substitutions that would be hard to discern. Even the slightest adulteration may make a profitable difference for producers. Many chocolatiers labor to make sure that the consumer can be satisfied with what they put in their bodies but this often hikes the price up because of all the additional and necessary steps to make their chocolate.

Though the more expensive chocolates may have been crafted with a higher moral compass in regards to the labor demanded in order to launch its production, I do not think it would be too easy to get consumers to change their ways when it comes to purchasing the product. The final chocolate product could be flashy or have colorful styles on the wrapper, there could be massive public hype surrounding a certain brand, or the mere convenience of purchasing a certain type may be reason for chocolate consumerism. But when it comes to their preferences, an individual has a more innate response to their consumption. Even with all of the medical findings that the media publicizes regarding the health risks or benefits of chocolate, when consumers habituate chocolate into their diet I think it would be tough to break their dependency. Historically speaking, when Europeans developed the taste they first had for Indian chocolate, they set out to recreate the good for America and Europe so that they might taste the indigenous experience (Norton, 660). Now Europeans, as I saw during my exploration of Cardullos, produces many chocolate brands that are consumed around the world. I think that by adapting chocolate in such a fashion helped create this dependency and consequentially an unbreakable preference for chocolate

When I was a child I considered pretty much any type of sweet to be yummy, always wanting anything chocolate. I developed a sweet tooth and grew dependent on sugar. With every possible brand of chocolate available to consumers, picking a favorite and sticking to it seemed somewhat necessary. Even as I recently learned more about how chocolate is made and the process and ingredients that go into its production, I still have that original preference for my chocolate. Sure, I think that it is possible to enjoy trying new products and the experience of new tasting chocolates, but I think that the innate preference that one forms for chocolate is hard to break.

My adventures in search of new chocolate tastes has been quite a rewarding experience and it helped lead me to assert that it is difficult to changes a consumers preference on chocolate because of its massive and readily available supply, the inclusion of addicting amounts of sugar and fat content, and the complexity associated with its controversial history and the lack of clarity in cocoa bean origin. Whether you grab a Hershey bar from the gas station, a Dove bar from CVS, Ghirardelli squares from a supermarket, or Lindt truffles at the mall, chocolate is a readily available good no matter where you go. The price placed on a item of chocolate may have an influence on what a consumer actually chooses to purchase, but the original preference one has associated with the chocolate he or she likes is hard to put a end to because of its massive availability, addictive ingredients, and complex history and origin.

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This chocolate from Brussels illustrates the industrialized pricing, portraying a finer quality along with a high price.

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France’s François Pralus portrays the multitude of origins in order to market the chocolate.

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Artisan Michael Autourorsi’s Chuao Chocolatier here demonstrates the production of unique types of chocolate.

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This Cadbury product reflects on chocolate’s past, as it was originally consumed as a liquid.

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Taza is manufactured in Massachusetts and is a delicious stone-ground chocolate.

Works Cited

Albritton, Robert. “Between obesity and hunger: the capitalist food industry.” Food and Culture: A Reader (2013): 342-354.Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2012.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial food: towards the development of a world cuisine.” Food and culture: a reader (1997): 338-353.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2012.

Levkoe, Charles Z. “Learning democracy through food justice movements.” Agriculture and Human Values 23.1 (2006): 89-98.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting empire: chocolate and the European internalization of Mesoamerican aesthetics.” The American historical review 111.3 (2006): 660-691.

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on trial: Slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Ohio University Press, 2005.

(Photos taken at Cardullos)