Tag Archives: consumerism

Chocolate- Beyond the Shelf

Its 10pm and all of the sudden it hits you- that late night craving for something sweet. You try to resist the temptation at first but finally you give in. You pause your new Netflix show you have been binge watching, get up from your bed, and go to the cabinet where you keep all the goodies. To your dismay you open the cabinet to bare drawers with nothing but canned food and ramen in sight. However, your craving is strong so you decide to make the trip to the local convenience store around the corner. Given that you are an undergrad at Harvard University you make you’re way to the center of the square where you have a number of options- CVS, Shaw’s, Cardullo’s, and Formaggio. You want to try something new so you decide on Cardullo’s and make a beeline for the sign that reads “Chocolate”. To your surprise there are shelf filled with different brands of chocolate that you have never seen before. You survey the selection not even knowing what terms like “Raw 100% Cacao” mean, let alone what that would taste like. You ask yourself questions like “Is this $13 chocolate bar going to be that much better that a Hershey’s?” and “How is hand-crafted chocolate different from regular chocolate?”

These are all fine questions for the average chocolate consumer to ask. In fact, I would argue that the average chocolate consumer should ask even more questions about their chocolate! The goal of this post is to help the average consumer better understand the options they face when they are searching for their next late night chocolate fix. This post will actually look at some of the selections that are available from Cardullo’s in Harvard Square and explain what one can learn from the selection. Some of the points that’s will be considered include the type of chocolate, ethical concerns, price point, and intended audience of all the different chocolate bars. With the vast number of selections available at Cardullo’s, the examination of each individual chocolate offering is out of the scope of this paper. Rather, this post will look in depth at two different chocolate selections with the hopes that the reader can become better informed about the diverse world of chocolate.

The first type of chocolate offering we will examine is the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar. This bar gives us the standard milk chocolate bar that so many of us have come to know and love. The first milk chocolate bar dates back to 1879 when Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter were able to utilize a newly discovered cooking process to produce these bars. (Coe and Coe 246-247). As time went on milk chocolate increased in popularity as a result its sweet taste and marketed health benefits. With milk chocolate still very popular today one should be aware of the process through which milk chocolate is produced. The chart below gives a detailed picture of the current milk chocolate production process.

Chocolate Processing Flow Chart
Source: http://www.c-spot.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/flowchart.jpg

As you can see the initial steps are similar and then there is more specific steps needed in order to make milk chocolate. The key ingredients in milk chocolate that separate it from the other forms of chocolate are the milk and sugar added in the product. Additionally, the milk chocolate that most of us consume today actually has a very low percentage of cacao compared to other chocolate selections.

With the rise in popularity of milk chocolate over the last 150 years or so there have also been a rise in the number of companies producing chocolate products. However, Cadbury did not just hop on this trend in recent years. The Cadbury Company was founded by John Cadbury, who in 1824 opened a coffee and tea shop in Birmingham, U.K. where they sold the traditional coffee drink at that time. (Coe and Coe 241). Eventually, the Cadbury developed their family coffee shop into the largest chocolate producer in Great Britain. The Cadbury Company is credited with a number of firsts in the chocolate industry one of which includes the creation of the box of chocolates (Coe and Coe 242). The effort to make sure that the Cadbury Company was using responsible sourcing actions began in the early 20th century. It was at this time when “William Cadbury (who was disillusioned by labor abuses in São Tomé and Principe and under considerable pressure to find a more ethical alternative) reported to his friend and confidant, E.D. Morel, who was a journalist and human rights campaigner, that he had heard positive things about the British colonial authorities in Ghana (still the Gold Coast at the time)” (Berlan 1092-1093). As a result of all the positive things Cadbury had heard “Ghana became Cadbury’s main supplier of cocoa” (Berlan 1093). Overall, Cadbury is one of the most established chocolate companies on the planet that played a critical role in the introduction of milk chocolate to the U.K. Now when you bite in to one of their signature Cadbury Dairy Milk bars you will have an idea of how much work went into that product.

Classic Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar

The next selection that we will explore is the Antidote chocolate bar. I am not going to lie, the main reason that I want to further analyze this option is because of the packaging of the bar, which bright orange, pink, and blue color options stood out from the rest. While this may seem like a trivial point, the company has surely thought about the best way to brand their chocolate. The packaging has a very modern style and with circles surrounding each letter of the company name and on the top of the packaging you can see that it is “Raw 100% Cacao with crunchy nibs”. It is clear that the company is trying to market itself as a more luxury brand of chocolate. That is if the $10 per bar price point had yet to get that message across. While this price may seem ridiculous to some, there are a number of consumers who are fine with paying this much for a chocolate bar. For years it seemed that people viewed a chocolate bar as a commodity, a cheap snack that you could buy at the check out counter of your local gas station. However, the general public is starting to see more high priced, luxury chocolate bars like Antidote come to market. This all has to do with how people perceive chocolate; is it a commodity or a luxury? While the movement to promote chocolate as a luxury may seem to relatively new, chocolates was introduced to the world as one of the most exclusive luxury goods across the world. In early 17th Europe chocolate could only be consumed by the upper class elite. “Chocolate became such a popular repast at the seventeenth century French court and in noble salons that in 1705 the crown finally allowed the Guild of Paris coffeehouse owners (limonadiers) to produce and sell it by the cup”(Terrio 10). Today, all people are able to consume chocolate in many forms, not just through drinking it. If the consumer does decide to choose a “premium” chocolate bar they should know why they are paying more. This raises the question: What makes a premium chocolate bar better than an average chocolate bar?

Antidot Chocolate Selection
Source: antidotechoco.com

To answer this question, one must look at the sources of the chocolate that they are consuming. When one does this they will see that there chocolate is being produced by a company that falls into one of two categories. The first category is the big five chocolate companies which include Nestle, Mars, Hershey, or Mondelez. These are the five largest chocolate companies in the world that produce a disproportionate amount of the chocolate we consume. The second category a chocolate company can fall into is craft chocolate company. These companies are usually much smaller and distribute their product to the region in which it is produced. These craft companies charge more for their bars for a few reasons. First, there smaller scale may inhibit them from negotiating cheaper prices for their ingredients. Second and most important is the quality of their products. Craft chocolate companies are able to produce bars with higher cacao content, which are the most expensive ingredients in chocolate. Additionally, craft chocolate companies tend to be more mindful about the quality of their ingredients and focus on buying cacao grown in a safe environment with little chemical exposure. Furthermore, the smaller scale of these craft chocolate companies allows them to implement strict bean cleaning, roasting, and sanitation processes. It is the combination of all these factors that lead to craft chocolate brands like Antidote to charge a higher price for their product. While many craft producers are independent companies it should be noted that there is the possibility that a company may appear to be a small craft company but is owned by one of the big five.

A high price point makes these chocolate bars appear as a more luxury brand of chocolate, one that can only be consumed by wealthier people. Similarities can be drawn between this fact and the role chocolate played when it was first introduced in Europe. Although, it is all about how the public perceives chocolate. If you view chocolate as a luxury good then maybe you have no problem splurging on a nice chocolate bar even if your financial situation differs from the average person who buys a $12 chocolate bar. This is an important factor consider not just for the chocolate you consume but also all the goods and services you pay for.

European Elite Enjoying Chocolate Drink

Humans have consumed chocolate for approximately 400 years, a relatively short time period considering the how long humans have been around. However, in this short period of time chocolate has gone from a beverage only consumed by the elites, to a food enjoyed by everyone. This transition was not come easy. Along the way, chocolate had to overcome certain stigmas amount its consumption such as its association with gluttony and sin. There has been controversy surrounding the big five chocolate companies and the use of child slaves in the harvesting of their cacao. These issues are not completely resolved but the chocolate community has been able to learn and grow from them. While the chocolate industry has seemed unstable at times, we all knew that a chocolate bar’s present would be constant at the store down the street when that late night craving hit. Next time that craving does come about and you go looking for your options I hope you are able to draw on the information presented in this article and feel good knowing that you are a better-informed chocolate consumer. Being well informed feels good but I know it will never feel as good as the taste of chocolate since “there is a built in human likeness for sweet taste”(Mintz 14), a likeness that chocolate has been able to satisfy so well.

Works Cited

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

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

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power : the Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.

Terrio, Susan J. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. University of California Press, 2000.

Going Gourmet: Curating Fine Chocolate in Harvard Square

Image result for cardullo's harvard square

Having opened in 1950 and located in the heart of Harvard Square, Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe is one of the best places to find artisanal and worldly foodstuffs like wine, beer, cheese, meats, and sweets. Perhaps what is most exciting about this store is its extensive selection of fine chocolates, both local and imported, that are difficult to find anywhere else. Many of these sweets hail from places often considered by Americans as the birthplace of chocolate royalty- France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy- and as such, are willing to pay the store’s often steeper prices. The popularity of places like Cardullo’s, which feature carefully curated products from both Europe and all over the world, is not necessarily unique though in today’s era. In what has been called the gentrification of taste, distinctive regional culinary styles and local foodstuffs are being rediscovered and marketed by chefs, restaurateurs, and retailers (Bestor 1992). This appropriation and aesthetic presentation of regionally produced foodstuffs appeals to sophisticated urbanites who desire food with both cultural authenticity and esoteric cachet (Terrrio 2000). Harvard Square is a broader microcosm of such a phenomenon, with Cardullo’s in particular serving as an excellent example of this regional aesthetic, and organizes its chocolate section largely by the country or area it is imported from.

Chocolate Selection:

Image result for cardullos chocolate selection

Belgium

Unlike many of the chocolates we analyzed in class, most of the Belgian selection in Cardullo’s doesn’t make any sort of activist claims for fairtrade or organic materials on its packaging. In fact, the Belgian selection is remarkably sleek- from gold lettering on a Neuhaus truffle to Dolfin’s signature crown stamp to Godiva’s literal silk ribbon packaging, the Belgian grouping screams luxury, and for good reason. The marketing strategy for these sweets is simply to promote the idea that their chocolate is lush, elegant, and second to none. People will buy these chocolates not because they stand for a good cause or because they in any way give back, but because they are the best in the world. When people think of Belgium, they think of beer, waffles, fries, and chocolate, and companies like Godiva and Neuhaus know it. They can afford to keep their packaging as simple and elegant as possible because they know that everything they need to convey has already been said by reputation alone. A great deal of the power of luxury goods is based on their reputations, which is built by both high quality craftsmanship and skillful image-building (McNeil and Riello 2016). Neuhaus in particular wields quite a bit of this power, as its founder Jean Neuhaus was the inventor of the praline, a chocolate shell with a soft center, which launched the Belgian chocolate industry onto the forefront of the worldstage. Even the websites of these chocolate giants communicate the elevated status of their products over lesser brands like Hershey or Cadbury bthrough the use of muted color schemes, an emphasis on craftsmanship and authenticity, and a long history of artisanal tradition. Cardullo’s is right to place this bunch front and center near the store entrance, as this selection is emblematic of the store’s raison d’être as a curator of gourmet goods from specialized markets.

France

Located just underneath the store’s fine Belgian selection, are some of the more well known French brands: Chocolat Bonnat and Valrhona. Similarly to their Blegian counterparts, these chocolates also communicate an unspoken status of luxury. In an era of global markets and instantaneous linkages, foodstuffs and cuisine circulate globally, and the national pallets they represent are shaped by transnational culture and taste. The search for differentiation and authenticity in the consumption of chocolate, is reflected in the growing international demand for gourmet cuisine, an area in which the French occupy a notable hegemony (Terrio 2000). Perhaps most notable about these bars though,aside from actual flavor or quality of content, is the price. The “cheapest” amongst the Chocolat Bonnat grouping is still a whopping $10.99 for a mere 3.5 ounces, while at the other end of the spectrum it costs $19.99 for the same serving. The cost of these bars is so high it’s almost impossible for the average consumer to justify, and indeed I usually try avoiding that section altogether when making my rounds so I’m not tempted. However, the taste of these bars is almost good enough to justify the extravagant pricing (I say almost simply because it is difficult to imagine any bar justifying $20), and the small size actually allows the shopper to not have to compound any feelings of guilt from their ruining their diet with that from emptying their wallet. The expensive price of these bars is not entirely novel though, as many chocolatiers  have begun increasing their prices in response to the willingness of consumers to buy them. The rising levels of per capita income, greater disposable income, and new structures of consumption have produced a broader largely urban middle class of consumers whose financial means allow them to adopt a reflexive attitude toward the consumption of goods in general and foods in particular (Zurkin 1991). The Chocolat Bonnat bars are also unique from the Belgians in terms of packaging. While they still stick with the muted color schemes and fancy script, these bars clearly communicate the percent of cocoa in the dark chocolate as well as the cocoa’s origin- from Madagascar to the Ivory Coast.

Image result for chocolate bonnat selection

Similarly the Valrhona bars are also sold at a hefty price- $9.99 for a mere 2.46 oz. And while the packaging on the Chocolat Bonnat bars are reminiscent of a history of French culinary tradition (old script, faded gothic castle), the packaging on the Valrhona bars is much more modern in its use of two tone block coloring and limited wording. The Valrhona bars also communicate the percentage of cocoa content in each type as well as some brief language describing the flavor profile (e.g. “Powerful and Tannic”) and origin (single versus blended). In terms of overall impression, these bars are much more akin to those you would find from American craft chocolate makers rather than many of the other European brands Cardullo’s tends to stock.

Misc.: Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria

Continuing down the aisle, one can also find a miscellaneous assortment of other European goodies such as Venchi chocolates from Italy (featuring their signature hazelnut and cocoa flavor combinations), Ritter Sport Bars from Germany (with their distinct colorfully square and playful packaging), Mirabell’s Mozartkugel from Austria (boxed in the classically kitsch violin shape), and unmistakable Toblerone bars from Switzerland. Even the Dutch cocoa powder from Droste, with its old fashioned lettering and portrait of a nun in classic garb, can be found in Cardullo’s impressive and expansive stock of gourmet imports. While these countries certainly have their own long and delicious traditions of chocolate making with a multitude of options to choose from, Cardullo’s has instead chosen to highlight just a few selections from each. While this decision is likely due to the physical limitations of the store itself, it is still representative of the way Americans (their primary customers) view and appreciate foreign chocolate.

As briefly mentioned earlier, countries like Belgium and France are known the world over as masters of the chocolate arts, while probably less people in the Boston-area are familiar with the goodness of these other brands. This reputation of Belgian and French chocolate makes it an easy choice for the staff at Cardullo’s to stock up on and curate a larger selection of. In pursuing their mission of providing a number of fine delicacies, Cardullo’s has to evaluate the needs of their target customers and balance them with the nearly endless assortment of gourmet options in the European market.

North America

On section that does contain quite a large assortment is that from American craft chocolatiers. Nestled amongst all the imported sweets are more local luxuries from places Taza, Goodnow Farms, and Lake Champlain. Other, lesser known companies like Antidote, Askinosie, and Raaka Chocolate can also be found, as well as some Canadian choices such as Jelina or Galerie au Chocolat. The latter chocolate is worth mentioning in more detail simply because its packaging boldly claims, “the finest Belgian chocolate”, despite the fact their company headquarters is located in Quebec, and strict rules in Belgium state that any chocolates labelled as Belgian must be produced within the country. Nevertheless, this positive, though misleading, association with Belgium and its status within the world of fine chocolate leads consumers into incorporating this bar within the ranks of chocolate royalty such as those from Neuhaus or Godiva.

The North American bars are also different from their European counterparts in terms of their packaging. Most of these bars proudly displays stamps of approval from do-gooder organizations like USDA Organic, FairTrade, or the Rainforest Alliance in ways vaguely reminiscent of how a girl scout would display her hard earned patches of fire-starting and orienteering on her sash. Because American companies are unable to compete with the long history and reputations of Europeans companies, they need to place marketing emphasis elsewhere. For many craft chocolate makers, this emphasis is on health, social responsibility, and environmental activism- areas that in recent years has been at the centre of attention is their responsibility towards the environment, and the respect shown in the use of natural resources and towards human beings (McNeil and Riello 2016). This sense of ‘social responsibility’ relates both to the products that they sell and their role as companies in terms of wider society and overall impact. Through the inclusion of these seals on a chocolate bar’s packaging, there exists a contract of trust between company and consumer that promises a certain level of ethical production, sustainability, and environmental consciousness. This do-gooder contract often also demands a higher price for the product it represents, and so long as this trust isn’t breached, that price is willingly paid.

Britain

At the end of their main chocolate aisle, Cardullo’s also features an impressive stock of Cadbury chocolates as well as a number of other British candies. Though not necessarily “gourmet” these sweets are certainly novel to the average American chocolate connoisseur and allow them to break away from their usual Hershey habits. Cadbury classics such as Flake, Brunch Bar, Twirl, Snack, and many others decorate multiple shelves adjacent to to the wine and beer section at Cardullo’s, suggesting that here too, can be a one-stop kind of shop. Unlike the other European candies and sweets kept in stock here, the Cadbury collection is reasonably priced. In balancing that cheaper price though, is the knowledge that this chocolate is of much lower quality than that of the bars staged directly to the left. Much of the products in this section contain significantly less cocoa than most of the other chocolates sold in the store, and significantly more sugar, milk, and other additives like caramel or nuts. Purchasing amongst these chocolates is intentionally not done for the luxury or decadence of the item, but for the novelty and maybe even nostalgia of younger days and less sophisticated palates.

What was once thought of as simply, undifferentiated commodities are today perceived as luxuries (McNeil and Reillo 2016). For a long time chocolate was an undifferentiated commodity that was a part of consuming habits of the entire North American population. Today, it is both a commodity and a luxury, and the resulting segmentation of the market has allowed for niche chocolate to find its customers. In carefully curating such and expansive and thorough selection of chocolates and fine foodstuffs, Cardullo’s has set a high bar in Harvard Square when it comes to making gourmet and luxury items accessible. In breaking away from the usual chocolate fare- Hershey’s, Mars, and even now Lindt and Ferrero- the shop also provides a platform for local and less-known chocolatiers to access a broader market. Although many of its selection sacrifices some of this accessibility from lower-income customers (due to inevitably higher pricing of gourmet goods), Cardullo’s instead highlights unique chocolates that are finely crafted, ethically sourced, and environmentally friendly-  treats that are both tasty and socially conscious. And, in conveniently placing these delectable sweets next to arguably the best wine and beer selection in the square, this shop proves that it is truly a one stop destination for enjoying all of the finer things in life.

Citations:

  1. Bestor, Theodore. “The raw, the cooked, and the industrial: commoditization and food culture in a Japanese commodities market.” Department of Anthropology, New York University. 1992.
  2. Cardullo’s. “Our History.” Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, cardullos.com/pages/about-us.
  3. McNeil, Peter and Riello, Giorgio. Luxury: A Rich History. “Everything that Money Can Buy?”. Oxford University Press.2016. p. 267.
  4. McNeil, Peter and Riello, Giorgio. Luxury: A Rich History. “Luxury Capitalism: The Magic World of Luxury Brands”. Oxford University Press.2016. p. 261.
  5. Mollet, Olivia. “Chocolate Country.” The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2006, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/fodors/top/features/travel/destinations/europe/belgium/brussels/fdrs_feat_35_10.html.
  6. Savage, Maddy. “Is Belgium Still the Capital of Chocolate?” BBC News, 31 Dec. 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20810103.
  7. Terrio, Susan J., Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. p. 56.
  8. Zukin, Sharon.1991. Landscapes of power: from Detroit to Disney World. Berkeley: University of California Press.

What Would you do for a Chocolate Bar? The Development of the Industrial Revolution and its effects on consumerism.

Today if someone wanted to have a chocolate bar, they would go to the supermarket and find at least ten different kinds of chocolates, in different shapes, flavors, and fillings. If you asked someone to name at least three chocolate companies they would be able to list at least five off the top of their head. Thanks to the industrial revolution (1760- 1840) chocolate is one of them most popular treat available today. In the 17th century, chocolate became a fashionable drink through Europe and was a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine which allowed not only mass production to be a possibility but also eliminated the socio-economic divide between classes due to chocolate’s availability. Throughout the industrial revolution chocolate went through several advancements including: the invention of the hydraulic press, dutching, inclusion of milk in chocolate, and conching.

In the book The True History of Chocolate, authors Sophie and Michael Coe write about the history of chocolate consumption before the industrial revolution “for at least 28 centuries, chocolate had been a drink of the elite and the very rich… the Industrial Revolution, which changed chocolate from a costly drink to a cheap food” (Coe & Coe 232 -233). Before chocolate could be made available for the masses a few advancements needed to take place starting with invention of the hydraulic press. In 1828, Dutch Chemist Coenraad Johannes Van Houten took out a patent on a process for the manufacture of a new kind of powdered chocolate with a very low fat content eventually creating the hydraulic press. “This allowed untreated chocolate “liquor”—the end result of the grinding process—which contains about 53 percent cacao butter, but Van Houten’s machine managed to reduce this to 27–28 percent, leaving a “cake” that could be pulverized into a fine powder” (Coe & Coe 260)  creating what today is known as cocoa. Van Houten treated this cocoa mix with alkaline salt (potassium or sodium carbonates) to mix better with water. This process became known as “Dutching” it improved the powder’s miscibility (not, as some believed, its solubility) in warm water, it made the chocolate darker in color and milder in flavor. Even today, many people prefer “Dutch” chocolate, thinking it to be stronger in taste, when it is only the difference in color that makes it seem so” (Coe & Coe 260). Van Houten’s discover lead to a large scale manufacture of cheap chocolate in both powdered and solid form for everyone regardless of their social class or economic status.

Twenty years after Van Houten’s discovery, Francis Fry of Fry Enterprises figured out how to mix a blend of cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter and cast it into a mold. Thus creating the first ever edible chocolate bar.  

The Fry Enterprise first chocolate bar.
Idea of little girls and sweetness seen in the first advertisement for Fry Chocolate bars.

Due to the demand for chocolate bars, the price of cacao butter increased, once again creating a class barrier for chocolate, by providing chocolate bars for the elite. However, this price increase of chocolate bars and cacao butter, decrease the price of cocoa powder making it available to the masses. With the emergence of chocolate companies in the United States chocolate bars soon became available for the masses. In the United States of America, the production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world.

One of the most important evolutions of chocolate consumption includes the use of milk. the addition of milk to chocolate bars is credited to two people the first is Henri Nestlé, a swiss chemist and Daniel Peter, a chocolate manufacturer. In 1867, Nestlé discovered a process to make powdered milk by evaporation; when mixed with water, this could be fed to infants and small children (Coe & Coe 268). In 1879, Peter used nestlé’s powder in the fabrication of a new kind of chocolate, thus the first milk chocolate bar was created. “The process was simple: they dried out the moisture in the mix and replaced it with cacao butter, so that it could be poured into a mold” (Coe & Coe 268). Without this the discovery of  Hershey Chocolate Kisses or famous Chocolate bars would not exist today.

One of the last advancements made during the industrial revolution was the process of conching created by Rudolphe Lindt in 1879, which improved the quality of chocolate confectionary. A very meticulous process, “The traditional conche is formed by a flat, granite bed with curved ends, upon which heavy granite rollers attached to robust steel arms move backwards and forwards; the rollers slap against the curved ends, causing the chocolate liquor to splash back over the rollers into the main body of the mechanism. Since the action of the process causes friction and therefore heat to build up in the chocolate dough or paste, the preliminary roasting of the cacao beans may sometimes be omitted. After 72 or more hours of such rock-and-roll treatment, the chocolate mass reaches the desired flavor, as well as attaining a high degree of smoothness, due to a reduction in the size of particles. ”(Coe & Coe 268 ). This advancement allowed chocolatiers to make smoother chocolate bars, tasting almost like fondant, getting rid of the coarse and gritty texture it used to have, conching then became a common practice among the business.

A history of how Chocolate is made as well as how the Industrial Revolution impacted the production of Chocolate.
The process of how Chocolate is manufactured and stored.

In The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe Carla Martin and Kathryn Sampeck explore the role of race, gender, and class inequality attributed with chocolate production and consumption. While analyzing the social inequality and popularization of chocolate Martin and Sampeck write “ With the industrialization of chocolate, it was no longer a commodity for the the elite, expensive or consumed primarily as a drink but rather an inexpensive cocoa powder to be drunk or low-cacao-content chocolate bar to be consumed as a food by elite and non-elite alike” ( 49).  Chocolate became a treat that anyone can purchase and enjoy, well known companies like Lindt, Nestlé, Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Mars, attempted to produce a product that would taste the same every time thereby commercialize a product that had gone through enormous changes since the pre-columbian mesoamerica days.

While seen in the past a commodity to establish social identity in Kirsty Leissle’s book Cocoa she writes that today modern American companies including Cadbury and Hershey have contributed to the pre-existing social identity of chocolate. “ The companies most successful at crafting this social identity, including Cadbury and Hershey, have helped steer consumer desire for chocolate in certain directions – as an affordable luxury, holiday accompaniment, and surrogate for romantic love” (Leissle, 9). This remains true today, often during Valentine’s day Chocolate hearts, boxes shaped like hearts containing chocolate or even chocolate cake at restaurants on this holiday connect the idea of love to chocolate. The effects of the industrial revolution remains a strong component of consumer consumption of chocolate today, due to the advancements of the past it has never been easier to produce chocolate or purchase. Today people can enter almost any store and find a chocolate bar and that should be celebrated!

Sources:

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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Martin, C. D., & Sampeck, K. E. (2015). The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe. Socio.hu, (Special issue 3), 37-60. doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37

Image Sources (in order of appearance):

https://www.gwra.co.uk/auctions/enamel-advertising-sign-fry-s-chocolate-five-boys-2013nov-0190.html

http://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/276/The-Fry-Family-Chocolate-Makers

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

The Great Wall of Chocolate: Barriers Against Chocolate in China

As the gates of the Chinese market began to open in 1978 through Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernization Policy, western industries began scrambling to access the 1 billion prospective customers within China’s borders. The chocolate industry in particular made a noticeable effort in trying to alter the Chinese diet so that it could include the massive quantities of the sweet treat that western societies have grown so fond of. However, despite their efforts throughout these years, the average person in modern day China only consumes about “1.8 ounces of chocolate annually”. In comparison, Switzerland consumes “22 pounds per person” and the U.S. consumes “11.7 pounds per person” annually (Allen, 28). But what factors in China have contributed to this stark difference? This blog will address how cultural barriers and distrust in dairy products have deterred the spread of chocolate within China’s rapidly growing populace.

The disparate cultural layout of China’s provinces has proven to be difficult for chocolate companies to maneuver. For starters, although the Chinese ethnic diversity is mainly homogenous with “92 percent” of the population being Han Chinese, the culinary traditions are not. For example, the north prefers “salty” foods, while the south favors “sweet and fresh”; “spicy” is the ideal flavor in the east, as opposed to the west, which adheres to “sour” flavors (Allen, 23). This amalgamation of preferences has made it difficult for chocolate companies to create products that would satisfy the majority of the population and make lasting impressions on anyone that is willing to go out of their comfort zone to purchase the exotic confectionaries.

Furthermore, older generations of Chinese were accustomed to a “limited range of foods” due to the tough economic times of the 40’s and 50’s. This caused monotony in the citizens’ diets, as their palates became accustomed to eating the same salty foods well beyond the moment China’s borders opened to foreign lands. As a result, the introduction of chocolate into the Chinese diet in the ‘80’s was not well received because “the sweetness of chocolate [was] too foreign and too extreme” (Allen, 27). This deterred people from consuming it in their daily lives due to how abnormal it was when compared to the average Chinese foods at the time; thus, it was considered a luxury to eat chocolate, which could be equated to how westerners view fine wine. This also proved that traditional marketing methods that worked on average westerners would not function with the Chinese populace. To account for this, the exotic and sweet treat was introduced as something one would give as a gift during a special occasion rather than for self-consumption. The following Chinese Dove Commercial is a perfect example of this practice. During the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, chocolate as a gift accounted for “over half” of the sales in China, but so long as chocolate continued to be viewed as a gift, it would never reach the heights that we see in the west. Younger generations of Chinese citizens, who have grown up eating the popular dessert, have been known to be more likely to purchase it for self-consumption. According to a study by the New York Times, modern Chinese chocolate consumers mostly consist of young people ages fifteen to twenty-four, which shows that there is still hope for chocolate as a commodity in China’s future.

 

ferrero-rocher-chinese
Gifts like the one in this picture would often be given along with chocolates and red envelopes, traditional Chinese gifts that usually contain money. This exemplifies the combination of western consumerism with Chinese traditionalism.

 

One other reason why Chinese people have avoided chocolate and other dairy-based products has been because of a general distrust in the quality of Chinese milk. One incident, in particular, caused Chinese trust in milk products to dwindle. According to a Harvard Business School case study, in 2008, Sanlu, a milk provider, started adding increased amounts of melamine in their products in order to maintain protein content standards. These increased chemical levels killed six infants and made 300,000 other people sick. This article by Forbes gives more details on how this incident has effected the Chinese dairy industry. After this incident, many other milk brands were found to have this exact same problem with their products, thus, causing widespread skepticism towards Chinese dairy. Chocolate in China, which contains at least 15% milk powder, took a major hit within this scene. One article from Reuters recalls how on September 29, 2008 Cadbury had to shutdown eleven of its Chinese chocolate products due to the suspicion that they were contaminated by melamine. Eventually, the company was forced to close three of its chocolate factories within China. Below, you can find a chart to visualize how much of the Chinese chocolate market the top companies had during the year of 2008. As expected, Cadbury was not doing so well after the milk scandal.

chocolate charts

As a result of this scandal, the confectionary industry has since slowed down, but the Chinese government has imposed tighter regulations on the milk industry in order to regain customer loyalty and trust. For instance, in 2009, the government passed a series of legislation that mandated dairy product producers to raise industry standards, bolster the barriers of entry, and promote the development of large-scale dairy farms, which tended to have higher quality products than their smaller counterparts. These tight regulations allowed for our favorite confectionary treat to make a comeback in the country years later. In 2012, CNN declared that chocolate sales in China grew about 19%, which accounted for $1.9 billion in sales, so we can see that chocolate is here to stay in the long run and is slowly making its way into the Chinese hearts and stomachs.

 

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes. American Management Association, 2010.

Burke, Samuel. “Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Jan. 2012, thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/.

Jones, David, and Tan Ee Lyn. “Cadbury Withdraws China Chocolate on Melamine Concern.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 29 Sept. 2008, uk.reuters.com/article/uk-cadbury/cadbury-withdraws-china-chocolate-on-melamine-concern-idUKTRE48S2B520080929.

Kirby, William and Dai, Nancy Hua. (2016) Yili Group: Building a Global Dairy Company. 9-317-003. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School.

Shen, Samuel. “Chocolate Makers Try to Satisfy a Picky Chinese Palate.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 July 2008, www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/business/worldbusiness/03iht-choco.1.14202940.html.

 

 

 

Chocolate at CVS

CVS calls itself a “pharmacy innovation company,” so it is not the first place one thinks of when considering places to buy chocolate. However, the options for chocolate products in the 24-hour Cambridge, MA location claim a surprisingly large section of aisle space. More than half of the candy aisle is taken up by chocolate, and their aisle dedicated to holiday and seasonal products is also predominantly filled with holiday-themed chocolate items. There’s a tantalizing array of similar chocolate products lined up in the checkout line, neatly packaged for individual, one-time consumption. And for a customer who wants to try something fancier, there is an aisle endcap labeled “Premium Chocolates.” There are some interesting trends in the options available for purchase. With the exception of the small premium chocolate selection, all the chocolate is milk chocolate, most of it consists of chocolate in combination with another food such as peanut butter, caramel, or fruit, and all the options that I could find were produced by one of the four largest chocolate companies: Mars, Nestle, Hershey, and Cadbury. In fact, a lot of the options were simply the same product in different forms. A customer can buy a 2-pound bag of individually wrapped mini Reeses, or a bag of even smaller unwrapped Reeses, or an 8-pack of large Reeses, or an individually-wrapped large Reeses, or a bag of Easter-themed Reeses shaped like bunnies or eggs. It’s all peanut butter surrounded by a milk chocolate layer, but the customer can choose at least six different forms in which they’d enjoy eating this product. Additionally, most of these chocolate products were on the lower end of the price range. For only about two dollars, a customer can buy individually-wrapped chocolate items of up to eight ounces. Even the premium chocolate endcap is dominated by yellow stickers denoting huge sales. A picture of this is shown below.

premiumchocolate

(image taken by me)

A customer can buy two chocolate bars and get the third for free, and the most expensive bar was eight dollars.

Compiling these observations, we can see that CVS primarily sells inexpensive, sugary milk chocolate products produced by huge chocolate companies who are very focused on packaging, and that CVS branches out a little bit with their premium chocolate selection but still focuses on keeping the price down. Why is this? CVS is a drugstore where people shop to find household conveniences, health products, and snacks. According to one article, CVS tries to sell to all Americans because everyone needs pharmaceuticals, but its target market is the elderly. CVS is not primarily a food store, so it makes sense that CVS would try to sell chocolate products that are most likely to appeal to its target demographic of middle-class and elderly Americans. CVS is doing well as a company, so its products must be selling well. We can see, then, that the average American enjoys buying milk chocolate that is sugary, brightly packaged, and produced by Nestle, Mars, Hershey, or Cadbury. The explanation for why Americans prefer this style of chocolate lies in our history. Sugar production, industrialization, and aggressive marketing all contributed to the way our chocolate industry looks today.

Until the 1700s, sugar was a luxury product in Europe. People knew of its existence, but it was too expensive to eat frequently and was consumed primarily by the upper classes. Demand for sugar continued to grow, however, so from the 1500s onwards, European powers established sugar plantations in the Caribbean, imported slaves from west Africa to labor on them, and competed with one another to become the foremost sugar exporters. Britain, France, and Portugal were the most successful with sugar production and trade. Most of the sugar produced in their colonies was consumed back in Europe as demand continued to grow and grow. By the mid-1700s, sugar was a regular feature of most Europeans’ diets (Mintz 5-45). By 1850, the price of sugar in Britain dropped sharply due to new economic policies that navigated away from protectionist policies for colonies and towards free trade (Mintz 61). This decrease allowed sugar to become even more of a necessity to English diets, and since sugar was cheap, it served as a substitute for other, more expensive foodstuffs for working class people (Mintz 161). These same trends happened in the United States. The combination of the facts that sugar is cheap and that humans have a strong sweet tooth have contributed to the fact that more and more of our diet consisted of sugar until we have gotten to where we are now: a society that adds sugar to nearly all processed foods.   This explains why we like our chocolate so sugary; we like everything sugary.

This still doesn’t explain, however, why only four chocolate companies produce the chocolate we see in CVS. This limited brand choice is due to two main, overlapping factors: first, American industrialization allowed for huge economies of scale, allowing factories to mass-produce items such as chocolate at low prices. Second, a couple chocolate factories captured the American market while chocolate was still a new item and the American taste for chocolate was still forming, causing Americans to crave a certain flavor of chocolate that only those companies could produce. In the mid-1800s, the Industrial Revolution took off in the United States as people figured out how to use non-human sources of energy to power large factories that used automated processes to mass-produce items on great scale. This led to the rise of the working class and their mass demand for affordable foods. The mass manufacture of foods, then, became very important where it had previously been a small market (Goody 85). There were massive improvements in “four basic areas: (1) preserving; (2) mechanization; (3) retailing (and wholesaling); and (4) transport” (Goody 72). All of these innovations allowed for food to be produced and processed on a larger scale than ever before, shipped everywhere in the country for consumption, and sold at the lowest prices it had ever been. Processed food became a necessity in the working class diet, and mass production of foods by large-scale companies is still the way that most of our food is produced today. Chocolate is one of these foods that became mass-produced, and the first company to mass-produce chocolate in the United States was Hershey.

Hershey conceived a new business strategy that was previously unused by sweet-makers: he produced vast amounts of his products at low prices instead of making a lot of products at varying prices. This allowed him to sell his Hershey Kisses and bars to nearly “every grocer, druggist, and candy store owner in America” (D’Antonio 123). His strategy worked, and Americans liked the candy so much that Hershey made $3.6 million dollars in sales in 1911 and $5 million dollars in sales in 1912 (D’Antonio 123). Hershey has been a permanent fixture in American culture ever since. One explanation for why Hershey chocolate has stayed so popular in the United States is because it introduced a distinct flavor of chocolate to Americans before they had tried any other flavor of chocolate. Americans came to associate the Hershey flavor with true chocolate, and would be reluctant to try anything else. Europeans, meanwhile, often dislike the slightly sour taste of Hershey chocolate (D’Antonio 108). Other chocolate companies had to come up with their own innovations to compete successfully with Hershey’s initial chocolate monopoly. Mars company, for example, was mainly successful because it came up with the idea of enrobing other sweets in chocolate and selling it as a chocolate bar. This allowed Mars to sell a much larger “chocolate” bar than Hershey for the same price because other ingredients were cheaper than the chocolate, and this larger bar for the same price was very appealing to consumers (Brenner 57-59). The original Mars bar consisted of chocolate-covered nougat and caramel, and looked about three times as thick as a Hershey bar. We can see an advertisement below for the original chocolate Mars bar, where it emphasizes that it consists of 3 flavors.

Mars had the same flavor of chocolate as Hershey-in fact, Mars initially bought its chocolate from Hershey- so the only difference in products was the added nougat and caramel. Mars quickly became as successful as Hershey and competed for market share. These large companies were able to produce chocolate extremely efficiently, so they were able to sell their products at lower prices than local confectioners (Brenner 188). The large companies soon outcompeted smaller ones, and thus most of our chocolate today is produced by massive companies that can sell us chocolate for the lowest prices.

There are signs, however, that consumers are starting to pay more attention to factors other than flavor and price when purchasing chocolate. Now that chocolate is so affordable, Americans are starting to be concerned with the way in which chocolate is produced: is it fair to the cacao growers? Is it ecologically sustainable? Does it have health benefits? According to Kristy Leissle, demand for organic, healthier chocolate is on the rise (23), which is reflected by the resurgence of artisan chocolate makers. The number of bean-to-bar chocolate artisans has risen from one to thirty-seven from the 1970s until now (Leissle 23), and the number keeps growing. Recently, there has been an emphasis on how organic, dark chocolate has health benefits and is tastier than mass-produced milk chocolate. More and more Americans are buying “premium,” especially dark, chocolate (Bean to Bar 167). This growing interest in fine chocolate is reflected in CVS’s small “Premium Chocolate” section. CVS itself is attempting to become a more health-oriented drugstore. It stopped selling cigarettes and is stocking its shelves with healthier options overall (Thau). This could explain why CVS is selling some darker, higher quality chocolates. However, all of the premium chocolate that CVS sells is still made by large companies that put their chocolate through a lot of processing. The brands available are Ghiradelli, Lindt, and Chuao: all large and well-known companies with not much of an emphasis on producing their products in an ecologically and ethically sound manner. This is likely because although CVS is making steps to sell more healthy, environmentally conscious products, it still must appeal to its target audience, which wants inexpensive and convenient snacks. These brands of premium chocolate are more expensive than typical American milk chocolate, but they are still much less expensive on average than artisan bean-to-bar chocolate, or than organically produced chocolate. CVS is thus striking the balance between healthier, socially conscious options and low price options. Overall, the options at CVS are a fairly accurate reflection of American trends towards chocolate overall. Americans are still hooked on extremely sugary, processed chocolate and are not willing to pay high prices for candy, but are starting to demand more dark chocolate due to its health benefits and common linkage with socially conscious initiatives.

Works Cited

“About.” CVS Health. CVS, n.d. Web. 5 May 2017.

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The emperors of chocolate: inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. New York, NY: Broadway , 2000. Print.

Convex Strategies. “CVS: Demographics And Business Model Mean Tons Of Upside For The Stock.” Seeking Alpha. N.p., 16 Aug. 2012. Web. 5 May 2017.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2007. Print.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” Food and Culture: A Reader. Ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 2013. 72-89. Print.

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3 (2013): 22-31. JSTOR. Web. 5 May 2017.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and power: the place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin , 1987. Print.

Thau, Barbara. “Can CVS Become The Whole Foods Of Drugstore Retailing?” Forbes. N.p., 22 Apr. 2017. Web. 5 May 2017.

Williams, Pamela Sue., and Jim Eber. Raising the bar: the future of fine chocolate. Vancouver, BC: Wilmor Publishing Corporation, 2012. Print.

Mars advertisement image link: http://robinthecandygirl.blogspot.com/2009/01/where-have-all-mars-bars-gone.html

The first image of Premium Chocolate was taken by me.

A comparison of Taza and Alter Eco: two companies seeking to create good chocolate in an ethical way

Ethical chocolate can come in different shapes and sizes. What ethical means to various chocolate companies can be very different, from fair work conditions, to organic ingredients, to environmental sustainability. Taza Chocolate is a company that boasts chocolate that is “seriously good and fair for all,” given their bold flavor and direct trade practices (“About Taza,” 2017). Alter Eco is a company that creates chocolate and other foods and aims to nourish “foodie, farmer, and field” with their sustainable food (“Our Story,” 2017). This post will explore the similarities and differences between Taza Chocolate and Alter Eco, two ethically minded chocolate producers, and how they portray themselves in order to appeal to consumers. Exploring their trade relationships, environmental impact, and community impact, it becomes apparent that Taza Chocolate has a main focus on fair and ethical trade as a means for driving improved conditions for farmers, whereas Alter Eco has a greater emphasis on sustainability and positive environmental impacts.

About the Companies

Taza

Taza Chocolate is a company founded in 2005 and based in Somerville, MA that creates stone ground chocolate. The stone ground beans create a unique coarse texture unlike most mass-produced chocolate on the market today. Besides the flavor, Taza Chocolate prides itself on its role as a “pioneer” in ethically sourced cacao. They are Direct Trade certified, holding them to standards of fair pay and partnerships with cacao farmers who respect workers’ rights and the environment (“About Taza,” 2017).

Alter Eco

Alter Eco is a food company in the business of chocolate and truffles as well as quinoa and rice with a focus on sustainability and fair practices. Their mission is to create a global transformation through ethical relationships with farmers and a focus on sustainability in their supply chain (“Our Story,” 2017). The company puts an emphasis on the benefits and social and environment changes that can be made through their practices.

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Trade Relationships

Taza stands apart from other chocolate companies because of its Direct Trade. Direct Trade is a third-party certification program that Taza has established that ensures cacao quality, fair labor, and transparency. Direct trade means what it sounds like – direct trade and relationships between cacao farmers and the company. Taza establishes relationships with cacao farmers in countries like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Belize, having yearly visits to the farms and staying knowledgeable and transparent about where their beans are coming from (“Transparency Report,” 2015).

TazaFarmersBelize
Maya Mountain Cacao Farmers in Belize, a partner with Taza Chocolate

Direct trade is based on five key commitments (“Our Direct Trade Program Commitments,” 2017). The first is to develop direct relationships with cacao farmers, which they do by visiting their partners at least once per year. The second commitment is to pay a premium price for cacao of at least $500 above market price per metric ton of cacao beans, with a price floor of $2800. Their third and fourth commitments are to sourcing the highest quality beans, with an 85% or more fermentation rate and 7% or less moisture, and USDA certified organic beans. The fifth and final commitment is to publish an annual transparency report, which displays details of the visits to partner farms in various countries, as well as prices paid and amounts of cacao beans purchased. The key aspects of the Direct Trade certification that set it apart from others are the high premium paid for chocolate, which exceeds that set for Fair Trade certification, as well as the transparency report.

Direct Trade beings benefits to farmers in the form of a monetary premium paid for their beans, and it brings benefits to consumers with the transparency report that keeps consumers informed about the chocolate’s origins. However, Direct Trade can in some ways still fall short of being a wide-reaching solution to problems in the cacao-growing world. Direct Trade relationships can be fragile, and if Taza Chocolate were to go under, the partners would lose a key purchaser of their beans. Despite this, Direct Trade has economic benefits for the producers that cannot be discounted.

Alter Eco is Fairtrade certified. Fairtrade is a much more widespread certification, with 1226 Fairtrade certified producer organizations worldwide (“Facts and Figures about Fairtrade,” 2017). Fairtrade sets a price floor as a Fair Trade Premium that companies must pay for the products, so for organic cacao beans currently have a price minimum of $2300 per metric ton, and companies pay an additional premium of $200. This Fair Trade Premium is for investment in social, environmental, and economic projects, such as education or technology, which the producers decide upon. Alter Eco attributes their social impact to the effects of their Fair Trade contributions.

Comparing Direct Trade and Fair Trade, we can see that Direct Trade demands a higher price for cacao than Fair Trade, though both require premiums above the market price. Fairtrade sets aside premiums into a fund for investment into the community, whereas Direct Trade has buyers pay more for the beans, resulting in profits that could be used to invest in the community.

Environmental Impact

Sustainable farming practices have been on the rise over time, as international buyers have become more demanding about production practices. These practices can require a lot more hard work and labor, and require farmers to learn new processes, but they can be essential in order to survive long term as demand grows (Healy, 2002). A commitment to environmental sustainability is important to restoring or preserving nature’s biodiversity and preventing damage from industrial farming practices.

Taza Chocolate is committed to making an environmental impact through their use of USDA certified organic beans. Organic farming involves using practices that maintain or improve soil quality, conserve wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife, and do not use synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering (“About the National Organic Program,” 2017). By only purchasing USDA certified organic beans, Taza is supporting farms that comply to these standards set to protect and preserve the environment.

Alter Eco, on the other hand, takes sustainability and environmental impact to the next level. Not only do they purchase organic cacao, but also they have a focus on their carbon footprint in the supply chain and take active steps to minimize it. Working with the PUR Project and the ACOPAGRO cacao producers, Alter Eco supports an effort to reforest the San Martin region in Peru, which had suffered from severe deforestation in the 1980s. From 2008 to 2015, they planted 28,639 trees through this initiative, improving biodiversity, restoring soils, protecting wildlife, and providing necessary shade for cacao (“Impact Report,” 2015). In addition, they are a partner of 1% for the Planet, with which they commit to giving at least 1% of their sales to nonprofits aimed at protecting the environment.

Pur-Projet-farmers-carrying-trees
PUR Project farmers carrying saplings

Furthermore, Alter Eco seeks to be a carbon negative business, net reducing more than they emit, though this goal is still far-reaching. They post a yearly carbon report that breaks down consumptions of water, waste, and energy in chocolate production and approximates greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, chocolate production directly or indirectly resulted in a little over 2,400 tons of CO2. Alter Eco uses its tree planting initiative as its efforts to offset CO2 emissions, and between 2008 and 2014 they had offset 7,690 tons of CO2 (“Yearly Carbon Report,” 2014). All in all, the transparency that Alter Eco provides about their environmental impact and their efforts to reduce it are satisfyingly informative. Though it can feel like their claims about sustainability are mainly a marketing ploy or way to make consumers feel good about their purchase, it is reassuring to have the information that allows consumers to be informed and hold Alter Eco accountable if they really wish to do so.

Community Impact

Taza and Alter Eco both make an impact on the communities of producers that they work with. Both companies have direct relationships with the farming cooperatives that they purchase cacao from, involving in-person visits to the partners. They build deep, trusting relationships with their partners that bring an extra level of support to the community. However, while Taza’s relationships appear to be mostly business, Alter Eco shows a commitment to community development. Alter Eco also boasts 48 development programs that they are involved in (“Socially Just,” 2017). They are also a certified B Corp, recognizing their social and environmental performance and transparency. Alter Eco uses Fairtrade premiums as their main way of supporting community development. It is important to note that this method of supporting developing is not a solution to large problems in poor regions, but it can have an impact in small ways by better stabilizing income (Sylla, 2014). Analysis of the impact that Fairtrade has on producers has pointed to a slight impact that is “all but exceptional” and is something that can better protect farmers from extreme poverty rather than lift them out of poverty (Sylla, 2014).

It is important to note that though Alter Eco does a good deal more marketing their positive impact on community development through their development programs and Fairtrade premiums, Taza still pays more per metric ton for their cacao. The difference between the two is that Alter Eco prioritizes their funds supporting community and environmental development projects, whereas Taza pays the money to farmers which is then theirs to use.

Conclusion

Both companies make a commitment to transparency in their chocolate. Taza produces a transparency report each year detailing the company’s purchases, prices paid, and visits to various cacao farms. Alter Eco lists details of each chocolate bar’s cacao origin, cocoa content, organic ingredient content, and fair trade certified ingredient content on their website. These added details, way beyond which the average consumer would demand of a Hershey bar, give these Taza and Alter Eco bars a story for the consumers to follow and a justification of the ethical nature of the purchase. Small scale chocolate companies often find success in the education of their consumers of things like single origin cacao and fine cacao flavors, as it gives them an edge on industrial chocolate which dominates with marketing and low prices (Williams and Eber, 2012). By emphasizing transparency and providing detailed information about cacao sources and flavor notes, Taza and Alter Eco are leveraging this.

Furthermore, Taza and Alter Eco market their products in a way to make the consumers feel like they are making an impact. Advertisements need to show images that make the viewer feel good, or at least good enough to buy chocolate, a luxury item (Liessle, 2012). By emphasizing the ethical nature and the social benefits of their products, these companies play up the consumer’s feelings of being altruistic by purchasing the chocolate bars. These companies may be flaunting their ethical practices as a marketing strategy, but if they are making a real, positive impact for the cacao-producing community or for the environment, then it is a win-win situation for the companies and the farmers.

Taza Chocolate and Alter Eco are both chocolate-producing companies that are ethically minded, where Taza has a large focus on direct trade partnerships with cooperatives, and Alter Eco has some focus on fair trade but a greater emphasis on environmental sustainability. These companies demonstrate how ethical practices in the chocolate industry can have different implications, whether they be for farmer compensation, farmer community development, greenhouse gas emissions, reforestation and biodiversity, amongst many others. What is important to take away is that some companies may focus on some impacts more than others, and it is important as consumers to be educated and to know what impact you believe is the most important to make.

References

“About the National Organic Program.” (2016, November). Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/publications/content/about-national-organic-program

“About Taza.” (2017). Retrieved from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza

“Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report.” (2015, September). Retrieved from https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Transparency_Report_2015.pdf?10448975028103371905

“Facts and Figures about Fairtrade.” (2017). Retrieved from http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/what-is-fairtrade/facts-and-figures

Healy, K. (2001). Llamas, Weaving, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. 123-154

“Impact Report.” (2015). Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/AE-ImpactReport-RF4-Digital.pdf

Leissle, K. (2012). “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cocoa Studies 24(2): 121-139

“Our Direct Trade Program Commitments.” (2017). Retrieved from https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_DT_Commitments_Aug2015.pdf?2533070453853065353

“Our Story.” (2017). Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/our-story/

“Socially Just.” (2017). Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/sustainability/socially-just/

Sylla, N. (2014). The Fair Trade Scandal.

Williams, P. and Eber, J. (2012). Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. 141-209.

“Yearly Carbon Report.” (2014). Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AlterEco-Carbon-Report-2014_v2.pdf

Multimedia Sources

Dark Super Blackout Bar. [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com

Maya Mountain Cacao. [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/maya-mountain-cacao

Taza Chocolate From Bean to Bar. [Video] Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/33380451

Tree Saplings. [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.alterecofoods.com/environmentally-responsible/

Bittersweet Insights: Exploring the Chocolate Selection in Harvard Square

09_06_20_web
Introduction

For this blog post, I was interested in learning about the selection of chocolate in Harvard Square, and more specifically at CVS. Exploring the selection of chocolate, including the brands, price point, and absence of certifications enabled me to better understand CVS’s intended audience and stance on sustainability. Moreover, I was interested in learning about how retail stores embrace promotion techniques to influence consumer behavior. I highlight some techniques that CVS use to nudge customers to buy chocolate. Lastly, I comment briefly on how the the vastly different selection of chocolate at Cardullo’s suggests that the shop is targeting a different audience than CVS and is far more committed to sustainability.

CVS

CVS is the second largest pharmacy chain in the United States with more than 7500 pharmacy stores across the country. In addition to pharmaceutical services, most CVS stores also have an extensive retail segment. As seen in the CVS store located in the corner of Brattle Street in Harvard Square, the store’s retail segment includes a large assortment of candy and chocolate. In fact, the store has entire aisle designated to chocolate with products ranging from individual bars to large packages of individually wrapped chocolate.

 

As seen in the photo above, it seems that most of the bars in the main aisle a
re produced IMG_0541by” the Big Five”. These chocolate companies, which include Mars, Hershey, Nestle, and Cadbury have dominated the market for a long time and offer products that are very
affordable. In addition to the main aisle, CVS also has a small section of “premium chocolate” facing the back of the store. This section includes bars from Ghirardelli and Lindt, which are both owned by the Swiss company Lindt & Sprüngli, and chocolate confectionaries from the Italian manufacturer Ferrero. There are indeed ways that these premium chocolate bars differ from the bars in the main aisle. Firstly, the premium chocolate bars are somewhat more expensive. In addition to the higher price point, most of the premium bars are wrapped in paper whereas the bars in the main aisle are wrapped in plastic. Moreover, the packaging of the premium bars are in  darker colors and include gold, and these subtle cues prompt consumers to associate the products with luxury.

IMG_0538 IMG_0539

The premium chocolate is exposed in a wooden shelf,  which further adds to the impression that these bars are superior to the ones in the main aisle.

Despite a higher price point however, none of these premium bars have certifications that promote that they use equitably sourced cacao and ethical labor practices. Quite surprisingly, I found  two bars in the main chocolate aisle that had certifications. Two of Dove’s dark chocolate bars were certified with Rainforest Alliance and two versions of Endangered Species Chocolate were Fairtrade certified.

IMG_0541 (1)   IMG_0600   IMG_0612         

As highlighted, the Endangered Species Chocolate bars are Fair-trade certified. In addition, the company takes pride in donating 10 % of net profits for non-profits that protect wildlife. 

Interestingly, the Endangered Species Chocolate bars were located on the very edge of the shelf, making them somewhat difficult to detect at first. The location of the chocolate bars at CVS and other retail stores is no coincidence and companies pay significant placement fees to to secure prime locations on the shelves (Sigurdsson et al; Usbourne).  Research using eye tracking cameras and other devices have found that somewhat lower than eye-level (1.6 meters above the floor) is the most desirable spot to sell products, and placement fees vary accordingly to this height scheme (Almy and Wootan 19-20)

In addition to securing prime spots in the main aisle, companies pay stores large amounts to promote their products in connection to checkout counters. Consumers spend a lot of time in the checkout area compared to other parts of the store, making it a prime location to nudge consumers to make impulse purchases (Almy and Wootan 19-20; Usbourne). In fact, several studies have found that these impulse purchases are a major driver of profits for chocolate companies. Ina addition, lanes lined with chocolate and other candies play another important role in that they distract customers from getting annoyed by waiting in line (Almy and Wootan 19-20).

At CVS in Harvard Square, check out lanes are lined with portion-sized packages from the “Big Five”. Most bars cost less than a dollar, thus making the purchase easy to justify. In contrast to other CVS stores, including the smaller one on Massachusetts Avenue, this store does not have any self-check out machines and lines are often long, thus highlighting how promoting products in connection to check out counters can be particularly beneficial.IMG_0555

Moreover, companies also pay stores to promote their products on short sections of shelves at the end of aisles, which are referred to as end caps or gondola ends. Over time, customers have become habituated to associate these end caps with special offers. CVS along with many other stores have recognized this and sometimes fill up the end caps with undiscounted products under signs that make them look like promotions (Almy and Wootan 19-20). This promotion technique has enabled retail stores to boost sales. Such bright shelf signs are also found at the main chocolate aisle at CVS.

Cardullo’s

Just across the street from CVS is Cardullo’s. This small grocer has been around since 1950 and offers a large assortment of gourmet foods and beverages. Cardullo’s offers an extensive selection of chocolate bars, truffles, and chocolate covered nuts and the store takes pride in offering products from a large number of countries as well as local producers such as Taza Chocolate. The products are organized according to country of import, making it easy to navigate for their conscious consumers.

IMG_0598Cardullo’s offers a huge assortment of chocolate and the products are seemingly organized based on brand and country of import. 

The chocolate bars sold at Cardullo’s differs from the bars sold at CVS in a number of ways. Firstly, they are generally more expensive, with prices ranging from 5 to 17 dollars. Moreover, a large number of the bars have labels that suggest that these companies use equitably sourced chocolate and support fair relationships with farmers. Such certifications, include Fairtrade, USDA, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ. As highlighted in class, there are a number of problems in regards to these certifications but it is evident that Cardullo’s offers a selection of brands that are committed to sustainability. Moreover, the back of the packaging of the many of the bars sold at Cardullo’s provides information about the brands’ commitment to sustainability and ethical labor practices. In addition, the back of the packaging for some of the bars includes information about the brands’ mission and history. This information is important in that it may help the consumer to feel more connected to the product, ultimately building strong brand loyalty.

 IMG_0588  IMG_0587  IMG_0597

Although Cardullo’s pride themselves with having primarily chocolate bars brands that use equitably sourced cacao, the store also has a shelf with bars from the “Big Five”. This shelf is however located further back in the store.

Conclusion

The vastly different selection of chocolate at Cardullo’s and CVS suggest that they target different audiences. As noted earlier, impulse purchases are a major profit driver for retail stores including CVS.  Cardullo’s however does not seem to rely on impulse purchases as a main driver of profits. The store has a smaller and more conscious customer base that is willing to pay more, as reflected in the higher price point. I find it problematic that CVS seemingly lacks commitment to promote products that use equitable sourcing and ethical labor practices. I justify the higher price point at Cardullo’s by knowing that many of these brands use equitably sourced cacao and promote fair relations with farmers and supplier. Moreover, the bars are Cardullo’s also seem superior in regards to taste and quality.

Analyzing the chocolate selection at CVS also provided some bittersweet insights regarding the stores’ use of promotion techniques to nudge its customers’  purchases. Given what we know about placement fees in retail stores, it is not surprising that we find products from the “Big Five” at prime spots in the store. It seems important to prompt retail stores to weigh their conscious against making profits. CVS is the second largest pharmacy chain in the United States and can really make a difference if they decide to actively promote brands that embrace sustainable and ethical labor practices.

Lastly, we need to educate people about the issues that are prevalent in the chocolate industry. After taking this class, I have become a more conscious consumer and promoting education may help other to make better decisions.

 

Works Cited

Amy, Jessica and Margo G. Wootan. “Temptation at Checkout: The Food Industry’s Sneaky Strategy for Selling More.” Center for Science in the Public Interest. August. 2015. Web 4 May 2016. http://cspinet.org/temptationatcheckout/

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization” Harvard University. Cambridge, MA. 6 April. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Modern Day Slavery” Harvard University. Cambridge, MA. 23 March. 2016. Lecture.

Sigurdsson, Valdimar, Hugi Saevarsson, and Gordon Foxall. “Brand Placement and Consumer Choice: An In-store experiment.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 42.3 (2009): 741–745. PMC. Web. 5 May 2016.

Usbourne, Simon.”The Secret of Our Supermarkets.” The Independent. 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 4 May 2016. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-secrets-of-our-supermarkets-8228864.html

Media Sources

Chocolate. Digital Image. http://www.freefoto.com/preview/09-06-20/Chocolate. Web. 4 May. 2016.

 

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.

Sugar Consumption in British Society: A Sweet and Sordid Rise to Capitalism

An intense and complex bond has made the supply and demand of sugar through the 17th-21st centuries grow to what was once unimaginable proportions. From the wealth of empires built upon commodities grown in ‘Colonial Crown Jewel’ territories, to the growth of industrialized cities, the infiltration of sugar and it’s industry has been there to support and serve as catalyst for the vast changes that have given way to our modern capitalistic societies.

Although sugar cane and its derivatives had been introduced to Europe around 1100 CE, it Sugarwasn’t until the 18th and 19th Century that massive changes in British consumptive patterns of sugar could be linked to the momentous alterations in British politics, economy and society. Sidney W. Mintz explains in Sweetness and Power, “what turns out to be most interesting about the British picture is how little it differed from eating habits and nutrition elsewhere in the world” (Mintz, p. 13). That Britain, like 85% of the world’s population in 1650, would have been struggling to meet their caloric needs mainly through starchy grains, sets the stage for demand – demand for cheap calories to meet growing population needs (Mintz, pp. 13-14). However physiological caloric needs were only one part of the equation that led to sugar’s popularization. Here Mintz explains:

“The history of sucrose in the United Kingdom reveals two basic changes, the first marking the popularization of sweetened tea and treacle, from about 1750 onward; and the second, the opening up of mass consumption, from about 1850 onward. During the period 1750-1850 every English person, no matter how isolated or how poor, and without regard to age or sex, learned about sugar. Most learned to like it enough to want it more than they could afford. After 1850, as the price of sugar dropped sharply, that preference became realized in consumption. A rarity in 1650, a luxury in 1750, sugar had been transformed to a virtual necessity by 1850.” (Mintz, pp. 147-148)

SUAGARCANECUTTER1830

Sugar Cane Cutter 1830.

What underlies these changes in sugar’s consumption in Britain and other colonials powers during 1650-1850 that Mintz recounts, was the rise of slave labor to power the production of sugar and other luxury crops like coffee, cocoa and tobacco. The proliferation of wealth on the backs of slave labor by European nations and The Southern United States alike produced a demand for commodity crops which proved fundamental to the development of capitalism.

“The English people came to view sugar as essential; supplying them with it became as much political as an economic obligation. At the same time, the owners of immense fortunes created by the labour of millions of slaves stolen from Africa, on millions of the New World stolen from the Indians – wealth in the form of commodities like sugar, molasses, and rum to be sold to Africans, Indians, colonials, and the British working class alike – had become even more solidly attached to the centers of power in the English society at large. What sugar meant from this vantage point, was that all such colonial production, trade and metropolitan consumption came to mean: the growing strength and solidity of the empire and of the classes that dictated its policies.” (Mintz, p. 157)

To properly describe the inclusion of sugar into the diets of the common English man it is therefore imperative to look at the political and corporate powers that were instrumental in changing their diets based on psychology tactics marketed to consumers by corporate entities and their ties into opportunistic economic and legislative power plays. Mintz comments,

“tobacco, sugar and tea were the first objects within capitalism that conveyed with their use the complex idea that one could become different by consuming differently. This idea has little to do with nutrition or primates or sweet tooths, and less than it appears to have with symbols. But it is closely connected to England’s fundamental transformation from a hierarchical, status-based, medieval society to a social-democratic, capitalist, and industrial society…. But the ever rising consumption of sugar was an artifact of interclass struggles for profit – struggles that eventuated in a world-market solution for drug foods, as industrial capitalism cut its protectionist losses and expanded a mass market to satisfy proletarian consumers once regarded as sinful and indolent.” (Mintz, pp 185-186)

As a consequence, “Britain’s annual per capita consumption of sugar was 4lbs in 1704, 18lbs in 1800, 90lbs in 1901 – a 22-fold increase to the point where Britons had the highest sugar intake in Europe.” (Britain is built on Sugar, 2007) These statistics bridge the incredible economic and social shift that occurred within a few centuries, wher51rsi4-TAGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_eby sugar’s demand grew due to it’s perceived value as a luxury, industrialization further pushing for need of cheap calories and most disturbing, the slave trade’s colonial heritage that ushered in modern Capitalism.

As Eric Williams opens with in Capitalism & Slavery, “Every age rewrites history, but particularly ours, which has been forced by events to re-evaluate our conceptions of history and economic and political development.” (Williams, vii) Within his book Williams illuminates further the “contribution of slavery to the development of British capitalism,” (Williams, viii) and just how much this history has been swept under the proverbial rug so that the benefits of industrialization and capitalism become synonymous with progress and betterment for all in the tomes of history.

References:

Capitalism & Slavery Book Cover. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51rsi4-TAGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Britain is built on sugar: Our national sweet tooth defines us. (2007, October 12). Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/oct/13/lifeandhealth.britishidentity

Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power. New York: Viking, 1985.

Sugar Cane Cutter 1830. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2016, from https://myweb.rollins.edu/jsiry/SUAGARCANECUTTER1830.jpg

Sugar Skulls. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.foodactive.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/sugar_skull_18s-890x395_c.jpg (Originally photographed 2013, December 23)

Williams, E. E. (1994). Capitalism & slavery. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Spicy to Sweet: The Transition of Sugar’s Use and Its Effects on Society

sugarcane-field-4204446_396x233
Fields of sugar cane

The introduction of sugar into England dating back to the twelfth century marks the conception of a rapidly expanding market in England. Beginning from its immediate introduction into Europe and continuing on into the present day, sugar has been marked by its  broad spectrum of uses. Sidney Mintz classifies the many applications of sugar into five main categories: medicinal uses, uses as a spice-condiment, uses as a sweetener, decorative uses and preservative uses (Mintz 78). Although these five purposes demonstrate a lot of overlap (for example, sugar used in jams both preserves the fruit and sweetens the substance), the transition between sugar being used a spice to sugar being used a sweetener exhibits an important turning point in its history. This transition, seen between the seventeenth and the eighteenth century, marks the beginning of sugar’s central role in modern society and the point at which sugar became widely available to members of lower classes.

From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, sugar was prominently used as a spice to add to foods without making the food necessarily sweet (Mintz 80). It could be added to plates such as pastas, sauces, meats, fish, and soups to increase the flavor content of the dish. The dependency on spices in these centuries is a result of overall monotony of the average Englishman’s diet and the lack of high quality food preparatory practices. Some meats were excessively cured or smoked and others were rotten; sugar would be added to these meats to improve the flavor quality and increase nutrition. Sugar as a spice would often be used to allay off-putting strong spice flavors already apparent in the meal.

In the eighteenth century, sugar consumers began focusing less on using sugar as a spice and more as using sugar as a sweetener for their foods. There is evidence that sugar was initially noticed for its ability to sweeten when it was added to the popular bitter beverages of the time: chocolate, coffee and tea (Mintz 109). Drinkers noticed that sugar complimented and masked the bitterness of these beverages and began adding it into their daily drinks. Aside from the connection with these bitter beverages, sugar became the focal ingredient of both commonplace desserts and festive feasts. It became a show of rank and status at festivities held by the elite classes and a well known luxury for those of the lower classes.

This transition from sugar as a spice-condiment to a sweetener is the beginning of a massive sugar explosion in the global economy and culinary culture. In the twenty-first century, sugar is an essential, constant aspect of everyday life. It is now available to be bought in cheap, bulk quantities, it is present in almost every meal ranging from sweet soups to snack bars to chocolate candies, and it is the focal point (both economically and socially) of many Western holidays such as Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. Sugar is so widely known that it has synonyms on ingredient lists, such as “corn syrup,” “fructose,” “cane sugar,” and “high fructose corn syrup,” to disguise its presence. When compared to the commonplace characteristic of sugar in the twenty-first century it is shocking that sugar was reserved for use by the elite and the nobility prior to the seventeenth century. It was not until this transition into a sweetener that sugar became more widely available to members of the working and poor classes.

Consumers who belonged to the working class adopted and desired the taste for sweetness rapidly. As demand grew, prices declined (albeit marginally and slowly), and sugar became a more widely available commodity. From 1750 to 1850, sugar evolved from a luxury to a massively consumed commodity. As sugar became more widely desired, it became more widely available. Sugar’s market has the most remarkable upward production curve of any major food market (Martin).

“Only the privileged few could enjoy these luxurious even in the sixteenth century in England. Int the subsequent centuries, however, the combination of sugars and fruit became more common, and the cost of jams, jellies, marmalades, and preserved fruits declined.” (Mintz 99)

english_sugar_prices_consumption

 

An overarching result of the transition from a spice to a sweetener and the resultant increase of availability was the emergence of two cultural processes known as “intensification,” and  “extensification.” Mintz explains that intensification refers to the replication and imitation of existing rituals whereas extensification refers to the replacement of old significances with new meanings (Mintz 152). In short, through rapid commercialization and availability, sugar lost its ancient ties to sacredness, human life, and divinity. It gained a new meaning of success and wealth among the European elite which was later replaced by the idea that sugar represented a forced equalization among the social classes- the working class refused to allow the higher classes to dominate the sugar industry and became active consumers in its market. Additionally, sugar’s spike in popularity after its eighteenth century emergence as a sweetener caused a higher need for larger labor forces; manufacturers found this labor in the form of slavery and indentured servitude.

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The transition from a spice used by the elite to flavor dishes into a sweetener desired by members of all English social classes made sugar more popular and, thus, more available. Consumers were interested in the taste of sweetness that sugar could bring to food and beverages and they caused a rapid increase in sugar consumption in England. In turn, this demand caused sugar to adapt a new cultural significance and perpetuated the system of enslaved labor.

Works Cited:

“Australia’s ‘Sugar Slaves’ Remembered.” Radio National. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.
“Increasing Population on Plantations.” Sugar Cane. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.

“Lakshmi Sugar Mill, Iquabal Pur, Roorkee.” Lakshmi Sugar Mill RSS. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.

“Louisiana Archaeology Ashland Belle Helene Plantation: Introduction.” Louisiana Archaeology Ashland Belle Helene Plantation: Introduction. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.

Martin, Carla. “Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food, Cambridge. 17 February 2016. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.

—. “Time, Sugar and Sweetness.” Food and Culture: A Reader. Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik. New York: Routledge, 1997. Pp 91-103. Print.

“Normal Eating® Blog.” Normal Eating Blog RSS. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.