Tag Archives: consumption

Cadbury: The Canary in an Unethical Coal Mine

Any company that can admit to contaminating a food product, and supporting forced labor and still retain the leading market share must understand its customers. For this reason, Cadbury’s advertisements may offer a unique perspective into European consumer culture during the late 1980s and early 1900s. Advertisements candidly portray the desires of their consumer base. For this reason Cadbury’s advertisements are a window into English consumer values. I argue that the Cadbury Company’s advertisements capture nineteenth century consumer culture as one that conflated personal purity with ethical behavior. Additionally these values inadvertently supported forced labor long after the official abolition of slavery.

Victorian era consumers were highly concerned with the idea of purity. As lower economic classes attained access to previously unattainable foods such as chocolate and tea, producers contaminated the foods with filler ingredients to maximize profits. In 1850, England’s newly created Health Commission found that, 39 of 70 chocolate samples contained red ocher, a color obtained from ground bricks. While most samples revealed the addition of starches from potatoes and various grains. The passage of the “British Food and Drug Act of 1860 and the Adulteration of food act of 1872, suggests that the British public were highly concerned with the purity of their foods (Coe, 2013).

Cadbury became England’s chocolate in the in the late 1800s and early 1900s through an aggressive advertising campaign that emphasized purity. Cadbury, though also implicated in starch contamination, understood customer concerns and adeptly rebranded as the only company that could guarantee purity (Coe, 2013).

Cadbury's_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885 (1)
An 1885 advertisement for cadbury cocoa

The above advertisement captures the ideals and aspirations of the English consumer in the late 1800s. The strapping rower, an icon of English vitality enjoys a day of leisure watching boat races. He holds his cup of Cadbury cocoa at the center of the image. By framing the cocoa, on two sides with the rower’s spotless white pants and shirt, and on the third side with the woman’s impossibly pale face, the artist emphasizes the purity associated with the beverage. The advertisement’s sub header, “Guaranteed Pure and Soluble,” explicitly restates the focus on purity. Because Cadbury captured consumer’s interest in purity, they were able to out compete Fry’s, an older company that dominated the market in the early 1800s.

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Fry’s 1910, milk chocolate advertisement

The above advertisement demonstrates a different understanding of English consumer values during the time. Fry’s, one of the first English chocolate companies sold 2.5 times more chocolate than Cadbury in 1870. However Cadbury won the hearts of English men and women, largely through advertising, and out sold Fry’s at the turn of the century (Fitzgerald, 2006). Fry’s emphasized nostalgia for childhood in their advertisement. A small girl holds a box with five portraits describing the emotions associated with chocolate consumption. Cadbury’s market success suggests that, English consumers preferred assurances about purity to a trip down memory lane.

Consumers conflated product purity with ethical behavior. Cadbury and Fry, both Quaker chocolate makers, were lauded for their ethical behavior. Temperance campaigns swept over the UK during the Victorian era. As per capita beer consumption decreased, consumers turned to chocolate for comestible indulgence. One strategy of the temperance movement was to tie ethical and spiritual purity to the purity of a diet. The messaging was of course focused on reducing alcohol consumption, but this rhetoric likely spilled over into other food consumption behaviors. Therefore, Cadbury’s Quaker image as evidenced by their “ideal,” and importantly ,dry village, Bournvile appealed to consumers of the day (Fitzgerald 2006; Johnson and Pochmara 2016).

However as consumers and companies focused on purity standards, horrific human rights abuses went over looked. Both advertisements focus on the consumer and the ritual of consumption. In a way these advertisements capture what the English population wanted to see in their consumer products. However even more informative are the ideas consumers did not want to portrayed in their advertisements. Any reference to location of origin, or producers is glaringly absent in advertisements of the day.

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A prison cell used to hold enslaved people before their journey to Sao Tome or Principe

The above picture is of a prison in Elmina Castle, used to hold enslaved people before their forced voyage to a life of forced labor. Elmina was often the last place an enslaved person, captured in Angola, would set foot on the mainland (Finley 2004). Cadbury, Fry’s and other English chocolate makers bought cacao from Portuguese cacao plantations that depended on forced labor on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe. Though the Portuguese called this system, indentured servitude or “Servical,” a report by journalist Henry Nevinson, made it clear that Servical was indistinguishable from slavery. Though England outlawed slavery in 1833, Cadbury, the supposed icon of Victorian business ethics had been providing the English people chocolate made from cacao farmed by enslaved people as late as 1907. After an attempt at reparations, Cadbury and other English chocolate makers boycotted the islands of Sao Tome and Principe (Martin, 2017). However little changed on the islands, as the Hershey Company filled the consumer void left by the English companies. I contend that consumer interest focused so heavily on ideas of purity that consumers associated purity with ethical process and were therefore slow to examine the supply chain of their favorite chocolate.

Today chocolate companies often differentiate their products by advertising their location of origin. Additionally, fair trade products often command price premiums for ensuring ethical process. This expansion of consumer options suggests that consumers value ethical process as much as they value nutritional quality or taste. However, modern consumers we cannot forget the lessons of Victorian era chocolate makers. We must constantly investigate the supply chains of our favorite products to reduce our contribution to forced labor. Follow the below link to learn how many enslaved people are involved in producing your favorite products.

Find out how your consumption connects you to slavery.

 

Bibliography

Cadbury’s Advert with Rower 1885. 2010. Wikimedia Commons.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Finley, Cheryl. 2004. “Authenticating Dungeons, Whitewashing Castles: The Former Sites of the Slave Trade on the Ghanaian Coast.” Architecture and Tourism.

Fitzgerald, Robert. 2006. “Products , Firms and Consumption : Cadbury and the Development of Marketing , 1900 – 1939 Products , Firms and Consumption : Cadbury and the” 6791 (May). doi:10.1080/00076790500132977.

Fry’s Five Boys . 2005. Wikimedia Commons.

Ghana Elmina Castle Slave Holding Cell. Wikimedia, Wikimedia Commons

Johnson, Amelia E, and Anna Pochmara. 2016. “Tropes of Temperance , Specters of Naturalism : Tropología de La Abstinencia Y Fantasmas Del Naturalismo En Clarence and Corinne de Amelia E . Johnson” 2: 45–62.

Martin, Carla. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 01, 2017.

Let Them Eat Chocolate

Chocolate is one of the world’s most beloved treats. The mixture of chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter and flavors like vanilla, creates an indulgent taste that would not be made possible without the key ingredient, cacao. However, cacao and chocolate weren’t always easily accessible. Previously reserved as a treat for the elite, as the popularity of cacao increased, so did it’s availability to a wider audience. During the 19th century, chocolate became available to the masses because of industrial changes in production, new recipes and the improved treatment of workers, culminating in a dramatic increase in the consumption of chocolate.

Cacao has had a long and arduous journey to becoming one of the most sought after products. Cacao comes from the cacao tree, which produces cacao pods that house the cacao beans. The cacao tree only grows in twenty degrees south or north of the equator, providing limited number of growing areas.[1] In Mesoamerica cacao was an integral part of the culture and daily lives of the Aztec, Maya and Olmec civilizations. They made beverages out of cacao and used it as currency.[2] When the Spanish conquered Mesoamerica they began to consume cacao and brought it back to Spain. Cacao later spread to Italy, France, and England, becoming as beloved as it was in South America. Drinking chocolate became widely popular, as well as confectionary deserts using cacao. These treats like covered mousse, marzipan, sugared almonds and ice cream became a status symbol for elites and royalty in the 18th century.[3]

Private chocolate chefs typically prepared chocolate confections. The techniques used to make these chocolate deserts were the same as the Mesoamericans. For example, the Thomas Tosier, who prepared King George I and George II’s chocolate, used a metate grinding stone, exactly like the Mesoamericans used to prepare their chocolate many years earlier.[4] By grinding the cacao beans by hand it was difficult to create a fine texture. However, in 1828, Coenraad Johannes Van Houten invented the Dutch Cocoa Press, which reduced cacao into a finer grain than had ever been previously possible.[5] As Sophie and Michael D. Coe note in their book, The True History of Chocolate, the cocoa press allowed for drinking chocolate to be sold at much cheaper prices and chocolate began the transformation from a liquid to a solid.[6] This revolutionary press only was the beginning of a string of inventions that changed the way that chocolate was produced. In 1826, Philippe Suchard invented the mélangeur, which mixed the chocolate ingredients together.[7] Later, in 1879, Rudolphe Lindt invented the conching process, which further refined cocoa powder.[8] Lindt’s invention is the reason why modern chocolate has a smooth consistency. Without these advancements, chocolate would have not been able to be produced on a large-scale.

 

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As Sophie and Michael D. Coe note, the Van Houten’s Dutch Cocoa Press marked the beginning of a modern era for chocolate. The Dutch Cocoa Press also changed the color of chocolate, making people think that the chocolate was stronger.[9] Image courtesy of Flickr. 

It was not just mechanical advancements that spurred the consumption of chocolate, new innovations in chocolate products and recipes were created in the 19th century that became the start of modern-day chocolate products. In 1847, the company J.S. Fry & Sons had the revolutionary idea to create bars of chocolate.[10] This was the first time that anyone had made chocolate into a bar. This innovative idea is now a fundamental part of chocolate culture, as nearly everyone around the world has consumed a chocolate bar. In addition, one of the most beloved flavors of chocolate was created during the 19th century. Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate in 1879, by adding powdered milk to the chocolate recipe. This invention would not have been possible without Henri Nestlé, who invented powdered milk in 1867.[11] These new recipes further added to the popularity of chocolate and thus consumption of sugar and cacao rapidly increased.

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The solid candy bar that J.S. Fry & Sons had invented in 1847, was first consumed by the rich because the price was so steep. This new invention also led to J.S. Fry & Sons becoming the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world at the time. [12]  Image courtesy of Flickr. 

Due to the increase in the production of chocolate, there was a higher demand for cacao. New farms started in areas outside of South America and the Caribbean, mostly in West Africa.[13] The majority of cacao was produced by slave labor. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century it finally became clear that coerced and forced labor was wrong. However, it was not until the nineteenth century when slavery began to be abolished, which coincidentally was around the same time when new production machines were being invented.[14] These changes in the labor force improved the public opinion of companies and thus increased the consumption of chocolate.

Chocolate companies like, J.S. Fry & Sons, Cadbury, and Lindt, among others, grew into large-scale enterprises that were often under public scrutiny. Companies would be publically shamed for unethical business practices like slavery. Cadbury was subject to this scrutiny when in 1907 an article was published exposing Cadbury for knowingly using slave labor sourced cacao from São Tomé and Principe. [15] The public was shocked by these revelations and as a result Cadbury’s public reputation was tainted.[16] Cadbury rebounded from the scandal by ceasing to purchase cacao from plantations that still used slavery.[17] The São Tomé Cadbury case, illustrates how invested consumers were in the chocolate industry and were concerned about where their products were coming from.

3907609000_9a0eed7ee7_z Bournville was created to house the workers of the Cadbury factory. Since the town was established by Quakers, they did not have any pubs or alcohol allowed in the town, thus creating an environment with no bad temptations.[18] Image courtesy of Flickr.

In contrast, the employees in chocolate factories in Europe and the United States were treated much better than those who worked on plantations. Companies like Hershey’s and Cadbury built towns for their workers and their families to live in. These towns not only housed the workers in the factories but also had schools, parks, and community centers among other attractions.[19][20] These chocolate towns were revolutionary and the quality of product likely improved because of this excellent treatment. In an article by Fortune, titled “Being Happy at Work Really Makes You More Productive”, they discuss a study that has proven results that happier workers lead to more productivity, which leads to an increase in sales.[21] Both Hershey’s and Cadbury have become leaders in the chocolate industry, stemming from the quality products that their workers have produced.

As a result of these advances in production, recipes, and treatment of workers, consumption of chocolate spiked significantly in the 19th century. This trend has continued even today, as the average American consumes twelve pounds of chocolate per year.[22] This includes candy bars, truffles, hot chocolate, cakes and pastries. All of these modern forms of chocolate treats would not have been possible without the revolutionary changes that occurred and made chocolate a commodity for mass consumption. Chocolate has become available globally and is no longer a treat just for the elite. The chocolate revolution allowed for everyone to be able to enjoy this modern treat.

 

 

 

[1] Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate (New York: Thames & Hudson), 19.

[2] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 33.

[3] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 218-219.

[4] “Chocolate Kitchens”, Historic Royal Palaces, Accessed March 8, 2017, http://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/visit-us/top-things-to-see-and-do/chocolate-kitchens/#gs.JM81VM0.

[5] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 234.

[6] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 232-233.

[7] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 246.

[8] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 247.

[9] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 234-235

[10] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 241.

[11] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 247.

[12] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 241

[13] Carla Martin, Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor (PowerPoint Slides), March 1, 2017, Slide 7.

[14] Martin, Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor, Slide 42.

[15] Lowell J. Satre, Chocolate on Trial: Slavery Politics and the Ethics of Business (University of Ohio Press), 82.

[16] Satre, Chocolate on Trial, 85

[17] Satre, Chocolate on trial, 98.

[18] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 242.

[19] Martin, Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor, Slide 55.

[20] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 250-251.

[21] Michal Addady, “Being Happy at Work Really Makes You More Productive”, Fortune, October 29, 2015, http://fortune.com/2015/10/29/happy-productivity-work/.

[22] Carla Martin, Mesoamerica and The Food of the Gods (PowerPoint Slides), February 1, 2017, Slide 7.

Head image courtesy of Flickr. 

HISTORICAL CHANGES IN BRITISH SUGAR CONSUMPTION AND POTENTIAL CAUSES

The only trend in British sugar consumption, since it was first measured in the early 1700s until fairly recently, has been only increase upon increase, year after year. (See chart below) It is the argument of this essay that this phenomenon has taken place because of only two causes. One cause is historical and geographical and the other is the chemical and organic structure of the evolved human brain. The confluence of these two causes caused sugar to become abundantly and cheaply available to the British public, regardless of wealth, and that increased abundance of cheap sugar caused increased consumption of a substance that targets the sweetness sensitive regions of the brain that craves sugar because of our evolutionary past. Simply put, slavery gave Britain a lot of cheap sugar and its universal consumption triggered addictive responses among consumers to demand more and more of it.

 

There is no doubt that since 1704, when sugar consumption in Britain was only 4 pounds per person, its consumption has skyrocketed to well over 150 pounds per person, per year.
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There are two major causes for this dramatic increase that combined into a perfect storm that transformed sugar from an expensive rarity among the wealthiest Britons to a dirt cheap, ubiquitous commodity on the tables and in the mouths of all citizens from princes to paupers.

There are two major causes for this dramatic increase that combined into a perfect storm that transformed sugar from an expensive rarity among the wealthiest Britons to a dirt cheap, ubiquitous commodity on the tables and in the mouths of all citizens from princes to paupers.rain. The confluence of these two causes caused sugar to become abundantly and cheaply available to the British public, regardless of wealth, and that increased abundance of cheap sugar caused increased consumption of a substance that targets the sweetness sensitive regions of the brain that craves sugar because of our evolutionary past. Simply put, slavery gave Britain a lot of cheap sugar and its universal consumption triggered addictive responses among consumers to demand more and more of it.

 

There is no doubt that since 1704, when sugar consumption in Britain was only 4 pounds per person, its consumption has skyrocketed to well over 150 pounds per person, per year.

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The enslavement and transport of millions of Africans by the British and Europeans to the Americas where sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, cotton and rice could be grown in prodigious quantities by the slaves at little cost and exported to Europe and North America where the insatiable appetites of the populace demanded an ever increasing supply of these now inexpensive commodities. Since slaves were paid no wages and given only bare subsistence in diet, clothing and housing to perform the work, the overhead of sugar planters in South America was quite low compared to how much money they would have had to pay for voluntary paid laborers. Without the slavery part of the economic equation in the production of New World sugar, there would never have been the flood of it into Britain, Europe and North America. Sugar would have remained a very expensive and rare treat for the wealthy. Because sugar production requires vast acreage of cane fields and a large round the clock processing facility, it is probable that cane sugar production could never have been profitable if the planters would have had to pay for the labor. Only slavery allowed sugar production to be profitable and indeed very profitable.

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The pleasure and reward centers of the human brain are particularly sensitive to sweetness that lies deep in our evolutionary past when our pre-human ancestors desperately searched for ripe fruit and berries with enough sugar content to keep the larger primate brains in functioning order. Sweetness on the African savannah or forests is quite rare. Locating wild berries or hanging fruit meant the difference between survival and starvation. The competition for such rare resources was keen and no doubt most of our ancestors perished in the daily struggle for enough food to see another day. Because our brain, among the largest of land creatures, requires significant amounts of glucose to function properly. Because of this, the taste buds on our tongues are always seeking sugar and respond very positively to its presence from early infancy. While sugar is rare in the wild, found only in fruits and berries in significant amounts, when our brain encounters it as the British public first did when it became abundant and cheap, our brains went wild with sugar desire. Britain and Europe prior to the beginning of the exploitation of the Americas and Africa, survived on diets quite bland and tasteless except for a handful of spices and herbs imported at great cost from Asia. Basically, the only sweetness most people encountered in their brief lives, that were usually cut short by disease and malnutrition, was infrequent encounters with honey. However, honey was rare and costly. The peasantry could hardly be said to be very familiar with anything that tasted good or sweet. Therefore, when cheap sugar began to pour into Britain, Europe and North America, thanks to slavery, even the lowest subsistence tenant farmer’s family  

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could enjoy the pleasure that sugar triggered in their brains. With few other pleasures during their hard lives, people could at least enjoy the sweet bounty that human slavery provided for only a few pennies.

Only in recent years has the British consumption of sugar begun to wane as the health dangers of its over-consumption become apparent to more and more people through scientific studies of sugar’s effects on the human body. However, like any addictive drug, sugar’s hold on the food industry and humanity’s enjoyment of sweet taste, is proving a difficult hold to weaken. When sugar is commonly added to the many industrially processed foods consumed by many people, its consumption is often hidden.

The enormous increase of sugar consumption by the British over the course of two centuries is explainable only by sugar’s low cost and its powerful and addictive effects on the human brain. It is truly a unique occurrence in human history to consider how a simple agricultural product of narrow nutritional  merit could take over the diets of entire nations because of the scourge of human slavery and the food’s addictive properties.

 

  1. Britain is built on sugar: our national sweet tooth defines us

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/oct/13/lifeandhealth.britishidentity

 

  1. The Creation of an Atlantic Economy: Sugar and Slaves

https://www.learner.org/courses/worldhistory/support/reading_14_1.pdf

 

  1. Sack and sugar, and the aetiology of gout in England between 1650 and 1900

https://academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/52/3/421/1776400/Sack-and-sugar-and-the-aetiology-of-gout-inh

 

  1. Enslavement and Industrialisation

ttp://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/industrialisation_article_01.shtml

 

  1. Sugar and Britain’s obesity crisis: the key questions answered

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/oct/23/sugar-britains-obesity-crisis-key-questions-answered

  1. How much sugar do we eat?

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27941325

  1. Changes in British Sugar Consumption during the 17th and 18th Centuries

https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/changes-in-british-sugar-consumption-during-the-17th-and-18th-centuries/

  1. We’re all sugar junkies now: Britons now wolf down an almost unimaginable 160 teaspoons of it a week – and the even worse news? It really IS addictive

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2420713/Were-sugar-junkies-Britons-wolf-unimaginable-160-teaspoons-week–worse-news-It-really-IS-addictive.html

 

  1. Oxford History of the British Empire. The Eighteenth Century. The British West Indies, 1748-1815.

https://books.google.com/books?

 

 

Native Culture in Relation to Our Perception of Chocolate

Our understanding of chocolate and the context in which it is consumed has evolved since chocolate was first “founded or created” by the Olmecs. The Mayans and Aztecs had specific customs and beliefs regarding cacao and its consumption in society. These practices have long since been lost in America’s contemporary relationship with chocolate. In this short essay, I will contrast the Mayan and Aztec traditions from our current traditions regarding chocolate; and further, argue that the ritual and religious aspect of cacao has evolved in today’s popular society.

Cacao originated in the north-west of South America and thus this area is the cultural center for cacao. Although the Aztecs and Mayans differed slightly in their consumption habits and practices, the cultural significance of cacao still held the same value in their respective societies. Cacao carried both social and religious prestige among the indigenous people. Not only was it called “the food of the gods”, but it was also prized enough to be used as currency.

cacaogod
Maya Cacao God. Retrieved from Cornell University.

The photo shown to the right depicts the cacao god. Gods were often associated with trees, linking the cacao trees and gods together. Vessels and bowls that once held cacao have been preserved and show us hieroglyphs representing both Gods and cacao; further exhibiting the religious significance of chocolate in their society (Coe 43). Cacao was also revered for its magical and god-like powers. Chocolate was linked to concepts of strength and power; for example “the warriors, the backbone of the Aztec state, were another group permitted chocolate. Cacao, in fact, was a regular part of military rations” (Coe 98). Cacao was an integral part of the Aztec and Mayan religious practices. In rituals the cacao pod was used to symbolize the human heart torn out for sacrifice (Coe 103). However, cacao’s power in Mayan and Aztec society extended beyond that of religion and military. Cacao played a significant role in banquets, baptisms, weddings, and burials. Cacao was also integrated in marriage rituals. For example, it was normal for the father of the potential bride to invite the father of the boy to discuss the marriage proposal over a chocolate beverage. Additionally, cacao was often given as a dowry. These practices show what a compelling force chocolate was to the Aztecs and Mayans.

While chocolate still has a strong presence today, it does not carry the same significance to us as it did to Aztecs and Mayans; yet, I would argue that we still have a ritualistic connection to chocolate. The industrialization of the food industry, while benefiting the capitalist side of the chocolate industry, took away the religious and traditional aspect of chocolate. With the invention of preserving, mechanization, retailing, and transporting, chocolate and other food stuffs become readily available and easily accessible to the public at large. Not only did industrialization make foodstuff less perishable but it also made it easier to disperse; “critical to the growth of the overseas trade was the development of large cargo ships capable of transporting  the raw materials to the metropolitan country in exchange  for the mass export of manufactured goods” (Goody 82).

chocolate-consumption1

The graph depicted on the left is from 2009 and shows the consumption of chocolate each year, consumed per person in pounds. The industrialization, mass production, and exportation of chocolate has led to a completely different public sentiment towards chocolate. In comparison to during the Aztec and Mayan era, because of its affordability, chocolate has become less of a luxury item. The invention of technology like the conch, the five roller refiner, and the hydraulic press have made chocolate manufacturing more efficient. The Mars company was famous for its efficiency in chocolate production. They employed engineers to improve the efficiency of their machines and “the result of this effort was the most efficient candy-making operation in the business” (Brenner 83). Mars additionally, created the Snickers bar that was only coated in chocolate, reducing its price and increasing its affordability; thereby, making their chocolate bars even more competitive in the free market. But despite chocolate lacking its previous characteristic as a luxury item, it still retains the quality of being an indulgent good. Thus, one could argue that the ritualistic aspect of chocolate is its mass and quite often consumption. Further, chocolate still carries significance on certain religious holidays.

For example, chocolate is central in the victorian creation of Valentine’s day. Chocolate has become an essential consumerist part of the festivities.

Starbucks Valentine’s Day Commercial

The video featured above was Starbuck’s 2017 Valentine’s day commercial, starring: chocolate. Generally the celebration of Valentine’s day is heteronormative as well as consumerist. This Valentine’s day commercial doesn’t play off of the normal gender binary, but, it does clearly link chocolate to the celebration. Chocolate is still an important part of religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. Yet, while its place in the celebrations is solidified, its religious significance is not quite as apparent as it was under the Aztecs and Mayans.

Thus, while chocolate is no longer the star of athletics, marriages, weddings, baptisms, burials, or rituals, its presence is still prominent in many of our religious celebrations. The mass distribution and consumption of chocolate has taken away from its spiritual and traditional uses in society. Yet, this same commercialism and mass distribution has allowed chocolate to remain a constant power and presence in today’s society.

References

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars.
       New York: Broadway, 2000. Print.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and              Hudson, 2013. Print.
Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik. Food and Culture: A Reader. New York: Routledge,         2013. Print.

Chocolate: Caloric Convenience or Conscientious Confection

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

CVS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whole Foods

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

Whole Foods aisle
Candy aisle at Whole Foods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Man’s Treat, Another Man’s “Temporary Heaven”

For many, chocolate is a delightful treat for the occasional indulgence, but for Buster it is his every day meditation. Chocolate is the favorite part of his day because with one bite Buster says he is put into his “temporary heaven”. He also noted that “if there is no chocolate in heaven, [he] will not be happy.” When asked about his first experience with chocolate he remembers going to the store and sticking a penny into a gum machine and getting a gum ball with speckles. If you got a gum ball with speckles you got to trade it in for a nickel to purchase a small candy bar. Little Buster had the time of his life choosing that Snickers bar and sharing it with his grandmother. It is experiences like this that show the true relationship that people can have with food. One brand of chocolate can bring forth a multitude of emotions and memories.

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When Buster was a child, one Snickers cost only one nickel. 
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The store Buster visited had one cent, speckled gum balls that you could trade in for a Nickel to buy  a candy bar. 

 

While interviewing Buster, I discovered that some of his memories of chocolate brought tears to his eyes. His “darling sweetheart Cheryl” and he would only argue about how she spoiled her two daughters, unless he came home with a Hershey’s Symphony chocolate bar. That was  the one treat “she wouldn’t share with her kids”. Sadly, Cherly passed away before they could get married, but this memory they shared with chocolate still lives on with Buster today. Chocolate is a truly amazing part of our world because one combination of flavors can hold the dearest memories in peoples’ hearts.

 

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The favorite treat of Buster’s sweetheart. Hershey’s Symphony is milk chocolate filled with almonds and toffee chips. 

 

The nutritional value of chocolate and the healthy amount of chocolate people should consume daily has been debated over the years. Though chocolate is not labeled as a health food is has been proven to have benefits to people’s health. The Mayo Clinic states, “Chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease (Zeratsky)”. Zeratsky goes into more detail to explain that,  “flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease,” and “Flavanols — which are more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate — also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function.” It is these benefits of chocolate that avid chocolate eaters attribute as an “excuse” for their chocolate addictions. When Buster was asked if chocolate was healthy in a day-to-day diet, he answered, “yes most, and if it’s not I don’t care!” Buster eats chocolate every day and loves to journey into his favorite section of the candy aisle at Food Lion. The nutritional benefits of chocolate exist and though too much can cause weight gain and other health risks, a daily dose of chocolate certainly does not hurt with Buster being a true example.

Some people’s favorite part of chocolate is the delicious taste, but for Buster it is the benefit of meditation. With one piece of chocolate, he is able to “take [his] mind off [his] problems temporarily”. Chocolate has been proven to alleviate stress of many types. In 2009, a study found that the “consumption of 40 grams of dark chocolate per day for two weeks decreased urinary  cortisol (an indicator of physiological stress levels) in participants with chronic stress (Osdoba, 242)”. Another study of chocolate consumption showed, “just three days of dark chocolate consumption resulted in decrease levels of psychological street captured by self-reported anxiety and depression (Osdoba, 242)”. The chocolate Buster uses to meditate is Hershey’s special dark chocolate with almonds nuggets. Chocolate is a perfect tool for meditation because not only is meditating helpful in reliving stress, but the combination of chocolate is only added to the major benefits of the stress relief.

 

hersheys_nuggets1
One nugget can be the perfect amount of chocolate for a short and relaxing meditation. 

 

pope_francis_i_chocolate_covered_oreo-rbaa50515244f431683337dd9bf45bdc1_zipmn_1024
Even today, Chocolate labels can be seen with the Pope on them. This is one example of a chocolate covered Oreo with the Pope on the packaging. 

Chocolate consumption can make people happy and feel good; that’s just one of the major benefits of it. For Buster, chocolate makes him “feel like [he is] enjoying one of the better aspects of life”. Buster even recalled from the Food Channel, that the Pope for years he was the only one to consume most of the chocolate. In fact, “in the 18th-century Italy, chocolate was the preferred drink of the Cardinals and they even had it brought in while they were electing a new Pope (Belardo)”. Though this was a special treat for the Cardinals, “chocolate was also rumored to have disguised a poison that killed Pope Clement XIV in 1774 (Belardo)”. In most cases, chocolate was always a great pleasure for the Pope and it was one “of the better aspects of life”. Historically, chocolate was only consumed by the elites at first because it was considered a high treat only for the best to consume. Chocolate is massed produced today and massed consumed, but the quality and enjoyment of it still remains in high status of many chocolate lovers’ lives.

While interviewing Buster, there was no doubt that he truly loved chocolate. He rated his favorite chocolate bar the Snickers a 10 out of 10; with all other chocolate bars having a score of 9 out of 10. Chocolate has helped in his favorite past time as well. Buster is an avid golfer and he finds the Snickers Bars to be a good source of energy on the golf course. “you eat them at the turn and have energy on the backside” while playing a round of golf. The only part of chocolate he does not like is when “you leave them in your golf bag too long in the summer time it melts and its hard to eat”. As one can easily see, Buster is dedicated to his chocolate consumption regularly and the only down fall is he craves it all the time.

must-have-chocolate
Funny images like these are made by people to show the feelings of people who crave chocolate and must have it immediately.

Chocolate cravings are very common for many people, and there is science behind why people crave this delicious delight. The Journal of Nutrition cites that, “chocolate is the most frequently craved food in North America (Yanovski)”. There are ingredients in chocolate that explain why this is true.  Several “studies describe psychoactive substances in chocolate, including theobromine (a weak central nervous system stimulant), anandamide (an endogenous cannabinoid), phenylethylamine (an amphetamine-like compound) and caffeine (Yanovski)”. Though the content of these substances is very low in chocolate it can still affect craving slightly. Chocolate cravings can also occur when the body is going through hormonal changes, for example women on their menstrual cycle (Yanovski). Cravings of chocolate are not people simply wanting their favorite treat, the science behind it shows that chocolate cravings are real and can happen to anyone. Simply watching a chocolate commercial can spark the cravings for many, but for Buster’s case he craves chocolate all the time.

1169124_1358297761063_full.jpgPreferences for the time when people eat chocolate can vary among consumers. Most would argue that people eat chocolate generally as a dessert after meals. While others enjoy chocolate as a snack, usually as an impulse buy at the cash register. Buster noted that he enjoyed eating chocolate after meals because the flavor lasts longer in his mouth. Much to everyone’s disappoint though, too much chocolate can be very bad for you all at once. One story Buster shared with me was how he made a record of eating eleven chocolate milkshakes in one day. Needless to say, he did get quite sick for a moment. Chocolate can be healthy for you and the amount you eat can all depend on when you eat it, but be sure you eat just the right amount to enjoy chocolate at its best.

Some of the greatest aspects of chocolate can be hidden behind the ingredients and packing. Food is a delight and basic necessity for living, and the most powerful part of it is that it has the power to bring people together. Chocolate is able to bring people together to form friendships that may not have happened without the bond of chocolate.Though Buster and I share a work place (and he had to pass my desk to get to his working space), we did not become great friends until he stumbled upon my chocolate textbook on my desk. I found him reading the cover and telling me how fascinated he is with chocolate and how much he absolutely loves eating it. From that day forward, several times a week he would leave chocolate on my desk or hand me some chocolate nuggets from his pockets. Sometimes we even end up exchanging chocolate bars. We now share a unique friendship bonded by our love of chocolate and the enjoyment of consuming the amazing taste of it.

Cites:

Belardo, Carolyn. “Chocolate-history.” Drexel University. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Blots Gumballs – 850 Count.” Blots Berry Gumballs. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Candyrageous » Blog Archive » Hershey’s Symphony.” Candyrageous RSS. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Chocolate Milkshake.” Recipes Hubs. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Hershey®’s Extra Dark and Hershey®’s Special Dark® Dark Chocolate Review.” The WiC Project Faith Free Giveaways Product Reviews Recipes. N.p., 24 Feb. 2010. Web.
“Made At RGU.” : Smart Food Swaps & Alternatives To Chocolate! N.p., 11 Mar. 2016. Web.
Osdoba, Katie E., Traci Mann, Joseph P. Redden, and Zata Vickers. “Using Food to Reduce Stress: Effects of Choosing Meal Components and Preparing a Meal.” Food Quality and Preference 39 (2015): 241-50. Web.
“Pope Francis Chocolate and Treats.” Zazzle. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Snickers®.” Snickers®. N.p., n.d. Web.
Yanovski, Susan. “Journal of Nutrition.” Sugar and Fat: Cravings and Aversions. N.p., 2003. Web.
Zeratsky, Katherine, R.D., L.D. “Can Chocolate Be Good For My Health?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 06 Dec. 2014. Web.

Chocolate Edible Bodies

The fetishization of Black people, particularly their skin, in cocoa advertising has been posited to relates to the peculiar historical relationships founded on the commodification of both. [1] According to Silke Hackensech, a German scholar, chocolate is  “a commodity that has historically been produced, in the first stage of the production process, on cocoa farms by enslaved Africans, or people working under conditions akin to slavery.”[2]   Through historical and complex systems of global trade, labour, and production, chocolate and Blackness have been linked together, particularly as it relates to the marketing of and advertisements for chocolate whereas the “usage of the chocolate signifier . . . illustrates how configurations of vision and visuality invest the body with social meaning.”[3] 

In the first four chocolate advertisement provided, the adverts reenact colonial fantasies through its representation of the Black body, particularly the skin, as something produced and to be consumed for a mainstream mass market audiences. These marketing images perpetuate “[W]estern sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption” [4] and symbolically fetishize the Black bodies (as proxy for chocolate) as a consumable commodity.

This is exemplified in Figure 1, 2 and 3, whereas the subjects are disembodied and dominate the adverts with very little reference to the actual product itself. In both of these adverts the subjects are Black but shown only in pieces as if not human and their skin is meant to visually allude to chocolate.

 

dove-chocolate-dove-chocolate-small-500651
Figure 1. Dove Chocolate (2007)
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Figure 2. Magnum Chocolate (2012)
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Figure 3. An Unknown Brazilian Chocolate Company’s Ad

By visually alluding to these images as chocolate, these ads seem to invite consumers to consume these black bodies. In the essay “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance”, Bell Hooks examines how racial difference is commodified and represented as the “Other” for the figurative consumption of white audiences and further explain that as “cultural, ethnic, and racial differences will be continually commodified and offered up as new dishes to enhance the white palate–that the Others will be eaten, consumed, and forgotten.” [5] In all of the example adverts provided, they demonstrate a dehumanizing effect by showing the photo subjects as dismembered black bodies with eyes that cannot be met by the viewer.

Essentially, these adverts invoke the trope of the eroticized “edible black body” explained as “a devouring cultural connections between black bodies and food objects . . . bring to the forefront the violence and ambivalence of American racial politics in which desire and disgust for black bodies.” [6] Moreover, images like the examples shown visually “produce representations of market, parlor, and kitchen cannibalism”[7] and “at its most extreme . . . the representation of the black body as food itself.”[8] The representation of Black bodies as consumable is troublesome as it harkens back to the tendency for the humanity of Black people to be diminished due to the racial stereotype of them being not quite human.

While the linkages between women, chocolate, and sex are common themes found in cocoa advertising [9], Figure 4. Is racially problematic in a different way found through its use of Blackface minstrelsy.

magnum-chocolate-possession
Figure 4. Magnum Chocolate Ad (2012)

In this instance, the advertisement showcases a model painted brown evoking images of not only being covered in chocolate but Blackface. What is striking is the contrasted poses of the subject  without Blackface and with Blackface. When unpainted, she strikes a  direct pose which is contained and features her thoughtful gaze into the camera. However, once painted, she is posed in a sexualized and oddly disjointed manner that is completely divorced and seemingly oblivious of the camera in what is assumed to be due to her being in some sort of sexual ecstasy.  This advert comes to  represent what scholar Michael Pickering termed commodity racism, which is the selling of not only what is produced but racial stereotypes as well for consumers.[10]

In all of examples of Figures 1-4,  a theme is repeated where the subject is presented as a sexualized objects with that sexuality seemingly imbued in the festishization of Black skin. Moreover, these images engages in the harmful reproduction of the harmful racial stereotypes that Black people are hypersexual and subhuman. [11] This is meaningful to analyze as scholars like Robertson recognize that the “textual analysis of chocolate advertising has, then, been useful in illuminating contemporary understandings of gender, race and the nation.”[12]

After analysing many of the themes I found problematic in several chocolate advert examples, I decided to try my hand at creating an advert that is able to subvert the racially discursive content found above while featuring a Black person enjoying chocolate shown in figure 5.

stock-video-73729883-attractive-african-american-woman-eating-chocolate-bar
Figure 5. My Chocolate Ad

 

For instance, in my reimagined chocolate ad, like all of the others, this ad focuses on the visual. However, unlike the other examples, the subject of my photo is fully-dressed, stands in a non-sexualized pose, and stares straight into the camera, her gaze meeting with her audience easily. This photo exhibits strength, agency, and the subject as an individual  human being that can be related to by  the audience. Most importantly, this ad is clearly showing what is to be consumed as food, chocolate bar, and the subject as the consumer rather than the consumable. 

Footnotes

  1. Hackensesch, S. (2015). ‘To Highlight My Beautiful Chocolate Skin’: On the Cultural Politics of the Racialised Epidermis. In C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.), Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (pp. 73-91). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Pg. 88)
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 10)
  5. Hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (pp. 21-39). South End Press. (Pg. 39)
  6. Tompkins, K. W. (2007). ” Everything ‘Cept Eat Us”: The Antebellum Black Body Portrayed as Edible Body. Callaloo, 30(1), 201-224. (Pg. 201)
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 34)
  10. Pickering, M. (2013). Commodity Racism and the Promotion of Blackface Fantasies. Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism, 4, (Pg. 119)
  11. Yancy, G. (2008). Black bodies, white gazes: The continuing significance of race. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (Pg, 144)
  12. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 20)

Sources

  • Hackensesch, S. (2015). ‘To Highlight My Beautiful Chocolate Skin’: On the Cultural Politics of the Racialised Epidermis. In C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.), Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (pp. 73-91). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Pg. 88)
  • Hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (pp. 21-39). South End Press. (Pg. 39)
  • Pickering, M. (2013). Commodity Racism and the Promotion of Blackface Fantasies. Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism, 4, (Pg. 119)
  • Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 10)
  • Tompkins, K. W. (2007). ” Everything ‘Cept Eat Us”: The Antebellum Black Body Portrayed as Edible Body. Callaloo, 30(1), 201-224. (Pg. 201)
  • Yancy, G. (2008). Black bodies, white gazes: The continuing significance of race. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (Pg, 144)

Images

 

 

 

 

Sugar becomes the Opiate of the Masses

 

Sugar was introduced into the British Empire as a luxury of the rich, over time and across many uses, it found its way into the homes of the average man and also became a staple in the everyday diet. How and why this change occurred is of great importance into understanding the shift in the consumption of sugar. Sugar was introduced as a spice and medicine into the British household, but came to included three other uses: as a decoration, sweetener and preservative. As sugar moved down the list of its uses, it also had social and economic impacts. The progression of sugar usage effected consumption in the British society and caused the shift from sugar as a luxurious good to an opiate of the masses.

In the early decades of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Britain established Caribbean plantations for the sole purpose of growing sugar cane. Britain’s first attempt at doing this occurred upon the establishment of Jamestown in 1607 which was the first English colony in the New World (Mintz 36). Sugar cane was brought in 1619 as were the first African slaves to reach the English colony (Mintz 36). Unfortunately, the sugar cane would not grow. The British Empire was hard pressed to see this mission successful as there was a high demand for sugar at home.

Slaves working in a sugar cane plantation in British-West Indies
A Sugar Cane Plantation in the West Indies

The settlement of Barbados in 1627 proved to be the turning point in British attempts as production with the successful production of “clayed sugars” and “muscovado”. (Mintz 37). “The first British sugar islands was Barbados followed by St Kitts, Nevis, Antigua and Jamaica. Grenada and Trinidad were added to the bunch in the late 19th century” (clements.umich.edu). Sugar supply for Britain now came directly from her settlements in the West Indies and added drastically to the consumption of sugar at home as it was now more accessible. “As supply for sugar increased, England’s demands for sugar kept pace. So much so that productions on the islands were barely able to keep up” (Mintz 39). Britain was importing huge amounts of sugar and the condiment in question came to define the “English Character” (Mintz 39).

Sugar Mill, Standard Mill in the West Indies
Sugar Mill

 

The sugar trade was successful because it was a highly priced commodity regardless of the volatility of the sugar market, the demands for it rose as consumption did (clements.umich.edu).  Sugar production increased as a direct correlation of its consumption. As availability of sugar rose in Britain, so did the many uses of sugar. The British households found new ways to incorporate sugar into their social lives.

British sugar consumption chart
British Sugar Consumption Chart

Mintz mentions five uses of sugar: 1) as medicine, 2) spice-condiment, 3) decorative material, 4) as a sweetener, 5) as a preservative. The use of sugar in these many forms although coming into usage progressively, also happened interchangeably. Sugar was first introduced into the British household as a Spice and Medicine, in this form, it remained a luxurious good only available to the rich. “The first written mention of sugar was in the pipe scrolls, the official records of royal income and expenditures in 1154-89(Mintz 82).  The quantities of sugar at this time were relatively small and since this was an account of the expenditures of the rich, meant that only this class of people could afford to consume sugar. “By the thirteenth century, sugar was still being sold by the loaf and by the pound and although still quite pricey and only accessible to the rich, it was now available even in the remotest areas” (Mintz 82). The shift from a luxury to a commodity available to all would happen in the sixteenth and seventeenth century and with the introduction of other uses of sugar.

 

In the seventeenth century, the use of sugar as a spice declined and this time period, “saw the prices, supplies and customary uses of sugar change rapidly” (Mintz 86). Sugar featured as a decorative item after this time and was not only available to the noble and rich but now made its way downward to the middle class. As sugar progressed in the list of uses, so did the decline in its exclusiveness and the more prolific it became, the more it was consumed by all. Sugar consumption also had economic ramification as well, “the decline in sugar importance went hand in hand with its increase in economic and dietary importance” (Mintz 95). As sugar became more plentiful, it now became available to the poor.

Sugar became available to the poor in the form of a sweetener and preservative; this accessibility would be responsible for the upward swing of the consumption of sugar. The rise of chocolate, tea and coffee into the British household massively contributed to the large amount of sugar consumption. The use of sugar as a sweetener in tea propelled the “Sugar Equalization Act” which removed the import tariff and lowered the price of sugar of which the direct result was the proliferation of sugar everywhere (clements.umich.edu). The poor used sugar not only as a sweetener but also to supplement their diets as well.

As sugar become more widely used in many forms, it made its way into the household of all citizens regardless of class, this was directly responsible in the shift of sugar consumption in the British society. Sugar in the form of a sweetener and preservative became an everyday commodity, which meant that consumption would greatly rise as it permeated every single dish that was eaten by the British citizens. This standard has come to hold true across the world as sugar features in every single dietary item we consume. However, there is a marked difference in the reception of this commodity, at some point highly revered, sugar is now a social pariah, an evil that has been thrust upon society and should be eradicated.

 

Bibliography

Scholarly Sources:

Clements.umich.edu. Sugar In The Atlantic World. 1923. Document. 21 March 2016.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York: Penguin, 1985. 274. Print.

Multimedia Sources:

brave.info, land of the. Sugar Act. n.d. image. 21 March 2016.

clements.umich.edu. Sugar In The Atlantic World. 1923. image. 21 March 2016.

czarnikow.com. The Inconvenient Truth about Sugar Consumption. 1 May 2014. image. 21 March 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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)

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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.

 

 

The Sweet Road to Abolition: On the Shift in Sugar Consumption and Its Effects on Slavery

From the encomienda system, to repartimiento, to chattel slavery, the history of sweetness and of chocolate are, unfortunately, inextricably linked to the history of slavery. The need to produce larger amounts of sugar to use for one of its many purposes—medicinal, as sweetener, preservation, decorative, as a spice—and to do it more quickly, led different sugar producers to engage in activities that were deemed less than desirable and ideal. Slavery was considered to be a stain in the clear finesse of sugar and its consumption, to the point where people masked it, ignored it, and denied it, in order to not feel the emotionally taxing consequences that thinking about the morality of the issue would bring them, which would perhaps detract from their sugar consumption experience. Here I argue that as sugar changed from being a luxury to being considered a necessity in European day to day, the existence of slavery started to decrease.

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Chocolate pot on a lamp stand, French, 1729, silver gilt. Like sugar, chocolate was a symbol of high social status before becoming a mainstream commodity.

Contextually, slavery was not uncommon in the sixteenth century. Over ten million people were taken from Africa to some destination in the Americas to partake in slave labour, including women and children (Higgs). Of these people, about 60% of those who survived the brutal journey across the Atlantic were taken somewhere in the Caribbean, 30% of them were taken to Brazil, and 10% ended up in lands that are now considered part of the United States. As the demand for sugar rose, different slave-owning systems were developed and put in place in order to obtain as much economic benefit from slavery as possible (Mintz). However, there were always people who were against slavery and demanded its abolition. These people asked for something that firstly required the recognition of slavery, which was against European customs, since these dictated that slavery was to be hidden from the public eye.

Permanent Galleries - Humanitarian Impulse
Cartoon by Isaac Cruikshank depicting the ‘The gradual abolition of the slave trade: or leaving of sugar by degrees’, 1792.

The timeline for the reason behind the consumption of sugar in Europe indicates that sugar went from being considered an item of luxury and high social standing around 1750, to becoming a communal necessity for the quotidian European in 1850. In this period of a hundred years, the way in which sugar was consumed changed, and therefore, so did the methods of production utilized to craft sugary products. Although slavery had been the norm for a period of time in matters of production techniques, and although abolitionists had long asked for the removal of such practices, it didn’t happen overnight. Instead, abolition came gradually into being. In 1834, the British Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery in colonies of the British empires, followed by French and Danish colonies in 1848 (Satre). The United States and Cuba followed, and then Brazil abolished slavery in 1888. Over a period of years, slavery became less and less common, but due to difficulties in communicating the news immediately, sometimes it took weeks or months for slaveowners and slaves themselves to find out about the changes that were occurring.

Slaves-in-Haiti
Old depiction of French slaves in Haiti, one of the largest colonies in the Americas.

It is possible to see that the abolition of slavery and the change in sugar consumption happened in parallel, but they did not happen in isolation. In fact, there is a strong relation between them. European social norms made the general population ignore slavery, and the fact that sugar consumption was restricted to an elite that considered it a luxury only added to this hidden factor, which meant that abolitionist tendencies were next to inexistent. However, as sugar became more widely spread amidst the European population and went from a luxurious item to a necessity, the realities behind the production of this prized good became well-known among citizens of European metropolises. Upon realizing the morbid steps that took place in order to produce sugar, more pressure to abolish slavery in the colonies ensued, which in turn provoked the establishment of Abolition Acts throughout colonies, and therefore had positive consequences for those being exploited in them. The presence of similar timelines for the abolition of slavery and the switch in sugar consumption indicates a shift in thought that related both sides of the same argument: since maintaining the image of sugar as pure as possible was no longer feasible due to its wide spread, new ways of thinking overruled previous ones, and the request to free slave workers, as well as their demand for freedom, intensified to the point where they became a reality and slavery started decreasing.

Sugar still has sculptural uses nowadays, such as the one depicted in this video, where a street sculptor creates a dragon out of sugar derivatives.

Works Cited

Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. pp. 133-165

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

Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. pp. 1-32, 73-99