Tag Archives: consumption

Historical Changes in British Sugar Consumption and Potential Causes

Sugar is an enormously culturally and dietarily significant food that can be found in human cultures across the world. Certain cultures have been consuming sucrose for thousands of years. Britain became a dominant military, geopolitical, economic and cultural force in the world starting in the industrial revolution in the 1600s. Over the next several hundred years, coinciding with the rise of the British empire to worldwide hegemon, British sugar consumption also skyrocketed. Today, sugar is still heavily consumed in Britain, perhaps more (in per capita terms) than at any other point in its history. In addition, refined sugar has had a huge gastronomic, economic and cultural legacy in Britain over the hundreds of years since when it was first brought to the British Isles. Historical changes in British refined sugar consumption were due to the decreasing price of refined sugar, the increased promotion and elevation of refined sugar in popular culture, and refined sugar’s taste.

The actual change in British refined sugar consumption has not been mild. Britain has had an explosion in per capita refined sugar consumption over the centuries since the start of its industrial revolution. Anthropologist Sidney Mintz notes that, in Britain, as early as 1856, sugar consumption was forty times higher than it had been only 150 years earlier (Mintz 143). Professor Carla Martin notes that sugar consumption in America rose from 2 pounds per person per year 200 years ago to 152 pounds per person per year today. A similar trend has occurred in Britain over the past two centuries as well. A 2019 article published in the Guardian argues for Britons to take political action with regard to sugar consumption and pressure the government to put a tax on certain sugary goods (Boseley)

This article states that such political action is necessary to improve the public health of Britons, who suffer adverse health consequences from high sugar consumption. An article published by the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation “finds most people in the UK are consuming three times the recommended daily sugar intake (Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation). This article corroborates the fact that sugar consumption is in fact responsible for health problems among Britons. The article elaborates that a diet high in refined sugar is linked to “obesity and related health complications, including type 2 diabetes” (Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation).

An article from the BBC about British sugar consumption makes the important distinction that the health problems from sugar consumption specifically come from Briton’s consumption of refined and added sugar (Jeavans). The BBC article notes that other forms of sugar, including fructose naturally present in fruits, do not pose major health dangers (Jeavans). This BBC article lends evidence to the idea that increases in obesity and obesity related health conditions in Britain is due to increased consumption of refined/added sugar, as opposed to increased consumption of naturally occurring sugars (Jeavans). This is important because it helps rule out other causes of obesity and obesity related health problems in Britons, and helps more strongly establish the connection between drastically increased refined sugar consumption following the industrial revolution and obesity related health problems.

It is clear that the decreased price and increased availability of refined sugar in Britain following the industrial revolution had a huge impact on sugar’s consumption. Mintz notes that, in Britain, “the price of sugar fell by 30 percent between 1840 and 1850, and by a further 25 percent in the next two decades, consumption increases reflect a decline in the price of sugar relative to other commodities” (Mintz 144). 

In addition, cultural factors were also responsible for widespread increases in sugar consumption in Britain from the 1600s to the present. Two of the most important cultural factors that pushed people to consume sugar were pressures and dynamics between members of opposite sexes, and the general desire to imitate the habits of elite, wealthy or royal people. Mintz establishes the idea that people desire to emulate the dietary habits of the wealthy and powerful when he quotes Shand as saying:  “Once tea became an established custom among the well-to-do…the lower middle classes naturally began to imitate it” (Mintz 142) . It is clear that this desire for imitation could apply with sugar also. 

It is also noted that female pressure on males can induce males to change their dietary/beverage preferences. Mintz states: “Shand’s conjecture that tea and alcohol tended to be sex-divided beverages until the salon lured men to afternoon tea may be accurate for the middle classes after the 1660s” (Mintz 142). Importantly, Smith notes that the British would put sugar in their tea (Smith 259). Thus, desire among elite British males to meet members of the opposite sex would drive them to attend salons where they would partake in tea. Smith states that the custom of putting sugar into tea “which has mistakenly been viewed as insignificant, had important historical effects” (Smith 259). Smith remarks that “Its widespread adoption in Britain and elsewhere in northern Europe in the eighteenth century greatly reinforced demand for both products” (Smith 259).

Finally, the inherent taste of refined sugar may have been one of the important factors driving sugar’s increased consumption in Britain over the past several centuries. Humans likely evolved to like the taste of sugar even over the taste of many other food ingredients because sugar is very calorically dense (Addessi et al). 

In conclusion, economics, culture and taste all factor into causing historical changes in British sugar consumption over the last 400 years. The decreased price of sugar, cultural pressure to consume sugar, and the delicious taste of sugar likely all contributed to rising consumption of sugar in Britain over a 400 year period. Today, the high consumption of refined/added sugar in Britain likely causes adverse health effects in the population.

Works Cited

Multimedia Sources:

Boseley, Sarah. “Taxing Cakes and Biscuits Is the Answer to Britain’s Sugar Problem.” The 

Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Sept. 2019, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/sep/20/taxing-cakes-and-biscuits-is-the-answer-to-britains-sugar-problem.

Jeavans, Christine. “How Much Sugar Do We Eat?” BBC News, BBC, 26 June 2014, 

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

“Report on Diet Finds Most People in the UK Are Consuming Almost 3 Times the 

Recommended Daily Sugar Intake.” Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation, 11 Apr. 2018, http://www.drwf.org.uk/news-and-events/news/report-diet-finds-most-people-uk-are-consuming-almost-3-times-recommended-daily.

Scholarly Sources:

Addessi, E., Galloway, A.T., Birch, L. and Visalberghi, E., 2004. Taste perception and food 

choices in capuchin monkeys and human children. Primatologie: revue publiee sous l’egide de la Societe francophone de primatologie, 6, p.101.

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern

History. New York: Penguin Books.

Smith, Woodruff D. “Complications of the commonplace: Tea, sugar, and imperialism.” The 

Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23.2 (1992): 259-278.

Course Works:

Course materials, lectures, and notes.

On Mesoamerican Chocolate: Significance and Preparation of Mayan Xocolatl

The Mayan civilization existed on the Yucatan peninsula and rose to its peak influence during 250-950CE. During this time, the Mayans discovered and created calendars, pyramids, and hieroglyphs. They were central to the very architecture of Mesoamerican history and culture, and the civilization was the epicenter of Mesoamerican cultural production during its time (Mark 2012).

One phenomenon particularly salient in Mayan culture was the consumption of cacao.  While the Mayans were not the first to consume cacao (the Olmecs pre-dated the Mayans), our understandings of chocolate in Mesoamerica–where the consumption of cacao is believed to have started–are largely influenced by the Mayans. According to ancient Mayan texts, cacao was thought to be a health-promoting elixir, even a gift from the gods. Cacao was also believed to be nourishing and to contain aphrodisiac qualities. Thus, the consumption of cacao was integral to Mayan culture: the food was often consumed in religious ceremonies, marriage celebrations, medicinal practices, and also used as currency  (Lippi 2009). I argue in this blog post that by examining how cacao was prepared/consumed and the artifacts left behind depicting cacao usage, cacao was both consumed very differently than how we think of chocolate today and also held deep significance at the time to the Mayan civilization.

So how exactly did the Mayans consume cacao?  It is not exactly how we think of chocolate today–or even hot chocolate (which is closer to how the Mayans consumed cacao; chocolate bars were only created in the last couple of centuries). We think of hot chocolate today as being enjoyed hot, sweetened, and with milk—but almost none of these things are true of how it was prepared by the Mayans. Mayan “xocolatl”–which means “bitter water” and is part of the source of the word “chocolate”‘s etymological roots–was served lukewarm, spicy, and bitter (Burill).

Here’s a closer examination of what producing Mayan xocolatl entails: according to scholarship (such as Coe and Coe’s The True History of Chocolate (2000)), Mayans would open cacao pods and leave them to ferment over a period of three to six days. In some circumstances, the beans were cooked over a fire, although this was not always the case. Then, after the husks were removed, the Mayans would grind them into a paste using a metate, a ground stone tool used for processing seeds and grains. This paste would then be used in conjunction with other flavoring elements—such as flowers, vanilla, cornmeal, or chilli—and mixed together, back and forth between two vessels at room temperature until they began frothing (Coe and Coe 2000). By transferring the mixture repeatedly between two pots, the flavors would mesh and the top layer would be covered by a thick foam (The Field Museum 2007).  

An image of a metate, a tool used to grind cacao
A YouTube video demonstrating usage of a metate to grind cacao

This is clearly very different from how we currently conceive of today’s hot chocolate. Interestingly, when the Spaniards conquered Mesoamerica, they actually did not like its taste in its original form. Jose de Acosta, a Spanish missionary in Mexico in the 16th century, described consuming cacao as an unpleasant experience:

“Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste. Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, where with they feast noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women that are accustomed to the country are very greedy of this chocolate. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that “chili”; yea, they make paste thereof, the which they say is good for the stomach and against the catarrh.” (Exploratorium Magazine 2020).

While we know little about the Mayans, we do know chocolate was incredibly important to them. According to Coe and Coe, in 1996, a tomb in now-Guatemala contained seven large cylindrical containers with hieroglyphs corresponding to cacao. The insides of these vases were sent to anthropological labs where they tested positive for cacao beverages. Moreover, residue analysis from several different Mayan tombs in Mesoamerica demonstrate the pervasiveness of cacao: caffeine and theobromine—both elements largely specific to cacao—were found on various surfaces and in the containers found inside tombs and graves. Most of these also had hieroglyphs (Coe and Coe 2000). The fact that these were in tombs of the wealthy demonstrate how integral they were to society.

Cacao also had religious significance to the Mayans. In fact, the Mayans even had a cacao god called Ek Chuah and developed an annual festival to honor him (Jean 2018). Further, in depictions of religious creation, such as the Fejérváry-Mayer, Codex (seen below), cacao pods and trees are often present.

The Codex Fejérváry-Mayer, an ancient Mayan document that shows cacao pods used in religious rituals.

Thus, the way the Mayans consumed cacao is very different than how we think of hot chocolate today. While both were liquids, Mayan xocolatl did not have milk, it was spicy and bitter rather than sweet, and it was served at room temperature. Moreover, I hope to have shown that not only was it prepared differently, but it was also perceived differently in Mayan culture: it was a significant cultural artifact–so much so that it was brought with people into their tombs–as well as holding significance in religious traditions and beliefs. In a broader sense, studying Mayan xocolatl also demonstrates how food can be an integral lens in understanding cultures of societies.

Works Cited:

Burrill, Amanda. “Drink History: ‘Hot’ Chocolate.” The Epoch Times, 27 Feb. 2019, http://www.theepochtimes.com/drink-history-hot-chocolate_2792570.html.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2000.

“History of Chocolate.” The Field Museum, 2007, archive.fieldmuseum.org/chocolate/history.html.

Jean, Julie St. “Medicinal and Ritualistic Uses for Chocolate in Mesoamerica – HeritageDaily – Archaeology News.” Heritage Daily, 7 Feb. 2018, http://www.heritagedaily.com/2018/02/medicinal-and-ritualistic-uses-for-chocolate-in-mesoamerica-2/98809.

Lippi, Donatella. “Chocolate and Medicine: Dangerous Liaisons?” Nutrition, vol. 25, no. 11-12, 2009, pp. 1000–1113.

Mark, Joshua J. “Maya Civilization.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 6 July 2012, http://www.ancient.eu/Maya_Civilization/.

“The Sweet Lure of Chocolate.” Exploratorium Magazine, 2020, http://www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/exploring_chocolate/choc_3.html.

Chocolate from an Outside Perspective: An Interview with a Person Not Studying Chocolate

Chocolate. Chocolate is something that everyone is familiar with. Everyone has some sort of relationship with chocolate. Whether it be someone who loves chocolate more than anything else, someone who feels the opposite, or someone somewhere else in between the spectrum, everyone is familiar with chocolate. However, while chocolate is a common theme across all of our lives, it is not often that we truly think about this personal relationship with chocolate, and how it relates to chocolate in general across the world in addition to its vast history. In an effort to encourage this deeper analysis of chocolate, I conducted an interview with a Harvard undergraduate addressing chocolate to them as well as the more general relationship between chocolate and society. The interview begins with discussion of the personal relationship this person has with chocolate, and then delves into more broad chocolate conversation. The interview helps reveal some typical feelings and uses of chocolate across society, including identifying chocolate being used as a coping mechanism to deal with stressful and uncomfortable events, as well as delving into the relationship between chocolate and gender and discussion about the wide variety of different uses of chocolate from the happiest to the saddest of situations, as well as everything in between.

Chocolate is widely consumed around the world

The interview began with relatively simple questions about the frequency in which this person consumes chocolate. The student answered, “I probably consume chocolate about once every other day in some form. I usually try not to seek out chocolate, and I rarely buy it myself, but if there is chocolate available to me for free, which there frequently is, I will not hesitate to eat it.” While she may not personally purchase chocolate, the fact that chocolate seems to be so frequently available to this student speaks to the high chocolate consumption rates in the United States. In the United States, there are 300 billion pounds of chocolate consumed annually, which equates to about 22 pounds of chocolate per person every year. In comparison, China consumes 146 million pounds of chocolate annually, which equates to only 1.8 ounces per person (Martin, 2019). When asked if her chocolate consumption was consistent year-round, the student answered, “I would say my consumption varies. During Holidays that emphasize chocolate consumption such as Halloween and Valentine’s Day, I consume much more because it is more readily available. During the colder months in the winter, I tend to consume hot chocolate beverages because they are comforting and delicious.” On an individual level, it makes sense for chocolate consumption to vary throughout the year simply because chocolate is more readily available at sometimes more than others. Looking more into the difference in consumption across different countries, chocolate in Western Civilization is often used in forms of celebration and indulgence, such as for Halloween. However, part of the reason Chinese consumption is far less than the United States is due to a difference in consumption and nature of purchases in general. In China, the market is centered more around gifting purchases, while the United States market is centered around self-indulgence purchases.

To celebrate Halloween, people eat and give chocolate

The next question asked of the student was about what their favorite way to consume chocolate is, to which they answered “My favorite way to consume chocolate is in hot beverages or small bite-sized candy with caramel. Chocolate in hot beverages taste delicious and gives me a sense of warmth at the same time. Sometimes I mix chocolate beverages with coffee to make it taste better.” Throughout history, chocolate has frequently been consumed as a beverage beginning in Mesoamerica. The flavoring of chocolate was different in the Americas as opposed to European flavors. In comparison, the flavors of chocolate beverages for Europeans utilized more diverse spices and produced more diverse flavors (Sampeck and Thayn, 2017). The rise of big chocolate companies today can be rooted back towards developments in chocolate consumption. For example, Cadbury, a popular chocolate company today, was the first company that began to use confections. America’s most iconic chocolate company, Hershey’s, was not founded until 1903. The company initially struggled to create the perfect milk chocolate bar, but upon development the products, such as the iconic Hershey’s Kiss, became extremely popular. In general, the market for chocolate is dominated by three main companies. While there seems to be such a wide range of chocolate selection, Nestle, Mars, and Hershey’s make 99.4% of snack-sized chocolates (Martin, 2019). When asked about her favorite chocolate bars, the Harvard student chose Twix, Snickers, and Kit Kats. Both Twix and Snickers are created by Mars, and Kit Kats are created by Nestle. While all of these chocolate bars have their own brand and are extremely well known, it is not as commonly known that they are often produced by the same company.

Many recognizable brands are owned by the same parent company

Moving forward in the interview, I began to ask the interviewee about the concept of the relationship between gender and chocolate. Upon asking about the perception of chocolate with women, the student said, “I do feel like chocolate is more associated with women in media, from advertisements to female characters in movies.” There is a strong history of the relationship between gender and chocolate. When looking through chocolate advertisements and marketing throughout history, a common theme is the role that women play. Many advertisements attempt to either appeal to women through displaying the chocolate as a feminine, sweet treat, or use images of women to create a sexual appeal with the chocolate in an effort to resonate with men and women (Robertson, 2010). A common perception is that chocolate is for girls because girls are supposed to be sweet and sweet-loving, where chocolate it the perfect food. Additionally, throughout history, chocolate has been advertised for stay at home mothers to use chocolate as a source of energy when tired from taking care of kids. The student had further comments on the relationship between gender and chocolate, saying “I also think it is more typical that chocolate is given as a gift to women in celebration of holidays such as Valentine’s Day. I do see chocolate as a gendered commodity.” It is interesting to consider the role of gender and chocolate with Valentine’s Day, which is traditionally a very gendered holiday. Typically on Valentine’s Day, a man will cater to his significant other and take the day to appreciate her and make her feel good. This often involves chocolate. Given the intimacy of the holiday, chocolate seems to be an appropriate gift, as it is believed to be a food with aphrodisiac qualities, meaning it stimulates sexual desire (Martin, 2019). This contributes to the generalized trend of sexuality and chocolate. Chocolate is often believed to have a sex appeal.

Valentine’s Day Chocolates

The next topic of conversation in the interview shifted back towards the student’s personal relationship with chocolate. When asked how chocolate has become important to the student, she answered, “Chocolate to me is extremely comforting. I feel like when I consume chocolate it makes me feel more relaxed. When I am stressed out or feeling overwhelmed, I personally feel like I can turn to chocolate to make me feel better.” This use of chocolate as a relaxant is not just applied to this student, as she went on to say, “. I also have a very close friend who went through a significant traumatic experience last year and she relied heavily on a specific type of chocolate as a coping mechanism. I think it did make her feel better.” Chocolate is stereotypically used as a coping mechanism for people dealing with bad situations, such as after a breakup or in mourning a loss. In a study researching the usage of chocolate when dealing with stressful situations, the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that people who eat more chocolate are more likely to be depressed. This is due to the tendency of people to eat chocolate when stressed or depressed in an effort to provide comfort (Flanigan, 2018). Researchers went on to find that eating chocolate actually does have positive short-term effects in easing depressive symptoms, but there is no significant long-term impact. The research actually suggested that consuming chocolate had negative impacts in the long-term. This could be because chocolate provides short-term relief, which is helpful, but may prevent people from seeking real treatment to address their issues (Flanigan, 2018). Because chocolate can make people feel better, but not truly fix their problems, people may feel like they can deal with their problems on their own, which has potential negative consequences. However, chocolate is a source of instant satisfaction, and will provide short term help to make a person feel better. If a person is able to consume chocolate to feel better without suppressing their feelings long-term, chocolate can be a good tool to make people feel better.

Stress eating chocolate is very common

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about chocolate is how diverse it is in usage and consumption. As we just discussed, chocolate is often used in negative situations by people to help ease stress and negative emotions. On the other hand, chocolate is also used just as frequently in celebrations and positive situations. People often give and consume chocolate in celebration of many different holidays. The most obvious example of this is Halloween, where the entire premise of the holiday is highly related to chocolate consumption and gifting. However, considering other holidays, the presence of chocolate is nearly just as strong. For example, think about Easter. To celebrate Easter, people often host big scavenger hunts for eggs from the Easter bunny, which typically are filled with chocolate. The Easter bunny brings baskets for people too, which is often filled with chocolates. Think about Christmas, a holiday centered around giving. People often receive their stockings filled with chocolates. Even more generally, think about birthday’s, where people celebrate eating chocolate cake, or other sorts of chocolate. I can continue to list the prevalence of chocolate in nearly all celebrations. There are not many foods or things in general that are traditionally used in such diverse situations, from happy celebrations as just discussed or sad situations such as mourning.

For this reason, the use of chocolate on a personal level can often change overtime, where at some point in time a person relies on chocolate as a distraction or coping mechanism but then later the relationship becomes more positive. I asked the interviewee about how their relationship with chocolate has changed overtime, to which she responded, “When I was kid, I craved chocolate a lot more and I would always try to convince my parents to buy it for me. Chocolate would always be associated with happiness. However, I now don’t seek out chocolate as much as I used to, and it is more ordinary to me.” For her, chocolate used to be a big source of excitement. The thought of getting and eating chocolate alone brought her happiness and thrill to the point of where she would beg her parents to replenish her cravings. As she has gotten older, the student no longer sees this excitement from chocolate, and she is much more relaxed and calmer about chocolate consumption. While she still does enjoy consuming chocolate, she no longer feels the necessity to have chocolate to satisfy cravings. Moving forward, who knows how this relationship with chocolate will evolve. It is possible the relationship won’t change, but it just as likely that it will. Perhaps when growing up and having children of her own, the student’s relationship with chocolate will come full circle, where her kids are begging at her mercy to buy chocolate for them. Unlike many other foods and objects, the ability of chocolate to have such diverse usage, in addition to diverse consumption methods from food to beverages, allows for significant changes overtime in the personal relationship that people have with the product.

This interview provides a look at the perception a typical person had about chocolate at both a personal level and more general level. We were able to uncover some of the causes for the high chocolate consumption levels by seeing individual consumption tendencies. More broadly, we were able to look into the relationship between chocolate and gender, and how it is perceived to people. However, perhaps most importantly, this interview allowed us to uncover the usage of chocolate as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and other negative situations, and how the use of chocolate as a crutch may not be good for long-term treatment of problems. Lastly, the interview helped uncover the everchanging relationship people have with chocolate on an individual level, and why it is able to change so drastically.

Scholarly Sources Cited:

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth,

Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126

Flanigan, Robin. 2018. “The Connection Between Chocolate & Stress Eating.” Esperanza – Hope To Cope.

Martin, Carla D. 2019. The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.

Martin, Carla D. 2019. Sugar and Cacao.

Martin, Carla D. 2019. Chocolate Expansion.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

pp. 1-131

Sampeck, Kathryn, and Jonathan Thayn. 2017. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of

Chocolate Colonialism.” pp. 72-99

Multimedia Sources Cited:

Simply Chocolate (https://www.simplychocolate.com/learn-different-types-of-chocolate)

Chocolate Pizza (https://www.chocolatepizza.com/product/happy-halloween-chocolate-pizza-2/)

OXFAM (https://firstperson.oxfamamerica.org/2013/03/10-everyday-food-brands-and-the-few-giant-companies-that-own-them/)

Li-Lac Chocolates (https://www.li-lacchocolates.com/Valentine-Chocolate-Heart-of-Truffles-41-pc)

Women Working (https://www.womenworking.com/stress-eating-5-signs-youre-eating-feelings/)

Producing what they don’t consume

West African farmers rarely consume the finished product despite producing the largest proportion of the cocoa beans. The video below shows N’Da Alphonse, an Ivory Coast farmer who has never seen or tasted the finished product.

The inaccessibility that West African farmers experience, as seen in this video, serves a reminder that despite providing the raw materials to fuel the industry, farmers remain marginalized from the finished product. The last line said by the workers in the video perfectly summarizes the injustice:

“We complain because growing cocoa is hard work. Now we enjoy the result. What a privilege to taste.”

This lack of access to chocolate is a common theme among West African producers and their respective countries. For example, Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa beans capturing 18.7% of world share (Leissle 80). Despite this, Ghana’s yearly chocolate consumption is 0.5kg per capita, which is extremely low compared to European countries like Switzerland who consume 5.7kg per capita and the United States where consumption is 2.3kg per capita (“The Challenges Facing West Africa’s” 1). Why is it the case that Ghana, like other West African countries, has low chocolate consumption?

One commonly cited reason is the economic constraints that prevent West African populations from consuming chocolate (Leissle 84). The daily minimum wage in Ghana is 10.65 Ghanaian Cedis (GHS), which is roughly $1.91.The average cost of a chocolate bar in Ghana is 5.84 GHs (Haden 1 ). This means that buying a chocolate bar requires a Ghanaian to set aside 54.84% of a days salary. To put this into perspective, the average daily minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour and the average cost of a chocolate bar is $1.59. Comparatively, a U.S worker needs to work around 13 minutes to be able to afford a chocolate bar. The differences in economic constraints are quite evident.

In recent years, this lack of local consumption has come to the attention of the Ghanaian government as well as to entrepreneurs. What are these actors doing to increase chocolate consumption in the area?

School Feeding Programme

In September of 2018, the Ghanaian government announced that chocolate drinks would be included in the school feeding programmes worldwide. The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, believes this program will expand the local appetite for chocolate. Dr. Owusu affirms that the consumption of a food item is a result of developed taste and preference. This program would seek to introduce young kids to the taste of chocolate from an early age (“Cocoa Drink Now Part” 1).

Niche Chocolate

Niche chocolate is an entrepreneurial solution to the low consumption levels of chocolate seen in Ghana and other West African countries. The company was founded on the premise of producing chocolate locally that is also accessible to the Ghanaian population. Niche provides high-quality chocolates at affordable prices. This effort, in turn, seeks to eliminate the economic constraint that historically marginalized West Africans from chocolate consumption (“Niche Cocoa to Increase” 1).

World Cocoa Day

The Ghana Cocoa Board was founded on the premise of supporting and increasing production, and processing and retailing quality chocolate among other products in Ghana. This board launched a World Cocoa Day in Ghana in an effort to increase local consumption of chocolate through a marketing campaign. The iteration of the event in 2017, featured the president of Ghana who thanked farmers in the region for their hard work that has kept this cash crop growing (“President Akufo-Addo” 1). The visibility given to chocolate and to this event was a means to market the economic and social importance it holds in Ghana.

The three distinct propositions explained are a good step towards spreading the desire for local community members to consume chocolate. However, local consumption in the case of schools, may not be the best approach. Primarily because chocolate does not have the highest nutritional value. The Ghanaian government should consider investigating whether chocolate can be given to young kids on a daily basis. Furthermore, the government should provide further insight into what chocolate products are being introduced into the school programme. With regards to the company Niche, it is clearly an innovative company that is having a favorable impact in Ghana. Niche is increasing processing capacity in the region while maintaining fair pricing to capture the local market. In the coming years, we may start to see the spillover effects of lowering chocolate prices for locals in increased consumption levels. It is important for farmers and the populations in the countries which they reside to not be marginalized from the consumption of chocolate.

The process of harvesting cocoa beans is a labor-intensive one but as the farmer said in the beginning video one that yields an end product that is  “a privilege to taste.” For this very reason, it is important that Ghana and the other major West African countries make it an effort to promote the local consumption of the cocoa crop.

Works Cited

Scholarly Sources

“Cocoa Drink Now Part Of School Feeding Programme.” Modern Ghana, Modern Ghana, 21 Mar. 2018, http://www.modernghana.com/news/842871/cocoa-drink-now-part-of-school-feeding-programme.html.

“Cocoa Farmer Income: the Household Income of Cocoa Farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Strategies for Improvement.” Fair Trade International , 2018, http://www.fairtrade-deutschland.de/fileadmin/DE/01_was_ist_fairtrade/05_wirkung/studien/fairtrade_international_response_study_cocoa_farmer_income_2018.pdf.

“President Akufo-Addo Celebrates Cocoa Farmers On World Cocoa Day.” The Presidency Republic of Ghana, 2 October 2017, https://presidency.gov.gh/index.php/briefing-room/news-style-2/391-president-akufo-addo-celebrates-cocoa-farmers-on-world-cocoa-day.

Haden, Alexis. “ South African Food Prices from 2008 vs 2018.” The South African, 31 Aug. 2018, http://www.thesouthafrican.com/south-african-food-prices-2008-vs-2018/.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

“Niche Cocoa to Increase Local Cocoa Consumption.” Citifmonline.com, 14AD, 2017, citifmonline.com/2017/02/14/niche-cocoa-to-increase-local-cocoa-consumption/.

“The Challenges Facing West Africa’s Chocolate Industry.” Ghana Talks Business, 26 Sept. 2017, ghanatalksbusiness.com/challenges-facing-west-africas-chocolate-industry/.

Multimedia Sources

Niche Cocoa Bars. Digital image. Graphic Online. 14 February 2017, https://www.graphic.com.gh/business/business-news/niche-cocoa-to-increase-local-cocoa-consumption-introduces-chocolate-on-valentine-s-day.html.

Ghana Cocoa Board Banner. Digital image. Ghana Cocoa Board. 10 May 2017, https://www.cocobod.gh/news_details/id/125/COCOBOD%20MARKS%202017%20WORLD%20COCOA%20DAY.

“First Taste of Chocolate in Ivory Coast – Vpro Metropolis.” YouTube, VPRO Metropolis, 21 Feb. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEN4hcZutO0.

Fathers of the Milk Chocolate Bar

How the milk chocolate bar came to be during the industrial revolution.

US consumers prefer milk chocolate above all other types of chocolate. (Progressive Grocer)

Ask a random stranger on the streets in the US what is his or her favorite type of chocolate and the answer will most likely be milk chocolate. In fact, 51% of US consumers in 2012 prefer milk chocolate over dark and white chocolate (Progressive Grocer). This can be attributed to milk chocolate’s milder and sweeter taste compared to most other types of chocolate (“Cocoa”). Moreover, milk chocolate is an integral part of Hershey’s, Cadbury, Mars, Ferrerro, and Kraft’s flagship products, which account for the majority of the global confectionery market. However, milk chocolate bars are a far cry from the traditional chocolate in Olmec and ancient Mayan culture (where the origins of chocolate is believed to be): a frothy chocolate concoction containing cacao, spices, flowers, maize, and other grains. The industrial revolution in the 19th century played a critical role in the invention of the milk chocolate bar and its rise to popularity among the masses.

milk chocolate bars are a far cry from the traditional consumption of chocolate

Between the introduction of cacao beans to Europe in the 16th century and the industrial revolution in the early 19th century, chocolate was consumed in the form of a beverage brewed from roasted cacao beans with additives, such as cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and subsequently milk. Creating a hot chocolate beverage was a complicated and time-consuming process and usually occurred at chocolate houses. This changed in 1828. In the Netherlands, Coenraad van Houten leveraged his knowledge of hydraulic engineering and chemistry to pioneer the pressing and “Dutching” process to produce cocoa powder and cocoa butter (Miller). The pressing process reduces the cocoa butter content of chocolate liquor from 53% to 27% and the “Dutching” process treats the resulting cocoa powder with alkali for a darker and milder-tasting product (Coe 234-235). The resulting improvement in miscibility and mass-production of cocoa powder meant a hot chocolate beverage could be easily prepared and enjoyed by the masses in their households. Cocoa powder and butter would later become two key ingredients in many confectioneries, including milk chocolate.

Schematic of Van Houten’s hydraulic press. The apparatus applied force to extract cocoa butter from chocolate liquor and produce a cake that could be ground down to cocoa powder. (Van Houten)

The separation of chocolate liquor to cocoa powder and cocoa butter meant chocolatiers could better control and introduce new tastes and textures of chocolate. An example is Joseph Storrs Fry’s “Chocolat Delicieux a Manger” in 1847. Fry’s product was the first edible chocolate bar made from cocoa powder, sugar, and cocoa butter. The melted cocoa butter provided a thinner chocolate paste that could be casted into a mold and yield a chocolate bar. The popularity of the chocolate bar led to a high demand and price for cocoa butter, which made the chocolate bar a confection mainly for the elite. Fortunately, further refinement and industrial developments reduced manufacturing costs and allowed the general public to enjoy a blissful bite of chocolate (Coe 241). From drinking a chocolate beverage to eating a chocolate bar, the types of chocolate consumption increased to different forms with the advancements brought on by the industrial revolution.

The Fry’s chocolate bar was one of the first edible forms of chocolate in a molded shape. (Traynor)

“to make it more dainty, though less wholesome”

– DUfour, 1685

Soon thereafter, the chocolate paste recipe spread throughout Europe and captured the attention of Daniel Peter in Switzerland, where the first milk chocolate bar was born in 1879 (Coe 247). The earliest record of consumption of milk and chocolate together dates back to the 17th century, when milk was added to a chocolate beverage “to make it more dainty, though less wholesome” (Coe 169). In order to capture the “daintier” taste in chocolate bars, milk needed to be included in the chocolate paste before being molded into a bar. Yet, directly adding milk into the paste would introduce moisture and disrupt the solidification process of the chocolate bar. Peter tackled this problem with the help of Henri Nestle (the founder of Nestle) and his powdered milk. In essence, milk was evaporated down to a powder with large condensers, which was combined with the chocolate paste to form the milk chocolate bar (Coe 247). The machines used to produce both the evaporated milk and resulting milk chocolate bars borrowed many technological advancements from the industrial revolution. The milk chocolate bar had a milder taste compared to Fry’s original chocolate bar and became a popular chocolate bar across Europe, with multiple chocolatiers manufacturing milk chocolate bars.

Peter’s original recipe, which introduced powdered milk to a mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, and cocoa butter, led to the first milk chocolate bar in 1879. (Peter’s Chocolate)

Peter’s original milk chocolate bar recipe evolved over time, along with technological developments, to its modern day form. Nowadays, milk chocolate is still produced from cocoa beans, sugar, milk powder, and cocoa butter, but the manufacturing process is drastically different. Fermented cocoa beans are cleaned, roasted, and winnowed through machines. The resulting cocoa nibs are milled down to chocolate liquor, at which point the sugar and milk powder are added for flavoring. The milk chocolate mix is then passed through a refiner and into a conch, essentially a mixing device, along with cocoa butter to alter the taste and viscosity of the mixture. Finally, tempering the chocolate generates Form V crystals from cocoa butter, giving the solid milk chocolate the perfect melting temperature (slightly below body temperature) and a longer shelf life (Leissle 48-53). The entire process can be completed automatically through a series of special machines, which significantly reduces the price of a milk chocolate bar.

An overview of modern milk chocolate production. The machine-automated process is an evolution from the original milk chocolate bar production technique employed by Peter.

Within the span of 50 years, chocolate consumption transformed from a beverage reserved for affluent customers to a solid milky bar available for the masses. Van Houten made chocolate accessible, Fry made chocolate edible, and Peter made chocolate milky. Undoubtedly, there are many others (Lindt, Cadbury, Hershey included) who improved on the milk chocolate bar to its modern-day form, but it would not have existed without these three fathers of the milk chocolate bar. The $22 billion chocolate industry and many US consumers owe thanks to both the industrial revolution and these innovators for one of the best confections in existence.

Works Cited

"Cocoa." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1 Nov. 2018. Link, Accessed 15 Mar. 2019.

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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Miller, Ashley. “Coenraad Van Houten.” Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University Library, 2007. Link, Accessed 15 Mar. 2019.

“Our Story.” Peter's Chocolate, Cargill, 25 June 2018, Link.

Progressive Grocer. "Chocolate Consumption Share in The United States in 2012, by Type." Statista - The Statistics Portal, Statista, 2012. Link, Accessed 15 Mar. 2019.

Science Channel. Milk Chocolate, From Scratch | How It's Made. YouTube, 30 Oct. 2016, Link.

Traynor, Kim. Fry's Chocolate Advertisement. Kirkcaldy, 7 Aug. 2013.

Van Houten, C. J. Method of and Apparatus for Discharging Press Boxes in Hydraulic Presses. 9 Nov. 1916.

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.

A Complicated History of Chocolate and Sugar in the Caribbean (and Abroad)

My Childhood Experience: 

I love chocolate and I love sugar even more. I have loved both since I was a child and will continue to love them well into my old age. The first time I tasted a Snickers chocolate bar on a small Caribbean island where almost all chocolate is imported, I was hooked- no other candy bar could compare. The Snickers bar became my cradle to grave candy bar and even today when I have one decades later, I tend to flash back to the nostalgic time when getting that chocolate (or any chocolate really) for me was a rare and expensive sugar-rush to be savored. In Barbados, the nation’s relationship with chocolate in general and sugar more specifically tends to be complicated by its history of slave labor production and British colonization (Beckles, 2017). Even in present day, conversations around the health of locals and sugar consumption are often linked back to the repercussions of this history.

Planting the sugar cane

Growing up in the Caribbean, there was no Halloween, no teachers that would give out candy to their students as rewards for good work in the classroom, no goodie bags filled with a delightful assortment at parties for me. Chocolate was a coveted treat and one that I was taught to respect as a child as something of value for having done good or been good in order to “deserve” it. While other kids would spend their lunch money on snacks, sweets, and chocolate during break, I was under strict rules not to spend money on such frivolities. Back then I was raised with the idea that chocolate and other sugary food was not money well spent and that the over consumption of sugar was a result of a still colonized mind. Although chocolate was not at the time as much of a staple as it is now, especially compared to the developed West, sugar was everywhere and in almost everything, like America and the UK. Bajans consumed large amounts of sugar regularly and have been since the mid 1600s when Britain relied on the colony for crops and began manufacturing sugar cane for their own consumption (Martin, 2018, slides 2-9).

Moreover, my mother- a professional cook and very health conscious- believed there were more potential health risks to eating chocolate and sugary treats and thought the health benefits were minimal. My grandfather had many theories on sugar’s use for the demise of the black population by the British crown.

Barbados-Slave-Code

He would say that the sugar industry used invasive propaganda and historically colonized slave mentality to keep locals pacified in order to maintain control of the island and keep its people unhealthy- like a drug. I had no idea what he meant by that back then, I was barely 7-8 years old when we would have these talks about the aftermath of sugar plantations in Barbados. Not until I was older did I reflect on these conversations and revisit them again in a class on chocolate culture.

My grandfather’s words resurfaced again when I read Sweetness and Power by Sidney Mintz. He wrote, “the upward climb of both production and consumption within the British Empire must be seen as part of an even larger general movement…We know that sugar consumption in the old sugar colonies…was part always very substantial- indeed, that slaves were given sugar, molasses, and even rum during slavery period as part of their rations” (Mintz, 1985, p. 72). When my grandfather would lecture on the perils of sugar- the cause of painful and expensive cavities, my diabetic relatives (one of which had the bottom part of her leg amputated from too my sugar in her diet), or the root of making people sluggish and less intelligent- did I start to develop a profound fear and wonder about the power of confectionaries. How could something so delicious be so dangerous? It took me many years to realize it was not just chocolate that was the primary concern for him. It was the production of sugar in Barbados by the enslavement of black people under British colonization and the exploitation of the island. The impact in which continues to have adverse risks to its citizens still.

Sugar cane harvest post card

There is a long tradition in Barbados to produce sugar in addition to an impulse to consume large amounts as well, which started with Britain’s obsession with the commodity. In fact, the turning point of British sugar production was the settlement of Barbados and thus both nations were transformed. One nation with the need to consume, the other forced to produce for consumption. Mintz aptly writes:

“England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fasted in creating a plantation system. The most important product of that system was sugar. Coffee, chocolate (cacao), nutmeg, and coconut were among the other products, but the amount of sugar produced, the numbers of its users, and the range of its uses exceeded the others; and it remained the principal product for centuries” (Mintz p. 38).

Thus, my relationship with chocolate in my formative years was neither abundant nor overindulgent and my view of sugar was entwined with stories of the colonized bodies of my ancestors. Still I was a child and I had a sweet tooth- like many others from the island-, which made my mother wearier of permitting me to have it out of fear I would become gluttonous, overweight, and doltish. With diabetes prevalent on both sides of the family there were lectures on the perils of sugar and my ultimate demise if I consumed too often. This was ingrained into my childhood. However, kids will be kids and I found ways to get chocolate whenever I could and hide it craftily. My morning tea was mostly sugar. This complicated relationship with chocolate and sugar during my childhood in the Caribbean continued into adulthood abroad.

Barbados is not like other islands in Caribbean for many reasons. First, it is a very small island, one of the smallest. Second, it is the most outside of the Caribbean strip of islands and more isolated with a population of less than 300,000 people. What it does have in common with places such as St. Lucia, Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent, and Jamaica is that they were also ensnared in European and British colonization of their bodies and land for crop production. Now while many of these islands have transformed this into strong chocolate tourism foundation that has begun to flourish in the recent decades along with traditional crops of the past, Barbados struggles to join this cash crop sector. On other islands everything from haute and terroir chocolate to cheap chocolate are being produced. They were able to embrace the agricultural aftermath of slavery to make cacao and sugar into a moneymaking industry that appeals strongly to Western conception of sophistication and acceptability. In contrast, Barbados in the aftermath as a sugar producing island, chose to set up shop as a strong island tourism base and minimize the sugar industry production along with the dark history that came with it. In addition, the island is simply too small to produce many of its own crops, cacao being one of them. This caused many confectionery and snack factories in Barbados to be purchased and moved to Trinidad and Tobago as demand grew.

Looking back, it seems ironic that I thought cheap chocolate was more of an iconic delicacy than it really was. For instance, a $1 Snickers bar in America cost ~$4 USD in Barbados so its value felt more significant. Hence, it is understandable to me now why such chocolate was considered a special treat, especially in a family that thought it a wasteful. Growing up in Barbados, I had literally never eaten chocolate made on the island or any of the surrounding islands. Some factories used our sugar but that was about it, so it seemed like chocolate was a foreign substance from far off lands.

The only exposure to “fine” chocolate I had in the Caribbean was Cadbury Chocolate, a British multinational confectionery company that dominates the island almost single-handedly. Among locals, it is either loved or hated and can oftentimes be highly political because of its connection to the UK. Many believe that Britain as a nation continues to claw its way into the island’s industry via companies such as Cadbury, thus control by the British crown continues invisibility and from afar. Cadbury Chocolate in an island once dominated by a hugely profitable sugar industry that exploited African slaves is a contentious past still being unpacked.

Cadbury can be found everywhere on the island. Although the price is significantly higher than other candy bars, locals love it and consider it more “high end”. Although in the past 5-10 years more variety and quality chocolate is coming into the island and locals are getting a real taste of what good chocolate can be. It can be more than milk chocolate and chocolate covered candy. It has been a slow process because in Barbados dark chocolate is uncommon and unpopular. That is why one of the calls to action by local Bajans (and already promoted by other surrounding islands) is taking advantage of the blooming interest by tourists to try locally made chocolate and and for locals to reclaim untold histories.

In that respect, the island is now revisiting the history of cacao and sugar and getting more involved with the booming industry. In 2010, Agapey Chocolate was founded in Barbados conveniently located at the capital of Bridgetown. It is the only chocolate company on the island and is the only bean to bar chocolate company in Barbados.

agapey-chocolate-factory

Although the company was not very well known at first, it has grown in popularity among tourist and locals are now also taking advantage of their delicacies. The company has won multiple international awards and went through the process of Fair Trade certification (Agapey 2018). They offer in-depth tours of the factory that explain how their chocolate is made and also the history of chocolate and the role of cacao and sugar in the Caribbean. It is a good example of changing attitudes towards dark chocolate and progress in using local ingredients like rum and coconut to stimulate the economy.

agapey-chocolates

An International Cultural Exploration of Chocolate and Sugar

When I journeyed across the North Atlantic Ocean and set up a new home in Somerville, Ma. I soon learned about the abundance of chocolate and its widespread availability for any and every occasion, or no occasion at all. My mind was blown. Now in this wondrous place, chocolate could be found in almost every store, market, gas station, etc. It is not rare or expensive. It can be very expensive with places like L.A Burdick’s or it can be cheap like a Snickers from CVS. With my mother back in Barbados, I had no restrictions on my chocolate or sugar intake and I swiftly sought to make up for lost time, eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. It was liberating; this was America. I ate so much candy my first months of arrival, I could not get enough. Sugar consumption was even more rampant and readily available in almost everything people consumed.

Retrospectively, Somerville turned out to be one of the best places in the U.S to get a real taste of a multicultural experience, including its cuisine, which made for a great exploration of the candied goods of other lands. There has been a long tradition of community building at the foundation of local revitalization and urban development in Somerville that took a great amount of pride in exposing neighbors to “food from back home”. For many longtime residents, organizing community-building initiatives at the neighborhood and local government level has been a strategic way to promote the city’s rich cultural diversity and mixed-income environment. It also created bridges to parts of the population that might otherwise face isolation from resources aimed to empower them to take agency in improving their own socio-economic condition, particularly immigrants and people of color. Food was used to bridge the divide.

One of the first events I attended to increase exposure to different cultures was an annual international food fair held at Somerville High School where all the food was made by students, staff, or donated by local businesses. My recollection of walking through the school’s gymnasium and sampling different foods from over 100+ countries and cultures represented was a lasting experience. My Brazilian friend took me over to a table where I had my first bon-bon, a chocolate covered wafer with more chocolate inside that is widely popular in Brazil and now internationally. Another friend showed me her homemade milky coconut cardamon treats of India. There was table after table with food that I had never tried before, a whole candy world outside of Snickers and Cadbury.

For my first Halloween, my friends who had been trained in this occasion advised me to ditch the Halloween bucket and grab an old pillowcase. A pillowcase I thought, how much candy could we possibly get? The answer to that was a lot, a pillowcase half way full equating to more than four of the buckets I was going to bring. Every holiday and special occasion involved candy and chocolate. In addition, because of Somerville’s immense international population, there was not just the typical American candy, but treats coming from all over the world. I became seasoned quickly on how, where, and when to get candy and what chocolate came from which country. Chocolate became a constant and a source of comfort as I adjusted to life in America. Chocolate was for sharing between friends, indulging with cousins, and for no occasion at all.

Not until college did I learn the meaning behind fair trade, direct trade, or bean to bar- thus my ignorance of chocolate started to unfold. As Maricel Presilla writes, “to know chocolate, you must know that the candy in the box or the chef’s creation on the plate begins with the bean, the complex genetic profile of different cacao strains” (Presilla, 2009, p. 4). So began my segway into learning about chocolate production and saying goodbye to Snickers for a bit. I wanted to know about chocolate beyond what popular culture had taught me and beyond what my childhood experiences had ingrained.

I became engrossed with learning about the history of chocolate. I went to Madrid, Spain where I drank chocolate for the first time. Discovered theobroma cacao comes from Greek and means “food of the gods”.  I learned that Spanish invaders took the word cacao and their first real knowledge of cacao came from the Maya people of the Yucatan Peninsula. They used the word chokola’j, or ‘to drink together’. (Presilla, 2009, p. 10-12) and chocolate is amount one of the bastardized words created because it was easier for Europeans to pronounce. There I saw that even from the naming of cacao that history of chocolate was written and known mostly from a western-centric point of view and that influence continues today. I needed a different more authentic understanding of chocolate and kept traveling. I visited Tlaxcala, a sovereign state in Mexico with a strong connection to its complex history with cacao. There I used a molinillo for the first time- a whisking device to make cacao frothy- and drank a cup of chocolate that I helped prepare using traditional Mexican tools like the metate.

The story of how cacao developed from a sacred drink to the industrialized food that it is today is a complex history that dates back thousands of years. The story of how sugar production exploded in the Caribbean is also connected to the history of cacao. The bodies of black and brown people were used for European gain as was the land. Today, this history can be very complicated for the generations that followed. My relationship with chocolate and sugar has evolved overtime from a child in Barbados to a teen in America, to a traveler of the world. As my own understanding of these topics continues to expand, I will continue to enjoy these goods the best I can and keep educating myself on the topic.

Work Cited:

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

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 28 Feb. 2018. Class Lecture.

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

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA, 2009. Print.

“On Barbados, the First Black Slave Society” via AAIHS. Here is the website link: https://www.aaihs.org/on-barbados-the-first-black-slave-society/.

http://www.agapey.com/

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-ushistory1ay/chapter/consumption-and-trade-in-the-british-atlantic/

Images (in order):

“Planting the sugar-cane” (Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library).

“Slaves Wanted” Advertisement for the Island of Barbados (Credit: Lascelles Slavery Archive)

“Sugar Plantation Barbados, Carting Sugar Canes To The Mill”  W. L. Johnson & Co. Ltd., Barbados. No. 15

Agapey Chocolate Factory Website Photos (Credit: agapey.com)

From Producers and Consumers to Producing Consumers: Nestlé and the Weaponization of Brazilian Women

In a dense Rio favela or small Amazonian village at current day, you might meet someone much like Celene da Silva, who at 29 manages her own small business. This is no small feat for a woman from one of the most impoverished areas in the world. Armed with only a pushcart, da Silva travels door to door, selling infant milk products, candy bars, puddings, and cereals to her many clients.[i]

In the small town of Vevey, Germany (now Switzerland) at the turn of the 20th century, you might have stumbled upon Henri Nestlé, also a small business owner. Using his pharmaceutical background, Nestlé invented a milk alternative known as infant formula by combining cow’s milk, flour, and sugar.[ii] What, then, links a modern-day Brazilian entrepreneur to small-town German pharmacist? What if I told you they worked for the same company?

Da Silva, along with thousands of other Brazilian women, has been recruited and trained as a door-to-door vendor for Nestlé–the world’s largest food conglomerate with some of the most aggressive marketing practices in history. Vendors are dispatched throughout Brazilian cities and countrysides, offering “nutrient-rich” processed foods from a selection of over 800 products.[iii] Even in hard to reach areas, where geography or social stigma prevent women from vending, Nestlé has found a strategy. Pictured below is a Nestlé-sponsored boat, which travels remote Amazonian tributaries as a floating supermarket offering products to “isolated” consumers.[iv] Clients are often only interested in a handful of these products, however, with foods like Kit Kat bars, Nescau 2.0 (a sugary chocolate powder), chocolate pudding, and cookies being ordered the most.[v]

59c12a9538d20d7f378b76e8-480-320.jpg

What complicates matters is Brazil’s tortured history with chocolate–once one of the top producers of cacao, the country has faced severe drought in recent years.[vi] Look at the country’s historic disconnect between production and consumption, namely due to slavery, and Nestlé’s door-to-door program appears particularly menacing. The anthropologist Sidney Mintz most accurately encapsulates this divide in his 1985 seminal work Sweetness and Power, writing of 20th century “It is not ironical to point out that the white migrants would soon be eating more sugar, produced by the nonwhite migrants at lower wages, and producing finished goods at higher wages to be consumed by the nonwhite migrants.”[vii] Many of these “finished goods” are now sold by Nestlé, who while relying on the labor of cacao farmers in countries like Brazil then dilutes products with sugar and milk to sell them at a profit. While Nestle’s door-to-door vendor program has disrupted the feminization of poverty, its attempt to turn sites of production into sites of consumption has come with devastating health effects.

Nestlé’s strict hiring quotas have allowed it to conceal its aggressive marketing efforts under the guise of gender equity. By employing over 7,000 saleswomen and 200 microdistributors,[viii] all women with little to no previous job experience, Nestlé has established a strong relationship with the Brazilian government and managed relatively little international oversight. In fact, in 2014 alone food companies donated a total of $158 million to Brazil’s National Congress.[ix] For women on the ground like Celene da Silva, the program has also brought much-needed economic empowerment. As the New York Times details, “With an expanding roster of customers, Mrs. da Silva has set her sights on a new goal, one she says will increase business even more…’I want to buy a bigger refrigerator.’”[x] Da Silva’s strong relationship with the women in her neighborhood, coupled with Nestlé’s one-month layaway plan timed to match the government-funded food stipend program, has stabilized her income.[xi] Despite the fact that she herself is 200 overweight with high blood pressure, da Silva, like many vendors, believes in her employer’s commitment to health. The question then becomes, however, the limit to employing women whose life spans will be shortened by their own products.

Nestlé’s marketing practices rely on notions of their products as healthy in order to attract the support of governments and consumers alike. Along with lobbying and employing women as door-to-door vendors, the company aligns its brand with nutrition and exercise to garner attention. As consumers in the U.S. have given up sugary chocolate products in favor of healthier foods, Nestlé has moved to introduce these same products to even the most remote parts of the Amazon by adding commonly deficient vitamins and minerals. The chocolate powder Nescau 2.0, for example, claims to be “packed with calcium and niacin.”[xii] As Professor Susan George writes in “The Limits to Public Relations,” Nestle is one of the only companies to so publically document these efforts. She says, “Very rarely do multinational corporations provide details of their activities in underdeveloped countries. Nestle is an exception.”[xiii] This distinct tactic is what has strengthened the trust between vendors and their company. As da Silva explains, “Everyone here knows that Nestlé products are good for you.”

Brazil serves as a case study in the transformation of a country from cacao producer to chocolate product consumer. The public health effects of Nestlé’s aggressive marketing campaigns are only beginning to be studied, as are alternatives. As one Nestlé consultant points out, “If I ask 100 Brazilian families to stop eating processed food, I have to ask myself: What will they eat? Who will feed them? How much will it cost?”[xiv] Processed foods have undoubtedly provided a solution to the issue of overpopulation, but have failed to nutritionally benefit consumers. The story of Nestlé and Brazil has often been one of deceit, in which sugar-laden chocolate products are billed as nutritional through women’s empowerment programs in an effort to target communities with poor records on gender equity and public health. The question then becomes how to balance demand with accessibility, affordability, and nutrition–without exploiting vulnerable populations.

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Jacobs, Andrew. “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.” The New York Times, September 16, 2017, sec. Health. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html.

[ii] Owles, Eric. “How Nestlé Expanded Beyond the Kitchen.” The New York Times, June 27, 2017, sec. DealBook. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/business/dealbook/nestle-chocolate-milk-coffee-history.html.

[iii] Jacobs, Andrew. “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.” The New York Times, September 16, 2017, sec. Health. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html.

[iv] Garfield, Leanna. “Nestlé Sponsored a River Barge to Create a ‘floating Supermarket’ That Sold Candy and Chocolate Pudding to the Backwoods of Brazil.” Business Insider. Accessed March 20, 2018. http://www.businessinsider.com/nestl-expands-brazil-river-barge-2017-9.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] “Chocolate Has New Latin King as Ecuador Overtakes Brazil.” Bloomberg.Com, January 21, 2014. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-01-20/cocoa-has-new-latin-america-king-as-ecuador-beats-brazil.

[vii] Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. Penguin, 1986.

[viii] “Door-to-Door Sales of Fortified Products.” https://www.nestle.com. Accessed March 19, 2018. https://www.nestle.com/csv/case-studies/allcasestudies/door-to-doorsalesoffortifiedproducts,brazil.

[ix] Jacobs, Andrew. “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.” The New York Times, September 16, 2017, sec. Health. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] George, Susan. “Nestle Alimentana SA: the limits to public relations.” Economic and Political Weekly (1978): 1591-1602.

[xiv] Jacobs, Andrew. “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.” The New York Times, September 16, 2017, sec. Health. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html.

Chocolate in our life

The beginning of chocolate

 

Chocolate comes from Theobroma Cacao.  Theobroma cacao is botanical name for the cacao tree and cocoa tree from the Malvaceae family. Genus Theobroma has 22 different cocoa species. Theobroma cacao is the name given by the European botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. This plant is not special high because has from 4 to 8 meters. The tree comes from tropical forests in South and Central America as well as parts from Mexico. The plant is evergreen.

Chocolate is a preparation of the seeds of cacao. Roasted, husked, ground, it is often sweetened and flavored with vanilla and sugar, although fruits such as raspberries can sometimes be used as well.

Chocolate was invented in South America around 1000 BCE.  While the Olmec were probably the first people who tried it, the Mayan’s civilization were the first to plant the cacao. The chocolate and cocoa were very important in their life. Theobroma means Food of the Gods in the Mayan language. Of their myths, Mayans believed that the Plumed Serpent gave Cacao to them, after people were created from maize by the divine grandparent deity Xmucane. The Mayans took this time celebrate Cacao because they thought that this is a gift from the God.

The Ancient Mayans prepared chocolate just for drinking because they didn’t know a solid chocolate.  The production of this beverage was very similar to the production today. After all processes (harvesting, fermentation, drying, roasting, grounding) they added hot water, honey, vanilla, chili, corn, etc.

Between 1200-1500AD, the Aztecs also were planting cacao. This caused a competition for the Mayans because they dominated and used the cocoa as a currency. For example fish wrapped in maize husks was worth 3 Cacao beans.

The chocolate and cocoa were very important for the Mayans and Aztecs because they used it in lots of religious rituals. Cacao was also perceived like a connection between earth, underworld and sky, royal bloodline. Mayans thought that plant is integral to keeping cycles of death, life, and rebirth. Cacao was thought to boost energy and made the imbiber stronger.

Christopher Columbus was the first European who discovered a cacao tree. . He sent the Cacao to the King Ferdinand. While cocoa was rare for some time, around 20 years after Columbus’ first sample, Prince Philip of Spain received the cocoa drink from a Dominican friar. The reception to this was so positive that France and Portugal didn’t trade cocoa to the rest of Europe for 100 years. At the beginning chocolate was only imported to Spain.

Throughout the rest of Europe, chocolate appeared in the 17th century. The chocolate beverage was very luxury good.

 

Production of chocolate

            The statistics say that the biggest production of cacao is in those countries:

  • Cŏte d’Ivoire
  • Ghana
  • Indonesia
  • Brazil
  • Nigeria
  • Cameroon
  • Malaysia

 

From my ealier blog post I want to remind that:

“The first step of cacao production is harvesting. When the pods are properly ripened it is possible to remove them by knife or machete from the tree. The pods must be pried open to access the beans inside. One pod typically can contain around 30-45 beans.  The beans are placed in bins for few days to await processing. Afterwards they go to specially designed facilities where they can be fermented and dried.

The next step is fermentation. The fermentation process takes around four or seven days. But this is depends on the condition such as: temperature or humidity. During the fermentation, beans are mixed in every 48 hours. This process is very important because we can obtain flavor precursors, kills seeds, activate enzymes, and volatile aromatics produced in the fermenting pulp diffuse into the seeds, adding additional flavors. Fermentation is very important because the quality of the Cacao is depends on this process. When the Cacao is under-fermented the taste is flat, bitter, beany, and astringent. Conversely, when the product is over-fermented the flavor can come off as hammy, wet cardboard, and the sickening sweet-sour taste has been compared to what seems like vomit, parmesan cheese, moldy, cat urine, fruit loops, olives or sour cream.

The third step is drying. This process takes around one or two weeks. The beans are spread out over a large, flat surface. During this time, it is important to rake them often. The beans are usually dried under the direct sun, sometimes is possible to use artificial heating but the first option is preferable because can help to avoid some undesirable flavors like smoke or oil. Drying can also be a part of fermentation because sometimes this process takes first days of drying. Also it helps to reduce moisture in the cacao, avoid molding, start Maillard reactions and ensure good quality of the cocoa.

The next step is sorting. During this is possible to remove moldy as well flat and destroyed beans, as well extra detritus picked up in the previous stages, such as insects, plastics, glass, and dirt.

Finally Cacao can be packed and shipped. It is important to remember that bagging, storage and transports must be climate controlled to preserve the quality of the beans. Like proper temperature, humidity or polyethylene sacks must all be carefully controlled and monitored.”

Roasting and winnowing the cocoa. Those processes have a place in a manufactory. Roasting the cocoa helps to get the properly color and flavor. The shells of cocoa during this process are much more brittle. Inside the shells we can find cocoa nibs (is kind of raw chocolate of cacao beans which have to be roasted). After roasting the nibs are sorted according to size. This step is called winnowing.

The next process is grinding. During this the nibs are turned into cocoa liquor (cocoa mass). Thanks to the heating of granular consistency we can obtain liquid because the nibs are melted. After this the product is mixed with sugar and cocoa butter.

Types of chocolate

 

We have a lot of types of chocolates. The type is depends on the substances which are in the product like sugar, milk, chocolate liquor (ground mass of cocoa beans), cocoa butter (the waxy ivory – yellow fat obtained from chocolate liquor)

            We can distinguish some types of chocolates:

Dark Chocolate – it contains at least 30% to extremely 70-80% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. The taste becomes bitterer when the level of sugar is smaller. Dark chocolate can also contain vanilla and lecithin.

Unsweetened Chocolate – it contains pure chocolate liquor, composed of ground cocoa beans. This product has very bitter taste. It is used for baking when it is possible to add a sugar.

Bittersweet Chocolate – it contains at least 35% of cocoa solids and 50 – 80% of chocolate liquor.

Sweet Dark Chocolate – it contains at least 15% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and sugar.

Milk Chocolate – it contains at least 10% of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, 12% of condensed milk or dry milk solids. This kind of chocolate has much more lighter color, and is sweeter than dark chocolate.

White Chocolate – doesn’t contain chocolate liquor and basically is not a chocolate. This product has at least 20% of cocoa butter, 14% of milk solids and no more than 55% of sugar.

 

The most know chocolate’s brands on the worlds are: Lindt (Switzerland), Cadbury (United Kingdom), Milka (Switzerland), Toblerone (Switzerland), Ghirardelli (Italy), Ferrero Rocher (Italy), Taza (United States), Hershey (United States), Mars (United States).

Consumption of Chocolate

 

The consumption of chocolate is huge. People in the United States in 2015 spent around $ 22B USD on chocolate. They ate around 12 lbs of chocolate per person.

We can distinguish five top nations who like chocolate the most:

  • Switzerland 22 lbs per year
  • Austria 20,13 lbs per year
  • Ireland 19,47 lbs per year
  • Germany 18,04 lbs per year
  • Norway 17,93 lbs per year

All of those countries are European. In Europe the most popular chocolate is – milk chocolate.

This kind of chocolate is much sweeter than dark chocolate. One of the most popular chocolate in Europe is “Milka”. This product has many different varieties of taste, for example with strawberries, cherry, Oreo cookies, nuts, raisins, yoghurt, etc. Is also not special expensive. Approximately 1 chocolate package costs $2.

Is chocolate healthy?

            According to the Harvard School of Public Health a few pieces of chocolate per month can make our life longer and sweeter.

Cacao and especially dark chocolate is very rich in magnesium. The chemical symbol is Mg. this is a mineral who participate in many biochemical reactions in our body. Cacao nibs have around 272 mg per 100g.

Chocolate which is very rich in cacao and cacao helps to reduce a weigh. This is because these products have a lot of fiber who helps with digestion. The cacao also helps to keep our bowel movements regular. Also is good to take it when is a problem with constipations because the fiber in cacao work well during the digestion process.

The cocoa and chocolate have a lot of iron. This element is needed to produce red blood cells. When the level of iron is too low the body suffers for anemia. Is a good idea to intake the iron with vitamin C because the absorption of Fe is much better.

The chocolate is very rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, catechins, flavanols which are responsible to absorb free radicals that can damage in the body (for example cancer).  Dark chocolate has much more antioxidants than some fruit lie for example blueberries or Acai berries.

Cacao and dark chocolate can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Also those products have very good influence on blood pressure and insulin resistance. The antioxidants like flavanols stimulate the endothelium to give a gas – Nitric Oxide (NO). This substance is responsible for sending out the signal to the arteries to relax. This process makes our blood pressure lower. The dark chocolate can also reduce the level of oxidized bad LDL which can react with free radicals.

When we are eating chocolate or cocoa our brain is stimulated by them. Cacao can produce in our body two chemicals: phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide. The first one we produce when we are happy or excited (for example during the eating chocolate). Our pulse is much quicker.

The dark chocolate can also protect the skin against the sun. The product has a lot of flavonols which are responsible for improving the blood flow to the skin and increase the hydration, density of the skin. It is a good idea to eat a dark chocolate a few months before for example vacation or visiting places with a lot of sun.

Our brain can also be improved by eating a dark chocolate. It happens because of the flavanol which can improve the blood flow in our brain. The product also contains some substances like theobromine or caffeine which work as a stimulant for the brain.

Chocolate doesn’t have bad influence on our tooth. If we have a tooth decay is because of the sugar which we can find in a lot of food products. We have to remember that dark chocolate with high level of cacao has less sugar. Actually, a chocolate consists an anti – bacterial substances which can help and prevent the tooth illness.

As we can observe the dark chocolate and cacao have good influence on our body. It is recommended to eat a few times per month because those products are rich in some chemical elements which our bodies need to work properly. Is very important to remember that if we want to eat good chocolate we need to choose a product with high percent of cacao without many sugar. We shouldn’t eat it every day because we gain too much weight but is good to eat for dessert a few times per week.

In a 100 gram of dark chocolate (70 – 85% of cocoa) bar we can find:

  • 67% RDA for Iron
  • 58% RDA for Magnesium
  • 98% RDA for Manganese
  • 89% RDA for copper
  • 11 grams of fiber
  • A lot of potassium, selenium, zinc, phosphorus

RDA*  – recommended daily allowance

 

 

As we can see the chocolate is a food product with amazing history. Has good influence on our health and frame of mind. We have to remember that dark chocolate with high consistence of cacao is the best for our body because have a lot of nutrients and very low level of sugar.

 

Bibliography:

Scholarly sources:

1.Chiaki Sanbongi, Naomi Osakabe, Midori Natsume, Toshio Takizawa, Shuichi Gomi and Toshihiko Osawa.  Antioxidative Polyphenols Isolated from Theobroma cacao. Chiaki Sanbongi, Naomi Osakabe, Midori Natsume, Toshio Takizawa, Shuichi Gomi and Toshihiko Osawa, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,volume 46, numero 2, 1998, pages 454–457,

2.Miller, K. B.; Hurst, W. J.; Payne, M. J.; Stuart, D. A.; Apgar, J.; Sweigart, D. S.; Ou, B. (2008). “Impact of Alkalization on the Antioxidant and Flavanol Content of Commercial Cocoa Powders”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 56 (18): 8527–33; 8527.

3.Szogyi, Alex (1997). Chocolate: Food of the Gods. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 199. ISBN: 978-0-313-30506-1

4.Terry G. Powis; W. Jeffrey Hurst; María del Carmen Rodríguez; Ponciano Ortíz C.; Michael Blake; David Cheetham; Michael D. Coe; John G. Hodgson (December 2007). Ochocolate in the world. Antiquity . 81 (314). ISSN 0003-598X. Retrieved 2011-02-15.

Multimedia Sources:

https://www.sfu.ca/geog351fall03/groups-webpages/gp8/history/history.html#anchor2

http://facts-about-chocolate.com/chocolate-history/

http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/RDA

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-dark-chocolate/

http://chocolatealchemy.com/

 

An Interview with a Chocolate Lover: Issues within the Chocolate Industry Revealed

Curious about people’s relationship with chocolate, I interviewed a young female adult about how her relationship with chocolate has changed from childhood into adulthood. The interviewee has never learned about chocolate, but she alludes to various historical, economical, and social issues within the chocolate industry throughout the interview. Specifically, she raises ethical issues about cacao farming practices, and explicates how business transactions harm chocolate producers. The interviewee is a college-educated individual, and demonstrates significant knowledge about these issues presumably because of her enrollment in a course about the sociology of food. Based on her responses in the interview, it is clear that this course changed her relationship with food and influences her current food decisions. Through the interview, the interviewee illuminates glaring issues within the chocolate industry related to the production of cacao, exploitation of cacao farmers, and chocolate advertising. First, she raises issues that about the production of cacao by demonstrating awareness about the economic difficulties cacao farmers face, and by discussing logistical issues about certifications that attempt to combat those economic issues. Second, in describing her chocolate preferences and perceptions, she alludes to issues regarding chocolate marketing strategies, and demonstrates the immense influence that chocolate advertisements hold over consumer purchasing decisions.

Before evaluating the historical, economic, and social issues within the chocolate industry revealed by the interviewee, it is necessary to explain the similarities between cacao and coffee bean production. The interviewee learned about coffee production in a course at a prestigious university, so this section purposes to provide legitimacy to the issues she raises about cacao production by emphasizing that the coffee and cacao industries experience the same problems, thereby qualifying her arguments about coffee production as applicable to cacao production as well. First, the working and economic conditions of coffee and cacao farmers are almost identical. Most coffee farmers produce beans on small, family-owned farms, and live in poverty.[1] Coffee farmers typically rely on bean sales as their primary source of income, but it is extremely volatile because it responds to any fluctuation in bean market prices and sales.[2] Second, coffee farmers can obtain Fair Trade and Organic Certification. Fair Trade promises the same benefits to coffee farmers as it does to cacao farmers, including minimum price premiums, social development, better labor rights, and long-term trading partnership.[3] Third, a large gap exists between coffee producers’ farming practices and coffee consumers’ purchasing decisions. There are stark differences between farmers that produce specialty coffee, and farmers that produce conventional, non-certified coffee. Demand for specialty coffee is on the rise because consumers, particularly those that identify with the ethical eating, Slow Food Movement, are willing to pay more for certified, eco-friendly coffee.[4] Higher quality coffee beans are sold at a higher price in the market, but most coffee consumers are unaware of the implications of their coffee-purchasing decisions.[5] Lastly, similar to the chocolate industry, a few select big coffee companies – less than 10 – control more than half of the coffee market.[6] These similarities are important to recognize, as the interviewee recalls this knowledge in the interview, and subsequently reveals that the economic and social issues afflicting coffee farmers and production are the same issues that exist in relation to cacao farming and production.

coffee beancacao bean

Image 1: Coffee Bean                                                                             Image 2: Cacao Bean

The interviewee brings attention to the importance of the raw coffee bean product to the existence of the entire coffee industry. Through this observation, she emphasizes the complete disconnect between coffee production and coffee consumption, revealing that the same issue exists within the chocolate industry. The interviewee comments, “without the farmers, you wouldn’t have the product. They’re the ones creating the base product to make coffee. They’re often the most forgotten. That’s like with any food product.”[7] This remark deserves close evaluation, as it perfectly describes the fragmented functioning and separateness of the different sectors of the coffee industry, also applicable to the chocolate industry. With that remark, the interviewee astutely explains that these complex industries rely wholly on the raw product, the bean, and without which, coffee and chocolate might not exist. This comment is interesting because it offers a simplistic vision that connects the necessity of the raw product to the consumer industry miles and miles away. This perception also illuminates how coffee and chocolate consumers are highly unaware of the implications of their purchasing decisions on the economic livelihood of the producers. Pictured in images 1 and 2 are a coffee and cacao bean, respectively (Image 1 and 2). These visuals purpose as a reminder to consumers that the coffee they drink from Starbucks, or Lindt chocolate they eat from their local supermarket, are products that begin with coffee and cacao beans, harvested and cultivated by farmers. Production and consumption are inherently connected, however, farmers are often naïve about the final product and consumers are often uneducated about the raw product process, both of which exacerbate the separateness between different players within the coffee and chocolate systems.

USDA organic labelImage 3: USDA Organic Certification Label

The interviewee discusses logistical issues with the Fair Trade and Organic Certification protocols, revealing that these labels harm rather than benefit cacao farmers and production. Fair Trade, Organic, and Direct Trade certifications share a common goal to compensate cacao farmers that produce their beans in adherence to specific environmental and social standards at a higher price than the conventional market offers.[8] The United States Department of Agriculture divides organic products into three categories, “100% organic,” “organic,” and “made with organic ingredients,” where each category is defined based on strict agricultural practice regulations.[9] Agricultural products that adhere to these standards are labeled with the “USDA Organic” logo, pictured in Image 3 (Image 3). In viewing this image, it is apparent that the USDA Organic label is not informative, as the certification seal does not specify whether the product is made with 100%, 95%, or at least 70% organic ingredients. The lack of information on this label raises questions about the authenticity of these certifications, and how organic certification guidelines are monitored. In probing about her knowledge regarding Organic Certification, the interviewee says “there are requirements…You can still use pesticides, but [the farmers] use “organic” or “natural” pesticides that are “better” for the environment…I know there are loopholes in the organic certification process.”[10] Here, the interviewee identifies the major criticisms of the USDA Organic Certification process in relation to cacao farming and production practices, alluding to claims of product quality issues and loose surveillance of organically certified cacao farmers’ adherence to USDA guidelines.[11] As revealed through her remarks, the vagueness of this label generates confusion among consumers. Furthermore, these observations illuminate the need for tighter institutional regulation of USDA Organic protocols, both for the benefit of consumers – ensuring that cacao farmers are following certification standards, guaranteeing that consumers are purchasing actual organic cacao – and for the benefit of the producers – that they are properly compensated for producing cacao beans using environmentally-friendly farming practices.

The interviewee circles the debate about the effectiveness of Fair Trade certification’s impact on cacao farmers’ economic situation through her advocacy for Fair Trade coffee bean farming and production. Similar to organic certification, Fair Trade certification encourages sustainable farming practices, while also promoting social welfare and establishing long-term trading partnerships.[12] In explaining the benefits of Fair Trade for coffee farmers, the interviewee says, “the farmers work long, laborious hours and they don’t get paid very well unless they are in the Fair Trade system…more money goes to the farmer when it’s a Fair Trade transaction.”[13] Through this comment, the interviewee reveals two similarities between coffee bean and cacao production that are problematic for the farmers. First, she describes the difficult working conditions that coffee bean farmers endure, such as long and physically fatiguing hours, and subsequently suggests that the farmers are underpaid considering their strenuous working conditions. She alludes to a prominent issue that cacao farmers face in that they are not properly compensated for their grueling laborious efforts, and that their contributions to the chocolate industry are severely under-valued. Second, she asserts that Fair Trade certified coffee farmers are more economically stable than non-certified coffee farmers, referencing minimum price premiums and prompt payments promised by Fair Trade to certified farmers. This suggests that consumers perceive Fair Trade as an impactful certification that improves farmers’ economic situation. However, in reality, there is no strong evidence that the Fair Trade system is effective in combatting farmers’ economic crises, particularly that of cacao farmers.[14] This misconception is problematic, as consumers’ might purchase Fair Trade products hoping to improve farmers’ income situation, unbeknownst to the faults of Fair Trade.

The interviewee explicates that some of her food decisions are based on the ethicality of food production practices, but names high prices of Fair Trade and Organic products as a barrier that prevents her from always purchasing certified products. In regards to the cacao industry, attempts to improve the ethicality of cacao farmers’ working conditions by consumer advocacy groups more often than not fail.[15] Chocolate consumers are often uneducated about the complexities of the chocolate industry, making it difficult for consumers to grasp how their purchasing decisions impact the economic and/or social situation of cacao farmers. Therefore, consumers cannot be responsible for initiating change of the exploitative economic and social conditions endured by cacao farmers. Surprisingly, the interviewee demonstrates a deep consciousness about the relationship between production and consumption, explaining that she became a vegetarian because “I don’t like the treatment of farm animals on conventional farms…Also, I don’t like the growth hormones and antibiotics.”[16] This reasoning suggests that she chooses the type of food she consumes based on the ethicality of food production practices. She further explains that she prefers to consume organic food, as “It’s more environmentally friendly.”[17] Again, she adopts an ethical argument to support her preference to consume organic over conventional farm products. However, she subsequently mentions that she does not always purchase certified Organic or Fair Trade products because they are “more expensive.”[18] This confession reveals a common misconception among consumers that certified products are always more expensive, which is false, as Organic and Fair Trade farming practices can actually cost the same or less than conventional farming practices.[19] Through her remarks, it is clear that the interviewee is a conscious consumer, as she chose to become a vegetarian because of inhumane treatment of animals on conventional farms, indicating her care for ethical farming and production practices. However, her perception that Organic, Fair Trade, and Direct Trade products are more expensive than non-certified products alludes to major critiques of certification organizations, commonly accused of corrupt practices and falsely promising cacao farmers fair payment. Through the interviewee’s comments, she illuminates a significant issue that Organic, Fair Trade, and Direct Trade are actually more harmful than beneficial to cacao farmers’ economic and social conditions.

woman eating chocolate     Image 4: Gender in Chocolate Advertisement

Through the interviewee’s description of her chocolate perceptions and preferences, she reveals an issue rarely addressed, that of the immense control chocolate advertisements exercise over consumer choice. Chocolate advertisements commonly portray chocolate as an aphrodisiac, and as a luxurious product, through women’s sexuality.[20] Image 4 exemplifies this theme, as it pictures a woman, seemingly wearing no clothes, holding a piece of chocolate to her lips, with a seductive facial expression (Image 4). The image portrays chocolate as a desirable food through the sexual presentation and nature of the woman. The brightly colored lipstick brings focus to her lips, and accompanied by the sensual facial expression, the ad attempts to associate chocolate with love and romance. Furthermore, the woman is highly manicured, adorned with extravagant accessories, which contributes to the depiction of chocolate as a decadent and highly valuable product. Several times throughout the interview, the interviewee references chocolate as a “luxurious item.”[21] This association of chocolate with luxury precisely demonstrates the strong influence of chocolate advertisements, such as image 4, on consumers’ perceptions of chocolate. When prompted to reflect about chocolate advertisements, the interviewee pauses and appears puzzled, admitting a moment later that she only notices chocolate ads around Valentine’s Day.[22] Again, this emphasizes the effectiveness of chocolate marketing strategies to portray the product as an aphrodisiac, as consumers evidently associate chocolate with romance and love. The combination of a presumably seduced woman and a chocolate product, exampled in Image 4, contribute to this representation of chocolate as desirable. Most importantly, the interviewee illuminates that consumers are highly unaware of two issues related to chocolate marketing. First, the strong influence chocolate ads possess in forming their perceptions of chocolate, and second, the exploitation of female sexuality to deliver this specific representation of chocolate products. Based on the interviewee’s susceptibility to the impact of chocolate advertisements on her perceptions, and her unawareness of gender exploitation that litters these ads, it suggests that the chocolate industry should be taking action to enforce regulations that will reduce the influence of chocolate marketing on consumer perceptions and regulate chocolate marketing content.

Trader Joe's dark chocolate bar     Image 5: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Product

The interviewee’s description of her chocolate preferences further demonstrates consumer susceptibility to the influences of chocolate advertisements. The interviewee reveals she favors dark chocolate, offering “I buy it at Trader Joe’s…I like the pure flavor of their products.”[23] First, Trader Joe’s is a grocery store that advertises the sale of organic, natural, fresh food at low prices. Second, recall that the interviewee prefers organic food, but high prices prevent her from purchasing organic products. Keeping these two pieces of information in mind, the interviewee’s comment suggests that she purchases chocolate at Trader Joe’s because it is both organic and affordable. In addition to these conscious reasons, the packaging of the chocolate may also contribute to the interviewee’s decision to purchase dark chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s, though she is unconscious of this influence. Image 5 exemplifies a dark chocolate bar product sold at Trader Joe’s, one that the interviewee might encounter (Image 5). This package exercises marketing strategies to influence consumer choice by emphasizing a high cacao content of “61%,” indicative of pure chocolate. Additionally, printing “Imported from Belgium” carries connotations associated with Europe, such as fantasy and romance. Lastly, the package pictures a crown, presumably representative of chocolate’s historical association with royalty in Europe. This suggests to the consumer that the chocolate is luxurious and highly valuably, and implies that the chocolate will taste rich and pure. All of these elements on the package impact the consumer’s decision to purchase that product by manipulating her perceptions, thereby prompting the consumer to imagine the chocolate will taste special over other chocolate products. Similar to an issue already discussed, the interviewee reveals that consumers are naïve to chocolate marketing strategies, and make unconscious purchasing decisions based on the effectiveness of chocolate ads and their ability to influence consumers’ perceptions and taste preferences of chocolate.

The interviewee reveals major historical, economic, and social issues that persist within the chocolate industry through her comments about coffee production, and in describing her chocolate perceptions and taste preferences. Historical issues, such as the under-recognized efforts of cacao farmers and their contributions that permit the existence of the chocolate industry – i.e. they provide the raw product to make chocolate – are evidently issues that exist within the coffee industry as well. Economic issues, such as volatile income and impoverished livelihoods, partially the fault of certification organizations like Organic and Fair Trade, are also issues within both the cacao and coffee industries. Lastly, social issues related to the use of sexualized images of women to control consumers’ perceptions and taste preferences of chocolate are seemingly unnoticed by consumers. This is problematic in that consumers are unaware that these ads contribute to the proliferation of stereotypical gender roles, and in that consumers are also unaware that they possess little agency in their chocolate purchasing decisions.
[1] Christopher Bacon, “Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffees Reduce Small-scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua?,” World Development 33 (2005): 497-511.
[2] Joni Valkila, “Fair Trade Organic Coffee Production in Nicaragua – Sustainable Development or a Poverty Trap,” Ecological Economics 68 (2009): 3018-3025.
[3] Valkila, “Fair Trade organic coffee.”
[4] Julie Guthman, “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow,” in Food and Culture, ed. by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik (New York: Routledge, 2013), 496-509.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Bacon, “Confronting the Coffee Crisis.”
[7] Anonymous, interview by Ashlee Korsberg, April 24, 2017.
[8] Carla Martin, “Alternative trade and virtuous/localization/globalization” (lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017).
[9] “USDA Organic Labeling Regulations,” USDA, accessed April 30, 2017, https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=c4e0df8f46a4f4b6f56d80be31f95ed3&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.4&idno=7.
[10] Anonymous.
[11] Martin, “Alternative trade.”
[12] Ibid.
[13] Anonymous.
[14] Ndongo Samba Sylla, “On the Inequalities of the International Trade System” and “The Fair Trade Universe,” in The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich, translated by David Clement Leye (London: Pluto Press, 2014).
[15] Carla Martin, “Modern day slavery” (lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, March 22, 2017).
[16] Anonymous.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Martin, “Alternative Trade.”
[20] Emma Robertson, “A deep physical reason’: gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption,” in Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (Oxford: Manchester University Press, 2009), 18-63.
[21] Anonymous
[22] Anonymous.
[23] Anonymous.

References

Anonymous. Interview by Ashlee Korsberg, April 24, 2017.

Bacon, Christopher. “Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffees Reduce Small-scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua?.” World Development 33 (2005): 497-511.

Guthman, Julie. “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow.” In Food and Culture, edited by Carole Counihan, and Penny Van Esterik, 496-509, New York: Routledge, 2013.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative trade and virtuous/localization/globalization.” Lecture at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Modern day slavery.” Lecture at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, March 22, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Lecture at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, March 29, 2017.

Robertson, Emma. “A deep physical reason’: gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption.” In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history, 18-63, Oxford: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. “On the Inequalities of the International Trade System” and “The Fair Trade Universe.” In The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich, translated by David Clement Leye, London: Pluto Press, 2014.

U.S. Government Publishing Office. “USDA Organic Labeling Regulations.” Accessed April 30, 2017. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=c4e0df8f46a4f4b6f56d80be31f95ed3&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.4&idno=7.

Valkila, Joni. “Fair Trade Organic Coffee Production in Nicaragua – Sustainable Development or a Poverty Trap.” Ecological Economics 68 (2009): 3018-3025.

Image sources

Image 1: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coffee_Beans_Photographed_in_Macro.jpg

Image 2: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/cocoa/

Image 3: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USDA_organic_seal.svg

Image 4: https://www.flickr.com/photos/orofacial/8219609037

Image 5: https://chocolateihaveknown.wordpress.com/category/acquired/trader-joes/