This video is a Chinese advertisement of Dove chocolates, focusing on the smooth and sweet taste of chocolate. Among the Big Five, Dove has been one of the leading chocolate products in China. Since the 1980s, the Big Five have invested massive resources into trying to sell chocolate, with hopes of a lucrative return as China’s consumer class grows. Although some companies such as Ferrero and Mars have had some success, the dream of reaching all Chinese consumers has yet to be fully realized. Why these companies have struggled to successfully penetrate the Chinese market is a question worthy of exploration. Although some literature sources address this puzzle, none of them offer fully convincing arguments for why this might be. Building on Mintz’s consideration of how “sweetness” fits into the cuisine of different cultures, I argue that we must understand how people understand flavors and food in China to fully understand why chocolate may not be as popular.
The Big Five have made concerted efforts to market chocolate to Chinese people, using different concepts to attract the attention of consumers. For example, some have focused on the cultural practice of “gift-giving”–finding that more people may choose to give chocolate rather than buy it for the sake of self-indulgence. To some extent, these efforts seem to be working. This next video is a news report that reports how chocolate in China is becoming more popular. However, as the video points out, the consumption of chocolate in China remains extremely low, and a person in China only eats about 100 grams of chocolate annually.
Interestingly, one of the points made in this video and other news reports also comment on the short history of chocolate in China. Many point to China’s recent industrialization as the start of the country’s interaction with chocolate. As Allen writes in the opening paragraph of his book “Chocolate Fortunes : The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers,”
Until twenty-five years ago, almost none of them had ever eaten a piece of chocolate. They were, to coin a phrase, ‘‘chocolate virgins,’’ their taste for chocolate ready to be shaped by whichever chocolate company came roaring into the country with a winning combination of quality, marketing savvy, and manufacturing and distribution acumen.
Here, Allen’s analyzes China through a highly orientalist and capitalist lens, describing Chinese people as “chocolate virgins” to be “conquered in a war” between chocolate corporations. Allen’s description is highly problematic in the way that it views Chinese people as simply “consumers” who can fulfill the wild dreams of one of the big five chocolate companies. By saying that before 25 years ago, “none of them had ever eaten a piece of chocolate” is a gross exaggeration, and would suggest that chocolate has had a very recent entry into China. On the contrary, there is evidence that shows chocolate has long been in China, and some sources say its presence dates as far back as the 1600s (Grivetti and Shapiro 2011; Gordon, 2011). These scholars point to several opportunities in which chocolate could have been introduced into China, including its close proximity to European countries (like Turkey) where chocolate and coffee were extremely popular; England’s colonization of Hong Kong in the mid 1800s, and the outsourcing of Chinese laborers to the Philippines where both cane sugar and chocolate were popular (Clarence-Smith 2003; Grivetti and Shapiro 2011). In searching through a database of Chinese trade and business documents, I also found a journal entry from 1883 where missionaries documented their consumption of chocolate, suggesting that it was not a foreign substance or food to the Chinese (See Picture 1 & 2).
Given that the data suggests chocolate has had a much longer history in China, this makes the puzzle of why chocolate has not been fully taken off even more interesting. Allen posits that many of the challenges that explain why chocolate has not taken off in China are logistical barriers that have gotten in the way. For example, he cites the difficulty in finding places that can keep chocolate at an appropriate temperature to avoid melting. Additionally, Allen even talks about how China is not as developed as the west, therefore their stores simply do not fully expose consumers to chocolate. Although Allen talks briefly about the importance of understanding how food is understood in China (citing the yin and yang concept), he ultimately criticizes China for being too close-minded to chocolate. He writes,
Ironically, in spite of such a wide variety of tastes and textures, chocolate was so foreign to the Chinese palate that the only culinary gateway into the diets of Chinese consumers was as a foreign and exotic curiosity. Therefore, to make their chocolates appealing to Chinese consumers, the Big Five’s marketing approaches and products had to be consistent with this prevailing view.
Despite acknowledging China’s diverse and rich culinary culture, Allen still believes that through thoughtful marketing, the Big Five can make chocolate popular in China. I argue that this is a problematic and limiting understanding of chocolate in the Chinese context. Even if companies face no logistical supply-chain barriers or have perfect marketing campaigns, there are cultural factors to account for that explain why chocolate has not, in its history, been fully accepted into Chinese culture. In order to understand this, I believe we need to take a more nuanced look at the food system in China. Although there are certain regions, such as eastern China, that may prefer sweet foods, most of the country is not accustomed to eating solely sweets; there is a cultural system in China that dictates what what foods are better than others dependent on the season, weather, or condition of one’s body. To indulge in a sweet confectionary, or many pounds of it, is fundamentally oppositional to the balance of foods that one should consume.
In discussing the minimal role of sugar in French cuisine, Mintz’ cultural explanation provides a compelling framework that can help us understand why something sweet like chocolate may not be as popular in places like China. He writes,
Sweetness does not seem to ever have been enshrined as a taste to be contrasted with all others in the French taste spectrum–bitter, sour, salt, hot–as it has in England and America. Though dessert has a firm place in french meals, the position of cheese is even sturdier, often as if it were a spice. This is rather like the Chinese usage, where sweetness occurs somewhat unexpectedly, and also not always as the climax to the meal.
As Mintz points out, both French and Chinese cuisine are different from American and English cuisines in that they do not necessarily treat sweetness as a main or core component of dishes. Given sweetness’ smaller role in the cuisine of China, confections such as chocolates may therefore not be as attractive to consumers. Acknowledging the way that food is understood culturally is essential to understanding why chocolate companies may find resistance in China; if the Big Five truly want to take a stab at China, then they need to understand that the cuisine and cultural food systems are more important than consumers’ purchasing power or logistical barriers.
Allen, Lawrence. 2010. Chocolate Fortunes: the Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and
Wallets of China’s Consumers. pp. 1-39, 201-224
Clarence-Smith, William Gervase. 2003. Cocoa and Chocolate.
Gordon, Bertram M. 2011. Chapter 44: Chinese Chocolate in the book Chocolate: history, culture, and heritage edited by Grivetti and Shapiro.
Mintz, Sidney. 1986. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern
History. New York: Penguin Books
The Chinese Recorder: Missionary Journal. 1883. Volume 14, Issue 1. China: Trade, Politics & Culture.
Britain has a sweet tooth, to put it mildly. Modern day consumption is in excess of 140 pounds per year per person, which means that the average Brit eats almost one cup of added sugar per day. However, sugar is very much a product that has been introduced to the British diet over the past few hundred years. In the year 1700, the average person ate less than ten pounds of sugar per year (Martin Lecture “Sugar and Cacao”, 13 Feb 2017). The explosion of sugar consumption started in large part due to Britain’s Caribbean colonies, which produced and continue to produce much of the sugar the world consumes. I will argue that the culture of sugar consumption in Britain has largely been influenced by issues of class: that it started out as a primarily upper class product and spread to the lower classes through their desire to emulate wealth, that debates over abolition and free trade of sugar were largely a reaction by the bourgeois classes, and that even the modern day debates over sugar consumption and health issues are intrinsically linked to socio-economic status.
“Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or- Guard-Day at St. James’s” by James Gillray, 1797
As sugar began to take off in Britain, it was primarily an upper class product, viewed as one of the spoils of empire. Illustrations from the period, such as the above engraving from 1797, portray sweets and confections such as the sugar plums the soldiers are eating as products for those who have profited from Britain’s imperial expansion. The soldiers are caricatures of the troops who would go overseas to establish and maintain British colonies, and in the engraving they are the lucky few enjoying the spoils of their victory. The overweight soldier guarding the door and the bustling street scene outside further establishes the soldiers as removed from, and superior to the masses outside. As sugar became cheaper over the course of the 18th century and grocers began to market it to lower classes, they billed it as an exotic good, often comically mislabelling their products. In an effort to portray the now affordable product as a mark of status and participation in the British empire, descriptions such as “Lisbon sugar” were common (Stobart 178). The increase in sugar consumption over the course of the 18th century reflected sugar’s status as a wealthy product that had recently become affordable, making that mark of status affordable to the masses but not yet having lost its meaning.
Advertisement for a Slavery-Free Sugar Basin, late 18th century
Towards the end of the 18th century and into the Victorian Era, there emerged a largely upper-class-based abolition movement in Britain. Given that slaves were central to the British colonial sugar industry, they quickly set their eyes on it. Some abandoned eating sure entirely, whereas some tried to make sure that they sugar they were eating had not been produced by slaves. Even companies that employed slaves like the East India Company capitalized on this trend, selling Slavery-Free products like the sugar basin in the advertisement above. Abolition became more palatable amongst the upper classes in large part because slavery made products such as sugar that had previously been marks of status affordable to the masses, causing them to lose their meaning. After slavery was gradually abolished in the early 19th century, abolitionists turned their sights to lobbying for a continued tax on non-British (meaning slave-produced) sugar. As Richard Huzzey argues, this “was not a battle to preserve a shred of anti-slavery principle” but competing visions of abolitionism trying to make themselves heard (Huzzey 361). As sugar consumption rose and it lost its value as a status symbol, the upper classes were swift to turn on it.
Fast forwarding to the modern day, British sugar consumption is higher than ever, and there is a growing movement by the government and health sectors to get people to eat less due to its unhealthy effects. Articles such as “Sugar tax: what does it mean, which drinks will be affected, and will it work?” in the Telegraph demonstrate the current culture around sugar consumption. Soda and other sugary drinks are viewed as the biggest culprits, and there is a growing awareness of the amount of added sugar in other processed food. However, the foods attacked for containing the most sugar are typically the cheapest and the ones most likely to be disproportionally consumed by those of lower socio-economic status. A recent study even showed that the parents most likely to have receive counseling as to lower their children’s sugar intake are disproportionally poor (Park et al.). While the health risks of sugar are real, many modern efforts to combat them do not confront the fact that many of the foods most responsible are also the most affordable.
Gillray, James. “Hero’s recruiting at Kelsey’s; – or- Guard-Day at St. James’s.” http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001695092/. Accessed 9 Mar 2017.
Huzzey, Richard. “Free trade, free labour, and slave sugar in Victorian Britain.” The Historical Journal 53.02 (2010): 359-379.
Image. http://www.mylearning.org/learning/global-citizens-make-an-impact/sugar%20notice.jpg. Accessed 9 Mar 2017.
Martin, Carla D, lecture “Sugar and Cacao,” Harvard College, Cambridge, MA. 13 Feb 2017.
Park, Sohyun, Bettylou Sherry, Heidi M. Blanck; Characteristics of parents receiving counseling from child’s doctor to limit child’s sugar drink consumption. J Public Health (Oxf) 2012; 34 (2): 228-235. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdr071
Stobart, Jon. Sugar and Spice: Grocers and Groceries in Provincial England, 1650-1830. Oxford University Press, 2013.
“Sugar Tax: What Does It Mean, Which Drinks Will Be Affected, and Will It Work?” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 18 May 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.
Since the 1940s chocolate advertising has largely been dominated by stereotyped and hypersexualized images of women, or sexualized images of men FOR women4. They depict women with a lack of self-control, of women caving to their ‘guilty’ pleasures, of women giving in to the temptation and sins of chocolate4. This form of advertising, however, has consequences that go beyond its blatantly offensive stereotypes. Such highly gendered advertising perpetuates images of perfection that in turn create impossible standards. The resulting culture is one of indulgence and shame that often has extremely negative consequences. To combat the negative imagery that exists in advertising, there needs to be a shift, where women are portrayed as inspirations of a healthy lifestyle that encourages moderation instead of guilt and perfection.
“A six-pack that melts a girl’s heart.” This ad often appears in critiques of chocolate advertising. It shows the abs of what appears to be a black male, clearly edited and enhanced. The ad makes reference to the temptation of the male body for women in the same way that chocolate also tempts women. This reinforces the stereotype that women are both sex crazed and obsessed with chocolate; a stereotype that is largely a consequence of chocolate’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities4. But I would like to dig a little further into the effects of this ad. To sell the product, the advertisement compares Dove chocolate to this impossibly perfect male figure. The association begins with women, who are clearly the target of this ad, desiring this perfect male figure. His figure dominates the visual space of the ad, filling the image with a picture of desire for women. The attention then focuses to the bottom right hand corner, to the bar of chocolate. This bar and the figure have the same coloring, the same editing, and even the same shaping. This resemblance serves to create an immediate association between the man that is desirable and the chocolate, thereby making that chocolate desirable. The text at the bottom is the final focus, since it is small print that blends into the coloring of the picture, which serves to reinforce the association between this “perfect” man and thus the perfect chocolate that all women are supposed to want desperately. This ad plays to the sexual desires of women as well as their insecurities about body image and its implications for actually being in a relationship with the perfect man. This ad has two major implications: 1) it is created based on the idea that women must desire the ‘perfect’ man who is represented by singularly physical (and unattainable) attributes and 2) that men do the “melting” while women are the ones who are “melted”, reinforcing a hetero-normative sexual hierarchy that chocolate advertising has long perpetuated. As well there is a distinct contradiction at work- the male figure is perfect in this ad, thereby selling the chocolate to women. However, according to mainstream media, to get the perfect man, women shouldn’t being eating chocolate because they too need a perfect body! Such impossible standards and contradictions breed a culture that shames women and places them into an inferior relationship with the men around them.
The entire purpose of advertisements is to make consumers buy a product. But in ads like the Dove ad above, marketers are inflicting a ridiculous cultural stigma onto customers with potentially very damaging effects. In a 2009 study, researchers found that women who were exposed to advertisements that used thin models were more likely to avoid chocolate2. The counter to this avoidance was that the women then experienced extreme cravings for chocolate since they were intentionally depriving themselves of it, leading to excessive indulgence and feelings of guilt and shame2. The study concluded that this could be a possible link to a culture of eating disorders brought on by the exposure to the advertisements2. The Dove ad that uses a male model may be less directly correlated to female eating disorders, but it still has massive psychological effects and contributes to the impossible standard that is present in our culture.
As a response to such negative and damaging advertising, I created an ad that featured images of the top female rock climbers in the world. I chose pictures that intentionally showed them doing their sport rather than modeling. My purpose in including them was to inspire rather than demoralize women. These women constitute several generations of ground breaking female athletes at the top of their sport, competing and often ahead of their male counterparts. These pictures show their skill and strength rather than objectifying them. The accompanying slogan is a direct response to the previous reference that only males have six-packs and muscles. Additionally I think that despite our crazy guilt over what NOT to eat, chocolate can have a healthy place in our diet. In moderation, it can in fact be a very positive food, and not just an indulgence to an irrational craving. By showing that real women eat chocolate on a daily basis as part of a balanced diet serves to encourage a healthy lifestyle that is not fraught by a binge and purge mentality.
Ads that encourage healthy habits instead of guilt and impossible standards do actually exist in the world of advertising. In an ad for JoJo’s chocolate bark (a homemade dark chocolate snack), we encounter a woman with an inspirational story who is simply trying to live a healthier lifestyle after a close call with cancer. Additionally, the ad features a woman and a man who do cross fit and eat the bark, showing its benefits as well as showing real unedited people who live a healthy active life. While not entirely rid of stereotypes (white woman in her kitchen, making chocolate that her son likes to eat… sounds eerily similar to the original housewife ads of Cadbury and Rowntree) I think it is a step in the right direction. Ads like this will help to break the relationship between women and the stereotypes of guilty eating and hypersexualization, as well as help to make chocolate a part of a healthy balanced lifestyle.
Dove Chocolate. Dove Chocolate Ads and Commercials Archive, Seoul. Ed. Mars, INC.
Durkin, K., and K. Rae. “P02-53 Women and Chocolate Advertising: Exposure to Thin Models Exacerbates Ambivalence.” European Psychiatry1 (2009): S743. Doi:10.1016/S0924-9338(09)70976-9. Web.
Chocolate is very popular. In the 2014/2015 cacao year, 4201 thousand tons of cacao were produced globally. Unfortunately, unfair labor practices abound within the chocolate industry. And because of the casual chocolate culture- dominated by cheap candy bars – these unfair labor practices will be difficult to move away from.
Chocolate hasn’t always been treated casually. As explained in The True History of Chocolate, “In the New World that gave [chocolate] birth, this seed was so valuable as a foodstuff, as a currency, and as a religious symbol that the literature about it is unrivalled in quantity and diversity by writings about any other American plant which made the journey to the Old World” (p. 17). Later, in Baroque Europe, drinking chocolate was elaborately prepared and linked with the nobility and ecclesiastical.
A portrait of the family of the Duke of Penthievre drinking chocolate.
But as the demand for chocolate grew and technology advanced, chocolate transitioned from a celebrated rarity into a “solid food for the masses”. A Bloomberg Business article reveals the top 5 best selling candies (not including gum) in America today:
5.Kit Kat (annual U.S. sales: $198.9 million)
4.Snickers (annual U.S. sales: $441.1 million)
3. Hersheys (annual U.S. sales: $475 million)
2.Reese’s (annual U.S. sales: $516.5 million)
1. M and M’s (annual U.S. sales: $637.2 million)
There’s no question that candy bars and similar, cheap chocolates now dominate the American chocolate experience. Chocolate countlines (chocolate covered bars, like Snickers) and chocolate straightlines (small identical items, like M and Ms) make up over 80% of the confectionery market:
Clearly, the candy bar and similar cheap chocolates’ ubiquity in the United States creates a conception of chocolate as something cheap and casual. People associate “chocolate” with the dollar treat (Snickers bars are 89 cents at Target) that gets picked up by bored shoppers waiting in line. This is very different from the ritual and festivity that surrounded chocolate in Baroque Europe and Mesoamerica.
As long as a large percentage of chocolate is viewed in the same, casual way as an 89-cent Snickers bar, the push towards ethical chocolate production will have very little success. The major players in the chocolate candy bar business rely on cheap cacao to keep their prices low. And this cheap cacao is often produced through the use of unethical business practices like child labor.
In order to change the behavior of large chocolate companies, people must care about chocolate again. But for this, we must move away from the cheap, convenient, and consequence-free perception of chocolate that accompanies our current candy bar culture.
 ICCO Quarterly Bulletin of Cocoa Statistics, Vol. XLI, No. 4, Cocoa year 2014/15
 Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
Theobroma Cacao’s favorable adoption and portrayal in popular culture throughout the centuries played a vital role in facilitating “the food of the god’s” transition from little known product, to the preferred drink of the elite, and then the masses, in a trend that continues to this day.
Late 16th and early 17th century Spanish explorers, friars, and merchants, such as Juan de Cárdenas, and Juan de los Barrios brought back with them from the new world varied accounts and manuscripts extolling the medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties of the newly discovered Theobroma cacao (Coe and Coe, 123; Van Patten, 161). These accounts contributed to the popularity of cacao in Spain, and eventually led to the widespread adoption in courts throughout Europe. Less than half a century later, cacao was being consumed regularly in drink form by the political elite, to the extent that it mired the Catholic church in debate over the legality of drinking cacao during the Catholic fast (Coe and Coe, 147-150).
While still mainly reserved for the elite, by the early 18th century, chocolate houses, such as White’s and Ozinda’s had opened up across England, in which anyone, regardless of status could purchase a cacao drink if they had the monetary means. Samuel Pepys, a naval administrator under King Charles II and King James II wrote extensively in his diary on how he often enjoyed cacao drinks as he rose up through the ranks of English society (Coe and Coe, 166-168).
With the procurement of sugar-producing lands from the Portuguese, and the widespread use of slave labor, Britain witnessed a massive increase in sugar production (Mintz, 39-55). Increased sugar production combined with the technological advancements within the cacao industry (such as the hydraulic press in 1828, and the conch in 1879), led to inexpensive production of cacao, allowing the middle class to partake in cacao products, previously reserved for the elite, on a regular basis (Presilla, 39-41). In “Smyth’s Travels in Virginia, In 1773”, it is noted that the lower and middle classes ate chocolate for breakfast (Grivetti and Shapiro, 285). As a result of this increased demand for cacao products, by the late 18th century, there existed over 70 chocolate companies in North America (Grivetti and Shapiro, 282-283).
The populace’s dive into the world of cacao was further spurred by articles appearing in the media, such as the 1841 edition of “The Family Magazine,” which discussed the virtues of cacao and its superiority to coffee and tea. Additionally, chocolate was frequently referenced in popular books at the time, such as Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities,” and even in the music industry, where the early 1900’s singer G.H. Elliot became known as (what would now be considered un-pc) “The Chocolate Colored Coon” (“CHOCOLATE”, 380; Dickens; “G H Elliott”).
Many of the large chocolate manufacturers, in order to boost their sales and the overall reach of cacao in society, initiated cultural customs based around chocolate that exist even today. In 1868, Richard and George Cadbury created the first heart-shaped box of chocolates, which soon became a hallmark of Valentine’s Day (Chocolates – history.com). Cadbury was also responsible for the invention of chocolate easter eggs (cadbury.com.au).
Video Credit: CBS Worldwide Inc
Chocolate and cacao are now imbued in much of our popular culture; with references to, and entire episodes on chocolate in TV shows from “I Love Lucy,” to “Seinfeld” to the “Simpsons,” books such as Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and even video games such as “Minecraft,” played by over one hundred million people (“Adventurize”).
Video Credit: Daniel Harris, produced for this blog post
While it is difficult to directly attribute the dramatic rise in chocolate and cacao consumption to the popular culture that surrounded the much-loved product, it assuredly contributed to its consumption in a circular fashion (i.e., the more people wrote about chocolate, the more people ate it, the more people wrote about it, and so on).
Six centuries after Europe was first introduced to the cacao bean, and proceeded to spread “the food of the gods’” across the entire planet, cacao has become ingrained in our books, TV shows, movies, history, and cultures. Cacao has become an increasingly sought after, and irreplaceable global resource.
Coe, Sophie D, and Michael D Coe. The True History Of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
Van Patten, Nathan. “THE MEDICAL LITERATURE OF MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA”. The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 24.1/2 (1930): 150-199. Web.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness And Power. New York, N.Y.: Viking, 1985. Print.
Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste Of Chocolate. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2001. Print.
Over the course of the semester, I’ve found myself chiefly concerned with the appropriation of Indigenous cultures within the production of goods for non-Indigenous consumption. To be clear, my concern is not with the sharing of culture, taste, and economies of people across land and oceans. Rather, the dilemma with chocolate exists in the historical institution of slavery and continued poor labor conditions ingrained in its industry, as well as the present appropriation of culture evident specifically in craft or artisanal chocolate and its advertisements. In order to observe how this subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, appropriation of culture interacts with the modern day consumer, I decided to host a chocolate tasting party and record the social and individual responses. I found that, regardless of the individual’s personal connection, chocolate served to highlight the importance of food both as culture and as shared community in their connection to sense memory; additionally, the chocolate tasting also revealed how food reflects the transformation of culture in displaced communities that have experienced forced assimilation and adaptation.
As this class knows by now, the theobromine cacao tree originates from the equatorial region, primarily within 20 degrees north and south of the equator (Presilla 8), that encapsulates modern-day Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. From this magnificent tree, the Indigenous peoples from the region were able to use cacao from the pods that grew on the theobromine’s trunk to produce chocolate. You might be thinking, “So what? Some Indians figured out how to make chocolate products.” We’re not talking about a discovery of plant use and food product within the last hundred years; we’re talking about the use of a plant to make chocolate products by, at least, 300 B.C., which dates chocolate production and consumption by more than 2,500 years. Anthropologists and researchers have found that the Olmec civilization (1200 B.C. to 300 B.C.), from the southeast coastal area of what is now Mexico, were most likely the first peoples to regularly use cacao for commerce, food, and religion. (Coe and Coe, Fash, Presilla). The Maya, who wielded great influence throughout the region from about 250 A.D. to 900 A.D., learned much about cacao from the Olmecs and continued to rely on it for their commerce, short and long distance trade, ceremony, and food. Their connection to cacao and chocolate is well-documented via burial chambers, pottery (including pottery from Chaco Canyon in the southwest U.S.), glyphs, and stories that survived European invasion and colonialism. (Presilla, Fash)
The Aztecs (more accurately known as the Triple Alliance) who politically and militarily dominated much of present-day Mexico at the time of Spanish arrival, intensified the reliance on cacao as an economy, using it for actual currency and building a highly stratified system wealth around cacao. The evidence is clear: cacao and chocolate predates European contact with the America, and was deeply embedded in the lives of Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas for their consumption, economies, and ceremonies.
When the Spanish arrived, they quickly gleaned that cacao was highly valued within Indigenous society. Ever interested in political, religious, and economic dominance, Europeans quickly organized to control over the region and, in particular, cacao. In Bernardino de Sahagun’s “Historia general de las cosas de nueva España,” chocolate was observed to be grown at a large scale, used as money, and, under Aztec leadership, was limited for consumption by only nobility and those who were granted permission. (Presilla)
More accounts would be written and documented: the 1544 presentation of chocolate to Prince Phillip by a delegation of Kekchi Maya nobles; the first large shipment of cacao from Veracruz to Seville in 1585; an English traveler, E. Veryard, and his account of the production of chocolate; and the general, widespread European fascination and inclusion of chocolate across its courts, medicine, art, and social settings. (Coe and Coe) Europeans encountered chocolate in a big way; they fell hard for chocolate and “sought to re-create the Indigenous chocolate experience.” (Norton 1) In fact, Presilla writes that “within fifty or sixty years, the [habit of drinking chocolate] had spread to France, Italy, England, and most parts of Europe.” (24) Of course, this intense spread of chocolate was powered by the trading and brutalization of Indigenous and African peoples in the transatlantic slave trade. (Mintz) Although the chapter on slavery and colonization in chocolate’s history is critical, I have previously written on it and will continue to focus this paper on the exploration of appropriation.
Chocolate, like any other food, is an edible heritage, a tangible thing that we can savor, smell, bond over, learn from, and have deep feelings about. (Mintz) It is a vehicle through which we can remember the past and create a future. People all over the world have tied their well-being, income, and sense of community to it. Today, the craft chocolate industry has seemingly awakened from a long history of unethical practices, and is creating space within the industry to produce goods in a sustainable way and to employ fair labor practices. While this is a welcome shift in paradigm, this ethical or fair trade and organic chocolate movement has brought with it an inclination toward “Aztec” or “Mayan” chocolate making. At best, chocolate makers are paying homage to Indigenous traditions, and, at worst, they are appropriating Indigenous culture for capital, as has been common practice since Europe encountered the Americas. To explore this problem of appropriation, I conducted a chocolate tasting with some friends. The following chocolates were sampled:
Cadbury’s Royal Dark;
Nirvana’s Aztec Chocolate;
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate;
Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts;
Chuao’s Spicy Mayan Chocolate;
Three Taza Chocolates from their Chocolate Mexicano sampler pack (specifically, Pura Cacao, Cinnamon, and Guajillo Chili).
The four people surveyed covered a range of tastes and habits around the consumption of chocolate:
Person 1 stated that they did not care for chocolate;
Person 2 said they prefer 80% dark and fair trade chocolates;
Person 3 said they love chocolate and crave it often;
Person 4 consumes chocolate a few times a week, mostly as the sweetener to their coffee.
Each person saw the chocolate and the packaging before sampling. As they ate, I asked them to be cognizant of the feel or snap of the chocolate, the smell, the texture, the taste, and after taste of the chocolates.
Though they had clear instructions to analyze the flavors, textures, and smells they experienced, my tasters were more eager to talk about how the chocolate made them feel. Amidst all of the mmm’s and ew’s, one of the more interesting responses was from a Native American female from White Earth, Minnesota, whose favorite chocolates were the Ritter Sport and the Nirvana. Here is her response:
“[The Ritter Sport] reminds me of home, and growing up on my father’s reservation, harvesting hazelnuts. I didn’t realize how expensive they were until I arrived here [Cambridge] and had to buy them for the first time. They grow naturally in White Earth, and in where I went to high school on the Lac du Flambeau reservation. Every August, usually in the second week, the hazelnut trees (which look more like overgrown bushes) start getting ready to drop the clusters. That’s when you want to grab them, when the leaves covering them have turned from green to brown, but before they drop to the ground. My father and I would take these giant burlap sacs and go and fill them up; my favorite spot by the refuge has almost an entire acre of them. It’s a hassle to harvest them, and most of the time we leave them raw in their shells in order to savor them until next year’s harvest.
I also liked the Mayan chocolate for much the same reason–I grew up with the flavors. My mom is a spice nut, so if something isn’t spicy it’s not in our house. She says it’s from going to boarding school in New Mexico and having to learn how to cook with what you’re given out there. We still have relatives who live in the Southwest and ship us ingredients on the regular.”
When prompted to comment on the fact that the spicy Mayan chocolates were not, in fact, made by Mayans, a chorus of “UGH” ensued. One Native American male commented that hearing that didn’t surprise him and that the clothing industry appropriates Native American culture often. Another taster, a Mexican-Native American female said, “I love the flavor of this chocolate, and that I can go buy this whenever I’m in the mood for spicy chocolate, but I do wish that it was actually Mayan chocolate.” I mentioned that Taza chocolates are also not Mexican made and that the factory is right down the street. The fourth taster responded, “It doesn’t bother me that they are White-owned, but I do wish they gave back to community that they got this product, or method of chocolate making, from. Like, don’t appropriate, please. Native people are still around.”
While I didn’t observe the overwhelming negative reactions to instances of appropriation as I expected, I did observe how ingrained issues of identity are in our every lives. They may not be explicit in their connection, from a broader perspective, but these instances reveal some of the long-standing effects of interactions between communities and their cultures. For instance, the woman from White Earth preferred, over all others, the chocolate with hazelnuts, as it took her home, in her mind, to a place that is deeply involved with long-standing traditions around harvesting nuts. Maybe my findings point more to issues of being directly involved with one’s culture versus being a product of a multicultural environment. Or perhaps at this day and age, we’ve become so comfortable with cross-cultural exchange that we are not always mindful of which products are Indigenous modeled instead of Indigenous made. We might also be so inundated with examples of cultural appropriation, that having to identify whether or not our foods are examples of appropriation would make it impossible to feel comfortable or at ease in our own neighborhoods. Either way, in my ideal world, the craft chocolate or bean-to-bar companies would do more to serve the Indigenous communities that remain connected to this delectable food and culture that we seem to love.
Author’s note: If I were to do this again, I would want to shift perspective and explore the preconceptions and misconceptions of chocolate in connection to Indigenous roots and Latin-American usage. I would also use more than just chocolate bars, and incorporate foods like traditionally made mole and pozol!
Fash, William. Entry on the Maya. Moctezuma’s Mexico: Then and Now Course Reader.
Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books, 1986. Kindle Version
Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics” American Historical Review: The Oxford Journal, 2006. Online. Accessed March 17, 2014
Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised: A cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print
Celebrating its 89th year as one of the world’s most popular premium chocolate confectionaries, Godiva has expanded its reach far beyond Belgium, where it was first founded, and now operates more than 600 of its own chocolate boutiques and shops globally. The chocolatier has secured a specialized niche spot in the sweets and chocolate industry. While distinct from large chocolate-manufacturing corporations, like Mars and Hershey’s, which sell their products for general casual mass consumption, Godiva also does not have the localized focus of haute craft chocolatiers, which heavily emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to what they sell. With arguably only a few similar direct competitors in this market, such as Lindt and Ghirardelli, Godiva balances the high-end appeal of its products with their accessibility – selling the chocolate as an “affordable luxury”. As measured in terms of profitability and brand recognition, Godiva’s success as a business can be largely attributed to the chocolatier’s understanding of the fine chocolate market and the particular methods it uses to capitalize on that understanding of how the consumers relate to the product. Specifically, Godiva displays the knowledge that for the consumer, chocolate consumption is not purely rooted in taste, but rather encapsulates various other components of the consumption experience, including how it speaks to their identity and relation to society. Chocolate cannot be successfully sold on the basis of the quality and nature of the product itself; rather, the entire context surrounding the product – what it symbolizes, how it’s presented, what purpose it serves, how it relates to other goods – all have to be taken into consideration. Since these social components can vary among different cultures and groups of people, all this contributes to the formation of a personalized chocolate experience that will effectively appeal to consumers.
In contrast to the perspective that taste is a universal and natural quality that people can experience objectively, there are many arguments that explain that taste is actually a social experience – one that is constructed in and affected by the context of the surrounding cultural and social environment (Norton, 2006). There is no pure and ideal form and understanding of “good” and “bad” taste; rather, such values are influenced by the way society is structured and who or what ranks at the top and bottom of the hierarchy. When it comes to consumption, people do not just consume for the sake of consuming. They are constantly thinking about what that consumption says about their identity and about their positioning and status in reference to others. They are thinking about how consuming other alternatives and substitutes may affect those statements they are making about themselves. As Mintz articulated in his 1985 book, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, sugar was once used as a symbol of rank and social prestige that distinguished the superior from the inferior when it was viewed as a luxury good. Over time, as sugar changed from being a good consumed only by the wealthy to one that was for the mass population, the implications of the product and the act of eating it also altered. The same goes for chocolate. Especially as a good that is not an absolute necessity for survival, the connotations of eating it are sometimes even more important for consumers than the actual product itself. Thus, great care has to be taken into shaping those implications surrounding chocolate, which is reflected specifically in how it is produced and sold.
Artisanal chocolatiers frequently elaborate on how specialized and unique their chocolate is in terms of the care that goes into recipe creation, ingredient selection, actual production, and ultimate presentation. These chocolate craftsman also express outrage at large chocolate mass-producing corporations entering the market and selling their products as substitutes to the chocolate works of art concocted by these specialized confectionaries (Terrio, 2000). Furthermore, they express even greater frustration for how most consumers are not even able to distinguish between these mass-produced sweets, which are often formulated with cheap and artificial ingredients and flavoring, and the authentic and high-quality chocolate they make. This simply demonstrates how unless an individual is a thoroughly educated and informed consumer who specifically seeks out fine chocolate because of an understanding of the production and implications of the product, there is a limit to how much consumers know and care, and how much money and effort they are willing to spend on the eating experience of chocolate (Williams & Eber, 2012). Of course, that is not to say that all consumers don’t see a difference between a cheap candy bar they pick up at a local convenience store and an intricately designed truffle they select from a chocolate boutique. What is most significant about this pattern of behavior is that in a sense, for the general consumer, the consumption of chocolate is not solely about the pure quality of the product itself and its taste, but is also highly dependent on external factors, like its packaging, reputation, and purpose.
Godiva appeals to this specific type of consumer – the average person who doesn’t have extensive knowledge (nor really wants to obtain it) about fine chocolate, so relies heavily on the image and story that is marketed to him/her about the product, who at the same time still wants to elevate his/her status and demonstrate an appreciation for goods of higher quality. Recent trends in chocolate sales indicate specifically an increase in the popularity of premium chocolate. Back between 2002 and 2006, the overall chocolate market grew at a rate of about 17%, while the premium chocolate sector grew at a rate of nearly 70% in that same five-year period (Rupani, 2007). Vreeland & Associates, a confectionary industry market research firm, reported that in the United States, the chocolate market grew to $19.29 billion in 2011 and that premium chocolate accounted for $2.7 billion of those sales, with an expected continual growth of 10% annually (Williams & Eber, 2012). People figure that if they are going to indulge, they might as well treat themselves with a product that tastes better, looks better, and feels better than convenience store candy bars, especially if it’s not unreasonably more expensive or effortful to consume. However, what exactly constitutes “premium chocolate” is subjective to the consumer. The standards could consist of the quality of the cocoa beans and other ingredients, the intricacy of the manufacturing process, whether the chocolate is organic or certified, how distinctly different it tastes from other chocolate, whether it’s artfully packaged – some of these characteristics being valued more than others by different people. Chocolatiers play a significant role in defining the standards of what constitutes refined taste and gourmet chocolate and educating the consumers in that regard (Terrio, 2000). After these standards are set, consumers then buy into the system and internalize and reinforce the evaluations by buying, eating, and gifting particular chocolates with specific social agendas in mind. Godiva is able to consistently hold a unique place in consumers’ lives by continually reinforcing the idea that its brand and products do indeed define and embody what consumers want from “premium chocolate”.
One of the greatest strengths of the company that also contribute to it being automatically grouped with higher-end chocolate brands is the longstanding image and recognizable product packaging associated with the chocolatier – people instantly recognize when the chocolate is Godiva.
From the embossed trademark of the courageous Lady Godiva who rode naked through Coventry in efforts to repeal unfair taxation on the citizens to the shimmering gold ballotin down to the satin ribbon tying the whole box together, Godiva’s packaging has been making an eye-catching and impressive statement of class, boldness, and timelessness for decades. When consumers think about Godiva, it is not necessarily the chocolate itself that comes to mind, but the entire wrapped package. In fact, the popularity of buying Godiva as gifts, particularly around special occasions like holidays and birthdays, can most likely be attributed to the brand’s exceptionally alluring appearance. Godiva representatives even agrees that their chocolate is specifically packaged in a way that doesn’t require the consumer to gift-wrap, making it the perfect present.
However, in recent years, especially with some of the setbacks in the economy, Godiva has made a move to change the focus of its business to encompass more than the gifting capability of its products. It has slightly rebranded to allow customers to view the chocolatier in a new way – a brand that they can rely on not only for seasonal gifting, but also for personal indulgence and casual sharing any time of the year. In this sense, the company is differentiating itself from the artisanal craft chocolatiers. Godiva recognizes that its customer reach is global and much less niche than these gourmet shops and subsequently, needs to capitalize on the affordability and accessibility of its chocolate to appeal to its wider and more diverse market share. Thus, the chocolatier has now balanced out the boxes of three dozen assorted chocolates that retail for $50 and lines of fancily designed truffles with new $6 soft serve, frozen Trufflelata drinks (that resemble and are priced similarly to Starbucks Frappuccinos), and individually-wrapped chocolate treats called Godiva Gems (Historic Change, 2014). They’ve started putting their chocolate in grocery stores to appeal to consumers who are looking for treats with more casual and everyday purposes in mind. However, at the same time, the chocolatier is still maintaining its high-quality, premium placement in the chocolate market. This new branding strategy has been doing well for the company, with Godiva sales growing at 10% every year since 2008 and putting its worth at $765 million in 2013 (Historic Change, 2014).
Godiva’s consumer-driven strategy and thorough understanding of the aspects of its products that are most marketable are evident in the way it segments its consumer base and how that’s reflected in the chocolatier’s product advertising. There can be distinct comparisons drawn between Godiva’s promotional tactics in the different countries where its chocolate is sold. In the United States, for example, the accessibility, easy-sharing, and delightful self-indulgence appeal of Godiva chocolate is emphasized.
This commercial campaign targeting American consumers sold Godiva as something that people can fill all aspects of their lives with.
Meanwhile, in Asia, other methods are used. The gift-giving functionality of the chocolate for special occasions, like Valentine’s Day, and the unique addition they contribute to extraordinary celebrations, like weddings, are highlighted in the promotional efforts in countries like Japan and China.
In this Japanese commercial, the chocolate is specially wrapped in pink for Valentine’s Day and given between lovers in celebration of romance. Another noteworthy component of both this and the U.S. commercial is that they both emphasize the foreign nature of Godiva – the former one choosing to have the commercial star a Caucasian couple rather than an Asian one, and the latter including a narrator with what is presumably a Belgian accent. The European exoticism of the company contributes to the overall special quality and luxury image of the chocolatier.
This next promotional video that introduces the new Godiva wedding collection that will be sold in China includes a famous Chinese actress to market the new product line.
China has traditionally been a more difficult market for chocolate companies to break into, because the Chinese have a cultural taste for treats that aren’t sweetened with cream-based fillings, which are quite widespread among European desserts (William & Eber, 2012). However, it’s extremely popular for the Chinese to buy chocolates as gifts or as tangible celebration symbols, and when they do so, they want the chocolate to have the appearance and taste of rareness and high quality. The knowledge of the consumer preference in this region of the world shapes Godiva’s marketing strategy here. Instead of following an advertising campaign similar to the one in the U.S., the confectionary went in a different direction to appeal to this particular market. Moreover, Godiva even created a new chocolate collection just this year for Chinese New Year, a holiday that involves plenty of gift giving and celebrations.
The collection was promoted on Godiva’s popular Facebook page in February. The posts and pictures indicate a clear knowledge of the cultural traditions involved with the holiday – placing the plate of Godiva chocolates on a table with other foods that are eaten for Lunar New Year and Chinese decorations that resemble prosperity and luck. The collection’s popularity is evident with the immediate release of the design for next year’s Chinese New Year (Year of the Monkey), which boasts the same recognizable gold and red Godiva holiday packaging, but features an embossed picture of a monkey alongside the Godiva trademark.
Chocolate consumption in the Asia-Pacific region is predicted to grow at almost twice the global chocolate consumption rate over the next four years and is predicted to reach $16.3 billion in 2018 (Chanjaroen, 2014). Godiva takes advantage of the unique market placement of its chocolate – which contrasts with mass-production companies like Hershey’s, which more directly face Chinese domestic competitors – and expands its product lines for these Asian countries based on what it knows the consumers there favor most about the brand.
Godiva’s success as an internationally recognized premium chocolatier has less to do with the actual taste of its chocolate, especially when compared to other high-end gourmet chocolate brands, than with the way it sells the chocolate consumption experience to its consumers. Of course, this is not to say that Godiva chocolate is no better, in terms of ingredients and manufacturing quality, than chocolate mass-producing companies like Nestle and Mars; the luxury and premium quality of the brand indeed comes from somewhere. However, Godiva is not quite categorized in the same group as true artisan and fine chocolate shops that are really focused on the craft of chocolate making and tasting. What the global confectioner’s success and popularity is rooted in is its unique take on the experience of eating chocolate. Godiva expertly addresses every part of this entire consumption experience from beginning to end, from the way the chocolate looks aesthetically to the purpose for which it’s purchased to what it’s like to eat and taste it to what it says about the consumer who buys it, in terms of both individual and social identity. All of these different components are carefully analyzed and personalized for each individual consumer segment in the market that Godiva operates in. Even so, at the end of the day, in all these various regions around the world, the combination of that gold ballotin and satin ribbon conjures up similar overarching notions of decadence, luxury, tradition, and timelessness.
The industrialization period brought about the emergence of mass-production chocolate companies that have come to dominate the modern-day economic realm. The crucial component fueling this industry rests on the interplay between consumers and chocolate manufacturing companies, whose existence relies on accommodating the subsequent party’s needs. Competition between big chocolate companies fosters growth in the industry, however it also challenges the quality and practice of chocolate production, as companies employ cheap means in order to provide the most profitable product for the consumer. Cardullo’s is a small retail shop located in Harvard Square that historically has focused on supplying quality international foods, carrying a wide array of artisanal as well as bulk-produced chocolate. The shop very much intertwines with Harvard’s cultural values, and has adapted to provide a unique Harvard type “experience” by carrying crafted chocolates that stray from the conventional mass produced chocolates typically purchased by Americans. Cardullo’s legitimizes its products by generating a “social terroir” inviting the inquisitive Harvard community to taste the history of chocolate infused by different cultures inside the varying brands of chocolate, while simultaneously redefining the psychology behind high quality taste appreciation by promoting good ethics of production with its foreign associates and higher pricing of its chocolates. Ultimately, Cardullo’s challenges modern societies devalued sense of chocolate tasting appreciation that has been tainted by this generation’s fast pleasure-seeking life style.
Cardullo’s was established at the steps of one of the world’s most pristine academic institutions, luring in students and visitors from an array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Franck Cardullo, who set out to fill a niche that could provide quality foods for the neighborhood’s international population, developed the store in 1950 (Culinary Cambridge, 2012). The original store was located across the street form it’s current location, however the layout and décor inside the shop remains much in the traditional style of the old days. The shop carries a wide assortment of imported chocolate, from recognized brands like Tobleron and Mars, to less known labels such as Francois Pralus and Reger. Interestingly, the store piles all the popular mass produced brands of chocolate and crams them in the lower right hand level of a shelf, while what are to be considered “finer” and more expensive chocolate brands are shelved with more precision, in a somewhat artistic manner. The two images below depict the cluttered arrangement of the cheaper over-refined chocolate in comparison to the graceful layout of the pristine deemed Godiva chocolate.
Cardullo’s carries chocolate brands and flavors specifically targeted towards an audience of consumer conscious students, as well as the bountiful international tourists flocking to the University’s historical site. Harvard students are vey much driven by moral issues, and the community fosters consciousness on many social and ethical issues unfolding around the world. I will later introduce a concept of moral and social terroir that drives Harvard’s consumer choices. A second factor driving the choices of these consumers results from the impact of history in the community. Harvard students and tourists visiting the university have a great appreciation for historical contexts and the preservation of historical traditions. Marcy Norton describes in a book on “Tasting Empire,” 16th century records from Zapoteca, Nahua, and Mayan regions depict entries in diaries of cacao drinks being prepared with cacao and maize, cacao and chili peppers, and sometimes cacao alone (Norton, 2006). The tastes of the cacao drinks may be unique to the time, but Cardullo’s has found a means to capture a similar historical essence by selling a spiced Mayan cocoa drink labeled as such, instead of simply tagging it as “hot chocolate”. The chocolate supplied by Cardullo’s can thus be seen as a connection between the past and the present, serving as a means of unifying different cultures and historical eras.
While Cardullo’s supplies chocolate containing original flavors consumed by the people in Mesoamerica, it also emphasizes the detrimental role played by Europeans in the transformation of chocolate form it’s ancient condition to renown modern form. Many scholars have argued the case that the Spanish were appalled by the taste of the chocolate drink consumed by the natives and drastically transformed it when they returned to European soil. Norton however, counters this misconception by arguing that while Europeans added their own inventions to the chocolate they brought from Central America, “there was no conscious effort to radically reinvent the substance. Instead, modifications came about because of gradual tinkering motivated by efforts to maintain- not change- the sensory impact of chocolate” (Norton, 2006). Cardullo’s further supports Norton’s argument, and seeks to educate it’s consumers on the transformative history of chocolate as a part of their experience. The image below portrays a box of German chocolates called “Reber Mozart Kuglen,” plastered with a portrait of Mozart himself. The chocolate is placed on the highest level of the shelf in the store, almost as if on a pedestal, thus accentuating the celebration of European tradition in chocolate. The label further details that the box contains “filled chocolates,” a crucial European innovation to the manufacturing of chocolate.
Cardullo’s really builds on the idea of providing its consumers with a unique sensory experience of chocolate’s historical origins, by focusing on removing any outside influences of modern times that could be altering the pureness of chocolate appreciation. Cardullo’s captivates the interest of its consumers by appealing to their focus on good morality and strive towards a greater appreciation of the world. One of the ways in which they achieve this is by supplying single origin chocolate, as a means of directly altering the consumer’s sensory experience to a foreign region. Over the recent years, consumer preference in the US has increasingly shifted towards single origin bars, resulting from an appeal towards the “localization” of foods whose origins tend to be anonymous (Leslie, 2013). This can also be described as the “beans to bar” notion that Leslie characterizes as chocolates that are produced from a single variety of cacao produced in one region. An example of this can be seen in the Francois Pralus selection at Cardullo’s shown below, which even details the precise latitude and longitudinal coordinates of the region in which it was produced.
Such emphasis on location of the origins of the chocolate draws on the notion of terroir, which can be described as a characteristic taste and flavor of chocolate resulting from the environment in which it is produced. Nesto argues the case for single origin chocolate, in which using site-specific, quality cacao produces a bar fused with terroir given the minimal and sensitive processing sustained (Nesto, 2013). Cardullo’s generates a “social terroir” in its selection of chocolate by providing its consumers with a taste of the history of chocolate simultaneously infused with different cultures. This attraction to the exotic and unknown is what drives consumers to purchase chocolates from origins of Sao Tome, Madagascar, and Indonesia, like the ones seen above. Madagascar for example is an attractive origin largely because of “it’s cooca’s unusually bright, high citrus notes” (Leissle, 2013).
This social terroir provides information to the consumer about the potential ethical dilemmas behind the chocolates production, while also serving as a publicity measure promoting the improvement of relations between the United States and its foreign partners. Most of the brands supplied by the store stray from the renowned brands of mass-produced chocolates that carry negative qualifications due to the ethics behind production. Cardullo’s sells brands labeled with other countries, which the United States promotes positive relations with as a tool to draw a parallel between positive foreign relations with countries and the good ethics behind their chocolate production. One can observe Cardullo’s supply of the Madagascar and Sao Tome selection of Francois Pralus almost as a diplomatic tool. As Leissle argues, Madagascar has a positive reputation in US popular understanding since it “seems culturally, historically, and politically separate from the troubled continent of Africa proper” (Leissle, 2013). On the other end of the spectrum, Cardullo’s also supplies the Sao Tome label as a means to amend the negative light shown on the region as a result of its past turmoil with the Cadbury Company. As Catherine Higgs describes in her book, Cadbury employed slave labor practices on cocoa farms in Sao Tome during the early 20th century, leaving behind a region that continues to be rocked by political and social turmoil (Higgs, 2012).
Cardullo’s strays from supplying conventional fair trade and organic stamps as a means of legitimizing its products, and instead focuses more on the price range of chocolate. If you click on the chocolate tab on the stores website (http://www.cardullos.com/category/view/chocolate), there is a range in chocolate from the most expensive price being $65.00 for a chocolate basket, to more moderate chocolate bars sold for $10.00. The lofty price of the chocolate boxes reflects on the artistic quality of the design as well as the ingredients, but comparing similar sized chocolate bars across the spectrum there is a significant price difference that results from the quality of cocoa beans and other ingredients used. Williams et al. wrote a piece in which they argue against the cheap cocoa beans and artificial ingredients used by certain companies to make a profit, further asserting the freshness in flavor that results from the use of natural ingredients, such as in the Mast Brothers Chocolate’s products (Williams et al., 2012). People tend to develop different levels of taste appreciation depending on the exposure to different types of chocolate during their lifetime, which can be a result of the affordability in price of the chocolate. However, consumer’s appreciation of chocolate can also be influenced by the price of the chocolate. People automatically tend to associate more expensive chocolate to a higher quality and sophistication in the product, especially in modern day society where most consumers purchasing decisions are driven by financial forces. Stuckey argues there is a psychology behind consumers understanding the food they are tasting (Stuckey, 2012). This can result in consumers quite literally focusing on the taste of the price of chocolate, and lead them to try unusual flavors such as “Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar,” simply because they assume the higher price applies to higher quality.
This however, serves as an important marketing strategy allowing Cardullo’s to redefine the tastes associated with more expensive, and finer chocolate.
Cardullo’s marketing measures divulges the stores concern on redefining consumer’s ordinary, present day experience when eating chocolate. The chocolate sold at Cardullo’s presents a break in tradition of which Williams et al. would describe as “a generation that wants pleasure fast,” (Williams et al., 2012) further challenging the morality and taste appreciation of the mass-produced chocolate market. The store’s attempt goes hand in hand with the Harvard culture’s desire to experience new things, while paralleling to Harvard’s exclusive nature in providing unique tastes, such as the collection of brands and flavors seen below. Stuckey argued the importance behind the psychology of taste, stressing the more food you taste the more you will develop to appreciate it (Stuckey, 2012). Cardullo’s wide selection of chocolates differing in origins and tastes therefore reflects the businesses goal in challenging the way this generation appreciates chocolate.
I once found a 12-pack of Kit Kats in the Amsterdam airport on my layover home from Uganda. I was ecstatic. My idea of “normal” chocolate bars were not available in the places I stayed in Uganda, and why would I buy just one when I could buy this pack of twelve duty-free. I’ll never forget my extreme disappointment when I broke into the first one after the plane had taken off. They tasted awful! Somehow they were too creamy or milky: just plain bad. The crunch was there, but the chocolate was off. I understood chocolate varied by country, but I thought something as normal as a Kit Kat would be the same everywhere. I was severely mistaken. This was my first experience with chocolate differences internationally, and it was eye opening.
This experience exemplifies that the chocolate market has catered to the differences in preferences across countries. How did these preferences come to be? Are European people biologically predisposed to prefer chocolate with more milk than Americans? Probably not. The differences in taste most likely originated from each country’s unique history of chocolate consumption.
With the rise of global consumerism, today you can find Snickers in Germany, Cadbury Dairy Milk in America, and Milo (an Australian chocolate drink) in Canada. Through a series of interviews with various people of different nationalities, I have determined that despite this global market, one’s nationality and country of upbringing definitely affect one’s chocolate preferences. Children’s chocolate preferences across the world are in flux, influenced by advertisements, their family’s preferences, and the preferences of their peers. Likewise, once children become adults, their chocolate preferences are mostly established. All of the factors that influence children vary by country, and continue to lend diversity and complexity to the chocolate market.
The widespread chocolate market began with companies like Cadbury, Nestle, Lindt, and Hershey, as they innovated with chocolate to make it scalable for the masses. Cadbury started in the United Kingdom and had the privilege to be the royal chocolate suppliers for Queen Victoria (Coe, Ch 8). It is no wonder that Cadbury is still so popular among the British. Likewise, Nestle in Switzerland discovered how to make powdered milk, which was able to capitalize on the large Swiss dairy industry (Coe, Ch 8). Today, Swiss chocolate is known for being milkier (Alberts). Hershey, founded in America, wanted to make chocolate affordable for everyone, so focused on cutting costs by lowering the amount of cocoa and increasing the amount of sugar, which was cheaper (Coe Ch 8, “European”). Thus, Americans have grown up with sweeter chocolate that uses less cocoa, whereas Europeans pride themselves on the high cocoa content and smoother chocolate (made by increasing the fat content) (“European”). The Spanish, on the other hand, generally prefer stronger, more bitter chocolate; it is closer to what the original chocolate brought from the New World would have tasted like (Alberts). As certain companies gained traction at the start of the big chocolate expansion, their localized environment developed preferences for their type of chocolate (Alberts). These preferences developed and refined over time, combining with advertising and other factors to create national preferences that still exist today.
The different chocolate markets and general preferences affect children as they are growing up in these countries. Advertisements are a critical source of influence. Numerous studies show the susceptibility of children to advertisements, especially those targeted specifically at kids (Gunter 52). In fact, children are so likely to be influenced by advertisements that strict regulations have been put in place to limit the extent to which children as mislead by advertisements’ exaggerations (Gunter 132).
Because advertisements are directly targeted at children and children have been proven to be extremely susceptible to the influence of advertisements, chocolate advertisements play a large role in children’s chocolate preferences. Of the interviewees who watched television when they were younger, all of them remember at least one chocolate advertisement that stuck with them to this day. An interview with a college student who grew up in Newcastle, England, particularly remembered the Cadbury and Cadbury Dairy Milk advertisements (Nick). If the Cadbury advertisements are as ridiculous as they are today, it is easy to understand why. The following is a Cadbury advertisement from 2009. The advertisement shows no relevance to their actual chocolate product, but will gain the attention of kids nonetheless, insinuating that the joy and fun observed in these videos will be theirs if they eat Cadbury too.
Similarly, an Australian grad student remembers the ads for Milo chocolate energy drinks.
“It’s a chocolaty ‘energy’ drink, but it’s ridiculously delicious and also comes in chocolate bars. Kids grow up on it.” (Timnah).
Notably, only the British interviewees talked about Cadbury advertisements, whereas American interviewees talked about Snickers, Hershey, and other chocolates more popular in America. As someone who grew up in Minnesota, I had never heard of Milo until the Australian interviewee told me of its importance to Australian children. A child’s nationality definitely affects the advertisements they see and are influenced by. These advertisements vary by country, aligning with the companies that are the most popular and have the most market share. Consequently, children develop preferences for the chocolate that is already prevalent in their country.
Children are also influenced by their parent’s chocolate preferences. When children live in a different country from the one their parents grew up in, they still develop preferences for the chocolate of the parents’ nationality. One generation ago, chocolate was more of a localized good. According to an interviewee from Canada with Dutch parents, when her parents were younger, a vast majority of their chocolate consumption was Dutch chocolate (Jessica). Thus, the older generations developed even more specific chocolate preferences than children today. These parents keep certain kinds of chocolate in the house, prefer to buy those kinds at the store, and use chocolate for occasions as they were raised to do in their childhood country. Consequently, children in these families also develop these taste preferences and practices. For example, the same interviewee with Dutch parents prefers Dutch chocolate to American and Canadian chocolate. It is familiar to her because of her upbringing and it reminds her of home. She also talked about the practice of giving chocolate letters on Christmas, and spoke fondly of the chocolate practices surrounding Sinterklass, a Dutch holiday celebrated in the beginning of December. This holiday has special types of chocolate that children receive for putting out hay and carrots for the Dutch “Santa’s” animals (Jessica). Her love for Dutch chocolate practices and preferences were influenced by her families tastes and customs.
However, children are also influenced by their peers and new locations. Children often receive chocolate at school, whether its for Valentine’s Day in America, Halloween in Australia, or other local customs and practices. Children also find chocolate at friend’s birthday parties or other occasions with their peers. These experiences allow children to develop tastes for local chocolate even if their family has different chocolate preferences. The Canadian girl with Dutch parents admitted that she loved Dutch chocolate, but that she became used to Reece’s, Snickers, and other common North American chocolates. Now in college, she finds it hard to buy Dutch chocolate, as it is not commonly sold in stores like CVS. In order to get her chocolate fix, she is just fine with American brands like Hershey and Mars. (Jessica) Another girl who moved to New Jersey from Namibia at the age of five expressed similar experiences. She definitely grew to like American chocolate, and attributes it to the chocolate she had at school and with friends. “Hershey’s is definitely my favorite,” she claimed (Mimi) It’s hard to get any more American than that. Thus, children develop tastes similar to their friends, due to shared experiences and perhaps even peer pressure to conform.
Unlike children, adults are less likely to switch their chocolate preferences when moving to a new country. This is likely because their preferences were formed and cemented while they were children, from a combination of advertising, familial, and peer influences. An interviewee from Australia illustrated this phenomenon.
“I hate American chocolate, it’s gross! I definitely still prefer Australian chocolate. And I guarantee you that if you ask any other Australian, they will say the same thing. We crave Australian chocolate, probably more than Americans crave American chocolate when they are abroad. Its part of our culture.” (Timnah)
Likewise, the British interviewees who only moved to America to attend college showed express disgust for American chocolate.
“I definitely prefer Cadbury, plain old Cadbury Dairy Milk is the best. American chocolate is disgusting, I don’t know how you live with it.” (Nick)
In summary, national chocolate preferences developed because of a combination of factors, including that chocolate was originally a local good, which led to availability and market power of certain brands. These national taste trends were cemented, especially for the older generations. With the increase in global consumer products, most large brand name chocolate has become available all over the world. Nonetheless, children develop preferences based on their nationality. Within their countries, they are influenced by advertisements, their family’s preferences, and their peers’ tastes. If their family moves locations, they may develop dual preferences associated with both nationalities. However, this preference development stage has an age limit: most people who move to a different country after childhood maintain the chocolate preferences they formed as children based on their nationality. Nationality has an indelible impact on chocolate preferences. Differences like these contribute to the complex and diverse picture of chocolate preferences around the world.
Alberts, Heike, and Julie Cidell. Chocolate Consumption, Manufacturing and Quality in Western (n.d.): 218-26. University of Washington, 2006. Web. 5 May 2015.
The industrialization of chocolate production was prompted and is perpetuated by an increasing demand for chocolate from a more diverse audience than the wealthy and noble. Although industrialization lends itself to large-scale production, which has dominated the sales of chocolate around the globe, an analysis of the emerging presence of bean-to-bar companies suggests that industrialization is also central to small-scale production, and points to a trend in less-industrialized chocolate making. As farmers, economists and ethicists continue to expose the complexities of the cacao industry, a growing concern has risen around the impure, immoral, and impersonal products and practices so common in the world of chocolate–this sentiment has contributed to the popularization of the “de-industrialization” of its production by promoting greater attention to bean variety and processing methods.
WAVES OF INDUSTRIALIZATION
Studied from one perspective, the industrialization of chocolate as a food can be divided into two waves of progress. The first wave of industrialization began in the mid-late 1800’s. The innovations to chocolate making then were primarily concerned with the creation of new chocolate products and the improvement of taste. Of particular note is Coenraad Johannes van Houten’s hydraulic press, which separates cocoa butter from chocolate liquor, and Rudolph Lindt’s conch, an invention and blending process that “kneads and agitates the cacao mass” and “mellows, ripens and rounds both the flavor and temperature” (Prescilla 116).
This video demonstrates modern-day use of Rudolph Lindt’s conch at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory.
The second wave of industrialization is more recent and has been propelled by a very different desire. Although there still exists a push to create new variations of the chocolate products now available, a more dominant concern is mass production. To satisfy more paying consumers, innovators have created systems of production—including (and not limited to) how cacao is grown and how much cacao is used. These later innovations are attempts to make more chocolate for less money. To illustrate use of and excitement about this step in industrialization, brief mention of the history of adulteration of chocolate, the use of slavery to harvest cacao, and new variations of the tree itself are important.
(ccn-51 cacao pods)
Impurity of chocolate is evident throughout history, as is immorality in its production, and lack of knowledge about its origins. For example, Cadbury chocolate, a long-time Quaker family business was found guilty of adulterating their chocolate with starches in the late 1800s. At that time, starches could have included “potato starch, wheat or barley flour, pulverized cacao shells, gum, dextrin or even ground brick” (Coe and Coe 244).
A more recent occurrence of “adultery” is Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses. Often criticized for tasting like “sour milk,” it is speculated that the milk used in the kisses is treated with butyric acid to delay its spoiling. Related to impurity is the growing reliance on “new” strains of cacao that are more disease resistant and have higher yields. Among the most notable is the CCN-51 strain, primarily grown in Ecuador. Bean classification is essential to understanding the modern cacao industry because of price and taste variability. With regard to immorality, modern-day slavery is rampant in the cacao industry, particularly in Africa. When slavery is not the oppressor, unfair or unequal pay is.
(child labor in cacao production)
The rising trends of organic, local, non-GMO foods and “slow” eating as well as transparency in the sourcing of foods suggest that a significant portion of consumers are concerned with the narrative of their foods. By extension, this suggests that consumers are displeased with the presence of a negative narrative—a food-history racked with slavery, inequality and ingredient adulteration. As a result, highly industrialized operations become synonymous with terminology such as “impure, immoral or impersonal.” This interest in having “whole” and natural foods from traceable and environmentally conscious sources has been the impetus for many food-related movements; one of which is particularly relevant to a discussion on the industrialization of chocolate as a food.
The company, “Endangered Species Chocolate” targets consumers for whom the issues of sustainability, health, and ethics are important. Other bean-to-bar establishments such as Taza Chocolate also emphasize their involvement with hand-sorted, hand picked, minimally processed chocolates. Bean variety and purity is a point of pride for many like-minded establishments.
Endangered Species Chocolate:
The industrial revolution of chocolate made possible greater variety in products and the mass production, as well as an increase in availability and a decrease in price. Because of an increasing demand for chocolate, its industrialization as a food also necessitated more innovative means of acquisition and production. For large corporations, this meant less than ethical, honest and “pure” production methods and products. As a result, the cycle of industrialization has trended toward less mechanized and chemically altered products and processes.
The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print. 244.Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print. 116.