Tag Archives: CVS

CVS, Cardullo’s, and Their Consumers

We often see varieties of chocolate neatly arranged in so many stores, and the display is so tempting for customers walking by. Every shopping trip to a convenience or drug store is the same – make a rewarding selection between mainstream (and sometimes exotic) chocolate products. The tastings were set up in a way to acquire as much information as possible. The samples I acquired from CVS were: Ferrero Rocher hazelnut truffles (Italian), Hershey’s milk chocolate (American), Cadbury milk chocolate (English), Toblerone milk chocolate with nougat (Swiss), and Brookside dark chocolate with blueberries and almonds (American). The samples I acquired from Cardullo’s were: Niederegger’s Chocolate with marzipan (German), Truffettes milk chocolate covered marshmallows (French), Chuao Milk chocolate with potato chips (American/Venezuelan based), Vivra 65% dark with candied violets (American), and Taza 50% dark chocolate with guajillo chili. I recruited six tasters, and one taster was unable to try the dark chocolate samples, because dark chocolate disagrees with him. I expected that the tasters I shared various chocolate samples with would prefer more generic and familiar brands, such as the brands offered by CVS. However, by analyzing the results of my research done on various flavors of chocolate, it is apparent that my tasters generally preferred the less common chocolate bars without realizing it. This suggests that people do not put as much thought into their chocolate preferences as they really should be.

When organizing tastings for my research, I tried to get as many tasters as possible to taste my CVS and Cardullo’s products by themselves. There ended up being two groups of two, and two lone tasters. I wanted each person’s response to influence another person’s response as little as possible. Furthermore, none of the tasters were enrolled in Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. The students of the class now have an above average level of training for identifying specific tastes and smells in the chocolate, so I decided to test the abilities of non-chocolate scholars. I must admit that the whole tasting set-up was done by having in the back of my mind Barb Stuckey’s self-observation of her tasting skill after spending time working for the Mattson company. Barb excitedly recalls her “newfound skill” explaining that she “could take one bite of a food, consider it for a millisecond, and know exactly what it was missing that would give it an optimal taste (Stuckey 3)”. However, I was delighted to hear my tasters use descriptions for the samples, such as: dry, “varied texture”, “pop rock texture”, generic, “dull ‘thud’ sound”, sandy, “old book taste”, chalky, and/or matte colored.

The chocolate samples came from two different stores: CVS, and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, both in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Both stores are conveniently located in an area filled with people, some of whom may be hungry for a chocolate snack. Cardullo’s and CVS have their similarities, including the fact that they have their specific chocolate-seeking audiences. However, there is a difference between the chocolate-seeking audiences of Cardullo’s and CVS. Cardullo’s targets consumers of European origin and consumers with an interest in European culture, while CVS targets consumers that are not extremely fussy, and less willing to spend more for chocolate that would satisfy their cravings just as effectively. On a side note: the cost for all of the products between CVS and Cardullo’s totaled $46.34.

CVS’s chocolate is meant to “cater” to the general public. The store manager of the CVS location himself explained the ways in which the companies featured in the store cater to the general public. The confections sold at CVS are internationally recognized American and European brands whose confectionery styles do well with their plain chocolate, but also with commonly added flavors (some additional flavors include: caramel, nougat, nuts, and fruit). Hershey’s is a quintessential product at CVS, and must maintain their consumer loyalty with recognizable packaging, as well as producing creative ideas. For example, Hershey’s has designed resealable packaging to give their consumers a choice to eat some chocolate now and save the rest for later. A better alternative, rather than the consumer being forced to eat the entire product once it has been opened. Chocolate investigator, Kristy Leissle, begins her journal with, “Consider a hershey’s (sic) kiss. At once minimalist and iconic, the twist of silver foil sends a familiar flavor message to the brain, while the wrapper imparts nothing substantial about the chocolate (Leissle 22)”. When we see a chocolate product that is familiar to us, its iconic and memorable packaging prompts us to remember that what the product is. We also can trust familiar looking products to taste delicious if we decide to purchase them, rather than us risking the possibility of feeling like our money has been wasted on a bad tasting product.

Labels
Here is a selection of the most common chocolate products that we see for sale. The labels include the company name (i.e. Hershey), or a familiar product from Hershey (i.e. Reese’s). The label names are chosen carefully for consumers to easily recognize the products we want to purchase. The “Hershey’s” label will tell us that we are looking at a bar of plain chocolate, and might have a sub-description of nuts or caramel inside. The “Reese’s” label automatically signals to consumers that there is peanut butter complementing chocolate. “York” is a familiar label to consumers that signifies minty flavor in chocolate (hersheyindia).

The products from CVS have important descriptions that set them apart from the products at Cardullo’s. There were a few products made with dark chocolate, but most of the products sold at CVS were made with milk chocolate. The most popular CVS product was a tie between Toblerone and Ferrero Rocher – all six tasters liked the two products equally. Four out of six tasters especially liked the chocolate center of the truffles. The Toblerone sample was described by four out of six tasters as “better than Hershey’s.” Three out of six tasters did not care for the Brookside product, two tasters thought the product was “okay,” and one taster loved the Brookside product so much that it won CVS over as her favorite store of the two for buying chocolate. Fun fact: Hershey acquired Brookside in 2011 (Schroeder). Hershey’s milk chocolate was the least popular CVS product, and Cadbury’s milk chocolate was described by every taster as “better than Hershey’s,” while Cadbury’s still was not the most popular CVS product.

Most of the products were neatly arranged by brand on the candy aisle. The rest of the products could be found on the end cap of the candy aisle on the side furthest away from the registers. The products on the end cap are known as the “deluxe chocolates.” The Deluxe brands included, but were not limited to Lindt and Chuao. Recall that I bought my Chuao potato chip milk chocolate at Cardullo’s. I had gone shopping at Cardullo’s before shopping at CVS, and was surprised to find the same type of Chuao bar in the Deluxe section of CVS. The Chuao bar was more hidden than the easily seen Cardullo’s Chuao bar, and it was two dollars cheaper at CVS. Perhaps, the Deluxe chocolates at CVS are placed so that the adventurous customers who already know about the products will know where to find them. The specific placement of products could be CVS’s precaution against scaring away most of their customers with expensive, daring flavors of chocolate as the first available chocolate snack.

Cardullo’s confections are meant to cater to people with more sophisticated tastes regarding confections. More specifically, Cardullo’s employees pointed out that the shoppe targets Europeans (and a few other ethnicities) who grew up with their featured products that are hard to find outside of their countries. The store manager of Cardullo’s herself explained that Cardullo’s products are special because they invoke a strong feeling of nostalgia among visitors/immigrants from various countries. You can find a wall stocked with Cadbury products, and Cadbury is one of the few iconic chocolate brands featured in the entire store. There is no chance of finding any products from Hershey when shopping at Cardullo’s. The American products featured at Cardullo’s tend to have avant-garde flavors. For example, Cardullo’s features Vosges, a Chicago based chocolate company. One of Vosges products at Cardullo’s is a chocolate bacon bar. What a combination!

Cardullo's Front
Classy-looking photo of the front of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe in Harvard Square at Cambridge, Massachusetts (Yelp).

As preferred by five out of six tasters, Cardullo’s was the most popular of the two stores for chocolate shopping. The opportunity to taste new flavors of chocolate was a little intimidating, yet exciting to each of my chocolate tasters. Chloé, the chocolate connoisseur featured in Raising the Bar, voices her concern for a general lack of appreciation for chocolate variety, “[c]onsumers can be fickle and even dismissive when it comes to matters of taste… (Raising 147)”. The tasters were enthralled by the Vivra dark with violets, and this product was enjoyed by everyone that could try it. Four out of six people did not care for the Chuao potato chip chocolate, but the two other tasters enjoyed the sweet and salty combination within it. Niederegger’s marzipan milk chocolate was described by three tasters as “too sweet.” The other three tasters liked the marzipan milk chocolate, especially the consistency of the marzipan. When biting into the Truffettes milk chocolate covered marshmallows three tasters experienced them as “too chewy.” The other three tasters enjoyed the consistency of the marshmallow. Five tasters could try Taza’s Guajillo chili. Four tasters did not care for the guajillo chili infusion with the dark chocolate. One taster said that the Taza sample with guajillo chili was “awesome stuff!”

I would especially like to highlight the presence of Taza products at Cardullo’s. Taza is one of the few American chocolate companies with products for sale at Cardullo’s, and they happen to operate locally in Somerville, Massachusetts. What is special about Taza in comparison to many other American products is that the workers of Taza are interested in traditional, authentic Mexican chocolate-making methods. With a high demand in place for their products, Taza has had to find means of efficient production that would still allow for the presence of a Mexican quality surrounding the chocolate. By producing solid chocolate bars, Taza is aware that consumers are seeking a snack with traditional Mexican flavors, rather than traditional Mexican beverages. Taza’s YouTube channel serves as an efficient tool to connect with their customers on a more personal level than relying only on their website and word of mouth to deliver information to consumers. Taza wants its consumers to remember that there is still care involved with Taza’s chocolate making process, as their YouTube page’s introductory paragraph states that, “we hand-carve granite millstones to grind cacao… (TazaChocolate)”. The introductory video on their YouTube channel is an invitation for all who would like to catch a glimpse of the chocolate making process inside the factory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tcA51tUOxU&feature=youtu.be

It is exciting to learn a little bit about another culture’s specific methods for creating products that are so similar, yet so different from what we are usually exposed to.

Truffette's
Truffette’s label for chocolate covered marshmallows is quick to flaunt its French origin. The photo of the confection looks so tempting by featuring a delicious marshmallow covered in smooth, creamy chocolate. The elegant, French words along with the Eiffel tower momentarily remind us of the culture-rich city of Paris, and it is almost as if we are tasting the confection while in France. However, what consumers do not immediately realize is that, as pointed out by Susan J. Terrio, “France itself is not a country historically famous for its luxury chocolates (Terrio 10)”. Perhaps, with the recent European involvement in chocolate, this product is an example of a French confectioner’s take on perfecting a use for solid chocolate. Members of newer generations from France would immediately recognize Truffette’s upon finding their products at Cardullo’s.

It is worth noting that every person has unique preferences for chocolate products, among all other products. There are people who prefer CVS products over Cardullo’s products, as astounding as it may sound to the people who appreciate variance in chocolate. Some people may enjoy every chocolate product presented to them, while others may only accept milk chocolate. Allergies to common foods such as nuts will skew a person’s preferences, because they must work around their health concerns when determining their favorite flavors to have with chocolate. The confections we looked at for this project demonstrate the many creative and culture-specific ideas that so many talented confectioners have cooked up since chocolate became more available around the world. Perhaps, if my tasters were all chocolate connoisseurs that my research would have yielded different results about chocolate preferences.

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3(2013): 22-31. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 6 May 2017. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22&gt;.

Schroeder, Eric. “Hershey to Buy Brookside Foods.” Food Business News. Sosland PublishingCo., 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 6 May 2017. <http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/News/NewsHome/Business News/2011/12/Hershey to buy Brookside Foods.aspx?cck>.

Slide-img20.jpeg. N.d. Hersheyindia.com. Web. 6 May 2017.

Stuckey, Barb. “What Are You Missing?” Introduction. Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Getting More from Every Bite. New York: Free, 2012. 1-29. Print.

TazaChocolate. “Taza Chocolate.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 May 2017.<https://www.youtube.com/user/TazaChocolate&gt;.

TazaChocolate. “The Taza Chocolate Story.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tcA51tUOxU&feature=youtu.be&gt;.

Terrio, Susan J. “People Without History.” Introduction. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. London, England: U of California, 2000. 1-22. Print.

TRUFFETTES DE FRANCE MARSHMALLOWS MILK CHOCOLATE. Digitalimage.Redstonefoods.com. Redstone Foods, n.d. Web. 8 May 2017.<http://redstonefoods.com/products/712331–truffettes-de-france-marshmallows-milk-chocolate&gt;.

Williams, Pamela Sue., and Jim Eber. “To Market, To Market: Craftsmanship, Customer Education, and Flavor.” Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver, BC: Wilmor Corporation, 2012. 143-209. Print.

V, Sonam. Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe. 2005. Yelp.com, Cambridge, MA. Yelp.com. Web. 10 May 2017. <https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/cardullos-gourmet-shoppe-cambridge?select=-Cg_WKg2ExKzcEgzCuyLzQ&gt;.

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Battle of the Bars: Chocolate Bars that is!

Chocolate is a high commodity. In most cases, if you are on the hunt for chocolate it is most likely that you will be able to walk into any store; convenience store, mom and pop shop, grocery store, etc., and find chocolate. In the United States “in 2016, American consumers spent $22 billion on chocolate, ate a collective 3 billion pounds of chocolate, and on average, ate 12 pounds per person.” (Lecture Slide 4, Class 4) If an American is able to consume 12 pounds of chocolate in one year then that’s a clear indication that Americans are able to find some cheap, high supply, and conveniently located chocolate in many parts of the country.

 

If one were to ask what the quality of the 12 pounds of chocolate that an American is consuming in a year tasted like my guess would be that this chocolate contains high counts of sugar and less cacao. Those who have not studied chocolate or know much about what goes into chocolate believe that when they are in line purchasing their Hershey bar that they are getting a high quality chocolate bar. That is not the case. On average, premium chocolate that can be found in more exclusive stores will be much more expensive. Why is that? The observation I would take from this scenario is that the more cacao being used in the chocolate the more expensive the product. Why would a snickers bar, Twix, or Kit Kat be cheaper to purchase? More sugar included in the product costs less to make? These are the type of questions that need to be answered.

 

In this paper I will be comparing the chocolate I find in CVS to a store in my city called Janssen’s Market. Jansen’s is quite different from CVS in that it is not a chain convenience store, but a one-location store in a more ritzy area of the city. If one were to walk into Janssen’s they would find aisle after aisle of organic, locally farm grown products. The prices of items in Janssen’s are also very different from the prices of products in CVS in that they are much higher and in my opinion extremely overpriced.

IMG_0032Chocolate stand from CVS, Wilmington, De

In the CVS close to my house in Wilmington, Delaware I found a section marked “Premium Chocolates” where it placed all of the more exotic tasting chocolates. If you look closely at this picture you will notice that all of the chocolates on the racks have a yellow sticker hanging from them stating if you buy 1 at $3.79 you will get the 2nd bar for free. This sounds like a great deal to me. Two bars of chocolate and you notice at the top the Ghirardelli chocolates are made with more cacao, for the price of one chocolate bar. WIN! Then I stood there and wondered, “Why are these premium chocolates which are supposed to be the best of the best at this CVS on the shelf begging to get sold by having a yellow sticker hanging from them?” They seem to be screaming for someone to scoop them up, purchase them, and indulge in a chocolate soiree but how come? Shouldn’t they be so exclusive that people are snatching them off of the shelves before the store even opens?

IMG_0020

CVS in Wilmington, DE

It is my observation that the intended audience in the CVS does not prefer to purchase premium chocolates, but would rather purchase candy bars like Hershey bars, dove bars, reeses cups, and other brands associated with those candy bars. The reasons I feel that the intended audience would prefer that type of chocolate over the more exclusive brands are because of the sugar content. “It [sugar] is very cheap and it produces a craving, and in the case of Pepsi and Coca-Cola there is often strong brand loyalty too- a sure formula for fabulous profits in the food industry.” (Albritton, 344) Sugar is a cheap commodity to make and gives off an addictive craving, so these brands above that are selling candy bars for $2 to $3 dollars at CVS are filled with sugar. This sugar in return gives off a feeling of satisfaction, which makes the customer want to go back and buy more of this product. The sugar content in this Dove Milk Chocolate Bar below is 23 grams however the serving size in this bar is about 2. So the sugar content in this entire milk chocolate bar is roughly 46 grams of sugar. This is an outrageously high amount of sugar that the average American is consuming on a daily basis. I do not see a Fair Trade or Direct Trade Certification stamp on this candy bar. Without seeing this stamp on the wrapper means that the farmers growing the cacao that is used in making this Dove chocolate bar barely make any money off of the sale of the beans. The quality of life for the cacao farmers is already below poverty level, but it is especially bad for those who are not under the fair trade certification.

 

 

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Google images: Dove Milk Chocolate Bar

 

When I entered the Janssen’s Market I noticed a whole different environment. Many people were purchasing organic products, ecofriendly, and most seemed to be in shape and concerned with their health and wellness. “The fine chocolate market exhibits what she calls “resistance” – a form of agency – distributed in a fine chocolate assemblage of connoisseurs, products, producers, and institutional discourse, and characterized by a group force or momentum to link sensual enjoyment with ethical concern.” (Martin-Sampeck, 52) Every aisle was geared towards organic products. As I was walking around the store I was in search of the candy aisle. What was a bit surprising and shocking to me was that they didn’t have a candy aisle. Every grocery store has a candy aisle! But, Janssen’s does not. Instead they had a stand right by the check out counter where they sold their deluxe chocolate bars.

IMG_0001

Janssen’s Market, Greenville, Delaware

The selection of chocolate bars were somewhat similar to the premium chocolates sold at the CVS about 3 miles away, however they cost way more money with a much larger selection of chocolates to choose from. If you notice from comparing the pictures of the premium chocolates at CVS to those at Janssen’s you can see the markup of pricing at Janssen’s on very similar bars. However, a very interesting thing I found at Janssen’s was the Fair Trade & Direct Trade Certification. When I saw that stamp I instantly got very happy! For those who aren’t aware of what these certifications do, “an attempt to redeem the free market, rather than introduce an alternative form of globalisation, Fair Trade is perhaps the most revolutionary and hopeful initiative for workers in the poorest countries of the planet.” (Sylla, 17) With this label alone, many chocolate consumers who are conscious about what goes into making chocolate, the laborers, etc., will spend the $5 to $10 on this candy bar because they know that by purchasing this bar not only is it certified and organic, but that the proceeds from this bar will in fact go to the farmer with a higher compensation increase than a chocolate bar that is not certified. In Robertson’s article Chocolate, Women and Empire she states “the politics of commodity chains have gained wider popular currency… the shift is related to worries over health (the use of pesticides in agriculture for example), the environment (the carbon footprint of each product), and the exploitation of workers in a global economy. Ethical consumption, now an essential element of middle-class identity, depends partly on a sense of consumer responsibility for the conditions under which commodities such as chocolate are produced, and a guarantee of a fair price for the producer.” (Robertson Pt 1, 4-5)

 

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Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food, Lecture 9, Slide 10

 

Found at Janssen’s Market, Greenville, DE

 

As you can see by the writing on the wrappers, Madécasse pure dark chocolate and green & black’s organic dark chocolate are very different from the typical brands of Hershey’s, Mars, and Cadbury. This was great. Finally some real authentic cacao with one brand from Madagascar made with Heirloom Cocoa with 80% content. The other brand Green & Black states right on the front of the wrapper a very important piece of information to the modern chocolate conneisuer that this dark chocolate bar was made with fine Trinitario with 70$ cacao content. This is great information to see to those who have studied chocolate. They are able to determine exactly what kind of bean was used in making this bar, how much actual cacao was used, and/or what part of the world these beans came from.

 

The Madécasse Company works directly with the cacao farmers engaging in direct interaction with the laborers. They get to know them on a first name basis and also become comfortable getting to know the farmers families. This makes for better business because they understand the struggle that farmers go through on a daily basis with production being low at different times of the season, or even just not receiving the proper compensation for the amount of work they do. They also make the chocolate in Madagascar where the cacao is grown. The purpose for this is to try and keep the clarity of the product secure, so what is advertised on the brand is a true indication of what is in fact in the bar.

 

Also, the advertisement of the chocolate is very important in the sale of the product at different stores. It is easier for people to watch television and see countless TV ads on Hershey kisses and self-indulgence associated with that little “kiss”, as well as reeses cups with the half bitten portion left at the end of the commercial. Many people watching television see these advertisements and decide to run to the nearest convenience store, which in my case would be the CVS, and pick up those delectable treats! You don’t usually, if ever, see any advertisements on the more exclusive chocolates. For this reason alone, the demand for Hershey and Mars products would be greater than a brand like Black & Green’s or Chuao.

 

Conclusion

Different social environments tend to sell goods and services that tailor to the demographics in that specific area. In terms of chocolate, people who are willing to spend more money on organic, pure cacao chocolate bars will find these bars in grocery stores that cater to naturally produced items. I spoke about Janssen’s Market, which is located in a higher social class demographic, and sold organic fair and direct trade chocolate from companies who embody values and morals tailoring to the cacao farmers in third world countries. For those who do not have access to Janssen’s, a similar market comparable would be a Trader Joes. They are smaller grocery stores that catch the eye of a buyer interested in environmental friendly products.

 

CVS almost does the opposite of what Janssen’s is trying to do. If you live in a city you can most likely find multiple CVS’ in a small radius because they are the go to convenience store that has all of your essential products. They also have at least two aisles that are filled with candy. Most of this candy is pure sugar. On average, people would prefer to indulge in sweet tasting chocolates to bitter dark pure chocolate. But, isn’t it true that if it tastes good it’s usually not good for you but you still eat it anyway! My assumption is that if most people are willing to indulge in a piece of chocolate they are most likely going to go after the typical candy bar that you will find in your local CVS over a pure 90% cacao bar that has less sugar in it.

 

It seems that some of the chocolate that is sold in the CVS may be unethical due to the fact that the chocolate companies treat the cacao farmers less than they should actually be treated and with much less compensation. In fact, they do not know the farmers at all. Have no idea how they are compensated, their living conditions, and so on. With most of the chocolate sold in Janssen’s it seemed to me that almost all if not every single bar had a fair trade or direct trade certification stamp on the wrapper. This is indicating that those chocolate companies are treating the cacao farmers appropriately by giving them the fairest wage possible, by engaging with the farmers on a name to face basis and going lengths to meet family members also. They care about the well being of the cacao farmers that they are paying to grow their supply of cacao, and try to make them feel appreciated.

 

Would you rather enjoy sugar filled chocolate that is being produced by individuals who may have never even tasted a piece of chocolate in their life, or delicious dark chocolate bars that have less sugar and are made from companies that participate in the Fair Trade Agreement where you know the farmers will earn more for the sale of their cacao and are treated with respect?

 

 

References:

Albritton, Robert. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” Food and

            Culture. 3rd ed. New York/London: Routledge, 2013. 342-51. Web.

CVS, Wilmington, Delaware

Janssen’s Market, Greenville, Delaware

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.”

           The Social Meaning of Food (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

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

Manchester/New York: Manchester UP, 2009. Part 1. Web.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2014. Print.

Just What is Premium Chocolate?

When we hear the word premium it conjures up thoughts of luxury, exceptional quality, hand crafted, expensive…I hate to burst your bubble, but some of the fancy premium chocolate you might’ve enjoyed couldn’t be farther from that definition. Well, actually, it probably was expensive. The lack of regulation of “premium” chocolate allows many brands to vigorously market their chocolate products as high end and grab a piece of the burgeoning market. Yet, this lack of definition and regulation is dangerous because consumers are tricked into buying chocolate with false promises that benefit the chocolate company, but not the cocoa farmers, middlemen, or consumers. Premium is then defined by the packaging, presentation and stores, but not the ingredients or labor.

“Premium chocolate” accounted for over 14% of chocolate sales in the United States in 2011 and was projected to expand 10% annually (Williams and Eber 167). However, the problem is there’s no real standard or definition for premium chocolate. One offered definition is, “chocolate that sells for greater than $8.00 a pound” and has “better quality ingredients, execution, packaging” and more (Williams and Eber 168). Yet, fine chocolate ranges anywhere from $24.00 to $100.00 a pound (Williams and Eber 169).

To find out more about premium chocolate around Harvard Square, I visited two stores: CVS and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe.

CVS

Consumer Value Stores (CVS), created in 1963 by two brothers Stanley and Sidney Goldstein, is a national chain of one stop shop stores for everyone (CVS). Walking into the CVS candy aisle is an attack on your eyes. Candy with big flashy packaging line the shelves from the Big five candy companies: Mars, Nestle, Cadbury, Hershey and Ferrero (Allen 21).With their displays, CVS capitalizes on the fact that approximately 70% of chocolate is consumed on impulse (Allen 31). Therefore, loud packaging is key to attract a consumer’s wandering eye. Red or orange wrappers (Reese’s Peanut butter cups, M & M’s, Kit Kats, Snickers, Crunch bars) are prominent because studies have proven that people’s associations with these colors make one hungry (Harrington). In addition to the packaging, placement inside a store is very important. Only 22% of shoppers will ever venture down the candy aisle, so stores need to be creative about attracting attention to chocolate (Allen 32). To address this issue, CVS lines their check-out counter with chocolate bars to entice consumers to grab one for a quick snack. In addition, lots of the chocolates in CVS are on sale. I’ve visited multiple times and can always find bright yellow sale tags on a variety of chocolates. The sales often encourage one to buy multiple chocolates such as 3 for $5.00 or 2 for $6.00. The cheapest chocolate I could find were singular Hershey bars for .88 cents and the most expensive bar were the Chuao bars, at $5.29. However, even these were on sale, buy one get the second half off. The majority of their chocolates (individual bars or bags) were under $3.00. The placement of their chocolate, available brands, and price range, demonstrate that CVS targets consumers who are in a hurry, don’t want to spend much on chocolate, or didn’t intend to buy chocolate until enticed on the way out.

CVS also sells premium chocolate on a separate stand that contrasts nicely with the regular candy aisle. It’s featured on the end of the candy aisle facing sodas and other refrigerated items. The end of an aisle is a prime spot as it gets more foot traffic and attention (Clifford). The stand is made of dark wood (fake), which appears more refined than the other shelves and is filled with Lindt, Ghiradelli, Ferrero Rocher, Ritter, Raffaelo, Chuao and Endangered Species chocolates. However, these brands are misleading because many of these companies are owned by the big five and when one thinks premium, Hershey’s doesn’t come to mind. For example, Lindt owns Ghiradelli and even though it is not a big five chocolate company, Lindt generates over a half of Hershey’s net sales (Scully). In addition, Ritter is distributed in over 100 countries and Fererro owns Raffaelo (Ferrero, Ritter). The only slightly distinct chocolates are the Chuao and the Endangered Species bars. Chuao is a fairly new Venezuelan brand, created in 2002. It is available in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Barbuda in stores such as CVS, Target, Whole Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond, and the Omni and W hotels (Chuao). Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10% of their profits to support wildlife organizations (Endangered Species). This brand is sold at Amazon, CVS, Target and more. Nevertheless, premium chocolate for CVS is still mostly mass produced chocolate from the big five companies or other large companies.

Compared to CVS’ regular chocolate, premium chocolate’s packaging was less flashy and featured gold and shiny touches and script lettering. The packaging used thicker paper or plastic and contained the words: excellence, collection, luscious, and classic to convey to the customer that these bars are distinct and higher quality. The bars also come in a variety of different flavors like fruit, caramel, honey, mint, salt and hazelnut. This example of the hybridization of chocolate or blending of two cultures was distinct from the cheaper chocolate bars that mainly featured peanut butter fillings (Coe and Coe 113). Descriptions on the back of the bar also play into the link between chocolate and sex which traces back the widespread belief that chocolate was an aphrodisiac (Coe and Coe 171). With descriptions such as, “irresistible smooth filling”, “gently caressing all your senses”, and “caramelized honey mingle with deep dark chocolate, like secret lovers meeting on a warm summer night”, these bars capitalize on how women should “project their heterosexual yearnings and fantasies onto chocolate consumption” (Robertson 35). They detail the experience you will have with their chocolate and with the exception of the Endangered Species and Chuao bars, they do not make promises about the source of their cacao or cocoa production. The Chuao bar has an ethically sourced label and the Endangered Species bar has Fair Trade and Organic labels. From CVS’ selection, premium chocolate seems to be chocolate with gold packaging that sells an experience, is slightly more expensive than their regular selection, and is mass manufactured.

Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe

Cardullo’s opened in 1950 and is a specialty food store in Harvard Square. A quick trip to their website shows pages of gourmet foods, gifts, and most importantly: Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate. These three stimulants have gone hand in hand since the colonial era (Mintz 113). Inside the store, there is a stand dedicated to Lake Champlain Chocolates and then a wall of chocolate at the edge of the store near the cashiers. At first glance, bright packaging led me to the Big Five products, except they were European brands: Aero, Maltesers, Flake, and Milka. Next, there were the more specialized bars. The packaging was less flashy overall and they featured muted tones such as a variety of pastels and browns. They also had many more fair trade, organic, and ethically grown stamps than the selection in CVS. However, many of these chocolate labels are misleading. For example, the goal of Fair Trade is to help “cocoa farmers, traders, and chocolate manufacturers participate in long-term, stable relationships that support a dependable living for farmers and their families” (Fair Trade 4). Yet, The Fair Trade Scandal, sheds light on the realities of this label. In fact, Fair Trade unequally distributes its profits and is mostly beneficial to the wealthiest countries (Sylla 205). In addition, Maricel Presilla warns in The New Taste of Chocolate, that organic of Fair Trade cacao can be “mediocre or worse in quality” (133). This is not to say that all of the labels are not producing positive results, but that labels should be noted with caution.

At first glance, I was wowed. There was a large selection of single origin bars and phrases such as “stone ground”, “craft”, and “art of blending”. Some of the brands included, Scharffen berger, Neuhaus, Chocolove and Lake Champlain. I assumed that these brands were artisanal brands that were sold in small batches, but to my disappointment, these brands were available across the U.S and in multiple countries. Their upscale looking appearance led me astray. Scharffen Berger chocolate is owned by Hershey (Lubow)! Once America’s first bean to bar manufacturer that originated cocoa content labeling, Hershey has shut down their artisan factory in California and moved it to Illinois (Scharffen Berger). Fans of the chocolate have noticed a considerable drop in the quality of the chocolate since the factory switch (Lubow). Yet, as Rachel Lauden notes, mass produced and industrialized food does not deserve the negative attention we direct toward it. For example, “the ethnic foods we seek out when we travel are being preserved, indeed often created, by a hotel and restaurant industry determined to cater to our dream of India or Indonesia, Turkey, Hawaii, or Mexico.” Perhaps for chocolate, it is important to recognize how crucial technology such as the conche or refrigerated transportation has been in creating the more refined candy we eat today (Goody 82). Quality, then is not necessarily tied to quantity.

Cardullo’s does sell bean to bar and single origin small batch chocolate. They carry Chequessett, Dolfin, Castronovo, Taza, Chocolat Bonnat and Farvarger. The most expensive bars were from Chocolat Bonnat at a whopping $17.00! A quick trip to their website revealed that these bars are from specific terroirs. I found a bar with beans from Trinite, an island in the Caribbean. These single origin bars are special because the soil, environment, and farming styles affect give their beans a unique taste (Presilla 126).

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Back of a Chocolat Bonnat Grand Crus Trinite bar in Cardullo’s

The more expensive bars only had cocoa beans, cocoa butter, sugar and possibly milk in them. I could count all of the ingredients on one hand, whereas in CVS, even in the premium chocolate section, bars had ten or more ingredients. The bars also featured more hybridized expensive flavors than the ones offered in CVS. For example, there are bars with ginger, orange peel, rose, coconut ash, cranberry pumpkin spice and chili. These ingredients were more exotic and inventive than the raspberry, salt, and peanut butter found in CVS.

Unlike CVS brands, most of the chocolate companies featured in Cardullo’s had pages on their websites dedicated to the environment, labor, conservation and the history of chocolate. Instead of catering to the mass market, it was clear that they wanted to demonstrate a knowledge of the cacao plant and chocolate making process. These brands also described the ingredients or process on the back of the bars in different ways. The wrappers stressed the ethical process and sustainability of their chocolate as well as quality ingredients. The descriptions were also bar specific and did not generalize company history like the CVS bars. They were also more transparent about the ingredients in their chocolate. For example, Milkboy featured Swiss milk, Castronovo describes the types of cacao (Criollo, Trinitario, and forastero), Chequessett labeled the origins or terroir, and nearly every bar listed the percent cocoa content. Cardullo’s chocolate appealed to the customer who would spend their time perusing the selection and carefully reading the back of each bar. The customer cared about the production and quality of chocolate. In contrast, the CVS customer would probably not know the difference between Criollo and Trinitario or how cacao origin or content affects taste.

Pictured: The difference between the backs of chocolate from Cardullo’s and CVS

 

From my two visits, I’ve found that marketing is key to selling “premium” chocolate. It seems to outrank ingredients, flavor or quality of cacao. For example, in the U.S, anything containing 15% cacao liquor can be labeled as chocolate (Food and Agriculture Organization). You could be eating 85% sugar and think that it’s great chocolate. Or, like me, you could be fooled by the packaging into thinking you’ve bought a white chocolate bunny, when it is in fact simply sugar and corn oil. Yet, if the packaging has flecks of gold and can convince you that it is premium, it is. Premium, as demonstrated by both CVS and Cardullo’s, seems to be relative to the chocolate selection you have. Both stores had chocolate from the big five companies which were the cheapest in both stores, so the more expensive brands seem more premium. The higher end chocolates are differentiated through packaging from the quality of the wrapper, the labels or commitments to organic, fair trade, or ethically sourced cacao, to the description of the creation of each bar. Perhaps, similar to the 15% rule, premium chocolate should have requirements that includes a standard for % cacao content, origin of cacao, or a promise for ethically sourced ingredients. Possibly, instead of a industry implemented standard, a chocolate guide or rating system, similar to Wine Spectator would be influential in determining premium chocolate.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L., and Angel Cabrera. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York, American Management Association, 2010.

Chuao. “About.” Chuao Chocolatier, chuaochocolatier.com/about/. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Clifford, Stephanie. “Stuff Piled in the Aisle? It’s There to Get You to Spend More.” The New York Times [New York City], 7 Apr. 2011, Business sec., http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/business/08clutter.html. Accessed 5 May 2017.

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

CVS. “CVS History.” CVS Health, CVS, http://www.cvshealth.com/about/company-history. Accessed 4 May 2017.

Endangered Species Chocolate. “Chocolate Bar Promise.” Chocolate Bar, Endangered Species Chocolate, http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18.

Fair Trade. “Cocoa Impact Report.” Fair Trade, 2011, fairtradeusa.org/sites/default/files/Cocoa_Impact_Report.pdf. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Ferrero. “Brands: Raffaello.” Ferrero Corporate, Ferrero, http://www.ferrero.com/products/ferrero-pralines/raffaello. Accessed 6 May 2017.

Food and Agriculture Organization. “STANDARD FOR CHOCOLATE AND CHOCOLATE PRODUCTS.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, 2003, http://www.fao.org/input/download/standards/67/CXS_087e.pdf. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Goody, Jack. Cooking, Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology. Digital printing. ed., Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2000.

Harrington, Rebecca. “Here’s Why All Fast Food Signs Are Red.” Business Insider, 30 Sept. 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/why-are-fast-food-signs-red-2015-9. Accessed 3 May 2017.

Lubow, Arthur. “My Chocolate Meltdown.” The New York Times [New York], 21 Nov. 2009, Opinion sec., http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/opinion/22lubow.html. Accessed 7 May 2017.

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

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley [Calif.], Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Ritter Sport. “Family Business and Values.” Ritter Sport US, Ritter Sport, http://www.ritter-sport.de/en_US/Family-business-values/zahlen_fakten.html. Accessed 5 May 2017.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Paperback ed., Manchester, UP, 2013.

Scharffen Berger. “Our History.” Scharffen Berger, Hershey, http://www.scharffenberger.com/our-story/history/. Accessed 4 May 2017.

Scully, Carla. “The Top 100 Candy Companies in the World in 2017.” Candy Industry, 27 Jan. 2017, http://www.candyindustry.com/2017-Global-Top-100-Part-4. Accessed 5 May 2017.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Athens, Ohio UP, 2014.

Williams, Pamela Sue, and Jim Eber. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver, Wilmor Publishing, 2012.

What Do You See?

Chocolate seems to permeate our lives. It saturates the grocery shelves during the holiday seasons and appears on our television screens. It is a true constant in our rapidly-changing world. Because our modern world is always developing, how has chocolate maintained permanent-product status? The easy answer is: sugar. Several hundred years ago when sugar first emerged onto the European food scene, it was a new and exciting ingredient from Mesoamerica that served many uses. It began as an expensive superfluous supplement to the natural European diet, but after two centuries, sugar had become a staple to the English diet and essential to the rest of Europe (Prof. Martin Lecture). This kind of integration was not isolated to sugar. Chocolate made the journey from a fancy, elite delicacy to a common household item… or so it seems. As this article of fun facts reveals, Modern day “Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, or over 11 pounds per person” which is much more than the average for Europeans. I argue that although statistics show that the common person consumes great amounts of chocolate, it still retains its original status as a highbrow item despite its price. This is best showcased by the chocolate sections at CVS.

There are a couple of different places to find chocolate at CVS, each with their own chief marketing purpose. The first is in the candy aisle. Here you can find the label “bagged chocolate” and see an assortment of chocolate from big, well-known companies like Hershey, Reese’s, etc. They all have seemingly endless variations of dark, milk, and white chocolate, sometimes mixed with peanut butter, nuts, or other embellishments. As you walk into the aisle, the sheer amount of options is overwhelming. The range of your selection makes them all seem to blend together. It is even hard to read each label individually because your eye is constantly being drawn elsewhere by cartoon images and bright colors. Eventually, you just go with what you know. This is either a run-of-the-mill choice like plain milk chocolate or something slightly more niche like salted caramel dark chocolate. In the case of a more niche preference, you will likely already know its position in the aisle because it does not change. Never at eye-level, your bag of salted caramel dark chocolate is eternally juxtaposed to the bag of mint milk chocolate, both sold by the same company. At any given CVS, they will sometimes be on a high level but more often than not, they will be off to the side. This particular bag of chocolate will reside at shin-level so you have to bend down to pick it up. It never goes on sale. But your friend has a slightly different experience. You see, she is a big fan of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, no almonds or other extras. She needs two bags because finals are coming up and she stress eats when she feels bloated. She turns into the candy aisle, finds the sign indicating the chocolate, and walks right up to inspect her choices. She does not have to look for long. As she glances to the side, her eyes find the Hershey’s label and her brain immediately recognizes the color. She grabs two bags since there is a sale that applies to this type of chocolate (second bag is 50% off!) and you both head to the front of the store to pay.

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Photo taken by me.

Now let’s say that you and your friend prefer the finer things in life. Pretend that there has been a tragic epidemic and every chocolatier in your immediate vicinity has been destroyed. This leaves CVS as your only option for buying chocolate. The two of you cannot eat “commoners chocolate,” whatever that means (you and your friend are chocolate-snobs) so you head to the “Premium Chocolates” stand that CVS has on display. There is a notable absence of plastic bags and cartoon labels, no bright colors that remind you of late Halloween nights. The characteristics of this section that stand out to you are the highbrow-looking packaging, lack of “Big Chocolate” name brands (or so you think), and the fact that the vast majority of the packaging features some sort of picture of smooth chocolate.

IMG_3974
Photo taken by me.

Because you and your friend prefer everyone to know the percentage of cocoa that your chocolate is, you grab a package from eye-level that advertises “85% Cocoa” in big, bold letters beneath the word “Excellence” written in a super fancy script font. This chocolate is slightly pricier than the chocolate in other areas of CVS so you and your friend agree to split the bag. Then you both head to the counter to pay.

In both situations, you have to pass the “impulse buy” test. As you wait in line to pay, you are surrounded by shelves of mini-sized candy. It is a slue of small packaging, with candy, gum, donuts, and chocolate all mixed together. The gum is at the top because it is the easiest to justify in a situation where you need to freshen up your breath. Directly below the gum are four entire shelves of candy, mostly chocolate. This is a departure from the fancy marketing you saw earlier. It is a return to the “Big Chocolate” name brands like Hershey. In contrast to the chocolate aisle, this chocolate is being sold in much smaller quantities. Its small size and location in the store point to a popular marketing ploy that stores like to use, especially in America. In America, we are very susceptible to the “impulse buy.” It is very easy to justify buying a small chocolate candy bar on your way out of CVS than buying a whole bag. Even further, these candies are not at adult-eye level but they are positioned perfectly to draw the attention of any child who walks past them. You, however, are not a child. You wait your turn and pay for your chocolate at the cash register. Then you leave CVS, concluding your shopping experience.

IMG_3968
Photo taken by me.

These elaborate scenarios showcase various ways that chocolate plays a part in our everyday lives. For instance, the way that companies choose to visually represent their chocolate speaks to how we perceive chocolate. The “Premium Chocolates” section is a perfect example of this. In “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics”, Mary Norton discusses how sociologists and cultural historians “have eschewed biological or economic determinism and instead theorize taste as socially constructed” (Norton, 663). She uses Mintz’ work on sugar’s development “from a medicinal additive to a luxury good among the upper classes” to complement his argument that “sugar ‘embodied the social position of the wealthy and powerful.’ He points to ‘sugar’s usefulness as a mark of rank—to validate one’s social position. To elevate others, or to define them as inferior.’” (Norton/Mintz). This seems antiquated to us in modern day but it really holds true to society’s perception of chocolate. If you take into account the countless ads like this one that present chocolate as a luxury item that should be desired, then it becomes easier to see why presenting their product as “Premium Chocolates” is an effective marketing tactic used by Lindt and Ghirardelli in CVS.

Looking at this commercial, the first thing to notice is the incredible CGI they have used to recreate Audrey Hepburn, an icon of class and elegance. There is classic music playing in the background. Audrey Hepburn leaves the public transport bus and makes the transition into a handsome man’s car where he proceeds to act as her chauffeur as she eats chocolate in the backseat. This is a very clear way of associating chocolate with a certain lavish lifestyle that mirrors the purpose of the upscale display at CVS. This demonstrates how chocolate is still thought of as a luxury good despite its frequency.

Similarly, you can discern the intended audience from the location and price of the chocolate. In the chocolate aisle and the section right before the cash register, the position of the chocolate can reveal many things. If it is at eye-level for an adult, odds are that product is very popular. An example of this is the Hershey’s chocolate staple: plain dark chocolate. If the product is more particular, it is likely that it will be on a different shelf in order to make room for the standard products. One exception to this rule is when products are placed at the eye-level of children. Today, ads everywhere target kids because they want to create costumers for life. This has various ethical complications, not the least of which are explored in the article “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies” by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens. Their article describes the way sugar’s detrimental effects on public health were covered up by greedy corporations. Along the way, scientific research has found that “sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars” (Taubes). The ethical complications arise when the companies knowlingly advertised their product that contained unhealthy ingredients without making the public fully aware of their effects. There is also research that links the overconsumption of sucrose and HFCS to obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which disproportionately affect young people. Ad campaigns like this one from Cadbury target young people in an effort to foster a relationship between the child and the brand so that as an adult, their potential purchasing power increases because of their trained loyalty to the specific company.

The ad works likes a commercial to kids for kids. The use of children and upbeat music to advertise chocolate is a convincing strategy to associate chocolate with fun. This targeting of children as consumers is demonstrated in stores like CVS where chocolate is placed in the perfect position for children to recognize them from ads on television and the internet.

Chocolate might seem like a normal treat that you indulge in after a difficult day, but if you look deeper into your own perception of chocolate, you will learn that it is integral to multiple societal structures. Not only can you see from the different placements of chocolate in CVS that it is associated with elitism and opulence, but it is also incredibly gendered. This post on reddit.com by user Te1221 establishes the subconscious connection between chocolate and women.

chocotampon
Reddit, posted by user Te1221 in 2014.

The caption is “CVS boosted chocolate sales this year” which implies that its location next to female hygienic products would help it sell more. The suggestion that women on their period are more likely to buy chocolate is widely spread idea. This is just a small example of how chocolate can really represent institutions within our society like gender (like power through its elitism).

Just from looking at chocolate placement in a CVS in Harvard Square, you can begin to understand its intrinsic nature. Chocolate is a symbol of delicacy, power, femininity, and sinfulness (both in relation to physical health and sexually). All you need to do is look.

Works Cited

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691

Mintz, Sidney W. “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” (New York, 1985), 140, 139, 153, 166–167.

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, Feb. 15, 2017.

Taubes, Gary, and Cristin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” Mother Jones. Nov/Dec. 2012. Web. 04 May 2017. <http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign&gt;.

Is Fair Trade Faux? The Overvaluation of the Fairtrade Label in Chocolate Sales

As modes of communication have improved, the world community has become more aware of the circumstances of the people around us. Few situations prove more compelling to action than the plight of cacao farmers in West Africa and South America, for cacao farmers live in incredible poverty, completing long hours of backbreaking work for little pay in fields which typically lack access to bathroom facilities and clean water and which also expose the farmers to a host of dangerous tropical diseases (Martin).

In learning more about the conditions under which cacao farmers work, there has been a marked increase in the world community’s support for “fair trade” practices, in which the chocolate companies have been certified to split profits equally with the cacao farmers who supply the cocoa to be used in manufacturing the chocolate. There has also been an increase in support for ethical sourcing practices in which the cacao farm is certified to have satisfied a high level of “social, environmental, and economic standards”, ensuring that each cacao farmer can not only survive, but thrive by selling cocoa beans (Fair). Click below to view a video which explains Fair Trade Practices in more detail (Fair):

http://fairtradeusa.org/what-is-fair-trade

A wealth of modern scholarship exists which touts the important role of the consumer in incentivizing chocolate sellers to change their current buying practices and to offer a wider selection of Fairtrade Certified options in their stores. However, evidence exists which contradicts the conclusions of this body of scholarship. A comparison of the chocolate selections at CVS Convenience Store and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shop suggests that there is not as strong a desire among consumers to buy responsibly sourced chocolate as scholarship might conclude; in fact, this comparison suggests that the Fairtrade label and similar certifications are only important selling points to a small, niche group of customers.

Scholars are generally in agreement that the concept of “social responsibility” has become a more significant component within the business model of modern chocolate retailers such as grocery and convenience stores. Susie Khamis describes the mechanics of this phenomenon in her paper, A Case Study in Compromise: The Green & Black’s Brand of Ethical Chocolate:

The discourse of [social responsibility and] ethical consumption is predicated on      consumers’ interest in such matters, which are often of a humanitarian or environmentalist nature. In turn, consumers can either reward brands and businesses that are similarly inclined, or punish those that are not (Khamis 19).

Other works document the growth in sales of Fairtrade Certified chocolate. More Chocolate Manufacturers Moving to Ethical Sourcing describes the role of the British public’s support for Fairtrade Certified chocolate as having driven an expanding the market for Fairtrade Certified bars in Britain and Europe. David Pierson, a writer for The Los Angeles Times, identified the same phenomenon in the United States as he described the Fairtrade, bean-to-bar process as practiced by the Los Angeles based chocolatier, Ryan Berk (Pierson). These works prove useful in explaining and illustrating the principles in effect when consumers incentivize chocolate suppliers to provide a wider array of responsibly sourced goods, yet they fall short in that they over attribute widespread support for Fair Trade and responsibly sourced chocolate.

So if, according to modern scholarship, customers are so anxious to purchase Fair Trade certified chocolates, chocolate bars, and chocolate products, why is it that the CVS convenience store in Harvard Square fails to provide responsibly sourced chocolates for their customers to enjoy? Picture #1 indicates the types of chocolate available at CVS.

Picture 1:

image2.JPG

The varieties of chocolate available for purchase are endless. The store offers: Reese’s Cups, M&M’s, Cadbury Cremes, Dum Dum Lollipops, Dove chocolate bites…etc. Furthermore, the checkout counter offers additional choices of chocolate from which customers may choose (Spear CVS Chocolate). The chocolates available for purchase at CVS have been produced at high volume; the chocolate bars on display are all packaged in cheap, brightly colored plastic wrapping meant to catch the eye and convince the customer to buy the candy. Furthermore, the chocolates on display were produced by the largest chocolate conglomerates in the world such as Hershey’s, Nestle, and Cadbury, none of which are Fair Trade certified. None of the available chocolates are Fair Trade Certified or responsibly sourced certified. Recently, Hershey’s was certified as having 30% of their cocoa responsibly sourced, Nestle only recently made the Kit Kat bar certified fair trade, while Cadbury recently did away with their Fair Trade Certification altogether (Gunther, Brownsell, Rodionova).

In addition to the “regular” chocolate available in the main aisle, CVS provided one small stand towards the back of the store (shown in image #2), not connected to the rest of the chocolate shown in image #1.

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This display, labeled “Premium Chocolate”, provided a variety of chocolate bars which were packaged with paper and foil, rather than plastic, and were presented as a higher quality alternative to the other chocolates offered in the store. However, despite the nicer packaging, and “premium” description, nearly none of the chocolate bars in the display were Fair Trade Certified. Of the entire offering, only two of the bars were certified as Fair Trade, the “Endangered Species” brand found hidden towards the bottom of the shelf (Endangered).

On the other hand, Cardullo’s offers a far wider range of options for consumers hoping to purchase Fair Trade chocolate. As seen in picture #3, Cardullo’s not only offers a large quantity of “higher quality” chocolates, which contained higher cocoa content, and lower amounts of sugar than the chocolate available at CVS, but the majority of the chocolate bars offered by Cardullo’s display a Fair Trade certification, or some other sort of “ethically sourced” branding.

image1 (1)

The most obvious difference between the selections available at CVS and Cardullo’s is that the chocolates which Cardullo’s offers seem to have been produced by smaller chocolatiers, rather than by the large chocolate producers. Every one of the bars are individually wrapped in paper and foil. The chocolates bars’ wrapping is presented in such a way as to make the chocolate bar seem to be very high quality; the wrappers also emphasize themes such as being organic, responsibly sourced, or single source origin. Notably, most of the chocolate producers represented in Cardullo’s (found in picture #3) are craft chocolatiers, or chocolatiers based outside of the United States: Dolfin Chocolates (Belgium), Cote D’Or Chocolates (Belgium), Drost Chocolatiers (the Netherlands).

Cardullo’s and CVS target different consumers, which affects the type of chocolate that they offer. CVS, as a convenience store, is meant to serve as a one-stop-shop which offers any good which a customer might need. The CVS business model caters to consumers who value affordability and speed in their buying habits; as such, the chocolate offered at CVS costs anywhere from $1 for a generic candy bar to $4 for the bars stocked in the “premium” section. Average chocolate bar prices at Cardullo’s however, rarely dip below $6 for a single bar and the typical price approaches $8. This is because Cardullo’s markets itself as an establishment which specializes in high-quality, gourmet, foods- as is clear from their website:

http://www.cardullos.com/ (Cardullo’s)

From Cardullo’s website, one might assume that the typical customer expects higher quality goods (“the finest meats and cheeses, the freshest vegetables, and locally made rolls and baguettes” (Cardullo’s)). Because consumers shopping at Cardullo’s value higher quality goods, they are willing to pay more for the items they purchase because the customer understands that they are purchasing quality goods.

Understanding the basic differences between the quality, price, and ethical background of the chocolate bars that are offered for sale by CVS and Cardullo’s, several conclusions can be drawn about the desires of the typical shopper at Cardullo’s and CVS. Because Cardullo’s offers such a wide variety of high-quality, though highly priced, chocolate bars, it’s obvious that Cardullo’s customers value high quality goods. The many certifications which have been awarded to chocolate makers for Fair Trade, organic, or ethical business practices certainly figure into the consumers’ approximation of the value and quality of the chocolate bar when they are considering making their purchase. Specifically in the case of Cardullo’s, consumers appreciate the responsible sourcing practices of the chocolate bars that Cardullo’s sells, and they reward Cardullo’s with their business, although the prices of chocolate bars at Cardullo’s are a higher price than in other places, like CVS.

While Cardullo’s business model and consumer practices provide some evidence to support the conclusions of writers and researchers like Susie Khamis and David Pierson, the selection of chocolate bars available in CVS suggest that Khamis’ and Pierson’s conclusions cannot be assumed to apply to the population as a whole. Although customers are clearly happy to pay higher prices for higher quality chocolate in shops like Cardullo’s, CVS customers most likely appreciate CVS for its convenience and affordability and would be less likely to pay $8 for a chocolate bar. That CVS offers essentially no ethically sourced or Fair Trade chocolate bars in their stores implies that CVS customers either care little about purchasing ethically sourced chocolate bars or that the typical CVS customer does not care enough to take their business across Harvard Square to shop at Cardullo’s. Because CVS is the largest pharmacy chain in the United States (with over 9,600 locations nationwide), the company has an incredibly large client base and must remain responsive to the desires of the general public, or risk losing the business of large amounts of people (CVS). It follows that CVS must research the desires of their customers, monitoring how their consumers’ preferences change over time so that they can anticipate and respond to changing market conditions. Because CVS does not currently sell ethically sourced chocolate bars in their stores, one can conclude that ethical sourcing is important only within a small portion of the population.

Following Khamis’ model describing how a consumer punishes or rewards a company based on that company’s alignment with the consumer’s principles, if a significant portion of the population actually cared about ethically sourced chocolate, then those people would have found other, more ethically aligned stores such as Target and Walmart (or Cardullo’s!) and stopped buying chocolate bars from CVS. In response, CVS would be forced to adapt to the demands of the market and sell chocolate bars which satisfy the consumer’s ethical sourcing requirements.

Patterns within CVS’s selection of chocolate are significant in that a study of one CVS store provides a reliable approximation of the chocolate offerings at all other CVS stores nationwide. Because CVS stores nationwide serve more than 5 million customers daily, one can conclude that a very large portion of the United States’ population is satisfied with CVS’ chocolate bar options, and that a non-significant portion of the population cares about ethically sourced chocolate (CVS). Watch this documentary on ethically sourced chocolate, in which respondents tell that the taste of the chocolate is more important than the ethically sourced background (watch from 11:00 to 11:30) (Fair Trade and Chocolate):

http://harvard.kanopystreaming.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/video/fair-trade-chocolate-divine-story

Modern scholarship contends that a large portion of the population feels that Fair Trade and ethical sourcing practices are important aspects that factor into a consumer’s decision when purchasing a chocolate bar. Yet, data exists which suggests that scholars’ conclusions about the importance of fair trade practices to the consumer are not as widely applicable as scholars have concluded. Although the chocolate selection at Cardullo’s suggests that there is a portion of the population which is willing to pay premium prices for higher quality, responsibly sourced chocolate, the chocolate selection at CVS implies that there is also an incredibly large portion of the American population which does not see ethical sourcing practices as being important enough to “punish” or “reward” the retail chain over their selection of chocolates. In the future, interest groups should work to educate and persuade consumers of the merits of Fair Trade and responsibly sourced chocolate so that a larger portion of the population can become responsible consumers and can begin to effect positive change in the world through their purchasing habits.

Works Cited

Works Cited

Brownsell, Alex. “Nestle’s Kit Kat Secures Fair Trade Certification.” Campaign Live. 7

December 2009. Web.

Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe Website. http://www.cardullos.com/. Web.

CVS. “CVS Health At A Glance.” https://www.cvshealth.com/about/facts-and-company-

information. Web.

Endangered Species Chocolate. “Promise.” Accessed 4 May 2017.

http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18. Web.

“Fair Trade and Chocolate: The Divine Story.” Part of the Series: Essential Marketing

Collection. On Kanopy.com. http://harvard.kanopystreaming.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/video/fair-trade-chocolate-divine-story. Web.

Fair Trade USA. “What is Fair Trade?: Quality Products. Improving Lives. Protecting the

Planet.” Accessed 4 May 2017. http://fairtradeusa.org/what-is-fair-trade. Web.

Gunther, Mark. “Hershey’s Might Be Using More Sustainable Cocoa, But Farmers May Not Be

Seeing the Benefits.” The Guardian. 6 July 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/jul/06/hersheys-mars-ferrero-cocoa-farming-fair-trade-global-exchange. Web.

Khamis, Susie. “A Case Study in Compromise: The Green & Black’s Brand of Ethical

Chocolate.” Macquarie University. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 1, Number 1. March 2012. Print.

Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” African American Studies 119X, 22 March 2017, Harvard

College, Cambridge MA. Lecture.

“More Chocolate Manufacturers Moving to Ethical Sourcing.” http://www.candyindustry.com. April

  1. Accessed 4 May 2017. http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/218773659/fulltextPDF/51D1AC8E34A645CFPQ/1?accountid=11311. Web.

Pierson, David. “Artisanal, hand-crafted chocolate is a growing niche.” The Los Angeles Times.

28 February 2017. Web.

Rodionova, Zlata. “Cadbury Withdraws from Fairtrade Chocolate Scheme But Keeps Logo on

Packaging.” The Independent. 28 November 2016. Web.

Spear, Tyler. “Cardullo’s Gourmet Shop Chocolate Selection.” 4 May 2017.

Spear, Tyler. “CVS Chocolate Selection.” 4 May 2017.

Spear, Tyler. “CVS Premium Chocolate Selection.” 4 May 2017.

Chocolate at CVS

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

premiumchocolate

(image taken by me)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first image of Premium Chocolate was taken by me.

CVS: Chocolate Value Store

In a city square home to L.A. Burdick Chocolates and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, one would not necessarily first select CVS for the purpose of purchasing chocolate products. However, as I commenced my chocolate crawl of Cambridge to analyze chocolate displays around Harvard Square, I realized I did not need to venture any further than CVS to encounter a chocolate emporium. Although CVS exhibits a vast variety of chocolate products, ranging from mass-produced, “Big 5” chocolate brands to more premium, craft chocolate brands, to appeal to consumers’ differing taste preferences and criteria for selecting and purchasing chocolate, I would contend that CVS more adeptly encourages consumers to purchase chocolate products through an economically-based methodology. In particular, by targeting consumers’ economic sensibilities through the prominent display and advertisement of sale prices and ExtraBucks reward promotions, CVS draws upon consumers’ desire to mitigate indulgent, “impulse buys” of chocolate products by emphasizing the sound economic advantages that result from purchasing their store’s chocolate products.

Before analyzing CVS’ economic methodology, it is productive to first provide a report of my field study’s findings on the CVS store located at 6 JFK Street. After entering CVS, I discovered that two of the four aisles on the store’s first floor are replete with chocolate. Aisle 3, which is labeled as “Bagged Candy” and “Candy,” contains shelf after shelf of chocolate products, most of which hail from the Big 5 chocolate companies. Colloquially known at the “Big Five,” Nestle, Mars, Cadbury, Hershey’s and Ferrero represent the largest chocolate companies in the world today (Martin and Sampeck 2016: 50). Along the shelves of Aisle 3 were products manufactured by Hershey’s, Nestle, Cadbury, and Mars in all varieties and size combinations, which ranged from multipacks of individually wrapped fun size bars to resealable snack packs to individual bars. The varying quantities of these packages indicate that consumers desire different size combinations, according to their particular needs and interests. For example, one consumer might be seeking a personal snack while another consumer might be interested in buying a multipack to share with other people.

IMG_7922
An example of the yellow tags in Aisle 3 of CVS that advertise special sales prices and ExtraBucks rewards associated with chocolate purchases. 

In addition to the plethora of chocolate products available to consumers, the shelves of Aisle 3 also provide evidence of CVS’ economically-based marketing strategy: emphasis on sales and future monetary rewards. As part of its company, CVS promotes a customer rewards program, the ExtraCare program (https://www.cvs.com/extracare/home). Based upon their purchases at any CVS location, members of the ExtraCare program will receive ExtraBucks, a coupon with a monetary amount that can be applied to a future purchase. In the case of Aisle 3, certain chocolate products were eligible for both a sales promotion and ExtraBucks rewards. Bright yellow tags, which dangled from the aisle’s shelves, advertised that one could purchase 2 chocolate products at the reduced price of $6 and that such a purchase would generate $1 in ExtraBucks.

IMG_7925
Aisle 4 of CVS, the “Seasonal” aisle, included a glut of Easter chocolate products, which were steeply discounted at 50% off clearance.

After this close observation of Aisle 3, I rounded the corner to Aisle 4 and encountered a continuation of chocolate displays. In particular, Aisle 4, the “Seasonal” aisle, featured displays of chocolate products and other candy items, mostly from the Big 5 brands, that were packaged and labeled for Easter, a holiday that occurred the weekend prior to this field study. These seasonal products disclose the marketing tactics of the Big 5 chocolate companies, which rebrand their products with special shapes (e.g. eggs), pastel packaging, and images synonymous with Easter (e.g. chicks and bunnies). The contents of Aisle 4 also underscored the vast quantity of chocolate on the market: even after the celebration of Easter, a holiday culturally-associated with the purchasing of candy and chocolate to fill Easter baskets, CVS still possessed a glut of Easter-specific chocolate products.

For the purposes of this field study, I also noticed the continuation of sales prices and economic incentives in Aisle 4. Larger, bright yellow tags placed perpendicular to the aisle’s shelves announced that the entirety of Aisle 4’s items were on clearance and 50% off. Although many of the chocolate products in Aisle 4 were exactly identical in taste and quality to those of Aisle 3—a Reese’s seasonal, egg-shaped candy has the exact same taste as a Reese’s peanut butter cup—the store granted the Easter products a special sale price because their packaging was no longer relevant and, more importantly, was no longer a compelling factor to make consumers purchase those particularized, Easter-appropriate items. Therefore, the economical advantage, rather than the packaging or seasonality, of purchasing these Easter chocolate products emerged as the chief marketing tool utilized by CVS to encourage consumer purchase.

IMG_7932
The Brookside display appears at the end of Aisle 2 in CVS. Note the continuation of the yellow sales tags on this special chocolate display.

On the whole, my field study sensitized me to the pervasiveness of CVS’ sales tactics with regard to chocolate purchases. Indeed, the sales, discounts, and monetary rewards associated with the purchase of chocolate products extended well beyond the chocolate-specific aisles, Aisle 3 and Aisle 4. In meandering around the first floor, I also discovered two chocolate display cases that were distinct and separate from the aisles: a Brookside chocolate display and a “Premium Chocolates” display. Both displays consisted of a pop-up cardboard structure placed at opposite ends of Aisle 2, a strategic juncture that could, in turn, attract a consumer’s attention as he or she moved between or along aisles. The Brookside display seemed to align well with the contents of Aisle 2, the “Grocery” aisle, since it featured snack-type chocolate products, such as “Crunchy Clusters,” chocolate-covered almonds, and chocolate-covered dried fruits. In addition to these items, the Brookside display also featured bright yellow tags that announced the special rate of 2 chocolate products for $6.

In contrast to the snack-packaging of the Brookside display, the Premium Chocolate display included mostly individually-packaged bars from Lindt, Ghiradelli, Ferrero Roche, and Chuao, among other premium brands. Even those these brands were specially labeled as “premium” and therefore associated with luxury and higher cost, the “Premium Chocolate” display also featured the same bright yellow sales tags, which advertised the special rate of 2 chocolate bars for $5. Therefore, just as ubiquitous as the presence of chocolate products on the first floor of CVS was the presence of sales tags and special rates for chocolate products—the sales pricing did not discriminate based on chocolate quality but rather applied to Big 5 brands and premium brands alike.

IMG_7926
The “Premium Chocolates” display at the end of Aisle 2. Even more premium brands, such as Lindt, Chocolove, and Endangered Species Chocolate, were subject to special sales prices.

Even if I had somehow managed to avoid the two aisles or two prominent displays of chocolate on the first floor, this CVS store ensured that I, along with every consumer, would encounter chocolate while waiting in line to make a purchase. On both the first floor and second floor, this CVS store possesses checkout lines, each of which is replete with shelves lined with individual candies and chocolate bars. The presence of chocolate in the CVS store is inextricably bound with the promise of savings: the individual chocolate bars at the checkout areas also benefited from sales promotions: 2 individual chocolate bars or candies for $3.

After completing my observational field study of this particular CVS location, I conducted research into CVS as a company. CVS, which stands for Consumer Value Stores, opened its first store in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1963; this first store exclusively sold health and beauty products (https://www.cvshealth.com/about/company-history). Although CVS brands itself as a pharmaceutical store, it has developed far beyond its origins as purely a purveyor of health and beauty products. Inherent to the company’s expansive, national growth has been its acquisition of other competing stores throughout the United States. As part of this nationalization of CVS as a franchise, CVS has also worked to secure consumer loyalty, especially through its emphasis on providing value to customers. In fact, CVS was the first national pharmacy retailer to launch a loyalty card program, the ExtraCare Card, which it established in 2001(https://www.cvshealth.com/about/company-history). Therefore, an understanding of CVS’ company history demonstrates its focus and commitment to consumer value, which it achieves through the employment of sales prices, special discounts, and ExtraCare membership rewards.

Based upon my field study of the Harvard Square CVS store and a fuller understanding of the CVS company history and programming, I derived a few salient impressions about CVS in relation to its marketing and selling of chocolate products.

CVS possesses a keen understanding of the current landscape of the chocolate market with regard to consumer taste, interests, and needs. According to Heike C. Alberts and Julie Cidell, the United States has been experiencing a “chocolate revolution” during the last few decades: American consumers have expanded their chocolate consumption “beyond traditional mass-market chocolate such as Hershey’s” and the other Big 5 companies to include “more premium chocolates…and more dark varieties” (Alberts and Cidell 2016). Stores like CVS have responded to meet this shift in taste among American consumers by stocking more premium chocolate brands, including European brands. Although European chocolates were “largely limited to specialty food stores and import stores” a few decades ago, European brands like Milka, Ritter Sport, and Lindt are now “available in many grocery stores, department stores such as Target and Walmart, and drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS” (Alberts and Cidell 2016). Although much of the CVS chocolate selection in Aisles 3 and 4 belongs to traditional mass-market chocolate brands, such as the Big 5 companies, the inclusion of brands like Lindt in the Premium Chocolate display at the Harvard Square CVS attests to the entrance of European brands into American markets and its increasing availability among these markets to include pharmacy stores like CVS.

In addition to Americans’ burgeoning interest in European chocolates and premium brands, American consumers have also begun to consider the social and ethical components of chocolate products. In response to the various ethical facets of cacao production, such as labor conditions, compensation, etcetera, many American consumers have been drawn to the fine chocolate market, which exhibits a “resistance” characterized by “a group force or momentum to link sensual enjoyment with ethical concern” (Martin and Sampeck 2016: 52). The fine chocolate market has been utilizing strategies, such as certification programs like Direct Trade and FairTrade, to demonstrate their companies’ commitment to rectifying social injustices. Such campaigns and endorsements speak to consumers’ desires to enjoy chocolate in an ethically and socially-conscious manner. For example, Endangered Species Chocolate, one of the brands available in the “Premium Chocolates” display of the Harvard Square CVS store, promises to donate 10% of net profits to its GiveBack Partners that help wildlife and endangered species (http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18). Thus, as observed at the Harvard Square CVS, CVS recognizes the differing tastes of chocolate consumers—brand name, perceived quality of products, and socially-conscious choices—and seeks to cater to their customers by selling a varied selection of products that will meet these consumer preferences.

In addition to recognizing the need to meet consumers’ broad spectrum of tastes, CVS also utilizes psychology to attract customers and promote chocolate purchases. In primarily pharmaceutical stores like CVS, the average customer does not necessarily visit with the express purpose of purchasing chocolate. Instead, chocolate purchases at CVS can be classified as “impulse buying,” which may be described as a spontaneous purchase bought “without thoughtful consideration why and for what reason a person should have the product” (Fennis and Stroebe 2010: 274). For example, CVS’ placement of its chocolate products at the checkout areas on both the first and second levels capitalizes upon this psychological understanding of consumer behavior because “chocolate bars and other tempting sweets are often displayed near the checkout counter when customers are distracted by thoughts about paying for their purchases” (Fennis and Stroebe 2010: 275).

In addition to encouraging a psychological response of impulse buying, CVS strategically situates chocolate displays to capitalize upon knowledge of the scientific, neurological basis of consumer behavior. In other words, CVS utilizes its displays as visual stimuli that can activate the neurological systems that motivate customers to purchase chocolate products. A 2014 scientific study entitled “Neural predictors of chocolate intake following chocolate exposure” utilized neuroimaging technology to verify how exposure to chocolate stimuli can predict the subsequent intake of chocolate (Frankort et al. 2014). In this study, participants were exposed to the smell of chocolate over the period of an hour and then shown images of chocolate (Frankort et al. 2014). Neuroimage results of this exposed group revealed that the brain regions involved in food reward, including the amygdala, striatum, hippocampus, insula, ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra, were activated by these external stimuli of chocolate and directly correlated with the later consumption of chocolate (Frankort et al. 2014). In essence, “neural correlates predict subsequent behavior (i.e. chocolate intake)” (Frankort et al. 2014). Based on such scientific evidence, there is a demonstrated neurological basis for chocolate consumption, which can be stimulated by external cues like the time of day and place (Benton 2004: 215). Therefore, customers at CVS who are stimulated by visual stimuli like chocolate displays have a greater likelihood of subsequently purchasing and consuming chocolate.

While these scientific and psychological aspects underlying consumers’ chocolate purchases are certainly important factors acknowledged and employed by CVS in its marketing strategy, I would contend that CVS utilizes economic incentives as the primary means of convincing customers to purchase chocolate.

This economic component complements and augments the psychology of chocolate purchasing. In particular, scientists and psychologists have determined that the phenomenon of impulse buying is “more likely for low priced products” (Fennis and Stroebe 275). Many of CVS’ chocolate products could be considered “low priced products” because they were part of a special sales promotions (2 for $6) and/or associated with the acquisition of future money-off coupons ($1 in ExtraBucks). As a result of transforming their chocolate products into low priced products through the use of economic marketing strategies, CVS increases the motivation of customers to act upon their psychological response of impulse buying. CVS’ use of economical savings as a marketing strategy to increase chocolate purchases proves a psychologically-astute method. Scientists have demonstrated that the “control motivation” consumers might attempt to exercise to prevent impulse buying is lowered when “the desirable items are not very expensive” (Fennis and Stroebe 2010: 275). In other words, consumer satisfaction resulting from saving money and making economically-sound purchases overpowers their control motivation and mitigates feelings of guilt that consumers might experience in buying chocolate products, which are often classified as luxurious, indulgent items. CVS makes luxury chocolate products, especially “premium” chocolate brands from Europe or brands with socially-conscious values, affordable to the masses.

In the broader historical context, chocolate has been inextricably bound with economics and social class. After its introduction to Europe, chocolate was primarily enjoyed by European elites; however, changes in the 1800s resulted in a broadening of the availability of chocolate. Due to the industrialization of food, including massive mechanization, retailing, and transportation changes, chocolate transformed from “an elite, expensive product” to “an inexpensive…low-cacao-content chocolate bar to be consumed as a food by elite and non-elite alike” (Martin and Sampeck 2016: 50). Given this democratization of chocolate, chocolate producers had to meet this new, increased demand, and, as a result, “large chocolate manufacturers became the producers of the majority of the world’s chocolate” (Martin and Sampeck 2016: 50). Chocolate became an industry that needed to market to different social sectors. Due to chocolate’s historical and intrinsic connection with socioeconomic class, CVS’ economically-based approach of sales prices, discounts, and other monetary incentives emerges as a very efficacious method for appealing to the different social statuses of customers.

In summary, this field study of the Harvard Square CVS store reveals the varying tactics and approaches a retail store may employ to encourage the purchase of chocolate products. While visual stimuli, such as chocolate displays, store layout, variety of products, and other tools may be utilized to promote chocolate purchasing, CVS employs an efficacious economic model to increase its chocolate sales. Truly hearkening to its roots as a Consumer Value Store, CVS convinces its customers that they can have their chocolate at a cost-effective price and eat it, too!

 

Sources:

Alberts, Heike C. and Julie Cidell. 2016. “Chocolate Consumption, Manufacturing, and Quality in North America and Europe.” In The Economics of Chocolate, edited by Mara P. Squicciarini and Johan Swinnen, 119-133.

Benton, David. 2004. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” In Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain, edited by Astrid Nehlig, 205-216.

Fennis, Bob M. and Wolfgang Stroebe. 2010. The Psychology of Advertising.

Frankort, A. et al. 2015. “Neural predictors of chocolate intake following chocolate exposure.” Appetite 87: 98-107.

Martin, Carla and Kathryn Sampeck. 2016. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Presented at The Social Meaning of Food Workshop, The Institute for Sociology, Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, June 16-17, 2015, Budapest, Hungary.

Chocolate: Caloric Convenience or Conscientious Confection

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

CVS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CVS aisle stocked mostly with large-packaged chocolates.

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

Whole Foods

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

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Candy aisle at Whole Foods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Retailing

Chocolate can be found in almost every store depending where you are. If you’re going to Target in search of some pants, chances are that there will be chocolate products available at the checkout line.One can learn many things from the kind of chocolate selection they have in a local store. You can learn about types of chocolate that is being used, ethical concerns, price point, and who the intended audience is.

Depending where someone is from, they can have a limited amount of exposure and knowledge about what is in food (like certain chemicals and additives) and what is good quality. Different stores sell different products that target a certain audience. Some chocolate companies do the same and only sell their products to companies who are their ideal client in revenue.  

I grew up in a low income household in a low income community that was highly populated by immigrants. Despite the problems my hometown had, Chelsea, MA is a small and efficient city where stores were so close by that we didn’t have to travel to another city to get our food, clothes, and other supplies.  I grew up with a convenient store just down the street from my mom’s apartment, a CVS just 2 blocks away, and a DeMoulas Market Basket a 5 minute drive away.

All of these locations had very similar things when it came down to selling chocolate. I would see candies like a Hershey bar by the Hershey Company, M&M’s candy by the Mars company, and a Butterfinger by Nestle. What these candies have in common is that they are low in cost which makes them more affordable than others. I have learned that the chocolate sweets I grew up eating don’t actually contain a lot of chocolate. What I did like was sugar. Products like a Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar contains approximately 10% of true cacao (Chocolate by the numbers). The first ingredient listed on the back of a Hershey’s bar is sugar (Mikes Candy Bar Page – Hershey Bar).

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Figure 1. Hershey’s Candy Wrapper with Ingredients Listed

Stores like CVS don’t sell a wide variety of chocolate. There can be different kinds like Crunch bar, Kit Kat, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Twix, etc…, but the chocolate is still produced by big manufacturers. The manufacturers include Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and Kraft. Most of these candy bars sells for about $1-2. When breaking down the list of ingredients, it is not a surprise that these chocolate bars can be bought at a low price. With a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, there is more peanut butter than chocolate. With the candy the has these cheap (but delicious) fillings, It’s no surprise that the product can be at a really low cost because not much cacao is actually being used in the product.

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Figure 2. Picture I took of the chocolate selection at CVS.

Aside from most of the chocolates being from these big manufacturers, CVS do have a very small selection of premium chocolates. There are chocolates that are produced by Lindt chocolatier and Ghirardelli chocolates. Growing up to me these were the “expensive” chocolate’s as they contained richer ingredients like a high percentage of cacao, and  very bitter to my young taste buds due to the low amount of sugar in the products.  In comparison with the ingredients in the Hershey’s bar, the Lindt chocolate bar  is better in quality and does not use a lot of ingredients that I have trouble pronouncing. Also to mention that the first ingredient listed in a Lindt chocolate bar is chocolate.  The label is also give away since it does say the amount of cacao that is in the bar,which is 70%. A product of this kind f quality is often hard to sell. These bars sell for about $4 each. When CVS cannot sell them all, they go on    sale.

 

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Figure 3. Lindt Chocolate, Front

 

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Figure 5. Lindt Chocolate on Sale at CVS

Personally, I like that CVS has a very small section of Premium chocolates. It does give people the opportunity to try darker chocolate. They probably won’t like it because they are use to chocolates that contain a high amount of sugar. There is a spectrum from when people mention that they love chocolate. Is it really the taste of the cacao that they enjoy or is it the taste of the sugar in the bar (The Huffington Post).

People may prefer the sugary taste of chocolate because it is what they have been able to afford. Some people may view a chocolate bar which is worth over $4 as too expensive when they can get a cheaper bar for half the price. The battle can by quantity over quality.  When people can’t afford a certain product, a barrier is placed that eliminates them from the targeted audience.

Personally, I like that CVS has a very small section of Premium chocolates. It does give people the opportunity to try darker chocolate. They probably won’t like it because they are use to chocolates that contain a high amount of sugar. There is a spectrum from when people mention that they love chocolate. Is it really the taste of the cacao that they enjoy or is it the taste of the sugar in the bar (The Huffington Post).

People may prefer the sugary taste of chocolate because it is what they have been able to afford. Some people may view a chocolate bar which is worth over $4 as too expensive when they can get a cheaper bar for half the price. The battle can by quantity over quality.  When people can’t afford a certain product, a barrier is placed that eliminates them from the targeted audience.

Another supermarket that does create create barriers which limits their targeted audience is Whole Foods. Whole Foods is known to have organic and sustainable food.The food is presented to be in higher quality and thus being higher in prices. The running joke that most people say is Whole Paycheck (Urban Dictionary) instead of Whole Foods, because the cost of food from their is worth almost an entire paycheck.

When I visited their chocolate selection, I could not find a chocolate product that was manufactured by Hershey’s, Mars, or Nestle. Instead there were brands that I did not recognize and some that I was a little  familiar within the past few year due to furthering my exposure as I began to frequently travel to Cambridge and Boston for school and work.

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Figure 6. Chocolates from Whole Foods

 

 

Going into Whole Foods, and even now, I sometimes feel out of place because I grew up going to a supermarket that was always busy and full and the prices were cheap. It’s also because I see lack of diversity when I go in. The people shopping at whole foods is usually white people and you can tell that they probably earn a high salary. Whole Foods seems target this specific audience as they are the one who can afford their products.

I sometimes think that it is ridiculous to pay $6 for a chocolate bar, (as seens as above). I constantly remind myself that the chocolate is at a fair price because of its quality. Having learned what the process is for making chocolate, how it comes from bean to bar, and understanding the true labour that comes with it, I have no problem with spending $6 on a chocolate bar because I know I am getting quality chocolate and with organizations like Fair Trade, I know that farmers and workers are getting their fair share.

Now, there are other places to purchase chocolate that does not have to come from a chain retail store. There are independent stores that specialize in gourmet foods. In Harvard Square there is a gourmet shoppe called Cardullo’s. Cardullo’s has been around since 1950. They sell a variety of gourmet goods including wine, cheeses, teas, and chocolates.

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Figure 7. Chocolates from Cardullo’s

Cardullo’s sells a lot of chocolate, kinds that I cannot find in Whole Foods. They are truly gourmet and rich in flavour. At my trip to this story I purchase 2 chocolate bars. The first one was an Earl Grey tea infused chocolate by the brand Dolfin. The back of the wrapping was difficult to photograph but the first ingredient on this bar was cacao mass, sugar, cacao butter, and Earl Grey tea at 2,%.

The other bar of chocolate that I purchased was by Taza. Taza Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almond. On the front label it say 80% dark stone ground chocolate. On the back of the bar, the ingredients listed are Organic cacao beans, organic sugar cane, organic almonds, organic cacao butter, organic vanilla beans, and sea salt. I love that everything is organic and that I know what these ingredients are and how to pronounce them.

Each bar was about $8 and they were delicious. I never had tea infused chocolate and now if I want more I know the only place nearest me to purchase it is at Cardullo’s. Taza chocolates can be found in Whole Foods but I do not recall seeing this specific kind with sea salt and almonds. Cardullo’s is a wonderful shop with so many variations of chocolate from different companies to try, but I would need to place a budget to try all of these chocolates.

The chocolates sold here says that they care where the cacao is grown, how it is being processed, and that the laborers are being paid appropriately, and that child labor is not occurring. The cost does out weigh the taste. Know what’s in the chocolate bar, and that the ingredients are organic, this counts more as quality than quantity.

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Figure 8. Chocolate from Cardullo’s, Dolfin
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Figure 9. Chocolate from Cardullo’s, Taza front label
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Figure 9. Chocolate from Cardullo’s, Taza back label

For retail shops to target an audience, they have to see demographically where the need is for their store and who can afford the products. The maps below show the locations comparisons/difference of CVS, Whole Foods, and gourmet shops like Cardullo’s, near Chelsea, MA.

Since my hometown is in Chelsea, MA, I decided to show exactly what is accessible to the people from my community. For CVS or other convenient stores, there are multiple in the area. These stores can be easily accessed by walking, biking, and even public transportation.

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Figure 10. Convenience stores in Chelsea, MA

From experience i do know that there are more small convenience stores in Chelsea than the ones listed.

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Figure 11. CVS in Chelsea, MA
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Figure 12. Whole Foods Market near Chelsea, MA

The map on top show the closest Whole Foods near Chelsea.  The closest one is in one of Boston’s neighborhoods,  Charlestown. Getting there would require a car and going through tolls. Whole foods seem to exist areas that are not of low income communities. I am hoping that this will change for good. I think organic food should be accessible to everyone, not be so far away from a community. Whole foods has a store in one of the poorest communities of Chicago called Englwood. An article form the Washington Post talk about the effects of a wholefoods being in a community where not a lot of people can afford their products, but they do try to make it lower. The article mentioned that “the company has tried to set its price points relative to other supermarkets in the city, not relative to its own stores outside of it”. (Washington Post) The goal is to get everyone to eat healthier.

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Figure 13. Gourmet Shops (like Cardullo’s) near Chelsea, MA

This map shows the closest gourmet shops near Chelsea. As you may see, they lie just outside the city over bridges. If one owns a car, then it is not too much of an ordeal to go to the city to visit one of these gourmet shops. But man other rely on public transportation to travel into the city. When I traveled from Chelsea to Cambridge, it would usually take about one hour to get there, and one hour to head back. It’s not that people don’t want enjoy and eat better, organic food. There are many factors that come into play that don’t make it possible. Affordability, distance, availability are a few to name.

Chocolate products can be found in almost any store. You can easily find chocolate that is popular from the Hershey’s company, Mars company, and the Nestle company. These can be found in supermarkets, convenient stores, and at CVS. Or you may find brands that are more wholesome like Organic 365, Whole Foods brand, and Equal Exchange at a gourmet food stores, at Whole Foods Markets, and Trader Joe’s.

The type of chocolate that you can find in stores do say a lot about what is available to the community and how much they can know about these chocolates. The sophisticated wrapping can have a small history of the company and how the process their chocolate from bean to bar. This occurs more with chocolates that are not part of the large companies.

There are so many things you learn from the chocolate selection in a store. There are many factors

The selection of chocolate that is available in stores can say a lot. It can be a signal of who is who is the targeted audiences for certain brands of chocolate. It can say how you live you lifestyle by choosing to eat healthy and organic foods. You can see who is potentially gaining profit from selling the candy.

So, where do you buy your chocolate ?

 

Bibliography:

Badger, Emily. “Why Whole Foods Is Moving into One of the Poorest Neighborhoods in Chicago.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 May 2016.

Lfrey. “Whole Paycheck.” Urban Dictionary. 26 Apr. 2006. Web. 3 May 2016.

Maps, Google Maps. Web. 6 May 2016.

“Mike’s Candy Bar Page – Hershey Bar.” Mike’s Candy Bar Page – Hershey Bar. June 2012. Web. 01 May 2016.

Nixon, Cherie. “Why Does Dark Chocolate Taste So Nasty?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 3 May 2016.

“Whole Foods Market History.” Whole Foods Market. Web. 3 May 2016.
Wolke, Robert L. “Chocolate by The Numbers.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 9 June 2004. Web. 01 May 2016. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24276-2004Jun8.html>.

 

 

CVS vs. Whole Foods: Convenience or consciousness?

Introduction

CVS versus Whole Foods Market? Many, to include myself, would say hands down, there is no comparison or competition. Considering the distinctive customer, core values, accessibility of brands, ingredients, and price tags of chocolate displayed in each establishment, Whole Foods stands as bar none (no pun intended). According to Nielsen’s Global consumer study, which conducted a survey on snacking with a poll of 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries to identify what attributes were most important to them–in regards to consumption, confection (led by chocolate) accounted for $20 billion USD in sales (Nielsen 5). Furthermore, in a span of 30 days, 64% of global respondents consumed chocolate (6). Moreover, consumers chose chocolate second to fruit out of 47 snacking options as their favorite (6). Thereby, results concluded that in addition to chocolate being favored by consumers through mass consumption: chocolate is big business.

As one who adores all things Whole Foods, frequenting the store no less than ten times a week, yet also familiar with the convenient trappings of CVS, I tasked myself with curiosity in my search to examine the differences between these consumer giants more critically. In addition to online research of their histories and ethics, I perused the aisles to investigate their chocolate products, price points and distinctive experiences of each visit. Among obvious differences, my findings revealed incongruencies in the mission and ethics of one giant, and a resolve to the question of why each giant may serve a valid purpose beyond health consciousness.

History and Mission

For centuries chocolate has represented a broad range of symbolisms–including wealth, delicacy, medicinal healing, religious rituals, and pleasure. Over a period of the 16th through 20th century, Europe and New Spain produced 100 medicinal uses for cacao/chocolate, which included treatment of anemia, exhaustion, bowl dysfunction and skin irritations (Dillinger et al. 2057S). Today, we consume chocolate mainly for the purposes of pleasure and indulgence. This pleasure and indulgence is heightened by the allure of marketing and availability of chocolate products produced by manufacturers who have industrialized their brand for affordable global mass consumption and maximized profits. This industrial mass globalization of products were well represented in my visit to CVS, where I found the allure of chocolate advertisements and products to be excessive. In comparison, Whole Foods displayed a much smaller and more refined chocolate section.

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CVS Chocolate aisle
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CVS Chocolate products
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Whole Foods Chocolate section and products

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Consumer Value Stores (CVS), now CVS Health Corporation, was founded in 1963 by two brothers, and became the first store to sell health and beauty products, later expanding into pharmaceuticals and health management in 1967. CVSs mission statement reads: “Millions of times a day, close to home and across the country, we’re helping people on their path to better health” (CVS Health, Our Story).

With a closing revenue of $41.1 billion USD in 2015, a first quarter revenue of $20.1 billion USD as of March 2016 (Marketwatch), and the recent acquisition of Target’s pharmacies and clinics (CVS Health, History 2010s), CVS stands as the top national retail pharmaceutical company nationwide. Apart from their financial success, ethically I find their choice to sell Hershey, Nestle and Mars chocolate brands–all produced by GMO and child slave labor–where children are forced to pick cocoa beans to be sold to companies, beaten, abused and denied compensation for their work–to be deplorable and incongruent with their mission statement. From this, I can only assume that CVS is either ignorant to the truth that “better health” is not limited to pharmaceutical drugs and healthcare, but include the standards of ingredients of the food we consume. Moreover, “better health” should include and extend to the environmental conditions and treatment of labor workers who are responsible for creating chocolate for retail profit. The alternative possibility is that CVS just doesn’t care about the bean-to-bar process, rather reserving interest in chocolate reaching their shelves and retail portfolio. Overall, I find these possibilities to be the most disparate among these two giants.

In 1980 Whole Foods Market was founded by four local businessmen/women during a time when fewer than six natural food supermarkets existed in the United States. Their goal was to integrate the natural foods industry into a supermarket experience (Whole Foods Market, History). Today, Whole Foods Market closed 2015 with sales of $15 billion USD and reached $3.7 billion USD in sales the first quarter of this year. Their mission statement reads: “[H]ealthy means a whole lot more… [b]eyond good for you, to also encompass the greater good. [W]e offer a place for you to shop where value is inseparable from [our] values.” In line with their mission, they provide a list of unacceptable foods that contradict their values and standards, which they refuse to sell to their consumers.

Unlike CVS, Whole Foods value system is committed to creating health from a whole perspective, to include food consumption. Whole Foods prides the purchase of their chocolate through ethical sources (Whole Foods Market, Why Your Chocolate Choices Matter). In addition to their Organic Standards, which confirm a product has been produced through approved methods and met specific USDA verified requirements prior to labeling (Whole Foods Market, Organic), the foundation of their value system largely exists on Whole Trade. Whole Trade is a program which highlights their commitment to ethical trade, the environment and quality products sourced from developing nations (Whole Foods Market, Whole Trade). Many of the chocolate bars are also certified by Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, and third-party certifier which audits and certifies transactions between domestic companies and their international suppliers, to ensure that farmers and workers are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment and receive community development funds to empower and improve their communities (Whole Foods Market, Fair Trade).

In further alignment with their mission and values, in 2012, Whole Foods ended their relationship with Scharffen Berger Chocolate, a high-end product of Hershey’s, over child labor abuses (International Labor Rights Forum). As Hershey provided no evidence to disprove their use of child labor abuse in producing their product when requested, Scharffen Berger was removed from Whole Foods shelves nationwide. Although this move was considered just and honorable by many, Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, thought it to be contradictory. According to Gearhart, in more than one instance Whole Foods has “turned a blind eye” to the conduct of other suppliers who violate workers’ rights, by refusing to hold them equally accountable as Hershey (International Labor Rights Forum). Although there are arguments and critiques of the fairness involved in Fair trade, one being the exorbitant costs to farmers to attain certification for which they lack resources, I still view Whole Foods choice to partner with organizations and programs that pay attention and care about both the workers that produce the product, and the product ingredients, to be ethically honorable and socially responsible.

In data retrieved from Nielsen’s Global consumer study, respondents reported to care more about the ingredients which create their chocolate and preferring to “stick to the basics” (Nielsen 9). Nature-based ingredients scored 45% (9), but it was the environmentally conscious consumers that counted sustainability and organic among the most important in their snacking [experiences] (9). Based on these results, why do we continue to purchase chocolate from CVS?

Products and Price

In my visit to CVS, I had no challenge locating chocolate. From the registers near the front of the door leading to the aisle, I was surrounded by daunting quantities and advertisements of chocolate. Upon first observation, the magnitude of sale stickers and value buys that were gifted with increased quantities of purchase, were distracting. Noticeably leading in options were the Big Five chocolate competitors: Cadbury, Ferrero, Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle (the “Big Five”). The Big Five were the top five chocolate brand competitors who waged a chocolate war in China during the 1980’s – 90’s, with the purposes of introducing the then new product to Chinese consumers by creating a dominating brand presence. In the end, Mars emerged as the superior battle champion.
In CVS, the average cost of a chocolate bar was $2.50, with promotional sales for Buy 1- get-the 2nd 50% off and 2-for-$3.00. The lowest priced bar by Hershey’s Chocolate, cost $1.19. Shockingly, there was only one health conscious brand available, appearing to the far right: Endangered Species Chocolate. The Endangered Species Chocolate label advertised Fair Trade, Non-GMO Verified, Gluten Free Certified and Certified Vegan, at a modest price of $2.99 for 3 ounces. As socially conscious as Endangered Species Chocolate brand appears to be, with products rated at nearly five stars by consumers, I was disappointed when visiting their website that they chose to use an image of a young African child’s face to appear in connection to the phrase endangered species. Is there no consideration or awareness of how this image connotes racist beliefs about people of color? Moreover, is it their responsibility to be aware, or our responsibility to know the history of chocolate to bring awareness?

In my visit to Whole Foods, along with overwhelm and oversaturation of choices and products found at CVS, noticeably absent were the beloved Big Five. Available brands were Taza Chocolate, Icelandic Chocolate, Lake Champlain Chocolates and Whole Foods 365 Chocolate (to name a few). Though unfamiliar, I felt an instant attraction to these brands mainly due to the simplicity and sophistication of their wrappers and refined ingredients. Aesthetically and logistically, Whole Foods displays their chocolate in a small section–nestled amongst other products, with equal promotion. As there were sale advertisements on select chocolate products, similar to CVS of 2-for $3, the quality of chocolate was healthier and certified Fair Trade.

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Whole Foods sale advertisement for Organic and Fair Trade chocolate bars
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El Ceibo Fine Dark Chocolate Organic bars, $6.49.

The average price for a chocolate bar was $4.00 for 3 ounces. The most inexpensive bar was their Whole Foods 365 brand, boasting a label of Whole Trade and USDA Organic certifications at $2.49 for 3 ounces. The most expensive was $7.99 by El Ceibo, a fine dark chocolate brand from Bolivia. Although Ceibo’s label did not promote the popular certifications (e.g., Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, etc.) of their less expensive competitors, their core driving principle is environmentally sustainable production and respect for life, cultures and the environment. While fine chocolate is expected to be more expensive, do higher prices equal a better product?… According to Clay Gordon, creator of the chocolate lover’s website, The Chocolate Life, and internationally recognized independent authority on all things chocolate: Not so. Gordon states that “[although certain] bars might cost significantly more than… [CVS at] $7 [plus] per bar, [it is] because [you are] paying a fair price that actually accounts for the labor, shipment, and processing of the beans, instead of one artificially subsidized by abusive practices” (Shanker, 2013). Nevertheless, the ingredients of both bars pictured below bare clear distinctions of unknown ingredients, versus whole ingredients available in our kitchens and local supermarkets.

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Cadbury Daily Milk Chocolate bar,  $2.19.

 

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Cadbury Daily Milk Chocolate label ingredients, most artificial
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Whole Foods 365 Organic Dark Chocolate Almond bar, certified Whole Trade and USDA Organic, $2.49.
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Whole Foods 365 Organic Dark Chocolate Almond bar, certified Whole Trade and USDA Organic label ingredients, all localized and natural

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am left to wonder if the most overlooked distinction between CVS and Whole Foods is the why and how we choose to consume chocolate? A trip for snacks is usually a quick in-and-out venture that can happen anytime of the day or night. Avoiding the possibility of long lines at the grocery store is a deterrent. Nielsen reported 58% of consumers do not plan their snack purchases (Nielsen 13) and prefer them at arms-reach (15); with 31% purchased at the check-out counters; and 43% on sale (13). While chocolate sales do not affect my purchase choices, I admit that as much I love Whole Foods, when my sweet tooth aches for candy, I don’t immediately consider healthy options. Instead I beeline for convenience and the uber unconscious Snickers with Almonds, Raisinets, Almond M&M’s and Tootsie Rolls (not all at once, promise) – which are all available at CVS. However, on the days when I am more health conscious about my chocolate choices, I intentionally visit Whole Foods for my favorite Dark Chocolate and Almonds Bar with Sea Salt by Chocolove. I admit that there is a difference in how I feel when I purchase and indulge in my beloved Chocolove bar in comparison to Snickers and Kit Kat from CVS. In addition to taste and quality, the most important difference is that purchasing from Whole Foods feels more deliberate and rewarding–knowing that my investment in my personal wellness extends to the social, economic and financial wellness of others.

Both CVS and Whole Foods hold clear and distinct ideas and values on health, wellness and integrity. However, I count leading a company whose integrity corresponds with the brands they market and sell to their consumers as the greatest distinction. As a supermarket, Whole Foods has not limited their product offerings to just food; medicinal and healthcare products are also made available to their customers. In view of that fact, why does CVS limit their offerings of health and wellness to pharmaceutical products and healthcare? Perhaps as we continue to rise socially and globally to the occasion of conscious responsibility for our wellness and environmental safety, CVS will revisit their mission and branding to fully align the practices of chocolate manufacturers’ with their intent to “… help people on their path to better health.” In the meantime, I will continue my occasional beeline visits to conveniently fulfill my moments of unconscious consumption.

Citations

CVS Health. Web. 9 May 2016.

“CVS Health Reports First Quarter Results; Confirms 2016 Adjusted EPS Guidance.” Marketwatch Online, 2016. Web. 9 May 2016.

Dillinger, T.L. et al. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” The Journal of Nutrition 130 (2000): 2057S-2072S. Web. 9 May 2016.

Nielsen. “Snack Attack. What Consumers are reaching for around the world.”  September 2014. Web PDF. 9 May 2016.

Shanker, Deena. “A Guide to ethical chocolate.” Grist, 13 Feb. 2002. Web. 9 May 2016.

Whole Foods Market. Web. May 2016.

“Whole Foods Drops Hershey’s Scharffen Berger Chocolates Over Child Labor Abuses.” International Labor Rights Forum. Press Releases, 2012. Web. 9 May 2016.