Tag Archives: Divine Chocolate

Confronting Gender Inequality in West African Cocoa Production Through Chocolate Advertisements

Chocolate has been a fascination in the West since its discovery in Mesoamerica centuries ago. Early in the history of the Western consumption of chocolate, it became feminized. Chocolate was associated with luxury and leisure in the eighteenth century, but as it became more accessible to the working class in the nineteenth century, women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption in the family (Robertson, 2009). Due to the persistent feminization of chocolate, women have been the focus of marketing campaigns to sell chocolate. Cocoa adverts have fetishized images of western housewives, mothers, and women in heterosexual relationships to sell their products (Martin, 2019a). These women are often depicted as becoming irrational, narcissistic, or excessively aroused due to chocolate. However, these advertisements reveal the underlying prejudice and stereotyping that exists in the cocoa supply chain. Chocolate largely originates from the cocoa farmed in West Africa, which produces 75% of the world’s cocoa. Although this arrangement began in the 1800s, West Africans only consume 4% of the world’s chocolate (Martin, 2019b). This is due to the fact that most African-grown cocoa is exported abroad for production and the primary markets for these chocolate producers are thus outside of Africa. The romanticized image of chocolate in Western advertisements neglects the labor that goes into farming cocoa and the challenges that cocoa farmers in West Africa face. Furthermore, the dilemmas within the cocoa supply chain are exacerbated for women cocoa farmers, who are often denied privileges their male counterparts are afforded and are especially susceptible to certain dangers. Rather than focusing on Western women, who are not involved in the production of chocolate, a newer campaign has emerged to empower West African women cocoa farmers and bring light to just how integral they are in the production of chocolate.

It has been documented that women have been involved in the cocoa industry since its inception in West Africa, specifically Ghana (Robertson, 2009). Cocoa farming would not have gotten to where it is today without the labor of women, as it was central in almost every aspect of cocoa production and sale (Robertson, 2009). However, these contributions have not been met with the appropriate amount of recognition and credit. This blog will highlight women farmers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which are two of the world’s largest cocoa-growing countries and both are found in West Africa. In Ghana, women cocoa farmers earn 25%-30% less than their male counterparts and in Côte d’Ivoire women cocoa farmers earn up to 70% less than their male counterparts (Pacyniak, 2014). Also, in both countries women are met with more obstacles, such as lower farm productivity, smaller farms, and less access to financing and farm inputs. Gender gaps beyond cocoa income and productivity plague women cocoa farmers in Ghana, as women have a 25% lower level of training, a 20% lower receipt of loans, and 30%-40% lower access to critical farm inputs (e.g. fertilizer). According to women cocoa farmers, they lack the funds necessary to hire labor, making it difficult to produce cocoa (Odoi-Larbi, 2008). Gender inequality in Ivorian cocoa farming manifests in almost none of the 4% of women in cocoa co-operatives having leadership positions. Furthermore, in Côte d’Ivoire 86% of men had legal rights to their plots, while in 67% of cases, the land accessed by women was not owned by them. Although Fairtrade is an institutional arrangement designed to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions, not all West African cocoa farmers benefit equally from Fairtrade (“Does Fairtrade mean a fair deal for female cocoa farmers?”, 2016). For instance, even though Fairtrade is a positive force in Ghana, women cocoa farmers are not benefitting from Fairtrade to the same extent as their male counterparts. It was found that many of the poorest and most marginalized cocoa farmers in Ghana are excluded from participating in such co-operatives, and most of these farmers are women.

The previously mentioned trials and tribulations of women cocoa farmers are addressed in the video below. As was mentioned earlier, the global cocoa supply comes from small farms in West Africa, but these farmers are often paid poorly for what they grow. Typically, women take on the heavy lifting when it comes to their share of the work, but they see minimal profits. The women in this video are from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and although they do most of the work, only a quarter of the cocoa farms are owned by women. The women explain this disparity, as they discuss the patriarchy that prohibits them from inheriting land. More recently, however, Fairtrade has made strides to ensure that support exists that helps women raise their income and their voices. This includes eliminating women’s dependency upon their husbands and giving women their own land on which they can produce their own cocoa. With their own farms, these women are more independent and can flourish with the right resources available to them. The video ends by urging consumers around the world to choose Fairtrade chocolate in order to support these women cocoa farmers. Other efforts have been started to raise awareness about these farmers, as the injustice of women working for nothing to produce the chocolate that we love must end.

Fairtrade and gender inequality in West Africa

Several efforts have commenced to promote corporate social responsibility, which would aid in the fight for equality for women in the cocoa supply chain. One such effort is Cocoa Life, which began in 2008 and is empowering women in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities (Amekudzi, 2013). Cocoa Life was created by Mondelēz International, a company looking to advance the rights of women cocoa farmers by increasing the emphasis on gender equality in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and advocating for industry-wide action (Pacyniak, 2014). To address the aforementioned challenges women cocoa farmers face, Mondelēz International presented new action plans to build upon its Cocoa Life program. This plan was a $400 million, 10-year effort set in motion in 2012. In Ghana, this project is farmer centered and based on Cocoa Life’s Cadbury Cocoa Partnership in Ghana. Specifically, Cocoa Life encourages entrepreneurship among women cocoa farmers through farmer education on cocoa agronomy and farmer training at the village level. The video below, produced by Cocoa Life, involves interviews of women cocoa farmers in Ghana who recount the times when they were excluded from the ins and outs of cocoa farming. They have been encouraged to mobilize and learn how to manage their own farms. Their situations have been improved and they have set the stage for future women cocoa farmers to prosper in their communities.

Mondelēz International, Cocoa Life, and Ghanaian women’s rights in cocoa farming

Another example of an attempt at corporate social responsibility to help women in West African communities is The Cargill Cocoa Promise. Cargill recognized that women are forced to balance household work with cocoa farming, in conjunction with having unequal access to training, inputs, and education (“Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire”, 2014). The Cargill Cocoa Promise aims to understand how gender barriers limit access to skills, information, and inputs amongst women cocoa farmers. This project kickstarted inclusive training sessions and raised awareness of gender issues. Practical steps were proposed to improve the day-to-day activities of these farmers. The people in the video below discuss how this project was conceived and executed in Côte d’Ivoire. Researchers found that culture was a driving force that exacerbated the issues plaguing women cocoa farmers, as culture determined who got to own land. They encouraged discussions within the communities in order to facilitate change and overcome the cultural biases. Also, this project increased financial literacy among women cocoa farmers, as the organizers established village savings and loan schemes, which would aid in entrepreneurship efforts.

The Cargill Cocoa Promise, corporate social responsibility, and women empowerment in West Africa

As was preliminarily mentioned, a newer campaign has emerged to shed light on the West African women who make large contributions to the production of chocolate. Divine Chocolate Limited is a purveyor of Fairtrade chocolate and although it was originally established in the United Kingdom, it is co-owned by the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farmers’ co-operative in Ghana. In order to emphasize to UK chocolate shoppers that Ghana is a cocoa origin site, Divine Chocolate released a set of advertisements that feature women cocoa farmers from Ghana, and these advertisements appeared in British editions of women’s magazines, such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Red, and OK! (Leissle, 2012). As is shown in the images below, the women cocoa farmers are depicted as glamorous business owners who participate in transnational exchanges of raw materials and luxury goods, and as beneficiaries of these exchanges. These women are a part of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, which makes them co-owners of Divine Chocolate. The advertisements emphasize the women’s position as co-owners, as they state each woman’s name along with her position. Also, Ghana’s adinkra symbols appears on Divine Chocolate’s bar wrappers and this is shown in the photographs. Furthermore, the background of each advertisement shows ‘Africa’, which is represented by images of Ghana’s agricultural economy. This includes cocoa drying tables, plantain trees, coconut trees, mud buildings, and dusty roads. Each woman appears in the foreground holding pieces of chocolate, which is a luxury food made from the fruit they farm. These images are paired with titles such as ‘Equality Treat’, ‘Decadently Decent’, and ‘Serious Chocolate Appeal’ in order to suggest to consumers that their own enjoyment of Divine Chocolate bars should come not only from the joy of eating chocolate, but from the fact that the women who farm the cocoa also enjoy it. This implies that the Kuapa Kokoo women cocoa farmers not only grow the raw materials, but they also consume the chocolate. This is a far cry from the statistic reported earlier that said only 4% of West Africans consume the world’s chocolate.

Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Beatrice Mambi.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.
Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Priscilla Agyemeng.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.
Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring Rita Nimako.
Source: Reprinted with permission from Divine Chocolate. Photograph by Freddie Helwig and St. Luke’s advertising agency.

Divine Chocolate’s advertisements are revolutionary in that they do not rely on the stereotypical and romanticized images of Western women to sell their chocolate. Instead, this company is knocking down two birds with one stone: they are empowering West African women cocoa farmers while challenging the notion that Africa is not modern. Leissle states that “the Divine images pose a challenge to narratives that cast Africa as continually on the losing side of harmful dualisms and reframe Africa’s role in modernity” (2012). In Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa”, he challenges Western literature that persistently refuses to disperse a picture of a “well-adjusted African” (unless he or she has won a Nobel Prize), neglects the fact that the continent is dynamic in that it is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, and savannahs, and depicts the African woman as starving, nearly naked, and waiting for the aid of the West (2006). However, the Divine Chocolate adverts pose the Ghanaian women cocoa farmers as “attractive, socially mobile beneficiaries of their own development efforts” (Leissle, 2012). The videos previously discussed highlighted that West African women are commonly held back in their farming endeavors by the patriarchal notion that women are only instrumental in uplifting the family. However, the Divine women are not tethered to their responsibilities as wives and mothers and are not viewed as reproductive laborers in these advertisements. These women are framed as “active agents of a self-gratifying transnational business arrangement” (Leissle, 2012). Overall, the combinations of the Divine women’s playful, yet strong, poses, the invitation to enjoy chocolate, and the text present West African women cocoa farmers as savvy luxury consumers and implies their individual participation in the privileged aspects of modernity narratives (Leissle, 2012).

One way to address and combat the gender inequality that exists in the cocoa supply chain is to draw attention to West African women as primary contributors. The fetishization of Western women in chocolate advertisements only exacerbates the issue at hand because it masks the labor that was invested into producing the chocolate. In looking at the origins of the chocolate, one will find that West Africa as the world’s primary cocoa growing region is faced with many critical challenges, such as volatile income, unfair farm economics, and lack of laborers (Martin, 2019b). Women cocoa farmers are especially harmed by these challenges as the patriarchy in West Africa makes it difficult for them to overcome these obstacles. However, some solutions have gone into effect to empower these women. Additionally, Divine Chocolate’s campaign presents “a fresh visual reframing of the exchanges of goods and capital between Africa and Europe” (Leissle, 2012). Other purveyors of chocolate should follow in Divine Chocolate’s footsteps when it comes to advertisements and give credit to the people who make eating chocolate possible.

References

Amekudzi, Y. P. (2013, February 28). Cocoa Life- the project empowering women in Ghana’s cocoa growing communities. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://businessfightspoverty.org/articles/yaa-peprah-amekudzi-cocoa-life-the-project-empowering-women-in-ghanas-cocoa-growing-communities-2/

Does Fairtrade mean a fair deal for female cocoa farmers? (2016). European Union News.

Empowering women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire. (2014, April 15). Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.cargill.com/story/empowering-women-cocoa-farmers

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

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture April 3: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements. Harvard University.

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture March 27: Modern day slavery. Harvard University.

Odoi-Larbi, S. (2008). Female Cocoa Farmers Cry for Help. Africa News Service.

Pacyniak, B. (2014). Mondelez affirming women’s rights in cocoa-growing areas. Candy Industry, 179(6), 12-13.

Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Studies in imperialism (Manchester, England)). Manchester; New York: New York: Manchester University Press; Distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.

Wainaina, B. (2006, January 19). How to Write About Africa. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://granta.com/how-to-write-about-africa/

Multimedia sources

Cargill. (2016, March 7). Women in agriculture: empowering African cocoa farmers [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYeGiFHlDm4

Fairtrade Foundation. (2019, March 5). Meet the Women Cocoa Farmers Facing Adversity in the Ivory Coast [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP5NR3BbdKE

Mondelez International. (2013, November 12). Cocoa Life: Community leaders – Interview with Gladys and Vida in Ghana [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/REMKY62MHno

Images retrieved from Leissle, K. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24(2), 121-139.

Divine Chocolate: Innovative, Fair, and Delicious

Introduction

A major problem that has existed within the chocolate production industry has been the ethics surrounding the harvesting of cacao. For decades the means of harvesting cacao involved slavery where people were forced to work in harsh conditions, for 18 hours a day without pay (Carla Martin, Lecture 5). After the major cacao producing countries outlawed slavery, the working conditions still didn’t improve and the pay the workers received was not nearly enough to live. In fact, because many of the cacao producing farms were hidden in the jungle, many farm owners still got away with slavery because the lack of visibility meant the farm owners weren’t held accountable for their unethical standards. Even today visibility and pay are still a major problem in the cacao farming industry. In 2015, the average income for a Ghanaian household working in the cacao farming industry was between 50 and 80 cents per day (Carla Martin, Lecture 7).  However, one company that is working to bring ethics and visibility to the cacao farming and chocolate production industries is Divine Chocolate. 

Divine Beginnings

Divine Chocolate is a British bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer that was founded in 1998. Their mission is to create delicious and ethical chocolate from the harvesting of the cacao beans, to the selling of the bars. They also, ensure that all other ingredients that go into their chocolate bars are produced in an ethical manner. Divine Chocolate was created when Twin Trading and Kuapa Kokoo came together with the goal of changing the world cacao market for the better.  Twin Trading is a non-governmental organization that creates farming co-operatives around the world. They focus on improving the working conditions and paying fair wages to farmers. Their main focus is on the ethical farming of coffee, cacao, and nuts (“Who We Are”). One of their farming co-ops is called Kuapa Kokoo, which is a farming co-op in Ghana that grows and trades cacao. Kuapa Kokoo is comprised of 85,000 farmers from 1,257 different villages (“About Us”). That number continues to grow because of the exceptional way they treat and pay their farming members. All of the cacao that goes into the Divine Chocolate bars are grown by farmers in the Kuapa Kokoo farming co-op. 

Scorecard grading the ethical standards of chocolate companies
Image Source

Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative

Kuapa Kokoo was founded in 1993 and it means “good cacao growers”. Their mission is “to empower farmers in their efforts to gain a dignified livelihood, to increase women’s participation in Kuapa’s activities, and to develop environmentally friendly cultivation of cocoa” (“The Divine Story”).  In, 1995, Kuapa Kokoo was the first small farm farmers’ organization in West Africa to receive the Fairtrade certification. They ensure the farmers are working reasonable hours, with sufficient breaks, and proper pay. Kuapa Kokoo does all the administrative work that goes into trading cacao and bypasses all the shady government cacao agents. This is to ensure visibility, fairness and that the farmers are not getting swindled by government agents or other entities with ulterior motives. Specifically, Kuapa Kokoo, “weighs, bags, and transports the cocoa to market [and] ensures that all its activities are transparent, accountable and democratic (“The Divine Story”). Before the Kuapa Kokoo co-op existed, government agencies would use faulty scales that misrepresented the true weight of a farmer’s cacao harvest. This allowed them to steal from unsuspecting farmers which further harmed them. 

Structure of Divine Chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo 

Where Divine Chocolate is especially unique is in their company structure. Today, 44% of Divine Chocolate is owned by the Kuapa Kokoo farming Co-op. In other words, this means that each farmer in the Kuapa Kokoo co-op has a small ownership stake in Divine Chocolate. This unique business structure earned Divine Chocolate the Millennium Product award “for its innovative organizational model” (“Inside Divine”). This is the first company in the world where the cacao farmers have a stake in the chocolate company they are harvesting for. This is significant because Kuapa Kokoo and its farming members now have a say in how Divine manufactures, markets, and sells their products. Because the farmers partially own Divine chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade co-op, the farmers are paid exceedingly better than they were before. Receiving a cut of Divine’s profit, having a say in Divine’s operations, and having an influence in the worldwide marketplace has greatly empowered and motivated the farmers because now their work is properly valued, their ideas are considered, and their well-being is a priority. 

Divine is committed to ensuring that farmers of Kuapa Kokoo have a voice in the company. Currently two out of the five members of Divine’s Board of Directors are from Kuapa Kokoo. Divine also ensures that at least one out of the four yearly board meetings are held in Ghana (“Inside Divine”). This ensures that all the farmers can witness and participate in the company in a meaningful way. 

Video showing the success that Kuapa Kokoo and Divine Chocolate’s partnership has generated

Goodness in Ghana

The effect that Divine Chocolate and Kuapa Kokoo has had on the community has been immeasurable. First, because Kuapa Kokoo is a Fairtrade co-op, they receive a Fairtrade premium. The Fairtrade premium is a grant of additional money given to the co-op so the farmers can collectively decide how to improve their community and their workplace. With this premium, the farmers have invested in community development, farm skill development, clean water, improving education, and several other things that improve the lifestyle of those in the community (“The Divine Story”). They similarly receive dividends from Divine Chocolate which allows the farmers to upgrade equipment yearly so as to ensure high levels of production.

Kuapa Kokoo is also deeply concerned with social and environmental issues. They been on the forefront of speaking out against child labor because they understand that this is still a major problem that needs to be address throughout the industry. They also have created several goals that are aimed at improving the environment and increasing productivity while still adapting to environmental changes. 

Worldwide Effect

Divine Chocolate has also had a large effect on the global chocolate market. They have set an extraordinary example of how to ethically run a chocolate company. Since their founding in 1998, the number of Fairtrade chocolate sales in the UK has skyrocketed by more than 8800%. Many of the major chocolate companies have also made a shift to become more Fairtrade. Divine Chocolate’s success inspired Cadbury to convert Cadbury Dairy Milk to Fairtrade. This was a major move because, not only was Cadbury Dairy Milk its leading brand, but Cadbury was also one of the major five chocolate companies in the world so having them convert even one product to Fairtrade had a major effect on a lot of people worldwide (“The Divine Story”). In the years following Cadbury’s move, Nestlé and Mars began buying cocoa from Cote D’Ivoire which was the beginning of their process to partially convert to Fairtrade. By 2013, the shift to Fairtrade chocolate worldwide was in full swing. In the UK specifically, in 2013 eleven percent of the chocolate sold was deemed Fairtrade (“The Divine Story”). Divine Chocolate takes pride in the fact that they were one of the first companies to commit themselves to Fairtrade ethics and they are even prouder that their example has inspired other companies to commit to Fairtrade production. 

Graph showing the large increase in Fairtrade Chocolate Sales in the UK
Image Source

Divine in the US

As I mentioned before, Divine Chocolate was a company that headquartered and sold only in the UK. However, in 2007, with the help of Oikocredit, (a company that provides loans and capital), Divine Chocolate was able to launch its United States branch of the company. In fact, Divine Chocolate launched in the United States on Valentine’s Day 2007 which is the day the most chocolate is bought and consumed in the United States (“The Divine Story”). Their original launch was very small; however, now Divine Chocolate is sold at Whole Foods, Walgreens, Walmart, and through Amazon.com.

In 2015, after the Divine Chocolate USA branch gained solid footing in the American market, Divine Chocolate merged their UK and USA branches to form one unified company. With this new structure, the Kuapa Kokoo co-op still remained 44% owners of the company (“Inside Divine”). The CEO of the newly merged company was Sophi Tranchell. She was a managing director from the UK branch of the company before they made the merge. After the merger she said, “Having launched Divine in the USA nine years after the founding company launched in the UK, it has been very exciting to see it successfully navigate all the challenges in the USA market and mirror the success of Divine in the UK. We have seen a growing appetite around the world for business being done differently” (“Inside Divine”). In this statement Sophi Tranchell alludes to the fact that Americans became more aware of the issues involved with products that weren’t Fairtraded. This heightened people’s willingness to purchase Fairtraded chocolate even though they are typically more expensive. Sophi also mentions how the added American dimension to the company makes their global reach much larger and makes Divine stronger because they can inspire and market to a completely different group of people. Furthermore, the new market allows Divine “to deliver [on their] mission to fairly and sustainably remunerate smallholder cocoa farmers in West Africa” (“Inside Divine”). This larger market means more profit which, in turn, means more money for the farmers who need it the most. 

Uniqueness in the Fairtrade Chocolate Market

One way that Divine Chocolate differentiates itself from a lot of other bean-to-bar Fairtrade chocolate companies is through the products they offer. Many bean-to-bar Fairtrade chocolate companies only offer dark chocolate. This is very problematic because the majority of the global market prefers milk chocolate and, if there are no Fairtrade options, consumers are forced to turn to the big 5 chocolate companies which are generally not Fairtrade. In fact, in a 2013 survey it was found that 51 percent of people prefer milk chocolate, 35 percent prefer dark, and 8 percent prefer white chocolate (Ballard). However, Divine helps fill this gap in the Fairtrade chocolate market because they offer all three types of chocolate in a variety of different flavors which very few companies do. Divine, along with a few other diverse Fairtraded chocolate companies , are helping take power away from the Big 5 Chocolate companies that are not fairly traded. 

Shows the wide variety of chocolates and flavors that Divine offers
Image Source

Outlook

Divines presence in the world market place is growing nicely. I believe Divine Chocolate will continue to grow and thrive in the Fairtrade Chocolate market. Last year group sales increased 6.4%, however the impending Brexit decision has affected their overall profit margins mostly because of the decline in value of the dollar and pound in relation to the Euro (Annual Report 2017-2018). Nevertheless, the number of sales increased nicely from the year before and, once the turmoil surrounding Brexit is resolved, the increase in sales will begin to show in their balance sheet. 

Kuapa Kokoo is also flourishing as they now produce almost 5 percent of Ghanaian cacao, which equates to about 640,000 sacks of cacao a year (“The Divine Story”). While 5 percent may seem small, the most important thing is that it is all produced and sold ethically, while prioritizing the health of its workers and the environment. Divine also has plans within the next year to expand its range of cacao to São Tomé (Annual Report 2017-2018). This will broaden their market appeal and it will allow them to bring their groundbreaking business model to the people of São Tomé. The farmers on São Tomé have historically been treated very poorly over the years and they will greatly benefit from Divine’s co-op business model. 

Conclusion

I think things are looking up on all fronts for Divine Chocolate. Their commitment for over 20 years to empower the farmer has transformed thousands of people’s lives. It is very important that Divine continues with their mission because, while they have made a big impact already, there is still a lot of work to be done in the global market place. All in all, Divine has done a great job addressing the major problems in the chocolate industry that we have discussed in class. They have increased visibility, paid fairly, and empowered the farmer so that participating in the bean-to-bar chocolate making industry is desirable and sustainable for everyone from the top to the bottom. 

Scholarly Sources Cited
Multimedia Sources Cited

Exploitation or Smart Marketing? Comparing and Analyzing the Business Practices of Hershey’s and Divine Chocolate

Are chocolate companies exploiting workers when they use a values-based approach to promote sales? Although some companies are clearly exploiting its workers, there is a difference between exploitation and smart marketing. 

Let’s compare the practices of Hershey’s Chocolate and Divine Chocolate to illustrate this point: The elements of exploitation exist in the practices of Hershey’s because they are advertising falsehoods and treating their workers as the opposite of what they market; Divine Chocolate is the polar opposite of Hershey’s in this manner because they market values that they  actually practice, making them smart marketers – not exploiters.

Defining Exploitation

Is Divine Chocolate being exploitative? Exploiting in itself is deriving full use of something or someone unfairly (Alberts). Let’s first define exploiting for our own terms when it comes to thinking about chocolate companies – Exploiting is the act of a chocolate company using an element to maneuver, outrank, increase sales, or brand the company in a certain way without giving fair benefit to the people that they are using to achieve these goals.

Exploiting also has the following connotations when it comes to chocolate companies such as (but not limited to) when it comes to what they do; this will be used as our litmus test to determine whether or not true exploitation is at play:

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work

Misrepresenting benefits to workers

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men)

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade)

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think)

Hershey’s Chocolate

Before we analyze the possibility of Divine Chocolate being exploitative, let’s analyze a company that passes the litmus test for exploitation – Hershey’s Chocolate.

By analyzing their pictures in advertisements and their marketing and comparing it to the real picture of the company, we can certainly see how Hershey’s Chocolate is being exploitative.

Hershey’s history of exploitation goes back essentially since the beginning of the start of the company; the company often used farms and factories that did not pay its workers a fair wage, lowered the standard of living, and took part in the enslaving of workers by providing unsafe conditions (Anti-Given that, one would think that the company would have “changed its tune” so to speak. However, Hershey’s has not done so and has continued to abuse their power as a top-tier chocolate company. It has been proven that Hershey’s is still taking part in these kinds of practices, which has been noted by researchers on international student workers that took part in a foreign exchange program in the United States with Hershey’s as their sponsor. According to the New York Times:

The students, who were earning about $8 an hour, said they were isolated within the plant, rarely finding moments to practice English or socialize with Americans. With little explanation or accounting, the sponsor [Hershey’s] took steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance that left many of them too little money to afford the tourist wanderings they had eagerly anticipated (Preston).

How can Hershey’s not be an exploiter if international student workers, who are usually unfamiliar with the United States, cannot afford to even travel to the places that they wanted to see; these international workers took the job with Hershey’s in order to site-see in exchange for work, and Hershey’s is essentially taking that element away from them. Further, the promises that Hershey’s made to the students regarding a certain amount of money given to them was understood by the company to be separate from the housing, transportation, and insurance. Clearly, Hershey’s is exploiting the international workers by lowering their wages in order to get labor in the form of the cheapest way possible; these deductions would not even begin to cover a legal and livable way or manner if an American had this job. Thus, Hershey’s found a way to bypass the legal system in order to get cheaper labor – in the form of exploited international students.

Additionally, one cannot even argue that Hershey’s has learned its lesson on this front – despite the media attention, public outcry, and protests from students alike, Hershey’s is still running this program; imagine the kind of exploitation that could be occurring in more vulnerable areas if this kind of company if this type of exploitation is happening in the United States. If the plant in Pennsylvania is seeing these kinds of abuses, it is safe to assume that the exploitation along the Ivory Coast and the Americas are seeing abuses that are hidden away from the public.

Now, let’s take a look at the advertisements in Hershey’s pictures that are quite different than the actual reality of the company. For instance, in Figure 1, we see how Hershey’s is advertising itself as a chocolate that is a part of “shared goodness:”

 

images

(Figure 1. Hershey’s Community Archives)

 

This advertisement, at first glance, may not seem like a direct link to exploitation, but the company is promoting itself as a brand that is values-based. It draws upon the picture of a happy family and talks about how Hershey’s “good business” practices translates into better chocolate for the family, resulting in a “better life and bright future.” However, just from the proven evidence discussed regarding the student workers, the reality of Hershey’s is very different than what it is advertising. Clearly, Hershey’s is branding itself as a business that is “good,” however, it is not actually being a “good” business with values.

This type of misrepresentation marketing is all throughout many of their advertisements throughout the years. For example, Figure 2 tells another compelling story about how Hershey is actually promoting diversity when it is really not:

1986_hersheys_mini_ad

(Figure 2. Hershey’s Community Archives)

In this picture, children of different ethnicities and races are being shown; Hershey’s is advertising themselves as a company that promotes inclusiveness across all kinds of ethnic and racial divides. For instance, it talks about how it puts different kinds of candies for all kinds of kids. However, the example of exploitation of its international student workers tells a very different kind of a story. How can a brand that claims to be “inclusive” not be inclusive to its international workers? How could a brand that would never be able to legally get away with reductions in paychecks and amenities for American workers be so inclusive if it takes a legal loophole to do so for its international workers? Clearly, it can be seen how just this one type of exploitation is being used in full force, which passes our litmus test on essentially all fronts. It has abused a sensitive group, misrepresents benefits to workers and unfairly promises them lies, and then brands the company in a way that misrepresents the brand to the consumer, whom otherwise would think that Hershey’s has excellent values just from looking at their advertisements; Hershey’s, knowing that most targeted and loyal consumers are not going to search for their name on the Internet every time they want to buy a bag or piece of chocolate, use this to their advantage.

 

Divine Chocolate

Now let’s compare how Divine Chocolate uses certain advertisements to help attract consumers, but is not being exploited in their efforts, which is the polar opposite of what Hershey’s is doing:

Divine Chocolate, according to Sam Binkley employed a values-based marketing strategy in order to justify their price:

Divine has moved on from selling mainly on the basis of the solidarity value of its product to material use value taste. [Divine Chocolate] still is slightly more expensive as it must, other than the likes of Nestle and Kraft, fulfill its double bottom line of economic and social viability. So while the product is competitive on a level of quality, its price still needs to be justified in terms of justice or solidarity. In order to go beyond this, Divine [needed] to add symbolic use value to its brand, engage in consciously designed commodity aesthetic in order to push into unchartered mass markets (Binkley).

 

Divine Chocolate, like Hershey’s, desired to push even further for profits for their already-successful companies so it could stay competitive; however, what makes it different than other companies is that it is a specialty type of chocolate in a specialty kind of market. In order to be competitive within those specific markets, Divine Chocolate desired to break and expand into the mass markets by justifying their price to those kinds of consumers. In turn, it created the Women’s Empowerment Campaign, which promotes the equality of women chocolate workers, in order to attract consumers (Divine Chocolate).

 

But how is Divine Chocolate, unlike Hershey’s, not being exploitative if they are using mass marketing strategies in the form of women’s empowerment campaigns to sell their product? The difference here is that Divine Chocolate is actually doing what they say and promote in terms of their campaign to sell product.

 

The women’s empowerment campaign is real because it is empowering women in ways that they have never been empowered before. For instance, Divine Chocolate started their journey to change conditions when they gave 44 percent equity to Kuapa Kokoo, the largest shareholder of the company’s assets; this co-operative represents 85,000 farm members across 1,257 villages, and is now the largest co-operative in the world; it is credited with the rise of female cacao ownership of at least 20 percent (Leissle, Wiego). Divine allows women farmers to take a special part in an ownership that no other chocolate company has seen before; clearly, it is empowering women in a way that not only represents them as true stakeholders, but brings positivism to an industry that can be quit laborious, abusive, and depressing for other workers who are not afforded such basic rights. Further, approximately 2 percent of the turnover from Divine is specifically used to promote programs to help farmers gain more skills such as good governance programs, literacy programs, and model farming lessons. Thus, Divine not only gives more than fair equity to its workers (the largest of its kind in history), but invests even more money from their profit to ensure that their workers are gaining life skills to use both inside and outside the farm; by bringing in educational and quality of life programs, Divine is sending an authentic message with real action to the female farmers of Ghana: Divine wants to support you and your work by uplifting you and the community.

By examining the advertising campaigns of Divine Chocolate, we can see a message of solidarity and unity that runs throughout its campaign. For instance, in Figure 3, Divine Chocolate uses a picture of an attractive, healthy-looking female worker to get their message across loud and clear:

2015-04-01-aaas-e119-lecture-9-race-ethnicity-gender-and-class-in-chocolate-advertisements-goo-copy-version-2

(Figure 3. Divine Chocolate)

Many critics may charge that because the woman is attractive, dressed nicely, and looks happy, Divine Chocolate is exploiting its female workers because it promotes “sexuality” and an “untrue side of the chocolate industry”. However, this picture of the woman is an accurate picture because Divine Chocolate helps uplift women to give them the lifestyle that can afford many of these luxuries; with their fair payouts and fair trade program, Divine Chocolate can accurately use this advertisement as an authentic way to attract consumers. When looking at this advertisement, most consumers, on first glance, would think of Divine Chocolate as a chocolate brand that is an “equality treat” – because it is. They further humanize the female chocolate worker, who is actually a co-operative co-owner, by putting her name on the advertisement; the consumer will be led to think that when they buy a bag or piece of Divine Chocolate, the benefit will be going to female workers like Beatrice – and rightfully so because it actually is doing that. That, in itself, is not exploitation but a smart marketing scheme that is a “win-win” for both Divine Chocolate and female workers like Beatrice. All in all, Divine Chocolate has gone out of their way to make this picture a reality – their own values-based version of the chocolate industry.

In Figure 4, we can see how this values-based campaign continues throughout many of their packaging:

108567_divine-web

(Figure 4. Divine Chocolate)

In their designs, Divine Chocolate presents itself as a champion for women by placing designs that are aesthetically pleasing to many females and placing a message on top of the packaging reading “Empowering Women Cacao Farmers.” Like in the picture above, some critics may think that by putting this packaging out in this manner, Divine Chocolate is exploiting women workers because they are using designs that attract consumers to think that they are helping women workers. However, like stated in the previous discussion, they actually are helping women. Further critics may charge that this is being used for International Women’s Day to “cash in” on the holiday, but that charge only further hones in on the point that Divine Chocolate is not being a champion of women just on Women’s Day but essentially every day.

 Just because a company uses an element of their system (which, in this case, is championing the female worker) to sell product does not mean that they are being exploitative. On the other hand, if Divine Chocolate was using the same business practices as Hershey’s and using this campaign, they would then be exploitative. But Divine Chocolate is simply promoting the ideas and concepts that they have actually put into practice.

If these points did not already answer the question of whether or not Divine Chocolate is being exploitative for you, let’s take a direct look back at our litmus test for exploitation

Litmus Test: Is Divine Chocolate partaking in any of the following?

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work – No, workers are granted an excellent amount of equity

Misrepresenting benefits to workers – No, workers are actually being empowered by the company

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is authentic

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men) –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is helping women

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade) –No, ideas like fair trade and empowerment are involved

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think) –No, workers are a part of the brand name but also benefiting from the marketing taking place since they get a higher amount of equity, which equals and translates into improved working conditions and lifestyles

Clearly, unlike Hershey’s, Divine Chocolate does not pass the litmus test for exploitation; the Women’s Empowerment Campaign is a real campaign, which Divine Chocolate uses for smart marketing and true empowerment.

 

References

Alberts, Heike. “Using Cocoa and Chocolate to Teach Human Geography.” Journal of Geography, 2010.

Binkley, Sam. “Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism.” New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Case Study: Women Cocoa Farmers in Ghana. Wiego. <http://www.wiego.org/wiego/case-study-women-cocoa-farmers-ghana&gt;

Divine Chocolate. <http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/&gt;

Hershey’s Community Archives. <http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/category/hershey-chocolate/marketing/&gt;

Leissle, Kristie.  “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Studies, 2012.

Preston, Julia. “Pleas Unheeded as Student’s U.S. Jobs Soured.” New York Times, 2011.

The Cocoa Industry in West Africa. Anti-Slavery International, 2004. <http://www.antislavery.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1_cocoa_report_2004.pdf&gt;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploitation in the Chocolate Industry

The chocolate industry has been fraught with ethical dilemmas since the beginning of its existence. From imperialism where Europeans co-opted the traditions of Mesoamericans to the reliance on slavery for cacao production chocolate producers have engaged in problematic and exploitive practices in order to build their companies and brands. As present-day American and Europeans become more aware of this troubled past and still troubled present, they are demanding more from chocolate brands. This has manifested itself most commonly in the form of fair trade certification but it has also taken the form of chocolate producers trying to connect their brands to what they perceive as the authentic origins of their cacao beans. Through packaging and advertisements, chocolate producers try to convince their consumers that they care about the West African cacao farmers and Mesoamerican cultural origins of cacao that are responsible for the products they sell today. However, their efforts are often misguided, insufficient and sometimes even harmful.

One such example is a set of Divine Chocolate advertisements featuring the Ghanaian farmers that grow and harvest their cacao. Divine Chocolate is a London-based fair trade chocolate company that is co-owned by Ghanaian farmers like those featured in the ads (Leissle 137, 123). Their advertisements attempt to convey this fact while combating negative stereotypes of Ghana, and Africa more generally. Scholar Kristy Leissle believes they achieve this goal, but, in reality, the representation of the cacao farmers is mostly superficial and still ultimately exists to cater to a Western audience. Another example is Taza chocolate, a Somerville based chocolate manufacturer, that sells stoneground chocolate inspired by the founder’s trip to Mexico (“Our Founders – Taza Chocolate”). Taza chocolate is an example of a chocolate producer that tries to tie itself to the origins of cacao in Mexico as a part of its branding and marketing strategy. However, the result is just another chocolate company that has appropriated Mexican culture for its own benefit without paying real and meaningful reparations to the communities it takes from. I will be discussing the effectiveness of Divine and Taza in truly providing representation and compensation to Ghanaian cacao farmers and Mexican chocolate makers, respectively, for their, often involuntary, contributions to the chocolate companies.

DIVINE CHOCOLATE

Each advertisement in this series features a Ghanaian farmer in a westernized version of African dress standing in front of “images of Ghana’s agricultural economy: cocoa drying tables, plantain trees, coconut trees, mud buildings, and dusty roads” (Leissle 128). The women pose with one hand on their hip, the other holding a piece of chocolate and finally a caption including the name of the farmer along with the claim that they are a co-owner of Divine. Additionally, each advertisement has a tag line. In the ones pictured it says “Equality Treat” and “Decadently Decent” while others say “Serious Chocolate Appeal” (Leissle 124-126, 128). By photographing the farmers in Ghana in what appears to be African dress, Divine is implying that they are presenting an authentic representation of the lifestyles of the Ghanaian farmers. Divine also paints themselves as more ethical with the use of the tag lines as well as the declaration that these farmers own part of the company.

While these photographs may appear authentic to naïve Western eyes, they are not accurate reflections of the lives of these farmers. Kristy Leissle observes that “Despite its ‘African’ appearance to viewers outside the continent, these textiles and dress styles are historically hybrid designs” (Leissle 129). Divine Chocolate presumably tried to imitate traditional Ghanaian dress when they dressed the farmers for these advertisements. However, the women are wearing “Dutch wax print cloth” and not traditional Ghanaian dress (Leissle 136). In fact, the clothes were provided by Divine and St. Luke’s, an advertising agency in London (Leissles 124). Both of these companies are based in London, so achieving traditional Ghanaian dress would be nearly impossible without incorporating the input of either the farmers themselves or other Ghanaians, which is not what Divine did.

Leissle suggests that this lack of authenticity is acceptable because “their clothing and fashion suggest that they are cosmopolitan participants of this exchange” (Leissle 128). Leissle seems to think that Divine might not be aiming for authenticity but instead for representing the farmers as worldly and engaged in the chocolate production industry. This theory is supported by the fact that their farmers are co-owners of the company. However, this is a midguided goal if Divine is trying to be an ethical company. This viewpoint still privileges Western society rather than sincerely helping and uplifting cacao farmers. By portraying this cosmopolitan factor as admirable and desirable, Divine is suggesting that Ghanaian farmers find ultimate value in being a part of the European economy of chocolate production and not in other ways like the Ghanaian economy.

Their advertisements also cater to a Western audience by making them feel good for helping the Ghanaian farmers by buying Divine Chocolate. Consequently, Divine is perpetuating the harmful stereotypes associated with all of Africa in their advertisements. Kristy Leissle praises these ads for being “bold” (127) disruptions of the normal representations of Ghanaian women in the beginning paragraph of her article:

By representing these Ghanaian women as glamorous business owners, the images invite viewers to see them as potent actors in transnational exchanges of cocoa and chocolate, and as beneficiaries of these exchanges, in contrast to analyses that focus on market exploitation by the nation state or corporate actors. The images pose a challenge to narratives that cast Africa as continually on the losing side of harmful binaries – primitive/civilized, traditional/modern – and in an eternal developmental lag. Instead, they offer an alluring female figure that envisions and promotes Africa’s roles in industrial production and luxury consumption (121).

However, it is not showing the farmers as “actors” because there is no suggestion that the farmers sought out this deal with Divine. Divine Chocolate allowed the women to be co-owners as a way to market their product as more ethical and thus more appealing to a more conscious consumer pool. There is no direct action on the part of the Ghanaian farmers; they are the receivers of what Divine wants consumers to see as their generosity. There is definitely still “market exploitation” because by basing their ultimate manufacturing and production in Europe and not Ghana, Divine Chocolate is doing little to drastically impact the lives of the farmers in the way that they need to truly say they are an “equality treat.”

Ultimately the farmers are used as pawns for the profit of Divine Chocolate, which is not a new phenomenon. Emma Robertson synthesizes the work of other scholars Jan Pieterse and Anandi Ramamurthy when she recounts:

As Jan Pieterse demonstrates, products made available through the use of slave labour, such as coffee and cocoa, often used, and many still use, images of black people to enhance their luxury status…According to Ramamurthy, in her impressively nuanced study of race in British advertising, support for indirect rule in West African (as being favourable to cocoa production) resulted in the Quaker chocolate firms adopting images of Africans as ‘peasant producer[s]…with the appearance of potential development.’ Furthermore, the Sao Tome and Principe slavery scandal of the early twentieth century encouraged the Quaker manufacturers to use more ‘positive’ images of Africans (Robertson 36)

Divine is using images of black people, as Pieterse observes, and shows the Ghanaian farms as producers “with the appearance of potential development” as Ramamurthy observes. Even more disturbing is the fact that Ramamurthy observed this in a response to support for imperialistic policies in Africa, which shows a connection between that imagery and the exploitation of Africans. Furthermore, all of this is on the assumption that as co-owners, the farmers are getting a fair compensation and that they have access to the chocolate they help produce. However, as Emma Roberston reveals, “Such romanticized narratives of chocolate may be pleasurable to those lucky enough to be able to consume them. However, they are largely divorced from the material conditions of production” (Robertson 2). Even though Divine does a very good job of making us believe their Ghanaian farmers have this, ultimately the ads are made for the European consumer Divine is selling to, so they will make it look as good as possible.

Finally, Divine played into stereotypes of black people in the way they asked the farmers to pose. According to Leissle, the theme of the photoshoot was “‘women with attitude’” (124). Black women specifically are thought to have attitude problems and as a result are often described as disrespectful, rude and sassy. In fact, Leissle describes the farmers as having a “sassy assertion of confidence” in their poses (134). While the way she describes the poses puts them in a positive light, the added context that these are Black women that have been asked to pose “with attitude” and “sass” reveals that Divine still probably sees the women in a stereotypical light.

TAZA CHOCOLATE

There is a plethora of chocolate bars on the market that claim ties to the Mesoamerican origins of cacao. However, more often than not there is an enormous amount of erasure of Mesoamerican culture and history of imperialism that has denigrated those areas by these companies. As Emma Robertson notes

In the light of recent marketing campaigns for luxury fairtrade chocolate such as ‘Mayan Gold’, it is important to recognise the ways in which ethical consumption today may smooth over the inequalities of the imperial past, and bypass an awareness of the processes of industrial manufacture, by drawing on ancient, mystical and exotic imaginings of the origins of cocoa (5).

As a chocolate manufacturer, Taza chocolate has tried to emulate the Mexican process of chocolate production and was founded because the founder wanted to bring stone ground chocolate, which he discovered on a trip to Mexico, to America (Taza website). To truly accomplish this ethically, he needs to not only be authentic in order to live up to the claims of Mexican-inspired chocolate but also needs to give back to the community that he is borrowing and profiting off of, with special attention to the history of imperialism.

Marie Sarita Gaytán writes about the authenticity of Mexican restaurants in the Northeast and

argue[s] that the accomplishment of Mexican authenticity, whether maintained by Mexican owners or performed by large restaurant chains, is a social construction. However, despite its socially created qualities, performances of authenticity and ethnicity affect not only how individuals understand each other, but illustrate the challenges faced by different groups of people in the commercial production and consumption of identity (315).

She argues that this is the case because companies attempting to achieve Mexican authenticity submit to the will of the consumer, which inhibits their ability to be able to be authentic. She studies Mexican restaurants primarily owned and operated by Mexican immigrants or first generation Mexican-Americans who would presumably be both the most authentic and most passionate about sticking true to that authenticity. She expands on this later in her essay when she says “While they are able to display personal values associated with their presentation of ethnic heritage, they must also make concessions to fulfill certain customer expectations…Customers desired the ‘illusion of authenticity’ regardless of modifications pertaining to the use of spices, methods of preparation, and styles of service” (326). If those with Mexican heritage are unable to truly achieve and maintain authenticity, then it seems nearly impossible for Taza Chocolate, with a White American founder with no claim to Mexican heritage, to be authentic to Mexican chocolate production. However, the founder Alex Whitmore, did an apprenticeship in Mexico to learn how chocolate was produced so that he could reproduce it in America and their chocolate production process is captured in a video on their website (“About Taza – Taza Chocolate”).

(“About Taza – Taza Chocolate”).

The next video is chocolate being made in Mexico by Chocolate Mayordomo De Oaxaca, a Mexican chocolate company.

//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Making_Chocolate_in_Oaxaca.ogv?embedplayer=yes
Nsaum75 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot of similarities between the videos, which suggests that Taza has made a significant effort to stay true to the authentic Mexican chocolate production process.

Taza does not appropriately give back to the communities it is profiting off of. It claims to source its beans ethically and pay fair wages to the farmers, but that will not truly change the lives in the way that Whitmore’s co-opting of their culture is changing his life. In order to do that, he could move manufacturing to Mexico itself and import into Massachusetts. That would truly give Mexico its fair share of the profit, especially given the history of imperialism that has allowed Whitmore to profit off of someone else’s culture.

With a rise in conscious consumers, the fairly infamous chocolate industry has seen an expansion in advertisements and packaging geared towards the ethical consumer. Unfortunately, many of these efforts do not accomplish what the companies intend. The companies still prioritize the Western consumer over the Ghanaian and Mexican producers, in the case of Divine and Taza chocolate, which continues to skew the power structure and equality. However, these companies sell themselves as ethical while profiting off of the producers in unequal and unfair ways much like those they claim to denounce. It takes a radical reversal of power given the history of imperialism and slavery for these companies to truly represent and uplift the communities they are profiting off of and claiming to help.

 

Works Cited

“About Taza – Taza Chocolate.” Taza Chocolate | Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for Bold

Flavor. https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza.

“File:Making Chocolate in Oaxaca.ogv – Wikipedia Commons.” Wikipedia

Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMaking_Chocolate_in_Oaxaca.ogv

Gaytán, Marie Sarita. “From Sombreros to Sincronizadas: Authenticity, Ethnicity, and the

Mexican Restaurant Industry.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 37, no. 3, June 2008, 314-341.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate

advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies, vol. 24, no. 2, December 2012, 121-139.

“Our Founders – Taza Chocolate.” Taza Chocolate | Organic Stone Ground Chocolate for

Bold Flavor. https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history.

Manchester University Press, 2009.

It’s Not About the Chocolate: Portrayal of Women in Chocolate Advertisements

m&m’s ad featuring “Miss Green”

The image above originates in an Australian campaign for the Mars m&m’s candy, in which each of the m&m’s “characters” (cartoon versions of each color m&m) supported a different political party (Schiller). This ad intends to sell chocolate, pretends to sell a political party, and actually sells the female body. By using indirect methods of advertising to trade on cultural stereotypes rather than actual products, images like this, especially prevalent in chocolate advertising, promote entrenchment of these stereotypes. In her book Chocolate, Women and Empire, Emma Robertson explains how “the consumption of chocolate in the west became feminised early in its history” (Robertson, 20). Chocolate and women have been associated closely throughout the western history of the product. Often advertising equates not only chocolate and femininity but also the concepts of sin and indulgence. The way that m&m’s uses the “Miss Green” character (notably the only female m&m character in their lineup until quite recently) portrays an edible candy as obviously female and almost always sexualized. “Miss Green’s” alluring gaze, the presence of handcuffs, and the double meaning of the phrase “working the polls” make obvious what the image suggests: We as consumers should vote for her because she’s sexy, and then we should buy chocolate. This image advertises the particularly harmful idea that a woman could only exert political or environmental power through pole dancing or other sexual displays.

Not every advertisement is as problematic as the one above, of course. This essay aims to explore and critique alternative portrayals of women and chocolate in advertising. One reaction to problematic chocolate marketing comes from Divine Chocolate, a UK company which buys cocoa from Ghanaian farmers, including the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative. Divine presented a series of advertisements in Women’s fashion magazines in the UK, which featured female cocoa farmers, dressed fashionably and elegantly, holding a piece of Divine chocolate.

Divine Chocolate advertisement featuring a cocoa farmer

In an article printed in the Journal of African Cultural Studies, scholar Kristy Leissle pointed out how these advertisements were particularly effective in undermining the Western image of Africa as a “primitive” society in a dichotomy with the “cultured” West. She explains, “The images reflect the fact that women in Ghana also live multi-faceted lives – indeed they do farm, but they are also businesswomen, wear attractive clothes, beautify their bodies with industrial accessories, and assert their roles in transnational (or local) market exchanges” (Leissle, 136).  In contrast to the m&ms ad, Divine chocolate’s ad campaign features a variety of women without reducing women to a single cartoon image, and also presents a more complex picture of chocolate. The ad uses the image of a woman to explore the origins of the product rather than distract from them. Leissle analyzes how “Divine Chocolate expends considerable effort to make Kuapa Kokoo farmers – and Ghana as a cocoa origin site – visible to Britain’s chocolate shoppers” (Leissle, 124). The m&m’s add distracts from the origins of the chocolate, focusing instead on the wants of the consumer, whereas Divine chocolate focuses on the origins of the product being sold, and how the product is thus better than other chocolate, which comes from companies that do not treat their cocoa producers fairly.

While I agree that Divine’s advertisements are very effective at shedding a new, positive light on African producers, I think there are still problematic elements to these ads, especially in their depiction of women and their misplacement of what is being sold. The woman’s pose and revealing clothing, as well as her somewhat sultry gaze (Leissa refers to a “seductive gaze” and “just pursed lips”) still sell the idea that this beautiful woman serves as a sexual object, not an active producer and businesswoman (Leissle, 134). Keep in mind that these advertisements were primary aimed at woman readers of fashion magazines and probably inspired by designer fashion advertisements. However, Even though the ads were aimed at women rather than heterosexual men, and did not have the goal of arousing the audience, they are still able to objectify women. All consumers are conditioned by images around them (images like the m&ms ad) to view female bodies as objects. In a study, social scientist Beth Eck evaluated women’s reactions to images of sexualized female nudes. She concluded that “women may resent these images, they may uneasily identify with them, but they are also accustomed to the mundane practice of viewing them and accepting them” (Eck, 706). The same can be said for sexualized advertisements. As well as to some extent selling the woman pictured in the image, the ads also sell a sense of consumer morality. Rather than selling the chocolate product itself, these ads focus on selling a feeling of moral accomplishment to consumers.

Our group has constructed a third advertisement in the same vein as Divine Chocolate, but that we feel better represents the Kuapa Kokoo farmers and the relationship between women and chocolate as both producers and consumers.

chocolatead

The women selected and posed for Divine’s original advertisements were chosen as “women with attitude.” Leissle also uses the word “sassy” (Leissle, 134). For our ad, we chose to depict a woman who served a very important role in the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative and was also an experienced farmer and ambassador, Comfort Kumeah. Kumeah’s image appears confident and in control, despite a lack of “attitude” or sexual allure. Our advertisement places a greater emphasis on the production of cocoa and cacao farming, stepping away a bit from the focus on Africa as a producer of the finished good, chocolate. If it had been available, we would have chosen an image of Kumeah holding a finished Divine chocolate bar as well as the beans. However, I think that focusing on the beans themselves as a finished product emphasizes these women farmers as competent producers. Furthermore, the emphasis on the quality of the beans in our ad centers the attention on selling the product itself, presenting Divine and Kuapa as businesses without connotations of charity or aid relief organizations. Our intention with this ad was to provide an image of possibly advertising systems that could combat the sexist imagery presented overtly by Mars and more subtly by Divine.

 

Works Cited

Eck, Beth A. “Men Are Much Harder: Gendered Viewing of Nude Images.” Gender & Society 17.5 (2003): 691-710. Print.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-39. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

Schiller, Nikolas R. “The M&M’s of Australia Say Vote Green.” The Daily Render. N.p., 12 Feb. 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. <http://www.nikolasschiller.com/blog/index.php/archives/category/green/&gt;.