Tag Archives: Easter

Chocolate vs. The Catholic Church

Chocolate Easter Eggs

When you think of Easter, whether you are Christian or not, the content in the image seen above is familiar.

Easter is a Christian religious holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but today it has also become a period of time where individuals eat specialized chocolate treats sold only during this time of year. One cannot think about Easter without thinking of chocolate eggs or chocolate bunnies stacking the shelves of supermarkets and drug stores similar to the image below.

Easter Chocolate Being Sold in a Store

With chocolate being such a strong component of the Christian holiday of Easter, it is difficult to believe that when chocolate was first discovered by Spain in the 16th century, the Catholic Church attempted to marginalize the new foodstuff because of their initial inability to classify it and determine its relationship with the ecclesiastical fast. Social, economic, and cultural factors help explain why the cacao crop was not completely destroyed and dictate why the relationship between chocolate and the Catholic Church is what it is today.

During the time of this debate, a fast was defined as withholding from ingesting any nourishment between midnight and Holy Communion, with the exception of drinking to allay thirst as long as the liquid did not provide any nourishment (5). Because cacao can be prepared in many different ways and take on both a solid and liquid form, the main question was whether or not chocolate was a liquid or a solid. If it were deemed a food or a solid, if one consumed chocolate during a period of fasting then one would be committing a mortal sin. The controversy was even more complex because of the numerous nutritional ingredients that can be added to chocolate, including maize. Mexican physician Juan de Cárdenas began the debate in Mexico in 1591 by interpreting the word “drink” in two different ways. He states that one way to think about the word is anything drinkable and therefore permitted to be consumed during the fast. But another way is to consider it a liquid that is intended to refresh and quench thirst. Cádenas concluded that chocolate in any form breaks the fast because the intention behind fasting is to deny the human body of food and nutrition (1). There were many other arguments put forward over time in order to settle this debate. Dominican friar Agust´ın Davila Padilla wrote in favor of consuming chocolate during the ecclesiastical fast. This ruling was favored among some members of the Church because it lessened the moral dilemma of taking chocolate (5). Later, around 1636, Spaniard Antonio de León Pinelo produced a book stating that the solution depended on the added ingredients. If chocolate were concocted with plain water, it was merely a drink and did not break the fast (5). Individuals continued to put forth arguments, which left some discontented and others pleased.

Factors contributing to the debate extend beyond religious ones due to chocolate’s strong social influence. The complexity of this argument and chocolate’s power is illustrated in the story of Bishop Don Bernardino de Salazar who, in 1625, with the backing of the Spanish government and the Catholic Church, prevented the consumption of chocolate during the celebration of mass. He argued that the consumption during mass was not only distracting but also drew attention away from worshipping and praising God properly (5). The peninsulares, Spanish Catholic women in Latin America, had their maids deliver them chocolate during mass. When the bishop threatened excommunication, they simply chose to attend their neighborhood cathedrals instead of giving up taking chocolate during mass. Soon after, the bishop passed away after consuming chocolate himself. Because it is so well known that chocolate is a great vessel to deliver poison, it is rumored that he was poisoned to death.

The economic value of cacao beans to Spain and the Catholic Church ensured that chocolate did not disappear as a result of this debate and was a strong attributing factor in the stance certain groups took on the matter. The Jesuits, a denomination of Christianity, supported that chocolate was a liquid and could not break any fast because of their own stakes in the cacao trade (3). In addition, the Spanish Crown used cacao beans as a commodity for taxation, and the Catholic Church profited from the forced labor and tribute of the native inhabitants that cultivated the cacao beans (5).

Four Molinillos: A Tool Used to Create Froth in Chocolate Beverages
A Mancerina: Used by the Spanish to “Take Chocolate”

Furthermore, chocolate took on cultural significance in Spain. Chocolate was a luxury product that “became a ritual around which an entire consumer culture developed” (5). Special instruments and material objects like the ones seen in the image above and to the right lent a certain protocol to the act of “taking chocolate” (5), as the Spanish referred to it. The molinillo was vital in the preparation of the chocolate beverage, creating a strongly desired froth on the top. The mancerina, used to hold the chocolate beverage, exhibits chocolate’s status as an extravagant commodity .

After centuries of debating, the Catholic Church was forced to take a stance. In 1662 the Vatican ended the stalemate when Cardinal Francisco Maria Brancaccio declared that: “Beverages do not break the fast, since wine, being as it is so nutritious, does not break it. The same applies to cacao beverage” (2). In 1664 Italian Francesco Maria Brancaccio examined this decision stating that because fasting is not divine law, it is subject to change and should be changed to accommodate the fine chocolate beverage (2). Fortunately, consuming chocolate was deemed to not be a mortal sin nor break the ecclesiastical fast. Today when one thinks of fasting, one does not consider that chocolate was ever part of the discussion. Although chocolate and the Catholic Church used to be in conflict, they are now in a harmonious relationship. The Easter holiday is a time when chocolate sales peak. In 2015 $823 million in chocolate was bought the week before Easter (4). Without this holiday, special chocolate treats would not be sold in mass quantities, and without chocolate, many would not recognize Easter. It is because of chocolate’s initial social, economic, and cultural influence that it is still around today and exists in harmony with Christian holidays.


Works Cited:

  1. Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.
  2. De Orellana, Margarita, Clara Marín, Salvador Reyes Equiguas, Quentin Pope, Anahí Luna, Martha Few, Johanna Kufer, Nikolai Grube, Michael Heinrich, Michelle Suderman, Jorge Betanzos, Timothy Adès, José Luis Trueba Lara, Rafael Vargas, and Guadalupe Loaeza. “Chocolate III: RITUAL, ART AND MEMORY.” Artes De México, no. 110 (2013): 91. Accessed March 8, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/24318995.
  3. De Orellana, Margarita, Quentin Pope, Sonia Corcuera Mancera, José Luis Trueba Lara, Jana Schroeder, Laura Esquivel, Jill Derais, Mario Humberto Ruz, Clara Marín, Miguel León-Portilla, Michelle Suderman, Marta Turok, Mario M. Aliphat Fernández, Laura Caso Barrera, Sophie D. Coe, Michael D. Coe, and Pedro Pitarch. “CHOCOLATE II: Mysticism and Cultural Blends.” Artes De México, no. 105 (2012): 73-96. Accessed March 6, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/24319003.
  4. Fahey, Mark. “The Easter Bunny Is the King of Candy Sales.” CNBC. CNBC, March 24, 2016. https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/24/easter-wins-the-candy-battle.html.
  5. Forrest, Beth Marie, and April L Najjaj. “Is Sipping Sin Breaking Fast? The Catholic Chocolate Controversy and the Changing World of Early Modern Spain.” Food and Foodways 15, no. 1-2 (2007): 34-43.

Chocolate Holidays: Consumption and Gifting in Socio-Historical Context

The contemporary cacao-chocolate industry benefits greatly from seasonal sales surrounding major American holidays. In the U.S. market, Easter/Passover, Christmas/Hannukah, Halloween, and St. Valentine’s Day see large spikes in candy and chocolate sales. These contemporary patterns of chocolate purchasing and consumption are intimately bound to a broader historical and social context. By exploring associations between chocolate and each of these major candy-selling holidays, I analyze the legacies of colonialism, religious debates, gender stereotypes, and industrialization in modern consumption and gift-giving patterns.

The candy industry is a giant in the U.S. economy. Nielson (2015) reports that candy, including chocolate and non-chocolate products, is the third top-selling category among food and non-alcoholic beverage categories in America with $20.8 billion in sales in 2014. American consumers buy candy year-round, making up the majority of all candy dollar sales (Nielson 2015). However, seasonal candy sales are a fast-growing sector of the candy industry, increasing by 5.8% in 2014 (Nielson 2015). Nearly 20% of all annual candy sales in 2014 occurred during five top-selling holiday weeks (Nielson 2015). These top 5 holiday weeks are, in order of greatest to least candy sales: Easter/Passover, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Pre-Christmas/Hanukkah, and Christmas/Hanukkah (Nielson 2015). During each of these holiday seasons chocolate sales spike along with the sales of all candies. Chocolate is an illustrative example that sheds light on broader changes in consumption and underlying social meanings over time.

Winter Holidays and Hot Chocolate: A Colonial Legacy

The Judeo-Christian winter holidays of Christmas and Hannukah account for two of the top five weeks of all candy sales in the United States. Chocolate is an important part of these holidays. During Hannukah, traditional chocolate coins wrapped in gold and silver foil are gifted to children (Prichep 2014). During Christmas celebrations, people bake chocolate chip cookies for Santa Claus and exchange chocolates as gifts. Throughout the winter holidays, hot chocolate is a special treat. In the following clip from the Polar Express, a children’s Christmas movie, hot chocolate is associated with the Christmas holiday and is depicted as a childhood luxury.

Chocolate as a beverage has a long and complex history that highlights European colonialism. Chocolate is one preparation of the beans from the tree theobroma cacao. Cacao was first domesticated and consumed by Mesoamerican Olmec, Aztec, and Maya peoples (Coe and Coe 1996). For these indigenous Mesoamericans, cacao was a beverage, not a solid bar (Sampeck and Thayn 2017). The most treasured part of the cacao beverage was the foam, which was produced by pouring the beverage on high from one vessel to another and later by mixing with a molinillo (a colonial invention) (Coe and Coe 1996). The image below depicts a Maya woman pouring cacao to create foam as was common practice. Today, we still add foam to our hot chocolate in the form of marshmallows and whipped cream (Coe and Coe 1996, 49; Leissle 2018). Contrary to modern hot chocolate, cacao was sometimes consumed cold by the Mesoamericans (Coe and Coe 1996). Maya and Aztec elites also exchanged cacao as a gift in royal marriages, military victories, holiday ceremonies, and political negotiations (Leissle 2018). The history of chocolate as a beverage and gift extends to the very origins of domesticated cacao.

Image from Late Classic Maya vessel (c. A.D. 750), known as the Princeton Vase. Woman to the far right pours a cacao beverage to create foam.

Hot chocolate came to resemble what we know today through European colonial modification. Spanish colonizers came to refer to all cacao preparations as chocolate because the most profitable cacao-producing region, Izalcos, was known for a specific preparation named “chocolatl” (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 79). Cacao was introduced to Europe by Spanish colonizers as “chocolate,” a hot beverage. Europeans adapted the traditional cacao beverages to include ingredients that were common in Europe, such as cinnamon, almonds, sugar, and floral elements (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 85). Chocolate-drinking spread among the European royalty via intermarriage, and material culture developed around chocolate (Coe and Coe 1996). The French elite served chocolate in a silver chocolatiere with porcelain cups and saucers, which can also be seen in the clip from Polar Express (Coe and Coe 1996, 158-9). North American chocolate tastes and recipes most closely resemble the British and European preparations of hot chocolate, transmitted to America during our own colonial period (Sampeck and Thayn 2017, 89). Thus, the story of hot chocolate and its significant place in our own holidays draws heavily on early Mesoamerican rituals and traditions as well as colonial European modifications. The experience of a creamy hot chocolate today is intimately bound to a legacy of colonialism.

Easter, Chocolate, and the Church

The Easter and Passover spring holidays account for the single greatest week of candy sales annually. In the week preceding Easter in 2014 Americans spent $823 million on candy and purchased 146 million pounds of sweets (Fahey 2016). This level of consumption is interesting given the history of chocolate, the Catholic church, and the Lenten season.

In the Catholic religious tradition, the Easter holiday marks the end of Lent, months of fasting and reflection. Upon cacao’s introduction to European society, the Catholic clergy debated whether consuming chocolate beverages broke the fast. Catholic missionaries were active in the colonization and Christianization of indigenous Mesoamericans and had early exposure to cacao. Beginning in 1591 with Juan de Cardenas, militant clergymen argued that, though beverages (as chocolate was in those days) were generally exempt from the fast, chocolate offered substantial nourishment, which would break the fast (Coe and Coe 1996, 149). Debates raged in the clergy for nearly three centuries over the issue of chocolate and the fast, pitting the chocolate-trading Jesuits against the puritanical Dominicans (Coe and Coe 1996, 149). Seven Catholic popes commented on the issue over the years, arguing that consuming chocolate would not break the Lenten fast (Coe and Coe 1996, 150). Perhaps these clerical debates set us down the path of viewing chocolate as a sinful indulgence. Regardless, the heightened consumption of candy and chocolate for the Easter holiday marks the end of the fast and a time for celebratory indulgence. Had the Dominicans won the debate over chocolate and the fast, perhaps we would not see such excessive candy purchases in the week preceding Easter.

St. Valentine’s Day and Gendered Chocolate

Valentine’s Day is yet another major holiday for the chocolate industry. The holiday on which romantic partners gift heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to one another is also part of a broader context. Chocolate in particular is a common gift on Valentine’s Day because of its historical association with fertility. In indigenous Mesoamerican societies, cacao was considered an aphrodisiac and gifted at weddings for fertility (Coe and Coe 1996). The idea of chocolate as an aphrodisiac carried over into European societies and lingers to this day, though it has no factual basis. As Henderson (2015) and Butler (2018) detail, early chocolate companies began marketing their chocolates with romantic imagery, such as heart-shaped boxes and “kisses.” The association between chocolate and Valentine’s Day is a celebration of heterosexual romance that draws on a history of chocolate as an aphrodisiac.

The gifting of chocolates on Valentine’s Day also draws heavily on gender stereotypes. On Valentine’s Day, men are expected to purchase and gift chocolate to women. In the Russell Stover Valentine’s Day commercial below, the intended audience is men, who are instructed to gift chocolate to women for the holiday.

In chocolate advertising and narratives surrounding Valentine’s Day, women are meant to be seduced by the sinfully indulgent chocolate and-by extension-the men who gifted it to them. The following Ferrero Rocher Valentine’s Day commercial depicts a woman who is seduced by the decadent chocolate and subsequently embraces the romantic partner who gifts these chocolates to her. The message is one of chocolate as a tool in heterosexual relationships that men can use to seduce women.

Gender stereotypes in advertisements for Valentine’s Day chocolates are by no means a recent development. Narratives of male gifting of chocolates and female seduction are prevalent throughout past advertisements as well. The Whitman’s Sampler advertisement below is from 1936. In American society, Valentine’s Day chocolates are associated with a long context of heterosexual romance and the trope of the seduced woman.

1936 Valentines Day ad--Whitman's Chocolates
1936 Whitman’s Sampler Valentine’s Day Advertisement

Halloween and Industrialized Chocolates

Nielson (2015) reports that candy sales in the week preceding Halloween total $787 million, coming in at the second highest week for candy sales in 2014. Halloween in its modern form centers around pre-packaged, standardized candies, but this was not always the case. Kawash (2010) and Nix (2018) provide a brief history of Halloween and candy. In the early 20th century, candy makers were not targeting Halloween as a candy holiday (Kawash 2010). Trick-or-treating first emerged in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and Halloween handouts were not restricted to candy at this time (Kawash 2010). By the 1950’s candy became an inexpensive and convenient Halloween handout, but candy was not yet the exclusive Halloween treat (Kawash 2010). Candy eventually won out as the face of Halloween handouts in the 1970’s because it was industrialized, standardized, pre-packaged, and safe from tampering (Kawash 2010).

These trends between candy and Halloween closely follow developments in the cacao-chocolate industry. In the early 20th century, the big American chocolate manufacturers were just getting started. At the end of the 19th century, Frank Mars, founder of the Mars chocolate company (creator of M&Ms, Snickers, Mars bars, Milky Ways, etc.), was still watching his mother make homemade candies and sweets in the family kitchen (Brenner 2000, 50). For the first decade of the 20th century, Frank Mars was experimenting with small-scale candy distribution and failing repeatedly (Brenner 2000). By the 1920’s Mars had built a profitable chocolate company, but it wasn’t until his son, Forrest Mars, took control of the company in the 1960’s that Mars, Inc. became a giant in the American chocolate industry. Forrest Mars mechanized the factory, vertically integrated production, and industrialized the production and labor at every level (Brenner 2000).

Hershey’s Chocolate Factory

Similar developments were occurring in the Hershey’s chocolate company. In the first decade of the 20th century, Milton Hershey was building his factory town at Hershey, Pennsylvania (D’Antonio 2006). The first Hershey’s Kiss was manufactured in 1907 (D’Antonio 2006). Milton Hershey industrialized his company by vertically and horizontally integrating production. Hershey’s chocolate factory did it all–from building trains to ship sugar from Cuba to housing workers to sourcing milk from local cows (D’Antonio 2006). This consolidation of Hershey’s supply chain took place over the first half of the 20th century. Hershey’s was the well-integrated and undisputed American national chocolate brand until the mid-20th century when competitors like Mars and Reese’s gained power in the national market (D’Antonio 2006; Brenner 2000).

Mars Halloween Candy

By the time Halloween became a major candy holiday in the 1970’s, the American chocolate industry was dominated by Hershey’s and Mars (Martin 2019). Hershey’s and Mars alone make 84.2% of all snack-sized Halloween candy, with another 15.2% contributed by Nestle (Martin 2019). Internationally, the Big 5 chocolate companies (Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Kraft [Cadbury], and Ferrero) dominate the market (Martin 2019). Chocolate manufacturing and distribution is concentrated in an oligopoly of companies. The association of Halloween with pre-packaged, bite-sized candies emerged as these large companies developed and industrialized. Halloween as we know it today is a consequence of the industrialization and integration of the American chocolate industry.

Concluding Thoughts

In analyzing the history of chocolate in each of these major candy-selling holidays, I have uncovered legacies of colonialism, religious debate, gender stereotypes, and industrialization in the modern cacao-chocolate industry. To understand why and how the cacao-chocolate industry operates today, it is important to examine this broader social and historical context. Americans’ holiday favorites of hot chocolate, chocolate bunnies, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, and bite-sized chocolates were all brought to us via interesting legacies in the development of the chocolate industry. Next time you enjoy a foamy hot chocolate or Hershey’s kiss, consider the history of cacao and chocolate from its origins in indigenous Mesoamerica to its modern industrialization and mass marketing.

Works Cited

Amyember. 2010. “Hot Chocolate-The Polar Express.” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/5Uuw3JKLO1g).

Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Broadway Books.

Bruenproductions. 2009. “Russell Stover ‘Women Love Chocolate’ TV Commercial.” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/RfViV598c1k).

Butler, Stephanie. 2018. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day with a Box of Chocolates.” History. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/celebrating-valentines-day-with-a-box-of-chocolates).

By Late Classic, Maya (‘Codex’ style) – Francis Robicsek: The Maya Book of the Dead. The Ceramic Codex, University of Virginia Art Museum (1981), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8309274

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

Cooper, Scott. 2019. “Ferrero Rocher TV Commercial, ‘Valentine’s Day Has Arrived.'” You-Tube Web site. Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://youtu.be/JAWCM6xjebE).

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fahey, Mark. 2016. “Easter Wins the Candy Battle.” CNBC. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/24/easter-wins-the-candy-battle.html).

Henderson, Amy. 2015. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-chocolate-and-valentines-day-mated-life-180954228/).

Kawash, Samira. 2010. “How Candy and Halloween Became Best Friends.” The Atlantic. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/10/how-candy-and-halloween-became-best-friends/64895/).

Leissle, Kristy. 2018. Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Maria. 2010. “1936 Valentines Day ad–Whitman’s Chocolates.” Flickr. (https://flic.kr/p/7zykxu)

Martin, Carla. 2019. “20190313 The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” Presented at AAS 119x, March 13, Harvard University. Retrieved May 3, 2019.

Mike G. 2014. “Old Factory Building.” Flickr. Retrieved May 3, 2019 (
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mishagl/14279170335/ ).

Nielson. 2015. “Special Occasions Bring Sweet Sales.” Retrieved May 2, 2019 (https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/special-occasions-bring-sweet-sales.html).

Nix, Elizabeth. 2018. “The Haunted History of Halloween Candy.” History. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.history.com/news/the-haunted-history-of-halloween-candy).

Pixel1. 2015. Pixabay. Retrieved on May 3, 2019 (
https://pixabay.com/photos/halloween-candy-chocolates-nuts-1014629/ ).

Prichep, Deena. 2014. “Hanukkah History: Those Chocolate Coins Were Once Real Tips.” National Public Radio. Retrieved on May 2, 2019 (https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/12/12/370368642/hanukkah-history-those-chocolate-coins-were-once-real-tips).

Sampeck, Kathryn E. and Jonathan Thayn. 2017. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Pps. 72-99 in Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, edited by S. Schwartzkopf and K.E. Sampeck. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Creme Culling: Suicide Ideation, Pleasurable Euthenasia, and Death by Chocolate

Death by Chocolate: a phrase used by many to describe a pleasurable act of suicide. The phraseology associates infinite mountains of rich chocolate-covered delicacies with the ability to gorge upon them until the “sweet” kiss of death. In these Cadbury Crème Egg commercials, aired in the UK in the mid- to late 2000’s, the finality of a sweet death is all but denied to the beatific eggs, as their “life-goal” is to expose their goo or “guts” before their life-span (season) ends. To be certain, the Crème Egg commercials equate consumption with suicide, euthanasia, and pleasure, while my created advertisement engenders the eggs to create a life-cycle akin with Easter and Spring’s natural state.

The suicidal eggs are always shown against a white background with the implements for their destruction already at hand. All that is left for them is to remove their inhibitions (their colored foil wrapper) and to hop to their “goo”-ification. The suicidal eggs explicitly say “goo.” The slogan “Here Today, goo tomorrow” indicates that Cadbury’s Crème Egg season has a hyper-accelerated timetable (Jan 1 – April 4), as well as a subversive new ad campaign (“Crème Egg”, 2016). My advertisement attempts to create the same effect: the accelerated sales timeline, with a white background, yet no tools for destruction are present; the egg has revealed its “goo” in the form of a hatched chick, thus ending the Crème Egg season with the advent of spring.

Cadbury’s advertisement relies on several emotional responses, each of which illicit a desire to watch and enable the exposure of the “goo.” The most shallow of these emotions is humor, amplified by watching the eggs commit their “goo”-ey suicides utilizing household objects; thus they can be recreated by the consumers should they also wish to laugh at the mess. Eggs are unable to use tools or manipulate their surroundings, which elicits another emotion: compassion. The consumer, being aware of the Crème eggs’ inherent immobility, feels compelled to alleviate the eggs’ suffering (suffering from their loss of “goo”). When a consumer eats a Crème egg, they commit an act of euthanasia, a mercy killing of the egg, whose desire for death/”goo” cannot be self-satisfied (Nordqvist, 2016). The final slogan “Here Today, goo tomorrow” indicates the immediacy of the Crème eggs’ plight (“Here Today, Goo Tomorrow”), which is epitomized in the act of suicide; this engenders panic. Panic motivates consumers to gorge themselves en masse upon the Crème eggs before they lose their “goo” (and die). Joyfulness is then finally enjoyed by the egg, at death, and by the consumer, upon the facilitating of the egg’s death.

New Easter Chocolate
My original mock advertisement. The age old chicken and egg conundrum and cyclical seasons.

My advertisement creates rather than destroys the Crème egg. “Goo,” having been synonymous with death and loss, is now birth and permanence. It encompasses only those emotions which are associated with transformation and renewal. The joy felt upon the sight of the hatched chick is not the joy of immediate gratification upon consumption, but rather the acknowledgement of the time to come outside of the realm of the picture: spring is coming and winter is over, raising the hopes of consumers. This raising of hope will also bring about the realization that eggs are cyclical in nature: consumers need merely wait until the next Crème egg season to have their fill once again. The finality is not in death but in life. This renewal or resurrection can be easily paralleled with Christianity’s Easter narrative, as Christ’s Resurrection is merely days away from the end of the Cadbury Crème Egg Season (this year Easter fell on March 27) (Hillerbrand, 2015).  Spring is a time of renewal and of natural joy, not the depressive suicidal ideations of winter that Cadbury proposes. The Crème Egg season is the harkening of spring; one must wonder then, why is Cadbury romanticizing death without the possibility of a life-continuum? Another narrative inherent in my advertisement is: who came first, the chicken or the egg? Eggs by their nature are the limitless possibilities of potential life and a egg hatching is merely the propagation of cyclical existence.

 

The word “goo” is central to the Crème eggs’ suicidal narrative. Focus is not drawn to the chocolate coating but the “Crème” filling, which is just colored fondant without any milk product (“Crème Egg”, 2016). Crème is defined simply as a sweet liquor of a viscous nature, without the need for having dairy incorporated into the blending (“Crème”, 2016) . Yet this is not the primary reason the focus is pulled away from the chocolate and towards the crème-goo. The goo is the sweetest part of the Crème egg and thus what will ultimately produce the joy in both the egg and the consumer. The chocolate is merely a container with the sole purpose to hold the goo or “soul” of the egg until the moment of consumption. The Crème eggs say “goo” constantly to focus the viewer on the eggs’ innards (even when they have yet to be exposed) so that the explosions of “goo” seem eroticized and desired rather than horrific and traumatizing. Finally, the multitude of suicides illuminates the ideation of death and to that end, the demographic (Martin, 2016), ages 15- 35 approx., which is most drawn to suicidal ideation, would then be most drawn to these grim reapers of chocolate advertisements.

honeybunch
A Rowntree advert featuring Honeybunch, a young black cartoon girl featured in advertisements to white, English consumers. Photograph from: https://hughcrosfield.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/reflecting-on-emma-robertsons-chocolate-women-and-empire/

Britain has a long history of subversive chocolate advertisement campaigns making the unerotic the erotic and the distasteful the most succulent; this is similarly illustrated by Rowntree’s Honeybunch advertisements, which attempted the removal of racial fear and replaced it with safe inter-racial interaction (Martin, 2016). Cadbury’s suicidal eggs are the symptom of the much larger food disease which grips the stomachs and minds of many food advertisement viewers and consumers. Suicidal food consumption is apart of the subversive advertising narrative that engenders sympathetic eating, dangerous overconsumption, and a finite existential nature of food. The finality of existence is a lie told through advertisements to push immediate gratification in fear of future existential ambiguity. Consumption is cyclical. Food’s final goal is not to die but to live and impart its life through the absorption of nutrients; a cyclical existence, the longue durée.

The interpretations expressed in this blog are subjective to the blogger and not necessarily the original intention of the Cadbury advertisements, for more information concerning the “original” intent see this site’s video (“Here Today, Goo Tomorrow”).

 

Bibliography

“1971: Creme Egg Is Launched.” The Story. Accessed April 04, 2016. https://www.cadbury.co.uk/the-story#1800-1850.

“Creme.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Accessed April 08, 2016. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/creme.
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“Here Today, Goo Tomorrow.” Cream Inspiring Innovation: Best Practice Best Ideas. 2008. Accessed April 8, 2016. http://www.creamglobal.com/17798/16472/here-today,-goo-tomorrow.
Hillerbrand, Hans J. “Easter.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. January 22, 2015. Accessed April 08, 2016. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Easter-holiday.
“March Equinox – Equal Day and Night, Nearly.” March Equinox. Accessed April 08, 2016. http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/march-equinox.html.
Martin, Carla. “Lecture 9: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Lecture, Lecture 9, Harvard University, Cambridge, March 30, 2016. Accessed April 8, 2016. https://matterhorn.dce.harvard.edu/engage/player/watch.html?id=c3b55f87-1e28-4ba7-9074-dc67a9deabdc.
Nordqvist, Christian. “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.” Medical News Today. April 8, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2016. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/182951.php.
Nordqvist, Christian. “What Are Suicidal Thoughts? What Is Suicidal Ideation?” Medical News Today. September 26, 2014. Accessed April 08, 2016. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/193026.php.
RetroAds. “Cadbury Creme Egg Ads: An Ode to Suicidal Eggs.” YouTube. January 27, 2016. Accessed April 08, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opr3NtWlyzY.
@pickledplaice. Rowntree Honeybunch Advertisement. Digital image. WordPress. September 30, 2012. Accessed April 8, 2016. https://hughcrosfield.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/reflecting-on-emma-robertsons-chocolate-women-and-empire/.                          
Sausage Party – Official Restricted Trailer – In Cinemas August 11. Youtube. March 14, 2016. Accessed April 8, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VoNgLnjzVg.

From Classy Chic to Childish Cheek: A Century of Cadbury Easter Egg Advertisements

Displayed prominently in springtime candy aisles across the globe, Cadbury Eggs appear to have long been a mainstay of the Easter candy market. However, their arrival is in fact relatively recent – and their accessibility to the masses even more so. Originating in early 19th century France and Germany, chocolate eggs demanded time and highly skilled labor, with chocolatiers having to hand-paint chocolate “paste” (cocoa liquor) into moulds due to its high viscosity, causing the eggs to be made at a slow, small, and costly scale (Cadbury, 2014c; Coe and Coe, 2013). So, how did Cadbury transform an elite, artisanal product into a widely available “treat”? Tracing the company’s marketing style over time helps provide an answer. Changes in the advertising for Cadbury Easter Eggs reflected and reinforced their shift from a luxury, “adult” product to one marketed for everyone’s “inner child.”

The earliest Cadbury egg advertisements were hardly strong publicity. Following the 1873 launch of chocolate Easter eggs in Britain by rival Joseph Fry, the Cadbury company began making chocolate Easter eggs in 1875 (Shed, 2013). Made from dark chocolate and lacking any exterior decoration, the eggs were designed for more elegant, “adult” tastes (Cadbury, 2014c). Fillings reinforce the sense of luxury, consisting of sugared almonds (Cadbury, 2014c), which were a common feature of medieval European royal tables (Mintz, 1985). “Advertisements” for such an artisanal, elite product were accordingly minimal. At the start, they were essentially inventory lists (Fig. 1), listing the egg varieties available and their prices. No catchy slogans or mouthwatering pictures were used to capture consumers’ imaginations or pique their appetites. As individuals able to afford a “Pure Ribbed Chocolate Egg,” whose 13 pound cost was 10% of a typical late-19th century English laborer’s salary (Lindert, 1986), consumers were expected to be the rich, cultured sort able to make a proper choice.

Slide1

Fig. 1. 1870s Cadbury egg “advertisement.” Eggs sold included chocolate Easter eggs (boxed in blue) as well as (cheaper) “Plush” and “Satin” eggs, which consisted of egg-shaped cloth boxes filled with chocolates. Explicitly displaying egg’s prices and lacking embellishment, the “advertisement” hardly attempts to appeal to consumers. Figure is a modified image from Cadbury: http://www.cadbury.co.uk/~/media/cadburydev/com/images/story/HERITAGE_IMAGES_0010_10_IMAGE_EASTER-EGG-PRICES.png.

Buoyed by competition from rival firms for the growing British chocolate market, Cadbury abandoned listing inventory to market its products in earnest by the turn of the century (Cadbury, 2010). Nevertheless, the subtle, catalogue-style late 19th-century Easter egg advertisements (Fig. 2) implied that Cadbury eggs were still marketed such as a product for the social elite, or those aspiring to join it. British chocolate consumption skyrocketed during the 1890s, going from 20 million pounds to 43 million pounds per year in the course of a decade (Cadbury, 2010). Seeing the appeal of the milder and creamier-tasting Swiss milk chocolate to this wider market, Cadbury began making its own milk chocolate in 1897 (Cadbury, 2014b). Yet, as the Easter egg advertisements evince, the company still marketed its products as luxury items for connoisseurs – those who would prefer tastefully decorated eggs, made from the bitterer and costlier dark variety. Thus, two of the three eggs advertised are made from dark chocolate.

Slide2

Fig. 2. Turn of the century Cadbury Easter egg advertisement. Eggs are minimally decorated, with flowers and linear etchings, and consist of primarily dark chocolate (“Bournville”; boxed, in red) varieties. Notably, the milk chocolate egg is not given the company’s “Bournville” name. Image modified from: http://www.anorak.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Egg9.jpg.

The names given to milk and dark chocolate lines reinforce the latter’s superiority. The dark chocolate eggs are explicitly linked to Cadbury and its carefully cultivated reputation for purity and quality by being called “Bournville Chocolate Eggs,” after the “model town” the company established for its workers (Cadbury, 2010). Lacking the “Bournville” seal, the “Milk Chocolate Egg” is tacitly set apart as an inferior alternative. Milk or dark, the “decorated” eggs in fact have relatively minimal decoration, being adorned with only sprigs of spring flowers (roses or daffodils) and etched lines. Prices continue to be listed, albeit somewhat less overtly (flanking the images of eggs), suggesting that eggs are being marketed toward those for whom price is no object. Though Cadbury’s more overt marketing and incorporation of cheaper options suggest that they are starting to try to capture a wider market, the overall effect remains one of upper-crust propriety. Regardless of the consumer’s true socioeconomic status, he or she is buying a symbol of elite “good taste.”

As British chocolate consumption continued to rise over the course of the early 20th century, Cadbury grew with it, becoming the nation’s leading vendor (Cadbury, 2010). Alterations in chocolate marketing provided a visible symbol of this shift to chocolate “colossus”: examining a Cadbury Easter egg advertisement from the early 1920s (Fig. 3), for instance, reveals a far different product and target consumer than in the prior century. Depicting a young, rosy-cheeked girl riding in a motorcar with the (Easter) bunny, with a gargantuan chocolate Easter egg in the trunk, the ad implies that Cadbury eggs are intended for children, and/or those intending to buy chocolate for them. The gargantuan Easter egg and car’s Easter egg “headlights” reinforce its sense of youth and whimsy: in contrast to the ads in Figs. 1 and 2, Cadbury chocolate is portrayed as taking consumers back to the lighthearted fun of childhood, rather than helping them show or earn themselves a place in elite society.

Notably, the Cadbury logo (boxed, in blue) is repeatedly and prominently displayed, being written on the chocolate egg’s bow, on the foreground, and on the hood. Little attention is paid to the type and/or quality of chocolate egg: aside from its size, its sole notable feature is its pebbled texture, or “crocodile finish,” which Cadbury adopted from German chocolatiers to help disguise “minor imperfections” in the (cheap, factory-produced) chocolate (Cadbury, 2014c). Explicit mentions of price are likewise absent. Having shifted from selling undecorated, dark chocolate eggs to those made with sweet, creamy Dairy Milk chocolate and, as of 1923, filled with sugary fondant “crème,” Cadbury’s Easter egg market was now all British children, rather than epicurean, upper class adults. Accordingly, how chocolate was advertised was likewise suited to children’s tastes, filled with the fantasy and adventure of bunnies and oversized eggs, rather than practical concerns over chocolate price or quality. The goal was not to inform the discerning consumer, but appeal to his or her impulses – and, through repeated use of the Cadbury logo, cause him or her to forever associate the company with all the pleasure and adventure (whether real or imaginary) a chocolate egg could bring.

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Fig. 3. Cadbury Easter egg advertisement from the early 1920s. The repeated use of the Cadbury logo (boxed, in blue), whimsical features (Easter bunny, oversized egg), and lack of prices all convey the shift in Cadbury Easter eggs being marketed to the masses of British children. Image modified from: http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2010/10/27/Cadbury_Eggs_verta1d36864f953163e5a1d9ac46415be8a9ce0ac85.jpg

Television advertising catapulted Cadbury Easter eggs to the head of the mass Easter chocolate market: today, eight of the ten top-selling Easter eggs in Britain are made by Cadbury (Cadbury, 2014a). The top seller, the Cadbury Crème Egg, was released in 1971 (Cadbury, 2014b). Consisting of (sweetened) Dairy Milk chocolate shell encasing a white and yellow-colored (sugar) fondant filling (the egg’s “white” and “yolk”), the Crème Egg suited children’s love of hyper-sweet foods (Ventura and Mennella, 2011) and love of brightly-colored, whimsically-shaped, and individually-portioned “fun” foods (Elliott, 2008; Moss, 2013). Crème Eggs’ cheapness furthered their appeal to the mass youth market: adoption of automated assembly production in 1955 allowed Eggs to be made – and sold – at a price in line with many weekly allowances (Cadbury, 2014c). Accordingly, the Egg was advertised using playful commercials, reinforcing it as a “fun” product for a wider audience, such that it could reach everyone’s “inner child.” For example, a 1974 advertisement displays a group of young boys buying all of the Crème Eggs sold by their local candy shop. The purchase of “6000 Crème Eggs” symbolizes the triumph of children’s spirit over the sour, middle-aged shopkeeper, making Egg consumption a form of youthful empowerment. The explicit denotation of the eggs as “Cadbury Crème Eggs” links the brand’s name to not only a “delicious” treat, but also the joyful, cheeky, and wholly impractical triumph of buying “6000 Crème Eggs.” Heeding a corporate call for consumption not only promises hedonic pleasure, but is also transformed into an act of self-assertion.

Ultra-processed, hyper-palatable, and inexpensive, the contemporary Cadbury Easter Egg epitomizes modern, “industrial food” (Goody, 1982; Laudan, 2010), appealing to the innate taste for sweetness and mischief that is most visible during childhood, but persists in adults. Yet, this character reflects historical change as well as tradition. The transformation of the Easter egg from a hand-crafted, seasonal gift for discerning adult palates to a cheap, cheeky “treat” for all reflects profound shifts in cultural ideals of what constitutes “good” chocolate – including how it should be marketed as well as manufactured. Simply informing consumers of inventory does not suffice when trying to capture a mass market, using a product defined by its popular image rather than its ingredients. Rather, advertising is needed to fabricate and fortify desire (Allen, 2010; Richins, 1995): to make individuals discover a “need” that they never knew they had, and keep them coming back for more. By forsaking bitter dark for sweet milk chocolate, hand-molding for assembly-line production, and most importantly, earlier, utilitarian advertisements for explicitly branded, playful imagery, Cadbury altered their eggs to both suit and sustain the new, cheap and “cheeky” mass chocolate market.

Works Cited

Allen, L., 2010. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. AMACOM, USA.

Cadbury, 2014a. Easter Brand Fact Sheet.

Cadbury, 2014b. The History of Chocolate. Mondelez International.

Cadbury, 2014c. The Story of Easter and Easter Eggs. Mondelez International.

Cadbury, D., 2010. Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers. Public Affairs, New York, NY.

Coe, S.D., Coe, M.D., 2013. The True History of Chocolate Thames and Hudson, London.

Elliott, C., 2008. Marketing fun foods: A profile and analysis of supermarket food messages targeted at children. Canadian Public Policy-Analyse De Politiques 34, 259-273.

Goody, J., 1982. Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine, in: Counihan, C., van Esterik, P. (Eds.), Food and Culture: A Reader. Routledge, New York, NY.

Laudan, R., 2010. A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food. Gastronomica Reader, 280-292.

Lindert, P.H., 1986. Unequal English Wealth since 1670. Journal of Political Economy 94, 1127-1162.

Mintz, S., 1985. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin, New York, NY.

Moss, M., 2013. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House, New York, NY.

Richins, M.L., 1995. Social-Comparison, Advertising, and Consumer Discontent. American Behavioral Scientist 38, 593-607.

Shed, M., 2013. A Bristol Curriculum: Chocolate!, in: Water, B. (Ed.), Bristol, UK.

Ventura, A.K., Mennella, J.A., 2011. Innate and learned preferences for sweet taste during childhood. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 14, 379-384.