Tag Archives: ethics

Fair Trade Certified: Can Ethical Consumption Save the Chocolate Industry?

The history of chocolate stretches back thousands of years in time to the first time that humans entered came to North America and discovered the cacao plant. The history of the chocolate industry is much shorter, but even more complex. From its inception, the chocolate industry has been mired in dubious practices, ethical violations, and questionable labor practices that are harmful to the farmers who harvest cacao and the environment writ large. Many of the worst practices have continued into modern times, and even intensified as the industry struggles to meet never-ending global demand.

The fair trade movement seeks to change things by giving consumers more information about how their chocolate was produced to spur companies to improve their practices. The question many are asking now is simple: will it be enough to undo centuries of malpractice? Is the future of chocolate simply the past — or something worse? Or can people continue to love and eat their favorite treat, now without guilt? In this blog post, I will explore these questions and examine the impact fair trade chocolate has had so far.

A History Dipped in Controversy

For many centuries chocolate product was inextricable with chattel slavery in North and Central America, as Spanish colonizers imported slaves to run their cacao plantations and exported the harvests back to Europe. Then, as technological innovations at the turn of the 19th century increased chocolate demand to all time highs amongst Western consumers, the production base of chocolate shifted to Western Africa and the entire industry boomed as the economy began to globalize. Today most people assume that this violent and bloody history of chocolate is behind the industry that creates so much love out of brands like Hersheys or Nestle. However, modern chocolate production continues to have many negative effects on the farmers in Western Africa who are often overworked and underpaid. Worse, child labor and forced labor remain common practices, constraining many from opportunity for social mobility in those societies.

Slaves working to process sugar. While technology has improved, similar labor practices are in use today in modern chocolate production.

While commercial chocolate production stretches back to the time of Cortes, the chocolate industry as most people know it today really began to form in the late 1800’s. Glenn Brenner’s book, The Emperors of Chocolate: inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, chronicles the rise of now household names in the chocolate industry like Mars Bars or Hershey’s Kisses. The founders of these companies capitalized on new technology and innovations in candy to produce hallmark products still eaten today (Glenn 2000). However, as these chocolate startups scaled into multinational brands, they strained the suppliers of cacao beans needed to make the delicious treats.

Since the establishment of Hershey and Mars, the chocolate industry has developed a global supply chain to sustain itself. A vast network of middlemen and trading organizations separate the Hershey Bar sitting in your local CVS from the raw materials that make it up. These layers of providers allow Hershey’s and other chocolate giants to purchase vast quantities of chocolate such that they can satisfy the insatiable demand of the public. The average American eats 10 pounds of chocolate each year, much of it from relative cheap candies picked up at the grocery store.

Global supply chains keep prices cheap, but they have another important benefit for chocolate companies: obfuscation. Because there are so many businesses between Hershey’s and the farmers who harvest cacao beans, Hershey’s has plausible deniability about their involvement in practices like child labor. Because of this, it can be tough for consumers to know where their chocolate has come from — and who suffered to get it to their door. It was this situation that spurred the creation of the Fair Trade Movement in the 1990s.

The Fair Trade Movement

The Fair Trade Movement started with a simple, yet incredibly ambitious goal: reverse the current fortunes of the independent farmers who harvest cacao in Western Africa and South America. Currently these farmers are probably in the lowest position in the entire totem pole of the cacao supply chain. Corrupt government bureaucracies and trading cartels sit above them and seek to siphon off as much of the profit as possible. In addition, competition can lead to a race-to-the-bottom situation, where less scrupulous farming operations who use slave and child labor in conjunction drive prices down and make it harder for ethical farmers. The fair trade movement, since its inception in the 90’s, has sought to change this by increasing transparency into the industry and helping farmers organize for better conditions

Cacao producers have begun to band together in order to secure more profits and better living standards for themselves.

The fair trade movement is fundamentally economic in its ideology. Its response to global capitalism is to work within the system as a reformer, not outside it as a revolutionary. The basic principle the movement operates under is actually the same of the large chocolate companies that it is opposed to in so many ways: The Customer is Always Right. The fair trade movement seeks to educate consumers on how exactly the global chocolate industry works, and provide choices to consciously support farm practices that are fair to workers and also sustainable for the environment. Consumers, the theory goes, will aim to support these ethical practices out of a sense of moral duty, same as why people are altrusitic at all.

The fair trade movement in chocolate is emblematic of a larger debate around capitalism being waged in academia, media, and politics. In the United States, for the first time since Eugene Debs in the 1910s, candidates who openly identify as socialist are running for the office of president, such as Bernie Sanders. Many are starting to question whether capatalism can support ethical labor practices at all. Fair trade movements rely on consumer interest in supporting ethical practices, and there is not exactly a large base of evidence that that is the case.

There are numerous injustices that persist in our supply chains. from factory farming, to greenhouse gas emissions, to human trafficking. None of these causes are conspiracy theories: there is plenty of information public about these problems, and most are tacitly endorsed by governments and institutions. Consumers theoretically could revolt against them: if everyone tomorrow decided to not eat any meat if it came from a factory farm, then factory farming would soon cease to exist.

And yet, it seems vanishingly unlikely that consumers would revolt like this. In fact the trend has to been towards both increased meat consumption and increased factory farming to meet this demand. Consumers, in many ways, have driven these labor practices that have driven price down so far, and the same consumers have benefited tremendously from this with low prices for food. It seems dubious that consumer interest will be the tool to effect change in the same way you can’t dig yourself out of a hole with the shovel that was used to dig the hole.

Another important factor in evaluating the dilemma of the fair trade movement is the problematic racial connotations of the modern chocolate industry. Chocolate advertisements and branding play on colonialist stereotypes of Africans as either “dangerous” or “exotic” (Leissle 2013). These racist stereotypes translate into misguided and incorrect assumptions made by western consumers about the condition of the cacao farmers. The stereotypes can lead to a dehumanization of the African workers and a repudiation of their struggle. Considering the reliance the Fair Trade Movement has on the sentiment of western, mostly white, consumers, these racist dynamics are concerning for the case that the Fair Trade movement has a decent shot at catalyzing real change.

The fair trade movement has grown from its origins to becoming a real part of the industry. Fair trade labels tell consumers in countries like the United States whether different chocolate bars and products were grown in sustainable and humane conditions. Consumers are increasingly aware of unethical practices, and now have options for purchasing products that are good for the world — if they are willing to pay a premium. In the next section, I will explore the impact the Fair Trade movement has had on the chocolate industry, and what the future looks like for chocolate growers and eaters

Fair Trade’s Impact

The impact of the Fair Trade movement on global chocolate consumption is complicated and uncertain. On one hand, there has been impressive growth in the share of chocolate consumption that comes from Fair Trade origins — from a little over 200 millions euros at the turn of the century, to five times that only 6 years later.

Sales volume of Fair Trade Chocolate (source: threefolding.org)

However the total chocolate industry is humungous, and the majority of chocolate continues to come from non-fair trade origins. A study of Belgian chocolate consumers found evidence that only a relatively small minority of the population is willing to pay the premium for fair trade chocolate. Belgium is an especially interesting country to study as it is 1) relatively wealthy, with a high GDP per capita 2) a huge consumer of chocolate, both imported into the country and made natively in the country. Surveys of Belgians show that the highest premium on average they are willing to pay for Fair Trade chocolate is 10%, when in reality the premium is 27%. It turns out that only 10% of Belgians are willing to pay 27% more for chocolate in exchange for ethically grown chocolate. 10% market share is enough for Fair Trade chocolate to have a presence in the economy, but not enough to accomplish the movements ambitious goals of abolition of child labor and improved worker prosperity in the supply chain.

Evidence from the related fair trade coffee movement backs this conclusion up. In Fair trade slippages and Vietnam gaps: the ideological fantasies of fair trade coffee, Gavin Fridell makes a compelling argument that the fair trade movement is as much about social signaling as it is about ethical consumerisms. Specifically, the fair trade movement often focuses more on promoting ideas and fantasies than it does improving the lives of workers. Combine these limitations of western movements in truly empowering African communities with the already marginalized place it has with consumer’s interests and it becomes obvious that the Fair Trade movement is fundamentally limited (Fridell 2014).


The global chocolate industry is humungous and loved by consumers across the world. People love eating chocolate, and love getting it at low prices. However, those low prices don’t come without cost: farmers in South America and Western Africa often have to resort to poor working conditions and exploiting workers. Forced and child labor are commonplace and loosely regulated. Executives and shareholders of western chocolate companies get rich off of chocolate demand, but it does not trickle down to all the workers who make it possible for our candy stores to be lined wall to wall with solid bricks of delicious chocolate.

The Fair Trade movement is a step in the right direction, bravely running counter to the prevailing trend of soulless capitalism and globalism that has pervaded society over the past 8 decades. However, empirical evidence shows that it is insufficient as a solution to problem of ethics in supply chains. The mechanism the movement relies on, moving consumer sentiment through education, is not powerful enough to truly pivot the market. Other solutions must be explored by activists who want to truly improve the social justice of chocolate. Whether that is new technology or new economic structures, more radical actions are needed to effect real change.


Brenner Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. Broadway Books, 2000.

De Pelsmacker, P., Driesen, L., & Rayp, G. (2005). Do consumers care about ethics? willingness to pay for fair-trade coffee. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 39(2), 363-385. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1111/j.1745-6606.2005.00019.x

Fridell Gavin (2014) Fair trade slippages and Vietnam gaps: the ideological fantasies of fair trade coffee, Third World Quarterly, 35:7, 1179-1194, DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2014.926108

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22–31. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22.

Immoral Sin or Luxury Good?: The Ethical History of Chocolate and Marijuana

When goods that were once considered immoral become commonplace, it’s often hard to imagine they were ever socially unacceptable. Tattoos, alcohol, and birth control are all relatively common twenty-first century goods that were far less agreeable two generations ago. Many things we consider normal in contemporary times were once considered wrong—or even illegal. So it is with chocolate and marijuana, two commodities that have throughout history been associated with immorality and unethical users, but today are beginning to be seen as luxury goods in certain settings. The two are sometimes even combined in the form of cannabis edibles, which create a unique way to experience each ingredient and demonstrate a blending of two goods that mirror and echo each other in many ways. Chocolate and marijuana are two goods that have recently emerged in the luxury wellness space. These two unique commodities have experienced parallel paths in social perception from immoral or sinful goods to luxury goods with potential health benefits.

Building on my first blog post, Social Associations and User Ethics of Chocolate Through the Ages, in which I examine the history of ethics and chocolate, I will analyze the shifting ethical history of chocolate alongside another commodity which has transitioned in recent years from a sinful, and even illegal, product to a potentially luxurious product and a lucrative market: marijuana. I will begin by retracing the ethical history of chocolate, focusing specifically on the recent shift towards understanding chocolate as a luxury good associated with health and wellness. Then, I will examine the history of user ethics of marijuana and the way this unique good has transitioned in the eyes of American and global society. Finally, I will consider these two commodities in combination and see what new insights can be revealed when two goods that have so many parallels are baked into a single product.

Ethical History of Chocolate: Elite to Mass to Luxury Again

From its earliest beginnings, chocolate was a luxury good. For Maya and Aztec civilizations, chocolate was a drink accessible only to elites, signaling the ways commodities factored into the complicated social structures of these ancient societies. Below is a photo of a member of Aztec society holding a cacao pod, potentially in preparation to form into chocolate drink and serve to elites.

An ancient Aztec statue depicts a member of Aztec society holding a cacao pod (Wikimedia Commons)

“Our sources unanimously declare that the drinking of chocolate was confined to the Aztec elite,” say Coe and Coe, demonstrating the way chocolate was completely stratified into circles accustomed to luxury (Coe, Coe, 95). The only people with access to chocolate were “the royal house, to the lords and nobility, to the long-distance merchants, and to the warriors” (Coe, Coe, 95). Cacao beans were also sometimes used as currency in these ancient societies, though archaeologist Eleanor Harrison-Buck explains in the Smithsonian Magazine that cacao was more than simply “a form of currency that elites could control and administer as a means of consolidating their power” (Garthwaite, 1). Instead, cacao as a resource was “grounded in social relations”—and confined to elites.

Cacao and the chocolate it created retained its aristocratic implications throughout its expansion to Europe. Across France, Spain, England, and beyond, chocolate continued to be the food and “drink of the elite,” but in luxurious “coffee houses” instead of Aztec or Maya settlements. But as chocolate was made accessible in more and more places, its mass production meant it was also less associated with elitism and luxury. Thanks to technological advancements such as salting, canning, refrigeration, transportation, and retailing that fueled mass production, large conglomerate companies were able to spread chocolate goods across the country and world—for far cheaper prices (Goody). When companies like Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé mass produced chocolate items for low prices, the commodity became associated with lower classes, and at times the stereotypes of sin and immorality that accompanied classist associations. But the primary switch in the social perception of chocolate that this paper is most interested in exploring is a more recent one. The transition from cheap, mass-produced commodity associated with poor user ethics (lack of self-control, sinful desires, disregard for health) to a luxury good tied to health and wellness is a more recent shift that opens up questions about commodity stereotypes, the contemporary wellness space, and the nature of social change.

Chocolate’s Resurgence as a Luxury Good

As the health and wellness trend sweeps the nation, bringing with it crystals, kombucha, and kale, certain chocolate-makers have begun to rebrand their products as a part of a naturally healthy food trend. Below, a screenshot of a webpage from luxury wellness and lifestyle website Goop shows the article “The Good-for-You Chocolate Guide” advertising the health benefits of chocolate “supported by science” and the ways it may fit into a contemporary, health-focused lifestyle. 

An article from the luxury wellness site Goop provides a guide for “Good-for You Chocolate,” claiming the food has benefits related to inflammation, heart health, stress, and more (Goop).

Wellness sources and chocolate companies alike have begun to tout the health benefits of chocolate, especially the antioxidant properties, vitamin compounds, and presence of other ingredients like magnesium and calcium. In 2012, James Howe undertook an investigation into chocolate’s cardiovascular health properties, describing how “assertions of this sort, alleging great health benefits from chocolate, go back a long way in Europe and the Americas” (Howe, 43). In his article, Howe investigates a claim concerning the Kuna people of Panama linking their particularly avid consumption of chocolate to low blood pressure and solid cardiovascular health, though Howe finds this correlation to not indicate causation (Howe, 45). As sources from wellness websites to scientific studies have promoted chocolate as a health food, its social perception has begun to shift—and with it, the product’s price.

Especially as chocolate producers themselves have advocated for chocolate as a healthy food, people have begun to see it as more associated with a luxurious and wellness-focused contemporary lifestyle. This changes the perception of user ethics: if people who eat chocolate do it for their health and wellness, they can no longer be seen as immoral or sinful. But the move towards craft chocolate can also be dangerous for people who cannot afford the price increases that accompany the movement towards better-made, more health-focused chocolate. As Dr. Martin says in her article “Sizing the Craft Chocolate Market,” “Some individuals and companies that identify as part of the craft chocolate movement commit publicly to paying prices substantially above bulk commodity for cacao” (Martin). This is positive for chocolate producers, who may make more money as a part of this willingness to increase in price, yet can also cause problems for consumers with less access to money for food. Groups like the FCCI are working to develop a model for the craft chocolate market—which Martin defines as people who organize their companies and “lives—work, production, consumption—around the pursuit or furtherance of their desires,” indicating a more values-based trade—that includes more stabilized pricing, but this is an understandably difficult task. Thus, in some ways, chocolate becomes another commodity in the long line of goods that cause harm for lower socioeconomic classes by becoming a status symbol for the wealthy. Another of these commodities, in even more complex terms, is marijuana—which I will explore in following sections.

The Complex Ethical History of America’s Favorite Illegality

Anti-marijuana advertisement targets family stereotypes (Gillespie, Blogspot).

Why has marijuana been illegal in the United States for decades? The answer will help to demonstrate the path marijuana has charted from socially immoral to luxury good. Though marijuana had been present in various forms in the United States far before the twentieth century, it grew in prevalence following the influx of Mexican immigration to the U.S. following the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s. When “hundreds of thousands of brown-skinned migrants [fled] to the U.S. in search of safety and work,” some brought with them a new method of ingesting marijuana through smoking (Lee, 41). Thus the drug was associated with Mexican immigration from the beginning of its rise in American society—and thus tied to racist and xenophobic views about immigration that grew in a “climate of fear and hostility” toward “Spanish-speaking foreigners” (Lee, 41). America’s primary introduction to marijuana was one tainted with social perceptions of immorality and danger, solidifying its spot as a social vice.

As “public officials and newspaper reports depicted marijuana, the Mexican loco weed, as a dangerous vice, an alien instrument into American life,” legislation lined up to ban marijuana and criminalize its possession. Though prior, more minor laws had passed earlier in the twentieth century, the main legislation banning marijuana was the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. Signed by President Nixon, the CSA placed marijuana and its derivatives in the same tier of categorization (high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, unsafe to use even under supervision) as drugs such as heroin and LSD. Cocaine, fentanyl, and oxycodone were all placed on lists indicating lower risk. This plunged the perception of marijuana even deeper into the waters of immorality: now, it was not only socially frowned upon, but also deeply illegal and dangerous. The following video reiterates these points of historical context and helps to explain why and how marijuana became criminalized as it did.

Lee writes that “marijuana is by far the most popular illicit substance in the United States with 10,000 tons consumed yearly by Americans,” indicating that the drug’s categorization as highly dangerous has been disproven by the general population (3). As is obvious in contemporary times, it has also been disproven by science—marijuana’s recent resurgence has grown out of countless studying indicating its harmlessness and health benefits. Now, marijuana legalization is moving forward at a rapid pace, and today medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and recreational marijuana in 10 (National Conference of State Legislatures.

With this shift in legality has come a shift in perception, and the decriminalization of marijuana in most states means the drug has come to be seen as less dangerous and immoral as it once was. In very recent years, this shift has taken a step further—towards considering marijuana a luxury good or health product. Lee says that, in general, “younger voters were more in favor of ending pot prohibition than other age groups,” and as these younger voters have grown up and made money, they’ve created a sometimes opulent culture around America’s favorite illegality (403). This shift which many commodities, including chocolate, have also experienced, has class-based and racial implications.

Marijuana of Two Worlds: The Shift to Luxury and Health that Excludes a Crucial Population

Marijuana’s recent triumph over public judgment means it is far more widely acceptable across social classes than it was ten years ago, and out of this acceptance has emerged a new space of luxury and health-based marijuana products. The below video features a tour through a luxury marijuana store in Seattle, Washington.

The video demonstrates the wide variety of products that can incorporate marijuana, and the ways the drug has recently come to indicate an expensive—and often mindful and healthy—lifestyle. Barneys New York, a luxury department store with 27 locations in the U.S. and Japan, recently announced plans to launch a specialized cannabis boutique called “The High End.” In an article in The Atlantic detailing the new launch, writer Amanda Mull notes that “Given luxury shoppers’ average demographic—wealthy and white—the launch is a stark reminder of how much the risk of smoking a little weed in America can vary from person to person, and whose interests legalization is primed to serve first.” Mull’s point is important, and demonstrates the way marijuana legalization continues to be racialized. In 2017, 659,700 people were arrested for violating marijuana law (Drug Policy Alliance). In the same year, the percentage of people incarcerated for any drug-related law violation that were Black or Latino was 46.9% (Drug Policy Alliance). The sheer volume of people, especially people of color, behind bars for marijuana possession is devastating—which creates an ever starker comparison for tweets like the one below, when wealthy, well-known, and white members of society show the ease with which they can access and use legal marijuana.

Billy Ray Cyrus’ tweet may have been intended comically, and recreational marijuana has long been legal in his home state of California, but still the tweet sparked backlash for its inability to understand the deeply-rooted injustice of marijuana possession and mass incarceration in America. Thus marijuana traces a similar path as other commodities have in the past: from considered immoral or even illegal to a luxury good associated with higher socioeconomic classes and believed to hold many health benefits.

Conclusion: Chocolate and Marijuana in Combination

It is now clear that the ethical histories chocolate and marijuana have experienced parallel each other in many ways. But the two have also become popular to combine, often in the form of marijuana brownies or other baked goods, in an interesting exploration into their collective power. Popular recipes and videos across the internet describe how to bake “weed brownies,” and online marijuana dispensaries even allow customers to purchase brownies infused with marijuana on their online stores. Dr. Martin describes brownies’ “powerful hold on the American palate and imagination” in her social history of the dessert, including that marijuana brownies have grown in popularity with legality to “become one means of therapeutic oral delivery of the drug” (Martin).

This combination indicates perhaps that the two commodities are simple to mix in a recipe, or are well-suited to be ingested simultaneously. On the other hand, on a more theoretical level, the popularity of the two combined may point to a larger truth. Chocolate and marijuana have both faced complicated pathways as America’s understanding of their ethics has shifted in recent years. Chocolate was once something associated with people who had no self-control or desire for healthful living. It was a cheap snack, a vice for the masses. Marijuana was once classified similarly to life-threatening drugs such as heroin, frowned upon socially and criminalized broadly. It was a danger to society and its possession was a crime worthy of incarceration—especially for people of color. Now, chocolate and marijuana are both featured on every luxury wellness website on the internet. Wealthy Americans pay extreme prices for healthy, craft, antioxidant-rich chocolate and opulent marijuana products of every variety and amount. For $18, someone over 21 years old in a state where marijuana is legalized recreationally could buy a marijuana-infused edible brownie. In taking a bite of this brownie, this person would become part of the complex ethical histories of two of its most important and controversial ingredients. Though they may not recognize the parallels beyond the taste when combined, the broad social implications of the two commodities impact the world around them every day.

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd
edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Garthwaite, Josie. 2015. “What We Know About the Earliest History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/archaeology-chocolate-180954243/

Goody, Jack. 2013. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” Food and Culture: A Reader. New York: Routledge.

Goop Wellness, 2018-9. “The Good-for-you Chocolate Guide.” https://goop.com/wellness/health/the-good-for-you-chocolate-guide/

Howe, James. 2012. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies. The University of Califonia.

Lee, Martin A. 2012. Smoke Signals. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Martin, Carla D. 2012. “Brownies: The History of a Classic American Dessert.” http://www.ushistoryscene.com/uncategorized/brownies/

Martin, Carla D. 2017. “Sizing the craft chocolate market.” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (blog). https://chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/

Mull, Amanda. 2019. “Legal Weed Gets a Luxury Makeover.” The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/02/barneys-launches-new-cannabis-department/582772/

National Conference of State Legislatures. 2018. “Marijuana Overview.” http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/marijuana-overview.aspx

Pellicier, Diego. 2017. “BuzzFeed Bring Me: The World’s Most Luxurious Pot Shop – Diego Pellicer.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkrHDQ6Lufc&feature=youtu.be

USA Today. 2018. “The surprising history of marijuana and why it’s illegal.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSflkWavOhw

Formaggio Kitchen and the Bean-to-Bar Movement

Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, MA

Throughout the semester we learned about how chocolate is more than just a delicious dessert. Chocolate, or cacao, has a rich history that includes a number of political, social, cultural, and economic factors. People today consume Snickers bars and Reese’s peanut butter cups unconsciously without considering the greater societal implications of their food choices. Many of the large chocolate corporations such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Cadbury produce chocolate as another commodity and typically only focus on profits. However, the cacao they use typically comes from slave labor on the coast of Africa. These companies are more concerned with how to market their product than they are with how their farmers are treated. However, there is a new movement in the chocolate industry known as the craft chocolate revolution. In this effort, local chocolate makers are making a concerted pledge to pursue a “bean-to-bar” philosophy. According to Eric Parkes, a local chocolatier from Somerville, the bean-to-bar movement means that producers are “starting off with the bean” or “making the chocolate from scratch” (WCVB Channel 5 Boston). Instead of mass-producing chocolate in factories, bean-to-bar producers are typically more localized businesses that focus on developing authentic chocolate. In these cases, they take cacao beans from a single origin country. Bean-to-bar manufacturing is labor intensive; however, the producers have control over what ingredients they use (predominantly cocoa and sugar) as well as where they source their beans. The companies are revolutionizing the big chocolate companies that have been a staple in the industry for years now. While companies like CVS typically carry predominantly name brand chocolate, there are some local stores that only sell organic, bean to bar chocolate. Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge is an example of a local food supplier that specializes in the bean-to-bar movement. Their website is very transparent about the chocolate’s country of origin, producer, and taste. They primarily sell bean-to-bar chocolate and have a direct relationship with the local chocolate producers. They refuse to sell any of the big chocolate brands due to the ambiguity regarding their chocolate sourcing. production processes, and ingredients.

https://www.wcvb.com/article/chocolate-the-bean-to-bar-movement/9128519 B

Bean-to-Bar Segment on WCVB Channel 5 Boston (Featuring Professor Martin)

Formaggio Kitchen is a European style market that provides specialty foods from around the world to their customers. They specialize in artisan cheese but also have a wide selection of bean-to-bar chocolates (Our Cambridge Store). Formaggio Kitchen was featured in a segment on the local Channel 5 News show called Chronicle. They were featured in a segment regarding artisan chocolate and a new bean-to-bar movement. One of Formaggio’s general managers is also the head buyer for all chocolate products. She buys a lot of local chocolate from producers in areas like Cambridge and Somerville. Before accepting any chocolate products into her store, she first goes through extensive taste and smell tests (similar to tastings in lecture throughout the semester). The general manager places a high level of importance on origin because “there is so much diversity in flavor profiling” (WCVB Channel 5 Boston). Formaggio specifically sells single origin chocolate. Rogue Chocolate is their most popular brand of single origin chocolate. Some of the biggest similarities between bean-to-bar chocolate companies are their size. Most of these operations include a small handful of people. Often times, artisanal chocolate companies only include one to two employees. The process of bean-to-bar chocolate making takes a significant amount of time and numerous hours of manual labor. However, instead of outsourcing chocolate production to slave laborers, these chocolate companies take on the responsibility themselves in order to produce better-tasting, more ethical chocolate. The founder of Rogue Chocolate, Colin Gasko, works directly with cacao farmers in order to source the best beans from a single origin point. Slave labor has been a persistent issue throughout the history of chocolate making and still occurs today. After the Cadbury investigation into slave labor on the island of Sao Tome and Principe, many of the cocoa farms moved to the Gold Coast or what today is known as Ghana. Child slave labor is one of the biggest issues today facing the chocolate industry. Many of the West African Coast cacao farms where the big chocolate companies source their chocolate exploit this corrupt labor system. In 2000-2001, news coverage from UK journalists uncovered the use of “enslaved young men on a cocoa farm in the Cote d’Ivoire (Berlan, 1089). Bean-to-bar chocolate companies such as Rogue Chocolate are able to combat these unjust labor practices by selectively choosing where they source their cocoa and ensure that the farming practices are ethical. This occurs through direct communication between the bean-to-bar companies and the farmers. Formaggio Kitchen focuses on selling fine chocolate but also ensures that the cocoa farming practices are ethical. They do this by analyzing both the origin country of their chocolate and the chocolate producers themselves. 

Ancienne Chocolat en Poudre

Formaggio’s website is very transparent with the information on the background of the chocolate they sell. They have a separate chocolate section with a headline that describes their mission with their chocolate selection. They emphasize how their chocolate provides “health benefits”, comes from “bean-to-bar producers”, and only contains “cacao and sugar” (Chocolate). The health benefits of chocolate are a highly disputed topic. However, there is evidence to support the health benefits of chocolate. Through laboratory and field research, scientists concluded that chocolate “reduces hypertension, minimizes cardiovascular disease, and even fight diabetes and cancer” (Howe, 43). Formaggio Kitchen not only promotes the health benefits of chocolate, they also provide instructions on how to optimize their chocolate for superior taste. For instance, one of the products that Formaggio sells is a 1kg of roasted cocoa beans called Ancienne Chocolat en Pudre. The website instructs individuals to mix the cocoa, vanilla, and cane sugar with hot milk in order to make “traditional French hot chocolate” (Chocolate). Most big corporations simply list their chocolate items. However, Formaggio provides background information on each item they have in stock including their country of origin, producer, nutritional information, as well as recipes. Formaggio only has a limited supply of French chocolate products. This ties into the Terrio reading on French Chocolatiers. France, as a nation has international recognition as one of the leaders in culinary arts (Terrio, 9). Few people, including French citizens, acknowledged chocolate making as an important part of French history like other foods such as wine and cheese. Most associate French Chocolate with other forms of desserts or pastries. Consumers even struggled differentiating artisanal French chocolate from its mass-produced counterpart (Terrio, 9). I would have expected Formaggio to carry a wide selection of French chocolates. However, with the knowledge of French Chocolate History, it is understandable that there is a limited amount of the French dessert in Formaggio’s inventory. 

Formaggio has a wide array of chocolate from a number of different countries: Belgium (3), Canada (4), France (2), Italy (7), Spain (7), The Netherlands (1), United States (15), and Vietnam (4) (Chocolate). Formaggio is very transparent with the notion that they source chocolate from a single origin country with cacao farms. It is interesting to point out that while Formaggio advertises that they collect chocolate from producers around the world, the majority of their inventory comes from the United States. However, they still maintain a high level of chocolate diversity. While the majority of the companies that Formaggio imports from are based in the United States, these companies still adhere to the bean-to-bar practices. While the country of origin provides important information, Formaggio goes one step further and includes the producers of these chocolates: Confitures a l’Ancienne (1), EH Chocolatier (2), Maglio (4), Pasticcerie Sinatti (1), Poco Dolce (2), Potomac Chocolate (2), Ritual Chocolate (2), Valrhona (1), and Xocolates Aynouse (4) (Chocolate). The general manager in charge of buying the bean-to-bar chocolate only chooses from reputable produces that have ethical labor practices and sustainable farming techniques. For each chocolate item, Formaggio provides an individual description page that includes price, quantity, and information about the chocolate itself. For instance, the Callebaut Chocolate Block – Bittersweet is 60% cacao and $10.95 per pound (Chocolate). This is slightly below the median price range for chocolate at Formaggio. The media price is approximately $15. The least expensive chocolate (Marou Chocolate Ba Ria) is from Vietnam and costs $3.95. The most expensive chocolate (Les Chocolats de Chloe Box of 12 Chocolates) is from Montreal, Canada and costs $36.95. The one downside to bean-to-bar chocolate is that it is more expensive than name brand chocolate. However, these chocolates are more organic and ethical. The bean-to-bar movement follows in line with recent trends towards the surge in organic food popularity. Today, organic food is typically more expensive than unhealthy or non-organic foods. Thus, organic food is predominantly only accessible to the middle and upper class while creating a barrier of entry for the lower class. Organic food or “yuppie chow” is also linked with gentrification in cities throughout America (Guthman, 497). Formaggio Kitchen is located in one of the wealthiest cities in the country: Cambridge, MA. Boston suffers from significant gentrification issues. Organic food markets, like Formaggio, tend to only be accessible within a upper class community and prevent lower class citizens from purchasing their chocolate due to their high prices.

Potomac Chocolate Upala 85%

In addition to price and quantity, the website also provides brief descriptions on the origin country of the chocolate, the producers, and characteristics of the chocolate. For instance, the description page underneath the Potomac Chocolate Upala 85% chocolate bar describes how the cacao is sourced from the Upala district of Costa Rica. It provides information on the producer, Ben Rasmussen, and his small workshop in the Washington DC area. He adheres strictly to bean-to-bar practices and follows all the traditional chocolate making methods. Like other bean-to-bar companies, he uses a minimum amount of ingredients: cacao beans and sugar. This particular chocolate bar is “rich and earthy dark chocolate with notes of raspberry and caramel” (Potomac Chocolate Upala 85%). It is very rare to find such a descriptive flavor description, country of origin identification, and producer information on name brand chocolate bars. Formaggio provides these descriptions under each and every chocolate bar in their inventory. Unlike many big chocolate companies, they do not provide false advertisements on their farming practices and organic quality of their chocolate. Formaggio provides honest information regarding their chocolate and gives their consumers all the tools necessary to make the right purchasing decisions. 

Formaggio’s high level of transparency regarding all facets of their sourced cacao and finished chocolate bars reveals how important ethics are to their overall success. Formaggio’s is a successful local market not only because they embrace cultural diversity and source cacao from trustworthy producers all over the world. They are successful because they do not lie to their customers. All the information one needs to make a smart, well thought-out decision regarding their purchases is at the tip of their fingers. Big chocolate companies, as we learned throughout the semester, are more focused on overall profit than they are about other greater social issues. However, small markets, like Formaggio Kitchen, are more focused on working with responsible producers and providing customers with the highest quality of chocolate possible. The bean-to-bar movement in the chocolate industry is revolutionizing how individuals farm, produce, and sell chocolate. Now, it is up to the consumer to make the smart ethical decision when it comes to their chocolate purchases. While it may be easier to walk into a CVS and purchase a Hershey’s bar for a small price, there are underlying social, political, and economic consequences that affect people throughout the chocolate industry. People rarely consider any other factor besides taste in their food purchases. When it comes to chocolate, the suppliers certainly have a large amount of responsibility when it comes to providing ethically sourced and organic chocolate. However, the consumers are responsible for choosing chocolate from local bean-to-bar producers over big chocolate companies. While it is important to acknowledge that prices are higher for bean-to-bar chocolate, it is even more important to be a conscientious consumer that strongly considers where the greater societal impact of their chocolate selection. 

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on                       Cocoa Production in Ghana”. The Journal of Development Studies. Vol. 49, No. 8, 1088-          1100. 2013

“Chocolate”.Formaggio Kitchenhttps://www.formaggiokitchen.com/cambridge. 2019

Guthman, Julie. “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of ‘Yuppie Chow’”.Food and Culture. Routledge. New York, NY. 2013.

Howe, James. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered”. University of California Press. Vol. 12, No. 1. (Spring 2012). pp. 43-52. 

Terrio, Susan J. “Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate”. University of California Press.Berkley and Los Angeles, California. 2000. 

“Our Cambridge Store”.Formaggio Kitchen. 2019.                                                                                     https://www.formaggiokitchen.com/sweets/chocolate.

“Potomac Chocolate Upala 85%”. Formaggio Kitchen.       https://www.formaggiokitchen.com/potomac-chocolate-upala-85-50g. 2019

WCVB Channel 5 Boston. Chocolate: The Bean to Bar Movement.March 13, 2017. Retrieved                 from https://www.wcvb.com/article/chocolate-the-bean-to-bar-movement/9128519

Social Associations and User Ethics of Chocolate Through the Ages

Dove Chocolate advertisement: “Now it can last longer than you can resist. Unwrap. Indulge. Repeat.” (Fahim, A1)

Vices come in many forms. If you were to poll a group of the people around you on their vices, they would likely report alcohol, smoking, social media, or junk food—specifically, chocolate. For centuries, chocolate has been a snack or dessert people describe as irresistible. Thus, when the Dove Chocolate ad above tells consumers their chocolate will “last longer than you can resist,” it contributes to the contemporary narrative of chocolate as an immoral vice (Fahim, A1). But eating chocolate hasn’t always been viewed as a morally bad practice. In its early years of popular use among the ancient Maya and Aztec people of modern-day Mexico, chocolate was associated with elitism and luxury. As a commodity, chocolate required excess of both labor and money to produce, making it an indulgence available only to those who could afford it. Over time, however, as chocolate expanded worldwide via colonialism and industrialism, the mass production of chocolate made the treat more accessible and, subsequently, socially associated with lower classes. This post will explore this change over time through the mid-20th century, though the phenomenon of shifting user ethics and social associations of chocolate continues right up until the present day. Over time, chocolate has transformed from a product symbolizing an elite lifestyle, aspirational for many and inherently moral, to one that represents lower socioeconomic classes and a nefarious immorality.

Origins of Chocolate Elitism in Maya and Aztec Culture

Chocolate was an important food product for the complex ancient Aztec and Maya civilizations, specifically for their societies’ elite classes. “The life, and even the death, of the Maya elite class was luxurious indeed,” write Coe and Coe in The True History of Chocolate, adding that the tomb of a royal elite included a container “that analysis proved had once held liquid chocolate, and a shell scoop that had been used to ladle out chocolate in powdered form” (Coe, Coe, 47). Chocolate was difficult to manufacture and prepare, and thus was reserved for the elite. Often served in drink form, chocolate even took on sacred or holy connotations in certain civilizations. Represented below is a depiction of Aztec elites exchanging chocolate.

Members of the Aztec elite class exchange a container of drinking chocolate, likely as part of a ritual (North Dakota Heritage Center)

This particular image represents the ceremonious practices that accompanied the Aztec experience with chocolate. Aztec elites wore special attire and participated in ritual activities that often included chocolate. “Our sources unanimously declare that the drinking of chocolate was confined to the Aztec elite,” say Coe and Coe, “to the royal house, to the lords and nobility, to the long-distance merchants, and to the warriors” (Coe, Coe, 95). This made chocolate a food and drink item associated with higher classes and the luxuries that they could afford. “It was an ambrosia from the rich and exotic lands of Anahuac,” and this exoticism and scarcity made the good less accessible and, therefore, confined to those with privilege (Coe, Coe, 95).

Chocolate Expansion Retains Aristocratic Tradition

Amidst the rapid colonization of the Americas that took place largely throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, chocolate transformed from a local product into a worldwide phenomenon. This shift was significant because, as chocolate expanded especially into Europe, it remained a product of the elites but began to carry connotations of immorality. Chocolate was still a luxury good for its price and difficulty to procure; Mintz writes how “chocolate soon followed tea and coffee” as drinks favored by elites in England, France, Spain, and beyond, adding that “it was more expensive than coffee, and gained greater favor with the rich” (Mintz, 111). Especially in the eighteenth century, “coffee houses” gained prominence as social gathering places for British elites. Below are two depictions of coffee house spaces in London, one indicating a more formal atmosphere (left) and the other demonstrating the crazed nature of certain social experiences in this era (right).

Through places like coffee houses, which “had already become one of the greatest English institutions, retaining its social and political importance well into the next century,” drinking chocolate remained an upper-class indulgence (Coe, Coe, 167). Chocolate had lost some of its holy or sacred descriptors in its trip across the Atlantic, however, and slowly began to be further associated with poor ethics. As is clear from the above photo on the right, coffee houses and social clubs were liable to madness. This meant that chocolate became associated with the exploration of vices: alcohol, gaming, fighting, and other activities. Though it may not have been explicit yet at this time, chocolate became a part of life for the wealthy classes across England, Portugal, Italy, and beyond, as it also became part of a culture of bad habits and immorality.

Chocolate For All, Corruption For Many

In the 19th and 20th centuries, companies like Hershey, Mars, and Nestle began mass producing chocolate that was affordable to a wider range of people worldwide. As a product that had already been associated with vice and immorality, chocolate’s shift to an association with lower classes significantly changed its image in society. Chocolate began to find its way into every home in America, as well as globally—and not just through packaged chocolate like those sold by Hershey and Mars. “The use of chocolate in baking increased dramatically in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,” writes Martin in her anthropological history of brownies, “largely thanks to the efforts of enterprising housekeeping and cooking educators who partnered with industry in the name of ‘domestic science'” (Martin). But widely-accessible chocolate also meant ethical concerns about chocolate’s health benefits and morals. As people began to consider chocolate a guilty pleasure that hindered their health, it was seen as something nefarious—especially for children. Below are two clips from two movies that take place in 20th century Europe: Chocolat and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Both associate candy and chocolate with evil or immorality.

In Chocolat, an entire town is rattled by the confusing ethics of a single woman opening a chocolate shop, and townspeople warn their children against tasting the chocolate. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the villain of the film (who is also one of the most terrifying film villains of all time) uses candy to lure children into captivity. This was connected to the reality of the food industry beginning to prioritize consistency and efficiency in food products, though the connection is not immediately apparent. As food became fast, it was also seen as the opposite of luxury—which indicates slow, deliberate, and special—and thus inherently connected to lower socioeconomic classes. As Hershey “mass produced milk chocolate” through new technologies such as conching and fermenting milk fat, chocolate became a vice seen as immoral and, at times, even evil (Coe, Coe, 249, D’Antonion). If chocolate was once seen as a holy, luxury item, over time one eroded after the other until it was seen as anything but elite.

Conclusion: Shifting Social Associations and Ethics of Chocolate

As chocolate has traveled the world and grown in prominence into a dominant global good, the ways it is understood socially and ethically have simultaneously shifted. From a luxurious, sacred food in the time of the Aztecs to an elitist yet naughty treat in 16th/17th century Europe to a lower-class, unethical indulgence, chocolate has experienced many subtle shifts. Even just in 2010, The Telegraph published an article about a newly-created “healthy” chocolate bar that could be eaten during Lent, demonstrating that even in the present day it is common for chocolate to be seen as sinful and wrong. The ways chocolate’s social associations have changed over time reveal a deeper understanding of the connection between ethics and social class, and show us all that the things our society understands as facts about the food we eat are subject to change—maybe even by the next century.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 [1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd
edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

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

Fahim, Jamal. “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing.” Occidental College, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. March 2019.http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_student&gt.

Hough, Andrew. “Chocolate bar that can be eaten during Lent.” The Telegraph. February 20, 2010. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/7273281/Chocolate-bar-that-can-be-eaten-during-Lent.html

Martin, Carla D. 2012. “Brownies: The History of a Classic American Dessert.” http://www.ushistoryscene.com/uncategorized/brownies/

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

Movieclips. “Chocolat (1/12) Movie CLIP – What Do You See? (2000) HD.” Youtube, October 2, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcH_p1vfD1g

Movieclips. “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) – The Child Catcher Scene (8/12) | Movieclips.” Youtube, October 17, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LehcJeNbFBw

North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum. “Chocolate: The Exhibition.” Official Portal for North Dakota State Government. Web. March 2019. https://statemuseum.nd.gov/exhibits/chocolate/overview.

Perspectives in the Sao Tome Slavery Scandal

Ethical problems often have many stakeholders who have distinct priorities and therefore have different perceptions of potential consequences. This, combined with human impulse to justify one’s actions and paint oneself in the best light, means that even afterwards it is often difficult to understand who did what for which reasons. Untangling the problem of slave labor in cacao plantations on the Portuguese colonies of Sao Tome & Principe in the early 1900s is no exception, but it can help to break down the situation into key players and their motivations.

Cadbury Bros.: Working to be Ethical

As a family-owned Quaker chocolate manufacturer, Cadbury Bros. prioritized being an ethical company that treated its workers well as well as making money. Conveniently, having an ethical reputation helped sell more chocolate. George Cadbury owned newspapers that promoted Quaker beliefs, including social reform against sweatshops and an opposition to slavery in South African mines.

Cadbury’s British factory town, Bourneville, was praised as a model Garden Village that raised the living conditions of its employees. (image source: thechocolatedictionary.wordpress.com)

So when William Cadbury began hearing reports of slave labor on plantations in Sao Tome & Principe in 1901, which supplied nearly half of Cadbury’s cacao in 1900, he grew concerned about the implications for the firm ethically (were they inadvertently supporting slavery?) and logistically (how can a chocolate manufacturer function without cacao?). The only evidence at that time was a bill of sale listing the workers of a plantation along with the rest of the property and the potentially biased claims of the Anti-Slavery Society. This felt insufficient evidence on which to spark a boycott, so Cadbury and the other chocolate companies decided an investigation was in order (Satre).

There were many inexplicable delays in the investigation process, and the decision to boycott did not come until early 1909, 8 years after they originally heard rumors of slavery. The Standard claimed this meant that Cadbury had “not tried to do anything” about the issue; Cadbury sued them for libel. At best, William Cadbury was naively hopeful that the Portuguese planters’ claims of the 1903 reforms would come true, in no rush to prove that unethical behavior was occurring, and hoping that the Foreign Office or the press might resolve the issue for him. At worst, he truly felt that the slavery practiced on Sao Tome wasn’t as bad as the forced labor in mines that his family spoke out against and hypocritically stalled until an alternative was available. While the firm was probably waiting for the Gold Coast colonies to become a viable affordable source of cacao before they would risk divesting from Sao Tome cacao, the Cadbury family ultimately won the libel case by pointing to a paper trail of investigations and attempts to work with Portuguese authorities to resolve the issue (Higgs).

The first of those attempts came in 1903, when William Cadbury personally visited Lisbon to speak to plantation owners.

Portuguese Planters: Justifying Slavery

Portuguese planters took advantage of Cadbury’s visit to reassure him that conveniently timed reforms to the treatment of the workers (called servicais, never slaves) would fix any alleged problems. Although workers would still be transported from Angola to Sao Tome & Principe, the 1903 regulations required voluntary entry into the 5-year labor contracts and a minimum wage, part of which would be set aside as a repatriation fund to help workers return home once their 5-year contract ended. The planters wanted to make clear that they did not engage in slavery and in fact treated their workers ethically, showing off the accounts where they were keeping servicais’ repatriation money safe for them and continuing to maintain that they had done nothing wrong, that all the workers were there of their own free will (Satre). Even after the boycott, they published a counter-report showing off their good treatment of their workers, featuring photos of the hospitals and other facilities they provided to support their workers (Higgs).

A postcard featuring a plantation (roca in Portuguese) hospital, similar to the ones featured in the counter-report. (image source: akpool.co.uk)

Joseph Burtt: Friendly Investigator

Joseph Burtt, described before his trip as “the youngest man of 43 that could live” by Henry Nevinson, a journalist who also worked to expose the abysmal conditions in Sao Tome (image source: UC Berkeley botany collection)

Despite their hope that the Portuguese reforms would prove successful, Cadbury Bros. also decided to send an agent to Western Africa to follow-up and confirm that the unethical treatment of laborers had ceased. The agent they finally chose in 1905 was Joseph Burtt, a man described as “thoroughly nice… even quite sweet as the Americans may say”. Some observers were concerned that Burtt would be too nice, unable to push hard enough to get to the bottom of the situation, especially if the Sao Tome planters tried to deliberately mislead him. Despite their concerns, Burtt spent June 1905- April 1907 in Africa, and came back convinced “beyond all doubt … the negro labourers in the Cocoa plantations of Sao Thome and Principe are in the condition of practical slavery, and that the methods by which this negro labour is obtained from the mainland of Africa is cruel and villainous” (Satre).

While he was very open in saying this to the chocolate companies in 1907, he did bow to pressure from Cadbury the British Foreign Office to soften his report before its delayed release to the British public in late 1908. Despite yielding to allow the delay, as someone who had seen the situation firsthand, he advocated in various ways to resolve the issue, meeting with the planters in late 1907 and later touring the US to convince American companies to boycott as well (Higgs). His advocacy justified his selection, even as a “nice”, “sweet” man, to investigate the issue.

British Foreign Office: Classified

Portuguese cynics believe that the Burtt report’s publication was a smear campaign to convince chocolate manufacturers to buy cacao from the British Gold Coast colony instead of Portugal’s Sao Tome and Principe (Weinberg). Supporters of this theory claim it is corroborated by the timing of the report’s publication, which conveniently coincided with British-controlled Gold Coast plantations becoming viable alternative sources of cacao in late 1908. It is unclear if steering demand towards British-owned cacao plantations was a motivation of the secretive British Foreign Office.

Regardless of their economic motivation, the British Foreign Office was certainly interested in maintaining control over the situation. They were concerned that too much public outrage would antagonize the planters and Portuguese government, making it difficult to come to a diplomatic resolution (Satre).

The ethical issue of Sao Tome cacao production is interesting because all parties thought they were doing the right thing, or at least doing nothing wrong. Yet it could be argued that they could have done more in order to stop slavery sooner: Cadbury could have started a boycott sooner, Burtt could have pushed to publish sooner, the British Foreign Office could have pushed harder against Portugal politically, or the Portuguese planters could have acknowledged that they were in the wrong. According to lecture on 3/6/2019, slavery continued in Sao Tome until the late 1950s, so even though Cadbury, Burtt, and the British Foreign Office all likely thought they had done all they could, it’s possible they could have done more.


Image Sources

A Crafty Future

There is a revolution going on in America.  It exists as almost a counter to the industrial revolution that drove this country forward a hundred years before it.  Craft artisans are taking over in the wake of a society that has been built by mass production.  As this revolution moves across foodstuffs, it is of no surprise that craft chocolate is currently on the rise.  However, it is important to understand why this revolution is taking place now, and some of the hurdles it must overcome to continue its success.

The Lay of the Land

Currently two chocolate companies, Hershey’s and Mars, account for over 50% of chocolate sales in the U.S. (Euromonitor, 2017). It should be of no surprise that these two particular companies own so much of the market share. They were both founded on the idea of bringing chocolate, which was previously a luxury treat, to the masses.  Milton Hershey was a pioneer in mass production, revolutionizing and streamlining much of the industrial process.  Hershey’s team discovered that by using condensed sweetened skim milk they could create a product with longer shelf life and that blended easily with cocoa powder.  This meant that not only could he ship his chocolate bars further, but lasting longer on the shelf meant less profit losses due to spoilage.  Hershey also looked at supply chain optimizations, investing in his own dairy farms and even building a sugar mill operation in Cuba, complete with its own railroad.  This allowed Hershey to control both the costs of commodities for his chocolate bar and the quality.  Mars, on the other hand, was more successful due to marketing than anything else.  His Milky Way bar (which originally sourced chocolate from Hershey) was more nougat than chocolate, making it larger on shelf and seem a comparatively good value to the Hershey bar. That said, both had the same result, taking an indulgence that was once almost exclusive to the wealthy and middle classes and democratizing it for every day enjoyment.

chocolate sizingMass production allowed for chocolate to be produced cheaper, allowing those savings to be passed on to the consumer – or more importantly, from a marketing sense, for them to outprice their competitors.  But while price is important, so are the products themselves.  While it may have taken a while for consumers to acclimate to the flavor of Hershey’s and Mars bars when they first came on the market, the particular blend of milk, sugar and other ingredients insured that they were universally palatable and they now exist as the template for what we expect chocolate to taste like.  Similarly, both companies have hero products that are specifically designed for easy consumption.  Both Hershey’s Kisses and M&Ms were made for portability (individually wrapped/ melts in your mouth, not in your hand) and their small, poppable size makes it easy for consumers to lose track of mindfulness and eat large quantities in one sitting. These products have other advantages, as they are easily adaptable to innovation.  As consumers are desiring more variety and novelty across the board, these products have proven to be the most flexible in introducing new flavors – and easily acceptable to consumers who are familiar with their form and have built brand trust.  These companies have leveraged seasonality, larger cultural trends, and limited time offers to drive new product news and sales.

pumpkin(wait.  Is she wearing an infinity scarf and hipster glasses?)

So, if big chocolate is designed for palatability and companies are responding to consumers desires for more interesting, topical flavors, why are we seeing a proliferation of craft chocolate providers? When we look at the numbers, the story becomes more telling.   When looking at sales growth, mass chocolate has remained flat year over year (CSP daily news, 2016).  This despite their innovation and the fact that chocolate consumption overall is growing.  Instead, the growth seems to be predominantly driven by premium and craft chocolates, suggesting not just changing tastes, but a changing attitude about where our food is actually coming from.

Big Food Backlash

There is growing negativity towards giant corporations and conglomerates, particularly when it comes to food. From an economic standpoint, consumers have watched as these corporations get massive tax breaks which have translated into bonuses for the executive suite, while the working class continues to struggle.  While this issue impacts most major corporations, it is of particular concern when it comes to the chocolate industry and growing awareness around fair labor practices, forced labor, child labor and the ethical price people pay for their chocolate.  There is a lot of skepticism that these companies will make ethical choices when given the opportunity, particularly when people see so many examples in the news of them pursuing profits over people, such as Nestle bottling drinkable water in the middle of the Flint, Michigan water crisis (the guardian, 2017).  More and more often, buying in to big brands feels like an investment against your own interests.

The Big Middle creates more space for differentiation

The sheer nature of big brands as they fold in to one another may be working against them. “When you have increasing concentration of producers in the center, you leave room on the periphery for specialization,” says Elizabeth G. Pontikes, associate professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. (Shanker, 2017) In other words, these multinational conglomerates are creating their own sea of sameness.  In a society that is increasingly valuing individuality, particularly when it comes to the millennial and younger generations, brands and products that lack differentiation also lack appeal.  We can see this even in the most famous of branding cases, Coke vs. Pepsi with beverage drinkers now migrating to new choices like LaCroix and energy drinks.

The obvious choice might be for these mass chocolate brands to create verticals that touch these periphery spaces, but they have struggled breaking in.  Hershey’s introduced their Cacao Reserve premium line in 2006.  The brand lasted three years, suffered several price drops and the need for mass market advertising support, before they dropped it from store shelves. (Thompson, 2007) Their next move was to build their premium line using borrowed equity.  At the same time they launched Cacao Reserve, they purchased Scharfeen Berger, a premium line of chocolates out of California. As they pushed to mass market the brand, they switched suppliers, using cheaper beans from West Africa.  The result was severed relationships with brands like Whole Foods, who were concerned that Hershey’s could not guarantee that the beans weren’t sourced through child labor (Bloomberg, 2017).  The brand has somewhat rebounded, but the initial loss is still being recovered, and leaves the question as to whether or not big brands can ever play credibly in the premium/ craft space.

A wake up call for food

The obesity crisis in America was a wake up call about the food we consume and how it is being produced.  A series of films, articles and exposes, while at times misleading and ignores the true labor of food, caused people to rethink what they are getting out of processed food.  The consumer take-away was that mass produced food lacks quality and nutritional value, is predominantly artificial fillers, and is potentially detrimental to your overall health. Quality, whole ingredients, and care has become increasingly synonymous with healthfulness, regardless of traditional markers like fat and calories.

While all of these things make craft chocolate more appealing, it still has hurdles to overcome to convince people to pay the enormous price tag that comes along with it.

As noted, industrial chocolate is the baseline for people’s orientation to what chocolate should look and taste like, as well as what it should cost.  For Craft chocolate to succeed, they don’t just need to overcome the shift to premium pricing, they need to overcome expectations set by mass market chocolate.  There is a need to educate people on to the true value of the chocolate they are consuming and the difference that craft chocolate provides. There are four key ways in which craft offers a point of difference that both provides a difference that supports craft’s value proposition and requires consumer education: process, taste, ingredients and sourcing and ethics.

Understanding the process

Over time, manufactures have swapped out real ingredients for cheaper artificial substitutes such as vanillin instead of vanilla.  (Martin-Sampeck, 2016). This has impact on the flavor, consistency and mouthfeel of the chocolate itself. Craft chocolate’s smaller production model in of itself creates a different end product, but some companies have gone further, focusing on minimizing the process.


Taza chocolate, a bean to bar company located in Somerville, MA, takes great pains to educate consumers as to their process.  They describe their bars as “chocolate with true grit.” Their mission is to return chocolate to its pre-industrial roots.  They believe that less processing allows for more complexity in flavors. Their chocolate is stone ground on hand carved molinos (mill stones) with little refinement between that and the end product.  The result is, to their description, a chocolate bar that lacks the smoothness that consumers have come to expect, but with a stronger chocolate flavor and more complexity in experience overall.



Expanding your palate

“When most people eat a piece of chocolate we want that pleasure immediately: boom!  That’s the music of mass-market chocolate.” (Williams, 2012)

Historians have theorized (incorrectly) that when chocolate came to the old world, that it was appropriated to suit Europeans’ tastes (Norton, 2016).  In fact, chocolate’s evolution from its new world form to the substance we know today was a process that took over a century of innovation.  The chocolate that Europeans first enjoyed was a fairly close recreation of how it was consumed in Mesoamerica.  The Europeans had just acquired a taste for it.  That said, they had a lot of motivation to do so – chocolate was seen as exotic, a luxury (due to both its scarcity and use as currency), and had potential new health benefits.  Additionally, unlike today, there was no basis for comparison.  For today’s consumers, their palates have been educated in the world of mass produced chocolate – and what they have come to expect is a very sweet, creamy, almost single note experience.  Craft chocolate, on the other hand, leans in to chocolate’s bitter notes, and offers way more complexity.  Not only do consumers need to adjust to the new flavor profile, but they need help recognizing the flavor notes to truly appreciate the difference they are getting from craft.

Dick Taylor chocolates started in a small factory in Eureka, California by Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor.  They started their factory out of a love of craftsmanship and making things with their hands (both worked in woodworking and boat building).  In addition to educating consumers on the sourcing of their beans, they seek to educate consumers on how craft processing changes the flavor and experience of their chocolate.  From their website “by not cutting corners or taking shortcuts in our process we are able to leave out vanilla, additional cocoa butter or other emulsifiers, in hopes of capturing and highlighting the subtle flavor nuances in the cacao we source from around the world.”

In this they set expectations that their chocolate will be less sweet and have more complexity of flavors.  To further support that, their packaging calls out the specific flavor notes that the chocolate bar offers, much in the way that wine and craft beers call out tasting notes.


XOCOLATL, a “micro-factory” chocolatier out of Atlanta similarly looks to highlight chocolate’s natural flavors.  Their bars are blended with spices and other elements that call out chocolate’s flavor components.  For example, their Americana bar contains no apples, but uses familiar pie spices to highlight that quality within the chocolate.


Origin/ localization

While mass chocolate uses the blending of not only several different types of beans, but beans from multiple locations, there is a rising trend in single origin chocolate.  This has arisen both out of an increased interest in food provenance and small chocolate purveyors interest in highlighting the different unique flavor profiles of the beans.  (Norton, 2013) By doing so, they are able to not only show off the different flavor varietals, but capitalize on the exotic locales to add a sense of rarity and uniqueness to their product lines.

Amedei Chocolates, a craft company out of Tuscany, Italy, builds their sourcing education in to their product offerings.  Each of their bar product lines serves as an exploration in the difference that cacao content, origin and the beans themselves can make.  Their Toscano Black line offers three different (though relatively close) percentages of dark chocolate – 63%, 66%, and 70%.  Their cru product line is all single origin dark chocolate – allowing consumers to taste the subtle differences between each region.  But where they go one step further than many bars is to focus and educate consumers on the strains of cacao available.  They offer both a Blanco de Criollo and a Porcelana bar.  The external packaging on each features a botanical drawing of the bean.  The inside explains the history, origin and flavor notes.  For the Porcelana bar, it notes the Venuzuela plantation, it’s small production of only 3,000 kilos of beans, and the rarity of this particular strain. Tasting notes are described as “toasted almonds that alternates with pressed olives.” This reinforces the specialness of the bar and the unique experience that it offers, while simultaneously pushing the consumer’s palate to recognize more subtleties in flavor.


Ethical Sourcing

One of the major challenges in the chocolate industry overall is the issue of labor practices and sourcing.  Even setting aside the more dire problems of forced and child labor, very little of the profits made from chocolate sales actually makes its way back to the farmers that grow it.  While there are a variety of certification schemes (i.e. Fair Trade, UTZ Certified, IMO Fair for Life), the cost of participating is high, and consumer demand has yet to drive a higher price in goods that can be translated back to the farmer. (Martin-Sampeck, 2016)  Additionally, there are those who don’t think that programs like Fair Trade go far enough, and result in a minimal profit increase for the farmer.

Companies like Taza and Askinosie chocolates instead have focused on direct trade, which cuts out middlemen and insures that more profits go back to the hands of the farmers.  Askinosie notes on their website “we hold the craft and quality of our chocolate in almost equal balance with doing as much good as we can in the world.”  As part of educating consumers at to the importance of direct trade, their bars feature the actual farmers that they work with on the front.  The back label tells that person’s story, how they became acquainted with Askinosie chocolate, and how their contribution insured the quality of the product you are holding.  It also features the following guarantee:  A stake in the Outcome. We guarantee to our farmers more than fair prices, open books and a share in our success.   In the way that they tell the story of their trade relationships, Askinosie doesn’t just insure the consumer of the ethics of their bar, they humanize it and translate that in to a real value to the consumer in the quality and craft of the final product itself.


The future of craft

Craft still has some educational and orientation challenges to overcome, but as more and more people migrate away from big food and big chocolate, the opportunity to create a wider variety of chocolates leveraging ethical sourcing and quality ingredients remains as promising and sweet as the product itself.

Sources used:

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

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007 (1996) The True History of Chocolate.

CPS News (September 15, 2016) Premium Chocolate Driving US Sales Growth.  CPS Daily News. Retrieved from:http://www.cspdailynews.com/category-news/snacks-candy/articles/premium-chocolate-driving-us-sales-growth

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams.

Glenza, Jessica. (September 29, 2017) Nestle Pays $200 a Year to Bottle Water Near Flint Michigan.  The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/29/nestle-pays-200-a-year-to-bottle-water-near-flint-where-water-is-undrinkable

Laudan, Rachel (May 5, 2015) A Plea for Culinary Modernism. Jacobin Magazine Retrieved from https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/05/slow-food-artisanal-natural-preservatives/

Leissle, Kristy. (2013) Invisible West Africa: the Politics of Single Origin Chocolate. Gastronmics: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 13. No. 3 (Fall 2013)pp.22-31

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. 2016. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” pp. 37-60.

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

Shanker, Deena (February 7, 2017) The Rise of Craft Chocolate. Bloomberg News. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-07/the-rise-of-craft-chocolate

Terrio, Susan J. 2000. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. pp. 1-65

Thompson, Stephanie. (March 6, 2007) Reservations about Reserve Haunt Hershey. Adage Magazine. Retrieved from: http://adage.com/article/news/reservations-reserve-haunt-hershey/115326/

Trout, Jack. Differientate or Die: Survival in our Era of Killer Competition. New York. Wiley, Second Edition 2008

Williams, Pam and Jim Beer. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. pp.141-209

Yu, Douglas. (March 29, 2018) Lindt Will Most Certainly Come Back to Growth in US. Confectionary News. Retrieved from https://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2018/03/29/Lindt-will-most-certainly-come-back-to-growth-in-US-says-Vontobel


Mindo Chocolate Makers: A Leader in the Ethical Bean to Bar Supply Chain

Mindo Chocolate Makers (2018) is a bean to bar chocolate company based in Mindo, Ecuador and Dexter, Michigan.  Their company values not only have the potential to change the chocolate supply chain for the better, but to change chocolate itself.  In order for bean to bar chocolate companies to pay fair wages throughout, not use forced labor, and be environmentally friendly, the company has to be willing to worry about the quality of product they are producing opposed to the amount of product they are producing.  This is exactly what Mindo Chocolate does and if other companies begin to follow their business model, it could drastically impact the chocolate industry for the better.

Mindo prides itself on being “a small business, and no matter how big we grow, we’ll always have a small business mentality that relies on great people coming together –  our growers, our employees, our customers –  to create the most delicious chocolate experience possible” (Mindo, 2018, para. 8).  By creating a sense of community from the moment the beans are harvested, all the way through the time chocolate is served to consumers, this already differs greatly from vast companies such as Hershey.  Mindo also has a goal of putting “more money into the hands of cocoa farmers and their farms, while providing our customers with superior quality, direct-trade, organic cocoa products” (Mindo, 2018, para. 1).  They do this by being a community supported chocolate company, in which their farmers are presented with upfront capital so they can harvest the maximum amount of product during peak season instead of losing income and product due to a lack of funding during harvest season.  One of the main ways Mindo has the potential to change the chocolate industry is by “paying two to three times the fair trade price for cocoa beans” (para. 6).  Doing this “encourage[s] the farmers to resist the hybrid and deforestation trend” (para. 6).  All of Mindo’s beans are from Nacional varieties of cocoa, which is an heirloom variety of cocoa bean, and they will, under no circumstances, accept diseased or hybridized beans (para. 6).

One of the main points that Mindo makes abundantly clear is their focus on community.  When consumers feel a connection to a product and its maker, they are more likely to actually consider the origins and production of the product, in contrast to faceless companies that mass produce chocolate in less than tasteful ways.  For “nine tenths of its long history, chocolate was drunk, not eaten” (Coe & Coe, 2013, p. 12).  The act of drinking is often a communal activity (e.g., tea, alcohol, coffee, etc.).

Ecuadorian Drinking ChocolateEcuadorian drinking chocolate (Mindo, 2018).  Description: A creamy intensely flavorful chocolate. Natural cocoa, single origin, organic, shade grown, ethically sourced, made from Nacional cocoa beans.  Ingredients: 77% dark chocolate (organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar) , natural cocoa powder, organic cane sugar.

 In that, for most of its history, chocolate was actually consumed as a beverage, Mindo is committed to preserving the integrity of chocolate, though it is now more often consumed in solid forms; they are maintaining a sense of community even without it being in liquid form.  While companies like Hershey produce vast quantities of chocolate, they are a brand whose main goal is to make money.  They do not strive to be the highest quality and most community involved chocolate company.  By interacting with the community, Mindo is promoting an inquisitory attitude towards the bean to bar process, thus bringing ethics into play.

The question of ethical practices in the food industry is of utmost importance.  With the rising world population, more food is needed, and with this increase in food production, a rise in unfair labor practices is a major risk.  Fair trade is one of the combatants for the practice of unfair production in the food industry:

When you see a product with the Fair Trade Certified™ seal, you can be sure it was made according to rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards. We work closely on the ground with producers and certify transactions between companies and their suppliers to ensure that the people making Fair Trade Certified goods work in safe conditions, protect the environment, build sustainable livelihoods, and earn additional money to empower and uplift their communities. (Fair Trade Certified, 2018, para. 2)

Unfortunately, their claims of a seemingly impeccable system do not exactly hold up.  Some of their critiques include “Little money reaches developing world; [l]ess money reaches farmers; [l]ack of evidence of impact; [c]ost of Fair Trade certification, shouldered by farmers, is quite high; [i]nefficient marketing system (corruption); [q]uality concerns (no incentive); [f]air Trade never meant to be a one-stop shop for solving all social problems” (Martin, 2018a, slide 11).  While on the surface, Fair Trade seems to be an ideal system for bean to bar chocolate production, these issues prevent it from being so.

Mindo is not Fair Trade certified, and is taking fair practices into their own hands.  By paying farmers three times the fair trade value directly, they are ensuring that funds actually reach the farmers themselves and do not get lost in a system instead.  By not being Fair Trade certified and, instead, being independently, extremely dedicated to fair conditions throughout their bean to bar practice, they are able to avoid the hefty fee for Fair Trade certification and invest in fair practices themselves.  Their involvement in Community Supported Chocolate (CSC) (Mindo, 2018) is one of the main components of their upstanding practices.  As a customer you can “[make] a one-time payment that covers three months of a CSC share.  This one-time payment provides [their] farmers with the upfront capital required in cocoa production” (Mindo, 2018, para. 3).  Not only does this benefit the farmers themselves, but those that help fund the farmer’s harvest receive chocolate for being a CSC member.  This reinforces the feeling of community that Mindo strives to accomplish.  Members get the opportunity to actually taste their ethical practices.

By putting the CSC program into action, Mindo has the potential to change the bean to bar supply chain.  The Spaniards viewed “Emperor Moctezuma II drinking frothed chocolate with a degree of ceremony clearly marking it as an exalted food” (Presilla,2009, p. 18).  Chocolate being viewed as an exalted food has become a notion of the past.  Today, chocolate is an everyday commodity and is not viewed as a food for the wealthy.  According to the Hershey Company (2017), in the fourth quarter of 2017 alone, they sold $1,939.6 million worth of products.  The industrialization of the chocolate industry is borderline nullifying the beauty of cocoa.  By having people fund cocoa farmers and then experience chocolate made with cocoa beans they helped to harvest, it promotes an appreciation of the product.  Promoting an appreciation of the cocoa could then lead consumers to shy away from commercialized products such as Hershey bars and Kisses, which are more sugar than cocoa.

Sadly, the sugar industry is a profoundly unethical world.  Throughout history, sugar plantations utilized slave labor as commonplace; now it is still utilized, but since condemned by modern standards, is hidden from the public eye.  Sugar became popularized as a result of “underlying forces in British society and of the exercise of power” (Mintz, 1986, p. 150).  Sugar was for the rich and powerful, which, in turn, made the masses want it.  In order to reach the masses, “England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fastest in creating a plantation system.  The most important product of the system was sugar” (Mintz, 1986, as cited in Martin, 2018b, slide 10).  Sugar production today still often utilizes slave labor and exploits farmers in order to produce cheap products, and lots of them.  Mindo’s refusal to exploit workers in any stage of their bean to bar process is a step against this system.

Some of the main challenges with companies such as Mindo are price point and notoriety.  Mindo is at the higher end of price points for chocolate products because they refuse to use hybridized or unhealthy beans, and pay their workers fair wages.  They are also a small company lost in the sea of media attention for big name companies.  Hershey is able to spend hundreds of millions a year on advertising, enabling them to reach everyone, anywhere.  Smaller companies like Mindo are unlikely to make as much money in five years as Hershey spends solely on advertising in a year long period.  They have a high rate of face to face communication in their company, but not the level of product to consumer communication as Hershey.  A pure 77% chocolate bar from Mindo

Pure 77% Chocolate Bar Description: Pure 77% chocolate, stone-ground to optimal flavor. This is our “flagship” flavor and cacao percentage as it reflects what we do best: dark chocolate made from organic Nacional cocoa beans. Heirloom variety and only fine flavor beans. No milk, no soy, nothing added. Ingredients: organic cocoa beans, organic evaporated cane juice (vegan), Made with cacao (Mindo, 2018).

is seven dollars, whereas a Hershey chocolate bar (usually) is under two dollars.  To consumers, Hershey seems to be the obvious choice because it is far cheaper and more recognizable.  Consumers equate notoriety with trust. What they are unaware of, however, is that Hershey’s chocolate contains roughly the minimum amount of cocoa that can be in a product while still being called chocolate: 10%.  It is at a lower price point because it is mainly sugar and other additives instead of what consumers think they are actually paying for – chocolate.

Mindo pays a premium for their cocoa in order to maintain the integrity of the bean and preserve its true flavor profile.  One of the main reasons that they use the Nacional variety of cocoa is because it “grows intermixed with other plants and trees that promote habitats for midge pollinators, birds, and other animals” (Mindo, 2018, para. 5).  This illustrates their dedication to helping preserve the environment instead of participating in harmful practices of deforestation and hybridization that other companies use.  They are also concerned about consumer safety:  “[a]ll of our beans are dried on long beds at the farmers’ cooperative – a fact that you take for granted until you realize that much of the cacao in the world is dried on the ground or on the side of the road where gasoline and other pollutants can easily seep into the beans” (para. 8).  As a whole, Mindo seems to be doing everything right.  The problem that arises, however, is how do they spread their practices and make their product know to the masses?

In today’s technology driven society, big name companies such as Hershey dominate the advertising industry.  Luckily, of late, social media has been able to bring smaller name brands to the forefront of the sales industry.  There is beginning to be a shift in the consumer trend; people want to feel good about what they are purchasing.  For example, the company Sand Cloud (2018) donates 10% of all of its proceeds to saving marine life and makes ocean-safe sunscreen as well as clothing out of old plastic bottles.  Consumers are willing to pay a higher amount for these products because they feel like they are being socially conscious and actually see, via social media, how their purchase is helping the environment.  Mindo is in a special place in which not only can they take advantage of this new wave of marketing, but their business is founded on it.  Even their inside and outside packaging is made from recycled, compostable material from the bean to bar process – sugar cane pulp.

Pure 77% Chocolate Bar

Pure 77% Mindo (2018) Chocolate Bar – See text at bottom of wrapper.

When buying Mindo Chocolate, not only are consumers helping the environment, but they are helping real people.

The less people buy from commercialized companies and the more they buy from companies such as Mindo, cocoa will become a beacon of change.  Cocoa was originally “ranked with gold and gems in records of solemn offerings to the dead, and [the Spaniards] gathered that its use was restricted to certain prestigious classes” (Presilla, 2009, p. 18).  Thus, cocoa went from being viewed as something reserved for the wealthy to something you can buy for a couple dollars at a convenient store.  Though the masses should be able to enjoy cocoa, it deserves to be respected, and everyone involved in the bean to bar process deserves to be as well.  Mindo is respecting the beans, the people growing them, creating a high quality product, and is inviting consumers to enjoy their community of respect for cocoa in the process.

Mindo is a brand not focused on sales, but on ethics.  It is a passionate company that not only takes pride in their product every step of the way, but is improving the chocolate industry while doing so.  This seemingly small company is utilizing methods that are drastically improving farmers’ lives, helping to preserve the environment, not utilizing slave labor, and still managing to please taste buds in the process.  If quality comes into question, it cannot be disputed that Mindo follows extremely rigorous standards to insure that their cocoa products are of the highest quality and are not diluted with sugar and additives in order to mass produce.  They treat every aspect of cocoa processing with respect and if able to spread their methods and message, can bring the respect cocoa deserves back to the masses.


Coe, S.D., & Coe, M.D. (2013). The true history of chocolate.  London: Thames and Hudson  LTD.

Fair Trade Certified. (2018). Our global model. Retrieved from https://www.fairtradecertified.org/why-fair-trade/our-global-model

Hershey. (2017). Hershey announces fourth-quarter and full-year 2017 results; Provides 2018 outlook. Retrieved from https://www.thehersheycompany.com/content/dam/corporate-us/documents/past-presentations/2017/Q4_2017_Press_Release.pdf

Martin, C. (2018a). 20180404 Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization [PowerPoint presentation].

Martin, C. (2018b). 20180228 Slavery, abolition, and forced labor [PowerPoint presentation].

Mindo Chocolate Makers. (2018). Mindo chocolate makers. Retrieved from https://mindochocolate.com/pages/our-process

Mintz, S. W. (1986). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history.  New York, NY: The Penguin Group.

Presilla, M. E. (2009). The new taste of chocolate revised: A cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes. New York, NY: Crown Publishing.

Sand Cloud. (2018). Our mission. Retrieved from https://www.sandcloud.com/pages/our-mission


Askinosie Chocolate vs DOVE Chocolate

There are two chocolate companies that I am going to describe in detail. There’s Askinsosie and then there’s DOVE. Why am I comparing these two chocolate companies? For one, I work at a coffeeshop that sells Askinosie chocolate, and we use it in our ganache to make things like hot chocolates and mochas. Secondly, I chose DOVE because my grandmother, who is now passed, used to always have DOVE Chocolate in her apartment. As a young child I liked to snag a piece whenever I went to visit. I grew up certain that Dove Chocolate was the best!

When my grandmother first began purchasing DOVE Chocolate, she thought it was a luxurious chocolate brand. Now, there are more sophisticated chocolate brands like Askinosie. Within these chocolate brands are labels as well. These labels, such as Direct Trade and Rainforest Alliance, exist to intrigue customers, help producers market their product, and honor farmers, or so that is what these labels claim.

Within this blog post I will delve deep into what these labels really mean and address the social, economic, and environmental implications of these labels. I will look at the advertising that each company uses, and I will compare the two brands and explain which chocolate brand is more ethical than the other and why.

Let’s start off by describing the chocolate companies’ origins:

Askinosie Chocolate

Askinosie Chocolate was founded by Shawn Askinosie in Springfield, Missouri (“Our Story”). Before he began his chocolate-making career he had another career in law. He was a criminal defense attorney and he practiced law for 20 years (“Our Story”). At the time, he enjoyed his work and was good at it; however, the work he put into his job was causing him undue stress that he worried would eventually kill him (“Our Story”). So, in an attempt to “save his life,” he began looking into different hobbies he could enjoy (“Our Story”).

Five years into his introspective journey, it dawned on him to become a chocolate maker (“Our Story”). As soon as this revelation hit his mind, he quickly began using his industrious work ethic to research information about chocolate: How to make chocolate and where it originates historically, culturally, and botanically (“Our Story”). Shawn Askinosie wanted to create a great product that tantalized the tastebuds of his consumers (“Our Story”).

After his initial research, he realized that making chocolate from bean to bar, meaning making chocolate from the bean and controlling each stage of production to form chocolate, would be tough work (“Our Story”). At the time back in the early 2000’s, there weren’t many bean-to-bar or craft chocolate companies (“Our Story”). By the time he started the company in 2005, he was a pioneer in the world of Direct Trade chocolate as one of the first chocolate makers to buy beans directly from the source: farmers (“Our Story”).



Pictured here are several of Askinosie’s chocolate bars. The string on the top of each chocolate bar comes from the string used in the bags carrying the cacao beans (Forbes).



DOVE Chocolate

DOVE Chocolate was founded by Greek-American Leo Stefanos in 1939 (DOVE). Originally, DOVE Chocolate was called “Dove Candies & Ice Cream” and resided in Chicago, Illinois (“Dove (Chocolate)”). By the 1950’s, 1956 to be more precise, Leo Stefanos created the DOVE ice cream bar (DOVE). By 1960, DOVE Chocolate reached the UK and there it was rebranded as the Galaxy brand (DOVE). Later in 1986, Mars Inc. bought out the DOVE and Galaxy companies (DOVE).

Since being acquired by Mars Inc., DOVE Chocolate has made amendments in regard to their ethics and sustainability. DOVE Chocolate now works with Rainforest Alliance to certify 100% of its dark chocolate. In addition, through Mars’ Sustainable Cocoa Initiative, the chocolate making producers claim to work more closely with the farmers growing the cacao beans (DOVE).



Here’s a picture of DOVE Chocolate’s dark chocolate bar. All of DOVE’s dark chocolate is Rainforest Alliance Certified (DOVE).



Now that we know about the companies’ origins, let us discuss the meaning behind some of the terms used such as, “Direct Trade” and “Rainforest Alliance”.


What is Direct Trade and Fair Trade?

Fair Trade: Fair Trade is an international organization that has a US branch that certifies or ranks products, such as chocolate, to be categorized or classified as more ethical and sustainable than other products that aren’t certified (Martin). Fair trade prides itself on its principles and the criteria it uses, which include: (1) maintaining long-term relationships with farmers; (2) paying fair prices and wages; (3) lacking child or exploited labor; (4) lacking workplace discrimination; (5) safe working conditions; (6) environmental sustainability; (7) using resources synergistically to help the community at large; (8) and transparency (Martin).

Fair Trade Downsides: Unfortunately, Fair Trade doesn’t come out to be exactly as it advertises. For one, getting certified by Fair Trade is quite expensive (Martin). For the smallest of farms, the minimum certification price may range from 1,430 euros to 3,470 euros (Sylla). This is equivalent to approximately $1,730 to $4,200. Furthermore, not much money actually gets into the hands of local farmers (Martin). The producing company is in charge of purchasing the certification and money goes through the company before it gets to the farmers. Fair trade has little to no evidence supporting its efficacy, and there are no incentives for farmers to produce a quality product (Martin). These are some of the pitfalls to Fair Trade, however, no model is perfect as we will see shortly.

Direct Trade: Direct Trade is different from Fair Trade in that it isn’t a certification organization (“Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade”). Rather, it is a description that explains the relationships between farmers and producers (“Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade”). The Direct Trade model has a different mission statement to that of Fair Trade. Direct Trade addresses several points that are lacking within the Fair Trade model such as the lack of incentive for farmers to produce a quality product, the lack of flexibility within the Fair Trade model of certification, and the high enrollment fees (Martin). Fair Trade has a very particular model, and if one farm doesn’t fit within the model, then they can’t be certified. This is different for Direct Trade. Direct Trade attends to these differences by promoting premium prices for exceptional crops, establishing more direct communication and therefore more flexibility within the relationships between farmers and producers, and by eliminating a costly enrollment certification processes (Martin).

Direct Trade Downsides: Simply put, following the Direct Trade model is challenging. It is difficult to succeed at following this model due to the extra care and communication needed to make the model work (Martin). Furthermore, relationships between farmers and producers can be more fragile than those in the Fair Trade model, and there are social benefits that go along with the Fair Trade model that don’t exist for the Direct Trade model in its definition (Martin).


What is Rainforest Alliance?

Rainforest Alliance was founded in 1987 with a mission statement that includes the protection and preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity (Sylla). Rainforest Alliance endorses sustainable modes of production as well as improved working and living conditions for farmers (Sylla and “Factsheet Rainforest Alliance”). Critics of Rainforest Alliance argue that this certification method fails to provide adequate financial assistance to the farmers, fails to provide an adequate minimal price, and doles out certification with little true consideration (Sylla).


What is UTZ Certification?

UTZ certification has a goal to, “create an efficient sustainability program with effective certification and traceability tools for socially and environmentally responsible cocoa production that meets the needs of both producers and markets” (“Cocoa”). This essentially means that UTZ aims to create a sustainable means of production for products such as cocoa. UTZ certified products are in 108 countries, and five of the top ten chocolate manufacturers including Nestlé, Ferrero, Hershey, and Mars have committed to use 100% certified cacao (“Cocoa”). While they have made this commitment, that doesn’t mean that all of the chocolate produced by these companies is currently all certified, as is the case for Mars Inc. (“Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa”).


What’s Organic Certification?

Organically certified products are products that are free from use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation (Martin). Principles of organic farming include, “concerns for safe food production, for the environment, for animal welfare and for issues of social justice (Browne, A W, et al)”. Before a farm can be granted certification as organic, a government-approved certifier must inspect the farm to see where the crops are being grown to ensure the rules are being followed to meet organic standards (Martin).


The principles of organic agriculture are wide ranging and include concerns for safe food production, for the environment, for animal welfare and for issues of social justice


Working within their Models




When Shawn Askinosie talks about chocolate in this video, he describes how he works within the Direct Trade model (Forbes). He discusses the importance of having a relationship with the farmers and working in their communities (Forbes). He talks about becoming friends with farmers in Ecuador, Tanzania, and the Philippines (the three places from which he sources his chocolate (Forbes)).  Shawn Askinosie furthermore discusses his open-book management style where he shares his numbers through his transparency report that he keeps available to everyone on his company website, askinsosie.comhttps://www.askinosie.com/learn/transparency-report.html (Forbes). These numbers include the yearly bean cost per metric ton, the total paid to farmers per metric ton, and profit share per metric ton (“Transparency Report”). This open book management style shows his internal transparency with sales expenses and net revenues while also sharing the profit outcome (“Transparency Report”). By sharing the numbers with his employees, suppliers, customers, and the general public, he is adding a thick layer of transparency to the cake that is his company. Most companies, like DOVE within Mars Inc., do not share these numbers with employees, suppliers, consumers, and the general public, as they likely worry that consumers will be astonished and turned off by their large profit margins and small prices paid to farmers (“Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa”). This contrast in value of transparency really sets Askinosie apart from DOVE Chocolate and tends to show that Shawn Askinosie really doesn’t aspire to make his company bigger as much as he aspires to make his product better (Forbes).



Shawn Askinosie, the founder of Askinosie Chocolate is pictured here working with Tenende, Tanzanian farmers (Editor)”.


Shawn Askinosie makes it known to his consumers that he treats the farmers ethically and doesn’t use pesticides in his chocolate farming (Forbes). With that being said, his chocolate isn’t certified organic. The farms may be using other chemicals such as fungicides, for example. It’s also feasible that he simply doesn’t want to pay the fee to be certified organic. The chocolate Shawn Askinosie buys for his company is shade grown and bought through the Direct Trade model (Forbes). In contrast, DOVE does not buy its chocolate through the Direct Trade model. Instead, it buys its chocolate and certifies it through the Rainforest Alliance organization (DOVE). As learned earlier, Rainforest Alliance certification has the intention of branding environmentally friendly products, so by having this certification for its dark chocolate, DOVE is declaring that it has more ethically sourced chocolate than most brands of chocolate that do not have this certification. However, we also learned earlier that the ability for a company to be granted certification through the Rainforest Alliance can be superficial and hasty (Martin). Furthermore, it is known that DOVE Chocolate only has Rainforest Certification for its dark chocolate, not all of its chocolate.

DOVE Chocolate has made efforts to be more ethical through its collaboration with CARE, a global poverty-fighting organization (“DOVE® Chocolate & CARE® Continue Work To Empower Female Farmers In Cote D’Ivoire”). By May of 2017, almost 2,000 women and men in the cocoa farming industry in Cote d’Ivoire joined the CARE Village Savings and Loan Associations, or the VSLA (“DOVE® Chocolate & CARE® Continue Work To Empower Female Farmers In Cote D’Ivoire”). CARE and DOVE partnered together in 1991 to begin the VSLA in Niger with the intentions of establishing a place where people can save their money and be granted small loans (“DOVE® Chocolate & CARE® Continue Work To Empower Female Farmers In Cote D’Ivoire”). This was all in an attempt to broaden opportunities for business development within the farming communities (“DOVE® Chocolate & CARE® Continue Work To Empower Female Farmers In Cote D’Ivoire”). DOVE and CARE have made efforts to give women more equal opportunities in the business realm through the VSLA (“DOVE® Chocolate & CARE® Continue Work To Empower Female Farmers In Cote D’Ivoire”). By 2017, there were 70 VSLA groups established in Cote d’Ivoire (“DOVE® Chocolate & CARE® Continue Work To Empower Female Farmers In Cote D’Ivoire”).

Furthermore, DOVE Chocolate, as clarified on Mars Inc. website, has set a goal to have 100% of its chocolate certified by 2020 (“Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa”). These certifications include Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, and Fair Trade (“Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa”). While this aspiration is promising for the Mars Inc. company at large and DOVE Chocolate specifically, it is an aspiration that has yet to be achieved (“Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa”). It seems likely that some large chocolate corporations will create their own certification organizations to certify their chocolate (Martin). Given the large corporation that is Mars Inc., it is very feasible that Mars Inc. will implement this new standard. Only time will tell whether or not this comes to fruition.


In Conclusion

It is evident that Askinosie Chocolate does a better job at being transparent in its processes of buying and producing chocolate when compared to the practices of DOVE Chocolate. Askinosie has a website page, https://www.askinosie.com/learn/direct-trade.html, about its Direct Trade model and how they put this into action (“Direct Trade”). While the Direct Trade model of Askinosie Chocolate has its limitations such as its difficulty in execution, the Direct Trade model is more comprehensive than Rainforest Alliance in regards to their ethics. Both companies make efforts to give farmers equal opportunities to some capacity – whether that is through attention to fair wages or access to loans. DOVE Chocolate, for example, was the first to start Cocoa Development Centers in Asia and Africa where they trained farmers to help them increase their wages and level of sustainability (DOVE). However, given the nature of a Direct Trade alliance between a producer and farmer, in the end, Askinosie Chocolate comes out to be more ethical than DOVE Chocolate.

The next question to ask is: Which chocolate would a consumer be more inclined to purchase when considering the history, ethics, and expenses, among other things, of the chocolate company? Since purchase price and taste motivate consumers possibly more than ethical production, perhaps this is something to chew on.









Works Cited

Browne, A W, et al. “Organic Production and Ethical Trade: Definition, Practice and Links.” Science Direct, Elsevier, Feb. 2000, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919299000755. 

Forbes, director. Askinosie Chocolate: Meet The Criminal Defense Lawyer-Turned-Chocolatier | Forbes. Youtube, Forbes, 10 May 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kNfUa5VUKY.

Editor. “Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Makers Dare To Bare How It’s Done.” KCUR, 14 Feb. 2013, kcur.org/post/bean-bar-chocolate-makers-dare-bare-how-its-done#stream/0.

“Cocoa.” UTZ, utz.org/what-we-offer/certification/products-we-certify/cocoa/.

“Cocoa: Caring for the Future of Cocoa.” Mars, Incorporated, www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/our-approach-to-sustainability/raw-materials/cocoa.

“Direct Trade.” Askinosie Chocolate, www.askinosie.com/learn/direct-trade.html.

DOVE. “Choose Pleasure.” DOVE® Chocolate, dovechocolate.com/tagged/dove.

“Dove (Chocolate).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dove_(chocolate).

“DOVE® Chocolate & CARE® Continue Work To Empower Female Farmers In Cote D’Ivoire.” PR Newswire, Mars Chocolate North America, 22 May 2017, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dove-chocolate–care-continue-work-to-empower-female-farmers-in-cote- divoire-300461025.html.

“Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade.” Goodnow Farms Chocolate, 22 Feb. 2017, goodnowfarms.com/blog/fair-trade-vs-direct-trade/.

Factsheet Rainforest Alliance. Forum, Nov. 2017, http://www.forumpalmoel.org/imglib/downloads/Factsheet_Rainforest Alliance_en.pdf.

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 4 Apr. 2018, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Our Story.” Askinosie Chocolate, www.askinosie.com/learn/our-story.html.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich, Ohio University Press, 2014. Translated by David Clément Leye

“Transparency Report.” Askinosie Chocolate, 1 Nov. 2017, www.askinosie.com/learn/ transparency-report.html.


The Fine Line of Cadbury Business Ethics

We are often reminded that it is wise to toe a fine line and adhere to a certain code of moral conduct; but at what cost exactly?  This is a question that Britain’s chocolate giant Cadbury wrestled with during the beginning of the 20th century.  They flourished when it came to business ethics in their own Utopian village, Bourneville, yet struggled to maintain the same integrity when dealing with the horrific slave labor producing its most precious cacao supply.

In Lowell Satre’s article entitled Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics and the Ethics of Business, the trial of the Cadbury chocolate company begins when a young journalist by the name Henry Nevinson embarked on a field assignment for Harper’s monthly magazine of New York in 1904.  The focal point of Nevinson’s field research was centered predominantly in the Portuguese controlled Angola territory in Africa.


Shortly after the United States of America had abolished slavery in 1865, Portugal had followed suit during the 1870’s by legally outlawing forced labor in all of its controlled colonies as well.  However, Satre writes “plantation owners still desperately craved workers” as this sweeping outlaw of slavery threatened the convenience of free labor by tipping the economic scale slightly out of their favor.  Satre continues, “To satisfy this constant demand for labor, a state-supported system of “contract labor” emerged, wherein government agents certified the natives could, or of their own free will, sign contracts committing themselves to five years of labor for a set wage” (Satre, pg. 2).  These “contract jobs” also came with the so called benefits of being treated humanely and having the ability to return to their homeland after their contract expired.  However, Henry Nevinson would soon discover, and corroborate an earlier tip that the Cadbury Company received in 1901, that these were empty promises and the idea of working voluntarily under humane conditions was clearly not the case.

The Cadbury Chocolate Company was located somewhere north of 4000 miles away from where Nevinson carried out his expedition.  This was a Quaker owned firm, which meant that they were very serious in regards to their Christian religious beliefs; abstaining from particular vices that could be frowned upon – such as alcohol.  The Cadbury Company in particular experienced a boom in business which warranted moving from the smaller shop that John Cadbury, founder and sole proprietor, operated out of in Birmingham; to a factory town that his son George Cadbury had designed himself.  After John’s first son, Richard passed away suddenly in 1899, George became chairman of Cadbury’s board of directors along with he and Richard’s sons serving as board members.  If you visit the Cadbury website, you can get their account of their story here:

The Story of Cadbury

            Interestingly enough, Lowell Satre reveals what the Cadbury Company site dared not mention; the 1901 trip, when William Cadbury (George’s nephew) visited Trinidad.  The company owned a small cocoa bean plantation there and he was told that slave labor was being used on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe.  Shortly after, this rumor was “given credence when the Cadbury company received an offer of a plantation for sale in Sao Tome that listed as assets two hundred black laborers worth 3,555 dobra” (Satre, pg. 18).  Despite the reports of slave labor and its corroboration by Henry Nevinson’s trip to Africa, the Cadbury Company began sourcing cacao from Sao Tome and Principe indicating that they needed to seek out additional confirmation that the laborers’ treatment there was indeed slavery.

William’s Cadbury’s uncle, George, had created a village called Bourneville in England with the intention for its portrayal to highlight what it meant to take care of company workers.  Bourneville had no pubs – further emphasizing the Quaker lifestyle that the Cadbury family believed in – and was “built upon George Cadbury’s vision of improved dwelling, light, space and air for his employees” (YouTube: Barton’s Britain: Bourneville).


The contradiction was stark however, as the admirable gesture was tainted by the charges of knowingly benefiting from slave labor in Sao Tome and Principe.  It raised the eyebrows of the media as they began to question the integrity of the company for its blatant hypocrisy.  On one hand, they demanded further proof of people dying in Africa due to gruesome work conditions; while on the other hand politely fired female employees in Bourneville who announced they were pregnant so they can endure less stress and prepare for parenthood.

It is my inclination to believe that William Cadbury did not want to swiftly back out of using these cacao plantations because he did not want to affect the bottom line of his family’s business.  So instead, he bided his time looking for a second voyager to travel to Africa and double down on Nevinson’s account to a) protect the company’s investment and b) not offend their Portugal partners overseeing the plantation operation.  While the Cadbury Company strategically dragged their feet with these goals in mind, pressure was mounting from activist groups such as the Anti-Slavery Society and the Aborigines’ Protection Society.  Along with the press, these entities were pushing for the relationship between the Quaker company and slave labor it employed to officially be brought to light.  Finally, William Cadbury elected Joseph Burtt to travel to Africa and confirm what everyone already knew.

In Catherine Higgs article entitled Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa, Higgs details how Joseph Burtt embarked on his journey to Africa and found that Henry Nevinson’s account of slavery occurring was more than accurate.  It was so accurate that Joseph Burtt’s initial report, in the interest of Cadbury needed to be edited multiple times to lessen the impact of the ugly truth and not upset their cacao supplier.  Higgs states that “Cadbury argued that publishing the report in the English press without first giving the Portuguese the opportunity to respond – which Burtt favored doing – would give them “every right to say, as they have done with Nevinson’s report, that they consider the whole attitude as unfriendly and unfair” (Higgs, pg.  134).  William Cadbury was more concerned with protecting his brand, along with his business partners interest that he’d go as far as sugar coating (no pun intended) the truth about their operation rather than taking a stand against what was morally unacceptable.

Shortly after Burtts report had circulated within media circles in October of 1908, William Cadbury had diligently tried to walk back the implications of his company being accused of hypocrisy.  In the end, the Cadbury Company backed out of Sao Tome and Principe, leaving the door wide open for the Hershey Chocolate Company of the United States to swoop in and assume the position of having no moral compass.  In 1839, British colonial administrator Herman Merivale wrote, “Every trader who carries on commerce with those countries, from the great house which lends its name and funds to support the credit of the American Bank, down to the Birmingham merchant who makes a shipment of shackles to Cuba or the coast of Africa, is in his own way an upholder of slavery: and I do not see how any consumer who drinks coffee or wears cotton can escape from the same sweeping charge” (Martin, Lecture #6).  While Herman’s words were about 60 years before the Cadbury controversy in Sao Tome and Principe, they eloquently capture the struggles William Cadbury and his company faced in attempting to tight rope the fine line of running a successful business while being an honorable one simultaneously.




Works Cited

“Barton’s Britain: Bournville.” Gaurdian.co.uk, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz6tyxHlRlA.

“The Bournville Cadbury Site.” The Manufacturer, 16 Jan. 2015, http://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/200-workers-take-voluntary-redundancy-cadbury-plant/.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2013.

Katz, Frau. “A Map of Angola.” Pinterest, http://www.pinterest.com/pin/345510602641044139/?autologin=true.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture #6.”

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on Trial Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio Univ.Press, 2006.

http://www.iconinc.com.au, Icon.Inc -. “The Story of Cadbury.” Cadbury, http://www.cadbury.com.au/about-cadbury/the-story-of-cadbury.aspx.


Cadbury Ethics

In the early twentieth century, the Cadbury Brothers Limited was a prominent chocolate producer in Britain. In 1901, a member of the Cadbury company, William Cadbury, was exposed to the accusation of slavery in his company’s cocoa farms. The situation was such that “he was told that slave labor was used on the island of São Tomé. Shortly thereafter this unsubstantiated comment was given credence when the Cadbury company received an offer of a plantation for sale in São Tomé that listed as assets two hundred black laborers” (Satre 18). With the rumor of slavery existing and having a direct tie to the Cadbury company, William did not immediately conclude that slavery was going on because “he did not equate the labor of São Tomé to that of other forms of slavery reported in Africa” (Satre 19). Cadbury was not incorrect in observing that the labor conditions were different than the historical slavery in Africa, but it was still slavery and leads to the questioning of his ethics.

The slavery in São Tomé was different from other historical forms of slavery in Africa. “Portugal had abolished slavery in all of its colonies, including Angola, in the 1870s, but plantation owners and others still desperately craved workers” (Satre 2). “To satisfy this constant demand for labor, a state-supported system of ‘contract labor’ emerged. Wherein government agents certified that natives could, of their own free will, sign contracts committing themselves to five years of labor at a set wage.” The plantation owners abused these contracts, which lead to slavery. Nevinson, who was researching slavery in West Africa, described several reasons why people might become slaves, including the following:
“[s]ome had broken native customs or Portuguese laws, some had been charged with witchcraft by the medicine man because of a relative died, some sould not pay a fine, some were wiping out an ancestral debt, some had been sold by uncles in poverty, some were indemnity for village wars, some had been raided on the frontier, others had been exchanged for a gun; some had been trapped by Portuguese, others by Bibéan thieves; some were but changing masters” (Satre 7).
The exploitation of labor was in fact slavery, but William Cadbury wanted to be thorough in his obtainment of information because “he wanted to be absolutely fair to the responsible parties on the cocoa plantations and in Portugal” (Satre 19).
In order to come to a definitive conclusion regarding the possibility of slavery in the Cadbury cocoa farms, William Cadbury enlisted the services of Joseph Burtt, who would travel to São Tomé in order to uncover whether the rumors of slavery were true. Before Burtt could begin investigating, he had to first learn Portuguese. Cadbury might of had an expedited report if he had chosen someone who already knew Portuguese, but Burtt eventually found explicit evidence of slavery. When the time came for Burtt to publish his findings, he “added to the delays by pushing, in addition, for a ‘personal and private appeal to the planters’ to ensure they understood’ that the whole question has been taken up from a desire for decent conditions of coloured labour and not from English’ self-righteousness and hypocrisy” (Higgs 135). The delays in the report mounted to the extent that even though Burtt had been commissioned by the Cadbury family in 1905, he did not return to England till 1907. After William Cadbury read Burtt’s report and visted Africa, “he found a system he called ‘slavery in disguise’” (Vertongen).

Meanwhile, another party was uncovering the truth behind the working conditions. Henry Nevison was on an assignment to investigate the working conditions in West Africa. Nevison worked for Harper’s Monthly Magazine and would end up writing “a series of articles and a subsequent book describing slavery in Portuguese West Africa” (Satre 2). He witnessed explicit slavery and periodically published his findings in Britain. Nevison publically called for a boycott of the slave plantations.
With the information from Burtt’s report and the public scrutiny caused by Nevison’s exposure of the slavery conditions and pressure for change, William Cadbury came to the conclusion that a boycott was necessary. “1909, Cadbury Brothers wrote to Fry and Rowntree to recommend that all three firms ‘cease buying S. Thome cocoa’” (Higgs 147). All three firms began the boycott and were particularly effective in Britain because “[a]t the turn of the twentieth century, the British cocoa and chocolate business was dominated by three Quaker-owned firms-Cadbury, Fry, and Rowntree-although European companies continued to claim a large part of the British market” (Satre 14). The companies moved their cocoa farms to the Gold Coast in West Africa, where they knew slavery was not employed.

The ethics pertaining to William Cadbury’s actions in combating slavery need to be further examined. A substantial amount of time passed from when he first learned about the labor conditions in the cocoa farms and the action of the Cadbury company to boycott the slave labor being used. William is partly at fault for this delay. Although being prudent and securing a definitive report of the possibility of slavery may be wise, his choosing Burtt was problematic, since the latter had to learn Portuguese before beginning his research. The delays in the publishing of Burtt’s report were the result of Cadbury’s desire to not offend. Ultimately, William Cadbury can be criticized that the developments to end the slavery could have been conducted on an expedited time frame. Another reason for the delay was his not being convinced that the rumored conditions were in fact slavery, due to the differences between it and prior forms in Africa. He wanted more evidence of the exploitation as the Portuguese government even pledged to create better working conditions for the labors. Since “he obviously wanted to believe that the Portuguese government officials were sincere in their promise to enforce the new rules” (Satre 15), Cadbury’s delay in boycotting might be somewhat justified. In conclusion, enlisting Burtt to provide more evidence of slavery and allowing the Portuguese government time to correct the slavery problem are valid reasons for some of the delay in action, and given that the boycott of the slavery did ultimately occur, William Cadbury should not be regarded as unethical.

Works cited

Satre, L. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business

Higgs, C. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa

Vertongen, D. (Director), & Hargrave, G. (Producer). (2000). Extra Bitter: The Legacy of the Chocolate Islands [Video file]. Filmakers Library. Retrieved May 13, 2017, from Alexander Street.