Tag Archives: exploitation

Chocolate in the 21st Century: A Chocolate-Tasting Experiment and Essay

Introduction

For my final project, I decided to host a chocolate tasting with fellow students Frankie Hill and Sarah Kahn, who will be writing their thoughts on the tasting independently. The six types of chocolate we chose to use for the tasting were Cote D’Or’s Belgian Milk Chocolate, produced by Mondelez International, Valrhona’s Blond Dulcey, a special take on traditional white chocolate, Antidote’s 84% cacao dark chocolate with nibs as well as their 100% “raw” chocolate with nibs, and finally, Taza Chocolate’s Stone Ground 84% dark chocolate from Haiti, as well as their 80% dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic. We thought that these chocolates represented a variety of different tastes, textures, countries of origin and philosophical approaches to chocolate-making, and as such, we felt it would be appropriate to use them as units of scholarly analysis, and to use our subjects’ reactions to the various types of chocolates as real-world context through which to frame our analysis. These different types of chocolates are connected to various issues in the contemporary chocolate industry, from the growth of the “fair trade” movement, to the evolution of our modern understanding of what constitutes “chocolate” to the surge in the “craft chocolate” industry, to the exploitation of labor in Africa and much of the rest of the developing world. In this post, I will be detailing the chocolate tasting subjects’ subjective evaluations of the various chocolates my colleagues and I selected, and then diving into my own analysis of how these chocolates connect from a historical, economic and sociological perspective to the various issues that I have raised.

Chocolates used for tasting in the experiment (proprietary image)
Chocolate tasting subjects enjoying some dark chocolate (proprietary image)

Chocolate #1: Cote D’Or’s Belgian Milk Chocolate, by Mondelez International

Background

Cote D’Or’s Belgian Milk Chocolate is a fairly standard milk chocolate blend produced by Mondelez, the largest chocolate company in the world. It has been a staple of the Belgian commercial market since its introduction in 1883 (Mondelez International, “Brand Family”). Every aspect of the chocolate’s packaging and presentation looks corporate and modern, from the relatively modest off-white exterior of the package to the basic foil wrapping to the neatly lined, Kit-Kat like rows into which the chocolate is divided, virtually identical to each other.

Taster Reactions

The general reaction to the Cote D’Or chocolate from our chocolate tasters was unimpressive. They commented that the texture was fairly smooth, the chocolate melted in one’s mouth at a somewhat average rate, and the taste was largely indistinguishable from the kind of chocolate you would get in a store-bought basket for Christmas or Easter. The taste of the chocolate seems consistent with its presentation as the product of a large, Western corporate conglomerate tailoring its chocolate and ingredients towards mass consumption. One taster remarked that the bars tasted like “Kit-Kat without the middle part.” One could say that this chocolate served as a sort of control for the experiment, a flavor of chocolate most people in the West would already be familiar with.

Connection to Broader Themes from the Course

The most important aspect of the first chocolate, to me, was Mondelez’s use of its “Cocoa Life” logo on the front of the packaging. Cocoa Life is Mondelez’s proprietary branding of what it refers to as its “global sustainability program… tackling the complex challenges that cocoa farmers face, including climate change, gender inequality, poverty and child labor.” Mondelez’s stated goal is to have all of its chocolate sourced through its Cocoa Life program by 2025 (Mondelez International, “Why Cocoa Life?”). This struck an interesting attempt for a large multinational corporation, often associated in the popular imagination with oppressive hierarchies and exploitation, to capitalize on recent trends towards sustainably sourced chocolate. As Kristie Leissle argues in her book Cocoa, in a chapter focusing on trade justice, consumers in the West are increasingly aware of the abuses that can occur in chocolate production and seek “guilt-free” sources of chocolate. There is a movement towards not “free trade,” but “fair trade” in which chocolate farmers and workers are fairly treated and compensated for their product (Leissle, Cocoa, pgs. 128-158). What is truly interesting is that even traditional players in the market seem to be convinced that marketing themselves as fair trade-compliant is now good for profits, a development which may represent a positive trend towards greater equality in the chocolate production industry, or more cynically, a coopting of grassroots movements for economic justice by the usual suspects.

Chocolate #2: Valrhona’s Blond Dulcey

Background

According to Valrhona, Blond Dulcey was the result of a fortunate accident when pastry chef Frederic Bau “absentmindedly left some white chocolate in the double-boiler for too long.” After removing the chocolate from the boiler, he “noteiced it had turned a blond color and the faint smell of toasted shortbread and caramelized milk wafted out of the pan.” Sliced up into irregularly-sized pieces, with a light beige color reminiscent of crackers, and containing 32% cocoa butter (Valrhona US), Blond Dulcey is anything but typical white chocolate, and it seemed appropriate as part of the experiment to try this unique chocolate on our tasters.

Taster Reactions

Our tasters described the chocolate as very buttery, melting easily in one’s mouth. It was also described as slightly bitter, sweet but in a mild way, and as tasting “like nothing” according to one of the tasters. It seems the high concentration of cocoa butter in the chocolate, as well as the unique chemical processes giving it its off-white color, produced the intended effect of a substance which, while marketed as chocolate, tastes, looks and feels very different from the twenty-first century conception of what “chocolate” is.

Connection to Broader Themes from the Course

“What is chocolate?” is a theme that has been grappled with from the food’s inception as a grainy Mesoamerican drink that was originally served cold and consumed by elites for a variety of ritualistic purposes to a hot, smooth, often bitter concoction taken by European nobility along with coffee, to the modern, mass-produced chocolate bar consumed widely across the (mostly) Western world today (Coe and Coe). As chocolate made its way from the New World to the Old, and then eventually from Old World elites to the masses, its flavor profile changed, most dramatically so with the introduction of sugar, and a variety of substances pleasing to Western palettes changed the nature of chocolate so as to make it almost unrecognizable from its starting point (Schwartzkopf and Sampeck). The kind of experimentation with chocolate which led to the creation of Valrhona’s Blond Dulcey has been an integral part of chocolate’s history, leading us to a moment in modern history where a white chocolate bar, containing no part of the cacao plant except for the cocoa butter harvested from the chocolate production process, can legitimately fall within the spectrum of foods considered “chocolate.”

Chocolates #3 and #4: Antidote Chocolate’s 84% Cacao with Nibs and “Raw 100%” Cacao with Nibs

Background

Antidote produces its chocolates with “rich Arriba Nacional beans from the south and west of Ecuador.” The company claims to work mostly with farm cooperatives and to use a proprietary process for its Raw 100% bars in order to “maximize the potency of anti-oxidants, flavonoids and holistic nutrients” (Antidote Chocolate). Its founder goes by “Red,” and the packaging on the company’s bars gives off a very new age, hipster, pseudo-anarchist vibe which seems common to many craft chocolate brands these days. For our chocolate tasting session, we offered participants both the 84% and “Raw 100%” cacao varieties. We thought these bars would provide an excellent contrast with the earlier chocolate samples and expose our tasters to the experience of “raw” dark chocolate.

Taster Reactions

Our tasters immediately identified the rough, crunchy texture of the cacao nibs embedded within the chocolates, though they originally misidentified them as nuts. They were able to distinguish between the 84% and 100% cacao varieties, with one taster remarking that the 100% cacao tasted “like tree bark,” and many commenting that it was “unusually bitter.” Another taster remarked that there was a hint of fruit in the 84% cacao bar. I informed him that the plants around which a cacao tree is grown often influence the taste of its fruit, and that “terroir” is an important concept in the burgeoning world of craft chocolate. All in all, our tasters, which had never tasted chocolate nibs or anything close to “pure” cacao, were strongly impacted by the taste, though they did not rate it highly on average.

Connection to Broader Themes from the Course

The Antidote chocolate bars represent a glimpse into the workings of the modern craft chocolate industry. As Kristy Leissle argues, the craft chocolate community is obsessed with the concept of artisanal chocolate (Leissle, “‘Artisan’ as Brand: Adding Value In A Craft Chocolate Community”) and constantly seeks to differentiate itself from big, corporate, traditional chocolate by marketing its brands as more art-like and less processed. This is exemplified by the obsession in some craft circles with the concept of “raw” chocolate, though there is no universally agreed-upon definition of what constitutes “raw.” The “Raw 100%” antidote chocolate bar also highlights another tendency of craft chocolate makers: evoking imagery of ancient Mesoamerican cultures in order to add the air of authenticity to their products. Antidote’s Raw 100% bar claims on the packaging to be inspired by Tonacatecuhtli, the Aztec god of creation and fertility. The debate continues over whether this should be considered dangerous cultural appropriation, or should be celebrated as a marketing move which Mesoamerican chocolate farmers will ultimately profit from (Coe and Coe, pgs. 262-263).

Chocolates #5 and #6: Taza Chocolate’s 84% Dark from Haiti and 80% Dark from the Dominican Republic

Background

Taza Chocolate specializes in stone ground chocolate, which it calls “perfectly unrefined, minimally processed chocolate with bold flavor and texture.” Supposedly, its founder and CEO Alex Whitmore was inspired to create a stone ground chocolate-factory in Somerville, MA after taking his first bite of stone ground chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico (Taza Chocolate). For our chocolate tasting session, we chose Taza Chocolates’s 84% Dark with chocolate from Haiti, as well as the 80% Dark with chocolate from the Dominican Republic. We wanted to stick with dark chocolate to give our tasters further exposure to concentrated cacao flavors, and chose both Haiti and the Dominican Republic as they less common sources of chocolate than the typical chocolate from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, yet are connected to these two countries through shared histories of colonialism and exploitation. We also thought that stone ground chocolate might present an interesting spin on the concept of “raw” chocolate as compared to Antidote’s take on “raw” chocolate.

Taster Reactions

Our tasters repeatedly remarked that there was a rougher texture to the Taza bars than to previous chocolate samples, likely due to the larger particle size of the chocolate due to the unconventional refining process, as I informed them after the tasting process. They could also taste the difference between 84% and 80% dark chocolate, though only slightly, suggesting that slight gradations in cacao concentration can be detected to a limited extent even by inexperienced tasters. Curiously, our tasters seemed to prefer the 84% Dark from Haiti over the 80% Dark from the Dominican Republic, even though they reported the 80% Dark as being slightly sweeter, suggesting that country of origin is an important factor in determining chocolate taste and quality.

Connections to Broader Themes from the Course

            Though Taza claims to go above and beyond in pursuing ethically sourced chocolate, paying farmers above the fair trade price for their wares (Taza Chocolate), it still relies heavily on the racialized system of value extraction that has historically categorized chocolate production since its inception. As late as the early 20th century, slave labor was still being used to produce chocolate in places such as Sao Tome (Satre). In modern times, over 70% of chocolate is produced in Africa, with a large quantity of the rest being produced by low-paid black labor in countries such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Yet nonetheless, black workers which produce the majority of the world’s chocolate consume only a tiny fraction, and most of the profits go to the white owners of Western chocolate companies (Leissle, pgs. 4-7, 36-46).


Modern chocolate production and consumption patterns (April 2010 to March 2011)

Conclusion

Ultimately, our chocolate tasting experiment presented an opportunity to both enjoy chocolate with friends as well as to continue educating ourselves and others on some of the broad themes explored in the course this year. It is my hope that people in the West and across the globe will continue to consume and enjoy chocolate for many years to come, while keeping in mind the realities of the global chocolate trade and never taking for granted the blood, sweat and tears of the less powerful people who make it all possible, fighting every day to ensure they receive justice.

Works Cited

“Antidote 100% Raw Cacao Bar with Nibs.” Antidote, 2019, antidotechoco.com/products/raw-100-cacao-nibs.

“Antidote 84% Dark Chocolate Bar with Nibs.” Antidote, 2019, antidotechoco.com/products/cacao-nibs-84.

Antidote Chocolate. “ABOUT US – Antidote Chocolate.” Antidote, antidotechoco.com/pages/about-1.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2019.

“Cote D’Or Milk Chocolate.” Gourmet Boutique, 2019, http://www.gourmetboutique.net/collections/cote-dor-chocolate.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Leissle, Kristy. “‘Artisan’ as Brand: Adding Value In A Craft Chocolate Community.” Food, Culture & Society, vol. 20, no. 1, 2017, pp. 37–57., doi:10.1080/15528014.2016.1272201.

Mondelez International. “Brand Family.” Mondelez International, http://www.mondelezinternational.com/brand-family.

Mondelez International. “Why Cocoa Life?” Cocoa Life, http://www.cocoalife.org/.

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

Schwartzkopf, Stacey, and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, by Stacey Schwartzkopf and Kathryn E. Sampeck, University of Texas Press, 2017, pp. 73–99.

“Taza 80% Dark Stone Ground Chocolate Bar, Dominican Republic.” The Chocolate Path, 2019, http://www.chocolatepath.com/products/taza-80-stone-ground-organic-chocolate-bar.

“Taza 84% Dark Stone Ground Chocolate Bar, Haiti.” IHerb, 3 May 2019, http://www.iherb.com/pr/taza-chocolate-organic-84-dark-stone-ground-chocolate-bar-haiti-2-5-oz-70-g/75609.

Taza Chocolate. “About Taza.” Taza Chocolate, http://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza.

“Valrhona Blond Dulcey.” Confectionery News, 2019, http://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2012/10/17/World-s-first-blond-chocolate-claims-Valrhona.

Valrhona US. “Blond® Dulcey 32%.” Valrhona US | Retour à La Page D’accueil, us.valrhona.com/chocolate-catalog/couverture-chocolate/blondr-dulcey-32/bag-beans. Wade, Kristine. “The Production of Chocolate.” Flickr, 3 Feb. 2017, http://www.flickr.com/photos/147998004@N06/32640931946.

From Exploitation to Empowerment: Reforming the Labor Practices in the Cocoa Industry

There has been a long history of European powers using exploitative practices in order to build wealth. These practices stemmed from the notion that individuals of a darker skin tone were inferior and less refined than those from Europe and white ancestry in general. This hierarchical system created by the Western world influenced how Europeans approached their interactions with the indigenous people in the Americas and African populations. Due to their cultural and racial differences, both of these groups of people were trapped into forced labor systems, where they had no rights and were given no compensation. The result was two-fold: Native Americans died at alarming rates from disease and harsh working conditions and Africans, while not affected as heavily by disease, were continually exploited and were exposed to the most inhumane conditions and treatment in the history of the Americas. Even though slavery has been legally abolished across the world for over 100 years, it produced a lasting residual effect on prevailing labor practices across the African continent. These exploitative practices have led to cacao farmers being paid pennies compared to the billions of dollars in profits that American and European companies are making from the cacao plant and cheap labor. In addition, child labor has continued to be a common practice that has not been abolished, due to the fact that African farmers cannot afford to pay their workers substantive wages. A few bean-to-bar chocolate companies have recognized these issues and have made strides to institute practices that reverse the trend of exploitation of African farmers. In particular, Divine Chocolate, a chocolate company headquartered in Washington D.C., has taken meaningful steps to evaluate how their practices can mirror the ethical standards of fair trade and non-exploitative business transactions.

The existence of modern slavery, pertaining to the production of cacao, is centered around the exploitative practices that took root in São Tomé and Príncipe in the early 1900s. Slaves from Angola were sent to São Tomé and Príncipe and were stationed on the Portuguese plantations that were scattered across the islands. Amanda Berlan states, “Anti-Slavery International (2004) reports that the use of slaves from Angola was common on Portuguese plantations on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe from the 1880s; according to Clarence-Smith, forced labour in cocoa production continued there until 1962” (1092). While the rest of the world assumed that slavery had been completely abolished, it was very much a part of the everyday culture in São Tomé and Príncipe, mainly because of the growing demand for chocolate all around the world, and the fact that the infrastructure of the islands lent itself to a plantation system. As Lowell Satre describes, “There were about 230 rocas (plantations) on São Tomé and 50 on Príncipe, some owned by individuals, others held by corporations” (10). While the economies of São Tomé and Príncipe were dependent on the production of cacao, Angola’s economy also benefited from these islands’ demand for free labor. However, Angolans were not all keen to the idea of slavery, and some of the native Angolans that potentially were not opposed to the institution of slavery itself were convinced that Angola needed the labor for economic development rather than São Tomé and Príncipe. Satre states, “Though some were disturbed over the institution of slavery, many in Angola complained that labor essential for the development of the province was going to instead create wealth for rich plantation owners on the islands” (8). For the rest of the world, the reality of the continuance of slavery was hidden from the public eye until large corporations that specialized in chocolate became exposed.

Angolans who were forced into slavery in São Tomé and Príncipe.

Source: “São Tomé and Príncipe.” Rhodes House Archive.

Many of the largest chocolate corporations like Cadbury were buying cacao beans at ridiculously low prices in Africa, and Cadbury in particular was purchasing a significant amount of cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe. According to William A. Cadbury, the company had no idea that the cacao beans it was buying came from slave labor. Satre states, “In early 1901, when William A. Cadbury visited Trinidad…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” (18). Cadbury’s exposure to these exploitative practices was massive; the company bought 45 percent of its cacao beans from São Tomé each year, confirming that almost half of Cadbury’s revenue was obtained via slave labor. In addition, the details of the offer for the plantation give insight into the scope and magnitude of slavery in São Tomé, given that the island had 230 plantations with thousands of slaves in total. The written work of Henry Nevinson and Joseph Burtt were two of the first forms of documentation that depicted the coerced labor in São Tomé and Príncipe to be distributed across the globe. As a result, many British corporations in the chocolate industry boycotted the cacao in São Tomé and Príncipe and searched for a new area that would supply large amounts of cacao for low prices. All eyes turned towards Ghana, which was then referred to as the Gold Coast, and Côte d’Ivoire.

One of Cadbury Chocolate’s advertisements, which depicts the exploitative practices used for cacao production in West Africa.

Source: “Cadbury’s Cocoa Essence.” Cadbury Chocolate.

Even though production of cacao grew significantly during the early 1900s, initially, most cacao farming was small scale; however, when the production of cacao in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire grew at an almost exponential rate, both countries grappled with their own issues surrounding the quality of working conditions. Various aspects of cacao production included clearing the trees, planting the cacao seeds, spraying fertilizers and pesticides, transporting the cacao pods, and slicing open the cacao pods. These duties were completed in environment that proved to be hazardous and dangerous for even adults. The cacao farmers suffered from various diseases, injuries, burns, and lacerations, coupled with the fact that many of them did not have access to clean water, food, or cleaning spaces. Not only did cacao farmers have to work in hazardous conditions, but they also received extremely low wages, which were subject to unpredictable fluctuations throughout each year. The income of each farmer was directly tied to that year’s profits. These farms were being exploited by the major chocolate corporations in Europe and the United States, receiving less than a penny on every dollar these companies made selling chocolate. Given the exploitative power dynamic between companies and farms, farmers were drastically affected financially: each farmer only received a very small percentage of each farm’s revenue. Carol Off states, “By the end of the millennium, Côte d’Ivoire was one of the most indebted nations on earth, even as it supplied almost half of the world’s cocoa to the multi-billion-dollar industry and helped to satisfy the world’s addiction to chocolate. Cocoa farmers slid deeper and deeper into poverty” (118).

The use of child labor for cacao production in Côte d’Ivoire.

Source: Lowy, Benjamin.”Young Boy Uses a Machete to Break Cacao Pods.” Fortune.

The low and inconsistent wage that adult farmers received was one of the main reasons child labor became commonplace in both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Low and inconsistent wages meant that families were forced to remove their children from school to provide the additional income they needed to live at a subsistence level. As Ryan describes, “One interviewee in a British documentary suggested that as many as 90 percent of Ivorian farms used slave labor. This implied there were hundreds of thousands of slaves in Côte d’Ivoire. A BBC report suggested that 15,000 children were in slavery on these plantations” (48). The statistics pertaining to child labor reveal how central it was to the production of cacao. Children working on cacao plantations were at a greater risk than the adult farmers: “hazardous work…is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. On the cocoa plantation, this is generally defined to include work which involves dangerous machinery, equipment or tools, the handling of heavy loads and exposure to pesticides or chemicals” (Ryan, 48). Children started working and dropping out of school at a very young age and were exposed to tasks that were dangerous for adults to perform. Child labor was essential to the production of cacao and children were very active in all of forms of work in the field. Berlan states, “Of children aged 5–17 years, 39 percent are known to be engaged in economic activities, of which 57 percent are engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing and 88 percent are unpaid family labour or apprentices” (1090). In addition to the risky activities that children took part in on the cacao plantations, some of them were placed under physical duress by their superiors; this violence put a strain on the children physically, socially, and emotionally. Off’s account provides an example of how child labor was connected to the emergence of child trafficking: “The farmers, or their supervisors, were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunk-houses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders, some as a result of carrying the heavy bags of cocoa, but some likely the effects of physical abuse” (121). Children from areas surrounding the cacao plantations and even in neighboring countries were at risk to be kidnapped and forced to produce cacao. Ryan states, “Traffickers preyed on children at bus stops in Mali, promising riches on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire. Once children got to the farm, they survived on little food, little or no pay and endured regular beatings” (44). These conditions that children had to endure are correlative to the experiences of slaves. Children were separated from their families, forced to work for long periods of time, and stripped of their own dignity while they were still in the developmental phase of their lives. Ryan states, “There were no chains and no irons, but, unable to leave their place of work, they were effectively slaves, harvesting the beans that were the key ingredient for chocolate” (44). Slavery continued to persist and it arose due to the demand of the American and European populations and the greed of the large chocolate corporations that desired to obtain the highest possible profit.

The inhumane conditions that children were forced to work in.

Source: “Child Slavery.” The Independent.

Given these horrific work conditions, government policies and initiatives were created to combat the inhumane treatment of the adult and child farmers. The International Labour Organization set standards of appropriate labor practices and detailed the worst forms of child labor. Even though these standards sent a message that child labor was not acceptable, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire were and have remained in violation of them. In fact, over 500,000 children in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire were in violation of the guidelines set by the International Labour Organization. Policies were also put in place with the goal of eventually eradicating the worst forms of child labor and coerced labor in the world. One of the policies is the Harkin-Engel Protocol, which is a voluntary agreement that included governments, chocolate companies, cocoa farmers, and other entities. Off states, “The Harkin-Engel Protocol…would be one of the first fully voluntary arrangements for regulating industry in U.S. history and certainly the most ambitious. The cocoa companies agreed to accept a six-point program designed to eliminate child slave labour in the cocoa chain” (144). In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the goal of the protocol was to diminish the worst forms of child labor by 70 percent by 2015. However, this goal was not achieved, so the deadline was extended to 2020. Various organizations, such as the International Cocoa Initiative and the International Cocoa Organization, have been created to further the mission of the Harkin-Engel Protocol: reduce the worst forms of child labor and forced labor. The International Cocoa Initiative raises awareness around the experiences of children enduring through the harsh working conditions that accompany the production of the cacao plant. It also administers trainings on child labor and the impact it has on the communities in West Africa, working closely with all entities that interact within the world of cacao production and consumption. The International Cocoa Organization serves both cacao consuming and producing countries, allowing for meditation and the recognition of collective interests. In addition to the creation of international initiatives and organizations, major corporations in the chocolate industry have pledged to become more socially responsible regarding their business transactions with cacao farmers. Many corporations have received certifications and label their products as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Utz Certified, etc. in order to emphasize to consumers their adoption of new practices.

Goals established by the Harkin-Engel Protocol.

Source: “Eliminating Child Labor from Cocoa.” United States Department of Labor.

Divine Chocolate is a chocolate company that has exceeded the efforts of many other major chocolate corporations to improve labor conditions. Divine Chocolate partnered with a co-operative of farmers in Ghana called Kuapa Kokoo, which has significant autonomy over the trading and selling processes of the cacao it produces. Unlike most co-operatives, Kuapa Kokoo actually owns a large percentage of the shares of Divine Chocolate: “Divine Chocolate is the only Fairtrade chocolate company that is also co-owned by cocoa farmers. Kuapa Kokoo farmers benefit not only from the Fairtrade premium on the sale of their beans, but also receive the largest share (44%) of Divine’s distributable profits giving the farmers more economic stability, as well as the increased influence in the cocoa industry” (Divine Chocolate). Instead of cacao farmers receiving less than a penny on every dollar of profit from their product, the members of Kuapa Kokoo are able to increase their income at a rate that far exceeds all other cacao collectives in Ghana. As a result, the farmers are able to live with more stability and begin the process of building wealth. Because the low wage that cacao farmers in Ghana were paid was a central cause of the industry’s heavy dependence on child’s labor, the adoption of this new framework, which raised wages, gave farmers the necessary resources to do without child labor entirely. Because Divine Chocolate is Fairtrade Certified, it empowers the cacao producers by establishing a minimum price for the products they produce and a premium for the products that are sold. Each of these reforms of the Fairtrade system give cacao farmers the ability to improve their living standards, their business, and their community (Divine Chocolate). Another important aspect of Divine Chocolate’s mission is its focus on women’s empowerment: “Projects supported by the [Producer Support and Development Fund] are aimed particularly at empowerment of women, maintaining good governance, and testing different farming techniques — and include an adult literacy and numeracy program, and a model farm project” (Divine Chocolate). Divine Chocolate recognizes the significant role that women play in the production of cacao in Ghana and aims to equip them with the tools to become better professional leaders and more advanced business people. With these ambitious programs and practices, Divine Chocolate is actively trying to revolutionize the cocoa industry. Unlike many large chocolate corporations, which are mainly concerned with how much profit they attain at the end of each quarter, Divine Chocolate has proactively addressed issues surrounding exploitation of African farmers, child labor, forced labor, and the silencing of women’s voices in the cocoa industry. In addition, Divine Chocolate has made an active effort to ensure that the farmers that produce cacao for Divine Chocolate are not only rewarded but are included in the process of building wealth and economic stability. There is more work to be done, but Divine Chocolate has been one of the companies to lead the way in changing the culture of business and chocolate.

Divine Chocolate’s commitment to women’s empowerment.

Source: “Women Cocoa Farmers: Hear Our Voice.” Divine Chocolate.

Works Cited:

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies. vol. 49, no. 8, Feb. 2013, pp. 1088-1100.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet, New York, The New Press, pp. 1-336.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa, London, Zed Books, 2011, pp. 1-175.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trail: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business, Athens, Ohio University Press, pp. 1-199.

“Cadbury’s Cocoa Essence.” Cadbury Chocolate.

“Child Slavery.” The Independent.

Divine Chocolate, Divine Chocolate Limited, http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/about-us

“Eliminating Child Labor from Cocoa.” United States Department of Labor.

Lowy, Benjamin.”Young Boy Uses a Machete to Break Cacao Pods.” Fortune. Brian O’Keefe. 1 Mar. 2016.

“São Tomé and Príncipe.” Rhodes House Archive.

“Women Cocoa Farmers: Hear Our Voice.” Divine Chocolate.

Then and Now: Exploitation in Cacao Production and Chocolate Advertising

Brenden Rodriquez

The exploitation of people of color in the chocolate industry is almost as old as chocolate itself. Ever since Europeans utilized native peoples in Mesoamerica and later enslaved Africans to produce cacao, there has existed an inherent link between race and chocolate, a relationship not only seen in the production of chocolate but also in chocolate advertising. Just as Black individuals were and are utilized for their physical labor, they were and are being exploited for advertising.

The consumption of cacao dates back to the Mayan and Aztec societies of Mesoamerica. When settlers came to the Americas, exploitation and forced labor came with them. The Spanish introduced the encomienda system in which Spanish settlers were supposed to protect and care for native peoples in return for voluntary labor when in reality the settlers seized lands and forced natives into pseudo-slavery working long hours without pay resulting in the deaths of many. Though cacao had been introduced to and was being brought back to Europe, it was primarily used for medicinal purposes until sugar began being added to cacao which made it more palatable for Europeans. Emma Robertson, a professor and scholar at La Trobe University, states that “this was ‘thanks to the emergent slave-based sugar cane economy of the Americas’. The story of chocolate subsequently becomes increasingly intertwined with that of European imperial politics…Chocolate thus first gained meaning in England as a product of imperialism” (Robertson 67). As time went on—around 1900—some cacao production shifted from the West Indies to West Africa, particularly in São Tomé. The Cadbury company became a center of attention for its labor practices and accusations that it utilized slavery in São Tomé during this period. William Cadbury responded to these claims by stating, “I do feel that there is a vast difference between the cultivation of cocoa and cold or diamond mining, and I should be sorry needlessly to injure a cultivation that as far as I can judge provides labour of the very best kind to be found in the tropics: at the same time we should all like to clear our hands of any responsibility for slave traffic in any form” (Satre 19), though he refused to reveal a bill of sale for the plantation as it “specifically identified human beings as property” (Satre 19). This is an example of chocolate companies blatantly and knowingly minimizing the perceived severity of their production practices and exploitation.

The exploitation of Black individuals goes well beyond just labor practices. As Robertson explains, “The use of black people in advertising has a long history. As Jan Pieterse demonstrates, products made available through the use of slave labour, such as coffee and cocoa, often used, and many still use, images of black people to enhance their luxury status” (Robertson 36).

The exploitation of Black people did not stop with cacao production. The image above is an advertisement for Rowntree, an early 20th century power-house chocolate and sweets corporation that still exists today and has developed the Kit Kat among other recognizable treats. It depicts a young Black girl named Honeycomb using broken and stereotypically Black verbiage to convey the benefits of her Rowntree beverage. It is one of many chocolate advertisements to utilize a caricatured Black subject to sell a product. On using Honeycomb specifically for a powdered cacao beverage, Robertson states, “Though processed by western industry, cocoa powder is closest to the ‘raw’, colonial material. The two Rowntree characters only exist through their relation to the cocoa, effectively disempowering them. There is no recognition of the actual connections between the commodity and the labour of black people in the colonies” (Robertson 42). Thus, not only does the Rowntree company exploit and make a caricature of the idea of blackness, they either intentionally or unintentionally, directly linked their advertisements and the subject therein to slavery.

In a similar vein, above is the advertisement used for Banania, a French chocolate drink, from 1915. It depicts a Senegalese infantry soldier with a red fez, a uniform item worn by Senegalese soldiers. This advertisement presents a caricature of this man by depicting him with a stereotypically large smile as well as the slogan for the product “y’a bon” (translating to “it’s good”) which is derived from the pidgin French commonly spoken by these Senegalese solders. The popularity of the product cemented the character with the slogan, making the Black man portrayed on the ad and packaging and this lower form of language inseparable.

Finally, the above video is an advertisement for the Spanish chocolate, Conguitos. This commercial goes even farther to portray Black individuals as “the other.” Whereas the Rowntree and Banania advertisements both push racial and colonial traits and themes on the subjects of their ads, this commercial depicts the subjects as extremely stereotyped natives, completely naked, living in small straw huts, and carrying spears. The music in the background aids in this stereotyping, a light flute and tribal-sounding drum. In the final scene of the commercial, the animated character rolls uncontrollably and the video fades into the character essentially being turned into a ball of chocolate which is then consumed by a white actress. This is concerning on a number of levels. This aspect of the advertisement effectively conveys that the people of color in their eyes are consumable and expendable at the hands of a white individual, a clear similarity to the treatment of Black slaves and laborers in cacao producing regions. Overall, these advertisements speak volumes for the influence that the chocolate labor practices and production had on advertising and how much the colonial mindset permeated every level of the chocolate industry.

Looking toward the modern-day chocolate industry, in terms of production and cultivation, much has changed and yet much has stayed the same. Today, a majority of the world’s cacao comes from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Though the methods and aspects of production may have changed—for instance, instead of massive plantations owned by large corporations and companies, today a vast majority of cacao is produced by smallholder farmers on relatively small plantations—the exploitation of African peoples for labor and production of cacao seems to be a constant in the chocolate industry. The same way companies utilized slavery and pseudo-slavery in centuries past, even in the cacao industry of today’s day and age, companies have established a form of pseudo-slavery by offering the lowest prices possible for beans and creating a cycle of debt or living for growers.

After a series of small wars and conflicts around the turn of the century, some of which had to do with conflict over coveted cocoa groves, Côte d’Ivoire was in shambles. Carol Off, a Canadian journalist and author, states, “By the end of the millennium, Côte d’Ivoire was one of the most indebted nations on earth, even as it supplied almost half of the world’s cocoa to the multi-billion-dollar industry and helped to satisfy the world’s addiction to chocolate” (Off 118). This situation of debt and vulnerability resulted in mass corruption and exploitation of labor, essentially slavery. Cacao growers had no other choice. Due to the fact that cacao is a tricky crop to grow and harvest, only being able to do so by hand for the most part, the amount able to be produced per unit area tends to be very low. This dilemma is exacerbated due to the smaller cacao farms of today. Órla Ryan, an author for the Financial Times, a publication in London, explains, “On most the production per hectare is either low or very low. In many cases, yields have been stagnant for some time. Roughly one-third of farms yield as little as 137.5 kg per hectare. What this means is that the poorest farmers can make just $500 a year, an income which makes it impossible to do little more than survive” (Ryan 59-60). When looking at the differences between slavery and this modern system of cacao production, there is an obvious difference in that today the growers are getting paid an actual wage, but looking realistically, $500 is not an income that can sustain a healthy life for one person let alone families in which the farmer making the $500 is the primary income source. Thus, farmers must look for options to solve their situations since most cannot afford to hire laborers which usually comes in the form of using their own families to work on the farm, which includes their children.

Having children work is a slippery slope as there are many instances in which it is completely fine and others where it is not. Ryan describes how the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) standards for what constitutes the worst forms of child labor is contextualized in the chocolate industry: “‘work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carrier out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.’ On the cocoa plantation; this is generally defined to include work which involves dangerous machinery, equipment or tools, the handling of heavy loads and exposure to pesticides or chemicals” (Ryan 47-48). Child labor offers just another area of exploitation in the cacao production process. In many cases, child trafficking also plays a role as children are brought to plantations and intimidated out of reaching out to authorities (Ryan). Off describes the story and mission of Abdoulaye Macko, a man who took it upon himself to liberate conscripted child workers from the cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire. “The farmers, or their supervisors, were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders, some as a result of carrying the heavy bags of cocoa, but some likely the effects of physical abuse” (Ryan 121). This goes beyond helping parents, cousins, or other family with light work around the farm. This is systematic and calculated abuse and exploitation of a vulnerable population for the purpose (knowingly or unknowingly) of improving the profit margins of the large chocolate corporations.

We have now looked at how labor practices have changed (or refused to change) but how have chocolate advertisements changed to adjust to the modern market? First, let us take a look at Banania, the company with the stereotyped Senegalese soldier, above. The lifelike depiction of the character has been traded out for the head and hand of an animated version of the same character. The identifiable red fez remains a constant. One major change is the smile which is still distractingly large but now the lips are thick and bright red. This aspect simply adds to the stereotyping involved in this character. In an attempt to solve an outdated and stereotyped subject, Banania did away with most of the harmless aspects of the character and kept or amplified the caricature aspects, though the French pidgin slogan is gone which is for the best.

The next advertisement, shown above, is for Magnum ice cream. It depicts a Black woman whose shoulder is cracked resembling the cracking of the chocolate shell of a Magnum ice cream bar. Overlooking the issue of the sexualization and fetishism of the ad (which is common in chocolate advertising and too extensive of a topic to cover here), Magnum uses the woman’s race in a botched attempt at visual wit, thus adding to the extensive history of utilization and exploitation of Black people. In addition, the fact that the inside ice cream is vanilla further degrades the woman shown as, in an ice cream bar, the ice cream is the thing that matters, thus the chocolate shell and therefore this woman’s race are simply things one must get through into order to reach the vanilla (read: white) center. Finally, this ad for Dove chocolate below further demonstrates the blatant utilization of race and the exploitation of Black individuals for the benefit of the chocolate company. In this case, the man’s face is not even shown, hammering home the idea that this does not need to be anyone in particular, just a Black man. The Magnum and Dove advertisements are not intentionally reminiscent of the racially charged ads of the prior century, but advertising companies and departments need to both understand the society we live in today in which no one’s race should be utilized for commercial gain as well as a basic background of the history chocolate as to not make these kinds of mistakes.

Just as labor and cacao production has evolved and yet also held onto key defining elements up through the modern era, so has chocolate advertising. In both cases, basic improvements were made, such as there no longer being colonialism or slavery in their truest forms or no longer having racially charge language and stereotyping in advertisements. Yet, both also held onto elements of their past. The economic and commercial model that chocolate producers work within keep them in a state of pseudo-slavery and advertisements still use race to sell products and link chocolate to the race of people that cultivate cacao in its rawest form.

Works Cited

Academic:

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2013.

Ryan, Órla. Chocolate Nations Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2012.

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

Multimedia:

“Banania Breakfast Mix.” Simply Gourmand, http://www.simplygourmand.com/banania-breakfast-mix/.

conguitosTV. “Anuncio Conguitos: Tribu Color.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Sept. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=wFOXOeBbhD8.

“Tin Signs Banania Tirailleur.” Camille Vintage, http://www.camille-vintage.com/en/advertising-aluminiummetal-plates/324-tin-signs-banania-tirailleur.html.

Dove and Magnum Ads: Google Images

The History of Chocolate: A Story of Mass Democracy or Mass Exploitation?

Background

A traditional view of the history of chocolate focuses on the growth in mass consumption of chocolate as a byproduct of democratization and the industrial revolution. With time, consumption of chocolate spread from Aztec elites to the European nobility to the common citizens of the Western world. However, I contend that the history of chocolate is not simply one of expanded access fueled by increased political and economic inclusiveness, but rather one of shifting patterns of exploitation. The expansion of chocolate consumption has tracked the political enfranchisement and growth in economic power of white Westerners, but has simultaneously resulted in the brutal exploitation of poor brown and black people, first in Latin America, and now in Africa.

The Elite Origins of Chocolate

In ancient Aztec society, the consumption of chocolate was confined to the elites, which included members of the royal house, lords and nobility, long-distance merchants and warriors. Consumed after dinner at royal banquets, it was considered an exotic delicacy and a gift from the gods, a precious treasure not to be wasted on commoners (Coe and Coe, pg. 95). It was also used in religious ceremonies, including marriage rites, to symbolize the sacred nature of matrimonial covenants (Coe and Coe, pgs. 97-101). When the Conquistadors brought chocolate back to the Old World from Mesoamerica, it quickly spread through Europe, becoming a delicious treat for European nobles. Through the displays and pageants of Spain’s Habsburg rulers, the drink quickly gained fame, with powerful oligarchs such as Cosimo de’ Medici becoming “chocoholics” (Coe and Coe, pg. 135). Curiously, chocolate came to be seen as more feminine, as it was popularized with ladies of the royal courts in Europe. It retained its association with marriage, as women intermarried among royal families and brought their love of chocolate with them (Coe and Coe, pgs. 136-137).

The image below displays the status of chocolate drink as both an elite status symbol and a beverage uniquely associated with the idealized image of the noble lady and her well-ordered household:

18th century French noblewomen drink chocolate with their afternoon meal

Chocolate Comes to the Masses

Despite chocolate’s elite origins, a different narrative took form around chocolate as production methods were refined and it became more broadly available to the masses. By the late 17th century in England, chocolate became associated with the intellectual movement towards democratic governance during the Enlightenment era. Chocolate houses and coffee houses became centers of democratic thought, prompting Charles II to issue an ultimately futile decree to close them down in 1675 (Coe and Coe, pg. 168). Chocolate was truly democratized in the mid-19th century, as technological innovation during the Industrial Revolution made chocolate far more accessible to ordinary people. In 1828, Coenraad Johannes Van Houten invented the alkalizing process which gave chocolate its familiar dark color and made it milder in flavor. In 1849, Joseph Fry invented the modern chocolate bar, using cocoa butter to transform chocolate into a solid confection (Coe and Coe, pgs. 234 – 241). Simultaneously, sugar, which had come into common usage as both a preservative and an ingredient to supplement the caloric needs of working and middle class citizens in the West, came to be one of the most important components of both chocolate drink and the newly invented bars (Schartzkopf and Sampeck). As the narrative goes, the physical transformation of chocolate represented a revolution in accessibility, carried on a wave of political democratization and the industrialization-fueled growth in mass consumption.

The picture below displays three different styles of modern, mass-produced chocolate bar, complete with sugar for extra flavoring and the familiar dark coloring introduced by Van Houten’s method:

Modern, mass-produced chocolate bars complete with unique design elements

The Thin Veneer of Democracy

Though the history of the spread of chocolate is often portrayed as a triumph of mass democracy, in truth chocolate has been and continues to be a product of extremely unequal, hierarchical systems of racial and class-based oppression, in which poor brown and black people produce chocolate as a luxury good to be enjoyed by better off, mostly white Westerners. The oppressive hierarchies of Western chocolate production trace their origins to the encomienda system of the early 16th century, in which Spanish colonizers virtually enslaved the Native people of their American colonies, forcing them to harvest cash crops such as chocolate beans, often at the expense of their own lives (Yeager). Eventually, the encomienda system came to an end, and chocolate production in the New World gradually became the domain of newly enslaved Africans. As globalization increased, and outright slavery fell out of favor, production shifted from Latin America to Africa, with (technically illegal) slave labor still being used to produce chocolate in places such as Sao Tome as late as the early 20th century (Satre). In the modern era, the exploitation of African labor continues. 74% of chocolate was produced in Africa during the 2016-2017 season, but Africans only consumed a tiny percentage of the chocolate they produced, and received a comparatively small cut of the profits (Leissle, pgs. 4-7, 36-46). In the words of Ghanian farmer Mercy Asabea, when asked about the local scarcity of chocolate, “Ghana made Europe what it is…We have every resource here, yet Ghanians are not progressing at all” (Leissle, pg. 57).

The following chart shows a harrowing picture of the relationship between modern chocolate production and consumption, with the orange dots representing main exporters and the red dots representing export destinations:

Modern chocolate production and consumption patterns (April 2010 to March 2011)

Accusations of highly exploitative labor practices, including forced child labor, continue to this day. This video from the Stolen Lives Project details just a few of the abuses allegedly committed by the modern day chocolate production industry:

Conclusion

Ultimately, it is important for us to develop a realistic perspective on chocolate and its origins. One can both appreciate the expansion of access to this delicious treat, especially in the Western world, yet simultaneously reject purely Western-centered narratives which exclude the experiences of disadvantaged black and brown people in the developing world as they relate to chocolate production and consumption

Works Cited

“Bars of Black Swiss Chocolate.” Wikimedia Commons, 8 Oct. 2015, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dark_chocolate_bar.jpg.

Boucher, Francois. “The Afternoon Meal.” Wikimedia Commons, 10 Aug. 2017, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fran%C3%A7ois_Boucher_002.jpg.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

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

Schwartzkopf, Stacey, and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, by Stacey Schwartzkopf and Kathryn E. Sampeck, University of Texas Press, 2017, pp. 73–99.

Stolen Lives Project. Chocolate Slaves. Vimeo, 2 Aug. 2015, vimeo.com/135172005.

Wade, Kristine. “The Production of Chocolate.” Flickr, 3 Feb. 2017, http://www.flickr.com/photos/147998004@N06/32640931946.

Yeager, Timothy J. “Encomienda or Slavery? The Spanish Crown’s Choice of Labor Organization in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America.” The Journal of Economic History, vol. 55, no. 04, 1995, pp. 842–859., doi:10.1017/s0022050700042182.

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

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

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

Defining Exploitation

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

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

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

Not fairly paying workers for their work

Misrepresenting benefits to workers

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers

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

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

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

Hershey’s Chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

images

(Figure 1. Hershey’s Community Archives)

 

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

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

1986_hersheys_mini_ad

(Figure 2. Hershey’s Community Archives)

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

 

Divine Chocolate

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

(Figure 3. Divine Chocolate)

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

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

108567_divine-web

(Figure 4. Divine Chocolate)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploitation in the Chocolate Industry

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

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

DIVINE CHOCOLATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAZA CHOCOLATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

(“About Taza – Taza Chocolate”).

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

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

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

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

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

 

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester University Press, 2009.

Chocolate as a Device for Inequality

It is easy to think of chocolate as a sweet treat that stirs up fond memories of a happy stomach. Yet, there are further issues involving the nature by which we view chocolate as a society. We are going to think critically and assess the inequality and more problematic elements in the production and sales end of chocolate. Chocolate, as a commercialized product, is not only an exploitative product by nature, but it also in several ways serves to exacerbate race and age disparities in our communities through its marketing strategies.

Exploitation

Big chocolate companies present several problematic elements through their exploitation of not only the cacao farmer, but additionally through their exploitive marketing strategies.

Ethically Sourced Cacao

Chocolate has a long history of using forced and coerced labor for its cultivation: “…abuses…have been well-documented for much longer, even if the use of coercion has not been consistent across cocoa production globally and throughout time” (Berlan 1092). However, it is not widely known that our consumption of  chocolate is still based off of the exploitation of others. Even now, big chocolate companies exploit cacao farmers through multiple venues. First, cacao labor is extremely laborious and often farmers are not supplied with the right facilities: “Farm workers often lack: access to bathroom facilities, filtered water, clean spaces for food prep, lesser exposed areas to res/cool down” (Martin Lecture 3/22). Additionally, farming cacao is associated with a very volatile income. Cacao farmers are not paid in wages or salaries, as cacao is a commodity with a fluctuating price in the world economy. This irregular source of income leads to an unstable source of livelihood for cacao farmers and their families: “and yet almost every critic of the industry [chocolate industry] has identified the key problem: poverty among the primary producers” (Off 146). Historically, the exploitation of the laborer exacerbated racial distinctions and categories: “Overall, both Rowntree and Cadbury adverts created a world of white consumers in which the black producers of cocoa beans and the black consumers of chocolate were at best pushed to the margins, if not excluded completely” (Robertson 54). Yet, there is even a further subcategory within the Ivory Coast cacao farmers that is subjected to the chocolate industry’s exploitation. Child labor is often used on cacao farms: In a 2000 report on human rights in Cote d’Ivoire, the US State Department estimated, with startling candor, “‘that 15,000 Malian children work on Ivorian cocoa and coffee plantations…Many are under 12 years of age, sold into indentured servitude…’” (Off 133). The International Labor Organization has explicitly defined the worst forms of child labor. It is universally accepted that not only is child labor unethical, but further, that coerced child labor is morally wrong. Yet, the alarming part is not that child labor is being utilized in cacao farming, but rather, the extent to which children are being exploited: “‘15,000 Malian children work on Ivorian cocoa and coffee plantations…Many are under 12 years of age, sold into indentured servitude…’” (Off 133). Cacao has become a product tainted with coerced and unethically sourced labor. In doing so, chocolate, itself, becomes an exploitative product.


This graph featured above is from Alders Ledge. It shows the primary cacao producing countries in the “Gold Coast” of West Africa. The graph shows that about 71% of the world’s cacao is sourced using child labor and 43% uses forced labor.


Marketing and Advertisement in the Chocolate Industry

Chocolate companies additionally manipulate their consumer base through their marketing strategies. First, chocolate companies have chosen to market specifically to children. Companies target the vulnerabilities of children through specific practices. For example, “until the age of about 8, children do not understand advertising’s persuasive intent” (Martin Lecture 3/29). Chocolate companies manipulate children through advertisements on television, packaging, and social media. Companies are now spending billions of dollars to manipulate children and maximize their profits: “Companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children, a staggering increase from the $100 million spent in 1983” (Martin Lecture 3/29).


The advertisement, featured by Kinder, depicts a smiling (happy) young boy on a delicious looking candy bar. The bottom reads “Invented for Kids Approved by Mums”, thereby playing off children’s vulnerabilities and telling them that this bar was specifically made for them.


In addition to chocolate companies’ manipulation of children, their advertisements of chocolate have also been used to dehumanize blackness: “The use of black people in advertising has a long history” (Robertson 36). However, there is some sort of logic to using blackness and black people to represent products like chocolate: “…products made available through the use of slave labor such as coffee and cocoa, often used, and many still use, images of black people to enhance their luxury status” (Robertson 36). Yet, does the logic of its representation make it any less inherently racist? The presentation of blackness and the use of that exploitation of coerced labor to maximize profit is morally incorrect. The imperial history of cacao and slavery make the use of its laborers as an advertising tool even more ethically wrong. Yet, we have historically, and still do, use blackface and such caricatures to represent chocolate products.

dunkin-donuts-blackface-hed-2013


This is an advertisement by Dunkin’ Donuts in Thailand. It features a smiling woman in blackface makeup holding a charcoal (chocolate) flavored donut. The slogan “Break every rule of deliciousness” is featured next to the blackfaced woman. Not only is this an example of linking chocolate to blackness in advertising, but it also links chocolate and subsequently blackness to sin.


Yet, even when companies attempt to manipulate their consumer base by marketing themselves as leaders of fairly sourced cacao, they do not always succeed. In Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in DivineChocolate Advertisements, Kristy Leissle describes Divine Chocolate’s ad, featuring female Ghanan cacao farmers as a “positive contribution” (Leissle 123) to the depictions of Africa in British culture. However the way that Divine Chocolate depicts these women with their products seems detached from reality: “Divine Chocolate expends considerable effort to make Kuapa Kokoo farmers – and Ghana as a cocoa origin site – visible to Britain’s chocolate shoppers…Divine Chocolate and St. Luke’s supplied the women’s outfits and gave them a stipend to have their hair styled for the shoot…” (Leissle 124). I would argue that if Divine Chocolate had really wanted to showcase the cacao farmers, not only would they have included the male farmers, but they wouldn’t have expended resources to change the women’s outward appearances. Further, much like the popular Western chocolate ads, Divine Chocolate’s ads sexual and objectify women. Divine Chocolate is seeking to maximize both sales and profits from the chocolate industry and are playing off of what they think the consumers want to see. Rather than this advertisement being associated with an educational or philanthropic aura, I would argue that this ad, in reality, fetishizes these female, African cacao farmers. Additionally, the advertisement validates and reinforces stereotypes regarding Africans. Thus, because of its manipulative nature, cacao, as a commodity, becomes an exploited commodity.

Linguistic Tool

Chocolate has become a linguistic tool that exacerbates not only racial distinctions but also racial tensions.

Colloquial Context

Chocolate has become a euphemism for sin; while it’s counterpart vanilla has become linked to purity. Through this symbolism, a standard of uncleanliness versus cleanliness is created. This leads one to wonder if the basis for linking chocolate to blackness is purely based on skin color, or rather does it have a deeper, race related background? In Slavery & Capitalism (1940), Eric Williams argues that racism is a byproduct of slavery and not the cause of slavery (Martin Lecture 3/1). Perhaps chocolate is commonly related to black people because of its historical exploitation of forced labor in the “Gold Coast” of West Africa? Or rather, is the fact that chocolate is also associated with dirtiness and sexuality a factor? Are these racist notions of uncleanliness associated with chocolate and blackness because of our inherent racism towards those that we previously subjugated?

Chocolate as associated with blackness becomes marginalized in society. The Western ideals reign supreme: “The commodity chain model is not ideal, then, creating a progress narrative in which western consumption is prioritized as a symbol of economic development and modernity” (Robertson 4). The association comes through the means by which cacao is cultivated. And in part stems from the inequality in the sourcing, in terms of workers: “The history of chocolate corresponds to some extent with the more well-documented histories of tea, coffee and sugar: notably in the early dependence on coerced labor, and in the transformation of the product from luxury to everyday commodity…Chocolate has been invested with specific cultural meanings which are in part connected to such conditions of production” (Robertson 3). Yet, this relation between chocolate as a symbol for black people and vanilla, seen as the opposite, for white people, creates yet another barrier of difference. And in doing so further paints black people as “othered”.

However, it is important to note, that the relation between chocolate and race is not entirely detrimental. In several contexts, the link and its subsequent meaning have been reappropriated to carry a more positive connotation. For example, “chocolate city”, referring to cities with a very large black population, has become more of a term of empowerment, rather than one of subjugation. Additionally, the book featured below, I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla, uses blackness as related to chocolate as merely a term to describe two halves of the same being, just different flavors. Thus, while the initial linking of blackness to chocolate may or may not come from racist and subjugated origins, the term is not entirely negative.


The book by Marguerite Wright, I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla is meant as a teaching tool to help parents guide their children as a minority in the community. In this context, chocolate as a euphemism for blackness is not necessarily racist nor prejudice. However, the fact that the parallel between race and chocolate exists at all, and the connotations of the parallel are inherently racist.


But…

One Could Argue that Free Trade is the Issue

However, one could argue that the problem of exploitation is not applicable just to the chocolate industry; rather, it is an issue with free trade and the laissez-faire economy itself. One could argue that the exploitative nature of the commodity and the exploitation by which it is cultivated is really a break down of fair trade. Fair trade is supposed to regulate the working conditions yet, in The Fair Trade Scandal, Ndongo Sylla argues that “…Fair Trade is but the most recent example of another sophisticated ‘scam’ by the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market” (Sylla 18). Sylla would argue that the system itself is at fault for the worker’s exploitation, rather than the companies employing them: “In the West African context where I worked, Fair Trade was barely keeping its promises. For older producer organizations, there were initially significant benefits; then, hardly anything followed. Newcomers to the system were still waiting for promises to come true. For those who wanted to join the movement, it was sometimes an obstacle course” (Sylla 19). One could also use Marx’s notion of the exploited worked and the systematic oppression involved in capitalism as the issue at hand. One could use Marx’s theory that the sole purpose of capitalism is to exploit the worker and estrange him from not only the commodity that he produces, but further from the capitalist and the land itself. Thereby showing that the exploitation involved in the chocolate industry is not only applicable to other commodities, but this exploitation is also a natural progression in a capitalistic society. The argument that the system is, in actuality, at fault for the exploitative nature of the product is valid. However, this still does not discount the racialized slurs that are a product of this estrangement and exploitation. The free market itself is problematic; but my argument here, is that chocolate is an exploitative product and it can be improved, even if the market is inherently compromised. This is a critique of the system and the mindset that this exploitation creates in society; rather than an essay that provides the means by which we can implement a long-term systemic change.

Conclusion

Chocolate through its advertisement and forms of cultivation becomes an exploitative commodity. Further, the means by which it is cultivated leads society to provide specific and racialized associations with chocolate. Thereby allowing chocolate to exacerbate race and age gaps in society.

Work Cited

Academic Sources

Berlan, Amanda. 2013. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An AnthropologicalPerspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.”

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in DivineChocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121139

Martin, Carla. Lectures (3/1, 3/22, 3/29).

Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Sylla, Ndongo. 2014. The Fair Trade Scandal.

Multimedia

Beaut.ie. “Maeve and Her Tiny Babies: Ads That Drive Me Crazy!” Beaut.ie. Beaut.ie, 12 May 2013. Web. 04 May 2017.
Jones, Jane. “The Taste of Inequality: Chocolate Is Too Expensive for Many Cocoa Farmers to Eat.” Ravishly. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.
Lee, Jack. “Alders Ledge.” Guilt Free Chocolate. N.p., 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 04 May 2017.
Stanley, T. L. “Dunkin’ Donuts Apologizes for Blackface Ad, but Not Everyone Is Sorry.” – Adweek. Adweek, n.d. Web. 04 May 2017.
Wright, Marguerite A. I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-conscious World. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000. Print.

Madécasse Chocolate: Fair Trade, or Exploitation Redux?

An image from Madécasse’s website showing how its chocolate is supposedly farmed. An analysis of Madécasse’s promotional material reveals the problematic tropes underlying its representation of farmers and Africa’s industry.

Madécasse chocolate, created by two ex-Peace Corps volunteers, has garnered a reputation for its progressive stance on fair trade chocolate. Madécasse relies on two related claims to boost its image as an ethical company: first, Madécasse often cites its innovative strategy of keeping chocolate production within the hands of local Madagascar communities, and second, Madécasse boasts that its cacao farmers are able to earn up to four times more income than even fair trade cocoa. Although Madécasse’s socially-conscious values—reminiscent of the Cadbury company values—seem like an exciting opportunity for Madagascar farmers and a breath of fresh air in the chocolate industry, a closer look reveals that Madécasse relies on troubling assumptions about cacao farmers even as it claims to change the narrative surrounding chocolate production.

Madécasse has been praised by gourmet food blogs for the company’s core values, its aim to better the lives of cacao farmers, and its efforts to increase local production within Africa. Madécasse’s website claims that the company began selling chocolate because:

We fell in love with the people and the country and wanted to do more. So we started making chocolate there in 2008 in collaboration with a local manufacturer. Even though 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from Africa, less than 1% of the world’s chocolate is actually made there. We exist to change this.

Additionally, Madécasse claims to go even further than other fair trade chocolate companies because “Madécasse generates four times more income than fair trade cocoa because all of the chocolate production takes place only a few hours away from where it is organically and sustainably harvested” (Russo). By helping “people to produce their own chocolate, so that the work stays in Africa (along with the profits),” Madécasse seems to have incorporated “fair production” into “fair trade.”

However, troubling ideas pervade Madécasse’s feel-good story, as evident in the above excerpts from Madécasse’s website. But before analyzing the problematic aspects of Madécasse’s “exploitation” narrative, a historical analysis will help give further context to Madécasse’s ethics-driven business, and show how Madécasse’s tactics are nothing new in the chocolate world.

Cadbury company values in the 21st century

Chocolate production certainly has a troubled history because of the use of indentured servitude and slaves on cacao and sugar plantations. Yet there were conscientious efforts to reform and change the exploitative method of production as early as the 1800’s. William Cadbury’s boycott of São Tomé and Príncipe exemplifies how the idea of mixing chocolate and ethics is hardly new. Cadbury had heard that contract laborers were working in slave-like conditions on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe where Cadbury sourced some of its cacao (Satre). The Portuguese plantations there used servicais, indentured servants that were really enslaved people brought from Angola to work (Satre); the conditions that met these slaves were so horrific that the average life expectancy on São Tomé and Príncipe was around 7-9 years (Martin).

To verify these claims, Cadbury hired Joseph Burtt to determine if the cocoa it was buying from the islands had been harvested by slave laborers (Higgs). Burtt’s extensive documentation of labor and slavery in West Africa eventually led to Cadbury’s decision to boycott cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe, a boycott that other companies also joined (although it is worth noting that Hershey did not join the boycott and labor abuses on those islands continued into the 1900’s). Instead, Cadbury and other companies turned to the Gold Coast and other regions to grow cacao; today, up to 60% of the world’s cacao comes from the Gold Coast, mostly bulk cacao of the foreastero variety (Martin).

The Cadbury story is important context for Madécasse in two ways: first, it shows that ethical concerns have been pervasive in cacao’s history, and that Madécasse is not the first company to use chocolate production as an avenue for social change. However, there is another lesson from the Cadbury story that cuts the other way: the Cadbury story also tells us that chocolate companies will try to deflect bad publicity by shifting production to other regions and that these companies may continue harmful production practices out of sight. In either case, it is important to read between the lines of Madécasse’s lofty words to analyze whether its agenda relies on faulty narratives of exploitation and poverty.

What is the reality of exploitation?

Despite the feel-good story of Cadbury’s boycott of cacao plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe, the reality was more complicated: the boycott did not eliminate the slave-like conditions on those islands (which continued up until 1950) and other companies like Hershey stepped into the void left by Cadbury (Martin) (Higgs). Similarly, Madécasse’s characterization of cacao farming in Madagascar paints an incomplete picture of the reality surrounding cacao farmers. In fact, several review of Madécasse chocolate have claimed that the chocolate is “guilt-free” and that the consumer should rest assured that they’re “giving a little something back with each bite” (Cocoa Runners). Only by challenging the exploitation narrative can we break down these statements to analyze the true means of chocolate production.

Cacao farmers have often been victim to the “exploitation” narrative, where they are assumed to be victims of the chocolate-industrial complex. As Carol Off writes, these farmers make a pittance that there is “little remaining for tomorrow” after they buy the basic necessities of life (Off). Off argues that “almost every critic of the industry has identified the key problem: poverty among the primary producers,” and asks if this problem could be solved by “simply undertak[ing ways] to make sure the farmers received a decent price for their beans” (Off).

However, this simplistic analysis ignores the role that national governmental policy and local pressures play in cacao production. At its most insinuous, this exploitation narrative paints farmers as either helpless victims or as exploiters themselves. What is often left out of promotional materials for bean-to-bar companies is how several layers of local, national, and industry forces are sandwiched between the consumer and the farmer. Cacao farms in Africa are often independent family farms with complex land ownership titles. These farms produce cacao for mostly foreign-owned corporations whose primary market is outside of Africa (Martin).

For instance, the equation is often complicated by national policies and inter-fighting that has little to do with how much consumers pay for a bar of chocolate. In the 1970’s agricultural crisis, harsh economic policy worsened economic hardships for farmers and disincentived farmers to continue growing cacao and other cash crops (Martin). Governments have also continued to use the marketing boards/caisse system to hurt farmers by forcing them to sell their crops at price below the world price. In some cases, farmers have been hurt by behind-the-scene politics: some countries had passed legislation that allowed the government to take money out of the cacao farming areas and use it for the benefit of the country as a whole in an effort to shift resources to promote urban industry (Martin). These urban industrial interests were seen as bigger threats to governmental rule and rural farmers had less consolidated power to challenge or lobby for change. All of these examples show how the narrative of exploitation often ignores cultural, economic, and political forces that stand between farmers and the product that we enjoy.

Does Madécasse rely on a simplistic exploitation narrative?

Madécasse’s promotion materials, as well as review of Madécasse chocolate, reveal how the “exploitation” narrative and several other troubling tropes still pervade “fair trade” chocolate production.

Madécasse’s writings contain faint undertones of colonialistic amazement and paternalism in the way it generalizes and describes Africa. Madécasse’s website contains these excerpts:

For centuries, Africa’s economy has been overly dependent on the export of raw materials (cocoa, sugar, coffee, vanilla, to name a few) with zero value added locally. These are eye-opening facts, which explain how a continent so rich in raw materials can remain so poor.

“These are eye-opening facts”—but to whom? Sure, Madécasse is writing to a Western audience, but even such an audience would have already been vaguely aware of African exploitation. The use of the phrase “eye-opening” here seems more to emphasize how Madécasse is doing a great service by raising awareness for poor African farmers—in fact, in the second sentence, Madécasse goes ahead and paints the entire continent as “poor.” Another concern centers around whether these eye-opening facts actually facts at all. Madécasse uses the slogan “Did you know that Africa grows 70% of the world’s cocoa, yet produces less than 1% of the world’s chocolate? Madécasse exists to change this by making chocolate entirely in Africa.” Yet there are chocolate bars and lemon treats produced in Africa (Martin). And Madécasse’s claims are completely contradicted by Madécasse’s later explanation of how they make their chocolate: “We work with a local chocolate manufacturer to actually make our chocolate, from start to finish, in Madagascar.” If there were already local chocolate manufacturers to partner with, has there really been “zero value added” locally, or was Madécasse’s trying to downplay the local economy and paint the Western industry as more advanced?

Another area of concern is that Madécasse provides limited information on the livelihood of farmers that it employs. This is a company who prides itself on how “Madécasse generates four times more income than fair trade cocoa because all of the chocolate production takes place only a few hours away,” yet Madécasse’s description of these farmers is just as opaque as some of the press releases for Hershey or Mars. Madécasse claims that “workers are paid above the “fair” price and are provided job and skill training.” While Madécasse does put the word “fair” in quotes as an acknowledgement that the industry can do more to compensate farmers, there is little else about how the farmers stand to gain any tools, education, or aid from Madécasse. All we know as consumers is that Madécasse has “created meaningful income for over 200 people – from farming of cocoa, to making our packaging, to making our chocolate”—which is a disappointing amount of information for an innovator in fair trade and fairly produced chocolate (Madécasse). The website actually writes more extensively on the environmental impact of nurturing cocoa trees than it does about the farmers that grow the trees: the website boasts an entire section on Madécasse’s “250 acres of forests that provide a safe haven to over 65 species of plants and animals” and “endangered plants and animals,” leaving farmers out of the picture (Madécasse).

Madécasse’s founders also seems to suffer from a minor “savior” complex in the way they describe their company’s impact on the local economy. In an interview with Fast Company, one of the co-founders Tim McCollum credits Madécasse for how “people are starting to wake up, and realize that for 100 years they’ve been exporting about 65 percent of the world’s cocoa to France, and then importing the chocolate that France makes with their cocoa. There’s this appetite for it to work in Africa as well” (Evans). But if in fact Africa is starting to realize its own production capabilities, the better explanation might be because demand is increasing as a “genuine middle class is emerging across the continent,” not because of foreign investment in one chocolate brand (Russo).

McCollum also pats Madécasse on the back for how it has supposedly created a pool of talent in Africa: McCollum begins by generalizing that “Africa suffers from a brain drain. Everyone who’s educated there is educated abroad and they usually don’t come back because there are no jobs.” To combat this, the founders claim they have “create[d] opportunities for talented individuals even when there isn’t a position available simply to hold on to them,” because “the people are so few and far between that we’ll create that opportunity” (Evans). Not only is this statement extremely dismissive of potential African ingenuity, it also creates a sense that foreigners are qualified to identify and cultivate talent to “save Africa,” for lack of a better term. These condescending “savior” undertones taste bitter in light of Madécasse’s promise to encourage self-growth in local economies.

In conclusion, Madécasse rests on praise-worthy principles: supporting local production and raising awareness of fair trade ideas. However, Madécasse’s execution is flawed in several respects: in terms of historical context, Madécasse is hardly the first company to mix ethics and business, despite what Madécasse’s promotional materials indicate. Additionally, Madécasse might want to have a look at the historical and political context surrounding the production of its beans: as history shows, paying more for cacao beans doesn’t work if the government is the only seller to the global market and simply pockets the increase, and change cannot occur if our conception of cacao farmers does not take government policy and local pressures into consideration. Lastly, Madécasse’s rhetoric is troubling in the way that it paints the local economy as helpless and in need of a foreign infusion of leadership when its own website admits that Madécasse came into existence by relying on already-existing farms and local manufacturers. While Madécasse’s fair trade goals are well-intended, its exploitative narrative and practices should be examined for its perpetuation of simplistic and reductive tropes that pervade the chocolate industry.


Works Cited:

  • CocaoRunners. “Madécasse.” http://cocoarunners.com/explore/maker/madecasse/. Online
  • Evans, Lisa. “How a Chocolate Company in Madagascar Overcame the Odds.” Fast Company. 3 April 2014. http://www.fastcompany.com/3028533/bottom-line/how-a-chocolate-company-in-madagascar-overcame-the-odds. Online.
  • Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. 2012. Print.
  • Madécasse. “Our Impact.” http://www.madecasse.com/our-impact/. Online
  • Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” 2016. Powerpoint/lecture.
  • Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Anatomy of an Industry. 2014. Print.
  • Russo, Maria. “Made in Madagascar: How the World’s Finest Chocolate is Finally Being Produced at Home.” The Cultureist. 27 March 2012. http://www.thecultureist.com/2012/03/27/made-in-madagascar-the-worlds-finest-chocolate-is-finally-being-produced-at-home/. Online.
  • Satre, Lowell. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. 2005. Print.

 

Sexualization of Women in ads: Godiva’s Failed Attempt to Empower Female Consumers

Introduction

Chocolate consumption was feminized early and many advertisements initially targeted women because they were responsible for household decisions and thus had purchasing power (Robinson 20). Chocolate companies however also soon recognized the potential relationship between female sensuality and luxurious chocolate and started targeting men through feminine advertisements. Today, advertisements for chocolate have become increasingly more sexualized and we see an alarming trend with ads that promote gender stereotypes. Women in contemporary ads are often depicted as irrational or excessively aroused due to chocolate (Martin). As the analysis of the campaign below suggests, there is an urgent need for advertisements that empower female consumers.

The GoDiva Campaign

In 2004, Godiva launched an advertising campaign, GoDiva, aimed at promoting an indulgent lifestyle to women between 25 and 30 and (Cho). Godiva’s efforts to appeal to a new consumer base, however, were not particularly successful because the campaign exploited women rather than empowering them.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.21.35 PM

As seen in the advertisement above, which is part of the campaign, a scantly dressed woman is lying down, seductively gazing into the camera. She is clad in a sheer fabric that is seemingly falling off her shoulders. Her hair is tousled and she stares into the camera with desire. Interestingly, the Godiva chocolate truffle is sensually placed on the woman’s chest, bringing the viewer’s eyes to her cleavage. The woman’s right hand is placed on her chest while the left hand is sensually caressing the hair, further adding to her sultry look. All these attributes give the advertisement an erotic vibe, and could highlight that the woman has or is soon to engage in a sexually pleasurable act.

Moreover, the strange placement of the truffle seems to suggest that the truffle is not aimed for self-consumption, but rather to be consumed by someone else. Furthermore, her posture places her at the disposal of the implied chocolate consumer, reinforcing the notion that this woman is subordinate to her partner.

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These ads were part of Godiva’s campaign and feature women who seductively gaze into the camera.

The tagline of Godiva’s campaign, “Every Woman is One Part (Go)Diva” is catchy, but in connection to photos of submissive women, it fails to empower prospective female consumers. The other ads in the campaign similarly feature white women with seductive styling and submissive body postures. Moreover, the models are portrayed in dimly lit rooms that feature chandeliers and ornamented wallpapers. These factors imply that Godiva is primarily for upscale white consumers, thus highlighting issues related to race and class.

Lastly, it seems problematic that Godiva chooses to highlight the word diva in the campaign. Although Merriam Webster’s definition of the word diva suggest that it is “a usually glamorous and successful female performer or personality,” the word also carries a negative connotation and is often used to describe someone who is arrogant and high maintenance. The interaction between the campaign’s tagline and photos submissive women thus seem particularly problematic.

An Alternative Ad

In response to Godiva’s campaign, I am proposing a campaign that effectively empowers women. As highlighted, a major issue in Godiva’s campaign, and chocolate advertisements in general, is that the women are portrayed as submissive tools intended to satisfy someone else’s sexual desire. My campaign addresses issues of female exploitation and seeks to empower prospective female consumers.

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Rather than highlighting the word “diva,” which carries negative connotations, the ad will highlight the word “go” to further emphasize that the woman in the ad has agency.

In the proposed ad, a young woman is portrayed in an office setting. She is exiting a meeting room with a confident smile on her face. In stark contrast to Godiva’s Diva-campaign she is not staring into the camera, and is thus not consumed by the male gaze. The woman in the proposed ad has a lot of agency, and seeks a moment of “sweet escape” after a successful day at work. In contrast to the original ad, she is portrayed as strong and independent, and thus the chocolate is intended for self-consumption. The new ad highlights that the chocolate can be associated with luxury and gratification, without blunt references to sex. Moreover, the woman in the ad is appropriately dressed and shows very little skin, to refrain from exploiting the female body.

Lastly, one major issue with Godiva’s campaign is that it failed to promote diversity, and my campaign will cast a diverse group of women of different ethnicities. Moreover, the proposed campaign aims to promote a healthy body ideal, similar to the woman in the proposed ad above.

I truly believe that the proposed campaign will appeal to female consumers who need a break after a busy day at work. The campaign is also likely empower women, and will be extended to include females in other work settings, thus reaching a broader audience. The working woman is relatable, and the campaign successfully pushes back on gender stereotypes and female sexualization in chocolate advertisements.

 

Works Cited

Martin, Carla D. “Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements”.” Harvard University. Cambridge, MA. 30 March. 2016. Lecture.

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

 

Media Sources

Godiva Appeals to Women with “Diva” Campaign. Digital Image. http://media260chocolate.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2014/03/03/godiva-appeals-to-women-with-diva-campaign/. Web. 9 March. 2016

 

 

 

Just Ad Water: Positive and Negative Advertising and the Case of Swiss Miss

Advertisement is one of the ugliest and most alienating features of modern life. Karl Marx describes the phenomenon of advertisement perfectly in his polemic essay “On The Human Requirements:”

…every person speculates on creating a new need in another, so as to drive him to a fresh sacrifice, to place him in a new dependence and to seduce him into a new mode of gratification and therefore economic ruin. Each tries to establish over the other an alien power, so as thereby to find satisfaction of his own selfish need… [the producer] puts himself at the service of the other’s most depraved fancies, plays the pimp between him and his need, excites in him morbid appetites, lies in wait for each of his weaknesses—all so that he can then demand the cash for this service of love.

(Marx, 93-94, emphasis sic)

Advertisement works by creating need or desire in its target audience (the potential consumer). But how does it do this?

A classical, simplistic, naïve description of what advertisement does might be that it relates the merits of the product accurately and, by informing the consumer, allows them either to choose that product or one of its competitors. This is the conception of advertisement embedded in the classical economics concept of homo economicus: the self-interested, knowledgeable consumer.

It is obvious to any thinking person that this conception of advertisement’s function is grossly incomplete—in fact, most advertisement today does not function by informing, it functions by persuading the consumer, and it does this not usually by accurately depicting the advertised product’s literal qualities, but by investing it in the consumer’s mind with more abstract attributes. This has much to do with what historian and anthropologist Sidney Mintz called “the complex idea that one [can] become different by consuming differently,” (Mintz 185, emphasis sic). For example, the below ad for Diet Coke comments not at all on any of the visceral, material qualities of the soda—its taste or texture in the mouth, the effects from its caloric or caffeine content, or even the more debatable and abstract quality of being “refreshing”—and focuses instead on implying that, somehow, consuming Diet Coke will increase your social appeal, your sex appeal, and will empower you to glamorously have fun.

By depicting the experience of drinking Diet Coke this way, Coca-Cola is promising something that in some way resembles that experience to those who drink the soda in reality. Advertisement promises something to the consumer—an experience, a sensation, an improvement, a change.

The Diet Coke ad above is what I will dub “positive” advertising—not positive in the sense of a value judgement, but positive in the sense that it promises an addition to the consumer’s life, and preys on the consumer’s desire. What I will call “negative” advertisement, therefore, does not so much promise to add something good to the consumer’s life as to take something bad out of it—negative advertisement preys on the consumer’s fear. An example of negative advertisement:

Now, there’s at least 30 pages’ worth to be written on everything that is royally f**ked up about that advertisement, but leaving all that aside, it illustrates negative advertisement perfectly. The ad tells us that Veet will keep from the consumer something they fear (“dudeness,” apparently); it will stave off something bad from their life, rather than add something good.

Obviously, the boundary between positive and negative advertisement is extremely nebulous—there is a sides-of-a-coin sort of relationship between desire and fear in that we desire to keep away those things we fear and we fear not having our desires satisfied. Nonetheless, the lack of a clear boundary doesn’t mean we don’t know it when we see it. The Diet Coke ad above is clearly positive advertisement—but it could easily be changed into negative advertisement if the young woman drinking the soda were to be displayed as disastrously lacking in social and sex appeal or in her sense of fun before the can is cracked. Negative advertisement, to put it another way, promises to compensate for some glaring deficit in the consumer’s life or self.

I should note that these categories and this essay are only concerned with advertisements for consumable goods. Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous “Daisy” campaign ad, for example, does not advertise something that can be consumed, and is therefore not an example of negative advertising despite the fact that it is perhaps the ur-example of advertisement that panders to fear:

I mean… damn. It doesn’t get much more fear-based than “vote for me cause Barry Goldwater is gonna get your kids nuked.”

One’s children being incinerated in a nuclear explosion is a fear of a very primal and uncomplicated kind, but not all negative advertisement is so basic. In fact, deconstructing the fears and cultural complexes on which a piece of advertisement plays can yield fascinating insights into the product being advertised, its relations to its own consumers, and the culture in which these relations operate and find their basis. As an example of this deconstruction, a classmate and I examined and parodically altered the following advertisements from Swiss Miss hot chocolate.

Image

 

(Image Source: Kaitlyn Boudah)

This image is taken from a sachet of Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix, and

ImageImage

this blurb and photo are taken from the Swiss Miss brand page of the Keurig coffee product site (url: https://www.keurig.com/swissmiss-k-cup) describing a little Keurig mini-cup-pack of Swiss Miss mix. Clearly Swiss Miss has a consistent and coherent narrative running through much of their advertising—one that represents a complex and involved example of negative advertisement.

The image on the sachet is of a youngish, attractive, white woman—who can only be presumed to be the mother—and the prepubescent, adorable, white little girl smiling at her—clearly meant to be her daughter—enjoying a cup of hot cocoa together, with the slogan “Create the Moment” repeated alongside it in elaborate cursive script. The text of the blurb speaks for itself. Let us examine them and see what we can deduce. If we follow the obvious principle that the consumer is meant to be able to identify with the models in the advertisement, we can safely say that the target audience of this advertising narrative is mothers (or at least parents, since little kids do not make purchasing decisions). With a little less safety we could generalize that the target audience is, on the whole, white and of middle-class socioeconomic standing. So, with both sides of the producer-consumer relation established in mind, let us proceed.

I have stated that this is negative advertisement, but I acknowledge that it could be argued to be positive. I will defend my claim below, but first let us examine what fears, desires, and cultural ideas this advertisement makes use of. As with the advertisements discussed above, it is not the product itself that is being sold, it is those things with which the advertisement invests the product in the consumer’s eye. In this case, what is primarily being sold is family togetherness. The slogan “Create the Moment” informs us what may be accomplished by the purchase and consumption of Swiss Miss—a moment of sharing, of connection, of togetherness, of bonding and love between family members, especially between mothers and daughters such as are depicted on both the sachet and the image that accompanies the blurb on the Keurig site. The emphasis on mothers reflects gendered assumptions on the part of Swiss Miss: that the mother is the primary purchaser of groceries, that the mother is the parent more responsible for emotional fostering, or that the mother is the parent who would prepare a consumable drink for their child.

The blurb is selling “one-on-one time” and “those precious moments with the kids.” My argument for this as negative rather than positive advertisement lies primarily in the rhetoric of the slogan and blurb. Swiss Miss is not selling anything additional; it does not take the positive advertisement’s view that your life may be well and good and sufficient but by buying product X you can make it better, you can add something to it which takes it beyond sufficient to great. Swiss Miss is selling you something to fill in a hole and bring your life something that it is lacking. The slogan is not “Create A Moment,” it is “Create THE Moment:” the Moment is something understood, something that requires no explanation, something that the consumer apparently already thinks should be in their life—but perhaps isn’t. “Those precious moments” operates in the same way—the “those” designates a concept already understood. Even if the consumer has never felt that they have experienced such a moment, they at least know what the moment is supposed to be, and Swiss Miss is selling them a chance at it.

This advertising narrative plays off of parental (especially maternal) fears that parents are not having enough of “those precious moments” with their kids—preciousness connotes rarity, and it hardly needs proving that there is a widespread anxiety in our culture today about lack of understanding or sympathy between parents and their children, about children’s moving “too fast” to stop and really connect. The invocation of “tradition” in the blurb adds a nostalgic note that obliquely taps into this modernity-angst zeitgeist. Add to this the ahistorical anxiety parents have about their children growing up and moving away from them—either in the sense of drifting away from them in values, beliefs, etc., drifting out of their parental influence and out from under their protection, or in the sense of merely becoming an adult who is no longer dependent and therefore no longer bound to the parent by that dependency—and we’ve got quite a lot of potential fear, guilt, anxiety, and sadness. The advertisement is effective because it promises to stave these bad feelings off, to solve these problems: it seems to promise that by sharing a cup of Swiss Miss brand hot cocoa, parents and children can share a special moment of emotional connection, can forge a bond that will last through aging, can stop and appreciate the current moment, always so fleeting, of the child’s development. And since the root of all these fears is the same—the root of all fears that are based in regret, in not having lived right, in being left behind by your loved ones and by the relentless march of history—what Swiss Miss is selling, on some level, is a cure for the fear of death. Just add water and stir.

To highlight and parody these fears and the way the advertisement exploits them, we have altered the blurb taken from the Keurig site and its associated picture:

Image

Behind the girl is a specter of a young woman in risqué “punk” attire and makeup, representing the parent’s fear of a child’s growing up, rejecting the parent’s influence, and going “wrong” somehow. Behind the mother is the Grim Reaper, who rather heavy-handedly represents the aforementioned fear of death. The blurb has been altered to highlight the commodification of family togetherness and exploitation of parental fears (with a jab at the real blurb’s glossing over the “imported” chocolate’s origins thrown in for good measure). The slogan has been changed to, again, show how family bonds are being commodified.

 

Works Cited

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friederich. The Marx-Engels Reader. Ed. Robert C. Tucker.    W.W. Norton & Company, New York N.Y. 1978.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. Viking Penguin Inc., 1985. London, England.