Tag Archives: exploitation

“Contract Labor” or Slavery Remade: The Never-Ending Exploitation of African Workers

The Atlantic Slave Trade, which ended in the 19th century, set the precedent for “contract labor” in several west African countries. Unfortunately, this “contract labor” was certainly just another form of the slavery that existed before it. In the book Chocolate on Trial, by Lowell Satre, a journalist that ventures to Portuguese colonies in West Africa documented alarming stories that lend to the idea of the persistence of slavery in another form. The introduction of cacao into these west African colonies called for immense amounts of labor and although slavery in Portuguese was abolished in the 1870s, labor contracts served as an alternative method for the exploitation of African workers (Satre, 2006). 

This image is the King of Kongo receiving the Portuguese slave traders while offering captives to serve as slaves in return for goods

São Tomé, an island off the coast of West Africa and one of the Portuguese colonies, thrived off of the production of cacao beans. Consequently, it was also the hub of between twenty thousand and forty thousand contract laborers (Satre, 2006). With the potential of substantial economic gain and the abolishment of slavery in the colonies, the Portuguese quickly found a way to use labor contracts to profit off of the work of individuals who were in some ways still enslaved. In the midst of the conflict between African tribes and debts owed to the colonizers, there was not much difficulty finding the laborers to put to work. Between Africans selling their own family members to pay off debts, individuals in fear of forced labor rather than underpaid labor, and the exploitation of captives from civil war, the concerns of a shortage of workers was very minimal. 

This image depicts the poor conditions of African slaves, or “contract laborers” on a boat set to land in São Tomé

The colonizers did everything possible to make the labor seem voluntary. From the journalist Henry Nevinson it was very clear that slavery persisted. In Chocolate on Trial, he mentions witnessing a young mother sold to “a white man for twenty cartridges” (Satre, 2006). The sale of this mother wasn’t from a white man to another white man, rather she was taken captive by another African tribe who desperately sold other captives and people fit for contract labor. Furthermore, she was later spotted in a group of West Africans that were labeled as “voluntary workers” by the soldiers when in truth she was just another captive sold into extremely underpaid labor with awful working conditions. Another father that the journalist just missed committed suicide because he had sold all his children in hopes of paying his debts to the colonizers. Although these stories are just of two individuals it goes to show the extent that the Portuguese colonizers were willing to go to ramp up cacao production for their own economic gain. 

The book Chocolate Islands: Cacao, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, provides further insight into this new form of slavery as a William Cadbury, a member of the family-owned Cadbury Bros., decided to boycott this source of cacao after his visits to the colonies (Higgs, 2012). Witnessing this new form of slavery was clearly nothing to deny or be taken lightly. Captives were taken and shipped to São Tomé, often having no chance to return until the end of their contracts. The living conditions in São Tomé were beyond subpar (Weinberg, 2013). Furthermore, the already low wages the workers received were often paid back to the plantation owners through stores they owned. The boycotting of this source of cacao was a major political play for the British and the Cadbury Bros. as it highlighted ethics as primary concern that should be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, the Portuguese consistently denied the claims of extensive exploitation of their works by claiming that their workers were getting fair wages and had decent living environments (Higgs, 2012). 

An image highlighting the purity of Cadbury’s cacao once they stoped buying cacao produced from Portuguese labor contracts, likely signifying the importance of ethical cacao production.

Another interesting matter discussed by Nevinson throughout his time in the colonies was the seemingly forced conversion of children to Catholicism. According to Nevinson, it seemed like joining the missionaries and their practices of Catholicism was a way out of contract labor. This provides support to the idea that the so-called “voluntary labor” was indeed forced because large numbers of children did indeed join these missionaries and likely as a way to escape the labor (Satre, 2006).

The abolition of slavery in Portuguese colonies very clearly was not an abolition. Rather, they simply changed the form in which slavery exists to fit a more “ethical” time period where concerns were raised about slavery. With the British and companies like the Cadbury Bros. making points about ethical concerns, the Portuguese attempted to justify their contract labor by mentioning that it must be signed by both contractor and worker and that there were clear guidelines for the conditions in which the labor would be done. However, through anecdotal stories and investigations done by journalists such as Nevinson, it is clear that these standards of labor were almost always ignored for the sole purpose of economic gain through cacao production. By abusing power and existing conflict within these colonies, the Portuguese successfully enslaved, not paid, thousands of West Africans for the purpose of cacao production.

Works Cited:

Higgs, C. (2013). Chocolate islands: cocoa, slavery, and colonial Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Satre, L. J. (2006). Chocolate on trial: slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Athens, OH: Ohio Univ. Press.

Weinberg, S. (2015, October 22). Chocolate and slavery. Retrieved from https://www.1843magazine.com/places/chocolate-and-slavery

Cacao and Chocolate Exploited

Chocolate’s history is one full of rampant exploitation and profit-gouging. Beginning and in origin as an ancient Meso-American staple for religious and cultural ceremony, it is now widely known almost solely for its desert-like presentation. When Hernando Cortes discovered the Aztecs, he was welcomed in by King Montezuma, who treated him to a banquet including chocolate in the form of a somewhat bitter tasting drink. European distaste for the cacao drink quickly gave way to a sweetened form of the ‘delicacy’ more suited to European luxury (Smithsonian Magazine). The transformation of the cacao bean was rapid, as European royalty and the rich began to use it in an almost fashionable and status-gaining way. Discovered in 1828 by a Dutch man named Coenraad Johannes van Houten, the process of transforming cacao beans into cocoa powder using a hydraulic press allowed for a certain commercialization of chocolate. Previously, chocolate had been strictly served in drink form, but by 1850, when a man named Joseph Fry experimented with adding cacao butter to cacao powder, forming a solid chocolate (World Cocoa Foundation). Using sugar to make it sweeter, and physical tools to make it more industrial and marketable, Europeans quickly realized that chocolate could be mass produced as a global luxury food item, causing a massive and immediate explosion in the newfound and newly created ‘chocolate industry’.

The European processing of Chocolate which brought it into big industry.

Chocolate as we know it today is a relatively new concept, having been formed and created over the last two centuries. The issues that have been caused in wake of this rapid development are issues synonymous to the same problems that most agricultural cropping processes encounter. Exploited labor, massive exportation, and profit-gouging are rampant within the cocoa produce industry. It is estimated that nearly ninety percent of all cacao is grown on small family farms of a few acres, meaning that it passes through multiple sets of hands and transactions before making it to actual production. Consequentially, the majority of around 5 million cacao farmers live in poverty. Entirely profit driven, cacao is processed in countries and places like America, Canada, and Europe, half a world removed from the places of production origin, such as South America and Africa, meaning that it is easy for chocolate companies to claim ignorance to the fact that their growers are using child-labor, deforestation slash and burn techniques, and living in poverty themselves.

The deforestation in Cote d’Ivoire.

Corporations are inherently created and driven by massive profit margins, and though it isn’t always necessary that they maintain those margins, it is very difficult for massive beasts such as Nestlé, which employs an estimated 308,000 people, to justify a self-imposed and willing profit loss. Though it isn’t ethically right for these companies to pay their producers so little and so unfairly, reform is a much slower and more difficult process than it seems from the outside. In most, if not all, opinions, removing child labor altogether from the industry would be a major win, however, it’s estimated that in order to incentivize farmers in Africa and South America to remove children from their workforce, they would need to be paid at least fifty percent more for their crops (Sapiens), which would cause major ripples among the profit margins for these major companies.

Less profit for Nestlé means lower wages for employees and less production, but more importantly, it means less money flowing into the chocolate market. These are the factors that come into play when legislation ignores the fact that cacao production in its current form is harmful to the people and environments that it touches. Though that reasoning should and will never justify the use of forced child labor, it goes to show that this is a very ‘complex’ issue, with many factors at play, making decisions harder and harder for lawmakers and corporations alike. Unfortunately, the answer to these issues may be found in the extreme degradation of the cacao and chocolate industries. To draw a parallel of sorts, in the 1880s, at the peak of the cattle industry, a cow raised and bred in South Texas could be purchased for $10 but sold for $40 in most other states. This led to the exploitation of both labor and land in Texas, causing ranchers to overgraze and overstock their land in an effort to pay their impoverished cowboys, who made a mere $30 per month. Soon enough, prices were low due to a flood of beef in the market, and the industry collapsed, calling for a new set of reforms and regulations regarding acres/cow, cattle head maximum/ranch etc. Since the crash of the cattle industry in the late 1880s, there was an overall betterment of the industry for about a century, until large feedlot beef corporations started to profit gouge much like the Nestlés of the chocolate industry. Since the 1980s, the cattle industry in America has seen a similar trend of exploitation and unsustainable farming techniques used in order to make ends meet, but it is on a slow decline that will eventually correct itself yet again. The point I aim to make is that massive change within industry is both slow to move and incredibly difficult to set in action. Though the proof that change is needed is out there, the truth and way of our current world is that big change needs time, and maybe the cacao industry is close to that breaking point.

WORKS CITED:

Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.

“History of Cocoa.” World Cocoa Foundation, 31 Jan. 2020, http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/blog/history-of-cocoa/.

Carr, Teresa. “The Bitter Side of Cocoa Production.” SAPIENS, USAID/Flickr, 13 Feb. 2020, http://www.sapiens.org/culture/cocoa-production/.

“Cocoa Prices and Income of Farmers.” Make Chocolate Fair!, 25 Mar. 2014, nl.makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers.

Right Place at the Right Time

Imagine walking into a grocery store with a sugar craving. You walk directly to the section with sweets and chocolates only to be visually bombarded by the large variety of options. Maybe you want a simple Mars bar- or if you are in a nutty mood, a Snickers. Alternatively, you could be looking for a smaller, more “snacky” option, such as an M&M or one of the varieties of Skittles. Perhaps you don’t want candy at all, so you stop at the gum aisle and pick up a Juicy Fruit or Orbit pack of gum. On the way to the register, a Dove and Twix bar catch your eye, and you make your purchase. Walking out of the store, you deem your trip a success and are happy that you were able to narrow your options from the variety presented above. Little did you know, however, that every confection mentioned previously is owned by one massive conglomerate: Mars Inc.

According to Zion Market Research (2018), the global Total Addressable Market (TAM) for chocolate is a staggering $103.38 billion and is expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate of 7% for the next 7 years ($161.56 billion by 2024). This TAM is higher than the GDP of 130 nations and is composed mainly of five large corporations: Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, Ferrero, and Hershey’s.

This pie chart details the breakdown of market share in U.S. confectionery markets. The diagram stresses how a few firms dominate an entire multibillion dollar industry (U.S. Confectionary Market Share, 2016).

Even into the late 19th Century, processing cacao beans was still a manual task that took a significant amount of labor on a large scale (The History of Chocolate, 2007). So how then, in 150 years, have we arrived at a point where chocolate is so all expansive and profitable? The mass production and distribution of sugar, tools resulting from the Industrial Revolution, and innovative entrepreneurial solutions transformed the nature of chocolate from a rare, bitter, localized delicacy, to the massive, mass-produced, money-making machine it is today.

Cane sugar is the ingredient that unlocked the real marketability of chocolate, allowing it to be widely consumed and enjoyed. Sugar, in addition to chocolate, has a complicated history that begins with it as a specialty item, reserved for royalty and special occasions and slowly trickling down to the masses through plantation slavery as its production mechanism. In Sidney Mintz’s “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” (1985), she claims that “no later than 1800, sugar had become a necessity… in the diet of every English person; by 1900, it was supplying nearly one-fifth of the calories in the English diet” (p. 94). This rapid acceleration in the late years was due to the end of experimentation with sugar and its many uses. Not only did it have medicinal uses for chest and throat pain, but sugar was also found to slow the spread of bacteria, making it a useful preservative. In addition, pure, white, cane sugar was a common decorative addition that became synonymous with nobility. It was only through brutal exploitation of slaves that sugar was able to be prepared en masse, allowing for it to shift from a spice- a mere addition in some recipes- to the star of a given food or diet. Mintz (1985) corroborates this analysis when she claims that “As the spread of sugar downward and outward meant that it lost some of its power to distinguish those who consumed it, it became a new substance” (p. 95).  Another contributing factor to the proliferation of sugar was the rise of coffee, tea, and chocolate as these goods reinforced each other in a cycle that led to the mass adoption of all of them as household staples. Once sugar’s role as a sweetener had been solidified, it was only a matter of time until this sweet addition seeped into the chocolate industry.

This graph details the change in consumption of sugar over time. While growth is fairly linear between the 1600s-1800s, there is a steep boom at the start of the 19th century due to the formalization of slave labor in plantations (Sugar Consumption Over Time).

In addition to the availability of raw resources, the entrepreneurs and innovations of the Industrial Revolution propelled the industry forward in ways that set up the mass production of chocolate to succeed. As mentioned earlier, it was not until late into the 19th century that the manual removal of cacao was replaced by more mechanized solutions. Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten is attributed with inventing the Cocoa press in 1828. This machine was able to separate the cacao butter from chocolate liquor (The Sweet Lure of Chocolate, 2020). This mechanization lowered costs and sped up the chocolate-making process. In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt, the Swiss chocolatier, invented the conching machine, which allowed for the production of standardized, mass-produced, smoother, and superior tasting products (The Sweet History of Chocolate, 2014). In his piece “Industrial Food,” Jack Goody (2013) also argues that the transition from a mixed marketplace in cities, such as London, to the privatized individual storefronts and grocery stores allowed for the chocolate to be more accessible as prices fell. In addition, the ability to preserve milk in the condensed form (in cans) allowed for even greater mass production (p. 81-83).

This video gives insight to the Conching process which aims to spread cacao butter within chocolate. It also also develops the flavor of the chocolate through application of frictional heat (The Chocolate Conche, 2018).

The Industrial Revolution resulted in technology that could mass-produce confection; however, smart and savvy entrepreneurial minds were still necessary to capture the business and stomach of chocolate hungry consumers. The stories of Milton S. Hershey and Forrest Mars shed a great deal of insight into how small local confectionaries grew into global powerhouses. In the case of Hershey, due to his lack of experience in the chocolate industry, he teamed up with John Schmalbach, whose proprietary method allowed for the team to produce on a grander scale than in Europe. This was due precisely to the massive availability of condensed milk and sugar (D’Antonio 2006, p. 107-108). Hershey was able to gain market power, cutting costs, and therefore pushing out the smaller competition, forcing labor to come to them. The Hershey factory became central to the town (later renamed Hershey), and unlike Standard Oil and other large-scale monopolists, Hershey’s operations were not viewed in an evil light (D’Antonio 2006, p. 115).  

Mars had a slightly less linear growth story that began with Forrest finding his estranged father, reviving his business with the original Mars bar, being cut out of his own family operation, and exploring European chocolate making facilities to perfect his craft. Upon arrival back to the states, Forrest dismantled the relations his father Frank had built with the Hershey company and began to source his own chocolate. Not only did this decision allow for greater manufacturing independence, but Mars had previously been Hershey’s most significant revenue stream. Cutting business ties crippled Hershey’s operations in the short run, allowing Forrest and his new line of products to dominate the market (Brenner 2000, p. 182). While both Mars and Hershey’s dominate the chocolate space, as of 2018, Mars had net sales of $18 billion (the most of any confectionary), while Hershey had less than half the net sales ($7.7 billion). Clearly, the first is not always the most successful (International Cocoa Organization, 2019).

The story of the mass production of chocolate is one of timing, exploitation, and ingenuity. Without the mass production of sugar using slave labor, particular inventions that made chocolate-making processes easier and cheaper, and smart minds such as Mars and Hershey to put all the pieces together, the chocolate industry would look very different today. The issue of labor source is one that needs to be explored and illuminated further as although these corporations don’t rely on slave labor, there are still large swaths of labor exploitation in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Having already secured incredible profits, behemoths such as the Big Five should look to invest more greatly in fair-trade sources for their chocolate as farmers are subject to abject working conditions with little compensation for their labor.

Works Cited

Brenner Joël Glenn. “To the Milky Way and Beyond and Breaking the Mold.” In The Emperors of Chocolate: inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2000.

DAntonio, Michael. Hershey: Miltons S. Hersheys Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperback, 2006.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” In Food and Culture: a Reader, edited by Caroline Counihan and Penny Can Esterik , 72–90. Routledge, 2013.

“International Cocoa Organization.” The Chocolate Industry. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.

Klein, Christopher. “The Sweet History of Chocolate.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, February 14, 2014. https://www.history.com/news/the-sweet-history-of-chocolate.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: the Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, 1985.

Research, Zion Market. “Global Chocolate Market Set For Rapid Growth, To Reach USD 161.56 Billion By 2024.” Global Chocolate Market Worth Over USD 161.56 Billion By 2024. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.zionmarketresearch.com/news/chocolate-market.

“The History Of Chocolate.” Chocolate – All About Chocolate – History of Chocolate. Accessed March 23, 2020. http://archive.fieldmuseum.org/chocolate/history.html.

“The Sweet Lure of Chocolate.” Chocolate: Facts, History, and Factory Tour | Exploratorium Magazine. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/exploring_chocolate/.

Multimedia Cited

Sugar Consumption Over Time. Photograph. Historical Consumption of Sugar. Accessed March 23, 2020. http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/consumption-of-sugar.html.

The Chocolate Conch – Episode 12 – Craft Chocolate TV, Youtube, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGkJGDWn0J8 (accessed March 23, 2020).

U.S. Confectionary Market Share. September 9, 2016. Photograph. FoodBusinessNews. https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/8592-competition-challenging-confectionery-market.

The Dark History of Chocolate

It’s no secret that a lot of us love chocolate, but what has always been a source of pleasure for us remains a source of pain for millions of others. When we say that chocolate is our guilty pleasure, we think of how it tastes great but is loaded with sugar and fat. However, one source of guilt that we often fail to acknowledge when consuming chocolate is the human cost hidden behind its production. From the indigenous people of Mesoamerica to the current children working in cocoa farms in West Africa, millions of men, women, and children have been exploited in the production of cocoa over the span of several hundred years. Despite countless efforts to reform labor practices in cocoa production, we continue to see issues like the child labor epidemic in West Africa. Moreover, while efforts to reduce exploitative labor practices in the chocolate industry continue, the future looks grim. With a history of cocoa and chocolate producers valuing profits over people, producers are likely to only continue looking for ways to cheapen the cost of their labor. 

When the Spanish first arrived in Mesoamerica, the origin of cacao and chocolate, it took very little time for them to grasp the importance of chocolate and begin to exploit the indigenous people of the land they had invaded (Coe and Coe 110). While chocolate was initially of interest to the Spanish due to the economic importance of cacao beans in the native economy, the Spanish slowly acquired a taste for chocolate and began to export it to Europe (Coe and Coe  125). Soon after the Conquest, the Spaniards were lured to Soconusco for their cacao. As the demand for chocolate increased due to a growing craving for chocolate in Europe, rapacious conquistadors began enslaving the indigenous people of Soconusco such that a slave would be valued at one fifth of a load of cacao. However, on May 29th, 1537 Pope Paul III Farnese would publish the Sublima Deus which threatened to excommunicate any Christian that enslaved an “Indian”. While this led to the end of the enslavement of indigenous people, this merely led to the Encomienda system in which encomenderos were getting what amounted to forced, free labor in return for which they were to see that the native people became Christians (Coe and Coe  178). However, due to an epidemic of diseases of Old World origin and mistreatment by the Spaniards, approximately 90% of the ingienous population of the Americas had died while the demand for chocolate only grew (Coe and Coe  125). 

indigenas.jpg
Indigenous people forced into labor by the Encomienda system

In order to meet the demands for cocoa by Europe without the loss of profits, the falling population of the indigenous people of Mesoamerica were offset by the importation of slaves from Africa. By the 17th century, two triangles of trade would arise in which raw materials, goods, and slaves would be traded between the New World, Europe, and Africa. The most important feature of these triangles was the “Middle Passage” in which human beings were sent across the Atlantic to be forced into labor on plantations run by European colonizers (Mintz 44). This plantation system in which sugar, cacao, and other products were produced were grounded in the use of harsh, forced labor in which the average life expectancy of an enslaved person living in the Caribbean and Brazil was about seven to eight years. Despite abolition and the emancipation of slaves throughout the 1800s, abolition did not put an end to extreme inequality or exploitative labor practices. For example, in the early 1900s, it was found that cocoa plantations in Fernando Po and Cameroon were still using slave labor. Moreover, the use of slaves was common on Portuguese plantations from the 1880s well into the 1950s (Martin). Thus for years many plantations were able to keep the price of cocoa down as demand went up by using forced labor and slavery. 

Ship used to transport slaves in the Middle Passage

Currently despite labor reformation efforts, child labor is still being utilized to produce the chocolate that we eat in the United States. Although major chocolate producers like Mars, Nestlé, and Hershey pledged to discontinue their use of cocoa harvested by children approximately 20 years ago, a great portion of the chocolate we buy and consume today contains cocoa produced by child labor (Whoriskey and Siegel). According to the U.S. Labor Department, more than 2 million children have been found to be engaged in dangerous labor in cocoa-growing regions in West Africa, where 60 percent of the world’s cocoa supply comes from (“Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa”). Despite efforts to eradicate child labor from the chocolate industry, chocolate industries are unable to identify the farms from which their cocoa comes from, let alone identify their labor practices. For example, Mars can only trace 24 percent of their cocoa supply back to the farms in which they were produced (Whoriskey and Siegel). Thus, despite efforts by the chocolate industry to solve the child labor epidemic in the cocoa industry, deadlines and goals have only been pushed back. 

Dangers of Child Labor in Cocoa

The Full Story on Cocoa’s Child Laborers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/business/hershey-nestle-mars-chocolate-child-labor-west-africa/

While the fight to improve labor conditions in the chocolate industry continues, it is unlikely that we will see big changes any time soon. With the history of cocoa producers having a blatant disregard for human life and clear mindset of profits over people, it will be extremely difficult for chocolate producers to trace their cocoa supplies back to farms or punish farms for exploitative labor practices as both of these efforts would require a large financial investment and cuts to profit. Moreover, until chocolate producers are willing to pay more for ethically sourced cocoa, farmers will be forced to continue using child labor in order to cope with cocoa’s low market price (Whoriskey and Siegel). Therefore, as long as the cocoa industry refuses to cut its profits in order to enact change, exploitative labor practices will continue. 

Works Cited

“Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa.” U.S. Department of Labor

http://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/our-work/child-forced-labor-trafficking/child-labor-cocoa.

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

Martin, Carla D. “Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” AFRAMER 119x. 26 Feb. 2020, 

Cambridge.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. Viking, 1985.

Whoriskey, Peter, and Rachel Siegel. “Hershey, Nestle and Mars Won’t Promise Their Chocolate 

Is Free of Child Labor.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 5 June 2019, 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/business/hershey-nestle-mars-chocolate-child-labor-west-africa/.

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.