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Choco-lot of Deceit: How Chocolate (and Sugar) Culture and Ads Impact Children’s Health


Chocolate is a staple for U.S. children, whether they consume it in the form of chocolate milk at schools; receive chocolate gifts for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween; or whether they indulge in chocolate through impulse purchases and conscious consumption at restaurants. It can hardly come as a surprise that this consumption–which includes the ingestion of copious amounts of sugar within various forms of chocolate–has seen the same upward trend as many chronic illnesses now affecting children, including diabetes and obesity.

Children cannot be blamed for this uptrend. They are reliant on their parents to regulate their dietary consumption. Furthermore, they are seen as a valuable target audience for chocolate and confectionery makers, who create appealing targeted messages aimed to make children (and their parents) more receptive to consuming chocolate, establishing brand loyalty early on, and exacerbating the rise of the aforementioned chronic illnesses.

This analysis of the chocolate market and its ties to children will first give a general overview of the global and U.S. chocolate markets, looking specifically at the chocolate sales aimed at and purchased by children and teenagers. It will then examine the history of chocolate, the intertwined narrative of chocolate and sugar, the addictive qualities of sugar, and the intentional misdirection away from the negative impacts of sugar by the industry itself.

Setting the Stage: The History of Chocolate and Sugar

The History of Chocolate

Cacao, chocolate, and chocolate beverages were first consumed by the Olmecs as far back as 2,600 years ago, which was regarded to have aphrodisiac, spiritual, medicinal, and godly qualities. It was subsequently used by the Mayans and the Aztecs, with both preparing the beverage similarly, although the former consumed it hot, while the latter consumed it cold. This cacao was used for legal tender, an elite commodity (as a beverage), and rituals. It was also used in marriage discussions and fertility rituals [1].

For instance, the Aztecs held enormous storehouses of cacao beans, since they had to be transported 900 miles to the Aztecs cities, as the Mexican soil did not favor cacao tree growth. For a trader, one load of cacao was three xiquipillis, or 24,000 beans; the major courts, such as that of Netzahualcoyotl, had to be stocked with 4 xiquipillis daily, equivalent to 11,680,000 beans annually, or 486 loads [2].

Cacao was highly revered as a godly commodity. The foam itself was seen as the most sacred part of the drink [3] and was seen as an elixir for the soul. When depicted on ancient artifacts, it is often featured being consumed by the gods or depicts the royal bloodline of deities by portraying the deity blossoming forth among pods and flowers [4].

However, the chocolate produced and exalted in these Mesoamerican civilizations did not remain unchanged after the arrival of Columbus, nor is this ancient the most commonly consumed in contemporary America, especially among the young children in question, who would not be receptive to unsweetened, bitter chocolate.

According to The True History of Chocolate, some of the older ingredients Europeans began to substitute out were:

  • “Ear flower”
  • Chili pepper

These new ingredients included:

  • Cinnamon
  • Anise seed
  • Black pepper

However, the largest change was the regular addition of cane sugar [5]. Before chocolate became the tantalizing treat of children’s dreams (and dieticians’ nightmares), it had to become intimately interwoven with sugar. Just like cacao, sugar has a complex narrative often full of deceit and exploitation.

The Human Toll of Sugar Production

Enslaved people on a Caribbean sugar plantation harvesting sugar cane

Sugar was first produced in 500 C.E., with Hindu religious texts mentioning the boiling of molasses and crystallization. Before sugar was produced in the New World, it was grown in the Middle East. Sugar spread through conquest, trade, and travel, with Europe first having access to sugar in 700 C.E and having continued exposure during the Crusades. However, even after Middle Eastern sugar production slows when operations were moved to the New World, the sugar plantations were supposedly transplanted [6].

The warm, moist climate of the Caribbean, which facilitated cacao growth, also proved extremely favorable for sugar crops. Once the sugar cane is ready to harvest, it is collected, chopped, and then ground into a pulp. This pulp is then pressed, pounded, or soaked in liquid. Next, the liquid is heated, which causes it to evaporate and concentrate into sugar crystals. The video below demonstrates the complexity of creating sugar even the available modern technology [7]. For production in the 1800s, the process was much more difficult.

Because of the labor-intense process required to produce sugar, sugar company owners turned to slaves to reduce costs. Overall, 12.5 million abducted Africans were shipped to the New World, of which 10.7 million survived the Middle Passage; in other words, 14.4% of kidnapped people died. Once there, 95% were sent to Brazil and the Caribbean, with only 5% being sent to the present-day U.S. In the Caribbean from 1701 to 1810, Barbados had 252,500 and Jamaica has 662,400 African slaves [8].

Corruption Continues: Sugar Lies in the 1960s

“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades.”

Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of JAMA Internal Medicine

The deceit around sugar continued into the 1900s, where the sugar industry used its immense power to prioritize profit over health, a trend seen by many confectionery companies and other large corporations that purposefully target children without any regard for their health. During the 1960s, and for the next five decades, the sugar industry paid scientists to shift the blame for the rising trend in obesity rate onto fat [9].

The trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid 3 Harvard scientists to “minimize the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat” [10].

However, this was not an isolated incident, with Coca-Cola also having bribed researchers with millions in 2015 to have them downplay the connection between sugary drinks and obesity. Moreover, more directly connected to chocolate makers, in June 2016, The Associated Press reported that candy makers were also funding biased reports to claim that children that who ate candy weight less than those who did not [11].

As these cases show, these large sugar and candy industries are not interested in the well-being of American children; in fact, they are perfectly willing to fabricate lies that directly impact children and their health to generate revenue. In the case of the candy makers, their corruption of scientific research is especially concerning because it prevents parents from making informed decisions for their children’s health, and it demonstrates that any targeted action toward children, especially regarding food advertising, should be viewed with scrutiny.

Before examining the role of marketing to children and the harmful impact of advertising on youth, a brief overview of the chocolate market is necessary.

Overview: Global and U.S. Chocolate Markets

Global Markets

Globally, 300 million people consumed 7.3 billion tons of retail chocolate confectionery annually during 2015-2016, with it expected to reach 7.7 million tons by 2018-2019 [12]. This comes out to around 12 pounds per person [13]. These global sales of chocolate reached $98.2 billion USD during the same years, with the U.S. comprising the largest percentage [14]. However, these numbers only portray a minuscule portion of the narrative for the contemporary chocolate market. The average omits the unequal distribution of both producers and consumers; ignores the nuanced intersections with race, class, gender, age, and sexuality that impact target audiences and their consumption; and obscures the immense power disparities between the poorest cacao farmers and the most profitable chocolate corporations.

This enormous industry is incredibly homogeneous; for instance, only 3 companies make up 99.4% of snack-sized candy on the market [15]:

U.S. Markets

The U.S. makes up the largest portion of the industry, with 4 of the top 10 global confectionery companies by net sales value originating in the U.S [16] :

  1. Mars Wrigley Confectionery, division of Mars Inc (USA) – $18,000
  2. Mondelēz International (USA) – $12,390
  3. Hershey Co (USA) – $7,779
  4. Kellogg Co (USA) – $1,890

Overall, the U.S. market in 2015 amounted to approximately $18.3 billion USD in global of the total global sales of $98.2 billion [17], meaning the U.S. market accounts for 18.6% of the global market.

Marketing to Children

Young toddler reaching for sugary cereal

Children are a valuable market for advertisers, especially in industries that directly appeal to children and teenagers, such as toys, clothing, license and merchandise, and of course, food. Marketing to kids is a large, profitable business, with $17 billion spent annually on advertisements specifically targeting them (up from $100 million in 1983). Likewise, children under 14 spend approximately 40 billion annually and teenagers spend $159 billion, with children overall influencing $500 billion in purchases yearly [18].

These children spend their lives constantly bombarded with branding, holding 145 brand conversations a week; witnessing more than 25,000 ads a year just on television from the ages of 2-11; and consuming ads via the Internet, cell phones, video games, and even in school [19]. With such a constant stream of advertising, chocolate makers stand to make generous profits from children, even at the expense of their health.

Federal Trade Commission Regulations on Advertising to Children

Under the Advertising and Promotion Law 1997, Minnesota Institute of Legal Education, the Deception and Unfairness Authority, under Section 5 of the FTC Act, prohibits unfair and deceptive acts in commerce, as set by their Deception Policy Statement. They identify deceptive advertising toward children as:

“An interpretation that might not be reasonable for an adult may well be reasonable from the perspective of a child. Claims tend to be taken literally by young children” [20].

Starek, III, Roscoe B. “The ABCs at the FTC: Marketing and Advertising to Children.” Federal Trade Commission, July 18, 2013.

They clearly consider the more limited ability of children to “detect exaggerated or untrue statements,” which may have been used in ads to further promote sales. Of course, teenagers have a much easier time discerning between truth and exaggeration in advertisements, but they can also still be reasonably misled by advertising, especially in a field as dynamic and unstable as nutrition.

The FTC includes a special page dedicated to addressing food marketing to children and adolescents, especially since irresponsible advertising would only serve to exacerbate the increasing obesity and chronic illness rates in the U.S. However, the FTC did note that: “responsible marketing can play a positive role in improving children’s diets and physical activity level” [21]. Perhaps chocolate companies, especially since many have been making public commitments to provide ethically sourced, sustainable chocolate, can also make a similar commitment to responsible marketing toward youth.

Nesquik banned from describing hot chocolate as a “great start to the day” in the UK.

The Negative Effects of Advertising on Children and Adolescents

As advertising in media (and to children) evolves, the line between entertainment and advertising blurs (ex. The production and entertainment value of Super Bowl commercials). This line, already more ambiguous for younger children and teens, becomes harder and harder to differentiate, and with that, the impact of advertising on children should be carefully examined. How much is too much? Where does it fall into exploitation? How do large chocolate corporations appeal to one of their target demographics–children–ahead of their competition without falling into manipulation? Besides carefully following the FTC’s regulations, the psychological and behavioral impact of marketing to children should be clearly understand by both the government and chocolate companies, and clearer regulations for what is or is not acceptable should be drafted to manage chocolate and other food companies.

For instance, some of the themes conveyed in ads toward children can influence poor behavior in children. Just as advertisers seek children for marketing because they are malleable and are still developing their life-long preferences and tastes [22], children can be exposed to detrimental themes such as unhealthy food brand preferences, tobacco, etc. Likewise, children, particularly girls (although it also affects boys) may be harmed or have negative body/self esteem issues exacerbated by harmful marketing [23].

Children under 7 are especially vulnerable because, according to Piaget, they are not able to detect “persuasive intent,” meaning they are much easier to fool and manipulate [24]. Likewise, although there are calls to educate children about advertising to help them protect themselves from malicious ads, but current efforts may not be effective; in fact, some studies have shown that the <7 may be much higher, with “children…not capable of understanding the ‘commercial intent’ of advertising until they reach the age of 12” [25].

Example of Rejected Chocolate Advertising

Kinder Egg Websites

In the UK, several Kinder egg websites (a subsidiary of Ferraro) promoting Kinder toys and eggs have been banned for promoting junk food advertising toward children. Some, like Kindernauts, had activity pages and child-friendly crafting activities, while others, like magic.kinder/en, have Kinder-themed video games for children aged 3+. In the UK, these violate their Committee of Advertising Practice rules of not promoting food with high fat, salt, or sugar for youth [26].


  • [1] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [2] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [3] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [4] ibid.
  • [5] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [6] Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History.
  • [7] Discovery UK. SUGAR | How It’s Made.
  • [8] Eltison and Richardson, “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.”
  • [9] O’Connor, Anahad. “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat.”
  • [10] ibid.
  • [11] ibid.
  • [12] “Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide, 2012/13-2018/19.” Statista.
  • [13] Martin, Carla D. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and the Race for the Global Market.”
  • [14] “Chocolate Retail Sales Worldwide 2016.” Statista.
  • [15] Martin, Carla D. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and the Race for the Global Market.”
  • [16] “The Chocolate Industry.” International Cocoa Organization.
  • [17] “Chocolate Market Retail Sales Worldwide by Country, 2015.” Statista.
  • [18] Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.”
  • [19] ibid.
  • [20]  Starek, III, Roscoe B. “The ABCs at the FTC: Marketing and Advertising to Children.” Federal Trade Commission.
  • [21] “Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents.” Federal Trade Commission.
  • [22] “Marketing and Advertising to Children.” ICC – International Chamber of Commerce.
  • [23] Lapierre, Matthew A., Frances Fleming-Milici, Esther Rozendaal, Anna R. McAlister, and Jessica Castonguay. “The Effect of Advertising on Children and Adolescents.”
  • [24] ibid.
  • [25] Watson, Bruce. “The Tricky Business of Advertising to Children.”
  • [26] Smithers, Rebecca. “Websites of Kinder Chocolate Banned over Ads Targeting Children.”

Works Cited

Multimedia Cited

Chocolate is too Cheap

Being a cocoa farmer in West Africa is a difficult and very unpredictable job. Farmers have to deal with a lot of unpredictability market prices, weather, and the political situation. Most other farmers have to deal with similar factors, but the history of the cocoa industry makes it a special case and can explain why the industry has not managed to solve problems that have plagued its since its inception. I think that in order to improve the condition of small farmers in West Africa they should be more involved in the added value part of making chocolate and we should try to fix the obvious fact the chocolate is too cheap.

The Western world was first introduced to chocolate during the Spanish exploration and conquest of the New World. The traditional recipe for cocoa drink used in the Aztec empire was not very popular back in Europe, so the Europeans quickly went about using the cocoa beans to make products that were better received by the European palette (Coe 112). Since chocolate was discovered by the Spanish most of the early chocolate came from Spanish colonies, which utilized a lot of slave labor. Specifically the encomienda system allowed the Spanish the comply with the religious order not to enslave the native Americans, while treating them like slaves and exploiting their labor. This initial reliance on slave labor to keep costs down set the tone for the cacao growing industry for the next couple of hundred years.

In the early 19th century the slave trade was winding down and it was becoming much more expensive to grow cacao in the Americas. To solve this problem countries looked to place with similar climates and less strict labor rules. They settled West Africa as a place that had the right climate and a population that was easy to exploit and increase profit margins. Even though labor laws have gotten tougher West Africa still produces 70% of the world’s cacao (Coe 197). To see how reluctant the chocolate industry was to move away from slavery we only have to look at the example of Cadburys chocolate in the early 20th century. Cadburys is an English chocolate company that was buy cacao from the islands of Sao Tome and Principe at the time, which were Portuguese colonies. There was allegations of slave labor, so the company hired a detective to try to figure out what was going on. The detective found that there was not traditional slave trading going on, but the working conditions on the plantations were very bad and the death rate was much higher than it should have been. This was however a very tricky situation, because that industry was supported by the portuguese government and accusing them of using slave labor would have hurt diplomatic relations between the UK and Portugal (Higgs 146).

After one trip to Sao Tome Cadbury decided to visit Ghana because of the chocolate production there. The chocolate production in Ghana was on a much smaller scale than in the Portuguese colonies and at the times was not enough to satisfy the demand of the company, but it seemed promising. In 1909, Cadbury bought some land in the area and set up a factory (Higgs 148). This is where we can really start looking at the modern day cocoa growing process in the area, because the Gahan had a lot of small family owned farms and Cadbury moving his factory their changed them from a low production region to the one of the largest suppliers of cacao in the world.

The situation there nowadays is not very good though, many farmers live in poverty and are unable to support their farms and families from the money that they make from cacao. The industry in Ghana is also very highly regulated so much so that the government even sets the price of cacao in the country (Munshi). This creates a problem because if the government sponsors farmers and guarantees that their product will be sold at a specific price it creates no incentive to decrease supply. These heavy handed government policies could be creating a global oversupply driving down prices and costing even more money for the government because they would have to pay the subsidies to the farmers to make up the difference.

To try to stabilize the global price Ghana and the Ivory Coast are trying to form a cartel that would decide production numbers and use that to try to prevent an oversupply (Bloomberg). Although both of these countries regulate cacao differently they both set a minimum price that the farmers will receive, which again could create more of an oversupply. These governments are also not always willing to work together. Recently the Ivorian government was unable to convince the Ghana government to decrease their cacao prices to decrease the amount of smuggling between the two countries. Internally these countries are not the most stable either. Although the Ivorian government has tried to control supply many farmers are illegally expanding into protected forests to grow more cacao (Bloomberg). Simply using the government to force people to stop doing something is rarely effective. A much more effective plan to encourage the people to do certain things is to provide incentives for doing them.

Many of the problems facing the cacao industry are also faced by other agricultural industries. The price of commodities is very unpredictable and you generally do not have very high margins because you are only providing the raw materials for many other products. Because of this volatility many government subsidise farms, and farm equipment. There are a wide range of strategies that governments can use to subsidise farms from paying farmers not to use their land to destroying supply in order to keep prices high (Econlib). These policies make sense for some crops that are grown on large plantations where individual farms can decrease production and not take a massive hit to their livelihood. Chocolate production in Ghana is a different scenario though because the farms are generally small, family owned, and only produce one crop. Programs such as this will completely devastate these small farms.

Even at the current prices these small farms can barely produce enough cacao to keep themselves fed and clothed. A UK study found that on average woman are making less that three dollars a day farming cacao. Even though the cost of living in Ghana is lower it is not that low and less than three dollars a day is lower middle class for Ghana (Leissle 91). The lack of information that the farmers used to have was also a problem. Someone could come to their village and tell them a much lower price for cacao than the market price and buy the cacao for below market value. This has improved over recent years as the internet has become more accessible farmers can be more informed if they are getting a fair price for their product or not. The opening up of the market in Ghana has also created competition amongst buyers in some places, which is always good for farmers because this drives up prices and gives them a choice of who to sell to. Currently Ghana also sets a price floor so if short term volatility drives the price of cacao below a certain set price then then government will make up the difference and keep the farmers in business (Leissle 76).

Many people believe though that direct government intervention is not the correct way to solve this problem. Many NGOs are trying to tackle the problem of low incomes for cacao farmers. One specific NGO that I want to look at it the Day Chocolate Company. This NGO gives farmers shares in the company so that they are invested in the success of the company. These shares also give the farmers two seats on the board so they can have a say in which direction the company goes in the future (Doherty 4). The farmers are part of a union called the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union. This union was created in 1993 as a cooperative buying company with the goal of getting higher prices for cacao and  to promote social projects. In 1997 the union voted to set up the Day Chocolate company whose goal was to create a chocolate bar to be sold in western markets (Doherty 5). This would greatly increase their profits because most of the value of the chocolate comes from the processing not the raw ingredients.

The question is then did they succeed. Well looking at the numbers they went from less than a quarter of a million pounds in sales in 1999 to over five million pounds in sales in 2004. This seems like a very successful company and as they earned more from sales then began to buy more beans and fair trade prices. This has provided more that 2 million dollars of extra fair trade premiums, part of which has been paid to as extra income to farmers (Doherty 8). This is great news for farmers because they can not have to worry as much about essentials and they could have time to engage in activities other than farming.

All of these programs that help cacao farmers are great, but if the market price of cacao is not enough to cover the costs of farming it then the whole system is unsustainable. The best way to solve this would be to raise the market price of cacao and the best way to do that is to restrict the supply. That can be done through government regulation, but that might not work so well on small family farms that cannot really decrease production. I think that the best way to sustainably decrease cacao production is to have companies unrelated to chocolate open up factories or create some kind of jobs in the area. This would encourage people to move away from growing cacao because these jobs could pay more and be a more stable source of income compared to farming. This would then decrease the amount of people farming and decrease the global supply. This would raise prices and the people who would still be growing the cacao would be getting a high income for the same amount of beans.

Another plan that could create more stability for cacao farmers would be to move away from small family owned farms to larger farms that could adapt to and predict demand better than small farms and could negotiate better or at least stable prices with buyers. These farmer could then employ former cacao farmers with a salary, so the people with cacao growing expertise would be growing the cacao and the people with business expertise would be manage the business side of the enterprise.

This move away from small farms may already be happening without any outside interference. In West Africa the younger generation does not want to be cacao farmers and the older generation is not going to be able to keep farming for much longer (Barclay). While the chocolate industry sees this as a bad thing, obviously because their costs will increase, this could actually be a very good thing for the people of West Africa because many of them could try to move to more profitable and sustainable jobs and the people that remain will end up having higher incomes because of the decrease in supply.

The socioeconomic conditions of many chocolate farmers in West Africa are extremely poor and while many programs are trying to fix these conditions they are not addressing the main problem that market price of chocolate is not high enough to properly cover the costs of cultivating it. Most government programs that are trying to guarantee a minimum price are very expensive and create an oversupply, which drives the price down even further. Most programs run by NGOs are trying to do a similar thing which addresses the symptoms not the underlying problems of the cacao growing industry. The Day Chocolate company is taking a different approach, which might just work. By vertically integrating the company and making the growers be shareholders they can reap the benefits of being involved in the the value added steps of making chocolate. Farmers also benefit from the stability of the price of chocolate bars. One final thing that might help chocolate farmers is to encourage some of them to move into other industries to constrict the supply of chocolate and raise the market price to a level where it pays for the costs of growing it and provides a decent income. This last plan fixes the underlying problem of farmers in West Africa living below the poverty line, but it would also be the most unpopular because countries such as Ghana would decrease their exports and the global price of chocolate would go up significantly.

Works Cited

Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-04/why-african-cocoa-growers-are-having-an-opec-moment-quicktake.

“Agricultural Subsidy Programs.” Econlib, http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/AgriculturalSubsidyPrograms.html.

Barclay, Eliza. “Why The World Might Be Running Out Of Cocoa Farmers.” NPR, NPR, 3 July 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/07/03/419243305/why-the-world-might-be-running-out-of-cocoa-farmers.

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

Doherty, Bob, and Sophi Tranchell. “New Thinking in International Trade? A Case Study of The Day Chocolate Company.” Sustainable Development, vol. 13, no. 3, 2005, pp. 166–176., doi:10.1002/sd.273.

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

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Munshi, Neil. “Cocoa Prices Leave Bitter Taste for Ghana’s Farmers.” Financial Times, Financial Times, 8 Oct. 2018, http://www.ft.com/content/a06abe2a-c1ab-11e8-84cd-9e601db069b8.

“‘Get back to Work Woman!’: Analyzing how Women are Fetishized as Housewives and how West African Women are made Invisible in the Chocolate Industry”

In this paper, I argue that the production and consumption of chocolate has reproduced and perpetuated stereotypes of women as housewives and mothers in less pronounced ways from the eighteenth century to modern day. Not only does it cause this toxic, negative ideology of women in first world countries but it also makes women in third world countries, like Nigeria, become completely invisible to consumers. They are demoralized, undervalued, and subjected to poor working conditions as women working in the agricultural field. This paper will explore class-ism, racism, and sexism within the confines of the chocolate industry through advertisements and images. For supplementary evidence, I describe an interview that I have conducted. It will reveal common chocolate brands that many Americans enjoy, take for granted, and how they are unaware of ethical concerns associated with the everyday chocolate we consume. This will also include gender roles viewed in modern day.

I interviewed a woman that revealed a common and interesting relationship with chocolate. When I asked her what her favorite chocolates were, she said, “Lindt, the swiss brand, dark chocolate. You can get it at the mall and grocery stores. Its fancy but not difficult to access. I like the hollow dark chocolate bunny around Easter. Otherwise, Wegman’s semi-sweet chocolate chips because they are vegan and I like using them for recipes & baking.” The interviewee revealed a lot of information about her relationship with chocolate that can be echoed in many American preferences. One contemporary use is “Its fancy but not difficult to access.” Chocolate has become an inexpensive commodity since the nineteenth century to today, whereas in the sixteenth century after chocolate arrived in Europe, chocolate was predominantly enjoyed by the royal classes (“History of Chocolate”). Now our relationship with chocolate is one where it is easily accessible as the interviewee pointed out “at the mall and grocery stores” in places such as Europe, America, and Canada. Chocolate like Lindt could signify class mobility as the chocolate comes off “fancy” when consuming/enjoying or presenting it as a gift.

Chocolate advertisements portray the opportunity for class mobility (or giving the illusion to raise one’s class status), and they also are problematic because they sexualize and objectify women. Lindt while not only allowing people to appear “fancy,” Lindt aims to make women come off as sexy by portraying sexual readiness. Lindt (as well as many other well-known chocolate companies) attempt to appeal to women by using chocolate in or next to women’s mouths implying sexual connotations that depreciates the value and integrity of women. The ad may also have an effect on male purchasers of chocolate to “win over” a sexually available woman.

This ad (“LINDOR”) for Lindt chocolate represents how women are continuously portrayed as sexual objects rather than people. Viewing this ad, women may be led to believe that they will become the object of promiscuity and desire while men will view this and believe that chocolate can be used as some sort of aphrodisiac to unleash the wild side of the woman of their dreams perhaps.

Not only was the interview interesting because of class changes analyzed over time and objectification of women in relation to chocolate but the interview also availed domestic roles associated with baking recipes using chocolate. When asked about using chocolate in social contexts, the interviewee stated, “ I like making chocolate chip banana bread or chocolate peanut butter pie and bringing it to friends.” Alexis Szmodis in “The Feminization of Baking and Pastry Work: Dissecting Gender Roles in the Foodservice Industry” helps us to understand the fetishization of women using food in domestic roles. Szmodis elicits, “our perception of women as ‘sweet’ and desserts as feminine, which may explain why more women are showing interest in the baking and pastry field” (2018, p.10). Szmodis explains that women today are more likely to be interested in baking and creating sweets as a metaphor for their perceived behaviors (2018). I believe the influence is related to the socialization of women and commercial advertisements encourage these “motherly,” nurturing behaviors. Although women no doubt often hold professional careers, they also hold domestic roles in lesser frequency but while this role is not as visible it is still salient the role of women in families and romantic partnerships as a part-time housewife, who plays two roles in the domestic sphere and professional world. The below traditional advertisement (“New Recipes for Good Eating”) from the 1940’s and 1950’s exemplifies the ideology of fetishizing women as domestic housewives and the mindset has even spread partly in more modern times.

The cover of this cookbook (“New Recipes for Good Eating”) shows just how deep the cocoa industry has invaded the homes of families. We know now that sweets have next to no nutritional value and yet they are featured in a cookbook entitled “New Recipes for Good Eating” and yet this is hardly good eating.  You can see that the woman’s role in the home is in the kitchen while watching over the children. Furthermore, you can see the kids trying to grab some of the food on the table to which the mother smiles gleefully in the background. She is meant to be proud of the food she’s cooked/baked as the kids desperately trying to grab the products of her labor indicates her success as a homemaker.

Women were depicted in sexists ways in chocolate advertisements starting in the 1930’s approximately. Early advertisements targeted women and embedded a gendered role. Old ads aimed to normalize the oppression of women and encouraged “motherly” duties: “This particular campaign (Special Mothers Campaign of 1930’s), designed for women’s magazines, showed children attempting to help their parents (usually the mother, particularly for girls) in gendered ways. Daughters attempt to bake and clean, for example, while sons try to polish their father’s shoes” (Robertson, 2009, p. 21). Women were assigned these roles and in the postwar, late 1940’s and 1950’s ads targeted women as housewives that would serve the family hot chocolate drinks (Robertson, 2009, p. 21) and catered to their husbands needs (with domestic tasks like cooking) (Robertson, 2009, p.22). Rowntree was a well known English company to create racist and sexist ads that still have an impact today in society even though his ads are not presented today (“Chocolate and women: The gendered history behind your sweet snack”).

This photo (“Chocolate and women: The gendered history behind your sweet snack”) illustrates how chocolate companies in the early 1900’s targeted mothers as providers of cocoa.  Owning cocoa was not optional. It was a part of everyday life. In fact, this ad makes it seem as if the only way to get the family together (including the pets!) was to have cocoa on hand at all times.  Even further, by using the word “danger” in the caption “Mother’s cocoa in danger,” the valuation of the cocoa is shown to be of paramount importance as if there’s a need to protect it.

The desirability of a housewife has been on a continuum until today. We see T.V. emphasizing domestic roles like Desperate Housewives and The Housewives of New York amongst other states in the U.S.. Interestingly shows like The Housewives of New York portray women with busy careers but still label these career-oriented women as “housewives.” We have yet to see a T.V., article, or other advertisement that has positive connotations for househusbands. A study discovered the attitude towards women today. The study states, “The results revealed that feminists were evaluated less favorably than housewives, and that the most negative attitudes toward feminists were expressed by authoritarian men” (Haddock and Zanna, 1994, p.1). This reveals that women are not as empowered as we have hoped. Women are preferred to stay at home and perform domestic duties rather than fight for and maintain equal rights in the workplace to have higher roles, equal pay, reproductive rights, and more. The modern Nesquik ad
(“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) below encourages the role of women as mothers. The woman below is playful with her daughter (“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) and it implies she will be a good caregiver by providing her daughter with a chocolate drink.

This image (“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) was created for marketing purposes by Nesquik which is a purveyor of cocoa.  There is a motherly figure holding a child which one can easily assume is the woman’s daughter.  There are no male figures in the photo whatsoever. Next to the woman and girl is an advertisement for a Nesquik breakfast drink.  The advertisement shows that in order to nurture a child and grow into the role of a mother, the consumption of Nesquik, and by associated cocoa is a must.

When men in society try to take on a domestic role, society does not share positive perceptions of men as we still associate domestic responsibilities as “feminine” or the woman’s obligation. A study discovered that “Research has found that househusbands suffer alienation and ostracism from a variety of sources” (Smith, 1998, p. 1). When roles are reversed or shared, hostility towards househusbands is great. Househusbands are sadly not welcomed in a society that looks favorable on men as the provider (not the sole one) as they are seen as taking away their masculinity when taking on these roles. Modern and tradition advertisements of food and domestication have taken part in encouraging these more traditions roles in less transparent ways. The language of modern advertisements does not blatantly say or imply sexist statements and promote housewife roles but through the actions of ads by looking more closely, one may see the inherent messages of promoting a double role of housewife and to a lesser degree career-oriented acceptance.

In Nigeria, women were meant to harvest and transport cocoa from the cocoa farms to markets where they would be sold for a great profit (Robertson, 2010). While the cocoa was revered and held high value amongst the land owners, the women who worked the fields to care for and then transport the cocoa were anything but. These women were not valued for the efforts they put into taking care of this cash crop (Robertson, 2010) and were treated similarly to beasts of burden as a consequence. In addition, despite their important role in the cocoa trade, women were paid less than men (Robertson, 2010). While men made approximately 50 to 60 cents per day for their labors, women were only paid approximately 30 to 35 cents per day (Robertson, 2010, p. 95). This is especially unfair due to the fact that these women were also expected by both society and their husbands to assume the role of caretaker of the children in their family while working as manual laborers simultaneously (Robertson, 2010).

As a result of the hard work output by them, these women aged in a harsher manner and grew weaker quicker as a result (Robertson, 2010). They were exposed to harsh conditions such as the raw elements as they worked outside, as well as to the harmful/poisonous pesticides used on a daily basis (Robertson, 2010) to protect the cocoa from their natural predators. It is unfortunate that modern technology was not made available to them in order to assist with the harvesting and transportation of cocoa (Robertson, 2010).

The chocolate industry has worked hard to appeal to white women and reinforce a domestic role and reduced women to objects available for display. In contrast, women in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa have been made invisible to the chocolate products we enjoy everyday as a method to keep consumers ignorant about the injustices the agricultural laborers are subjected to. While women in cacao take part in all stages of its production, women are devalued by not being given credit for their work, discriminated about what job tasks they are capable of, not paid fairly, face harsh working conditions, and have to do “housewife-like” tasks by taking care of children and are required to take care of the farm too. The chocolate industry has done a convincing job of oppressing women in different contexts and societies. White women are made very visible and West African women very invisible but both have devaluing principles in different ways. Chocolate companies are sexist and racist, and have actively reproduced inequalities for women through agricultural labor and their images they portray that help support traditional roles in a modern world. While changes of women’s roles are certain intact, women as equals in the workforce has a long way to go to stop oppressive mechanisms that encourage the modern housewife ideology and invisibility of African women laborers from the chocolate products we consume everyday.


Chocolate and women: The gendered history behind your sweet snack. (2018, March 21). Retrieved from https://www.latrobe.edu.au/nest/chocolate-women-gendered-history-behind-sweet-snack/

Deluxx. (2008, August 30). New Recipes for Good Eating. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/deluxxedition/2812536814

Flavored milk powder, syrup and drinks. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nesquik.com/en

Haddock, G., & Zanna, M. P. (n.d.). Preferring “Housewives” To “Feminists”: Categorization and the Favorability of Attitudes Toward Women – Geoffrey Haddock, Mark P. Zanna, 1994. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1994.tb00295.x

History of chocolate. (2019, May 01). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_chocolate

E. R. (2010). Introduction and One: ‘A deep physical reason’: Gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption. In Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History(pp. 1-63). Manchester and New York, NY: Manchester University Press.

LINDOR :: Magazine Ads. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://aureoliin.myportfolio.com/lindor-magazine-ads

Robertson, E. (2010). Two: ‘The Romance of the Cocoa Bean’: Imperial and colonial histories. In Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History(pp. 64-131). Manchester and New York, NY: Manchester University Press.

Smith, C. D. (n.d.). “Men Don’t Do This Sort of Thing”: A Case Study of the Social Isolation of Househusbands – CALVIN D. SMITH, 1998. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1097184X98001002002

Szmodis, A. (2018, March 21). The Feminization of Baking and Pastry Work: Dissecting Gender Roles in the Foodservice Industry. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://scholarsarchive.jwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1031&context=student_scholarship

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: A Shift from Bulk Beans to Fine Flavor

In the past decade, the craft chocolate industry has exploded. Just fifteen years ago there were only about five craft chocolate companies in the country, but today, there are well over 200 (Geller, 2017). Similar to the rise in specialty coffee and craft beer, this small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate is set to be the next big trend. The growth of bean-to-bar chocolate makers has exposed consumers to more diversity in the world of chocolate. Instead of only having the option to purchase traditional candy bars, we now have shelves stocked full of fine cacao- each bar carrying its own unique flavor and style. One notable characteristic of this movement is the attention to detail in sourcing high quality cacao- highlighting different growing regions around the world through the creation of single-origin chocolate bars. Differing from traditional chocolate production, the bean-to-bar movement has shifted the chocolate industry from accepting impersonal, bulk shipments of cacao to making direct connections with cacao growers, allowing for the exchange of knowledge and technology while encouraging a more equitable split in profits (Hack, 2016). It is for these reasons that we must support the bean-to-bar movement and the small-batch, craft chocolatiers that give it life.

A pictorial representation of the Bean to Bar chocolate making process. Source: http://www.wilkieschocolate.ie/beantobar.html

What is Bean-to-Bar?

The term, “bean to bar” is best described as a trade model. It describes the process by which one brand controls every aspect of the chocolate making process: from the purchasing of the beans to actual creation of the chocolate bar. It’s important to note, however, that there is no “official” definition for bean-to-bar, so use of this term is generally open for interpretation. We should expect to see this label and definition evolve over time, as the term itself only originated in the 2000s. Many times, the phrase “bean-to-bar” is thought by consumers to indicate a guarantee of high quality or sustainability, but that is not always the case. Considering that the loose definition is just that the chocolate manufacturers work directly with the cacao producers, many large, industrialized chocolate companies would fit under the “bean-to-bar” umbrella. The difference is that the profit-driven, mass-production models of big chocolate don’t necessarily elicit the same feeling of quality and high standards of fine craft chocolate. This connotation of the phrase with high quality and sustainability is due largely in part to the fact that the companies who practice the bean-to-bar model also care about quality and sustainability. The bean-to-bar movement directly addresses issues of transparency in the chocolate industry by making our food sources more traceable- something that consumers have expressed is important to them. The global turn toward specialty and artisanal products highlights the modern consumer’s preference for products with a traceable origin. It is for this reason that the bean-to-bar movement has been so successful and continues to thrive (Yamada, 2017).

Benefits of Bean-to-Bar

In addition to having a significant impact on the relationship between cacao farmers and chocolate producers, the bean-to-bar movement is playing an important role in protecting cacao growing regions. When cacao growing regions are made popular through the use of their beans in single-origin bars, it provides more of an incentive to nurture and protect those areas. The bean-to-bar movement has also created a market for farmers that are growing in regions that typically produce a lower yield of cacao because the craft chocolate makers don’t typically need the mass quantities of beans that the traditional chocolate industry requires for their mass-produced bars. With craft chocolate, the point of origin is of the utmost importance for the flavor profile and quality of the chocolate, so many craft chocolate makers experiment with smaller amounts of cacao from a larger number of  origins. As a result, small cacao farmers are able to stay in business and are offered an alternative to turning to crops that are environmentally devastating (Hack, 2016). In addition, the bean-to-bar movement has provided stability for many cacao growers. Especially in regions like Belize or Colombia where cacao production and sales simply cannot compete with regions like West Africa, the popularization of single-origin bars and the bean-to-bar movement has given exposure, and business, to these regions. If, for example, a single-origin chocolate bar that was made from beans that were grown in Belize were to win an award at a chocolate festival or gain attention in some other form, then other craft chocolate makers would feel compelled to start sourcing beans from that same region. This means more business for the local farmers and more stability within the local communities. It also provides an incentive for them to keep producing cacao which, as previously mentioned, is important for deterring the rise of environmentally devastating crops. This cause-and-effect relationship has had a significantly positive impact on the cacao industry and has given small growers the peace of mind that is financial stability.   A final indicator of the value of the bean-to-bar movement is in the improved flavor and quality within the chocolate industry. It’s no secret that craft chocolate and commercialized chocolate, like Hershey’s, tastes vastly different. With more attention given to sourcing and craftsmanship with the bean to bar movement, the unique flavors of each individual bean are fully unlocked and we are left with a better appreciation for the flavors of cacao.

This video highlights the impact that the bean to bar movement can have on the cacao growing industry. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoTUmo98ogY

Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate: An Example of Bean-to-Bar

Rural Northern California is home to Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, a craft chocolate company that was started in 2010 by Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor. Adam and Dustin had previous experience in woodworking and a strong background in craftsmanship, so when they saw a video of the Mast Brothers (another craft chocolate company) making chocolate, they were inspired to try their own hand at chocolate making. What started as a just-for-fun activity quickly blossomed into the successful business that they have today through the rise of the craft chocolate movement. From day one, the concept of craft and attention to detail has been a guiding principle in their business. Having the previous knowledge and experience in woodworking played an important role in this because they knew what it took to produce a quality product with consistency. They had the production methodology down-  it was just a matter of what that product was (chocolate in this case rather than wood) that differed. When they started, they knew that the small community of Humboldt County wouldn’t be enough to support the business that they had in mind, so they knew that they would be entering the wholesale chocolate market. They do, however, have plans to expand and strengthen the retail aspect of their business, as shown by their shop that offers chocolate tastings and factory tours in Eureka, California. Early on in their chocolate career, Dick Taylor modeled almost everything that they did after their original inspiration: The Mast Brothers. But after receiving a review that negatively compared the two companies, Dick Taylor quickly switched paths and created their own identity within the craft chocolate industry.

What started it all: Dick Taylor Chocolate was heavily influenced by The Mast Brothers whose chocolate making process is shown in the video above. Source: https://vimeo.com/13664547

Dick Taylor’s sourcing process is very typical of the bean-to-bar chocolate movement. As a company, they specialize in two-ingredient (organic cacao and organic cane sugar), single origin chocolate bars, so they are constantly looking for new beans and new origins to try. They do, of course, have several customer favorites that have become staple bars, so they have quite a bit of consistency in their sourcing as well. They source their beans directly from cacao farmers, which, as previously, discussed, is beneficial for both the quality of the chocolate bar and the growers themselves. Most of the business that they do happens through meeting with either the growers or representatives of the growers stateside, but cellphones and the access to modern technology in the industry has changed the game. Cacao producers now have the ability to directly reach out to potential buyers and offer samples of their beans. One important practice that Dick Taylor employs is the focus on a high quality supply of beans from fewer origins, which allows for them to form lasting relationships with the farmers that they buy from. With this practice, farmers who previously wouldn’t have had a stable buyer are now dependent on the fact that Dick Taylor will keep coming back to purchase their beans as long as they continue to produce them. Even Dick Taylor’s practice of experimenting with beans from different origins through their limited release bars has proved to be beneficial to farmers because even though they may not be directly purchasing those same beans for the long haul, the production of the specialty bars brings notoriety for the origin and can inspire other craft chocolate makers to begin purchasing beans from that area (Dick & Taylor, 2019).


-Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor

Another aspect of their business that stands out is the way in which they market their product. In their packaging, advertising, and design, the focus is on simplicity. Each bar features a white package with images of boat under construction or boats sailing on the water, eliciting a feeling of quality and craftsmanship that goes back to Dick Taylor’s roots in woodworking. The bars are labeled with the country of origin and sometimes include a map of the cacao growing region from which it was sourced on the back. This helps the consumer feel more connected to the product that they are consuming and is a perfect example of the importance of traceability in the bean to bar movement.The focus has been on directly marketing to the consumers, making each chocolate bar not just chocolate, but an experience. Social media has been a key player for not only Dick Taylor Chocolate, but for the craft chocolate industry as a whole because businesses are able to do their own marketing. The gateway to entry is much lower than it has been in the past thanks to rapid improvements in technology- all it takes is some hard work and determination. As far as selling bars and pushing their product, Dick Taylor also relies on a model of simplicity. Most of their marketing includes finding chocolate shops and other retail stores and sending them samples of their product with the hopes that they’ll want to sell the chocolate in their stores. This has been successful for Dick Taylor and they have seen a lot of growth as a company over the past few years with plans to expand in the near future, but they still remain rooted with their original founders doing it almost all on their own.

(pictured above is the 72% Dark Madagascar Sambirano Bar from Dick Taylor Chocolate. Source: https://dicktaylorchocolate.com/collections/all)

If you have not had Dick Taylor Chocolate, you should certainly give it a try. They offer their small batch, single-origin bars that are made from strictly cacao and sugar, but they also have a collection of inclusion bars with unique combinations of textures and flavors.In addition, they also have a line of drinking chocolate and have started producing specialty baking chocolates. Some of their inclusion bar flavors include their Black Fig bar (a customer favorite), Brown Butter with Nibs and Sea Salt, and dark chocolate with candied almonds. My personal favorite is the Fleur De Sel, which combines the rich flavors of dark chocolate with delicate Guatemalan sea salt.

In conclusion, the bean-to-bar movement is a promising step forward in the chocolate industry. The movement gives more attention to the farmers and fosters a greater appreciation and understanding of the work that they do. Chocolate is such a common luxury in American society that we often don’t think about the origin or they people who had a hand in making it. Thanks to the bean-to-bar movement and the rise of the craft chocolate industry, however, we are able to make chocolate personal and sustainable. Craft chocolate may never be able to beat out the industrialized chocolate industry, but it is certainly making a notable impact. Not only is it shifting the tastes of consumers from candy bars to fine chocolate and rich cacao, but it is improving the lives of cacao farmers around the globe, making the luxury that is chocolate more sustainable.

References :

Dick, Adam, and Dustin Taylor. “About.” Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, 2019, dicktaylorchocolate.com/pages/process-1.

Dick, Adam, et al. “Dick Taylor Chocolate.” 26 Apr. 2019.

Giller, Megan. “6 Ways Craft Chocolate Is Disrupting The Food Industry.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Sept. 2017, http://www.forbes.com/sites/megangiller/2017/09/20/6-ways-craft-chocolate-is-disrupting-the-food-industry/#57b68eb71ca3.

Hack, Kim. “Why Bean-to-Bar Matters.” Cocoa + Co, 12 Jan. 2016, cocoaandco.com/blogs/news/83488388-why-bean-to-bar-matters.

Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 13 Dec. 2017, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

Chocolate Brands and Cause-Related Marketing

Companies use Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, where they publicly make an effort to behave ethically or give back to some cause, not only to improve the ethics of their operations but also as a marketing ploy. A related phenomenon, Cause-Related Marketing (CRM), capitalizes on consumers’ desires to feel like they are supporting an ethical business with ethical practices.

Marketing and strategy experts have written papers about how CSR and CRM campaigns work best when the campaign aligns with the corporation’s history and existing strategy, and cannot work if there is conflict (Porter and Kramer, 2006). For example, McDonald’s has been criticized for publicizing its support for children’s charities while also promoting unhealthy eating habits among children, and a tobacco company would not be able to believably promote a group that aims to prevent smoking amongst minors. Other campaigns fail simply because they are too broad in scope or jostling with other companies to be the one company that consumers understand are working in that problem space. But some companies are able to pull it off by selecting a specific area related to their brand: ConAgra Foods decided to promote its food brands by starting a campaign called Feeding Children Better, and Avon promoted breast cancer awareness as a woman-focused cosmetics company (Cone, Feldman, and DaSilva, 2003). Environmental sustainability practices have been called out as a particularly good way for companies to incorporate CSR because they are usually able to see financial savings as well as build consumer goodwill (Porter and Kramer, 2006).

The chocolate industry has been leading the field in terms of corporate social responsibility and cause marketing for generations. Chocolate companies such as Cadbury and Hershey have fostered reputations for caring work environments from the start, and Mars has been an early leader in operational effectiveness. With their multi-million dollar marketing budgets, each firm is definitely investing in doing CSR and CRM right, and their current CSR and CRM emphases can be traced back to their namesake founders’ values and priorities. Each firm has had its own unique journey from founding to current marketing strategy, and each strategy highlights the unique properties of that company.


Cadbury, now owned by Kraft, is extremely explicit that the latest Cadbury marketing campaign is designed explicitly to remind consumers about Cadbury’s history as a Quaker company with Quaker morals (Roderick, 2018). However, the path back to its Quaker roots after its acquisition by Kraft has been circuitous.

“Our founder John Cadbury was a philanthropist, and there are so many examples of acts of kindness that he did. The best example is the creation of Bournville, where he provided homes for factory workers, there was a doctor’s surgery and cricket and football pitches. That was a real example of his generosity, and we want our new global brand platform to shine a light on our roots, but also shine a light on acts of kindness existing today.”

Benazir Barlet-Batada, Cadbury brand equity lead

When Cadbury was initially founded during the height of the Industrial Revolution, factories were considered awful places; Cadbury built Bournville to be a “garden city” where workers could live happy lives as well as work productively in the chocolate factory. This was a moral imperative for Cadbury as a Quaker, and although critics pointed out that Cadbury’s paternalistic policies were not exactly perfect and rent in Bournville was too expensive for many Cadbury employees, the British government lauded Cadbury’s “model village” as an exemplar for other companies to follow (Satre, 2005). This glowing reputation survived the Sao Tome slavery scandal, and the public stance that the company took about caring about its sourcing may have inspired it to make Dairy Milk the first Fairtrade certified mass-produced chocolate bar generations later (Freedman, 2009).

Cadbury used its ethical reputation as an argument when fighting a hostile takeover bid from Kraft (Freedman, 2009). The hostile takeover succeeded in 2010, much to the chagrin of many Brits who were proud of Cadbury and the ideals it stood for and were worried that the acquisition would cause it to prioritize profits over social good. Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury became an example of greedy American-style capitalism crushing the wholesome British chocolate company, with one reporter subtitling her article “How one of Britain’s best-loved brands went from a force for social good to the worst example of brutal corporate capitalism” (Fearn, 2016).

Their fears have been warranted: Kraft almost immediately broke (admittedly unrealistic from a business standpoint) promises to keep production in the UK, outsourcing production to Poland, as well as announcing that they would move away from Fairtrade and towards their own, in-house label called Cocoa Life (Martin, 2017). While Fairtrade UK published a defense of Cadbury, stating that “Fairtrade is going to be working even more closely with Cadbury from now on” to help them develop Cocoa Life standards, some critics are concerned that the lack of transparency if all companies begin constructing in-house policies will damage efforts for international fair trade standards (Crowther, 2016; Ionova, 2017).

Some marketing analysts imply that marketing campaigns after the takeover also lost touch with the British consumer base, and Cadbury cut short its planned 10-year campaign centered around Joy in the product (which began in 2012) to transition to the current one centered around Kindness (Roderick, 2018). Despite now being owned by a multinational giant, Cadbury hopes to remind people about its roots as an ethical company. Whether this new marketing campaign is effective at removing the shadow cast by Kraft’s ownership still remains to be seen, but you can watch one of their first ads of the campaign below:

The first ad of Cadbury’s latest marketing campaign, which emphasizes “kindness and generosity”

To look beyond marketing campaigns at Cadbury’s stated Corporate Social Responsibility goals, we can look at Cadbury’s site, cadbury.co.uk, which has a section titled “Our Community” which lists their CSR projects: the Cadbury Foundation (donations to a diverse portfolio of initiatives), Cocoa Life (their Fairtrade replacement), and 30% less sugar (“helping chocolate-lovers manage their sugar intake better”). I would argue that the last example isn’t a great example of Corporate Social Responsibility, since it is more of a marketing point and not paired with any initiatives to proactively encourage healthier chocolate consumption, such as nutrition education. However, Cadbury does make it clear that its priority is communities like Bournville, emphasizing projects that its employees are passionate about, pointing back to the founders and their “investment in the welfare of their employees”, and writing about Cocoa Life’s impact on “cocoa communities”.

Cadbury interprets John Cadbury’s mission as one of community-building and philanthropy, and due to issues of brand perception after the Kraft takeover it is focusing its entire current marketing strategy on emphasizing that to consumers.


Like John Cadbury, Milton Hershey held strong moral views. As Michael D’Antonio describes in his 2006 book Hershey, he was very personally involved in every aspect of the development of his factory town down to the details of house construction. His policies of treating his workers fairly and with respect earned him great loyalty, and although it was tempered with the times when he overreacted, firing people for trivial offenses, the external world saw him as a kindly, paternalistic industrialist (D’Antonio, 2006). From the start, the Hershey Company focused on ethics as a marketing strategy.

People who purchased Hershey Chocolate weren’t buying a treat, they were contributing to a grand experiment that was going to prove that big business, often feared and resented, could do remarkable good


Michael d’antonio, author of hershey

Hershey has consistently maintained that image through the generations. However, it is difficult to maintain a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign on a general broad ideal, especially when the focal point of the ideals is one mortal man. Therefore, since Milton S. Hershey cannot live forever, and some of the factory town utopia ideals did not age extremely well, the Hershey Company had to narrow down its Corporate Social Responsibility focus.

The Hershey Company decided to focus on children as its unique differentiator to help its cause marketing initiatives stand up. Although Hershey’s work establishing his factory town was ground-breaking in the US, Cadbury had done the same work in the UK, and others had done similar work with less publicity around the world. But Milton and his wife Catherine’s pet philanthropic project, the Milton Hershey School, is unique to Hershey’s, and Hershey marketers seized on the theme of helping children.

Hershey’s website lists its CSR initiatives under a tab called “Shared Goodness“, which also lauds its history as “one of America’s first companies built with a purpose”. In addition to sponsoring the school, Hershey’s other CSR initiatives include “Shared Futures: The Heartwarming Project” for encouraging teens and their communities to make meaningful connections in the US and “Shared Business: Cocoa for Good” to work with the UN to improve conditions for children in cocoa-producing regions in addition to general policies for ethical operations. In the case of Cocoa for Good in particular, Hershey’s understands that the problem of improving conditions in cocoa-producing regions is a complex problem, so it doesn’t claim to solve any of the issues outright. Instead, it explains how its initiatives align with UN Sustainable Development Goals (The Hershey Company, 2018)

On its website, the Milton Hershey School proudly proclaims that it has been “providing life-changing opportunities for 110 years and counting”. In its Cocoa for Good press release, Hershey’s relates its goal to “nourish one million minds by 2020” back to the Hershey School, pointing out that both share the overall goal of “giving children the chance at a better future” (The Hershey Company, 2018).

Hershey has always been consistent with its value propositions and execution of CSR initiatives. Hershey’s proudly publishes an annual Corporate Social Responsibility report, signaling the importance that it places on those initiatives by elevating CSR to the same level of importance as annual financial reports. It also produces videos, one of which you can watch below:

The video for Hershey’s 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility campaign, “Shared Goodness”

Because it has been more consistent than Kraft-owned Cadbury in recent years, Hershey’s has room to explore with its marketing strategy, and its most recent ad campaign “heartwarming the world” is not as explicitly connected to Hershey’s progressive ideals (Wohl, 2018). However, it does share the basic theme of generosity and spreading the pleasure of Hershey’s, just as the company wants consumers to remember Hershey would have wanted.

Ever since the initial glowing reviews of Milton Hershey in the press, Hershey’s has been able to successfully position itself as an ethical chocolate producer that gives back. Regardless of whether the reputation is deserved, it has certainly been earned by 125 years of consistent marketing.


Like Hershey, Forrest Mars was very personally involved in the development of his business. Unlike Hershey and Cadbury, he did not have any pretensions of philanthropy. Instead, Forrest Mars made it very clear that he was in the chocolate business for the challenge of succeeding in the market. He was an early pioneer of Total Quality Management techniques, enforcing in the 1930s policies that it would take other American manufacturers until the 1980s to even begin to recognize the importance of. He could be compared to Steve Jobs in terms of personality, standards, and treatment of his employees, but his area of expertise makes him more of a Tim Cook. He built an emphasis on operations and quality into the backbone of his company (Brenner, 1999).

Forrest ran his businesses strictly by the numbers, but not in an accounting sense.

Joel Glenn Brenner, author of Emperors of chocolate

The concept that excellence in operations can be a corporate strategy in and of itself is a relatively new one, but it is a philosophy that Forrest Mars clearly supported. It requires an emphasis on quality and efficiency throughout the organization to ensure that the company can produce a better quality product faster and cheaper than any of their competitors. In order to succeed at this strategy, the reputation of the product should be able to stand for itself, and it should be relatively affordable, especially for such a high-quality product. Such an organization aligns extremely well with sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability initiatives have the dual benefit of being good ethically, and therefore building goodwill among potential consumers, as well as being good for the company’s profits as they are able to produce more efficiently when they produce less waste or use less raw material (Porter and Kramer, 2006). Forrest Mars’s hatred for waste and encouragement of rework very naturally evolves into a CSR initiative for sustainability.

Mars very recently rebranded to bring the focus away from candy, hinting that it would like to explore possibilities of conquering new markets, exactly as Forrest Mars would have wanted (Dworski, 2019). In fact, it is extremely difficult to tell from its website exactly what it is that the company sells. However, it is clear that sustainability is a major priority.

Mars’s “Sustainable in a Generation Plan”, which is featured with several other embedded videos on https://www.mars.com/sustainability-plan

Mars has a very broad definition of “sustainability”, counting pretty much anything that could have a positive impact on the future, from analyzing its supply chain to find room for improvement to assisting veterinarians with student loan debts. While supply chain analysis makes perfect sense given Forrest Mars’s penchant for operations research, some of the more philanthropic examples might seem like a bit too much of a financial drain with no payoff for such a pragmatic company. However, investing in meeting high quality standards can also seem like a financial drain initially. Eventually, though, the investment pays out dividends, and it seems clear that Mars is continuing to follow that strategy.


Cadbury’s work with Fairtrade and its current owner Kraft’s return to the philosophy of kindness, Hershey’s work with children, and Mars’s work on sustainability are easily derived from their founding goals and priorities.


Sugar-Free Chocolate: An interview with a chocolate lover who can’t eat chocolate

“Chocolate is sensual, it’s attractive, it’s flavorful, it’s palatable, it’s elegant, and it’s pretty; that’s why I like it”.  Many can agree with this description of chocolate shared by the interviewee and may feel the urge to eat a piece after reading this statement. Unfortunately, the interviewee can’t share this urge and even though he’s very attracted to it, he can’t eat chocolate due to its sugar content. Sugar and other sweeteners have been added to chocolate recipes since its invention, some might argue that chocolate without some sort of sweetness is not chocolate at all. Some contemporary chocolate companies have found alternatives to sugar and added them to their products, marketing them as sugar-less. But for someone like the interviewee, it can be very hard to find a safe option when consuming this delicious treat, risking his health for a small bite.

A Life Without Sweets

The interviewee is a middle-aged man who grew up and lives in South America. He shares a genetic illness with two of his sisters, they can’t eat sweet foods without endangering their health. None of their children or grandchildren have inherited this biological sensitivity to sugar. He calls it an allergy to fructose or an allergy to sugar, but after repeated medical tests done throughout his lifetime, the cause remains a mystery and there hasn’t been a formal diagnosis. Even though he has lived his entire life without sweets, this hasn’t stopped his curiosity from trying them and enjoying them, especially when it comes to chocolate.

“My body is programmed to reject sweets” he said. No one told him he couldn’t eat sugar; he always knew he couldn’t have it and got used to excluding it from his diet. He explains how his reaction to sugar has changed over time, now he immediately gets diarrhea and stomach pains, but when he was a child, he would face a sudden fall in his blood pressure inducing vomiting, convulsions and symptoms closely resembling anaphylaxis. “I almost died once; I fell into a short coma. I survived because the doctors knew of this illness through my older sisters”. He was given medication to increase his blood pressure during every episode, saving his life, but leaving him feeling weak for the following days. Due to this, he got used to avoiding sugar at an early age.

Picturing a childhood without eating sugary treats is almost unimaginable, it even seems cruel if you’re the only one who can’t eat them. He grew up watching his schoolmates eat candy, lollipops, cakes, chew gum, and drink hot chocolate during first communions. He would be tempted to try them but knew he couldn’t. Yet, his curiosity didn’t stop him from tasting some of the desserts that attracted him the most, “I remember I was fascinated by chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bars. One day I secretly ate a whole one, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I got very sick and was afraid I’d get in trouble if I told my parents what I had done”. To curve his craving, he would find unconventional alternatives to sugary treats, sucking on natural gums or eating black licorice that had a bitter taste with a hint of sweetness. He was also able to satiate his need for sugar snacks by adding flour products, cheese and saltine crackers to his diet, but chocolate has always remained irreplaceable and fascinating to him.

Attraction to Chocolate

In the interviewee’s own words, “The two foods that attract me the most are cheese and chocolate, knowing that I can eat cheese, but I can’t eat chocolate. It still attracts me; I don’t care about not being able to eat it”. It attracts him more than ice cream, candy, cakes or any other desserts. He was introduced to chocolate as a child and has been able to try different varieties throughout his life. He is able to take small bites of chocolate and enjoy it in small doses, a ball of chocolate such as a Ferrero Rocher truffle can last him up to a week. Through small tastes, he’s been able to define not only which chocolate varieties he prefers and which ones he dislikes, but also those that are less damaging to his health. For example, he dislikes chocolates with fillings and caramel as well as dark bitter chocolate, but enjoys milk chocolate and white chocolate, which he can eat if they have small quantities of sugar. His favorite are mixes of milk with white chocolate due to these being less sweet.

When asked about how often he eats chocolate, he replied “Whenever I feel like it. Nowadays if I buy chocolate, I end up giving it away”. Yet even though he doesn’t purchase it most of the time, he described how he always visits the aisle with chocolates in the supermarket and also visits chocolateries, curious about new products available and attracted by their distinctive smell. His interest in chocolate despite his inability to safely consume it is undeniable.

Chocolate and Sugar

In order to understand the pervasiveness of sugar and sweeteners in chocolates found in the market today, it’s important to briefly go back in history when this practice first begun. According to Coe and Coe, cane sugar was introduced to Mesoamerica by the Spaniards, who craved sweetness (111-112). As told by Mintz, sugar was added by Europeans to bitter substances to make them taste sweet, since sweet substances were more appealing to new consumers than bitter ones (109).

Mesoamerican chocolate tasted very different from what we now consider chocolate, “chocolate was commonly (though not invariably) used as a food flavoring or sauce without sweetener in its original tropical American home” (Mintz 109). The Spanish influence quickly changed chocolate preparation at the time, “the cold, bitter, usually unsweetened drink had to undergo its own process of hybridization” (Coe and Coe 114). Therefore, the term chocolate was coined for a beverage drank hot and sweetened with cane sugar (Coe and Coe 117).  Chocolate recipes introduced to Europe after the Conquista included sugar as one of its main ingredients (Coe and Coe 122-166), and so it remained once chocolate bars began to be mass produced in the 19th century (Coe and Coe 231).

Nowadays world’s biggest chocolate brands that dominate the markets of Europe and North America feature a vast array of chocolate products sold in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and themes (Leissle 73) containing sugar or sweeteners (Leissle 73-75). Sugar has been a prominent ingredient found in chocolate recipes since its popularization; accordingly, sweetness is now considered to be a characteristic and attractive quality of chocolate.

Sugar and Health

The consequences of eating sugary foods are not exclusive to the interviewee, they can affect everyone else’s health as well, especially when consumed in large quantities. Experts have argued that sugar doesn’t provide as many health benefits as it was originally thought, it’s considered to be harmful to one’s health instead (Albritton 343-344).

One of the early uses of sugar in Europe was as medicine, it was meant to cure illnesses such as “fever, dry coughs, pectoral ailments, chapped lips, and stomach diseases” (Mintz 99) as well as “chest coughs, sore throat, and labored breathings” (Mintz 105). Its use as medicine diminished during the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was mass produced for use as a sweetener and as a preservative (Mintz 108). These uses led to an even higher increase in the consumption of sugar (Mintz 108), especially when paired with other foods such as chocolate.

According to Taubes and Couzens’ article about the health effects of sugar, sugar consumption rates have steadily increased in the past decades, reaching an all-time high. This is not without consequence, as the percentages of obesity in children and of adults with obesity, heart disease and diabetes have greatly increased since 1980 (Taubes and Couzens). These changes are especially true in the United States, since “fat and sugar constitute 50 per cent of the caloric intake of the average American” (Albritton 343). Sugar was also found to be addictive; it’s been compared to tobacco addiction because it produces craving and many sweet products are easily affordable (Albritton 344). Yet government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture continue to consider sugar as safe (Taubes and Couzens), as a result, cheaper foods with sweeteners have become staples in the American diet (Albritton 343-345).

The Sugar-Free Chocolate Market

Chocolate is not exempt from the harmful effects of sugar, as Coe and Coe put it “As for obesity among so-called “chocoholics,” this would probably be the result of overindulgence in milk chocolate, which has high levels of sugar, in combination with a sedentary lifestyle” (34). On the other hand, there’s been an increasing interest in finding the health benefits of chocolate (Coe and Coe 34). As evidenced by Howe’s study of the Kuna case, some claims of the health benefits of chocolate have been based on wishful thinking rather than tangible evidence (Howe 50). Even though its effects in humans need to be studied further, there is a belief that “quality dark chocolate probably is good for you” (Coe and Coe 35).

The chocolate market has changed as a result of the increased awareness of the health effects of sugar and dark chocolate. In fact, it’s been predicted that dark chocolate sales will substantially increase over time (Leissle 10). As Leissle describes it, “Demand is rising for dark chocolate, with its lower sugar content (at least, lower than that of most milk chocolate and bonbons), and for chocolates that claim additional healthy properties, such as “raw” or organic” (9-10). This view is reminiscent of the interviewee’s observations on the contemporary chocolate market “Nowadays it’s easier to find chocolate without sugar because sugar is harmful to our health and also because there is a tendency towards organic and natural foods, especially in chocolate”.

Although we can now find several varieties of dark chocolate in convenience stores, drug stores, and supermarkets, finding sugar-free dark chocolate is still challenging. A look at the sugar-free dark chocolate varieties and a taste test of unsweetened chocolates available at Whole Foods Market can provide some insight on the difficulties the interviewee faces when searching for an alternative to traditional sweetened chocolate. Whole Foods Market was chosen due to the interviewee’s personal preference for organic foods and due to its vast array of chocolate products. The findings are as follows:

  • Sugar-Free Chocolates: In the candy aisle, twenty-one sugar-free chocolate bars were found made by five brands. They include alternative sweeteners such as honey (made by Cocofuel and Pure 7 Chocolate), stevia (made by Lily’s), maple syrup (made by Not Your Sugar Mamas Martha’s Vineyard), and coconut sugar (made by PrimalChocolate). These brands offer various flavors of sugar-free chocolate such as milk, dark, caramel, almonds, coconut, rice, raspberry, and lavender. There are also different percentages of cacao available, 40% for milk chocolate bars (two bars found) and 55% – 85% for dark chocolate bars (nineteen bars found). Each of these bars prominently display wording in the front of the packaging indicating the sweetener used instead of sugar, “Stevia Sweetened”, “No Sugar Added!”, “Sweetened Only with Honey!”, “Made with Organic Coconut Sugar”, “Free of Gluten, Dairy and Refined Sugar”.
  • Unsweetened Chocolates: In this case ‘unsweetened’ refers to chocolates without cane sugar or any sweeteners. Only two unsweetened chocolate bars were found in the candy aisle, 100% Cacao Pure7 Dark made by Pure 7 Chocolate and Midnight Coconut made by PrimalChocolate. Both bars contain 100% cacao and are marketed in the front of their packaging as “Artisanal Chocolate with No Added Sweetener” and “No Sugar Added Organic Certified” accordingly. In terms of ingredients, the main difference that exists between the two is that the Pure7 bar has Himalayan pink salt, while the PrimalChocolate bar has organic shredded coconut.

Twenty-three sugar-free chocolate bars were found in total, the great majority of them being dark chocolate. This number is low in comparison to the overwhelming variety of products and brands found in the candy aisle containing sugar. There are options available that fit each consumer’s individual taste preferences, yet the number of bars available pales in comparison to the number of bars that include sugar. It’s clear that these companies want to separate themselves from sugar to attract consumers, especially those knowledgeable about its harmful effects, but they can also be seen as novelties.

In terms of the interviewee, the alternative sweeteners added to the sugar-free bars mentioned above are too sweet for him to consume safely, leaving unsweetened bars as his only options. Even though there are two bars of unsweetened chocolate, he can only eat one of them without worrying about risking his health. Since the PrimalChocolate bar includes coconut, which he considers to be sweet, Pure 7 Chocolate’s bar is a better choice. Pure 7 Chocolate’s unsweetened bar maintains the consistency of chocolate, but its flavor is very faint and indistinct. Unfortunately, due to the lack of chocolate’s unique flavor in this bar and limited variety, we can predict that he would continue to be attracted to sweetened chocolate despite its risks.


Even though he has lived his entire life without being able to eat sweets, the interviewee considers chocolate to be attractive and unique. His medical condition and sugar’s harmful effects on his health haven’t stopped him from being able to enjoy chocolate, even if it is in minute quantities. Sugar’s harmful effects are not exclusive to him, they are widespread and becoming more prevalent as consumption continues to rise.

Sugar and chocolate appear to be linked since it’s invention and popularization, but the number of chocolate brands offering sugar-free varieties proves us that this doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Undeniably, replacing sugar with other healthier sweeteners in chocolate bars is a move on the right direction, but there aren’t enough unsweetened options available for those who can’t consume sweet foods like the interviewee. Chocolate manufacturers should consider not only seeking healthier options to sweeten their products, but also offering chocolate without sweeteners that are flavorful and cater to consumer’s varied taste preferences.

Works Cited

Albritton, Robert. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” Food and Culture: A Reader, Third ed., Routledge, 2013, pp. 342–352.

Coe, Sophie D, and Michael D Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Howe, James. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, vol. 12, no. 1, 2012, pp. 43–52., www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2012.12.1.43.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. 1st ed., Polity, 2018.

Piggylita. “Interview with a Chocolate Lover.” 21 April 2019.

Taubes, Gary, and Cristin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” Mother Jones, 2012, www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign/.

Multimedia Sources

Piggylita. “PrimalChocolate – Chocolate Bars Sweetened with Coconut Sugar.” 2019. JPEG file.

Piggylita. “Lily’s – Chocolate Bars Sweetened with Stevia.” 2019. JPEG file.

Piggylita. “Pure 7 Chocolate – Chocolate Bars Sweetened with Honey.” 2019. JPEG file.

Piggylita. “Not Your Sugar Mamas – Chocolate Bars Sweetened with Maple Syrup.” 2019. JPEG file.

Piggylita. “Cocofuel – Chocolate Bars Sweetened with Honey.” 2019. JPEG file.

Piggylita. “PrimalChocolate – Unsweetened Chocolate Bar.” 2019. JPEG file.

Piggylita. “Pure 7 Chocolate – Unsweetened Chocolate Bar.” 2019. JPEG file.

The Immorality of Chocolate Advertising on Affecting Obesity

Today in our world, obesity reigns as a prominent problem for millions of the human population. Statistics from the World Health Organization (2018) detail just how big the problem of obesity is, stating facts such as that 1.9 billion adults are overweight, and that of these, 650 million are obese. They also stated how in 2016, 41 million children under the age of 5 were underweight or obese, and 340 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5-19 were overweight or obese (World Health Organization, 2016). And obesity greatly increases the risk of many other health problems, such as ones they mention like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, some cancers, and much more (World Health Organization, 2016). These statistics are staggering, and show the great problem we have on our hands in stopping obesity.  When understanding causal factors of this, the first one that has the most impact is diet, and specifically poor diets. Poor diets include components such as unworked-off carbs and, the specific component looked at in this paper, sugar consumption. Sweetness is a widespread preference of taste for people across the world, and chocolate is included in being one example of that. Some of the largest brands of chocolate contain large amounts of sugar, contributing to these problems with diets that are causing obesity problems. This widespread love of chocolate is rooted into people’s diets today, and for most this starts early in life, and starts presenting this risk factor in obesity from an early age. In this paper, I plan to evaluate the literature at hand on the cognitive and physiological mechanisms at play in obese and overweight children and how that can be played upon by large chocolate companies across the world in contributing to this problem of obesity. Given the research on the underlying cognitive and physiological mechanisms for obese and overweight children, I argue that marketing and advertising of chocolate towards children is immoral in nature and contributing greatly to this global problem of obesity.

            In order to better study this problem, background information on the problem is necessary before discussing the actual problem. Today, the largest chocolate companies’ main products contain very large amounts of sugar. In visiting the local CVS, I examined multiple candy bars and recorded how much sugar was in each product. My recordings are as follows: a Hershey’s bar had 33g of sugar added, a Hershey’s dark chocolate bar had 20g of added sugar, a Snickers’ bar had 46g of sugar added, a Three Musketeers’ bar had 35g, a bag of M&M’s had 20g, and a pack of Reese’s cups was 25g of added sugar. These numbers were pretty surprising, especially in that the bars themselves, which would probably be expected to have less sugar than items such as the bag of M&M’s or the two cups of Reese’s, having such high contents of added sugar. While this data is valuable, it becomes even more valuable when considering the statistics of sugar consumption. In looking at Robert Albritton’s piece Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry (2010), he quotes nutritionist Marion Nestle who states that Americans (in 2010) were on average consuming 31 teaspoons of added a day, with 40% of that (12.4 teaspoons) coming from soft drinks. So factoring out that soft drink data and converting teaspoons to grams, one sole Snickers bar would take up almost 20% of the expected daily added sugar consumption. Even having one chocolate bar and some sort of chocolate ice cream (which would not be considered atypical for the average American in a day) would contribute a lot of added sugar to one’s diet even in such a seemingly low portion. Especially when much of the rest of the percentage would be taken up by added sugar in people’s main courses, that is a staggering statistic on how much sugar is being consumed just by eating one chocolate bar in any given day. This data is important for helping set the stage for how the sugar added to most mainstream chocolate bars can affect the average person’s diet as well as set up the possible implications.

            Additional information necessary to back the argument at hand is the previously mentioned psychological and physiological mechanisms at hand in obesity. As a psychology major, I always am interested in the cognitive mechanisms at hand in shaping people’s lives, and the literature did not disappoint in this aspect. The first article to look at is on the topic of advertising, and how children react to it. In a study by Tarabashkina, Quester, and Crouch (2016), the researchers studied the relationship between children and their food choice. In the study, they found that children’s food choice was much more malleable after persuasion (advertising/marketing), despite getting knowledge of the nutritional information (Tarabashkina, Quester, and Crouch, 2016). Furthermore, they assorted the children that participated into different clusters dependent upon their choices and knowledge, and found that obese children fell into the cluster of possessing these hedonic-driven behaviors as well as less nutritional knowledge. Going off the first finding, this is incredibly important in understanding how effective even simple persuasion can be on children, in that they can be persuaded into choosing something they may know is not good for them, giving evidence for the strength of potential advertising for chocolate companies.

Additionally, the other results are important in understanding the cognitive mechanisms behind obesity, in that these children are acting upon this hedonic-motivation (pleasure-driven) and choosing behaviors that fulfill this pleasure-seeking. This gives us insight into the psychology behind obesity, and how foods like chocolate that are very sweet and create pleasure can be very intriguing and persuading for children with this predisposition. Another study that is important in understanding these mechanisms in play is a study on looking at taste receptors of children. In the study, it was found that obese children carrying this certain gene involved in sweet taste reception had a higher waist-to-height ratio and higher chocolate powder intake (Pioltone, Edna de Melo, Santos, et al., 2018). These results are substantial evidence for understanding chocolate’s role in the obesity problem, in that these children with this biological predisposition are seeing higher intakes of this sweetness that is chocolate. Both the cognitive and physiological mechanisms introduced are vital to understanding the role of chocolate and its sweetness in affecting this problem of obesity, and set the stage for seeing the effects of marketing and advertising on children furthering this problem at hand.

            So more specifically on the effects of advertisement on children, a study by Brody, Stoneman, Lane, and Sanders (1981), there was further evidence that children are easily persuaded and it was found that children viewing the advertisements wanted the advertised food more than the control condition did. More importantly though, they found that while mothers were having conversations with their children when watching these television programs, they were not informing them on competing pieces of evidence against the advertised food (Brody, Stoneman, Lane, and Sanders, 1981). This shows a very strong potential problem in advertising, especially in the case of chocolate and other high-sugar containing foods, in that these children, whom are shown to be easily persuaded already, are not told the negatives of these foods they see in all these advertisements. This easily leads to lack of understanding the potential long-term effects of eating these foods that are constantly advertised to children, even when their parents are present.

Given the previously mentioned literature, it is appropriate to look at an actual advertisement by a major chocolate company, Reese’s.

Reese’s Advertisement: https://youtu.be/mI1SPUDMDEM

There are many takeaways from this advertisement related to this previously mentioned literature on advertising and children. The first is relating to the finding of obese children displaying more pleasure-driven behaviors, and that is no exception. In the advertisement, you see Reese’s do a common practice in the food industry altering their products depending upon the season. Egg-hunting and finding is a common practice on Easter, and the pleasure associated with finding Easter eggs and the overall sense of the holiday associated with eggs could potentially create a relationship in which these particular children are motivated to experience this pleasure by “getting” and eating these eggs. This form of appealing to the joy these kids feel could very well have a strong-impact on their food choices using the findings from the literature. Additionally, there comes the aspect of the advertisement really emphasizing the prevalence of their product in every location possible, mentioning places such as grocery stores, supermarkets, and even chiropractor offices. Using the findings from Brody, Stoneman, Lane, and Sanders’ (1981) study, without contesting knowledge from parents, there lays the possibility that children associate this prevalence of the product with normalcy, and that it is normal to be able to have the ability to eat this chocolate so much. This allows for the possibility of children to be persuaded to choose these products more and take in the heavy sugar contents (Reese’s was recorded at around 25g of added sugar) that can be threatening to a good diet, a necessity for preventing obesity.

            To further evaluate the problem of marketing and advertising in the chocolate industry, we turn to the article by Andrew Jacobs and Matt Ritchel (2017) on the problem of big businesses in getting lower-class citizens of Brazil hooked on junk food. The article focuses on Nestle, a company largely known for their chocolate products, and how they have increased their presence in developing countries over the past few years. They detail how these processed foods that companies such as Nestle provide are “essential to feeding a growing, urbanizing world of people, many of them with rising income, and demanding convenience,” (Jacobs and Ritchel, 2017). This article shows how this increased presence and marketing of a necessity for these products, chocolate included dues to its relative cheapness, is causing this problem of obesity in these developing countries and presenting more problems to developing countries already with many problems. This is displayed in the image in how these developing countries have had massive increases in obesity rates since 1980. You can see the room for problem in looking at studies such as Pioltone, Edna de Melo, Santos, et al.’s (2018) in there potentially being children across these developing countries with these taste receptor predispositions that are being constantly fed these sweet foods and seeing a correlation with higher weights and greater health problems. Jacobs and Ritchel’s article provides a lot of information that shows the downsides of heavy market influence by big companies and especially chocolate companies like Nestle.

            In reviewing the literature on the psychological and physiological mechanisms at play in potentially causing obesity on top of the prevalence of chocolate advertising despite the health concerns from the heavy content of added sugar, it is easy to see the potential problem of heavy advertising and marketing towards children in the chocolate industry. Some counter-arguments to always consider are the benefits of a balanced diet which can include sweets such as chocolate, as well as the freedom for companies to be able to achieve success in people buying their products. But in this paper, I have laid out the argument of the very negative potential consequences and immorality of advertising in the chocolate industry. Here is another example of an advertisement from a major chocolate company that can be seen as rather immoral when it comes to advertising to children.

Hershey’s Advertisement: https://youtu.be/Plf9bzri6Rw

We can find many potential problems from this advertisement, with the first being the use of a song from a famous kid’s movie, Snow White, in setting the happy mood of the advertisement. By appealing to these kid’s emotions on top of the literature of how easily persuaded children are in food advertisements, there is great potential in influencing children to ask for and desire this candy more when going to any store really. Additionally, the part at the end in which the kid shares one of the Hershey’s Kisses with his mother can be looked at as a way for kids to make their parents happy, something kids are typically very fond of, and make them desire this product even more. Hershey’s Kisses do not come by themselves either, as they are only bought in packages in which 9 Kisses is around 20g of added sugar, showing the potential negative consequences on having a healthy diet.

            In reviewing the literature and current forms of chocolate company advertisements, there is great evidence that there are problems on our hand. Chocolate throughout history has been a favorite for people across all cultures and that is no exception today, as chocolate can provide people with happiness in the taste and use in our lives. But the health consequences of added sugar in the major chocolate companies we have come to love today provide reason for concern, and calls upon questioning the morality of advertising chocolate products to children whose diets are crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially in today’s world where the threat of obesity reigns heavy and causes many health problems. The problem of obesity has a long way to go before being taken care of, but one way we can start is considering alternatives to this problem of this constant advertising of these unhealthy products to children across the world.

Works Cited

Albritton, Robert. 2012[2010]. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” pp. 342-354

Brody, G. H., Stoneman, Z., Lane, T. S., & Sanders, A. K. (1981). Television Food Commercials Aimed at Children, Family Grocery Shopping, and Mother-Child Interactions. Family Relations, 30(3), 435. doi:10.2307/584039

Jacobs, A., & Richtel, M. (2017, September 16). How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html

Obesity and overweight. (2018, February 16). World Health OrganizRetrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight

Pioltine, M., Melo, M. D., Santos, A., Machado, A., Fernandes, A., Fujiwara, C., . . . Mancini, M. (2018). Genetic Variations in Sweet Taste Receptor Gene Are Related to Chocolate Powder and Dietary Fiber Intake in Obese Children and Adolescents. Journal of Personalized Medicine, 8(1), 7. doi:10.3390/jpm8010007

Tarabashkina, L., Quester, P., & Crouch, R. (2015). Food advertising, children’s food choices and obesity: Interplay of cognitive defences and product evaluation: An experimental study. International Journal of Obesity, 40(4), 581-586. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.234

Video Links:

            Reese’s Commercial: https://youtu.be/mI1SPUDMDEM

            Hershey’s Commercial: https://youtu.be/Plf9bzri6Rw

Image Sources:

            Adults Obese Statistics: https://ourworldindata.org/obesity

            Country Obesity Rate Changes: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html

São Tomé & Príncipe: Back to its Roots, But Shifting its Focus

São Tomé, and its sister island Príncipe, were once the biggest producers of cacao in the world. Over the last half century, however, cacao farming there collapsed. Today, the farmers of São Tomé are working to regenerate the country’s reputation, but this time with a focus on quality cacao rather than just quantity.

Visiting São Tomé and Príncipe today, one would find islands of incredible beauty. Yet, one would also see inactive and ruined “roças”, showing an architectural and economic vitality of the past that no longer exists.

Above: Old Portuguese ruins around the island.
Source: unusualtraveler.com

Once the World’s Leading Cacao Producer

Back in 1913, despite being Africa’s second smallest country, São Tomé & Príncipe was the world’s largest producer of cacao, thus nicknamed the “Chocolate Islands”. More than a century has passed since the small West African twin island state held that title. Though a global demand for craft chocolate along with investments from Fair Trade companies have put São Tomé & Príncipe back on the chocolate map, it is rather unlikely that the tiny West African country will ever compete on an international scale again.

Over the last century, global demand for cacao to produce chocolate for global consumption has grown immensely. With a surface area of 1,001 square kilometers and a population of approximately 200,000, the Portuguese-speaking country would not be able to cope with the high volume of cacao needed by the global chocolate industry (World Bank, 2019).

One hundred years ago, when São Tomé & Príncipe emerged as the world’s leading cacao producer, the country had an annual output 36,500 tons per year, representing 12 percent of world production (Schwarz, 1932). Today, the world leading cacao grower is the Ivory Coast, producing around 2 million tons, with global output at over 4 million tons, according to the International Cocoa Organization (2019). Comparing those figures, it is evident that São Tomé & Príncipe has been displaced from the top spot it attained in 1913, predominantly due to the rapid surge in cacao cultivation and output over the last century.

Today’s leading cacao producers, the Ivory Coast and Ghana, not only have more land, but also a higher population with more experienced farmers, more financial resources, as well as international support than São Tomé & Príncipe could ever bring together, thus making it implausible for the country to return to the number one spot in world cacao production.

According to the World Bank (2019), “the limited number of people and workers in the country often prevent the efficient production of goods and services at the scale needed to meet the demand of both local and export markets.” It further states that since the country’s independence in 1975, agriculture production has declined and is no longer the main driver of economic growth. Today, however, agricultural goods, especially cacao, still constitute the bulk of the country’s export (World Bank, 2019).

A Bittersweet History

After 1450, São Tomé & Príncipe was one of the leading suppliers of sugar, however, it was ultimately a different crop that would transform its politics and demographics many centuries later (Mintz, 1986). Cacao trees were first planted in the country around 1822, when José Ferreira Gomes brought cacao seedlings from Brazil, introducing the crop as an ornamental plant (Schwarz, 1932). Approximately 1.5 metric tons of cacao were exported from the main island only twenty years later (Schwarz, 1932). By then, cacao had already replaced sugar cane as the primary crop. A few decades later, by the early 1900s, Portuguese colonizers were reveling in the fact that they had turned the small island into the biggest producer and exporter of cacao. Sending heavy volumes of the crop to Bourneville, London, Liverpool, and Hamburg, São Tomé & Príncipe was clearly transforming the world’s cacao market. With exports bound for major European chocolate manufacturers like Cadbury Brothers, JS Fry & Sons and Rowntrees & Co., the islands became famous in the global market with its cacao and coffee outputs (Schwarz, 1932).

Global demand for cacao was increasing and business was booming – a feat that could only be achieved through the labor of about 20,000 slaves.

Toward the end of the 19th century, William Cadbury, of Cadbury chocolate, began to investigate the supply chain of the cacao his company purchased (Kiesow, 2017). The investigation led by Henry Nevinson happened due to allegations that the British chocolate company was using slave-grown cacao (Higgs, 2013).

With the revelation of slave workers on cacao plantations, Western consumers reacted with shock and disgust and much of the production moved from São Tomé to the plantations of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which did not make use of slave labor. As Ghana and the Ivory Coast had increased their cacao production to meet demand, many of the plantations in São Tomé were unable to sustain themselves. In 1975, after the country’s eventual independence, the once glorious plantations were completely neglected across the islands and subsequently, the cacao industry fell into disrepair (Leissle, 2018).

Under Portuguese colonial rule, production on the islands was dominated by a system of plantations known as roças (estates). A hundred years later, the colonial buildings still stand, but like the cacao industry, they are a far cry from what they once were.

After independence, in 1975, collapsing global prices and a lack of investment saw the pinnacle of São Tomé’s cacao-coated boom slowly melt away. Today, the roças lie in atmospheric ruins, with the jungle having now reclaimed many of the former plantations.

Above: Surrounded by forrest and mountains in the middle of São Tomé, lies the former Portuguese cacao plantation roça Bombaim.
Source: trekearth.com

Nationalization of Cacao Plantations

With the revelation of slave workers on cocoa plantations, which caused uproar in Europe and elsewhere, the cacao industry in São Tomé & Príncipe began to go under. The two world wars also affected the revitalization of plantations for cacao and coffee in São Tomé & Príncipe. Shortly after its independence in 1975, the government of the tiny West African country announced the nationalization of the cacao plantation complex, which allowed previous workers to own pieces of land in the plantation and harvest their own subsistence. Soon, however, it became clear that this was not the solution. Some would harvest, others would sell the land, and some would use the property for purposes other than harvesting.

Above: The entrance to roça Bombaim, now a rural hotel.
Source: waymarking.com

Today, many plantations and their surroundings are home to squatters. This makes it obvious that the phenomenon of the houses being occupied is a direct result of people’s lack of means right after the independence and the nationalization of the cacao plantations by the Saotomeans. It was clearly a solution stemming from the lack of housing.

At the time of independence, about 90% of the cultivated area was occupied by Portuguese-owned plantations (International Business Publications, 2013). The boom of high cacao prices in the late 1970s boosted earnings by São Tomé & Príncipe. However, when the high prices collapsed, the country’s export earnings fell by over 70% between 1979 and 1981 (International Business Publications, 2013). Due to the sharp decline in cacao prices from the 1980s onward, the country’s cacao industry completely crumbled.

The government created state enterprises at the time of independence, in order to manage the nationalized cacao plantations abandoned by the Portuguese. Those enterprises, however, had a variety of problems causing the decline in cacao output and productivity. Weak management, lack of qualified manpower and investments, drought and falling global prices of cacao were some key issues. These problems caused the eventual collapse of the state-owned plantations virtually ending the island’s dependence on cacao.

In theory, even if the colonizers and other foreign companies invested in the country’s cacao sector and prevented its collapse, the island would not have been able to remain as the world`s largest cacao producer because of its tiny population and small land size.

Above: The story of cacao and coffee in São Tomé & Príncipe
Source: coffeemuseum.com

Intervention by the United Nations

The collapse of the cacao industry on the islands remained until 2009 when the United Nation`s International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD) and Cafédirect started working with farmers on the island to produce Fair Trade cacao beans using a co-operative model (IFAD, n.d.)

The National Statistics Institute (INE) of the country stated that its cacao sales accounted for 93.5% of all agricultural exports. The remaining 6.5% of the list of agricultural exports was mostly made up of coconut, flowers, coffee, and pepper. Cacao exports rose from 2,794 tons in 2015 to 3,000 tons in 2017, according to the INE. Today, several farmers are growing organic or fair-trade certified cacao for the international chocolate industry, followed by a positive intervention by IFAD and its partners.

Leading French organic chocolate producer Kaoka, undertook a quick assessment of the country’s cacao sector in 2000 and concluded that the rich genetic origin of São Tomé cacao varieties could produce superior aromatic cocoa beans that would fetch higher and more stable prices than ordinary cocoa (IFAD, n.d.)

The results gathered by IFAD clearly show that by combining organic production and fair trade principles, Saotomean cacao farmers can greatly boost their income.

Chocolate (Factory) in a Box

Though cacao cultivation in São Tomé is over 100 years old, it is interesting to note that at no time was chocolate ever made on the islands. It has, in fact, only just gotten its first-ever chocolate factory, which resulted from a cooperation between a South African and a British business. The enterprises are HBD Venture Capital, an enterprise of IT billionaire and astronaut Mark Shuttleworth, and Coeur de Xocolat, a venture of British chef and master chocolatier David Greenwood-Haigh.

HBD has been investing in sustainable tourism on the island of Príncipe, by setting up a small chain of hotels and stimulating local agriculture. Given the historical circumstances, the obvious focus was on the revival of cacao production. The island has the ability to produce, limited-yield, single origin, superior-grade cacao of the highest quality. Since the land has never had pesticides or other chemicals applied to it, the island’s cacao production is naturally organic. The revival of commercial cacao production created the possibility of making chocolate locally on the islands. “HBD invited me to visit the island to advise and train a team of locals to make chocolate on Príncipe for the first time, keeping as much of the value on the island as possible (raise trade),” Greenwood-Haigh wrote in his blog. “We discovered that Príncipe volcanic soil produces rich-tasting chocolate with flavor peaks of red and yellow fruits, has a very intense and complex taste, rich in roasted cacao, and with lots of refreshing fruity notes, including apricot, red fruits, citrus” (Greenwood-Haigh, n.d.) One of the company’s services, which was also provided in São Tomé, is a so-called “chocolate factory in a box”. It supplied a shipping container that holds all the equipment necessary to launch a chocolate factory.

Thanks to this project, the chocolate facility can now produce natural cacao powder, cacao butter, cacao vinegar, roasted cacao nibs, and couverture, ready for conversion into bars, with all products being organic (Greenwood-Haigh, n.d.). Just like with the explosion of barista-made coffee, as well as craft beer, a similar trend has emerged in the chocolate industry. As consumers are becoming more interested in premium chocolate, they are also increasingly conscious of where their chocolate comes from. This makes it an exciting time for São Tomé & Príncipe and its local chocolate industry.

Quality over Quantity

Though it lost its title as the biggest producer of cacao in the world a long time ago, the people of São Tomé are slowly regenerating the country’s reputation. This time, however, with a focus on quality cacao rather than just quantity.

Over the past decades, the global chocolate industry has seen growing consumer demand for high quality products with clear origins. There has been a real shift away from the packaged, processed foods seen since the 1950s (Leissle, 2018). With that shift in consumer demand, craft chocolate, like beer and coffee before it, has gone mainstream.

Artisan craft chocolate, i.e. chocolate that differentiates itself by the type of bean, origin of the ingredients, flavor, and cacao content in the bar, has become a growing business. “Cocoa beans, like wine grapes, produce distinct flavors depending on strain and terroir, and showcasing that flavor is the goal of single origin chocolate” (Leissle, 2013, p.23). In the current decade, there are now more than 230 bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers, as well as a growing movement of fine chocolatiers (Martin, 2019).

Above: The craft chocolate revolution – from bean to bar.
Source: TEDx Wellington (Gabe Davidson)

Craft makers are traveling to new parts of the world, as they seek out new flavors in order to diversify their options. With its productive co-op schemes and historic cacao plantations, São Tomé seems to have been the perfect place to be rediscovered.

One of the first people to put São Tomé & Príncipe back on the chocolate map was Claudio Corallo. In 1997, the Italian coffee businessman purchased a disused plantation on the island and brought it back to life. For two decades, Corallo has been championing the island and its cacao produce, used in his dark chocolate bars, which he sells for a steep price of €16.50 each.

Above: Chocolate bars sold online by Claudio Corallo.
Source: Claudio Corallo

While Corallo owns Nova Moca, the biggest producer of coffee on São Tomé, he also owns Terreiro Velho on Príncipe, a plantation that produces the island’s best cacao. Corallo, who is famously known as the Chocolate King of West Africa, runs his empire from the islands and exports the bulk of what he describes as “the best chocolate in the world” to France, Italy, Portugal, and the U.S. This makes him one of just a few bean-to-bar chocolate makers working in Africa, rather than exporting the cacao beans to Europe, like his bigger competitors, where both the end product and real profit is made.

Above: Map of the islands showing both of Corallo’s plantations.
Source: saotomeislands.com

Unlike many of his competitors, Corallo does not believe in adding many things to his cacao, especially milk and vanilla.

Above: Chocolate revival in Sao Tomé.
Source: CNN (Sao Tome and Principe’s chocolate revival)

Another famous chocolatier drawing attention to São Tomé & Príncipe is François Pralus, who produces the “Sao Tomé bar” featuring a map of the country on the front of the wrapper. The bar is advertised according to its “intense and distinct flavor”.

Above: The Sao Tomé bar sold by François Pralus
Source: François Pralus

In 2014, the Kennyson group, known for its interest in the rural development of Africa, helped the revival of the century-old plantation of Diogo Vaz on São Tomé. Dating back to 1880, the plantation has produced organic certified cacao since it was taken over.

The plantation ensures the entire production process from the manual harvesting of the pod until it is molded into a chocolate bar (calling their process “Tree to Bar”) and wrapped in a delicate paper cover. This allows the plantation to guarantee traceability and an exceptional manufacturing quality.

Above: The Diogo Vaz roça, which today, supports approx. 1,000 people.
Source: diogovazchocolate.com

Though it is doubtful that São Tomé will ever regain its title as the world’s largest producer of cacao, I believe the future of the country’s cacao industry is bright, particularly because of the work farmers on the island have done to engage a new generation in the industry.

Thanks to chocolatiers like Claudio Corallo, the country will continue to produce chocolate bars that allow its consumers to taste more than just its bittersweet notes. Biting into an artisanal product such as Corallo’s 100% cacao mass bar, one will taste earthy volcanic soil, sweet African sunshine, and, hopefully, a brighter, chocolate-inspired future for these divine islands after decades of neglect.

Multimedia Sources Cited








Scholarly Sources Cited

Greenwood-Haigh, D. (n.d.). Chocolate safari to Sao Tome & Principe. Retrieved from https://www.coeurdexocolat.com/chocolate-safari-to-sao-tome–principe

Higgs, C. (2013). Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, slavery, and colonialism. London, UK: Penguin Books.

International Business Publications, USA. (2013). Sao Tome & Principe: Business Intelligence Report Vol. 1, Strategic Information and Opportunities. Washington DC, USA – Sao Tome

International Cocoa Organization. (2019). ICCO Quarterly Bulletin of Cocoa Statistics, Vol. XLV, No.1, Cocoa year 2018/19. Retrieved from https://www.icco.org/component/search/?searchword=sao%20tome&searchphrase=all&Itemid=101

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ifad.org/en/home

Kiesow, S. (2017). Cocoa culture on São Tomé and Príncipe: The rise and fall of cocoa on the islands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Agricultural History, 91(1), 55-77.

Leissle, K. (2013). Invisible West Africa: The politics of single origin chocolate. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, 13(3), 22-31.

Leissle, K. (2018). Cocoa. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture 12: Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future? Harvard University, May 1, 2019.

Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and power. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Schwarz, L. (1932). Cocoa in São Tomé and Príncipe. Retrieved April 25, 2019 from https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112101553680;view=1up;seq=1

The World Bank. (2019). The World Bank in Sao Tome and Principe. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/saotome/overview

The Consumption of Black Bodies as Chocolate

My 2ndgrade classroom has a diverse group of children with a range of ethnicities and complexions. On Valentines Day, our teacher brought us different kinds of candies and deserts to celebrate the occasion. As we ate, admired, and traded our treats together, a dialog with heavy historical, political, and racial ties quickly developed.

“Your skin looks like this chocolate!” one white student said to a black student. “Are black people made of chocolate?” he asked. The child’s tone of voice had a kind of playfulness and naiveté that is typical of young children, and so the question did not feel like a racial attack at the time, but I distinctly remember leaving class that day with the question, “What am made of?”

As a person of mixed heritage with both white and black family lineage, I have always occupied a unique space in the conception and conversation of race in America. The question of, “What am I made of” extends far beyond the scope of a child’s comments about chocolate, for it is rooted in the larger question of the nature of identity for people with a multiracial composition. My skin is pretty light, and so it would not appear that I am made of chocolate, but I still identify as a black person in every way. 

Comments such as the ones made by my 2ndgrade classmate are actually quite common in our society. Black women with dark complexions are often referred to as “dark chocolate” in a sexualized and racialized way. Chocolate and vanilla have become well-established cultural metaphors for whiteness and blackness. And in the scope of racism and prejudice that black people experience, these comments can often appear trivial or even meant to be complements. But are these comments and associations merely benign connections between the color of chocolate or vanilla with various skin tones, or is this another product of white supremacy and other historical factors? In order to answer this question, we must take a look into the history of chocolate manufacturing and consumption as it relates to blackness.

A bitter-sweet history

When we look at the history of chocolate production, we are looking at a history of African slave labor. Between 10 and 15 millions slaves were stolen from Africa and brought to work in various farms and plantations that manufactured cacao, cotton, and sugar in the Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas. In addition to the alarming number of slaves that were forced into labor, 40 out of every 100 slaves dies in the process of being transported across the Atlantic. The African people were considered property under the system of chattel slavery, and the conditions were so severe that the life expectancy for a slave in the Caribbean and Brazil was only about 7 to 8 years. (Martin, 2019)This statistic shows the horrific nature of the violence that was involved in chocolate production. The system known as Encomienda allowed Spanish colonists in America to force indigenous people in to permanent servitude. It is important to understand that racism against these African slaves emerged and grew out of a desire to continue to justify the extremely profitable system of slavery. Even after the abolitionist movements that eventually banned legal slave labor, indentured servitude and other forms of slavery still persisted.  (Martin, 2019) Here we see the dehumanization of black people and the link between the ownership of black bodies and the products that their labor creates. If people began to feel that slavery was in fact the exploitation of human bodies and lives for profit, it would become more problematic to continue this practice. So the dehumanization of black people emerged from an incentive to maximize product, rather than some innate quality of black people. Just like we cannot accurately consider the history of this country without looking at slave labor, we cannot consider the social, political, or economic history of chocolate without acknowledging the gruesome history of violence and exploitation that made chocolate manufacturing so profitable. (Orla 2011)

Image of “Middle Passage” slave ship (http://mrwatkinsclass.com/mini-lesson-mercantilism-middle-passsage/)

Dehumanization of black bodies in modern advertisements and pop-culture

But this connection between the ownership of black bodies and the production of chocolate has been preserved and enhanced by the original and modern systems of chocolate consumption and advertisement. While in many ways the history of slavery as it relates to chocolate have been hidden and erased, in other alarming ways this history has shaped the consumption of chocolate in very tangible ways. This can be seen very clearly in the product design and advertisements of several different chocolate products. Here are some examples:

Advertisements from the French company “Banania”

The French company Banania used a common racial caricature of a primitive, smiling black face in its advertisements. These ads perpetrate the notion that black people are simple, and it removes any notions of coercive labor or violence by including the well-known wide smile. Another non-so-subtle implication of these advertisements is the association between black people and primitive beings such as monkeys, through the use of bananas and the way in which black people are drawn, which has been a long-standing racist notion.

Image of a product sold by the Spanish company “Conguitos”

The Spanish company Conguitos sells a product that explicitly resembles the black body, which further reinforces the association between the consumption of blackness and the consumption of chocolate. The name “Conguitos” roughly translates to “little person from the Congo”. Here, the black person is also diminished into a childlike, primitive being that is designed for consumption, as emphasized by the tribal spear, lack of detail, simple facial expression, emphasized lips, and wide eyes. All of these factors contribute to the dehumanization of black people through this product. 

Image of Belgium’s famous chocolate hands/ Congolese children who’s hands were cut off

Perhaps the most disturbing example of the connection between chocolate and the consumption of black bodies is the case of Belgium’s chocolate hands. These chocolate hands are considered a delicacy in Belgium, but they have a truly horrifying origin. When the Belgian King Leopold II occupied the Congo, it was common practice to cut off and collect the right hands of Congolese slaves. The hands became a symbol of allegiance to the throne and even a form of currency. The chocolate hands symbolize and glorify this history, while reinforcing the notion that black bodies are meant for consumption. (Martin 2019) When gruesome practices such as collecting Congolese hands are normalized and removed from their violent origins, the violence and racism is maintained while the awareness of the true history is diminished.


Another example from popular culture of the ways in which the history of slavery is still preserved in chocolate culture is the original depiction of the Oompa Loompas in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.It turns out that in the original version of the story, the Oompa Loompas, Willy Wonka’s labor force, were described as dark skinned, childlike ‘pygmies’ that Willy Wonka found in the African jungle to bring back to his factory. (Robertson 2010) Not only are the Oompa Loompas radicalized in a manner that glorifies the history of slave labor in chocolate production, but they are made to be unthreatening and primitive beings who work without conscious and sing songs. I find this knowledge about the Oompa Loompas origins very disturbing for several reasons. It dehumanizes black people and glorifies slavery in a way that erases the aspects of violence and cruelty of slavery, transforming the suffering of millions into some sort of comic relief for the story. It also displays how acceptable and common the concept of having slave labor was that Roald Dahl thought to include it in a children’s story. But perhaps why I find this particular example of the connection between chocolate and slavery so relevant to my narrative is because within the original dialog of the story, the protagonist Charlie Bucket actually asks if the Oompa Loompas are made of chocolate because as he describes, “Their skin is almost black!” (Robertson 2010) This reminds me of the same question that my 2ndgrade classmate asked, and the ways in which the legacy of slavery that was glorified in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory still persists today. Even though the blackness of the Oompa Loompas has since been written out of the story, the knowledge of the original story provides us with important insight on the connection between black bodies and chocolate.

What these examples and the horrific nature of the history of slavery for chocolate production show is that there has been a long-standing monetary interest in the ownership and consumption of black bodies. The profit of slave labor and the products that come as its result has incentivized the large-scale dehumanization of black people and has lead to the fetishization and fantasy of black bodies as representing the products that they create, rather than the reality of their existence, pain, or humanity. In a sense, the black body has been so ‘delicious’ for whiteness to consume that it has become a deeply embedded aspect of our culture, because its consumption has been associated with the sweetness of sugar and chocolate and not the bitter truth of slave labor. While the origins of this slave system have been hidden and pushed out of the public conscious, these dangerous notions about ownership of the black body extend to our culture today, and this is seen in more than just chocolate consumption. Look at the tendency for white people to touch black women’s hair without permission, the constant appropriation of black ideas, features, and culture, and the hyper-policing, monitoring, and brutalization of black youth by police. These are all current manifestations of the notion that black bodies are meant to be owned, controlled, exploited, and consumed, just like the association between chocolate and blackness. These are features of a system of white supremacy that distorts or erases the evidence of past atrocities while preserving the dehumanization that arose from it. (Lowell 2005)

Who is made of what?

So in the context of chocolate’s long history of exploiting black people, and the racism that emerged as a means of preserving these systems through dehumanization, the seemingly innocent question of “Are black people made of chocolate” appears to be rooted in decades of racism, slavery, and ignorance. This is not to say that my classmate (or Charlie Bucket) asked the question with malicious intent, but rather that he was conditioned at such a young age to associate black people with the product of their labor. In fact, this question also can serve as evidence of this history, considering that people with light complexions are not asked if they are made of wheat, wood, or another substance with similar tone, even by children. After studying this history, I now feel that I have an answer for my classmate. Black people are not made of chocolate, but chocolate is made of black people, in the sense that it has been historically created through their oppression and forced labor. And as for my questions of what am made of, I have come to realize that I am both a product and consumer, in the sense that my ancestors were both consumed to make chocolate and consumers of chocolate itself. I feel that this identity allows me to look at my own internalized biases that stem from slavery and understand the ways in which I have both suffered and benefitted from these systems. This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy chocolate anymore because of its violent history, just like it doesn’t mean we can’t still feel pride for a country with a violent foundation. Instead, it should serve as a reminded for us to critically analyze our conceptions of race and recommit ourselves to understanding the true history of our world, regardless of how unpleasant it might be. 


Scholarly Resources:

1. Sampeck, Kathryn, and Jonathan Thayn. 2017. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.”

2. Martin, Carla. “20190403 Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Emerson Lecture Hall, Cambridge, MA

3.Martin, Carla. “20190306 Slavery, abolition, and forced labor ” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Emerson Lecture Hall, Cambridge, MA

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

5.Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. pp. 

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

7. Ryan, Orla. 2011. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa

Multimedia links:

  1. http://mrwatkinsclass.com/mini-lesson-mercantilism-middle-passsage/
  2. http://vintagenewsdaily.com/controversial-advertisements-by-banania-the-brand-emphasized-the-racist-stereotype-of-dumb-black-people-for-years/
  3. https://www.reddit.com/r/AccidentalRacism/comments/80s26o/this_typical_spanish_candy_conguito_little_man/
  4. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.africanexponent.com/amp/post/9695-black-hands-whether-real-or-made-of-candy-are-belgian-delicacies
  5. https://literatipulp.com/2016/07/04/disturbing-history-of-oompa-loompas/

Fair Trade, An Interview with Jonathan Rosenthal: Ethical Choices in the World of Chocolate and Beyond

For as long as chocolate’s popularity has reigned, questions about the ethicality of cacao production across the world have also been prevalent. When chocolate was first introduced to Europe, its influence was fairly restricted to only the most elite members of society, with limited influence beyond the one percent of society. In a similar vein, sugar as a commodity was only consumed by the wealthy, with limited medicinal influence. As European Historian Woodruff D. Smith explained in his paper “Complications of the Commonplace: Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism”, “sugar was the object of a sustained vogue in Northern Europe” in the 1500s and 1600s. But as sugar and chocolate, became increasingly popular across the continent, its production was forced to catch up with the suddenly commonplace consumer good. In order to make sugar and chocolate available to the consumer population, there had to be significant “growth of West Indian plantation production and the high level of integration between production and distribution” (Smith, 262). These concerns over labor conditions and plantations have continued across the ensuing centuries, as many cacao farmers in Africa are still not paid a living wage, forced to work arduously for minimal pay. This struggle highlights one of the fundamental problems with the cacao production chain, as the lion’s share of profit is enjoyed by the retailers, who are most removed from the cacao production process. Meanwhile, cacao farmers tend to see less than seven percent of the value of cocoa sales (Cocoa Barometer 2015). The website https://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0 is a resource that demonstrates the struggles of many people that are lower on the chain of production, like farmers and traders, especially relative to manufacturers and retailers. It is along this backdrop of unfairness and inequality, that arrangements like Fair Trade arise.

A diagram representing the percentages of revenue going to different sectors of chocolate production.

The central principle of Fair Trade was designed to protect the interests of producers, in order to pay them a living wage. Fair Trade guarantees farmers a baseline price, which enables them to put food on the table and make ends meet on a more consistent basis year-round. I had the opportunity to interview Jonathan Rosenthal, one of the early pioneers of the American Fair Trade movement, from the 1980s onwards. Rosenthal, along with Rink Dickinson and Michael Rozyne, helped popularize Fair Trade in the form of a business that would reconnect people to their food in an ethical and just manner (Just-Works.com). Rosenthal’s foray into the Fair Trade movement morphed into idea of Equal Exchange coffee, a worker-owned Fair Trade company, and later into Oke USA, the first American Fair Trade fruit company.

Equal Exchange Coffee was the company that Rosenthal helped create, early in his career.

“Three of us decided we would set up our own food company, somewhat in response to all the things that we couldn’t do in the consumer food coop world, so we decided to set up a worker-owned Fair Trade food company,” Rosenthal said. “We set out to set up a food company to basically see how idealistic we could be and still survive. So now how I summarize it is instead of paying as low a price as possible to farmers, what would it mean to have the aspiration to pay farmers as high a price as possible and still survive in the market.”

Articles previously written about Rosenthal demonstrate the breadth of his knowledge, and touch upon his impressive experience in the Fair Trade world. https://grist.org/article/rosenthal/ My conversation with Rosenthal helped shed light on the relationship between Fair Trade and chocolate, as well as the importance of continuing to improve working conditions for farmers worldwide.

“The idea of Fair Trade is, how can we, in a practical way, integrate our core social, spiritual, economic, political values in how we live our lives. In the case of Fair Trade, that’s about how products are sourced, especially since very little of our population knows where their food comes from,” Rosenthal said. “My work in Fair Trade was about helping people connect or reconnect to food, and connecting to understanding who produced the food, and how it was produced. Feeling like it’s ethical and sustainable, and that people are being treated well enough. Take the case of coffee or cacao, most of those products are grown in very terrible conditions, but it’s so far away and so far removed through processing from our daily lives of eating a chocolate bar, you have no idea how people lived that helped produce this. The simple idea of Fair Trade is to provide some transparency and fairly compensate farmers.”

A four-minute summary of the basic tenets of Fair Trade.

In the past several decades since Rosenthal’s foray into the food world, and as Fair Trade has grown in prominence across the United States, some influential companies have taken steps towards sourcing their products in a more ethical manner. An archetypal example of this is Kraft Foods, that created “the Cocoa Partnership, established by Cadbury, [which] has committed approximately $70 million to invest in cocoa farming over ten years” (Kruschwitz). The Cocoa Partnership in Ghana was designed to help sustain the next generation of cacao farmers in Ghana, and demonstrate a desire to improve working conditions for farmers nationwide. This Partnership is an example of one of the ways in which large conglomerates can take positive steps towards change. While initiatives like these constitute movement in the right direction, there is still much more work to do from a corporate perspective. One of the biggest problems is that as larger companies like Kraft and Starbucks become increasingly involved in Fair Trade movements, the meaning and radicalism of these movements can become changed or watered down.

“I think trying to create transformational change in corporate America by threatening and attacking and policing is really really difficult and it’s hard to see a long term win in that,” said Rosenthal, about Fair Trade’s initial strategy of being combative towards corporations like Kraft Foods. “Working with large corporations, large NGOs and nonprofits, and governments is important, because those are areas with a lot of resources, so if you can convince those people to do things differently, you can have a big impact. The challenge of this of course, is that a lot of those big institutions and people that have a lot of power and have a lot of responsibility, it’s really hard for them to create big change, even small things, because systems have momentum. And it’s really hard to shift the momentum. So it’s often not because they’re bad people or bad CEOs, but they’re in a system that has momentum and structure.”

Not only have the fluctuation of world market cocoa prices impacted farmers’ incomes, but taxes and local trading structures have had a similarly negative effect. For example, over the past decade, farmers in the Ivory Coast have been able to retrieve merely between 40 to 50% of the world market price for their beans (Makechocolatefair.org).  The volatility of the world market prices for cocoa also result in unpredictability for the livelihood of farmers. While Rosenthal’s experience with these problems are more concentrated in the coffee and fruit industries, he sees the chocolate production chain as similarly problematic, but potentially remedied by Fair Trade organization.

Cacao Production in the Ivory Coast, one of the countries where farmers constantly struggle with fluctuating market prices.

“One of the things about Fair Trade certification is that they usually have a floor price, and farmers and never paid lower than that price,” Rosenthal explained. “So that provides a lot of stability for farmers, knowing that at least the product that they sell to the Fair Trade system, they will always get at least a certain price. And so they can always afford basic necessities for most of the year and can help put food on the table, and send their kids school, those kinds of things. So for me, that gets us to another one of the core things that Fair Trade does, which is to create that stability.”

The implications of low incomes for farmers extends well beyond putting food on the table. These problems can result in farmers’ employment of child labor, as well as reducing salaries and farming using less environmentally sustainable techniques (Makechocolatefair.org). While this might not sound like a significant issue, utilizing less sustainable methods of farming for cacao production can have ecological and environmental consequences. As our planet enters a more critical juncture in the battle against climate change, it is important to understand the ways in which unjust labor and production chains can result in less sustainable farming. Against this backdrop, Fair Trade movements are all the more important.

“I think overall, Fair Trade and environmental work overlap a lot,” Rosenthal said. “One of the big dilemmas is that the more success Fair Trade has, and the more integrated into the market and capitalism it becomes, which is inevitable if you’re gonna succeed, is that the opportunity to create change is less. In the earlier days of Fair Trade it was easier to create change or talk about making change in a more revolutionary way.”

Fair Trade hasn’t always been as prevalent as it is today, however. One of the struggles that the Fair Trade movement has consistently sought to resolve is consumer’s willingness to spend more money for ethically sourced products. A study conducted by Patrick De Pelsmacker, Liesbeth Driesen, and Glenn Rayp sought to determine the premium that Belgian consumers were willing to pay for Fair-Trade coffee. The three scholars, all academics at Ghent University in Belgium, sampled over 800 consumers in Belgian supermarkets to determine their purchasing practices. On average, consumers were willing to pay approximately 10 percent more for their Fair Trade coffee, than they would otherwise spend on a normal brand (De Pelsmacker et. al, 376). Unfortunately, the price premium for coffee in Belgium during the study was around 27 percent, which is 17 percent more than the average consumer was willing to spend. Therefore, amongst the sample, only around 10 percent of the 808 consumers were willing to pay a 27 percent premium for their coffee, while 90 percent were either unwilling to pay a premium or were willing to pay a premium of less than 27 percent (De Pelsmacker et. al, 379).

While this study was focused on coffee in Belgium, its results have implications beyond this one specific example, capturing one of the core questions at the heart of the Fair Trade movement. If it costs more, are consumers willing to pay for more ethical sourcing? If cacao farmers are going to be paid fairly for their work, allowing them to farm more sustainably, avoid child labor, while earning a living wage, it will require willingness on the part of the consumer. Many experts, Rosenthal included, believe that future generations are more aware of the concept of Fair Trade, making them more likely to lean into the idea of spending more money for ethical products.

“In terms of it becoming more popularized, I think people are willing to pay more for quality. The social values, the ethical criteria, are becoming part of the quality menu for younger people. There’s a lot more awareness today that part of quality is social relationships embedded in the products. When I started in this industry, none of that really was around,” contextualized Rosenthal on how newer generations of consumers are becoming increasingly aware. “Younger generations, take it for granted, they know to look for some label, whether it’s organic, or fair trade products, or it’s a direct trade or there’s cage free, like, there’s so many now, different programs, hundreds, really, for all different kinds of products. And so I think, to me, that’s very exciting. The downside is that most people have no idea what those things really stand for.”

Ultimately, much of Rosenthal’s work and experience have serious implications for the cacao industry. The plight of cacao farmers is undeniable, as the large majority, particularly in Africa, struggle to consistently provide for their families. Unfair production chains and fluctuating costs mean that many are unable to have reliable income, forcing some child labor among a myriad of other problems. In order to help ameliorate conditions, alternatives like Fair Trade can help provide a fair price to farmers, and provide them with stability and structure. Fair Trade is not without its flaws, however, as some believe that it creates a price ceiling instead of a price floor, and it can reward lower quality beans with higher prices. Despite these drawbacks, overall, Fair Trade’s effects seem reliably more positive than allowing the market to regulate itself, particularly for farmers. From a consumer perspective, the choice seems fairly straightforward as well, for those that can afford to be ethically conscious.

“I think we are what we eat to some extent,” Rosenthal said. “We all have dreams and aspirations about who we want to be and what we want the world to be. Fair Trade is, in a way, a microcosm of that same dilemma.”



De Pelsmacker, P., Driesen, L., & Rayp, G. (2005). Do Consumers Care about Ethics? Willingness to Pay for Fair‐Trade Coffee. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 39(2), 363-385.

Kruschwitz, N. (2012). Why kraft foods cares about fair trade chocolate. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(1), 1-4.

Smith, W. (1992). Complications of the Commonplace: Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 23(2), 259-278.

Grist. “Jonathan Rosenthal, Fair-Trade Fruit Purveyor, Answers Questions.” Grist, 10 Oct. 2006, grist.org/article/rosenthal/.

“Cocoa Prices and Income of Farmers.” Make Chocolate Fair!, 16 Aug. 2017, makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0.

“5 Unintended Fair Trade Coffee Problems.” Camano Island Coffee, camanoislandcoffee.com/fair-trade-coffee-problems/.



https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=xIX04o0xxa4