Tag Archives: free trade

The Impact of Cacao Purchasing Practices: Cadbury vs. Taza

The definition of chocolate in the Oxford dictionary is, “a food in the form of a paste or solid block made from roasted and ground cacao seeds, typically sweetened and eaten as confectionary,” (Oxford 2019). This definition is very broad and it includes many different varieties and flavors of chocolate. The taste of a chocolate bar may be attributed to many factors, including the type of cacao used, the processing of the cacao, and the ingredients in the chocolate bar. We will explore the production process of Cadbury and Taza chocolate. While both Taza and Cadbury products fall under the definition of chocolate, they are made from very different cacao under distinct production processes. We can examine these elements to explain their differences in taste. Additionally, by analyzing the growing and purchasing practices of these two companies, we can look at their impact on the farmers and farming communities.

The Cadbury company, founded in 1824, receives the majority of its cacao from Ghana in West Africa (“Our Story” 2019). The cacao beans come from many small cacao farms in Ghana (“Cocoa Growing Countries” 2019). Each farm ferments and dries the beans and then they bring the cacao beans to large drying stations where workers combine the beans from many farms, weigh them and pack them into sacks. Merchants then send the cacao sacks to the Ghana Cocoa Board. From here, the Ghana Cocoa Board takes the sacks to a port where the Cadbury company selects and purchases their beans and then ships the beans to processing factories (one in Singapore and another in Chirk, North Wales (“Chocolate Making” 2019; “Fact Sheet: Chocolate Manufacturing,” n.d.). At these factories, workers separate the cacao into cocoa powder and cocoa butter using a hydraulic press. Other workers then send the cocoa powder and the cocoa butter to Cadbury factories in Australia and New Zealand for chocolate production (“Chocolate Making” 2019). Here, workers add condensed cream and sugar to the cocoa to create a “cocoa crumb” that they mix with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter and a “special chocolate flavoring,” the composition of which the company does not disclose. The mixture then undergoes refining, conching, and tempering (“Chocolate Making” 2019).

Taza, a much newer, smaller chocolate company founded in 2005, has a production process that differs drastically from that of Cadbury (“About Taza” 2015). Trading directly with the farmers, Taza purchases high quality cacao beans from the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Haiti (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). Taza then ships the beans back to its factory in Somerville, Massachusetts and roasts and winnows the beans. They then use molinos, or traditional Mexican stone mills, to grind the cacao beans in order to preserve the flavor. This is where Taza’s “stone ground” chocolate comes from. The chocolate mass then undergoes tempering, molding, and cooling (“Our Process” 2015).

Taza receives its cacao directly from farms in South America and islands in the Caribbean. Cadbury receives its cacao from the Ghana Cocoa Board in Ghana in West Africa.

To emphasize, one of the major differences between Cadbury’s and Taza’s purchasing practices is that Cadbury purchases cacao in bulk from the Ghana Cocoa Board whereas Taza purchases cacao directly from the farmers. Cadbury previously received Fairtrade certification for following regulations for free and fair labor practices in the trade of ethical goods. However, Cadbury now follows free trade practices (“Cocoa Life” 2019; Leissle 2018). Free trade is a business model whereby companies purchase the cacao at market price, which is the lowest price for purchasing cacao. The cacao is likely not high quality. The Ghana Cocoa Board has instituted measures for quality control, including giving farmers training in agriculture and spraying to control for pests and diseases. The Cocoa Board also performs quality tests and bean classifications (Leissle 2018). Yet, the cacao comes from numerous farms and it is combined in bulk. Therefore, the purchaser does not know exactly what farms in Ghana or the types of cacao pods that the cacao beans come from. Additionally, since the farmers and farm workers do not know exactly what chocolate company will be purchasing their cacao, they do not have a direct relationship with the company and therefore, they may not have incentives to produce a high quality of cacao bean, rather they are more concerned with producing a large quantity of cacao beans. The majority of cacao farmers are involved in free trade because most of the big chocolate companies use the free trade business model to achieve the lowest possible price for the cacao. In purchasing cacao at market price, these companies can afford to sell their final chocolate products at a cheap price for chocolate consumers (Leissle 2018). Thus, consumers from all classes can afford to purchase Cadbury’s chocolate products, which will continue to increase Cadbury’s revenue (Albritton 2013). As a result of this free trade system, the farmers receive lower wages. In Ghana, the Ghana Cocoa Board pays the farmers and takes out taxes, which can be a large percentage. Additionally, the farmers’ payment may have further deductions depending upon farm labor and environmental certifications (Leissle 2018).

At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, Cadbury had issues with slavery in cacao farming on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe, its main suppliers of cacao at the time. Through various investigations and after several years, the Cadbury company decided to boycott the cacao grown in Sao Tome and Principe in an attempt to rectify the situation. After the start of the boycott, Cadbury began purchasing cacao from other countries in West Africa (Higgs 2012; Satre 2005). In a large company where there are many exchanges and intermediaries involved from the cacao bean to the final chocolate product, it can be difficult to monitor labor practices in third-world cacao growing regions, especially under the free trade business model. As previously mentioned, Cadbury’s cacao comes from the Ghana Cocoa Board. Thus, the Cadbury company is not aware of exactly what cacao farms the cacao comes from and Cadbury cannot easily monitor the labor practices on these farms. Nevertheless, Cadbury has launched a new initiative to partake in the Cocoa Life program (“Cocoa Life” 2019). This program is centered on educating cacao farmers and farming communities with the goals of lifting them out of poverty and giving them life skills in order to allow farmers to benefit from and participate more in the cocoa supply chain (“Cocoa Life – About the Program” 2019).  Currently, in the cacao farming world, large companies in first world countries control the supply chain while farmers in third world countries live in poverty (Leissle 2018). Many feel that it is imperative for farmers to be educated and play a larger role in the cacao supply chain such that they can earn better and fair wages to support their farms and, in turn, pay their workers fair wages (Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute 2019).

Taza, on the other hand, practices direct trade. The company created the Taza Direct Trade Program for the chocolate industry to promote transparency and quality (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). In fact, Leissle refers to Taza as the “direct trade pioneer for chocolate,” (Leissle 2018). Direct trade involves a firsthand relationship between the purchaser (Taza) and the farmers (Leissle 2018). As such, Taza pays the farmers 15 percent to 20 percent above the market price for this high quality cacao. This ends up to be at least $500 above market price per metric ton of cacao (“2018 Transparency Report” 2018). Therefore, the final chocolate product is more expensive for consumers. This is due to the fact that the company (Taza) pays the farmers a higher price for the cacao to ensure that the cacao is high quality (Leissle 2018).

Taza’s direct relationship with cacao farmers, whom Taza refers to as its “grower partners,” plays a large role in the company’s ability to monitor the labor practices of the cacao farms (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). In contrast to Cadbury, Taza has no intermediaries or middlemen in the cacao purchasing process. Therefore, with the direct contact, purchasers from Taza can monitor the growing conditions and labor practices on the farm to ensure that they are non-abusive and environmentally sound (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015). Furthermore, Taza publishes an annual transparency report that contains the price they paid for cacao among other statistics about the farmers and the farms.

Taza’s direct relationships with its growing partners fosters a better labor environment for the workers. Not only does Taza benefit from high quality cacao, but Taza has a positive impact on the community in Haiti by producing stability and giving workers a sense of ownership in the cacao and a critical piece of the supply chain. This video produced by Taza describes Taza’s relationship with growers in Haiti
(“Sourcing for Impact in Haiti” 2015).

One of the trademarks of direct trade is that the farmers have a direct relationship with the chocolate companies without the involvement of middlemen. On the other hand, in larger, free trade supply chains, there can be many middlemen involved in the cacao purchasing as shown in Cadbury’s purchasing process
(“Chocolate Making” 2019).

While both the direct trade and the free trade models have little third party regulation, the direct trade model can provide more transparency since it is less complicated with fewer middlemen involved in the cacao purchasing process. Additionally, since Taza pays higher prices for the cacao, the farmers earn higher wages. This leads to the prevention and mitigation, and even eradication of, unfair or forced labor on these farms. On the other hand, through the free trade model of paying market price for the cacao, the farmers earn much lower wages. This can be conducive to exploitative or forced labor environments since the farm owners may not be able to afford to pay their workers fair wages.

In addition to the effect of cacao purchasing practices on labor conditions, cacao purchasing practices affect the taste of the final chocolate product. This is due to the fact that Cadbury purchases lower quality cacao at market price in bulk from the Ghana Cocoa Board whereas Taza purchases higher quality cacao at a higher price via direct trade practices (“Taza Direct Trade” 2015; “Cocoa Growing Countries” 2019). This difference in cacao quality leads to different chocolate production practices. Since the cacao is low quality, Cadbury, like other large chocolate companies, hides the flavor of the cacao in the final chocolate product via various processing steps such as adding their “special chocolate flavoring,” which includes sugar and condensed milk (“Chocolate Making” 2019; “Fact Sheet: Chocolate Manufacturing,” n.d.). On the contrary, Taza’s production process preserves the flavor of the high quality cacao such that it is detectable in the chocolate.

In order to gain some more knowledge about the differences in taste between Cadbury and Taza chocolate, I had some friends do a tasting of the two. They each tasted a square of the Cadbury Royal Dark Chocolate bar and the Taza Chocolate Mexicano 70% Dark Cacao Puro stone ground disk. The only ingredients in the Taza chocolate are organic cacao beans and organic cane sugar. In the Cadbury bar, the ingredients are sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milk fat, natural and artificial flavor, soy lecithin, and milk. Looking at the ingredients of the two chocolates, some of the major differences are that there are no additives aside from organic sugar in the Taza disk whereas there are several ingredients besides cocoa in the Cadbury bar. Some major contrasts between the descriptors for the two types of chocolate were that the Cadbury chocolate was smooth, silky, and sweet, whereas the Taza chocolate was gritty, bitter, and not as sweet. These differences demonstrate the fact that Taza’s processing methods bring out the taste of the cacao for the consumer whereas Cadbury’s processing methods create a uniform flavor where the other ingredients mask the cacao.

Ingredient labels for Taza Cacao Puro and Cadbury Royal Dark Chocolate. The only ingredients in the Taza chocolate are organic cacao beans and organic cane sugar. Thus, many people can taste the flavor of the cacao. The Cadbury chocolate contains many other ingredients that mask the flavor of the cacao.

In all, chocolate takes on many different forms depending on the type of cacao processing and production methods. Direct trade cacao purchasing creates a firsthand relationship between the company and the farmers. By excluding middlemen from the process, the direct trade purchasing is less convoluted than free trade, making it easier to monitor labor practices and ensure fair labor practices. This is not to say that all free trade chocolate involves child labor or unfair labor, but that labor practices are more difficult to monitor when there are more parties involved in the purchasing.  In addition to the labor aspects of direct trade versus free trade, a byproduct of direct trade is that Taza is able to create a unique flavor from the high quality cacao beans rather than concealing the flavor of the cacao using other ingredients as in a Cadbury chocolate bar.


“2018 Transparency Report.” 2018. Taza Chocolate. 2018.

“About Taza.” 2015. Taza Chocolate. 2015. https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-

Albritton, Robert. 2013. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” In
Food and Culture, edited by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. Taylor & Francis.

“Chocolate Making.” 2019. Cadbury. 2019. https://www.cadbury.com.au/about-

“Cocoa Growing Countries.” 2019. Cadbury. 2019. https://www.cadbury.com.au/About-

“Cocoa Life.” 2019. 2019. http://www.cadbury.co.uk/cocoa-life.

“Cocoa Life – About the Program.” 2019. Cocoa Life. 2019. http://www.cocoalife.org/the-

“Fact Sheet: Chocolate Manufacturing.” n.d. https://www.cadburyworld.co.uk/schoolandgroups/~/media/cadburyworld/en/files/pdf/fa

Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute. 2019. Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain:
Film Screening and Discussion, Part 2. Harvard University.

Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Athens: Ohio
University Press.

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

“Our Process.” 2015. Taza Chocolate. 2015. https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/our-

“Our Story.” 2019. Cadbury. 2019. http://www.cadbury.co.uk/our-story.

Oxford. 2019. “Chocolate.” Oxford Dictionaries | English. 2019.

Satre, Lowell J. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens:
Ohio University Press.

“Sourcing for Impact in Haiti.” 2015. Vimeo. 2015. https://vimeo.com/141051869.

“Taza Direct Trade.” 2015. Taza Chocolate. 2015.

Tried and True or Fitness Fad: An Investigation into the Health and Medicinal Attributes of Chocolate

Is chocolate healthy?  While this question still pops up all over media today, it has been grappled with in every civilization in which chocolate was consumed.  Despite the overwhelming acknowledgement that candy is unhealthy for humans today, specialty chocolate bars can be found wedged between acai bowls and kale salads at the fitness food cafes Embody Fitness Gourmet and Hu Kitchen in Connecticut and Manhattan, respectively.  This investigation seeks to contextualize these contemporary healthy chocolate bars by understanding how chocolate’s health and medicinal attributes were perceived over time by the people that consumed chocolate.  In order to understand how chocolate ended up in a fitness café today, we must examine how chocolate historically has come to be viewed as healthy, and how the “healthy” chocolate of today fits into this narrative.  Ultimately, contemporary chocolate is just as susceptible as past chocolate to being shaped by cultural and societal conceptions of health.

Interior of Embody Fitness Gourmet in New Canaan, CT

Mesoamerica and the “Food of the Gods”

Mesoamerican civilizations not only understood cacao in cultural and religious contexts, but also recognized its applications in medicine and health.  Chemical analysis conducted on archaeological ceramics from Mesoamerica show that “chocolate has an antiquity that stretches 38 centuries back into the past, to predate even the San Lorenzo Olmecs” who lived from approximately 1500 BCE to 400 BCE (Coe & Coe, 36).  Pre-Columbian Maya documents written in hieroglyphics, such as the Dresden Codex, often depict cacao being consumed by gods in ritual activities (Coe & Coe, 41).  Furthermore, the Popol Vuh, or “Book of Counsel,” is a colonial document recorded by a Franciscan friar which contains the oldest Maya myth recorded in its entirety.  In the Popol Vuh, cacao is shown in a variety of contexts, sometimes possessing a godly quality while sometimes being shown in commonplace scenarios (Coe & Coe, 40).  Drinking cacao was part of ritual and celebratory acts, including marriage rituals and rites of death.

Mayan warrior decorated in cacao pods

Mesoamericans recognized cacao’s applications in medicine and health.  The ancient Maya believed chocolate to be very healthy, which stands as one of the many reasons royal rulers consumed vast quantities of cacao at their banquets; archaeological investigations even proved that rulers were in “better health and lived far longer than their chocolate-deprived subjects!” (Coe & Coe, 32).  Mayan warriors decorated their armor with cacao pods and would eat cacao to boost energy, perceiving themselves to be invisible and protected in battle after consuming cacao (Lecture, food of the gods).  Cacao was not only used to maintain and enhance health, but also was employed for its perceived curative properties in healing rites involving cacao.  In the 18th century manuscripts copied from ancient Mayan codices called Chilam Balam and The Ritual of the Bacams, applications of medicinal cacao are shown to treat a wide variety of afflictions, including fevers and seizures (Martin, Feb. 1 Lecture).  Additionally, cacao served as an ingredient in botanical remedies, and was often combined with pepper, honey, avocado, and other natural substances (Martin, Feb. 1 Lecture).  Cacao intervened in all facets of ancient Mesoamerican life, especially in health and medicine.


European Perception of Chocolate through Humoral Theory

The introduction of cacao from Mesoamerica into Europe necessitated contextualizing cacao within the European understanding of medicine and health.  When ships loaded with cacao beans reached the ports of Spain, the Spanish population and the populations of the other European powers “were at the mercy of a worthless and often destructive constellation of medical theories which had held the Western world in its grip for almost two millennia” (Coe & Coe, 120).  To achieve pervasive acceptance of this exotic beverage, cacao needed to be fit “into this fallacious scheme” (Coe & Coe, 120).

Pre-modern European medical understanding and practice was dominated by humoral theory, which was created by the ancient Greeks and maintained its acceptance in Western civilization until modern medicine and understanding of physiology emerged in the early 19th century.  Formulated by Hippocrates (460-377 BCE), this theory of disease and nutrition asserted that the human body consisted of four humors—black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm— which needed to be maintained in the correct combination to ensure good health (Coe & Coe, 121).  If the ratio of these humors deviated, diseases and other afflictions were expected to occur.  Galen, another ancient Greek born in approximately 130 A.D., “expanded [Hippocrates’s theory] by adding the notion of humors, diseases, and the drugs to cure disease could also be hot or cold, and moist or dry” (Coe & Coe, 121).  Under this extension of Hippocrates’s theory, phlegm was considered moist and cold while blood was considered moist and hot.

Adoption of cacao in Europe required that it be classified within humoral theory.  In 1570, King Philip II of Spain directed his Royal Physician Francisco Hernández to travel across the Atlantic to classify plants in the Americas under humoral theory.  Claiming cacao to be very nourishing, Hernández believed the cacao bean to be “temperate in nature” yet should be considered more “cold and humid” (Coe & Coe, 122).  Due to its cool nature, cacao drinks could be used to cure fevers and provide a cooling relief from hot weather.  Many of the cacao spices used by Mesoamericans, such as mecaxochitl flavoring, were considered “hot” under humoral theory.  Given that Hernández classified plants with strong odor and taste as “hot” and those with little odor or taste as “cold”, he believed the spices that Mesoamericans included in their chocolate drinks were “hot” and carried medicinal applications by “warm[ing] the stomach, perfum[ing] the breath… [and] combat[ing] poisons, alleviat[ing] intestinal pains and colics” (Coe & Coe, 122).  Ultimately, Hernández classified cacao drinks as “cold” most likely because the Aztecs considered their beverage cold, consumed the drink at room temperature or colder, and used the drink to replenish the body and avoid fatigue (Coe & Coe, 122).

Just as Galen expanded on Hippocrates’s humoral theory, so too did Juan de Cárdenas expand on Hernández’s analysis of chocolate and classification of cacao under humoral theory by publishing a treatise on New World foods in 1591.  Cárdenas details that chocolate can be unhealthy if prepared or taken improperly.  He asserts that “green” chocolate, most likely referring to unripe cacao beans, causes health symptoms such as melancholy, irregular heartbeats, and paroxysms, and can harm digestion (Coe & Coe, 123).  Conversely, Cárdenas contends that cacao can aid in digestion, be nutritious, and imbue happiness and strength if the cacao is prepared properly, including grinding and toasting, as well as is mixed with substances like atole gruel (Coe & Coe, 123).  He recognized the health and medicinal value of the substances that Mesoamericans added into chocolate, such as hueinacaztli, or ear flower, which “comforts the liver, stimulates digestion, and extirpates windiness” (Coe & Coe, 123).

Cárdenas echoed many of Hernández’s claims regarding chocolate, including that drinking chocolate is a good method for avoiding fatigue, cooling off, and replenishing the body.  However, Cárdenas did deviate from Hernández’s humoral description of cacao and chocolate.  Cárdenas believed chocolate to consist of three main parts: a “cold”, “earthy”, and “dry part; a “warm and humid” oily part; and a head-ache inducing, bitter-tasting, “hot” part (Coe & Coe, 123).  Culinary historian Maricel E. Presilla shares her opinion of Cárdenas’s treatise: “In a way Cárdenas was rationalizing his own enjoyment and acceptance of the way chocolate was made in the Americas and putting it in the scientific context of the times.  And we find that the techniques and practices he considered wise and healthy have been used from his day to the present in Latin America and Spain” (Presilla, 27).  Now that cacao was properly classified under humoral theory and considered healthy in Europe, it could be consumed by all who had access to the luxurious drink.

In essence, Europeans took cacao beans and detached the religious and cultural significance Mesoamericans had for them while fitting this new commodity into Europe’s humoral belief system as a medicine and a drug.  It was under this categorization as a medicine, a drug, and a healthful product, that chocolate travelled in Europe, “from one court to another, from noble house to noble house, from monastery to monastery” (Coe & Coe, 126).  Chocolate became a symbol of luxury, consumed by the nobility of Europe, but also appreciated for its medicinal properties.  In fact, Alphonse de Richelieu (1634-1680) is suspected to be the first person to bring chocolate to France to be consumed as a medical treatment for his spleen (Coe & Coe, 153).


Industrialization and Chocolate: The Age of Adulteration

By the mid-1900s, chocolate was converted into a solid form, becoming accessible, cheap, and enjoyed by all while firmly breaking the 28 century-old practice in which chocolate was exclusively consumed by wealthy elite (Coe & Coe, 232).  At this point in time, “no longer did [people] have to fret over whether chocolate or its flavorings were ‘hot,’ ‘cold,’ or ‘temperate,’ ‘dry’ or ‘moist’” (Coe & Coe, 234).  The perception that chocolate was healthy persisted until chocolate received more public scrutiny.  However, it was not the chocolate that was considered unhealthy, but rather the adulterants that were being added to chocolate in place of more expensive natural ingredients.  For example, “the expensive cacao butter [was] completely extracted (and sold elsewhere), then replaced with olive oil, egg yolks, or suet of veal or mutton; the resulting product goes rancid very quickly” (Coe & Coe, 243-244).  Starch became a popularly used filler in chocolate.  Methods to uncover the true recipes of chocolate being sold to the public emerged, such as the practice of adding drops of iodine solution into a mixture of melted chocolate and boiling water which would produce a blue color once the mixture was cooled (Coe & Coe, 244).

An 1858 comic cartoon about food adulteration featured in British “Punch”

After hearing claims of chocolate adulteration, media and governments mobilized to investigate these claims and catalyze regulation.  The Lancet, a popular British medical journal, launched a health commission to analyze foods in 1850.  After collecting samples from chocolate producers around England, the health commission discovered that 39 out of 70 samples “had been colored with red ocher from ground bricks” and that “most of the samples contained starch grains from potatoes, or from two tropical plants, Canna giganta and arrowroot” (Coe & Coe, 244).  Similar results were found in French-produced chocolate.  The findings catalyzed the British government to pass the British Food and Drug Act of 1860 as well as the Adulteration of Food Act of 1872 (Coe & Coe, 244).  While chocolate manufacturers no longer put red ocher or potato starch in their chocolate, producers continue to create new ways of lowering costs while trying keeping taste, such as through using artificial flavors and other chemicals.  In the 1900s, “in the interests of economy…the mass producers began skimping on, or even cutting out altogether, the substance that gives the quality to superior chocolates: cacao butter” (Coe & Coe, 257).


Is Chocolate Considered Healthy Today?:  Chocolate as a Gourmet Fitness Food

Today, the healthiness of chocolate is being debated every day.  Generally, mass produced chocolate, especially milk chocolate, is considered unhealthy mostly due to its high sugar content.  Dark chocolate is often considered healthy or neutral.  Coe and Coe explain, “Dark chocolate does not cause diabetes, dental caries, or acne, or produce headaches, as sometimes has been alleged” (Coe & Coe, 31).  The obesity among people who consume chocolate in large quantities is often blamed on milk chocolate as well as other unhealthy lifestyle habits.  While the cacao butter commonly found in chocolate is a saturated fat, cacao butter predominantly consists of stearic triglycerides, “which have been shown to have no effect on blood cholesterol levels” (Coe & Coe, 30).  No direct link has been shown to exist between the development of heart disease and chocolate consumption (Coe & Coe, 30).

The book Chocolate and Health: Chemistry, Nutrition and Therapy edited by Philip Wilson and Jeffrey Hurst offers a comprehensive investigation into and explanation of the health claims made about chocolate.  With experts within each field writing a section regarding chocolate claims in their area of expertise, several conclusions about the true health benefits of chocolate can be made.  Cacao contains the alkaloids theobromine and caffeine which interfere with adenosine receptors, affecting mood and alertness (Wilson & Hurst, Chapter 5).  Cocoa flavanols serve as antioxidants, lower blood pressure, and improve mental processes (Wilson & Hurst, Chapter 5).  Daily consumption of moderate amounts of flavanol-rich cacao products is associated with improved blood pressure in hypertensives and increased insulin sensitivity (Chapter 7).  Chocolate and chocolate food products can be an excellent for post-exercise nutrition by providing the “nutrients necessary to repair muscle protein, replenish glycogen, quench oxidants and elevate mood during the post-exercise recovery interval” (Wilson & Hurst, Chapter 8).

Embody Fitness Gourmet is “a fitness inspired eatery serving a diverse menu of healthy and functional foods” with three locations in Connecticut that provide customers with expensive juices, salads, and Intelligentsia coffee, among other products (Embody Fitness Gourmet Facebook Page).  Embody considers itself progressive and modern in all ways, hopping on every food, fitness, and lifestyle trend.  Embody partners with SoulCycle and offers its products through Uber Eats.  It even strives to be politically progressive and active by having unisex bathrooms labeled “everyone” and posting picture of its bathroom door on Facebook with the caption, “The weather may not make much sense, but some things are pretty clear” (Embody Fitness Gourmet).  Embody offers a wide range of premium-priced products containing superfoods, such as avocado, acai, and kale.  It is here in this health mecca that we find chocolate bars standing as the only product on the long, sleek counter in front of the iPad wielding cashier.

Hu Chocolate as the only item next to iPad wielding cashier

The chocolate is called Hu Chocolate, produced by Hu Kitchen— a similar health food company in Manhattan.  The chocolate comes in eight flavors, including almond butter and puffed quinoa, cashew butter and vanilla bean, hazelnut butter, salty, simple, crunchy mint, banana, and fig nut.  When asked if customers buy a lot of the chocolate, the cashier at Embody replied, “Yeah!  People love it, but it’s pretty pricey at $8.25 per bar.”  While these two fitness food companies are trying to offer their customers a healthy chocolate bar, their efforts reflect a concerted rejection of industrialized chocolate and a desire to be cool and trendy.

The Hu Chocolate bars demonstrate a concerted rejection of industrialized chocolate and processed food of today and of the past.  The packaging lists that it contains no gluten, no dairy, no refined sugar, no cane sugar, no sugar alcohols, no dairy, no GMOs, no emulsifiers, and no soy lecithin (hukitchen.com).  Their website explains their reasons for excluding these ingredients.  For using no refined sugar, Hu Chocolate vilifies big chocolate companies: “Most commercial chocolates are sweetened with low quality refined sugars.  These sugars always made us sluggish and tired, which made us hesitant to eat chocolate.  Hu Chocolate is sweetened with an unrefined organic coconut sugar, which never gave us a crash” (hukitchen.com).  While Hu Chocolate is using healthier ingredients than commercial chocolate companies, it supports its claims on legally-defensible anecdotal evidence, such as that coconut sugar does not give them a sugar crash.  Their slogan to “Get Back to Human” expresses their anti-industry sentiment.

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Hu Chocolate website

Hu Chocolate label exemplifying the brands hatred of industrial food


Both Embody and Hu Chocolate reject the industrialization of food and seek to retreat to more nature ways of making and using food products.  On Embody’s Facebook page, it often posts advertisements from the past to make fun of misconceptions and fads of past generations.  One post includes a “reducing diet menu” that could be supplemented with Domino sugar to lose weight.  The Embody Facebook page dismisses these advertisements immediately as “ridiculous”, instead of explaining or understanding the history of systematically-targets advertisements of sugar at women and children to help prevent fatigue and save money (Mintz, 130).  In essence, these companies reject the ingredients and processes of the modern food industry.  The Hu Chocolate advertises itself as being stone ground dark chocolate, harkening back to the Mesoamerican practice of grinding cacao using a metate and its subsequent replacement by stone mills (Coe & Coe, 115).

An 1950s advertisement Embody makes fun of on its Facebook page

To a certain extent, these companies take advantage of current fads to sell their product just as everyone from Mesoamericans to industrial chocolate manufacturers made claims about their chocolate.  Hu Chocolate claims its products are “organic/fair trade” but no information on where they source their ingredients from is available (hukitchen.com).  Furthermore, Hu Chocolate exploits the gluten-free fad by claiming on their label that there is “no gluten” in their chocolate, yet gluten is rarely found in chocolate (hukitchen.com).  Furthermore, it labels its product as “Paleo*”, referring to the paleo diet fad, but the asterisk leads the consumer to the explanation that the chocolate is labeled in this way because “some flavors are primal” (hukitchen.com).  Embody even places chocolate as the one item on its counter, knowing that chocolate is bought as an impulse purchase.  Most of all, these two companies place the chocolate products among superfoods— of course, people are going to think it’s healthy and buy it for a premium price.  Ultimately, both Embody and Hu Chocolate are focused on being relevant by keeping up with trends and fads, just like industrial chocolate and sugar companies of the past.  Additionally, examination of Hu Chocolate as a gourmet fitness product allows us to understand how we perceive the health benefits of chocolate relative to how the Mesoamericans, Baroque-era European, and industrial revolution chocolate manufacturers did.  Ultimately, contemporary chocolate is just as susceptible as past chocolate to being shaped by cultural and societal conceptions of health.

Trendy interior of Embody Fitness Gourmet

Works Cited

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

“Comic cartoon about food adulteration, 1858, from Punch.” The British Library. The                 British Library, 06 Feb. 2014. Web. 05 May 2017. < https://www.bl.uk/collection-                   items/comic- cartoon-about-food-adulteration-1858-from-punch>.

DeBra, Corinne. “Chocolate Banquet.” Hu Kitchen- Crunchy Fig Chocolate Bar – Aug. 6,               2015. N.p. 06 Aug. 2015. Web. 05 May 2017.                                                                                    <http://www.chocolatebanquet.com/2015/08/hu-kitchen-crunchy-fig-chocolate-                     bar.html>.

“Embody Fitness Gourmet.” TBT to ridiculous 1950s advertising for… Embody Fitness               Gourmet. N.p., 23 Feb. 2017. Web. 05 May 2017.                                                                               <https://www.facebook.com/embodyfg/photos/a.502839906415719.15976032.466963           940003316/1486796624686704/?type=3&theater>.

“Hu Chocolate.” Hu Kitchen. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.                                                                     <https://hukitchen.com/collections/chocolate&gt;.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” Chocolate, Culture and the                Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 1 Feb. 2017. Lecture.

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

Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History            of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Wilson, Philip K., and William Jeffrey Hurst. 2015. Chocolate and health: chemistry,                      nutrition and therapy. Cambridge, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry.

Chocolate as a Device for Inequality

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


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

Ethically Sourced Cacao

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

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

Marketing and Advertisement in the Chocolate Industry

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

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

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


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

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

Linguistic Tool

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

Colloquial Context

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

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

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

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


One Could Argue that Free Trade is the Issue

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


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

Work Cited

Academic Sources

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

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

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

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

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

Sylla, Ndongo. 2014. The Fair Trade Scandal.


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