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The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and Social Sustainability

Ghirardelli sign in San Francisco, created in 1923. A welcome sign for approaching ships from the Golden Gate Strait

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was founded by and is named for Domenico Ghirardelli. Ghirardelli was born in 1817, in Rapallo, Italy (Wiki, 2019).  During his teen years, he apprenticed under Romanengo, a noted chocolatier in Genoa (Wiki, 2019).  When Ghirardelli was about 20, he moved to South America, and in 1838 he established a confectionery in Lima Peru (Ghirardelli, 2019). Then in 1849, at the recommendation of his former neighbor, In 1849 he moved to California on the recommendation of his former neighbor, James Lick (who went on to become a real estate investor, and land baron, and the wealthiest person in California (James Lick, 2019)), who had brought 600 pounds of Ghirardelli’s chocolate with him to San Francisco the year before. In that year (Wiki, 2019), Ghirardelli opened his first store in Stockton, CA, selling confections to California Gold Rush miners, who were looking for a little sweet relief from a day of digging in the dirt for shiny objects (Ghirardelli, 2019).

California Gold Rush Miner(49er), and chocolate lover?

Ghirardelli opened his second store in San Francisco.  In 1852, The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was incorporated and flourished (Ghirardelli, 2019).  In 1865, a Ghirardelli employee discovered the Broma process to extract the cocoa butter, producing a much more intense chocolate flavor than other processes like Dutching (Ghirardelli, 2019).  In 1884, Ghirardelli’s sons became partners in the business, which shipped products throughout the West and to the eastern U.S., China, Japan, and Mexico (Ghirardelli, 2019).  In 1893, the company expanded its operation by moving its manufacturing to the Pioneer Woolen Building on San Francisco’s waterfront; present site of Ghirardelli Square (Ghirardelli, 2019).  By the end of the 19th century, the entire chocolate industry was riding the wave of the industrial revolution (Coe & Coe, 2013) and maturing quickly, and Ghirardelli Chocolate had a stake in that industry.  Advances in manufacturing and transportation technology enabled increased chocolate quality, manufacturing, and distribution to consumers everywhere (Coe & Coe, 2013).  

   Despite chocolate manufacturing innovations over the many years, one thing remained constant; growing and harvesting the raw material, cacao beans, was a manual labor intensive process (Coe & Coe, 2013).  Labor was originally performed by slaves, like many other global commodities like sugar, coffee, and cotton (Leissle, 2018).Though slavery no longer provided the overall cacao labor resource by the early 1900’s, many countries, where cacao was grown and harvested, continued to use illegal labor (Leissle, 2018).

Lindt & Sprüngli  Family Welcomes Ghirardelli and others.

In 1998, Ghirardelli was purchased by the Lindt & Sprüngli  holding company, formally Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli  AG (Lindt & Sprüngli , 2019).  Founded in 1845, Lindt & Sprüngli is a Swiss chocolatier and confectionary company.  It’s known worldwide for its chocolate truffles and chocolate bars. As of 2018, it is the 7th largest chocolate company in the world with net sales of $4.1 Billion.  Mars Wrigley Confectionary is 1st with $18 Billion in net sales. Over the last 25 years, Lindt & Sprüngli or its holding company has also acquired chocolate makers Cafferel, Hoffbauer, Küffner and Russel Stover.  All combined, these Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate makers have over 700 years of bean to bar chocolate making experience.

Lindt & Sprüngli wholly owned subsidiaries and their brands

Social Sustainability Policies and Practices

Ghirardelli is committed to accomplishing the sustainability goals set forth by Lindt & Sprüngli (Ghirardelli, 2019).  Lindt & Sprüngli and its companies have been actively pursuing and accomplishing sustainability goals in every aspect of their chocolate making since the early 2000’s (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019). Most recently, they embrace and set out to achieve the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) (United Nations, 2019).  Specifically, and as a notable example of Lindt & Sprüngli’s sustainability efforts, the company is committed to responsibly sourcing its raw materials for chocolate, cacao beans.   In 2008, Lindt & Sprüngli started its cocoa farming program in Ghana.

Lindt & Sprüngli’s Farming Program Seal

Prior to that and during the program’s establishment, West Africa and specifically Ghana had been in the media, and formally reported as using illegal child labor and putting children at risk in unsafe conditions (Ryan, 2011).  Later there was overall agreement that those reports were somewhat inaccurate or sensationalized (Berlan, 2013). The child labor situation was a product of the local culture and extremely poor economic conditions in Ghana (Berlan, 2013).  Since Lindt & Sprüngli sources 100% of its West African cocoa bean supply from Ghana because of the high quality of cocoa beans in the region, it has a vested interest in ensuring the Ghana cacao farming communities are supported (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019).

Ghana Cacao farming is a family and community effort

With the farming program, Lindt & Sprüngli’s goals are to ensure decent and resilient livelihoods for cocoa farmers and their families, by addressing poverty, child labor and deforestation (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019).  In kind, Lindt & Sprüngli   ensures supply of high quality of the cacao beans.  Their program achieves this by higher productivity on the farms, diversified incomes, preservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystems, reduced risk of child labor and improved infrastructure in communities (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019).

   There are 4 elements to their farming program; traceability and farmer organization, training and knowledge transfer, farmer investments and community developments, and verification and continuous progress (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019).


  Traceability of the cocoa beans is the key for ensuring sustainable cocoa sourcing (Lindt & Sprüngli , 2019).  Transparency enables them to guarantee the quality of the cocoa while at the same time knowing the social and ecological farming conditions on the ground. This also allows them to provide targeted support for the farmers.  As of 2017/2018 cocoa season, 72,528 farmers were participating in the program (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019).  28% were women.  As a basis for their engagement with the farmers, they gather baseline data about the farms (including GPS coordinates) including the communities, and farmers to assess their specific needs.  To implement the program the farmers are organized into structures that are adjusted to match the local context.


  They provide adaptive training to address the local circumstances and needs. A large local field staff support the farmers to professionalize in many areas.  They train on farming practices related to cacao planting cultivating, harvesting, fermenting and drying, and use model farms as a training aid (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019). They also educate the farmers about environmental measures such as biodiversity, organic fertilizers, and forest preservation and restoration. Training on health, labor safety and labor standards including child labor, is provided (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019).  There is also business practices training to help farmers increase productively, decrease costs and advise on how to diversify their income with other opportunities (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019).

Farmer and Community Investment and Development

   Lindt & Sprüngli invests in its cacao farmers and supporting the farming communities. The program distributes higher yielding and disease resistant cacao seedlings to the farmers as well as shade trees to help rejuvenate older unproductive trees and overall plantations.  Thus far the program has distributed over 3 million seedlings and almost 1 million shade trees (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019). They provide a provision of farming supplies such as pruning tools, personal safety gear and fertilizer to help the farmers become more efficient and apply the farming practices that they have been trained on. They have constructed water systems for clean drinking water also waste water.  And finally, they have provided renovation of primary schools to combat the risk of child labor as well as support awareness and monitoring measures.

Verification and Continuous Improvement

   Finally, they have a robust verification and continuous progress, provided internally as well as externally by independent a 3rd party (Lindt & Sprüngli , April 2019).  The internal monitoring is provided by hundreds of local project partner staff.  They visit the farmers and their farms annually and provide assessment and feedback. External monitoring is provided by the nonprofit Earthworm Foundation (Earthworm Foundation, 2019).  Earthworm assesses the entire Lindt & Sprüngli farming program including its internal monitoring.  Earthworm provides recommendations for program improvement and ways to resolve the underlying reasons for non-compliance (Lindt & Sprüngli, 2015).

Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. and
Lindt & Sprüngli: Global Citizens

   Lindt & Sprüngli not only sources its high-quality cocoa beans from Ghana but from the world’s most renowned cocoa origins such as Latin America (mainly Ecuador), the Dominican Republic, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea.

Countries around the globe that participate in the farming program
(Lindt & Sprüngli April 2019)

Farming programs have been put in place in those countries and they are continuously working to establish the program in other countries that they source from. Today, more than 72,500 farmers participate in the Lindt & Sprüngli farming program (Lindt & Sprüngli , 2019). Over 85% of Ghirardelli cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program (Ghirardelli, 2019).

More information about the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, can be found in the youtube video below.

Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate companies, including Ghirardelli, have a long, interesting, and successful history of bean to bar chocolate making.  They have invested in the short and long term future of their company as well as the future of their cacao suppliers. They are not just a top ten global chocolate company that generates high revenues and profits for its shareholders, but also a responsible socially sustainable global citizen.


Berlan, A. (2013). Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropoligical Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana. 1088-1100.

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The True History of Chocolate. London: Thomas & Hudson.

Earthworm Foundation. (2019, April 27). Target Members. Retrieved from https://www.earthworm.org/about-us#target-members: https://www.earthworm.org/about-us#target-members

Ghirardelli. (2019, April 22). About Ghiradelli. Retrieved from https://www.ghirardelli.com: https://www.ghirardelli.com/about-ghirardelli

James Lick. (2019, April 15). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lick

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

Lindt & Sprüngli . (2019, April 28). Corporate Sustainability. Retrieved from https://www.lindt-spruengli.com: https://www.lindt-spruengli.com/sustainability/

Lindt & Sprüngli . (April 2019). 2018 Lindt & Sprüngli Sustainability Report. Kilchburg, Switzerland: Lindt & Sprüngli .

Lindt & Sprüngli. (2015, December 15). The Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program.

Ryan, O. (2011). Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. 43-62.

United Nations. (2019, April 28). Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from https://www.un.org: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

Wiki. (2019, April 16). Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghirardelli_Chocolate_Compan

Final Multimedia Essay

Retail Shop Research on Chocolate

For my final multimedia essay, I chose the topic of visiting a retail shop such as CVS, and explaining what I can learn from this section. What I noticed when I walked from work to the Harvard Square CVS not too far from my walk home, was that the section wasn’t that large and most of the chocolates that were being presented were Ghirardelli. When viewing the section, I noticed the sign which said “Premium chocolates’ and as I viewed closer I noticed that the Ghirardelli chocolates came in different varieties. There were chocolates that were in different percentages of cocoa. They ranged from 78%, which is a weird percentage to 85 and 90%. The chocolates also were diverse because some of them that were being sold were white chocolate with coconut, while others were either dark chocolate or chocolate mixed with nuts such as almonds, hazelnut and cranberries. The prices were also another factor when I was observing this small section. Most of the chocolates that were on display had a 2 for 6 option while most of the chocolates were about $5. The section where the chocolates were displayed was next to the fridge area in CVS where most of the frozen foods are. It was also next to the snack aisle where there were tons of donuts, popcorn and other sweet foods. The other side of the premium chocolate section had chocolates that were all mostly Ghirardelli that had chocolates that were nearing $6 but there was a sale going on that made all of the chocolates “buy one get one 50% off”. I believe the chocolates were very inexpensive because the companies have to tend to their audience. Not everyone wants to buy expensive chocolate.

Here is a picture of the Premium Chocolates Section:

The History of Ghirardelli

Why is Ghirardelli such an important brand in chocolate history? Well first, Ghirardelli was first founded in 1852 in San Francisco, California. It is currently the third oldest chocolate company in the U.S. and was founded by the Italian Chocolatier Domenico Ghirardelli. The company has their business partner company, Lindt & Sprungli which is their parent company. Since the company’s start, they have been working on new techniques and different technologies to remain at the forefront of chocolate consumer brands. “The shop has experimented with a variety of products, including a line of alcoholic beverages until 1871, and a variety of goods like coffee, spices, and even mustard throughout the years. Innovation became tradition throughout the company – in 1867 a Ghirardelli employee discovered a flavor-enhancing technique that would eventually become widely used throughout the chocolate industry. Ghirardelli became one of the first American companies to tap into advertising strategies in order to gain popularity, and one of the first to include cacao content on labels to help discerning consumers select the perfect taste (Holcomb, Courtney. “A Brief History Of Ghirardelli Chocolate.” Culture Trip).”

I believe this company is trying to be the main consumer for chocolate because based on learning the classes lectures, about 200 years ago Americans only ate about 2 pounds of sugar a year. Studies from 1970 show that Americans ate even more sugar as the data increased and showed that Americans ate about 123 pounds a year. Today, the average amount Americans consume of sugar is now 152 pounds a year. In 2017, American consumers spent a whopping $22 billion on chocolate, averaging at around 12 pounds per person. America has been well known considering how much they love sweets and how commercials and marketing play a big role.

Chocolate History from Lectures

In 1879, Rudolph Linte, was the first to invent the conching process in Switzerland. This is major in chocolate history because conching helps with increasing viscosity in order to process the chocolate. “In the majority of chocolate manufacturing plants, the conche is preceded by a roll refiner or a hammer mill. These grind the chocolate mass to produce a crumbly paste or powder. One of the main aims of conching is to produce the optimum viscosity for the subsequent processing. The actual viscosity can be reduced by adding more fat, but as the price of the fat is frequently several times that of the other ingredients in the chocolate, this in turn increases the cost of the product. The aim, therefore, becomes one of obtaining the optimum viscosity at the lowest practical/legal fat content (Beckett, S. (2017). Conching).”

Chocolate Company’s Strengths

A lot of a chocolate company’s strength is definitely marketing and publicity  There has been this stigma that anything sweet, and attractive to the tongue is good, and that’s what a lot of chocolate companies have marketed themselves to be. That’s why during certain events such as Easter, companies thrive during those times because they take advantage of the sweet equals good stigma because of the easter marketing standards for kids. Most kids for Easter always go easter egg hunting, and usually what’s in the eggs are chocolate or some sweet. Chocolate companies take advantage over holidays like Easter and Halloween because that helps with their revenue.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli has been so successful that they have their own square in San Francisco, California. In 1893, Domenico Ghirardelli purchased a whole block, so he can make the Ghirardelli headquarters. In the early 1960’s it was sold to a macaroni company and was letter repurchased in 1962. His mother, William M. Roth purchased the land so it wouldn’t be used to create a new apartment complex. “The Roths hired landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and the firm Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons to convert the square and its historic brick structures to an integrated restaurant and retail complex, the first major adaptive re-use project in the United States. It opened in 1964. In 1965, Benjamin Thompson and Associates Renovated the lower floor of the Clock Tower, keeping the existing architectural elements, for a Design Research store. The lower floors of the Clock Tower are now home to Ghirardelli Square’s main chocolate shop. In order to preserve Ghirardelli Square for future generations, the Pioneer Woolen Mills and D. Ghirardelli Company was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 (“Ghirardelli Square.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation).” This company is so well respected and well known, that a whole entire block was dedicated to the company’s main focus, chocolate.

Why is Dark Chocolate so special?

The french are known for eating dark chocolate as a treat, but why? Are there certain benefits towards eating dark chocolate or is it just well known for being such a good treat? During the chocolate production process, to increase the appeal of chocolate, most times the chocolate is processed even further which in turn makes the chocolate lose key ingredients that can be beneficial to our body. For example there is a type of processing of chocolate called Dutch processing and that makes the chocolate lighter. This sucks out all the key ingredients that make chocolate, chocolate. That’s why most companies add tons of sugar in their chocolate bars to make it more appealing to consumers. “And to make milk chocolate, candy makers really do add milk solids, which include saturated fats. According to FDA standards, American milk chocolate can contain as little as 10% cocoa, and the agency is debating a proposal to allow candy makers to substitute vegetable oil for cocoa butter. Bottom line: processing may make chocolate look lighter and taste sweeter, but it also removes healthy ingredients and adds harmful ones (‘Chocolate and your health: Guilty pleasure or terrific treat?).”

Statistics on Chocolate

After reading an article from Rodman media, I noticed that more than 70% of chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is more healthier than white chocolate. “The latest research from Mintel revealed that for just more than half (51%) of all adult consumers, the favorite type of plain chocolate is milk chocolate, followed by 35% who favor dark chocolate and About 73% of all chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is healthier than milk varieties. 8% who prefer white chocolate. In contrast, Mintel’s 2011 report found that 57% of consumers favored milk chocolate and 33% of consumers preferred dark chocolate. Some 46% of men age 55+ and 48% of women over age 55 favor dark chocolate, followed by 38% of men that prefer milk and 40% of women that also prefer milk. These numbers are indicative of the trend toward the increasing favor for dark chocolate. Indeed, 73% of all chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is healthier (‘Dark Chocolate Gains Favor Thanks to Health Benefits’ (2013) Nutraceuticals).”

Cocoa Flavors

Chocolate companies such as Ghirardelli always make sure that they have different rudiments of cocoa flavor so that there is a variety of taste in each chocolate bar. Usually the more cocoa, the more expensive the chocolate is towards the consumer. I believe that sugar and other ingredients that make the chocolate taste more appealing, cheapen the chocolate itself. The more natural the chocolate is , the more untouched and less processed, the more bitter taste it has. That’s why dark chocolate is healthier for chocolate eaters than milk chocolate is. In one of the lecture slides from class, I witnessed a list of different odor active volatiles in cocoa mass. This shows what each odorant is and how their odour quality would be, the qualities range from a malty quality to a fruity one. There are a lot of factors incorporated with cocoa, and its key that all industrial companies follow the many rules in order to have a better consumer base.

Picture of the rudiments of cocoa flavor:


In conclusion, I believe that one of America’s oldest brands, takes pride in their industrialization of cocoa and how it should be manufactured. By investigating the chocolate section at my nearest CVS, I noticed the different brands in the regular chocolate section VS. the premium chocolate section . I realized the different percentages of cocoa in each chocolate bar and researched the effects of dark chocolate VS. white chocolate. I found it interesting how much Ghirardelli was displayed at the CVS and how there were many buy one get one 50% off deals. I dug deeper into the history of Ghirardelli along with the company’s strengths on consumers which showed me there’s a lot more to chocolate than just manufacturing it. More factors would include, marketing and knowing what your consumers like or don’t like. While researching this company I also learned a lot by viewing past lectures and how they related tremendously to the company and how they process their chocolates. Certain holidays mean a lot as well because in America, chocolate and sugar has been a known ingredient to use in basic cooking ingredients. And a lot of companies used that stigma to take advantage of the use of chocolate. I learned a lot based on the prominence of cocoa and how there is a lot to process before the chocolate is being sold in certain stores. The history of chocolate related to the history of Ghirardelli and other brands because of their processing system and how they plan on improving their company in various ways.

Work Cited

Holcomb, Courtney. “A Brief History Of Ghirardelli Chocolate.” Culture Trip, 1 Dec. 2016, theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/california/articles/a-brief-history-of-ghirardelli-chocolate/.

Beckett, S. (2017). Conching. In Beckett’s Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use (pp. 241-273). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

“Ghirardelli Square.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Mar. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghirardelli_Square.

Dark Chocolate Gains Favor Thanks to Health Benefits’ (2013) Nutraceuticals World, 16(6), p. 16. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=88838381&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Accessed: 3 May 2019).
‘Chocolate and your health: Guilty pleasure or terrific treat? (Cover story)’ (2009) Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 13(7), pp. 1–4. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=36211195&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Accessed: 3 May 2019).

CVS: Chocolate Products, Display, and Consumers

CVS is a very large convenience store that is all over the United States. Not only does CVS have convenient food, it also has photo printing, beauty products, cleaning products, and health products. They also provide a consistent pharmacy to many of its customers. Needless to say, CVS is a hub for a lot of people’s late-night snacks, especially the 24-hour branch in Harvard Square. Since it is such a hub for Harvard students, CVS is definitely providing a defining narrative of what American snack life is like. CVS provides snacks for people who love chips, cookies, cereal, and most importantly chocolate.

The consumers of CVS chocolate definitely are different depending on the area. Back in my hometown of Detroit, CVS customers are mostly African-American people who are picking up prescriptions or picking up a small thing. Furthermore, the CVS in Harvard square mostly has customers that are college students that do all of their grocery shopping there, or tourists who are visiting Harvard. Personally, I have experienced both of these consumer experiences multiple times. Here are two recollections of my different experiences with CVS:

Back home in Detroit, I can remember many times of going to CVS with my mother. She would pick me up from school, and then we would get on the freeway back home. We would get off the freeway at an earlier exit to go to CVS. My mom would park the car and ask me if I wanted to come in the store or stay in the car. I usually would say yes at the hope that I can get a snack before dinner was ready. We would enter the store and my mother would go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and I would walk towards the snacks and was always welcomed by the sight of a lot of chocolate. I fell in love with dark chocolate pretty early, and I always gravitated towards dark chocolate covered pretzels along with a bag of salt and vinegar chips. Every time I went with my mother I would ask if she could buy me these snacks, and she always said yes when realizing how cheap they were.


Here at Harvard, I go to CVS many times for anything that I need. Whenever I run out of my favorite snacks I always go to CVS. I tend to hover near the dark chocolate in this store as well. If I want fancier chocolate I have to go to the back of the store, and the cheaper and more accessible chocolate is in a wide aisle with all of the other candy. When picking up my dark chocolate almond Dove chocolates, I head to the cashier. When waiting in line, I always see a lot of fancy snacks with chocolate near the checkout, and very few cheaper chocolates near the checkout. This sometimes tempts me to indulge myself with a fancier chocolate snack as well.


The difference between these two locations is that the one in Harvard Square is open 24 hours and the one in my hometown is not. The Harvard Square store also places more expensive chocolate snacks near the checkout, while the one in Detroit does not. These two stores are structured different because of the difference in their customers and what CVS believes to be the best way to profit off of each group.

CVS is known to have a lot of cheap everything, but especially cheap snacks. Even with inflation, snacks still remain cheap in stores like CVS. This store has a lot of cheap chocolates like Snickers, Kit-Kats, M&Ms, and Hershey bars. All of these companies’ producers, from Mars, to Nestle, to Hershey’s, all have a large customer base, and they also have dominated the candy industry for decades. Hershey’s is a prominent and historical brand that specializes in many things but especially chocolate over the years. Hershey is especially good at making cheap and accessible chocolate that is essentially everywhere in the world. In Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams,the author highlights that Milton Hershey hired a chemist in order to make the Hershey bar that we all know and love. Because of this perfected version of a chocolate bar, “Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster, and therefore cheaper, than the Europeans (D’Antonio 108).” This perfected mixture is the one that we enjoy and love today. It is interesting to think that the Hershey legacy is so built on family and being made by family, yet, Hershey had to hire a chemist outside of his family in order to create the backbone of their legacy. That part of the legacy is not talked about in the mainstream, and it leaves the question of what else are they not telling us? CVS displays these cheaper chocolates frequently and in the most accessible aisle to maximize profit on the societal desire for sweet and junk foods. Furthermore, “it happens that the sugars, fats, and salts that are so central to junk food, are not only the foods that humans most crave, but also are among the cheapest food inputs (Albritton 344).” CVS is a hub for all things cheap, and even more of a hub for people who will be the most likely to buy cheap food, like college students and low-income people of color. CVS displays cheap candy and junk food, like chocolate, almost all over the store, so that no matter where a customer turns they have to continuously decide whether or not to pick up some chocolate. This marketing seems unjust because it does not help consumers in leading a healthy diet and can make them crave the treats even more.


CVS also has a large selection of more luxury chocolates, or chocolates that are little pricier than the average chocolates that can be bought at the movie theater. These chocolates are Ferrero Rocher, Ghirardelli, Godiva, Russel Stover, and Turtle chocolates. These chocolates are more expensive than the average chocolate bar, but not too expensive that they cannot be picked up sometimes when going to the store. Their prices range from four dollars to seven dollars per bar, and if a whole box of turtles is bought, one can expect to pay about ten dollars per box. These chocolates are located at the back of the store near where all the more expensive nuts are. They are displayed in a fancier and more elegant way and are organized very neatly by brand. The labels have an elegance and shine to it that automatically indicates to the consumer that they are of higher quality than the candy bars of a lower price. The shine and pictures of the chocolate convey to the consumer that they are getting luxury and elegance within their chocolate. This idea of luxury “it plays on our inner feeling of wanting ‘something better’ and nurtures the rampant individualism of self-fashioning that has come so much to shape our societies since the 1980s (Mc Neil & Riello 229).”  It’s the same feeling that is experienced when consumers desire to buy a fancy shirt simply because it is expensive, even though they can buy a similar shirt for a cheaper price at a different store. Consumers feel the same way when buying chocolate, and that is probably why CVS displays these two chocolates separately. This is so consumers do not have the chance to compare the cheaper chocolates to the more expensive ones. So, consumers who only see the expensive chocolate buy it and are not swayed by a cheaper and similarly enjoyable chocolate option. This also can go the other way by limiting consumers choices to only cheaper and more sugar filled chocolate snacks. For example, if a customer only passes by the cheaper options of chocolate they are not offered the same opportunity to indulge in less sugary and higher cacao content chocolate. CVS sets up their store in an unfair way for their consumers, so they are not able to make an educated and deliberate choice about the chocolate they choose.


Some of the chocolates in CVS have various certifications to prove that they are ethically made. These certifications give consumers peace of mind when buying products, especially chocolate, even when the certifications are very vague in what they mean. The way certifications are portrayed to consumers is in a way that makes it seem like all people involved are getting equally fair changes; however, with the Fairtrade certification, benefits are not so fair. “Fairtrade selects the most capable producer organisations locally. This is actually its ‘in-house policy’, as it boosts the rapid growth of the movement” (Sylla 208). This is not only unfair to the consumers, but it is also extremely unfair to the poorest countries that produce is grown in. The Fairtrade act betters the conditions for countries who already produce so much and make so much money from the market. It is the easiest way to ensure that customers are getting an ethically made product. The countries that need this act the most in order to keep up their presence and value in the major markets are not getting the benefits of the many certifications used on products. The certifications on the products we love are supposed to improve production conditions for all, and not just for the countries where it is most convenient. From this, we can infer that certifications on products may not be so ethical after all.

The ethicality of our sweetest treats has been addressed countless times throughout history. Whether it be from the Cadbury scandal or a lack of transparency with Mars, there have been many ethical concerns surrounding chocolate, ever since the advancement of widespread media. The point that interests me most is that a lot of these ethical concerns arise from the practices of really large companies, like Hershey’s, yet, they make the least amount of change within their product production. These are major companies that can make the most institutional change by altering their production ways, yet, they make the smallest amounts of change or they wait until the news dies down, so they do not have to address it. This is an unethical way to run a business, especially ones like Hershey’s where the brand is so centered on wholesomeness and family bonding. Companies like Hershey’s show very little about what they are trying to do regarding the ethical concerns of their products, and theymostly focus on the wonder associated with Hershey chocolate. There are some large companies that are actively addressing and being very transparent about the ethical concerns of their products. My favorite company that does this is Nestle. They have a very detailed website that includes making sure that workers and children are protected, and they also want to ensure that they are growing their cacao very sustainably. Here is a capture of their page dedicated to protecting children and workers:Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 2.47.23 PM

This detailed page really works towards the issues of not bein transparent with consumers about a companies practices. I think that big companies should follow in Nestle’s footsteps because they have a good balance of environment sustainability and working conditions as well. I usually see companies, like Ghiradelli, that solely focus on environmental sustainability, but even with that they provide very vague information generally about the steps they are taking to ensure that. Here is a capture of the vagueness in Ghirardelli’s sustainability page:

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 2.37.02 PM

In conclusion, transparency and fair and equal advertising is the right of the consumer, and the duty of the producers to provide. This can overall provide a better experience for customers in choosing the brands they want, which can alter how large companies function within the market. The consumers have the power to make companies more accountable and want to change. If customers are given all information fairly when buying things, we may be able to see more change in the future. Consumers engaging in more conscious consumption of goods can definitely influence large corporations to make change, and I believe that we can strive for that.


Albritton, Robert. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” Food and Culture. Routledge. Print.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Simon & Schuster. Print,

McNeil, P., Riello, G. Luxury: A Rich History. Oxford Univeristy Press. Print.

Sylla, Ndongo S. The Fairtrade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio Univeristy Press. Print.

Photo Credits (in order)

CVS, 13580 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI. Detroit. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.

Harvard Crimson. New 24-Hour CVS Opens At 6 JFK Street. Cambridge, MA.

WordPress. CVS Chocolate Value Store. Cambridge, MA.

CVS Luxury Chocolate Display. 2 May 2019.

Ghirardelli. Sustainability And Corporate Social Responsibility. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.

Nestle. Protecting children and workers. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.




The Dangers of Ghirardelli’s Sensationalized Story: How Ghirardelli Avoids Chocolate Production Scrutiny

Ghirardelli Square is open to the public from 9 am to midnight

Unbeknownst to many chocolate consumers, Ghirardelli, the second oldest American chocolate maker, has called San Francisco home for over one hundred fifty years (Lawrence 90). Since its mid-nineteenth century beginnings, Ghirardelli has secured worldwide partnerships, opened twenty-three shops across the United States, and established its reputation as a delectable square chocolate treat and outstanding baking ingredient. Ghirardelli has even left its mark in public spaces. Most notably, the company worked with San Francisco leadership to open Ghirardelli Square, a living and breathing landmark, in the heart of San Francisco’s Marina District.

Flip through any San Francisco travel guide and you’re bound to stumble upon Ghirardelli Square as a must see destination. With reviews raving about the Square’s incredible view of the Pacific Bay, majestic marquee lights, and fun shops and restaurants for both tourists and non tourists, it has become an iconic part of the San Francisco map. However, Ghirardelli’s influence in San Francisco doesn’t end with this monumental Square. With three Ghirardelli stores flourishing in San Francisco, including Ghirardelli on the Go at Westfield Shopping Center, and a elaborate food booth at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, Ghirardelli continues to imprint its sentimental value in the hearts and minds of San Francisco residents.

Due to its long history in San Francisco, Ghirardelli’s name evokes two meanings. On one hand, Ghirardelli’s brand elicits an image of a regional, premium, and specialty chocolate business rather what it truly is: a company owned by chocolate conglomerate Lindt & Sprüngli. On the other hand, the Ghirardelli refers to places and rituals including its landmark Square in San Francisco, the company’s small factory experiences scattered across the country, and the numerous company events promoting their chocolate, such as the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. These two evocations of the Ghirardelli name allow the company to champion their status as a community driven, morally righteous, high-quality chocolate company, and unfairly avoid the scrutiny that “Big 5” chocolate companies receive.

Domenico Ghirardelli

In order to understand how people perceive Ghirardelli today, it is important to contextualize the company’s long history. Born in the early nineteenth century, Domenico Ghirardelli, the founder of Ghirardelli, grew up surrounded by Italian culture and cuisine naturally due to his dad’s spice trader job in Genoa, Italy. When his interest in food peaked during his teenage years, Domenico apprenticed at luxury chocolate store Romanengo where he learned to craft and sell chocolate, candies, and chocolate paste that melts into boiling water (Lawrence 90). Equipped with immense knowledge about the chocolate industry and in search of new beginnings away from home, Domenico moved from Genoa to Uruguay to Lima, Peru, all within the span of one year (Lawrence 91).

Domenico finally settled in Lima for its compatible Latin culture; the similar language and the friendly patrons reminded him of his Italian home. As Ghirardelli prepared to establish his own confectionary and spice business in Lima, he changed his name to Domingo to appeal to Peru’s Spanish speaking clientele (Lawrence 92). His chocolate shop, located in the heart of the city’s central square, attracted flocks of customers waiting to sample candies he modeled from his lessons at Romanengo. Settled in Lima, Domingo prospered as a confectionary shop keeper by churning out daily chocolate and candy recipes. But his newfound permanence, a sense of belonging in the Lima community, did not last long.

James Lick, a piano and cabinet shop keeper next to Ghirardelli, followed the immigration movement to America, and more specifically San Francisco. As he set sail, he loaded up about 600 pounds of Ghirardelli’s hand pressed chocolate, promising Ghirardelli he would sell every last pound (Lawrence 92). While Ghirardelli was comfortable operating in Lima, Lick and Ghirardelli’s forged friendship and the temptation of a fresh start in a new country compelled Ghirardelli to follow Lick to America in 1849 (Lawrence 92).

Ghirardelli advertisement from the late 19th century

As Ghirardelli immigrated to San Francisco, the city was facing its own set of monumental events. 1849 signaled the the Gold Rush where 300,000 hopeful miners flocked to San Francisco to strike rich. Sensing a lucrative business model, Ghirardelli opened several grocery stores in Stockton, California to market his chocolate and sweets to hungry Gold Rush miners (Lawrence 92). Since his shop was the second chocolate maker in the United States, many customers savored their first bite of chocolate in his store, and praise for his chocolates quickly spread. Despite his shops being open for only a few years, he became known as one of San Francisco’s “Money Men,” a title reserved for people making close to $25,000 or more (Lawrence 92). This prominence jumpstarted his career as an American chocolate maker and gave him the confidence to open his first operation and sales confectionary shop at the Verandah building in Portsmouth Square (Lawrence 92).

After several more years of perfecting the chocolate formula, establishing connections to cocoa bean farmers, and cementing its business as a household name in San Francisco, Ghirardelli Square, which once housed Ghirardelli’s factory and businesses, opened as a public landmark on 1964 (Lawrence 114). This triumphant opening came after many months of fighting group of real estate developers who wanted to demolish and purchase the property. To further ensure the Square’s future prospects, the Ghirardelli Square owners applied for and received National Historic Register status in 1982 (Ghirardelli). Nowadays, the Square rents out space to local businesses such as The Cheese School of San Francisco and San Francisco gift shop Jackson & Polk.

Ghirardelli’s present-day logo

Ghirardelli’s elaborate journey from Italy to San Francisco and the story behind the locally cemented chocolate empire feels heartwarming, which makes it such an effective marketing tool. The company emphasizes the story’s significance on their website, in academic journals, and in Ghirardelli Chocolate’s cookbooks. The company’s logo even features a flying eagle and banners with its the founding date (1852) and location (San Francisco), which creates an image of a craft chocolate bar company.

Unlike other cheaper chocolate bars placed at the cash register, Ghirardelli’s shiny packages sit on the shelf next to local confectioners and fair trade chocolate bars such as Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Taza chocolate. Furthermore, Ghirardelli’s price point is similar to many premium chocolate bars, which may give customers the impression that Ghirardelli serves fancy and ethical chocolate. According to Amazon, Ghirardelli’s most popular package with fourteen squares costs twenty-six dollars, which is much more than any of the popular chocolate bars manufactured by the “Big 5” Chocolate companies (Amazon). Because of Ghirardelli products’ placement in grocery stores, Ghirardelli can assume close relationships with ethical and fair trade chocolate companies without much questioning.

The company’s chocolate packaging also lists the percentage of pure cacao in each square, whether that be Dark 60% or 72%, which makes it appear as if the company is transparent about the product’s ingredients. Packaging features luxurious images of fillings such as mint, caramel, and raspberry. Furthermore, many reputable baking websites such as Epicurious cite Ghirardelli chocolate chips as the best products on the market (Sevier). By employing specific marketing strategies on their packaging and seizing its notable reputation in the online recipe world, Ghirardelli comes across as an ethical and high quality company that cares about its consumers.

People make videos trying San Francisco Chocolate

While consumers often come away with a positive image of Ghirardelli, there are more ambiguous, and potentially nefarious, production details in the background. In the many accounts of Ghirardelli’s story, the company never discloses how its beans are sourced or never divulges their commitment to fair trade ingredients. Only by searching online, readers will find out that Ghirardelli is owned by major chocolate conglomerate Lindt & Sprüngli (Lawrence 115). Lindt & Sprüngli, headquartered in Switzerland and most known for their Lindor chocolate truffles, takes in around four billion dollars in revenue each fiscal year (Lindt & Sprüngli). Ghirardelli controls all aspects of the bean to bar production process, but like Lindt & Sprüngli, does not source fair trade ingredients (Nieburg).

Ghirardelli’s cocoa bean production webpage proudly mentions that “over 85% of Ghirardelli cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli farming program” (Ghirardelli) While this initially seems like a promising percentage, the sourcing behind the other 15% of beans never comes up, which ultimately discredits this bold statement. Additionally, Lindt & Sprüngli claim to source 100% of their West African cocoa beans from Ghana “because of the high quality of the cocoa beans in the region” (Ghirardelli). Lindt & Sprüngli also underscores the quality training they provide to Ghana farmers and their genuine investments in West African villages resource centers, a point further emphasized by pictures of smiling West African farmers. While Ghirardelli wants to associate themselves with sustainable farming practices, they do not succeed. They use vague language to describe the stories behind the ingredients and continue to source ingredients from the West African region, known for its questionable labor practices (Ghirardelli).

The Good Shopping Guide, which rates chocolate companies on a variety ethical factors including their environmental report, political donations, and animal welfare, does not list Ghirardelli’s name. The company’s owner, Lindt & Sprüngli, is given a C grade (Good Shopping Guide). This suggests that the company’s seemingly genuine transparency does not provide the whole story for the labor and sourcing. Since Ghirardelli can substitute their company name with Lindt & Sprüngli when talking about cocoa production, their name becomes less attached to questionable sourcing methods.

One Ghirardelli account positively portrays Ghirardelli’s impact: “Italian yet American, immigrant yet old-line, and authentically San Franciscan throughout, it has given California a captivating, emblematic lens through which to reflect on it” (Lawrence 115). This account, written in 2002 after its merging with Lindt & Sprüngli, fails to disclose the company’s worldwide association with the chocolate conglomerate. While Ghirardelli remains anchored to San Francisco communities, it has adopted many business practices from Lindt such as cocoa bean sourcing, as evidenced from their website. Overall, Ghirardelli fails to provide consumers with a clear and comprehensive picture of their sourcing methods.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival Highlights from 2012

In addition to Ghirardelli’s clever marketing that distances their company from questionable cocoa harvesting conditions and their relationship with Lindt & Sprüngli, Ghirardelli hosts a variety of San Francisco events to craft their image of local company rather than exacerbate their connections to a large corporation. Every year, Ghirardelli hosts the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, reminiscent of the Classical Period Mayan chocolate rituals, in the middle of Ghirardelli Square. Featuring 50 local vendors, chocolate purveyors, and local celebrity chef speakers, the Chocolate Festival celebrates the diverse ways chefs introduce and adapt chocolate into their recipes. At ancient Mayan festivals, diners feasted on meticulously prepared “tamales, relleno negro, tortillas, atole, boiled chicken, roasted pigs, chocolate, and rum” (LeCount 943). Mayans even concocted a mix of maize and chocolate, called chilate, for diners to sample (Kufer 83). This parallels how Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival attendees can sample rums, beers, Bay Area wines, and other local specialties from the Ghirardelli Chocolate lounge. The similarities do not stop there. In what mirrors the barrier to entry for elite hosted Maya rituals, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival is not open to the public, and requires that participants buy entrance tickets. While the Festival seemingly promotes chocolate and its magical qualities, the branded Festival title along with its location in Ghirardelli Square turn the Festival into a marketing ploy targeting San Francisco residents and tourists than an attempt to seriously engage with and address issues in the problematic chocolate industry.

The iconic Ghirardelli name has achieved even more fame through its portrayal in popular culture, distancing the brand further and further from its chocolate company status. When San Francisco hosted the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the Ghirardelli company claimed a prime location opposite Fillmore Street entrance where they served Ghirardelli’s famous Ground Chocolate (The International Confectioner). In a similar extravagant display, the San Francisco musical Beach Blanket Babylon featured a character named Val Diamond wearing a star studded hat with the company’s giant marquee lights in Ghirardelli Square (Lawrence 113). As San Francisco’s reputation continued to grow during the twentieth century, Ghirardelli’s landmark similarly gained West Coast fame and subsequently worldwide fame.

Ghirardelli’s presence in San Francisco landmarks, shops, and restaurant menus has cemented a positive and nostalgic image in the people’s minds. People from all over the world flock to San Francisco to tour Ghirardelli Square and try Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes in booths. While many San Francisco residents cherish the name Ghirardelli and swear by Ghirardelli chocolate ingredients, people have ignored the company’s more questionable business practices for too long. Ultimately, while it is possible to enjoy Ghirardelli sweets and support the local spirit in Ghirardelli Square, consumers, especially San Francisco residents, must push Ghirardelli to do become more transparent about their company practices and rituals.

Works Cited

  1. Amazon. (2019). Shop Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares, Dark Chocolate, 5.25 oz., (Pack of 6). Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Ghirardelli-Chocolate-Squares-Dark-5-25/dp/B001G0MG0K/ref=asc_df_B001G0MG0K/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241977055433&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=6768309403911426287&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9001999&hvtargid=pla-571287736743&psc=1
  2. At the Exposition. (1915, May). The International Confectioner, Inc. Vol. 24. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=-9xOAAAAYAAJ&lpg=RA4-PA58&ots=2TF9acIzes&dq=ghirardelli%20Panama-Pacific%20International%20Exposition&pg=RA4-PA58#v=onepage&q=ghirardelli%20Panama-Pacific%20International%20Exposition&f=false
  3. Ethical Table. Adapted From the Good Shopping Guide, The Ethical Company Organisation.
  4. Ghirardelli. (2019). Sustainable Cocoa Production. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.ghirardelli.com/sustainable-cocoa-production.
  5. Ghirardelli (2019). The History of Ghirardelli Square. Retrieved May 1, 2019 from https://www.ghirardellisq.com/history.
  6. Lindt & Sprüngli. (2017).  Lindt & Sprüngli Annual Report 2017.  KILCHBERG, SWITZERLAND: Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG.
  7. Kufer, J., Grube, N., and Heinrich, M. “Chocolate III: RITUAL, ART AND MEMORY.” Artes de México. No. 110 (2013): 72-96.
  8. Lawrence, Sidney. “The Ghirardelli Story.” California History. Vol. 81, No. 2 (2002): 90-115.
  9. LeCount, Lisa J. “Like Water for Chocolate: Feasting and Political Ritual among the Late Classic Maya at Xunantunich, Belize.” American Anthropologist, Vol. 103, No. 4 (Dec., 2001): 935-953. Print.
  10. Nieburg, Oliver. “Going Its ‘Own Way’: Lindt Invests $14m in Sustainable Cocoa in Last Eight Years.” Confectionerynews.com, William Reed Business Media Ltd., 13 Mar. 2017, www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2017/03/13/Lindt-sustainable-cocoa-program-Analysis.
  11. Sevier, Joe. “Taste Test: Chocolate Chips.” Epicurious, Epicurious, 4 Sept. 2018, http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/the-best-chocolate-chips-for-baking-cookies-and-more-article.

Media Citations

  1. “Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival 2012 Highlights.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Oct. 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFI92iaxeZQ.
  2. “Irish People Try San Francisco Chocolate.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Jan. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxRJ3Kaa9-Y.
  3. Ghirardelli Square. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ghirardelli_Square.jpg#filehistory.
  4. Domenico Ghirardelli. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Domenico_Ghirardelli.jpg.
  5. The 1864 California Miner’s Almanac – Ghirardelli Chocolate. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_California_Miner%27s_Almanac_-_1864_-_Ghirardelli_Chocolate.jpg.
  6. Ghirardelli Chocolate Company Logo. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ghirardelli_Chocolate_Company_Logo.svg.

The old, the new, and the fight against injustice

Since chocolate was first discovered and loved by the Europeans, slave labor has been used to grow and harvest cacao. Slaves had to deal with horrific working conditions, malnourishment, and poor treatment from their owners—which caused life expectancy to be incredibly low. Even though slavery was abolished across the globe, many issues of forced labor and child labor still exist today. Cocoa farmers, especially in West Africa, have been depicted as either the exploiters—through their use of child labor and slavery like conditions—or the exploited—by big chocolate companies and the global market (Martin, Lecture 7 slide 23). For example of the exploiters, in Bitter Chocolate, the author points out that “Macko learned of another category of labour that he couldn’t quite fathom. What his informers described sounded a lot like slavery, and what made the stories even more horrifying was that it seemed the slaves were children” (Off 120). In regards to the exploited, when talking about the villagers who farm cacao, the author claims that “their primary activity here is to produce cocoa for the international market. As such, they earn just enough money from cocoa sales to pay for rice and cooking oil. There’s usually nothing left over” (Off 5). However, neither depiction is entirely accurate. There are much deeper issues than this simple binary suggests. According to Video 1 below, the number of child laborers more than doubled in Côte d’Ivoire from 2010 to 2015 to 1.6 million, and the government and big chocolate companies’ efforts to curb the issue have not worked. Also, as is seen in Figure 3, farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana receive only $0.50 and $0.84 per day, respectively—showing a huge divide between the compensation of the farmers and the profit of large chocolate companies. As is evident from these passages, there are major issues that surround the current marketplace for cacao. But, as consumers become more and more socially conscious about what they buy, some chocolate companies—and world organizations—have made it their mission to protect workers, pay them properly, and give their customers an ethically sourced and delicious product.


One such company is CACOCO, a Santa Cruz, California based drinking chocolate company, started in 2014, that has made it their mission to provide ethically sourced chocolate to its customers, and to protect and help the Earth in the process. According to their website, “CACOCO is the purest form of cacao directly sourced from beyond-organic farms, that not only improve the health of the environment but produce a chocolate that showcases the finer nuances of well-maintained soil and cultivation and highlight the terroir of the region” (“About Us”). It is their stated mission to “source the Earth’s purest ingredients from regenerative food systems, provide customers healthy, safe and delicious products with uncompromised quality, service and integrity, [and to] create and implement the most sustainable methods and systems for our organization” (“About Us”).

In this course, we have raised many questions regarding the ethics of cocoa production. One of the main things we talked about is that some companies don’t know where exactly they are getting their cacao from, so they have no idea whether or not their product is ethically sourced. This means that they could be getting cacao from farms who use child labor or slave labor to grow and harvest their product. To counter this, all of CACOCO’s cacao is currently sourced from organic and regenerative farms in Ecuador (“About Us”). This way, they are able to know exactly where their product comes from, and they can more easily make sure that all of their cacao is produced and harvested the right way. Another main issue we discussed  was fair and steady compensation. It is no secret that a very small portion of the profit from a chocolate bar goes to the farmer, but as Figure 2 shows, it is actually the smallest share overall at only 3%. To make matters worse, as the price of cacao—a commodity—fluctuates, so does the income of farmers, meaning a drop in the price of cacao can have a drastic impact on the farmers and their families.

Fortunately, CACOCO’s cacao is Fair Trade Certified, which means that, according to Fair Trade USA, “producers and businesses we work with adhere to strict labor, environmental, and ethics standards that prohibit slavery and child labor and ensure cocoa growers receive a steady income, regardless of volatile market prices” (“Where to Buy”). Thus, given their certification, CACOCO checks the boxes for all these criteria—meaning that our worries of slavery and child labor, as well as unstable and unsustainable income that we discussed in class, are nothing to worry about when purchasing chocolate from CACOCO.

CACOCO even goes a step further in their efforts for ethically and sustainably sourced cacao by trying to help the Earth in the process, as all of their packaging is compostable and made from 100% recycled materials (“About Us”). Their website even claims that “each purchase you make of CACOCO Drinking Chocolate directly supports the vision of a planet where natural ecosystems are managed intelligently, resources are utilized respectfully, and people are treated well at each step of the process” (“About Us”). CACOCO is also working with Terra Genesis International (TGI) “to build a regenerative network of businesses committed to rebuilding supply chains based on regenerative principles” (“About Us”). Thus, CACOCO seems to be doing all it can to create an ethically and sustainably sourced chocolate product.


On the other hand, some companies have been slow to change—or have yet to change much at all. One such example is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which is now owned by Lindt & Sprüngli. I want to specifically name Ghirardelli inside of the Lindt umbrella in order to emphasize how close to home these problems are—because Ghirardelli chocolate is everywhere in the US, especially in retail stores. According to Lindt & Sprüngli’s 2017 annual report, Ghirardelli ranks No. 3 in the US in terms of dark chocolate sales (Lindt). Ghirardelli also became the No. 2 baking brand in the United States in 2011 (“About Ghirardelli”). Thus, it is important to emphasize that when I discuss Lindt & Sprüngli, I am also discussing Ghirardelli (and vice versa).

Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was founded in 1852 in San Francisco, California. In 1865, “a Ghirardelli employee discovers that by hanging a bag of chocolate mass in a warm room, the cocoa butter drips out, leaving a residue that can be processed into ground chocolate. This is known as the Broma process and produces a more intense chocolate flavor than other techniques” (“About Ghirardelli”). Shortly thereafter, the company expanded their business from the western United States to the eastern United States, China, Mexico and Japan (“About Ghirardelli”). In 1965, Ghirardelli Square became an official city landmark, and later received National Historic Register status—solidifying itself as a staple of the Bay Area (“About Ghirardelli”). It has also partnered with Disney to create a Disney Studio Store in Hollywood, and continued to innovate with their famous Ghirardelli Squares—turning classic treats into best-selling holiday and dark chocolate candies (“About Ghirardelli”). They were acquired by Lindt & Sprüngli in 1998 (“About Ghirardelli”).

Ghirardelli chocolate, over the past one hundred and fifty years, has become an American staple in the chocolate industry. However, they have been slow to fight the injustices of the chocolate supply chain. They claim to “comply with high standard of ethics and sustainability in the procurement of our raw materials and in their processing into high-quality LINDT chocolate” (“The Commitment”). However, contrary to CACOCO, Lindt has no fair trade or labor certifications as of 2017 (Figure 1). Instead, they are “self-certified.” Although this beats no certification, their self-certification doesn’t hold them to the rigid standards of Fair Trade Certifications, and they aren’t accountable to anyone outside of themselves. But, in their defense, Lindt has instituted a program called the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, which aims to “to trace ingredients back to their origin and support farmers according to their specific needs” (“Sustainably”). This program supports local farmers and helps them to apply “good agricultural, social, environmental and business practices in the management of their farms” (“Sustainably”). This allows Lindt to also verify social and environmental practices of the farms within the program in order to make sure their cacao is ethically and sustainably sourced (“Sustainably”). Lindt also aims to limit intermediaries—or “middle men”—between themselves and the farms to make sure they receive fair payment for their product (“Sustainably”).

According to their website, “over 85% of Ghirardelli cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli farming program” (“Sustainable Cocoa”). And, as of 2017, 79% of Lindt’s cocoa was certified (Figure 1). Although these numbers are higher than some chocolate companies, that means that 15% of the cocoa beans Ghirardelli gets have unknown origins (at least based on their website, which has no further mention of where the other 15% of cocoa beans come from) and 21% of Lindt’s total cacao in 2017 went uncertified. CACOCO sources 100% of their cacao beans from regenerative and organic farms in Ecuador—meaning none of the cacao’s origins are unknown. Thus, Ghirardelli doesn’t know whether or not some of their cacao comes from farms with poor working conditions, slave and child labor, or unfair wages. However, Lindt has made it their goal to go to 100% certified cacao by 2020—which would be a major step towards fixing issues of the cacao supply chain (Figure 1).

In addition to Lindt’s farming program, they have also introduced the Lindt & Sprüngli Suppler Code of Conduct Agreement and the Lindt Cocoa Foundation. The Code establishes “minimum standards, such as requirements regarding industrial wastewater treatment, air emission and environmental reporting” while also prohibiting the use of “corruption, bribery, discrimination and child labor” (“Sustainably Sourced”). The Code also “insists on freely chosen employment, fair compensation and working conditions, as well as freedom of association and obligates suppliers to pass these principles on to sub-suppliers” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Any purchase order made by Lindt requires the supplier to sign the Code of Conduct Agreement, and failure to uphold these obligations results in termination of the supplier contract (“Sustainably Sourced”). Secondly, the Lindt Cocoa Foundation’s job is “ to work towards achieving social and ecological sustainability in the cultivation, production and processing of cocoa and other ingredients used in chocolate production” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Thus, with these two initiatives, Lindt is trying to fix many of the issues that plague their cocoa supply chain—although without outside certification, it is harder for consumers to judge the strength and reach of these initiatives. Although this is a step in the right direction, Lindt has a lot more to prove to consumers that want to hold them accountable—and it starts with some sort of third-party certification, such as a Fair Trade Certification, and meeting their goal of 100% certified cacao by 2020.


Both companies are running initiatives to try to combat the problems of the cacao supply chain. CACOCO is a relatively new company that epitomizes the direction of which consumers are heading in regards to socially and environmentally conscious consumption. CACOCO is Fair Trade Certified, provides zero waste packaging, and preaches the importance sustainability, responsibility, and health—all in an effort to maximize consumer and producer happiness. Ghirardelli, on the other hand, is not Fair Trade Certified, but they are fighting injustice in other ways. Their farming program, along with the Lindt Cocoa Foundation and the Supplier Code of Conduct Agreement, are making steps towards a more transparent and equitable growing and harvesting environment in their cacao supply chain. With the completion of their goal of 100% certified cacao by 2020, they too would be well on their way towards creating a better, more equitable, and safer world in cacao farming.

As consumers, it is our duty to be as conscious as we can in order to create change. Companies that are doing the right thing, that are fighting the injustices of the cocoa supply chain, are the ones that should receive our money. As more and more issues are brought to light, it is up to us to hold these companies accountable for their sourcing of raw materials, and to make sure it is done as sustainably, and equitably, as possible—because we have as much of a duty to make a difference as they do.

Figure 1
SOURCE: Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 7).
Figure 2
SOURCE: “Is There Child Labor in Your Halloween Candy? Chocolate Scorecard Identified Good, Ghoulish Companies.” Green America, Green America, 11 Oct. 2018, http://www.greenamerica.org/press-release/there-child-labor-your-halloween-candy-chocolate-scorecard-identified-good-ghoulish-companies.
Figure 3
SOURCE: Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 8).
Video 1
SOURCE: Riggs, Ayn. “CREER-Africa Is Featured on News Story about Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector.” YouTube, Aljazeera, 12 Nov. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=64&v=2lk_OMPDlJc.

Works Cited


  • “About Us.” CACOCO, CACOCO, drinkcacoco.com/pages/about.
  • Lindt & Sprüngli. Annual Report 2017 NAFTA Markets. Kilchberg, Switzerland: Lindt & Sprüngli, 2017. Lindt & Sprüngli. Web. 2 May 2019.
  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 7: Modern day slavery.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 27 March 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation.
  • Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.


  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 7).
  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 8).

Dark chocolate and its consumer

In the world today, every individual has different preferences, favourites and likes. In chocolate, this can be the choice of either milk or dark, expensive or cheap, fair-trade or big-5 company etc. These differences are partly due to the specific taste of the person, but also the influence of society and the economy.

In order to understand this concept better I decided to run an experiment. This is how it was conducted:

1) I gathered 4 different chocolates with differing cocoa contents (pictured below). The 4 samples were:
– 45% Hershey’s Special Dark
– 60% Ghirardelli Squares
– 70% Lindt Dark Chocolate
– 85% Lindt Dark Chocolate

I chose these chocolates as they include three common brands that the tasters are familiar with. They are available at almost any convenience store and are recognisable. This was important to me, as I wanted to look at the effect of the big chocolate companies on the consumer. Many of these companies are also associated with the less rich and lower cocoa content candy bars, so they also opened the eyes to the smaller market of dark chocolate within the bigger companies.


2) I then gathered a group together (some of them pictured below) and asked them to taste the chocolate and see whether they could decipher distinctly between the cocoa-content of the chocolates. This was a blind test, so the tasters didn’t see the packaging prior to tasting, but they could tell the brand of the chocolate due to the imprint on the chocolate bar itself. The test was done with no conferring as to test the single taste of the person. I asked them to make note of the taste and mouth feel while tasting.




3) Prior to them tasting the chocolate I asked some simple introduction questions. These included:
– Gender
– How often do you eat dark chocolate?
– When was the last time you ate dark chocolate?
– On a scale of 1-10 (1-will never eat, 10-can’t get enough), how much do you enjoy DARK chocolate?
– On a scale of 1-10 (1-will never eat, 10-can’t get enough), how much do you enjoy MILK chocolate?

4) This was followed up by a series of question considering purchasing, packaging, and associations with dark chocolate.

My experiment came back with very useful results. I tested a total of 7 people, 2 of which were male. Conclusively, the tasters who preferred dark chocolate (3 out of 7) to milk chocolate came back with a 100% correction in distinguishing the different cocoa content of the chocolate. Those that preferred milk chocolate found it hard to separate the 60% chocolate from the 70% chocolate. I feel like this is due to not being accustomed with the taste. However, two of the four people that preferred milk chocolate had eaten dark chocolate within the last week, while some of the dark chocolate eaters hadn’t eaten dark chocolate for a longer period of time, but were still able to define the difference.

I wanted my testers to state their gender so that I could indicate whether there was a difference between male and female in their preference or how they choose chocolate. The two males that taste tested were milk chocolate lovers. One of these males could not tell between the 60%, 70%, and 85% chocolate, while the other couldn’t determine 60% from 70%. The following advertisement from Lindt claims dark chocolate being a product for the female. It is described as sticking in your throat, being bitter, and having a smudgy texture. This association with dark chocolate and the female may be a possible deterrent for the male, or it could also be down to science and the way that females taste different to males.

lindt advertisement

When describing the taste and mouth feel of the 85% chocolate, the reactions of the milk and dark chocolate lovers were very different. The milk chocolate lovers described it as ‘bad’ and ‘horrible aftertaste’, whereas the dark chocolate lovers were less harsh by noting it as ‘bitter’ and ‘chalky’. It appears that it wasn’t their favourite chocolate, but for the milk chocolate lovers, the taste was so bad that it sparked a bigger reaction. This raises the question as to whether milk chocolate lovers are hyper-tasters due to their sensitivity to the bitterness of the chocolate, and how the smoothness and less intense taste of milk chocolate on their taste buds is better suited.

One of the main disparities between milk chocolate and dark chocolate lovers was their approach to purchasing chocolate. The group as a whole decided that dark chocolate is a high-end product and in general is more expensive compared to your everyday candy bar. The tasters that preferred milk chocolate were more likely to opt for cheaper, more for your money, and well-known chocolate bars. As for the dark chocolate lovers, they were likely to spend more on dark chocolate to satisfy their cravings, but if they wanted a quick energy boost they would turn to the cheaper candy bars. They were more likely to savour dark chocolate and spend time enjoying it, which also attributes it to being a luxurious good associated with high class. One participant in this experiment told me that her family would not allow her dark chocolate until she reached a certain age, which also gives it a higher status, in comparison to the many candy bars we find at the counter at a checkout. Two companies mentioned when discussing what chocolate brand they buy, Hershey’s and Mars were at the top of the list. As we know, these are both part of the big-5! However, the dark chocolate lovers said they would also consider smaller companies and seek out something alternative, giving them a more exploratory nature. Laudan writes, “For all, culinary modernism has provided what was wanted: food that was processed, preservable, industrial, novel, and fast, the food of the elite at a price everyone could afford” (Laudan 40). This statement appears to correlate with the feedback from my tasters. Dark chocolate is now more available at a lower cost, but the price issue even presides over taste. We can also put this down to the sugar craving and the rise of sugar in the diet.

For the American consumer, impulse and self-indulgence purchases drive the companies. However, in a new market to chocolate, such as China, there is more gifting taking place.

“China’s breath-taking transformation from a command to a market-socialist economy over the past twenty-five years has turned some 300 million of its 1.3 billion people into ravenous consumers of everything from candy to cars. And until twenty-five years ago, almost none of them had ever eaten a piece of chocolate. They were, to coin a phrase, “chocolate virgins,” their taste for chocolate ready to be shaped by whichever chocolate company came roaring into the country with a winning combination of quality, marketing savvy, and manufacturing and distribution acumen. In short, China was the next great frontier, a market of almost limitless potential to be conquered in a war between the world’s leading chocolate companies for the hearts, minds, and taste buds – and ultimately the wallets – of China’s consumers. To the victor of the chocolate wars would go the spoils of over a billion potential customers for generations to come” (Allen Introduction).

Allen explains how the big-5 companies targeted the Chinese population to convert them to become chocolate consumers. However, the society was very unprepared for it as “chocolate was so foreign that it would have limited appeal to their untrained palates” (Allen 10). There was a shift in the consumption of chocolate but not to as great of an extent as experienced in the west. Chocolate was also seen as a means of gifting, as opposed as a purchase for self-consumption. My tasters explained that sometimes it was hard to purchase higher quality and more expensive chocolate for themselves, but when they looked towards seeking a chocolate gift for someone they would turn to dark chocolate and spend more. They explained that this was due to the association of dark chocolate as a classy product. The packaging as a gift would also sway their choices as they didn’t want to purchase chocolate that looked low quality and cheap.

Dark chocolate seems to hold a role in society which places it above that of milk chocolate. The disparity between people that like the two different types of chocolate cause changes in how they purchase, as well as consume chocolate. Dark chocolate seems to retain its authoritative nature through a word-of-mouth concept about its good properties, as opposed to candy bars with higher sugar and lower cocoa content.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association, 2010. Print.
Laudan, Rachel. Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History. Berkeley, CA: U of California, 2013. Print.