Tag Archives: Globalization

Serving Luxury: The Evolution of the Chocolate Pot

A 1989 article in The New York Times reported that “top-of-the-market” chocolate pots made in 17th and 18th century England were selling for between $30,000 and $50,000 to museums (Deitz, 38). Five figures might appear a steep price for an antiquated household tool intended to produce what we might now consider “hot chocolate,” but––nearly four centuries after their emergence in Europe––chocolate pots continue to fetch high prices at antique auctions around the world.

The status of the chocolate pot, or chocolatière, as a rarity and luxury item is no new phenomenon. Often engraved with family crests, decorated with paintings on fine porcelain, or molded from precious metals, the chocolate pot has, throughout its history, become as much of a status symbol as the chocolate it holds. This blog post will investigate the chocolatière’s role in chocolate’s spread around the globe and how it changed the ways in which individuals enjoyed this delicacy. The chocolate pot, or chocolatière, not only serves as an important artifact aiding in the expansion of chocolate’s popularity but embodies broader themes of globalization, class, and production inseparable from the consumption of chocolate.

“Chocolate Pots Brewed Ingenuity,” The New York Times.

The Origins of the Chocolate Pot

As with chocolate itself, the origins of the chocolate pot remain somewhat murky and reflect a tendency to overlook the roles played by non-Europeans in its creation. Many sources credit the invention of the chocolatières as we know them today to France in the 17th century as aristocrats began to incorporate expensive chocolate––consumed as a beverage first introduced to Europe by Spain––into their fine dining experiences (Righthand). What set apart French chocolate pots, often crafted from silver and other metals like copper or gold, from other cooking vessels was a space in the lid through which a “mill” could be inserted to stir and froth its ingredients (Lange, 131). Such “milling” of the chocolate drink (often consisting of ground cacao, hot water, milk, sugar, and spices) was a necessity before the invention of more industrialized “emulsification” technologies in the 19th century that rendered the pot largely obsolete (Righthand).

Despite this French origin story, scholars like Michael and Sophie Coe in The True History of Chocolate note the degree to which this device was invented outside of the country. As France expanded its diplomatic efforts with Siam, an ambassador from the region was said to have brought chocolate pots crafted from precious metals as a gift to the French despite a lack of chocolate consumption in Siam (Coe, 157). This anecdote reveals the extent to which increasing globalization­­––as well as colonial and imperial ambitions––led to innovation and the modification of chocolate technologies. A 17th century sketch, made by Philippe Sylvestre Dufour (pictured below), depicts stereotypical illustrations of individuals from different parts of the world gathered for a drink, a chocolate pot sitting between them. The imperial connotations of this illustration show the ways in which England hoped to spread its “civility” ––represented by the chocolate pot and other utensils–– as it carved out its colonial empire.

Dufour Illustration.
Source: Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 2019. (Online as Public Domain).

Despite these tales, the chocolate pot’s true invention can be traced back to early Mesoamerica. The Mayan and Aztec people, in addition to other indigenous groups in the region, were some of the first to consume chocolate in its liquid form, relying on vessels to contain and froth chocolate.[1] Early Mesoamerican chocolate was frothed by being poured into several different containers that––in contrast to their smaller metal European counterparts––could be three-feet tall and, according to the Smithsonian Magazine, had a “long, slender body” (Righthand). The chocolate pot is a fascinating example of the ways in which chocolate technologies, like the chocolate itself, was adapted for different cultural contexts and came to take on new meanings as it circulated the globe. The chocolate pot popularized by the French would quickly inspire similar creations in England which soon became a prized commodity and imported good of North American colonists (Lange 131).

Chinese Porcelain Design Chocolate Pot, 19th Century. (Public Domain).

The Chocolatière and Luxury

With its origins tied to the French nobility and their chocolate habits, the chocolate pot was viewed not only as a product of increasing global trade, but as a luxury item. Because chocolate beverages were so expensive and not yet available to the masses, they called for serving equipment made of equally refined materials like silver and porcelain (Righthand). According to The True History of Chocolate, prominent figures ranging from Marie Antoinette to French philosophers like Diderot where pictured alongside, or made references to, the chocolate pot (Coe, 219). The chocolate pot emerged alongside the increasingly popularity of chocolate beverages that, pricier than tea or coffee, became a favorite of Europe’s wealthiest (Mintz, 110). However, like tea and coffee, “unfamiliar” chocolate drinks became more widespread in England thanks to the common practice of adding sugar to beverages (Mintz 137). In both France and England––and eventually in what would become the United Space––the chocolate pot allowed for new types of gathering and social spaces among the elite. Chocolate houses in England, France, and North America became a space in which intellectuals, politicians, and business leaders could meet to discuss pressing issues while pouring from chocolate pots (Mintz 110).

The social implications of chocolate pots are strikingly clear from their portrayals in art. According to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, chocolate pots were often included in colonial paintings and portraits alongside the bed as they were considered symbols of leisure and of the wealth that made this leisure possible (Righthand). The detailed monogramming and design of the chocolate pots as indicators of family wealth transform chocolate vessels into their own works of art––further reflected in their contemporary inclusion in museums and auctions. In this way, the European chocolate pot was not unlike its Mesoamerican predecessors which often featured their own hieroglyphics and drawings.[2]

The Legacy of the Chocolate Pot

The chocolate pot began to transform and ultimately see its decline in the 19th and 20th centuries as the result of chemist Van Houten’s introduction of Dutch chocolate which no longer required the pots to contain an opening for mixing, less expensive chocolate production, and the increasing popularity of tea and coffee (Lange, 138-139). However, this tool remains an important item of study in charting the history of chocolate. The chocolate pot reveals the centrality of evolving technologies in altering chocolate consumption patterns and the ways in these technologies were influenced by unique cultural contexts. With limited numbers of authentic chocolate pots surviving until contemporary times, this artifact remains a luxury, status symbol, and rarity.

Media Citations

Chocolate Pot with Design Imitating Meissen, Chinese Porcelain, 1800-1830. New Castle, 8 May 2013. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate_pot_with_design_imitating_Meissen,_Chinese_porcelain,_1800-1830_-_Winterthur_Museum_-_DSC01530.JPG.

Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 2019.

Deitz, Paula. “ANTIQUES; Chocolate Pots Brewed Ingenuity.” The New York Times, 19 Feb. 1989, p. 38, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/19/arts/antiques-chocolate-pots-brewed-ingenuity.html.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 2019.

Deitz, Paula. “ANTIQUES; Chocolate Pots Brewed Ingenuity.” The New York Times, 19 Feb. 1989, p. 38, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/19/arts/antiques-chocolate-pots-brewed-ingenuity.html.

Lange, Amanda. “Chocolate Preparation and Serving Vessels in Early 10 North America.” Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, edited by Shapiro, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009, pp. 129–142.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.

Righthand, Jess. “A Brief History of the Chocolate Pot.” Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Feb. 2015, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/brief-history-chocolate-pot-180954241/.

[1] Reference to images of the Rio Azul vessels presented in lecture by Dr. Carla Martin.

[2] Ibid.

CHOCOLATE WASTED: When Overindulgence Goes Wrong

#ChocolateWasted As We Know It

“Chocolate wasted” was not a hashtag when it first presented itself. As a matter of fact, it was blurted out by a six-year-old actress named Alexys Nycole Sanchez (playing Becky Feder) in Adam Sandler’s Grown-Ups. Per the movie’s storyline, “I wanna get chocolate wasted!” was an appropriate phrase for childlike overindulgence that caught every movie-goer’s attention in 2010 (IMDb). The legendary line even helped Alexys win the “Best Line” category at MTV Movie Awards the following year (IMDb). Soon after, headlines like Los Angeles (LA) Times, celebrities and random college students, like myself, were using the term rather frequently. Still today, there are establishments and products named after the infamous idiom such as a Houston-based ice cream truck and a lipstick shade made by Doses of Color, respectively (Chocolate; Dose of Colors). Amazingly, the power of the Internet allows us to revisit its cinematic origination and locate namesake innovations. But truthfully speaking, the denotation of chocolate wasted is not leading in headlines like its figurative interpretation nor being quantifiable in scholarly publications. Prior to diving into a serious topic, I have several questions that will hopefully heighten your interest to want to learn more.

  • What is food waste (including chocolate waste)? What are the associated impacts?
  • What are direct implications from chocolate waste throughout the supply chain?
  • What qualities does a sustainably certified product uphold? Is waste not included in the sustainability assessment? Does waste not contribute to the overexertion of resources and labor? 
  • How do I avoid chocolate waste in my home? Does chocolate have an expiration date? Is chocolate (or cocoa) mulch safe for pets?



By Pakeha [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Läderach Chocolate Factory, a Switzerland-based manufacturer, displays a collection of “cocoa waste” in their in-house museum for tourists’ enjoyment. From right to left there: cocoa with waste materials, extracted waste (like stones, dust, metal or wood), and cleaned cocoa.


Food Waste: A Global Problem

On a global scale, 1.3 billion tons of food production meant for human consumption gets lost or wasted annually (FAO). Regarding economic losses, food waste is equivalent to $310 billion in developing countries and $680 billion in industrialized countries with the U.S. leading in food waste and overall wastage than any other country in the world (FAO). Specifically, in the U.S., about 40 percent of food goes uneaten annually which equates to 133 billion pounds with an USD value $161 billion (USDA, n.d.). Conversely, 42 million Americans including 13 million children are facing food insecurity and hunger daily (FAO). Hypothetically speaking, the diversion of 93,000 tons of wasted food could create 322 million meals for people in need and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 714,000 tons (ReFED). This alarming amount of wasted food is not only associated with socioeconomic implications but it also depletes natural resources significantly.

According to Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), U.S. food production utilizes the following: 50% of land, 30% of all energy resources, and 80% of all freshwater (Gunders). Resources consisting of land, water, labor, energy and agricultural inputs (fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides) to produce wasted food are squandered as well, unwillingly inviting resource scarcity and negative environmental externalities. Activating ozone pollution, the misuse of agricultural inputs including irrigated water, pesticides and common fertilizers like nitrogen & phosphorus can cause further damage to ecosystems. Irrigation practices promotes water pollution affecting quality, groundwater accessibility, and potable water accessibility (Moss). Moreover, pesticides are common culprits to human health effects, resistance in pests, crop losses, bird mortality and groundwater degradation (Moss). Other inputs, such as nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, wreak havoc to human health, air quality and aquatic ecosystems (Moss).

The utilization of resources is not the only emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, pertaining to food waste, but also the decomposition of it makes substantial damage to the environment. Postharvest, food waste is the single largest component of municipal solid waste making landfills the third largest source of methane in the country (Gunders). Anthropogenic methane accounts for 10 percent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to a rise in global average temperatures, better known as global warming (EPA, n.d.b). Particularly, landfill methane generates 16 percent of total methane releases compared to carbon dioxide which emits 81% annually (EPA). Although carbon dioxide is the main contributor of global warming, methane carries significant weigh as a pollutant due to its ability to absorb more energy per unit mass than any other greenhouse gas (EPA).

Pinpointing on ecological footprint, the most recent “Earth Overshoot Day” occurred on August 2, 2017 in which the extraction of natural resources exceeded the Earth’s capacity to regenerate in the given year (Earth Overshoot Day). By partnering with Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, Global Footprint Network also reported that a 50% reduction in food waste could push the date of “Overshoot Day” by 11 Days (Earth Overshoot Day).

Chocolate Waste Feeds the Food Waste Problem

The classification of food waste is distinguished by each level of the supply chain including agricultural production, post-harvest handling & storage, processing, distribution and consumption. From a global supply chain perspective, food waste is very difficult to define across countries. The conflicting views of edible versus inedible food waste is one example of cultural variation which impedes the approval of a standardized definition that will cater to all diverse parties and accurately measure waste at the macro level. For instance, the U.S. chocolate market classifies the pulp of a cocoa pod along with the shell of the cocoa bean as inedible products. Thus, cocoa pulp is left at the farmgate level, and at the processing level, cocoa shells are removed and most commonly converted into biofuel or mulch.  Unlike the US, the Brazilian chocolate market produces chocolate with cocoa solids but also makes shell and pulp into sellable products such as loose leaf tea or juice, respectively. Moreover, these value-added practices are present-day testaments of indigenous traditions. The myriad indigenous uses of cacao and chocolate products are analogous to the circular economy that we are yearning for today.

During the Mesoamerican period, chocolate was classified as an esteemed delicacy, a form of payment, ceremonial gift, everyday cooking agent, natural remedy for human health & the environment and so forth. However, during European colonization, the rise of industrialization came with added ingredients, mainly refined sugar, that devalued the quality aspect as well as created a negative image of chocolate over time (Martin, “Sugar”). The health risks of added sugars began to overshadow the medicinal properties of cacao. Even the perception of cacao changed from a specialty crop into a cash crop.  From a socioenvironmental view, terroir of cash crops rose in volatility at the extent of mass enslavement and corruption (Martin, “Health”). At the same time, these characteristic flaws did not stop consumption. Even today, popular chocolate products are sugary, highly processed and in conjunction with unethical sourcing backgrounds. For instance, laborers endure labor-intensive work on a daily basis in top cocoa producing countries, such as West Africa. The average laborer is paid below the global poverty line, uses dangerous tools such as a machete to manually cut down cacao pods, applies fungicides & pesticides typically without the proper protective equipment (PPE) and oftentimes exposed to insects and other dangerous animals. In turn, these hazards can result in serious health complications both physically and mentally.


By ICCFO – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

West African laborers removing beans from the cacao pod. It is a labor-intensive process. 

Nonetheless, the chocolate market has expanded its portfolio over the years, containing commercial chocolate and craft chocolate, in which consumers can be selective among the two categories.  Commercial chocolate is what we usually see in supermarkets in which the supply chain depends on multiple stakeholders (across countries) to meet global demand. Whereas, craft chocolate consists of a relatively small team who produces chocolate in small batches from cocoa bean to bar (Martin, “Haute”). Compared to commercial chocolate, these manufacturers seek to provide quality rather than quantity which typically comes with a higher retail price (Martin, “Haute”).

Once it hits retail, consumers, like myself, are in awe of the multiple offerings, appealing packaging and even sustainability labels that lures us in to help  “save the world” and eliminate any guilt from buying chocolate.  It’s like a race to find the one with the most honorable mentions comprising of Organic Certified (USDA, Non-GMO and an overlap of third-party ethical standards (Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, etc.) However,  after investigating various sustainability standards, retail chocolate waste is not attributable to certifiable requirements nor is it recognized as a concern overall. Based on logical reasoning and what I stated earlier, the primary ingredients of chocolate consisting of refined sugar, cocoa derivatives (cocoa powder and butter), palm oil and/or milk powder that were extracted from its origination to be processed, transported and packaged as a single product. In addition, these ingredients are combined and further processed into chocolate which is then packaged and transported to retail as a finished good. Just imagine the man hours, natural resources and other inputs used within this supply chain. Broaden that imagination to consider the following: consumers discarding “safe-to-eat” chocolate confections due to fat or sugar bloom, retailers not knowing what to do with an overstock of unsold seasonal products, improper storage temperatures ruining a truckload full of chocolate candies, outdated farming techniques producing more waste than yield and slightly related, the packaging of sustainably certified chocolate causing more harm to the environment than conventional chocolate. The latter, wasteful packaging, is another topic that needs assessment and corrective actions. Unfortunately, these scenarios are real-life examples that are being overlooked and emitting an indefinite amount of greenhouse gases.

In actuality, retailers have the potential to be the main change agents for food waste reduction including chocolate waste. However, edible food is commonly thrown away in these spaces due to excess inventory, imperfections, or damaged packaging. A recent study conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Population & Sustainability and Ugly Fruit & Veg Campaign, reported a grade C or below to most of the top ten grocers in the country including Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Publix and Costco (Center for Biological Diversity). The relatively low grades were based on their poor efforts to address and combat food waste in eight focus areas: corporate transparency, company commitments, and supply chain initiatives, produce initiatives, shopping support, donation programs, animal feed programs and recycling programs (Center for Biological Diversity). Both sustainability driven organizations have pronounced a goal for all U.S. grocery stores to eliminate food waste by 2025 (Center for Biological Diversity). Grocers were also pushed to change their current marketing models into sustainable ones by promoting safer handling and lesser stock levels, leveraging new technologies to strengthen inventory management and creating policies on retail spoilage reduction (Center for Biological Diversity).


By Kgbo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

A grocer aisle full of chocolate candies wrapped with seasonal packaging.


The Rise of Chocolate Production and Waste

Informatively, consumers worldwide indulge in approximately 7.3 million tons of chocolate every year (Sethi). Developing countries, such as India, Brazil and China, are adopting chocolate products that were once inaccessible or unaffordable for their respective populations (Sethi). Since 2008, disposable incomes for each these emerging markets are increasing exponentially due to economic boost from industrialization (Sethi). The rising market of chocolate products equates to a growing demand for global cocoa and sugar production. Industry experts forecasts a 30% growth in demand, from 3.5million tons of cocoa annually to more than 4.5 million in 2020 (Sethi). In consideration, the amount of chocolate squandered throughout the supply chain is currently undetermined or not shared publicly. Based on noticeable discrepancies in definitions and measurements, chocolate waste and even food waste for that matter will continue to intensify and be discussed loosely unless it’s highly prioritized and welcomes a new branch of international cooperation and mutual accountability. A stride that’s executable if all stakeholders collectively build upon a new systematic approach to carbon neutrality, waste diversion and socioenvironmental benefits.


Chocolate Commonsense

In the meantime, I’ve provided a list of suggestions below that can help you, as a consumer, avoid chocolate waste or divert it to greener waste streams. 

  • Purchase in moderation.
  • Don’t be alarmed by “Sell By Date”. Depending on care and the type of chocolate (milk, dark or white), chocolate is still safe to consume for longer periods of time.
  • Chocolate bloom, (whether sugar or fat bloom) which gives off a whitish or light coating on the chocolate’s surface, is still safe for consumption.
  • To retain freshness and structure, cool and dark environments are ideal storage locations for chocolate.
  • Have an excessive amount of unopened chocolate? Donate to participating charities like Ronald McDonald House Charities and Operation Gratitude.
  • ONLY FOR CONSUMERS WITHOUT PETS: Add leftover chocolate or raw cocoa shells, particularly organic certified, in compost for home gardening. *Fyi to pet owners, chocolate is poisonous to dogs and cats due to its theobromine content. If you have pets, you can distribute waste to a composting facility.
  • Advocate for chocolate waste (and food waste) assessments from involved stakeholders (including local and national governments, non-governmental organizations [Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, etc.] retailers, distributors and manufacturers)


By Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA – Cocoa Mulch, CC BY 2.0.

Cocoa mulch is made out of cocoa shells (most times organic) which are beneficial to soil health.  Organic cocoa mulch contains nitrogen, phosphate and potash and has a pH of 5.8 (Patterson). There is also a noticable warning sign to keep dogs away due to theobromine content, which is scientifically proven to be very harmful to pets.




Works Cited.

IMDb. Alexys Nycole Sanchez. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3465073/?ref_=nmawd_awd_nm

Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream, Co. About Us, 2017. https://chocolatewastedicecream.com/

Dose of Colors. CHOCOLATE WASTED, 2018. https://doseofcolors.com/products/chocolate-wasted

FAO. Food Loss and Food Waste. http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/

ReFED. A Roadmap To Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent, 2016. https://www.refed.com/downloads/ReFED_Report_2016.pdf

Gunders, Dana.“Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill”. Natural Resources Defense Council, Natural Resources Defense Council Issue Paper 12-06-B, 2012, https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf

Moss, Brian.“Water pollution by agriculture”. US National Library of Medicine

National Institutes of Health, 2007, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610176/

EPA. Methane Emissions. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases

Earth Overshoot Day. Food demand makes up 26% of the global Ecological Footprint, 2018,  https://www.overshootday.org/take-action/food/

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 14 Feb 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Health, Nutrition, and the Politics of Food + Psychology, Terroir, and Taste”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 11 April 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice: the future?”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 18 April 2018, Harvard Extension School, Cambridge, MA. Class Lecture.

Center for Biological Diversity. Checked Out: How U.S. Supermarkets Fail to Make the Grade in Reducing Food Waste. Center for Biological Diversity, 2018, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/grocery_waste/In-

Sethi, Simran.  “The Life Cycle Of Your Chocolate Bar” Forbes. 22 Oct 2017 https://www.forbes.com/sites/simransethi/2017/10/22/the-life-cycle-of-your-chocolate-bar/#42eff5bd66d8

Patterson, Susan. “Cocoa Shell Mulch: Tips For Using Cocoa Hulls In The Garden”, 5 April 2018, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/mulch/using-cocoa-hull-mulch.htm

Pakeha. Reinigung von Kakaobohnen.jpg., WikiMedia Commons.7 December 2017, 17:56:47

Kgbo. Easter chocolate in suburban food store in Brisbane, Australia in 2018.jpg, WikiMedia Commons, 24 February 2018, 10:04:29

Seaton, Leslie. Cocoa Mulch (4051611349).jpg, WikiMedia Commons, 20 October 2009, 15:55

ICCFO. Cocoa farmers during harvest.jpg. WikiMedia Commons, 1 January 2015,





Chocolate’s Missing History

The literature on chocolate is rich with history on the growth of chocolate prevalence in Mesoamerica and Europe. Cacao was discovered thousands of years ago, and was often combined with other ingredients to be prepared as a chocolate drink. Chocolate made the trek from Mesoamerica to Europe, where initially Spain took the reigns on making chocolate a popular and exotic beverage for European royalty. Over time, the drink became not as limited to just the upper-class, as chocolate became more commonplace in European chocolate houses (Allen 20). However, chocolate seems to have been stopped in its course to the East. Why is it that chocolate traveled from Mesoamerica to Europe, but not from Europe to Asia? While the chocolate industry exists in the East today, the introduction of chocolate in the East was severely delayed due to cultural conservatism and culinary disparities.

Maya-lord-chocolateChocolate Beginnings

Cultural Conservatism

Until very recently, chocolate never made its way into Asian culture in the same way that it significantly permeated European culture. One argument as to why chocolate was never really recognized and accepted in the East is cultural conservatism (Coe, 316). Charles Perry, an expert on cuisines of East and Central Asia, was always puzzled as to why chocolate was unable to penetrate Asian food culture, but he suggests that cultural conservatism might be the main reason (316). Cultural conservatism for Asia is likely a suggestion that Asia has strong roots in strict rules, uniform ideologies among large regions, and a reluctance for indulgence. As chocolate was often enjoyed as a delicacy among Europeans, a conservative Asian response to chocolate in the 16th century and beyond was likely to reject it. Dr. Henry Stubbes, a widely quoted and respected authority on chocolate, believed chocolate to be an aphrodisiac (312). If this perception of chocolate was carried to Asia, then it likely only made the introduction to the conservative East more difficult. Sophie Coe, author of The True History of Chocolate, agrees with Perry’s suggestion of cultural conservatism as a roadblock for the acceptance of chocolate in Asia, but believes the subject to still be somewhat of a mystery (316). While the rejection of chocolate might have been more indirect for many Asian consumers, one account of rejection almost caused disaster for one Italian Merchant (Coe, 315). Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Carreri was traveling through the city of Smyrna, on the coast of Turkey, and writes the following about his encounter:

“Thursday the Aga of Seyde came to see me. I gave him some chocolate, but this savage had never tasted it, or perhaps he was drunk, or the tobacco smoke produced the effect; he became very angry with me, saying I had made him drink a liquid to disturb him and take away his judgement. In short, had his anger lasted it would assuredly have gone badly with me, and it would have served me right, to have regaled such a coarse person with chocolate.” (Coe, 315).

Culinary Disparities

Cuisine also likely played a large role in Asia’s rejection of chocolate. Perhaps this was a reason chocolate was not ever able to permeate areas like India, Southeast Asia, or the Far East (316). For example, Jesuit missionaries and Portuguese merchants brought chocolate with them on their journeys east, but the natives had “little interest in the substance” (316). Charles Perry speculated that the bitter-sweetness of chocolate might appeal to a region of the world where nut-filled pastries are often consumed (Coe, 315). On the contrary, it seems there is nearly no correlation to be made on this front. Perry also suggested that possibly the coffee-crazed culture of the East and the way of life found around coffee houses contributed to the obstacle of establishing chocolate as a popular taste for Asian consumers (315). It appears that there was not necessarily a void that chocolate would have filled for Asian food culture, so it was easy for them to reject it.

In China, even up until the 1980s, only the most determined chocolate addict would go through the trouble of buying a chocolate bar (Allen, 33). The chocolate market was nearly nonexistent for Chinese consumers at this time, so the reward of chocolate did not usual meet the hassle of obtaining it. One news article in the early 1990s found that the Chinese eat only one bar of chocolate for every 1,000 consumed by the British (Coe, 316). Ultimately, chocolate was so foreign that the only way it was able to become a part of the average consumer’s diet was curiosity (Allen, 23). In hope of exploiting this curiosity, the Big Five chocolate companies began the difficult task of developing a presence in the East in the late 20th century. Today, the chocolate industry in many parts of Asia is growing rapidly. Advertisements in countries like Japan and India attempt to capture chocolate’s irresistible nature in order to appeal to consumers (Martin, 41). Moreover, China has recently built a Chocolate Wonderland (below) that appeals to young children in hopes of introducing the goodness of chocolate at a young age (Martin, 39). One final avenue for which chocolate is permeating Asian culture is through using it as a ritual for gift-giving (Allen, 25). Through studying the history of chocolate in Asia, it is becoming clear that the story is really just beginning.



Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L.  Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York, NY, 2010.  Print.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe.  The True History of Chocolate.  Third Edition.  London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. E-book.

Martin, Carla. The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market. Cambridge, MA. 2017. Lecture.

From Elite to Everyday – How Chocolate Became Affordable For All

Chocolate has been consumed for over 4,000 years. Yet, it was consumed much differently at the beginning of its History, when it was actually drank as a bitter liquid beverage. Today, most of the chocolate available on the market takes a solid, edible form. The change through chocolate’s History did not only take place from a form of consumption perspective. Indeed, chocolate, in Mesoamerica and throughout most of its History was consumed as a beverage reserved only for the elite because of its exorbitant price. Globalization and mass production of chocolate products led to the spread of chocolate’s popularity; from being only available for society’s elites to becoming an affordable good accessible to members of all social classes.

(Maya God Grinding Coco – Worldstandards.eu)

From its beginnings to the recent centuries, chocolate was reserved for each community’s elites. Klein writes: “The Mayans worshipped a god of cacao and reserved chocolate for rulers, warriors, priests and nobles at sacred ceremonies.” Simultaneously, during the 16th Century, drinking chocolate remained a Spanish secret. Indeed, through its decades and centuries of colonization, Spain was able to bring cacao and chocolate recipes back to the homeland without raising much interest from its neighboring countries. The high cost of transportation and production made it remain a drink for the wealthy. “Although the Spanish sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon, one thing remained unchanged: chocolate was still a delectable symbol of luxury, wealth and power. Chocolate was sipped by royal lips, and only Spanish elites could afford the expensive import” (Klein). In 1606, the chocolate craze spread out of Spain, and the beverage made primarily of cacao was first introduced in Italy. The craze within the elite community was instantaneous, as chocolate spread among Europe’s nobility in 1615 when the daughter of Spanish King Philip III married French King Louis XIII.


(King Louis XIII – NNDB)

In 1657, the first ever English chocolate house opened its doors to the public. Much like today’s elite café’s throughout Europe, chocolate houses provided with the community’s elites with an opportunity to enjoy a hot drink, discuss political issues, participate in betting games, and socialize. “Chocolate houses in Florence and Venice gained notoriety in the early 1700s. Europeans preferred to drink their chocolate from ornate dishes made out of precious materials and crafted by artisans. Like the elaborate ceramic vessels of ancient Maya and Aztec rulers, these dishes were more than serving pieces: they were also symbols of wealth.” [1]

chocolate house

(English Chocolate House – Worldstandards.eu)

The second Industrial Revolution started at the beginning of the 19th Century. Through it, much like most industries in Europe and America, the chocolate business was forever changed. Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented in 1828 what is, in a quite original manner, called the Van Houten press. “[He] invented the cacao press, which squeezed out cocoa butter from the cocoa mass. It allowed for the improvement of the chocolate’s consistency and also permitted the separate sale of cacao powder”[2]. Following Van Houten’s invention, many revolutionaries came together for improving the chocolate industry and making the products more accessible to all. Rodolphe Lindt furthered the ease of availability of chocolate products through his invention of the conching machine in 1879. It allowed for a more velvety texture and superior taste in the final product. Through the use of these developments and their implementation within factory assembly lines, chocolate was made more affordable, consistent in its production, and accessible internationally.

(Van Houten Press & Chocolate Factory – Worldstandards.eu)

[1] Worldstandards.eu

[2] Worldstandards.eu

Works Cited:

Klein, Christopher. “The Sweet History of Chocolate.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

“Louis XIII.” NNDB. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

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

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

“History of Chocolate.” Worldstandards.eu. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

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


Gallery Walk: Chocolate, Gender, and Industrialization

Art is closely tied to the culture of a society. Studying changes and patterns in symbolism and representations over time can provide clues to shifting norms and cultural expectations in society. By studying the path of chocolate through art history, we can better understand the shifting associations between chocolate and gender.

Chocolate has been intimately tied to gender since its origins in ancient Mesoamerica. As chocolate spread to new cultures and new continents, practices surrounding the production, serving, and consumption of chocolate changed to reflect the sometimes strict, sometimes contradictory gender norms of these new cultures.

Ancient Mesoamerica: women and production

PrincetonVase   Woman prepares chocolate - Codex Tudela

The women above – on the left, from a Mayan vase ca. 750 CE, and on the right, from the Aztec Codex Tudela ca. 1500 CE – are each pouring chocolate from one vessel to another, a key step in the preparation of ancient Mesoamerican chocolate beverages. The images below illustrate the somewhat different relationship of deities to chocolate.

743_05_2 atztecs_scene_in_royal_palace_with_pod_filled_with_cocoa_mixture_lioa_651x468

On the left, from the Dresden Codex, the rain god holds a bowl of cacao in his hands, presumably for consumption; on the right, a high-ranking Mayan man seated on a platform is inspecting a pot containing a frothed cacao beverage – again, he appears to be preparing to drink the chocolate. Though we have access today to only a fraction of the images of chocolate created in the first several hundred years of its consumption, the images that we do have draw a compelling distinction between the relationship of men and women to chocolate.  Women produced chocolate, and men consumed it. Aztec and Maya texts, as well as the writings of the European colonists who settled in Mesoamerica, indicate that these earliest consumers of chocolate were well aware of its stimulating effect (Coe and Coe). In Aztec society, the consumption of chocolate was expressly limited to nobles, merchants, and warriors – all, for the most part, male (Coe and Coe). The roles of women in Mesoamerican society were far more restricted – women were primarily involved in the domestic sphere – and far less physically active, meaning they lost the privilege of drinking chocolate.

Chocolate houses, European men, and chaos

By the early 17th century, cacao had officially arrived in Europe. It was first drunk only by royalty, but quickly spread – especially in England – to the masses, aided by the class-defying appeal of London’s coffeehouses (Calhoun). William Hogarth’s engraving, below, shows a raucous crowd of men at White’s Chocolate House, many gambling, smoking, or stabbing at the air with swords.


A somewhat tamer scene is depicted below; again, though, men have come together in great numbers to consume chocolate.


Coffee houses and chocolate houses were generally a space from which women were excluded. There is historical disagreement about whether women were forbidden from frequenting these spaces by decree, as Bramah claims, or merely made unwelcome, as Cowan argues; whatever the means of exclusion, the visual record confirms that chocolate houses were a gendered space. Women were only present in chocolate houses as owners or employees. (Calhoun). A deeper cultural gender divide is clear when we consider the conversations that generally took place in coffeehouses and chocolate houses: historians often acknowledge the role of these spaces in disseminating the intellectual ideals of the Age of Enlightenment to the public sphere (Calhoun). The absence of women from this important sphere where culture and politics were discussed, debated, and shaped reveals the lack of autonomy given to women to change their position in society.

Wealthy women, working women

European women may have been excluded from A Lady Pouring Chocolate by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1744)chocolate houses, but they certainly were not excluded from consuming chocolate.

For the first time in our visual journey, female consumption is central. Men certainly continued to consume chocolate, but women appear far more frequently in paintings of domestic consumption. The paintings to the right and below are from the mid-18th century. All the women pictured are upper-class: their clothing and surroundings clearly demonstrate wealth, and the paintings appear to be posed – typical of portraiture in the period, but also an indicator of wealth, as only the elite could afford to commission portraits.


rev586551-oriWealthy men tend only to appear as consumers of chocolate when a woman is at the center of the painting, as in the Penthièvre family portrait above and Longhi’s painting to the left, where men literally surround a woman reclining in a tulle dress.

Women were painted with chocolate to demonstrate their wealth. Chocolate was a less powerful symbol of wealth for men: men had always been allowed to consume chocolate, and so a painting of a man drinking it was unsurprising.

While wealthy women began to be depicted as consumers, servants and lower-class women were still confined to the production and serving of chocolate. The painting below inspired advertising campaigns for both Droste and Baker’s chocolate.

jean-etienne_liotard_-_the_chocolate_girl_-_google_art_project  Droste  800px-BakersCocoa.JPG

For many middle-class women, the packaging on cocoa powder was the closest interaction they would have with chocolate and art.

Non-elite women did consume chocolate, and were often depicted consuming it, especially by the Impressionists. Renoir painted three portraits, each titled “The Cup of Chocolate,” in rapid succession around the turn of the 20th century.




Globalization and new gender roles

Though women of lower social status were now able to consume chocolate, they were also responsible for preparing it and serving it. The massive shifts in production that came with global industrialization meant that society became strictly stratified, and gender roles were not necessarily consistent across the strata.


In fact, images of men preparing and serving chocolate – traditionally a responsibility reserved 37-3761-9cvzf00zfor women – begin to appear around this time, especially in advertisements (such as the Fry’s chocolate advertisement above, where a man working at a drugstore is selling chocolate) and shop signs (the chocolatier sign depicts a man stirring a pot of chocolate).

Domestic food preparation was an almost entirely female arena in ancient Mesoamerica; surviving Mayan and Aztec art depicts women preparing chocolate and men preparing to consume it. Industrialization led to the increased stratification of European society, and brought new gender roles for the elite and for the working class. Wealthy women were no longer responsible for preparing food: they had servants to cook for them. The woman’s role in domestic management was displaced by the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor. Meanwhile, the globalization of food and food production meant that more men became responsible for food production somewhere along the supply line: harvesting cacao, grinding and conching and pressing chocolate, and handling the financial side of large chocolate businesses were all primarily male occupations.

Food production, for a large part of human history, took place almost exclusively within the home. Industrialization shifted production outside of the home, and created stratified gender roles. Art provides clues to the changing structure of human societies by giving us a glimpse of the prototypical figures of men and women over time. Continued consideration of how accurate a picture those glimpses paint is crucial – not all members of society are portrayed in art, and not all the images we see are accurate portrayals.


Peck, D. G. (1973) Drawing of a detail from the Princeton Vase. Published in Michael Coe’s The Maya Scribe and His World (1973). Image source: http://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2014/maya-drinking-cup.

The Princeton Vase: Artist unknown, of Late Classic Maya origins (A.D. 670-750). Princeton Vase. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Art Museum.

Image of Aztec woman pouring chocolate. Artist unknown (16th century). Codex Tudela. Madrid: Museo de América. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mujer_vertiendo_chocolate_-_Codex_Tudela.jpg

Image of Rain God and Opossum God: Artist unknown (ca. 12th century). Dresden Codex Maya Hieroglyphic Text of Almanac: 25-28. Image courtesy of The Maya Codices Database, Version 4.1. Source: http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/maya/chocolate/cacao-money.

Image of Mayan inspecting chocolate beverage. Artist unknown (15th century). Image source: http://www.lindt.com/noswf/ger/world-of-lindt/lindt-history/swiss-chocolate-pioneers-in-the-19th-century.

William Hogarth (1697-1764). The Rake’s Progress, Plate VI “Gaming House Scene,” engraved by W. Radclyffe. Source: Complete Works, facing p. 98. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. Image source: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/18c/hogarth/rp6.html

Image of 17th-century London Chocolate House. Artist unknown (date unknown). Image source: http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2013/12/10/london-chocolate-festival-take-a-choco-tour-of-london.

Liotard, J. E. (1744). A Lady Pouring Chocolate. London: National Gallery. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Liotard-Lady_Pouring_Chocolate.jpg.

Charpentier, J. B. (1768). La famille du duc de Penthièvre (“La Tasse de Chocolat”). Versailles: Musée National du Château. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_famille_du_Duc_de_Penthi%C3%A8vre_dit_la_tasse_de_chocolat.jpg.

Longhi, P. (1774-1780). La cioccolata di mattino. Venice: Ca ‘Rezzonico. Image source: http://www.exibart.com/profilo/eventiV2.asp?idelemento=58655

Liotard, J. E. (1743-44). La Belle Chocolatière. Dresden: Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chocolate_Girl#/media/File:Jean-Etienne_Liotard_-_The_Chocolate_Girl_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Musset, J. (ca. 1900). Droste cocoa packaging. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droste.

Baker’s Cocoa (1919). Baker’s Cocoa Advertisement in Overland Monthly, January 1919. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Baker_%26_Company.

Renoir, P. A. (1878). The cup of chocolate. Private collection. Image source: http://www.wikiart.org/en/pierre-auguste-renoir/the-cup-of-chocolate-1878.

Renoir, P. A. (1912). Cup of chocolate (Femme prenant du chocolat). Philadelphia: Barnes Foundation. Image source: http://www.barnesfoundation.org/collections/art-collection/object/7007/cup-of-chocolate-femme-prenant-du-chocolat.

Renoir, P. A. (1914). Cup of chocolate (La tasse de chocolat). Philadelphia: Barnes Foundation. Image source: http://www.barnesfoundation.org/collections/art-collection/object/5068/cup-of-chocolate-la-tasse-de-chocolat.

J.S. Fry & Sons, Ltd. (ca. 1900). Advertisement for Fry’s Chocolates. Image source: http://digital.lib.muohio.edu/cdm/ref/collection/tradecards/id/1559

Borrari, O. (Date unknown). Sign of Milanese Shop. Gallery unknown. Image source: http://www.paintingsoncanvas.net/print-98538-6009700/sign-milanese-shop-other.

Caraud, J. (1872). Sharing the Chocolate [Painting]. Gallery unknown. Image source: https://www.papillonclub.org/History/PhotoGallery-OldMasters-C-Sharing-the-Chocolate.html

Works Cited

Bramah, E. (1972). Tea and Coffee: A Modern View of Three Hundred Years of Tradition. Tiptree, Essex: Hutchinson & Co, Ltd.

Calhoun, B. (2012). “Shaping the Public Sphere: English Coffeehouses and French Salons and the Age of the Enlightenment,” Colgate Academic Review 3: 7. Accessed: http://commons.colgate.edu/car/vol3/iss1/7

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (1996). The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Colmenero, A. (1652). Chocolate: or, An Indian Drinke. First printing, London: J.G. for John Dakins. Wadsworth, J. (translator). Accessed: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/21271/21271-h/21271-h.htm

Cowan, B. W. (2001). “What Was Masculine about the Public Sphere? Gender and the Coffeehouse Milieu in Post-Restoration England.” History Workshop Journal 51: 127–157.


Ghanaian Goods: The Impact of Late 20th Century Cocoa Market Privatization on Ghana’s Cacao Farmers

Chocolate is purchased all over the world, but 75% of the cacao cultivated to make chocolate is produced in West African countries.[1] Ghana is second in the world in cacao production, only to Cote d’Ivoire, the top country producing cacao in the world.


Ghana and neighboring country Cote d’Ivoire

Cacao production in Ghana can be traced to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as the Gold Coast transitioned from wealth accumulation through gold and slaves to cocoa.[2] During the 20th century, the Ghanaian national government heavily regulated the cocoa sector but experienced tension with the global market as international economic organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pushed Ghana to liberalize its cocoa market. Around 1979, the Ghanaian government initiated reform of the cocoa sector, established the Ghana Cocoa Board (reconfigured Cocobod), and supported intense privatization of the cocoa market. Over the past 30 years, these changes have had a serious impact on the well-being of local cacao farmers in Ghanaian areas. Using a historical analysis of Ghana’s economic changes during the late 20th century as well as a comparative analysis of the cocoa market between Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, I argue that the privatization and liberalization of the Ghanaian cocoa market has been mostly detrimental to Ghanaian cacao workers today.

This analysis is important for multiple reasons. First, the legacy of the globalized economy’s effect on the Ghanaian cocoa market during the 20th century has had significant effects on the international chocolate market. Even though most cacao is cultivated in West African nations, most of the chocolate in the world is sold to other countries. Understanding the effect of late 20th century changes to the West African cocoa market both reveals incentives of global chocolate companies and exposes troubling inequalities between Ghanaian cacao producers and international chocolate consumers. Additionally, studying the globalized economy’s effect on the Ghanaian cocoa market illuminates layers that shape cacao production beyond local cacao farmers themselves. In the past two decades, new documentaries and investigative work have revealed the place of child labor and evidence of slavery in West African cacao farms.[3] This information has moved informed citizens and government officials to demand action in response to the exploitation observed here: one of the most prominent measures established in the United States was the Harkin-Engel Protocol, established by US Representative Eliot Engel and Senator Tom Harkin in order to push chocolate manufacturers to document any evidence of exploited child labor in the cultivation of their chocolate.[4] However, the understandably charged dialogue surrounding exploited labor has encouraged ideas of an “exploited/exploiter” binary that leaves no room to consider the effects of other layers of control in the cocoa market. Such layers include both national/governmental practices as well as local/community customs in cocoa production.[5] Analyzing the significant changes to the Ghanaian economy over the past few decades is crucial to understanding the condition of cacao laborers and moving past the exploited/exploiter binary often promoted by well-meaning and/or sensationalist accounts, in order to accurately evaluate the conditions of West African cacao labor.

Ghana’s economy has experienced trouble since last year. Due to factors such as government corruption and the 40% depreciation of Ghana’s cedi currency, Ghana’s cocoa economy has struggled as living costs have skyrocketed. This has had an adverse effect on Ghanaian farmers, who say that basic operational costs (such as the price of fertilizer) have increased significantly since 2011. In Ghana, cacao farmers are legally required to sell their beans only to purchasing clerks acting as intermediaries between farmers and Cocobod, Ghana’s state-run cocoa marketing board. However, despite Ghana’s economic troubles, Cocobod has not increased farmers’ compensation for cacao cultivation. This inaction, combined with both the economic struggles of Ghana’s low cocoa prices and the depreciation of the national currency, has led many farmers to illegally smuggle their cacao beans into Ghana’s neighbor, Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s number one cacao producer.[6] According to estimates, Ghana’s cacao output over the past 15 years peaked from October 2011 to September 2012, as cacao smuggling from Ghana surged during Cote d’Ivoire’s short-lived civil war. Unfortunately, the outlook for Ghana’s cocoa market is currently uncertain, as high inflation and the depreciation of the Ghanaian cedi continue to plague cacao farmers.[7]

The issues of Ghana’s current cocoa market and the farmer’s frustrations can be traced to changes to the cocoa sector during the late 20th century. During the 1970s, a military coup ended Ghana’s single-party system and brought Jerry Rawlings into political power. This ushered in a national reform of the cocoa sector, creating the Ghana Cocoa Board – Cocobod – and increasing privatization of cacao production.[8] Resisting pressures from the Western market to further liberalize, Ghana’s national government attempted to reject engaging with international economic agencies, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), essentially “unplugging” from the rest of the world. However, this decision caused mass chaos as urban dwellers reacted to both the scarcity of imported food as well as the skyrocketing prices of locally produced food. Food riots became exceedingly common. Eventually, the Ghanaian national government turned back on its isolationist policies. In 1984, Rawlings engaged with the World Bank and devalued the national currency, freeing Ghana’s marketplace, attracting capital investment, and curing the crisis of goods availability in Ghana. This immediately decreased both inflation and the black market in Ghana.[9]

These achievements proved short-lived in the wake of Ghana’s current economic crisis. Despite the increased privatization of Ghana’s cocoa market as well as Cocobod’s relaxed influence on the private sector, Ghana experienced rising costs and depreciating currency value just last year. This can be traced to Ghana’s continued cocoa market liberalization through the 1980s and 90s. Cocobod increased cocoa produce prices from 1988 to 1990, but from 1992 to 1993, Ghana introduced quasi-private exporting firms in order to adhere to its agreements with the World Bank and IMF. Before this deregulation, Cocobod had a monopoly over Ghanaian cocoa, but afterward, multiple buying companies would compete over Ghanaian cocoa.[10] Despite these market-based advancements and optimism about Ghana’s growing economy, the value of cocoa in Ghana continues to decline. This led to the smuggling of cocoa into Cote d’Ivoire, in order to try to procure a better price for cacao beans. Even though the promise of privatization sustained Ghana’s cocoa economy through the late 20th century, increased costs and associated economic woes have challenged local cacao farmers. In a recommendation from Ecobank, the Pan-African Bank, recommenders suggested that Cocobod now needs to increase the fixed price of cacao for local farmers.[11] Suggestions like these demonstrate that solutions to Ghanaian cacao farmer compensation are moving in a different direction, away from the privatization that defined so much of the Ghanaian cocoa market.

Furthermore, a comparative analysis between the cocoa markets of Ghana and its neighbor Cote d’Ivoire demonstrates the current limitations that privatization has put on these markets. In Ghana, the cocoa market is primarily mediated through Cocobod, the state-run agency which controls prices and transactions for Ghanaian cacao trading. However, in Cote d’Ivoire, the government takes a much more laissez-faire approach, allowing private traders to mediate between local cacao farmers and the world economy.[12] The differing approach to the Cote d’Ivoire cocoa market can be traced to different economic changes in Cote d’Ivoire’s history. Whereas Cocobod continues to control Ghana’s cocoa economy, Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa market underwent extreme liberalization in the early 2000s. The intense deregulation and privatization of Cote d’Ivoire’s market severely fragmented the cocoa sector, devastating the local cacao farmers.[13] Whereas Ghana retains the stability of Cocobod even in states of high inflation and devalued currency, Cote d’Ivoire suffers from a fragmented market that disenfranchises local cacao laborers.

Ghanaian cacao laborers face drastic challenges in the market for one of the most urgently demanded treats: chocolate. Unfortunately, pressures to privatize the industry from international economic groups and the world economy has proven ultimately detrimental to local Ghanaian cacao laborers. Despite the oversight of Cocobod, Ghana’s state-run cocoa market manager, the country was still pushed to liberalize its market during the late 20th century, creating volatile and unstable market conditions for the laborers. Likewise, a comparative analysis of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire reveals a similar situation. Unlike Ghana’s relatively more stable cocoa market and the lasting presence of Cocobod, Cote d’Ivoire underwent extreme privatization of its country’s cocoa market, as well as continued pushes to liberalize through the early 2000s. Even though Ghana still had a considerably volatile market, Cote d’Ivoire experienced extreme fragmentation of its cocoa market, seriously isolating cacao laborers cultivating the beans. Fortunately, cooperatives have proven successful in supporting financial transactions between cacao laborers and the world market.[14] In final analysis, these effects demonstrate how extreme privatization has been detrimental to Ghana’s cocoa economy and should serve as a cautionary tale to future investors and policymakers.

[1] Sarah Lockwood, “Lecture 14: Exploiters or Exploited?,” from AAAS 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.

[2] Mikell, Gwendolyn, “Introduction,” xi, from Cacao and Chaos in Ghana

[3] Carol Off, “Dirty Chocolate,” from Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet, 139-142; Orla Ryan, “Child Labour,” from Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa, 44.

[4] Off, 139-140.

[5] Sarah Lockwood, “Lecture 14: Exploiters or Exploited?”

[6] Anderson, Mark and McTernan, Billie Adwoa, “Ghana’s cocoa farmers turn to smuggling as profits dwindle,” The Guardian, August 13, 2014

[7] Ecobank, “Ghana: Cocoa sector is facing new challenges,” 23 July 2014

[8] Martin, “Lecture 15: Modern Day Slavery”

[9] Mikel, “Cocoa and Chaos: Global, National, and Local Relations,” 252.

[10] Grossman-Greene, Sarah, and Bayer, Chris, “A Brief History of Cocoa in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire,” Payson Center for International Development, Tulane University, 10-11.

[11] Ecobank.

[12] Lockwood, “Lecture 23: Exploiters or Exploited?”

[13] Ecobank, 2.

[14] Janelle Richards, “Chocolate is a Bittersweet Way of Life in Ghana”

Works Cited

Anderson, Mark, and Billie Adwoa McTernan. “Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers Turn to Smuggling as Profits Dwindle.” The Guardian, August 13, 2014.

Ecobank. “Ghana: Cocoa Sector is Facing New Challenges.” July 23, 2014. http://www.ecobank.com/upload/20140723100236691535ay7ctp5kPP.pdf. Accessed May 5, 2015.

Grossman-Greene, Sarah, and Bayer, Chris, “A Brief History of Cocoa in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.” Payson Center for International Development, Tulane University. November 2009. http://npeclc.gov.gh/Downloads/A%20Brief%20History%20of%20Cocoa%20in%20Ghana%20and%20C%C3%B4te%20d%E2%80%99Ivoire.pdf. Accessed May 5, 2015.

Lockwood, Sarah. “Lecture 13: Exploiter or Exploited?” In AAAS 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Accessed May 5, 2015.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 14: Modern Day Slavery.” In AAAS 119x: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Accessed May 5, 2015.

Mikell, Gwendolyn. Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana. New York: Paragon House, 1989.

Mondo Magic. “English: Map of West Africa, where Energy for Opportunity Works.” Image. 2009.

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

Richards, Janelle. “Chocolate Is a Bittersweet Way of Life in Ghana.” NBC News. May 5, 2015. http://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/chocolate-bittersweet-way-life-ghana-n212741. Accessed May 6, 2015.

Mastering Premium Chocolate Beyond Taste: A Case Study of Godiva’s Placement and Promotion Strategies

Celebrating its 89th year as one of the world’s most popular premium chocolate confectionaries, Godiva has expanded its reach far beyond Belgium, where it was first founded, and now operates more than 600 of its own chocolate boutiques and shops globally. The chocolatier has secured a specialized niche spot in the sweets and chocolate industry. While distinct from large chocolate-manufacturing corporations, like Mars and Hershey’s, which sell their products for general casual mass consumption, Godiva also does not have the localized focus of haute craft chocolatiers, which heavily emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to what they sell. With arguably only a few similar direct competitors in this market, such as Lindt and Ghirardelli, Godiva balances the high-end appeal of its products with their accessibility – selling the chocolate as an “affordable luxury”. As measured in terms of profitability and brand recognition, Godiva’s success as a business can be largely attributed to the chocolatier’s understanding of the fine chocolate market and the particular methods it uses to capitalize on that understanding of how the consumers relate to the product. Specifically, Godiva displays the knowledge that for the consumer, chocolate consumption is not purely rooted in taste, but rather encapsulates various other components of the consumption experience, including how it speaks to their identity and relation to society. Chocolate cannot be successfully sold on the basis of the quality and nature of the product itself; rather, the entire context surrounding the product – what it symbolizes, how it’s presented, what purpose it serves, how it relates to other goods – all have to be taken into consideration. Since these social components can vary among different cultures and groups of people, all this contributes to the formation of a personalized chocolate experience that will effectively appeal to consumers.

In contrast to the perspective that taste is a universal and natural quality that people can experience objectively, there are many arguments that explain that taste is actually a social experience – one that is constructed in and affected by the context of the surrounding cultural and social environment (Norton, 2006). There is no pure and ideal form and understanding of “good” and “bad” taste; rather, such values are influenced by the way society is structured and who or what ranks at the top and bottom of the hierarchy. When it comes to consumption, people do not just consume for the sake of consuming. They are constantly thinking about what that consumption says about their identity and about their positioning and status in reference to others. They are thinking about how consuming other alternatives and substitutes may affect those statements they are making about themselves. As Mintz articulated in his 1985 book, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, sugar was once used as a symbol of rank and social prestige that distinguished the superior from the inferior when it was viewed as a luxury good. Over time, as sugar changed from being a good consumed only by the wealthy to one that was for the mass population, the implications of the product and the act of eating it also altered. The same goes for chocolate. Especially as a good that is not an absolute necessity for survival, the connotations of eating it are sometimes even more important for consumers than the actual product itself. Thus, great care has to be taken into shaping those implications surrounding chocolate, which is reflected specifically in how it is produced and sold.

Artisanal chocolatiers frequently elaborate on how specialized and unique their chocolate is in terms of the care that goes into recipe creation, ingredient selection, actual production, and ultimate presentation. These chocolate craftsman also express outrage at large chocolate mass-producing corporations entering the market and selling their products as substitutes to the chocolate works of art concocted by these specialized confectionaries (Terrio, 2000). Furthermore, they express even greater frustration for how most consumers are not even able to distinguish between these mass-produced sweets, which are often formulated with cheap and artificial ingredients and flavoring, and the authentic and high-quality chocolate they make. This simply demonstrates how unless an individual is a thoroughly educated and informed consumer who specifically seeks out fine chocolate because of an understanding of the production and implications of the product, there is a limit to how much consumers know and care, and how much money and effort they are willing to spend on the eating experience of chocolate (Williams & Eber, 2012). Of course, that is not to say that all consumers don’t see a difference between a cheap candy bar they pick up at a local convenience store and an intricately designed truffle they select from a chocolate boutique. What is most significant about this pattern of behavior is that in a sense, for the general consumer, the consumption of chocolate is not solely about the pure quality of the product itself and its taste, but is also highly dependent on external factors, like its packaging, reputation, and purpose.

Godiva appeals to this specific type of consumer – the average person who doesn’t have extensive knowledge (nor really wants to obtain it) about fine chocolate, so relies heavily on the image and story that is marketed to him/her about the product, who at the same time still wants to elevate his/her status and demonstrate an appreciation for goods of higher quality. Recent trends in chocolate sales indicate specifically an increase in the popularity of premium chocolate. Back between 2002 and 2006, the overall chocolate market grew at a rate of about 17%, while the premium chocolate sector grew at a rate of nearly 70% in that same five-year period (Rupani, 2007). Vreeland & Associates, a confectionary industry market research firm, reported that in the United States, the chocolate market grew to $19.29 billion in 2011 and that premium chocolate accounted for $2.7 billion of those sales, with an expected continual growth of 10% annually (Williams & Eber, 2012). People figure that if they are going to indulge, they might as well treat themselves with a product that tastes better, looks better, and feels better than convenience store candy bars, especially if it’s not unreasonably more expensive or effortful to consume. However, what exactly constitutes “premium chocolate” is subjective to the consumer. The standards could consist of the quality of the cocoa beans and other ingredients, the intricacy of the manufacturing process, whether the chocolate is organic or certified, how distinctly different it tastes from other chocolate, whether it’s artfully packaged – some of these characteristics being valued more than others by different people. Chocolatiers play a significant role in defining the standards of what constitutes refined taste and gourmet chocolate and educating the consumers in that regard (Terrio, 2000). After these standards are set, consumers then buy into the system and internalize and reinforce the evaluations by buying, eating, and gifting particular chocolates with specific social agendas in mind. Godiva is able to consistently hold a unique place in consumers’ lives by continually reinforcing the idea that its brand and products do indeed define and embody what consumers want from “premium chocolate”.

One of the greatest strengths of the company that also contribute to it being automatically grouped with higher-end chocolate brands is the longstanding image and recognizable product packaging associated with the chocolatier – people instantly recognize when the chocolate is Godiva.


From the embossed trademark of the courageous Lady Godiva who rode naked through Coventry in efforts to repeal unfair taxation on the citizens to the shimmering gold ballotin down to the satin ribbon tying the whole box together, Godiva’s packaging has been making an eye-catching and impressive statement of class, boldness, and timelessness for decades. When consumers think about Godiva, it is not necessarily the chocolate itself that comes to mind, but the entire wrapped package. In fact, the popularity of buying Godiva as gifts, particularly around special occasions like holidays and birthdays, can most likely be attributed to the brand’s exceptionally alluring appearance. Godiva representatives even agrees that their chocolate is specifically packaged in a way that doesn’t require the consumer to gift-wrap, making it the perfect present.

However, in recent years, especially with some of the setbacks in the economy, Godiva has made a move to change the focus of its business to encompass more than the gifting capability of its products. It has slightly rebranded to allow customers to view the chocolatier in a new way – a brand that they can rely on not only for seasonal gifting, but also for personal indulgence and casual sharing any time of the year. In this sense, the company is differentiating itself from the artisanal craft chocolatiers. Godiva recognizes that its customer reach is global and much less niche than these gourmet shops and subsequently, needs to capitalize on the affordability and accessibility of its chocolate to appeal to its wider and more diverse market share. Thus, the chocolatier has now balanced out the boxes of three dozen assorted chocolates that retail for $50 and lines of fancily designed truffles with new $6 soft serve, frozen Trufflelata drinks (that resemble and are priced similarly to Starbucks Frappuccinos), and individually-wrapped chocolate treats called Godiva Gems (Historic Change, 2014). They’ve started putting their chocolate in grocery stores to appeal to consumers who are looking for treats with more casual and everyday purposes in mind. However, at the same time, the chocolatier is still maintaining its high-quality, premium placement in the chocolate market. This new branding strategy has been doing well for the company, with Godiva sales growing at 10% every year since 2008 and putting its worth at $765 million in 2013 (Historic Change, 2014).

Godiva’s consumer-driven strategy and thorough understanding of the aspects of its products that are most marketable are evident in the way it segments its consumer base and how that’s reflected in the chocolatier’s product advertising. There can be distinct comparisons drawn between Godiva’s promotional tactics in the different countries where its chocolate is sold. In the United States, for example, the accessibility, easy-sharing, and delightful self-indulgence appeal of Godiva chocolate is emphasized.

This commercial campaign targeting American consumers sold Godiva as something that people can fill all aspects of their lives with.

Meanwhile, in Asia, other methods are used. The gift-giving functionality of the chocolate for special occasions, like Valentine’s Day, and the unique addition they contribute to extraordinary celebrations, like weddings, are highlighted in the promotional efforts in countries like Japan and China. 

 In this Japanese commercial, the chocolate is specially wrapped in pink for Valentine’s Day and given between lovers in celebration of romance. Another noteworthy component of both this and the U.S. commercial is that they both emphasize the foreign nature of Godiva – the former one choosing to have the commercial star a Caucasian couple rather than an Asian one, and the latter including a narrator with what is presumably a Belgian accent. The European exoticism of the company contributes to the overall special quality and luxury image of the chocolatier.

This next promotional video that introduces the new Godiva wedding collection that will be sold in China includes a famous Chinese actress to market the new product line.

 China has traditionally been a more difficult market for chocolate companies to break into, because the Chinese have a cultural taste for treats that aren’t sweetened with cream-based fillings, which are quite widespread among European desserts (William & Eber, 2012). However, it’s extremely popular for the Chinese to buy chocolates as gifts or as tangible celebration symbols, and when they do so, they want the chocolate to have the appearance and taste of rareness and high quality. The knowledge of the consumer preference in this region of the world shapes Godiva’s marketing strategy here. Instead of following an advertising campaign similar to the one in the U.S., the confectionary went in a different direction to appeal to this particular market. Moreover, Godiva even created a new chocolate collection just this year for Chinese New Year, a holiday that involves plenty of gift giving and celebrations.


The collection was promoted on Godiva’s popular Facebook page in February. The posts and pictures indicate a clear knowledge of the cultural traditions involved with the holiday – placing the plate of Godiva chocolates on a table with other foods that are eaten for Lunar New Year and Chinese decorations that resemble prosperity and luck. The collection’s popularity is evident with the immediate release of the design for next year’s Chinese New Year (Year of the Monkey), which boasts the same recognizable gold and red Godiva holiday packaging, but features an embossed picture of a monkey alongside the Godiva trademark.


Chocolate consumption in the Asia-Pacific region is predicted to grow at almost twice the global chocolate consumption rate over the next four years and is predicted to reach $16.3 billion in 2018 (Chanjaroen, 2014). Godiva takes advantage of the unique market placement of its chocolate – which contrasts with mass-production companies like Hershey’s, which more directly face Chinese domestic competitors – and expands its product lines for these Asian countries based on what it knows the consumers there favor most about the brand.

Godiva’s success as an internationally recognized premium chocolatier has less to do with the actual taste of its chocolate, especially when compared to other high-end gourmet chocolate brands, than with the way it sells the chocolate consumption experience to its consumers. Of course, this is not to say that Godiva chocolate is no better, in terms of ingredients and manufacturing quality, than chocolate mass-producing companies like Nestle and Mars; the luxury and premium quality of the brand indeed comes from somewhere. However, Godiva is not quite categorized in the same group as true artisan and fine chocolate shops that are really focused on the craft of chocolate making and tasting. What the global confectioner’s success and popularity is rooted in is its unique take on the experience of eating chocolate. Godiva expertly addresses every part of this entire consumption experience from beginning to end, from the way the chocolate looks aesthetically to the purpose for which it’s purchased to what it’s like to eat and taste it to what it says about the consumer who buys it, in terms of both individual and social identity. All of these different components are carefully analyzed and personalized for each individual consumer segment in the market that Godiva operates in. Even so, at the end of the day, in all these various regions around the world, the combination of that gold ballotin and satin ribbon conjures up similar overarching notions of decadence, luxury, tradition, and timelessness.


A historic change for Godiva’s golden brand. (2014). CBS News. Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/godiva-broadens-appeal-with-soft-serve/

Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin.

Norton, M. (2006). Tasting Empire: Chocolate And The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics. The American Historical Review, 111(3), 660-691

Rupani, S. (2007). The Sweet Business of Gourmet Chocolate. BloombergBusiness. Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2007-08-31/the-sweet-business-of-gourmet-chocolatebusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

Terrio, S. (2000). Crafting the culture and history of French chocolate. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Williams, P., & Eber, J. (2012). Raising the bar: The future of fine chocolate. Vancouver: Wilmor Pub.








East Meets West: Late 20th Century Competition for the Chinese Chocolate Market Among the Big Five

Globalization has created unique challenges for modern marketing, as companies must adapt to the completely different tastes and cultures of other civilizations. This is evident in the “East Meets West” culture clash, as Western companies navigate Eastern culture in order to market their Western products, especially apparent in the history of the global market for chocolate. Although the treat is extremely popular among consumers in the United States and United Kingdom, chocolate has been historically absent from the palate of Chinese peoples. However, after the overhaul of the Chinese economy from communism to market socialism in the mid-20th century, China began to open its economy to Western corporations in the 1980s.[1] This created the potential for one of the “Big Five” chocolate companies to capture the market and dominate Chinese chocolate consumption for generations to come. Despite competition from Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle, and Ferrero Rocher, Mars ultimately emerged as the champion of China’s chocolate market amidst the other companies’ failures due to its superior understanding of and total dedication to the Chinese consumer, demonstrated by Mars’s marketing of chocolate as an exotic delicacy and prized gift.

Chocolate was essentially a novel item in China, so the Big Five began competing for the palates of potential Chinese chocolate consumers in the early 1980s.[2] Because chocolate was essentially a luxury during at this time, a typical Chinese consumer justified their expense by giving chocolate as a gift.[3] Ferrero Rocher capitalized on this cultural perception. By keeping prices high and importing products to China through an independent distribution partner, Ferrero Rocher captured the gift-giving niche of the Chinese chocolate market. The golden, foil-wrapped, and elaborate containers successfully presented Ferrero Rocher’s chocolate as expensive, foreign, and luxurious.

Ferrero Rocher Chinese

Fig. 1. Ferrero Rocher Chocolate – Chinese New Year 2012 (http://www.scratchmarketing.com/ferrero-rocher-campaign-concept/)

Despite Ferrero Rocher’s success, the other four companies attempted to create and capitalize upon a sector of the chocolate market brand-new to China: the individual consumer.[4] By establishing a relationship with a new Chinese generation, one of these four companies could create a bond between Chinese citizens and chocolate lasting for generations.

The other three companies had difficulties with the Chinese chocolate market that Mars successfully navigated to become the winner. Cadbury began with the goal of selling one milk chocolate bar to every Chinese citizen. However, Cadbury failed to consider how hard it would be to get a regular supply of milk in China, as the Chinese are not avid milk drinkers. Unfortunately, Cadbury had to partner with a substandard milk supplier, leading to cheesy chocolate that did not at all appeal to Chinese consumers.[5] Next, although Hershey was initially successful with its bite-sized Hershey’s Kisses, bad management changes led to the 2004 collapse of Hershey’s Chinese organization. Within two years, this effectively eliminated the Chinese supply of Kisses. Hershey never recovered.[6] Finally, although Nestle aimed to use its reputation for producing safe and nutritious products to market their famous Kit Kat bar, their projections for Chinese demand were terribly wrong. In order to compensate for their lost costs, Nestle began using a cheap substitute for cocoa butter, lowering the quality of the chocolate bar. Chinese consumers noticed the change and would not buy the new Kit Kat bar, driving Nestle’s sales significantly behind those of the rest of the Big Five.[7]

Unlike the other companies, Mars succeeded by intensely focusing on both the culture surrounding Chinese chocolate consumption and the appetites of Chinese consumers. Mars became the first of the Big Five to build a chocolate plant in China in 1993 to market Dove Chocolate.[8] Dove was Mars’s high-end brand chocolate that captured both chocolate’s luxury for gift-givers and its superior taste for the individual consumer. By producing high-quality Dove chocolate, marketed as a mysterious and exotic luxury, Mars demonstrated a distinguished knowledge of and dedication to Chinese consumers. Mars spent more on advertising than the rest of the Big Five, and its chocolate has genuinely been consistently higher quality than that of its competitors.[9] The following commercial demonstrates Mars’s understanding of the gift-giving culture surrounding chocolate, as Chinese chocolate consumers rally Mars to support one man’s incredible present to his girlfriend on a lovers’ day. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9Yq-ASSc78)

By 2004, Mars had control of China’s retail chocolate market, dominating with a 39% share of the whole.[10] Current estimates put Mars’s share of China’s chocolate market at about 43.3%, as of 2013 (http://www.shanghaijungle.com/news/Chinas-Chocolate-Market-Dominated-by-Foreign-Brands). Mars’s continued preeminence in China stems directly from their capture of the Chinese chocolate market at the end of the 20th century. Although the other members of the Big Five continue to compete, Dove comfortably enjoys a place as the high-end and highly desired chocolate of choice among this first generation of Chinese consumers.


Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers.

“The Bitter and the Sweet: How Five Companies Competed to Bring Chocolate to China – Knowledge@Wharton.” KnowledgeWharton The Bitter and the Sweet How Five Companies Competed to Bring Chocolate to China Comments. Accessed March 22, 2015.

“China’s Chocolate Market Dominated by Foreign Brands.” China’s Chocolate Market Dominated by Foreign Brands. http://www.shanghaijungle.com/news/Chinas-Chocolate-Market-Dominated-by-Foreign-Brands. Accessed March 22, 2015.

“Dove Chocolate’s Chinese Valentine’s Day campaign.” YouTube video, 2:50. Posted by “Kestrel Lee,” January 9, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9Yq-ASSc78. Accessed March 22, 2015.

Fig. 1. Ferrero Rocher – Chinese New Year Campaign Concept. Digital Image. Available from: http://www.scratchmarketing.com/ferrero-rocher-campaign-concept/. Accessed March 22, 2015.

[1] Lawrence L. Allen, Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers, 2.

[2] Allen, 24.

[3] Allen, 24-25.

[4] Wharton, n.p.

[5] Wharton, n.p.

[6] Allen, 202; Wharton, n.p.

[7] Wharton, n.p.

[8] Allen, 202; Wharton, n.p.

[9] Wharton, n.p.

[10] Wharton, n.p.

Lost Voices: The Consequences of International Trade and Cacao on Production and Indigenous Cultures.

While international markets enjoy cacao, indigenous populations continue to suffer under its weight. Photo compliments of Confectionery News.

Although the international trade of cacao has grown exponentially over centuries and brought great wealth and economic power to people and countries; there have been dire consequences that indigenous people and the production quality of the cacao  have suffered. The cacao trade has become a world leader of raw commodities, and as the United Nations reports, the industry produces roughly 4.7 million tons per year which ranks number 17 in the global import market (chart below).

Yet, despite this incredible success, evidence shows that the more powerful have continued to exploit the more vulnerable.  

Additional information and current trends and market data for the International Cacao Trade, can be seen here: http://www.icco.org/statistics/monthly-review-of-the-market.html

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(Chart by UN~FAOSTAT, demonstrating raw food tonnage by import category, for 2011.)

Rank Commodity Quantity (tonnes) Flag Value (1000 $) Flag Unit value ($/tonne)
1 Soybeans 90813977 3 51403325 1 566
2 Wheat 147205956 1 51184264 2 348
3 Food Prep Nes 13416474 13 49892030 3 3719
4 Palm oil 36589672 5 42034273 4 1149
5 Maize 108067148 2 36342489 5 336
6 Rubber Nat Dry 7179256 27 33765962 6 4703
7 Wine 10004329 20 33041355 7 3303
8 Coffee, green 6445688 34 28303554 8 4391
9 Bever. Dist.Alc 4074220 56 27945091 9 6859
10 Cake of Soybeans 63593084 4 27458049 10 432
11 Meat-CattleBoneless(Beef&Veal) 4931836 45 26246728 11 5322
12 Cigarettes 1003748 135 25381577 12 25287
13 Cheese of Whole Cow Milk 4764853 46 24670883 13 5178
14 Cotton lint 7856760 25 23177384 14 2950
15 Sugar Raw Centrifugal 33838303 6 22649899 15 669
16 Pastry 6958052 28 22542345 16 3240
17 Chocolate Prsnes 4717528 48 22429658 17 4755
18 Chicken meat 11391477 17 21792056 18 1913
19 Pork 5260397 43 18300081 19 3479
20 Sugar Refined 21921611 8 16694636 20 762

In his book, Sweetness and Power, Sidney Mintz claims that while the cacao trade expansion from indigenous cultures to one of a global network has provided not only increased access to foreign markets for cacao, it has also allowed for the rise in trade of other commodities such as sugar, wheat, and rum (43).  Further, he says, that not only did it create new markets but it also provided for essential exchange of information and the sharing of new ideas across cultures. Additionally, this expansion allowed for new players to enter the game and to create a new revenue stream. As Maricel Presilla reports, in her book The New Taste of Chocolate, that in recent decades, with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Vietnam’s government has worked to adapt the fields to grow cacao after the failure of coffee as a cash crop (120).

Cacao Growth in Vietnam, Photo by Vietnam News.
The expansion, which began in 2012, has increased the plant’s capacity by four times, from 60,000 tonnes per year to 240,000 tonnes.

However, along with massive cacao production for international markets, came trade-offs that weighed heavily on the success of cacao production.

Whereas the temperamental cacao loves to have its feet in wet soil and its roots shaded by debris-mostly for the benefits of the pollinating midge population-the corporate plantations are streamlined and debris free. These practices, while aesthetically appealing, have contributed to crop failure which are today at record levels, asserts chocolate researcher, Michael Coe, in his book The True History of Chocolate (21). Additionally, the drive to capitalize on massive production and international networks has promoted an increased focus on quantity and a decreased focus on quality. Where formerly there was an overall production balance between high-quality Criollo and lower quality Forestero, today’s cacao farms produce mostly low quality beans. In Trinidad, for example, 95% of what is produced is low-bulk beans, and only roughly 5% are of the highest quality “Arriba” bean (Presilla 123).

An opened cacao pod shows damage done by insects; a common trend in today's cacao production.
An opened cacao pod shows diseased exterior and seeds; a common trend in today’s cacao production.

The following is an example of current cacao diseases that exist largely on corporate plantations, compliments of The American Phytopathological Society:

Diseases Pathogen Region Reduced Production
(tons x 1000) ($ million)*
Black Pod Phytophthora spp. Africa/Brazil/ Asia 450 423
Witches’ Broom Crinipellis perniciosa Latin America 250 235
Frosty Pod Rot Moniliophthora roreri Latin America 30 47
Swollen Shoot CSSV Africa 50 28
Vascular- streak dieback Oncobasidium theobromae Asia 30 28

Quality aside, the indigenous populations have also suffered under massive change. Forced to make changes within their own cultures that were not easy or welcome, millions rebelled and either died from abhorrent living conditions or were killed by the enslavers (Martin 4). Not only were these populations forced into changing small farming methods, and to plant foreign crops; but they were also forced into laboring for low wages or worse yet, under slavery. No longer were they able to provide their own families with food, but they were forced to pay for imported goods from the sponsoring country (Coe 13)… and exploitation of people, land, and cultures, became the norm as cross-cultural hybridization took place (Presilla 118-123).

Moreover, the international trade routes were built around the three-way trade system, carrying what Mintz calls the “false commodity” (43) of human slaves. This entrenchment of cacao in slavery has left a bitter note in history and even today invokes strong passion as information surfaces about modern day slavery practice. Carol Off, in her book “Bitter Chocolate” discusses how the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) experiences high levels of corruption and child enslavement, with “farmers paying groups of smugglers to deliver the children to their groves” (121). Michael Coe agrees, saying as recent as the year 2000, “several million African children, many of whom have been abducted from neighboring countries work under terrible conditions” (264).

Thus, despite the improvements in trade and the massive wealth obtained, evidence shows that there are hefty consequences paid by many and that the human rights violations and other exploitation in the name of cacao, continues.

Video on current child-slave-labor crimes, compliments of BBC World News.

Works Cited

American Phytopathological Society: Chart of Cacao Diseases. 2001. Web.  12 Mar 2015.

“Cocoa Farms Still Using Child Labour.” BBC World News. On.aol.com. 10 Nov 2011. Web.12 Mar 2015.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London, 2013. Print. Confectionery News. Ferrero Makes  Fair Trade Cacao Commitment after Rule Change. Image. 10 mar 2014. Web.

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Faostat.fao.org. 2011. 11 Mar 2015.

International Cocoa Org. Market Review. Jan 2015. http://www.icco.org/statistics/monthly-review-of-the-market.html. Website. PDF.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.”  Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 04 Mar. 2015.Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.” Harvard Extension School:  Cambridge, MA. 28. Jan. 2015. Class Lecture.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York: The New Press, 2006. Print.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA, 2009. Print.

Thuey, Tuang. “Cargill Expanding Vietnam Feed, Cocoa.” Vietnambreakingnews.com. 10 May 2014. Web. 10 Mar 2015.

The Popol Vuh and the Globalization of Chocolate

Sprouting from the heart of the Amazon basin, the first cacao trees endowed South America with the “food of the gods,” and for centuries, the indigenous people who inhabited the area indulged on the fruit as if it truly were a gift from the heavens (Klitgard “Theobroma cacao”). Today, what began as an isolated delicacy of the Mayan civilization is now the beloved, yet easily accessible commodity that people from all over the world know as chocolate. What spurred such a rapid globalization of an otherwise extremely demanding crop to cultivate? How did cacao make its way across the Atlantic to the lands so far overseas? And why was this plant, of the myriad of exotic foods to enjoy from the New World, the one that captivated every country it entered? Chocolate’s origin and its almost universal attraction stems from its earliest appearances in the Mayan creation myths detailed in the narratives referred to as the Popol Vuh (Coe, Coe 40). Through the colonial document recorded by a Dominican friar, cacao’s reverence was passed on from the native population of Mesoamerica to the foreign explorers that so fortunately stumbled upon the indigenous civilization (Woodruff, “Francisco Ximenez”). As such, the Popol Vuh is one of the most influential, historical documents for the globalization of chocolate as it plays a major role in introducing Mayan culture, customs, and beliefs to the first of the Europeans, leading to further interactions between the two parties over cacao and the subsequent development of a strong, worldwide interest in this food.

The Popol Vuh or the “Book of Counsel” provides valuable insight into countless Mayan customs, including their perspective on the preparation and consumption of cacao; these implications can be derived from the Mayan creation myth, one of the most prominent stories featured in the collection of narratives (Coe, Coe 40).

According to the Popol Vuh, the “six [creator] deities, covered in green and blue feathers… helped Heart of Sky” shape the earth from the primordial sea, filling the land with animals and later on humans (Smithsonian, “Creation Story of the Maya”). However, their attempts at perfecting people were initially unsuccessful: those molded out of mud were too weak while those carved from wood became ignorant of their duties (Smithsonian, “Creation Story of the Maya”).

Two Mayan gods creating the first humans with mud
Two Mayan gods creating the first humans

Eventually, the gods came upon the “Mountain of Sustenance,” and seeing that it was “filled with delicious things, crowded with yellow ears of maize… white ears of maize… and chocolate,” they decided to utilize these staples to form the present human race, hence the strong emphasis Mayan culture places on the use of cacao (Christenson, 182). It is no surprise then that such a food, having its own place in the creation of mankind, was thoroughly incorporated in nearly every custom practiced by the Natives. From serving as a culinary treat to being held as offerings to the deceased, cacao is by far the Mayan’s most prized possession (Staller, Carrasco 324).

Although the creation myth is entertaining in its own respect, it also represents the importance of cacao to the indigenous people, and for this reason, the Popol Vuh, among other messages inscribed upon Mayan vessels, can be attributed to drawing the attention of early Spanish colonizers towards the benefits of this fruit. By allowing Friar Francisco Ximenez to record the Popol Vuh, the Mayans effectively introduced cacao to not only the explorers that just encountered their civilization, but also all Europeans to come (Woodruff, “Francisco Ximenez”).

A page from the Popol Vuh recorded and translated by Friar Francisco Ximenez
A page from the Popol Vuh recorded and translated by the Dominican friar, Francisco Ximenez

This document, through its translation, distribution, and survival, disseminated both knowledge and rampant curiosity among the Old World populations, remaining till this day as one of the few significant accounts of Mesoamerican mythologies. As a result, the Popol Vuh indirectly demonstrated to the Spanish exactly which crops the Mayans held in high regard, including the undiscovered cacao tree and its luscious fruits, marking the beginning of an extended exchange of cultural and culinary appreciation (Coe, Coe 66).

The influence of the Popol Vuh ushered in new eras of interaction with the indigenous people, ultimately leading to the adoption of chocolate in Europe, the colonization of Mesoamerica, and the hybridization of the two cultures. Today, chocolate is produced all over the world and its mass production points to our cultural and preferential dependence on this food. And as the timeless saying goes, “we are what we eat” – looks like the Popol Vuh was right all along.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Klitgard, Bente, ed. "Theobroma cacao." Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014. <http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Theobroma-cacao.htm>. 

Newberry Library. "Arte de las tres lenguas kakchiquel, quiche y tzutuhil." Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia, 29 June 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Popol_vuh.jpg>.

Popol Vuh creation myth. Popol Vuh: The Book of the People. SacredTexts, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/popol_vuh/book.htm>.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. 1st, Rev ed. New York: Ten Speed, 2009. Print.

Smithsonian. "Creation Story of the Maya." Living Maya Time: Sun, Corn, and the Calender. Smithsonian Institution, 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2014. <http://maya.nmai.si.edu/the-maya/creation-story-maya>. 

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The Creation Story of the Maya. Living Maya Time: Sun, Corn, and the Calender. Smithsonian Institution, 14 June 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb5GKmEcJcw#t=53>. 

Staller, John, and Micahel Carrasco. Pre-Columbian Foodways: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Food, Culture, and Markets in Ancient Mesoamerica. New York: Pringer, 2010. Print. 

"The Discovery of Maize." Popol Vuh: Sacred Book of the Quiche Maya People. Trans. Allen J. Christenson. N.p.: Mesoweb, 2007. 180-83. Print.

Woodruff, John. "Francisco Ximenez." JohnWoodruff.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014. <http://www.johnwoodruff.com/research/ximenez.html>.