Tag Archives: gourmet chocolate

Final Essay: An Analysis of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe

By Charlie Sandor

Chocolate is a main-stay for American consumers and comes in a variety of forms. In 2016, there were 1,200 firms producing chocolate and cocoa products that were worth around $14.5 Billion (Bureau, U. S. Census, 2019). In Harvard Square, there are several stores that sell significant quantities of chocolate, ranging from mass-produced Hershey and Mars products to gourmet offerings from Godiva, Toblerone, Taza, and many others. After visiting several retailers in Harvard Square that sell chocolate, I decided to focus on Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, which sells a variety of high-quality chocolates. Cardullo’s also has a very visible location, a targeted audience, interesting product placement, and high-quality offerings from well established brands.

Cardullo’s Prime Location

            One of the primary facets of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe is its location. Cardullo’s has two locations with one being centrally located in Harvard Square on Brattle Street and the other being in the up and coming Seaport area of Boston. For this paper, I will be focusing on the store on Brattle Street. This location is in the center of Harvard Square, which provides the store with visibility to students, tourists, and any commuters in the surrounding area as it is across the street from the Harvard Square MBTA stop. Furthermore, the store’s primary competitor in the area, L.A. Burdick Homemade Chocolates, is located a few blocks away on the outskirts of Harvard Square. Cardullo’s is further differentiated from L.A. Burdick, as they offer several complementary products to their chocolate offerings. While, CVS, another provider of chocolate in Harvard Square, is located across the street from Cardullo’s, the stores are not direct competitors as they target separate audiences and have contrasting chocolate offerings.

Cardullo’s Store Front

Intended Audience

           Cardullo’s coveted, central location in Harvard Square allows the store to effectively market its offerings of chocolate and other gourmet goods to a specific audience. The chocolate product offerings within in the store indicate the targeted audience for Cardullo’s as the average chocolate bar in the store sells between $5 and $8. This is significantly higher than the $1-2 price range of the mass-produced Hershey and Mars chocolate products that are sold in the CVS across the street (Cardullo’s, 2019). Furthermore, Cardullo’s also offers gourmet assortment boxes that sell from $15 to $60 depending on the number of chocolate pieces. These product offerings indicate that the store targets an affluent customer that has significant spending power and focuses on the quality of the product, such as a middle-class working individual or tourist.

            This assumed targeted audience based of a Cardullo’s chocolate offerings is further reinforced by the other products that are carried by Cardullo’s, such as high-quality, expensive wife and imported cheeses and deli meats. These products are symbolic of the name of the store, Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe and show the company’s commitment to high-quality products and focus on higher-income individuals.

Product Placement within the Store

            One of the unique features of Cardullo’s is the nature of its product placement and organization. The store is divided into two halves. The left half of the store contains the deli and associated gourmet grocery goods, such as imported olives, caviar, and various charcuterie products. The right half of the store is the primary half of interest as it contains Cardullo’s various gourmet chocolate offerings and its extensive collection of wines. The pairing of chocolate and wine is fitting as both are viewed as luxury goods and carry rather significant prices in this store compared with lower-quality, mass-produced chocolates and wines. The price discrepancy of chocolate offerings between Cardullo’s and CVS Is  discussed above and below the specific brands of chocolate sold in Cardullo’s will be discussed.

Brand Analysis

            Cardullo’s offers a wide variety of chocolate products from companies that range in size from global chocolate producers to independent, family-owned chocolate companies. The primary brands that occupy a significant amount of shelf-space in the store are Godiva, Neuhaus, Taza Chocolate and Lake Champlain Chocolate. In addition to these five brands, there are individual chocolate bars from a variety of small gourmet chocolate companies. Below, I will go into an analysis of each of the five main brands to provide information on their origination, sourcing, production, and any ethical concerns surrounding the companies.

Godiva:

           Godiva is a world-renowned, Belgian producer of gourmet chocolate that was founded in 1926. Godiva’s primary products are gift boxes that contain an assortment of small, bite-sized chocolates. These are the products that are displayed in Cardullo’s with the store offering Godiva truffles for $25, 16-piece assortment boxes for $35, and 32-piece assortment boxes for $60 (Cardullo’s, 2019). Cardullo’s also carries Godiva’s Gift Sets that range from 8-piece, $18, to 36-piece, $50, assortment boxes. These products are at the highest end of prices at the store, reflecting the luxury reputation and high-quality offerings of Godiva. These product offerings are reflective of the tastes of the store’s targeted audience that was previously discussed.

Godiva’s Signature Truffles

           In addition to providing high-quality, expensive products, Godiva places a significant emphasis of conducting a sustainable business and focuses on doing what is right. Godiva’s website provides information on many of the sustainability initiatives that Godiva participates in. They are a member of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), which is a leading non-profit that works to increase the productivity and profits of local cocoa farmers. Additionally, Godiva partners with Save the Children, a non-profit that focuses on improving the conditions of children across nearly 120 countries. This non-profit has over two decades of experience working in Côte d’ Ivoire. Godiva also created its own Lady Godiva Program, which focuses on empowering women. This program partners with FEED Projects, to sell exclusive FEED products with the profits funding over 300,000 school meals for children in countries of West Africa. Lastly, Godiva signed the Cocoa Forest Initiative (CFI) to signal its commit to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain (Godiva Cares, 2019)

            Without a doubt, Godiva’s efforts are at the front of initiatives undertaken by global chocolate producers. However, Godiva has yet to achieve 100% sustainability and ensure that it’s supply chain is completely free of child labor. Godiva has committed to reaching these goals by the end of 2020, so within in the next two years. I believe that the company will be able to reach these goals with all of its current initiatives. Even though Godiva production lines are not entirely ethically secure, I believe the company has done a great of leading by example and committing to a sustainable production line in the future and supporting local communities in Cocoa growing regions.

Neuhaus:

           Neuhaus Chocolate is another Belgian chocolate company that traces its roots back to 1857. Arguably, the most significant contribution of Neuhaus was the creation of the Belgian ‘praline’, a chocolate with a cream ganache center. Similar to Godiva’s offerings in Cardullo’s, Neuhaus products consist of an 8-piece, 15-piece, and 17-piece assortment boxes that sell for $18, $30, and $33, respectively (Cardullo’s, 2019). These offerings span both individual purchases, with the 8-piece assortments, and gift purchases, with the 15 and 17-piece assortments, as well as larger 25-piece assortment boxes.

           Neuhaus specifically produces bite-sized chocolates from high-quality cocoa. They source their cocoa from a variety of countries, such as Peru, Ecuador, Ghana, Côte d’ Ivoire, and Madagascar (Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate). Unfortunately, the website contains very little information on the supply-chain of its chocolates and its sustainability efforts. Furthermore, there is no clear documentation of Neuhaus participating in the wide-branching initiatives, such as the WCF. This lack of transparency with regards to their supply chain leads me to be skeptical of any guarantee towards an ethically sourcing of their cocoa and to question their motivations and priorities as a company.

Taza Chocolate :

            Unlike Godiva and Neuhaus, Taza Chocolate is an American-based company that focuses on producing chocolate bars. Taza is a relatively new company that was launched by Alex Whitmore in 2005. The company’s original chocolate factory is in Somerville, MA, which is only one town over from Cardullo’s Brattle Street Location. The company is a great example of a “Bean to Bar” chocolate company that works directly with cocoa farmers to ethically source their cocoa.

           Taza is known for creating the chocolate industry’s first third-party Direct Trade sourcing program, known as Taza Direct Trade. Taza meets with all of its growers directly to guarantee fair labor practices. Additionally, the company pays their growers prices that are significantly higher than the already premium prices of Fair-Trade Chocolate. Above all of this, the company releases their Annual Cacao Sourcing Transparency Report, which details where they source their chocolate from and the prices they pay for their chocolate. Their Direct Trade claims are also independently verified by Quality Certification Services (Taza Direct Trade).

Taza Direct Trade Logo

            Taza Chocolate sets the gold standard when it comes to ensuring an ethically sound supply chain and commitment to the improvement and sustainability of their cocoa growers. However, the smaller size of Taza Chocolate provides the company with a distinct advantage over global companies, such as Godiva, in its efforts to guarantee ethical practices among its growers.

Lake Champlain Chocolate:

           Similar to Taza Chocolate, Lake Champlain Chocolate is another independent chocolate company located in Vermont. Lake Champlain was founded in 1983 and focuses on producing non -GMO and ethically sourced chocolate. They’re known for their truffles and signature Five-Star Bars. Lake Champlain Chocolate products have the most visible placement within Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe as the display of their products is right as you walk in. Their products range from peanut butter and sea salt caramel chocolates to assort truffles to assortment boxes.

Lake Champlain Chocolate Display within Cardullo’s

           Lake Champlain has taken several steps to ensure and display its commitments to ethical and sustainable sourcing. Lake Champlain is a “B Corporation”, which evaluates the entire business of a company, taking into consideration the company’s impact on their environment, workers, customers, and community with the goal of leaving a positive impact on all of these facets (About B Corps, 2019). Furthermore, the company has 100% fair-trade sourcing for its chocolate with certifications from two third-party organizations, Fair for Life and Fair-Trade USA. These certifications ensure that their suppliers maintain fair labor practices (Fair Trade Chocolate, 2019).

            While Lake Champlain’s sourcing efforts fall short of the gold standard of Taza Chocolate’s Direct Trade approach, the company places a great emphasis on the Fair-Trade nature of all its chocolate. Consumers should have trust that this company’s chocolate is ethically sourced and relies on fair labor practices.

Concluding Comments:

            Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe’s prime location on Brattle Street in the midst of Harvard Square allows the company to effectively market its selection of high-quality, gourmet chocolates to their affluent consumer base. The store benefits from pairing their gourmet chocolate products with high-quality wines and charcuterie products. Furthermore, the selection of chocolates contained within Cardullo’s store, reveals a lot about the focus of the store. A brand analysis of the primary products offered at the Brattle Street store shows that the primary brands are either Direct Trade Certified (Taza Chocolate), Fair-Trade certified (Lake Champlain), or have made significant commitments to sustainable sourcing (Godiva). Neuhaus Chocolate is one exception as the company provides very little transparency with regards to their supply chain and sustainability initiatives. Overall, it can be concluded that Cardullo’s places an emphasis on gourmet chocolate that prioritize ethical sourcing practices and show a commitment to their community.

Works Cited:

About B Corps | Certified B Corporation. https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corps. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Bureau, U. S. Census. U.S. Census Bureau Daily Feature for June 3: Sugar Rush. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-census-bureau-daily-feature-for-june-3-sugar-rush-300276222.html. Accessed 4 May 2019.

“Cardullo’s Gift Baskets and Fine Wines.” Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, https://cardullos.com/. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Certified B Corporation | Lake Champlain Chocolates. https://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/b-corporation. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Chocolate and Candy, America Eats, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans. http://www.lifeintheusa.com/food/chocolate.htm. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Fair Trade Chocolate: What It Is & Where to Buy Fair Trade Chocolates. https://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/fair-trade-chocolate. Accessed 4 May 2019.

Godiva Cares. https://www.godiva.com/godiva_cares/godiva_cares.html. Accessed 4 May 2019.

How Large Is the Chocolate Industry? https://smallbusiness.chron.com/large-chocolate-industry-55639.html. Accessed 4 May 2019.

“Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate USA | Belgian Chocolates | Belgium Chocolate.” Neuhaus Belgian Chocolate, http://www.neuhauschocolate.com/index-en.htm. Accessed 4 May 2019.

“Taza Direct Trade.” Taza Chocolate, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade. Accessed 4 May 2019.

The Quest for Asian Markets

Can Japanese confectionery companies surpass the Chocolate Giants?

Meiji Chocolate Products.

I love Pocky. I grew up eating Pocky, chocolate Koala March, and chocolate covered almonds. When you walk into a Japanese or Taiwanese convenience store, there are American and British chocolate products, but they are also overwhelmed by the plethora of choices offered by Japanese brands like Glico and Meiji. Even in the United States, people in more urban areas are becoming increasingly familiar with Meiji and Glico products, enthusiastically buying their products when available. However, their products do not have close to the name brand recognition here as in Asian markets. While some companies like Hershey’s sales are slowing down in China, Japanese companies have slowly increased its sales all over Asia. Although many of the top companies such as Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé still dominate the Chinese market, will Japanese companies soon dominate the rest of Asia and join the mix in China? Have they figured out the secret to succeeding in this unique market?

Chocolate confectionery giants have long identified Asia as a potential market to boost sales and increase brand recognition. However, it has proven difficult to penetrate with the traditional flavors and offerings of the West (Martin, lecture, March 13, 2019). What many western chocolate companies such as Hershey’s, Cadbury, Nestle and Mars have realized is that the Asia’s cultural differences and attitudes towards chocolate demands not just different marketing, but different products as well.

Just some of the many snack products offered by Ezaki Glico.

Japan’s chocolate confectionery companies seem to have tapped into these consumption patterns, targeting countries in distinct ways to cater to the domestic market. They use these cultural tastes and differences to target Asian consumers, such as creating commercials portraying people presenting chocolate as a perfect gift, not just for significant others but for friends as well. They use celebrities’ star power to market their goods, using “idols” in many marketing campaigns.  Companies like Glico and Meiji also have a diversity of offerings, much of which caters more to Asian taste buds as shown in the plethora of products above. Moreover, these companies strive to create more localized relationships with sellers of products in emerging markets and tweak their products to make them more budget-friendly, catering to each localities’ needs and wants. These Japanese companies’ endeavors serve to give a more local feel to the products and facilitate increased consumption of their goods. They have also been able to take advantage of the expansion of convenience stores in Southeast Asia to stock their own products. That, combined with Japan’s reputation for selling products of consistently quality, has facilitated increased sales as well as their entry into gourmet chocolate. Furthermore, these companies have tapped into creating fads around their goods common within Asian markets, popularizing trying different flavors of products such as pocky and instagramming their limited edition products. Simultaneously, like many other confectionery companies around the world, these marketing strategies employed by Meiji and Glico also contribute to reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes by utilizing idealized versions of Asian women in advertisements in order to increase sales.

Defying Uniformity

When marketing research company Kadence International conducted a consumer survey in Asian markets, they realized that rather than seeing Asia as a uniform market, chocolate companies should sell different chocolate goods based on their taste preferences. Patrick Young, a director at Kadence, posits that this variety of taste preferences is indicative of the lack of dominance of any one chocolate brand in Asia (Nieburg and Young, 2016). For example, consumers in Taiwan, Singapore, India and Malaysia all prefer a crunchy texture while Japan stresses a more health-conscious product (Nieburg and Young, 2016). Rather than forcing sales of creamy textured chocolate bars popular in the U.S., Japanese confectionery companies started with cookie or biscuit based chocolate products that better align with consumer preferences. Many popular products such as Meiji’s chocolate almonds or Glico’s Pocky cater to a large population that prefer crunchiness over smooth, silky textures.

Chart of the results found in the consumer survey conducted by Kadence. Posted in Confectionery News.

In Singapore, Meiji’s Hello Panda (a chocolate-filled cookie snack pack) and Yan Yans (biscuit sticks with a chocolate dipping sauce) are now offered in every major supermarket (Miyazumi, 2014). These crunchy, bite-sized snacks are extremely popular and have become staples in Singapore and other parts of Asia. The fact that Japanese brands have a reputation for quality products have facilitated the growth in their popularity not just in Singapore but all over Asia (Miyazumi, 2014).

Hello Pandas are one of the signature products for Meiji in Singapore and are one of the first Meiji products sold in India.

While Meiji has a strong foothold in Singapore, they are expanding to new Asian markets such as India. Rather than starting to send the same products that cater to east Asian and southeast Asian tastes, Meiji has set up preliminary testing of certain products in the emerging market. The company has been sending representatives every month for weeks at a time to establish personal relationships with individual vendors (Miyazumi, 2014). Meiji is also experimenting with prices and product sizes as the cost of living in India is significantly different to the buying power of Japanese and Singaporean consumers (Miyazumi, 2014). Glico has done something similar in Thailand where Pocky (chocolate coated biscuit sticks) are sold in smaller packets for the equivalent of 15 cents (Sese, 2014). The majority of their Pocky sales in both Thailand and Indonesia are a result of smaller sales in small shops in rural areas.

In Japan, Meiji, Glico and other companies have shifted their products as consumers have become increasingly health-conscious as reflected in the consumer survey (Nieburg and Young, 2016). Since 2016, the chocolate market in Japan has been growing about 4-5% per year, exceeding the growth rate of the global market (Boyd, 2018). Both Glico and Meiji have introduced chocolate products with supposed health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and reduce stress (Boyd, 2018). Touting the supposed health benefits of chocolate is an age-old tradition as evidenced in the medicinal practices used in Mesoamerica and in Europe (Coe and Coe, 2013, 120-129). Japanese confectioners also took advantage of the supposed health benefits of chocolate and advertised it at the turn of the 20th Century (Mitsuda, 2014, 189). These new chocolate products go further by not just promoting the health benefits of chocolate itself, but to incorporate new elements into the chocolate that have health benefits as well (Boyd, 2018). The reintroduction of chocolate as a healthy indulgence in a society whose population is skewing towards the older generations has boosted sales for these companies. In Thailand, also growing increasingly health conscious, Glico also introduced sugar-free chocolate products to cater to the growing consumer base (Nikkei Asian Review, 2017).

One of Japanese companies’ strengths is refusing to assume that products will work and sell uniformly in the whole of the Asian market. Companies such as Hershey have been largely criticized for their inability to adapt to Chinese tastes, opting to stay with flavorings popular in North America and Europe (Reuters, 2017). Japanese companies are trying to ingrain themselves in specific domestic markets that reflect the consumers’ preferences and tastes.

Playing to the Culture- Both Good and Bad

One advantage of Japanese companies is an innate understanding of the culture surrounding chocolate of gift giving as Japanese consumers fall into this category as well. Commercials such as the one shown below are typical, targeting younger females with both star power and message. The female students are giving each other chocolates, trying to reinforce the idea that chocolates gifts are not just for significant others, but also for friends. A pivotal moment in the commercial is the comparison in the size of the gifts, encouraging consumers to buy bigger chocolate products.

Meiji Chocolate commercial for Valentine’s Day.

Women as targets for Valentine’s Day ads also reveal a cultural difference between Western and Asian practices. While it is typically the men that gift chocolate in western countries, it is the opposite in Asia. Women are expected to gift chocolate on Valentine’s Day to significant others, potential significant others, and/or friends and coworkers. In return, men are expected to respond by returning the favor on White Day, exactly a month after Valentine’s Day (Adelstein,”How Japan Created White Day,” 2018). This new holiday created in Japan in the 1970s has spread to other parts of Asia and played into gender norms and expectations.

These commercials also serve to perpetuate female gender stereotypes of how Asian girls should look and act. Emma Robertson in Chocolate, Women and Empire identified many of the gendered marketing techniques utilized in the chocolate industry in the West such as women in maternal roles or slaves to chocolate (2010, 20, 33). Japanese companies have followed in that tradition in similar yet different ways. The idealized “cute” Japanese girl in the uniform is a typical, one-dimensional archetype that dominates portrayals of women in the media. Commercials like the one above are typical representations that caters to that image. The chocolate gift is also neatly packaged in a cute, girly manner that reinforces the stereotype.

These types of commercials propagating gender stereotypes have also aired in other Asian countries. In Indonesia, Glico used the stars of Indonesia’s JKT48, a spin-off girl group from the highly popular Japanese group AKB48, to market Pocky. Some of these girls portray mannequins that come to life after seeing Pocky, a message similar to the slaves of chocolate narrative identified by Robertson (33).

These commercials are part of an overarching marketing strategy that buys into and bolsters the feminization of chocolate. Due to the success of these marketing campaigns, stereotyping does not seem to be going away anytime soon. The use of celebrity star power serves in much of the Asian market to increase brand recognition and using national as well as international celebrities provides endorsement and increases sales. Thus, while companies like Meiji and Glico have managed considerable insight in recognizing the different tastes and needs of difference consumer bases, they have fallen into the trap of exploiting gender stereotypes to market their goods.

Jumping on the Gourmet Chocolate Bandwagon

THE Chocolate, a new gourmet chocolate line that went viral on Instagram, won both the Gold and Silver the International Chocolate Awards and Superior Taste Awards from the International Taste and Quality Institute (Adelstein, “The Meteoric Rise of Meiji,” 2018). Sold for 220 yen, Meiji sold 30 million bars in its first year.
Source: Meiji

THE Chocolate signaled Meiji’s entry into the gourmet chocolate world. Buoyed by Japan’s overall reputation of high quality products and the company’s history of fostering direct relationships with cacao farmers, THE Chocolate was a hit for both consumers and Instagram (Adelstein, “The Meteoric Rise of Meiji,” 2018). Similar to western gourmet chocolate brands, THE Chocolate includes a flavor profile and has a distinct take on the chocolate bar. Despite the overall quality and thought placed into THE Chocolate, it was sold for just ¥220, equalling less than $2.00 USD. It became so popular that the wrapping was replicated on phone cases.

Inside THE Chocolate bar.
Source: Meiji

Meiji’s foray into gourmet chocolate reflects the changing landscape of Japanese consumers as well as other portions of the east Asian middle class. With its emphasis on understanding the origins of the cacao bean, health benefits of dark chocolate, and complexity of taste, it caters to an increasingly sophisticated palate indicative of the growing number of chocolate connoisseurs. Whether it be regarding wine, fine dining, or chocolate, Meiji tapped into a bourgeoning base of chocolate fanatics present among the middle and upper class. Thus, while it caters to a smaller niche of individuals, the affordability of the bar also makes it the perfect gift: it offers fancy, high quality goods for an affordable price. It also echoes the diversity of the Asian market, even within the domestic sphere. The popularity of THE Chocolate proves the varied, transforming tastes of consumers in Asia.

The Future of Asian Markets?

Though companies such as Mars, Nestlé and Mondelez still dominate China’s chocolate market, Japanese companies are slowly carving a space in the broader Asian market. For example, Meiji is looking to expand their presence in China and in Southeast Asia by 2020 (2010, 21). Whether you are in a convenience store in urban Taipei or a rural store in Cambodia and you will find delicious, chocolatey snacks from Glico or Meiji for sale. In Japan, tourists flood convenience stores to stock up on the assortment of Pocky and snacks to take home (“Japanese Snack Makers Expanding in SE Asia,” 2017). These companies aim to capitalize on the obsession with Japanese snacks by expanding their foreign markets. Moreover, the expansion of these convenience stores into much of Southeast Asia holds a wealth of potential as Glico, Meiji, other major snack providers such as Lotte and Calbee as well as smaller companies like Yuraku gain easier access to distribute their goods (Iguchi, 2018).

Whether Japanese confectionery companies will actually surpass the chocolate giants is yet to be determined, but their plans for expansion into the Asian market seem to be chugging along. However, they have fallen into the same trap of utilizing gender stereotypes in their marketing strategy that serve to reinforce gender norms in societies like Japan where gender expectations are stifling its population and actually limiting its economic growth (Goto, 2016, 443). Nonetheless, Japanese companies’ knack for providing a wide array of products for a varied and increasingly sophisticated consumer base as well as providing Instagram-worthy goods may give Mars, Nestlé and Mondelez a run for their money.

Bibliography

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Cardullo’s Chocolate

At Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe in Cambridge, Massachusetts there is an extensive selection of chocolate. In fact, the offerings cover an entire wall of the store and are split up into 5 sections. Upon inspection of the makeup of the selection of Cardullo’s chocolate, it is apparent that several groups of sections are broadly representative of certain types of chocolate. It further becomes apparent that the categories of chocolate one finds in Cardullo’s progresses from the front to the back of the store as follows: luxury chocolate, bean to bar craft manufactured chocolate, cheap and common chocolate. I will examine the brands representative of each of these categories at Cardullo’s and identify that luxury chocolate brands offer brand name and popular flavoring, bean to bar brands offer ethical supply chains, and that common chocolate offer the lowest prices. As such, Cardullo’s commitment to being a “gourmet” shop reveals the word “gourmet” can have many meanings in the world of chocolate. Gourmet chocolate can have to do with brand recognition as luxurious, or with being an ethically committed niche craft maker, or as being in line with popular tastes.

            There are complex ethical concerns involved with cacao production, most importantly regarding child labor and unsustainable living conditions for cacao farmers. The center of these ethical issues is West Africa. There is considerable evidence that cacao production in West Africa has used and continues to use child labor (Berlan, 1089). Child labor on farms in West Africa was first brought to attention by reports of such slavery in 2000 (Ryan, 44). Orla Ryan in Chocolate Nationdescribes,

“Traffickers preyed on children at bus stops in Mali, promising riches on cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire. Once children got to the farm, they survived on little food, little or no pay and endured regular beatings…. They were essentially slaves, harvesting the beans that were the key ingredient for chocolate” (Ryan, 44).

Given the evidence provided to the public the Harkin-Engel protocol was introduced, which was a voluntary agreement among chocolate manufacturers to end child labor. However, Ryan asserts that “nearly a decade later, very little has changed on the farm” (Ryan, 44). 

            Although the use of children on farms in West Africa is prevalent, it has been argued that this is in fact necessary and part of the culture. Ryan spoke with a Ghanaian buyer who asserted “In an African household, everyone contributes to the family’s welfare, a Ghanaian buyer told me. He had accompanied his mother to the farm from the age of 5” (Ryan, 45-46).  Amanda Berlan articulates that “In the broader context of Ghanaian society, child labour is well-documented. Of children aged 5–17 years, 39 per cent are known to be engaged in economic activities, of which 57 per cent are engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing and 88 per cent are unpaid family labour or apprentices” (Berlan, 1090). This is a framing of child labor as “apprenticeship,” rather than slavery. However, it remains that children do not really have a choice in these situations. If their parents require them to work on the farm and learn the business, the children are not in a position to pursue other options. Further, this can be argued to be a manipulation of facts from remote areas to advance interests not aligned with the interests of those who live there (Off, 160). Even if this is true, however, there is the necessity of improving these farming communities in general. As Ryan notes,  “It is also doubtful a boycott of slave-produced beans would make matters better. A ban on beans from the region would devastate millions of families reliant on cocoa to survive. These kinds of threats or bans, however well-intentioned, can backfire dramatically” (Ryan, 51-52). As such, a rejection of West African producers should not occur, especially for bean to bar chocolate manufacturers. Kristy Leissle aptly asserts,

Certainly media attention to slavery allegations makes it easy for consumers to reject West Africa as a ‘‘safe’’ source of chocolate. But when artisans or mid-size companies (such as Tcho) offer a bar from West Africa, they apparently can generate significant sales. As Tcho has proven with its best-selling Ghana bar, and Divine with its entire product line, West Africa bars can be successfully sold in the U.S.—provided the maker has already inspired trust with a clear statement of its social mission” (Leissle, 29).

West African cacao can be used responsibly, even given its history. In fact, it is necessary that manufacturers involve themselves with these farming areas in order to help them benefit and grow, rather than harming their economic situation further. As such, policies of fair trade and direct trade have developed in which chocolate producers are directly involved in the sustainability of the cacao growing communities. It is in this context of ethical issues within the cacao supply chain that we will examine the chocolate companies offered at Cardullo’s and compare how ethical commitments within the chocolate manufacturers align with price and brand recognition as well as how these relationships affect placement within the store.

            The first section of Cardullo’s chocolate selection, closest to the storefront is a collection of luxury (i.e. recognizable brand and highly priced) chocolate companies. However, these companies are variable in their ethical commitments. Here we can see the sections we are talking about:

The most prevalent company in all of Cardullo’s selection is Godiva. Godiva chocolates are allocated four shelves in the store. The offerings are mainly boxes of a variety of chocolate truffles. These boxes go for a high price of $20 – 40 each. Godiva had successfully branded itself as a luxury brand, as we can see in this advertisement.  

The use of gold and wine associates Godiva with a luxurious existence. Godiva’s cacao, however is sourced from West Africa, the center of the child labor matters. Nonetheless, on Godiva’s website, they describe that they are a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, a leading nonprofit that fosters sustainable farms, strengthening the cacao farming communities. They write, “Godiva believes that protecting children is a shared responsibility across the cocoa industry… We have a policy that requires all of our suppliers to be in compliance with applicable labor laws and regulations.” Yet, Godiva received an F from Green America’s evaluation of their supply chain ethics. This was due to their having no labor certifications and none of their cacao having been certified as ethically sourced to date even though they have a promise to be 100% certified by 2019.

            There are two other brands, Neuhaus, and Chocolat Bonnat, that appear to fit into the same category as Godiva, that is, highly priced (and thus luxury items) and not apparently or fully committed to pursuing an ethical supply chain. Most similar to Godiva, Neuhaus is given  three shelves in the store and also is mainly boxes of mixed chocolates. These boxes sell for $40-70 and as such can be characterized as luxury items. Further, on the Neuhaus website there is an emphasis on the deep history of the company. This history tracks its ups and downs as well as innovations. However, there is no suggestion of concern with supply chain ethics. Chocolat Bonnat has two shelves in Cardullo’s and offers bars of dark chocolate sourced from different areas for around $12. Although their cacao beans are sourced from areas that haven’t been hubs of child labor (e.g. Mexico, Peru, Madagascar, Brazil), there is nonetheless no mention of ethical concerns on their website. Like Neuhaus, they have an extensive history of the company. They also have a seven minute video on the process and soul of cacao harvest, but not mention of the moral issues that accompany that harvest. 

            There are however, luxury priced chocolate brands that reveal concern for the ethical supply chain in the Cardullo’s selection: Butlers, Castronova, and Milkboy. Butlers is represented by only a couple of bars in Cardullo’s, which sell for $22 and thus are luxury items. Butlers, on their website articulates, “We use sustainably sourced cacao through Cocoa Horizons because we believe that sustainably sourced cocoa makes for better chocolates and better livelihoods for the farmers who grow and nurture it.” In fact, in 2018 the chairman of Butlers went to meet with women that they had been empowering in these communities by training them in the techniques of growing cacao on the Ivory Coast, exhibiting a commitment to the improvement of these communities. Castronova is another brand priced in a luxury range of $15 for a bar. This chocolate is made from Colombian cacao beans, likely separated from child labor issues. As the founders write on their website,   

“We salute the few, craft chocolate makers that are taking time and care with each part of the chocolate making process, releasing the full potential of the bean; those who are supporting careful farming and fermentation, the ones who ensure farmers are paid a fair wage through an ethical and sustainable supply chain, and those who skillfully grind, roast, and sweeten without diluting the bean’s essence.”

Milkboy chocolate also falls under this category with bars priced at $20. Milkboy chocolate is UTZ certified, which requires good agricultural practices, social and living conditions, and farm management. This certification requires investment in farming practices that aid individuals at all stages of the supply chain, ensuring better futures for the cacao farming communities.  

            The next section, located one step further toward the back of the store, is composed of bean to bar chocolate manufacturers as well as Fairtrade and Direct Trade certified manufacturuers. Here we can see the sections we are speaking about:

Bean to bar means that the companies are fully involved in every step of the creation of their chocolate, from the growth of the beans to the manufacturing process. The main bean to bar brands in these sections are Fossa, Antidote, and Taza. Fossa is a bean to bar craft chocolate maker priced around $13 for a bar. Taza likewise is a bean to bar manufacturer priced around $5 for a bar. Finally, Antidote is a bean to bar manufacturer priced at around $10 per bar. We can note a symmetry here between bean to bar companies and Direct Trade certified companies. Antidote, a bean to bar manufacturer claims they practice direct trade, writing on their website, “Prioritizing quality and flavor over certification allows us to foster direct relationships without Ecuadorian partners and pay them wages that are far above market rate. We are practicing direct trade with all cacao beans and some other ingredients cutting our any middleman.” Taza likewise is Direct Trade certified. The alignment between direct trade and bean to bar is that direct trade is focused on the quality of the beans. And, as Antidote succinctly explains, this focus forces the manufacturer to be closely involved with the farming communities it sources from. This intimacy leads to a care and necessary ethical unveiling of the harvesting process. Note that these companies tend to have a lower price point as well.

            The other ethical certification is the Fairtrade certification, which is an explicit commitment to bettering the farming communities. The companies in this section that have this certification are Chuao and Pure 7. The Fairtrade certification ensures safe, healthy working conditions for cacao farmers as well as bettering the communities they live in. Chuao articulates that part of the additional income they make goes back to the farming communities to invest in education and healthcare.  These also sell at a lower price point, Chuao at $6 a bar and Pure 7 at $5 a bar.

            The final category of chocolate at Cardullo’s is the cheaper and common chocolates, such as Kinder and Milka. Here we see this section:

Both of these cholate producers offer milk chocolate that is highly sweetened, appealing to the common appeal of sweet soothing chocolate candy. They also both sell for about $2 a bar. Now, both of these companies have some sort of ethical commitment. Kinder is UTZ certified, part of the Fairtrade cocoa program, and also Rainforest Alliance certified. Milka is part of the Cocoa life sustainable sourcing program. Thus, these mass producing and popular manufacturers do not sacrifice ethical sourcing in their production.

            Cardullo’s we have examined the central three categories offered: luxury, bean to bar and Fairtrade certified, and cheaper, common candy. Within the luxury category, there is a mix of ethically bound and non-ethically bound companies. The bean to bar and Fairtrade certified are necessarily ethically bound. Finally, the common candy chocolates are also ethically bound. Given this variation in price and ethical commitment, it appears Cardullo’s is not taking a strong stand on what “gourmet” chocolate is. They offer to their consumer the option of viewing gourmet as expensive, as ethical, or as simply tasty. Indeed, the luxury items are toward the front of the store, but this does not imply a judgement on what is important, but more common business sense to have the more expensive items more prevalent. Nonetheless, Cardullo’s wide variety of ethically sourced chocolate products is impressive and aids in exposing consumers to the possibility of chocolate that is produced via an ethical supply chain, aiding in the issues that face chocolate production today. 

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” Journal of Development Studies, vol 49, 2013, . pp. 1088-1100. 

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22–31.JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22.

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

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

Going Gourmet: Curating Fine Chocolate in Harvard Square

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Having opened in 1950 and located in the heart of Harvard Square, Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe is one of the best places to find artisanal and worldly foodstuffs like wine, beer, cheese, meats, and sweets. Perhaps what is most exciting about this store is its extensive selection of fine chocolates, both local and imported, that are difficult to find anywhere else. Many of these sweets hail from places often considered by Americans as the birthplace of chocolate royalty- France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy- and as such, are willing to pay the store’s often steeper prices. The popularity of places like Cardullo’s, which feature carefully curated products from both Europe and all over the world, is not necessarily unique though in today’s era. In what has been called the gentrification of taste, distinctive regional culinary styles and local foodstuffs are being rediscovered and marketed by chefs, restaurateurs, and retailers (Bestor 1992). This appropriation and aesthetic presentation of regionally produced foodstuffs appeals to sophisticated urbanites who desire food with both cultural authenticity and esoteric cachet (Terrrio 2000). Harvard Square is a broader microcosm of such a phenomenon, with Cardullo’s in particular serving as an excellent example of this regional aesthetic, and organizes its chocolate section largely by the country or area it is imported from.

Chocolate Selection:

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Belgium

Unlike many of the chocolates we analyzed in class, most of the Belgian selection in Cardullo’s doesn’t make any sort of activist claims for fairtrade or organic materials on its packaging. In fact, the Belgian selection is remarkably sleek- from gold lettering on a Neuhaus truffle to Dolfin’s signature crown stamp to Godiva’s literal silk ribbon packaging, the Belgian grouping screams luxury, and for good reason. The marketing strategy for these sweets is simply to promote the idea that their chocolate is lush, elegant, and second to none. People will buy these chocolates not because they stand for a good cause or because they in any way give back, but because they are the best in the world. When people think of Belgium, they think of beer, waffles, fries, and chocolate, and companies like Godiva and Neuhaus know it. They can afford to keep their packaging as simple and elegant as possible because they know that everything they need to convey has already been said by reputation alone. A great deal of the power of luxury goods is based on their reputations, which is built by both high quality craftsmanship and skillful image-building (McNeil and Riello 2016). Neuhaus in particular wields quite a bit of this power, as its founder Jean Neuhaus was the inventor of the praline, a chocolate shell with a soft center, which launched the Belgian chocolate industry onto the forefront of the worldstage. Even the websites of these chocolate giants communicate the elevated status of their products over lesser brands like Hershey or Cadbury bthrough the use of muted color schemes, an emphasis on craftsmanship and authenticity, and a long history of artisanal tradition. Cardullo’s is right to place this bunch front and center near the store entrance, as this selection is emblematic of the store’s raison d’être as a curator of gourmet goods from specialized markets.

France

Located just underneath the store’s fine Belgian selection, are some of the more well known French brands: Chocolat Bonnat and Valrhona. Similarly to their Blegian counterparts, these chocolates also communicate an unspoken status of luxury. In an era of global markets and instantaneous linkages, foodstuffs and cuisine circulate globally, and the national pallets they represent are shaped by transnational culture and taste. The search for differentiation and authenticity in the consumption of chocolate, is reflected in the growing international demand for gourmet cuisine, an area in which the French occupy a notable hegemony (Terrio 2000). Perhaps most notable about these bars though,aside from actual flavor or quality of content, is the price. The “cheapest” amongst the Chocolat Bonnat grouping is still a whopping $10.99 for a mere 3.5 ounces, while at the other end of the spectrum it costs $19.99 for the same serving. The cost of these bars is so high it’s almost impossible for the average consumer to justify, and indeed I usually try avoiding that section altogether when making my rounds so I’m not tempted. However, the taste of these bars is almost good enough to justify the extravagant pricing (I say almost simply because it is difficult to imagine any bar justifying $20), and the small size actually allows the shopper to not have to compound any feelings of guilt from their ruining their diet with that from emptying their wallet. The expensive price of these bars is not entirely novel though, as many chocolatiers  have begun increasing their prices in response to the willingness of consumers to buy them. The rising levels of per capita income, greater disposable income, and new structures of consumption have produced a broader largely urban middle class of consumers whose financial means allow them to adopt a reflexive attitude toward the consumption of goods in general and foods in particular (Zurkin 1991). The Chocolat Bonnat bars are also unique from the Belgians in terms of packaging. While they still stick with the muted color schemes and fancy script, these bars clearly communicate the percent of cocoa in the dark chocolate as well as the cocoa’s origin- from Madagascar to the Ivory Coast.

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Similarly the Valrhona bars are also sold at a hefty price- $9.99 for a mere 2.46 oz. And while the packaging on the Chocolat Bonnat bars are reminiscent of a history of French culinary tradition (old script, faded gothic castle), the packaging on the Valrhona bars is much more modern in its use of two tone block coloring and limited wording. The Valrhona bars also communicate the percentage of cocoa content in each type as well as some brief language describing the flavor profile (e.g. “Powerful and Tannic”) and origin (single versus blended). In terms of overall impression, these bars are much more akin to those you would find from American craft chocolate makers rather than many of the other European brands Cardullo’s tends to stock.

Misc.: Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria

Continuing down the aisle, one can also find a miscellaneous assortment of other European goodies such as Venchi chocolates from Italy (featuring their signature hazelnut and cocoa flavor combinations), Ritter Sport Bars from Germany (with their distinct colorfully square and playful packaging), Mirabell’s Mozartkugel from Austria (boxed in the classically kitsch violin shape), and unmistakable Toblerone bars from Switzerland. Even the Dutch cocoa powder from Droste, with its old fashioned lettering and portrait of a nun in classic garb, can be found in Cardullo’s impressive and expansive stock of gourmet imports. While these countries certainly have their own long and delicious traditions of chocolate making with a multitude of options to choose from, Cardullo’s has instead chosen to highlight just a few selections from each. While this decision is likely due to the physical limitations of the store itself, it is still representative of the way Americans (their primary customers) view and appreciate foreign chocolate.

As briefly mentioned earlier, countries like Belgium and France are known the world over as masters of the chocolate arts, while probably less people in the Boston-area are familiar with the goodness of these other brands. This reputation of Belgian and French chocolate makes it an easy choice for the staff at Cardullo’s to stock up on and curate a larger selection of. In pursuing their mission of providing a number of fine delicacies, Cardullo’s has to evaluate the needs of their target customers and balance them with the nearly endless assortment of gourmet options in the European market.

North America

On section that does contain quite a large assortment is that from American craft chocolatiers. Nestled amongst all the imported sweets are more local luxuries from places Taza, Goodnow Farms, and Lake Champlain. Other, lesser known companies like Antidote, Askinosie, and Raaka Chocolate can also be found, as well as some Canadian choices such as Jelina or Galerie au Chocolat. The latter chocolate is worth mentioning in more detail simply because its packaging boldly claims, “the finest Belgian chocolate”, despite the fact their company headquarters is located in Quebec, and strict rules in Belgium state that any chocolates labelled as Belgian must be produced within the country. Nevertheless, this positive, though misleading, association with Belgium and its status within the world of fine chocolate leads consumers into incorporating this bar within the ranks of chocolate royalty such as those from Neuhaus or Godiva.

The North American bars are also different from their European counterparts in terms of their packaging. Most of these bars proudly displays stamps of approval from do-gooder organizations like USDA Organic, FairTrade, or the Rainforest Alliance in ways vaguely reminiscent of how a girl scout would display her hard earned patches of fire-starting and orienteering on her sash. Because American companies are unable to compete with the long history and reputations of Europeans companies, they need to place marketing emphasis elsewhere. For many craft chocolate makers, this emphasis is on health, social responsibility, and environmental activism- areas that in recent years has been at the centre of attention is their responsibility towards the environment, and the respect shown in the use of natural resources and towards human beings (McNeil and Riello 2016). This sense of ‘social responsibility’ relates both to the products that they sell and their role as companies in terms of wider society and overall impact. Through the inclusion of these seals on a chocolate bar’s packaging, there exists a contract of trust between company and consumer that promises a certain level of ethical production, sustainability, and environmental consciousness. This do-gooder contract often also demands a higher price for the product it represents, and so long as this trust isn’t breached, that price is willingly paid.

Britain

At the end of their main chocolate aisle, Cardullo’s also features an impressive stock of Cadbury chocolates as well as a number of other British candies. Though not necessarily “gourmet” these sweets are certainly novel to the average American chocolate connoisseur and allow them to break away from their usual Hershey habits. Cadbury classics such as Flake, Brunch Bar, Twirl, Snack, and many others decorate multiple shelves adjacent to to the wine and beer section at Cardullo’s, suggesting that here too, can be a one-stop kind of shop. Unlike the other European candies and sweets kept in stock here, the Cadbury collection is reasonably priced. In balancing that cheaper price though, is the knowledge that this chocolate is of much lower quality than that of the bars staged directly to the left. Much of the products in this section contain significantly less cocoa than most of the other chocolates sold in the store, and significantly more sugar, milk, and other additives like caramel or nuts. Purchasing amongst these chocolates is intentionally not done for the luxury or decadence of the item, but for the novelty and maybe even nostalgia of younger days and less sophisticated palates.

What was once thought of as simply, undifferentiated commodities are today perceived as luxuries (McNeil and Reillo 2016). For a long time chocolate was an undifferentiated commodity that was a part of consuming habits of the entire North American population. Today, it is both a commodity and a luxury, and the resulting segmentation of the market has allowed for niche chocolate to find its customers. In carefully curating such and expansive and thorough selection of chocolates and fine foodstuffs, Cardullo’s has set a high bar in Harvard Square when it comes to making gourmet and luxury items accessible. In breaking away from the usual chocolate fare- Hershey’s, Mars, and even now Lindt and Ferrero- the shop also provides a platform for local and less-known chocolatiers to access a broader market. Although many of its selection sacrifices some of this accessibility from lower-income customers (due to inevitably higher pricing of gourmet goods), Cardullo’s instead highlights unique chocolates that are finely crafted, ethically sourced, and environmentally friendly-  treats that are both tasty and socially conscious. And, in conveniently placing these delectable sweets next to arguably the best wine and beer selection in the square, this shop proves that it is truly a one stop destination for enjoying all of the finer things in life.

Citations:

  1. Bestor, Theodore. “The raw, the cooked, and the industrial: commoditization and food culture in a Japanese commodities market.” Department of Anthropology, New York University. 1992.
  2. Cardullo’s. “Our History.” Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, cardullos.com/pages/about-us.
  3. McNeil, Peter and Riello, Giorgio. Luxury: A Rich History. “Everything that Money Can Buy?”. Oxford University Press.2016. p. 267.
  4. McNeil, Peter and Riello, Giorgio. Luxury: A Rich History. “Luxury Capitalism: The Magic World of Luxury Brands”. Oxford University Press.2016. p. 261.
  5. Mollet, Olivia. “Chocolate Country.” The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2006, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/fodors/top/features/travel/destinations/europe/belgium/brussels/fdrs_feat_35_10.html.
  6. Savage, Maddy. “Is Belgium Still the Capital of Chocolate?” BBC News, 31 Dec. 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20810103.
  7. Terrio, Susan J., Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. p. 56.
  8. Zukin, Sharon.1991. Landscapes of power: from Detroit to Disney World. Berkeley: University of California Press.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF GOURMET CHOCOLATE

“Gourmet Shoppe.” The two words that follow the name “Cardullo’s” begin to give a sense of the products that one will find upon walking through the door at this store in the heart of Harvard Square. Most shoppers will walk in and out of this store rapidly today—picking products off the shelves, going to the register, and going to their next destination wherever that may be. However, slowing this shopping experience down can prove useful in studying the implications of the food we consume on a daily basis. In this post, I will describe in detail the chocolate selection at Cardullo’s and use the store’s chocolate selection as a means for discussing several aspects of chocolate in our modern culture. What follows will be an engagement of how chocolate selection can help us to understand chocolate in society—from intended customer base to ethical considerations, to name a few—as well as a discerning eye for areas where the chocolate industry has dark secrets.

THE SELECTION

Navigating Cardullo’s can at times be nothing short of overwhelming—all of the shelves are filled to capacity with assorted foods and drinks. Navigating chocolate-related products alone yields a plethora of foods. With that, I have found it most useful to define a specific type of selection that I will focus on in this post. To allow for a more thorough, rather than surface-level, discussion, I have chosen to focus on chocolate bars and exclude other confections and treats that have chocolate as secondary ingredients. Doing so, I still am left with dozens of relevant products lining Cardullo’s shelves. I have found it most useful to divide this analysis into focusing on several components of the selection for the purpose of clarity. I will start by analyzing the types of chocolate that I am seeing as well as the prices of the chocolate. I will then focus on the labels and advertising implications.  

In the images above, we see side-by-side comparisons of two sections of Cardullo’s chocolate selection—on the left more upmarket self-professed ‘craft’ brands, and on the right more traditional mass-market items. Note the differences in appearances of the products, from the packaging coloring, density of imagery/words on the labels, etc. These differences will be explored in detail below.

THE TYPE/BRANDS

One of the first aspects that strikes me as I consider the selection of chocolate is the names of many of the brands on the shelves. These brand names sound artisanal and personal—names like Raaza, Goodnow Farms, and Scharffen Berger. In a market that has a lot of competition, name distinctiveness can be a powerful branding tool (Ju, Jun and Sutherland, 2015). In a wall display located next to this sea of novel names are some familiar brands such as Cadbury, and even Snickers, suggesting that even multinational conglomerates have a place at this gourmet market. While it will be discussed in greater detail later relating to the labels, consider the differences in the visual imagery of the two sections of chocolate—that is, the artisanal brands and the more mass-market brands. Emblazoned across the front of almost all of the artisanal bars in large letters are the percentage of Cacao: 62% on one, 70% on another, 95% higher still. These craft chocolates are noticeably different than the mass-market chocolates sitting on shelves just a few steps away to the right, which are predominately milk chocolate. With that, we can start to get a sense that these craft chocolates at Cardullo’s are marketed to a different audience than the mass-market chocolates such as Snickers and Cadbury to the right.  

Something that is common across all the bars of chocolate sold in Cardullo’s is that they are made from cacao that is produced outside of the United States. This is an important aspect to consider surrounding the history of chocolate, since the United States and Europe account for 73% of the consumption of cacao, whereas the production takes place elsewhere, with Africa accounting for 72% of the production of cacao (Martin, 2019). This has led to the rise of large-scale global supply chains that often involve many small farming operations to actually harvest the cacao, but also large multinational corporations involved with the production of the end-product chocolate bars (Martin and Sampeck, 2016, 50). The roots of this system of supply are colonialization and the presence of slavery, where cacao would be harvested in the colonies and then sent back to the colonizer for consumption (Mintz, 1986). Many of the chocolate companies that sell craft products at Cardullo’s pride themselves on being small operations that have direct contacts with the farmers (this will be discussed in greater detail when we examine the labels below). However, the question remains of whether this translates to more pay for the farmers of cacao themselves. With that, let us now turn to examining the price of these bars.

THE PRICE

Almost immediately after seeing the types and brands of the chocolate at Cardullo’s, my eyes looked just below to the prices. The prices were high—there is no dispute. And for several of the bars, the prices themselves were hard to find—hidden perhaps to draw customers in instead of being put-off by the price tag. But before getting into the specifics of the price, let us consider the historical context of price. Centuries ago, chocolate was considered a food for the elites (Coe and Coe, 2007).  It then became mass-produced alongside the rise of sugar in the European diet (Mintz, 1985). In America today, chocolate is regularly available to people of almost all socioeconomic levels. But this is not the case for the chocolate at Cardullo’s. Though the cheapest bar sold here retailed for under $5, the average price of chocolate bars was significantly higher—far closer to $10. So, what makes these chocolate bars more expensive than the average Hershey’s chocolate bar? There are few factors here to consider. The first is scale—many of these products are made in far smaller quantities and thus do not benefit from the economies of scale (Leissle, 2018, 101). Instead, it is a point of pride that these chocolates are made via the ‘single batch’ method.  

There are also a variety of certifications that many of these chocolate bars have, some of which suggest that they pay farmers higher prices than the commodity price of cacao. Certifications are viewed as a way to address price fluctuations present in the commodity prices, and to effectively set price floors that ensures a standard minimum price. However, these higher prices paid for beans often go to middle-men rather than the farmer themselves. Additionally, the dizzying array of potential certifications—from Rainforest Alliance, to FairTrade, to Direct Trade just to name a few—leaves the consumer with more questions than answers. For some consumers, simply seeing one of these certifications may make them feel good about purchasing a product, however, legitimate questions still remain about how much these certifications actually do. This is especially true for small craft manufacturers who have higher costs due to the lack of economies of scale (Leissle, 2018). As Kristy Leissle explains, “certainly, some craft makers do pay premium prices for beans, but it is a mistake to assume that if a bar costs $10, nine of those must be going to a farmer. Chances are they are not” (Leissle, 2018, 101).  

Ultimately, we must also consider the relatively inelastic price of chocolate. That is, for a product such as wine, people are willing to pay upwards of several thousand dollars for what is considered a premier wine. There are literally thousands of dollars that separate the price of nice wines from bad wines. However, chocolate bars that are considered greater than $20 seem to  reach the tipping point of what people will pay for the bar.

THE LABEL/ADVERTISING

Chocolate as a product has a long history of advertising that includes both derogatory racial and gender implications. For racism in advertising in particular, this is inextricably linked with the history of the cacao supply chain, including colonization and slavery. And the advertising itself holds undertones for the intended customer bases of products. For instance, consider the video advertisement for Dove chocolate below. The advertisement is sensual both in the depiction of the woman as well as the verbiage overlaid on the video by the narrator. It perpetuates the view put-forth in many chocolate advertisements that females are obsessive, sensual beings.

Dove Chocolate commercial as discussed above illustrates the gender stereotypes commonly found in chocolate advertising

While the chocolate at Cardullo’s does not have such overt advertising in terms of gender or race to many historical examples such as Belgian Antwerp hands, there are nonetheless distinctive advertising choices made. Consider the labels below.  

These two photos show the front and back of a craft chocolate bar at Cardullo’s. Focusing on the label, the imagery on the front shows an old-fashioned ship being built, eliciting feelings of simplicity and handcrafting. The back includes a map that shows from where the cacao originates and uses words such as “finest” “traditional” “carefully” and “small factory” deliberately.

These labels elicit the customers to believe that the product is a return to the traditional—a time when food was made simpler. It very clearly and cleanly discusses things such as tasting nodes and the origin is visually depicted. The choices made on this label are very deliberate, and appeal to an audience that cares about the quality of the food that they put into their bodies.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chocolate is a food that brings joy to many people who eat it in many forms. But as consumers, we must also look at the history of chocolate and understand the ugly truths of our current production system, especially when it comes to adequate living standards for farmers. Outside of fair prices alone, there are ongoing questions and issues surrounding workers ages, gender imbalances, and ethnicity and racial inequities throughout the cacao and chocolate industries. So next time you go into a store, I encourage you to pause for a few seconds and think about what choices you are making as a consumer with your purchasing power. There are a lot of implications for the purchasing choices we make, and a lot can be learned simply by looking at the foodstuffs on shelves.

Works Cited

Coe, S. & Coe, M. (2007). The true history of chocolate (Revised [and updated ed.]. ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson.

Ju, I., Jun, J., & Sutherland, J. (2015). I Have Seen That Brand Before! How Do Consumers Recognize Advertised Brands? Brand Distinctiveness vs. Brand Differentiation. American Academy of Advertising. Conference. Proceedings (Online), 109.

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

Martin, C. (2019). Lecture January 30: Introduction. Harvard University.

Martin, C., & Sampeck, K. (2015). The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe. Socio.hu, (Special issue 3), 37-60.

Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and power : The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin Books. the above images are my own taken at Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe.

Multimedia Credits:

The images above were taken by myself. The youtube video is from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8 and the hyperlinked article is from https://sites.northwestern.edu/akih/2013/02/21/chocolates-as-cultural-blind-spots-responding-to-civilization/

Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge: With Quality Chocolate, Price Is Not Important

The modern chocolate industry has been changed by the rise of artisanal chocolate makers, historically popular in Europe and newly popular in the United States. Small-scale chocolate manufacturing was seen as a response “to the perceived loss of flavor and quality in industrially manufactured chocolate,” (Martin & Sampeck 2016: 53). In contrast to the “Big Five” industrial chocolate companies—Nestle, Mars, Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Ferrero, (Martin & Sampeck 2016:50), artisanal chocolate makers are “unconcerned with producing identical bars with every batch” and “seek instead to draw out the unique flavors of the beans,” (Leissle 2013: 23). Because chocolate artisans are small-scale manufacturers, their products are primarily available at specialty stores.

On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, I visited a gourmet grocer, Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge—the original of the Formaggio Kitchen family of stores, to examine their chocolate selection. Since it opened in 1978, Formaggio Kitchen has expanded to Boston and New York. From the chocolates of artisans to bean-to-bar chocolate makers (1970s -1980s) to craft chocolate makers (since the mid-2000s) (Martin & Sampeck 2016: 54), all chocolates at Formaggio Kitchen are categorized as small batch. In the chocolate industry, small batch chocolate making has highlighted chocolate and cacao’s “country of origin—the conditions of production” and “local […] tastes—the conditions of consumption” (Martin & Sampack 2016: 37). Through the curation of the chocolate section at Formaggio Kitchen and the packaging of the individual chocolate bars, the importance of the conditions of production and consumption in small-batch chocolate making is echoed. The presentation at Formaggio Kitchen further suggests that the cost of these exceptional chocolate bars is secondary to their high-quality taste.

Initial Observations of the Chocolate Section

Upon finding the chocolate section at Formaggio Kitchen, my attention was initially captivated by the store’s personalized notes in front of or near the numerous chocolate brands available. These notes described how the chocolate bars taste by highlighting any combination of notable ingredients, cocoa content, origin of the cacao beans, place of manufacture, or distinct production technique.

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Overview of chocolate section at Formaggio Kitchen on 5/2/2017. No information about the price of each bar is visible.

As a consumer accustomed to knowing the price of a product almost immediately after I see it on a store shelf, I was surprised find the absence of visible price tags. To know the price of the chocolate bars I examined at Formaggio Kitchen, I had to grab the desired bar off the shelf and turn it around. Of all that was emphasized about each chocolate bar, how much it cost was not. Based on the store’s choice to present their chocolate bars in this fashion, I concluded as a potential customer that price came secondary to taste, brand, cultural origin, and so forth.

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Overview of chocolate selection at Whole Foods on 5/2/2017. Represents the typical presentation of chocolate with a visible price tag at supermarkets in the U.S.

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Whole Foods presentation of chocolate contrasts that at Formaggio Kitchen where price tags are small stickers behind the chocolate bars and not as easily visible to the consumer.

Overall, I also noted the absence of familiar chocolates, including those from any of the Big 5 companies. In fact, I did not recognize the majority of the chocolate brands available at Formaggio Kitchen prior to my visit. The only brands I recognized were those Dr. Martin introduced during lecture (e.g., Dick Taylor, Potomac). Thus, my quest for knowledge about the chocolate selection at Formaggio Kitchen continued with my individual inspection of each chocolate bar and the content on its packaging.

Available chocolate brands (and flavors) at Formaggio Kitchen:

  1. Amedei (white chocolate with pistachios, milk chocolate with hazelnuts, Chuao)–$7.95 – $17.95
  2. Aynouse L’artesa (pure cacao, olive oil, fondant 65%, bitter orange, bitter 85%)–$7.95
  3. Chocolat Moderne —$8.95
  4. EHChocolatier (coconutty bar, peanut butter crunch bar) —$10.95
  5. Dick Taylor (brown butter with nibs and sea salt, black fig, fleur de sel, northerner blend) —$7.95 – $8.95
  6. Donna Elvira (pistachio, Modicana style, Pepperoncino, Mascobado, Cobaita) —$5.95 – $8.95
  7. Madre chocolate (coconut milk and caramelized ginger) —$11.95
  8. Marou (72, 74, 76, 78 single origin dark chocolate) —$2.95, 0.8 oz
  9. Mayana (kitchen sink bar, fix bar, space bar, haute and spicy–made specially for FK) —$8.95
  10. Poco Dolce (Assorted tiles, Aztec Chili tiles, Burnt Caramel tiles) —$23.95
  11. Potomac (San Martin 65 Milk, San Martin 70 dark + salt, 70 dark) —$8.95
  12. Pump Street Bakery (Rye Crumb milk & sea salt, Honduras bread and butter, sourdough and sea salt 66%) —$9.25
  13. Ritual (Belize, Fleur de Sel, Madagascar, Ecuador, Midmountain) —$7.95 – $11.95
  14. Romanengo Amaro (62% and milk) —$16.95
  15. Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé (green spices & matcha tea in white chocolate with lemon oil, caramelized lavender flowers in milk chocolate with star anise, cardamom dark chocolate) —$10.95
  16. Somerville chocolate (lapsang souchocolate, hops infused dark milk, Nicaraguan 70%) —$9.95 – $11.95
  17. Taza (chocolate disks: vanilla, chipotle chili, guajillo chili, coffee, super dark, caca puro, cinnamon, salted almond) –$5.50
  18. Venchi (cremino fondente, chocolate cigars-orange and chocolate, aromatic cocoa, nougatine) —$10.95

In-Depth Analysis of the Chocolate Bars:

Colors and Images:

The majority of the chocolate bars at Formaggio Kitchen had higher quality, and often more elaborate, packaging than industrially produced chocolate. For some bars, the color of the packaging, black in the case of the Amedei Chuao bar, or the lettering, metallic in the case of the Maraou and Ritual bars, conveyed its premium status.

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In the case of Chocolat Moderne’s chocolate bars, the clear packaging made visible the vibrant colors infused in the chocolate bar. The intention behind the clear packaging is illuminated by Chocolat Moderne’s mission “to create visually stunning, hand-crafted confections […]” on the Meet the Chocolatier note featured at Formaggio Kitchen.
Supporting Chocolat Moderne’s aforementioned notion of chocolate as a medium of art, a Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé bar declared: “We don’t consider ourselves to be only bean-to-bar chocolate makers, but artists as well. We look at chocolate as an art material, and attempt to surprise and entertain out customers through our chocolates.”

Taza’s stone-grounding and use of chilis in their chocolate most explicitly identifies with the Mesoamerican cultural origin of chocolate and cacao (Norton 2006:684). As indigenous societies did, some of the chocolate bars, including EHChocolatier and Marou, glorified chocolate’s primary ingredient, through their inclusion of on the cacao pod on the package. Some bars, such as Madre, highlighted additional ingredients in their bars, such as coconut and ginger.

Place of cacao’s origin versus place of chocolate manufacture:

The place of manufacture of chocolate and the origin of its primary ingredient, cacao, are not always the same. While cacao can only grow near the equator, the manufacture of chocolate is not bound to any region.

Prior to the rise of industrial chocolate makers, such as Hershey or Mars, the practice of advertising the place of origin of the cacao beans used to make chocolate was common among European artisanal chocolate makers (Leissle 2013: 22). Over time, however, the place of manufacture overshadowed the place of the cacao’s origin as taste was linked to European national palettes (Leissle 2013: 23). Considering Europeans are the largest importers and processors of cacao and consume the most chocolate per capita in the world (Martin & Sampeck 2016:37), I was not surprised to find that chocolates manufactured in Europe were well represented at Formaggio Kitchen: Hungary (Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé); Italy (Amedei; Donna Elvira; P. Romanengo Amaro; Venchi); Spain (Aynouse L’artesa); United Kingdom (Pump Street Bakery).

For some European brands, the culture of the European place of manufacture was reinforced through the use of the corresponding language on the packaging (e.g., Amedei—Italian, Aynouse L’artesa—Catalan, Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé-—Hungarian). The bars that included multiple language translations, such as English, on the package reflect how globalized the chocolate industry is.

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Although crafted in Saigon, Vietnam, the use of French (“Faiseurs de chocolat”) on the Marou chocolate bar doubly alludes to the bar’s French manufacturers as well as the history of cacao in Vietnam. France was the one to introduce cacao to Vietnam—the only Asian country represented in the Formaggio Kitchen chocolate section, in the 19th century (Marou Chocolate 2013).

Meanwhile, it was not until the turn of the 21st century that a significant number of small batch chocolate makers began to appear in the United States. Since 2005, “more than thirty fine flavor chocolate brands have been founded in the United States,” (Williams & Eber 2012:155-156). The chocolate bars crafted in the United States, grouped by their specific state of origin, included:

  • California: Dick Taylor, Poco Dolce
  • Hawaii: Madre Chocolate
  • Massachusetts: EHChocolatier, Somerville Chocolate, Taza
  • New York: Chocolat Moderne
  • Virginia: Potomac
  • Wisconsin: Mayana

Of the American craft chocolates, Madre chocolate highlighted its Hawaiian culture by featuring the Hawaiian word chocolate, or kokoleka, on the bar.

At Formaggio Kitchen, Donna Elvira, Madre chocolate, and Pump Street Bakery identified themselves as being bean-to-bar on their chocolate bars.

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For bean-to-bar chocolates, the flavor and quality of the chocolate bar is tied to their batch number, listed on the package. Although not pictured, Donna Elvira, Madre, Potomac, and P. Romanengo Amaro chocolate bars also listed their batch numbers. 

Ultimately, the place where the chocolate was manufactured was more heavily advertised than the place of origin of the cacao beans used. Among the chocolate bars that included the place of origin of the cacao beans, an underrepresentation of West African cacao was evident. In general, fine chocolate makers favor Criollo and Trinitario varieties, primarily found in the Central America and the Caribbean, over Forastero breeds, the majority of which are in West Africa (Leissle 2013:23). The gap is significant because 70% of cacao exports are West African, but only 4% of artisan chocolates use West African cacao.

Ingredients, Health Labels, and Social Awareness:

“Many of these US manufacturers may be small, but they have been driving recent changes for the better in the industry: Change the world—make better chocolate. They pride themselves on direct and transparent trade, paying top dollar for the best beans, speaking out against forced labor, investing in education, and making chocolate that tastes nothing like the multinational mass-market brands,” (Williams & Eber 2012: 156).

In response to growing consumer consciousness, many chocolate bars advertised the certified quality of their ingredients, health information, environmental concern, and social consciousness. Research by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows that demand for organic cocoa and chocolate has risen (Williams & Eber 2012: 197-198). In addition, fine chocolate makers have adjusted their products to meet the rising demand for lactose-free, sugar-free, and high-cocoa-content chocolate options from consumers (Williams & Eber 2012:185). Notably, some chocolate brands choose to explicitly label their dark chocolate as vegan and gluten-free even though dark chocolate, in general, is inherently vegan and gluten-free (Williams & Eber 2012:185). The following certifications and health-related labels were featured on some of the chocolate bars at Formaggio Kitchen:

  • Dairy-Free: Amedei, Marou
  • Gluten-Free: Amedei, Aynouse L’artesa, Marou, Potomac
  • GMO-Free: Poco Dolce
  • Kosher: Amedei
  • No soy lecithin added: Romanengo Amaro
  • Nut-free: Potomac
  • Soy-free: Marou, Potomac
  • Organic ingredients: Potomac (cacao); Ritual (organic cacao, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter), Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé (cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, cardamom)
  • Organic chocolate: Taza
  • Vegan: Ritual

As evidenced above, demands from consumers extend to the specific ingredients used in the making of chocolate. In contrast to an industrially produced chocolate bar, such as a Hershey’s bar, most craft chocolate bars have higher cocoa content and lower sugar content. I found that the purity of the chocolate bars is conveyed through the simplicity of their ingredients—no artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, or unrecognizable ingredients were listed on the small batch bars. Ritual and Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé also expressed environmental awareness through a “Please recycle” request and a “We support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International” sticker, respectively. Similarly, Taza advertises its participation in Direct Trade.

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Chocolate brands may choose to advertise multiple certifications to catch the range of concerns of consumers may have.

Lastly, a few of the chocolate bars asserted their quality taste through the inclusion of national and international awards: Chocolat Moderne’s (sofi Gold Award 2012, 2013); Pump Street BakeryInternational Chocolate Awards; Madre (Northwest Chocolate Festival 2014 Gold); and Mayana (Food and Wine Editors Top 10).

Concluding Thoughts:

In a study comparing taste preferences for different combinations of fat and sugar, 7.6% sugar with cream containing 24.7% fat was deemed to be the most desired (Benton 2004: 214). Although the sugar content of chocolate tends to be higher than the ideal figure, the widespread attraction of chocolate can be attributed to how closely it resembles the fat-to-sugar content of foods perceived to be the best tasting (Benton 2004:214).

When it comes to optimal palatability, chocolate is nearly perfect. Because most chocolate tastes good by virtue of their composition, I asked one of the employees at Formaggio Kitchen about how their chocolate buyers choose the chocolates in their inventory. She shared, ” Our manager and chocolate buyer do a lot of tastings and attend the sofi awards. Often, when they travel, they’ll find something they like and we end up getting it. They are always looking for something unique and different.” Formaggio Kitchen’s personalized notes asserted the unique tastes of their selection of chocolate bars without attention drawn to the final price of the bar. Concurrently, the chocolate makers represented at Formaggio Kitchen presented the quality of their chocolate through ornate packaging, place of manufacture, origin of cacao beans, certified quality of their ingredients, health information, environmental concern, and social consciousness, and awards.

Still, one must be aware that the chocolate found at Formaggio Kitchen may be financially unsustainable or even inaccessible to average consumers. Most chocolates at Formaggio Kitchen cost anywhere from just under $8 to over $20. This price range is may be at least 8x the cost of $0.99 chocolate bars at convenience stores. Furthermore, because the selection of chocolates available at Formaggio Kitchen is not available at convenience stores or most supermarkets, the intended customer is one that is educated about the source of their food, willing and able to pay a higher price for their food, and interested in discovering unfamiliar food products. Therefore, while price may not be important when it comes to proclaiming the quality of chocolates at Formaggio Kitchen, it does matter when it comes to the accessibility of these small batch chocolates.

Works Cited

Benton, David. 2004. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” pp. 205-218.

Leissle, Kristy. 2013. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. 13 (3): 22-31.

Marou Chocolate. 2013. Published on Jul 20, 2013. http://marouchocolate.com/post/55951688118/history

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. 2016. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” pp. 37-60.

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691.

Williams, Pam and Jim Eber. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. pp. 141-209.

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

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

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Interior of Embody Fitness Gourmet in New Canaan, CT

Mesoamerica and the “Food of the Gods”

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

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Mayan warrior decorated in cacao pods

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

 

European Perception of Chocolate through Humoral Theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Industrialization and Chocolate: The Age of Adulteration

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Hu Chocolate as the only item next to iPad wielding cashier

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

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

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Hu Chocolate website

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Hu Chocolate label exemplifying the brands hatred of industrial food

 

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

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

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

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Trendy interior of Embody Fitness Gourmet

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Change in Consumption of Fine Cacao Represents A Major Shift in Our Global Economic Systems

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Hershey Bars or Fran’s Truffles? Snickers or Bonbon’s? Although many of us love chocolate and hold it near and dear to our hearts, there seems to be a general consensus that there are levels of quality, taste, and cost in regard to chocolate. While Hershey Bars and Snicker’s seem delicious and are great for satisfying our sweet tooth, how come they simply don’t hold the same weight and impressiveness as say Norman Love’s chocolates? Why are some chocolates seen as more exquisite, luxurious, and tasteful and others viewed as cheap everyday snacks?

It all lies in the strain of cacao bean the chocolate derives from. Theobroma cacao is the name of the plant that chocolate comes from and the fruits of this plant are called cacao pods. Within the pods are cacao beans (the seeds of the pod) that are surrounded by a fruity, tasty, white pulp. These are the beans that go on to become chocolate through a process that includes fermentation, roasting, husking, grinding, and sweetening/flavoring with sugar, vanilla, peppers, fruits, and other additives.

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However, there isn’t simply just one Theobroma cacao tree. Like many other plants, there are different strains of this tree and each strain is grown in a different region of the world, needing its own type of particular care, eventually producing its own variation of the taste we know as chocolate. Because of this difference in taste and quality, there are two names that describe the types of cacao in the world: bulk cacao and fine/flavor cacao.

Bulk Cacao makes up 95% of the cacao in the world, including most industrial chocolate (Martin). Often called the “wrinkle in classification” bulk cacao mostly comes from the beans of Forastero trees; these beans are very big and require large amounts of water to grow, and as a whole have less flavor than their fine counterparts (Martin). They are grown globally with West Africa being the largest producer (Presilla, 123).

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On the other hand, fine cacao mostly comes from Criollo trees which are called “the holy grail of pure cacao.” These cacao pods originated in Mesoamerica and are now mostly grown in present day Venezuela and Peru (Martin). It is from fine/flavor cacao that most high quality and gourmet chocolates are made. Because of their superior quality, fine cacao is sold at a much higher price than bulk cacao earning $15,000 per ton versus $3,000 respectively (Martin).

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Why then would anyone want to 1) eat bulk cacao and 2) grow bulk cacao?

Part two of the question is answerable. Originally the chocolate industry reflected more equal cacao production in terms fine vs. bulk in the early 1900s (50-50 ratio). However, the last 100 years has lead to fine cacao being produced now at only 5% of the market. The reasoning behind this has to do with our current economic systems. Many economic systems, especially capitalism, drive quantity over quality, favoring mass production of cheap goods over small production of fine goods. Mass production of cheap goods allows one to have greater access and control of the market, target people from low and middle socioeconomic classes, and fulfill demand faster. This sort of system is the one that drives the bulk cacao industry as bulk cacao beans are larger, produce higher yields, and are more disease resistant. On the other hand fine cacao requires a much more intensive labor process, more handling and care, and larger amounts of supervision as it is much more susceptible to disease and has an overall lower yield with smaller beans (Coe & Coe, 26). Because fine cacao is much more delicate and fragile and isn’t as easily or globally grown, many cacao farmers and businesses pursue bulk cacao. In an industry where there are no machines—nearly 100% manual labor—and where farmers lose up to 50% of the crops to disease, fine cacao is simply not favored and ends up losing out big time.

As a consumer though this is a critical issue. Since we are the ones who truly eat most of the chocolate produced (many of the people who produce cacao don’t eat it in the typical ways we do) should we be fine accepting a lower quality product for the profit of businesses. Should we allow business to dictate what is in the market and what are our options? Or should we instead push for a solution to the problems found in growing fine cacao, rather than accepting a mediocre version, especially in an era where research in genetics, agriculture, crop health and resistivity are achieving major feats and could pave the way for making fine cacao much more easier to produce?

Or do we care more about the availability and accessibility of chocolate than the taste, leading us back to the question “why would anyone want to eat bulk cacao?” If the answer is yes, then what does that say about our culture and us as people, where the emphasis on food is no longer taste?

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 26-27. Print.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 7:Sugar and Cacao.” Harvard Emerson Hall, Cambridge. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001. Print.