Tag Archives: Hershey Chocolate Company

Hate Hershey’s? The Changing Taste of Chocolate Throughout History

As both an international student and self-professed chocolate lover, I simply cannot stand the taste of Hershey’s. In a nutshell, I would rather eat no chocolate at all than consume a Hershey’s product; quite the statement for a big chocolate fan. Throughout history, events which may have seemed insignificant at the time have had drastic impacts on the ways in which we perceive chocolate around the world today. We often talk about the different types of chocolate which exist, but we rarely discuss (and explain) the differences in tastes of chocolates both today and how these have evolved throughout history. Our society seems to understand that chocolate today is much sweeter than it was in the past, but the true narrative is much more nuanced than that. Furthermore, given chocolate’s incredible presence in our generation, a question we can ask ourselves is: did the recipe for chocolate adapt to changing taste preferences, or did these preferences change as a result of chocolate’s intense popularity? Upon research, it seems as though the answer is likely a combination of the two, with different time periods presenting different directions of causality. In this blog post, we can briefly examine events from the first tasting of chocolate thousands of years ago to the giant manufacturers we see in the world today; discussing what contributed to such a changing taste and its unexpected effects on the rest of the world.

The first Mesoamerican cultivation of cacao was thought to be as long ago as 1500 BC by the Olmec (likely Mayan ancestors). During the classical period of 150-900 AD, the Mayans were documented for using cacao (or, “kakaw”) in many of their practices, including marriage rituals, funerals and other sacred gatherings. It appears as though cacao was used for more spiritual and practical purposes rather than the primary purpose of taste it is used for today. However, even centuries ago there are instances where it seems as though cacao was indeed exploited for its unique taste. Despite much of the literature stating that cacao was consumed solely as a drink in Mayan society, it was also used as a flavoring in food; considered a spice rather than simply a food in its own right.

Many of us understand that chocolate was not always sweet. In fact, sugar was only introduced into chocolate in the 16th century by the Spaniards, after their conquest of the Aztecs. The addition of sugar allowed the unfamiliar bitterness that Europeans did not enjoy to be counteracted and thus minimized. Chocolate would likely not have been accepted as a normal beverage by the Spanish had it remained cold, bitter, and unsweetened. It became heated, sweetened with cane sugar, and spiced with more familiar substances such as cinnamon. (Coe & Coe 250).

% of Colonial European Chocolate Recipe with Specific Ingredients: Carla Martin 2020

Britain commonly used cinnamon as an addition to chocolate in early colonial times; even more so than the more common vanilla (and in some cases, sugar) that we associate chocolate with today. This was, in part, due to Britain’s proximity and colonial ties to Asia, where cinnamon was endemic. It is clear that chocolate has geographically distinctive tastes, but why is this not the case for many other foods? Sampeck & Thayn suggest that this is primarily as a result of the fact that cacao has an unusual transformational ability, where it can be liquid, solid, scent and flavor (73). They argue that this made cacao a “colonial superingestible,” allowing for divergent (yet often connected) tastes.

This is just an example of how a change in consumer taste demographics can result in a fundamental changing of the chocolate recipe; presenting a case for causality in this direction. As another example, in the US, annual sugar consumption per person rose drastically from 2lbs in 1800, to 123lbs in 1970, to its current peak of 152lbs today. In all the societies to which it was introduced, sugar started out as a glamorous luxury for the rich – then worked its way down to the middle class, before becoming a staple for even the poor (Mintz 122). As these transitions occurred, its production increased; and so did its inclusion into chocolate recipes.

US Sugar Consumption Over Time: Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen, Whole Health Source 2012

But this still begs the question: why do I (and my other international friends) have such a visceral distaste for North American chocolate? The answer lies in the history of Hershey’s, and how its creation shaped the taste buds of Americans today. In 1903, Milton S. Hershey and John Schmalbach discovered a method to create chocolate quicker – and therefore cheaper – than the Europeans were able to do so during the same time period (D’Antonio 108). However, one noticeable difference came to fruition as a result: the taste. D’Antonio states: “From the very beginning, Hershey’s milk chocolate has had a distinctive flavor. It is sweet, like the others, but it also carries a single, faintly sour note” (108). The added acidity that D’Antonio describes began as the result of the fermentation of milk fat; an unanticipated byproduct of Schmalbach’s process of slow and low-heat evaporation. D’Antonio adds: “Anyone who knew Swiss milk chocolate would have detected the unusual taste and may have found Hershey’s candy unpleasant. But in the mouths of people who had never tried the stuff made in Europe, Hershey’s milk chocolate would be a revelation” (108). The process of scaling-up chocolate for North American production is ultimately what gave Hershey’s its distinct flavor. The mass-production giant that it is, Hershey’s has come to define the taste of chocolate for Americans today. It’s incredible that an entire nation’s perception of chocolate was decided at the exact moment Milton S. Hershey decided to enlist the help of John Schmalbach on a whim; disregarding the chemists who had previously failed him. Had that process not been discovered in their random experimentation, it is likely Americans would have a vastly different taste of chocolate today. This is just an example of how the causality between changing tastes and changing recipes of chocolate can be reversed; the recipe/preparation techniques helped shape the taste of an entire nation.

The Chocolate Wars: American vs British Cadbury, Vanity Fair 2015


  1. Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2007[1996].
  2. Sampeck, Kathryn E., and Jonathan Thayn. Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica. University of Texas Press, 2017.
  3. Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Viking, 1985.
  4. D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Simon & Schuster Paperback, 2006.
  5. Spices: Exotic Flavors and Medicines (Chocolate), UCLA, 2002, https://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm?displayID=4
  6. CHART OF THE DAY: American Per-Capita Sugar Consumption Hits 100 Pounds Per Year, Business Insider, 2012, https://www.businessinsider.com/chart-american-sugar-consumption-2012-2?r=US&IR=T
  7. Martin, Carla. Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients, Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture Slide 30. Spring Academic Year, 2020.
  8. The Chocolate Wars: American vs British Cadbury, Vanity Fair, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lUkZH2pIYM

Chocolate Estranged; Mesoamerica and Mars, Inc.


Being allergic to chocolate is more socially isolating than one would immediately assume. So many birthday cake slices go uneaten, Valentine’s Day candies shamefully chucked into the trashcan when no one is looking, so much time spent wistfully staring at the chocolate-lined shelves of Walgreens and CVS check-out line. Being excluded from such a significant aspect of consumption and food culture affects one’s life in small, unexpected, and sometimes frustrating ways, such as discovering your chocolate allergy at a birthday party and going home with hives. I was four when that happened. That was not, however, the last time I ate chocolate. I have braved the storm of hives induced by my allergies more than a few times simply because I really wanted to partake in the experience of eating chocolate and trying out different brands, such as Twix or Mars Bars. And that is the power of marketing. The question of how European companies, such as Cadbury, Lindt, and Hershey, became the guiding hand in framing chocolate as a product in the west involves historical questions of ownership, appropriation, and colonization. By controlling the historical narrative of chocolate and redefining food culture, the mass-marketing practices of industrial-era European companies continue to influence how chocolate is perceived and consumed today. 

History of Cocoa

Cacao trees produce pods, and those pods contain small almond-shaped seeds that go on to be processed into what we recognize as chocolate. Cacao trees are native to the Amazon basin and they were first domesticated and commodified by Central American natives, namely the Mayans and Aztecs as early as 900 AD. In Mesoamerican culture, chocolate was the frothy beverage of the gods, embodying strength, divinity, and denoting wealth. In other words, if you were not a priest, an elite, or a warrior, you were not getting your hands on any sacred “xocolatl”, one of the many words for chocolate in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs (Coe and Coe 96). The seeds encased in cacao pods were not only the drink of the gods and their few human favorites, they also functioned as currency and demarcated sites of intense geopolitical warfare in the competition for control over fertile cacao-producing lands, such as the Soconusco in present-day Mexico, amongst native Mesoamerican populations (Coe and Coe 97). Whether obtained through means of trading, conflict, or planting, cacao seeds inevitably went into the stockpile of royals and the elite or the production of chocolate.

How Chocolate is Made

Mesoamerican xocolatl— the original chocolate– was produced through a lengthy process that transformed harvested cacao pods into a foamy drink. Cacao seeds were dried, roasted, removed from their shells, and ground into a paste (Coe and 25). A metate stone, a tool that functions as a giant mortar and pestle, was used to grind the beans into a paste. The resulting bitter-tasting paste, which looked like melted chocolate, was often flavored with spicy chili peppers, vanilla, and other natural flavors found in the region (Coe and Coe 90). The chocolate paste resulting from grinding cacao beans on the metate stone, however, was not the end goal. Drinkable chocolate, or xocolatl, meaning ”bitter water” in Mayan, was what many Mesoamerican natives made.

A video detailing the chocolate-making process used by Mayans and other Mesoamericans

Making xocolatl involved the additional step of pouring a mixture of cacao bean paste and water back and forth between two jars to produce the chocolatey foam that was so prized by the Maya, Aztecs, and other Mesoamerican groups. Little has changed in the process of chocolate-making since 900 AD, but the face of chocolate was forever changed by colonization. 

Takalik Abaj metate 1.jpg
Traditional metate stone used to grind cacao beans into paste by Mesoamericans

Chocolate Colonized

When European colonization began in Central and South America in the 1500s, everything was swept up into the current of goods being stolen and extracted from the New World and sold in Europe. Under this economic climate, indigenous Mesoamericans were enslaved and the artifacts of their world and culture erased and rewritten. A pillar in the architecture of European colonialism was the demonization of indigenous identity and customs. Oftentimes, such demonization was achieved by positioning indigeneity as monstrous and anti-Christian. Thus, it is unsurprising that 16th-century conquistadors, colonists, and priests opposed chocolate in the Spanish colonies of Central and South America. Voyager Girolmo Benzoni, for example, claimed that chocolate “seemed more a drink for pigs” (Coe and Coe 109). Such demonization of Mesoamerican cultures was common throughout European colonial rule and presence in the region. Whether classified as a food, drink, or medicine, the xocolatl brought to Europe by conquistadors quickly gained popularity throughout the continent, giving way to a new industry. Despite their enthusiastic conquest of foreign lands and populations, the European attitude towards the products brought from these regions was ironically cautious and skeptical. 

Many European elites who were among the first to receive items from the New World, scrutinized those very goods because of their proximity to indigeneity. European attitudes towards the New World goods “supplanting more familiar items” were not immediately welcoming despite the excitement surrounding their novelty (Mintz 151). Pseudoscientific theories cautioning against chocolate were widespread. For instance, Doctor Giovanni Batista Felici, physician to the Tuscan court, held that chocolate caused “palpitations, thickened blood, lack of appetite, and so on” (Coe and Coe 209). Convincing Europe’s elite to embrace cacao as a delicacy and, later, a staple and medical phenomenon was key to establishing chocolate as an industry in Europe. Spanish colonists’ usage of quick-dissolving tablets to make instant hot chocolate “mixed with spices” in the 1600s, for example, reveals the early chocolate craze that swept Europe’s colonial elite and nobles (Coe and Coe 184). The chocolate-drinking craze which later began to “spread through all classes” of Baroque Europe further demonstrates how the delicacy of the aristocracy became a socioeconomic phenomenon that crossed class lines (Coe and Coe 181). Ultimately, the technological advances and increased production rates of the Industrial era allowed chocolate to become a household staple. In other words, the repackaging of Mesoamerican cacao into a sweet, everyday dessert and medicinal commodity amongst the elite helped set the stage for an expanded market that would eventually reach the general public– the larger and more reliable engine of industry.

How Chocolate was Changed by European Enterprise

The startups of the Industrial period are the tycoons of today, and their marketing influence is historically rooted in the industrial revolution and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. While chocolate had been primarily consumed as a beverage or dessert for the elite, the 1800s industrial boom saw chocolate become accessible to the general public (Coe and Coe 211). Chocolate-making companies, such as Cadbury, Lindt, and Hershey, were launched during the industrial revolution of the 1800s. Continuing the precedents set by Europe’s elite consumers, such as Cosimo III de Medici, these companies departed from the original Mesoamerican chocolate recipes (Coe and Coe 145). Chili peppers were replaced with sugar, vanilla replaced with milk and cream (Coe and Coe 115). Joël Glenn Brenner’s observation notes the westernization of chocolate-making in “The Emperors of Chocolate”:

“Each process produced it’s own unique chocolate flavor, and over time, these differences translated into distinct national tastes. The British, for example, prefer their milk chocolate very sweet and caramel-like, while Americans identify with the harsher, grittier flavor popularized by Hershey. German chocolate generally ranks as the richest because of it’s traditionally high fat content, while Italian chocolate is drier, more bittersweet. Swiss chocolate, considered the finest by connoisseurs, is characterized by a strong, aromatic, almost perfumey flavor and the smoothest, silkiest texture.” (Brenner)

Industrial era companies, such as Nestle, created products that contained little to no actual cacao. Milk Chocolate, a mixture of powdered milk and cacao butter that uses little to no actual cacao, and other similarly faux chocolate products, like nougat, relied more on sweetness and chocolate coating than authentic cacao (Coe and Coe 250). Products from the Western Hemisphere, like cacao and sugar, flowed into Europe through Trans-Atlantic colonialism while the later Industrial Revolution allowed for production on a massive scale. This allowed for a fusion of Mesoamerican cacao with imported goods from the New World brought from Europe (Mintz 151).

Chocolate Moves to the Factory

Industrial-era companies focused heavily on marketing chocolate which had previously been reserved for the elite to the general public– “everything had to be faster, cheaper, bigger, better” (Brenner 8). Milton Hershey, for instance, constructed a town-sized complex to house and facilitate workers in his chocolate factory (D’Antonio 108). This was a sharp contrast to the way chocolate was hoarded in royal courts, like that of Cosimo III, in the seventeenth-century. Given the new technology of the era, the philosophy of chocolate companies transitioned to massive operation and marketing.

Image result for town hershey factory town
The original Hershey factory built in 1894, photographed in 1976

The history of chocolate was rewritten with a new origin story that began in Europe, demonstrated by the marketing campaign of companies, like Rowntree which owned one of the largest newspapers in London and used full-page advertisements and billboards to promote their chocolate (Brenner 65). Such marketing campaigns all but erased the Mesoamerican roots of cacao and chocolate consumption by westernizing chocolate’s history and redefining the good as quintessentially European in post-colonial consumer and popular culture. The development of factories allowed for shortened production time and increased volume. Further, the expansion of colonial plantation economies into West Africa and other regions supplied the factory economy developing in Europe. By controlling the historical narrative of chocolate, and redefining food culture, the mass-marketing practices of industrial-era European companies made chocolate a western good. Bolstered by a history of Trans-Atlantic slavery and colonialism, the Industrial Revolution allowed for powerful marketing campaigns that are largely the reason why companies, like Mars, Hershey, Lindt, and others, are among the most popular chocolate-makers today.

Works Cited

Brenner, Joel Glenn. “Chapter Five: To the Milky Way and Beyond.” The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, Broadway Books, 2000, pp. 49–69.

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

D’Antonio, M. (2006). Hershey. New York, NY. (pp. 121).

File:Hershey Factory.jpg. (2016, November 29). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 20:19, March 25, 2020 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Hershey_Factory.jpg&oldid=223766892.

File:Takalik Abaj metate 1.jpg. (2019, March 20). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 20:20, March 25, 2020 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Takalik_Abaj_metate_1.jpg&oldid=343320395.

Khan, Gulnaz. “Watch the Ancient Art of Chocolate-Making.” National Geographic, September 11, 2017. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/guatemala/anitgua-maya-chocolate-making/
Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and power: the place of sugar in modern history. New York.

More Chocolate, More Quickly!: Changes in Chocolate Consumption brought about by the Industrial Revolution

The Bigger Picture: How did we get here?

“200 years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year . . . Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year” (Martin 2020).  But what contributed to this major uptick in consumption?

Sketch of sugar consumption over time, based on (Martin 2020).

As portrayed in my sketch of a graph above, sugar consumption (and consequently chocolate consumption) has always been on the rise.  However, the inflection point in the exponential curve was in the late 1700s to early 1800s, precisely the time of the Industrial Revolution. (Martin 2020)

During the Industrial Revolution, various technological developments not only further augmented the supply and demand for chocolate, but also altered the way in which it was consumed, especially among the working class.

More chocolate for everyone!

Several technological advancements drove the industrialization of chocolate (among other foods) via developments in the preservation, mechanization, retailing, and transport of food (Goody 2013).  While the production process once required much more manual labor with tools like the molinillo and metate, industrialization led to the automated mechanization of roasting, winnowing, grinding and milling, among many other steps diagrammed below (Coe and Coe 2013).

Diagram of chocolate manufacture process (Mintz 1965).

In 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes Van Houten developed an incredibly efficient hydraulic press along with the Dutch process; these particular inventions would forever change the chocolate industry in enabling the large-scale manufacture of both powdered and solid chocolate (Coe and Coe 2013).

As delineated in the production process like the one filmed below, these developments were taken up by Big Chocolate companies like Lindt, Nestlé, Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Mars, further helping to scale up the chocolate industry through the utilization of this machinery (Martin and Sampeck 2016, 49). 

(How Hershey’s Chocolate Is Made and Packaged HD 2015)

Beyond this, the industry giants would continue to cast their net to an even wider consumer base, by introducing even more changes to chocolate production: Fry’s tempering process would lead to the manufacture of the first chocolate bars (pictured below), Lindt’s conching process would enable chocolate to be filled with other ingredients, and Hershey would develop the means of improving shelf life and producing even larger quantities of chocolate (Martin 2012).

(Fry’s Milk Chocolate Enamel Advertising Sign 2013)
(Frys Five Boys Milk Chocolate 2005)

With all these developments, the ever-growing demand for chocolate was better supported, and the mass production led to an overall deflation of chocolate prices that allowed it to become more accessible to the masses (Martin and Sampeck 2016, 55).  “It was no longer an elite, expensive product primarily consumed as a beverage, but instead an inexpensive cocoa powder to be drunk or low-cacao-content chocolate bar to be consumed as a food by elite and non-elite alike” (Coe and Coe 2013).

The busy consumer

Industrialization not only revolutionized chocolate production, but also created more employment opportunities and expanded the workforce.  As a result, many people’s schedules underwent a dramatic shifted in order to accommodate their new work hours.  Naturally, this directly affected people’s eating patterns as well; with more limited time came a need for quicker meal preparation.

As nations became “more urban and industrialized” over the next century, they “[changed] eating schedules to meet work schedules, teaching laborers to eat away from home, to eat prepared food more frequently, and to consume more sugar along the way. Managers of such societies recognized the potentiality of workers to increase their own productivity if sufficiently stimulated, and to open themselves to new, learnable needs” (Mintz 1986, 181).  In addition, division of labor, in conjunction with familial gender roles, affected eating patterns as well.  With more women in the workforce, women were spending less time at home, shifting the traditional reliance on women’s cooking and labor for food production.  Therefore, family diets were unequivocally affected (Martin 2020).

The sudden spike in chocolate production, in conjunction with the rise of the working class, changed not only the quantity but the very way in which chocolate was consumed, with the birth of various new recipes.  Chocolate provided people with the ability to take “shortcuts while maintaining effective results” and the food industry successfully took advantage of this; for example, through their novel marketing and advertising, “cake and brownie mix producers were able to convince home cooks around the country to purchase their products, while forever altering the American relationship to home cooking and taste” (Martin 2012).  Later in the twentieth century, with advancements like microwaveable technologies, products like microwaveable brownies were made possible as well, simultaneously addressing both the need for speed and the growing demand for chocolate.

Chocolate today

The developments made during Industrialization indefinitely transformed not only the way chocolate was produced, but the quantity and quality in which it was consumed.  In fact, we continue to employ many of the same advancements in the production process and enjoy much of the new eating patterns that came about during that time.  The Industrial Revolution is to thank for transforming chocolate to become what we know it as today, and for making it possible for us to even enjoy it.

To many of our delights, most of us have the privilege of consuming chocolate, and on any occasion in present day.  Although we have the industrial period to be grateful for, it is worth noting that chocolate has an incredibly rich history extending beyond industrialization as well, and that chocolate consumption still fails to be fully equitable.  As contemporary consumers of chocolate, it is important to be mindful of both the sweet and bitter history of chocolate.


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

Frys Five Boys Milk Chocolate. Wikimedia Commons, 2005. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frys_five_boys_milk_chocolate.jpg

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine,” 2013.

How Hershey’s Chocolate Is Made and Packaged HD. YouTube, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MytilMhNUq8.

Martin, Carla. “Brownies: The History of a Classic American Dessert,” 2012, http://www.ushistoryscene.com/uncategorized/brownies/.

Martin, Carla. “Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Class lecture at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 2020.

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

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

Traynor, Kim. Fry’s Chocolate Enamel Advertising Sign. Wikimedia Commons, 2013. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fry’s_Chocolate_advertisement.JPG.

Bittersweet Business: Partnership and Rivalry in the Chocolate Industry

The chocolate industry is a $100 billion annual business. Put in different terms, this industry’s value is greater than the GDP of 130 countries (Martin, Lecture 1). Despite its vast size, the chocolate industry is extremely concentrated with only five major companies controlling over 50% of the world’s chocolate confectionery market. Just in the U.S., Mars and Hershey control 70% of the American candy market(Coe & Coe, Chapter 8). It’s hard for consumers to imagine the chocolate industry being a cutthroat environment like the one that’s usually associated with the financial services industry or others. After all, what could evil possibly have to do with a business that has brought so much happiness to chocolate lovers through its many products? Certainly, this ugly side of the chocolate industry is not conveyed through its warmhearted and sweet advertising. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this story is the development of today’s current market dynamics among key players. Spoiler alert, things were not always as bitter as they came to be…

This pie chart depicts the world’s chocolate confectionery market share and shows that over 50% of it is dominated by five big companies, most of which have histories dating back to the early days of chocolate industrialization (Martin, Lecture 1).

Early Industrialization and Competition

Today’s chocolate industry would simply not exist without the discoveries made during the Industrial Revolution. The developments made during this period not only permanently changed the way chocolate was popularly consumed (from liquid to solid), but also its availability to consumers from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Previously, chocolate consumption was considered a luxury reserved only for the elite, but the invention of industrial machinery allowed chocolate to be processed in greater quantities and different forms.

The creation of the cocoa press by the Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten in 1828 radically transformed chocolate-making by allowing cocoa to be separated into cocoa butter and cocoa powder more efficiently and faster. This further enabled chocolate to be used as a confectionary ingredient, and resulted in the drastic decrease in production costs that made chocolate affordable (Klein, 2014). Soon, many other chocolate creations followed. In 1849, J.S. Fry & Sons created the first chocolate bar, an invention that was later improved by the 1879 creation of Rudolphe Lindt’s conche machine, which increased the quality of chocolate confectionery and paved the way for the solid chocolate bars we know today. 1879 also saw the birth of the world’s first milk chocolate bar, courtesy of Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé, who discovered a novel process to make powdered milk by evaporation and who is also the founder of the world’s largest food corporation that bears his last name.

Undoubtedly, the 19th century was a period of discovery and of disruption that changed the history of chocolate consumption and production forever as each invention also seemed to consolidate the success of its respective developer in the industry. Amid these discoveries, competition among the top firms started to stiffen in more than the sales area. Soon, established chocolate companies fought for the control of the market by claiming their chocolate was the best in quality. During the time when adulteration fears were strongly present among consumers, the Cadbury firm claimed that their chocolate was “Absolutely Pure, therefore [The] Best” and insisted that other chocolate manufacturers present all ingredients on their wrappings (Coe & Coe, Chapter 8). Furthermore, the Cadbury and Rowntree firms sought to position themselves as socially conscientious by establishing their own model towns with adequate housing for its workers and other amenities adjacent to their factories. This type of competition appeared to be healthy to some extent, but with the growth of a global market things soon would change.

Rudolphe Lindt’s conche machine revolutionized the way chocolate was consumed, particularly those confections like chocolate bars we know today. Thanks to the conche, the texture of chocolate became softer and its taste became richer (Martin, Lecture 5).

Enter the Americans

Up until the late 19th century, the selling of chocolate confections to the masses had largely been a European affair, but this changed with Milton Hershey. Hershey was a chocolate and candy confectioner who established the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1894 and went on to become America’s first successful chocolate businessman by building a chocolate empire similar, if not greater, than those already established in Europe. Hershey was able to produce milk chocolate faster and cheaper than the Europeans thanks to the substitution of powder milk for skim milk (D’Antonio 2006, p. 108). His success was not only reflected in the chocolate sales but also in the creation of Hershey, Pennsylvania, the town built around his chocolate factory. Hershey’s town had all sort of amenities that made similar chocolate-built towns like those of Cadbury and Rowntree look small. Hershey had schools, houses, a trolley line, a hotel and eventually its own hospital. Hershey’s legacy still lives on, and his commercial success would’ve been remained unmatched had Mars not entered the picture.

In 1923, Frank Mars, a candy and chocolate confectioner, finally found success with his Mar-O-Bar Co., which later simply became Mars, Inc. Famous creations like the Milky Way bar, Three Musketeers, and the Snickers bar, catapulted Mars into a national success and in 1932 Mars was ranked as the second largest candy maker in the United States, just behind Hershey. Surprisingly, Hershey and Mars did not see each other as rivals at this point. In fact, they had a strong partnership, as Hershey was the supplier of the chocolate coating for Mars products until 1964. Curiously, the famous M&M brand was the collaboration product between Forrest Mars, Frank Mars’s son, and Bruce Murrie, the son of then Hershey Chocolate president William F. R. Murrie (William F.R. Murrie, 2018). At the peak of their partnership, the Mars business accounted for 20% of Hershey’s total sales.  This strong partnership and relationship drastically changed once Forrest Mars assumed control of his father’s company in 1965.

Forrest Mars best embodied the spirit of relentless competition. After being bought out of his father’s company in 1932, he moved to Europe to try his luck. He went on to learn the business of confections by infiltrating the ranks of Nestlé before starting his own chocolate company in England. After gaining success in Europe, he returned to America ready to implement his ambitious goals through his father’s company. He effectively ended the partnership with Bruce Murrie by buying him out of the M&M business, and once he became the leader of Mars, he was determined to not let anything stop him from realizing his vision to dominate the confectionery market. He severed the relationship with Hershey and other suppliers in an effort to control every aspect of the Mars business and not depend on any other company. Suddenly, with Forrest’s decision, Hershey’s profits dramatically declined over 20% in a matter of three years, and they were facing a huge competitor who would soon surpass their success. Forrest was determined to become the industry leader, and through secretive innovations and a ruthless engineering strategy, Mars outperformed the competition’s manufacturing.  

The Hershey chocolate bar was the first chocolate bar to be distributed on a national scale in America. This marked the success of Milton Hershey as America’s first chocolate magnate. The Hershey bar is still a popular chocolate confection today (Flickr, accessed 2020).
Forrest Mars was essential in the transformation of the chocolate confectionery industry into a cutthroat environment. He is arguably also responsible for helping his family business attain the success it has today. Mars, Inc. secretive company nature has been described as a big part of Forrest’s legacy (Wikimedia Commons).
Milton Hershey was an entrepreneur with a vision to make chocolate affordable to the masses. Through his focus on philanthropy, it soon became apparent that to Mr. Hershey commercial success and money were not everything (Wikimedia Commons).

The chocolate manufacturing industry today is becoming more and more fragmented, but the big five confectionery firms still hold their ground as industry giants. With consumer trends rapidly changing towards healthier habits, perhaps their biggest threat may not come from established business rivals, but from their inability to adapt to consumer demand. Companies like Hershey, are already looking to expand to new snack markets through their “snackfection” strategy, which seeks to combine chocolate with new edible products (Shirsch, 2014). Only time will tell how the industry changes, and maybe new partnerships or rivalries will arise. However, one thing is undeniable, the history of the chocolate confection business has not been anything short of bittersweet.

The Hershey Company is exploring different business alternatives aside from chocolate, its core product, as a result of changes in consumer demand. Only time will tell how the competition adapts to chocolate consumption trends among consumers (CNBC.com).

Works Cited:

Brenner, Joël G. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World on Hershey and Mars. Broadway Books, 2000.

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

D’Antonio, Michael D. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Klein, Christopher. “The Sweet History of Chocolate.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Feb. 2014, http://www.history.com/news/the-sweet-history-of-chocolate.

Shirsch, Lauren. “After 124 Years, Hershey Tries to Be More than Just a Chocolate Company (Again).” CNBC, CNBC, 24 Apr. 2018, http://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/24/not-just-a-chocolate-company-hershey-plots-its-future-in-snacking.html.

“William F.R. Murrie, 1873-1950.” Hershey Community Archives, 7 Sept. 2018, hersheyarchives.org/encyclopedia/murrie-william-f-r-1873-1950/.

Right Place at the Right Time

Imagine walking into a grocery store with a sugar craving. You walk directly to the section with sweets and chocolates only to be visually bombarded by the large variety of options. Maybe you want a simple Mars bar- or if you are in a nutty mood, a Snickers. Alternatively, you could be looking for a smaller, more “snacky” option, such as an M&M or one of the varieties of Skittles. Perhaps you don’t want candy at all, so you stop at the gum aisle and pick up a Juicy Fruit or Orbit pack of gum. On the way to the register, a Dove and Twix bar catch your eye, and you make your purchase. Walking out of the store, you deem your trip a success and are happy that you were able to narrow your options from the variety presented above. Little did you know, however, that every confection mentioned previously is owned by one massive conglomerate: Mars Inc.

According to Zion Market Research (2018), the global Total Addressable Market (TAM) for chocolate is a staggering $103.38 billion and is expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate of 7% for the next 7 years ($161.56 billion by 2024). This TAM is higher than the GDP of 130 nations and is composed mainly of five large corporations: Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, Ferrero, and Hershey’s.

This pie chart details the breakdown of market share in U.S. confectionery markets. The diagram stresses how a few firms dominate an entire multibillion dollar industry (U.S. Confectionary Market Share, 2016).

Even into the late 19th Century, processing cacao beans was still a manual task that took a significant amount of labor on a large scale (The History of Chocolate, 2007). So how then, in 150 years, have we arrived at a point where chocolate is so all expansive and profitable? The mass production and distribution of sugar, tools resulting from the Industrial Revolution, and innovative entrepreneurial solutions transformed the nature of chocolate from a rare, bitter, localized delicacy, to the massive, mass-produced, money-making machine it is today.

Cane sugar is the ingredient that unlocked the real marketability of chocolate, allowing it to be widely consumed and enjoyed. Sugar, in addition to chocolate, has a complicated history that begins with it as a specialty item, reserved for royalty and special occasions and slowly trickling down to the masses through plantation slavery as its production mechanism. In Sidney Mintz’s “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” (1985), she claims that “no later than 1800, sugar had become a necessity… in the diet of every English person; by 1900, it was supplying nearly one-fifth of the calories in the English diet” (p. 94). This rapid acceleration in the late years was due to the end of experimentation with sugar and its many uses. Not only did it have medicinal uses for chest and throat pain, but sugar was also found to slow the spread of bacteria, making it a useful preservative. In addition, pure, white, cane sugar was a common decorative addition that became synonymous with nobility. It was only through brutal exploitation of slaves that sugar was able to be prepared en masse, allowing for it to shift from a spice- a mere addition in some recipes- to the star of a given food or diet. Mintz (1985) corroborates this analysis when she claims that “As the spread of sugar downward and outward meant that it lost some of its power to distinguish those who consumed it, it became a new substance” (p. 95).  Another contributing factor to the proliferation of sugar was the rise of coffee, tea, and chocolate as these goods reinforced each other in a cycle that led to the mass adoption of all of them as household staples. Once sugar’s role as a sweetener had been solidified, it was only a matter of time until this sweet addition seeped into the chocolate industry.

This graph details the change in consumption of sugar over time. While growth is fairly linear between the 1600s-1800s, there is a steep boom at the start of the 19th century due to the formalization of slave labor in plantations (Sugar Consumption Over Time).

In addition to the availability of raw resources, the entrepreneurs and innovations of the Industrial Revolution propelled the industry forward in ways that set up the mass production of chocolate to succeed. As mentioned earlier, it was not until late into the 19th century that the manual removal of cacao was replaced by more mechanized solutions. Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten is attributed with inventing the Cocoa press in 1828. This machine was able to separate the cacao butter from chocolate liquor (The Sweet Lure of Chocolate, 2020). This mechanization lowered costs and sped up the chocolate-making process. In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt, the Swiss chocolatier, invented the conching machine, which allowed for the production of standardized, mass-produced, smoother, and superior tasting products (The Sweet History of Chocolate, 2014). In his piece “Industrial Food,” Jack Goody (2013) also argues that the transition from a mixed marketplace in cities, such as London, to the privatized individual storefronts and grocery stores allowed for the chocolate to be more accessible as prices fell. In addition, the ability to preserve milk in the condensed form (in cans) allowed for even greater mass production (p. 81-83).

This video gives insight to the Conching process which aims to spread cacao butter within chocolate. It also also develops the flavor of the chocolate through application of frictional heat (The Chocolate Conche, 2018).

The Industrial Revolution resulted in technology that could mass-produce confection; however, smart and savvy entrepreneurial minds were still necessary to capture the business and stomach of chocolate hungry consumers. The stories of Milton S. Hershey and Forrest Mars shed a great deal of insight into how small local confectionaries grew into global powerhouses. In the case of Hershey, due to his lack of experience in the chocolate industry, he teamed up with John Schmalbach, whose proprietary method allowed for the team to produce on a grander scale than in Europe. This was due precisely to the massive availability of condensed milk and sugar (D’Antonio 2006, p. 107-108). Hershey was able to gain market power, cutting costs, and therefore pushing out the smaller competition, forcing labor to come to them. The Hershey factory became central to the town (later renamed Hershey), and unlike Standard Oil and other large-scale monopolists, Hershey’s operations were not viewed in an evil light (D’Antonio 2006, p. 115).  

Mars had a slightly less linear growth story that began with Forrest finding his estranged father, reviving his business with the original Mars bar, being cut out of his own family operation, and exploring European chocolate making facilities to perfect his craft. Upon arrival back to the states, Forrest dismantled the relations his father Frank had built with the Hershey company and began to source his own chocolate. Not only did this decision allow for greater manufacturing independence, but Mars had previously been Hershey’s most significant revenue stream. Cutting business ties crippled Hershey’s operations in the short run, allowing Forrest and his new line of products to dominate the market (Brenner 2000, p. 182). While both Mars and Hershey’s dominate the chocolate space, as of 2018, Mars had net sales of $18 billion (the most of any confectionary), while Hershey had less than half the net sales ($7.7 billion). Clearly, the first is not always the most successful (International Cocoa Organization, 2019).

The story of the mass production of chocolate is one of timing, exploitation, and ingenuity. Without the mass production of sugar using slave labor, particular inventions that made chocolate-making processes easier and cheaper, and smart minds such as Mars and Hershey to put all the pieces together, the chocolate industry would look very different today. The issue of labor source is one that needs to be explored and illuminated further as although these corporations don’t rely on slave labor, there are still large swaths of labor exploitation in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Having already secured incredible profits, behemoths such as the Big Five should look to invest more greatly in fair-trade sources for their chocolate as farmers are subject to abject working conditions with little compensation for their labor.

Works Cited

Brenner Joël Glenn. “To the Milky Way and Beyond and Breaking the Mold.” In The Emperors of Chocolate: inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2000.

DAntonio, Michael. Hershey: Miltons S. Hersheys Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperback, 2006.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” In Food and Culture: a Reader, edited by Caroline Counihan and Penny Can Esterik , 72–90. Routledge, 2013.

“International Cocoa Organization.” The Chocolate Industry. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.

Klein, Christopher. “The Sweet History of Chocolate.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, February 14, 2014. https://www.history.com/news/the-sweet-history-of-chocolate.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: the Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, 1985.

Research, Zion Market. “Global Chocolate Market Set For Rapid Growth, To Reach USD 161.56 Billion By 2024.” Global Chocolate Market Worth Over USD 161.56 Billion By 2024. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.zionmarketresearch.com/news/chocolate-market.

“The History Of Chocolate.” Chocolate – All About Chocolate – History of Chocolate. Accessed March 23, 2020. http://archive.fieldmuseum.org/chocolate/history.html.

“The Sweet Lure of Chocolate.” Chocolate: Facts, History, and Factory Tour | Exploratorium Magazine. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/exploring_chocolate/.

Multimedia Cited

Sugar Consumption Over Time. Photograph. Historical Consumption of Sugar. Accessed March 23, 2020. http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/consumption-of-sugar.html.

The Chocolate Conch – Episode 12 – Craft Chocolate TV, Youtube, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGkJGDWn0J8 (accessed March 23, 2020).

U.S. Confectionary Market Share. September 9, 2016. Photograph. FoodBusinessNews. https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/8592-competition-challenging-confectionery-market.

Cacao Slave Trade

“CANDY!!!” This is what you hear kids of all ages scream when they find out they are rewarded with a delicious candy bar. In many ways we condition the children of society to behave for these treats. Adults and children alike are at the mercy of said delicacies which have been perfected by candy makers all around the globe and the influence candy does have is evident in the way it is advertised and marketed towards us. Children are bribed with these sweets during holidays, any time they receive high marks in school, and overall for just behaving in general. With that being said, it is almost tragic to think that in another part of the world, candy is one of the only ways a child can reward themselves with another day of life. More specifically the production of Cacao and how its successful manufacturing or lack thereof determines the fate of the children who help produce the candy we identify as Chocolate. In this post I will attempt to highlight the negative impact the slave trade has had on children in third world countries when it pertains to the Cacao slave trade and how the high demand for chocolate in the United States and beyond is a direct cause of these children’s misfortune.

Children working on a Cacao farm

It goes without saying that slavery is one of the most inhumane practices to ever be documented by the human race. To force another individual to produce a resource in high commodity through grueling work processes and unsafe work environments for minimal pay is despicable, and yet this practice is ever so prevalent in society today. In regard to Cacao farming, children in West Africa are taken from their homes at a young age and are sold to cacao farms where they are forced to produce cacao beans from the pods they are sent to collect. These children range anywhere from five to sixteen years of age, and a large majority of them continue this work well after they have matured. They are paid less than five dollars for a days work and are expected to produce a substantial amount of product in a short time frame. Who is to blame for this injustice done upon these children who are simply trying to survive and provide for their families in areas where resources are limited? To avoid asking another rhetorical question let’s get straight to the point and acknowledge the fact that we are the source of the problem. Chocolate or rather Cacao, has become as crucial a resource in America similar to wheat, agriculture, and livestock.  As previously mentioned above, our society has integrated cacao into our everyday lives in such a way that it would be virtually impossible to reverse the ever growing issue that our high demand for cacao has on the children forced into the slave trade in other countries.

Cacao beans

Large corporations that sell chocolate such as Hershey and Nestle to name a few are prime contributors to the continuation of the slave trade as they have yet to stop dealing with the slave traders that take advantage of the children they have producing cacao for them. Due in part to the fact that they are a business making a large profit off of selling chocolate, why would these corporations modify their business strategies if the return on the dealings are more than what they are putting out? Anyone with a brain could see the logistics behind it, but there is a lack of morality in it all that we must acknowledge if we want to prevent future generations from experiencing something similar. The other cause of the never ending cycle that is the slave trade in the Cacao business is the consumer. These corporations pander to the people to ensure a sizeable return from satisfied consumers of their product. We play a sizeable role in the continuation of the diabolical process known as slavery and we must stop turning a blind eye to its prevalence and seek out alternatives that will not come at the expense of children trying to carve out a life for themselves.

 According to a company called Slave Free Chocolate, these larger corporations that produce chocolate, which have become a primary source of happiness in our country and around the world, are doing very little to ensure the wrong doings placed upon these innocent children are addressed and rectified. Hershey and Nestle are two companies that have acknowledged the harsh reality that is child labor and how they will attempt to limit their contributions to these farms that make a profit off of the backs of younglings due to slave labor. However, in the years following these announcements they have done nothing but prove that they are incapable of changing their business practices to a healthier alternative. Both corporations have been taken to court on a number of occasions in an attempt to uncover the truth behind their business dealings, as well as hold them accountable for negligence in regard to who they choose to do business with. Their contributions to the slave labor running rampant in third world countries like Ghana and Côte d’Ivoireare the reason these children are still fighting for their lives.

The salvaging alone for Cacao beans is not a simple process that your average adult could simply begin without the proper tools and some form of guidance. Yet children are being sent into the forest with sharp machetes and large sacks. They climb dangerously tall trees in an attempt to harvest the cacao pods and bring them back to their slavers so that they can begin farming for the cacao beans. They are rushed by their slavers to cut open these Cacao pods to collect the beans found inside, and the only way they can do this effectively is by using the machetes provided to them. Many children are injured during this process as the bean extraction from the plant requires them to hack open the pod with a machete. There is always a risk that skin and appendages could be taken and still these children partake in this dangerous task because they have no other choice. The market calls for a high demand of Cacao and forcing an abundance of children to produce a plethora of cacao is easier to do rather than hiring adults and paying them a set wage.

The question then becomes are we to blame for being complicit, considering the children are in another country and are not our primary concern because they are not citizens of the United States? So long as they continue to contribute to a service that is provided to us, who cares if we turn our heads in the other direction right? Personally, I feel we have failed these individuals simply because as a country we are considered a super power and we control the eb and flow of the overall market. So, while we have the power to course correct these injustices our demand for the same product presents us with a paradox that is almost impossible to rectify. This alone demonstrates how subconsciously we are complicit because we possess the ability to correct these injustices and yet we are the reason they exist. Not all countries have the liberties we possess here in the United States, and eventually we have to acknowledge the fact that the ease of access to resources in the U.S. has created the lives these children currently lead. Subconsciously, we have been groomed in a way that allows us to be comfortable with getting what we want despite the steps taken to get us there. To take it a step further, let us acknowledge how much food is experimented with here and how America’s irregular consumption of the same foods in different forms has had an inverse effect on the slave trade and by extension the children.

Despite popular belief cacao beans are not solely used to make chocolate. While there are a variety of chocolates that are crafted from the plant, it is also the reason we have certain drinks and alcoholic beverages such as Coffee and Brandy. Not to mention cacao powder, liquor, butter, jam, marmalade etc. are all resources produced from this one plant. Coffee which is a huge resource utilized by the American people is right up there with chocolate as a hot commodity item. Corporations like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have perfected their sales techniques to make coffee an adults signature “sweet treat.” Seasonal drinks like Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Peppermint Mochas drive the masses wild and selling them during the holidays means more work for the children.There are endless examples of how food has its properties modified to be made into something else useful, but for the sake of this post it illustrates why the cacao slave trade continues to make a sizeable profit. We have become codependent on cacao and the many forms it takes and in the end the ones paying the price are the children working to keep up with our demand for more of this popular resource. What is even more tragic is the fact that we do not have to support companies that make their profit off of the backs of innocent children when there are companies out there that have demonstrated a suitable alternative exists.

There are small companies and corporations that are willing to pay foreigners a livable wage in order to produce the same chocolate products that we love, without putting children in harm’s way. Corporations like Tony’s Chocolonely make it their mission to deliver the consumer a product that is manufactured free from slave labor and in doing so take the fight directly towards corporations like Hershey and Nestle who refuse to change their business practices. They are so proud of these accomplishments that they label their products “free of slave labor” to encourage the consumer to purchase their product over their competitors. One of the primary reasons this is done is the hope that this will encourage larger corporations like Nestle and Hershey to stop dealing under the table with those who continue to practice the use of slave trade with children on their farms. Once they begin to lose business perhaps this cruel individuals may change the way they hire and pay their workers to something a bit more legal.

Keeping all of this in mind, what role can we play in fighting the war against slave labor to ensure that the number of children inducted into this terrifyingly inhumane practice are safe from trafficking moving forward? For starters we must stop funding these mega corporations that are only in the business to make a profit, and refuse to purchase from them again until they present substantial evidence that they are no longer doing business with slavers. As difficult as that may seem, considering these chocolate companies are already so ingrained into our everyday lives, and we as a society are subconsciously unaware of our complicities’ that have led to the slave trades continuous growth, we owe it to the children whose livelihoods are being sacrificed for a profit to bring forth positive change. We should focus our efforts and fund businesses like Tony’s Chocolonely as they have presented us with a more viable alternative for foreign workers who help produce cacao. Livable wages, safer work environments and zero slave labor. Furthermore, we owe it to future generations of children who are raised in the United States and beyond to seek out a safer alternative for years to come. If we did not try to undo these wrongs, how can we look our kids in the eyes and gift them with a candy bar that another child halfway around the world sacrificed so much to make? To that end, no matter the cost we have to do better and it starts by holding everyone accountable including ourselves for past discretions. When I become a parent, I would like to look into my child’s eyes one day and imagine I am looking at the eyes of a child halfway around the world whose future does not look as bleak as it originally used to.

Works Cited:

Appiah, L. (2017, June 07). Slave-free chocolate: Not-so-guilty pleasure. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/02/world/tonys-chocolonely-slavery-free-chocolate/index.html

Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/

International Cocoa Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.icco.org/faq/52-by-products/115-products-that-can-be-made-from-cocoa.html

Lampley, R. L. (2019, February 09). Child slave labor rampant in chocolate supply chain. Retrieved from https://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Child-slave-labor-rampant-in-chocolate-supply-13602395.php

Law Suits. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/doe-vs-nestle

Slave Free Chocolate. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

Sugar’s Twist: The Change in Chocolate Consumption


Today, chocolate is a foundational treat in the Western diet. The way in which we consume cacao, the critical fruit in any chocolate creation, has drastically changed overtime. What began as the key ingredient in divine medicinal energizer drinks in Mesoamerica has drastically changed to a sugar-infused, unhealthful dessert in modern society. In turn, treats such as chocolate are seen as villains in modern day obesity problems.

In this project, I seeked to understand the modern chocolate palette and contrast that with more traditional chocolate recipes. Thus, I compared subjects’ reactions to common, modern brands such as Hershey’s with that of a pure 100% cacao bar as well as several recipes between these extremes. I interviewed these subjects to better understand their taste palette. In doing so, I hoped to gain a more concrete understanding of why this shift occurred. To do this, I need to outline the greater history of chocolate and compare that to my own study.

In doing so, I more clearly saw the ties chocolate has to class as certain chocolates are associated with nobility and others are seen as the chocolate of the common man. This class structure has deep historical roots that continue to affect the way we see chocolate today

Chocolate in Mesoamerica

In Mayan, Aztec, and other native american cultures, cacao was a holy fruit. Originating around the equator in the American continent, cacao grows on a tree of the same name. Classical prints suggest that the most common form of chocolate consumption was as a beverage. The oldest known depiction of chocolate consumption is on the Princeton Vase, a work from around 750 A.D (See image above). On the right hand side of this image, we see a women  pouring a chocolaty beverage from one container to the other. We believe this to have been a method for raising the foam, which was considered the most popular part of the beverage (Coe 48).

It should be noted, however, that it would be quite simple minded to believe that these people consumed chocolate in a singular way. As modern chefs have the skill to craft a plethora of dishes from a few simple ingredients, mesoamerican chocolatiers too had the ability to prepare numerous chocolate treats including beverages, porridges, and powders (Coe 48).

These cultures mixed in several savory flavors with their chocolate such as chilli, maize, and ceiba (Coe 86). This is very different, however, from the sweet, sugary treats we often associate with chocolate today. During our tasting session, we served some chocolate options with little to no added sugar. When we served a pure 100% cacao bar, there was instant disgust. The subjects compared the taste to that of a branch or chalk. One subject went so far as to claim that, if served in another context, she would never associate the flavor with that of chocolate. That is, counterintuitively, she doesn’t recognize cacao, pure chocolate, as chocolate at all.

Additionally, we served a Taza chocolate that was 87% cacao. Taza tends to market themselves as traditional mesoamerican chocolate. Similarly, there was some disgust amongst the subjects. They were disappointed by the lack of intensity of flavor and the limited sweetness. One subject commented that she feels like she doesn’t like the chocolate because she is uncultured. This mindset reflects the common notion that artisanal chocolate are for high-class “chocolate snobs.” To a certain degree, this idea matches the structure of mesoamerican chocolate culture. In Aztec culture, for example, chocolate was typically saved for warriors and the nobility. It was difficult and expensive for lay people to consume the treat (Coe 75). In other words, chocolate was only for the elite members of society.

Introduction in Europe – Sugar

When the conquistadors arrived in Mesoamerica in the 16th century, europeans were introduced to cacao for the first time and witnessed the local chocolate customs. Soon after, the product was introduced to Europe itself and was immediately sought after due to the exotic nature of the product. This was during the Baroque period in Europe and it was in the iconically extravagant baroque mansions where the product was first enjoyed in Europe. As was the case in Mesoamerica, only the elite could afford chocolate. Thus, chocolate was immediately associated with the gilded and marble halls that defined the period. Undoubtedly, this created a strong connection between chocolate consumption and nobility.

At first, it was consumed in very similar ways as in Mesoamerica, as a warm beverage with some mix of spices to enliven the flavors. One of those spices was sugar. Sugar was first introduced to Europe around the 12th century. For the first few centuries, it was thought of as a spice (Mintz 79). Sugar was inaccessible to most and even the wealthiest needed to carefully ration the expensive product. Humans, however, have a powerful natural liking for sugar. Thus, it was used to sweeten other bitter food groups. Included in this list of foods that europeans mixed with sugar was chocolate. The introduction of foreign products such as tea, chocolate, and coffee increased the demand for sugar in Europe.

The opportunists across the Atlantic in the New World hoped to take advantage of this demand. Sugar production, however, was very labor intensive. Tragically, the chosen solution for this dilemma was one of human existence’s greatest crimes: slavery. The inception of the triangle slave trade brought African slaves to the new world to do hard physical labor (See the map to the left for details). This free labor allowed europeans to produce sugar and other goods more affordably and to a greater quantity.

With greater sugar supply, the price of sugar plummeted to an accessible price in Europe. By the turn of the 17th century, sugar could be consumed by all people and in greater quantities (Mintz 86). In turn, when europeans used sugar as a sweetener for other foods such as chocolate, they would use it in much greater quantity. For example, in a Spanish chocolate recipe from 1644, for 100 cacao beans, ½ a pound of sugar was added (Coe 133). Thus, sugar was clearly not a sprinkled on spice anymore, but an essential element in a chocolate recipe.

In addition, the increased production of cacao and sugar changed the image of class associated with chocolate. Once the prices dropped so that it was more accessible, it was no longer a luxury reserved for the few.

During our chocolate tasting, we had bars such Cote d’Or that we conjectured are similar to the flavors enjoyed in Europe during 17-19th centuries. Relative to the bars with more cacao content, this bar was quite popular. The students appreciated the sweetness and the mix of flavors. One subject even said that, relative to the Taza bar, he felt this type of chocolate was “more accessible.”

Rise of Big Chocolate

The chocolate industry transformed during the industrial revolution when mavericks like Forrest Mars and M.S. Hershey created their brands. With distinctly sweet recipes and crisp business models, they created the chocolate giants we know today.

Hershey and his partners experimented with various chocolate recipes. They soon came to their perfect solution when they added a ton of milk and sugar. It created a smooth, creamy chocolate that melted in one’s mouth. It had a bite similar to that of “al dente” pasta (D’Antonio 107). This iconic chocolate bar exploded into a sensation. In the process, however, they ran into the issue of collecting all the ingredients and relying on others for some of the processing. To alleviate this dilemma, Hershey sought to vertically integrate the industry. That is, he attempted to control as many of the processes himself as possible. For example, when he had issues getting a consistent source of milk, he founded his own dairy farm so that he could control that supply chain. He did this by founding a town dedicated to his brand — Hershey, PA (D’Antonio 115).

The natural appeal of chocolate gave the industry an inherent public relations advantage and the idea of a perfect little town dedicated to chocolate resonated with many progressives. Hershey easily sold this idea to the public and they ate it up. He was going to make the ultimate chocolate dream come true (D’Antonio 116). Everything about Hershey screamed a people’s brand — it was chocolate for everyone. Their product was sweet, creamy, and affordable and still to this day, people can’t get enough.

This popularity was matched in our study. Upon blindly trying a piece, one subject simply exclaimed, “This is dat good s**t.” The cheapest bar in our collection was also perhaps the most well-liked. Some subjects suggested that it reminded them of their childhood. Thus, big chocolate brands benefit from an exponential path to success. That is, as many people have eaten a Hershey bar before, they are more likely to enjoy it again in the future as it will remind them of positive memories. Thus, a sweeping step in the market of young children creates a set of loyal lifetime customers.

Along these lines, it’s interesting to compare the methods of marketing of a big chocolate brand like Hershey’s against earlier chocolate cultures and modern, high-class chocolatiers. Both of the latter chocolates were targeted to the upper class and aimed to sell a degree of nobility. Hershey on the other hand has a simple branding that is designed for everyone. We see that in one of the original design for their brand that can be seen below. The notions of class that preceded Hershey both in mesoamerica and Europe have evaporated with their affordable, delicious chocolate.

Health Concerns

With brands like Hershey drastically increasing the amount of sugar in a typical chocolate bar, the health concerns around chocolate changed as well. Today, the health concerns around big chocolate are well-advertised, but that fact wasn’t always so clear. In fact, in 17th century Europe, sugar was used as a medicine. Upon sugar’s arrival in Europe, some scholars alluded to classical Islamic texts which raved about the medicinal purposes of sugar (Mintz 96). The stimulant became a standard sight at apothecaries across Europe and some even believed it was a type of panacea (Mintz 101).

For years, researches struggled to undoubtedly prove the negative effects of sugar. For years, big sugar was able to swerve criticisms and even would go as far as claim that sugar helped people lose weight (Taubes 2). Because there was not a consensus about the negative effects of sugar, big sugar companies did not need to cover anything up. Instead, they simply needed to maintain this level of uncertainty (3). With large PR schemes, these companies wanted to maintain the notion that sugar was safe for consumption (6).

Eventually, however, as we know today, the truth did come out: sugar can cause conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Regardless, americans and other people around the world continue to eat the sweetener in great quantity (See figure on the left). Because of this, obesity has risen concurrently. In our little study, we saw that people typically enjoy a good deal of sugar in their chocolate. When I asked the subjects to rank our six chocolates, there was a strong correlation between enjoyability and sugar content.


The way in which chocolate has been prepared and consumed has drastically changed overtime. Notably, today, we use a lot more sugar to prepare chocolate. Thus, people today recognize chocolate for the creamy and sweet flavors of milk and sugar.

On a positive note, these changes broke down the class structure associated with chocolate. No longer is chocolate reserved for the wealthiest and most noble. People of all ages, classes, and genders love and enjoy the treat.

On a darker note, the increased sugar content in chocolatey treats have contributed to the health defects caused by too much sugar consumption. In the 20th century, we saw a steep increase in obesity and that effect has a direct link link to sugar consumption.

Regardless of how you interpret this trend, you cannot refute the claim that we consume and see chocolate in a drastically different way than how it was when it was first introduced to europeans. These drastic changes walked foot by foot with the increase in sugar’s role in both chocolate consumption and our daily diets as a whole.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson, 1996.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey. Simon & Schuster 2006.

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power.. Penguin Books, 1985.

Taubus, Gary and Kearns Couzens, Kristin. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Lies.” Mother Jones.  November/December 2012.

Chocolate Brands and Cause-Related Marketing

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

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

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


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

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

Benazir Barlet-Batada, Cadbury brand equity lead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Michael d’antonio, author of hershey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Joel Glenn Brenner, author of Emperors of chocolate

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

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

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

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

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


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


The Development of Chocolate as an Industrialized Food

Anywhere you go in the world, you can find people enjoying various brands of chocolate with a smile on their face. With chocolate being so widely consumed, nobody ever thinks about how a market was actually born from the universal enjoyment of chocolate. It originated in the Pre-Columbian times as a ritualistic treat for Mesoamericans. Chocolate was not as sweet back then, but they nonetheless added sweeteners to try to improve the taste. Nowadays, much more complex ingredients are used to obtain the sweet, rich, and creamy goodness that is chocolate. Chocolate can be found in grocery stores and homes all over the world; it’s so commonly seen that if you went to a check out line in any store and they weren’t selling chocolate bars, you might actually question the legitimacy of their business. For as long as many of us have been alive, chocolate has been bought and sold abroad but it wasn’t always so widely industrialized.

Chocolate first arrived in Spain in the early 16thcentury. It took some time to become widely accepted, as many Spaniards were initially skeptical of the foreign, bitter drink (Norton 2004). Eventually, acceptance of chocolate became widespread in Spain as the Spanish royal court began to develop a growing taste for it and certified it as an elite delicacy. From then on, all of Europe had a different respect and interest for chocolate.

Until 1828 when a technique was developed to separate cocoa butter from cacao solids, chocolate was something you could only drink. Casparus van Houten created the cocoa press method and his son, a Dutch Chemist by the name of Conraad Johannes van Houten, perfected it. In an attempt to make chocolate more soluble, Houten was able to effectively separate the cacao butter from cacao solids by adding alkaline salt. This would make it so that chocolate could be made in the home fairly easily and therefore would be more accessible to the common man. With the invention of the cocoa press method, chocolate became more than something you could just drink; people were for the first time able to eat it as a snack (Cox 1993). Chocolate as a solid bar caught the attention of the entire continent and eventually became more prevalent than its previously enjoyed liquid form. The chocolate that results from the cocoa press method is now referred to as Dutch-Process cocoa. Dutch-Process cocoa is one of the standard ingredients in most of the chocolate we consume today.

With the European chocolate industry growing rapidly throughout the 19th century, people continued to try to find new ways to optimize the taste of it and make it more marketable. In 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle invented milk chocolate by blending milk with chocolate. Milk chocolate boomed in Europe, but the growing market for chocolate was increasingly more crowded. As more and more people got into the market and tried to develop better chocolate than their competitors, the quality of chocolate inevitably improved. With inventions like the conching machine in 1879 by Rodolphe Lindt, the texture of chocolate became much smoother and was able to be made much faster, pushing further industrialization. In order to attack a new market that had never seen the type of chocolate they specialized in, Peter and Nestle brought their product to America and created Nestle’s Chocolate Company in 1905. From the invention of milk chocolate and the introduction of it to the American market sprung the industry we are most familiar with today. Major chocolate companies today would not be so profitable if it weren’t for Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle.

Since 1905, a few (and I do mean a few) other companies have also gotten in on the mega-market that the sale of chocolate has grown to produce. The top companies that make close to all of the brands of chocolate sold around the world are Nestle (who is till the biggest company), Cadbury, and Mars. These companies drive what has turned into an ever-growing market that we all are guilty of contributing to on a regular basis.

Chocolate has come a long way from the time when it was first consumed on Earth to the much more marketed chocolate we are familiar with today. It went from being a hand made commodity to being produced through a much more mechanized process and from being consumed in one particular part of the world to being consumed worldwide. Chocolate is and will always be a part of our lives, as our love for it seems that it will never fade. Hopefully this Food of the Gods, as it was once regarded (Presilla 2009), will be waiting for us in the afterlife.

Works Cited

Cox, Helen. 1993. “The Deterioration and Conservation of Chocolate from Museum Collections”. Studies in Conservation, vol. 38, no. 4.

Norton, Marcy. 2004. “Conquests of Chocolate”. OAH Magazine of History, vol. 18, no. 3.

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

The Henry Ford of the Chocolate Makers


Hearing the word “chocolate” immediately evokes the sense memories of a delectable Hershey’s chocolate bar.  The mouth begins to water, and the brain can no longer focus on any other task; the thought of biting into a rich Hershey’s bar becomes all-consuming.  Nevertheless, there is much more to explore about the history of the Hershey’s chocolate bar ― it certainly did not magically appear in almost every single deli and drugstore nationwide.  In fact, the development of what is now known and recognized as a Hershey’s chocolate bar took decades of trial and error to create the perfect chocolate bar that so many Americans crave every day.  

The Early Life of Milton S. Hershey:

The founder of Hershey’s chocolate, Milton Snavely Hershey, was born in Derry Township, PA, to Henry Hershey and Fanny Snavely (“Milton Hershey”).  When Milton was 15 years old, he began working at a confectionery story in Lancaster, gaining valuable experience in the exciting world of sugar at a very young age (Coe).  By the time Milton was 19, he owned a candy business in Philadelphia. With the help of his aunt Mattie, Milton was churning out caramel confections that quickly became extremely popular in the area (Coe).  This success was the result of two previous failed business attempts that left Milton completely penniless (“Who Was Milton Hershey”). In the mid-1880s, an English businessman sampled the caramels and immediately remarked, “You need to expand. These are so good” (Kenny and Koehn), giving Milton the encouragement he needed to recognize that he had talent and the understanding that he needed to develop his market into something more ambitious.  

The Beginnings of Hershey’s Chocolate:

The early exposure to the world of sugar that fueled Milton’s curiosity and the motivation he received to seek out a larger-scale business model inspired him to visit the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 (Coe).  While at the fair, he discovered a German-made chocolate processing machine that, after purchasing the device on the spot, he initially began to use to create a chocolate coating for his caramels (Coe). However, not long after, Milton decided to veer away from producing caramels and venture into the world of chocolate.  After a trip to the Chocolate Centers of Europe in 1900, he sold his caramel business to the American Caramel Company for $1 million (“Lancaster Caramel Company”) and used the money to buy a farm back home in Derry Township to build his chocolate factory (Coe).

The plot of land that Milton purchased quickly transformed into an entire town and was no longer simply a working farm.  The town featured a private mansion where Milton lived with his wife, Kitty, the cocoa factory (the hub of activity), a department store, bank, church, and a zoo (Coe).  When Kitty and Milton realized that they were unable to have children of their own, they founded a school for orphaned boys in the town (“Who Was Milton Hershey”). The expansion of this town not only emphasizes the diverse nature of the Hershey’s chocolate company, but also the selfless and inclusive nature of the Hershey couple.  

Life in the Town of Hershey, PA:

As the factory began to take off and grow in popularity, Milton Hershey assumed the title of the “benevolent dictator,” as illustrated by his caring and understanding character (Coe).  Although the Hershey factory took shape during the Gilded Age ― the period of rapid expansion of industrialization in the United States during which many robber barons became utterly corrupt and began to monopolize certain markets ― Milton Hershey became more of a captain of his industry.  He was an ever-present fixture at the factory, always making sure that all parts of the whole were running smoothly (D’Antonio). Milton even bought beer for workers, ate at the same cafeteria with the laborers, and planted trees to create a welcoming sense of community within the town (D’Antonio).  While there was great political unrest on São Tomé and Príncipe where people were enslaved on the Cadbury cacao plantations, Milton Hershey believed it was essential for the laborers of Hershey, Pennsylvania, to be treated with respect and care. Among these workers was Fanny Snavely, Milton’s mother.  She left her husband and became her son’s most loyal employee ― working at the factory well into her 60s (Kenny and Koehn). Oddly enough, when the Cadbury company decided to boycott the slave plantations in 1909, the Hershey company did not participate in the ban. It is unclear why the leaders of this company would treat their American workers so well, yet continue to purchase chocolate from plantations that engaged in inhumane slave practices.

The decision to bypass the boycott could be simply rooted in greed.  When Milton Hershey established his new factory in 1904 (“Who Was Milton Hershey”), a full decade after founding his company, sales topped $1 million (D’Antonio).  Perhaps Milton was reluctant to retreat from the São Tomé plantation for fear of experiencing a drop in sales. Rather than withdraw, Hershey continued to buy farms to increase his growing chocolate empire, eventually reaching 10,000 acres in total (D’Antonio).

The Evolution of Chocolate Production

When Milton S. Hershey first began producing chocolate, he had no idea how to create the product which would one day make him a household name.  He spent months altering the heat, cooking time, and number of ingredients in an effort to develop a chocolate bar with the smoothest texture and richest taste (D’Antonio).  At first, his test tasters had negative reactions, claiming that Swiss chocolate was superior. Still, those who had never tried chocolate reacted very positively to the taste (D’Antonio).  Mr. Hershey took advantage of the rapid industrialization occurring at the time and utilized railroads to transport cocoa beans, sugar, and dry ingredients (D’Antonio). He built modern electric railroads in Cuba to transport refined sugar, even during the World Wars when other supply chains were hindered (Pleasance).  Milton Hershey vertically integrated his entire production, controlling all aspects from dry ingredients to tempering and molding.

By the late 1920s, 50,000 pounds of cocoa were produced each day (Coe).  This cocoa was used for the creation of the chocolate kiss in 1907, the milk chocolate almond bar in 1908, Mr. Goodbar in 1925, and the Krackel bar in 1938 (Lewis).  During the Second World War, an emergency nutrition bar, Field Ration D, was developed that would not melt in heat nor be too tasty that soldiers would be tempted to eat it as a snack (Lewis).  Thus, Milton Hershey not only created a chocolate product that appealed to the general public, but he also recognized an opportunity to tailor his products to appeal to those on the battlefield.  


Political Climate at the Time

The Hershey’s chocolate factory began to take off in the midst of the second industrial revolution, alongside the rise of the steel, automobile, and railroad industries (Kenny and Koehn).  Despite stable employment in Derry Township, unemployment tanked to 26 percent during the Great Depression (Kenny and Koehn). During these changing times accompanied by technological developments, the Hershey factory was able to obtain the necessary equipment to become a force to be reckoned with in the rise of big businesses. In an interview with Harvard Business School Professor Nancy Koehn, she discusses the history in greater depth. The podcast can be found at this link: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/the-delicious-history-of-hershey-chocolate

Hershey’s after Milton

Milton S. Hershey died at the age of 85 (Coe), but his company certainly did not perish after he was gone.  Today, Hershey’s annual sales top $7 billion (“Global Chocolate Sales of Hershey’s”), and it is one of only six companies that together account for 40% of the world’s cocoa use and one-quarter of global confectionery sales (Neilson).  In the 1960s, Hershey’s bought the manufacturer of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and two pasta businesses, and in 1988, the company purchased the American operations of Cadbury Schweppes, thereby becoming the maker of Mounds, Almond Joy, and York Peppermint Patties (Neilson).  The legacy of Milton and The Hershey Company will continue to live on through the delicious, mouthwatering chocolate bar that so many Americans love today.


Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2013.

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126.

“Global Chocolate Sales of Hershey’s, 2017 | Statistic.” Statista, http://www.statista.com/statistics/235932/total-global-chocolate-sales-of-the-hershey-company/.

Kenny, Brian, and Nancy Koehn. “The Delicious History of Hershey’s Chocolate.” Audio blog post. Harvard Business School, 14 Feb. 2019. Web.

“Lancaster Caramel Company.” Hershey Community Archives, 6 Sept. 2018, hersheyarchives.org/encyclopedia/lancaster-caramel-company/.

Lewis, Robert. “Hershey Company.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1 May 2017, http://www.britannica.com/topic/Hershey-Chocolate-Corporation.

“Milton Hershey.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 16 Jan. 2019, http://www.biography.com/people/milton-hershey-9337133.

Neilson, Jeff, et al. “Lead firms in the cocoa–chocolate global production network: an assessment of the deductive capabilities of GPN 2.0.” Economic Geography 94.4 (2018): 400-424.

Pleasance, Chris. “Inside the Cuban Ghost Town Founded by Chocolate Baron Milton Hershey.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 25 Jan. 2019, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6632003/Inside-Cuban-ghost-town-founded-chocolate-baron-Milton-Hershey.html.

“Who Was Milton Hershey | His History & Life | The Hershey Story.” Visit The Hershey Story Museum, hersheystory.org/milton-hershey-history/.