Tag Archives: Hershey

Harvard Square CVS Chocolate Selection

CVS Pharmacy is a popular retail store across the United States offering everything from school supplies to pharmaceutical needs. It can be found in pretty much every corner of the country and most everyone has been inside one at least a dozen times in their lives. Of course a store with so much general merchandise also offers a selection of foods, not in the least of which is chocolate. For this blog post, I travelled to the local CVS pharmacy in Harvard Square and examined their chocolates to see what kind of standard one of the most widespread stores in America holds for their selection of chocolate. After all, because of how standardized CVS stores are in what they carry, these same chocolates are likely everywhere being offered everywhere else in the U.S. as well. It is because of this reason that makes their selection of chocolate so important, its availability to the general populace means these brands get the most face time and highest likelihood of being bought by consumers. Unfortunately, after examining the Harvard Square CVS selection I found that it was inadequate. With consideration of price point and intended audience, I believe that because of concerns of variety and ethical concerns I believe that CVS Pharmacy can do still do a better job curating their chocolate collection.

First of all, I want to note that I suspected that many CVS shoppers don’t usually go to CVS for chocolate directly. However, just because many people don’t go to CVS for chocolate doesn’t mean that CVS can just offer any type of chocolate. So I began to make a thorough exploration of the store and I found that it wasn’t actually very well organized for chocolates likely because CVS’s primary audience is not at CVS to buy chocolate. There was a small main section for sweets including candy and chocolates, but this wasn’t the only place for chocolate – there was chocolate everywhere in the store often mixed into other sections of snacks. Probably the most notable alternative section to the main chocolate area was there a small stand that had a selection of “premium” chocolates.

The Premium Section at CVS

Throughout the store there were many different types of chocolate. There was a fair assortment of different forms from bars, pretzels to balls. On the face of it, it seemed like most of these chocolates all belonged to different companies. However, on closer inspection of the companies behind the chocolate, it turns out that despite a plethora of chocolates, most of the brands of chocolate throughout the store were one of these four companies: Lindt, Hersheys, Mars, and Nestle.

Of course, this wasn’t really a surprise. These four companies are giants in the chocolate world. It makes sense that a popular and generalist store like CVS would of course carry the most popular and general chocolate companies. It is also in line with the intended audience of CVS. It’s meant for everybody and so for this reason it’s clear that the intended audience for all their products (and not just chocolate) is just average consumers. Average consumers that are coming in are more likely to be buying chocolate more on a whim. Even if it’s not on a whim, it’s likely in junction with purchasing other items from CVS. CVS is such a general merchandise store that there seem to be little reason to go to CVS solely for the reason to be buying chocolate. If the latter were the case then these consumers would likely go to a higher end chocolate store that offers more gourmet options. If one buys chocolate on a whim, they’re most likely to be choosing brands and types of chocolate that they are familiar with. Familiarity and brand recognition is what companies like the four mentioned above are king of.

In terms of price points, I found that most of the chocolates offered were anywhere form $2.00 to $4.00 on average. The highest priced chocolates I found were in the premium chocolate section with Lindt’s Lindor Truffles costing $5.29. Very often a lot of the chocolates, whether premium or not, would have promotions where it wouldn’t be uncommon to get a small deal for purchasing two of the same chocolates. For example, the Truffles were going on sale 2 for $8.00 despite the fact that they’re being listed as premium chocolates.

Every item has a promotional sale on it

There are two things that are clear from their price points and promotions. Promotions tend to show either that chocolates are not being sold well and I think this helps support my reasoning that the primary audience of CVS is not travelling to CVS for chocolates and might need incentive to purchase more. Secondly, the low price points all around show the lack of diversity the CVS selection of chocolate is. It is precisely because of how mainstream the types chocolates are that CVS can order in bulk, sell in bulk and price them in bulk. Hersheys for example even back in 1910 had such a “low cost… every grocer, druggist, and candy store owner in America could stock Hershey products” (D’Antonio, 2006).  I think it shows how much of a conglomerate both CVS and these chocolate corporations are. There isn’t really any sort of care in the selection, its just purchasing whatever big brand is out there and having as much of it as possible. As you can see from the picture below CVS’ selection ends up being in line with the present American nature of having too much stuff and an excess of consumerism. I think Goody puts it best when describing the revolution of industrial food that “larger stores offer lower prices, wider choices and the impersonality of selection that a socially mobile populations appears to prefer” (Goody 1982).

So many chocolates, so impersonal

However, is there really any way that we can buy chocolate in bulk this cheaply without hurting someone down the supply line? If anything, big corporations are the most likely to be perpetrators of sourcing practices that aren’t up to ethical standards. While they have been trying to improve over the years, it still isn’t good enough. Bottom lines for corporations tend to be profit so its easy to skim out and take shortcuts, but this ends up hurting very real people. As we can learn from  This video shows how for our relatively cheap chocolate bars a farmer ends up working for so little he has never even tasted chocolate.

Farmers who have never tasted their own work before
A Chocolate Scorecard on Ethical behavior by chocolate company

The certified cocoa from the above chart mean cacoa that is both ethically and sustainably sourced. We can see that compared to some compard to some more boutique companies, ethical concerns aren’t really the top concerns of the big corporations companies. Its not a surprise when for Forrest Mars, his concern was to just produce as much chocolate as possible and out churn the competition (Brenner, 1998). Sure, these corporations have pledged to turn out ethical and sustainable chocolate, but this is very much more likely to be lip service and a want for not upsetting consumers than it is because they truly care. If they did care, they would have already changed their supply lines years ago. Cadbury’s debacle back in the early 1900s with slave labor sourced chocolate is a similar example of this. They took their time because they didn’t know the extent of slavery that was ongoing, but they didn’t care enough to actually check for years. As we can see from another example, author Ryan’s experience with an industry executive in 2005 found that he believed there was no real child slavery in chocolate and that he ‘found it a joke’ (Ryan, 2011).These things just go to show how some of the most prominent corporations that we see in our everyday lives can really have a lack of empathy and in the end this effects those at the bottom of the supply chain the worst.

The only part of the entire section of chocolate in CVS that didn’t belong to one of the big brands was a small hidden narrow shelf in the premium chocolate section. It offered Endangered Species Chocolates, but its selection was so small it didn’t even fill up the whole shelf. It’s not put at eye level either and if one was looking for chocolates that weren’t from a giant corporation, they would have had to really put in some level of effort to find these.

Hidden, tucked away in the shadows is an actually ethical brand of chocolate

I understand that CVS’ audience is an average consumer who is likely not there to purchase chocolate and if they do so it’s on a whim. It also makes sense that for big chocolate corporations the bottom line ends up being about selling as many chocolate in bulk as they can. The low prices in CVS are in line with both the audience’s intentions and the goals of CVS and the corporations. But, I am not propose that CVS should become a place where there is only a selection of fair-trade premium chocolates. I do think that big companies are part of the problem when it comes to the ethical concerns of a supply line and its not just the chocolate corporations themselves, its also the retail stores.  I believe that CVS should begin transitioning to offer a larger variety of chocolates that are not just from large corporations. Instead of a just offering a premium chocolate section, they could just put up another stand that allows them to offer “Fair-trade” chocolate or “ethical” chocolates. They could even just make one part of the premium chocolates shelf solely for these new brands. Given how chaotic their current array of chocolates already are in the present, it wouldn’t be too much farther of a stretch to offer a better selection. If they could do this then it would go a long way in supporting ethical concerns in the supply line of chocolate because of how widespread CVS stores are. Doing just a small part could make a big difference and they wouldn’t even lose out on their normal profits. CVS really has much of a duty to the underpaid farmers as the big chocolate corporations. You can be better CVS.

Works Cited:

Brenner, J. G. (1998) The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. (pp. 183).

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

Goody, Jack. (1982). Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine. (pp. 87).

Ryan, O. (2011) Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. (pp. 45)


Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard. (2018, October). Retrieved from https://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard

VPRO Metropolis. [VPRO Metropolis]. (2014, February 21). First taste of chocolate in Ivory Coast [Video file].

An Examination of Unethical Practices in the Cocoa Industry

An Examination of Unethical Practices in the Cocoa Industry

(Food Empowerment Project)


This semester we looked intensively at the use of slave labor in the chocolate industry, and the responsibility of chocolate companies to do their part in ensuring that the chocolate they sell is not coming from unethical child labor. Top chocolate selling companies like Nestle and Hershey have all taken accountability for their role in the problem and pledged to fight to eliminate child labor in the production of cocoa.  In fact, a couple of years ago, Nestle made the news with its pledge that its iconic KitKat bars would be made with cocoa that has been verified by third party agencies to ensure that it was supplied from ethical sources. Yet, KitKat is only one type of bar that Nestle makes, and no statement was issued regarding whether or not the rest of their chocolate products would be subjected to this new guideline. This small step was not highly regarded by those looking for chocolate companies to take legitimate steps towards fighting this issue. Although Nestle hoped that their pledge would take some pressure off of them, it had no such effect. In 2018, a U.S. federal appeals court reopened a lawsuit filed by a group of former child slaves accusing Nestle of perpetuating child labor in the Ivory Coast. (Bellon) Nestle was also sued by a legal firm who alleges that they deceived consumers about the use of slave labor to provide cocoa for their brands Crunch and Butterfinger. This same legal firm has also opened a lawsuit against Hershey and Mars on similar grounds. So, the three largest chocolate companies in the world, are all facing lawsuits over using chocolate that is the result of slave labor. Anyone who is familiar with the horrors children face on cocoa farms would surely be angered and disgusted. Due to the history of this country, the term slavery should be enough of a trigger word alone to dissuade any company from wanting to be associated with any product that is the result of slave labor. This, coupled with the fact that chocolate companies are consistently being sued for their role in perpetuating slave labor on cocoa, makes me wonder why chocolate companies are not doing more to distance themselves from these unethical cocoa farms. 


First, let’s take a look at some statistics that contribute to the problem. There are about 5 to 6 million cocoa farmers in the world, and another 40-50 million who depend on the cocoa industry for their livelihood. (USDOL) Almost 70% percent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa. Nearly 40% of the Ivory Coast’s population is involved in some form of cocoa farming and 60% of the Ivory Coast’s export revenue is funded by the cocoa industry. (USDOL) As you can see, West African countries heavily depend on the cocoa industry for economic stability. For many of them, it is their most consistent and stable form of income for the country. Thus, it makes sense that they want to minimize their costs as much as possible. The typical cocoa farmer in the Ivory Coast and Ghana is paid an average of $2 per day. This forces many farmers to turn to the cheapest form of labor possible, child/slave labor. Because many in West Africa live in poverty, children are often forced to start working to help support their families at very young ages. This makes them a lot more susceptible to being trafficked, kidnapped, or sold into slave labor. The children can work up to 100 hours a week and perform a number of dangerous tasks such as: operating a machete, carrying bags of cocoa pods that weigh over 100 lbs, and operating in close proximity with chemicals without protective gear. (slavefreechocolate) If they try to escape or aren’t working fast enough, they are beaten and whipped. Some of the children involved in slave labor are as young as 5 or 6 years old.

 (International Labor Rights Forum)

Chocolate Companies’ Role

With the knowledge of all the horrors children face in the cocoa industry, it would seem that everyone, including the major chocolate companies, would want to fight to end this issue. Yet, chocolate companies have been largely idle. In 2001, the US House of Representatives decided to take action and voted to consider a bill which would require all chocolate companies to confirm that they were child labor free and to label their products this way. (Willow) American chocolate companies responded with a fierce lobbying campaign against this law. They argued that there was no way for them to control what happened on cocoa farms across the world, and that cocoa supply lines were usually so long and complex that it was nearly impossible to verify that the cocoa they receive came from a farm that did not make use of child labor. Because of the lobbying efforts of American chocolate companies, the protocol the house wanted to vote on was watered down and released in 2001 as the Harkin-Engel Protocol. (Willow) The Harkin-Engel protocol did not require companies to verify that their chocolate is not supplied by slave labor, and the issue of labeling seemed to be completely forgotten. We are almost 20 years removed from the release of the protocol and almost nothing substantial seems to have been accomplished. Even KitKat’s gesture is not even close to the type of support needed to spark real change in the industry. This was a major win for chocolate companies, whose response to the original protocol is indicative of the fact that they just don’t have any real interest in solving this issue.

(Bellon, 2018)

 There are a couple reasons the chocolate giants are disinterested in putting forth any real effort towards solving the child/slave labor issue we have examined so far. One, as stated earlier, is that it would require effort on the part of the chocolate companies to ensure that their cocoa is produced ethically. Supply chains in the cocoa industry are long and complex, and because of the enormous child labor problem in Western Africa, it would take a lot of verification on their end to determine that the companies they are buying from are using ethical practices. However, second and probably most important, is the fact that it would require chocolate giants like Hershey and Nestle to sacrifice some of their profit. According to the Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast, chocolate companies will have to pay around 10 times the current price of price of cocoa if they want to end the use of unethical child labor there. This would obviously drive up the price of their products, and cut into a big percentage of their profits. Any strategy that encourages corporations to sacrifice profit in the name of morality is one that is flawed. So, let’s look at some alternative ways to end dangerous child labor on the Western Africa cocoa farms.


The biggest reason that this situation exists is poverty. The West African economy depends so heavily on the cocoa industry, however there is not even a minimum wage or minimum price for farmers to sell their cocoa. This was not the case until the cocoa industry was privatized in 1999. Once the industry was privatized, cocoa prices fell drastically, poverty became widespread, and the government stopped spending money on necessities such as healthcare and education. (USDOL) This all came at the expense of the cocoa farmers who work in isolation on small farms with no way to communicate with each other about market cocoa prices. World cocoa prices have been well below the price of production costs since the industry was privatized. Some countries refuse to buy cocoa from West African countries who they suspect of using slave labor on their farms. This causes West African farmers to have to sell their cocoa at an even lower price. Farmers do not even make enough money to afford trucks to transport their beans so they are forced to rely on exploitative middlemen, who give them cash for the beans and haul them away. Without the knowledge of the worth of their beans, farmers are unable negotiate better prices for them. Instead, they must just accept the prices that these exploitative buyers are willing to pay or risk not selling their beans at all. So, even if cocoa prices rise, the farmers themselves will not be able to benefit from it.


A major step towards a solution would be for more advanced countries, like the United States, who purchase large amounts of cocoa from countries who use slave labor and are concerned about slave labor in Africa to invest in the farmers in those countries. Equipping farmers with something simple like trucks to transport their beans to markets would allow them to have an understanding of world prices, negotiate better prices for themselves, and cut out exploitative middlemen who take away a lot of their profit. This alone would increase producer surplus exponentially and allow farmers to be able to rely on more ethical forms of labor to produce their cocoa. Another possible solution would be a mandate of a minimum price for cocoa. Thanks to Fair Trade Certified producer groups, this is the case in some countries in Western Africa. These groups cover different nine African countries and represent thousands of farmers. Chocolate companies who buy from farms belonging to a Fair Trade Certified group pay the farmers the world market price plus a stipend that guarantees farmers have livable wages. (Food Empowerment Project) Farms that belong to these groups are inspected once a year and there is zero tolerance for unethical labor practices. Although only a small portion of the world’s cocoa is produced on Fair Trade Certified farms, they represent a possible solution to the problem. A more drastic approach would be to standardize groups like this, and to force all farms to join a group like this in order to be legally able to sell cocoa beans. This approach would likely be seen as problematic because the chocolate giants are not buying their cocoa from Fair Trade Certified farms. However, to combat that point, we must hold large chocolate-selling companies like Nestle and Hershey accountable. Countries who allow these chocolate giants to sell their products should pass legislation similar to that of the original Harkin-Engel protocol proposal. These companies should not be allowed to sell their products without verifying that their cocoa is supplied by ethical sources. This is extremely important because, like the farmers, these companies are looking to minimize their production costs. Changing the way the farmers do business won’t completely eradicate child labor if the chocolate giants are not forced to also make the switch to more ethical practices. Forcing the chocolate companies’ hand will ensure that the farmers are not the ones who suffer the consequences of changed legislation. Because, as we have seen, when the farmers suffer, they turn to cheap, unethical solutions.


West African countries depend heavily on the cocoa industry for economic success. Their reliance on this industry, cocoa farmers struggle to sell their product for a livable wage and chocolate companies refusal to acknowledge their role in the situation resulted in this large-scale slave labor problem that we see today. If we truly want to eradicate this problem in Western Africa, solutions like the one laid out in this paper are a good start. I hope that through this paper you have a better understanding of the horrors of slave labor on cocoa farms. However, I also hope that you are optimistic about the future, because solutions are right in front of us. We just have to hold the major players in this cruel game accountable.


Media Citations

  • International Labor Rights Forum, 2014

Chocolate: The Story Behind the Candy Isle

“Close-up Bunch of Chocolate Bars Isolated over the White Background.” Shutterstock.com, 21 Jan. 2013, http://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/closeup-bunch-chocolate-bars-isolated-over-125447003?

Chocolate is so much richer than what the label may portray, pun intended. For my final post I have decided to use the chocolate shelf in the candy isle of Harvard’s local Target to tell a story about the product being sold. At first glance we see a colorful, aesthetically pleasing array of some of the most popular chocolate brands in the U.S. What can we decipher beyond the label, beyond the product itself? What does the pricing tell us? Are there ethical concerns behind the production and history of the chocolate? This blog post aims to explore these questions and take the readers on a journey through which these tasty treats reach our shelves.

              Hershey’s Kisses, M&M’s, Ghirardelli squares, Reese’s Cups, Snickers, Dove milk chocolates, Lindor truffles. Some of the most recognizable and notable chocolate brands in the United States. When looking through the local selection at Target, these chocolate brands line the shelves. Holding the largest market shares in the country, it is no surprise that you see these chocolates literally everywhere. They are household names. Hershey, Mars, and Lindt. These are the titans behind our favorite chocolate brands here in the United States. The analysis of this blog will structure around these three brands and what their product selection in Target tells us about our three critical questions.

Produced by myself solely for the use of this blog. Empirical data obtained from
The Hershey Company. “The Hershey Company Fact Book.” The Hershey Company, Sept. 2018.

Right when you walk into the candy isle of the Target in Central Square, you immediately see Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and the classic Hershey Milk Chocolate Bars before anything else. Hershey’s holds the largest market share in the United States, estimated around 44% (Hershey 2018). The Hershey Company was founded by Milton Hershey in 1894, and is one of the largest chocolate producers in the world. Milton S. started off from humble beginnings, unknowing that he would start a revolution of chocolate mass production. He put years of time and effort into achieving the perfect chocolate recipes, constantly tweaking the smallest inputs to optimize the product. After tireless trial and error, a man named John Schmalbach helped Hershey create the perfect condensed milk that would accept all other chocolate ingredients smoothly and could be stored for long amounts of time without spoiling (D’Antonio 2006). In 1894, Hershey started his confectionary company that boomed and grew quickly. In 1900, Hershey decided to sell the caramel company and focus solely on chocolate. He took his production to Pennsylvania, where the famous Hershey community sits today. The Hershey Company has a rich history and even richer products. How much do these products cost?

              One Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar will run you 89 cents at the local target. One pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups also costs 89 cents. A classic bag of Hershey’s kisses will cost you $3.59. This may seem relatively cheap to what most food stuffs cost in the Unites States, yet Hershey has confirmed that it will raise its prices over the next couple years to keep up with increasing commodity and shipping costs (Hershey 2018). Chocolate prices are pretty volatile and have been at the mercy of fluctuating supply and demand. Typically, small-holder cocoa growers have a tough time managing their production to meet the fluctuations in demand experienced worldwide (Chocolate 2003). Being that these cocoa growers make up a majority of the world’s cocao production, this creates surplus or shortages that affect the equilibrium prices of chocolate. Hershey’s and other big producers deal with this situation by hedging and futures contracts. Essentially big chocolate companies like Hershey and Mars hedge against price fluctuations to smoothen out their cash flow (Leissle 2018). How it works is that these large producers will estimate, or rather guarantee by being conservative, how much of an input like cocao over a certain timeline. So they will agree to acquire that amount of input through the futures market. This allows them to lock in their price of that input regardless of what happens to the market prices over time. So what can these price tags on our Hershey products tell us now? Hershey will raise its prices in accordance to commodity and shipping costs as mentioned before. However most of this is due to the shipping factor. The U.S. economy has created an atmosphere in which producers like Hershey have to compete with other buyers for a capped shipping capacity. So although Hershey can hedge against changing commodity prices, it cannot do much for the consumers when it comes to shipping prices. Now that we have dissected the price points of our favorite Hershey products, we can discuss any ethical concerns behind these treats.

              Big producers like Hershey and Mars need to source their cocao from somewhere. The cocao bean primarily grows in the tropical climates of Latin America, Western Africa and Asia (Leissle 2018). Western African countries supply more than 70% of the world’s cocao, and is purchased by large chocolate producers (Child 2019). This also means that the labor indirectly going into chocolate production is outsourced to these countries. That is where the issue lies, as several journalists and researchers over the years have uncovered the widespread use of slavery and even child labor on many of these cocao farms. Cocao is a commodity crop, meaning that it is primarily grown for export to other countries. The Ivory Coast alone realizes almost 60% of its export revenue from cocao exports alone (Child 2019). As chocolate continues to become more popular around the world and big producers continue to grow, the demand for chocolate increases. This means that the supply must also increase to keep up with demand. When supply and production need to increase, so does labor. Sadly in the case of cocao, this usually means an increase in forced and child labor (Higgs 2012). Many of the children that are put into cocao farming do it because they are forced by poverty, not only physically. It becomes a means to help support their families and livelihood. Without sufficient infrastructure combined with widespread corruption, many local governments actually support forced and child labor. They reap the benefits of the increased exports and have even gone as far to enact violence on those trying to expose and stop the child labor. In 2004, the Ivorian first lady had her entourage kidnap and kill a journalist reporting on the government’s corruption. Six years later three more journalists were kidnapped after publishing an article on the cocao sector corruption (Child 2019). Although Hershey does not partake in any of the forced child labor occurring in these countries, most of the controversy centers around the indirect support of this corruption through the purchase of the cocao. Two separate lawsuits had been filed against Hershey over the past few years. One in 2015 on behalf of the state of California, and one in 2018 on behalf of the state of Massachusetts, where our local Target resides. The lawsuits claimed that Hershey did not disclose its knowing use of child labor in its supply chains. Both cases were dismissed on account that Hershey did not deceive in either case. The law has spoken, but it still remains an ethical debate whether or not it is okay for big producers to supply from places where slavery and child labor is used. As a consumer we purchase these products, so does that mean we support it once-removed as well? Food for thought… Now that we have looked into Hershey products, what else lines the shelves of our local Target?

              M&Ms, Snickers, Milky Ways and Dove chocolates. Some of the delicious and tasty treats created by chocolate titan Mars. Mars is the sixth largest privately held company in the US according to Forbes, and is headquartered in Virginia. It holds about 30% of U.S. market share, making it the second biggest chocolate producer in America behind Hershey. Frank Mars, the founder, contracted polio at an early age and surrounded himself with the science of cooking. Particularly, he was fond of candy and the many processes that went into making them (Brenner 1999). Mars began as the Mar-O-Bar Company in 1911. Over the next decade Frank quickly grew the company. In 1920, Frank Mars created two of the most famous chocolate bars in the U.S., the Snickers bar and the Milky Way bar (Brenner 1999). Fun fact, the Snickers bar actually started off as only the middle of the modern bar we know today. There was no chocolate coating. In 1940 Frank’s son Forrest Mars founded the M&M brand we know and love today. The M&M brand was actually created to strategically solve the problem of chocolate storage over the summer. When the temperatures increase, retailers purchase less chocolate because storing the chocolate becomes more of a challenge. Especially back circa 1940. Forrest manufactured these chocolates in a sugar shell specifically to solve that problem. It was genius! Forrest quickly capitalized on the idea, and it was a huge success. Mars went on to battle with Hershey throughout the 70s and 80s to be the biggest chocolate giant in the United States. Since then, the two titans have created several brands that encompass America’s favorite chocolate candies. Now that we know a bit about the history of chocolate giant Mars, we can dive into the pricing behind Mars.

              One box of M&Ms cost 99 cents, One Kit-Kat bar costs $1.49, one Snickers bar costs 89 cents. Looking at the price and the amount of chocolate you get per package, these price points reign true to competitor Hershey. Especially the Snickers bar, which is the exact same cost and very similar volume of chocolate to the 89- cent Hershey bars. Also very similar to Hershey, Mars is raising its prices by about seven percent (Reports 2019). They claim that this is also in accordance with increasing production costs as well as shipping. Although Mars can control for price fluctuations using futures and hedging as discussed with Hershey, there are still variable costs that cannot be accounted for and must be put onto the consumers, us. With every chocolate titan comes issues regarding the ethics behind their supply chains.

              The same class action lawsuit that was brought against Hershey was brought against Mars by the same court. The suit alleges that Mars has violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which essentially indicates deception (Child 2019). Mars actually does have a reputation of being very secretive and clandestine. Yet just as the case had been dropped by the court against Hershey, Mars got off scot-free on the basis that no actual deception was intended or committed. Most of the court cases brought against Mars and similar producers have been on the basis of deception. Most of the time it is found that these chocolate producers haven’t actually committed any wrongdoing by not deliberately disclosing child labor and slavery on their labels. In the opinion of this blog, it again becomes an issue of how far removed you are from the actual problem. When the origins of a company’s supply chain are tainted by unfair labor practices, does this make the company itself corrupt? Are chocolate giants supporting unfair labor practices by purchasing inputs from where they are readily available? What about us as consumers? All important questions to ask when considering this delicate ethical crossroads.

              The chocolate isle at Target may be a pretty fun and simple place. In reality it really is just the very tip of the iceberg that is the chocolate industry. One small finished product above the waterline while there are years of rich history, complicated economics, and important ethical concerns lurking beneath the surface. There is so much more to chocolate than what the finished product may show, and this blog post was intended to give you a glimpse into what that world is all about.

Works Cited


“2018 Market Share.” Produced by myself.

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, 2019. foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

“Close-up Bunch of Chocolate Bars Isolated over the White Background.” Shutterstock.com, 21   Jan. 2013, www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/closeup-bunch-chocolate-bars-isolated

“Reports and Financials – Investor Relations.” Mars One, 2019. www.mars-one.com/investor- relations/reports-and-financial-calendar.

The Hershey Company. “The Hershey Company Fact Book.” The Hershey Company, Sept. 2018.


Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate : inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. 1st ed., Random House, 1999.

“Chocolate Prices Are on the Rise. (Consumables).” Chain Drug Review, vol. 25, no. 3, 2003, p. 12.

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

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

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

CVS: Chocolate Products, Display, and Consumers

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 2.37.02 PM

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


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

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

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

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

Photo Credits (in order)

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

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

WordPress. CVS Chocolate Value Store. Cambridge, MA.

CVS Luxury Chocolate Display. 2 May 2019.

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

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




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.

The Industrial Revolution: The Transformation of Chocolate from a Rare Delight to a Global Commodity

Industrialization greatly improved the quantity, quality, and variety of food of the working urban populations of the Western World. This development was due to reasons which were two-fold: first, historical developments such as colonialism and overseas trade were structures which inspired this process, and second, specific technologies such as preserving, mechanization, retailing, transport, and the growth of the commercial catering business allowed for the distribution and access of chocolate to flourish. Technologies which were developed from the Industrial Revolution greatly changed the worldwide consumption of chocolate, greatly increasing the quantity and ease of its production and distribution and subsequently increasing the ease and diversity of consumers’ access to chocolate products.

The Industrial Revolution began in England in the early 19th century, and stemmed from factors such as a smaller population and thus a need for a more efficient workforce. Prior to industrialization, the majority of people in Europe subsisted on peasant farming and leasing land from the elite (Dimitri et al. 2). In the latter half of the second millennium A.D., voyages of discovery around the globe sparked colonialism in foreign lands soon thereafter. There were various philosophies in justification of colonialism; one was that of social evolutionism and intervention philosophies, or the idea that natives were incapable of governing themselves and in need of outside intervention. According to research published by M. Shahid Alam of Northeastern University, industrialization of countries across the world was unequal; some countries underwent industrialization centuries prior to others (Alam 5). The reason for this was partially due to the fact that some countries colonized other countries for their own imperial or industrial benefit, so the colonized countries themselves could not go undergo industrialization at that time. Great Britain, Spain (and subsequently Portugal), and France were a few imperial superpowers which underwent industrialization first and each dominated many colonies.

Image Source: Dimitri C, Effland A, Conklin N. “The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy.” USDA ERS. 2006.

Because of the far-reaching, global geography of these mother countries’ colonies, the colonial economy depended on international trade. For example, the British empire depended on the American colonies’ production of goods, as did the colonies on the goods of the British Empire. Merchants sent out ships to trade with North America and the West Indies; in 1686 alone, over 1 million euros of goods were shipped to London (“Trade and Commerce”). While wool textiles from England’s manufacturers that spurred from the Industrial Revolution were shipped to the Americas, the colonies shipped goods such as sugar, tobacco, and other tropical groceries from its plantations back across the pond. Due to Europe’s incredibly high demand for some of these American goods, the slave trade developed to meet Industrialization’s hefty needs for cheap labor (“Trade and Commerce”).

Image Source: “Colonial Trade Routes and Goods.” National Geographic Society, National Geographic, http://www.nationalgeographic.org/photo/colonial-trade/.

A few hundred years later, significant agricultural technologies spurred from industrialization. By the early 1900s, most American farms were diversified, meaning that various animals and crops were produced on the same cropland in complementary ways. However, specialization was a method which developed in farms at around this same time, used to increase efficiency by narrowing the range of tasks and roles involved in production. This way, specialized farmers could focus all their knowledge, skills, and equipment on one or two enterprises. Furthermore, mechanization allowed for the tremendous gains in efficiency with getting rid of the need for human labor with routine jobs such as sowing seeds, harvesting crops, milking cows, and feeding and slaughtering animals. Within the 20th century only, the percentage of the U.S. workforce involved in agriculture declined from 41 percent to 2 percent (Dimitri et al. 2). This greatly increased the efficiency of the production of ingredients which go into chocolate such as milk, cacao, sugar, salt, and vanilla from their respective farms.

In addition to farming technologies such as specialization, methods such as preserving, mechanization, retailing (and wholesaling), transport, and the growth of the commercial catering business improved the quality of the chocolate product itself and lessened the amount of time many large chocolate companies produced these chocolates drastically (Goody 74).

The mechanism of preserving was spearheaded by Nicolas Appert, who developed a process called canning (“bottling” in English) in response to conditions in France during the Napoleonic Wars, when the preservation of meat was important for feeding on-the-road soldiers (Goody 75). Glass containers were also developed around the same time to preserve wine and medicine. Methods such as artificial freezing as well as salt — which became such a popular form of preservation that a “salt tax” was eventually implemented — also developed to preserve foods. Pickling inside vinegar, as well as sugar, which was used to preserve fruits and jams, were also methods which advanced. This, in turn, also caused the imports of sugar to rapidly increase during the 18th century (Goody 75). With preservation mechanisms highly developed compared to before, chocolate products could finally be distributed from manufacturers and remain on shelves for quite some time — it did not necessarily need to be fresh to be sold and readily available to consumers.

Additionally, the process of mechanization was the manufacture of many processed and packaged foods, and this process was furthered by Ford’s assembly line and interchangeable parts. Through these technologies, packaged foods and products could be produced much more quickly and efficiently at greater quantities. This greatly increased the production efficiency and quantity with which packaged chocolate could be distributed, allowing for the proliferation of the some of the biggest mass-brands in chocolate production, such as Hershey’s and Nestle (Goody 81).

Video Source: “HOW IT’S MADE: Old Hershey’s Chocolate.” YouTube, 1976, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ophXa_LvUKk.

Furthermore, the process of retailing was marked by the shift from open market to closed shop; this process began as early as Elizabethan times. Back in the Elizabethan era, great efforts were made to ensure that there were no middle men in terms of sales and that there was no resale at higher prices. Eventually, however, grocers overtook the import of foreign goods. Just as imported goods became cheaper with the new developments in transport, so too did manufactured goods and items packaged before sale came to dominate the market (Goody 82-3). This allowed many various chocolate products from manufacturers all across the world to hit the shelves of grocers, readily available to consumers of any city in the United States. These products were generally branded goods, “sold” before sale by national advertising. Advertising itself, additionally, led to the homogenization of chocolate consumption, allowing similar brands of chocolate products to be distributed across the U.S. This even led to the eventual homogenization of American taste preferences for chocolate; because the Hershey’s chocolate bar was so heavily distributed and popularized, eventually, Americans were unaccustomed to anything that did not have Hershey’s uniquely sweet and salty taste (“Here There Will Be…” 108).

The final large component of industrialization which greatly increased chocolate production and distribution was the revolution of transportation. Rail transport provided the masses with cheap and wholesome food; in fact, there were certain periods of time during the Industrial Revolution in which U.S. railways were transporting goods more than people (Goody 82). Last but not least, the growth of the commercial catering business led to the decline of the domestic servant. This decline of the domestic servant also allowed English families to explore quick, sweet recipes incorporating chocolate such as brownies, cookies, and cakes.

Bigger-picture progressions in history such as colonization and international trade connected the world economy and allowed for technologies such as preserving, mechanization, retailing, and new transport to grow and flourish. These methods, in turn, caused global companies such as Hershey’s and Nestle to revolutionize the production and distribution of chocolate into a massive, global business. What was once enjoyed by the few and wealthy was now easily accessible by the masses, homogenizing the tastes of Americans to a few specific chocolate brands. None of this impact on chocolate products’ consumers and producers alike would have been possible without the historical and technological developments of the Industrial Revolution.

Works Cited

Alam, M. Shahid. “Colonialism and Industrialization: Empirical Results.” Review of Radical Political Economics, 1998, pp. 217–240., doi:10.2139/ssrn.2031131.

“Colonial Trade Routes and Goods.” National Geographic Society, National Geographic, http://www.nationalgeographic.org/photo/colonial-trade/.

Dimitri C, Effland A, Conklin N. “The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy.” USDA ERS. 2006.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” Food and Culture: a Reader, edited by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, Routledge, 2013, pp. 72–88.

“Here There Will Be No Unhappiness.” Hershey Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, by Michael D D’Antonio, Simon & Schuster, 2006, pp. 106–126.

“HOW IT’S MADE: Old Hershey’s Chocolate.” YouTube, 1976, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ophXa_LvUKk.

JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Industrialization of Agriculture.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 5 Aug. 2016, foodsystemprimer.org/food-production/industrialization-of-agriculture/index.html.“To the Milky Way and Beyond; Breaking the Mold.” The Emperors of Chocolate: inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, by Brenner Joël Glenn., Broadway Books, 2000, pp. 49–194.

“Trade and Commerce.” Understanding Slavery Initiative, Understanding Slavery, 2011, http://www.understandingslavery.com/index.php-option=com_content&view=article&id=307_trade-and-commerce&catid=125_themes&Itemid=152.html.

Hershey and Industry in the United States

Hershey’s chocolate has become a fixture in American culture as a symbol of enjoyment. Hershey’s bars, Hershey’s kisses, and even Hersheypark have immortalized Milton S. Hershey’s pursuit of a chocolate empire. The chocolate that many people know and love today is the result of a century-old process, which emerged in the wake of various industrialized food production methods. Developments in preservation, mechanization, retailing/wholesaling, and transport had immense impact on Hershey’s business, and on the food industry more broadly (Goody 72). Though the history behind a Hershey’s bar is not the first thought that comes to mind while enjoying it, it is important to understand the candy’s journey to widespread prominence. Hershey’s is only one manifestation of an entire shift in both production and consumption due to industrialization in the United States. The Hershey Company, in conjunction with industrialization, heavily influenced consumer habits while innovating in production (Martin). Hershey would not be the company it is today, nor would it have such extensive influence in America, if it not had timely access to various mass production methods.

When thinking of industrialization in the United States, the textile and automobile industries often come to mind before food does. In “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine,” Jack Goody categorically outlines many of the effects industrialization had on food, and he begins by explaining the importance of the biscuit (74). Goody notes that the biscuit “long pre-dated the Industrial Revolution, though its production and distribution were radically transformed by the course of those changes” and thus the biscuit became an “important element in the development of the industrial cuisine” (74). Though an unlikely suspect, biscuits played a part in establishing how food could be preserved and distributed to people near and far, therefore indirectly impacting chocolate’s eventual popularization on mass markets. 

The preservation and use of milk in chocolate development became key in the production of chocolate. Condensed milk, for example, benefitted from the rise in canning (Goody 77). Milk played an important part in Hershey’s mass production strategy. John Schmalbach assisted Milton Hershey in the quest to perfect the milk evaporation process, and eventually they achieved a “warm, smooth, sweetened condensed milk that accepted cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and other ingredients without getting lumpy” (D’Antonio 107). Achieving the perfect chemistry of the chocolate’s ingredients was instrumental in producing chocolate for the masses, and Hershey could make chocolate quickly and cheaply as a result (D’Antonio 108). 

Mass production allowed Hershey to produce chocolate to sell to consumers far and wide, and it also gave them the ability to reach consumers indirectly. Frank Mars and Milton Hershey developed a business relationship, and Mars’ flagship product, Snickers, used Hershey’s chocolate as a coating (Brenner 58). Hershey’s omnipresence and popularity in the realm of candy showed how American preferences were evolving. “It would also come to define the taste of chocolate for Americans, who would find harmony in the sweet but slightly sour flavor” (D’Antonio 108). Today, Hershey is a standard for the flavor of milk chocolate in the United States.  

Hershey’s impact on consumers has transcended flavor. Hershey’s bars, kisses, and other products have come to symbolize sweetness in every capacity. Two main factors continue to drive Hershey’s popularity: effective marketing and longstanding history. First, Hershey’s has employed a number of marketing strategies to communicate different stories that will resonate with consumers. Commercials, like the one below, integrate Hershey’s products into a story that aims to bring people together with the common love for the chocolate. 

Second, Hershey’s touts a well-established position in the market historically. Though competitors, like Cadbury and Nestle, have become increasingly popular, Hershey has the ability to evoke nostalgia in consumers. Their position in the market historically allows them to run such successful marketing campaigns. Without its history, Hershey’s could not leverage its position in the market to reach consumers on an emotional level. 

Industry has, of course, evolved exponentially since the advent of the Hershey Company. Now, the emphasis is on efficiency and innovation rather than using technology to establish a product’s foundation. Though Hershey has expanded its breadth by experimenting with different flavors and brands, its core products still contribute to driving the company. As displayed in the video below, Hershey’s Kisses still remain the small and enjoyable candies they always have been, but they are now produced more efficiently. 

One of the most important parts of the Hershey business model, in the case of Kisses, is accessibility. Michael D’Antonio describes the success of the small candy, noting that the high quantities and low cost “meant that every grocer, druggist, and candy store owner in America could stock Hershey products—and most of them did” (121). The production displayed in the video above carries on the legacy of ensuring retailers and consumers can access Hershey’s Kisses. 

Hershey has remained one of the most iconic American businesses and using its deeply embedded connections to markets and consumers has served the company well over time. Milton S. Hershey’s dedication to expanding chocolate in the United States has withstood changes in politics, culture, and trends. This would not have been possible without mass production and key developments in ingredients, business, and marketing.


Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. Broadway Books, 2000.

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

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

Martin, Carla. “The Rise of Big Chocolate and Race for the Global Market.” 13 Mar. 2018.


SiggasNation, director. Hershey’s Commercial 2018 – (USA)YouTube, YouTube, 27 Sept. 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV0uxCBtiZQ.

“Hershey’s Bar.” SITREP, 2016, military.id.me/news/hersheys-chocolate-bar-mre/.

TODAY, director. See How Hershey’s Kisses Are Made In The Sweetest Place On Earth | TODAYYouTube, YouTube, 9 Feb. 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOsSkbfbME0.

The Slave Plantation, The Company Town, and Utopia

“There is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. . . Many independent men, . . .  doubtless a few years ago were hired laborers. And their case is almost if not quite the general rule. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This . . . is free labor — the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all.” – Abraham Lincoln, Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society (9/30/1859)[i]


The Free Labor Ideal is based in the idea that a worker, properly compensated for their efforts, can advance himself, ultimately becoming a full-blown venture capitalist, should he set his mind to it. This ideal is often contrasted with pro-slavery ideologies, which focused on the advancement of one class of people through the enslavement of another.[ii] Interestingly, while these two economic ideologies have radically different proposals for the lives of the underclass, their portrayal of the rich is mutually consistent.

Eric Williams, in his book Capitalism and Slavery, even described slave plantations as the precursor to modern industrial processes.[iii] Slave laborers were forced to work in assembly line-like structures, to strip, boil, and process sugar cane. Their plantations often had windmills for power generation, advanced packaging facilities, and even ports for product shipment. Indeed, to the sugar baron, plantation life was identical to the tycoon lifestyle. The wealthiest plantation owners were locally powerful, well respected, and lived in fine mansion homes. In this sense, their experience was little different from the entrepreneurs of the gilded age.[iv]

Image result for windmill slave plantation
Slave Plantation Windmill on Island of Antigua – Source: Dash, Mike. 2013 Antigua’s Disputed Slave Conspiracy of 1736. Smithsonian Magazine

To the slaves, however, the sugar business was radically oppressive. They were forced to work without wages, living in whatever communal shacks their masters provided them, often lacking basic necessities, while constantly at risk of violent assault. The ultimate aspiration of most slaves was simply to win the right to leave, and many were willing to resort to violence if need be. Slave rebellions were common throughout the Caribbean and American South, and some, like Haiti in 1791, and Jamaica in 1795, proved successful in destroying plantations and emancipating large numbers of people.[v]

In the United States, government-sanctioned slavery didn’t end until 1865, with the ratification of the 13th amendment. Once the system was officially ended, entrepreneurs were forced to search out new forms of labor management. In the North, several wealthy tycoons had been experimenting with the concept of utopian communes. Building off European “Phalanstery” concepts, and emulating older entrepreneurs, like Henry Cabot Lowell, some businessmen decided to charter their own industrial hamlets.[vi] This eventually resulted in the establishment of company towns.

In the 1880s, George Pullman established the company town of Pullman, Illinois, on the outskirts of Chicago.[vii] There, he housed the workers employed in his railroad car manufacturing plant. Pullman carefully designed the community to be luxurious, providing his employees with sewage, gas, and internal plumbing. He then made sure to charge a reasonable rent to each worker, based on the average salary at the plant. Pullman strictly enforced social rules regarding life in his town, ever willing to fire and evict those that strayed out of line.

Image result for pullman sleeper car
The Pullman Company was known for its “Luxury Sleeping Car,” which allowed for multiple nights of travel in relative comfort – Source: Stamp, Jimmy. 2013. Travelling in Style and Comfort: The Pullman Sleeping Car. Smithsonian Magazine

Unfortunately for Pullman, the railcar business took a turn for the worst, following a global recession in 1893. As demand dropped, he was forced to cut shifts, cut costs, and cut pay. This infuriated workers, who quickly noted that Pullman had not cut their rent. In short order, the citizens of Pullman Illinois organized into the American Railway Union, headed by famous socialist Eugene Debs. The ARU represented rail workers across the United States, and Debs mobilized the Union to reject all trains with Pullman brand railway cars. This crippled the country, essentially halting all rail travel and disrupting mail delivery. The standoff ended only when President Grover Cleveland sent in the army to break the railway strikes.

Image result for Pullman strike
The Pullman Railway Strike; notice the Sleeping Car in front of the Caboose – Source: Zinn, Howard. 1894. Accessed via LibCom.org

Ten years later, Milton Hershey began construction of his own company town near Derry Township, in Pennsylvania.[viii] Hershey learned from the likes of Pullman, understanding that direct control of his town’s housing stock was unnecessary. Rather, allowing his laborers to make wages, own their homes, and invest in the local community was an effective way of maintaining their content. The fact that Hershey was the dominant employer in the area, the source of all dollars flowing into the town, and the provider of all local services, from the streetcar to the zoo, was enough.

Hershey, like Pullman, had strict rules about how the town was meant to run. He allowed for over “a hundred lots that would be sold to people who would be permitted to build their own homes,” but those “houses would have to be two stories tall, with pitched roofs. Owners couldn’t use their property for any ‘offensive purpose or occupation’ – piggeries, saloons, and blacksmiths were expressly forbidden – and they could not build a fence without M.S. Hershey’s approval.[ix]” In this way, Hershey was able to tightly control how his company town would look and feel, while simultaneously granting workers the ability to own their own homes.

Image result for hershey pennsylvania 1912
Hershey’s Street Cars, Two-Story Buildings, and Pitched Roofs – Source: Hershey Community Archive. 1913. ExplorePAHistory.com

The Company Towns of Pullman and Hershey are closer to a slave plantation than some may care to recognize. The means of production, the housing stock, the local services, the food, medicine, and transportation infrastructure, were all owned by one central authority figure. Each was based in the utopian ideal of their sole creator, and each existed primarily to enrich their founders off the labor of their inhabitants.

The primary variable that differentiated Hershey from Pullman, and Pullman from the sugar plantations of yore, was worker freedom. Pullman paid his workers and didn’t coerce them through physical violence in the way the slave drivers did. Hershey went even further, allowing his workers to own property. Over time, Hershey would continuously concede even more rights to his workers, shortening their work days and raising their wages. This allowed them to get closer to the ultimate Free Labor Ideal and minimized the kind of dramatic backlash that previous company towns had faced.

Hershey still exists today, in a way that Pullman does not, specifically because it didn’t collapse in on itself. The workers didn’t tear it down the way that slaves tore down their plantations in Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti. In a sense, Hershey discovered that the most critical aspect of utopia is buy-in; ultimately, that means individual applicability, which proved easiest to achieve by maximizing the Free Labor Ideal.

[i] Lincoln, Abraham. 1859. Speech Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society.

[ii] VanderVelde, Lea S. “The Labor Vision of the Thirteenth Amendment.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 138, no. 2 (1989): 437-504. doi:10.2307/3312315.

[iii] Williams, Eric. 1994. Capitalism and Slavery

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

[v] Julia Gaffield. “Haiti and Jamaica in the Remaking of the Early Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World.” The William and Mary Quarterly 69, no. 3 (2012): 583-614. doi:10.5309/willmaryquar.69.3.0583.

[vi] MacDonald, Allan. “Lowell: A Commercial Utopia.” The New England Quarterly 10, no. 1 (1937): 37-62. doi:10.2307/360145.

[vii] Buder, Stanley. 1967. Pullman: An Experiment in Industrial Order and Community Planning 1880-1930.

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

[ix] Ibid.

From the Food of the Gods to the Food of the People: How Chocolate Became Democratized

Referring to chocolate, the Italian conquistador Girolamo Benzoni wrote that it “seemed more a drink for pigs, than a drink for humanity” (Coe and Coe 110). Given this statement, it seems incredible that today in much of the world, we have come to know chocolate as a sweet, decadent luxury food. Much of chocolate’s transformation – from a bitter drink reserved for elites to a sweet, inexpensive candy – has to do with changes that occurred in Europe beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing through the Industrial Revolution. Colonialism, along with the advent of plantation agriculture and industrial technology, all functioned to alter the perceptions and attitudes surrounding chocolate in Europe and the New World, democratizing it, until it eventually became the mass-produced food that so many people know and love today.

Chocolate, the solid food that it is most commonly known today, comes from the fruit of the cacao tree. In ancient Mesoamerica, the cacao tree was sacred; images of cacao trees are linked to gods and the afterlife in Aztec and Maya religions (Leissle). This religious association is what led Linnaeus to give cacao the genus name Theobroma, which translates to “food of the gods” (Leissle). Archeological evidence also suggests that cacao was made as a drink primarily for Aztec and Maya elites. After Spanish conquistadors arrived in Central America and became accustomed to cacao, the association between cacao consumption and elites was transferred to Europe. The Spanish were the first to introduce cacao to Europe in 1544, when Dominican friars brought a Kekchi Maya delegation to meet Prince Philip of Spain, and they brought cacao with them (Coe and Coe). Soon after, consumption of chocolate drinks, inspired by Mesoamerican recipes, became popular in European royal courts. As chocolate’s popularity grew in Europe, its association with aristocracy was solidified. For example, it became a potent status symbol for French nobility to own a silver chocolatière, or chocolate pot, as seen in the image below. In Baroque France, distinctive silver pieces such as this one signified that the owner was of a high enough social class to be able to purchase cacao and enjoy chocolate drinks on a regular basis.

Image of a traditional French chocolatière. From: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/196366

As European nations colonized the Caribbean and Central and South America, the resulting increase in agricultural production through slave labor allowed chocolate’s popularity to grow even further as it became increasingly accessible to working-class people. The establishment of New World cacao plantations and using the labor of African slaves allowed European powers to control the production of cacao and import it at lower costs (Martin and Sampeck). Additionally, transatlantic triangular trade allowed cacao to be transported to West Africa and Indonesia, where it was also cultivated for European consumption, with West Africa, specifically Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, becoming the primary production center of cacao after the abolition of slavery (Martin and Sampeck; Leissle). Thus, under colonial influence, cacao production was able to expand to meet the growing demand for chocolate among the upper classes.

This increasing desire for chocolate was reinforced by the massive growth of the sugar industry at the same time and by the same means of production (Mintz). However, it was not until the rise of capitalistic economies and increasing industrialization that sugar and chocolate consumption really increased dramatically in Europe (Coe and Coe). Until the Industrial Revolution, chocolate was primarily consumed as a drink; a number of industrial processes were important for transforming chocolate into solid food. For example, the process for manufacturing Dutch process cocoa powder involved a more efficient method of separating cocoa butter from cocoa powder, which allowed the powder to mix more easily with water (Coe and Coe). Using this technology, the Fry company was able to create a recipe for the first true chocolate bars, involving cocoa powder, sugar, and melted cocoa butter. From then on, chocolate was on its way to being considered primarily as a relatively inexpensive food, especially as the number and size of chocolate companies grew and other technological innovations emerged for creating desirable and marketable chocolate confections.

Demand for eating chocolate and cultivation of cacao in West Africa mutually reinforced each other’s growth, which incentivized large chocolate companies to create more efficient and cost-effective manufacturing techniques. One such company is Hershey’s, an American-based enterprise which is responsible for creating a recipe for milk chocolate that could be mass produced faster and cheaper by using liquid condensed milk rather than powdered milk as European companies did (D’Antonio). The image below, from a booklet produced by Hershey’s, showcases an additional aspect that contributed to their manufacturing success: their factory. The photos of the interior of the factory underscore the massive scale of their operations, and this indicates that chocolate production had become fully mechanized at this point in time – a far cry from the small-scale production of chocolate by hand in ancient Mesoamerica.

Pages from The Hershey Corporation’s “The Story of Chocolate and Cocoa”. From: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/18558585

The printing of this pamphlet also highlights not only that Hershey’s was committed to utilizing the most current manufacturing technology, but also that large companies’ success depended a large part upon public opinion of their operations. As chocolate became increasingly affordable and available to people in Europe and America, companies needed to compete for customer loyalty within the capitalist market. Advertising was and remains crucial for companies to target specific consumers and persuade them to buy their product instead of a similar product from another company. Ads such as the one for Fry’s chocolate below often associated chocolate with images of innocence and the desire for sweetness. The customer buying the chocolate is a young girl, which associates childhood, innocence, and femininity with chocolate and sweetness. The children outside are all gazing longingly at the chocolate, too, which suggests that Fry’s chocolate is something that everyone wants to enjoy. Most importantly, the Fry name is written all over the ad, so that everyone who views the ad remembers the name.

Fry's Chocolates
Fry’s Chocolate advertisement. From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/muohio_digital_collections/3092807797/

Advertising helped chocolate companies become household names, and led to chocolate brands developing recognizable, signature tastes. Thus, chocolate was completely transformed into a commodity for all people to enjoy. None of chocolate’s evolution to this status as an industrialized, highly processed, and popular food would have been possible without the increases in production of cacao and sugar as a result of colonialism and plantation slavery, as well as technological improvements during the Industrial Revolution. All of these changes allowed chocolate’s price to drop significantly, and it also led to chocolate’s shift from drink to solid food. So, when we eat a chocolate bar, we can credit its existence to the changes in production and consumption that corresponded to industrialization and globalization in the past few hundred years.

Works Cited:

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

D’Antonio, Michael D. “Here There Will Be No Unhappiness.” Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, Simon & Schuster, 2006, pp. 106–26.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.Hu, vol. 3, 2015, pp. 37–60.

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

Multimedia Sources:

Collections, Miami University Libraries-Digital. Fry’s Chocolates. 8 Dec. 2008. Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/muohio_digital_collections/3092807797/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2019.

Hershey Chocolate Corporation. The Story of Chocolate and Cocoa Booklet. 1926. National Archives at Philadelphia (RE-PA), US National Archives Research Catalog, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/18558585. Accessed 14 Mar. 2019.

“Pierre Vallières | Chocolate Pot | French, Paris | The Met.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/196366. Accessed 14 Mar. 2019.

Health Conscious Humans: Changes in Chocolate Consumption

Dating back to the Olmec civilization starting around 1500 BCE, cacao has taken on uses in religious, cultural, and medicinal contexts (Coe & Coe, 2013). It was featured in early colonial documents alleviating fevers and treating fatigue. Global consumption of sugar and chocolate skyrocketed so that it contributed to the obesity epidemic in America. Americans now question the “healthy” snack that used to “food of the gods” (Lippi, 2009). As our society becomes more health conscious, chocolate consumption declines. Brands like Hershey’s and Mars are adjusting their products, and snackers opt for vitamin-rich dark chocolate, smoothies, and salads. For years to come in the United States, chocolate most likely will remain integral to social events but be consumed in smaller amounts and different contexts, such as protein shakes and bars, more frequently than caloric snacks off the shelves at the cash register.

           Although chocolate was consumed in religious rituals, social settings, and used for decorations, it was also applied to cure illnesses. The ancient Maya believed it had many benefits, including aphrodisiac qualities, which is why we gift it on Valentine’s day (Martin, Feb. 13 Lecture). Manuscripts featured chocolate in medical applications, such as the Badianus Codex of 1552 using cacao flowers to treat fatigue, the Florentine Codex of 1590 using cacao beans to treat hearts, and the Badianus Manuscript of 1552 applying cacao flowers to energize men in public office (Dillinger et al., 2000). The books of Chilam Balamand and The Ritual of the Bacabs are copies of codices and also feature cacao being used as medicine (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008). The Maya used it during ceremonies to alleviate fevers, seizures, and skin abnormalities. Their botanical remedies typically featured cacao as the main ingredient to cure such ailments.

This image is from Codex Borgia and depicts an epidemic with vomiting and diarrhea (Dreiss & Greenhill, 2008).

Alphonse de Richeliu introduced the treatment to France, and it was taken on for energy, digestion, breast milk production, kidney stones, poor appetite, and other purposes (Coe & Coe). The Spanish even believed it improved conception probability and breast milk quality (Dillinger et al., 2000). Chocolate was thought to have many nutrients, so the Church banned consuming it during religious fasts unless for medicinal purposes. Chocolate was considered a cure for almost any ailment.

Chocolate consumption grew exponentially throughout the 1900s due to several innovations that allowed mass production of cheaper chocolate and enabled it to spread beyond the elite. Incomes rose and production costs fell after the Industrial Revolution. Coenraad Johannes Van Houton invented the hydraulic press, which separated cocoa solids from cocoa butter (Coe & Coe, 2013).

This machine, the hydraulic press, led to Joseph Fry & Son creating the first chocolate bar in 1847.

As shown above, the press is comprised of cylinders, pistons, and hydraulic pipes. A piston is inserted into the small cylinder to create pressure so liquid cocoa can move through the pipes (Coe & Coe, 2013). As it goes through the press, the fat is squeezed out and the result is fat free cocoa powder. Another development was conchin, a stirring process to make chocolate smooth. These inventions allowed chocolate to change from a foamy drink only consumed by the elite to a cheap and delicious option for all classes. Fry & Nestle even created a solid form of chocolate, which further increased accessibility (Coe & Coe, 2013). Mintz noted that sugar production increased so much that it became integral to the English diet (Mintz, 1986). By 1900, sugar constituted 20% of English calories consumed and chocolate was a major part of their diets.

There are positive effects to chocolate. Dark chocolate has a high cocoa content and antioxidants. Harvard Health notes that dark chocolate can help athletes’ oxygen availability during competition (Tello, 2018). Americans adopted chocolate as a delicious treat but had difficulty consuming it in moderation. Today, chocolate mostly is seen as a contributor to obesity. Many favorite snacks are loaded with sugar and fat. Cacao butter is filled with saturated fat and harmful for cholesterol (Mintz, 1986). With America wrestling with an obesity epidemic, chocolate and sugar are identified as culprits.

People take to Twitter to vent about the terrible impact high sugar content has on health (Twitter, 2018).

Rather than focusing on the medicinal qualities of chocolate, society now raises concerns about high sugar content (Twitter). Low prices of huge sharing size bags lead to some consuming excessive amounts of sugar in one sitting. A bag of Hershey’s individually wrapped chocolate bars contains up to 81 grams of sugar (Google Images). The negative health effects commercial chocolate contains are gaining media attention, and people are adjusting their eating habits accordingly.

The image shows nutrition facts and total sugars in a sharing bag of chocolate that people sometimes consume by themselves.

Consumption of chocolate is now falling in America because of trends toward being healthier and losing weight. Diet brands are raking in dollars as consumers opt for more nutritious options with less sugar. Salad chains, Weight Watchers, and workout classes such as Barry’s Boot Camp and Soul Cycle have become popular. Chocolate consumption drops. The average American ate 12.6 lbs of chocolate in 2007 but only 9.5 lbs in 2015 (Wong, 2016). Healthier brands like Atkins and Kind are selling better than Hershey’s and forcing companies to adjust to their audiences. A recent Skinny Pop commercial depicts the new trend:

The commercial shows children examining snack ingredients.

The commercial ends with a child remarking, “It’s all real, that’s pretty cool” regarding the three ingredients in Skinny Pop (popcorn, sunflower oil, salt). The next generation is being raised to be more health conscious and to consume natural ingredients rather than sugar and saturated fat.

The consumption decline is shown by dominant brands diversifying as they lose market share. More than 50% of confectionary market share was controlled by only five brands: Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Craft, and Ferrero (Coe & Coe, 2013). Hershey’s recently acquired amplify snack brands, which owns Skinny Pop, in a $1.6 billion deal (Global News Wire, 2017). Hershey’s is even beginning to produce meat bars, as their former best sellers are no longer sailing off shelves. Hershey’s isn’t the only old dominant brand struggling. Mars invested in Kind Bars, which features health conscious mottos on their labels (Global news Wire, 2017). Chocolate brands adjust their products and tailor to a changing audience, which will alter how chocolate is consumed.

Not only are Americans consuming less chocolate, but when they do it is in different contexts. Fitness spots such as Equinox still sell chocolate but offer bars that are gluten, dairy, sugar alcohol, and trans fat free.

Barry’s featured a photo of a chocolate recovery shake on Instagram (Instagram, 2018)

Chocolate is featured in low sugar bars and protein shakes more frequently than in caloric foamy drinks. The turn in society towards healthier lifestyles, less sugar consumption, and increased fitness has caused vendor diversification and is changing the way chocolate is consumed.

Despite chocolate and cacao’s widespread medicinal uses in the past, it has been demoted to a sugary dessert in America. As people fight the obesity crisis, consumers practice self-control and grab alternative foods off the shelves. Brands with “skinny” in the name have grown in number: skinny pop, skinny cow, and halo top with the number of calories in huge print. Advertisements featuring natural ingredients, such as the Skinny Pop commercial, are successful. The chocolate market may never be the same—Hershey’s with the famous brown sealed chocolate bar now is selling popcorn and even meat bars (yuck). Not only has chocolate consumption declined, but the way the population consume it has changed because it is being revamped into healthier foods and not just sweet desserts.


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

Dillinger, Teresa, et al. “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate.” Oxford Academic The Journal of Nutrition, Oxford University Press, 1 Aug. 2000, academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/8/2057S/4686320.

Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Edgar Greenhill. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods. University of Arizona Press, 2008.

Google Search, Google, www.google.com/search?q=hersheys%2Bsharing%2Bbag%2Bnutrition%2Bfacts&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS768US769&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqu6TVzOzgAhWQg-AKHSS6DLkQ_AUIDigB&biw=1009&bih=658#imgrc=ovjpEWmHHdY-uM:

Google Image Search, Google, www.google.com/search?rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS768US769&biw=1418&bih=658&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=1z5_XKqZPOuxggfR-7uAAw&q=hydraulic%2Bpress%2Bmaking%2Bchocolate&oq=hydraulic%2Bpress%2Bmaking%2Bchocolate&gs_l=img.3…1922.4213..4249…1.0..0.206.1336.14j2j1……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i8i30j0i24.hcnFkDDU_Rk#imgrc=aSVPvbsdA1Cf1M:

Hershey Company. “Hershey Enters Into Agreement to Acquire Amplify Snack Brands, Inc.” GlobeNewswire News Room, “GlobeNewswire”, 18 Dec. 2017, globenewswire.com/news-release/2017/12/18/1263249/0/en/Hershey-Enters-Into-Agreement-to-Acquire-Amplify-Snack-Brands-Inc.html.

Lippi, D. “Chocolate and Medicine: Dangerous Liaisons?” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19818277.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 13 Feb. 2017. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney. 1986[1985]. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.Popcorn, SkinnyPop. “SkinnyPop | Simple Tastes Better.” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Aug. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iCta8t7BmU.

Tello, Monique. “Can Dark Chocolate Improve Vision?” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 1 May 2018, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-dark-chocolate-improve-vision-2018050313767?utm_content=buffer4fdfe&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=buffer.

Wong, Venessa. “Hershey Shifts Gears As Chocolate Consumption Slows.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 26 Apr. 2016, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/venessawong/people-just-dont-eat-chocolate-like-they-used-to.