Chocolate means many things to many people, invoking feelings of romance, decadence, comfort, celebration, and memories of childhood. And despite its ubiquity across most of the globe, chocolate has maintained an aura of lavishness, mystery, and prestige. Once a food item strictly for the elites, chocolate has kept its image as a luxury item even though it has been cheaply available for over a century. How and why did chocolate go from an exclusive luxury item for the privileged to a staple everyday treat for the masses? The history of chocolate, or cacao, the treated fruit-seeds from which chocolate is produced, and how it became commonplace is inseparable from the history of colonialism, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the industrial revolution. And the same is true of the history of sugar. Ultimately it was the evolution and combining of these two once-exclusive products that changed chocolate from an expensive, rare commodity for a small elite class to an affordable, mass-producible snack for the everyday citizen of the industrialised world.
Chocolate finds its origin in the cacao tree, or theobroma cacao, literally “food of the gods, cacao,” as it was named by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus.1 However, the word cacao had been used, as had the fruits and the seeds within, since long before Linnaeus encountered the species. Traces of cacao have been discovered on pottery dating as far back as 3,300 B.C. in Zamora Chinchipe, Ecuador,2 almost five thousand years before contact between Europe and Mesoamerica began. When Europeans first encountered cacao at the beginning of the sixteenth century, cacao was used as currency and consumed as a beverage by the ruling class of the Aztec empire. The drinking chocolate travelled first to the royal courts of Spain and then spread to the other major powers in Europe including, Italy, France, and England. Drinking chocolate prevailed until the middle of the nineteenth century when solid chocolate was first produced for widespread sale.
Sugar has been known in Europe since long before cacao. Cultivated into its crystallized form in India as far back as 500 A.D.,3 and spread through the Arabic conquests of the eighth century, it was and remained “a luxury, a medicine, and a spice”4 until the seventeenth century. With the discovery and conquering of the West Indies, Europeans colonialists began to cultivate and mass-produce the luxury items – cacao, tobacco, coffee, rum, tea, and sugar – that would dramatically change the economies of the world forever.
By the nineteenth century sugar had a become a necessity of British daily life. And it was during this century that Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes Van Houten invented a machine that would lead to the ability to produce chocolate in its solid form. Van Houten’s hydraulic press separated the fat, cacao butter, from the cacao beans, leaving behind a powder we call cocoa.5 The British Fry family, who had been producing and selling drinking chocolate since the eighteenth century, discovered that by remixing this cocoa with the butter and adding sugar, a liquid that would harden could be made, and the first real chocolate bar was born.6
It should be stated that none of the major producers of solid chocolate who would come to dominate the market were the first to think to sweeten cacao for consumption. Adding honey to sweeten drinking chocolate had been commonplace in Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Spanish, and drinking chocolate recipes enjoyed by the aristocracy in Europe pervasively contained sugar. The change that took place that would significantly spread the consumption of chocolate was the pronounced increased, first, in the consumption of sugar. According to Sidney W. Mintz’s estimates, between 1800 and 1890 world production shot from approximately two-hundred and forty-five thousand tonnes of sugar to over six million, and he writes, “there is no doubt that the sucrose consumption of the poorer classes in the United Kingdom came to exceed that of the wealthier classes after 1850.”7 This transformative period in sugar production and consumption paired with Van Houten’s machine, which meant for easier and cheaper production of higher quality cacao powder and butter, set the stage for the mass-production and consumption of chocolate.
The public’s insatiable appetite for sugar has meant that chocolate production can be much cheaper, as the most expensive ingredient, cacao, can be used in less quantity. A good example of this is the enormously successful Hershey’s kiss that is just eleven percent cocoa and over fifty percent sugar.8 And the mass-production ideology that came with the industrial revolution led to astonishing manufacturing achievements. A good example of this is the lettering machine at the M&M factory that is able to print the M’s on M&M’s at, “200,000 M&M’s a minute, or 100 million M&M’s every eight hours:”9 needless to say, a far cry from the time-consuming procedure to make the drinking chocolate that was enjoyed by Mayans, Aztecs, and European “nobility” for the centuries and millennia prior. That milk chocolate can be legally called as such with just 10% cacao content has meant a form of chocolate can be made, and therefore bought and eaten, cheaply and regularly across class lines. So while there is debate as to the health effects of cheap chocolate and ethical concerns of cheaply sourced cacao, the “food of the gods” is now available to all mortals. And thank god for that.
Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. Page 5
If one stands near the Chicago River fork, just by the world famous Merchandise Mart, they are struck by a familiar and enticing smell. On a good day, a large portion of downtown Chicago smells distinctly of chocolate. Following the railway lines just west of the river will lead you to the Blommer chocolate factory. Blommer currently processes almost 45% of the cacao beans in the U.S. and the Chicago headquarters stands as their largest processing plant. The smell is so strong and distinct, you can actually discern the difference between when they are making milk chocolate versus cocoa powder or dark chocolate. Traveling further down the river to the North is a strip of land that use to hold a coffee roasting plant. On a perfect day, these smells would intermingle as the roasting released their warm bitter notes on the air, reminding us of coffee and chocolate’s shared past.
(A former tumbler post allowed Chicagoans to track the chocolate scent daily)
Standing there, it begs the question about where their paths diverged. How did chocolate make the transformation from the beverage of revolutionaries and royalty to a confectionary treat to appease the masses?
By the time cacao became the darling of beverage establishments, the Old World had abandoned the Humors system of medicine. No longer were there debates as to whether chocolate was warm or cold or how to best balance it with spices. At the same time, drug crops such as tea, coffee and chocolate, which had long been associated with wealth and status, were becoming more accessible. Daily rituals were created around these beverages, often with the addition of sugar, which was growing in popularity. However, both chocolate and coffee fell out of favor as a beverage when the British East India Company increased the tea supply, causing tea prices to drop dramatically. The lower prices made it more accessible, transforming it to a national compulsion for the British. Coffee would eventually become more accessible and regain some lost ground, but rather than look to rebound as a beverage choice, chocolate evolved in the food space as a confection and flavoring.
Several different innovations helped chocolate with this evolution. Going back to its heyday as a beverage, drinking chocolate was growing in popularity in the new world. At the time, cacao was still being ground and processed by hand on matates. It was an arduous process, that took time and manpower, keeping chocolate in the hands of those who could afford it. In 1765, Dr. James Baker partnered with John Hannon to simplify the process and reduce labor. The pair rented a grist mill in Milton Lower Falls, MA, using water power to grind the chocolate. This was chocolate’s first step in to the industrial age, liberating it from the labor of hand grinding and creating a more consistent product. The company they formed, Baker chocolates, still exists today under the Kraft Heinz company.
(Baker Chocolates still stands today in Milton Falls, MA)
The next leap forward for chocolate came in 1824 from the Swiss. Coenraad Van Houten, a Swiss chemist, developed a new processing method using a hydraulic press. The press removed more than 70% of the cacao butter from the cacao nibs, leaving a cake, which could be easily turned in to powder. The cacao was then treated with alkaline, which reduced the bitterness, making for a milder, more palatable chocolate. This not only made it cheaper and easier to make in to a beverage, but the resulting powder could be used as a flavoring for cakes, and other confections, helping chocolate easily expand it’s usage beyond beverages in to foodstuffs.
(Van Houten’s Press had a multi-stage process to remove fats from the cacao nibs)
The next innovation came from the Quakers in England. In 1847, as sugar consumption was taking a drastic turn up, Joseph Fry mixed cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter. The resulting mixture was malleable enough to be cast in to a mold, making the world’s first eating chocolate, and transforming chocolate from flavor to stand alone item.
The Swiss continued to innovate and in 1867 Henri Nestle, a Swiss chemist devised a way to make powder milk through a process of evaporation. This would become the first ready to mix infant formula. (which would eventually lead to a rather sorted history among the Nestle company.) This innovation proved to be useful when in 1879 Daniel Peter used it to make the first milk chocolate bar by mixing with chocolate liquor, drying the moisture out of the mix and adding cacao butter. The resulting chocolate was sweeter, smoother, and more palatable.
Not to be outdone, that same year Rudolphe Lindt invented the conching machine. The machine consisted of a flat granite base and granite roller. Cacao nibs were ground by the roller and the resulting liquor was splashed over it at the end of each roll, allowing more air to come in contact during the process. The conching process had several major advantages. First, the continual motion caused the cacao to be more finely ground, which would eventually produce a smoother chocolate. Second, the contact with the air made it easier for moisture and volatile oils to evaporate, removing some of the acidity and making for a milder, more enjoyable flavor. Lastly, and importantly, the friction in the conching process created heat, this allowed chocolate makers to reduce roasting time (as some could be done in during the conching process), which sped up chocolate production dramatically.
The last leap forward toward mass produced chocolate takes us back to the United States with Milton Hershey. In 1903, Hershey was just starting to build his chocolate empire in the center of Pennsylvania. The one process that he struggled with was processing the milk for his milk chocolate with attempts often leading to scorched or burnt milk. He finally called in John Schmalbach, who mixed skim milk with a high ratio of sugar. Using low heat evaporation, he was able to create sweetened condensed milk. The resulting product mixed beautifully with cocoa powder and cacao butter. Not only did it produce eating chocolate, but the process made the chocolate more shelf stable and able to be stored for several months. It also created a smoother mixture overall, which was easier to move through equipment and molds, allowing them to make chocolate faster and cheaper. We now had a chocolate that was cheap and fast to produce, and could stay fresh for months, allowing it to be shipped further and stocked longer. With Hershey’s the once beverage of royalty was forever transformed into an indulgence for the masses.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007 (1996) The True History of Chocolate.
Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars.
D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams.
MacCarther, Kate. “Blommer Chocolate to Back Cocoa Sustainability Program.” Crain’s Chicago Business. May 9, 2012. (online version)
Mintz, Sidney W. 1986 (1985) Sweetness and Power.
Murray, Sarah. 2007. Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat.
We often see varieties of chocolate neatly arranged in so many stores, and the display is so tempting for customers walking by. Every shopping trip to a convenience or drug store is the same – make a rewarding selection between mainstream (and sometimes exotic) chocolate products. The tastings were set up in a way to acquire as much information as possible. The samples I acquired from CVS were: Ferrero Rocher hazelnut truffles (Italian), Hershey’s milk chocolate (American), Cadbury milk chocolate (English), Toblerone milk chocolate with nougat (Swiss), and Brookside dark chocolate with blueberries and almonds (American). The samples I acquired from Cardullo’s were: Niederegger’s Chocolate with marzipan (German), Truffettes milk chocolate covered marshmallows (French), Chuao Milk chocolate with potato chips (American/Venezuelan based), Vivra 65% dark with candied violets (American), and Taza 50% dark chocolate with guajillo chili. I recruited six tasters, and one taster was unable to try the dark chocolate samples, because dark chocolate disagrees with him. I expected that the tasters I shared various chocolate samples with would prefer more generic and familiar brands, such as the brands offered by CVS. However, by analyzing the results of my research done on various flavors of chocolate, it is apparent that my tasters generally preferred the less common chocolate bars without realizing it. This suggests that people do not put as much thought into their chocolate preferences as they really should be.
When organizing tastings for my research, I tried to get as many tasters as possible to taste my CVS and Cardullo’s products by themselves. There ended up being two groups of two, and two lone tasters. I wanted each person’s response to influence another person’s response as little as possible. Furthermore, none of the tasters were enrolled in Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. The students of the class now have an above average level of training for identifying specific tastes and smells in the chocolate, so I decided to test the abilities of non-chocolate scholars. I must admit that the whole tasting set-up was done by having in the back of my mind Barb Stuckey’s self-observation of her tasting skill after spending time working for the Mattson company. Barb excitedly recalls her “newfound skill” explaining that she “could take one bite of a food, consider it for a millisecond, and know exactly what it was missing that would give it an optimal taste (Stuckey 3)”. However, I was delighted to hear my tasters use descriptions for the samples, such as: dry, “varied texture”, “pop rock texture”, generic, “dull ‘thud’ sound”, sandy, “old book taste”, chalky, and/or matte colored.
The chocolate samples came from two different stores: CVS, and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, both in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Both stores are conveniently located in an area filled with people, some of whom may be hungry for a chocolate snack. Cardullo’s and CVS have their similarities, including the fact that they have their specific chocolate-seeking audiences. However, there is a difference between the chocolate-seeking audiences of Cardullo’s and CVS. Cardullo’s targets consumers of European origin and consumers with an interest in European culture, while CVS targets consumers that are not extremely fussy, and less willing to spend more for chocolate that would satisfy their cravings just as effectively. On a side note: the cost for all of the products between CVS and Cardullo’s totaled $46.34.
CVS’s chocolate is meant to “cater” to the general public. The store manager of the CVS location himself explained the ways in which the companies featured in the store cater to the general public. The confections sold at CVS are internationally recognized American and European brands whose confectionery styles do well with their plain chocolate, but also with commonly added flavors (some additional flavors include: caramel, nougat, nuts, and fruit). Hershey’s is a quintessential product at CVS, and must maintain their consumer loyalty with recognizable packaging, as well as producing creative ideas. For example, Hershey’s has designed resealable packaging to give their consumers a choice to eat some chocolate now and save the rest for later. A better alternative, rather than the consumer being forced to eat the entire product once it has been opened. Chocolate investigator, Kristy Leissle, begins her journal with, “Consider a hershey’s (sic) kiss. At once minimalist and iconic, the twist of silver foil sends a familiar flavor message to the brain, while the wrapper imparts nothing substantial about the chocolate (Leissle 22)”. When we see a chocolate product that is familiar to us, its iconic and memorable packaging prompts us to remember that what the product is. We also can trust familiar looking products to taste delicious if we decide to purchase them, rather than us risking the possibility of feeling like our money has been wasted on a bad tasting product.
The products from CVS have important descriptions that set them apart from the products at Cardullo’s. There were a few products made with dark chocolate, but most of the products sold at CVS were made with milk chocolate. The most popular CVS product was a tie between Toblerone and Ferrero Rocher – all six tasters liked the two products equally. Four out of six tasters especially liked the chocolate center of the truffles. The Toblerone sample was described by four out of six tasters as “better than Hershey’s.” Three out of six tasters did not care for the Brookside product, two tasters thought the product was “okay,” and one taster loved the Brookside product so much that it won CVS over as her favorite store of the two for buying chocolate. Fun fact: Hershey acquired Brookside in 2011 (Schroeder). Hershey’s milk chocolate was the least popular CVS product, and Cadbury’s milk chocolate was described by every taster as “better than Hershey’s,” while Cadbury’s still was not the most popular CVS product.
Most of the products were neatly arranged by brand on the candy aisle. The rest of the products could be found on the end cap of the candy aisle on the side furthest away from the registers. The products on the end cap are known as the “deluxe chocolates.” The Deluxe brands included, but were not limited to Lindt and Chuao. Recall that I bought my Chuao potato chip milk chocolate at Cardullo’s. I had gone shopping at Cardullo’s before shopping at CVS, and was surprised to find the same type of Chuao bar in the Deluxe section of CVS. The Chuao bar was more hidden than the easily seen Cardullo’s Chuao bar, and it was two dollars cheaper at CVS. Perhaps, the Deluxe chocolates at CVS are placed so that the adventurous customers who already know about the products will know where to find them. The specific placement of products could be CVS’s precaution against scaring away most of their customers with expensive, daring flavors of chocolate as the first available chocolate snack.
Cardullo’s confections are meant to cater to people with more sophisticated tastes regarding confections. More specifically, Cardullo’s employees pointed out that the shoppe targets Europeans (and a few other ethnicities) who grew up with their featured products that are hard to find outside of their countries. The store manager of Cardullo’s herself explained that Cardullo’s products are special because they invoke a strong feeling of nostalgia among visitors/immigrants from various countries. You can find a wall stocked with Cadbury products, and Cadbury is one of the few iconic chocolate brands featured in the entire store. There is no chance of finding any products from Hershey when shopping at Cardullo’s. The American products featured at Cardullo’s tend to have avant-garde flavors. For example, Cardullo’s features Vosges, a Chicago based chocolate company. One of Vosges products at Cardullo’s is a chocolate bacon bar. What a combination!
As preferred by five out of six tasters, Cardullo’s was the most popular of the two stores for chocolate shopping. The opportunity to taste new flavors of chocolate was a little intimidating, yet exciting to each of my chocolate tasters. Chloé, the chocolate connoisseur featured in Raising the Bar, voices her concern for a general lack of appreciation for chocolate variety, “[c]onsumers can be fickle and even dismissive when it comes to matters of taste… (Raising 147)”. The tasters were enthralled by the Vivra dark with violets, and this product was enjoyed by everyone that could try it. Four out of six people did not care for the Chuao potato chip chocolate, but the two other tasters enjoyed the sweet and salty combination within it. Niederegger’s marzipan milk chocolate was described by three tasters as “too sweet.” The other three tasters liked the marzipan milk chocolate, especially the consistency of the marzipan. When biting into the Truffettes milk chocolate covered marshmallows three tasters experienced them as “too chewy.” The other three tasters enjoyed the consistency of the marshmallow. Five tasters could try Taza’s Guajillo chili. Four tasters did not care for the guajillo chili infusion with the dark chocolate. One taster said that the Taza sample with guajillo chili was “awesome stuff!”
I would especially like to highlight the presence of Taza products at Cardullo’s. Taza is one of the few American chocolate companies with products for sale at Cardullo’s, and they happen to operate locally in Somerville, Massachusetts. What is special about Taza in comparison to many other American products is that the workers of Taza are interested in traditional, authentic Mexican chocolate-making methods. With a high demand in place for their products, Taza has had to find means of efficient production that would still allow for the presence of a Mexican quality surrounding the chocolate. By producing solid chocolate bars, Taza is aware that consumers are seeking a snack with traditional Mexican flavors, rather than traditional Mexican beverages. Taza’s YouTube channel serves as an efficient tool to connect with their customers on a more personal level than relying only on their website and word of mouth to deliver information to consumers. Taza wants its consumers to remember that there is still care involved with Taza’s chocolate making process, as their YouTube page’s introductory paragraph states that, “we hand-carve granite millstones to grind cacao… (TazaChocolate)”. The introductory video on their YouTube channel is an invitation for all who would like to catch a glimpse of the chocolate making process inside the factory:
It is exciting to learn a little bit about another culture’s specific methods for creating products that are so similar, yet so different from what we are usually exposed to.
It is worth noting that every person has unique preferences for chocolate products, among all other products. There are people who prefer CVS products over Cardullo’s products, as astounding as it may sound to the people who appreciate variance in chocolate. Some people may enjoy every chocolate product presented to them, while others may only accept milk chocolate. Allergies to common foods such as nuts will skew a person’s preferences, because they must work around their health concerns when determining their favorite flavors to have with chocolate. The confections we looked at for this project demonstrate the many creative and culture-specific ideas that so many talented confectioners have cooked up since chocolate became more available around the world. Perhaps, if my tasters were all chocolate connoisseurs that my research would have yielded different results about chocolate preferences.
Williams, Pamela Sue., and Jim Eber. “To Market, To Market: Craftsmanship, Customer Education, and Flavor.” Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver, BC: Wilmor Corporation, 2012. 143-209. Print.
Are chocolate companies exploiting workers when they use a values-based approach to promote sales? Although some companies are clearly exploiting its workers, there is a difference between exploitation and smart marketing.
Let’s compare the practices of Hershey’s Chocolate and Divine Chocolate to illustrate this point: The elements of exploitation exist in the practices of Hershey’s because they are advertising falsehoods and treating their workers as the opposite of what they market; Divine Chocolate is the polar opposite of Hershey’s in this manner because they market values that they actually practice, making them smart marketers – not exploiters.
Is Divine Chocolate being exploitative? Exploiting in itself is deriving full use of something or someone unfairly (Alberts). Let’s first define exploiting for our own terms when it comes to thinking about chocolate companies – Exploiting is the act of a chocolate company using an element to maneuver, outrank, increase sales, or brand the company in a certain way without giving fair benefit to the people that they are using to achieve these goals.
Exploiting also has the following connotations when it comes to chocolate companies such as (but not limited to) when it comes to what they do; this will be used as our litmus test to determine whether or not true exploitation is at play:
Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)
Not fairly paying workers for their work
Misrepresenting benefits to workers
Misrepresenting a situation to consumers
Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men)
Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade)
*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think)
Before we analyze the possibility of Divine Chocolate being exploitative, let’s analyze a company that passes the litmus test for exploitation – Hershey’s Chocolate.
By analyzing their pictures in advertisements and their marketing and comparing it to the real picture of the company, we can certainly see how Hershey’s Chocolate is being exploitative.
Hershey’s history of exploitation goes back essentially since the beginning of the start of the company; the company often used farms and factories that did not pay its workers a fair wage, lowered the standard of living, and took part in the enslaving of workers by providing unsafe conditions (Anti-Given that, one would think that the company would have “changed its tune” so to speak. However, Hershey’s has not done so and has continued to abuse their power as a top-tier chocolate company. It has been proven that Hershey’s is still taking part in these kinds of practices, which has been noted by researchers on international student workers that took part in a foreign exchange program in the United States with Hershey’s as their sponsor. According to the New York Times:
The students, who were earning about $8 an hour, said they were isolated within the plant, rarely finding moments to practice English or socialize with Americans. With little explanation or accounting, the sponsor [Hershey’s] took steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance that left many of them too little money to afford the tourist wanderings they had eagerly anticipated (Preston).
How can Hershey’s not be an exploiter if international student workers, who are usually unfamiliar with the United States, cannot afford to even travel to the places that they wanted to see; these international workers took the job with Hershey’s in order to site-see in exchange for work, and Hershey’s is essentially taking that element away from them. Further, the promises that Hershey’s made to the students regarding a certain amount of money given to them was understood by the company to be separate from the housing, transportation, and insurance. Clearly, Hershey’s is exploiting the international workers by lowering their wages in order to get labor in the form of the cheapest way possible; these deductions would not even begin to cover a legal and livable way or manner if an American had this job. Thus, Hershey’s found a way to bypass the legal system in order to get cheaper labor – in the form of exploited international students.
Additionally, one cannot even argue that Hershey’s has learned its lesson on this front – despite the media attention, public outcry, and protests from students alike, Hershey’s is still running this program; imagine the kind of exploitation that could be occurring in more vulnerable areas if this kind of company if this type of exploitation is happening in the United States. If the plant in Pennsylvania is seeing these kinds of abuses, it is safe to assume that the exploitation along the Ivory Coast and the Americas are seeing abuses that are hidden away from the public.
Now, let’s take a look at the advertisements in Hershey’s pictures that are quite different than the actual reality of the company. For instance, in Figure 1, we see how Hershey’s is advertising itself as a chocolate that is a part of “shared goodness:”
(Figure 1. Hershey’s Community Archives)
This advertisement, at first glance, may not seem like a direct link to exploitation, but the company is promoting itself as a brand that is values-based. It draws upon the picture of a happy family and talks about how Hershey’s “good business” practices translates into better chocolate for the family, resulting in a “better life and bright future.” However, just from the proven evidence discussed regarding the student workers, the reality of Hershey’s is very different than what it is advertising. Clearly, Hershey’s is branding itself as a business that is “good,” however, it is not actually being a “good” business with values.
This type of misrepresentation marketing is all throughout many of their advertisements throughout the years. For example, Figure 2 tells another compelling story about how Hershey is actually promoting diversity when it is really not:
(Figure 2. Hershey’s Community Archives)
In this picture, children of different ethnicities and races are being shown; Hershey’s is advertising themselves as a company that promotes inclusiveness across all kinds of ethnic and racial divides. For instance, it talks about how it puts different kinds of candies for all kinds of kids. However, the example of exploitation of its international student workers tells a very different kind of a story. How can a brand that claims to be “inclusive” not be inclusive to its international workers? How could a brand that would never be able to legally get away with reductions in paychecks and amenities for American workers be so inclusive if it takes a legal loophole to do so for its international workers? Clearly, it can be seen how just this one type of exploitation is being used in full force, which passes our litmus test on essentially all fronts. It has abused a sensitive group, misrepresents benefits to workers and unfairly promises them lies, and then brands the company in a way that misrepresents the brand to the consumer, whom otherwise would think that Hershey’s has excellent values just from looking at their advertisements; Hershey’s, knowing that most targeted and loyal consumers are not going to search for their name on the Internet every time they want to buy a bag or piece of chocolate, use this to their advantage.
Now let’s compare how Divine Chocolate uses certain advertisements to help attract consumers, but is not being exploited in their efforts, which is the polar opposite of what Hershey’s is doing:
Divine Chocolate, according to Sam Binkley employed a values-based marketing strategy in order to justify their price:
Divine has moved on from selling mainly on the basis of the solidarity value of its product to material use value taste. [Divine Chocolate] still is slightly more expensive as it must, other than the likes of Nestle and Kraft, fulfill its double bottom line of economic and social viability. So while the product is competitive on a level of quality, its price still needs to be justified in terms of justice or solidarity. In order to go beyond this, Divine [needed] to add symbolic use value to its brand, engage in consciously designed commodity aesthetic in order to push into unchartered mass markets (Binkley).
Divine Chocolate, like Hershey’s, desired to push even further for profits for their already-successful companies so it could stay competitive; however, what makes it different than other companies is that it is a specialty type of chocolate in a specialty kind of market. In order to be competitive within those specific markets, Divine Chocolate desired to break and expand into the mass markets by justifying their price to those kinds of consumers. In turn, it created the Women’s Empowerment Campaign, which promotes the equality of women chocolate workers, in order to attract consumers (Divine Chocolate).
But how is Divine Chocolate, unlike Hershey’s, not being exploitative if they are using mass marketing strategies in the form of women’s empowerment campaigns to sell their product? The difference here is that Divine Chocolate is actually doing what they say and promote in terms of their campaign to sell product.
The women’s empowerment campaign is real because it is empowering women in ways that they have never been empowered before. For instance, Divine Chocolate started their journey to change conditions when they gave 44 percent equity to Kuapa Kokoo, the largest shareholder of the company’s assets; this co-operative represents 85,000 farm members across 1,257 villages, and is now the largest co-operative in the world; it is credited with the rise of female cacao ownership of at least 20 percent (Leissle, Wiego). Divine allows women farmers to take a special part in an ownership that no other chocolate company has seen before; clearly, it is empowering women in a way that not only represents them as true stakeholders, but brings positivism to an industry that can be quit laborious, abusive, and depressing for other workers who are not afforded such basic rights. Further, approximately 2 percent of the turnover from Divine is specifically used to promote programs to help farmers gain more skills such as good governance programs, literacy programs, and model farming lessons. Thus, Divine not only gives more than fair equity to its workers (the largest of its kind in history), but invests even more money from their profit to ensure that their workers are gaining life skills to use both inside and outside the farm; by bringing in educational and quality of life programs, Divine is sending an authentic message with real action to the female farmers of Ghana: Divine wants to support you and your work by uplifting you and the community.
By examining the advertising campaigns of Divine Chocolate, we can see a message of solidarity and unity that runs throughout its campaign. For instance, in Figure 3, Divine Chocolate uses a picture of an attractive, healthy-looking female worker to get their message across loud and clear:
(Figure 3. Divine Chocolate)
Many critics may charge that because the woman is attractive, dressed nicely, and looks happy, Divine Chocolate is exploiting its female workers because it promotes “sexuality” and an “untrue side of the chocolate industry”. However, this picture of the woman is an accurate picture because Divine Chocolate helps uplift women to give them the lifestyle that can afford many of these luxuries; with their fair payouts and fair trade program, Divine Chocolate can accurately use this advertisement as an authentic way to attract consumers. When looking at this advertisement, most consumers, on first glance, would think of Divine Chocolate as a chocolate brand that is an “equality treat” – because it is. They further humanize the female chocolate worker, who is actually a co-operative co-owner, by putting her name on the advertisement; the consumer will be led to think that when they buy a bag or piece of Divine Chocolate, the benefit will be going to female workers like Beatrice – and rightfully so because it actually is doing that. That, in itself, is not exploitation but a smart marketing scheme that is a “win-win” for both Divine Chocolate and female workers like Beatrice. All in all, Divine Chocolate has gone out of their way to make this picture a reality – their own values-based version of the chocolate industry.
In Figure 4, we can see how this values-based campaign continues throughout many of their packaging:
(Figure 4. Divine Chocolate)
In their designs, Divine Chocolate presents itself as a champion for women by placing designs that are aesthetically pleasing to many females and placing a message on top of the packaging reading “Empowering Women Cacao Farmers.” Like in the picture above, some critics may think that by putting this packaging out in this manner, Divine Chocolate is exploiting women workers because they are using designs that attract consumers to think that they are helping women workers. However, like stated in the previous discussion, they actually are helping women. Further critics may charge that this is being used for International Women’s Day to “cash in” on the holiday, but that charge only further hones in on the point that Divine Chocolate is not being a champion of women just on Women’s Day but essentially every day.
Just because a company uses an element of their system (which, in this case, is championing the female worker) to sell product does not mean that they are being exploitative. On the other hand, if Divine Chocolate was using the same business practices as Hershey’s and using this campaign, they would then be exploitative. But Divine Chocolate is simply promoting the ideas and concepts that they have actually put into practice.
If these points did not already answer the question of whether or not Divine Chocolate is being exploitative for you, let’s take a direct look back at our litmus test for exploitation
Litmus Test: Is Divine Chocolate partaking in any of the following?
Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)
Not fairly paying workers for their work – No, workers are granted an excellent amount of equity
Misrepresenting benefits to workers – No, workers are actually being empowered by the company
Misrepresenting a situation to consumers –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is authentic
Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men) –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is helping women
Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade) –No, ideas like fair trade and empowerment are involved
*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think) –No, workers are a part of the brand name but also benefiting from the marketing taking place since they get a higher amount of equity, which equals and translates into improved working conditions and lifestyles
Clearly, unlike Hershey’s, Divine Chocolate does not pass the litmus test for exploitation; the Women’s Empowerment Campaign is a real campaign, which Divine Chocolate uses for smart marketing and true empowerment.
Alberts, Heike. “Using Cocoa and Chocolate to Teach Human Geography.” Journal of Geography, 2010.
Binkley, Sam. “Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism.” New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
I held a chocolate tasting with 8 of my friends, and my goal of this chocolate tasting was to assess my friends’ preferences regarding cacao and sugar content. I selected 6 varieties of chocolate containing cacao percentages ranging from 11% to 95%. My theory was that people would prefer chocolate that contains more sugar per serving and less cacao. I believed this to be true because of the way modern Western society thinks about sugar. The results highlighted Western society’s taste for sugar, but they also illustrated other ideas related to what we have been studying.
I tried to create a controlled experiment by removing wrappers and breaking each bar into similar sized pieces. I put the chocolate samples into bowls and had my friends begin with Sample 6, the darkest sample, because of what Professor Martin mentioned in class.
Like the process Barb Stuckey writes about when tasting food, I wanted the subjects to taste the food from “two different perspectives.” First, to “think critically about what [they] taste” and second “to consider whether [they] like it or not” (Stuckey, 134). Following this guideline, I had comment cards for each sample where my friends would write about what they tasted and on the back rank how much they liked the sample from a scale of 1 to 5.
After the test was finished, I averaged the rankings into a decimal value. I first will present the results of the experiment, and then I will analyze the results. In lieu of including every comment, I will list any words that appeared more than once, or any descriptors that stand out in the context of what we have been learning in class. Many of the comments touch upon social and historical issues regarding the history of chocolate in America and the world.
My original theory was not exactly correct – people did not like the Hershey’s chocolate the most. However, my hypothesis that milk chocolate was favored over dark chocolate remains true. The two darkest varieties of chocolate were ranked last, and the highest ranked chocolate was milk chocolate.
First and foremost, I would like to analyze the involvement of sugar and how that relates to chocolate as well as the distinguishable taste of Hershey’s chocolate.
HERSHEY’S IS DISTINCTIVE:
Hershey’s chocolate (Sample 1) was the most polarizing, with a scale from 0.5 (Although the scale started at 1, I included this piece of data anyway) to a 5. No other sample had both the lowest and highest ranking. I believe that the polarizing nature of Hershey’s comes from both the high sugar content and the unique ingredients.
In his book Hershey, Michael D’Antonio writes that “Hershey’s milk chocolate has had a distinct flavor. It is sweet… but it also carries a single, faintly sour note. This slight difference is caused by the fermentation of milk fat, an unexpected side effect of Schmalbach’s process.” (D’Antonio, 108) The comment “sour milk” reflects that flavor. Hershey’s is certainly distinctive. I want to address the two notable comments, “God, heaven, promised land” and “tastes the most like chocolate.” D’Antonio writes that Hershey’s “define[s] the taste of chocolate for Americans” (D’Antonio, 108). My tasting proved that for at least two of my friends, this idea is true.
SUGAR AND CHOCOLATE:
Robert Albritton, in “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry” writes that “Sweetness is the most desired taste to the point that many if not most people can easily be caught up in an ‘excessive appetite for it.’” Americans consume about 31 teaspoons of added sugars every day, he writes (Albritton, 343). According to Albritton, “the addictive quality of sugar can be compared to that of cigarettes.” (Albritton, 343).
My mother finds sugar incredibly addictive. She has combated sugar’s negative health effects by avoiding all added sugar all year except for her birthday. I asked her to tell me about her experience with sugar…
“In college, after a night out, we decided to get a midnight snack. For me it ended up being an entire ice cream pie. Even though I felt sick about a third of the way through, I couldn’t stop eating it until there was none left. I decided that night that I would never eat sweets again—or anything with processed sugar if I could avoid it. Then I decided I could have sugar once a year-on my birthday. To me, the idea of eating a few M&M’s and then stopping is impossible. It is FAR easier to eat no sweets, rather than sweets in moderation. The hardest day of the year to continue this is the day after my birthday. I wake up wanting M&M’s. The rest of the year it’s easy. I don’t crave sweets or feel I’m missing out. Zero is easier then some.”
For most people, cutting out sugar completely is not the answer because it is very hard to do. Added sugar is in everything. But the facts are there—Americans eat too much sugar, and diabetes and obesity are on the rise. What is one to do?
From scientific and anecdotal evidence, it is clear that sugar is addictive and unhealthy in excess. So why isn’t the government doing anything about it? This question leads us to examine the role of government as a whole. In fact, according to Albritton, the sugar industry has an enormous impact on legislation passed by congress. He mentions the 2003 instance where the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) proposed that “added sugars should not exceed 10 percent of daily calorie intake.” However, “this was too much for the US sugar industry to swallow, and they threatened to lobby congress to cut off its $400,000 annual funding of the WHO and FAO if they did not remove the offending norm from their report” (Albritton, 345). And in fact, the UN did remove the guideline. This one example highlights a larger problem – the sugar industry is massive and can control parts of the government. Since the government currently is unable to provide solutions to the “obesity pandemic,” I believe that the next best thing is to educate children about what they are eating and try and provide affordable healthy options. This idea is obviously a much more complex problem, and requires much more thought and analysis than this one blog post. However, one potential solution for excessive sugar intake is sugar substitutes.
STEVIA AS A REPLACEMENT:
As a sort of experiment within my tasting, I included a sample that was sweetened with Stevia rather than sugar. Stevia is a plant-based zero-calorie sweetener. Stevia, like other
artificial sweeteners, is between 100 and 300 times sweeter than sugar (Stevia, 2017). Sample 3, containing 55% Cacao and no sugar was ranked 3rd overall in the results. Many of the comments about Sample 3 included some variation of “simple.” After trying it myself, I must agree that the flavor is not very nuanced – once on your tongue there is no evolution. However, not one person questioned the contents of this bar or noted that it tasted fake, a common criticism of artificial sweeteners. According to the testers, this chocolate fit in with the others, and during the taste test, none of them knew it was sweetened with Stevia. While scientists and nutritionists debate the merits and side effects of artificial sweeteners, this Stevia sweetened chocolate bar appears to be an alternative for a person trying to limit sugar intake. Artificial sweeteners do not address the larger problems with the sugar industry. However, this experiment has shown that there are other options for those trying to eat less “real” sugar, and they taste pretty good too! One other caveat is the price point of this chocolate bar—At Whole Foods it cost $4.89, compared to a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar that costs $0.98 at Walmart, so these alternatives are not accessible to everyone.
WHY ELSE CHOCOLOVE WON?
After analyzing the comments, I believe that sugar and sweetness was not the only reason Chocolove was ranked the highest.
David Benton in The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving posits that chocolate cravings come from the “sensory experience associated with eating chocolate, rather than pharmacological constituents” (Benton, 214).
According to Benton, the optimal combination of sugar and fat for palatability “was found to be 7.6% sugar with cream containing 24.7% fat” (Benton, 214). Chocolate contains way more than the “optimal” amount of sugar for taste, however, more sugar is needed “to counteract the bitterness of chocolate.”
Therefore, milk chocolate has “the optimal combination of sweetness and fat.”
Benton also refers to “the melting of chocolate just below body temperature with the resulting mouth-feel,” which adds to the “hedonic experience” and thus the pleasure of eating chocolate. The comments about Sample 2, the Chocolove bar are consistent with this data—this winning chocolate was mostly referenced as creamy, with a note about “melts in mouth.” In direct opposition with those comments, the highest cacao content bar (Sample 6) had notes about its texture too. Many listed it is “chalky.” To me, it is grainy. Chalky and grainy are the opposite of smooth and melty, so perhaps this texture contributed to people’s not liking it.
Overall, this tasting resulted in new ideas and affirmed old ones.
Some other details of this not-so-scientific study may be important to note. My taste testers were all in between the ages of 18 and 20 and all grew up consuming American chocolate. I expect the results might have changed with people from other countries.
If I were just focusing on cacao content, it would have been more effective to use different bars from the same brand. However, I wanted to look at other aspects of chocolate, like stevia as a sweetener and texture, which was why I used a variety of brands. In fact, subjects commented on the terroir of the chocolate without even realizing. Sample 3 and Sample 5 both had comments about flavors that were not listed in the ingredients, illustrated how flavor can be affected by many different things. In Sample 3, three people noted a “coconut” flavor that does not appear in the ingredients. For Sample 5, four people tasted fruity or citrusy notes Even those untrained in chocolate could pick up different notes in different bars of chocolates.
Finally, although some comments mentioned aftertaste, I did not instruct the testers to think about it or aroma. I should have, as they contribute to the overall experience of chocolate.
The testing and subsequent conversations with friends revealed the way chocolate and sugar fit into our lives. In today’s society, we crave sugar, and this study showed that chocolates containing more sugar were perceived as “better” than those containing very little.
The leftovers from the tasting further illustrate the preference for milk chocolate. In the tasting, most people did not finish the full piece of Sample 5 or 6. After the tasting was finished, I offered the leftover samples to everyone, and Samples 1, 2 and 3 were gone almost immediately. Even though Hershey’s chocolate ranked lower on the scale, people ate more of it. Based off of this tasting and conversations with friends and family, Chocolate is hard to resist and even harder to stop eating once we start. The results reflect America’s obsession with sugar by the less distinctive higher fat/sugar chocolate being ranked higher.
Benton argues that addiction may not be the correct word in the context of chocolate “Most people eat chocolate on a regular basis without any signs of its getting out of control, without signs of tolerance or dependence” (Benton, 215). Yet, from my personal experience and that of my friends, many of us do have a problem with chocolate eating getting out of control. I asked my sister what happens when she eats chocolate.
“If it’s in front of me, especially when I have no energy to control myself, I just eat it all. I can’t eat just some,” she said. My twin brother said the same: “For me, sugar is addictive in the very short term; once I start eating I can’t stop.”
A friend from the tasting talked about the same thing. “Usually I eat more than I planned to,” my friend Simone said. For some, dark chocolate can circumvent this overeating issue. My friend Rachel said about chocolate: “I love chocolate. But if it’s super rich. I love it for a bit and then I’m done.”
Overall, the testing showed that most people prefer milk chocolate and chocolate containing more sugar over very dark chocolate, highlighting issues with the sugar industry.
Albritton, Robert. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” Food and Culture. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. 342-51. Print.
Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2004. 205-19. Print.
“Comprehensive Online Resource for Articles, Recipes & News.” Stevia.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.
D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.
Stuckey, Bark. Taste What You’re Missing: the Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Food Tastes Good. New York: Free Press, 2012. Print.
Image 1: My photography
Image 2: Wikipedia. Hershey bar wrapper image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hershey_bar.
Image 3: Jet.Chocolove XOXOX Milk bar. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. jet.com/product/Chocolove-XOXO-Milk-Chocolate-Bar-32-oz/dfd113b9fd134cca9e6a2c1c4d7f187f.
Image 4: Lily’s Sweets. Lily’s Dark Chocolate Bar Wrapper. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://lilyssweets.com/dark-chocolate-bars/
Chocolate is truly a gift from the Gods. It’s rich succulent flavor melts on your tongue and forces you to take another bite. The moment it was discovered it has been cherished by all who have consumed it. Therefore, it seemed only fitting to ask someone who hadn’t learned about cacao and find out what role chocolate has played in their life.
People have been consumed with chocolate for centuries and it has become part of many people’s daily lives. I asked a friend of mine of what chocolate has signified and played in her life, she claimed; “It makes me happy and feel better. I have a major sweet tooth but it’s something I crave everyday, I may even be addicted.” In today’s world, chocolate is available to everyone. It’s also in a variety of different things like protein bars or shakes and desserts. It’s so prevalent that most don’t even know where it originated or how it’s even grown which is something everyone should consider learning about. Chocolate is grown on a cacao tree also known as Theobroma cacao. It’s a fastidious plant that can only grow in warm climates no more than twenty degrees north or south of the equator; such as South America and Africa. It prefers to grow under a canopy of other trees with the air still easily breezing threw. Cacao trees are cauliflory meaning that the flower or fruit grows from the main stem or trunk therefore, the cacao pod grows directly on the trunk not from its branches. The trunk of the tree is so fragile that it cannot be damaged when the pod is being removed or it will not be able to grow a pod there again. Midges are tiny flies that help flower the tree, which only happens twice a year, and creates the pods (The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael D. Coe). Once a pod is cut down from the tree it then undergoes a variety of processes. The first is usually fermentation where the little beans are set out to dry in either trays or banana leaves, cleaned, then stored. They then are roasted to kill off any bacteria or contaminants. Finally, they are winnowed where the shell is separated from the bean removing any last remaining germs. At this point you would be left with a raw cacao nib that would be very bitter with a dirt texture if you attempted to taste it. However, the next step would be to process that cacao nib into the chocolate we’ve grown to love. As anyone can see, chocolate isn’t simply plucked off a plant and melted into chocolate, it takes many different and precise processes to get the taste just right.
Chocolate has a competitive side. Originally, Hershey’s was in its very own ball park creating the Hershey Chocolate bar and Kiss and being one of the first to market to the general public. Other individuals saw this opportunity and began creating their own companies such as Henri Nestle with cocoa powder, Mars and the Snicker bar. Again, I asked my friend what her favorite chocolate was, she explained; “Cadbury and Lindor Lindt chocolate are very refined. Cadbury has a unique taste that’s different from other brands with a much thicker candy coating compared to M&M’s. Lindt truffles are fancy with a remarkable soft, melted inside that is so satisfying.” So what makes all of these brands so unique to allow people to have such a preference? Of course every person has specific taste buds and anyone can argue that it’s all personal opinion but there are specific reasons as to why different brands taste differently. Milton Hershey founded his company in 1903, he had a vision to not only create chocolate but to make a better working environment that provided education and extra-curricular activities. His idea to create such a wonderful working environment was inspired by Cadbury who was the first to create a town dedicated to creating a utopian work space, known as Bournville. Hershey’s goal was to find a way to make milk chocolate with actual liquid milk. This proved difficult because others had been attempting to make it with powdered milk but it wasn’t sweet and liquid milk was spoiling too quickly. Eventually, he succeeded by creating a different process during pasteurization that heats the milk to 282 degrees Fahrenheit, also known as Ultra High Temperature milk, instead of the typical 161 degrees Fahrenheit. From there they store the milk in specially packaged bottles that allows it to last until after its been used in the chocolate and the package is opened (Hershey’s Shelf Stable Milk). Cadbury is very precise when creating their traditional taste. Through may years of practice they’ve perfected their milk and chocolate ratio so that when sugar is absorbed in the condensed milk, then added into the cocoa mass, it creates a chocolate liquid with the most authentic Cadbury palate. They use fresh milk instead of powdered milk mixed with why powder that many other European chocolate companies use. (Cadbury.co.au). Both Hershey’s and Cadbury take the utmost care in their chocolate and value fresh, liquid milk in their products. However, both taste very differently from one another because of slight differences in their manufacturing, traditions, and chocolate-to-milk ratios.
Another possible question people may have is when did chocolate become so popular? For as long as most of our ancestors can remember its been available for generations, possibly centuries. This is true because chocolate has been apart of civilizations like the Olmec, Mayan, and Aztecs dating back to 1000 BCE. It was discovered through hieroglyphics that a word kakawa was prevalent and participated in traditional and ceremonial events. All of these cultures believed cacao trees to be sacred, possibly the First Tree, and linked to royal blood lines. It wasn’t until the age of exploration that cacao beans made its first appearance in Europe. Christopher Columbus, in the 16th century, was one of the first to have traded with these fine beans on his fourth voyage when encountering a Mayan trading canoe however, he only knew that they were considered valuable but hadn’t known why. (Sophie and Michael D. Coe). Slowly, they became more prevalent as more explorers were trading them and soon they discovered the sweet, wonderful flavor they possess. Since it was so rare it was only available to Kings and Queens. Eventually nobles and the elite were consuming chocolate and many even created separate kitchens within their homes for the creation of chocolate. Within this time period chocolate was only every consumed as a liquid, it wasn’t until 1847 that the first chocolate bar was created by Joseph Fry that was meant for consumption. Again, my friend had no knowledge of when chocolate was brought to Europe but she did know that the first consumers were the wealthy because of its delectable qualities. Europe during the the medieval years had a very strict class system that consisted of the wealthy versus the poor. It wasn’t until the rise of the middle class, in the 19th century, that chocolate became available to the general public. Cadbury was created in this time, developing its chocolate and advertising it to the masses. From there the rest is history, chocolate has flourished unlike any other food item becoming one of the most consumed sweets with hundreds of billions of dollars spent on chocolate a year. I guess you could thank Columbus for introducing us to what we love.
As many people say, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy chocolate”. Has anyone ever realized what they’re buying into completely? Unfortunately, as happy as chocolate makes us it has also been linked with many social concerns such as child labor and slavery. These topics are not publicized as they should be and are quickly swept under the rug or forgotten about. I asked my friend if she had known much about the social concerns and if they would hinder her consumption of chocolate. She stressed that she knew it had been associated with slavery in the past and that if she knew what companies were possibly still using this she would refrain from buying their products. Slavery has long been associated with with chocolate. This is in part because it originally was for the wealthy who had slaves and believed in lavish lifestyles which slavery slowly came to symbolize. These people were then dehumanized and treated as property to justify their lack of respect for their lives. in the 16th to 20th centuries slavery was very popular especially because the triangular trade emerged that brought many people from Africa, against their will, to the America’s and Europe. This was because sugar, cotton, tobacco, and other commodity crops started to become very popular. They were grown on large plantations that required massive amounts of labor. Of course plantation owners didn’t want to spend actual money on salaries for these hard working men so instead treated them like animals.Sadly, they were overworked, had contracted diseases due to their travel and introduction to foreign lands, and were living under harsh conditions and heat that once arriving to the fields they only lived for another 7 to 8 years. Luckily, by the late 18th century those enslaved in Haiti had a revolution that proved successful. It got the attention of Napoleon, who was the leader of France at the time, and allowed them to declare independence and close the slave trade in 1807. (Sweetness and Power by Sidney W. Mintz). Slowly, many other people began to realize their own power and more revolutions came. Child labor has been another social concern with chocolate. As we know, chocolate is grown in many African and South American countries. Often times these are third would countries where poverty is very high. In order to help support their families, children have begun to work on sugar farms or harvesting chocolate. These jobs are very labor intensive and unfit for a child. Yet, some companies have allowed this so that they could pay them less and over work them (foodispower.org). Although it has been brought up in recent years by the media it hasn’t been closely monitored as it should be. Learning where our food comes from and it’s history is important because it teaches us more about our own world. Everything on this earth comes from somewhere and we should take the time occassionaly to find out where that is and what makes it so great. I encourage everyone to find some of their favorite foods and educate themselves on the primary reasons that make it so great. Who would have known that chocolate has been at the threshold of much of our history throughout the world.
“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Child Labor and Slavery. Food Empowerment Project, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
To test chocolate preferences, I conducted an experiment on my friends by having them taste a wide variety of chocolates. They didn’t know that they were part of an experiment. They were only told that I was holding a chocolate tasting as part of a course I was taking and I wanted them to rank their preference of each of 7 chocolates, or cacao nibs, from 1 to 7 (1 being the best). Three of my friends were not raised in America which provided some interesting information on the differences in chocolate preference between Americans and people from other parts of the world. Through my experiment I discovered how texture, Fair Trade or organic labels, gourmet or artisan labels, and the distinct taste of Hershey’s chocolate affected preferences.
In an attempt to set up a controlled experience with as little changing variables as possible, I decided to make all the samples I gave my friends look exactly the same. I melted down the 6 types of chocolate bars I bought and molded them using the brown mold pictured below. I did not want my friend’s preferences to be affected by product names or the shape/appearance of the chocolate.
I presented the chocolates in the same way to everyone, as pictured below. The only noticeable difference between the chocolates was that the chocolate on the left side of the plate was obviously milk chocolate. I kept my samples in plastic bags with the original packaging, as seen in the picture, to ensure that I did not mix up the samples that now looked exactly the same. My friends did not see me set up the plates so they had no way of knowing if I was telling the truth about the chocolates they were eating during the tasting.
I randomly assigned my 8 friends to two separate groups, Group A and Group B. Sometimes I switched two chocolates on the tasting plate for a particular group. This meant that as I was leading the tasting, I was telling one group that they were eating one type of chocolate when they were really eating another. I did this so I could see if what I said to them about the chocolates had any affect on how much they liked them. I gave each friend a tasting form and a tastes “cheat sheet,” pictured below.
My cheat sheet was inspired by chocolate tastings done in class and Stuckey’s explanation of the five tastes: “… the only five tastes we Homo sapiens can detect using our tongue alone [are] sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and umami… These tongue sensations are known as the five Basic Tastes” (5). I gave my friends minimal information about the chocolate on the tasting sheets. I left a spot for them to rank the chocolates and another spot for them to write their general thoughts on the chocolate’s taste. As I led the tasting, I explained what any possibly unfamiliar words meant, like Fair Trade, organic, non-GMO, single origin, gourmet. Per recommendations from class, I had my friends taste things in order of highest cacao content to lowest. I decided to include cacao nibs in my tasting as an interesting difference from all the chocolate. I figured that most of my friends had never had cacao nibs so I was eager to see their reactions. The Cacao nibs are pictured below.
From my friends’ reactions during the debriefing at the end of the experiment, they had no idea that I had lied about which chocolates I gave them. This leads me to believe that my data should be significant. Before I present my data, I will discuss each of the chocolates I used in my tasting, excluding the cacao nibs which I have already mentioned. I used two 80% chocolates which I switched for the groups. One of the chocolates was Taza’s 80% cacao and the other was Equal Exchange’s single origin chocolate from Panama with 80% cacao. The second line on my chocolate tasting sheet describes Equal Exchange’s chocolate while the third line describes Taza’s. I did not switch the fourth chocolate on my tasting sheet for the groups. This chocolate was Equal Exchange’s single origin chocolate from Peru with 71% cacao. Next I had Valrhona’s gourmet, single origin chocolate from Madagascar with 64% cacao (line 5) and Hershey’s dark chocolate (line 6). From my research, Hershey’s dark chocolate has approximately the same cacao percentage as the Valrhona chocolate I chose. Lastly, I gave the groups different milk chocolates with approximately the same percentage cacao. One group received Hershey’s milk chocolate while the other received a milk chocolate meant for chocolate fountains (pictured in the first image). Below are the rankings that my friends gave to each of these chocolates.
Cacao nibs: [2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7]
Taza: [1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7]
Equal Exchange 80%: [1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 6]
Equal Exchange 71%: [2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4]
Hershey’s Dark: [1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 5, 5, 6]
Valrhona: [1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 5, 5, 6]
Hershey’s milk: [6, 6, 6, 7]
Milk fountain chocolate: [2, 4, 5, 7]
From my data, the fair trade, organic and single origin labels did not seem to have any significant impact on chocolate preference. There were varying preferences for the four chocolates that had these labels (Taza, Equal Exchange, and Valrhona). This is interesting given what I read about “Perceptions of the Fairtrade label”: “thanks in part to the numerous sensitisation campaigns, the Fairtrade label has become increasingly well known. Likewise, the purchase of FT products continues to grow at enviable rates… 50 per cent of people are familiar with the Fairtrade label. Beyond this, various opinion polls also showed that consumers are increasingly aware of the potential consequences of their consumption rates” (Sylla, “The marketing success of FT: some figures). Sylla suggests that increased education about Fair Trade has caused an “enviable” increase in the sale of fair trade products. One can deduce that an increased sale means an increased preference. The ranging ratings of my friends for Fair Trade chocolates (Equal Exchange and Taza), suggest that there is not really a correlation between a chocolate having a Fair Trade label and a higher preference for that chocolate.
Another interesting result in my data was the general feelings about Taza chocolate. Taza chocolate is different from most chocolate because it is stone ground, with the end result of a higher particle size in the chocolate. Part of the reason that chocolate became more popular was the introduction of machines that could grind chocolate into smaller particles, which might explain why my friends did not generally like it. Only 2 of my 8 friends liked Taza, while 4 out of my 8 friends liked it the least of all the samples (including the cacao nibs). There was actually more general dislike for Taza chocolate than the “bitter” cacao nibs. 7 out of my 8 friends described it as “grainy,” “gritty,” or “powdery.” In my mind, these are not positive adjectives for chocolate. I believe it is safe to say that people tend not to like higher particle size chocolates.
One fascinating result from my experiment was the reactions to Hershey’s chocolate. D’Antonia describes how Hershey’s chocolate differs from other chocolates and played a large role in shaping the chocolate preferences of Americans: “Hershey’s milk chocolate… carries a single, faintly sour note. This slight difference is caused by the fermentation of milk fat, an unexpected side effect… Anyone who knew Swiss milk chocolate… may have found Hershey’s candy unpleasant… Hershey’s milk chocolate… would also come to define the taste of chocolate for Americans” (108). The most striking result from my experiment was that 4 out of the 5 Americans chose Hershey’s dark chocolate as their favorite chocolate from the samples. This makes sense given what D’Antonio says, but it is particularly interesting given that milk is an ingredient in Hershey’s dark chocolate, unlike the other dark chocolate samples I tested. The non-Americans gave Hershey’s dark a lower rating (3, 5, and 5).
I included one expensive, gourmet chocolate in my tasting to see if there would be a general preference towards the chocolate. Williams and Beer explain that many consumers cannot recognize the improvements with gourmet or artisan chocolate, asking the question: “So, can consumers learn to slow down, taste, explore, and value the costly complexity of fine flavor?” (146). From my experiment, the answer to this question appears to be no. The very varied rankings of the gourmet chocolate indicate that my friends did not have any particular preference toward it.
Through my experiment I discovered that Americans and non-Americans definitely have different preferences for chocolate. Americans tend to prefer Hershey’s chocolate over other chocolates. Labels like Fair Trade and organic do not seem to have a significant impact on preferences but this might be due to lack of education. The particle size of chocolate also appears to play a big role in preference. Lastly, it is safe to say that people have not yet learned to appreciate the taste of more expensive artisan and gourmet chocolates.
D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126.
Stuckey, Barb. 2012. Taste: What You’re Missing. pp. 1-30, 132-156.
Sylla, Ndongo. 2014. The Fair Trade Scandal.
Williams, Pam and Jim Beer. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. pp. 141-209.
Sex sells – it’s an idea entrenched in today’s marketing schemes, with companies adding sexual images and double entendres into advertisements for completely unrelated
products. Examples include this Arby’s poster, wherein the hamburger buns are clearly meant to represent barely-covered breasts and the tagline – “We’re about to reveal something you’ll really drool over” – stands as a blatant innuendo. There has been some pushback against this concept: this Forbes article highlights some of the controversies, especially over the extreme sexualization and objectification of women, surrounding this trend in areas like the fast food industry. Modern chocolate advertising, however, has received comparatively less attention, despite such themes being just as, if not more, pervasive. Ads are filled with images of pleasure, sensuality, and indulgence, essentially conflating chocolate with sex. The protagonists of such advertisements, including the one for Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate included below, are usually women, and these actresses and models are the ones to convey the physical gratification derived from chocolate. This heightened focus on the female body can play a dangerous role in shaping women’s self-image; a push back against the theme might thus take women out of the picture entirely and focus instead on the chocolate itself.
This Hershey’s ad, with its upbeat music and fully clothed women, seems like a relatively standard, unremarkable promotion – and that is why it’s a perfect demonstration of the deeply entrenched themes in chocolate marketing. One would see this commercial on TV and probably not spare it a second thought, and yet it hints at the sexism present in most chocolate advertising. All three models clearly enjoy the chocolate, and while their expressions of physical pleasure are not as exaggerated as in this ad for Cadbury’s Flake, where the water overflowing from the tub symbolizes erotic release:
the general idea is the same. The first woman, as shown in the screen cap (below left), closes her eyes in pleasure, savoring the bite of “creamy milk” chocolate. The second actress (below right) is more overt; her eyes are open, challenging and seductive, as she faces the camera and deliberately brings the chocolate to her lips. Both models have their lips parted to show a definite, sensual flash of teeth. The message is clear, even if the signs are subtle: chocolate induces pleasurable feelings, often comparable to sex, in these women, and can thus be expected to do the same for other consumers.
The Hershey’s ad also underlines how chocolate marketing is primarily directed at women. It shows three different actresses, with a fourth performing a voice-over, but no actors, implying that women, the intended consumers, have a special relationship with chocolate. Indeed, the trend of targeting women in chocolate advertising has its roots in history. Females have long been thought of as having a greater predilection for sugar than males; P. Morton Shand, writing of the origins of afternoon tea in Britain, called the tea “an excuse for the indulgence of a woman’s naturally sweet tooth” (Mintz 142). Chocolate is sweetened with sugar, making it an attractive treat, but it allegedly also has a special ability to invoke female obsession. As Emma Robertson articulates, “Chocolate has supposedly addictive properties which women are unable to resist” (Robertson 35). These “addictive properties” make it a constant temptation, one that women are expected to resist in order to keep to modern beauty standards. Giving in is thus seen as an indulgence, a “pleasurable surrender,” and chocolate ads play on this idea of guilty pleasure (Robertson 35). The Hershey’s commercial is no different: “Incredible indulgence,” it
promises, while the third model flashes a small smile at the camera (shown right). Her expression has a hint of surprise and playful guilt, as if she’s been caught doing something she shouldn’t. As Robertson notes, this idea of temptation and indulgence eventually comes back to sex: “Chocolate,” she writes, “offers a safe…and natural release of implicitly sexualized desires” (Robertson 35). Release of desires, yes, but as the Cadbury’s Flake ad, and the Hershey’s ad to a lesser extent, show, the implicit has become explicit in today’s marketing.
Modern chocolate ads seem to be selling sensuality as much as chocolate. They often feature close-ups of women with eyes closed and lips parted, as if experiencing a physical revelation. This focus on specific, erotically charged body parts is a form of objectification, and can in turn have detrimental effects on female self-image. The Counseling Psychologist article “Sexual Objectification of Women” notes that the practice “equates a woman’s worth with her body’s appearance and sexual functions” (Szymanski). It places the highest importance on looks rather than personality or mental health, and can thus be harmful to young women especially. To combat this trend, then, an ad might take the focus off the body, female or otherwise, entirely. This proposed ad, shown left, pushes
back against the idea of chocolate as an individual, privately erotic experience for women. It forgoes any gendered component by not showing a person, instead placing all attention on the wrapped pieces of chocolate (represented by the blue and pink squares). It keeps the name Hershey’s Bliss, but by removing any references to sex or indulgence, the bliss no longer has a connection to erotic pleasure. Also, by the wording “Share a moment,” eating chocolate becomes a communal activity. The focus is less on individual enjoyment and more on the joy of sharing what one likes with someone else. Where the original ad only appears innocent, subtly reinforcing pervasive themes of objectification and sexual pleasure, the proposed ad avoids the trend altogether. Rather than a replacement for sex, chocolate is allowed to be an enjoyable treat.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1986. Print.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Szymanski, D. M., L. B. Moffitt, and E. R. Carr. “Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research 1 7.” The Counseling Psychologist 39.1 (2010): 6-38. Web.
Branding, perhaps, is the most critical part of advertising and is the crutch to every corporation’s success. It’s everything. Branding determines which consumers you reach out to, what image you want your product to have, and what you want your consumers to remember about your product. Furthermore, branding as a whole, whether good or bad, plays a large part in your consumer base (how many customers you have), your company’s identity (how iconic you are/become), and your profits. The leading players in the world of chocolate, Hershey’s, Cadbury, Nestle, Mars, and Ferrero Rocher are no strangers to this (Martin). Each have carefully calculated, analyzed, and determined what branding their chocolate will take, with not a single detail going to waste. And what they do does matter, considering Hershey, Mars, and Nestle make up 99.4% of the world’s snack sized chocolate market (Martin). After asking fellow classmates about chocolate and cacao I found out an astonishing fact: while all students acknowledged to some extent the role South America has to play in cacao and chocolate history, very few students acknowledged the role Africa has in chocolate production, and every student gave credit to either the United States or a European nation for having the best chocolate.
Why would such a phenomenon occur, especially when most of the largest players dominating the market have their cacao come from African nations like Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, and Nigeria? The secret behind this lies in the branding. Upon examining chocolate bars, one finds that the location of the beans is rarely advertised. Instead, what dominates the bars appearance is the company’s name and logo. In addition, when taking a closer look at chocolate history Africa as a whole has largely been left out of the common and general narrative. From this, it can be deduced that the world’s largest chocolate makers take advantage of the dominant and nearly exclusive European narrative of chocolate to place consumer focus and loyalty on their own individual corporations rather than the origin of the cacao beans used to make their chocolate, in order to ensure better success, recognition, and protection.
(Data table generated from survey responses of seven subjects)
Interested in what general knowledge my classmates had, I interviewed a handful of students in my year, asking general questions such as “Which nations do you associate chocolate with?” and “Where is the most cacao grown?” The main distinction I made in my questions was for simplicity in which chocolate referred to the finished, packaged product and cacao referred to the cacao beans of the tree. Although their overall chocolate knowledge was not extensive or accurate, one trend in particular caught my mind. My classmates consistently associated the “best chocolate” with European nations, cacao and its history with Latin America, and largely left out Africa out of the picture. What was even more interesting was that my classmates identified the nations that had the best chocolate mainly through their own taste—general opinion having minimal influence—citing their favorite brands such as Cadbury, Nestle, Hershey, etc. as the reason for their answer. The results of this survey perplexed me. If my classmates were more associated with and cognizant of larger chocolate brands whose main source of cacao is bulk cacao grown in West Africa, why did they leave West Africa out of the narrative?
One of the answers lies in the general narrative of chocolate. Unfortunately, more often then not, the European narrative of chocolate is the dominant narrative. Few people have been able to experience the voices of Mesoamerica, specifically of those of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Among scholars is the false running idea that the Spaniards found chocolate’s taste so appalling and unappetizing they attempted to fix the bad flavor through means of sweetening with spices like vanilla and sweeteners like sugar (Norton, 660). However, this idea is problematic as it portrays the image of sophisticated Spaniards coming down from Europe and taking chocolate, originally a simple, distasteful food of the locals, and making it “better,” more edible, and delicious. This feeds into the superiority complex of Europe in which everything it comes to touch or own is automatically better and greater than the prior product of the natives. Norton sets to correct this idea, stating, “The Spanish did not alter chocolate to fit the predilections of their palate. Instead, Europeans unwittingly developed a state for Indian chocolate, and they sought to re-create the indigenous chocolate experience in America and in Europe…[leading] to a cross-cultural transmission of taste” (660). Norton argues that colonialism and the transfer of food is not one sided, nor is it “something done to someone else”; instead he argues that it is an exchange with the “struggles and endeavors in the periphery change[ing] the society and culture, as well as the economy, of the metrople” (661). So while it should be seen as Mesoamerica playing a huge role in both cacao and chocolate, it is currently seen as Mesoamerica harvesting cacao (the most basic task) and Europe controlling manufacturing and processing the chocolate—the part where chocolate becomes “good”. Because of the prevailing European narrative that saturates the history of chocolate and seeks to promote Europe’s sophistication, power, and superiority, Mesoamerica’s equal role in developing and making chocolate, not just cacao, has been left out.
The same argument can be extended to explain why my classmates did not include African nations in the chocolate narrative. Africa, as a result of the large European narrative, has been left out of the history and story regarding cacao, its cultivation, and its process to becoming the chocolate we know today, even more so than Meso and Latin America due to the emergence of racism and prejudice against Africa, Africans, African Americans, and Blacks to justify slavery and discrimination. As Eric Williams said “slavery was not born of racism; racism was the consequence of slavery” (7). Although the indigenous people of Mesoamerica did originally serve as the first slave labor, due to “their inefficiency and weakness,” deaths from disease, and limited numbers (Williams, 9), African slaves were chosen over them and the poor, white colonists of the region, to become the labor of choice—not because of their skin color but “because [they] were the cheapest and the best,” with “superior endurance, docility, and labor capacity” (Williams, 20). Racial differences observed through “hair, color, and dentifrice and “subhuman characteristics” (Williams, 20) “made it easier to justify and rationalize Negro slavery, to enact the mechanical obedience of a plough-ox or a cart-horse, to demand resignation and that complete moral and intellectual subjugation which alone make slave labor possible” (Williams, 19). Slavery is much easier to condone and perpetuate when viewing the enslaved as immoral, dark, evil, brutish, animal-like, and overall less human, “warranting” degradation, destruction of human rights and liberties, paternalistic oversight/control, and cruel, life-long servitude. Through this racial justification of slavery was the African narrative intentionally left out. The lack of an African narrative plays perfectly into the hands of the large chocolate corporations of the twentieth and twenty first century who Leissle notes “were more interested in selling the flavors of particular candy bars than bean lineage.” This effectively cuts off the link between the cacao growers in Ghana, Cameroon, and Cote D’Ivoire and the consumer, as “most wrappers give no indication that, with a few exceptions, the cocoa in those candies came from West Africa” (Leissle, 22). By making Africa “largely invisible” in regard to chocolate production (Leissle) and separating consumer from bean origin, large chocolate corporations can turn consumer attention to their own specific brands and flavors, which can be easily seen on their bars as most of the space and writing goes to describing and promoting those items, with the company name always being the largest font (observe image 4).
Bill Nesto further explores this occurrence through a direct comparison in the preservation of terroir between the chocolate industry and wine industry. Terroir, according to Nesto, “is the web that connects and unifies raw materials, their growing conditions, production process, and the moment of product appreciation” (131). The terroir regarding chocolate is severely broken and in many cases nonexistent. The consumer knows very little about the source of the raw materials and/or the conditions in which they are grown. And even when they possess knowledge of both they cannot connect the two as the concepts have become distinct and dissociated. The only thing a chocolate consumer of Hershey’s or Cadbury has to hold on to is the name Hershey or Cadbury, not the bean origin, harvest, or processing. Thus the consumer’s terroir and chocolate experience is dominated by company name. Nesto also makes this observation noting “the key circumstance that obstructs the expression of terroir in chocolate is the distance, both real and conceptual, between the farmer growing cacao and the factory that transforms the cacao into chocolate” (132). This is so vastly different from wine where the vineyards are very close to the wineries and the labeling is much more “accurate and advanced” (Nesto, 134). In fact, one could argue that people know and crave wine more by the vineyard and the harvesting process rather than the producer, as the producer is defined by their vineyard and harvesting process. For example, the bottle of wine located above explicitly tells us not just the winery, but also the vineyard (Firepeak) the grapes were grown on and the region the wine is from (Edna Valley). If the consumer so desires, they could explore more wines that come from that vineyard or from that region to further develop their wine terroir and palate. Unlike wine makers, Mars isn’t defined by its cacao plantations or chocolate making process; it is defined by its name .
The current and only bridge between the consumer and cacao beans lies in single source origin bars. Single source origin bars are “chocolate made with beans from a single country, region, or plantation” with the cacao producing distinct, unexpected, and irregular flavors (Leissle, 23). The producers of said bars are also very specific about the process the beans go through and need to know every step of production and processing in order to ensure the product’s quality, authenticity, and taste. All this is revealed in packaging. For example, image 3 shown below displays a variety of Tejas single source chocolate bars from various regions and the percent of the chocolate that comes from there. The company made sure to write fire roasted and stone ground so that the consumer has some knowledge of the process the beans went through, and carefully constructed an image to further connect the consumer to the beans as if taking the consumer on an “exotic” trip to the home of the beans for an enjoyable getaway from everyday life. Much different when compared to the very brand name focused packaging of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars that don’t advertise cacao content, origin, or geographic location (see image 4).
As good at it sounds even single source chocolate shows similar discrimination towards African cacao like the top five chocolate companies do. The evidence lies in the numbers; there is a huge disparity in the amount of single source bars from West Africa vs. those from South America and other regions of the world. Only 3.8% of single source bars contain cacao exclusively from West Africa (according to Mark Christian’s chocolate database—the largest one in the world). An official reviewer of Britain’s seventypercent.com demonstrates the continued prejudice and racial views against Africa by commenting on one of the few 100% Ghanian cacao bars, stating that the Torres bar has an “ominously dark color, though indicative of its Ghanian origins, evokes an unexplainable fear that these nearly black colors usually do” (Leissle, 27). The “unexplainable fear” reflects the internalized fear and aversion to anything resembling Africa and Black people as it’s dangerous, sinful, and uncontrollable—at least according to society’s false narrative of Black people.
Similarly, top chocolate companies avoid advertising West African cacao due to the negative stereotypes surrounding the region. They don’t want to be associated with the stereotypes of Africa such as “poverty, conflict, human rights violations, HIV/AIDS, debt, lack of urban development and oil (Leissle, 26).” They also don’t want to be associated with the problems and discrepancies regarding worker’s rights, child labor, and working conditions of the 1990s and the 2000s (Martin). Because of the lack of general knowledge regarding the top brands cacao beans used to make their chocolate, the companies can better avoid consumer anger and boycotting of their products since they won’t/can’t connect the working conditions of their farmers to their products. As a result of Africa’s invisible narrative in cacao production and the lack of connection between consumer and farmer, the large chocolate companies of today can avoid labor/processing accountability and giving recognition to West African cacao, holding all the benefits and rewards for themselves.
With chocolate’s diminished terroir, a lack of an African narrative, and almost no connection between the beans of origin and consumer, the world’s largest chocolate corporations can easily brand their bars with complete focus and emphasis on their company rather than the beans or process. Thus their consumers build their loyalty not on cacao bean taste, strand, or origin but on company name and logo. For if consumers knew where the cacao originated, they would no longer be as loyal and focused on say Mars or Cadbury, but much more focused on bean strand and location, seeking out a variety of chocolatiers who source cacao from those locations, decreasing large corporations strength, power, monetary success, and fame. Subject seven nearly had it right when they said, “African cacao isn’t marketed as well (not as widely publicized necessarily) and people don’t know it as well as South America” in regard to what they think of African vs. South American cacao. It’s not that the cacao isn’t marketed well; it’s simply not marketed at all—a huge shame considering it makes up most of the world’s chocolate market.
Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3 (2013): 22-31. University of California Press. Web. 6 May 2015.
Martin, Carla . “The rise of big chocolate and race for the global market.” Emerson Hall 210, Cambridge . 9 Mar. 2015. Lecture.
Martin, Carla . “Modern Day Slavery.” Emerson Hall 210, Cambridge . 25 Mar. 2015. Lecture.
Nesto, Bill. “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate.” Gastronomica 10.1 (2010): 131-35. University of California Press. Web. 6 May 2015.
Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate And The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.4 (2006): 660-91. Oxford Journals. Web. 6 May 2015.
As seen in Image 1, buzzwords such as “natural”, “preservative free”, “homemade” are often used in advertisements when referring to food goods. There is a growing preference in today’s society for foods that are produced the “natural way, without preservatives or industrialized processing (Murdoch and Miele 2002). But simultaneously, people seem more and more distant from the actual processes their food undergoes during production. An example of this phenomenon is the contemporary understanding of chocolate in our culture: although people prefer “wholesome” ingredients, many consider a chocolate bar to be a single ingredient in itself or a basic unit of food. In contrast, other similarly produced goods—like a finished apple pie or a can of fruit—are viewed as comprising of many parts and steps.
In order to better understand contemporary understandings about food production, I interviewed eight of my classmates about their experiences with chocolate, specifically trying to uncover their conceptualizations of a Hershey’s chocolate bar. It is worth noting that my small-n sample of eight friends is not stratified nor representative of any larger body of people. However, the sample itself—eight college students from middle class backgrounds—can offer insight into the way that such a demographic might conceptualize chocolate and trade. These conversations revealed to me a focus on processed or non-organic products, but a lack of awareness regarding the actual processes of production and social and economic consequences of international companies like Hershey’s.
The Global Production of Hershey’s Chocolate: The Process and its Consequences
While my friends—specifically those who have not taken this class—may be unaware of the process that goes into the production of a single bar of chocolate, it is nonetheless extensive. The transformation from “bean to a Hershey’s bar” spans multiple continents, starting in the cacao plantations of West Africa, where 68.1% of the world’s cacao beans are grown (Lecture 15). Seen in Image 2, the cacao beans are removed from their pods, fermented, dried, and roasted so that just cacao nibs remain.
These nibs are then shipped to Hershey’s manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Mexico where they are ground down into cacao liquor and pressed to create cocoa powder (Hersheys.com). This powder is then combined with a variety of different ingredients like cacao butter, powdered milk, and flavors to create the enormous selection of candy bars that Hershey produces.
The process of Hershey’s production also includes communities around the globe, influencing local social and economic forces. On the one hand, industrialization and globalization can generally be considered a good thing. The largest positive impact globalization of the food industry had was the reduction of starvation across the globe through the larger supply of food, which directly lowered the prices (Regmi et al.). When the processes of preservation, mechanization, retailing, and global transportation were newly discovered, the total volume of available food increased enormously (Lecture 12). Today, industrialized production of ingredients—like Hershey’s chocolate—allow for foods to travel far past their previously restrictive borders.
But there is also a darker side to the changes in the food production industry. As Lauden describes, the changes in production have led to the availability of “fresh” foods, but also a cultural tendency to overlook the processes that led to the creation of each component of the ultimate outcome (Lauden). The same concept applies to the production of Hershey’s chocolate: while many might think of chocolate as an ingredient or a “staple” food, the realities of its production include the myriad ingredients and steps listed above.
Though the consumer may think of a Hershey’s chocolate bar as a component of a recipe or a basic Halloween candy, each step in the process of its production involves individual people and their communities. Hershey’s has been under fire for its use of illegal child labor and was even the focus of a national campaign against child labor named Raise the Bar (Bloxham). Furthermore, Hershey’s and other multinational food conglomerates have been criticized for their transnational investment in poor countries. These corporations are able to fix prices below the countries’ equilibrium level and push out local corporations and therefore harm foreign economic development (Wimberley).
Surpassing typical evaluative processes, the Hershey’s brand has become so ubiquitously associated with chocolate that a change in recipe that drastically altered the final product didn’t stop consumers from defining the bar as “chocolate.” In 2007, The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, which Hershey’s is a member of, began lobbying the U.S. Food and Drug administration to allow the substitution of real chocolate ingredients like cocoa butter and sugar for “safe and suitable vegetable fats and oils” (including partially hydrogenated vegetable oils”(Bragg). Though this legislation did not pass, Hershey’s still takes many shortcuts today. The Mr. Goodbar, one of Hershey’s products made with vegetable fat substitutes , is labeled as “made with chocolate” in order to bypass the F.D.A. regulation.
But how does a typical consumer think about Hershey’s chocolate? Does the consumer consider the process of production when they think about which bar of chocolate to buy? Or even how they define chocolate itself?
What is Hershey’s Chocolate?: Analysis of Interview Results
Note: See Appendix for Interview Questions
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the students I interviewed seemed unaware of the process of production that goes into a Hershey’s chocolate bar. But they also did not know the basics of chocolate as a produced good. Said one student: “I don’t know what is in a bar of chocolate. The same thing that’s in chocolate? Like, chocolate?” Here we can see the blurred line between a “bar of chocolate” and its ingredients, as the two separate concepts seem merged into one idea of “chocolate.” A different student avoided listing what chocolate is made out of, and instead focused on what chocolate means to them. “I’m not really sure what chocolate is to me,” they said. “I guess it’s like, a cake or frosting or something. Or I guess it’s something you buy for Christmas or Valentine’s Day.” Like the previous quote, this excerpt reveals the student’s conception of chocolate as a facet of a greater experience, like an ingredient in baking or an aspect of a tradition. Instead of thinking about each step that goes into making chocolate, the student imagines chocolate to be a finished product, ready to be used for further production.
When differentiating Hershey’s chocolate from chocolate more generally, students most focused on the brand and its cultural significance. When asked what Hershey’s chocolate means to them, one student said: “Hershey’s is, like, the all-American chocolate bar. It’s the most simple chocolate I can think of.” This quote shows the connection of chocolate to its greater social meaning, in this case as a facet of what it means to be an “American” given the significance of Hershey’s in American culture. The individual’s description of the chocolate bar as the “most simple” of its kind might even strike a student in our class as humorous, given that Hershey’s contains the smallest actual amount of chocolate out of any major brand. Similarly, another student seemed convinced by more by Hershey’s branding than its actual use of chocolate in production. Hinting at the lack of actual chocolate in the bar, the student said: “Hershey’s doesn’t even taste that good. It just gives me that feeling that eating chocolate gives me so I keep on eating it when it’s around.” This quote further suggests that Hershey’s has developed a brand name that labels its “chocolate” to be a finished product in and of itself.
When specifically asked about the ingredients in a Hershey’s chocolate bar, students had more varied answers. Many seemed aware that the chocolate bar is not entirely “wholesome” or “natural,” but few could explain why. Linking it to the broader movement towards “natural” and “local” foods, one student said: “[Hershey’s is made of] chocolate and milk fat and probably something poisonous to me that we won’t realize is carcinogenic for like a million years. Although maybe I just am thinking that because Hershey’s is a giant corporation.” Although this student could not think of specifics, they realized that there were different products that ultimately go into the production of a Hershey’s bar. Their use of buzzwords like “corporation” and “carcinogenic” may illuminate a negative perspective of processed foods that is seen in the media.
The same student reported buying Hershey’s within the past week, and at a frequency of approximately once a month. Though this discrepancy between purchasing behavior and sustainable thinking might seem surprising to some, a survey by Vermeir and Verbeke on such a behavioral gap found that many young people exhibit little intention to buy sustainable goods if an alternative is perceived as much more widely attainable (Vermeir and Verbeke 2006). I believe that it is likely that Hershey’s universal availability and the lack of attention paid to chocolate and consumer responsibility allows people to continue to buy the chocolate with relatively little consumer guilt.
Another student mentioned a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania during which they visited the company’s “Chocolate Lab” and watched “chocolate being made.” Further conversation revealed to me that the Hershey’s factory walks its visitors through the a much-briefer process of chocolate production—starting with examples of cacao pods and progressing straight to vats of swirling melted chocolate and Hershey’s kisses and bars prior to packaging.
Rather than discuss the process of production, Hershey suggests to its visitors that cacao pods are somehow transformed into bars of chocolate. This student reported feeling “connected” to the end product as a result of their visit, and feeling as though the chocolate bar was simply made of “chocolate.”
In conclusion, modern understandings of a Hershey’s chocolate bar suggest that there is still a large gap between the starting blocks of a processed food, the supply chain, and the finished product. People today may be starting to realize this and thus have created movements such as Fair Trade USA and Direct Trade, but many more consumers continue to overlook basic processes of production. The branding of Hershey’s—from its logo to its factory tour—works to continue the image of a chocolate bar as fundamentally “chocolate,” preventing its customers from questioning its production practices. As one student said: “Hershey’s reminds me of Coke. It’s not the best chocolate I could buy, but it’s the easiest one to think of when I imagine chocolate.”
Lauden, Rachel. “A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food”. Gastronomica. Winter 2001. http://www.jstor.org.ezp- prod1.hul.harvard.edu/stable/pdf/10.1525/gfc.2001.1.1.36.pdf?acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true
Levenstein, Harvey. “Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet” Oxford University Press, 1988. Pg 31-32