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OoO SHE BAD!

Chocolate, Sex, and Passionate Indulgences

  1. A Contextual History: The Ancient Origins of Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac

Introduction

In class, we discussed the relationship between Valentine’s Day and chocolate.  Because it is a Victorian-created holiday that can seem to a skeptic more of a consumerist ploy than a celebration of love, one may argue that the importance placed upon Valentine’s Day is in our culture is inflated.  Sure, maybe Valentine’s Day is just a (highly-gendered and heteronormative) convention, but nobody can deny the centrality of chocolate in its celebration. Many foods are said to have aphrodisiac qualities, but chocolate is amongst the most renowned.  The passion elicited from its indulgence dates back centuries. The Maya considered cacao sacred, encouraging its consumption during highly emotional or spiritual events like marriage and fertility rituals as well as death rites. In more transgressive accounts, Aztec emperor Montezuma consumed a gluttonous amount of chocolate each day to boost his sexual stamina.  This essay serves to trace the entwinement of chocolate, sex, and passionate indulgences through the contemporary state of the cacao-chocolate industry while situating it in its appropriate historical context.

The ephemeral nature of cacao consumption’s association with aphrodisiac qualities divulges a corollary truth between ancient wisdom and modern science.  While historically chocolate has been taken advantage of in the name of its spiritual effects, science, commerce, and even art contemporarily reveal there is a passion to indulgence.  Whether it is eating chocolate or having sex, fleeting benevolence. Consistent consumption of both nurtures an honest, transgressive air of ambitious pursuit that allows one to stay in tune their desires, promoting health, general well-being, and growth.  If demonstrated truthfully, this post suggests indulgence should not be understood merely as a momentary transgression, but rather an honest, consistent truth that leads to health and progress.

2. Contemporary State of the Cacao-Chocolate Industry: Modern Marketing and Cognitive Science

Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate: How We Fell In Love With Caffeine

Melanie King’s book Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate: How We Fell In Love With Caffeine explores the question of how contemporary culture and modern society became enamored with tea, coffee, and chocolate.  Broadly, she argues it has to do with their stimulative effects on dopamine. Specifically, King posits that drinking chocolate products benefits the consumers “sex life and physical appearance,” a wisdom that can be traced back through history.  The stimulation a consumer achieves increases their propensity to chace the transgressive desires weighing on their heart, promoting longevity and renewal.

Mood State Effects of Chocolate

Putting some science to Melanie King’s argument for ancient wisdom in the positive benefits of cacao consumption on our mood, the University of New South Wales’ School of Psychiatry conducted an academic review on the association of chocolate consumption with enjoyment and pleasure.  Historically, dating back to the Ancient Mesoamerican origins of cacao consumption, chocolate indulgence provokes a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual effects that bestow “stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” properties. Specifically, the UNSW research team focused on the mood altering traits of chocolate.  Investigating chocolate’s psychoactive positionings, the team concluded: “chocolate can provide its own hedonistic reward by satisfying cravings but, when consumed as a comfort eating or emotional eating strategy, is more likely to be associated with prolongation rather than cessation of a dysphoric mood.” Thus, their research provides implications about the ephemeral, fleeting benefits derived from one’s chocolate indulgence.  This is not to say that chocolate consumption is malevolent or harmful, but rather that the endurance of its advantageous emotional effects requires habitual consistency.

Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function

Further, Psychology Today’s article “Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function” claims, “Aztec emperor Montezuma is reputed to have used chocolate in a manner akin to today’s Viagra pill.”  Nowadays, the aphrodisiac link between sex and chocolate is most visible around Valentine’s Day. Dr. Andrea Salonia, an Italian physician, piloted a research project that measured chocolate consumption against female sexual function and depression.  It was found that chocolate consumption increases the female propensity to achieve sexual satisfaction, positing a scientific legitimacy in the human inclination to sin and sin again consequently. The research team also found a correlation between age and scores on the Female Sexual Function Index. Younger women who consumed chocolate daily scored much higher, suggesting maturity impacts the desire to indulge transgressively.  

Sex, Chocolate, and Disability

The cultural perception that there is a transgressive nature to sex and chocolate consumption has influenced commerce, marketing, and media in various controversial ways.  In 2016, Mars-brand Maltesers ran a series of ads that featured disabled people discussing embarrassing intimacies while opening up over chocolate. The first ad featured a wheelchaired woman with cerebral palsy symbolically spilling a bag of Maltesers on the table as she describes an awkward sexual experience with her new boyfriend, implying her spastic disease caused a diuretic explosion during sex.  The risky ad provoked a highly controversial reception, polarizing audiences into camps of insensitivity and effervescence. Maltesers doubled-down, claiming lightheartedness and sense of humor are necessary forces of benevolence in a world of degradation, shame, and censorship. More importantly, these ads provoked public conversation about disability and suggested one ought to be optimistic about what defines their personhood.  

Much of debate surround Maltesers’ ads were concerned with “sensitivity and authenticity,” triggering empathetic ideas about vulnerability outside of oneself.  Remaining optimistic in ethos, a company representative stated, “Maltesers positions itself as a lighter way to enjoy chocolate and its ads encourage people to look on the light side of life. In three previous animated spots, comedians … relay awkward or embarrassing situations they’ve encountered, such as walking around a shop without realising you still have your umbrella up.”

Putting yourself in the shoes of the disabled, one must consider their perception of pity at odds with true equity; yet, the radical transparency of the Maltesers ads surely realized an air of bravery through creativity that encourages the disabled to exit their defensive comfort zones.  Further, Mars’ 2016 advertisements added visibility to the disabled by expanding their personal liberties through the proliferation of opportunities for employment and exposure. There is also an argument to be made about diversity. Rather than tokenism, a representative of Mars claimed, “we got better ideas by not just thinking about the white, middle-class, able-bodied family with two kids. Using a different lens has been a game changer for our creativity.”

3. Personal Analysis and Critique: Healthy Indulgences and Fleeting Flits

Beyond Veggies

Harvard Medical School published an article about the health benefits derived from unorthodox sources, such as chocolate and sex.  Typically considered a devious indulgence, the team wrote: “A steady stream of studies has won chocolate cardiovascular laurels by showing that it improves blood flow through arteries that supply the heart and the brain.”  Further, in 2008, researchers at Harvard found that “two weeks of enhanced chocolate intake quickened blood flow through the middle cerebral artery.” Additionally, Italian researchers found a feeble correlation between increased dark chocolate and reduced inflammation marked by the resultant low levels of C-reactive proteins.  However, this comes with a major caveat: the health benefits of one’s chocolate indulgence are best derived from the organic, raw, unprocessed type. Added sugars and other excessive processes only complicate the body’s ability to receive cacao’s naturally fleeting benefits. As it concerns sex, the article called it obvious that “sexual arousal and orgasm is a source of great pleasure and a sense of well-being,” noting that, “even after the immediate glow fades, there may be residual health benefits.”  While there are rare cases of sex causing heart attacks particularly in men, the effects of sexual activity regardless of gender are found to be overwhelmingly ameliorating. These benefits range from reducing the intensity of headaches and stress to the general wellness of cardiovascular and immune systems. When you put the two together, the consumption of raw chocolate and sex, there is a benevolent implication for overall health. But, it is important to tune into the fleeting nature of these benefits; to achieve a healthy balance, consistency is key.

Love and Chocolate

Love, ideally, is passionate, consistent, and true.  Due to legends involving Montezuma, Don Juan, and even Casanova himself, chocolate and love have been mythically inseparable for centuries.  The presupposition is that chocolate inspires passion. Whether in terms of sex, love, or both, it has been found that chocolate contains aphrodisiac powers of mimicry that can illude the passionate feelings of being in love.  Janet Vine of Aphrodite Chocolates reported that “chocolate contains substances called phenylethylamine and seratonin, both of which are mood lifting agents found naturally in the human brain. They are released into the nervous system by the brain when we are happy and when we are experiencing feelings of love, passion or lust. This causes rapid mood change, a rise in blood pressure and increasing heart rate, inducing those feelings of well being, bordering on euphoria usually associated with being in love.”  When consumed, chocolate releases these agents into the system and boosts a certain euphoric stamina that earns its reputation as an aphrodisiac instigator of passionate action.

Growing The Ultimate Aphrodisiac: Chocolate

Love, to me, is also something you must cultivate and actively work toward.  The Grow Network video “Growing The Ultimate Aphrodisiac: Chocolate” above discusses the modern cultivation of Theobroma cacao trees.  While it is imperative the leaves stay moist, they don’t retain all the water. It is a tropical plant that, in nature, grow as an understory, shaded by other trees so they don’t get the full brunt of tropical sun.  Today, they can be grown in personal backyards or greenhouses, ideally temperature-controlled around 60 degrees. They start from seeds, but reach 5 or 6 feet in about three years when grown in rich organic soil. Once mature, pruning begins; they flower and fruit all year long.  

Chocolate Rain

Artistically too, modern culture connects the indulgence of chocolate and self-permitted growth.  In 2007, YouTuber Tay Zonday went viral with his song “Chocolate Rain.”

Culturally, it was received as a funny video, but deserves to be recognized for its profound social commentary.  Chocolate rain is a metaphor for the tears of African Americans operating in a system of racism. In a way that tugs at the heartstrings, Tay Zonday sings of the pain caused by institutional lies and deceit.  He notes the inescapability of being wronged, for instance, when he sings “the bell curve blames the baby’s DNA,” referencing Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, which argues for the innate intellectual superiority of white men.  It is again an interesting dichotomy between chocolate skin and tears of water.  The emotional act of crying, expressing vulnerability, allows renewal upon a stained existence of unjustified inferiority.  Crying, too, can be a passionate indulgence–a letting go.

Like Water for Chocolate

In other artistic representation of passion and chocolate, it is imperative to reference Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, which is one of my favorite all time works of literature.  Symbolically, the title itself poses water’s purity against chocolate’s mercy; water is eternal like love, while mercy is fleeting like lust:

“it seemed Pedro’s rage dominated the thoughts and actions of everyone in the house. Tita was literally ‘like water for chocolate’—she was on the verge of boiling over.”

The real passion in Like Water for Chocolate exists between Pedro and Tita, star-crossed forbidden lovers. Esquivel’s style of prose, magical realism, portrays the otherworldliness of true love; it is a nature that defies reality and works in an irrational way. The quote above speaks to Tita’s divine feminity, and her arousal, showing her readiness to transgress and receive Pedro’s divine masculinity–she ultimately runs toward him. The novel positions true love as a life-giving force, requiring a nurturing attitude toward spiritual honesty, which brings happiness to pain. The story shows the ways in which truth, to oneself, is freedom.  It is an interesting act of balancing that operates over the twelve months of the book, revealing true love, water, is capable to remedy intermittent affairs and external romance, chocolate. It took a long time for Pedro and Tita to actively run toward the cultivation of a serious relationship. In the final scenes of the book, they let go of their fearful resistance:

“Little by little her vision began to brighten until the tunnel again appeared before her eyes. There at its entrance was the luminous figure of Pedro waiting for her. Tita did not hesitate. She let herself go to the encounter, and they wrapped each other in a long embrace; again experiencing an amorous climax, they left together for the lost Eden. Never again would they be apart.”

Thus, true love is proven an enduring force, but it requires the crossing of boundaries and ultimate indulgence in true passion.  Water’s solvent powers allow the indulgence of soluble chocolate to make for a greater drink, which, as we’ve learned in class, produces “stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic, and antidepressant” effects that renew the soul.

Bibliography

“Beyond Veggies: The Health Benefits of Chocolate, Sex, Sleep and Social Networks, from the Harvard Health Letter.” Harvard Health Publishing. April 2009. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/beyond-veggies-the-health-benefits-of-chocolate-sex-sleep-and-social-networks.

Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. London: Black Swan, 1998.

Goldstein, Kay. “Love and Chocolate.” HuffPost. May 25, 2011. Accessed May 04, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/love-and-chocolate_n_165040.

Hagi, Sarah. “10 Years Later, ‘Chocolate Rain’ Is Still the Wokest Song Ever.” Vice. April 25, 2017. Accessed May 05, 2019. https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/qkqewv/10-years-later-chocolate-rain-is-more-woke-than-ever.

Kiefer, Brittaney. “Sex, Chocolate and Disability.” Campaign (Sep 09, 2016): 14. http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1825218631?accountid=11311.

King, Melanie. Tea, Coffee & Chocolate: How We Fell in Love with Caffeine. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2015.

Parker, Gordon, Parker, Isabella, and Brotchie, Heather. “Mood State Effects of Chocolate.” Journal of Affective Disorders 92, no. 2 (2006): 149-59.

Saad, Gad. “Chocolate Consumption and Women’s Sexual Function.” Psychology Today. Accessed May 03, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/homo-consumericus/201002/chocolate-consumption-and-women-s-sexual-function

Final Multimedia Essay

Retail Shop Research on Chocolate

For my final multimedia essay, I chose the topic of visiting a retail shop such as CVS, and explaining what I can learn from this section. What I noticed when I walked from work to the Harvard Square CVS not too far from my walk home, was that the section wasn’t that large and most of the chocolates that were being presented were Ghirardelli. When viewing the section, I noticed the sign which said “Premium chocolates’ and as I viewed closer I noticed that the Ghirardelli chocolates came in different varieties. There were chocolates that were in different percentages of cocoa. They ranged from 78%, which is a weird percentage to 85 and 90%. The chocolates also were diverse because some of them that were being sold were white chocolate with coconut, while others were either dark chocolate or chocolate mixed with nuts such as almonds, hazelnut and cranberries. The prices were also another factor when I was observing this small section. Most of the chocolates that were on display had a 2 for 6 option while most of the chocolates were about $5. The section where the chocolates were displayed was next to the fridge area in CVS where most of the frozen foods are. It was also next to the snack aisle where there were tons of donuts, popcorn and other sweet foods. The other side of the premium chocolate section had chocolates that were all mostly Ghirardelli that had chocolates that were nearing $6 but there was a sale going on that made all of the chocolates “buy one get one 50% off”. I believe the chocolates were very inexpensive because the companies have to tend to their audience. Not everyone wants to buy expensive chocolate.

Here is a picture of the Premium Chocolates Section:

The History of Ghirardelli

Why is Ghirardelli such an important brand in chocolate history? Well first, Ghirardelli was first founded in 1852 in San Francisco, California. It is currently the third oldest chocolate company in the U.S. and was founded by the Italian Chocolatier Domenico Ghirardelli. The company has their business partner company, Lindt & Sprungli which is their parent company. Since the company’s start, they have been working on new techniques and different technologies to remain at the forefront of chocolate consumer brands. “The shop has experimented with a variety of products, including a line of alcoholic beverages until 1871, and a variety of goods like coffee, spices, and even mustard throughout the years. Innovation became tradition throughout the company – in 1867 a Ghirardelli employee discovered a flavor-enhancing technique that would eventually become widely used throughout the chocolate industry. Ghirardelli became one of the first American companies to tap into advertising strategies in order to gain popularity, and one of the first to include cacao content on labels to help discerning consumers select the perfect taste (Holcomb, Courtney. “A Brief History Of Ghirardelli Chocolate.” Culture Trip).”

I believe this company is trying to be the main consumer for chocolate because based on learning the classes lectures, about 200 years ago Americans only ate about 2 pounds of sugar a year. Studies from 1970 show that Americans ate even more sugar as the data increased and showed that Americans ate about 123 pounds a year. Today, the average amount Americans consume of sugar is now 152 pounds a year. In 2017, American consumers spent a whopping $22 billion on chocolate, averaging at around 12 pounds per person. America has been well known considering how much they love sweets and how commercials and marketing play a big role.

Chocolate History from Lectures

In 1879, Rudolph Linte, was the first to invent the conching process in Switzerland. This is major in chocolate history because conching helps with increasing viscosity in order to process the chocolate. “In the majority of chocolate manufacturing plants, the conche is preceded by a roll refiner or a hammer mill. These grind the chocolate mass to produce a crumbly paste or powder. One of the main aims of conching is to produce the optimum viscosity for the subsequent processing. The actual viscosity can be reduced by adding more fat, but as the price of the fat is frequently several times that of the other ingredients in the chocolate, this in turn increases the cost of the product. The aim, therefore, becomes one of obtaining the optimum viscosity at the lowest practical/legal fat content (Beckett, S. (2017). Conching).”

Chocolate Company’s Strengths

A lot of a chocolate company’s strength is definitely marketing and publicity  There has been this stigma that anything sweet, and attractive to the tongue is good, and that’s what a lot of chocolate companies have marketed themselves to be. That’s why during certain events such as Easter, companies thrive during those times because they take advantage of the sweet equals good stigma because of the easter marketing standards for kids. Most kids for Easter always go easter egg hunting, and usually what’s in the eggs are chocolate or some sweet. Chocolate companies take advantage over holidays like Easter and Halloween because that helps with their revenue.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli has been so successful that they have their own square in San Francisco, California. In 1893, Domenico Ghirardelli purchased a whole block, so he can make the Ghirardelli headquarters. In the early 1960’s it was sold to a macaroni company and was letter repurchased in 1962. His mother, William M. Roth purchased the land so it wouldn’t be used to create a new apartment complex. “The Roths hired landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and the firm Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons to convert the square and its historic brick structures to an integrated restaurant and retail complex, the first major adaptive re-use project in the United States. It opened in 1964. In 1965, Benjamin Thompson and Associates Renovated the lower floor of the Clock Tower, keeping the existing architectural elements, for a Design Research store. The lower floors of the Clock Tower are now home to Ghirardelli Square’s main chocolate shop. In order to preserve Ghirardelli Square for future generations, the Pioneer Woolen Mills and D. Ghirardelli Company was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 (“Ghirardelli Square.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation).” This company is so well respected and well known, that a whole entire block was dedicated to the company’s main focus, chocolate.

Why is Dark Chocolate so special?

The french are known for eating dark chocolate as a treat, but why? Are there certain benefits towards eating dark chocolate or is it just well known for being such a good treat? During the chocolate production process, to increase the appeal of chocolate, most times the chocolate is processed even further which in turn makes the chocolate lose key ingredients that can be beneficial to our body. For example there is a type of processing of chocolate called Dutch processing and that makes the chocolate lighter. This sucks out all the key ingredients that make chocolate, chocolate. That’s why most companies add tons of sugar in their chocolate bars to make it more appealing to consumers. “And to make milk chocolate, candy makers really do add milk solids, which include saturated fats. According to FDA standards, American milk chocolate can contain as little as 10% cocoa, and the agency is debating a proposal to allow candy makers to substitute vegetable oil for cocoa butter. Bottom line: processing may make chocolate look lighter and taste sweeter, but it also removes healthy ingredients and adds harmful ones (‘Chocolate and your health: Guilty pleasure or terrific treat?).”

Statistics on Chocolate

After reading an article from Rodman media, I noticed that more than 70% of chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is more healthier than white chocolate. “The latest research from Mintel revealed that for just more than half (51%) of all adult consumers, the favorite type of plain chocolate is milk chocolate, followed by 35% who favor dark chocolate and About 73% of all chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is healthier than milk varieties. 8% who prefer white chocolate. In contrast, Mintel’s 2011 report found that 57% of consumers favored milk chocolate and 33% of consumers preferred dark chocolate. Some 46% of men age 55+ and 48% of women over age 55 favor dark chocolate, followed by 38% of men that prefer milk and 40% of women that also prefer milk. These numbers are indicative of the trend toward the increasing favor for dark chocolate. Indeed, 73% of all chocolate consumers are aware that dark chocolate is healthier (‘Dark Chocolate Gains Favor Thanks to Health Benefits’ (2013) Nutraceuticals).”

Cocoa Flavors

Chocolate companies such as Ghirardelli always make sure that they have different rudiments of cocoa flavor so that there is a variety of taste in each chocolate bar. Usually the more cocoa, the more expensive the chocolate is towards the consumer. I believe that sugar and other ingredients that make the chocolate taste more appealing, cheapen the chocolate itself. The more natural the chocolate is , the more untouched and less processed, the more bitter taste it has. That’s why dark chocolate is healthier for chocolate eaters than milk chocolate is. In one of the lecture slides from class, I witnessed a list of different odor active volatiles in cocoa mass. This shows what each odorant is and how their odour quality would be, the qualities range from a malty quality to a fruity one. There are a lot of factors incorporated with cocoa, and its key that all industrial companies follow the many rules in order to have a better consumer base.

Picture of the rudiments of cocoa flavor:

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that one of America’s oldest brands, takes pride in their industrialization of cocoa and how it should be manufactured. By investigating the chocolate section at my nearest CVS, I noticed the different brands in the regular chocolate section VS. the premium chocolate section . I realized the different percentages of cocoa in each chocolate bar and researched the effects of dark chocolate VS. white chocolate. I found it interesting how much Ghirardelli was displayed at the CVS and how there were many buy one get one 50% off deals. I dug deeper into the history of Ghirardelli along with the company’s strengths on consumers which showed me there’s a lot more to chocolate than just manufacturing it. More factors would include, marketing and knowing what your consumers like or don’t like. While researching this company I also learned a lot by viewing past lectures and how they related tremendously to the company and how they process their chocolates. Certain holidays mean a lot as well because in America, chocolate and sugar has been a known ingredient to use in basic cooking ingredients. And a lot of companies used that stigma to take advantage of the use of chocolate. I learned a lot based on the prominence of cocoa and how there is a lot to process before the chocolate is being sold in certain stores. The history of chocolate related to the history of Ghirardelli and other brands because of their processing system and how they plan on improving their company in various ways.

Work Cited

Holcomb, Courtney. “A Brief History Of Ghirardelli Chocolate.” Culture Trip, 1 Dec. 2016, theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/california/articles/a-brief-history-of-ghirardelli-chocolate/.

Beckett, S. (2017). Conching. In Beckett’s Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use (pp. 241-273). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

“Ghirardelli Square.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Mar. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghirardelli_Square.

Dark Chocolate Gains Favor Thanks to Health Benefits’ (2013) Nutraceuticals World, 16(6), p. 16. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=88838381&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Accessed: 3 May 2019).
‘Chocolate and your health: Guilty pleasure or terrific treat? (Cover story)’ (2009) Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 13(7), pp. 1–4. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=36211195&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Accessed: 3 May 2019).

Knowing Chocolate: Common Knowledge vs “Big Chocolate” Marketing

Introduction

Chocolate is sinful and mature; it has the power to make people happy, especially women. That exact set of information could come from any chocolate commercial like the “Dove Senses” one linked above, but also came from three people interviewed on their relationship with chocolate both in their childhood. All three subjects came from different regions of the United States, were born in different generations, and were of different ethnicity and genders. Throughout the interviews conducted, chocolate was described as a happy food, lightening people’s moods and comforting them after long days of work. When remembering their childhood experiences with chocolate and their feelings about eating it as adults, they all thought it to be indulgent and somewhat sinful, two of the three linking chocolate with weight gain. Two of the three interviewees were born before 1985 and mentioned how chocolate commercials have markedly transitioned from focusing on children to more adult and mature marketing tropes. Lastly, in each interview, women were thought to enjoy and like chocolate more than men regardless of the gender of the interviewee. “Big chocolate” has taken these commonly held beliefs about chocolate and based their marketing off of it, and, in turn, has convinced an even larger audience that chocolate will make them happier, curb their desire, and is not just for children, but also adults.

Happiness

The Butler’s Chocolates ad above assumes that giving a gift of chocolate is gifting happiness; all three interviewees would agree. One interviewer, Andrew*, would go so far as call it a “natural craving”; he believed that if you’ve eaten chocolate once, you want to eat it again, comparing it to a drug. Chocolate has been described as a drug, a craving, and an addiction, but the actual attraction that chocolate has to human taste buds is theorized to come from the high fat and sugar contents or its palatability (Benton 215). Because the body wants as much fat and sugar as possible for survival, it releases endorphins inside the brain making consumers happier and more energized. Endorphins allow the brain to understand and calculate faster and with ease which naturally makes people happier; chocolate being seen as a gift of happiness is not far off from the physiological and psychological truth (Wenk, 17). Humans naturally crave food, but crave chocolate more commonly than other foods because of its palatable contents like junk foods (Benton 206). Chocolate could not be considered as addictive though. Drugs of abuse release endorphins and dopamine into the brain similarly to chocolate, but the craving for these drugs after first-time usage comes from a place of loss rather than a physiological craving (Benton 215). When the brain recognizes that a food is high in fat and sugar content, it craves the food, sometimes without the subject ever tasting it; chocolate consumption has a physiological purpose to the human brain whereas drugs of abuse do not until used for a first time.

Although positive reactions were the first reactions to questions about chocolate, interviewees listed negative emotions and feelings as well. An interviewee, Matt, said that it sometimes made him feel fat, uncomfortable, and overwhelmed if he ate too much. The two others, Andrew and Jessica, linked chocolate to unhealthy weight gain and obesity, Jessica claiming it as a possible gateway food to an unhealthy lifestyle. Unprompted, negative reactions were listed after positive reactions felt about chocolate and its consumption. On the surface and in television commercials and ads, chocolate brings joy, happiness, and celebration, but consumers recognize the dark consequences of eating too much chocolate or becoming too reliant on it as a mood booster. Chocolate physiologically and psychologically makes people happy so marketers play off of it as a cure-all for a hard day or stressful week.

A Deadly Sin

In every interview, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was described as an important childhood memory of chocolate; the famous chocolate river surrounded by a confectionery forest is delightful to the eye and the stomach, leaving a lasting impression into adulthood. The film may have a sweet candy coating, but the theme itself is all sin. Throughout the film, spoiled kids get whisked away because of disrespect, gluttony, greed, pride, etc. The first of these exits by the character Augustus Gloop meant to portray gluttony. Note that of all the candies and confectioneries within the forest and river, the chocolate river is what destroys Augustus. As Wonka sits back and watches Augustus move towards and into the pipe, he casually begins to eat a chocolate bar cheekily saying, “The suspense is terrible… I hope it will last.” while the crowd of parents and children panic around him. The choice of a chocolate bar, rather than a colorful candy, shows how indulgent and unfazed he is even amidst panic and chaos. Chocolate here brings out the worst in Augustus and in Wonka and commercials like to take part in that as well. The “Dove Senses” commercial posed chocolate as indulgent, luxurious, and tempting, all more positive symbols of sinful behavior.

Matt’s first memory of chocolate was when he was about five years old; he had gone inside a convenience store with his mother and, on the way out, had grabbed and stolen a bag of Mars M&M’s. When his mother saw him eating them the in car on the way home, he denied that he had been eating chocolate and was marched straight back to the store to apologize for the theft. To Matt, chocolate has a vivid memory of guilt whereas the other two, Jessica and Andrew, negatively associated it with weight gain. Those who have more negative emotions about eating chocolate generally focus more on their health, dieting, and appearances (Benton 207). They are more likely to feel sick after eating chocolate and more often use a rationale like “to keep my energy levels up” to validate their chocolate consumption. The sinfulness and guilt associated with chocolate is transformed into indulgence, desire, and often lust to help marketers mask negative emotions or feelings from chocolate.

Chocolate Ads Then and Now

With both Jessica and Matt who were born before 1985, both remembered a distinct change in chocolate and confectionery commercials and ads from their childhoods to the current day. Chocolate ads during both of their childhoods were primarily concerned with marketing towards children using bright cartoon characters and catchy jingles. Commercials for chocolates currently have become distinctly more mature with references to pop culture, adult relationships, and the real world. Take a look at M&Ms commercials. The first one here was aired during the 1970s while the second ad was aired in April 2017:

You can immediately notice the distinct change of cartoon to CGI M&M people. Although that change does come with technological progression, the M&M men are placed in a modern world where things are not as forgiving or magical. Other M&Ms ads over the past six years have been similar, making their cartoon candy men into snarky, modern characters set in the real world. In the 1980s, the chocolate industry surged as the baby boomer generation became adults and continued to buy chocolate for themselves; “big chocolate” began to target adults with commercials during sports events, daily news programs, and weekly sitcoms (Winters). The target audience of chocolate commercials had grown up and so did their cartoon characters and tones. By the time the twenty-first century came around, commercials for chocolates were targeting both children and adults. More mature variations of chocolate like Dove sprung into the market and found success from a new generation of adults. When asked to recollect the evolution of chocolate marketing, both Jessica and Matt remarked on how many varieties of chocolate products have developed and the rainbow of candy wrapping colors in convenience stores. As the chocolate industry exploded so did the amount of possibilities; “big chocolate” started adding fruity and minty flavors, new textures, and larger sizes of candy bar for consumption. Almost any type of candy bar thought of is on the market today and has moved from its basic consumption during the 1960s and 1970s. “Big chocolate” had no choice when it made its marketing more mature. Its largest consumer group, the baby boomers, had become adults; to make the most profits, “big chocolate” would have to find a way to appeal to them, making chocolate a treat for both adults and children.

Women and Chocolate

Mature chocolate ads like the “Dove Senses” commercial usually depict women living luxuriously and indulging in sinful desires. Dove as a product exclusively targets adult women through their marketing as a product that will make women happy and more positive during their days. When asked during interviewing why people like chocolate, both Matt and Andrew expressed that women got more pleasure and consumed more chocolate than men. Although chocolate consumption by men and women is markedly the same, almost all chocolate ads targeting adults specifically target women or have a woman as the primary focus of the ad. With brands like Dove stressing the idea of chocolate for women, women may be physiologically and psychologically more drawn to chocolate than men. Palatable foods with high fat and sugar content like chocolate are most pleasurable when a subject is under some form of psychological stress. Hormonally, women are more often under psychological stress from menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and a higher likelihood for unipolar depression (Briollo and Di Renzo 166). Chocolate craving and consumption becomes more frequent before, during, and after menstrual cycles and also during pregnancy.

When asked about the time she ate the most chocolate in her life, Jessica said it was during her first pregnancy; she was craving chocolate all the time and every day. During pregnancy, rapid hormonal changes within the brain strike indicators of stress making the subject crave more palatable foods (Briollo and Di Renzo 170). Chocolate’s pleasurableness to eat and familiarity to women often leaves its mark in cravings. Chocolate consumption during pregnancy has been proven in multiple cases to be beneficial or relatively harmless, but it does boost the mental well-being of pregnant women and reduces stress. Women do find chocolate more pleasurable than men because of natural hormonal changes that induce physiological stress on the brain and body so they often crave chocolate more often than their male counterparts. The endorphins in chocolate reduce stress for both men and women, but more often in women because of physiological stress caused by menstruation and pregnancy.  “Big chocolate” targets female consumers because women buy more chocolate than men, not because they consume more chocolate than men. Because of physiological stress, women are more likely to give in to buying chocolate on a craving over men although men and women consume about the same amount of chocolate each year.

 Conclusion

Advertisements for chocolate are influenced by common beliefs about chocolate’s properties and characteristics. Chocolate does provide stress relief and boosts mood, but often makes people feel guilty for eating it, especially those focused on body image or weight loss. These advertisements target people’s already held beliefs and enhance them making chocolate seem almost lustful, overwhelmingly happy, and for every type of consumer. Chocolate ads have ditched their colorful cartoon imagery and swapped it for dry, realistic humor or sexual chocolate fantasies all because its consumer base began to age. Chocolate marketing has only swollen and spread commonly held beliefs and updated itself to stay current and sell to wider audiences. Matt, Andrew, and Jessica were all interviewed with twenty questions about their experiences, relationships, and reactions towards chocolate. The last question in the interview asked if they had any knowledge of cacao farming or production; all three interviewees had no knowledge of how chocolate is produced, yet could name specific chocolate commercials from their childhood forty or fifty years in the past. Commonly held beliefs about chocolate are informed by marketing and vice versa, but consumers of “big chocolate” know very little about the product they are actually buying.

*All names of those interviewed have been changed.

Works Referenced

Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. Ed. Astrid Nehlig. Boca Raton, FL: CRC, 2004. 205-18. Print.

Brillo, Eleonora, and Gian Carlo Di Renzo. “Chocolate, Cocoa and Women’s Health.”Chocolate and Health: Chemistry, Nutrition and Therapy. By Philip K. Wilson. London: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015. 160-72. Print.

Wenk, Gary L. “Euphoria, Depression, & Madness.” Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015. N. pag. Print.

Winters, Patricia. “Chocolate Marketing No Longer Kids’ Stuff.” Advertising Age 57.31 (1986): 22. Web.

Putting the Pieces Together: An Analysis of Chocolate Advertising

For an industry trying to rid itself of a reputation rooted in unfair labor practices and misrepresentation, DOVE’s advertisement (below) does the opposite. The contrast between black and white appears prominently, the presumed consumption of chocolate by a woman suggests its gendered attribution, and the portion-controlled offering insinuates that people do not have the ability to resist consuming chocolate, overemphasizing its alluring effects. In the following analysis, I consider these three shortcomings of this advertisement, and create an alternative option which takes them into account. Instead of marketing chocolate in a racialized, sexualized, and obsessive manner like DOVE, and many chocolate companies do today, the new advertisement I created focuses on giving chocolate as a gift between friends. By placing the pieces of chocolate in the shape of a heart, the intention is twofold: to value the source of its production and to demonstrate the way chocolate can bring people together.

Image
2008 Dove advertisement (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg)

DOVE Chocolate

DOVE Chocolate was founded by Leo Stefanos in the 1950s, who named “the new treat after his south side candy shop, a moniker chosen for its ‘peaceful’ quality” (Dove Chocolate 2009). See the DOVE Chocolate timeline here. In 1986, DOVE was acquired by M&M/Mars, which worked to improve the appeal of the chocolate, refining DOVE’s taste in the process. DOVE is known as a creamy indulgence, lying on a spectrum between the all-American Hershey and high-end Ghirardelli products. The advertisement above, released in 2008, demonstrates the line’s emphasis on how DOVE gives its consumer ‘me-time.’ The product is intended to be indulgent, using pure cocoa butter to create a smooth texture; DOVE centers its advertising approach on giving consumers their “me” moments in the midst of busy work and home lives.

Advertisement Critique

Upon viewing the DOVE advertisement initially, I noted the contrasting dark and light shades throughout the image. Chocolate and vanilla have long served as metaphors for race (Martin Lecture 9). Vanilla is linked to whiteness, associated with purity and cleanliness, while chocolate is linked to blackness, associated with impurity and sin, dirtiness, and sexuality. In this advertisement, the brown bed sheets signify darkness, closely resembling the color of the chocolate bar at the bottom of the image, and representing the enslaved West African cacao farmers. The woman’s expression portrays the pleasure experienced by a white consumer after enjoying a piece of DOVE Chocolate, removed from the labor of the farmers which provides the source of her contentment. Carol Off demonstrates her reaction to the forced labor that children in Cote d’Ivoire perform. “I feel the profound irony before me: the children who struggle to produce the small delights of life in the world I come from have never known such pleasure, and most likely, they never will” (2008).

The advertisement’s use of dark and light represents the distinction between the wealthy, white American customer who blissfully dreams of the piece of DOVE Chocolate she ate and the West African cacao farmers who toil away to produce it. The use of contrasting colors and shades extends its role in symbolizing darkness and whiteness; chocolate serves as a euphemism for people of color against the color of the white woman who has just enjoyed chocolate as an indulgent treat.

The woman’s presence in the DOVE Chocolate advertisement portrays females as irrational actors who use chocolate to indulge themselves. The woman seems lost in an alternative world as a result of consuming chocolate. In fact, “the consumption of chocolate in the west became feminized early in its history” (Robertson 2009). Here, and in many other chocolate ads, women are portrayed as having a sexualized relationship with chocolate (Robertson 2009). Thus its marketing includes romanticism and self-indulgence, continuing the stereotype of an excessive passion related to chocolate consumption.

Finally, this image’s advertisement of portion-controlled chocolate emphasizes the fact that consumers cannot refrain from eating too much chocolate, particularly in the West. Candy became demonized alongside the temperance movement in the late eighteenth century (Martin Lecture 7). Candy became increasingly regarded as the cause for childhood cavities and obesity among “overindulging adults.” Lawrence Allen explores how the Big Five chocolate companies battled over their presence in China, evaluating the difference between the perception of chocolate as a good in the East versus the West. “It is also the inside story of East meeting West through the introduction into China, a xenophobic land of austerity and deprivation, of an icon of the Western world’s decadence and self-indulgence: chocolate” (2010). The Western market’s regard for chocolate as a luxurious, indulgent good for oneself contrasted with the Eastern image of chocolate for gift-giving purposes. However, alongside this self-indulgent use is the idea that people do not have the self-control to limit their consumption, which is suggested through the woman’s expression and the wording at the bottom of the ad.

new chocolate ad

New Advertisement

Above, I created an alternative advertisement for DOVE Chocolate. It excludes the presence of people in order to remove stereotypes based on race, ethnicity, and gender. This omission also removes any sexualized themes from the advertisement. In this ad, chocolate is not portrayed as an object that cannot be resisted; instead of focusing on self-indulgence through having a “[me] moment,” DOVE Chocolate is used to do something for others. While DOVE encourages people to reconnect with themselves, my advertisement encourages them to reconnect with each other and with its sourcing. I included the Rainforest Alliance symbol within the ad (below) to educate consumers about DOVE’s agreement that 100% of its cocoa are from Rainforest Alliance certified farms. These “well managed cacao farms help reduce soil erosion, improve air quality, and provide a habitat for animals, often conserving remnants of once-plentiful tropical forests” (Dove Chocolate 2009).imgres

Conclusions

By portraying DOVE Chocolate as a way of fostering friendships and as a sustainable chocolate company, the new advertisement emphasizes its beneficial qualities rather than furthering stereotypes perpetuated throughout the modern industry. “Adverts have perpetuated western sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption, and have divorced chocolate from the conditions of production” (Robertson 2009). Modern chocolate advertisements display a racialized and sexualized presentation of the product; the above ad suggests that humans cannot limit their indulgence and need outside assistance to resist the temptation. The ad that I proposed brings DOVE’s positive attributes to the forefront, deemphasizing the way it has been previously misrepresented by focusing on friendships instead of sexualized relationships, and on the company’s sustainable practices.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. “Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers.” Thunderbird International Business Review 52.1 (2010): 13-20.

Dove Chocolate. 2009. Cocoa Sustainability. Retrieved April 3, 2016, from https://www.dovechocolate.com/aboutDove/CocoaSustainability.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. Vintage Canada, 2010.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Images and media

Dove Chocolate. 2009. The Dove Story. Retrieved April 2, 2016, from https://www.dovechocolate.com/aboutdove.

Dove pure silk bar 2008 advertising image. Web. 2 April 2016. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg

Rainforest Alliance certified logo. Web. 3 April 2016. http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/.

 

 

Chocolate, Indulgence, and Women

In a technology inundated world, it might not seem strange at first, but once brought to one’s attention, it is striking the sheer number of chocolate advertisements that almost exclusively target women. A simple Google search yields more images of women indulging in chocolate than one would ever need (or indeed want) to see. These commercials promote chocolate by emphasizing the sinful and indulgent tastes it offers–these intense flavors apparently cause women to lose all their inhibitions. So intense is this desire that they cannot resist the temptation it offers. Here, I seek to examine how these associations were created between chocolate, women, and indulgence and how we can begin to counter these stereotypes.

The link between chocolate and gender is strongly tilted toward women. Here, chocolate is essentially equated to sex in this advertisement. Taken from http://makeupandbeauty.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/chocolate-addiction-in-women1.png.

If we examine these themes of gender and indulgence further, we see that they are present in most chocolate advertisements. In order to gain a better understanding of these issues, we closely examine this Magnum commercial:

The woman cannot resist the chocolate and so completely gives in to desire–nothing can stop her from getting to the Magnum truck. The driver of the truck sees her running and opens the truck doors with a knowing smile. She closes her eyes as she takes a bite out of the ice cream bar, utterly overcome by the tastes that have satisfied her deepest desires. In the portrayal of this event, we observe the intense sensuality the consumption of chocolate entails. At the end of the commercial, we find the crux of the appeal–“For pleasure seekers.” The Magnum ice cream bar consumer lives on the edge; this chocolate is not for everyone.

Breaking down this commercial, we see the underlying stereotypes that fuel production of these advertisements. First of all, the woman wears a ruffled dress to emphasize her femininity. Chocolate commercials traditionally target women because of the association our society has manufactured between the two. Why? In the diet-saturated culture we have in the US today, women are far more likely than men to have the goal of losing weight (National Eating Disorders Association). It is easy to sell chocolate to men as they are less likely to be worried about losing weight and therefore have a simpler time deciding whether or not to indulge in chocolate. On the other hand, advertisers want to portray women as having intense desires for chocolate and convince the female audience that this is a natural craving. Additionally, female characters in chocolate commercials are always beautiful women–chocolate companies want the female audience to conclude that they can still look as beautiful as the women in these commercials though they may indulge in chocolate. Therefore, as Emma Robertson writes, “whilst men may be the bearers of chocolate, women are positioned as consumers.” Secondly, there is an idea present that chocolate is sinful–it is for pleasure-seekers. This implies that chocolate is not something to indulge in on a daily basis. This idea is present in other brands of chocolate as well. For example, the Endangered Species brand describes its product as “Simple, smooth, sinful.” The darker side of chocolate contributes to the allure of the product; it is a sort of rebellion against a culture of dieting.

Given these ideas, we have created our own advertisement for chocolate in order to push back against these stereotypes common in chocolate commercials.

chocolate hiking
Shown here is our advertisement for the Choco Brand, created to counter a few of these chocolate stereotypes.

There is an attempt here to move away from the stereotype that a disproportionate number of women crave chocolate compared to men. This is entirely a myth, as many studies have discovered that the proportions of men and women consuming chocolate are quite similar and the same follows for the frequency with which they eat chocolate (CNN; Food News International). Cravings for chocolate are not reserved solely for the female sex but are almost a part of human nature. Furthermore, different kinds of women eat chocolate, and there are other reasons women might want to consume chocolate. As demonstrated through this advertisement we have created, chocolate does not need to be a sinful indulgence. Here, it is used to provide energy on an arduous hike. Those pictured here are not the beautiful female models traditionally used in chocolate advertisements but an average family with a mixture of men and women.

We want to view the consumption of chocolate, not as a dark temptation, but as something practical that can be used as a source of energy for both sexes. This is a return to the roots of chocolate. The Maya and Aztecs historically used chocolate as a source of nourishment. In Mayan culture, a warrior would customarily be adorned with cacao pods, which was associated with invincibility, but, perhaps more importantly, warriors that consumed chocolate were perceived as having more energy–a formidable opponent indeed (Martin 2-2). Even in more modern days, this idea is still present that chocolate can be a source of nutrition. Robertson writes that “[chocolate] formed an important part of Royal Navy rations, which accounted for half of Britain’s cocoa imports.” Indeed, most soldiers had chocolate rations one of the first English words a Japanese boy would learn during WWII was “chocolate.” (Martin 3-9).

We have transformed chocolate into a form far removed from the drinkable, frothing chocolate seen here in this Mayan painting. Taken from http://www.worldstandards.eu/images/palace%20scene.jpg.

Overall, this is an attempt to counter the belief that chocolate is an indulgence for females, which stems from the dieting culture that is often closely associated with the female identity. We also are able to tie this “new” image of chocolate back to its first uses of the Maya and Aztecs. However, chocolate has branched far from its roots in Mayan and Aztec culture. There has been such a great divergence that today, it would obviously be unreasonable to use chocolate as a meal replacement; the massive amounts of added sugar and fat would not offer the nutrients chocolate used to when spices and corn were added in the days of the Maya and Aztecs (Martin, 2-4). In any case, the theme that chocolate is an indulgent dessert in regard to females is a reflection of the culture in the United States today–chocolate has not always been associated in this way. Now the question remains whether this portrayal of women and chocolate is problematic and how these chocolate companies will continue to mold this image of feminine indulgence.

 

 

 

Works Cited

“8M consumers in UK eat chocolate every day.” Food News International, 17 April 2014. Web. 10 April 2015. <http://foodnewsinternational.com/2014/04/17/europe-8m-consumers-in-uk-eat-chocolate-every-day-says-report/&gt;.

“Endangered Species Chocolate, Natural Dark Chocolate.” iHerb.com. Web. 10 April 2015.<http://www.iherb.com/Endangered-Species-Chocolate-Natural-Dark-Chocolate-3-oz-85-g/32747&gt;.

Martin, Carla. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Februrary 2, 2015.

Martin, Carla. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Februrary 4, 2015.

Martin, Carla. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. March 9, 2015.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 1-131.

Shiltz, Tom. “Research on Males and Eating Disorders.” NEDA. Web. 10 April 2015. <https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/research-males-and-eating-disorders&gt;.

“Who consumes the most chocolate” CNN, 17 January 2012. Web. 10 April 2015. <http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/&gt;.