Tag Archives: industrialization

Industrialization on Essential and Luxury Calories

Before the enlightenment era and the centuries of subsequent learnings that followed, religious dogmas took for granted that people knew the fundamental facts about the world, and then built up teachings and rules to appease and satisfy those fundamentals. The scientific and industrial revolution was beyond all else, the understanding of society that there are things we don’t know – our acceptance of ignorance. As a result, these times led to drastic changes, including our understanding and socialization of food. Building on the learnings of the last 500, people developed countless inventions that impact how we eat, including novel modes of transportation, new machinery, new markets, and new ways of preserving food (Goody). This post will look at chocolate as just another product in the grand schematic of our diets. Because our diet can be separated into essential and luxury calories, we can analyze clearly how the composition of these two groups changed, and better understand chocolate, or luxury, consumption habits as a whole.

Generally, consumption of essential calories saw a continuous rise from the early 1800s to the mid 1900s, and the composition of these calories shifted away from carbohydrates and toward proteins. It is important to note that starting in the 19th century, famine was almost entirely a thing of the past as the last major food crisis occured in 1816 in much of Europe as a result of the end of the Napoleonic Wars (Grigg). From there on forward, there were no major notable famines in Europe. This security was the result of an economy that was rapidly increasing in productivity. In this time of security, there was a shift in the types of food people ate, moving from cheaper to more expensive goods. In the early 19th century, starchy staples comprised 65-75% of total calories, principally because starches like cereals and potatoes were so much cheaper than more protein rich products, and the majority of the population was poor (Grigg).

As society became wealthier and more productive from a series of industrialization related changes in the 1800s including agricultural advances for increased food production, transportation for an increased ability to exercise national comparative advantage and exports, and finally an increase in wages generally that resulted in improved buying power, the composition of the European diet changed dramatically. As demonstrated by Grigg, calories became more and more available per capita per day, increasing from around 2000 calories in the early 1800s to approximately 3000 by 1930. 

These changes were paired with a decrease in the number of calories required due to sharp decreases in physical activity due to increased automation and improved heating within everyday buildings (Grigg). Together, these changes meant that there were surpluses in the margin of peoples’ diets, and as a result, people were able to shift their eating habits to more expensive mainstay foods and were able to more easily supplement essential calories with luxury ones. As seen in the table, caloric intake was at a peak around 1910 at which point people were first able to eat, at least for the majority of the population, however much they wanted. The fall in subsequent decades relates to increased awareness of the nutritional importance of moderation, and the related shift to lower calorie, higher cost items such as luxury goods like chocolate. The shift to preferred foods, like dairy, livestock protein, fruits and vegetables, and fats and oils meant that people were spending more on fewer, but better tasting calories. As seen below, Grigg highlights the dramatic shift away from starchy staples as France and other European countries entered the 1900s.

The question still remains as to why people are spending on more expensive items? Are these items substantially more valuable and therefore raising the social welfare of Europe as a whole, or are people attracted more to the social distinction and advertising marketing that sets these items apart as privileged and distinguished? If the latter is true, our conceptualization of history as a line of human progress is dramatically undermined insofar that we normalize more expensive items that do not substantively create value, and therefore counteract the improvements in everyday wealth with valueless spending.

Beyond mainstay items and general economic trends that allowed for increased consumption, luxury items such as sugar and chocolate became dramatically more accessible through the late 1800s as a result of industrialization. Factorization and the concentration of production allowed food production to be far more efficient, simultaneously emphasizing inequality as fewer firms had control over more and more means of production. Foods began to be processed less and less on farms and by individuals as larger establishments began consolidating production with machinery and outsizing capital. Chocolate saw different trends from other products insofar that this industrial manufacturing dramatically lowered its prices and improved its taste (Clarence–Smith). Luxury goods are luxury due to their price, and also because there is something special about their taste that sets it apart, in some way warranting the large price. This distinction was set culturally, while at the same time access and price lowered dramatically due to the benefits of scale in an industrializing world that focused production more and more under large establishments. Beyond cost, various industrialization era inventions improved the digestibility problem of chocolate. As seen since chocolates earliest times as a beverage, the product is bitter when untampered, and while the taste is unique, it was not for every palette. However, around 1914, sales expanded dramatically as chocolate diversified as a product, becoming more digestible in many different forms of powders and alkalizable in order to create a significant improvement in taste. Beyond the powderization, technical breakthroughs from the Swiss allowed for milk chocolate, which greatly improved the quality of eating it directly (Clarence–Smith). In looking at the various luxury goods, or “junk foods” as referenced by Coe and Coe, the trend for chocolate was set apart from coffee and tea. Chocolate grew faster than tea and coffee between 1870 and 1897 with the establishment of a neoliberal market. According to Clarence–Smith, “world imports of cocoa beans grew ninefold between 1870 and 1897, whereas those of tea doubled, and those of coffee rose only by about half” (Clarence–Smith). Chocolate, due to surpluses in the average person’s pocketbook, had been revolutionized as a widely available good. While chocolate had been universalized, the question remains as to whether or not chocolate actually added value to everyday lives, or instead was just a cultural phenomenon that costed far more than the joy it brought.

The actual value of chocolate can be analyzed through how Latin America approached and treated chocolate differently from Europeans in this time of industrialization, and ultimately it is clear that its excitement was entirely cultural. Latin Americans resisted the widespread socialization of chocolate, especially as a beverage, on account of its barbaristic relationship to pre-civilized times in Central and South America. Despite dramatic increases in incomes, consumption of chocolate did not appreciate significantly (Clarence–Smith), showing how an increase in consumption was perhaps more cultural in Europe, and not necessarily a distinctive value add. Moreover, even in European countries, Mintz argues that chocolate’s broad consumption was primarily induced from a place of power. As luxury goods that were originally enjoyed by the rich became available to the cotidian, they were glorified in ritualistic ways, used disproportionately during holidays and celebrations as a result of their luxuries nature. This relationship was held for chocolate as well as for sugar through the industrialization era, as Clarence–Smith notes that “public bodies vigorously propagated chocolate,” including a democratization of consumption via regular issues to military personnel during the Boer War of Britain, America’s war with Spain in 1898 and generally as a foodstuff for german troops in the 1880s (Clarence–Smith). This democratization was not enjoyed from the bottom up, but much like the effects seen in Mintz during monarchic times, it still came from the top down during the late 1800s when democratic governments began to hold the majority of the power in Europe. 

Works Cited:

Clarence–Smith, William. 2016. “Chocolate Consumption from the Sixteenth Century to the Great Chocolate Boom.”

Goody, Jack. 2013[1982]. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World
Cuisine.” pp. 72-88

Grigg, David. 1995. “The Nutritional Transition in Western Europe.” pp. 247-261

African Erasure from the World of Chocolate

In a 2006 press release discussing the growing popularity American chocolatier Maribel Lieberman, the PR Newswire article stated that in the past “European chocolate reigned above all, with the chocolatiers of France setting the taste for the rest of the world” (PR Newswire, 2006). Although the article goes on to note that cocoa originated in South and Central America, the articles opening sentence clearly reflects the commonly held perception that fine chocolate comes from Europe, specifically France. The press release means to introduce Ms. Lieberman’s new location for her confectionary brand, MarieBelle New York, named MarieBelle Aztec Chocolate at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris (PR Newswire, 2006). In its close, the press release claims that “Lieberman will bring a sense of history and a taste of the tropics to the tables of the one of the worlds most elegant hotels” (PR Newswire, 2006). This press release defines chocolate as coming from the Americas, and fine chocolate as coming from Europe, but at no point in the press release is there any mention of Africa, where over 70% of the world’s cocoa originates (Leissle, 2013). The progressive separation from location and chocolate through industrialization of food has led to the erasure of West Africa as a source of cocoa and allows a history of exploitation to continue.

Most American consumers are unaware of where the chocolate found in their local market grows. This stems from the fact that many chocolate makers, like Hershey’s, sought to prioritize the standardization of their product over the beans point of origin (Leissle, 2013). This shift towards a standardized product changed the definition of quality mean consistency (Leissle, 2013), and also completely anonymized where store-bought chocolate was grown or manufactured (Leissle, 2013). The standardized chocolate products followed a growing trend of processed foods: the standardization of the Hershey’s Kiss, as well as canned, tinned and preserved products grew from advances in mechanization (Goody, 2013). Chocolate products and other food items became further disconnected with their places of origin as advances in mechanization enabled and encouraged the growth of mass-produced food (Goody, 2013). The desire for a consistent product, and the new found ability to mass produce standard foods and transport them around the world separated chocolate products not only from the point of origin of the bean, but also the point of manufacture.

The separation between chocolate products, their point of origin, and point of manufacture helps conceal the violent past and present surrounding chocolate production. Catherine Higgs discusses the involvement of Cadbury chocolate makers in Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Higgs reports that in 1907 Cadbury sent journalist Joseph Burtt to investigate reports of slavery in West Africa (Higgs, 2012). Upon his return, Burtt provided his report which detailed instances of slavery on cocoa plantations in West Africa, and as a result Cadbury spent several years investigating this report before ultimately stopping their purchase of cocoa from São Tomé and Príncipe (Higgs, 2012). This decision came after several years of efforts of European chocolate makers negotiating for better working conditions for African workers and seeking to regulate recruiting processes (Higgs, 2012). Despite Burtt’s report to Cadbury and an earlier report published by journalist Henry Nevinson, Cadbury and the British Foreign Office delayed action on the issue due to political and economic concerns (Higgs, 2012). This lack of action mirrors how the chocolate makers and legislators of today have failed to address the issue of brutal child labor in the production of chocolate. Nearly 20 years ago, American legislators as well world chocolate companies pledged to eliminate child labor from their supply lines by 2005. In the past 20 years, every deadline for this action has been missed and these companies still cannot claim that their chocolate was not made with the forced labor of children (Whoriskey & Siegel, 2019).

The driving force of modern-day child labor on cocoa farms is poverty (Whoriskey & Siegel, 2019). The annual income of a cocoa farming house hold in the Ivory Coast is only $1,900 (Whoriskey & Siegel, 2019). This is below what is defined as poverty by the world bank (Whoriskey & Siegel, 2019). In part it is because of this poverty that child persists. In order to make due, families send their underage children abroad to make money for the family, or even sell them to trafficers (Whoriskey & Siegel, 2019).

Ana Palacios, Untitled, 2017, Photograph, From The Guardian US: “West African children rescued from slavery – in pictures”. New York City

The above image depicts a child, Indigo, being released to his family in Benin. Indigo escaped trafficking, and authorities are releasing him to his family in public so that the other villagers can help make sure that he is resold to a trafficker. This heartbreaking image demonstrates how dire the situation is in these communities.

As evidenced in the previous paragraphs there is a violent past and present in West Africa surrounding the production of the world’s chocolate supply. According to Peter Whoriskey and Rachel Siegel’s 2019 article, “Cocoa’s Child Laborers”, the “most prominent, sustained public attention to the issue arouse 18 years ago with reports…that linked American chocolate to child slavery in West Africa” (Whoriskey & Siegel, 2019). Despite the seriousness of this issue, it does not receive much attention or action due to the fact that Africa is not associated with chocolate despite growing most of the world supply. As long as people can remain ignorant of suffering that comes with their chocolate, change will not be made.

The decoupling of West African cocoa production from chocolate is best evidenced by Africa’s invisibility in the world of fine chocolate. Earlier, this post discussed the disconnect of chocolate and where it grows that came with the standardization and mass production of chocolate bars, but in the 21st century the organic food trend helped foster the rise of single origin chocolate bars (Leissle, 2013). Single origin chocolate not only names where the cocoa is sourced, but also eschews consistency of their product to make artisanal bars which highlight the features of each batch and strain of cocoa beans (Leissle, 2013). This rapidly grown industry is considered an important facet of fine chocolate, and as a result exist in a very extensive world chocolate census of premium chocolate bars (Leissle, 2013). This database on fine chocolate products show that despite 70% of cocoa being produced in West Africa, only 3.8% of premium chocolate bars contain beans exclusively from West Africa (Leissle, 2013). This shocking statistic demonstrates how global perceptions around chocolate are strongly separated from the region where most of the world’s cocoa comes from. Leissle points out that there are logistic, economic, and aesthetic factors which play into this disparity (Leissle, 2013), but the example remains as evidence that West Africa and West African cocoa are underappreciated when many people around the world think about chocolate.

The broken promises of American legislators and large-scale chocolate makers demonstrate the presence of a connection between the strife found in West Africa due to chocolate and lack of public awareness around where everyday chocolate comes from. Industrialization and mass production of food products along with the association of high-end chocolate with Europe and America has allowed consumers to remain ignorant of West Africa’s role in cocoa production, and therefore remain ignorant of the problems in the region. In order to solve issues like child labor on cocoa farms, West Africa needs to be brought into the spotlight as a source of the world most treasured resource: chocolate.

Works Cited

“An American Chocolatier in Paris.” PR Newswire (New York), 2006.

Goody, Jack, Carole Counihan, Penny Van Esterik, and Alice Julier. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” In Food and Culture: A Reader, 263-82. 3rd ed. Routledge, 2013.

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

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa. The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13, no. 3 (2013): 22-31.

Palacios, Ana, documentary photographer. Untitled.A Photograph. New York: Guardian News & Media Limited, April 12th, 2017. From The Guardian US: “West African children rescued from slavery – in pictures”. https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/6a595fe549b34a5811583e21c29f217fed561899/0_0_2000_1333/master/2000.jpg?width=1920&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=da0301adb4b480f1c8745df6059650b0. Accessed March 18th, 2020.

Whoriskey, Peter. Siegel, Rachel. “Cocoa’s child laborers”. Washingtonpost.com. June 10, 2019. Accessed March 23rd, 2020. https://advance-lexis-com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/api/document?collection=news&id=urn:contentItem:5W9H-Y2X1-JCDY-T023-00000-00&context=1516831.

Chocolate’s World Tour: How the Collision of Two Unique Cultures Allowed Chocolate to Spread Across the Globe and Diversify

Chocolate has evolved in many ways over the last few centuries. After its conception from a simple cacao pod, it has since crossed the entire globe and been incorporated into both hot and cold items, food and drink, and sweet and savory. The Aztecs, an ancient civilization located in modern day Mexico, were responsible for giving “the world the joy of chocolate taste” (Maries-Les 478). But this taste did not always bring great joy. When chocolate first arrived in Europe from the Americas, it was a “bitter and spicy drink used only on special occasions (Schulte Beerbühl 2). As would be expected by this description, chocolate was not immediately popular in Europe. However, after the addition of new flavors and ingredients, everything changed. Although chocolate originally comes from the Americas, Europe does hold a certain responsibility for transforming chocolate not only from a liquid to a solid, but also form a special drink only consumed by the wealthy and powerful, to a quick snack that is easily attained by commoners and easy to eat at any point in the day. Europe sent chocolate as we know it on its “world tour” and transformed its flavor entirely. 

Europe used and invented many new tools and machines in order to change the way chocolate could be processed and manufactured. Coenraad Van Houten, a Dutch chemist and chocolate maker, reinvented the way cacao was processed which ultimately led to the creation of solid chocolate. He invented the hydraulic press which allowed his creation of cocoa butter and cocoa powder. His advances led Joseph Fry, in 1847, to be able to create the first chocolate bar in England. Around the same time, many of the big chocolate companies we know about today were just getting started. Cadbury, Lindt, and Nestlé began selling and making chocolate in a way that produced much more than individuals had been able to in the past. Once these international countries got their hands on chocolate, it became accessible for the general public and those who did not originally have enough money for the delicacy. 

One of the first hydraulic presses. Source: www.physics.kenyon.com 

The evolution of the Cadbury Chocolate Bar. source: www.pinterest.com

All of these European advances happened over the span of only a few decades. The “bitter and spicy” chocolate drink described earlier, remained mostly unchanged for centuries in the Americas. So why did Europe seem to be more successful in capitalizing on this good in a much shorter period of time? I believe the answer to that question comes down to the respective cultures of each of the locations. The Aztecs were a much closer community than Europe, and a tribe that had been around for many years with the same customs and values. The Aztecs “excelled in sculpture and … their purpose was to please the gods” (Maries-Les 479). In Aztec culture, every item played a specific role and chocolate was no exception. Chocolate was seen in many ways as sacred and was valued as a ritualistic drink, the fruit of the gods, and a medicine for a multitude of ailments. The Aztecs did not consume chocolate for its sweet and delicious taste as the Europeans did, but rather as a symbol for different aspects of their culture and religion. The Europeans on the other hand, were in the midst of an industrialization period when most of the continent was introduced to the wonder of chocolate. They were eager to alter the good into something that could be spread throughout the country while generating revenue. Aside from chocolate serving to be a drink only for the wealthy at the beginning of its introduction, chocolate had virtually no religious or cultural significance to the Europeans. It was simply developed into a product that could be consumed alone, in social gathers, or at any time of day. 

A chocolate Warrior depicting the importance and god-like nature of chocolate. Source: www.chocolatour.net

Because the Aztecs valued the symbol of chocolate more than the product, it is no surprise that it wasn’t until the Europeans began to adjust chocolate recipes to bring in more generally well-liked flavors and consistency that it became the popular sweet treat we know and love today. But which region took the “correct” approach to chocolate? This is still up for debate. While Europe was notably more successful in monetizing and spreading chocolate, many of the Aztec ideas surrounding chocolate did slip into the Europeans minds and are now widely accepted today. Chocolate did in fact begin its European journey in the church, and “current research suggests chocolate can enhance health” (Lippi 1). Thus, it is impossible to say which approach was better, but rather it seems that the work of these two regions combined has made chocolate into the versatile and widely loved treat that it is today. Without this collision of cultures, chocolate would not be the multi-dimensional food and drink it is today. 

Works Cited

Lippi, Donatella. “Sin and Pleasure: the History of Chocolate in Medicine.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 63, no. 45, 2015, pp. 9936–9941.

Maries-Les, Gabriela. “AZTECS – CIVILIZATION, CULTURE AND SPORTIVE ACTIVITIES.” Calitatea, vol. 13, no. 2, 2012, p. 476.

Schulte Beerbühl, Margrit. “Diffusion, Innovation and Transnational Cooperation: Chocolate in Europe (c. Eighteenth–Twentieth Centuries).” Vol. 12, no. 1, 2014, pp. 9–32.

The Rise of Sugar: How Colonialism, Industrialization, and Price Made Sugar Central to the Western Diet

In our current day and age, we take sugar’s centrality to food as a given. Sugar permeates all aspects of the Western diet, from desserts, to drinks, to salad dressings, and it’s almost impossible to imagine a time where this wasn’t the case. However, not too long ago, global sugar consumption was minuscule compared with what it is today. Sugar experienced a massive upswing in consumption from the 1700s to the 1900s that propelled it from the halls of kings, queens and the elite, to a luxury on the table of the masses, and finally to an everyday staple. This post will focus on sugar’s rise in England specifically, as many of the developments in sugar’s story originated in or are particularly exemplified by England. 

Some questions we are faced with given the current ubiquity of sugar are: what factors propelled sugar to take on such a crucial role in the Western kitchen and diet? Was the rise of sugar inevitable? The most important drivers of sugar’s rise were the proliferation of colonialism and the resulting importation of bitter caffeinated beverages, the effect of industrialization on workers and their home lives, and the steady decline in the price of sugar. The rise of sugar in England was inevitable; however, the speed with which it came to the center of the Western diet was not inevitable and was a result of the confluence of many individual factors at the right time.  

Sugar’s rise occurred concurrently with the advent of colonialism, and this is no coincidence. Colonialism brought with it the triangle slave trade, a major portion of which was the trade of the bitter caffeinated beverages — chocolate, coffee, and tea. The raw materials for these beverages came from the tropics to Europe, where they were processed. They were then consumed with sugar that came from the same trade. In England, the most popular of these beverages was tea, largely because it could “be more successfully adulterated than either coffee or chocolate, apparently because it can be tolerated, even when very diluted, more readily than those other beverages” (Mintz 112). Tea soared in popularity among the poor, because they were able to dip their bread in it more cheaply than with milk.

Another key development that spurred sugar’s progress was the rise of industrialization in European economies. As workers moved to jobs in factories, their income began to rise. This coincided with a large decline in the price of sugar which “fell by 30 percent between 1840 and 1850, and by a further 25 percent in the next two decades, [thus] consumption increases [of sugar] reflect a decline in the price of sugar relative to other commodities, and not necessarily an improved life standard” (Mintz 144). Mintz is referring to the free-trade movement of the mid-19th century that caused a drop in sugar prices relative to the price of other imports. According to a book from the time examining the trade and price of various commodities with England, “the sugar revenue has augmented within the last few years, in consequence of lessened duty and increased importation” (Martin 69). With their increased purchasing power, English laborers had more choices available for what they could eat, yet spent their money on increasingly available and cheap sugar, thus reducing the nutritional value they received from their diets. 

Sugar, and to a certain extent tea, played a major role in the altered lifestyle of the masses. Tea was essentially a “bitter stimulant…capable of carrying large quantities of palatable sweet calories ” (Mintz 114) that when consumed gave these workers more energy to go about their jobs, filled them up with calories, and suppressed their appetites. 

Furthermore, during this time many women joined the workforce. As they were mainly responsible for preparing meals at home, they had less time to spend cooking, so the home diet skewed towards easily prepared foods such as white bread, tea, and jam — foods high in sugar. Sugar was touted as providing quick and cheap energy, which made it easy for families to switch to this type of diet, even with the more detrimental long term effects it may have had on them. The figure below illustrates sugar’s effect on blood sugar, causing an energy spike which, as soon as it subsides, leads to cravings for more sugar. 

There was also a distinct difference in the amounts of sugar consumption within the family unit. Fathers were considered to be the breadwinners and hard laborers, so any protein in the kitchen was often reserved for them, leaving the mother and kids with foods high in sucrose. Women “were never offered anything like equality with men within the family economy”, which meant that dietary nutrition was often worse for women and children than for men (Barker & Chalus 14). 

These factors driving sugar’s rise influenced the development known as the ‘ritualization and extensification’ of sugar in England, meaning sugar grew to become a staple and point of ritual. Tea became a point of culture for the English. The illustration below shows tea trading routes and countries sized according to their tea consumption in the early 20th century. Although China, which had more tea consumption at the time, is cut off from the map, the image still gives an indication of the perceived importance of tea to the English, and therefore the massive demand for sugar that existed. 

Sugar came into the whole public’s knowledge in England between 1750 and 1850, and upon its price drop around 1850 became an object of mass consumption. All told, these developments resulted in the caloric contribution of sugar to jump from just 2% of the diet at the beginning of the 19th century, to 14% of the diet only a century later. The increased availability of sugar meant that it was now consumed most by the masses rather than the rich, thus changing its status from that of a luxury to one of a daily commodity and kitchen necessity.

With so many driving factors responsible for sugar’s quick rise to the center of the Western diet, it may be tempting to call it a coincidence that these factors came together and made sugar so successful. However, any of these trends — whether colonialism or industrialization or price collapse — taken individually without all the others would have still hastened the rise of sugar. There likely would not have been as quick an adoption of sugar in England without the combination of all factors, but the fact that sugar as a chemical compound provides energy and calories make it nearly inevitable that sugar would have gained a similar status in the Western diet, but just at a slower pace.  

Works Cited 


Canter, Sheryl. “Real Sugar Prices and Consumption Per Capita in England, 1600-1850.” Normal Eating Blog RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

Brickey, Beth Manos. “The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster.” Tasty Yummies, Web. 2020.

Goodman, Jack. “Atlas Obscura.” Atlas Obscura, Web. 1 Aug. 2016.


Barker, Hannah, and Elaine Chalus. Gender in Eighteenth-Century England: Roles, Representations and Responsibilities. Routledge, 2014, Google Scholar.

Martin, Robert Montgomery. The Past and Present State of the Tea Trade of England, and of the Continents of Europe and America: And a Comparison Between the Consumption, Price Of, and Revenue Derived From, Tea, Coffee, Sugar, Wine, Tobacco, Spirits, &c. Parbury, Allen, & Company, 1832, Google Scholar.

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

The Development of Chocolate as an Industrialized Food

Globally, chocolate production rakes in $100 billion each year (Lecture 01, slide 4). Though just five companies control almost two-thirds of the chocolate market worldwide, an abundance of people have an invested stake in this business – almost 50 million people around the world financially depend on cacao (Leissle, 2018; Lecture 01, slide 4). Evidently, chocolate possesses a large importance in the global economy, and this eminence has been made possible by its massive industrialization. This industrialization of chocolate would not have occurred on such a large scale without the development of machinery, as well as the utilization of slave labor.

Man in factory, 1985.
Man in factory, 1985.

Before the rampant industrialization of chocolate, chocolate was produced by hand. Originally, cacao was found in the Amazon basin, and consumed by the Olmecs, an ancient Mesoamerican civilization that preceded the Mayans (Lecture 02, slide 15). For some time, cacao remained local to Mesoamerica, until the first half of the 16th century (experts disagree on the exact year), when Hernaz Cortez brought cacao to Spain (Coe & Coe, 1996). Before this voyage, chocolate had to be culturally accepted by Spanish colonizers. Thus, they combined their own preferences with those of the Aztecs, consuming hot, rather than cool or cold, liquid chocolate; adding sugar, and spices; and employing the use of a molinillo to froth chocolate (Coe & Coe, 1996). Furthermore, the conversion of chocolate from a beverage to a solid form, as well as a powder that could subsequently be converted back to a liquid, was essential in the transportation of chocolate from Mesoamerica to Spain (Coe & Coe, 1996). Following the arrival of chocolate in Spain, this food subsequently made its way through other countries in the continent, going next to Italy, France, Britain, and then to the British colonies in the New World (Coe & Coe, 1996; Lecture 03, slide 25). 

As cacao made its way across the world, the means of chocolate production likewise changed. In Mesoamerica, cacao beans were ground with a metate, ultimately producing chocolate liquor. However, this mode of production was energetically expensive, and time-inefficient. With the inception of machines that were able to mechanically grind cacao beans into chocolate liquor, chocolate production has been able to increase exponentially, and this increased supply has been able to meet the growing demand of consumers – once consisting of the wealthy, now consisting of people from a variety of cultures and socioeconomic spheres. In fact, in 2018, US consumers of chocolate ingested more than a whopping 12 pounds of chocolate per person (Lecture 01, slide 3). 

Also important in the development of chocolate as an industrialized food was the use of slave labor in cacao production. “From demands for cocoa tribute by ruling Aztec kings, to enforced production by Spanish colonists in the Americas, through the importation of African slaves in South America and the Caribbean…the violent exploitation of humans has been a recurrent feature of cocoa production” (Leissle, 2018, p.131). Without this labor, cacao production, and consequently, the production of chocolate, would not have ballooned to modern-day levels, and the popularity of chocolate would likewise not be as great, as fewer people would have access to it. The first major explosion of cocoa production occured in the Gulf of Guinea, during the 1800s (Clarence-Smith, 1993; De Vasconcelos, 2007) . Through the employment of slave labor in this colony, Portugal was soon able to become the largest producer of cacao in the world (De Vasconcelos, 2007). Indeed, “the greater success of the Portuguese was due mainly to their access to a plentiful supply of slave labor” (Clarence-Smith, 1993, p.152). By 1876, slavery was legally abolished in the Portuguese colonies, but effectively continued in the shadows long after this emancipation. As chocolate production spread, slavery – whether legal or illegal – spread with it, allowing the industry to boom. Forced child labor can be found even in the modern era, as studies have indicated that almost 30 percent of child laborers in the Ivory Coast are effectviely held hostage on the fams on which they produce cacao, and more than an additional 10 percent of child laborers lack the financial stability to leave these farms, as of 2002 (Leissle, 2018). Coerced labor is the cheapest form of labor, and evidently still supports the industrialization of chocolate, even today. 

Artistic rendition of slave labor

Though the industrialization of chocolate has been supported on the backs on unfree laborers, the rise of Fair Trade organizations has served as an attempt to attenuate this injustice. These organizations award Fair Trade certification to companies that employ ethical cacao production practices, including protecting children from harsh labor, refraining from the use of unfree labor in their production, and instituting environmentally conscious practices (Leissle, 2018). Though much of the history of chocolate development as an industrialized food is morally unsavory, Fair Trade organizations provide the potential for a more just future in chocolate production. 

Box of chocolate confectionaries


Chocolate shapes [Photograph] (2015). Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/chocolate_201509

Clarence-Smith, W.G. (1993). Breaking the Chains: Slavery, Bondage, and Emancipation in Modern Africa and Asia. The University of Wisconsin Press.

Coe, S.D., & Coe, M.D. (1996). The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson. 

De Vasconcelos, A. The Cadbury and the Portuguese Cocoa, first decade 20th century. Economic interests, slave trade, and Quaker business ethics. Universidad de Aveiro, Dep. de Linguas e Culturas (2007).

Klimek, M.E. (1985). Vice President John J. Sullivan inside closed Ferry-Morse factory [Photograph]. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/cmv_000979

Latuff. (2008). Afro-Brazilian, from slavery to poverty [Illustration]. Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/Afro-brazilianFromSlaveryToPoverty

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

Hungry, Hungry Hershey: How Industrialization Led to the Widespread Consumption of Chocolate

Imagining a childhood without the sweet taste of a Hershey’s bar proves unfathomable: Chocolate lines the shelves of every convenience store while entire holidays have become synonymous with the consumption of chocolate products.  In other words, chocolate is everywhere and loved by everyone.  However, chocolate did not always represent a cherished staple found in every household.  From the advent of chocolate beverages in Mesoamerica to the sophisticated chocolate houses of seventeenth-century Europe, chocolate constituted an experience only afforded by the very rich, powerful, and influential.  As much a status symbol as a food to be enjoyed, chocolate remained a bastion of society’s elite until the inception of cost-reducing machinery of the Industrial Revolution.  During the Industrial Revolution, breakthroughs in the manufacture of chocolate transformed cocoa from a beverage consumed exclusively by the upper class to a mass-produced commodity of every socioeconomic status.

To fully appreciate chocolate’s rise to widespread popularity, its exclusive origins amongst society’s elite cannot be overlooked.  As described by anthropologists Sophie and Michael Coe, “for at least 28 centuries, chocolate had been a drink of the elite and the very rich” (Coe 232).  Indeed, the Maya – who mostly consumed chocolate in its liquid form – served cocoa during feasts for the political and economic elite as a display of power and wealth.  Viewed as a food of the gods, the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs regarded chocolate, and particularly chocolate foam, as a status symbol amongst wealthy merchants and nobility (Leissle 30–31).  Moreover, once trade introduced cocoa to European society, chocolate remained a staple among the elite as a “validation of social position” due to its high production costs and laborious manufacturing process (Mintz 90).  Spanish royalty craved chocolate, even crafting ornate dishware such as the mancerina solely for the consumption of liquid chocolate (Coe 137).  By the late seventeenth century, chocolate houses became well-established all throughout European cities, serving aristocrats, upper class individuals, and eventually, those seeking to discuss society’s most contentious political issues (Coe 210).  Thus, chocolate became cemented amongst Europe’s elite as the only social class able to afford the new commodity.

Scallop-shaped Mancerina dish from the Royal Factory of Alcora: Notice the collar-like ring in the center, designed to house a small cup, preventing spillage onto the expensive clothing of wealthy chocoholics.

 Van Houten’s invention of the hydraulic press in 1828 revolutionized the manufacturing process of chocolate, driving consumption across socioeconomic levels.  Prior to Houten’s hydraulic press, manufacturers manually boiled and skimmed cacao butter from chocolate in a time-consuming and expensive process.  In response, Houten invented a powerful hydraulic press that pulverized cacao butter out of chocolate, leaving a solid cake of grindable cocoa powder.  This much more efficient process, known as defatting, reduced production costs and made the solid consumption of chocolate easier in cakes, ice creams, and biscuits (Coe 242).  Additionally, Houten introduced the process of “Dutching,” which utilized alkaline salts to improve cocoa powder’s miscibility in water.  Dutching also made the powder darker in color, leading many consumers to believe it possessed a stronger chocolate flavor (Leissle 55).  This defatting and alkalizing method simplified cocoa production and led to the “large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses, in both powdered and solid form” (Coe 242).  Overall, Houten’s innovative production reduced manufacturing costs, which in turn allowed more widespread consumption of chocolate outside the upper class.

The firm of J.S. Fry & Sons’ breakthrough discovery in 1847 introduced the first solid chocolate fully intended for eating, rather than drinking.  Following Van Houten’s invention of the hydraulic press, much more cacao butter could be separated from cocoa than ever before.  Francis Fry and Joseph Storrs Fry capitalized on this increased production of cacao butter in their invention of the Chocolat Délicieux à Manger, or more commonly, the “chocolate bar.”  To create chocolate bars, the Fry firm invented a way to mix cocoa powder and sugar with cacao butter from Houten’s defatting process.  By mixing cocoa powder with cacao butter as opposed to warm water, Fry could produce a thinner paste capable of being molded into chocolate bars (Coe 243).  While a short-term high demand for cacao butter concentrated solid chocolate bar consumption amongst the wealthy, the price of cocoa powder plummeted, placing chocolate well “within the reach of the masses” (Coe 242).  Nonetheless, Houten’s hydraulic press and  Fry’s mixing techniques allowed for the mass-production of chocolate, causing a substantial reduction in price that dramatically increased chocolate consumption (Alberts and Cidell 123).  Consequently, chocolate no longer constituted a bastion of European elites to symbolize their wealth, but rather, progressed towards becoming a household staple. 

Revelations in Switzerland revamped chocolate from a bitter and gritty product into a smooth and varied decadence.  Although the Englishman Nicholas Sanders first combined milk with chocolate in 1727, his product did not constitute “milk chocolate” per se, but rather, a beverage mixing chocolate liquor with hot milk (Coe 249).  The chocolate industry could not produce true milk chocolate as they lacked a design that prevented dairy from spoiling (Alberts and Cidell 124).  In 1867, however, Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé discovered how to create milk powder via evaporation.  In collaboration with the Swiss chocolate manufacturer Daniel Peter, the two men combined Nestlé’s powder with cacao butter to produce the first true milk chocolate bar.  Perhaps, more importantly, Rudolph Lindt significantly improved the quality of chocolate with his invention of “conching” in 1879 (Alberts and Cidell 124).  A traditional conche used heavy granite rollers to grind cocoa and sugar mixtures into small particles that produced smoother chocolate with intensified flavor.  As a result, the conching process induced a boom in worldwide chocolate popularity and soon became a standard procedure in the industry (Coe 250–51).  Therefore, Swiss inventions of the late nineteenth-century heightened chocolate popularity (and consumption) through the emergence of milk chocolate and a final product with smoother texture.

Grinding & Conching in Action: Heated by steam or water, large granite wheels revolve on a stone bed to work cocoa into a decadent semi-liquid chocolate, admiringly referred to as “fondant” by Rudolph Lindt.

Industrial Revolution developments in chocolate production culminated in the application of the assembly line.  Perhaps, Milton S. Hershey’s chocolate empire represents the most sophisticated implementation of the chocolate assembly line.  Described as “the Henry Ford of Chocolate Makers,” Milton Hershey established a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania calibrated for mass-production (Coe 253).  Without the hydraulic press, conche, powdered milk, and other mechanistic breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution, Hershey would not have been able to adopt machinery for the widespread production of standardized chocolate recipes.  The efficiency of the assembly line – made possible by the Industrial Revolution – dramatically increased production of chocolate, helping offset manufacturing costs and boost consumption across socioeconomic levels.  For instance, by the late 1920s, Hershey’s factory produced about 50,000 pounds of cocoa every day (Coe 256).  As such, the adoption of a mechanized assembly line increased efficiency and production while creating chocolates of identical taste, texture, and quality for all of society.

Hershey Factory Wrapping Department, 1936: Women sit alongside the assembly line’s conveyer belt, hastily wrapping Hershey Kisses and verifying the weight of two-pound boxes.

Chocolate, as it is known today, would have never been possible without the manufacturing breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution.  Lindt’s conche introduced the smooth texture of chocolate loved throughout the world while Houten’s alkalization process paved the way for Oreo to become “milk’s favorite cookie.”  More importantly, Houten’s hydraulic press, Fry’s mixing techniques, and Hershey’s assembly line have allowed chocolate to become adored by all of society regardless of socioeconomic status.  Thanks to these major breakthroughs, chocolate has transcended social disparities, making the world just a tad sweeter.  

Works Cited

Alberts, Heike C., and Julie Cidell. Chocolate Consumption, Manufacturing, and Quality in Europe and North America. Oxford University Press. www-oxfordscholarship-com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu, https://www-oxfordscholarship-com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198726449.001.0001/acprof-9780198726449-chapter-6. Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.

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

ExplorePAHistory.Com – Image. http://explorepahistory.com/displayimage.php?imgId=1-2-127F. Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.

Grinding, ConchingYouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=72&v=Sg7d7dqZ01U&feature=emb_title. Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity, 2018.

“Mancerina Dish from the Royal Factory of Alcora – Unknown.” Google Arts & Culture, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/mancerina-dish-from-the-royal-factory-of-alcora-unknown/lwF_ttm8ODc2Sg. Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.

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

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

The Bigger Picture: How did we get here?

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

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

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

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

More chocolate for everyone!

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

Diagram of chocolate manufacture process (Mintz 1965).

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

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

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

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

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

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

The busy consumer

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

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

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

Chocolate today

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imperialism, Industrialization, and the Rise of Sugar in Great Britain

We take processed sugar for granted in most of our meals. It is a necessary ingredient in many recipes: we use it to sweeten our drinks, our meals, and our desserts. The world production of sugar shows the most remarkable upward curve of any major food in the world market over the course of several centuries, and it is continuing upward still. The exponentially growing supply of sugar directly parallels consumption behavior, especially evident in Britain. Sugar became a necessity in every British meal by the 19th century from a rarity among the socioeconomic elites of the 17th century. Today, an average person in Britain consumes 120 pounds of sugar every year.

What drove this phenomenal popularity? What social conditions enabled the growth in production to meet such demand? Big, structural changes, namely imperialism and industrialization, that pushed human civilization from the Medieval times through the Age of Enlightenment to the Modern Era established the fundamental framework for refined sugar to spread virally.

Demand for Sugar

As sugar gained popularity within the English nobility in the 17th and 18th century, its chemical properties were exploited for five distinct uses. Doctors, most of who still relied on Galenic humoral principles, prescribed ill patients with various concoctions with sugar as main ingredient. Dr. Frederick Slare found “sugar a veritable cure-all” and publishes his overenthusiastic support for commodity and its purported medicinal powers in his book A Vindication of Sugars Against the Charge of Dr. Willis, Other Physicians, and Common Prejudices: Dedicated to the Ladies (Mintz, 106). Such imagined miraculous wonders of sugar are deeply rooted in the Europe-centric orientalist mindset, mystifying sugar as a foreign and ancient panacea from the Arabs, who introduced the good to Europe. The use of sugar as a medicine diminished mostly due to its growing presence in the average household in Britain.

Sugar was also used as a condiment to impart a change in flavor of a dish. It was “grouped with spices like pepper, nutmeg, mace, ginger [and] cardamom,” to develop counterposed taste profiles like bittersweet and sweet and sour (Mintz, 79). Like other spices, sugar’s status as an exotic and expensive good in Medieval and Renaissance Europe was coveted by the rich and the powerful. The extremely wealthy also displayed their socioeconomic status by using pastes with sugar, almonds, rice, and gums to sculpt decorations often showcased at banquet courses. The symbolic importance of sugar declined significantly as its accessibility increased dramatically.

Although sugar’s uses as medicine, spice-condiment, and decorative material were meaningful contributors of its popularity especially among the 17th and 18th century elites, its more pragmatic properties fundamentally shifted the common public’s perception of sugar from a luxurious commodity to a necessity. The British climate allowed for a short growing season and foods would often rot, creating a substantial demand for sugar as a preservative and producing jams, marmalade’s, syrups and dried fruit as byproducts. Lastly, and most significantly, sugar became the main sweetener in connection with three other major imports: tea, chocolate, and coffee. By complementing their bitterness, sugar increased their approachability to the general public. This drove the demand for the three beverages, especially tea, which in turn drove the demand for sugar, creating a feedback loop.

Print of a giant sugar mill in 1862.

Additionally, industrialization of Britain and its consequent rise of free-market capitalism and decline of feudalism developed a homogenous working class, members of which constantly minimized costs and time to fulfill their labor hours. Sugar, which has the highest calorie per acre, provided a cost and time efficient supplement that did not require food. Therefore, “[industrial] families spent about double the amount on tea and sugar as their rural counterparts” by the mid-19th century (Griffin, 87). Sweetened preserves and pre-made pastries with sugar became popular meal substitutes for working parents.

Supply to Keep Up with Demand

The physical production of sugar had to match this phenomenal demand in Britain to keep prices down and increase accessibility. Sugar making is a long and difficult process, which involves laborious extraction and purification of the liquid from sugar canes. New Portugal supplied most of the sugar consumption in Europe, until British imperialistic motivations that sprung during the 17th century resulted in the colonization of two key islands in climate suitable for sugar cane plantation in 1650: Barbados and Jamaica. Another significant consequence of the imperialist/capitalist desire to meet demand resulted in the massive enslavement and mobilization of Africans to the Caribbean islands. These slaves “not only cut cane: at the center of every plantation was the factory: the sugar mill…and the boiling house and the sugar curing house, perhaps a distilling house for the manufacture of rum” (Norton). They fulfilled the “manual labor…absolutely essential for cultivation and for harvesting” (Robertson, 140). Slavery, until it was banned in the 19th century, allowed for significant decline in retail prices while still maintaining huge profitability for the plantation owners.

Cane cutting in a sugar plantation in Jamaica during the 19th century.

Industrialization and imperialism resulted in two similarly dispossessed laborers in massive populations that played fundamental roles in developing sugar as an ubiquitous commodity. European laborers, who worked in urban factories beginning in the 17th century, would become the mass consumers of sugar. The demand created from this working class was fulfilled by the slaves displaced by imperial Britain in the Caribbean colonies, and later indentured servants from India after the abolition of slavery in 1834.

Right Place at the Right Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multimedia Cited

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

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

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

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:


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).