Tag Archives: international trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Complicated History of Chocolate and Sugar in the Caribbean (and Abroad)

My Childhood Experience: 

I love chocolate and I love sugar even more. I have loved both since I was a child and will continue to love them well into my old age. The first time I tasted a Snickers chocolate bar on a small Caribbean island where almost all chocolate is imported, I was hooked- no other candy bar could compare. The Snickers bar became my cradle to grave candy bar and even today when I have one decades later, I tend to flash back to the nostalgic time when getting that chocolate (or any chocolate really) for me was a rare and expensive sugar-rush to be savored. In Barbados, the nation’s relationship with chocolate in general and sugar more specifically tends to be complicated by its history of slave labor production and British colonization (Beckles, 2017). Even in present day, conversations around the health of locals and sugar consumption are often linked back to the repercussions of this history.

Planting the sugar cane

Growing up in the Caribbean, there was no Halloween, no teachers that would give out candy to their students as rewards for good work in the classroom, no goodie bags filled with a delightful assortment at parties for me. Chocolate was a coveted treat and one that I was taught to respect as a child as something of value for having done good or been good in order to “deserve” it. While other kids would spend their lunch money on snacks, sweets, and chocolate during break, I was under strict rules not to spend money on such frivolities. Back then I was raised with the idea that chocolate and other sugary food was not money well spent and that the over consumption of sugar was a result of a still colonized mind. Although chocolate was not at the time as much of a staple as it is now, especially compared to the developed West, sugar was everywhere and in almost everything, like America and the UK. Bajans consumed large amounts of sugar regularly and have been since the mid 1600s when Britain relied on the colony for crops and began manufacturing sugar cane for their own consumption (Martin, 2018, slides 2-9).

Moreover, my mother- a professional cook and very health conscious- believed there were more potential health risks to eating chocolate and sugary treats and thought the health benefits were minimal. My grandfather had many theories on sugar’s use for the demise of the black population by the British crown.


He would say that the sugar industry used invasive propaganda and historically colonized slave mentality to keep locals pacified in order to maintain control of the island and keep its people unhealthy- like a drug. I had no idea what he meant by that back then, I was barely 7-8 years old when we would have these talks about the aftermath of sugar plantations in Barbados. Not until I was older did I reflect on these conversations and revisit them again in a class on chocolate culture.

My grandfather’s words resurfaced again when I read Sweetness and Power by Sidney Mintz. He wrote, “the upward climb of both production and consumption within the British Empire must be seen as part of an even larger general movement…We know that sugar consumption in the old sugar colonies…was part always very substantial- indeed, that slaves were given sugar, molasses, and even rum during slavery period as part of their rations” (Mintz, 1985, p. 72). When my grandfather would lecture on the perils of sugar- the cause of painful and expensive cavities, my diabetic relatives (one of which had the bottom part of her leg amputated from too my sugar in her diet), or the root of making people sluggish and less intelligent- did I start to develop a profound fear and wonder about the power of confectionaries. How could something so delicious be so dangerous? It took me many years to realize it was not just chocolate that was the primary concern for him. It was the production of sugar in Barbados by the enslavement of black people under British colonization and the exploitation of the island. The impact in which continues to have adverse risks to its citizens still.

Sugar cane harvest post card

There is a long tradition in Barbados to produce sugar in addition to an impulse to consume large amounts as well, which started with Britain’s obsession with the commodity. In fact, the turning point of British sugar production was the settlement of Barbados and thus both nations were transformed. One nation with the need to consume, the other forced to produce for consumption. Mintz aptly writes:

“England fought the most, conquered the most colonies, imported the most slaves, and went furthest and fasted in creating a plantation system. The most important product of that system was sugar. Coffee, chocolate (cacao), nutmeg, and coconut were among the other products, but the amount of sugar produced, the numbers of its users, and the range of its uses exceeded the others; and it remained the principal product for centuries” (Mintz p. 38).

Thus, my relationship with chocolate in my formative years was neither abundant nor overindulgent and my view of sugar was entwined with stories of the colonized bodies of my ancestors. Still I was a child and I had a sweet tooth- like many others from the island-, which made my mother wearier of permitting me to have it out of fear I would become gluttonous, overweight, and doltish. With diabetes prevalent on both sides of the family there were lectures on the perils of sugar and my ultimate demise if I consumed too often. This was ingrained into my childhood. However, kids will be kids and I found ways to get chocolate whenever I could and hide it craftily. My morning tea was mostly sugar. This complicated relationship with chocolate and sugar during my childhood in the Caribbean continued into adulthood abroad.

Barbados is not like other islands in Caribbean for many reasons. First, it is a very small island, one of the smallest. Second, it is the most outside of the Caribbean strip of islands and more isolated with a population of less than 300,000 people. What it does have in common with places such as St. Lucia, Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent, and Jamaica is that they were also ensnared in European and British colonization of their bodies and land for crop production. Now while many of these islands have transformed this into strong chocolate tourism foundation that has begun to flourish in the recent decades along with traditional crops of the past, Barbados struggles to join this cash crop sector. On other islands everything from haute and terroir chocolate to cheap chocolate are being produced. They were able to embrace the agricultural aftermath of slavery to make cacao and sugar into a moneymaking industry that appeals strongly to Western conception of sophistication and acceptability. In contrast, Barbados in the aftermath as a sugar producing island, chose to set up shop as a strong island tourism base and minimize the sugar industry production along with the dark history that came with it. In addition, the island is simply too small to produce many of its own crops, cacao being one of them. This caused many confectionery and snack factories in Barbados to be purchased and moved to Trinidad and Tobago as demand grew.

Looking back, it seems ironic that I thought cheap chocolate was more of an iconic delicacy than it really was. For instance, a $1 Snickers bar in America cost ~$4 USD in Barbados so its value felt more significant. Hence, it is understandable to me now why such chocolate was considered a special treat, especially in a family that thought it a wasteful. Growing up in Barbados, I had literally never eaten chocolate made on the island or any of the surrounding islands. Some factories used our sugar but that was about it, so it seemed like chocolate was a foreign substance from far off lands.

The only exposure to “fine” chocolate I had in the Caribbean was Cadbury Chocolate, a British multinational confectionery company that dominates the island almost single-handedly. Among locals, it is either loved or hated and can oftentimes be highly political because of its connection to the UK. Many believe that Britain as a nation continues to claw its way into the island’s industry via companies such as Cadbury, thus control by the British crown continues invisibility and from afar. Cadbury Chocolate in an island once dominated by a hugely profitable sugar industry that exploited African slaves is a contentious past still being unpacked.

Cadbury can be found everywhere on the island. Although the price is significantly higher than other candy bars, locals love it and consider it more “high end”. Although in the past 5-10 years more variety and quality chocolate is coming into the island and locals are getting a real taste of what good chocolate can be. It can be more than milk chocolate and chocolate covered candy. It has been a slow process because in Barbados dark chocolate is uncommon and unpopular. That is why one of the calls to action by local Bajans (and already promoted by other surrounding islands) is taking advantage of the blooming interest by tourists to try locally made chocolate and and for locals to reclaim untold histories.

In that respect, the island is now revisiting the history of cacao and sugar and getting more involved with the booming industry. In 2010, Agapey Chocolate was founded in Barbados conveniently located at the capital of Bridgetown. It is the only chocolate company on the island and is the only bean to bar chocolate company in Barbados.


Although the company was not very well known at first, it has grown in popularity among tourist and locals are now also taking advantage of their delicacies. The company has won multiple international awards and went through the process of Fair Trade certification (Agapey 2018). They offer in-depth tours of the factory that explain how their chocolate is made and also the history of chocolate and the role of cacao and sugar in the Caribbean. It is a good example of changing attitudes towards dark chocolate and progress in using local ingredients like rum and coconut to stimulate the economy.


An International Cultural Exploration of Chocolate and Sugar

When I journeyed across the North Atlantic Ocean and set up a new home in Somerville, Ma. I soon learned about the abundance of chocolate and its widespread availability for any and every occasion, or no occasion at all. My mind was blown. Now in this wondrous place, chocolate could be found in almost every store, market, gas station, etc. It is not rare or expensive. It can be very expensive with places like L.A Burdick’s or it can be cheap like a Snickers from CVS. With my mother back in Barbados, I had no restrictions on my chocolate or sugar intake and I swiftly sought to make up for lost time, eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. It was liberating; this was America. I ate so much candy my first months of arrival, I could not get enough. Sugar consumption was even more rampant and readily available in almost everything people consumed.

Retrospectively, Somerville turned out to be one of the best places in the U.S to get a real taste of a multicultural experience, including its cuisine, which made for a great exploration of the candied goods of other lands. There has been a long tradition of community building at the foundation of local revitalization and urban development in Somerville that took a great amount of pride in exposing neighbors to “food from back home”. For many longtime residents, organizing community-building initiatives at the neighborhood and local government level has been a strategic way to promote the city’s rich cultural diversity and mixed-income environment. It also created bridges to parts of the population that might otherwise face isolation from resources aimed to empower them to take agency in improving their own socio-economic condition, particularly immigrants and people of color. Food was used to bridge the divide.

One of the first events I attended to increase exposure to different cultures was an annual international food fair held at Somerville High School where all the food was made by students, staff, or donated by local businesses. My recollection of walking through the school’s gymnasium and sampling different foods from over 100+ countries and cultures represented was a lasting experience. My Brazilian friend took me over to a table where I had my first bon-bon, a chocolate covered wafer with more chocolate inside that is widely popular in Brazil and now internationally. Another friend showed me her homemade milky coconut cardamon treats of India. There was table after table with food that I had never tried before, a whole candy world outside of Snickers and Cadbury.

For my first Halloween, my friends who had been trained in this occasion advised me to ditch the Halloween bucket and grab an old pillowcase. A pillowcase I thought, how much candy could we possibly get? The answer to that was a lot, a pillowcase half way full equating to more than four of the buckets I was going to bring. Every holiday and special occasion involved candy and chocolate. In addition, because of Somerville’s immense international population, there was not just the typical American candy, but treats coming from all over the world. I became seasoned quickly on how, where, and when to get candy and what chocolate came from which country. Chocolate became a constant and a source of comfort as I adjusted to life in America. Chocolate was for sharing between friends, indulging with cousins, and for no occasion at all.

Not until college did I learn the meaning behind fair trade, direct trade, or bean to bar- thus my ignorance of chocolate started to unfold. As Maricel Presilla writes, “to know chocolate, you must know that the candy in the box or the chef’s creation on the plate begins with the bean, the complex genetic profile of different cacao strains” (Presilla, 2009, p. 4). So began my segway into learning about chocolate production and saying goodbye to Snickers for a bit. I wanted to know about chocolate beyond what popular culture had taught me and beyond what my childhood experiences had ingrained.

I became engrossed with learning about the history of chocolate. I went to Madrid, Spain where I drank chocolate for the first time. Discovered theobroma cacao comes from Greek and means “food of the gods”.  I learned that Spanish invaders took the word cacao and their first real knowledge of cacao came from the Maya people of the Yucatan Peninsula. They used the word chokola’j, or ‘to drink together’. (Presilla, 2009, p. 10-12) and chocolate is amount one of the bastardized words created because it was easier for Europeans to pronounce. There I saw that even from the naming of cacao that history of chocolate was written and known mostly from a western-centric point of view and that influence continues today. I needed a different more authentic understanding of chocolate and kept traveling. I visited Tlaxcala, a sovereign state in Mexico with a strong connection to its complex history with cacao. There I used a molinillo for the first time- a whisking device to make cacao frothy- and drank a cup of chocolate that I helped prepare using traditional Mexican tools like the metate.

The story of how cacao developed from a sacred drink to the industrialized food that it is today is a complex history that dates back thousands of years. The story of how sugar production exploded in the Caribbean is also connected to the history of cacao. The bodies of black and brown people were used for European gain as was the land. Today, this history can be very complicated for the generations that followed. My relationship with chocolate and sugar has evolved overtime from a child in Barbados to a teen in America, to a traveler of the world. As my own understanding of these topics continues to expand, I will continue to enjoy these goods the best I can and keep educating myself on the topic.

Work Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. (1996).  The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 28 Feb. 2018. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin, 1985. Print.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA, 2009. Print.

“On Barbados, the First Black Slave Society” via AAIHS. Here is the website link: https://www.aaihs.org/on-barbados-the-first-black-slave-society/.



Images (in order):

“Planting the sugar-cane” (Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library).

“Slaves Wanted” Advertisement for the Island of Barbados (Credit: Lascelles Slavery Archive)

“Sugar Plantation Barbados, Carting Sugar Canes To The Mill”  W. L. Johnson & Co. Ltd., Barbados. No. 15

Agapey Chocolate Factory Website Photos (Credit: agapey.com)

Exploring the Chocolate Selection in the Square

You can learn a lot from the chocolate selection at a retail shop.

Cardullo’s is a speciality gourmet shop and delicatessen in Harvard Square. A staple of the Square since 1950 Cardullo’s is home to the area’s food-lovers. Along with providing freshly prepared foods and sandwiches Cardullo’s offers a wide selection of chocolates, teas, wines, liquors, and hard to find specialty food items from around the world.

Just across the street from Cardullo’s is CVS, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy and convenience retailer chains. Along with pharmaceutical and household items, CVS carries an extensive array of products to meet consumers every need.

Cardullo’s is the place I go to when I’m looking to make a splurge on quality food items — chocolate in particular. I trust the selection at Cardullo’s and know that even though it will be a splurge, the quality and superior taste of the chocolate merits the few extra dollars.  

CVS on the other hand is my go-to shop for all my basic needs. I visit CVS whenever I need to purchase anything really whether it be sun block, snacks, notebooks, cosmetics, medicines or household items due to its central location, affordable prices, and broad range of products. While I don’t usually head to CVS to satisfy a chocolate craving (Cardullo’s is my usual stop), I normally end up with some sort of chocolate sweet in my basket when I’m checking out.


The chocolate bar selection at Cardullo’s is hard to match. When I visited Cardullo’s the other day I counted at least 30 different brands of chocolate bars that were out on display! And this is just chocolate bars – this number does not include the various other chocolate products such as truffles, cocoa powder, and chocolate covered goods such as dried fruit or nuts. Pictured above is part of the chocolate bar selection at Cardullo’s. As you can see from the pictures above, a large portion of the chocolate at Cardullo’s are imported from various countries. Although the original packaging might be in French, German, or another language, most of these bars have a sticker with the text translated to English. Cardullo’s prides itself of being a gourmet shop and it’s chocolate selection proves their high standard of gourmet goods. The selection of chocolate bars also show that Cardullo’s considers chocolate more than just another commodity by providing craft chocolates to consumers (Martin, lecture 13). 

The flavors of chocolate bars Cardullo’s offers are very interesting — there are many different flavors to choose from. Along with the normal milk and dark chocolate offerings that one would expect, Cardullo’s has chocolate bars filled with unexpected add-ons such as bacon, “coconut ash,” bananas, chipotle, bread crumbs, toffee, honey, mint, ginger, various nuts, berries, and spices. Most of these bars are imported. I found bars made in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Along with clearly stating what country the bar was made in, the chocolate bars in Cardullo’s clearly state where the cacao beans were sourced from.

The single origin chocolate bars have the region where the cacao is taken from clearly displayed on the front label. You can see this in the photos above of the Taza and Valrhona single-origin bars.

I really appreciated the label of the Nirvana chocolate bar pictured above. Not only does it give me information on where the bar was made (Belgium) but also it tells me where the cacao was sourced from (Dominican Republic) and that it comes from Trinitario beans that were ethically sourced! This was the only bar that I could find that specified the type of cacao bean used. You can also clearly see the fair trade and USDA organic certification on the packaging.

Most of the chocolate bars in Cardullo’s had certifications denoting that the chocolate was farmed in a socially responsible and ethical manner such as Fairtrade, UTZ, USDA Organic, TAZA Direct Trade, Non-GMO Verification, IMO For Life, and Rainforest Alliance among others. Engagement with the fair trade movement  has been a successful strategy to change consumer attitudes and reward them for caring about socially and environmentally sound practices (Davies, Ryals 319). 

The packaging of the chocolate bars in Cardullo’s also served the purpose of conveying the company’s story, mission, and core beliefs to the consumer. This gives the consumer the opportunity to learn more about their product, hopefully forming a connection with the consumer to win over their loyalty (Martin, lecture 10). Pictured below are examples of messages found on the back of the chocolate bar packaging. I appreciated reading the stories on the back of the packaging because it helped justify the chocolate bars higher prices. The story on the back of the Divine chocolate bar highlights their unique selling point that Divine is owned by the farmers that grow the cocoa – members of The Kuapa Kokoo cooperative” (Leissle 123).

The chocolate bars in Cardullo’s ranged from $5-$17 dollars with a median price of $10. While I was shocked to find a $17 dollar chocolate bar, pictured below, from class this semester I have learned the justifications behind the higher prices such as sustainable certifications and higher quality of the cacao and production of the bar. The price point of the chocolate bars at Cardullo’s signifies that the shop is catering to a sophisticated consumer who might appreciate the craft of chocolate making or just a higher quality chocolate. 


$17 chocolate bar!


My experience visiting CVS’ chocolate section was vastly different from my experience at Cardullo’s. Although there was a large quantitiy of chocolate bars in CVS, there were far fewer brands for sale. CVS sells the usual suspects: Hershey’s, Dove (a Mars product), Nestle, Cadbury, Ferrero, the “big 5”, along with more premier brands such as Lindt, Ghiradelli (operated by Lindt) and Ritter Sport. Pictured below is the chocolate bar asile in CVS along with its “premium chocolate” selection.


While browsing the shelves, however, I did find a brand of chocolate bar that I was surprised to see: Endangered Species Chocolates (pictured below).


As a CVS shopper who frequents the chocolate aisle I was surprised to find this bar hidden on the edge of their display shelf. I was surprised because I am used to CVS carrying bars solely from the big 5 chocolate companies and it was pleasantly surprising to see an ethically sourced chocolate bar represented on their shelf! In fact, I found only two chocolate bars at CVS with sustainability certifications. The Endangered Species Chocolate bar boasts Fairtrade certification on its cover and the Dove chocolate bars, a product from Mars, had Rainforest Alliance certifications on their covers. These two types of bars were placed next to each other on display. Unfortunately neither of these brands were highlighted in CVS’ “Premium Chocolate” selection. This was unfortunate because CVS should use their national presence to promote sustainability and ethically sourced chocolate.

When I inspected the “premium” chocolate bars– the Lindt and Ghiradelli bars– I was surprised that neither of these bars had sustainability or ethical certifications. Although the Ghiradelli bars said that only “the highest quality cocoa beans” were selected for thier product, there were no certifications to back up this claim, as shown below.


The packaging of the chocolate bars at CVS were not similar to the bars at Cardullo’s. Although the front of the packaging may look similar, when I flipped the bars over I did not find the same sort of message and story that I found on the back of the bars in Cardullo’s.

Instead of the story of the company and the company’s goals,  I found a list of ingredients and maybe a line or two about the brand.


The lack of certifications and brand “stories” helped justify the lower price point I saw at CVS. The chocolate bars at CVS were much larger than the bars at Cardullo’s and  in the $2-$4 range. The lower prices of the chocolate bars at CVS could be more desirable for consumers who are looking to save money and might be more frugal than the average Gourmet Shop consumer.



From the selection at Cardullo’s you can tell that they are marketing their items towards a consumer who is conscious of ethical concerns and willing to pay more for ethical reasons. Cardullo’s attracts an adventurous eater who has the budget for a higher priced specialty  food items. Although their consumer base is much smaller than CVS’ you can tell from the selection of chocolate bars at Cardullo’s that sustainability and ethics is at the top of their concerns regarding products they choose to sell. On the other hand, CVS’ target audience consists of people willing to get the biggest bang for their buck and CVS capitalizes on that sentiment by offering cheap products while sacrificing the importance of sustainability and ethicality that is apparent at Cardullo’s. Since CVS operates on a national level based on everything that I have learned in this class this semester I would hope that they (CVS) did more to promote ethical practices and sustainability through the products they sell. CVS has the opportunity to make a difference on the national level, whereas small gourmet shops such as Cardullo’s do not. What I learned from this class and the selection of chocolate at CVS is that CVS has the opportunity to create a conversation regarding ethically traded goods and by failing to promote these kinds of products CVS is not doing their part to help change consumer behavior. Browsing the selection of chocolate bars at Cardullo’s after taking this course made me appreciate how they are doing their part to educate consumers. Not many people in America have the opportunity to take a class on the politics of chocolate and understand the social and ethical concerns regarding chocolate. CVS and similar nation-scaled companies should recognize that the average consumer is unaware of the unethical practices behind chocolate and they should do their part to help educate them by promoting ethically sourced chocolate bars.


Works Cited

Davies, Iain A., and Lynette J. Ryals. “The Role of Social Capital in the Success of Fair Trade”. Journal of Business Ethics 96.2 (2010): 317–338. Web.
Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139. Class Reading.

Martin, Carla D. 2016. Lecture 10: Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization.


Martin, Carla D. 2016. Lecture 13: Haute patisserie, artisan chocolate, and food justice.


Media Sources

All photography taken by the author of this post

Lost Voices: The Consequences of International Trade and Cacao on Production and Indigenous Cultures.

While international markets enjoy cacao, indigenous populations continue to suffer under its weight. Photo compliments of Confectionery News.

Although the international trade of cacao has grown exponentially over centuries and brought great wealth and economic power to people and countries; there have been dire consequences that indigenous people and the production quality of the cacao  have suffered. The cacao trade has become a world leader of raw commodities, and as the United Nations reports, the industry produces roughly 4.7 million tons per year which ranks number 17 in the global import market (chart below).

Yet, despite this incredible success, evidence shows that the more powerful have continued to exploit the more vulnerable.  

Additional information and current trends and market data for the International Cacao Trade, can be seen here: http://www.icco.org/statistics/monthly-review-of-the-market.html

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(Chart by UN~FAOSTAT, demonstrating raw food tonnage by import category, for 2011.)

Rank Commodity Quantity (tonnes) Flag Value (1000 $) Flag Unit value ($/tonne)
1 Soybeans 90813977 3 51403325 1 566
2 Wheat 147205956 1 51184264 2 348
3 Food Prep Nes 13416474 13 49892030 3 3719
4 Palm oil 36589672 5 42034273 4 1149
5 Maize 108067148 2 36342489 5 336
6 Rubber Nat Dry 7179256 27 33765962 6 4703
7 Wine 10004329 20 33041355 7 3303
8 Coffee, green 6445688 34 28303554 8 4391
9 Bever. Dist.Alc 4074220 56 27945091 9 6859
10 Cake of Soybeans 63593084 4 27458049 10 432
11 Meat-CattleBoneless(Beef&Veal) 4931836 45 26246728 11 5322
12 Cigarettes 1003748 135 25381577 12 25287
13 Cheese of Whole Cow Milk 4764853 46 24670883 13 5178
14 Cotton lint 7856760 25 23177384 14 2950
15 Sugar Raw Centrifugal 33838303 6 22649899 15 669
16 Pastry 6958052 28 22542345 16 3240
17 Chocolate Prsnes 4717528 48 22429658 17 4755
18 Chicken meat 11391477 17 21792056 18 1913
19 Pork 5260397 43 18300081 19 3479
20 Sugar Refined 21921611 8 16694636 20 762

In his book, Sweetness and Power, Sidney Mintz claims that while the cacao trade expansion from indigenous cultures to one of a global network has provided not only increased access to foreign markets for cacao, it has also allowed for the rise in trade of other commodities such as sugar, wheat, and rum (43).  Further, he says, that not only did it create new markets but it also provided for essential exchange of information and the sharing of new ideas across cultures. Additionally, this expansion allowed for new players to enter the game and to create a new revenue stream. As Maricel Presilla reports, in her book The New Taste of Chocolate, that in recent decades, with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Vietnam’s government has worked to adapt the fields to grow cacao after the failure of coffee as a cash crop (120).

Cacao Growth in Vietnam, Photo by Vietnam News.
The expansion, which began in 2012, has increased the plant’s capacity by four times, from 60,000 tonnes per year to 240,000 tonnes.

However, along with massive cacao production for international markets, came trade-offs that weighed heavily on the success of cacao production.

Whereas the temperamental cacao loves to have its feet in wet soil and its roots shaded by debris-mostly for the benefits of the pollinating midge population-the corporate plantations are streamlined and debris free. These practices, while aesthetically appealing, have contributed to crop failure which are today at record levels, asserts chocolate researcher, Michael Coe, in his book The True History of Chocolate (21). Additionally, the drive to capitalize on massive production and international networks has promoted an increased focus on quantity and a decreased focus on quality. Where formerly there was an overall production balance between high-quality Criollo and lower quality Forestero, today’s cacao farms produce mostly low quality beans. In Trinidad, for example, 95% of what is produced is low-bulk beans, and only roughly 5% are of the highest quality “Arriba” bean (Presilla 123).

An opened cacao pod shows damage done by insects; a common trend in today's cacao production.
An opened cacao pod shows diseased exterior and seeds; a common trend in today’s cacao production.

The following is an example of current cacao diseases that exist largely on corporate plantations, compliments of The American Phytopathological Society:

Diseases Pathogen Region Reduced Production
(tons x 1000) ($ million)*
Black Pod Phytophthora spp. Africa/Brazil/ Asia 450 423
Witches’ Broom Crinipellis perniciosa Latin America 250 235
Frosty Pod Rot Moniliophthora roreri Latin America 30 47
Swollen Shoot CSSV Africa 50 28
Vascular- streak dieback Oncobasidium theobromae Asia 30 28

Quality aside, the indigenous populations have also suffered under massive change. Forced to make changes within their own cultures that were not easy or welcome, millions rebelled and either died from abhorrent living conditions or were killed by the enslavers (Martin 4). Not only were these populations forced into changing small farming methods, and to plant foreign crops; but they were also forced into laboring for low wages or worse yet, under slavery. No longer were they able to provide their own families with food, but they were forced to pay for imported goods from the sponsoring country (Coe 13)… and exploitation of people, land, and cultures, became the norm as cross-cultural hybridization took place (Presilla 118-123).

Moreover, the international trade routes were built around the three-way trade system, carrying what Mintz calls the “false commodity” (43) of human slaves. This entrenchment of cacao in slavery has left a bitter note in history and even today invokes strong passion as information surfaces about modern day slavery practice. Carol Off, in her book “Bitter Chocolate” discusses how the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) experiences high levels of corruption and child enslavement, with “farmers paying groups of smugglers to deliver the children to their groves” (121). Michael Coe agrees, saying as recent as the year 2000, “several million African children, many of whom have been abducted from neighboring countries work under terrible conditions” (264).

Thus, despite the improvements in trade and the massive wealth obtained, evidence shows that there are hefty consequences paid by many and that the human rights violations and other exploitation in the name of cacao, continues.

Video on current child-slave-labor crimes, compliments of BBC World News.

Works Cited

American Phytopathological Society: Chart of Cacao Diseases. 2001. Web.  12 Mar 2015.

“Cocoa Farms Still Using Child Labour.” BBC World News. On.aol.com. 10 Nov 2011. Web.12 Mar 2015.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London, 2013. Print. Confectionery News. Ferrero Makes  Fair Trade Cacao Commitment after Rule Change. Image. 10 mar 2014. Web.

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Faostat.fao.org. 2011. 11 Mar 2015.

International Cocoa Org. Market Review. Jan 2015. http://www.icco.org/statistics/monthly-review-of-the-market.html. Website. PDF.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.”  Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 04 Mar. 2015.Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.” Harvard Extension School:  Cambridge, MA. 28. Jan. 2015. Class Lecture.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York: The New Press, 2006. Print.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA, 2009. Print.

Thuey, Tuang. “Cargill Expanding Vietnam Feed, Cocoa.” Vietnambreakingnews.com. 10 May 2014. Web. 10 Mar 2015.