Tag Archives: marketing

Naughty but Nice: Gendered Sexualization in Chocolate Advertising

Chocolate is recognized as one of the most craved foods in the world, resulting in the coinage of terms such as chocoholic or chocolate addict. However, going from targeted marketing by most chocolate companies around the world, one would assume that the majority of the chocolate addicts or chocoholics were, women. As soon as a woman takes her first bite, in an advertisement, a sense of ecstasy follows triggered by the chocolate, invariably showing the relationship between women’s sexual pleasure and chocolate. Women’s sexual pleasure, much like the attitude towards chocolate, is considered sinful; the juxtaposition of these two views woven into narratives through chocolate commercials, only solidifies the concept of “naughty but nice” as they objectify women sexually while they are consuming chocolate.

Women tend to be sexually depicted in commercials in two ways, one, in which women are aroused by consuming chocolate, or two, women become attractive to men after they consume chocolate. Below are examples of two ads from Dove and Godiva that exemplify these two categories of portrayal of women in chocolate advertising. 


In both the commercials, chocolate is seen as a sinful treat that women consume. In the first Dove commercial, a woman is being wrapped in chocolate coloured silk as she sighs and savors the luxury of consuming chocolate whilst being wrapped around by a luxurious fabric. It is depicting the after effects of consuming the chocolate whilst showing what a privilege it is to be able to consume chocolate. The background music and noises further alludes to the effect of sexual arousal post consumption and the use of silk in the commercial shows luxury and class, and at the same time, it represents a material that is often used to portray sex. In the Godiva commercial, three women are shown in three different locations wearing long dresses that represent three kinds of Godiva chocolates; dark, milk and white. Three men can be seen gifting chocolates to the women, which in turn sexually arouses the women and thus excites the men. It is interesting to note that the commercial does not show men consuming the chocolate, but only women. In one instance in the commercial, one of the women almost shares the chocolate with the man but then teases him as she eats the whole truffle herself, because she just cannot share it or resist it.

Professor Peter Rogers, from the University of Bristol, explains: “A more compelling explanation lies in our ambivalent attitudes towards chocolate – it is highly desired but should be eaten with restraint”, he further states that “Our unfulfilled desire to eat chocolate, resulting from restraint, is thus experienced as craving, which in turn is attributed to ‘addiction’.” (Rogers, 2007) Women in the above commercials depict this relationship of resistance and indulgence with chocolate, not only through the consumption of chocolate itself but also through their sexual desires. Due to the perception that “nice” women and their sexual pleasures should be restrained as opposed to men’s sexual pleasures, chocolate gives them the narrative, the chance of indulgence, and gives them the opportunity to be “naughty”. Chocolate then starts to show women’s relationship with their own sexual desires, that relies on chocolate to be fueled.

Chocolate, then hence is portrayed to being the food for women by commercials. In contrast, a Burger King commercial shows meat as the food for men, aptly titled “I am Man”. The commercial shows men eating burgers while chanting socially accepted norms that make them men; these are men who are strong and can lift cars and pull heavy weights, men who cannot survive on “chick food” such as quiche. Commercials such as the one by Hungry Man, as well as Mc Donald’s McRib advertisement, show only men, consuming meat products. When catered to men such as the ones that are shown in these commercials, chocolate becomes delicate and feminine. When contrasted, meat becomes the socially accepted food for men while chocolate becomes the socially accepted food for women. 

Without any concrete scientific evidence, chocolate is now widely believed to be craved by women more than men. Dr. Julia Hormes from University of Albany states in her study published in Appetite in 2011 that “half of the women [in the U.S.] who crave chocolate say they do so right around menstruation,”. (Hormes, 2011) Hormes’s study tried to correlate menstruation with chocolate craving however, she arrived at the conclusion that “These biochemical, physiological hypotheses didn’t pan out.”  (Hormes, 2011) Hormes believes that the strong influence of culture, particularly the kind portrayed in commercials plays a role in how women tend to react to chocolate.

In an interview with Kate Bratskeir of Huffington Post, Hormes talks about chocolate marketing, she says;

“Chocolate is marketed as a way for women to deal with negative emotion (like, say, the stress and headaches that come with PMS), Hormes said. It is an “indulgence” because it is an exception to the rule — women who diet and subscribe to a certain ideal of beauty should only consume chocolate when they “need” it.”…“Only in America. In Spain, for example, women don’t report craving chocolate perimensturally nearly as much as women in the U.S. do. It’s not that Spanish women have a different make-up to their cycle, it’s really that tampon and chocolate ads aren’t aired during the same commercial break. In the U.S., it seems, there’s something so strongly feminine about chocolate that fewer men report wanting it. But, “Spanish men are almost as likely to crave chocolate as Spanish women.” In Egypt, neither men nor women really report craving chocolate; “They tend to crave savory foods,” Hormes said.” (Hormes, 2011)

The need that is described above by Hormes is a culturally manufactured one that is fabricated through commercials showing women needing chocolates, specially when it comes to sex.

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Ferrero Rocher Print ad. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/12/02/guest-post-sex-desire-and-chocolate-propaganda-research/

Chocolate advertisements not only play into women’s sexual desires but also women’s body image and various insecurities. The above print ad from Ferrero Rocher shows a naked model being tempted by chocolates that are growing from the tree. The ad is attaching the narrative of Eve and the forbidden fruit to chocolate, depicting this woman as a “sinner” for consuming chocolate and having sexual desires. The ad also shows a skinny model indulging in the sinful act of consuming chocolate. The inclusion of a model, gives off an image that makes it okay for women of regular sizes to indulge in chocolate. It shows that women can still be thin and be naughty, and consume chocolate as a guilty pleasure. While talking about the relationship of female body image and chocolate marketing, in his paper, Occidental College student, Jamal Fahim writes,

In order to remain slim and attractive, women must avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories. Images of the ideal body have permeated the minds of many consumers who are inclined to view the body as an object of admiration and a model for self-construction. Moreover, consumer goods may serve to compensate for a person’s “feelings of inferiority, insecurity or loss, or to symbolize achievement, success or power” (Campbell 1995:111)”.

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Dove Print ad. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/12/02/guest-post-sex-desire-and-chocolate-propaganda-research/

Chocolate companies tend to play up various different feelings that Campbell described whilst talking about consumer products, however in most cases those feelings within the wide spectrum from insecurity to success are usually related to sex and women in chocolate advertising. The print Dove advertisement above, for example, associates itself with an insecurity that is often linked with sex, lasting longer. The ad compares indulging the Dove bar to lasting longer while showing the face of a woman who is satisfied.

All the advertisements mentioned above adds to the misconception of chocolate as an aphrodisiac and that it works more on women. The New York Times article, tries to evaluate this claim stating;

“Nowadays, scientists ascribe the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, if any, to two chemicals it contains. One, tryptophan, is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal. The other, phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine, is released in the brain when people fall in love. But most researchers believe that the amounts of these substances in chocolate are too small to have any measurable effect on desire. Studies that have looked for a direct link between chocolate consumption and heightened sexual arousal have found none. The most recent study, published in May in the journal Sexual Medicine, looked specifically at women, who are thought to be more sensitive to the effects of chocolate. The researchers, from Italy, studied a random sample of 163 adult women with an average age of 35 and found no significant differences between reported rates of sexual arousal or distress among those who regularly consumed one serving of chocolate a day, those who consumed three or more servings or those who generally consumed none.” (O’ Connor, 2006)

The article concludes by stating that, “if chocolate has any aphrodisiac qualities, they are probably psychological, not physiological” (O’ Connor, 2006).

This psychological perception of chocolate and sex is one that is manufactured by chocolate advertising bringing out various themes that are associated with female sexuality starting from the perception that female sexual desires are akin to a sin, to body image issues that perpetuates women’s need to be slim to various other insecurities associated with sex such as lasting longer or overall satisfaction. Even though the findings and correlation between chocolate and sex are negligible, the marketing for chocolate continues to perpetuate chocolate’s association with sex and its implied special relevance to women’s sexuality as it plays into societal expectations from women, that require them to be and make them more attractive if they are “naughty but nice”.

Work Cited:

Bratskeir, Kate. “This Is Why Women Crave Chocolate, Men Want A Burger” Huffington Post. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/10/chocolate-craving-pms-men-vegetables_n_6102714.html&gt;

Campbell, Colin. 1995. “The Sociology of Consumption.” Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies. London, England: Routledge.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing”. 2010. Sociology Student Scholarship <http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_student&gt;

Hormes, Julia M, Alix Timko. “All cravings are not created equal. Correlates of menstrual versus non-cyclic chocolate craving”. Appetite. Vol 57. 2011. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21440592&gt;

Lindell, C.  Women and chocolate: A history lesson. Candy Industry, 180(3), 21. 2015

O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Chocolate Is an Aphrodisiac”. The New York Times. 2006. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/18/health/18real.html&gt;

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire. New York: Manchester UP, 2009. 

University of Bristol. “Chocolate Is The Most Widely Craved Food, But Is It Really Addictive?.” ScienceDaily. September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911073921.htm>.

 

Bipolar Self-Medication with Chocolate: How Science Has Confirmed Chocolate’s Place as a Mood-Enhancer

Ever since the Spaniards discovered the new world, and along with it, discovered chocolate, chocolate consumption has been associated with medicinal benefits.

In The True History of Chocolate, Sophie and Michael Coe tell us:
“the Spaniards had stripped [chocolate] of the spiritual meaning which it had for the Mesoamericans, and imbued it with qualities altogether absent among the Aztecs and Maya: for the invaders, it was a drug, a medicine, in the humoral system to which they all adhered. It is hardly surprising to find that it was under this guise that chocolate travelled in Europe, from one court to another, from noble house to noble house, from monastery. But it soon became a medicine that was appreciated for its taste, its filling nature, and its stimulation.” (Coe and Coe 126)

We have several early Spanish attestations to medicinal properties of the newly discovered chocolate. Girolamo Benzoni, author of the History of the New World (1575), was among the first to write of chocolate’s beneficial effects on the body, though he did not exactly liken it to medicine or medicinal effects. He writes that chocolate “satisfies and refreshes the body” (Coe and Coe 110). These generalized benefits of chocolate consumption for the body soon developed into medicinal effects, as the Spanish began to encorporate chocolate consumption into their Galenic views of medicine (Coe and Coe 122). In 1570, Philip II had sent his Royal Physician Francisco Hernández to Mesoamerica on what would ultimately be a seven-year expedition to document native plants so that the Spanish might benefit from Mesoamerican medicinal practices, which were far superior to their own (Coe and Coe 122). Coe and Coe describe Hernández’s incorporation of chocolate into the Galenic system:
“Cacao and chocolate naturally attracted Hernández’s attention. The cacao seed is ‘temperate in nature,’ he says, but leaning to the ‘cold and humid’; on the whole, it is very nourishing […]. Because of its cool nature, drinks made from it are good in hot weather, and to cure fevers. Adding the mecaxochitl flavoring to chocolate not only gives it an agreeable taste, but because it, like most cacao spices, is ‘hot’ by nature, it ‘warms the stomach, perfumes the breath … [and] combats poisons, alleviates intestinal pains and colics,’ and so on.” (Coe and Coe 122)
Hernández’s description firmly set chocolate in the medicinal conversation of Europe forevermore.

The use of chocolate as medicine persisted in European history. The medicinal properties of chocolate beverages were cited by Francesco Maria Brancaccio in 1664 as an argument for why chocolate beverages should be permitted during times of ecclesiastical fasting (Coe and Coe 149). Most 18th century authorities believed that, as long as it was not consumed in excess, chocolate was on the whole very beneficial to one’s health.

Though much of the conversation about chocolate as medicine was centered around its physical benefits, people also began to suggest mental benefits of chocolate consumption as well. In his 1591 treatise on New World foods, Juan de Cárdenas asserted that chocolate consumption, among its other properties, could make one “happy” (Coe and Coe 123). Later, in the 1600s, marquise de Sévigné, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, advises a correspondent who was apparently not sleeping that “chocolate will set you up again” (Coe and Coe 155).

These early attestations to beneficial psychological effects of chocolate consumption paved the way for modern beliefs in chocolate’s psychological effects, as a mood enhancer. The public’s belief that consuming chocolate will boost their mood has greatly impacted the modern chocolate market. A recent report by Mintel (2016) “found 24% of British consumers say they have bought chocolate confectionery in the last three months to boost their mood, while 64% of Chinese consumers agree that eating chocolate is an effective way to relieve stress” (Yu). Many chocolate companies advertise in such a way as to capitalize on the mood-enhancing effects of chocolate.

brain-health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate
Depicting many of the psychological effects attributed to chocolate consumption in the modern age, this particular image is used by Fondant Chocolate, a premier chocolate company in India, as part of its marketing. This demonstrates how the modern chocolate market benefits from public belief in the positive psychological effects of chocolate consumption.

Many people seek out chocolate for its mood-enhancing benefits, but this essay will focus on a group of people who use chocolate for much more than cheering themselves up on a bad day: those diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

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This medically reviewed article on Healthline shows that not only do bipolar people self-medicate and crave chocolate, but it is actually being medically recommended as a remedy for bipolar symptoms. (Krans)

For the purposes of this essay, it is useful to give a brief overview of what bipolar disorder, a mood disorder, entails. The International Bipolar Foundation describes:
“Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. […] Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings– from overly ‘high’ and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.” (“Learn”)
It should also be mentioned that people with bipolar have low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is considered to be a naturally occurring mood stabilizer (Peeke).

 

First, I will mention that the reason I picked this topic is because I am, myself, bipolar, and I, like many other bipolar people, have used chocolate to self-medicate. Many others with bipolar also use other, actual drugs to self-medicate (such as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin) and often develop substance abuse problems. I, however, never found comfort in a bottle. Chocolate was my self-prescribed mood-stabilizer, long before I had even received my diagnosis. It is my intention to share a little bit about my own use of chocolate as a mood-enhancer, before delving into the science and explicating why the use of chocolate as medicine, though not treating the same ailments as chocolate beginning in the 1500s, may actually have more clout than a simple urban myth.

I am not exactly sure when my bipolar disorder began manifesting symptoms, but in hindsight, I can definitively say that by junior high, it was definitely in full-swing. My pre-teens through early college life were categorized by all the typical signs: extreme mood swings with intermittent periods of normalcy, ‘bipolar rage’ (blind, irrational, near-violent anger with no traceable cause), crippling anxiety, et cetera. I am not sure at what point my childhood love of chocolate became a realization that eating chocolate helped my mood, but at some point, I began to associate my turbulent moods with a solution: the consumption of chocolate. It made me feel better, especially in the moment, but eventually I would come crashing down, as my mood spiraled downward. I would thus seek out more chocolate to ease that depression, and thus I became as dependent on chocolate as an alcoholic is on alcohol to self-medicate. I became so dependent on chocolate as my self-prescribed mood enhancing drug that I actually developed compulsive-eating and binge-eating disorders (see also a blog about another bipolar person’s experience with this). Even my family recognized the power that chocolate had to improve my moods, and when they saw that I was struggling on a given day, their go-to method of cheering me up was giving me something with chocolate in it.

I was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until I was 20 years old, and it took until I was 22 to finally be put on the right dosage of the right medication: lithium. Lithium is arguably the oldest psychiatric medication around (in use during Classical times (Angst and Marneros)) and is a mood-stabilizer. Lithium will be very important in the science on chocolate as a mood-stabilizer that I outline below. Still, even though I am now on the right dose of the right medication, I still have mood swings, and when I do, my family still suggests chocolate as a remedy.

Many studies have been conducted on chocolate as a mood enhancer. According to UNH Staff in their article, “2 Chocolate Benefits for Your Brain: Improves Memory and Mood”, “chocolate has been shown to improve depression and anxiety symptoms and help enhance feelings of calmness and contentedness. Both the flavanols and methylxanthines are believed to play a role in chocolate’s mood enhancing effects” (UNH Staff). In addition, the article cites several studies that showed chocolate consumption improved mood, and another study in which participants “felt more calm and contented after consuming a daily dark chocolate drink containing a high amount of polyphenols” (UNH Staff).  These studies show that chocolate does indeed have a connection to ‘good feelings’, much as Juan de Cárdenas had asserted that chocolate could make one happy centuries earlier.

Chocolate also contains phenylethylamines, which are a neurotransmitter that “in low levels, is associated with depression […] Phenylethylamines work by releasing endorphins in the brain and promote feelings of attraction and giddiness” (Chitale and ABC News Medical Unit). Between the low levels of serotonin, which cause cravings for carbs and sweets to spark pleasure centers in the brain and elevate mood (Peeke), and the low levels of phenylethylamines, people with mood disorders may actually be self-medicating with chocolate consumption, which compensates for those low levels.

I must here take a slight detour from the discussion of the science-supported benefits of chocolate to set precedent for my conclusion. The American Chemical Society put out a summary of research that was delivered at one of their meetings, in an article entitled “Good Mood Foods: Some Flavors in Some Foods Resemble a Prescription Mood Stabilizer.” The research is exactly what the title suggests: “New evidence reveals the possibility of mood-enhancing effects associated with some flavors, stemming at least in part from natural ingredients bearing a striking chemical similarity to valproic acid, a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug” (“Good Mood Foods”). This suggests that some foods, far from simply providing a quick mood boost, could actually be used to medicate mood disorders, even if it were just as a supplement to actual medications.

Nuno Rodrigues-Silva considers the science behind the question: why do we crave chocolate? One view he considers argues that craving for chocolate is a “homeostatic response to nutrient deficiency (e.g., magnesium deficiency)” (Rodrigues-Silva 430). He goes on to explain why someone with magnesium deficiency would crave chocolate specifically:
“Chocolate has one of the highest magnesium levels reported of all foods, approximately 100 mg/g, except white chocolate which contains magnesium in much lower amounts, about 12 times lower than milk chocolate. Magnesium deficiency results in selective depletion of dopamine in the CNS [central nervous system], a major neurotransmitter involved in euphoria, satisfaction, and addiction. Additionally, magnesium deficiency is related to anxiety, and its administration has been related to reduced hyperexcitability in children and attenuated posttraumatic depression/anxiety in rats.” (Rodrigues-Silva 430)

However, Rodrigues-Silva fails to mention an important function of magnesium: magnesium is frequently used as a supplement to aid in sleep for those with sleep disorders (common for people with bipolar disorder), but most importantly, recent studies suggest that magnesium can produce improvements in bipolar disorder similar to the improvements seen in patients who take lithium (Lake). That would put magnesium on the list of mood-stabilizers.

You might remember how I said that the medication that stabilized my bipolar was lithium, and that before that, I was regulating my mood with chocolate consumption. If I, as a person with bipolar, craved chocolate when my moods were out of control, that would indicate that I might have been experiencing magnesium deficiency, according to Rodrigues-Silva. If magnesium, according to recent research, might be a mood-stabilizer, that would mean that when my bipolar disorder reared its ugly head, I was actually craving chocolate not as a quick mood enhancer but as a medication. I was, in all reality, actually self-medicating my bipolar with chocolate.

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Star Wars star Carrie Fisher, outspoken about her bipolar disorder until the day she died, describes in her second memoir Shockaholic her “craving for salad– chocolate salad.” (Fisher)

It is not just an urban myth that chocolate will boost your mood — chocolate has, now, a firmly rooted place as a medicine, just as the Europeans had claimed centuries earlier, though for different ailments.

So, what does this mean for the future of the chocolate industry? The chocolate industry already markets to and profits from people who believe that chocolate will boost their mood. Taking daily medications to manage mental illness is a hassle at best and impossible to remember at worst– and many people with bipolar simply do not want to take medication. Imagine if chocolate manufacturers began to market chocolate as an alternative or supplement to traditional mood-stabilizers. How many people would buy into that option? A lot of people, I reckon– and they would also need to consume chocolate en masse in order to get enough of a mood-stabilizing benefit day to day, sky-rocketing sales. It could be a great new direction for the chocolate market.

 

 

 

Bibliography
“About Us – Fondant Chocolate.” Fondant Chocolate. Fondant Chocolate, n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.
Angst, Jules, and Andreas Marneros. “Bipolarity from Ancient to Modern Times: Conception, Birth and Rebirth.” Journal of Affective Disorders 67.1-3 (2001): 3-19. Web.
Baker, Kelley Thorpe. “Until I Pop: Emotional Eating and Bipolar Disorder.” Blog post. Bipolar Hope. Bipolar Magazine, 26 May 2015. Web. 10 May 2017.
Chitale, Radha, and ABC News Medical Unit. “You Feel What You Eat.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 05 Mar. 2008. Web. 10 May 2017.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.
Fisher, Carrie. Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill eat chocolate. Digital image. Daily Mail. Daily Mail, 9 May 2014. Web. 10 May 2017.
Fisher, Carrie. Shockaholic. London: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.
“Good Mood Foods: Some Flavors in Some Foods Resemble a Prescription Mood Stabilizer.” American Chemical Society. American Chemical Society, 19 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 May 2017.
Krans, Brian. “7 Foods That Help to Calm Your Nerves During Bipolar Mania.” Healthline. Healthline Media, 12 Sept. 2016. Web. 10 May 2017.
Lake, James. “Integrative Treatment of Bipolar Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Recommendations: Page 2 of 4.” Psychiatric Times. UBM Medica, 03 July 2013. Web. 10 May 2017.
“Learn.” International Bipolar Foundation. International Bipolar Foundation, 2017. Web. 10 May 2017.
Mental Benefits of Chocolate Consumption. Digital image. Fondant Chocolate. Fondant Chocolate, n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.
Peeke, Dr. Pamela. “Mood, Food and Bipolar Disorder: A New Prescription.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 July 2014. Web. 10 May 2017.
Rodrigues-Silva, Nuno. “Chocolate: Psychopharmological Aspects, Mood, and Addiction.” Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. Ed. Ronald Ross. Watson, Victor R. Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi. Totowa, NJ: Humana, 2013. 421-36. Print.
Thompson, Dennis, Jr. “Sugar and Bipolar Disorder.” EverydayHealth.com. Everyday Health Media, LLC, 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 May 2017.
UNH Staff. “2 Chocolate Benefits for Your Brain: Improves Memory and Mood.” University Health News. Belvoir Media Group, 20 Apr. 2017. Web. 10 May 2017.
Yu, Douglas. “Happiness Factor: Emotional Benefits Are Top Chocolate Sales Drivers, Says Mintel.” ConfectioneryNews.com. William Read, 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 May 2017.

CVS, Cardullo’s, and Their Consumers

We often see varieties of chocolate neatly arranged in so many stores, and the display is so tempting for customers walking by. Every shopping trip to a convenience or drug store is the same – make a rewarding selection between mainstream (and sometimes exotic) chocolate products. The tastings were set up in a way to acquire as much information as possible. The samples I acquired from CVS were: Ferrero Rocher hazelnut truffles (Italian), Hershey’s milk chocolate (American), Cadbury milk chocolate (English), Toblerone milk chocolate with nougat (Swiss), and Brookside dark chocolate with blueberries and almonds (American). The samples I acquired from Cardullo’s were: Niederegger’s Chocolate with marzipan (German), Truffettes milk chocolate covered marshmallows (French), Chuao Milk chocolate with potato chips (American/Venezuelan based), Vivra 65% dark with candied violets (American), and Taza 50% dark chocolate with guajillo chili. I recruited six tasters, and one taster was unable to try the dark chocolate samples, because dark chocolate disagrees with him. I expected that the tasters I shared various chocolate samples with would prefer more generic and familiar brands, such as the brands offered by CVS. However, by analyzing the results of my research done on various flavors of chocolate, it is apparent that my tasters generally preferred the less common chocolate bars without realizing it. This suggests that people do not put as much thought into their chocolate preferences as they really should be.

When organizing tastings for my research, I tried to get as many tasters as possible to taste my CVS and Cardullo’s products by themselves. There ended up being two groups of two, and two lone tasters. I wanted each person’s response to influence another person’s response as little as possible. Furthermore, none of the tasters were enrolled in Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. The students of the class now have an above average level of training for identifying specific tastes and smells in the chocolate, so I decided to test the abilities of non-chocolate scholars. I must admit that the whole tasting set-up was done by having in the back of my mind Barb Stuckey’s self-observation of her tasting skill after spending time working for the Mattson company. Barb excitedly recalls her “newfound skill” explaining that she “could take one bite of a food, consider it for a millisecond, and know exactly what it was missing that would give it an optimal taste (Stuckey 3)”. However, I was delighted to hear my tasters use descriptions for the samples, such as: dry, “varied texture”, “pop rock texture”, generic, “dull ‘thud’ sound”, sandy, “old book taste”, chalky, and/or matte colored.

The chocolate samples came from two different stores: CVS, and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, both in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Both stores are conveniently located in an area filled with people, some of whom may be hungry for a chocolate snack. Cardullo’s and CVS have their similarities, including the fact that they have their specific chocolate-seeking audiences. However, there is a difference between the chocolate-seeking audiences of Cardullo’s and CVS. Cardullo’s targets consumers of European origin and consumers with an interest in European culture, while CVS targets consumers that are not extremely fussy, and less willing to spend more for chocolate that would satisfy their cravings just as effectively. On a side note: the cost for all of the products between CVS and Cardullo’s totaled $46.34.

CVS’s chocolate is meant to “cater” to the general public. The store manager of the CVS location himself explained the ways in which the companies featured in the store cater to the general public. The confections sold at CVS are internationally recognized American and European brands whose confectionery styles do well with their plain chocolate, but also with commonly added flavors (some additional flavors include: caramel, nougat, nuts, and fruit). Hershey’s is a quintessential product at CVS, and must maintain their consumer loyalty with recognizable packaging, as well as producing creative ideas. For example, Hershey’s has designed resealable packaging to give their consumers a choice to eat some chocolate now and save the rest for later. A better alternative, rather than the consumer being forced to eat the entire product once it has been opened. Chocolate investigator, Kristy Leissle, begins her journal with, “Consider a hershey’s (sic) kiss. At once minimalist and iconic, the twist of silver foil sends a familiar flavor message to the brain, while the wrapper imparts nothing substantial about the chocolate (Leissle 22)”. When we see a chocolate product that is familiar to us, its iconic and memorable packaging prompts us to remember that what the product is. We also can trust familiar looking products to taste delicious if we decide to purchase them, rather than us risking the possibility of feeling like our money has been wasted on a bad tasting product.

Labels
Here is a selection of the most common chocolate products that we see for sale. The labels include the company name (i.e. Hershey), or a familiar product from Hershey (i.e. Reese’s). The label names are chosen carefully for consumers to easily recognize the products we want to purchase. The “Hershey’s” label will tell us that we are looking at a bar of plain chocolate, and might have a sub-description of nuts or caramel inside. The “Reese’s” label automatically signals to consumers that there is peanut butter complementing chocolate. “York” is a familiar label to consumers that signifies minty flavor in chocolate (hersheyindia).

The products from CVS have important descriptions that set them apart from the products at Cardullo’s. There were a few products made with dark chocolate, but most of the products sold at CVS were made with milk chocolate. The most popular CVS product was a tie between Toblerone and Ferrero Rocher – all six tasters liked the two products equally. Four out of six tasters especially liked the chocolate center of the truffles. The Toblerone sample was described by four out of six tasters as “better than Hershey’s.” Three out of six tasters did not care for the Brookside product, two tasters thought the product was “okay,” and one taster loved the Brookside product so much that it won CVS over as her favorite store of the two for buying chocolate. Fun fact: Hershey acquired Brookside in 2011 (Schroeder). Hershey’s milk chocolate was the least popular CVS product, and Cadbury’s milk chocolate was described by every taster as “better than Hershey’s,” while Cadbury’s still was not the most popular CVS product.

Most of the products were neatly arranged by brand on the candy aisle. The rest of the products could be found on the end cap of the candy aisle on the side furthest away from the registers. The products on the end cap are known as the “deluxe chocolates.” The Deluxe brands included, but were not limited to Lindt and Chuao. Recall that I bought my Chuao potato chip milk chocolate at Cardullo’s. I had gone shopping at Cardullo’s before shopping at CVS, and was surprised to find the same type of Chuao bar in the Deluxe section of CVS. The Chuao bar was more hidden than the easily seen Cardullo’s Chuao bar, and it was two dollars cheaper at CVS. Perhaps, the Deluxe chocolates at CVS are placed so that the adventurous customers who already know about the products will know where to find them. The specific placement of products could be CVS’s precaution against scaring away most of their customers with expensive, daring flavors of chocolate as the first available chocolate snack.

Cardullo’s confections are meant to cater to people with more sophisticated tastes regarding confections. More specifically, Cardullo’s employees pointed out that the shoppe targets Europeans (and a few other ethnicities) who grew up with their featured products that are hard to find outside of their countries. The store manager of Cardullo’s herself explained that Cardullo’s products are special because they invoke a strong feeling of nostalgia among visitors/immigrants from various countries. You can find a wall stocked with Cadbury products, and Cadbury is one of the few iconic chocolate brands featured in the entire store. There is no chance of finding any products from Hershey when shopping at Cardullo’s. The American products featured at Cardullo’s tend to have avant-garde flavors. For example, Cardullo’s features Vosges, a Chicago based chocolate company. One of Vosges products at Cardullo’s is a chocolate bacon bar. What a combination!

Cardullo's Front
Classy-looking photo of the front of Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe in Harvard Square at Cambridge, Massachusetts (Yelp).

As preferred by five out of six tasters, Cardullo’s was the most popular of the two stores for chocolate shopping. The opportunity to taste new flavors of chocolate was a little intimidating, yet exciting to each of my chocolate tasters. Chloé, the chocolate connoisseur featured in Raising the Bar, voices her concern for a general lack of appreciation for chocolate variety, “[c]onsumers can be fickle and even dismissive when it comes to matters of taste… (Raising 147)”. The tasters were enthralled by the Vivra dark with violets, and this product was enjoyed by everyone that could try it. Four out of six people did not care for the Chuao potato chip chocolate, but the two other tasters enjoyed the sweet and salty combination within it. Niederegger’s marzipan milk chocolate was described by three tasters as “too sweet.” The other three tasters liked the marzipan milk chocolate, especially the consistency of the marzipan. When biting into the Truffettes milk chocolate covered marshmallows three tasters experienced them as “too chewy.” The other three tasters enjoyed the consistency of the marshmallow. Five tasters could try Taza’s Guajillo chili. Four tasters did not care for the guajillo chili infusion with the dark chocolate. One taster said that the Taza sample with guajillo chili was “awesome stuff!”

I would especially like to highlight the presence of Taza products at Cardullo’s. Taza is one of the few American chocolate companies with products for sale at Cardullo’s, and they happen to operate locally in Somerville, Massachusetts. What is special about Taza in comparison to many other American products is that the workers of Taza are interested in traditional, authentic Mexican chocolate-making methods. With a high demand in place for their products, Taza has had to find means of efficient production that would still allow for the presence of a Mexican quality surrounding the chocolate. By producing solid chocolate bars, Taza is aware that consumers are seeking a snack with traditional Mexican flavors, rather than traditional Mexican beverages. Taza’s YouTube channel serves as an efficient tool to connect with their customers on a more personal level than relying only on their website and word of mouth to deliver information to consumers. Taza wants its consumers to remember that there is still care involved with Taza’s chocolate making process, as their YouTube page’s introductory paragraph states that, “we hand-carve granite millstones to grind cacao… (TazaChocolate)”. The introductory video on their YouTube channel is an invitation for all who would like to catch a glimpse of the chocolate making process inside the factory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tcA51tUOxU&feature=youtu.be

It is exciting to learn a little bit about another culture’s specific methods for creating products that are so similar, yet so different from what we are usually exposed to.

Truffette's
Truffette’s label for chocolate covered marshmallows is quick to flaunt its French origin. The photo of the confection looks so tempting by featuring a delicious marshmallow covered in smooth, creamy chocolate. The elegant, French words along with the Eiffel tower momentarily remind us of the culture-rich city of Paris, and it is almost as if we are tasting the confection while in France. However, what consumers do not immediately realize is that, as pointed out by Susan J. Terrio, “France itself is not a country historically famous for its luxury chocolates (Terrio 10)”. Perhaps, with the recent European involvement in chocolate, this product is an example of a French confectioner’s take on perfecting a use for solid chocolate. Members of newer generations from France would immediately recognize Truffette’s upon finding their products at Cardullo’s.

It is worth noting that every person has unique preferences for chocolate products, among all other products. There are people who prefer CVS products over Cardullo’s products, as astounding as it may sound to the people who appreciate variance in chocolate. Some people may enjoy every chocolate product presented to them, while others may only accept milk chocolate. Allergies to common foods such as nuts will skew a person’s preferences, because they must work around their health concerns when determining their favorite flavors to have with chocolate. The confections we looked at for this project demonstrate the many creative and culture-specific ideas that so many talented confectioners have cooked up since chocolate became more available around the world. Perhaps, if my tasters were all chocolate connoisseurs that my research would have yielded different results about chocolate preferences.

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 13.3(2013): 22-31. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 6 May 2017. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22&gt;.

Schroeder, Eric. “Hershey to Buy Brookside Foods.” Food Business News. Sosland PublishingCo., 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 6 May 2017. <http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/News/NewsHome/Business News/2011/12/Hershey to buy Brookside Foods.aspx?cck>.

Slide-img20.jpeg. N.d. Hersheyindia.com. Web. 6 May 2017.

Stuckey, Barb. “What Are You Missing?” Introduction. Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Getting More from Every Bite. New York: Free, 2012. 1-29. Print.

TazaChocolate. “Taza Chocolate.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 May 2017.<https://www.youtube.com/user/TazaChocolate&gt;.

TazaChocolate. “The Taza Chocolate Story.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tcA51tUOxU&feature=youtu.be&gt;.

Terrio, Susan J. “People Without History.” Introduction. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. London, England: U of California, 2000. 1-22. Print.

TRUFFETTES DE FRANCE MARSHMALLOWS MILK CHOCOLATE. Digitalimage.Redstonefoods.com. Redstone Foods, n.d. Web. 8 May 2017.<http://redstonefoods.com/products/712331–truffettes-de-france-marshmallows-milk-chocolate&gt;.

Williams, Pamela Sue., and Jim Eber. “To Market, To Market: Craftsmanship, Customer Education, and Flavor.” Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver, BC: Wilmor Corporation, 2012. 143-209. Print.

V, Sonam. Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe. 2005. Yelp.com, Cambridge, MA. Yelp.com. Web. 10 May 2017. <https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/cardullos-gourmet-shoppe-cambridge?select=-Cg_WKg2ExKzcEgzCuyLzQ&gt;.

Exploitation or Smart Marketing? Comparing and Analyzing the Business Practices of Hershey’s and Divine Chocolate

Are chocolate companies exploiting workers when they use a values-based approach to promote sales? Although some companies are clearly exploiting its workers, there is a difference between exploitation and smart marketing. 

Let’s compare the practices of Hershey’s Chocolate and Divine Chocolate to illustrate this point: The elements of exploitation exist in the practices of Hershey’s because they are advertising falsehoods and treating their workers as the opposite of what they market; Divine Chocolate is the polar opposite of Hershey’s in this manner because they market values that they  actually practice, making them smart marketers – not exploiters.

Defining Exploitation

Is Divine Chocolate being exploitative? Exploiting in itself is deriving full use of something or someone unfairly (Alberts). Let’s first define exploiting for our own terms when it comes to thinking about chocolate companies – Exploiting is the act of a chocolate company using an element to maneuver, outrank, increase sales, or brand the company in a certain way without giving fair benefit to the people that they are using to achieve these goals.

Exploiting also has the following connotations when it comes to chocolate companies such as (but not limited to) when it comes to what they do; this will be used as our litmus test to determine whether or not true exploitation is at play:

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work

Misrepresenting benefits to workers

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men)

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade)

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think)

Hershey’s Chocolate

Before we analyze the possibility of Divine Chocolate being exploitative, let’s analyze a company that passes the litmus test for exploitation – Hershey’s Chocolate.

By analyzing their pictures in advertisements and their marketing and comparing it to the real picture of the company, we can certainly see how Hershey’s Chocolate is being exploitative.

Hershey’s history of exploitation goes back essentially since the beginning of the start of the company; the company often used farms and factories that did not pay its workers a fair wage, lowered the standard of living, and took part in the enslaving of workers by providing unsafe conditions (Anti-Given that, one would think that the company would have “changed its tune” so to speak. However, Hershey’s has not done so and has continued to abuse their power as a top-tier chocolate company. It has been proven that Hershey’s is still taking part in these kinds of practices, which has been noted by researchers on international student workers that took part in a foreign exchange program in the United States with Hershey’s as their sponsor. According to the New York Times:

The students, who were earning about $8 an hour, said they were isolated within the plant, rarely finding moments to practice English or socialize with Americans. With little explanation or accounting, the sponsor [Hershey’s] took steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance that left many of them too little money to afford the tourist wanderings they had eagerly anticipated (Preston).

How can Hershey’s not be an exploiter if international student workers, who are usually unfamiliar with the United States, cannot afford to even travel to the places that they wanted to see; these international workers took the job with Hershey’s in order to site-see in exchange for work, and Hershey’s is essentially taking that element away from them. Further, the promises that Hershey’s made to the students regarding a certain amount of money given to them was understood by the company to be separate from the housing, transportation, and insurance. Clearly, Hershey’s is exploiting the international workers by lowering their wages in order to get labor in the form of the cheapest way possible; these deductions would not even begin to cover a legal and livable way or manner if an American had this job. Thus, Hershey’s found a way to bypass the legal system in order to get cheaper labor – in the form of exploited international students.

Additionally, one cannot even argue that Hershey’s has learned its lesson on this front – despite the media attention, public outcry, and protests from students alike, Hershey’s is still running this program; imagine the kind of exploitation that could be occurring in more vulnerable areas if this kind of company if this type of exploitation is happening in the United States. If the plant in Pennsylvania is seeing these kinds of abuses, it is safe to assume that the exploitation along the Ivory Coast and the Americas are seeing abuses that are hidden away from the public.

Now, let’s take a look at the advertisements in Hershey’s pictures that are quite different than the actual reality of the company. For instance, in Figure 1, we see how Hershey’s is advertising itself as a chocolate that is a part of “shared goodness:”

 

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(Figure 1. Hershey’s Community Archives)

 

This advertisement, at first glance, may not seem like a direct link to exploitation, but the company is promoting itself as a brand that is values-based. It draws upon the picture of a happy family and talks about how Hershey’s “good business” practices translates into better chocolate for the family, resulting in a “better life and bright future.” However, just from the proven evidence discussed regarding the student workers, the reality of Hershey’s is very different than what it is advertising. Clearly, Hershey’s is branding itself as a business that is “good,” however, it is not actually being a “good” business with values.

This type of misrepresentation marketing is all throughout many of their advertisements throughout the years. For example, Figure 2 tells another compelling story about how Hershey is actually promoting diversity when it is really not:

1986_hersheys_mini_ad

(Figure 2. Hershey’s Community Archives)

In this picture, children of different ethnicities and races are being shown; Hershey’s is advertising themselves as a company that promotes inclusiveness across all kinds of ethnic and racial divides. For instance, it talks about how it puts different kinds of candies for all kinds of kids. However, the example of exploitation of its international student workers tells a very different kind of a story. How can a brand that claims to be “inclusive” not be inclusive to its international workers? How could a brand that would never be able to legally get away with reductions in paychecks and amenities for American workers be so inclusive if it takes a legal loophole to do so for its international workers? Clearly, it can be seen how just this one type of exploitation is being used in full force, which passes our litmus test on essentially all fronts. It has abused a sensitive group, misrepresents benefits to workers and unfairly promises them lies, and then brands the company in a way that misrepresents the brand to the consumer, whom otherwise would think that Hershey’s has excellent values just from looking at their advertisements; Hershey’s, knowing that most targeted and loyal consumers are not going to search for their name on the Internet every time they want to buy a bag or piece of chocolate, use this to their advantage.

 

Divine Chocolate

Now let’s compare how Divine Chocolate uses certain advertisements to help attract consumers, but is not being exploited in their efforts, which is the polar opposite of what Hershey’s is doing:

Divine Chocolate, according to Sam Binkley employed a values-based marketing strategy in order to justify their price:

Divine has moved on from selling mainly on the basis of the solidarity value of its product to material use value taste. [Divine Chocolate] still is slightly more expensive as it must, other than the likes of Nestle and Kraft, fulfill its double bottom line of economic and social viability. So while the product is competitive on a level of quality, its price still needs to be justified in terms of justice or solidarity. In order to go beyond this, Divine [needed] to add symbolic use value to its brand, engage in consciously designed commodity aesthetic in order to push into unchartered mass markets (Binkley).

 

Divine Chocolate, like Hershey’s, desired to push even further for profits for their already-successful companies so it could stay competitive; however, what makes it different than other companies is that it is a specialty type of chocolate in a specialty kind of market. In order to be competitive within those specific markets, Divine Chocolate desired to break and expand into the mass markets by justifying their price to those kinds of consumers. In turn, it created the Women’s Empowerment Campaign, which promotes the equality of women chocolate workers, in order to attract consumers (Divine Chocolate).

 

But how is Divine Chocolate, unlike Hershey’s, not being exploitative if they are using mass marketing strategies in the form of women’s empowerment campaigns to sell their product? The difference here is that Divine Chocolate is actually doing what they say and promote in terms of their campaign to sell product.

 

The women’s empowerment campaign is real because it is empowering women in ways that they have never been empowered before. For instance, Divine Chocolate started their journey to change conditions when they gave 44 percent equity to Kuapa Kokoo, the largest shareholder of the company’s assets; this co-operative represents 85,000 farm members across 1,257 villages, and is now the largest co-operative in the world; it is credited with the rise of female cacao ownership of at least 20 percent (Leissle, Wiego). Divine allows women farmers to take a special part in an ownership that no other chocolate company has seen before; clearly, it is empowering women in a way that not only represents them as true stakeholders, but brings positivism to an industry that can be quit laborious, abusive, and depressing for other workers who are not afforded such basic rights. Further, approximately 2 percent of the turnover from Divine is specifically used to promote programs to help farmers gain more skills such as good governance programs, literacy programs, and model farming lessons. Thus, Divine not only gives more than fair equity to its workers (the largest of its kind in history), but invests even more money from their profit to ensure that their workers are gaining life skills to use both inside and outside the farm; by bringing in educational and quality of life programs, Divine is sending an authentic message with real action to the female farmers of Ghana: Divine wants to support you and your work by uplifting you and the community.

By examining the advertising campaigns of Divine Chocolate, we can see a message of solidarity and unity that runs throughout its campaign. For instance, in Figure 3, Divine Chocolate uses a picture of an attractive, healthy-looking female worker to get their message across loud and clear:

2015-04-01-aaas-e119-lecture-9-race-ethnicity-gender-and-class-in-chocolate-advertisements-goo-copy-version-2

(Figure 3. Divine Chocolate)

Many critics may charge that because the woman is attractive, dressed nicely, and looks happy, Divine Chocolate is exploiting its female workers because it promotes “sexuality” and an “untrue side of the chocolate industry”. However, this picture of the woman is an accurate picture because Divine Chocolate helps uplift women to give them the lifestyle that can afford many of these luxuries; with their fair payouts and fair trade program, Divine Chocolate can accurately use this advertisement as an authentic way to attract consumers. When looking at this advertisement, most consumers, on first glance, would think of Divine Chocolate as a chocolate brand that is an “equality treat” – because it is. They further humanize the female chocolate worker, who is actually a co-operative co-owner, by putting her name on the advertisement; the consumer will be led to think that when they buy a bag or piece of Divine Chocolate, the benefit will be going to female workers like Beatrice – and rightfully so because it actually is doing that. That, in itself, is not exploitation but a smart marketing scheme that is a “win-win” for both Divine Chocolate and female workers like Beatrice. All in all, Divine Chocolate has gone out of their way to make this picture a reality – their own values-based version of the chocolate industry.

In Figure 4, we can see how this values-based campaign continues throughout many of their packaging:

108567_divine-web

(Figure 4. Divine Chocolate)

In their designs, Divine Chocolate presents itself as a champion for women by placing designs that are aesthetically pleasing to many females and placing a message on top of the packaging reading “Empowering Women Cacao Farmers.” Like in the picture above, some critics may think that by putting this packaging out in this manner, Divine Chocolate is exploiting women workers because they are using designs that attract consumers to think that they are helping women workers. However, like stated in the previous discussion, they actually are helping women. Further critics may charge that this is being used for International Women’s Day to “cash in” on the holiday, but that charge only further hones in on the point that Divine Chocolate is not being a champion of women just on Women’s Day but essentially every day.

 Just because a company uses an element of their system (which, in this case, is championing the female worker) to sell product does not mean that they are being exploitative. On the other hand, if Divine Chocolate was using the same business practices as Hershey’s and using this campaign, they would then be exploitative. But Divine Chocolate is simply promoting the ideas and concepts that they have actually put into practice.

If these points did not already answer the question of whether or not Divine Chocolate is being exploitative for you, let’s take a direct look back at our litmus test for exploitation

Litmus Test: Is Divine Chocolate partaking in any of the following?

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work – No, workers are granted an excellent amount of equity

Misrepresenting benefits to workers – No, workers are actually being empowered by the company

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is authentic

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men) –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is helping women

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade) –No, ideas like fair trade and empowerment are involved

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think) –No, workers are a part of the brand name but also benefiting from the marketing taking place since they get a higher amount of equity, which equals and translates into improved working conditions and lifestyles

Clearly, unlike Hershey’s, Divine Chocolate does not pass the litmus test for exploitation; the Women’s Empowerment Campaign is a real campaign, which Divine Chocolate uses for smart marketing and true empowerment.

 

References

Alberts, Heike. “Using Cocoa and Chocolate to Teach Human Geography.” Journal of Geography, 2010.

Binkley, Sam. “Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism.” New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Case Study: Women Cocoa Farmers in Ghana. Wiego. <http://www.wiego.org/wiego/case-study-women-cocoa-farmers-ghana&gt;

Divine Chocolate. <http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/&gt;

Hershey’s Community Archives. <http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/category/hershey-chocolate/marketing/&gt;

Leissle, Kristie.  “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Studies, 2012.

Preston, Julia. “Pleas Unheeded as Student’s U.S. Jobs Soured.” New York Times, 2011.

The Cocoa Industry in West Africa. Anti-Slavery International, 2004. <http://www.antislavery.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1_cocoa_report_2004.pdf&gt;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down to the Details: Dissecting the Intended Audience of Two NYC Chocolate Shops

New York City is constantly brimming with new additions to the food scene, and when it comes to chocolate, The Meadow and Chelsea Market Baskets are two specialty shops that aim to enhance one’s sensory and social experience. Closer comparison between these stores also yields distinct differences in their intended audience and marketing incentive. Whereas Chelsea Market Baskets has a more pronounced focus on gift purchasing and impulse buying, The Meadow offers a more well-rounded selection of origins and varieties, establishing itself as a solid destination for connoisseurs and consumers who place a greater priority on food product transparency.

Chelsea Market Baskets 

Chelsea Market Baskets (CMB) is located inside Chelsea Market, which boasts about 6 million visitors annually (Chelsea Market). The chocolate selection here is divided into three sections: Popular Chocolates, Specialty Chocolates (a sign reads “Chocolates that are not found in many places and we think are worth a bit of effort to find”), and Connoisseurs Chocolates (“Top quality chocolates that we are especially proud of and have sought out from smaller manufacturers”). The prices vary from around $3 to $11 per product.

IMG_3250
CMB’s three sections of chocolate (shot with iPhone)

Selection

Whereas mass manufacturers rely on wholesale companies to ensure lower costs, bean-to-bar makers take pride in carefully sourcing higher quality beans through a more collaborative environment with farmers and aim to increase product transparency (Dandelion Chocolate). Many bean-to-bar goods are offered here, and while most of the single origin bars only designate the country of origin, Dandelion Chocolate and Sol Cacao specify the estate where their beans come from: Akesson’s Farm in Madagascar.

IMG_3403
Bean-to-bar makers Sol Cacao and Dandelion specify the estate from which their beans are sourced (shot with iPhone). 

IMG_3409

On the other hand, CMB also offers an equal amount of mass-produced chocolate by major European manufacturers (e.g. Cote d’Or). At least five brands represented at CMB incorporate more typical “Big Chocolate” ingredients: more refined sugar and emulsifiers (e.g. soy lecithin) to substitute for more expensive cocoa butter (Albader 55). This not only reduces production costs but also reduces the number of polyphenols (which can help reduce LDL cholesterol and raise HDL concentrations) naturally found in cocoa butter (Watson et al. 267). The homogenization of these sweeter, more artificially flavored products with the all-natural and single origin bars implies that the larger focus of CMB may be on the overall appeal of the product, rather than the nutritional value or manner of production.

Examination of packaging and flavor selection also furthers my impression that CMB greatest motive is to attract the gift-giving or impulse buyer. Several eye-catching packaging labels showcase cartooned creatures, which have been shown to specifically attract children (Shekhar and Raveendran 57). Makers such as Vintage Plantations showcase vibrant colors or paintings of exotic habitats; the dimension of packaging design that most significantly predicts impulsive buying is visual design (Cahyorini and Rusfian 17). Selling more visually attractive products is a particularly beneficial marketing strategy, because the more exposure to visual cues in packaging, the higher the probability of buying chocolates (Shekhar and Raveendran 60). Certainly, customers may come with a particular product in mind, but for those more impulse-driven visitors, CMB offers several choices that facilitate purchasing through graphic appeal. Another effective marketing strategy here is catering to the traditional “American” appetite. Many flavored chocolates are fused with bacon, caramel, cookies, or other familiar flavors; culturally, we are psychologically attracted to foods that are both sweet and high in fat (Benton 214). By offering a mixture of single-origin and mass-manufactured chocolate, visually attractive products, and both familiar and novel flavors, CMB accommodates all ages and flavor preferences.The primary goal is to retail “premium chocolates,” value-added products not just in terms of quality but also “taste and texture, packaging, image and perception, and communication” (Linemayr 13).

Visually appealing products (shot with iPhone)

IMG_3218

IMG_3245
Fusing bacon with chocolate

Ethical Concerns

CMB offers a number of Fair Trade products, which are based on a collective effort to justly compensate farmers. However, many of the label’s claims are not accomplished, and a very small proportion of money reaches the poverty-stricken farmers at the base of the production chain (Martin). The growing ubiquitousness of Fair Trade has led to a dilution of its label, with some companies merely using it to enhance their public image (Sylla 133). For more knowledgable consumers, CMB offers several Direct Trade goods by makers who offer more substantial premiums to farmers. Taza, which created the “chocolate industry’s first third-party certified Direct Trade cacao sourcing program,” publishes an annual cacao sourcing transparency report, listing in detail the premiums paid to their farmers (Taza Chocolate). Over fifteen of Taza’s products are sold at CMB, all of them in the “Popular Chocolates” selection, thereby facilitating an outlet by which visitors can enjoy the unique taste of their stone-ground chocolate but also learn about their socially responsible practices. By representing several companies that work beyond simply paying Fair Trade premiums, CMB offers potential for spreading more awareness about the more grassroots approach to relieving ethical issues in chocolate production.

taza
A shot from Taza’s annual sourcing transparency report (Taza Chocolate)

 

tazaselection
Taza selection at CMB (shot with iPhone)

Taste

I purchased a few bars from each store to share some interesting flavors and textures unique to each location. From CMB, I purchased Taza’s Cinnamon Stone Ground Chocolate Mexicano Discs. Taza is known for their unique processing technique where traditional Mexican style stone mills, or molinos, are used to grind the beans. This accentuates the bold flavors of the unconched chocolate, producing a rustic, gritty texture that lingers on the tongue. Taza allows the consumer to harken back to historical Mesoamerican chocolate traditions through the similar process of grinding cacao on a stone, or metate (Presilla 26). I loved the biscuit-like texture because it allowed me to taste the bold cacao, sugar, and warm cinnamon individually.

IMG_3429

I was first drawn to the artwork on Amano’s package and after turning it over, I found that Amano is the most highly awarded chocolate maker in America, which piqued my interest in its taste. Madagascar cacao is known for being fruity, and this tastes very smooth with clean raspberry, black currant, and cherry notes (Presilla 139).

IMG_3436

The Meadow

The Meadow is located in the West Village, and pricing is significantly on the higher end, ranging from around $6 to $22 per bar. Like CMB, the chocolate selection is divided into three sections, albeit for different categories: the first section comprises flavored chocolates, the second comprising single-origin bars and bean-to-bar makers, and the third for dark chocolate (85% cacao content or higher).

IMG_3202
The Meadow’s three sections of chocolate (shot with iPhone)

Selection

Unlike CMB, the vast majority of products here are by small batch craft makers, and one instantly notices the emphasis on minimal and natural ingredients. The flavored chocolates here rarely consist of emulsifiers or artificial sweeteners, and the associate can name several products with higher amounts of non-deodorized cocoa butter. The samples offered were only from 100% cacao bars, which may be a more unconventional choice for tasting. Some individuals may not be familiar with such astringent, potent flavors, but The Meadow urges one to stay true to the the pure experience of cacao. These factors all lead to marketing more health-conscious products; 100% cacao bars contain no sugar, and dark chocolate contains the most significant levels of antioxidant polyphenols and flavonoids, which have beneficial effects on hypertension and vascular disorders (Haber and Gallus 1287).

IMG_3199
Tasting samples (shot with iPhone)

A thorough understanding of the selection is largely dependent on the visitor’s level of understanding of origin and terroir. There are significantly more single origin countries presented here; the Francois Pralus single origin bars span eight countries. Whereas CMB retails Madagascar chocolate bars which source beans from a single farm (Akesson’s), actual chocolate bars made by Akesson’s are sold here. Akesson’s is a family-owned heritage plantation, which provides beans for many U.S. based chocolate companies, such as Dick Taylor, Patric, and Woodblock, all of which can be found at The Meadow (Carla Martin, personal communication, May 2 2017). This selection offers a dynamic medium for tasting and comparing flavors made from varying partners within the supply chain.

Francois Pralus
Francois Pralus selection (shot with iPhone)
Akesson's
Akesson’s single plantation chocolate

The Francois Pralus bars list not only the country of origin but also the cacao variety used. Other bars state “Porcelana” on the front, a criollo variety that is prized for its nuttiness and low astringency (Presilla 67). Those who are familiar with or are in favor of a specific cacao variety will find the detail-oriented selection at The Meadow particularly accommodating.

Several bars are labeled “Chuao,” one of the most coveted type of criollo beans. Today, the Chuao plantation in Chuao, Venezuela is run by a small community that adheres to a centuries-long tradition of processing and operations (Presilla 77). The narrow valley yields a very limited space for cultivating cacao, producing only about 16 to 17 metric tons annually, but the beans are highly coveted for their taste and quality (White). The reputation of Chuao has led some makers to misappropriate its name and branding significance to mimic the terroir effect of the Chuao geographical region (Giovannucci et al. xv). This controversy itself is implicated at The Meadow, where I found two “Chuao” bars: one from Francois Pralus and the other by Domori. Although the Francois Pralus bar sources specifically from the Chuao village, the Domori bar is made from beans in a different region of Venezuela where the genetics of the Chuao strain have been implanted (The Meadow). This “Chuao” labeling despite it being produced outside of the valued village raises questions of legitimacy and violations of terroir, which places a strong emphasis on geographical origin, specifically, the “link between the product and the production area, depending on natural and climate conditions in the region” (Aurier et al.). The Domori bar also distances itself from the cultural and historical prestige associated with terroir. The Francois Pralus Chuao bar ($14) is more popular than the Domori Chuao bar ($8), perhaps due to an understanding of the terroir complications at hand, again likening consumer knowledge as an important factor for visitors.

chuao
This is a cacao pod in the Chuao region, lauded for its terroir and superior criollo beans (Wikimedia Commons). 

 

Francois Pralus chuao
The Francois Pralus and Domori “Chuao” bars (shot with iPhone)

Domori

Ethical Concerns

The Meadow represents a nice selection of Fair Trade and Direct Trade goods, and the sales associate is also fairly knowledgable about the downsides of the Fair Trade label. He pinpointed a few companies working more directly with their farmers, such as Madécasse. Madécasse, which makes their chocolate directly in Madagascar, pays farmers 10% higher than the maximum price for dry superior cacao and 55% higher than the median price for all cacao (Madécasse Social Impact Report).

He also told me about Askinosie, one of The Meadow’s top-selling companies, which places photos of their farmers, a map of their estate, and twine from their cacao bags on their packaging, attempting to secure a bridge of transparency with the consumer. Askinosie also pays a significantly higher premium than the Fair Trade market price, supports nutritional programs for children in underdeveloped countries, and shares a percentage of its profits through their “A Stake in the Outcome” program, incentivizing farmers to constantly improve methods to ensure better quality (Askinosie Chocolate). The selection at The Meadow, in addition to the knowledge of its sales associates, is better marketed towards spreading awareness of ethical issues and their relation to small batch makers.

askinosie
Askinosie shares and explains financial statements with their farmers (Askinosie).
askinosie
Askinosie goods at The Meadow (shot with iPhone)

Taste

Bertil Akesson’s plantation in the Sambirano Valley of Madagascar is divided into four smaller estates: Madirofolo, Menavava, Bejofo, and Ambolikapiky, but only the latter two provide the beans for Akesson’s own chocolate bars (Cocoa Runners). I wanted to compare an Akesson’s Chocolate with another maker who sources from Akesson’s Farm (e.g. Dick Taylor).

The Dick Taylor chocolate was very tart with cranberry and orange notes. The potent astringency significantly differed from the more sweet, berry-flavored Amano Madagascar bar. It finished off with a slightly overroasted taste, which made me experience firsthand how different bars sourcing from the same geographical region can yield differing flavors based on each company’s processing methods.

Dick Taylor

My second purchase was an Akesson’s 75% Criollo Bejofo Estate bar. Every Akesson’s bar shows not only which of the 4 smaller estates the cacao comes from but also the variety of beans used. According to the package, 300 tons of trinitario cacao are produced on Akesson’s Farm, but a limited 2 tons of criollo cacao are harvested separately to make this specific chocolate. As criollo varieties are generally perceived as the most mellow and refined in flavor, I compared the taste of this bar with the more trinitario-based Dick Taylor bar (Presilla 36). The Akesson’s bar has a familiar chocolatey aroma and significantly more refined taste with soft, tropical notes (papaya or peach) that balanced well with a very mild tartness. It has a much longer mouthfeel with a velvety texture. Of all the three Madagascar bars I purchased, this had the most delicate nuttiness and creaminess. Originally, I had thought the Amano, Dick Taylor, and Akesson’s bars would be difficult to differentiate in flavor as they all originate in Madagascar, but I was able to experience the complexities of terroir and processing techniques.

Akesson's criollo chocolate

 

Conclusion

Both CMB and The Meadow are valuable to the NYC food scene and heighten one’s experience with chocolate. Housed inside a bustling tourist attraction, CMB appeals to a wider audience, making it highly adapted to the marketplace. One can find goods that are suitable for the entire family, which relates to the store’s motto of gift-giving to share both popular and novel tastes. The Meadow caters to a smaller niche, one that requires a greater deal of knowledge. The high prices here can pose as a drawback, and had I visited The Meadow prior to taking Dr. Martin’s course, I would have had great trouble understanding the significance of “porcelana” or “single estate.” The Meadow’s selection is meticulously curated, just like the companies it represents direct great attention to their chocolate sourcing and production. The Meadow’s focus on minimal ingredients and terroir enhanced my affinity for chocolate, because I was able to apply my knowledge to various social, cultural, and ethical factors implicated by the selection. The Meadow’s greatest asset may be that it challenges traditional notions of what chocolate is and hones in on the complexities of food product transparency. By offering a more detailed rundown of production, sourcing, and cacao varieties, The Meadow works towards developing a more intimate connection of trust, reliability, and transparency between brand and consumer.

Works Cited

“About Chelsea Market.” Chelsea Market, http://www.chelseamarket.com/index.php/About/contact/about-chelsea-market. Accessed 29 April 2017.

“Akesson’s.” Cocoa Runners, https://cocoarunners.com/maker/akessons/. Accessed 3 May 2017.

Albader, Kawther. “Can you believe it’s not (cocoa) butter?”. Candy Industry, July 2012, 54-55.

Askinosie, Shawn. Direct Trade. Photograph. Askinosie Chocolate. https://www.askinosie.com/learn/direct-trade.html. Accessed 3 May 2017.

Aurier, Philippe et al. “Exploring Terroir Product Meanings For the Consumer.” Anthropology of Food, 1 May 2005.

Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain, edited by Astrid Nehlig, CRC Press, 2004, 205-218.

Cacao en Chuao. Reg2bug. Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cacao_en_Chuao.jpg. Accessed 2 May 2017.

Cahyorini, Astri, and Effy Zalfiana Rusfian. “The Effect of Packaging Design on Impulsive Buying.” Journal of Administrative Science & Organization, Jan. 2011, 11-21.

“Domori Chuao 70% Dark Chocolate.” The Meadow, https://themeadow.com/products/domori-chuao-70-dark-chocolate. Accessed 2 May 2017.

Giovannucci, Daniele, et al. Guide to Geographical Indications: Linking Products and Their Origins. International Trade Center, 2009.

Haber, Stacy, and Karen Gallus. “Effects of Dark Chocolate on Blood Pressure in Patients With Hypertension.” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 1 Aug. 2012, 1287-1293.

“How We Make Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate, https://www.dandelionchocolate.com/process/#anchor. Accessed 29 April 2017.

Linemayr, Thomas. “Establishing Premium Chocolate in the U.S. Mass Market.” The Manufacturing Confectioner, June 2011, 13-16.

“Madécasse Social Impact Report.” Madécasse LLC and Wildlife Returns, April 2017, 1-9.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 10: Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization.” Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 5 April 2017. Lecture.

Presilla, Maricel. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised. Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Shekhar, Suraj Kushe, and P.T Raveendran. “The Power of Sensation Transference: Chocolate Packages & Impulse Purchases.” Indian Institute of management Indore, April 2013, 55-64.

Sylla, Ndongo. The Fair Trade Scandal. Ohio University Press, 2014.

“Taza Direct Trade.” Taza Chocolate. https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade. Accessed 29 April 2017.

White, April. “The Potential and Pitfalls of Geographical Indications for Cacao.” Chocolate Class, 11 May 2016, https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/the-potential-and-pitfalls-of-geographical-indications-for-cacao/. Accessed 2 May 2017.

 

 

Just What is Premium Chocolate?

When we hear the word premium it conjures up thoughts of luxury, exceptional quality, hand crafted, expensive…I hate to burst your bubble, but some of the fancy premium chocolate you might’ve enjoyed couldn’t be farther from that definition. Well, actually, it probably was expensive. The lack of regulation of “premium” chocolate allows many brands to vigorously market their chocolate products as high end and grab a piece of the burgeoning market. Yet, this lack of definition and regulation is dangerous because consumers are tricked into buying chocolate with false promises that benefit the chocolate company, but not the cocoa farmers, middlemen, or consumers. Premium is then defined by the packaging, presentation and stores, but not the ingredients or labor.

“Premium chocolate” accounted for over 14% of chocolate sales in the United States in 2011 and was projected to expand 10% annually (Williams and Eber 167). However, the problem is there’s no real standard or definition for premium chocolate. One offered definition is, “chocolate that sells for greater than $8.00 a pound” and has “better quality ingredients, execution, packaging” and more (Williams and Eber 168). Yet, fine chocolate ranges anywhere from $24.00 to $100.00 a pound (Williams and Eber 169).

To find out more about premium chocolate around Harvard Square, I visited two stores: CVS and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe.

CVS

Consumer Value Stores (CVS), created in 1963 by two brothers Stanley and Sidney Goldstein, is a national chain of one stop shop stores for everyone (CVS). Walking into the CVS candy aisle is an attack on your eyes. Candy with big flashy packaging line the shelves from the Big five candy companies: Mars, Nestle, Cadbury, Hershey and Ferrero (Allen 21).With their displays, CVS capitalizes on the fact that approximately 70% of chocolate is consumed on impulse (Allen 31). Therefore, loud packaging is key to attract a consumer’s wandering eye. Red or orange wrappers (Reese’s Peanut butter cups, M & M’s, Kit Kats, Snickers, Crunch bars) are prominent because studies have proven that people’s associations with these colors make one hungry (Harrington). In addition to the packaging, placement inside a store is very important. Only 22% of shoppers will ever venture down the candy aisle, so stores need to be creative about attracting attention to chocolate (Allen 32). To address this issue, CVS lines their check-out counter with chocolate bars to entice consumers to grab one for a quick snack. In addition, lots of the chocolates in CVS are on sale. I’ve visited multiple times and can always find bright yellow sale tags on a variety of chocolates. The sales often encourage one to buy multiple chocolates such as 3 for $5.00 or 2 for $6.00. The cheapest chocolate I could find were singular Hershey bars for .88 cents and the most expensive bar were the Chuao bars, at $5.29. However, even these were on sale, buy one get the second half off. The majority of their chocolates (individual bars or bags) were under $3.00. The placement of their chocolate, available brands, and price range, demonstrate that CVS targets consumers who are in a hurry, don’t want to spend much on chocolate, or didn’t intend to buy chocolate until enticed on the way out.

CVS also sells premium chocolate on a separate stand that contrasts nicely with the regular candy aisle. It’s featured on the end of the candy aisle facing sodas and other refrigerated items. The end of an aisle is a prime spot as it gets more foot traffic and attention (Clifford). The stand is made of dark wood (fake), which appears more refined than the other shelves and is filled with Lindt, Ghiradelli, Ferrero Rocher, Ritter, Raffaelo, Chuao and Endangered Species chocolates. However, these brands are misleading because many of these companies are owned by the big five and when one thinks premium, Hershey’s doesn’t come to mind. For example, Lindt owns Ghiradelli and even though it is not a big five chocolate company, Lindt generates over a half of Hershey’s net sales (Scully). In addition, Ritter is distributed in over 100 countries and Fererro owns Raffaelo (Ferrero, Ritter). The only slightly distinct chocolates are the Chuao and the Endangered Species bars. Chuao is a fairly new Venezuelan brand, created in 2002. It is available in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Barbuda in stores such as CVS, Target, Whole Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond, and the Omni and W hotels (Chuao). Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10% of their profits to support wildlife organizations (Endangered Species). This brand is sold at Amazon, CVS, Target and more. Nevertheless, premium chocolate for CVS is still mostly mass produced chocolate from the big five companies or other large companies.

Compared to CVS’ regular chocolate, premium chocolate’s packaging was less flashy and featured gold and shiny touches and script lettering. The packaging used thicker paper or plastic and contained the words: excellence, collection, luscious, and classic to convey to the customer that these bars are distinct and higher quality. The bars also come in a variety of different flavors like fruit, caramel, honey, mint, salt and hazelnut. This example of the hybridization of chocolate or blending of two cultures was distinct from the cheaper chocolate bars that mainly featured peanut butter fillings (Coe and Coe 113). Descriptions on the back of the bar also play into the link between chocolate and sex which traces back the widespread belief that chocolate was an aphrodisiac (Coe and Coe 171). With descriptions such as, “irresistible smooth filling”, “gently caressing all your senses”, and “caramelized honey mingle with deep dark chocolate, like secret lovers meeting on a warm summer night”, these bars capitalize on how women should “project their heterosexual yearnings and fantasies onto chocolate consumption” (Robertson 35). They detail the experience you will have with their chocolate and with the exception of the Endangered Species and Chuao bars, they do not make promises about the source of their cacao or cocoa production. The Chuao bar has an ethically sourced label and the Endangered Species bar has Fair Trade and Organic labels. From CVS’ selection, premium chocolate seems to be chocolate with gold packaging that sells an experience, is slightly more expensive than their regular selection, and is mass manufactured.

Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe

Cardullo’s opened in 1950 and is a specialty food store in Harvard Square. A quick trip to their website shows pages of gourmet foods, gifts, and most importantly: Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate. These three stimulants have gone hand in hand since the colonial era (Mintz 113). Inside the store, there is a stand dedicated to Lake Champlain Chocolates and then a wall of chocolate at the edge of the store near the cashiers. At first glance, bright packaging led me to the Big Five products, except they were European brands: Aero, Maltesers, Flake, and Milka. Next, there were the more specialized bars. The packaging was less flashy overall and they featured muted tones such as a variety of pastels and browns. They also had many more fair trade, organic, and ethically grown stamps than the selection in CVS. However, many of these chocolate labels are misleading. For example, the goal of Fair Trade is to help “cocoa farmers, traders, and chocolate manufacturers participate in long-term, stable relationships that support a dependable living for farmers and their families” (Fair Trade 4). Yet, The Fair Trade Scandal, sheds light on the realities of this label. In fact, Fair Trade unequally distributes its profits and is mostly beneficial to the wealthiest countries (Sylla 205). In addition, Maricel Presilla warns in The New Taste of Chocolate, that organic of Fair Trade cacao can be “mediocre or worse in quality” (133). This is not to say that all of the labels are not producing positive results, but that labels should be noted with caution.

At first glance, I was wowed. There was a large selection of single origin bars and phrases such as “stone ground”, “craft”, and “art of blending”. Some of the brands included, Scharffen berger, Neuhaus, Chocolove and Lake Champlain. I assumed that these brands were artisanal brands that were sold in small batches, but to my disappointment, these brands were available across the U.S and in multiple countries. Their upscale looking appearance led me astray. Scharffen Berger chocolate is owned by Hershey (Lubow)! Once America’s first bean to bar manufacturer that originated cocoa content labeling, Hershey has shut down their artisan factory in California and moved it to Illinois (Scharffen Berger). Fans of the chocolate have noticed a considerable drop in the quality of the chocolate since the factory switch (Lubow). Yet, as Rachel Lauden notes, mass produced and industrialized food does not deserve the negative attention we direct toward it. For example, “the ethnic foods we seek out when we travel are being preserved, indeed often created, by a hotel and restaurant industry determined to cater to our dream of India or Indonesia, Turkey, Hawaii, or Mexico.” Perhaps for chocolate, it is important to recognize how crucial technology such as the conche or refrigerated transportation has been in creating the more refined candy we eat today (Goody 82). Quality, then is not necessarily tied to quantity.

Cardullo’s does sell bean to bar and single origin small batch chocolate. They carry Chequessett, Dolfin, Castronovo, Taza, Chocolat Bonnat and Farvarger. The most expensive bars were from Chocolat Bonnat at a whopping $17.00! A quick trip to their website revealed that these bars are from specific terroirs. I found a bar with beans from Trinite, an island in the Caribbean. These single origin bars are special because the soil, environment, and farming styles affect give their beans a unique taste (Presilla 126).

IMG_2151
Back of a Chocolat Bonnat Grand Crus Trinite bar in Cardullo’s

The more expensive bars only had cocoa beans, cocoa butter, sugar and possibly milk in them. I could count all of the ingredients on one hand, whereas in CVS, even in the premium chocolate section, bars had ten or more ingredients. The bars also featured more hybridized expensive flavors than the ones offered in CVS. For example, there are bars with ginger, orange peel, rose, coconut ash, cranberry pumpkin spice and chili. These ingredients were more exotic and inventive than the raspberry, salt, and peanut butter found in CVS.

Unlike CVS brands, most of the chocolate companies featured in Cardullo’s had pages on their websites dedicated to the environment, labor, conservation and the history of chocolate. Instead of catering to the mass market, it was clear that they wanted to demonstrate a knowledge of the cacao plant and chocolate making process. These brands also described the ingredients or process on the back of the bars in different ways. The wrappers stressed the ethical process and sustainability of their chocolate as well as quality ingredients. The descriptions were also bar specific and did not generalize company history like the CVS bars. They were also more transparent about the ingredients in their chocolate. For example, Milkboy featured Swiss milk, Castronovo describes the types of cacao (Criollo, Trinitario, and forastero), Chequessett labeled the origins or terroir, and nearly every bar listed the percent cocoa content. Cardullo’s chocolate appealed to the customer who would spend their time perusing the selection and carefully reading the back of each bar. The customer cared about the production and quality of chocolate. In contrast, the CVS customer would probably not know the difference between Criollo and Trinitario or how cacao origin or content affects taste.

Pictured: The difference between the backs of chocolate from Cardullo’s and CVS

 

From my two visits, I’ve found that marketing is key to selling “premium” chocolate. It seems to outrank ingredients, flavor or quality of cacao. For example, in the U.S, anything containing 15% cacao liquor can be labeled as chocolate (Food and Agriculture Organization). You could be eating 85% sugar and think that it’s great chocolate. Or, like me, you could be fooled by the packaging into thinking you’ve bought a white chocolate bunny, when it is in fact simply sugar and corn oil. Yet, if the packaging has flecks of gold and can convince you that it is premium, it is. Premium, as demonstrated by both CVS and Cardullo’s, seems to be relative to the chocolate selection you have. Both stores had chocolate from the big five companies which were the cheapest in both stores, so the more expensive brands seem more premium. The higher end chocolates are differentiated through packaging from the quality of the wrapper, the labels or commitments to organic, fair trade, or ethically sourced cacao, to the description of the creation of each bar. Perhaps, similar to the 15% rule, premium chocolate should have requirements that includes a standard for % cacao content, origin of cacao, or a promise for ethically sourced ingredients. Possibly, instead of a industry implemented standard, a chocolate guide or rating system, similar to Wine Spectator would be influential in determining premium chocolate.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L., and Angel Cabrera. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York, American Management Association, 2010.

Chuao. “About.” Chuao Chocolatier, chuaochocolatier.com/about/. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Clifford, Stephanie. “Stuff Piled in the Aisle? It’s There to Get You to Spend More.” The New York Times [New York City], 7 Apr. 2011, Business sec., http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/business/08clutter.html. Accessed 5 May 2017.

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

CVS. “CVS History.” CVS Health, CVS, http://www.cvshealth.com/about/company-history. Accessed 4 May 2017.

Endangered Species Chocolate. “Chocolate Bar Promise.” Chocolate Bar, Endangered Species Chocolate, http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18.

Fair Trade. “Cocoa Impact Report.” Fair Trade, 2011, fairtradeusa.org/sites/default/files/Cocoa_Impact_Report.pdf. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Ferrero. “Brands: Raffaello.” Ferrero Corporate, Ferrero, http://www.ferrero.com/products/ferrero-pralines/raffaello. Accessed 6 May 2017.

Food and Agriculture Organization. “STANDARD FOR CHOCOLATE AND CHOCOLATE PRODUCTS.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, 2003, http://www.fao.org/input/download/standards/67/CXS_087e.pdf. Accessed 7 May 2017.

Goody, Jack. Cooking, Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology. Digital printing. ed., Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2000.

Harrington, Rebecca. “Here’s Why All Fast Food Signs Are Red.” Business Insider, 30 Sept. 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/why-are-fast-food-signs-red-2015-9. Accessed 3 May 2017.

Lubow, Arthur. “My Chocolate Meltdown.” The New York Times [New York], 21 Nov. 2009, Opinion sec., http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/opinion/22lubow.html. Accessed 7 May 2017.

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

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley [Calif.], Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Ritter Sport. “Family Business and Values.” Ritter Sport US, Ritter Sport, http://www.ritter-sport.de/en_US/Family-business-values/zahlen_fakten.html. Accessed 5 May 2017.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Paperback ed., Manchester, UP, 2013.

Scharffen Berger. “Our History.” Scharffen Berger, Hershey, http://www.scharffenberger.com/our-story/history/. Accessed 4 May 2017.

Scully, Carla. “The Top 100 Candy Companies in the World in 2017.” Candy Industry, 27 Jan. 2017, http://www.candyindustry.com/2017-Global-Top-100-Part-4. Accessed 5 May 2017.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Athens, Ohio UP, 2014.

Williams, Pamela Sue, and Jim Eber. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. Vancouver, Wilmor Publishing, 2012.

The Big Four In Contemporary Chocolate Marketing

When it comes to buying chocolate consumers are overwhelmed with choices. There are hundreds of different products available at just one store. Dark, milk, white, nutty, fruity, extra sweet, extra dark, candy bar, chocolate bar; all of these come crashing together in one space where the consumer is forced to decide which one will win out among the rest. There are multiple ways that chocolate marketers entice consumers. They use celebrity sponsors, flashy advertising, appeal to certain market segments, and tug on the consumer’s emotions; but all of these tactics can overwhelm the consumer and hide the truth about the products. An analytical investigation reveals that there are four themes that stand out in chocolate marketing.

Strategy #1: Target Your Biggest Market

The largest demographic segment of the chocolate market is women. It has traditionally been thought of as a typical treat for women, but one has to question if this market structure is a result of an actual desire for chocolate by this gender, or if it was socially constructed years before. As Emma Robertson notes in her book Chocolate, Women and Empire since the nineteenth-century women have been the focus for advertisers.[1] During this time, women were constantly told that cocoa was good and wholesome for their families through advertising campaigns. This began the long historical connection between chocolate and the housewife.

Today, mothers are still told that chocolate is what they should be giving their children. Advertisements from Nestlé’s Nesquik, specifically tell mothers that their chocolate milk is nutritious for children.[2] Unfortunately, they rarely disclose in their advertisements that their products contain about half of the recommended daily amount of sugar for kids.[3] Instead, mothers are shown having happy interactions with their children when they give them these chocolate products. This is a strategic move on the part of marketers because every mother wants to give their child something that they believe will make them happy and healthy. However, housewives are not the only segment of the female population that is targeted in chocolate marketing.

Single women are often the ones portrayed eating chocolate in advertisements. In a recent ad from Hershey’s they are selling two of their classic chocolate bars, but only women are shown enjoying the treats.[4] The fifteen-second ad is very revealing because it perpetuates the image that women are the ones who enjoy chocolate the most. It would have been very easy to have a man eat part of the chocolate bar but it was a clear choice by Hershey’s to exclude men. To a chocolate marketer, men constitute only a small portion of the chocolate market, thus they are rarely included in advertisements.

Most chocolate advertisements not only focus on women but also focus on the emotions of women. In the 2015 Super Bowl ad for Snickers, the actor Danny Trejo portrays a hungry Marcia Brady, from the classic American television show The Brady Bunch. Mrs. Brady informs her daughter that she can be hostile when she is hungry, but the Snickers bar turns Marcia Brady back into her chipper self after she eats it.[5] This idea that women will calm down if they have chocolate is another common theme used in marketing chocolate. Women are frequently shown to have their moods altered just by consuming chocolate. They are sold the idea that chocolate can provide you with an emotional or biological experience.

Strategy #2: Packaging Sells

Another strategy that marketers commonly use is creative packaging to make their product stand out among all of the other options. If one walks down the chocolate aisle at any store they will see that all of the chocolate is packaged very differently. Some use bright colors to grab attention, while others have artistic images or use creative fonts. This is important when marketing chocolate because the packaging also denotes who the target audience is. Products wrapped in gold or high-gloss packaging can signal that the company is trying to convey the message that this is a quality product and they are trying to target a luxury consumer. Companies understand that the consumers are not likely to research the quality of the product; therefore the quality of the packaging and the information on the packaging is what will sell the product.

2017e677 picture 1
Image Courtesy of 2017e677

 

A key segment of the chocolate market is the eco-friendly consumer, who will inspect the packaging of the product to make sure the company shares their values. This can involve looking at the packaging to see if it uses sustainable materials, checking the label certifications, or seeing if the company supports the same causes as they do. Purchasing a product is often an emotional experience. If the consumer is purchasing a chocolate without knowing how it tastes, their decision will also be based on whether the packaging grabbed their attention and made them feel a connection to the product.

 

Strategy #3: Play on Your Consumer’s Emotions

Emotions are a key factor when it comes to decision-making. Marketers know that people’s beliefs and feelings will sell products and subsequently, will support causes outside of their industry to make their product stand out among the competition. This is common in the chocolate industry that companies will support other causes in order to lure customers in to support their brand. The moist poignant example is Endangered Species Chocolate, who uses a social cause as their key marketing strategy.

“A snack that gives back”; Endangered Species Chocolate promises their customers that 10% of their net profits each year will be donated to their wildlife conservation partners.[6] They have had a wide variety of partners over the years, which include organizations that help animals in every ecosystem. This is a very clever marketing strategy because it connects their chocolate with a deeper purpose. The consumer feels like they are making a difference in the world if they are buying this chocolate, which is a compelling sales strategy. Endangered Species Chocolate further cements the emotional connection to the product by putting images of animals on every one of their products. While this is a very clear strategy to drive sales, the company is also transparent about the impact their donations have each year by publishing an annual impact report.[7]

Divine Chocolate also uses social causes as a marketing strategy to sell their chocolate. Their chocolate bars are branded as being owned by cocoa farmers and they seek to empower women. Cocoa farming has traditionally been thought of as mainly an industry for men and women have been overlooked.[8] Divine Chocolate changes this common chocolate dichotomy by emphasizing the important roles that women have in cocoa farming. Their advertisements often show African women as strong, well-dressed intelligent women, a stark contrast to the typical primitive images of women in Africa. As Kristy Leissle notes Divine’s advertisements, “reframe Africa’s role in modernity, creating an alluring female figure that envisions and promotes Africa’s contributions to industrial production and luxury consumption.”[9] By changing the typical narrative of chocolate, Divine Chocolate is creating social change. However, these advertisements that inspire change also play into the consumer’s emotions, which was created to highlight the company’s “unique selling point.”[10] Divine Chocolate understands that their ethical values as a company are a selling feature for their products, and as a result, they use these values as a marketing tool.

Strategy #4: Certify Everything

The final, and perhaps most contemporary, marketing tool that marketers use when selling chocolate are all of the different certifications that can appear on the packaging of products. Ideally, one would not have to be concerned about the treatment of farmers or the quality of the ingredients. If that were the case we would not need labels to tell us that this product is not harming the environment, but consumers do not automatically trust that a company will be ethical in their business practices. Consequently, there are many different certifications available: Fair Trade, Certified Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Direct Trade, Certified Vegan, Certified Gluten Free, among many others. For all of these certifications companies and farmers have to pay annual fees and meet certain standards to become a part of these organizations and as a result, they are allowed to use the corresponding label that they qualified for on their products. While the certifications have good intentions they have become a marketing ploy, and one could argue that the labels do not actually benefit the farmers or producers in the altruistic way that is intended.

The Fair Trade certification was created to help farmers improve their lives and ensure fair prices for their products, but these goals have not been realized.[11] It has been found that farmers are not earning more money, the quality of products has not improved, and they do not monitor standards in the way that was promised.[12] This is a significant problem for farmers because they spend a great deal of money to become Fair Trade certified but they are not receiving the benefits that were espoused.[13] Since the economic burden is so substantial many farmers opt out of the certification because they will make more money without it.[14] However, many consumers do not realize that certification labels like Fair Trade are failing to adhere to their promises.

Certifications labels were created to inform consumers that products were ethical in their origin. Nico Roozen and Frans van der Hoff created the first quality label called Max Havelaar.[15] Along with Albert Heijn, in 1988 they launched the first coffee brand that was labeled fair, Max Havelaar coffee.[16] The brand became so successful that more products began displaying the Max Havelaar label throughout Europe and North America.[17] As a result of the popularity of the Max Havelaar label, more certifications have been created. While these certification organizations have good intentions, they have also become an extremely successful marketing tool. Companies have seen large spikes in sales as a result of these labels, but there is the potential for this growth to stop.[18]

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The many certification labels on Theo Chocolate, Endangered Species Chocolate and Taza Chocolate. Images courtesy of 2017e677.

The average consumer does not know the requirements for certification for the majority of the programs that exists. They just assume that a Fair Trade or organic label denotes an ethical or high-quality product. But now that more certifications exist, companies will put multiple certifications on one product potentially confusing the consumer. As Ndongo Samba Sylla notes, companies run the risk of diluting the meaning of these labels by placing too many on one package.[19] By placing so many certifications on one product, the labels begin to be arbitrary and reveal their true purpose, which is a sales device.

Is Chocolate Marketing All a Façade?

With all of these marketing strategies, it begins to look like there is a lack of honesty in the marketing industry. As a result, consumers are left to wonder if they are simply being sold lies. It is true that chocolate marketers will exploit every angle they can in order to sell you a product but they are not necessarily acting unethically, they are just doing their job. Companies need to push boundaries in order to set themselves apart from all of the competition. Ultimately a company cannot be altruistic without selling their products, thus earning the additional money necessary to meet their charity goals. The chocolate industry is a highly competitive world and it is important as a consumer to not get caught up in the strategies that companies implement.

In order to be mislead by all of the marketing schemes, consumers need to do their homework when searching for the chocolate product they want to purchase. There are honest chocolate companies that are very transparent about their processes and openly publish company information. For example, Theo Chocolate is proud to share information about their passions for chocolate and changing the world.[20] On their website they are open about where their beans are sourced from and share their pricing structure publically.[21] In addition, Taza Chocolate publishes a direct trade transparency report that details where they are buying their cacao and from whom.[22] The reports often list farmers by name, giving the consumer more knowledge than is usually possible with the food industry.[23]

While both Taza Chocolate and Theo Chocolate still market their chocolate like any other business would, they also publish information about their respective business practices, which indicates that they are open to additional conversations about their methods. Their honesty is a refreshing change in the chocolate industry. Although transparency is not commonly employed in marketing chocolate, by clearly understanding the tools that companies use to sell their products a consumer can look past all of the sales techniques and find the chocolate product that is right for them.

 

 

 

Works Cited

[1] Emma Robertson, Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Manchester University Press: New York, 2009), 20.

[2] “Postgame Nutrition”, Nestle Nesquik, accessed May 1, 2017, https://www.nesquik.com/postgame-nutrition/.

[3] “Sugar Recommendation Healthy Kids and Teens Infographic”, American Heart Association, accessed May 1, 2017, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-Recommendation-Healthy-Kids-and-Teens-Infographic_UCM_487755_SubHomePage.jsp.

[4] Hershey’s, “HERSHEY’S Love in Every Bite”, YouTube Video, 00:15, Posted February 6, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxYHyZWaK2o.

[5] Wall Street Journal, “Super Bowl 2015: Snickers Ad”, YouTube Video, 00:32, Posted January 29, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UO2A2p-19A.

[6] “Promise”, Endangered Species Chocolate, accessed May 1, 2017, http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18.

[7] Endangered Species Report, Impact Report 2016, Accessed May 2, 2017,

http://www.chocolatebar.com/docs/doc_2016_Impact_Report.pdf.

[8] Divine Chocolate, “Empowering Women”, accessed May 2, 2017, http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/about-us/TrainingWomen.

[9] Kirsty Leissle, “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements”, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 123.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Mission/Values”, Fair Trade USA, accessed May 2, 2017. https://fairtradeusa.org/about-fair-trade-usa/mission.

[12] Carla D. Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization” (Lecture Slides, Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017), Slide 11, accessed May 2, 2017, https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1CkKtJa-PLeSsmfsrheoSqdO2gT7yiizxE7x0DmcwcKA/edit#slide=id.g12aecdfb3_057.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Carla D. Martin, “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization” (Lecture, Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017).

[15] Ndongo Samba Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty To Benefit The Rich (Ohio University Press: Athens, 2014), 70-71.

[16] Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 72.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 91.

[19]Sylla, The Fair Trade Scandal, 133.

[20] “Mission”, Theo Chocolate, accessed May 2, 2017, https://www.theochocolate.com/mission.

[21]“Sourcing”, Theo Chocolate, accessed May 2, 2017, https://www.theochocolate.com/sourcing.

[22] “Taza Direct Trade”, Taza Chocolate, accessed May 3, 2017, https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade.

[23] “Taza Transparency Report 2015”, Taza Chocolate, accessed May 3, 2017, https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0974/7668/files/Taza_Transparency_Report_2015.pdf?10448975028103371905.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/5126226571

Indulge in a Cause: How Endangered Species Chocolate and the Ethically Oriented Consumer are Changing Chocolate

“Indulge in a cause”. This is what consumers read when they are first introduced to Endangered Species Chocolate. Upon first sight of the chocolate products, it is clear that Endangered Species Chocolate has a mission more complex than simply providing a sugary treat for its consumers to indulge in. Each flavor of chocolate bar is wrapped in packaging featuring an image of a different endangered species. This is indicative of their promise, which claims “10% of our net profits are donated annually to current 10% GiveBack Partners; each is guaranteed a minimum annual donation of $10,000 and is free to use the funds on projects they deem most important. With over $1.3 million generated in the past three years alone, each chocolate purchase adds up to big support that helps wildlife thrive” (“Promise”, 2015). This dedication to the preservation of wildlife is in conjunction with their promise to adhere to high ethical standards in the chocolate industry. In fact, Endangered Species Chocolate was the first American chocolate company to use fully traceable Fairtrade West African cocoa (“Endangered Species”, 2015). The company produces delicious products with the thought that their commitment to ethical standards makes them all the more indulgent and enjoyable.

Since its formation, the chocolate industry has experienced many ethical problems that companies like Endangered Species Chocolate are trying to combat. When chocolate first became a popular commodity, its production relied on slavery. This was first fulfilled through the encomienda system and then through the enslavement of Africans (Martin & Sampeck, 2015). Even after the abolition of slavery in the countries in which the cacao industry was dependent on slaves, slavery was still uncovered in certain cacao growing regions. However, once the slavery was uncovered, chocolate companies began to boycott these regions (Martin, 2017). Although slavery has become less of a problem in the industry, one of the most apparent problems affecting the industry now is the low quality of life of cacao farmers. The farmers work in harsh conditions for extremely long hours, yet often survive on an unsustainable income. In 2015, a study showed that the average salary for a Ghanaian cacao farming household was $0.50 to $0.80 USD per day (Martin, 2017). This instability has resulted in the use of child labor in some cases in order to sustain the households. A study by Tulane University found that 800,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire and 1,000,000 children in Ghana performed labor related to cacao farming in 2008 (Martin, 2017). Furthermore, the labor conditions of cacao farming have been associated with fatigue, musculoskeletal injury, general injuries to the skin, heat-related illness, and the risk of mosquito-borne disease. Most farmers also lack sanitary areas to prepare food, do not have access to clean water, and do not have areas to get away from the heat (Martin, 2017). For these reasons, government and independent organizations have worked to change policy and create more sustainable working conditions. Fairtrade organizations have helped to create better conditions for the cacao workers and have provided certification for certain companies that meet Fairtrade guidelines. Endangered Species Chocolate effectively helps to reduce some of the problems in the chocolate industry by adhering to ethical Fairtrade standards and being transparent.

What is Fairtrade?

There have been recent efforts within the chocolate industry to focus on becoming Fairtrade registered. In terms of the goals of Fairtrade, Fairtrade America describes “Fairtrade America’s mission is to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and support producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position, and take more control over their lives” (Work”, 2015). This is accomplished by providing farmers with more fair prices for their products and a strict adherence to standards that protect the environment and worker’s rights (“Work”, 2015). The Fairtrade logo indicates that a product was produced by a small-scale farmer organization that meets Fairtrade standards. These standards include a Fairtrade minimum price as well as the Fairtrade premium, “an extra amount of money that producer organizations invest in products of their choice” (“What”, 2015). These products may benefit the business of the farmers directly, or may go towards projects that benefit the community. Other promises of Fairtrade include long-term direct trading relationships, efficient payment for farmers, no child or forced labor, safe working conditions, discrimination-free workplaces, environmental sustainability, and traceability (Martin, 2017).

In the video produced by Fairtrade America, the farmers who are a part of the Fairtrade cooperative are seen happily performing their daily tasks on the farm. There are also scenes showing how Fairtrade helps women and helps to benefit the communities that the farmers live in. A Fairtrade International Liaison Officer in the area, Anne Marie Yao, explains her opinion of the Fairtrade system and says “To me fair trading means more empowerment for farmers. Fair trading enables them to sell their crops in a fair market while supporting their communities”. The farmers are also shown to be appreciating the benefits of Fairtrade. Oubda Sambo, a cacao farmer in the area, describes how the farmers did not know how to treat their plants to produce high quality beans, but with the help of Fairtrade certification, his farm was able to produce a consistent, high quality product. The video also specifically mentions how the farmers work together and do not depend on child labor to sustain the demands of the farm labor. As seen in the video, Fairtrade contributes to ethical consumption because it allows farmers to receive adequate pay for their work, and the communities also benefit.

Endangered Species Chocolate Role in Ethical Consumption

Endangered Species Chocolate’s commitment to ethically sourced chocolate and promise to give back to the environment are what distinguishes it from other bean to bar chocolate companies. Furthermore, the company is very transparent with their practices, and shares detailed reports of where their beans are sourced from as well as exactly where their donations of profits go to (“Promise”, 2015). In order to convey this to the consumer, each bar is wrapped in packaging explaining the company’s commitments.

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Aside from the image of an endangered species, the front of the bar also advertises that 10% of the net profits made from the bars are donated. A full explanation of where the donations go is available on the inside of the wrapping.

Endangered-Species-Inside-Label

This includes donations to the African Wildlife Foundation, Xerces Society, SEE turtles foundation, Rainforest Trust, Wildlife Conservation Network, SEEtheWILD, and Chimp Haven (“Promise”, 2015). All of these organizations are committed to species conservation, habitat preservation, and humanitarian efforts. Their website provides an impact report that gives detailed explanations of the work done by each foundation. In the report, the current CEO, Curt Vander Meer, explains “We’ll keep doing our part, creating chocolate too delicious to resist, with one goal in mind – to grow our GiveBack, year after year. With your support, there’s no limit to the good we can do” (“Promise”, 2015). In addition to their dedication to transparency involving donations, Endangered Species Chocolate also makes information regarding the effects of Fairtrade avaliable through their website. Their sourcing Fairtrade sheet educates consumers on where their cacao is sourced from, and how the farmers from these areas use the benefits of Fairtrade to improve their practice and community (“Promise”, 2015). The company attracts ethically conscious consumers, as the bar allows for ethical consumption that derives from principled and transparent production while also providing support for other ethically-oriented organizations.

This commitment to an ethical product is seen throughout their branding. On their website products page, the company explains “our milk and dark chocolate bars and bites are made with ethically traded, shade grown cacao and natural ingredients. Learn about at-risk species by reading the inside of each 3oz. bar wrapper. And the best part? 10% of net profits from your purchase are donated to support conservation efforts!” (“Products”, 2015). These promises to support ethical business and give back to conservation efforts appear to excite consumers and give them more reason to indulge in chocolate. One excited consumer shared her experience with the chocolate on twitter saying, “Today I bought a chocolate bar that states that 10% of its proceeds go to a wildlife organization to save endangered species. #yay”. Endangered Species Chocolate is unique in that it excites consumers through their use of endangered species awareness, yet further educates customers, who may not previously have been aware of the problems in the chocolate industry. The company also attempts to excite and educate customers of their doings through social media.

Endangered Species Chocolate produced a video thanking their customers, in which they explain the moral benefits of buying their chocolate. The video shows one of the communities from which their chocolate is sourced, displaying scenes of cacao harvesting and community involvement. The text of the video explains “ESC supports before the bar […] ESC supports a better bar […] ESC supports beyond the bar”. This is reflective of their commitment to supporting the chocolate farmers, the chocolate production workers, and supporting a cause beyond the chocolate industry—wildlife conservation. The video appears to be less centered around their chocolate products, and more focused on the benefits they provide to the global community. The importance of the ethics surrounding the production and consumption of the product is stressed, as importance of chocolate is greater than the product itself.

In the past two decades, the purchase of foods that are considered to be more ethical has increased drastically. In an analysis of the chocolate market, sales of organic chocolate increased by 70% from 1999 to 2000. At the time, the president of the Endangered Species Chocolate company said that he believed this increase was a result of a more ethically-conscious consumer, explaining “The state of organic chocolate is extremely healthy. What drives this market forward is increased awareness  and the intelligence of the customer” (Curtis, 2000). In terms of certifications, Endangered Species Chocolate is committed to a variety of ethically and health-minded promises. These include certifications for Fairtrade, Non-GMO Project, Vegan Action, gluten-free, Kosher, and RSPO. These certifications are reflective of their commitment to high ethical standards. Consumers appear to be influenced by these certifications, and the Fairtrade certification has had a particularly large effect on consumer habits. From 2004 to 2012, sales of products certified by Fairtrade International increased by almost 4 billion euros (Austin, 2016). Consumers are in fact motivated to pay a little extra if they believe it goes to a good cause. It is for this reason that companies like Endangered Species Chocolate are able to have an impact on the problems in the chocolate industry. However, there have been some criticisms regarding Fairtrade certifications.

Is Fairtrade Good Enough?

Although Fairtrade sounds as though it is an extremely effective and positive measure for benefiting the lives of farmers, it has faced some criticism. In the video produced by Fairtrade America, Anne Marie Yao had explained that she believed Fairtrade to be empowering to the farmers, but this may not always be the case. To begin with, the standards that a farm must meet before being certified are rigorous, and it is not possible for some small-scale farmers to meet the criteria (Austin, 2016). Therefore, farmers that may desire to commit themselves to Fairtrade practices may lack the resources to do so. This disadvantage to small-scale farmers is seen in the data indicating that 54% of Fairtrade certified producers are located in nations that are considered to be “upper-middle income” (Sylla, 2014). It is possible that Fairtrade benefits producers who may not need the assistance in comparison to small-scale farmers who lack basic resources. Another possible problem with Fairtrade that has been examined is that hundreds of products have received the certification, making it difficult to understand exactly what qualifies as Fairtrade. Furthermore, for every U.S. dollar more that is spent towards a Fairtrade product, only $0.03 goes back to the country in from which the product came from (“Good”, 2014). Fairtrade does provide benefits to the farmers that receive the verification, however, the benefits may not be as wide-spread and accessible as previously believed.

The Future of Chocolate

Although there are still many ethical problems in the chocolate industry that require solutions, companies like Endangered Species Chocolate are taking necessary and important steps towards improving the chocolate industry. These steps include using ethically-sourced products in their production, and being transparent with their customers. Although Fairtrade and other ethically-oriented certifications do not solve all of the problems in the cacao farming industry, they are a starting point for future changes that may transform the chocolate industry and make it more ethical for producers and consumers. Endangered Species Chocolate has committed itself to high ethical standards, and it is an important example and start in creating effective long-term solutions.

Works Cited

Austin, M. (2016, Mar 24). Southeast sustainability: Is fair trade actually a fair deal? University Wire Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1775592522?accountid=11311

Endangered Species Chocolate. (2015). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from http://www.fairtradeamerica.org/en-us/fairtrade-products/chocolate/endangered-species-chocolate

[Endangered Species Chocolate Bars]. (2014, February 27). Retrieved May 3, 2017, from https://redheadwithafork.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/filled-bars-packaging.jpg

[Endangered Species Chocolate Wrapper]. (2016, March 20). Retrieved May 3, 2017, from Products. (2015). Retrieved April 29, 2017, from http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=20

Good thing, or bad? (2014, July 05). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.economist.com/news/business-books-quarterly/21606248-easing-consciences-good-thing-or-bad

Jenny Nguyen [jnguyen510]. (2017, April 29]. Jenny Nguyen [Twitter moment]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/jnguyen510/status/858384551730491392

Life on a Fairtrade Cocoa Farm [Video file]. (2015, March 10). Retrieved May 3, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXBLDSxfgxc

Martin, C. D. (2017). Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization [Lecture]. Retrieved from Harvard University AFRAMER 119x Canvas site.

Martin, C. D. (2017). Modern Day Slavery [Lecture]. Retrieved from Harvard University AFRAMER 119x Canvas site.

Martin, C. D. (2017). Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor [Lecture]. Retrieved from Harvard University AFRAMER 119x Canvas site.

Martin, C. D., & Sampeck, K. E. (2015). The bitter and sweet of chocolate in Europe. SOCIO. HU, 2015(3), 37-60.

Morse, K. (2013, April 19). [Endangered Species Chocolate Logo]. Retrieved May 3, 2017, from http://thewellnessscientist.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/endangered-species-logo.png

Products. (2015). Retrieved April 29, 2017, from http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=20

Promise. (2015). Retrieved April 29, 2017, from http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18

Sylla, N. (2014). The fair trade scandal: Marketing poverty to benefit the rich. Ohio University Press.

Thank You 2016 | Endangered Species Chocolate [Video file]. (2016, November 30). Retrieved May 4, 2017.

What is Fairtrade, (2015). Retrieved May 01, 2017 from http://www.fairtradeamerica.org/en-us/what-is-fairtrade

Work For Us. (2015). Retrieved May 01, 2017 from http://www.fairtradeamerica.org/en-us/get-involved/work-for-us

 

What Do You See?

Chocolate seems to permeate our lives. It saturates the grocery shelves during the holiday seasons and appears on our television screens. It is a true constant in our rapidly-changing world. Because our modern world is always developing, how has chocolate maintained permanent-product status? The easy answer is: sugar. Several hundred years ago when sugar first emerged onto the European food scene, it was a new and exciting ingredient from Mesoamerica that served many uses. It began as an expensive superfluous supplement to the natural European diet, but after two centuries, sugar had become a staple to the English diet and essential to the rest of Europe (Prof. Martin Lecture). This kind of integration was not isolated to sugar. Chocolate made the journey from a fancy, elite delicacy to a common household item… or so it seems. As this article of fun facts reveals, Modern day “Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, or over 11 pounds per person” which is much more than the average for Europeans. I argue that although statistics show that the common person consumes great amounts of chocolate, it still retains its original status as a highbrow item despite its price. This is best showcased by the chocolate sections at CVS.

There are a couple of different places to find chocolate at CVS, each with their own chief marketing purpose. The first is in the candy aisle. Here you can find the label “bagged chocolate” and see an assortment of chocolate from big, well-known companies like Hershey, Reese’s, etc. They all have seemingly endless variations of dark, milk, and white chocolate, sometimes mixed with peanut butter, nuts, or other embellishments. As you walk into the aisle, the sheer amount of options is overwhelming. The range of your selection makes them all seem to blend together. It is even hard to read each label individually because your eye is constantly being drawn elsewhere by cartoon images and bright colors. Eventually, you just go with what you know. This is either a run-of-the-mill choice like plain milk chocolate or something slightly more niche like salted caramel dark chocolate. In the case of a more niche preference, you will likely already know its position in the aisle because it does not change. Never at eye-level, your bag of salted caramel dark chocolate is eternally juxtaposed to the bag of mint milk chocolate, both sold by the same company. At any given CVS, they will sometimes be on a high level but more often than not, they will be off to the side. This particular bag of chocolate will reside at shin-level so you have to bend down to pick it up. It never goes on sale. But your friend has a slightly different experience. You see, she is a big fan of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, no almonds or other extras. She needs two bags because finals are coming up and she stress eats when she feels bloated. She turns into the candy aisle, finds the sign indicating the chocolate, and walks right up to inspect her choices. She does not have to look for long. As she glances to the side, her eyes find the Hershey’s label and her brain immediately recognizes the color. She grabs two bags since there is a sale that applies to this type of chocolate (second bag is 50% off!) and you both head to the front of the store to pay.

IMG_3973
Photo taken by me.

Now let’s say that you and your friend prefer the finer things in life. Pretend that there has been a tragic epidemic and every chocolatier in your immediate vicinity has been destroyed. This leaves CVS as your only option for buying chocolate. The two of you cannot eat “commoners chocolate,” whatever that means (you and your friend are chocolate-snobs) so you head to the “Premium Chocolates” stand that CVS has on display. There is a notable absence of plastic bags and cartoon labels, no bright colors that remind you of late Halloween nights. The characteristics of this section that stand out to you are the highbrow-looking packaging, lack of “Big Chocolate” name brands (or so you think), and the fact that the vast majority of the packaging features some sort of picture of smooth chocolate.

IMG_3974
Photo taken by me.

Because you and your friend prefer everyone to know the percentage of cocoa that your chocolate is, you grab a package from eye-level that advertises “85% Cocoa” in big, bold letters beneath the word “Excellence” written in a super fancy script font. This chocolate is slightly pricier than the chocolate in other areas of CVS so you and your friend agree to split the bag. Then you both head to the counter to pay.

In both situations, you have to pass the “impulse buy” test. As you wait in line to pay, you are surrounded by shelves of mini-sized candy. It is a slue of small packaging, with candy, gum, donuts, and chocolate all mixed together. The gum is at the top because it is the easiest to justify in a situation where you need to freshen up your breath. Directly below the gum are four entire shelves of candy, mostly chocolate. This is a departure from the fancy marketing you saw earlier. It is a return to the “Big Chocolate” name brands like Hershey. In contrast to the chocolate aisle, this chocolate is being sold in much smaller quantities. Its small size and location in the store point to a popular marketing ploy that stores like to use, especially in America. In America, we are very susceptible to the “impulse buy.” It is very easy to justify buying a small chocolate candy bar on your way out of CVS than buying a whole bag. Even further, these candies are not at adult-eye level but they are positioned perfectly to draw the attention of any child who walks past them. You, however, are not a child. You wait your turn and pay for your chocolate at the cash register. Then you leave CVS, concluding your shopping experience.

IMG_3968
Photo taken by me.

These elaborate scenarios showcase various ways that chocolate plays a part in our everyday lives. For instance, the way that companies choose to visually represent their chocolate speaks to how we perceive chocolate. The “Premium Chocolates” section is a perfect example of this. In “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics”, Mary Norton discusses how sociologists and cultural historians “have eschewed biological or economic determinism and instead theorize taste as socially constructed” (Norton, 663). She uses Mintz’ work on sugar’s development “from a medicinal additive to a luxury good among the upper classes” to complement his argument that “sugar ‘embodied the social position of the wealthy and powerful.’ He points to ‘sugar’s usefulness as a mark of rank—to validate one’s social position. To elevate others, or to define them as inferior.’” (Norton/Mintz). This seems antiquated to us in modern day but it really holds true to society’s perception of chocolate. If you take into account the countless ads like this one that present chocolate as a luxury item that should be desired, then it becomes easier to see why presenting their product as “Premium Chocolates” is an effective marketing tactic used by Lindt and Ghirardelli in CVS.

Looking at this commercial, the first thing to notice is the incredible CGI they have used to recreate Audrey Hepburn, an icon of class and elegance. There is classic music playing in the background. Audrey Hepburn leaves the public transport bus and makes the transition into a handsome man’s car where he proceeds to act as her chauffeur as she eats chocolate in the backseat. This is a very clear way of associating chocolate with a certain lavish lifestyle that mirrors the purpose of the upscale display at CVS. This demonstrates how chocolate is still thought of as a luxury good despite its frequency.

Similarly, you can discern the intended audience from the location and price of the chocolate. In the chocolate aisle and the section right before the cash register, the position of the chocolate can reveal many things. If it is at eye-level for an adult, odds are that product is very popular. An example of this is the Hershey’s chocolate staple: plain dark chocolate. If the product is more particular, it is likely that it will be on a different shelf in order to make room for the standard products. One exception to this rule is when products are placed at the eye-level of children. Today, ads everywhere target kids because they want to create costumers for life. This has various ethical complications, not the least of which are explored in the article “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies” by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens. Their article describes the way sugar’s detrimental effects on public health were covered up by greedy corporations. Along the way, scientific research has found that “sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars” (Taubes). The ethical complications arise when the companies knowlingly advertised their product that contained unhealthy ingredients without making the public fully aware of their effects. There is also research that links the overconsumption of sucrose and HFCS to obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which disproportionately affect young people. Ad campaigns like this one from Cadbury target young people in an effort to foster a relationship between the child and the brand so that as an adult, their potential purchasing power increases because of their trained loyalty to the specific company.

The ad works likes a commercial to kids for kids. The use of children and upbeat music to advertise chocolate is a convincing strategy to associate chocolate with fun. This targeting of children as consumers is demonstrated in stores like CVS where chocolate is placed in the perfect position for children to recognize them from ads on television and the internet.

Chocolate might seem like a normal treat that you indulge in after a difficult day, but if you look deeper into your own perception of chocolate, you will learn that it is integral to multiple societal structures. Not only can you see from the different placements of chocolate in CVS that it is associated with elitism and opulence, but it is also incredibly gendered. This post on reddit.com by user Te1221 establishes the subconscious connection between chocolate and women.

chocotampon
Reddit, posted by user Te1221 in 2014.

The caption is “CVS boosted chocolate sales this year” which implies that its location next to female hygienic products would help it sell more. The suggestion that women on their period are more likely to buy chocolate is widely spread idea. This is just a small example of how chocolate can really represent institutions within our society like gender (like power through its elitism).

Just from looking at chocolate placement in a CVS in Harvard Square, you can begin to understand its intrinsic nature. Chocolate is a symbol of delicacy, power, femininity, and sinfulness (both in relation to physical health and sexually). All you need to do is look.

Works Cited

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691

Mintz, Sidney W. “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” (New York, 1985), 140, 139, 153, 166–167.

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, Feb. 15, 2017.

Taubes, Gary, and Cristin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” Mother Jones. Nov/Dec. 2012. Web. 04 May 2017. <http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign&gt;.

Potomac Chocolate: a Closer Look at the Ethics, Marketing, and Intentions of Craft Chocolate Makers

Potomac Chocolate is a craft chocolate maker based in Woodbridge, Virginia. Ben Rasmussen is an award-winning chocolate maker who founded Potomac in 2010 and now has chocolate bars for sale across the country.  Potomac is often described as an “absurdly small” chocolate company, as it is truly a one-man show.  As I read more articles and blog posts from Ben Rasmussen, I quickly learned the truth behind that statement.  One blog post from June of 2013 simply said “Just a quick note that I’ll be traveling with my family from today until July 21st. Any orders placed will go out when I return” (Rasmussen, 2013).  Moreover, Rasmussen also wrote that he probably spends over half of the time that he is making chocolate on matters that have nothing to do with chocolate; he is everything from a “designer, custodian, accountant, salesman…and on and on.”  While he doesn’t love all of the these roles, they enable him to do what he loves, which is making great chocolate.  However, Rasmussen should be praised for far more than the taste of his chocolate. I have found that Potomac Chocolate is ethically sourced, modestly marketed, intended for all to enjoy, and made with a passion for great chocolate.

Sources of Cacao

The first thing I noticed when I looked at the catalog of Potomac bars was the variety of cacao sources.  Each Potomac bar is a single-origin bar, meaning the cacao beans used for each bar are from one particular region of a country.  Origin is particularly significant for chocolate production, as there is a long history of unethical cacao farming: some of which continues to this day.  In The True History of Chocolate, Sophie Coe writes:

“The gravest and most troubling issue confronting practically all of the major players in the chocolate business concerns child labor—usually unpaid—on the great West African cacao plantations. The countries most involved in this shameful practice are the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) and Ghana. The former alone produces nearly 40 percent of the world’s supply of forastero cacao, the mainstay of the chocolate giants. Several million African children, many of them trafficked from neighboring countries such as Mali, work under terrible conditions throughout the year…” (Coe, 2013).

Moreover, Carla Martin, a leading expert on chocolate, explains that even in the 21st century there is still prominent evidence of the worst forms of child labor on various cocoa farms in West Africa (Martin, 2017).  As a result of this troubling issue, I wanted to take a closer look at Potomac’s cacao sources.  According to Potomac’s website, Ben is currently sourcing cacao from four locations.  However, at various times in Potomac’s short history, Ben has tested cacao beans from a wider variety of sources— he said no to some of these sources altogether, while others he adopted for a short while before moving on to sources he liked better.  Here are the current cacao sources used by Potomac:

Upala, Costa Rica (3 bars): Potomac offers three different bars using cacao from Upala, Costa Rica.  This is also the first source of cacao that Ben Rasmussen ever used in his marketed chocolate bars.  The 70% dark and 85% dark bars are both comprised of simply organic Costa Rican cacao and organic sugar.  The description found on the packaging for both of these bars says: “Pure dark chocolate made from cacao grown by Finca La Amistad, a small farm in northern Costa Rica. Rich and earthy with notes of caramel, cream, nut, and red fruit.”  Potomac also offers a 70% dark bar using the same cacao beans but with the addition of cacao nibs (nibs are the most raw, pure form of chocolate).  I took a closer look at Finca La Amistad to find that the farm prides itself on having “Best quality, fair working conditions, responsible management of natural resources and long-term partnerships based on mutual trust” (Amistad, 2017).

San Martin, Peru (3 bars): Next, Potomac offers three different bars sourced from San Martin, Peru.  However, there is a discrepancy between the bars in terms of the farms within San Martin providing the cacao.  The 70% dark bar as well as the same bar with the addition of salt are grown by the same farmers.  The description on the packaging for both of these bars says: ”Pure dark chocolate made from cacao grown by the Acopagro Cacao Cooperative in the Amazonian highlands of Peru. Bright and fruity with notes of banana, raisin and apricot.”  The Acopagro Cacao Cooperative sought Fair Trade Certification in order to meet important needs like raising income levels, educational opportunities for children, and adequate healthcare for employees (Acopagro, 2017).  The third bar from this source, the 65% dark milk bar, sources cacao from a different farm.  The description on the packaging for this bar says: ”Pure dark milk chocolate made from cacao grown by the Oro Verde Cooperative in the Amazonian highlands of Peru. Rich and creamy with notes of berries and caramel.”  I found that the Oro Verde Cooperative is so small that they explicitly mention each team member’s name and credentials on their website. Moreover, they pride themselves on healthy living conditions, quality, and transparency (Oro, 2017)

Duarte, Dominican Republic (2 bars): Rasmussen also offers two bars sourced from Duarte, Dominican Republic.  The 70% dark bar was my first encounter with Potomac Chocolate.  I said something to myself like, “that’s the best chocolate I have ever had,” and quickly became interested in learning more.  The packaging description for this bar says: ”Pure dark chocolate made from cacao grown in the Duarte province of the Dominican Republic by a collection of small producers and then carefully fermented and dried by ÖKO-Caribe. Rich cocoa with notes of red fruit.”  Potomac also offers a bar from Duarte with the addition of coconut.  This description presented the biggest challenge in determining ethical sourcing, but after more research, it seems that the ÖKO-Caribe provide transparent trade and high quality (Oko, 2017).

Cuyagua, Venezuela (1 bar): Lastly, Rassmussen’s most recent addition to his list of sourced cacao is his single bar from Cuyagua, Venezuela.  The packaging description for this bar says: ”Pure dark chocolate made from cacao grown by a small cooperative in Cuyagua, located on the northern coast of Venezuela. Deep cocoa notes with subtle citrus and spice.”  In The New Taste of Chocolate by Maricel Presilla, there is an entire page about Cuyagua.  Presilla writes:

“As on other cacao plantations, black ex-slaves eventually acquired the rights to the land. Today tourism is the main industry of Cuyagua, and it is hard to get people to work the farm. But a small cooperative still works a remnant of the old farm, carrying out fermentation and drying next to an old colonial house. The day-to-day work falls on only six men and eight women” (Presilla, 2000).

What I’ve gathered from taking a closer look at these sources is that while Rasmussen does not go into too much detail on his website about the cooperatives and farms he works with, he nonetheless explicitly mentions the farming sources for his cacao.  In general, there is a clear emphasis on cacao origin for Potomac bars, which seems to suggest that Rasmussen has given the topic fair thought.  Unfortunately, this can’t be said for the chocolate world at large.  Lastly, when asked about Fair Trade Certification on Potomac’s Kickstarter page, Rasmussen responded:

“All of my cacao is currently fair trade certified, although I pay a good deal more than the fair trade price…I am also working towards doing more direct trade with the farmers who grow the cacao I use, which results in the farmers making a lot more for their cacao than they would with only fair trade” (Kickstarter, 2017).

 

Marketing

Next, I have found that Potomac chocolate is modestly marketed.  To understand the marketing behind Potomac Chocolate better, I took a trip to three different retailers in the Boston area to see Potomac on the shelves.  My first stop was Formaggio Kitchen in West Cambridge, MA.

Formaggio Kitchen in West Cambridge, MA
IMG_2432Storefront of Formaggio Kitchen in West Cambridge, MA. Personal photo.

While Potomac Chocolate was first on the shelves at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge as early as June, 2011, Dan Rasmussen was finally able to visit the shop in March, 2017.  He wrote on an Instagram post:

“I finally got to visit Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge MA and see my bars on their shelf! Best of all, I got to meet and chat with Julia Hallman who curates their chocolate selection. Julia and Formaggio have been great supporters of Potomac for a long time. They were one of the earliest shops to carry my bars” (Instagram, 2017).

Formaggio Kitchen responded to the post and said: “It was so great to finally meet you in person after all of these years! We love your chocolates and can’t wait to see what comes next!”

IMG_2439A section of the chocolate selection you can find at Formaggio Kitchen.  Personal photo. 

I was able to take a look at this chocolate curation for myself, and I then understood why there was a need for a “chocolate curator” in the first place.  Formaggio Kitchen had the largest chocolate selection of any of the specialty shops I visited.

IMG_2436Potomac Chocolate on the shelves at Formaggio Kitchen. Personal photo.

A closer look at Potomac’s packaging shows the simplicity in its marketing strategy.  Ben Rasmussen has always stood by the statement, “it’s all about the chocolate,” and this is evermore clear in his packaging.  Potomac Chocolate’s packaging is actually in fairly stark contrast to the packaging of other chocolates that you will find on the same shelves. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, for example, has a flashier marketing strategy on multiple levels.

IMG_2438A Potomac Chocolate bar next to a Dick Taylor bar in Formaggio Kitchen. Personal photo.

One of the most obvious differences between these two bars is the size.  After taking a measurement of the surface area of covers of each of these bars, I found that the Dick Taylor bar is approximately 47% bigger than the Potomac bar.  However, in terms of actual chocolate content, these bars are much closer to the same size than they appear. The Dick Taylor bar is 57 grams while Potomac bars are just 50 grams, a twelve percent difference.  The Dick Taylor bar obviously must compensate by being thinner than Potomac bars, which gives it the larger appearance.  This is not to say that Dick Taylor is attempting to falsely advertise to their advantage, but it shows that Ben Rasmussen is not concerned with the flashiness of his chocolate.  His initial goal is always to make chocolate that tastes the best, not make the chocolate that sells the best.  Furthermore, Potomac’s design is much simpler than Dick Taylor’s as well as many of the other chocolates found at Formaggio.  Rasmussen has changed his design over time, but it has always been minimal and clean, enough to represent the brand and the origin of the cacao.

potomacpackagingThe five-year evolution of packaging of Potomac’s 70% dark Upala bar. From http://www.potomacchocolate.com

Intended Audience

Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Somerville, MA

IMG_2516Storefront of Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Somerville, MA. Personal photo.

Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Somerville, MA is a specialty food, wine, and cheese shop that primarily specializes in their homemade pasta.  While not quite as glamorous as Formaggio Kitchen’s chocolate section, Dave’s chocolate selection is one of the first things you notice upon entering the shop.  I found many of the same chocolates at Dave’s that I did at Formaggio like Taza and Dick Taylor Chocolate.  However, Dave’s Fresh Pasta also included a wide variety of candy chocolates that I did not find at Formaggio.  As I looked more into Potomac’s marketing, this observation got me thinking about the intended audience for Potomac Chocolate.

IMG_2512The chocolate selection at Dave’s Fresh Pasta, where Potomac can be found in the upper right. Personal photo.

IMG_2546More chocolate found at Dave’s Fresh Pasta. Personal photo.

Potomac Chocolate is a craft chocolate.  This means that it is made on a smaller scale and is handmade from the bean to the bar.  Therefore, Potomac is automatically placed into a different category than the candy chocolates we are all familiar with like Snickers and Milky Way.  Who is Potomac for then?  I answer this question by taking a deeper look at Ben Rasmussen’s own story.  In a blog post from 2010, Rasmussen describes how he once ate almost exclusively Mars’ 3-Musketeers bar (Rasmussen, 2010).  He speculates that he has enjoyed hundreds, maybe even thousands of these bars, and he even remembers strongly disliking dark chocolate. One day, his family decided to have a fine chocolate tasting. Rasmussen realized that his preconception of dark chocolate was quite wrong.  After tasting a variety of dark chocolates, he tried a Hershey bar only to find that it “bore almost no resemblance to chocolate and tasted mostly like a chemical marshmallow.” Rasmussen was, as he put it, “converted to the dark side” from that point on.

Through this juxtaposition, Potomac’s presence in Dave’s Fresh Pasta feels just right. Potomac does not exist in spaces exclusive to craft chocolates, rather it can be found within a few feet of chocolates like the 3-Musketeers at shops like Dave’s.  This observation has salient implications for Potomac Chocolate’s target audience.  Perhaps someone will go to Dave’s Fresh Pasta with the intention of buying a box of Pocky and instead walk out with a Potomac bar, inspired and changed like Ben Rasmussen.  As Potomac was just getting off the ground in 2010, Rasmussen invites anyone to enjoy Potomac chocolate— he wrote:

“We’re really trying to build up a community around Potomac Chocolate Co. of friends and fellow chocolate lovers. We really want you to be a part of this crazy thing.”

Price

Wine Gallery in Brookline, MA

IMG_2535Storefront of Wine Gallery in Brookline, MA. Personal photo.

Wine Gallery in Brookline, MA is a shop for wine, beer, and spirits that strives to have something for everyone.  While 99% of the store is comprised of alcohol, it is hard to miss their Bean-to-Bar section at the checkout counter.

IMG_2532Checkout counter at Wine Gallery in Brookline, MA where Potomac Chocolate can be found in the upper right shelf. Personal photo.

IMG_2534Potomac Chocolate on the shelf at Wine Gallery in Brookline, MA. Personal photo.

At this point, I had seen Potomac Chocolate in three different shops and began to think more about the pricing at these different retail shops.  While there were discrepancies in the prices, Potomac Chocolate was always $8-$9 per bar:

Online price: $9.00 per bar, though there are savings if bought in bulk

Formaggio Kitchen: $8.95 per bar

Dave’s Fresh Pasta: $7.99 per bar

Wine Gallery: $8.50 – $9.00 per bar (as seen above)

Suppose we use the online price of nine dollars, for example.  At 1.76 ounces per bar, buying a bar of Potomac Chocolate costs over five dollars per ounce.  That’s some pretty expensive chocolate— is Ben Rasmussen just trying to make money?  Jennifer Rader with Prince William Living Magazine conducted an interview with Rasmussen, which cleared this question right up (Rader, 2013).  Not only is Potomac Chocolate Rasmussen’s second job, but he explains that finances, time, and production space have all presented challenges for the company.  The company originally got started using Kickstarter, a creative project funding mechanism that allowed supporters to help Rasmussen acquire the necessary equipment to make great chocolate.  Ben Rasmussen does want the company to grow, but he stated in the interview: “I will never allow it to grow too big that I am not involved in at least the flavor development steps…I don’t foresee a time that I’m not doing the roasting.”

In conclusion, I have found that Potomac Chocolate is a great example of a chocolate maker with ethical sourcing, modest marketing, and good intentions. It is my hope that Potomac can be a model for existing and future craft chocolate makers, as this can contribute to a bigger focus on the chocolate itself and a more ethical world.

Works Cited

Acopagro Cooperative. “ACOPAGRO – COOPERATIVA AGRARIA CACAOTERA ACOPAGRO LTDA.” Fair Trade USA. Web. 02 May 2017.

Amistad, Finca La. “Finca La Amistad.” 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

Coe, Sophie. Micheal D. Coe. “The True History of Chocolate 3rd edition.” 2013. iBooks. 02 May 2017.

Instagram. “Potomac Chocolate.” 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

Kickstarter. “Potomac Chocolate — Handcrafted bean-to-bar chocolate!” Kickstarter. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Modern Day Slavery.” Lecture. 2017. 02 May 2017.

Oko Caribe. “OKO Caribe, DR – 2016 Harvest.” Uncommon Cacao. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

Oro Verde Cooperative. “Mission and vision.” Oro Verde Cooperative. Web. 2017. 02 May 2017.

Presilla, Maricell. “The New Taste of Chocolate.” Hardcover. 2000. Revised Edition. 02 May. 2017.

Rasmussen, Ben. “Potomac Chocolate.” Potomac Chocolate. 2010-2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

Rader, Jennifer. “BEN RASMUSSEN: POTOMAC CHOCOLATE.” Prince William Living Magazine. 2013. Web. 02 May 2017.