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From Foam to Milk: The History of Chocolate Ingredients

March 2019, Multimedia Essay 1,

Around 1500 BCE, the Olmecs discovered cacao, which was later introduced to the Maya and Aztecs and eventually reached Europe and the United States (Coe & Coe, 2007). The way in which chocolate was made throughout time remained relatively similar; however, the ingredients that were used in the different regions and time periods differed. Depending on where one lived and the geographical and economic conditions of that region, the specific ingredients aside from the cacao pods were unique. While some individuals added more flowers and/or chili, others added more cinnamon and/or milk. This continuous addition of different ingredients slowly transformed chocolate to what we know it as today (Coe & Coe, 2007).

Chocolate Food Products

Maya and Aztec Chocolate:

Earlier civilizations such as the Maya and Aztecs placed great importance on the froth-producing process. By transferring the liquid from one vessel to another at a specific height, foam would be produced. The foam was considered to be the most favorable part of the chocolate drink (Coe & Coe, 2007). The image depicted below, as well as other evidence from the period, demonstrates that both the early and late Maya and Aztecs highly valued the foam making process.

Princeton Vase: Collecting the foam

The Maya typically consumed their chocolate hot rather than cold. Two essential ingredients that the late Maya incorporated into their drinks were vanilla and ear flower. In the Americas they also incorporated chili (Capsicum annum), achiote, flowers, sugar and vanilla, which touched upon different taste types, such as spicy, sweet, floral, unammi, nutty and starchy (Sampeck & Thayn, 2017). Because of the economic situation and lack of resources in some regions, not all individuals were able to use a variety of different ingredients to make the drink. However, they still were determined to create a chocolate drink, so they instead substituted some of the more expensive ingredients for others that they could afford. For example, the Batido made by the Guatemalan Indians included vanilla, achiote, ear flower and ground sapote kernels which was then mixed with black pepper and cacao. However, because this region did not have the financial means to purchase and consume a large amount of true cacao, communities learned to preserve the cacao and conceal the flavoring of their drinks with the addition of black pepper. In the Batido, there was much more black pepper added compared to cacao (Coe & Coe, 2007).   

The Aztecs shared similar practices with the Maya but differed in the ingredients and the way in which the drink was consumed. Similar to the Maya, the Aztecs treasured the foam that was produced from the drink, stating that the foam was the healthiest part of the chocolate drink (Coe & Coe, 2007).  However, instead of consuming the chocolate drink hot, this beverage was usually served cold.

The Aztecs, just as the Maya, began adding a variety of different ingredients which would then be used for different occasions and given to different individuals. There was never one single form of chocolate recipe but rather a large variety of different recipes and ingredients that would be used to make them. Some of these ingredients included maize, seeds from the Ceiba tree, vanilla, and flowers (Coe & Coe, 2007). Among this wide range of ingredients, the Aztecs highly valued three essential ingredients: Hueinacaztli, Tlilxochitl, and Mecaxochitl. Hueinacaztli was the ear-shaped petal from the flower of Cymbopetalum penduliflorum, Tlilxochitl was the black flower, which today we refer to as vanilla, and Mecaxochitl, the string flower, was related to black pepper. (Coe & Coe, 2007).

Highly Valued Foam collected from the Vessel Pouring

European Chocolate:

In the late 1500s, the Spanish, who were fascinated by the chocolate drink made by the Aztecs and its potential, brought chocolate back to their country (Editors, 2017). Soon after, they transformed the cold and bitter drink that was once consumed by the Aztecs into a much more rich and desirable drink. They followed the processing techniques created by the Maya and Aztecs but used different tools to make and serve the chocolate. Rather than pouring the chocolate from one vessel to the next, they would use the molinillo to gather the foam from the liquid. As more European countries such as Italy, France and Britain began exploring different parts of Central America, these countries also brought the product back home (Editors, 2017). Because of their geographic diversity, power and economic stability, Europeans continued to add a variety of different ingredients that were unheard of to the Maya or Aztecs. Some of these included cinnamon, almonds, hazelnut, nutmeg, clove, citron, lemon peel, achiote, musk, orange blossom, and jasmine petals (Coe & Coe, 2007). Some of the most commonly used ingredients were sugar, vanilla, anise, and cinnamon.

The recipes used to make chocolate were adapted from various different parts of Europe, and the British especially were considered to have some of the richest tasting chocolate. Antonios CoMenero de Ledesma’s 1644 recipe illustrates the diverse use of ingredients in the Europeans chocolate drinks:100 cacao beans

  • 100 cacao beans
  •             2 chillis (can substitute for black pepper)
  •             Hanful of Anise
  •             Ear flower
  •             2 Mecasuchiles
  •             1 Vanilla
  •             2 oz cinnamon
  •             12 almonds
  •             Hazelnuts
  •             ½ lbs of sugar
  •             Achiote to taste

            (Coe & Coe, 2007)

In addition to making a chocolate drink, the Europeans began to incorporate chocolate into other food cuisines. For example, black polenta was topped with chocolate bread crumbs, butter, almonds and cinnamon, pieces of liver dipped in chocolate and a chocolate soup which included cacao, milk, sugar, cinnamon and egg yolk mixed together and eaten with toast (Coe & Coe, 2007). 

Chocolate Today:

Although the production of chocolate has remained relatively similar throughout history, the specific ingredients that have been added has allowed each time period and geographical location to reflect a unique version of a chocolate drink. Today, the chocolate we consume has a greater amount of sugar and milk than what was once used. For example, Hershey’s chocolate similarly places great importance on the manufacturing and processing of the beans, but another large component is the addition of milk. The milk is combined with sugar and then mixed with chocolate liquor and cocoa butter (D’Antonio, 2006). Milk has become the essential ingredient for Hershey’s chocolate bar, which in some way hides the flavor of the true cacao beans that are used. However, without milk, Hershey’s chocolate would not be what it is known as today.

It is interesting to note the stark contrast between the chocolate used by the earlier civilization and the chocolate that is consumed today. What once required a minimal amount of ingredients to retain a unique taste now requires a variety of different and overpowering ingredients to make it appealing to the consumer. One would imagine that with technological improvements and refined processes available today, we would accentuate the true flavor of cacao; however, this is not necessarily true. The addition of ingredients such as sugar and milk have concealed the power of the cacao beans that the Maya and Aztecs cherished. The production process may have remained the same, but the quality of the products created has changed.


  1. Coe, S ., &  Coe, M. (2007) [1996]. The True History of Chocolate.
  2. D’Antonio, M. (2006). Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126
  3. Editors, H. (2017). History of Chocolate. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-americas/history-of-chocolate#section_5
  4. Sampeck, K., & Thayn, J. (2017). “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” pp. 72-99

Multimedia Sources

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  3. Coe, S ., &  Coe, M. 2007[1996]. The True History of Chocolate.
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  8. Canen, J. (2007). Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/jcanen57/590715643/in/photolist-Uczbt-28iyPje-9Fa8dX-2UDHNx-kvSMN-8Q1RMj-cRSLE-w1BbV-6z5WtG-8Ynfoi-nFhUBT-7oBKk7-2UDJCB-6VDtD2-qpWsm2-6V4vQK-5VqQQV-4dx6gg-8akHmw-29RqNz5-6VDtCn-aMkNsp-2UDHpK-5RddTp-6VHxDG-nBt1Ys-pQkYSX-ajiauF-4umDkh-6VDtzk-4Mcjna-a8pMb1-8ErJZu-3qyeUU-6doh4e-a8uAKe-8wgUzX-eiNraQ-64fWB9-6r8c94-mdDXQV-fjVALH-8nYn3q-cNNBib-fwjV4N-sngNtc-CHdCXo-PfShHK-6YWN26-dtsAJo
  9. 2013. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/adampop/8897493026/in/photolist-eyeYGb-ao9biK-dhPYwm-dZiaHr-FSGev-nm1vH4-qxWurS-6Gto89-7FBSkt-JFijvF-9DbyPX-7FBSiv-4iTm5X-6xGA2e-fbPjLU-9kLcJQ-6JsX9Z-Aw9QKF-9NbVaw-SSzLGs-m2Yddp-xzxzs-299bdgS-d1roRj-dmQTGZ-pQ9PGi-YohQ86-mPiow-7xLJta-bfWPiv-nmmsz6-9HWSN6-btrbwJ-CuAyt-aLLhvi-p8bsmB-2gfcNV-9eTwGF-HMxG5-pxWdot-2aYg4Jb-7q8LkG-2ge2Zo-KfysxM-itbkSJ-249zoYh-nbmySi-Up5S5o-2x1Wtv-27gGH22

From Producers and Consumers to Producing Consumers: Nestlé and the Weaponization of Brazilian Women

In a dense Rio favela or small Amazonian village at current day, you might meet someone much like Celene da Silva, who at 29 manages her own small business. This is no small feat for a woman from one of the most impoverished areas in the world. Armed with only a pushcart, da Silva travels door to door, selling infant milk products, candy bars, puddings, and cereals to her many clients.[i]

In the small town of Vevey, Germany (now Switzerland) at the turn of the 20th century, you might have stumbled upon Henri Nestlé, also a small business owner. Using his pharmaceutical background, Nestlé invented a milk alternative known as infant formula by combining cow’s milk, flour, and sugar.[ii] What, then, links a modern-day Brazilian entrepreneur to small-town German pharmacist? What if I told you they worked for the same company?

Da Silva, along with thousands of other Brazilian women, has been recruited and trained as a door-to-door vendor for Nestlé–the world’s largest food conglomerate with some of the most aggressive marketing practices in history. Vendors are dispatched throughout Brazilian cities and countrysides, offering “nutrient-rich” processed foods from a selection of over 800 products.[iii] Even in hard to reach areas, where geography or social stigma prevent women from vending, Nestlé has found a strategy. Pictured below is a Nestlé-sponsored boat, which travels remote Amazonian tributaries as a floating supermarket offering products to “isolated” consumers.[iv] Clients are often only interested in a handful of these products, however, with foods like Kit Kat bars, Nescau 2.0 (a sugary chocolate powder), chocolate pudding, and cookies being ordered the most.[v]


What complicates matters is Brazil’s tortured history with chocolate–once one of the top producers of cacao, the country has faced severe drought in recent years.[vi] Look at the country’s historic disconnect between production and consumption, namely due to slavery, and Nestlé’s door-to-door program appears particularly menacing. The anthropologist Sidney Mintz most accurately encapsulates this divide in his 1985 seminal work Sweetness and Power, writing of 20th century “It is not ironical to point out that the white migrants would soon be eating more sugar, produced by the nonwhite migrants at lower wages, and producing finished goods at higher wages to be consumed by the nonwhite migrants.”[vii] Many of these “finished goods” are now sold by Nestlé, who while relying on the labor of cacao farmers in countries like Brazil then dilutes products with sugar and milk to sell them at a profit. While Nestle’s door-to-door vendor program has disrupted the feminization of poverty, its attempt to turn sites of production into sites of consumption has come with devastating health effects.

Nestlé’s strict hiring quotas have allowed it to conceal its aggressive marketing efforts under the guise of gender equity. By employing over 7,000 saleswomen and 200 microdistributors,[viii] all women with little to no previous job experience, Nestlé has established a strong relationship with the Brazilian government and managed relatively little international oversight. In fact, in 2014 alone food companies donated a total of $158 million to Brazil’s National Congress.[ix] For women on the ground like Celene da Silva, the program has also brought much-needed economic empowerment. As the New York Times details, “With an expanding roster of customers, Mrs. da Silva has set her sights on a new goal, one she says will increase business even more…’I want to buy a bigger refrigerator.’”[x] Da Silva’s strong relationship with the women in her neighborhood, coupled with Nestlé’s one-month layaway plan timed to match the government-funded food stipend program, has stabilized her income.[xi] Despite the fact that she herself is 200 overweight with high blood pressure, da Silva, like many vendors, believes in her employer’s commitment to health. The question then becomes, however, the limit to employing women whose life spans will be shortened by their own products.

Nestlé’s marketing practices rely on notions of their products as healthy in order to attract the support of governments and consumers alike. Along with lobbying and employing women as door-to-door vendors, the company aligns its brand with nutrition and exercise to garner attention. As consumers in the U.S. have given up sugary chocolate products in favor of healthier foods, Nestlé has moved to introduce these same products to even the most remote parts of the Amazon by adding commonly deficient vitamins and minerals. The chocolate powder Nescau 2.0, for example, claims to be “packed with calcium and niacin.”[xii] As Professor Susan George writes in “The Limits to Public Relations,” Nestle is one of the only companies to so publically document these efforts. She says, “Very rarely do multinational corporations provide details of their activities in underdeveloped countries. Nestle is an exception.”[xiii] This distinct tactic is what has strengthened the trust between vendors and their company. As da Silva explains, “Everyone here knows that Nestlé products are good for you.”

Brazil serves as a case study in the transformation of a country from cacao producer to chocolate product consumer. The public health effects of Nestlé’s aggressive marketing campaigns are only beginning to be studied, as are alternatives. As one Nestlé consultant points out, “If I ask 100 Brazilian families to stop eating processed food, I have to ask myself: What will they eat? Who will feed them? How much will it cost?”[xiv] Processed foods have undoubtedly provided a solution to the issue of overpopulation, but have failed to nutritionally benefit consumers. The story of Nestlé and Brazil has often been one of deceit, in which sugar-laden chocolate products are billed as nutritional through women’s empowerment programs in an effort to target communities with poor records on gender equity and public health. The question then becomes how to balance demand with accessibility, affordability, and nutrition–without exploiting vulnerable populations.






[i] Jacobs, Andrew. “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.” The New York Times, September 16, 2017, sec. Health. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html.

[ii] Owles, Eric. “How Nestlé Expanded Beyond the Kitchen.” The New York Times, June 27, 2017, sec. DealBook. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/business/dealbook/nestle-chocolate-milk-coffee-history.html.

[iii] Jacobs, Andrew. “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.” The New York Times, September 16, 2017, sec. Health. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html.

[iv] Garfield, Leanna. “Nestlé Sponsored a River Barge to Create a ‘floating Supermarket’ That Sold Candy and Chocolate Pudding to the Backwoods of Brazil.” Business Insider. Accessed March 20, 2018. http://www.businessinsider.com/nestl-expands-brazil-river-barge-2017-9.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] “Chocolate Has New Latin King as Ecuador Overtakes Brazil.” Bloomberg.Com, January 21, 2014. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-01-20/cocoa-has-new-latin-america-king-as-ecuador-beats-brazil.

[vii] Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. Penguin, 1986.

[viii] “Door-to-Door Sales of Fortified Products.” https://www.nestle.com. Accessed March 19, 2018. https://www.nestle.com/csv/case-studies/allcasestudies/door-to-doorsalesoffortifiedproducts,brazil.

[ix] Jacobs, Andrew. “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.” The New York Times, September 16, 2017, sec. Health. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] George, Susan. “Nestle Alimentana SA: the limits to public relations.” Economic and Political Weekly (1978): 1591-1602.

[xiv] Jacobs, Andrew. “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.” The New York Times, September 16, 2017, sec. Health. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/16/health/brazil-obesity-nestle.html.

Virtuous Consumership of Cadbury Chocolate and the Healthwashing of Sugar

Western consumers of cacao products are no longer oblivious to the potential harms that a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can have on the human body. Once rare in the typical cupboard, sugar has expanded its dominion to reach areas of consumership to which it was once a stranger. Observing the present day average sugar consumption of a regular American person provides a look at the immense amount of sugar (around 130 pounds every year) that people consume nowadays. For the sake of comparison, in 1822 the average American consumed 45 grams of sugar every five days, whereas present-day Americans consume around 160 grams of sugar per day, or 800 grams every five days—

sugar is bad
Infographic: The negative effects of sugar on health.

almost 18 times more than in 1822.
The increase in sugar consumption has had many causes, but a very important one was its incorporation into medicine and sweets. When medicinal properties were attributed to sugar, its consumption increased; however, research has shown that excessive consumption of sugar can have adverse effects on health. Sadly enough, the typical American diet still contains copious amounts of sugar, mainly in the form of sweetened snacks and drinks, of which the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar poses a great example. In this essay I argue that Cadbury engages in a practice known as health-washing to encourage virtuous consumership by incentivizing their purchasers to allegedly live a healthy lifestyle thanks to Cadbury products. In the upcoming paragraphs, I will touch on the concept of health-washing and analyze an ad used by Cadbury that is an example of this practice.
The practice of health-washing consists of presenting or introducing a product as being healthier than it actually is. This can be in the form of highlighting specific nutrients, adding conceptual words to make the packaging appear healthier, or reducing the specified serving size so that the number of calories per serving becomes smaller. Nowadays, an educated consumer audience has led companies to redesign their advertisements and packages to better cater to a more conscious demographic, and deceptive advertisings have been the result of that. Let’s look at the ad used by Cadbury to advertise their Dairy Milk Bar, which has been in the market for over a hundred years:


original ad

original adoriginal ad

Original ad used by Cadbury.

As we can see from the above image, the ad depicts one and a half glasses of milk being poured into a swirly white splash that contains a Dairy Milk Bar and the phrase “a glass and a half of

got milk
Example of advertisement used by the “got milk?” campaign.

milk in every bar.” Something very interesting about this ad is that the phrase is significantly larger than the image of the chocolate bar itself—in fact, the word “milk” alone is almost the same size as the bar. This denotes the importance of
the concept of presenting the benefits of consuming a bar to an audience that understands this. It is widely accepted that the consumption of milk has benefits for human health, which has been supported by a variety of campaigns, such as “Got Milk?” from 1993, one of the most prominent nutritional campaigns that the U.S. has seen. The intentions of Cadbury with the presentation of their product as something that contains a large amount of milk are clear: they are presenting their product as a healthy edible option, potentially even as a substitution for milk in a quotidian diet. As a response to this ad, the image below was created:



parody ad
Ad created as a response to the original Cadbury ad.

This second image shows a similar color scheme, as well as the substitution of the glasses of milk by an overflowing spoonful of sugar. The phrase “Six spoonfuls of sugar in every bar” appears captured in a cloud-like white figure, reminiscent of the original ad, and shows the amount of sugar that is present in a single Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar—the information was taken from the nutritional information section of the Cadbury website. This ad aims to present one of the realities of sugar consumption in today’s industrialized-food world. The amount of sugar in one of these bars is equal to the daily recommended intake that an average adult woman should have, and almost the one for an average adult man. This is clearly a high dose of sugar for such a little bar, and the fact that Cadbury aims to disguise this fact by telling its customers that the bar contains “a glass and a half of milk” falls into the practice of health-washing, and attempts to expand its market by appealing to the virtuous practice of caring for one’s health—in this case, by drinking milk, a nutritious beverage.
While the packaging of the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar is not deceptive, the advertisements used to sell it are. By choosing to highlight the positive qualities of the bar when the negative qualities are predominant—the bar also has extremely high contents of sodium and fat—the company chooses to present their product under a light of health consciousness when in reality, it does not differ significantly from other commercial chocolate bars. The practice of health-washing is misleading, and the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar case is a prime example of that.


Works Cited:

Baker, Andrew. (2013). Dairy Milk versus the Hershey Bar—our verdict. Retrieved from: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/andrewbakerchoc/100071490/dairy-milk-versus-the-hershey-bar-our-verdict/.

Johnson, Lisa. (2010). Healthwashing: The New Greenwashing. Retrieved from: http://www.lisajohnsonfitness.com/healthwashing-the-new-greenwashing/.

Walton, Alice G. (2012). How Much Sugar Are Americans Eating [Infographic]. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/08/30/how-much-sugar-are-americans-eating-infographic/#7df79d021f71.

Sugar, Milk, and the Rise of Mass Chocolate Consumption

Walk into any convenience or grocery store in the U.S. and you will likely be greeted by a display of brightly wrapped candies. Many of these contain chocolate; a 2012 Bloomberg study found M&Ms to be the top-selling American candy, followed by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, and Snickers Bars (Arndt). All four of these products are marketed as chocolate-based sweets, but it is sweetness, not chocolate, that seems to be the main focus. The nutrition label for a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, for example034000290055NF (pictured right), lists sugar as the primary ingredient, and then milk. Only after these two does chocolate appear. The addition of sugar and milk to eating chocolate goes back to the 1800s, largely motivated by that fact that, in a trend that continues to this day, cacao was more expensive than sugar or milk. It was the relative cheapness of the latter two ingredients that allowed for mass production – and thus true mass consumption – of eating chocolate from the late 1800s onwards. As the list of candies above attests, this combination still shapes modern chocolate preferences.

Europeans have been adding sugar to drinking chocolate since the early 1500s, when cacao was first introduced to the West. It comes as no surprise, then, that the first chocolate bar made expressly for eating, invented by Joseph Fry in 1847, was molded from a combination of cocoa powder, melted cacao butter, and sugar (Coe and Coe Ch.8, “Quaker Capitalists”). Soon after, in 1867, Henri Nestlé found a way to manufacture

Peter’s Milk Chocolate was the first of its kind to be created. This advertisement draws on words like “smooth” and “creamy” to draw customers in, adjectives that are still associated with milk chocolate. The relatively lower price on this and subsequent milk chocolate bars meant they could be marketed to customers other than the very wealthy.

powdered milk, and the first milk chocolate bar – an advertisement for which is shown on the left – a joint creation of Nestlé and Daniel Peter, was born in 1879 (Coe and Coe Ch.8, “Switzerland”). From 1903 onwards, Milton Hershey built his company around milk chocolate and cocoa powder, though he developed his chocolate using liquid condensed milk rather than the powdered variety. Liquid milk was easier and faster – and therefore cheaper – to transport from one end of a factory to another, allowing Hershey to make and sell his products domestically for a lower price (D’Antonio 107).


Milk chocolate was to become the foundation of popular chocolate consumption,

Cacao prices from 2006-2012, recorded in USD/metric ton

originally for price but later because of a developed taste for the added sweetness. To make it, one adds milk in with the other ingredients before refining and conching the mixture. Milk and sugar both add flavor and volume, allowing manufacturers to use less chocolate liquor – made from cacao beans – than would otherwise be needed (Coe and Coe Ch.8, “Quality vs. Quantity”). This makes the chocolate cheaper to produce, and men like Hershey would have recognized this when building companies. Over the past century, cacao has generally been more expensive than sugar or milk. The trend

Sugar prices from 2002-2009, recorded in US cents/lb. Comparatively, a ton of sugar is much less expensive than a ton of cacao

continues on in today’s market, as shown by the provided graphs (cacao above right, sugar on the left). At its lowest price between 2006 and 2012, a ton of cacao cost over 15,000 USD; by contrast, at its highest price over the similar time period 2002-2009, a ton of sugar (after conversion from cents/lb) could be bought for less than 500 USD.



Milk and sugar were thus cheaper to obtain for companies looking to mass produce chocolate after the late 1800s. This made sweet milk chocolate less expensive to make than dark chocolate, which required more chocolate liquor. By the same token, it also meant milk chocolate could be sold at lower prices, making it attractive and accessible to consumers. Where before chocolate had been largely consumed by the wealthy, Hershey’s bars could be bought for only a nickel in the 1920s, a very affordable fee for the average person (Brenner 55). Cost was thus an important consideration on both sides, as the success of Mars’ Milky Way further demonstrates. Created in 1924, the Milky Way “tasted just as chocolatey” as a bar but was much less expensive to manufacture (Brenner 55). It’s main ingredient was nougat, “a whipped filling made of egg whites and corn syrup,” with only a thin chocolate casing (Brenner 54). Nougat was cheaper to produce than chocolate, and so Mars could make Milky Ways much bigger than traditional chocolate bars for the same expense. Consumers loved the candy for its price, size, and sweet taste; another Mars creation, the Snickers bar, enjoyed similar success, and continues to be the fourth best-selling candy in the U.S. (Arndt).

Today, milk chocolate candies remain vastly more popular than their dark chocolate counterparts. Although price remains a factor, a major reason for this is the acquired tastes of consumers for sweeter chocolate. It is expected that candy and chocolate will be packed with sugar, and this assumption stems from over a century of eating the sweetened milk chocolate of Hershey’s, Mars, Cadbury, and other such companies. The practice of adding milk and sugar stemmed from the cost of these ingredients relative to cacao, and what began as a method for cheaply producing chocolate has grown to shape the Western world’s perception of chocolate. Although dark chocolate has a strong following, milk chocolate still reigns supreme.


Arndt, Michael. “America’s 25 Favorite Candies: Top-Selling Sweets.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. <http://www.bloomberg.com/ss/09/10/1021_americas_25_top_selling_candies/index.htm&gt;.

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.

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

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.

Multimedia Sources:

Hershey Bar Nutrition Facts: “Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, Six 1.55-Ounce Bars – MyQuickMart.” MyQuickMart. Web. 08 Mar. 2016. <http://www.myquickmart.com/products/034000290055&gt;.

Peter Milk Chocolate Advertisement: “Milk Chocolate – History of Milk Chocolate.” What’s Cooking America. Web. 08 Mar. 2016. <http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/MilkChocolate.htm&gt;.

Cocoa price graph: “Cocoa Growing Region.” Web. 08 Mar. 2016. <http://www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk/activities/cocoa-growing-region&gt;.

Sugar price graph: “Imbalance between Supply and Demand Drives Sugar Prices to 28 Year High | Economics.” Web. 08 Mar. 2016. <http://www.tutor2u.net/economics/blog/imbalance-between-supply-and-demand-drives-sugar-prices-to-28-year-high&gt;.

Milton Hershey: Marketer and Teacher of Chocolate Innovation

Industrialization changed many aspects of the chocolate-making process in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The processes invented and implemented during this time—from the melangeur and the conche to milk dehydration and bar molding, industrialization made the bitter beverage of the ancient Mesoamericans into a sweet treat that was nearly unrecognizable to consumers. This dramatic transformation is most evident in the advent of Milton Hershey’s milk chocolate bars. Unprecedented in the United States, Hershey’s company “was built to exploit a brand-new product,” (D’Antonio, 120). In light of consumers’ lack of knowledge, Hershey had to teach his consumers, as well as sell to them. This is evident in his marketing strategies. As seen in the chocolate wrapper below from the early 1900’s, Hershey markets his chocolate by playing to the new characteristics imparted to chocolate bars as a result of industrialization. His strategic use of descriptors and imagery highlights the new characteristics of industrial-age milk chocolate—its sweetness, flavor, and form—alluding to the newfound processes that transformed it from a bitter beverage, and showing consumers what this novel product had to offer.

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar Wrapper, 1906-1911 (http://www.hersheyarchives.org/exhibits/default.aspx?ExhibitId=20&ExhibitSectionId=42)

One of the most obvious differences between traditional chocolate and Hershey’s milk chocolate bar was its sweetness. While the Spanish were known to have added sugar to their chocolate beverages, none used as much sugar as Milton Hershey, owner of his own sugar mill in Cuba (Coe, 248). Hershey highlights this new level of sweetness by labeling his product as such multiple times on the wrapper. “Hershey’s sweet milk chocolate,” the wrapper reads, with the additional description of the bar as “a sweet to eat.” This characteristic sweetness would not have been possible without the industrial inventions of the melangeur and the conche. The melangeur, created by Phillipe Suchard in 1826, involved the mixing of the chocolate with sugar to better incorporate the dry solids and form a crude liquid (Coe, 247). Rudolphe Lindt expanded upon this process in 1879 with his invention of the conche machine. In much the same way, the conche used granite rollers and subtle heat to warm the chocolate and refine the particles of sugar and cacao, creating a smoother chocolate (Coe, 247-48). In this way, the melangeur and the conche were central to creating a chocolate that was sweet, but not overly gritty, and Hershey celebrated this sweetness by labeling its chocolate as such.

Print of a traditional melangeur machine (http://www.zeno.org/Meyers-1905/I/Wm17938d)

More obviously, on both sides of the wrapper (and in the biggest font) reads “Hershey’s milk chocolate.” The addition of “milk” as an indispensable adjective speaks to its absence in chocolate prior to industrialization. Until milk could be dehydrated, thanks to Henri Nestle in 1867, it could not be added to chocolate, for it would spoil (Coe 247). Thanks to this process, and the original advent of milk chocolate by Daniel Peter in 1879, Hershey was able to create the milky flavor of chocolate that we love so much today. This flavor would have been unknown to many consumers of the time, so by marketing his chocolate as specifically “milk chocolate” Hershey gave a nod to the innovations of industrialization, while at the same time informing consumers of chocolate’s new creamy flavor.

As aforementioned, Hershey’s wrapper deems the chocolate bar as “a sweet to eat,” and though this may seem trivial, the fact that chocolate was for eating was not a given before this time. Up until 1847, when Joseph Fry discovered how to make a thinner, more moldable chocolate by adding cocoa powder and sugar to melted cocoa butter, there did not exist chocolate bars as we know them today—chocolate was primarily for drinking (Coe 241). Thus, it was necessary for Hershey to explicitly market his milk chocolate as “a sweet to eat,” in order to instruct consumers of its use, and differentiate it from products that had come before.

Hershey’s Cuban holdings, 1920-1940. (http://www.hersheyarchives.org/exhibits/default.aspx?ExhibitId=22&ExhibitSectionId=56)

Finally, in addition to emphasizing chocolate’s characteristics brought about by modern innovation, Milton Hershey alludes to the transformative process of industrialization itself. Hershey, known as “the Henry Ford of Chocolate Makers,” was responsible for the advent of chocolate mass-production (Coe, 248). Hershey mechanized many of the processes used in chocolate manufacturing, and from bean to bar, Hershey designed his company to maximize efficiency (D’Antonio, 119). This could not have been accomplished without the use of industrialized technologies, which allowed Hershey to make great quantities of high-quality chocolate at low cost. The chocolate wrapper itself is a symbol of these technologies, as it would have been printed in mass quantities. Additionally, it would also have been used farther along the assembly line to wrap the mass-produced chocolate. Every aspect of Hershey’s operation was thus mechanized on a large scale, and this was evident through the mere existence of the standardized wrapper. But with the addition of the small image, Hershey zooms out to capture the big picture of industrialization as a whole. Front and center on his chocolate wrapper is the image of a small child emerging from a cacao pod, holding a chocolate bar. This image hearkens back to chocolate’s origin, anchoring the product to its source: the cacao pod. By including this image on the wrapper, Hershey captures chocolate’s transformation from bean to bar in light of new technologies. Furthermore, the seemingly naked child emerging from a womb-like pod symbolizes the rebirth of chocolate as something new. By including this picture of chocolate’s agricultural origins on his technologically produced wrapper, Hershey thereby captures the history of chocolate while ushering in a new era and a new chocolate empire.

Hershey thus traced the transformation from bitter beverage to sweet bar in the design of his chocolate wrapper. Its words and imagery served as a marketing strategy intended to better inform the consumer of his product by celebrating the history of processes that had inspired it, but also the promise of future chocolate to come.

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013. Print.

D’Antonio, Michael D. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print, pp. 106-126.


Image 1: http://www.hersheyarchives.org/lib/image-functions/resize.aspx?MaxHeight=302&MaxWidth=495&ImageUrl=/files/exhibit/90015B6F31.1%201906-1911%20ca.jpg (Accessed 3/09/15)

Image 2: http://www.zeno.org/Meyers-1905.images/I/Wm17938d.jpg?w=500&h=446&vid=2017949100 (Accessed 3/11/15)

Image 3: http://www.hersheyarchives.org/lib/image-functions/resize.aspx?MaxHeight=302&MaxWidth=495&ImageUrl=/files/exhibit/5A1300.2.jpg (Accessed 3/11/15)

Cutting Chocolate, Cutting Corners: The Hershey Company’s Quest for Cheap Success

In American consciousness, a “chocolate bar” generally means a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar. Modern Hershey’s advertising is fueled by nostalgic, family- or community-oriented, and classic imagery, reasserting the company’s position as the chocolate. The Hershey Company has its own theme park in Pennsylvania, factory store in Times Square, and somewhat of a monopoly over traditions including chocolate, such as s’more making. But are the origins of Hershey milk chocolate as warm and wholesome as advertised? Through an examination of the Hershey Company’s early history, including production choices and marketing techniques, this paper seeks to explore ways in which the company rose in wealth and power by calculatedly cutting corners — that is, by focusing less on business ethics and more on cost reduction.

Milton Hershey grew up with plenty of exposure to the business of sweets, working with a confectioner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania as a teenager and later making several attempts to start his own candy company around 1876. His first success in candy was not with chocolate but with caramel; in 1886 Hershey opened the Lancaster Caramel Company, specializing in Hershey’s “Crystal A” caramels, to which he added milk, an uncommon practice at the time. After watching a German manufacturer making the equipment necessary to produce chocolate, Hershey purchased the same materials immediately, bent on giving his caramels a chocolate coating. Then he started making chocolate products, then adding the Hershey Chocolate Company to Lancaster Caramel Company. Hershey was creative with his approach — he produced not only bars, but chocolate molded into whimsical shapes, such as bicycles, cigars, etc. By 1900, he abandoned caramel-making altogether to focus on chocolate (“Hershey Foods…”).

First, when English companies began to boycott the cheap cacao produced on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe in 1909-1910 following a slavery scandal involving the Cadbury company, Hershey, among other American companies, took the opportunity to take the cheap cacao Cadbury was missing. In the decades prior, investigators on the islands discovered that the workers there were actually being essentially forced into slavery, working in horrible conditions with little to no pay that they couldn’t do anything with. The Hershey Company ignored these atrocities and, instead of participating in the boycott, capitalized on the exploitation of the West African cacao cultivators (Martin, “What is…”). Cut corner #1, and perhaps the most detestable of them all. Hershey sacrificed human rights to save money.

Something else important to note is Hershey’s special interest in producing milk chocolate, a type of chocolate that, while popular for its unique, creamy flavor, is and was cheaper to produce than other kinds of chocolate, because less cacao content is necessary to create the same quantity of chocolate. In other words, by focusing on milk chocolate, Hershey could produce a product that had been “cut” by something, or filled out, without having to sacrifice the label of “pure”. This required combining a regular recipe for chocolate (cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, mixed and conched) with powdered milk, invented by Henri Nestle in 1867, and first used in the creation of milk chocolate by Daniel Peter in 1887 (Stradley; Martin, “Popular…”). The video clip below shows how a modern factory makes milk chocolate:

Hershey wanted to make large quantities of this cheap chocolate to market to the American masses, but struggled with even powdered milk’s limited keeping time on the shelves – milk chocolate was inexpensive, but not inexpensive enough, if the milk couldn’t hold up with the standards of mass production. He began by switching from Jersey cows to Holsteins, whose milk has a lower fat content, in an attempt to fix this, but that wasn’t enough (Martin, “Industrialization…”).

Finally, he found a way. While Hershey keeps their recipes, past and present, a company secret, it’s clear that Hershey’s chocolate has undergone a process, whose byproduct is butyric acid, that further stabilizes the milk so that it can last vastly longer on the shelves. It’s speculated that Hershey put his milk through some kind of lipolysis, breaking down fatty acids and protecting it from fermentation (Moskin). The butyric acid byproduct makes for Hershey’s unique tangy flavor, which Hershey was able to sell especially to Americans because they were less accustomed to chocolate in their diets than Europeans at the time. In other words, Hershey was able to cut this particular corner, and did, precisely because his market didn’t know what chocolate bars were supposed to taste like (Martin, “Industrialization…”). In fact, Americans today are so accustomed to Hershey’s chocolate’s specific sour flavor that many American companies now add butyric acid to imitate it (Moskin).

Then, Hershey was interested right away in making his company an industrialized one, able to produce candy in enormous quantities — again, to get the most bang out of his buck (Martin, “Industrialization…”). He opened an enormous factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in 1905, which is still the largest of its kind today (“Hershey Foods…”). One of the rooms, in an undated photo, appears here:


[Image credit:http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/11/a-visual-historyofhersheychocolate.html, Culture Club/Getty Images]

Although Hershey didn’t use media advertising for about 75 years after the company was born, that doesn’t mean he didn’t know how to market his product. His milk chocolate already had its perks — it tasted great and was cheap — but he began to push his products on shops and grocery stores across the country, utilizing a great deal of window-marketing to get buyers’ attention (“Hershey Chocolate…”; “A Visual…”). By the late 1910s to the 1920s, Hershey had learned to market well. Consider the following images:


[Image credit: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/11/a-visual-historyofhersheychocolate.html, Advertising Archive/Everett collection]


[image credit: http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/category/hershey-chocolate/marketing/]

The first image is from an early window display, marketing Hershey’s chocolate as “vanilla sweet” and cheap — 5 cents per bar. The second image is of a chocolate bar wrapper ca. 1912-1926. You’ll see that Hershey kept the price, and something reminiscent of the original claim of sweetness, “a sweet to eat”. But what accompanies this text is not only an advertisement on the back of the bar for Hershey’s cocoa, but also the text “more sustaining than meat”. Hershey didn’t bother consumers with cumbersome advertisements about his chocolate’s quality, but instead brilliantly used window displays in multiplying grocery stores and advertisement-laden packaging to draw and hook people on his product (“Hershey Chocolate…”). With this, he didn’t have to pay loads for advertising like other companies, applying the finishing touch to make his chocolate into the ultimate cheap, easy-to-make, easy-to-market product.

Through sly marketing, industrialization, a focus on cheap milk chocolate and the buying of cheap cacao for a great cost, the Hershey company spent its early years thriving, and eventually rose to power as the most iconic and well-known bar in the U.S. So next time you think of that “classic” chocolate, consider what factors allowed it to take its place there in the American imagination.

Works Cited

“A Visual History of Hershey’s Chocolate”. Al Jazeera America. Al Jazeera, 11 October 2013. Web. 13 March 2014. <http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/11/a-visual-historyofhersheychocolate.html&gt;

“Hershey Chocolate Company: on the Road”. Hershey Community Archives, 13 February 2013. Web. 13 March 2014. <http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/category/hershey-chocolate/marketing/>

“Hershey Foods Corporation”. Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd ed. Advameg, 2014. Reference for Business. Web. 13 March 2014. <http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/businesses/G-L/Hershey-Foods-Corporation.html>

Martin, Carla. “Industrialization of Food.” Harvard University, Sever Hall, Cambrige, MA. 10 March 2014. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” Harvard University, Sever Hall, Cambridge, MA. 24 February 2014. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “What is Slavery?” Harvard University, Sever Hall, Cambridge, MA. 5 March 2014. Lecture.

Moskin, Julia. “Dark May Be King, but Milk Chocolate Makes a Move”. The New York Times: Dining & Wine. The New York Times, 13 February 2008.  Web. 13 March 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/dining/13chocolate.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0>

Stradley, Linda. “Milk Chocolate – History of Milk Chocolate”. What’s Cooking America, 2004. Web. 13 March 2014. <http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/MilkChocolate.htm&gt;

Hershey’s Early History: The Making of an American Classic

Today, the Hershey Company is synonymous with American milk chocolate and is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America, with its headquarters in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Hershey’s is one of the Big Five chocolate companies — along with Mars, Cadbury, Ferrero, and Nestle — that dominate the chocolate market worldwide.  Although Hershey’s produces a wide variety of products, including both chocolate and other candies, Hershey’s is best known for its plain milk chocolate, in bar or kiss form, as shown below.

Hershey’s milk chocolate bar and Hershey’s kiss, two of the most iconic Hershey’s products.

Hershey’s Chocolate World, in Hershey, PA.

Hershey’s also operates Hershey’s Chocolate World (pictured above), where tourists can buy Hershey’s products and learn about the history and production of Hershey’s chocolate.  I visited Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA, countless times as a child.  At least once a year, my mother and I would drive from our home in Connecticut to Pittsburgh, PA, where all of her family lived.  Hershey, PA is almost exactly halfway between Connecticut and Pittsburgh and served as a delicious stopping point.  While I have never particularly liked Hershey’s plain milk chocolate due to its slightly tangy taste, I enjoyed taking the tour every time as a child, marveling at the vast quantities of chocolate produce daily and orderly mechanization of the entire process, as chocolate went from cacao beans to an individually-wrapped Hershey’s kiss in its iconic silver foil.

How did Hershey’s get its start and go on to become the major chocolate manufacturer it is today?  The story starts with Milton S. Hershey and Hershey, Pennsylvania in the early twentieth century, both pictured during this time period in the photographs below.

Milton S. Hershey, the founder of the Hershey Company.

Hershey, PA in the early 20th century.

Although the factory in what would become Hershey was not Milton Hershey’s first foray into the chocolate or confection business, it is what transformed Hershey’s in its early days.  In the early 1900s, Hershey and his team conducted numerous experiments to develop a milk chocolate that could be mass-produced and easily used in the new factory (D’Antonio, 106-7).  After much trial and error, Hershey first decided to switch the breed of cows that supplied his milk, replacing his Jersey cows with Holsteins, pictured below (D’Antonio, 106).  Holstein cows naturally produce milk with a lower fat content, making it easier to create skim milk that is less prone to spoiling (D’Antonio, 106).

A Holstein cow grazing. The milk for Hershey’s milk chocolate came from the myriad dairy farms in central Pennsylvania.

One of Hershey’s employees then developed a process for mixing and heating the milk and sugar together into sweetened condensed milk (D’Antonio, 107).  Other ingredients, including cocoa powder and cocoa butter, could be easily incorporated into the molten sweet milk; the resulting milk chocolate mixture could also be moved through the factory with less hassle, as it flowed smoothly (D’Antonio, 107-8).  The ability of Hershey to mass-produce milk chocolate in a factory setting propelled Hershey’s to early success.

Another important feature of Hershey’s in the early days was the creation of the town of Hershey.  Milton Hershey created what became known as Hershey, PA as a utopian-inspired town with affordable, modern homes and nice amenities for the factory workers, including Hershey Park, shown below (D’Antonio, 116-7).

The merry-go-round at Hershey Park in the early 1900s. Hersheypark, as it is called today, still exists as an amusement park.

All of these developments over the course of Hershey’s early history helped boost Hershey’s sales and transform it into the giant chocolate manufacturer it is today (D’Antonio, 119; Brenner, 182).  The use of fresh milk, rather than the powdered milk method developed by Swiss chocolatiers Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle, gave Hershey’s an advantage over its European competitors.  First, the smooth-flowing Hershey’s milk chocolate could be more easily transported throughout the factory, allowing Hershey’s to make chocolate faster and cheaper (D’Antonio, 108).  The milk condensation process also gave Hershey’s milk chocolate a unique sweet and tangy flavor, due to the fermentation of the milk fat that occurs during production (D’Antonio, 108).  While this taste difference meant that those accustomed to Swiss milk chocolate did not necessarily enjoy Hershey’s chocolate, the unique flavor still gave Hershey’s an early advantage in the American market, as it was the first milk chocolate to which many Americans had access, creating a large, loyal consumer base that then equated Hershey’s with how milk chocolate was supposed to taste (D’Antonio, 108).

Milton Hershey’s factory approach also allowed Hershey’s to produce chocolate at a very low cost, thanks to the basic, repetitive tasks performed by the factory workers and the efficient, modern machinery (D’Antonio, 120).  Hershey’s could easily transport raw cacao beans to the factory and finished chocolate products to the stores as materials could be directly transferred to and from rail cars at the factory (D’Antonio, 108, 118).  The creation of the factory town of Hershey also contributed to Hershey’s profits and power, as money from outside the community from chocolate sales was given to the workers in the form of paychecks, which were then spent primarily in town, cycling the money straight back to Hershey (D’Antonio, 120-1).

Hershey’s main factory in Hershey, PA several years after completion.

All of these innovations in Hershey’s early history helped propel Hershey’s to success.  In the first year of manufacturing in Hershey, PA (factory shown above), Hershey’s saw sales over $1 million, which then grew to $5 million by 1912 (D’Antonio, 120-2).  In the early 1940s, Hershey struck a lucrative deal with Mars, providing them with chocolate coating for their confections (Brenner, 69).  Even though this relationship ended in the mid-1960s, hampering Hershey’s sale for a few years, Hershey rebounded and focused more on their own products (Brenner, 181-2).  Today, Hershey’s boasts annual sales around $7 billion, with over $810 million in profit, showing the successful trajectory stemming from the early development of the Hershey Company  (The Wall Street Journal).


Works Cited

Brenner, Joel Glenn.  The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and
Mars.  New York: Broadway Books, 2000.

D’Antonio, Michael D.  Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of
Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Prior, Anna.  “Hershey Profit Rises on Strong Holiday Sales: Candy Maker Posts Strong North America Sales.”  The Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2014.  Accessed March 12, 2014.  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303519404579352420414790590

Image 1: http://groups.etown.edu/sife/files/2012/11/HERSHEYS-Corp-Logo.jpg

Image 2: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/19/Chocolate_World.JPG

Image 3:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Milton_S._Hershey_c1905.jpg

Image 4: http://www.mhs-pa.org/assets/images/page-346-290×202/image-1476.jpg

Image 5:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7d/Holstein_heifer.jpg/250px-Holstein_heifer.jpg

Image 6: http://www.hersheypa.com/about_hershey/our_proud_history/images/featureHersheypark.jpg

Image 7: http://explorepahistory.com/kora/files/1/2/1-2-1274-25-ExplorePAHistory-a0k9a2-a_349.jpg

Video 1: http://www.hersheys.com/ads-and-videos/how-we-make-chocolate.aspx, Family of Brands

Video 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BLUEptVYHN4

Video 3: http://www.hersheys.com/ads-and-videos/how-we-make-chocolate.aspx, Mixing the Ingredients