Tag Archives: modern

The Sweet King: Chocolate in the Modern Media Age

With the rise of food media in the modern age, there are countless avenues through which we are exposed to the most avant-garde of gastronomy. From the massive influx of visual information on platforms like Instagram and Facebook to the constant features of shows on Netflix and The Food Network, food has captured attention far beyond its functionality utility of nourishing and sustaining the human populace. This effect has only been reinforced with the globalization of certifications for the most prestigious of restaurants and businesses in the world. The moment that Michelin adjusts its stars, San Pellegrino announces its 50-Best list, or the James Beard Foundation names its honorees, the modern media swarms to cover stories around these businesses to highlight what distinguished each establishment from the huge field of competitors. Given the increased emphasis on food within the modern media age, food occupies an extremely powerful point of influence for pushing specific agendas.

Historically, chocolate has always occupied a controversial space in terms of media representation. Since chocolate first emerged in Europe as a highly sought-after commodity and then became a delicacy appreciated by the masses, there have been a fair share of scandals experienced by chocolate producers, despite the global addiction and appreciation for the product. Given the complex process and numerous entities which chocolate production requires, chocolate producing companies are under incredible scrutiny for the ethics behind their product production, and this sentiment has largely continued into the modern media age. Furthermore, while chocolate has yet to shed its historical baggage in terms of its production process, there are numerous agendas committed to improving upon this practice that aim to shed a more positive image of the product, while bringing about tangible change in the chocolate industry. Therefore, chocolate serves as the perfect case study for an examination on the historical role of media and the development of the practice into the modern age. Despite its immense history, the narrative of chocolate is still being written.

Early Media History of Chocolate

There are limited written records that can commentate on the history of cacao associated with its endemic regions in Latin and South America. However, there are several artifacts that serve as “media” in terms of documenting the significance of the ingredient and the practice. Due to modern archeological techniques, the Rio Azul vessel has been characterized to contain certain compounds present within cacao such as theobromine, while also having the Mayan hieroglyphics for cacao (Stuart 2009, Coe 2013). This piece constitutes historical media as the hieroglyphics displayed on the vessel would be presented for ceremonial events (Stuart 2009). However, as other forms of historical media are still being discovered or were not preserved, it is difficult to assess the extent to which media associated with cacao propagated the indigenous populations, but there was media for the sake of documentation and ceremonial purposes.

rio-azul-front-from-hollis
The Rio Azul Vessel represents one of the earliest indications of chocolate and media interacting (Image via Hollis).

While Hernan Cortes is commonly attributed with the movement of cacao and thus chocolate to Europe in the 16th century, there appears to be a lack of media documentation during this time period (Coe 2013). This lack of documentation is likely related to limited accessibility to sources in this time frame and thus cannot be thoroughly examined within this essay. Starting in the mid-17th century, an abundance of media sources became accessible in terms of disturbing the preparation of a wide array of exotic foods such as chocolate, coffee, and tea. Within France and Spain, chocolate consumption appears to have become a ubiquitous practice as it is represented in many texts that were released (Coe 2013). These texts purported the health benefits of cacao and chocolate, while also presenting numerous methods of preparation that would make it more palatable (Colmenero 1640).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As these texts represent early presentations of chocolate within Europe, there is a focus on emphasizing the exoticism of these products through imagery and descriptions of their indigenous use cases (Dufour 1671). Additionally, as the media was intended to encourage further consumption of cacao and chocolate, these articles encourage the literate population to partake in the exotic goods as there are innumerable benefits from coughs to indigestion (Colmenero 1640, Dufour 1671). However, as addressed by Coe, chocolate consumption took substantially longer to become normalized within Great Britain (Coe 2013). This can be clearly observed within the texts are it is clearly indicated the original documents for these media pieces were translated media from Spain and France (Crook 1685). Therefore, through following the translation and distribution of media within the Europe, the popularization of chocolate can be followed in a precise manner.

Drama in Chocolate Paradise

As chocolate became increasingly popular within Europe, there were numerous innovations that allowed for its rising accessibility. With innovations such as the Dutch process by Van Houten, conching by Lindt, and milk chocolate by Peter, chocolate was mass producible and thus while still a luxury, was consumed by a substantial proportional of the population (Coe 2013). Accompanying the rise in chocolate availability, numerous social movements emerged in Europe such as the abolition of slavery, which subsequently resulted in increased awareness on ethical business practices (Satre 2005). Through the increased interest in business morality, cacao farms and chocolate factories became a focal point for media scrutiny.

The most infamous case of media involvement was introduced by Henry Nevinson through an article and subsequent book on slavery-like conditions observed in São Tomé and Príncipe on cacao farms (Nevinson 1906). These cacao farms were primarily managed by the Cadbury chocolate company, which was founded on morale Quaker values, so the cries of possible slavery on their farms was incredibly problematic. As the article and book by Nevinson circulated throughout Great Britain, where Cadbury was headquartered, there were countless cries for Cadbury to stop sourcing their chocolate from São Tomé and Príncipe or risk being boycotted by the general populace (Satre 2005). To exacerbate the issue, Portugal which owned São Tomé and Príncipe had banned slavery in the islands earlier and therefore insisted that the report did not accurately reflect the conditions labeled on the island (Higgs 2012). In response to these circumstances, Cadbury deployed their own reporter, Joseph Burtt, to assess the situation, under slightly different pretenses as he was instructed to amicably engage with plantation owners (Satre 2005, Higgs 2012). As this scandal increased in intensity, Cadbury sued newspapers such as The Standard for libel but ultimately did stop importing cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe (Satre 2005). Regardless of the actual reason Cadbury decided to boycott this cacao, it demonstrates the immense power of media and chocolate on a national and international scale.

sao tome
Various news outlets covered the response of Cadbury to the slavery allegations (Image from The African Mail via Hollis).

While media played a role in terms of maintaining accountability of the Cadbury cacao farms within São Tomé and Príncipe, there were additional instances of media playing a supplementary role in facilitating advertising and sales for chocolate purveyors. The rigid but benevolent life of Milton Hershey and the Hershey chocolate company demonstrates the possibility of positive media reinforcing the narrative behind a product. Hershey was a disciplined and compassionate individual who sought to provide for those less fortunate in his environment (D’Antonio 2007). As part of his personal quest, a model town was constructed in Hershey, Pennsylvania to accommodate the needs of the factory and provide a safe and hospitable environment for the local community. Furthermore, when Hershey expanded sugar facilities into Cuba, the company was praised immensely for the quality of the development and the sustainable business practices (The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer 1920). Through features in numerous periodicals, the model town in Hershey, Pennsylvania and the Hershey’s chocolate factory became nationally and internationally recognized as the gold-standard for effective operations (Young 1923, Times 1928, Times 1933). The success of this positive media campaign can be observed during the peak of the Great Depression as demonstrated by an increase in profit margins, due to the unique advertising strategy of relying on word of mouth and media coverage (Allen 1932). Essentially, this indicates that through leveraging the media, the Hershey’s Chocolate company was able to forego substantial advertising, while retaining premium status of its products. The media played a crucial role not only in maintaining business ethics but also in establishing positive agendas within the chocolate industry during its development.

hershey
Milton Hershey built a business that relied on positive media and word of mouth to spread the product. (Image from Wikimedia)

Chocolate in the Modern Media

Moving into the modern age, there is almost an overabundance of media that is available, which presents a unique challenge as the user can curate their own opinions regarding products like chocolate. Therefore, the utilization of media must be strategic and diverse to appeal to specific interests of users but also be sufficiently applicable that a wide array of viewers could be drawn in. Despite the excessive number of media options, chocolate remains at the focal point of food media as numerous individuals within the field are leveraging their positions to improve the state of the cacao and chocolate production.

Chocolate Smudges on Pen and Keyboard

            Following in the footsteps of Nevinson and other chocolate journalists, cacao and chocolate have remained at the forefront of food writing. Articles that feature chocolate and cacao are often highlighted on major media outlets such as The New York Times and Washington Post, which demonstrates a continued interest for a broad audience. Furthermore, the creation of boutique food magazines such as The Lucky Peach and online food platforms like Eater have made accessing musings about the guilty pleasure even easier. However, that is not to say that the issues surrounding chocolate and cacao have deviated immensely from the past.

Given the global nature of the chocolate industry, historically, it was difficult for journalists to fully engage with every party involved. Therefore, while certain situations such as the Cadbury situation in São Tomé and Príncipe were exposed, many others likely slipped beneath the radar. As the world has become more interconnected and accessible, many of the problems that plague cacao and chocolate production have come to light. Starting from the beginning of chocolate production on the cacao farms, numerous media outlets have exposed that horrific conditions that workers often experience alongside issues with child labor (Romero 2009, O’Keefe 2016). Despite numerous instances that have raised these problems in the past, the chocolate industry has yet to address these problems in a constitutive manner. However, through raising awareness of these issues on a broader scale, the hope within media is to inspire groups to act and address these problems.

Chuao_003
Child labor is still a problem plaguing the chocolate industry. (Image from Wikimedia)

 

Alongside the continued discussion on labor concerns within the chocolate industry, another vestige of the chocolate past is discussions on the purported health benefits associated with chocolate. The healthy discussion surrounding chocolate has continued in the modern age as various “experts” with the field attempt to leverage their authority for the sake of pushing their respective agendas. Media outlets basically constantly contradict themselves through the slew of articles published in both support and dissent for the health benefits associated with chocolate (Oaklander 2014, Drayer 2018). Therefore, while the narrative has shifted from the historical perspective that cacao and chocolate having almost magical therapeutic properties, the jury is out on the current state of the field. Due to the immense amount of media content that is available, there is the unfortunate consequence that the true nature of chocolate is diluted. While each viewer has the privilege of establishing their own opinion towards chocolate and cacao, it becomes increasingly more challenging to distill the truth.

Ready, Set, Chocolate!

While traditional forms of media such as newspapers and journals remain influential, newer forms of visual media have become increasingly prominent and preferred to primarily text-based articles. From TV shows to documentaries and from Youtube series to Netflix features, the number of video-based chocolate media has also reached incredible levels with the profound advantage of providing a glimpse into the reality behind situations beyond words. Even after disregarding the innumerable recipes and delectable showcases of chocolate, videos and visual representations play a pivotal role in highlighting the production process and issues that surround the chocolate market.

In line with written media, video content has been utilized extensively to challenge the chocolate industry and condemn problematic practices of cacao farming. Numerous documentaries have been released that demonstrate instances of child labor and abuse on cacao plantations, but also reveal the context for why the practice occurs. In Brazil, while cacao farming is relatively smaller in scale, it is apparent that the use of underage labor stagnates the progression of youth within the state (Papel Social 2019). Within numerous African countries, the child labor problem within the cacao industry is even more rampart as there are further indications of abused and forced labor (Romano 2010, O’Keefe 2016). However, this issue presents a conundrum because child labor is almost necessitated in both of these situations to provide sufficient income for the families at large. As these pieces of videography highlight the labor issues surrounding the chocolate industry, it demonstrates the prominence of this issue, while providing a more visually compelling argument for the viewer.

The Cocoa Route from Papel Social on Vimeo.

While many negative aspects of chocolate production have been revealed through video media, through visualizing the whole process of cacao farming, there are numerous movements by leading chefs and food personalities within the world that aim to inspire change through chocolate.On Parts Unknown, the enigmatic chef, Anthony Bourdain, explored the reaches of indigenous Peru and was inspired by the discovery of white cacao beans (Bourdain 2013).

By engaging with these local purveyors, Bourdain and Eric Ripert, head chef of Le Bernadin, collaborated with Eclat chocolate to create the “Good and Evil” chocolate bar, based on sustainable production of a unique ingredient (Eclat Chocolate 2013). Other prominent chefs have taken advantage of their media opportunities to promise similar movements for the chocolate industry.

Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert discuss Good & Evil Chocolate Bar from Eclat Chocolate on Vimeo.

Joan Roca, the head chef of El Celler de Can Roca, spoke regarding compassionate cooking and mentioned his goal to build a sustainable chocolate company within Spain (Roca 2017). As his family restaurant remains number one in the world on San Pellegrino’s 50-best List, Roca is leveraging his position at the pinnacle of food to improve the chocolate industry further (Jenkins 2018). Given the profound interest in food video media, it is reassuring that numerous prominent figures chose chocolate as their method of instigating change within the world.

Chocolate in Focus

            Chocolate is one of the world’s most intriguing topics for media coverage due to the complex nature of its production and ubiquitous appreciation around the world. Through a historical and modern examination of media representations of chocolate, it is apparent that chocolate serves as a controversial platform for raising awareness to sociopolitical issues. Despite its ambivalent history and problematic present, chocolate will always be in the media spotlight. In this modern media age, there is a surplus of information for each user to establish their individual stances on chocolate, but effective media efforts have pushed the narrative towards making the chocolate industry more ethical and sustainable.

 

References

Allen, E. E. (1932). Hershey Chocolate’s Success: Turning Smaller Volume Into Increasing Profits–This Year’s First Quarter Not So Good. Barron’s (1921-1942); Boston, Mass., p. 22.

Boudain, Anthony and CNN. (2013). Peru: Anthony Bourdain sees source of rare white cacao beans (Parts Unknown). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v064HmUSJNg

Central Hershey. (1920). The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer (1888-1924); New Orleans, 64(7), 108–111.

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate (Third edition). London: Thames & Hudson.

Colmenero de Ledesma, A. (1640). A curious treatise of the nature and quality of chocolate. VVritten in Spanish by Antonio Colmenero, doctor in physicke and chirurgery. And put into English by Don Diego de Vades-forte. Imprinted at London : By I. Okes, dwelling in Little St. Bartholomewes, 1640.

Colmenero de Ledesma, A. (1652). Chocolate: or, An Indian drinke. By the wise and moderate use whereof, health is preserved, sicknesse diverted, and cured, especially the plague of the guts; vulgarly called the new disease; fluxes, consumptions, & coughs of the lungs, with sundry other desperate diseases. By it also, conception is caused, the birth hastened and facilitated, beauty gain’d and continued. / Written originally in Spanish, by Antonio Colminero of Ledesma, Doctor in Physicke, and faithfully rendred in the English, by Capt. James Wadsworth. London, : Printed by J.G. for Iohn Dakins, dwelling neare the Vine Taverne in Holborne, where this tract, together with the chocolate it selfe, may be had at reasonable rates., 165[2].

D’Antonio, M. (2007). Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

Dufour, P. S., Colmenero de Ledesma, A., & Chamberlayne, J. (1685). The manner of making coffee, tea, and chocolate as it is used in most parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America / newly done out of French and Spanish. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/6km558

Dufour, P. S., Dufour, P. S., Colmenero de Ledesma, A., & Marradon, B. (1685). Traitez nouveaux & curieux du café, du thé, et du chocolate. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/9ToUT7

Eclat Chocolate (2013). Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert discuss Good & Evil Chocolate Bar. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from Vimeo website: https://vimeo.com/54406874

Higgs, C. (2013). Chocolate islands: cocoa, slavery, and colonial Africa.

Jenkins T. (2018). Take a Look at the Roca Brothers’ New Chocolate Factory. (n.d.). Retrieved May 3, 2019, from Fine Dining Lovers website: https://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/news-trends/casa-cacao-girona-roca

Mathon, M. (1911). Angola-San Thomé Labour. The African Mail, p. 263. Retrieved from Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

McNeil, C. L. (Ed.). (2006). Chocolate in Mesoamerica: a cultural history of cacao. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Oaklander, M (2014). Should I Eat Dark Chocolate? Retrieved May 3, 2019, from Time website: http://time.com/3593624/benefits-of-dark-chocolate/

O’Keefe, B. (2016). Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from Fortune website: http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/

Papel Social (2019). The Cocoa Route. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/332509945

Romano, Robin. (2010). Documentary. The Dark Side Of Chocolate. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vfbv6hNeng

Roca, J. (2017). The World’s 50 Best Restaurants & 50 Best Bars.  Joan Roca on why cooking is caring at #50BestTalks. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOp5PkVMt4c

Romero, S. (2009, July 28). In Venezuela, Plantations of Cacao Stir Bitterness. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/29/world/americas/29cacao.html

Satre, L. J. (2005). Chocolate on trial: slavery, politics, and the ethics of business (1st ed). Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Times, S. C. to T. N. Y. (1933). CUBA HONORS HERSHEY.: Machado Bestows Highest Honor on Chocolate Manufacturer. New York Times, p. 15.

Times, S. to T. N. Y. (1928). Hershey Gives $2,000,000 Community Centre To Pennsylvania Village He Has Built Up. New York Times, p. 1.

Young, J. C. (1923). HERSHEY, UNIQUE PHILANTHROPIST: His Munificent Gift to Orphan Boys a Long Cherished Idea. New York Times, p. XX4.

 

21st Century Confections: Culinary Modernism and Taza Chocolate

The production of chocolate and other confectionary foods can be traced back centuries to the Aztec and Maya civilizations, which used various tools and techniques to prepare their cacao-rich meals. For example, the use of a whisk-like tool called a molinillo allowed members of Aztec society to add froth to their hot drinks. Since then, many other technologies and policies have been invented that have not only accelerated the production of chocolate, but have also made it more accessible as well. As food becomes increasingly more ubiquitous throughout the world, Rachel Lauden’s concept of Culinary Modernism becomes more relevant than ever. Because Culinary Modernism revolves around the effects of industrialization on the food industry, we can use it as a framework for the numerous ways in which modernization has changed and continues to change the chocolate industry. Specifically, we will be analyzing the policies and technology of the craft chocolate producer, Taza Chocolate, in the hopes of learning one perspective on how companies handle the issues that plague the chocolate industry. Through this analysis, we will then gauge how well Taza fits Culinary Modernism’s definition. This multimedia essay argues that by employing large degrees of transparency and becoming more connected to customers through the internet, chocolate producers are better suited for tackling problems like child slavery, customer outreach, and transportation of goods over long distances.

One of the major challenges facing the chocolate industry is child slavery, which mainly manifests itself in poor, rural areas. There are many factors contributing to this tragic practice, and there are discrepancies between different countries. According to Amanda Berlan in her study Social Sustainability in Agriculture, one of the major causes of child slavery in impoverished countries like Ghana is womens’ lack of economic independence. To add some context, it is “very common” for a household in Ghana to experience a divorce, and typical single mothers “could not afford” spending money on their child’s education. The husbands also tended to not pay for the childrens’ education because “they did not want the [ex-wives] to ‘benefit’ from them financially” (Berlan, 8).  By depriving the children of any education, their options are limited, and because the job market is so limited, children are given no choice but to work in grueling sectors like the cacao industry in order to support themselves and their families. In this sense, the children are not exactly working against their will, but their predicament and limited employment options prevents them from having choice.

With this issue in mind, one innovative policy that Taza Chocolate has implemented in order to empower women in rural areas can be traced to Taza’s commitment in producing its annual Transparency Report. Through this lengthy account, Taza provides a detailed outline of where and how they source their cacao, allowing curious customers to personally critique Taza’s business practices. Some information that is particularly of interest is that the company procures its cacao from five partner farms in three different countries: Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Ecuador, which are known to be economically poor. Furthermore, we can tell that Taza places a considerable amount of attention to female farmers, because it dedicates an entire category in the Transparency Report to the number of “Female Farmers Benefited” as a result of the partnership. In particular, the women benefit from “a premium of at least 500 US dollars per metric ton above the NYICE (market) price”, and Taza never purchases cacao “less than $2,800 per metric ton”. In total, during the year 2017, 643 female farmers and 1608 other farmers benefitted from this relationship.

Similarly to what Berlan describes in her research on family life in Ghana, countries like Ecuador and the Dominican Republic (two of the three countries where Taza purchases its cacao), have experienced a surge in divorces and single-motherhood. In addition, of these single mothers, “between 20 and 50 percent… are not household heads”, thereby, showing that there is a shortage of independence for women within these countries’ borders (Kennedy, 2). Taza’s partnership with women in these countries provides some financial security, since these female farmers have a regular customer that is willing to buy their produce at sustainable prices. By focusing on these individuals, Taza is bolstering their economic and social independence, which should help to reduce the levels of child slavery, since children will not be pressured to work if their household is procuring a steady income.

Furthermore, the Taza Report is innovative because the transparency that it creates places a large amount of accountability on the company to continue maintaining this strong and healthy relationships with their farmers. It forces customers back at the stores to scrutinize the company’s practices, thus, administering pressure to continue working sustainably.  Furthermore, this report placed Taza in a cohort of craft chocolate producers who have placed an emphasis on sourcing humane cacao, which not only educates the general public about the atrocities that can occur in modern-day chocolate production, but also urges governments and other chocolate corporations to take action. We can see that there is a growing public awareness of these issues by looking at this article by the Huffington Post, for example, which not only explains some of the ways in which consumers contribute to child slavery, but also includes a petition at the bottom of the article to push Hershey’s corporate responsibility towards humane cacao, as well as other means by which the consumer can get involved in a humanitarian role. This shows that companies like Taza can have a genuine amount of influence on the consumer side as well through education that can eventually create change.

In addition to aiding the workers at the bottom of the production process, Taza Chocolate is now finding ways in which it can improve the customer experience as well. In this regard, the company has expanded into the e-commerce sector in order to increase the selling of their products and interact with customers outside of their local market. There are two mediums that Taza utilizes in order to engage in e-commerce: the company website and listings on Amazon.com. The website has existed since 2015 and company chocolate listings have been available on Amazon since 2016.

 

taza
Taza Chocolate is known for their disc-shaped confections. Some typical flavors one might find in their stores are cinnamon, chili pepper, and brown sugar.

 

According to a Taza representative that I interviewed, although the craft chocolate producer is now offering its wares online, it still gets a large majority of its revenue from its brick-and-mortar stores like the central one at Somerville, MA. Furthermore, the Taza representative also stated that, according to company records, the “typical” customer that participates in their e-commerce sector is very different from the customers that physically enter the stores. For instance, the customers entering the stores tend to be more adventurous and willing to try different kinds of exotic chocolate flavors during their visit. They also tend to order chocolates with higher sugar contents, because they want to encounter the “sweet chocolate experience”. In contrast, online shoppers tended to order more classic chocolate bars and flavors, such as Taza’s Amaze Bars. They also ordered more refined and dark chocolates than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, thereby, showing more interest in the quality of the cacaos’ preparation. In any case, Taza’s decision to utilize the internet has diversified its clientele, which provides more freedom and creativity in confectionary offerings.

As the internet continues to connect people at enormous scales, the dispersal of chocolate and other foods across national and international lines has taken the world by storm. This gives rise to a concept that the famous food historian, Rachel Laudan, dubs “Culinary Modernism”, a movement that embraces food that is “industrial, novel, and fast” and is “available more or less equally to all” (Laudan, 40). Taza Chocolate has contributed to this exponentially growing movement through the online interaction with its customers, which makes ordering chocolate more accessible throughout the country by simply being an option. The fact that anyone can purchase chocolate with a click of a button from anywhere inside of the United States eliminates various spacial boundaries hindering potential customers.

However, Taza and other craft chocolate producers that have the means by which to ship their products do not quite fit the modal presented by Laudan’s Culinary Modernism. For instance, Lauden’s definition mentions that food pertaining to Culinary Modernism has the qualities of being “processed” and “food of the elite at a price everyone could afford” (40). Taza prides itself in outputting high-quality chocolate that is made from fine cacao and other organic materials. According to the Wholesale page on their website, all of their chocolate is “Certified USDA Organic, Certified Gluten Free, Non GMO Project Verified, Kosher, soy-free, dairy-free, and vegan”, which contradicts Culinary Modernism’s view that the spread of food on a global scale has deteriorated food quality. Furthermore, the kind of products that Taza offers are quite expensive when considering that, according to Dr. Carla Martin, a professor at Harvard University in the Department of African and African American Studies, the maximum price at which average people would be willing to buy chocolate before drastically reducing the chances of purchase is $3.99. The cheapest product that Taza sells on their online store is $5.00, which pushes the limits of the $3.99 pain-point. This also does not account for shipping, which depends on the distance that the chocolate must travel. Because average people would not typically purchase chocolate at such high prices, this eliminates Taza’s chocolates as a commodity that “everyone could afford”. As such, it does not fit within the boundaries proposed by Rachel Laudan’s Culinary Modernism.

Although exposing customers to online chocolate has helped Taza with customer outreach, perhaps one of the most difficult challenges it faces is what comes after a customer clicks the “buy” button: transportation and delivery. Getting an object from point A to point B has been a perennial problem throughout mankind’s history, especially when dealing with perishables. According to Jack Goody, in the early nineteenth century, we made huge strides in this regard  with the revolutionizing invention of refrigeration and artificial freezing. The incorporation of this technology into vehicles widened the possibilities for food transport, and we saw the manifestation of this novelty when “the first refrigerated rail car brought butter from Ogdensburg, New York, to Boston, Massachusetts” (Goody, 78). Since then, the transportation of perishables, such as chocolate, has become more manageable. This rise of technological innovation in the transportation sector and the increased access to food is one of the causes for Rachel Lauden’s Culinary Modernism.

Chocolate itself is a particularly difficult commodity to preserve during transit. With such a low melting point, a chocolate producer must establish a lot of infrastructure in order to safely transport chocolate to its destination. The German Insurance Association states that some of the many factors contributing to the melting of chocolate in transit are: “season, the route, the duration of the voyage, and the container stowage space on board”. One of the only ways to properly ship chocolate in bulk is by using refrigerated containers that can maintain the delicate temperatures required to not only keep the chocolate solid, but to also ensure that the flavor within the wrapping is preserved. However, purchasing a refrigerated container can be quite expensive depending on the size of the container. The price range can go from $10,000-$15,000, which is a considerable amount of money for a small chocolate producer like Taza. For this reason, transporting chocolate in bulk is a barrier for Taza, but this has not stopped it from transporting its goods all over the country.

shipping-container-refrigerated-container-used-painted-20-foot-8
This is an image of a refrigerated container that a company would use to transport perishables, such as red meat, fish, and chocolate.

Shipping gets more challenging when it comes to personal delivery after a user purchases a chocolate from the online store. According to Taza Chocolate’s online policy, when shipping chocolates to destinations with “temperatures over 70ºF”, the shipment may be postponed in order to delay the transit time or they may even require customers to “select expedited shipping”, which adds an extra cost to the purchase. They also include ice packs and special insulated material that will reduce the chances of the chocolate melting. Perhaps because of the difficulty of transporting chocolate, Taza currently does not ship internationally, but as Taza continues to grow and technology continues to advance, we may find people tasting classic Somerville chocolate outside of the United States. The fact that Taza Chocolate has been able to expand beyond its local stores is impressive and proves that it is contributing to the ever-expanding wave of Culinary Modernism by giving customers, who would not normally have brick-and-mortar stores immediately available, access to the sweet Taza Chocolate brand.

In conclusion, Rachel Lauden’s concept of Culinary Modernism has provided a conceptual framework for how technology has shaped the food we eat. By analyzing the effects that Culinary Modernism has had on a company like Taza Chocolate, we can observe what challenges modernization has helped to solve within the chocolate industry, which include the plight of child labor, digital consumer outreach, and the shipping of perishables. The initiatives in transparency and e-commerce, in particular, have helped Taza grow as a company, and, looking forward, its future as a confections producer looks bright.

 

Works Cited
“2017 Transparency Report.” Taza Chocolate, Dec. 2017,           http://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2017-transparency-report.
“Chocolate.” Lemons, http://www.tis-gdv.de/tis_e/ware/lebensmi/schoko/schoko.htm#container.
Goody, Jack. 2013[1982]. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” pp. 72-88
Gregory, Amanda. “Chocolate and Child Slavery: Say No to Human Trafficking This Holiday Season.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-gregory/chocolate-and-child-slave_b_4181089.html
Kennedy, Sheela and Ruggles, Steven. “Single Parenthood and Intergenerational Coresidence in Developing Countries.” Single Parenthood and Intergenerational Coresidence in Developing Countries , University of Minnesota, 27 Sept. 2013, paa2014.princeton.edu/papers/141449.
Laudan, Rachel. “A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food.” Gastronomica, vol. 1, no. 1, Feb. 2001, pp. 36–44., doi:10.1525/gfc.2001.1.1.36.

 

 

Let Them Eat Chocolate

Chocolate is one of the world’s most beloved treats. The mixture of chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter and flavors like vanilla, creates an indulgent taste that would not be made possible without the key ingredient, cacao. However, cacao and chocolate weren’t always easily accessible. Previously reserved as a treat for the elite, as the popularity of cacao increased, so did it’s availability to a wider audience. During the 19th century, chocolate became available to the masses because of industrial changes in production, new recipes and the improved treatment of workers, culminating in a dramatic increase in the consumption of chocolate.

Cacao has had a long and arduous journey to becoming one of the most sought after products. Cacao comes from the cacao tree, which produces cacao pods that house the cacao beans. The cacao tree only grows in twenty degrees south or north of the equator, providing limited number of growing areas.[1] In Mesoamerica cacao was an integral part of the culture and daily lives of the Aztec, Maya and Olmec civilizations. They made beverages out of cacao and used it as currency.[2] When the Spanish conquered Mesoamerica they began to consume cacao and brought it back to Spain. Cacao later spread to Italy, France, and England, becoming as beloved as it was in South America. Drinking chocolate became widely popular, as well as confectionary deserts using cacao. These treats like covered mousse, marzipan, sugared almonds and ice cream became a status symbol for elites and royalty in the 18th century.[3]

Private chocolate chefs typically prepared chocolate confections. The techniques used to make these chocolate deserts were the same as the Mesoamericans. For example, the Thomas Tosier, who prepared King George I and George II’s chocolate, used a metate grinding stone, exactly like the Mesoamericans used to prepare their chocolate many years earlier.[4] By grinding the cacao beans by hand it was difficult to create a fine texture. However, in 1828, Coenraad Johannes Van Houten invented the Dutch Cocoa Press, which reduced cacao into a finer grain than had ever been previously possible.[5] As Sophie and Michael D. Coe note in their book, The True History of Chocolate, the cocoa press allowed for drinking chocolate to be sold at much cheaper prices and chocolate began the transformation from a liquid to a solid.[6] This revolutionary press only was the beginning of a string of inventions that changed the way that chocolate was produced. In 1826, Philippe Suchard invented the mélangeur, which mixed the chocolate ingredients together.[7] Later, in 1879, Rudolphe Lindt invented the conching process, which further refined cocoa powder.[8] Lindt’s invention is the reason why modern chocolate has a smooth consistency. Without these advancements, chocolate would have not been able to be produced on a large-scale.

 

14738452907_c9f95c24a7_z

 

As Sophie and Michael D. Coe note, the Van Houten’s Dutch Cocoa Press marked the beginning of a modern era for chocolate. The Dutch Cocoa Press also changed the color of chocolate, making people think that the chocolate was stronger.[9] Image courtesy of Flickr. 

It was not just mechanical advancements that spurred the consumption of chocolate, new innovations in chocolate products and recipes were created in the 19th century that became the start of modern-day chocolate products. In 1847, the company J.S. Fry & Sons had the revolutionary idea to create bars of chocolate.[10] This was the first time that anyone had made chocolate into a bar. This innovative idea is now a fundamental part of chocolate culture, as nearly everyone around the world has consumed a chocolate bar. In addition, one of the most beloved flavors of chocolate was created during the 19th century. Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate in 1879, by adding powdered milk to the chocolate recipe. This invention would not have been possible without Henri Nestlé, who invented powdered milk in 1867.[11] These new recipes further added to the popularity of chocolate and thus consumption of sugar and cacao rapidly increased.

8730956607_75830e6c0b_o

The solid candy bar that J.S. Fry & Sons had invented in 1847, was first consumed by the rich because the price was so steep. This new invention also led to J.S. Fry & Sons becoming the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world at the time. [12]  Image courtesy of Flickr. 

Due to the increase in the production of chocolate, there was a higher demand for cacao. New farms started in areas outside of South America and the Caribbean, mostly in West Africa.[13] The majority of cacao was produced by slave labor. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century it finally became clear that coerced and forced labor was wrong. However, it was not until the nineteenth century when slavery began to be abolished, which coincidentally was around the same time when new production machines were being invented.[14] These changes in the labor force improved the public opinion of companies and thus increased the consumption of chocolate.

Chocolate companies like, J.S. Fry & Sons, Cadbury, and Lindt, among others, grew into large-scale enterprises that were often under public scrutiny. Companies would be publically shamed for unethical business practices like slavery. Cadbury was subject to this scrutiny when in 1907 an article was published exposing Cadbury for knowingly using slave labor sourced cacao from São Tomé and Principe. [15] The public was shocked by these revelations and as a result Cadbury’s public reputation was tainted.[16] Cadbury rebounded from the scandal by ceasing to purchase cacao from plantations that still used slavery.[17] The São Tomé Cadbury case, illustrates how invested consumers were in the chocolate industry and were concerned about where their products were coming from.

3907609000_9a0eed7ee7_z Bournville was created to house the workers of the Cadbury factory. Since the town was established by Quakers, they did not have any pubs or alcohol allowed in the town, thus creating an environment with no bad temptations.[18] Image courtesy of Flickr.

In contrast, the employees in chocolate factories in Europe and the United States were treated much better than those who worked on plantations. Companies like Hershey’s and Cadbury built towns for their workers and their families to live in. These towns not only housed the workers in the factories but also had schools, parks, and community centers among other attractions.[19][20] These chocolate towns were revolutionary and the quality of product likely improved because of this excellent treatment. In an article by Fortune, titled “Being Happy at Work Really Makes You More Productive”, they discuss a study that has proven results that happier workers lead to more productivity, which leads to an increase in sales.[21] Both Hershey’s and Cadbury have become leaders in the chocolate industry, stemming from the quality products that their workers have produced.

As a result of these advances in production, recipes, and treatment of workers, consumption of chocolate spiked significantly in the 19th century. This trend has continued even today, as the average American consumes twelve pounds of chocolate per year.[22] This includes candy bars, truffles, hot chocolate, cakes and pastries. All of these modern forms of chocolate treats would not have been possible without the revolutionary changes that occurred and made chocolate a commodity for mass consumption. Chocolate has become available globally and is no longer a treat just for the elite. The chocolate revolution allowed for everyone to be able to enjoy this modern treat.

 

 

 

[1] Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate (New York: Thames & Hudson), 19.

[2] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 33.

[3] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 218-219.

[4] “Chocolate Kitchens”, Historic Royal Palaces, Accessed March 8, 2017, http://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/visit-us/top-things-to-see-and-do/chocolate-kitchens/#gs.JM81VM0.

[5] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 234.

[6] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 232-233.

[7] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 246.

[8] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 247.

[9] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 234-235

[10] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 241.

[11] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 247.

[12] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 241

[13] Carla Martin, Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor (PowerPoint Slides), March 1, 2017, Slide 7.

[14] Martin, Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor, Slide 42.

[15] Lowell J. Satre, Chocolate on Trial: Slavery Politics and the Ethics of Business (University of Ohio Press), 82.

[16] Satre, Chocolate on Trial, 85

[17] Satre, Chocolate on trial, 98.

[18] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 242.

[19] Martin, Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor, Slide 55.

[20] Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate, 250-251.

[21] Michal Addady, “Being Happy at Work Really Makes You More Productive”, Fortune, October 29, 2015, http://fortune.com/2015/10/29/happy-productivity-work/.

[22] Carla Martin, Mesoamerica and The Food of the Gods (PowerPoint Slides), February 1, 2017, Slide 7.

Head image courtesy of Flickr. 

The Influence of Public Scrutiny on Cadbury Business Ethics

Today, chocolate is ubiquitous: supermarkets and convenience stores keep shelves stocked with a variety of affordable treats to satisfy the sweet-tooths of shoppers, and almost every restaurant boasts at least one dessert appealing to chocoholics, from molten lava cakes to chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate has become a major component of holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day, assuring the exposure of people to this delectable indulgence from an early age. However, chocolate was not always the dietary staple it is today. The industrial revolution expanded chocolate consumption by increasing its affordability and accessibility. As their consumer base grew, chocolate companies faced extreme public scrutiny, forcing producers to forgo chocolate’s debaucherous past in favor of a more ethical, quality-driven future.

486768_4_england-uk-english-chocolate-bar
A typical convenience store’s chocolate display. (Garland)

 Lascivious Beginnings

The first Englishmen to come into contact with cacao were pirates looting Spanish ships returning from the New World. Authorized by Elizabeth I, these pirates were uninterested in the “strange, bitter seeds,” and one ship went so far as burn a shipload of cacao after mistaking the beans for sheep droppings (location 2333). Later, when chocolate made its formal introduction in the 1650s, the English adopted a far less cavalier opinion of the New World crop and readily integrated it into their bustling economy by way of coffee and chocolate-houses. Chocolate’s timely appearance in England allowed for immediate public integration: the English Civil War (1642-1651) reduced the power of the monarchy and transformed England into a country controlled by shopkeepers and enterprising private businessmen, allowing chocolate to escape the aristocratic confinement it had found in France (location 2413).

Picture12
The gaming-room at White’s, aptly named “Hell”, served as the inspiration for the sixth plate of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress.” The men are busy gambling, oblivious to the fire growing in the back of the room. Notice the perukes (powdered wigs) that many of the men are wearing. These were expensive and associated with social rank in the 17th century. (Hogarth)

Chocolate was mainly consumed in public coffee and chocolate-houses, all-male establishments central to social life in London that charged a penny admission fee. Here, chocolate garnered a hefty price due to its high taxation by the English government as well as the time and skill required to make the delicious beverage (“London’s Chocolate House”). The high cost and later privatization of the chocolate-houses made chocolate a de facto drink of the wealthy elite.

One of the most famous chocolate-houses was White’s Chocolate House. Opened in 1693, White’s was originally public, increasing admission prices substantially by 1711 before becoming private in the middle of the 18th century. Known for lively political conversations, members included prime ministers, monarchs, dukes and earls. However, the wealthy members of White’s were known to take part in more scandalous activities than political debates: the high stakes gambling at White’s was notorious throughout London. The chocolate-house was known as a place where young noblemen were “fleeced and corrupted by fashionable gamblers and profligates.” In 1754, The Connoisseur, a London weekly newspaper, reported that at White’s, “there is nothing, however trivial, or ridiculous, which is not capable of producing a bet” (Coe, Location 3286).

Industrial Innovation and Increased Consumption

Granite_Roller_and_Granite_Base_of_a_Conche
The conche, pictured above, is another innovation of the industrial revolution. Invented in 1879 by Rudolphe Lindt, the conche made chocolate less gritty which helped it transform from a drink to a solid. The conche in the picture above was used by Hershey in the 1900s. (Z22)

Industrial revolution chocolate innovation began with Coenraad Johannes Van Houten in 1828. His invention, the hydraulic press, allowed the defatting and alkalizing processes to occur more efficiently and made possible “large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses, in both powdered and solid form” (Coe Location 3459). The press cheaply created a “cake” that could easily be ground into a fine powder called cocoa. It is with this cocoa that enabled the Fry firm to create the first chocolate bar in 1847. Debuted at a high price, solid chocolate quickly became within the reach of the public as companies like J.S. Fry & Sons, Cadbury, and Nestlé developed and perfected mass production and cost-cutting methods (Coe, Location 3476).

The industrial revolution not only increased the affordability of chocolate through innovation that allowed for cheap and efficient mass-production but also increased accessibility through its impact on retailing. In Medieval Europe, the buying and selling of food occurred in open marketplaces, where authorities actively prevented the use of middle-men. By the time Elizabeth I was in power, retail had begun to shift from open markets to closed shops, although urban authorities strongly resisted the move to retail shops in the food trade (Goody). However, with the industrial revolution came the growth of suburbs surrounding London. Industrialization made groceries essential and solidified the shift from open markets to retail shops.

market-1911
This postcard shows a typical English market in 1905. The growth of retail stores decreased the size (fewer stalls) and frequency of open markets (once a week when this photo was taken) after industrialization. (Osborn)

Public Outcry for Ethical, High-Quality Products 

Picture1
Cadbury advertisement shifts to focus on the unadulterated nature of its product with lines like “absolutely pure” and “no chemicals used” along with a source, The Analyst, to provide credibility. (Advertising Archives)

With popularity soaring, chocolate companies were tempted to increase their margins by selling adulterated chocolate. One of the more popular modes of adulteration significantly reduced the shelf-time of the end product by completely extracting expensive cacao butter and replacing it with olive oil, sweet almond oil, egg yolks, etc. Another popular method involved the inclusion of foreign materials like “wheat or barley flour, pulverized cacao shells, or even ground brick” (Coe, Location 3519). This inspired The Lancet, a British medical journal, to analyze food quality and a consequent study found that “39 of 70 [cocoa samples] had been colored with red ocher from ground bricks” and many had also contained added starch (Coe, Location 3528). Facing public outcry, George Cadbury admitted to adulterating Cadbury cocoa with starch and flour and the company changed its practices. In 1866, the company invested in Van Houten’s press and launched “Cadbury Cocoa Essence,” marketing it as the “UK’s first unadulterated cocoa” (Cadbury). This product increased sales, transforming the small business into a global company.

The final shift from the debaucherous past to the more ethical modern-day came in the early 20th century when Henry Nevinson issued a report detailing the gruesome slavery occurring in São Tomé and Príncipe, the primary cacao supplier for the major English chocolate firms (Satre). Cadbury became aware of this practice in 1904 after sending Joseph Burtt to STP on behalf of the company and almost immediately began searching for a new supplier, understanding that the company’s “good Quaker reputation” was largely responsible for their success. They waited until 1909 to announce a formal boycott, at which time public outcry had reached a high after an article was published in the British daily The Standard outlining Cadbury’s knowledge of the slavery . At the time of the boycott Cadbury had already found new cacao suppliers on the African Gold Coast.

Works Cited

Advertising Archives. “Cadbury’s 1980s UK Cocoa Drinking.” Fine Art America. 2013. Web.

Cadbury. “The Story: 1866 An Innovative Processing Technique is Introduced.” The Cadbury Company, UK. Web.

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

Garland, Leslie. “858.01.14”. The Image File. Web. 2015.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2013 [1982].

Hogarth, William. “File:William Hogarth – A Rake’s Progress – Plate 6 – Scene In A Gaming House.Jpg”. Wikimedia Commons. 1735. Web.

“London’s Chocolate Houses”. The Herb Museum. Web.

Martin, Carla D. “AAS E-119 Lecture 6: Slavery, abolition, and forced labor.” 2016. Lecture.

Osborn, Bob. “Yeovil’s Markets”. The A-to-Z of Yeovil’s History. 2015. Web.

Satre, Lowell. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens: Ohio University Press. 2005.

Z22. “File:Granite Roller and Granite Base of a Conche.jpg”. Wikimedia Commons. 2014.