The crackdown on sugar and high-calorie foods garnered a lot of media attention in 2010 with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and the proposed ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks in New York and it brought a public health crisis into the spotlight. Chocolate as we know it today is itself an example of a sugary food with high caloric content common in the diets of many Americans. Dark chocolate, which often tastes bitter because it has higher cacao content and less sugar, contains an average of 14 grams of sugar per ounce (USDA). That said, most candy bars that contain chocolate far exceed that amount. Although a number of research studies conducted in the last two decades have highlighted potential health benefits of chocolate consumption (specifically dark chocolate), chocolate is often referred to as a “guilty pleasure” and it is seen in the public eye as something unhealthy associated with weight gain. We know that this was not the case throughout much of history, when cacao and chocolate were considered healthy and, in a few societies, as medicine. I find this shift in public opinion interesting and believe it to be a direct result of the democratization of chocolate and its high sugar content. By winding back the clock and analyzing changing perceptions of cacao and chocolate in different areas of the world with a focus on health, we can better understand when and why this transition happened.
Mesoamerican attitudes towards cacao (c. 600 C.E. – 1500 C.E.)
People in Central America and Mexico during the height of the Mayan and Aztec empires used cacao as an offering in healing rituals, to ensure successful travel, and during social unions such as banquets, baptisms, burials, weddings, and ceremonies to confirm the legitimacy of dynasties (Martin and Sampeck 39). The importance of cacao and its link to the gods can be found in the Dresden Codex, a Mayan book and the oldest surviving from the Americas, where “gods can be seen holding cacao pods, or dishes heaped with cacao beans” (Coe and Coe 42). In addition, cacao had several medicinal uses, including help with indigestion, inflammation, and fertility. Other applications of medicinal cacao used for afflictions can be found in Chilam Balam and The Ritual of the Bacams (18th century manuscripts recopied from ancient codices). Cacao was also prepared as a beverage using distinctive tools such as the molinillo, the steep-sided cup, and the spouted pot and ingredients including chile, custard apple, maize, achiote, and more ingredients specific to colonial Mesoamerica (Martin and Sampeck 42). Notably, the amount of sugar was much lower and the list of ingredients is wildly different from that of modern-day chocolate.
French attitudes towards chocolate (c. 1600 C.E. – 1800 C.E.)
Chocolate was likely introduced in France from Spain as a drug by Alphonse de Richelieu, who, as we learned in class, believed it could be used as a medicine for his spleen. Prevailing theories in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe credited chocolate as being “a generally nutritious, energizing, fortifying beverage” that was also “credited as being an antidepressant, an aphrodisiac, a laxative, an agent to strengthen the heart, liver, and lungs, and a treatment for hemorrhoids” (Cather Studies 285). By 1690, chocolate was a regular offering at Louis XIV’s court at Versailles and was popular among the aristocracy (Coe and Coe 157-60). There were, of course, conflicting opinions about chocolate and its merits, but nonetheless a culture developed around it among the wealthy such that when Thomas Jefferson assumed the role of Minister to France in 1785, he wrote the following in a letter to John Adams from Paris:
Chocolate. [T]his article when ready made, and also the [c]acao becomes so soon rancid, and the difficulties of getting it fresh have been so great in America that it’s use has spread but little … by getting it good in quality, and cheap in price, the superiority of the article both for health and nourishment will soon give it the same preference over tea & coffee in America which it has in Spain.”
RC (MHi: Adams Family Papers). PoC (DLC). Published in PTJ, 9:62–3.
American attitudes towards chocolate (c. 1700 C.E. – 1950 C.E.)
Chocolate, although very rare at the time, had made its way into what would later become the state of Massachusetts, and more specifically onto Judge Samuel Sewall’s breakfast plate, by the year 1697. George Washington was apparently fond of chocolate, and “…connections to the drink have been attributed to patriot luminaries like Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, [and] Thomas Jefferson” (Laiskonis). Notably, however, chocolate was provided to the troops in the French and Indian War. Six pounds of chocolate was offered to each officer by Benjamin Franklin, who “…saw chocolate as a compact, energizing, and tasty food that could be easily carried and boosted morale” (National Geographic Partners 20). By 1800, chocolate was affordable for most colonists (while it was still an expensive drink reserved for the nobility in France) because they (the colonists) imported cacao beans directly from the Caribbean rather than buying them from the British to evade the cost of taxes (National Geographic Partners 18). The cost was further brought down with the rise of mechanization and changes in transportation. Chocolate went from being consumed primarily as a drink to a solid with the development of new techniques, namely pressing and tempering, and became less gritty with the invention of the conch in 1879. Major chocolate companies like Hershey’s, Nestlé, Mars, Cadbury, and Lindt became so successful by standardizing their recipes, scaling up their operations, investing in effective marketing techniques, extending the shelf life of their products, and eventually gaining control of the supply chain. Hershey’s and Nestlé also reaped the benefits of war by providing chocolate for U.S. army rations during WWII (Jacobson). Up until about 1945, therefore, chocolate was still viewed largely the same as it had been by Benjamin Franklin two centuries prior. The idea that chocolate could restore one’s strength, on the other hand, went all the way back to the Maya.
So, what caused the change in public opinion of chocolate after 1950? I believe that it was a combination of wide availability of chocolate back at home after WWII and the heavy advertising that chocolate companies did during the war. Additionally, our lives today are significantly more sedentary, and we consume more food/calories now than before. I would argue that all these factors shifted the focus from the benefits of chocolate to its sugar content as we became more aware of the grip of high calorie foods on our diet. It seems that tide is turning now, with research supporting some potential health benefits of chocolate.
Chocolate, the bittersweet delicious treat that most everyone in the western world grew up eating, has taken on various different roles in society throughout its surprisingly significant lifespan. From 1900 BC to our modern day existence, chocolate has been everything from a form of sustenance, to a currency, to a ritualistic decoration, and now a sugary treat that we give to children and loved ones. Of particular interest and significance, though, is the period from 1600-1800, when European consumption preferences caused chocolate to go from an exotic snack to a full fledged industrialized foodstuff that powered economies and increased the slave trade. That period marks a permanent change in the history of chocolate, one best described as a case study in rising capitalism meeting changing consumer preferences to create an entirely new industry.
The earliest evidence of the existence of chocolate is found in research of the Olmec Civilization (Dakin and Wichmann, 2000:66). The Olmec Civilization flourished in Mesoamerica prior to the Maya or Aztec civilizations arising, and like their predecessors the Olmec used chocolate for both consumption and in ritual (Dakin and Wichmann, 2000:66). For centuries, chocolate, and the cacao from which it is made, was consumed in relatively small portions. No plantations existed for the sole purpose of farming cacao, nor did it ever occur to create one. Sophie and Michael Coe, authors of The True History of Chocolate, detailed how the Aztecs “considered chocolate a far more desirable beverage [than octli their native drink], especially for warriors and nobility” (Coe and Coe, 2013:154). Today we romanticize the Aztec chocolate habits with false pictures and recipes like the one displayed here. The Aztecs, who ruled proudly until 1521 when they were all but wiped out, were one of the civilizations to introduce chocolate to Europeans.
Europeans, specifically the Spanish, encountered chocolate for the first time in 1502 when Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ what would become a continental obsession (Coe and Coe, 2013:217). It wasn’t until 1544, though, when “Dominican friars took a delegation of Maya nobles to visit Prince Phillip in Spain” that chocolate truly entered the European consciousness (Coe and Coe, 2013:262). By the early 1600s Spaniards had begun manufacturing chocolate for public consumption. By the mid 1600s, recipes including cinnamon and sugar had popped up (Coe and Coe, 2013:269). By the 1800s chocolate was a full-blown obsession. Chocolate was becoming more and more popular in Europe, and in order to keep up with demand Europeans began doing to chocolate what they did to so many other things during the same time period: industrialized.
In 1828 Coenraad Johannes Van Houten developed a hydraulic press capable of industrializing the labor intensive and inefficient process of separating chocolate liquor into cocoa butter and cocoa powder. He also added salts to the cocoa around the same time period, darkening the colour and changing the flavor of the end product (Coe and Coe, 2013:483-484). This invention marked a change in the production of chocolate that would never go back to the largely small scale, artisanal industry it was before. The inventions, combined with a Pennsylvanian named Joseph Fry’s use of a steam engine to grind cacao beans, allowed chocolate production to become much easier, faster, and more efficient (Coe and Coe, 2013:485-486). Here is a picture of Van Houten’s original hydraulic press used for chocolate.
Another factor that contributed to the boom in chocolate production was the increased demand from working class Europeans. During the 19th century the industrial revolution was in full swing all across Europe. While that meant great progress, both socially and economically, it also brought about many issues including large-scale poverty. With the new ability to mass-manufacture chocolate prices came down dramatically. Chocolate was no longer a food for only the select elite to enjoy. On the meager wages of a factory worker one could enjoy a uniformly produced, sweet chocolate bar. Industrial workers caused a massive boost in popularity of chocolate in the mid-to-late 19th century (Poelmans and Swinnen, 2019:13). Chocolate was fueling the industrial revolution, and the industrial revolution was in turn fueling chocolate in a period of absolutely enormous growth. Between 1870 and 1940 production of chocolate and imports for cacao beans in Europe and North America grew by over 90x (Poelmans and Swinnen, 2019:13). It is truly one of the most stunning and lucrative periods of growth in economic history.
The explosion of chocolate production caused a dip in ‘quality.’ No longer was chocolate a frothy beverage used for energy. Instead, chocolate was barely even cacao anymore, diluted as it was with alkalized salts, sugars, spices, and other ingredients to create a sweet treat suitable for all members of society. Millions of people consumed chocolate annually, but now primarily from larger companies that had cropped up like Hershey’s, Cadbury, and Nestlé and not smaller chocolate makers. By the middle of the 20th century the chocolate revolution was complete. The product was now unrecognizable from where it started in Mesoamerica, and so too was the world.
Today we rarely remember or know much about the original recipes and consumption habits surrounding chocolate. All we know is the sugary, delicious but bastardized version of the snack that surrounds us in every grocery store and local corner deli. This change was caused for both social consumption preferences, as well as underlying economic tailwinds. Today, the chocolate industry is strong as ever and shows no signs of slowing down, continuing to perpetuate the European recipes which have taken over the world.
Dakin, Karen and Soren Wichmann. 2000. Cacao and Chocolate: An Uto-Aztecan Perspective. Ancient Mesoamerica vol. 11. Cambridge University Press.
Coe, Sophie and Michael Coe. 2013. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson. London, UK.
Poelmans, Eline and Johan F. M. Swinnen. 2019. A Brief Economic History of Chocolate. LICOS Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance. Mannheim, Ger.
An Examination of Unethical Practices in
the Cocoa Industry
(Food Empowerment Project)
This semester we
looked intensively at the use of slave labor in the chocolate industry, and the
responsibility of chocolate companies to do their part in ensuring that the
chocolate they sell is not coming from unethical child labor. Top chocolate
selling companies like Nestle and Hershey have all taken accountability for
their role in the problem and pledged to fight to eliminate child labor in the
production of cocoa. In fact, a couple
of years ago, Nestle made the news with its pledge that its iconic KitKat bars
would be made with cocoa that has been verified by third party agencies to
ensure that it was supplied from ethical sources. Yet, KitKat is only one type
of bar that Nestle makes, and no statement was issued regarding whether or not
the rest of their chocolate products would be subjected to this new guideline. This
small step was not highly regarded by those looking for chocolate companies to
take legitimate steps towards fighting this issue. Although Nestle hoped that
their pledge would take some pressure off of them, it had no such effect. In
2018, a U.S. federal appeals court reopened a lawsuit filed by a group of
former child slaves accusing Nestle of perpetuating child labor in the Ivory
Coast. (Bellon) Nestle was also sued by a legal firm who alleges that they
deceived consumers about the use of slave labor to provide cocoa for their
brands Crunch and Butterfinger. This same legal firm has also opened a lawsuit
against Hershey and Mars on similar grounds. So, the three largest chocolate companies
in the world, are all facing lawsuits over using chocolate that is the result
of slave labor. Anyone who is familiar with the horrors children face on cocoa
farms would surely be angered and disgusted. Due to the history of this
country, the term slavery should be enough of a trigger word alone to dissuade
any company from wanting to be associated with any product that is the result
of slave labor. This, coupled with the fact that chocolate companies are
consistently being sued for their role in perpetuating slave labor on cocoa,
makes me wonder why chocolate companies are not doing more to distance
themselves from these unethical cocoa farms.
First, let’s take
a look at some statistics that contribute to the problem. There are about 5 to
6 million cocoa farmers in the world, and another 40-50 million who depend on
the cocoa industry for their livelihood. (USDOL) Almost 70% percent of the
world’s cocoa comes from West Africa. Nearly 40% of the Ivory Coast’s
population is involved in some form of cocoa farming and 60% of the Ivory Coast’s
export revenue is funded by the cocoa industry. (USDOL) As you can see, West
African countries heavily depend on the cocoa industry for economic stability. For
many of them, it is their most consistent and stable form of income for the
country. Thus, it makes sense that they want to minimize their costs as much as
possible. The typical cocoa farmer in the Ivory Coast and Ghana is paid an
average of $2 per day. This forces many farmers to turn to the cheapest form of
labor possible, child/slave labor. Because many in West Africa live in poverty,
children are often forced to start working to help support their families at
very young ages. This makes them a lot more susceptible to being trafficked,
kidnapped, or sold into slave labor. The children can work up to 100 hours a
week and perform a number of dangerous tasks such as: operating a machete,
carrying bags of cocoa pods that weigh over 100 lbs, and operating in close
proximity with chemicals without protective gear. (slavefreechocolate) If they
try to escape or aren’t working fast enough, they are beaten and whipped. Some
of the children involved in slave labor are as young as 5 or 6 years old.
Chocolate Companies’ Role
With the knowledge
of all the horrors children face in the cocoa industry, it would seem that
everyone, including the major chocolate companies, would want to fight to end
this issue. Yet, chocolate companies have been largely idle. In 2001, the US
House of Representatives decided to take action and voted to consider a bill
which would require all chocolate companies to confirm that they were child
labor free and to label their products this way. (Willow) American chocolate
companies responded with a fierce lobbying campaign against this law. They
argued that there was no way for them to control what happened on cocoa farms
across the world, and that cocoa supply lines were usually so long and complex
that it was nearly impossible to verify that the cocoa they receive came from a
farm that did not make use of child labor. Because of the lobbying efforts of
American chocolate companies, the protocol the house wanted to vote on was
watered down and released in 2001 as the Harkin-Engel Protocol. (Willow) The
Harkin-Engel protocol did not require companies to verify that their chocolate is
not supplied by slave labor, and the issue of labeling seemed to be completely
forgotten. We are almost 20 years removed from the release of the protocol and
almost nothing substantial seems to have been accomplished. Even KitKat’s
gesture is not even close to the type of support needed to spark real change in
the industry. This was a major win for chocolate companies, whose response to
the original protocol is indicative of the fact that they just don’t have any
real interest in solving this issue.
There are a couple reasons the chocolate giants
are disinterested in putting forth any real effort towards solving the
child/slave labor issue we have examined so far. One, as stated earlier, is that
it would require effort on the part of the chocolate companies to ensure that
their cocoa is produced ethically. Supply chains in the cocoa industry are long
and complex, and because of the enormous child labor problem in Western Africa,
it would take a lot of verification on their end to determine that the
companies they are buying from are using ethical practices. However, second and
probably most important, is the fact that it would require chocolate giants
like Hershey and Nestle to sacrifice some of their profit. According to the
Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast, chocolate companies will have to pay around
10 times the current price of price of cocoa if they want to end the use of
unethical child labor there. This would obviously drive up the price of their
products, and cut into a big percentage of their profits. Any strategy that
encourages corporations to sacrifice profit in the name of morality is one that
is flawed. So, let’s look at some alternative ways to end dangerous child labor
on the Western Africa cocoa farms.
The biggest reason
that this situation exists is poverty. The West African economy depends so
heavily on the cocoa industry, however there is not even a minimum wage or
minimum price for farmers to sell their cocoa. This was not the case until the
cocoa industry was privatized in 1999. Once the industry was privatized, cocoa
prices fell drastically, poverty became widespread, and the government stopped
spending money on necessities such as healthcare and education. (USDOL) This
all came at the expense of the cocoa farmers who work in isolation on small
farms with no way to communicate with each other about market cocoa prices. World
cocoa prices have been well below the price of production costs since the
industry was privatized. Some countries refuse to buy cocoa from West African
countries who they suspect of using slave labor on their farms. This causes
West African farmers to have to sell their cocoa at an even lower price. Farmers
do not even make enough money to afford trucks to transport their beans so they
are forced to rely on exploitative middlemen, who give them cash for the beans
and haul them away. Without the knowledge of the worth of their beans, farmers
are unable negotiate better prices for them. Instead, they must just accept the
prices that these exploitative buyers are willing to pay or risk not selling
their beans at all. So, even if cocoa prices rise, the farmers themselves will
not be able to benefit from it.
A major step
towards a solution would be for more advanced countries, like the United
States, who purchase large amounts of cocoa from countries who use slave labor
and are concerned about slave labor in Africa to invest in the farmers in those
countries. Equipping farmers with something simple like trucks to transport
their beans to markets would allow them to have an understanding of world
prices, negotiate better prices for themselves, and cut out exploitative
middlemen who take away a lot of their profit. This alone would increase
producer surplus exponentially and allow farmers to be able to rely on more
ethical forms of labor to produce their cocoa. Another possible solution would
be a mandate of a minimum price for cocoa. Thanks to Fair Trade Certified
producer groups, this is the case in some countries in Western Africa. These
groups cover different nine African countries and represent thousands of
farmers. Chocolate companies who buy from farms belonging to a Fair Trade
Certified group pay the farmers the world market price plus a stipend that guarantees
farmers have livable wages. (Food Empowerment Project) Farms that belong to
these groups are inspected once a year and there is zero tolerance for
unethical labor practices. Although only a small portion of the world’s cocoa
is produced on Fair Trade Certified farms, they represent a possible solution
to the problem. A more drastic approach would be to standardize groups like
this, and to force all farms to join a group like this in order to be legally
able to sell cocoa beans. This approach would likely be seen as problematic
because the chocolate giants are not buying their cocoa from Fair Trade
Certified farms. However, to combat that point, we must hold large
chocolate-selling companies like Nestle and Hershey accountable. Countries who
allow these chocolate giants to sell their products should pass legislation
similar to that of the original Harkin-Engel protocol proposal. These companies
should not be allowed to sell their products without verifying that their cocoa
is supplied by ethical sources. This is extremely important because, like the
farmers, these companies are looking to minimize their production costs.
Changing the way the farmers do business won’t completely eradicate child labor
if the chocolate giants are not forced to also make the switch to more ethical
practices. Forcing the chocolate companies’ hand will ensure that the farmers are
not the ones who suffer the consequences of changed legislation. Because, as we
have seen, when the farmers suffer, they turn to cheap, unethical solutions.
countries depend heavily on the cocoa industry for economic success. Their reliance
on this industry, cocoa farmers struggle to sell their product for a livable
wage and chocolate companies refusal to acknowledge their role in the situation
resulted in this large-scale slave labor problem that we see today. If we truly
want to eradicate this problem in Western Africa, solutions like the one laid
out in this paper are a good start. I hope that through this paper you have a
better understanding of the horrors of slave labor on cocoa farms. However, I
also hope that you are optimistic about the future, because solutions are right
in front of us. We just have to hold the major players in this cruel game accountable.
At 2AM each morning Harvard student activist and writer Minahil Khan, awakens from her deep sleep. She describes this disruption in her sleep schedule as “inevitable;” no matter how hard she tries, she wakes up each night, reaches to the ground beside her bed, and grabs a piece of chocolate. Minahil’s nightly chocolate routine began about one year ago, while she visited her parents in their home in New York City, NY and suddenly found herself having a mid-night craving for her mom’s famous chocolate mousse. The seemingly random craving quickly became a consistent necessity in her life, and Minahil has now eaten chocolate every night since. While Minahil’s case is quite extreme, many people have experienced some form of her chocolate “addiction.” So, what is it that makes chocolate such a beloved food product? Through my interview with Minahil, I attempt to uncover the various ways cultural, economic, and emotional factors have influenced consumers relationships to chocolate.
Harvard student activist and writer Minahil Khan, awakens from her deep sleep. She describes this disruption in her sleep schedule as “inevitable;” no matter how hard she tries, she wakes up each night, reaches to the ground beside her bed, and grabs a piece of chocolate. Minahil’s nightly chocolate routine began about one year ago, while she visited her parents in their home in New York City, NY and suddenly found herself having a mid-night craving for her mom’s famous chocolate mousse. The seemingly random craving quickly became a consistent necessity in her life, and Minahil has now eaten chocolate every night since. While Minahil’s case is quite extreme, many people have experienced some form of her chocolate “addiction.” So, what is it that makes chocolate such a beloved food product? Through my interview with Minahil, I attempt to uncover the various ways cultural, economic, and emotional factors have influenced consumers relationships to chocolate.
Minahil’s chocolate dependence begins
with its sentimental value, manifested in its preparation process and
centrality to her childhood memories.
LR: Do you remember the first time
you ate chocolate?
MK: “I feel like the earliest
memory I associate with chocolate is definitely related to birthdays. I’m from
Pakistan and when I was younger we lived in this little engineering township,
and I remember my mom just always made these chocolate cakes shaped like a
gingerbread man. It’s weird because part of those memories only comes from the
pictures of those birthdays. I look back at them now and realize, oh ‘that’s
when I first had chocolate.’”
Although Minahil does not completely recall the experience of eating chocolate for the first time, she feels as if she remembers the experience, and notes the reconstruction of that early chocolate memory by her family photos. Her earliest chocolate memories were also significant because they revolved around an important event: birthdays. Chocolate has been a fixture of cultural rituals since it’s Mayan and Aztec origins. In A True History of Chocolate, Sophia and Michael Coe discuss the significance of chocolate in the Dresden codex, a Mayan book dating back to the 13th or 14th century. They write that “in several sections of the Dresden which deal with ritual activities tied in to the Maya’s sacred 260-day cycle, seated gods can be seen holding cacao pods, or dishes heaped with cacao beans” (Coe 42). The Maya viewed chocolate as an essential part of various ceremonies, including celebrations of life and death. Minahil’s birthday chocolate memory, therefore, illustrates a much longer history of chocolate as a center piece in ritualistic events. Chocolate has even become the centerpiece of the modern birthday party itself, with many choosing to have chocolate-themed birthday parties. In this video, for example, a woman throws her young daughter a chocolate-themed birthday party where the children excitedly get a behind the scenes look at chocolate production at a local chocolatier.
Minahil, a Pakistani woman, chocolate has come to represent not only a symbol
of celebration and ritual, but also of foreign or “westernness.”
What’s your favorite kind of chocolate?
MK: “My mom’s chocolate mousse.
That’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s just really airy.
LR: It sounds like a lot of your
chocolate memories are associated with your family and childhood. How did
chocolate become a part of your food culture in Pakistan? Is chocolate a part
of Pakistani cuisine?
MK: “No. Really, not at all. The
Pakistani desserts we have are very sugary, but there’s no chocolate involved.
I don’t know if I know any dessert that has anything to do with chocolate. It’s
the very western side of our upbringing even there.”
LR: Did chocolate represent
something foreign to you?
MK: “At the time, no. Now, thinking
about it, yeah, the fact that at one point, my mom made a chocolate barbie
cake, where the cake was the dress of a barbie doll and she stuck a blonde,
white barbie into the middle of it. I hadn’t even ever seen white foreign
people in real life.”
As a child, Minahil considered chocolate to be an excited treat because, in addition to its sweet taste, it represented a distant and alluring west. Minahil’s mother paired the chocolate cake with a white barbie doll, demonstrating the consistent association of chocolate with white people and Western society. This association is ironic because, as Professor Martin and Kathryn E. Sampeck discuss in the Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe, the West and Central African nations of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon collectively produce approximately 70% of the world’s cacao today (Martin, Sampeck, 50). Cacao is then processed in factories and craft chocolatiers in Europe, eventually becoming the recognizable chocolate product. Chocolate is, meanwhile, continuously branded as a luxury product, which is often not intended for consumption by nonwhite people. As Sampeck and Thayne write in Translating Tastes “In some ways, and as part of the colonial protect, chocolate was never meant to be familiar… Europeans maintained the sensory experience of chocolate—sweetness, spices, a simulation of the taste—an embodiment by colonists of Mesoamerican values but framed within the vicissitudes of the humoral scheme” (Sampeck, Thayne, 92). Through effective branding, slow recipe shifts, and colonialism, Europeans managed to construct chocolate as something unattainable to nonwhite people and victims of colonialism, like Pakistanis.
his article in Candy Industry, Saif
Dewan clarifies the increasing accessibility of chocolate in Pakistan, from a delicacy
enjoyed by the English and the wealthy, to a product available to the masses. He writes that until the mid 1980’s, “chocolates
were supposed to be the domain of the upper and upper-middle class segments in
Pakistan” (Deiwan 1). In 1983, the chocolate company Mitchell created a product
called Jubilee that sold for R.S 3.50 per bar. Its attractive packaging,
quality, affordable price and focused media support, gave the brand
unprecedented consumer reception, revolutionizing the accessibility of
chocolate to the general Pakistani population. It currently exists at varying
price points and remains popular in Pakistan. I asked Minahil about her
personal chocolate preferences and developing tastes when she immigrated to the
LR: How did your relationship to
chocolate change when you came to the U.S.? Or did it at all?
MK: “Oh actually, in Pakistan we
used to have Mars bars, but you never find that here. That’s one noticeable
difference. Like, I used to remember every time I went to Pakistan, I used to
be so excited to see Mars bars. Actually, it’s funny but now I think it’s
become more accessible here. I have some Mars bars here in the corner of my
room right now. Oh also, dairy… you know that one… dairy cow dairy cream? The
purple wrapper? Cadbury! Yes, I had that all the time in Pakistan. I could
never find that here. I think Mars is also European? I guess it was more of a British
thing, you know, colonialism, so coming here I was more exposed to different
brands of chocolates.
LR: What was your favorite chocolate?
Minahil is particularly passionate about Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate, one of the most popular chocolates in Pakistan today. Deiwan explains Cadbury’s place within the chocolate market, writing that that in the early 2000s, Cadbury’s introduced products like Dairy Milk at varying price points and marketed it as “making chocolates the choice for everyone.” He adds that “The role of Cadbury in expanding the chocolate market in Pakistan will become a primer on how to penetrate and grow a fledging segment in an underdeveloped economy.” Cadbury is on the cutting edge of popularizing chocolate in Pakistan, with efforts that began when Minahil was a child in the early 2000s. Today, Cadbury still holds a reputation from people like Minahil and other native Pakistanis as being accessible and delicious. In this Cadbury commercial, a young woman, anxious on the day of her wedding, quells both her and her father’s anxieties with Cadbury chocolate. The commercial illustrates how Cadbury chocolate is not only enjoyable, but also contains healing powers, mending the bride and her father’s relationship and giving them a moment of piece in a stressful day. Cadbury’s prevalence illustrates the globalization of chocolate and its shift towards becoming as an accessible and increasingly culturally essential product.
is also an activist, who has been heavily involved in organizing efforts on
campus. However, when it came to her chocolate consumption, Minahil was fairly unacquainted
with chocolate’s violent histories and exploitative present.
LR: Where do you get the chocolate
from for the chocolate mousse?
MK: They are Nestle chocolate
LR: Do you ever think about where
the chocolate you eat comes from?
MK: Yeah sometimes and it makes me
really sad, and I hate it. Like Hershey, Nestle, Nestle’s really messed up.
LR: Why is Nestle messed up?
MK: I think they just like take
advantage of their workers and are buying lands and not compensating the people
where chocolate is coming from fairly. Chocolate wasn’t as accessible in the
west but now it’s more accessible because corporations. But with corporations
As a civically engaged person who is
immersed in activist circles, Minahil has adopted an understanding of the chocolate
industry as problematic. Beyond that initial understanding however, her evaluation
stops short. She is correct in saying that Nestle and Hershey most likely utilize
exploitative processes, and that a large amount of that does in fact stem from
corporate practices. In Bitter Chocolate,
Carol Off explains the continuation of slavery far past emancipation in the 19th
century on Cacao Plantations. She highlights a 2000 documentary, Slavery: A Global
investigation which exposed indentured servitude in Cote d’Ivoire. The young people
in the film were purchased by the plantation owners and described experiencing “beatings,
starvation diets and foul living conditions” (Off 134). Off also mentions the continuation of slavery
in Sao Tome and Principe of the coast of West Africa. Minahil didn’t seem to
know this connection between chocolate or slavery, despite her understanding of
chocolate’s complicated reputation.
After addressing some of chocolate’s
unjust history, I was curious to see if Minahil would be willing to become a
more conscious consumer.
LR: So, when you think about where
your chocolate comes from, does that make you want to buy other types of chocolate?
Does it make you choose between different brands based off of ethics?
MK: I haven’t. That’s not an area where I’ve invested that energy. But maybe it’s something worth thinking about. Um, yeah. I feel like in my home, I didn’t buy the chocolate. It’s just there and I eat it. Part of it is that so much of it is just sold by the same company, right? Like so much of it is just Hershey. So, I guess I’m not thinking about it because I know that already. But maybe between the two or three companies we can choose from.
enough, the same sentimental connection to chocolate which makes it so
significant to her, is also the connections which prevents Minahil from feeling
mobilized to become a more conscious consumer. She understands that she could
alter her taste to choose companies that use better practices but feels
helpless in committing to that direction. She wants to preserve chocolate as something
she can enjoy and not have to think about morally or ethically. She also seems
to have convinced herself that no one buys the chocolate in her home, that she
just arrives there and it’s waiting for her. She prefers to not confront the
reality of her chocolate consumption, with its complicated ethical
As a Pakistani immigrant and student
activist, Minahil is a particularly unique consumer of chocolate. She’s
culturally conscious and frequently motivated to enact change. However, she is
also extremely attached to chocolate for both its emotional and physical
benefits. Ideally, my peers and I could mobilize to become conscious and active
consumers of chocolate and other foods, but the personal connection and
dependency we often feel towards these items calls into question the extent to
which true progress can eventually be made.
Coe, Sophie D., and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2007.
Dewan, Saif. “PAKISTAN:
Despite Odds, Pakistan’s Confectionery Industry Continues to Grow.” Candy Industry,
Mar. 2011, pp. 18–22.
Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn
E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in
Europe.” Socio.hu, no.
special issue 3, 2015, pp. 37–60., doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s
Most Seductive Sweet. New Press,
Sampeck citing Clarence-Smith, W. G. Cocoa and Chocolate,
1765-1914. Routledge, 2000.
Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and
the Ethics of Business. 1st ed., Ohio
University Press, 2005.
Schwartzkopf, Stacey, and Kathryn E. Sampeck. Substance and Seduction:
Commodities in Early Modern
Mesoamerica. First ed., University of Texas Press, 2017.
“CANDY!!!” This is what you hear kids of all ages scream when they find out they are rewarded with a delicious candy bar. In many ways we condition the children of society to behave for these treats. Adults and children alike are at the mercy of said delicacies which have been perfected by candy makers all around the globe and the influence candy does have is evident in the way it is advertised and marketed towards us. Children are bribed with these sweets during holidays, any time they receive high marks in school, and overall for just behaving in general. With that being said, it is almost tragic to think that in another part of the world, candy is one of the only ways a child can reward themselves with another day of life. More specifically the production of Cacao and how its successful manufacturing or lack thereof determines the fate of the children who help produce the candy we identify as Chocolate. In this post I will attempt to highlight the negative impact the slave trade has had on children in third world countries when it pertains to the Cacao slave trade and how the high demand for chocolate in the United States and beyond is a direct cause of these children’s misfortune.
It goes without saying that slavery is one of the most inhumane practices to ever be documented by the human race. To force another individual to produce a resource in high commodity through grueling work processes and unsafe work environments for minimal pay is despicable, and yet this practice is ever so prevalent in society today. In regard to Cacao farming, children in West Africa are taken from their homes at a young age and are sold to cacao farms where they are forced to produce cacao beans from the pods they are sent to collect. These children range anywhere from five to sixteen years of age, and a large majority of them continue this work well after they have matured. They are paid less than five dollars for a days work and are expected to produce a substantial amount of product in a short time frame. Who is to blame for this injustice done upon these children who are simply trying to survive and provide for their families in areas where resources are limited? To avoid asking another rhetorical question let’s get straight to the point and acknowledge the fact that we are the source of the problem. Chocolate or rather Cacao, has become as crucial a resource in America similar to wheat, agriculture, and livestock. As previously mentioned above, our society has integrated cacao into our everyday lives in such a way that it would be virtually impossible to reverse the ever growing issue that our high demand for cacao has on the children forced into the slave trade in other countries.
Large corporations that sell chocolate such as Hershey and Nestle to name a few are prime contributors to the continuation of the slave trade as they have yet to stop dealing with the slave traders that take advantage of the children they have producing cacao for them. Due in part to the fact that they are a business making a large profit off of selling chocolate, why would these corporations modify their business strategies if the return on the dealings are more than what they are putting out? Anyone with a brain could see the logistics behind it, but there is a lack of morality in it all that we must acknowledge if we want to prevent future generations from experiencing something similar. The other cause of the never ending cycle that is the slave trade in the Cacao business is the consumer. These corporations pander to the people to ensure a sizeable return from satisfied consumers of their product. We play a sizeable role in the continuation of the diabolical process known as slavery and we must stop turning a blind eye to its prevalence and seek out alternatives that will not come at the expense of children trying to carve out a life for themselves.
According to a company called Slave Free Chocolate, these larger corporations
that produce chocolate, which have become a primary source of happiness in our
country and around the world, are doing very little to ensure the wrong doings placed
upon these innocent children are addressed and rectified. Hershey and Nestle
are two companies that have acknowledged the harsh reality that is child labor
and how they will attempt to limit their contributions to these farms that make
a profit off of the backs of younglings due to slave labor. However, in the
years following these announcements they have done nothing but prove that they
are incapable of changing their business practices to a healthier alternative.
Both corporations have been taken to court on a number of occasions in an
attempt to uncover the truth behind their business dealings, as well as hold
them accountable for negligence in regard to who they choose to do business
with. Their contributions to the slave labor running rampant in third world
countries like Ghana and Côte d’Ivoireare the reason these children are still
fighting for their lives.
salvaging alone for Cacao beans is not a simple process that your average adult
could simply begin without the proper tools and some form of guidance. Yet
children are being sent into the forest with sharp machetes and large sacks. They
climb dangerously tall trees in an attempt to harvest the cacao pods and bring
them back to their slavers so that they can begin farming for the cacao beans.
They are rushed by their slavers to cut open these Cacao pods to collect the
beans found inside, and the only way they can do this effectively is by using
the machetes provided to them. Many children are injured during this process as
the bean extraction from the plant requires them to hack open the pod with a
machete. There is always a risk that skin and appendages could be taken and still
these children partake in this dangerous task because they have no other
choice. The market calls for a high demand of Cacao and forcing an abundance of
children to produce a plethora of cacao is easier to do rather than hiring
adults and paying them a set wage.
The question then becomes are we to blame for being complicit, considering the children are in another country and are not our primary concern because they are not citizens of the United States? So long as they continue to contribute to a service that is provided to us, who cares if we turn our heads in the other direction right? Personally, I feel we have failed these individuals simply because as a country we are considered a super power and we control the eb and flow of the overall market. So, while we have the power to course correct these injustices our demand for the same product presents us with a paradox that is almost impossible to rectify. This alone demonstrates how subconsciously we are complicit because we possess the ability to correct these injustices and yet we are the reason they exist. Not all countries have the liberties we possess here in the United States, and eventually we have to acknowledge the fact that the ease of access to resources in the U.S. has created the lives these children currently lead. Subconsciously, we have been groomed in a way that allows us to be comfortable with getting what we want despite the steps taken to get us there. To take it a step further, let us acknowledge how much food is experimented with here and how America’s irregular consumption of the same foods in different forms has had an inverse effect on the slave trade and by extension the children.
popular belief cacao beans are not solely used to make chocolate. While there
are a variety of chocolates that are crafted from the plant, it is also the
reason we have certain drinks and alcoholic beverages such as Coffee and Brandy. Not to mention cacao
powder, liquor, butter, jam, marmalade etc. are all resources produced from
this one plant. Coffee which is a huge resource utilized by the American people
is right up there with chocolate as a hot commodity item. Corporations like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have perfected their sales techniques to make coffee an
adults signature “sweet treat.” Seasonal drinks like Pumpkin Spice Lattes and
Peppermint Mochas drive the masses wild and selling them during the
holidays means more work for the children.There are endless examples of how food has its properties modified to be
made into something else useful, but for the sake of this post it illustrates
why the cacao slave trade continues to make a sizeable profit. We have become codependent
on cacao and the many forms it takes and in the end the ones paying the price
are the children working to keep up with our demand for more of this popular
resource. What is even more tragic is the fact that we do not have to support
companies that make their profit off of the backs of innocent children when there
are companies out there that have demonstrated a suitable alternative exists.
There are small companies and corporations that are willing to pay foreigners a livable wage in order to produce the same chocolate products that we love, without putting children in harm’s way. Corporations like Tony’s Chocolonely make it their mission to deliver the consumer a product that is manufactured free from slave labor and in doing so take the fight directly towards corporations like Hershey and Nestle who refuse to change their business practices. They are so proud of these accomplishments that they label their products “free of slave labor” to encourage the consumer to purchase their product over their competitors. One of the primary reasons this is done is the hope that this will encourage larger corporations like Nestle and Hershey to stop dealing under the table with those who continue to practice the use of slave trade with children on their farms. Once they begin to lose business perhaps this cruel individuals may change the way they hire and pay their workers to something a bit more legal.
Keeping all of this in mind, what role can we play in fighting the war against slave labor to ensure that the number of children inducted into this terrifyingly inhumane practice are safe from trafficking moving forward? For starters we must stop funding these mega corporations that are only in the business to make a profit, and refuse to purchase from them again until they present substantial evidence that they are no longer doing business with slavers. As difficult as that may seem, considering these chocolate companies are already so ingrained into our everyday lives, and we as a society are subconsciously unaware of our complicities’ that have led to the slave trades continuous growth, we owe it to the children whose livelihoods are being sacrificed for a profit to bring forth positive change. We should focus our efforts and fund businesses like Tony’s Chocolonely as they have presented us with a more viable alternative for foreign workers who help produce cacao. Livable wages, safer work environments and zero slave labor. Furthermore, we owe it to future generations of children who are raised in the United States and beyond to seek out a safer alternative for years to come. If we did not try to undo these wrongs, how can we look our kids in the eyes and gift them with a candy bar that another child halfway around the world sacrificed so much to make? To that end, no matter the cost we have to do better and it starts by holding everyone accountable including ourselves for past discretions. When I become a parent, I would like to look into my child’s eyes one day and imagine I am looking at the eyes of a child halfway around the world whose future does not look as bleak as it originally used to.
CVS is a very large convenience store that is all over the United States. Not only does CVS have convenient food, it also has photo printing, beauty products, cleaning products, and health products. They also provide a consistent pharmacy to many of its customers. Needless to say, CVS is a hub for a lot of people’s late-night snacks, especially the 24-hour branch in Harvard Square. Since it is such a hub for Harvard students, CVS is definitely providing a defining narrative of what American snack life is like. CVS provides snacks for people who love chips, cookies, cereal, and most importantly chocolate.
The consumers of CVS chocolate definitely are different depending on the area. Back in my hometown of Detroit, CVS customers are mostly African-American people who are picking up prescriptions or picking up a small thing. Furthermore, the CVS in Harvard square mostly has customers that are college students that do all of their grocery shopping there, or tourists who are visiting Harvard. Personally, I have experienced both of these consumer experiences multiple times. Here are two recollections of my different experiences with CVS:
Back home in Detroit, I can remember many times of going to CVS with my mother. She would pick me up from school, and then we would get on the freeway back home. We would get off the freeway at an earlier exit to go to CVS. My mom would park the car and ask me if I wanted to come in the store or stay in the car. I usually would say yes at the hope that I can get a snack before dinner was ready. We would enter the store and my mother would go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and I would walk towards the snacks and was always welcomed by the sight of a lot of chocolate. I fell in love with dark chocolate pretty early, and I always gravitated towards dark chocolate covered pretzels along with a bag of salt and vinegar chips. Every time I went with my mother I would ask if she could buy me these snacks, and she always said yes when realizing how cheap they were.
Here at Harvard, I go to CVS many times for anything that I need. Whenever I run out of my favorite snacks I always go to CVS. I tend to hover near the dark chocolate in this store as well. If I want fancier chocolate I have to go to the back of the store, and the cheaper and more accessible chocolate is in a wide aisle with all of the other candy. When picking up my dark chocolate almond Dove chocolates, I head to the cashier. When waiting in line, I always see a lot of fancy snacks with chocolate near the checkout, and very few cheaper chocolates near the checkout. This sometimes tempts me to indulge myself with a fancier chocolate snack as well.
The difference between these two locations is that the one in Harvard Square is open 24 hours and the one in my hometown is not. The Harvard Square store also places more expensive chocolate snacks near the checkout, while the one in Detroit does not. These two stores are structured different because of the difference in their customers and what CVS believes to be the best way to profit off of each group.
CVS is known to have a lot of cheap everything, but especially cheap snacks. Even with inflation, snacks still remain cheap in stores like CVS. This store has a lot of cheap chocolates like Snickers, Kit-Kats, M&Ms, and Hershey bars. All of these companies’ producers, from Mars, to Nestle, to Hershey’s, all have a large customer base, and they also have dominated the candy industry for decades. Hershey’s is a prominent and historical brand that specializes in many things but especially chocolate over the years. Hershey is especially good at making cheap and accessible chocolate that is essentially everywhere in the world. In Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams,the author highlights that Milton Hershey hired a chemist in order to make the Hershey bar that we all know and love. Because of this perfected version of a chocolate bar, “Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster, and therefore cheaper, than the Europeans (D’Antonio 108).” This perfected mixture is the one that we enjoy and love today. It is interesting to think that the Hershey legacy is so built on family and being made by family, yet, Hershey had to hire a chemist outside of his family in order to create the backbone of their legacy. That part of the legacy is not talked about in the mainstream, and it leaves the question of what else are they not telling us? CVS displays these cheaper chocolates frequently and in the most accessible aisle to maximize profit on the societal desire for sweet and junk foods. Furthermore, “it happens that the sugars, fats, and salts that are so central to junk food, are not only the foods that humans most crave, but also are among the cheapest food inputs (Albritton 344).” CVS is a hub for all things cheap, and even more of a hub for people who will be the most likely to buy cheap food, like college students and low-income people of color. CVS displays cheap candy and junk food, like chocolate, almost all over the store, so that no matter where a customer turns they have to continuously decide whether or not to pick up some chocolate. This marketing seems unjust because it does not help consumers in leading a healthy diet and can make them crave the treats even more.
CVS also has a large selection of more luxury chocolates, or chocolates that are little pricier than the average chocolates that can be bought at the movie theater. These chocolates are Ferrero Rocher, Ghirardelli, Godiva, Russel Stover, and Turtle chocolates. These chocolates are more expensive than the average chocolate bar, but not too expensive that they cannot be picked up sometimes when going to the store. Their prices range from four dollars to seven dollars per bar, and if a whole box of turtles is bought, one can expect to pay about ten dollars per box. These chocolates are located at the back of the store near where all the more expensive nuts are. They are displayed in a fancier and more elegant way and are organized very neatly by brand. The labels have an elegance and shine to it that automatically indicates to the consumer that they are of higher quality than the candy bars of a lower price. The shine and pictures of the chocolate convey to the consumer that they are getting luxury and elegance within their chocolate. This idea of luxury “it plays on our inner feeling of wanting ‘something better’ and nurtures the rampant individualism of self-fashioning that has come so much to shape our societies since the 1980s (Mc Neil & Riello 229).” It’s the same feeling that is experienced when consumers desire to buy a fancy shirt simply because it is expensive, even though they can buy a similar shirt for a cheaper price at a different store. Consumers feel the same way when buying chocolate, and that is probably why CVS displays these two chocolates separately. This is so consumers do not have the chance to compare the cheaper chocolates to the more expensive ones. So, consumers who only see the expensive chocolate buy it and are not swayed by a cheaper and similarly enjoyable chocolate option. This also can go the other way by limiting consumers choices to only cheaper and more sugar filled chocolate snacks. For example, if a customer only passes by the cheaper options of chocolate they are not offered the same opportunity to indulge in less sugary and higher cacao content chocolate. CVS sets up their store in an unfair way for their consumers, so they are not able to make an educated and deliberate choice about the chocolate they choose.
Some of the chocolates in CVS have various certifications to prove that they are ethically made. These certifications give consumers peace of mind when buying products, especially chocolate, even when the certifications are very vague in what they mean. The way certifications are portrayed to consumers is in a way that makes it seem like all people involved are getting equally fair changes; however, with the Fairtrade certification, benefits are not so fair. “Fairtrade selects the most capable producer organisations locally. This is actually its ‘in-house policy’, as it boosts the rapid growth of the movement” (Sylla 208). This is not only unfair to the consumers, but it is also extremely unfair to the poorest countries that produce is grown in. The Fairtrade act betters the conditions for countries who already produce so much and make so much money from the market. It is the easiest way to ensure that customers are getting an ethically made product. The countries that need this act the most in order to keep up their presence and value in the major markets are not getting the benefits of the many certifications used on products. The certifications on the products we love are supposed to improve production conditions for all, and not just for the countries where it is most convenient. From this, we can infer that certifications on products may not be so ethical after all.
The ethicality of our sweetest treats has been addressed countless times throughout history. Whether it be from the Cadbury scandal or a lack of transparency with Mars, there have been many ethical concerns surrounding chocolate, ever since the advancement of widespread media. The point that interests me most is that a lot of these ethical concerns arise from the practices of really large companies, like Hershey’s, yet, they make the least amount of change within their product production. These are major companies that can make the most institutional change by altering their production ways, yet, they make the smallest amounts of change or they wait until the news dies down, so they do not have to address it. This is an unethical way to run a business, especially ones like Hershey’s where the brand is so centered on wholesomeness and family bonding. Companies like Hershey’s show very little about what they are trying to do regarding the ethical concerns of their products, and theymostly focus on the wonder associated with Hershey chocolate. There are some large companies that are actively addressing and being very transparent about the ethical concerns of their products. My favorite company that does this is Nestle. They have a very detailed website that includes making sure that workers and children are protected, and they also want to ensure that they are growing their cacao very sustainably. Here is a capture of their page dedicated to protecting children and workers:
This detailed page really works towards the issues of not bein transparent with consumers about a companies practices. I think that big companies should follow in Nestle’s footsteps because they have a good balance of environment sustainability and working conditions as well. I usually see companies, like Ghiradelli, that solely focus on environmental sustainability, but even with that they provide very vague information generally about the steps they are taking to ensure that. Here is a capture of the vagueness in Ghirardelli’s sustainability page:
In conclusion, transparency and fair and equal advertising is the right of the consumer, and the duty of the producers to provide. This can overall provide a better experience for customers in choosing the brands they want, which can alter how large companies function within the market. The consumers have the power to make companies more accountable and want to change. If customers are given all information fairly when buying things, we may be able to see more change in the future. Consumers engaging in more conscious consumption of goods can definitely influence large corporations to make change, and I believe that we can strive for that.
Albritton, Robert. “Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry.” Food and Culture. Routledge. Print.
D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Simon & Schuster. Print,
McNeil, P., Riello, G. Luxury: A Rich History. Oxford Univeristy Press. Print.
Sylla, Ndongo S. The Fairtrade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Ohio Univeristy Press. Print.
Photo Credits (in order)
CVS, 13580 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI. Detroit. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.
Harvard Crimson. New 24-Hour CVS Opens At 6 JFK Street. Cambridge, MA.
WordPress. CVS Chocolate Value Store. Cambridge, MA.
CVS Luxury Chocolate Display. 2 May 2019.
Ghirardelli. Sustainability And Corporate Social Responsibility. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.
Nestle. Protecting children and workers. Date accessed: May 3, 2019.
In an era where small batch chocolate producers have already taken effective steps in creating a more sustainable and equitable chocolate supply chain, larger corporations have also begun to take up the mantle and move in a positive direction. The large players in the chocolate market are perhaps the most crucial to making significant improvements to the system of the cacao production. Companies like Nestle have started focusing on sustainability, beginning to finally look at some of the core issues behind cacao sourcing. In analyzing the sustainability section in Nestlé’s annual report, I aim to evaluate their success in becoming a solution to the problems of the cacao-chocolate supply chain.
Creating Shared Value
Corporate Social Responsibility is a form of self-regulating business model that aims to create positive social and environmental impacts through managing shared risks and creating shared opportunities. It goes beyond just compliance and corporate philanthropy. Nestle seems to have a solid conceptual understanding of effective corporate social responsibility, stating a clear goal of ‘creating shared value’. While they still have a lot more room to make actual improvements in their supply chain and production, Nestlé still stands as a good example to begin leading other companies in the right direction.
The most salient and material risks I see for Nestle as a business are nutrition, rural development, human rights, and climate change. Several of these issues are ethical issues we’ve talked about in class and all of them have been touched on in their sustainability report. The fact that Nestlé recognizes such issues is a strong success in itself, but Nestle could be more effective in taking action on their goals.
Nutrition is a salient goal for Nestle because of the increases in obesity and other health problems among adults. In sweetness and power, Mintz argues that the desirability of sugar confronts the costs it poses to health and world systems. Sugar consumption has increased by 50% since the 1970s, and is a cause of increasing dietary problems. A large majority of Nestle products are high in sugar, making this one of the issues that core to their business and therefore most important to address in an actionable way. There is also a material opportunity for Nestle in this issue; There is a growing consumer base looking for healthier foods. Nestle acknowledges this in their own report, referencing a value add for investors of selling healthier options. The legitimacy of addressing this problem is validated by its inclusion into their strategic initiatives, but Nestlé could perhaps make it more core to their business strategy.
mention multiple examples of new healthy offerings, but could use more work in
increasing the healthiness of existing products. Most Nestle products still
contain very high amounts of sugar and they only give anecdotal evidence of examples
of sugar reduction. For example, on their website under the “Our Impact” tab, they
discuss having already decreased the sugar content of the KitKat and plans to
reduce the sugar content of it even further. To truly create value for a
consumer base that is eating too much sugar, making more major changes to
existing products is necessary in addition to just taking advantage of the
material opportunity of providing new healthy options. Yet these small steps are important in leading large
corporations towards making real changes to our system of sugar consumption. It
proves that companies can still be economically successful even as they take
steps to create a more sustainable relationship with their customers.
Rural development and poverty reduction is another issue at the core of ethical considerations within the chocolate supply chain. Rural farmers receive only a fraction of the profits from chocolate production. They are in fact “the most poorly compensated for their efforts,” especially in relation to the amount of effort contributed (Leissle 129). The largest share of profits is 44.2% which goes to retailers, while only 6.6% goes to the farmers themselves (Leissle 129).
This issue of rural development and poverty reduction is touched on by Nestlé but perhaps more superficially than is necessary to affect the entire system of chocolate production. As one of the top three chocolate producers in the world, they have the ability to affect approximately 10% of chocolate sourcing (Statista 2016). As one of these top companies, taking charge to reduce inequity would force the hand of other chocolate companies to do the same. Instead, Nestlé emphasizes inconsequential initiatives like using cage free eggs and broadly touch on “responsible sourcing” in the major summary areas on “adding value to communities”. This in in lieu of talking about the fact that cacao farmers receive less than 10% of the profits from production. Nestle responds only to the material as opposed to salient points of the issue by creating training for farmers in order to achieve more effective cacao growth. Nestle could do a lot more to achieve higher percentages of responsibly sourced cacao and other raw materials.
Outside of their annual report, sustainability report, and information on the impact tab of their website, Nestlé has a separate website explaining their cacao plan. This plan explains the future goals Nestlé has for continuing to combat the inherent inequality in the supply chain. It points to solid initiatives of funding a co-op system that offers a higher premium for cacao to the farmers. This is an effective program but they could learn from small, mission focused chocolate companies to make such a system cover 100% of the cacao they source (as opposed to the portion it covers currently).
There are other problems within the supply chain as well. Human rights is an extremely important issue within Nestlé’s supply chain. Specifically, there is a salient issue of child labor within cacao supply chains. Carol Off references child slavery in the chocolate supply chain by explaining that “boys, some as young as nine, were working on farms where they had no relatives… [and] they weren’t being paid” (Off 121). There has been some success in combatting some of the more obvious forms of child labor, but without being paid enough for their beans, children often join in helping their families out of obligation and necessity. Again, Nestlé does a good job realizing the issue and drawing attention to it, recognizing that this salient risk is becoming more material to them as information becomes more readily globalized to their consumers. Despite this, their proposed plan addressing child labor is not comprehensive and the flier focusing on reducing child labor is highly focused on numbers of children, not percentages, which is very worrying. Nestlé is taking the right steps but similar to the community equity problems, they need to focus on higher percentages of responsibly sourced cacao.
In general, Nestlé is
very effective at realizing its most salient issues and creating ambitious and
actionable goals to alleviate them by finding material opportunities. While
their reporting is specific enough to lead to effective goals, Nestlé could
increase its legitimacy by taking more immediate action towards those long term
goals. They show strides in year over year growth but lack a comprehensive year
over year plan. Nestle provides concrete improvements in the CSR space that can
be compared to other companies within the food/beverage sphere, but even at the
top of their class they ignore major issues by glossing over them with broad
language and abstract intermediate goals.
the need for continued improvement in sustainability strategy, I still feel
that Corporate Social Responsibility has the opportunity to transform the cacao
industry into a more positive space for all stakeholders involved. Small
bean-to-bar chocolate companies are great examples of how companies can achieve
a double bottom line of economic and social success, but they cannot change the
system alone. Large corporations must begin to carry some of the burden through
the process of creating shared value, a framework laid out by the UN Sustainable
Development Goals and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights.
These frameworks lie outside of direct legislation but instead allow large
companies to take some of the burden in fixing the critical problems within the
cacao supply chain.
Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark
Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2006.
Industrialization greatly improved the quantity, quality, and variety of food of the working urban populations of the Western World. This development was due to reasons which were two-fold: first, historical developments such as colonialism and overseas trade were structures which inspired this process, and second, specific technologies such as preserving, mechanization, retailing, transport, and the growth of the commercial catering business allowed for the distribution and access of chocolate to flourish. Technologies which were developed from the Industrial Revolution greatly changed the worldwide consumption of chocolate, greatly increasing the quantity and ease of its production and distribution and subsequently increasing the ease and diversity of consumers’ access to chocolate products.
The Industrial Revolution began in England in the early 19th century, and stemmed from factors such as a smaller population and thus a need for a more efficient workforce. Prior to industrialization, the majority of people in Europe subsisted on peasant farming and leasing land from the elite (Dimitri et al. 2). In the latter half of the second millennium A.D., voyages of discovery around the globe sparked colonialism in foreign lands soon thereafter. There were various philosophies in justification of colonialism; one was that of social evolutionism and intervention philosophies, or the idea that natives were incapable of governing themselves and in need of outside intervention. According to research published by M. Shahid Alam of Northeastern University, industrialization of countries across the world was unequal; some countries underwent industrialization centuries prior to others (Alam 5). The reason for this was partially due to the fact that some countries colonized other countries for their own imperial or industrial benefit, so the colonized countries themselves could not go undergo industrialization at that time. Great Britain, Spain (and subsequently Portugal), and France were a few imperial superpowers which underwent industrialization first and each dominated many colonies.
Image Source: Dimitri C, Effland A, Conklin N. “The 20th Century Transformation of U.S. Agriculture and Farm Policy.” USDA ERS. 2006.
Because of the far-reaching, global geography of these mother countries’ colonies, the colonial economy depended on international trade. For example, the British empire depended on the American colonies’ production of goods, as did the colonies on the goods of the British Empire. Merchants sent out ships to trade with North America and the West Indies; in 1686 alone, over 1 million euros of goods were shipped to London (“Trade and Commerce”). While wool textiles from England’s manufacturers that spurred from the Industrial Revolution were shipped to the Americas, the colonies shipped goods such as sugar, tobacco, and other tropical groceries from its plantations back across the pond. Due to Europe’s incredibly high demand for some of these American goods, the slave trade developed to meet Industrialization’s hefty needs for cheap labor (“Trade and Commerce”).
A few hundred years later, significant agricultural technologies spurred from industrialization. By the early 1900s, most American farms were diversified, meaning that various animals and crops were produced on the same cropland in complementary ways. However, specialization was a method which developed in farms at around this same time, used to increase efficiency by narrowing the range of tasks and roles involved in production. This way, specialized farmers could focus all their knowledge, skills, and equipment on one or two enterprises. Furthermore, mechanization allowed for the tremendous gains in efficiency with getting rid of the need for human labor with routine jobs such as sowing seeds, harvesting crops, milking cows, and feeding and slaughtering animals. Within the 20th century only, the percentage of the U.S. workforce involved in agriculture declined from 41 percent to 2 percent (Dimitri et al. 2). This greatly increased the efficiency of the production of ingredients which go into chocolate such as milk, cacao, sugar, salt, and vanilla from their respective farms.
In addition to farming technologies such as specialization, methods such as preserving, mechanization, retailing (and wholesaling), transport, and the growth of the commercial catering business improved the quality of the chocolate product itself and lessened the amount of time many large chocolate companies produced these chocolates drastically (Goody 74).
The mechanism of preserving was spearheaded by Nicolas Appert, who developed a process called canning (“bottling” in English) in response to conditions in France during the Napoleonic Wars, when the preservation of meat was important for feeding on-the-road soldiers (Goody 75). Glass containers were also developed around the same time to preserve wine and medicine. Methods such as artificial freezing as well as salt — which became such a popular form of preservation that a “salt tax” was eventually implemented — also developed to preserve foods. Pickling inside vinegar, as well as sugar, which was used to preserve fruits and jams, were also methods which advanced. This, in turn, also caused the imports of sugar to rapidly increase during the 18th century (Goody 75). With preservation mechanisms highly developed compared to before, chocolate products could finally be distributed from manufacturers and remain on shelves for quite some time — it did not necessarily need to be fresh to be sold and readily available to consumers.
Additionally, the process of mechanization was the manufacture of many processed and packaged foods, and this process was furthered by Ford’s assembly line and interchangeable parts. Through these technologies, packaged foods and products could be produced much more quickly and efficiently at greater quantities. This greatly increased the production efficiency and quantity with which packaged chocolate could be distributed, allowing for the proliferation of the some of the biggest mass-brands in chocolate production, such as Hershey’s and Nestle (Goody 81).
Furthermore, the process of retailing was marked by the shift from open market to closed shop; this process began as early as Elizabethan times. Back in the Elizabethan era, great efforts were made to ensure that there were no middle men in terms of sales and that there was no resale at higher prices. Eventually, however, grocers overtook the import of foreign goods. Just as imported goods became cheaper with the new developments in transport, so too did manufactured goods and items packaged before sale came to dominate the market (Goody 82-3). This allowed many various chocolate products from manufacturers all across the world to hit the shelves of grocers, readily available to consumers of any city in the United States. These products were generally branded goods, “sold” before sale by national advertising. Advertising itself, additionally, led to the homogenization of chocolate consumption, allowing similar brands of chocolate products to be distributed across the U.S. This even led to the eventual homogenization of American taste preferences for chocolate; because the Hershey’s chocolate bar was so heavily distributed and popularized, eventually, Americans were unaccustomed to anything that did not have Hershey’s uniquely sweet and salty taste (“Here There Will Be…” 108).
The final large component of industrialization which greatly increased chocolate production and distribution was the revolution of transportation. Rail transport provided the masses with cheap and wholesome food; in fact, there were certain periods of time during the Industrial Revolution in which U.S. railways were transporting goods more than people (Goody 82). Last but not least, the growth of the commercial catering business led to the decline of the domestic servant. This decline of the domestic servant also allowed English families to explore quick, sweet recipes incorporating chocolate such as brownies, cookies, and cakes.
Bigger-picture progressions in history such as colonization and international trade connected the world economy and allowed for technologies such as preserving, mechanization, retailing, and new transport to grow and flourish. These methods, in turn, caused global companies such as Hershey’s and Nestle to revolutionize the production and distribution of chocolate into a massive, global business. What was once enjoyed by the few and wealthy was now easily accessible by the masses, homogenizing the tastes of Americans to a few specific chocolate brands. None of this impact on chocolate products’ consumers and producers alike would have been possible without the historical and technological developments of the Industrial Revolution.
Alam, M. Shahid. “Colonialism and Industrialization: Empirical Results.” Review of Radical Political Economics, 1998, pp. 217–240., doi:10.2139/ssrn.2031131.
JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Industrialization of Agriculture.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 5 Aug. 2016, foodsystemprimer.org/food-production/industrialization-of-agriculture/index.html.“To the Milky Way and Beyond; Breaking the Mold.” The Emperors of Chocolate: inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, by Brenner Joël Glenn., Broadway Books, 2000, pp. 49–194.
Anywhere you go in the world, you can find people enjoying various brands of chocolate with a smile on their face. With chocolate being so widely consumed, nobody ever thinks about how a market was actually born from the universal enjoyment of chocolate. It originated in the Pre-Columbian times as a ritualistic treat for Mesoamericans. Chocolate was not as sweet back then, but they nonetheless added sweeteners to try to improve the taste. Nowadays, much more complex ingredients are used to obtain the sweet, rich, and creamy goodness that is chocolate. Chocolate can be found in grocery stores and homes all over the world; it’s so commonly seen that if you went to a check out line in any store and they weren’t selling chocolate bars, you might actually question the legitimacy of their business. For as long as many of us have been alive, chocolate has been bought and sold abroad but it wasn’t always so widely industrialized.
Chocolate first arrived in Spain in the early 16thcentury. It took some time to become widely accepted, as many Spaniards were initially skeptical of the foreign, bitter drink (Norton 2004). Eventually, acceptance of chocolate became widespread in Spain as the Spanish royal court began to develop a growing taste for it and certified it as an elite delicacy. From then on, all of Europe had a different respect and interest for chocolate.
Until 1828 when a technique was developed to separate cocoa butter from cacao solids, chocolate was something you could only drink. Casparus van Houten created the cocoa press method and his son, a Dutch Chemist by the name of Conraad Johannes van Houten, perfected it. In an attempt to make chocolate more soluble, Houten was able to effectively separate the cacao butter from cacao solids by adding alkaline salt. This would make it so that chocolate could be made in the home fairly easily and therefore would be more accessible to the common man. With the invention of the cocoa press method, chocolate became more than something you could just drink; people were for the first time able to eat it as a snack (Cox 1993). Chocolate as a solid bar caught the attention of the entire continent and eventually became more prevalent than its previously enjoyed liquid form. The chocolate that results from the cocoa press method is now referred to as Dutch-Process cocoa. Dutch-Process cocoa is one of the standard ingredients in most of the chocolate we consume today.
With the European chocolate industry growing rapidly throughout the 19th century, people continued to try to find new ways to optimize the taste of it and make it more marketable. In 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle invented milk chocolate by blending milk with chocolate. Milk chocolate boomed in Europe, but the growing market for chocolate was increasingly more crowded. As more and more people got into the market and tried to develop better chocolate than their competitors, the quality of chocolate inevitably improved. With inventions like the conching machine in 1879 by Rodolphe Lindt, the texture of chocolate became much smoother and was able to be made much faster, pushing further industrialization. In order to attack a new market that had never seen the type of chocolate they specialized in, Peter and Nestle brought their product to America and created Nestle’s Chocolate Company in 1905. From the invention of milk chocolate and the introduction of it to the American market sprung the industry we are most familiar with today. Major chocolate companies today would not be so profitable if it weren’t for Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle.
Since 1905, a few (and I do mean a few) other companies have also gotten in on the mega-market that the sale of chocolate has grown to produce. The top companies that make close to all of the brands of chocolate sold around the world are Nestle (who is till the biggest company), Cadbury, and Mars. These companies drive what has turned into an ever-growing market that we all are guilty of contributing to on a regular basis.
Chocolate has come a long way from the time when it was first consumed on Earth to the much more marketed chocolate we are familiar with today. It went from being a hand made commodity to being produced through a much more mechanized process and from being consumed in one particular part of the world to being consumed worldwide. Chocolate is and will always be a part of our lives, as our love for it seems that it will never fade. Hopefully this Food of the Gods, as it was once regarded (Presilla 2009), will be waiting for us in the afterlife.
Cox, Helen. 1993. “The Deterioration and Conservation of Chocolate from Museum Collections”. Studies in Conservation, vol. 38, no. 4.
Norton, Marcy. 2004. “Conquests of Chocolate”. OAH Magazine of History, vol. 18, no. 3.
Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
“the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.” ― Sarah Vowell
Humorist Sarah Vowell captures much of the history of chocolate (and coffee) in this little quip. However, the history of chocolate is long and its social, economic, and political implications are vast. Putting the positive impacts of invention aside, the negative impacts of imperialism and consumerism more than linger. They have resulted in gross economic inequities and lasting environmental and social damage, particularly in the production end of the cocoa supply chain. It’s going to take the force of consumerism and capitalism to right these inequalities and bring about sustainability.
Approximately 70% of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa by small farms spread out across the area. In the 1980s cocoa farmers received approximately 16% of the chocolate profits, today this percentage has been greatly reduced to 3%. Cocoa farmers are not organized and have little bargaining power against more organized buyers.
The 2018 Cocoa Barometer highlights the many challenges for cacao farmers, including volatile pricing. From September 2016 – February 2017, farmers experienced a 30%-40% decline in income (Ghana farmers were protected by this price drop through government subsidies). Although prices are on the rise again, the overall trend the past 60 years is a decline in prices (see figure 2). With farmers having little, to no, protection from their governments they are hardest hit by market fluctuations, while others on the value chain will see an increase of their profit margins, even if only temporary.
Farmers in West Africa make well below a living wage of $2.51 per day, averaging $0.78 per day (FairTrade). The Cocoa Barometer asserts that the price drops are directly related to improved production due to new farming areas created from deforestation. More than 90% of West Africa’s original forests are gone.
An estimated 2.1 million children work in West African cocoa fields. Structural issues such as poverty, lack of schools, and infrastructure also contribute to the high levels of child labor. Efforts in the past few decades to end child labor, preserve the environment, and to balance these inequities have been challenging and difficult to measure. Currently, third party certification bodies have been the only levers toward implementing and measuring sustainability efforts as well as signals to consumers as to where, and how, their chocolate products are sourced.
The three main certification entities are Fairtrade, Utz and the Rainforest Alliance. Fairtrade Standards are designed to support the sustainable development of small producer organizations and agricultural workers in the poorest countries in the world. Similarly, Utz certification was created to show consumers that products were sustainably sourced. Rainforest Alliance certification meant farmers met rigorous environmental and social standards. In January 2018, Utz merged with the Rainforest Alliance. The New Rainforest Alliance plans to publish a singular program at the end of 2019.
Certification and bean-to-bar efforts in the specialty chocolate market have many success stories, but compared to the global consumption of chocolate, these efforts have only made a dent. The Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute (FCCI) reports, with caveats intended to illustrated the challenges of obtaining this data, that there are 481 specialty chocolate makers and manufacturers worldwide that represent approximately 6% of the annual global production of cacao.
The FCCI defines this market segment as those chocolate makers and manufacturers that choose to purchase specialty cacao at a premium price for purposes of taste quality and/or sustainability reasons. Within this small group, sustainability is but a factor in paying the price premium, but not necessarily a primary factor. In order for sustainability initiatives to have any meaningful impact to cocoa farmers the major chocolate manufacturers need to take the lead and invest in best practices throughout their supply chain that address the environmental, social, and economic challenges their farmers face.
Recent Commitments by the Majors / Certifications & Goals
Mondelēz International (a subsidiary of Kraft) Chocolate Brands: Cadbury, Alpen Gold, Côte d’Or, Toblerone, etc. Certification provided by FLOCERT through a private labeling partnership.
In 2012 Mondelēz International invested $400 million to create its Cocoa Life program. The program plans to empower 200,000 cocoa farmers and one million community members by 2022. In April 2018 Mondelēz International reported that they have reached 120,500 cocoa farmers, in a variety of programs and they reached 35% certified cocoa.
Cocoa Life is tied to the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), with an emphasis on Goals 1 (no poverty), among others. Cocoa Life has partnered with local governments and NGOs to build community-centric Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS), which educate farming communities on the dangers of child labor, identify children at risk, and remediate cases with its local partners. Cocoa Life CLMRS programs have started in Ghana and continue to increase. Roll out of CLMRS in Côte d’Ivoire will begin in 2018. Nestlé has also implemented CLMRS program into its sustainability programs.
Nestlé Chocolate Brands: Smarties, Nestlé Crunch, Butterfinger, KitKat, etc.
Certifications: Utz and Fairtrade
In their detailed, first report (2017), co-authored with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), Nestlé asserts that certification is not enough and that additional support for the farmer is needed. In fact, Nestlé asserts that certification drove the issue of child labor “underground” as farmers would hide any child laborers when inspectors came around. While Mondelēz set up CLMRS in Ghana, Nestlé set up its CLMRS in Côte d’Ivoire and report a 51% reduction of child labor in a recent sample of 1,056 children over a two-year period. 
Nestlé is also investing in Community Liaison People (CLPs) to educate the community of the dangers of child labor. They are targeting women and mothers as they are more likely to invest their income and education into their family. The CLPs are local young people who are paid to train and the cost of the CLPs are split between Nestlé and the farmer. Remediation is highly individualized, but these activities are ones Nestlé continues to invest. Nestlé hopes to scale their more successful initiatives to meet the goals of its Cocoa Plan, which is set to reach 57% cocoa certification by the end of 2020.
Ferrero Chocolate Brands: Ferrero Pralines, Nutella, Kinder Chocolate Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.
According to its 2016 Social Responsibility Report Ferrero has made a commitment to 100% certified cacao by 2020 and 75% by the end of 2018.
In its April 2018 Cocoa Barometer reports Ferrero is 70% certified (figure 4), and by its own reporting, on track to meet its goal of 75% cocoa certification (figure 10).
Ferrero reports partnerships with cacao cooperative ECOOKIM, the largest in Côte d’Ivoire, which takes part in the Fairtrade Africa program “It Takes a Village to Protect a Child.” Similar to CLMRS, the program establishes a Child Labor Committee to raise awareness about child labor, create child protection policy, and monitor activity at the community level. Ferrero reports that 9,413 children benefitted from this program. 
Ferrero also works with Save the Children to work toward ending child labor. It reports 1.2 million children are forced to work in hazardous conditions, however, Ferrero has set relatively modest goals of reaching 500 children, 7,500 members of 10 communities, and 100 representatives of local institutions.
In January Ferrero announced it planned to acquire Nestlé’s U.S. confectionary business for $2.8 billion in cash making Ferrero the third largest confectionary company in the U.S. It is anticipated that Ferrero will realign their sustainability goals after the acquisition of Nestlé, but their goals are currently similar.
The Hershey Company Popular Chocolate Brands: Hershey’s Chocolate Bar, Cocoa, Kisses, and Baking chocolates, Kit Kat, Almond Joy, Mounds, Reese’s, York. Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.
In its 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, The Hershey Company highlights progress in their Learn to Grow agriculture and empowerment program, serving 48,300 farmers in West Africa. The report also highlights its Energize Learning program, which provides Vivi energy bars to students improving overall nutrition. The program is a partnership with the Ghana School Feeding Program and Project Peanut Butter and 50,000 kids in Ghana receive 50,000 Vivi bars every day. Hershey also partnered with The World Cocoa Foundation’s (WCF) Climate Smart Cocoa Program to address climate change impacts to cocoa growing regions. The partnership will pilot a series of programs to develop “climate-smart” best practices to inform the Learn to Grow curriculum and through Hershey’s CocoaLink program knowledge sharing between farmers will be allowed via low-cost mobile technology. Hershey’s report indicates that it is on schedule to reach its 100% certified goal by 2020. In April 2018 the Cocoa Baramoter reports Hershey reached 75% (see figure 4). Also in April 2018, Hershey announced the creation of its Cocoa for Good sustainability programs
Beyond certification, Cocoa for Good seeks to address the most pressing issues facing cocoa-growing communities. The strategy is to target four key areas: increase family access to good nutrition, elimination of child labor and increase youth access to education opportunities, increase household incomes for women and men, zero deforestation and increased agroforestry. The announcement came with a $500 million commitment by 2030 and like Mondelēz International and Mars, aligns its strategy to contribute to the goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Mars Chocolate Brands include: M&M, Snickers, Twix, Dove, Milky Way, etc. Certification is conducted by Utz, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance.
In September of 2017, Mars announced its Sustainable in a Generation Plan, with a pledge to invest $1 billion over the next few years to address threats such as climate change, poverty in its value chain, and scarcity of resources. This is across all their raw products, not just cocoa. Oxfam will serve as an advisor to their Farmer Income Lab, which aligns with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal 1 (no poverty). The Farmer Income Lab will seek to create solutions through research for farmers working in Mars’ supply chain in developing countries. Other actions include improving cocoa farming methods, pests and disease prevention, and unlocking the cocoa genome. Engagement with others actors in the cocoa industry is also key, such as the World Cocoa Foundation and CocoaAction. Mars’ Chief Sustainability & Health and Wellbeing Officer, Barry Parkin, also serves as Chairman of World Cocoa Foundation.
Mars may lay claim as the first major chocolate company to commit to 100% certified chocolate by 2020, but its progress has lagged, reporting 50% of their cocoa being certified in 2016 and the same percentage being reported by the cocoa barometer in 2018 (figure 4). During this same time frame Ferrero and Hershey have demonstrated increases in certification of cocoa reporting 70% and 75% certificated cocoa, respectively (figure 4). Their website lacks a corporate social responsibility report and the information available on their site appears to be written in 2016, except for recent press releases and Income Position Statement. For example Mars’ claim to be the only major manufacturer to work with all three major certification organizations Utz, Rainforest Alliance, and Fairtrade International is outdated. Hershey and Ferrero include these bodies in their 2016 sustainability reports.
Until the recent announcement of Sustainable in a Generation Plan, Mars’ approach, as described on their website, leans more toward improving farmer yield through technology (fertilizer, farming techniques, mapping the cacao genome) than increasing living wages and address child labor. A press release by Frank Mars in April 2018 urges collaborative scientific approach and extolls their work on breeding higher yield cocoa plants for improving farmer incomes. However, higher yields do not always improve farmer incomes. As previously mentioned, the recent Cocoa Barometer report suggests that higher production results in driving down price, thus less income for farmers. Perhaps Mars’ real progress is tied to the progress of the World Cocoa Foundation.
World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and CocoaAction
CocoaAction is a voluntary industry-wide organization that aligns the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies, cocoa producing governments, and key stakeholders on regional priority issues in cocoa sustainability run by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). The WCF member companies committed to CocoaAction include Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Ferrero, The Hershey Company, Mars, Incorporated, among others. In November of 2017 a Framework of Action was announced by the WCF with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and major chocolate and cocoa companies to end deforestation, restore forest areas, and accelerate investment in long-term sustainable production of cocoa, and the development and capacity-building of farmers’ organizations and farmer’s income. Commitments also include participation of policy creation by farmers and extensive monitoring and reporting. The Framework of Action involves governments and companies that represent 80% of the global cocoa production and usage. If implemented correctly, these commitments should go a long way in repairing the deforestation in West Africa.
The Future of Chocolate
These efforts are welcome and it is promising that the majors can successfully collaborate with governments, NGOs, and each other in the important effort to secure the future of chocolate and those that produce it. It is also encouraging to see the major manufacturers release sustainability reports, however, as barometer.org reports, many of their commitments fall well short compared to the actual scope of the problem. The commitment to reach 400,000 children by 2020 would only impact 18% of children in need (figure 15). Similarly meeting commitments to help farmers in CocoaAction would only reach 15% of farmers in need (figure 15). Regarding living income, farmers are only making $0.78 per day, 31% of the living wage of $2.51 per day (figure 15). The Cocoa Barometer report stresses that a living wage, among other factors, is a major component that these initiatives must include in their sustainability initiatives. From available data, all reports aspire to improve farmer income, either by improving productivity or identifying additional income generating activities. However, these plans do not set a living wage as a goal. As mentioned earlier in this article more production doesn’t always result in more income.
The future of chocolate depends on the fate of cocoa farmers and their fate relies on untangling a mess of social and economic issues caused by imperialism, and exacerbated by free market capitalism and consumerism. The goals set forth in these reports are generally headed in the right direction, but their success is dependent on their ability to make their initiatives successful, then scale up on that success. Accountability and transparency among the industry and at the government level is also paramount to measure the effects of these initiatives. Consumers also have a role in making responsible purchases and applying pressure on corporations and governments to minimize inequality in the supply chain and certification plays an important role. If farmers continue to be marginalized, then there will be little incentive for a younger generation of farmers to take up the trade and chocolate may become a rare treat indeed.
 Vowell, Sarah. The Partly Cloudy Patriot. Simon & Schuster. New York, New York. October 2002. p. 42
 Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan. 2018. Class Lecture.