If one stands near the Chicago River fork, just by the world famous Merchandise Mart, they are struck by a familiar and enticing smell. On a good day, a large portion of downtown Chicago smells distinctly of chocolate. Following the railway lines just west of the river will lead you to the Blommer chocolate factory. Blommer currently processes almost 45% of the cacao beans in the U.S. and the Chicago headquarters stands as their largest processing plant. The smell is so strong and distinct, you can actually discern the difference between when they are making milk chocolate versus cocoa powder or dark chocolate. Traveling further down the river to the North is a strip of land that use to hold a coffee roasting plant. On a perfect day, these smells would intermingle as the roasting released their warm bitter notes on the air, reminding us of coffee and chocolate’s shared past.
(A former tumbler post allowed Chicagoans to track the chocolate scent daily)
Standing there, it begs the question about where their paths diverged. How did chocolate make the transformation from the beverage of revolutionaries and royalty to a confectionary treat to appease the masses?
By the time cacao became the darling of beverage establishments, the Old World had abandoned the Humors system of medicine. No longer were there debates as to whether chocolate was warm or cold or how to best balance it with spices. At the same time, drug crops such as tea, coffee and chocolate, which had long been associated with wealth and status, were becoming more accessible. Daily rituals were created around these beverages, often with the addition of sugar, which was growing in popularity. However, both chocolate and coffee fell out of favor as a beverage when the British East India Company increased the tea supply, causing tea prices to drop dramatically. The lower prices made it more accessible, transforming it to a national compulsion for the British. Coffee would eventually become more accessible and regain some lost ground, but rather than look to rebound as a beverage choice, chocolate evolved in the food space as a confection and flavoring.
Several different innovations helped chocolate with this evolution. Going back to its heyday as a beverage, drinking chocolate was growing in popularity in the new world. At the time, cacao was still being ground and processed by hand on matates. It was an arduous process, that took time and manpower, keeping chocolate in the hands of those who could afford it. In 1765, Dr. James Baker partnered with John Hannon to simplify the process and reduce labor. The pair rented a grist mill in Milton Lower Falls, MA, using water power to grind the chocolate. This was chocolate’s first step in to the industrial age, liberating it from the labor of hand grinding and creating a more consistent product. The company they formed, Baker chocolates, still exists today under the Kraft Heinz company.
(Baker Chocolates still stands today in Milton Falls, MA)
The next leap forward for chocolate came in 1824 from the Swiss. Coenraad Van Houten, a Swiss chemist, developed a new processing method using a hydraulic press. The press removed more than 70% of the cacao butter from the cacao nibs, leaving a cake, which could be easily turned in to powder. The cacao was then treated with alkaline, which reduced the bitterness, making for a milder, more palatable chocolate. This not only made it cheaper and easier to make in to a beverage, but the resulting powder could be used as a flavoring for cakes, and other confections, helping chocolate easily expand it’s usage beyond beverages in to foodstuffs.
(Van Houten’s Press had a multi-stage process to remove fats from the cacao nibs)
The next innovation came from the Quakers in England. In 1847, as sugar consumption was taking a drastic turn up, Joseph Fry mixed cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter. The resulting mixture was malleable enough to be cast in to a mold, making the world’s first eating chocolate, and transforming chocolate from flavor to stand alone item.
The Swiss continued to innovate and in 1867 Henri Nestle, a Swiss chemist devised a way to make powder milk through a process of evaporation. This would become the first ready to mix infant formula. (which would eventually lead to a rather sorted history among the Nestle company.) This innovation proved to be useful when in 1879 Daniel Peter used it to make the first milk chocolate bar by mixing with chocolate liquor, drying the moisture out of the mix and adding cacao butter. The resulting chocolate was sweeter, smoother, and more palatable.
Not to be outdone, that same year Rudolphe Lindt invented the conching machine. The machine consisted of a flat granite base and granite roller. Cacao nibs were ground by the roller and the resulting liquor was splashed over it at the end of each roll, allowing more air to come in contact during the process. The conching process had several major advantages. First, the continual motion caused the cacao to be more finely ground, which would eventually produce a smoother chocolate. Second, the contact with the air made it easier for moisture and volatile oils to evaporate, removing some of the acidity and making for a milder, more enjoyable flavor. Lastly, and importantly, the friction in the conching process created heat, this allowed chocolate makers to reduce roasting time (as some could be done in during the conching process), which sped up chocolate production dramatically.
The last leap forward toward mass produced chocolate takes us back to the United States with Milton Hershey. In 1903, Hershey was just starting to build his chocolate empire in the center of Pennsylvania. The one process that he struggled with was processing the milk for his milk chocolate with attempts often leading to scorched or burnt milk. He finally called in John Schmalbach, who mixed skim milk with a high ratio of sugar. Using low heat evaporation, he was able to create sweetened condensed milk. The resulting product mixed beautifully with cocoa powder and cacao butter. Not only did it produce eating chocolate, but the process made the chocolate more shelf stable and able to be stored for several months. It also created a smoother mixture overall, which was easier to move through equipment and molds, allowing them to make chocolate faster and cheaper. We now had a chocolate that was cheap and fast to produce, and could stay fresh for months, allowing it to be shipped further and stocked longer. With Hershey’s the once beverage of royalty was forever transformed into an indulgence for the masses.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. 2007 (1996) The True History of Chocolate.
Brenner, Joel. 2000. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars.
D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams.
MacCarther, Kate. “Blommer Chocolate to Back Cocoa Sustainability Program.” Crain’s Chicago Business. May 9, 2012. (online version)
Mintz, Sidney W. 1986 (1985) Sweetness and Power.
Murray, Sarah. 2007. Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat.
The purpose of this small-scale ethnography is to examine the social significance of chocolate from a cross-cultural perspective. Through interviewing various members of my local community that were born in different regions of Mexico and Central America, I document here their experiences and observances of chocolate.
Experienced through consumption or non-consumption, and observed through their emic perspective, there are underscoring themes exposed amongst the roles in which chocolate has played throughout each of their own lives. Within the context of those personal relationships with chocolate, an interaction between social and economic functions of their state and country may be contemporaneous to their outlook. Although this simultaneity is not always the circumstance, motifs emerge as their uniqueness transpires. Effectually, their contributed insight has actualized a microcosm of chocolates’ socio-cultural diversity and likenesses.
While conducting the interviews with members of my community, the aim was to first listen to their observances, and to then ask questions of clarification to assist in their thought process. The framework of my Q&A was designed this way to acquire a qualitative study, so that this retelling would reflect the individual perspectives of each subject, synchronously providing a glimpse into the societal experience. To depict those experiences through a cultural historical lens, that of which illustrated itself during most of the interviews already, I asked questions about their culture as a whole and how they thought chocolate was generally regarded in their own communities.
This study is not meant to define those relationships, but to highlight multiplicities within these individual cross- cultural accounts. Over reflections of my own and of the human subjects in this ethnographic study, I hope to provide sufficient imagery of historic milieu within the functional roles chocolate has played in personal experience and in society.
Theobroma Cacao, or the Food-of-the-God’s Cacao, is widely accepted by botanists and scholars as indigenous to Mesoamerica. Evidence of its cultivation is indicative of the role it played in ancient civilizations like the Mixe-Zoquean-speaking Olmecs (1500 BCE – 400 BCE). At the famed Olmec archaeological site in San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, evidence has been found of the term “Kakawa” used by the Olmec as early as 1000 BCE (Coe & Coe, 1996). See on the map below, San Lorenzo is west of present day Guatemala, and north of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.
We find in the archaeological record, the ways in which early civilizations illustrated cacao, or “Kakawa” on their pottery. This being a significant attribute to understand the role chocolate played in their livelihoods and rituals. According to Maricel Presilla in her book, The New Taste of Chocolate, “it was the Maya who brought chocolate making to a high art… building on the foundation left behind by other Mesoamerican cultures”, like that of the Olmecs and other sibling tribes (2009).
See this Classic Maya vase from the seventh century portraying the Maize God in an “unending dance, symbolizing both the creation of the universe and also his cycle of death and rebirth” (Takushi, Pioneer Press).
Maya Classic period (250 – 900 CE) vessels show quite literally the function of cacao as it was for drinking, as well as the relative role it played in Mayan life though various representations of the divine.
This is one of the many Classic period vessels that was found to contain cacao residues inside. We know it was used to hold chocolate because cacao is the only plant in the region with both the compounds Theobromine and Caffeine, “a unique marker for the presence of cacao in pre-Columbian artifacts” (Cheong, 2011). To verify the vessels were used to hold chocolate was an important piece to the archaeological record. It provided contextual knowledge when deciphering the imagery or glyphs depicted on the vessels.
Affirmed in the glyphs of drinking vessels from this period, there is evidence of “well established cacao-chocolate terminology”. On the Buenavista vase shown above, we see “tree-fresh cacao” inscribed. From the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS) of the glyphs you see banded around the top of the vessel, the characters that make the Maya name for cacao, “Ka-Ka-Wa” were deciphered. What strikes me the most about this piece is the seemingly relative “tree-fresh cacao” to the Maize God’s cyclical existence. (Presilla, 2009)
I particularly find this vessel so interesting when we look at the role of chocolate in culture because it reflects a cyclical ideology of their ecological relationship to their land; in the sustenance it provides, the concept of time through death and rebirth, and their Gods all-encompassing role within those cycles.
A few years ago in 2013 I came to know a few young men and women from the northern Mexican state of Sonora – (follow the link to read a brief history of Seri Indians of Sonora). They were working and studying here on visa’s while we were employed at a busy restaurant in the heart of downtown Boston. What better place than behind the bar to nose around and pick into people’s lives for cultural insights! Just kidding on the nose-picking… but seriously, even minute conversations with guests created thought-provoking observations. During their multiple terms of residency in Boston over the years, these talented intellectual Sonoran natives and I connected on Mexican – American culture alike, and apart. Upon reaching out to ask if anyone would be interested in participating in this modest ethnographic study, my request was received most graciously. They have all elected to omit fully identifying information, so for the purposes of this study, I will refer to them by their first name only. Below I have included their perspectives on the role chocolate has played throughout their lives.
Andrés began by explaining Mexico as a large country where the culture is full of diversity. “Every state has their own culture about everything – food, traditional parties, our dialect and slang”. With that being said, in the state of Sonora where he lives he doesn’t use chocolate and cacao the way he knows it is used in the southern states of the country like Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Tabasco. Andrés has observed the influence of cacao beans in southern Mexico because the cacao growing region produces a lot of recipes that involve cacao and chocolate.
When I asked what he knows about Mesoamerican uses for cacao, he remembers learning from childhood that they used it as currency, and he understood they sometimes would use it in beauty treatments. On that note, I recollect a fortuitous conversation about skin care had between myself and a female of Mexican ancestry I met while servicing wedding hair and makeup to her cousin’s bridal party, circa summer 2015 in East Boston – Indeed, I am not only an aspiring Anthropologist, also a Cosmetologist. My thoughts are usually occupied by anthropological inquiry on a daily basis, which inevitably grants unique opportunity for cultural discussions with the people I meet. Although not a part of this ethnography, she let me know back then about her family recipe for a skin care regimen that contains cacao. Her grandmother and her aunts would grind down cacao beans into a powder, “cocoa powder” minus the hydraulic press. They would mix the antioxidant rich powder with other grinded down local herbs, add water to create a paste-like texture and apply generously to the skin.
“Lather. Dry. Rinse. Repeat.” – she persisted. Yum.
For the purposes of this study, I was curious about chocolate in spa treatments, as I have heard echoes of the luxury before. Take a look at The Spa At The Hotel Hershey or examples of just a few contemporary accommodations created for chocolate in the beauty industry.
Andrés expressed to me that Sonora being just below Arizona, his culture is more- so “American” than the way Mexicans live in the south. It is in his experience and observation the misconception of Mexican culture as being one. I think any educated person understands culture, language, economy, etc. vary across spaces of human population. Yet, for those who generalize a nation’s people by its borders, Andrés and his community experience the bias. He grew up with a collection of influences “by the things Americans do”. For example, one of his earliest memories of eating chocolate was during Halloween. They’re also heavily influenced by “spring break madness”, as he defined the season. He grew up consuming chocolate predominantly made by the big corporations, like Mars. His notable favorites being the Snicker and M&Ms. “In the south they don’t have that influence, they don’t experience American Halloween as we do”.
Carlos V chocolate bars are the Nestlé- proclaimed “# 1 chocolate brand in Mexico with over 70 years in the market!… Because of its unique and mild flavor, it is considered the reference of chocolate for Mexicans.” The Aztec stylized imagery first designed to brand the chocolate before it was bought by Nestlé sometime in the 1980’s was created by Fabrica de Chocolates La Azteca, S.A. de C.V. Jason Liebig on his blog, Collecting Candy chronicles his findings in the L.M. Kallok Confectioners Collection of antique packaging. Most notable about the evolution of the branding is first the Aztec styling alongside the “Imperial Coat of Arms” for “by the grace of God, Carolus V Imperator (emporer)”. Then with the English labeling introduced we see a change in the ingredients as well (which was apparent of each label seen in Leibig’s compilation from the beginning to the end. “A tie-in with the film Toy Story, which tells us La Azteca was still the brand’s sole owner as late as 1995″ is interesting where we see Quaker Oats leaving its insignia on the label by the late 1990’s.
Not one of the Sonoran’s I interviewed has tried a Carlos V chocolate bar but they have all heard of it at some point in their life through advertisements. Eduardo attests to Andrés’ personal account of diversity from the southern regions in Mexico. Dia de los Muertos is “not celebrated as much as the south, but we do things like going to the cemetery”, Andrés says. Eduardo told me that they celebrate Dia de los Muertos on November 2. “We celebrate in memory of the people who are no longer with us and usually at the tombstones we put special things they liked when they were alive. Chocolates is usually one of them”. Both Andrés and Eduardo did not have a definitive sense of the historical reason for chocolate being placed on gravesites, but they both know it as a long- standing tradition and ritual in celebrating their deceased ancestors. Fernanda, another Sonoran native, added some insight to this practice of memorial. She told me that usually the graveyards are managed by local churches or publicly owned so in contrast to the majority of graveyards that are privately owned in the US, the families play a greater role in gravesite maintenance of their deceased. In this way, chocolate serves a social function in their celebrations.
Shown below, Dr. Martin presented in class this semester some of the ways Maya and Mixtec society visually depicted the functions that cacao played within their cultural practices and belief systems. Royal marriages necessitated the use of currency in the negotiation, so we see in the Codex Nuttall how cacao was a part of the price for the bride. Eduardo remembers learning in school that Mayans used to used the cacao “as a coin to buy everything, from goods to wives”. A relative topic for further study would be in the ways chocolate was introduced to the elite. Diffused out of Mesoamerica first by the Spanish, the Europeans assimilated to its royal regard and used chocolate in the women’s dowry through royal inter-marriages – that of which played a great role in spreading chocolate throughout Europe.
Another example (seen below) comes from the Madrid Codex where we see cacao being exchanged, portraying a give-and-take linkage between their concepts of cyclical time (lunar goddess) and their environment (rain god). I find this imagery especially expressive to their belief of the divine relationship to their human existence and sustenance on earth. Lastly, from the Codex Nuttall we see a royal funerary procession in “Twelve Movements”. Within the tomb depicted at the bottom right of the artwork lies a “vessel of foaming cacao beverage… to ease the soul’s journey to the underworld”. (Martin)
Eduardo recounts drinking cups of hot chocolate since he can remember. While traveling south to Puebla state he tried their “typical meal, mole, and it’s made of cacao”. What he knows about the Maya and cacao is how they used to prepare beverages and meals like the Puebla “mole”. “We have different tribes and culture but we learned about it in school and I experiences it myself while traveling south. Cacao is still a huge deal in south Mexico.”
See the dozen or more ingredients to make the traditional “thick, baroque sauce, mole” from Xalapa, Veracruz (Presilla), north of Puebla state in Mexico. Presilla notes that each ingredient is “processed in sequence, each at its own time” (2009).
As the mole is diverse in ingredients, and rich in unique Mesoamerican culture, so too – as these contemporary perspectives have illustrated, are the people of the region diversely interwoven with it’s history and unique place on Earth’s sphere.
The production and selling of chocolate is around a $100 billion USD per year global industry (Martin, 2017). However, while chocolate may be a big business, there have been many instances of social injustices and questionable business practices thought it’s history. Given that over half of the world’s confectionary market is completely dominated by 5 major players; Mars, Kraft, Nestle, Ferrero and Hershey, all of these companies could have a tremendous impact on efforts to rectify injustices and improve business practices (Martin, 2017). Unfortunately, historically some of these companies, Hershey for example, have not only failed to take an active social role but have actually contributed to the problem. Recently, however Hershey and other major companies have experienced a shift in their company culture and have actively invested their resources into increasing social responsibility and sustainability. This shift and changed attitude can partially be attributed to the rise of social media and the consumer’s growing awareness, investment, and involvement in how companies operate.
History of Hershey
Historically Hershey has not always utilized the most socially responsible business practices. One extremely controversial issue within the chocolate industry is the issue of sourcing. Amongst the many ethical problem that can arise in the process of sourcing cocoa is the issue of acceptable labor conditions. This particular issue has seemed to cause trouble for Hershey’s business on more than one occasion. At the turn of the 20th century it was discovered that slave labor was being used at the Cadbury cocoa farms located in São Tomé and Príncipe (Higgs, 2012). Cadbury, experienced both government and public backlash for his continued involvement within the areas, until finally in 1910 the company formally boycotted cocoa from São Tomé and Príncipe, and moved their operations to the Gold Coast in Africa (Higgs, 2012). Unfortunately, Hershey their American counterpart chose not to participate in the boycott, thereby facilitating the existing infrastructure of slave labor and allowing it to continue well in the mid-1900s (Martin, 2017). This is not the only instance of questionable cocoa sourcing during the Hershey’s history. More recently, Hershey has also received a considerable amount of unfavorable coverage based on the working conditions and the use of child labor in cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire specifically along the Ivory Coast (Phillips & Caldwell, 2005).
Hershey’s Shifting Values and Increased Social Responsibility
Although Hershey has had a history of questionable and controversial business practices, the company is now contributing to efforts to rectify social injustices and improve working conditions within the chocolate industry, by increasing their own social responsibility. In 2014, the company also released their first corporate social responsibility report in attempt to increase transparency and accountability, stating that they wanted to “reimagined [their] corporate brand, with a clean, modern identity.”
This video highlights some of the initiative that Hershey has taken on in order to improve their social responsibility. Some of the accomplishment that they highlight are helping cocoa farmers increase their productivity, reducing waste and water use to increase environmental sustainability, and investing in children and their future. They specifically mention how they are supporting a cause in Ghana known as Project Peanut butter as well as how they have built a school on the Ivory coast and are investing in education at home in the United States.
The Role of Social Media
This increase in social responsibility from not only Hershey, but also other major companies, can be attributed in large part to the rise of social media and the growing awareness and interest of the consumer. Snider, Hill, and Martin (2003) discuss how the internet has given the public access to certain information and has reduced companies’ ability to act as gatekeepers of information to their stakeholders. As a result of this vast expansion of information accessibility, consumers are now more concerned than ever that the companies they are buying from and supporting are not only producing high quality product, but also doing it in a way that is ethically sound. In fact a study conducted by Maignan and Ralston (2002) revealed that one of the main reasons that companies listed for committing to socially responsible behavior was pressure from stakeholders, notably consumers, to behave in socially responsible ways (Campbell, 2007). With the introduction of social media, consumers have a new tool to apply this social pressure with. They are now able to give immediate and very public feedback when their standards for product quality and social responsibility are not being met and companies are responding accordingly.
These tweets are examples of how social media, in this case specifically twitter, has increased the accountability of Hershey. The tweets range from being about issues of quality, to product innovations/requests, to issues about ethical business practice. Despite the wide range of topics that are covered in tweets @ Hershey, Hershey makes a point of responding to every one. This illustrates just how important and powerful social media feedback can be.
One example of social media having a extremely significant and immediate impact on a company’s business is the recent Kendall Jenner Pepsi Commercial fiasco.
Pepsi aired this commercial featuring Kendall Jenner in early April of this year. The video was immediately met with criticism and public outrage on social media about the video being appropriative and tone-deaf, by using serious political issues to sell soda.
Many people complained that it trivialized decades of protests against police brutality, as well as trivializing the black lives matter movement, specifically because of the image towards the end of the commercial of Kendall Jenner handing the police officer a can of Pepsi, which many compared to the now famous image captured of Ieshia Evans at a protest moments before her arrest. This tweet, shown above is just one of many tweets complaining about the lack of social awareness that was displayed in this ad.
One particularly notable tweet came from Bernice King, Martin Luther King’s daughter. She too found the pepsi commercial to be appropriative and trivializing of the hardship and struggle that her father faced in the fight for civil rights.
Within 24 hours, due to the public uproar and continued outrage expressed over social media Pepsi pulled the ad, which probably cost millions to produce and issued a public statement, which they shared across multiple platforms of social media, apologizing for “missing the mark.” While Hershey has never faced social media back lash of this magnitude, the pepsi example clearly illustrates what a huge and swift impact social media and public response can have on how companies conduct their business and represent themselves.
Is it all Enough? Hershey’s Lack of Transparency
Although it is evident that social media has the potential to hold companies accountable and enact tangible change, it may not have a broad enough reach to completely revolutionize the chocolate industry and all of the social injustices occurring within the business just yet. True, Hershey seems to have taken great strides in increasing their company’s social responsibility and investing their resources into making sure that they are improving working conditions and making the world a better place. But, are they really doing enough? One thing that I did find disheartening was the underwhelming amount of company transparency and lack of emphasis on their work in social responsibility on their website.
The images above are all screen shots from different company homepage, In the upper left corner, you will see a screenshot from Hershey’s homepage, in the lower left hand corner is a screen shot of Mars’ homepage and the upper and lower righthand images are screenshots of Nestle’s company homepage.
Zooming onto the main menu of Hershey’s page, you can see that they don’t have any type of link to learn more about their social responsibility. At first I wanted to give Hershey the benefit of the doubt, so I clicked on their link to learn more about their story, to see if there was any mention of social responsibility on that page. I also clicked on their option to learn more about simple ingredients to see if while they were talking about their simple ingredients they also mentioned how they were ethically sourcing them.
What I found was slightly disappointing, these are screen shots from the “Our Story” page (left) and the “Simple Ingredients” page (right). As you can see from the images, the informations is very heavily geared towards the wants and benefits of the consumer and doesn’t really make any effort to talk about socially responsibility at all. It seems like their only concern, at least as it is portrayed on their main website, is their responsibility to their consumer. In fact it was so difficult for me to find any mention of community involvement or social initiatives on their main website that in order to find out more about Hershey’s social responsibility initiatives, I actually had to specifically google “Hershey social responsibility” in order to find anything at all.
In contrast, when you zoom onto the main menu options of the Mars and Nestle home-pages, you can see that right away there are options to learn about “Nestle in society” or how Mars is “Doing Our Part”. Once you visit their actual pages you can tell that both companies have taken great lengths to advertise their altruistic efforts and initiatives, and make their practices transparent and easily accessible. In fact their social responsibility and the initiatives that they are taking to make the world a better place are not only mentioned on these specific links, they are also integrated into their “About us” and “Who We Are” pages.
The images above are screenshots from Nestle’s “About us” page (top image) and Mar’s “Who we are” page (bottom image). As you can see, both Nestle and Mars have not only taken on missions to making the world a better place, but have integrated those missions into their core values and made them central to the overall goals of the company.
It seems to me like Hershey is unfortunately lagging behind their competitors in corporate transpanrency and committing to socially responsible initiatives and activism. An article by Newman, O’Connell and Exchange (2010) seems to indicate that this lack of transparency from Hershey is not only purposeful, but also indicative of socially irresponsible business behaviors specifically in reference to their sourcing practices. Newman, O’Connell and Exchange (2010) claim that despite almost ten years of commitments from Hershey to take responsibility for their cocoa supply chains and improve conditions for workers, significant problems such as, abusive child labor, trafficking, and forced labor continue to persist.
So, why is there such a difference between the seeming efforts of Hershey and its competitors? One thing that I think is interesting to note is the fact that both Mars and Nestle have expanded their businesses into other consumer packaged goods, from frozen foods, to beverages, to even pet care, while Hershey has really stayed with in the confectionary niche. Is there something about the confectionary market that allows for companies to escape harsh and intensive public scrutiny and thereby requires less social responsibilty? These are essential and pressing questions that we must figure out if we want to really push for social responsibility from all companies. We have seen the power of social media and have examples like Pepsi to prove that businesses will make major changes to their company’s culture, structure and operating environment, when there is enough social outcry for them to do so. Admittedly, the issue of cocoa sourcing may not be as sexy, thrilling, or star studded as the issue of Kendall Jenner’s pepsi commercial, but we need to find a way to bring the indiscretions of companies like Hershey to the forefront of the publics attention in order to get the conversation trending and really push for tangible change.
Campbell, J. L. (2007). Why would corporations behave in socially responsible ways? An institutional theory of corporate social responsibility. Academy of management Review, 32(3), 946-967.
Higgs, C. (2012). Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press.
Martin, C. (2017, February 1). Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food: Mesoamerica and “the food of the gods” [Lecture]. Cambridge, MA.
Martin, C. (2017, March 1). Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food: Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor [Lecture]. Cambridge, MA.
Newman, T., O’Connell, E., & Exchange, G. (2010). Time to Raise the Bar: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility Report for the Hershey Company.
Phillips, R., & Caldwell, C. B. (2005). Value chain responsibility: A farewell to arm’s length. Business and Society Review, 110(4), 345-370.
Snider, J., Hill, R. P., & Martin, D. (2003). Corporate social responsibility in the 21st century: A view from the world’s most successful firms. Journal of Business ethics, 48(2), 175-187.
While chocolate is a sweet delicacy enjoyed by millions around the world, the underlying forces of cacao production often leave a sour taste in consumers’ mouths. After Europeans “discovered” chocolate in Mesoamerica, its dissemination in Europe relied on the forced labor of indigenous populations and later African slaves on cacao plantations. Slavery was abolished on paper in England in 1833. Yet, it persisted under new names from serviçal in Sao Tome e Principe to “worst forms of child labor” in Côte d’Ivoire. I will compare the response of two influential companies in the cocoa industry–Cadbury and Nestlé–when faced with evidence of forced labor in their cacao supply chain. While both companies’ actions are ultimately profit-driven, Cadbury took more legitimate actions to divest from forced labor than Nestlé, as the latter has yet to fully invest in ethically-sourced cacao.
William Cadbury’s awareness of forced labor in cacao plantations started with rumors of horrible work conditions in Sao Tome and Príncipe in 1901. At the time, Cadbury obtained 55% of its cacao from the area (Higgs 2012:9). He met with Portuguese authorities who assured him that new labour legislation addressed concerns of minimum wage (Satre 2005:23). Still, Cadbury commissioned Joseph Burtt in 1905 to investigate the work conditions in Sao Tome e Principe. Prior to Burtt’s return, Henry Nevinson published his investigative journalism in Harper’s Magazine in 1905.
Nevinson shed light on the forced labor of indentured servants (serviçal) in Sao Tome e Principe (Martin 2017). It was indistinguishable from slavery. Burtt returns in 1907, and his report supports Nevinson’s research. Yet, British authorities request Burtt revise his findings to assuage Portuguese authorities because Portuguese authorities were instrumental to British colonial interests in South Africa (Satre 2005: 76, 24). Up to then, Cadbury’s actions were behind the public eye. While the company researched forced labor and attempted to negotiate with both British and Portuguese authorities with no divestment in sight, their consumers continued purchasing their “guaranteed pure and soluble” cacao.
Nevinson persevered with his reporting and published “The Angola Slave Trade” in The Fornightly Review, which garnered a lot of publicity. Forced labor alarmed British consumers because although England had abolished slavery in 1833, they were still complicit to it. Slavery did not align itself with the Quaker values of the time. As consumers started demanding Cadbury take action, Cadbury takes a final trip to Sao Tome and Principe.
Upon his return, he convinces J.S. Fry and Rowntree, other British chocolatemakers to join him as Cadbury boycotts cacao production in Sao Tome and Principe. Presumably, Cadbury divests because of the continuous failed promises by the Portuguese government to ameliorate working conditions in both islands. While the Portuguese government was not intent on ending slavery in cacao production, Cadbury did not suddenly reach enlightenment in 1909. At the time of initial evidence of slavery in Sao Tome and Principe, Cadbury had no other sustainable source of cacao if it wanted to maintain its leading status amongst British consumers. A viable option was needed as the British confectionners turned to mainland West Africa. Hence, the boycott from its main source of cacao did not hurt Cadbury because during his backdoor negotiations with various stakeholders, cacao trees were being planted in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana). From his visit to the Gold Coast in 1906 to the official boycott from Sao Tome’s cacao in 1909, cocoa harvest in the Gold Coast increased from 9004 to 20,534 metric tons (Grant 2005: 175). Therefore, in addition to being ethically sound, the move to the Gold Coast in 1909 was also business-proof.
A century later, big chocolate makers are still guilty of profiting from the fruits of forced labor in their supply chain. In 1998, A Taste of Slavery: How Your Chocolate May be Tainted was published. The UNICEF report was one of the first to highlight evidence of child labor in West Africa, particularly in Côte d’Ivoire. Young people were often worked almost under horrible conditions: “the [Malian] boys had little to eat, slept in bunk-houses that were locked at night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders, some as a result of carrying the heavy bags of cocoa, but some likely the effects of physical abuse” (Off 2008: 121). Child labor in cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire involves familial and contracted labor, often including human trafficking of children from neighboring countries like Mali and Burkina Faso. Such labor conditions violate the International Labor Organization (ILO) Minimum Age Convention and the ILO Forced Labour Convention (Schrage and Ewing 2005: 101-102).
Increasing media attention to such reports of child slavery pushed the cocoa industry to stop dawdling and take action because “the mistreatment of children posed a clear threat to corporate reputation and sales” (Schrage and Ewing 2005: 104). As the United States Congress began the legislative process of banning Ivorian cacao, the industry proposed a protocol to address the reports. In September 2001, the Chocolate Manufacters Association (CMA) and the World Cocoa Foundation signed the Protocol for the Growing and Processing of Cocoa Beans and their Derivative Products in a Manner that Complies with ILO Convention 182 Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Chila Labor also known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol. Ever since its inception, the protocol has continuously been extended as chocolate companies fail to eradicate the worst form of child labor from their supply chain by their own deadlines. Many have critiqued the protocol as too lenient because a voluntary plan does not ensure the industry will be accountable.
Nestlé has undertook actions to adhere to the Harkin-Engel Protocol. The company joined the Global Issues Group (GIG), “an ad-hoc, pre-competitive association of cocoa industry participants formed in response to the agreements as spelled out in the Harkin-Engil Protocol” (Tulane research). Furthermore, Nestlé contracted UTZ Certified, a product certification organization, to be held accountable for its cacao consumption. In 2009, Nestlé established the Cocoa Plan. The hyperlinked video highlights the work of the Cocoa Plan in Côte d’Ivoire. Through the International Cocoa Initiative, the Cocoa Plan has built schools throughout Côte d’Ivoire in order to provide alternatives for children who were previously child laborers or could potentially be involved in cacao production.This iniative, among others, empowers local communities and seeks to reduce the prevalence of the “worst forms of child labor” in cacao production.In addition, Nestlé has supported further investigation into their cacao sourcing. The Fair Labor Association (FLA) conducted a thorough investigation of the company’s cacao supply chain, making it the first chocolate-maker to undertake such a process (CNN 2012). The FLA has continued these investigations, which attest to Nestlé’s investment in an ethical supply chain. Nestlé’s actions were in response to growing criticism. The company had to handle lawsuits and respond to documentaries about the persistence of forced labor in Côte d’Ivoire in order to appease its consumer base, who was demanding more accountability in the cacao supply chain.
Consumer demand for and consumption of ethically produced chocolate is highest in the United Kingdom. This trend explains why Kit Kat chocolate bars in the UK bear the Faitrade mark and Kit Kat chocolate bars in Germany do not. While both bars have the Cocoa Plan logo, Nestlé reveals that it only purchases 14.5% of its cocoa through the Plan, of which 75% is either UTZ or Fairtrade-certified (Nestle 2013: 160). While Nestlé has taken steps to ethically source its cacao, this has only been for consumers who actively demand it.
Similar to Cadbury, Nestlé is acting in a profit-maximizing way. Ethics are secondary because the investment in the Cocoa Plan for all of its chocolate would not be be as profitable beyond the UK. Unlike Cadbury, Nestlé has unfortunately not significantly addressed the Protocol because shared responsibility with other big chocolatemakers and lack of significant consumer demand diffuse the pressure to immediately conform.
Cadbury’s Advert with Rower 1885. 2010. Wikimedia Commons
With a 4000-year history, beginning in Central America with the Mesoamericans, the tradition of drinking chocolate has evolved immensely over the years. Chocolate was mainly enjoyed as a drink for almost nine-tenths of its history, but today we mostly think of chocolate in its solid form. It’s transformation has taken place from a luxury, within the reach of only royalty and wealthy elites, to being mass-produced, sugary, sweet, containing little to no cacao at all. The spicy, bitter, foamy xocolatl once associated only with decadence and luxury has now been relegated to a sweetened, inferior product by the industry, severely diminishing its place in society.
From as early as 1000 BCE, chocolate was a sacred, invaluable, refreshing, exotic and even a magical beverage. For the Mesoamericans, the drink went far beyond the health benefits and the aphrodisiac qualities that many of us have come to associate with chocolate. The ceremonial, pleasurable, elite drink was used to show high hospitality; served only to lords, the wealthy and the revered merchants and considered to be “an ambrosia from the rich and exotic lands of Anahuac, not something to wash down one’s food [with]”(Coe & Coe, 95). This drink was a powerful elixir with its exotic flavorings and prized foam, famous amongst the rulers, warriors and explorers alike. It was considered sacred during marriages, nourishing for militaries, sacrificial in religious ceremonies and an after-dinner drink that was enjoyed with smoking tubes of tobacco (Coe & Coe, 95). Such high status and social stratum, evident throughout the history of the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs, earned the chocolate drink a special prestige in society and its ultimate spread into Europe. Curious and eager to adopt, the Spaniards carried the tradition of drinking chocolate into the Iberian Peninsula.
Assimilating to the New World culture and slowly developing a taste for the bitter chocolate drink, the Spaniards maintained the elevated status associated with the drink. Mesmerized by an elaborate process of fermenting, roasting, winnowing and finally crushing the cacao nibs to form chocolate liquor, the Spaniards adopted the entire routine to preserve the originality and prestige of the drink. The delicate preparation of the final beverage, which was dissolved in water, mixed with varieties of spices, and poured from one container to another to achieve highly prized foam made the drink suitable only for the Spanish elites. Marcy Norton clearly establishes the illustriousness and admiration for the drink:
“Drinking chocolate was a complex somatic experience for pre- Columbian and colonial Indians. The emphasis put on flower spices, the frothy foam, the special drinking vessels, and the requisite reddish hue shows that chocolate was valued not only for its effects on the taste buds, but also for the stimulation of the olfactory, tactile, visual, and affective senses. “ (Norton, 675)
The elaboration and meticulousness associated with the preparation of the drink allowed the Spaniards, among other factors, to overcome their revulsion for the bitter drink. The addition of spices and exotic flavorings further added to the appeal of drinking chocolate and encouraged the Spaniards to assimilate the drink into their culture.
Knowing no other way, the Spaniards adopted the entire paraphernalia associated with the Mesoamerican way of preparing and consuming the stimulant chocolate beverage. The use of achiote for sensory pleasures, j ́ıcara for sipping the chocolate and molinillo for frothing it, all came to be accepted and prized by the Spaniards as a way to enjoy drinking chocolate (Norton, 683). The Spaniards maintained the entire sensory experiences and embraced the various spices ranging from Tlixochitl, mecaxo ́chitl, achiote, chili peppers, and Xochinacaztli (Norton, 672). Each version of the drink prepared with these various spices elevated the complexity and prestige of the final drink. However, over the course of time, the New World spices were increasingly replaced by Old World and Oriental spices like cinnamon, black pepper, anise, rose and sesame (Norton, 684). The replacements of the New World spices and flavorings, to stimulate the European taste, took away what was essentially centuries old ways of consuming and enjoying chocolate. The new wave of seasonings and later, the replacement of honey with large amounts of sugar further deviated the drink from its sacred, exotic image to an inferior, affordable and heavily sugared beverage.
The desire to sweeten chocolate in many ways led to the massive imports of tropical commodities like sugar. Much like cacao, initially revered as a spice afforded only by the rich, sugar was a prized tropical commodity for several centuries. It wasn’t until the 19th century when the free trade movement led to a sharp decline in sugar prices leading to mass affordability. The English welcomed the sweetening of “coffee, chocolate, and tea [which] became customary […] because they were bitter as well as unfamiliar” (Mintz, 137). The Spaniards, similar to the English, began increasingly sweetening their beverages to suit their taste buds. This explosive consumption of sugar took hold among all sectors of the society and the chocolate drink slowly began its decline to eventually being reduced only to a heap of sugar.
Fueled by colonialism, this heavy intake of sugar in stimulant drinks changed the entire landscape for tropical commodities and paved the way to industrialization. As Sidney Mintz argues that tea, coffee, and chocolate beverages, along with sugar, helped to fuel industrialization (Mintz, 186) and as Norton says, “Atlantic commerce directly fueled the peculiar European dynamism that culminated in the Industrial Revolution” (Norton, 665). Out of this revolution, various machines and processes were invented that changed forever the way chocolate was consumed. Creations like the Melangur and Van Houten’s “Dutching” process gave rise to a new era of chocolate making. The 1828 invention essentially defatted the chocolate liquor to a point where the resulting product contained only 28 percent cacao (Coe, 234) and left behind a “mass or a cake that could easily dissolve in water to make a chocolate drink ” (“Cocoa Dolce”). This alkalized Dutch treatment of the cacao nibs although improved the chocolate powder’s miscibility in water, it took away the complex aromatic flavors associated with the cacao beans that produce good quality drinking chocolate. The era of industrialization ushered the invention of the easily prepared and digestible drink, which gradually dethroned the once revered thick, foamy, exotic beverage.
The massive advances in technology, industrialization and cacao farming led to a dramatic fall in price of cocoa and cocoa powder. Giant industries like Fry’s, Cadbury and Rowntree “made possible the large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses” (Coe, 235). Industrialization and the availability of cheap, bulk cacao made chocolate affordable and popular; however the chocolate produced this way lacked complexity and depth of flavor. And so, it was made palatable only with the addition of “sugar and other spices like cinnamon and perfumes” (Sciscenti). As sugar started flooding the European market “more sugar was added and the spices were stripped away until it arrived at its classic American incarnation: sugary sweet, thin and without much actual cocoa” (Sciscenti). As a result, the chocolate drink, saturated with sugar and removed of all exotic New World spices, was now a far-fetched cry from the original drink of the Mesoamericans or even the Spaniards adaptation.
Recent years have seen an even greater increase in sugar consumption. Statistics show that “200 years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year. In 1970, Americans ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year” (Martin). Mass affordability of sugar has exasperated the problem. Labels on nearly every food item show sugar as a main ingredient and chocolate drinks have not escaped this trend. In fact, the tremendous amount of sugar added helps the manufactures mask the flavor off-notes of poor quality cacao. In comparison, as cacao is naturally bitter and acidic, the typical sugar content in a chocolate bar can range from 0-40%. While this is normal to please our palates, an unwholesome amount of sugar with little to no cocoa content in chocolate drinks has become the norm. For example, Nestlé’s Nesquik chocolate powder contains 78.5% or 11g of sugar per serving with only 2% of cacao processed with alkali (“Nesquik Powder Chocolate 9.3 Oz”). Nestle is a global brand leader in chocolate drinks and its popularity only demonstrates a trend towards lowering the chocolate drink to a heap of sugar. The sugar combined with the alkali process further demotes the product by severely mellowing the chocolate taste. The alkali process saps the flavonoids off of the chocolate drink, forcing the manufacturers to enhance the taste by introducing more sugar. This vicious cycle has not only offered a substandard taste to the drink but has also become the culprit to various health problems.
In recent years, despite heavy criticism, Nesquik and its competitors have only seen a boost in their sales and will continue to see so. According to the Euromonitor’s International data, Nestlé alone is “predicted to generate around US$340 million sales in 2015-2019” (Lee, 2015). While many reasons provide explanation for this trend, the most frequently used is the addition of sugar helps children drink more milk and “build strong bones, one glass at a time” (Hein). Although the added sugar in Nesquik chocolate milk drink inches towards the daily recommendation by the WHO, a few organizations have said flavored milk increases milk consumption in children (Hein). However, this is not a solution to encourage milk consumption; instead it is an exploitation of children’s natural affinities to sugar, whose increased consumption has only led to a widespread obesity endemic and early onset of diabetes. Nestlé and other companies have hence played a huge role in degrading the chocolate drink by promoting it as a healthy milk product and as a result have encouraged consumption of excess sugar, unhealthy eating habits, and poor nutrition.
To further understand this trend, we must look towards the role of advertising in reducing the chocolate drink to what it has become. In the 1930s and 40s, children featured prominently in ads “all growing stronger through drinking cocoa” (Robertson, 39). Characters like Honeybunch and Coco, although representing a wider context of racial discrimination, were invented to greatly influence children and heed upon the philosophies of cradle to grave loyalty. In Rowntree cocoa’s case, such ads, campaigns and invention of lovable characters were used to “add a psychological value inseparable from Rowntree’s brand of cocoa, to an extent that they will exert pressure on the mother [to buy the product]” (Robertson, 41). These ‘special mascots’ in advertisements create brand loyalty amongst children and places an immense pressure over parents to buy these drinks under the pretense of boosting milk consumption.
Rowntree’s cocoa ad with Honeybunch
Nesquik’s popularity is largely in part to the ‘Quicky’ bunny character that has enchanted so many young children and has helped Nestle build a brand loyalty. Similar to Rowntree’s Honeybunch and Coco, Quicky personifies the Nestle brand and helps in portraying the product as nutritious and healthy. The “physically active [and] energetic” (Daneshkhu) Quicky has been able to capture children’s imaginations as an animated character promoting health benefits and good nutritional habits. However, despite Quicky’s endorsements, chocolate remains a drink laden with sugar, and only a few traces of cocoa. It promotes no nutritional value, offers dull taste and flavor and is a far cry from what once used to be a healthy, wholesome nutritious drink of the Mesoamerican elites.
To promote the “healthy” cocoa drink and to increase profits, chocolate manufacturers, in the mid to late twentieth century decided to cover a broader range of the population and extend the advertisements to target women. Companies like Rowntree and Cadbury used advertisements to help women express cultural identity and gain social meaning (Robertson, 19). A woman was considered savvy, thoughtful, caring and clever if she unfailingly fed her family cocoa, thereby fulfilling her social role in the society. In fact, the big chocolate manufacturers successfully used cocoa to portray women as “both the devoted mother (a demonstration of maternal love), and the savvy housewife (economical, efficient, nutritious)” (Robertson, 21). The focus around efficiency grew and chocolate soon became an instant hot cocoa mix, which a mother can easily prepare for her child without supposedly losing its nutritional value. The specific targeting of the cocoa drink to women thus allowed companies to falsely advertise a much inferior ‘fast food’ chocolate as a wholesome invention.
The cocoa manufacturers continued to capitalize on the ever-changing conditions of the twentieth century and altered strategies in order to appeal to a higher social class of consumers. They revived the luxury associated with chocolate by advertising in social magazines and newspapers, which were read presumably by socially aspiring classes. Robertson clearly highlights this:
To lend even greater sophistication to the product, the advertising copy then emphasized that [the] cocoa was on a par with that tasted on the Continent: ‘Once it was a fixed belief that to drink chocolate at its best you had to drink it in Paris. Now…you can make at home a pot of chocolate worthy of a cordon bleu.’ (Robertson, 26).
This luxury appeal and ‘aspirational’ consumption of a pleasurable commodity, over time, came to be associated more with chocolate assortments in various different connotations. Despite the advertising efforts of promoting a domesticated, wholesome, nutritious, healthy product, the chocolate drink, in reality, underwent no such transformation and instead continued to be targeted to kids and be cheaply manufactured.
To understand the sugar epidemic in chocolate drinks, it is important to look at the sourcing practices. From the beginnings in São Tomé and Príncipe, big chocolate companies have had questionable cacao sourcing practices. They have ignored the problem of child slavery and exploitation of farmers for many decades and still continue to do so. A recent lawsuit against the big chocolate companies revealed how the practice of sourcing cacao from West Africa still uses child slave labor. Despite the establishment of the Harkin-Engel protocol, the big chocolate companies have shown little to no improvement in their practices. Nestle for its part, founded the Nestlé’s Cocoa Plan in 2013 which is now the primary source for its products and chocolate drinks but it falls short in “involving the communities affected, supporting women and children by paying living wages, and helping consumers to clearly understand the food supply chain” (Hoffman). Millions of farmers and laborers who are providing us with a precious raw commodity are still living in poverty and the lack of capital has not only led to poor standards of living but also stagnant farming practices. With no invention, technology, education of sustainable farming or familiarization with the taste of the cacao produced, the chocolate used in these chocolate drinks will continue to be of low quality.
However, there is hope for the revered drink to make a comeback. In the past decade or so, a few artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate makers are changing the tide in favor of ethically sourced, good quality beans to make superior cocoa for drinking chocolate. One of those companies leading the trend is Escazu. Their micro batch bars made entirely on a small scale with ancient equipment provides a strong contrast to the richer, sweeter American-style cocoa produced on an industrial scale by the big chocolate companies. Escazu has even gone as far as reinventing a recipe from 1631, which they believe to be one of the first chocolate drinking recipes to be published. They have modernized this drink by using “whole spices to steep the drinking chocolates, which are made with hot water, like a strong tea, as opposed to milk-based American cocoas. The beverages are strained and frothed with the steam spigot of an espresso machine just before serving” (Lucas). Escazu is demonstrating to consumers and its peers that chocolate drinks can be complex and innovative. For such small companies, this is a very expensive endeavor and to take drinking chocolate to this level shows the commitment and dedication to revive the chocolate drinking culture.
Another artisanal chocolate maker at the forefront of drinking chocolates is Taza. Far from the imagery of Oompa-Loompa’s and chocolate rivers, this 100 percent bean-to-bar company has aimed for a more grown up image and taste (Thornell). It achieves this by adding low amounts of sugar, and by grinding “its cacao beans in traditional Mexican molinos, hand-carved stone mills”(Thornell). This anciently adapted process makes Taza different. The distinct gritty mouth feel of the chocolate requires a more mature palate and an acquired taste. Much like Escazu, due to their better sourcing and innovative use of ancient techniques, they are able to keep the sugar content low, raise the complexity of flavors and therefore elevate this drink. This experience encourages consumers to familiarize and immerse themselves in a new chocolate world.
These companies show that there can be a bright future for the art of crafting drinking chocolate. The industry can evolve to bring back flavor and respect that chocolate, as a drink deserves. It is not necessary to be forced onto the technologies of the industrialization era but instead tools should be developed on bringing flavor, complexity and richness to the masses. Sugar is a great ingredient that is still needed but the industry must realize the impact of sugar on our society. Innovative solutions to reduce sugar consumptions while providing a great product must be thought of collectively. The effort the industry needs to make must involve out of the box solutions that address taste, affordability and sustainability.
The aim of an advert is to promote a product and entice people to buy it. Marketing companies use people’s desires and emotions to promote products. However, in attempt to attract the largest audience, they often appeal to the general population and use social norms and stereotypes to advertise. For example, the vast majority of chocolate advertisements are targeted at women because women are stereotyped to consume vastly more chocolate than men, even though research has proven otherwise. Mintel found that females only consume 4% more chocolate than males (CNN; Mintel 2010; Mintel 2014). This is a surprising statistic. Many people expect a larger difference since advertisements have fostered the stereotype that women eat more chocolate than men. With advertisements present on televisions, billboards, the internet, magazines, newspapers, taxis, supermarkets, public transport, and many more places, it is estimated that each person is exposed to 3,000 advertisements per day (Johnson; Story). Therefore, problematic social beliefs are affirmed daily, as we are exposed to thousands of advertisements that perpetuate stereotypical representations of social norms. Therefore, even if an advert is based on a small idea, with daily exposure it becomes a stereotype, and the young next generation are fed these stereotypes and social norms such that they no longer see them as ideas but as truth. Thus, marketers have a huge influence and power on creating or affirming society’s beliefs. Therefore, marketers must be conscious of the message they send out as they advertise their products.
The Original Dove Advertisement
In 2007 the marketers of Dove were not careful with their advertising power and released the advert below. This advertisement is built on many troublingly social beliefs and is discriminative.
Firstly, Dove has completely sexualised men here. They centred and enlarged the abs to fill the entire advertisement, blurred out the sides and background, increased the shadow under each ab, and increased the light reflected off of each ab. This highlights and make us focus only on the muscle and its definition, as if that is the only thing that is important. The human body has many components: emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, and intellectual components. Even physically the human body has many parts and yet Dove chose to show only the male’s abdominal muscles. This promotes a superficial attitude towards men and degrades them to being an aesthetic pleasure, something of only physical worth.
Furthermore, Dove does not only degrade men to a physical body but even more so, their choice to use of a man of colour degrades black men to an object. Dove has used the racist social construct that as Caucasians are to vanilla, Hispanics are to caramel, and Asians are to butterscotch, blacks are to chocolate. Their use of a black model and dim enticing sexual lighting shows that Dove is fostering the idea that while whiteness symbolises ideas of cleanliness, purity, dullness, and blandness, blackness denotes themes of dirt, sin, extreme sexuality, and interest. Therefore, the lack of use of the model’s face and the use of the model’s skin colour to compare him as chocolate represents the disrespectful degradation of black men from a person to an object – a chocolate bar that is worth roughly one dollar.
From the small text at the bottom of the advertisement we see that the intended audience of this advert is a girl. The first issue is that Dove promotes heterosexual relationships and excludes homosexuals. Therefore Dove has tagged along and helped grow one of the biggest problems in chocolate advertising today – extremely frequently, only heterosexual relationships are used to sell chocolate. This Nestlé compilation video shows three examples of such exclusion towards those who are in the minority and are not heterosexually oriented.
Dove’s advert is not only sexist and discriminates against men, but their specific wording fosters common stereotypes that surround women too. The word “melts” plays on and encourages the idea that women are overly emotional and irrational over chocolate and muscles, so much so that their most vital organ will melt after one look at a six-pack and a taste of Dove’s chocolate. Additionally, the use of the word “girl’s” instead of “woman’s” is demeaning because it suggests that in this heterosexual relationship the male is superior and the female is inferior. All in all, Dove’s wording suggests that men are more dominant and in control, which promotes a patriarchal social construct and prevents us from moving towards a gender equal society.
The Recreated Advertisement
To show that it is possible to advertise chocolate without fostering disrespectful social norms, being racist, sexist, or excluding people, I have recreated Dove’s chocolate advert below.
The primary goal of an advertisement is to promote the product that you are trying to sell. Unlike in Dove’s advertisement, chocolate is clearly the product here. It is at the centre. It is large. It is clear. In Dove’s advert “Dove chocolate” was finely printed at the bottom and the tiny chocolate bar and pieces were in the lower bottom right corner. Previously, only if you looked closely could you have been able to tell that it was an advertisement for chocolate.
Furthermore, the recreated advert has moved away from promoting social norms. Since a six-piece chocolate bar has replaced the previously racialised and sexualised six-pack, the advert no longer degrades a person to their physique, nor to an object. The recreated advert also includes numerous races and people of different ethnicities so that the advertisement is neither exclusive nor racist. The ideas of a patriarchal society, overly emotional and irrational woman, and the exclusion of non-heterosexuals have been removed. Instead, the audience has opened up to be all-inclusive as the recreated advertisement plays on the idea that chocolate is fundamentally social: The Maya word “chokola’j”, a potential source for our Spanish and English word for chocolate today, means “to drink chocolate together” (S. D. Coe and M. D. Coe 61).
Marketing companies need to be more conscious about the methods they use to promote their products. There is no problem in promoting products to inform potential consumers what they might want to purchase; however, this should be done in a way that does not exclude, racialise, sexualise, discriminate, or degrade people or communities, or affirm or encourage the growth of disrespectful social norms. A safer way to ensure moral marketing is to keep the adverts focused on the product itself – what it can do, its purpose, and why it is worth purchasing. This will help prevent the fostering of disrespectful stereotypes and social norms and enable us to be a progressive society.
Prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination on the basis of sex run rampant in advertisements we see today (Martin). This trend is apparent especially in the marketing of chocolate products. Since the early days of chocolates history the consumption of chocolate in the west has been feminised and this feminisation of chocolate has made its way into chocolate advertisements (Robertson, 20). There are many trends in which gender is represented in chocolate advertisements such as the fetishisation of women as housewives and mothers, the gendered discourse of class, the narratives of heterosexual romance, and the depiction of women as irrational narcissistic consumers, to name a few that are discussed in Chocolate, women and empireby Emma Robertson. Lucy Kosimar conducted research on gendered advertising and found that “advertising is an insidious propaganda machine for a male supremacist society. It spews out images of women as sex mates, housekeepers, mothers and menial workers — images that perhaps reflect the true status of most women in society, but which also make it increasingly difficult for women to break out of the sexist stereotypes that imprison them,” which is in line with our discussion in lecture and what we see in chocolate advertising today (Komisar, 304). The advertisement that Anne Maguire and I chose to use for this assignment exhibits the gendered advertising trends that we have learned about in lectures and readings that I mentioned above.
The advertisement we chose is a print ad for Kit Kat, a chocolate product of Hershey in the United States (pictured above) and Nestle globally (Grasso). This global ad was produced in Italy according to our source. With the slogans “one-minute break” and “have a break,” this ad alludes to taking a quick break during a busy day to indulge in a satisfying Kit Kat. The use of the word “break” also relates to how you break a bar off the Kit Kat when you consume it. Although the slogans work well with the ad, the framing of the model in this ad is quite problematic. The woman in the ad is in workwear attire sitting in a chair as an invisible desk where she seems to be working on an invisible computer. If you look closely you’ll see on the left side of the ad in very small print that the ad is inspired by the “One Minute Sculptures” of Erwin Wurm. Written small on the side, casual readers might not see the blurb or understand the reference and they might question why this woman is at an invisible desk. Furthermore, the work that this woman is doing at her desk is very secretarial, which makes the ad even more problematic as this type of work is very stereotypical for women in the workplace. The woman in this kit kat ad is not portrayed as a strong business woman doing worthwhile work, instead she is portrayed as doing menial work at her invisible desk. This is similar to our discussion in class about the problematic depiction of bodies not brains (Youtube). In the Kit Kat ad the woman is dressed in a suggestive manner. Although she is wearing professional attire, what gained Anne’s and my attention is the slit on her skirt. The model has a very long slit up the front of her skirt. Although most professional business attire skirts are straight pencil skirts without slits, the woman here has a skirt with a long slit up the front of her skirt exposing most of her legs. Why do we need to see so much skin, this is an ad for chocolate isn’t it?!
The intended audience of this ad is women who have a quick break at work. The goal of this ad it to target these women- with this ad Nestle is hoping that this audience will consider having a Kit Kat during their one minute breaks at work. However, if business women are their intended audience, why would Nestle advertise an over sexualized woman who is not being shown as a dominant female force in the workplace? In re-creating this ad, Anne and I hoped to confront these objections.
In class we discussed the problematic depiction of bodies not brains in chocolate advertisements. In our ad Anne and I wanted to focus on the brains, not the body, of the woman in the ad. We also wanted to make sure to represent her as a determined, smart, and successful business woman. In our ad, pictured above, you can see that we replaced the invisible work environment with a real work environment. Our subject can be viewed as either exiting or entering a meeting room and is dressed more appropriately than the subject in the original ad. No longer do we see a skirt with an exaggerated slit up the front, now we see a woman dressed with minimal skin showing. We chose to add a message to the ad: “two perfect presentations down, two to go. Have a break, you earned it”. This message helps the ad call on the brains of the woman pictured and not her body. Instead of asking working women to take a break from doing their work at the computer to have a Kit Kat like the original ad asked, our ad is asking women to enjoy a quick Kit Kat break during a busy day filled with meetings and presentation. We better target the intended audience in our ad because we depict the working woman in a more favorable light in which she comes off as smart and important. It is surprising that this advertisement, just like so many other chocolate advertisements out there, use such negative depiction of women in their ads given the importance of women in the chocolate industry as consumers. In my opinion, the original ad is discriminatory against women and paints the company in an unfavorable light.
Grasso, Giuseppe. One-minute Break. Digital image. Kit Kat, n.d. Web.
Komisar, Lucy. The New Feminism. London: F. Watts, 1971. Print.
Martin, Carla. “Lecture 9: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” AFAM 119X. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium S010, Cambridge. Lecture.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-131. Print.
Cacao based products, as a commodity for Europe and North America, has historically been linked to the use of non free labor, and even today, exploitation of labor sources for profit continues to be standard practice. Many companies and organizations have committed themselves to a more ethical approach in the supply chain of their raw products, but slavery continues to exist as profit margins are prioritized over ethics. A practice solidified during the Middle Passage and is likely to continue unless there is a drastic overhaul in the harvest, production, or consumption of chocolate.
A labor intensive crop, the cacao plant requires intense manual labor for harvest. The demand for labor to farm and harvest the labor intensive crop, cocoa, grew alongside the increase in demand for chocolate by European and North American consumers. Since its initial discovery by the Spaniards who exploited Native American labour until they died of diseases introduced from Europe, the cocoa trade has continued to increase yield and profit through non free labor. The Middle Passage and the slave trade, used by Spain, France, Portugal, England, Holland, and Denmark to profit handsomely from buying African slaves with goods, using them to work the fields of the New World to produce luxury goods to sell in Europe and North America . The use of slave labor in the expansion of cocoa production, as well as other goods like sugar, rum, cotton, and tobacco, helped fuel the popularization of cocoa as it became more accessible to all, not just the elite, in the 19th century .
Despite bans of slave labor since the days of the Middle Passage, pockets of slavery continued to flourish while those freed were thrust into lives of poverty and disadvantage. Cadbury Chocolate, a successful Quaker chocolate maker who gained prominence in the 1860s in England, learned of the use of slave labor on cacao plantations in Sao Tome, and took nearly 10 years to take measurable action against the unethical sourcing of their raw materials . Today, these issues continue to persist and much attention has been paid, recently, to West Africa, where child labor and trafficking in connection to cacao farming is commonly practiced to supply labor as cacao prices for farmers drops. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are two countries where this is most prevalent, and the Ivory Coast alone supplies nearly 40% of the world’s forastero cacao . In the wake of an expose by BBC in 2000, United States congress attempted to introduce legislation to create a “no child labor” certification that was vehemently opposed by the chocolate industry . A compromise was struck and major companies signed The Engel-Harkin Protocol, a pledge to investigate and eliminate slave practices that failed to produce any results . CNN also produced a documentary in 2014 (see trailer below or watch full length documentary here) as part of their Freedom Project that that discussed the “Cocoa-nomics” behind the chocolate industry and its prevalence for nonfree labor . In 2015, a group of consumers filed a suit against Nestle, Hershey’s, and Mars for failing to advertise the use of slavery in the production of their products, duping consumers into supporting unethical practices .
These events, while they point out failures in the system, also suggest methods in which the use of unfree labor can be eradicated long term. On the production side, better rates for raw products will provide better financial freedom to farmers to send their children to school and avoid the need to procure unfree labor. Rates have decreased as more middlemen take out portions of profit for extra processing and marketing campaigns. Better agricultural management techniques for increased yield could also decrease the profit gap as healthier, more robust trees will provide more security for farmers. On the consumer side, increased awareness and willingness to pay more for a more ethical product will decrease demand for cheap chocolates that are made possible by child labor and will also pressure producers to cater to a different market for chocolate. While there are many approaches, none have made significant headway as of yet, and it is difficult to tell if history will repeat itself and if pledges will be fulfilled or not. Many companies have shown their support in forms of either pledges or certification. Nestle has publicized (as seen below) their investments into research and development efforts aimed at more efficient farming practices to increase incomes for farmers as a long term approach to addressing this issue . While these initiatives appear promising, they must be maintained long past the marketing efforts to assuage the consumer public and until viable solutions for unfree labor are cemented.
1. Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013.
3. Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005.
4. Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013.
From the Aztec and Mayan Empires to Europe and the New World, the chocolate drink of the elites became the solid treat for the masses. This remarkable transition was no easy process and did not happen over night. Many great minds emerged to shape the production and use of cacao by inventing processes and machinery to meet the world-wide high demand of chocolate. Without the brilliant confectionary minds that shaped the Industrial Revolution, the chocolate the world knows and loves today would not exist.
One of the most vital components of chocolate is sucrose (sugar), which is commercially extracted from several plants; and the simplification of sugar production is the start of what made chocolate for the masses possible (Mintz 19). The technology required for sugar’s cultivation and conversion encountered many obstacles, but one decisive step emerged (Mintz 25). The vertical three-roller mill was powered by water or animals and it eased the labor and time of sugar production (Mintz 25). The Crusades spread the use of sugar through Europe, and soon European countries were establishing sugar-producing colonies (Mintz 28/42). Without the new machinery and simplification of the sugar process, the sugar plantations would not have been able to meet the high and growing demand of sugar. “No other food in world history has had a comparable performance” in rise in consumption (Mintz 73).
The simplification and experimentation with cacao started with early documented uses of power machinery in the American colonies (Coe 227). 1776, in Europe, M. Doret began the use of machinery in chocolate confectionery with his invention of a hydraulic machine to grind chocolate into a paste (Coe 227). While at the larger market, “cacao beans were being ground on a machine that consisted of five rollers of polished steel” (Coe 227). These advances in machinery started to make mass production a reality. The Industrial Revolution started transforming chocolate from a “costly drink to a cheap food” (232). With these changes came the change in the per capita consumption of chocolate, which had maintained consistently, but now was surging dramatically with the rise in sugar consumption following (Coe 234).
The Big Changes
1828 started the beginning of the modern era of chocolate making and production with Dutch chemist, Conrad Johanness Van Houten, who took a process patent to manufacture a powdered chocolate with low fat content (Coe 234). He then developed a very efficient hydraulic press, which reduced the cacao butter content of chocolate liquor to 27-28 percent and eventually pulverized it to cacao (Coe 234). This was the fundamental invention that made cheap chocolate for the masses a possible reality. Another important year was 1847, when the Fry firm discovered how to mix a blend of cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter which could be molded into chocolate bars (Coe 241). In 1867, Henri Nestle, a Swiss chemist, discovered how to make powdered milk by evaporation (Coe 247). This discovery made it possible for Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer, to use Nestle’s powder in a new production of a milk chocolate bar in 1879 (Coe 247).
The changes of quality of chocolate were the next steps in the chocolate making process. 1879, Rudolph Lindt invented “conching”, which made the coarse and gritty chocolate a now smooth and creamy experience (Coe 247). Milton Hershey was another key figure in the chocolate world founding his own in Pennsylvania; with a social conscience he was able to bring chocolate to everyone (Coe 249). Hershey’s Kisses today are made in the millions making chocolate in the masses for the masses (Coe 252). Without the key figures in chocolate manufacturing, chocolate for the masses would have never became a reality. The drink of the elites in Mesoamerica was made into a treat for the masses with the brilliant minds and machinery that emerged from the Industrial Revolution, but without these key figures and inventions, chocolate may never have been available to everyone to enjoy.
Of the 60 million pounds of chocolate purchased by American consumers during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, 75% will be purchased by men and given as gifts to women in a display of romance and affection. This one-week period marks the only time of the year when men account for the majority of chocolate sales–during the other 51 weeks, women comprise the majority of consumers in this $83 billion chocolate industry (Anderson). The gendered nature of the chocolate industry is nothing new; rather, this perceived dichotomy in male and female consumption has existed since the Industrial Revolution, when innovations in production methods and access to cheap labor sources transformed chocolate from a luxury of the elite to a commodity of the masses. Operating under this new industrialized commodity model, early British chocolate firms began to invest heavily in advertising as a means by which to vie with one another for consumer brand loyalty. Advertising effectively served the profit-driven interests of competing chocolate firms, inserting itself as an intermediary between consumer and product in order to manipulate the relationship between the two. By exploiting hegemonic ideologies regarding race, gender, and class, advertising encouraged consumers to engage in particular patterns of conspicuous consumption as a means by which to actively position themselves along these social dimensions. As such, the very act of consumption became transformed into a powerful means by which to “express [one’s] sense of identity” (Robertson 19). Thus was born what has now become the multibillion dollar chocolate industry, the covetous hands of which have sculpted and promulgated many pernicious representations of gender throughout time.
Since the 19th century, chocolate firms have relied on marketing practices that have invariably upheld the primacy of the female chocolate consumer. Although specific content and imagery may change throughout time, chocolate advertising has remained consistent in its ability to arouse and manipulate the both the gustatory and socially conscious appetites of women. Preying upon distinctly female vulnerabilities within various contexts, chocolate firms have promised time and time again that their products can compensate for a woman’s “feelings of inferiority [and] insecurity” (Campbell 111). As early as the 19th century, chocolate firms were marketing cocoa as an essential tool of the devoted mother and savvy housewife, exploiting the self-doubt of women as household figures and further enforcing their association with the domestic sphere (Robertson, 21). In the late 1940s and 1950s, postwar Europe saw men disappear almost entirely from the world of chocolate advertisements, merely serving as bodies or voices to market products to a distinctly female audience (Robertson 32). Such advertising appealed to notions of romance, sexuality, and courtship, effectivelytransforming chocolate into an object of sexual desire for women. This trend is clearly evidenced in a video advertisement for a chocolate “FLING” bar:
This advertisement clearly equates a women’s scandalous involvement in an affair with her indulgence in a chocolate bar, promising that the latter fling, with only 85 calories, is “naughty… but not too naughty.” Such a representation reinforces the notion that a woman’s consumption of unhealthy sweets should guilt-ridden, concealed, and done only in moderation. However, by reframing the craving for chocolate as a sexual desire, advertisers transmute the act of private consumption into a statement of sexual liberty, and any previous hesitation the consumer may have had about indulging in this sweet treat is rendered irrelevant. As such, the female chocolate consumer is manipulated to believe that chocolate consumption will not harm her femininity, but instead enhance it through its romantic and sexually satisfying properties. It is thus no surprise that women in contemporary chocolate advertisements appear to be quite content with the lack of male presence, instead choosing chocolate and its promise of orgasmic pleasure as a preferred substitute to satiate their sexual appetites.
In a concerted rejection of this traditional association of chocolate with female consumption, Rowntree’s (now Nestlé) released their Yorkie chocolate bar in 1976 to provide a larger, chunkier, and more masculine alternative to the wide range of confections targeted at female consumers (Smith 334). Early Yorkie advertisements established the hackneyed, working-class Yorkie trucker as the face of the brand, appealing to males both in the working-class of York itself and across Britain more broadly; however, by the turn of the 21st century, this simplistic representation of masculinity had become overused and outdated. In order to ensure the Yorkie bar’s continued success, Nestlé released their 2001 “Yorkie: It’s Not for Girls” campaign in an effort to “reclaim” chocolate for the contemporary “British bloke” (Redfern). Yorkie accomplished just that, with profits skyrocketing by 40% over the course of the advertising period (Smith 337). The campaign “forbids” women from consuming the candy bar, explicitly stating that “IT’S NOT FOR GIRLS” and replacing the “O” in “YORKIE” with an image of a crossed-out woman in its packaging design. Further, widely circulated advertisements for this Yorkie campaign feature slogans such as “DON’T FEED THE BIRDS,” “SAVE YOUR MONEY FOR DRIVING LESSONS,” “NOT AVAILABLE IN PINK,” and “KING SIZE NOT QUEEN SIZE,” some of which are shown below.
These highly charged sentiments entered and overwhelmed national conversations about gender stereotypes; however, the extensive backlash in newspaper articles and radio pieces ultimately secured the success of Yorkie’s clever marketing scheme, which harnessed controversy in order to establish strong brand identity and achieve widespread visibility (Smith 337). Through such words, Nestlé aimed to convince their audience of working-class, British males that they too can partake in the traditionally feminine pastime of chocolate consumption, provided that it is a Yorkie bar. The Yorkie bar is presented as the only chocolate bar hearty enough for the lifestyle of a true man; in fact, through the emphasis of traditional stereotypes of masculinity, the very act of consumption becomes a simultaneous reaffirmation of manhood.
While Yorkie’s response to the female monopoly on chocolate consumption did successfully increase the visibility of the male consumer, its feeble attempts to promote gender equality fall decidedly short. Yorkie does not merely turn a blind eye to the vast array of problematic representations of women in chocolate advertising; on the contrary, Yorkie strives to preserve them, as the success of its marketing strategy hinges upon both the existence and broader cultural validation of these pejorative caricatures. The tongue-in-cheek presentation of such overtly sexist messages renders them difficult to challenge and critique, as the case can be made that these advertisements perpetuate stereotypes of both men and women. Although Yorkie does exploit clichéd perceptions of masculinity, its representations of the rugged and virile laborer are clearly dripping in irony and thus only superficially impact popular gender perceptions. This explicit parody of maleness stands in stark contrast with the more implicit ridicule of women, an imbalance that reflects a more pervasive gendered power disparity that exists within chocolate advertising and society as a whole.
The slogan “SAVE YOUR MONEY FOR DRIVING LESSONS” rests upon a problematic assumption of female incompetence and inferiority in stereotypically male pursuits. By replacing this statement with “YOU WORK HARD FOR YOUR MONEY, SPEND IT HOW YOU WANT,” Yorkie’s chauvinistic connotations can be eliminated while maintaining their appeal to a traditionally working-class consumer base. Yorkie’s other slogan, “DON’T FEED THE BIRDS,” is worse still, effectively dehumanizing women and making them to feel as though they must abstain from consumption of this bar in order to remain slim and thus attractive to men. This is further implied in Yorkie’s choice of ingredients, containing nearly twice the fat and calories as traditional chocolate bars. This less explicit statement rests upon the same assumption that women should and will steer clear of products that are high in fat, sugar, and calories. Yorkie and its consumers can thus be faulted for legitimizing the image of the idealized slender female body and perpetuating female body insecurity, and should be advised not to “FEED THE SEXISM” that is inherent in this campaign.
By fundamentally shifting their marketing strategies to cater to a gender-neutral audience, chocolate advertising carries the potential to perpetuate empowering messages of gender equality that could help to eradicate more pervasive gender disparities that have long been structurally engrained in society as a whole. While the Yorkie campaign does strive to level the playing field for chocolate consumers, its efforts are opportunistic and guided by profit rather than moral principles; however, the promise of positive social change is within reach if powerful chocolate firms like Nestlé wield their widespread influence in a more socially conscious way.
Anderson, L.V. “What’s Up with the Stereotype That Women Love Chocolate?” Slate. The Slate Group, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.
Campbell, Colin. 1995. “The Sociology of Consumption.” Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies. Ed. Daniel Miller. London, England: Routledge.
Fahim, Jamal. Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing. Thesis. Occidental College, 2010. Occidental: OxyScholar, n.d. Print.