Tag Archives: production

Interview With A Chocolate Lover

 This interview is being conducted for the purpose of chocolate research, and to gain a deeper understanding of how chocolate affects people’s lives.  Many people enjoy the delicious, sweet substance, yet not all are aware of the history.  The interviewee will be asked a series of questions about how chocolate affects her life.  She enjoys chocolate on a daily basis, and so this interview will be beneficial to everyone. First, she will be asked about her favorite kind of chocolate, and why she chose it.  Secondly, how chocolate has affected her life, either health wise, or pleasure.  Lastly, we will discuss how chocolate has progressed, or stayed the same over the years. For example, does chocolate taste the same now, as it did hundreds of years ago?  Is chocolate as healthy now as it was in the time of the Mayans or Aztecs? The interview will give everyone a new perspective on almost every aspect of chocolate.  Without further ado, let’s begin our interview with a chocolate lover.

The interviewee was born and bred in Southeast Michigan, and is now twenty-one years old.  Her obsession with chocolate began when she was very young.  She recalls, “eating chocolate as young as two years old when my father would feed me spoonful’s of chocolate ice cream.” I laughed, responding, “Yes, chocolate ice cream is very good.  Do you still enjoy chocolate ice cream?” She replied, “Of course! Only, now I eat organic, dairy free chocolate ice cream.” At this point, it was a perfect time to move the interview toward our first question.  Obviously the interviewee has enjoyed chocolate her whole life, and it would be interesting to know what is her favorite kind of chocolate.

She replied, “My favorite chocolate comes the Endangered Speciesbrand, and my favorite flavor is Dark Chocolate, With Forest Mint.” It sounded delicious. I asked, “Why is that your favorite brand of chocolate?” Interviewee: “Well, the ingredients are healthier than something you would find in a Nestle brand for example.  This brand is a NON GMO product, Kosher, certified gluten free, and certified vegan. It also contains around 70% cocoa.”  It was refreshing to know that the interviewee had a respect for healthy, organic chocolate.  I was able to research the product, and gathered the ingredient information.  It contains, “BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE (CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, CANE SUGAR, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA), NATURAL MINT FLAVOR” (Chocolatebar.com).  It also contains 5g’s of fiber, 12 g’s of sugar, and 3 g’s of protein.  The total calories per bar is 210.  The fact that the interviewee was aware of the health benefits of cacao surprised me.  Cacao is the purest form of chocolate, and to give the reader some perspective, we will explore its origins.

The following information has been qouted from my last blog post, Eat More Organic Chocolate!: “Christopher Columbus was said to have brought some back with him, after his fourth trip to the New World, but Europe was not quite ready to acknowledge its significance.  Actually, “It was his fellow explorer, the Spanish Conquistador Don Hernán Cortés, who first realized their commercial value. He brought cocoa beans back to Spain in 1528 and very gradually, the custom of drinking the chocolate spread across Europe, reaching England in the 1650s” (Cadbury).  Cacao, the ancient chocolate of the world, had just started its long journey to modern popularity.” (Wydo)

In fact, “By 1682, a British report detailed cocoa exports from Jamaica to Boston. By inference, cocoa exports into the colonies can be assumed to be used for local chocolate production, marking the beginning of chocolate production in the American colonies” (History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American ColoniesSnyder).  It became so popular in North America, that even John Adams and his wife would have some with their morning breakfast.  Snyder records, ‘“John and Abigail Adams were very fond of chocolate. In 1779, John Adams, while in Spain, wrote, “Ladies drink chocolate in the Spanish fashion. Each lady took a cup of hot chocolate and drank it, and then cakes and bread and butter were served; then each lady took another cup of cold water, and here ended the repast.” Abigail Adams, writing to John Quincy Adams in 1785, described drinking chocolate for breakfast while in London.””

Cacao has a deep and rich history.  The interviewee was read the information to give a better perspective.  In response, she said, “Wow, I thought I knew a lot about Cacao, but apparently not.  I did not know that Abigail Adams drank chocolate for breakfast in London. That is very interesting.  It seems like chocolate was a delicacy in those days.  People of high class consumed it.  They made it popular.”  Next, I wanted to move the interview towards my next question. I asked, “How has chocolate affected your life in all areas? Do you consume it for health, pleasure, or perhaps both?

The interviewee replied, “I love chocolate for many different reasons. Chocolate is not just something I eat or drink for pleasure, but something I consume for my health as well. There are many ways to consume chocolate.  You can eat it from a chocolate bar, drink it hot chocolate, enjoy some chocolate ice cream, sprinkle it on desserts, and so much more.  Chocolate is just fun to prepare. You can enjoy it so many different ways.  As I mentioned before, I only eat organic chocolate that has a high percentage of Cacao in it.  The reason for that is because cacao has numerous health benefits.  Raw cacao contains, magnesium, Iron, Flavonoids, and PEA.”

Luke: “Where did you get this information from?” Interviewee: “From a Women’s Health article. I’ll go ahead and read you some of the article now. The article reads, ‘“Raw cacao is one of the best food sources of magnesium – a mineral that many of you lack from your diet. Magnesium is essential for energy production, for a healthy brain and nervous system, for our muscles and for strong bones and teeth. Magnesium may also support a healthy blood pressure. Cacao is a source of iron, which builds the blood and helps to transport oxygen around our body, as well as potassium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium. Cacao can also be high in flavonoids, which have antioxidant activity. Raw cacao and flavonoid-rich chocolate have been linked with heart health benefits including increasing the good form of cholesterol (HDL) in our blood, lowering blood pressure and even improving vascular function in patients with congestive heart failure. These effects are thought to be primarily due to the antioxidants contained in the cacao.In addition, cacao contains a compound called phenylethylamine (PEA for short!). PEA is thought to elevate mood and support energy, and is said to be one of the reasons that many people love chocolate! Raw cacao is also very low in sugar, and of course does not contain any milk, so is suitable for those who are milk-sensitive or following a low-sugar diet”’ (Menato).  Luke: “Yes, chocolate is very good for you! I did not know all of that information.  I actually wrote a blog post for this class, and I quoted an article written by James Howe.  I’ll read you part of the article. It reads, ‘In the mid-1990s, with funding from the Mars Company, Hollenberg set out to prove that what protected the Kuna from heart disease was chocolate. As the research has progressed since then, he and other researchers have zeroed in on a “flavanol” in chocolate called epicatechin, which, he says, may protect against diabetes and cancer as well as high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks.”’ Interviewee: “I’m glad I eat and drink plenty of chocolate! That research really makes me grateful for Cacao.  It truly does impact your health in a positive way.”

At his point in the interview, it was my intention to steer the conversation towards social issues surrounding chocolate, and it’s production.  The interviewee has a history of being very passionate about human rights, so this topic was perfect for our conversation.  First, I wanted to gauge her familiarity with the subject.  After doing research, I was astounded from what I found.

In America chocolate isn’t given a second thought. Everywhere you turn there is chocolate. From candy to desserts there is no shortage. Most often, Americans do not give a second thought to were products we use and eat come from and the effects those products have on other societies in order to produce it for our enjoyment.  Luke:“Do you mind if at this point in the interview, we discuss the effects chocolate has on society?” Interviewee: “Of course not! I love being able to talk about these things because it brings awareness to the subject.” Luke: “Let me start off by reading from an interesting news posting from the BBC. It quotes, ‘African cocoa farms are still employing hundreds of thousands of children, the BBC has discovered, 10 years after the world’s leading chocolate companies promised to tackle child labor. Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest cocoa producer with as many as 800,000 children working in the industry, often in dangerous jobs’ Humphrey Hawksley reports from Ivory Coast. Most Americans today do not know this. It’s so important that people today are educated’” (BBC News).

Luke: “Another interesting article I found from Fortune.com reads, “Child labor in West African cocoa farming first became a cause célèbre around the turn of the century when a number of pieces of investigative journalism focused the world’s attention on the plight of children who had been trafficked to Ivory Coast to farm cocoa, often from other former French colonies such as Mali and Burkina Faso, and held as slave laborers. In a documentary that aired on the BBC, filmmakers interviewed young boys in Ivory Coast who said they’d been beaten and forced to work long hours without pay. One who said he’d been working on a cocoa farm for five years was asked what he thought about people enjoying chocolate in other parts of the world. “They are enjoying something that I suffered to make,” the boy answered. “They are eating my flesh.”” (Fortune.com).”

Interviewee: “Wow.  I knew that chocolate production has posed these kinds of risk’s to kids in Africa, but I was not aware of all these facts.  It honestly breaks my heart.” Luke: “It breaks my heart too because there’s not much we can do except boycott these companies who buy their chocolate from West Africa.  However, almost everyone buys their chocolate from there.  According to the same article, around 70 percent of the worlds cacao is grown there.  This means that they produce around 60 percent of the global market in chocolate.”

Luke: “Another source reports, “Holding a single large pod in one hand, each child has to strike the pod with a machete and pry it open with the tip of the blade to expose the cocoa beans. Every strike of the machete has the potential to slice a child’s flesh. The majority of children have scars on their hands, arms, legs or shoulders from the machetes. In addition to the hazards of using machetes, children are also exposed to agricultural chemicals on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Tropical regions such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast consistently deal with prolific insect populations and choose to spray the pods with large amounts of industrial chemicals. In Ghana, children as young as 10 spray the pods with these toxins without wearing protective clothing (foodispower).” Interviewee: “That is devastating.  It really makes me rethink who I will be buying my chocolate from!”

Luke: “I hope I haven’t turned you off from chocolate altogether! The reason I bring up these issues is because we as Americans need to be more aware.  It is all about bringing awareness to the issues at hand, and doing everything we can do to help.  For example, when you go to buy your chocolate, buy brands that are committed to eco-friendly production.  This way, you know that no child is suffering in an effort to produce it.  Another thing you can do is not buy from brands that are known for importing from West Africa.  Choose another brand.  It’s all about taking small steps toward a better tomorrow.  Anyway, I was so glad you accepted my invitation for this interview. You have really brought a fun atmosphere.  I have enjoyed getting to know you and your favorite chocolate better!” Interviewee: “Thank you so much Luke.  I had fun as well. Let’s raise our chocolate bars to a great interview!”

 

Works Cited

 

  1. http://www.chocolatebar.com/products/dark-chocolate-with-forest-mint/
  2. History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies.” History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies: The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site,
  3. Menato, Francesca. “Cacao Powder Benefits | Why It’s Better Than Chocolate.” Women’s Health UK, womenshealthmag.co.uk/weight-loss/healthy-eating/2736/health-benefits-of-raw-cacao-over-chocolate/.
  4. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, vol. 12, no. 1, 2012, pp. 43–52., doi:10.1525/gfc.2012.12.1.43.
  5. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” Fortune, Fortune, fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/.
  6. “Ivory Coast Cacao Farms Child Labour: Little Change.” Http://Www.bbc.com/News/World-Africa-15681986.
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An In-depth Look Into Dandelion Chocolate: How a Unique Bean-to-Bar Craft Chocolate Company Positively Transforms the Way to Supply, Manufacture, and Retail Chocolate

Dandelion Chocolate, a small-batch chocolatier cafe, sits in San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood, The Mission. Founded in 2010 by Todd Masonis as a cafe, Dandelion Chocolate has expanded to retailers across U.S and Japan, designed tours and classes, and diversified its menu offerings with several new recipes in addition to the company’s handmade candy bars (2). Masonis, CEO of Dandelion Chocolate and previously a software developer, started the company with a vision to scale, to transform the chocolate industry, and to challenge people’s customary view of chocolate. This paper will conduct an in-depth analysis of the company’s supply chain, chocolate manufacturing process, and retail strategy. Throughout I will highlight how Dandelion’s innovative techniques are challenging the Big Five chocolate makers and redefining how chocolate is produced and sold. By the end, it will be clear how Dandelion continues to be a part of the solution to the problems in the cacao-chocolate market.

BeanTo-Bar: The Supply Chain from Cacao Trees to the Dandelion Factory

Three words sum up Dandelion’s supply chain — precise, sustainable, and global. As a bean-to-bar chocolatier, Dandelion emphasizes the quality of the beans it uses in its chocolate bars and menu recipes. The company focuses on simplicity. Since Dandelion “uses only two ingredients to make [their] chocolate — cocoa beans and organic cane sugar”, the company has to be particular of the sourced beans’ flavor profiles (2). This directly contrasts the origin, sourcing, and flavor profile of the Big Five chocolate makers. Early in Hershey’s development, Milton S. Hershey hired a chemist before firing him and hiring John Schmalbach who helped create Hershey’s taste profile that we still see today (4). When Schmalbach was done experimenting, he arrived at “a mild-tasting milk chocolate that had the perfect bite — like al dente pasta — that melted smoothly in the mouth” (4). This product utilized swiss condensed milk which helped Hershey easily pump, channel, and pour the chocolate through mass production. Unlike Dandelion’s simple single ingredient taste profile, Hershey confuses consumers with its chocolate nutritional profile. On Hershey’s site, the company states their chocolate bars are made with “simple ingredients — and never any artificial flavors, preservatives or sweeteners” (5). These ingredients include “farm fresh whole milk, cocoa 100% certified, almonds, sugar from the finest sugar plantations, and vanilla” (14). How can we believe Hershey’s promises? To begin to answer this question, consumers can look at the back of Hershey’s chocolate bar.

The iconic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar wrapper from 1973-1976. Clearly, consumers can see contradictions from the website today in the ingredients section. Artifical flavoring is added (6).

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act require food companies to show nutrition labeling (1). Fortunately, this gives consumers the honest answer to the question stated above. Under the ingredients tab, Hershey lists that an artificial flavoring is added in addition to other ingredients that are not common to the average consumer (5). This is the first evidence of how Dandelion is redefining the chocolate market and supply chain process for the better. Dandelion is so precise with its sourcing and ingredients that it can give consumers the transparency and trust they desire. On their site, Dandelion gives a distinct background of the supply chain process, the origin of each of the beans, and the Chef’s preparation technique for each of the products that it retails. These details get as precise as the cacao percentage, the single origin location, ingredients, and when the cacao beans were harvested.

This is the MAYA MOUNTAIN, BELIZE 70% chocolate bar. It is one of the many single origin chocolate bars sold on Dandelions retail site and in stores. The bar’s flavor profile and the cocoa beans terror serve up beautiful “hints of honey and caramel with notes of strawberries and cream.” Finally, the bars are made with just cocoa beans and sugar, no added cocoa butter, lecithin or vanilla (10). 

 

 

 

Consumers can be confident they are getting fine cacao and that the ingredients in their chocolate are not unhealthy with too much sugar or saturated fats. This last point is critical as chocolate makers such as Ferrara, Lindt, and Nestle are making real commitment to increase health awareness surrounding chocolate products, provide better labeling and packaging, and partner with Healthier America.

Each year Dandelion publishes a sourcing report that is easily accessible on their site. The 2016 sourcing report, 48 pages long, provides consumers with information on the executives core philosophy, the geographic location where beans sourced, the fermentation and drying style, cultivation notes, farmer’s certifications, cacao beans’ exporter, tasting notes, company’s relationship/history with each farmer, price they paid per tonne in each region, and date of the company’s last visit to the farm to do a checkup (3).

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An example of all the information from the sourcing report for Bertil Akesson’s organic estate in Ambanja, Madagascar, the place Dandelion purchased their first full bag of beans, is shown above (3).

Dandelion’s control of the entire supply chain as a bean-to-bar chocolatier gives them the flexibility to synthesize and present all this information. 

In addition to providing precise transparency to consumers of every detail in the supply chain process, the Dandelion executives discuss the importance of sustainability in their core philosophy. Dandelion “pays a premium price for their cacao far above the world market price (that is fixed rather than dependent on an arbitrary market)” (3). This information is presented in the sourcing report. The average market price for cacao in 2016 was $2,892.16 per tonne. The least Dandelion paid for cacao $5,100.00 per tonne, the most $7,500.00 per tonne, and $6,599.00 per tonne on average.  This increase in income solves many of the cacao industry’s problems. With prices at the average market price or less than half Dandelion’s price, cacao farmers earn less than $2 per day in Western Africa (9).

In the two pictures, we see the ethical problem in the chocolate industry. In the picture on the left, a young boy is performing hard labor with a machete to chop cacao pods from high up in a cacao tree (16). The child faces physical and developmental risks from this kind of labor. Further, the highlight the systematic effects of child labor, the lack of education, the lack of enforcement of child labor laws, and the effects of you consuming chocolate from companies who exploit these problems (17). 

The problem is most prevalent in Western Africa where stories like of 16-year-old Alhassan Ali, who took the opportunity to work on a cocoa farm in western Ghana and left his home. Quickly, Alhassan felt “cheated as life was hard” and the conditions unbearable for a teenager who had no choice after his father died.

Children are thrown into these jobs to help their families, although less than one-quarter of cacao farmers would recommend that their children go into farming and the fact that this violates international labor laws (12, 18, 8 ). The work is dangerous and the risks include fatigue, mosquito-borne diseases, and agrochemical poisoning.

Since cacao is a commodity and harvested seasonally, cacao farmers struggle with volatile income. Dandelion executives recognized this problem as they “used to buy beans as needed but sometimes that led to chaos and stress both on the part of their team as well as on the part of our suppliers” (3). In 2016, the company constructed a 5-year plan in which they would buy beans one year in advance in order to help alleviate the stress on their producers. Employees from Dandelion visit their producers each year to ensure the quality of the cacao, environmentally friendly farming practices, and sustainable conditions for the workers. If you don’t believe their mission and core philosophy, then you can ask their producers themselves, since the company provides names, locations, and pictures to earn consumers’ trust.

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Vincente Norero, the manager of Camino Verde Cacao farm in Ecuador, sits on top of one of his machines as he explains the genetics of cacao in his region to visiting employees from Dandelion (3).  

Additionally, a major component of Dandelion’s long-term planning strategy is a rigorous quality assessment beyond fine cacao or bulk cacao, which the Big Five use. This evaluation starts out “breaking down cacao producers based on physical quality, sensory evaluation, and hedonic preference” (3). Dandelion gives the producers enough feedback so that the farmers know what is the flavor profile and the terroir that the company wants.

Finally, Dandelion has created a global network of producers that provide the company with a diverse set of high-quality cacao. Dandelion strengthens relationships between the community of producers by emphasizing information sharing. Producers in different regions visit each other and share their techniques and experiences. For instance, the heads of the farm estate “Brian and Sim from Kokoa Kimili visited Zorzal in the Dominican Republic” (3). This is unlike any craft chocolate or large chocolate make and this may be the CEO Todd Masonis’ secret weapon to scale the craft chocolatier business. The company has two factories across the globe in San Francisco and Japan. They both support the company’s global sourcing of cacao in 7 different regions: Madagascar, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Belize. This degree of diversity is uncommon for one company. In fact, “70% of the world’s cocoa is grown in the region and the vast majority of that supply comes from two countries: Ivory Coast and Ghana” (7). Dandelion not only ensures to source diverse cacao but also does not mix cacao from different regions or farms. This is powerful in the cacao in the cacao industry. Not even regulation or certifications can effectively track that companies keep to this promise like Dandelion does. 

Bean-ToBar: The Exquisite Manufacturing and Chocolate Production Process and Ingenious Retail Strategy

Once the factory receives the diverse, high-quality cocoa beans which have been fermented and dried in their regions, the company undergoes another precise taste tests on each batch. Surprisingly, each testing of a batch may take “as many as eight to sixteen tastings before they are happy with the taste profile” (2). Next, the batch is sorted and dirt, rocks, and defected beans are removed.

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Here, the chocolatiers use a machine they built in-house to winnow and remove the shells. However, the company says that your household hair dryer would work the same (15).

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A melanger is used to stir and crush beans creating small particles and more fluid chocolate state (11).

After these steps, the chocolate is packaged until it is ready to be tempered and transformed into chocolate bars.

This highly technical process ensures that each chocolate bar holds up to the company standard that no added ingredients or artificial flavoring are included in the end products. The company even offers tours and classes to teach chocolatiers their craft chocolate secrets. The whole production process is transparent. This eliminates any need for certification from organizations like Fair Trade, USDA Organic, or Rainforest Alliance. Instead, consumers are educated on the labor conditions, ingredients, quality, and health information from researching online on Dandelion’s site. Dandelion utilizes this transparency and network of information to scale their consumer base and challenge the chocolate industry to have the same care for all parts of the process.

Finally, Dandelion is redefining the retail strategy for chocolate. Most people are accustomed to purchasing chocolate bars from large retail and convenience stores like CVS, Walmart, and Target. The large chocolate manufacturers spend millions on advertisements in commercials, billboards, and magazines. However, Dandelion’s executives have taken a different approach. The company’s first establishment, the Dandelion Chocolate Cafe, is the model for how Dandelion will transform the chocolate industry and how consumers expect to consume chocolate. Music blasts from the speakers playing a hip playlist that caters to the diverse crowd in the cafe. Children, young teens, and chocolate connoisseurs from Mission District crowd the shop on Valencia street for the chocolate wrapped in gold foil and custom wrappers, the blowtorched s’mores, or for a bag of locally roasted, single origin cocoa beans.  Adopting the executives’ Silicon Valley marketing and trendy style, Dandelion Cafe consumer and sales skyrockets in its first years. The company reached “$1 million in early 2013 after opening its factory/cafe in the Mission” (19). Shortly after a year, more outposts were built in Tokoya and across California. All the while, the company has elevated its online presence with a vibrant website which hosts a blog, instructional videos, and information about each of their products and locations. What was once an antiquated industry ruled by roughly 5 chocolate manufactures is being transformed by two software engineering executives and their ambitious company to scale handmade, craft chocolate globally. No longer can the chocolate industry exploit poor working conditions in their supply chain, obscure nutritional information, or produce low quality chocolate because Dandelion Chocolate and many other craft chocolate companies businesses are transforming the industry and the consumers are recognizing this transformation.


Works cited

  1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Labeling & Nutrition – Small Business Nutrition Labeling Exemption.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm2006867.htm.
  2. “Dandelion Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate, http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/.
  3. “Dandelion Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate, http://dande.li/2016SourcingReport
  4. D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126
  5. “Fooducate.” Lose Weight & Improve Your Health with a Real Food Diet, www.fooducate.com/app#!page=product&id=530B67CE-E108-11DF-A102-FEFD45A4D471.
  6. Hershey Community Archives | Hershey’s Milk Chocolate: Bar Wrappers over the Years, www.hersheyarchives.org/exhibits/default.aspx?ExhibitId=20&ExhibitSectionId=44.
  7. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” Fortune, fortune.com/big chocolate child-labor. O’Keefe, Brian. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” Fortune, @2018 Time Inc., fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor.
  8. International Labour Organization. January 26, 2000. “Convention 182.” http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc87/com-chic.htm. (3/01/14)
  9. Kramer, Anna. March 6, 2013. “Women and the big business of chocolate.” Oxfam America. https://www.oxfamamerica.org/static/media/files/oxfam-fact-sheet-women-and-cocoa-screen.pdf (9/4/17)
  10. “MAYA MOUNTAIN, BELIZE 70%.” Products, http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/store/products/maya-mountain-belize-70/#anchor.
  11. “Melanger.” Process, http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/about13.png.
  12. Price, Larry C. July 10, 2013. “One Million Children Labor in Africa’s Goldmines.” PBS. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/world-july-dec13-burkinafaso_07-10/. (3/03/14)
  13. Ryan Órla. Chocolate Nations Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2012.
  14. “Take a Look inside Our Factory.” Our Brands, http://www.hersheys.com/en_us/our-story/our-ingredients.html.
  15. “Winnow Machine.” LE GRANDE EXPERIMENT, http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/2015/05/12/le-grande-experiment-part-2-making-chocolate-steve-devries-style-in-denver/.
  16. “Child Labor: The Dark Side of Chocolate.” WilderUtopia.com, 3 Mar. 2018, http://www.wilderutopia.com/international/earth/child-labor-the-dark-side-of-chocolate/.
  17. USA, Fair Trade. “Is There Child Labor In Your Chocolate?” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/fair-trade-usa/is-there-child-labor-in-y_b_9169898.html.
  18. Martin, Carla D. “Lecture: Modern Slavery”
  19. Shanker, Deena. “The Rise of Craft Chocolate.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 7 Feb. 2017, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-07/the-rise-of-craft-chocolate.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

[v] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid.

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

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

Walgreens: My Unlikely Source Of Chocolates*

About The Taster

It is not a secret to those who know me well that I love chocolate. I specially enjoy super dark, extremely bitter (70-90%) Cacao bars. I also like—the unfortunately less nutritious—white chocolate products. I regularly buy white chocolate bars or bon bons from local grocery stores. Yet, my finest inclinations—as a chocolate taster—are always in favor of the darkest, unsweetened, highly concentrated cacao bars. 
 
According to content learned in Harvard University professor Carla D. Martin’s class Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, I am a hypertaster or someone who has “more papillae that are very closely arranged and smaller” (Martin, 13). This can make me an unreliable taster, and it probably explains my experience with tasting food—I always sound either very excited or really disgusted about flavors in contrast to most of my friends, who seem balanced in their perception of taste. Regardless of the odds, I continue to be their main “adviser” on good local restaurants. This is probably due to my “passionate” approach, which grabs their interest. 

Why Walgreens? 

I regularly walk to a nearby Walgreens drugstore to get my prescriptions (see fig. 1 and fig. 2). It was not until joining professor Martin’s class that I paid attention to their chocolate section. It actually happened around Valentine’s, when most of us (particularly females) are targeted with advertisements and offers of candy and chocolates. Very curious—recalling our class’ discussions—I explored these isles at the store and I found—not surprisingly—an “avalanche” of well known chocolate brands (like Lindt, Cadbury, Nestle) lying next to the candy section (see fig. 4).
Fig. 1. Walgreens drugstore at Vermont Avenue and 6th Street, Los Angeles, California.

Fig. 2. Pinned location of Walgreens at Vermont Avenue and 6th Street, Los Angeles, California. 

Walgreens was founded in 1901 by Charles R. Walgreens in Dixon, Illinois. He started Walgreens as a “50 feet by 20 feet” (“Our Story”) drugstore, which later developed into a giant chain of pharmacies, and successfully expanded across the United States. In the Walgreens website, its motto reads, “A history of our company: How a neighborhood drugstore became America’s most trusted pharmacy… and changed the shopping habits of a nation” (“Our Story”) That seems consistent with the Walgreens of today, which steadily renovates its inventory to offer beauty, household and even grocery products (see fig. 3).
Fig. 3. Walgreens’ online shopping portal.

The Walgreens Experience

So, who goes to Walgreens for chocolates? Is it just me? Highly doubtful! I visit the store at least once per month. Since last Valentine’s their chocolate supply was re-stocked. I was shocked to see some of the brands that professor Martin reviewed in class (i.e. Endangered Species Chocolate) at my local Walgreens. Their wide list of product categories, makes Walgreens a good candidate for casual grocery and retail shopping. And when it comes to chocolate and candies, I am not alone. The day that I chose to take pictures for this assignment, I had to move aside several times to let other shoppers shop, and to let their children run wild over the candy section. 
 
It is perhaps its versatility—as business scholar Katy Mullis suggests in her paper A SWOT Analysis of Walgreens in the Competitive Pharmacy Marketplace—what keeps the retailer thriving. Mullis describes the advantage of their extensive product selection, “The company strives to offer a merchandise mix in line with this focus, providing customers with one-stop stopping for not only prescription drugs, 6 but also over-the-counter-drugs, health care products, grocery selections, gifts, holiday and seasonal items, and one-hour photo developing” (Mullis, 5-6). Walgreens—based on Mullis’ work—holds strongly as a convenience market. People go there to order prescriptions, and spend no less than fifteen minutes waiting for them to be ready. This gives the company a tremendous advantage to sell more than just pharmaceutical goods. I personally buy candles and incense at Walgreens since 2015—and now, I additionally buy their chocolates and wine. 

Judging The Book By Its Cover 

Although Walgreens sells a great variety of chocolates, it is not a specialty shop for cacao products. It conveniently stocks brands that are popular and generally available in other food markets. Therefore, I was not expecting to find fancy delicacies there—and none else should. It would be an exception from their purchasing habits if it ever happened. Nevertheless, their chocolate selection is sufficiently versatile—considering that Walgreens is primarily a pharmacy, and not a grocery chain like Ralphs or Gelson’s.

 Fig. 4. Walgreens’ “Chocolate-Candy” section at a Walgreens store in Los Angeles, California.

The chocolate bars sold at Walgreens range from low to very good quality—as far as branding and taste. Some of their prevalent brands were mentioned at professor Martin’s class: Hershey’s, Cadbury’s, Nestle, Lindt, etc. It is uncommon to see organic products there (I did not find any at all), or certified products in general. But sometimes random supplies make it to their shelves and one stumbles upon a deliciously crafted chocolate bar.
 
With this research in mind, I selected and purchased a few items that attracted me. Recalling the chocolate tasting activities performed by professor Martin, I bought two of the Endangered Species Chocolate brand. I also picked the Chili and White Coconut—of course—bars from Lindt and a few others, nicely appealing (presentation-wise and content-wise). Notwithstanding, I avoid Hershey’s and Cadbury’s almost all the time. I feel that they make products that are so sweet and “distressed” that I am unable to taste any real chocolate in them. 

Tasting And Researching Chocolate 

My “repertoire” consisted of the items shown below (see fig. 5). Fig. 5. Chocolate Tasting Selection.

The description of the products in the picture is the following (in random order):
  • 1 Damak Fine Chocolate with Pistachios bar by Nestle, $2.89 / 2.80 oz.
  • 1 Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios bar by Nestle, $2.89 / 2.80 oz.
  • 1 Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond with Blood Orange Flavor bar by Brookside, $3.89 / 3.17 oz.
  • 1 Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds bar by Endangered Species Chocolate, $4.29 / 3 oz.
  • 1 Dark Chocolate With Cranberries & Almonds bar by Endangered Species Chocolate, $4.29 / 3 oz.
  • 1 Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate bar by Lindt, $2.50 / 3.50 oz.
  • 1 Excellence White Coconut White Chocolate bar by Lindt, $2.50 / 3.50 oz.
The results of the experiment produced the following graph, showing percentages (fig. 6):
 
Fig. 6. Measuring Chocolate Tasting Results.
  • The tastiest bar: Endangered Species Chocolate’s Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds.
  • The best deal: Lindt’s Chili Dark Chocolate.
  • The worst product: Nestle’s Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios.
The worst tasting experience corresponds to Nestle’s Damak series. Professor Martin remarked during her lectures about processing chocolate, that over-conching can result in a “flat, lifeless” (Martin, 56) and dull product—which was evident when tasting the Damak series. In regards to Brookside’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate with Blood Orange Flavor, I was dazzled by its fancy name and its presentation. Beautifully enclosed in a delicate foil envelope, it featured sketches of almonds, cranberries and an orange tree etched in silver color over a dark red background (see fig. 7). Whereas its base cacao mix did not feel over-conched or poorly processed, the presence of so many strong flavors (orange, almonds, cranberries) created an ambiguous taste that did not impress my palate, so I classified it as too busy. 
 
Decidedly, my preferred choice became the Endangered Species’ Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt & Almonds. It has a sharp, lively, delicious chocolate presence along with salty, crispy notes of sea salt and almond chunks. The only downside of this brand is that it is pricey—looking at the cost and its net weight. However, all of its certifications and its quality make it seem worth the investment. Regardless, certifications should be interpreted with caution—according to professor Martin’s research titled The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe, co-authored with Kathryn E. Sampeck—because often they result in misguided efforts that do not really support cacao farmers as they claim to, and that benefit primarily “wealthy consumers” (Martin and Sampeck, 52) frequently halting “innovation by prioritizing consensus among participating companies and incentivizing only baseline standards adherence, ultimately becoming part of the problem” (Martin and Sampeck, 52). The problem—in this case—refers to the ever-growing poverty in many cacao-producing nations, and in the difficulties experienced by cacao farmers to sell their raw materials and to collect their earnings afterwards, whether they participate or not in certification programs.
Fig. 7. Brookside’s Refined Cranberry Almond With Blood Orange Bar.
 
In the next section are the details about the ratings from the chocolate tasting experiment. 

Observations From The Experiment

Nestle’s Damak Fine Chocolate with Pistachios:
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Mild taste, almost like candy
  • Burnt garlic after taste
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: SadeOfset
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 3/10
  • Presentation: 2/5
  • Price: 2/5
Nestle’s Damak Dark Chocolate with Pistachios:
  • Dark Chocolate (55%)
  • Soil-like taste, almost like dirt
  • Bitter after taste
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: SadeOfset
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 3/10
  • Presentation: 2/5
  • Price: 2/5
Brookside’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate with Blood Orange Flavor:
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Fruity flavor, citric
  • Mildly bitter
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: Smartlabel
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 7/10
  • Presentation: 5/5
  • Price: 4/5
Lindt’s Excellence White Coconut:
  • White Chocolate
  • Fruity, coconut
  • Sweet
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: N/A
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 8/10
  • Presentation: 5/5
  • Price: 5/5
Lindt’s Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate:
  • Dark Chocolate (47%)
  • Spicy, chili
  • Sweet
  • Cacao: regular (non specified)
  • Certifications / Program: N/A
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 9/10
  • Presentation: 5/5
  • Price: 5/5
Endangered Species’ Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds:
  • Dark Chocolate (72%)
  • Sharp, salty and crunchy
  • Just perfect
  • Cacao: Fair Trade, Non-GMO
  • Certifications / Program: Fair Trade, NON GMO Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified Vegan
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 10/10
  • Presentation: 4/5
  • Price: 3/5
Endangered Species’ Dark Chocolate with Cranberries & Almonds:
  • Dark Chocolate (72%)
  • Fruity, spicy and crunchy
  • Just perfect
  • Cacao: Fair Trade, Non-GMO
  • Certifications / Program: Fair Trade, NON GMO Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified Vegan 
  • Caloric Information: Yes
  • Rating: 9/10
  • Presentation: 4/5
  • Price: 3/5
These are certifications reported by the products:
Contents (fig. 8):
  • Kosher, Dairy
  • Fair Trade
  • NON GMO Verified
  • Certified Gluten Free
  • Certified Vegan
Fig. 8. Product Certifications. 
Packaging (fig. 9):
  • SadeOfset
  • Smartlabel
  • PCW Certification

Fig. 9. Packaging Certifications.
 
A curious detail revealed by the experiment, was the ubiquity of packaging certifications. Almost every chocolate product at Walgreen’s shelves displayed one or more packaging certification logos—even when the product itself was not certified. This proves that consumers are not only interested in eating well: they are also concerned about the impact that the products they consume have in the environment. Hopefully, consumers will succeed in voicing their interest to chocolate manufactures and cause them to buy more certified raw materials, and to support standardized certification programs. 

Putting It All Together 

Shopping at Walgreens for chocolates was quite an experience. If it was not because of taking professor Martin’s class, it would have likely skipped it. Yet, her class succeeded in making me a more conscious food shopper. I feel now compelled to read food labels and to check for certifications, which—other than USDA Organic—sounded irrelevant to me before enrolling in Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Understanding the difference between Fair Trade, USDA Organic and other classifications does make a difference in the “wholesomeness” and perception of a product. I am specially keen about the complex chain of connections that begins at a chocolate farm and ends on the hands of the consumer. I “pledge” to use more discernment in my future purchases by supporting transparent, environmentally and socially conscious chocolatiers.
 
An additional takeaway from professor Martin’s class—which becomes obvious while shopping for groceries—is that sugar and chocolate are quasi inseparable. Often, they are displayed in contiguous shelves, so that it is hard to define where the candy ends and the chocolate begins—this was the case at Walgreens (and many other stores). Perhaps, the subliminal reason for this is that most chocolate products nowadays are so overwhelmingly processed that—as author Samira Kawash puts it in her Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure book—there is an “ancestral” link between them: 

“The ancestral relation between candy and today’s ultraprocessed foods is a compelling reason to look a little more closely at the rise of the candy industry and the controversies and worries that accompanied it. The story of candy in America is a story of how the processed, the artificial, and the fake came to be embraced as real food. And it’s also the story of how it happened that so much of what we call food today is really candy.(Kawash, 26)

What Kawash suggests has been historically documented and marked by the evolution of the advertisement and media. Today’s most renown chocolate brands in America (i.e. Hershey’s) produce hyper-processed, hyper-sweetened chocolate goods. There is almost no difference between eating these chocolates and eating pure candy. But there is new is hope for a positive change that arises from consumer awareness. We—as consumers—can and are transforming the current food market. The dangers of sugar addiction and chemical processing are being exposed, and food shoppers are turning to natural alternatives. We are all hopeful about the rise of healthier and tastier food (and chocolate) that—most definitely—will lay in the hands of our millennials! 
*Disclaimer: This essay is drawn from a personal experience. Therefore, it is written in First-Person.

Works Cited

Faith, Arleena. Brookside’s Refined Cranberry Almond With Blood Orange Bar. 2017.

Digital photograph. Los Angeles, California.   

Faith, Arleena. Chocolate Tasting Selection. 2017. Digital photograph. Los Angeles,

California. 

Faith, Arleena. Measuring Chocolate Tasting Results. 2017. Digital graph. Los Angeles,

California.

Faith, Arleena. Packaging Certifications. 2017. Digital collage. Los Angeles, California.

Faith, Arleena. Product Certifications. 2017. Digital collage. Los Angeles, California.

Faith, Arleena. Walgreens’ Chocolate-Candy Section. 2017. Digital photograph. Los

Angeles, California.

Kawash, Samira . Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Farrar, Straus and Giroux,

2013, New York, Print. Apr. 2017. 

Martin, Carla D. (2017). Lecture 4: Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal [PowerPoint

presentation]. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Martin, Carla D. (2017). Lecture 12: Psychology, Terroir, and Taste [PowerPoint

presentation]. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in

Europe.” Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2015. Print. 2017 May 2.

Mullis, Katy. “A SWOT Analysis of Walgreens in the Competitive Pharmacy

Marketplace.” College of Health and Human Sciences Oregon State University, Corvallis,

Oregon. 2006. Web. 2017 April 20. http://www.teschi.edu.mx/TESCHI-web/TESCHI-papelera/%20cevm/diapositvas/Anexos%20Modelos/Anexos%20Modelo%20Empresa/DAFO/A%20SWOT%20Analysis%20of%20Walgreens.pdf

“Our Past.” Walgreens, 2017. Web. 2017 April

28, https://www.walgreens.com/topic/history/ourpast.jsp

“Shop” Online shopping portal. Chicago: Walgreen Co., 2017. Walgreens. Walgreen

Company. 2017. Web. 2017 April 28.

“Walgreens.” Online map. Los Angeles: Google Inc., 2017. Google Maps. Google

Maps. 2017. Web. 2017 April 28.

Walgreens. 2017. Photograph. Google Maps. Google, Inc. Web. 2017 April 28. 

Does Good Chocolate Exist: an analysis of vertical product differentiation in the market for chocolate

The candy aisle in CVS features a colorful selection of sweet confections ranging from caramels to sour gummy candies. Of course, the most prominent appearance in the confectionery aisle is chocolate – chocolate in fact makes up more than 60% of US confection sales (National Confectioners Association). Within the chocolate category there is further variation in brand, flavor, and quality – marked by differences in prices. In the field of industrial organization (how firms make decisions), we call variation in a category of product that cannot be objectively determined as qualitative difference, horizontal differentiation. Variation that can be objectively determined as qualitatively specified is called vertical differentiation. Chocolate products exhibit both forms of differentiation – it is impossible to agree on the qualitative difference between one brand’s milk chocolate bar and dark chocolate almond bar (horizontal differentiation), but everyone can agree that a craft designed chocolate bar is qualitatively better than a generic Hershey’s bar (vertical differentiation).

In fact, the difference between chocolate candies and chocolate has become a source of great debate of recent, with eleven food producing associations, including the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Snack Food Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, petitioning the FDA to expand the definition of chocolate to include products that use vegetable oils and fats instead of cocoa butter – products which currently must be called “chocolatey” or “chocolate-flavored” (May, 1). The debate speaks to an issue central to the commercial world of chocolate: what makes chocolate, chocolate, and what makes some chocolate objectively better than others? The factors that horizontally differentiate chocolate products simply cater to different tastes, and effectively offer separate subproducts. The vertically differentiated spread however, is more interesting because its factors are significantly more nuanced and shed critical light on the global chocolate industry. This paper will first discuss the chocolate industry’s vertical differentiation strategies, and then critique the assumption that more expensive chocolate is ethically and qualitatively better.

So what goes into the rise in price (upwards of double) from CVS’s chocolates in the candy aisle to those in the “premium chocolates” section just around the corner? First, we see a simple disparity in packaging. The recognizable brown and white Hershey’s bar, orange and yellow Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and colorful assortment of M&Ms is contrasted with the sleeker look of the premium chocolate bars. These bars are, impressively, all colored darkly, with gold lettering, or in the case of Ferrero Rocher individually wrapped in gold foil. Many of the bars are described with catch phrases, also in gold lettering, signaling to consumers that their products are superior to classic chocolate candies – Lindt’s “Excellence”, and Chuao’s “Gourmet Handcrafted Chocolate”.

image5

(The candy aisle  in Harvard Square CVS, showing Hershey’s Kisses and Reese’s Pieces in foreground)

image6

(Landscape layout of Hershey’s chocolate bars in candy section)

image1

(Premium Chocolates section around the corner from the candy aisle, notice gold lettering and clean portrait orientation of chocolate bars)

 

Brand/Product Name Price per ounce ($/oz) Motto/Catchphrase Additional Points
Hershey’s 0.47 Made with farm fresh milk “Cocoa is rich in antioxidants”
Reese’s (Hershey) 0.54 Filled with Reese’s peanut butter n/a
M&M’s (Mars) 0.53 Chocolate candies n/a
Lindt 1.14 Excellence, gourmet chocolate “Exotic Fruits” collection
Endangered Species 1.00 Indulge in a cause nonGMO, Fair Trade, gluten free, vegan
Ferrero Rocher 1.05 A tempting combination Individually wrapped in gold foil
Ghirardelli 1.14 From bean to bar Encourages use in cooking with recipes
Chuao Chocolatier 1.89 Gourmet handcrafted chocolate Chef name, master chocolatier’s message

 

Another tactic to show higher quality visually is the inclusion of diagrams, graphics, and special messages on the back of the bars. Ghirardelli bars include a four panel description of the production process “from bean to bar”, claiming that the company’s ability to control each of the steps causes their chocolates to have “ultimate quality”. Every Chuao chocolate bar is detailed with both an autograph from a particular chef, assumed to be involved in the specific flavor of chocolate bar, and a message from the “master chocolatier”. In comparison, the cheaper chocolates have essentially no additional information about the product – the classic Hershey’s Bar simply says “made with farm fresh milk”, Reese’s cups are “filled with Reese’s peanut butter”, and M&Ms are simply described as “chocolate candies”. The most subtle difference in packaging style is likely the orientation of the bar – while the candy chocolate bars are typically oriented landscape (so that when you read the front, the bar is wider than it is tall), whereas every bar in the “Premium Chocolate” section is oriented portrait (so that it is vertically longer than it is wide).

Beyond the fancy packaging, the most expensive chocolates justify their higher prices with claims to better ingredients. On each of the higher end chocolate brand’s websites, stress the importance of using “superior ingredients” in their chocolates. Asides from claiming that the ingredients selected for their chocolates are better than those used in cheaper chocolates, premium chocolates are marketed as having ingredients specifically selected from specific regions around the world. This is especially true for Craft Chocolates, a category of chocolates too luxurious to be included even in the premium chocolates section in CVS. Potomac chocolates for example, which sell at a whopping $5.11 per ounce, are sold in bars horizontally differentiated according to cocoa bean source. Consumers are essentially paying the extra dollars to taste specific regional cocoa beans in their chocolate.

Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 3.59.08 PM

Potomac chocolate bars differentiated according to source of cocoa beans (https://www.potomacchocolate.com/shop/ )

Some chocolates, including Endangered Species chocolate, also adhere to specific dietary demands by highlighting the use of gluten free or vegan ingredients. Although these specifications don’t objectively imply a change in quality of the product, they do appeal to consumers who have specific diets and can afford specific diets.

The final factor that plays into the quality difference across chocolates is the process of chocolate production. As aforementioned, Ghirardelli is especially proud of their control on the entire chocolate-making process “from bean to bar”, so much so that they include a diagram of it on each chocolate bar. The claim here is the same as with many craft chocolatiers – that with the ability to control each step, from roasting the beans, to grinding, to milling, and conching, comes the opportunity to create both a unique and elite product. Although not necessarily a factor into the flavor of the product, many premium chocolates also boast ethically sourced ingredients, organically farmed ingredients, and environmentally conscious processes. Frequent appearances include the simple use of the phrase “ethically sourced ingredients”, Fair Trade certification, nonGMO certification, and USDA Organic. Endangered Species chocolate is not only a brand that displays all of the above certifications, but is also a brand completely devoted to environmental conservationism – particularly the preservation of endangered species, as its name suggests. The company pledges to donate 10% of net profits from its chocolate sales, and each chocolate bar is dedicated to an endangered animal, including interesting information about the animal and its status. The video below describes the process of Endangered Species’ involvement in aiding the recovery of endangered species around the globe.

Though again, saving endangered species has no direct effect to the quality of the chocolate, it adds a side value to the product, so that consumers willingly choose to pay more for the double benefit of chocolate and saving endangered animals.

As presented, there are myriad factors that play into the price spread across chocolates of assumed differentiated quality. We will now evaluate these factors in order to cement whether the most expensive products are justifiably priced as better products than generic chocolate candy bars.

The most noticeable difference between cheap and pricier chocolates, at first glance, is packaging. Aesthetically packaging is obviously a marketing tactic, and to some degree, consumers are paying for a prettier box around the chocolate, with better sounding catchphrases. Although the flowery language may not actually provide useful information about the product, this kind of product differentiation could in fact be an effective method to signal, in an effort to combat market information asymmetry. Information asymmetry is an economic concept describing a transactional state where one or more sides of the transaction is not fully informed about the transaction or product – a market inefficiency that could result in no transactions taking place, even though the buyer and seller could feasibly form an agreement if the necessary information was fully disclosed. Signaling is a strategy that the supplier can utilize to signal to consumers that their product is in fact a high quality product – advertising, for example, signals to consumers that a firm is well-established enough to even afford advertising, and by extension their products must be trustworthy (Investopedia, 1). In the market for chocolate, unless consumers choose to try all chocolate products that exist on the market and determine, by tasting, which products are in fact the best (which is unlikely – consumer behavior tends to favor revisiting familiar products), it is up to chocolate makers to accurately reveal their value to consumers. Spending extra money per bar of chocolate to decorate the bar with fancy text, textured paper, diagrams, and heartfelt messages from the makers of the chocolate signals to chocolate buyers that these products took more effort, money, and care to create, and that thus they must be better than the less-aesthetically wrapped chocolates.

A second claim held by many of the most expensive chocolate brands is superior or specific ingredients. In terms of ingredients, the cheaper chocolates are surprisingly not particularly different from expensive chocolates, when the cheaper chocolate is simply chocolate. However, when a Hershey’s bar adds some peanut butter and becomes a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, suddenly ingredients like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil make an appearance – an ingredient which “distorts cholesterol levels, encourages obesity, causes inflammatory conditions, and can even be a cause of infertility” (Collier, 1). Contrarily, expensive brands have significantly shorter ingredients lists, and maintain healthier ingredients even when the flavors become more complicated; for example, Lindt truffles use vegetable oil, but avoid refined or hydrogenated oils. From a health perspective then, plain chocolate (milk or dark) is generally as healthy in cheap chocolates as in expensive chocolates when eaten in moderation, while the chocolates in the more interestingly flavored category are definitely healthier in expensive brands.

The focus on specific sourcing of cocoa beans is a particularly nuanced strategy for vertical differentiation of chocolate. The theory that contextualizing a food infuses the food with another layer of flavor is part of the “psychology of taste” discussed by Carla Martin in her April 19th lecture. In this lecture Martin described the particular contextualizing of a food’s origin as Terroir, or “the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with the plant’s genetics, expressed in agricultural products”, or simply a “sense of place” (Martin, 4/19). Terroir is a legitimate factor that affects flavor, and products that are able to bring out the Terroir in the chocolate by single-sourcing, simplifying other ingredients or simply bringing the cacao source to attention arguably do in fact offer a unique (and justifiably more expensive) product. There is however an important caveat to the use, or abuse, of Terroir.

Social activist Bell Hooks writes of the problem of “Othering” in Western consumer culture in his work “Eating the Other”, a concept that can absolutely be related to many food industries in the US, including the chocolate industry. In her work Hook describes the use of ethnicity as spice – “when race and ethnicity become commodified as resources for pleasure, the  culture  of  specific  groups,  as  well  as  the  bodies  of  individuals,  can  be  seen  as constituting an alternative playground where members of dominating race […]  affirm  their  power-over  in  intimate  relations  with  the  Other.” (Hooks, 2). For the most part chocolate companies seem to be able to utilize Terroir without objectifying foreign culture, but the line between an appreciation for source and the commodification of other cultures is grey and difficult to clearly draw. It is important that chocolate firms don’t simply repeat the chocolate industry’s historical trend of cultural appropriation, slavery, and exploitation, by commodifying a region of the world and its inhabitants as a flavor.

The final category of factors that seem to affect chocolate quality is the use of ethically and environmentally conscious processes. The goals behind certifications like USDA Organic, Fair Trade and other ethical trade certifications are generally ethically fantastic goals, like environmental conservation and the abolition of child slavery in cacao farms. However the efficacy of each certification is not always straightforward. In an April 5th lecture Carla Martin described a list of problems with Fair Trade, including problems with product quality, issues with corruption and favoring richer farmers, harming farmers who don’t have access to Fair Trade, and ethical questions in marketing (Martin, 4/5). Other trade organizations like Direct Trade and the organizations to which Endangered Species Chocolate donate face similar critiques. In addition, a Fair Trade and USDA Organic certification does not necessarily imply that the entire product is completely fairly traded and organic, because they allow products to have categoric certifications with certain percentages of fairly traded or organic ingredients. These certifications then, don’t necessarily imply that a product is 100% ethically, environmentally, and economically conscious. Regardless of actual effect, products marketed as being certified by one or more of these organizations appeal to the goodwill of consumers, and take advantage of a “feel good” factor in consumer “taste” preferences.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, not all of the factors assumed to boost chocolate products’ value are as ethically conscious or environmentally helpful as they seem to be. However, in general, high-end chocolates are in fact healthier and better quality products, and are signaled as such with more extravagant packaging, leaving cheaper chocolate confections to rely on consumer familiarity to continue to sell. At first glance, attention to details in production processes, Terroir, and side goals (like animal and environmental concerns) seem to simply be added to “spice” up products; which would be horizontal differentiation and not justifying of higher prices. However there is some backing to added value in elements of taste idolized by haute cuisine, like Terroir and a sense of doing good in the world. Ultimately, prices are determined by consumer demand, and it seems consumers are becoming increasingly excited buyers of premium chocolates, as demand for premium chocolates is currently growing at 11% – the largest sector of growth in the confection market (Zhang, 1). Although preferences for the chocolate we find in the candy aisle will likely always exist, and the quality and ethical concern of the best chocolate is not quite perfect, the increased awareness for issues in the chocolate industry and higher expectations for product quality reflected in this consumer sector growth is encouraging. Chocolate can only get better.

Sources Cited

Collier, Andrew. “Deadly Fats: Why are we still eating them?”. Independent UK. 9 June 2008. Web. 05 May 2017. <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/healthy-living/deadly-fats-why-are-we-still-eating-them-843400.html&gt;

Hooks, Bell. “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance.” Black Looks: Race and Representation. PDF. 1992.

Investopedia. “Signaling Approach”. Investopedia. Web. 05 May 2017.<http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/signallingapproach.asp&gt;

Martin Carla. Lecture. April 5, 2017. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University.

Martin, Carla. Lecture. April 19, 2017. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University.

May, Cybele. “Hands off my chocolate, FDA!” Los Angeles Times. 19 April, 2007. Web. 05 May 2017. <http://www.latimes.com/la-oe-may19apr19-story.html&gt;

National Confectioners Association. “Data & Insights”. Web. 05 May <2017. https://www.candyusa.com/data-insights/>

Zhang, Yu. “5 Facts About the Chocolate Industry.” Reynolds Center. National Center for Business Journalism, 12 Oct. 2016. Web. 05 May 2017. <http://businessjournalism.org/2016/10/5-facts-about-the-chocolate-industry/&gt;.

An Interview with a Chocolate Lover: Issues within the Chocolate Industry Revealed

Curious about people’s relationship with chocolate, I interviewed a young female adult about how her relationship with chocolate has changed from childhood into adulthood. The interviewee has never learned about chocolate, but she alludes to various historical, economical, and social issues within the chocolate industry throughout the interview. Specifically, she raises ethical issues about cacao farming practices, and explicates how business transactions harm chocolate producers. The interviewee is a college-educated individual, and demonstrates significant knowledge about these issues presumably because of her enrollment in a course about the sociology of food. Based on her responses in the interview, it is clear that this course changed her relationship with food and influences her current food decisions. Through the interview, the interviewee illuminates glaring issues within the chocolate industry related to the production of cacao, exploitation of cacao farmers, and chocolate advertising. First, she raises issues that about the production of cacao by demonstrating awareness about the economic difficulties cacao farmers face, and by discussing logistical issues about certifications that attempt to combat those economic issues. Second, in describing her chocolate preferences and perceptions, she alludes to issues regarding chocolate marketing strategies, and demonstrates the immense influence that chocolate advertisements hold over consumer purchasing decisions.

Before evaluating the historical, economic, and social issues within the chocolate industry revealed by the interviewee, it is necessary to explain the similarities between cacao and coffee bean production. The interviewee learned about coffee production in a course at a prestigious university, so this section purposes to provide legitimacy to the issues she raises about cacao production by emphasizing that the coffee and cacao industries experience the same problems, thereby qualifying her arguments about coffee production as applicable to cacao production as well. First, the working and economic conditions of coffee and cacao farmers are almost identical. Most coffee farmers produce beans on small, family-owned farms, and live in poverty.[1] Coffee farmers typically rely on bean sales as their primary source of income, but it is extremely volatile because it responds to any fluctuation in bean market prices and sales.[2] Second, coffee farmers can obtain Fair Trade and Organic Certification. Fair Trade promises the same benefits to coffee farmers as it does to cacao farmers, including minimum price premiums, social development, better labor rights, and long-term trading partnership.[3] Third, a large gap exists between coffee producers’ farming practices and coffee consumers’ purchasing decisions. There are stark differences between farmers that produce specialty coffee, and farmers that produce conventional, non-certified coffee. Demand for specialty coffee is on the rise because consumers, particularly those that identify with the ethical eating, Slow Food Movement, are willing to pay more for certified, eco-friendly coffee.[4] Higher quality coffee beans are sold at a higher price in the market, but most coffee consumers are unaware of the implications of their coffee-purchasing decisions.[5] Lastly, similar to the chocolate industry, a few select big coffee companies – less than 10 – control more than half of the coffee market.[6] These similarities are important to recognize, as the interviewee recalls this knowledge in the interview, and subsequently reveals that the economic and social issues afflicting coffee farmers and production are the same issues that exist in relation to cacao farming and production.

coffee beancacao bean

Image 1: Coffee Bean                                                                             Image 2: Cacao Bean

The interviewee brings attention to the importance of the raw coffee bean product to the existence of the entire coffee industry. Through this observation, she emphasizes the complete disconnect between coffee production and coffee consumption, revealing that the same issue exists within the chocolate industry. The interviewee comments, “without the farmers, you wouldn’t have the product. They’re the ones creating the base product to make coffee. They’re often the most forgotten. That’s like with any food product.”[7] This remark deserves close evaluation, as it perfectly describes the fragmented functioning and separateness of the different sectors of the coffee industry, also applicable to the chocolate industry. With that remark, the interviewee astutely explains that these complex industries rely wholly on the raw product, the bean, and without which, coffee and chocolate might not exist. This comment is interesting because it offers a simplistic vision that connects the necessity of the raw product to the consumer industry miles and miles away. This perception also illuminates how coffee and chocolate consumers are highly unaware of the implications of their purchasing decisions on the economic livelihood of the producers. Pictured in images 1 and 2 are a coffee and cacao bean, respectively (Image 1 and 2). These visuals purpose as a reminder to consumers that the coffee they drink from Starbucks, or Lindt chocolate they eat from their local supermarket, are products that begin with coffee and cacao beans, harvested and cultivated by farmers. Production and consumption are inherently connected, however, farmers are often naïve about the final product and consumers are often uneducated about the raw product process, both of which exacerbate the separateness between different players within the coffee and chocolate systems.

USDA organic labelImage 3: USDA Organic Certification Label

The interviewee discusses logistical issues with the Fair Trade and Organic Certification protocols, revealing that these labels harm rather than benefit cacao farmers and production. Fair Trade, Organic, and Direct Trade certifications share a common goal to compensate cacao farmers that produce their beans in adherence to specific environmental and social standards at a higher price than the conventional market offers.[8] The United States Department of Agriculture divides organic products into three categories, “100% organic,” “organic,” and “made with organic ingredients,” where each category is defined based on strict agricultural practice regulations.[9] Agricultural products that adhere to these standards are labeled with the “USDA Organic” logo, pictured in Image 3 (Image 3). In viewing this image, it is apparent that the USDA Organic label is not informative, as the certification seal does not specify whether the product is made with 100%, 95%, or at least 70% organic ingredients. The lack of information on this label raises questions about the authenticity of these certifications, and how organic certification guidelines are monitored. In probing about her knowledge regarding Organic Certification, the interviewee says “there are requirements…You can still use pesticides, but [the farmers] use “organic” or “natural” pesticides that are “better” for the environment…I know there are loopholes in the organic certification process.”[10] Here, the interviewee identifies the major criticisms of the USDA Organic Certification process in relation to cacao farming and production practices, alluding to claims of product quality issues and loose surveillance of organically certified cacao farmers’ adherence to USDA guidelines.[11] As revealed through her remarks, the vagueness of this label generates confusion among consumers. Furthermore, these observations illuminate the need for tighter institutional regulation of USDA Organic protocols, both for the benefit of consumers – ensuring that cacao farmers are following certification standards, guaranteeing that consumers are purchasing actual organic cacao – and for the benefit of the producers – that they are properly compensated for producing cacao beans using environmentally-friendly farming practices.

The interviewee circles the debate about the effectiveness of Fair Trade certification’s impact on cacao farmers’ economic situation through her advocacy for Fair Trade coffee bean farming and production. Similar to organic certification, Fair Trade certification encourages sustainable farming practices, while also promoting social welfare and establishing long-term trading partnerships.[12] In explaining the benefits of Fair Trade for coffee farmers, the interviewee says, “the farmers work long, laborious hours and they don’t get paid very well unless they are in the Fair Trade system…more money goes to the farmer when it’s a Fair Trade transaction.”[13] Through this comment, the interviewee reveals two similarities between coffee bean and cacao production that are problematic for the farmers. First, she describes the difficult working conditions that coffee bean farmers endure, such as long and physically fatiguing hours, and subsequently suggests that the farmers are underpaid considering their strenuous working conditions. She alludes to a prominent issue that cacao farmers face in that they are not properly compensated for their grueling laborious efforts, and that their contributions to the chocolate industry are severely under-valued. Second, she asserts that Fair Trade certified coffee farmers are more economically stable than non-certified coffee farmers, referencing minimum price premiums and prompt payments promised by Fair Trade to certified farmers. This suggests that consumers perceive Fair Trade as an impactful certification that improves farmers’ economic situation. However, in reality, there is no strong evidence that the Fair Trade system is effective in combatting farmers’ economic crises, particularly that of cacao farmers.[14] This misconception is problematic, as consumers’ might purchase Fair Trade products hoping to improve farmers’ income situation, unbeknownst to the faults of Fair Trade.

The interviewee explicates that some of her food decisions are based on the ethicality of food production practices, but names high prices of Fair Trade and Organic products as a barrier that prevents her from always purchasing certified products. In regards to the cacao industry, attempts to improve the ethicality of cacao farmers’ working conditions by consumer advocacy groups more often than not fail.[15] Chocolate consumers are often uneducated about the complexities of the chocolate industry, making it difficult for consumers to grasp how their purchasing decisions impact the economic and/or social situation of cacao farmers. Therefore, consumers cannot be responsible for initiating change of the exploitative economic and social conditions endured by cacao farmers. Surprisingly, the interviewee demonstrates a deep consciousness about the relationship between production and consumption, explaining that she became a vegetarian because “I don’t like the treatment of farm animals on conventional farms…Also, I don’t like the growth hormones and antibiotics.”[16] This reasoning suggests that she chooses the type of food she consumes based on the ethicality of food production practices. She further explains that she prefers to consume organic food, as “It’s more environmentally friendly.”[17] Again, she adopts an ethical argument to support her preference to consume organic over conventional farm products. However, she subsequently mentions that she does not always purchase certified Organic or Fair Trade products because they are “more expensive.”[18] This confession reveals a common misconception among consumers that certified products are always more expensive, which is false, as Organic and Fair Trade farming practices can actually cost the same or less than conventional farming practices.[19] Through her remarks, it is clear that the interviewee is a conscious consumer, as she chose to become a vegetarian because of inhumane treatment of animals on conventional farms, indicating her care for ethical farming and production practices. However, her perception that Organic, Fair Trade, and Direct Trade products are more expensive than non-certified products alludes to major critiques of certification organizations, commonly accused of corrupt practices and falsely promising cacao farmers fair payment. Through the interviewee’s comments, she illuminates a significant issue that Organic, Fair Trade, and Direct Trade are actually more harmful than beneficial to cacao farmers’ economic and social conditions.

woman eating chocolate     Image 4: Gender in Chocolate Advertisement

Through the interviewee’s description of her chocolate perceptions and preferences, she reveals an issue rarely addressed, that of the immense control chocolate advertisements exercise over consumer choice. Chocolate advertisements commonly portray chocolate as an aphrodisiac, and as a luxurious product, through women’s sexuality.[20] Image 4 exemplifies this theme, as it pictures a woman, seemingly wearing no clothes, holding a piece of chocolate to her lips, with a seductive facial expression (Image 4). The image portrays chocolate as a desirable food through the sexual presentation and nature of the woman. The brightly colored lipstick brings focus to her lips, and accompanied by the sensual facial expression, the ad attempts to associate chocolate with love and romance. Furthermore, the woman is highly manicured, adorned with extravagant accessories, which contributes to the depiction of chocolate as a decadent and highly valuable product. Several times throughout the interview, the interviewee references chocolate as a “luxurious item.”[21] This association of chocolate with luxury precisely demonstrates the strong influence of chocolate advertisements, such as image 4, on consumers’ perceptions of chocolate. When prompted to reflect about chocolate advertisements, the interviewee pauses and appears puzzled, admitting a moment later that she only notices chocolate ads around Valentine’s Day.[22] Again, this emphasizes the effectiveness of chocolate marketing strategies to portray the product as an aphrodisiac, as consumers evidently associate chocolate with romance and love. The combination of a presumably seduced woman and a chocolate product, exampled in Image 4, contribute to this representation of chocolate as desirable. Most importantly, the interviewee illuminates that consumers are highly unaware of two issues related to chocolate marketing. First, the strong influence chocolate ads possess in forming their perceptions of chocolate, and second, the exploitation of female sexuality to deliver this specific representation of chocolate products. Based on the interviewee’s susceptibility to the impact of chocolate advertisements on her perceptions, and her unawareness of gender exploitation that litters these ads, it suggests that the chocolate industry should be taking action to enforce regulations that will reduce the influence of chocolate marketing on consumer perceptions and regulate chocolate marketing content.

Trader Joe's dark chocolate bar     Image 5: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Product

The interviewee’s description of her chocolate preferences further demonstrates consumer susceptibility to the influences of chocolate advertisements. The interviewee reveals she favors dark chocolate, offering “I buy it at Trader Joe’s…I like the pure flavor of their products.”[23] First, Trader Joe’s is a grocery store that advertises the sale of organic, natural, fresh food at low prices. Second, recall that the interviewee prefers organic food, but high prices prevent her from purchasing organic products. Keeping these two pieces of information in mind, the interviewee’s comment suggests that she purchases chocolate at Trader Joe’s because it is both organic and affordable. In addition to these conscious reasons, the packaging of the chocolate may also contribute to the interviewee’s decision to purchase dark chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s, though she is unconscious of this influence. Image 5 exemplifies a dark chocolate bar product sold at Trader Joe’s, one that the interviewee might encounter (Image 5). This package exercises marketing strategies to influence consumer choice by emphasizing a high cacao content of “61%,” indicative of pure chocolate. Additionally, printing “Imported from Belgium” carries connotations associated with Europe, such as fantasy and romance. Lastly, the package pictures a crown, presumably representative of chocolate’s historical association with royalty in Europe. This suggests to the consumer that the chocolate is luxurious and highly valuably, and implies that the chocolate will taste rich and pure. All of these elements on the package impact the consumer’s decision to purchase that product by manipulating her perceptions, thereby prompting the consumer to imagine the chocolate will taste special over other chocolate products. Similar to an issue already discussed, the interviewee reveals that consumers are naïve to chocolate marketing strategies, and make unconscious purchasing decisions based on the effectiveness of chocolate ads and their ability to influence consumers’ perceptions and taste preferences of chocolate.

The interviewee reveals major historical, economic, and social issues that persist within the chocolate industry through her comments about coffee production, and in describing her chocolate perceptions and taste preferences. Historical issues, such as the under-recognized efforts of cacao farmers and their contributions that permit the existence of the chocolate industry – i.e. they provide the raw product to make chocolate – are evidently issues that exist within the coffee industry as well. Economic issues, such as volatile income and impoverished livelihoods, partially the fault of certification organizations like Organic and Fair Trade, are also issues within both the cacao and coffee industries. Lastly, social issues related to the use of sexualized images of women to control consumers’ perceptions and taste preferences of chocolate are seemingly unnoticed by consumers. This is problematic in that consumers are unaware that these ads contribute to the proliferation of stereotypical gender roles, and in that consumers are also unaware that they possess little agency in their chocolate purchasing decisions.
[1] Christopher Bacon, “Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffees Reduce Small-scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua?,” World Development 33 (2005): 497-511.
[2] Joni Valkila, “Fair Trade Organic Coffee Production in Nicaragua – Sustainable Development or a Poverty Trap,” Ecological Economics 68 (2009): 3018-3025.
[3] Valkila, “Fair Trade organic coffee.”
[4] Julie Guthman, “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow,” in Food and Culture, ed. by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik (New York: Routledge, 2013), 496-509.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Bacon, “Confronting the Coffee Crisis.”
[7] Anonymous, interview by Ashlee Korsberg, April 24, 2017.
[8] Carla Martin, “Alternative trade and virtuous/localization/globalization” (lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017).
[9] “USDA Organic Labeling Regulations,” USDA, accessed April 30, 2017, https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=c4e0df8f46a4f4b6f56d80be31f95ed3&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.4&idno=7.
[10] Anonymous.
[11] Martin, “Alternative trade.”
[12] Ibid.
[13] Anonymous.
[14] Ndongo Samba Sylla, “On the Inequalities of the International Trade System” and “The Fair Trade Universe,” in The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich, translated by David Clement Leye (London: Pluto Press, 2014).
[15] Carla Martin, “Modern day slavery” (lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, March 22, 2017).
[16] Anonymous.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Martin, “Alternative Trade.”
[20] Emma Robertson, “A deep physical reason’: gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption,” in Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (Oxford: Manchester University Press, 2009), 18-63.
[21] Anonymous
[22] Anonymous.
[23] Anonymous.

References

Anonymous. Interview by Ashlee Korsberg, April 24, 2017.

Bacon, Christopher. “Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffees Reduce Small-scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua?.” World Development 33 (2005): 497-511.

Guthman, Julie. “Fast Food/Organic Food: Reflexive Tastes and the Making of “Yuppie Chow.” In Food and Culture, edited by Carole Counihan, and Penny Van Esterik, 496-509, New York: Routledge, 2013.

Martin, Carla. “Alternative trade and virtuous/localization/globalization.” Lecture at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, April 5, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Modern day slavery.” Lecture at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, March 22, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Lecture at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, March 29, 2017.

Robertson, Emma. “A deep physical reason’: gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption.” In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history, 18-63, Oxford: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. “On the Inequalities of the International Trade System” and “The Fair Trade Universe.” In The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich, translated by David Clement Leye, London: Pluto Press, 2014.

U.S. Government Publishing Office. “USDA Organic Labeling Regulations.” Accessed April 30, 2017. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=c4e0df8f46a4f4b6f56d80be31f95ed3&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.4&idno=7.

Valkila, Joni. “Fair Trade Organic Coffee Production in Nicaragua – Sustainable Development or a Poverty Trap.” Ecological Economics 68 (2009): 3018-3025.

Image sources

Image 1: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coffee_Beans_Photographed_in_Macro.jpg

Image 2: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/cocoa/

Image 3: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USDA_organic_seal.svg

Image 4: https://www.flickr.com/photos/orofacial/8219609037

Image 5: https://chocolateihaveknown.wordpress.com/category/acquired/trader-joes/

 

 

A Food for the People: The Evolution of Chocolate through the Industrial Revolution

If the average person today were to be asked to imagine “chocolate”, their first thought might be a common product from one of the few major companies (e.g. a Hershey’s bar). But that person would likely also think of two, four, ten more examples of chocolate confections. The chocolate world is truly massive today, in volume and variety. Furthermore, chocolate is not a uniformly priced product, with clear hierarchies in different products under the chocolate umbrella, most clearly defined by differences in companies (A Lindt Truffle is considered across the consumer pool to be a better product than a Hershey’s Kiss). Yet chocolate was for centuries a food that looked very different from what it is today, and one consumed as an integral part of mesoamerican culture. The journey of chocolate through history is a transformation that intersected with a range of socioeconomic systems and changes. Specifically, we will see that the industrial revolution directly set the stage for the global commercialization of chocolate, and was the catalyst for shifting chocolate in the European market as a luxury good to one accessible to all consumers.

Cacao was likely first consumed as a food object before 400BCE by the Olmec civilization that preceded the Mayan civilizations, and residues of cacao were found in Mayan vessels dating back as early as 250AD (Martin, Lecture 1). According to Mayan hieroglyphs cacao was processed into drinks and used in a variety of functions – wedding rituals, burial rituals, as an energy snack for warriors before battle – and there was certainly a special place for early “chocolate”. Cacao beverages were not a snack for the general populace, and the notion that they were reserved for the elite carried into its early use in Europe. Coe writes that prior to the mid 16th century, “chocolate drinking […] in both pre-Conquest Mesoamerica and in Europe was the costly prerogative of the elite” (Coe, 377). Yet it was enormously popular amongst the rich and comfortable, so that even today we find remains of pots, cups, and saucers specifically and ornately designed for chocolate beverages. The following video shows the restoration of an entire kitchen dedicated to chocolate, in the Hampton Court Palace. In the video food historian Marc Meltonville remarks, “The thing about chocolate, is that it was absolutely the luxury item for Georgian England. If you could afford chocolate, you were something special.” We see in this video the wealth attached to chocolate consumption in the ornateness and specificity in the items designed for chocolate during the 1700s.

Up until the Industrial Revolution starting around 1760, chocolate beverages continued to be consumed by the economically comfortable. Chocolate was “taken” like a daily medicine to help digestion and combat alcohol’s effects, and was especially popular among the clergy (Coe, 432). After the Industrial Revolution however, we see a clear shift in who and how chocolate is consumed. Sugar, which had a industrialization history similar and tied closely with chocolate’s, grew from a luxury or medicinal good to be used sparingly by the rich, into a necessity of the masses. We find in Mintz’s narrative of sugar’s history, the “opening up of mass consumption [of sugar], from about 1800 onward. During the period 1750-1780 every English person, no matter how isolated or how poor, and without regard to age or sex, learned about sugar. Most learned to like it enough to want more than they could afford. After 1850, as the price of sugar dropped sharply, that preference became realized in its consumption. A rarity in 1650, a luxury in 1750, sugar had been transformed into a virtual necessity by 1850.” (Mintz, 148). Over the same period of time, chocolate underwent the same shift from luxury/medicinal use to average consumptive use, via several important developments.

The first update to chocolate’s consumption was the improvement of medicinal procedures replacing the Galenic system of humors and temperaments. With the appearance of modern medicine, chocolate was deemed no longer a medicinal product – freeing its consumption as a leisure food to be eaten however and whenever people wanted. Therefore and “concurrent with these changes, the per capita consumption of chocolate, which had been fairly constant for centuries, shot up dramatically; this was coupled with an equally enormous upsurge in the intake of sugar, since the principal destiny of this new, solid chocolate was in the manufacture of confectionery and desserts.” (Coe, 500-501). Furthermore, the appearance of this “solid chocolate” as a product was a major step towards chocolate’s mass production. Specifically, in the year 1828, Johannes Van Houten’s invention of the “Dutch” process to refine cacao butter into an even less fatty cocoa powder allowed chocolate to be mass produced in the shape it is known today. In Coe’s words, “Van Houten’s invention of the defatting and alkalizing processes made possible the large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses” (Coe, 503). Solid chocolate was simply easier to manufacture at large amounts, and additionally easier to consume.

However, at the conception of Van Houten’s method, chocolate was still produced using human body strength. Below is an image depicting the mass labor needed to separate the fat from cacao nibs, in Van Houten’s factory.

FullSizeRender

The industrial revolution provided the solutions to the limitations of human power that had prevented a product that could be easily sold on a large scale, to be produced on a large scale. The two most important innovations that came with the industrial revolution were mechanized grinding and milling, which efficiently separated the necessary parts of cacao and reduced particle size for optimal chocolate production (Martin, Lecture 3). After these initial developments that jump-started mass chocolate production, we see an exponential growth in further innovations and production of chocolate. In 1847, Joseph Fry began selling the first chocolate bars for general consumption, but by 1868 Cadbury had greater success with “Cadbury’s Cocoa Essence” and holiday chocolate boxes. In 1879, Lindt’s conching process brought further smoothness and quality to chocolate, more efficiently (Martin, Lecture 3).

The ease with which chocolate could be mass produced was tied with reduced cost of production. These reduced costs in turn carried into cheaper prices for chocolate, and the extending of the consumer market into all socioeconomic classes. Below is an early advertisement for a Cadbury chocolate product.

ae2dab20dff860dfc4c186d6924a7853

The target audience for this advertisement is clearly not the rich elite – the ad features an older commonly dressed man whose chocolates have fallen because of wind, and children gather around to steal the fallen chocolates. The message of this poster is the popularity of the chocolates with people of all ages. The intended consumer for Cadbury’s chocolates is clearly very different than the Mayan consumers of chocolate, or of the royal consumers in Georgian England. This global shift in consumption patterns is really a reflection of food production changes in general over the same period as illustrated by Jack Goody. He writes, “industrial decadence, whatever its consequences for the haute cuisine […] has enormously improved, in quantity, quality, and variety, the diet of the urban working populations of the western world.” (Counihan, 72). The development of industrial processes made chocolate production more efficient and cost effective, fundamentally changing the nature of chocolate and making it the widely accessible food it is today. Though arguments of quality/variety degradation always arise with mass produced products, the shift of chocolate as a food for the rich to a food accessible to virtually all people is both undeniable and unignorable as a major part of the food market.

Sources Cited

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

Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik. Food and Culture: A Reader. New York:    Routledge, 2013. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 1: Mesoamerica and the ‘food of the gods’.” Aframer 199x. CGIS,   Cambridge, MA. 1 Feb, 2017. Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 3: Popular sweet tooths and scandal.” Aframer 199x. CGIS,   Cambridge, MA. 22 Feb, 2017. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.

Cadbury. “Cadbury’s Chocolates.” Image. Pinterest. 10 Mar. 2017.

Early Cocoa Press, Van Houten Factory, Amsterdam, 1828. Nederlandse Cacao Vereniging. Image.

Historic Royal Palaces. “The making of the Chocolate Kitchen” Historic Royal Palaces. Online video clip. YouTube. 3 Sep, 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Industrial Progress: How the industrialization of chocolate morphed function and accessibility

Throughout its history, chocolate has maintained a relatively stable existence in terms of its functions and production.  While there have been periods of change, there have also been long stretches of time where chocolate use stayed consistent.  For example, in Mesoamerica from as early as 1800 BCE to as late as 900 CE chocolate was consumed as a beverage and used in a variety of religious ceremonies (C-Spot).  However, when brought to Europe in the early 1500s, chocolate went through a period of rapid change. Most significantly, chocolate’s industrialization led to a change in its accessibility, highlighting how advancements in production methodology and advertising of chocolate altered its social standing and class function.  Through careful examination of key events in the industrial timeline of chocolate, four stages can be identified that each show a transition in the industrial development, ultimately linked to societal structure and function.

Starting in the 16th and 17th centuries, chocolate was introduced to Europe as a drink for the aristocracy.  Over these two centuries, chocolate served a variety of functions, of which some are no longer recognized in modern society.  In 1556, the earliest recipe for chocolate was documented in Spain.  This recipe, collected by a lieutenant of Captain Hernán Cortés, relates how the cacao beans are ground into powder, mixed with water until foamy, and then stirred with gold or silver spoons until drunk.  This was an especially common recipe in Mesoamerica.  The entry then declares that this drink is the “most wholesome and substantial of any food or beverage in the world…whoever drinks a cup of this liquor can go thru a whole day without taking anything else even if on a cross country journey” (C-Spot).  This account clearly relates cacao’s function as a hearty beverage with a substantial amount of nutritional value.  However, the function of cacao changes in the 1580s when it contributes to the humoral theory of medicine in that its “hot” nature combats poison, alleviates intestinal discomfort, and cures a variety of other ailments (Coe 122).  This functional form sticks with chocolate into the 1600s where its increasing demand eventually leads to European plantations in the Caribbean that operate to ensure a steady supply of cacao for the European elite.  In fact, the elite were so floored by chocolate that in 1657 the first chocolate house was established in London (C-Spot).  These houses were the cultural and political hub for society’s elite (Coe 223).  To get a historical and social sense of a chocolate house in England, this article by Dr. Matthew Green published in The Telegraph is quite informative. Dr. Green does a great job of capturing the sophisticated nature of these houses, particularly those of the super elite on St. James Square.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, chocolate was served to the elites of Europe in a variety of functions ranging from a medicine to a simple, yet powerful, beverage.  However, as the 18th and 19th centuries approached, a more transitional period of chocolate began to take form, in which production was industrialized and the final product was made more accessible to the middle class.  Starting in 1764, the first power machinery was used in chocolate production, in the form of a grist mill, used to grind cacao beans by Baker’s Chocolate in Dorchester, Massachusetts (Coe 227).  Baker’s Chocolate was founded on the pillars of purity of product, mass production, money-back guarantee, and affordability (C-Spot).  These pillars emphasize the shift from the chocolate drink as an item of the elite to a mass produced and advertised product accessible to a range of social classes.  This evolution of chocolate manufacturing continued in 1828 when Coenraad Johannes van Houten received a patent for his screw press, used to separate fat from the roasted cacao beans (C-Spot).  This method was an inexpensive way of removing fat and leaving behind a cake that could be ground into a fine powder (C-Spot).  Later call the Dutch Process, it was promoted by van Houten as “for the rich and poor – made instantly – easier than tea” (C-Spot).  It was even thought of as a more suitable chocolate for women and children as this process removed the bitterness found in untreated cacao (C-Spot).  The last industrial innovation of note was the first mass-marketed chocolate bar produced by Fry’s Chocolate.  In 1847, Francis and Joseph Fry were able to perfect the chocolate mixture in a moldable form, thus forming the first bar (Coe 241).  As can be seen in the advertisement below, Fry’s Chocolate consumption was directed at children due to its sweeter taste, and thus more accessible when compared to the 16th and 17th centuries.

Frys_five_boys_milk_chocolate
Fry’s Chocolate Advertisement

Following the development of the Fry’s chocolate bar, many chocolate companies began to follow suit by creating chocolate treats that could be mass produced and bought by the public.  This was a time in which “industrial decadence”, or the ability for food to be produced on an industrial level, greatly improved the quality and variety of diets for the middle and working class population (Goody 72).  This statement holds true for chocolate production.  In fact, the time stretching from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s was a period marked by innovation and branding of different forms of chocolate delights.  Below, one can find a timeline of the most popular brands of chocolate introduced during this period.  These brands still exist today and mark the beginning of a period of refined

Slide1
Timeline of Chocolate Brand Introduction

and obtainable chocolate for all social classes.  There are a few events deserving specific attention as they highlight the theme of chocolate industrialization and its effects on accessibility, mass marketing, and mass production.  For example, in 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé created milk chocolate using Nestlé’s powdered milk, creating a sweeter chocolate to be enjoyed by a wider range of people (Coe 247).  Other similar advancements include, Rudolph Lindt’s conche machine in 1879, which created a smoother sensory experience and the invention of the Toblerone in 1908 as a different approach to chocolate involving a mold and filling (Coe 247, 248).  These developments, along with the introduction of a variety of chocolate products, ushered in an era of mass production and accessibility.

 

The last stage of chocolate industrialization is the current one.  While the bars and candies discussed above still exist today, there is now a distinction between this “grocery store chocolate” and fine chocolate made by the chocolatier.  This term is used to describe a person that uses fine chocolate to create unique creations using machinery but also hand production (Martin, Lecture 4).  An example of this process is seen at Taza Chocolate factory in Somerville, MA.  Below is a video of their production process, which highlights their hands-on and “bean to bar” practice.  It appears that this distinction between fine

and “grocery store” chocolate has arisen due to a change in consumers’ preference for sustainable and fair trade foods.  While people occasionally love to get their hands on a Milky Way, many consumers are attracted to the idea of a pure chocolate bar whose ingredients can be traced throughout the entire production process.

Over time, the function and accessibility of chocolate has shifted to mirror the industrial aspects of its production.  When first introduced to Europe, chocolate was produced in colonialized islands and intended as a drink for the elite, while also serving a purpose in the medical world.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, chocolate underwent a transitional period where industrialization was introduced in the form of mass production and advertising, thus making chocolate accessible to all classes.  This period was followed by a rapid expansion of the chocolate industry where chocolate was consumed in solid form and constant advancements were made to appeal to the variety of tastes craved by consumers.  Finally, today, we still enjoy a variety of mass produced chocolate candies, but now we strive for a bar crafted with sustainability, purity, and fairness in mind.

 

 

Picture and Video Source:

Fry’s Chocolate Advertisement:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Frys_five_boys_milk_chocolate.jpg

Taza Chocolate Video:

https://vimeo.com/33380451

Timeline:

Made in PowerPoint with dates extracted from C-Spot’s Concise History of Chocolate

Works Cited:

“A CONCISE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE.” The C-spot. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

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

Hudson, 2013. Print.

Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik. Food and Culture: A Reader. New York:    Routledge, 2013. Print.

Green, Dr. Matthew. “The Surprising History of London’s Lost Chocolate Houses.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 4: Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” Aframer 199x. CGIS,   Cambridge, MA. 22 Feb. 2017. Lecture.

Can a Hershey’s Bar be “Simply” Chocolate?

Image 1: A Bag of Cheetos Highlighting the Preference for Non-Processed Foods

As seen in Image 1, buzzwords such as “natural”, “preservative free”, “homemade” are often used in advertisements when referring to food goods. There is a growing preference in today’s society for foods that are produced the “natural way, without preservatives or industrialized processing (Murdoch and Miele 2002). But simultaneously, people seem more and more distant from the actual processes their food undergoes during production. An example of this phenomenon is the contemporary understanding of chocolate in our culture: although people prefer “wholesome” ingredients, many consider a chocolate bar to be a single ingredient in itself or a basic unit of food. In contrast, other similarly produced goods—like a finished apple pie or a can of fruit—are viewed as comprising of many parts and steps.

In order to better understand contemporary understandings about food production, I interviewed eight of my classmates about their experiences with chocolate, specifically trying to uncover their conceptualizations of a Hershey’s chocolate bar. It is worth noting that my small-n sample of eight friends is not stratified nor representative of any larger body of people. However, the sample itself—eight college students from middle class backgrounds—can offer insight into the way that such a demographic might conceptualize chocolate and trade. These conversations revealed to me a focus on processed or non-organic products, but a lack of awareness regarding the actual processes of production and social and economic consequences of international companies like Hershey’s.

The Global Production of Hershey’s Chocolate: The Process and its Consequences

While my friends—specifically those who have not taken this class—may be unaware of the process that goes into the production of a single bar of chocolate, it is nonetheless extensive. The transformation from “bean to a Hershey’s bar” spans multiple continents, starting in the cacao plantations of West Africa, where 68.1% of the world’s cacao beans are grown (Lecture 15). Seen in Image 2, the cacao beans  are removed from their pods, fermented, dried, and roasted so that just cacao nibs remain.

Image 2: Dried cacao beans displayed in their pod husks

These nibs are then shipped to Hershey’s manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Mexico where they are ground down into cacao liquor and pressed to create cocoa powder (Hersheys.com). This powder is then combined with a variety of different ingredients like cacao butter, powdered milk, and flavors to create the enormous selection of candy bars that Hershey produces.

The process of Hershey’s production also includes communities around the globe, influencing local social and economic forces. On the one hand, industrialization and globalization can generally be considered a good thing. The largest positive impact globalization of the food industry had was the reduction of starvation across the globe through the larger supply of food, which directly lowered the prices (Regmi et al.). When the processes of preservation, mechanization, retailing, and global transportation were newly discovered, the total volume of available food increased enormously (Lecture 12). Today, industrialized production of ingredients—like Hershey’s chocolate—allow for foods to travel far past their previously restrictive borders.

But there is also a darker side to the changes in the food production industry. As Lauden describes, the changes in production have led to the availability of “fresh” foods, but also a cultural tendency to overlook the processes that led to the creation of each component of the ultimate outcome (Lauden). The same concept applies to the production of Hershey’s chocolate: while many might think of chocolate as an ingredient or a “staple” food, the realities of its production include the myriad ingredients and steps listed above.

Though the consumer may think of a Hershey’s chocolate bar as a component of a recipe or a basic Halloween candy, each step in the process of its production involves individual people and their communities. Hershey’s has been under fire for its use of illegal child labor and was even the focus of a national campaign against child labor named Raise the Bar (Bloxham). Furthermore, Hershey’s and other multinational food conglomerates have been criticized for their transnational investment in poor countries. These corporations are able to fix prices below the countries’ equilibrium level and push out local corporations and therefore harm foreign economic development (Wimberley).

Surpassing typical evaluative processes, the Hershey’s brand has become so ubiquitously associated with chocolate that a change in recipe that drastically altered the final product didn’t stop consumers from defining the bar as “chocolate.” In 2007, The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, which Hershey’s is a member of, began lobbying the U.S. Food and Drug administration to allow the substitution of real chocolate ingredients like cocoa butter and sugar for “safe and suitable vegetable fats and oils” (including partially hydrogenated vegetable oils”(Bragg). Though this legislation did not pass, Hershey’s still takes many shortcuts today. The Mr. Goodbar, one of Hershey’s products made with vegetable fat substitutes , is labeled as “made with chocolate” in order to bypass the F.D.A. regulation.

Image 3: Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar displaying “Made with Chocolate”

But how does a typical consumer think about Hershey’s chocolate? Does the consumer consider the process of production when they think about which bar of chocolate to buy? Or even how they define chocolate itself?

What is Hershey’s Chocolate?: Analysis of Interview Results

Note: See Appendix for Interview Questions

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the students I interviewed seemed unaware of the process of production that goes into a Hershey’s chocolate bar. But they also did not know the basics of chocolate as a produced good. Said one student: “I don’t know what is in a bar of chocolate. The same thing that’s in chocolate? Like, chocolate?” Here we can see the blurred line between a “bar of chocolate” and its ingredients, as the two separate concepts seem merged into one idea of “chocolate.” A different student avoided listing what chocolate is made out of, and instead focused on what chocolate means to them. “I’m not really sure what chocolate is to me,” they said. “I guess it’s like, a cake or frosting or something. Or I guess it’s something you buy for Christmas or Valentine’s Day.” Like the previous quote, this excerpt reveals the student’s conception of chocolate as a facet of a greater experience, like an ingredient in baking or an aspect of a tradition. Instead of thinking about each step that goes into making chocolate, the student imagines chocolate to be a finished product, ready to be used for further production.

When differentiating Hershey’s chocolate from chocolate more generally, students most focused on the brand and its cultural significance. When asked what Hershey’s chocolate means to them, one student said: “Hershey’s is, like, the all-American chocolate bar. It’s the most simple chocolate I can think of.” This quote shows the connection of chocolate to its greater social meaning, in this case as a facet of what it means to be an “American” given the significance of Hershey’s in American culture. The individual’s description of the chocolate bar as the “most simple” of its kind might even strike a student in our class as humorous, given that Hershey’s contains the smallest actual amount of chocolate out of any major brand. Similarly, another student seemed convinced by more by Hershey’s branding than its actual use of chocolate in production. Hinting at the lack of actual chocolate in the bar, the student said: “Hershey’s doesn’t even taste that good. It just gives me that feeling that eating chocolate gives me so I keep on eating it when it’s around.” This quote further suggests that Hershey’s has developed a brand name that labels its “chocolate” to be a finished product in and of itself.

When specifically asked about the ingredients in a Hershey’s chocolate bar, students had more varied answers. Many seemed aware that the chocolate bar is not entirely “wholesome” or “natural,” but few could explain why. Linking it to the broader movement towards “natural” and “local” foods, one student said: “[Hershey’s is made of] chocolate and milk fat and probably something poisonous to me that we won’t realize is carcinogenic for like a million years. Although maybe I just am thinking that because Hershey’s is a giant corporation.” Although this student could not think of specifics, they realized that there were different products that ultimately go into the production of a Hershey’s bar. Their use of buzzwords like “corporation” and “carcinogenic” may illuminate a negative perspective of processed foods that is seen in the media.

The same student reported buying Hershey’s within the past week, and at a frequency of approximately once a month. Though this discrepancy between purchasing behavior and sustainable thinking might seem surprising to some, a survey by Vermeir and Verbeke on such a behavioral gap found that many young people exhibit little intention to buy sustainable goods if an alternative is perceived as much more widely attainable (Vermeir and Verbeke 2006). I believe that it is likely that Hershey’s universal availability and the lack of attention paid to chocolate and consumer responsibility allows people to continue to buy the chocolate with relatively little consumer guilt.

Another student mentioned a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania during which they visited the company’s “Chocolate Lab” and watched “chocolate being made.” Further conversation revealed to me that the Hershey’s factory walks its visitors through the a much-briefer process of chocolate production—starting with examples of cacao pods and progressing straight to vats of swirling melted chocolate and Hershey’s kisses and bars prior to packaging.

Image 4: “ Liquid chocolate in a vat at the Hershey’s Factory”
Image 5: Hershey’s Kisses coming out as finished products

Rather than discuss the process of production, Hershey suggests to its visitors that cacao pods are somehow transformed into bars of chocolate. This student reported feeling “connected” to the end product as a result of their visit, and feeling as though the chocolate bar was simply made of “chocolate.”

In conclusion, modern understandings of a Hershey’s chocolate bar suggest that there is still a large gap between the starting blocks of a processed food, the supply chain, and the finished product. People today may be starting to realize this and thus have created movements such as Fair Trade USA and Direct Trade, but many more consumers continue to overlook basic processes of production. The branding of Hershey’s—from its logo to its factory tour—works to continue the image of a chocolate bar as fundamentally “chocolate,” preventing its customers from questioning its production practices. As one student said: “Hershey’s reminds me of Coke. It’s not the best chocolate I could buy, but it’s the easiest one to think of when I imagine chocolate.”

Work’s Cited

Bloxham, Eleanor. “Chocolate and child labor a hurdle for Hershey”. Fortune Magazine, November 2012. http://fortune.com/2012/11/16/chocolate-and-child-labor-a-hurdle-for-hershey/

Bragg, Lynn M. “Chocolate Manufacturers Association Stakeholder Letter”. Chocolate dasManufacturers Association, April 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071202030257/http://www.chocolateusa.org/pdfs/CMA-stakeholder.pdf

Lauden, Rachel. “A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We Should Love New, Fast, Processed Food”. Gastronomica. Winter 2001. http://www.jstor.org.ezp-   prod1.hul.harvard.edu/stable/pdf/10.1525/gfc.2001.1.1.36.pdf?acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true

Levenstein, Harvey. “Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet” Oxford University Press, 1988. Pg 31-32

Murdoch, J. & Miele, M “‘Back to Nature’: Changing ‘Worlds of Production’”. Sociologia. Ruralis. December 2002. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9523.00119/abstract

Regmi, A. & Gehlhar, G. “Processed Food Trade Pressured by Evolving Global Supply Chains”. USDA Economic Research Service. . http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/r/2/r2w/AGBM420/Readings/W10-12%20Vertical%20price%20variation/ImperativesForSCManInProcessedFoodFeb05.pdf

Vermeir, I & Verbeke, W. “Sustainable Food Consumption: Exploring the Consumer ‘Attitude –                                                                       Behavioral Intention’ Gap”. Journal of Agricuultural and Environmental Ethics. April                                                                                 2006 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10806-005-5485-3

Wimberley, Dale W. “Effects of Foreign Investment, Exports, and Economic Growth on Third World Food Consumption”. Oxford Journals, 1992 – http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/70/4/895.short

Multimedia Sources Cited

Image 1: “A Bag of Cheetos Highlighting the Preference for Non-Processed Foods”             http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61NzIC4cXsL._SL1000_.jpg

Image 2: “Dried cacao beans displayed in their pod husks”            http://howardcocoacompany.yolasite.com/resources/image.jpeg

Image 3: “ Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar displaying “Made with Chocolate”                http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81bOiZjzD3L._SL1500_.jpg

Image 4: “ Liquid chocolate at the Hershey’s Factory”            https://darkcargo.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/p1000029.jpg

Image 5: “Hershey’s Kisses coming out as finished products”            http://a.abcnews.go.com/images/GMA/ht_kiss_0057_090213_ssh.jpg

Appendix: Interview Questions

  1.       When you think about chocolate, what first comes to mind?
  2.       What are three ways that you might experience chocolate in everyday life?
  3.       Do people around you ever talk about chocolate? What do they say?
  4.       How often do you eat chocolate?
  5.       More specifically, how often do you eat Hershey’s chocolate?
  6.       What do you think of when you think about a Hershey’s chocolate bar?
  7.       Do you prefer chocolate on its own, or as a flavor or ingredient?

European vs. American Tastes and Trends: Comparing Cardullo’s and CVS’s Chocolate

Chocolate is a delicious commodity enjoyed throughout the world.  However, chocolate tastes and consumption patterns vary from region to region.  For example, chocolate produced for Americans is often made very sweet, contains less cacao and cocoa butter, and many times becomes an impulse buy or guilty pleasure.  Chocolate is also heavily marketed towards children in the United States, and most of the chocolate consumed by Americans is from Big Chocolate companies such as Hershey.  However, in many European countries, chocolate is often more luxurious and rich, is complemented with a variety of fruity and spicy flavors, and is marketed more towards the adult population.  In addition, European chocolate is often more expensive given its target audience and higher cacao content.  It is important to note that each country within Europe makes chocolate slightly different and has its own unique consumption trends, but in general, most European chocolate is made with more sophistication and higher quality ingredients when compared to American chocolate which is often heavily corporatized and mass-produced.  The differences between American and European chocolate are so stark that we can even witness them when comparing the chocolate found in international stores in the United States to the chocolate sold in American grocery stores.  For the purposes of this paper, the chocolate sold in Cardullo’s and CVS will be compared and contrasted in order to demonstrate the differences between European and American chocolate.  It will be argued that variations in ingredients, target audiences, and packaging are what influence and distinguish European and American chocolate tastes, advertising, and consumption trends.

Cardullo’s is a gourmet shop in Harvard Square that sells food ranging from fresh deli meats to jams to dried pasta.  Many people, including myself, believe that the store is meant to be reflective of a European shop or cafe because the store sells mainly imported brands and gives off an international vibe with its rustic and crowded interior.  What is interesting is that the only thing I have ever purchased from Cardullo’s has been chocolate, and when I revisited the store this past week I realized why: their chocolate selection is outstanding!  Moreover, four out of the five times I bought chocolate from Cardullo’s, the chocolate wasn’t even for me, it was meant to be a gift for someone else.

When I think about why I chose Cardullo’s for the chocolate gifts, it was because I wanted my present to feel unique, luxurious, and thoughtful.  I was not about to buy someone special a plain Hershey’s bar or a bag of Reese’s.  I knew that Cardullo’s sold European chocolate brands and felt that European chocolate was high quality.  I feel that this is a common perception, that European chocolate is more luxurious and better than American chocolate.  This bias may be based on the idea that European chocolate often contains more cacao and cocoa butter than American chocolate, which is considered a sign of quality.  This is because the United States only requires its chocolate to contain 10% cacao, while in Europe to be considered “chocolate”, a bar must be at least 20% cacao (Gourmet Boutique).  Many argue that American chocolate producers care more about cost than quality when it comes to their chocolate which is why they use lower quality ingredients and mass-produce their chocolate unlike many European companies (Alberts and Cidell, 224).  American chocolate companies using less cacao in their bars dates back to the beginnings of the Mars Company.  Frank Mars tried several times to create a popular chocolate bar and eventually ran himself into debt (Brenner, 53).  However, once he and his son invented the Milky Way in 1923 (which is chocolate nugget covered in a thin layer of chocolate) the company’s costs of production fell drastically because the bars contained less cacao (Brenner, 54-55).  The bars immediately became popular because they were larger and cheaper than the other current chocolate bar at the time, Hershey’s (Brenner, 55).  It was partially Mar’s usage of a cheaply made filled bar that led other American chocolate producers to try to use less cacao in their bars.  The fact that the Hershey company mass-manufactured and got people habituated to milk chocolate with less cacao may be another reason why Americans accept chocolate with a lower cacao content today.

Getting back to the matter at hand, the imported chocolate at Cardullo’s did contain a significant amount of cacao, the lowest cacao content I saw being 23% in a standard chocolate bar.  Most of the imported European chocolate also highlighted the cacao percentage on the front of their packaging, which is something I do not recall being included on most American-produced chocolate wrappers (see Figure 1 below).  This marketing tactic enables European chocolate producers to tout the high levels of cacao they are using (Wolke).

Figure 2: Cardullo’s chocolate selection (left) vs. CVS’s selection (right)
Figure 1: European Chocolate Wrappers with Cacao Content on the Front vs. An American Hershey Bar

I remember that selecting the chocolate gifts at Cardullo’s was extremely difficult because of the wide variety of chocolate brands and flavors they sold.  On one occasion, I had trouble deciding and ended up buying five bars each with a different flavor: chili with cherry, dark milk, 88% dark, orange, and sea salt caramel.  Upon revisiting the shop, I re-discovered some of these specific chocolate bars whose brands were Chocolat Bonnat (France), Valrhona (France), and Dolfin (Belgium).  What enticed me about these particular bars were their intriguing flavors, some of which I had never seen before.  Most of the flavors in Cardullo’s chocolate include nuts, spices, or fruits, which is actually common for European chocolate and contrasts with American chocolate which is usually complemented with caramel, nugget, and other sugary fillings.  These more savory flavors used in European chocolate tie back to the Mesoamerican origins of chocolate.  In fact, several scholars believe that “Europeans developed a taste for Indian chocolate, and they sought to recreate the indigenous chocolate experience” (Norton).  These scholars also claim that this “cross-culturalization of taste” led Europeans to develop an appetite for spices and vanilla (Norton).

I also chose the bars because they had intricate and fancy wrappers that made the chocolate look expensive.  These fancy wrappers are probably a marketing ploy, again to promote the perception that European chocolate is higher in quality and more glamorous.  This perceived quality is also probably factored into the price of the chocolate because the chocolate bars were not the cheapest.  The price of chocolate sold at Cardullo’s ranges from $5-$65 with the pricier chocolate items being gift baskets and large boxes of chocolates.  To me, the prices are justified by the fact that the chocolate is imported and because of the customer base of the shop.  Whether Cardullo’s intends to attract older people or not, their clientele is mainly working men and women and arguably international students.  It is understandable that middle aged and older people visit this store: they can afford the food and have more singular tastes.  It is also interesting to note that chocolate is mainly marketed towards adults in Europe which may be why it is more expensive and takes on a more sophisticated look (Graham).

European chocolate has not always been luxurious or marketed in this way, especially in France.  Today, France creates some of the most artistic, romanticized, and well-known chocolate in the world, but this was not always the case (Terrio, 10).  Until the 1970s, French confections were very traditional and quite plain.  But towards the 1980s, French chocolatiers wanted to re-brand their chocolate and make it more of a specialty item.  In order to do this, they began distinguishing themselves from pastry makers and confectioners, created a new taste standard for bitter dark chocolate, worked with the government and local authorities to establish themselves, and looked to the past to make sure their chocolate had cultural authenticity and didn’t appear mass-produced (Terrio, 12-15).  Finally by 1990, French chocolatiers were being recognized as craftsmen and artisans for their authentic and creative work.  The French chocolatiers were ultimately able to establish themselves because they placed a tremendous amount of time and effort into making small-batch chocolate which contrasted the mass-production and lower quality work conducted at larger chocolate factories and companies at the time (Terrio, 30-35).  Nowadays, there are several fine French chocolate makers such as Valrhona and Bonnat.

Some of my concluding observations about Cardullo’s were that the store mainly sells its chocolates in single bar form as compared to in bulk, but also sells several chocolate confections such as bonbons and truffles.  During my revisit, I also made sure to check the sugar content, fat content, and cacao content of many of the bars in the shop in order to compare them to the chocolate bars in CVS.  Finally, on my way out, I asked an employee what chocolate he preferred, European or American.  He quickly replied, “European of course!  It is much more creamy and rich, and I am pretty sure it doesn’t contain weird ingredients like those used in Hershey’s”.  Another employee chimed in saying, “It is definitely the smoothness that distinguishes the two”.  This smoothness probably derives from the European’s use of extra cocoa butter, or can be attributed to the fact that Europeans (especially the Swiss) prefer smoother chocolate so they conche their chocolate for longer (Presilla, 126).  Studies have found that American chocolate companies typically conche their chocolate for 18-20 hours, whereas Western European chocolate companies conche for 72 hours (Alberts and Cidell, 222).

Now onto CVS.  CVS is a large drug store chain that offers everyday use items from beauty supplies to medications to snacks.  When it comes to chocolate, American CVSs have a surprisingly decent selection.  However, most of the chocolate sold is from Big Chocolate brands such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey, which can be found in most convenience stores.  CVS also carries some semi-luxurious brands such as Lindt and Godiva (both European brands), but on a small scale.  Walking down the candy aisle at CVS was a much different experience than at Cardullo’s.  For one, I actually felt quite overwhelmed by the bright packaging of the chocolate (a common color theme was using yellow or red).  I also noticed that most of the chocolate brands used animated lettering on their wrappers.  This eye-catching color scheme and lettering clearly contrasted Cardullo’s calm and intricate chocolate packaging and is most likely to attract children (see Figure 2 below).  To reiterate, in the United States, chocolate companies often target children in their advertisements.  As a side note, chocolate marketing towards children is actually a highly controversial topic, as it takes advantage of children’s developmental vulnerabilities and may be contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic (Martin).

cardullos vs cvs
Figure 2: Cardullo’s chocolate selection (left) vs. CVS’s selection (right)

Moreover, just like at Cardullo’s, the price of the chocolate at CVS is probably influenced by its targeted population and the type of people who visit the store.  Since American chocolate is mainly marketed to children in the US, and CVS seems to be a weekly stop for the average person, it makes sense that their chocolate prices are extremely reasonable, ranging from $1-$15.  This affordability allows the chocolate to be an impulse or everyday purchase.  Another thing that somewhat differed between Cardullo’s and CVS chocolate was its placement in the store.  The Cardullo’s chocolate was on the wall sort of close to the register as was the CVS chocolate, but CVS also had a row of chocolate bars right under the register to entice impulse buyers.  Chocolate is considered to be more of a guilty pleasure or impulse purchase in America versus in Europe where people eat chocolate more regularly.  This is because in Europe chocolate is viewed as a food rather than an indulgence (Alberts and Cidell, 224).  This is also revealed in reports showing that Europeans consume about half of the world’s chocolate whereas the United States only consumes about 20% (CNN’s “Who consumes the most chocolate?”).  This trend is possible because many European countries consume more chocolate per capita than the US (see Figure 3 below).  Furthermore, in CVS the chocolate treats were mainly in bar form, were often sold in bulk, and did not come in luxury forms such as bonbons or truffles, again speaking to the target audience’s tastes and trends.  This yet again reveals that American chocolate producers value cost over quality.

consumption
Figure 3: Top 20 Chocolate Consuming Nations (2012)

Finally, when examining the nutrition labels, it was evident that the chocolate in CVS contained more sugar, less fat from cocoa butter, and less cacao altogether.  For example, a Cadbury Milk Bar from Cardullo’s contained 23% cacao, while a Hershey’s Bar from CVS only contained 11%.  What was even more striking was when comparing the same Cadbury Milk Bars, an imported one from Cardullo’s and one from CVS, the nutrition facts and packaging were not equal (see Figure 4 below for a video of a family comparing the British Cadbury bar to the American one).  It is also interesting to point out that the chocolate sold at Cardullo’s was mainly dark chocolate while CVS was capitalized by milk chocolate.  This may be because children prefer sweeter milk chocolate to bitter dark chocolate which is a more acquired taste, or that dark chocolate is truer to the origin of chocolate which is why it is produced more often for European audiences.  Regardless, this finding is not a coincidence in that Americans prefer lighter milk chocolate and Europeans prefer darker chocolate (Presilla, 119).

Figure 4: Video of a Family Trying a Cadbury Milk Bar from the UK vs. the US

In summary, I found Cardullo’s European chocolate and CVS’s American-produced chocolate to be radically different.  What I discovered was that European chocolate contains more cacao, is occasionally complemented with unique spices and flavors, has more sophisticated packaging, and targets a more mature population.  Moreover Europeans tend to prefer dark chocolate and consume chocolate more regularly than Americans.  On the other hand, American-produced chocolate is sweeter with less cacao and more sugary fillings, utilizes bright and animated wrappers, is often mass-produced, and is marketed more towards children.  With these differences in ingredients, packaging, and target audience, it is no wonder that European and American chocolate tastes, consumption trends, and advertising differ.

For added entertainment, click on this link to see a video of two British boys comparing American and British chocolate bars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyD74bJJOTk

Works Cited:

Alberts, Heike C., and Julie L. Cidell. “Chocolate Consumption Manufacturing and Quality in Western Europe the United States.” Geography (2006): 218-226.

Brenner, Joel Glenn. The emperors of chocolate: Inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. Broadway, 2000. 48-55.

Graham, Caroline. “Too Sweet, Too Cheap and Full of Ghastly Chemicals – Why Even Americans Can’t Stand American Chocolate.” Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd., 21 Nov. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1229924/Too-sweet-cheap-ghastly-chemicals–Americans-stand-American-chocolate.html.

Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Class. Harvard University, Cambridge. 1 Apr. 2015. Lecture.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org/content/111/3/660.full.pdf html.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 2001. 119, 126.

Terrio, Susan Jane. Crafting the culture and history of French chocolate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 1-40.

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN. 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 May 2015. http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/

Wolke, Robert. “Chocolate by the Numbers.” The Washington Post. 9 June 2004. Web. 2 May 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24276-2004Jun8.html

Images Cited:

Figure 1: My personal IPhone at Cardullo’s and CVS

Figure 2: My personal IPhone at Cardullo’s and CVS

Figure 3: http://www.confectionerynews.com/Markets/Interactive-Map-Top-20-chocolate-consuming-nations-of-2012 (Accessed May 1, 2015)

Figure 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cgDAQXZ-LA (Accessed April 29, 2015)