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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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).
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).
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.
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.
Chocolate is one of the most popular snack and dessert foods in the world. Just as commonly as chocolate is consumed, many of the issues facing the chocolate supply chain tend to be overlooked and neglected. Even though the industry revenue exceeds $100 billion per year, some of the major issues include poverty among cacao farmers, older and less productive cacao trees, minimal training in best agricultural practices, little access to fertilizers and proper equipment, and exploitative and child labor (Martin, 2015; Cocoa Initiative, 2011; Leissle 28). In addition, many cacao farms are remote and thus far from learning centers, and most still use old-fashioned and non-modernized agricultural methods (“Hershey’s Cocoa Sustainability Strategy”). At the same time, cacao is an important crop to many countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, where over 50% of household incomes come from cocoa products (Cocoa Initiative, 2011). Many chocolate companies have attempted to combat these issues through goals of corporate responsibility. Yet, with so many individual chocolate companies processing their own chocolate, it can be very hard to effect solutions to problems experienced by each. One approach to solving this dilemma and increasing transparency in the chocolate supply chain is to resolve issues at the level of business-to-business chocolate producers whose goods penetrate a large share of the chocolate market. Barry Callebaut is one such company with the means and resources to implement change even in the most remote of the cacao-growing regions. Though some elements of Barry Callebaut’s mission to improve the chocolate supply chain come across as propaganda, the company is in a strong position to implement progress and has already done a measurable amount.
The Barry Callebaut Group is a business-to-business company based in Zurich, Switzerland and is the world’s largest chocolate supplier. According to their company website, they have a 40% share of the industrial chocolate market and sell 1.7 million tons of chocolate per year. In addition, they claim that 20% of the chocolate and cocoa products sold worldwide contain Barry Callebaut inside (“Barry Callebaut at a Glance”). Realizing the power of their position in the industry, the company has created and participated in several initiatives to spearhead change and sustainability in chocolate production.
In 2012, Barry Callebaut launched the Cocoa Horizons initiative, a ten-year mission to promote close cooperation between Barry Callebaut personnel and cacao farmers in Cote d’Ivoire, which produces around 37% of the world’s cacao supply (Leissle 22). Recognizing that many farmers live in regions where they cannot access training centers, this project is designed wrap up the company’s mission of sustainability into a package that can be delivered to even the most remote of cacao farms. In order to do this, Barry Callebaut created the Cocoa Horizons Truck, powered on solar energy, which travels through Cote d’Ivoire educating cacao farmers and children, delivering healthcare, and even providing entertainment. The Cocoa Horizons project serves as a means to carry out three company missions outlined on their website: refining cacao quality, increasing pay to farmers, and improving farmer quality of life. The first prong of their mission, improving cacao quality, seeks to address some of the most prominent issues facing cacao farming today, such as “depleted soil, poor farming practices, aging trees and aging farmers” (“Callebaut – Growing Great Chocolate”), which have led to a decrease in the productivity of cacao farms. Barry Callebaut has sought to create and manage farmer field schools to teach farmers of participating cooperatives how to properly manage soil, care for trees, ferment beans, and so on. Part of their plain to improve cacao quality also includes building tree nurseries for newly planted cacao trees, so that they can ensure the future productivity of cacao. The second part of the strategy is to pay cacao farmers fair prices, so that they are not underpaid, living in poverty, and mistreated by profit-seeking middlemen. Barry Callebaut partners directly with farmer cooperatives so they can ensure money reaches the farmers themselves: “This direct partnership enables us to introduce good agricultural practices, work together on crop quality, and of course, buy the cocoa beans directly from the cooperatives, thus supporting farmers to make a better income from cocoa,” (“Callebaut – Growing Great Chocolate”). Finally, the third component of their strategy is to better the quality of life for cacao farmers through healthcare and education. Barry Callebaut has made an effort to distribute mosquito nets, vaccines, and medical kits to cacao farms. In addition, they has focused a lot of energy on establishing schools in West Africa to educate children living in cacao farming regions and spread awareness about issues surrounding exploitative child labor (“Callebaut – Growing Great Chocolate”).
While the points listed above are all efforts that would vastly improve the current issues in the cacao supply chain, we must also consider the feasibility of such strategies, and whether claiming corporate responsibility is just a means to increase product sales. For example, the Cocoa Horizons promotional video is clearly intended to persuade the Barry Callebaut consumer that the company goals of enacting change are being upheld. In the video, a Barry Callebaut representative can be seen standing on a stage formed from the truck bed saying, “We’re going to have fun this evening. We’re going to sing and dance. But we’re also going to discuss good agricultural practices for growing cocoa,” (Barry Callebaut’s Cocoa Horizons Truck). The cacao farmers and their families appear to be completely captivated and enthralled by the various multimedia presentations in front of them, which include video material from a giant screen on the side of the truck, floor-to-ceiling information graphics posted on the walls of a tent, and an extremely emotive speaker. One farmer notes, “I was so concerned not to miss a single thing,” (Barry Callebaut’s Cocoa Horizons Truck). This kind of appreciation is strikingly similar to that shown by cacao farmers in the First Taste of Chocolate in Ivory Coast video. In the latter, a Metropolis TV representative gives chocolate to cacao farmers who had never tasted chocolate before. The farmers are then incredibly grateful for their first taste of chocolate and appreciate the final product of their labor on the cacao farm. Yet, the cultural exaggeration begins when the farmers proceed to ask questions about “white people” and claim that they will save the chocolate wrappers to teach children about chocolate (First taste of chocolate in Ivory Coast). While the video conveys these comments from the farmers in a serious manner, the farmers appear to be saying them lightheartedly, and almost seem to be sarcastic and self-aware, mocking the distance between themselves and the typical chocolate consumer. Because of this stark cultural hyperbole, it is clear that the filmmakers are trying to make the farmers look more isolated from the final product than they actually are. Similarly, the Cocoa Horizons truck video appears to be doing the same, and when filmmakers exaggerate the impact of the project, it begs the question of exactly how powerful the Cocoa Horizons project is.
Despite the clear setbacks of an overtly promotional video, the combination of a hands-on initiative, such as the Cocoa Horizons truck, working to improve cacao sustainability on behalf of a company with vast resources and large market share, has the potential to effect a great amount of change in the chocolate supply chain. Studies show that even bringing modernization and education alone to cacao farms can double both the income and the yields of the farm (“Hershey’s Cocoa Sustainability Strategy”). In addition, the numbers associated with the Cocoa Horizons project are significant. As of December 2014, the Cocoa Horizons truck has reached over 33,000 villagers in Cote d’Ivoire and driven over 10,000 kilometers since the start of its journey, and has helped establish 23 model farms and 550 farmer field schools (“Cocoa Horizons Truck Reaches 10000 km Milestone”). Again, despite the pitfalls of a promotional video that exaggerates cultural distances, we can see that Barry Callebaut truly is in a position to implement change in the chocolate supply chain, and has made positive progress in doing so.
Barry Callebaut has worked to improve the issues of a chocolate supply chain where cacao farms suffer from poverty, lack of training and education, minimal access to equipment, and labor concerns (Cocoa Initiative, 2011). Through the Cocoa Horizons initiative, Barry Callebaut takes their company goals on the road in a truck that visits the most remote and isolated of cacao farms. Even though the promotional video for this project raises concerns about propaganda and cultural exaggeration, the initiative has achieved measurable success in the two years that is has been active. As a business-to-business company with 40% of the market share of industrial chocolate and a name entrenched in a large portion of cocoa products, Barry Callebaut is in a strong position to implement change in the cacao supply chain.
Barry Callebaut’s Cocoa Horizons Truck – a Unique Concept to Bring Farmer Training, Education and Health to Remote Communities. Vimeo. Barry Callebaut Group, 2 Feb. 2014. Web. <https://vimeo.com/85716409>.
Over the past decade, artisanal chocolate manufacturers have introduced bean-to-bar, single-source products in an industry controlled by a few large profit-maximizing players that produce low-price, commodity-like products. The established big chocolate players have sought to maintain the status quo of their manufacturing model, which for several decades has centered on delivering consumers mass-produced homogeneity in all aspects of the chocolate creation process from flavor to production to corporate responsibility to the final pricing of the product. While this model has proved successful for the long-standing big chocolate manufacturers, new entrants seek to distract from this model by providing a heterogeneous product that is homogenous only its location of sourcing. These new entrants attempt to confront the big chocolate model by appealing to consumers’ appetite for “authenticity” in terms of sourcing, manufacturing, social impact and taste. This new paradigm offers a means to preserve bean diversity, traditional production techniques, and wellbeing of bean environments, thereby generating sustainability, while nudging large manufacturers to adopt similar values lest they lose consumers that care about these aspects.
Differences in flavor priorities for big chocolate manufacturers and smaller, single-source producers influence the homogeneity and heterogeneity of taste in the final chocolate product sold to consumers. Single-source chocolate manufacturers seek to emphasize the native taste of the bean and the environment in which it is grown. Just like for high-end wine producers, the Terroir, or series of environmental and biological characteristics that impact the growth and characteristics of the plant itself and thereby the fruit’s taste, represents the most important priority for these bean-to-bar, artisanal manufacturers. In a random sample of 30 single-source chocolate manufacturers, one sees an emphasis on the local flavor of the bean itself and the bean’s area of origin. For example, LA Burdick states that its Single Source Dark Chocolate Bars, “allow a sampling of distinctive regional beans. From the fruity acidic notes of Madagascar, the earthly finish of Ecuador…Single Source Bars provide a world tour of regional chocolate individuality.” Furthermore, LA Burdick even mentions the word “terroir” in its description of chocolate sourcing. It writes, “When turned into chocolate, it is hard to overstate the effect of the ecosystem on the chocolate flavor (terroir). The flavors of these chocolates are deep, complex, long lasting and taste of everything surrounding the cacao trees.” Additionally, Ocelot Chocolate states its Single Origin Peruvian Bar is “Made with the ultra-rare Peruvian white cacao Piura Porcelana, which has been nurtured back from the brink of extinction.” Each of the 30 randomly selected single-source chocolate manufacturers emphasizes the nativity of the plant and bean’s surroundings. Bill Nesto, in highlighting the ability of single-source chocolate to bring out the bean and essence of the chocolate product itself, writes, “The smaller and more precisely delimited a chocolate’s origin is, the more opportunity there is for a producer to express its identity (135).” According to Nesto, the variability in cacao terroir and natural flavors represents heterogeneity that manufacturers should emphasize, not neglect or remove.
While single-source chocolate producers emphasize flavor diversity, big chocolate manufacturers perceive the importance and nature of flavor itself very differently. For example, nowhere on its bars or website does Hershey’s state the origin of the beans in its bar. When advertising its Milk Chocolate Bar, it simply writes, “Pure and simple. Nothing can take place of this classic.” It is ironic the company uses the words pure and simple since nowhere does the company describe the flavor of the bean itself, the core ingredient of traditional chocolate. Big chocolate manufacturers have centered their business model on developing manufactured flavors, which in many cases may veer far from the flavor of the cacao bean itself. In a marketing gesture, Hershey’s has led consumers to believe that the taste it manufactured in the lab is indeed the true taste of chocolate by using worlds like “pure” to describe it. Manufactured flavor represents a core product design decision on part of the big chocolate manufacturers. Joel Glenn Brenner in examining the history of Mars and Hershey’s writes that for Mars, “the process of manufacturing chocolate was gradually shifting form improvisation to exact science.” Later he writes, “Each [company’s] process produced its own unique chocolate flavor… (63).” He acknowledges that challenges exist in manufacturing chocolate taste since it is by nature a genetically complex plant. Brenner writes, “Chocolate is one of nature’s most complex flavors. So numerous are its properties that chemists have been unable to synthesize it despite decades of research (63-64).” When compared to apple flavor for example, he claims there are six times as many chemical components. This aspect of re-creating and synthesizing a taste is one woven into the very history of big chocolate manufacturers, such that created flavors become associated with brands. In addressing the flavor priority of big chocolate manufacturers, Kristy Leissle writes that these manufacturers were “more interested in selling flavor than lineage (22),” clearly the opposite of single-source producers’ priorities. Furthermore, Leissle writes how big chocolate marketing emphasized the site of manufacturing versus the site of where plant itself is grown. The plant enters into the process for big manufacturers just in the capacity of recreating several of its aspects, not in bringing out the true nature of the bean itself. Big chocolate manufacturers thus strive to develop a “perfect” homogenous flavor that they then market as “pure” versus bringing out the very heterogeneity and diversity of the beans themselves, an approach used by artisanal chocolate manufacturers.
The difference in heterogeneity and homogeneity of flavor represents one key way in which artisanal chocolate manufacturers seek to differentiate themselves to attract a segment of the chocolate-eating market that cares about the final product’s “authenticity.” The homogeneity-heterogeneity dichotomy however extends to the process and style of manufacturing as well. While big chocolate manufacturers emphasize standardization at every step of their process, artisanal chocolate manufacturers emphasize the diversity of production methods, as influenced by the source of the cocoa. For example, Taza Chocolate writes that its Mexicano Chocolate Disc is “stone ground chocolate inspired by Mexican chocolate making traditions, giving the chocolate a rustic, gritty texture.” The image below shows the back of a wrapper of a Taza disc product, with text highlighting the stone-ground methodology. Garibaldi Goods’ writes about its Palos Blanos, Bolivian Single Origin Chocolate Bar, “…the beans are then handsorted, roasted, crushed, sorted again, winnowed, conched and refined, aged, tempered, molded and hand-wrapped.” The methodology of manufacturing varies greatly for single-source chocolate manufacturers depending on the source of the chocolate bean and early traditions of chocolate creation in the areas. In this sense, even the chocolate manufacturing process exhibits elements of an “expanded terroir,” which would include the local styles of production.
Hershey’s and other big chocolate makers on the other hand rely on standardized, one-size-fits all processes that are designed to emphasize the sameness of each product created by factories versus heterogeneity in methodology as pursued by single-source manufacturers. Compared to the Taza wrapper seen above, the back of the Kit-Kat bar seen below, tells nothing of the production process of the chocolate bar. Michael D’Antonio writes that even in the early history of Mars and Hershey’s, standardization and mass production represented a priority. In the early years of these companies, the recipe of chocolate itself was altered based on its versatility in the production process. D’Antonio writes, “They would also discover that the method and recipe devised at the homestead could be adapted for mass production…Schmalbach’s mixture was easier to move through various processes—it could be pumped, channeled, and poured—and it required less time for smoothing and grinding. Hershey would be able to make milk chocolate faster, and therefore cheaper, than the Europeans (108).” In emphasizing the companies’ priority for mass production, D’Antonio further writes, “Instead of making hundreds of items at varying prices, Milton would produce huge quantities of a few varieties (121).” In this way, big chocolate manufacturers’ emphasis on mass production has led to more homogeneity in product lines and less tolerance for any type of variability in production, whether in speed of production, variety of distinct products generated or standardization of a given product itself. On the contrary, artisanal chocolate manufacturers today seek to emphasize heterogeneities in production process to provide consumers with a more “authentic” and genuine product. In expressing his desire to see more authenticity from production heterogeneity, Bill Nesto emphasizes the importance of the production process’ structure. He writes, “The more control man has over the entire chain of production from plant to product, the better man can preserve terroir (135).” In this way, he stresses the importance of genuine, uncorrupted bean-to-bar manufacturing processes in bringing out authenticity in the final product.
While product flavor and production process represent two ways in which homogeneity-heterogeneity dichotomies exist between large chocolate manufacturers and small single-source ones, the different approach the two segments have towards social impact is critical as well. Showing social cause can influence sales, Leissle writes, “West Africa bars can be successfully sold in the U.S.—provided the maker has already inspired trust with a clear statement of its social mission (29).” In examining the social missions of single-source chocolate manufacturers one sees great variability, influenced again by the environment where the cacao is grown. Single-origin chocolate producer Original Beans, which sources its beans from Eastern Congo directs part of its revenue towards preservation of habitats and projects its sourcing environment cares about. It writes, “Original beans have established nurseries, created training programmes and replanted forests in this war-torn area to help farmers rebuild their livelihoods. They are helping to protect Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest nature and reserve and home of the last Mountain Gorillas on earth.” In this way Original Beans supports the local environment from where its chosen beans originate. Furthermore several single-source chocolate producers, such as Taza Chocolate and Mast Brothers Chocolate, have partnered with organizations, such as Maya Mountain Cacao Ltd, which teaches small farmers in Belize improved farming methods, provides them with microloans through Kiva to invest in their microbusinesses, and pays them higher rates for their products. Maya Mountain Cacao’s website states that it “connects smallholder farmers with the ultra-premium chocolate industry,” allowing buyers to connect with farmers growing the cacao. In this way, single-source chocolate manufacturers individually and collectively participate in a wide variety of diverse social impact pursuits, consequently offering heterogeneity in how chocolate revenues are utilized in protecting the local environments where farmers grow their cacao.
While single-source cacao takes this diverse approach to protecting local environments, big chocolate manufacturers invest in projects that help the farmers’ local communities but with the end-goal of maximizing their own profits and thus shareholder value. Hershey’s announced programs like CocoaLink, a mobile messaging service used to “deliver practical agricultural and social information to rural cocoa farmers in West Africa.” Though it may provide communication and information advantages to the farmers, it seems to serve Hershey’s interests to a greater extent, since Hershey’s would own a messaging platform connecting its cacao farmers and suppliers. Hershey’s does invest in projects such as the Mexico Cocoa Project designed to supply disease-tolerant cocoa trees to farms in Chiapas regions of Southern Mexico, but by nature of its business model, investments must be in the interest of providing returns to shareholders, who own the firm. In this way, the business model creates different incentives in social responsibility with big chocolate manufacturers utilizing projects towards the specific goal of helping societies benefit shareholders and with single-source manufacturers undertaking their various projects to provide social sustainability for all stakeholders’ benefit, including farmers and local wildlife. Crucially, while big chocolate manufacturers pool money from chocolate sales coming from all types of cocoa beans in the aggregate and then redistribute money to few large projects, single-source chocolate manufacturers individually invest in a large variety of small-scale, heterogeneous, social causes that are native to where each cacao bean and production process originates. They invest the sales from beans of a given location to the location itself. In this sense, single-source chocolate manufacturers social impact strategy offers more heterogeneity in social impact tied to the growing location whereas big chocolate manufacturer’s social investing strategy pools all in one fund then distributes to project with the homogenous goal of maximizing shareholder value.
The differences in homogeneity and heterogeneity between big chocolate manufacturers and single-source manufacturers across three areas of flavor, production technique, and social investing all necessarily lead to differences in prices consumer pay at the store. One can see this by examining pricing difference between a random sample of 30 chocolate bars that contain the worlds “single-origin” or “single-source” in their marketing and a random sample of 30 chocolate bars produced by the big chocolate companies and shelved at CVS as shown in the image below. The data I compiled on single-source bars, represented in the light-pink table below, shows a mean price of $10.87 and a median of $10.54 for single-source chocolate bars (normalized for 100g). The data I compiled on big chocolate mass-produced bars, represented by the light-purple table below, shows a mean of $2.75 and a median of $2.80 for mass-produced chocolate bars (normalized for 100g). The pricing differential is clearly visible with the mean price for single origin bars four times the mean price for big chocolate manufactured chocolate bars. Just as significant is the dispersion of pricing between the two samples. Single-source chocolate shows greater variability in pricing than mass-produced samples. Mass-produced samples are almost entirely concentrated between $2 and $4, or lower, whereas the single-source sample shows greater variability between $4 and $19, implying greater homogeneity in pricing for products created by big chocolate manufacturers and greater heterogeneity in pricing for products created by single-source chocolate producers.
In assessing the difference in mean pricing between the two groups, the wedge represents the premium consumers pay for heterogeneity and “authenticity” over the homogeneity created by big chocolate producers. This wedge represents the three differences in flavor, production, and social impact methodologies, but also more, such as differences in labor practices and treatment of workers as indicated by Fair Trade and Direct Trade, a large topic, which due to special limitations here I have put aside. The pricing wedge is significant and very likely turns away those who have lower willingness to pay. However, if single-source chocolate manufacturers become successful in their marketing and awareness efforts, consumers may begin caring more about authenticity, such that they may pay more for it. In order to effectively transcend the current segmented market, momentum is needed on part of the single-source chocolate manufacturers to ensure that consumers’ appetite for their products grows, such that single-source producers can eventually reach a tipping point. Such momentum many even nudge big chocolate manufacturers to adopt similar practices. Reaching this point would challenge the existing big chocolate industry into becoming more “authentic,” emphasizing sustainable, heterogeneous differences in the product, its flavor, process, and its social impact versus emphasizing homogeneity in product creation.
Brenner, Joel Glenn. (2000). The Emperors of Chocolate. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
D’Antonio, Michael. (2006). Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Leissle, Kristy. (2013). “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate” in Gastronomica: The Journal or Food and Culture. Vol. 13, No. 3. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Nesto, Bill. (2010). “Discovering Terroir in the World of Chocolate” in Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. Vol. 10, No. 1. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Garibali Goods. (2015). Online Store: Palos Blancos, Bolivian Single Origin Chocolate Bar. Santa Monica, CA.
The Hershey Company. (2015). Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar. Hershey, PA.
With the growing international popularity of chocolate, the number of chocolate companies has increased dramatically and the competition between each has become more and more fierce. Along with the growth in chocolate companies, the number of chocolate certification organizations has also increased, to a point where the numerous labels are confusing to the normal American consumer. Today, chocolate companies can choose from a wide array of certifications to apply for, including Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade UK, Fair for Life, Rainforest Alliance, Direct Trade, USDA Organic and more. A question we should consider is: are these fair trade certifications actually creating the social impact they say they are in the chocolate industry and around the world? In considering this question, we will take a look at the history and business of one craft chocolate company without any certifications – Askinosie Chocolate. Askinosie Chocolate, through their direct relationship with farmers, is able to have a sustainable impact on the chocolate growing community and their own local community while maintaining the high quality of its products, without the distraction of any third-party certifications or labels.
The term “fair trade” was defined by the international Fair Trade Federation in 2003 and is as follows: “Fair Trade is a movement promoting trading partnerships based on dialogue, transparency and respect, and that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading condition to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.” (Witkowski) In order to achieve its goals, the Fair Trade movement relies on secondary organizations, such as the International Fair Trade Association, Fair Trade Federation, or Ten Thousand Villages, to implement an auditing system for supply chains to ensure they meet the standards. However, the goals of Fair Trade are broad and vague, and the standards of each Fair Trade organization can vary widely. For example, Rainforest Alliance, a non-profit, claims to certify fair trade products, but does not include standards for compensating producers above market price and in actuality has worked closely with Kraft and Chiquita, big food corporations, which may lead to competing interests (Witkowski).
According to a 2009 study, fair trade consumers tended to value universalism, for example unity with nature and protecting the environment, as well as self-direction, or freedom and control over their own individual decisions, more than non-consumers of fair trade products (Doran). This study demonstrated that the values the fair trade movement promotes are important to a sizeable number of consumers. However, whether or not purchasing all products certified by a certain “fair trade” label is productively achieving those values is a question for further research.
As the market for fair trade products has grown, it seems the way in which the original values have been manifested have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Because of the numerous fair trade certifications and the incongruent nature of their standards and information provided to consumers, consumers should question the true value of any fair trade certified product they choose to purchase (Ballet). The case of Askinosie Chocolate is an exemplary model for transparency and social impact in the chocolate industry today.
Askinosie Chocolate was founded in 2006 by Shawn Askinosie, originally as a new hobby to replace his stressful criminal defense lawyer day job. Like some of the big chocolate companies today, for example, Hershey’s, Askinosie Chocolate started out as a family business. Shawn began by making chocolate in his office kitchen, perfecting recipes with his wife, and then managing the business side with his high school aged daughter. As the company grew, it made a noticeable effort to maintain the personal touch in their products, as evidenced through the personal stories of Shawn’s family members who are involved in the business as well as their business practices.
One major practice that sets Askinosie Chocolate apart from its bean-to-bar competitors is their commitment to direct trade with farmers. Unlike its competitors, Askinosie Chocolate has not sought fair trade certification or established a third party organization to certify its direct trade practices. In fact, Askinosie Chocolate doesn’t use any type of certification for its cocoa or chocolate at all (their sugar, however, is certified organic). Shawn himself travels to the farm sites and establishes partnerships with farmers through acquaintances and business partners, and then evaluates the beans and the cacao farming process himself in person. By avoiding a broker/middleman, Askinosie Chocolate is able to incorporate their value of cooperation and transparency throughout their supply chain.
Askinosie Chocolate’s direct trade model is especially beneficial for the producers of cacao because producers are paid a higher price than the set fair trade commodity price as well as 10% of the company’s profits every year (Attoun). Because the beans are routinely tested before providing the bonus profits, the producers have an incentive to produce the highest quality cacao beans for Askinosie Chocolate. Instead of relying on a middleman to inspect quality, Askinosie Chocolate sends a company representative, often Shawn himself, to visit the sites and to meet the farmers while drawing up a contract and developing a partnership with them (“Askinosie Chocolate”).
Although fair trade programs originally set out to shorten the supply chain that causes brands profit disproportionately compared to farmers, in reality, fair trade itself has become a cumbersome instrument like those it has tried to change.
In contrast with fair trade certification programs, which often require the farmers and cooperatives to front a cost of anywhere between $2,500 – $10,000 for annual inspection and certification fees, the Askinosie Chocolate model doesn’t cost the farmers money because it is a business partnership (Tellman). The combination of these yearly fees as well as the fixed commodity price for fair trade chocolate inhibit small farmers from participating in the system and limit the impact of fair trade overall. Askinosie Chocolate on the other hand plays a role in each step of the supply chain, ensuring that the business runs smoothly and that the partnership with farmers is fair at every single step. From finding the beans, building partnerships, shipping the beans, and actually making the chocolate, Askinosie Chocolate personally touches each part of their production process.
Since the founding of the company, Askinosie Chocolate asserts that they have been “weaving social responsibility into everything we do” (“Askinosie Chocolate”), and that company value is evidenced by their numerous philanthropic ventures and careful business endeavors.
Beginning in 2009, Askinosie Chocolate started Chocolate University, an18-month program for local high school students to learn about the bean-to-bar company, beginning from the bar that is completed in their town and ending with a visit to Tanzania – a site of one farm where Askinosie gets their beans (“Askinosie Chocolate: Bringing”).
This program is a way for the company to empower the youth in the community to become global citizens while teaching them about the ethics of the chocolate business and experience first-hand the types of decisions chocolate companies may face, for example, choosing a farm at which to source cacao beans. Before the trip to a cacao source, students in the program research the needs of the community and raise funds in order to address those needs and create a social impact during their visit.
In addition to their community impact, Askinosie weaves their value of transparency into every part of their business. By creating personal connections with the farmers, Shawn is able to put a face to the product, and the company literally uses farmer’s faces as images on some of their products.
The personal touch on the marketing of the chocolate bars indicates to consumers that there are real people behind the products they are buying, and tempt the already socially-minded consumer to purchase even more. In addition, Askinosie Chocolate claims that their products are “100% traceable”, and their website has a tool for consumers to input the identification code of their product to track where individual ingredients actually come from (“Askinosie Chocolate”).
Besides enriching the lives of consumers, Askinosie Chocolate takes care to also educate their farmers on their products. When Shawn visits farms to do yearly inspections, he will bring with him official sales numbers and even samples of the finished chocolate to allow the farmers to actually taste what their raw food product can create. By being transparent in their partnership with farmers and their relationship with consumers, Askinosie Chocolate is solving the problem fair trade certifications face today of unclear communication/information.
In conclusion, Askinosie Chocolate is able to have a sustainable impact on the cacao growing community through their equitable direct-trade relationship with farmers, and company value of transparency by foregoing cumbersome fair trade certification programs. In addition, Askinosie Chocolate empowers its own local community through its social initiatives, such as Chocolate University. However, the question of how to scale their impact remains. As we have seen with fair trade certification, although it began with ethical values and goals, as the programs expanded, the desire for profit and larger impact outweighed the earlier ideals and distracted the movement from its origins. The direct trade movement and the family owned craft chocolate business should also be aware of the potential dangers of scaling while still maintaining its product quality.
Ballet, Jèrôme. “Fair Trade and the Depersonalization of Ethics.” Journal of Business Ethics 92.Supplement 2: FAIR TRADE IN DIFFERENT NATIONAL CONTEXT (2010): 317-30. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.
Doran, Caroline Josephine. “The Role of Personal Values in Fair Trade Consumption.” Journal of Business Ethics 84.4 (2009): 549-63. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.
Tellman, Beth. “Not Fair Enough: Historic and Institutional Barriers to Fair Trade Coffee in El Salvador.” Journal of Latin American Geography 10.2 (2011): 107-27. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.
Witkowski, Terrence H. “Fair Trade Marketing: An Alternative System for Globalization and Development.” Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice 13.4, Globalization and Its Marketing Challenges (2005): 22-33. JSTOR. Web. 05 May 2015.
Julia Child, the woman who brought French cooking alive in America, once said that Scharffen Berger chocolate was the best chocolate she had tasted in the United States. Just as Child had sought to bring the finest French cooking techniques to kitchens across America, Scharffen Berger, founded in 1997, sought to bring the experience of the finest European craft chocolate to American consumers. Due in part to its early founding date, but also because of its high profile supporters like Julia Child, Scharffen Berger in many ways became the quintessential American craft small batch chocolate (Nelson). As the small company’s success and profile grew, it did not go unnoticed by the quintessential American big chocolate company – Hershey. In 2005, looking to expand their arm in the craft chocolate market, Hershey purchased Scharffen Berger (Lubow). As a result of the Hershey takeover, and to the disappointment of craft chocolate enthusiasts, Scharffen Berger has faced tangible ethical labor, and production problems surrounding its chocolate, and has handled these real problems with public relations solutions, rather than tangible ones.
Scharffen Berger was founded by an unlikely pair, a doctor and a winemaker, who were both looking for a change in their lives. In 1989, Robert Steinberg, a San Francisco based doctor, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and told that it was likely he only had 10 years left to live. Feeling the pressure of time, he sold his medical practice and traveled around Europe, where his adventures included two weeks interning at French chocolatier, Bernachon, where he fell in love with the craft chocolate industry (Nelson). Upon returning to California, Steinberg teamed up with a former winemaker who had just sold his vineyard and was looking for a new job in the fine foods industry, John Scharffenberger (“Our Story”). The two new chocolatiers started experimenting in Steinberg’s kitchen, using only a coffee grinder, mortar and pestle, and a hair dryer as equipment to develop craft chocolate recipes and processes. The company’s start was, therefore, quite literally small – 2 men, 1 kitchen, and chocolate batches small enough to fit into a kitchen pot (Nelson).
By 1997, Steinberg and Scharffenberger had opened their first factory, located in South San Francisco, under the name Scharffen Berger chocolates. To create their chocolate, they used a melangeur to grind carefully sourced beans into chocolate liquor, and then they mixed that liquor with cane sugar and vanilla beans. Due to the minimally added extra ingredients, the flavor of the cacao beans greatly impacted the flavor of the chocolate – just as the flavor of grapes would affect the taste of a good wine (Nelson). The chocolate grew quickly in popularity in the Bay Area and beyond, and after only 4 years. Scharffen Berger had moved operations to larger factory in Berkeley with close to 150 employees (Lubow).
Scharffen Berger was only the second craft chocolate maker in the United States, and the company is widely believed to have “kick started” a small batch craft chocolate movement across the country, as “high end artisanal chocolate became the fastest growing sector of the market” (Lubow). This success did not go unnoticed by American big chocolate, and Hershey began to look into buying Scharffen Berger in order to gain access to the gourmet market, which spokespeople for the Hershey Company at the time described as “very on trend” (Sarkar). Hershey succeeded in buying the craft chocolate company in 2005, at which point it was announced that no Scharffen Berger employees would be fired, and the company would continue to produce its high end chocolate with uncompromised quality, just in larger quantities because of the expansion opportunities offered by Hershey ownership (Sarkar).
Hershey’s purchase of Scharffen Berger was not met with open arms in the growing craft chocolate community – a community Scharffen Berger had helped to found (Lubow). While some reviewers, like Arthur Lubow of the New York Times, complained that the taste quality of the chocolate decreased after Hershey’s purchase, the complaints surrounding taste never really gained traction in the market. The much more concerning, and tangible, issue to the chocolate world seemed to be the changes in Scharffen Berger ethical labor and production practices after they were purchased by Hershey.
Despite Hershey’s promise not to lay off any Scharffen Berger employees when they took over the company, in 2009 Hershey announced that it would close down the Scharffen Berger plant in Berkeley, CA, lay off all of its 150 workers, and move all production to a factory in Illinois. The move was completed by late 2009, and done very quietly because Scharffen Berger had become a local Bay Area institution, and removing it, and the jobs it provided to the community, was bound to be an unpopular move (Lubow). Like most craft chocolate makers, Scharffen Berger had a very strong local footprint; all its employees were from the Bay Area, and that is where it saw its highest sales. This is likely why the backlash against the factory relocation was particularly strong in the San Francisco press (Colliver). One former San Francisco Scharffen Berger employee said of the production move, “I’m glad Robert [Steinberg, one of the co-founders of Scharffen Berger] is not alive to see this. If the lymphoma hadn’t taken him, this would have” (qtd. in Colliver).
The tangible problems with the Scharffen Berger’s move from San Francisco to Illinois were greater than outrage and job loss in the local San Francisco community, because the move had the potential to impact the brand nationally and globally – not just locally. Scharffen Berger’s brand image had been built around the idea of a locally based craft chocolate company – with the local production providing a critical part of the appeal to chocolate aficionados (Williams and Eber 157). Scharffen Berger was marketed as a San Francisco born and bred company – it had been founded by two San Franciscan’s in a San Francisco kitchen and all production had always taken place in the Bay Area. However, after the relocation to Illinois, this was no longer true.
In order to deal with the tangible problem of leaving their local community, and laying off long time company workers, Hershey focused on continuing to market Scharffen Berger as an independent San Francisco company, even though it longer had any labor commitment to, or community involvement with, the Bay Area. On the Scharffen Berger website, there are photos of the Golden Gate bridge, the most iconic San Francisco landmark. There is no mention of the fact that production takes place in Illinois, and the word Hershey only appears once – halfway down the Our History page (“Our Story”) Therefore, in order to address the tangible concerns about abandoning the Scharffen Berger San Francisco base and employees, Hershey fell back on surface level public relations strategies, rather than looking towards tangible solutions, like a continued investment in the San Francisco community.
Beyond just concerns about the local San Francisco labor base of Scharffen Berger, the craft chocolate community also became very concerned that as Scharffen Berger cacao beans became sourced through Hershey’s large supply chain, that it would lack the guarantee that the chocolate was produced without unethical forced child labor. American craft chocolate makers pride themselves, and find their consumer niche, in and because of direct and transparent trade, a commitment to the local, high quality organic beans, a stand against forced labor conditions, and producing a chocolate that tastes nothing like mass market brands. Therefore, labor concerns are critically important – by some accounts almost as important as taste, to high-end chocolate consumers (Williams and Eber 156). Child labor, while not occurring in overwhelmingly large quantities, is still a persistent and important concern when it comes to ethically sourced cacao beans.
While other craft chocolate makers, many of whom now engage in direct trade in small quantities, can ensure that no unethical labor goes into their product, Scharffen Berger, because they are a part of the larger Hershey sourcing operation, is unable to certify that no forced child labor goes into their product. Due to this, advocacy groups, lead by the Raise the Bar Hershey Campaign, worked to get Scharffen Berger removed from the shelves of Whole Foods and other retailers of fine chocolate. In October of 2012, Whole Foods announced that it would remove all Scharffen Berger chocolate from its shelves until Hershey could certify that it was ethically sourcing its chocolate (“Whole Foods”).
The same day that Whole Foods announced it was pulling Scharffen Berger chocolate from its shelves, Hershey responded by saying that it would “source 100 percent certified cocoa for its global chocolate product lines [including Scharffen Berger] by 2020” (qtd. in Neiburg). In 2014, Hershey announced that Scharffen Berger subdivision of the company had already reached its goal of 100% certified cacao – 6 years early. However, the third party authenticator that Hershey used to certify Scharffen Berger cacao was the Rainforest Alliance. While the Rainforest Alliance does good work in certifying that farms are eco-friendly and use sustainable farming methods, they do not provide any checks or certifications about child labor (“Wonderfully Complicated”). Therefore, while Scharffen Berger chocolate now features the Rainforest alliance seal on all chocolate bars and has publically announced that all of its chocolate is 100% certified, it has yet to take any tangible steps to prevent the use of unethical child labor (“Rainforest Alliance Certified”). While the environmental commitment is admirable, placing the green frog label on Scharffen Berger and calling the chocolate 100% certified as a result does not actually solve the unethical labor problems with the Hershey supply chain – it’s a public relations solution to a tangible child labor problem.
Thus, since Hershey took over Scharffen Berger, several labor and production problems have arisen pertaining to big chocolate control over a company that prides itself on being craft. However, instead of facing those problems head on, Hershey has pursued public relations solutions that seek to improve Scharffen Berger’s interface with consumers, not actually address the problems. This begets the larger question, can fine craft chocolate maintain its craft character if it is owned by big chocolate – or is the mismatch of values and goals too large for the two ever to co-exist? Likely, the next 10 years of the Hershey – Scharffen Berger partnership will help to answer this question, and provide a model – or a warning story – for craft chocolate expansion in the United States going forward.
Colliver, Victoria. “Scharffen Berger, Schmidt Plants to Be Closed.” SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Jan. 2009. Web. 05 May 2015.
Crawford, Travis. Scharffen Berger Chocolate Makers in Berkeley, CA. 2006. Berkeley.
Diglloyd. Scharffenberger Chocolate, Tasty as It Gets. 2008. N.p.
Lubow, Arthur. “My Chocolate Meltdown.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2009. Web. 03 May 2015.
Nieburg, Oliver. “Hershey Announces Plans to Use 100% Certified Cocoa by 2020.” Business and Human Rights Resource Center, 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 05 May 2015.
Nelson, Valerie J. “Robert Steinberg Dies at 61; Founded Chocolatier Scharffen Berger.” LA Times OBITUARIES. LA Times, 28 Sept. 2008. Web. 4 May 2015.
“Our Story.” Scharffen Berger. Hershey, n.d. Web. 3 May 2015.
The industrialization period brought about the emergence of mass-production chocolate companies that have come to dominate the modern-day economic realm. The crucial component fueling this industry rests on the interplay between consumers and chocolate manufacturing companies, whose existence relies on accommodating the subsequent party’s needs. Competition between big chocolate companies fosters growth in the industry, however it also challenges the quality and practice of chocolate production, as companies employ cheap means in order to provide the most profitable product for the consumer. Cardullo’s is a small retail shop located in Harvard Square that historically has focused on supplying quality international foods, carrying a wide array of artisanal as well as bulk-produced chocolate. The shop very much intertwines with Harvard’s cultural values, and has adapted to provide a unique Harvard type “experience” by carrying crafted chocolates that stray from the conventional mass produced chocolates typically purchased by Americans. Cardullo’s legitimizes its products by generating a “social terroir” inviting the inquisitive Harvard community to taste the history of chocolate infused by different cultures inside the varying brands of chocolate, while simultaneously redefining the psychology behind high quality taste appreciation by promoting good ethics of production with its foreign associates and higher pricing of its chocolates. Ultimately, Cardullo’s challenges modern societies devalued sense of chocolate tasting appreciation that has been tainted by this generation’s fast pleasure-seeking life style.
Cardullo’s was established at the steps of one of the world’s most pristine academic institutions, luring in students and visitors from an array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Franck Cardullo, who set out to fill a niche that could provide quality foods for the neighborhood’s international population, developed the store in 1950 (Culinary Cambridge, 2012). The original store was located across the street form it’s current location, however the layout and décor inside the shop remains much in the traditional style of the old days. The shop carries a wide assortment of imported chocolate, from recognized brands like Tobleron and Mars, to less known labels such as Francois Pralus and Reger. Interestingly, the store piles all the popular mass produced brands of chocolate and crams them in the lower right hand level of a shelf, while what are to be considered “finer” and more expensive chocolate brands are shelved with more precision, in a somewhat artistic manner. The two images below depict the cluttered arrangement of the cheaper over-refined chocolate in comparison to the graceful layout of the pristine deemed Godiva chocolate.
Cardullo’s carries chocolate brands and flavors specifically targeted towards an audience of consumer conscious students, as well as the bountiful international tourists flocking to the University’s historical site. Harvard students are vey much driven by moral issues, and the community fosters consciousness on many social and ethical issues unfolding around the world. I will later introduce a concept of moral and social terroir that drives Harvard’s consumer choices. A second factor driving the choices of these consumers results from the impact of history in the community. Harvard students and tourists visiting the university have a great appreciation for historical contexts and the preservation of historical traditions. Marcy Norton describes in a book on “Tasting Empire,” 16th century records from Zapoteca, Nahua, and Mayan regions depict entries in diaries of cacao drinks being prepared with cacao and maize, cacao and chili peppers, and sometimes cacao alone (Norton, 2006). The tastes of the cacao drinks may be unique to the time, but Cardullo’s has found a means to capture a similar historical essence by selling a spiced Mayan cocoa drink labeled as such, instead of simply tagging it as “hot chocolate”. The chocolate supplied by Cardullo’s can thus be seen as a connection between the past and the present, serving as a means of unifying different cultures and historical eras.
While Cardullo’s supplies chocolate containing original flavors consumed by the people in Mesoamerica, it also emphasizes the detrimental role played by Europeans in the transformation of chocolate form it’s ancient condition to renown modern form. Many scholars have argued the case that the Spanish were appalled by the taste of the chocolate drink consumed by the natives and drastically transformed it when they returned to European soil. Norton however, counters this misconception by arguing that while Europeans added their own inventions to the chocolate they brought from Central America, “there was no conscious effort to radically reinvent the substance. Instead, modifications came about because of gradual tinkering motivated by efforts to maintain- not change- the sensory impact of chocolate” (Norton, 2006). Cardullo’s further supports Norton’s argument, and seeks to educate it’s consumers on the transformative history of chocolate as a part of their experience. The image below portrays a box of German chocolates called “Reber Mozart Kuglen,” plastered with a portrait of Mozart himself. The chocolate is placed on the highest level of the shelf in the store, almost as if on a pedestal, thus accentuating the celebration of European tradition in chocolate. The label further details that the box contains “filled chocolates,” a crucial European innovation to the manufacturing of chocolate.
Cardullo’s really builds on the idea of providing its consumers with a unique sensory experience of chocolate’s historical origins, by focusing on removing any outside influences of modern times that could be altering the pureness of chocolate appreciation. Cardullo’s captivates the interest of its consumers by appealing to their focus on good morality and strive towards a greater appreciation of the world. One of the ways in which they achieve this is by supplying single origin chocolate, as a means of directly altering the consumer’s sensory experience to a foreign region. Over the recent years, consumer preference in the US has increasingly shifted towards single origin bars, resulting from an appeal towards the “localization” of foods whose origins tend to be anonymous (Leslie, 2013). This can also be described as the “beans to bar” notion that Leslie characterizes as chocolates that are produced from a single variety of cacao produced in one region. An example of this can be seen in the Francois Pralus selection at Cardullo’s shown below, which even details the precise latitude and longitudinal coordinates of the region in which it was produced.
Such emphasis on location of the origins of the chocolate draws on the notion of terroir, which can be described as a characteristic taste and flavor of chocolate resulting from the environment in which it is produced. Nesto argues the case for single origin chocolate, in which using site-specific, quality cacao produces a bar fused with terroir given the minimal and sensitive processing sustained (Nesto, 2013). Cardullo’s generates a “social terroir” in its selection of chocolate by providing its consumers with a taste of the history of chocolate simultaneously infused with different cultures. This attraction to the exotic and unknown is what drives consumers to purchase chocolates from origins of Sao Tome, Madagascar, and Indonesia, like the ones seen above. Madagascar for example is an attractive origin largely because of “it’s cooca’s unusually bright, high citrus notes” (Leissle, 2013).
This social terroir provides information to the consumer about the potential ethical dilemmas behind the chocolates production, while also serving as a publicity measure promoting the improvement of relations between the United States and its foreign partners. Most of the brands supplied by the store stray from the renowned brands of mass-produced chocolates that carry negative qualifications due to the ethics behind production. Cardullo’s sells brands labeled with other countries, which the United States promotes positive relations with as a tool to draw a parallel between positive foreign relations with countries and the good ethics behind their chocolate production. One can observe Cardullo’s supply of the Madagascar and Sao Tome selection of Francois Pralus almost as a diplomatic tool. As Leissle argues, Madagascar has a positive reputation in US popular understanding since it “seems culturally, historically, and politically separate from the troubled continent of Africa proper” (Leissle, 2013). On the other end of the spectrum, Cardullo’s also supplies the Sao Tome label as a means to amend the negative light shown on the region as a result of its past turmoil with the Cadbury Company. As Catherine Higgs describes in her book, Cadbury employed slave labor practices on cocoa farms in Sao Tome during the early 20th century, leaving behind a region that continues to be rocked by political and social turmoil (Higgs, 2012).
Cardullo’s strays from supplying conventional fair trade and organic stamps as a means of legitimizing its products, and instead focuses more on the price range of chocolate. If you click on the chocolate tab on the stores website (http://www.cardullos.com/category/view/chocolate), there is a range in chocolate from the most expensive price being $65.00 for a chocolate basket, to more moderate chocolate bars sold for $10.00. The lofty price of the chocolate boxes reflects on the artistic quality of the design as well as the ingredients, but comparing similar sized chocolate bars across the spectrum there is a significant price difference that results from the quality of cocoa beans and other ingredients used. Williams et al. wrote a piece in which they argue against the cheap cocoa beans and artificial ingredients used by certain companies to make a profit, further asserting the freshness in flavor that results from the use of natural ingredients, such as in the Mast Brothers Chocolate’s products (Williams et al., 2012). People tend to develop different levels of taste appreciation depending on the exposure to different types of chocolate during their lifetime, which can be a result of the affordability in price of the chocolate. However, consumer’s appreciation of chocolate can also be influenced by the price of the chocolate. People automatically tend to associate more expensive chocolate to a higher quality and sophistication in the product, especially in modern day society where most consumers purchasing decisions are driven by financial forces. Stuckey argues there is a psychology behind consumers understanding the food they are tasting (Stuckey, 2012). This can result in consumers quite literally focusing on the taste of the price of chocolate, and lead them to try unusual flavors such as “Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar,” simply because they assume the higher price applies to higher quality.
This however, serves as an important marketing strategy allowing Cardullo’s to redefine the tastes associated with more expensive, and finer chocolate.
Cardullo’s marketing measures divulges the stores concern on redefining consumer’s ordinary, present day experience when eating chocolate. The chocolate sold at Cardullo’s presents a break in tradition of which Williams et al. would describe as “a generation that wants pleasure fast,” (Williams et al., 2012) further challenging the morality and taste appreciation of the mass-produced chocolate market. The store’s attempt goes hand in hand with the Harvard culture’s desire to experience new things, while paralleling to Harvard’s exclusive nature in providing unique tastes, such as the collection of brands and flavors seen below. Stuckey argued the importance behind the psychology of taste, stressing the more food you taste the more you will develop to appreciate it (Stuckey, 2012). Cardullo’s wide selection of chocolates differing in origins and tastes therefore reflects the businesses goal in challenging the way this generation appreciates chocolate.
Although chocolate has been a popular product for centuries, problems continue to exist along the cacao-chocolate supply chain. Issues such as farmer poverty, lack of education, oppression of women, and child slavery are tormenting. Bureaucratic and middleman costs, lack of quality control, and buyers who are detached from the farmers’ troubles also raise issues. Additionally, information needs to reach consumers to help them make informed choices about chocolate products. Artisan chocolate manufacturer, Shawn Askinosie, cares about communities and fairness to people at all levels of the supply chain and operates his business accordingly. Askinosie Chocolate opened in Springfield Missouri in 2007, as a small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer (Askinosie 2015). Askinosie buys single-origin beans directly from farmers in Ecuador, Honduras, Tanzania, and the Philippines (Askinosie 2015). The company has several products including dark chocolate bars, cocoa powder, roasted cocoa nibs, and chocolate spreads (Askinosie 2015). Through ethical business practices, Askinosie Chocolate has become part of the solution to problems in the cacao-chocolate supply chain from farmer to consumer by engaging directly with farmers, helping in communities, creating flavorful products, paying farmers well while avoiding bureaucratic and middleman costs, and educating consumers in ways reflective of the Food Justice Movement so they make better choices.
Askinosie engages directly with farmers and helps in their communities. Unlike big chocolate companies that generally employ middlemen such as city brokers who buy from third-world brokers, who buy from farmers (Presilla 2009:111), Askinosie visits farmers directly, cares about local social issues, and initiates local improvements. For example, when choosing a cacao supplier in Tanzania, Askinosie wanted to help empower women in the area. Although women in Africa have proven to be ideal stewards of development in communities, they are often portrayed in National Geographic type images in reproductive roles and as at the mercy of nature (Leissle 2012:131-132). Because their business ability is underrepresented, Askinosie intentionally chose a farming group led by women and directly funded projects in their community to help raise them out of poverty (Askinosie 2015). For instance, the farm and the village used a shallow well for drinking water that was contaminated and unsafe (Admin 2010 Fresh), shown here:
Askinosie funded a project to build a new well, shown here:
Shawn Askinosie is shown drinking water from his newly-completed, deep, clean-water well that supports the needs of two thousand people in his farmer’s Tanzanian village (Admin 2010 Fresh). Also, Askinosie opened the Empowering Girls Club in Tanzania to help young girls realize their value and achieve their dreams by staying in school (Askinosie 2015). Additionally, he fought malnutrition in the farming villages in Tanzania and in the Philippines by sponsoring the production and sale of hot chocolate tablets by the schools’ PTA and allowing them to use all profits to provide meals to students (Askinosie 2015). The fact that Askinosie stays involved in farmers’ communities and takes initiative to fight oppression and poverty makes his company part of the solution to problems in the cacao-chocolate supply chain.
Askinosie stays involved in the Missouri community where his manufacturing plant is located as well. Askinosie was inspired to reach out to the neighborhood because of its large underprivileged population where many children spend nights in homeless shelters (Askinosie 2015). His goal is to inspire children to be socially-conscious, aware of ethical business practice, and to let them see a world beyond their own (Askinosie 2015). Askinosie partnered with Drury University to open the Chocolate University which funds educational programs for local elementary, middle, and high school students (Askinosie 2015). Students gain hands-on experience working at the chocolate factory as shown here:
This image shows a high school student working on bean samples that will be selected for products in the Askinosie Chocolate factory, giving him a better understanding of global production processes (Admin 2010 Tanzania). Students become deeply involved in global projects as well. For example, one project allowed students to travel to Tanzania, meet the farm workers, bring back beans, make chocolate, and realize the difference in taste achieved through ethical business practices and direct connection to farmers (Williams & Eber 2012:157). The students supported the Tanzania village community after returning to the U.S. by raising funds that bought textbooks for Tanzanian children (Askinosie 2015); this teaches students that they can make a difference in the world. Askinosie also helps women at the local Victory House New Life Program shelter by employing them to complete the packaging of products (Askinosie 2015), such as shown here:
The women take the biodegradable string that comes in on bags of cacao beans from farmers and use it as ties on final chocolate products (Eileen 2011). The income the women receive helps them to gain more control in their lives while living at the shelter. Askinosie uses his chocolate manufacturing process to connect the U.S. neighborhood with distant farming neighborhoods to collaboratively solve problems while producing fine flavored chocolate.
Flavor is important in giving customers choice and in persuading customers that artisan chocolate is worth its cost. There is a huge difference in flavor between mass produced, bulk bean chocolate products made by big companies and products made by artisans from expertly harvested and processed, high-flavor, single-origin cacao (Williams & Eber 2012:172). As consumers learn this difference, they may increasingly appreciate artisan chocolate. For the most part, big chocolate companies want to mass produce consistent taste. To do this, large manufacturers blend bulk beans with criollo flavor beans (Williams & Eber 2012:175). Ghana beans are preferred by big companies because the Ghana government has created a regulated system that successfully maintains consistent high quality in bland-flavored, bulk beans (Leissle 2013:24). Ghana licenses middlemen to buy beans from farmers and sell them to the Cocoa Board which sells to big chocolate companies (Leissle 2013:24). This system pools beans and only allows buyers to do business with the Cocoa Board (Leissle 2013:29). Although some Ghana farmers have gained recognition by manufacturing their own chocolate products (Leissle 2012:131-132), this system prevents outside artisan chocolate manufacturers from buying directly from farmers. Because regulations require pooling of beans and selling to middlemen, farmers in Ghana cannot attract better prices from artisans by producing better flavored beans. Farmers miss the opportunity to be paid more by an artisan who wants to offer consumers chocolate made from a particular farmer’s cacao beans, soil type, growing environment, drying process, fermenting style, and all other handling methods that affect overall bean flavor (Presilla 2009:126). Identifying flavor with origin is referred to as terroir and it covers all conditions and processes that affect flavor of chocolate right up to the time that the final product is eaten (Nesto 2010:131). For example, to help produce quality beans Askinosie ensures that farmers grow their cacao in the shade of other tropical trees and plants (Askinosie 2015), which becomes part of his chocolate’s terroir. Askinosie visits his farmers and contracts with them to follow certain high quality standards (Askinosie 2015). Askinosie does not want to mass produce identical batches of product; instead, he creates uniquely flavored batches of chocolate that consumers are willing to buy at higher prices.
Askinosie sells his uniquely flavored chocolate at prices that allow him to pay farmers well and increases farmer profit by not burdening them with bureaucratic Fair Trade, organic labeling, or middleman costs. The Fair Trade Federation price system is meant to ensure that developing nation farmers receive fair pay (Presilla 2009:133), but there are problems with Fair Trade. For instance, because individual farmers all get paid the same, there is little incentive to improve bean quality and in some cases quality has declined (Presilla 2009:133). Also, the cost of belonging to Fair Trade is too expensive for many small farmers (Presilla 2009:133). Organic certification can also adversely affect the income of small farmers. To get organic certification farmers must stop using inorganic pesticides and fertilizers for three years, comply with complex standards, do huge amounts of paperwork, and pay more than ten thousand dollars per year in certification costs, which is generally too expensive and time consuming for small farmers (Williams & Eber 2012:199). Less than half of one percent of cocoa is certified as organic even though the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says demand for organic cocoa and chocolate is high (Williams & Eber 198-199), which indicates that many small farmers cannot afford organic certification. Additionally, organic labeling does not mean that the chocolate will taste good. Organic labeling has nothing to do with bean or processing quality; it only means that the EU and US government consider it organically grown (Williams & Eber 2012:201-202). Some small farm cooperatives gain certification but ferment their beans poorly and mix their beans within the group, producing poor quality products (Williams & Eber 2012:201). Askinosie respects Fair Trade and organic principles, but he also understands that money lost in bureaucracy does not reach the farmer (Askinosie 2015). Askinosie states that his cocoa is “unofficially organic,” grown with no chemicals or pesticides (Askinosie 2015). Askinosie calls his chocolate “direct trade” and says it is beyond Fair Trade because he cuts out middleman and bureaucratic costs; he buys directly from single-origin farmers, pays more than Fair Trade prices upfront, and shares net profits with farmers after each batch is sold (Askinosie 2015). Shawn Askinosie personally delivers checks for ten percent of the net profits to the farmers over and above the price paid upfront per batch (Presilla 2009:132). Askinosie is building a great reputation for his firm by helping communities and paying his farmers well so they are better able to educate their children and live better lives.
Customers are spreading the word that Askinosie has a reputation for ethical business practices, which eases the minds of consumers who do not want to be part of unfair practices that cause farming level poverty, child slavery, lack of education, and poor health. Consumers increasingly want to know that farmers and workers are treated fairly. Ninety percent of global cacao is produced by small farmers (William & Eber 2012:199), and seventy percent is produced in West Africa (Leissle 2013:26). Child slavery is a complex issue. On one hand, West African children work to support family as part of their culture (Ryan 2011:45). On the other hand, evidence exists that children live in poverty, sacrifice education, are sold into slavery, and work in hazardous conditions by carrying too much weight and being exposed to pesticides (Ryan 2011:48). Many pictures have been taken of young children working, such as this:
This image shows a child turning cacao beans as part of the drying process on a West African farm (Anon. 2014). Information on child slavery and pictures like this would reasonably cause chocolate consumers and cacao bean buyers to worry about children used unjustly as workers. It has been reported that some parents who cannot feed their children take desperately needed money from labor brokers hoping that the child sent off to work on a distant cacao farm will be fed and perhaps prosper (Off 2008:154). Concern that children are being held captive on farms continues to hurt the image of cacao production in Africa in the eyes of consumers (Leissle 2013:29). Clearly, paying farmers more, as Askinosie does, so they are better able to care for their children, afford education, and afford to hire adult helpers would go a long way toward ending worries about slavery. By visiting farmers and staying involved in their communities, Askinosie ensures that ethical farming and labor practices are followed. This protects the reputation of his farmers and his products, which allows customers to take pride in supporting farmers and Askinosie Chocolate through their purchases.
Educating consumers about flavor, the problems farmers face, and business ethics that can help solve these problems is essential to the survival of artisan chocolate manufacturers. Consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from and that it is ethically produced. This mindset supports educational food based initiatives such as the Slow Food Movement and the Food Justice Movement that seek to connect consumers with ethical issues concerning food. For example, the Slow Food Movement teaches consumers to be environmentally conscious, enjoy the flavor of food, revitalize artisan food production, and to protect the cultural heritage of food (Leitch 2009:409-412). It helps artisans and small farmers when consumers understand that artisan food is worth more than mass produced fast food, because artisan food is generally higher in quality, more nutritious, environmentally friendly, and tastes better. The Food Justice Movement reflects a wide range of activity for ethical changes along the supply chain of foods (Levkoe 2006:587). Askinosie reflects this same spirit in his community projects and by paying his farmers well. The underlying premise of the Food Justice Movement is that food production should be sustainable and should benefit everyone involved from farmer to consumer (Levkoe 2006:587); Askinosie’s ethical business practices follow this same philosophy. Askinosie hopes more consumers will become aware and supportive of the changes he makes. He helps inform consumers by publicizing his service to farmers, neighborhoods, and consumers on his company’s website and during factory tours (Askinosie 2015). Additionally, information and photographs of farmers are printed on chocolate wrappers as shown here:
This image shows the lead farmer in the Philippines, Peter V. Cruz, who is happy to provide single-origin cacao for Askinosie’s dark chocolate (Richard 2013). Images and information on labels gives farmers personal recognition, which encourages them to take pride in their work. It also connects consumers to farmers as individuals who work hard to produce fine cacao and who are helped with each purchase. Overall, information creates wiser consumers who are more likely to support artisan food manufacturers such as Askinosie Chocolate, and thus help solve problems along the supply chain all the way back to the farmer.
By educating consumers, increasing profits to farmers, and taking direct interest in farmers and communities while manufacturing unique and flavorful chocolate, Askinosie Chocolate has become part of the solution to problems along the cacao-chocolate supply chain. Truly excellent cacao represents less than two percent of all beans produced (Presilla 2009:129). To encourage more farmers to produce high quality beans, it is important that artisan chocolate manufactures grow in number, pay farmers more, and expand ethical business practices such as those initiated by Askinosie. There are now more than thirty artisan chocolate manufacturers in the U.S. (Williams & Eber 2012:155). They reach consumers who find origin, production policies, farming, and flavor quality to be very important (Presilla 2009:132). The growth of this market relies on consumer awareness, their willingness to pay for better flavor, and their appreciation for knowing they are supporting fairness and reducing suffering. Hopefully, as informed customers and companies like Askinosie Chocolate increase in number, they will continue finding ways to resolve problems along the cacao-chocolate supply chain and continue creating a better world for everyone involved.
Admin. (2010). “Fresh Water.” Chocolate University. N.p. Aug. Web. 1 May 2015.