Tag Archives: Retail

Lost in the Candy Aisle: Observing Chocolate in its “Natural” Habitat

My Experience with chocolate at Walgreen’s

Where are most people first introduced to chocolate? Perhaps through advertisements, through their families, through popular culture with movies such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or maybe even cultural events such as Halloween. One might wager, however, that many of us first encountered the delight that is chocolate in the candy aisle of a retail store. Indeed, advertisements aimed at mothers often involved a child’s wide eyes upon the sight of chocolate in the candy aisle of a grocery store and their insistence that their mother purchase this chocolate. Thus, one finds it interesting to flesh out chocolate’s existence in a retail setting, given its prominence in the way that we purchase and experience chocolate. Chocolate is a product with global ties to a variety of issues including racial and economic inequality, illegitimate labor practices, and issues with the distribution across the supply chain. I contend that the retail setting in which chocolate is sold contributes to these issues, for better or for worse, and will detail these relationships in today’s blog post.

The picture I’m painting in this post is inevitably anecdotal – it’s based of my experience at one store – but nevertheless I feel it is representative of a typical, non-specialty marketplace where many people purchase chocolate. I conducted my field research at a Walgreen’s in Central Square. Of course, this was a bit ironic, given that a pharmacy/health store was selling chocolate and many other (perhaps less healthy) sweets, but I digress. As we all know, chocolate is an incredibly popular treat, and it is often the base for many other sweets such as Reese’s, Snickers, or M&M’s for example. However, for the sake of this paper, I intend to focus more on “pure” chocolate – or rather sweets that are presented as chocolate first and not those in which chocolate is simply an ingredient. For example, a Hershey’s bar may count (even with almonds!) but a Snicker’s bar or a Butterfingers would not. I choose to do this to minimize and focus the scope of my analysis, but also to ensure a fairer comparison between products and the various analyses that come from these comparisons.

High Class Chocolate

After entering the candy/snacks aisle of the store, it became exceedingly obvious that intentional thought had been put into the arrangement of the various delicacies. Let’s begin with the sexiest section, or the section of the aisle that was dedicated to the fanciest chocolates that the store had to offer. This section was clearly demarcated from the rest of the confectioneries, suggesting a fundamental difference in quality between these offerings and the others. This suggestion was further entrenched when one looks at the prices of these products. By my quick estimation, these products ranged from 33% to 50% more expensive than similar offerings in the aisle that weren’t presented as luxury. Additionally, these chocolates were encased in packaging with connotations of luxury and elegance.

Packaging Matters!

As I mentioned previously, the packaging of the various chocolates had major implications. In order to unpackage (pun intended) these implications, I feel it appropriate to examine a few case studies found in Walgreen’s.

Lindt 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark Chocolate

The first chocolate we will examine is The Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark chocolate (pictured above). Off the bat, we notice several intended effects of this packaging and branding. To begin with, Lindt is an established brand of chocolate from Switzerland. This indicates to a consumer that this product is high-quality (a point hammered home by the subsequent “Excellence” on the label) and that the product is from perhaps the most reputable country in chocolate production: Switzerland. With an academic background in chocolate, we understand that the cocoa beans that went into the production of the bar are likely from South America or West Africa, a notable omission from the packaging. Next, in large font, the package indicates it is 90% cocoa. This is important for a myriad of reasons, some of which we have covered in class. One, it indicates to a consumer that this product is literally 90% pure cocoa, a fact that should differentiate it from other chocolates with more additives. In a larger sense, however, this percentage is included to suggest to the consumer that this product is in a different class than other chocolate offerings due to its adherence to strong cocoa content in light of a confectionery market largely dependent on sugar-infused products. Interestingly, the label states “90% cocoa” instead of “90% cacao.” We’ve discussed in class how the term “cacao” is often used by marketers to instill a sense of higher quality or to connect the consumer more directly to the source product, suggesting that their product is more “real” or “pure” than other competitors. There are elements of classist dialogue in play here, mirroring historical realities of chocolate consumption, where chocolate was a delicacy enjoyed by only those of a high class.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark 86% Cacao Midnight Reverie Chocolate

Another case worth looking at is the Ghirardelli Intense Dark 86% Cacao Midnight Reverie chocolate. Right away, we notice some similarities between this product and our first case. The producer is a well-known, reputable chocolate brand. Although Ghirardelli is an American brand, it’s name suggests the quality of its European competitors. It includes a reference to its high cacao content (notably utilizing the term cacao as opposed to cocoa). The similarities end here though, as we are able to determine a different means by which Ghirardelli intended to reach their potential customers: portraying chocolate as an aphrodisiac. This is expressed in multiple ways. First, they refer to the chocolate as an “intense” dark. While I’m sure the chocolate is quite dark (86% cacao), the use of the adjective intense is a loaded move meant to add a level of sensuality to the name of the chocolate. This point is hammered by home by the last part of the name:”midnight reverie.” Midnight suggests the darkness of the chocolate, but also has sexual connotations, while reverie means a state of bliss or pleasure, again with obvious sexual connotations. Candy is often thought of as a treat that children enjoy, but evidently Ghirardelli is attempting to influence an adult market with this product.

Top Shelf Status

In addition to the various messages put forth by the packaging on the chocolates I researched, the arrangement of the items on the shelves indicated the importance of the various products on the shelves. The first (and perhaps most intuitive observation) is that the most expensive chocolate products in this section resided on the top shelf, with prices decreasing as one looked down. For context, the top shelf in this store would be about eye level for the average woman. Additionally, one noticed that the packaging became less fancy as one’s eyes followed down the shelves, which is consistent with the falling prices.

The “Luxury” Chocolate section at the Central Square Walgreen’s

The existing literature has much to say about the way that shelves are arranged in retail settings and consumers’ interpretations of these arrangements. Consumers believe that expensive products exist on the top shelf, while the middle shelves contain the most popular products (Valenzuela et al. 2012). We also know that consumers take advantage of “visual saliency” in their decision making, meaning that they utilize their knowledge of products’ appearance or placement in a retail setting to help determine their purchasing decisions (Gidlof et al. 2017). Additionally, simply looking at a product longer results in a higher chance of a consumer buying the product. Thus, a consumer is definitely impacted by both the placement of a product and the ability of its packaging to catch their eye. These facts are consistent with my experience at Walgreen’s despite the fact that I was at the store for observation purposes, and not to actually purchase anything.

What about health and spirituality?

Notably absent from my field research at Walgreen’s were two archetypes of chocolate that we have discussed in class: products promoting health benefits (whether in an absolute or relative sense) or those attempting to connect a consumer with the products historical and spiritual roots of cacao by using aztec or mayan imagery to promote the product. Perhaps this absence was tied with the similar absence of any craft or local chocolate products. Intuitively, it makes sense that a national chain like Walgreen’s would only carry the standard fare of chocolates that one might find anywhere else, but considering that they did have a surprising variety of chocolates in general, one might’ve expected some craft chocolates as well.

Products for the health-conscious are a particularly interesting omission considering the setting: a pharmacy. Many people consider chocolate as an unhealthy snack, while others espouse its supposed health benefits such as fighting hypertension and minimizes cardiovascular disease (Howe 2012). Of course this point is debated, although it is often the other products found in chocolate (sugar being the main culprit) that contribute to negative health effects of chocolate. Nevertheless, one might’ve expected to see some products advertised as healthy (or heart-healthy). Only one product was noticeably labeled as organic. Perhaps, this suggests that even in a pharmacy setting, chocolate companies don’t feel that marketing explicitly to the health-conscious is the most effective means of marketing. Instead, they prefer promoting ideas of luxury, sensuality and quality.

The Other Guy(s?) – Hershey’s and …?

Having extensively examined Walgreen’s “luxury section,” I continued down to the aisle to examine the store’s other offerings (which I’ve already used as a comparison point for the initial group significantly). To my initial surprise, this section consisted nearly entirely of Hershey’s Bars and its variants including bars with almonds and Hershey’s dark chocolate offerings. I thought to myself: this is odd – why is there only one brand here? This was particularly interesting given the relatively large selection of brands of the luxury chocolates. Then it struck me: Hershey’s IS the standard for the average chocolate consumer in America. The Hershey’s bar is nearly archetypical of chocolate bars in the US. For bite sized pleasures, the Hershey’s Kiss comes to mind first for many. I had to think for a good while trying to name any other US chocolate bars not promoted in a luxury or craft manner but failed to do so.

The Pride of America: A typical Hershey’s Chocolate Bar

It’s well documented that the chocolate and confectionery market is concentrated, with Hershey and Mars dominating over 60% of the 2015 US confectionery market share (Statista 2018). As we have encountered in class, Hershey’s recipe for chocolate is largely responsible for shaping Americans’ taste for chocolate (D’Antonio 2007). In practice, Hershey more or less represents the standard chocolate bar in the United States, and the way Walgreen’s presented Hershey’s bars in their aisle seems to follow the research. The separation of these chocolates from the luxury chocolates (across the aisle from each other) depicts a dichotomy in decision that a consumer must face. Will you choose the tried and true product that everyone is familiar with? Or will you venture into the exotic, the unknown, or the luxurious temptations of the products across the aisle (while paying more to do so)?

This dichotomy brings to light thoughts about classism in food, a topic we have touched on briefly before. Unlike its luxury peers, Hershey’s chocolate bars do not offer a perceived sense of higher-class consumption. Of course, this is truly a “perceived” sense of class, considering that by and large one’s social class is not determined by the chocolate that one eats. Additionally, given the previously discussed omission of craft or local products from the chocolate section, one can’t necessarily argue that their purchasing of luxury chocolate from multinational corporations provides any sort of access to the inner circles of the chocolate aficionado world. Indeed, those searching a more intimate experience with the finer and more exclusive side of chocolate perhaps would be better served to visit a chocolatier instead of a nationally-branded pharmacy such as Walgreen’s.

Final Thoughts

Evidently, something as seemingly simple and standard as the candy aisle at a pharmacy can tell us a great deal about the chocolate industry, and even a bit about ourselves. Chocolate is a treat that we experience in a variety of contexts, and often these contexts can affect the way we think about chocolate and the way that chocolate affects us. Retailers make conscious decisions about the way they market and present chocolate products, which in turn influence the way that we experience and enjoy chocolate. Next time you are at a retail food store, take a stroll through the candy aisle with a new perspective on how chocolate exits in its “natural habitat.”

Sources

Academic Sources

D’Antonio, Michael. Herhsey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Gidlöf, Kerstin, et al. “Looking Is Buying. How Visual Attention and Choice Are Affected by Consumer Preferences and Properties of the Supermarket Shelf.” Appetite, vol. 116, 2 Mar. 2017, pp. 29–38., doi:10.1016/j.appet.2017.04.020.

Howe, James. “Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, vol. 12, no. 1, 2012, pp. 43–52., doi:10.1525/gfc.2012.12.1.43.

“U.S. Confectionery Market Share 2017, by Company.” Statista, Sept. 2018, http://www.statista.com/statistics/294497/us-confectionery-market-share-by-company/.

Valenzuela, Ana, et al. “Shelf Space Schemas: Myth or Reality?” Journal of Business Research, vol. 66, no. 7, 12 Jan. 2012, pp. 881–888., doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2011.12.006.

Multimedia Sources

“90% Cocoa Chocolate Bar.” Lindt, Lindt, www.lindt.ca/en/shop/our-brands/excellence-ca/excellence-cocoa-90-ca.

Bddgang404. “Luxury Chocolate Section in Walgreens.”

“Ghirardelli Chocolate Intense Dark Bar, Midnight Reverie.” Amazon, www.amazon.com/Ghirardelli-Chocolate-Intense-Midnight-3-17-Ounce/dp/B001G0MG2I.

“Milk Chocolate Bar.” Hershey’s. https://www.hersheys.com/en_us/products/hersheys-milk-chocolate-bar.html

The Industrialization of Chocolate: How Sweetness Got Huge

Introduction

As is the case with many of the fundamental aspects of 21st century Western life, food is often taken for granted due to its widespread availability and how easy it is to obtain. As we all likely know (but don’t think of often), the efficient nature of food production and distribution is a relatively new phenomenon. In this week’s blog post, we will examine the history of the industrialization of food through a case study of the industrialization of America’s sweetheart: chocolate.

Pre-Industrial Cacao and Chocolate

Cacao-based food products predate the industrialization of food by millennia. We can trace the consumption of cacao (in various forms) by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations (and likely even Olmec – they used the term “kakawa”) all the way back to as early as 1500 BCE (Aframer 119x).Of course, one should understand that the industrialization of cacao/chocolate in the 18th century and onward did not represent the first wave of technological advances involving and developed for cacao and its derivative forms.

The most prominent pre-industrial advance is the metate, a grinding stone that has been in use as far back as 7000 BCE (although used for corn/maize at this time) (Hernandez 2013). This tool is used to grind roasted cacao beans into a chocolate liquor, from which various chocolate derivatives are formed. Another development was the molinillo, a device used to create a frothy texture to chocolate drinks which was ironically developed by Spanish colonists in Mexico in the late 17th century (Aframer 119x). While the industrialization of chocolate represents an era of drastic technological change, it is important to remember that technological advances in the production and consumption of cacao preceded this era.

Fig 1. (Left) A metate in use grinding up roasted cacao beans (RIght) a traditional molinillo used to froth chocolate drinks

The Industrialization of Food

Initially, it seems a bit odd to consider how the industrialization of food would matter when cacao consumption has origins long before industrialization. Indeed, in the timeline of cacao-based consumption and production, the industrialized era represents but a small portion. Perhaps this picture would become clearer by looking at the industrialization of food in general and subsequently applying it to chocolate.

Four key factors contributed to the rise of industrial cuisine in the West: the development of preservation, mechanization, retailing (and wholesaling), and transport (Goody 1982). Breaking down the steps to the industrialization of food highlights a key misconception about the term “industrialization.” While most people associate industrialization with the development of the steam engine, factories, and assembly lines, industrialization was the byproduct of a multi-faceted effort across the aforementioned factors, not just mechanization.

Preservation

Advances such as the salting of food (dating back to ancient times), adding sugar to create preservatives, and the development of hardy foods such as hardtack represent innovations driven out of the necessity for longer lasting food. In a more modern context, international trade and military expeditions required food supplies that would not perish over the course of the voyage. The industrialization of food through a preservation lens came from two major aspects: canning and artificial refrigeration/freezing. Canning in its primitive form was developed by Nicolas Appert in 1795 (Goody 1982), beginning with glass jars and ultimately turning to the tin can as a supplement as technological advances in the method of development of tin cans allowed food producers to preserve food more efficiently and cheaply. Refrigeration with natural ice began in America in the early 19th century (Goody 1982).

In the context of chocolate, we see the effects of the development of preservation to this day. Chocolate is stored in wrappers to protect it from the elements and often kept in cool conditions (provided by refrigeration) that allow for chocolate to stay in its ideal solid consistency. Without the ability to preserve chocolate, it would undoubtedly be not as popular and widely available as it is today.

Mechanization

The second element of industrialization, mechanization, falls more in line with what the average person considers when thinking about the industrialization of food. As Goody mentions, mechanization depended on the “adaptation of simple machinery for producing standard goods on a large scale” (Goody 1982). In the case of chocolate, we can look to a factory of the Hershey company for an example.

WATCH: “Old Hershey’s Chocolate” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ophXa_LvUKk

Transport

Transport is an element of industrialization that is closely tied with mechanization, which intuitively makes sense. As production of chocolate increased, distribution demands increased as well. A railway boom in the mid 1800’s specifically in the years 1845-1847 marked a period in which 6,000 miles of rail were laid in England alone (Goody 1982). International transport was aided by the development of refrigerated ships. For chocolate, increased ease of transport was essential for the growth industry. As we have covered in class, chocolate is a very global industry in the sense that the consumers tend to live in North America and Europe while cacao production takes place in South America and West Africa.

Retail/Wholesale

Retailing is the last major actor in the industrialization of food. Changes in retailing were twofold. First, open food markets that dominated pre-Elizabethan times were replaced with closed retail shops (Goody 1982). In the case of chocolate, small retail stores known as chocolateries began to pop up. Retailing, along with mechanization, was largely responsible for the homogenization and standardization of food products (Goody 1982), and chocolate was no exception. Another aspect of retailing was the increased separation between the consumer and the producer of food products, which in large part likely explains why labor rights issues still exist in the chocolate industry today: consumers are blind to the supply chain beyond the major corporation and grocery store, and a large disconnect exists between cacao farmers and cacao consumers, which wasn’t always the case.

Consider: The Hershey Company

An interesting byproduct of the industrialization of chocolate was the standardization of flavor in chocolate products. A good example is the case of the Hershey company. M.S. Hershey set out to develop the perfect formula for his chocolate bars (with the help of John Schmalbach) (D’Antonio 2006). This flavor is described as having the sweet characteristics of European chocolates that preceded it, but with a hint of sourness not present in other chocolates. Having achieved the ideal formula, the next step was to develop a production system that would allow him to accurately recreate the perfected formula with each chocolate bar made by the company. This required the mechanization aspect of industrialization that we have briefly reviewed earlier. Hershey’s factory system not only allowed him to produce chocolate at a faster rate, but also to recreate the signature taste with every bar.

As we know, Hershey is a dominant force (among a few other major corporations) in the global chocolate industry as the 5th largest producer of chocolate in 2018 by net sales (ICCO 2019). It is a reasonable assumption that the standardization of the Hershey chocolate (only possible through the wonders of industrialization) also led to the standardization of the average US palate for chocolate. So, industrialization’s impact on chocolate has been the preclusion of the inevitable variety in chocolate products that would have existed without industrialization. Whether this effect is good or bad is up for debate. On the positive side, Hershey bars (and others) are standardized. On the negative side, chocolate has become a very commercialized, corporate and completely standardized food product that ultimately feels very much at odds with its historical and traditional roots in Mesoamerica due to industrialization. Comment your thoughts on this issue below!

Fig 2. This images displays the standardization of chocolate resulting from industrialization as shown by Hershey’s Kiss production

Concluding Thoughts

As we’ve seen, the industrialization of chocolate (and food as whole) is multi-faceted, complex, and didn’t happen overnight. Indeed, the chocolate we know and love today is undeniably tied to the advancements resulting from this period of industrialization. Hopefully, this short post will allow lovers of chocolate everywhere to have a better understanding of the foundational and historical aspects of the modern world of chocolate!

Sources

Scholarly

Aframer 119x Lecture Notes and Lecture Slides

D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. pp. 106-126

Goody, Jack. 2013[1982]. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” pp. 72-88

Hernández Triviño, A. (2013). Chocolate: Historia de un nahuatlismo. Estudios De Cultura Náhuatl,46, 37-87.

“The Chocolate Industry.” The International Cocoa Organization, 1 Feb. 2019, http://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.

Multimedia

Anonymous. “Hershey’s Kisses Coming out as Finished Products.” Chocolate Class, Aframer 119x, 6 May 2015, chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/can-a-hersheys-bar-be-simply-chocolate/.

Giller, Megan. “Metate Photo.” Chocolate Noise, http://www.chocolatenoise.com/taza-chocolate.

“HOW IT’S MADE: Old Hershey’s Chocolate.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Oct. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ophXa_LvUKk.

“Molinillo Photo.” Taza Chocolate, http://www.tazachocolate.com/products/molinillo?variant=8074820355.

An In-depth Look Into Dandelion Chocolate: How a Unique Bean-to-Bar Craft Chocolate Company Positively Transforms the Way to Supply, Manufacture, and Retail Chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Works cited

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

 

Chocolate Retailing

Chocolate can be found in almost every store depending where you are. If you’re going to Target in search of some pants, chances are that there will be chocolate products available at the checkout line.One can learn many things from the kind of chocolate selection they have in a local store. You can learn about types of chocolate that is being used, ethical concerns, price point, and who the intended audience is.

Depending where someone is from, they can have a limited amount of exposure and knowledge about what is in food (like certain chemicals and additives) and what is good quality. Different stores sell different products that target a certain audience. Some chocolate companies do the same and only sell their products to companies who are their ideal client in revenue.  

I grew up in a low income household in a low income community that was highly populated by immigrants. Despite the problems my hometown had, Chelsea, MA is a small and efficient city where stores were so close by that we didn’t have to travel to another city to get our food, clothes, and other supplies.  I grew up with a convenient store just down the street from my mom’s apartment, a CVS just 2 blocks away, and a DeMoulas Market Basket a 5 minute drive away.

All of these locations had very similar things when it came down to selling chocolate. I would see candies like a Hershey bar by the Hershey Company, M&M’s candy by the Mars company, and a Butterfinger by Nestle. What these candies have in common is that they are low in cost which makes them more affordable than others. I have learned that the chocolate sweets I grew up eating don’t actually contain a lot of chocolate. What I did like was sugar. Products like a Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar contains approximately 10% of true cacao (Chocolate by the numbers). The first ingredient listed on the back of a Hershey’s bar is sugar (Mikes Candy Bar Page – Hershey Bar).

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Figure 1. Hershey’s Candy Wrapper with Ingredients Listed

Stores like CVS don’t sell a wide variety of chocolate. There can be different kinds like Crunch bar, Kit Kat, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Twix, etc…, but the chocolate is still produced by big manufacturers. The manufacturers include Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and Kraft. Most of these candy bars sells for about $1-2. When breaking down the list of ingredients, it is not a surprise that these chocolate bars can be bought at a low price. With a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, there is more peanut butter than chocolate. With the candy the has these cheap (but delicious) fillings, It’s no surprise that the product can be at a really low cost because not much cacao is actually being used in the product.

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Figure 2. Picture I took of the chocolate selection at CVS.

Aside from most of the chocolates being from these big manufacturers, CVS do have a very small selection of premium chocolates. There are chocolates that are produced by Lindt chocolatier and Ghirardelli chocolates. Growing up to me these were the “expensive” chocolate’s as they contained richer ingredients like a high percentage of cacao, and  very bitter to my young taste buds due to the low amount of sugar in the products.  In comparison with the ingredients in the Hershey’s bar, the Lindt chocolate bar  is better in quality and does not use a lot of ingredients that I have trouble pronouncing. Also to mention that the first ingredient listed in a Lindt chocolate bar is chocolate.  The label is also give away since it does say the amount of cacao that is in the bar,which is 70%. A product of this kind f quality is often hard to sell. These bars sell for about $4 each. When CVS cannot sell them all, they go on    sale.

 

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Figure 3. Lindt Chocolate, Front

 

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Figure 5. Lindt Chocolate on Sale at CVS

Personally, I like that CVS has a very small section of Premium chocolates. It does give people the opportunity to try darker chocolate. They probably won’t like it because they are use to chocolates that contain a high amount of sugar. There is a spectrum from when people mention that they love chocolate. Is it really the taste of the cacao that they enjoy or is it the taste of the sugar in the bar (The Huffington Post).

People may prefer the sugary taste of chocolate because it is what they have been able to afford. Some people may view a chocolate bar which is worth over $4 as too expensive when they can get a cheaper bar for half the price. The battle can by quantity over quality.  When people can’t afford a certain product, a barrier is placed that eliminates them from the targeted audience.

Personally, I like that CVS has a very small section of Premium chocolates. It does give people the opportunity to try darker chocolate. They probably won’t like it because they are use to chocolates that contain a high amount of sugar. There is a spectrum from when people mention that they love chocolate. Is it really the taste of the cacao that they enjoy or is it the taste of the sugar in the bar (The Huffington Post).

People may prefer the sugary taste of chocolate because it is what they have been able to afford. Some people may view a chocolate bar which is worth over $4 as too expensive when they can get a cheaper bar for half the price. The battle can by quantity over quality.  When people can’t afford a certain product, a barrier is placed that eliminates them from the targeted audience.

Another supermarket that does create create barriers which limits their targeted audience is Whole Foods. Whole Foods is known to have organic and sustainable food.The food is presented to be in higher quality and thus being higher in prices. The running joke that most people say is Whole Paycheck (Urban Dictionary) instead of Whole Foods, because the cost of food from their is worth almost an entire paycheck.

When I visited their chocolate selection, I could not find a chocolate product that was manufactured by Hershey’s, Mars, or Nestle. Instead there were brands that I did not recognize and some that I was a little  familiar within the past few year due to furthering my exposure as I began to frequently travel to Cambridge and Boston for school and work.

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Figure 6. Chocolates from Whole Foods

 

 

Going into Whole Foods, and even now, I sometimes feel out of place because I grew up going to a supermarket that was always busy and full and the prices were cheap. It’s also because I see lack of diversity when I go in. The people shopping at whole foods is usually white people and you can tell that they probably earn a high salary. Whole Foods seems target this specific audience as they are the one who can afford their products.

I sometimes think that it is ridiculous to pay $6 for a chocolate bar, (as seens as above). I constantly remind myself that the chocolate is at a fair price because of its quality. Having learned what the process is for making chocolate, how it comes from bean to bar, and understanding the true labour that comes with it, I have no problem with spending $6 on a chocolate bar because I know I am getting quality chocolate and with organizations like Fair Trade, I know that farmers and workers are getting their fair share.

Now, there are other places to purchase chocolate that does not have to come from a chain retail store. There are independent stores that specialize in gourmet foods. In Harvard Square there is a gourmet shoppe called Cardullo’s. Cardullo’s has been around since 1950. They sell a variety of gourmet goods including wine, cheeses, teas, and chocolates.

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Figure 7. Chocolates from Cardullo’s

Cardullo’s sells a lot of chocolate, kinds that I cannot find in Whole Foods. They are truly gourmet and rich in flavour. At my trip to this story I purchase 2 chocolate bars. The first one was an Earl Grey tea infused chocolate by the brand Dolfin. The back of the wrapping was difficult to photograph but the first ingredient on this bar was cacao mass, sugar, cacao butter, and Earl Grey tea at 2,%.

The other bar of chocolate that I purchased was by Taza. Taza Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almond. On the front label it say 80% dark stone ground chocolate. On the back of the bar, the ingredients listed are Organic cacao beans, organic sugar cane, organic almonds, organic cacao butter, organic vanilla beans, and sea salt. I love that everything is organic and that I know what these ingredients are and how to pronounce them.

Each bar was about $8 and they were delicious. I never had tea infused chocolate and now if I want more I know the only place nearest me to purchase it is at Cardullo’s. Taza chocolates can be found in Whole Foods but I do not recall seeing this specific kind with sea salt and almonds. Cardullo’s is a wonderful shop with so many variations of chocolate from different companies to try, but I would need to place a budget to try all of these chocolates.

The chocolates sold here says that they care where the cacao is grown, how it is being processed, and that the laborers are being paid appropriately, and that child labor is not occurring. The cost does out weigh the taste. Know what’s in the chocolate bar, and that the ingredients are organic, this counts more as quality than quantity.

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Figure 8. Chocolate from Cardullo’s, Dolfin

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Figure 9. Chocolate from Cardullo’s, Taza front label

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Figure 9. Chocolate from Cardullo’s, Taza back label

For retail shops to target an audience, they have to see demographically where the need is for their store and who can afford the products. The maps below show the locations comparisons/difference of CVS, Whole Foods, and gourmet shops like Cardullo’s, near Chelsea, MA.

Since my hometown is in Chelsea, MA, I decided to show exactly what is accessible to the people from my community. For CVS or other convenient stores, there are multiple in the area. These stores can be easily accessed by walking, biking, and even public transportation.

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Figure 10. Convenience stores in Chelsea, MA

From experience i do know that there are more small convenience stores in Chelsea than the ones listed.

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Figure 11. CVS in Chelsea, MA

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Figure 12. Whole Foods Market near Chelsea, MA

The map on top show the closest Whole Foods near Chelsea.  The closest one is in one of Boston’s neighborhoods,  Charlestown. Getting there would require a car and going through tolls. Whole foods seem to exist areas that are not of low income communities. I am hoping that this will change for good. I think organic food should be accessible to everyone, not be so far away from a community. Whole foods has a store in one of the poorest communities of Chicago called Englwood. An article form the Washington Post talk about the effects of a wholefoods being in a community where not a lot of people can afford their products, but they do try to make it lower. The article mentioned that “the company has tried to set its price points relative to other supermarkets in the city, not relative to its own stores outside of it”. (Washington Post) The goal is to get everyone to eat healthier.

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Figure 13. Gourmet Shops (like Cardullo’s) near Chelsea, MA

This map shows the closest gourmet shops near Chelsea. As you may see, they lie just outside the city over bridges. If one owns a car, then it is not too much of an ordeal to go to the city to visit one of these gourmet shops. But man other rely on public transportation to travel into the city. When I traveled from Chelsea to Cambridge, it would usually take about one hour to get there, and one hour to head back. It’s not that people don’t want enjoy and eat better, organic food. There are many factors that come into play that don’t make it possible. Affordability, distance, availability are a few to name.

Chocolate products can be found in almost any store. You can easily find chocolate that is popular from the Hershey’s company, Mars company, and the Nestle company. These can be found in supermarkets, convenient stores, and at CVS. Or you may find brands that are more wholesome like Organic 365, Whole Foods brand, and Equal Exchange at a gourmet food stores, at Whole Foods Markets, and Trader Joe’s.

The type of chocolate that you can find in stores do say a lot about what is available to the community and how much they can know about these chocolates. The sophisticated wrapping can have a small history of the company and how the process their chocolate from bean to bar. This occurs more with chocolates that are not part of the large companies.

There are so many things you learn from the chocolate selection in a store. There are many factors

The selection of chocolate that is available in stores can say a lot. It can be a signal of who is who is the targeted audiences for certain brands of chocolate. It can say how you live you lifestyle by choosing to eat healthy and organic foods. You can see who is potentially gaining profit from selling the candy.

So, where do you buy your chocolate ?

 

Bibliography:

Badger, Emily. “Why Whole Foods Is Moving into One of the Poorest Neighborhoods in Chicago.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 May 2016.

Lfrey. “Whole Paycheck.” Urban Dictionary. 26 Apr. 2006. Web. 3 May 2016.

Maps, Google Maps. Web. 6 May 2016.

“Mike’s Candy Bar Page – Hershey Bar.” Mike’s Candy Bar Page – Hershey Bar. June 2012. Web. 01 May 2016.

Nixon, Cherie. “Why Does Dark Chocolate Taste So Nasty?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 3 May 2016.

“Whole Foods Market History.” Whole Foods Market. Web. 3 May 2016.
Wolke, Robert L. “Chocolate by The Numbers.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 9 June 2004. Web. 01 May 2016. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24276-2004Jun8.html>.