Tag Archives: slavery

Two Sides Of The Chocolate Coin

While American and European consumers associate chocolate with romance, desserts, and luxury, the disparity between end product consumer and cacao producer is significant. One perspective is that northern consumers provide self-agency and opportunity through a free market economic exchange in an environment that provides few opportunities. While western Africa currently provides 75% of the world’s cacao (Coe &Coe, 2013) the African cacao grower has to rely solely on northern purchasers as they lack the economic resources to purchase, manufacture, or market their product. With labor as their only agency, the African cacao grower is in a disadvantaged position in the food production paradigm despite their high product yield. Corporate complicity in unethical labor, slave legacy that has left southern producers turning to raw materials for economic survival, and consumer apathy created by distance from the food supply chain have culminated in producing very opposing experiences for the cacao supplier and the chocolate consumer.

Success in Cacao

With the steady increase of cacao prices, the cacao-growing region of western Africa has seen steady socioeconomic growth in the industry for decades. According to “CNN Freedom Project,” an organization focused on labor practices worldwide, in 2008-2009 western Africa supplied more than 75% of the world’s chocolate, while Europeans and North Americans were consuming a roughly equal amount (2012). In their book Cocoa in Ghana: Shaping the Success of An Economy, Shashi Kolavalli, and Marcella Vigneri observe the steady increase of cacao prices have allowed for significant improvement via more investment in production yields through transport and infrastructure. (2012). Kolavalli and Vigneri further observe that so lucrative is the cacao production in Ghana  that positive socioeconomic influences of the crop, and improvement in western Africa’s poverty, have been significant by stating,

“economic growth has been solid, averaging more than 5 percent since 2001 and reaching 6 percent in 2005–06. Coupled with the effects of greater access to education, health services, and land ownership (World Bank 2008), this rate of growth has contributed to the near halving of the national poverty rate since the beginning of the 1990s, from 51.7 percent in 1991/92 to 28.5 percent in 2005/06” (p. 205).

For cacao growing countries in Africa, maintaining this resource is critical to prevent sliding backward economically in an already impoverished environment.

Who is Eating All the Chocolate?

According to CNN’s freedom project, northern countries are driving the demand for chocolate. In this breakdown for 2008-09, Europeans and North Americans were responsible for eating an equal amount of western Africa’s entire production, which is 75% annually of the world supply. In simple terms, if you live in the northern hemisphere there is a good chance you are consuming on average between 9 to 24 lbs. of chocolate per year. (Satioquia-Tan, J. 2015)

The Swiss eat 24 lbs. of chocolate per person, per year. That’s roughly equivalent to eating half of a Hershey bar every day for one year (Maxim75, 2016)

World consumption of cocoa: 2008/09
Europe – 49.32%
North America – 24.22% (United States only – 20.19%)
Asia and Oceania – 14.49%
South America – 8.68%
Africa – 3.28%

The demand from northern consumers continues to increase steadily. In his paper, Cocoa production in West Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments, Marius Wessel projects necessary agricultural growth for western Africa to maintain its current supply when he states, “The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) forecasts a 10 percent increase in the world cocoa production and a 25 percent increase of the cocoa price in the next decade. … If West Africa wishes to maintain its present world market share a 10 percent increase in production is needed in the next decade” (Wessel, M., 2015). This is significant in that considerable investment will be required to meet the growing demand, which in turn will offer more employment from land developing to harvesting; boosting the economy even further. The staggering contrast of chocolate consumption between northern consumers and southern producers however, in relation to race and geography is no accident.

A History of Disconnection

After the chocolate drink of Mesoamericans made it to Europe via Spanish colonists in the 16th century, popularity of the drink in Europe began to rise. When Spanish colonists exhausted the Mesoamerican population as a resource for labor, they turned to the middle passage across the Atlantic to Africa for labor to meet the demand (Coe & Coe, 2013). On a continent that functioned tribally with no formal governments, it was quite easy to enslave people into labor for the remainder of their life, which on average due to hard labor and dismal living conditions was about 7 to 8 years after enslavement (Coe & Coe, 2013). This of course, required massive quantities of slaves, which Africa had in abundance. In his book Sweetness and Power Sidney Mintz observes that by the 18th century, the European lower proletariat was adopting the culinary habits of the aristocracy as a way of establishing equality for people in lower social stations (p.181, 1986). The biggest promoter of chocolate consumption for the masses According to Coe & Coe in their book A True History of Chocolate was the industrial revolution when they state,

The Menier Chocolate factory in Paris, France. Mechanized in 1830, and shortly after became France’s largest chocolate supplier. (Expressing Yourself, 2009) 

“The Industrial Revolution, which changed chocolate from a costly drink to cheap food, [was] the driving force in this metamorphosis” (Coe & Coe, p. 232, 2013).

Before the industrial revolution the use of people from southern countries as a commodity for labor separated them from society and cultural habits of northern countries. Even had they wished to adopt the habits of their masters, there was no means or opportunity as a consumer base. Having never been ‘folded in” to European culture, they were completely disenfranchised as a chocolate consumer base. The exclusion of southern laborers and slaves from society as citizens, also found them ignored by the industrial revolution; leaving them to lag behind economically and industrially, unable to participate as consumers of chocolate.

State of Labor Today

After northern consumers developed a social conscience for disenfranchised populations and impoverished nations, one might be tempted to think everything has changed, but it has not. Still lagging from being on the outside of the industrial revolution, Cacao farming practices have changed little in the last hundred years. In villages of working adults there is a complete disconnect to their labor once it leaves the village. In her book Bitter Chocolate, Carol Off  tells of a village where all but the chief were ignorant of where the cacao went, none knew how it was used, and only one had ever tasted chocolate. Micheal and Sophie Coe argue that it is not only adults and families working, but that millions of children are trafficked and forced into slavery from neighboring countries (Coe & Coe, 2013). Off supports this claim by observing that slavery is alive and well  particularly in the Ivory Coast where child slavery is so common, it is a sub-industry of cacao with its own economy, as farmers finance networks to traffic children for forced labor who then suffer from starvation, disease and physical abuse while working on cacao farms (Off, C. 2006). While numbers of child slavery are at times sketchy and often disputed, no one denies it exists (Off, C. 2006).

Children from the Ivory Coast. Due to extreme poverty many children seek out work in cacao only to be abducted and worked as slaves. (DFID, 2011)

Consumers Grow Distant

The consumer vending machine selling prepacked processed chocolate adding a further degree of separation from labor to consumer. (Whitehouse, P. 2007) 

While slaves grow cacao, consumers grow distant. Though southern laborers have not advanced industrially, this is not the case for northern consumers. The industrialization of food completely changed northern food culture. Through mechanization, transport, and refrigeration, the distance between consumer and food source has grown. Mechanization produced food en mass cheaply, allowing access to goods that were more accommodating to lower budgets, while transport and refrigeration allowed food to travel further than it had before. (Counihan & Van Esterik, 2013) The biggest game changer in food culture was the mechanization of canning and preservation. With better preservation, food sources began to change, ingredients began change, and soon we had processed and prepackaged food embraced by women everywhere for freeing their time and labor (Counihan & Van Esterik, 81-82, 2013). After two or three generations of eating processed food transported from faraway places, with lists of ingredients that are rarely inspected, consumers today know very little about their food, or even what it contains. They are not unlike their southern counterparts in this way who do not know where cacao goes, or what its use is after it leaves the village.


Distance Creates Apathy

Capitalist consumerism breeds competition, creating incentive to keep the consumer

Cacao farmer in Ghana with his crop before it is prepared and bagged to be sent to manufacturers to make chocolate. (Rberchie, 2014)

happy. As modern chocolate consumers in the north are far more concerned with inclusiveness, fair treatment, and food activism than previous generations, the power of the purchase is seemingly an easy solution to the poor working conditions and poverty that are still prevalent in the cacao industry despite its economic growth. Far removed from the supply chain, unaware consumers continue to purchase due to lack of transparency in food product, and manufacturers remain complicit in the absence of financial threat. Manufacturers however also have limited power. Even with strict purchasing policies, and government regulation it is still difficult to know if a supplier is using slaves without constant physical inspections (Martin, C. 2017), and blame shifts all along the supply chain making it easy for manufacturers to be complicit, and consumers to remain uninformed.  Lack of transparency in food sourcing, blame shifting in the industry, and distance from food sources, culminate to create a culture of apathetic food consumers.

How It All Comes Together

The dichotomy between cacao consumer and producer today began with early Europeans and European colonists who failed to view southern peoples as sovereign and instead as a voiceless labor resource. Excluded from global interaction, Southern populations failed to participate in cultural trends, shifts, and innovations that were transforming society and industry elsewhere. Non-participation in the industrial revolution left southern continents behind in what would become a global economy with no agency for economic competition; turning to natural resources and labor for economic survival in a state somewhere between hunting and gathering and industry with little opportunity for growth. While mechanization followed by technology has created decadence in northern populations as compared to southern countries, northern consumers are today ignorant of their food supply chain because of these advancements, and unaware of the poverty and labor practices of those supplying it. Lack of transparency in food products add to this distance, and northern Chocolate manufactures as well as governments are complicit in unethical labor practices, shifting blame along the food supply chain leaving those who are aware unsure of who to even hold accountable (Martin, C. 2017). While northern consumers today have more of a social conscience than their ancestors, the opposing lifestyles of the chocolate consumer and the cacao laborer have failed to come closer together over the last several hundred years due to a legacy of “othering,” and complicit corporate interests protecting their revenue stream that has created an apathetic northern food culture.

Where We Go From Here

Consumer awareness is growing. Projects like Fair Trade, CNN Project Freedom, End Slavery Now, Slave Free Chocolate etc., have been working hard to inform the public. Many consumers now seek out fair trade products when available, and appear willing to pay more for ethical practices. In their paper, Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Multi-Store Field Experiment ,  Hainmueller, Hiscox, & Seguiera state,

“Total sales of Fair Trade goods in the United States in 2011 amounted to roughly $1.4 billion (FLO 2012) … But the average annual rate of growth in U.S. sales of Fair Trade certified goods was close to 40% between 1999 and 2008” (2014).

Fair Trade is not without its problems, as certification can be costly and marginalizes the poorest producers, but it is a start, and one of few ways to access transparency of the food supply chain in a consumer market that provides no source-to-store product information. Legislators are also working to intervene in child slavery practices. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engen introduced a protocol to reduce trafficking in the cacao industry, agreed to by manufacturers and legislators from Ghana and the Ivory Coast as stated by the ILO, “that aims to reduce the worst forms of child labor by 70 percent across the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire by 2020” (ILO, 2017). Currently Fair Trade and other transparent and ethical alternatives have not achieved mainstream mass production, making it difficult for a consumer to use the power of the dollar against corporate complicity even when they choose to. Raising awareness and creating a demand for ethical products can aid in ending consumer apathy by closing the information gap, and denting corporate revenue streams that, with some work, will promote less disparity between southern suppliers and northern purchasers.


Works Cited


Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate (3rd ed.) London, ENG.Thames & Hudson Ltd.

Counihan, C., Van Esterik, P., (Eds.). (2013). Food and culture a reader New York NY. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

CNN Freedom Project (2012) Who eats the most chocolate?. Retrieved from:                          http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/

DFID, (2011) Children of the Ivory Coast [digital image].  Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Flickr_-_DFID_-_UK_Department_for_International_Development_-_Children_pictured_at_a_UNHCR_food_distribution_point_in_Liberia

Expressing Yourself (2009) Menier Chocolate Factory. [digital media]. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Menier_Chocolate_Factory

Hainmueller, j., Hiscox, M., Sequeira, S., (2014) Consumer Demand for the Fair Trade Label: Evidence from a Multi-Store Field Experiment. Retrieved from: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/conferences/2014-launching-the-star-lab/Documents/FT_final_2_20.pdf

ILO, (2017) Africa: Child Labor in Cocoa Fields/ Harkin-Engel Protocol. Retrieved from:     http://www.ilo.org/washington/areas/elimination-of-the-worst-forms-of-child-    labor/WCMS_159486/lang–en/index.htm

Kolivalli, S., Vigneri, M. (2014) Cocoa in ghana: Shaping the success of an economy. Retrieved from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/AFRICAEXT/Resources/258643-1271798012256/Ghana-cocoa.pdf

Martin, C. (2017) Modern Day Slavery. Harvard Extension School. [Mar 22, 2017 Lecture].

Maxim75 (2016) Hershey Bars. [digital media] Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hershey%27s_chocolates_in_store.

Mintz, S.W. (1986) Sweetness and Power. NY, NY. Penguin Books 1986

Off, C., (2006) Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New   York: The New Press.

Rberchie (2014). Cacao farmer [digital media] Retrieved from Wikimiedia Commons Website: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cocoa_farming_in_Ghana

Satiodqua-Tan, J (Jul, 2015) Americans eat how much chocolate?. Retrieved from:             http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/23/americans-eat-how-much-chocolate.html

Wessel, Marius (Dec, 2015). Cocoa production in west Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments. NJAS-Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, 74-75, 1-7. doi:                 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001

Whitehouse, P.  (2007). Vending machine [digital image]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons Website: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Mars_Bar


Chocolate and Ethics

Quality of life and ethical life choices are important factors in everything we do. Chocolate is a frequent part of our lives as well, for some, a daily part.  Chocolate is a multi-billion dollar industry.  When consumers spend money in a business that supports ethical business practices, it can make a difference in lives around the world.  Taza Chocolate is one such business.

Taza Chocolate.

Taza Chocolate makes stone ground chocolate from organic cacao in Somerville, Massachusetts.  Taza has been in business since 2005, and is an example of an ethical and forward-thinking chocolate business (Taza, 2017).  Taza devotes much of their time and business planning to ensure their business practices and those of their suppliers, who they refer to as partners, improves the lives of farmers, while reforming the chocolate industry from the ground up.  Taza has a wide selection of chocolate, including chocolate bars, gift sets, and even bulk chocolate so people can bake or cook with stone ground, organic, Direct Trade chocolate.

Photo of Taza Chocolate products in public domain by Johnny Lai.

The process of purchasing cacao beans.

Obtaining cacao beans direct from growers is an important part of fair labor practices.  Historically, the cacao industry has taken advantage of its workers, ignoring abuse and slavery to achieve a greater profit.  An example of this can be seen in São Tomé and Príncipe in the 1900s.  Slavery had been officially abolished in 1870, and the cacao industry needed workers, so they began using the system of contract labor, where workers would agree to work a set number of years for a set wage (Satre, 2006, Location 1603).  Workers traveling to provide contract labor were “coerced, repatriation was all but impossible, and the death rate was as high as twelve percent” (Satre, 2006, Location 1603).   In 1907, long after these abusive practices became public knowledge, “Cadbury still imported 7.4 million pounds of cacao beans from São Tomé, about thirteen percent of the island’s total exports” (Satre, 2006, Location 1603).  Today, the chocolate industry is attempting to improve working conditions and payment for cacao farmers through fair trade initiatives.  There are several certifications that ensure fair labor practices in the cacao industry, but Taza’s Direct Trade is the first cacao sourcing program that is third-party certified (Taza, 2017).  Taza purchases their beans directly from growers with no “predatory middlemen and abusive labor practices,” so that farmers and their families receive more money for the cacao they grow and harvest (Taza, 2017).  Every year all five of Taza’s Direct Trade claims are certified by “a USDA-accredited organic certifier” (Taza, 2017).


Cacao beans, taken by me, 2017e846.

Direct Trade certified claims by Taza.

The five Direct Trade certified claims Taza makes improve quality of life for cacao farmers and their families while improving the quality of cacao beans used in Taza chocolate.  The first claim is that Taza develops “direct relationships with cacao farmers” (Taza, 2017).  By visiting Taza’s partners every year and reviewing how much of the money paid for cacao beans reaches the farmers directly, other benefits farmers receive besides monetary payments, and actually meeting and speaking to farmers, Taza develops direct relationships with farmers.  The second Direct Trade certified claim is that Taza pays “a price premium to cacao farmers” (Taza, 2017).  Invoices are reviewed to verify that Taza has met this claim by comparing the price paid for cacao to the NYICE price for cacao on the same date as the invoice (Taza, 2017).  Another important Direct Trade claim is that Taza sources “the highest quality cacao beans” (Taza, 2017).  Taza staff perform a quality assessment of every container of cacao beans purchased, and complete an evaluation form indicating the results of each assessment (Taza, 2017).  A further Direct Trade claim is that Taza requires “USDA certified organic cacao” (Taza, 2017).  This is important to ensure the quality of the cacao used, and Taza provides documentation to support USDA organic certification to the independent certifier (Taza, 2017).  The fifth certified claim is a self-imposed action on the part of Taza.  It includes publishing a yearly Transparency Report.  Taza publishes every year a Direct Trade Transparency Report, so that consumers or anyone else who wants to verify their claims, has all the information to do so (Taza, 2017).  Currently, there are links to the report for the past six years available on Taza’s website.  This level of transparency in the bean to bar operation is unique in the chocolate industry.

Link to a discussion by Taza Chocolate on the difference between Direct Trade and Fair Trade.

Fair compensation to growers and farmers.

To maintain an ethical and healthy cacao industry, growers need to receive fair compensation.  Although slavery has been abolished, cacao farmers in many areas do not make a livable wage.  As recently as 2008, in a Côte d’Ivoire cacao village, people “lacked clean water, health care, and decent schools” (Orla, 2011, Location 793).  The issue of child labor was brought to public attention in 2000, when it came forward that children were being enticed by traffickers with promises of riches, and brought to cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire, where they “survived on little food, little or no pay, and endured regular beatings” (Orla, 2011, Location 807).   In fact, some officials were even “convinced that the farmers were paying organized groups of smugglers to deliver the children to their cocoa groves…and police were being bribed to look the other way” (Off, 2006, Location 1893).  In 2001, the Harkin-Engle protocol was signed to help address the problem of child labor (Orla, 2011, Location 807).   In 2015, cacao farmers in Ghana earned “as little as 84 cents a day, and Ivorian farmers, 50 cents” (Soley, 2015).  Taza visits farmers that they buy cacao from every year, and “only buy cacao from growers who ensure fair and humane work practices” (Taza, 2017).  Additionally, Taza pays “at least $500 above the market price…and never less than $2,800 per metric ton” for their cacao (Taza, 2017).  In 2016, Taza purchased 233 metric tons of cacao beans, equating to at least $116,000 dollars more in the pockets of growers and farmers in developing countries due to Taza’s forward-thinking labor practices (Taza, 2017).  In 2016, Taza paid its Bolivia partner a fixed price of $5,300 per metric ton, and the partner paid 76.4% of this amount to the farmers (Taza, 2017).  This set price is paid by Taza even though the price of cacao on the world market may be much lower.  As an example, the International Cacao Organization lists the average daily price of a metric ton of cacao in December 2016 at $2,287.80 (ICCO, 2017).  Despite this price, Taza would pay its Bolivian partner $5,300 per metric ton for any cacao purchased in December, protecting farmers from the price fluctuations throughout the market.   This process ensures higher income for growers and farmers, cutting out the middleman, so they may better support their families.  With “most of the world’s cacao farmers living at or below the poverty line of $2 per day” (Taza, 2017), the chocolate industry needs to follow Taza’s actions, and customers need to spend their money with companies that are encouraging humane labor practices.

Monetary compensation is supplemented by other benefits to farmers.  Taza’s partners, in addition to paying their farmers more, also provide other benefits that cut costs for farmers and increase profits.  For example, all of Taza’s partners “drive to producers’ farms to pick up the cacao in its unfermented form” (Taza, 2017).  This saves farmers money on delivery, fermenting, and drying costs, so their profit is greater.   Taza’s partners may provide high-quality cacao seedlings, loans to buy farms, food, housing, and many other types of assistance that are meant to help farmers become more successful and live better lives (Taza, 2017).

Chocolate ingredients other than cacao.

The other ingredients used in chocolate production need the same devotion to fair labor standards and wages as cacao.  Historically, some chocolate merchants added dangerous ingredients to chocolate, such as “brick dust, chalk, clay, dirt, paraffin, talc, and other items” (Grivetti, 2009, Location 10908).  Using organic ingredients that are held to higher ethical standards is important.  The sugar industry is tied to the chocolate industry in many ways, and has a similar history as cacao in terms of the treatment of slaves.  As of 2013, the Department of Labor cited problems with child labor in the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic (U.S. Department of Labor, 2013).  The submission found violations of labor law concerning wages, hours of work, occupational safety and health, child labor, and forced or compulsory labor (U.S. Department of Labor, 2013).  It is important for customers and corporations alike to work for better conditions and wages for all workers.

Taza purchases certified USDA organic cacao and sugar from farmers “who respect the environment and fair labor practices” (Taza, 2017).  The country of origin of the cacao beans is listed on many of Taza’s products, and the partners are specifically listed in the Transparency Report, so individuals can research and verify fair labor practices.  Customers can buy a product with ingredients from a specific country, and support the practices of that supplier by choosing to do business with them.  The sugar that Taza purchases for their chocolate is organic, non-GMO, and the supplier is committed to sustainability and fair labor practices (Taza, 2017).  Not only are the mills that produce the sugar energy self-sufficient, the “organic farming system has resulted in 20% higher productivity than conventional sugar cane production while reducing Native’s carbon footprint and saving water, soil, energy, and promoting human welfare” (Taza, 2017).   Although Native Sugar uses a mechanical harvester, it has retrained its workers for “other positions within the organization” adhering to the commitment to fair labor and making workers lives better (Taza, 2017).   Business practices that promote environmental sustainability are important in today’s world.  Not only is this good for future generations, it is also benefiting the company economically.

Labor in the production process. 

The production process has become highly mechanized for many chocolate companies.  Historically, laborers produced chocolate using basic tools.  Some cacao farms, like Hacienda Buena Vista in Puerto Rico, began using hydropower to increase production and change the roles of workers.  It is impressive to see, with one pull of a lever, water rushing down and causing large equipment to start processing cacao, or coffee, or corn.  The process of making stone ground chocolate keeps the historic element alive, while mechanizing chocolate production.  Taza uses “traditional Mexican stone mills, called molinos, with hand-carved stones that turn inside” the mills (Taza, 2017).  Workers pay close attention during the process to ensure quality that cannot be achieved through high production automation.

Hacienda water run equipment
Machinery run by hydropower at Hacienda Buena Vista, taken by me 2017e846


Chocolate recipes.

Recipes for chocolate are an important component of a chocolate company.  Many of today’s chocolate recipes contain ingredients traditionally used in different cultures.  Cinnamon has been used traditionally in cacao recipes, and Taza uses it in some of its chocolate recipes (Taza, 2017).  Chili is also an ingredient to some of Taza’s products, similar to the “ancient Mesoamerican tradition of adding chili to chocolate” (Coe and Coe, 2013, Location 3828).  Additionally, vanilla, various nuts, sea salt, coconut, coffee and other ingredients are used today to make a chocolate bar that is both traditional and current.

Traditional chocolate ingrediates.  Taken by me, 2017e846.

Value of the product.

For consumers in developed countries today, and some developing countries, chocolate is an affordable luxury.  Taza’s chocolate is reasonably priced given the quality and commitment to the cacao community of growers that encompasses its business model.  A Taza chocolate bar or disc are for the most part between $5.00 and $7.50 (Taza, 2017).  That is a reasonable price for organic chocolate, at least given prices for organic chocolate in the Caribbean.  An artisan chocolate bar made here in Puerto Rico is approximately $10.00, and they are small bars.  Organic chocolate is a relatively affordable luxury that enriches our lives.


The chocolate industry as a whole is making strides towards incorporating more humane practices into its business model.  However, large companies are slow to change.  Small, independent chocolate businesses have the ability now to make positive changes in the lives of farmers and their families, showing larger businesses a better way to operate and improving the lives of those they do business with.  Taza Chocolate is one such company who appears to look at every aspect of their business in trying to improve the lives of others while growing a successful chocolate company and delivering a high-quality products.

Works Cited

Coe, Michael D., and Coe, Sophie D.  The True History of Chocolate.  Kindle ed., Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Grivetti, Louis E.  “Dark Chocolate:  Chocolate and Crime in North America and Elsewhere.”   Chocolate:  History, Culture, and Heritage, edited by Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro.  Kindle ed., John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2009.

International Cocoa Organization website.  Retrieved from: https://www.icco.org/statistics/cocoa-prices/monthly-averages.html?currency=usd&startmonth=12&startyear=2016&endmonth=12&endyear=2016&show=table&option=com_statistics&view=statistics&Itemid=114&mode=custom&type=1

Off, Carol.  Bitter Chocolate:  Anatomy of an Industry.  Kindle ed., The New Press, 2006.

Orla, Ryan.  Chocolate Nations:  Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa.  Kindle ed., Zed  Books, 2011.

Satre, Lowell J.  “Chocolate on Trial:  Slavery, Politics and the Ethics of Business.”  Journal of British Studies, vol. 45, no. 3, 2006.  Retrieved from:  https://oup.silverchaircdn.com/oup/backfile/Content_public/Journal/ahr/111/5/10.1086/ahr.111.5.1603/2/11151603.pdf?Expires=1494532181&Signature=Bktk0Wtwlcjwcjdb8gNc0UvvCVDVd8BNVD8Z4iKlCR9HALBUWSYbk55G2xWUJaxbqlN4Zvxkhe6860o3tEN~-8IS7dCLOuIUwFuh5pyob2uamoCVT~W-mzPbaBebkCVoWo1ywvI4HCJBf-fHA9k2e2bmNLlrGL0BxhqnMblaLW2HuEJWqY1lTAtB-4m60OXMHRyDWrsajBcFPLbHyQ8erLkEQelz2yZBq5lumwXYQ3m2M8so1i6LVviTHWrgXuokMQfgIlMrrjy6XKxoH71bHKuMAu20Ph8wNY3Rd70Q6yOIobiKhaBV6xhRrC8kjzuWuB6SCIqGldwX3B1006WE~w__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAIUCZBIA4LVPAVW3Q.

Soley, Allison.  “Cacao Farmers Still Aren’t Making enough money:  Cocoa Barometer review shows young farmers no longer replacing older farmers due to extremely low wages.”  1 July 2015.  Candy Industry website.  Retrieved from: http://www.candyindustry.com/articles/86817-cocoa-farmers-still-arent-making-enough-money.

Taza Chocolate website. Last accessed 10 May 2017.   https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza.

United States Department of Labor, “Dominican Republic Submission Under Central America-United States Free Trade Agreements.” (7 September 2013).  Retrieved from:  https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/our-work/trade/fta-submissions#DR


There is No Pleasure in Guilty Chocolate!

Why do you love chocolate? Because it is good! It tastes good and makes you happy. It is all that is good in the world wrapped in a beautiful candy bar. What if you learned that your delicious candy bar is a by-product of something bad, the output of someone else’s suffering?  A child’s suffering? Would you enjoy it just the same? Eating is not just a means to satisfy hunger; it is also an emotional and psychological experience.  We like to eat, and we like to eat good food without any negative connotations. Chocolate does not taste as good when it is served with a side of guilt. Chocolate tastes better when you wholeheartedly know that it came from a good place and produced in an ethical and social responsible manner.

Did you know that the global chocolate industry is nearly $100 billion dollars a year? The United States alone spends a little over 18 billion dollars in chocolate (2015), and that the average American consumes approximately 4.3 kilograms / 9.5 pounds of chocolate a year (2015). In comparison, beating the Americans at chocolate consumption are the Swiss who consume approximately a little over 9 kilograms / 20 pounds per person, then tied for second place are the Germans and the Austrians who approximately consume 3.6 kilograms / 7.4 pounds per person (Satioquia-Tan). Chocolate can be found anywhere around the world and is affordable to the masses especially to those who live in the developed world. Chocolate can be found in candy bars, truffles, fudge, cakes, muffins, biscuits, breakfast cereals, pancakes, health bars, sauces, drinks, in your café mocha, and anywhere you can sprinkle chocolate syrup. You can buy it in a specialty shop, supermarket, mini-market, drugstore, or any corner street gas station.

The majority of chocolate eaters are rather naïve in knowing the history and the current nature of the chocolate-making business. They simply eat it because they love chocolate without really knowing what it is, where it comes from, who makes and how; or any related social issues. For those consumers who are more aware of the social and economic impacts of the chocolate industry are a little more selective in choosing and enjoying their chocolate. To fully appreciate food is to experience it through all the possible senses, the physiological and psychological (Stuckey 13). Only twenty percent of what we physiologically taste happens in our mouths, the rest of the tasting experience happens through our remaining senses of sight, smell, touch, and sound. We, also, want to psychologically feel good about what we are eating. We want to know about the origins, the farming practices, and the ethics of what we are tasting (Stuckey 14). We want to know the context, the beautiful story, of what we are eating so we can enjoy it fully. The other option is to choose to remain a little ignorant of the subject as not to sour our chocolate taste, however this pleasure would be more superficial and would not represent the fullest appreciation of what we are eating. To fully appreciate today’s chocolate, we will have to fully experience it with the body and mind in full awareness of its origins, present journey and social impacts.

  1. What is Chocolate?

Cocoa is the main ingredient for all chocolate recipes.  Cocoa derives from cacao seeds, or more commonly referred to as cacao beans, which grow on the Theobroma Cacao tree.  Cacao trees are finicky trees that can only bear fruit in hot and humid tropical climates,twenty degrees from the equator at a specific altitude. These trees are highly dependent on midges, an insect, for its flowers to pollinate and bear fruit (Coe and Coe 19-21, 27). Cacao beans grow inside a fruity, pulp filled pod, approximately 30-40 beans grow inside one pod. Unlike most trees, where fruit grow dangling down from branches, cacao pods sprout directly from the tree trunk. In raw form, cacao beans constitute half its size in fat, cocoa butter. When cocoa butter is extracted from the cacao bean, what remains is the cocoa (or cocoa powder), the main ingredient of all chocolate (Coe and Coe 27). Before cacao beans turn into chocolate, cacao fruit is first farmed.  Upon harvest, fruit pods are removed from trees and cracked open to extract its beans with machetes. Cacao beans are then fermented, dried, sorted, roasted, transported, winnowed (deshelled), ground to a liquor, pressed (to remove the cacao butter), conched, and then what remains is added to chocolate-making recipes. Chocolate is the result of a labor intensive and highly processed food.

  1. Where Does Cacao Come From?

Cacao is native to the New World, the South American’s amazon basin region (Coe and Coe 25), and the Mesoamerican native cultures of the Mayans and Aztecs and predecessors were the first peoples to ever make chocolate dating back as far as 1500 BCE (Coe and Coe 33). Cacao was precious and a sacred food reserved for the elite, special occasions, and sacred rituals. Mayan and Aztecs Gods often appear alongside or in the form of cacao trees in their native hieroglyphs and surviving art (Coe and Coe 42). So precious, cacao beans were even used as a means of monetary currency. In 1545, documented is the commodity price of a tamale: one tamale equals one cacao bean (Coe and Coe 98-99). Upon colonizing Mesoamerica, the Spanish conquistadors were the first Europeans to discover and spread the taste of chocolate to Europe starting in the 1500’s (Coe and Coe 108). At the beginning of the chocolate history in Europe, chocolate was rare, expensive, and for the upper class.  Then as time passed and soon after the industrial revolution, chocolate became relatively common and affordable to the masses.

Amazon Basin
Amazon basin (based on Wikipedia, Amazon basin article, by Kmusser, using Digital Chart of the Word and GTOPO data)

After the end of the American colonial period, in the late 1800’s, the Spanish and the Portuguese introduced cacao to West Africa. Due to favorable climate conditions, cacao flourished in West Africa.  Today, approximately seventy percent of the world’s cacao comes from West Africa (Wessel and Quist-Wessel 1). The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two major countries that supply cacao.  There are 2 million, small (3 hectares acres in size), independent farms (Ryan 52) in West Africa that supply three million metric tons of cacao per year (World Cocoa Foundation).

West Africa, Ivory Coast depicted in orange and Ghana  depicted in green (based on Wikipedia, Ghana-Ivory Coast Relations article)
  1. What Are the Social Issues Involving the Chocolate Industry?

Since the first Europeans, the Spanish conquistadors, landed in the New World, the cacao industry has been tainted with slavery and forced labor since 1650’s (Berlan 1092). Upon colonizing Mesoamerica, the Spanish forced the natives to pay tribute in labor and cacao to their new Spanish Crown.  After millions of natives died of diseases, the Spanish, like other colonists in the Americas, resorted to using chattel slavery from Africa to extract New World resources (Presilla 24, 33). Chattel slavery officially ended in 1884, however it continued in disguise in Portuguese West Africa well into the 1900’s in the cacao industry and some reports state that it persisted until 1962 (Berlan 1092).

Today, cacao farmer incomes are very volatile for it depends on operating profits, and since cacao is a commodity, the market price.  Farmers need to sell their cacao at a high enough price in order to pay off their operation expenses which includes labor, a major expense, just like most businesses. Unexpected operating expenses and / or a fall in market price can be devastating on farmer revenues/incomes. Cacao farmers, per capita, constantly live without the security of a reliable living wage. In 2015, cacao farmers earned 50 to 84 cents on the American dollar a day (Cocoabarometer). As it is, cacao farmers barely break even, and there is little economic incentive for them to stay in the cacao farming business.  Due to local poverty and lack of other options, farmers continue to grow cacao under pressure to lower operating costs and often resort to desperate means to make a profit, break even, or just enough to pay for rice and cooking oil (Off 5).

In more recent history in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, a wave of newspaper stories and documentary films exposed the existence of child labor, trafficking, and slaves in West African cacao farms which caused much consumer outrage. The media graphically showed the world the extreme poverty and hard lives of cacao farmers in West Africa and the desperate measures farmers take to lower operating costs by using child slave labor (Berlan 1089).

The documentary, Slavery: A Global Investigation (2000), especially shocked viewers by showing how easy it was to find child slaves working on cacao farms and how the local people seem to accept the practice as a way of life. On camera, journalists were able, with relative ease, to overtly interview real child slaves and get first-hand testimony about their hardships, a farm owner who openly admitted to having slaves and in how to get them, and a local official who confirmed as matter of fact that at least 90% of the Ivory Coast farms use child slave labor.  Ninety percent implies the existence of hundreds of thousands of slaves (Ryan 118). A 2000 US State Department report estimated that 15,000 Malian children worked on Ivory Coast cacao farms and that many of were under 12 years old and sold into indentured service (Off 133). Two of the local documentary crew even demonstrated how easy it was to buy slaves, posing as buyers, they went to the marketplace and were able to purchase two boys for the total of forty British pounds (approximately $40) within thirty minutes. Economics, low cacao market price, was credited as being the main reason why these farmers resorted to using slavery.  With such low cacao market prices, farmers cannot afford to pay employee wages and still make a profit, and they have no other income options. In contrast, in a free and mature economy, if a business is not profitable it goes out of business, and one can start a new business or find a new job, this is not the case for the West African cacao farmers.

Since the West African child labor scandals, there has an increased awareness and legislation attempts to eradicate forced and most hazardous child labor. Child labor in general is so embedded into the West African culture, not all children who work on farms are slaves or working with hazards. Most children work as part of the family on their family farms. It was deemed impossible and impractical to create a law that would abolish all form of child labor, however a voluntary agreement, The Harking-Engel Protocol, was signed among the Ivory Coast and the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry in accordance with the International Labor Organization to end the worst forms of child labor in 2001 (Ryan 44, 47). Because of extreme poverty and lack of options, there are children who are better off working for they will at least have access to some food. Today, consumers are more aware, corporations have put efforts in demonstrating social responsibility in self-certifications, and nonprofit/advocacy organizations, have emerged and increased advocacy. There is still much poverty among cacao farmers, and many children  are still working on farms and some are still suspected of being forced to work against their will.  The child labor problems still exist today.  We, the world, hoped for that the state of child labor in West Africa would be better, however it could be worse.

It is natural that corporations would seek to do business with a poorer and less mature economies so to benefit from cheaper labor costs, but there should be limits when business practices violate human rights and the ability for workers to make a livable wage. It is evident that cacao farmers need more money so can they afford to hire farm workers to help cultivate their labor intensive cacao farms. In the least, the cacao market price needs to go up. It may mean that consumers would have to pay a little more for their chocolate treats. Would you be willing to pay a little more for your candy bar if it would end child and forced labor?

I realize that blindly throwing more money at the problem will not necessarily fix it if local corrupt governments and other stakeholders are still there to scheme away the extra money intended for the cacao farmers. This is a complex issue which requires multi-approach solution. We, the consumers, the governments, NGOs, the corporations, the media (or lack of media), the farmers, are all part of the problem, and we could also all be part of the solution. West African farmers and their children need special consideration for they are the most powerless demographic group in the chocolate food chain. The ones with the most power in the chocolate food chain by default have the most ability, and therefore the greater responsibility, to effect change. Wealthy companies and consumers are in the best position to invest and apply influence in the solution. We, the consumers, should expect that our chocolate companies to conduct business in an ethical and social responsible manner or make better consumer choices if they do not.

Here, in the first world, we would not accept the practice of child labor or slavery in our backyard, and we should not accept it elsewhere and in the products that we use and the foods we eat.  The West African modern-day slave issue is especially heartbreaking for it involves children in producing sweets that we all so enjoy so much. If we all knew that children were being kidnapped and forced to cultivate cacao, we would all enjoy the taste of our chocolate a little less. As consumers, we need to be more conscious about what we eat and learn as much as possible so we can make better consumer choices, maybe write a customer complaint to your chocolate provider or your congressman to influence change in law.  There is no better tasting chocolate than the one that is free from social guilt. In the end, we should all have the right to enjoy good and good-tasting chocolate.

Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana. The Journal of Development Studies, vol. 49, no. 8, 2013, pp. 1088-1100. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2013.78004.

Cocoa Barometer 2015 report, USA Ed. Cocoabarometer.org. http://www.cocoabarometer.org/International_files/Cocoa%20Barometer%202015%20USA.pdf

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2008.

Presilla, Maricel. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Zed Books, 2011.

Satioquia-Tan, Janine. Americans East How Much Chocolate? CNBC.com, 23 Jul. 2015, 7:41 PM ET.  http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/23/americans-eat-how-much-chocolate.html

Stuckey, Barb. Taste What You Are Missing: The  Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good. Free Press, 2012.

Slavery: A Global Investigation. Produced and directed by Brian Woods and Kate Blanchet.  A True Vision Production in Association with HBO, 2000. TopDocumentaryFilms, topdocumentaryfilms.com/slavery-a-global-investigation.

Wessel, Marius, and Foluke Quist-Wessel. Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments. NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences., vol. 74-74, pp. 1-7, 12-2015. doi.org/10.1016/j.njas.2015.09.001.

World Cocoa Foundation, http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/category/program-region/africa.

Unethical Practices in the Cacao Industry and Direct Trade as the Solution

The Cacao Market was established on the backs’ of slaves, and to this day, the injustices from its origins have continued to haunt the Cacao-Chocolate Supply Chain. With the abolishment of legal slavery in the Cacao Trade, there was indeed hope that the “Free” Market would correct some of the rampant inequalities that existed between cacao producers (farmers) and chocolate suppliers (companies). Unfortunately, economics has allowed an oligopoly to form: Big Chocolate Companies control the majority of the cacao market. These companies have the power to collude and have outsourced the production of cacao almost entirely away from South America, where cacao originated, to West Africa, where labor is much cheaper and the use of modern day slaves is not uncommon. Fortunately, there is a small group of chocolate companies that are working towards correcting the market inequalities that have become the norm in the last century, and this small group is composed is the collection of bean-to-bar chocolate companies that use Direct Trade practices. Bean-to-bar chocolate companies, and specifically, Taza Chocolate, employ unconventional business operations, in what is known as Direct Trade, in order to benefit cacao producers (the supply side of the market), by paying a premium for cacao beans and ensuring that ethical standards in production are met (e.g. no slave labor), while also benefitting chocolate consumers (the demand side of the market), by providing the public with a more rich kind of chocolate.

What is the Problem?

The issues in the cacao market are twofold: an issue of economic inequality, and as a derivative of the economic problem, the issue of unsanctioned slavery. The economic issue has developed due to the oligopoly in the cacao market, and this oligopoly has resulted in Chocolate suppliers having the ability to unfairly set prices below the market equilibrium. Slavery occurs due to the need for uncompensated labor since most cacao producers cannot make a predictable living income. For example, cacao farmers in Ghana typically receive less than $1 per day, and sometimes, these farmers receive as little as $0.50 per day. (Martin, 2017). Since the issue of unsanctioned slavery is a derivative of the economic problem, the economic problem must be solved before slavery is addressed.

How did this Economic Problem happen?

An oligopoly in the chocolate market was able to come about due to the high barriers of entry for chocolate makers. Depicted below is a graph which outlines the original chocolate making process that was used in the early 20th century:


(Coe & Coe, 2013)

As it can be interpreted from the graph, chocolate making is a very complicated process and involves expensive machinery. Since only a handful of firms were able to afford this machinery, those companies quickly rose to dominate the market. These Big Chocolate Companies that quickly rose to the top (Callebaut, Cargill, Blommer, and Cemoi), have come to control over 50% of the industrial chocolate market share, as outlined in the pie chart below.

    Industrial Chocolate Market Share

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 4.12.10 PM

(Martin, 2017)

To have an understanding of the size of the companies: Cargill is the largest privately held company in America and had over $120 Billion in revenue for the year 2016 (Forbes). If Cargill was a publicly traded company, it would rank as Number 15 on the Fortune 500 list (Fortune).

In emerging industries, such as the chocolate industry in the late 19th Century, it is not uncommon for a monopoly or oligopoly to arise. The problem, from an economic standpoint, only occurs when a monopoly or oligopoly persists over time.

Why has the Oligopoly Persisted?

Most modern oligopolies form during the infant years of a new market that possesses high barriers of entry. Unless the oligopoly has a unique limited resource or is protected by the government, the oligopoly will usually be broken apart as technological advancements allow new firms to enter with lower barriers. However, in the market for chocolate, Big Chocolate has been able to maintain their power through the purchases bulk beans, which “account for more than 90 percent of the world’s cacao production” (Presilla 123). “Bulk cacao” refers to the practice of aggregating cheap, low-quality cacao beans from various farmers, which Big Chocolate companies use in order to produce more chocolate at once. Africa produces 75% of the world’s cacao, and almost all of this cacao is in the form of bulk beans (Martin, 2017). Bulk cacao has become the most common form of cacao because it is what almost every major chocolate company chooses to purchase, and the sale of bulk cacao has allowed various middlemen and governments to unjustly benefit from the labor of the cacao farmers.

What can YOU do?

Removing these middlemen would allow cacao producers to sell more pure, high-quality beans, make it easier to increase the wages of cacao farmers, and eliminate slavery from the market. The best way to remove these middlemen is by increasing public awareness of the ethical issues that are supported by Big Chocolate Companies, and also increasing public awareness to the bean-to-bar chocolate companies that have started to emerge. By increasing public awareness, more consumers will make the switch from big brand chocolate to the smaller, bean-to-bar companies. If enough people switch to supporting bean-to-bar over Big Chocolate (including whoever is reading this post), then the companies that support ethical practices will become more profitable, and expand through the marketplace, and the companies that directly or indirectly support unethical practices will become unprofitable, and thus be removed from the marketplace.


Bean-to-bar chocolate companies are those that make chocolate completely in-house, as opposed to the Big Chocolate Companies which buy bulk cacao. Bean-to-bar companies are more likely to use high-quality cacao beans since it is common for bulk cacao to be composed of overly roasted and even rotten beans (Presilla, 2009). The best bean-to-bar companies are those that engage in a form of Direct Trade with cacao farmers, and although a Fair Trade Certification is better than no certification at all, Fair Trade is somewhat a misnomer as the non-profit does little to increase the welfare of farmers.

Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade

Here is a video that quickly overviews the differences between Fair Trade and Direct Trade:

(PBS Foods)

The video paints Fair Trade in a very decent manner, especially considering the high amounts of criticism that Fair Trade has received in recent years. An entire book has even been written on the issues with Fair Trade (The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich by Ndongo Sylla). Overall, the consensus is that companies with Direct Trade practices can be more beneficial to cacao farmers than companies with Fair Trade certifications. Taza Chocolate’s Direct Trade practices have become so transparent that consumers can actually see how cacao farmers benefit by working with Taza Chocolate. For this reason, Taza Chocolate should either expand to work with even more farmers or other bean-to-bar companies should aim to achieve Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certification in their own practices. Both of these options are viable possibilities if more consumers make the switch from big chocolate to bean-to-bar.

Taza Chocolate

Taza Chocolate, located in Somerville, MA, is a bean-to-bar company that employs crazy transparency regarding their Direct Trade practices. These direct trade practices center around one simple belief: “We (Taza Chocolate) believe that both farmer and chocolate maker should share the reward of making a great product” (Taza). Each year, Taza publishes a Direct Trade Transparency Report, which details how their practices have benefited cacao farmers. A summary of the report can be found in the infographic below:



Taza has “said no to predatory middlemen and abusive labor practices” (Taza) by following Direct Trade practices. It is clear that Taza does not support the unethical practices that are normal in the cacao industry, but what is amazing is how all of the economic and ethical problems of the cacao industry could be solved if all companies had a Taza Direct Trade Certification.

Removing Middlemen; Increasing Wages (Solving the Economic Problem)

There are many different types of middlemen in the cacao industry, some of these go by the name of “cacao brokers”, but another kind of middlemen is the governments themselves. Some governments have prevented the oligopoly, and thus the issue of slavery, to be solved by economic markets. For example, Ghana’s government requires all cacao to be sold to the Cocoa Marketing Board, which acts a monopoly in the marketplace. By removing these middlemen, the price of cacao beans, and thus the income of cacao farmers, can increase substantially. Taza Chocolate’s Direct Trade initiative purchases cacao beans directly from farmers. Working directly with farmers allows for farmers to focus on the quality of their beans instead of the quantity that is required to make a living in a market that favors the use of bulk beans. If all companies had Taza Direct Trade Certifications, then all middlemen would be removed and cacao farmers would make more money.

Eliminating Slavery (The Derivate of Economic Problems)

Slavery in the cacao market is sometimes simplified to one or two primary beliefs: either adult cacao farmers are exploiting children by the use of slave labor or adult cacao farmers are using slave labor because they are being exploited by the low market prices and their governments. Unfortunately, the problem is not that simple: a hybrid of both beliefs is correct. At the community level, some cultures view child labor as acceptable. In Ghana specifically, scholars write, “child labour is very much imbedded (sic) in the socio-local dynamics of Ghanaian society” (Berlan 1098). This may be true, and the belief that “it is hard to implement a slavery-free label for cocoa” (Ryan 52) may have also been true at a point in time, but this could all be changed with Direct Trade practices. If all companies had a Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certification, then all companies would be working directly with farmers, and thus, companies could educate farmers as to why child and slave labor is unethical. In the interim, a “slavery-free label for cocao” can now exist, and with enough training at the microeconomic level, cacao farmers in Western Africa could eliminate the use of all child and slave labor. This would also now be a very realistic option since the increase in prices (by cutting out the middlemen) would allow for slave labor to no longer be a necessity in the industry.

In Conclusion– Direct Trade as the Solution

In summary, the cacao industry has been plagued by inequalities ever since the Western World found chocolate. The inequalities started with legal slave labor, and slave labor, albeit illegal, is still seen throughout some parts of the cacao industry. The reason as to why these inequalities are still prevalent is the economic market has failed to provide a competitive environment. Through public education, the market can be corrected with consumers choosing their chocolates more carefully so that Direct Trade practices become the norm for chocolate companies. Taza Chocolate has created a Direct Trade Certification which increases the wages of cacao farmers and eliminates slavery, and every chocolate company should have this certification.


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

Forbes. www.forbes.com/pictures/578e38dd31358e0aa22e2c6f/1-cargill/#77b379753935

Fortune. http://beta.fortune.com/fortune500/list/

Martin, Carla. Class: African Americans Studies 119x (2017)  at Harvard College.

PBS Food. “Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade | The Lexicon of Sustainability | PBS Food.” YouTube. YouTube, 08 May 2014. Web. 05 May 2017.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Revised Edition. Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed, 2012. Print.

Sylla, Ndongo Samba. The Fair Trade Scandal Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2014. Print.

Taza Chocolate. https://www.tazachocolate.com/

A Pretense of Ethics: Slavery in Cocoa and Sugar Production

While slavery has technically been abolished in much of the world since the end of the 19th century, that does not prevent it from still occurring. Specifically, the chocolate and sugar production industries are notorious for slavery and poor labor conditions in the production of their products. Tactics were used by various chocolate and sugar producers to distance themselves from slavery while still supporting the system. The companies and its leadership would appear to be anti-slavery and pro-livable working conditions, however, those same companies used slaves in their production chains or ignored the use of slavery elsewhere. This allowed the companies to continue to use free and cheap labor to increase their profit while maintaining a positive public image.

The major concerns of all companies are profit and public image. Profit keeps the business afloat and successful. Public image ensures that consumers will continue to buy the company’s product, further helping their profit. These aspects take precedence over ethical dilemmas that companies may face even if the leadership of that company might strongly believe in resolving the ethical dilemma. A prime example of this is how the Cadbury company handled allegations that slavery existed in São Tomé and Príncipe, where they purchased over 45% of their cocoa for chocolate production (Satre 18).

The Cadbury family was known not only for being liberal and progressive but also decidedly anti-slavery. George Cadbury, the chairman, was a Quaker with many humanitarian and abolitionist friends, a member of the Anti-Slavery Society and the owner of the Daily News (London), which he used as a platform for the Liberal Party to advance its agenda that included abolition (Satre 16, 21). Cadbury even has a blue plaque publicly displayed in the United Kingdom professing his dedication to philanthropy, suggesting that he had an ethical and moral compass.

Blue Plaque to George Cadbury in England (Wikipedia Commons)

William Cadbury, another member of the company, when dealing with the issue of slavery in São Tomé and Príncipe constantly expressed interest in stopping it. In June 1902, he wrote, in reference to the Angola slave trade “I am willing to help any organised plan that your Society may suggest for the definite purpose of putting a stop to the slave trade of this district,” (Satre 22) clearly showing his support for ending the slave trade. However, all this talk of support was met with very little action that benefited the enslaved community in São Tomé and Príncipe that produced nearly a majority of the cacao purchased by the Cadbury company. It was not until seven years after Cadbury received the initial reports of slavery that their own commissioned report on the problem was hesitantly released (Satre 32).

The image of morality extended to the company itself. Scholar Charles Dellheim discusses the company culture of Cadbury and throughout the beginning, he attests to the ethical values held by Cadbury. The first things he says about Cadbury is “The Quaker beliefs of the Cadbury family shaped the ethic of the firm” and “The Cadburys practiced benevolence” (Dellheim 14). The fact that he opened with this praise of Cadbury ethics shows that the public image of Cadbury as an ethical company was strong and prominent. And they still had yet to actually stop purchasing cacao from plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe where slavery was present.

This disconnect between their talk and action was largely driven by Cadbury’s desire to increase profits and maintain a positive public image. William Cadbury, who was known to be liberal and anti-slavery, explained that the slavery he faced with his company now appeared different to him. He “admitted that one ‘looks at these matters in a different light when it affects one’s own interests’” (Satre 19) and he displayed this inability to see the issue of slavery as the same because it affected his own interests when he explained that Cadbury “should all like to clear our hands of any responsibility for slave traffic in any form” (qtd in Satre 19). This approach to slavery is very different from what he portrayed before about putting an end to the slave trade. Here, he wants to dissolve any responsibility that he or the company has with the existence of slavery, but it does not necessarily follow that slavery must be abolished for this to happen. In fact, when they eventually boycotted cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe, slavery was not eradicated, instead, they were no longer responsible and another chocolate company took their spot in purchasing cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe.

Despite the Cadbury’s professed commitment to abolition, they still allowed slavery to continue in São Tomé and Príncipe because ending it would “affect [their] own interests,” meaning the profit of their country. It would be costly to try to move production elsewhere and additionally pay more to purchase the new cacao because the laborers would actually be paid wages. Even Cadbury said, as paraphrased by Sir Martin Gosselin, that “this might mean paying a somewhat higher price at first; but they were ready to make this sacrifice, if by so doing they could put a stop to a disguised slave Trade” (Satre 24). Unfortunately, if this were truly the case, Cadbury would have worked to end the slave trade in São Tomé and Príncipe rather than just leave the region, still open to slavery, because they started to get pressure from their consumers.

Through all of this, Cadbury was additionally protecting their public image. While publicly they seemed to be anti-slavery, it is clear that their actions did not reflect that. However, they continued to push the image that they were moral, ethical and fair. Cadbury had several ads claiming that they chocolate was “pure”. Once such ad is shown below. While pure probably literally meant that there were physically no additives that might contaminate the chocolate, the word choice connotes a sort of innocence. Purity is associated with something clean, moral and without scandal.

Cadbury Advertisement in 1900 (The Advertising Archives)

Even in the report, they had commissioned on the working conditions in São Tomé and Príncipe, they sugar-coated the issue. There was an initial report that was revised to be less offensive to the Portuguese government and Higgs describes the difference in Chocolate Islands saying “The most striking difference between the two reports was the careful language in the 1907 version. As Burtt acknowledged, great care was taken to avoid ‘referring to the serviçaes as slaves or to the serviçal system as slavery, because, approaching the matter as I did with an open mind, I have wished to avoid question-begging epithets”(Higgs 136). Intuitively it would follow that Cadbury would look to end slavery in order to preserve their public image. However, their public image did not depend on whether slavery exists, it depended on whether they were tied to the slavery that exists, or as Cadbury put it, they were responsible for the slavery. Instead of actually working to end slavery, Cadbury looked to distance itself from the slavery that existed in their supply chain. This meant that they moved their production elsewhere, but did not ensure that slavery actually ended. As a result, the slavery continued even after they stopped purchasing from São Tomé and Príncipe.

In the following podcast, the story of William Cooper is explored. William Cooper was similarly anti-slavery and even started his own sugar production company that did not use slave labor. However, he owned slaves himself. Again, there is a contradiction between what is ultimately done versus the principles he held.

Ultimately, the motivations of profit and public image drive companies to do things that may not seem to fit with what they believe ethically. This creates a huge gap in justice and equality in production. It also allows the companies to feign ethics and morality without actually acting in defense of those things.


Works Cited

Cadbury. Cadbury magazine advertisement. The Advertising Archives. 1900,



Catherine Higgs. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press,

2012, Athens, Ohio. 136.

Charles Dellheim. “The Creation of a Company Culture: Cadburys, 1861-1931.” The

             American Historical Review, vol. 92, no. 1, February 1997, pp. 13-44.

Lowell J. Satre. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business.

University Press, 2005, Athens, Ohio. 16-32.

Oosoom. Blue plaque to George Cadbury at 32 George Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham,

England. Wikimedia Commons. April 7, 2007,

2007, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blue_plaque_George_Cadbury.jpg.

“Sweet Talk: A History of Sugar.” From BackStory, 7 February

2014, http://backstoryradio.org/shows/sweet-talk.



Cadbury: The Canary in an Unethical Coal Mine

Any company that can admit to contaminating a food product, and supporting forced labor and still retain the leading market share must understand its customers. For this reason, Cadbury’s advertisements may offer a unique perspective into European consumer culture during the late 1980s and early 1900s. Advertisements candidly portray the desires of their consumer base. For this reason Cadbury’s advertisements are a window into English consumer values. I argue that the Cadbury Company’s advertisements capture nineteenth century consumer culture as one that conflated personal purity with ethical behavior. Additionally these values inadvertently supported forced labor long after the official abolition of slavery.

Victorian era consumers were highly concerned with the idea of purity. As lower economic classes attained access to previously unattainable foods such as chocolate and tea, producers contaminated the foods with filler ingredients to maximize profits. In 1850, England’s newly created Health Commission found that, 39 of 70 chocolate samples contained red ocher, a color obtained from ground bricks. While most samples revealed the addition of starches from potatoes and various grains. The passage of the “British Food and Drug Act of 1860 and the Adulteration of food act of 1872, suggests that the British public were highly concerned with the purity of their foods (Coe, 2013).

Cadbury became England’s chocolate in the in the late 1800s and early 1900s through an aggressive advertising campaign that emphasized purity. Cadbury, though also implicated in starch contamination, understood customer concerns and adeptly rebranded as the only company that could guarantee purity (Coe, 2013).

Cadbury's_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885 (1)
An 1885 advertisement for cadbury cocoa

The above advertisement captures the ideals and aspirations of the English consumer in the late 1800s. The strapping rower, an icon of English vitality enjoys a day of leisure watching boat races. He holds his cup of Cadbury cocoa at the center of the image. By framing the cocoa, on two sides with the rower’s spotless white pants and shirt, and on the third side with the woman’s impossibly pale face, the artist emphasizes the purity associated with the beverage. The advertisement’s sub header, “Guaranteed Pure and Soluble,” explicitly restates the focus on purity. Because Cadbury captured consumer’s interest in purity, they were able to out compete Fry’s, an older company that dominated the market in the early 1800s.

Fry’s 1910, milk chocolate advertisement

The above advertisement demonstrates a different understanding of English consumer values during the time. Fry’s, one of the first English chocolate companies sold 2.5 times more chocolate than Cadbury in 1870. However Cadbury won the hearts of English men and women, largely through advertising, and out sold Fry’s at the turn of the century (Fitzgerald, 2006). Fry’s emphasized nostalgia for childhood in their advertisement. A small girl holds a box with five portraits describing the emotions associated with chocolate consumption. Cadbury’s market success suggests that, English consumers preferred assurances about purity to a trip down memory lane.

Consumers conflated product purity with ethical behavior. Cadbury and Fry, both Quaker chocolate makers, were lauded for their ethical behavior. Temperance campaigns swept over the UK during the Victorian era. As per capita beer consumption decreased, consumers turned to chocolate for comestible indulgence. One strategy of the temperance movement was to tie ethical and spiritual purity to the purity of a diet. The messaging was of course focused on reducing alcohol consumption, but this rhetoric likely spilled over into other food consumption behaviors. Therefore, Cadbury’s Quaker image as evidenced by their “ideal,” and importantly ,dry village, Bournvile appealed to consumers of the day (Fitzgerald 2006; Johnson and Pochmara 2016).

However as consumers and companies focused on purity standards, horrific human rights abuses went over looked. Both advertisements focus on the consumer and the ritual of consumption. In a way these advertisements capture what the English population wanted to see in their consumer products. However even more informative are the ideas consumers did not want to portrayed in their advertisements. Any reference to location of origin, or producers is glaringly absent in advertisements of the day.

A prison cell used to hold enslaved people before their journey to Sao Tome or Principe

The above picture is of a prison in Elmina Castle, used to hold enslaved people before their forced voyage to a life of forced labor. Elmina was often the last place an enslaved person, captured in Angola, would set foot on the mainland (Finley 2004). Cadbury, Fry’s and other English chocolate makers bought cacao from Portuguese cacao plantations that depended on forced labor on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe. Though the Portuguese called this system, indentured servitude or “Servical,” a report by journalist Henry Nevinson, made it clear that Servical was indistinguishable from slavery. Though England outlawed slavery in 1833, Cadbury, the supposed icon of Victorian business ethics had been providing the English people chocolate made from cacao farmed by enslaved people as late as 1907. After an attempt at reparations, Cadbury and other English chocolate makers boycotted the islands of Sao Tome and Principe (Martin, 2017). However little changed on the islands, as the Hershey Company filled the consumer void left by the English companies. I contend that consumer interest focused so heavily on ideas of purity that consumers associated purity with ethical process and were therefore slow to examine the supply chain of their favorite chocolate.

Today chocolate companies often differentiate their products by advertising their location of origin. Additionally, fair trade products often command price premiums for ensuring ethical process. This expansion of consumer options suggests that consumers value ethical process as much as they value nutritional quality or taste. However, modern consumers we cannot forget the lessons of Victorian era chocolate makers. We must constantly investigate the supply chains of our favorite products to reduce our contribution to forced labor. Follow the below link to learn how many enslaved people are involved in producing your favorite products.

Find out how your consumption connects you to slavery.



Cadbury’s Advert with Rower 1885. 2010. Wikimedia Commons.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Finley, Cheryl. 2004. “Authenticating Dungeons, Whitewashing Castles: The Former Sites of the Slave Trade on the Ghanaian Coast.” Architecture and Tourism.

Fitzgerald, Robert. 2006. “Products , Firms and Consumption : Cadbury and the Development of Marketing , 1900 – 1939 Products , Firms and Consumption : Cadbury and the” 6791 (May). doi:10.1080/00076790500132977.

Fry’s Five Boys . 2005. Wikimedia Commons.

Ghana Elmina Castle Slave Holding Cell. Wikimedia, Wikimedia Commons

Johnson, Amelia E, and Anna Pochmara. 2016. “Tropes of Temperance , Specters of Naturalism : Tropología de La Abstinencia Y Fantasmas Del Naturalismo En Clarence and Corinne de Amelia E . Johnson” 2: 45–62.

Martin, Carla. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 01, 2017.

The Development of the Atlantic Slave Trade into Modern Day Slavery in Cacao Growing Regions

The Atlantic slave trade was much more complicated than your middle school teachers may have lead you to believe.  Common knowledge rarely acknowledge the complexity of the economics of the slave trade, its far-reaching consequences, and the specific, long-lasting impact it had in cacao growing regions. The slave trade presented challenges to the chocolate industry as it pitted economic necessity against shady moral practices. I argue that over the course of its history, the slave trade created such profound inequalities that even though it was abolished in the mid- to late-1800s, the essence of slavery still exists today.

The Atlantic slave trade had in the New World.  Europeans forced indigenous populations to work which produced a dangerous power dynamic from which the Europeans benefitted for centuries. The Europeans that migrated to the Americas would encroach on indigenous land. By taking ownership of that land, the settlers forced those residing on it already to work for them under extremely undesirable conditions, especially in cacao growing regions where the days were long and unimaginably hot. This developed into “chattel slavery” which means that those enslaved were regarded as property and could be traded as a commodity (Martin lecture). As they burned through the indigenous population, Europeans were pressured to meet a growing demand for labor. They found a new source in Africa.

In order to understand the connection between slavery and cacao, we must first understand under what conditions the slave trade developed in cacao growing regions. Rodney explains in his article that “slavery prevailed on the African continent before the arrival of the Europeans” which implies that African society was susceptible to European manipulation  (Rodney, 431). Europeans looked to Africa simply because they needed more cheap labor and the western coast was the most economically viable. On top of the preexisting societal structure, the addition of the Atlantic slave trade proved disastrous and demonstrates why “it was [that] only after two and a half centuries of slave-trading that the vast majority of the peoples of the Upper Guinea Coast were said to have been living in a state of subjection” (Rodney, 434). The compounded effect of the Atlantic slave trade on the already-problematic African regions left lasting impacts on its people and culture.

Take a look at this video by Anthony Hazard and published by TED-Ed which details the nuances of the slave trade.

This video points out how the culture of Africa was heavily affected by the Atlantic slave trade. Europeans would pit tribes against each other. This created an environment where Africans of different communities would be abducting each other to sell into slavery across the Atlantic in exchange for weapons or safety. The video uses simple animation and voiceover to convey how uniformly destructive the slave trade was to the African economy and culture.

As the abolition movement emerged, the Atlantic slave trade began to change. The abolition movement always existed among slaves and gained momentum after the Haitian Revolution in 1789. This was a pivotal moment because it was the biggest slave revolt to date. At the time, Haiti was an exceptionally valuable asset to France because it exported nearly half of the world’s coffee and sugar (Martin lecture). A significant amount of people depended on the slave trade, either directly or indirectly, through the products it produced. For the enslaved population to overthrow such a dominant colonial power inspired others across the world and spurred the abolition movement forward. Slowly, the Atlantic slave trade began to diminish. Finally, in 1888, Britain was the last place to abolish slavery.

Yet, the abolition process was gradual and hard-fought. You can plainly see in the picture how it was satirized for its very slow implementation.

This image is particularly relevant because it incorporates the dependence on sugar that Europeans had formed. Mintz writes that sugar “had become an essential ingredient in the British national diet” and that “it was consumed daily by almost every living Briton” (Mintz, 187). The fact that he uses words like “national diet” is significant. It implicates everyone in the consumption of sugar. Since sugar is a common ingredient used with cacao, this figure really identifies how everyone is implicated in the slave trade as an extension of consuming sugar and chocolate. This speaks to the reason for the delay in abolishing it: the final product was too tantalizing and the consumers were too far removed. This is also representative of our mentality today.

The Atlantic slave trade left deep-seated damage to the African regions which it affected, the most important of which is the legacy of slavery. There was a compounded effect as the emphasis shifted to cacao growing regions for mass production. Today, “[a]pproximately two-thirds of the cocoa destined for the world market is produced on West African farms” (Manzo, 529). The exploitative power dynamic is still so strong that modern day slavery still exists in the form of coerced labor. Watch this video to catch a glimpse of what life is like for a child working on a cacao farm on the Ivory Coast today.

After slavery was largely abolished in the Americas around 1850, the geographic regions where cacao was being grown changed. The focus transferred to Fiji, Mauritius, and the Ivory Coast, as seen in the video. In this shift, “many small farmers [became] dependent for their livelihood on cocoa, and it is this smallholder production that accounts for most of the large increase in production and export from the Ivory Coast in the 1990s” (Manzo, 529). This is significant because it demonstrates how when colonial powers “abolished” slavery they just created a vacancy for multinational companies to exploit deprived workers who were already suffering from the consequences of the slave trade. The parallels between the old slave trade and modern day child slavery are substantial. The modern day-version still sees the power struggle between powerful landowners who offer an exchange for laborers. This turns Africans against each other. You can see this situation play out in the video where the boy was brought to the cacao farm when his father died. Another parallel is the forced labor in extreme conditions with unsatisfactory clothing. Modern day laborers are being “paid” in the form of room and board but this prevents them from accumulating any considerable amount of money that would allow them to leave, just like colonial powers used to enslave entire families based on who was living on their property.

Even though the slave trade has developed and adapted over the past hundreds of years—even after it has been “abolished”—there is no question that slavery still exists today. Furthermore, it implicates everyone (just as it did back then) because it is the chocolate industry that is exploiting people. It follows that because we all consume chocolate, we all are culpable in its prolonging. This means that it is up to the consumers to stop distancing themselves from the origins of their chocolate and learn about the production of cacao.

Works Cited


Manzo, Kate. “Modern Slavery, Global Capitalism & Deproletarianisation in West Africa.” Review of African Political Economy, vol. 32, no. 106, 2005, pp. 521–534.

Martin, Carla. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” AFRAMER 119X. Harvard University. CGIS South, Cambridge. March 1. 2017. Lecture.

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

Rodney, Walter. “African Slavery and Other Forms of Social Oppression on the Upper Guinea Coast in the Context of the Atlantic Slave-Trade” Journal of African History, vn, 3 (1966), pp. 431-443

TED-Ed. “The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you – Anthony Hazard” December 22, 2014. Web. March 6 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NXC4Q_4JVg&t=1s&gt;.

BreakingNews56. “Chocolate Child Slaves-CNN.” Jan 16, 2012. Web. March 6, 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHDxy04QPqM>.

Cruikshank, Isaac. The Gradual Abolition of the Slave Trade: Or Leaving of Sugar by Degrees in 1792. Digital image. Website: <http://activehistory.ca/2010/06/%E2%80%9Cwhen-people-eat-chocolate-they-are-eating-my-flesh%E2%80%9D-slavery-and-the-dark-side-of-chocolate/&gt; N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2017. <http://activehistory.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/The-Gradual-Abolition1.jpg&gt;.

Church, Chocolate & Chattel

The Catholic church has a long history connected to chocolate, as it was introduced to courts in Spain by clergy,  prepared by new world nuns, and settled questions about chocolate’s role in diet and medicine. While the church had no direct involvement in slavery in the chocolate and sugar industry, its indirect involvement, and even forbidding of enslaving Mesoamericans lead directly to African chattel slavery. It is at the intersection of chocolate and church that a church-avoidant industry promoted chocolate as a medicinal; growing its demand that prompted African chattel slavery that was out of the reach of the church.

Chocolate in Europe


chocolate prepared hot with cinnamon and vanilla. Modification of the traditional Mesoamerican drink with spices and sugar made it very pleasing to the European palate when it reached the old world


The earliest documented evidence of cacao reaching Europe was in 1544 when Dominican friars brought Kekchi Mayan nobles from Guatemala with new world gifts such as animals, plants, spices, etc., and of course, a frothy drink made of cacao to Prince Philip of Spain (Coe & Coe, 2013). Unlike cacao’s earlier consumers, Spanish invaders found it unpalatable. It was described by Girolamo Benzoni as a drink “more for pigs than for humanity…(Coe & Coe. 2013)” in his 1575 History of the New World, but this was changing, and Europeans understood its value in the new world as Jose De Acosta writes in his treatise Natural and Moral History published in 1590:

“The main benefit of this cacao is a beverage which they make called Chocolate, which is a crazy thing valued in that country. It disgusts those who are not used to it, for it has a foam on top, or a scum like bubbling… it is a valued drink which the Indians offer to the lords who come or pass through their land. And the Spanish men even more the Spanish women-are addicted to the black chocolate (Coe & Coe, 2013).”

Eventually Europeans adapted the chocolate drink to be more palatable by warming it,adding spices such as cinnamon and vanilla, and most importantly, sugar (Mintz, 1985).

Chocolate as Medicine

There are many reasons Spanish settlers in New Spain adapted the chocolate drink to be

11th century Spanish diagram of Humors and their characteristics inside the body. chocolate was disputed to have many different characteristics making it appealing for all Europeans.

more pleasing, among them were shortage of wine, the aristocratic status bestowed upon drinkers by native culture, and finally, medicinal reasons. Europeans in New Spain had witnessed the use cacao and the chocolate drink among the indigenous population for a variety of healing purposes. Bernadino De Sahagun, a Spanish monk who traveled to New Spain in 1529 wrote extensively on the indigenous flora and of the native people’s knowledge of plants for medicinal purposes including the chocolate drink made from cacao (Lippi, 2013). European medicine was still following the traditions of the Classical Greeks Hippocrates who theorized that the imbalance of humors, blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile, caused disease, and Galen who expanded the theory to include characteristics of hot, cold, dry, and moist to humors, diseases, and their cures. It is within this framework that the chocolate drink became popular medicinally in Europe to keep the humors balanced and diseases at bay (Coe &Coe, 2013).

The Church

While the Catholic church traded in chocolate and even participated in innovating chocolate recipes as Guatemalan nuns had made chocolate in tablet form that could easily be dissolved in hot water (Coe & Coe, 2013) , the church was not always so accepting of the drink, prompting it’s promotion as a medicinal. Pilar Zazueta, a lecturer in the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin states,

 “The Catholic Church worked to eradicate local indigenous beliefs, but it was not entirely successful. The records of the Inquisition authorities in Central America contain numerous stories of indigenous or mestizo women accused of using enchanted chocolate beverages to control men. Women and men of all walks of life visited these “witches” or healers and asked them to prepare chocolate drinks to attract lovers, break up marriages or improve sexual performance. The Church tried to ban chocolate but people in the Americas were too attached to it (2013)”

In her paper “Chocolate in History; Food, Medicine,” Medi-Food, Donnatella Lippi asserts that chocolate’s euphoriant effects invalidated its use during a religious fast. To counter the suspicious nature of the church Lippi states, “doctors hastened to assert that chocolate was a healthy substance and used this argument to promote its pleasurable effects, consequently boosting the lucrative trade in this exotic import (Lippi, 2013). While the church had little to do with the morality of chocolate outside of this question, its suspicious nature was indirectly involved with the increase in popularity in a health obsessed Europe.

The Intersection

While one would not think of the church or chocolate as prompting slavery, African slavery in the Americas was a direct result of their interaction. With Europe’s medical community promoting the health benefits of the chocolate drink, to ease suspicions of Europeans and the clergy, chocolate was becoming popular all over Western Europe as a medicinal drink. Because the European palate found the cacao drink in its original form repugnant, it had been hybridized to be taken hot, with spices and a critical ingredient- sugar. Because of the high demand for sweetened chocolate inspired by a church-avoidant industry, massive labor was needed to meet the new demand for cacao and sugar cane, and with the indigenous populations dwindling from foreign disease and abuse, plantation owners looked to Africa to solve their labor problem.

Chattel Slavery


Pope Benedict XIV issued the “Immensa Pastorum Principis” in 1741 condemning slavery of native people prompting plantation owners to seek free labor in Africa outside of the churches prohibitions.


By the end of the 17th century the Mesoamerican population had been decimated and labor was scarce. Only 10% of the native population survived old-world diseases and abusive labor practices of plantation owners. In their book The True History of Chocolate, Coe & Coe describe it as, “the greatest demographic catastrophe the planet has ever known (2013). After the church condemned slavery of the Mesoamerican population, to avoid the church, the industry looked to where the church had no say – Africa. The Middle Passage across the Atlantic to Africa was out of the grasp of anti-slavery decrees where the majority of western European countries were more than happy to pluck free labor. The labor crisis was over as Coe & Coe state, “it has been estimated that in the period 1650 to 1750, 20,000 slaves arrived annually in Curacas, and after 1750, sometimes up to a 100,000 a year (2013).” Native labor was replaced with imported Africans that I am sure the Catholic church could have never foreseen, it is nevertheless a product of the church and chocolate intersecting.

Works Cited

 Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The True History of Chocolate (3rd ed.) London, ENG. Thames    & Hudson Ltd.

De Montour, A. (Artist). n.d. Pope Benedict XIV [Digital Image]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons Website https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pope_Benedict_XIV.jpg

De Osma, B. (Artist). 11th C. Humors [Digital Image]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons Website https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_humors_(11th_c.,_Burgos_de_Osma).jpg

Handorf Chocolates (Owner) 2006. Hot Chocolate [Digital Image]. Hot Chocolate Retreived from Wikimedia Commons Website https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hahndorf_Hot_Chocolate.jpg

Lippi, D. (2013). Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-Food. Nutrients, 5(5), 1573–        1584. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu5051573

Mintz, S.W. (1986) Sweetness and Power. NY, NY. Penguin Books 1986

Zazueta, P. (Feb. 2013) You Can Thank the Ancient North Americans For Your Valentine’s   Chocolate. Dallas News. Retrieved from           http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/02/13/can-thank-ancient-north-americans-valentines-chocolate


The only trend in British sugar consumption, since it was first measured in the early 1700s until fairly recently, has been only increase upon increase, year after year. (See chart below) It is the argument of this essay that this phenomenon has taken place because of only two causes. One cause is historical and geographical and the other is the chemical and organic structure of the evolved human brain. The confluence of these two causes caused sugar to become abundantly and cheaply available to the British public, regardless of wealth, and that increased abundance of cheap sugar caused increased consumption of a substance that targets the sweetness sensitive regions of the brain that craves sugar because of our evolutionary past. Simply put, slavery gave Britain a lot of cheap sugar and its universal consumption triggered addictive responses among consumers to demand more and more of it.


There is no doubt that since 1704, when sugar consumption in Britain was only 4 pounds per person, its consumption has skyrocketed to well over 150 pounds per person, per year.
Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 3.36.59 PM


There are two major causes for this dramatic increase that combined into a perfect storm that transformed sugar from an expensive rarity among the wealthiest Britons to a dirt cheap, ubiquitous commodity on the tables and in the mouths of all citizens from princes to paupers.

There are two major causes for this dramatic increase that combined into a perfect storm that transformed sugar from an expensive rarity among the wealthiest Britons to a dirt cheap, ubiquitous commodity on the tables and in the mouths of all citizens from princes to paupers.rain. The confluence of these two causes caused sugar to become abundantly and cheaply available to the British public, regardless of wealth, and that increased abundance of cheap sugar caused increased consumption of a substance that targets the sweetness sensitive regions of the brain that craves sugar because of our evolutionary past. Simply put, slavery gave Britain a lot of cheap sugar and its universal consumption triggered addictive responses among consumers to demand more and more of it.


There is no doubt that since 1704, when sugar consumption in Britain was only 4 pounds per person, its consumption has skyrocketed to well over 150 pounds per person, per year.

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 3.38.25 PM


The enslavement and transport of millions of Africans by the British and Europeans to the Americas where sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, cotton and rice could be grown in prodigious quantities by the slaves at little cost and exported to Europe and North America where the insatiable appetites of the populace demanded an ever increasing supply of these now inexpensive commodities. Since slaves were paid no wages and given only bare subsistence in diet, clothing and housing to perform the work, the overhead of sugar planters in South America was quite low compared to how much money they would have had to pay for voluntary paid laborers. Without the slavery part of the economic equation in the production of New World sugar, there would never have been the flood of it into Britain, Europe and North America. Sugar would have remained a very expensive and rare treat for the wealthy. Because sugar production requires vast acreage of cane fields and a large round the clock processing facility, it is probable that cane sugar production could never have been profitable if the planters would have had to pay for the labor. Only slavery allowed sugar production to be profitable and indeed very profitable.

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 3.39.40 PM


The pleasure and reward centers of the human brain are particularly sensitive to sweetness that lies deep in our evolutionary past when our pre-human ancestors desperately searched for ripe fruit and berries with enough sugar content to keep the larger primate brains in functioning order. Sweetness on the African savannah or forests is quite rare. Locating wild berries or hanging fruit meant the difference between survival and starvation. The competition for such rare resources was keen and no doubt most of our ancestors perished in the daily struggle for enough food to see another day. Because our brain, among the largest of land creatures, requires significant amounts of glucose to function properly. Because of this, the taste buds on our tongues are always seeking sugar and respond very positively to its presence from early infancy. While sugar is rare in the wild, found only in fruits and berries in significant amounts, when our brain encounters it as the British public first did when it became abundant and cheap, our brains went wild with sugar desire. Britain and Europe prior to the beginning of the exploitation of the Americas and Africa, survived on diets quite bland and tasteless except for a handful of spices and herbs imported at great cost from Asia. Basically, the only sweetness most people encountered in their brief lives, that were usually cut short by disease and malnutrition, was infrequent encounters with honey. However, honey was rare and costly. The peasantry could hardly be said to be very familiar with anything that tasted good or sweet. Therefore, when cheap sugar began to pour into Britain, Europe and North America, thanks to slavery, even the lowest subsistence tenant farmer’s family  

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 3.41.00 PM


could enjoy the pleasure that sugar triggered in their brains. With few other pleasures during their hard lives, people could at least enjoy the sweet bounty that human slavery provided for only a few pennies.

Only in recent years has the British consumption of sugar begun to wane as the health dangers of its over-consumption become apparent to more and more people through scientific studies of sugar’s effects on the human body. However, like any addictive drug, sugar’s hold on the food industry and humanity’s enjoyment of sweet taste, is proving a difficult hold to weaken. When sugar is commonly added to the many industrially processed foods consumed by many people, its consumption is often hidden.

The enormous increase of sugar consumption by the British over the course of two centuries is explainable only by sugar’s low cost and its powerful and addictive effects on the human brain. It is truly a unique occurrence in human history to consider how a simple agricultural product of narrow nutritional  merit could take over the diets of entire nations because of the scourge of human slavery and the food’s addictive properties.


  1. Britain is built on sugar: our national sweet tooth defines us



  1. The Creation of an Atlantic Economy: Sugar and Slaves



  1. Sack and sugar, and the aetiology of gout in England between 1650 and 1900



  1. Enslavement and Industrialisation



  1. Sugar and Britain’s obesity crisis: the key questions answered


  1. How much sugar do we eat?


  1. Changes in British Sugar Consumption during the 17th and 18th Centuries


  1. We’re all sugar junkies now: Britons now wolf down an almost unimaginable 160 teaspoons of it a week – and the even worse news? It really IS addictive



  1. Oxford History of the British Empire. The Eighteenth Century. The British West Indies, 1748-1815.




The Bitter Truth about Chocolate: A Long History of Forced Labor

The hands that consume chocolate sadly know very little about the hands, stricken by poverty and coercion, that tirelessly work to produce the coveted product (Contrasts: Things Kids Like). Today, over 70% of the world’s supply of cacao is produced in Africa, largely in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, two West African countries that depend heavily on child labor to meet the growing demands of the international chocolate industry (“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry”). Of the 1,203,473 child laborers involved in the cocoa sector in Cote d’Ivoire, approximately 95.7% of those children were performing hazardous work involved in cocoa production (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor-Côte d’Ivoire”). Similarly, this alarming proportion of child laborers engaged in risky labors for cocoa production was also reported in Ghana (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor-Ghana”). While reports exposing the extent of child trafficking and labor in the chocolate industry shocked Western consumers, the reliance on forced labor is hardly a recent addition to the production of cocoa.

 “Labor rights issues in cocoa production are nothing new. They are tradition.” Professor Carla Martin, Harvard University

Over the past few centuries, forced labor in cocoa and sugar production has adapted to fulfill economic incentives as well as resist pressures of abolition. From the Encomienda system established by Spanish colonizers to the chattel slavery that manifested in the triangular trade, and now to the child labor that plagues cacao-producing regions, coerced labor has modified its form but has remained a major component of production. The systems of labor inequality that persist in cocoa and sugar production reflect the checkered history of slavery and elucidate the role of economic factors in perpetuating forced labor to drive the commodities to massive consumption.

Human Interventions in Cacao Production

Young boy struggling to transport cacao pods through the forest.

Understanding the nature of cacao helps to elucidate why human labor particularly was so essential to sustain its procurement and how forced labor systems developed to maximize the profit of this cash crop. The cultivation and retrieval of cacao itself is a delicate process, thereby necessitating the precision and tender care of human labor that cannot be easily replaced by a mechanical substitute.  A fragile plant, the cacao tree must be kept carefully unharmed during recovery of the cacao pods. This requires human labor to precisely and skillfully use a cutlass, knife, or long-handled tool to remove the cacao pods from the tree (Martin, Lecture 4). The pods are then transferred to a sack, totaling more than 100 pounds in weight that must be carried back (“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry”). The photo above captures the difficulty of this task, among others that are also extremely laborious and dangerous and continue to be so for child slaves in West Africa. The careful and gentle treatment required in the initial steps of cacao production partly explains why despite immense mechanization of our industries, technological alternatives have not satisfied the need for labor in the stage of cultivation and crop retrieval.

The Encomienda System

While the characteristics of the cacao plant help explain the demand for human labor, economic factors better demonstrate why the labor systems implemented over the centuries were steeped in inequality and disparity. One of the first major labor systems imposed on indigenous people was the encomienda system introduced to the Americas in the sixteenth century by the Spanish. The Spanish were granted the right to exact tribute, whether in the form of gold or forced labor, from the indigenous people (“Encomienda system established”). This system was intended to Christianize and care for inhabitants but quickly morphed into a means of usurping indigenous land and exploiting indigenous people, as portrayed in the image below. The economic incentive underlying this system of forced labor was clear: the Spanish aimed to extract cacao coinage in order to maximize the profit of this lucrative commodity (Martin, Lecture 6). The indigenous people were not protected or paid, and worked in harsh conditions; even though they were not technically owned, they were required to produce cacao for the Spanish. Though the encomienda system eventually ended due to protest from clergy, it was quickly replaced by the repartimiento, another exploitative means of further wealth extraction (Martin, Lecture 6). This account serves to demonstrate how one form of forced labor merely transitioned into another abusive form in response to pressures of abolition; this theme of modification in the face of abolition is recurrent, leading to the persistence of forced labor. Therefore, the economic motive of resource extraction made the encomienda system an abusive burden for indigenous people.

The stark differences between the goals of the encomienda and the abusive, exploitative system that resulted.

The Triangular Trade

This early form of an economically incentivized labor system set the precedent for more egregious forms in the following decades. In the sixteenth century, chattel slavery emerged as one of the largest systems of forced labor, as evidenced by the Triangular Trade. As the demand for sugar, cocoa, cotton, and other products began to escalate, the need for human labor also drastically increased. The triangular trade, a trading system involving Britain, West Africa, and the Americas, was implemented to accommodate the growing demand for labor. By the nineteenth century, nearly 15 million enslaved Africans were transported to the New World as “chattel” (Martin, Lecture 6). Chattel slaves refers humans that are treated as personal property that can be owned and sold as a commodity. Interestingly, African slaves were “false commodities” rather than actual commodities (Mintz 1986). In the complex triangular exchange, slaves were being traded for goods but they themselves were not objects, despite being treated as such. These slaves suffered a very long and harsh voyage, a significant proportion of them dying, and endured many more hardships upon arrival. While a common misconception holds that slaves were doing unskilled, menial tasks, they were actually involved in many labor intensive responsibilities that severely diminished their quality of life (Martin, Lecture 6).

The Triangular Trade highlights the exchange of commodities between Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

Much like the encomienda system, this system of slavery was fueled by economic considerations. Firstly, the exchange was designed to maximize wealth and prospects for the colonizers; secondly, the origin of Negro slavery can be traced back to the economic decision to capitalize off the cheapest form of labor, rather than back to any racial explanation (Martin, Lecture 6). This form of forced labor was also met with substantial opposition, slowly leading to abolition by the late nineteenth century. Abolition, however, did not eliminate all forms of forced labor. The permissive attitudes towards labor inequality bred throughout centuries of slavery has led to the exploitation of other vulnerable populations by industry giants.

Addressing Practices of Child Labor in the Twenty-first Century

Tracing the incentives and nature of major systems of coerced labor demonstrates how in response to pressures of opposition and abolition, forms of forced slavery transitioned into a form that exploited a different susceptible population. Today, as we grapple with the challenges of child trafficking and labor within the chocolate industry, it is important to similarly examine the economic precursors that contributed to this problem. While lack of education and enforcement contribute to the child labor problem, a significant factor is an economic driver, as was the case in many other previous forms of forced labor. The immense poverty experienced by cacao-growing farmers prevents them from being able to manage their business or pay their adult employees, they are forced to recruit their children rather than educating them (“International Labor Rights Forum”). Addressing this problem requires counteracting the consequences of poverty with measures that economically empower these communities. As consumers, it is our responsibility  to expect fair treatment of workers and to demand accountability from the major players in the chocolate industry.

Therefore, examining the role of economic incentives in driving different forced labor forms in the past has informed us about why these coercive systems persist, and how economic considerations continue to hinder complete abolition of forms of inequality in labor.

Works Cited

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry | Food Empowerment Project. Food Empowerment Project, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/&gt;.

“Encomienda system established.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/imperial-rivalries/timeline-terms/encomienda-system-established&gt;.

“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Côte d’Ivoire.” United States Department of Labor. United States Department of Labor, 07 Dec. 2016. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/cote-divoire#_ENREF_9&gt;.

“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Ghana.” United States Department of Labor. United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/2014TDA/ghana.pdf&gt;.

“International Labor Rights Forum.” Cocoa | International Labor Rights Forum. International Labor Rights Forum, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <http://www.laborrights.org/industries/cocoa&gt;.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 4: Sugar and cacao.” Harvard University, Cambridge. 8 Mar. 2017. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 6: Slavery, abolition, and forced labor.” Harvard University, Cambridge. 8 Mar. 2017. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, Penguin Books, 1986.

Images and Video Links

Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/46/14/32/4614324cf570d635eb2ed8e3efcba4a2.jpg&gt;.

Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/90/c9/bc/90c9bcf094663c33e8c8fad2e9d67253.jpg&gt;.

Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://kmjantz.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/map2.jpg&gt;.

Ph Balanced Films. “Contrasts: Things Kids Like.” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube,27 March 2013. Web. 8 March 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a7p33UJ-Aw&gt;.